July 31st, 2011
08:56 PM ET

Debt agreement reached, Obama says

[Updated at 8:56 p.m.] President Barack Obama announced Sunday an agreement with congressional leaders would extend the federal debt ceiling and reduce deficits. The deal still needs to be approved in votes by the House and the Senate.

Cuts worth $1 trillion over 10 years would be enacted in the plan's first stage. In the second stage, a bipartisan commission would report back by November with suggested additional cuts and potentially revenue increases to address the nation's budget deficit.

"At this stage, everything will be on the table," Obama said of this second round of cuts.

Obama said the deal would ensure "that we will not face this kind of crisis in six months, in eight months, or in 12 months."

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Ahead of the curve: The next 7 days
July 31st, 2011
07:52 PM ET

Ahead of the curve: The next 7 days

[Updated at 9:05 p.m. ET] Congressional leaders and the White House reached a tentative deal on raising the U.S. debt ceiling Sunday, but with votes still to come, there was still plenty to do beat Tuesday's deadline and prevent a possible national default. Here is a look at this and other stories that CNN plans to follow this week:

Deadline for debt deal is Tuesday

Raising the federal debt ceiling so that the government can borrow more money to pay its bills usually is a less dramatic event. But this year congressional Republicans have demanded that any vote be tied to a plan for reducing deficits through spending cuts. A deal was slow in coming, with Republicans saying Democrats were insisting on tax increases that Republicans opposed.

On Sunday night, President Barack Obama announced a deal with congressional leaders that would raise the debt ceiling and make spending cuts in two stages. Cuts worth about $1 trillion over 10 years would be enacted in the plan's first stage. In the second stage, a bipartisan commission would report back by November with suggested additional cuts and potentially revenue increases to address the nation's budget deficit. (Read details of plan.)

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Debt debate: Where things stand
The debt ceiling plan proposed by Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid was rejected by the GOP-controlled House on Saturday.
July 31st, 2011
10:09 AM ET

Debt debate: Where things stand

Sunday morning there was news that there could be a deal struck on the fight over the debt ceiling, which is nearing a deadline on August 2.

But without any final plan, the fierce tug-of-war between Democrats and the GOP over whether to raise the government's $14.3 trillion debt ceiling continues.

If the debt ceiling isn't raised, many, including President Barack Obama and the Treasury Department, warn that the country will risk unprecedented default. That default could cause Americans to face rising interest rates. It could also mean that the value of the U.S. dollar would drop compared to other currencies. As interest rates increase, the cost of borrowing rises, so individual mortgages, car loans and student loans could become significantly more expensive. As individual Americans' personal finances take a possible hit, some financial experts have warned that America's AAA credit rating could also be downgraded, threatening an already drooping stock market.

Obama recently indicated he can't guarantee Social Security checks will be mailed out on time if the debt ceiling is not raised. Other critical government programs could be in jeopardy as well. Several CNN iReporters have weighed in on how the debt ceiling issue is affecting their lives. Here are a few answers to the big "What Ifs" of the debt debate compiled by Reuters, and linked out from CNN's Political Ticker and Candy's Crowley's Sunday show "State of the Union".

So where does America go from here? What lies ahead today and for the week?

HOUSE

The GOP-controlled House on Saturday rejected the debt ceiling plan proposed by Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nevada. The plan was rejected 173-246; a two-thirds majority was required for passage. Most Democrats supported Reid's plan, while every Republican in the chamber rejected it. On Friday, the House passed a proposal put forward by Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, that seeks to raise the debt ceiling and cut government spending while requiring that Congress pass a balanced budget amendment to the U.S. Constitution. The 218-210 vote was strictly on party lines. The Senate then voted 59-41 to table Reid's bill, effectively killing it.

Boehner's plan calls for $917 billion in savings over the next decade, while creating a special congressional committee to recommend additional savings of $1.6 trillion or more. It would allow the debt ceiling to be increased by a total of roughly $2.5 trillion through two separate votes. The $2.5 trillion total would be enough to fund the federal government through the end of 2012. The plan originally called for a congressional vote on a balanced budget amendment to the Constitution by the end of the year. Boehner then reached out to disgruntled conservatives by amending the plan to require congressional passage of such an amendment as a condition for raising the debt limit by the full $2.5 trillion.

SENATE

Late Saturday night, Reid announced a 12-hour delay on a key procedural vote on his debt ceiling proposal. The vote to end debate and break a GOP filibuster will now be held at 1 p.m. ET Sunday, as opposed to 1 a.m. Forty-three of 47 Senate Republicans signed a letter to Reid Saturday warning that they would not vote for his proposal as currently constituted.

Reid's plan would reduce federal deficits over the next decade by $2.4 trillion while raising the debt ceiling by a similar amount meeting the GOP's demand that total savings should at least equal any total debt ceiling hike. Roughly $1 trillion of the savings is based on the planned U.S. withdrawals from military engagements in Afghanistan and Iraq. Reid's plan also would establish a congressional committee made up of 12 House and Senate members to consider additional options for debt reduction. The committee's proposals would be guaranteed a Senate vote with no amendments by the end of this year. In addition, it incorporates a process proposed by McConnell that would give Obama the authority to raise the debt ceiling in two steps while providing Congress the opportunity to vote its disapproval.

PRESIDENT OBAMA

On Saturday at the White House, Obama met with Reid and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-California.

The president has endorsed Reid's plan and threatened to veto Boehner's plan. Obama strongly opposes any bill that doesn't raise the debt ceiling through the 2012 election. He has promised to veto any short-term debt ceiling extension unless it paves the way for a "grand bargain" of more sweeping reforms and revenue increases.

On Friday, Obama urged Senate Democrats and Republicans to take the lead in congressional negotiations. He said the House GOP plan "has no chance of becoming law." Obama also urged Americans to keep contacting members of Congress in order "to keep the pressure on Washington." The president made a nationally televised plea for compromise Monday night, though he also criticized Republicans for opposing any tax hikes on the wealthy.

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American hikers in Iran could be set free in a week, lawyer says
Josh Fattal and Shane Bauer, seen here in a file photo, have been detained in Iran for nearly two years.
July 31st, 2011
09:02 AM ET

American hikers in Iran could be set free in a week, lawyer says

An Iranian court is scheduled to issue a verdict within a week in the case of two American hikers detained in Iran, the hikers' lawyer Sunday.

Attorney Masoud Shafiei said Josh Fattal and Shane Bauer are innocent of charges that they illegally entered Iran as spies. The lawyer reiterated at a hearing Sunday that the Americans have maintained their innocence throughout months of imprisonment.

If the court reaches a guilty verdict, Shafiei said the time the two have spent in Iranian custody is enough.

"I believe that even if the court finds my clients guilty, the two years that they have already served in prison would be considered as their sentence and they would be released," he said. Sunday's hearing occurred two years to the date of their arrest while hiking near the country's border with Iraq.

Fattal and Bauer could be freed within a week of a court order, according to the lawyer.

"My clients should not be considered spies, because they lack the characteristics and backgrounds of spies," he said. The lawyer said he hoped his "clients will be dealt with according to Islamic compassion," given that their hearing falls on the second anniversary of their arrest and at the start of the holy month of Ramadan, the Iranian Students News Agency reported.

Read the full story on CNN.com, an opinion piece by journalist Lara Ling who was detained in North Korea, or learn about how the mothers of the hikers have struggled with their sons' long detainment.

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July 31st, 2011
08:37 AM ET

Suspected Taliban spy arrested in Kabul, officials say

A suspected Taliban spy who worked at the Afghan Defense Ministry headquarters in Kabul has been arrested after allegedly leaking critical security information to insurgents, officials said Sunday.

Gul Mohammad was arrested last week following a month-long investigation that allegedly uncovered his plans to organize suicide attacks on key Afghan and international installations, according to National Directorate of Security spokesman Litfullah Mashal.

Among the locations to be targeted were the International Security Assistance Force headquarters and an NDS building as well as an Afghan military outpost and police station in Kabul.

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New Yorkers celebrate same-sex marriage in pop-up wedding chapels
Pastor Mark Cutolo officiates over the marriage of Scott Baumann and Tom Corujo.
July 30th, 2011
10:41 PM ET

New Yorkers celebrate same-sex marriage in pop-up wedding chapels

Twenty-four gay and lesbian couples were wed Saturday under two “pop-up” chapels designed to celebrate the first full weekend of same-sex marriage in New York.

With every “I do,” jubilant whoops and cheers burst from the crowd, a mix of friends, family and passers-by.

The weddings, although held adjacent to the commotion of New York City’s Columbus Circle, felt comfortably ensconced in Central Park. The event’s organizers reported no protests or disturbances throughout the day.

The two chapels, named KISS and ICRAVE, were chosen from more than 50 entries after a 10-day design competition. KISS, designed by architect Guy Zucker, consisted of two interlocking, helix-shaped wood frames.

Carley Roney, co-founder of the marriage service The Knot, which co-sponsored the event, said KISS was constructed this way because, as with a marriage, “the two pieces can’t stand on their own. They need each other to stand up.”

Meanwhile, ICRAVE, designed by architect Lionel Ohayon, covered the betrothed with an array of rainbow-colored ribbon bands dangling from a makeshift roof. The rainbow colors were chosen to reflect gay pride, Roney said.

While the pop-up chapels will be demolished after the event, the newlyweds said there was nothing ephemeral about the vows taken beneath them.

“I promise to always help you find your keys; I promise to give you all the credit when people compliment me in your clothes... I promise to always have your back,” Katrina Olson said to her new wife, Tiffany Hopkins. “The only thing I can’t promise you is my heart, ’cause you stole it so many years ago.”

Afterwards, a friend of the couple’s played The Beatles’ “When I’m Sixty-Four,” inviting a sing-along from the street crowd and many of the event’s volunteers.

Like the ceremony for Hopkins and Olson, the services throughout the day focused far more on the relationships than the novelty, or historical significance, of a same-sex marriage.

Shari Berkowitz, one of the wedding’s officiants, said this marked a change from some of the same-sex commitment ceremonies she oversaw 15 years ago, which were often marked with tension. On Saturday, Berkowitz officiated the wedding of Gabrielle Harmon and Jacqueline Cabrera.

“Now, you will feel no rain, for each of you will be shelter to the other,” she said at the ceremony.

The weather Saturday sunny without a cloud in the sky seemed to make this assurance unnecessary.

Additionally, the day’s attendees said their thoughts were not clouded by the lawsuit, filed this Monday by the conservative group New Yorkers for Constitutional Freedom, challenging the legality of the same-sex marriage law.

“I think it’s going to die,” Jen Frankel said of the lawsuit before she married Jessica Schoen.

Bex Schwartz, one of the event’s organizers, added, “I’m an eternal optimist; I hope the right way will win out... people realize that we can’t say some people are better than others.”

Although the Rev. Jason McGuire, NYCEF’s executive director, has questioned the impact of same-sex marriage on religious institutions, the wedding ceremonies Saturday seemed to embrace the convergence of religious rites and homosexuality.

For instance, during the wedding of Tom Carujo and Scott Baumann, a gay couple of nearly 30 years, Pastor Mark Cutolo discussed the significance of the rainbow in the Bible.

After the flood, “the eternal God gave Noah the rainbow as a promise he would never destroy the earth again,” Cutolo said.

Now, rainbows also serve as a powerful symbol of gay rights and diversity, he said, and the two are complementary, not contradictory.

“So, the rainbow is a sign of hopefulness, of life,” Cutolo said, looking up at the effervescent ICRAVE. “A sign that we feel blessed by God.”

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Debt debate: Where things stand
Speaker John Boehner gives the thumbs-up Friday after the House voted 218-210 to approve his debt-ceiling measure.
July 30th, 2011
10:28 PM ET

Debt debate: Where things stand

The federal government has three days left to raise the nation's current $14.3 trillion debt ceiling, the Treasury Department said. Failure to do so will risk an unprecedented national default.

If the debt ceiling is not raised by Tuesday, Americans could face rising interest rates and a declining dollar, among other problems.

As the cost of borrowing rises, individual mortgages, car loans and student loans could become significantly more expensive. Some financial experts have warned of a downgrade of America's triple-A credit rating and a potential stock market crash.

Without an increase in the debt limit, the federal government will not be able to pay all of its bills next month. President Barack Obama recently indicated he can't guarantee Social Security checks will be mailed out on time. Other critical government programs could be endangered as well.

Where do things stand in the fight to raise the debt ceiling?

Senate

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nevada, temporarily stopped legislative consideration of his debt ceiling proposal late Saturday night, reversing an earlier decision to hold a key procedural vote on the measure by 1 a.m. ET Sunday.

Negotiations were still underway at the White House, Reid said. The vote will now be held at 1 p.m. ET on Sunday.

There are "many elements to be finalized" and still "a distance to go," Reid said. "We should give everyone as much room as possible to do their work."

The announcement comes a few hours after Reid denied claims from House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, that progress was being made on a debt ceiling deal.

The Republicans "refuse to negotiate in good faith," Reid said. "The process has not been moved forward during this day."

The Democratic-led Senate on Friday blocked the Boehner plan from being considered, voting 59-41 to table the measure.

Under an amended version, it would reduce federal deficits over the next decade by $2.4 trillion while raising the debt ceiling by a similar amount meeting the GOP's demand that total savings should at least equal any total debt ceiling hike.

Roughly $1 trillion in the savings are based on the planned U.S. withdrawals from military engagements in Afghanistan and Iraq.

Reid's plan also would establish a congressional committee made up of 12 House and Senate members to consider additional options for debt reduction. The committee's proposals would be guaranteed a Senate vote with no amendments by the end of this year.

In addition, it incorporates a process proposed by Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Kentucky, that would give Obama the authority to raise the debt ceiling in two steps while providing Congress the opportunity to vote its disapproval.

House

House Speaker John Boehner expressed optimism Saturday that an agreement is near, despite the House's rejection of a plan proposed by Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid.

"In spite of our differences, we're dealing with reasonable, responsible people," Boehner said.

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Kentucky, also said Saturday afternoon that he had talked to President Barack Obama and Vice President Joe Biden "within the last hour" and is "confident and optimistic" that there will be an "agreement within the very near future."

Earlier Saturday, the Republican-controlled House of Representatives rejected Reid's proposed debt ceiling plan in a sharply polarized 173-246 vote. Republicans unanimously opposed the measure while most Democrats backed it. GOP leaders conducted the vote on Reid's bill under rules requiring a two-thirds majority for passage, thereby ensuring its defeat.

The Republican-controlled House on Friday passed a proposal put forward by House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, that seeks to raise the debt ceiling and cut government spending while requiring that Congress pass a balanced-budget amendment to the U.S. Constitution. The 218-210 vote was strictly on party lines. The vote had been scheduled to occur Thursday night, but Republican leaders postponed it because they lacked support within their own caucus to get it passed. After the House vote, the measure went to the Senate, where Democrats blocked it from being considered.

Boehner's plan calls for $917 billion in savings over the next decade, while creating a special congressional committee to recommend additional savings of $1.6 trillion or more. It would allow the debt ceiling to be increased by a total of roughly $2.5 trillion through two separate votes. The $2.5 trillion total would be enough to fund the federal government through the end of 2012.

The plan originally called for a congressional vote on a balanced-budget amendment to the Constitution by the end of the year. Boehner then reached out to disgruntled conservatives by amending the plan to require congressional passage of such an amendment as a condition for raising the debt limit by the full $2.5 trillion.

President Obama

Obama has endorsed Reid's plan and threatened a veto of Boehner's plan. The president strongly opposes any bill that doesn't raise the debt ceiling through the 2012 election, and he has promised to veto any short-term debt ceiling extension unless it paves the way for a "grand bargain" of more sweeping reforms and revenue increases.

On Friday, Obama urged Senate Democrats and Republicans to take the lead in congressional negotiations. He said the House GOP plan "has no chance of becoming law." Obama also urged Americans to keep contacting members of Congress in order "to keep the pressure on Washington."

The president made a nationally televised plea for compromise Monday night, though he also criticized Republicans for opposing any tax hikes on the wealthy.

No face-to-face negotiations are currently scheduled for Saturday.

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Colts say they reach agreement to re-sign Peyton Manning
July 30th, 2011
07:27 PM ET

Colts say they reach agreement to re-sign Peyton Manning

Quarterback Peyton Manning has agreed to a five-year contract with the Indianapolis Colts for $90 million, according to NFL Network.

Colts owner and CEO Jim Irsay confirmed the terms of the deal on his Twitter account.

The deal allows the four-time MVP to report to training camp at Anderson University in central Indiana, the club said on its website.

However, due to surgery he had in May, Manning will start the year on the training camp's "Physically Unable to Perform" list, the Colts said. Manning currently is undergoing daily rehabilitation sessions with the Colt’s medical staff.

“Signing Peyton was a top priority for this organization and we are thrilled that the deal is complete,” Irsay said. “We feel that it is a salary cap friendly deal and it allows us more flexibility.”

Manning led the Colts to a Super Bowl victory in 2006 over the Chicago Bears. In 13 seasons, he has earned 11 Pro Bowl selections and started all 208 career games, the most games to start a career at any position in NFL history, according to the Colts' website. He has completed 4,682 of 7,210 passes for 54,828 yards and 399 touchdowns. On his next touchdown pass, Manning will join Brett Favre and Dan Marino as the only players with 400 or more touchdown passes.

iReporters weigh in on debt crisis
iReporter Bill Dalton says he sides with the Republican plan that was pushed through the House and defeated in the Senate.
July 30th, 2011
06:43 PM ET

iReporters weigh in on debt crisis

The "debt ceiling" battle is being fought not just in Washington, but all around the United States as people debate on how best to resolve the issue and who is to blame for the crisis.

Many of these people have submitted their thoughts about the topic to CNN in recent days through iReport. Some - be they military personnel, small business owners fearful of tax increases, or people receiving entitlement benefits - called for action as they spoke of the personal impact of failing to reach a resolution.

Others echoed Democratic and Republican leaders' talking points. In the former case, that includes possible revenue hikes  and insisting that the debate shouldn't be renewed next year, and in the latter by insisting on no tax increase and movement on a balanced budget amendment that would mandate the nation balance its books.

Below is a sampling of recent iReporters' comments, as the U.S. government creeps closer to an August 2 deadline to raise the $14.3 trillion debt ceiling or default on its debt.

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Filed under: Barack Obama • Budget • Economy • Harry Reid • John Boehner • Politics • Taxes
6.4-magnitude earthquake strikes off coast of Japan
July 30th, 2011
03:33 PM ET

6.4-magnitude earthquake strikes off coast of Japan

A preliminary 6.4-magnitude earthquake struck Sunday morning off the east coast of Honshu, Japan's main island, the U.S. Geological Survey said.

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Schwarzenegger museum opens
Arnold Schwarzenegger's childhood home in Thal, Austria, has been turned into a museum, Austrian media report.
July 30th, 2011
12:36 PM ET

Schwarzenegger museum opens

A museum dedicated to Arnold Schwarzenegger opened this week in the former California governor's childhood home, Austrian media report.

Schwarzenegger, whose 64th birthday is Saturday, didn't attend the quiet opening, but organizers have invited him to be back for a grand opening at a date to be determined, the Austrian Times reported.

The museum in Thal will include Schwarzenegger's first set of weights, props from some of his movies and a replica of the desk he used as governor, the Austrian site The Mark reported.

It also may include a picture of Schwarzenegger's estranged wife, Maria Shriver, according to the Austrian Times.

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Filed under: Arnold Schwarzenegger • Austria • Movies • Showbiz
Fate of facility in tornado-ravaged town to be decided
An EF-5 tornado destroyed a Wrangler jeans distribution center in Hackleburg, Alabama, the town's largest employer.
July 29th, 2011
10:04 PM ET

Fate of facility in tornado-ravaged town to be decided

The largest employer in a northwest Alabama town that lost 18 residents and its business core to an EF-5 tornado will announce Monday night whether it will rebuild.

VF Corp. has been evaluating what to do at its Wrangler jeans distribution center since the April 27 storm destroyed it and killed one employee.

Will America's 'best hometown' survive?

“We appreciate everyone’s patience as we finalize our evaluation process, especially the people of Hackleburg,” CEO Eric Wiseman said in a statement Friday. “We look forward to informing our associates and the Hackleburg community of our decision early next week.”

Since the tornado, the majority of the 150 displaced workers have been employed at company-owned locations in Hackleburg and Holly Pond.

Federal, state and local officials have conducted a full-court press, offering a range of incentives to VF Corp. The political leaders say a new Wrangler facility is a crucial component in the town’s recovery.

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The debt ceiling battle: Where things stand on a vote
House Speaker John Boehner arrives at the Capitol Friday morning.
July 29th, 2011
09:47 PM ET

The debt ceiling battle: Where things stand on a vote

The federal government has four days left to raise the nation's current $14.3 trillion debt ceiling, the Treasury Department said. A failure to do so will risk an unprecedented national default.

If the debt ceiling is not raised by Tuesday, Americans could face rising interest rates and a declining dollar, among other problems.

As the cost of borrowing rises, individual mortgages, car loans and student loans could become significantly more expensive. Some financial experts have warned of a downgrade of America's triple-A credit rating and a potential stock market crash.

Without an increase in the debt limit, the federal government will not be able to pay all of its bills next month. President Barack Obama recently indicated he can't guarantee Social Security checks will be mailed out on time. Other critical government programs could be endangered as well.

Where do things stand in the fight to raise the debt ceiling?

House

Senate Democrats on Friday blocked the latest House Republican proposal to cut spending and increase the federal debt ceiling, setting up a weekend of negotiations to seek a deal that would avoid a potential federal default next week.

FULL POST

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Filed under: Budget • Business • Economy • Finance • Politics
Overheard on CNN.com: Oh for the days of reasonable Republicans!
July 29th, 2011
04:52 PM ET

Overheard on CNN.com: Oh for the days of reasonable Republicans!

Exchange of the Day:

"Four Republicans responded to this article. Yes, Specter is a Republican inside and out. Way to go CNN for balanced column writing."–Hoya4Life

"But look at what even they are saying. Doesn't it make the current Republicans in Congress look like 4-year-olds?"–jeen71

Listen up Washington, we've been there

Former leading policymakers shared how they saw the debt-ceiling impasse. Among them, Democrat Arlen Specter said he would reserve invoking the 14th Amendment as a last-ditch solution. Republican David Stockman said the crisis is in the debt, not the ceiling: "The Republican 'no tax increase' position is preposterous; we are collecting less than 15% of GDP in taxes, the lowest since 1950, and spending 24% of GDP."

CNN.com readers mourned for the days of "reasonable Republicans."

RobertOKUSA said, "David Stockman, I didn't think much of you back in the early '80's, but you did a good job of summing up this problem and offering the obvious solution in only 6 paragraphs!"

jcfl said, "This is the first realistic article I have seen that nails it on the head. if we fail to listen to people that have already been there we are lost. Whether these guys are right or left is not the issue. The facts remain the facts whether they agree with our internal faith-based realities or not."

Vigla02 said, "Very interesting commentary from three Republicans. All reasonable people. (Arlen Specter IS a Republican. He was only a Democrat because the Republicans essentially kicked him out of the caucus.) I long for the days of the reasonable Republican from the '70s and '80s. John McCain is one of the last ones left. The party has been hijacked by extremists. However, I do expect when we are back up to normal voting levels, most of these tea party clowns will be removed from office and replaced by moderates of either party."

irunner said, "I consider myself a moderate Democrat but am considering becoming independent. I was pleasantly surprised that David Stockman spoke my mind. We need more of his wisdom and common sense in government!"

Hoya4Life said, "To me, Stockman's comments say it all. You cannot balance the budget long term without raising taxes on corporations, closing the tax loopholes and strengthening the middle class. The GOP says they are serious about balancing the budget. Really? Either they are lying or dumb or don't know that you have to raise the taxes and kill the Bush tax cuts to get there!"

GoodVAGuy said, "The Circus of Fools, formerly known as the U.S. Congress, is not capable of governing this country. I hope Obama uses the 14th Amendment to say,'Enough foolishness.'"

oldmark said, "Cut our military to a realistic, reasonable size, and bring all overseas troops home now. Drop all Bush tax cuts and increase Social Security contributions and real income tax on those making over $250,000 per year. Enact a new stimulus bill to repair/improve U.S. roads, bridges and electrical power distribution, providing new and well-paying jobs which will stimulate the entire economy and increase revenues by increasing taxes wages and business profits. Get rid of every Tea Party idiot in government."

paul20854 said, "Revenue is what's needed to balance the books, and cuts cannot and will not get the job done. Republicans have now crossed the line and become terrorists as defined in the Patriot Act. They have committed treason and have attempted to destroy the general welfare of the People in direct violation of their oath of office. They have proven their criminality by refusing to serve the people who elected them and the Constitution."

MPfilipina said, "As the value of your 401(k)s sinks into the abyss today, remember those ideologues in the House sent by funny-looking guys in Revolutionary War uniforms. They are about to send this country's economy into free fall and squander your life savings."

D3ADP0OL said, "Our leaders are idiots because we are idiots. We've been cutting education for decades, and now all those kids who never learned history or economics are being voted into office. When the population is so stupid they can't tell a competent leader from a sexy sound byte, you end up with a bunch of empty suit politicians who are only good at spitting rhetoric at each other."

Obama dismisses House debt plan, urges Senate compromise

With a House plan apparently dead in the water, President Obama urged Senate members to take charge of Capitol Hill's debt ceiling negotiations. Many CNN.com readers blamed the gridlock on the Tea Party, suggesting their tactics were treasonous.

sayer said, "When the terrorists attacked on 9/11, they were trying to bring down the U.S. economy. After all our blood, sweat, and tears, are we gonna let them win? Congress, say it isn't so." alexnden said, "Move over al-Qaida, the Tea Party is here."

BonnieMR said, "Compromise! As a member of the GOP, I am disgusted by Boehner and the irresponsible so-called Tea Party. Taxes must go up, entitlements and spending must go down. we will not get out of this mess overnight but Boeher and the Gang's holding the economy hostage and willing to throw us over the cliff is disgusting."

don7664 said, "America was begun with a tea party, America will be ended with the Tea Party."

1967pennant said, "Boehner's website is still not allowing comments unless you are in his district, which pretty much guarantees that he's getting a skewed and inaccurate perspective on national sentiment. I'd expect nothing less of him."

Bruner said, "If faith in America were a commodity, we'd see the price diving every day these idiots continue to stand on their unbudging positions. That in itself is damning to our continued prosperity. Everyone in the world is looking at our situation in awe. I think we're collectively in shock (except for those of us that hold ludicrous positions on either side)."

westvil1 said, "America is a country full of hate and dysfunction. We are broken, ethically exhausted and a joke to the world. Thanks, Tea Party. You certainly know how to destroy."

slapshot69 said, "So, Bush and Company start an 8-year forest fire, try to impede any effort to govern, pass tax breaks for ultra rich–never done at a time of war–then complain Obama didn't put out the fire in 6 months and the 14 trillion is his mess. No shame, just teabag mentality."

HI said, "The president should ask for an entirely clean bill giving a "1" trillion dollar debt limit increase to end the "crisis." Then he tells Congress in front of the nation they have that time to find a real solution that will pass both the Senate and the House and move us toward the goal of no deficit spending."

tambor2 said, "We're at the lowest tax rate in over 50 years."

atlantic1 said, "There are a lot of wealthy people who want to pay more. They were bailed out or helped by lobbyists and loopholes and understand that it's become very unfair. Being responsible and compassionate needs to come back into vogue."

Do you feel your views align with these commenters' thoughts? Post a comment below or sound off on video.

Compiled by the CNN.com moderation staff. Some comments edited for length or clarity.

July 29th, 2011
01:33 PM ET

'Breast Milk Baby' manufacturers to display toy at Las Vegas expo

Children no longer have to deny their dolls the benefits of breast milk.

A Spanish toy manufacturer will begin U.S. sales next week of a classic baby doll with a high-tech twist: the simulation of breast-feeding. Berjuan Toys will be at the ASD trade show in Las Vegas, which starts Monday, with hopes of meeting with retailers who might want to sell the Breast Milk Baby. Those who don't want to wait can buy one online.

HLN's Robin Meade and Jennifer Westhoven couldn't agree on how they felt about the toy.

The doll, which comes in six different combinations of race and gender, comes with a cropped shirt that makes possible a toned-down version of nursing. In the news release on Berjuan's site, the company explains how the toy works.

"The Breast Milk Baby simulates the breast-feeding process by including a fashionable halter-top that a young girl can put on like a vest, and when she brings the Breast Milk Baby doll’s mouth up to the pretty flower decoration on the vest, the doll makes a soft, suckling sound," the announcement says. "The two flowers on the halter are positioned where the nipples would be, and when the mouth of the doll is brought close to the embedded sensors in the flower, the baby makes motions and suckling sounds."

Berjuan's announcement acknowledges the mixed responses that have been aimed at the Breast Milk Baby.

"Some critics say that the doll [is] over-sexualizing young girls or forcing girls to grow up too quickly, but the company and those in support of the doll say that it teaches young girls natural motherhood," the news release says.

No word yet on what this will do to the market for imaginary baby formula, nor on what the proper etiquette is for breast-feeding one's doll in public.

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Filed under: U.S.
U.S. Soccer names ex-German skipper Jürgen Klinsmann as national team coach
Former German national team coach Jürgen Klinsmann has been tapped to head the U.S. national squad.
July 29th, 2011
01:27 PM ET

U.S. Soccer names ex-German skipper Jürgen Klinsmann as national team coach

The U.S. men's national soccer team, a day after firing its coach of almost five years, has named former German skipper Jürgen Klinsmann to take the helm ahead of the 2014 World Cup.

U.S. Soccer President Sunil Gulati, in announcing the team’s 35th manager, said he was excited to see Klinsmann taking over.

“He is a highly accomplished player and coach with the experience and knowledge to advance the program,” Gulati said in a statement. “Jürgen has had success in many different areas of the game and we look forward to the leadership he will provide on and off the field.”

Gulati announced Thursday that Bob Bradley, who had coached the team since January 2007, had been relieved of his duties.

The U.S. Soccer Federation will hold a news conference Monday to formally introduce the 46-year-old Klinsmann as its coach. His first match will be a highly anticipated August 10 bout with Mexico, which thrashed the U.S. 4-2 in this year’s Gold Cup final.

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Filed under: Soccer • Sports • U.S.
July 29th, 2011
12:50 PM ET

The debt ceiling: Where you stand in battle

House Speaker John Boehner's debt plan was put on hold Thursday night after lacking the needed votes to pass, but he may try again Friday. The frustration about the inability of Congress and President Barack Obama to reach a deal to raise the debt ceiling and prevent a possible government default has sparked a firestorm of anger directed toward Washington.

But there's no shortage of people who believe they have the answer to solving the crisis or who is to blame for it.

As Washington struggles to reach a deal, CNN is listening to what you have to say about the debt fiasco as well thoughts from influential voices, politicians and analysts.

iReport: Your message to Congress

What is the solution for fixing the debt crisis?

With the both chambers of Congress seemingly unable to come up with a debt-ceiling solution, constitutional law professor Jack Balkin wrote about three ways Obama could bypass Congress and try to solve the crisis on his own.

"We are having a debt-ceiling crisis because Congress has given the president contradictory commands," Balkin said in a CNN.com opinion piece. "Congress has ordered the president to spend money, and it has forbidden him to borrow enough money to obey its orders." But Obama may be able to save the United States from defaulting, he suggests, perhaps by issuing two $1 trillion coins or selling the Federal Reserve an option on $2 trillion in property.

CNN.com readers jumped right into the conversation, discussing whether it would be the right move for Obama to sidestep Congress. One commenter named svscnn said: "I don't know if I'm relieved or concerned about some of the revelations in this article. While they all seem a bit shady, I suppose it's good to know that there are still some executive options on the table to keep us from going over the brink that Congress has brought us to."

Marc J. Yacht said he thinks that Obama is being “held hostage” and that he should stand his ground in the debt-ceiling debate.

“Use your power of the executive order to break the impasse, if you can,” Yacht told CNN's iReport. “Not raisng the debt ceiling undermines this country's stability. Equity and balance has to be the driving force in this debate.”

Skip Wininge, another iReporter, got so fed up with Congress’ inability to reform the tax structure that he has devised a plan of his own. He uploaded his thoughts to iReport, explaining, “Don’t pay for wars and tax cuts on the backs of senior citizens who barely get by on Social Security and Medicare. They have already paid their dues."

Another solution? "If far-right conservatives can't listen to reason, maybe they will listen to Ronald Reagan," CNN contributor John Avlon argues.

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Filed under: Budget • Economy • Finance • Politics • Taxes
July 29th, 2011
11:29 AM ET

Settlement brings relief for vets with PTSD

Relief is on the way for  more than 1,000 Iraq and Afghanistan war veterans who suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder.

Under the terms of a class-action lawsuit settlement announced Friday by a veterans advocacy group, those veterans will now receive lifetime disability benefits.

The National Veterans Legal Services Program said the U.S. military violated the law by failing to assign the veterans a 50% or higher disability rating that is needed to qualify for benefits.

"These veterans served our country in time of war, but have waited three to eight years to receive the disability benefits which they've earned for their service," said Bart Stichman, co-executive director of the veterans advocacy group.

"Today, a terrible wrong to our nation's war veterans is being righted," he said.

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Filed under: Justice • U.S.
July 29th, 2011
11:27 AM ET

Mystery surrounds rebel leader's killing in Libya

Uncertainty swirled across war-torn Libya Friday after the mysterious death of that country's top rebel commander, with some asking whether his death is a troubling harbinger for the opposition movement.

Gen. Abdul Fattah Younis was killed after the main rebel organization in Libya, the Transitional National Council, sought to question him about military matters and allegations that he or those close to him had ongoing ties to Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi, Younis' supporters said.

Younis was killed along with a colonel and a lieutenant colonel, the Transitional National Council said in a prepared statement.

There are more questions than answers about the deaths, which have stirred speculation about whether they would cause a rift among opposition leaders.

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Filed under: Libya • World
Gotta Watch: Will Casey Anthony accept any of these high dollar offers?
TV producer Al Taylor has offered $1M to Casey Anthony for the first interview with her after being discharged from jail.
July 29th, 2011
11:27 AM ET

Gotta Watch: Will Casey Anthony accept any of these high dollar offers?

Casey Anthony walked out of jail with only $537.68 in her pocket…not a lot of money to restart her life, especially when her parents are reportedly refusing to take her in. But, she’s gotten plenty of high dollar offers from magazines and television producers to keep her afloat for a good long while. And it sounds like Casey and her attorney might be considering them…

Birthday suit – Larry Flynt of Hustler says he’s been in talks with Casey’s attorney regarding his offer of $500,000 for her to pose nude in his magazine. On top of the half million dollar check, Flynt also promises her 10% of the issue’s profits. “People have been coming to me in droves wanting this,” Flynt said, “There are men who wanna see her in her birthday suit”.

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