African elephant slaughter highest in more than two decades, experts say
Elephants killed by poachers in Cameroon's Bouba N'Djida National Park, near the border with Chad, are shown on February 23.
March 15th, 2012
12:11 PM ET

African elephant slaughter highest in more than two decades, experts say

Despite recent attempts by soldiers in Cameroon to stop the mass slaughter of elephants, poachers are continuing to kill the animals in record numbers, the World Wildlife Fund said Thursday.

Tons of tusks are being moved on camels and horses from Africa mostly to buyers willing to pay high prices in China and Thailand, said Tom Milliken, the director of the wildlife trade monitoring network Traffic.

"Elephants represent an opportunity to gain money, and because there are ready buyers in most capital cities, the word is out there," Milliken said. "[There has been] an increased poaching assault like we haven't seen in two decades."

Poachers who recently killed at least 100 elephants in Cameroon's Bouba N'Djida National Park are reportedly from Chad and Sudan, the WWF said.

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U.N. official critical of Manning detention
Bradley Manning faces 22 charges, including aiding the enemy
March 13th, 2012
12:50 PM ET

U.N. official critical of Manning detention

U.S. Army Pfc. Bradley Manning, accused of aiding the enemy by passing reams of classified military documents to WikiLeaks, may have been treated inhumanely by the U.S. military since his arrest in 2010, according to a report from the United Nations' top official on torture.

The findings are the result of a 14-month long probe conducted by U.N. special rapporteur Juan Mendez and released late last month. They could spark a debate about Manning's case as it winds toward a court-martial later this year. The latest hearing in Manning's case is scheduled for later this week, at which motions made when Manning was charged on February 23 will be heard.

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'Stop Kony' video goes viral, puts spotlight on Ugandan warlord
A screengrab from the Kony 2012 campaign.
March 7th, 2012
04:04 PM ET

'Stop Kony' video goes viral, puts spotlight on Ugandan warlord

A half-hour documentary about a Ugandan warlord is one of the  hottest videos on the Web today, reposted several million times on various social networking sites.

The San Diego-based nonprofit Invisible Children produced the film. Their goal was to make Joseph Kony, the leader of the Lord's Resistance Army, a household name. The LRA is notorious for abducting, raping and maiming its victims. They're particularly infamous for hacking off the ears and lips of their victims and recruiting child soldiers. The LRA's goal is to overthrow the Ugandan government. Kony is on the loose.

By Thursday, a video of the documentary has been viewed on YouTube at least 32 million times. There are countless tweets about it. Even Oprah appears to be a follower. The talk show queen had Invisible Children representatives on her show awhile back. The group tweeted her about the documentary, and she appears to have responded: "Thanks tweeps for sending me info about ending #LRAviolence. I am aware. Have supported with $'s and voice and will not stop. #KONY2012."

But several observers are urging caution, saying that Invisible Children has manipulated facts in the past and advised viewers to watch the documentary with that in mind.

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WikiLeaks + Anonymous = A powerful partnership?
Julian Assange could be in legal hot water over the release of e-mails belonging to a private company, an expert says.
February 27th, 2012
04:09 PM ET

WikiLeaks + Anonymous = A powerful partnership?

Though it's nothing new for WikiLeaks to publish information belonging to a private company, Monday's release of Stratfor e-mails might be an indication that for the first time, Anonymous and WikiLeaks have worked together. And that could have legal consequences for WikiLeaks' editor Julian Assange, experts say.

In December, Anonymous claimed it had hacked Stratfor, the Austin, Texas-based private company that produces intelligence reports for clients. On Monday, WikiLeaks began releasing 5 million e-mails it said belonged to Stratfor that reveal, WikiLeaks says, a litany of injustices by the company. WikiLeaks is calling the leak The Global Intelligence Files.

WikiLeaks has not said where it got the e-mails. Anonymous, an amorphous group of hackers worldwide,  is claiming on Twitter and on other social media that they gave it to the site. Numerous media outlets such as the Washington Post and Wired are reporting the partnership.

"Their [WikiLeaks and Anonymous] working together made sense. Anonymous did the hack, had the stuff and in the end decided that someone else would be better-suited to comb through this and release it," said Gregg Housh, who acts as a spokesperson for Anonymous. "Anonymous just didn't have the ability to go through all the e-mails themselves. This was a happy partnership. WikiLeaks did such an awesome job categorizing the [State Department] cables."

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Greenpeace: "Xena" actress arrested after protest on drilling ship
Lucy Lawless aboard the Noble Discoverer last week.
February 27th, 2012
10:22 AM ET

Greenpeace: "Xena" actress arrested after protest on drilling ship

Actress Lucy Lawless, famous for starring in the television show "Xena: Warrior Princess," was arrested along with six other Greenpeace activists early Monday for boarding a drilling ship last week in New Zealand, according to Greenpeace. She and the others who were aboard the ship without permission were released shortly after their arrest, the activist organization said.

CNN.com spoke with Lawless on Friday while she was having a restless night on the Noble Discoverer, a ship leased to Shell Oil. The ship was docked in the Port of Taranaki when the actress and other activists, on behalf of Greenpeace, made it on board to protest drilling in the Arctic.

The group was able to display signs on the Discoverer's 174-foot drilling tower. One sign said "Stop Shell #SaveTheArctic."

Lawless told CNN on Friday that she expected to be arrested for the stunt but that she and the others intended to remain on the ship for as long as possible. She stressed that exchanges between them and authorities had been peaceful.

"We feel very much that what happens in the Arctic doesn't stay in the Arctic anymore," Lawless said. "An oil spill can never be cleaned up because of the remoteness and the freezing temperatures. We risk trashing whole ecosystems and poisoning them from plankton on up. It's absolutely unthinkable."

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Lucy goes lawless protesting aboard drillship
Lucy Lawless on the Noble Discoverer
February 24th, 2012
03:03 PM ET

Lucy goes lawless protesting aboard drillship

Who wants to get in a fight with Xena the Warrior Princess?

It seems that a major oil corporation doesn't have much of a choice. On Thursday Lucy Lawless, the actress who played Xena, and six other Greenpeace activists illegally boarded a drilling ship leased to Shell Oil off New Zealand's western shore. The group reached a 174-foot drilling tower and held a sign "Stop Shell #SaveTheArctic."

CNN spoke with Lawless on the Noble Discoverer Friday morning, the middle of the night in New Zealand. It was cold and noisy and she wasn't getting much sleep. But the actress didn't seem bothered at all. Asked to describe how she and the other protesters got on board, she said, "We walked like human beings wearing hard hats (but) I don't want to give away any trade secrets."

Greenpeace, in a statement, said the group had actually scaled the drillship which was in the Port of Taranaki in New Zealand. The activists were told to get off. But Lawless and the protesters refused to cooperate.

"We thanked them for adhering to their protocol," Lawless said, stressing that the exchange between the activists and authorities has been peaceful. "We know we'll be arrested. We have no choice but to stay where we are and send our message to the world."

Lawless said the activists are prepared to hunker down until their anti-Arctic drilling point is made. By early Friday afternoon it appeared that it was - stories were popping up across the Web and in news outlets across the globe about the stunt.

"We feel very much that what happens in the Arctic doesn't stay in the Arctic anymore," Lawless said. "An oil spill can never be cleaned up because of the remoteness and the freezing temperatures. We risk trashing whole ecosystems and poisoning them from plankton on up. It's absolutely unthinkable."

The Noble Discoverer is owned by Noble Corporation and is contracted for operation by Shell, according to Shell spokeswoman Kelly op de Weegh.

Lawless and the other activists have "occupied" the drillship to prevent it from departing on a "6,000 nautical mile journey from New Zealand to the remote Arctic to start an exploratory oil drilling program that threatens to devastate the Alaskan coastline," Greenpeace spokeswoman Szabina Mozes said.

"We are disappointed that Greenpeace has chosen this method to protest," op de Weegh wrote in an e-mail to CNN. "Actions such as this jeopardize the safety of everyone involved. While we respect the right of individuals to express their point of view, the priority should be the safety of Noble's personnel and that of the protestors."

Shell is investigating how the activists got on board, op de Weegh wrote.

Lawless, a longtime environmental activist, has never done any protesting as extreme as this. She said she thought about her three children and her family when deciding whether to participate in the Noble Discoverer demonstration.

"The oil that is captured will be burnt in the air to rain more destruction down on our grand children," she said.

Lawless has no idea how many days she and the group will be out to sea. She brought some chocolate and peanuts with her.

"We're here as long as it takes," she said.

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February 20th, 2012
11:51 AM ET

Avalanche killed experienced backcountry skiers

Three skiers killed in a Washington state avalanche on Sunday were highly experienced at backcountry skiing, according to media reports, and one was the head judge of the Freeskiing World Tour, a competitive circuit for extreme skiers in the United States, Canada and South America.

The three, ski tour judge Jim Jack, Chris Rudolph and John Brenan, were among a group of a dozen or so skiers who were attempting to ski down a slope near the Stevens Pass ski area in the Cascade Mountains, about an 80-mile drive from Seattle. Among the group were staffers of both ESPN and Powder magazine, who identified the victims and gave accounts of the incident.

Powder magazine senior editor John Stifter said the avalanche was triggered by Jack, who was the seventh skier to head down the slope, which is outside the borders of the resort and its groomed ski runs. Jack triggered a “slab avalanche,” according to Stifter.

The U.S. Forest Service’s National Avalanche Center says dry slab avalanches are the most deadly form of avalanches.

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Inside Syria: Residents bracing for the worst in Homs
A member of the Free Syrian Army takes his weapon from a comrade during a patrol in Idlib in northwestern Syria on Saturday.
February 19th, 2012
05:40 PM ET

Inside Syria: Residents bracing for the worst in Homs

As conservatives in Washington urged President Barack Obama to take action on Syria, CNN's Arwa Damon reported Friday that new violence was expected. And sure enough, the violence came.

CNN cannot confirm the authenticity of the footage Damon discusses, but the clip appears to show the vantage point of snipers. Reports say Syrian President Bashar al-Assad has been ordering attacks on citizens.

Damon and CNN's Ivan Watson are reporting from Syria despite the country's attempt to block journalists.

Damon said residents are bracing for the worst in Homs, where the intensity of the attack by Syria's government is overwhelming. Women, children and men have been desperate to tell Damon their stories.

Meanwhile, prominent U.S. conservatives are urging the Obama administration to "take immediate action" against the Syrian regime, including "no-go zones" for al-Assad's military and "self-defense aid" to resistance forces. Fifty-six foreign policy experts and former U.S. government officials signed a letter dated Friday calling for proactive U.S.-led steps against the government. It comes as Syrian citizens and activists plead for world powers to help stop the government's bloody crackdown.

The conservatives calling for action  include Karl Rove, the former Bush administration adviser; Paul Bremer, in charge of the U.S. occupation in Iraq after the 2003 invasion; R. James Woolsey, former CIA chief; Robert McFarlane, former Reagan national security adviser; and Dan Senor, a former Bremer adviser and spokesman for the Coalition Provisional Authority in Iraq. Read the full story here.

Activist Omar Shakir told CNN he is confident the Syrian army is preparing for a massive ground invasion of the besieged neighborhood of Baba Amr, the heart of the revolt.

"Just like every day, the residents of Baba Amr woke up (Sunday) to the sounds of violent bombing, as al-Assad forces continue to use different types of weapons, bombs and rockets in their attacks," he said.

Sunday, 10 people in Homs were among the at least 23 killed across Syria, according to the Local Coordination Committees of Syria, a network of opposition activists. In the 11 months of Syria's uprising, almost 9,000 people have been killed, the LCC estimates.

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Last WWI veteran, a woman, dies at 110
Florence Green celebrates her 109th birthday in 2010. She died Saturday.
February 8th, 2012
10:38 AM ET

Last WWI veteran, a woman, dies at 110

The last known surviving veteran of World War I has died. Florence Green, 110, was a waitress in Britain's Royal Air Force.

"In a way, that the last veteran should be a lady and someone who served on the home front is something that reminds me that warfare is not confined to the trenches," Retired Air Vice-Marshal Peter Dye told Time.

"It reminds us of the Great War, and all warfare since then has been something that involved everyone," Dye, director-general of the RAF Museum, told Time. "It's a collective experience. ... Sadly, whether you are in New York, in London, or in Kandahar, warfare touches all of our lives."

Green was 17 when she joined the Women's Royal Air Force in 1918, two months before the armistice, the BBC reported.

She recalled her wartime experiences in a 2008 interview, retold in Time.

"I met dozens of pilots and would go on dates," she said. "I had the opportunity to go up in one of the planes but I was scared of flying. I would work every hour God sent. But I had dozens of friends on the base and we had a great deal of fun in our spare time. In many ways, I had the time of my life."

Two weeks shy of her 111th birthday, Green died in her sleep Saturday night at a home care facility in King's Lynn, Norfolk, according to the BBC.

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Chinese city bans schools' palm-reading test
January 31st, 2012
02:14 PM ET

Chinese city bans schools' palm-reading test

Education officials in a northern China city have banned schools from offering palm-reading tests that were purported to predict kids’ intelligence and potential, state-run news agency Xinhua reported Tuesday.

The ban in Taiyuan comes after a previous Xinhau report that privately run kindergartens in that city’s province, Shanxi, were charging parents about $190 (1,200 yuan) for the opportunity to have their kids' palms read.

The company that designed the test, Shanxi Daomeng Culture Communication Co., claimed the palm reading could help determine a child’s innate intelligence and identify kids’ aptitudes in subjects such as math and music, and was applicable to children older than 3 months of age, according to Xinhua.

But Taiyuan education officials have “issued a circular to criticize the three kindergartens” that offered the tests, and have launched an investigation into whether the schools were ripped off by the company, the city’s education bureau chief, Ma Zhaoxing, told Xinhua.

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Why would Colombia's FARC sell cows?
Cows in southwest Colombia in August 2010.
January 24th, 2012
01:07 PM ET

Why would Colombia's FARC sell cows?

Colombia's president said in a recent speech that the anti-government guerrilla group known as FARC is so strapped for money that its members have started selling cows.

The Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia "is designing a strategy to counter the problem of a lack of financing ... due to the blows that have been dealt to their financing sources, especially drug trafficking," President Juan Manuel Santos said. "One of the orders that they have received is 'sell the cattle to get more resources.'"

But experts who study the rebel group that's tried for decades to overthrow the Colombian government point out that more may be happening than a desperate sale of livestock. Although Santos suggested that anti-narcotic measures have damaged FARC's ability to profit from drug trafficking, it's possible that FARC may be selling cattle to launder drug money, one expert said.

"It's a classic underworld tactic. If you own 40,000 heads of cattle, you take the proceeds from selling some of your cows and do whatever you like with the profits," said Steven Dudley, the co-director of InSight, a joint initiative of American University in Washington and the Fundación Ideas para la Paz in Colombia. "This wouldn't be the first time this has happened, so to pretend that this is somehow new or reflective only of a government crackdown on FARC is ridiculous."

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December 19th, 2011
03:18 PM ET

North Korea: What it's like inside secretive nation

Editor's note: After Kim Jong Il's death brought tears in North Korea and caused concern for South Korea, we're taking a look at the secretive nation from the view of those who have traveled there.

The first time that Brit Simon Cockerell visited North Korea, he noticed how clean it seemed. The air was not polluted like in Beijing, where he has lived since 2000. Another curiosity also struck him: In the capital of Pyongyang, there were no advertisements or billboards, and there was no traffic.

One of the rare times one might see North Koreans out and about during the day is when co-workers are doing aerobics with their "work unit" in the morning, he said. Around lunchtime, workers might venture outside again, perhaps stringing up a net or marking a line in the street to play a quick match of volleyball before returning to the grind.

"It's a place that can seem very dead during the week. There are a few bars in Pyongyang, but they close around 10 p.m. There are no crowds. And this is odd, because there are 3 million who live in that city," said Cockerell, who has visited North Korea more than 100 times.

"There isn't any hustle or bustle. Everything is a five-minute drive away. You wind up, typically, on your first day saying to yourself, 'Bloody hell, I'm in North Korea, where is everyone?' "

North Korea's is a working society, he said. The workweek is six days, and children are often in school. "On the weekends, you might see people in parks, though," Cockerell said.

But all that work does not equal advancement or personal riches.

"It's an exceptionally poor country," he said. "People don't spend money because they don't have it, and there's not much to buy anyway."

Cockerell works for the China-based tourism company Koryo Group. British ex-pat Nicholas Bonner, who also lives in Beijing, co-founded the company, which offers tours ranging from two-day visits to Pyongyang to 16-night trips across the country. The typical Koryo client is highly adventurous and well-traveled. North Korea is a much-desired passport stamp for many travelers, the company  says.

"There are people who go to North Korea expecting to be spied on, and they make up their minds that it's going to be dramatic," Cockerell said. "I hate to spoil someone's sexy story, but there's no way to tell if that's happening. Visitors experience the place the way they want to experience it. So you see an odd-looking man across the street whose gaze is lingering a bit too long. Is he a spy? Would it be more interesting if he were? There's really no way to know. You can't ask someone and get an answer, which, of course, to some people heightens the mystery."

One reason there are very few cars is because fuel is imported and, consequently, very expensive. Leisure, drinking and dancing are not forbidden, but most people spend time at home with friends and family, he said. And the lack of pollution isn't indicative of a government that's cooperating with air quality regulations.

"It means that there's no industry and that the economy is suffering," he said.

In recent years, Cockerell has noticed that Chinese wholesalers are selling clothes to North Koreans. "The clothes are cheaply made, but they have some element of style. People will hang a bit of bling off their cell phones," he said.

Tourists can't accessorize their mobile phones because they must surrender them before entering the country and get them back when they're leaving, Cockerell said. But iPads, computers and digital reading devices like Kindles are allowed. "This policy doesn't make sense, but it's been around for many years," he said.

Koryo gives tours of North Korea to about 1,500 tourists every year, including a two-day visit for about 700 euros. A 16-night adventure is available for many thousands more. During a longer trip, Koryo can charter a private plane to fly to the west coast and along the DMZ, then head to the northeast coast, where tourists can stay with a North Korean family in a structure built for tourists.

Most of the buildings in Pyongyang are boxy and dully designed. The city is dotted with oddly placed gigantic monuments to the government. Pictures of leader Kim Jong Il are tacked everywhere.

While there is no organized religion in North Korea, there are a few churches in Pyongyang, Cockerell said.

The closest element to a religion was devotion to Kim, whose death was announced Sunday.

"I'm sure the devastation that people feel today is tremendous," Cockerell said.

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December 5th, 2011
03:30 PM ET

Call it a comeback for Assange? Maybe

In the past few days, the WikiLeaks saga has taken two sharp turns.

On Thursday, 287 documents appeared on the WikiLeaks site about the global surveillance and arms industry. The dump provided many documents to mine, and it's still unclear what they might all mean. The Washington Post and other outlets called it a comeback for the site and for WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange.

And on Monday, Assange won the right to fight his extradition from the United Kingdom to Sweden on sexual assault allegations. This is the latest (and last) chance Assange will get to avoid answering allegations made by two women in 2010 that he forced them to have sexual relations. Assange has not been charged with a crime. Sweden is seeking him for questioning.

Swedish officials have said that the sex crime case has nothing to do with WikiLeaks or anything published on the site, including a trove of classified American intelligence in 2010 and early 2011. But Assange has repeatedly said that he believes the Swedish case is a ruse, and that if he is extradited to Sweden he'll be more vulnerable to extradition to the U.S., where he could be prosecuted in relation to WikiLeaks' release of classified U.S. information.

U.S. Rep. Peter King, R-New York, has said that Assange should be prosecuted for espionage. He also has said that the U.S. should classify WikiLeaks as a terrorist group so that "we can freeze their assets." King has called Assange an enemy combatant.

In less than two weeks, starting on December 16, the U.S. military will begin its case against Bradley Manning, the U.S. soldier suspected to have leaked classified information that appeared on the WikiLeaks site. Who is Manning?

The soldier, in his early 20s, will face a military trial in Maryland on a range of charges that could send him to prison for life. It's been more than a year since the Swedish case first hit the news.

Here's a look at what has transpired since then.

In December 2010, Assange was detained in England on a Swedish arrest warrant. Two women were accusing Assange of sexual assault. Assange spent 10 days in jail in England (inspiring a "Saturday Night Live" spoof). He was released on $315,000 bail and placed under electronically monitored house arrest. Since that time, Assange has been living at a mansion in the British countryside, where he did an interview with "60 Minutes" in September.

In February, a British court ordered Assange extradited to Sweden for questioning in relation to the sexual assault allegations. He appealed, while his lawyers publicly challenged Swedish prosecutor Marianne Ny to go to London to defend her handling of the case against Assange. "Today, we have seen a Hamlet without the princess - a prosecutor who has been ready to feed the media within information, but has been unwilling to come here," Assange attorney Mark Stephens told reporters outside a south London courtroom.

In November, an appeals court denied his appeal against extradition. The decision sparked different reactions from key WikiLeaks players. It left Assange with one last option: Great Britain's Supreme Court.

On December 5, Assange got approval from the British courts to proceed with an appeal to the highest court.

Assange addressed reporters Monday, saying that his case will benefit other cases involving extradition.

"The long struggle for justice for me and others continues," he said.

In 2010 WikiLeaks posted 77,000 classified Pentagon documents about the Afghanistan war and 391,832 secret documents on the Iraq war. It also published a quarter million diplomatic cables — daily written correspondence between the State Department's 270 American outposts around the globe. The cables were released in batches for several months, until September of this year when they were released in total. U.S. officials called the release of the cables "dangerous" and "illegal."

An unauthorized biography of Assange, which he has fiercely criticized, was also released in September. According to several reports,  British newspaper The Independent published what it said were portions of the book. In one section of the book, Assange is quoted as saying, "I did not rape those women."

Since Assange's Swedish case began, WikiLeaks has struggled. The website, launched in 2006, has had financial problems. In October, Assange said that it would stop publishing until the group could raise more money. In February, former WikiLeaks spokesman Daniel Domscheit-Berg released a tell-all book about what it was like to work with Assange and for WikiLeaks. He blasted Assange, calling him a "paranoid, power-hungry, meglomaniac." Several articles, from CNN.com to the New York Times, have wondered whether Assange's legal problems and WikiLeaks' internal strife would kill the site. Perhaps reports of WikiLeaks' demise have been greatly exaggerated.

Last week's new release, which WikiLeaks is calling "The Spy Files," could mean that the site is far from doomed.

A few days before The Spy Files hit, on November 28, Assange addressed journalists at a News World Summit in Hong Kong via a video link from England. For at least 30 minutes he went on a rant criticizing Washington, mainstream media, banks and others, while accepting an award from a noted journalism group, the Walkley Foundation of Australia.

CNN.com was at the event.

Among other statements in his acceptance speech, Assange said a federal grand jury in Washington is investigating WikiLeaks and that people and companies around the world have been or are being coerced to testify against WikiLeaks. He accused banks of blockading WikiLeaks. He also said that journalists have become ladder climbers and must be held to greater account, and that there is a "new McCarthyism" in the United States. Assange vowed that WikiLeaks' next "battle" would be to make sure governments and corporations cannot use the Web as a surveillance tool.

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Snake charmer unleashes cobras in India office
A disgruntled snake charmer reportedly unleashed snakes, including cobras, in an office in India.
December 1st, 2011
11:18 AM ET

Snake charmer unleashes cobras in India office

Getting through the work day can be hard enough without having a bunch of cobras unleashed in your office.

Bureaucrats in a rural village in Northern India had a tough start to the week when an angry snake charmer walked into their tax office and dumped several dozen snakes, including four cobras, on the floor because he was upset about a land deal that had not gone through, according to numerous reports.

The Telegraph: Watch the hissing snakes

The workers jumped on their desks and some shook table cloths at the snakes who rose up with the strike position. It was "total chaos," said Ramsukh Sharma who was at the office in Harraiya, in Uttar Pradesh.

"Snakes started climbing up the tables and chairs. Hundreds of people gathered outside the room, some of them with sticks in their hands, shouting that the snakes should be killed," he said, according to the Australian newspaper.

No one was hurt and the snakes were eventually recaptured by experts.

The snake charmer claimed that he had apparently applied for a plot of land for the snakes but that officials wanted bribes to approve it. The office reportedly said that they had no record of the filing.

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Teen who summited Everest to tackle Antarctica
Jordan Romero, pictured on Carstensz Pyramid, will soon try to climb Mount Vinson Massif in Antarctica.
November 29th, 2011
04:57 PM ET

Teen who summited Everest to tackle Antarctica

The California teenager who set a world record by climbing Mount Everest last year has another big challenge ahead.

In a few weeks, 15-year-old Jordan Romero will travel to Antarctica to begin ascending 16,000 feet up Mount Vinson Massif, the tallest mountain on the continent, his father, Paul Romero, told CNN.com. "This is a life mission for Jordan," said Romero, a professional mountaineer, explaining that when his son was 9, he became transfixed by a mural in his elementary school depicting the 7 Summits.

"Jordan hopped in the car one day after school years ago and announced, 'I want to climb the 7 Summits,' " the father recalled. "I said, 'OK, sure, what do you know about the 7 Summits?' And he apparently had looked up a lot of facts on the Internet and spent 20 minutes or so rattling off all this information to me. That's Jordan. That's when this 7 Summits goal began."

Before Romero made international headlines last year on Everest, the teen trained and focused continually for years, climbing all six of the 7 summits (and another in Australia for good measure). Mount Vinson is considered the final mountain in the 7 Summits juggernaut. The 7 Summits are Mount Kilimanjaro in Tanzania, Africa; Denali in Alaska; Mount Elbrus in the western Caucasus mountain range in Europe; Aconcagua in the Andes mountain range in the Argentinian province of Mendoza; Carstensz Pyramid in the western central highland of Papua province in Indonesia and Mount Everest in the Himalayas.

Paul Romero's girlfriend Karen Lundgren, also a professional mountaineer, will tackle Mount Vinson with father and son.

The Romeros have their critics. Some have said that Jordan is too young to handle such a physically demanding climb or that a kid his age couldn't possibly comprehend the lethal danger involved in this kind of mountaineering. The teen has rejected those criticisms, as has his father.

"I think Jordan has more than shown he's capable of doing this and that he wants to do it. We've taken a lot of criticism about what Jordan has done, but we're quite experienced and we've tried to stress that we know what we're doing," Paul Romero said. "This is something Jordan believes in. He's driven, tough, smart. He knows what's involved."

Jordan's Antarctica climb has a campaign - "Find YOUR Everest" - which he hopes will inspire kids to find their passion and to live healthier by knocking off the junk food. The teenager has also issued a challenge to school teachers to stop rewarding positive behavior with sugary treats.

The teen will tweet and post on Facebook and Flickr during the expedition, and people following the team's progress will be able to track them online through free iPhone and Droid apps, which will be available shortly on Romero's Web site.

It's impossible to know how many days it will take to ascend, Romero said.

Mount Vinson has treacherous and unpredictable winds, and it's one of the coldest places on Earth, so each moment on the mountain is a judgment call. The expedition has been carefully planned for a short window when the winds are thought to be manageable, Romero said.

The Romero family hopes to be back in the United States to enjoy New Years. After celebrating, he'll have just enough time to prepare for his next awesome challenge - getting his driver's permit.

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WikiLeaks suspect hearing set for December 16
If convicted of all charges, Bradley Manning would face life in prison and a dishonorable discharge.
November 21st, 2011
03:17 PM ET

WikiLeaks suspect hearing set for December 16

The American soldier behind bars for more than 18 months, suspected of leaking classified documents to the WikiLeaks website, will go before a military panel on December 16, according to a U.S. military release.

The military made the announcement Monday afternoon regarding Pfc. Bradley Manning. The hearing will happen at Fort George G. Meade in Maryland. CNN.com placed a call to Manning's attorney, who was not immediately available for comment.

Manning is charged with aiding the enemy, wrongfully causing intelligence to be published on the Internet knowing that it is accessible to the enemy, theft of property or records, transmitting defense information, fraud and related activity in connection with computers and violating Army regulations, according to the military.

If convicted of all charges, he would face life in prison and a dishonorable discharge.

In February, a friend of Manning's told reporters that the soldier, who was 23 when he was arrested in 2010, was deteriorating mentally and physically from his imprisonment. Manning was initially held at the Marine brig in Quantico, Virginia, but has since been transferred to the prison at Fort Leavenworth in Kansas.

Last month, WikiLeaks founder and editor Julian Assange was ordered extradited from England to Sweden to face charges related to a sex crime investigation unrelated to WikiLeaks. But Assange's extradition is significant in the WikiLeaks story because many say that if he is behind bars, WikiLeaks will not be able to continue.

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Filed under: Julian Assange • Military • U.S. Army • WikiLeaks
October 27th, 2011
01:06 PM ET

Real-life 'Slumdog Millionaire' a sensation in India

India is cheering its own real-life 'Slumdog Millionaire': a low-wage worker from an extremely poor neighborhood who took the $1 million prize on India's version of "Who Wants to Be A Millionaire?"

Like the protagonist in the 2008 Oscar-winning film, Sushil Kumar was reportedly dazzled and shocked after winning the top prize. "I never thought in my wildest dreams I could do this," he said, according to India Today. Kumar said he plans to buy a house with the money. (You didn't see "Slumdog Millionaire?" Watch the trailer.)

Shot in Mumbai, the episode's suspense builds as Kumar answers most of the questions and then saves his lifelines at the end. When he answers the final question correctly, the audience bursts into celebration.

"The pulsating excitement on the set and among the crew was unimaginable. It was as if they had won the biggest prize ever in the history of Indian television," host Amitabh Bachchan said, according to The Express Tribune.

The show was taped Tuesday and will air next week, The Washington Post reports.

Kumar's wife, Seema, was in the audience, reports said. The couple, who were recently married, started crying when Bachchan handed Kumar the big check.

"What a sensational day in the studios of 'KBC'! A young man from the interiors of Bihar, earning a meagre salary of just INR6,500 per month, coming from the most humblest of backgrounds, reaches the hot seat and cracks the ultimate prize — INR50 million! An incredible feat," Bachchan later posted on his blog bigb.bigadda.com.

Bachchan, known as Big B, hailed the win as a victory for "the common man," showing that he has "the strength, the ability and the acumen to prove to the world that he is the best."

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Filed under: India • TV
October 21st, 2011
02:50 PM ET

The Iraq war: A nine-year timeline

On Friday, President Barack Obama announced that American troops in Iraq will be home by the end of the year. That declaration means an end to a nearly nine-year war.

About 39,000 troops are in Iraq. The U.S. had wanted to wanted to keep between 3,000 to 5,000 troops there past 2011 for help with training and to maintain security. But the current Status of Forces Agreement with Iraq dictates that the U.S. troops leave by year's end. CNN learned exclusively that the U.S. and Iraq had been unable to come to an agreement on key issues regarding legal immunity for U.S. troops remaining in Iraq, an impasse that effectively ended discussion of maintaining a significant American force presence beyond 2011.

CNN looks back at the events leading up to the war and its developments over the years.

February 5, 2003: U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell makes the case to the United Nations that Iraqi President Saddam Hussein poses an imminent threat.

February 14, 2003: U.N. Chief Weapons Inspector Hans Blix reports to the U.N. Security Council that his team has found no weapons of mass destruction in Iraq.

March 17, 2003: President George W. Bush issues an ultimatum to Hussein and his family: Leave Iraq within 48 hours, or face military action.

March 19, 2003: At 10:15 p.m. EST, Bush announces that U.S. and coalition forces have begun military action against Iraq.

March 20, 2003: Hussein speaks on Iraqi TV, calling the coalition's attacks "shameful crimes against Iraq and humanity."

March 23, 2003: Members of the Army's 507th Maintenance Company are ambushed and captured outside Nasiriyah.

April 1, 2003: Pvt. Jessica Lynch is rescued from a hospital by U.S. forces.

April 9, 2003: Coalition forces take Baghdad, and a large statue of Hussein is toppled in Firdos Square. The White House declares "the regime is gone." FULL POST

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Filed under: Iraq
Gadhafi killed in crossfire after capture, Libyan PM says
October 20th, 2011
06:19 PM ET

Gadhafi killed in crossfire after capture, Libyan PM says

Deposed Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi was killed Thursday, with interim Libyan Prime Minister Mahmoud Jibril saying Gadhafi was shot in crossfire between transitional government troops who captured him and the ex-ruler's loyalists.

Gadhafi's death happened apparently after he survived a NATO airstrike on a convoy in the area, a senior NATO official told CNN.

A different source - a spokesman for a member of the Tripoli military council - says that one of Gadhafi's sons, Mutassim, and Moammar Gadhafi's chief of intelligence, Abdullah al-Senussi, also have been killed.

Early reports on how Moammar Gadhafi died were conflicting; Jibril gave his government's account late Thursday. A video aired by Al Jazeera Arabic shows someone who appears to be Gadhafi wounded - but still alive - and surrounded by fighters. A different, grisly video that aired on Al Jazeera appears to show a lifeless Gadhafi (see above). A photograph distributed by the news agency Agence France-Presse also appeared to show the longtime dictator severely wounded. CNN could not independently verify the authenticity of the images.

In another major development, revolutionary fighters said they wrested control of Sirte on Thursday. And NATO said it is going to convene soon for a meeting to discuss ending its operation in Libya, a source told CNN.

Moammar Gadhafi, 69, was in power for 42 years before being ousted in an uprising this year.

[Update 6:16 p.m. ET] An already-injured Moammar Gadhafi was killed in a crossfire Thursday between transitional government troops and the ex-ruler's loyalists shortly after he was captured alive, National Transitional Council Prime Minister Mahmoud Jibril said late Thursday.

Citing the coroner's office in Misrata, where Gadhafi's body was brought, Jibril said the fugitive former strongman had been taken alive, unharmed and without resistance in his hometown of Sirte. But a gun battle erupted between NTC fighters and Gadhafi's supporters as his captors attempted to load him into a vehicle, Jibril said, leaving Gadhafi with a wound to his right arm.

More shooting erupted as the vehicle drove away, and Gadhafi was shot in the head, Jibril told reporters. Gadhafi died moments before arriving at a hospital, he said.

Jibril said that before the run to the hospital, Gadhafi was found hiding in a sewage pipe, according to Reuters.

Earlier, a senior NATO official said Gadhafi is believed to have been killed at the hands of fighters outside of his hometown of Sirte, Libya, after surviving a NATO airstrike on a convoy in the area.

The British Broadcasting Corp. says it has talked to anti-Gadhafi forces who say they found Gadhafi hiding in a drainage pipe under a road on the outskirts of Sirte, though they were arguing over which person captured him. They also showed off a golden gun that they said was taken from Gadhafi.

Anti-Gadhafi fighters show off an apparently gold-plated gun that they say was taken from Moammar Gadhafi on Thursday.

[Update 4:06 p.m. ET] Moammar Gadhafi is believed to have survived a combined strike Thursday on his convoy near Sirte before dying later at the hands of fighters outside the coastal city, a senior NATO official told CNN.

An official with the U.S. Department of Defense told CNN that French fighter jets and a Predator drone, firing a Hellfire missile, struck the convoy Thursday morning. That official, however, was unable to say if Gadhafi was part of the targeted convoy.

[Update 2:59 p.m. ET] NATO Secretary-General Anders Fogh Rasmussen announced on Thursday - hours after Moammar Gadhafi was killed - that the alliance eventually "will terminate our mission" in that North African nation.

"We will terminate our mission in coordination with the United Nations and the National Transitional Council. With the reported fall of Bani Walid and Sirte, that moment has now moved much closer," Rasmussen said.

FULL POST

Gilad Shalit story: Exchanging one for many not a first for Israel
A Palestinian prisoner is held aloft by relatives after arriving in Mukata following his release Tuesday in Ramallah, West Bank.
October 18th, 2011
10:11 AM ET

Gilad Shalit story: Exchanging one for many not a first for Israel

Israel is freeing more than 1,000 Palestinian prisoners, including hundreds serving life sentences for attacks on Israelis, in exchange for Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit, who was captured by Hamas in 2006. 

Who is Shalit?

The move has prompted many to ask if exchanging many people for one man is unusual. In the past, Israel has exchanged prisoners several times with its neighbors. Overall, Israel has released about 7,000 Arab prisoners over the last 30 years in exchange for 19 living Israelis and the bodies of eight prisoners. Here are some of those instances:

In 1985, three Israeli soldiers held in Lebanon were released, but only after Israel freed 1150 Lebanese and Palestinian prisoners.

In June 1998, Israel and the South Lebanese Army released 65 prisoners and the remains of 40 Hezbollah guerrillas for the return of the body of an Israeli soldier killed in combat.

In 2004, an Israeli businessman was released along with the remains of three soldiers. In return, Israel freed 436 Palestinian and Lebanese prisoners.

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Filed under: Israel • Lebanon • Palestinians
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