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.FULL STORY
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.
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."FULL STORY
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.
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.FULL STORY
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.FULL STORY
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.
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.
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.
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.FULL STORY
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.FULL STORY
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.FULL STORY
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.FULL STORY
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.FULL STORY
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.
George Zimmerman can now add "painter" to his resume after the former neighborhood watchman purportedly listed an original painting on eBay.
The 18-by-24-inch canvas features a blue, waving American flag with the words, "God, one nation, with liberty and justice for all" emblazoned across it.
The auction was posted Monday at a starting bid of 99 cents and is scheduled to end Saturday. As of Tuesday night, 108 bids were logged for the painting, ratcheting the price up to $110,100. The next bid would top $110,200.FULL STORY
This holiday season just got a lot merrier for two insanely lucky people.
Two tickets matched the winning numbers in Tuesday night's $636 million Mega Millions jackpot.
One winning ticket was sold in Atlanta, and the other was sold in San Jose, California, lottery officials said.
The winning numbers were 8, 14, 17, 20 and 39, with a Megaball of 7. Twenty ticket holders will win $1 million after matching all the numbers except for the Megaball.FULL STORY
A gunman and another person were killed during a shooting Tuesday at a medical building at Renown Regional Medical Center, said Tom Robinson of the Reno, Nevada, Police Department.
Two other people were injured and were being treated at a hospital, Robinson said.
The shooter, who carried one weapon, died of a self-inflicted gunshot wound, authorities said.FULL STORY
National Security Agency leaker Edward Snowden has written an "open letter to the people of Brazil" offering to help investigate U.S. surveillance of Brazilian citizens.
The letter was posted on the website pastebin and on the Facebook page of David Michael Miranda, partner of journalist Glenn Greenwald, according to a tweet from Greenwald.
In the letter, Snowden says he has told Brazilian lawmakers that he is willing to help investigate "suspected crimes against Brazilian citizens."
"I have expressed my willingness to assist wherever appropriate and lawful, but unfortunately the United States government has worked very hard to limit my ability to do so - going so far as to force down the Presidential Plane of Evo Morales to prevent me from traveling to Latin America!
"Until a country grants permanent political asylum, the U.S. government will continue to interfere with my ability to speak."FULL STORY
Before 13-year-old Jahi McMath went into a surgery meant to improve her quality of life, she had a terrible premonition.
"The worst thing about all of this is that Jahi told my sister, 'I don't want to get this surgery, something bad is going to happen. I'm not going to wake up,' " Jahi's uncle Omari Sealey told CNN in a phone interview Monday.
Jahi went in to have her tonsils taken out. Now, the Oakland, California, girl is brain dead, her family says, and they are fighting to keep her on a ventilator.
They have presented the hospital with a cease-and-desist letter aimed at preventing the hospital from taking her off of life support, family attorney Chris Dolan told CNN Tuesday.FULL STORY