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Boko Haram video claims to show kidnapped Nigerian girls

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A new video released by Islamist militant group Boko Haram claims to show some of the nearly 300 school girls kidnapped by the group in Nigeria last month. 

Media outlets report the 17-minute video shows about 130 girls at an undisclosed location. Speaking in the video, the group's leader alleges the girls had converted to Islam and will not be released until all imprisoned Boko Haram fighters are freed. (Via Sky News)

According to the BBC, Abubakar Shekau said: "These girls, these girls you occupy yourselves with... we have indeed liberated them. These girls have become Muslims."

Officials say Boko Haram militants abducted a total of 276 girls from a boarding school in northeastern Nigeria on April 14. Boko Haram may have split the girls into smaller groups to avoid detection from the international search effort. (Via NBC)

While some of the girls have managed to escape or elude their captors, The Telegraph reports: "Some 223 are still missing." 

BBC correspondent says the video may be a positive development for the rescue effort as it could be first step toward a potential negotiation. 

John Simpson, BBC: "They are not refusing, they are not threatening the girls... They're just saying they won't be released. If you remember just a few days ago, they were talking about selling them into slavery. So, this is very different."

CNN interviewed one of the girls who managed to escape. Asking not to be identified, the girl was afraid to describe her abductors. 

Girl: "We are a little afraid." 

Nima Elbagir, CNN correspondent: "You feel afraid? You don't want to talk about what they look like."

Girl: "Yes."

Nima Elbagir, CNN correspondent: "It's ok, I understand. I'm sorry."

The U.S., Britain and France all deployed special task forces on Friday to help local authorities search for the missing girls. The U.S. says there are still no plans to send combat troops into Nigeria at this time. 

Man falls off yacht while urinating, swims three hours to safety

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A New Zealand sailor swam for three hours in rough seas after being swept overboard while urinating from a yacht on Saturday.

Todd Vercoe, 36, swam to shore in Kaituna Bay and signaled a rescue helicopter using a SOS sign etched in the sand.

The New Zealand Herald reports Vercoe is a house painter from Langs Beach, New Zealand, and was relieving himself off the back of the yacht about 5 miles offshore.

"That's when I fell in,” Vercoe told the newspaper. “I was yelling and screaming as soon as I hit the water. But there was no way they could hear me over the motor and they were both in the cabin below deck."

<script>(function(d, s, id) { var js, fjs = d.getElementsByTagName(s)[0]; if (d.getElementById(id)) return; js = d.createElement(s); js.id = id; js.src = "//connect.facebook.net/en_US/all.js#xfbml=1"; fjs.parentNode.insertBefore(js, fjs); }(document, 'script', 'facebook-jssdk'));</script>Post by Northland Emergency Services Trust.

Vercoe says he breaststroked and swam through a thunderstorm in waters known to be home to sharks.

Eventually he reached the shore of Kaituna Bay and used his foot to write “SOS” in the sand. His plea for help was seen by a rescue helicopter.

According to the New Zealand Herald, Vercoe was hypothermic and flown to a hospital. He also had a small cut on his foot but was otherwise OK.

Dramatic video shows shoppers running to safety after Thailand earthquake

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A strong earthquake shook northern Thailand and Myanmar on Monday evening, smashing windows, cracking walls and roads and damaging Buddhist temples. No casualties have been reported.

The airport in Chiang Rai, a northern Thai city near the epicenter of the 6.0-magnitude temblor, evacuated its terminal, where display signs and pieces of the ceiling fell.

No one was hurt and there was no damage to the runway or flight disruptions, airport General Manager Damrong Klongakara said. The terminal and its roof were still being checked for further damage.

A video posted to Facebook after the earthquake shows patrons in a Chiang Rai shopping center running to safety.

Post by คน ฮิมกว๊าน.

A well-known temple in the city, Wat Rongkhun, was closed due to safety concerns after the earthquake.

"The spire of the main building came off and the tiles on the roof fell off," Chalermchai Kositpiphat, the artist who built the temple, told Nation TV. "I still don't know how we can sleep tonight. ... It was shaking the whole time and then aftershocks followed four to five times. It will bring more damages each time an aftershock happens, I'm afraid."

"The murals are also damaged because the pillars were shaken badly," Chalermchai said. "I don't know how many years it will take me to fix it. ... It was tumbling like the Earth was going to explode."

The head of a Buddha statue fell at the Udomwaree Temple in Chiang Rai, according to monk Phra Pathompong. A residential building at the temple also had exterior cracks and ceiling damage, and nearby residents reported only minor damage in their homes, he said.

Damages were being assessed in Chiang Rai's Phan district, where ceilings fell in some homes, said Wander Radchompoo, head of the district. A damaged road in the district had multiple cracks, the worst a waist-high gash about the length of three vehicles.

People ran down stairs in office buildings in Myanmar's largest city, Yangon, and severe shaking also was felt in Chiang Mai, Thailand's second-largest city. Window curtains briefly swayed in the Thai capital, Bangkok.

The U.S. Geological Survey said the epicenter was 9 kilometers (6 miles) south of Mae Lao, Thailand, and 27 kilometers (17 miles) southwest of Chiang Rai. Its depth was a relatively shallow 7.4 kilometers (4.6 miles). Shallow quakes are generally felt more widely.

Southeast Asia is seismically active and quakes are often felt in surrounding nations. Thailand has several fault lines, though in recent times quakes centered in the country have been less severe than those in other Southeast Asian nations such as Myanmar and Indonesia.

The 9.1-magnitude earthquake off Indonesia's Sumatra island on Dec. 26, 2004, which triggered an Indian Ocean tsunami, killed more than 8,000 people in Thailand's coastal areas, among the overall death toll of 240,000.

The last quake in Thailand approaching a similar size to Monday's was one of 5.1 magnitude on Dec. 13, 2006, in the northern province of Chiang Mai.

—The Associated Press contributed

Exploration company claims it found wreckage that could be MH370

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A marine exploration company has claimed it’s found wreckage in the Indian Ocean consistent with that of a commercial airliner.

“We’re not trying to say that it definitely is MH370, however it is a lead we feel should be followed up,” GeoResonance spokesman David Pope told Australia TV station 7News.

The location of the company’s sighting is nearly 3,000 miles north of the official search zone in the southern Indian Ocean.

According to the GeoResonance website, the company’s geophysical survey methods have been used to identify WWII munitions that later led to the recovery of explosives left buried under layers of silt in the coastal Black Sea.

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According to CNN, Malaysian Acting Transportation Minister Hishammuddin Hussein said Malaysia "is working with its international partners to assess the credibility of this information."

However, the agency responsible for coordinating the multinational search in the southern Indian Ocean dismissed the claim.

“The Australian-led search is relying on information from satellite and other data to determine the missing aircraft's location,” the Joint Agency Coordination Centre (JACC) said in a statement reported on CNN.com. "The location specified by the GeoResonance report is not within the search arc derived from this data.”

Pope told 7News GeoResonance experts compared recent findings with images taken on March 5, three days before MH370 was reported missing.

“The wreckage wasn’t there prior to the disappearance of MH370,” Pope said.

There’s no indication the JACC will investigate.

“The joint international team is satisfied that the final resting place of the missing aircraft is in the southerly portion of the search arc,” the agency said according to a CNN report.

Driver who killed teen now suing dead boy's family

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A motorist in Canada who struck and killed a 17-year-old cyclist is suing the boy’s parents, saying her life has been ruined by the experience.

Sharlene Simon, 42, wants the parents of Brandon Majewski to pay her more than $1 million for the emotional trauma she has endured after the Oct. 28, 2012, crash that killed the teen and injured two of his friends, one of them seriously.

Simon, who hit the bike riders from behind with her SUV, is also suing the other two other boys she hit early that morning, and their parents, saying the boys should have been wearing reflective vests while riding in the dark.

The attorney for the victims told the Toronto Sun the lawsuit is a shocking turn of events.

“In all of my years as a lawyer, I have never seen anyone ever sue a child that they killed,” lawyer Brian Cameron said.

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The mother of the dead boy, a dental assistant, said, “She killed my child and now she wants to profit from it? She says she’s in pain? Tell her to look inside my head and she will see pain, she will see panic, she will see nightmares. … for this woman to be so selfish, to claim she is the one suffering but we are the ones living the nightmare … her children are still living.”

Simon is claiming $1.35 million in damages due to psychological suffering, including depression, anxiety, irritability and post-traumatic stress.

The lawsuit calls the boys “incompetent bicyclists.”

Simon and her attorney refused comment.

Simon told police she was speeding before hitting the boys.

Her husband, a police officer, was following her home in a separate vehicle when the accident occurred, and provided eyewitness testimony to what happened.

Simon did not have to submit to a drug or alcohol test.

No charges were filed.

Canadian family rescues mystery mammal

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A family in a remote northwestern part of Canada thought they had rescued a puppy a week ago, but officials later informed them the animal was of a far wilder nature.

The pup was found abandoned near Marsh Lake outside of Whitehorse in the northwestern Canadian territory of Yukon over the Easter weekend. The animal is just over a week old.

The family thought it was a young dog, but officials who helped find it a surrogate mother disagree.

"Originally they thought it was a dog, but it wasn't a dog. Then they thought it might be an otter or a marten or a wolverine possibly," said conservation officer Dave Bakica.

Eventually wildlife officials determined the animal was probably a fox.

They say the animal has a white tip on its tails which young foxes also have. Since it has been spending time with humans it will not be released into the wild.

Instead it will go to a wildlife sanctuary.

Photos: Remembering Pope John Paul II

World's most haunted island for sale

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A 17-acre island in Italy with a petrifying past is up for sale and the government hopes a creepy abandoned hospital will be turned into a luxury hotel.

The island of Poveglia, or "the island of madness" in the Venetian lagoon is known as one of the most haunted places on Earth.

According to Time, Italy is auctioning off the island, which is located near Venice and has been deserted for the past fifty years, to pay off its public debt and appease European Union budget guidelines.

The island's reputation for being haunted is based on the historical events that took place there. 

As Gizmodo reports:

The trouble started back in the late 19th century when Poveglia served as a checkpoint for ships going to Venice. After a pair of ships carrying plague victims arrived in 1793, the island was sealed off and turned into a quarantine zone for people with infectious diseases, a role it served for over a century. It goes without saying that many of these people died on the island during this time, leading to the widespread belief that Poveglia is haunted. 

In 1922, the island became the location of a mental institution and rumor has it that one of the doctors performed crude lobotomies on patients after going crazy because of the ghosts.

As MentalFloss reports, according to island legend, "a psychiatrist who ran the mental hospital was a butcher and torturer who went mad from guilt and threw himself from the island's bell tower, only to survive the fall and be strangled by a 'ghostly mist' that emerged from the ground."

Although it is closed to visitors, the spooky status of the island makes it is a popular destination for ghost hunters. One report states an American TV host who visited the island and entered the abandoned hospital for the Travel Channel series Ghost Adventures claimed to have been briefly possessed by a ghost.

As reported by The Daily Telegraph, a spokeswoman for Italy’s state sales agency declined to put a possible price on Poveglia but Aol Money reports the island could fetch the Italian government around $841 million. The auction is to start May 7 with no guide prices.

Photos: Israelis prepare for Passover

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