December 27th, 2011
03:54 PM ET

Reports: 9 arrested after Mall of America fights

Police have arrested several people after a "series of fights" at the Mall of America that sent chairs flying and caused after-Christmas shoppers to flee, the mall said Tuesday.

Mall security officers and police in Bloomington, Minnesota made several arrests, the mall said. CNN affiliate KARE reported that nine people have been arrested, including several juveniles. Video posted online showed chairs flying during the melee.

The Mall of America describes itself as the largest retail and entertainment complex in the United States. It says it has more than 520 stores, 50 restaurants and attractions that include an aquarium, flight simulator and a spa for children.

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U.S. decision on Yemen risks worsening violence
December 27th, 2011
01:52 PM ET

U.S. decision on Yemen risks worsening violence

Embattled Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh will be allowed to come to the United States for medical treatment in New York, a senior Obama administration official said Tuesday.

While the White House hopes the move could ease tensions in Yemen, analysts said it could incite further violence, weaken U.S. standing, and potentially help empower al Qaeda.

The official, who was not authorized to speak on the record because of the sensitivity of the issue, acknowledged that there was a debate within the administration.

The United States does not want to come across as providing safe haven to a dictator responsible for a violent, deadly crackdown on an uprising, the source said.

The decision was made in hope that Saleh's departure from Yemen could ease tensions in the country and help pave the way toward elections next year, the official said.

But it could have the opposite effect, said Brahma Chellaney, professor of Strategic Studies at the Center for Policy Research based in New Delhi.

"For the United States to give him refuge only incites more violence in Yemen," said Chellaney. "And it unnecessarily whips up anti-American passions. The last thing the United States should be doing is giving the impression that it is actually sheltering Saleh."

On Monday, White House spokesman Josh Earnest said U.S. officials were considering Saleh's request to come to America "for the sole purpose of seeking medical treatment."

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Giant escalators help poor in Medellin, Colombia
A nearly $7 million project put escalators on the steep hillside in Comuna 13 in Medellin, Colombia.
December 27th, 2011
12:39 PM ET

Giant escalators help poor in Medellin, Colombia

Residents of one of the dangerous slums in Medellin, Colombia, now have a faster way to make it to the top of the steep hillside district of Comuna 13: a set of escalators that will help them climb the equivalent of a 18-story building.

The residents in this poor town have been making the trek up cement steps for years, but now, thanks to the $6.9 million project, they won't have to work as hard.

"We used to see escalators in shopping malls, but Medellin will be the first to use it as public transport, a mobility solution for these neighborhoods with difficult access," Mayor Alonso Salazar said, according to the news site Colombia Reports.

The BBC reports that Comuna 13's 12,000 residents will now shorten a 30 minute hike to the top. They will now be able to get there in about 5 minutes. The project is divided up into six sections of escalators.

"They’re really cool because it really gives you an advantage as you’re going up," resident Yarley Villa told Caracol TV. "It’s much more comfortable when you’re carrying packages and stuff like that."

During the project's construction it gained both support and concern from the community.

While some residents were happy to have  a replacement for the nearly 530 steps they used to have to climb (or the equivalent of 18 flights of stairs), others wished the money had been spent to help improve the housing situation or for food assistance, according to Colombia Reports.

The project is aimed at helping improve Medellin, the hometown of Pablo Escobar, which had been known in the past more for drugs and violence.

6.6 magnitude earthquake hits southeastern Russia, USGS says
December 27th, 2011
10:56 AM ET

6.6 magnitude earthquake hits southeastern Russia, USGS says

[Updated at 10:56 a.m. ET] An earthquake with a preliminary magnitude of 6.6 struck a sparsely populated region of southeastern Russia on Tuesday, the U.S. Geological Survey said.

The quake rumbled a part of Russia near its border with Mongolia. Its epicenter was about 60 miles east of the Russian city of Kyzyl and 210 miles northeast of Ulaangom, Mongolia, the Geological Survey said.

The earthquake was relatively shallow, with a depth of four miles.

There were no immediate reports of damage or injuries.

[Posted at 10:49 a.m. ET] An earthquake with a preliminary magnitude of 6.6 struck hit southeastern Russia on Tuesday, the U.S. Geological Survey said. The epicenter was about 60 miles east of the city of Kyzyl.

This story is developing. We'll bring you the latest information as soon as we get it.

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Activists using drones against Japanese whalers
Peter Brown, a second mate on the ship the Steve Irwin, launches the drone from the ship.
December 27th, 2011
09:05 AM ET

Activists using drones against Japanese whalers

Activists trying to combat Japanese whaling have gone high-tech.

The longstanding battle against whaling has mostly been a game of wait, watch, chase and hope for the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society. But activists are now hoping they'll be able to chase down whaling vessels before they ever make their first kill with the help of drone aircraft.

Two of Sea Shepherd's ships are outfitted with long-range drones fitted with cameras and detection equipment, which help the ships scan hundreds more miles of ocean for whaling vessels, thanks to a donation from Bayshore Recycling Corp. of Woodbridge, New Jersey.

“We can cover hundreds of miles with these drones and they have proven to be valuable assets,” Capt. Paul Watson said on board the ship Steve Irwin.

And the technology has already proved successful for the group, which said it located the Japanese ship Nisshin Maru near the west coast of Australia on Saturday thanks to a drone.

"The Sea Shepherd crew have found the Japanese whaling fleet before a single whale has been killed," the group reported.

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December 27th, 2011
07:50 AM ET

Protesters turn out as Arab League monitors enter Homs

Arab League monitors arrived in the Syrian city of Homs Tuesday as activists reported thousands of demonstrators rallied against the regime and armored military vehicles withdrew from their positions.

The fact-finding team is visiting Syria this week to assess whether the government is upholding a commitment to end a brutal crackdown on anti-government protesters, now in its 10th month. The observers are monitoring an Arab League initiative that calls for President Bashar al-Assad's security forces to withdraw from cities, release detainees and end all forms of violence.

The monitors arrived amid what opposition members say was a deadly military siege against protesters in Homs, Syria's third-largest city. Around 20,000 protesters in the neighborhood of Khalidiyah and 4,000 in Qusour turned out to denounce the regime on Tuesday, said the British-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, an activist group with contacts across the country.

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December 27th, 2011
07:44 AM ET

Egyptian court rules against virginity tests

An Egyptian administrative court has issued an order banning virginity tests for female detainees, months after furor over such examinations on women arrested following protests in Cairo's Tahrir Square.

The ruling comes in the case of a woman who sued Egypt's military led-government over the practice.

In March, the human rights group Amnesty International reported that Egyptian troops beat, shocked and strip-searched women arrested during a March 9 protest in Cairo and forced them to submit to virginity tests.

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December 27th, 2011
07:44 AM ET

Swedish journalists receive 11 years in jail

Two Swedish journalists who were found guilty in Ethiopia of supporting terrorism were sentenced to 11 years in jail Tuesday, the Swedish Foreign Ministry said.

"Our belief was that the court would think they were journalists and they would be released. This is what the prime minister has said before," ministry spokesman Anders Jörle said. "It is not fair that they are sentenced since they are journalists on a journalistic mission."

"They are innocent and have been convicted because of their journalistic work," said Tomas Olsson, the journalists' Swedish attorney. "We are very disappointed."

A court convicted Johan Persson and Martin Schibbye last week.

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Filed under: Ethiopia • Sweden
December 27th, 2011
07:39 AM ET

Tuesday's live events

The Iowa caucuses are just one week away, and CNN.com Live is your home for all the latest news from the campaign trail.

Today's programming highlights...

8:30 am ET - Romney in New Hampshire - GOP presidential candidate Mitt Romney begins his day in New Hampshire, where he'll speak at a breakfast in Londonderry.

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Filed under: Elections • Politics
December 27th, 2011
05:44 AM ET

Al Qaeda in Iraq claims responsibility for recent attacks

Al Qaeda in Iraq claimed responsibility Tuesday for a string of attacks that killed almost 70 people and wounded more than 200.

The seemingly coordinated explosions Thursday struck during the height of morning rush hour, hitting a number of Baghdad's primarily mixed Sunni-Shiite neighborhoods. Nine car bombs, six roadside bombs and a mortar round all went off in a two-hour period, targeting residential, commercial and government districts in the Iraqi capital, police said.

"The series of special invasions launched, under the guidance of the Ministry of War in the Islamic State of Iraq, to support the weak Sunnis in the prisons of the apostates and to retaliate for the captives who were executed," the group said on an al Qaeda website.

Iraq's leadership is dominated by Shiite Muslims, including Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki. The country's Sunni minority held power under former leader Saddam Hussein.

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Filed under: Al Qaeda • Iraq • Middle East • World
December 27th, 2011
05:36 AM ET

Arab League mission arrives in embattled Syrian city of Homs

Members of an Arab League observatory team have arrived in the besieged Syrian city of Homs, a senior official in the league's advance delegation to Syria said Tuesday.

The fact-finding team is visiting Syria this week to assess whether the government is upholding a commitment to end a brutal crackdown on anti-government protesters.

Observers from the team "will have access to any place they want, freely," said the senior official, who did not want to be identified because he is not authorized to speak with the media. "The protocol entails that Syrian security only escorts the monitors to the entrances of the city only. According to the protocol, any party on the ground has the right to contact the monitors as they please."

But shortly before the arrival, military forces began scurrying away from Homs' Baba Amr neighborhood, said resident and activist Omar al-Humsi. Baba Amr has been wracked with deadly violence at the hands of the Syrian regime, opposition activists say.

Al-Humsi estimated more than 2,000 people joined a sit-in waiting for the arrival of the Arab League team.

Despite the league's mission, it's unclear whether observers will see the full picture of the violence on the ground - or whether their trip can help stop a 9-month conflict that some say has claimed more than 6,000 lives.

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2011: Controversial figures meet their demise
Newspaper headlines announce the death of Osama Bin Laden on May 2, 2011.
December 27th, 2011
05:23 AM ET
December 27th, 2011
04:14 AM ET

More rain forecast for storm-battered Phillipines

The Philippine government said Tuesday that fresh rain in Visayas and Mindanao could set off flash floods and landslides, bringing the potential for more misery in places already struggling to recover from a deadly tropical storm.

Eastern Luzon will experience cloudy skies with scattered rain, while the rest of the island will have mostly cloudy skies with light rain, the Philippine National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council (NDRRMC) predicted.

On Tuesday, the national government offered a new death toll - 1,453 - then revised it again based on a count by Regional Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council. The lower count means the death toll from the storm that lashed the southern Philippines more than a week remained unchanged from Monday: 1,249.

The bodies of people swept out to sea by flash floods from the storm have washed up on nearby beaches and islands, Maj. Reynaldo Balido, the military assistant for operations at the Office of Civil Defense, said Monday.

The authorities have enlisted the help of local fishermen to help the continuing search and rescue efforts for the scores of people who remain missing, Balido said by telephone from the island of Mindanao, the scene of the worst devastation. He added that the fishermen volunteered, since many of them had lost friends and relatives in the disaster.

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December 27th, 2011
04:11 AM ET

Prince Philip released from hospital

Britain's Prince Philip left Papworth Hospital on Tuesday morning where he was treated for a blocked coronary artery, Buckingham Palace said.

Philip, the husband of Britain's Queen Elizabeth, left to rejoin her and other members of the royal family at Sandringham, where the royal family traditionally spends Christmas, according to a palace spokesman. The estate has been the private home of four generations of British monarchs.

Philip was taken to the cardiothoracic unit of the Cambridge hospital on Friday after complaining of chest pains.

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Filed under: Uncategorized • World
December 27th, 2011
02:59 AM ET

Swedish journalists receive 11 years in jail

Two Swedish journalists who were found guilty in Ethiopia of supporting terrorism were sentenced to 11 years in jail Tuesday, the Swedish foreign ministry said.

"Our belief was that the court would think they were journalists and they would be released. This is what the Prime Minister has said before," ministry spokesman Anders Jörle said. "It is not fair that they are sentenced since they are journalists on a journalistic mission."

A court convicted Johan Persson and Martin Schibbye last week.

Ethiopian troops captured Persson and Schibbye in July during an exchange of gunfire with a rebel group in the Ogaden, a prohibited region along the nation's border with Somalia, according to state media.

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Filed under: Justice • World
December 27th, 2011
02:43 AM ET

South Korean delegation returns after meeting with Kim Jong Un

A delegation of South Korean citizens returned Tuesday from their two-day visit to the North where they paid their respects to the deceased North Korean leader Kim Jong Il and met with his youngest son and chosen successor, Kim Jong Un.

The meeting in in Pyongyang on Monday evening was the younger Kim's first interaction with visitors from the South since the death of his father.

"He's just as you see him in the media," said a member of the delegation, Hyun Jeong-Eun, responding to questions about Kim Jong Un at a news conference after returning to South Korea.

"Because I went simply to express my condolences, there was not any other opportunity to talk about various other issues," said Hyun, the chairwoman of Hyundai Group, whose husband and predecessor, Chung Mong-hun, had pushed for industrial investments in the North.

Hyun was joined in the 18-member civilian delegation by Lee Hee-ho, the widow of the former South Korean president Kim Dae-jung, who received the Nobel Peace Prize for his efforts at nurturing reconciliation between the two Koreas.

Their visit came at a delicate point in relations between the two Koreas. The death of Kim Jong Il, announced by Pyongyang on December 19, has put the region on edge, as the world waits to see how the leadership succession will play out in the secretive regime.

An aide for Lee said Tuesday that the visitors had a brief encounter of about 10 minutes with Kim Jong Un, who said, "Thank you for coming from so far."

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December 27th, 2011
02:37 AM ET

Connecticut house where 3 kids, grandparents die is razed

A large waterfront Victorian house in Connecticut where three children and their grandparents died in a Christmas morning fire has been torn down.

The city of Stamford determined the three-story structure was unsafe, and razed it Monday.

All that stood was the mailbox, around which grieving neighbors in the wealthy Shippan Point neighborhood placed flowers.

The cause of the blaze remains under investigation, said Acting Fire Chief Antonio Conte. Authorities have scheduled a Tuesday evening news conference to share additional information.

The fire tore through the million-dollar house shortly before 5 a.m. Sunday, fire officials said.

The girls' mother and a friend were able to make it out of the house, which was under renovation.

Officials told CNN affiliate WTNH that when the first firefighters arrived, they found the mother, Madonna Badger, on the scaffolding trying to get to the children.

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Filed under: U.S.
December 27th, 2011
01:50 AM ET

Tainted milk product scare causes outrage in China

Criticism of lax food safety standards at Chinese companies abounded on microblogging sites in China on Tuesday following the latest scare involving dairy products in the country.

Tests found that cartons of milk made by Mengniu Dairy Co., the largest Chinese dairy company, had excessive levels of aflatoxin M1, a substance that can cause liver cancer.

The tests were carried out by the Chinese Administration of Quality Supervision in an inspection of nationwide milk products on Saturday.

The toxin came from contaminated feed consumed by the cows that produced the milk, China's official news agency, Xinhua, reported.

The milk cartons did not make it to market but remained in storage during the inspection, according to a statement from the company on Sunday. Mengniu said that it had destroyed all the toxic milk as it sought to reassure consumers on its commitment to product safety.

Mengniu "once again would like to sincerely apologize to all consumers," said the statement. "We should earnestly learn from this lesson and comply with state and company quality and inspection standards with precision and care, making sure our product quality from every sector is approved in the future."

Users commenting on Chinese social media sites offered scathing opinions about the management of Chinese companies following Mengniu's admission of problems.

"Businesses in China are destroyed by Chinese businessmen themselves," said one user on Sina Weibo, the Chinese equivalent of Twitter. "Don't ever blame us on buying foreign goods."

"If I have a baby one day, I will also buy safer milk powder produced overseas," the user wrote Tuesday.

"Let us boycott Mengniu altogether, show the shameless businessmen our strength." said a posting by another user.

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Filed under: China • Health • World
December 27th, 2011
01:24 AM ET

Missing 9-year-old Indiana girl found dead

Aliahna Lemmon, a 9-year-old Indiana girl who disappeared two days before Christmas, was found dead Monday night, officials said.

Authorities charged 39-year-old Michael L. Plumadore with murder, the Allen County sheriff's office said.

Sheriff's Officer Jeremy Tinkel would not disclose Plumadore's relationship with Aliahna or details about what led to the man's arrest.

Earlier, Amber Story, the girl's grandmother, described Plumadore as a neighbor and close family friend. She said Aliahna and her two sisters were staying with Plumadore while Aliahna's mother recovered from the flu.

Prior to the suspect's arrest, Story said she believed the girl could have sleepwalked out of Plumadore's Fort Wayne home early Friday morning and been taken. She said Aliahna suffered from partial hearing loss and partial blindness, but has gotten out of her home while sleepwalking before.

Plumadore is set to make make his first appearance in Allen County Court on Tuesday morning.

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Filed under: Crime • U.S.