Troy Davis put to death
September 21st, 2011
11:50 PM ET

Troy Davis put to death

Georgia inmate Troy Davis was executed Wednesday night for the 1989 murder of Mark MacPhail, an off-duty Savannah police officer.

Davis died at 11:08 p.m. ET, according to a prison official. The execution was about four hours later than initially scheduled, because prison officials waited for a U.S. Supreme Court ruling on Davis' request for a stay.

After 10 p.m. ET, the Supreme Court, in a brief order, rejected Davis' request. His supporters had sought to prevent the execution, saying seven of the nine witnesses against him have recanted or contradicted their testimony.

Below are the developments as they happened. Read the full story here.

[Updated at 11:50 p.m.] Jon Lewis of WSB radio, one of the execution witnesses, gave this account of the minutes before Davis' death:

After the warden read the execution order and asked whether Davis had anything to say, Davis strapped to a gurney lifted his head up and looked at the witness area's first row, which was where MacPhail's relatives and friends sat.

“(Davis) made a statement in which he said ... 'Despite the situation you're in, (I) was not the one who did it.' He said he was not personally responsible for what happened that night, that he did not have a gun. He said to the family that he was sorry for their loss, but also said that he did not take their son, father, brother.

"He said to them to dig deeper into this case, to find out the truth. He asked his family and friends to keep praying, to keep working, to keep the faith. And then he said to the prison staff, the ones he said 'are going to take my life,' ... ‘May God have mercy on your souls,’ and his last words to them (were), 'May God bless your souls.'"

Another witness, reporter Rhonda Cook of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution newspaper, also gave quotes from Davis. According to her, Davis said: "The incident that night was not my fault. I did not have gun."

"And that’s when he told his friends to continue the fight and 'look deeper into this case so you can really find the truth,'" Cook said.

Davis also said, according to Cook: "For those about to take my life, may God have mercy on your souls, may God bless your souls."

Davis said to the MacPhail family, according to Cook: "I did not personally kill your son, father and brother. I am innocent."

Hours earlier, Davis declined what the prison offered him as a final meal, Cook said.

[Updated at 11:12 p.m.] Davis has been executed, a prison representative has said. The time of death was 11:08 p.m. ET.

[Updated at 10:55 p.m.] Davis' execution is expected to begin between 11:05 to 11:10 p.m. ET, the Georgia Department of Corrections says.

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On the ground: A dark, dangerous journey across Niger to Libya
September 21st, 2011
10:55 PM ET

On the ground: A dark, dangerous journey across Niger to Libya

Dark shadows were lifting themselves off the sidewalk, slowly stretching, shaking the slumber from their limbs.

It was 6:15 a.m. in Niger's capital, Niamey, and I was setting off on a 12-hour drive, leaving its lush boulevards for Agadez, the sands of the Sahara, the desert trails to Libya, and the chaos Moammar Gadhafi's war there is causing.

The sun had yet to raise itself over the roofs but already the first hints of day were breaking the sleep of the destitute at the roadside.

I have seen poverty before, but even shrouded in the predawn gray, there is no mistaking it: People with little of anything save a public place to lay their heads.

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September 21st, 2011
07:33 PM ET

Texas death row inmate executed

Texas death row inmate Lawrence Russell Brewer, 44, was executed by lethal execution at 7:21 p.m. ET Wednesday, the Texas Department of Criminal Justice said.

Brewer was one of three men found guilty for his involvement in the dragging death of James Byrd 13 years ago.

Brewer and two other white men kidnapped the 49-year-old black man on the night of June 7, 1998. They chained him by the ankles to the back of a pickup truck and dragged him for 3 ½ miles down a country road near Jasper, Texas. Byrd died when he was decapitated after he hit a culvert.

Prosecutors said the crime, which they described it as one of the most vicious hate crimes in U.S. history, was intended to promote Brewer's fledgling white supremacist organization.

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Air Force's F-22 back in service after 4-month grounding
September 21st, 2011
06:47 PM ET

Air Force's F-22 back in service after 4-month grounding

The U.S. Air Force on Wednesday cleared its F-22 Raptor fleet to return to service following a four-month grounding over concerns that the jets' pilots weren't getting proper oxygen.

Bases are cleared to start flying the fighter jets under a "return to flight" plan - with new rules including daily inspections of the life-support systems - that the Air Force announced earlier in the week, said Staff Sgt. Heidi Davis, spokeswoman for the Air Force's Air Combat Command.

The command grounded the jets on May 3 during an investigation into reports that 12 pilots had experienced "hypoxia-like symptoms" aboard the F-22 since April 2008. Hypoxia is oxygen deficiency.

Air Force panels still are investigating the reports and the jets' oxygen generation systems, and a report on the systems is expected to be released in the fall. Air Force spokesman Lt. Col. John Haynes said that with the study still happening, he couldn't comment on any findings.

However, the service is using some of what it has learned to make "changes to the (onboard oxygen generation systems) and other life support systems elements to increase our safety margin," Haynes said.

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September 21st, 2011
05:28 PM ET

'Two years in prison is too long,' released hiker says

American hikers Josh Fattal and Shane Bauer were released from an Iranian prison Wednesday and made their way to Oman.

The two Americans were released on bail of $500,000 each and their sentences were commuted, Iran's judiciary said, according to government-run Press TV.

Bauer and Fattal, both 29, were convicted last month of entering Iran illegally and spying for the United States, and each was sentenced to eight years in prison.

Follow the latest developments below:

[Updated at 5:28 p.m. ET] Released U.S. hikers Josh Fattal and Shane Bauer made brief statements to assembled media after arriving in Oman.

"We are so happy we are free, and so relieved we are free," Fattal said. "Our deepest gratitude goes towards his majesty, Sultan Qaboos of Oman, for obtaining our release. We are sincerely grateful (to) the government of Oman for hosting us an our families."

Bauer said: "Two years in prison is too long, and we sincerely hope for the freedom of other political prisoners and other unjustly imprisoned people in American and Iran."

They departed after making the statements and took no questions.

[Updated at 4:28 p.m. ET] Secretary of State Hillary Clinton released the following statement regarding the hikers' release:

"I join President Obama in welcoming the decision made by Iranian authorities to release Shane Bauer and Joshua Fattal from detention. After more than two years, they will finally be reunited with their friends and families.

"I am grateful for the efforts of all those who have worked for their release, in particular the Swiss Protecting Power in Tehran, the Omani government, the Iraqi government, and the many other world leaders who have raised their voices in support, as well as those inside Iran who pushed for justice."

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Overheard on CNN.com: $30 a week for food is plenty
CNN.com readers weigh in on whether they could get by on $30 a week for food.
September 21st, 2011
04:48 PM ET

Overheard on CNN.com: $30 a week for food is plenty

Comment of the day:

“I feed a family of four for about $100 a week. $30 seems like a lot of money for one person for a week. Yes, I could definitely do that!” - shandaar

Could you eat on $30 a week?

As part of a special report on hunger in America, CNN producer Sheila Steffen challenged herself to a grocery budget of 30 dollars a week—the average food stamp allotment for more than 40 million Americans. She wrote a blog about her shopping experience and asked readers: could you eat on $30 a week?

The answer from commenters was a resounding yes—and plenty of suggestions on how to do it, too.

Hungry Jack said, “I am in grad school and can eat pretty well on $30 week, and I don't mean Ramen Noodles. It is just a matter of planning, using coupons, and buying things on sale. Anyone who has even rudimentary cooking and math skills can get by just fine.”

BrendaS said, “In my household, there are three adults and two teenagers. We spend, on average about $250 a month and we don't get food stamps. All the adults work, but cost of living for utilities, gas to and from work and basic living needs, leaves us very little to buy quality, nutritious foods that are healthy for my family. We do it all the time, but it's not what everyone likes or would want if we had a little more to buy with.”

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Abbas in the spotlight: Who is the Palestinian president?
The president of the Palestinian Authority Mahmoud Abbas shown this week at the United Nations.
September 21st, 2011
03:07 PM ET

Abbas in the spotlight: Who is the Palestinian president?

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas is in the spotlight this week at the United Nations General Assembly where he plans to urge the U.N. to recognize an independent Palestinian state.

Americans and Europeans have for weeks been trying to restart peace negotiations between Israelis and Palestinians. Ultimately, the U.S. and allies fear that Abbas' request will stoke already tense relations between Israelis and Palestinians, and ignite violent clashes.

Generally considered by the West to be a moderate, Abbas has been president of the Palestinian Authority since 2009. Time magazine describes him as a snowy-haired chain smoker who loves to negotiate.

Abbas is in his late 70s and has three children. His own childhood was shaken in 1948 when under British mandate, his family left their town of Safed, in what is now northern Israel. Safed is today considered one of Judaism's four Holy Cities. The young Abbas' family relocated to Syria. He took a job laying floor tiles and also taught elementary school. He went on to earn a law degree and at a college in Moscow obtained a PhD in history.

One of Abbas' first forays into politics came in 1959 when he helped found the Palestinian National Liberation Movement, more commonly known as Fatah. In the late 1990s, Abbas began serving as Yasser Arafat's spokesperson in missions to Eastern Europe and the Gulf states. He also cultivated ties to Europeans sympathetic to the cause of greater autonomy for Palestinians.

Abbas played a role in the 1993 historic peace accord between PLO Chairman Arafat and Israel Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin, and as part of that accompanied Arafat to the White House to sign the agreement.

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Only women, kids allowed into Turkish soccer game
Women and children fill the stands in Istanbul's Sükrü Saracoglu stadium on Tuesday night.
September 21st, 2011
01:55 PM ET

Only women, kids allowed into Turkish soccer game

Soccer authorities in Turkey may have hit on the perfect solution for unruly fans: Ladies Night!

The Turkish Football Federation had planned to make Istanbul favorite Fenerbahce play two games in an empty stadium after fans invaded the pitch after a friendly against Ukraine's Shakhtar Donetsk during the summer, according to a Turkish Weekly report.

But new rules say those games will be open only to women and children under age 12, National Turk reports. Admission is free.

The policy got its first test Tuesday night in Istanbul, as 45,000 women and children turned out to watch Fenerbahce and Manisaspor face off in the Turkish Super League.

“It was such a fun and pleasant atmosphere. At first, we Manisaspor players couldn’t believe in what we were seeing and hearing,” Manisaspor midfielder Ömer Aysan is quoted as saying by National Turk.

What they were hearing was something unexpected in the usual partisan atmosphere of Fenerbahce Istanbul’s Sükrü Saracoglu stadium: cheers for the visiting team.

Players from both teams greeted their female fans before kickoff, tossing flowers into the stands, Turkish Weekly reported.

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September 21st, 2011
01:06 PM ET

Militants haven't yet claimed Rabbani attack

The assassination of an Afghan leader spearheading the reconciliation process with the Taliban clearly was an insurgent attack, officials say, but at present it's not clear who carried it out.

Berhanuddin Rabbani, a former Afghan president and chairman of the High Peace Council, was killed in an attack at his home on Tuesday. But the Taliban hasn't taken credit for it and says it is still looking into the incident.

"Our information is not completed yet," said Taliban spokesman Zabiullah Mujahid. "So our stand is that we won't say anything about this issue."

There was no word from the Haqqani Network, the militant group with ties to the Taliban and backed by Pakistan.

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287 rhinos killed by poachers in South Africa this year, World Wildlife Fund says
A veterinarian tends to a rhino left badly wounded by poachers last month on a reserve north of Cape Town, South Africa.
September 21st, 2011
12:39 PM ET

287 rhinos killed by poachers in South Africa this year, World Wildlife Fund says

Poachers have killed 287 rhinos in South Africa this year, including 16 critically endangered black rhinos, the World Wildlife Fund reported Wednesday.

South Africa is home to the majority of the world's rhinos, and the 271 African white rhinos killed there this year represent 1.3% of the entire population of the animals, the conservation group said.

The rhinos are killed for their horns, which are used in traditional medicine in Asia, including a misplaced belief they can cure cancer, according to the group.

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Gotta Watch: Bear bonanza
A father and son have a very close encounter with a bear in Virginia.
September 21st, 2011
12:33 PM ET

Gotta Watch: Bear bonanza

There may not be any lions and tigers, but today's bear videos will make you say, "oh my!" From a father and son who venture too close to a wild bear to a real-life version of "Kung Fu Panda," Gotta Watch features some of our most intriguing videos about bears.
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A look at other Americans who were jailed abroad
Euna Lee and Lisa Ling were released from prison in North Korea in 2009.
September 21st, 2011
11:56 AM ET

A look at other Americans who were jailed abroad

As word came Wednesday that two American hikers were released from their two-year imprisonment in Iran, CNN looked at some other cases of U.S. citizens jailed in other countries.

Cuba

* December 2009 - Alan Gross was jailed while working in Cuba as a subcontractor on a U.S. Agency for International Development project aimed at spreading democracy. Cuban authorities deemed his actions illegal. He was accused of trying set up illegal Internet connections, but Gross says he was trying to help connect the Jewish community to the Internet and was not a threat to the government. In August 2010, New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson, on a trade mission to Cuba, pressed the island nation to free Gross. In March, Gross was found guilty and sentenced to 15 years in prison for crimes against the Cuban state. President Jimmy Carter failed to get Gross freed after visiting Cuba and arguing he should be released because his mother and daughter were battling cancer. This month, Richardson will go back to Cuba on a private mission. Gross is still in prison.

Iran:

* July 2009 - Shane Bauer, Josh Fattal and Sarah Shourd were accused of illegally crossing into Iran while hiking in Iraqi Kurdistan near its border with Iran. Shourd was released for medical reasons; Bauer and Fattal were convicted last month of entering Iran illegally and spying for the United States. Both were sentenced to eight years in prison but were released on bail on Wednesday.

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Filed under: Cuba • Iran • North Korea
September 21st, 2011
11:08 AM ET

Deadly Yemen clashes as protester funerals held

Opposition forces mourned their dead Wednesday, as 30 of the 83 protesters medical sources say were killed this week by government forces were buried.

Senior members of the opposition were among more than 500,000 opposition supporters to attend the funerals, witnesses said.

Five more protesters were killed by government forces Wednesday in Change Square in the capital, Sanaa, a medical team in the square said.

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September 21st, 2011
10:58 AM ET

Tropical Storm Ophelia grows stronger

[Update 10:58 a.m. ET] Tropical Storm Ophelia has strengthened as it moved across the Atlantic Ocean, the National Hurricane Center said Wednesday.

In its 11 a.m. update, the hurricane center said Ophelia's maximum sustained winds are now at 60 mph. The storm was about 1,245 miles east of the Leeward Island and moving west at 16 mph.

No coastal watches or warnings are in effect, forecasters said, and Ophelia was expected to lose some strength during the next 48 hours.

[Update 5:10 a.m. ET] Tropical Storm Ophelia has formed over the Atlantic Ocean, the National Hurricane Center said early Wednesday.

At 5 a.m. ET, Ophelia had maximum sustained winds of 45 mph and was about 1,370 miles east of the Leeward Islands. The storm was moving west at near 13 mph.

Gradual strengthening is expected over the next day or so, the National Hurricane Center said.

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Report: U.S. setting up drone bases in Africa, Indian Ocean
A U.S. Predator drone is shown in Afghanistan last year.
September 21st, 2011
08:15 AM ET

Report: U.S. setting up drone bases in Africa, Indian Ocean

The United States is assembling a network of secret drone bases in Africa and around the Indian Ocean to fight terror groups in the region, the Washington Post reports.

The bases are in Ethiopia, the Seychelles islands, Djibouti on the Horn of Africa and in an unnamed location on the Arabian Peninsula, the Post reported, citing unnamed U.S. officials.

The base network is being set up to fight al Qaeda-affiliated terror groups in Somalia and Yemen, according to the report, and the locations “are based on potential target sets,” the Post quotes a senior U.S. military official as saying.

“If you look at it geographically, it makes sense — you get out a ruler and draw the distances (drones) can fly and where they take off from,” the official told the Post.

The report says the U.S. has used drones in attacks in six countries: Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya, Pakistan, Somalia and Yemen.

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Filed under: Africa • Al Qaeda • Ethiopia • Seychelles • Somalia • Terrorism • World • Yemen
September 21st, 2011
07:47 AM ET

Wednesday's live events

President Obama addresses leaders and diplomats from around the world today.  Watch CNN.com Live for continuing coverage of the United Nations General Assembly meeting.

Today's programming highlights...

9:00 am ET - Florida millionaire murder trial - Testimony continues in the trial of Bob Ward, accused of killing his wife inside their Florida mansion.

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Filed under: Barack Obama • Crime • Politics
On the Radar: Executions in Georgia and Texas, Obama at U.N.
Troy Davis is scheduled to be executed Wednesday evening in Georgia.
September 21st, 2011
06:00 AM ET

On the Radar: Executions in Georgia and Texas, Obama at U.N.

Three things you need to know today.

Georgia execution: Supporters of death-row inmate Troy Davis have vowed to continue fighting to stave off Wednesday's scheduled execution, despite a decision by the Georgia Board of Pardons and Paroles to deny clemency.

"We're calling on anyone who has any power to stop this grave injustice from occurring." Laura Moye, campaign director for Amnesty International USA, said at a news conference.

Davis is scheduled to die by lethal injection at 7 p.m. Wednesday in Jackson, Georgia, for the 1989 shooting death of off-duty police officer Mark MacPhail.

The parole board declined to grant Davis clemency Tuesday following a hearing Monday in which it heard testimony calling into question physical evidence and witness statements that a Chatham County jury relied on in convicting Davis in 1991. In Georgia, only the board - not the governor - has the right to grant clemency.

Since Davis' conviction, seven of the nine witnesses against him have recanted or contradicted their testimony. Davis' supporters say the original witnesses were fearful of police and spoke under duress.

One of three men convicted for his involvement in the infamous dragging death of a black man 13 years ago is scheduled to be executed Wednesday.

Texas execution: Lawrence Russell Brewer, 44, is scheduled to die by lethal injection in the killing of James Byrd.

Brewer and two other white men chained the 49-year-old black man to the back of a pickup truck and dragged him to death on a country road near Jasper, Texas.

Accomplice John William King also was sentenced to death and is awaiting an appeal. A third man, Shawn Berry, received life in prison.

Obama at U.N.: President Barack Obama will lay out the U.S. view of the "seismic change" seen around the world in the past year, particularly in the Arab world, when he speaks to the United Nations on Wednesday, aides said.

National Security Council strategic communications director Ben Rhodes said the sweeping changes across the region will take up much of Obama's address to the General Assembly on Wednesday morning and "speak to the momentum of democratic change in the world."

"There's been a seismic change in the past year, and I think the discussions today underscore that," he said.

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Filed under: Barack Obama • Death Penalty • Georgia • Justice • On the Radar • Texas • United Nations