February 17th, 2012
06:56 PM ET

Overheard on CNN.com: Readers weigh in on Shadid's career, Syria, dangers of asthma

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.

Anthony Shadid's death inspired much conversation from our readers. Shadid, 43, died Thursday of an apparent asthma attack while reporting in eastern Syria, according to The New York Times.

New York Times reporter dies in Syria

One reader wrote in to share their admiration of Shadid's work.

shakti1111: "The world has lost a very talented and extremely dedicated reporter. My condolences go out to Anthony's wife, children, family and friends. As someone who worked side-by-side with Anthony on the editorial staff of our college newspaper in Madison, Wisconsin, it was clear from his very first news reporting that Anthony was destined for bigger issues than the city council. That he chose to commit himself to bringing untold stories to light, providing voice for the voiceless, bringing the intricacies of the modern Middle East into focus for the rest of the world, only shows his noble spirit and tremendous character. May he be remembered for his outstanding contributions to journalism and great authenticity as a person."

This reader said they don't want to see outsiders getting too involved in Syria.

Sargemdf: "I'm sorry the man died; but I have to ask why do American reporters always feel that they need to go to the very region where we are hated so much just for a so-called story? We should never again send any American troops into any Arab country. Let them work the situation our among themselves. If we go, we are hated. If we stay out, we are hated. So why waste one American life for those people?"

Several readers referenced the cameraman who carried Shadid's body out of Syria. FULL POST

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Filed under: Overheard on CNN.com • Syria • World
February 17th, 2012
06:22 PM ET

Overheard on CNN.com: Taking another look at nuclear power plant safety

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.

The U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission approved licenses to build two new nuclear reactors Thursday, the first authorized in over 30 years. CNN looked into safety at U.S. plants. There are 23 nuclear reactors in the United States that use the General Electric-designed Mark 1 containment housing, which is similar to the design at Japan's Fukushima Daiichi plant. Readers talked about the safety of U.S. plants.

U.S. nuclear plants similar to Fukushima spark concerns

Some readers thought the concerns were overblown. This was the most-liked comment:

Jack Baker: "We have been using nuclear power for over 50 years, and there have been very few serious incidents, and only a couple of incidents with injuries or radiation release. And considering that the quantity of waste by-product is significantly less than any other type of power generation, including natural gas, how can people be so adamant against nuclear power?"

There were many who responded in turn to Jack Baker's coment.

MK54: "I believe that rendering a portion of the Earth uninhabitable for centuries, maybe more is a tremendous and unacceptable disaster, because of the persistence, even if no person is directly killed. The scale of a disaster is not always just in people killed. Earth is a beautiful and hospitable place, but it is up to us to keep it that way."

pwrphoto: "Many people would say that it's because of ignorance but I think it is mostly due to the subjective nature of how we, humans, perceive risk. Risk has two components: likelihood and impact. Your comment focuses on both risk and likelihood but most people only look at the impact. That is, they don't care if having a nuclear accident is very unlikely. They just care that if there is an accident the consequences are extreme. It is for the same reason that airplane accidents attract more attention than each individual road accident."

PatriotEagle: "Also, unlike Japan we don't get tsunamis. And France is completely energy because they run the whole country on nuclear energy and there's not been one nuclear problem to my knowledge in France."

One reader replied to the "Why?" and wondered why other kinds of energy aren't being explored. FULL POST

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Filed under: Energy • Japan • Nuclear • Overheard on CNN.com • World
February 17th, 2012
03:08 PM ET

Inside Syria: In one Syrian town, cries of defiance

Editor's note: CNN's Ivan Watson is reporting from northern Syria, where he is seeing rural communities opposed to President Bashar al-Assad's regime. Watson is one of a few reporters in Syria, where the government has been placing restrictions on international journalists and refusing many of them entry at all.

Hundreds of men and boys kneeled on the floor of a packed mosque for Friday prayers, but the solemn religious rite quickly turned into a furious rain-soaked rally denouncing Syria's president, Bashar al-Assad.

Before completing their prayers, the congregation murmured words of condolences for a resident of this small opposition-held village, Muhamed Hasmus.

Activists say Hasmus was killed Friday morning by a sniper in the nearby city of Idlib, an account CNN could not independently confirm.

The remembrance of their neighbor caused the faithful to jump to their feet and erupt with the chant "Allahu Akbar," which means God is great.

READ THE FULL STORY from CNN's Ivan Watson and Kareem Khadder

MORE from inside Syria:
Farmers, teachers, carpenters armed with rifles fear massacre

Filed under: CNN Inside Syria • Syria • World
February 17th, 2012
01:57 PM ET

Police: Suicide attack on U.S. Capitol foiled

U.S. Capitol Police and the FBI on Friday arrested a Moroccan man who was planning a suicide attack on the Capitol, police and a federal law-enforcement official said.

The man received what he thought was a vest with explosives, but the materials in the vest had been rendered inoperable by law enforcement, Justice Department spokesman Dean Boyd said.

He was arrested as soon as he accepted the vest from undercover officers, the federal law-enforcement source said.

The man had been closely monitored as part of a lengthy and extensive undercover operation, police said, adding U.S. Capitol Police had been "intimately" involved in the investigation.

The public was never in danger, police said.

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Filed under: Crime • District of Columbia • Terrorism
This Week's Top Videos
February 17th, 2012
01:00 PM ET

This Week's Top Videos

Editor's Note: This post is a recap of the top five videos on CNN.com from the past week. So in case you didn't catch our best videos during the week, here is your chance to see what you missed.

This week was filled with several major events. The untimely death of singer Whitney Houston has undoubtedly been a story that shocked many and continues to develop. Several other videos that captivated the CNN.com audience, too. Check out this week's most popular clips.


The death of Whitney Houston

Police say so far there are no signs of foul play in Houston's death. She was 48.


Adele's controversial Vogue cover photo

Fans comment that Vogue's cover photo of Adele doesn't give a true picture of her size.


Woman dies in waste-filled home

Police in Illinois find a woman dead under a mound of trash at her home. WBBM reports.


Randy Travis's public intoxication arrest

Police have released video of country star Randy Travis being arrested for allegedly being drunk in public.


Who is Whitney Houston's daughter?

A closer look at Bobbi Kristina Brown, the daughter of Whitney Houston and Bobby Brown. CNN's Tom Foreman reports.

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Filed under: Celebrity • Crime • Justice • Most Popular • Music • Obituary • Uncategorized • Whitney Houston
February 17th, 2012
12:19 PM ET

Inside Syria: Supplies, hope run low in bunker where hundreds hide

Editor's note: CNN correspondent Arwa Damon is reporting from Baba Amr, a neighborhood in Homs, Syria, a city that has been a flashpoint in a months-long uprising against President Bashar al-Assad. Government forces have shelled parts of the city - especially Baba Amr, a bastion of anti-government sentiment - for two weeks, damaging houses and other buildings and leaving many dead and wounded.

Damon is one of the few international reporters in Syria, whose government has been placing restrictions on journalists and refusing many of them entry. Below is an edited account of what Damon and her team are seeing and hearing from activists in Homs:

In hard-hit Baba Amr, about 350 people who've fled their homes out of fear or necessity are living in a building that they've made into a makeshift bunker. Conditions are desperate.

Restricted by frequent shelling and gunfire outside, they don't have any medicine, let alone the ability to get to a hospital. Children are getting sick, and one woman recently gave birth there. They have little food - some lentils and rice and a little bread.

They fled here either because their homes were destroyed by shelling, or because the firing was getting too close.

Just about everyone in the bunker says they've either lost a loved one to the violence, or have a loved one who has been detained.


February 17th, 2012
12:01 PM ET

House passes payroll tax cut deal

The House of Representatives passed a bipartisan deal Friday morning extending the payroll tax cut and unemployment benefits while also avoiding a Medicare fee cut for doctors for the rest of the year.

The measure was approved in a 293-132 vote. A majority of both Republicans and Democrats voted in favor of the bill, though 91 Republicans and 41 Democrats voted no.

The Senate is also expected to pass the bill Friday.

President Barack Obama has promised to sign the legislation as soon as it reaches his desk, ending debate on the politically sensitive measures at least for the duration of the election.

The roughly $100 billion payroll tax cut, a key part of Obama's economic recovery plan, has reduced how much 160 million American workers pay into Social Security on their first $110,100 in wages. Instead of paying in 6.2%, they've been paying 4.2% for the past year and two months - a break worth about $83 a month for someone making $50,000 a year.

Without congressional action, all three measures are set to expire at the end of February.

February 17th, 2012
10:59 AM ET

Collision spills oil into Mississippi

A barge collision near New Orleans spilled oil into the Mississippi River Friday prompting authorities to close a five-mile stretch of the waterway.

The St. Charles Parish Department of Waterworks shut down both of its water intakes located in New Sarpy and Luling due to the spill but said the incident did not pose a public threat.

No one has been reported injured. Officials have not yet said how much oil was spilled. Response agencies were on the scene.

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Filed under: Environment • U.S.
February 17th, 2012
10:54 AM ET

Murdoch to launch new Sun on Sunday paper amid crisis

Media magnate Rupert Murdoch told staff at his embattled The Sun newspaper in London Friday that the company will launch a Sunday edition, as he seeks to rein in a crisis over alleged misconduct, News International confirmed.

Murdoch's visit to News Corp.'s London subsidiary, News International, follows the Saturday arrests of five Sun journalists as part of an inquiry into alleged illegal payments to police and officials.

Staff at the paper have reacted angrily to the arrests and internal investigations of their journalistic practices, which they have likened to a witch-hunt.

The launch of a Sun on Sunday newspaper to replace the News of the World, a sister paper to The Sun that was shuttered amid a phone-hacking scandal in the summer, had been widely rumored.

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Filed under: Media • Rupert Murdoch • U.S. • United Kingdom
February 17th, 2012
10:17 AM ET

Syrian protesters hail 'resistance

Thousands of Syrians sloughed off their regime's relentless, bloody crackdown as angry throngs defiantly staged public protests and braved heavy gunfire Friday.

Demonstrators took to the streets of Idlib, Daraa, Homs, Hama and suburban Damascus, chanting for the end of President Bashar al-Assad's regime, and focused their attention on "popular resistance" - the theme of the protests.

Video showed a large crowd of protesters gathered in Daraa Friday under a banner that read: "Shed the blood, cast off the cowards," a reference to the regime.

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Filed under: Syria
February 17th, 2012
07:50 AM ET

Friday's live events

The race to the Republican presidential nomination continues on February 22 with a GOP debate in Phoenix.  CNN.com Live is your home for all the latest news and views from the campaign trail.

Today's programming highlights...

9:00 am ET - House looks at payroll tax cut - House and Senate lawmakers may vote as soon as today on legislation that would extend the payroll tax cut.  The Senate convenes this morning at 10:00 am ET.


Filed under: Elections • Politics • Republican Party
February 17th, 2012
04:36 AM ET

U.N. chief reiterates concerns over Iran's nuclear program

The United Nations on Friday urged Iran to convince the international community that its nuclear ambitions are peaceful after the nation offered to resume talks on the issue.

Iran said it is ready to restart talks on its nuclear program as soon as possible, according to a letter its nuclear negotiator sent to the European Union.

"We voice our readiness for dialogue on a spectrum of various issues, which can provide ground for constructive and forward-looking cooperation," Iranian nuclear negotiator Saeed Jalili wrote in a letter to European Union foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton.

CNN obtained a copy of the translated letter as Iran announced new steps in its nuclear program this week.

United Nations secretary general, Ban Ki-moon, said it is up to Iran to comply with mandates by the world body.

"All these issues should be resolved peacefully .. through dialogue. There is no alternative to a peaceful resolution," Ban said at a news conference Friday.


Filed under: World
Greece: Robbers raid Olympia museum, steal artifacts
February 17th, 2012
03:59 AM ET

Greece: Robbers raid Olympia museum, steal artifacts

Robbers broke into a museum in Olympia, the birthplace of the Olympics, tying and gagging the museum guard and stealing artifacts, police in Greece said Friday.

Police spokesman Athanassios Kokkalakis said two men had struck at the Archaeological Museum of Olympia just after 7:30 a.m. local time (00:30 ET).

The robbers "approached the museum's guard, tied her hands and bound her mouth and then went into the museum, where they took 65 to 68 small clay and brass small statues and a gold ring and put them in a bag and left."

Filed under: Justice • World
February 17th, 2012
03:50 AM ET

Final House, Senate votes are coming on payroll tax deal

A bipartisan agreement to extend the payroll tax cut and unemployment benefits while avoiding a fee cut for Medicare doctors for the rest of the year could come to final House and Senate votes on Friday.

The measure is a top priority for the White House.

President Barack Obama issued a statement Thursday urging Congress to send it to him without delay and has said he will sign it as soon as it reaches his desk.

"I thank the many Americans who lent their voices to this debate in recent months," Obama said in reference to his calls for people to pressure their elected representatives to pass the deal. "You made all the difference."


Filed under: Economy • Politics • U.S.
February 17th, 2012
02:22 AM ET

Shelling continues in Syria, protests planned

Shelling continued non-stop in the besieged city of Homs early Friday, a day after the United Nations General Assembly passed a non-biding resolution condemning the brutal government crackdown in Syria.

The shelling in the flashpoint city of Homs marks the 14th consecutive day of near constant bombardment as Syrian forces targeted stronghold neighborhoods of Bab Amr, Inshaat and Khailidya, according to the London-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, an opposition activist group.

Protests were planned in cities across the war-ravaged nation later Friday.

And as the carnage continued, the international community struggled to find a way to stop it.

On Thursday, the United Nations General Assembly passed by an overwhelming margin a nonbinding resolution endorsing the Arab League plan for the Syrian president to step down. The vote was 137 in favor and 12 against, with 17 abstentions.

It is unclear what, if any, effect the resolution will have on what many world leaders see as a relentless campaign by President Bashar al-Assad's forces to stamp out opposition.


Filed under: World
February 17th, 2012
02:10 AM ET

Thai police to seek arrest of 5th suspect after Bangkok bombings

Thai authorities plan to seek an arrest warrant for a fifth Iranian suspect in connection with a series of bombs that went off in Bangkok this week, a Thai police official said Friday.

A Thai criminal court has issued arrest warrants for four Iranians on charges related to the explosions that took place Tuesday in the capital.

The fifth person the police want a court warrant for is Nikkhahfard Javad, a 52-year-old man who was seen leaving the Bangkok building where the first blast took place, said Police Maj. Gen. Anuchai Lekbumrung.

Thai police have said that the people behind the bombs in Bangkok intended to strike Israeli diplomats. Those comments came amid a heated argument between Israel and Iran over who was to blame.


Filed under: Crime • World
February 17th, 2012
01:19 AM ET

Australian airline runs out of money, stranding thousands

Thousands of travelers have been left in the lurch around the world after the carrier Air Australia went into administration and grounded its fleet Friday.

"It currently appears that there are no funds available to meet operational expenses so flights will be suspended immediately," the company said in joint statement Friday with its newly appointed administrators, KordaMentha.

About 4,000 passengers in total have been left stranded in Hawaii, Thailand, Indonesia and Australia as a result of the suspension, said Michael Smith, a spokesman for KordaMentha.

"It also appears highly unlikely there will be any flights in the short to medium term," the airline's statement said, advising passengers to make alternative arrangements.


Filed under: Economy • World
February 17th, 2012
01:16 AM ET

New York Times reporter dies in Syria

Anthony Shadid, who won two Pulitzer Prizes for his reporting from Iraq, died Thursday while reporting in eastern Syria, apparently of an asthma attack, The New York Times said.

He was 43.

The newspaper said it was not immediately known how or where he died. Tyler Hicks, a Times photographer who was with Shadid, carried his body over the border to Turkey.

Hicks said Shadid, who was carrying medication for his asthma, displayed symptoms Thursday morning, when they joined guides on horseback for the trip out of the country. The animals may have triggered the asthma, Hicks said.

He had suffered an asthma attack the week before, when they entered the country and met with guides on horseback, Hicks told The Times.


Filed under: U.S. • World
February 17th, 2012
01:09 AM ET

Mexico's president to U.S.: 'No more weapons'

Mexico's president called on U.S. officials to stop gun trafficking across the border Thursday, saying the move would be the best thing Americans could do to stop brutal drug violence.

"The criminals have become more and more vicious in their eagerness to spark fear and anxiety in society," President Felipe Calderon said. "One of the main factors that allows criminals to strengthen themselves is the unlimited access to high-powered weapons, which are sold freely, and also indiscriminately, in the United States of America.

Speaking in Ciudad Juarez, the border city across from El Paso, Texas, that has become Mexico's murder capital, Calderon said a dramatic increase in violence in Mexico was directly connected with the 2004 expiration of the U.S. assault weapons ban.


Filed under: World