January 25th, 2012
07:17 PM ET

Gotta Watch: Oops! School signs spelled wrong

Students who struggle with their spelling lessons may have trouble finding positive reinforcement from some school signs we found spelled incorrectly. Check out these signs that spell trouble:

"SHCOOL X-NG" sign lacking "street smarts" – Since July of last year students at Marta Valle High School on New York City's Lower East Side have had to view a painted street sign outside of their school that was spelled wrong.

"People older than us always tell us to make sure we spell stuff right and this sign is wrong right in front of us," said Tanaysha Ebron, a senior at the school.

The sign, spelled "SHCOOL X-NG" on Stanton Street was corrected Tuesday.

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Filed under: Education • Florida • Gotta Watch • Indiana • New York • Spelling bee • U.S.
Family: Syria releases American student
Obada Mzaik was taken into custody after flying from Detroit to Damascus on January 3, his uncle has said.
January 25th, 2012
07:07 PM ET

Family: Syria releases American student

An Ohio-born student detained by Syrian authorities three weeks ago has been released, his family announced Wednesday.

Syria's government released 21-year-old Obada Mzaik to his father Wednesday evening, his uncle, Firas Nashef, said. Mzaik was taken into custody after flying from Detroit to Damascus on January 3, Nashef said.

"We're grateful that he's back with his family, and we're grateful to the community for showing support to the family during difficult days," Nashef said in a statement issued on behalf of the family. No further details were released.

Mzaik, a dual American and Syrian citizen, was studying civil engineering at a private university in the Syrian capital and had planned to pursue a master's degree in the United States, his uncle said.

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Building in Brazil partially collapses after blast
January 25th, 2012
07:03 PM ET

Building in Brazil partially collapses after blast

An 18-story building partially collapsed after an explosion in the historic center of Rio de Janeiro Wednesday, state media reported.

Civil defense authorities told Agencia Brasil that there were injuries, but they did not provide details.

"I started to hear a crackling. I thought they were gunshots. When I looked up, I saw the top floors falling," maintenance worker Julio Cesar de Oliveria Brandao told CNN affiliate TV Record.

There was a fire after the blast, Agencia Brasil said. Police and fire officials were isolating the area and searching for victims, the news agency reported.

Cars parked on the street were covered in dust, and there was a strong smell of gas in the area, fire officials said, according to the news agency. The building's lobby contained a bank branch and a bakery, Agencia Brasil said.

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Romney, Gingrich battle in tight Florida race
Mitt Romney delivers a rebuttal to President Barack Obama's State of the Union address Wednesday in Orlando
January 25th, 2012
07:02 PM ET

Romney, Gingrich battle in tight Florida race

Mitt Romney and Newt Gingrich and their surrogates exchanged harsh attacks Wednesday as a new poll showed them in a statistical dead heat in Florida six days before the Sunshine State's primary in the Republican presidential race.

The CNN-Time-ORC International poll indicated that Gingrich surged after his 12-point victory in Saturday's South Carolina primary, but his momentum appeared to be slowing.

According to the poll, 36% of people likely to vote in Tuesday's Florida primary back Romney, while 34% are for Gingrich. Romney's margin is well within the survey's sampling error.

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Filed under: Florida • Politics • Republican Party
Headhunting: Giants boast of targeting punt returner, raise questions about concussions
Kyle Williams fumbles in the NFC Championship on Sunday. Two Giants say they targeted Williams because of his concussions.
January 25th, 2012
03:28 PM ET

Headhunting: Giants boast of targeting punt returner, raise questions about concussions

Editor's note: Dr. Sanjay Gupta's documentary, "Big Hits, Broken Dreams" debuts Sunday at 8 p.m. ET.

It’s a reality of sport, and not just football: If your opponents know you have an injury, they’re going to target it.

If a quarterback’s ribs are fractured, they make sure to put a shoulder right in his numbers. A pitcher in baseball may hurl the horsehide a little differently when a batter has a jacked-up wrist or hip. In hockey, soccer and basketball, a player with a tender elbow or knee can expect opponents to clip her or him on multiple occasions. And we’re not even going to discuss what happens to a boxer with a swollen eye.

But what about a brain injury? Is it different? Especially in the NFL, where concussions have become the cause du jour among those who say the game is too violent, is "headhunting" a player with a history of concussions the same as going after a quarterback’s sore hand?

The New York Giants are making this a prime topic for discussion after two players told the media after their NFC Championship win Sunday that they targeted punt returner Kyle Williams.

The San Francisco 49ers' Williams, of course, provided the biggest headlines in Sunday’s game, first by letting a punt graze his leg, and on a later punt return, by coughing up the football after a hit from linebacker Jacquian Williams.

(For what it's worth, Kyle Williams didn't get his bell rung on the play, an NFL rep said there were no illegal hits on Williams and a San Francisco newspaper flatly stated there was no evidence the Giants were aiming for the 23-year-old's noggin Sunday.)

The G-Men recovered both balls, ultimately resulting in half their points in a 20-17 overtime win. Some zealous tweeters quickly called for Kyle Williams' death.

Jacquian Williams said of Kyle Williams during a locker room interview, “We knew he had four concussions, so that was our biggest thing, to take him out of the game.”

It might’ve been written off as a slip of the tongue. Perhaps in the gleeful post-game atmosphere of the locker room, Jacquian Williams did not mean to say the Giants targeted Kyle Williams because of his past concussions.

Well, Devin Thomas put an end to any speculation when he told the Star-Ledger in Newark, New Jersey, that Kyle Williams was indeed a target because “he’s had a lot of concussions."

“We were just like, ‘We gotta put a hit on that guy.’ … (Tyler) Sash did a great job hitting him early and he looked kind of dazed when he got up. I feel like that made a difference and he coughed it up.”

Late Tuesday, Big Blue did a little backtracking as two of the team's more veteran players (Thomas has been in the league only four years, and Jacquian Williams is a rookie) told a Star-Ledger reporter they did not discuss in team meetings the prospect of targeting Kyle Williams.

“It’s not like we wasn’t trying to hit him,” defensive end Justin Tuck told the newspaper, adding that the team "was definitely trying to get a lot of hats on him" because the 49ers' starting punt returner was hurt, but "as far as trying to knock him out of a football game, no.”

Added linebacker Michael Boley, “In our meeting we didn’t talk about it. ... Concussions is a big deal. That’s something that you don’t teach. We don’t talk about it. Obviously, we don’t want to hurt anybody. We’re a fraternity of brothers all across the league, so we don’t want to see anybody get hurt.”

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Filed under: California • Football • Health • New York • Pro football • Sports • Super Bowl • U.S.
Overheard on CNN.com: Some readers duel over campaign donations after speech
Thousands of comments poured in on CNN.com after President Obama delivered his State of the Union address Tuesday night.
January 25th, 2012
02:06 PM ET

Overheard on CNN.com: Some readers duel over campaign donations after speech

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.

Among the thousands of comments and iReports that flooded in after President Barack Obama's State of the Union address, our readers have been talking about sending in donations to the candidate of their choice in response to the speech. Money in politics has been a hot issue recently, and CNN iReport has been asking people who've made small political contributions to share their stories, so it's been interesting to see that reflected in our story comments.

Defiant Obama challenges Congress on sticky issues

For example, take this exchange. Our commenters seemed to mostly support Obama's speech, but there was considerable opposition as well.

Sphy: "I sent in $50 for Obama's reelection. The SOTU is a great excuse."

truindep: "I sent $250 to Newt. The SOTU was a reason :)"

This poster claimed to be an independent who was swayed by the speech to the point of donating a few bucks.

fatcongress: "I'm a 34-year-old average American. I'm a very independent voter. In fact, I dislike the very premise of two-party politics. Doesn't make sense to me that anyone can fit my ideas and how I solve problems into either box A or box B. So this independent voter just donated $20 to the 2012 Obama campaign. I know what I heard tonight. I will pick wisely in my congressional elections. I want to carefully vote for my senators and reps. I've had enough baloney. Put some bills on the desk of the president. No more pork, and congress is king of pork. You're fired, Congress."

We saw some positive feedback on the speech, but it wasn't entirely a love-fest for Obama. Some aren't sure Obama's presidency is built to last. There were readers opposing Obama who pledged to donate to Newt Gingrich.

bluecorsair: "I'll be calling Newt with a donation, ... and the libbies wonder why people are calling Obama the food stamp president!"

A few commenters said they objected to some aspects of Obama's policies, but they did support his speech. Some were longer-term donors.

CashTheGreen: "I don't really like Obama. He's made some decisions I strongly disagree with, but one trend I've noticed over the last three years is, when I hear someone criticize him, they usually sound like they failed grade school. I mean, really, can't anyone make a logical argument without name calling and saying 'lib' every other word? At least his supporters don't sound like complete morons. The Democrats' arguments aren't always right, but they at least make sense."

DoNotWorry: "I agree. I didn't vote for him in 2008, for the first time I didn't vote at all. Reading the insane and ignorant comments, I found myself arguing for the President against ridiculous charges. When the Republicans showed their lineup, I donated for the first time ... to Obama. Tonight, I made my fourth donation to Obama. I disagree with a lot of his decisions, and I don't like the financial industry getting off without jail time, but I will vote for Obama in 2012. My first Democratic vote in 40 years."

There was also some backlash specifically targeted at Obama's small donations. FULL POST

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Filed under: Barack Obama • Elections • Overheard on CNN.com • Politics
January 25th, 2012
12:44 PM ET

Fed to keep rates low until 2014

The economy is improving, the Federal Reserve said Wednesday, but not enough to warrant higher interest rates for at least two-and-a-half more years.

The central bank indicated that it expects to keep the federal funds rate near historic lows until late 2014 - an extension from the Fed's original pledge to keep rates low through mid 2013.

The "economy has been expanding moderately, notwithstanding some slowing in global growth," the Fed said in a statement Wednesday.

More details will be released at 2 p.m. ET, when the Fed will release forecasts for the federal funds rate for the first time ever.

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January 25th, 2012
12:38 PM ET

Did you buy what Obama was pitching in State of the Union address?

With his re-election at stake, President Obama in his State of the Union address late Tuesday said "no challenge is more urgent" than keeping the American dream alive.

He laid out his plan for reinvigorating the economy by again calling for the wealthy to pay more in taxes. He called for lowering corporate taxes and providing incentives for U.S. manufacturers to bring overseas jobs back to America, while ending tax breaks for businesses that continue to outsource. Obama also ordered his administration to open up 75% of potential offshore oil and gas resources. He also challenged Congress to act on comprehensive immigration reform, and he called for legislation like the DREAM Act that offers children of illegal immigrants who go to college or serve in the military a path to possible citizenship.

Read the president's speech  | Key points of his speech

Whether he can get a divided Congress to act on the issues he set forth Tuesday night will be a big question during his re-election campaign. As CNN contributor Julian Zelizer asks: Is the Obama presidency "built to last"? But perhaps the bigger issue is: Can Obama get the support of a frustrated nation behind him to give him another term?

 When it comes down to it, it's a question of whether America bought what Obama was pitching.

Zennie Abraham told CNN iReport that he was impressed by Obama's State of the Union address, which he saw as a wholehearted and necessary embrace of a pro-U.S. trade policy.

"The President now realizes that nationalism is the one approach that will save America, whereas when he first took office, our allies, like France and Germany, were trying to talk him into maintaining the 'free trade is good' policy that has harmed America," Abraham said. "In doing so, Obama also hones his case for good old-fashioned Liberalism."

Abraham, from Oakland, California, said he felt Obama delivered "an excellent speech," one that was right for our struggling country, and took the steps to begin showing just how he will turn it around.

"He outlined the role of government in our lives as it is needed in our lives now to improve America and restore our standard of living," he said.

But Vernon Hill, a conservative-leaning voter, was generally disappointed with the State of the Union speech, and doesn't think that Obama has achieved enough to deserve another term as president.

Hill felt there were many more issues that Obama needed to address that had been hampering his ability to get anything done.

"Obama has been his own worst enemy by surrounding himself with people who will not disagree with him and whom have no business backgrounds," he argued.

Hill, who is from Morehead City, North Carolina, said he felt the president is a "master storyteller," but needed to talk more actual substance about bypassing Congress, the Keystone XL pipeline project, the deficit, and the current cost of gas. So, for him, Obama's speech was just another example of "more promises and hope."  And Hill said Obama hasn't shown that he can go past rhetoric and deliver results.

"If he can't succeed in three years, four more years would be more failure on his part," he said. "Obama has been his own worst enemy."

FULL POST

January 25th, 2012
12:08 PM ET

Nigeria's inspector general of police fired amid spate of attacks

The inspector general of police in Nigeria, Hafiz Abubakar Ringim, has been fired, aides to the Nigerian president said Wednesday.

His firing comes amid a wave of violence linked to the Islamist militant group Boko Haram. The violence includes Friday's bombings and shootings that left more than 200 people dead in Kano, Nigeria's second-largest city.

The group has been blamed for months of widespread bloodshed, with churches and police stations among the targets. Depending on the faction, Boko Haram's ambitions range from the stricter enforcement of their interpretation of Islamic Sharia law to the total destruction of the government.

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Filed under: Nigeria
January 25th, 2012
12:06 PM ET

Red Crescent official killed in Syria

Syrian Red Crescent official was gunned down Wednesday and a major city endured a security offensive as violence engulfed Syria.

Abdulrazak Jabero Hisham, the head of the humanitarian organization's branch in Idlib province, was shot dead by a "terrorist group," the state-run Syrian Arab News Agency said. The report said he was shot in the head.

Hisham Hassan of the International Committee of the Red Cross in Geneva, Switzerland, didn't have details about the killing, but he said the man was shot on the road between Damascus and Idlib.

In the flashpoint city of Hama, security forces and pro-government militias in Syria assaulted neighborhoods overnight, an opposition activist group reported Wednesday.

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January 25th, 2012
11:52 AM ET

Gabrielle Giffords resigns from Congress

Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, who moved the nation with an improbable comeback after a gunman shot her in the head last year, formally resigned Wednesday in an emotional appearance in the U.S. House of Representatives.

"I will recover and will return," the Arizona Democrat said in a letter read aloud by her friend and colleague, Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, who fought back tears as she read.

A standing ovation roared across the House Chamber for Giffords, who served three terms. Teary eyed legislators from both parties applauded Giffords as she submitted her letter of resignation to House Speaker John Boehner, who also fought back tears.

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January 25th, 2012
11:18 AM ET

U.S. special forces rescue Somalia aid workers

U.S. special forces swooped into Somalia in a pair of helicopters in a daring overnight raid to rescue two kidnapped aid workers - an American and a Dane - and killed several gunmen, American officials said Wednesday.

The hostages, Jessica Buchanan and Poul Thisted, were seized in October after they visited humanitarian projects in northern Somalia, said the Danish Refugee Council, the agency for which they worked.

Both are unharmed, the aid group said.

They were taken to a regional medical facility and receiving care from U.S. military doctors and nurses, Pentagon spokesman George Little said.

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Filed under: Military • Somalia • U.S. Navy
January 25th, 2012
10:46 AM ET

Cruise ship captain admits 'mistake' in deposition

In his answers to prosecutors, defense attorneys and a judge, the captain of the ill-fated cruise ship Costa Concordia admitted he made a "mistake" in colliding with rocks off the Italian island of Giglio.

However, in statements made during a phone conversation with a friend earlier this month, Capt. Francesco Schettino said he was pressured by managers to steer the ship to the area where the collision occurred, two Italian newspapers reported Wednesday.

Both Costa Cruises and authorities have criticized Schettino's behavior. He is under house arrest and faces possible charges of manslaughter, shipwreck and abandoning ship in the January 13 incident, when the vessel struck rocks and rolled over onto its side in the waters off the island.

A 16th body was found on the ship Tuesday. Sixteen others are still missing from the roughly 4,200 people aboard the cruise liner - 3,200 passengers and 1,000 crew members - at the time of the collision.

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January 25th, 2012
07:38 AM ET

Wednesday's live events

The Republican presidential candidates will debate the issues of the day Thursday night in Jacksonville, Florida.  CNN.com Live will broadcast the debate tomorrow starting at 8pm ET.

Today's programming highlights...

9:00 am ET - Giffords to officially resign - Rep. Gabrielle Giffords will hand in her resignation letter to House Speaker John Boehner today.  The letter will then be read on the House floor.

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Filed under: Elections • Gabrielle Giffords • Politics • Republican Party
January 25th, 2012
04:14 AM ET

Official: Militants kill 6 Pakistani soldiers

Six Pakistani soldiers were killed and four others wounded during a militant attack in the northwest tribal region Wednesday, a senior government official said.

About 50 militants attacked security forces during a search operation in the area of Jogi in Kurram Agency, one of seven districts of Pakistan's tribal region bordering Afghanistan, said Shahab Ali Shah, a senior government official in the area.

Ten militants were killed in the clashes, Shah said.

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Filed under: World
Truth Squad: Fact checking the State of the Union address
January 25th, 2012
01:58 AM ET

Truth Squad: Fact checking the State of the Union address

CNN's Truth Squad fact-checked some of the claims made by President Barack Obama in the State of the Union address and Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels in the Republican rebuttal. We'll take a look at some of the claims and share if they were accurate.

Did public dollars unearth new energy resources?

President Barack Obama made a pitch for continued federal support of energy research.

The statement: "The development of natural gas will create jobs and power trucks and factories that are cleaner and cheaper, proving that we don't have to choose between our environment and our economy. And by the way, it was public research dollars, over the course of 30 years, that helped develop the technologies to extract all this natural gas out of shale rock - reminding us that government support is critical in helping businesses get new energy ideas off the ground."

The verdict: True, but incomplete

Read why

Obama touts job creation record

President Barack Obama discussed job numbers before and after he took office during Tuesday night's State of the Union address.

The statement: "In the six months before I took office, we lost nearly 4 million jobs. And we lost another 4 million before our policies were in full effect. Those are the facts. But so are these. In the last 22 months, businesses have created more than 3 million jobs. Last year, they created the most jobs since 2005."

The verdict: True

Read why

GOP shines light on unemployment

Republicans focused on the Obama administration's job record during their rebuttal to Tuesday night's State of the Union address.

The statement: "The percentage of Americans with a job is at the lowest in decades,"  said Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels, in the Republican rebuttal to President Barack Obama's State of the Union address.

The verdict: True

Read why

Steve Jobs' jobs vs. Obama's jobs

In a rebuttal to the State of the Union address, Republicans gave the late Steve Jobs credit for creating more jobs than the stimulus bill Tuesday.

The statement: "Contrary to the president's constant disparagement of people in business, it's one of the noblest of human pursuits. The late Steve Jobs - what a fitting name he had - created more of them than all those stimulus dollars the president borrowed and blew." –Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels, in the Republican rebuttal to President Barack Obama's State of the Union address.

The verdict: False

Read why

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Filed under: Barack Obama • Congress • Elections • Politics • U.S.
January 25th, 2012
01:54 AM ET

Aid workers kidnapped in Somalia are rescued

Two foreign aid workers kidnapped in Somalia last year were rescued during an operation early Wednesday, a Danish aid group said.

"After being held hostage for three months, American citizen Jessica Buchanan and Poul Hagen Thisted from Denmark have today successfully been rescued from their kidnappers in Somalia," a statement from the Danish Refugee Council said.

The details of their rescue were not immediately available, but the group said both were unharmed and at a safe location.

Gunmen abducted them in October after they visited humanitarian projects in the northern Galkayo area, the aid group said.

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Giffords gets ovation, president’s embrace on eve of resignation
President Barack Obama embraces U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, D-Arizona, before the State of the Union address in the U.S. House on Tuesday.
January 25th, 2012
01:37 AM ET

Giffords gets ovation, president’s embrace on eve of resignation

U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords took a few steps into the House chamber and absorbed a 90-second standing ovation before the State of the Union address Tuesday night, the eve of her resignation to focus on recovering from her shooting last year.

Giffords, escorted by colleagues including her friend U.S. Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz of Florida, smiled and waved as attendees stood and cheered, with some chanting "Gab-by! Gab-by!"

Her husband, retired Navy captain and former astronaut Mark Kelly, smiled as he watched from his seat near first lady Michelle Obama. As President Barack Obama entered a few minutes later, the president paused at Giffords' seat and gave her a long embrace and a kiss on the cheek.

And when she stood during the speech and applauded Obama's lines, the Arizona Democrat was helped to her feet by a Republican and fellow Arizonan, U.S. Rep. Jeff Flake, who probably wouldn't be standing with Democrats during applause lines otherwise.

"It was the least I could do," Flake told CNN after the address. "It was just an incredible experience to be there with her, particularly after last year, having an empty chair where she should have been. It was just an overwhelming, emotional experience for, I think, all of us."

FULL STORY
January 25th, 2012
12:46 AM ET

Egyptians pack Tahrir Square for revelry, protests a year after historic revolt

Thousands of Egyptians filled Cairo's Tahrir Square on Wednesday, exactly one year after the start of the revolution that ousted longtime Egyptian ruler Hosni Mubarak but, many say, accomplished little else.

At times the mood in the square was somber and tense amid fears that violence could break out between protesters and the military.

Many holding banners chanted against the country's military leaders. But some celebrated the anniversary and said Egypt has progressed since Mubarak's ouster.

"This time last year, every person in Egypt was enslaved to Mubarak's regime, and those who dared speak or write about his tyranny paid a high price," said Yasmeen Khalil, a teacher. "Yes, the revolution may not be complete, but I think we have come a long way, and no one can deny it.

But some pro-democracy activists, frustrated by what they say is the slow pace of change, have clashed with the military in Cairo's streets in recent months.

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Filed under: Arab Spring • Egypt • World
Earth hit with largest solar radiation storm since 2003
This January 23 image, captured by the Solar Dynamics Observatory, shows an M9-class solar flare erupting on the sun.
January 25th, 2012
12:10 AM ET

Earth hit with largest solar radiation storm since 2003

Material from a Sunday solar eruption hit the Earth on Tuesday, helping to create the planet's strongest solar radiation storm in more than eight years, NOAA's Space Weather Prediction Center said.

The eruption also has caused a minor geomagnetic storm, expected to continue at least through Tuesday. Together, the storms could affect GPS systems, other satellite systems and radio communications near the poles, the SWPC and NASA said.

The storms prompted some airlines to divert planes from routes near the north pole, where radio communications may be affected and passengers at high altitudes may be at  "a higher than normal radiation risk," the SWPC said.

FULL STORY