September 15th, 2011
04:20 PM ET

Magnitude 7.3 quake strikes near Fiji

A 7.3-magnitude earthquake struck early Friday in the Fiji Islands region of the Pacific Ocean, the U.S. Geological Survey reported.

According to the U.S.-based Pacific Tsunami Warning Center, "a destructive tsunami was not generated, based on earthquake and historical tsunami data."

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Filed under: Earthquake • Fiji
Overheard on What would Donald Trump say?
Miss Angola 2011, Leila Lopes, takes the crown Monday night as Miss Universe from last year's winner, Miss Mexico.
September 15th, 2011
04:10 PM ET

Overheard on What would Donald Trump say?

Dumbest question in the universe

Comments of the Day:

"For one, I'm offended of the Miss Universe pageant, but not because it objectifies women, but because it is discriminatory against women from Alpha Centauri."– nts

"She did well with it, though, didn't she! Stupid question, smart lady!"– twophad

Of all the questions in the universe, why was a beautiful woman like Leila Lopes - now Miss Universe - asked what part of her physical anatomy she would change, asks CNN writer Jessica Ravitz. And who came up with such a question? Many readers thought it was designed to be a trick question.

dietetics101 said, "I see nothing wrong with the question. I think true class and grace can only be displayed when the conditions are less than admirable. The person who wrote it was intending it to be a trap, and likely expose a lot of awkwardness. That it did not, is pretty cool."

Kam2010 said, "This question is similar to the 'What do you consider your biggest weakness' question they ask you on job interviews. It is designed to determine how well you would react to such a charged question. I think Miss Angola handled it with grace."

JiceReal said, "Miss Angola's response to a shallow question about looks was an inspirational message to young girls, emphasizing the importance of inner beauty. Maybe that was the intentional test all along."

RAM05 said, "It's a valid question women ask themselves every day when they look in the mirror, when they see how other women are dressed, etc. Maybe women shouldn't worry so much about their personal appearance and focus on cultivating their inner beauty more, but that isn't how society views women, is it? Personally, I think Miss Angola gave the perfect answer."

Rexa said, "The reason the judges can't ask what they want on 'Miss Universe' is due to sensitivity and respect for other nations. If you asked Miss China what she thought about political issues when she comes from a communist country she'd get imprisoned when she returned."

canuckimport said, "I wonder if Donald will say he would like to change his hair?"

AC2012 suggested, "After they make Styrofoam, what do they ship it in? Why did kamikaze pilots wear helmets?"

September 15th, 2011
03:21 PM ET

663,000 names on petition protesting Troy Davis' execution

Supporters of convicted cop killer Troy Davis say time is running out.

Unless something dramatic happens, Davis will die by lethal injection next week for the 1989 murder of Savannah, Georgia, police officer Mark MacPhail.

Davis, 42, is set to be executed at 7 p.m. Wednesday, and since his 1991 conviction, seven of the nine witnesses against him have recanted or contradicted their testimony. No physical evidence was presented linking Davis to the killing of the policeman.

Many people fighting for Davis' life are feeling the pressure.

"We honor the life of Officer MacPhail," said Edward DuBose, Georgia state conference president of the NAACP, but he added, "You cannot right a wrong by offering up Troy Davis, who we believe is not the person responsible."

The NAACP joins several groups advocating for Davis, who also counts former President Jimmy Carter, Archbishop Desmond Tutu, Pope Benedict XVI and singer Harry Belafonte among his defenders.


List of at-risk postal facilities released
Postmaster General Patrick Donahoe discusses plans for the U.S. Postal Service during a briefing Thursday.
September 15th, 2011
11:58 AM ET

List of at-risk postal facilities released

[Update 5:15 p.m.] Hundreds of mail-handling facilities have been named in a shutdown list released Thursday by the U.S. Postal Service as the agency tries to cut massive red ink.

The potential closings are the latest chapter in a fundamental overhaul of the agency that may also mean closing thousands of smaller post offices across the country, and cuts in tens of thousands of Postal Service jobs in years to come.

It may also result in a slightly longer time for the delivery of first-class mail.

"It is no exaggeration to say that we are radically re-aligning the way that we process mail, the way that we deliver mail, and the way that we operate our retail network," Postmaster General Patrick Donahoe told reporters at a Thursday briefing.

The latest list targets 252 processing facilities and related "network transportation," as the Postal Service calls its distribution system, which now consists of 487 facilities.

"Our immediate goal is to reduce our total costs by $20 billion by 2015," Donahoe said, including $3 billion in anticipated savings from the facilities realignment announced Thursday.

Gotta Watch: Guinness World Records
The 2012 Guiness Book of World Records includes this woman and her incredibly long tongue.
September 15th, 2011
11:45 AM ET

Gotta Watch: Guinness World Records

Their talents are weird, crazy and in some cases simply unbelievable. And they can all be found in one book. We're talking about the Guinness Book of World Records. The 2012 edition launches this week, so today's Gotta Watch features videos of some of our all-time favorite record holders.

This year's new talent – From jumping dogs to long tongues and huge afros, here's your chance to meet some of this year's newest additions to the Guinness Book of World Records.


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Filed under: Dogs • Gotta Watch • World
September 15th, 2011
10:39 AM ET

Quakes hit off Cuba, Japan and New Zealand

[Updated at 10:39 a.m. ET] The U.S. Geological Survey has revised downward the magnitude of Thursday morning's earthquake off Cuba to magnitude 5.1 from magnitude 6.0.

[Updated at 5:20 a.m. ET] A magnitude 6.0 earthquake hit off the southeastern coast of Cuba early Thursday, the U.S. Geological Survey reported.

The quake was centered 77 miles north of Montego Bay, Jamaica, and 370 miles southeast of Havana, Cuba. It hit at 4:43 a.m.

Forty-three minutes earlier, a magnitude 6.2 earthquake rumbled off the east coast of Japan, the USGS reported.  No tsunami warning was issued.

Both quakes were shallow, striking at a depth of six miles.

And seven minutes before the Japan quake, a magnitude 6.0 quake was recorded off the coast of New Zealand, according to the USGS.

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Filed under: Cuba • Earthquake • Japan • Natural Disasters • New Zealand
Australian passports now offer gender option 'X' for intersex people
September 15th, 2011
10:32 AM ET

Australian passports now offer gender option 'X' for intersex people

In a move the Australian government hopes will help remove discrimination against intersex or transgender people, the country's passports will now offer three options: male, female and indeterminate, the government said Thursday.

"This initiative is in line with the Australian Government’s commitment to remove discrimination on the grounds of sexual orientation or sex and gender identity," according to the Australian Passport Office. "The policy removes unnecessary obstacles to recording a person’s preferred gender in their passport."

Those who do not identify themselves as male or female will no longer be required to check off the "M" or "F" box under gender, but instead will have the option of checking "X," according to the new passport rules.

“This amendment makes life easier and significantly reduces the administrative burden for sex and gender diverse people who want a passport that reflects their gender and physical appearance," Foreign Minister Kevin Rudd said.


Burned nanny leaves Libya for Malta
Shweyga Mullah says the wife of one of Gadhafi's sons, Hannibal Gadhafi, poured boiling water on her head.
September 15th, 2011
09:58 AM ET

Burned nanny leaves Libya for Malta

A nanny who suffered extensive burns when, she said, a relative of ousted Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi's family poured boiling water on her, has left Libya for Malta, where she will receive additional medical treatment, according to CNN staff traveling with her.

Shweyga Mullah's story pulled heartstrings worldwide. CNN journalists found her last month in the plush home of Gadhafi's son Hannibal Gadhafi after anti-Gadhafi forces overran Tripoli. Hannibal Gadhafi and his wife Aline fled to Algeria. Mullah was found sitting on the floor of an empty building.

Mullah, who is in her 20s, worked as a nanny for two of the couple's children. When she couldn't keep one from crying, and refused to beat the child, she said Aline Gadhafi poured the boiling water on her head.

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Filed under: Libya
September 15th, 2011
09:17 AM ET

Attacker kills 26 in Pakistan

A suicide bomber killed 26 people and injured 63 others during a funeral procession in northwestern Pakistan Thursday, a senior police official told CNN.

Saleem Murrawat, the police chief of the Lower Dir district of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province, said the ceremony was for a member of a pro-government anti-Taliban militia in the area of Jandol.

The chief said a suicide bomber blew himself up when he was standing with people at the procession. There are usually no security checks in such ceremonies. The chief said the bomber was around age 18.

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Filed under: Pakistan
September 15th, 2011
09:16 AM ET

Four trapped in Wales coal mine

[Updated at 9:16 a.m. ET] Four people are trapped in a coal mine in Swansea Valley, South Wales, police confirmed Thursday.

Rescue services are at the scene at Gleision Colliery, a police spokeswoman said.

Seven people were in the mine when the incident occurred, and emergency services were called soon after 9 a.m. local time (4 a.m. ET), the spokeswoman said.

Three of them got out of the mine and one has been taken to the hospital, she said, but his or her condition is unknown.

Local lawmaker Gwenda Thomas, who represents the Neath constituency in which the mine lies, near Cilybebyll, issued a statement saying she was heading back to the area.

"I am currently travelling back to Rhos community center from Cardiff. My thoughts are with all the family and friends of those currently trapped in the mine and I have confidence in all the emergency services at the scene."

A spokesman for Thomas, Robert James, told CNN the colliery was one of the few remaining drift mines operating in the area.

In a drift mine, coal is excavated from the side of a hill using shafts that are almost horizontal.

- CNN's Laura Smith-Spark contributed to this report.

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Filed under: Coal mining • Mining • Wales
September 15th, 2011
09:16 AM ET

Two killed, several injured in Norwegian cruise ship fire

Two people have died after an engine room fire on a Norwegian cruise ship and nine have been taken to the hospital, Norwegian police confirmed Thursday.

The two killed are believed to be crew members, a spokeswoman for Sunnmore police district told CNN. There were 55 crew on board the ship, MS Nordlys.

All 207 passengers aboard have been safely evacuated and taken to a hotel in the town of Alesund, operator Hurtigruten ASA said. They are of various nationalities.

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Filed under: Norway
Hot weather helps force blackouts in South Korea
Traffic lights are out as traffic crawls through Seoul, South Korea, during a blackout on Thursday.
September 15th, 2011
08:16 AM ET

Hot weather helps force blackouts in South Korea

South Koreans found themselves sweltering in the heat, stuck in elevators and even without cell phone service Thursday as power outages affected hundreds of thousands of people across the country.

The South Korean Ministry of Knowledge Economy said high demand for air conditioning during a heat wave, together with reduced supplies as power plants were shut down for maintenance, likely led to the blackouts, the country's Yonhap news agency reported.

The country's sole electric service provider, Korea Electric Power Corp., said it was forced to cut off power to hundreds of thousands of customers to prevent the electrical grid from falling below reserve levels that could lead to a nationwide blackout that could take days or weeks to recover from, according to the Yonhap report.

The power company instituted rolling blackouts that lasted about four hours, ending at about 8 p.m. local time.

The power cuts led to 100 reports of people trapped in elevators and shut down banks and schools, The Korea Herald reported. No injuries were reported.

Temperatures went as high as 86 degrees Fahrenheit (30 Celsius) in Seoul on Thursday, about 10 degrees higher than average.

"There were many power plants that began their annual maintenance as the hot season passed. Demand was unusually high today while they were preparing for the cold season," a ministry official told Yonhap.

Temperatures in the 80s are expected to continue through Saturday.

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Filed under: Energy • Heat • South Korea • Weather
September 15th, 2011
07:42 AM ET

Thursday's live events

Watch Live for continuing coverage of the race toward the 2012 presidential election.

Today's programming highlights...

9:00 am ET - Florida millionaire murder trial - Opening statements are expected in the trial of Bob Ward, who's accused of killing his wife inside their Florida mansion.


Filed under: Crime • Elections • Politics
On the Radar: Clemency sought, Marine honored, congressmen to be sworn in
Troy Davis faces death by lethal injection on September 21.
September 15th, 2011
06:41 AM ET

On the Radar: Clemency sought, Marine honored, congressmen to be sworn in

Three things you need to know today.

Clemency sought: The NAACP and Amnesty International on Thursday will deliver petitions with thousands of signatures seeking clemency for convicted killer Troy Davis to the Georgia Board of Pardons and Paroles.

Davis, 42, is set to be executed on September 21 for the murder an off-duty Savannah police officer more than two decades ago.

Since Davis' conviction in 1991, seven of the nine witnesses against him have recanted their testimony. No physical evidence was presented linking Davis to the killing of the policeman.

The rights groups contend there is too much doubt about Davis' conviction to let the execution proceed.

"Troy Davis could very well be innocent," Amnesty International says on its website.

Medal of Honor: Dakota Meyer will receive the Medal of Honor from President Barack Obama at the White House on Thursday, becoming the first living Marine to get the medal for actions in Afghanistan or Iraq.

Meyer repeatedly ran through enemy fire to recover the bodies of fellow American troops during a firefight in Afghanistan's Kunar province in 2009.

Meyer ultimately saved the lives of 13 U.S. Marines and soldiers, and 23 Afghan soldiers, according to the Medal of Honor account on the Marine website. He also is credited with killing at least eight Taliban insurgents.

Swearing in: The two newest members of Congress, Republicans Mark Amodei of Nevada and Bob Turner of New York, will be sworn in on Thursday, two days after they won special elections in Nevada and New York respectively.

Amodei's election was expected. Republicans have represented Nevada's 2nd congressional district - which covers almost the entire state, except the southern tip and the Las Vegas metropolitan area - since it was created in 1983.

But Turner, a former cable TV executive, defeated Democratic state assemblyman David Weprin 54% to 46% in New York's 9th congressional district, giving the GOP control in a district where Democrats have a 3-to-1 voter advantage.

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Filed under: Congress • Crime • Death Penalty • Justice • Marines • Medal of Honor • Military • On the Radar • Politics
September 15th, 2011
06:06 AM ET

At least 3 hurt in cruise ship fire

Three crew members have been injured after an engine room fire on a Norwegian cruise ship, the operator said Thursday.

All 207 passengers aboard the ship, MS Nordlys, and some of the crew of 55 are now back on shore in Alesund in Norway, operator Hurtigruten said in a statement.

The local fire department is working to put out the fire, the operator said.

Two people were seriously injured and a dozen taken to the hospital, CNN affiliate TV2 reported.

The cruise ship was operating on a popular route from Bergen to Kirkenes when the fire broke out, forcing the vessel to stop at Alesund, according to the affiliate.

The cause of the fire is under investigation.

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Filed under: Norway • Travel
September 15th, 2011
05:24 AM ET

Hikers' release in Iran not expected until weekend, lawyer says

[Updated at 7:02 a.m.] A lawyer for two American hikers imprisoned in Iran said he has filed all the necessary paperwork for them to be released on bail, but he does next expect judges to act on it before Saturday, he told CNN Thursday.

Attorney Masoud Shafiee said he hoped a decision would be made then - after the Iranian weekend - but said he was "not privy to what goes on behind the scenes."

He said earlier this week that he expects Josh Fattal and Shane Bauer to be freed after $500,000 bail is paid for each of them, but the Iranian judiciary said later that it was only considering the bail request.

The two Americans have been convicted of spying and sentenced to eight years in prison.

On Wednesday, an Omani plane was en route to Tehran carrying an Omani official who will be working on any negotiation, a Western diplomat told CNN.

But it was not clear whether the hikers would be free to leave, the source said.

Fattal and Bauer have been held for more than two years. They and a third hiker, Sarah Shourd, were arrested July 31, 2009, after apparently straying across an unmarked border between Iraq and Iran while hiking in northern Iraq's Kurdish region.

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Filed under: Iran