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December 15th, 2014
05:28 AM ET

Sydney Gunman Reportedly Demands ISIS Flag as Some Hostages Escape

A gunman holding hostages in a Sydney cafe is said to be demanding an ISIS flag and a phone call with Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott.

The reported demands emerged after five hostages managed to flee the building, leaving an unconfirmed number of people still trapped inside during a dramatic standoff that has now lasted more than 10 hours.

The gunman's requests were made through hostages who contacted several media organizations, CNN affiliate Sky News Australia reported. Police said they were aware of the reports but declined to confirm what demands had been made.

Amid the crisis, hundreds of police officers, some of them armed with sniper rifles, shut down a usually bustling area in Australia's most populous city.

"We are doing all we can to set you free," New South Wales Police Commissioner Andrew Scipione said at a news conference Monday evening, directing his comments to the hostages and their loved ones.

MORE on CNN.com.

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April 16th, 2014
04:49 AM ET

Putin: Escalating Conflict Puts Ukraine on 'Brink of Civil War'

The escalating conflict in Ukraine "essentially puts the nation on the brink of civil war," Russian President Vladimir Putin said on Tuesday.

His assessment came during a telephone conversation with his German counterpart, according to the Kremlin, the same day Ukraine's military launched its first, formal military action against pro-Russian militants with troops retaking an airport in the eastern Donetsk region after a reported clash with gunmen.

The military action came a day after a Ukrainian ultimatum expired for protesters to lay down their arms, a move that appeared to signal an escalation in the crisis that has sparked a diplomatic row between Ukraine, its Western allies and Russia.

With pro-Russian militants seizing government and police buildings in as many as 10 towns and cities in eastern Ukraine, acting President Oleksandr Turchynov told Parliament "an anti-terrorist operation" was under way in the region.

The aim of the military operation is to "stop attempts to tear Ukraine to pieces," he told lawmakers.

Witnesses reported hearing gunfire and aircraft that appeared to be coming from the airfield in Kramatorsk, which Turchynov's office said was under the control of Ukrainain special forces late Tuesday.

There were conflicting reports about casualties, with Russian state-run media citing varying casualty claims supplied by militants. According to the reports, there were either two injured or four killed, claims that CNN cannot independently verify.

MORE on CNN.com.

February 14th, 2014
12:45 PM ET

Teddy Bear Sending Mixed Signals

The Vermont Teddy Bear Company is selling a 4.5-foot teddy bear that CNN's John Berman says is sending mixed messages. What do you think?

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February 12th, 2014
04:35 PM ET

Study Says Mammograms Do Not Save Lives- Dr. Sanjay Gupta Weighs in on @THIS HOUR

The debate over annual mammogram screenings continues this week, as follow-up data from a long-term study come under fire.

Researchers with the Canadian National Breast Screening Studyconducted a 25-year follow-up with their participants and concluded that "annual mammography in women aged 40 to 59 does not reduce mortality from breast cancer beyond that of physical examination or usual care when adjuvant therapy for breast cancer is freely available."

(Adjuvant therapy is treatment given after surgery; this can include chemotherapy, radiation or hormone treatments, according to the National Cancer Institute.)

The results were published Wednesday in the British Medical Journal. But several professional associations and experts have questioned the study authors' conclusions.


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January 10th, 2014
06:01 AM ET

See Cops Open Fire on Streets of Southern California

A heart-pounding ending to a high-speed police chase in southern California is caught on camera.

It started when cops in southeast San Diego tried to pull over an unidentified driver for using a cellphone behind the wheel.

But the suspect took off instead leading officers on an hour-long chase that ended in a hail of gunfire.

Police say four officers opened fire when the driver came to a stop and pointed a gun at them.

The suspect is in critical condition.

We're told police found drugs and a gun in his car.

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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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November 29th, 2013
08:13 AM ET

Ready, Set, Shop! It's Black Friday!

It is Black Friday, and the mad dash to find the best holiday deals has begun. Scenes of shoppers fighting their way into stores is playing out all across the country.

Crowds are lining up – not always politely – for clothes, electronics and more, with everyone looking to get a bang for their buck. That is of course if stores haven't already sold out of the hottest items already. CNN's Zain Asher reports.

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November 20th, 2013
06:14 AM ET

Congressman Faces Drug Charges, Apologizes in Statement

 Rep. Trey Radel is due in D.C. superior court Wednesday, charged with misdemeanor cocaine possession after an October 29 arrest, according to court documents, CNN's Athena Jones reports.

The 37 year-old Florida Republican is serving his first term in Congress after winning office last November.

A spokesman for the U.S. Attorney's office said Tuesday that the charges come with a maximum 180 day imprisonment and/or $1,000 fine.

“I'm profoundly sorry to let down my family, particularly my wife and son, and the people of Southwest Florida," Radel said in a statement released by his office. "I struggle with the disease of alcoholism, and this led to an extremely irresponsible choice. As the father of a young son and a husband to a loving wife, I need to get help so I can be a better man for both of them.”

“However, this unfortunate event does have a positive side. It offers me an opportunity to seek treatment and counseling. I know I have a problem and will do whatever is necessary to overcome it, hopefully setting an example for others struggling with this disease.”

Radel is a former journalist and TV news anchor.

"Members of Congress should be held to the highest standards, and the alleged crime will be handled by the courts," a spokesman for House Speaker John Boehner said in a statement. "Beyond that, this is between Rep. Radel, his family, and his constituents."

October 10th, 2013
05:51 AM ET

Pentagon Strikes Deal With Charity To Pay Military Death Benefits

The news was devastating for Shannon and Jeremiah Collins: Their 19-year-old son, Marine Lance Cpl. Jeremiah Collins Jr., died in Afghanistan's Helmand province.

Then it got worse.

The Milwaukee, Wisconsin, couple learned the survivor benefit paid to the families of fallen troops for burial and other expenses had been suspended because of the government shutdown.

Her sadness, Shannon Collins says, was compounded by worry and questions about how to pay off the debt.

It's a question that embarrassed and outraged government officials, who scrambled to find a way to provide the survivor benefits to the families of 26 troops who have died since the shutdown began on October 1.

On Wednesday, the Pentagon struck a deal with a private charity to ensure families of fallen troops are paid the survivor benefits, which include a $100,000 payment made within days of the death, Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel said.

The government will reimburse the Maryland-based Fisher House Foundation once the shutdown is over, Hagel said in a written statement.


September 26th, 2013
12:28 PM ET

The Debt Ceiling: Time To Raise It Again?

In four days, the U.S. government could shut down as fierce partisan fighting over funding Obamacare continues. But economic catastrophe may come seventeen days later, when the U.S. could default on its loans if Congress doesn't raise the debt ceiling.

CNN's Dana Bash reports.

Though a shut down would lead to the closure of national parks and job furloughs, the White House warns lawmakers not to use the debt ceiling as a bargaining chip.

White House Spokesperson Jay Carney said, "There is no negotiating over Congress' responsibility to ensure that we do not default."

GOP sources tell CNN that as soon as Saturday, House Republicans are planning to pass a bill that does raise the debt ceiling, but also adds several party priorities like tax reform or delaying Obamacare.

Democrats say this is unlikely.

For more, visit CNN.com

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