NOAA: Heat, drought will continue through winter
October 18th, 2012
09:43 PM ET

NOAA: Heat, drought will continue through winter

This winter might not be very helpful to the United States’ precipitation-starved Plains and West.

NOAA’s winter outlook for the United States says these areas may receive normal precipitation from December through February. Parts of these areas along with much of the Pacific Northwest and the upper Midwest are expected to see less than normal precipitation. The only areas forecast for a better-than-normal chance of rain are across the Gulf Coast.

Nearly 75% of the country is either in drought or abnormally dry.

“The drought will likely persist at least through the winter”, according to Deke Arndt, chief of climate monitoring at NOAA’s National Climate Prediction Center.

Meanwhile, the western half of the country could be shivering less severely than usual. Temperatures are forecast to be above normal through the winter months over the Plains and Rockies, with only Florida expecting below-normal temperatures.

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Tigers sweep Yankees, head to World Series
Detroit Tigers Delmon Young, left, and Jhonny Peralta celebrate after both scored on one of Peralta's two home runs Thursday. Young was named Most Valuable Player of the American League Championship Series.
October 18th, 2012
07:57 PM ET

Tigers sweep Yankees, head to World Series

The Detroit Tigers at various times this summer looked like they might not make the playoffs. Now they're going to the World Series.

The underdog Tigers beat the Yankees 8-1 on Thursday evening in Detroit, completing a four-game sweep of the New York club in the American League Championship Series.

Detroit, heading to its second World Series in seven years, will face either the St. Louis Cardinals or the San Francisco Giants next.

Of the five American League playoff clubs, the Tigers had the worst record (88-74). They trailed the White Sox for the Central Division's automatic playoff spot for part of the season, but won eight of their last 10 regular-season games to clinch the division.

Photos: ALCS Game 4

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Filed under: Michigan
Mother of 'Baby Gabriel' found guilty of imprisonment, custodial interference
Gabriel Johnson was 8-months-old when he was last spotted alive.
October 18th, 2012
06:58 PM ET

Mother of 'Baby Gabriel' found guilty of imprisonment, custodial interference

The mother of the infant known as "Baby Gabriel" an 8-month-old Arizona boy who disappeared in 2009 after authorities say she took him in a custody dispute was found guilty Thursday of unlawful imprisonment and custodial interference.

Elizabeth Johnson of Arizona had told authorities she gave her son, Gabriel Johnson, to an unknown couple she met up with in Texas, at the direction of an acquaintance who authorities say initially wanted to adopt the child.

Gabriel Johnson was last spotted alive at a Texas motel in late 2009. It's not clear what happened to him.

A jury will now decide whether there were aggravating circumstances before a judge decides on a sentence.

Elizabeth Johnson fled with Gabriel to Texas in late 2009 in defiance of a ruling giving the boy's father joint custody, authorities said. On December 27, 2009, she sent the boy's father a series of spiteful text messages saying she killed the boy.

Arrested in Florida on December 30, 2009, she later recanted those statements and told police that she'd given the boy to a unknown couple in San Antonio, at the direction of Tammi Smith, an Arizona woman she'd met earlier in 2009.

Investigators alleged that Smith indeed helped Elizabeth Johnson wrangle custody of Gabriel away from his father, with the initial intent of adopting the boy herself. Smith admitted at her own trial earlier this year that she helped care for Gabriel for nine days before Johnson allegedly gave the baby to the unknown couple.

Smith was tried and found guilty this year of forgery and conspiracy to interfere with Gabriel's custody a conviction relating not to the boy's disappearance but to her efforts to conspire with Johnson to deny the father's rights to see his son.

Police: Mother kills 2 children, then gets on a bus

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Filed under: Crime
Jerry Sandusky's lawyers seek new trial
October 18th, 2012
04:57 PM ET

Jerry Sandusky's lawyers seek new trial

Jerry Sandusky's lawyers are seeking a new trial for their client, according to court documents filed Thursday in Centre County court in Pennsylvania.

The convicted sex abuser and former Penn State assistant football coach was sentenced to no less than 30 years and no more than 60 years in prison after being convicted in June of sexually abusing 10 boys during a 15-year period.

Read the appeal documents (PDF)

The once-beloved coach, whose abuse triggered a scandal for one of the nation's most storied college football teams, was given credit for 112 days served.

In addition to requesting a new trial, his lawyers also filed a motion Thursday to reconsider the sentence.

The lawyers argue that there was insufficient evidence to convict Sandusky, and that the court didn't allow them enough time to prepare for trial. They also argue, among other things, that certain counts should have been dismissed on the grounds that they were too general and non-specific, preventing Sandusky from preparing an adequate defense.

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October 18th, 2012
02:33 PM ET

Timeline: Same-sex marriage

The U.S. Supreme Court has agreed to hear two challenges to state and federal laws dealing with the recognition of gay and lesbian couples to legally wed.

Oral arguments will likely be held in March, with a ruling expected by late June.

One appeal to be heard involves the federal Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), which denies federal benefits to same-sex couples legally married in their own state. The second is a challenge to California's Proposition 8, a voter-approved referendum that took away the right of same-sex marriage that previously had been approved by state courts.

Currently, Maryland, Washington, Maine, Massachusetts, Connecticut, Iowa, Vermont, New Hampshire, New York and the District of Columbia issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples. Minnesota voters also rejected an effort to ban such unions through a constitutional amendment.

Five states Delaware, Hawaii, Illinois, New Jersey and Rhode Island currently allow civil unions that provide rights similar to marriage.

Here is a timeline showing the progression of same-sex marriage across the country.

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Filed under: Same-sex marriage
October 18th, 2012
12:59 PM ET

Lawyers release files on alleged Boy Scout abuse, call for Congress audit

Editor's note: Lawyers suing the Boy Scouts of America have released more than 20,000 confidential Boy Scout documents identifying more than 1,000 leaders and volunteers banned from the group after being accused of sexual or inappropriate conduct with boys.

The Portland, Oregon, attorneys are releasing the Scouts' 1,247 "ineligible volunteer files" from 1965 to 1985 - with the approval of the Oregon Supreme Court - after it won an $18.5 million judgment in 2010 against the Boy Scouts in a case where a Scoutmaster sexually abused a boy.

The attorneys also said Thursday they're calling on Congress to audit the group's current child abuse policy to "see if they are doing what they say they are doing and if they are effective."

The attorneys, who represent victims in several lawsuits against the Scouts, say the Boy Scouts hid evidence from the public and police, and that the so-called "perversion files" offer insight into what they deem a serious problem in the organization. Below are details from the lawyers' Thursday press conference, and the Boy Scouts' reaction.

[Updated at 4:47 p.m. ET] The Boy Scouts of America has issued a statement responding to the documents' release:

"Nothing is more important than the safety of our Scouts. There have been instances where people misused their positions in scouting to abuse children, and in certain cases, our response to these incidents and our efforts to protect youth were plainly insufficient, inappropriate, or wrong. Where those involved in scouting failed to protect, or worse, inflicted harm on children, we extend our deepest and sincere apologies to victims and their families.

“We have always cooperated fully with any requests from law enforcement and welcome any additional examination by authorities of Scouting policies, training, and files to learn from our longstanding Youth Protection efforts. In fact, next month in Atlanta, the BSA is hosting a Youth Protection Symposium in cooperation with other youth-serving organizations where nationally recognized third-party experts will discuss and share best practices.”

The Boy Scouts also say that the files "are not and have never been secret."

"They have been reported extensively in the media going back to the New York Times in 1935, included in books on scouting throughout our history, and were the subject of numerous news articles and a book in the 1990s," the Boy Scouts' statement says. "Further, the files are known to many of the millions of volunteers in scouting, because joining the organization requires they be cross-checked against this list. While not secret, the files are confidential because experts agree that confidentiality is a key component of effective government and private-sector reporting programs."

The Boy Scouts say their policies "have always required scouting to adhere to state laws in reporting abuse."

"Today, it is mandatory that any good-faith suspicion of abuse is immediately reported to law enforcement. In the files released today, police were involved in nearly two-thirds (63%) and a majority of these files (58%) included information known to the public," the statement said.

[Updated at 2:20 p.m. ET] The press conference is over. Kelly Clark's law firm in Portland says it has published the files on its website. CNN is not linking out to the reports in this blog post because we haven’t vetted the allegations that they contain, and because the attorneys say that they haven’t checked the veracity of all the allegations.

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Police believe murder suspects committed arson to hide clues
Police say they believe the five people found dead in Fero's Bar and Grill in Denver were killed before a fire was set there.
October 18th, 2012
12:35 PM ET

Police believe murder suspects committed arson to hide clues

[Updated at 2:25 p.m. ET]  Three men accused of killing five people at a bar and then setting a fire to cover their tracks are in custody, Denver police said Thursday.

Officers arrested Dexter Lewis, 22; Joseph Hill, 27; and Lynell Hill, 26, late Wednesday night in connection with the deaths, Police Cmdr. Ron Saunier said.

The case seems straight out of a TV crime drama.

When firefighters arrived at the burning Fero’s Bar and Grill early Wednesday morning, they found five bodies inside - four women and a man.

But as investigators checked the corpses, they began to suspect the fire probably hadn’t killed the victims. Each body showed obvious signs of trauma, which police said prompted them to think someone set the blaze to hide evidence of murders.

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October 18th, 2012
12:16 PM ET

Afghan woman slices daughter-in-law's throat for refusing prostitution, police say

[Updated Monday 11:30 a.m.] Afghan police now say that while the woman's throat was slashed, it was not fully cut off - and therefore was not technically a "beheading."

[Updated Thursday 12:16 p.m.] A young woman had her head chopped off for refusing to prostitute herself - and one of the killers was her mother-in-law, police say.

The other was the mother-in-law's cousin.  And both admit it, according to Afghan police.

To most people, the slaying of 20-year-old Mah Gul is unimaginable.

But it's just "one more incident that highlights the violent atmosphere that women and girls face in Afghanistan and the region," Suzanne Nossel, executive director of Amnesty International USA, said Thursday.

The killing happened Sunday in Herat province, in southwest Afghanistan along the Iranian border.

Gul's husband is a baker.  When he left home for work, his mother and her cousin tried to force the young wife into prostitution, said Noorthan Mikvad, spokesman for Herat police.

When she wouldn't do it, they beheaded her, he said.

In a statement, Nossel said women and girls in the region "are raped, killed, forced into marriage in childhood, prevented from obtaining an education and denied their sexual and reproductive rights. Until basic human rights are guaranteed ... these horrible abuses will continue to be committed."

The U.S. State Department says some "Afghan women and girls are subjected to forced prostitution, forced marriages – including through forced marriages in which husbands force their wives into prostitution, and where they are given by their families to settle debts or disputes."

Some families even knowingly sell their children into forced prostitution, the State Department said, "including for bacha baazi – where wealthy men use groups of young boys for social and sexual entertainment."

Herat police say their investigation found that Gul's husband and father-in-law were not involved in her killing.

CNN has extensively reported on the abuse of girls and women in Afghanistan, a nation where under Taliban rule from 1996 to 2001, women were banned from classrooms, politics or employment. Women who wanted to leave home had to be escorted by a male relative and were forced to wear burqas. Those who disobeyed were publicly beaten. In some parts of Afghanistan in the late 1990s, locals were encouraged to blacken the windows on their homes so women inside could not be seen.

The Afghan government, including a woman running for the presidency of the country, has tried to make it relatively easier for young women to go school. In 2004, girls were formally guaranteed a right to an education under the Afghan constitution.

Yet major problems persist and girls are in extraordinary danger in part of the country. They are terrorized walking to school. In 2009 in Peshawar, Pakistan, near Afghanistan, the Taliban issued an official edict mandating that no more girls should be able to go to school. That was after the Taliban had regained their stake in the control in the region after the 2001 invasion.

Girls and women's families sometimes abuse and kill them. In July, the Taliban executed a woman in public, justifying the killing by saying she had committed adultery.

In 2011, people around the world were appalled to learn about a then-13-year-old named Sahar Gul who had been married off to a member of the Afghan Army. Sahar said her husband raped her, and enraged that she didn't immediately conceive, her in-laws locked her in a basement for months. They tortured Sahar with hot pokers and ripped out her nails. Ultimately, she said, they wanted to force her into prostitution as punishment for failing her obligation as a woman.

Her face made famous on Time's cover, young Aesha had her nose and ears hacked off for running away from her husband's house. Aesha was brought to the United States. Her life continues to be hugely challenging as she's forever emotionally scared by the abuse she suffered.

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Filed under: Afghanistan • World
October 18th, 2012
10:15 AM ET

Thursday's live events

President Obama and GOP nominee Mitt Romney face off October 22 in Boca Raton, Florida, in their third and final debate of the election season.  Watch CNN.com Live for all your election coverage.

Today's programming highlights...

11:35 am ET - Obama on the campaign trail - President Obama begins his day in New Hampshire, where he'll speak at a campaign event in Manchester.  He'll then travel to New York to speak at the Alfred E. Smith Memorial Foundation Dinner at 7:55 pm ET.

FULL POST


Filed under: Elections • On CNN.com today • Politics
Syrian civil war in photos
October 18th, 2012
10:05 AM ET

Flattened buildings, charred bodies, a child's tears: the aftermath of Syrian rockets

Rockets slammed a residential road in northern Syria Thursday, spewing rubble in all directions and terrifying everyone around.  As the smoke cleared and the echoing booms faded, more than 20 bodies were found amid the chaos.

The strikes happened in Idlib, a Syrian province that has seen deadly violence for months on end, according to opposition activist Mahmoud Abdallah.

A Syrian fighter jet zoomed overhead and dropped several rockets on the neighborhood in the city of Maraat Numan, killing mostly civilians, Abdallah said.

Twenty-five bodies were found - 15 of them charred beyond recognition, said Mohammed Kanan, spokesman for the Free Syrian Army, who visited the site of the attack.

“The first thing I saw was a child crying over a relative buried under the rubble," he said.  "The scene was horrific. The smell of burning bodies and the dust was overwhelming.”

Three multi-story buildings were flattened.  A nearby mosque housing displaced people was severely damaged, Kanan said.

The area is known to be home to many who have fled other parts of Syria in the bloody conflict.

The opposition Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said Syrian fighter jets also targeted and destroyed a field hospital in Idlib, although it had been evacuated in the morning.

A Syrian military building, meanwhile, may have come under attack Thursday.  The observatory reports a huge blast in a Damascus suburb, and says early reports indicate it was near a building used by the Palestine Branch - part of Syria's military intelligence operation.  There are reports of casualties, the observatory says.  There were no reports about the incident on state-run media.

Palestine Branch facilities have been struck by explosions before.

Already Thursday, at least 167 people have been killed across Syria, the opposition Local Coordination Committees of Syria said.  They include four women and eight children.

On state-run media, Syria said its forces inflicted "heavy losses on terrorists in many provinces."

It also complained that the involvement of foreign countries "in supporting and arming the terrorist groups in Syria has recently increased."

Throughout the now 19-month-long crisis, the Syrian government has blamed terrorist groups for violence in the country.

Follow the latest coverage of the Syrian conflict at CNN.com/world.

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Filed under: Syria • World
Newsweek ending print edition, job cuts expected
October 18th, 2012
07:48 AM ET

Newsweek ending print edition, job cuts expected

Newsweek will go out of print at the end of the year, becoming an online publication only, the company announced Thursday.

The transition will bring job cuts, said Tina Brown, editor-in-chief.

On its official Twitter feed, the company announced:

“It is important that we underscore what this digital transition means and, as importantly, what it does not,"  Brown, who is also founder of The Newsweek Daily Beast Company, wrote in a post at thedailybeast.com. "We are transitioning Newsweek, not saying goodbye to it."

The decision "is about the challenging economics of print publishing and distribution," she wrote.

"Regrettably we anticipate staff reductions and the streamlining of our editorial and business operations both here in the U.S. and internationally," Brown added.

Full coverage from CNNMoney.com is here.

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Filed under: Business • Economy • Media