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December 12th, 2014
09:22 PM ET

Mudslides engulf California homes: Crews rescue people trapped by swollen rivers

Los Angeles (CNN) - Torrential rains moved walls of rock and mud Friday in Southern California, burying homes in one neighborhood, closing a coastal highway and prompting evacuations of foothill communities imperiled by landslides.

The damage marked the second day of a fierce storm slamming the Pacific Coast that, in California, served to trade one natural disaster for another, namely the state's record drought of the past three years.

At a minimum, the biggest storm in years slaked the dry earth, but it is coming at a high price for many people.

Mudslides swarmed or threatened homes near recent hillside fires.

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Filed under: News • Weather
September 16th, 2014
08:49 PM ET

Hired journalist recounts how ISIS abducted him and Steven Sotloff: "I did my best to save him"

Istanbul, Turkey (CNN) - American journalist Steven Sotloff began his last journey into Syria with a surprise gift for his fixer, Yosef Abobaker. It was a small camera.

"Happy birthday!" Sotloff told his guide, whom Sotloff had befriended a year earlier by interviewing Abobaker's father about the Syrian civil war.

Then came the real surprise for the two men: about 15 masked ISIS gunmen jumped out of three cars and took them captive, beginning a dark tale that eventually led to Abobaker's release, but ended in Sotloff's beheading.

In an interview with CNN this week, Abobaker provided a detailed account of how he, Sotloff and three armed guards were abducted in Syria by ISIS fighters in August 2013, but since then, never once did U.S. officials try to interview Abobaker about his first-hand experience with ISIS and its captivity of Sotloff.

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Filed under: International • ISIS • News • Terrorism
September 5th, 2014
08:48 PM ET

Hundreds mourn slain journalist Steven Sotloff: "My heart is broken"

Pinecrest, Florida (CNN) - Hundreds of relatives, friends and officials mourned slain American journalist Steven Sotloff, killed by the terror group ISIS, in a memorial service Friday.

A letter written by Sotloff was read aloud during the service. The letter was smuggled out while he was in captivity before his death.

"Everyone has two lives. A second one begins when you realize you only have one," Sotloff's letter said in part. "Hug each other every day. Please know I am OK. Live your lives to the fullest and pray to be happy."

The public service for the Florida journalist was held at Temple Beth Am in Pinecrest, outside Miami.

Among attendees were Florida Gov. Rick Scott, U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio and former Florida Gov. Charlie Crist.

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Filed under: News
June 4th, 2014
12:14 AM ET

Bob Bergdahl grew beard, learned language of captors to save his son

(CNN) - When Bob Bergdahl was formally introduced to America in the White House Rose Garden beside the President, he was startling to see and hear at first: the father had seemingly morphed into an Afghan tribesman, wearing a long beard and even speaking Pashto.

The transformation of the former UPS delivery man was five years in the making in the mountain valleys of Idaho, sparked when his son Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl was captured by the Taliban in Afghanistan in June 2009.

In the half decade that he and wife crusaded for their son's release -finally won this past weekend - Bob Bergdahl journeyed deep into the meaning of his son's captivity and war itself, according to media accounts.

He immersed himself in books about Afghanistan and its Pashto language, to speak to his son's captors if only from afar. When it was over, he emerged as someone apparently transformed by his odyssey to save his son.

"I am your father, Bowe. To the people of Afghanistan, the same," Bergdahl said during the Rose Garden announcement of his son's release.

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May 15th, 2014
08:55 PM ET

Fires threaten thousands of homes in California

Carlsbad, California (CNN) - In her 42 years of living in Southern California, Sophie Payne of Carlsbad has "never, never, never" witnessed so many wildfires at one time.

Three dozen raged overnight. Eight of them continued to burn Thursday in a patchwork across of San Diego County, ravaging 10,000 acres since Tuesday. Payne's hilltop house was an exhibit of their destruction: It was burned to the ground, except for a stone archway and several walls.

"This is my dream house, and what can I say," she said, looking at the destruction to the three-bedroom, four-bathroom house. "Now it's all gone."

Payne found some family keepsakes in a small safe, and while intact, the papers were charred at the edges. "It's just falling apart," Payne said.

Gay Walker was evacuated from her home in nearby Encinitas and doubted she would even be allowed to return by Friday. Police told her to evacuate immediately.

"It was an orderly evacuation, but it was reminiscent of something apocalyptic," Walker said.

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Filed under: News • Wildfires
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