February 3rd, 2012
11:52 PM ET

Charges dismissed against soldier in Afghan sport killing case, military says

(CNN) - Charges have been dismissed against an Army soldier accused in what prosecutors described as a conspiracy to kill Afghan civilians for sport and then cover it up, the military said Friday.

The charges against Spec. Michael S. Wagnon were dismissed without prejudice, according to a statement released by the military at Joint Base Lewis-McChord in Washington.

"The United States dismissed the charges in the interest of justice," the statement said.

It was not immediately clear why the charges were dropped. The U.S. military and Wagnon's attorney, Colby Vokey, did not immediately respond to a CNN request for comment.

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Overheard on CNN.com: What's a 'Hoosier'? In defense of Indy's Super Bowl
Indianapolis, Indiana, finally gets a chance to host an NFL Super Bowl this year.
February 3rd, 2012
07:21 PM ET

Overheard on CNN.com: What's a 'Hoosier'? In defense of Indy's Super Bowl

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.

Our readers are apparently quite excited about the Super Bowl and its host city Indianapolis, Indiana. We received several passionate comments from residents and fans. There was also plenty of talk about the game itself. Let's delve in.

Super Bowl in Indianapolis? Get ready world

Several commenters wrote posts promoting Indianapolis.

jasges: "I have been to several Super Bowls and this is probably one of the best setups so far. A lot to do here. We are pleasantly surprised!"

Guest: "I have visited Indianapolis several times for Men's NCAA Regionals/Sectionals. It is a very nice city. I would visit there again without hesitation."

Yes, there were a few skeptics.

wilecoyote58: "Indianapolis is a pleasant, if dowdy city. Some nice restaurants and it is compact. BUT – who the hell wants to spend a week in Indiana in February? There is a good reason the student body of every midwestern university heads to warmer climes at Spring Break. But then it is clear that those who attend the Super Bowl are not the brightest and deepest thinkers in our society. It is a football game folks, not the Second Coming."

Some of our readers' posts were directly addressed to the story writer, Thom Patterson, who is from Indiana. Two are included here. (By the way, the author of this blog post is a former resident of Des Moines, Iowa, and can attest to the high quality of the city's botanical dome. Wichita, Kansas, is also quite lovely.) FULL POST

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Filed under: Football • Indiana • Overheard on CNN.com • Pro football • Sports • Super Bowl • U.S.
February 3rd, 2012
06:25 PM ET

U.N. Security Council may vote on Syria tomorrow, diplomats say

The U.N. Security Council is scheduled to meet Saturday and may vote on the draft resolution intended to pressure Syria to end its months-long crackdown on anti-government demonstrators, diplomats said.

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February 3rd, 2012
05:46 PM ET

Prosecutors: No doping charges against Lance Armstrong

U.S. Justice Department prosecutors Friday said they are closing a criminal probe of champion cyclist Lance Armstrong without filing charges alleging he used performance-enhancing drugs.

A statement from the U.S. attorney in Los Angeles said the seven-time Tour de France winner will not be charged but did not explain the reasons for the decision.

Armstrong has consistently denied doping. He was accused of using performance-enhancing drugs by other riders but never failed a drug test.

Prosecutors called witnesses to a federal grand jury in Los Angeles as they investigated the case, but they apparently determined that they lacked evidence to bring a doping charge.

Armstrong retired from professional cycling for a second time last year.

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Overheard on CNN.com: Politics of Komen's Planned Parenthood reversal
Readers are debating the politics of charities and funding for health services.
February 3rd, 2012
04:47 PM ET

Overheard on CNN.com: Politics of Komen's Planned Parenthood reversal

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.

One of the most talked-about stories this week has been about the Susan G. Komen for the Cure Foundation's earlier decision not to renew part of its longstanding partnership with Planned Parenthood. The foundation has now reversed its decision, much to the applause of some of our readers.

Komen Foundation reverses funding decision of Planned Parenthood

This reader, who said he is a doctor, wrote that he supported this decision.

RationalDoc: "As a primary care physician, I am proud of the Komen organization for their correct decision to continue to support the preventive women's health services that are provided by Planned Parenthood. Too many misinformed people mistakenly demonize Planned Parenthood, as 98% of the services they provide are preventive health services including cancer screening and birth control for women, often lower income women with limited access to health care, and only 2% of their services are abortion-related, and no federal money is used for that small part of what they do. Planned Parenthood prevents unintended pregnancies, thereby reducing the need for abortion, a more positive impact on our attempts to reduce abortion than anything the vigilante anti-abortion people have done. In fact, many of the anti-abortion people are also against sex education in schools. Go figure."

Another reader said they were wondering about the system in place for health care service funding.

lalizzie: "While I disagree with the Komen foundation's original decision to repeal funding to Planned Parenthood, it is totally within their rights as a nonprofit to decide which causes it would like to fund. This whole fiasco also begs the broader question; should we be relying on nonprofit organizations like Komen to fund public health services?"

But this person said the decision is within Komen's rights.

weissdog: "Yet another example of how abortion is politicized. Why shouldn't Komen be able to support what and whom they want? They are not a taxpayer subsidized organization and are not a government entity. Why does anyone other than their leadership have any say here?"

This reader said Planned Parenthood helped their family. FULL POST

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Filed under: Abortion • Health • Overheard on CNN.com • Politics
Micron CEO dies in Idaho plane crash
February 3rd, 2012
04:11 PM ET

Micron CEO dies in Idaho plane crash

Micron CEO and chairman Steve Appleton died Friday morning in a small-plane crash in Boise.

Micron, a maker of semiconductors and flash memory, confirmed Appleton's death at age 51 in a press release that praised his "passion and energy."

Appleton (pictured) was flying a Lancair fixed-wing single-engine plane that crashed at 8:58 a.m. local time at Boise Airport, a spokeswoman for the airport told CNN's John Fricke. She could not confirm whether the accident took place at takeoff, landing or during flight.

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Filed under: Aviation • Idaho • Technology
February 3rd, 2012
01:49 PM ET

'Supergiant' shrimplike creatures found off New Zealand

Scientists say they recently captured “supergiant” deep-sea crustaceans nearly a foot long the likes of which have rarely been seen in an ocean trench off New Zealand.

The seven amphipods measure about 28 centimeters (about 11 inches) long, which is 10 times the length of normal deep-sea amphipods and nearly three times the size of what are considered giant amphipods, Scotland’s University of Aberdeen said Thursday.

They are the biggest whole specimens of supergiants ever recorded, according to the university.

The team’s deep-sea cameras also caught footage of a supergiant that scientists estimated was about 34 centimeters (13 inches) long.

Though the creatures may remind observers of shrimp, amphipods are an order apart.

Scientists with the university and New Zealand’s National Institute of Water and Atmospheric Research were looking for deep-sea snailfish when a trap made the unexpected catch.

“(After) the traps came on deck … I stopped and thought, ‘What on Earth is that?’ whilst catching a glimpse of an amphipod far bigger than I ever though possible,” the voyage’s leader, Alan Jamieson of the University of Aberdeen's Oceanlab, said in a news release. “It’s a bit like finding a footlong cockroach.”

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Filed under: Animals • Nature • New Zealand
February 3rd, 2012
11:29 AM ET

Komen reverses decision to stop Planned Parenthood funding

The Susan G. Komen foundation has reversed a controversial decision not to renew funding for Planned Parenthood projects for breast cancer screenings, the group said in a statement Friday.

"We want to apologize to the American public for recent decisions that cast doubt upon our commitment to our mission of saving women's lives," the group said.

"We will continue to fund existing grants, including those of Planned Parenthood, and preserve their eligibility to apply for future grants, while maintaining the ability of our affiliates to make funding decisions that meet the needs of their communities," the group  said.

The announcement comes three days after Komen, a group supporting breast cancer research, said it would stop the funding, saying that it decided it would no longer fund groups under federal investigation. Congress in September began investigating whether Planned Parenthood, a prominent family planning organization, illegally used federal funds to provide abortions.

But on Friday, Komen said that it would "amend the criteria to make clear that disqualifying investigations must be criminal and conclusive in nature and not political."

"Our only goal for our granting process is to support women and families in the fight against breast cancer.  Amending our criteria will ensure that politics has no place in our grant process," the group said.

Some Planned Parenthood supporters had alleged the decision to withhold funding also had to do with abortion. Anti-abortion advocates around the country had questioned the Komen foundation about its grants for months, prompting the foundation to release a statement last year saying that "Komen funding is used exclusively to provide breast cancer programs."

In Washington, at least 22 Senate Democrats signed a letter calling on Komen to reconsider its decision.

CREDO, which describes itself as the largest corporate donor to Planned Parenthood, said Thursday that 250,000 of its members had signed a petition urging the Komen foundation to reverse its decision.

"The move is clearly connected to attempts by Republicans in Congress to defund Planned Parenthood," the organization said in a statement.

Planned Parenthood said funding from the Komen foundation has largely paid for breast exams at local centers. In the last five years, grants from the group have directly supported 170,000 screenings, making up about 4% of the total exams performed at Planned Parenthood health centers nationwide, according to the group.

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Gotta Watch: Drive-thru internet shenanigans
Two customers sing their food order at a drive thru.
February 3rd, 2012
11:22 AM ET

Gotta Watch: Drive-thru internet shenanigans

What makes a drive-thru such an easy target for pranks? People love posting videos of their drive-thru mischief online, and we’ve collected some of the best. These videos just may give you a new appreciation for fast food drive-thru employees.

Sonic song – This musician sings for his supper at a Sonic drive-in. Giorgio Fareira freestyled his $34 order. The video has more than half a million hits on YouTube, and it’s not bad publicity for his band, The Interstate Life.


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Filed under: Crime • Gotta Watch • Music • YouTube
U.S. unemployment rate down to 8.3%
February 3rd, 2012
09:32 AM ET

U.S. unemployment rate down to 8.3%

American employers substantially stepped up their hiring in January, bringing the unemployment rate down for the fifth month in a row.

Employers added 243,000 jobs in January, the Labor Department reported Friday, marking a pick-up in hiring from December, when the economy added 203,000 jobs.

Meanwhile, the unemployment rate fell to 8.3%. That is the lowest since February 2009.

Job growth was much stronger than expected. Economists surveyed by CNNMoney had forecast 130,000 jobs added in the month, and that the unemployment rate likely ticked up to 8.6%.

"This is an optimistic jobs report, especially in light of very poor jobs reports for almost three years," said Brian Hamilton, CEO of Sageworks, a financial information company. "We don't know if the positive jobs trend will continue, but it is definitely a good trend."

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February 3rd, 2012
08:57 AM ET

Report on Federal Air Marshal Service paints an unflattering picture

A long-awaited report on alleged misconduct within the Federal Air Marshal Service concludes that while supervisors do not engage in "widespread" discrimination and retaliation against rank-and-file air marshals, the agency is far from trouble-free.

The report, from Department of Homeland Security's Office of the Inspector General and obtained by CNN, paints an unflattering picture of the agency, saying air marshals share the widespread "perception" that they are being mistreated, and adding that investigators "heard too many negative and conflicting accounts" of misconduct to dismiss them.

"Federal air marshals repeatedly portrayed their supervisors as vindictive, aggressive, and guilty of favoritism," the report says.

A "substantial percentage" of air marshals surveyed believe they are victims of discrimination or unfavorable treatment. And many fear retaliation if they report violations of laws or regulations, the report says. "There is a great deal of tension, mistrust and dislike."

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February 3rd, 2012
08:35 AM ET

Iran's leader: War would be detrimental to U.S.

The supreme leader of Iran issued a blunt warning Friday that war would be detrimental to the United States - and that Iran is ready to help anyone who confronts "cancerous" Israel.

"You see every now and then in this way they say that all options are on the table. That means even the option of war," Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said during Friday prayers in Tehran. "This is how they make these threats against us.

"Well, these kinds of threats are detrimental to the U.S.," he said. "The war itself will be 10 times as detrimental to the U.S."

He said Iran will support any nation or group that fights against Israel.

"The Zionist regime is really the cancerous tumor of this region and it needs to be removed and will be removed," Khamenei said to a cheering crowd.

He said Iran doesn't interfere in other nations but has aided militant groups Hamas and Hezbollah in conflicts in Gaza and Lebanon.

His comments came after stern comments Friday from Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak.

"Today, unlike in the past, there is a broad global understanding that it is crucial to stop Iran becoming nuclearized and that no options should be taken off the table," he said.

Barak said allowing Iran to continue on its path will be far more complex and dangerous in blood and money than cutting it off now.

"Those who say in English, 'later,' may find later is too late," he said.

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Filed under: Iran • Israel • World
February 3rd, 2012
08:31 AM ET

2 Americans kidnapped in Egypt, authorities say

Two American tourists have been kidnapped in the southern part of Egypt's Sinai Peninsula, a security official said Friday.

They were abducted by unknown Bedouins, said Gen. Mohamed Naguib, head of security in the region.

The kidnappers "want certain detainees released and retried," said Gen. Marwan Mustapha, spokesman for the Egyptian Interior Ministry.

"Our authorities are dealing with the situation," he said.

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Protests escalate in Egypt after deadly soccer riot
A masked Egyptian protester prepares to throw back a tear gas canister fired by security forces during clashes in Cairo.
February 3rd, 2012
08:31 AM ET

Protests escalate in Egypt after deadly soccer riot

Violent clashes reignited in Cairo on Friday between Egyptian police and protesters angered by reports of inadequate security at a soccer match that devolved into a riot this week, leaving 79 people dead.

Thousands of protesters gathered outside the Interior Ministry, prompting riot police to deploy tear gas for fear the men - some of them masked - would storm the building.

"The people demand the downfall of the field marshal," chanted the protesters, who waved flags from the popular soccer team Al-Ahly, which was playing in the game Wednesday when the riot broke out.

Gen. Marwan Mustapha, a spokesman for the Interior Ministry, said protesters who had taken over a government taxation building were throwing Molotov cocktails from the roof. More than 100 security forces were injured, including several by birdshot pellets, Mustapha said.

Similar clashes on Thursday left two dead in Suez and a military officer dead in Cairo, said Adel al Adawi, a Health Ministry spokesman.

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Doctor OKs Manning to play, but Colts say hold your horses
Indianapolis Colts quarterback Peyton Manning indicated to ESPN this week that he planned to return to football.
February 3rd, 2012
07:59 AM ET

Doctor OKs Manning to play, but Colts say hold your horses

One of the NFL’s all-time elite quarterbacks is medically fit to resume playing after three neck surgeries and a season off, one of his surgeons says.

But the owner of Peyton Manning’s team pointed out in a tweet early Friday that the organization itself has yet to clear the 35-year-old, and NFL analysts said it’s still too soon to know whether he’ll have enough arm strength to compete.

The four-time NFL Most Valuable Player is “medically cleared to play professional football,” Dr. Robert Watkins Sr., Manning’s most recent surgeon, said in a statement Thursday night, according to NFL.com. Manning’s most recent surgery to relieve a pinched nerve a single-level anterior fusion came in September, sidelining him for the entire 2011 season, marking the first games he missed since his career began in 1998.

But Colts owner Jim Irsay, who has to decide by March 8 whether to pay Manning a $28 million bonus or release him, indicated early Friday what he’s been saying all week: The matter is far from settled.

“Peyton has not passed our physical nor has he been cleared to play for The Indianapolis Colts,” Irsay posted on Twitter early Friday.  “Team statement coming on Friday.”

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Filed under: Football • Indiana • Peyton Manning • Pro football • Sports
February 3rd, 2012
07:34 AM ET

Friday's live events

The Nevada GOP presidential caucuses are just one day away, and CNN.com Live is your home for all the latest political news and views from the campaign trail.

Today's programming highlights...

9:30 am ET - January jobs report hearing - A Congressional committee will hold a hearing on last month's employment numbers.

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Filed under: Dollars & Sense • Economy • Elections • Politics • Republican Party
February 3rd, 2012
06:42 AM ET

Protests continue in Egypt after deadly soccer riot

Thousands gathered around Tahrir Square in Cairo Friday morning as protests against authorities continued following a deadly soccer riot that killed dozens.

Days after the soccer match melee that left 79 dead, Egyptians decried what they called inadequate security.

Some protesters massed near the Interior Ministry and yelled for the end of military rule in country, a chant that was met by blasts of tear gas from police.

Clashes Friday left two dead in Suez and a military officer dead in Cairo, said Adel al Adawi, a Health Ministry spokesman.

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Filed under: World
February 3rd, 2012
05:16 AM ET

Muslim group to rally against NYC police commissioner

A prominent Muslim civil liberties group plans to hold a rally Friday outside New York City police headquarters, continuing its call for the resignation of Police Commissioner Ray Kelly and other reforms within the department.

The Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) wants Kelly to step down because of his participation in a film that they say paints all Muslims as terrorists.

"Due to the fact that the police commissioner and Mayor (Michael) Bloomberg both refuse to accept the severity of their actions, or meet with local Islamic leaders in an attempt to mend the situation, we as a community with full force must stand up to the mistreatment and dismissal of our community at large," the group's website said.

"Silence and lack of reaction to this pressing issue will only allow this type systematic persecution of a minority community to continue and escalate without any reprimand."

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February 3rd, 2012
05:14 AM ET

Rights group: Syrian security forces have tortured children

Syrian army and security officers have detained and tortured children with impunity during the past year, a rights group claimed in a report Friday, as it urged the U.N. Security Council to act on Syria.

The Human Rights Watch (HRW) report comes as the U.N Security Council considers a draft resolution intended to pressure Syria to end its months-long crackdown on anti-government demonstrators.

A Security Council meeting ended Thursday evening with no agreement on the text of the draft.

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Filed under: World
February 3rd, 2012
03:16 AM ET

Leader of Khmer Rouge torture prison gets life sentence

Cambodia's war crimes court Friday rejected the appeal a man who ran a Khmer Rouge regime torture prison and instead increased the man's sentence to life imprisonment.

Kaing Guek Eav, commonly known by his alias, Duch, was appealing his 2010 conviction and 35-year sentence arguing that he was just following orders of senior leaders of the Khmer Rouge regime.

Duch was 67 at the time of his convictions, which was for war crimes, crimes against humanity, murder and torture. He was was the head of the S-21 prison where about 14,000 people died. Few people taken to the prison made it out alive; only about a dozen were found by the Vietnamese, who invaded Cambodia in 1979.

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Filed under: Crime • Justice • World