Overheard on CNN.com: Life after death?
September 26th, 2011
06:27 PM ET

Overheard on CNN.com: Life after death?

Comment of the Day:
"I’ve always believed that naysayers take that route because it requires little to no effort. It’s easier to shoot something down than it is to give it wings."–cabinguy

Do loved ones bid farewell from beyond the grave?

Some people tell of conversations with loved ones whom they didn't know were dead. John Blake's story about "crisis apparitions" had CNN.com readers sharing their own stories and arguing over their validity.

oldnewbie said, "De Santo could not have had a grief-driven hallucination or vision because she didn't know her friend had died! She thought he was just stopping by like he always did. So there goes that explanation. The problem with scientists is that if they accept the supernatural, their world no longer makes sense."

Guest said, "I am a doctor. One of my patients died suddenly about 1 pm. When the family arrived at the hospital and was told he had died, the kids freaked out. His wife just sat there silently. I thought maybe she hadn't heard me or didn't want to hear, so I went into greater detail. She looked at me calmly and said that she knew he was going to die today. She said she woke up around 5 am and he was sitting on the edge of the bed. He kissed her, smoothed the hair back from her face and told her it was time for him to leave, but he loved her and would watch over her until she could come join him where he was going. Explain that."

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Hallmark is sorry for your loss - your job loss
September 26th, 2011
05:41 PM ET

Hallmark is sorry for your loss - your job loss

Getting laid off from a job has always been synonymous with the delivery of a pink slip, but thanks to Hallmark, the experience might also become associated with receiving another piece of paper in the mail.

With unemployment sitting at 9%, the ongoing layoffs across the country have persuaded the greeting card giant to begin rolling out a line of sympathy cards with words of encouragement for people who have lost their jobs in the tough economy.

The development of cards that deal with the various hardships of the times is nothing new to Hallmark. The company also produced cards aimed at individuals who struggled through events such as the Great Depression, the military draft, and losing loved ones on September 11, 2001.

“People in times of need will always need to connect and when the consumers have asked us for a way to connect in those difficult situations, we try to respond in an authentic way and we think that what the greeting card does is offer a bridge,” Hallmark’s creative director Derek McCracken told NPR’s All Things Considered.

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Filed under: Economy • Jobs
Jesus or jail? Alabama town offers options for serving time
September 26th, 2011
03:47 PM ET

Jesus or jail? Alabama town offers options for serving time

If you're charged with a nonviolent crime in one Alabama town, you might just have the chance to pray it all away.

Starting this week, under a new program called Operation ROC (Restore Our Community), local judges in Bay Minette, Alabama, will give those found guilty of misdemeanors the choice of serving out their time in jail, paying a fine or attending church each Sunday for a year.

The goal of the program is to help steer those who are not yet hardened criminals the chance to turn their lives around. Those who choose to go to church (there are no mosques or synagogues in the area) will have to check in with a pastor and the police department each week, CNN affiliate WKRG reported. Once you attend church every week for a year the case would be dismissed.

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Filed under: Crime • Religion
Report: Russian finance minister resigns after dispute with president
Russian President Dmitry Medvedev (L) seen during a meeting with Finance Minister Alexei Kudrin on May 23, 2011.
September 26th, 2011
02:03 PM ET

Report: Russian finance minister resigns after dispute with president

[Updated at 2:03 p.m. ET] President Dmitry Medvedev has signed an order dismissing longtime Finance Minister Alexei Kudrin, the Kremlin reported Monday on its website.

The state-run RIA-Novosti news agency said Kudrin had resigned amid a dispute with Medvedev.

[Posted at 12:15 p.m. ET] Russian Finance Minister Alexei Kudrin resigned Monday amid a dispute with President Dmitry Medvedev, the state-run RIA-Novosti news agency reported.

The president had given Kudrin until the end of the day to decide whether to resign, the state-run Interfax News Agency reported earlier in the day.

"You need to make a decision quickly and tell me about it today," Medvedev told Kudrin during a session of the modernization commission in Dimitrovgrad. Medvedev urged that Kudrin "make up his mind about his political future."

The president was reacting to a comment Kudrin is reported to have made in Washington. Citing differences with Medvedev, particularly related to defense spending, Kudrin said that he would not remain in a government led by Medvedev, Interfax said.

– CNN's Maxim Tkachenko contributed to this story.

Overheard on CNN.com: Saying 'racism' with cookies
UC Berkeley Campus Republicans are pricing pastries by a customer's race to make a point about affirmative action.
September 26th, 2011
01:09 PM ET

Overheard on CNN.com: Saying 'racism' with cookies

Comments of the Day:

"Would town hall meetings get national coverage? Mission accomplished."–Skaught

"I tend toward the liberal side but this Republican student group is right on this one, and they have found a clever way to make their point. Kudos to them and their right to political discourse."–Luisarana

Pay-by-race bake sale at UC Berkeley still on, student Republican group says

Controversy erupts over Campus Republicans bake sale plans

Want to buy a cookie from the UC Berkeley Campus Republicans? If you're a white guy, you'll pay more. The group is planning the Tuesday bake sale as a protest against affirmative action legislation proposed for California universities. "We agree that the event is inherently racist, but that is the point," BCR President Shawn Lewis wrote in response to upheaval over the bake sale. "It is no more racist than giving an individual an advantage in college admissions based solely on their race (or) gender."

Some CNN.com readers thought it was a brilliant ploy, and others said it could be turned to the opposition's advantage.cul8rv8 said, "Seems to me they are getting the message out there, and people are disgusted with the idea they can have prices based on race. It's just as awful that colleges look at a person's race as a deciding factor for college admission. You can't disagree with this bake sale without disagreeing with what they are protesting against."

Cobbscout said, "I'd get one Native American woman to buy all of the cookies for free ($.25 for Native American – $.25 for being a woman = $.00 or free), thus shutting down these jerks. Then set up my own table and resell all the cookies for $1.00 each to anyone who wanted to buy them. That's American enterprise at its best."

Many CNN.com readers said that they supported affirmative action based on economic, not racial, diversity. ranger978275 said, "I'm all for helping the poor pay for school, but not on the basis of race. If you're a minority and you get help, a white person with the same financial background better get the same help too."

minervinator said, "Why should race have anything to do with admissions? I know blacks and Mexicans who were born and raised in suburban neighborhoods. I know white kids from Africa. What's more diverse: A white kid and a black kid from the same neighborhood with the same family structure and interests; or a rich white kid and a white kid from the projects who have different backgrounds, family life, and hobbies? If you think that Berkeley is promoting a positive message, congratulations, you're a racist."

But other readers said the odds were still stacked against minorities.

justingb said, "The campus Republicans left out how legacies (which we can agree are mostly white) are a HUGE consideration during the admissions process ... especially if you have deep pockets. bookldy209 said, "On the flip side, (the pricing) is a realistic comparison of relative income post-graduation."

Guest said, "Let's just pick one point in time because there's hundreds of years of advantage here: It's 1940. I'm a white male and I can go to college because I am a white male and I am the only type of person that can attend a major university. I do not have to compete with blacks, Latinos or women; they simply are not allowed to attend. My parents were allowed to go to college. They filled me with knowledge and confidence since I was born. Successful people had the same skin color as me. They were allowed to own businesses and buy land. I also could own a business or buy land or I could easily get a job with one of these white males. When my parents died they left me an inheritance from the wealth they were allowed to accumulate. I then was able to gather more wealth and my kids inherited knowledge, wealth, and social wealth from me. I wonder how my black counterpart has done? He and his parents weren't allowed to work, build wealth or get educated."

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.

Gotta Watch: SNL political parodies
Kristen Wiig plays Republican presidential candidate Michele Bachmann during the season opener of "Saturday Night Live."
September 26th, 2011
12:29 PM ET

Gotta Watch: SNL political parodies

Politicians provide comedians with plenty of material. Back in June, the "Weinergate Scandal" had every comedian talking.  Now, the jokes are coming from the GOP presidential debates. "Saturday Night Live" has a long history of bashing politicians so  here are some of our favorite "SNL" political parodies that you've just gotta watch.

Meet the GOP candidates - Over the weekend, "SNL" introduced you to the GOP presidential candidates on the show's season opener.

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Filed under: Celebrity • Christine O'Donnell • Gotta Watch • Politics • Republican Party • Sarah Palin • Showbiz • TV • U.S.
September 26th, 2011
11:54 AM ET

Questions follow Saudi king's promise on women's rights

A day after Saudi King Abdullah announced greater political participation for women in the future, some Saudis questioned just how big a change may really be on the horizon.

Some women's rights activists who were initially elated by Sunday's announcement said they were feeling disappointed because the changes do not kick in immediately. "We don't really think now that we've been promised a real right," said one.

But a member of Saudi Arabia's Consultative Council called one of the changes the king announced "hugely important."

King Abdullah announced two changes Sunday, which would be historic for Saudi Arabia. He said women will be allowed to serve as members of the Shura Council, the Consultative Council that advises the king. Its 150 members are appointed.

The king also said women will be allowed to run as candidates and nominate candidates in the next set of municipal elections. It is unknown when those may ultimately take place.

The changes do not apply to elections scheduled for this Thursday - which will be only the second set of elections in the kingdom since 1963.

While the king did not use the word "vote" in his remarks, allowing women to take part in the nomination process would amount to voting within Saudi Arabia's system.

FULL STORY

Filed under: Saudi Arabia • World
Manning likely out for year, Colts' owner says
Peyton Manning watches the Colts' preseason game against the Washington Redskins in August.
September 26th, 2011
11:51 AM ET

Manning likely out for year, Colts' owner says

The owner of the Indianapolis Colts confirmed on Monday morning what most NFL fans expected  star quarterback Peyton Manning is unlikely to play again this season.

But Jim Irsay said he expects Manning back for the 2012 season.

"Peyton should be back. He had the neck fusion, it went well. The biggest thing is to get the regeneration back in the nerve in his throwing arm. We feel that it will. My anticipation is he can come back, probably 2012," Irsay said in a breakfast meeting with Super Bowl organizers and NFL commissioner Roger Goodell, according to CNN affiliate WTHR-TV. "I don't see him coming back this year. It's possible he could practice in December. We'll see. I think he can come back and finish off a great career here."

In a later Twitter post, Irsay said the Colts would keep Manning on the active roster, and that there is an "outside chance" Manning could return in December.

Without Manning, the Colts have been winless this season, dropping games to Houston and Cleveland and then to the Pittsburgh Steelers on Sunday night, 23-20.

Manning had surgery for a neck injury earlier this month, forcing him from the lineup for the first time in his 13-year NFL career.

In July, the Colts signed Manning, a four-time MVP, to a five-year, $90-million contract extension.

Kerry Collins has replaced Manning as the Colts quarterback.

Colts coach Jim Caldwell may have more information at a press conference later today.

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Filed under: Indiana • Peyton Manning • Pro football • Sports
September 26th, 2011
10:31 AM ET

Tanks block access to western Syrian city, activist says

The sound of heavy weapons and machine gun fire echoed through the night in the restive city of Al-Rastan after a large number of tanks moved in to block key roads and areas of town, an opposition activist said Monday.

"Several tanks have been in place since May at each of the entrances of the city, but Sunday a great number of tanks began blocking the agriculture parts of the town and the surrounding villages and even took positions inside Rastan," said the activist, a member of the opposition Local Coordinating Committees who could not be identified because of security concerns.

More than 50 tanks were in and around the city in the western province of Homs, the activist said.

The claims could not be independently verified.

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Filed under: Syria
Cuban leader criticizes Obama U.N. speech
September 26th, 2011
10:25 AM ET

Cuban leader criticizes Obama U.N. speech

Former Cuban leader Fidel Castro ended a long writing hiatus Monday, penning a three-page essay printed in state media slamming U.S. President Barack Obama's speech to the United Nations last week.

"Who understands the gibberish of the President of the United States speaking before the United Nations?" Castro wrote in his so-called "Reflection."

He also accused NATO of "monstrous crimes" in Libya and wrote that in Syria, "Yankee aggression could lead to an even more terrifying massacre than in Libya."

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Filed under: Barack Obama • Cuba • Fidel Castro
September 26th, 2011
10:22 AM ET

Remember Kercher's suffering, Knox jury told

The lawyer for Meredith Kercher's family showed photos of the British murder victim's bloodied body Monday, pointing out multiple stab wounds as he urged an Italian jury not to overturn the murder convictions of Amanda Knox and Rafaelle Sollecito.

"I show you these pictures to show you the pain of Meredith," Francesco Maresca said.

"She didn't have defensive wounds. It means that she was tied up, that she had more than one aggressor," the lawyer said.

He attacked as "useless" a review of DNA evidence that may cast doubt on the original convictions.

American student Knox and her former boyfriend Sollecito were convicted of the killing in 2009 and are now fighting to have the verdicts overturned. Knox was sentenced to 26 years in prison, while Sollecito got 25.

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Filed under: Crime • Justice
General: Army to cut 8.6% of troops
Lt. Gen. Thomas P. Bostick says the troop cuts will take place over five years.
September 26th, 2011
09:24 AM ET

General: Army to cut 8.6% of troops

The U.S. Army in March will embark on a plan to cut 50,000 troops, or 8.6% of its soldiers, over five years, the service's personnel chief tells Army Times.

Lt. Gen. Thomas P. Bostick said the cuts will bring the Army's total force to 520,400 active-duty soldiers by October 2016, according to the Army Times report.

“We feel that with the demand going down in Iraq and Afghanistan, and given the time to conduct a reasonable drawdown, we can manage (the force reduction) just as we have managed drawdowns in the past,” Army Times quotes Bostick as saying.

The troop cuts will come in two phases, Bostick told the newspaper, with the first covering the 22,000 troops added to the service three years ago to support the troop surge in Afghanistan. A second phase will cover 27,000 slots added in the Grow the Army program, begun in 2007, he said.

The Army hopes to achieve the cuts through retirements, buyouts and voluntary and involuntary separations, Bostick told Army Times.

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Filed under: Military • U.S. Army
September 26th, 2011
08:00 AM ET

Homes, stores damaged by possible Mississippi tornado

Update 8:00 a.m. ET] No fatalities or injuries have been reported from a possible tornado that touched down Sunday night in Cleveland, Mississippi, authorities said Monday morning.

A Sears store and a Walmart store sustained substantial damage, according to local officials. Downed trees and power lines damaged a nearby subdivision, officials said.

iReport: Are you there? Send videos, photos

[Update 7:51 a.m. ET] A storm that ripped through Cleveland, Mississippi, on Sunday night destroyed a Sears store and damaged a Walmart and a nearby subdivision, officials said Monday morning.

"We've got a mess on our hands," said Kimberly Broadwater of the Bolivar County Volunteer Fire Department.

There were no deaths or serious injuries, but the local hospital had stopped taking patients, Broadwater said.

The county's communication network had been knocked out, according to Broadwater. "We are back to doing things the old-fashioned way - by telephone," she said.

Earlier, the NOAA Storm Prediction Center sent out an alert that a tornado had touched down, but authorities were still trying to determine if the damage was done by a tornado or straight-line winds.

[Updated 7:33 a.m. ET] Officials said they are assessing damage Monday morning to determine if a storm that moved through Cleveland, Mississippi, on Sunday night destroying the roof at a Walmart was a tornado or a band of straight line winds.

An alert was sent out Sunday evening that a tornado touched down in Cleveland, Mississippi, but authorities are still trying to determine if a tornado was responsible for the heavy damage to Walmart, Sears and a  nearby subdivision.

The storm caused some structural damage, but the damage was fairly scattered, Bolivar County Sheriff's Officer Lee Tedder told CNN.  No fatalities or serious injuries were reported.

– CNN's Reynolds Wolf and Greg Morrison contributed to the report.

September 26th, 2011
07:49 AM ET

Monday's live events

Is the federal government facing a possible shutdown over a spending dispute?  Watch CNN.com Live for continuing coverage of the crisis in Washington.

Today's programming highlights...

9:30 am ET - Senate debates spending - Legislation aimed at funding FEMA will be the subject of intense debate on the Senate floor.

FULL POST


Filed under: Budget • Economy • Politics
On the Radar: 787 delivery, Palestinian statehood, Washington Monument
A 787 painted in ANA colors lands in Japan after a July test flight.
September 26th, 2011
06:01 AM ET

On the Radar: 787 delivery, Palestinian statehood, Washington Monument

Three things you need to know today

ANA Dreamliner: Boeing delivers its first 787 Dreamliner today, handing over the airliner to All Nippon Airways at a ceremony at Boeing's facility in Everett, Washington.

You can follow the events live on Boeing's website beginning at noon ET, 9 a.m. Pacific.

The plane is the first commercial airliner to be made mostly of carbon composites or super durable plastic. Those materials mean a lighter plane that Boeing says could use 20% less fuel than conventional airliners, making way for a more environmentally-friendly and cost effective aircraft option for airlines.

So far, according to Boeing, the manufacturer has more than 800 orders for the 787 Dreamliner, which has a list price of about $200 million each.

The interior of the plane also sports a variety of upgrades. Gone are traditional plane window shades. Instead, a button on the window allows passengers to gradually darken their surroundings.

All Nippon Airways has ordered 55 Dreamliners.

Palestinian statehood: The historic Palestinian bid for statehood goes before the United Nations Security Council Monday, where it looks set for a largely symbolic debate in the face of a promised American veto.

Lebanon's Nawaf Salam, the Security Council president for this month, said he circulated the letter of application to all 15 members of the Security Council last week.

While a U.S. veto would block the bid for full U.N. membership, the General Assembly could still vote to upgrade the status of Palestinians, who currently hold the status of non-voting observer "entity."

The body could change that status to permanent observer "state," identical to the Vatican's standing at the United Nations.

Washington Monument: National Park Service officials will hold a news conference Monday afternoon to offer details on damaged sustained by the Washington Monument during the 5.8-magnitude earthquake that struck the East Coast on August 23.

The service has been working with an engineering firm to determine the extent of the damage and what it will cost to fix it.

The monument has been closed to the public since the earthquake.

September 26th, 2011
05:23 AM ET

Two killed in attack on U.S. Embassy annex in Kabul

[Update 5:23 a.m. ET Monday] Two people were killed and one wounded in a shooting incident Sunday night at an annex of the U.S. Embassy in Kabul, Afghanistan, an embassy spokesman said.  The dead included a U.S. citizen and an Afghan citizen.  Another American was wounded, the spokesman said.

[Update 7:58 p.m. ET Sunday] Part of the U.S. Embassy annex in Kabul came under attack early Monday, a U.S. official and an official from the International Security Assistance Force said. The attack was believed to be largely over by 4 a.m. local time (7:30 p.m. Saturday ET), and there was not yet any word on casualties.

Insurgents waged a 19-hour siege on the embassy September 14. U.S. officials have blamed that attack on the Haqqani network, which is believed to have clandestine ties to Pakistan's ISI intelligence service.

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Filed under: Afghanistan • War • World