President Barack Obama led the nation's Memorial Day observances Monday, laying a wreath at Arlington National Cemetery's Tomb of the Unknowns and declaring that Americans owe "a debt to our fallen heroes that we can never fully repay."
"The blessings we enjoy as Americans came at a dear cost," Obama told a crowd at the cemetery's Memorial Amphitheater. "For those of you who mourn the loss of a loved one today, my heart goes out to you."
Military servicemen and women killed while serving their country "gave of themselves until they had nothing more to give," he said. Americans everywhere should honor their "courage," "selflessness," and "devotion to duty."
We need to "hold their memories close to our hearts and (heed) the examples they set," he said.
Earlier in the day, the president and first lady Michelle Obama hosted a breakfast for Gold Star families at the White House.
Gold Star families are those who have lost relatives serving in the military.
The president was joined for the ceremony at Arlington by Defense Secretary Robert Gates and Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Adm. Mike Mullen. Both men are retiring later this year.
"It is up to us to be worthy of (the) sacrifice" of the fallen, Gates said. "For the rest of my life, I will keep these brave patriots and their loved ones in my heart."
"God bless our fallen, the missing, and their families," Mullen said. "And God bless America."
Jim Tressel, head coach of The Ohio State University football program, has resigned, the school said in a press release.
âAfter meeting with University officials, we agreed that it is in the best interest of Ohio State that I resign as head football coach," Tressel said in a statement.
Assistant coach Luke Fickell will serve as interim coach next season, the school said. The search for a new head coach won't begin until after the 2011-2012 season ends.
The school fined Tressel $250,000 in March and suspended him after learning he failed to acknowledge that some of his players may have violated NCAA rules.
âIn consultation with the senior leadership of the Board of Trustees, I have been actively reviewing matters attendant to our football program, and I have accepted Coach Tresselâs resignation,â President E. Gordon Gee said in a statement. âThe Universityâs enduring public purposes and its tradition of excellence continue to guide our actions.â
Ohio State Athletic Director Gene Smith said the school had been investigating Tressel since January.
"Obviously I'm disappointed that this happened at all," Tressel said in a press conference in March. "I take responsibility for what we do at Ohio State tremendously seriously ... and obviously I plan to grow from this. I'm sincerely saddened by the fact that I let some people down, and that I didn't do some things as well as I could possibly do."
Smith on Monday said he was looking forward to a new chapter in Buckeye history.
âWe look forward to refocusing the football program on doing what we do best â representing this extraordinary university and its values on the field, in the classroom, and in life,â he said. âWe look forward to supporting Luke Fickell in his role as our football coach.Â We have full confidence in his ability to lead our football program.â
SI.comâs Stewart Mandel said after Tresselâs fine that it would be hard to imagine Ohio State firing a coach who boasts a national championship and seven Big Ten titles in 10 years.
But as is the case with most big-time college football coaches, Tressel's contract includes a clause stating he could be terminated for failing to speedily report NCAA violations.
Under Tresselâs leadership, Ohio State won a national championship in 2003 and played two other national title games. The team has had at least a share of the Big Ten title in all of the past six seasons. The Buckeyes finished last season with a 12-1 record and a Sugar Bowl victory.
President Barack Obama on Monday will nominate Gen. Martin Dempsey, the relatively new Army chief of staff, to be the next chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, according to a source familiar with the plans. The term of the current chairman Adm. Michael Mullen ends in September.
Obama will also name Adm. James Winnefeld, the current head of the U.S. Northern Command, to serve as vice chairman, according to the source.
Gen. Ray Odierno will be nominated to replace Dempsey as the Army's chief of staff, the source added.FULL STORY
More storms in Midwest - Many people across the midsection of the country are going to spend Memorial Day cleaning up, after severe storms hit Michigan, Indiana, Iowa and Illinois overnight. More than 100,000 people in those states are without power. "It sounded like a freight train." That's the refrain of this past week. Missourians described the tornado that hit Joplin, Missouri, on May 22 that way, and now someone is using the same description in Michigan. Winds of more than 80 mph hit Battle Creek, Michigan. Hundreds of flights were canceled in Chicago.
Twin suicide bombings in Afghanistan - Suicide bombers targeted security forces and foreign civil affairs workers in separate blasts Monday in the western Afghanistan city of Herat, killing at least five people and wounding 33, a police official told CNN. The attacks occurred within minutes of each other just blocks apart in Herat, an area where U.S. military officials have hinted American troops would be withdrawn by July because it has been largely free of violence.
The second bomberÂ blew himself up outside the main gate of a compound that is home to a Provincial Reconstruction Team, an attack that allowed gunmen to rush inside. Afghan and NATO-led forces fought the gunmen, Afghan government official Harif Taib told CNN. A police commander later said the situation was under police control and the gunfight had ended.
Endeavour heads home - The space shuttle undocked from the international space station and is scheduled to land early Wednesday morning. There is one last shuttle mission after Endeavour's journey: Atlantis is scheduled to launch in July.
Watch CNN.com Live for continuing coverage of the bad weather targeting parts of the United States.
Today's programming highlights...
Ongoing coverage - Endeavour's final mission
10:55 am ET - Obama attends wreath-laying ceremony - President Obama marks Memorial Day by participating in a wreath-laying ceremony at the Tomb of the Unknowns at Arlington National Cemetery.
South African President Jacob Zuma is set to meet embattled Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi on Monday, his second visit to Tripoli since unrest started roiling the North African country.
Unlike many other world leaders and alliances, Zuma, his African National Congress party and the African Union - which he will represent on his trip, and which Gadhafi himself once led - have not called for the longtime Libyan leader to step down. In fact, it has criticized the NATO airstrikes targeting government forces.
Noureddine Mezni, an African Union spokesman, said the mission is to call for the cessation of all hostilities, followed by peace talks between the warring parties. The continental organization has helped mediate such talks before, including ones in Kenya and Zimbabwe that left the ruling powers still in control.
Zuma's first visit to Tripoli in April was launched with similar intentions, but did not achieve its desired results. On Saturday, rebel leaders marked the 100th day of an uprising they say was launched over concerns about lack of freedom, democracy and other concerns related to Gadhafi's 42-year rule.FULL STORY
Those who have survived a devastating tornado in Joplin, Missouri, should do their utmost to live up to the example set by those who died while helping others escape the storm, President Barack Obama said Sunday at a memorial service for the victims.
Obama spoke about two of the heroes from the twister, which barreled into Joplin packing 200-mph winds a week ago Sunday.
One of them, Dean Wells, directed his co-workers and customers at Home Depot to safety, returning again and again for more people until a wall of the store fell on top of him, the president said.
And Christopher Lucas, 26, a manager at a Pizza Hut, herded employees and customers into a walk-in freezer, finding a bungee cord to hold the door shut from the inside and wrapping the other end around his arm. Lucas held on as long as he could, Obama told the crowd Sunday, "until he was pulled away by the incredible force of the storm. He died saving more than a dozen people in that freezer.
"There are heroes around us all the time," the president said. "And so, in the wake of this tragedy, let us live up to their example, to make each day count, to live with a sense of mutual regard, to live with that same compassion that they demonstrated in their final hours. We are called by them to do everything we can to be worthy of this chance we've been given to carry on."
The tornado swept a 13-mile path, the National Weather Service said Sunday, raising its earlier estimate of six miles.FULL STORY
One 2008 presidential candidate is expected to formally launch a new bid for the White House this week, while another may be nearing indictment in a probe into whether he illegally used campaign funds to cover up an affair. Here is a look at this and other stories that CNN plans to follow this week:
Romney to become sixth official GOP presidential candidate for 2012
Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney on Thursday is expected to formally announce his candidacy for president. Romney is to make his announcement in New Hampshire â site of 2012âs first presidential primary â and will be the sixth person to formally seek the Republican nomination.
Even with Romneyâs announcement, the field would appear to be far from set. A number of other Republicans are considering White House bids, including former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani, who is scheduled to be in New Hampshire on Thursday to headline an event for the state Republican Party.
A coalition commander offered his alliance's "sincere apologies" Sunday for an airstrike that he said killed nine civilians in southern Afghanistan.
Maj. Gen. John Toolan, the head of the International Security Assistance Force's command in southwest Afghanistan, said his apology was being made "on behalf of the coalition" and its top leaders, including U.S. Army Gen. David Petraeus. He pleaded with Afghans to not only forgive, but also to work with coalition forces in hopes of bolstering their security.
"I offer our heartfelt apologies to the families and friends of those killed," Toolan said in a statement. "I ask that the Afghan people continue to trust and assist their security forces, so that together we can stop the senseless killing brought upon us by an enemy who wants to exploit the Afghan people through fear and violence."
Earlier, Afghan and NATO officials said that Saturday's attack in Helmand province killed a dozen children and two women. There was no immediate explanation for the disparity between this figure and the toll of nine civilians killed offered Sunday by Toolan, who also noted that a U.S. Marine was killed immediately before the strike.FULL STORY
Editor's Note:Â CNN's Soledad O'Brien and Rose Marie Arce were given rare access last week to the entire complex under construction at ground zero for an upcoming CNN documentary, "Beyond Bravery: The Women of 9/11." Here are their impressions after touring the site:
New York (CNN) - You have to walk downhill to get into ground zero, which is an odd feeling because the World Trade Center complex was all about looking up.
It looks like a noisy, massive construction zone from the outside, but inside you can see how much progress has been made as the 10th anniversary of September 11 approaches.
The public has gotten few glimpses of what's unfolding here, mostly during ceremonies or when dignitaries have visited or the waterfalls were tested.
Filmmakers, photographers and historians duck in to gather material they will unveil in the future. Architect Michael Arad, survivor of a bruising process to design a 9/11 memorial, says he gives occasional interviews alongside the memorial. The folks who work here are very protective of this site.
But last week, Arad gave us a rare tour of the entire complex.
As the nation prepared to celebrate Memorial Day by relaxing with family and friends, some U.S. soldiers partook in a far more somber ritual: Visiting the gravesites of fallen comrades.
Staff Sgt. Bradley Falls, an Afghanistan veteran, said he deemed it an honor to come to Virginia's Arlington National Cemetery and plant fresh, crisp flags in the burial plots of soldiers past.
âItâs especially an honor for us when youâve been on the other side of it and now you can come here and you can bring honor to their final resting place,â Falls said.
âWe all know somebody buried here personally,â he said as he leaned down and jabbed a small flag into the soil.[cnn-videoÂ url="http://www.cnn.com/video/#/video/us/2009/05/21/azuz.memorial.day.meaning.cnn"%5D
Sgt. Cherry Smith, an Iraq veteran, said she has a greater appreciation for the sacrifice of men and women in uniform.
âNow that Iâve actually served and came from Iraq, (I realize) they paid the way, so without them we wouldnât be here,â she said.
But the stoic remembrances were not just left to service members. Civilians also have found ways to memorialize U.S. soldiers killed in combat.
Numerous cities around the nation planned Memorial Day observances to honor the U.S. armed forces.
High school student Ricky Gilleland, 17, runs a website that serves as a virtual database for soldiers killed in the line of duty.
Looking at his website, Preserveandhonor.com, Ricky said he is struck by how young the men and women were who have given their lives for their country.[cnn-videoÂ url="http://www.cnn.com/video/#/video/us/2011/05/28/endo.arlington.digital.record.cnn"%5D
âItâs sad because I come here and look at the birth dates and death dates and I think, âThese are kids not much older than me,'" he said.
The site has received more than 1 million hits since its October launch.
Ricky said his intent is to provide families with a way, however small, to commune with their dead loved ones and appreciate their sacrifice.
âI hope that they can go on (the website) and feel a little bit of comfort in knowing that theyâre not just a number of casualties, or anything like that, theyâre actual people.â
Also, the nation's military leaders expressed admiration for soldiers serving in Iraq, Afghanistan and bases around the world.
Defense Secretary Robert Gates choked up recently when talking about the responsibility of sending Americans off to two wars.
"I've done my best to care for them as though they were my own sons and daughters," Gates said when he was at the White House last month. "They are the best America has to offer ... And I will miss them deeply."
"Virtually every day since taking this post, I've written condolence letters to the families of the fallen," Gates said in a videotaped Memorial Day message. "I will always keep all of you in my heart and in my prayers as long as I live - as should all Americans."
Rep. Silvestre Reyes, D-Texas, recalled the loss of his buddies while he served in Vietnam.
He said his Memorial Day will be spent at home in El Paso, Texas, visiting the Fort Bliss National Cemetery and the grave of his father-in-law, who served in World War II and Korea.
"The experience of Vietnam, at least for me, is not just reserved for Memorial Day," Reyes said from his Washington office. "I think back to the buddies I lost in Vietnam."
"War is not like it is in the movies ... there is no music. There is constant fear, body parts, death."
Pop singer Beyonce told single ladies to put their hands up, but maybe she should have directed them Down Under.
A dating agency is shuttling busloads of single women to rural areas in hopes that theyâll find lonely farmers, according to an article in the London Telegraph.
Contacted by CNN late Friday, Brie Peters said she got the idea for the single women tours from a chance encounter.
âIâm lucky enough to have some friends that live in the outback of Australia,â she said, âand we were at a pub one night and the pub owner said, âBrie, youâll be interested in this, âI know a lot of single women that send me lettersâ â looking for rural men, she said.
Some Yemeni residents heeded calls to evacuate parts of their capital city Saturday in expectation of further clashes between the country's long-time president Ali Abdullah Saleh and tribal leaders, but most remained firmly entrenched in their homes, according to witnesses.
The order was carried out by members of the country's Republican Guard and law enforcement, who warned residents in city neighbourhoods of more confrontations after tensions flared Friday between Nehm tribesmen and soldiers of the Republican Guard.
The tribesmen said the soldiers attacked a village, but tribal fighters, battling back, managed to take over military compounds.
Meanwhile, armed tribesmen were seen massing at four locations around the Yemeni capital of Sanaa, witnesses said, as well as near the house of Sheikh Sadeq al-Ahmar, the leader of the powerful al-Hashid tribe whose forces oppose the government.
A Newton County, Missouri, official said authorities would begin streamlining the process of identifying bodies Saturday in Joplin in the aftermath of a killer tornado.
"The decision was made that if a person can make a positive ID, letâs say for instance âŚ piercings or tattoos," said Mark Bridges of the Newton County, Missouri, coronerâs office,Â "[Saturday] weâre gonna start the process of allowing those people to view the bodies of the loved ones."
"Weâre going to go ahead and start releasing those bodies," he said.
Already frayed nerves reached a boiling point Friday in Joplin, Missouri, as families trying to retrieve their dead loved ones were stalled by cautious medical examiners meticulously trying to sort remains.
The deadliest tornado ever recorded in the U.S. smashed through the city Sunday, killing 132 people and leavingÂ more than 156 unaccounted for.
Comments of the Day:
âThis child will know what it's like to have a completely free set of gender beliefs. These parents should be commended, not criticized.â– greeniethumb
âDear Mom and Dad,
Thanks for not acknowledging gender. Now I'm screwed up, all because you wanted to use me as a political statement. I appreciate your selfishness.
Love, Stormâ– MrjackTors
Boy or a girl? It's a secret - and an international controversy
A Canadian couple with two boys, 5 and 2, have decided that the gender of their third child will remain a mystery for now. Even the grandparents don't know whether Storm, who is 4 months old, is a boy or a girl. Some CNN.com readers thought the experience would damage the baby's psyche; others applauded. Either way, the story has caused an, ahem, storm of controversy.
iphelgix said, âWe're supposed to prepare our children to make their own way in this world. I do not know if this approach is right or wrong, but as a parent that means it's not an approach I'd be willing to test out on my own kids just to see if it helps.â
HeatherJeane said, âThis experiment was conducted forty or so years ago to disastrous results on a set of identical twin boys. One was reassigned female after a botched surgery. Both attempted suicide as adults and one succeeded. Messing with a person's gender and their perception thereof may just be a bad idea.â
bambina54 said, âWon't this poor child wonder one day 'why are my brothers and dad considered boys and my mom a girl but I am neither?' "
But others thought there would be no harm done. franglass said, âThese parents are trying to avoid telling their children how to express their gender and I think that's awesome. More power to them for not relegating their children to the âpinkâ or âblueâ childhood.â
RushHawk said, "According to a Toronto Star article, the only others who know the baby's gender are the couple's sons; and they expect them not to tell? LOL!!â
poetx said, âWho cares. It's not your kid and they are not abusing him/her. People need to judge what they do and leave everyone else alone.â
Dixichick13 said, âThe parents' efforts may be in vain. Much of our behavior and personality is hardwired in the womb by genetics and hormones. In other words, even if you buy your little boy dolls as well as trucks, if his brain is more masculinized, he will just use the dolls as speed bumps for his rolling trucks. â
millergirl asked, âCan it be possible this baby was born with both male/female genitalia and the parents and doctors aren't ready to decide whether to surgically make the baby male or female?â
CrowTRobot replied, "Now that would be a legitimate reason to raise a child that way, although now they can test for the number of X and Y chromosomes. In the past it was a guessing game.â
A U.S. Marine suspected in a four-house drug-smuggling operation died with the safety set on his semi-automatic rifle. A video from the sheriff's department showed that the uniformed SWAT team sounded its sirens, banged on the front door, kicked it in and then opened fire. Gaberlunzie3 said, â âThey absolutely responded how they were trained.â So they are trained to murder people in their homes?â
whatudeserve said, â âThe police refused to allow paramedics to access Guerena for more than hour, leaving the young father to bleed to death, alone, in his own home.â You want this to happen in your home? Goodness!!â
warrior001 replied, "If you point an assault rifle at a law enforcement officer and get shot, it's your fault. They identified themselves as officers. Why pick up a weapon and point it at them? I'm a Marine; we hold ourselves to a higher standard, or should anyway. Being a Marine, with two tours, doesn't make you above the law or more deserving. â
hylnderone said, âWow. You've convicted him with no evidence. He was âsuspectedâ yet they found nothing in his house or vehicles. Have you no respect for life or for our laws? What if this was your son? What we do know is he was in his own house, had the legal right to own and possess a gun, never took his weapon off safety, but was shot 22 times in his own home and that there was zero evidence of any wrongdoing found in his home.â
usaforme said, âYes, innocent until proven guilty, but you still don't point semi-automatic weapons at police officers and expect to live." bob8436 said, âWe have no idea whether or not he knew what was going on. The poor guy could have just been asleep and reacted to panicked screams from his wife. If I were in my bedroom and my wife started talking about men with guns outside, you better bet I'd be aiming an assault rifle at the door.â
RB2 said, âThe police were wrong. Someone died and two others, one of them a child, were endangered. When are we going to ditch the âshoot first, ask questions laterâ mentality?â
Five doctors determined that war crimes suspect Ratko Mladic is well enough for extradition to the Netherlands to face the U.N. war crimes tribunal. He was arrested Thursday after more than 15 years in hiding.
icdeadpeople said, âOoh, poor little thing, he's old, has a heart problem and is frail in health. Aren't they all? So am I supposed to feel sorry for a Hitler incarnation? Or that old, frail SS prison guard sentenced earlier this month?â
Guest said, " âHis health is very deteriorated.â I can well imagine, after the ghosts of 8,000 men and boys have been haunting him.â soprano141 said, âMay you never rest in peace, Mladic.â ComeOnMan9 said, âA waste of time to fit him for prison garb, he comes back as a cockroach over and over. Problem solved.â
globaldecay said, âI heard a low ranking subordinate of Mladic [was] questioned by the U.N. war crimes tribunal as to why he did what he did to his next-door neighbor. He said â500 years ago his ancestors killed my ancestors, and thatâs why I chained a cinderblock around his neck and threw him in the river.â Wars Donât End!â
GhostofOsama said, "I'm confused. When we Moslems want a homeland, refuse to allow anyone to practice another religion, and kill those that don't comply; we are holy warriors. We apply this label even when the homeland to which we refer belongs to others that invited us in. When others defend themselves or do the same thing, we are outraged and call them butchers. If there is one god, there is one standard. I say we are guilty of the same butchery and should spend an equal amount of our time ridding ourselves of the culture of violence that so many in our religion enjoy.â
Michael Dasher thought he had hooked a good-sized fish Wednesday.
The 10-year-old and two friends were fishing in a canal near his home in Rockledge in Brevard County, Florida, when the line snapped.
Michael's buddy, Kentral Welch, thought his friend was reeling in a big one "...until I saw his face," CNN affiliate WKMG in Orlando reported.
What they were staring at was a 5-foot-9 long alligator, which charged at the boys. Michael says he used a stick and even got on the animal's back. Then Michael dragged the gator home.
Wildlife officers were called and said they had to tell Michael he could have been charged with a felony for capturing an alligator. He says he learned his lesson. Next time, he'll just out run it.
The coach of Manchester United leads his team into the biggest soccer match of the year seeking a title of his own - greatest coach ever.
In his 25 years in charge of the club, Ferguson has won 12 league titles and countless other domestic trophies. If he leads United to victory Saturday, he will become the first manager to win three Champions League titles, reports CNN's Greg Duke.
The matchup Saturday between Manchester United and favored Barcelona will be played at one of the most famous stadiums in the world, Wembley in London, so the English side may have a edge in fans, but most experts favor the Spanish side on the field.
Sports Illustrated's Jonathan Wilson says Ferguson will have an interesting decision to make with his tactical formation: Does he play the same lineup or opt for the addition of a defensive-minded player?
Not everyone thinks Barcelona is certain to win.Â Gabriele Marcotti says Manchester United has an advantage at the end of this very long season.
The Ithaca Public Schools superintendent reportedly wants Michigan's governor to put more money into schools.
Maybe the state should make them into prisons, he says in a letter to Gov. Rick Snyder, originally published in the Gratiot County Herald on May 11.
In part the letter reads: "The State of Michigan spends annually somewhere between $30,000 and $40,000 per prisoner, yet we are struggling to provide schools with $7,000 per student. I guess we need to treat our students like they are prisoners, with equal funding."
Bootz goes on to write that by providing more funding the state can help keep students out of prison.
The letter apparently was cheered but also booed by some in the state.
State Rep. Tom McMillin, a Republican from Rochester Hills, called the letter âinflammatory rhetoric,â according to the Michigan Capitol Confidential, a news service that "reports on the public officials who seek to limit government, those who do not, and those whose votes are at odds with what they say."
The Michigan Capitol Confidential looked at the budgeting issue a different way, saying that prisoners are in state care 24 hours a day while students spend only eight hours.
"Students cost roughly $6.46 per hour to educate. Prisoners cost $5.92Â per hour to house," Tom Gantert wrote.
The mayor of Cordova, Alabama, has plenty of mad residents. Scott says a city ordinance passed in the 1950s doesn't allow for single-wide trailers as residences, reports say. But many people were displaced after a tornado hit the town April 27, and the Federal Emergency Management Agency offers the trailers as temporary housing.
So while some city bureaus are using trailers for offices, the mayor won't allow FEMA to give out the single wides, according to reports.
ABC 33/30 in Birmingham said it called the mayor to ask why, and he hung up on the reporter.
CNN affiliate WIAT-TV in Birmingham reports that some people have resorted to living in tents.
The 8-year-old was upset the U.S. flag flying on a pier in Oceanside, California, was damaged, according to CNN affiliate KSWB-TV in San Diego.
"I was actually standing right under this pier at the starting line (of a 5-kilometer race). I looked up at the flag and noticed it was all ripped up and tattered," he told KSWB.
So he wrote the man in charge, according to the station.
"Dear Mr. Mayor,
"During my last visit to the pier, while I was looking around, I saw the American flag at the top of the pole waving in the breeze. I felt proud, then I was sad. The flag was all ripped up and tattered. I think it was disrespectful to our country and the people who fight for it. I would be pleased if you would replace it.
"Thank you, sir, for your attention.
" Your friend, Luke Smith, 8 years old."
Oceanside Mayor Jim Wood said budget cutbacks made it harder for officials in the military town to spot such problems, according to KSWB.
Wood sent Smith a letter of proclamation and had the flag replaced, the TV station reported.
Actor Jeff Conaway, who was in the TV series "Taxi" and the movie "Grease," died Friday morning from pneumonia, his manager said.
Conaway, 60, had been in an Encino, California, hospital since May 11, after apparently having been unconscious for eight or nine hours before he was found, Phil Brock said.
Initial reports earlier in the week that he suffered a drug overdose were inaccurate, according to a source familiar with Conaway's medical condition. However, his use of drugs caused him not to realize how ill he was, keeping him from getting treatment until it was almost too late, Â the source said.FULL STORY