WXXI AM News

Colin Dwyer

Dylann Roof delivered his opening statement in a South Carolina courtroom Wednesday, as the penalty phase of his federal trial got underway. Roof, who was convicted last month of murdering nine black churchgoers, will be representing himself as jurors weigh whether to give him the death penalty or life in prison.

His remarks were brief, focused only on defending his decision to dismiss his lawyers for this phase of the trial.

He said it's "absolutely true" that he chose to represent himself so that his lawyers would not present evidence of mental illness.

Here's a timely reminder for all you would-be revelers out there: Be careful with your countdowns this New Year's Eve. There will be a little extra time to bask in the glow of a retreating 2016 — or curse its name, as the case may be.

Whatever your inclination may be, one thing is certain: Before the year is out, the world's foremost authority on time will be adding one more second to the clock.

The plan began with an idle thought.

Glancing at a map earlier this month, Owen Delaney realized something funny: Seen from above, the Diana Fountain in London's Bushy Park bears a striking resemblance to the bulbous nose of Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer — at least, it would if that famous nose of his were blue. At any rate, that fountain-nose would look better if seen in the context of a full face.

So, Delaney decided to do it himself.

Finally, after more than 120 years, Paul Smith has recovered something he never knew was missing in the first place.

The headmaster at Hereford Cathedral School, near the boundary between Wales and England, had been looking at his mail earlier this month when he noticed a package wrapped in brown paper addressed to him. Smith guessed immediately that the package contained a thick book — but it wasn't until he read the note that came with it that he realized just how long that very book had been around.

The United Kingdom's fertility regulator has put its seal of approval on the "cautious use" of techniques to create a baby from the DNA of three people. The Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority, or HFEA, announced Thursday that it will now begin to accept applications from fertility clinics that wish to become licensed to perform the procedure.

The decision means the U.K. will sanction and regulate the techniques, known broadly as mitochondrial donation, "in certain, specific cases."

In a meeting of the U.N. Human Rights Council on Wednesday, a special commission to South Sudan described the state of the country in the starkest terms possible. Atrocities like murder and gang rape are happening on an "epic" scale, reported the commission's chief, who warned that the world's youngest country now "stands on the brink of an all-out ethnic civil war."

Updated at 10:52 a.m. ET Dec. 11

Turkey has declared a national day of mourning after two explosions struck a large soccer stadium in Istanbul, leaving at least 38 people dead and 155 others wounded, according to the Turkish interior minister. Among those killed were 30 police officers.

The Kurdistan Freedom Falcons, or TAK, released a statement claiming responsibility for the massive car bomb, which detonated outside the Besiktas stadium well after it had emptied of fans. The attack targeted the dozens of riot police stationed outside.

In 2010, Chris Bertish paddled into 25-foot waves en route to a win at the Mavericks Surf Contest, an annual competition at one of the world's most famous (and nastiest) big-wave breaks. On Tuesday, Bertish paddled out to conquer something even more massive — roughly 4,600 miles larger, in fact.

The 42-year-old South African surfer and sailor set out to become the first person to cross the Atlantic Ocean unassisted on a stand-up paddleboard.

New Zealand Prime Minister John Key surprised his country, announcing that he would be resigning in a week's time. Key, who is also leader of the National Party, made his decision public at a press conference on Monday afternoon local time.

"Sometimes you've got to make hard decisions to make right decisions," Key told reporters. "This is the hardest decision I've ever made, and I don't know what I'll do next."

Italian voters have dealt a serious defeat to the government of Prime Minister Matteo Renzi. In a referendum Sunday, they rejected Renzi's proposed constitutional reforms, which would have changed the balance of power between the executive and Parliament.

The "no" vote is expected to win by a margin of nearly 20 percentage points, in what is seen as a resounding message of discontent with Renzi's government. The lopsided result also signals the strength of anti-establishment sentiment in the country.

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