December 30th, 2013
01:46 PM ET

Sheriff: Colorado school gunman got in through unlocked door

The gunman who opened fire at a Colorado high school this month came into the school through a door that should have been locked, a sheriff said Monday.

"We know the doorway on the north side that the murderer entered is supposed to be locked. Unfortunately, it rarely is, because it is more convenient for people to come and go from that area. The door that he entered was not secured on December 13," Arapahoe County Sheriff Grayson Robinson told reporters. "He entered without any obstruction."

The gunman legally bought a shotgun from a local retailer after passing a background check on December 6 - a week before the shooting at Arapahoe High School - and spent a week stocking up on ammunition, Robinson said.

The shooter was still trying to buy more shells less than an hour before he entered through the unlocked side door carrying the shotgun, a machete, three Molotov cocktails and 125 rounds.

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Filed under: Colorado • Crime • U.S.
December 30th, 2013
01:10 PM ET

South Sudan President: Africa should have helped

African nations should have acted quickly to help avoid the bloody fighting that has consumed parts of South Sudan this month, the President of the new country told CNN on Monday.

As soon as an attempted coup took place and violence broke out, "the original leaders and all African leaders should have come in with military support," so that the rebels would be "crushed once and for all," President Salva Kiir said.

However, he said, he did not ask them for help.

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December 29th, 2013
11:33 PM ET

8 killed in China's Xinjiang region

Police shot and killed eight people who attacked a police station in Xinjiang, a restive region in northwestern China, authorities said Monday.
Nine people armed with knives threw explosives at the building and set fire to police vehicles, the Xinjiang government said on its website. One of the people was taken into custody, it said.
The violence took place in Yarkant County in Xinjiang and is under investigation, authorities said.

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Filed under: China • World
Python kills security guard in Bali
A python, similar to the one pictured, killed a security guard in Bali.
December 27th, 2013
04:26 PM ET

Python kills security guard in Bali

A python has killed a security guard near a luxury hotel in Bali, Indonesia.

A doctor told CNN that a man's corpse was brought to the RSUP Sanglah Denpasar Hospital in Bali on Friday. A large snake appears to have suffocated the man, said the doctor, who did not wish to be identified.

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Filed under: Snakes
December 27th, 2013
03:48 PM ET

Chinese icebreaker stalls en route to stranded ship

A Chinese icebreaker heading to free a polar expedition vessel trapped in an Antarctic ice floe got stopped by the ice and weather, its captain told CNN.

The Chinese government ship Xue Long, or Snow Dragon, was 6 nautical miles away from the stranded Russian ship MV Akademik Shokalskiy, Capt. Wang Jiangzhong said.

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Filed under: Antarctica • China
December 26th, 2013
04:18 AM ET

Warren Weinstein feels abandoned, forgotten

Saying he feels "totally abandoned and forgotten," kidnapped U.S. government contractor Warren Weinstein called on President Barack Obama to negotiate for his freedom in a video released by al Qaeda on Christmas.

The 72-year-old Weinstein was abducted from his home in the Pakistani city of Lahore in August 2011.

In the 13-minute video provided to the Washington Post, Weinstein appeals to the President, Secretary of State John Kerry, the American media, the American public and finally his family.

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Filed under: U.S. • World
Japan's PM visits controversial war shrine
Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, at center, visits the controversial Yasukuni war shrine in Tokyo.
December 26th, 2013
01:58 AM ET

Japan's PM visits controversial war shrine

A 30-minute visit to a controversial shrine by Prime Minister Shinzo Abe ignited a predictable firestorm of criticism and condemnation Thursday from Japan's neighbors.
The Yasukuni Shrine is regarded by China, North Korea and South Korea as a symbol of Japan's imperial military past. All three countries suffered under Japan's military aggression in World War II. Millions of Chinese civilians and soldiers, and hundreds of thousands of Koreans, died.
So, each time a top Japanese official has visited, the countries have protested - saying the visits honor war criminals and deny Japan's atrocities in Asia.
Not so, said Abe on Thursday. He wanted to pray for the souls of the war dead, not honor war criminals, he said.
"I have renewed my determination before the souls of the war dead to firmly uphold the pledge never to wage a war again," he said.

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Filed under: Japan • World
December 24th, 2013
02:32 AM ET

Pharmacy agrees to $100M settlement

A compounding pharmacy at the center of a fungal meningitis outbreak last year has agreed to a preliminary settlement that would create a $100 million fund for victims.

The fund will also be used to pay off creditors of the bankrupt New England Compounding Center, attorneys in the case said. A judge will have to approve the plan before it goes into effect.

The nationwide meningitis outbreak was linked to steroid injections distributed by the Massachusetts-based pharmacy.

More than 700 illnesses and 64 deaths in 20 states were blamed on the injections, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said. But the CDC noted the deaths are from "all causes among persons who meet the case definition and may not be directly attributed to a fungal infection."

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Filed under: Health • U.S.
Astronauts to make Christmas Eve spacewalk
December 24th, 2013
12:49 AM ET

Astronauts to make Christmas Eve spacewalk

While many people may spend Christmas Eve doing last-minute gift shopping, two American astronauts have a more challenging matter to attend to Tuesday.
In orbit more than 200 miles above the planet, Flight Engineers Rick Mastracchio and Mike Hopkins are set to embark on a spacewalk to repair part of the International Space Station's cooling system.
It will be the second Christmas Eve spacewalk in history, according to NASA.
The two engineers will be carrying out the second in a series of expeditions needed to replace a malfunctioning pump, which circulates ammonia through loops outside the station to keep equipment cool.

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Filed under: U.S.
December 23rd, 2013
12:54 PM ET

U.S. moving 150 Marines closer to South Sudan

The U.S. military is moving about 150 Marines from Spain to Africa, most likely Djibouti, to be prepared to go into South Sudan to either provide security for the U.S. Embassy in Juba or to help evacuate the estimated 100 U.S. citizens believed to be there, two U.S. military officials told CNN's Barbara Starr on Monday.

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Filed under: Uncategorized
December 23rd, 2013
12:51 PM ET

Rodman: N. Korea basketballers 'awesome'

Flamboyant former NBA star Dennis Rodman has left North Korea without meeting the country's leader Kim Jong Un, but with high praise for local basketball players Rodman trained while there.

"They are awesome," Rodman told CNN while in transit at Beijing Capital International Airport on Monday.

Rodman started his third visit to North Korea last week, spending four days in the isolated nation to assist setting up an exhibition game featuring North Korean players and a dozen NBA veteran players - identities of which are yet to be announced. The friendly game is planned for Kim Jong Un's birthday on January 8.

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Filed under: Uncategorized
December 23rd, 2013
05:12 AM ET

American gets 1-year sentence for video

Shezanne Cassim, the American jailed in the United Arab Emirates and accused of threatening national security for a video parody, was sentenced Monday to one year in prison and a 10,000 UAE Dirham fine (approximately $2,700).
The young American living in the United Arab Emirates has been imprisoned since April, his family says, for posting what was intended to be a funny video on the Internet.

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Filed under: U.S. • World
Pussy Riot band member released
December 23rd, 2013
03:32 AM ET

Pussy Riot band member released

Maria Alyokhina, a member of Russian punk band Pussy Riot who was serving a two-year jail term for her part in a performance critical of Russian President Vladimir Putin, has been released from prison.
Alyokhina's release from a prison in the Krasnoyarsk region of Siberia was confirmed by Pyotr Verzilov, the husband of fellow band member, Nadezhda Tolokonnikova.
Tolokonnikova, who is also imprisoned, is expected to be released later Monday, Verzilov said.

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Filed under: Politics • Russia • Vladimir Putin • World
Obama addresses successes, shortcomings for 2013
President Barack Obama addresses reporters during his year-end news conference Friday.
December 20th, 2013
03:16 PM ET

Obama addresses successes, shortcomings for 2013

Correction: We hate to admit it, but in the heat of live-blogging President Barack Obama’s year-end news conference, we misquoted him as saying he “screwed the duck” with the Obamacare rollout. What he actually said was: “We screwed it up.” And in this case, so did we. We regret the error, and we thank our audience for the feedback.

[Updated at 3:16 p.m. ET] Obama hailed what he said was the first rollback in Iran's nuclear capabilities in a decade. Iran's pursuit of nuclear weapons has long posed a challenge to U.S. national security, and the U.S. now has a structure under which Iran can "get right with the international community in a verifiable fashion" and prove that any peaceful nuclear program will not be weaponized and that it won't threaten the U.S. and its allies in the region, including Israel.

If Iran reverts to its old ways, Obama said he would put more pressure on Iran, but that isn't necessary right now. Existing sanctions remain in place, costing Iran billions of dollars each month in oil sales, along with banking sanctions, he said. There is no need to leave a club hanging over Iran's head, Obama said, because there's no doubt among Iranians that Congress will pass more sanctions if necessary.

[Updated at 3:10 p.m. ET] Asked about the implications of nominating Sen. Max Baucus as ambassador to China when Baucus offered the best hope of overturning the tax code, Obama called for "swift confirmation" of Baucus as ambassador and said that if Democrats and Republicans are "serious about tax reform, then it's not going to depend on one guy."

[Updated at 3:04 p.m. ET] Despite the negative publicity surrounding his health care initiative, 2 million people or more have signed up, Obama said, saying the program is "working."

"The demand is there, and as I've said before, the product is good," he said.

[Updated at 3:00 p.m. ET] Obama declined to comment specifically about Edward Snowden, saying he would let the courts and attorney general comment on his case, but he said that Snowden's leaks have "done unnecessary damage to U.S. intelligence capabilities and U.S. diplomacy."

He further said the United States is a country that "abides by the rule of law, that cares deeply about privacy, that cares about civil liberties, that cares about our Constitution," where countries with less concern for civil liberties have been able to sit on the sideline and cast aspersions as a result of the leaks.

However, he called the debate that was sparked by the Snowden incident an "important" one.

[Updated at 2:55 p.m. ET] Asked what his New Year's resolution would be, Obama responded, "To be nicer to the White House press corps," earning some laughter and light applause.

[Updated at 2:54 p.m. ET] Obama cites "comprehensive immigration reform" as an example where there's largely bipartisan support on an issue. He expressed hope that despite a "few disagreements," Congress could pass reform that would boost the economy and allow the country to attract more high-skilled workers.

[Updated at 2:50 p.m. ET] Asked to name his worst mistake of the year, Obama said, "since I'm in charge, obviously we screwed it up" on the health care roll-out. Despite meeting every three weeks with officials to ensure that consumers had a pleasant experience with the roll-out, "the fact is it didn't happen in the first month, in the first six weeks, in a way that was at all acceptable."

[Updated at 2:46 p.m. ET] While insisting that the NSA has committed no abuses in performing its surveillance duties, "there may be another way of skinning the cat" to alleviate Americans' concerns, Obama says.

[Updated at 2:42 p.m. ET] "This is only going to work if the American people have confidence and trust," Obama says of the NSA surveillance program, while conceding that American trust in the process has "diminished."

[Updated at 2:36 p.m. ET] Obama says there is a review of NSA surveillance under way to determine if current programs balance the need to keep the country secure while "taking seriously the rule of law and our concerns about privacy and civil liberties."

As for the controversial collection of metadata, Obama says there have been no alleged instances of the NSA acting inappropriately in the use of the data. The president says he has confidence that the NSA is "not engaging in domestic surveillance or snooping around."

[Updated at 2:31 p.m. ET] Asked if 2013 was the worst year of his presidency, Obama chuckled and said that despite Congress failing to act on his legislative initiatives, there have been many successes. Among those are an increase in wireless capacities in classrooms, a manufacturing hub in Youngstown, Ohio, that will "build on the renaissance we're seeing in manufacturing" and the fact that the U.S. is "producing more oil and natural gas in this country than we're importing."

[Updated at 2:26 p.m. ET] Obama says providing more opportunities for the middle-class and those hoping to join the middle class will be a top priority for 2014, and he'd like to see the country add more jobs, especially those with "wages and benefits that allow families to build a little bit of financial security."

"I think 2014 needs to be a year of action," he says

[Updated at 2:24 p.m. ET] As businesses are positioned to add new jobs amid more growth, Obama predicts 2014 will be "a breakthrough year for America," but much remains to be done, Obama says.

[Updated at 2:21 p.m. ET] So far in 2013, the United States added 2 million jobs as unemployment has fallen to the lowest point in five years, Obama says.

[Updated at 2:19 p.m. ET] Obama's year-end news conference has begun.

[Original story posted at 1:57 p.m. ET] President Barack Obama's year-end news conference is expected to begin at 2 p.m. ET.

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Filed under: Barack Obama • Politics • U.S.
Vigil for teen who died in police custody turns violent
Protesters allege foul play in the death of Jesus Huerta, 17, who died of a gunshot wound while in police custody.
December 20th, 2013
01:26 PM ET

Vigil for teen who died in police custody turns violent

A vigil for a teen who died in police custody turned violent in Durham, North Carolina, with riot police using tear gas and batons to disperse the crowd.

At least six people were arrested at the Thursday night march to protest the death of 17-year-old Jesus Huerta, according to police.

"I could not be more proud of the restraint and professionalism demonstrated by our officers," Durham Police Chief Jose Lopez said in a statement to the media, adding that injuries to those marching were minimized because of his officers' actions.

"There was a march. The peaceful intent did not exist. We used the best practices in law enforcement," he said at a news conference Friday.

Protesters threw bottles and rocks at police officers and vandalized police property, Lopez said, defending his officers' reaction to the vigil.

The Durham Police Department says Huerta died on November 19 from a self-inflicted gunshot while handcuffed in the back of a police cruiser. The teen was being taken to the police station by Officer Samuel Duncan about 3 a.m. for a second-degree trespassing violation.

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Filed under: North Carolina • Protest • Race • U.S.
SeaWorld takes out ads to defend itself against whale mistreatment accusations
SeaWorld is firing back against allegations that it mistreats killer whales.
December 20th, 2013
01:18 PM ET

SeaWorld takes out ads to defend itself against whale mistreatment accusations

Faced with a growing backlash from entertainers and others responding to a documentary film claiming mistreatment of whales, SeaWorld bought full-page ads in newspapers nationwide Friday to call the accounts inaccurate and paint its employees as "true animal advocates."

"The truth about SeaWorld is right here in our parks and people," the company said in the ad, which appeared in The New York Times and other papers.

SeaWorld has been battered in recent weeks since the television premiere of the documentary "Blackfish" on CNN.

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Filed under: Animals • U.S. • Whales
December 20th, 2013
02:19 AM ET

California high school to be tested for TB

All 1,800 students and staff at a southern California high school will be screened for tuberculosis Friday after 45 students tested positive for possible exposure, authorities said.

The Riverside County Department of Public Health and state officials have determined there is a possibility of exposure to other Indio High School students, though "the risk of transmission appears to be moderately low," according to a letter to parents on the school's website.

Students will have to return to school in Indio, California, on Monday to have the test results evaluated, the letter says. Without verification of a current TB testing and results, students won't be allowed to return to school after the holiday break, on January 6, the school said.

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Filed under: U.S.
December 19th, 2013
04:17 AM ET

Dennis Rodman set for 3rd trip to North Korea

Dennis Rodman's latest round of controversial "basketball diplomacy" in a country ruled by one of the world's most repressive regimes is about to begin.

The former NBA star and a documentary crew are due to fly Thursday afternoon from China to North Korea, where he is to spend four days helping train a team of North Korean basketball players for a January exhibition in Pyongyang.

That January 8 exhibition - said to be against a yet-unannounced team of former NBA players - will celebrate the birthday of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, whom Rodman has called a friend and a "very good guy" despite international condemnation of the country's human rights records.

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Filed under: Sports • World
December 19th, 2013
04:14 AM ET

'Duck Dynasty' star suspended

Is this man simply expressing his beliefs or spewing bigotry?

Either way, Phil Robertson, the patriarch in A&E's "Duck Dynasty," won't be duck calling on air anytime soon. The network suspended him after slamming gays in a magazine interview.

In the January issue of GQ, Robertson said homosexuality is a sin and puts it in the same category as bestiality and promiscuity.

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Filed under: U.S.
December 18th, 2013
10:30 PM ET

Group: Nearly 1,000 killed in Central African Republic

Nearly 1,000 men were killed over a two-day period this month in the Central African Republic, according to Amnesty International.

The human rights group said Wednesday that war crimes and crimes against humanity are being committed in that country.

"Crimes that have been committed include extrajudicial executions, mutilation of bodies, intentional destruction of religious buildings such as mosques, and the forced displacement of massive numbers of people," said Christian Mukosa, Amnesty International's Central Africa expert.

The country has seen violence and chaos since the Muslim-backed Seleka militia and other rebel groups from the marginalized northeast seized the capital Bangui in March. President Francios Bozize fled to Cameroon, and Michel Djotodia, who had been one of the Seleka leaders, made himself President.

Djotodia later officially disbanded the Seleka, but as many as 15,000 kept their arms and instead continued to wreak havoc in Bangui and elsewhere. They mainly targeted Christian communities, which in turn formed their own vigilante group, the anti-balaka (literally "anti-machete").

Anti-balaka forces staged an early morning attack in the capital on December 5, going door to door in some neighborhoods and killing approximately 60 Muslim men, Amnesty International said.

De facto government forces, known as ex-Seleka, retaliated against Christians, killing nearly 1,000 men over a two-day period, according to the rights group. A small number of women and children also were killed.

In a statement, Amnesty International called for the deployment of a "robust" U.N. peacekeeping force, with a mandate to protect civilians, and enough resources to do so effectively.

"The continuing violence, the extensive destruction of property, and the forced displacement of the population in Bangui are feeding enormous anger, hostility and mistrust," said Mukosa.

"There can be no prospect of ending the cycle of violence until the militias are disarmed and there is proper and effective protection for the thousands of civilians at risk in the country.

Residential neighborhoods must be made safe as an urgent priority in order to allow people to go back to their homes and resume their normal lives."

The Central African Republic is about the size of France and a country rich in resources, including diamonds, gold, timber and ivory. The former French colony has rarely seen political stability or economic growth in the 53 years since it gained independence.

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Filed under: Africa • Central African Republic
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