Sources: U.S. close to calling for al-Assad to step down
August 9th, 2011
07:44 PM ET

Sources: U.S. close to calling for al-Assad to step down

The United States is moving toward an explicit call for Syrian President Bashar al-Assad to step down, multiple U.S. government sources have told CNN.

The move is expected in the coming days, after the United States consults with the United Nations Security Council. The United States has opposed Assad's security crackdown on protests across Syria.

Administration officials have been talking among themselves about when would be the most effective time to call on al-Assad (pictured) to step down, several sources over the past week have told CNN. Officials described the White House as being more eager, while the State Department was more cautious about the ramifications should al-Assad not heed the call.

A Security Council meeting is expected Wednesday, multiple U.S. government sources told CNN.

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Reid appoints three to deficit committee
August 9th, 2011
06:27 PM ET

Reid appoints three to deficit committee

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid announced on Tuesday the three Democratic senators he'll send to the congressional committee tasked with drafting a long-term solution to the nation's mounting federal deficits.

Sens. Patty Murray of Washington state, Max Baucus of Montana, and John Kerry of Massachusetts will serve on the panel. Reid chose Murray to co-chair the committee, Reid said in a statement.

Under the debt ceiling deal passed by Congress and signed by President Barack Obama last week, a panel of 12 legislators - six Democrats and six Republicans, equally divided between the House and Senate - will try to work out $1.5 trillion in deficit reduction after an initial round of more than $900 billion in spending cuts.

Congressional leaders have until August 16 to appoint members to the committee, which is required to complete its work by November 23. Congress then has until December 23 to vote on the proposal, with no amendments permitted.

The Republican Senate appointments to the committee, and both the Republican and Democratic House appointments, have yet to be announced.

A simple majority on the panel - seven of 12 members - is needed to approve whatever package it comes up with, meaning it will take a lone member of either party to push something through by voting with the other side. The committee's proposal would then need a simple majority in each chamber of Congress to make it to Obama's desk.

Murray is the Senate Democratic Conference secretary. Baucus is Senate Finance Committee chairman. Kerry is chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.

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Overheard on CNN.com: Hollywood is out of fresh ideas
A movie studio has announced plans to remake 'Dirty Dancing,' but CNN.com readers say that's a bad idea
August 9th, 2011
04:55 PM ET

Overheard on CNN.com: Hollywood is out of fresh ideas

Comment of the day:

“Word is that Sanjaya Malakar is being considered for the Swayze role while Baby may be played by Paris Hilton. It will be titled ‘Dirty Dancing, the Nightmare.’ - Jeebus2011

Don’t mess with Dirty Dancing

Almost 24 years after the original was released, a movie studio has announced plans for a remake of the 1980s classic "Dirty Dancing," which starred Jennifer Grey and the late Patrick Swayze. The film’s original choreographer, Kenny Ortega, will direct the remake, which will include songs from the 1960s, the original movie and new pieces.

But if Ortega is interested in gauging public interest, he should read comments from CNN.com readers; they unequivocally don’t like the idea of a remake.

wetcougar said, “Please do not remake this film. There will never be another Johnny Castle or Baby!”

Tilda said, “NOBODY puts the original ‘Dirty Dancing’ in a corner.”

BeachDiva said, “To me, they will be dishonoring Patrick Swayze's memory. This was HIS movie, along with Jennifer’s, and to redo it is terrible! Would they redo ‘Singing in the Rain?’ Or ANY of Fred Astaire's movies? Awful idea."

sanesight responded, “They probably would redo 'Gone With the Wind' starring JLo and Ben Affleck if they thought they could get anyone but those two to pay for tickets.”

WhoKnewIt said, “There will NEVER be another 'Dirty Dancing'....and Swayze could never be replaced in that role....I still miss him....”

coldspider said, “And my opinion is...they shouldn't TOUCH this movie. Remake it for a new generation? How about the new generation can just appreciate it for what it was. It's a great movie and should not be touched.”

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Endangered baby gorilla rescued from smugglers
Ihirwe, or Luck, the gorilla is receiving care at a Rwanda veterinary facility.
August 9th, 2011
01:32 PM ET

Endangered baby gorilla rescued from smugglers

The infant gorilla's name is certainly appropriate - Ihirwe in the African language of Kinyarwanda, which translates to luck in English.

Rwandan authorities rescued the year-old primate Sunday night as poachers tried to smuggle her into Rwanda from the neighboring Democratic Republic of Congo, the World Wildlife Fund said Tuesday.

Mountain gorillas are critically endangered with fewer than 800 remaining in the wild in the mountains of the Democratic Republic of Congo, Rwanda and Uganda.

“The good news is that this infant was rescued before it was too late and is now in good hands. The bad news is that people believe there is a market for baby mountain gorillas and are willing to break laws and jeopardize the fate of a critically endangered species at the chance for profit,” Eugène Rutagarama, director of the International Gorilla Conservation Project, said in a statement. The project is a coalition of the World Wildlife Fund, African Wildlife Foundation and Flora & Fauna International.

The alleged smugglers, men from both Rwanda and the Congo, are in Rwandan custody, according to the World Wildlife Fund. The conservation coalition is working with Rwandan and Congolese authorities on an investigation into a possible smuggling network.

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Filed under: Animals • Democratic Republic of Congo • Gorillas • Rwanda • Uganda • World
Artist Ai Weiwei back on Twitter, defiantly attacking China over jailed friends
Chinese artist Ai Weiwei speaks to reporters outside his Beijing studio following his June release from prison.
August 9th, 2011
01:08 PM ET

Artist Ai Weiwei back on Twitter, defiantly attacking China over jailed friends

Ai Weiwei is back, and he's not taking any prisoners.

His Twitter missives, however, which began Monday night after a lengthy hiatus, may land the controversial contemporary artist back in a Chinese prison. In one tweet, he directly accused the government of illegally detaining innocent people who had connections to him.

Ai, who was released from prison in June after a three-month stint on tax evasion charges that some observers alleged were trumped up, had been instructed by the government to keep a low profile and to rein in his social-media activity. He had obliged until this week.

An outspoken critic of China's human rights record, Ai had loudly accused the government of trying to silence dissidents before his April detention. His Twitter account went silent shortly thereafter, and his mother told CNN no one heard from him for 43 days.

When he was released, he seemed subdued, telling a Radio Free Asia reporter outside his Beijing home, "I can't talk about anything."

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Filed under: Art • China • Crime • Human rights • Technology • Twitter • World
Warren Jeffs sentenced to life in prison for sexual assault
August 9th, 2011
12:21 PM ET

Warren Jeffs sentenced to life in prison for sexual assault

Warren Jeffs was sentenced to life in prison on Tuesday after a jury deliberated for only 30 minutes.

The polygamist sect leader was convicted last week on two counts of sexually assaulting a 12-year-old and a 15-year-old who were his "spiritual wives." The jury sentenced him to life in prison for the first count of aggravated sexual assault and 20 years for the second count of sexual assault plus a $10,000 fine. The sentences were the maximum allowed for each count. The judge ruled that the sentences be served consecutively.

On Monday, the two sides rested their cases, without the defense calling any witnesses.

Earlier Monday, jurors weighing punishment for Jeffs heard audio recordings that prosecutors say show he had sex with underage girls and encouraged group sex.

At times difficult to hear, one of the tapes recorded sounds of two people apparently engaging in intercourse. Other recordings captured Jeffs instructing what prosecutors say were underage girls in how to please him. Girls could be heard giggling in the background.

Jeffs, the leader of the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, was charged after a 2008 raid on a ranch his church operates near Eldorado, Texas.

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August 9th, 2011
11:39 AM ET

Path to a dream: From a family that fled Castro to first Hispanic NBA owner

The new owner of the Atlanta Hawks (pending NBA approval) faced the media with two surprising confessions: He’d never held a news conference before, and he was very nervous.

In fact, it took three tries just to get the obligatory Hawks cap on his head. He's not the typical high-powered, mega-wealthy kind of guy you might expect. He had something unexpected: humility.

To understand where that comes from, you have to understand where he came from.

Growing up, Alex Meruelo loved basketball. He was a starter for his California Catholic high school team. He loved the sport, but he was smart enough to know he wasn’t going to make a living at it. So when his dad offered for him to take over the family tuxedo business, you could say Meruelo’s basketball career came to a formal end.

This son of Cuban immigrants quickly found that although he was good at basketball, he was great at business. The empire he has created makes everything from pizzas to wind turbines. He got rich and got back to basketball. He will be the first Hispanic majority owner of an NBA team.

And I asked whether he knew, when he was negotiating the deal, that would be the headline.

"I’m not sure if you really think about it. It’s something that just happens. It happens," he said. "It’s something that, there’s no question that it’s a big responsibility. It’s something that at the same time, I’m very privileged. I’m honored. I want to make sure I do a good job.”

Media reports tell of his father leaving Cuba, setting up a new life in America. It's the American dream. So for Meruelo, emotions were likely to factor in.

"Emotion is a tremendous part of this deal. And I am trying to contain myself as much a possible because to explain it, how I feel or what I believe, is very hard to put into words right now. Very hard," he said. "It’s a dream come true, and Atlanta, I am so happy to be here. I’m happy to be part of this organization, and I am so committed to making sure we do the right thing, and I want to make sure that I own the respect. The loyalty of the Atlanta Hawks fans is something that is even more important to me.”

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August 9th, 2011
11:30 AM ET

Slain service members from downed copter arrive in U.S.

The remains of the 38 U.S. and Afghan personnel killed on board a helicopter shot down in Afghanistan over the weekend arrived in the United States on Tuesday, a Defense Department official confirmed to CNN.

The two planes carrying the remains landed at Dover Air Force Base in Delaware, according to Dave Lapan of the Defense Department press office..

Because the catastrophic nature of the crash made the remains difficult to identify, all 38 sets were brought to the United States. The Afghan remains will be returned to their families once identifications can be made.

The slain U.S. service members represent the worst single-incident loss of American life since the start of the Afghan war.

Thirty Americans died in the crash, including 22 Navy SEALs, military officials said.

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London resident: 'It seemed like a war zone'
Fires engulf shops and residences in Croydon, England on Tuesday.
August 9th, 2011
10:16 AM ET

London resident: 'It seemed like a war zone'

Graciela Watson watched aghast from her home in Hackney on Monday as "yobs" barricaded her normally quiet residential street with burning trash cans and clashed repeatedly with police.

She had witnessed tension building as she made her way home in the afternoon, having to take a different route than usual with her two children - both under three - to avoid crowds of people throwing missiles.

"We didn't think it would come up our street, but it started here," she said. Troublemaking youths, or yobs, gathered trash bins from outside the houses on the street and set them alight to form flaming barricades, she said.

"That's when we realized trouble was coming our way," Watson, a filmmaker and former journalist said.

The youths then set fire to a van and soon the clashes with police began in earnest, carrying on in her street for well over an hour.

Meanwhile, asleep at the back of the ground floor apartment were Watson's two young children, both under three - and there was no way for the family to leave the apartment except by the front door.

"It was kind of strange," Watson said. "You are scared but there's also a very strange kind of adrenaline almost, as you watch everything unfold in front of you.

"Watching on the TV, hearing your street being named, seeing your neighborhood in flames around you - you are terrified but almost excited at the same time."

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Scientists: March 11 tsunami produced Antarctic icebergs
Top image shows the Sulzberger Ice Shelf on March 12 and the bottom on March 16 after the tsunami broke off icebergs.
August 9th, 2011
09:40 AM ET

Scientists: March 11 tsunami produced Antarctic icebergs

The tsunami spawned from the March 11 earthquake off eastern Japan broke up parts of an Antarctic ice shelf that hadn't moved in 46 years, scientists say.

Though the tsunami waves were only about a foot high when they reached Antarctica, their consistency was enough to crack the 260-foot-thick ice and split off icebergs with combined surface areas more than twice the size of Manhattan from the Sulzberger Ice Shelf, the scientists report in a NASA statement.

It was the first time scientists have been able to tie icebergs directly to a tsunami, according to NASA.

The tsunami waves traveled 8,000 miles and took 18 hours to reach the ice shelf, the scientists said, giving them time to validate theories on how an earthquake can affect geography a hemisphere away.

"In the past we've had calving events where we've looked for the source. It's a reverse scenario - we see a calving and we go looking for a source," Kelly Brunt, a cryosphere specialist at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center in Maryland, said in the NASA statement. "We knew right away this was one of the biggest events in recent history - we knew there would be enough swell. And this time we had a source."

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August 9th, 2011
09:35 AM ET

Libyan official claims 85 civilians killed in NATO airstrike

A Libyan government spokesman said Tuesday that a NATO airstrike has killed 85 civilians near Zlitan, the northwestern Libyan city which has been the target of an intense aerial bombing campaign.

Libyan government spokesman Moussa Ibrahim said the incident happened late Monday night in Majar, a community about 3 miles (5 kilometers) south of Zlitan.

"Dozens of innocent and safe children, woman and old people were martyred in the heinous massacre committed by the colonial crusader NATO alliance as a result of its airstrikes on their homes in Majar (in Zlitan) while they were asleep," the state news agency JANA reported.

Journalists on a government trip to Zlitan saw at least 25 bodies in the morgue and were told they were killed in airstrikes on five homes, according to CNN's Ivan Watson, who is on the trip. The journalists also saw the ruins of what were described as the homes hit by the strike.

A NATO spokesman confirmed the organization had conducted airstrikes in Zlitan, but said the target was a military complex used by forces loyal to Moammar Gadhafi. The spokesman said NATO could not confirm the government's reports of civilian casualties.

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August 9th, 2011
07:47 AM ET

Tuesday's live video events

The turmoil on Wall Street continues to unfold, and CNN.com Live is there for all the latest developments.

Today's programming highlights...

9:30 am ET - Wall Street opening bell - What will happen on Wall Street today following Monday's 600+ point drop on the New York Stock Exchange?

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Filed under: Budget • Economy • Finance • Jobs
Report: Amazon tribe may have fallen victim to drug traffickers
Aerial images of the uncontacted tribe in Brazil's Amazon rain forest were released in February.
August 9th, 2011
07:32 AM ET

Report: Amazon tribe may have fallen victim to drug traffickers

Suspected Peruvian drug traffickers have destroyed a guard post protecting a recently discovered indigenous tribe in Brazil's Amazon rain forest, the aid group Survival International reports.

Aerial film and still images of the tribe were first shown to the world in February. The Brazilian government's National Indian Foundation established the guard station near the tribe's territory along Brazil's border with Peru to protect the Indians from outsiders.

Survival International said Monday that Brazilian authorities can now find no sign of the tribe.

"We think the Peruvians made the Indians flee. ... We are more worried than ever. This situation could be one of the biggest blows we have ever seen in the protection of uncontacted Indians in recent decades. It’s a catastrophe," Carlos Travassos, the head of Brazil's isolated Indians department, said in a Survival International statement.

Survival International reports the tribe's lands are near the Envira River, which Peruvian cocaine smugglers reportedly use as a route into Brazil.

Brazilian authorities report groups of men armed with machine guns and rifles are in the nearby forest, according to the aid group.

Authorities had recovered a drug trafficker's rucksack with a broken Indian arrow in it, Survival International reported.

"This is extremely distressing news. There is no knowing how many tribal peoples the drug trade has wiped out in the past, but all possible measures should be taken to stop it happening again. The world’s attention should be on these uncontacted Indians, just as it was at the beginning of this year when they were first captured on film," Survival International Director Stephen Corry said in a statement.

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On the Radar: Oil prices, heat eases, Jeffs' sentencing
Gas prices in Mill Valley, California, hovered around $4 a gallon in late July.
August 9th, 2011
06:27 AM ET

On the Radar: Oil prices, heat eases, Jeffs' sentencing

Three things you need to know today.

Gas prices: Will steep losses in the world's stock markets bring relief at the gas pump?

Oil prices have fallen more than 17% in the past month, finishing the day Monday at $83.10 a barrel, CNNMoney reports. That's down from almost $100 a barrel just two weeks ago. And at that time prices were expected to rise this year.

The government will issue its monthly price outlook Tuesday. Whether oil prices go up again may depend on whether market forecasters see a weakening of global economic demand after the stock market sell-offs.

Meanwhile, the national average gas price fell about a penny a gallon overnight to $3.65 a gallon, according to AAA's Daily Fuel Gauge Report. The average was $3.70 a week ago.

Heat warnings: The National Weather Service said Tuesday it has dropped excessive heat warnings for most of the U.S.

Eastern Oklahoma and southeastern Louisiana must endure excessive heat watches or warnings for at least another day, forecasters said, while heat advisories are in effect in parts of the Southern Plains and the Southeast.

Polygamist trial: Closing statements are scheduled to begin Tuesday morning in the penalty phase of Warren Jeffs' trial.

The polygamist sect leader was convicted last week on two counts of sexual assault on a child.

The prosecution and the defense will have 30 minutes to offer their statements Tuesday. Deliberations are expected to begin immediately thereafter.

On Monday, the two sides rested their cases, without the defense calling any witnesses.

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Filed under: Crime • Energy • Heat • Justice • On the Radar • Weather