iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- When President Obama announced last week that the U.S. would restore full diplomatic relations with Cuba, the reaction across the country was strong and varied. While some American businessmen immediately focused on goods that they may soon be able to export, wanderlust-filled travelers began searching for where to spend their next holiday.
To wit, U.S. website traffic on TripAdvisor about travel to Cuba spiked 293 percent on Wednesday, Dec. 17, compared to the previous day, according to company data. Additionally, in an opt-in online poll that TripAdvisor hosted, 54 percent of more than 1,500 respondents said "eased travel restrictions will increase their interest in visiting Cuba in 2015."
"Among the global TripAdvisor community, Cuba is already a hot destination, with Havana being named the #1 Destination on the Rise in the 2013 TripAdvisor Travelers’ Choice awards based on the TripAdvisor Popularity Index," Erin Millard, a spokesperson for TripAdvisor, said in a statement to ABC News. "Since the White House’s announcement last Wednesday, we’ve already seen several discussions sprout up on the TripAdvisor Forums about what this means for U.S. travelers."
The site also released a list of the best and most popular hotel and dining destinations in the Caribbean country among its reviewers.
"Four of the five top-rated attractions in Cuba on TripAdvisor are beaches, with travelers frequently praising the soft, white sands and calm, crystal blue waters," said Millard. "Cuba’s many cultural attractions also rate highly with TripAdvisor reviewers, from theaters and museums to town plazas where travelers can soak in the island country’s vibrant atmosphere."
Perhaps most notable among all of the attractions highlighted was Royalton Cayo Santa Maria, located in Cayo Santa Maria, Cuba.
With 1,305 reviews from travelers, the adults-only beachfront property was named the No. 1 All-Inclusive Resort in the World in the 2014 TripAdvisor Travelers’ Choice awards.
“The experience started the minute we got there, we were greeted with ice cold face towels, fruit juice and fresh fruit on skewers while our cases were taken to our room," wrote one visitor from the U.K. in a TripAdvisor review. "From then on the service was wonderful, all the staff could not do enough to help, they always had a smile and were always very friendly.”
Another traveler from Ontario, Canada, sung the hotel's praises on a return trip, saying it was even better than the previous time.
"I cannot say enough about the service and the staff at this resort," wrote the reviewer. "From our very first visit I knew we had found a gem. The number of returning guests speaks volumes to the quality of this new resort and its staff. If you are looking for peace, quiet and beauty this may be the spot for you."
Stockbyte/Thinkstock(GLASGOW, Scotland) — The driver of a garbage truck in Glasgow, Scotland, lost control, sending the vehicle into a large group of pedestrians.
Reports say at least six pedestrians were killed, and others injured when the heavy truck, owned by the Glasgow City Council, swerved onto the sidewalk in front of an art museum.
Glasgow police will not confirm fatalities in the crash, nor will they comment on the identity of the driver.
Police Superintendent Stuart Carroll said the act does not appear to be criminal. Investigators, meanwhile, are looking into the driver’s health at the time of the crash, but police tell ABC News they are not ruling out any possibility in further investigation.
iStock/Thinkstock(PYONGYANG, North Korea) -- North Korea has warned of attacks against the United States, accusing the Obama administration of being behind the making of the movie The Interview.
After the United States publicly accused the communist country of coordinating the cyberattack against Sony, a North Korean government spokesman, speaking on state-run TV, discussed targeting “the White House, the Pentagon and…all of mainland USA” if the United States does not agree to a joint investigation of the incident with North Korea.
North Korea has long proclaimed innocence in the Sony hacking scandal, which escalated to threats of violence against movie theaters that were planning to show the movie. The film’s plot focuses on the assassination of leader Kim Jong-un.
Obama, who promised to respond “proportionately” to the attack, clarified how he views the incident.
“I don’t think it was an act of war. I think it was an act of cybervandalism that was very costly, very expensive,” Obama said in an interview with CNN’s State of the Union.
The Obama administration is reviewing whether to put North Korea on its list of state sponsors of terrorism. North Korea came off the list in 2008 under President George W. Bush.
The Interview, starring James Franco and Seth Rogen, was scheduled for theatrical release on Dec. 25. Sony says it is exploring ways to distribute the movie, but at this point no distribution plan has been revealed.
World Food Programme(ERBIL, Iraq) -- Thousands of Iraqi Christians seeking shelter in an unfinished shopping mall are trying to make the most of Christmas this year, hanging threadbare decorations even as the floors are flooded and the walls are non-existent.
Days before the holiday, a makeshift nativity scene is put into place, colored lights in the shape of a Christmas tree light up a refrigerator door and "Merry Christmas" signs are ready to be hung.
Video shows what life is like for the people, mostly from Mosul, now forced to live at the Ankawa shopping mall in Erbil, after fleeing from militant attacks.
The footage was provided by the World Food Programme, which provides the refugees food and estimates around 1,600 people are taking shelter in the mall.
Hemera/Thinkstock(MANAMA, Bahrain) — The U.S. Navy is investigating the cause of a helicopter crash during a training exercise at Camp Buehring in Kuwait Sunday.
A defense official says all six passengers of the aircraft survived the crash, with three of them suffering only minor injuries. The six crew members were transported to a nearby medical facility for evaluation. The three injured crew members received treatment for their injuries and were released.
The Department of Defense does not suspect the crash occurred as a result of “hostile activity.”
A page urging Russians to attend a rally in support of opposition leader Alexey Navalny was unavailable after Russia's media watchdog reportedly requested that Facebook take it down because it promoted an unauthorized mass gathering.
On Friday, Navalny was in court facing what he says are trumped up corruption charges aimed at silencing Putin's opponents. Prosecutors are seeking to put him in prison for 10 years. During his closing argument, Navalny issued a stinging rebuke of Putin's government.
The Facebook page called on Russians to attend a rally in Navalny's defense on Jan. 15, the day of his sentencing hearing. By the time it had been blocked, more than 12,000 people said they planned to attend.
The new world is here people, it’s brave. Russians publicize unsanctioned rally by “warning” people against attending pic.twitter.com/5wgbONBQTx
A spokesman for Facebook said there was no comment on the blockage of the page.
The social network had been a popular platform for Russians to organize during a winter of anti-government protests three years ago. It played a similar role during the Arab Spring, when it was hailed as a free and open tool for oppressed masses to communicate.
That era may now be over.
Facebook has been keen to grow its user base in Russia, one of the few countries in the world where a local social network, in this case VKontakte, has more members.
Yet Russian authorities have become increasingly wary of social media and have sought to control it. Facebook says it blocked 29 pieces of content in Russia during the first half of this year due to requests from the government, compared to just four during the previous six months.
VKontakte has also faced strong pressure. The site's founder, Pavel Durov, defied repeated requests from Russian authorities to provide information on users. Durov eventually left the company and temporarily fled the country as the pressure intensified. VKontakte is now controlled by Putin allies.
Foreign websites, including Facebook and Twitter, are facing a looming deadline to store their data on Russian servers in accordance with new Russian legislation. A representative from Twitter recently visited Moscow to discuss the new requirements.
Shortly after the initial page in support of Navalny was blocked, a new event page sprung up in its place. Proving the resilience of the Internet age, within a few hours nearly 10,000 people had already pledged to attend.
Sony / Columbia(WASHINGTON) -- The United States has asked for the cooperation of China to help combat the destructive cyber-attack on U.S. information systems the government says was carried out by North Korea. The attack has created fears of attacks in the U.S. and caused Sony to pull the Dec. 25 release of The Interview.
“We have discussed this issue with the Chinese to share information, express our concerns about this attack, and to ask for their cooperation. In our cybersecurity discussions, both China and the United States have expressed the view that conducting destructive attacks in cyberspace is outside the norms of appropriate cyber behavior,” a senior administration official told ABC News on Saturday.
In a rare official statement, released Friday, the FBI blamed North Korea as the force behind the cyber-attack.
“North Korea’s actions were intended to inflict significant harm on a U.S. business and suppress the right of American citizens to express themselves,” the statement said. “Such acts of intimidation fall outside the bounds of acceptable state behavior.”
President Obama has promised a response, saying the North Koreans have caused significant damage.
“We will respond,” Obama said. “We will respond proportionally, and we’ll respond in a place and time and manner that we choose.”
The decision to seek help from China comes a day after the president said Sony made a “mistake” and wishes Sony had spoken with him before deciding to cancel the planned release of the movie.
“Sony is a corporation. It suffered significant damage. There were threats against its employees. I’m sympathetic to the concerns that they faced. Having said all that, yes I think they made a mistake,” Obama said.
Sony says it is actively surveying alternatives to release the movie on a different platform, as it is still their hope that those who want to see the movie with have the opportunity to do so.
iStock/Thinkstock(SYDNEY) -- Following the discovery of eight children's bodies in an Australian home Friday morning, police have arrested the woman who was found injured at the scene.
Police confirm that the woman who was found with stab wounds to her head and neck has been arrested in her Cairns hospital bed.
Detective Inspector Bruno Asnicar said, "We will look at everybody and anybody that we need to look at and there might be at a point later down the road, we'll be talking to more people, we may even have more persons of interest."
The victims ranged in age from 18 months to 15 years. Seven of them were the suspect's children and the eighth was her niece.
iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- An Islamic Turkish cleric who has become a critical voice against Turkey's leadership is now wanted Turkey, but is in exile in the United States.
Turkish officials say an arrest warrant has been issued for U.S.-based Muslim cleric Fethullah Gülen, who lives in eastern Pennsylvania in self-imposed exile.
Charges include leading a criminal organization and an "armed terrorist group."
Gülen was a one-time supporter of Turkish President Recep Tayipp Erdogan. However, the President blames Gülen for orchestrating a corruption scandal last year that implicated Erdogan, his allies, and his family.
The warrant for Gülen follows the recent detention of dozens of journalists and other supporters of the cleric on similar charges.
iStock/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- Four Afghans held at the Guantanamo Bay detention facility for more than a decade are headed back home.
The Pentagon announced Saturday the release of four more Guantanamo Bay detainees, who will be repatriated in Afghanistan. They are the latest in a series of more than a dozen transfers over the last two months.
The Pentagon says 132 detainees remain at Guantanamo Bay.
Marcio Silva/iStock/Thinkstock(BAGHDAD) -- U.S. troops will arrive in Iraq in January in order to begin training and advising Iraqi security forces.
At a Friday press briefing, Pentagon Press Secretary Rear Adm. John Kirby said that 1,300 Americans will head to Iraq in January. About 1,000 of those troops will come from the Army's 82nd Airborne Division, with 300 or so coming from other services.
The U.S. plans to establish four main training areas -- in Baghdad, Erbil, Anbar and a fourth near Baghdad -- where American and coalition forces will train 12 Iraqi Army brigades.
pablographix/iStock/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- The cost of airstrikes in Iraq and Syria has surpassed $1 billion, the Pentagon said Friday.
The U.S. has been conducting airstrikes targeting ISIS in Iraq since Aug. 8. Strikes in Syria began in September.
The Pentagon said Friday that the total cost of operations has reached $1.02 billion as of Dec. 11. The average daily cost is $8.1 million.
The Pentagon’s latest statistics show that as of Friday the U.S and its coalition partners had flown 1,371 airstrikes in both countries – 799 in Iraq and 572 in Syria.
American military aircraft have conducted 82 percent of the total number of airstrikes.
Lt. Gen. James Terry, the commander of the Combined Joint Task Force, Operation Inherent Resolve, told reporters Thursday at a Pentagon briefing that the airstrikes are having a significant effect on Daesh's ability “to command and control, to resupply, and to conduct maneuvering.” Daesh is the Arabic name for the ISIS acronym.
Pentagon officials have said that the airstrikes in Iraq target ISIS positions with the intent of supporting Iraqi and Kurdish military ground operations.
An example of that support took place earlier this week as U.S. aircraft conducted 53 airstrikes over two days to help a major offensive by Kurdish Peshmerga troops to retake territory from ISIS in northwestern Iraq.
But the U.S. has also begun carrying out targeted airstrikes against senior ISIS leaders in Iraq. On Thursday U.S. officials confirmed that three senior ISIS leaders had been killed in recent weeks, including ISIS's top military commander in Iraq.
In Syria, the airstrikes have a strategic goal of degrading ISIS’s ability to sustain itself in both Syria and Iraq. Accordingly, early airstrikes in Syria targeted ISIS’s illicit oil operations and training areas.
But the majority of airstrikes inside Syria have taken place in the northern city of Kobani where U.S. airstrikes have checked a major ISIS effort to take the city.
"As of today, that assault has failed and has resulted in nearly 1,000 ISIL fighters killed, including many leaders," Brett McGurk told a congressional panel last week. McGurk is one of the Obama administration’s envoys helping to build the international coalition against ISIS.
FBI(NEW YORK) -- Former prisoner Alan Gross was thrilled to return to America from Cuba earlier this week but there are dozens of other Americans who are in the country for other reasons -- and probably don't plan on leaving.
Cuba has been a haven for American fugitives for decades, but now that the two countries are restoring diplomatic relations their hideout might not be an option much longer.
"We will continue to press for the return of U.S. fugitives in Cuba to pursue justice for the victims of their crimes in our engagement with the Cuban government," the Department of Justice said in a statement emailed to ABC News.
There is no official number of Americans who have fled to Cuba, but reports suggest there could be dozens.
Federal officials have publicly placed at least one fugitive, Joanne Chesimard, in Cuba. However, they did not immediately respond to requests for confirmation on the whereabouts of the other fugitives named below.
Here are some of the most notorious Americans who have been reported as possibly hiding in the island nation just 90 miles off the coast:
1. Joanne Chesimard
Joanne Chesimard has been living in Cuba under the name Assata Shakur since 1984.
She was a member of the Black Liberation Army in 1973 when she shot and killed Trooper Werner Foerster during a traffic stop. She was convicted in 1977 and escaped prison two years later.
Chesimard, who became the first woman on the FBI's Most Wanted list last year, hid in a series of safe houses in New Jersey and Pennsylvania before fleeing to Cuba.
Anyone who helps bring Chesimard, now 66, into custody stands to get $2 million in rewards, according to the FBI.
2. Guillermo Morales
A bomb maker who fought for Puerto Rican independence is one of the American fugitives who has been living in Havana.
Guillermo "William" Morales was sentenced to 99 years in prison after being linked to two explosions in New York City -- one in 1975 that killed four and injured 60, and a second in 1977 that killed one, The New York Post reported.
Morales escaped from the prison ward of Bellevue Hospital in 1979 and, though he was reportedly held in a Mexican prison for several years in relation to a different crime, he fled to Cuba after his release in 1988.
"The U.S. press looks at me one way, but the press in Puerto Rico looks at me in a positive way because I’m a person that defends their homeland," he told The Post in 1999.
3. Victor Manuel Gerena
Victor Manuel Gerena fled custody in the United States following a 1983 robbery in Connecticut.
Gerena, now 56, allegedly robbed a security company of $7 million and "took two security employees hostage at gunpoint and then handcuffed, bound and injected them with an unknown substance in order to further disable them," according to the FBI.
A representative from the New Haven branch of the FBI confirmed to ABC that Gerena is still considered a fugitive but would not comment on his suspected whereabouts.
Published reports suggest that he could be in either Mexico or Cuba.
4. Charlie Hill
Like Chesimard, who was publicly praised by Fidel Castro, not all of the fugitives are trying to hide their whereabouts.
Charlie Hill is wanted by New Mexico officials after he allegedly killed a state trooper and hijacked a plane in 1971.
Hill, a native of Illinois, spoke to The New York Times in 2007 and discussed what he thought would happen to him if his longtime protector, Castro, died.
"I don’t think there will be much change if Fidel dies," Hill told The Times in 2007. "There might be, but I think it’s 60-40 that not much will happen. If it does, well, what can I do?"
5. Ishmael LaBeet
Ishmael LaBeet reportedly has been hiding in Cuba, though his troubles stem from a different island.
LaBeet and others were charged in the murder of eight people in St. Thomas, in the U.S. Virgin Islands, in 1973.
According to The St. Thomas Source, LaBeet was being flown to the mainland U.S. in 1984, got control of one of the armed guards escorting him, and forced the commercial plane -- full of other passengers -- to Cuba.
After the plane landed in Cuba, LaBeet reportedly was welcomed to his new country. The plane then was allowed to fly back to the U.S.