July 9th, 2011
09:19 PM ET

7.1-magnitude earthquake strikes off coast of Japan

A 7.1-magnitude earthquake struck off the east coast of Japan Sunday, prompting tsunami advisories for several coastal regions, the Japan Meteorological Agency said.

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Filed under: Japan
Budget talks break down, source says
July 9th, 2011
08:24 PM ET

Budget talks break down, source says

Talks aimed at reaching a budget deal including spending cuts as part of negotiations about raising the nation's debt ceiling broke down on Saturday after the White House resisted proposals offered by House Speaker John Boehner, a Republican familiar with the discussions said.

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Filed under: Budget • Politics
Services for Betty Ford to be held in California, Michigan
July 9th, 2011
06:43 PM ET

Services for Betty Ford to be held in California, Michigan

There will be two services for former first lady Betty Ford, a family representative said Saturday.

The first will be held on Tuesday in Palm Desert, California, while the second is scheduled for Thursday afternoon in Grand Rapids, Michigan, he said. Among the eulogists scheduled to speak are Lynne Cheney and Rosalynn Carter, he said.

Ford, the widow of late President Gerald Ford and a co-founder of an eponymous addiction center in California, died Friday evening with family at her bedside. She was 93.

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Filed under: Betty Ford • Politics
Flying 'blind' inside Mission Control
Ascent Flight Director Richard Jones, seated second from left, confers with his team Friday at Johnson Space Center in Houston.
July 9th, 2011
02:37 PM ET

Flying 'blind' inside Mission Control

Editor's note: Tracy Sabo is a senior producer at CNN. She was granted unusual access to watch Friday's space shuttle launch from inside Mission Control at Johnson Space Center in Houston. Here is her first-person account:

As space shuttle Atlantis was in final countdown on the launch pad at Kennedy Space Center in Florida, I sat in Johnson Space Center's Mission Control in Houston watching the historic mission from a perspective rarely seen by non-NASA employees and contractors.

The feeling of "history in the making" was palpable as Richard Jones, the ascent flight director, stood pacing and scratching his head in the middle of the floor. Jones was poring over data on screens both big and small inside this intense scene at NASA Mission Control.

The weather was a major concern for the launch team as thunderstorms were consistently a "moderate threat." With the world watching this final shuttle mission, the pressure of an on-time launch must have been immense on the shoulders of this team.

However, officials constantly reminded us that "safety comes first" at NASA and the launch would be called off if everything didn't come together perfectly during a narrow window of opportunity. A decision likely would come down "to the final seconds," a spokesman said.

Listening to the flight director poll his Mission Control team in the final minutes sent chills down my spine. Despite the early weather threats, all systems were determined "Go for launch," and the official countdown clock began.

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Filed under: Atlantis • NASA • Shuttle • Space • Texas
Ex-director of Illinois cemetery sentenced in burial scheme
A flag marks a grave at Burr Oak Cemetery in Alsip, Illinois. A pile of human remains was found behind the blue dumpster in the background in 2009.
July 9th, 2011
02:36 PM ET

Ex-director of Illinois cemetery sentenced in burial scheme

The former director of a Chicago-area cemetery where hundreds of graves were dug up and resold has pleaded guilty to several charges involving the desecration of human remains.

Carolyn Towns, 51, who ran the Burr Oak Cemetery when the allegations surfaced in 2009, was sentenced to 12 years in prison Friday after she pleaded guilty to all charges against her, including dismembering a human body and theft from a place of worship, according to state prosecutors in Cook County.

Three grave diggers faced similar charges.

As part of the scheme, prosecutors said, the grave diggers would exhume bodies, crushing vaults and caskets before dumping human remains at cemetery's trash site. At the time, the workers would "double stack" graves, meaning they would bury existing remains deeper into the ground before placing new remains in the same location, authorities said.

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Filed under: Crime • Illinois
Yankees' Jeter gets 3,000th hit
New York Yankees shortstop Derek Jeter strokes a home run Saturday for the 3,000th hit of his career.
July 9th, 2011
02:28 PM ET

Yankees' Jeter gets 3,000th hit

New York Yankees shortstop Derek Jeter joined Major League Baseball's elite 3,000-hit club Saturday on a home run, marking a perfect day at the plate at Yankee Stadium.

The dramatic, milestone-reaching blast was part of a performance that included hitting safely in all five at-bats and driving in the winning run against Tampa Bay.

And, with his third hit of the day, Jeter moved past Roberto Clemente - whose career ended at 3,000 hits - and alone into 27th place on the all-time hits list. He has the most hits of any active player.

In achieving the milestone, Jeter, who has played with the Yankees his entire career, accomplished a feat that eluded Yankee greats like Babe Ruth, Joe DiMaggio, Mickey Mantle and Lou Gehrig.

Jeter hit a single for number 2,999 in his first at-bat of the game in the first inning. Then, in the third inning he launched the homer, his third of the year, into left field off Rays starter David Price.

Tampa Bay Rays first baseman Casey Kotchman tipped his cap to Jeter as he rounded first on his way to a big welcome celebration at home plate from his teammates. Several of the Rays stepped out of the visitors' dugout to applaud. The game was halted as the crowd of nearly 50,000 stood and roared. Jeter took several curtain calls from the dugout.

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Filed under: Baseball • Sports
July 9th, 2011
12:16 PM ET

Hines Ward of NFL, 'Dancing' fame faces DUI charge

NFL star Hines Ward was arrested for allegedly driving under the influence of alcohol in DeKalb County, Georgia, early Saturday, according to jail records.

He was released after posting a $1,000 bond.

Ward, a 35-year-old Pittsburgh Steelers wide receiver, also is known for winning the latest season of ABC's "Dancing With the Stars."

Ward was born in South Korea and grew up in Georgia. His Helping Hands U.S. Foundation focuses on improving literacy among children, according to his website. He also has a foundation in South Korea targeting discrimination against biracial children.

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Filed under: Crime • Georgia • Pro football • Showbiz • Sports • TV
July 9th, 2011
09:26 AM ET

Human Rights Watch: Syrian forces ordered to shoot unarmed protesters

Syrian security forces were commanded to shoot unarmed protesters, according to military and security agency defectors interviewed by a human rights watchdog.

Human Rights Watch said Saturday that they "described receiving, and following, orders to shoot on protesters to disperse them."

Efforts to reach the Syrian government for comment were not immediately successful.

The claims coincide with ongoing assertions by Syrian activists that security personnel have assaulted unarmed protesters. The Syrian regime claims armed groups are responsible for the violence at the demonstrations, which erupted nationwide in mid-March

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Filed under: Syria
July 9th, 2011
08:07 AM ET

U.S. recognizes South Sudan

The United States recognizes South Sudan as a sovereign and independent state, U.S. President Barack Obama said Saturday.

"After so much struggle by the people of South Sudan, the United States of America welcomes the birth of a new nation," Obama said in a statement. "Today is a reminder that after the darkness of war, the light of a new dawn is possible. A proud flag flies over Juba and the map of the world has been redrawn."

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Filed under: Barack Obama • South Sudan • Sudan • World