Overheard on CNN.com: GOP race vs. Trump's 'Apprentice'
Donald Trump will be moderating a December 27 presidential forum, just days before the Iowa caucuses.
December 5th, 2011
08:46 PM ET

Overheard on CNN.com: GOP race vs. Trump's 'Apprentice'

Editor's note: This post is part of the Overheard on CNN.com series, a regular feature that examines interesting comments and thought-provoking conversations posted by the community.

Some of the most interesting comments today came from a story about Donald Trump calling Jon Huntsman and Ron Paul "joke candidates" after they opted not to attend the presidential forum he's moderating in December. Readers thought the whole situation seemed pretty bizarre.

Trump hits 'joke candidates' Paul and Huntsman

"This is absurd," wrote commenter mdn. "A real estate mogul, who has been bankrupt more than once, is hosting a presidential debate? Only the Republicans could think of this. This sort of thing diminishes the Republicans and the electoral process. Thankfully Paul and Hunstman recognize that and have stepped back. True that they don't have a real chance of becoming president, but they do elevate the discussion. How does Don Thump, who endorsed Obama in '08, get this kind of street cred with the Republicans?"

Many made reality TV allusions. Rudy NYC wrote:

"I wonder if everyone will sit around a big board room sized conference table with Trump at the head. You know, sort of like they do on Trump's reality show. (I never watch it. I think four people trying make 4-foot-tall cakes is more interesting.) This debate could secretly be a model for an upcoming new reality show of his, 'The Candidate.' "

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U.S. Postal Service: Back to the future?
The U.S. Postal Service has proposed to close 252 mail-processing plants to help cut costs.
December 5th, 2011
03:47 PM ET

U.S. Postal Service: Back to the future?

To save money, the U.S. Postal Service is proposing to deliver mail at about the same speed it delivered mail when it was first founded, back in 1775.

That’s not how postal officials framed the news. But that’s what their announcement amounts to. We did the math.

First, back to the future.

The year 1775. There is no United States. Just a bunch of Colonies with a dream. Britain’s the enemy. News travels slowly. And that’s a problem for the generals of the future America, especially George Washington. They needed to communicate as quickly as possible with people all over the Colonies.

Benjamin Franklin knows well the importance of a postal service to achieving independence. Because, when Franklin was 31, he was put in charge of the postal service from England to the Colonies. When the Colonies rebelled, England dismantled that service.

Franklin convinced the Continental Congress to create a U.S. Post Office. It put him in charge.

So was born the Continental Post, in 1775, when Franklin was 69.

Fast-forward 236 years.

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Amanda Knox, Raffaele Sollecito working on book deals
Amanda Knox and Raffaelle Sollecito are seen in an Italian court during their trial.
December 5th, 2011
03:35 PM ET

Amanda Knox, Raffaele Sollecito working on book deals

Amanda Knox may be one step closer to telling the world her side of the story about her saga of being wrapped up in an Italian murder trial that caught the world's eye.

Knox, who recently returned home to the United States after winning an appeal of her conviction, has officially inked a deal with attorney Robert Barnett to represent her when it comes to book deals.

Knox was convicted in 2009 of murder, sexual assault, possession of a weapon, interfering with a crime and theft in relation to the murder of her roommate Meredith Kercher. But during an appeal this year, a jury cleared Knox of those charges, freeing her. The court also cleared her Italian ex-boyfriend Raffaele Sollecito.

"[Barnett will] represent her in discussions with various book publishers who have expressed an interest in Amanda writing a book," David Marriott, the Seattle public relations specialist hired by the Knox family during her trial told CNN by e-mail. "Mr. Barnett will also assist Amanda and her family in evaluating other opportunities as well."

Barnett is well-known for brokering major book deals with several high-profile figures including: President Barack Obama, Bill Clinton, George W. Bush, Hillary Rodham Clinton, Laura Bush, Bob Woodward and Sarah Palin among several other notables.

Marriott told CNN they had no further details to share about where they were in the process or whether Knox already had anything written. Knox's family has said she enjoys writing and thought she would be interested in sharing her ordeal with others either through writing a book or becoming an advocate.

Knox makes emotional return to Seattle

Knox's announcement came about a week after her former boyfriend Raffaele Sollecito inked a deal of his own. Sollecito signed with Seattle-based Martin Literary Management.

‚ÄúThis is a case I have followed from day one and never, not even for a moment, have I doubted the innocence of Raffaele Sollecito and Amanda Knox,‚ÄĚ Sharlene Martin said in a news release. ‚ÄúI‚Äôm honored to work with this fine young man and let the world know the real Raffaele ‚ÄĒ a sensitive, compassionate and heartfelt person."

"He's never really spoken about that night and this is his opportunity to do so," Martin told CNN. "There's much more to Raffaele than what the world has seen. He is an amazing young man. He is brave, he is heartfelt, he is compassionate. I think he is an incredible young man with a story to tell."

Martin said that both her client and Knox have been in the spotlight for so long and while she just learned about Knox's deal, she is excited for them both to share their stories. She also said the caliber of Knox's agent speaks to how important it is for her story to be told.

"I think Amanda is very fortunate to have him," Martin said. "It speaks volumes for a man of his integrity to want to represent her story and I think it will distinguish her from other crime stories and I think it will help Raffaele."

Martin said that Sollecito's book will be a memoir and will cover several aspects of his life, not just the four-year saga in Perugia, Italy. Martin said they're currently looking for American writers who can also speak with Sollecito in Italian to work on the book.

She said while Knox's story may have been more heavily covered in the media, because she's American, she believes both of the former co-defendants have a lot to share with those who only saw them through the court proceedings.

"They both have equally important stories to tell," Martin said. "They have both been incredibly affected by the death of Meredith Kercher and will always be."

December 5th, 2011
03:30 PM ET

Call it a comeback for Assange? Maybe

In the past few days, the WikiLeaks saga has taken two sharp turns.

On Thursday, 287 documents appeared on the WikiLeaks site about the global surveillance and arms industry. The dump provided many documents to mine, and it's still unclear what they might all mean. The Washington Post and other outlets called it a comeback for the site and for WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange.

And on Monday, Assange won the right to fight his extradition from the United Kingdom to Sweden on sexual assault allegations. This is the latest (and last) chance Assange will get to avoid answering allegations made by two women in 2010 that he forced them to have sexual relations. Assange has not been charged with a crime. Sweden is seeking him for questioning.

Swedish officials have said that the sex crime case has nothing to do with WikiLeaks or anything published on the site, including a trove of classified American intelligence in 2010 and early 2011. But Assange has repeatedly said that he believes the Swedish case is a ruse, and that if he is extradited to Sweden he'll be more vulnerable to extradition to the U.S., where he could be prosecuted in relation to WikiLeaks' release of classified U.S. information.

U.S. Rep. Peter King, R-New York, has said that Assange should be prosecuted for espionage. He also has said that the U.S. should classify WikiLeaks as a terrorist group so that "we can freeze their assets." King has called Assange an enemy combatant.

In less than two weeks, starting on December 16, the U.S. military will begin its case against Bradley Manning, the U.S. soldier suspected to have leaked classified information that appeared on the WikiLeaks site. Who is Manning?

The soldier, in his early 20s, will face a military trial in Maryland on a range of charges that could send him to prison for life. It's been more than a year since the Swedish case first hit the news.

Here's a look at what has transpired since then.

In December 2010, Assange was detained in England on a Swedish arrest warrant. Two women were accusing Assange of sexual assault. Assange spent 10 days in jail in England (inspiring a "Saturday Night Live" spoof). He was released on $315,000 bail and placed under electronically monitored house arrest. Since that time, Assange has been living at a mansion in the British countryside, where he did an interview with "60 Minutes" in September.

In February, a British court ordered Assange extradited to Sweden for questioning in relation to the sexual assault allegations. He appealed, while his lawyers publicly challenged Swedish prosecutor Marianne Ny to go to London to defend her handling of the case against Assange. "Today, we have seen a Hamlet without the princess a prosecutor who has been ready to feed the media within information, but has been unwilling to come here," Assange attorney Mark Stephens told reporters outside a south London courtroom.

In November, an appeals court denied his appeal against extradition. The decision sparked different reactions from key WikiLeaks players. It left Assange with one last option: Great Britain's Supreme Court.

On December 5, Assange got approval from the British courts to proceed with an appeal to the highest court.

Assange addressed reporters Monday, saying that his case will benefit other cases involving extradition.

"The long struggle for justice for me and others continues," he said.

In 2010 WikiLeaks posted 77,000 classified Pentagon documents about the Afghanistan war and 391,832 secret documents on the Iraq war. It also published a quarter million diplomatic cables ‚ÄĒ daily written correspondence between the State Department's 270 American outposts around the globe. The cables were released in batches for several months, until September of this year when they were released in total. U.S. officials called the release of the cables "dangerous" and "illegal."

An unauthorized biography of Assange, which he has fiercely criticized, was also released in September. According to several reports,  British newspaper The Independent published what it said were portions of the book. In one section of the book, Assange is quoted as saying, "I did not rape those women."

Since Assange's Swedish case began, WikiLeaks has struggled. The website, launched in 2006, has had financial problems. In October, Assange said that it would stop publishing until the group could raise more money. In February, former WikiLeaks spokesman Daniel Domscheit-Berg released a tell-all book about what it was like to work with Assange and for WikiLeaks. He blasted Assange, calling him a "paranoid, power-hungry, meglomaniac." Several articles, from CNN.com to the New York Times, have wondered whether Assange's legal problems and WikiLeaks' internal strife would kill the site. Perhaps reports of WikiLeaks' demise have been greatly exaggerated.

Last week's new release, which WikiLeaks is calling "The Spy Files," could mean that the site is far from doomed.

A few days before The Spy Files hit, on November 28, Assange addressed journalists at a News World Summit in Hong Kong via a video link from England. For at least 30 minutes he went on a rant criticizing Washington, mainstream media, banks and others, while accepting an award from a noted journalism group, the Walkley Foundation of Australia.

CNN.com was at the event.

Among other statements in his acceptance speech, Assange said a federal grand jury in Washington is investigating WikiLeaks and that people and companies around the world have been or are being coerced to testify against WikiLeaks. He accused banks of blockading WikiLeaks. He also said that journalists have become ladder climbers and must be held to greater account, and that there is a "new McCarthyism" in the United States. Assange vowed that WikiLeaks' next "battle" would be to make sure governments and corporations cannot use the Web as a surveillance tool.

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Filed under: Julian Assange • WikiLeaks
December 5th, 2011
02:26 PM ET

Georgia police find body of 7-year-old missing girl

Police have found the body of a 7-year-old Georgia girl who went missing more than two days ago, the state's chief law enforcement official said Monday.

Police believe Jorelys Rivera was abducted and killed at her apartment in Canton, about 40 miles north of Atlanta, said Georgia Bureau of Investigations director Vernon Keenan.

"A 7-year-old child was kidnapped, sexually assaulted and murdered," Keenan said.

The girl was last seen Friday near a playground at her apartment. Police initially thought she might have wandered off and began investigating it as a missing-person case. But after more than 48 hours of searching, police said they believed the girl was kidnapped.

Canton police, assisted by the FBI and the Georgia Bureau of Investigation, expanded the search area Monday and began canvassing for sex offenders living nearby. They are now asking for help to find out who killed the little girl.

FULL STORY
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Filed under: Crime • Georgia
Overheard on CNN.com: Readers speak out in defense of 'snail mail'
The U.S. Postal Service's cost-cutting plans may affect mail-processing centers such as this one in Fort Lauderdale, Florida.
December 5th, 2011
02:07 PM ET

Overheard on CNN.com: Readers speak out in defense of 'snail mail'

Editor's note: This post is part of the Overheard on CNN.com series, a regular feature that examines interesting comments and thought-provoking conversations posted by the community.

We've known for some time that the U.S. Postal Service has been struggling in the Internet age. Now the economically strapped mail-delivery agency says it is planning to change its first-class delivery standard of one to three days to two to five days. Commenters were for the most part flabbergasted at this turn of events.

U.S. Postal Service wants to limit next-day service

Many readers indicated the Postal Service should not be forced to cut back. After all, many people still pay their bills through the mail. iReporter Melissa Fazli of Yorba Linda, California, said she was afraid¬†Netflix users would have trouble¬†sending their DVDs in the mail.¬†The most‚Äďliked comment received many nods of agreement:

AndyDaniel: "Truth is, the USPS does a remarkably good job with most things. I can send a letter across the country in two to three days for half the cost of a cheap cup of coffee. I've sent Priority Mail many times, and it almost always does arrive in two to three days.

Yes, their tracking leaves something to be desired, and yes, sometimes there is a line at the post office, but there's a line at the grocery store, too, and I don't see people online complaining about it.

The post office has become a favorite target of jokes, but if you really look at what they accomplish for how little money, it's actually amazing. UPS will also send a letter (not next day) across the country, but it takes five to six days and costs about $5.50. Now I know that's not a completely fair comparison because UPS is barred from competing in first-class mail, but if you look at the big picture, and not the anecdotal memory of a screw-up here or there, the Postal Service comes out looking pretty good." FULL POST

December 5th, 2011
01:47 PM ET

Taliban could return, Karzai warns at conference

The Taliban could make a comeback and take over Afghanistan again, the country's President Hamid Karzai warned Monday at an international conference on Afghanistan's future.

"If we lose this fight, we are threatened with a return to a situation like that before September 11, 2001," Karzai said.

There has been progress in Afghanistan since the overthrow of the Taliban in the wake of the hijacked plane attacks on the United States, he said.

But, he warned, "Our shared goal of a stable, self-reliant Afghanistan is far from being achieved."

Karzai chaired the meeting in Bonn, Germany, aimed at discussing the state of affairs in Afghanistan and pushing for international contributions and support.

 

 

FULL STORY
The Reads You Need: Newt Gingrich rises in the polls, but which Newt and why?
December 5th, 2011
01:00 PM ET

The Reads You Need: Newt Gingrich rises in the polls, but which Newt and why?

Editor's note: Each day, we'll bring you some of the diverse voices from our site and across the Web on the stories causing ripples throughout the news sphere.

As Newt Gingrich surges in the race for the GOP nomination, some are asking how he went from being a not-a-chance candidate to a top-of-the-polls contender.

Those thinking of throwing their support behind Gingrich, certainly have a lot to judge him on, from his reformer, bipartisan approach as House leader to what some call the "New Newt." Analysts quip about which Newt is going to show up at the next event, as the horse-race for the GOP nomination trots along.

The question is becoming more important as Gingrich pulls ahead in many polls, including in the key state of Iowa. So, today, we'll take a look at what some news outlets and commentators are saying about Gingrich's bubbling to the top of the heap, whether they think he can maintain his surge and what role his past might play in his future.

Dowd: 'Out of Africa and into Iowa'

Maureen Dowd, writing for the New York Times, has had plenty to say about Gingrich lately. In her latest piece about the former House speaker, she harped on some of his strange comments and inconsistencies which led her to describe him as "an animal with ever-changing stripes."

"Newt Gingrich’s mind is in love with itself.

It has persuaded itself that it is brilliant when it is merely promiscuous. This is not a serious mind. Gingrich is not, to put it mildly, a systematic thinker.

His mind is a jumble, an amateurish mess lacking impulse control. He plays air guitar with ideas, producing air ideas. He ejaculates concepts, notions and theories that are as inconsistent as his behavior.

He didn’t get whiplash being a serial adulterer while impeaching another serial adulterer, a lobbyist for Freddie Mac while attacking Freddie Mac, a self-professed fiscal conservative with a whopping Tiffany’s credit line, and an anti-Communist Army brat who supported the Vietnam War but dodged it.

'Part of the question I had to ask myself,' he said in a 1985 Wall Street Journal piece about war wimps, 'was what difference I would have made.'

 Newt swims easily in a sea of duality and byzantine ideas that don’t add up."

Read the full column.

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Gotta Watch: Craziness on the highway
Several supercars were involved in a 14-vehicle pile up along a stretch of the Chugoku highway in western Japan.
December 5th, 2011
11:39 AM ET

Gotta Watch: Craziness on the highway

In what may be one of the most expensive car wrecks in history, 14 high-end luxury cars were demolished in a highway pileup in Japan this weekend. The totaled supercars included eight Ferraris, three Mercedes-Benz cars and a Lamborghini. Today, we decided to take a look back at some of the craziest highway moments.

Multi-million dollar wreck - A group of luxury car enthusiasts were driving on Chugoku Expressway in southwestern Japan when witnesses say one driver skidded out of control and started a chain-reaction crash. Several drivers were hospitalized but no one was seriously injured.

FULL POST

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Filed under: Animals • Auto racing • Automobiles • Georgia • Gotta Watch • Japan • Michigan • Pennsylvania • Race • Thanksgiving • Transportation • Travel • U.S. • Uncategorized
December 5th, 2011
10:39 AM ET

Sexting may not be as widespread as thought, study says

Few minors are appearing in, creating or sharing sexually explicit images, according to a new study that counters recent research depicting "sexting" as a more widespread phenomenon for American youth.

The study, released Monday by the journal Pediatrics, found that 1% of minors over the age of 10 had taken explicit pictures of themselves or someone else and that 5.9% had received such images, according to the authors, researchers from the Crimes against Children Research Center at the University of New Hampshire.

In all, 9.6% of minors between 10 and 17 reported appearing in, creating or receiving "sexually suggestive" images that didn't necessarily involve nudity, the study said.

"In the face of some widely cited, but flawed, studies claiming to show as many as 1 in 5 youth 'involved in sexting' these results are to some extent reassuring," the authors said. "Only a low percentage of young people are appearing in or creating sexting images that could be considered illegal child pornography. Moreover, few of these images were being forwarded or posted, situations that could put youth at risk for having their images circulated online."

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Filed under: Uncategorized
Authorities cancel flights as haze shrouds Beijing
A traveler at Beijing International Airport looks out at planes stranded due to thick fog, which caused widespread travel disruption
December 5th, 2011
09:32 AM ET

Authorities cancel flights as haze shrouds Beijing

Thick air shrouding Beijing forced authorities to cancel flights and close expressways, state media reported Monday.

The Beijing Capital International Airport canceled 56 departing flights and delayed dozens of others Monday morning, the state-run Xinhua news agency said.

State media offered conflicting descriptions of what caused the haze.

"Smog disrupts flights at Beijing airport," a headline from the Xinhua news agency said. The state-run China Daily newspaper, citing Beijing's weather officials, said melting snow made the air wet and caused heavy fog that "crippled traffic, delayed flights and created obstacles in the highways in many places of North China since Saturday."

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Filed under: Air travel • China • Travel • World
December 5th, 2011
09:17 AM ET

Syria agrees to Arab League call for observers, but with conditions

Syria agreed Monday to Arab League demands that it allow observers into the country, but on the condition that the group immediately drop sanctions and agree to amendments that league officials have previously rejected.

The league's deadline for Syria to respond to its demands to admit observers or face additional sanctions expired at midnight Sunday.

Foreign Minister Walid al-Moallem sent a letter to Arab League Secretary General Nabil el-Arabi on Monday saying that by signing the agreement, Syria would consider all of the Arab League's resolutions on Syria void - including its suspension of the country and sanctions against it, the state-run SANA news service reported.

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Filed under: Syria • World
December 5th, 2011
07:43 AM ET

Monday's live events

The 2012 presidential election may be 11 months away but, as this past weekend revealed, anything can happen.  CNN.com Live is your home for all the latest news from the campaign trail.

Today's programming highlights...

11:00 am ET - Kepler mission briefing - NASA officials will brief reporters on the latest from the Kepler mission, including a confirmed planetary discovery.

FULL POST


Filed under: Elections • Politics • Solar System • Space