World leaders and friends of the former first lady react to Betty Ford's death
July 8th, 2011
09:53 PM ET

World leaders and friends of the former first lady react to Betty Ford's death

Condolences began pouring in soon after news broke about the death of Betty Ford, the widow of late President Gerald Ford and a co-founder of an eponymous addiction center in California. Here are some of those comments:

PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA

Throughout her long and active life, Elizabeth Anne Ford distinguished herself through her courage and compassion. As our nation’s First Lady, she was a powerful advocate for women’s health and women’s rights.  After leaving the White House, Mrs. Ford helped reduce the social stigma surrounding addiction and inspired thousands to seek much-needed treatment. While her death is a cause for sadness, we know that organizations such as the Betty Ford Center will honor her legacy by giving countless Americans a new lease on life.

Today, we take comfort in the knowledge that Betty and her husband, former President Gerald Ford, are together once more. Michelle and I send our thoughts and prayers to their children, Michael, John, Steven, and Susan.

FORMER PRESIDENT GEORGE W. BUSH

Laura and I are deeply saddened by the passing of Betty Ford.  We admired her as a First Lady and valued her as a friend.  She made countless contributions to our country, and we especially appreciate her courage in calling attention to breast cancer and substance abuse.  Because of her leadership, many lives were saved.  Tonight our prayers go out to Mrs. Ford's entire family.

NANCY REAGAN

I was deeply saddened this afternoon when I heard of Betty Ford’s death.  She has been an inspiration to so many through her efforts to educate women about breast cancer and her wonderful work at the Betty Ford Center. She was Jerry Ford’s strength through some very difficult days in our country’s history, and I admired her courage in facing and sharing her personal struggles with all of us.

My love and deepest sympathy go out to the entire Ford family at this very sad time.

FORMER PRESIDENT GEORGE H.W. BUSH

Barbara and I loved Betty Ford very much. She was a wonderful wife and mother; a great friend; and a courageous First Lady.   No one confronted life’s struggles with more fortitude or honesty, and as a result, we all learned from the challenges she faced.  The Betty Ford Center, which already has helped change the lives of thousands of people, will be her lasting legacy of care and concern.  We were proud to know her.  We were proud to call her a friend.  We will miss her very much.

FORMER PRESIDENT JIMMY CARTER AND HIS WIFE, ROSALYNN

Rosalynn and I are saddened by the passing of Betty Ford, a close personal friend and our frequent partner in bipartisan efforts to improve mental health and substance abuse care in our nation. She was a remarkable political spouse, whose courageous candor helped forge a new era of openness after the divisiveness of the Vietnam War and Watergate. Also, as a tireless advocate for women’s rights and social justice, she helped to improve the lives and opportunities of countless women and children.  We extend our deepest sympathy to her family at this difficult time.

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Educators warn of negative effects of not teaching cursive in schools
Lauren Sanchez teaches cursive writing to third graders at St. Francis Xavier Elementary School in Burbank, California.
July 8th, 2011
09:34 PM ET

Educators warn of negative effects of not teaching cursive in schools

Handwriting experts and educators worry that Indiana's choice to stop teaching cursive in schools could negatively affect a child's ability to learn.

The Indiana Department of Education joined 39 other states in adopting the Common Core curriculum, an initiative to phase out cursive writing in classrooms in favor of providing students more time to hone digital skills.

But some believe the move could adversely affect children.

"The fluidity of cursive allows, I think, for gains in spelling and a better tie to what they are reading and comprehending through stories and such and through literature," said Paul Sullivan, principal of St. Francis Xavier Elementary School in Burbank, California.

"I think there’s a firmer connection of wiring between the brain’s processes of learning these skills and the actual practice of writing."

Listen to the full interview here:

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Filed under: Education • Indiana
Betty Ford dead at 93
July 8th, 2011
08:34 PM ET

Betty Ford dead at 93

Betty Ford, the widow of late President Gerald Ford and a co-founder of an eponymous addiction center in California, has died at the age of 93, according to the director of the Gerald R. Ford Presidential Library and Museum.

Ford died Friday evening with family at her bedside, according to a family member.

No other details were immediately available.

FULL STORY
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Filed under: Betty Ford • Politics
NASA flight director relishes the moment, focuses on the mission
NASA Flight Director Richard Jones monitors the space shuttle Atlantis inside Mission Control the Johnson Space Center.
July 8th, 2011
06:41 PM ET

NASA flight director relishes the moment, focuses on the mission

After Friday's launch of the Space Shuttle Atlantis, CNN Correspondent Ed Lavandera talked with Flight Director Richard Jones inside NASA Mission Control at the Johnson Space Center in Houston. Jones is a 20-year veteran of the space shuttle program. Today, Jones made the call to give the go-ahead for the final launch of Atlantis.

CNN: What was it like being in there today?

Richard Jones: I was a bundle of nerves. I mean, we were working through the weather issue that most people probably already know about. The weather was on the verge of being absolutely pristine, but it just wasn't quite there. So, we were churning through that making sure it was all safe.

CNN: I know your number one priority was to get those astronauts off safely. But in the back of your mind, knowing the whole world was watching today, Did that sink in at any point?

Jones: It's sinking in right now as I'm talking to you. In this room you kind of learn to live in the bubble a little bit. So everything that we're doing, it just fades to the background. We know a lot of people are watching but it becomes background noise. So I wasn't focusing on anything except my job at the time.

CNN: Has it sunk that this was the last space shuttle launch?

Jones: Not yet. I mean, we've got a mission to fly. After, we'll stop when all the parties begin. It's going to start sinking in at that time. But we have to make sure the rest of the mission goes off without a hitch.

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Overheard: Democrats worried by Obama's debt-reduction plan
July 8th, 2011
05:07 PM ET

Overheard: Democrats worried by Obama's debt-reduction plan

Comment of the Day

"The only difference between Social Security and a Ponzi scheme is intent... hmm, I take that back, I guess there is no difference.” –coexistor

 Liberals warn Obama against entitlement cuts

On Friday, Democratic supporters continued to express their frustration with President Obama’s new deficit-reduction plan. The plan includes cuts to Medicare and Social Security — something the president previously said was off-limits. Democrat leaders warned Obama that entitlement cuts represent a sharp shift away from party priorities, putting many who are up for 2012 re-election at risk. Meanwhile, CNN.com readers expressed their own uncertainty about the future of the economy.

Drwelby said, “There have been numerous reports on Social Security problems since the 1980s, so if you've lived since then still under the impression that you could rely on SS to cover your retirement years without a plan ‘B’, you were foolish.”

Reqq1diver was more optimistic, and said the impact from cuts might not be that severe. “The only cuts in entitlement benefits are for the expansion of them, i.e.,  Social Security was meant for seniors, NOT kids and not for the disabled. If we took SS and put it back like it was founded, this country would be back in shape.”

FULL POST

July 8th, 2011
02:48 PM ET

Syria slams U.S. diplomat's trip to Hama

The embattled Syrian regime is accusing the U.S. ambassador of inciting protests in the restive city of Hama, but a State Department official called that claim "absolute rubbish" Friday.

The state-run Syrian media says U.S. Ambassador to Syria Robert Ford also met with "saboteurs" and undermined its national dialogue initiative during a visit to that city.

The government said Ford did not ask for proper permission to travel there, where thousands of people have taken to the streets for anti-government protests in recent days, including a huge turnout on Friday.

"This U.S. conduct is also aimed at obstructing dialogue and political solutions undertaken by the leadership in Syria," according to a media source quoted by the state-run Syrian Arab News Agency on Friday.

FULL STORY
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Minute by minute: Atlantis shuttle lifts off for final time
The final space shuttle launch in NASA history, the Shuttle Atlantis launches from the John F. Kennedy Space Center in Florida on Friday.
July 8th, 2011
01:36 PM ET

Minute by minute: Atlantis shuttle lifts off for final time

Editor's Note: Atlantis' journey to the International Space Station will be NASA's 135th and final mission in the space shuttle program, which began 30 years ago. Tune in to CNN's live coverage of the launch Friday, on CNN.com/Live and the CNN mobile apps. As part of our coverage our teams are the ground are sharing what they are seeing and hearing during this historic day.

[Updated at 1:36 p.m.] Astronaut Julie Payette, a Canadian flight engineer who flew two shuttle missions told CNN: “I feel good about it being a grand finale for an extraordinarily successful program.”

“This program has inspired so many people," she said. "It is very inspirational when we do things on the edge and this is one of the edges that’s hard to reach.”

[Updated at 12:37 p.m.] Dr. Mae Jemison, the first African-American in Space, said the launch today was a "really bittersweet feeling."

"[It's like] you've had a good friend or a car that did a really good job, but now its time to move on," she said.

[Updated at 12:20 p.m.] @NASA tweets: "The STS-135 post-launch news conference now will be held at 1 p.m. EDT."

[Updated at 12:06 p.m.] Linda Johnston from Palestine, Texas wiped tears away from her eyes as the shuttle blasted into space. This was her first launch and the moment was overwhelming. She rose from her wheelchair and looked by the brim of her straw hat as her husband and grandson stood by her side.

She said the shuttle symbolizes patriotism. Why its ending, she doesn't know - she's just happy that she and the three generations of her family got to see this one in the flesh.

Another family from Warren, Michigan came to see the last launch.

"It was something I could never see again," one woman told CNN's Brooke Baldwin as she cried. "But I've never seen it and I wanted to."

5-year-old Parker Mills, who was with the rest of his family explained, "It was ginormous!  It just went up into the clouds."

[Updated at 11:57 a.m.] @NASA tweets: Watch Administrator Bolden's video blog about the final shuttle launch and what's next for NASA:  http://t.co/wDqXVRK

[Updated at 11:55 a.m.] Astronaut Leroy Chiao is here to do an interview with CNN International. He's got a"celebration" cigar lit and in hand and said the final launch was "fantastic."

Chiao was the commander of Expedition 10 and lived aboard the International Space from October 2004 to April 2005 and has been aboard three shuttle flights.

[Updated at 11:41 a.m.] "When we saw the bright glare of the shuttle and the chants of U.S.A., U.S.A. started going up, it was hard not to cry, frankly," CNN's Carol Costello says.

[Updated at 11:33 a.m.] Space Shuttle Atlantis has achieved main engine cutoff.

[Updated at 11:31 a.m.] The solid rocket boosters continue to travel upward another 150,000 feet after they are ejected, former astronaut Cady Coleman explains.

[Updated at 11:29 a.m.] A half a ton of fuel per second is being drained from Atlantis' main fuel tank. Engines performing perfectly, NASA says.

[Updated at 11:28 a.m.] "Atlantis flexing its muscles one final time," flight commentator says.

[Updated at 11:27 a.m.] Atlantis is in the middle of its eight-minute ride into orbit.

[Updated at 11:26 a.m.] Space Shuttle Atlantis has lifted off, marking NASA's final mission in the space shuttle program.

"The space shuttle spreads its wings one final time for the start of a sentimental journey into history," launch control said.

FULL POST

Ohio State vacates 2010 wins, puts self on probation
Ohio State coach Jim Tressel quit under pressure after lying to NCAA investigators about violations by his players.
July 8th, 2011
01:20 PM ET

Ohio State vacates 2010 wins, puts self on probation

The Ohio State University announced Friday it is vacating all 12 of its victories from the 2010 football season and placing itself on two years' probation in the wake of a scandal that cost coach Jim Tressel his job.

Tressel resigned under pressure after it was revealed he had lied to National Collegiate Athletic Association officials investigating allegations that Ohio State players had received special benefits from local businesses in Columbus, Ohio.

Several players, including star quarterback Terrelle Pryor, allegedly swapped team and personal memorabilia and equipment for tattoos and other benefits. Tressel became aware of the transactions, which violate NCAA rules, but did not report them on a form all coaches are required to submit.

Five players were suspended for the first five games of the upcoming season.

"We are fully cooperating with the NCAA, and we look forward to working together to bring a resolution to these current matters," Athletics Director Gene Smith said in a written statement.

SI: Cheating for Dummies

The self-imposed sanctions are contained in the university's formal response to the NCAA's Notice of Allegations received April 21. The NCAA could impose its own punishment, which could be more severe.

Tressel and the university also announced they had agreed to recharacterize his departure as a retirement rather than a resignation.

SI: Stewart Mandel says penalties are reasonable

"I take full responsibility for my mistakes that have led to the ongoing NCAA inquiry and to scrutiny and criticism of the football program," Tressel said in the university's press release. "I am grateful for this opportunity to retire from the university that I so deeply respect and that I will continue to support."

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July 8th, 2011
12:10 PM ET

GOP ties job numbers to anti-tax stance in debt talks

Top congressional Republicans on Friday used the new dismal jobs report to blast Democrats' push for more tax revenue in the ongoing debt ceiling negotiations, arguing that such a move would derail an already shaky economic recovery.

Federal officials reported Friday that the economy added only 18,000 jobs in June - far below the number predicted by most economists. Unemployment inched up another tenth of a point to 9.2%.

"Today's report is more evidence that the misguided 'stimulus' spending binge, excessive regulations, and an overwhelming national debt continue to hold back private-sector job creation in our country," said House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio. "A debt limit increase that raises taxes or fails to make serious spending cuts won't pass the House."

FULL STORY

Filed under: Barack Obama • Congress • Democratic Party • Economy • John Boehner • Politics • Republican Party • U.S.
July 8th, 2011
12:01 PM ET

Ex-aide to British PM arrested in hacking scandal

Andy Coulson, the prime minister's former press secretary, was arrested Friday in connection with allegations of phone hacking and corruption in a case that promises to be a growing political liability for David Cameron.

The scandal has prompted questions over the British prime minister's judgment in hiring Coulson after he resigned as editor of the News of the World because of the allegations.

Speaking shortly before his former aide's arrest was announced, Cameron went on the defensive at a Downing Street news conference Friday, saying: "The decision to hire him was mine, and mine alone."

He said he gave Coulson a second chance after assurances that he was not involved in wrongdoing at the newspaper.

FULL STORY
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Final space shuttle mission lifts off
July 8th, 2011
11:51 AM ET

Final space shuttle mission lifts off

The space shuttle Atlantis lifted off Friday morning on the final mission of America's 30-year space-shuttle program.

The four-member crew blasted off on a 12-day mission just before 11:30 a.m. The four - all shuttle veterans - are on their way to deliver supplies to the International Space Station.

The possibility of storms had raised doubt about whether the launch would take place as planned, but NASA gave the shuttle a "go" for launch a few minutes before liftoff.

Thousands of people, including some who came to Kennedy Space Center three decades ago for the first launch, were gathered to watch. Almost a million people were expected to be on hand to witness the historic event.

FULL STORY
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Hall of Fame baseball manager Dick Williams dies
Former major-league manager Dick Williams talks to reporters during Hall of Fame Weekend in 2008.
July 8th, 2011
10:49 AM ET

Hall of Fame baseball manager Dick Williams dies

Dick Williams, who managed in four World Series and won two of them, died Thursday, Major League Baseball announced. He was 82.

"I know that every one of those players that played for him is very sad," former Oakland A's catcher Ray Fosse told MLB.com. "He was very well respected, and what more can you say about playing for someone that you want to play hard for."

Williams managed the A's to the first two of their three consecutive World Series championships in the early 1970s. He also led the Boston Red Sox to the American League pennant in 1967 and the San Diego Padres to the National League crown in 1984. He also helmed the Montreal Expos, California Angels and Seattle Mariners during a 21-year managing career that ended in 1988, according to Baseball-reference.com.

"It is with great sadness that we say goodbye to Dick Williams today," A's managing partner Lew Wolff said Thursday in a statement. "He was a brilliant and feisty leader, and universally recognized as one of the greatest managers in Major League history. ... A's fans and our franchise will always have a warm spot in their hearts for Dick Williams."

Williams was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 2008. His son Mark told MLB.com the family will scatter his ashes on the hall's Doubleday Field.

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A look back at the shuttle program
The sun rises over the Atlantic Ocean silhouetting space shuttle Atlantis' external fuel tank and solid rocket boosters on Launch Pad 39A at NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida.
July 8th, 2011
10:09 AM ET

A look back at the shuttle program

Today's launch of Atlantis will be the last time a space shuttle lifts off from the Kennedy Space Center. For more than 30 years, the orbiters have pushed the bounds of science and carried hundreds of people and tons of large cargo into orbit. As the final mission begins, CNN looks back at moments that have defined this one-of-a-kind program. You also can take a look at part one of the shuttle's most memorable moments.
FULL POST

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Filed under: Shuttle • Solar System • Space • U.S.
Team's sellout streak stretches 11+ years
Fifth Third Field, home of the Midwest League Dayton Dragons, has sold out every game since it opened in 2000.
July 8th, 2011
10:00 AM ET

Team's sellout streak stretches 11+ years

Ohio - the Cradle of Coaches, the birthplace of the NFL and the home of the Pro Football Hall of Fame - is known for making football history, but baseball and sports history are expected to be made Saturday night in Dayton.

When the Dayton Dragons' game against South Bend becomes official in the fifth inning, the minor-league team will set the record for consecutive sellouts by a professional sports team with an astounding 815.

The Class A Midwest League team will break the record held by the NBA's Portland Trail Blazers, who sold out 814 straight games from 1977 to 1995.

The Dragons have sold all 8,000-plus seats for every game since the Cincinnati Reds farm team arrived and Fifth Third Field opened 11½ seasons ago. In the first three years of the streak, the entire season sold out before Opening Day, according to the Dayton Daily News.

That's more than 6.5 million tickets sold in a town where the unemployment rate stood at 9.3% in May and was above 10% as recently as February, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

These are some committed fans. The streak even endured a 24-game home losing streak last season.

"It's the whole atmosphere," season ticket holder Mike Belcher explained to CNN affiliate WDTN. "Dayton Dragon games have the full entertainment package. It is not just a baseball game."

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Rookie's first shuttle launch: Fighting traffic to see moment in history
NASA makes preparations Thursday for the final launch of the space shuttle Atlantis, set for Friday.
July 8th, 2011
09:20 AM ET

Rookie's first shuttle launch: Fighting traffic to see moment in history

Editor's note: CNN senior producer Eric Marrapodi is attending his first shuttle launch. Atlantis is set to blast off Friday in the final mission of America's 30-year space shuttle program. Here are his preparations for the big moment:

4:30 a.m.: Getting there is half the battle.

I'm a rookie. This is my first shuttle launch.

My iPhone alarm clock buzzes my wake-up call. I'm already anxious about traffic.

CNN Miami producer Rich Phillips put the fear of God in me early on when he told me it once took him five hours to travel 12 miles down here for a launch.

Brooke Baldwin and I are getting ready for morning live shots for "CNN Newsroom" so we made the call to get on the road early and stave off any traffic snafus.

5 a.m.: As we pull out of the parking lot of our beachfront hotel, there is a line of cars waiting to get on the beach for a prime viewing spot. This is not a good sign.

FULL POST

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Filed under: Shuttle • Space
July 8th, 2011
08:37 AM ET

Economy adds just 18,000 jobs in June

The U.S. economy added only 18,000 jobs in June, the government reported Friday, a much worse performance than most economists expected. The unemployment rate went up to 9.2%.

READ FULL CNNMONEY.COM STORY
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Friday's live video events
Space shuttle Atlantis is expected to launch, weather permitting, this morning
July 8th, 2011
07:50 AM ET

Friday's live video events

Thirty years of space shuttle launches will come to a conclusion today, weather permitting, when Atlantis lifts off for the last time.  Watch CNN.com Live for continuing coverage of the final launch of the shuttle program.

Today's programming highlights...

9:00 am ET - Future of Social Security hearing - Social Security has been a hot topic of debate when it comes to dealing with the deficit.  The House Ways and Means Committee discusses possible changes to the program.

FULL POST


Filed under: Budget • Economy • Shuttle • Space
On the Radar: A new country, royals in L.A., new FDIC chief
Children rehearse for South Sudan independence day ceremonies.
July 8th, 2011
06:09 AM ET

On the Radar: A new country, royals in L.A., new FDIC chief

Three things you need to know today:

South Sudan: Final preparations are being made Friday in what on Saturday will be the world's newest county, South Sudan.

In January, voters in predominantly Christian southern Sudan overwhelmingly approved a referendum to split with the Muslim north. The referendum was part of a 2005 peace deal that helped end a decades-long civil war.

That war created a class of refugees who drifted in and out of neighboring countries - many on foot - to flee violence and famine that left about 2 million people dead.

Now scores have returned to witness the birth of a nation.

"I cannot believe this day is finally here," says Victoria Bol, a resident of Grand Rapids, Michigan, who has returned to the new capital of Juba for independence day. "It is very emotional. I'm excited, but I'm also thinking of all the people who died for this to happen."

Royals in California: Prince William and his wife, Catherine, will land in Los Angeles on Friday evening for the last leg of their whirlwind North American tour that started in Canada last week.

Gov. Jerry Brown and his wife will welcome the royal couple.

After arriving at the Los Angeles International Airport, the couple will make their way to their first event at the Beverly Hilton in Beverly Hills.

The conference draws British and American venture capitalists, and leaders from the technology industry looking for new investment opportunities and ways to create jobs in both countries.

New FDIC chief: Sheila Bair, who shepherded the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. through one of the worst financial shocks in history, steps down on Friday.

Bair emerged as a central figure in the government's response to the banking crisis that dominated her five years in office. She was lauded for broadening the FDIC's power to take over large financial institutions that pose a threat to the economy and pushing banks to modify home loans for troubled borrowers.

Bair's successor is Martin Gruenberg,  the FDIC's vice chairman, who was nominated in June by President Obama. He will become acting chairman on Monday, pending Senate approval.

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Filed under: Business • California • Economy • Politics • Prince William • Sudan • World