The day's most popular stories
December 8th, 2010
09:00 PM ET

The day's most popular stories

The five most popular stories on CNN.com in the last 24 hours, according to NewsPulse:

Kathy Grifin booed for Bristol Palin joke: While hosting the VH1 "Divas Salute the Troops" concert, comedian Kathy Griffin took a jab at Bristol Palin, saying that the former "Dancing With the Stars" competitor "is the only contestant in the history of the show to actually gain weight." The crowd booed Griffin, and Palin has something to say about it, too.

SpaceX craft splashes down in Pacific: The first commercial spacecraft to return from a low-Earth orbit splashed into the Pacific Ocean on Wednesday about 500 miles off the coast of Southern California.

Elizabeth Edwards dies after cancer struggle: Elizabeth Edwards, the estranged wife of 2004 vice presidential candidate and former U.S. senator John Edwards, died Tuesday after a lengthy battle with cancer. She was 61.

Father being charged in children's deaths: Police believe they found the skeletal remains of a 3-year-old Alabama boy and were charging his father with two counts of murder as they prepared to search for the man's missing young daughter, also believed dead, authorities said Wednesday.

Even Steve Wozniak gets frustrated with tech:  The world has mostly caught on to Steve Wozniak's vision of having a computer in every home. But this digital lifestyle can sometimes turn rotten, the Apple co-founder said last week.


Filed under: Most Popular
Stocks inch higher; commodities slip
December 8th, 2010
08:09 PM ET

Stocks inch higher; commodities slip

A look at highlights from the day's business news:

Banks boost stocks, but gains are modest

Stocks drifted higher Wednesday as a rebound in bank shares offset weakness in commodities and concerns about rising interest rates in the Treasury market.

The Dow Jones industrial average rose 13 points, or 0.1%, to close at 11,372. The S&P 500 added 4 points, or 0.4%, to 1,228. The tech-heavy Nasdaq rose 11 points, or 0.4%, to 2,609.

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Filed under: Business • Economy
University of Florida head football coach Urban Meyer steps down
December 8th, 2010
06:58 PM ET

University of Florida head football coach Urban Meyer steps down

Urban Meyer, head coach of the University of Florida football team, will step down after the Gators' January bowl game, Athletics Director Jeremy Foley said Wednesday afternoon.

Meyer will leave Florida with six seasons under his belt. He captured two National Championships, two Southeastern Conference Championships, three SEC Eastern Division crowns and led UF to six January bowl games in a row, gatorzone.com reported.

He was named Sporting News and Sports Illustrated “Coach of the Decade” in December of 2009.

Meyer will remain Florida’s head coach through the Outback Bowl in Tampa on New Year’s Day, the school said in a statement.

“I have been a Division I football coach for the last 25 years and, during that time, my primary focus has been helping my teams win titles,” Meyer said.

“I have thoroughly enjoyed every minute of it, and I am a fierce competitor to my core. At this time in my life, however, I appreciate the sacrifices my 24/7 profession has demanded of me, and I know it is time to put my focus on my family and life away from the field. The decision to step down was a difficult one.

“But after spending more than two decades motivating and celebrating the young men I’ve been so proud to coach, I relish the opportunity to cheer for my three terrific kids as they compete in their own respective sports. I know how fortunate I am to be in a position to make this choice and to have a family that is as loving and supportive as my amazing wife and children have always been.”

Last December, Meyer announced that he was stepping down due to health concerns. But a day later, he reconsidered and said that he would instead take a leave of absence. He returned to his position in time for the 2010 season.

- CNN's Brett Roegiers contributed to this report.

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Filed under: College football • Sports
Police: Hollywood publicist Ronni Chasen was victim of random robbery
December 8th, 2010
06:19 PM ET

Police: Hollywood publicist Ronni Chasen was victim of random robbery

Hollywood publicist Ronni Chasen was the random victim of a robbery by Harold Martin Smith, who committed suicide when confronted by police
days later, Beverly Hills Detective Sgt. Mike Publicker said Wednesday.

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Filed under: Crime • Ronni Chasen
Inside California's overcrowded prisons
December 8th, 2010
05:41 PM ET

Inside California's overcrowded prisons

What used to be a gymnasium is now a housing unit for 150 inmates. Bunk beds are arranged in the center of the gym floor. Inmates have to turn sideways to walk between the bunks.

The gymnasium is one of two being used as housing units at the California State Prison in Los Angeles County. There are also two day rooms used for "nontraditional" beds at the facility. In all, there are about 450 inmates without cells.

The rest of the prison's 4,500 inmates share cells at a facility designed to hold 2,300. Corrections officer Lt. Michael Stratman says the prison is just under 200% capacity, which increases the potential for violence.

But that's not the basis of a U.S. Supreme Court case that may result in the high court forcing California to release 40,000 inmates to reduce crowding. The case is about health conditions.

Attorney Don Specter argued before the U.S. Supreme Court that with so many prisoners, there isn't adequate physical and mental health care and the inmates are living in less than humane conditions.

The high court is set to decide whether to uphold a lower court's decision forcing the reduction.

State Department of Corrections spokeswoman Terry Thornton said efforts have been made to reduce the prison population since its peak in 2007, mostly through parole. Thornton said the state doesn't need the high court's help reducing the number of prisoners.

CNN Radio's Jim Roope visited the California State Prison to see the conditions for himself.

Listen to the complete story by clicking the audio button:

You can also listen to the CNN Radio Reports podcast on itunes or subscribe to the podcast here.

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Filed under: California • Justice
Visa, MasterCard targeted in apparent cyberattack
December 8th, 2010
04:30 PM ET

Visa, MasterCard targeted in apparent cyberattack

[Updated at 5:15 p.m.] The corporate websites of Visa and MasterCard
were inaccessible at times Wednesday due to an apparent cyberattack by purported Wikileaks backers.

Messages posted on Twitter indicated the attacks may be in response to recent moves by Visa and MasterCard against WikiLeaks, the website that recently released thousands of secret U.S. State Department documents.

"The issue appears to be the result of a concentrated effort to flood our corporate website with traffic and slow access," said MasterCard spokesman James Issokson, in a prepared statement. "We are working to restore normal service levels."

MasterCard and Visa Europe, a division of Visa, had said they were working to stop the acceptance of their cards on WikiLeaks.

December 8th, 2010
02:29 PM ET

Fraction of 1 percent of WikiLeaks cables released

Although it may seem as though WikiLeaks has flooded the Web with a mind-boggling number of classified diplomatic cables, the site says it has actually published only a fraction of 1 percent of the trove of secret State Department information it has.

WikiLeaks claims to have an archive of 251,287 cables. It has published fewer than 1,000.

Julian Assange, the face and founder of the Web site, was arrested Tuesday in Britain on a sex crime case in Sweden - a case separate from WikiLeaks.

One of his attorneys, Jennifer Robinson, said that the remaining contents of the State Department trove will continue to be published "unabated as scheduled, in a very orderly fashion" in the coming months. The documents could even be released in parts throughout 2011 in conjunction with media that had advance access to WikiLeaks' documents about the Afghanistan and Iraq wars, as well as the cables, said Robinson.

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Filed under: Afghanistan • Iraq • Julian Assange • Saudi Arabia • U.S. • United Kingdom • WikiLeaks
SpaceX commercial craft heads into space
December 8th, 2010
02:28 PM ET

SpaceX commercial craft heads into space

[Update 2:27 p.m.]: The commercial SpaceX craft has splashed down in the Pacific Ocean. "Everything looks good," said NASA spokesman Josh Byerly.

SpaceX's Falcon 9 rocket launched from Florida Wednesday morning, marking what could be a significant step toward commercial space travel.

The craft lifted off from Kennedy Space Center at 10:43 a.m. ET.

The launch and a successful re-entry would be steps toward commercial space ventures that could eventually ferry astronauts and cargo to the
International Space Station. It also coincides with the scaling back of some publicly-funded space programs.

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Filed under: Space
Preval calls for calm amid post-election protests
December 8th, 2010
02:24 PM ET

Preval calls for calm amid post-election protests

Haitian President Rene Preval appealed for calm Wednesday as thousands of angry Haitians took to the streets of the capital to protest the results of what they charged was a fraudulent election.

In a speech broadcast on radio, Preval urged the presidential candidates to discuss and analyze the results provided by the Provisional Electoral Council. The council announced results Tuesday night that will force a runoff between former first lady Mirlande Manigat and Jude Celestin, a Preval protege.

"Preval is a thief. We don't need Jude Celestin. We need Michel Martelly," people chanted, expressing support for the candidate who came in third and was left out of the runoff.

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Filed under: Elections • Haiti
Wintry weather disrupts travel in Paris region
December 8th, 2010
01:24 PM ET

Wintry weather disrupts travel in Paris region

Heavy snow paralyzed travel in the Paris region Wednesday, where officials suspended air traffic at one of Europe's busiest airports, closed several highways and shut down the Eiffel Tower.

Officials at the Charles de Gaulle airport suspended air traffic until at least 6 p.m., and delays at the Orly airport were up to at least two hours, according to Aeroports de Paris, the region's airport authority.

Météo France has issued an "orange" weather warning across central France, the second-highest level of warning. As much as 10-15 centimeters of snow has fallen in some areas, and forecasters are predicting 2 to 3 more centimeters will come down before Thursday.

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Filed under: Air travel • France
SI.com: Peña pens, clubs throw millions at Lee as free-agent race takes shape
December 8th, 2010
01:13 PM ET

SI.com: Peña pens, clubs throw millions at Lee as free-agent race takes shape

With the Yankees retaining their set of free-agent icons, our attention now shifts to rest of the offseason market and where others players seeking new deals might land.

Just yesterday, All-Star first baseman Carlos Peña agreed to a one-year, $10 million deal with the Chicago Cubs, according to SI.com's Jon Heyman. Peña joins Jayson Werth (Nationals), Adam Dunn (White Sox), Victor Martinez (Tigers) and others as free-agent sluggers with new homes.

Although the left-handed Peña hit a career-low .196 with Tampa Bay last season, the Cubs are still attracted to his 28 home runs and first-class defense after trading Derek Lee to the Atlanta Braves last season.

But the biggest star to watch this winter - yes, more than Derek Jeter and Mariano Rivera - is Cy Young winner Cliff Lee (above). In his latest update, Heyman reports that a handful of teams are lining up to sign the top-of-the-rotation ace and that two teams have offered him seven-year contracts worth more than $20 million annually.

It's a steep price to pay but one that many baseball clubs are willing to shell out. Currently, there are 22 $100 million-men in baseball, and that number is sure to rise with free agents like Lee and Carl Crawford yet to find new clubs.

The Yankees and the Rangers, Lee's most recent team, are the two favorites to land the starting pitcher, but other teams are expected to join the bidding, says Heyman. With Werth's $126 million deal setting the tone this offseason, Lee's contract could be astronomical and close to the amount of money Yankees star Alex Rodriguez is currently reeling in (10 years, $275 million).

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Filed under: Baseball • Basketball • Brett Favre • Pro football • Sports
Police: Man arrested for allegedly plotting to blow up military recruiting station
December 8th, 2010
01:06 PM ET

Police: Man arrested for allegedly plotting to blow up military recruiting station

[Updated at 1:06 p.m] Authorities in Maryland arrested a man Wednesday on suspicion of plotting to blow up a military recruiting station, a law enforcement source said.

The man - described as a convert to Islam - is upset that the military continues to kill Muslims, the source said. He is to appear in court in Baltimore at 12:30 p.m. Wednesday.

Marcia Murphy with the U.S. attorney's office in Baltimore said the suspect was arrested in the morning hours "in connection with a scheme to attack an armed forces recruiting station in Catonsville, Maryland, with what he believed to be a vehicle bomb."

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Filed under: Crime • Military
Father leads police to remains of missing Alabama boy, sheriff says
December 8th, 2010
12:53 PM ET

Father leads police to remains of missing Alabama boy, sheriff says

A missing Alabama boy has been found, Jackson County Sheriff Mike Byrd has confirmed.

The father of 3-year-old Jonathan Chase DeBlase provided information that led authorities to the boy's skeletal remains in Vancleave, Mississippi. Jonathan's sister, Natalie, is still missing.

The father, John Joseph DeBlase, is in custody, authorities said.

The search for the missing boy began weeks ago, but police believe no one has seen him since March - around when, they believe, he was killed, possibly by his parents.

Police: Alabama toddler, now presumed dead, was last seen in March

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Filed under: Crime
Gotta Watch: Balloon boy band; ducks battle wind
December 8th, 2010
12:46 PM ET

Gotta Watch: Balloon boy band; ducks battle wind

'Balloon boy' band? – Richard Heene is the gift that just keeps giving. In case you were living in a cave, Heene is the unforgettable dad who claimed his son was in a balloon floating high above Colorado, a stunt that turned out to be a hoax. Well, he's back with a new hair-brained idea (not involving a backscratcher). AC360 has put him where he belongs for his latest scheme: on the Rediculist.

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Filed under: Gotta Watch
Wednesday's intriguing people
December 8th, 2010
12:37 PM ET

Wednesday's intriguing people

Keith Fitzhugh

The one-time undrafted free agent defensive back for the Jets could have had the opportunity of a lifetime: playing in the NFL and possibly the Super Bowl if, as some people predict, the New York team makes it that far.

Because the team has been dealing with injuries, the Jets looked to Fitzhugh (above) to help fill the spot. But the Mississippi State grad said no, because he has a steady job as a rail conductor and couldn't risk what would happen if he was with the Jets for only a few weeks since he supports his parents.

"I told them I'm very thankful for the opportunity," Fitzhugh told the New Jersey Star-Ledger. "But right now, being that it would be for just a couple weeks, I feel that I'd rather stay with a secure company and job, somewhere I know I could have long-term employment."

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December 8th, 2010
12:11 PM ET

Officials: Swedish prosecution authority's site hacked

The Swedish prosecution authority's website was attacked, officials said Wednesday, a day after WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange was arrested in the United Kingdom on a Swedish warrant.

Prosecutors did not say who they thought was behind the apparent denial-of-service attack, which has been reported to the police, they said.

The website is working again, and no other systems have been affected, the statement said.



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Filed under: Sweden
In his life: A tribute to John Lennon
December 8th, 2010
12:08 PM ET

In his life: A tribute to John Lennon

John Lennon wanted us to imagine many things.

There was one thing, however, he never could have imagined: how the world would come together, distraught, while learning the news of his death. In fact, in his last interview before his murder, his comments were tragically ironic. In a December 5, 1980, interview for Rolling Stone, he complained about critics who he said were only interested in "dead heroes," something he had no desire to be, saying that he had "plenty of time" to accomplish some of his life goals.

"These critics with the illusions they've created about artists - it's like idol worship," he told the magazine. "They only like people when they're on their way up. … I cannot be on the way up again.

"What they want is dead heroes, like Sid Vicious and James Dean. I'm not interested in being a dead (expletive) hero. ...  So forget 'em, forget 'em."

But forget him, we would not.

Three days later, the Beatles front man was murdered on the steps of his New York apartment building. He and his wife, Yoko Ono, had just come home from an evening of recording tracks in their studio.

And in the years to follow, and 30 years ago Wednesday, Lennon is remembered exactly the way perhaps he had not wanted to be - as an idol.

Leading up to the anniversary, Vanity Fair even wrote a piece imagining where Lennon would be if he were alive today.

The anniversary of his untimely death marks a day of mourning for a whole generation. The cultural icon of their lives is gone. It's a day just about everyone who was alive remembers. One of those days where you recall exactly where you were when you heard the news.

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Filed under: Celebrity • John Lennon • Music • Showbiz
Prison fire kills 83 in Chile
December 8th, 2010
11:30 AM ET

Prison fire kills 83 in Chile

At least 83 people were killed and several more injured in a fire that broke out after a riot at a prison in Chile, officials said Wednesday.

The fire started in one of the towers of the San Miguel prison, south of Santiago, the Chilean capital.

Fourteen people were hospitalized in critical condition, Health Minister Jaime Manalich told reporters. Four rescuers were also injured.

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Filed under: Chile
Verizon has network trouble early Wednesday
December 8th, 2010
09:15 AM ET

Verizon has network trouble early Wednesday

Many Verizon Wireless customers were unable to access the mobile internet early Wednesday morning because of a network glitch, the company said.

The "technical glitch," which occurred during network maintenance, stopped Verizon users from being able to access mobile websites from about 1:40 to 5 a.m. ET on Wednesday, said Jeffrey Nelson, a Verizon Wireless spokesman.

The outage affected a "large part of the country," but not all Verizon customers, Nelson said. Verizon users were still able to send and receive data on Verizon's 3G network, he said, but could not access websites through a phone's mobile browser.

Reports of a "nationwide" Verizon outage hit tech blogs and Twitter on Wednesday morning. Engadget had this to say on the subject:

"We've heard from a bunch of folks this morning that Verizon's 3G network is experiencing a slight bout of disconnectedness, causing a great deal of grief and discombobulation around the country. Just sit tight, we're sure engineers are engineering solutions as we type this, and will update you as soon as things have been rectified."

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Filed under: Technology
Illegal immigrant: 'Give us a chance, give us an opportunity'
December 8th, 2010
09:13 AM ET

Illegal immigrant: 'Give us a chance, give us an opportunity'

Students Cesar Vargas and Gaby Pacheco, both illegal immigrants supporting the DREAM Act talk to American Morning’s Kiran Chetry about why they think Congress should pass the act granting a legal path to citizenship for kids who entered the country illegally.

The act would grant citizenship to those who attend college or serve in the military.

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