April 2nd, 2012
10:28 PM ET

Social media campaign aims at fighting food crisis in Africa's Sahel

Vast portions of west and central Africa have become so dry that they can't support crops, livestock and the millions of people who live there.

The Sahel - a belt of arid land that stretches across Africa below the Sahara Desert - is a zone prone to cycles of drought, and eight countries are seeing the worst of it this time.

The United Nations estimates that more than 10 million people are in danger of starving to death. Aid workers on the ground say it's getting worse quickly.

In response, UNICEF is launching a 24-hour social media campaign on Tuesday to raise awareness about the food crisis in Africa.

Called #SahelNOW, the campaign asks users on Facebook, Twitter and other social media to post messages over the day Tuesday to boost awareness of the problem and the estimated 1 million children in danger. FULL POST

Filed under: Africa • World
Overheard on CNN.com: Would you honestly be willing to pay more for nicer flights?
AirTran received the top ranking in the Airline Quality Rating report released Monday.
April 2nd, 2012
08:07 PM ET

Overheard on CNN.com: Would you honestly be willing to pay more for nicer flights?

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.

People love to commiserate over their air travel experiences, but 2011 was the "best year ever" for airline performance, according to the Airline Quality Rating report released Monday in Washington. The study said air travelers were less likely to be bumped, less likely to lose their luggage and more likely to arrive at their destinations on time. Our readers commented that those numbers don't tell the whole story.

Report says top U.S. airlines performed very well in 2011

One reader said the subjective experience of flying nowadays has changed along with those numbers.

ec7967: "Passengers 'don't think so' because, while fewer people have to deal with a misplaced bag or an extra half hour sitting at the gate, everything else about flying has become lousy. Part of that isn't anyone's fault, mind you - security has become an unfortunate necessity - but it is what it is. You can't bring your own drinks on the plane, you can't get free food on the plane, you can't check your bag for free, you can't get on the plane without being patted down or walking through an X-ray machine, etc. And while you might consider more full flights to be a good thing, most passengers will not. The idea of getting a row to yourself, or being able to get up and move to a different seat at a whim, was one of the simple pleasures of flying that have completely vanished."

There was an interesting debate about the current state of airlines. Many argued that we pay much less for our airline trips nowadays, and that's what people really want. So would you be willing to pay more to have a nicer flight experience? Really? Seriously?

Surfstud31: "Airline travel sucks anymore. I feel bad for the people who can't remember what it was like to fly 30 years ago. You actually got fed (for free), didn't pay for bags, didn't pay for extra legroom seats, you could smoke (OMG!), you could take your shampoo and toothpaste, and best of all you didn't have to subject yourself to a humiliating strip search every time you entered an airport. Oh, how times have changed. And not for the better."

Mat Hill: "You also paid a LOT more in inflation adjusted dollars before deregulation. I'll take cheaper."

Rachel Huntress: "Glad no one is blowing smoke in my face on the plane these days ..."

Of course, this person and others longed for the good old days. FULL POST

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Filed under: Air travel • Overheard on CNN.com • Transportation • Travel
One year later: Full face transplant recipient reflects on life
Dallas Wiens reflects Monday about the outcome of his full face transplant.
April 2nd, 2012
05:36 PM ET

One year later: Full face transplant recipient reflects on life

“I go out all the time with my family, my friends, my little girl. I don't to worry about what anyone else is going to think," said 26-year old Dallas Wiens, the nation's first recipient of a full facial transplant.

In 2008, Wiens' head hit a high-voltage electrical wire in Fort Worth, Texas, leaving him without any facial features. Monday marks the first anniversary of his life-changing facial transplant operation at Boston’s Brigham and Women’s Hospital.

Take a look at how Wiens looks now and how he feels about life after surgery.

And last month, another transplant recepient, Richard Lee Norris, received a face transplant surgery to heal his gunshot wounds.  See how he's recovering in this "gotta watch" video clip.


Face transplant patient reflects on life

In Boston, Dallas Wiens reflects on his surgery one year after receiving the nation's first full facial transplant.


Groundbreaking face transplant surgery

CNN's Anna Coren talks to Dr. Eduardo Rodriguez from the University of Maryland about a groundbreaking face transplant.

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Filed under: Boston • Health Care • Massachusetts • Texas • U.S.
April 2nd, 2012
05:27 PM ET

Analysts: Questions surround 911 call analysis in Trayvon Martin case

Two experts who analyzed a 911 call made during the confrontation that ended in Florida teenager Trayvon Martin's death said they believe the screams heard in the background are not those of shooter George Zimmerman.

Zimmerman, 28, has claimed self-defense in shooting Martin on February 26. He said the 17-year-old accosted him after he called police to report Martin as a suspicious person walking around his neighborhood.

But the analysis poses some questions, legal analysts say, including whether it would be ruled admissible in court if charges are filed and the case goes to trial.

Audio experts Tom Owen and Ed Primeau analyzed the recordings for the Orlando Sentinel, and both said they believed it was not Zimmerman screaming.

"There's a huge chance that this is not Zimmerman's voice," said Primeau, a longtime audio engineer who is listed as an expert in recorded evidence by the American College of Forensic Examiners International. "As a matter of fact, after 28 years of doing this, I would put my reputation on the line and say this is not George Zimmerman screaming."

But is the analysis definitive enough for use in court? David Faigman, a professor of law at the University of California-Hastings and an expert on the admissibility of scientific evidence, said courts and the overall scientific community have mixed opinions about the reliability of such "voiceprint" analysis.

And CNN and HLN legal analysts Beth Karas and Sunny Hostin raised questions about what the public should consider regarding the conclusions reached.

Hostin says there are several questions and variables that must be considered, including the fact that the tests did not analyze similar speech. That is, the analysis was based on screams heard from a distance in a 911 call, compared with a direct phone conversation Zimmerman had with a 911 operator.

"Ideally, you want (Zimmerman or Martin's) voice saying the same exact thing, screaming 'help,' in order to analyze it," she said.

Would these tests even be admissible in court and considered evidence?


Multiple fatalities in shooting at California college, Oakland police say
April 2nd, 2012
03:32 PM ET

Multiple fatalities in shooting at California college, Oakland police say

[Updated at 3:32 p.m. ET] A suspect in the shooting was taken into police custody, police spokeswoman Johnna Watson said.

[Posted at 3:21 p.m. ET] A shooting at Oikos University in East Oakland, California, has resulted in multiple fatalities, a spokeswoman for the Oakland police said Monday.

Oakland Fire Department Deputy Chief James Williams said there are several ambulances on the scene and officials are assessing the situation.

"The shooter is still at large," spokeswoman Johnna Watson said. "We are interviewing the witnesses right now to try to determine if this person is known to them."

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Filed under: California • Crime
April 2nd, 2012
02:10 PM ET

6.3 magnitude quake in Oaxaca, Mexico, USGS says

An earthquake with a preliminary magnitude of 6.3 struck in the Mexican state of Oaxaca on Monday, the U.S. Geological Survey said.

The quake's epicenter was about 17 miles (27 km) from Ometepec, Guerrero. It was about 7.6 miles (12 km) deep, the USGS said.

There were no immediate reports of damage or injuries.

Residents felt the quake in Mexico City, hundreds of miles away from the epicenter.

There were no initial reports of major damage in the capital, Mayor Marcelo Ebrard said on Twitter.

- CNN's Krupskaia Alis and Rafael Romo contributed to this report.

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Filed under: Mexico
Incredible well rescues
A toddler in China falls into a 40-foot well.
April 2nd, 2012
11:54 AM ET

Incredible well rescues

We received harrowing video of a toddler in China who fell nearly 40 feet into an abandoned dry well. The 2-year-old was rescued by firefighters who had to pump oxygen into the well because the air was so thin at the depth the child was located. The dramatic episode brought back memories of the incredible rescue of Baby Jessica here in the U.S.


Toddler falls into 40-foot well

With the well being only about 18 inches wide, see how the rescuers were able to save this toddler's life.


1987: 'Baby Jessica' rescued from well

In 1987, Jessica McClure was rescued after spending nearly 58 hours in a well. Watch the final moments as rescuers bring Jessica to the surface.

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Filed under: Rescues
April 2nd, 2012
11:40 AM ET

JetBlue pilot charged for meltdown goes to court

The JetBlue pilot arrested after an apparent midair meltdown last week was taken to the federal courthouse in Amarillo, Texas, Monday morning, a court official said.

Authorities transferred Clayton Osbon, the captain of JetBlue Flight 191, from a hospital where he has been treated since last Tuesday to the courthouse. A court clerk said he probably would appear before a judge.

Osbon has not made an initial court appearance since he was arrested and charged with interfering with a flight crew.

His remarks and erratic behavior on the planned five-hour flight from New York's Kennedy International Airport to Las Vegas led the co-pilot to lock him out of the cockpit, according a federal criminal complaint.

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Filed under: Air travel • FAA • Plane emergency landing • Transportation • Travel • U.S.
April 2nd, 2012
11:12 AM ET

High court rules against man strip searched for traffic violation

A New Jersey man who was strip searched in prison after being accused of failing to pay a traffic fine lost his Supreme Court appeal Monday.

The 5-4 divided court found two county prisons "struck a reasonable balance between inmate privacy and the needs of the (correctional) institution."

The conservative majority concluded a "reasonable suspicion" standard could be applied when conducting examinations of newly admitted prisoners. Albert Florence said he was subjected to what he called a pair of intrusive, humiliating searches six years ago.

Albert Florence said he was subjected to what he called a pair of intrusive, humiliating searches six years ago.

But Justice Anthony Kennedy, writing for the court, said the policy was designed to protect Florence's safety.

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Filed under: Justice • Supreme Court • U.S.
April 2nd, 2012
10:55 AM ET

Syrian National Council gains international support, vows to pay rebel fighters

The president of the International Committee of the Red Cross, Jakob Kellenberger, arrives Monday in Syria for two days of talks with senior Syrian officials that are intended to respond to the humanitarian needs of those Syrians wounded and/or displaced. He arrives amid ongoing violence which killed at least 47 on Monday alone, according to opposition groups, and continuing international outcry against the government of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.

"I am determined to see the ICRC and the Syrian Arab Red Crescent expand their presence, range and scope of activities to address the needs of vulnerable people," Kellenberger said in a news release about his third such visit since last June. "This will be a key element of my talks with the Syrian officials."

Kellenberger, who was to meet with Minister of Foreign Affairs Walid al-Mu'alem, Minister of the Interior Major-General Mohamad al-Shaar, and Minister of Health Dr Wael al-Halki, will also raise the issue of access to all places of detention. "Visiting people who have been detained remains a priority for us," he said. "I will also further discuss practical measures for implementing our initiative for a daily two-hour cessation of fighting. A daily pause in the hostilities is essential in order to evacuate wounded people and deliver aid if and when the fighting intensifies."

The release said the ICRC has, in recent weeks, obtained greater access to some of the areas affected by the unrest.

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Filed under: Syria
April 2nd, 2012
02:00 AM ET

Injured sailors from racing yacht to be flown to San Francisco

Two of four sailors who were injured when their 67-foot racing yacht was damaged by high seas over the weekend will be flown to San Francisco on Monday.

The four members of the Geraldton Western Australia's crew were wounded Saturday in stormy weather as they sailed from China to San Francisco for a leg of the Clipper Round the World Race, organizers said. The rest of the crew was described as "uninjured but shaken."

Rough waters hindered initial attempts to airlift the wounded from the yacht.

Sunday evening, a Coast Guard rescue boat transferred the two seriously hurt sailors to the Coast Guard Cutter Bertholf where they were medically evaluated.

Race organizers had earlier identified them as Jane Hitchins, 50, a doctor with four suspected broken ribs; and Max Wilson, 62, with two suspected cracked or broken ribs.

The cutter will head to shore Monday with the pair.

The other two crew members who were hurt - Nik Brbora, 28, a software engineer with a possible pelvic sprain; and Mark Burkes, 37, with a back injury - remain on board the yacht which is making its way to its designated mooring in Oakland.

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Filed under: U.S. • World
April 2nd, 2012
12:31 AM ET

Bin Laden's widows expected to be charged in Pakistan

Three widows of Osama bin Laden are expected to be charged Monday with living illegally in Pakistan, an offense that carries a maximum sentence of 10 years in prison.

The three women - identified by U.S. and Pakistani officials as Amal Ahmed Abdul Fateh, Khairiah Sabar and Siham Sabar - have been in Pakistani custody since U.S. Navy SEALs raided bin Laden's compound in Abbottabad and killed the al Qaeda leader in May 2011.

Pakistani authorities have started legal proceedings against the widows, alleging forgery and illegal entrance into Pakistan. The charges are expected to be filed Monday, said a source familiar with the widows' case.

The source said the Yemeni government has expressed readiness to let Fateh, bin Laden's youngest widow, return home. Saudi Arabia, where the other two women are from, has been more resistant.

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Filed under: Al Qaeda • Osama bin Laden • Pakistan • Terrorism