Biskariot/iStock Editorial/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- As Americans were celebrating the Fourth of July holiday, four Russian long-range bomber aircraft flew close enough to the US shores that they were intercepted by military fighter jets.
The first set of two bombers flew near Alaska and just 30 minutes later a separate set flew far off the west coast of California.
According to officials at NORAD the flights stayed within international airspace and at no time did any of the Russian bombers enter or get close to entering sovereign North American boundaries.
The first incident occurred at approximately 10:30 a.m. EDT on July 4, when Alaskan-based NORAD F-22 fighters intercepted and visually identified two Russian TU-95 "Bear" long-range bomber aircraft flying off the coast of the Aleutian Islands within the Air Defense Identification Zone (an area of international waters that stretches 200 miles from US coastline), officials at NORAD said in a statement to ABC News.
Then at approximately 11 a.m. EDT, NORAD F-15 fighters from the Continental NORAD Region intercepted and visually identified two additional Bear bombers flying off the central California coast, well away from U.S. sovereign airspace.
While Northcom is not saying precisely how far out the California intercept occurred, one official said it was on the outer lines of the ADIZ, meaning it could have been as far out as 200 miles. US airspace begins 12 miles from the coasts. The US asks military aircraft from other countries operating in that space to identify themselves and will make sure they've changed course away from US shores before backing away.
While intercepts of Russian aircraft off Alaska occur frequently, intercepts off California are less common. In June last year a two long-range Russian bombers flew within 50 miles of northern California.
A drawing shows the New Horizons spacecraft approaching Pluto and its largest moon, Charon, in July 2015. (NASA)(NEW YORK) -- NASA's New Horizon space probe is on track to make a scheduled approach to Pluto following a heart-stopping glitch on Saturday when the spacecraft briefly cut communications with Earth.
The space probe, which has been on a nearly decade-long journey to the dwarf planet, briefly entered safe mode on Saturday.
NASA said the glitch appeared to be caused by a "hard-to-detect timing flaw in the spacecraft command sequence."
"I’m pleased that our mission team quickly identified the problem and assured the health of the spacecraft," Jim Green, NASA Director of Planetary Science said in a statement. "Now — with Pluto in our sights — we're on the verge of returning to normal operations and going for the gold."
The spacecraft is scheduled to come as close as 6,200 miles from the surface of Pluto on July 14, the closest any man-made object has come to the dwarf planet.
As New Horizons has closed in on Pluto, it's provided a closer look at Pluto's surface and its moons. In February, the spacecraft took two long-exposure images showing two of Pluto's moons, Hydra and Nix, orbiting the dwarf planet. It was the first time the space probe had gotten close enough to view the moons.
New Horizons blasted into space atop an Atlas V rocket in January 2006. Pluto at the time was still considered a planet, with scientists later that year voting to demote its status to that of a dwarf planet.
After a sleepy nine years, the probe woke up in December 2014 from the last of its 18 hibernation periods as it prepared for its initial approach toward Pluto.
A man attached helium balloons to a lawn chair and soared above Stampede Park in Calgary, Canada on July 5, 2015. (Tom Warne)(CALGARY, Alberta) -- It’s a bird. It’s a plane. No, it’s a man in a lawn chair flying over Canada.
A Canadian man attached giant helium-filled balloons to a makeshift cockpit -– a lawn chair -– and soared for miles over Calgary in an attempt at a promotional stunt, according to police and one of his business partners.
But Daniel Boria, 26, lost control of the rig and had to abandon ship at some point.
“He had no control device on the balloons and really was just traveling by the grace of the wind,” Derek Mohajer told ABC News on Monday.
Boria, who works in marketing, took to the skies Sunday afternoon with 150 balloons in an attempt to promote a cleaning company.
“It was a little too windy and he went a little too high and the stunt wasn’t responsible,” Mohajer said.
According to police, he was first spotted above Harlow Avenue, in the Northwest part of the city. Then witnesses spotted him trying to maneuver the chair towards the downtown area.
When he neared downtown, "the man jumped from the chair and opened a parachute attached to his back," police said in a release.
He landed at Highfield Boulevard and Ogden Road, in the southeast part of the city, about 9 miles away.
Boria missed his landing zone -- which police believe to be the Stampede Grounds -- and had minor ankle injuries, according to Mohajer.
Police arrested Boria and charged him with mischief causing danger to life, according to the Calgary Police Service. He has since been released.
As for the balloons, Mohajer said he has no clue where they ended up.
iStock/Thinkstock(DAMASCUS, Syria) -- Officials say the U.S.-led coalition carried out nearly 40 airstrikes against the Islamic State over the weekend.
At an on-camera meeting at the Pentagon, Defense Secretary Ash Carter said, “We are doing more in Syria from the air. I think you saw some of that in recent days. And the opportunity to do that effectively is provided in the case of the last few days by the effective action on the ground of Kurdish forces, which gives us the opportunity to support them tactically.”
Half of the strikes targeted the area around the extremist group's self-styled capital, the Syrian city of Raqqa.
The Islamic State says at least 10 people were killed and dozens wounded in the Raqqa bombings. A spokesman for the coalition says the strikes on the Syrian city were one of the largest single engagements conducted in the country.
Increased airstrikes in northern Syria come as Kurdish forces on the ground are approaching the Islamic State's capital. Kurdish fighters recently expelled the Islamists from several towns along the Syrian-Turkish border. Meanwhile, war planes over the weekend also targeted areas around the embattled Syrian town of Kobani. The coalition also bombed the Iraqi city of Mosul and other Islamic State strongholds in Iraq.
Activists also say that the Islamic State regained control of a northern Syrian town amid a firece battle with Kurdish forces. The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights says that the town of Ain Issa is once again in the hands of the extremist group.
Islamic State fighters lost control of the town last month during a string of defeats at the hands of Kurdish gunmen back by US-led airstrikes.
In the meeting, Defense Secretary Ash Carter said the airstrikes from this weekend were to "limit ISIL's freedom of movement and ability to counter those capable Kurdish forces."
Amid their effords, the Kurds managed to cut off a strategic supply line to the Islamic State's de facto capital, the Syrian city of Raqqa. However, gains by the Kurdish fighters have prompted concerns by leaders in neighboring Turkey.
The Kurdish minority in Turkey and the government have been at war for several decades, a fight that has cost tens of thousands of lives.
In response to Kurdish gains in Syria, Turkey has recently bolstered its armed forces positioned along the border.
iStock/Thinkstock(MOSCOW) -- Russian President Vladimir Putin and Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras spoke by phone on Monday to discuss the results of Sunday's referendum in Greece.
In a statement from the Kremlin, the leaders "...discussed the results of the Greek referendum on the conditions of financial support being proposed by international creditors to Athens, as well as several questions of the future development of Russo-Greek cooperation."
No further details of the conversation were provided but Putin expressed his support for the Greek people in overcoming the difficulties currently standing before the country.
iStock/Thinkstock(ATHENS) — Yanis Varoufakis resigned Sunday from his post as Greece’s Minister of Finance after Greek voters overwhelmingly rejected Europe’s terms of a bailout.
“The referendum of 5th July will stay in history as a unique moment when a small European nation rose up against debt-bondage,” Varoufakis wrote in a post resigning his post on his website, adding, “Like all struggles for democratic rights, so too this historic rejection of the Eurogroup’s 25th June ultimatum comes with a large price tag attached.”
Though the outgoing Greek finance chief was well-liked by his supporters, according to BBC’s Mark Lowen, he was hated by Eurozone leaders. Varoufakis had recently accused them of terrorism toward Greece.
His removal by Greece’s Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras appears to be an implication that a deal with the Eurozone is pertinent and that Varoufakis may have been impeding the progress, the BBC reports.
“I was made aware of a certain preference by some Eurogroup participants, and assorted ‘partners,’ for my ‘absence’ from its meetings; an idea that the Prime Minister judged to be potentially helpful to him in reaching an agreement. For this reason, I am Ieaving the Ministry of Finance today,” Varoufakis wrote.
Varoufakis said that he will fully support the prime minister as well as the new minister of finance and the Greek government in exploiting “the capital that the Greek people granted us through yesterday’s referendum.”
ESA via Getty Images(NEW YORK) — Several features on a comet being explored by the European Space Agency's Philae lander indicate it could be home to alien life, according to two astronomers.
While the comet has a black crust darkening much of its surface, astronomers have spotted evidence that 67P has an underlying icy structure, including icy seas and craters containing frozen lakes with organic debris.
The findings from Max Wallis and Chandra Wickramasinghe will be presented Monday at the Royal Astronomical Society's national meeting in Wales. The astronomers said evidence from the comet points to the possibility it could be home to micro-organisms.
“Five hundred years ago it was a struggle to have people accept that the Earth was not the center of the universe," Wickramasinghe said, according to The Guardian. "After that revolution our thinking has remained Earth-centered in relation to life and biology. It's deeply ingrained in our scientific culture and it will take a lot of evidence to kick it over."
Philae made history on Nov. 12 when it landed on the speeding comet, marking the culmination of a 10-year, 4-billion-mile journey to the comet by hitching a ride with the Rosetta spacecraft.
The solar-powered lander lost contact with Earth on Nov. 15 -- 60 hours after it landed on the speeding comet, bounced and came to a final resting place in a shady area lacking the necessary sunlight to keep the lander alive.
As the comet got closer to the sun, Philae awoke last month and sent an 85-second transmission to Earth.
Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge, carries Princess Charlotte of Cambridge as they arrive at the Church of St Mary Magdalene on July 5, 2015 in King's Lynn, England (Photo by Matt Dunham - WPA Pool /Getty Images)(KING'S LYNN, England) -- Princess Charlotte Elizabeth Diana was christened on Sunday in a ceremony at St. Mary Magdalene Church on the Sandringham estate of her great-grandmother, Queen Elizabeth II.
The 2-month-old daughter of Prince William and Princess Kate arrived to the church in a stroller pushed by Kate.
The family was greeted by well-wishers who had gathered outside the church to see the fourth-in-line to the British throne.
Kate then picked up Charlotte to carry her inside.
William held George's hand as they entered and left the church, and George at one point waved to the crowds.
Charlotte, born May 2 in London, wore the same christening gown worn by her big brother, Prince George, at his christening. The gown, remade by the queen's dresser, Angela Kelly, in 2008, is an exact replica of the gown first commissioned by Queen Victoria 174 years ago and has been used for every generation of royal infants.
Duchess Kate wore a white Alexander McQueen ensemble to the ceremony, while Prince George sported a white shirt with red shorts.
The queen wore a rose Angela Kelly dress and hat.
Joining the family for Princess Charlotte’s christening were the queen, Prince Charles and Camilla, and Kate’s family, siblings Pippa and James, and her parents, Carole and Michael Middleton.
Charlotte’s uncle, Prince Harry, missed the christening because he is spending the summer in Africa.
Also in attendance were Charlotte’s godparents and their spouses.
Prince William and Princess Kate announced Princess Charlotte's five godparents this weekend: Kate's cousin Adam Middleton, William's cousin The Hon. Laura Fellowes, and three of the couple's friends, Thomas van Straubenzee, Sophie Carter and James Meade.
The invited guests celebrated the christening in a place of special significance to Princess Charlotte’s paternal grandmother, the late Princess Diana, who was baptized in the same church in 1961. In choosing St. Mary Magdalene Church for Charlotte’s christening, Prince William and Kate made a poignant nod to William’s mother, as they did when they selected their daughter's name, Princess Charlotte Elizabeth Diana.
St. Mary Magdalene Church is also the parish church of the queen on the Sandringham estate and is where the royal family spends Christmas every year.
The church is also close to Anmer Hall, the 10-bedroom home also on the queen’s Sandringham estate, where William, Kate, Charlotte and her big brother, Prince George, have been spending most of their time since Charlotte’s May 2 birth.
The Most Rev. Justin Welby, the Archbishop of Canterbury, who also presided over Prince George's christening, conducted the ceremony.
Princess Charlotte was baptized with water from the River Jordan poured from the priceless silver "Lily Font," which is housed in the Tower of London with the rest of the crown jewels. The silver baptism bowl is 17-inches high and 16-inches wide, decorated with gilded lilies and ivy and was commissioned by Queen Victoria in 1840.
It is supported by the lily-shaped stem, which gives the font its name, on a bed of acanthus leaves. The scrolled sides of the high base are decorated with three cherubs playing lyres, and the royal arms of Queen Victoria and the joint arms of Queen Victoria and Albert Prince Consort.
A gold-jeweled Bible, with more than 500 sapphires, rubies and opals, an early-1900s gift from the American Wanamaker family, is also housed inside the queen's local church on the Sandringham estate.
Documenting the historical day for the royal family is Mario Testino, the world-renowned photographer whom William and Kate tapped to take the official photographs of the christening party.
Testino, 60, photographed the engagement photos for Princess Kate and Prince William, and was also chosen by the late Princess Diana selected to photograph her for Vanity Fair.
RODRIGO BUENDIA/AFP/Getty Images(QUITO, Ecuador) -- At the start of a weeklong visit to his native continent, Pope Francis arrived to a red carpet reception at Quito's main airport, where Ecuador's socialist president Rafael Correa greeted him on the tarmac.
But as the pope's motorcade proceeded into the city, many along the sidelines voiced their disapproval of Correa, giving him thumbs down.
For this first Latin American pope, the trip is almost a homecoming. He is not visiting his home country Argentina on this trip. Instead he will travel to Ecuador, Bolivia and Paraguay.
This is his first visit to Spanish speaking countries here. All three countries he is visiting are overwhelmingly Catholic and among the poorest on the continent.
At Quito airport, Pope Francis said he feels "particular concern for our brothers and sisters who are most fragile and minorities who are most vulnerable."
The large open air masses he is scheduled to hold during his visit are expected to draw millions of people. The pope also plans to take time to visit a Bolivian prison and a slum in Paraguay, making the effort to connect with those at the margins of society.
Pope Francis took time to meet each of the 75 journalists traveling with him on the papal plane, accepting presents from some reporters and blessing rosaries and other items they brought with them.
One Bolivian reporter gave Francis locally made chocolates with his face on them. The pope beamed as he agreed to take a selfie with her.
But the trip will be physically grueling for the 78-year-old leader of the Catholic faith. He is scheduled to make nine stops in seven days, making this his longest busiest foreign trip yet.
One stop, in Bolivian capital La Paz, is at an altitude of 4,000 meters, equivalent to some of the tallest mountains in the United States.
As a young man, Pope Francis lost part of one lung due to an illness, and church officials acknowledged some concern about altitude sickness.
According to Vatican officials, the pope has expressed an interest in trying a local remedy popular among indigenous people in the Andes mountains: coca leaves.
Local residents chew them or drink them in tea to alleviate the shortness of breath and queeziness that can result from spending even a few short hours at altitude.
But coca leaves are illegal in much of the developed world, banned as a controlled substance because they are the raw ingredient of cocaine.
Polling station officials count the ballots at a polling station in Athens on July 5, 2015. (LOUISA GOULIAMAKI/AFP/Getty Images)(ATHENS, Greece) -- The polls have closed in Greece in a historic referendum that could determine the country’s future in Europe, its currency and impact the global economy.
Greece’s government has cast the vote as one about increased unpopular austerity measures.
Opponents argue it has more to do with Greece’s place in the European Union and the Eurozone.
Surveys leading up to the referendum show voters almost evenly split.
Photo by SSPL/Getty Images(NEW YORK) -- A NASA spacecraft traveling to Pluto experienced an "anomaly," the space organization said Sunday.
The New Horizons spacecraft lost communication with Earth on Saturday, NASA said. Communication was eventually re-established and NASA determined that the spacecraft is "healthy."
In total, communication was lost between 1:54 pm ET and 3:15pm ET on Saturday.
The craft's autopilot recognized the issue and switched itself to the backup computer, placing it in "safe mode" and reinitiating communication with NASA.
NASA is now working to return New Horizons to its original flight plan. Recovery could take multiple days, due to the "round trip communication delay that results from operating a spacecraft almost three billion miles from Earth," NASA said. During that time, the craft will be unable to collect science data.