January 31st, 2012
02:01 AM ET

Fate of Chinese workers kidnapped in Sudan remains uncertain

The fate of dozens of construction workers kidnapped in Sudan, including a group of Chinese nationals, remained unclear Tuesday amid conflicting reports on the situation.

Militants captured 70 workers - a mix of local and foreign staff - in an attack Saturday on a construction site in a remote area of Sudan's volatile South Kordofan state, the Sudanese military said. The military said it was pursuing the kidnappers.

The camp belonged to China's Power Construction Corp. - an example of the willingness of Chinese companies to push into unstable regions of the world in search of resources to help fuel the country's fast growing economy.

The official Sudan News Agency reported Monday that the Sudanese army had freed at least 14 of the kidnapped Chinese nationals, citing Ahmed Haroun, the state governor.

But that conflicted with information from Xinhua, the state-run Chinese news agency, which said later Monday that the 29 Chinese workers abducted by the rebels were still being held captive.

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Filed under: China • South Sudan • Sudan • World
January 31st, 2012
01:52 AM ET

Attorney general: Getting pardoned Mississippi murderers difficult

Getting the convicted murderers pardoned by outgoing Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour back in prison is like "being on a manhunt with one arm tied behind my back," the state's attorney general said.

Highlighting the difficulty is the case of Joseph Ozment, whom authorities finally located Monday in Wyoming, said Jim Hood, the attorney general.

"We can't treat him as an escapee. He has a document that says he's a free man as of now," said Hood. "All we have is a civil document we served him with. That is the most we can do. If he doesn't show up in court, we will move to hold him in contempt. That's the difficult part of this process."

Ozment's whereabouts had been unknown since his mother picked him up on January 8 after his release.

Ozment is one of four convicted murderers Barbour pardoned this month. The others are: David Gatlin, Charles Hooker and Anthony McCray.

Ozment did not appear at a court hearing in a case challenging the pardons.

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Filed under: Crime • Justice • U.S.
January 31st, 2012
01:27 AM ET

Will Florida determine a GOP front-runner?

After one month and three contests, it may be up to Florida to finally add some clarity to the race for the Republican presidential nomination.

With three different winners in the three contests so far, Florida could finally be the state to put one of the four remaining major GOP candidates firmly into the front-runner position.

At stake in Florida's Tuesday primary: 50 delegates, the largest haul so far in the primary and caucus calendar.

And the latest public opinion polls suggest that former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney will claim those delegates.

Five surveys of those likely to vote in the primary conducted between Saturday night and Monday afternoon all indicated that Romney held a double-digit lead over former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, with former Sen. Rick Santorum of Pennsylvania and Rep. Ron Paul of Texas far behind.

"The GOP contest may end in Florida, but that doesn't mean it will be over," said Alex Castellanos, a GOP strategist and CNN contributor. "With a win, Romney puts the nomination firmly in his grip. But it appears Gingrich and Santorum will keep trying to rip it from his hand."

"Romney's relentless and disciplined effort should get more credit," added Castellanos, who was a top media adviser for Romney's 2008 nomination bid but who is not taking sides this cycle. "No long passes, just three yards a play and a cloud of dust. But with a win on Tuesday, he'll have gotten the nomination the old-fashioned way: He'll have earned it."

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Filed under: Florida • Politics • U.S.
January 31st, 2012
01:12 AM ET

Texas community trucks in water to stem shortage

A small central Texas community has begun trucking in thousands of gallons of water to avoid running dry during the state's historic drought, a water official said.

Two trucks filled with about 8,000 gallons of water reached Spicewood Beach Monday afternoon and the precious liquid was immediately pumped into community water tanks.

"The community could be trucking for two weeks or two months, it just depends on the weather," according to Lower Colorado River Association spokeswoman Clara Tuma. "It's raining right now, though."

The town is under a Stage 4 water emergency - the most severe level - and it won't ease until the town gets more rain over an extended period of time.

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Filed under: Texas • U.S. • Weather
January 31st, 2012
12:13 AM ET

College admits fudging students' exam scores

An admissions officer at Claremont McKenna College in California has resigned after the school's president revealed that the officer had inflated college entrance examination scores for incoming freshmen since 2005.

"As an institution of higher education with a deep and consistent commitment to the integrity of all our academic activities, and particularly our reporting of institutional data, we take this situation very seriously," college President Pamela B. Gann wrote in an e-mail Monday to students, faculty and staff.

Gann wrote that a lone administrator reported composite scores on the Scholastic Aptitude Test that were exaggerated by 10 to 20 points. That employee, whom she did not name, has resigned, she said.

Such scores are often used in various comparisons of colleges across the country, including U.S. News & World Report's prestigious annual rankings.

There was no evidence that individual students' scores were altered, Gann's statement said.

Claremont McKenna, a private, coed college in Claremont about 30 miles east of Los Angeles, was listed ninth among U.S. liberal arts colleges in the magazine's most recent nationwide rankings.

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Filed under: Education • U.S.
January 31st, 2012
12:12 AM ET

Afghan police: Man kills wife for giving birth to daughter instead of son

Police in the northern Afghanistan province of Kunduz are looking for a man they say strangled his wife after she bore him a third child that was not a son.

Sher Mohammed, 29, married his 22-year-old wife four years ago, police said.

The couple had three daughters, the last of whom was born three months ago, said Khanabad district police chief Sufi Habib.

After the youngest daughter was born, Mohammed blamed his wife for not being able to deliver a boy, Habib said.

"Finally on Saturday, the man, with the help of his mother, first beat the woman and then strangled her to death," the police chief said.

Police arrested the mother but the son fled.

Khanabad is about 50 kilometers (31 miles) from Kunduz city.

The report comes weeks after Afghan police said they rescued a 15-year-old girl who was locked up in the basement of her in-laws' house, starved, and had her nails pulled out.

The girl, Sahar Gul, was married off to a 30-year-old man last year. Authorities in the northern Baghlan province said the girl reportedly was tortured after she refused to submit to prostitution.

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Filed under: Afghanistan • World
Overheard on CNN.com: Could moon colonization play role in mankind's future?
A NASA photograph released this month shows the moon and the international space station.
January 30th, 2012
07:20 PM ET

Overheard on CNN.com: Could moon colonization play role in mankind's future?

Editor's note: This post is part of the Overheard on CNN.com series, a regular feature that examines interesting comments and thought-provoking conversations posted by the community.

You might have noticed some slight changes to our comments system on CNN.com today. (Blogs aren't affected.) That's because we just made some much-needed tweaks under the hood. Thanks for bearing with us as we get this new system working.

Imagine a colony on the moon. Two stories Monday revisited the idea, as mentioned by Newt Gingrich during Thursday's GOP debate in Florida. Many of our readers seem to be in favor of eventually doing this, regardless of their feelings about the candidate. But there was a bit of skepticism in the air.

A moon colony is a waste of money

David Frum's opinion piece blasting Gingrich's idea for a moon colony got a fairly heated response from our readers.

SteveOBoston: "Mr. Frum, while I understand your argument, with all due respect you would not be typing an article on the internet had there never been NASA. Science for pragmatic purposes exists to be sure, but science for the sake of the research itself can often have greater affect on humanity. In science, you cannot begin with the answer and work your way back to the question. You'd like to know what value the research has. It's impossible to answer that without knowing what we'll find."

Some said Frum was being shortsighted.

ndk415: "This is the type of article that future generations will dig up and giggle at, since the benefits, discoveries, and advancements (that weren't so apparent today) from what was learned by having humans live on another world will seem so obvious then."

Some readers were opposed to colonization, saying we do not have the resources at this time. FULL POST

January 30th, 2012
02:03 PM ET

Attorney general: Pardoned murderer found in Wyoming

[Updated at 2:17 p.m. ET] Joseph Ozment, a convicted murderer who was pardoned this month in a controversial move by outgoing Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour, has been found in Wyoming, Mississippi Attorney General Jim Hood announced Monday.

Ozment was served at a hotel in Laramie, Wyoming, where he had been staying under another name, his office said.

"As our officers attempted service, Mr. Ozment fled in his girlfriend's vehicle but not before the vehicle made contact with one of our investigators," Hood said in a press release.  "That is when our officers asked for the assistance of the Laramie Police Department.  Mr. Ozment returned to the hotel on foot and ended up signing receipt of service in the presence of our two officers and two with the Laramie Police Department."

Ozment is one of four convicted murderers Barbour pardoned early this month. He did not appear at a court hearing in a case challenging the pardons. Hood said previously officials wanted to serve Ozment with a document telling him to appear in court.

Pardoned Mississippi murderer drops out of sight

According to a transcript of Ozment's confession to police, Ozment admitted being part of a robbery so he could have "Christmas money." He entered the convenience store with a friend who shot the clerk three times. The clerk, Rick Montgomery, crawled from around the counter and Ozment looked at him and shot him twice.

As he closed out his second term as governor, Barbour granted "full pardons" - meaning the convict's record is effectively wiped clean - to more than 200 people found guilty of a variety of crimes. All four of the convicted murderers he pardoned were serving life sentences and worked as trusties at the governor's mansion.

The move stirred outrage among relatives of the pardoned murderers' victims, among others. Hood has been particularly outspoken, earlier this month calling the pardons "a slap in the face to everyone in law enforcement and (saying) Gov. Barbour should be ashamed."

He also said Ozment and three other murderers did not meet the constitutional requirements to be granted a pardon, and he wants to see the men put back in jail to finish their life sentences.

Barbour has defended his pardons. He told CNN's John King that Ozment and the others have been rehabilitated.

"He has no obligation to do anything," Barbour said. "He's been pardoned. He's a free man."

So what will happen next?

"We said we would find him and we did," Hood said. "Now we will let the court decide what happens from here."

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Filed under: Courts • Crime • Justice • Mississippi
January 30th, 2012
01:15 PM ET

Protesters vow to stand their ground at Occupy DC camp

Protesters occupying two Washington parks say they will stand their ground if National Park Service police come calling Monday to enforce a law against camping.

"I'm going to do the best I can to stay here," said Emily Margaret, who has been staying at Occupy DC's McPherson Park camp. "If they want to arrest me, they can."

A noon Monday deadline for protesters to remove camping gear from the McPherson Park and Freedom Plaza came and went with no immediate move by police.

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Filed under: Occupy Wall Street • U.S.
City council hopeful: 'My English is good enough'
Alejandrina Cabrera answers questions about her ability to speak English in Yuma County Court.
January 30th, 2012
01:11 PM ET

City council hopeful: 'My English is good enough'

When a judge ruled that Alejandrina Cabrera’s name couldn’t be on the ballot for City Council in San Luis, Arizona, because she couldn’t speak English well enough, it was not only a blow to her, but to her fellow citizens, Cabrera told CNN.

“When he took my right to be on the ballot he took away the right of the people who want to vote for me,” Cabrera said in an interview conducted in Spanish with CNN en Español.

A battle over Cabrera's run for office began when Juan Carlos Escamilla, the mayor of San Luis, said he was concerned that Cabrera might not have the proper grasp of the language for the job. Escamilla filed a lawsuit in December that asked a court to determine whether Cabrera's skills qualified her under state law to run for the council seat.

The fight began as a purely political one, with opponents seeking to block her from running for office after she tried to recall Escamilla from office twice, according to The New York Times. But it has turned into a firestorm in a town where many constituents have the same grasp of English as Cabrera. Those questions, and the political fight they stirred, led to a court hearing to determine whether Cabrera spoke English well enough to be able to run for office. The ruling was that she did not.

The issues at the center of this debate: Just how much English must you understand to run for a political office? And what does it mean to be proficient?

According to a judge, you need to know more English than Cabrera was able to demonstrate.

But by Cabrera's account, she's fluent enough to serve her community, and she isn't running for national office.

“I think my English is good enough to hold public office in San Luis, Arizona,” she told CNN.

“I am not going to help (at the White House)," she added. "I will be helping here.”


Overheard on CNN.com: Last words
What do people talk about before they die?
January 30th, 2012
11:52 AM ET

Overheard on CNN.com: Last words

Editor's note: This post is part of the Overheard on CNN.com series, a regular feature that examines interesting comments and thought-provoking conversations posted by the community.

A touching essay written by Kerry Egan, a hospice chaplain, inspired more than 3,000 comments about life, death and thereafter. Egan described her thoughts on what people say before they die, noting that many folks talk about their families and their feelings. Egan's assertion that she would rather take the time to listen than to press religion on the dying proved to be quite the conversation starter.

My faith: What people talk about before they die

Several readers wrote in to share their own experiences with death and dying.

charliegirl: "In the hours before my grandmother's passing away I helped her to be comfortable in the hospital bed. All the family was there but had gone out to eat. I stayed with her. I will always appreciate that moment when it was just the two of us. She uttered mainly words of pain, as she was in a lot of pain. I then proceeded to wash her dentures, not sure why. Then she she pointed towards me and said my mother's name. My mother had passed away close to two years before grandma. Later that night as all the family gathered around her, I sat by her in a small chair. She told me to lie beside her because she knows I am tired (I had driven 20 hours to get to her), but all I did was scoot closer in the chair and place her hand on my hand, and then she said she was ready to rest. Close to 6 a.m. the following day, she went to be with my mother and the Lord. Sometimes there are hardly any words, for the actions are felt throughout and that is where love is felt as well."

Many readers said they agreed with Egan's observations about the end of life.

marianne: "My dad died this weekend ... his last conversations were about his family and about his parents. There was no regret or hatred in his last days, only love and memories ... he didn't think he understood about God, but his loved showed that was not true ... he did understand because he loved."

But many readers also had some very serious reservations about Egan's story. FULL POST

Filed under: Overheard on CNN.com • Religion
X Games buzz: Flipping snowmobile, snowboarding perfection
Shaun White flies above the superpipe in Aspen, Colorado, Sunday night en route to a perfect 100 score and a gold medal.
January 30th, 2012
11:17 AM ET

X Games buzz: Flipping snowmobile, snowboarding perfection

The Winter X Games wrapped up in Aspen, Colorado, on Sunday night with two of the most buzz-worthy moments we've seen in the 16 years of the competition: a perfect score from one of the games' most famous and most decorated participants, and a first-ever feat in the admittedly short history of flying snowmobiles.

First, Shaun White. The two-time Olympic gold medalist added to his impressive haul of Winter X Games gold, this time in mint fashion on the snowboard superpipe, posting the first perfect score ever recorded at the Winter X Games.

White has won 17 medals - 12 of them gold - but Sunday's performance surprised even White himself, as he'd come to the competition with a sprained ankle that forced him to miss the slope-style competition earlier in the games, and doubting if he'd be able to try the superpipe.

In fact, he said he spent time before Sunday night's finals dunking his ankle alternately in buckets of hot and cold water to ease the swelling. And it worked.

"I got here and I said 'Wow, it feels better than this morning,'" White told reporters.

Better, indeed.

White locked up the gold with his first of three runs, wiped out on the second, sustaining a black eye in the process, and then put it all together for the final.

"I just came through and everything felt perfect," he said.

"I've been to so many X Games now and I will forever remember this getting that perfect score," White said.

Earlier, it was Heath Frisby earning gold by becoming the first participant ever to flip a 400-plus-pound snowmobile headfirst and bring it down to a perfect landing.

Frisby saluted family and friends for supporting him in attempting the stunt.

"My whole family, everybody, all my friends have been behind me through all this," ESPN.com quoted him as saying. "I know my grandma is watching - she must have gotten a little chill there. Grandpa, I love you, man. We got it. We got it."

Later he tweeted: "I can't even express how thankful I am that I have all you awesome friends and family. Going to bed I'm sore and feel a bit concussed."

Before even trying his trick, Frisby had to watch competitor Justin Hoyer suffer a crash that sent him to the hospital.

"Guys, it's all right, I've been waiting a year to do this. I am my own deal. This is a totally different trick and I'm ready," Frisby said then, according to ESPN.com.

The Games closed with celebrations after White's perfect run, but they opened on a more somber note, in remembrance of freestyle skier Sarah Burke, who died after a training accident earlier in the month.

Host Sal Masekela said the final night was what Burke was all about.

"She's probably looking down at us right now and she's smiling that Sarah Burke smile because this right here," Masekela said pointing to the superpipe course, "this was the spirit of Sarah Burke."

Gotta Watch: Big bundles of joy
A Massachusetts mother gives birth to a not-so-little bundle of joy.
January 30th, 2012
11:15 AM ET

Gotta Watch: Big bundles of joy

Call these babies “bundles of joy” all you want, just don’t call them little. Check out these videos of babies weighing in at more than 13 pounds!

Mother gives birth to a 13-pound baby – Iowa is known for creating “hearty stock.” Maybe it’s the corn or the wide-ranging farmland. Whatever it is, you can’t deny this mom produces some big boys. With her first child weighing close to 12 pounds, her second pushed the bar even further, weighing in at 13 pounds, 12 ounces. And get a load of the mom’s answer when the (male) reporter asks, “How’d it feel?”

A Texas-sized baby – Barely a few hours old and already this newborn boy had a nickname: “the Moose.” Weighing in at a whopping 16 pounds, who could blame people for the name. The little guy may be the fourth kid in the family, but he easily doubles each his siblings’ birth weights. Though he endured some medical issues early on, if you think his father is worried, think again. See if you can spot the twinkle in his eye when a future in sports is mentioned.

Football fans birth a lineman – New parents can be a bit naïve at times but perhaps thinking your 13 pound baby is normal size takes the cake. It took this Massachusetts couple several shocked expressions from doctors and nurses to realize they had a Super Bowl-sized baby. And just like the father of the above Texas baby, these New England Patriots fans see a football career in their child’s future.

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Filed under: Gotta Watch • Health • U.S.
January 30th, 2012
11:13 AM ET

Connecticut police chief to quit amid racial profiling probe

East Haven, Connecticut, Police Chief Leonard Gallo will retire following the arrests of four police officers for their alleged role in the mistreatment of Latinos, city officials said Monday.

The arrests stemmed from a federal investigation into racial profiling in the town.

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Filed under: Connecticut • Justice • Race
Source: Rescued aid worker on way to United States
Jessica Buchanan was rescued from her Somali captors by U.S. special forces.
January 30th, 2012
09:37 AM ET

Source: Rescued aid worker on way to United States

A U.S. citizen aid worker freed in Somalia last week after three months in captivity was headed to the United States on Monday via a commercial flight from Italy, a senior U.S. official said.

Jessica Buchanan, 32, was set to depart from Sigonella, Italy, the official said. It was unclear what time the flight was leaving.

U.S. military forces rescued Buchanan and Poul Thisted, 60, on Wednesday. The two were traveling in Somalia as workers for the Danish Refugee Council at the time of their kidnappings.

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Filed under: Somalia
January 30th, 2012
07:19 AM ET

Monday's live events

All eyes are on Florida for tomorrow's Republican presidential primary.  CNN.com Live is your home for all of the latest political news and views from the Sunshine State.

Today's programming highlights...

7:30 am ET - Gingrich's Jacksonville rally - GOP hopeful Newt Gingrich begins his day in Jacksonville, where he'll speak with supporters.  He'll also visit Pensacola at 10:00 am ET, Tampa at 1:00 pm ET, Fort Myers at 3:00 pm ET and Orlando at 6:00 pm ET.


Filed under: Elections • Politics • Republican Party
January 30th, 2012
06:35 AM ET

Trader accused of losing UBS $2.3 billion pleads not guilty

A trader accused of fraud over a $2.3 billion loss in unauthorized trading reported by Swiss banking giant UBS pleaded not guilty in a London court Monday.

The trader, Kwaku Adoboli, was ordered held in custody and his trial was scheduled to begin September 3.

Adoboli faces a charge of fraud by abuse of position between January and September 2011, and he also faces two counts of false accounting.

His lawyer said he was "sorry beyond words" in a previous court appearance in September.


Filed under: Courts • Crime • Switzerland • United Kingdom
January 30th, 2012
05:24 AM ET

Militants hit police station in Nigeria's north

Militants launched a fresh attack Monday in Nigeria's second largest city, Kano, which is already reeling from a series of bombings and shootings that killed more than 200 people earlier this month.

A police station in Mandawari was attacked at 6 a.m., just after the dusk-to-dawn curfew was lifted, police said. No one was hurt.

Hours earlier, gunmen on motorbikes hit a police station in Naibowa, killing two people. The Sunday evening attack lasted about 40 minutes, said Sani Abdu, a resident who lives close to the station.

No one immediately claimed responsibility, but suspicion fell on the militant group Boko Haram, which has carried out multiple bombings and shootings across the north in recent days.

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Filed under: Nigeria • World
January 30th, 2012
04:48 AM ET

China cracks down on unrest ahead of Tibetan holiday

Thousands of Chinese security forces have flooded into an ethnically Tibetan area of southwestern China following large protests that led to violent, sometimes deadly, clashes with the police.

Amid anger and despair over Chinese rule, a series of recent self-immolations by Tibetans has spurred the unrest in the region ahead of the Tibetan New Year next month.

In an effort to contain the situation, China has sent in reinforcements to try to impose order on the scenic Ganzi Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture in Sichuan Province. State media has also reported that outside rights groups and the exiled Tibetan spiritual leader, the Dalai Lama, are to blame for the troubles.

The violence appears to be the worst between ethnic Tibetans and the Chinese authorities since 2008, when deadly unrest in the Tibetan capital, Lhasa, left at least 22 people dead.

Four hours west of the Sichuan capital of Chengdu, on the craggy mountain roads leading to Ganzi, police officers stopped all cars trying to enter the region over the weekend, checking identification papers and turning away reporters and those with foreign passports.

When asked why CNN reporters were not allowed to pass, a police officer said: "Don't you know what has happened there? It's not safe and you must leave."

Chinese residents in a local village near the checkpoint told CNN that police forces arrived Thursday, two days earlier than expected because of the tense situation in Ganzi, which borders Tibet and is home to a population that is nearly 80% ethnically Tibetan.

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Filed under: China • Tibet • World
January 30th, 2012
04:19 AM ET

UN considers resolution amid reports of heavy fighting in Syria

The U.N. Security Council will take up a draft resolution this week that calls on Syrian President Bashar al-Assad to step down and transfer power.

The move follows news that the Arab League suspended a mission to monitor whether al-Assad was abiding by an agreement to end a brutal crackdown against anti-government protesters.

Arab League Secretary General Nabil el-Araby arrived Monday in New York where he was scheduled to deliver the monitoring mission's findings to the Security Council the following day.

The news came amid opposition reports of renewed fighting Monday between Syrian forces and the rebel Free Syria Army in suburbs of the capital city of Damascus, where Syria forces have been battling to take back neighborhoods in Saqba and Maleiha.

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Filed under: Syria
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