FAA administrator resigns after arrest
Police arrested Randy Babbitt, 65, Saturday, on suspicion of driving while intoxicated.
December 6th, 2011
05:30 PM ET

FAA administrator resigns after arrest

Federal Aviation Administrator Randy Babbitt resigned Tuesday, three days after he was arrested on suspicion of drunken driving near his suburban Washington home.

In a brief statement released to the press, Babbitt said he had submitted his resignation to his boss, Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood, and that LaHood had accepted it.

Babbitt, a former airline pilot, said serving as FAA administrator had been "the highlight of my professional career."

"But I am unwilling to let anything cast a shadow on the outstanding work done 24 hours a day, 7 days a week by my colleagues at the FAA," Babbitt said.

The statement made no mention of the arrest.

Earlier in the day, LaHood told reporters he was "disappointed" that he had learned about Babbitt's Saturday night arrest only after police in the city of Fairfax, Virginia, released a press release about the incident.

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Filed under: Aviation • Virginia
The Reads You Need: Extending the payroll tax cut
U.S. President Barack Obama has urged Congress to extend a Social Security payroll tax cut.
December 6th, 2011
04:53 PM ET

The Reads You Need: Extending the payroll tax cut

Editor's note: Each day, we'll bring you some of the diverse voices from our site and across the Web on the stories causing ripples throughout the news sphere.

With the United States’ Social Security payroll tax cut set to expire after December 31, Republicans and Democrats have wrangled over how and whether to extend it.

The payroll tax break, which was enacted last year, cut workers’ Social Security payroll tax rate to 4.2% on the first $106,800 in wages this year, instead of the normal 6.2%. With that cut, people making $50,000 this year will take home an additional $1,000.

Senate Republicans last week proposed extending the cut for one year. They proposed paying for the estimated $120 billion cost by freezing the pay of federal civilian workers for three years, cutting the federal civilian workforce by 10% through attrition, prohibiting millionaires from getting unemployment benefits or food stamps, and requiring millionaires to pay more for Medicare Parts B and D. This plan was defeated.

Senate Democrats proposed not only keeping a cut, but also making it deeper, to 3.1%. That would mean people making $50,000 a year would take home $1,550 more than they would under the normal 6.2% rate. Democrats also wanted to cut employers’ share of the payroll tax from 6.2% to 3.1%, and they wanted to pay for the package with a 3.25% surtax on people making more than $1 million per year.

After that plan was rejected, Senate Democrats this week adjusted their proposal: Cut workers’ payroll tax to 3.1% and keep the employers’ share where it is. To help pay the $180 billion cost, they would impose - for 10 years - a 1.9% surtax on people making more than $1 million annually. They also would, among other things, adopt the GOP proposals to keep millionaires from getting unemployment benefits and food stamps.

Here are a few takes on the issue from commentators and journalists across the country:

Bipartisan silliness on payroll tax cut

CNNMoney's Jeanne Sahadi writes that while the Senate Democrats' move to adopt the GOP's call to crack down on millionaires who get food stamps and unemployment checks looks like bipartisanship, the measures would be virtually meaningless because relatively little money would be saved.

On the food stamp issue, she writes:

"This provision would disqualify anyone from collecting food stamps if they receive 'income or assets with a fair market value of at least $1,000,000.'

          "Who can disagree with that?

"But realistically, how many millionaires would be affected?

"According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, which runs the food stamp program, the answer is 'zero.' So by extension, that would mean precisely zip would be saved by prohibiting those nonexistent millionaires from collecting food stamp payments.

"Oh, there was one case earlier this year.

"The press in Michigan reported on a food stamp recipient who had won the lottery but was continuing to collect benefits anyway because technically he was still eligible under the rules. He is no longer collecting benefits. And states were asked to develop ways to make sure that doesn't happen again, according to the USDA."

Read more


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Filed under: The Reads You Need
Graham released from hospital
Billy Graham was released from the hospital on Tuesday.
December 6th, 2011
02:14 PM ET

Graham released from hospital

Evangelist Billy Graham returned to his home in Montreat, North Carolina, Tuesday afternoon following a six-day stay at nearby Mission Hospital in Asheville for treatment of pneumonia.

Graham's longtime spokesman A. Larry Ross tweeted on Tuesday: "Evangelist Billy Graham was released from Mission Hospital this afternoon, and will be home for the holidays!"

And he added, "Upon discharge from Mission Hospital, Billy Graham expressed gratitude for thoughts and prayers from around the world."

Graham was hospitalized on Wednesday, according to a release from the hospital.

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Filed under: Billy Graham • Christian • North Carolina • Religion
December 6th, 2011
02:04 PM ET

Florida A&M University holds forum to end hazing

Students and faculty at Florida A&M University have pledged to put an end to the dangerous tradition of hazing which is believed to have caused the death of one student and tarnished the reputation of a program that was once well-respected across the nation.

"We are going to have to unify around honoring the legacy of Robert Champion," said university president, James Ammons.

Hundreds of students gathered Monday night on the Tallahassee, Florida campus for an anti-hazing forum held more than two weeks after Champion's death. The 26-year-old was a drum major in FAMU's prestigious marching band, The Marching 100. Champion died November 19 after performing in a halftime performance at a football game in Orlando, Florida. No cause of death has been released, but police and university officials both suspect Champion's death was caused by hazing.

The practice is considered a rite of passage in sororities and fraternities on campuses across the country; it is also banned by most universities and is a crime in the state of Florida. Ammons told the crowd at FAMU, the university must eliminate this pattern of destructive behavior from the campus.

Everyone at the forum was asked to read and sign an anti-hazing agreement.

"We have to stop it," Ammons said. "We don't have a choice."

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Filed under: Florida
December 6th, 2011
12:24 PM ET

7-year-old Georgia girl died of head trauma, stabbing, investigators say

A 7-year-old girl whose body was found in a trash bin outside her Georgia apartment building died of blunt force trauma to the head, was stabbed and had been sexually assaulted, authorities said Tuesday.

The killer probably lives in the apartment complex where the child lived or had ready access to it, said Vernon Keenan, director of the Georgia Bureau of Investigation.

"We have multiple leads we feel are valuable and we're going to carry those out," he said.

Sixty-five state and federal investigators are trying to piece together the events that led to the killing of Jorelys Rivera at an apartment complex in Canton, about 40 miles north of Atlanta, where the girl was found three days after she went missing.

Keenan said investigators uncovered what they believe is blood in a vacant apartment unit. They do not currently have any suspects in custody, he said.

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Filed under: Crime • Georgia • Missing Children
Green Bay Packers offer team stock, sort of, to Cheesehead nation
Something tells us these ladies and gentlemen might be interested in $250 shares of Packers stock.
December 6th, 2011
11:34 AM ET

Green Bay Packers offer team stock, sort of, to Cheesehead nation

Congratulations, Packers fans! Those of you who've had your fill of Brett Favre bobbleheads and foam hats resembling Swiss cheese can now shell out $250 for something about as worthless.

The front office is billing it as a chance to become a team owner, an opportunity to be part of history, your chance to show you believe in "the great American story." The Green Bay Press-Gazette, on the other hand, is reporting that the team needs $143 million to add 7,000 seats plus a new sound system, scoreboards, entrances and elevators to storied Lambeau Field.

The good news is the Packers are making sure there is a way to receive the certificates by Christmas Eve, but Packers fans may think they're ordering anvils when they see the $25 shipping-and-handling fee. Seriously, what do these things weigh?

I guess if you think about it, the 20th-most valuable sports franchise in the world (at $1.02 billion, according to Forbes) asking average Joes to shell out $250 per stock certificate to help expand a stadium isn't much of a departure from the great American story. What does Occupy Green Bay think of all this?


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Filed under: Brett Favre • Economy • Football • Pro football • Sports • U.S. • Wisconsin
Twitter shares biggest world news stories this year
The year 2011 was defined by historic events, from regime changes to royal nuptials to financial crises.
December 6th, 2011
11:28 AM ET

Twitter shares biggest world news stories this year

There's no doubt this year has been one filled with dramatic news events. There have been global natural disasters and world-shaping revolutions in Arab nations in the Middle East and North Africa. There have been deaths marking the end of successful careers and also those of long-time dictators or terrorists.

And some might say 2011 more than any other year was one influenced by you, by what you were saying, what you were doing, what you were sharing and what you were contributing to the news. Some of the major news stories of the year even began with you, whether you were uploading photos and videos from the dramatic Arab Spring uprisings, capturing the devastation after an earthquake and tsunami in Japan, or commenting on the deaths of Osama bin Laden and Moammar Gadhafi. In an increasingly mobile world, news rippled through our social spheres at rapid paces this year.

So it is interesting to examine what Twitter has released as its top news stories and trending topics of the year. CNN has also taken a look and created our own year in review. But we want you to vote on what you think the biggest and most important stories of the year were.

In some cases, the similarities between CNN's list and Twitter's list make complete sense. Certain stories were prevalent no matter where you were or where you get your news. But naturally, because certain movements began or were influenced more by social networking or citizen journalism like CNN's iReport (the revolutions in Arab nations, Occupy Wall Street and others), some rank higher on Twitter's list. It's an interesting dynamic between two forms of media that are constantly dovetailing.

Many of the top news stories also found their way into being the top hashtag topics of the year (#egypt, #tigerblood, thanks to Charlie Sheen, and #japan), Twitter reported.

So without further ado, here's a look at some of the stories Twitter says were the biggest topics of 2011. You can read the full list here.

World News

1. Mubarak's resignation

When Hosni Mubarak's decades-long rule over Egypt came to an end in February, Cairo's Tahrir Square was a scene of jubilation, as hundreds of thousands of people celebrated the fall of a man many had feared for years.


December 6th, 2011
10:15 AM ET

Kuwait's emir dissolves parliament

Kuwait's emir ordered the country's National Assembly dissolved Tuesday, state media reported.

"Due to the deteriorating conditions that ... threatened the country's higher interests, it became necessary to resort to the people to select their representatives, overcome existing obstacles and realize national interests," Sheikh Sabah Al-Ahmad Al-Jaber Al-Sabah said, according to the state-run Kuwait News Agency.

The decision came after a presentation by Prime Minister Sheikh Jaber Mubarak Al-Hamad Al-Sahah, the agency reported. It was unclear whether al-Sabah requested the move.

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Filed under: Kuwait
December 6th, 2011
09:27 AM ET

Clinton calls for probe of Russian vote

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton called Tuesday for a "full investigation" of irregularities in Sunday's parliamentary elections in Russia, citing "serious concern" about the vote.

Shortly after she spoke, the Central Election Commission announced that Prime Minister Vladimir Putin's party suffered a large loss of seats in the election.

United Russia will have 238 seats, down from more than 300 in the outgoing parliament, or Duma, Central Election Commission head Vladimir Churov announced with 99.99% of ballots counted.

United Russia polled just under 50%, preliminary results showed earlier.

The Communist party will have 92 seats, A Just Russia will have 64, and the Liberal Democrats will have 56, Churov said.

Moscow braced for opposing rallies as the results were announced, and Russian security forces were on high alert.

The opposition Other Russia party announced plans to demonstrate against the election results, while Putin's United Russia will hold a separate rally, the Interfax news agency reported.

Security forces will remain on alert until results are declared, the Interior Ministry said earlier Tuesday. Officials did not say how many extra security forces were deployed or what units they were from.

Clinton was speaking as ministers met at the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, whose election monitors also criticized the election.

December 6th, 2011
09:11 AM ET

Drone that crashed in Iran was on CIA recon mission, officials say

A U.S. stealth drone that crashed in Iran last week was part of a CIA reconnaissance mission which involved both the intelligence community and military personnel stationed in Afghanistan, two U.S. officials confirmed to CNN Tuesday.

The officials said they did not believe the mission involved flying the aircraft directly over Iran because the reconnaissance capability of the RQ-170 Sentinel drone would allow it to gather information from inside Iran while remaining on the Afghanistan side of the border. The officials also for the first time confirmed to CNN it was an RQ-170 drone that was lost.

A third U.S. official confirmed that when the drone crashed, the United States briefly considered all potential options for retrieving the aircraft or bombing the wreckage, but those ideas were quickly discarded as impractical. There was also satellite surveillance over the site, which helped confirm the location of the wreckage before the Iranians retrieved it.


December 6th, 2011
08:57 AM ET

Drone downed in Iran probably ours, U.S. says

Operators of a U.S. drone lost flight control of it along Afghanistan's western border with Iran, according to a U.S. official with knowledge of the incident.

The crew operating the unmanned drone reported a loss of flight control just before the drone went down. U.S. officials are aware of reports out of Iran that they shot down a U.S. RQ-170 Sentinel and believe this may be the drone the Iranians are talking about, according to this U.S. official.

However, the U.S. official said the U.S. government has not confirmed that Iran shot it down, although it may have gone down over Iranian territory.

December 6th, 2011
07:43 AM ET

Tuesday's live events

The 2012 presidential election is 11 months away, but that doesn't mean we're resting on our laurels until the first caucus takes place.  CNN.com Live is your home for the latest news from the campaign trail.

Today's programming highlights...

9:30 am ET - Occupy goes to Congress - Members of the Occupy movement march to Capitol Hill to call on Congress to help those who need it the most.


Filed under: Elections • Occupy Wall Street • Politics
December 6th, 2011
07:28 AM ET

At least 58 dead from dual blasts in Afghanistan

[Updated at 7:29 a.m. ET] At least 58 people are dead after explosions hit the Afghan cities of Kabul and Mazar-e Sharif on Tuesday, the Shiite holy day of Ashura, officials said.

One attack occurred when a suicide bomber detonated a device at a Shiite shrine in Kabul, killing 54 people, Afghan Health Ministry spokesman Kargar Norughli said. Another 150 were injured.

Another four people were killed by another explosion in Mazar-e Sharif, the provincial capital of Afghanistan's northern Balkh province, police official Lal Mohammad Ahmadzai said. Another 21 were injured in that attack.

"The enemies tried to spread fear in this important holiday in the city," Ahmadzai said.

Ashura commemorates the martyrdom of Hussein, grandson of the Prophet Muhammad. Hussein was killed in battle in Karbala, Iraq in 680, one of the events that helped create the schism between Sunnis and Shiites, the two main Muslim religious movements. Shiites are a minority presence in Afghanistan, which is predominantly Sunni.

The attacks came a day after Afghan President Hamid Karzai warned that the Taliban could make a comeback as the country struggles with security a decade after a U.S.-led coalition ousted the hardline militia from power.

"If we lose this fight, we are threatened with a return to a situation like that before September 11, 2001," Karazai told an international aid conference in Bonn, Germany.

Karzai said that though there had been progress over the past 10 years, stability remains a distant goal.