Rapper T.I. released from halfway house
September 29th, 2011
09:01 AM ET

Rapper T.I. released from halfway house

Rapper T.I. was released from an Atlanta halfway house Thursday morning, his lawyer said.

The popular hip-hop artist, whose real name is Clifford Harris Jr., wass serving an 11-month sentence for violating his parole on a gun conviction.

The rapper served two stints in the Arkansas prison. He served seven months there in 2009 as part of an unusual sentence negotiated two years ago to resolve federal gun charges. Those charges followed his attempt to buy three machine guns in the parking lot of an Atlanta grocery store.

His latest time behind bars was triggered by his arrest, along with his wife, after a motorcycle officer stopped their car on Sunset Boulevard in Beverly Hills, California, a year ago.

A police report said suspected drugs were found in the couple's car and they were both arrested on drug charges. While the charge against the rapper was later dropped, he failed a drug test given by his parole officer.

When T.I. walked out of prison on August 31, he tweeted, "The storm is over & da sun back out."

T.I. had been released to a halfway house and briefly returned back to prison after confusion regarding how he got to the halfway house and who was with him.

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Filed under: Showbiz • TI
September 29th, 2011
08:37 AM ET

First-time unemployment tumbles to lowest level since April

The number of Americans filing for their first week of unemployment benefits fell last week to the lowest level in nearly six months, possibly signaling slight improvement in the job market.

There were 391,000 initial unemployment claims filed in the week ended Sept. 24, the Labor Department said Thursday, down 37,000 from the prior week's revised 428,000.

The drop was much better than expected, as economists forecast initial claims to fall to 419,000, according to Briefing.com.

New claims for unemployment benefits have stuck around or above 400,000 since early April, a level economists often say is too high to signal the unemployment rate will come down anytime soon.

The recent drop to 391,000 maked the lowest level since the week of April 2, when 385,000 new claims came in.

For the country overall, the unemployment rate is still at 9.1%

READ FULL CNNMONEY.COM STORY
September 29th, 2011
07:51 AM ET

Thursday's live video events

CNN.com Live is your home for gavel-to-gavel coverage of Dr. Conrad Murray's involuntary manslaughter trial.

Today's programming highlights...

9:00 am ET - Washington Monument damage briefing - What was the extent of the damage the Washington Monument suffered during a recent earthquake?  The National Park Service will update the current assessment.

FULL POST


Filed under: Conrad Murray • Crime
September 28th, 2011
08:30 PM ET

Ice cream cone or Ku Klux Klan member?

A Florida shop had to scrap its ice cream cone mascot because passers-by thought it looked like a man dressed in a Ku Klux Klan outfit.

"We were just trying to get people to come in," store employee Jasmine Gonzalez told CNN affiliate WTSP. "We thought it was something fun for people, but eventually people took it the wrong way."

The Ice Cream Family Corner and Sandwiches shop opened a few months ago in Ocala. The owners hired a man to stand outside the shop dressed in a vanilla  ice cream cone costume to attract business.

At first store owners told WTSP they had no idea the outfit was upsetting passers-by,  but then they noticed a drop in business, and began to wonder what was impacting their sales.

Eventually, Gonzalez said they were tipped off that people were avoiding the shop, because they thought the peaked cap was not an ice cream cone costume, but a KKK robe. The mascot was immediately pulled off the street.

Some customers told WTSP they could understand the confusion, while others laughed at the ordeal.

"They (KKK members) don't color themselves (with sprinkles) like that," Wayne Austin chuckled to WTSP as he looked at the costume.

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Filed under: Florida • U.S.
Narco subs may become trend in Caribbean, Coast Guard says
A member of the U.S. Coast Guard carries a bale of cocaine seized from a narco sub in the Caribbean Sea on September 17.
September 28th, 2011
07:29 PM ET

Narco subs may become trend in Caribbean, Coast Guard says

The U.S. Coast Guard says it believes narco subs, semi-submersible vessels used to transport illegal drugs, may become a trend in the Caribbean Sea after it intercepted a second such vessel there.

The crew of the Coast Guard Cutter Mohawk stopped a cocaine-smuggling, self-propelled sub and detained the sub's crew in the western Caribbean Sea on September 17, the service said.

The other instance of the Coast Guard stopping a drug-smuggling sub in the Caribbean happened July 13. Until this summer, all the semi-submersibles that had been seized recently were stopped off Central America's Pacific coast.

"It seems maybe the drug trafficking organizations are changing their tactics a little bit and trying to move massive amounts of narcotics not just through the eastern Pacific, but also through the Caribbean using these (self-propelled semi-submersibles),” said the Mohawk's commanding officer, Coast Guard Cmdr. Mark J. Fedor.

FULL POST

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Filed under: Crime • Drugs • Military • U.S. Coast Guard
Man, 26, charged in model airplane plot to bomb Pentagon
Rezwan Ferdaus was charged in a plot to bomb the Pentagon and Capitol using this remote-controlled model airplane.
September 28th, 2011
07:09 PM ET

Man, 26, charged in model airplane plot to bomb Pentagon

A 26-year-old Massachusetts man with a physics degree was arrested and charged Wednesday with plotting an attack on the Pentagon and the U.S. Capitol with a remote-controlled model aircraft, authorities said.

Rezwan Ferdaus, a U.S. citizen from Ashland, Massachusetts, planned to use model aircraft filled with C-4 plastic explosives, authorities said.

As a result of an undercover FBI investigation, Ferdaus, who has a physics degree from Northeastern University in Boston, was charged with attempting to provide material support and resources to al Qaeda for attacks on U.S. soldiers overseas, authorities said.

His federal public defender couldn't be reached immediately for comment.

A law enforcement official said Ferdaus posed no immediate danger to the public because undercover operatives kept in close contact with him.

"There is no information to indicate he was connected to a foreign terrorist organization. It appears he was radicalized watching videos on the Internet. He was given the opportunity to back down, but he never wavered" from his intention to carry out the attacks, the source said.

FULL STORY
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Filed under: Crime
Overheard on CNN.com: The Iranians are coming? Not likely
An Iranian state-run news agency reported that Iran is planning on sending ships to the Atlantic coast of the United States.
September 28th, 2011
04:47 PM ET

Overheard on CNN.com: The Iranians are coming? Not likely

Comment of the day:

As a U.S. Vet, I see no problem with them traveling near the East Coast as long as they are in international water, they are free to do so. If we go close to their country, they should be able to come close to ours. To say any different would not be fair and would be wrong. –MichDude

Iran may send ships towards the U.S.

According to a state-run Islamic Republic News Agency, Iran plans to send ships near the Atlantic coast of the United States. The story’s headline read: "The Navy of the Iranian Army will have a powerful presence near the United States borders.”

But the news didn’t rattle many CNN.com readers. Instead, most questioned or made jokes about Iran’s naval capabilities and commented about how they thought the U.S. would respond. A few readers said they were concerned.

USNavy818 said, “This is going to be pretty funny when they are thousands of miles from any friendly port and need to refuel, resupply, or get repairs and realize how expensive that will be. By the time they get to outside the U.S. they'll need more supplies unless all they bring are cargo ships.”

hopalong responded, “@usnavy, Where were you posted in the navy, in Utah? There is an island called Cuba 90 miles to the south of us, Venezuela is in northern South America and with money involved the nearest Exxon would probably be glad to help.”

SarahDerp said, “Upper atmosphere EMP attacks and low level sub torpedoes are the only things Iran could ever even dream of doing to us and those are limited enough to where they would only provoke us into stomping their country into the ground.” FULL POST

September 28th, 2011
04:28 PM ET

U.S. Embassy in Saudi Arabia says Westerners may be targeted

The U.S. Embassy in Saudi Arabia said Wednesday that it has received information that a terrorist group may be planning to abduct Westerners in Riyadh.

The embassy passed along the notice in an emergency message for U.S. citizens.

"The U.S. Embassy in Riyadh reminds all U.S. citizens to exercise prudence and enhanced security awareness at all times," it said.

"We deemed the information to be credible, or would not have issued the emergency message," Deputy State Department spokesman Mark Toner said.

He would not comment on specific intelligence, but said there was no reason for U.S. citizens to leave Saudi Arabia as a result of the message.

– CNN's Jill Dougherty contributed to this report.

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Filed under: Saudi Arabia • Terrorism • U.S.
Studies cite link between booze sales, inner-city violence
Sociology professor Robert Parker says two University of California, Riverside studies link alcohol sales and violent crime.
September 28th, 2011
01:47 PM ET

Studies cite link between booze sales, inner-city violence

Two studies published this month suggest the availability of booze and in one city, single servings of alcohol is linked to violent crime rates.

University of California, Riverside researchers used federal crime data for offenders between the ages of 13 and 24, and then used census and economic data to determine the density of beer, wine and liquor stores in 91 major cities.

"Taking into account other factors known to contribute to youth homicide rates – such as poverty, drugs, availability of guns and gangs – the researchers found that higher densities of liquor stores, providing easy access to alcoholic beverages, contributed significantly to higher youth homicide rates," said a news release from the university.

The second study isn't so broad and doesn't deal solely with young people. It looked at San Bernardino, California, and "generally found higher rates of violent crime in neighborhoods around alcohol outlets that allot more than 10% of cooler space for single-serve containers."

FULL POST

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Filed under: California • Crime • Drugs • Illinois • Maryland • U.S.
7-Eleven stores in Taiwan pull Hitler lookalike items
These items were pulled from 7-Eleven stores in Taiwan after complaints about their resemblance to Adolf Hitler.
September 28th, 2011
01:33 PM ET

7-Eleven stores in Taiwan pull Hitler lookalike items

In Taiwan, 7-Eleven stores have pulled products featuring a cartoon vampire that bears a striking resemblance to Adolf Hitler after receiving complaints from the Israel Economic and Cultural Office in Taipei (ISECO) for selling the items, according to several media reports.

The convenience store chain, whose 4,400 Taiwanese locations are owned by the President Chain Store Corp., has suspended sales of the key chains, USB drives and magnets sporting the apparent caricature of the Nazi dictator. Company officials originally denied that the cartoon was meant to depict Hitler, first calling the black square on the figure’s face a tooth, then a nose, rather than a mustache. But on Wednesday, the company acknowledged that many saw the image as offensive and said that it did not intend to be insensitive by selling the items.

“Because there are people with doubts, we've stopped selling the products for now,” a representative from 7-Eleven told the German Press Agency, according to an Israeli newspaper.

The ISECO, which is Israel’s de facto embassy to Taiwan, since China does not allow its diplomatic allies to have official ties with the island, says that while it does not think the products were meant to be a show of support for anti-Semitic ideology, the cartoon figure does signify a lack of understanding of the Nazi party’s history.

“We were appalled to see the Hitler lookalike image being used, again, as a marketing aid and sold in Taiwan's 7-Eleven stores,” ISECO representative Simona Halperin said in a statement Tuesday. “I find it tragic that once again people down the chain of marketing and promotion fail to recognize the meaning of the Dark Age in human history that the Nazi dictator represents.”

Taiwan has a history of Nazi imagery popping up in public as a result of commercial use.

Outrage about Thai school's Nazi parade

In 1999, a local company used an image of Hitler to advertise space heaters made in Germany. Additionally, in 2000, a restaurant in Taipei called The Jail displayed images of Nazi concentration camps, while a bar in Taipei operated under the name “Nazi Bar” during the 1990s. Both businesses later removed the references.

FULL POST

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Filed under: Adolf Hitler • Taiwan
A $64 million runway for no one in Alaska?
The route a hovercraft would take between the village of Akutan and the runway on Akun Island.
September 28th, 2011
12:56 PM ET

A $64 million runway for no one in Alaska?

Remember Alaska's "Bridge to Nowhere," a $400 million span that was supposed to connect Ketchikan to its airport on sparsely inhabited Gravina Island? The project gained infamy in 2005 as a waste of taxpayer dollars and the funds earmarked for it were withheld. The 8,000 residents of Ketchikan continue to be connected to their airport by ferry.

Fast forward six years and another remote Alaskan airport project is raising questions about how the government spends money.

The price this time is $77 million and the place is Akutan, a remote island village in the Aleutian chain, according to a report from the Alaska Dispatch.

By next winter Akutan is scheduled to have a 4,500-foot-long runway, built at a cost of $64 million ($59 million in federal and $5 million state funds), the Dispatch reports. The problem is, the runway is on Akun Island, 6 miles from the village across the treacherous waters of the Bering Sea. Plying those waters can be tricky with seas over 6 feet and winds above 30 mph.

Original plans called for using a hovercraft - at a cost of $11 million - to ferry passengers from Akutan to Akun. But, the Dispatch points out, the same model hovercraft planned for the route has proven unreliable under similar conditions elsewhere in Alaska. And when it did run, operating losses were in the millions.

FULL POST

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Filed under: Air travel • Alaska • Travel
September 28th, 2011
12:50 PM ET

UAW members ratify deal with General Motors

Members of the United Auto Workers union have voted to ratify a new collective bargaining agreement with General Motors Co.

The vote was 65 percent in favor of the agreement among production workers, and 63 percent in favor among skilled trades workers.

The UAW and General Motors reached a tentative deal nearly two weeks ago.

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Filed under: Auto Industry • General Motors
Overheard on CNN.com: Presidential primaries needs overhaul
GOP candidates may be facing a more hectic nomintating process if Florida moves their primary date to January 31.
September 28th, 2011
12:34 PM ET

Overheard on CNN.com: Presidential primaries needs overhaul

Comment of the morning:

“Why don't we eliminate primaries and just have presidential elections every 3 days. One day to campaign, one day to vote, and one day complain about why the person we just elected sucks. Lather, Rinse, Repeat.” - try2evolve

Florida may move primary date

Although the state may receive limited delegate seating at the GOP Convention, Florida is now expected to hold its presidential primary on the last day in January 2012, a move likely to throw the carefully arranged Republican nominating calendar into disarray and jumpstart the nominating process a month earlier than party leaders had hoped.

The expected change had CNN.com readers debating how the U.S. presidential primaries should be run.

GetRealDudes said, “It's time for a change in the primary process. There should be a round robin assignment for all states so that no one or two states are always at the start of the campaign season. Iowa and New Hampshire have too much influence on every presidential campaign.”

sunpacific responded, “This is the most sane thing I have heard. But in our ‘me first’ culture, this will be readily rejected.”

wyckette said, “We should follow the UK and have a one month campaign calendar and then a vote. The money being spent on campaigning is embarrassing. Voter fatigue is rampant just before the elections. And none of this puts the right people in office as we are experiencing now. Let's put the money to work for people who need jobs and take a chance that even in a shortened campaign season, we can elect some good (better) people to govern us.”

FULL POST

September 28th, 2011
11:35 AM ET

7 arrested in alleged SAT cheating scam

Authorities have arrested seven people in an alleged SAT cheating scam at a Long Island, New York, high school and are investigating whether the cheating extends to other schools.

Samuel Eshaghoff, 19, of Great Neck, New York, was arrested Tuesday on felony fraud charges that could result in four years in prison if he's convicted, the Nassau County District Attorney's Office said. Six students face misdemeanor charges. Their names are not being released because they are minors.

Samuel Eshaghoff

Prosecutors allege Eshaghoff impersonated six Great Neck North High students between 2010 and 2011, charging between $1,500 and $2,500 to take the SAT test for them. Eshaghoff would take the test at schools other than Great Neck, where proctors would not be familiar with the students' identity, and present fake, unofficial identification, prosecutors say.

Nassau County District Attorney Kathleen Rice said authorities uncovered the scam after hearing rumors of cheating, comparing the test scores of suspects to their school grade-point averages, and finding a "wide gulf" in the cases of the six suspects. The district attorney's office said it is investigating possible cheating scams at two other Nassau County high schools as well as possible further instances involving Eshaghoff.

Eshaghoff's attorney, Matin Emouna, said his client has pleaded not guilty in the case.

And he said cheating on tests is something that should be handled in schools, not in criminal courts.

"At what point are you going to draw the line?" Emouna asked during a phone interview with CNN Wednesday. "No one has had a case like this in the U.S., and I think attorneys are going to have a field day with it."

The victims in the case are students who are denied admission at the colleges of their choice by students who cheated, Rice said Wednesday on CNN's "American Morning."

"Honest kids should not be bumped out of college slots by kids who cheated," she said.

FULL POST

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Filed under: Crime • Education • New York
September 28th, 2011
11:32 AM ET

Immigration official arrested on child porn charges

[Updated at 1:14 p.m. ET] The head of Immigration and Customs Enforcement for south Florida has been arrested on child pornography charges, the Department of Justice said Wednesday.

Anthony Mangione, 50, of Parkland, Florida, was charged in a three-count indictment unsealed Wednesday with transportation of child pornography, receipt of child pornography and possession of child pornography, authorities said in a statement.

"According to the indictment, between March 2010 and September 2010, Mangione allegedly transported and received visual depictions of minors engaging in sexually explicit conduct," the statement said. "The indictment also alleges that Mangione possessed electronically stored messages that contained additional images of child pornography during the same time period."

Mangione was arrested Tuesday by FBI agents and made an initial appearance Wednesday in federal court in West Palm Beach, Florida.

During the appearance, Mangione pleaded not guilty to the charges, according to CNN affiliate WPTV. Both the prosecution and the defense requested he undergo a psychological evaluation, and the judge approved that request.

"The government has concerns that given the magnitude of the charges, that he might melt down," defense attorney David Howard told WPTV. "So there is ... real concern, and it's going to be addressed."

Mangione, a 27-year law enforcement veteran, wore a gray jumpsuit with "federal prisoner" on the back in court Wednesday, and his hands and feet were shackled, WPTV said. He made no statement during the hearing.

He was being held in the Broward County, Florida, jail, according to jail records.

FULL STORY
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Filed under: Crime • Florida
Gotta Watch: Moving through time
Time-lapse photography shows traders on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange.
September 28th, 2011
11:02 AM ET

Gotta Watch: Moving through time

It's an artistic technique that allows you to fast-forward through time and it's absolutely fascinating to watch.  We're talking about time-lapse photography. This simple art of taking images every second over an extended period of time and then replaying the images in normal speed creates a feeling of moving through time.  Today's Gotta Watch features some of our favorite time-lapse videos, inspired by a video we posted Tuesday that shows an incredible view of the Northern Lights in Denmark. In case you missed it, the video is at the end of this post.

Around the earth in 1 minute - Take a trip around planet Earth thanks to time-lapse video of 600 stitched-together photos from NASA's astronaut photo database. It's certainly a view that puts maps to shame.

FULL POST

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Filed under: Arizona • Art • Denmark • Earth • Gotta Watch • NASA • New Jersey • Shuttle • Solar System • Space • U.S. • World
September 28th, 2011
09:25 AM ET

Tainted cantaloupes linked to 13 deaths, public health agency says

Thirteen people have now died from consuming bacteria-tainted cantaloupe in what has become the deadliest outbreak of a food-borne illness since 1998, according to records from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The outbreak - blamed on the bacteria Listeria monocytogenes - was first reported September 12, when the CDC said 15 people in four states had been infected. The illnesses were traced to consumption of Rocky Ford cantaloupes grown at Jensen Farms' fields in Granada, Colorado.

As of Monday morning, the latest statistics available, it had grown to 18 states, 72 illnesses and 13 deaths, according to the CDC.

In 1998, 21 people died from consuming tainted hot dogs, according to a CDC database.

FULL STORY
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Filed under: Health • U.S.
September 28th, 2011
09:04 AM ET

Libyans claim Gadhafi hiding near western border town

Ousted Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi is believed to be hiding out near the town of Ghadamis under the protection of the Tuareg tribe, an interim government military spokesman told CNN Tuesday.

"We have reliable information that Gadhafi is protected by the Tuareg tribe located between Niger, Algeria, and Ghadamis town in Libya," said Col. Abdul Basit.

He said Gadhafi's son Saif al-Islam is in Bani Walid and Mutassim is in Sirte. Those are the two places in Libya that remain contested with loyalist Gadhafi forces fighting to the bitter end to retain control.

Basit did not provide insight as to how the interim government discovered Gadhafi's whereabouts and the claims could not be verified. The National Transitional Council has in the past made claims that turned out to be false.

Ghadamis lies in western Libya, on the border with Algeria. Tuareg tribesmen, known as capable mercenaries, have helped Gadhafi loyalists escape Libya across the expanses of the Sahel.

During his rule, Gadhafi often turned to the nomadic Tuareg to bolster his forces and his attempts to manipulate and destabilize the poor countries to the south of Libya: Niger, Chad and Mali.

The International Criminal Court in The Hague, Netherlands, has arrest warrants out for Moammar and Saif al-Islam Gadhafi. They are wanted for alleged crimes against humanity committed after the start of the Libyan uprising in February.

FULL STORY
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Filed under: Libya • World
September 28th, 2011
09:03 AM ET

New tropical storm menaces Philippines after deadly typhoon

On the heels of a typhoon that left at least 21 people dead in the Philippines and 33 others missing, another tropical storm brewing in the Pacific is expected to hit the area within 24 hours, according to the state weather bureau.

Typhoon Nesat - referred to in the Philippines as Pedring - displaced thousands but was expected to move offshore Wednesday afternoon, the state-run Philippines News Agency reported.

A baby boy was among the 21 dead after Typhoon Nesat slammed into the Philippines on Tuesday, authorities said. Twenty-five other people were injured, according to the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council (NDRRMC).

FULL STORY
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Filed under: Philippines • Weather
September 28th, 2011
08:23 AM ET

Disabled girl gets spot on cheer team, hundreds of miles away

A Nebraska girl born with incomplete arms and no legs has finally achieved her dream of being a cheerleader thanks to a high school coach about 800 miles away.

Julia Sullivan, 16, of Aurora, and her family traveled last week to Portland (Michigan) High School at the invitation of Portland cheerleading coach Linda Fox, who had Sullivan join her varsity squad for Friday’s homecoming football game.

It was the first time that Julia, who tried out for her high school’s squad in Nebraska three times without success, had cheered on a team in public, CNN affiliate WILX reported.

“I love to get the crowd going, and (I’m) just … excited (to) show the world what I can do,” she told WILX.

Fox said she’d read about Julia’s efforts to join her squad in Aurora.

“I was surfing the Internet and came on Julia’s story, and I was very inspired,” Fox told WILX. “I brought it to the team, and they challenged me to do something.”

FULL POST

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Filed under: Michigan • Nebraska
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