Overheard on CNN.com: Readers debate Gingrich's comments about poor
Some readers said Newt Gingrich can't relate to poor people, while others supported the candidate's views on work ethic.
December 13th, 2011
07:55 PM ET

Overheard on CNN.com: Readers debate Gingrich's comments about poor

Editor's note: This post is part of the Overheard on CNN.com series, a regular feature that examines interesting comments and thought-provoking conversations posted by the community.

In tough economic times, economic disparity and self-sufficiency are on the minds of many. CNN contributor LZ Granderson asserts that presidential candidate Newt Gingrich's comments about poverty, work ethic and child labor laws are unfair to those struggling to make ends meet. We saw a spirited discussion in the comments section displaying many perspectives and a variety of personal stories about rising up to find a better life.

LZ: Gingrich wrong about the poor

Several readers, like in the following example, thanked Granderson for telling his story:

208576: "LZ, thanks for the very honest commentary containing many important messages about our core values. I imagine at the end of my life it isn't going to matter how much money I made. I do imagine I will measure my life by how I treated other people. I aspire to leave every person I encounter daily feeling better for our interaction. I've learned to avoid putting myself in situations where I could make another human being feeling unfairly judged or worse off for interacting with me. Being rich has nothing to do with money to me. It has to do with how at peace one is with themselves, life actions, and relationships."

One commenter noted that in a changing economy, one must adjust to survive.

Overeducated: "Work ethic is good but not enough to get ahead. For young people it must be translated into school attendance and homework. The decent paying jobs for under-educated people have just about all gone overseas."

Several readers disagreed with Granderson and said Gingrich made valid points. FULL POST

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Filed under: Economy • Newt Gingrich • Overheard on CNN.com • Politics
December 13th, 2011
06:47 PM ET

House passes GOP plan for payroll tax cut extension

The U.S. House on Tuesday evening a bill that would extend a Social Security payroll tax cut and speed the process for government approval of the Keystone XL oil pipeline.

The bill passed 234-193. It still would need Senate approval, which is unlikely given strong opposition from Democratic leaders because of certain provisions, including those dealing with the pipeline and how to pay for the tax cut.

Congressional Democrats are pushing for the payroll tax cut extension, but they are at loggerheads with Republicans over how to pay for 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.

Unless the break is extended, it will expire after December 31.

The GOP bill would extend the break and renew aid for the unemployed, while cutting back the maximum length of federal jobless benefits from the current 99 weeks to 59. The bill would also avoid a scheduled cut in pay for Medicare physicians for two years, a provision known as the "doc fix."

To pay for the bill, GOP leaders use a series of spending cuts, including freezing pay for federal employees and members of Congress, eliminating a child tax credit for those in the United States illegally, and increasing Medicare premiums for those who earn more than $80,000 annually.


Filed under: Economy • Politics
December 13th, 2011
06:44 PM ET

Gas utility says it will compensate victims of 2010 San Bruno blast

Pacific Gas & Electric Company said Tuesday that it is liable for the San Bruno, California, pipeline explosion that killed eight people and destroyed dozens of homes in September 2010, and will compensate the victims.

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Filed under: California • Gas pipeline
Need a holiday pick-me-up? Dial-A-Carol students voice support
Students take a break from harmonizing Tuesday at Snyder Hall at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.
December 13th, 2011
06:02 PM ET

Need a holiday pick-me-up? Dial-A-Carol students voice support

College students are lending their voices this week to spread holiday cheer - and you can hear them in your ear.

Students at Snyder Hall at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign are completing a marathon phone-in, called the Dial-A-Carol, in which they take calls 24 hours a day from all over the world and play or sing a requested holiday tune for listeners.

The ritual, conducted annually during finals week, will last until 11:59 p.m. Wednesday.

Collegians shuffle in and out to take part in the student-run program, which is in its 51st year. For students like sophomore Kurt Hanson of Lake Zurich, Illinois, it’s a labor of love.

“I’ve been here since 9 a.m.,” Hanson said. “We all got here after our 8 a.m. finals, and we’ve been singing.”

The group then broke into a gleeful rendition of “Feliz Navidad,” complete with several of them making drum sounds and the like.

Phone lines were “blowing up,” Hanson said, after the Dial-A-Carol phone number was posted on social networking sites Twitter and Reddit.

The Dial-A-Carol  number is 217-332-1882. The students will sing to every fifth caller.

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Filed under: Illinois • U.S.
Lawmaker's high-speed rail plan: Will it fly?
A new plan would launch a high-speed rail service between Boston to Washington.
December 13th, 2011
03:42 PM ET

Lawmaker's high-speed rail plan: Will it fly?

How fast can high-speed trains come to the Northeast corridor? Not fast enough for Republican Rep. John Mica of Florida.

The chairman of the House Transportation Committee recently came out with a proposal to create a high-speed rail line – trains that can travel more than 200 mph – between Boston and D.C. in 10 to 15 years. Can it be done in half the time Amtrak said it would take?

“It absolutely can be done,” said Andy Kunz, president of the U.S. High Speed Rail Association, an independent trade group. “No one said it’s going to be easy. The Northeast corridor … will be probably the most complicated rail line in America to upgrade.”

Listen to the CNN Radio Reports Podcast here:

More than 700,000 passengers ride the rails of the Northeast corridor every day. The trains would have to keep rolling while construction takes place, not just Amtrak trains but commuter lines that run through several major cities.

“You’re talking about eight or nine states that have to cooperate,” Kunz said. “The federal government, Amtrak and several transit agencies all have to cooperate. That’s what’s going to be the bottleneck.”

A lengthy and complicated environmental impact statement must first be performed for the entire line from Boston to Washington. That could take three or four years.

“Then, after that, the normal procedure is that you would produce specific environmental impact statements on each segment of the corridor,” said Petra Todorovich, director of the America 2050 Project at the Regional Plan Association, an urban planning think tank in New York.  “So that’s a whole process that could drag on for five, six, seven, eight years, possibly.”

Todorovich studied the nation’s transportation needs moving forward as the U.S. population is projected to grow by 130 million people over the next four decades.

“I’m glad that Chairman Mica is pushing us here, because frankly, the 30-year timetable is too long,” Todorovich said. But she has her doubts. “Honestly, I’m not sure if we can complete it in 10 to 15 years.”

Mica thinks a public-private partnership can succeed with a shorter timetable.

“Congress can set the parameters for how this is done. Congress can speed up the project. We just have to have a commitment to get it done,” he said.

You can also listen to the CNN Radio Reports podcast on itunes or subscribe to the podcast here.

December 13th, 2011
03:29 PM ET

Postal Service to delay closure plan

The U.S. Postal Service has agreed to hold off on closing any more post offices or mail facilities until May 15, 2012, to allow Congress time to work on a plan to save the service.

The service agreed to voluntarily enact a moratorium on closures, after a series of talks with senators. Sen. Richard Durbin said the postal service agreed to the deal, and he called it a challenge to Congress to "put up or shut up."

The news of the moratorium comes just a week after the service announced a plan that would slow down first-class mail, as the agency closes some 250 mail processing plants nationwide, which would eliminate 28,000 jobs.

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Filed under: U.S. Postal Service
Overheard on CNN.com: Can distracted drivers be stopped?
The new NTSB recommendation would outlaw non-emergency phone calls and texting by operators of every vehicle.
December 13th, 2011
03:16 PM ET

Overheard on CNN.com: Can distracted drivers be stopped?

Editor's note: This post is part of the Overheard on CNN.com series, a regular feature that examines interesting comments and thought-provoking conversations posted by the community.

"I have never seen CNN comments in such agreement. This must be a good idea."

Driver behavior never fails to get people talking, especially when it involves mobile devices. One of the most popular CNN iReport stories ever was a comedic exploration of  "hands-free" driving. (Watch it, it's good.) Now, a serious comment discussion is taking place because the National Transportation Safety Board has called for a nationwide ban on the use of cell phones and text messaging devices while driving.

NTSB recommends full ban on use of cell phones while driving

Readers were largely in support of this measure. But some commenters said such bans are hard to enforce, while others were concerned that personal freedoms were being impinged upon. Some of the most compelling anecdotes were stories of accidents caused by distracted drivers.

2graddegrees: "It is needed as people do not seem to use common sense for their own safety and the safety of others. Nothing is that necessary by the majority to send or receive. One mistake costs lives or the life one had hoped for. Having lived through a highway speed head on wreck as a passenger, nothing is worth the pain, continuing disability, loss of ability to work in profession studied for, lack of independence and self sufficiency. Common tasks such as driving, reading, walking, writing we're taken from me through no fault of my own (passenger) due to another driver's lack of common sense and consideration for himself and others."


Why would Sandusky waive preliminary hearing?
Jerry Sandusky arrives at court Tuesday in Bellefonte, Pennsylvania, before waiving his preliminary hearing.
December 13th, 2011
02:54 PM ET

Why would Sandusky waive preliminary hearing?

Former Penn State University assistant football coach Jerry Sandusky on Tuesday waived his right to have a preliminary court hearing on allegations that he sexually abused boys, giving up an opportunity for his defense team to test any weaknesses in the prosecution’s case before trial.

Instead, Sandusky pleaded not guilty to all charges and requested a jury trial. He remains free on bail pending that trial.

The preliminary hearing, which was supposed to determine whether prosecutors have enough evidence to take the case to trial, was to offer the first glimpse of what the accusers have to say beyond what was contained in a grand jury's initial 28-page presentment. Prosecutors were prepared to put 11 witnesses on the stand Tuesday.

Because defense attorneys often use the hearings to probe for inconsistencies in witness testimony or other weaknesses in the case, a natural question emerges: Why would he waive the hearing?

CNN legal analyst Paul Callan speculated on one reason Tuesday: Press coverage of graphic testimony could have been more bad publicity for Sandusky, making any future plea deal, should the defense decide to pursue one, impossible. But he and CNN legal analyst Jeffrey Toobin disagreed on whether the decision was smart.

Sandusky’s attorney gave his own reasons for the move. The following is the attorney’s explanation, followed by Callan’s and Toobin’s reactions:


- No ability to challenge witnesses’ credibility: Sandusky attorney Joe Amendola said that in pre-hearing discussions he had with the prosecution Monday, prosecutors indicated that they would object to any attempt by Amendola to question witnesses’ credibility. And because the prosecutors could correctly do that during this hearing, Amendola decided the hearing would be nearly useless for the defense, he said.


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Filed under: College football • Crime • Football • Jerry Sandusky • Penn State • Pennsylvania
December 13th, 2011
11:53 AM ET

Police: Body of New Jersey woman believed to be found

The body of a New Jersey woman whose disappearance last year triggered an expansive search that led authorities to the discovery of 10 sets of human remains, is believed to have been found, police said Tuesday.

What are believed to be the skeletal remains of Shannan Gilbert were found on Long Island's Oak Beach, less than a week after authorities announced that they had uncovered her belongings in the area, said Suffolk County Police Commissioner Richard Dormer.

A medical examiner will confirm whether the remains belong to Gilbert.

Read the complete story on CNN.com

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Filed under: Crime • U.S.
Gotta Watch: Santa like you’ve never seen him before
Santa feeds his reindeer.
December 13th, 2011
11:32 AM ET

Gotta Watch: Santa like you’ve never seen him before

We’ve all know Santa makes his list and checks it twice. But that’s not all he does. We’ve got an insider’s look at what Kris Kringle does to prepare for his big day. It may not all be what you expect.

Reindeer games – Santa’s reindeer need year-round care for their epic 24-hour journey on Christmas Eve. Now, you can check in on Dasher, Dancer and the rest 24 hours a day, seven days a week via webcam. Each day at 5 p.m. ET, Santa comes out to feed his reindeer and check his mailbox for letters from kids around the globe.

[cnn-video url="http://www.cnn.com/video/#/video/us/2011/12/13/bts-christmas-reindeer-cam.wxmi"%5D


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Filed under: Animals • Gotta Watch • Holidays • Military • Veterans
December 13th, 2011
11:14 AM ET

Yemenis capture six al Qaeda operatives

Six al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula operatives - including one high-value target - were captured by Yemeni security forces, the country's embassy in the United States said Tuesday.

Musaed Al-Barbari, an AQAP leader who authorities say attacked the Sanaa International Airport in 2009, was among those captured, the embassy said.

"The terrorism suspects have been carrying out surveillance, and planning missions aimed at targeting government and high ranking security officials," the embassy said. "Furthermore, the cell was planning on orchestrating attacks on foreign missions and critical state installations."

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Filed under: Al Qaeda • Terrorism • Yemen
December 13th, 2011
11:08 AM ET

4 dead in grenade, gun attack in Belgium

[Updated at 11:08 a.m. ET] Two teenagers and a woman died in a gun and grenade attack in the Belgian city of Liege in which the attacker also died, police said in a news conference Tuesday.

The attacker had been asked to come into the police station for an interview on charges related to drug trafficking and arms possession, the police spokeswoman said.

[Updated at 9:33 a.m. ET] A grenade attack in the eastern Belgian city of Liege left at least two people dead and 64 injured Tuesday, a spokeswoman for the governor of Liege province said.

Police are searching for at least one suspect, spokeswoman Katrin Delcourt said.

A source close to the government, who asked not to be named because he was not authorized to speak to the media, told CNN that a man had thrown explosives in a city center square, Place Saint Lambert.

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Filed under: Belgium
December 13th, 2011
10:48 AM ET

Panetta optimistic about Afghanistan

This year "will mark a turning point" in Afghanistan and other regions, Defense Secretary Leon Panetta said Tuesday.

In Afghanistan, "our troops have been able to obviously reduce the levels of violence there. We've seen the lowest levels of violence there in almost five years there now. They are successful in securing some of the key areas in Afghanistan," Panetta told reporters during a flight on his overseas trip.

He's visiting Djibouti, Iraq, Turkey and Libya, as well as Afghanistan, where war still rages. He'll meet with Afghan President Hamid Karzai, U.S. Ambassador to Afghanistan Ryan Crocker, and Gen. John Allen, commander of NATO's International Security Assistance Force.

"Obviously, there is greater success in the Afghan military and police. The Afghan military is engaging in operations," Panetta said.

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Filed under: Afghanistan • Iraq • Leon Panetta • Libya • Politics • Turkey • U.S.
December 13th, 2011
10:43 AM ET

James Murdoch warned over phone hacking, e-mail shows

The editor of the News of the World tabloid e-mailed proprietor James Murdoch in 2008 about a phone-hacking case, saying, "Unfortunately it is as bad as we feared," according to a copy of the correspondence published by Parliament Tuesday.

Murdoch concedes in a letter to lawmakers that he replied to the e-mail but does not admit having read it.

Murdoch is at the center of a scandal over illegal eavesdropping by the newspaper, which he shut down in July in the face of public fury at phone hacking.

Sandusky waives right to preliminary hearing
December 13th, 2011
08:43 AM ET

Sandusky waives right to preliminary hearing

[Updated at 8:51 a.m. ET] Former Penn State football coach Jerry Sandusky, who is accused of sexually abusing young boys, surprised a packed Pennsylvania courtroom Tuesday by waiving his right to a preliminary hearing.

After Magistrate Judge Robert Scott asked Sandusky if he understood he was waiving certain rights, the former coach said yes, and the courtroom erupted in conversation and laughter. The judge admonished the crowd, and Sandusky and his attorney, Joe Amendola, left shortly afterward.

His arraignment is set for January 11.

Sandusky faces more than 50 counts involving the sexual molestation of 10 boys he met through a youth charity he founded, The Second Mile. He has denied the allegations, and is free on $250,000 bail.

Tuesday's preliminary hearing was to offer the first glimpse of what the accusers have to say beyond what was contained in a grand jury's initial 28-page presentment. Preliminary hearings are held to determine whether prosecutors have enough evidence to take a case to trial.

Defense attorneys often use the hearings as fact-finding missions, probing for botched police work or inconsistencies in the testimony of the prosecution witnesses.

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Filed under: College football • Crime • Football • Jerry Sandusky • Penn State • Pennsylvania • Sports
December 13th, 2011
07:52 AM ET

Tuesday's live events

We're more than 10 months away from the 2012 presidential election, but that doesn't mean CNN.com Live is resting on its laurels.  We are your home for all the latest news from the campaign trail.

Today's programming highlights...

10:00 am ET - MF Global bankruptcy hearing - Former New Jersey governor Jon Corzine returns to Capitol Hill to testify about the collapse of brokerage firm MF Global, where he served as CEO.


Filed under: Dollars & Sense • Politics
December 13th, 2011
06:28 AM ET

Report: Iran says it can control the drone

Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said Tuesday his country can "control" the U.S. drone aircraft that Iran claims it recently brought down, Venezuelan state TV reported.
"There are people here who can control this spy plane, surely we can analyze this plane too," Ahmadinejad told VTV.  "The systems of Iran are as advanced as this system."
President Barack Obama said Monday that the United States has asked Iran to return the drone aircraft that Iran claims it recently brought down in Iranian territory.
"We've asked for it back. We'll see how the Iranians respond," Obama said.
Ahmadinejad comments to VTV seemed to suggest that Iran did not have plans to return the aircraft.

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Filed under: Politics • World
December 13th, 2011
03:51 AM ET

4 killed in military helicopter crash

Four Army aviators were killed in an accident involving two Army helicopters at Joint Base Lewis-McChord in Washington state Monday night, military officials said.
The crash, which involved two OH-58 Kiowa observation helicopters, occurred inside a training area at the base at about 8 p.m P.T., military officials said in a statement.
"Our thoughts and prayers go out to the family, friends and loved ones of the soldiers involved in this tragic accident," said Maj. Gen. Lloyd Miles, acting senior Army commander at the base. "We will conduct a thorough investigation into this incident

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Filed under: U.S.
December 13th, 2011
02:04 AM ET

Occupy protesters try to disrupt ports, arrests made

(CNN) - Occupy protesters succeeded in shutting down overnight operations at California's port of Oakland on Monday night after a day of similar protests in several other U.S. cities.

The protests in Oakland have "disrupted workers trying to get to work and impaired the port's ability to operate," port spokesman Issac Kos-Read told CNN. Craig Merrilees, a spokesman for the International Longshore and Warehouse Union, said the port has told its members not to report for work for the overnight shift because of the mass of protesters at the port.

Earlier Monday, the port authority said in a statement there were "some delays of truck traffic" but said the port remained operational.

"Today's disruptions have been costly to port workers and their families in terms of lost wages and shifts," said Port of Oakland Executive Director Omar Benjamin, who suggested the movement should focus on "real solutions to the problems plaguing our economy."

On a normal night, several hundred people would be working the graveyard shift, Kos-Read said. Day shifts involve several thousand, he said. He said the protests have cost workers their wages, cost the city and region some revenue and could cause shipping firms to divert vessels to other ports.

"What has this accomplished?" he asked. "This is disrupting the 99%"

Oakland Mayor Jean Quan concurred, saying the Occupy movement isn't thinking of the consequences of its actions and who it is actually hurting.

"They are saying ... they have to get the attention of the ruling class. I think the ruling class is probably laughing and people in this city will be crying this Christmas," Quan said. "It's really got to stop."

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Filed under: Crime • Politics • U.S.