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Morning Briefing: Ex-mayor took from charity for billion-dollar gambling spree

Blackjack at the River Rock Casino in Richmond, B.C. June 11, 2009.

JOHN LEHMANN for The Globe and Mail/john lehmann The Globe and Mail

A summary of what you need to know today, compiled by The Globe's news desk on Feb. 15, 2013.

Ex-mayor brought down by billion–dollar gambling spree

She rose from poverty, married into wealth and became a political force in Southern California – but Maureen O'Connor will most likely be remembered for a billion-dollar gambling spree that cost the 66-year old her wealth and landed her in court. The former mayor of San Diego appeared in court Thursday to answer to charges she stole money from her late husband's trust to pay her gambling debts. Ms. O'Connor liquidated savings, sold real estate and took out mortgages to pay for her gambling habit, an addiction she says was aggravated by a brain tumor. She has agreed to repay $2-million and get treatment for her addiction.

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More than 500 Russians injured in meteor shower

Hundreds of Russians were injured when an exploding meteor sent showers of rock fragments raining down from the sky, peppering buildings and shattering glass. The meteor, travelling at 30 kilometres a second, exploded over central Russia, injuring 514 people – 112 seriously enough to be kept in the hospital. No fatalities were reported in the event.

Pistorius breaks down during court appearance

A tearful Oscar Pistorius appeared in court today after being formally charged the shooting death of Reeva Steenkamp was read out in a Pretoria court. Prosecutors allege that the murder was premeditated. Pistorius will remain in custody until his next hearing Feb 19.

Militants blamed in Benghazi attack return to city

The militant group blamed for the attack that killed a US diplomat in Benghazi has taken control of a section of the city, the Globe's Geoffrey York writes in an exclusive report from Libya. Just five months after the attack that killed ambassador Christopher Stevens and three other Americans, Ansar al-Sharia is now in control of a key western entrance to the city, including a highway to Tripoli. The return of the group – forced out of the city after the attack – is another sign of the inability of a weakened government to deal with militant groups, York writes.

The Carnival is over – thank God.

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The trip from hell is over. Relieved passengers poured out of the crippled Carnival Triumph at the port in Mobile, Alabama after four days adrift in the Gulf of Mexico. The ships engine were crippled in a fire on Sunday, knocking out power and plumbing on the Triumph, causing toilets to overflow and cabins and hallways to flood with sewage. The boat was carrying 4,200 passengers on a four day cruise to Cozumel, Mexico.

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