Kepler team confirms 26 more planets
The relative sizes of Kepler-discovered planets (pre-January in red, January in green, unverified in purple) and our solar system's planets (blue).
January 26th, 2012
07:44 PM ET

Kepler team confirms 26 more planets

Scientists' list of verified planets is now more than two dozen planets longer, thanks to NASA's Kepler space telescope team.

The Kepler mission has discovered 11 new planetary systems with 26 verified planets in the Cygnus and Lyra constellations, NASA said Thursday.

This nearly triples the number of verified multiple-planet stars that the Kepler mission has discovered, now standing at 17. And it nearly doubles the number of verified planets it has discovered, which now is 61.

Before the Kepler satellite was launched in 2009, scientists knew about perhaps 500 planets outside our solar system "across the whole sky," said Doug Hudgins, Kepler program scientist at NASA.

"Now, in just two years staring at a patch of sky not much bigger than your fist, Kepler has discovered more than 60 planets and more than 2,300 planet candidates," Hudgins said in a news release. "This tells us that our galaxy is positively loaded with planets of all sizes and orbits."

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Filed under: Space
Overheard on Sometimes you buy a vowel, sometimes you buy a drink
Vanna White and Pat Sajak are icons from the TV game show "Wheel of Fortune."
January 26th, 2012
05:58 PM ET

Overheard on Sometimes you buy a vowel, sometimes you buy a drink

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

[F]  _   _   _   _  [D]  _         [D]  _  _  [T]         _   _   [T]
[F]  _   _   _   _  [D]  _         [G]  _  [T]         _   _   [H]   _   _   [D]
[T]   [H]   _           [W] [H]   _   _   _         [D]   _   _   _   [K]
(This puzzle is based on a comment from Joe. Any guesses? Want to buy a vowel? Solution at the bottom of this post.) 

"Wheel of Fortune" host Pat Sajak gave a recent interview on  "Dan Le Batard is Highly Questionable" in which he said he and Vanna White sometimes went across the street to grab margaritas. Sajak has in fact admitted to being, in the joking words of reader Crys, "drunk behind the Wheel" on occasion. This is definitely on the lighter side of today's news, but the comments were great.

Pat Sajak's hosted 'Wheel of Fortune' drunk

This comment sums up the main points many users expressed.

1. Anyone who has seen 'Wheel of Fortune' already knew this.
2. If I had to host that show, I'd be drunk too.
3. Who cares? It's not like he was flying a plane or operating heavy machinery.

A couple of readers speculated about White's on-the-job performance. FULL POST

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Filed under: Celebrity • Overheard on • Showbiz • TV
January 26th, 2012
03:01 PM ET

Suspect in priest's death found dead in jail

A man accused of killing a Louisiana priest in Mississippi was found dead in his jail cell Thursday morning, a Mississippi Department of Corrections spokeswoman said.

Jeremy Manieri, 33, was being held in a jail in Pearl, Mississippi. An investigation into Manieri's death has begun, corrections spokeswoman Tara Booth said.

Manieri was charged with shooting the Rev. Ed Everitt, 70, in July 2011 at a beach house in Waveland, Mississippi.

Everitt, who presided over the Holy Ghost Catholic Church in Hammond, Louisiana, had been vacationing in Waveland when he was killed, the Southern Dominican Province order of friars has said.


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Filed under: Crime • Louisiana • Mississippi
Overheard on Pointing fingers getting out of hand?
President Obama had an intense encounter with Gov. Jan Brewer before joining his motorcade Wednesday in Arizona.
January 26th, 2012
01:46 PM ET

Overheard on Pointing fingers getting out of hand?

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

The president is not well-liked in sections of Arizona. But when two politicians can't put aside a petty disagreement and get along socially ... it's sad.
–Portland tony

Lots of people are talking about an intense exchange between President Barack Obama and Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer on the tarmac in Arizona on Wednesday. A photo shows Brewer pointing her finger at Obama. The governor said the president brought up an unflattering description of him in her book, "Scorpions for Breakfast." Our readers (some claiming to be Arizonans) debated what went wrong in this exchange and advocated political civility.

Obama shares intense encounter with Arizona governor

"2012 is going to be a nasty year in politics," predicted commenter Monroe.

We saw some posts from people who were outraged by Brewer's actions.

Jon V: "Jan Brewer is a sad representation of Arizona. I am extremely disappointed she is our governor. What an embarrassment to have the governor of your state appearing to scold the president of the United States like he is one of her children. You can have disagreements with someone without ambushing him at the airport for a photo aimed at firing up her extreme Tea Party base. Pathetic."

But others said the finger-pointing scene is being misinterpreted and Obama should not have confronted Brewer about her book.

Dave: "It is a snapshot of a woman who talks with her hands. Besides, (Obama) was the one out of line. It was the wrong place and wrong time to bring it up. What he needed to be doing was taking notes on how to fix an economy because Arizona is on the upswing at a much greater pace than the U.S., like most states being run by fiscal conservatives."

Some had little sympathy for Brewer. FULL POST

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Filed under: Arizona • Barack Obama • Overheard on • Politics • U.S.
January 26th, 2012
12:12 PM ET

Reservist accused of shooting at Pentagon pleads guilty

A 23-year-old former Marine Corps reservist accused of shooting at the Pentagon and other military-related buildings in late 2010 has pleaded guilty to three counts on Thursday.

Yonathan Melaku agreed to a 25-year prison sentence. If Melaku had been convicted on all the federal charges, he could have faced a maximum life sentence.

The U.S. government accused Melaku of shooting at the Pentagon, the National Museum of the Marine Corps and a Coast Guard recruiting center in northern Virginia. Melaku pleaded guilty to injury to property of the United States by shooting with a firearm, using carrying and discharging a firearm during a crime of violence and attempted injury to veterans' memorials.

Melaku attempted to flee law enforcement back in June 2011 when they found him trespassing in Arlington National Cemetery, but he was apprehended. He discarded a backpack in which police found 9mm casings, numerous Arabic statements referencing al Qaeda, along with Ziplock bags containing ammonium nitrate, according to a police affidavit.

It was disclosed Thursday that Melaku's intention was to spray-paint grave markers with Arabic statements.

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Filed under: Courts • Crime • Justice
Judge: Candidate's grasp of English is too poor for her to run for office
Alejandrina Cabrera answers questions about her ability to speak English in Yuma County Court.
January 26th, 2012
12:05 PM ET

Judge: Candidate's grasp of English is too poor for her to run for office

When Alejandrina Cabrera speaks English, it doesn't quite roll off of her tongue the way it does when she speaks in her native Spanish.

Instead of the confident, strong way she speaks in Spanish to the residents of San Luis, Arizona, she speaks a bit more slowly, and perhaps with a bit less conviction, when she switches to English. That's something she admits, but she says that she can communicate at the level she needs to in English, given where she lives.

In San Luis, 87% of residents speak a language other than English in their home and 98.7% are of Hispanic origin, according to 2010 U.S. Census data. After all, most of the people there, by all accounts, will speak in English and in Spanish. In the comfort of communal settings, they'll speak the way they're most comfortable.

“You go to a market, it’s Spanish,” Cabrera told The New York Times. “You go to a doctor, it’s Spanish. When you pay the bills for the lights or water, it’s Spanish.”

So why the focus on Cabrera and her language skills? Because when it comes to politics, it's a whole separate ballgame.

And that's why a major debate about English proficiency has taken the town by storm.

That's because when Cabrera threw her name in the hat to run for city council, Juan Carlos Escamilla, the mayor of San Luis, said he was concerned that she might not have the proper grasp of the language for the job. Escamilla filed a lawsuit in December that asked a court to determine if Cabrera's skills qualified her under state law to run for the council seat.

The fight began as a purely political one, with opponents seeking to block her from running for office after she tried to recall Escamilla from office twice, according to The New York Times. But it has turned into a firestorm in a town where many constituents have the same grasp of English as Cabrera.

The issues at the center of this debate: Just how much English must you understand to run for a political office? And what does it mean to be proficient?


Gotta Watch: Living without limits
Kyle Maynard trains to hike Mt. Kilimanjaro.
January 26th, 2012
11:23 AM ET

Gotta Watch: Living without limits

Today’s video of an armless Colombian man who repairs electronics inspired us. He says that he doesn’t want people to feel sorry for him. He’s in good company in these people who are doing great things despite their disabilities. Watch their stirring stories.

Climbing mountains – Kyle Maynard was born without arms or legs, but he hasn’t let that stop him from going for his dreams. CNN followed him as he trained to hike Mt. Kilimanjaro in Tanzania. Maynard reached the summit on January 15th, according to his website.


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Filed under: Gotta Watch • Health • Hikers
January 26th, 2012
08:55 AM ET

Ray LaHood's son barred from leaving Egypt, U.S. officials say

Sam LaHood, a senior representative of the U.S. International Republican Institute and the son of U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood, has been prevented from leaving Egypt, State Department officials said Thursday.

LaHood, who directs the International Republican Institute's office in Egypt, went to the Cairo airport on Saturday to fly somewhere "in the region," said an institute official with knowledge of the matter who asked not to be named because of the sensitivity of the matter.

An airport official told him he was banned from traveling outside Egypt, the official said, though LaHood was not told why.

The incident comes amid heightened tensions between Egyptian authorities and several international non-governmental organizations that work in Egypt.

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Filed under: Arab Spring • Egypt • State Department • World
January 26th, 2012
08:45 AM ET

3 dead, 19 missing in Rio building collapse

Brazilian rescue workers dug through rubble in search of survivors Thursday morning, hours after three buildings collapsed in the historic center of Rio de Janeiro, Mayor Eduardo Paes told reporters.

Nineteen people were still missing, Paes said, and five people had been rescued with injuries.

Three bodies were found Thursday morning, CNN affiliate Band TV reported, but it was not known if they were among those reported missing.

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Filed under: Brazil
January 26th, 2012
08:41 AM ET

Australian PM escorted out of building amid protest

Security officers escorted Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard out of a Canberra restaurant Thursday after an angry mob of protesters surrounded the building during a luncheon ceremony, police said.

Gillard and federal opposition leader Tony Abbott were taken out of the building after a group of between 50 and 100 protesters from a nearby ceremony gathered around the building, bashing windows and brandishing sticks and rocks, according to federal police.

The prime minister was presenting medals to emergency service workers during an Australia Day celebration. In a nearby venue, a spontaneous protest erupted with an Aboriginal rights group. The group was commemorating the 40th anniversary of an Aboriginal "tent embassy."

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Filed under: Australia
January 26th, 2012
07:43 AM ET

Thursday's live events

The four major GOP presidential candidates gather in Jacksonville, Florida, tonight for a debate. Live will air the debate at 8pm ET.

Today's programming highlights...

8:30 am ET - Gingrich rally - GOP candidate Newt Gingrich participates in a tea party rally in Mount Dora, Florida.


Filed under: Elections • Politics • Republican Party
January 26th, 2012
04:10 AM ET

Washington is America's most literate city, again

Say what you want about the nation's capital, but the folks in Washington can read.

For the second year in a row, Washington tops an annual list of American's most literate cities. The four highest ranked cities, including Seattle, Minneapolis and Atlanta, are the same as in 2010.

The Central Connecticut State University study ranks the nation's largest communities based on six indicators of literacy: newspaper circulation, number of bookstores, library resources, periodical publishing resources, educational attainment, and Internet resources.


Filed under: U.S. • Uncategorized
January 26th, 2012
04:07 AM ET

Breast implant maker's founder arrested, police say

The founder of a French company that makes breast implants linked to a health scare was arrested Thursday, the French national police said.

Poly Implant Prostheses (PIP) founder Jean-Claude Mas was detained in Six-Fours-les-Plages, near Toulon in southern France, police said.

PIP director Claude Couty was arrested around the same time nearby in La Seyne-sur-Mer and investigators searched his home, according to CNN affiliate France 2.

PIP implants have sparked health scares in the United States, Europe and South America.

French authorities announced last month that the government would pay for the removal of the bankrupt company's implants, which a British medical group says were made from "non-medical grade silicone believed by the manufacturers to be made for mattresses."


Filed under: World
January 26th, 2012
03:01 AM ET

3 killed in attack in Afghanistan

Three people were killed and at least 30 injured after an explosion near the compound of a governor in the city of Lashkar Gah in Afghanistan Thursday, authorities said.

The area was being protected by British soldiers and three of those soldiers were wounded in that attack, a spokeswoman with the British military said.

A car bomb caused the blast and the target appeared to be an armored vehicle driven by foreigners, said Daoud Ahmadi, a spokesman for the governor.

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Filed under: World
January 26th, 2012
01:22 AM ET

Glen Campbell's 'Goodbye' takes detour to Grammys

Music star Glen Campbell, who launched his "Goodbye Tour" last year, will be honored with a special tribute at the Grammy Awards next month, a source involved in the show said.

Campbell, 75, revealed in June that he had been diagnosed with Alzheimer's disease, but he has continued to tour with several of his children backing him up.

"I am flattered, I really am," Campbell told CNN in a recent interview concerning the Lifetime Achievement Award with which he'll be presented by the Recording Academy during the Grammy telecast next month.

Campbell, who won five Grammys during his recording career, will be joined by current Grammy nominees Blake Shelton and The Band Perry for a live performance, the source said.


Filed under: U.S.
January 26th, 2012
01:18 AM ET

GOP hopefuls to battle at last debate before Florida primary

Republican presidential hopefuls will get a chance for some last jabs at each other before the pivotal Florida primary at Thursday night's debate at the University of North Florida in Jacksonville.

The function, which is hosted by CNN, the Republican Party of Florida and the Hispanic Leadership Network, comes just days before the January 31 presidential primary in Florida.

CNN anchor Wolf Blitzer will moderate the debate and the remaining four candidates - Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, former Sen. Rick Santorum of Pennsylvania and Rep. Ron Paul of Texas - have all accepted invitations to attend.

The debate comes as new poll shows frontrunners Gingrich and Romney in a virtual tie.


Filed under: Politics • U.S.