January 12th, 2012
02:56 AM ET

Mississippi attorney general: Governor's prisoner release violates Constitution

Mississippi's attorney general chastised former Gov. Haley Barbour after a judge issued a temporary injunction forbidding the release of any more prisoners Barbour pardoned or gave clemency to before leaving office this week.

State Attorney General Jim Hood said Barbour violated Mississippi's Constitution because the pardon requests for many inmates were not published 30 days before they were granted, as required.

Mississippi is one of the few states that requires advance notice.

"This isn't a partisan issue," according to Hood, who is a Democrat. "Either you followed the Constitution or you didn't."

Barbour is a Republican.


Filed under: World
January 12th, 2012
02:29 AM ET

Iran urges UN to condemn nuclear scientists' killings

Iran has issued an impassioned letter to the United Nations Secretary General charging that the killings of Iranian nuclear scientists were terror attacks that followed a clear pattern - an assertion the country's ambassador to the United Nations repeated to CNN in an interview Wednesday night.

"There is firm evidence that certain foreign quarters are behind such assassinations," the letter said, "It is highly expected from the Secretary-General of the United Nations, and

President of the Security Council of the United Nations as well as all other relevant organs and bodies to condemn, in the strongest term, these inhumane terrorist acts."
Mostafa Ahmadi Roshan, a nuclear scientist, was killed in a blast in Tehran on Wednesday morning, the latest in a series of attacks against such scientists in recent years.


Filed under: Politics • World
January 12th, 2012
01:46 AM ET

Parents of missing Virginia student head to New York to aid in search

The parents of a missing Virginia college student plan to travel to New York on Thursday to assist in his search.

Ian Hunter Burnet, a 22-year-old Virginia Commonwealth University student, went missing days after arriving in New York City to celebrate New Year's Eve, authorities said.

Burnet left Richmond on a bus bound for New York on December 26, according to his father, Mark.

He planned to stay with a fellow college student and her friend in an apartment in Harlem, his father said.

"He went up just to have a post-Christmas tourist visit to New York City and celebrate New Year's Eve. He was intending to have a short time there and then return back to Virginia," the father said.

According to Burnet's father, Burnet and a friend had made plans to hang out together back in Virginia on January 2, but Burnet never made it back. The last communication he had with his son was December 28.

"I received a routine type of text talking about touring in New York," he said.

Some other news outlets have reported that Burnet told friends he was not having a good time in New York, but his father said that was something he had not heard.

"I wish I knew more," he said, "If I did, I might be able to understand what happened."

What investigators do know is that the friends with whom Burnet was staying say they last heard from him on December 30.

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Filed under: U.S.
January 12th, 2012
01:28 AM ET

Shiite pilgrims make their way to Iraqi holy city amid tight security

Baghdad, Iraq (CNN) - Iraqi forces have tightened security in and around the southern holy city of Karbala as tens of thousands of Shiite pilgrims pour in ahead of this weekend's culmination of a revered mourning period.

Scores of pilgrims - who make the journey of foot - have been killed and wounded in recent days in attacks that have been blamed on Sunni extremists, who have routinely targeted the pilgrims since 2003.

The attacks coincide with a political deadlock that has the government divided along sectarian lines that is raising fears, in the wake of the U.S. military's withdrawal from Iraq, of a return to the sectarian bloodshed that nearly tore the country apart during the height of the war.

Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki ordered security tightened following the attacks on pilgrims. Security forces have sealed roads and increased the number of checkpoints on the main roads leading into the holy city, a three-day walk south for pilgrims making their way from Baghdad.

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Filed under: Uncategorized
January 12th, 2012
01:11 AM ET

U.S. officials to meet with Myanmar opposition leader

U.S. diplomats will meet with Myanmar opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi ton Thursday in another sign of thawing relations between Washington and the Southeast Asian nation.

The American delegation will be headed by Derek Mitchell, the U.S. special envoy to Myanmar.

The delegation, which also includes U.S. Ambassador-at-large for Human Trafficking Luis CdeBaca, arrived in the country Monday and have meet with top government officials.

Myanmar has been ruled by a military junta since 1962, and the generals have started to loosen their grip on the country after coming under criticism for their human rights record in recent years. Thein Sein, a former military official and prime minister, became president last year as a result of an election criticized by democracy activists as a sham.

Myanmar authorities released Suu Kyi in 2010 after years of house arrest and then freed dozens of political prisoners in October 2011. Last week, she met with William Hague, the first British foreign secretary to visit Myanmar in more than 50 years.

Burma was a part of British India from 1886 until gaining its independence in 1948. Since 1989, the ruling military has said the nation should be called Myanmar, but some Western nations still refer to it as Burma.

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Filed under: Myanmar • World
January 12th, 2012
12:25 AM ET

Cyclone hits northern Australia

Tropical Cyclone Heidi slammed into northwestern Australia as a Category 2 storm early Thursday morning, dousing the region with torrential rain as residents remained on "red alert" over reports of strong winds and flooding, officials said.

The storm system, which prompted several major ports and oil fields to shut down in anticipation of tidal surges, packed gales of up to 145 kilometers per hour (90 mph) as it headed inland, according to Neil Bennett, a spokesman for the country's Bureau of Meteorology.

It has since weakened to a Category 1 storm and continues to lose steam as it moves farther inland, Bennett said.

Several sea ports were shut down ahead of the storm, from Port Hedland - a major iron ore exporting center - down to the more southern terminals at Dampier, according to Steed Farrell, a spokesman for the Port Hedland Port Authority.

"It's in the hands of mother nature," he added.

The agency activated contingency plans, which removed all nonessential personnel from the ports and obliged major vessels to relocate.

Some 3,600 residents in the Port Hedland area were left without power Thursday after the storm rolled through, according to the region's electricity provider, Horizon Power.

The country's largest oil and gas firm, Woodside Petroleum, also closed operations in several offshore oil fields.

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Filed under: Australia • Weather • World
January 12th, 2012
12:23 AM ET

Kim Jong Il's body to lie in state in same palace as father's

The body of the late North Korean leader Kim Jong Il will lie in state in the Kumsusan Memorial Palace in Pyongyang, which houses the corpse of his father, Kim Il Sung, North Korean state-run media reported Thursday.

The secretive state also plans to erect a statue of Kim Jong Il and build towers across the country to symbolize his "immortality," the state-run Korean Central News Agency reported, citing orders from the leaders of the ruling Workers Party.

North Korea announced Kim Jong Il's death on December 19, putting the region on edge as observers speculated about the nuclear-armed regime's stability and future direction.

Pyongyang held an elaborately choreographed funeral procession and memorial ceremony the following week that served to underline the elevation of Kim Jong Un - the youngest son and chosen successor of Kim Jong Il - to the position of "supreme leader" of the country.

On Thursday, the regime also announced that February 16, Kim Jong Il's birthday, will henceforth be known as "the Day of the Shining Star." His father's birthday is dubbed "the Day of the Sun" in the North Korean calendar.

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Filed under: Kim Jong Il • Kim Jong Un • North Korea • World
January 12th, 2012
12:22 AM ET

Australian man sentenced to prison, lashes in Saudi Arabia headed home

An Australian man sentenced to 500 lashes and a year in prison after his conviction on blasphemy charges in Saudi Arabia has been pardoned and is headed home, officials said Thursday.

Mansor Almaribe was arrested and convicted in November in the city of Medina.

"Saudi Arabian authorities have granted Mr AlMaribe a pardon from his prison sentence, and his corporal punishment was also greatly reduced and administered in a way that did not cause physical harm," the Australian foreign ministry said in a statement.

The ministry did not elaborate on how the lashing was carried out.

It's unclear what the 45-year-old Shia Muslim from Victoria state said or did to get arrested, but Australia had appealed for leniency after his sentence.

Australian officials said they were told Almaribe made comments "insulting to prophet Mohammed's relatives."

"I don't think my dad would even survive 50 lashes not 500," his son said last month. "He goes to the doctor every week for checks ups. He has knee injuries and back injuries from a car accident and he also has diabetes and high blood pressure."

The family spent weeks searching for the Iraqi-born father of five after he went missing in early November while performing the Hajj pilgrimage in Saudi Arabia.

Blasphemy is punishable by up to a death sentence under the strict Muslim law in Saudi Arabia.

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Filed under: Australia • Saudi Arabia • World
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