Report: Lenient passport enforcement heightens border risk
December 20th, 2010
10:58 PM ET

Report: Lenient passport enforcement heightens border risk

The border patrol's lenient enforcement of a law requiring U.S. citizens to have passports when re-entering the country at land crossings has heightened the risk that an imposter might get in, according to a government report released Monday.

Under the law, which took effect in June 2009, U.S. citizens must show passports or some other authorized travel documents like a military ID when returning to the United States. Those who don't are supposed to undergo further screening to confirm their citizenship.

But, during a phase-in period that now has stretched over 18 months, very few travelers have been referred to secondary screening, the report from the Homeland Security department's inspector general's office found. That assertion, the study concluded, "increases the risk that someone could enter the U.S. under false pretense of citizenship."

The federal Customs and Border Protection agency, though, contends that the program is working, adding that it believes it is better to encourage compliance gradually then to enforce it right away.

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Filed under: National security • Travel • U.S.
Purse used to whack Florida school board gunman for sale
December 20th, 2010
10:40 PM ET

Purse used to whack Florida school board gunman for sale

She tried to use her purse to smack a gunman into submission. Now, the Florida school member's handbag is up on eBay - with proceeds from its sale going toward a charity championed by the man who ended up taking down the attacker.

The high bid for Ginger Littleton's purse stood at $10,200 Monday night,  according to Joe Moore of WJHG, a Panama City television station that is helping coordinate the online auction.

Proceeds from the sale will go to Salvage Santa, a charity started by Mike Jones that restores old bicycles and toys and gives them to children in the Florida Panhandle around the holidays.

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Filed under: Florida
The day's most popular stories
December 20th, 2010
10:40 PM ET

The day's most popular stories

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

'How-to' for pedophiles book author arrested: A man (pictured) behind a controversial book considered a "how-to" guide for pedophiles was arrested in Colorado, officials in Florida said Monday.

Report: Harmful chemical found in tap water of 31 U.S. cities: Millions of Americans in at least 31 U.S. cities could be drinking tap water contaminated with the harmful chemical hexavalent chromium, according to a  report released Monday by the nonprofit Environmental Working Group.
Armenians denounce Kobe Bryant deal with Turkish Airlines:  NBA star Kobe Bryant's decision to become the new celebrity face of Turkish Airlines is denounced by Armenian groups in North America.
7 things you should never say in an interview: You dry cleaned your suit. You've got a dozen copies of your résumé, just in case. You arrived early - but not too early. You silenced your cell phone. Now, don't ruin it, CareerBuilder.com says.
California to get pummeled with more snow: Heavy rains prompted the emergency evacuation Monday of nearly 2,000 residents of a flooding Southern California town and the temporary closure of at least two highways because of mudslides.

Filed under: Most Popular
Blitzer: Korean tensions 'eased significantly'
December 20th, 2010
08:52 PM ET

Blitzer: Korean tensions 'eased significantly'

CNN’s Wolf Blitzer (far right) has been in Pyongyang, North Korea, covering New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson’s (center) diplomatic talks with the North Koreans.  He was the only journalist on Richardson’s trip to North Korea. He spoke via phone Monday evening to CNN's Senior Political Correspondent Candy Crowley.

Crowley: Joining me now is Wolf Blitzer from Pyongyang. He's been over there covering New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson in these delicate, delicate times for North Korea. Give me a sense when you first learned and how you first learned that North Korea was backing off and would not retaliate against the South for the South’s live fire exercises?

Blitzer: “It's interesting. Candy - throughout the days that I was here covering Richardson's talks, and he met with top-ranking North Korean officials, I kept hearing some - at least private comments to me as a reporter - that seemed to be a little bit more moderate, a little bit more responsible than some of the earlier statements that they made for propaganda purposes. But I assumed that once the South Koreans began their live-fire exercise on this island, that the North Koreans would respond militarily with some sort of retaliation - that's the statement going into the exercise that the North Korean military had made. I assume when they make a statement like that, they’re not going to back down.

It was not only encouraging, but surprising to me, at least, when they formally said, ‚ÄėYou know what? We're not going to respond militarily. Right now, it's not worth it.‚Äô With hindsight, I think it came on the heels of the North Koreans agreeing to some of Richardson‚Äôs proposals to create a hot line ‚Äď at least they were receptive to creating a military-to-military hot line between North and South Korea - a joint military commission involving the U.S. and both Koreas as well as allowing international atomic agency monitors to come back and start inspecting the nuclear facility.

So there was a series of steps that were coming through.  At least in the statements the North Koreans were making to me,  they seemed more moderate. But I was still surprised when they formally announced they weren't going to retaliate. That seemed to be a new opening. And maybe there's a new chapter. But of course, we'll have to wait and see.

Crowley: When you talk about the things that Bill Richardson, the outgoing governor of New Mexico proposed, he has no official standing with the administration. They clearly know he’s on this trip, they’ll clearly debrief him when he gets back. But when he says things like 'OK there should be a hot line, and you should do this or that,' is there anything that he - the governor - knows that says to him that South Korea will go along with these things if the administration is on board or is this pure freelancing?

Blitzer: I don't think it's pure freelancing. Certainly the North Koreans don't consider him to be a freelancer even though he's here as a private citizen. The Obama administration said to him if you want to go, go. Six months ago, ¬†they said to him ‚Äúdon‚Äôt go‚ÄĚ after the torpedo destruction of that South Korean warship the Cheonan that killed 46 South Korean families.

At that point, he was invited and the Obama administration said ‚Äúdon't go.‚ÄĚ He didn‚Äôt go. This time they didn‚Äôt tell him not to go, so he‚Äôs here. I think they look at him as a United States official, basically, and all of the meetings that I covered, it seems like a government-to-government meeting. He's there at the table with two or three aides and they‚Äôve got a whole team on the other side of the table with note takers. It looks very, very formal.

These meetings he’s having are anything but informal. I’m sure he’ll go back, brief the Obama administration on what happened, what he saw, what he learned. I assume it will be useful for the Korean experts in Washington. I think he leaves here encouraged by the specific proposals that they accepted but more importantly that they refrained from escalating this crisis.

This could have been a disaster. This is the most dangerous spot on Earth right now. One million North Korean forces over the DMZ.  On the other side, hundreds of thousands of South Korean forces, 30,000 American soldiers in between, not only with artillery, rockets, but nuclear weapons. This thing could have escalated, it could have exploded, a tinderbox as Richardson kept calling it. The fact that it's calm now, quiet for the time being, it’s not over with by any means, but it's been eased significantly. I think it's encouraging.


Filed under: North Korea • South Korea
Strangers in the night: Lunar eclipse, solstice meet again
December 20th, 2010
08:48 PM ET

Strangers in the night: Lunar eclipse, solstice meet again

It's not every lifetime that you get a chance to celebrate a solstice with a total eclipse of the moon.

Weather permitting, a lunar eclipse will be visible from 1:33 to 5:01 a.m. ET Tuesday, with the total eclipse starting at about 2:41 a.m., according to NASA.

The eclipse happens to be on the day of a solstice (first day of winter for the Northern Hemisphere; first day of summer for the Southern Hemisphere). The last time a lunar eclipse happened on a solstice was 372 years ago, in 1638, the U.S. Naval Observatory’s Geoff Chester told NASA.

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Filed under: Earth • Science • Space
December 20th, 2010
03:33 PM ET

Monday's intriguing people

John Devlin

The heavy equipment operator was one of the many first responders who worked in the toxic plume at ground zero after the 9/11 terrorist attacks. With three other workers, he told "Daily Show" host Jon Stewart that he couldn't understand why the Senate wasn't taking up debate on a bill that would provide other responders with health care for ills related to their efforts. And on Monday, New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg joined others demanding that the Senate vote on the measure. "We didn't turn our back on anybody. For us to be here now, nine years later, still fighting just for our health, for our compensation?" asked an incredulous Devlin, who said he has late-stage throat cancer.  The bill has been in legislative limbo since Thursday, when Senate Democrats failed to win a procedural vote to open debate on it.

Shana Greatman Swers

The Washington Post published a beautiful, creatively told story about the 35-year-old consultant's pregnancy and her tragic death from post-birth complications. The material for the story, which chronicles the new mother's  joy, heartache and fear, was taken directly from her Facebook postings. Her husband granted journalist Ian Shapira permission to write the piece. The story is garnering much attention both for its content and for the way it was written.

Martin Gaskell

The University of Texas astronomer is suing the University of Kentucky for not hiring him several years ago. He says Kentucky passed on him because he has evangelical Christian beliefs. Among the evidence he says he will present in his case, scheduled for February 2011, is an e-mail from a university staff member saying she found links to his notes and lectures exploring how the Bible relates to astronomy. Science blogs are buzzing about the case.

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Filed under: New York • Religion • Science • September 11 • Terrorism
Results of 2010 Census to be released
December 20th, 2010
02:23 PM ET

Results of 2010 Census to be released

How many people live in the United States, and which states will gain and lose congressional seats as the result of population shifts?

The U.S. Census Bureau will answer those questions Tuesday.

The first official results from the 2010 Census will be released at 11 a.m. ET, including the nation's total resident population and new congressional apportionment totals for each state.

The census determines how many representatives each state gets in Congress, and states base the size and shape of their districts in part on census figures.

CNN.com and CNNMoney.com will provide complete coverage, including a look at the fastest- and slowest-growing states. The data could provide insight into whether the nation's two-year economic downturn has forced people to move.

You can watch a live webcast of the announcement here.

And while the government may not be known for kicking out exciting graphics, the Census Bureau has posted a cool interactive map showing how the population has moved with every 10-year count since 1910.

The Census Bureau has previously released snapshots of data through the American Community Survey, but that is based on sampling, not on the complete count taken last spring.

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Filed under: Census • Congress • Economy • Politics • U.S.
N.Y. governor fined $62,125
December 20th, 2010
12:30 PM ET

N.Y. governor fined $62,125

A state ethics board on Monday fined New York Gov. David A. Paterson $62,125 for "soliciting, accepting and receiving" five free World Series tickets in 2009.

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Filed under: Politics • U.S.
The weather outside is frightful almost everywhere
December 20th, 2010
12:14 PM ET

The weather outside is frightful almost everywhere

Wherever you may be today, there's a good chance you're walking in a winter wonderland. Mostly because it isn't safe to drive or fly.

A winter storm warning remained in effect through Monday afternoon for California's Sierra Nevada mountains, where 5 to 10 feet of snow could accumulate on top of the 9 to 10 feet that fell in some areas Sunday.

Heavy rains prompted the emergency evacuation Monday of nearly 2,000 residents of a flooding Southern California town and the
temporary closure of at least two highways because of mudslides.

Residents near McFarland were being evacuated Monday because of what Fire Department spokesman Sean Collins called "major flooding."

The area has been inundated with rain for four days, with totals ranging as high as 10 inches. The National Weather Service said additional rain is expected in the area through Tuesday.

Heavy snow was snarling air travel in Europe, where hundreds of flights were canceled in London, Paris, Frankfurt and Berlin. And just for good measure, the temperature reached zero degrees  Fahrenheit overnight in Northern Ireland.

London's Gatwick Airport was closed until Tuesday morning after 5 cm (2 inches) of snow fell in an hour Monday night, airport officials reported.

Airport staff was working to make stranded passengers "as comfortable as possible," but it advised other travelers to check before they left for the airport to make sure their flights were still scheduled.

Australians may see a white Christmas for the first time in decades after up to 11 inches of snow fell in New South Wales and smaller amounts in Victoria. Aussies traditionally sunbathe on the beach on Christmas.

Even people in Minnesota are complaining about winter weather. Punter Chris Kluwe says the outdoor stadium where his Vikings will play Monday night is unplayable because of cold and ice. Watch out, Chris: The area is under a game-time winter storm warning.

Perhaps worst of all, Lady Gaga had to postpone her Sunday night concert in Paris because her 28 trucks could not get into the city under a snow ban.

How is the weather where you are? Share your photos and video with CNN's iReport.

We asked, you responded.  Here are some of the photos of the weather mess in Europe that you sent us.

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Filed under: Australia • California • Europe • France • Germany • iReport • Lady Gaga • Minnesota • United Kingdom • Weather
Snowed under Down Under
December 20th, 2010
11:04 AM ET

Snowed under Down Under

Australians usually can only dream of a white Christmas, but not this year. A freak weather pattern has brought significant snowfall to the eastern states of New South Wales and Victoria (pictured, Mount Hotham), RedOrbit reports.

Various locations reported up to 4 inches of snow, though The Telegraph of London reported as much as 11 inches in parts of New South Wales.

"It's white, everything is white," Michelle Lovius, general manager of the Kosciuszko Chalet Hotel at Charlotte Pass, told the Telegraph.

"First thing this morning everything was just very still, very peaceful and every single thing was just blanketed in a thick cover of white."

Tuesday is the first day of summer in the Southern Hemisphere.

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Filed under: Australia • Weather • World
On the Radar: North Korea, UK terror arrests, California rain
December 20th, 2010
10:56 AM ET

On the Radar: North Korea, UK terror arrests, California rain

Tensions between Koreas - It's more calm on the Korean peninsula after South Korea's military drill. North Korea said over the weekend that the drill could ignite a war and that it would respond militarily to the exercise. But on Monday, North Korean military leaders said retaliation wasn't necessary and instead issued a warning to South Korea and the United States, according to the state-run Korean Central News Agency. New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson was in North Korea and urged the nation not to respond aggressively. (Above, South Korean marines are shown on patrol near disputed waters of the Yellow Sea.)

UK terror - British police arrested 12 men in a series of anti-terror raids. Authorities are not saying what the targets of the attack were. The suspects were arrested in London, Birmingham, Cardiff in Wales and Stoke in central England.

New and York 9/11 bill - New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg appear Monday with September 11 first responders and fire and police officials. They'll urge the Senate to pass a health care bill to help 9/11 rescue workers.

Mudslides in Southern California - There's too much rain in parts of Southern California, causing some flooding and triggering a warning for mudslides. A big storm system has been hitting the West Coast hard, and the Sierra Nevadas could get 10 feet of snow.

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Filed under: New York • North Korea • On the Radar • South Korea • United Kingdom • Weather • World
Vikings punter says outdoor field too hard
December 20th, 2010
10:25 AM ET

Vikings punter says outdoor field too hard

Minnesota Vikings punter Chris Kluwe doesn't want to play Monday night's outdoor game at TCF Bank Stadium against the Chicago Bears.

"All respect to the people that cleared the field and got it ready, you did an amazing job," Kluwe tweeted Sunday after the team conducted a walk-through at the University of Minnesota's stadium (pictured). "That being said, it's unplayable."

The game was moved to the outdoor venue after the roof collapsed at the Vikings' cozy indoor stadium, the Metrodome, under heavy snow December 12. Last week's Vikings game against the New York Giants was moved to Detroit's Ford Field, which has a roof.

Kluwe tweeted that walking on the TCF Bank Stadium turf was "like walking on concrete. ... I can only hope, however unlikely, that no one gets catstrophically (sic) injured at the trainwreck that's about to take place (Monday) night."

The punter's complaint drew some sharp jabs from other Twitter users.

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Filed under: Minnesota • Pro football • Sports • Weather
Gotta Watch: Bike giveaway; sliding cars; return theft; Morning Cup of Conan redux
December 20th, 2010
10:20 AM ET

Gotta Watch: Bike giveaway; sliding cars; return theft; Morning Cup of Conan redux

900-bike giveaway – A neighborhood in Akron, Ohio, hit by tough economic times, got an early morning surprise over the weekend when Santa rolled in riding shotgun in a big rig. Inside were 900 bicycles and tricycles, all given away by a charity called Elves and More.

Icy roads lead to demolition derby – It seems a bit cruel to plant a camera at the bottom of an icy hill and wait for havoc to ensue, but that's what a local news crew did in Spokane, Washington. The recent rash of bad weather out West lead to some big insurance claims and a ridiculous video of the slowest pile-up you may ever see.

Cleaning up in aisle two – Holiday sales are up for retailers across the country, but so are holiday scams. CNN's Susan Candiotti shows surveillance video of shoppers returning merchandise they just grabbed off the shelves. The brazen acts cost retailers $14 billion a year.

Morning Cup of Conan redux   Finally, in case you missed it, "CoCo" sits down with Mark Wahlberg for today's Morning Cup of Conan.

Monday's live video events
December 20th, 2010
07:36 AM ET

Monday's live video events

Christmas may be around the corner, but CNN.com Live doesn't take a vacation from news!  Today promises to be a busy day, thanks to the Senate debating a nuclear arms treaty, the White House dealing with the crisis in the Korean Peninsula, and Santa dropping by Wall Street.

Today's programming highlights...

10:00 am ET - Senate in session - The Senate delays its winter break even further by debating the New START nuclear arms pact between the U.S. and Russia.  A ratification vote could happen later this week.

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Filed under: On CNN.com today • Uncategorized