Editor's note: Readers have a lot to say about stories, and we're listening. Overheard on CNN.com is a regular feature that examines interesting comments and thought-provoking conversations posted by the community.
"Congress has ruled that there cannot be a Nativity Scene in Washington this Christmas season.This isn't for any religious reason; they simply have not been able to find Three Wise Men in the nation's capital. The search for a virgin continues. There was no problem, however, finding enough asses to fill the stable."
The failure is now official: The congressional "super committee" has been unable to reach a deficit reduction agreement, and Republicans and Democrats are blaming each other. Many people have opined that this outcome was hardly a surprise given the divisions in government. Outrage and frustration in all directions is practically seeping from the comments section on related stories.
Commenters' discussions were revealing of the frustration among many people who said politicians are placing their own interests over those of the nation. Take this exchange for example:
juneday: "Let history note that this is the day that Congress fiddled while our economy burned. While our young men and women lay their lives on the line every day for this country, it appears that there is not one member of congress who is willing to lay their political life on the line, to reach a compromise."
gbologn: "The most galling thing to me is that our government is doing it right in front of our eyes and there is not a damn thing we can do about it. The solution is simple: remove money from politics. It sounds too good to be true, but if there is no money to be made behind every legislative vote/decision..." FULL POST
CNN on Monday, after prior public record requests, sent a letter to Penn State President Rodney Erickson appealing to his promise of transparency and the university’s ethical duty to release the records relating to the Jerry Sandusky investigation due to the overwhelming public interest in the case and public policy questions raised by the university’s and investigators’ handling of the allegations.
Below is the letter to Erickson:
I am writing on behalf of Cable News Network, Inc. (“CNN”) as the head of newsgathering operations for the entire northeastern United States, including Pennsylvania.
Soon after you were named interim president in the aftermath of the announcement of the sexual abuse charges against Jerry Sandusky and related perjury charges against other Penn State officials, you made this promise to the Penn State community: “Penn State is committed to transparency to the fullest extent possible given the ongoing investigations.” We implore you to fulfill your promise.
As you know, CNN and several other news organizations have filed Right to Know Requests with the university and University Police relating to the 1998 investigation of Sandusky. Those requests have been perfunctorily denied by the University’s General Counsel’s Office which has relied on the argument that the university is not a “commonwealth agency” as defined by the law and thus immune from public disclosure except as it relates to information contained on IRS 990 reports. It is our understanding that this exemption is unusual when compared with other, similar state universities. Given the gravity of the allegations and the public interest in this important matter, we would ask that you make the records relating to the Sandusky case available to the public to honor your commitment to transparency, instead of avoiding this obligation by invoking this atypical exception to open records laws.
The public interest in this case is overwhelming. The allegations have raised serious questions about how state employees and state officials – including those who are supposed to enforce the law – have responded to allegations of sexual abuse of minors and larger public policy questions about the adequacy of child protection laws, which should be debated in the public and in legislative chambers across the United States and around the world. The public needs complete and accurate information.
We believe Penn State, as a nationally known university and the flagship of Pennsylvania's university system, has an ethical duty to the public to release these records, rather than rely on this peculiar exception provided by the state legislature.
We await your response.
Editor's note: Readers have a lot to say about stories, and we're listening. Overheard on CNN.com is a regular feature that examines interesting comments and thought-provoking conversations posted by the community. We're trying something new today and featuring excerpts from five fascinating conversations taking place in our comments area.
We're hearing from a lot of readers today about an investigation into campus officers' use of pepper spray against protesters at the University of California at Davis. Powerful, meaty discussions ensued about the right to protest and the right to occupy a space for an extended amount of time. People have been talking about these issues for a while, but this incident ignited the discussion.
The American soldier behind bars for more than 18 months, suspected of leaking classified documents to the WikiLeaks website, will go before a military panel on December 16, according to a U.S. military release.
The military made the announcement Monday afternoon regarding Pfc. Bradley Manning. The hearing will happen at Fort George G. Meade in Maryland. CNN.com placed a call to Manning's attorney, who was not immediately available for comment.
Manning is charged with aiding the enemy, wrongfully causing intelligence to be published on the Internet knowing that it is accessible to the enemy, theft of property or records, transmitting defense information, fraud and related activity in connection with computers and violating Army regulations, according to the military.
If convicted of all charges, he would face life in prison and a dishonorable discharge.
In February, a friend of Manning's told reporters that the soldier, who was 23 when he was arrested in 2010, was deteriorating mentally and physically from his imprisonment. Manning was initially held at the Marine brig in Quantico, Virginia, but has since been transferred to the prison at Fort Leavenworth in Kansas.
Last month, WikiLeaks founder and editor Julian Assange was ordered extradited from England to Sweden to face charges related to a sex crime investigation unrelated to WikiLeaks. But Assange's extradition is significant in the WikiLeaks story because many say that if he is behind bars, WikiLeaks will not be able to continue.
Sales of Penn State sports merchandise are down about 40%, sports analysts and marketers say, and the typical antidote – winning – does not apply this time.
“Winning is the ultimate driver of team sales,” said Brian Swallow, vice president of business development at Fanatics LLC, a sports merchandiser.
“I think that while it’s the last thing on anyone’s mind right now as we’re all concerned about the victims (of the child sex scandal) and their families, Penn State merchandise sales will rebound as soon as the university has a clearly communicated direction and its alumni and fans are ready to move past this terrible situation.”
And that will take some time, analysts say.
Former defensive coordinator Jerry Sandusky is accused of sexually molesting eight boys he befriended through his charity. In an interview last week with NBC’s Bob Costas, Sandusky denied the charges and insisted he is not a pedophile.
The scandal has taken an obvious toll on the alleged victims and their families and communities, but the collateral damage has also been extensive: Joe Paterno, the winningest coach in Division 1 college football, was fired, sparking a student riot. Penn State’s President Graham Spanier also lost his job, and two administrators face criminal charges.
Across the nation the impact can be felt at cash registers at large and small sports retailers as consumers turn away from Penn State’s dark royal blue jerseys. "We are seeing similar drop-offs across all categories," Swallow said. "All (Penn State) apparel and merchandise, including T-shirts, fleece, women and kids, collectibles, etc."
And make no mistake, the monetary loss is significant. NCAA-branded merchandising is a $4 billion business, with Penn State pulling in about $80 million per year in sales, according to Matt Powell, an analyst with SportsOneSource, a sports research organization.
Winning on the field usually means winning at the bank as well. The college football Bowl Championship Series title-holder usually is tops in the sale of merchandising for the year. Swallow said the University of Texas was No. 1 for the past few years.
When a scandal hits a college football program, the loss in sales is usually offset by support from the fan base and student body, Powell said.
“Like when Ohio State went through their problems, the fans actually rallied around the school and sales went up,” he said.
Not so with Penn State.
Because of the gravity of the allegations, merchandising sales are evidently not being buoyed by the Nittany Lion fan base. “This is the first time I’ve seen that,” Powell said.
Members of the congressional "super committee" - the bipartisan panel tasked with finding at least $1.2 trillion in budget savings over the next decade - will likely announce Monday that they have failed, according to both Democratic and Republican aides.
"No decisions or agreement has been reached concerning any announcement or how this will end," one senior Democratic aide said. "But, yes, the likely outcome is no agreement will be reached."
Markets dropped as news spread of the panel's apparent failure. The Dow Jones Industrial Average had declined over 300 points by noon Monday.FULL STORY
LeBron James is taking his talents back to northeastern Ohio – for one night in December.
James – who grew up in Akron and left the Cleveland Cavaliers for the Miami Heat before the 2010-2011 NBA season – will lead a group of NBA players in an exhibition game at the University of Akron's Rhodes Arena on December 1, the Akron Beacon Journal reports.
Joining James will be fellow superstars Chris Paul, Dwayne Wade and Carmello Anthony, plus two of the college draftees who the Cavaliers hope will return them to the NBA heights they enjoyed during James' reign in Cleveland, No. 1 pick Kyrie Irving and Tristan Thompson, the Beacon Journal reported.
Akron will be the first stop in the group's "Homecoming Tour," which also includes New Orleans on December 4, Chicago on December 7 and East Rutherford, New Jersey, on December 11, according to the report.
The games will be streamed live on Google+, which is sponsoring the tour, according to Business Insider. Proceeds from ticket sales will go to charity.
The tour will fill some of the free time the four NBA superstars have because of the current lockout, which has delayed the start of the season and may force its cancellation.
They seem to be spending plenty of time together recently, including attending Saturday night's big USC-Oregon college football game in Eugene, Oregon, according to a report in The Oregonian.
And Anthony, at least, plans to get involved with some presidential politics in December. He'll be among a number of current and former NBA players appearing in the "First Ever Obama Classic," a fundraiser game for the president's re-election bid, to be held December 12 in Washington.
Firefighters in Nevada have fully contained a wildfire that engulfed dozens of homes and burned nearly 2,000 acres, an incident commander said Monday.
The Caughlin Fire in Reno burned 1,935 acres before firefighters contained the blaze, said Sierra Fire Protection District Chief Mike Brown, the incident commander.
The blaze has made 32 homes uninhabitable and damaged five, but is no longer a major threat to other structures, Reno Fire Chief Michael Hernandez said Sunday.FULL STORY
It's Thanksgiving week, and some of you know what that means besides turkey and leftovers. It also means Black Friday, the one day retailers aim to maximize their profit margins and try to lure you into spending your hard-earned cash. If you're a seasoned Black Friday shopper like I am, you'd have already scoured online for all the deals in advance, and have an attack plan timed out to the last second. Or maybe you just want to get out of the house. Either way, if you're a seasoned shopper, you'll know what I'm talking about. If not, HLN's Clark Howard and Jennifer Westhoven are here to tell you if it's worth braving the lines:
And the must-have gadget to shop for this year? Tablets! For the person on the go who wants to do anything one can do on the computer without lugging a laptop, here's two new products to check out:
But don't let retailers and prices fool you into going broke this holiday season. Make a plan and stick to it, so you won't regret it later!
And this video is just too priceless for us not to include in today's Gotta Watch. It's a Black Friday play on words with the Kohl's cover of Rebecca Black's "Friday."
Britain cut all financial ties with Iran over concerns about Iran's nuclear program Monday, the first time it has ever cut an entire country's banking sector off from British finance, the British Treasury announced.
A Major League Baseball player was reportedly stabbed to death Monday in the Netherlands.
Greg Halman, 24, was found dead just after 5 a.m. Monday in Rotterdam, a police spokeswoman said. Investigators arrested his 22-year-old brother, she said.
Halman played centerfield for the Seattle Mariners.
Betra Dorrestijn, a spokeswoman for the Royal Baseball and Softball Union of the Netherlands, said Halman's family confirmed his death to the federation.
"We are shocked to hear that Gregory Halman has passed away," she said. "It is tragic that he should die at such a young age."
Halman was a federation member when he played baseball as a teenager for an amateur team in his hometown of Haarlem, just outside Amsterdam, before going to the United States to play, Dorrestijn said.FULL STORY
Former FBI Director Louis Freeh will lead Penn State University's inquiry into the school's response to sex abuse allegations involving former assistant football coach Jerry Sandusky, trustee Kenneth Frazier said Monday.
Sandusky is accused of sexually abusing a boy at a football complex, an act allegedly witnessed by an a football graduate assistant who reported it to coach Joe Paterno and other superiors. But it was years before law enforcement was notified, according to a grand jury report.
Paterno, the winningest football coach in Division I history, was fired this month amid outrage over the handling of abuse claims involving Sandusky. Penn State President Graham Spanier also lost his job.
Six days after Sandusky's arrest, the college announced it was creating a special panel to investigate the allegations.
Frazier, a trustee who is chairing the panel, has said the inquiry will be "rigorous, objective and impartial."
Pennsylvania's attorney general charged Sandusky, 67, with 40 counts in what authorities say was the sexual abuse of eight young boys over several years. In addition, two Penn State officials are charged with failing to inform police of the allegations.
National anger grew after recent revelations of a graduate assistant's 2002 report that he had seen former Sandusky performing anal sex on a young boy in a football complex shower.
Paterno said that he'd never been told the graphic details revealed in a grand jury report about sex abuse allegations, but that he nevertheless passed the allegations on to his boss. Paterno has said he had done "what I was supposed to do." But in a later statement, he said "with the benefit of hindsight, I wish I had done more."
The NCAA and the U.S. Department of Education are also investigating.
Editor's note: Each day, we'll bring you some of the diverse voices from our site and across the Web on stories causing ripples throughout the news sphere.
The congressional "super committee" charged with coming up with $1.2 trillion in budget cuts appears doomed for failure, with sources saying the panel will be unable to reach a deal before its practical deadline Monday.
The 12-member bipartisan panel's deadline for a final vote is Wednesday, but any blueprint must be made available 48 hours in advance of a committee vote and must be accompanied by a Congressional Budget Office analysis scoring how much it would reduce deficits.
If the panel fails to come up with the required cuts, automatic ones would be triggered in 2013 to reduce $1.2 trillion in spending, something CNNMoney calls the super committee's "escape hatch." Those cuts would be evenly divided between nondefense and defense items. If the cuts go that way, Defense Secretary Leon Panetta says the U.S. armed forces would be crippled.
Of course, no one in Washington really thinks that will happen as Congress made the law requiring the cuts, and lawmakers can change it however they like before 2013 rolls around.
On Monday morning, pundits on the Web were pointing out that politics still rule in the few months before a presidential election year and the divide between Democrats and Republicans shows no signs of being bridged.
The scientific analogy
A blog on The Economist says the super committee is more atom-smasher than friction reducer.
"The theory behind the super committee was that it would be a superconducting committee, eliminating the frictions caused by hundreds of clashing representatives in the House and Senate and zooming everyone straight along into a $1.2 billion deficit-reduction agreement. Instead, it seems to have become a supercolliding committee, focusing the two parties down into a narrower space so that the impact blasts everything into tiny subatomic particles."
That's because the two parties can't abandon the stances of their base voters, the article continues.
"For Democrats to have any chance of making gains in the 2012 elections, they need to demonstrate to their base that they will fight for higher taxes on the wealthy. They can't walk away from the super committee negotiations without a significant tax hike on the very rich. Similarly, it doesn't look like the Republicans can walk away from the super committee negotiations having allowed that to happen – if anything, they need to show they fought for a cut in the top marginal rate. Hence the supercommittee supercollider."
Pulling a victory from failure
Writing for Politico, Manu Raju and Jake Sherman say "both parties are quickly trying to figure out how to turn the committee’s embarrassing failure into a political win for their side."
Democrats will do so by saying they wouldn't OK a deal that didn't protect social programs while in some way increase taxes on the wealthy. Republicans will do that by saying they wouldn't give ground on demands that spending on entitlements take a hit.
Politico quotes senators from each party to show the hard line that exists in the panel.
“I’ve heard this from Republicans in the Senate and in the House who say to me, ‘The calculation politically has been made by many that they think they’re going to win the Senate, win the presidency, and they want to wait until next year and just write their own deal,' " Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.) on NBC’s “Meet the Press” said Sunday.
“In Washington, there’s a group of folks that will not cut a dollar unless we also raise taxes,” Sen. Jon Kyl (R-Ariz.) said tersely Sunday.
Writing on Time.com, Jay Newton-Small says "looming primaries – both presidential and congressional – have put bipartisan compromise even farther out of reach."
"If you’re, say, Senator Jon Tester, a Montana Democrat who has a tough re-election test ahead of him next November, what incentive would you have to vote for entitlement cuts, which would risk the support Native American tribes, seniors, lower income voters – the trifecta of constituents that are pivotal to winning statewide in Montana. On the flip side, if you’re, say, Rep. Paul Gosar, an Arizona Republican freshman of the Tea Party persuasion, voting for increased revenue could leave you open not just to a primary challenge, but also vulnerable to a conservative Democrat in the general election."
"Deficits remain a great threat to national security, as Mike Mullen, former chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, once put it. The committee’s failure risks a stock market dive amid a widening European crisis and another potential downgrade of America’s bond rating status. Small business lending could get tougher because of this debacle, the recession could drag out and unemployment could continue to stagnate. There are probably a dozen more winners and losers that I could name on the political spectrum. But the fact of the matter is, whatever short-term political gains anyone gets out of this, in the long run the American people lose."
The police chief at the University of California at Davis has been placed on administrative leave while officials investigate officers' use of pepper spray against protesters, the university said in a statement Monday.
"As I have gathered more information about the events that took place on our Quad on Friday, it has become clear to me that this is a necessary step toward restoring trust on our campus," UC Davis Chancellor Linda Katehi said in the statement.
On Sunday the university said it had placed two police officers on administrative leave after video of them pepper-spraying non-violent protesters at point-blank range sparked outrage at school officials.FULL STORY
Thanksgiving may be three days away, but that doesn't mean CNN.com Live is taking the week off. We are your home for breaking news from around the world.
Today's programming highlights...
10:00 am ET - Penn State briefing - A Penn State Board of Trustees special committee will discuss its probe of school actions regarding recent abuse claims against a former football assistant coach.
The number of people wounded in two days of clashes in Egypt has reached 1,700, a health ministry spokesman said Monday.
In addition, 20 people have died, including 10 on Sunday in confrontations between protesters and security forces in Cairo.
Doctors at Cairo's Tahrir Square said injuries include gunshot wounds, excessive tear gas inhalations and beatings to the head.
"I have received many people suffering of convulsions," said Tarek Salama a medic in a makeshift hospital in Tahrir Square. "Lots of gunshot wounds from rubber and bird shots. And I have seen two cases who have been hit with actual live bullets."
Tahrir Square - once a center of euphoria following the ouster of longtime President Hosni Mubarak in February - continues to be a major flashpoint for the unrest.
"People here feel that they have been cheated and that they have moved from an autocracy to a military dictatorship," protester Mosa'ab Elshamy said. "So they are back to the square - back to square one - to ask for their rights once again."
Egypt's parliamentary elections are set to take place November 28. But demonstrators are upset about a proposed constitutional principle that would shield the military's budget from scrutiny by civilian powers. They worry that the military would be shaped as a state within a state.
Mohamed Higazi, a spokesman for the prime minister's office, said the government will continue dialogue on reaching a constitution that ensures the election of a civilian government.
The military said it wants to transfer power to a civilian parliament and president, but many citizens are dissatisfied with the pace of the transition and the resolve of the military rulers.FULL STORY
The attorney for a man accused of plotting to detonate pipe bombs in and around New York says his client doesn't match the profile of someone who would commit terrorism.
Jose Pimentel, 27, is in custody after authorities say he intended to target U.S. military personnel who had served in Iraq and Afghanistan. Police say he also intended to strike U.S. postal facilities and police in New York and Bayonne, New Jersey.
Pimentel was arraigned in a New York court late Sunday night. His attorney, Joseph Zablocki, said the case against his client is nowhere near as strong as authorities and the prosecution say.
"As they admit, he has a very public online profile, and that flies in the face of everything that they've said," Zablocki said at the hearing. "This is not the way you go about committing terrorist attacks."
Earlier, the prosecution said Pimentel had a "very active and very public online profile," citing the website TrueIslam1.
New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg described the suspect as an "al Qaeda sympathizer," though he is not believed to have ever worked with or received training from anyone in that terrorist organization.
"There is no evidence he worked with anyone else," Bloomberg said. "He appears to be ... a lone wolf."
Pimentel's uncle Luis Saverino told CNN affiliate WABC that his sister's son lived with him on 137th Street in Hamilton Heights. Saverino said he had no idea what his nephew was up to inside his bedroom, which he always kept locked.FULL STORY
The Los Angeles Galaxy beat the Houston Dynamo 1-0 in the Major League Soccer final Sunday night, in what could be David Beckham's last significant game on U.S. soil.
The Galaxy entered the final match, which was on their home turf in Carson, California, as the clear favorite. The squad hasn't lost this year at The Home Depot Center, and overall have won 19 games, tied 10 and lost five.
The Dynamo, meanwhile, finished second in the Eastern Conference having won 12 games, tied 13 and lost nine.
Yet while the Houston squad had strong players like Brian Ching and Brad Davis on its roster, they couldn't match the star-power of the Galaxy. That included U.S. national team stalwart Landon Donovan, Irish forward Robbie Keane and Beckham.
The sole goal of the game came in the 72nd minute. Beckham flicked a header to Keane who passed the ball to Donovan - who, in turn, sent it past Dynamo goalkeeper Tally Hall.
It was the Galaxy's third MLS title, and Beckham's first.
His $32.5 million contract is set to expire at year's end, and Beckham recently told CNN that he is still weighing where, if anywhere, he will go next.FULL STORY
Larry Munson, who earned the adoration of University of Georgia fans as an unabashed Bulldogs supporter while announcing the team's football games for 42 years, died Sunday night at his Athens home, the school said.
He was 89.
Munson succumbed to complications from pneumonia, his son Michael said, according to a statement from the University of Georgia.
In 1966, shortly after becoming a voice of the Atlanta Braves baseball club, Munson also joined the University of Georgia's broadcast team.
He remained part of that team through 2008, earning notoriety around the South for his passion for football and the Athens school. The next year, he was inducted into the National Sportscasters and Sportswriters Association Hall of Fame.
"Hardly a day goes by in my hectic world that I don't tell my staff to 'hunker down,'" said President Ronald Reagan in 1986, repeating one of Munson's well-known catch-phrases, according to the university.FULL STORY