July 22nd, 2010
09:46 PM ET

The day's most popular stories

The five most popular CNN.com stories during the last 24 hours, according to Newspulse:

Woman to 911: I strangled my kids because they were autistic: A woman  called police Monday evening and said she first tried to kill her children with bathroom cleaner, but they would not drink it. She told the 911 operator that she then strangled them with a wire and that they were on her bed. Saiqa Akhter, 30, has been charged with a single count of capital murder in the deaths of her 2-year-old daughter and 5-year-old son, police said.

Mary Matalin gets angry at husband James Carville, on-air: Liberal James Carville will probably be having a daiquiri by his lonesome Thursday night, thanks to his merciless chuckle-that-wouldn't-die while his wife,  conservative Mary Matalin, tried to make a point about racial politics on "John King USA". Matalin mistakenly said "Tea Bag people" instead of "Tea Party" and the giggles were on for Carville. Don't worry, James, the French Quarter has bars for that very thing.

Court records reveal troubled childhood of 'barefoot bandit': In 10 years on this earth, Colton Harris-Moore had experienced abandonment by his father and a heroin addiction by his stepfather. By his teens, the boy would endure "many disappointments," his mother, Pamela Kohler, said in a handwritten letter. After being on the run for two years, Harris-Moore, aka the "barefoot bandit," is facing possible jail time for allegedly stealing a plane, the latest charge in a series of run-ins with the law.

Stonehenge archaeologists discover 'wooden henge': Archaeologists studying the iconic Stonehenge monument in southern England may have uncovered the only thing in the world on par with the original wonder: More henge.  Scientists hope the discovery of a second prehistoric henge-like circle, found only 900 meters away from the first site, will shed more light on the mysterious stone landmark.

Tropical Storm Bonnie aims at Florida, Gulf of Mexico: A weather system moving over the Bahamas has been upgraded to a tropical storm, with sustained winds now reported at 40 miles an hour, as it heads toward the southern tip of Florida and the Gulf of Mexico. The storm is expected to pass Florida on Friday afternoon and make landfall Sunday between New Orleans and the Beaumont-Port Arthur area in southeastern Texas. CNN meteorologist Chad Myers said it's more likely to hit Louisiana. And on that path, it could push oil in the Gulf from the BP oil spill to shore.

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Filed under: Crime • Gulf Coast Oil Spill • Most Popular • Weather
July 22nd, 2010
06:27 PM ET

Dow up 200 points

A look at highlights from the day's business news:

Dow's 200-point rebound

Stocks rallied Thursday after better-than-expected earnings and forecasts from 3M, Caterpillar, AT&T and UPS helped reassure investors about the pace of the economic recovery.

The Dow Jones industrial average rose 202 points, or 2%. The S&P 500 index jumped 24 points, or 2.3%. The Nasdaq composite gained 58 points, or 2.7%.

Stocks slumped Wednesday after Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke told Congress the outlook for the economy was "unusually uncertain," adding to worries about the pace of the recovery.

But the tone was positive Thursday, on the back of improved earnings,  better-than-expected housing market news and a surge in European markets.


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Filed under: Economy
July 22nd, 2010
03:20 PM ET

Web Pulse: Obama calls Sherrod, another (faked?) BP photo

Shirley Sherrod gets her phone conversation with President Obama.

Didn't you get my texts? - President Obama talked to Shirley Sherrod, the ex-USDA employee who was forced to resign this week based on misleading reports that she made racist remarks. Sherrod received a text message Thursday telling her that Obama had been trying to reach her since Wednesday night. Sherrod called the White House and was asked to call back in 10 minutes, and then she was patched to the president for a seven minute unrecorded chat. The conversation went well, Sherrod said. So what happens now? Is this all shaping up to be a teachable moment, or is that too irritating a term? Give Shirley Her Job Back Now! Facebook page is all over that and every other conceivable angle.

Speaking of Facebook, site CEO Mark Zuckerberg's ABC interview was getting tons of clicks. The 26-year-old talked about user privacy on the site which has reached half-a-billion users.

The employees at Facebook seem to be hanging in there while jobless claims jumped higher than expected, underscoring that the economic recovery may not be happening as fast as some thought. Meanwhile, a bill that restores unemployment benefits to 2.5 million Americans passed the Senate and headed to the House where it's expected to pass.

Jobs are a huge issue in the Gulf right now as the Coast Guard and BP struggle to put fix the oil disaster. But BP is again making headlines for allegedly faking another photo. On Wednesday the company admitted to doctoring an official image of its command control center. Thursday Gizmodo reported that BP had faked an image of a helicopter.

July 22nd, 2010
01:36 PM ET

BP reportedly alters another photo

Gizmodo is reporting that BP has doctored another image.

Earlier this week, the oil company admitted that it had altered an official photo of its crisis command center. That photo was mocked for its Photoshop sloppiness.

The latest photo, this one of a helicopter cockpit and its outside view, is also getting tee-hees for what observers call obvious cut-and-paste maneuvers. Pay special attention to the seemingly out-of-place air traffic control tower in the upper left hand side of the image and, well, several other off-kilter things.

July 22nd, 2010
01:28 PM ET

Obama talks with USDA employee forced out of her job

Shirley Sherrod got her wish Thursday - a conversation with President Barack Obama about her forced resignation from the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

The president's office sent Sherrod a text message indicating that Obama had been trying to get in touch with her, Sherrod told CNN producer Julie O'Neill.

Sherrod said she called the White House and was given another number to call. She dialed that number a few minutes later and spoke with the president.


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Filed under: Barack Obama • Politics
July 22nd, 2010
12:22 PM ET

The curious disappearance of blogetry

It was a free blogging service - until it disappeared, taken down for "violating its terms of service." Hardly unheard of, except that the reasons for Blogetery.com's disappearance were a little more complicated.

Blogetery is hardly a giant of the virtual world. It was run by one man, Alexander Yusupov, out of Toronto, Canada. Yusupov says it hosted tens of thousands of blogs and online forums through the internet service provider BurstNet Technologies of Scranton, Pennsylvania.

On the evening of July 9, employees at BurstNet "received a notice of a critical nature from law enforcement officials," according to a company statement released last weekend.

"It was revealed that a link to terrorist material, including bomb-making instructions and an al-Qaeda 'hit list,' had been posted to the site," the statement said.

BurstNet gave no further details about the material, but a source familiar with the case says it was a link to the new online al Qaeda magazine "Inspire," which includes death threats against several American citizens as well as an illustrated guide to bomb-making and other jihadist articles.

BurstNet says it immediately terminated service "due to this violation and the fact that the site had a history of previous abuse."

Joe Marr, BurstNet's chief technology officer, says the decision was very much the company's own. It was not ordered to do so, but the request for information from the FBI triggered a federal law that allows internet service providers to voluntarily disclose information in some circumstances and take action against sites they host.

That law specifically allows a provider to pass information to authorities if it "in good faith, believes that an emergency involving danger of death or serious physical injury to any person requires disclosure without delay of information relating to the emergency."

The FBI wouldn't comment on the case.

Yusupov told CNN in a telephone interview that he had received no notice or explanation from BurstNet for its action. He said he returned from a camping trip July 12 to discover that his server had been terminated. When he complained on the site webhostingtalk.com, BurstNet responded on the same forum, saying: "We cannot give him his data nor can we provide any other details. By stating this, most would recognize that something serious is afoot."

Marr told CNN in a phone interview Wednesday that Yusupov had received five warnings about content in the past few months, mainly concerning copyright violations. But he had not responded to three of those notices within the stipulated 24 hours, and Blogetery had previously been suspended for several days.

Yusupov denied that, saying he had almost always handled such notices within 24 hours of receiving them. "I always handle such abuse reports within 24 hours and remove such material. No hosting illegal material, no spamming, noting [sic] illegal," he wrote on webhostingtalk.com.

Yusupov says he had backed up some of the blogging site's data, but not all. He said he was trying to negotiate with BurstNet to get the data so he could restart the blogging site, but until he retrieved the data, he was in limbo. He said several Blogetery users had contacted him to complain that their content was no longer accessible. One urged him to "ask very specifically for an incident number and jurisdiction of the incident as documentary proof that they were justified in shutting down the server."

The case has caused much discussion among website hosts, with one - Mika Epstein of Chicago, Illinois - writing that part of the job was checking for terrorist propaganda and other questionable material. She has this advice: "If you can't keep tabs on your site and your visitors, you can't stay here."

If there is another infringement, "I close their account, refund them what's left on their time, and offer to give them a copy of their site and database, intact" she writes.

In the case of Blogetery, thousands of bloggers were caught in the middle of a dispute between their host and BurstNet, and - as of now - have no access to their content.

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Filed under: Al Qaeda • Security Brief • Technology • Terrorism
July 22nd, 2010
11:42 AM ET

U.S. Treasury adds Taliban leaders to sanctions list

The U.S. Treasury Department has added three prominent members of the Taliban and its affiliate the Haqqani Network to a list that prohibits any financial transactions with them by US citizens.

Those targeted “for supporting acts of terrorism” are Gul Agha Ishakzai, the head of the Taliban's financial commission; Amir Abdullah, former treasurer to senior Taliban leader Mullah Baradar; and Nasiruddin Haqqani.

The Haqqani Network is based in Waziristan, one of Pakistan’s remote tribal areas, and has recently been identified by US officials as one of the most effective and dangerous insurgent groups. It is led by Nasiruddin Haqqani’s brother and has been blamed for several bomb attacks in Kabul in the last year. The Treasury Department says Nasiruddin has made several trips to the United Arab Emirates to raise money for the Taliban.

US officials say Gul Agha Ishakzai is the head of the Taliban's financial commission and belongs to a council in Baluchistan, Pakistan that coordinates the collection of money. He is thought to be a close adviser to Taliban leader Mullah Mohammed Omar.

According to a United Nations list, Amir Abdullah has traveled to the Gulf and Libya raising funds for the Taliban.

has served as treasurer to senior Taliban leader Mullah Abdul Ghani Berader and was the former deputy to the Taliban governor of Kandahar Province.

A Treasury statement said the designation of the three men was designed to “deprive these extremists of the resources they need to execute their violent activities."

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Filed under: Security Brief
July 22nd, 2010
11:03 AM ET

Sports Update: Baseball trades to watch

Phillies slugger Jayson Werth

The silly season in baseball is underway as trade talks are heating up around baseball. Two names to watch, according to SI.com's Jon Heyman, are Phillies slugger Jayson Werth and Astros ace Roy Oswalt. "One possibility would be to trade Werth to the Rays to acquire prospects they could then send to the Astros for Oswalt, whom the Phillies covet, according to someone familiar with the talks," writes Heyman.

Philadelphia apparently is having difficulty finding a match with Houston straight-up for Oswalt and is looking to involve a third team. The Phillies and Astros deal frequently, as Astros GM Ed Wade used to be the Phillies' GM and is close to Phillies GM Ruben Amaro, adding to the plausibility of such a scenario. The Phillies play in St. Louis this afternoon, one of the highlights (all times Eastern) on a relatively quiet day in sports:

- Phillies at Cardinals (2:15 p.m., Fox Sports Mountain West) St. Louis is looking to sweep the Phillies in a four-game series for the first time in 24 years. St. Louis is 8-0 since the All-Star break. Cardinals ace Adam Wainwright (14-5, 2.02) faces Cole Hammels (7-7, 3.63).

- WNBA, Sparks at Fever (7:00 p.m., ESPN2) The Sparks have struggled without star Candace Parker, who is out for the season with a shoulder injury. Indiana's Tamika Catchings is averaging 22.8 points and 9.0 rebounds in her last four games.

- Angels at Rangers (8:05 p.m., Fox Sports West) It's a huge series in the A.L. West as Los Angeles looks to cut into Texas's five-game lead. Rangers ace Cliff Lee (8-4, 2.59) faces Jared Weaver (9-5, 3.16).

45,309 - Record number of fans who attended opening day yesterday at the Del Mar race track in Southern California.

7 - Current ranking for U.S. Open winner Juan Martin del Potro, who has not played since the Australian Open in January. Del Potro announced yesterday that he will play in the upcoming Thailand Open in September.

1 - Ivy League basketball player (Harvard's Jeremy Lin) to record 1,450 points, 450 rebounds, 400 assists and 200 steals. Yesterday, Lin became the first Asian-American player signed by the Warriors since 1947, a notable signing in an area with a large Asian population.

July 22nd, 2010
10:16 AM ET

On the Radar: Facebook's half-a-bil, Sherrod's battle

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg talks about the 500 million milestone.

500 million - Facebook has reached its half-billion member mark, with an online population larger than the combined population of the U.S., Mexico and France. CNN.com asks who isn't on Facebook while the site's 26-year-old creator and CEO, Mark Zuckerberg, is talking about the member milestone. He also tackles the many criticisms leveled over how Facebook handles user privacy.

Going beyond Sherrod - The spotlight has not dimmed on Shirley Sherrod, the ex-USDA worker who was pressured to resign from her job Monday after a conservative blogger posted a misleading video of her discussing a white farmer. Sherrod, it turns out, has had quite an interesting life before all the brouhaha about her this week (here's a recap).

The story is still all about race, but Sherrod now appears to be saying the USDA has a history of widespread discrimination. Asked whether she would go back to working for the department, which is reportedly offering her a civil rights-related job, Sherrod said: "I would not want to be the one person at USDA that's responsible for issues of discrimination within the agency. ... There's a lawsuit by black farmers, there's a lawsuit by Hispanic and Native American and women farmers. ... There are changes that would need to happen in order to once and for all really deal with discrimination." She appears to be, in part, referring to a years-long legal battle between black farmers and the USDA.

Sherrod is considering filing a lawsuit, too, against the blogger who posted the video clip.

Bad weather, oil spill - Poor weather could jeopardize efforts to contain the Gulf oil spill. A tropical depression or tropical storm that formed near the Bahamas on Thursday morning could head into the Gulf, forecasters are saying, and the National Hurricane Center reported that it would probably initiate tropical storm warnings and watches for portions of the Bahamas and southern Florida at 11 a.m. ET.

Retired Coast Guard Adm. Thad Allen, who's leading the federal response to the spill, said a tropical storm could disrupt capping operations for 10 to 14 days.

Barefoot in court - Colton Harris-Moore, the so-called "barefoot bandit" suspect, will appear before a U.S. magistrate in Washington state at about 2:30 p.m. (5:30 p.m. ET).  Jesse James to some, a simple criminal to others, the teenager is famous for allegedly stealing cars, burglarizing homes and stealing and crash landing airplanes. He eluded police and the FBI for two years. A CNN story later Thursday will delve into Harris-Moore's turbulent upbringing.

July 22nd, 2010
09:54 AM ET

Climbers rescued from Wyoming's Grand Teton

Grand Teton National Park rangers will resume their search Thursday for a missing climber who was among 17 injured in a lightning storm Wednesday.

Sixteen climbers were rescued Wednesday at the pinnacle of the 13,770-foot Grand Teton in Wyoming during a complicated eight-hour rescue operation, authorities said.

Grand Teton National Park spokeswoman Jackie Skaggs said the climbers were in three separate groups on three different locations close to the mountain's summit when the storm hit.


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Filed under: Wyoming
July 22nd, 2010
09:50 AM ET

6 dead, 34 injured in Greyhound crash on California highway

Six people died and at least 34 were injured - four of them critically - in a crash involving a Greyhound bus and two other vehicles on a highway in Fresno, California, early Thursday, the California Highway Patrol

The accident occurred about 2:15 a.m. (5:15 a.m. ET) on northbound California Highway 99, highway patrol spokesman Officer Kirk Arnold said. The bus apparently struck an overturned SUV that was in the highway's fast lane, then possibly struck a second vehicle before traveling down an embankment and slamming into a large eucalyptus tree, Arnold said.

"We're still trying to piece everything together," he told reporters.


July 22nd, 2010
08:33 AM ET

Thursday's intriguing people

Ken Hechler

The 95-year-old veteran of West Virginia politics has filed papers to run for the seat once held by Robert Byrd, who passed away last month at the age of 92 and was the oldest member of the Senate at the time of his death.

If elected, Hechler would be 96 if he assumed the Senate seat in 2011. If he served a full term in the Senate, he would become the oldest senator in history. Sen. Strom Thurmond of South Carolina was the oldest person to serve in the Senate. He was 100 at the time of his death in 2003.

A U.S. congressman from 1959 to 1977 and former four-term West Virginia secretary of state, Hechler submitted paperwork Wednesday to enter the special election Senate primary, the secretary of state's office confirmed to CNN. He'll be challenging West Virginia Gov. Joe Manchin, also a Democrat, who announced Tuesday that he's running for Byrd's seat.

According to a biography on his website, Hechler was a special assistant in charge of research for President Truman as well as research director for Adlai Stevenson, the former Illinois governor and Democratic Party nominee for president in 1952 and 1956.

Hechler told the Charleston Daily Mail he doesn't expect to win but throwing his hat in the ring is part of his campaign against mountaintop removal mining. According to the newspaper, Hechler was arrested last summer for obstructing and impeding the flow of traffic outside a Massey Energy prep plant in West Virginia.


July 22nd, 2010
07:31 AM ET

Thursday's live video events

Ongoing coverage - BP webcam of Gulf oil disaster

9:30 am ET - Bernanke on monetary policy - Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke testifies before the House Financial Services Committee on monetary policy and the state of the economy.

10:00 am ET - Rachel Wade murder trial - Testimony continues in Clearwater, Florida, in the case of Rachel Wade, who is accused of killing another teenage girl in a dispute over a boy last year.

11:25 am ET - Obama signs government fraud bill - President Obama signs legislation aimed at curbing wasteful government programs and reduce fraud in federal spending.

2:00 pm ET - Biden on Gulf oil disaster - Vice President Joe Biden discusses the Gulf oil disaster following talks with fishermen and small business owners in Theodore, Alabama.

2:30 pm ET - BP executive on Gulf oil disaster - BP COO Doug Suttles speaks with reporters about the Gulf oil disaster in Port Fourchon, Louisiana.

2:30 pm ET - Hearing on Gulf oil disaster recovery - A Senate homeland security subcommittee holds a hearing on ensuring a financially responsible recovery from the Gulf oil disaster.

Filed under: On CNN.com today