Signs of resilience in flooded lowlands
May 16th, 2011
10:32 PM ET

Signs of resilience in Louisiana's flooded lowlands

You can almost count on them, usually within days following a disaster, especially in the South - the "signs" emerge. Each comes to mean something to a community, whether you agree or disagree with the message. Some of the signs even become community landmarks over time.

Louisiana knows a thing or two about disaster-inspired signs. After all, the state has had its fair share of recent disasters between Hurricanes Katrina and Rita, the BP oil spill and now, record flooding along the Mississippi River. In the past six years, Louisiana has turned the making of signs to an art.

Such signs could be seen Monday in Louisiana's low-lying Atchafalaya River basin, which the Army Corps of Engineers was intentionally flooding to spare more-populated areas such as Baton Rouge and New Orleans.

"Hope you appreciate this Baton Rouge. You're welcome," read one sign posted outside a home in the path of the Atchafalaya River floodwater.

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Filed under: Louisiana • Weather
Flood evacuations through the eyes of a child
A truck was set to move the Ansley family's mobile home Monday before floodwater arrived in Krotz Springs, Louisiana.
May 16th, 2011
09:56 PM ET

Flood evacuations through the eyes of a child

Spending the day watching good, hardworking folks pack up treasured keepsakes, furniture and everything they love has an impact. As I and my CNN team on Monday visited Louisiana's St. Landry Parish - where many people were evacuating their homes because of rising water - I felt the anxiousness and worry that was so evident on residents' faces.

You don't have to tell folks here how bad high-water events can get. They know what's coming. Everywhere I looked, I wondered: What will become of these tucked-away, low-lying neighborhoods?

Everywhere you go in the parish - one of the areas in south-central Louisiana that the Army Corps of Engineers is intentionally flooding to spare more-populated areas like New Orleans - everyone is talking about the rising water. "Water’s coming!" almost seems like a passing greeting among friends here.

We went to Krotz Springs, where authorities were telling about 750 people to evacuate. It wasn’t until we pulled up to the small subdivision of Halphen Hollow and met the Ansley family that I really considered it - what would it feel like to be a child caught up in the chaos of mandatory evacuations? It's unfathomable what children must be thinking as they watch their rooms, toys, clothes being furiously packed up in a matter of hours and whisked away.

A truck was preparing to move the Ansley family's mobile home after the National Guard informed them they had until 5 p.m. to evacuate. Our team began making introductions and asking what the family's plans might be for the next couple months - that's how long they'd been warned the high water could keep them from returning to the subdivision. That's when an adorable, friendly 5-year-old girl grabbed my hand and whisked me away.

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Overheard at CNN.com: An American hero
Freedom Rider James Zwerg was attacked by an Alabama mob in 1961.
May 16th, 2011
06:12 PM ET

Overheard at CNN.com: An American hero

Comment of the Day:

"Forget the sports figures, the movie stars, the politicians, all the marquee names - THIS is a hero. This man put his life, his family bonds - his entire soul - on the line for those who were deemed less worthy than himself. Mr. Zwerg, the simple words 'thank you' are not enough."– ingyandbert

Shocking photo created a hero, but not to his family

Freedom Rider James Zwerg was savagely beaten when he stepped off the bus first at an Alabama bus station in 1961. The photo of his battered face became an unforgettable image of the civil rights movement. Honored by others for his bravery, he remained emotionally wounded by his parents' rejection of him.

CNN.com readers sent messages of admiration and appreciation for his and other Freedom Riders' courage.

themikey said, "To Mr. Zwerg and the Freedom Riders: Thank you for this powerful story of strength, courage, love, and sacrifice! You shine like a beacon of light across a marked landscape. I feel your life leaving footprints across my heart and soul."

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SI.com: Embarrassing performance for James, Wade
Dwyane Wade and LeBron James, by themselves, had almost as many turnovers as the Bulls in the Heat's loss Sunday.
May 16th, 2011
04:50 PM ET

SI.com: Embarrassing performance for James, Wade

With two dunks to kick off the NBA's Eastern Conference finals, the Miami Heat looked poised to dominate the Derrick Rose-led Bulls on Sunday.

Needless to say, things didn't go as planned.

As SI.com's Ian Thomsen explains, in a 103-82 rout of Miami, the Bulls flexed their defensive muscles early and capitalized on less-than-stellar performances from LeBron James and Dwyane Wade to win Game 1.

"This was an embarrassing performance for a pair of stars who pride themselves on team play," Thomsen writes. "The Heat's minus-5 assist-to-turnover difference (11 to 16) was written in fire-engine red ink. James and Wade shared equal blame in a combined eight turnovers, one fewer than Chicago as a team. The Bulls have now won all four games this season against Miami, and this was their most important and emphatic victory. It was a triumph of team play against two individuals."

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Shirley Sherrod may work with USDA again
Shirley Sherrod speaks at a press conference last August at the Department of Agriculture.
May 16th, 2011
03:48 PM ET

Shirley Sherrod may work with USDA again

Shirley Sherrod, who made headlines last summer when she was forced to resign her job with the Department of Agriculture after incomplete video footage of a speech she gave was posted online, may yet work with the agency again.

A spokesman for the USDA said Monday that Sherrod’s community organization, Southwest Georgia Project For Community Education, will be one of three groups chosen to work with the agency on civil rights issues.

“We anticipate that Mrs. Sherrod herself will be involved in working with the Department through the Southwest Georgia Project on a contractual basis through one of USDA’s programs that promote outreach and diversity,” Justin DeJong, spokesman for the USDA, said in an e-mail to CNN.

“Secretary [Tom] Vilsack had previously asked Mrs. Sherrod to join USDA’s Office of Advocacy and Outreach and deal directly with similar issues at USDA,” DeJong said.

Sherrod, the department's director of rural development for Georgia, resigned under pressure last July after conservative blogger Andrew Breitbart posted a portion of a speech Sherrod gave online. In that video footage, which was heavily edited and incomplete, she seemed to suggest that she did not offer her full help to a white farmer.

Sherrod later received an apology and a job offer from USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack, which she turned down, saying at the time that she wanted to work in some capacity on racial issues affecting America.

In an interview with CNN last fall, Sherrod said her rejection of the job offer was not because she didn't want to work, but she needed time to sort out her next course.  

"When you look at everything that has happened in the last four or five weeks, it makes it difficult to go back to that position," she said. "I feel at this time I could do more to address issues not as a full-time employee of USDA."

The extent of Sherrod's hands-on involvement with the USDA remains to be negotiated, Dejong said. "Conversations with Mrs. Sherrod have been positive and are ongoing."

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Judge denies bail to IMF chief accused of sexual assault
May 16th, 2011
12:56 PM ET

Judge denies bail to IMF chief accused of sexual assault

[Updated at 12:56 p.m.] The head of the International Monetary Fund, Dominique Strauss-Kahn, is charged with two counts of first-degree criminal sexual act; one count of first-degree attempted rape; one count of first-degree sexual abuse; one count of second-degree unlawful imprisonment; one count of forcible touching; and one count of third-degree sexual abuse, prosecutors said Monday.

[Posted at 12:52 p.m.] A New York judge denied bail Monday to International Monetary Fund chief Dominique Strauss-Kahn.

The head of the IMG was in court Monday to answer allegations that he chased a housekeeping employee down the hall of his swanky New York hotel suite and sexually assaulted her.

Dominique Strauss-Kahn's arraignment was delayed a day after he agreed to forensic testing requested by police, said his attorney, William Taylor. The IMF chief's other attorney, Benjamin Brafman, vowed Sunday to vigorously defend him in court, insisting his client is innocent.

Police allege Strauss-Kahn sexually assaulted the 32-year-old woman Saturday at the Sofitel hotel in Manhattan, and then quickly headed off to a New York airport to board a Paris-bound flight.

The arrest of the 62-year-old, widely considered a leading potential candidate for the French presidency, has triggered intense political chatter across the Atlantic. In France, it delivered what newspaper Le Figaro called a "thunderclap" to the presidential race. The allegations also triggered disappointment within Strauss-Kahn's Socialist party; some at the party's headquarters were in tears Monday.

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Trump: I'm not running for president
May 16th, 2011
12:55 PM ET

Trump: I'm not running for president

Real estate mogul Donald Trump will not run for the Republican presidential nomination, he said in a statement released Monday.

Read more about the decision on CNN's Political Ticker.

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Alabama BBQ master defies storms, floods to win big in Memphis
Tasty BBQ shoulder, courtesy of Big Bob Gibson's Chris Lilly.
May 16th, 2011
12:46 PM ET

Alabama BBQ master defies storms, floods to win big in Memphis

To win one of the biggest barbecue competitions in the world and walk away with $20,000 tucked into your apron, you have to know one thing.

"The greatness of a pit master is determined by the size of his ash pile. You gotta let that wood and charcoal burn and burn," said Chris Lilly, the newly crowned king of the Memphis in May World Champion Barbecue Contest. The Tennessee city, threatened by potentially historic flooding, adopted the last-minute contest theme "Come hell or high water."

Lilly, the owner of Decatur, Alabama's Big Bob Gibson BBQ, knows a thing or two about cooking at all costs. He spent most of early May "dodging a heck of a lot of tornadoes."

"My wife and two kids were in Tuscaloosa, so Memphis in May was a breather from all the doom and gloom," he said.

Lilly, who has won the prestigious championship multiple times, learned how to smoke his winning 20-pound pork shoulder from his wife's father. Her great-great-grandfather founded the restaurant in 1925.

The family business has grown over the years. Lilly today operates two Big Bob's in North Carolina and two in Alabama. The demanding job requires that he get to work before 6 a.m. every day to stoke the pits.

"They never get cold," he said. "By the time we open for lunch, that meat has got to be falling off the bone."

The restaurant is known for its barbecued whole chickens, which are dipped in a vat of tangy, peppery white sauce made from mayo, apple juice, peppered horseradish, ground black pepper, lemon juice and cayenne.

Asked whether his $20,000 will go to buying more pork shoulder or chickens, Lilly laughed. "No, I've got two kids in college," he said. "That money is probably going to the University of Alabama."

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Wildfire destroys half of town of 9,800
A building in Slave Lake, Alberta, burns Sunday. A wildfire has destroyed at least half the town of 9,800, according to media reports.
May 16th, 2011
12:20 PM ET

Wildfire destroys half of town of 9,800

An out-of-control wildfire has burned at least half of a Canadian town of 9,800, forcing its residents to flee in a slow-moving convoy on the only highway out of town.

Hundreds of buildings in the northern Alberta town of Slave Lake have been destroyed, including the town hall and police station, CNN affiliate CTV reported. No injuries have been reported.

“It’s extremely devastating, our loss. It’s difficult to articulate,” Slave Lake Mayor Karina Pillay-Kinnee told the Globe and Mail late Sunday.

The wildfire started east of the town, then split into two and encircled the town, Rob Harris, a fire information officer with Sustainable Resource Development, told the Edmonton Journal.

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Monday's intriguing people
Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner is charged with finding money to keep the government afloat until August.
May 16th, 2011
11:34 AM ET

Monday's intriguing people

Timothy Geithner

The U.S. government hits its credit limit of $14.3 trillion Monday, and the U.S. Treasury secretary will begin scrambling to find cash to float the government until August 2. While budget negotiations are being led by Vice President Joseph Biden, Geithner estimates that at least $2 trillion is needed to keep the government running. NPR's Jacob Goldstein estimates that to balance the budget, taxes will have to be raised or spending will need to be cut. By itself, spending would need to be cut by 40 percent, which is equivalent to "every penny" of discretionary spending, including the defense budget, Goldstein said.

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Gotta Watch: Commencement superstars
Comedian Will Ferrell speaks at the 2003 Harvard commencement ceremony.
May 16th, 2011
11:18 AM ET

Gotta Watch: Commencement superstars

It's that time of year. Recent grads are pouring into the world bright-eyed and full of commencement wisdom. These are a few of our favorite commencement speeches that may or may not contain worthy wisdom but will surely keep your attention.

School of hard knocks – You can bet these Harvard graduates in 2003 remember their graduation day regardless of how hung-over they might have been. When comedian Will Ferrell shows up wearing a boating outfit, it would be hard to forget.

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Rare May snowstorm sets back California cycling race
A snowman holds a sign along the route that would have been the first stage of the Amgen Tour of California cycling race.
May 16th, 2011
11:08 AM ET

Rare May snowstorm sets back California cycling race

A rare mid-May snowstorm forced organizers to cancel the first stage of the Amgen Tour of California cycling race on Sunday and move the start location of the second leg on Monday.

The beginning of the second stage Monday will now be in Nevada City, California, instead of Squaw Valley, organizers reported on their website.

The Amgen Tour of California is described as a Tour de France-type event and the largest cycling race in the country. The world's top cycling teams compete.

Officials changed the stage two start point after the snow forced the closure of the Donner Pass on Highway 80, the only exit from the High Sierra to California's Central Valley and a key section of the original stage two route, Cyclingnews.com reported.

Race organizers canceled the first stage of the tour on Sunday when the storm dumped up to 7 inches of snow over some parts of the Lake Tahoe and Truckee areas, the Union.com reported.

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Space Shuttle Endeavour lifts off for final mission
May 16th, 2011
09:00 AM ET

Space Shuttle Endeavour lifts off for final mission

The space shuttle Endeavour lifted off on its last mission Monday morning, NASA said.

The shuttle's mission is commanded by Mark Kelly. His wife, U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, D-Arizona, arrived safely at the Kennedy Space Center Sunday, NASA said, four months after being shot in the head during an assassination attempt at a public event in Tucson, Arizona.

After initial treatment in Arizona, Giffords has been undergoing rehabilitation at the TIRR Memorial Hermann center in Houston.

Photos of the shuttle and NASA's launch countdown clock were posted on her Facebook page Monday morning.

Giffords, along with President Barack Obama, was in Florida on April 29, when Endeavour was originally slated to launch. That liftoff was scrubbed because of a problem with a heater aboard the shuttle.

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ICC requests arrest warrants for Gadhafi, two others
Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi seen on Libyan state TV last week.
May 16th, 2011
07:41 AM ET

ICC requests arrest warrants for Gadhafi, two others

The chief prosecutor of the International Criminal Court on Monday requested arrest warrants for Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi, his son and his brother-in-law, saying there is evidence Gadhafi has committed crimes against humanity in his efforts to maintain hold over the country in a months-long battle.

Luis Moreno-Ocampo said his office "gathered direct evidence about orders issued by Moammar Gadhafi himself, direct evidence of Saif al-Islam Gadhafi organizing the recruitment of mercenaries and direct evidence of the participation of (Abdullah) al-Sanussi in the attacks against demonstrators." Al-Sanussi, the brother-in-law, is Gadhafi's head of intelligence and chief enforcer.

"The evidence shows that civilians were attacked in their homes; demonstrations were repressed using live ammunition; heavy artillery was used against participants in funeral processions, and snipers placed to kill those leaving the mosques after the prayers," Moreno-Ocampo said in a statement.

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Las Vegas' Sahara Hotel and Casino closing after more than 58 years
The Sahara Hotel and Casino opened in 1952. The landmark’s final guest is scheduled to check out around noon Monday.
May 16th, 2011
07:40 AM ET

Las Vegas' Sahara Hotel and Casino closing after more than 58 years

The Sahara Hotel and Casino, a fixture on the Las Vegas Strip since 1952, closes Monday for good.

The Sahara was the sixth casino built on the Strip, the Las Vegas Sun reported, and cashed in as Las Vegas grew as a gambling mecca.

"It would be nothing to go to work and make 300, 500, 2,700 [dollars] in four hours. You know that's just the way it was in the old days," John Law, who worked as a dealer at the Sahara 31 years ago, told CNN affiliate KTNV.

The hotel once showcased some of the biggest stars on the Strip, including comedians Don Rickles and Johnny Carson and singers Dean Martin and Tina Turner. The Jerry Lewis Muscular Dystrophy Telethon originated from the Sahara for 20 years. And the Sahara in 1964 brought the Beatles to Las Vegas for $25,000, though it hosted their show in the Las Vegas Convention Center because the hotel's 600-seat showroom couldn't handle the crowd, according to the Sun.

But newer, bigger resorts have eclipsed the 1,720-room Sahara.

While high rollers moved on to newer properties, the Sahara featured dollar deals.

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Monday's live video events
May 16th, 2011
07:32 AM ET

Monday's live video events

A space shuttle looks to head into orbit one last time.  Watch CNN.com Live for continuing coverage of space shuttle Endeavour.

Today's programming highlights...

8:30 am ET - Casey Anthony jury selection - Jury selection continues in the case of Casey Anthony, the Florida woman accused of killing her young daughter.

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On the Radar: Debt ceiling, beaten baseball fan, cyber security
Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner has said he can prevent a federal default until August 2.
May 16th, 2011
07:04 AM ET

On the Radar: Debt ceiling, beaten baseball fan, cyber security

Debt ceiling: The federal government reaches its current debt ceiling of roughly $14.3 trillion on Monday, although Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner has indicated in a letter to Congress he can keep the country out of default until August 2.

Analysts warn that a failure to reach an agreement in time to avoid a national default could have devastating consequences. Among other things, Americans could be faced with skyrocketing interest rates and a plummeting dollar which could lead to a higher cost of living.

Republicans are pushing for spending cuts before agreeing to any plan to raise the debt ceiling.

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, speaking to CNN's Candy Crowley on Sunday, called on Congress to institute a spending ceiling for the next two years and also address discretionary and mandatory spending and entitlement reforms, including Medicare and Social Security.

He said a deal that receives a positive prognosis from credit rating agency Standard & Poor's would win his support.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid said last week that President Barack Obama has instructed Democrats to get a deal done on the debt ceiling.

Reid said deciding what to cut in the budget will not be easy but he maintained "all options are open."

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