Review Category : Top Stories

Volkswagen America CEO to Testify Before House Subcommittee on Emissions Scandal

GEOFF ROBINS/AFP/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) — Michael Horn, President and CEO of Volkswagen Group of America, will testify before a House subcommittee next week as part of the congressional investigation into the Volkswagen emissions scandal.

Scheduled to appear before the House Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations at 10 a.m. on Oct. 8, Horn will provide information on the “facts and circumstances surrounding Volkswagen’s reported Clean Air Act violations.” Subcommittee Chair Rep. Tim Murphy, R-Pa., said he hopes to get answers including why the “defeat-devices” were used to fool emissions testers, how the decision to install them was made and how their use went undetected for so long.

“The very notion of a carmaker intentionally violating our environmental laws is beyond belief,” House Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Fred Upton, R-Mich., said. “Reports of Volkswagen selling cars with devices aimed at skirting the law cannot, and will not be tolerated.”

Also scheduled to testify at the Thursday hearing is at least one representative from the Environmental Protection Agency.

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Afghan Military Claims Victory After Retaking Kunduz from Taliban

NASIR WAQIF/AFP/Getty Images(KUNDUZ, Afghanistan) — The Afghan government claims that its military forces have retaken the northern city of Kunduz that was seized by hundreds of Taliban fighters on Monday. A large Afghan force, supported by American airstrikes, retook the city in a bloody fight that the Afghan military says killed 150 Taliban fighters and injured 90. It is expected that Taliban fighters outside the city could soon launch a new offensive against Afghan military forces.

Afghan President Ashraf Ghani announced Thursday that Afghan military forces had retaken Kunduz following a six-hour assault on hundreds of Taliban fighters.

“We thank God we had no fatalities,” Ghani claimed as he praised Afghan security forces who “were able to foil one of the most significant operations to have taken place in Afghanistan in fourteen years.”

American officials had acknowledged that the Taliban’s takeover of Kunduz was a setback for Afghan security forces that have received U.S. and NATO training for more than a decade.

A U.S. official told ABC News that while Kunduz is back in the hands of the Afghan military, the city will likely remain contested as the Taliban has massed forces outside the city in an attempt to retake it.

Appearing alongside Ghani, Afghan Interior Minister Noor-ul-Haq Ulumi praised the performance of Afghan security forces.

“We never took our eyes off the ball,” he said. “We had to protect citizens and so the security forces retreated.”

The Afghan counteroffensive was supported by American and coalition special forces.

A U.S. military spokesman in Kabul confirmed that American military aircraft conducted as many as five airstrikes “to eliminate threats to coalition and Afghan forces.”

The U.S. still has 9,800 troops in Afghanistan, serving as part of a training mission that will conclude by the end of next year. After that planned draw down the only U.S. military presence in Afghanistan would involve several hundred personnel at the U.S. embassy in Kabul.

The Taliban takeover of Kunduz has raised concerns that the Afghan security forces may not be ready to fend off expected Taliban offensives once American troops leave at the end of next year.

U.S. officials confirm that General John Campbell, the top U.S. commander in Afghanistan, has prepared troop level options that could keep a U.S. military force in Afghanistan beyond 2016.

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Multiple Casualties After Shooting Reported at Umpqua Community College in Oregon

iStock/Thinkstock(ROSEBURG, Ore.) — Multiple casualties were reported after a shooting at a community college in Roseburg, Oregon, according to the local fire department.

The Douglas County Sheriff’s Department confirmed to ABC News that they responded to reports of a shooting at Umpqua Community College at 10:38 a.m. local time Thursday.

The fire and EMS agency serving Douglas County then reported on Twitter that there were multiple casualties.

“Police units from multiple jurisdictions have responded,” the sheriff’s department said in a post on its official Facebook page.

Students and faculty members are being bused to a local fairgrounds site, and relatives are being told to pick their loved ones up there.

Umpqua Community College has about 3,300 full-time students and 16,000 part-time students. It is located just less than 70 miles south of Eugene.

The situation at Umpqua Community College is still unfolding, and the nature of the alleged shooting is unknown, but it is the first school shooting with multiple fatalities since late October of last year. At that time, five people were killed and one injured at a shooting at Marysville Pilchuck High School in Washington state.

This story is developing. Please check back for updates.

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Nancy Pelosi Confronted by Reporter on Abortion Views

Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call(WASHINGTON) — House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi defended her position on abortion Thursday, responding forcefully to a confrontational question about whether a fetus is a human being at her weekly news conference.

“Leader Pelosi, in reference to funding of Planned Parenthood, is an unborn baby with a human heart and a human liver a human being?” asked the reporter, who did not identify himself.

“I am a devout, practicing Catholic,” Pelosi, D-Calif., replied. “A mother of five children. When my baby was born, my fifth child, my oldest child was six years old.

“I think I know more about this subject than you, with all due respect,” she continued. “I do not intend to respond to your question which has no basis in what public policy we do here.”

Congress passed a spending bill Wednesday to keep the government open through Dec. 11, averting a shutdown. A majority of Republicans in the House voted against the measure, over objections to funding Planned Parenthood.

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US and Russia Hold Talks to Clear Up Syrian Airspace

Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) — The United States and Russia began talks via video link Thursday to keep their respective military aircraft from coming into contact over the skies of Syria, where both countries are now conducting airstrike operations.

Meanwhile, U.S. officials said that it was clear that ISIS was not targeted by Russian aircraft on Wednesday.

On Monday, President Obama and Russian President Vladimir Putin agreed that both nations should work out details to hold the talks as it appeared that Russia would soon begin air operations in Syria.

Two days later, U.S. officials were surprised that Russia began launching airstrikes in Syria even before details had been worked out for when to hold the talks.

The U.S. did not receive advance notification of the start of the Russian airstrikes until an hour before when a Russian general went to the American embassy in Baghdad to request that American aircraft vacate the area where the missions would strike.

Defense Secretary Ash Carter later described that initial Russian contact as a “drop in” and labeled that kind of notification as “unprofessional.” He told reporters that his goals for the talks to “de-conflict” Syrian airspace would be “to facilitate the flow of information between coalition forces and Russian elements that will help us maintain the safety of our personnel in the region, which is critical. To ensure that any additional Russian actions do not interfere with our coalition’s efforts to degrade and defeat ISIL. And to clarify that broader U.S. security commitments in the region remain unchanged.”

Defense officials confirmed that the talks began Thursday morning via a secure video conference between officials at the Pentagon and their Russian counterparts.

The U.S. team is headed by Elissa Slotkin, the acting Assistant Secretary of Defense for International Affairs and vice Admiral Frank Pandolfe, the Joint Staff’s Director of Strategic Plans and Policy.

A military spokesman in Baghdad said the Russian strikes had not affected U.S. air operations over Syria.

Warren confirmed that Russian aircraft conducted more than half a dozen strikes on Wednesday, but did not have information as to how many airstrikes may have taken place today.

“In the last 24 hours, we have conducted several sorties over Syria,” said Col. Steve Warren. “We have not altered operations in Syria to accommodate new players on the battlefield.”

While noting that there is always the risk of a miscalculation or inadvertent contact involving aircraft from different nations over the skies of Syria, he also noted there are “a lot of square miles in Syria”and American pilots “have terrific situation awareness.”

Warren said that even though Russia has claimed that it is striking at ISIS targets inside Syria, “We don’t believe that they struck ISIL targets.“

A U.S. official told ABC News that Wednesday’s airstrikes near Homs and Hama struck al Nusra and Free Syrian Army locations. The Free Syrian Army is a moderate opposition force that has received assistance from the U.S. for several years. There were also reports that other groups that have received training and equipment from the CIA were also struck by Russian airstrikes.

“When they said that they planned to strike ISIL. And yet, where they struck yesterday, we don’t believe there was any ISIL there,” said Warren using another acronym for ISIS. “So that’s a problem, right?,”said Warren. “The Russians have said that they’re going to do one thing, and here they are doing something different than that, which we, of course, have seen before.”

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Al Gore Won’t Give Outright ‘No’ to Presidential Bid

Kris Connor/WireImage(WASHINGTON) — Is Al Gore running in 2016?

He’s been asked repeatedly — and often gives the same answer — but it is never a straight up “no.”

“I am a recovering politician. The longer I go without a relapse the less likely one becomes,” the former Vice President and 2000 Presidential candidate told the Atlantic‘s James Fallows at the Washington Ideas Forum.

Gore admitted that he had overused this answer, but said, “I’m gonna give it anyway.”

Gore gave a virtually identical answer to Fusion’s Jorge Ramos, in an excerpts of an interview that will broadcast on Oct. 6.

After hearing Gore’s first answer, Ramos subsequently asked, “Are you ruling out any possibility of running for president in this campaign?” and “I just wanted to know if you want to run for president again.”

Gore repeated his claim about being a recovering politician.

ABC News reported in August that a group of friends and former aides are having a “soft conversation” about the possibility that Gore run for president in 2016, but noted that no formal or informal moves had been made.

After reports about Gore considering a bid began surfacing, his spokesman denied any truth to them.

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NASA’s Dawn Probe Uncovers New Mysteries on Dwarf Planet Ceres

NASA/JPL-Caltech/UCLA/MPS/DLR/IDA(NEW YORK) — NASA’s Dawn probe has unlocked new mysteries about the terrain of the dwarf planet Ceres, including irregularly shaped craters and a solitary 4-mile-high mountain.

New images and data sent back to Earth from the mission have captivated scientists — while also raising new questions about the dwarf planet’s topographical features.

“Ceres continues to amaze, yet puzzle us, as we examine our multitude of images, spectra and now energetic particle bursts,” Chris Russell, Dawn’s principal investigator, said in a statement.

One of the new mysteries includes observations from Dawn’s gamma ray and neutron spectrometer, which found that three bursts of energized electrons could possibly be the result of interaction between Ceres and the sun’s radiation, however the hypothesis is still being investigated.

Another shows the cone-shaped 4-mile-high mountain in the Occator crater, which is also home to some of Ceres’ brightest spots. Scientists are still trying to determine what processes could have created the mountain or shaped Ceres’ irregular craters.

Nearly 600 miles in diameter, about 25 percent of Ceres’ mass is believed to be ice. Ceres is the largest body in the asteroid belt, which lies between the orbits of Mars and Jupiter. Dawn will begin this month descending to its lowest orbit of Ceres, reaching an altitude of 230 miles. The probe has been orbiting Ceres since March and will continue studying the dwarf planet through June 2016.

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Your Body: Can Stress Affect Fertility?

iStock/ThinkstockBy DR. JENNIFER ASHTON, ABC News Senior Medical Contributor

From headaches to high blood pressure, stress can take a toll on you. But now, there are growing concerns that stress can also affect fertility.

A study from Ohio State University found that women with the highest stress levels took 29 percent longer to get pregnant compared to other women, and their risk of infertility doubled.

As an OB/GYN and as a woman, I know just how stressful it can be for a couple trying to conceive. The good news is that there are simple ways to reduce stress that could make a big impact:

  • Separate the tasks that need to be done from the those that would be nice to get done.
  • Stop smoking, and cut back on caffeine and alcohol.
  • Practice relaxation methods, such as yoga or my favorite, meditation.
  • And for fertility, relax — there’s a reason so many couples conceive while on vacation.

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Peeple App Lets You Rate Humans Like a Restaurant

Peeple(NEW YORK) — This is the stuff nightmares are made of for the self-conscious.

Instead of telling someone how you feel face to face, a new app in beta called Peeple is unleashing the five-star rating and review system on humans. The app hasn’t launched yet, but the founders say on their website the goal is to “change the way people can learn about each other online,” whether it’s looking at prospective roommates, dates or learning about a potential business partner.

Perhaps the most unnerving part of it all for some people: Anyone can add a new user and you can’t remove your profile from the app.

The only item needed to add a person to the app is the user’s cell phone number. They’ll then receive a text message letting them know who started their profile.

A review works the same way it would on other platforms for restaurants and services. A person is given a rating of up to five stars and then the reviewer can leave a short message explaining their rationale.

Reviews two stars and below are sent to a user’s inbox before being published, giving them 48 hours to work out the disagreement with a reviewer. If there is no resolution when the period expires, the review is then published and the person will have the chance to publicly defend him or herself against the feedback.

If a review is posted by someone a user does not know or includes bullying and other hateful content violating the app’s terms and conditions, it will be removed. Peeple’s creators say users will have to agree they are 21 and older before joining the app.

While the concept sounds scary, Peeple’s creators are billing it as a “positivity app” and advise future users to use it how they would any other social network.

“Your network lifts you up and says positive things about you so that you can have a strong online reputation and get job opportunities, access to more networking opportunities with like-minded people, interact with other single people, and have the ability to search others to make better decisions around your greatest assets such as your family,” the Peeple website says. “You can look up the character of the people you meet and interact with.”

Peeple seems to be one of the first apps geared to the masses for rating people and having reviewers take ownership for their comments, while other apps have focused on anonymous reviews in more niche areas.

Knozen is a fun app letting users rate their co-worker’s quirks, personality and work ethic by presenting users with photos of two colleagues and a question like, “Who is more likely to leave work early for a date?” or “Who is more likely to sing a song out loud?”

Another app called Lulu lets women research and review men, with reviews factoring into an average score of up to 10 points.

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NBC Nixes Adam Levine-Produced Project “The 1970s”

Brian Bowen Smith/NBC(NEW YORK) — A TV project Maroon 5 frontman Adam Levine was set to produce for NBC has fallen through.

Deadline reports NBC has decided not to move forward with The 1970s, described as a limited drama series. Apparently, the project may have become too expensive for the network.

The 1970s would have focused on the real-life battle between independent music companies and big corporations in that decade, and featured contemporary artists performing classic songs from the ’70s.

Producers may shop the project to other networks, according to Deadline.

Adam still has a relationship with NBC, of course, as a coach on The Voice.

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