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December 18th, 2013
11:28 AM ET

Numbers Announced for $636 Million Mega Millions Jackpot

This holiday season just got a lot merrier for at least two insanely lucky people.

Two tickets matched the winning numbers in Tuesday night's $636 million Mega Millions jackpot - splitting the second-largest prize in U.S. history, CNN's Alison Kosik reports.

One winning ticket was sold in Atlanta, and the other was sold in San Jose, California, lottery officials said.

The winning numbers were 8, 14, 17, 20 and 39, with a Megaball of 7. Twenty ticket holders will win $1 million after matching all the numbers except the Megaball.

Strong sales boosted the jackpot to $636 million from the previous estimate of $586 million, lottery officials announced late Tuesday morning.

That's tantalizingly close to the U.S. record - a $656 million Mega Millions jackpot split by three winning tickets in March 2012.

This jackpot was so large in part because Mega Millions became tougher to win. The prize rises with each miss, and no one had won it since organizers increased the pool of numbers to choose from - making astronomical odds even longer - in October.

The winning tickets were sold at Jenny's Gift Shop in a San Jose strip mall and a Gateway Newstand in the lobby of an office building near Atlanta's Buckhead area, lottery officials said.

In Florida, $8,000 worth of tickets were sold every minute from 9 to 10 a.m. Tuesday, CNN affiliate WFTS reported, citing lottery officials. Mega Millions tickets go for $1 each, though buyers choose to pay an additional $1 for the Megaplier option, which could multiply lesser, non-jackpot winning prizes.

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December 17th, 2013
06:35 AM ET

North Korea's Top Brass Commemorates Kim Jong Il's Death

On the second anniversary of the death of former North Korean leader, Kim Jong Il, the nation held a memorial in his honor, lauding his life and achievements, reports CNN's Anna Coren. 

During the ceremony, his son, Kim Jong Un sat front and center below the image of his father, which was festooned in gold-colored flowers. He assumed power after his father's death in 2011.

The memorial marking the death of the elder Kim brought out what looked like thousands of party members and military personnel, who dressed in black or in green uniforms, into Pyongyang Gymnasium. They clapped in in synchrony, raising their hands above their shoulders.

The anniversary came a week after an uncharacteristically public announcement of the execution of Kim's uncle, Jang Song Thaekthat raised speculation about turmoil within the North Korean leadership.

See more at CNN.com.

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December 16th, 2013
09:54 AM ET

American Jailed For Parody Video Will Have to Wait for Another Hearing

The parody video he posted on YouTube was supposed to get laughs.

Instead - it got him thrown in jail.

American Shezanne Cassim, 29, has spent the last 8 months locked up in the United Arab Emirates for allegedly breaking its new cyber crime laws.

Today was his day before the judge but it didn't bring the release his family hoped for.

“This case in court today lasted all of five minutes,” CNN’s Sara Sidner reports.

“The judge talked to five men because Shezanne Cassim is just  one of five people being held under the same cyber crime law that was updated in 2012.”

The judge merely set the next court date for December 23, giving no further answer.

Sidner says Cassim was very quiet and barely recognizable. “His hair was longer. He looks a bit low. A bit depressed,” she says, and he didn't wave at family members like the other four defendants did.

“None of them understand why they were put in jail in the first place, for what was supposed to be a joke, an innocuous video that they put online landed them in prison.”

December 13th, 2013
10:27 AM ET

"Early Start" Says Goodbye to Zoraida Sambolin

See CNN's John Berman give a touching goodbye to co-anchor Zoraida Sambolin as she leaves CNN and returns to Chicago to spend more time with her family.

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December 12th, 2013
10:34 AM ET

Teen Gets Probation for DUI Wreck That Killed 4

To the families of the victims, Ethan Couch was a killer on the road, a drunken teenage driver who caused a crash that left four people dead.

To the defense, the youth is himself a victim - of "affluenza," according to one psychologist - the product of wealthy, privileged parents who never set limits for the boy.

To a judge, who sentenced Couch to 10 years' probation but no jail time, he's a defendant in need of treatment.

The decision disappointed prosecutors and stunned victims' family members, who say they feel that Couch got off too easy. Prosecutors had asked for the maximum of 20 years behind bars.

"Let's face it. ... There needs to be some justice here," Eric Boyles, who lost his wife and daughter, told CNN's "Anderson Cooper 360" on Wednesday night.

"For 25 weeks, I've been going through a healing process. And so when the verdict came out, I mean, my immediate reaction is - I'm back to week 1. We have accomplished nothing here. My healing process is out the window," he said.

Lawyers for Couch, 16, had argued that the teen's parents should share part of the blame for the crash because they never set limits for the boy and gave him everything he wanted.

According to CNN affiliate WFAA, a psychologist called by the defense described Couch as a product of "affluenza."

He reportedly testified that the teen's family felt wealth bought privilege, and that Couch's life could be turned around with one to two years of treatment and no contact with his parents.

Couch was sentenced by a juvenile court judge Tuesday. If he violates the terms of his probation, he could face up to 10 years of incarceration, according to a statement from the Tarrant County Criminal District Attorney's Office.

Judge Jean Boyd told the court she would not release Couch to his parents, but would work to find the teen a long-term treatment facility.

"There are absolutely no consequences for what occurred that day," said Boyles. "The primary message has to absolutely be that money and privilege can't buy justice in this country."

His wife, Hollie Boyles, and daughter, Shelby, left their home to help Breanna Mitchell, whose SUV had broken down. Brian Jennings, a youth pastor, was driving past and also stopped to help.

All four were killed when the teen's pickup plowed into the pedestrians. Couch's vehicle also struck a parked car, which then slid into another vehicle driving in the opposite direction.

Two people riding in the bed of the teen's pickup were tossed in the crash and severely injured.

One is no longer able to move or talk because of a brain injury, while the other suffered internal injuries and broken bones.

"There is nothing the judge could have done to lessen the suffering for any of those families," said defense attorney Scott Brown, CNN affiliate KTVT reported.

"(The judge) fashioned a sentence that is going to keep Ethan under the thumb of the justice system for the next 10 years," he said. "And if Ethan doesn't do what he's supposed to do, if he has one misstep at all, then this judge, or an adult judge when he's transferred, can then incarcerate him."

Earlier on the night of the accident, June 15, Couch and some friends had stolen beer from a local Walmart. Three hours after the crash, tests showed he had a blood alcohol content of 0.24, three times the legal limit, according to the district attorney's office.

"We are disappointed by the punishment assessed but have no power under the law to change or overturn it," said Assistant District Attorney Richard Alpert. "Our thoughts and prayers are with the families and we regret that this outcome has added to the pain and suffering they have endured."

It is very rare, but not impossible, for prosecutors to challenge the sentence on the ground that it was too lenient, CNN legal analyst Sunny Hostin said.

"To give him a pass this time given the egregious nature of his conduct - four deaths - is just incomprehensible," she said.

It is unfair that other young defendants without the same wealth could end up in jail for a lot less, said Hostin, of CNN's "New Day" morning show.

"I think in terms of policy, this really flies in the face of our criminal justice system," she said. "There have to be consequences to actions, and that is what our system is about, even for juveniles."

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December 11th, 2013
06:19 AM ET

Nevada Rescue: How They Made It

A family of six spent two days in the wilderness in sub-zero temperatures after their Jeep rolled off the side of a dirt road and into a crevice. It could have had a much different outcome. CNN's Stephanie Elam reports.

James Glanton and his girlfriend Christina McIntee huddled with their two children, and her nephew and niece, keeping everyone together and keeping everyone warm.

After they were found Tuesday, all six were in stable condition with "no frostbite, just some exposure issues," said Patty Bianchi, the CEO of Pershing General Hospital. Dr. Doug Vacek told reporters they all were doing "very well."

See more at CNN.com 

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December 10th, 2013
05:44 AM ET

World Leaders Gather to Remember Mandela

Tens of thousands of people, nearly 100 heads of state, celebrities and street sweepers are all honoring Nelson Mandela.

In what has been billed as one of the largest gatherings of global leaders in recent history, world leaders from President Barack Obama to France's Francois Hollande gathered alongside street sweepers, actors and religious figures to pay tribute to the revered statesman who died last Thursday.

See former South African rugby captain Francois Pienaar talk about his history and relationship with Nelson Mandela above.

Despite the rain, the atmosphere inside Johannesburg 's FNB stadium was celebratory, with people dancing, blowing "vuvuzela" plastic horns and singing songs from the anti-apartheid struggle.

Many carried banners honoring "Madiba," Mandela's traditional clan name, or his picture.

British Prime Minister David Cameron told CNN's Christiane Amanpour at the Memorial for Nelson Mandela in Johannesburg that the leader had a 'great relationship with the Queen. He was the only person who could call her Elizabeth.'

Some had skipped work and queued for hours to secure a seat so that they could pay their respects.

The four-hour service started an hour late as guests continued to stream into the stadium, where Mandela delivered his first major speech after his release from prison. It began with the national anthem.

Watch the Nelson Mandela memorial from 4 a.m. to 8 a.m. ET Tuesday on CNN.

December 9th, 2013
06:47 AM ET

Nelson Mandela Death: 91 World Leaders Head to South Africa

More than 90 heads of state are on their way to South Africa for what is expected to be the largest gathering of world leaders in Africa's history.

It's a clear sign of what kind of impact Nelson Mandela left on the world.

Mandela, the activist who spent 27 years in prison before becoming his country's first black president, died Thursday at the age of 95.

U.S. President Barack Obama heads to Johannesburg on Monday for Mandela's official memorial service, which will take place Tuesday in the city's soccer stadium. But the 90,000 seats probably won't be enough to house the many mourners wanting to pay thanks to the great anti-apartheid leader.

A state funeral will be held Sunday in Mandela's ancestral hometown of Qunu in the Eastern Cape province.

At least 91 heads of state and 10 former heads of state have said they're coming to South Africa this week, government international relations spokesman Clayson Monyela said.

In addition to Obama, former presidents Jimmy Carter, George W. Bush and President Bill Clinton will attend. More than two dozen U.S. lawmakers are also scheduled to attend.

Other guests include the Prince of Wales, British Prime Minister David Cameron and U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, as well as celebrities such as Bono, Oprah Winfrey and Naomi Campbell.

Out of the public eye, friends who had not seen each other in years have been coming together with Mandela's family in his home, said Zelda la Grange, Mandela's longtime personal assistant.

Mandela called La Grange his "rock" even though she seemed an unlikely confidante. She was a white Afrikaner and an employee of the former apartheid government.

In her first interview since Mandela's death, she described the mood in his home to CNN's Robyn Curnow on Monday.

"Obviously there's sadness in the house," she said, but also, "People are celebrating Madiba's life. They are grateful."

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December 6th, 2013
04:29 AM ET

Nelson Mandela Dies at 95

Nelson Mandela, the revered statesman who emerged from prison after 27 years to lead South Africa out of decades of apartheid, has died, South African President Jacob Zuma announced late Thursday. CNN's Robyn Curnow reports.

Mandela was 95.

"He is now resting. He is now at peace," Zuma said. "Our nation has lost its greatest son. Our people have lost a father."

"What made Nelson Mandela great was precisely what made him human," the president said in his late-night address.

"We saw in him what we seek in ourselves."

Mandela will have a state funeral. Zuma ordered all flags in the nation to be flown at half-staff from Friday through that funeral.

Mandela, a former president, battled health issues in recent months, including a recurring lung infection that led to numerous hospitalizations.

With advancing age and bouts of illness, Mandela retreated to a quiet life at his boyhood home in the nation's Eastern Cape Province, where he said he was most at peace.

He was later moved to his home in the Johannesburg suburb of Houghton, where he died.

Despite rare public appearances, he held a special place in the consciousness of the nation and the world.

See reactions from the international community below:

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December 5th, 2013
05:42 AM ET

Celebrity Chef Nigella Lawson Admits Using Cocaine in Court

Celebrity chef Nigella Lawson used cocaine during two periods of her life, she admitted Wednesday as she testified in the fraud trial of two former personal assistants in a London court, reports CNN's Erin MgLaughlin.

She told the court she had used the drug about six times with her late husband, John Diamond, when he learned that his cancer was terminal, in order to give him "some escape from his treatment."

She also used cocaine once in July 2010 when she felt subject to "terrorism" by her then-husband Charles Saatchi, she said.

At that point she felt trapped, isolated and unhappy, she said, and a friend offered her the drug.

But, Lawson said, "I've never been a drug addict, I've never been an habitual user. ... I did not have a drug problem, I had a life problem."

Saatchi had claimed in an e-mail that Lawson had used drugs regularly, but in testimony Friday he backed off that claim.

Lawson's admission of cocaine use came after she earlier testified that Saatchi had threatened to "destroy" her if she did not "clear his name."

She had been asked about her reluctance to attend court as a witness in the assistants' trial - a case that has gripped the media as claims emerge about the couple's troubled personal life.

"I have been put on trial here where I am called to answer, and glad to answer the allegations, and the world's press, and it comes after a long summer of bullying and abuse," Lawson said. "I find it's another chapter in that."

Referring to Saatchi's request for her to attend the trial, made in a letter sent by his lawyers, Lawson said: "He had said to me if I didn't get back to him and clear his name he would destroy me."

Lawson said she felt she had to do her civic duty. "It's difficult for me, it's very difficult for my children, but I want to do the right thing," she added.

The former aides, Italian sisters Francesca and Elisabetta Grillo, deny embezzling hundreds of thousands of pounds on company credit cards while employed by Lawson and Saatchi.

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