FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. — A mother with her 1-year-old baby in a sling fought off a stranger who tried to snatch the child from her back Thursday morning near West Palm Beach, authorities said.


The mom was cleaning out her car in front of her home when she was startled by the woman standing behind her, authorities say. She only could see the stranger’s eyes: The stranger was wearing a hood covering the rest of her head.


The stranger tried to grab the baby from the sling, but the baby’s mother successfully fought her off. The assailant escaped in a car driven by another woman. Now, the Palm Beach County Sheriff’s Office says both women are wanted in connection with the attempted kidnapping.


It happened at 9:46 a.m. in front of the baby’s home in the Westgate neighborhood near West Palm Beach, authorities said.


The mother was vacuuming her car in front of the house when she saw the stranger standing behind her. The baby’s mother saw the woman run away and get into a silver four-door Honda whose driver was waiting for her.


—Sun Sentinel


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Bear puts schools on lockdown


DETROIT — For those who ridiculed Education Secretary Betsy DeVos for mentioning “potential grizzlies” as a reason for keeping a gun in schools for safety, it may be time to start lining up to apologize: A bear put a pair of Connecticut schools on lockdown this week.


Two schools in Southington, Conn., were placed in “Secure School Mode” when a black bear was spotted nearby Tuesday morning, according to WFSB.com.


Though the bear eventually moved away from the schools and the “Secure School Mode” was only brief, the report says emails were sent out to parents and the schools took precautions to keep schoolchildren safe.


The timing of this incident is uncanny.


A few weeks ago, DeVos — a West Michigan native and Detroit charter schools advocate — was widely mocked when she suggested during her confirmation hearing that educators may need “a gun in the school to protect from potential grizzlies.”


Her point was whether the issue of guns in American schools is “best left to locales and states to decide.” But social media went off the rails after the “grizzlies” comment, with most people saying it’s preposterous to suggest a gun should be in a school, around schoolchildren, due to a threat of bears.


DeVos was narrowly confirmed as secretary of education in a historic 51-50 vote, with Vice President Mike Pence casting the tie-breaking vote.


—Detroit Free Press


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Syrian army claims control of Palmyra from Islamic State


DAMASCUS, Syria — The Syrian army said that its troops regained control of Palmyra from the Islamic State extremist militia on Thursday, a day after they had entered the ancient city.


“After a series of successful operations, backed by Syrian and Russian air support, our forces and their allies regained Palmyra and the areas on its outskirts, inflicting heavy casualties on the terrorist Daesh movement,” the army added, using an Arabic acronym for the Islamic State.


The army added in a statement that its experts were clearing mines and booby traps that Islamic State militants had left behind in the city.


Russia, the main military backer of Syrian President Bashar Assad, also confirmed the government forces’ recapture of Palmyra.


Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu told President Vladimir Putin that the Russian air force had assisted in the offensive, according to comments carried by state media.


Earlier on Thursday, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a monitoring group, reported that the regime forces were advancing into Palmyra after Islamic State fighters had withdrawn from the city.


Palmyra, which is a U.N. World Heritage site, was recaptured by the Islamic State late last year while the Syrian army focused on regaining full control of the strategic northern city of Aleppo from the opposition.


—dpa


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Egypt’s Mubarak acquitted in final ruling on 2011 protester deaths


CAIRO — Egypt’s highest criminal court on Thursday acquitted former President Hosni Mubarak of charges of complicity in the deaths of hundreds of demonstrators who fought to unseat him in 2011, a verdict that potentially sets the stage for the one-time strongman to go free.


Mubarak, who at 88 has spent much of the past six years confined to a military hospital, already completed a three-year sentence in a separate embezzlement case.


He was sentenced to life in prison in 2012 for the protesters’ deaths — nearly 900 in total — which took place during street protests that helped ignite uprisings against repressive governments across the Middle East during the so-called Arab Spring.


But an appeals court ordered a retrial that resulted in the charges against Mubarak and some of his top aides being dropped on largely technical grounds.


State prosecutors requested a second retrial culminating in Thursday’s decision by Egypt’s Court of Cassation, which legal experts said leaves no further avenue for appeal or retrial. The judge also rejected a civil petition seeking compensation for families of some of those killed.


“People are desperate at this point,” said Hoda Nasrallah, a lawyer with the Egyptian Initiative for Human Rights that represented some of the victims’ families. “They feel like their relatives’ blood has gone to waste.”


Mubarak was flown by helicopter to a Cairo courtroom for the hearing. Sitting in a wheelchair in the caged defendants’ dock, he occasionally waved and smiled at supporters, including his sons, Gamal and Alaa.


“Can you hear me?” Judge Ahmed Abdel Qawi asked Mubarak, according to an account in state-run Al Akhbar newspaper.


“Yes, I can hear you,” Mubarak said.


The judge then read out the charges and asked Mubarak what he thought.


“This didn’t happen,” Mubarak said.


—Los Angeles Times


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