July 9th, 2010
10:21 PM ET

Advances in fighting oil leak could come this weekend

A dual-pronged effort to battle the oil belching from BP's runaway well in the Gulf of Mexico shows promise for this weekend, the head of the government's oil spill response team said Friday.

Retired Coast Guard Adm. Thad Allen said he has received from BP a timeline for its effort to shut the well.

BP will try to temporarily halt the spewing oil by placing a valve on top of the well and closing it, Allen said on CNN's "The Situation Room."


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Filed under: BP • Gulf Coast Oil Spill
July 9th, 2010
10:07 PM ET

Administration discussed spy swap before arrests

The United States and Russia completed a spy swap Friday, exchanging the agents on chartered planes at an airport in Vienna, Austria, a U.S. official and Russian media said.

The plane carrying 10 Russian agents, who were expelled from the United States on Thursday for intelligence gathering, landed at Moscow's Domodedovo Airport on Friday afternoon, the airport press office said.

"The United States has successfully transferred 10 Russian agents to the Russian Federation and the Russian Federation has released four individuals who had been incarcerated in Russia," Dean Boyd, a spokesman for the National Security Division at the U.S. Department of Justice, said in a statement released as the plane landed in Moscow. "The exchange of these individuals ... has been completed."


Filed under: Russia • U.S.
July 9th, 2010
09:21 PM ET

Blast at Mississippi oil plant injures one

An oil plant explosion in Clarke County, Mississippi, seriously injured one person Friday afternoon, according to the sheriff's department.

A 1-mile area around the plant was evacuated after the 3:45 p.m. blast. The injured driver suffered third-degree burns, authorities said.

Firefighters have taken a defensive position to the let the fire burn down.

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Filed under: Mississippi • U.S.
July 9th, 2010
04:23 PM ET

Security Brief: Pakistan terrorist group growing powerful

The United States and its allies have plenty to worry about in Afghanistan and Pakistan, with al Qaeda, two Talibans, the Haqqani Network and a plethora of other militant groups active. But the United States and intelligence analysts believe another group, one of Pakistan's most powerful and well-established, is also broadening its horizons.

It is Lashkar-e-Tayyiba, which means "Army of the Pure." It was blamed for the attack on Mumbai, India, hotels in November 2008 in which nearly 200 people were killed over three days. That attack "shows the organization's global ambitions," said Dan Benjamin, the U.S. State Department's coordinator for counterterrorism. FULL POST

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Filed under: Security Brief
July 9th, 2010
01:02 PM ET

NORAD scrambles F-16s after planes enter Obama's airspace

Two F-16 fighters under the direction of North American Aerospace Defense Command responded Friday morning to two single-engine aircraft that violated a temporary flight-restricted area related to President Obama's visit to Las Vegas, Nevada, NORAD said.

Both planes that violated the restricted airspace landed and were met by authorities, NORAD said.

Read the full story at CNN.com.

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Filed under: Barack Obama • Nevada • U.S.
July 9th, 2010
12:35 PM ET

Bodies recovered in Pennsylvania boat wreck

[Updated 10:25 p.m.] Medical examiners identified a second body recovered from the Delaware River in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, as a 20-year-old Hungarian who was on a tour boat that collided with a barge, the Coast Guard said Friday evening.

Szabolcs Prem's body was recovered Friday afternoon, Coast Guard spokeswoman Crystal Kneen said. Also Friday, the tour boat was lifted from the river, a National Transportation Safety Board spokesman said.

Officials on Friday morning recovered the first body, which was found near where the collision occurred two days earlier, said Kneen. The Philadelphia medical examiner identified the body as that of Dora Schwendtner, 16, also of Hungary, Kneen said.

[Posted at 12:35 p.m.] The body of a young female was recovered near the site of a boat accident in the Delaware River, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania police told CNN Friday morning.


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Filed under: Travel
July 9th, 2010
12:24 PM ET

BP readies new well cap

BP could start replacing the containment cap on the well leaking in the Gulf of Mexico with a new sealing cap as early as Saturday, the head of the government's oil spill response team said Friday.

Retired Coast Guard Adm. Thad Allen also said the oil recovery vessel Helix Producer, which can draw up to 25,000 barrels of oil out of the water per day, was being hooked up Friday and may be functional by Sunday.

Switching out the containment caps would increase the potential oil gathered each day to between 60,000 and 80,000 barrels, Allen had said earlier.

However, while the caps are being switched out, the 15,000 or so barrels of oil the Discoverer Enterprise ship is swallowing daily would flow freely into the Gulf, so having the Helix Producer up and running to gulp up the gushing oil would be crucial.


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Filed under: Alabama • BP • Environment • Florida • Gulf Coast Oil Spill • Louisiana • Texas
July 9th, 2010
12:21 PM ET

Body identified as duck boat victim

A body found Friday morning in the Delaware River in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, near the site of Wednesday's duck boat accident has been identified by the Philadelphia medical examiner as a 16-year-old girl who was missing after the accident, according to U.S. Coast Guard spokeswoman Crystal Kneen. A second duck boat passenger remains unaccounted for.

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Filed under: U.S.
July 9th, 2010
12:01 PM ET

Big ratings for LeBron James 'Decision' special

According to a tweet from ESPN's Dave Nagle, the LeBron James extravaganza Thursday night drew an initial 7.3 rating from Nielsen, meaning 7.3 percent of all TV-watching households were tuning in. "The Decision" drew a 26 rating in Cleveland, 12.8 in Miami.

The overall rating beat out broadcast television's most-watched show of the evening, a rerun of "The Mentalist" on CBS, which drew a 6.0, according to tvbythenumbers.com.

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Filed under: LeBron James • Sports
July 9th, 2010
11:39 AM ET

U.S., Russia swap spies

The United States and Russia completed a spy swap Friday, exchanging the agents on chartered planes at an airport in Vienna, Austria, a U.S. official and Russian media said.

The planes sat on the ground for about an hour while the swap took place. Neither government confirmed what happened until the planes were on their way back home.

The plane carrying 10 Russian agents, who were expelled from the United States on Thursday for intelligence gathering, landed at Moscow's Domodedovo Airport on Friday afternoon, the airport press office said.

A separate plane carrying four people convicted of spying for the United States took off from Vienna, too, bound for a destination in the West, according to Russia Today, a state television station.


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Filed under: Espionage • Justice • National security • Russia
July 9th, 2010
11:13 AM ET

BP nearly ready to swap well caps, recover more oil

BP could start replacing the current containment cap on the oil well leaking in the Gulf of Mexico with a new sealing cap as early as Saturday, Thad Allen, the head of the government's oil spill response team, said Friday.

Meanwhile, the oil recovery vessel Helix Producer, which can draw up to 25,000 barrels of oil out of the water per day, was being hooked up Friday and may be functional by Sunday, Allen said.

Filed under: BP • Gulf Coast Oil Spill • U.S.
July 9th, 2010
10:59 AM ET

Raids linked to L'Oreal investigation

French police on Friday raided two locations linked to L'Oreal heiress Liliane Bettencourt as part of an investigation into allegations she secretly funded President Nicolas Sarkozy's election campaign.

Police were seen at the home of Bettencourt's financial adviser, Patrice de Maistre, and at the offices of the Clymene company, which manages Bettencourt's family fortune.

Police also questioned Bettencourt's former bookkeeper, Claire Thibout, overnight. Thibout alleged in an interview this week that Sarkozy's party, the UMP, received illegal campaign donations in cash from the heiress and her late husband in 2007.

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Filed under: France • World
July 9th, 2010
10:58 AM ET

Friday's intriguing people

Gregory Peck in a scene from the film version of "To Kill a Mockingbird"Mary McDonagh Murphy

July 11 is the 50th anniversary of publication of the novel "To Kill a Mockingbird." The book's author, Harper Lee, has not given an interview in many years and rarely makes public appearances. Millions of Americans have read her book, probably during high school. Millions more are familiar with the story through the film version starring Gregory Peck.

In a documentary and book, Mary McDonagh Murphy explores the novel's power, influence and popularity. With reflections from Anna Quindlen, Tom Brokaw, James McBride, James Patterson, Wally Lamb, Oprah Winfrey and more, the documentary and book "Scout, Atticus & Boo: A Celebration of Fifty Years of To Kill a Mockingbird" chronicle the many ways the novel has shaped lives and careers.

MaryMurphy.net: To Kill a Mockingbird Turns Fifty

Christine Pelisek

The LA Weekly writer reported in August 2008 that the "Grim Sleeper" killings resumed and has continued to report on the case. Her work in 2008 earned her a finalist prize from Investigative Reporters and Editors.

Newsweek last year profiled how Pelisek and the LAPD detective who investigated the killings sometimes took different paths. "The reporter, Christine Pelisek of LA Weekly, is 'late 30ish or maybe a little past,' as she puts it, a slender, stylishly dressed blonde, blue eyes still wide with amazement at the tragicomic panoply of folly and greed she is lucky enough to witness," Newsweek reported.

"It was Pelisek - a former waitress whose only previous newspaper job was covering minor-league hockey in a suburb of her native Ottawa - who first brought the case to public attention in an article in 2006, linking the two new murders to the string of earlier ones."

LA Weekly: Grim Sleeper Returns: He's Murdering Angelenos

Newsweek: Eleven and Counting

Reba Gilman

When Education Secretary Arne Duncan visits Aviation High School near Seattle on Friday, Gilman justifiably can be proud. The native of a small town in eastern Washington and career educator is Aviation High's first principal. "It is our goal to become the premier school of choice for science, technology, engineering and math in the Pacific Northwest," the school boldly states on its website.

The school opened in 2004 with its first class of high school freshmen and now has 400 students. Many students aim for careers in the aviation industry. The school is located in a suburb, but plans a move closer to a Boeing Field.

Charles Rose, general counsel for the Department of Education, visited Aviation High last October. "Arne says it only takes five to 10 minutes to get a sense of a school. I can tell already - this is a top-level school," said Rose. "This is the kind of school that we should be shining the light on at the federal level. I'm not aware of any other in the country doing what you're doing here. I'm struck by the innovation," Rose said then.

Aviation High School: About Us

U.S. Department of Education Team Impressed by Aviation High School

Mohammed Hameeduddin and Adam Gussen

Hameeduddin, a Muslim, has been elected by the Teaneck, New Jersey City Council to be the mayor. Gussen, an Orthodox Jew, has been elected deputy mayor. The race was unique for its diversity. The council member Hameeduddin defeated, Lizette Parker, would have been the city's first female and African-American mayor.

"In Teaneck, New Jersey, my religion never played a factor in people voting for me or against me," Hameeduddin said. "That is a testament to the town that we live in."

 The council remains one of the most diverse in New Jersey.

NorthJersey.com: Teaneck picks first Muslim mayor

Austin Sendak

The 20-year-old University of California at Davis student is trying to get scientists from Boise to Beijing to use the term "hella" to denote the unimaginably huge, seldom-cited quantity of 10 to the 27th power - or 1 followed by 27 zeros. It started as a joke, but Sendek's Facebook petition to the Consultative Committee on Units, a subdivision of the International Bureau of Weights and Measures, has drawn more than 60,000 supporters.

Its chances for formal adoption by the global scientific community are, um, hella dim, but folks at Google were so taken with Sendek's modest proposal that the search engine site incorporated "hella" in its online calculator.

"Hella" is used mainly to make adjectives more intense, as in: "This lentil pizza is hella healthful!" It also can convey simple exuberance: "That party at Sunshine's house? Hella!" "Hella" probably derived from "helluva" and, for reasons unknown, morphed into "hella" in the Bay Area before taking wing in the 1990s. In 2001, Gwen Stefani and her band No Doubt took it national with their mega-hit "Hella Good."

For Sendek, the idea sprang from a physics class. "I asked my lab partner how many volts were in this electric field and she said, offhandedly, 'Oh, man, there's hella volts,'" he recalled. "It kind of clicked."

LATimes.com: Physics major has a name for a really big number

Filed under: Most Intriguing People
July 9th, 2010
10:41 AM ET

Reaction to LeBron James' move to Miami

Cleveland police watch for trouble Thursday night at an iconic downtown billboard.

Reactions to NBA free-agent superstar LeBron James' decision to leave the Cleveland Cavaliers to join Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh on the Miami Heat:

The Miami Herald sports page has a huge headline: JACKPOT!

The New York Knicks had been in the running to sign James but lost out. Today's New York Daily News front page features a photo of James and the headline: Hey, we're New York, the greatest city in the world, so WHO CARES!

Cleveland's newspaper, The Plain Dealer, features a huge photo of James walking away with the word "Gone" in large type; in small type there's an arrow pointing to James' hand with text reading, "Seven years in Cleveland. No rings."


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Filed under: LeBron James • Sports
July 9th, 2010
10:12 AM ET

Miami Heat season tickets sell out

The National Basketball Association's Miami Heat has sold out its "currently available" season ticket inventory, after "extremely brisk" sales over the past couple of weeks that peaked "in a new intensity the last couple of days," Heat President of Business Operations Eric Woolworth said in a press release.

Since Wednesday, perennial NBA all-stars LeBron James and Chris Bosh have committed to leaving their old teams for the Heat and its star, Dwyane Wade. Wade led the Heat to the 2006 NBA championship and has agreed to re-sign with Miami.


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Filed under: Sports • U.S.
July 9th, 2010
09:55 AM ET

U.N. condemns sinking of South Korean warship

The United Nations formally condemned Friday the sinking of a South Korean warship in March but made no mention of North Korea, which has been found culpable in the attack.

"The Security Council deplores the attack," the Security Council statement said, urging "appropriate and peaceful measures to be taken against those responsible for the incident aimed at the peaceful settlement of the issue."

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Filed under: North Korea • United Nations • World
July 9th, 2010
09:41 AM ET

Girl dies in Oklahoma flash flooding

A 13-year-old girl is dead after being swept away during flash flooding in Oklahoma, an Oklahoma Medical Examiner's office told CNN Friday morning.

The unidentified teenager went missing on Thursday after playing with friends at a drainage ditch, according to Cherokee Ballard, the office's spokeswoman.

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Filed under: U.S. • Weather
July 9th, 2010
08:09 AM ET

Friday's live video events

Ongoing coverage - BP webcam of Gulf oil disaster

9:30 am ET - NYSE opening bell - The trading day begins for Wall Street.

10:45 am ET - Gulf oil disaster briefing - Retired Admiral and National Incident Commander Thad Allen briefs reporters from New Orleans on efforts to contain the Gulf oil disaster.


Filed under: On CNN.com today
July 9th, 2010
06:48 AM ET

World update: Suicide car bomber kills 49 in Pakistan

An update from London on some of the international stories we expect to develop on Friday:

Deadly bombing - A suicide car bomber killed 49 people and wounded 100 others Friday when his vehicle exploded in a market in Mohmand Agency in Pakistan’s tribal region, officials said.

Spy exchange - Ten Russian agents who were expelled from the United States for intelligence gathering were expected to arrive in Vienna, Austria, Friday morning on a chartered flight, a U.S. federal law enforcement official said.


July 9th, 2010
05:29 AM ET

Illinois jail placed on lockdown

The Cook County , Illinois, Jail remained on lockdown Friday morning after authorities were told a weapon had been smuggled into the building, said Steve Patterson, director of communications for the Cook County Sheriff's Department.


Filed under: U.S.