June 29th, 2011
08:34 PM ET

Rhode Island legislature passes same-sex civil union bill

Less than a week after New York became the nation's sixth state to legalize same-sex marriage, Rhode Island state lawmakers on Wednesday voted in favor of a bill that permits civil unions between gay and lesbian couples.

The measure, which passed the state Senate by a count of 21-16, is widely seen as a compromise intended to provide same-same couples with added rights and benefits, while also preventing an expanded legal definition of marriage.

The legislation, which passed overwhelmingly in the state's lower house on May 19, affords same-sex couples a host of new state tax breaks, health-care benefits and greater ease of inheritance.

Gov. Lincoln Chafee, an independent, is expected to sign the bill into law, according to his spokesman, Michael Trainor. If signed, the law would take effect on July 1, making Rhode Island the fifth state in the country to allow civil unions between same-sex couples.

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Filed under: Rhode Island
Stocks advance for third day
After Bank of America agreed to pay $8.5 billion to settle claims against mortgage-backed securities, its shares rose 3% Wednesday.
June 29th, 2011
07:19 PM ET

Stocks advance for third day

Some highlights from the day's business news:

U.S. stocks closed higher for a third day on Wednesday, as bank shares boosted the broader market following Bank of America's $8.5 billion settlement over mortgage securities claims.

Investors also cheered Greece's approval of austerity measures on Wednesday, which are meant keep the country from defaulting.

The Dow Jones industrial average added 73 points, or 0.6%, to close at 12,261. Bank of America was the biggest gainer on the blue-chip index, with shares rising 3% after the bank announced a multi-billion-dollar settlement. Other banks stocks followed suit, with shares of Citigroup, Wells Fargo and JPMorgan Chase all moving higher.


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Filed under: Business • Economy
Overheard on CNN.com: Readers' idea of beauty
America's idea of a beautiful woman may be changing from blond-haired and blue-eyed to the more exotic and unconventional.
June 29th, 2011
05:29 PM ET

Overheard on CNN.com: Readers' idea of beauty

Comment of the day:

“Beauty is in the eye of the beer holder.” - jgruber6

Defining beauty

The “Beauty Culture” exhibit, which opened in May at the Annenberg Space for Photography in Los Angeles, aims to generate a dialogue about female beauty. The 175 “iconic” photos emphasize aspects of the beauty industry — from plastic surgery and airbrushing to child beauty pageants and celebrity — and explores cultural ideals.

CNN.com featured eight of the photos with an article about how America’s definition of beauty is changing and asked the question: What is beauty, and who has it?

VladPistoff said, “A kind woman is the pinnacle of beauty.” Wzrd1 said, “Quite true. I'll stick with my wife of nearly 30 years.” OldDawg said, “A kind decent person always shines brightest.” wrack said, “Women with no make up, pony tails and a kind heart will always melt me.” Bunny68 said, “Right on, Vlad! (That goes for a kind man too ... my grandpa is the most beautiful person I've ever laid eyes on.)”

Peepbond1 said, “I see beauty in an old woman's face with a twinkle in her eyes and the knowledge to tell you about the world, but she knows you're not interested. Now that's beauty.”


Airline ad pokes fun at Blagojevich
Former Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich was convicted Monday on 17 of 20 corruption counts.
June 29th, 2011
03:36 PM ET

Airline ad pokes fun at Blagojevich

Spirit Airlines' latest quirky marketing campaign takes a swing at convicted former Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich.

The promotion on the deep-discount airline's website features a photo of a big-haired Blagojevich look-alike whose clothes turn into an orange prison jumpsuit before vertical bars close over the image.

"We got these fares and they're f-ing golden," the title says.

"We are guilty of selling seats but we don't expect to serve time," the sale page reads.

Blagojevich was convicted Monday of 17 of 20 corruption charges relating to his attempt to peddle President Obama's U.S. Senate seat after the 2008 presidential election. A federal grand jury indicted Blagojevich in April 2009.

At the time of his arrest, prosecutors said court-authorized wiretaps caught Blagojevich expressing frustration that Obama transition officials were "not willing to give me anything except appreciation."

"I've got this thing, and it's (expletive) golden, and, uh, uh, I'm just not giving it up for (expletive) nothing. I'm not gonna do it," Blagojevich was quoted as saying in an FBI recording.

The Miramar, Florida-based airline is known for responding to news events with irreverent marketing pushes. Earlier this month, without mentioning disgraced Congressman Anthony Weiner, the airline launched a "weiner sale" touting $9 fares "too hard to resist."

It came up with an "Eye of the Tiger" sale just days after golfer Tiger Woods' 2009 auto accident; the cartoon ad showed a tiger crashing an SUV into a fire hydrant.

A Spirit ad during last summer's Gulf of Mexico oil spill didn't go over so well. It showed a woman slathered in suntan lotion (from a green-and-yellow bottle) with the invitation, "Check out the oil on our beaches!"

The current Spirit sale offers $17 one-way fares on certain round trips, available only to members of the airline's $9 Fare Club, which costs $59.95 a year. The sale ends at midnight ET Wednesday. The sale price does not include taxes, baggage fees and other fees.

Blagojevich's people were not amused. "No matter what you think about the former governor, most of the public knows he has a wife and two young daughters," Glenn Selig, a spokesman for Blagojevich, said Wednesday. "Nothing about what's happened is funny, and Spirit's marketing campaign is in poor taste."

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Filed under: Aviation • Crime • Politics • Rod Blagojevich
June 29th, 2011
01:04 PM ET

9 militants, 9 others dead after brazen attack on Kabul hotel

The nine militants who targeted a Kabul hotel in a brazen attack killed nine other people, officials said Wednesday.

All the militants, who were prepared to be suicide bombers, died as well, officials said. Six detonated their explosives, said Siddiq Siddiqi, spokesman for the Afghanistan Interior Ministry. The other three were killed on the hotel roof by NATO International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) snipers.

Two police officers are among the dead in the attack at the Hotel Inter-Continental, which began Tuesday night and continued into early Wednesday, according to the Afghan Interior Ministry. Officials described the other seven victims as civilians.

One was a Spanish citizen, Spain's news agency EFE reported, citing a family source. Antonio Planas, a 48-year-old pilot, leaves behind a wife and a daughter.

Two Special Operations Forces from New Zealand "received moderate injuries" in responding to the attack, the New Zealand military said.

The Taliban claimed responsibility for the siege. Zabiullah Mujahid, a Taliban spokesman, said suicide attackers entered the hotel after killing security guards at the entrance. "One of the suicide attackers told us on the phone that they are in the lobby and chasing guests into their rooms by smashing the doors of the rooms," Mujahid told CNN in an e-mail as the incident was unfolding.

But a Kabul-based official who has direct access to security information told CNN it is believed the attack was instead orchestrated by the Haqqani network, a group of terrorists loyal to the warlord Siraq Haqqani.

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Filed under: Afghanistan • NATO • War • World
June 29th, 2011
12:32 PM ET

Diana and Kate Newsweek cover blasted as 'ghoulish' and in 'bad taste'

Newsweek and its new editor Tina Brown aren't just reporting the news, they've become the story this week after publishing a computer-generated cover photo showing Princess Diana and Kate Middleton side by side.

The women are dressed similarly, wearing hats, their heads facing toward each other as if they are walking together. The cover accompanies a fictional piece Brown authored which imagines how Di's life might have turned out had she not died in a 1997 car crash in Paris. Another couple of photos inside in the magazine are eye-catching. They are of Diana and the daughter-in-law she never knew wearing similar red dresses.

The issue is pegged to what would have been Diana's 50th birthday on Friday.

Here's a sampling of Brown's take on Diana in 2011: "Gliding sleekly into her 40s, her romantic taste would have moved to men of power over boys of play."

Diana would have had a Facebook page with millions of followers and named "Bridget Jones' Diary" as one of her favorite movies. She would have lived in a New York City loft and been married at least twice to men on both sides of the Atlantic. She would have enjoyed front-row seating next to Victoria Beckham during New York's Fashion Week, owned an iPhone and  been totally devoted to philanthropic causes when not doting on sons Harry and William.

Many have found the digital manipulation of Diana and Brown's imagining of the princess' future revolting.

The London Telegraph called the cover photo "ghoulish" and dubbed Brown "Newsweek's grave robber."  The newspaper supposes Newsweek's motivation was to sell magazines. E! Online wrote a story titled "Bad taste alert!"  Jezebel, which reports on issues related to women, penned a reaction under the headline "Undead Princess Strolls with Kate Middletown on Ridiculous Newsweek Cover."  Mediaite's Lizzie Manning said she didn't take issue with Brown's creative prose. It was the photos that creeped Manning out , more than Brown's writing. Popular blog Cafemom criticized Brown in an open letter to her, addressing Brown as Bonnie Fuller, the American magazine editor famous for print tabloid entertainment.

"You took a woman who has been dead for 14 years and made up an entire story about what she would look like, where she would be living (the Big Apple of course!), what she would be doing (apparently lots of Botox!), and perhaps most importantly, what she would be wearing (Galliano - the anti-Semite - and J.Crew a la Michelle Obama!) ... if she were still alive today," Cafemom wrote. "This is pure brilliance. I've never understood why a magazine called Newsweek would waste its time having reporters write about current events or world affairs when it could simply make up stuff."

The British Brown, new to the helm at the news magazine, formerly edited the New Yorker and founded the Daily Beast. She is well-known for her observations about British politics and culture, as well as American culture.

Wednesday morning, Brown explained why she wrote the story the way she did.

"I wanted to make her a time traveler," she said, adding that she viewed Diana as a "global, mover shaker kind of woman."

"She loved the limelight but she would have professionalized all that humanitarian giving," Brown said. "She would have been very much a woman of our time."

The Newsweek package isn't without straight reporting. The magazine highlights causes Diana championed by tracking how much good they've done after her death.

And the magazine isn't the only media outlet pondering what Diana would have been like at 50. The U.K.'s Daily Express newspaper also published a digitally aged image of Diana's face. It also is not the first magazine to attempt a fictionalized story about a famous and beloved life cut short. In April 2008, Esquire magazine imagined, in narrative form, what actor Heath Ledger's last few days alive might have been like. Ledger died of an accidental drug overdose that year. The magazine's editor at the time insisted the piece was neither stunt nor gimmick.

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Filed under: Celebrity • Facebook • Media • New York • Prince William • Twitter • United Kingdom
June 29th, 2011
11:38 AM ET

Mexico issues hurricane watch as Tropical Storm Arlene strengthens

As Tropical Storm Arlene steadily chugged toward the east-central coast of Mexico Wednesday, Mexican authorities issued a hurricane watch that stretches from the country's eastern municipality of Tuxpan northward to La Cruz, the National Hurricane Center reported.

Arlene - the first named storm of the 2011 Atlantic hurricane season - is moving at about 8 mph, packing sustained winds of 50 mph.

It is expected to make landfall early Thursday very near hurricane strength.

Arlene is also expected to produce 4- to 8-inches of rain in some areas. Meteorologists say isolated rainfall amounts of 15 inches over mountainous terrain could cause life-threatening flash floods and mud slides.

Protests draw Egyptian army into street
Blood streams down the face of a protester after a clash with police early Wednesday in Tahrir Square in Cairo, Egypt.
June 29th, 2011
10:40 AM ET

Protests draw Egyptian army into street

Egypt's army came out of its barracks Wednesday to protect the Ministry of the Interior during anti-government demonstrations in Cairo, with hundreds of soldiers and armored vehicles on streets around Tahrir Square.

The confrontations began when a planned memorial for people killed in Egypt's revolution this year turned into an angry demonstration against the country's interim military government.

It's not clear that the demonstrators have specific demands, but many Egyptians are angry about the slow pace of change after President Hosni Mubarak resigned on February 11 after protests.

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Filed under: Egypt • Military • Protest
Gotta Watch: Inside cheerleading
Redskin Cheerleaders entertain the troops during halftime of the live broadcast of Super Bowl XXXVI.
June 29th, 2011
10:16 AM ET

Gotta Watch: Inside cheerleading

They're the rah-rah-rah that get fans and athletes hyped up. Without cheerleaders, how would we know when to be aggressive or use defense? Yet being one of sports' happy helpers isn't so simple. Whether it's perfecting dancing moves, upstaging female counterparts with your sassy swings or donning the right uniform, you've gotta watch how cheerleaders get down.

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Filed under: Gotta Watch • Sports
Men who stare at storks protect military aircraft
"Are you looking at me?" Storks apparently have more fear of eye contact than of gunfire, an environmentalist says.
June 29th, 2011
09:45 AM ET

Men who stare at storks protect military aircraft

As Zeltweg, Austria, prepares to host this weekend's Airpower 2011 show, a sort of international tent sale of military aircraft, organizers are worried about the danger posed by storks.

Officials tried luring the birds to another area by offering tasty food and posting decoy storks, but that didn't work, Austrian Times reported.

So, with time running out, an elite team of Austrian soldiers has been brought in to deal with the problem - not by shooting at the birds, but by staring at them.

"The troops have been observing the area and finding out where the storks seem to like to go to feed," local environmentalist Siegfried Prinz told Austrian Times. "They then turn up and engage them in eye contact."

Apparently, that's unnerving enough to prompt a stork to fly the coop.

"Being stared at actually intimidates the storks more than the sound of a gun or other explosive devices," Prinz said.

Aviation safety experts were to make the final call Wednesday on whether the birds had moved out of harm's way. The show, sponsored by the energy drink Red Bull, is expected to draw 300,000 spectators. It's not known if George Clooney planned to be among them.

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Filed under: Animals • Austria • Aviation • Birds • Military
Greeks pass critical budget cuts despite protests
June 29th, 2011
09:39 AM ET

Greeks pass critical budget cuts despite protests

Greek lawmakers Wednesday approved a package of austerity measures demanded by international lenders, despite protests outside Parliament as they were voting, in a move that should clear the way for an emergency loan to Athens.

Greek riot police fired round after round of tear gas to keep small crowds of protesters away from Parliament in the run-up to the vote and as lawmakers one by one said "Yes" or "No."

Angry demonstrators hurled stones at police, chanted, waved Greek flags and set small fires to protest the austerity measures, which include new taxes and job cuts.

Police on motorcycles patrolled in pairs as tensions rose, but both sides showed some restraint, with the majority eyeing each other warily rather than wading into the melee.

Riot police also clashed with stone-throwing demonstrators Tuesday, firing tear gas to disperse protesters during riots that left 21 police officers and one demonstrator injured.

The two-day general strike is continuing on Wednesday, with members of three major unions planning to march on Parliament after the vote.

Protests have been raging in Athens over austerity measures that lawmakers passed Wednesday.
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Fire chief says Los Alamos lab is safe from wildfire
CNN iReporter Jason Halladay captured this image of flames in the hills above Los Alamos, New Mexico.
June 29th, 2011
09:36 AM ET

Fire chief says Los Alamos lab is safe from wildfire

The Los Alamos National Laboratory in the New Mexico town of the same name will be spared from a fire raging in the vicinity, the Los Alamos fire chief told CNN Wednesday.

"We feel very comfortable that material is secure," Chief Doug Tucker said.

Concerns were raised that the wildfire could put at risk waste or other toxic materials stored at the lab.

But Tucker said that the waste, which is stored in drums, are kept on a blacktop with no vegetation around and are safe from fire. In case the fire was to close in, firefighters were ready to use foam to ensure that nothing would be released into the environment, he said.

Wednesday's weather appeared favorable to their work fighting the blaze, he said.

The Los Alamos lab, near Sante Fe, New Mexico, will remain closed through at least Thursday, officials said.

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June 29th, 2011
08:42 AM ET

U.S. drone and copter, coalition snipers helped Afghans

An unmanned U.S. Predator drone flew over Kabul's Hotel Inter-Continental during an attack which left at least 10 people dead. Learn more about the attack the Taliban is taking credit for. The hotel is popular with Westerners, journalists and politicians.

The drone provided critical video of the attackers as the situation unfolded, two coalition military officials said Wednesday.

Information from the drone helped Afghan and coalition forces plan and conduct counter strikes after the attack, the officials said. Also, a U.S. Blackhawk helicopter fired on up to six insurgents on the hotel roof, the officials said. The helicopter carried snipers from the the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force. The snipers were not with the U.S. military, but ISAF declined to specify their nationality because the snipers are special forces and their country views their identity a sensitive matter.

Watch a witness describe what it was like to be in the middle of the attack

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Filed under: Afghanistan
Wednesday's live video events
President Obama holds a news conference today in Washington
June 29th, 2011
07:51 AM ET

Wednesday's live video events

President Obama speaks to the nation on the issues of the day, while Greece struggles with an economic crisis.  Watch CNN.com Live for continuing coverage on these developing stories.

Today's programming highlights...

Continuing coverage - Greek austerity debate

9:00 am ET - Casey Anthony trial - Testimony continues in the trial of the Florida woman accused of killing her young daughter.


Filed under: Casey Anthony • Crime • Economy • Greece • World
On the Radar: Kabul hotel attack, wildfire near nuclear lab, teens and drugs
Flames shoot from the Inter-Continental Hotel in Kabul early Wednesday.
June 29th, 2011
07:43 AM ET

On the Radar: Kabul hotel attack, wildfire near nuclear lab, teens and drugs

Kabul hotel attack - Eight suicide attackers and 10 others were killed in an attack at a Kabul hotel popular with Westerners, journalists and politicians. President Hamid Karzai said Thursday that the attack at the Inter-Continental won't interrupt the power handover from international troops to Afghan forces. Police say the number of dead may go up as they continue to search the hotel. One guest, a student, began to write his will inside his room while he heard shooting and explosions outside his room, because people he contacted outside the hotel told him it was safer if he stayed put. The Taliban has claimed responsibility for the carnage. Stay with CNN.com for developments in this story, and check out CNN.com's Afghanistan Crossroads blog which focuses on life in Afghanistan.

Wildfire near nuclear lab - The wildfire near Santa Fe, New Mexico, is within miles of the Los Alamos National Laboratory, so the facility will remain closed at least through Thursday. Officials say the nuclear and hazardous materials at the lab are safe.

First presser since March at White House - President Barack Obama will hold his first news conference since March on Wednesday. He's expected to field questions about Afghanistan, American involvement in Libya, and the United States economy. He's also expected to address the debt ceiling crisis and present his position that the federal government should be allowed to borrow more money.

Teen drug use big problem - A new study from the National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse finds 90% of people who become addicted started smoking, drinking or using other drugs before the age of 18. Columbia University, which published the study, is calling it America's top health problem.

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Filed under: Afghanistan • Drugs • Environment • Fire • Nature • New Mexico • On CNN.com today • On the Radar • Politics • Taliban • Terrorism