June 14th, 2011
08:58 PM ET

CNN reporter, briefly in Syria, hears 'horror' stories

As the Syrian military on Tuesday continued its relentless advance against protesters, citizens who had fled their homes for safety related "horror story upon horror story" to a reporter who managed to enter the country.

Despite the Syrian government's consistent refusal to give CNN and other international news organizations permission to enter the country, a CNN reporter crossed the Turkish border into northwestern Syria for a few hours Tuesday

A number of people said they had witnessed bombings around the city as they fled. One man said soldiers shot at him, and a woman said she witnessed death.

"They set our fields on fire, destroyed our homes," said a woman who added that she was planning to try to cross into Turkey for protection. But others said they would remain in Syria, some hoping to find loved ones lost in the chaos, others hoping against hope to return to their homes.

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Filed under: Syria • War
June 14th, 2011
08:47 PM ET

Fire rages at Carlsbad Caverns National Park in New Mexico

A fast-growing wildfire in southeast New Mexico prompted the evacuation Tuesday of White City, a small community on the outskirts of the Carlsbad Caverns National Park, a fire official said Tuesday afternoon.

The blaze, which has so far spread to some 16,000 acres, is 10% contained, said Jennifer Myslivy, a spokeswoman for the incident management team in charge of the firefighting effort.

"It's very active," she said. "The wind is going to push it and keep (it) growing."

Myslivy estimated that about 300 people, including tourists and visitors to the park, were affected by the White City evacuation order.

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Filed under: New Mexico
NASA insider: Some truth to Gingrich's barb
NASA is "standing in the way" of new opportunities, Newt Gingrich said Monday at a debate among GOP presidential candidates.
June 14th, 2011
08:13 PM ET

NASA insider: Some truth to Gingrich's barb

After Newt Gingrich's harsh comments about NASA during Monday's night's debate between GOP presidential hopefuls, you'd guess the outrage from the nation's legendary space agency would be deafening.

So far today, all we've heard from Houston and Washington are crickets.

For those who missed it, Gingrich accused NASA's bureaucracy of wasting hundreds of billions of dollars that it's spent since the 1969 moon landing. Without such waste, he said, "we would probably today have a permanent station on the moon, three or four permanent stations in space, a new generation of lift vehicles."

NASA is "standing in the way" of a "new cycle of opportunities" when it "ought to be getting out of the way and encouraging the private sector," said the former House speaker.

The government agency that fulfilled President Kennedy's Cold War challenge to send a man to the moon within a decade chose not to comment. "It is inappropriate for us to comment on election rhetoric," said today's one-line statement from the communications office.

Why so quiet? Some NASA officials suspect Gingrich may be letting us know that the emperor has no clothes.

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Filed under: NASA • Newt Gingrich • Politics • Space
June 14th, 2011
08:07 PM ET

Wisconsin high court reinstates collective bargaining law

Wisconsin's top court Tuesday reinstated a contentious law that curbs the collective bargaining rights of most state employees.

The state's Supreme Court set aside a ruling by a lower court judge who had placed a permanent injunction against the law.

"The Supreme Court's ruling provides our state the opportunity to move forward together and focus on getting Wisconsin working again," Gov. Scott Walker said in a statement.

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June 14th, 2011
07:22 PM ET

California's Prop 8 ruling upheld

A federal judge who ruled against a ban on same-sex marriage in California and later revealed that he is gay showed no evidence he was prejudiced in the case, according to a ruling Tuesday.

U.S. District Court Judge James Ware upheld former colleague's Judge Vaughn Walker's ruling on California's Proposition 8. Questions had been raised about Walker's ability to impartially decide the controversial question of same-sex marriage.

"It is not reasonable to presume that a judge is incapable of making an impartial decision about the constitutionality of a law, solely because, as a citizen, the judge could be affected by the proceedings," ruled Ware, based in San Francisco.

Ware backed the original ruling by Walker that the voter-approved ban on same-sex marriage in the state was unconstitutional. The new order keeps the issue on track to an expected Supreme Court challenge, perhaps by next year.

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Filed under: California • Proposition 8
Overheard on CNN.com: Blame the women, too
June 14th, 2011
06:06 PM ET

Overheard on CNN.com: Blame the women, too

Comment of the day:

"As the saying goes, 'It takes two to tango'...period." - nightsun2k7

Weiner’s women aren’t blameless

Columnist LZ Granderson took U.S. Rep. Anthony Weiner's Twitter pals to task by asking: How much are they to blame for the congressman's illicit online behavior? According to Granderson, some of them are not innocent victims. Granderson says they knowingly sought out contact with the married Weiner (pictured), and that there are ways to blow the whistle while avoiding the limelight.

Most people who left comments on the story agreed with Granderson, though some pushed back.

101159 said, "Bravo Mr. Granderson. Good story and I agree. What is good for the goose. ..." Skeptical773 said, "As LZ shows, every story has two sides." 4Qall said, "Let this be a lesson to any famous person! These women will seek and destroy for a little money. But then again common sense should tell you that!"

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Police investigating ex-militia leader after shootout with Montana police
Police say David Burgert fired a handgun at sheriff's deputies before fleeing into the Montana woods Sunday.
June 14th, 2011
02:08 PM ET

Police investigating ex-militia leader after shootout with Montana police

[Updated at 7:15 p.m. ET] Investigators searching for a former militia leader accused of shooting at sheriff's deputies in Montana after leading police on a low-speed chase Sunday may be driving a tan Jeep Cherokee, authorities say.

Authorities are looking for David Burgert, who they say led police on a low-speed chase in a blue Jeep Cherokee on Sunday before firing shots at deputies, abandoning the vehicle and fleeing into the woods outside Missoula.

The Missoula County Sheriff's Office says the chase began after Burgert ran a stop sign near Lolo and failed to stop for two deputies when they turned on their lights and siren.

Investigators have said previously that Burgert may have stashed another vehicle in the wilderness, and they now say he may have had access to a tan Jeep Cherokee.

[Updated at 2:08 p.m. ET] Investigators have lost the trail of a convicted militia member who melted into the remote and rugged backcountry of western Montana after allegedly shooting at sheriff's deputies, a Missoula County sheriff's commander said Tuesday.

Officials scaled back their search when dogs lost David Burgert's scent, Undersheriff Mike Dominick said, adding that the operation is now more of an investigation than a manhunt.

Authorities have been searching for Burgert since Sunday when, they say, he led police on a low-speed chase in a Jeep Cherokee before firing shots at deputies and abandoning the vehicle.

Burgert apparently was prepared to evade a manhunt and may have stashed another vehicle someplace in the wilderness, police say.

[Posted 12:53 p.m. ET] The FBI has joined the manhunt for a former militia leader after he shot at sheriff’s deputies and fled into the Montana woods outside Missoula, according to police.

Law enforcement agencies, the National Guard and the U.S. Forest Service expanded the search for David Burgert, who once led a Flathead County militia known as Project 7, to parts of western Montana on Tuesday, the third day of the search, according to CNN affiliate KPAX-TV.

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Filed under: Courts • Justice • Militia • Montana • U.S.
June 14th, 2011
01:23 PM ET

Coast Guard searches for 4 people from sailboat

The Coast Guard was searching Tuesday for four people who reportedly abandoned a 33-foot sailboat near Sandy Hook, New Jersey.

Coast Guard Sector New York received a distress call about 3:15 a.m. from the crew of the Courtney Lynn stating the vessel was taking on water.

Shortly before 4 a.m., the Courtney Lynn crew told the Coast Guard they were planning to abandon the boat and board an attached gray dinghy.

The Coast Guard said it sent rescue aircraft from Cape Cod, Massachusetts, and Atlantic City, New Jersey, and a rescue boat from its Sandy Hook station. Local and state crews also were responding, it said.

Communication with the sailboat was lost after the crew members - who lacked flares, and hand-held radio and an air horn - said they were abandoning ship, the Coast Guard reported.

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Filed under: New Jersey • New York • U.S.
June 14th, 2011
01:12 PM ET

Obama has political reasons for quick trip to Puerto Rico

President Barack Obama made a rare presidential visit to Puerto Rico on Tuesday, greeting a cheering crowd to start a five-hour trip aimed as much at Puerto Ricans on the mainland as those on the island.

The roughly 4 million residents of the U.S. Caribbean territory are American citizens but can't vote for president, while the almost 5 million Puerto Ricans living in the 50 U.S. states have full voting rights, and Obama needs strong support in 2012 from what traditionally has been a largely Democratic constituency.

In particular, an influx of Puerto Ricans has come in recent years to central Florida, a key swing state in Obama's re-election campaign. Other states with large Puerto Rican communities include New York and Connecticut.

However, high unemployment and crime rates back in Puerto Rico, as well as the continuing debate over possible U.S. statehood or independence for the island, adds uncertainty to Puerto Rican political support.

Obama's trip, the first official presidential visit to Puerto Rico in 50 years, shows "the importance the Hispanic vote has in his re-election campaign," said political analyst Angel Rosa.

Rosa noted that in Florida, Puerto Ricans from the island have boosted the Hispanic population in Orlando and central regions.

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Filed under: Barack Obama • Politics • Puerto Rico • U.S.
Tuesday's intriguing people
University of Central Florida football player Ereck Plancher died in 2008 after a workout. His parents have sued the school.
June 14th, 2011
11:37 AM ET

Tuesday's intriguing people

Ereck Plancher

The University of Central Florida football player's death is in the spotlight this week in an Orlando courtroom, just 11 floors below where the Casey Anthony trial is under way. Plancher's family filed a wrongful death suit against the school, and jury selection for the trial began Monday, the Orlando Sentinel reports.

Plancher, 19, died in March 2008 following an off-season workout that head coach George O'Leary conducted. An autopsy confirmed that Plancher died from complications of a sickle cell trait, and his parents allege the school and its football medical support staff did not properly treat their son, according to the newspaper.

The Sentinel's Mike Bianchi reports the trial's outcome could affect college football programs in the future. He also notes the case is unique because it's going to trial rather than being settled out of court.

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Gotta Watch: Mexico's drug war
Mexican police investigate a violent incident in Juarez, Mexico.
June 14th, 2011
11:22 AM ET

Gotta Watch: Mexico's drug war

U.S. lawmakers are now calling for tougher firearms regulations after a report showed that more than 70% of Mexico's drug cartel weapons come from the United States. Violence associated with drug cartels has been a growing problem in Mexico, resulting in thousands of deaths. One of the more prominent ones was that of Mexican police chief, Martin Castro. His head was delivered to his colleagues in an ice box with a message from a powerful drug cartel in the region.  In today's Gotta Watch, we feature some of our more compelling stories highlighting the continued violence stemming from drug cartels in Mexico.

Mexico's 'bravest woman' - When 20-year-old Marisol Valles Garcia became police chief in one the deadliest parts of the world, she was dubbed the “bravest woman in all of Mexico.” Her predecessor had been beheaded, and it was a job no one was willing to take. Now, she’s left the only place she knows – a place where beheadings, shootings and gangland killings have become commonplace.

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Filed under: Crime • Drug violence • Drugs • Gotta Watch • Juarez • Marijuana • Mexico • Security • TV-Anderson Cooper 360 • World
June 14th, 2011
11:11 AM ET

Arizona wildfire is state's largest ever

The Wallow Fire in Arizona has become the largest wildfire in the state's history, surpassing the 2002 Rodeo-Chediski fire, according to officials with Apache-Sitgreaves National Forest.

The amount of land burned by the fire grew to about 733 square miles, forest officials reported Tuesday. The Rodeo fire covered 732 square miles.

The blaze was about 18% contained, fire officials said Tuesday, nearly double the containment figure reported the day before, when officials reported that the northward advance of the fire had been stopped.

Meanwhile, another fire broke out Monday in southern New Mexico at Carlsbad Caverns National Park, officials said.  Hundreds of visitors were evacuated as crews tackled the 3,000-acre wildfire inside the park.

Calmer winds were helping firefighters get the upper hand on the Wallow Fire, which has been burning since late May, said Jerome MacDonald, the operations chief for the Southwest Incident Management team.

In the town of Greer, part of which was burned by the fire, work was under way to make it safe for people to return, said the town's fire chief, Mark Wade.

"Greer is not as bad as a lot of people are making it sound," he said. But he warned that there are dangerous obstacles that must be cleared and utilities to be restored before residents can be allowed back in.

Residents were already moving back to the towns of Springerville, Eagar and South Fork after authorities lifted evacuation orders on Sunday.

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Filed under: Arizona • Environment • U.S.
Undocumented parents sweat out debate on immigration reform
These little girls are U.S.-born American citizens, but their father lacks proper immigration documentation.
June 14th, 2011
11:07 AM ET

Undocumented parents sweat out debate on immigration reform

Tough new state immigration laws are striking fear in the hearts of illegal immigrants with American-born children.

“I worry about my children,” says one father of two young kids in Carrollton, Georgia. He didn't want to give his name, because he has no legal right to reside in the United States. “My kids were born here. What will happen with them? We don’t know, and that’s the fear we have.”

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Filed under: Alabama • Arizona • Georgia • Immigration • Politics • Utah
June 14th, 2011
10:01 AM ET

Unrest: Middle East and North Africa, country by country

Countries in the Middle East and North Africa have been swept up in protests against longtime rulers since the January revolt that ousted Tunisian strongman Zine El Abidine Ben Ali. In many cases, these demonstrations and movements have been met with brute force and escalated into seemingly unending violence.

Here are the latest developments from each country and information on the roots of the unrest.

LIBYA

NATO refused to say Tuesday whether or not it would bomb ancient Roman ruins in Libya if it knew Moammar Gadhafi was hiding military equipment there. The alliance recently extended its mission - officially to protect civilians in Libya from Gadhafi's efforts to crush an uprising that has left rebels in control of parts of the country - for another 90 days, into September.

Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle said Germany formally recognizes the rebel Transitional National Council as the representative of the Libyan people, putting Berlin in line with the United States, France, Italy and a handful of other countries. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton pressed for diplomatic support for the rebels at a meeting of the African Union in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. The UAE has recognized the Transitional National Council as the legitimate Libyan government.

After a siege of nearly two months, rebels have freed the city of Al-Rayyana, northeast of Zintan, said rebel fighter Talha Al-Jiwali. Nine rebels were killed, and 35 were wounded.

What should NATO bomb first, soldiers or Gadhafi himself?

Roots of Unrest: Protests in Libya started in February when demonstrators, fed up with delays, broke into a housing project the government was building and occupied it. Gadhafi's government responded with a $24 billion fund for housing and development. A month later, more demonstrations were sparked when police detained relatives of those killed in an alleged 1996 massacre at Abu Salim prison, according to Human Rights Watch. High unemployment and demands for freedom have also fueled the protests.

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Filed under: Arab unrest: developments • Libya • Syria • Tunisia • Yemen
Scramble to save Iowa town as floodwaters approach
This year's flooding is putting levees to the test along much of the 1,700 miles of the Missouri River.
June 14th, 2011
09:56 AM ET

Scramble to save Iowa town as floodwaters approach

Authorities were scrambling Tuesday to protect the town of Hamburg, Iowa, after a swollen Missouri River broke two levees near the Missouri-Iowa border.

Fifty Army National Guard troops arrived in Hamburg Monday night to join efforts to finish a temporary levee before water from the levee breaches can reach the town - expected to happen sometime Tuesday, according to CNN affiliate KMTV. Crews are working to add another three feet to the top of the temporary levee, KMTV said. If the temporary levee does not hold, parts of Hamburg could be inundated with up to 10 feet of water.

The Iowa Department of Transportation closed one lane of northbound Interstate 29 for a half-mile while the work was underway, it said Monday. Floodwaters are expected to inundate the roadway within 48 hours, it said.

The current levees protecting Hamburg were designed to an elevation of 916 feet, the Corps of Engineers said in a statement Monday. "Based on the current size, new staff gauges and the model calibrated to new survey data, a new water surface elevation of 918 feet has been estimated," according to the Corps.

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Filed under: Iowa
Blimp pilot dies saving passengers from fiery crash
A Goodyear blimp plunges to the ground after catching fire over Germany on Sunday.
June 14th, 2011
07:54 AM ET

Blimp pilot dies saving passengers from fiery crash

An Australian blimp pilot killed in a crash of his airship was being hailed as a hero Tuesday for saving the lives of three other people aboard the doomed craft.

Michael Nerandzic was trying to land a Goodyear blimp at an airfield in Reichelsheim, Germany, when his passengers, three journalists, smelled fuel and heard a loud noise from an engine, according to news reports, including one in the Daily Telegraph in Sydney, Australia.

Realizing the ship was in danger, Nerandzic lowered it to just two meters (6.5 feet) off the ground and told the journalists to jump, according to the news reports.

Time.com: Harrowing photos as blimp catches fire, crashes

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Filed under: Australia • Aviation • Germany • World
June 14th, 2011
07:35 AM ET

Tuesday's live video events

The first CNN debate of the primary season, but coverage of the race to the 2012 presidential election continues on CNN.com Live.

Today's programming highlights...

11:30 am ET - James Arthur Ray trial - Closing arguments are set to begin in the trial of self-help guru James Arthur Ray, who is accused of manslaughter in the deaths of three people during a sweat lodge ceremony in Arizona.

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Filed under: Arizona • Barack Obama • Casey Anthony • Courts • Crime • Elections • Florida • Justice • New York • On CNN.com today • Politics • Texas • U.S.
On the Radar: Obama in Puerto Rico, 'Spider-Man' opens, help for Japan kids
President Barack Obama speaks at a campaign event in Miami on Monday night.
June 14th, 2011
06:04 AM ET

On the Radar: Obama in Puerto Rico, 'Spider-Man' opens, help for Japan kids

Three things you need to know today.

President visits Puerto Rico: President Barack Obama makes a rare presidential visit to Puerto Rico on Tuesday, spending about five hours there on a trip aimed as much at Puerto Ricans on the mainland as those on the island.

The roughly 4 million residents of the U.S. Caribbean territory are American citizens but can't vote for president, while the almost 5 million Puerto Ricans living in the 50 U.S. states have full voting rights, and Obama needs strong support in 2012 from what traditionally has been a largely Democratic constituency.

In particular, an influx of Puerto Ricans has moved in recent years to central Florida, a key swing state in Obama's re-election campaign. Other states with large Puerto Rican communities include New York and Connecticut.

Obama's trip, the first official presidential visit to Puerto Rico in 50 years, shows "the importance the Hispanic vote has in his re-election campaign," said political analyst Angel Rosa.

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