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Trump delays lifting ban on import of elephant trophies from Africa

Update (Friday, November 17)

President Donald Trump said in a tweet Friday he’s delaying a new policy allowing the body parts of African elephants shot for sport to be imported until he can review “all conservation facts.”

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service said Thursday that it will allow the importation of body parts from African elephants shot for sport. The agency said encouraging wealthy big-game hunters to kill the threatened species would help raise money for conservation programs.

Animal rights advocates and environmental groups criticized the decision. On Friday, the Republican chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee urged the administration to reverse the policy, calling it the “wrong move at the wrong time.”

Trump said that the policy had been “under study for years.” He says he will review the issue with Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke.

Earlier

The Trump administration plans to lift a ban on Friday that barred big game hunters from bringing trophies from elephants killed in a pair of African nations to America, according to multiple reports.

>> Read more trending news

A spokesperson for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service told ABC News in a statement Wednesday that the decision was made after officials in Zimbabwe and Zambia provided them with information to support a reversal of the ban.

"Legal, well-regulated sport hunting as part of a sound management program can benefit the conservation of certain species by providing incentives to local communities to conserve the species and by putting much-needed revenue back into conservation," the spokesperson told ABC News.

The decision will overturn a 2014 ban implemented by President Barack Obama’s administration in response to falling elephant populations. 

African elephants are listed as threatened under the Endangered Species Act. A provision in the act, however, allows for the government to give permits that let people import trophies from such animals if evidence shows that hunting them helps conservation efforts, according to NBC News.

The rule reversal will apply to elephants hunted in Zimbabwe from Jan. 21, 2016, to Dec. 31, 2018, the news station reported. It will also apply to elephants killed in Zambia in 2016, 2017 and 2018 and “applications that meet all other applicable permitting requirements,” a Fish and Wildlife spokesperson told NBC News.

According to the 2016 Great Elephant Census, Savanna elephant populations fell by 30 percent between 2007 and 2014. About 352,000 elephants were spotted during the survey, 82,300 in Zimbabwe and 21,700 in Zambia.

Both countries had areas that saw substantial declines in elephant populations along the Zambezi river in Zambia and in Zimbabwe’s Sebungwe region, according to the census.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Top 10 winter vacation destinations, according to Instagram

Snow? Check. Breathtaking mountain views? Check. Historical city charm and Instagram-worthy photo ops? Check and check. 

Bern, Switzerland, is the city with the most Instagram posts in the world for the winter season — and it truly has it all.

>> Read more trending news

That’s according to analysts at Focus Clinic, a popular laser eye surgery clinic in the United Kingdom, who gathered the 20 most popular winter travel destinations across the world based on Google search and ranked each by the number of times a city’s hashtag was used on Instagram to determine its popularity on the photo-sharing app.

According to the research, the #bern hashtag has been used more than 1,082,440 times.

A popular destination in the Swiss city is the medieval Old City of Bern, a city center surrounded by the Aare river. Old City is also a UNESCO World Heritage Site with one of Europe’s longest weather-sheltered shopping centers.

The “gateway to the Alps” is also known for its mountain views, many fountains, walkable streets, cafes, museums and colorful weekly markets, according to MySwitzerland.com.

Rounding out the top 10 winter destinations according to Instagram are: Aspen, Colorado; the Northern Lights in Tromso, Norway; Chamonix, France; Yosemite National Park in California; Zermatt, Switzerland; Yellowstone National Park in Wyoming; Bled, Slovenia; Cesky Krumlov, Czech Republic and Grindelwald, Switzerland.

>> Explore the full list at focusclinics.com/most-popular-winter-sights

Take a look at some of our favorite Instagram shots of Bern:

Dept. of State issues 'Europe Travel Alert' due to heightened risk of terrorist attacks

As the holiday season approaches, many families are preparing to take advantage of school breaks, federal holidays and remaining paid time off by traveling out of state to see family and friends and desirable international destinations.

But according to the U.S. Department of State, prospective travelers might want to reconsider any plans to journey across the pond.

>> Related: 17 states granted extension for REAL ID compliance; Driver's license OK for domestic travel 

In a travel advisory issued Thursday, government officials warned citizens of a heightened risk of terrorist attacks throughout Europe, particularly during the holiday season. The advisory urged American travelers who go abroad to be cautious at holiday festivals and events. 

Officials cited two terrorist attacks that occurred in Europe last year -- one in which a man drove a truck into a German Christmas market, killing 12 people and injuring dozens more, and another in which a gunman shot and killed 39 people during a New Year’s celebration in Istanbul, Turkey.

>> Read more trending news 

“Extremists continue to focus on tourist locations, transportation hubs, markets/shopping malls and local government facilities as viable targets. In addition, hotels, clubs, restaurants, places of worship, parks, high-profile events, educational institutions, airports and other soft targets remain priority locations for possible attacks,” the advisory reads. “U.S. citizens should exercise additional vigilance in these and similar locations.”

The advisory is in effect until Jan. 31.

Americans traveling abroad can always check the website of the U.S. Embassy or consulate in a destination city for any recent security messages.

>> Related: Paris plans to ban all gas cars by 2030

Professor: Team has performed first successful human head transplant using cadavers

It sounds like something out of a horrible B movie, but a professor in Italy says a team has successfully transplanted a human head in China. It was done on corpses to see if surgeons could reconnect the spine, nerves and blood vessels. 

“The first human transplant on human cadavers has been done,” Sergio Canavero, the director of the Turin Advanced Neuromodulation Group, said. “A full head swap between brain dead organ donors is the next stage,” the Telegraph reported.

He added that it would be the last step before a full head transplant happens some time before the end of the year, USA Today reported.

A firm date for the living patient surgery has not been released.

Canavero said the procedure happened in China because “the Americans did not understand” and wouldn’t fund the experiments, USA Today reported.

Experts in the medical community said that a procedure like this would not be allowed in either the United States or Europe.

While it’s being called a head transplant, it’s technically a body transplant, where the recipient with a functioning brain will have his head transplanted to a donor’s body who has been declared brain dead, USA Today reported.

>> Read more trending news 

Doctors will fuse the spinal cord and attach blood vessels and muscles then the patient will be kept in a coma for a month as the person heals, Newsweek reported. If it is successful, the patient could walk again, Canavero claims.

Many in the medical community said that not only is it doubtful the procedure will be successful, there also are ethical questions, saying that whoever undergoes the procedure will be in incredible pain, and not able to breathe or control their own heart rate, Newsweek reported.

Canavero cites studies on animals to support his plan, but other doctors say that, ‘You’re not going to jump from rodent to human” and that Canavero’s plan is “criminal,” Newsweek reported.

Tesla touts new Roadster as world's 'quickest car'

Tesla unveiled what it called “the quickest car in the world” late Thursday,

And the new Roadster is fast. Very fast.

>> Read more trending news

On its website, Tesla said that its Roadster production car, the newest version of its original sports vehicle, can accelerate from 0 to 60 mph in 1.9 seconds.

Tesla also said that the Roadster, which will be available in 2020, can go from 0 to 100 mph in 4.2 seconds and can cover a quarter-mile in 8.9 seconds. The four-seater can hit speeds up to 250 mph. Tesla said.

“It will be the first time that any production car has broken nine seconds in the quarter mile,” Tesla CEO Elon Musk told CNBC.

The “all-electric supercar” also has a 200-kilowatt battery pack that offers 620 miles of highway driving.

Suggested retail price is $200,000, Tesla said.

Report: 3 UCLA basketball players to return to US after Chinese officials drop charges

The three UCLA basketball players previously detained by Chinese police on shoplifting allegations were being allowed to return to the United States on Tuesday, according to a report by The Washington Post.

>> Read more trending news

LiAngelo Ball, Cody Riley and Jalen Hill were questioned and arrested by police after being accused of shoplifting from a Louis Vuitton store next to their hotel in Hangzhou, China. The three players were released on bond Wednesday and did not play in Friday’s game against Georgia Tech in Shanghai, China.

>> Related: LiAngelo Ball, UCLA teammates arrested in China could get 10 years in prison if convicted

The report of the players’ release comes hours after President Donald Trump said he spoke with Chinese President Xi Jinping about the players’ case.

“They’re working on it right now... Hopefully everything is going to work out,” Trump told reporters on his tour of Asia, according to the Washington Post.

China Sports Insider reported Tuesday the charges of shoplifting were officially dropped for all three players.

Photos: Powerful Iran-Iraq earthquake kills hundreds

The magnitude 7.3 quake was centered 19 miles outside the eastern Iraqi city of Halabja, according to the U.S. Geological Survey.

Photos: Powerful Iran-Iraq earthquake kills hundreds

The magnitude 7.3 quake was centered 19 miles outside the eastern Iraqi city of Halabja, according to the U.S. Geological Survey.

North Korea: Trump ‘begged for war’

North Korea intensified its rhetoric on Saturday, suggesting that President Donald Trump’s visit to Asia showed he was a “destroyer” as he “begged for war” on the Korean peninsula, Reuters reported.

>> Read more trending news

“Trump, during his visit, laid bare his true nature as destroyer of world peace and stability and begged for a nuclear war on the Korean peninsula,” the foreign ministry spokesman said in a statement carried by the state news agency.

Trump warned North Korea on Wednesday not to underestimate the United States as he wrapped up his visit to South Korea.

Trump says he believes Putin’s denials over election meddling

President Donald Trump said he is done confronting Vladimir Putin over accusations that Russia meddled in the 2016 presidential election and said he  took the Russian leader at his word when he said that his country did not seek to interfere,  CNN reported.

>> Read more trending news

"He said he didn't meddle. He said he didn't meddle. I asked him again. You can only ask so many times," Trump told reporters aboard Air Force One as he flew from Da Nang to Hanoi in Vietnam. "Every time he sees me, he says, 'I didn't do that.’ And I believe, I really believe, that when he tells me that, he means it."

The two leaders chatted Saturday as they walked together during the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) summit, Reuters reported.

Although White House officials said no formal meeting between the two leaders was planned, the two men shook hands at a dinner Friday evening and again at the start of Saturday’s main APEC meeting.

Television cameras caught the two leaders talking as they headed toward the area designated for a group photograph, Reuters reported.

Putin said he had a normal dialogue with Trump and described  the President as civil, well-educated, and comfortable to deal with.

Trump is in Vietnam on the fourth leg of a 12-day tour of Asia.

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