February 16th, 2013
08:19 PM ET

Playgrounds in storm areas memorialize Newtown victims

A reference to the name "Sandy" can evoke painful reminders of last year's tragedies, be it the massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary School or an historic storm that wiped out thousands of homes and businesses, and left millions in the dark.

But New Jersey's largest firefighters union is looking to honor those affected by both calamities and join them and their mutual names into something more positive.

Firefighters have begun collecting donations for the "The Sandy Ground Project," with 26 playgrounds to be built in communities recovering from the storm - one for each victim gunned down on December 14 at the elementary school in Newtown, Connecticut.

"Our only challenge is to raise the money," said Bill Lavin, president of the Firefighters' Mutual Benevolent Association, whose 5,000 members are supporting the $2.1 million initiative on the website thesandygroundproject.org.

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Filed under: Connecticut • New Jersey • New York
February 16th, 2013
07:24 PM ET

Final take in Florida hunt is 68 pythons

They can reach lengths of 18 feet and their numbers are estimated to be in the tens of thousands, but Burmese pythons, a nuisance in the Everglades, aren't easy to find.

"It's an amazing challenge to try to come out and hunt these big snakes," hunter Dennis Jordan told CNN Miami affiliate WSVN in the closing days of the 2013 Python Challenge sponsored by state officials.

The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission announced Saturday that 68 Burmese pythons were taken during the January 12-February 10 competition that drew 1,600 registrants lured by prizes of up to $1,500.

Though the take was small, wildlife officials said their main aim was heightening public awareness of the invasive species.

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Filed under: Environment • Florida • Snakes
February 16th, 2013
07:14 PM ET

Texas police: Prisoner who stabbed detective killed days after escape

Authorities in Texas shot and killed an escaped prisoner early Saturday, several days after they say he stabbed a detective tasked with taking him across the country.

Alberto Morales, 42, was killed shortly after he was located in a wooded area in Grapevine, near Dallas, said Grapevine Police Department spokesman Sgt. Robert Eberling.

With the help of a helicopter, authorities found Morales not far from a home where someone stole jewelery and men's clothing.

"At this point, as far as the investigation is concerned, Mr. Morales was shot and is now deceased. This matter is still under investigation ... and we'll have more details at a later point," Eberling told reporters.

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Filed under: Crime • Florida • Justice • Nevada • Texas • U.S.
February 16th, 2013
10:12 AM ET

Intelligence academy chief killed in Iraq

The head of Iraq's intelligence academy and two of his bodyguards were killed in an attack Saturday, though conflicting reports emerged as to how the incident unfolded.

Two suicide bombers approached Gen. Aouni Ali's home in Tal Afar, about 40 miles west of Mosul, said Sheikh Salim Qasim, Ali's cousin and a member of the Nineveh provincial council.

Tal Afar is located in Nineveh province, which has a mixed population of Sunni Arabs and Turkmen.

The bombers opened fire on Ali's bodyguards, killing them, Qasim said. Ali rushed outside with another bodyguard. He killed one bomber before being shot and killed.

The remaining bodyguard killed the second attacker, though his explosive vest detonated, Qasim said.

The governor of Mosul, Atheel al-Nujaifi, confirmed the story, but did not provide additional details.

Police officials in Mosul and Baghdad, however, gave a different version of events.

According to police, the bombers' target was actually a senior police official who lives next door to Ali. The police official's bodyguards killed the two suicide bombers without incident, police said.

Ali overheard the gunfire and went to the scene, when one of the bodyguards fired an additional round at the body of one of the bombers, inadvertently setting off the bomb, police said.

Ali, the unnamed police official and the bodyguard were killed in the blast, police said.

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Filed under: Iraq • World
February 16th, 2013
09:51 AM ET

Bomb rips Shiite enclave in Pakistan city; casualties reported

A blast targeting Shiites in a busy Pakistani marketplace claimed many deaths and injuries on Saturday, police told CNN

The sectarian strike occurred in the southwestern Pakistan city of Quetta.

An explosives laden water tanker parked in a marketplace along the Karana Road section of the city was remotely detonated. said Mir Zubair Mehmood, a Quetta senior police official.

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February 16th, 2013
07:05 AM ET

Few details, plenty of questions as Pistorius disputes murder charge

Days after a tragic shooting turned an Olympic hero into a murder suspect, South Africans tried to make sense of hazy details surrounding a case that has left the nation stunned.

Information remained scant Saturday, a day after a judge charged a sobbing Oscar Pistorius with murder.

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February 16th, 2013
04:12 AM ET

Russia starts clean-up after meteor strike

A day after a spectacular meteor blast shook Russia's Urals region, the clean-up operation got under way Saturday in the hard-hit Russian city of Chelyabinsk.
Although some buildings escaped unscathed when the sonic waves from the Friday morning explosion reverberated through the city, others lost some or most of their windows.
About 1,000 people were hurt, many by the flying glass, according to the state-run RIA Novosti news agency.
The injured included more than 200 children. Most of those hurt are in the Chelyabinsk region, though the vast majority of injuries are not thought to be serious.

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February 16th, 2013
02:41 AM ET

6.2-magnitude earthquake rattles southern Philippine island

A 6.2-magnitude earthquake struck Saturday near the southern Philippine island of Mindanao, according to the U.S. Geological Survey.
There were no immediate reports of damage or injuries, the state-run Philippines News Agency (PNA) reported.
The temblor hit at 12:37 p.m. local time, 149 kilometers (93 miles) south of Davao, the USGS said.
It struck at a depth of about 98 kilometers. No tsunami warning or watch has been issued.

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Filed under: Philippines • World