PESHAWAR, Pakistan –  The Taliban massacre that killed 148 people, mostly children, at a military-run school in northwestern Pakistan left a scene of heart-wrenching devastation, pools of blood and young lives snuffed out as the nation mourned and mass funerals for the victims got underway Wednesday.

The attack at the Army Public School and College in the city of Peshawar on Tuesday was the deadliest slaughter of innocents in the country and horrified a nation already weary of unending terrorist assaults.

Blood was still splattered on the floor and the stairs as media were allowed inside the school a day after the attack. Torn notebooks, pieces of clothing and children's shoes were scattered about amid broken window glass, door frames and upturned chairs. A pair of child's eyeglasses lay broken on the ground.

Prayer vigils were held across Pakistan and in other schools, students spoke of their shock at the brutal slayings in Peshawar, where children and teenagers were gunned down and some of the female teachers burned alive. Army commandos fought the Taliban in a day-long battle until the school was cleared and all the attackers were dead.

The attack began when seven Taliban gunmen, explosives strapped to their bodies, scaled a back wall using a ladder to get into the school on Tuesday morning. Once inside, they made their way into the main auditorium where many students had gathered for an event, military spokesman Maj. Gen. Asim Bajwa told reporters during the tour Wednesday.

The militants then made their way to the hall's stage and started shooting at random. As students tried to flee for the doors, they were shot and killed. The military recovered about 100 bodies from the auditorium alone, Bajwa said.

"This is not a human act," he added. "This is a national tragedy."

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LOS ANGELES –  The latest in a string of storms noisily marched across Southern California on Wednesday, hurling lightning bolts, coating mountains with snow and unleashing downpours that triggered a freeway-blocking mudslide before mostly moving on.

"It was rather rare to see lightning all night long as this storm system moved across the region," the National Weather Service said, noting that the tempest's instability was similar to a heavy rain event last week that produced no lightning at all.

Intense rains brought on by stronger thunderstorms didn't hit any of the most vulnerable burn areas or other susceptible problem spots, the NWS said.

Another weaker storm entered the northern end of the state late Wednesday, but rainfall was expected to remain light and the system wasn't expected to spread farther south than central coast counties.

California has been hit hard by rain and snow over the past week, but experts say it will take many storms to end a three-year drought.

A torrent of mud and rocks from a recently burned hillside covered part of state Route 91 in Orange County before dawn. Cars and trucks were stuck for about 90 minutes, and the eastbound lanes were shut for several hours. No injuries were reported.

"It's pretty bad. It's about 2 feet deep," Jeff Dean, a motorcyclist who was stranded, told KABC-TV.

After moving down the coast from Northern California, the second of back-to-back storms prompted temporary evacuations Tuesday night in Camarillo Springs, which was hit by mudslides last week. This time, the wildfire-scarred hillsides held above the community about 50 miles northwest of Los Angeles.

For Tuesday through Wednesday, clouds dumped more than half an inch of rain on downtown Los Angeles, and nearly an inch at Los Angeles International Airport and in Beverly Hills.

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A Kansas City school took away the cane of a blind 8-year-old boy Monday and replaced it with a pool noodle as punishment for hitting a classmate, Fox4KC.com reported.

Dakota Nafzinger, who was born with bilateral anopthalmia, which left him without eyes, had the cane confiscated after a bus driver claimed he hit another student with one the school had furnished, according to the channel. In its place, the Gracemor Elementary School student was given the bent, green pool noodle because, according to a North Kansas City School District spokeswoman, he fidgets and needs something to hold.

"They said they were going to give me this for the next two weeks," Dakota said.

The boy's father, Donald Nafzinger, said his son lifts the cane at times, but the bus driver thought he was using it to be violent. Nafzinger believes the school is using the pool toy to humiliate his son.

His mother, Rachel, said it is unfair that his punishment involves something that he needs to get around. The report pointed out that he attended his sister's concert with the noodle.

"It's a lot harder with this," the boy told the station. "Can't feel things."

Some people who saw the news broadcast offered to buy the boy a white cane of his own.

The school district said Wednesday in a statement that it reviewed the situation and regrets that "a mistake was made in making sure the student was in possession of his cane when he boarded the bus Monday evening."

The district said it apologized to the family and is working to rectify the situation.

"When we were made aware of the mistake, corrections were made," the statement said.

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Oregon authorities said Wednesday they are searching for a suspect they consider armed and dangerous after he allegedly tossed at least four pipe bombs at police during an earlier chase.

Police say Neal Panschow, 43, has been driving a silver Honda Civic for the past few days and has led police on three chases in Clackamas and Multnomah counties, which are just outside Portland.

Sgt. Pete Simpson, a Portland police spokesman, said bomb squad technicians recovered the devices Tuesday from a street and nearby yards. Some homes were evacuated but the bombs did not detonate.
"I heard sirens, lots of sirens," Joe Reed, who lives in the area, told KGW.com. "This is the first time we've had an incident like this."

Officers attempted to stop the car Tuesday evening, but the driver took off with an item that appeared to be an explosive device, KPTV.com reported. The driver, later identified by police as Panschow, tossed the explosive from the vehicle and the pursuit was stopped.

Panschow, who is identified as being about 5 feet, 10 inches tall and 170 pounds, is sought on an active arrest warrant from a nearby county for the charges of reckless driving and attempting to elude.

His car is a silver 2002 Honda Civic with two doors and Oregon license plates 064CPJ.

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TORONTO –  A Toronto man who made headlines last month by offering a free round-the-world air ticket to a woman with the same name as his ex-girlfriend has found Ms. Right.

Jordan Axani, 28, and his then girlfriend, named Elizabeth Gallagher, booked heavily discounted round-the-world air tickets in May, but their relationship ended and he didn't want her ticket to go to waste. The ticket had a strict no-transfer policy, but since passport information was not required when booking, it can be used by any Canadian named Elizabeth Gallagher.

Axani posted his offer last month on the popular Reddit social media website, and received thousands of emails, including 18 from actual Elizabeth Gallaghers with Canadian passports.

He's now chosen his travel mate, Elizabeth Quinn Gallagher, a 23-year-old student and part-time office administrator from Cole Harbour, Nova Scotia.

"It's strictly a platonic trip. It's going to be great," Axani said.

At first the new Elizabeth Gallagher thought a trip with a stranger whose ex-girlfriend's name is the same as hers was "crazy" but she hit it off with Axani after talking on the phone with him for hours.

"It definitely did seem a little bit creepy at the beginning but now that I talked to him it's less creepy and more awesome," she said.

She already has a boyfriend though.

"This is totally sort of like as friends," she said. "I have a pretty serious boyfriend. We've been together for a while. We're planning on buying a house and we have a puppy, so yeah I'm not really looking for anything at all."

She acknowledged her boyfriend isn't thrilled.

"He understands that I've always wanted to travel so while he's not happy I'm taking off for nearly a month at Christmas with a random guy he's smiling through it," she said.

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Police toting automatic weapons and lobbing flash grenades stormed a Sydney cafe early Tuesday, bringing to a dramatic end a 16-hour standoff in which a jihadist and murder suspect held an unknown number of hostages in a scene much of the world watched on television.

A series of explosions, believed to be gunshots and flash grenades, came just before 2:30 a.m. local time as several more hostages fled Lindt Chocolat Cafe, where a man identified as Man Haron Monis, an Iranian also known for sending hate mail to the families of fallen soldiers, was holed up with an unknown number of captives. The drama, which began early Monday, appeared to be coming to a dramatic resolution, as frenzied activity enveloped the scene that Australians had been watching on television for hours.

Four of the hostages were seen being taken from the cafe on stretchers, with three possibly being in critical condition, Sky News reports. One hostage received CPR at the scene. There are also unconfirmed reports that two people are dead, including the gunman.

"Police and paramedics have stormed the building," the Sydney Morning Herald reported. "Dozens of continuous bangs and possibly gun shots have lit up the sky."

Several people were taken from the building on stretchers as an alarm rang and police in riot gear moved in and out of the shop, in the heart of Australia's largest city's business district. A bomb disposal robot was seen being deployed in the shop, though police said the standoff was over. It was not clear if anyone was killed or what had happened to the suspect. The handful of hostages seen fleeing as the explosions echoed through the predawn air followed escapes hours earlier by five captives.

"Sydney siege is over. More details to follow" New South Wales police posted on Twitter.

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HONOLULU, Dec. 8 (UPI) -- University of Hawaii researchers said a "ghost ship" that sank more than 60 years ago was discovered about 2,000 feet under the ocean.

The university and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration announced the USS Kailua, which was originally called the Dickenson before being chartered by the U.S. Navy during World War II, was discovered as a "ghost ship" about 2,000 feet under the ocean nearly 20 miles off the coast of Oahu, Hawaii.

The researchers said a small submersible vehicle discovered the vessel last year and the research team was surprised to find the ship sits upright at the bottom of the ocean, and many of its parts, including the wheel, remain intact.

"The upper deck structures from the bow to the stern were well-preserved and showed no sign of torpedo damage," said Terry Kerby, a submersible pilot with the university's Hawaii Undersea Research Laboratory.

The researchers said the ship was torpedoed intentionally after World War II when neither the Navy or its original owners wanted it. However, final resting place of the ship was unknown until its discovery, they said.

"From her interisland service to her role in Pacific communications and then World War II, Dickenson today is like a museum exhibit resting in the darkness, reminding us of these specific elements of Pacific history," said Hans Van Tilburg, a researcher with the NOAA Office of Marine Sanctuaries' maritime heritage program.

James Delgado of the Hawaii Undersea Research Laboratory said researchers "plan to nominate the wreck to the National Register of Historic Places."

"This unique American ship, vital in its role in keeping global telecommunications open in the first part of the 20th century, is also linked to historically significant Midway Atoll National Wildlife Refuge, now part of Papahanaumokukea Marine National Monument in the National Marine Sanctuary System. Wrecks such ..... (article cut to save bandwidth)

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HONG KONG –  Hong Kong authorities and activists are set for one last showdown after the publication Tuesday of a court order authorizing the removal of barricades and tents blocking the Asian financial hub's streets for more than two months.

A High Court restraining order carried in newspapers required that obstructions be removed from the Admiralty district, site of the protesters' main camp downtown.

The site is one of three that the student-led protesters had occupied since late September to press their demands for greater democracy.

Another protest site in the rough-and-tumble Mong Kok neighborhood was already shut down late last month by authorities enforcing a separate court order. The aggressive police operation sparked several nights of violent clashes in the neighborhood's tight grid of streets, resulting in about 160 arrests.

Workers will dismantle the Admiralty protest camp on Thursday starting at 9 a.m., said Paul Tse, lawyer for the bus company that took out the injunction.

"What I would like to do now is to make a public plea to the students to stay away from the scene when there is plenty of time," he told reporters, adding that the company wanted to give protesters enough time to pack up their belongings and leave the site.

Organizers said as many as 200,000 people joined the protests early on, but numbers have since dwindled and only a handful remain at the Admiralty camp, next to city government headquarters.

The Hong Kong Federation of Students, one of the groups organizing the protests, said last week it's mulling a retreat but has not yet made a decision. The group had earlier led a failed bid to surround the headquarters complex in a desperate last-minute push to pressure the government over Beijing's requirement to screen candidates in the inaugural 2017 election for the city's top leader.

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JOHANNESBURG –  The United States did not know about talks on the reportedly imminent release of a South African hostage who died in a U.S. raid on Al Qaeda militants in Yemen, the U.S. ambassador in South Africa said Monday.

Ambassador Patrick Gaspard said American officials were "unaware of ongoing negotiations that had any resolution" between the militants and Gift of the Givers, a South African humanitarian relief group that had been acting on behalf of the family of South African hostage Pierre Korkie. Gaspard also said it was "not altogether clear" to him that the South African government was even aware of the talks.

Korkie and American hostage Luke Somers were killed Saturday during a U.S.-led rescue attempt. Imtiaz Sooliman, founder of Gift of the Givers, has said that Korkie was supposed to be released Sunday under a deal struck with Al Qaeda.

Gaspard said the U.S. hadn't been informed about that. The U.S. decided to carry out the raid because the militants had threatened to kill Somers, Gaspard said.

"We were just completely unaware of those developments and had to act hastily," the ambassador said in a telephone interview with The Associated Press.

U.S. President Barack Obama has said he ordered the raid because Somers was believed to be in "imminent danger" after  Al Qaeda released a video showing Somers and threatening to kill him in three days if the U.S. did not meet the group's unspecified demands.

Gaspard cited comments by Sooliman, the aid group director, that there were no guarantees that the negotiated release of Korkie would have proceeded smoothly. However, the ambassador said the talks appeared to have made progress.

"It does appear that they were pretty far down the track," Gaspard said.


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The St. Louis police chief has asked for the FBI's help investigating what he believes was a hate crime attack against a woman in the same Bosnian neighborhood where a man was beaten to death days earlier by hammer-wielding teens, and where assaults have spiked dramatically in recent months.

The 26-year-old Bosnian-American woman told police she was stopped in her car by three African-American teens early Friday morning in the city's Bevo Mill section, where tens of thousands of Bosnians settled following the civil war in the former Yugoslavia 20 years ago. The incident occurred just blocks from where Zemir Begic, a 32-year-old Bosnian-American, was beaten to death by teenagers with hammers a week earlier.

One of the assailants flashed a gun and ordered the woman out of her vehicle and another hit the woman's windshield with what police believe was a crowbar, authorities said.

"You're Bosnian," one of the suspects allegedly said. "I should just kill you now."

The woman, who was pulled from the car and then beaten, was found unconscious by a passerby, police said. The alleged statement prompted St. Louis Police Chief Sam Dotson to present the case to the FBI.


"As of now, officers are investigating this incident as a bias crime based on the victim's account of the incident," the St. Louis Metropolitan Police Department said in an email Monday. "The investigation is ongoing."

Authorities said they don't believe the attacks on Begic and the woman are related, but acknowledged a disturbing rise in violent crime in the area in recent months. Although police have not made a connection, the crime spike coincides with the rioting that followed the August police shooting of a black teenager by a white police officer in nearby Ferguson, Mo.

Bevo Mill residents, whose neighborhood has seen a cumulative 24-percent rise in aggravated assaults over the ..... (article cut to save bandwidth)

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