Overheard on CNN.com: 10 takes on money in politics
What do you think is the role of money in politics? How could the system be improved?
January 23rd, 2012
07:58 PM ET

Overheard on CNN.com: 10 takes on money in politics

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.

This week's In Depth topic takes a look at money in politics, which is a favorite subject among CNN.com commenters. Below, we've compiled some perspectives straight from our readers.

Share your thoughts on this list, as well as your possible solutions. We'll be following up on this post later this week with your ideas.

In Depth: Where money and politics collide

1. What do you think about the 'Citizens United' decision?

The U.S. Supreme Court's controversial "Citizens United" decision sanctioned unlimited corporate and union donations to nonaffiliated PACs. This ruling has proven to be one of the top targets for many commenters, with lots of readers expressing opposition.

aduklips: "Did this really need to be written? Money = influence, and Citizens United enshrined this as Constitutional doctrine. It will take years to undo that case."

2. What other kinds of organizations get involved?

This reader suggested that 501(c)(4) organizations may be a source of trouble. These are a type of nonprofit organization.

medianone: "Rest assured CNN will tell us about Super PACs, which can raise unlimited amounts for hard-hitting ads, but have to declare their donors. But, will they do as good a job with Super PACs' more secretive handmaiden, the private 501c4 organizations? Which aren't required to disclose donor names but can funnel mega bucks from those undisclosed sources directly into Super PACs where it can be spent on influencing ads. Those 501c4's are what the big money doesn't want everyone to know about. The 501c$'s are where to contribute 'if you want to promote an agenda without any fingerprints.' Kind of makes the whole idea of campaign finance reform laughable."

3. Should there be campaign finance reform?

Some readers suggest that the system of campaign financing must be overhauled. FULL POST

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Filed under: Elections • Overheard on CNN.com • Politics
Overheard on CNN.com: Gingrich on offense, Romney on defense, some readers say
Mitt Romney and Newt Gingrich clap hands during CNN's January 19 debate in Charleston, South Carolina.
January 23rd, 2012
02:47 PM ET

Overheard on CNN.com: Gingrich on offense, Romney on defense, some readers say

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.

Newt Gingrich is coming off a big win in South Carolina and Mitt Romney is hoping to do better in Florida. Looking at reader comments about Florida, we saw many posts alluding to Gingrich taking the offensive role in campaign strategy. Some readers also said Romney has been put on the defensive, citing the South Carolina debates as big influences.

Romney hopes to gain momentum in Florida

One reader said Gingrich is looking more and more like the natural GOP choice.

TGrade1: "Recent polls show Gingrich leading in Florida. I'm not surprised that Mr. Gingrich is leading in Florida. South Carolina has opened the eyes of the electorate to two things: the fact that Mr. Romney doesn't have a record to run on and Mr. Gingrich does. Congress controls the purse. The last time we had a balanced budget Mr. Gingrich was in charge. He was also able to work with a Democrat president for welfare reform. He is the author of the Contract with America and the 21st Century Contract With America. He is the man who brought Republicans to the majority after forty years of Democrat rule. (No wonder he has enemies!) Mitt Romney, on the other hand, can't run against Obamacare because of Romneycare, and he will be painted as a $250,000,000 man who made his money wrecking companies and leaving a trail of broken lives in his wake, a man to whom $374,000 in speaking fees 'isn't very much money.' Obama will show the picture of Romney with $100 bills hanging out of his pockets, he will talk about how Romney has paid a lower percentage in taxes than most Americans, and Romney will be toast. Newt Gingrich has command of the big picture and the minutiae of pretty much every topic and he will shred Obama in a debate. I think Gingrich will and should be the nominee."

This commenter said it would be difficult for Romney to succeed, or any other candidate for that matter. They also said the media better watch out.

civility1: "The fact that we are going into the fourth contest (Florida) with no predictable outcome is a testament to the slate of candidates. Basically, voters don't like any of them in and of themselves and it is pretty obvious. I think they also don't like the Republican establishments and the media trying to ram the rich white guy candidate down their throats. They see thru that stuff. If they keep this up, most moderate Republicans will easily return President Obama for a second term, since he will be a 'known' in November and reliably predictable, v. the others. He should also accomplish more in his 2nd Term since we have gotten used to him, and Congress will have to start supporting him if they want to kee their jobs. None of the four GOP candidates seem 'Presidential' material at this late date. All they seem to care about is a chance at taking on our existing President on issues that are not all that consequential to the Executive. I don't see the rest of the world respecting any of these guys except maybe Paul since he is a doctor - a member of the 'helping profession' (that's helping others, folks, not helping himself on our backs...). The media needs to be careful here as I see some storm clouds on the horizon for them."

Much chatter could also be found on a story about Romney's strategy going into the Florida race.

Romney rips 'erratic' Gingrich

FULL POST

Paterno funeral set for Wednesday
January 23rd, 2012
02:42 PM ET

Paterno funeral set for Wednesday

Legendary Penn State football coach Joe Paterno will be buried Wednesday in a private family service, with a public memorial service to follow the next day, his family announced Monday.

Paterno, 85, died Sunday, less than three months after his 61-year career with the Nittany Lions abruptly ended amid criticism of his response to alleged child sexual abuse by a former assistant.

Public viewings were scheduled for Tuesday afternoon and Wednesday morning on the Penn State campus, followed by a private funeral service Wednesday afternoon, the public relations company hired by the family said Monday.

A public memorial service was scheduled for Thursday at Bryce Jordan Center on the Penn State

Details were still being worked out, according to the family.

FULL STORY
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Filed under: College football • Joe Paterno
Reports: Concrete balls keeping some off Indonesian train roofs
A train passes through a newly installed iron support with hanging concrete balls in Indonesia last week.
January 23rd, 2012
01:04 PM ET

Reports: Concrete balls keeping some off Indonesian train roofs

Is the threat of getting their heads smashed by a concrete ball enough to prevent people from riding the roofs of Indonesian trains?

Depends on whom you ask.

"From our monitoring so far, the roofs of the trains have been clean (from riders) after the concrete balls were put in place,” a spokesman for state railway company Kereta Api Indonesia, Mateta Rizalulhaq, told the Jakarta Globe on Monday.

The devices erected over some train tracks are called Goal Bola-bola, or goal balls, as they resemble soccer goals with the grapefruit-sized concrete balls strung from chains. The balls are about 10 centimeters, or 4 inches, in diameter and are painted silver. They a strung in groups of a dozen each over each track. The first ones were deployed Tuesday.

But in a Globe report on Saturday, Eman Sulaiman, chief of the Bekasi city station, near which the first set of concrete balls were strung last week, said some people are still trying to ride, donning motorcycle helmets for protection.

Passengers are climbing onto roofs after trains pass the obstacles, according to a report Friday in the Jakarta Post.

FULL POST

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Filed under: Indonesia • Railroads • Transportation • World
January 23rd, 2012
12:40 PM ET

Ex-CIA officer charged with giving journalists classified information

A former CIA officer, John Kiriakou, was charged Monday with repeatedly disclosing classified information to journalists, including the name of a covert CIA officer and information revealing the role of another CIA employee in classified activities, Justice Department officials announced.

“Safeguarding classified information, including the identities of CIA officers involved in sensitive operations, is critical to keeping our intelligence officers safe and protecting our national security,” Attorney General Eric Holder said in a press release. “Today’s charges reinforce the Justice Department’s commitment to hold accountable anyone who would violate the solemn duty not to disclose such sensitive information.”

Watch CNN's interview with Kiriakou about his career from March 2010.

 

READ FULL SECURITY CLEARANCE POST
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Filed under: CIA • National security
Woman first to ski alone across Antarctica
Felicity Aston, 33, spent 59 days skiing across Antarctica.
January 23rd, 2012
11:36 AM ET

Woman first to ski alone across Antarctica

If you'd become the first woman to ski across Antarctica alone, what's the first thing you'd want on completion of your 59-day, 1,055-mile journey?

A glass of red wine and a hot shower sounded fine to British explorer Felicity Aston, who accomplished the feat Sunday.

Aston, 33, was waiting Monday morning at  Hercules Inlet, Antarctica, after one last night in the tent that that had protected her from the continent's harsh elements since she began her trek on November 25.

FULL POST

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Filed under: Antarctica • United Kingdom • World
High court: Warrant needed to plant GPS device on suspect's car
January 23rd, 2012
10:41 AM ET

High court: Warrant needed to plant GPS device on suspect's car

The Supreme Court has ruled unanimously for a drug suspect who had an electronic tracking device attached to his car by police, who did not first obtain an extended warrant.

The justices on Monday said secretly placing the device and monitoring the man's movements for several weeks constituted a government "search" and therefore the man's constitutional rights were violated.

FULL STORY
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Filed under: Courts • Crime • Justice
January 23rd, 2012
10:41 AM ET

French Senate to vote on Armenian genocide bill

The French Senate is expected to vote Monday on controversial legislation that would criminalize any public denial of what the bill calls the Armenian genocide in Ottoman Turkey last century.

Turkey has expressed anger over the bill - passed last month by the French National Assembly, the lower house of Parliament - and relations between the two governments have deteriorated over the matter.

The Republic of Armenia has hailed the French move.

FULL STORY
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Filed under: Armenia • France • Turkey
Gotta Watch: So you think you can sing?
President Obama, Warren Buffet and Hermain Cain showed off singing skills in recent days.
January 23rd, 2012
10:26 AM ET

Gotta Watch: So you think you can sing?

Aerosmith's Steven Tyler is a singer, although some might dispute that label, given his performance of "The Star-Spangled Banner" at Sunday's Patriots-Ravens game. In the last few days, we've heard from a few famous folks who do not have "singer" on their resume, yet they thought enough of themselves to give it a go. Today's Gotta Watch: So you think you can sing?

Amateur night at the Apollo - The White House liked President Obama's recent musical homage to the Rev. Al Green so much, they've made it into a ringtone.

FULL POST

January 23rd, 2012
09:49 AM ET

Head of Arab League observers in Syria rejects criticism

The head of Arab League observers in Syria rejected criticisms Monday that his team had failed to stop killing in the country, where thousands of people have died in clashes between government protesters and opposition forces demanding the end of President Bashar al-Assad's regime.

Sudanese Gen. Mohammed Ahmed al-Dabi said Monday at a news conference in Cairo that the mission was designed not to bring an immediate end to violence but to investigate and observe the situation.

Rising concerns about the government's violent crackdown prompted the European Commission to widen sanctions Monday against Syrian officials and organizations. The group imposed asset freezes and travel bans to 22 more Syrian officials it said were responsible for human rights violations and eight entities that give financial support to al-Assad's regime.

"Today's decision will put further pressure on those who are responsible for the unacceptable violence and repression in Syria," European Union High Representative for Foreign Affairs Catherine Ashton said. "The message from the European Union is clear: The crackdown must stop immediately. We will continue to do all we can to help the Syrian people achieve their legitimate political rights."

FULL STORY
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Filed under: Syria • World
More gas, conservation seen limiting carbon emissions
Coal-fired power plants will remain the largest source of U.S. electricity.
January 23rd, 2012
09:44 AM ET

More gas, conservation seen limiting carbon emissions

U.S. carbon emissions plunged during the 2007-2009 recession, and conservation efforts, a weak recovery and more use of natural gas will help keep those levels down for another 15 years, the Energy Department reported Monday.

Coal-fired power plants will remain the largest source of U.S. electricity throughout that period at nearly 40% of total output, the department projects in its annual report on the future of energy. But the Energy Information Administration's 2012 report finds that emissions of the greenhouse gases blamed for a warming climate are likely to remain below their 2005 levels until 2027.

"These projections reflect increased energy efficiency throughout the economy, updated assessments of energy technologies and domestic energy resources, the influence of evolving consumer preferences and projected slow economic growth," the agency's acting administrator, Howard Gruenspecht, said in a statement accompanying the report.

Overall, the share of fossil fuels as an energy source is expected to drop from 83% to 77% in 2035, the report states.

FULL STORY
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Filed under: Climate change • Energy • Environment • U.S.
January 23rd, 2012
08:24 AM ET

European Union bans Iran oil imports

The European Union banned the import of Iranian crude oil and petroleum products and banned the export of key petrochemical technology to the country Monday in an effort to cut off sources of funding for Iran's nuclear program, the EU announced.

Iran exports 2.2. million barrels of oil a day, with about 18% bound for European markets, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration. The world consumes about 89 million barrels of oil per day.

FULL STORY
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Filed under: European Union • Iran • World
At least two dead in Alabama storms
Before sunrise Monday, damage from severe weather left about 42,000 customers without power in Birmingham, Alabama
January 23rd, 2012
08:15 AM ET

At least two dead in Alabama storms

At least two people have died in severe weather near Birmingham, Alabama, the Jefferson County Sheriff's Office said Monday.

FULL STORY
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Filed under: Alabama • Weather
January 23rd, 2012
07:37 AM ET

Monday's live events

President Obama will deliver his State of the Union Address tomorrow night at 9pm ET, and CNN.com Live will carry his remarks when they happen.

Today's programming highlights...

8:00 am ET - Romney talks housing - GOP presidential candidate Mitt Romney holds a roundtable discussion on housing issues in Tampa, Florida.

FULL POST


Filed under: Elections • Politics • Republican Party
January 23rd, 2012
06:11 AM ET

4.7-quake strikes Hawaii's Big Island

A 4.7-magnitude earthquake rocked Hawaii's Big Island Sunday afternoon, the U.S. Geological Survey reports.

The quake, centered 26 miles south of Hilo at a depth of five miles, hit at 4:36 p.m., according to the USGS.

It was followed by about a dozen aftershocks, the biggest of which had a magnitude of 3.1, USGS data shows.

The quakes caused two small collapses in a lava delta from the Kilauea volcanic eruption, bigislandvideonews.com reported, citing a USGS press release.

No other damage was reported.

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Filed under: Hawaii • Volcano
January 23rd, 2012
03:49 AM ET

French Senate to vote on bill claiming Armenian genocide

The French Senate is expected to vote Monday on controversial legislation that would criminalize any public denial of what the bill calls the Armenian genocide in Ottoman Turkey last century.

Turkey has expressed anger over the bill - passed last month by the French National Assembly, the lower house of parliament - and relations between the two governments have deteriorated over the matter.

If the Senate, the upper house of parliament, ratifies the bill, ties between the two countries could unravel further.

The day after the National Assembly approved the bill, Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan of Turkey ratcheted up the rhetoric, accusing France of "genocide" during the war in Algeria in the 1950s and 1960s.

FULL STORY
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Filed under: Armenia • France • World
Megaupload founder appears in New Zealand court seeking bail
Internet guru and Megaupload founder Kim Schmitz, far right, appears at an Auckland, New Zealand, court Friday.
January 23rd, 2012
02:59 AM ET

Megaupload founder appears in New Zealand court seeking bail

The founder of the shuttered file-sharing site Megaupload appeared in a New Zealand court Monday as the U.S. Department of Justice seeks to extradite him and other company officials on criminal charges. But his lawyer insisted his client is innocent.

The U.S. authorities shut down Megaupload last week and announced indictments against seven people connected to the site, accusing them of operating an "international organized criminal enterprise responsible for massive worldwide online piracy of copyrighted works."

Four of those charged were arrested in New Zealand at the request of the U.S. government. They included Kim Dotcom, the site's founder, who is also known as Kim Schmitz. The New Zealand police detained Dotcom, a German citizen, on Friday after a dramatic raid on his luxury mansion in the affluent North Shore area of Auckland, the country's largest city.

FULL STORY
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Filed under: Crime • Justice • New Zealand • U.S. • World
State of the Union to offer a 'blueprint' for the economy
President Obama gives his weekly address on Saturday.
January 23rd, 2012
02:12 AM ET

State of the Union to offer a 'blueprint' for the economy

President Barack Obama will lay out a "blueprint for an economy that's built to last" in Tuesday's State of the Union address - the third of his presidency.

That blueprint will focus on manufacturing, energy, education and middle-class values, according to a video released on the Obama's campaign website and Democratic sources who have been briefed on the address.

Democratic sources told CNN Sunday that the bullet points of Obama's blueprint will focus on American manufacturing, including "insourcing" - or bringing back jobs from overseas. The sources say he'll argue that during his term, the United States has seen the manufacturing industry grow for the first time in 15 years - especially in the auto industry that he helped with bailout funds.

FULL STORY
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Filed under: Barack Obama • Politics • U.S.
January 23rd, 2012
12:16 AM ET

Hearing on Mississippi pardons set for Monday

Four convicted murderers who were released from prison earlier this month after receiving pardons are among those who could have their fate determined in a Mississippi court Monday.

In his final days in office, Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour pardoned the four convicted murderers - David Gatlin, Joseph Ozment, Charles Hooker and Anthony McCray.

All four were released from prison January 8. They were serving life sentences and worked as inmate trusties at the governor's mansion, the Mississippi Department of Corrections said. Trusties are inmates who can receive additional rights through good behavior.

On January 11, Hinds County Circuit Judge Tomie Green granted state Attorney General Jim Hood's request for an injunction forbidding the release of any more prisoners pardoned or given clemency by Barbour.

Green issued the injunction because it appeared some pardons did not meet the procedural requirement that pardon requests must be published 30 days prior to being granted. At the hearing, the inmates must prove they met the 30-day publication requirement.

FULL STORY
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Filed under: Crime • Mississippi • Politics • U.S.