August 16th, 2010
10:18 PM ET

Federal agency to probe off-road race crash

The U.S. Bureau of Land Management will review Saturday's off-road race crash that killed eight spectators in Southern California's Mojave Desert, a spokeswoman with the bureau's California office said.

The bureau had issued a permit to the group running the California 200, in which a truck crashed into spectators along the course in the Lucerne Valley area of San Bernardino County. In addition to those killed, four people were taken to hospitals in serious condition, and five others suffered minor to moderate injuries.

Police have said no safety barriers were in the area where the crash occurred during the race, which was part of an amateur series sanctioned by Mojave Desert Racing.

In the crash area, the course had "no delineations to where the track begins and where the track ends," said Joaquin Zubieta, a California Highway Patrol spokesman.

On MDR's website, the group asks spectators to stay 100 feet from the course. Video from the night of the crash show trucks speeding within feet of spectators.

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Filed under: California
August 16th, 2010
07:16 PM ET

Court blocks same-sex marriage in California

A federal appeals court in San Francisco has blocked same-sex marriage in California, until it hears broader questions over the constitutionality of such marriages. The brief order from the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals set aside a federal judge's decision August 4 permitting same-sex marriages to resume.

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Filed under: California • Gay and lesbian • Proposition 8
August 16th, 2010
04:02 PM ET

Permanent fix on hold for ruptured Gulf oil well

The permanent stifling of the ruptured Gulf of Mexico oil well won't start until the latest potential problem is evaluated, Thad Allen, the government's point man in the Gulf, said Monday.

The "timelines won't be known until we get a recommendation on the course of action," he said.

Allen told reporters that when it comes to giving a green light to the "bottom kill" of the well through the nearby relief well, "nobody wants to make that declaration any more than I do," but the process "will not start until we figure out how to manage the risk of pressure in the annulus."

The annulus is a ring that surrounds the casing pipe, which sits in the center of the well shaft. Unless the annulus is breached, it should be accessible only from the bottom of the well.

Scientists began new pressure tests last week to gauge the effects of the mud and cement poured into the well from above during the static kill procedure that started August 3 and ended a few days later. From those pressure readings, they believe that either some of the cement breached the casing pipe and leaked into the annulus or cement came up into the annulus from the bottom.

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Filed under: BP • Gulf Coast Oil Spill
August 16th, 2010
12:27 PM ET

Obama: Clean energy campaign will lead to 800,000 jobs

President Barack Obama touted his administration's clean energy initiatives Monday, saying tax credits and loans would help bring 800,000 jobs by 2012.

After touring the ZBB Energy Corporation plant in Menomonee Falls, Wisconsin, Obama told workers that their jobs manufacturing renewable batteries and power systems were part of a necessary transition of the U.S. economy.

"We can't turn back. We've got to keep going forward," Obama said to applause, later adding: "You're pointing us in the right direction. And I am confident about our future because of what I have seen at this plant."

The company is using a $1.3 million Recovery Act State Energy Program loan to help fund a $4.5 million factory renovation. Obama said the renovation is expected to result in the hiring of 80 new workers and triple the capacity manufacture renewable power and storage systems.

In what sounded at times like a pep talk and at times like a campaign speech, Obama said American workers were resilient enough to emerge stronger than ever from a decade-long manufacturing decline and an economic recession.

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Filed under: Barack Obama • Energy • Jobs
August 16th, 2010
12:20 PM ET

Astronauts replace failed cooling equipment on space station

The repairs performed on the International Space Station's cooling system Monday morning appear to be working.

NASA astronauts Doug Wheelock and Tracy Caldwell Dyson installed a spare 780-pound ammonia pump module to replace a broken unit that they removed last Wednesday, NASA said on its website. Wheelock attached four bolts and Caldwell Dyson mated five electrical connectors, then ground controllers confirmed the module was in healthy condition when it began receiving power. After a pressure check and more fluid cable connections, ammonia began to flow into the module, NASA said.

All of the fluid lines are connected and no ammonia leaks were reported, according to NASA's Twitter feed.

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Filed under: Space
August 16th, 2010
11:56 AM ET

World WebPulse: North Korea tweets, mosque debate rages

Many of the tweets on the reported North Korean Twitter account are links to the country's official site.

Here's a look at some of the stories that are popular on Twitter, Google and other news and social media sites around the world.

North Korea Twitter account – 140 characters may be small, but it is becoming a big deal that the secretive North Korean government has opened a Twitter account, according to a report from Agence France Presse. So far the Twitter account @Uriminzok only has about 1,600 followers and most of the tweets are links to the country's official Web site.

AFP says one of the tweets dismissed accusations that a North Korean torpedo sank a South Korean warship in March while another criticized US-led sanctions against North Korea and Iran. This isn't North Korea's first foray into social media as the country opened a YouTube account recently.

China/Japan – Lots of people are searching on Google for the news that China is on track to overtake Japan as the world's second largest economy, according to figured released Monday.

Obama and the 'Ground Zero Mosque' – There's lots of discussion on social sites about the proposal to build an Islamic center and mosque near the site of Ground Zero after President Barack Obama weighed in on the controversy over the weekend. After seeming to support the controversial Islamic center, Obama then clarified his remarks by saying he was "not commenting on the wisdom" of the project but simply trying to uphold the broader principle that government should treat everyone equal, regardless of religion.

The debate continues to rage as the world's Muslims observe Ramadan, which has been a trending topic on Twitter since the holy month began. Check out CNN's Belief Blog for lots of interesting perspectives and stories on the proposed mosque.

What's your take on these stories? What else should we be paying attention to? Post a comment and let us know.

August 16th, 2010
11:25 AM ET

Urgent cry for help as death toll rises from Pakistan flooding

As an umbrella group of humanitarian entities called for "urgent international support" Monday in flood-ravaged Pakistan, the United States was sending materials to provide shelter for almost 47,000 displaced Pakistanis.

The U.S. Embassy said that a cargo aircraft carrying 530 rolls of heavy-duty waterproof and fire-resistant plastic sheeting for use as temporary shelters was sent by the United States to Karachi, Pakistan, on Monday, a day after another flight ferried 240 rolls of plastic sheeting to Karachi.

"Our experience has shown that plastic sheeting is urgently needed for temporary shelters, and we know it is urgently needed in Sindh as the flood waters continue to move south," Ambassador Anne Patterson said in a written statement. "It will be supplied along with locally purchased materials that can be easily moved when people are able to return home."

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Filed under: Pakistan
August 16th, 2010
10:39 AM ET

Monday's intriguing people

Sylvester StalloneSylvester Stallone

The action star from the '70s and '80s can still open big at the box office, and apparently big with the ladies. Recruiting a cast of six fellow action stars, along with a cameo by Bruce Willis and Arnold Schwarzenegger, Stallone's "The Expendables" grossed $35 million at the box this weekend.

The "Rocky" and "Rambo" star not only starred in the picture, which received mixed reviews, he wrote and directed the film as well. He also reportedly broke his neck in a fight scene.

According to The Los Angeles Times, 40 percent of ticket buyers were female. Stallone, 64, has headlined two films since 2003 and they were both in his comfort zones - "Rambo" in 2008, and "Rocky Balboa" in 2006.

In July, Stallone appeared on the David Letterman show with where he said he'd broken his neck during a fight scene for the film. The injury required surgery. Also appearing in the film are action stars including Dolph Lundgren, Eric Roberts, Mickey Rourke, wrestler Steve Austin, Jet Li and Jason Statham.

Los Angeles Times: 'The Expendables' is a force at weekend box office

Monsters and Critics: Sylvester Stallone shows off broken neck injury x-ray
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August 16th, 2010
10:11 AM ET

Pentagon: Defense Secretary Gates wants to retire

Defense Robert Gates is expected to leave his post in the spring of 2011, a senior administration source told CNN on Monday.

A Pentagon spokesman confirmed that Gates wants to retire some time next year. Gates was quoted in an article in the magazine Foreign Policy published Monday saying he wanted to step down before the end of 2011.

Pentagon spokesman Bryan Whitman said references in the article to Gates' desire to retire next year "accurately reflect the secretary's thoughts."

According to the senior administration official, Gates privately promised President Barack Obama he would not leave the Cabinet in 2010 in order to maintain stability at the Pentagon while more U.S. forces are heading to Afghanistan.

In addition, the senior official said, Gates does not want a potentially difficult confirmation battle for his successor to take place in the presidential election year of 2012.

Gates, who became defense secretary in 2006 under former President George W. Bush, stayed in the post when Obama took office in 2009.

He previously spent almost 27 years in the Central Intelligence Agency, including posts at the White House serving four presidents. Gates also was president of Texas A&M University prior to becoming defense secretary.

- From CNN Pentagon Correspondent Chris Lawrence

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Filed under: Military • Security Brief
August 16th, 2010
09:24 AM ET

On the Radar: Crash driver, Craigslist suspect, first lady

Race car driver apologizes - The driver of a truck that crashed into a crowd of spectators, killing eight, said in a Facebook message that he was devastated. The California Highway Patrol identified the driver as Brett Sloppy. Authorities said Sloppy is not facing any charges in Saturday's crash at an off-road race in Southern California's Mojave Desert.

"Soo incredibly lost and devistated [sic] my thoughts and prayers go out to all the familys and friends involved," the San Marcos resident said on his Facebook page late Sunday. "Thank you too all my friends for sticking with me even thru these tragic times I love you all."

Apparent suicide by Craiglist killing suspect - An autopsy is scheduled for Monday in the death of Philip Markoff, a one-time medical student who died of an apparent suicide while facing charges in a killing tied to the Craigslist website. Markoff was found unresponsive Sunday morning in his Boston, Massachusetts, jail cell and pronounced dead by medics, officials said. Markoff, 24, was charged in the April 14, 2009, fatal shooting and attempted robbery of Julissa Brisman, 25, at Boston's Marriott Copley Place Hotel.

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Filed under: California • China • Craigslist • Economy • On the Radar
August 16th, 2010
07:54 AM ET

Plane splits apart in Colombia, killing one

[Updated at 8:15 a.m.] One passenger was killed and 34 were injured when lightning hit an airplane and caused it to split into at least two parts when landing early Monday on the island of San Andres, Colombia, Gov. Pedro Gallardo told CNN en Espanol.

There were 131 people on-board the Aires airline 737-700 jet when it crashed around 1:50 a.m. (2:50 a.m. ET), the Colombian national police said. The flight had 121 adult passengers, four minors and six crew members, the police said.

The fatality was identified as Amar Fernandez de Barreto.

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[Posted at 7:54 a.m.] One passenger died and 34 were injured when bad weather caused an airplane to split into three parts when landing early Monday in San Andres, Colombia, the national police said.

This story is developing. We'll bring you latest information as soon as we get it.

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Filed under: Air travel • Colombia
August 16th, 2010
06:27 AM ET

Monday's live video events

Ongoing coverage - BP webcam of Gulf oil disaster

6:55 am ET - Spacewalk outside ISS - Two astronauts will install a replacement pump to restore full cooling capability to the international space station.

12:10 pm ET - Obama remarks - President Obama talks to workers at ZBB Energy in Menomonee Falls, Wisconsin, after touring the business.

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Filed under: On CNN.com today
August 16th, 2010
06:20 AM ET

World update: Strike threatens to close UK airports

An update from the CNN newsdesk in London on some of the stories we're following on Monday:

Strike talks - Talks are being held today in the UK between the trade union Unite and representatives from the company BAA in order to try to avoid a strike by airport workers. BAA operates six airports in the UK and if the strike goes ahead, it will cause chaos for European passengers as Heathrow, Edinburgh and Glasgow are among the airports that would have to close.

South Africa press - South Africa prides itself on having one of the most aggressive and free presses on the continent. But this could change if the ruling party gets its way. Embarrassed by media allegations of corruption and mismanagement, the ANC is trying to push through a bill which opposition parties and press watchdogs say will criminalize investigative journalism. Under the new proposal journalists can be jailed for up to 25 years if found in possession of classified state information.

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