[Updated at 11:12 p.m. ET] Katia became the second hurricane of the Atlantic season Wednesday night and is forecast to become a Category 3 storm in the Atlantic Ocean by the weekend, though it's still too early to know whether it will hit land.Elsewhere, forecasters on Wednesday saw the potential for a new tropical storm that could hit the U.S. Gulf Coast over the weekend.
A cluster of storms over the southeastern Gulf of Mexico on Wednesday could become a tropical depression by Thursday, with the help of upper-level winds that are forecast to aid development, the National Hurricane Center said in its 8 p.m. Wednesday tropical weather outlook.
“Most computer models are developing this into at least a tropical storm, if not a hurricane within the next two days,” CNN Meteorologist Jacqui Jeras said Wednesday evening.
“There is a ton of potential for flooding,” Jeras said. “One computer model solution here (puts) as much as 6 to 12 inches of rain on the Gulf Coast by Saturday morning.”
President Barack Obama has agreed to deliver an economic address to Congress on September 8, rather than September 7 as he originally requested, after House Speaker John Boehner raised concerns about the earlier date, the White House said Wednesday night.
Obama had announced earlier Wednesday that he wanted to address Congress at 8 p.m. on September 7, intending to introduce his highly anticipated job growth plan. But in a letter to Obama, Boehner, R-Ohio, noted that 8 p.m. was less than two hours after the House is scheduled to complete legislative business, and that security sweeps of the chamber usually take more than three hours.
Boehner countered with a suggestion to move the speech to September 8.
Numerous observers have pointed out that September 7 conflicts with a Republican presidential debate to be held at the Reagan Library in California, and September 8 is the day of the opening game of the National Football League's regular season. People from both parties made accusations – on condition of not being named – of high-handed behavior by the other side.
Here is the White House's statement, released Thursday night, announcing Obama's acceptance of an address on September 8:FULL STORY
Venus Williams withdrew from the U.S. Open before her second-round match Wednesday, citing an autoimmune disease diagnosis.
"I have been recently diagnosed with Sjögren's syndrome, an autoimmune disease which is an ongoing medical condition that affects my energy level and causes fatigue and joint pain," the two-time U.S. Open winner said in a statement.
"I enjoyed playing my first match here and wish I could continue but right now I am unable to. I am thankful I finally have a diagnosis and am now focused on getting better and returning to the court soon."
Williams, 31, was scheduled to play Sabine Lisicki on Wednesday at New York's Arthur Ashe stadium, according to SI.com. She advanced to the second round after defeating Vesna Dolonts on Monday, earning almost as much attention for her outfit as her game.
Sjögren's syndrome is a disease that is sometimes linked to rheumatic problems such as rheumatoid arthritis, according to the U.S. National Library of Medicine. It causes dryness in the mouth and eyes and may also affect joints, lungs, kidneys, blood vessels, digestive organs and nerves.
Most people who get Sjögren's syndrome are older than 40. Nine of 10 are women.
Searchers spent a third day Wednesday looking for a Glacier National Park employee who didn’t return from a hike they believe he took in a steep, mountainous part of the park in Montana, officials said.
Jacob “Jake” Rigby, 27, was reported overdue at 2 a.m. Monday after failing to return from a hike he started on his personal time the day before, the park said in a news release.
On Tuesday – the second day of a search involving ground crews and helicopters – searchers found what park officials believe is his signature on a register at the summit of the park’s Brave Dog Mountain. It was dated Sunday, the park said.
Comment of the day:
“I don't believe it! My government is actually working in my interest!” - Nmdissident
The U.S. Department of Justice filed an antitrust lawsuit against AT&T on Wednesday seeking to block its $39 billion merger with T-Mobile. The merger would have created the largest wireless company in the United States — AT&T is currently second, behind Verizon. Justice concerns about the merger include a market dominated by the top two companies leading to higher prices and fewer choices for customers.
Unlike most comment boards that involve the government lately, CNN.com readers offered high praise:
EssJ said, “Thank goodness. As a T-Mobile customer, I hated the idea of being forced to become an AT&T customer again. There's a reason I switched and I've enjoyed T-Mobile's creative service offerings and great prices ever since.”
BHPT said, “EXCELLENT!!!! GO GOVERNMENT!!!”
Slau said, “Thank you DOJ. I am tired of these companies buying and merging then later laying off employees. That is one of the reasons why unemployment is so high.”
Thinkpad said, “For this round: Main Street wins ... Wall Street loses.”
Libslost said, “The government needs to stay out of other people's business.”
4whtitswrth said, “Just ONE MORE example of federal government control over our very existence. And in the midst of this economic crisis and the search for budget cuts, our federal government is willing to spend millions of dollars in paper alone to exercise a FEDERAL MUSCLE! Wake UP AMERICA!”
Angryman1 responded, “You must be one of those capitalists who is in favor of monopolies and oligopolies.”
CbsSheb said, “Glad this is happening! AT&T service was bad years ago, gave them another try (from Verizon) and they are no better and a merger would not better their service but only up all of our rates. The more choices consumers have the better for us!”
Snarkattack said, “You can say what you want about politics, but strangely, the only thing that's more American than hot dogs, French fries, and the Fourth of July? Sherman Anti-Trust.”
Kazzmedia said, “Makes no sense to me. Last time I checked if I wanted Cable TV my choices were Comcast, Comcast ... and Comcast.”
Coloradom responded, “...and DirecTV and Dish Network, as well as broadband from the phone carriers (in certain areas). It doesn't matter how you get the information (satellite, cable lines, etc.) as long as there's competition for television.” FULL POST
[Updated at 4:20 p.m. ET] A son of fugitive Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi called Wednesday for fellow Libyans to rise up against the "gangsters," "rats" and "mercenaries" attempting to wrest control of his country.
"We will have victory soon," Saif al-Islam Gadhafi told Rai TV, a Syrian television station, in a telephone call.
"Everyone should move now, begin to attack these gangsters," he said. "Attack everyone, day and night, until we clean this country from those gangsters and those traitors."
He added, "Everyone is Moammar Gadhafi. Wherever you see the enemy, attack them. They are weak, they have suffered lots of losses and they are now licking their wounds."
Gadhafi did not divulge the whereabouts of his father, but said, "The leader is fine. We are fighting and we are drinking tea and drinking coffee and sitting with our families and fighting."FULL STORY
Nigerian authorities said Wednesday that a man with ties to al Qaeda plotted last week's car bombing at the United Nations' headquarters in the Nigerian capital that killed 23 people.
The Nigerian State Security Service said Mamman Nur recently returned from Somalia and was "working in concert" with two other suspects who have been arrested. The militant Somali group Al-Shabaab has been linked to al Qaeda.
The secret service described Nur as a "notorious Boko Haram element." Boko Haram, a militant Islamic group, aims to enforce a strict version of Islamic law in Nigeria.
The militant group had claimed responsibility for the attack in which a Honda packed with explosives rammed into the U.N. building, shattering windows and setting the place afire.FULL STORY
Texas A&M University took another step Wednesday in its bid to leave the Big 12, notifying its conference that it had submitted an application to join another league, according to a news release.
There has been ongoing speculation that the Aggies might join the Southeastern Conference, a premier athletic conference that can boast the past five national football champions. However, the Texas A&M news release did not say which conference it had applied to join.
Should the application be accepted, the Aggies will vacate the Big 12 Conference on June 30, the university said.
University President R. Bowen Loftin told conference Commissioner Dan Beebe in a letter that it was in the school's best interest to join another conference.
"We appreciate the Big 12's willingness to engage in a dialogue to end our relationship through a mutually agreeable settlement," Loftin wrote. "We, too, desire that this process be as amicable and prompt as possible and result in a resolution of all outstanding issues."
The Aggies have been a part of the Big 12 since the conference was expanded from the Big Eight ahead of the 1996-97 season. The 49,000-student institution situated in College Station enjoyed record athletic success last year, scoring nine conference championships and four national titles, according to the university.
One of the first U.S. casualties from Hurricane Irene, which killed 43 people, was a popular Florida teacher who suffered a fatal head injury Saturday when a big wave knocked him down.
Frederick Fernandez, 55, an algebra teacher at New Smyrna Beach High School, was known as a skilled surfer, according to CNN affiliate WESH. Although the brunt of the storm missed Florida by hundreds of miles, it stirred up high surf that brought many, including Fernandez, out to the beach.
Fernandez was standing in shallow water when a large wave bowled him over and slammed his head against the compacted sand, WESH reported.
Principal Jim Tager couldn't bring himself to speak of Fernandez in the past tense.
"He's just well-respected," he told WESH. "The family is well-respected. They are from our community, and it hurts. I hope it brings us all closer together, and he is just a fine man, and I know many of us wish we could be just like him."
CNN's Arwa Damon reported from Libya on the story of a 19-year-old girl who became an executioner for Moammar Gadhafi's forces. She admits that she murdered 11 rebels, all prisoners of the Gadhafi regime. (CNN is not identifying Nisreen by her full name because of her experiences in Gadhafi's all-female brigade.)
The story was one that clearly struck a chord with our readers. It brought up a lively debate in the comments about people's thoughts about the girl herself and some thought-provoking questions: Is this woman responsible for the actions she took based on the position she was put in? How does someone in this position respond? And what does this all mean for the fight for freedom in Libya?
"She was following orders. In war you really don't have an option to what you want to do. Is it horrible? Yes," MyDogLue wrote. "Should she be punished? Possibly if incriminating facts come up, but probably not. Should her commanding officers be punished? Yes."
Other readers sympathized with that idea, wondering how they would respond in the situation this 19-year-old says she was put in.
"OK – so it was kill or be killed. I don't know what I would do in that kind of situation, and I doubt many could really be sure, unless it actually happened," talkiseasy wrote. "If her story is accurate, I don't know if I can blame her. It is a natural inclination to self-preserve."
Others said they couldn't judge at all; they have no idea how they would feel if put into such a horrible position.
"Unless we have been in this kind of position, not one of us knows how we would respond. I have a 17 year old son. This girl is just a few years older than him. I can't imagine him being anything but terrified of losing his life or losing his parents," IdleHands wrote. "It appears this young woman had no choice, she either did what she was ordered to do or face her family being killed and her own life taken. Like the poster said, I would like to think I would not take a life, but I really don't know."
Dinkydo wrote that they believed this was a woman compelled to do something without any say.
"This is terrible................just a young girl required to do such terrible things.....to kill for a dictator..........I feel sorry for her...........she was not compelled....she was required to do this," the user wrote.
MightyMoo agreed, saying: "It doesn't matter if she pulled the trigger or the man who would kill her did.
If you're an x-ray technician, you're bound to see some unusual things. But even the most seasoned professional couldn't predict seeing a man with hedge clippers stuck in his eye or a girl with a safety pin hidden inside her body. You've gotta watch these intriguing x-rays of misplaced objects.
Despite sunny skies, flood warnings remained in effect Wednesday for areas of several states hard-hit by Hurricane Irene, as authorities struggled to clean up and rebuild roads and bridges in the aftermath of the storm.
"Nobody that got hit with this flooding dodged a bullet," Craig Fugate, Federal Emergency Management Agency administrator, said Wednesday. "Loss of life, extensive damages, homes flooded ... it may not have been as big a deal on the coast, but these flood areas definitely got hit hard."
Irene killed 43 people from Florida to New England as it marched up the Eastern Seaboard over the weekend, dumping torrential rains. Some of the worst flooding struck Vermont, New Jersey and upstate New York.FULL STORY
Irene recovery under way as Katia forms - States in the Northeast - particularly Vermont, New Jersey and New York, which saw the worst of Irene's wrath - were struggling with basic recovery efforts: rebuilding roads and bridges, restoring power and stemming the flow of floodwaters after Hurricane Irene struck this weekend. The Passaic River in northern New Jersey was still making the town of Little Falls look more like Niagara Falls. A resident in Montclair said the Passaic was high before Irene, but after the hurricane's rains, "the river began to rage."
One Vermont town hit hard by Irene decided to look for a silver lining. Some Pittsfield residents - there are only 427 of them in all - decided to throw a barbecue. Homes were underwater and roads were impassable, but they nonetheless gathered at a local park for hot dogs and hamburgers. Said Jason Evans, owner of the ski town's Clear River Tavern, "No one in this town was expecting the flooding to be what it was, and we've all gotta eat."
Meanwhile, Tropical Storm Katia was strengthening in the Atlantic Ocean and threatening to become a hurricane by Wednesday afternoon, the National Hurricane Center said. Early Wednesday, the storm was almost 1,000 miles west of the Cape Verde Islands, moving west-northwest at 21 mph. Katia could grow into a Category 3 hurricane with maximum sustained winds of 115 mph by Saturday evening, forecasters said. It is too early to say if or when the storm will make landfall.
Hurricane Irene may have come and gone, but those that felt its wrath are still picking up the pieces. Watch CNN.com Live for continuing coverage of Irene's aftermath.
Today's programming highlights...
10:35 am ET - Obama pitches transportation legislation - President Obama will call on Congress to extend the Surface Transportation Bill and FAA reauthorization during an event at the White House.
[Updated at 11:12 p.m. ET] Tropical Storm Katia was strengthening in the Atlantic Ocean on Tuesday and could become a hurricane on Wednesday, the National Hurricane Center said.
In its 11 p.m. ET advisory, the hurricane center said Katia has maximum sustained winds of 60 mph – up from 45 mph 12 hours earlier. The storm was in the open Atlantic about 1,700 miles east-southeast of the Caribbean Sea's Leeward Islands.
Katia was moving west-northwest near 22 mph. That general motion was expected to continue for the next two days, though the forward speed could decrease, the hurricane center said.
Katia could grow into a Category 3 hurricane with maximum sustained winds of 115 mph by Saturday evening, perhaps more than 500 miles east of the Leeward Islands and Puerto Rico, the hurricane center said. It is too early to predict whether the storm will threaten land.
Comment of the day:
“Huntsman would have been a moderate Republican 40 years ago, now he's a socialist to his own party.” - pus512
In his column this week, LZ Granderson says GOP Presidential candidate Jon Huntsman should flee his party and run as an independent. He says he’s disappointed by some of President Obama’s choices but can’t support any of the other GOP candidates. Feeling politically trapped, Granderson says an independent Huntsman could help.
And many CNN.com readers agreed:
elperroguapo said, “I would vote for Huntsman. I voted for Obama last election. And I'll vote for him again, because the GOP is going to offer some moron who believes the job of the POTUS is to Evangelicalize the nation.”
slowshow responded, “I'll probably vote for Obama again, but Huntsman and Mitt are the only Republican candidates that don't scare the hell out of me.”
Irene’s winds uprooted thousands of trees in and around New York on Sunday, leaving plenty of debris to clean up this week. Fallen branches littered communities for hundreds of miles around. At least 2,000 trees were downed in New York City, according to Mayor Michael Bloomberg.
“Let me remind New Yorkers: It really is a bad idea to cut down or remove trees yourself. Leave it to the professionals,” the mayor said during Monday morning’s update on the storm cleanup.
One of those professionals is Anthony Dragonetti. He and his family own Dragonetti Brothers, a landscaping and tree removal business in the city. Shortly after the storm had passed, Dragonetti was cleaning up the mess in Brooklyn, New York.
“Every tree that’s leaning down or down on the floor, we’re cutting it up, putting it in the chipper and getting out of here,” Dragonetti said. He expected to be busy for a few weeks. “There’s a lot of downed trees, downed trees all over the place,” he said.
Dragonetti’s services don’t come free of charge. There is money to be made in storm cleanup. An informal survey of several landscaping business found that the going rate for the removal of a small tree lying in a front yard is a few hundred dollars. But the bill can increase dramatically. If a very large, old tree fell through the back wall of a home, and it’s not easily accessible, that’s a more complicated job. A crane would need to be called in, and a crew would have to work slowly to not cause any more damage. A job like that can cost up to $5,000.
Click the audio player to hear the rest of the story:
Some highlights from the day's business news:
Investors were more optimistic Tuesday afternoon after the Federal Reserve's minutes from its most recent meeting indicated that some Fed members favored more stimulus.
Stocks had a rough day, opening slightly lower, only to sink sharply following a weak consumer confidence report. But the knee jerk reaction was short lived, and stocks bounced back into positive territory before settling into a malaise for much of the day.
All indices closed the day in positive territory, but still remained down for the year. The Dow Jones industrial average moved up 20 points, or 0.2%, to 11,559.95.
[Updated at 6:42 p.m. ET] The death toll from Hurricane Irene stands at 43 across 12 states, with officials in New Hampshire reporting a death linked to the storm.
Here is a state-by-state tally of the deaths:
New York - 8
New Jersey - 7
North Carolina - 6
Pennsylvania - 5
Virginia - 4
Vermont - 3
Connecticut - 2
Delaware - 2
Maryland - 2
Florida - 2
Massachusetts - 1
New Hampshire - 1
Authorities are trying to determine whether an additional death reported in New York is connected to the storm.