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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Filed under: Alabama • Tornadoes • Weather
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.

FULL POST

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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.

FULL POST

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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.

FULL STORY
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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.

FULL STORY
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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”.

FULL POST

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Filed under: Gotta Watch
July 29th, 2011
11:21 AM ET

Syrian security forces and protesters clash, reports say

Syrian security forces fired on protesters in at least three Syrian cities Friday, according to a human rights group, while state media reported that a "terrorist attack" damaged an oil pipeline in a fourth.

Security forces apparently shot at protesters in Homs, Lattakia and Damascus, killing at least one and injuring several, according to the Syrian Observatory for Human rights.

The death was reported in Lattakia, where security forces fired on hundreds of anti-government protesters, the group said. Several more were injured in Homs under similar circumstances, according to the group.

And in the Damascus suburb of Haja Al Aswad, heavy gunfire was heard as demonstrators left Abraham Mosque. In another Damascus neighborhood, security forces dispersed hundreds of protesters chanting anti-government slogans.

FULL STORY
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Filed under: Syria • World
July 29th, 2011
11:11 AM ET

Man accused of plotting Fort Hood attack to appear in court

An AWOL Muslim American Army private arrested after buying bomb-making supplies is scheduled to appear in court on Friday.

Pfc. Naser Jason Abdo will appear before a civilian magistrate judge in Waco, Texas, at 11 a.m. (noon ET). The specific charges against him will be unsealed following his appearance, according to court officials.

Killeen police arrested Abdo, 21, on Wednesday after a gun store employee tipped them that Abdo's behavior raised red flags when he purchased six pounds of smokeless gunpowder and other supplies.

FBI investigators who searched his hotel room found enough material for two bombs, a Defense Department official said.

"Military personnel were a target of this suspect," Killeen Police Chief Dennis Baldwin told reporters on Thursday.

Killeen is home to Fort Hood, the same military post where a 2009 shooting spree left 13 people dead. Another Muslim American soldier, Maj. Nidal Hasan, has been charged in those killings.

Asked how close Abdo may have come to pulling off an attack, Baldwin said, "I can tell you that we would probably be here today giving you a different briefing had he not been stopped."

FULL STORY
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Filed under: Fort Hood • Military • Texas
British lawmakers want clarifications from Murdoch, others
July 29th, 2011
11:02 AM ET

British lawmakers want clarifications from Murdoch, others

James Murdoch and Rebekah Brooks, who had testified before a British parliamentary committee regarding the UK phone hacking scandal, have been asked to clarify some of their testimony, a lawmaker said Friday.

John Whittingdale said that the parliamentary committee has written letters to Murdoch, Brooks, and others to request "more information" about their testimony. He made the statement at a news conference on another topic.

The request stems from claims by a former editor of the News of the World and the paper's former head of legal affairs, Colin Myler and Tom Crone, that Murdoch had been "mistaken" in his testimony regarding an important piece of evidence.

Myler and Crone also were sent letters from the committee, Whittingdale said. A former News International director of legal affairs who also alleged mistakes, Jon Chapman, was also to receive a letter.

A motion to have Murdoch and the others return to testify in person was voted down by the committee, Whittingdale said.

FULL STORY
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Filed under: Media • News of the World • United Kingdom
On the Radar: Debt ceiling vote, economic reports, tropical storm, turmoil in Somalia
House Speaker John Boehner and other Republican House leaders discuss Boehner's debt plan this week at the Capitol.
July 29th, 2011
08:34 AM ET

On the Radar: Debt ceiling vote, economic reports, tropical storm, turmoil in Somalia

Debt ceiling crisis – House Speaker John Boehner's plan that would raise the nation's debt ceiling and enact sweeping cuts in government spending could come up for a vote Friday after House Republicans called off a vote late Thursday. The delay revealed a deep rift within the GOP that could undermine the party's latest attempt to avoid an unprecedented national default and stave off potential economic catastrophe.

Economic data – The government will report Friday how much the economy expanded in the second quarter but don't expect much good news. A CNNMoney survey of economists forecasts the economy grew only 1.8% in the second quarter, which would be a slight slowdown from the first quarter when it grew a lethargic 1.9%. The University of Michigan's consumer confidence report for July also is due Friday.

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Filed under: Air travel • Budget • Economy • France • John Boehner • Politics • Somalia • Weather