Tuscaloosa mayor: Eyes back on tornado catastrophe
More than 5,700 structures were damaged or destroyed in Tuscaloosa, Alabama, alone last week.
May 5th, 2011
11:51 PM ET

Tuscaloosa mayor: Eyes back on tornado catastrophe

The tornadoes weren't forgotten. The families of the hundreds who were killed in last week's record outbreak that flattened towns in the South, and the tens of thousands whose homes or businesses were damaged, and the many donors and volunteers who rushed to their aid from around the world didn't forget about the destruction, even after the United States announced it had killed Osama bin Laden.

But the terrorist mastermind's death has dominated national headlines since Sunday night, pushing tornado disaster reports, while still being made, down the pecking order. The mayor of Tuscaloosa - the University of Alabama city where at least 41 died and 25 still are missing - noticed.

Mayor Walter Maddox said this week that "with Tuscaloosa no longer being in the national media, I believe it can present a problem in terms of reminding the nation that what we face down here is a catastrophe," according to The Crimson White.

He understands why bin Laden caught the headlines, but the South's devastated communities will need sustained attention from the public and the federal government, he told CNN in a phone interview Thursday.

"Our state was hit with a Katrina-like event with less than 10 to 15 minutes' notice, and it's going to take years for our state and this city to recover," Maddox said. "What is important ... is (maintaining) the support from the federal government, and a lot of that will be borne out of the attention in this nation."

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Filed under: Alabama • Tornadoes • Weather
Future funding for special operations forces looks bright, analysts say
American special operations such as Navy SEALS focus on 'high-value targets' in commando raids.
May 5th, 2011
07:34 PM ET

Future funding for special operations forces looks bright, analysts say

The Navy SEAL mission that killed Osama bin Laden highlights the return on investment the United States gets from special operations forces, analysts said.

Special operations forces receive about $10 billion, or 2 percent, of an annual defense budget of $670 billion, said Travis Sharp, researcher with Center for a New American Security, a think tank that focuses on terrorism and irregular warfare techniques.

"Special operations have become such a large part of what we do," said Sharp. "They've come to dominate actually, a lot of the policy agendas for people hear in Washington."

The drawn-out deployment in Afghanistan proves terrorism isn't fought with 100,000 boots on the ground, said Democratic Congressman John Garamendi, who serves on the House Armed Services Committee. It's deep intelligence gathering coupled with smaller special ops forces, whose skill set proves invaluable in sensitive missions targeting terrorists.

"It's quick, it's stealthy, it's deadly and it’s effective,” he said.

Special operations forces have been around for a while. The Army’s elite Green Berets formed in 1952 and the NAVY created the first SEAL team in 1962. Vietnam and the guerrilla warfare tactics of the North Vietnamese army made it apparent to military leaders and strategists that it wasn't about how much territory you controlled, but rather, finding and eliminating an elusive enemy.

The SEAL Team 6 was created in 1980 after a failed mission to rescue Americans in Iran. The Air Force created a special operations wing in 1983. The Marines have the youngest special forces command, which was formed in 2005.

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Filed under: Military • Osama bin Laden • Terrorism
Feds issue rail alert following bin Laden raid
May 5th, 2011
06:06 PM ET

Feds issue rail alert following bin Laden raid

This U.S. Department of Homeland Security has issued an unclassified notice stressing security on U.S. railways - an alert prompted, according to a U.S. law enforcement source, by information gleaned from this week's raid on Osama bin Laden's Pakistani compound.

The notice says that, in February 2010, al Qaeda members discussed a plan to derail trains in the United States by placing obstructions on tracks, according to a source who received the notice.

The plan was to be executed this fall, on the 10th anniversary of the September 11, 2001, attacks. But no specific city or rail system was identified in the notice, the source said.

"I would not view it as an operational plan," the source said. "I am not aware that anyone was tasked to carry it out."

Bin Laden was killed early Monday morning at the Pakistani housing compound where he was staying by a team of U.S. Navy SEALs, U.S. officials have said.

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Filed under: Al Qaeda • Osama bin Laden • Terrorism
Overheard on CNN.com: Growing up in the shadow of 9/11
May 5th, 2011
05:54 PM ET

Overheard on CNN.com: Growing up in the shadow of 9/11

Comment of the day:

"We gotta raise the bar for what is considered human." –damnthatsux

The 9/11 generation's bogeyman is gone

Why did American college students celebrate Osama bin Laden’s death so exuberantly? Experiencing 9/11 when young may have changed them in ways their grandparents would best understand, wrote Ann O'Neill. For both generations, she said, there were faces they could put to evil: Osama bin Laden and Adolf Hitler.

The story had many from both sides of the 9/11 generational divide sharing their experiences. jpr11011, who was 6 years old on 9/11, said, "I don't remember a world without terrorism. I don't remember flying without extensive security checks. I don't remember when we didn't have troops in the Middle East. I was whooping and hollering when bin Laden was finally killed! We were all so excited at school."

choice0047 said, "Ha, grownups have no idea what young children went through on that day. In Maryland, our schools went on lockdown and we were sent home. Turning on the television before our parents got home and seeing everything happen while alone was traumatizing. After that I never wanted to be on a plane again. As 8-, 9- or 10-year-olds we didn't understand what was going on. I worried about my dad working a block away from the White House and wondered what other buildings would be struck."

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Obama to meet with special ops involved in bin Laden raid
President Barack Obama lays a wreath at the 9/11 Memorial on Thursday. He is to visit with U.S. special operations troops Friday.
May 5th, 2011
03:52 PM ET

Obama to meet with special ops involved in bin Laden raid

A day after joining survivors of the September 11 attacks in New York City, President Barack Obama will meet with those who killed the leader of the group behind the plot, Osama bin Laden, a senior administration official said Thursday.

Obama will travel to Fort Campbell in Kentucky on Friday "to privately thank some of the special operators involved in the operation," according to the official. On Wednesday, the president met at the White House with Adm. William McRaven, the head of the Joint Special Operations Command "to thank him personally," the official said.

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Filed under: Al Qaeda • Military • Osama bin Laden • Terrorism • U.S. Navy
Fidel Castro calls bin Laden killing an assassination
Fidel Castro criticized the U.S. for killing Osama bin Laden.
May 5th, 2011
02:00 PM ET

Fidel Castro calls bin Laden killing an assassination

Former Cuban President Fidel Castro is slamming the method used to kill Osama bin Laden, saying there is no excuse for "assassinating" an unarmed man in front of his family.

"Whatever the actions attributed to bin Laden, the assassination of an unarmed human being surrounded by his family constitutes an abhorrent act," Castro wrote in an essay published in state media. Castro criticized bin Laden for "international terrorism" and said Cuba showed solidarity with the United States after the "brutal" September 11 attacks. However, in the article Castro calls the killing of bin Laden an "execution" by U.S. Navy SEALs and says the attack and the subsequent burial at sea "show fear and insecurity, and turn him into a much more dangerous person."

The news come on the heels of the sentencing of a Chilean businessman in Cuban court, state news in Cuba reported Thursday. Max Marambio, whose company Rio Zaza made juices and milk, was once a close friend of Castro's. He was sentenced to 20 years in prison after being convicted in absentia of bribery and fraud. FULL STORY

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Spokesman: Bin Laden's wife said she didn't leave compound for five years
Pakistani policemen guard the compound in Abbottabad where al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden was killed.
May 5th, 2011
01:07 PM ET

Spokesman: Bin Laden's wife said she didn't leave compound for five years

[Updated at 1:07 p.m.] For years there has been speculation about the health of Osama bin Laden. A US official says at this point there is no information to suggest there was medical equipment, such as a dialysis machine, at the compound.

The official says no autopsy was done on bin Laden.

[Updated at 12:38 p.m.] Osama bin Laden's wife has told interrogators she didn't venture outside the walled compound where the al Qaeda leader was killed for five years, a Pakistani military spokesman said Thursday.

The wife, who was wounded in the raid, said she lived in the compound in Abbottabad with eight of bin Laden's children and five others from another family, Maj. Gen. Athar Abbas told CNN. All of them have been in Pakistani custody since the pre-dawn U.S. commando raid that killed bin Laden and will be returned to their country of origin, Abbas said.

Abbas said he wasn't sure from her questioning how long bin Laden had lived there himself or whether he had ventured outside.

[Updated at 10:54 a.m.] Pakistan has ordered U.S. military personnel on its territory drawn down to the "minimum essential" level in the wake of the assault that killed bin Laden deep within Pakistan early Monday, a military statement announced.

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Filed under: National security • Osama bin Laden • Pakistan • Terrorism • U.S.
May 5th, 2011
12:49 PM ET

Moderate earthquakes strike Mexico, Alaska, Japan

Moderate earthquakes struck in Mexico, Alaska and Japan on Thursday, the U.S. Geological Survey said.

The first earthquake with a preliminary magnitude of 5.8 struck in southwestern Mexico, in the state of Guerrero, according to the USGS. The Mexican Seismological Service put the magnitude at 5.5. Many people exited the buildings they were in, but there were no immediate reports of damage.

Then a 5.8 magnitude earthquake was recorded on the Alaska Peninsula 14 miles south of Sand Point, Alaska and 573 miles southwest of Anchorage.

It was followed by a 6.1 earthquake that hit below the sea floor off the coast of the Japanese island of Honshu Thursday, the U.S. Geological Survey said. The depth of the quake is 15 miles, the USGS said and the epicenter is located 172 miles from Sendai, near the same zone as the aftershocks that followed the March 11 quake. The Japan Meteorological Agency has so far not released any tsunami warning.

Julie Dutton, a geophysicist with the U.S. Geological Survey in Golden, Colorado, said that while it makes some people wary to see several moderate earthquakes (ones that register between 5.0 and 5.9) occurring in such a short time span, it isn't out of the norm.

"It's not something that occurs every day, but this is definitely not something we haven't seen before, or that we won't see again," she told CNN. "Earthquakes are kind of cyclic and sometimes it'll just happen that you'll have an influx of earthquakes around the same time. Other times they'll just be spread out."

For example, Dutton said there was a day in the past week where there were 12 moderate earthquakes recorded in one day. She acknowledged that on that day, they were on the lower part of the moderate scale, and that these three were a bit higher, but said it was certainly not something to be overly concerned about.

"We've had five or six of them every day for the last week, so it's definitely not something that we're concerned about," she said. "Its just pretty random at this point and it just happened that a bunch were higher today."

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Thursday's intriguing people
May 5th, 2011
12:08 PM ET

Thursday's intriguing people

Vice Adm. William McRaven

The former Navy SEAL oversaw the operation that led to the killing of Osama bin Laden, according to the Washington Post. McRaven is described as a square-jawed Texan and one of the most experienced terrorism hunters in the U.S. government.

He has spent years tracking bin Laden, and much of the past two months were devoted to extensive preparations involving the Navy SEALs' elite Team 6. McRaven apparently oversaw the operation from the Joint Operations Center in Bagram, Afghanistan.

FULL POST

Gotta Watch: The tornado story that was
The April 27-28 tornado outbreak caused 327 deaths, making it the 3rd deadliest tornado outbreak in U.S. history.
May 5th, 2011
11:49 AM ET

Gotta Watch: The tornado story that was

Until the royal wedding and death of Osama bin Laden grasped the nation's attention, the country focused on the tornadic devastation that killed hundreds and leveled towns. The severe weather, which smacked several states, spawned at least 178 tornadoes - making it the largest tornado outbreak in U.S. history. In today's Gotta Watch we revisit the survivors of the storms and find out what's next for the distressed victims and towns.

Looking on the bright side – Only the steps of Josh Spurgin's home remain. A day after a tornado ripped through his Higdon, Alabama neighborhood, all he saw was remnants of his home and a community demolished. Despite losing neighbors to the storms, the 23-year-old is concentrating not on the loss, but on all the outpouring of support people have offered him and his family.

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SI.com: Lakers sweating it, but Angels beat Red Sox
Dirk Nowitzki of the Dallas Mavericks goes up for a shot between Ron Artest and Pau Gasol of the Lakers Wednesday.
May 5th, 2011
11:49 AM ET

SI.com: Lakers sweating it, but Angels beat Red Sox

If you're the Los Angeles Lakers, now might be a good time to start worrying. With their second-consecutive Western Conference semifinals loss to the Dallas Mavericks, the reigning champions are looking less and less likely to deliver possibly departing Phil Jackson his 12th NBA title.

As SI.com's Sam Amick explains the Mavs' 93-81 rout of the Lakers was not simply the result of another lackluster performance from forward Pau Gasol. Or a virtually nonexistent defense that did little to stop the charges of Mavs point guard J.J. Barea. Instead, the toll of the playoffs could finally be catching up to L.A. "The Lakers continue to downplay the fatigue factor, not only from this season in which the target remained firmly on their back, but also the miles logged from three straight trips to the Finals," Amick writes. "Whatever the reason, the mountain of evidence against them is now taller than Bynum and Gasol combined."

While it's too early to completely rule out a Lakers comeback, if Games 1 and 2 were any indication, Los Angeles has its work cut out for it if the team is going to reconceptualize its defense, utilize a far more pass-driven offense and stage an impressive comeback.

Up tonight: Vancouver Canucks vs. Nashville Predators (8:30 p.m., ET) - In Game 4 of the Western Conference Semifinals, the Canucks are hoping that a home-ice advantage could be just what they need to tie up the series.

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Filed under: Baseball • Basketball • NBA • Sports
'Heart-wrenching' feeling as flooding destroys homes, land and a way of life
Farmer Bob Byrne looks out on the flooding that damaged his land -- and $40,000 worth of wheat crop.
May 5th, 2011
10:46 AM ET

'Heart-wrenching' feeling as flooding destroys homes, land and a way of life

In Mississippi County, Missouri, where the Ohio and Mississippi rivers meet, water hasn't been this high since 1937.

It was that flood that prompted the Flood Control Act of 1937 and the construction of an interstate system of levees. Parts of those levees were designed to open up a flood way in extreme flooding situations. That opening would relieve pressure on the system during major flood events and actually lower flood stages.

With the Mississippi and Ohio rivers surpassing the record levels of 1937 this spring in Southeast Missouri, the Army Corps of Engineers has used explosives to do just that. The intentional opening of the levee is meant to save some river towns like Cairo, Illinois, but has inundated fertile farmland in the flood plain of Mississippi County, Missouri, with flood water.

Bob Byrne owns 550 acres of land inside the flood plain that has been in his family for more than 100 years.

"I was standing on top of the levee back here when it went and it's just kind of heart-wrenching, just a sinking feeling," Byrne said.

"We've seen the Ohio River rampage, water right up to the top of the levee. We've seen this one (Mississippi) on the rampage, but never the two together," he said.

iReport: Are you there? Share your photos and videos from the scene, but please stay safe. 

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On the Radar: Flooding in U.S. heartland, Obama at WTC site, slain gay activist
Friends help remove furniture from a flooded house in Tiptonville, Tennessee, on Wednesday.
May 5th, 2011
10:39 AM ET

On the Radar: Flooding in U.S. heartland, Obama at WTC site, slain gay activist

Flooding in Midwest, South The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers said it intends to continue a controversial plan to breach a levee on the Mississippi River to help stop catastrophic floods in several states. The group wants to open the final crevasse in the Birds Point-New Madrid levee, moving ahead with a plan to blast holes in it to ease unprecedented flood pressure. The Corps started the blasting Monday.

Some who live where the Ohio and Mississippi rivers meet said it has helped. The Ohio River level at Cairo, Illinois, has dropped nearly 2 feet since Monday afternoon. Officials said they believe the levels would be up to 3 feet higher now if the levee had not been detonated.

Despite the plan, many areas were inundated as the Mississippi River spilled out across huge swaths of farmland, creating massive flooding from Minnesota to Louisiana. Part of westbound Interstate 40 was shut down in eastern Arkansas on Thursday due to flooding, state police said.

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Filed under: Africa • Al Qaeda • Arkansas • Illinois • Mississippi • Ohio • On the Radar • Osama bin Laden • September 11 • Terrorism
New 2010 Census data offers state-by-state look at age, racial profiles
New Census data also reveals the number of homes being rented or for sale on the open market.
May 5th, 2011
10:15 AM ET

New 2010 Census data offers state-by-state look at age, racial profiles

New 2010 Census data released Thursday provides a detailed breakdown of age, gender and race, in 13 states along various geographic lines, including zip code and county levels.

The first data release from the "Profile of General Population and Housing Characteristics: 2010" includes information for the District of Columbia, Florida, Kentucky, Maine, Massachusetts, Michigan, Mississippi, New Mexico, North Dakota, Rhode Island, South Carolina, Tennessee and West Virginia.

Median ages in this group range from 33.8 in DC to 42.7 in Maine. The bureau is releasing the information in groups of states on a weekly basis in May. National data will be released at the end of the month. Data for individual states can be found on the Census Bureau's American FactFinder.

The new figures break down male and female populations into age groups and identifies households by relationship and type. The data set also includes the size of group quarters and housing occupancy status, such as rentals, homes for sale and seasonal units.

The numbers illustrate trends previously reported on the local level, such as the growing Hispanic population, outmigration from the northeast to the southeast and flips in major cities from majority white to minority white populations, said Kenneth Prewitt, former Census Bureau director and vice president for Global Centers at Columbia University. But the decennial census results bring together those small pieces of the puzzle to create a picture of what the country looks like as a whole and where it's headed, he said.

"Anyone who closely follows what's going on in demography will not learn much new from these numbers, but there's something about the decennial Census that attracts attention because it's a highly visible moment where the country pauses and takes a look at itself," he said.

The data also takes a closer look at the origins of people who identified on the decennial census as Hispanic or Latino Mexican, Puerto Rican, Cuban or other Asian Asian Indian, Chinese, Filipino, Japanese, Korean and Vietnamese Native Hawaiian Guamanian or Chamorro or Samoa or multiracial.

New York University sociology professor Ann Morning, who specializes in race and ethnicity and racial classification, said aggregate breakdowns of the number of people who identified as multiracial and their ages could be useful for making projections regarding the country's racial makeup.

"We're not seeing these shifts for the first time the question of whether this nation is becoming less white, that's been happening since 1950s. But are we becoming more multiracial?" she said. "It will be interested to see how age breakdowns of different mixed groups look compared to 2000 data."

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Filed under: Census
May 5th, 2011
07:43 AM ET

Thursday's live video events

President Obama heads to the World Trade Center site in New York today to honor the victims of the 9/11 attacks.  Watch CNN.com Live for coverage on this story.

Today's programming highlights...

9:45 am ET - Exiting Afghanistan briefing - Now that Osama bin Laden is dead, what does this mean for the U.S. military's presence in Afghanistan?  Two House lawmakers will unveil legislation calling for the president to submit a timeline for withdrawing U.S. troops from the country.

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Filed under: Afghanistan • Al Qaeda • Barack Obama • Democratic Party • District of Columbia • Facebook • Military • New York • On CNN.com today • Osama bin Laden • Pakistan • Politics • Republican Party • Security • September 11 • Technology • Terrorism • Texting • Twitter • U.S. • Virginia • War • World • YouTube
2009 Air France crash victim pulled from ocean
This June 11, 2009, photo shows the dead recovered at that time being taken away after Air France crashed.
May 5th, 2011
07:05 AM ET

2009 Air France crash victim pulled from ocean

The body of one of the victims of Air France Flight 447 was recovered from deep in the Atlantic Ocean, French authorities said Thursday. Even though the body had been submerged for two years, authorities were able to locate it. It was still attached to the seat of the Air France plane, the French Foreign Ministry said.

The announcement comes days after the cockpit voice recorder from the flight was located. The Air France plane crashed mysteriously nearly two years ago, killing all 228 people on board. The plane crashed in stormy weather en route to Paris from Brazil on June 1, 2009. It took nearly two years and a massive undersea search to locate the bulk of the wreckage.

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Filed under: Air travel • Brazil • France
Flooding closes I-40 in Arkansas
Biscoe, Arkansas, was flooded on Wednesday.
May 5th, 2011
06:35 AM ET

Flooding closes I-40 in Arkansas

More than 20 miles of westbound Interstate 40 in eastern Arkansas is closed due to flooding, state police reported early Thursday. The closure is between the towns of Hazen and Brinkley, according to Lt. Jackie Clark, who said he expects the eastbound lanes to close later in the day.

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Filed under: Arkansas