- Created on 05 December 2013
Photo by Huffington Post
Former South African President Nelson Mandela, who served 27 years in prison for anti-apartheid activities and led his continent into a new era, has died at age 95.
Born Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela in Transkei, South Africa, the civil rights activist would become the linchpin in South Africans' move to end the country's notorious apartheid regime. The impact of his efforts -- to reconcile generosity with pragmatism and to find the common ground between humanity's higher values and his own aspiration to power, as journalist John Carlin once described them -- would ultimately reach well beyond South Africa's borders, and earn him a Nobel Peace Prize in 1993.
To read the rest of this story, click here.
- Created on 05 December 2013
Found: Stolen truck with nuclear load
(CNN) -- A pair of thieves in Mexico may have stolen more than they bargained for when they targeted a truck this week.
The stolen vehicle was carrying delicate cargo -- a radioactive element used for medical purposes that also can be used to make a so-called dirty bomb.
Mexican authorities said they'd found the stolen truck and at least some of the radioactive cobalt Wednesday in a remote area about 40 km (25 miles) away from where it was taken.
But officials aren't sure whether any of the cobalt is missing, said Juan Eibenschutz Hartman, head of Mexico's National Commission for Nuclear Security and Safeguards.
And the suspected thieves are still on the loose, he said, though authorities expect they could turn up at a clinic suffering symptoms of radiation exposure.
The container holding cobalt was found about a kilometer away from the truck and had been opened, he said.
Authorities are guarding the area and have set up a 500-meter perimeter around it, Eibenschutz said. They are evaluating whether any residents were exposed.
Cleaning up the area could take weeks, he said, because they don't have robotic equipment they would need to quickly collect the dangerous cobalt. They're coming up with a plan and considering asking for help from the International Atomic Energy Agency, the United States or Canada.
The IAEA announced the theft on Wednesday.
Mexican authorities told the IAEA that the truck, which was transporting cobalt-60 from a hospital in Tijuana to a radioactive waste storage center, was stolen Monday in Tepojaco, near Mexico City.
An early theory is that the thieves were unaware of what exactly they had taken.
"At the time the truck was stolen, the source was properly shielded," the IAEA said. "However, the source could be extremely dangerous to a person if removed from the shielding, or if it was damaged."
But Eibenschutz said the truck wasn't properly set up to transport the radioactive material, since it didn't have a GPS for tracking or other necessary equipment.
Cobalt-60 is used in radiotherapy and in industrial tools such as leveling devices and thickness gauges. Large sources of cobalt-60 are used to sterilize certain foods, as the gamma rays kill bacteria but don't damage the product, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.
If released into the environment, the radioactive material can harm people.
And experts consider cobalt-60 one of the "candidates" for making dirty bombs.
Bombs made with cobalt-60 "pose a threat mainly because even a fraction of a gram emits a huge number of high-energy gamma rays; such material is harmful whether outside or inside the body," according to a 2011 report by the Congressional Research Service.
In a speech last year, the IAEA director warned that such a dirty bomb "detonated in a major city could cause mass panic, as well as serious economic and environmental consequences."
Preliminary information suggests that the thieves did not know what the truck's cargo was when they stole it, said Jaime Aguirre Gomez, deputy director of radiological security at the National Commission for Nuclear Security and Safeguards.
The shielding that protects the cobalt-60 is designed so that the radioactive source is difficult to extract, Aguirre said. The casing is designed not to be opened or perforated easily.
The truck and its cargo went missing early Monday after the driver of the white 2007 Volkswagen truck and an assistant had stopped to rest at a gas station, local prosecutor Marcos Morales told CNN.
At around 1 a.m. Monday, a man armed with a handgun knocked on the passenger window. When the passenger rolled down his window, the gunman demanded the keys to the vehicle, Morales said.
Both the driver and his assistant were taken to an empty lot where they were bound and told not to move. They heard one of the assailants use a walkie-talkie type device or phone to tell someone, "It's done," Morales said.
Mexico alerted the IAEA to the theft, following international protocol, Aguirre said.
The U.S. Department of Homeland Security is assisting with the investigation into the stolen truck, Mexican authorities said.
The U.S. government has sensors at border crossings and sea ports to prevent radioactive materials from entering the country. This includes large stationary sensors designed to scan vehicles going through land border crossings as well as pager-size devices carried by agents.
Some of this equipment is sensitive enough that it has been set off by people who had recently undergone radiation therapy, according to a U.S. law-enforcement source.
According to the Congressional Research Service report, in Thailand in 2000, a disused cobalt-60 source was stored outdoors and bought by two scrap collectors, who took it to a junkyard where it was cut open.
Some workers suffered burn-like injuries, and eventually three people died and seven others suffered radiation injuries, the report says. Nearly 2,000 others who lived nearby were exposed to radiation.
- Created on 04 December 2013
Police discovered high school teacher Colleen Ritzer's body in a wooded area near the school, covered with leaves and debris.
(CNN) -- Philip Chism, 14, pleaded not guilty Wednesday to murder, aggravated rape and robbery charges in connection with the killing of his high school math teacher, Colleen Ritzer.
The Massachusetts teenager is accused of killing Ritzer, 24, on October 22 in the girls' bathroom of Danvers High School with a box cutter he had taken to school.
In Wednesday's Superior Court hearing, Chism -- wearing khakis, a blue sweater, a white shirt and tie -- was ordered held without bail; his next court date was set for 2 p.m. on January 30. During the 11-minute hearing, he sat quietly, his hands cuffed in front of him.
According to a police affidavit unsealed last month, a ninth-grade student told investigators that Chism became visibly upset when Ritzer spoke after class on the day of the crime about his home state of Tennessee.
Philip Chism, 14, has pleaded not guilty to murder, aggravated rape and robbery charges.
When Ritzer noticed that Chism was upset, she changed the subject, said the unidentified student, who described Chism as "talking to himself."
Denise Regan, Chism's public defender, has declined to comment.
The affidavit includes testimony from witnesses as well as a school video surveillance timeline showing Chism and Ritzer in the same area of the school during the teacher's final moments.
In the video, Ritzer appears to enter a second-floor girls' restroom -- apparently a faculty restroom was occupied -- and Chism, wearing gloves and red sweatshirt with the hood pulled over his head, appears to enter the restroom about a minute later, according to the affidavit.
Shortly after, a female student enters the bathroom and then quickly walks out, according to the court papers. She told investigators she saw the back of a person who appeared to be changing clothes; the person's rear was exposed, with clothes piled on the floor.
The video shows Chism leaving the restroom, returning later with a recycling barrel, and again leaving the restroom pulling the barrel -- this time with a black mask on his forehead, the court papers say. He pulls the barrel outside the building and toward the student parking lot. Investigators said the video shows what appear to be blood stains near the bathroom and on Chism's pants.
After Chism was reported missing by his mother on the evening of October 22, police had his cellular phone company "ping" the location of his phone. The phone was found to be in the vicinity of the Hollywood Hits Theater, where investigators learned the teen had purchased a movie ticket and then left.
The affidavit said that, when Chism was spotted by a police officer the next day, he was carrying a knife; a search of his backpack turned up a bloodstained box cutter. Asked where the blood came from, Chism allegedly responded: "The girl." He was also allegedly carrying credit cards and driver's licenses belonging to Ritzer, as well as a pair of woman's underwear.
The armed robbery indictment alleges that Chism robbed Ritzer of credit cards, an iPhone and her underwear.
Police discovered Ritzer's body in a wooded area near the school, covered with leaves and debris in an apparent attempt to conceal it, the court papers said. Her throat was slit.
The green recycling bin seen in the surveillance video was found 20 yards from the body. Clothing and other belongings were scattered near the body, along with the blood-soaked gloves Chism appeared to have been wearing in the video. The handwritten "I hate you all" note was folded near her body, according to the documents.
Investigators used the affidavit to secure a warrant to search Chism's home.
Chism's mother, Diana, told investigators that she had recently moved to Massachusetts from Tennessee amid a "stressful divorce" from the teen's father.
Documents filed 12 years ago in a Tennessee court shed light on a troubled relationship. The court papers showed that Chism's father agreed during a separation from his mother to have restricted time with his son, who was then 2, because of "prior physical and emotional abuse as well as alcohol abuse."
Chism's uncle, Terrence Chism Blaine, told CNN that the boy's parents are separated and that the father -- a former military man -- lives in Florida.
On the aggravated rape and armed robbery indictments, Chism was charged as a youthful offender, but prosecutors said they would move to join those charges with the murder case in Superior Court.
- Created on 04 December 2013
Hillary Clinton (pictured) has regained her popularity among Black Democratic voters in a recent poll with the Huffington Post and YouGov. Forty-eight percent of Blacks who took the poll said they would support Clinton in the 2016 election. Is it truly what she needs to win the primary? Does she need to have an opponent?
"She would be better for the general election if she had a contestant primary," Leila McDowell said. "Any candidate would."
Listen to the entire panel discussion with McDowell, Ronald Langston, and Corey Dade on NewsOne Now with Roland Martin discussing whether Hillary Clinton needs an opponent to win, here.