Mysterious metal ball from space falls in Namibia
This large metal ball was found in Namibian grasslands in November.
December 22nd, 2011
09:53 PM ET

Mysterious metal ball from space falls in Namibia

A large metal ball that fell from space into the Namibian grasslands last month is not alien, officials say, but that's about all they know for certain about the object.

According to a report on The Namibian website, the 13-pound metal sphere with two bumps on its poles was found by a farmer near Onamatunga in the Omunsati region between November 15 and November 20. Explosions were heard in the area before the discovery, but no evidence of an explosion was seen around the area where the object was found.

Paul Ludik, director of the country's National Forensic Science Institute, told The Namibian the sphere, with a circumference of 3.6 feet, is made of a "sophisticated" metal alloy that is known to man, but he said it has no markings that would identify it. No international space agency has claimed ownership, he said.

“A number of tests have been performed on the object, and it appears to be hollow. We are still busy with a detailed examination of the object,” The Namibian quotes him as saying.

Ludik told The Namibian that the object poses no cause for alarm, and that such reports of metallic spheres falling from space are common in the Southern Hemisphere.

So should we expect a run on helmets at sporting goods stores south of the equator?

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Filed under: Namibia • Space
December 22nd, 2011
08:37 PM ET

5.8-magnitude quake hits New Zealand

A 5.8-magnitude earthquake struck near the New Zealand city of Christchurch on Friday, the U.S. Geological Survey said on its website.

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Filed under: Earthquake • Natural Disasters • New Zealand
Overheard on CNN.com: What's a girl toy anyway?
December 22nd, 2011
05:20 PM ET

Overheard on CNN.com: What's a girl toy anyway?

Editor's note: This post is part of the Overheard on CNN.com series, a regular feature that examines interesting comments and thought-provoking conversations posted by the community.

Lego launched a new line of toys for girls that features lots of pinks and pastels and introduces characters like the beautician, the social girl, the girl who loves animals and "the smart girl."

This has upset some parents, who say the toys bring back outdated stereotypes of women's roles in the world.

HLNtv.com Art Director Kelly Byrom wrote that her 5-year-old boy would love the "girly" Lego toys and has been known to pair his fireman costume with a tutu to play "fireman princess." She asked why their isn't similar outrage over the "macho" stereotypes in the boy toy aisle.

Her story sparked an interesting conversation about gender roles and how grownups expect little girls and boys to act.  Some commenters said letting a boy run around in frilly pink outfits would make him weak, a target for bullies and possibly even gay. Others said they're just toys and that kids should be allowed to use their imagination.

Where's the outrage over 'macho' Legos?

Some commenters said that boys and girls are different, and that children should be raised knowing that.

Luke Vissering
My son will wear a tutu the day I'm dead. I'm raising my son to be a man and a good man at that. To be helpful, polite and caring. If he plays with a doll, that's fine. He wants to wear a tutu and I'll tell him no. I draw the line there. There is nothing wrong with raising a boy to be a boy.

David Huntwork
If you are indeed truly letting your boy run around in a tutu playing 'fireman' princess not only is that disturbing but probably borderline psychological child abuse. I have three daughers and though we do things like throw the football around or go 'bug hunting' they are still young ladies and not only do I reinforce and encourage that, I remind them of that. Nothing wrong with influencing your daughter with feminine things and your boys with macho things. Understanding and encouraging feminity and masculinity and helping to reinforce gender identity is an important part of being a parent, and you are failing miserably at that if this article isn't just a bit of weird, twisted satire. And where is this boys father who should be providing himself as a proper male role model? If he is in the picture he is doing a horrible job.

Lauren Campbell Bedell
BTW, girls were made to be MOTHERS, and with being a mother we are geared to have certain traits (gentleness, gracefulness, a certain affection for things)...boys are to be men and provide for their families...which means MACHO...hello...that is how nature (and God, if you are a believer) intended it to be. Do you see males acting like females and taking on female roles in the animal world? It does happen, but very rarely...and they're probably the gay ones. LOL. I have nothing against the gay community...I'm just saying. It doesn't make sense for a boy to love things glittery and girly. It just doesn't! Whenever my boys see pink things, they say Ew! I did not TRAIN them that way...in fact, each of my boys have gotten a dollhouse to play with (the Little People kind) as toddlers, but they still grow up hating pink.

Other parents said toys don't have anything to do with kids'  gender identity:

Joe Hatch
Oh dear God people, will you let the kids be kids and play. At 3 my son wore a big purple tutu, he is the center for his hockey team and he helped me drag our deer out this season. My daughter is all girl totally 100% girly and wants an old Chevy pickup with a wood stake bed. Let your kids be kids!

Janeen Winne
I absolutely agree. My son is into princesses, glitter, and rainbows. I constantly have to field questions about how I might be turning him gay. I respond with "what's wrong with being gay" and end up with the litany of "well it's such a hard life" to the traditional religious "it's against God's plan". Meanwhile, it's perfectly acceptable and encouraged for his mother to be very athletic and do hardcore obstacle course runs. For whatever reason, people are really put off by perceived threats to masculinity.

Owen Yarbrough
If she were to constantly restrict her sons interests in pink or her daughters interest in dragons and masculine things, she would raise a child that now is an adult that perpetuates the lessons taught by their parent that pink is for girls ONLY and boys should want to be masculine things when they play, or even worse, the child could grow up hating themselves because they love feminine things and they know their parents feelings towards these objects is negative and the role of their gender in society is not what their parents think is appropriate....moral of story...by repeatedly telling your child that they need to fit a certain gender type or role in society you could potentially make them grow up to hate themselves for not "fitting in" to the things that you consider to be normal. Do you want to indirectly make your kids think you hate them by their inability to meet your expectations.

Reader Jared John Haddock said that letting boy wear pink and tutus might create problems in the future.

You may not care if your boy wears a tutu, but lets talk about the world as it really is. He will not grow up and be confused because he played with a tutu. He will grow up and be confused because the LGBT community will tell him "you played with tutus, you must be true to who you are and be gay". Television will tell him, "you played with tutus as a boy, you must like men", and "it's ok to be who you really are deep inside". It's sophisticated, but it's brainwashing and stereotyping at its best, and by those who claim they are the victims of such stereotyping.

But one gay reader said it didn't work that way.

Adam Zahn
As a gay man, I never played with "girl toys" as a child. I always played with stereotypical toys for boys. That being said, kids will be kids. Forcing a truck in a kid's hand does not make him want to play with a truck anymore then say forcing your kids to play a sport year after year.

Too many people are equating (though not implicitly stating it) that a boy playing with a girl toy is going to end up feminine and gay. That is not exactly how it works. There is a lot of grey to gender.

What do you think? Share your opinion in the comments area below and in the latest stories on CNN.com. Or sound off on video via CNN iReport.

Compiled by the CNN.com moderation staff. Some comments edited for length or clarity.


Filed under: Overheard on CNN.com
December 22nd, 2011
11:41 AM ET

U.S., Pakistan, at odds over airstrike report

A U.S. investigation into a November airstrike that killed 24 Pakistani troops points to "inadequate coordination" possibly exacerbated by Pakistani distrust of the Americans as one of the reasons behind the incident, the Pentagon said Thursday.

The findings are likely to further erode the already fragile relations between the United States and Pakistan, as sources within Pakistan disputed the U.S. findings.

The investigation found that the U.S. forces acted in self-defense, though poor coordination between the two militaries resulted in the incident.

An American team heading toward an Afghan town near the Pakistani border came under attack from machine gun fire, to which they responded by firing back and displaying a "show of force," with a U.S. aircraft that made its presence known and dropped flares illuminating the area, said Brig. Gen. Stephen A. Clark, who led the investigation.

What followed over the next hours were three engagements between the two sides as higher-ups tried to ascertain - unsuccessfully - if Pakistani forces were in the area.

The narrative of the timeline is complicated, Clark said, adding that "this is a fairly comprehensive report."

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Filed under: Military • NATO • Pakistan • Pentagon
Gotta Watch: The top Jeanne Moos videos of 2011
One mom encounters an epic mess.
December 22nd, 2011
11:32 AM ET

Gotta Watch: The top Jeanne Moos videos of 2011

Jeanne Moos’ quirky view of the world around her has earned her a place in the hearts of CNN.com viewers. Her videos are often among the most-viewed videos each day. (In case you missed yesterday’s top-ranked piece  showing delivery guys manhandling fragile packages, you can find it at the bottom of this post.) We’ve assembled the most popular pieces of the year, as well as some of Jeanne’s favorites. Plus, find out what she thinks of her picks.

Flour power — One of Jeanne’s favorite pieces of the year was a video of two toddlers covering every inch of a room in flour. The mess brought the mom to tears. “I don’t have kids, and this is a great excuse for why not,” Jeanne says. See why.

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Filed under: 2011 Year in Review • Barack Obama • Gotta Watch • Iran • Postal Service • U.S. Navy
Report: Girl thought to be swept away during tsunami found alive
An aerial photo from January 2005 shows destroyed houses in Meluaboh, in West Aceh, Indonesia.
December 22nd, 2011
11:28 AM ET

Report: Girl thought to be swept away during tsunami found alive

An 8-year-old girl who was swept away from her mother's arms during the 2004 tsunami that hit Indonesia has been found alive and reunited with her parents, according to the Indonesian state news agency Antara.

The girl, who was identified by state news only as Wati, now 15, was reportedly discovered nearly seven years after the tsunami devastated the coastlines of Asia.

An earthquake with an estimated magnitude of between 9.1 to 9.3 strikes the coast of Sumatra, Indonesia, and triggered a deadly tsunami that killed more than 200,000 people according to the U.S. Geological Survey.

Wati was in the village of Ujong Baroh when flood waters came crashing in.

"Her mother, Yusniar, was trying to take her and her two siblings to a safe place, but somehow she lost her grip on her mother's arm and was carried away by the rushing waters, leaving her mother powerless to help her," the state news agency said. "Yusniar was able to save her two other children, but she and the rest of the family eventually had to resign themselves to the notion that Wati was lost as she never returned nor had anybody in the neighborhood seen her again dead or alive."

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Payroll tax cut standoff's impact: What $40 a paycheck means to you
December 22nd, 2011
09:53 AM ET

Payroll tax cut standoff's impact: What $40 a paycheck means to you

House Republicans on Tuesday rejected a Senate deal to temporarily extend the payroll tax holiday, leaving the White House and Congress at an impasse and creating a showdown between President Barack Obama and House Speaker John Boehner.

The tax cut is set to expire on December 31. Ending the tax break would cost the typical family about $1,000 a year, or $40 per bi-weekly paycheck for those who earn about $50,000 a year.

With frustration on both sides of the aisle, President Obama and the White House took to social media, hoping to get the public on their side in a public relations showdown with the Republican Party. The White House asked Americans what $40 means to them in an attempt to help put pressure on Republicans to pass the measure.

You responded in force on Twitter using the hashtag #40dollars.  President Obama said that the White House received more than 30,000 responses to their query.

That's perhaps why President Obama is expected to make a statement Thursday on the partisan standoff over how best to extend the expiring payroll tax cut, according to the White House. Obama will be joined by "Americans who would see their taxes go up if the House Republicans fail to act," the White House said. Some of those people have participated in Obama's social media campaign.

There was one surprise user of the hashtag: Speaker Boehner. But he used it to put things in his perspective, trying to explain why Republicans were right to try to work out a longer term deal.

So, with all of the bickering and the debating, we wanted to know if you agreed that $40 is a significant amount of money. We asked you if the end of the tax cut affect your family or if it would have little difference in your daily life. Here's what you said:

Selena Campbell is a 21-year-old from Orlando, Florida, who works in Admissions Control at Full Sail University. She said that the money she may be losing each paycheck would help buy new shoes for her husband. He has to walk to work every day because they can't afford a second car. But Campbell said that isn't the only thing it would help out with.

"For me and my family, $40 is $10 less than what we pay for groceries every week," she said. "There have been weeks, where we have only been able to spend $10 on groceries and have lived off of mac 'n' cheese and hot dogs."

Selena Campbell said the lost money would have helped with grocery and medical costs.

That money would also determine whether they could fully pay for their rent or car payments. It would also impact their healthcare, she said.

"$40 is what it costs for my medication so I can be a healthy wife, sister, daughter, mother," Campbell said. "$40 a month, in the economy we are in right now, is everything."

FULL POST

December 22nd, 2011
09:22 AM ET

Killings persist in Syria as Arab League prepares for mission

More violence erupted in Syria as an Arab League advance team was expected in the country Thursday to plan for an observer mission, part of a larger effort to help bring peace to the turbulent nation.

At least 15 people have been killed on Thursday, said the Local Coordination Committees of Syria, an activist network.

There was a surge of violence earlier in the week that resulted in the deaths of around 250 people in a 48-hour period, the opposition Syrian National Council said. Well over 5,000 people have died as a result of the government crackdown against peaceful protests that began in mid-March, the United Nations said earlier this month.

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Filed under: Syria
December 22nd, 2011
09:21 AM ET

Source: Patriot missiles found on ship are legal

Patriot missiles found on a ship bound for Asia were being sent legally, a source told CNN Thursday.

Finnish authorities had discovered and seized the shipment for investigation.

The weapons were being sent to South Korea, a customs official familiar with the case told CNN.

"The exporters had all necessary permissions, including an export authorization and a special authorization for the export of war weapons," the source said. "The ship departed from the German port of Emden."

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Filed under: Germany • South Korea • World Update
December 22nd, 2011
06:19 AM ET

DOD: U.S. forces acted in self defense in airstrike that killed 24 Pakistanis

An investigation into a November airstrike that killed 24 Pakistani troops has found U.S. forces acted in self defense, though poor coordination between the two militaries played a significant factor, according to a Department of Defense statement released early Thursday.

The finding is likely to further erode relations between the United States and Pakistan, which have steadily declined since a secret raid by American commandos that killed Osama bin Laden.

Pakistan's military has repeatedly insisted the November 26 airstrike near the Afghan border was deliberate, and the Pakistani government ordered the American military to vacate an air base used to launch drone strikes.

"The investigating officer found that U.S. forces, given what information they had available to them at the time, acted in self defense and with appropriate force after being fired upon," the Department of  Defense said in a statement posted on its web site.

"He also found that there was no intentional effort to target persons or places known to be part of the Pakistani military or to deliberately provide inaccurate location information to Pakistani officials."

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Filed under: U.S. • World
December 22nd, 2011
04:21 AM ET

Bradley Manning defense calls only 2 witnesses

After four days of testimony and 20 prosecution witnesses, Pfc. Bradley Manning's defense attorney spent only 35 minutes Wednesday questioning just two witnesses before resting their case.
Manning is accused of committing the biggest intelligence leak in U.S. history. His Article 32 hearing is part of the military's process of determining whether he should face court martial.

The first defense witness called was Sgt. Daniel Padgett who served with Manning in Iraq and witnessed one of several angry outbursts witnesses have described.

Padgett was the senior enlisted man on the night shift in the intelligence office where Manning worked.

He testified that in December 2009, Manning was late for duty and they sat down in a conference room so Padgett could counsel him.

Padgett said when they began talking, Manning was calm, but that he began to change. At some point, said Padgett,  Manning grabbed the conference room table and turned the table over, knocking a computer and radio to the floor.

Because there was a rifle in the room, Padgett testified that he didn't want Manning to get his hands on it, so "I coaxed him away from that, put my hands on his shoulder and coaxed him away."
At that point another soldier came in the room, subdued Manning, sat him down and Padgett continued counseling him, Padgett testified.

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Filed under: Justice • U.S.
December 22nd, 2011
01:48 AM ET

Wave of bombings strike Iraqi capital amid political unrest

Baghdad (CNN) - A wave of explosions in Baghdad killed at least 26 people and wounded at least 60, raising fears about the stability of the country amid political upheaval that threatens to undo Iraq's government just days after U.S. troops withdrew from the country.

The explosions - four car bombs and ten roadside bombs - occurred within two hours of one another, targeting residential, commercial and government districts in the Iraqi capital, two police officials told CNN.

The violence comes a day after Shiite Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki raised the stakes with political rivals, who have accused him of being a "dictator" and consolidating his power over Iraq's security forces by refusing to appoint defense and interior ministers.

Al-Maliki has demanded Iraq's Kurdish leaders hand over the country's Sunni vice president, who is wanted on charges he organized death squads that targeted government and military officials.

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Filed under: World
December 22nd, 2011
01:08 AM ET

Thailand and Cambodia to withdraw troops from around disputed temple

(CNN) - Thailand and Cambodia have agreed to withdraw their troops from the area surrounding a disputed border temple, the official Thai news agency MCOT reported.

The two countries reached a deal to implement an order by the International Court of Justice to put in place a "provisional demilitarized zone" around the Preah Vihear temple, MCOT cited Cambodian Defense Minister Tea Banh as saying at a news conference on Wednesday.

Thai and Cambodian troops had clashed in the area around the temple earlier this year, displacing thousands of people on both sides and causing at least 20 deaths.

A joint working group will be set up to discuss the rules governing the demilitarized zone, Banh said after meeting with the Thai defense minister, General Yutthasak Sasiprapa, in the Cambodian capital, Phnom Penh.

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