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April 12, 2009

American captain rescued from pirate Somali ship

The captain of the Maersk Alabama was freed Sunday after having been held hostage since Wednesday by pirates off the coast of Somalia, a U.S. official told CNN.

Capt. Richard Philips is uninjured and in good condition, while three of the four pirates have been killed. The fourth pirate is in custody.

Capt. Philips was taken aboard the nearby USS Bainbridge, which has been working to rescue the captain since Wednesday.

Nineteen American sailors guarded by U.S. Navy Seals reached safe harbor in Kenya's northeast port of Mombasa on Saturday night, the Associated Press reported.

Pirates hijacked the Maersk Alabama Wednesday morning. Capt. Philips sacrificed himself as a hostage in order to save the crew.

"He saved our lives!" second mate Ken Quinn, of Bradenton, Florida, said. "He's a hero."

"An attempt by Phillips to escape from the 28-foot covered lifeboat was thwarted by a pirate, who dove into the Indian Ocean after him," CNN reported. According to Pentagon officials, the pirates tied him up afterwards.

The Alabama resumed its course for Mombasa on Thursday. The crew will stay on board while FBI conducts an investigation, said Maersk president and CEO John Reinhart.

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March 1, 2009

Conjoined twins separated, recovering after long surgery

Conjoined Egyptian twin boys were successfully separated in Saudi Arabi in Saturday and are expected to lead fully normal lives, officials said.

The surgery took about 15 hours. Separating the boys' urinary system was a major challenge, Dr. Abdullah Al-Rabeeah, the Saudi minister of health, said to CNN. They are in stable condition.

The surgeries are performed free as part of King Abdullah bin Abdul Aziz's philanthropic initiative.

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February 22, 2009

Egypt bombing kills tourist, 23 wounded

A bombing on Sunday killed a 17-year-old French tourist and wounded 23 other people in Cairo, Egyptian authorities said.

"A man and a woman were arrested after the incident, security officials said. The nationalities of the arrestees were not disclosed," CNN reported.

The explosion occurred around 6:30 p.m. at the height of rush hour near Al Hussein Mosque, one of the largest coffee shops.

The bomb was left under a stone chair, a ministry statement said.

There has been a series of previous bombings from 2004 to 2006, including one that occurred in the same neighborhood when a suicide bomber killed three tourists, the BBC reported.

February 15, 2009

Venezuela's Chavez wins vote to eliminate term limits

President Hugo Chavez won a vote Sunday to eliminate term limits, vowing to remain in power for at least another decade.

The referendum proposed that all public officials would be able to run for office indefinitely, contrary to the previous constitutional rule. Previously, the president was limited to two six-year terms in office, BBC News reported.

Chavez said he needs to serve beyond the end of his term in 2012 in order to secure his socialist revolution.

Thousands of people gathered outside Miraflores Palace, where Chavez sang the national anthem and addressed the crowd, the Associated Press reported.

"Those who voted 'yes' today voted for socialism, for revolution," Chavez said.

With 94 percent of the vote counted, 54 percent had voted for the constitutional amendment, National Electoral Council chief Tibisay Lucena said. Voter turnout was 67 percent.

Opponents said that removing the term limits gives Chavez unstoppable power and said that he is becoming a dictator.

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February 8, 2009

Deadly wildfires kill 128 in Australia

The death toll for Australia's deadliest wildfire is 128, with the number expected to rise, authorities said.

Wildfires have been burning for weeks in Victoria, but wind and higher temperatures caused a deadly firestorm to sweep through the region. The southern region of Australia is suffereing worst drought in a century.

"The Victoria Country Fire Service said some 850 square miles (2,200 square kilometers) were burned out," reported the Star Tribune. The affected area is comparable to an area larger than Luxembourg, or three times the size of Hong Kong, reports the Sydney Morning Herald.

Australin Prime Minister Kevin Rudd said in an interview with Australian television that up to 400 troops will head to the affected regions to aid in rescue and recovery efforts.

"Rudd announced the creation of a AU$10 million ($6.7 million) relief fund to immediately assist the more than 600 families that have lost homes to the blaze. He also promised troops would be deployed to help fight the flames," reported CNN.

At least 750 homes were destroyed in Victoria state, where all the deaths occurred.

Police suspect arsonists are responsible for the deadly blazes.

"Our fire experts and our own investigators have suggested that the way that it happened, how fast that it happened, that there is good evidence to believe that it was lit," said state police commissioner Christine Nixon.

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January 29, 2009

Nationwide protests break out in France

Over one million protestors stormed the streets of France on Thursday in protest of President Nicolas Sarkozy's new economic policies.

Dubbed the "black Thursday" strike (Associated Press), at least 300,000 marched in the capital with additional protests in Marseille, Lyon, and 200 other cities. Public offices and schools were forced to close, and transportation was difficult to navigate.

The protests were "meant to highlight unemployment and declining spending power in a time of crisis ", reports the International Herald Tribune. This protest was one of the largest demonstrations in 20 years and were deemed successful by its organizers.

Workers from eight large workers' unions across the country walked out on their jobs. An estimated one-quarter to one-third of public sector workers participated in the protests. François Chérèque, secretary general of the CFDT union, said that private sector workers came out in unexpected numbers.

As Paris protests were coming to an end, violence broke out when youths threw objects at the police near the Opera Garnier. Police responded with tear gas. No arrests have been reported.

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