July 25th, 2012
09:37 PM ET

Inside Syria: Foreign fighters join Syrian rebels in Aleppo battle

Editor’s note: Rebels over the past few days have battled Syrian government forces in the northwestern city of Aleppo, the country’s commercial capital. It's a stronghold of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and home to about 4 million people. The battle is part of a 16-month conflict in Syria that began elsewhere in the country when a fierce government crackdown on protesters morphed into a nationwide uprising against the regime.

CNN’s Ivan Watson and crew are some of the few Western reporters in Syria, whose government has been restricting access on foreign journalists and refusing many of them entry. Below is an edited account of what Watson has seen and been told in rebel-controlled towns near Aleppo on Wednesday:

People in every village in Aleppo province that CNN has visited say they’ve sent fighters to try to capture Aleppo. The bulk of the fighters are Syrian, but CNN has seen some foreigners among them.

There seems to be constant movement between these opposition-held enclaves and Aleppo, with some fighters leaving Aleppo to move their fallen comrades, and other, fresher fighters moving in. In the past two days, CNN’s crew has passed  two funerals in area villages for two rebel fighters who were killed in Aleppo.

The fighting in the region is having a visible effect on civilian life. Cars, trucks and vans loaded with civilians are leaving Aleppo. Some of those people earlier had left their villages to stay in Aleppo, because the city had been a safe haven until fighting began on Friday. But now some are going back to the villages they’d left.

Still, villages look increasingly deserted as you get closer to the big city. In the village of Injara, about 10 kilometers (a little over six miles) west of Aleppo, Sunni cleric Sheikh Ali Bukhro took CNN’s crew on a tour of the near-empty streets. He pointed out craters and holes in at least six stone houses, which he and residents said had been hit by rockets and artillery from a Syrian army base about four kilometers (2.5 miles) away.

“They hit us every night,” Bukhro said.


July 25th, 2012
05:07 PM ET

Mash-up: Firefighters, iPhones, exploding fruit

The CNN Daily Mash-up is a roundup of some of the most interesting, surprising, curious, poignant or significant items to appear on CNN.com in the past 24 hours. We top it with a collection of the day's most striking photographs from around the world.

From the horse's mouth

Sandy Weill, the man who built Citigroup into the financial behemoth it is today, tells CNNMoney that maybe the money giants need to be downsized a bit.

What we should probably do is go and split up investment banking from banking. Have banks do something that's not going to risk the taxpayer dollars, that's not too big to fail.

Tough job in a tough place

Photographer and CNN iReporter Brian Day documented life on the job for firefighters in Detroit off and on from 2009 and 2012.

He recently shared his photos with iReport, and CNN International put together this piece with Day telling the story of his project and his feelings toward the subjects.


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Penn State alum: 'We are more than this tragedy'
An image of a Nittany Lion with the message of "Rise" has been popular on Twitter among Penn State alums and supporters.
July 25th, 2012
01:15 PM ET

Penn State alum: 'We are more than this tragedy'

The Jerry Sandusky sex abuse scandal that rocked Penn State University and football fans across the nation culminated this week in an unprecedented fine of $60 million against the school and severe sanctions for the Division I football program. The Nittany Lions are banned from the postseason for four years, will lose 20 football scholarships a year for four seasons and had 14 seasons of football victories from the late coach Joe Paterno vacated.

There's been no shortage of commentary on the issue: Was the NCAA too quick to make the decision? What will it mean for football? What does it mean for the legacy of Paterno?

But there's also the issue of how the Penn State community will now come together. Alums have responded in force, tweeting, posting photos and defending their school - not for the actions that occurred - but to show the rest of the world they won't let this scandal be their school's best known chapter.

Some have posted photos with the "WE ARE" Penn State chant but somewhat altered. One said: "Don't let people who don't know who 'we are' ... tell us who WE ARE." It has been a rallying cry of sorts, joining together alums from long ago with recent graduates. Many have been tweeting with the hashtag #WeAreAndAlwaysWillBe. Groups on Facebook have been created so alums and current students can share their views, including one called "We Are (still) Penn State."

"This is a group dedicated to healing the scars of the Jerry Sandusky scandal, recognizing and honor the victims and rebuilding the reputation of Penn State University and its football team as one of the premier institutions of higher learning and athletic tradition not only in the country but in the entire world," the group's page said. "We still believe that 'Success With Honor' is who we are, and that Coach Bill O'Brien is the best man to carry on that tradition on and off the field. The actions of an evil man and those that enabled and apologized for him do not define us, and it is our responsibility to write the next chapter in the history of Penn State."

Patterson Weaver, a lawyer who graduated from Penn State in 2001, posted a lengthy note on Facebook describing how he cannot reconcile what happened with the school he knows. Weaver said the world should know the actions of the few responsible should not define the culture of the university as a whole.

Weaver has given CNN permission to post his note in entirety below:

"Apparently, Sports Illustrated will run a cover this week that reads 'We Were Penn State.' Sports Illustrated and so many others clearly have no understanding of who We are. As a second-generation Penn State grad, I have grown up idolizing Penn State, Joe Paterno, and the excellent institution of higher learning that Penn State was, is, and will always be. I am one of hundreds of thousands that consider the Penn State community something unique and special. This goes beyond a football field. This goes beyond school pride. The culture at Penn State, in no small part because of Joe Paterno, taught all of us how to be better people, better friends, and better members of our families and our community.

"So how do I reconcile that with the allegations that a few individuals, including Joe Paterno, remained silent about the terrible actions of Sandusky? Honest answer is I can’t. The allegations do not gel with what each of us learned from our university, and yes, from Joe Paterno. Penn State has always been a beacon of how to do things the right way. Of putting academics and building quality young men and women ahead of fame and wins. I cannot reconcile these allegations with the culture that helped mold who I am. The culture that helped teach me that success is only sweet when done right. That a loss with integrity is better than a win without it. That who we are as men and women is more important than fleeting glory. I cannot reconcile what people are saying of my school with the school I lived and experienced.


Satellites reveal rare levels of Greenland ice melt
Satellite data show Greenland surface melt on July 8, left, and July 12. "Melt" is dark pink; "probable melt" is light pink.
July 25th, 2012
12:40 PM ET

Satellites reveal rare levels of Greenland ice melt

Nearly all of Greenland’s ice cover at least temporarily melted at the surface during an unusually warm stretch in mid-July - a level of melting not seen there in 123 years, NASA said.

In an average summer, melting happens on about half of the surface of Greenland’s ice sheet, which covers most of the land and is an average 1 mile thick.

But an unusually strong ridge of relatively warm air - hovering just above freezing for several hours at the highest elevation - rapidly accelerated melting this month, and satellites showed that an estimated 97% of the surface had melted at some point by July 12, NASA said.

While some of that melt water freezes in place, some of it is lost to rivers and the ocean – and mid-July’s melting caused river flooding that threatened a number of bridges, said Tom Wagner, NASA’s cryosphere program manager in Washington. (The flooding has been captured on a number of YouTube videos, including this one.)

Where this falls in the larger context of Greenland’s changing ice cap - scientists say it is shrinking and causing ocean levels to rise, with warming ocean waters causing ice on the periphery to be lost through melting and rapid flow - is a complicated question, NASA says.

Ice core samples show that the surface melting seen this July happens once in about every 150 years, and the last such melt happened in 1889, NASA said.


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Filed under: Greenland • Science • Weather
July 25th, 2012
12:13 PM ET

Nine athletes banned for doping offenses

A total of nine athletes, including Olympic bronze medalist Nataliya Tobias, have tested positive for "sophisticated doping" offenses, the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) has confirmed.

Six of those athletes were caught using a new "biological passport" method, which builds up a profile of each individual over a prolonged period of time.

The remaining three, including Tobias who came third in the women's 1500 meters in Beijing four years ago, were suspended after further analysis of samples they gave at the World Championships in Daegu last year.

"Today's announcements underline the IAAF's continued and unwavering campaign against doping in athletics," IAAF President Lamine Diack said in a statement on their official website.

"They demonstrate the IAAF's commitment to use advanced methods to detect doping and to enforce increased sanctions when justified.

"We will not stint in our resolve to do everything in our power to eradicate cheating."

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Filed under: Olympics
Cal Ripken Jr.'s mom found safe after being abducted, police say
Cal Ripken Jr. is seen with his mother Vi in October 2011.
July 25th, 2012
12:05 PM ET

Cal Ripken Jr.'s mom found safe after being abducted, police say

Cal Ripken's mother, who was abducted from her Maryland home Tuesday morning, has been found unharmed, police said Wednesday.

A man with a gun showed up at Vi Ripken's home between 7 and 8 a.m. Tuesday, police in Aberdeen, Maryland, said in a statement. The man forced her into a vehicle and drove off, the statement said. She was found unharmed about 6:15 a.m. Wednesday in a vehicle near her home.

The Aberdeen Police Department said they were looking for a white male in his late 30s to early 40s seen wearing a light-colored shirt, camouflage pants and eyeglasses.

In a statement obtained by CNN affiliate WBAL, the Ripken family said that "this has been a very trying time for our family, but we are grateful and relieved that mom is back with us, safe and healthy."

"We want to thank everyone for their tremendous support, especially all of the law enforcement agencies that worked so hard and quickly," the family said. "This is on ongoing investigation, so we hope everyone understands that we cannot comment further at this time. Thank you.”

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Filed under: Crime • Maryland
July 25th, 2012
11:06 AM ET

Greek athlete suspended from Olympic team for offensive Twitter remark

An Olympic athlete from Greece, Voula Papachristou, has been suspended from her country's team after making an offensive comment on Twitter about African immigrants in Greece, a spokeswoman for the Greek Olympic team said Wednesday.

Papachristou apologized on her Facebook page for making an "unfortunate and tasteless joke."

"I am very sorry and ashamed for the negative responses I triggered, since I never wanted to offend anyone, or to encroach human rights," she wrote. "My dream is connected to the Olympic Games and I could not possibly participate if I did not respect their values. Therefore, I could never believe in discrimination between human beings and races. I would like to apologize to all my friends and fellow athletes, who I may have insulted or shamed, the National Team, as well as the people and companies who support my athletic career. Finally, I would like to apologize to my coach and my family."

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Filed under: Greece • Olympics
July 25th, 2012
09:09 AM ET

North Korea leader Kim Jong Un married, South Korean officials say

North Korea's youthful leader, Kim Jong Un, has married a woman identified as Ri Sol-Ju, North Korean state TV reported Wednesday, according to South Korea's Unification Ministry.

Little is known about Kim, who became the third generation of his family to lead his reclusive country when he assumed power following the death of his father, Kim Jong Il, in December.

Kim Jong Il, known as "Dear Leader" had ruled for 17 years after inheriting power from the country's founding father, Kim Il Sung, the eternal president and "Great Leader." Kim Jong Un was granted the title of "supreme leader." His age is still a source of speculation, though it's thought he's in his late 20s.

Recently the leader had been seen alongside a "mystery woman" at a Pyongyang theater to watch a performance of North Korea's Moranbong band. The display included a cast of Disney characters.

That outing wasn't her only high-profile appearance at the North Korean leaders' side.

The same woman was seen on state TV a few days later walking a few paces behind Kim as he toured Kumsusan Palace in Pyongyang, then standing to attention at Kim's side as they and top military officials paid tribute to his grandfather Kim Il Sung, North Korea's founding father, on the anniversary of his death.

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Filed under: Kim Jong Un • North Korea
July 25th, 2012
08:41 AM ET

Inside Syria: Faces of the Free Syrian Army

Editor's note: CNN's Ivan Watson and crew are some of the few international reporters in Syria, whose government has been restricting access on foreign journalists and refusing many of them entry. Check out more from CNN inside Syria.

Rebel-controlled northern Syria (CNN) - Mohamed Rashid walked out of the gate of his house with a giant blood stain on his white T-shirt.

"This is the blood of a martyr! Of a hero! Of a lion!" he bellowed. "This is his blood. It is pure!"

Mad with grief, Rashid kissed his bloody T-shirt before being led away by worried relatives.

Just hours before, Rashid learned his son Abdul was killed in battle in the Syrian city of Aleppo.

Housam Abdul Rashid was a 22-year-old defector from the army. He was also the fourth man from his small hilltop village to be killed fighting for the rebels.

The younger Rashid is one of the casualties of the five-day-old rebel offensive on Aleppo, the country's commercial capital. Another rebel, who asked only to be named "Khorshid" because his wife and children were still living in Aleppo, described how his comrade was killed by a helicopter gunship, while climbing onto a rooftop.

"Housam's specialty was a sniper," Khorshid said. "He went to the roof, and a helicopter gunship killed him. Another fighter from Aleppo with him was also killed. I was just 4 meters away when it happened."

July 25th, 2012
07:41 AM ET

Wednesday's live events

The race to the presidency now turns toward the general election in November.  CNN.com Live is your home for all the latest news and views from the campaign trail.

Today's programming highlights...

10:00 am ET - Hearing on helping veterans - The secretaries of defense and veterans affairs will testify before two House committees on efforts to help veterans make the transition to civilian life.


Filed under: Elections • On CNN.com today • Politics
July 25th, 2012
05:07 AM ET

Anaheim sees days of raucous protest after fatal police shooting

Angry residents - distressed over the fatal police shooting of a local man over the weekend – hit the streets of Anaheim, California Tuesday for a fourth day of protest marred by demonstrator vandalism and police use of force.

At least one store front was smashed, and police have confirmed firing crowd control bean bag and rubber bullet guns. Garbage containers were set alight, and in one incident, police lost control over a dog, which attacked and bit at least one person.

Police Chief John Welter apologized for the dog attack and said the city would cover the cost of treatment.

The street rage started Saturday on the scene of the fatal shooting of Manuel Diaz, 25, described by police as a gang member, CNN affiliate KCAL reported.

Cell phone video taken at the scene and posted to Youtube showed residents confronting police officers as they ordered bystanders to back farther away from the man lying face-down in a nearby lawn, before they cordoned off the area with yellow police tape.

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Filed under: Crime • U.S.
July 25th, 2012
03:00 AM ET

Ethnic clashes in India kill dozens, displace thousands

Ethnic clashes in India's northeastern Assam province have left 32 dead as of Wednesday and sent an estimated 150,000 fleeing their homes to escape the violence, police said.

Long-standing tensions between the predominant Bodo tribes people and minority migrant Muslim settlers erupted into bloodshed nearly a week ago and has largely gripped the province's Kokrajhar district, which borders on neighboring Bhutan to India's north, said Assam police chief J.N. Chaudhury.

What sparked the mayhem is not yet known and under investigation, he said. But it has resulted in incidences of attacks and counter attacks between the two groups, CNN sister network CNN-IBN has reported.

Five of those killed died when police fired on mobs engaging in rioting and arson, according to Chaudhury, who said that the district had witnessed similar fighting in the 1990s and the early 2000s.

"For now, our priority is to stop the violence and arson. It may take some days to rebuild trust," he said.

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Filed under: India • Islam • Religion • World
July 25th, 2012
02:52 AM ET

New Zealand kayaker to be judged by mom at Olympics

For the Dawsons of Tauranga, New Zealand, the canoe slalom event at the London Olympics will be a family affair.

Mike Dawson, who is competing in the men's kayak class, will not just be trying to impress his father, who coaches him, or his brother and sister, who will be watching from the crowd. He will also need to ensure he doesn't incur the disapproval of his mother, Kay, who is one of the judges at the event.

The idea of a mother officiating in a competition in which her son is participating may strike some as a little unfair, but the Dawsons and the New Zealand Canoe Federation are eager to stress there's no scope for special treatment in this case.

"The only real advantage mum can give me is her presence at what will be my biggest race ever," said Mike Dawson, who is competing in the Olympics for the first time after finishing 16th in the canoe slalom world championships in Slovakia last year.

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Filed under: New Zealand • Olympics • Sports • United Kingdom