good deeds
August 1, 2014

When U.S. Army Major Glenn Battschinger started his mission in Afghanistan in 2010, he knew he wanted to do something to help the hundreds of children who came to visit him and other soldiers on the base.

"The kids wanted attention and needed something to do," he told People. Thinking of his Eagle Scout sons back home, Battschinger decided to start a scouting troop. He was given permission by village leaders, and established the Qasabah Troop No. 1 for about 40 children. They met every Saturday, and learned the Boy Scout pledge, how to tie knots and give first aid, and more. Today, there are dozens of troops in five provinces, made possible by a $100,000 grant from the Department of Defense, and Battschinger still hears from young people he met through scouting who say they are using the skills he taught them.

Battschinger didn't stop with the scouts. While in Afghanistan, he met seven-year-old Bilal Sharif, a boy who worked in a brick factory. He had a club foot and bladder exstrophy, meaning part of his bladder was outside of his body. It is an incredibly painful condition, and Battschinger pledged to get him treatment. He found a surgeon, Dr. Moneer Hanna in New Hyde Park, New Jersey, who agreed to do the surgeries for free, and a host family. Bilal needs a few more surgeries, but should be able to go home in a year. He has nothing but admiration for Battschinger. "[He's] the best hero I ever met in America or Afghanistan," he said.

Germanwings Crash
2:25 p.m. ET

Officials from Lufthansa, Germanwings' parent company, revealed Tuesday that the company knew Andreas Lubitz suffered from depression. Lubitz apparently told the company about his condition in 2009, during his pilot training.

Lufthansa also said that it had given prosecutors emails between Lubitz and the flight training school, including emailed medical records about a "deep depressive episode." The company said in a statement that it is revealing the information "in the interest of a swift and thorough clarification."

Lubitz, the co-pilot of the Germanwings jet that crashed into the French Alps last week, is believed to have intentionally crashed the plane, killing all 150 people on board. German prosecutors announced Monday that Lubitz had been treated for suicidal tendencies, but Lufthansa said Tuesday that Lubitz had "passed all medical checks" after the episode, The Associated Press reports.

This just in
1:51 p.m. ET

Opposition candidate Muhammadu Buhari on Tuesday defeated President Goodluck Jonathan in Nigeria's general election, marking the first democratic transfer of power since the end of military rule 16 years ago.

With most of the vote counted, Buhari had 15.4 million votes to 13.3 million for Jonathan, according to Reuters. Jonathan's Peoples Democratic Party has ruled Nigeria since 1999, but the rise of Boko Haram and surging inequality helped the 72-year-old Buhari, a former military leader, rise to victory in Africa's largest country.

"The people of Nigeria have taken over," Lai Mohammed, a spokesperson for Buhari's All Progressives Congress, said.

1:45 p.m. ET
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Konstantin Sivkov, president of the Moscow-based Academy of Geopolitical Problems, wrote an article for Russia's VPK News on Wednesday, suggesting that Russia detonate nuclear weapons near Yellowstone National Park or the San Andreas fault line. Sivkov believes the nuclear weapons could trigger a super volcano.

Sivkov explained that he wants Russia to attack the U.S. because he believes NATO is gaining strength against Russia. Last year, Sivkov also told Russia's Pravda that "American politicians have committed a variety of crimes" for which they have yet to be punished. He also said that American politicians were responsible for 1,200,000 deaths in Iraq.

"Geologists believe that the Yellowstone super volcano could explode at any moment. There are signs of growing activity there. Therefore it suffices to push the relatively small, for example, the impact of the munition megaton class to initiate an eruption," Sivkov wrote, according to a translation from The Sydney Morning Herald. "The consequences will be catastrophic for the United States — a country just disappears."

Sivkov added that Russia's geographic features would protect the country from any volcanic activity or tsunamis. But if a nuclear weapon were detonated near the San Andreas fault, Sivkov wrote, it could cause a tsunami powerful enough to "completely destroy the infrastructure of the United States."

Iran and the bomb
1:23 p.m. ET
Mark Wilson/Getty Images

Negotiations aimed at curbing Iran's nuclear program could extend beyond Tuesday's end-of-month deadline to secure a framework deal, according to the White House. "We will of course keep working if we are continuing to make progress,” a senior State Department official said in an email to The New York Times, "including into tomorrow, if it's useful to do so." The U.S. and five global powers set March 31 as the deadline for a preliminary deal, with June 30 the deadline to sign off on a comprehensive agreement.

En-Danger Zone
12:27 p.m. ET

Meet the pangolin, a small, scaly Asian creature that wears the unfortunate crown of being the world's most trafficked mammal.

While being covered in scales has the distinct advantage of qualifying the odd creature as the most steampunk animal in existence, the pangolin's prickly exterior tends to do it more harm than good. Its keratin scales are used in traditional medicine to treat skin diseases, and pangolin meat can fetch up to $150 dollars per pound at restaurants in parts of China where it's considered a delicacy. What's worse is that because the animals are less magnificent (and less cuddly) than the poster children of endangered species' movements, like elephants and tigers, they receive less attention.

"The pangolin runs the risk of becoming extinct before most people have even heard of them," said Britain's Prince William. If an endorsement from the prince doesn't help animals' cause, Pokemon lovers of the world should rise to the occasion, as the popular character Sandslash was loosely based on the pangolin.

The backlash continues
11:48 a.m. ET
Win McNamee/Getty Images

Bowing to pressure over his state's controversial new religious freedom law, Indiana Gov. Mike Pence (R) on Tuesday said he would call for legislation this week to ensure the law cannot be used to discriminate against gays.

"We will fix this and we will move forward," he said in a press conference.

Saying Indiana had a "perception problem" based on "sloppy reporting," Pence insisted the law's intent was never to allow discrimination based on sexual orientation. Rather, he framed it as establishing a "balancing test" for the courts to weigh alleged encroachments on religious freedom. Still, Pence said he felt a tweak was necessary to clarify the law's intent going forward.

"It's been a tough week in the Hoosier state, but we're going to move forward," he said.

This just in
11:28 a.m. ET
Spencer Platt/Getty Images

Iraqi forces on Tuesday recaptured the city of Tikrit from the Islamic State, Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi said in a speech on state television. "The successful experience of Tikrit will be repeated in other areas," he said. ISIS seized control of the city last summer, so its recapture by the state represents one of the most significant gains in Iraq's campaign to push back against the militant group.

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