Police: Arkansas meteorologist found asleep in tub next to dead man
KARK meteorologist Brett Cummins was allegedly found asleep in a hot tub next to a dead man.
September 7th, 2011
10:12 PM ET

Police: Arkansas meteorologist found asleep in tub next to dead man

Police are investigating the death of an Arkansas man whose naked body was allegedly found next to a sleeping TV weatherman in a hot tub after a night of drinking and drugs.

The owner of the home awoke Monday morning to find the body of 24-year-old Dexter Williams at the bottom of an empty tub, his face blue and purple and a chain resembling a dog collar around his neck, according to a Maumelle Police report.

Asleep next to him was KARK meteorologist Brett Cummins, 33, who had arrived at Christopher Barbour's home outside Little Rock accompanied by Williams around 8 p.m. on Sunday, Barbour told police.

The three drank and snorted drugs, though Barbour told police he did not know what kind, Officer Gregory Roussie said in a report. The three continued drinking in the hot tub until Barbour retired for the night around 11 p.m., falling asleep on his couch.

Barbour awoke to the sound of Cummins snoring and discovered the two in the hot tub, which had been drained of water, he told police. After he awoke Cummins, the two realized that Williams' face was discolored and his skin cold to the touch, prompting Cummins to scream and run to the living room, where he vomited, Barbour said.

Maumelle Police and fire rescue arrived at the home around 8:10 a.m. and found Williams' body in the tub with blood pooling around his head, Sergeant David Collins said in a report. In the master bedroom he found a pill bottle next to a pair of khaki cargo shorts on a storage ottoman at the foot of the bed.

No arrests had been made as of Wednesday, Lieutenant Jim Hansard said.


Animals sheltered from Texas wildfires
September 7th, 2011
09:47 PM ET

In burning Texas county, a collection spot for displaced animals

Editor's note: Journalist Aaron Brodie filed this report from Bastrop County, Texas, where officials say a huge wildfire has destroyed more than 550 homes.

The wildfire relief effort and national media presence at the Bastrop Convention and Exhibit Center look very much like those I've seen at other natural disasters.

Volunteers directing cars and people, truckloads of bottled water arriving like clockwork, residents poring over message boards for scarce nuggets of information, and a parking lot full of television trucks make this scene feel much like those during other wildfires and even recent tornadoes.

But 15 miles up the road, in Elgin, Texas, you'll find a decidedly Texas scene behind the Elgin VFW, where the Texas Lost Pines Riding Club rodeo arena has been converted into a triage center for horses, donkeys, mules, cows, goats, chickens, rabbits, geese and other animals that have been evacuated from the path of the deadly fire.

There's no pavement in the arena parking lot. A dry and dusty gravel road leads into the property, and the few journalists who are here parked their trucks in the grass. Pickup trucks roll in every few minutes - some with horse trailers, others with bails of hay.

The animals are off-loaded from trailers, placed into pens constructed with donated fence panels, documented and eventually sent to nearby areas that can house them until the danger passes.


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Filed under: Animals • Texas
September 7th, 2011
07:09 PM ET

Ohio mom who lied to get kids into neighboring school district gets reprieve

Ohio Gov. John Kasich reduced the charges against a mother who lied about her residency to send her children to school in another district, saying the punishment didn't fit the crime.

Kelley Williams-Bolar was convicted in January of two felony counts of tampering with records for using her parents' address so she could send her daughters to Copley-Fairlawn City Schools without paying tuition. She lived in public housing in Akron at the time and said she didn't want to leave her daughters home alone after school.

Williams-Bolar, a teacher's aide, served nine days in jail after receiving a five-year suspended sentence. In her appeal for clemency, she claimed that the felony convictions would prevent her from obtaining a teacher's license.

In a rare departure from a recommendation of the Ohio Parole Board, Kasich reduced her convictions to two misdemeanor counts of tampering with records, saying the punishment seemed excessive.

"No one should interpret this as a pass; it's a second chance," Kasich said in a statement. "The penalty could exclude her from certain economic opportunities for the rest of her life. So, today I've reduced those felony convictions to what I think are the more appropriate first-degree misdemeanors."

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Filed under: Crime • Education • Ohio
Tropical Storms Nate, Maria form
The center of Tropical Storm Nate churned in the southern Gulf of Mexico on Wednesday afternoon.
September 7th, 2011
05:34 PM ET

Tropical Storms Nate, Maria form

[Updated at 5:34 p.m. ET] Tropical Storm Nate has formed less than 150 miles from Mexico's coast in the southern Gulf of Mexico, and it could become a hurricane by Friday, the National Hurricane Center said on Wednesday afternoon.

The storm, which formed near the Bay of Campeche, is the 14th named storm of the 2011 Atlantic hurricane season, and the second to form on Wednesday. Tropical Storm Maria formed Wednesday morning in the open Atlantic Ocean.

Nate, whose center as of 5 p.m. ET was 125 miles west of Campeche, Mexico, has prompted Mexico to issue a tropical storm warning for the country's coast from Chilitepec to Celestun, according to the hurricane center.

Tropical storm conditions are expected within the warning area by Wednesday night, the center said. Already, tropical storm force winds extended up to 105 miles from the center by 5 p.m. Wednesday.


September 7th, 2011
05:12 PM ET

Bill Richardson hopes to negotiate American contractor's release from Cuba

Former New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson is going to Cuba to try to negotiate the release of jailed American contractor Alan Gross, CNN has learned.

"We are aware of Gov. Richardson's trip to Cuba and have been in contact with him," State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland told CNN. "While Gov. Richardson is traveling as a private citizen, we certainly support his efforts to obtain Alan Gross' release."

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Filed under: Cuba
Overheard on CNN.com: Skepticism for Obama’s job progam
President Obama will deliver his job plan to a joint session of Congress Thursday.
September 7th, 2011
04:35 PM ET

Overheard on CNN.com: Skepticism for Obama’s job progam

Comments of the day:

“So Plan B is the failed Plan A? Awesome.” - Expresss

“The president could be announcing the cure for cancer and the GOP would vote against it.” - bloodawg

Obama’s 300 billion plan

President Obama is set to unveil a $300 billion jobs program in his Thursday speech to Congress that will focus on new infrastructure spending and targeted tax cuts. The president is also expected to renew his push for stalled trade deals with Panama, Colombia, and South Korea, but GOP critics say the plan represents a continuation of what they consider to be failed policies.

CNN.com readers were obviously divided about President Obama’s program. Many said it’s just more rhetoric, while others said the president still isn’t being given a chance.

akjonny665 said, “This is like a band-aid for a shotgun wound, they don't even look at other solutions. Importing too many goods, exporting our jobs. NAFTA should have been scrapped, [for example].”

mikemc1970 said, “What exactly can he do with $300 billion now, that he couldn't do with $800 billion last go around?”

BinaryTruth responded, “’What exactly can he do?’ If corporate America is incapable, unpatriotic enough, and entirely unwilling to hire American workers – then props to Obama for actually caring enough to do so.”

Ramsglen said, “How dumb is the guy. He knows the American people are not going to let him BLOW another 300 Billion. He has a track record of just letting it disappear. Obama Must Go."

sharky66 said, “Oh don't worry, if Congress does not agree to this, and most likely they will not, Obama will just issue yet another Executive order, go around Congress, and put everything into play.”

CB5 said, “Wow, $300 billion MORE to his Big Labor Union Supporters to bribe them into getting out and start campaigning for him... Republicans are fools if they go along with this at all! It is nothing but more favors being handed out to his buddies at our expense, AGAIN! Vote Obama out in 2012!”

Guest said, “Hey, just so you know the 300 billion he plans on enacting 170 billion in tax cuts like the payroll tax cuts, tax cuts for those who hire the unemployed. If it came out of a Republican’s mouth you would be clapping.” FULL POST

September 7th, 2011
04:05 PM ET

Mystery video of D.C. bus driver and passenger sparks inquiry

A video uploaded to YouTube appears to show a Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority bus driver aggressively wrestling a would-be passenger away from the bus door and out of it onto the ground.

A spokesman with the Metro Transit Authority confirms to CNN that it is investigating the video. Spokesman Steven Taubenkibel said that investigators don't believe the video was staged.

Local TV news stations began showing the video on Tuesday. "We don't know when this occurred, we don't know the date, the time, bus number and bus route and it's all part of our follow up," said Taubenkibel.

"We would like to talk with the person who filmed the video," he said. "It does appear to be one of our drivers."

September 7th, 2011
03:19 PM ET

Justice Department charges 91 in $295 million Medicare fraud scheme

The Justice Department on Wednesday announced charges against 91 people including doctors, nurses and other medical professionals allegedly involved in a nationwide Medicare fraud scheme in eight cities totaling $295 million in false billing.

“The defendants charged in this takedown are accused of stealing precious taxpayer resources and defrauding Medicare – jeopardizing the integrity of our health care system and our nation’s most critical health care program for personal gain,” Attorney General Eric Holder said in a press release. “Our highly coordinated, nationwide Strike Force operations are working aggressively to combat Medicare fraud and our anti-health care fraud efforts have never been more innovative, collaborative, aggressive – or effective. We will continue to work with our law enforcement partners and partners across government to fight against health care fraud.”

According to the Justice Department those charged are accused of a variety of fraud-related crimes including conspiracy to defraud the Medicare program, health care fraud, violations of the anti-kickback statutes and money laundering. The scheme involved home health care, physical and occupational therapy, mental health services, psychotherapy and durable medical equipment services, the Justice Department said.

“Today’s arrests are a powerful warning to those who would try to defraud taxpayers and Medicare beneficiaries,” Health and Human Service Secretary Kathleen Sebelius said in a press release. "These arrests illustrate close cooperation between the Medicare program that identified these fraudsters and the law enforcement officials who acted swiftly to cut them off. And our efforts to stop criminals don’t end here because the Affordable Care Act gives us new tools to prevent Medicare fraud before it is committed – better protecting seniors and the integrity of the Medicare program for generations to come.”

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Filed under: Health
SEC votes to include Texas A&M; Baylor cries, Whoa, partna!
Aggies celebrate their win over the rival Texas Longhorns last year. It's unclear if they can yet celebrate a move to the SEC.
September 7th, 2011
03:17 PM ET

SEC votes to include Texas A&M; Baylor cries, Whoa, partna!

The votes are in, but it appears there is still at least one hurdle in Texas A&M University's lengthy endeavor to join the Southeastern Conference.

The school said a week ago that on June 30 it will would vacate the Big 12 Conference, of which it has been a member since before the 1996-97 season. There was rampant speculation that the Aggies would join the powerhouse SEC, but President R. Bowen Loftin last week said only that he hoped the exit process was "as amicable and prompt as possible."

On Wednesday, the president issued a statement saying he was pleased the SEC presidents and chancellors voted Tuesday night to accept A&M as their 13th team.

"However, this acceptance is conditional, and we are disappointed in the threats made by one of the Big 12 member institutions to coerce Texas A&M into staying in the Big 12 Conference," Loftin wrote. "These actions go against the commitment that was made by this university and the Big 12 on September 2. We are working diligently to resolve any and all issues as outlined by the SEC."

Seems like the process will be neither prompt nor amicable.


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Filed under: College football • Football • Sports • Texas • U.S.
September 7th, 2011
02:41 PM ET

Judge questions prosecution evidence in Conrad Murray trial

Evidence intended to prove Michael Jackson could not have caused his own death may not be allowed in the involuntary manslaughter trial of Dr. Conrad Murray, the judge said Wednesday.

A California appeals court Wednesday denied Murray's petition by for a stay in his trial so that the issue of jury sequestration could be reconsidered, a defense lawyer said.  The denial cleared the way for jury selection to start Thursday.

Murray's defense is built on the theory that Jackson drank propofol, the surgical anesthetic the coroner concluded killed him, while the doctor was away from his bedside on the morning of June 25, 2009.

Prosecutors want jurors to hear expert testimony based on a recent experiment conducted on six university students in Chile they argue proves there is "zero possibility that the propofol was orally ingested."

Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Michael Pastor raised questions about the experiment in a hearing Wednesday.

"I need more information about the underlying data since it is not a scientific published article," Pastor said. "I don't know the source of the information."


Filed under: Conrad Murray
September 7th, 2011
01:38 PM ET

American held in woman's disappearance in Aruba to remain in jail

A three-judge Aruban panel on Wednesday denied American Gary Giordano's appeal of a ruling keeping him behind bars for another 60 days as authorities investigate the disappearance of his American traveling companion, his attorney said.

Attorney Michael Lopez said Giordano was sad and disappointed with the ruling. Giordano is being detained improperly, he said, and his rights are being violated. Giordano left the hearing with a shirt covering his head.

On Tuesday, authorities on the Caribbean island questioned Giordano for an eighth time in connection with the disappearance of Robyn Gardner.

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Filed under: Aruba
Officials trying to identify enslaved disabled workers rescued from brick kiln
This 2009 photo shows a deserted brick kiln similar to the one where Chinese officials recently rescued illegally employed workers.
September 7th, 2011
01:36 PM ET

Officials trying to identify enslaved disabled workers rescued from brick kiln

Authorities in China are struggling to identify 30 people they rescued from illegal brick kilns where they were being enslaved and abused, state-run media reported Wednesday.

The officials are having a difficult time identifying some of the workers because at least 17 of them are disabled or have a mental illness, police told the state-run China Daily newspaper.

"Some of them can't even speak a whole sentence, and they don't act like normal people," Liu Weiming, deputy director of publicity in Zhumadian, where the workers were rescued, told the state-run paper. "Most are staying at a relief station because they can't remember where they are from."

The China Daily said that the scandal was exposed by the City Report TV channel who reported that workers were "abducted from streets and railway stations and then sold to bosses at brick kilns for 300 yuan to 500 yuan ($45 to $80)."

Bai Shasha, one of the rescued victims, said he and his father got lost in March and were abducted when several people with knives approached him. He said during the time he was enslaved at the kiln he was regularly beaten with bricks or whips, China Daily reported. Bai also said he and other workers were forced to work all day long without any rest, and then they all slept in cramped confines at night.

China Daily reported that Liu said two bosses and a supervisor were detained in relation to the case. One of the supervisors, age 14, is accused of beating workers with whips.

The incident is not the first in China. In 2007, 2009 and 2010 more than 1,500 people have been rescued from illegal brick kilns. An investigation in 2007 found that more than 53,000 workers at kilns were illegally employed, according to previous state-run media reports .

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Filed under: China • Crime
Romania denies hosting secret CIA prisons
Thomas Hammarberg, human rights commissioner for the Council of Europe, says guilty countries should admit their involvement.
September 7th, 2011
12:59 PM ET

Romania denies hosting secret CIA prisons

Romania insisted Wednesday there was no evidence it had hosted secret CIA prisons as part of the United States' war on terror after September 11, 2001. The country "has no information whatsoever showing that there existed secret CIA detention centers on its territory," the Foreign Ministry told CNN. (See CNN's extensive coverage of America's war prisons.)

Two investigations also failed to find any evidence that the CIA used Romanian airports for "rendition," the process in which detainees in American custody are transported for questioning to other countries where prohibitions on torture are not as strict and American laws don't apply.

The Romanian denial comes in response to a plea from the human rights commissioner for the Council of Europe that countries that have hosted secret CIA prisons come clean. Thomas Hammarberg said Romania, Poland and Lithuania were among at least seven countries that hosted "black sites" for "enhanced interrogation" during the "war on terror."

"Darkness still enshrouds those who authorized and ran the black sites on European territories," he said. "The full truth must now be established and guarantees given that such forms of cooperation will never be repeated."

CIA officials have acknowledged the rendition program but have refused to discuss details and denied violating any laws. Efforts to challenge the agency and get details about it in U.S. courts have been turned aside. Hammarberg said the CIA held "high-value detainees," including alleged 9/11 mastermind Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, in Poland between 2002 and 2003.

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Filed under: Romania • September 11 • Terrorism
September 7th, 2011
12:48 PM ET

Texas police hunt for teens suspected of causing fire

Police in Leander, Texas, said they are looking for four teenagers who are suspects in a fire that destroyed 11 homes Monday evening. The four include two boys and two girls, police said.

That fire destroyed homes in the Mason Creek North subdivision.  Authorities estimate the damage at $1.4 million, said Connie Watson, spokeswoman for Williamson County.

For nearly 300 days, wildfires have been taking a toll on drought-stricken Texas, scorching communities and creating dangerous conditions.

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Filed under: Texas
Plane crashes during takeoff in Russia, killing 43
September 7th, 2011
12:08 PM ET

Plane crashes during takeoff in Russia, killing 43

[Updated at 12:08 p.m.] A plane carrying Russian, German, Swedish and former NHL hockey players crashed as it took off Wednesday afternoon from Russia's Yaroslavl airport, killing at least 43 people, Russian emergency officials said.

A Russian Emergency Situations Ministry representative said there were 45 people on the plane, including eight crew members, of whom two had survived. It had earlier said 37 people were aboard.

Twenty-nine bodies have been recovered from the crash site so far, the ministry spokesman told CNN. He added that the plane crashed on the banks of the Volga river, with parts of the plane falling to the ground and other parts into the river.

The Russian Federal Aviation Agency said earlier a number of people had survived the crash, but their condition was critical.

[Updated at 10:47 a.m.] An aviation agency spokesman, Sergei Izvolsky, told CNN the plane crash occurred around 4 p.m. (8 a.m. ET) during take-off because the plane couldn't reach a safe altitude fast enough.

The aircraft collided with the antenna of the airport beacon, fell to the ground and broke into several pieces and caught fire, Izvolsky said.

The plane carrying Russian, German and Swedish hockey players crashed as it took off from Russia's Yaroslavl airport Wednesday afternoon, killing 36 people.

[Updated at 10:45 a.m.] Lokomotiv Yaroslavl had a number of players with ties to the National Hockey League, according to the NHL website.


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Filed under: Russia
Remote Alaska volcano might erupt soon, experts say
This aerial photograph from August 2011 shows the Cleveland Volcano's summit crater.
September 7th, 2011
11:26 AM ET

Remote Alaska volcano might erupt soon, experts say

Alaska's Cleveland Volcano could soon be leaking from its flanks if the lava inside continues to build up, officials at the Alaska Volcano Observatory reported.

The observatory reported that the volcano's lava dome was 262 feet in diameter on August 30 and has now expanded to 394 feet.

"The presence of the lava dome increases the possibility of an explosive eruption, but does not necessarily indicate that one will occur," the observatory said. "Short-lived explosions could produce an ash cloud that exceeds 20,000 ft above sea level."

The observatory said it did not expect air travel problems if the volcano erupted.

Because "the small lava dome in the summit crater has resumed growth and now fills the floor of the crater," the observatory is raising its alert level.

The remote volcano is in the Aleutian Islands, about 940 miles southwest of Anchorage.

Because the volcano is in such a remote area, the observatory webcam feed has experienced technical difficulties. But you can still check the webcam here.

Deadly Texas wildfires rage
September 7th, 2011
11:15 AM ET

Elite team to help search in huge Texas wildfire

An elite search team was set to arrive Wednesday in Bastrop County, Texas, where firefighters were battling a huge blaze that has killed at least two people.

"I cannot emphasize enough to Texans in the impacted areas the importance of heeding all warnings from local officials, especially evacuation orders, as these fires are mean, swift and highly dangerous," Gov. Rick Perry said.

The 600-member Texas Task Force 1 will assist local officials and first responders, Perry said.

A leadership team from the task force arrived Tuesday. "Based on the needs of local officials, a wide area search team consisting of approximately 100 members and nearly one dozen search canines will be in Bastrop Wednesday morning to work with the local incident management team and assist with search operations," Perry's office said in a statement.

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Filed under: Texas • U.S.
September 7th, 2011
11:14 AM ET

U.S. secretary of defense raises 'force protection level' at bases

Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta has approved an order raising the force protection level at U.S. bases through September 11, Pentagon spokesman George Little said Wednesday. Officials told CNN that Panetta's action is not the result of a specific threat.

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Filed under: Military
September 7th, 2011
11:00 AM ET

Missiles looted from Tripoli arms warehouse

A potent stash of Russian-made surface-to-air missiles is missing from a huge Tripoli weapons warehouse amid reports of weapons looting across war-torn Libya.

They are Grinch SA-24 shoulder-launched missiles, the equivalent of U.S.-made Stinger missiles. They are designed to target front-line aircraft, helicopters, cruise missiles and drones. They can shoot down a plane flying as high as 11,000 feet and can travel 19,000 feet straight out.

Fighters aligned with the National Transitional Council and others swiped armaments from the storage facility, witnesses told Human Rights Watch. The warehouse is located near a base of the Khamis Brigade, a special forces unit in Gadhafi's military, in the southeastern part of the capital.

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Filed under: Libya
Gotta Watch: Big - REALLY big - critters
If you think the 13-foot, 900 pound gator this Massachusetts woman caught is exceptionally large, wait until you see what a group of villagers caught in the Philippines.
September 7th, 2011
10:01 AM ET

Gotta Watch: Big - REALLY big - critters

Few things are as intriguing as uber large animals. Sure you've seen big dogs or cats, but we're talking about HUGE, rare creatures that make you want to do a double take. It's all on the heels of our most popular video yesterday, featuring footage of a one-ton crocodile. In case you missed it, it's at the end of our blog, but you've gotta watch other ginormous land and sea creatures.

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Filed under: Alligators • Animals • Gotta Watch • Sharks • Snakes
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