Mystery substance comes to shore of Alaskan village
This orange substance was found on the shore of Kivalina, Alaska, on Wednesday, residents say.
August 5th, 2011
09:44 PM ET

Mystery substance comes to shore of Alaskan village

State and federal scientists are trying to identify a mysterious orange substance that washed up on the shore of a village in northwestern Alaska this week.

Residents on Wednesday noticed an orange sheen in the lagoon in front of Kivalina, Alaska, and clumps of the substance on the beach, city manager Janet Mitchell said.

An orange sheen could be seen in the lagoon.

The stuff on the shore had "an oily feel to it, like baby oil," resident Mida Swan said Friday. She said she detected no odor from the substance.

The substance also may have rained down on the village Wednesday evening, because it was found in buckets that some residents used to collect rainwater that night, Mitchell said.

The state Environmental Health Laboratory is preparing to send samples to scientists at various labs, including a National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration laboratory, said Emanuel Hignutt, the EHL's analytical chemistry manager.

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Filed under: Alaska • Environment
S&P downgrades U.S. credit rating
August 5th, 2011
09:44 PM ET

S&P downgrades U.S. credit rating

[Updated at 9:44 p.m. ET] Referring to the Obama administration's contention that Standard & Poor's analysis of the government's finances was off by about $2 trillion, a Treasury Department spokesperson said: "A judgment flawed by a $2 trillion error speaks for itself."

The Standard & Poor's rating agency announced Friday evening that it has downgraded the U.S. credit rating to AA+ from its top rank of AAA.

On Friday afternoon, hours before S&P publicly announced the downgrade, the agency revealed its plans to the Obama administration and sent an analysis to the Treasury Department. The senior administration official said the analysis inflated U.S. deficits by $2 trillion.

Treasury analysts contacted S&P and challenged the analysis, and S&P acknowledged the mistake, the official said. But S&P said it still would stick with its decision to downgrade the United States' credit rating, according to the official.

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Obama administration official calls S&P analysis 'way off'
August 5th, 2011
09:34 PM ET

Obama administration official calls S&P analysis 'way off'

The Obama administration angrily responded to Standard & Poor's decision Friday to downgrade the U.S. credit rating, with one senior official saying the agency's "analysis was way off."

U.S. Treasury officials received S&P's analysis Friday afternoon and alerted the agency to an error that inflated U.S. deficits by $2 trillion, said the administration official, who was not authorized to speak for attribution. The agency acknowledged the mistake, but said it was sticking with its decision to lower the U.S. rating from a top score of AAA to AA+.

"This is a facts-be-damned decision," the official said. "Their analysis was way off, but they wouldn't budge."

The White House is now in wait-and-see mode - hoping the decision and the S&P analysis face outside scrutiny, the official said.

"A judgment flawed by a $2 trillion error speaks for itself," a Treasury Department spokesperson said.

In July, S&P placed the United States' rating on "CreditWatch with negative implications" as the debt ceiling debate devolved into partisan bickering.

To avoid a downgrade, S&P said the United States needed to not only raise the debt ceiling, but also develop a "credible" plan to tackle the nation's long-term debt.

In announcing the downgrade, S&P cited "political risks, rising debt burden; outlook negative."

"The downgrade reflects our opinion that the fiscal consolidation plan that Congress and the administration recently agreed to falls short of what, in our view, would be necessary to stabilize the government's medium-term debt dynamics," the agency said.

Former Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman, who is among a field of Republican contenders for the 2012 presidential nomination, attributed the downgrade to "out-of-control spending and a lack of leadership in Washington."

"For far too long we have let reckless government spending go unchecked and the cancerous debt afflicting our nation has spread," he said in a statement. "We need new leadership in Washington committed to fiscal responsibility, a balanced budget, and job-friendly policies to get America working again."

CNN's John King and Dan Lothian contributed to this report.

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August 5th, 2011
04:38 PM ET

Media firestorm surrounds 10-year-old's suggestive fashion shoot

A 10-year-old model's low-cut dress, stiletto heels, heavy makeup and sultry gaze in a Vogue Paris fashion editorial has raised some eyebrows around the Web.

Lots of little girls dress up in their mothers' heels and dresses, but photos of Thylane Loubry Blondeau dolled up to look like a grown woman are, to some, just too convincing. "Creepy" and "weird" are among the more common words used in the headlines that have cropped up regarding the fashion editorial.

The photos actually ran months ago, in Vogue Paris' December/January issue, and they received some criticism at the time. But the images of Blondeau - the daughter of a fashion designer and a former soccer player - have recently ignited the blogosphere in a debate about what is and isn't appropriate treatment for child stars, though it's unclear why the photos are just now receiving so much media attention.

The Los Angeles Times addressed the photos in an article Friday headlined, "10-year-old Vogue model: Pretty or pretty weird?" The New York Daily News wrote Thursday, "Thylane Loubry Blondeau photos: 10-year-old model's sultry Vogue spread sparks controversy," and the International Business Times dubbed the images a "sexualized photo spread."

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Overheard on CNN.com: What creates a psychopath?
Notorious serial killer Ted Bundy confessed to more than 30 murders before he was sent to Florida's electric chair in 1989.
August 5th, 2011
03:58 PM ET

Overheard on CNN.com: What creates a psychopath?

Comment of the day:
"Ted Bundy is the creepiest serial killer ever. At least the ones like Jeffrey Dahmer or John Wayne Gacy were noticeably weirdos. You could tell something was off just by looking at them. Not this guy. He was witty, charming, and a sharp-looking dude. He could've been your neighbor or co-worker, and you would never have known.
- Bassdude

Vial of blood may link Ted Bundy to multiple cold cases

A reopened missing-child case has spurred investigators to retrieve a vial of executed murderer Ted Bundy's blood and profile its DNA. The missing child, 8-year-old Ann Marie Burr, lived along the newspaper route of then-teenager Ted Bundy, who denied a connection to the case. When Bundy was convicted, DNA typing was not widely used, but advances in the forensics field have revitalized efforts to link serial killers to unsolved crimes. CNN.com readers recalled Bundy and wondered what created psychopaths.

Asklepios417 said, "No one was ever more justly executed than Ted Bundy."

di56 said, "I remember when his trial was going on. Even then young women were saying they didn't believe he did all those terrible things because he was so handsome. He was a one-of-a kind killer. Hopefully, his blood will give some closure to families. It would be the only good thing he ever did."

emma65 said, "Anne Rule wrote the book 'The Stranger Beside Me' about Bundy, whom she knew personally. She had a hard time accepting that he was a killer even after she saw the evidence. I think I remember her saying how nice he had been to her and even insisted on walking her to her car to protect her at night. Yet he was already a killer then."

meewee said, "He was a human predator of the worst kind! His skills were honed to perfection. His appearance, his demeanor, everything was geared towards one thing: preying upon innocent victims."

DoriLambert said, "His last victim was a 12-year old girl, so I really don't think this is out of the realm of possibility."
di56
agreed: "It is very likely that he was the killer of this child. His tendencies for murder appear to have started when he was young. If he was killing during his teen years then a younger, smaller target would have been a prime target. It takes years for a serial killer to become proficient; hopefully he made enough mistakes to allow the authorities to close this case."

onlyinameric said, "What a dangerous combination of charm and cruelty! Bundy wasn't a genius, but he did have a good education, and was well spoken, and good looking. Like most psychopaths, he was charming and able to manipulate the people around him. What causes people to be psychopaths? Is it something missing in their genetic makeup or is it from the way that they are raised? Give me your thoughts, please."

sanjosemike replied, "In most cases they are male, but there are exceptions, like Aileen Wuornos. I think the females have less of a 'sexual satisfaction' component to their killings. Clearly there is a predator 'instinct.' There are no indications that Bundy was abused as a child, but many serial murderers were. I don't believe that they are 'sick' or demented, as others propose. I think they just enjoy being a predator, controlling and watching the suffering they cause. Yes, I am a doctor, but not a psychiatrist. I think that rules me out of any authority on this. Bundy was one type of murderer who engaged in sex with his dead victims, often many times, and long after their demise. I personally celebrated the night he was 'ended.' I fervently hope he suffered. Excuse me for being unprofessional."
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August 5th, 2011
03:26 PM ET

Obama signs bill ending partial FAA shutdown

President Barack Obama signed legislation Friday temporarily restoring full funding to the Federal Aviation Administration, breaking a political impasse and allowing roughly 4,000 furloughed federal employees to return to work.

Earlier Friday, the Senate passed the bill, which promises to restore tens of thousands of jobs in the construction industry and elsewhere tied to airport improvement projects put on hold as a result of the funding shortfall.

The bill took less than one minute to pass a nearly empty Senate chamber by a legislative maneuver known as "unanimous consent," which allows as few as two senators to approve a bill so long as no objections are filed. Most members of Congress are currently away from Washington on their summer recess.

Public outrage over Congress's decision to adjourn for the summer without providing adequate funding for the approximately 4,000 employees contributed to the push for at least a short-term resolution.

The political differences that led to the funding shortfall, however, have not been resolved. Democrats and Republicans are still at sharp odds over whether to continue providing subsidies to smaller rural airports. The two parties also differ over whether to make it easier for airline employees to unionize.

Congress will have to revisit the issue within six weeks in order to avoid another lapse in funding.

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Ice-free Arctic could bring benefits, climate scientist says
The bright lines on the map show the median extent of Arctic sea ice every July since 1979; white areas show coverage last month. Alaska is at upper left, Greenland at lower center, Europe at right.
August 5th, 2011
02:30 PM ET

Ice-free Arctic could bring benefits, climate scientist says

The Arctic will be practically ice-free during the summer within three decades, the top U.S. ice observer says. But climate change could bring some good with the bad, he adds.

"I'm a climate scientist, but I'm also a realist on this," said Mark Serreze, director of the National Snow and Ice Data Center.

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New Orleans police convicted in post-Katrina shootings
The shootings happened on Danziger Bridge six days after much of New Orleans went underwater when Hurricane Katrina hit.
August 5th, 2011
01:49 PM ET

New Orleans police convicted in post-Katrina shootings

Five current or former police officers were found guilty Friday of deprivation of rights and other civil rights violations tied to fatal shootings on New Orleans' Danziger Bridge in the wake of Hurricane Katrina, U.S. Attorney Jim Letten said.

BACKGROUND

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Filed under: Civil Rights • Crime • Hurricane Katrina • Louisiana • Natural Disasters • Weather
'Blood lake' a product of drought
Red bacteria thrive in the oxygen-poor water of a drought-shrunken Texas lake, naturalists say.
August 5th, 2011
12:50 PM ET

'Blood lake' a product of drought

A Texas reservoir has turned a deep red, prompting a pastor to speculate it's a sign of the coming Apocalypse.

But the Texas Department of Fish and Wildlife says it's just an indication of how bad the current drought is. About 99% of Texas is under drought conditions, according to the U.S. Drought Monitor.

The Texas Department of Fish and Wildlife says water levels in the reservoir receded, which, mixed with the warm weather, helped lower oxygen levels. The low oxygen levels prompted a fish kill and spurred the growth of  bacteria called Chromatiaceae, which thrive in such conditions. Chromatiaceae are purplish in color, prompting the "blood" red descriptions.

Texas Department of Fish and Wildlife says the reservoir will be restocked with fish as soon as the drought ends and water levels return to normal.

The Texas drought has emptied several other lakes, including one in East Texas. The receding water revealed a part of the space shuttle Columbia, which broke up over Texas in 2003, at the bottom of the lake.

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Typhoon threatens to drench China's east coast
Fishing boats are docked Friday in the port of Zhoushan on China's east coast as Typhoon Muifa nears.
August 5th, 2011
12:39 PM ET

Typhoon threatens to drench China's east coast

Chinese authorities are warning residents along the country's eastern coast to prepare for sustained torrential rains and strong winds as one of the strongest typhoons in recent years approaches.

Typhoon Muifa is forecast to hit China's eastern coast in Zhejiang province, south of Shanghai, late Saturday or early Sunday, forecasters told the state-run news agency Xinhua.

Rainfall from Muifa will cover a million square kilometers (386,000 square miles) as the typhoon lingers for up to 11 days, Lou Maoyuan, deputy chief of the Zhejiang Provincial Meteorological Station, told Xinhua.

Waves from Muifa could reach 40 feet (12 meters) in the East China Sea and almost 15 feet (4.5 meters) along the coast near Shanghai and Zhejiang, forecasters told Xinhua. Authorities called more than 9,000 vessels back to harbors, the news agency reported.

Meanwhile, Muifa was raking the Japanese island of Okinawa on Friday, Stars and Stripes reported. Almost 18 inches of rain had fallen on the island in 24 hours, and wind gusts of almost 100 mph were recorded at the U.S. Air Force's Kadena Air Base.

Japanese broadcaster NHK reported 30 injuries from the storm on Okinawa.

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Lava closes part of national park as Kilauea crater collapses
Kilauea's Puu Oo crater collapsed more than 250 feet Wednesday.
August 5th, 2011
12:38 PM ET

Lava closes part of national park as Kilauea crater collapses

The lava-filled crater in Hawaii's Kilauea volcano collapsed more than 250 feet Wednesday, according to the Hawaii Volcano Observatory.

The Puu Oo crater, which holds a lake of lava inside the cone at Kilauea's summit, last collapsed in March. Wednesday's collapse created a lava flow that split into two directions and closed a portion of Hawaii Volcanoes National Park. It did not affect any areas outside the park's boundaries.

Click here to see a collection of footage, photos and time-lapse video of the lava-spewing crater

According to an update from the Hawaii Volcano Observatory on Thursday night, "The crater rim remained extremely unstable, with continued collapses along the crater walls sending blocks of rock onto the crater floor."

Kilauea has been erupting continually since 1983. Hawaii's volcanoes erupt effusively, meaning runny lava bubbles up and flows out, as opposed to building up pressure and exploding violently.

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NASA launches satellite mission to Jupiter
The Juno spacecraft will reach Jupiter in 2016.
August 5th, 2011
12:33 PM ET

NASA launches satellite mission to Jupiter

The Mission Juno satellite launched into clear blue skies Friday, beginning a five-year journey to the largest planet in our solar system - Jupiter.

NASA launched the $1.1 billion satellite from Cape Canaveral, Florida at 12:25 p.m., after almost a decade of building and testing the spacecraft.

A minute technical issue and a boat inside the launch safety zone delayed lift off through several holding periods. The satellite was originally scheduled to launch at 11:34 a.m.

Mission Juno will offer an unprecedented look beneath the clouds of Jupiter and offer insight into how the solar system was formed, NASA said.

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Massive bather makes splash in German lake
A massive sculpture of a bathing woman will spend 10 days in a Hamburg, Germany, lake.
August 5th, 2011
10:02 AM ET

Massive bather makes splash in German lake

Call it "The Bath of the 70-foot Woman." Or "Two Tons of Mermaid."

The real name of the massive woman in a Hamburg, Germany, lake is actually "Die Badende" ("The Bather"), and she's an ad for British beauty brand Soap & Glory.

"We launched Soap & Glory in Germany last year, and we've been looking for a way to say, 'Thank you!' to everyone for embracing our products, and making us a real success there. At Soap & Glory, we consider it our calling to bring more beauty to the world, and have fun doing it - 'Die Badende' does exactly that," the brand's founder, Marcia Kilgore, said in a news release.

"Die Badende" is the work of art creator Oliver Voss. It's almost 13 feet high, 67 feet long and weighs two tons.

The sculpture is made from a steel cage covered with Styrofoam almost a foot thick, which is then covered by a layer of special filler sealed with a polyester resin.

It will spend 10 days in Hamburg's Inner Alster Lake.

Apparently, "Die Badende" is as modest as "she" is massive. Soap & Glory promises a crane will be standing by with a supersize towel when "Die Badende" is ready to come out of the water.

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As Syria seethes, protesters chant 'God is With Us'
August 5th, 2011
09:55 AM ET

As Syria seethes, protesters chant 'God is With Us'

Violence raged across the Syrian city of Hama as anti-government protesters in other cities took to the streets on Friday against the embattled regime.

Hama endured steady shelling and bombing Friday morning as the government's military offensive continued in full swing said a resident whose name is not being released for safety reasons. The man said casualties occurred.

Elsewhere, opposition members said thousands kicked off marches across the country after Muslim prayers, as they have every Friday for weeks. The theme of protests nationwide Friday was "God is With Us."

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August 5th, 2011
08:56 AM ET

Border agents accused of making drug smugglers eat marijuana

Two Border Patrol agents in Arizona are accused of forcing suspected drug smugglers to eat marijuana and strip down to their underwear before being told to flee into the desert.

A federal grand jury in Tucson indicted Dario Castillo, 23, and Ramon Zuniga, 29, with five counts of civil rights violations. Castillo faces an additional charge of tampering with a witness.

The indictment alleges that on November 12 of 2008, the two border agents forced four suspected drug smugglers from Mexico - who were in the country illegally and carrying marijuana - to eat the drug and remove their all their clothes except their underwear, the Arizona U.S. Attorney's office said.

Instead of arresting them, the agents burned their personal belongings and ordered them to flee into the desert in 40-degree weather, the office said.

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Jobs show surprising growth
Job seekers got some surprisingly good news from July's numbers.
August 5th, 2011
08:45 AM ET

Jobs show surprising growth

The U.S. job market strengthened in July, a welcome piece of good news that sharply contrasted with Thursday's sell-off on Wall Street and readings pointing toward an economic slowdown.

Employers added 117,000 jobs last month, well above the 46,000 jobs added in June, the government reported Friday. After a shockingly weak jobs number the previous month and a spate of other negative economic readings that followed, many economists had been bracing for the worst from Friday's report.

Trading in U.S. stock futures, which point to the direction stocks will take when regular trading begins at 9:30 a.m., surged after the report was released.

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On the Radar: Jupiter mission, jobs for vets, Tiger's return
LEGO mini-statues of the mythological god Jupiter, left, his wife Juno, and the astronomer Galileo will be aboard the Mission Juno satellite.
August 5th, 2011
06:02 AM ET

On the Radar: Jupiter mission, jobs for vets, Tiger's return

Three things you need to know today.

Jupiter mission: NASA plans to launch its Mission Juno satellite on Friday to begin a five-year, 400-million-mile journey to Jupiter that the space agency hopes will help reveal how our solar system was formed.

Liftoff is scheduled for 11:34 a.m. ET.

Mission Juno will offer unprecedented insight into the formation of our solar system by investigating what lies underneath Jupiter's atmosphere, astronomers said at Kennedy Space Center. Jupiter is known for its violent storms and gaseous atmosphere.

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Filed under: Barack Obama • Golf • Jupiter • Military • On the Radar • Politics • Space • Sports • Tiger Woods