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  • iStock/Thinkstock(SANTA FE, Texas) -- She arrived from halfway around the globe but 17-year-old Sabika Sheikh was determined to bring her native Pakistan closer to America, the Texas family who took in the foreign exchange student told mourners at her funeral on Sunday.Politicians, religious leaders, and friends packed the Masjid al-Sabireen mosque in the Houston suburb of Stafford to celebrate the girl who was one of eight students and two teachers killed, allegedly by a 17-year-old classmate on Friday at their high school in Santa Fe, Texas."She was the most beautiful, loving person I've ever met," said Jaelyn Cogburn, whose family took in Sabika six months ago as part of the Youth Exchange and Study program sponsored by the U.S. State Department.Jaelyn told the mourners that she had been homeschooled up until this year and when she enrolled at Santa Fe High School, Sabika, who had yet to move into the Cogburn home, was the first friend she made."It was hard when I started school because I didn’t know anybody, but then I met Sabika and she didn't know anyone, either," said Jaelyn. "And we both became very close."She said Sabika was scheduled to return home in about three weeks and she was already feeling sad about her leaving."The other night we were going to our friend's house in a car and I was thinking about how she was about to go back to Pakistan and I was crying. No one saw me because I was in the dark. I was crying because I didn't want her to leave and she leaned over and she just said, 'I love you and I miss you,'" Jaelyn said."She was so loyal to her faith, her country and she only had good things to say about everybody. She loved her family. She couldn't wait to see them, and she loved us," Jaelyn added.Jaelyn's mother, Joleen Cogburn, recalled a conversation she had with Sabika when she first came to live in her home about what she wanted to accomplish as a foreign exchange student."I asked her how she got involved with wanting to become a foreign exchange student and why, and she said, 'Because I want to learn the American culture and I want America to lean the Pakistan culture and I want us to come together and unite,'" Cogburn said.She said she told Sabika how brave she was for being so young and leaving her family to come to America."I always told her, 'Sabika, you have a warrior's heart,'" she said. "She wanted to be a businesswoman and she said she wanted to impact the world, and I think she's done that."Her husband, Jason Cogburn, said that in the short time Sabika lived with them, she became as close as one of his daughters."We had no idea what God was going to send us, but he sent us one of the most precious gifts I've ever had in life," Jason Cogburn said.Despite coming from different cultures and religions, Sabika fit perfectly into his family, he said."We loved her and she loved us and we did things together," he said. "She wanted to be part of what we did and we wanted to be part of what she did."He said Sabika even started working in his family's seafood business."When we went to work, she went to work," Jason Cogburn said. "When she started Ramadan and started fasting, my family did that with her because we did things together."Sabika's funeral was the first of more to come.Also killed in the attack were students Shana Fisher, 16; Angelique Ramirez, 15; Christopher Jake Stone, 17; Jared Black, 17; Christian Riley Garcia, 15; Aaron Kyle McLeod; and Kimberly Vaughan. Two teachers, Glenda Perkins and Cynthia Tisdale, 64, were also killed.All their names were read at Sabika's funeral."We are still in a state of denial. We can’t believe it. It's like a nightmare," Sabika's father, Abdul Aziz Sheikh, told The Associated Press at his home in Karachi, Pakistan.He said he hopes his daughter's death doesn't stop other students from following in her footsteps."One should not lose his heart by such kind of incidents," he added. "One should not stop going for education to the U.S. or U.K., or China,
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  • iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- The current Ebola outbreak in the Democratic Republic of Congo has spread from rural areas to a city of nearly 1.2 million people, the country's health ministry said Wednesday.Situated along the Congo River, Mbandaka is a densely populated transit hub at the crossroads of Equateur province, the health ministry said, raising fears that the Ebola virus will be easily passed on. Ebola spreads through direct contact with bodily fluids of infected people.Downstream from Mbandaka is the country's capital, Kinshasa, which is home to roughly 10 million people."The arrival of Ebola in an urban area is very concerning and WHO and partners are working together to rapidly scale up the search for all contacts of the confirmed case in the Mbandaka area," said Matshidiso Moeti, the World Health Organization's regional director for Africa.A new suspected case of Ebola was recorded this week in Wangata, one of the three health zones of Mbandaka, the capital of the northwestern Equateur province. Laboratory tests on two samples from Wangata confirmed one specimen as positive for Ebola, while the other was negative.It's the first time in the region's ongoing outbreak that a case has been detected in an urban health zone, with all other cases reported in remote, rural areas of Equateur province. And until now, all the confirmed cases of Ebola were in Bikoro health zone, some 90 miles south of Mbandaka."We are entering a new phase of the Ebola outbreak that is now affecting three health zones, including an urban health zone," the Democratic Republic of Congo's Minister of Health Oly Ilunga Kalenga said in a statement in French late Wednesday. "Since the announcement of the alert in Mbandaka, our epidemiologists are working in the field with community relays to identify people who have been in contact with suspected cases."As of Thursday, a total of 45 cases of hemorrhagic fever had been recorded in the Democratic Republic of Congo since the outbreak was announced on May 8. That number includes 14 confirmed cases of Ebola, 21 probable cases and 10 suspected cases. Health care workers have been among those infected, according to the country's health ministry.There have been 25 deaths among these cases, including one person who died from a confirmed case of Ebola.There are several types of hemorrhagic fever in the Democratic Republic of Congo, the health ministry noted; thus, not all suspected cases are necessarily Ebola.It's the Central African nation's ninth Ebola outbreak since 1976 when scientists first identified the deadly virus.The health ministry said it had received 5,400 doses of Ebola vaccine Wednesday morning. Thousands more were expected to arrive in the coming days.The World Health Organization (WHO), which is working with the Democratic Republic of Congo's health ministry and its partners, announced Thursday that it has deployed 30 experts to conduct surveillance in Mbandaka, following news of the confirmed case there.Doctors Without Borders, or MSF as its often called by its French acronym, said it too is stepping up its response to stop the spread of the current Ebola outbreak in the Democratic Republic of Congo."With the new case confirmed in Mbandaka, the scenario has changed, and it has become more serious and worrying, since the disease is now affecting an urban area," said Henry Gray, MSF emergency coordinator in Mbandaka. "It is paramount to trace the suspect case in order to have a clearer view on how it reached the city."The International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies, which is also assisting the country amid the current outbreak, said communities across Equateur province must be alerted of the rising risk of Ebola to stop the virus from spreading further."Local volunteers and health workers are the community’s alarm system," said Ben Adinoyi, who heads the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies’ health unit for Africa. “They are o
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  • Randy Olson/National Geographic(NEW YORK) -- National Geographic launched a new campaign this week to reduce waste from plastic products like single-use bags and straws, which includes a major change: most National Geographic magazines will now be delivered in paper packaging instead of plastic.The magazine reports that 18 billions pounds of plastic waste end up in oceans every year and that less than a fifth of plastic produced around the world is recycled.
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  • iStock/Thinkstock(LONDON) -- While President Donald Trump and First Lady Melania Trump won't be attending Saturday’s highly-anticipated royal wedding in the United Kingdom, the White House confirms they will be sending a wedding gift instead.“President Donald Trump and First Lady Melania Trump will be making a contribution to one of the seven charities the royal couple has designated in lieu of gifts,” White House deputy press secretary Lindsay Walters said in a statement.The White House did not disclose the amount of the donation.American actress Meghan Markle and Prince Harry requested wedding guests and well-wishers make donations to charities they care about including the Children’s HIV Association, Crisis – a charity for homeless people, Scotty’s Little Soldiers – a charity for bereaved Armed Forces children, Street Games, the Myna Mahila Foundation, which works to empower women in Mumbai’s urban slums, and the Wilderness Foundation UK, which introduces vulnerable youth to the outdoors.The Trump’s donation will follow in the tradition of American presidents who have sent gifts to Royal couples – in 1947, President Harry Truman sent Prince Philip and Princess Elizabeth a glass bowl and President Ronald Reagan and First Lady Nancy Reagan also sent a glass bowl to Prince Charles and Diana for their wedding in 1981.The Trumps won’t be alone in their exclusion from one of the most exclusive events in the world this Saturday – Prince Harry requested that no political officials be invited to the wedding.“It has been decided that an official list of political leaders - both UK and international - is not required for Prince Harry’s and Ms. Markle’s wedding. Her Majesty's Government was consulted on this decision which was taken by the Royal Household,” said Kensington Palace in a statement.Even the Obamas – who have had a friendly relationship with Prince Harry – will not be attending the wedding, although a spokesman noted: “The couples look forward to seeing each other soon.”Trump told Piers Morgan he wasn’t aware of any invitation to the Royal Wedding but said of the couple in an interview, “I want them to be happy. I really want them to be happy.”The White House has not said whether or not the president and first lady plan to watch the wedding ceremony, which will be broadcast live in the early morning hours Saturday.
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  • Ben Birchall - WPA Pool / Getty Images(LONDON) -- Meghan Markle’s father will not be on hand to watch his daughter marry Prince Harry Saturday at Windsor Castle, the bride-to-be said today.“Sadly, my father will not be attending our wedding,” Markle, 36, said in a statement from Kensington Palace. “I have always cared for my father and hope he can be given the space he needs to focus on his health.“I would like to thank everyone who has offered generous messages of support,” the statement continued. “Please know how much Harry and I look forward to sharing our special day with you on Saturday.”Markle has been told by her father, Thomas Markle Sr., that he is unable to travel because of medical advice from his doctors, royal sources told ABC News.Markle had asked her dad to walk her down the aisle of St. George’s Chapel Saturday in front of an expected 600 guests.Kensington Palace has not announced who will replace Markle's father, but there has been speculation that Harry's father, Prince Charles, the Prince of Wales, could step in if asked.Markle's statement followed days of speculation about the role her father would play in the wedding after a British newspaper’s report that he staged paparazzi photos earlier this year near his home in Mexico.Markle Sr., 73, reportedly told TMZ earlier this week he thought it was best to avoid his daughter’s wedding because he didn’t want to cause further embarrassment to his daughter and the royal family.He then appeared to reverse course, reportedly telling TMZ, “I hate the idea of missing one of the greatest moments in history and walking my daughter down the aisle.”That was followed by subsequent reports that he was scheduled to undergo major heart surgery to clear a blockage and repair damage to his heart, which occurred after he reportedly suffered a heart attack last week.TMZ reported that Markle Sr. told them he believes the heart attack was brought on by an open letter his son Thomas Markle Jr., Markle’s estranged half-brother, wrote to Harry last month, encouraging him to call off the wedding.Neither Thomas Markle Jr. nor his sister Samantha Grant Markle, Markle’s estranged half-sister, were invited to the wedding.With Markle Sr.'s absence from the wedding, Markle’s mom, Doria Ragland, is expected to be the only member of her family attending the wedding.Ragland, a Los Angeles-based yoga instructor and social worker, arrived in London earlier this week and is spending the time before the wedding meeting Harry’s relatives and Harry and Markle’s closest friends.Ragland is scheduled to travel with Markle on her wedding day from her overnight location to St. George’s Chapel. Kensington Palace has not commented on any changes to the wedding-day plan.Markle is being supported by friends and, with Harry, looking forward to Saturday, according to royal sources.
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