The day's most popular stories
December 17th, 2010
10:51 PM ET

The day's most popular stories

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

DMV employee resigns over 'hell' letter: A California Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) employee who allegedly wrote a letter to a transgender woman and condemned her to hell has resigned, officials said.

When liver donations go wrong: When Ryan Arnold died after donating a piece of his liver to his brother, Chad, his friends and family mourned the loss of a hero who risked his life to save his brother.

Tiger Woods half-brother talks: The last time Earl Woods Jr. saw his half brother Tiger was four years ago, when the family buried their father.

'40-Year-Old Virgin' actor sentenced to life: A California woman stabbed repeatedly by her then-boyfriend, a comedic Hollywood actor, described his courtroom antics as "very surreal" and above all, insincere.

Object shot out of sky above Israel: The Israeli Air Force shot down an unidentified flying object over the Dimona nuclear plant in the Negev Desert Thursday, the Israel Defense Forces said.

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Filed under: Most Popular
Gap apologizes for 'FEED USA' bags made in China
December 17th, 2010
09:14 PM ET

Gap apologizes for 'FEED USA' bags made in China

The Gap has apologized for "incorrect signage" in some stores that led to allegations that the clothing retailer was passing off bags produced in China as products that were "Made in the USA."

The mega-retailer is fixing signs in stores and online to ensure customers are not led to believe that its denim FEED USA bags, the sales of which benefit the anti-hunger charity, FEED Projects, were made in the U.S.

"There are several bags in the FEED USA collection.  The FEED USA Canvas Tote bag and the limited edition one-of-a-kind Bandana Bag are both made in the USA," spokeswoman Renate Geerlings said in an e-mail.

"However, the FEED USA Denim Bucket bags are made in China, and should not have been connected to the made in the USA signs. We apologize for any inaccurate messaging."

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Filed under: Business • Charity
Hugo Chavez gets power to pass laws by decree
December 17th, 2010
06:12 PM ET

Hugo Chavez gets power to pass laws by decree

Venezuela's National Assembly has granted President Hugo Chavez the power to rule by decree for the next 18 months, the website of state-run Venezuelan Television reported Friday.

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Filed under: Venezuela
Final lunar eclipse of 2010 set for early morning of December 21
December 17th, 2010
05:45 PM ET

Final lunar eclipse of 2010 set for early morning of December 21

Skygazers hoping to catch the last lunar eclipse of 2010 on Tuesday morning best be ready to stay up late (or wake up very early) to watch the full moon as it goes through a range of dramatic color changes.

The December 21 lunar eclipse is expected to last about three-and-a-half hours from its start as a partial eclipse at 1:33 a.m. ET to its finish at 5:01 a.m. ET, according to NASA. The previous lunar eclipse occurred June 26.

Share your images and video of the eclipse through iReport.

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Filed under: Space
Obama signs tax deal into law
December 17th, 2010
04:30 PM ET

Obama signs tax deal into law

President Barack Obama signing the $858 billion tax bill into law  Friday, calling it a "substantial victory for middle class families across the country."

Vice President Joe Biden said the tax bill is a result of politicians on both sides of the aisle coming together to act on behalf of Americans.

"I stand here today to say our fight has paid off," he told reporters at the bill signing.

Read more about the tax deal
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Filed under: Barack Obama • Economy • Finance • Politics • Taxes
Periodic table gets a makeover
December 17th, 2010
02:39 PM ET

Periodic table gets a makeover

Remember memorizing the periodic table in high school? Well, forget it. Some information on the table is about to be reset.

The world's top chemists and physicists have determined that the atomic weights of 10 elements - ones you've actually heard of - need to be expressed as an interval (or range) rather than a static number, Science Daily reports.

The new atomic weights of hydrogen, lithium, boron, carbon, nitrogen, oxygen, silicon, sulfur, chlorine and thallium will more accurately reflect how those elements occur in nature.

"For example, sulfur is commonly known to have a standard atomic weight of 32.065. However, its actual atomic weight can be anywhere between 32.059 and 32.076, depending on where the element is found," the article explains.

The change will take effect in 2011, designated by the United Nations as the International Year of Chemistry, according to Science Daily.

No word yet from CBS on whether the changes will require major rewrites of upcoming episodes of "The Big Bang Theory."

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Filed under: Nature • Science
GOP senators ready to vote against 'don't ask, don't tell,' aides say
December 17th, 2010
02:20 PM ET

GOP senators ready to vote against 'don't ask, don't tell,' aides say

Four key GOP senators who have announced their support for a "don't ask, don't tell" repeal are prepared to join Democrats in voting to let the bill proceed, as long as Congress first deals with a measure to fund the government, aides to the four said Friday.

The aides said Susan Collins, Olympia Snowe, Lisa Murkowski and Scott Brown will vote Saturday to end debate on the ban on openly gay and lesbian people in the military if the Senate passes a stopgap spending bill, a continuing resolution to keep the government funded.

The four have previously said that bill must be approved first.

The Senate is currently working to craft a temporary spending bill, made necessary after Democratic leadership pulled a $1 trillion spending bill after Republicans abandoned their support of it.

The four senators' support for the "don't ask, don't tell" repeal would ensure the 60 votes needed to clear the way for the bill to advance even if Joe Manchin, a West Virginia Democrat, votes against it, as is expected.

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U.S. 'vigilant' for holiday terror threats, adviser says
December 17th, 2010
01:48 PM ET

U.S. 'vigilant' for holiday terror threats, adviser says

U.S. security is "particularly vigilant" to terror threats over the holidays, the president's counterterrorism adviser said Friday, striking a confident note that the United States is ready.

"We always have to remain on guard," said John Brennan, the White House counterterrorism adviser said at an event for the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. The holidays are a particularly sensitive time because of the increased pace of travel, Brennan noted.

"I'm feeling good that we have appropriate resources in place" to deter attack this Christmas.

Last Christmas a young Nigerian man named Umar Farouk AbdulMutallab allegedly tried to detonate an explosive device sewn into his underwear as his flight headed toward Detroit, Michigan. More recently, al Qaeda operatives in Yemen tried to ship bombs disguised as printer parts to synagogues in the United States. The plot was discovered and stopped before the packages were flown into U.S. territory.

U.S. officials say they have no specific and credible information about planned terror attacks on the United States this holiday season, but they have issued an intelligence bulletin to state and local law enforcement warning terrorists could target large crowds at holiday gatherings.

FULL STORY
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Filed under: National security • Security
Thief steals 'Honesty' from Minn. school
December 17th, 2010
01:07 PM ET

Thief steals 'Honesty' from Minn. school

"Honesty" stared a thief right in the face, and the bandit made off with it anyway.

Perhaps he or she missed the point of John Ilg's sculpture.

The artwork, which features 316 rolled-up dollar bills placed in a wire-mesh frame to spell out H-O-N-E-S-T-Y, was jacked from Normandale Community College this week, according to the Star Tribune in Minneapolis, Minnesota.

Only a set of muddy footprints and a trail of seven rolled-up George Washingtons remained in and near the Bloomington school's fine arts building. There are no suspects, the paper said.

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Filed under: Art • Crime • Education • Minnesota
Boxer Floyd Mayweather arrested in connection with assault allegation
December 17th, 2010
12:28 PM ET

Boxer Floyd Mayweather arrested in connection with assault allegation

Boxer Floyd Mayweather was arrested at a Las Vegas casino on a misdemeanor battery charge after he allegedly assaulted a security guard at his housing complex, a police official said Friday.

Mayweather was arrested just before midnight on Thursday and is currently being held at the Clark County Detention Center, said police spokeswoman Barbara Morgan.

He is expected to appear in court on Monday.

Mayweather's legal representation was not immediately available for comment.

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Filed under: Crime • Sports
The emotional, financial struggles of Christmas on unemployment
December 17th, 2010
12:13 PM ET

The emotional, financial struggles of Christmas on unemployment

Living on unemployment is tough enough during the year but the sting of unemployment is felt more sharply during the holidays.

CNN's Jim Roope talks with a man - he asked that he not be identified - who is trying to stretch his $900 dollar unemployment check from food to Christmas for his family of five.

"You watch every penny," he said. "it's difficult. The older kids understand as best they can, but the younger ones look at you and ask what did I do wrong this year."

Hear his story by clicking the audio button.

Listen to the complete story by clicking the audio button:

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

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Filed under: Economy • Jobs
Gotta watch: Zombies; Tiger’s brother; Marching band kick; Conan vs. TSA
December 17th, 2010
12:05 PM ET

Gotta watch: Zombies; Tiger’s brother; Marching band kick; Conan vs. TSA

Cuban film features zombie revolution – Fifty years after Fidel Castro's revolution, a new revolution is brewing. Cuba's first-ever zombie flick, “Juan of the Dead” brings the living dead to the streets of Havana. The plot features communist leaders claiming the living dead are part of a CIA-backed plot aimed at toppling the government. “Juan of the Dead," is Cuba's first zombie movie and is a mix of camp gore and wry satire. CNN’s Shasta Darlington walks with the undead and talks to the movie’s creators.

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Filed under: Cuba • Gotta Watch • Michael Vick • Tiger Woods
Friday's intriguing people
December 17th, 2010
12:01 PM ET

Friday's intriguing people

Scott Stringer

The Manhattan borough president used to Upper West Side living has learned quite a bit about the eastern part of New York's famous island - and the Second Avenue subway project he's behind but has never felt its impact. Until recently, when he had an eye-opener about the Upper East Side project, according to a New York Times report.

Stringer (pictured above) was forced to move right alongside the project at Second Avenue and East 83rd Street - after a fire gutted his home, according to the Times. Stringer has long heard complaints about the subway project - from angry business owners, to homeowners, renters and anyone who has had to deal with the noise of the constant construction or obstruction of their neighborhood.

But now, perhaps, Stringer isn't just listening. He's hearing. Not only what residents have been saying, but literally the drilling each morning as he wakes up. Talk about walking a mile in someone else's shoes. Or alongside a project that's been the bane of your reign.

“You don’t hear the birds chirping in the morning; you wake up when the drilling starts,” Stringer told the Times. “When I say goodbye in the morning to (my wife) Elyse (Buxbaum), I don’t say, ‘Have a happy day.’ I say, ‘Be careful of the construction outside.’ ”

Now, Stringer says having lived with the project, he's going to do what he can do help residents, according to the paper.

“People have a sense of outrage,” he told the Times. “They have stayed in the neighborhood because they believe in the project, but they want the government to do more.”

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U.N. Chief tells Ivory Coast incumbent leader to step down
December 17th, 2010
11:51 AM ET

U.N. Chief tells Ivory Coast incumbent leader to step down

U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon on Friday called on Ivory Coast's incumbent President Laurent Gbagbo to step down and said that "any other outcome would make a mockery of democracy."

On Monday, State Department spokesman P.J. Crowley urged Gbagbo to step down and recognize the November 28 runoff election was won by his challenger, Alassane Ouattara.

The country's Independent Electoral Commission said Ouattara won the runoff, but the country's Constitutional Council invalidated those results and declared Gbagbo the winner.

The United Nations, African Union, European Union and other international bodies and leaders have recognized Ouattara as the winner.

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

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Filed under: Ivory Coast • United Nations
SI.com: Yao Ming goes from face of a nation, to face of frustration
December 17th, 2010
11:42 AM ET

SI.com: Yao Ming goes from face of a nation, to face of frustration

Yao Ming was once the face of a nation.

When the Houston Rockets drafted him No. 1 overall in 2002, Ming represented not only his native China, but international basketball as a whole. He was a 7-foot-6 living testament that the best basketball players in the world didn’t necessarily come from our own backyard. He opened the floodgates for foreign players to come to America and show the NBA the brand of high-quality basketball being played overseas.

But after yet another injury that has derailed a once-promising career, Yao is quickly becoming the face of frustration.

The center’s latest setback comes in the form of a stress fracture in his left ankle, the same foot that underwent reconstructive surgery that sidelined him all of last season. Yao missed only three games over his first three seasons in the NBA, but Houston’s big man has now missed 173 regular-season games over his last five seasons.

This year was originally slated to be Yao’s grand return, but his ankle shut him down after just five games, and he’s been sidelined since Nov. 10.

Now comes news of a more serious injury than Yao expected and a grueling rehabilitation process lies ahead. Only Yao can decide if he wants to go through it once again. And at age 30, Yao is faced with his toughest decision since he decided to leave the Shanghai Sharks in 2002. Does he attempt yet another comeback? Or does he call it a career, albeit short and sweet?

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NASA begins testing Discovery's fuel tank
December 17th, 2010
11:09 AM ET

NASA begins testing Discovery's fuel tank

NASA crews began a test of space shuttle Discovery's external fuel tank Friday .

"Eight technicians will use scanners, cameras and high-powered lenses to survey the outside of the tank for foam cracks, ice buildup or other abnormalities," a NASA statement said.

The test at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida will give engineers key data to decide when the shuttle can take off, NASA said.

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Filed under: Shuttle • Space • U.S.
Mullen says AfPak review shows U.S. on 'right track'
December 17th, 2010
10:34 AM ET

Mullen says AfPak review shows U.S. on 'right track'

America's top military official said the U.S. review of strategy in Afghanistan and Pakistan "shows us that we are on the right track," but more progress needs to be made, particularly in the area of government and the rule of law.

"I remain convinced that we have the right strategy, we have the right leadership and we now have the right resources in place to disrupt, dismantle and defeat al Qaeda, to reverse the momentum of the Taliban and to prevent Afghanistan from becoming a safe haven," said Adm. Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

"We can take nothing for granted at this point. In fact, our review tells us that in order to fully cement the progress we've made, we must work harder with local government on the delivery of basic services and on accountability."

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Filed under: Afghanistan • Military • Pakistan • U.S. • War
On the Radar: Talk from Assange, tax deal to Obama, new North Korean threats
December 17th, 2010
10:02 AM ET

On the Radar: Talk from Assange, tax deal to Obama, new North Korean threats

WikiLeaks - Now that WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange is out of jail, he's making up for lost time by talking to media outlets about sex allegations against him, saying he believes they are little more than an effort to discredit him and his organization for leaking diplomatic cables.

Assange (pictured, center, talking to reporters Thursday) also said the technological and legal attacks on his website are diverting resources from its core mission. But he said it has not slowed the group from publishing new secret diplomatic documents.

In fact, new cables have come out showing the United States and Cuba have been cooperating when it comes to fighting drug smuggling and others detailing allegations that India condoned torture of suspects in detention centers in Jammu and Kashmir, a region that's the secne of a long guerrilla war by Muslim separatists.

Tax deal - A bill that includes a two-year extension of the Bush-era tax cuts and an extension of jobless benefits is on its way to President Obama to be signed into law Friday.

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Guede loses appeal in Meredith Kercher murder case
December 17th, 2010
08:28 AM ET

Guede loses appeal in Meredith Kercher murder case

One of the men convicted of killing British exchange student Meredith Kercher in Italy three years ago has lost his appeal, his lawyer said Friday.

It means Rudy Guede, originally from the Ivory Coast, will continue serving his 16-year sentence for the crime after the court refused Thursday to overturn his conviction.

"Rudy is very disappointed," said his lawyer, Walter Biscotti. "We don't agree with the verdict because, starting today, there is an innocent man in jail."

Guede was originally sentenced to 30 years in prison for murder and attempted sexual assault, but he successfully appealed last year to cut the term to 16 years.

He is one of three people convicted of killing Kercher in Perugia, Italy, in 2007. Guede was tried in October 2008. Kercher's American roommate, Amanda Knox, and Knox's former boyfriend, Raffaele Sollecito, were convicted in a separate trial that concluded a year ago.

- CNN's Hada Messia contributed to this report.

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Filed under: Crime
Obama to sign tax cut extension deal
December 17th, 2010
08:06 AM ET

Obama to sign tax cut extension deal

President Obama will sign the much-debated tax cuts extension and offer a public statement from the White House on Friday afternoon, according to two administration officials.

The package includes a two-year extension of the Bush-era tax cuts set to expire December 31. It also would extend unemployment benefits for 13 months, cut the payroll tax by 2 percentage points for a year, restore the estate tax at a lower level and continue a series of other tax breaks.

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Filed under: Barack Obama • Politics • Taxes
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