June 13th, 2011
09:08 PM ET

ACLU: FBI guideline proposals open door 'to all kinds of abuses'

The FBI says it is merely "fine-tuning" some of its rules on conducting investigations, but the ACLU claims the changes amount to granting agents "broad new powers" to snoop.

The latest chapter in the ongoing struggle between national security and individual privacy rights is prompted by revisions to the FBI's "Domestic Investigations and Operations Guide."

The proposed internal changes grant the Bureau's 14,000 agents the latitude to search existing government and commercial databases without first opening an investigation or assessment. Another change would relax restrictions on when agents may search people's trash. Yet another change would remove a limit on the repeated use of surveillance squads to watch someone.

On the Radar: Miracle plane to Charlotte, salt-seeking satellite, Arab-American meet
The plane's wings and tail were removed for the trip to North Carolina.
June 10th, 2011
06:46 AM ET

On the Radar: Miracle plane to Charlotte, salt-seeking satellite, Arab-American meet

Three things you need to know today.

"Miracle on the Hudson" plane: The US Airways Airbus 320 that Capt. Chesley Sullenberger safely put down in the Hudson River in January 2009 arrives at its new home in Charlotte, North Carolina, on Friday.

The jetliner, minus its wings and tail section, was at a weigh station in Surry County, North Carolina, overnight before beginning the final leg of its journey from a warehouse in Harrison, New Jersey. It is expected to reach its new home at the Carolinas Aviation Museum in Charlotte between 11 a.m. and noon Friday, according to a museum Twitter posting.

Among those who got a chance to see the aircraft Thursday were two of the 155 passengers and crew aboard when Sullenberger set the Airbus down in the Hudson after its struck birds and lost power upon departing LaGuardia Airport on January 15, 2009, on a flight to Charlotte.

"Seeing the plane, I think it's overwhelming. Full circle. You think about all the emotions. You think about how fortunate you are," survivor Denise Lockie told CNN affiliate WFMY.

"This airplane crashing in the river and staying afloat for 23 or 24 minutes, long enough for us all to get off, is an amazing miracle." survivor Beth McHugh told the Greensboro TV station.

Sea salt satellite: NASA is set to launch a satellite Friday, starting a three-year mission to help better understand climate change.

NASA says it will launch the Aquarius/SAC-D Sea Surface Salinity satellite from Vandenberg Air Force Base in California.

For the next three years, the Aquarius satellite will look back at Earth and generate monthly maps of sea salt movement, data that are crucial to the understanding of global climate change and ocean currents.

The project will give scientists the information they need to better predict El Nino and La Nina tropical climate patterns in the Pacific. Until now, such research has been limited to ship and buoy instrumentation.

Arab-American conference: The Arab-American Anti-Discrimination Committee, which bills itself as the largest Arab-American grassroots organization in the U.S., begins at three-day conference in Washington on Friday.

The conference, with the theme “Defining Our Role in a Changing World,” features speakers including consumer advocate Ralph Nader, comedians Dean Obeidallah and Ahmed Ahmed, political and academic figures and a performance by the New York Arab Orchestra.

Topics up for discussion include the current "Arab Spring" uprisings in the Middle East and North Africa, U.S. foreign policy and Arab-American identity.

The organization says the conference is the country's largest gathering of Arab-Americans.

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Filed under: Air travel • Aviation • Civil Rights • Earth • New York • North Carolina • Space • World
Monday's intriguing people
Albertina Sisulu and husband, Walter Sisulu, smile for the camera after Walter's 1989 release from prison.
June 6th, 2011
11:11 AM ET

Monday's intriguing people

Albertina Sisulu

The mother of South Africa’s anti-apartheid movement has died. “Ma Sisulu,” as she was known throughout the movement, was 92 years old. As the wife of Walter Sisulu, an anti-apartheid activist and mentor to Nelson Mandela, she supported him during 26 years of imprisonment on Robben Island, often being imprisoned and harassed herself, The New York Times reported. In 1956, she organized the historic protest by 20,000 women that is now marked each August 9 as a national holiday called Women’s Day, The Times said. In 1994, she was elected to South Africa’s parliament, where her son, Max, is now speaker of the National Assembly. Daughter Lindiwe Sisulu serves as the nation’s defense minister, and another daughter, Beryl, is the country’s ambassador to Norway. Walter Sisulu died in 2003.


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Filed under: Civil Rights • Human rights • Protest • Race • South Africa • World
June 2nd, 2011
06:03 AM ET

On the Radar: Dietary symbol, Garrido sentencing, civil unions

Three things you need to know today.

The food pyramid will be replaced

Dietary guidelines: First lady Michelle Obama and several other officials will unveil a new food icon Thursday to replace the food pyramid, the symbol that showed us what a healthy diet looks like.

The new symbol "will serve as a reminder to help consumers make healthier food  choices," the White House said.

Obama will be joined by Agriculture  Secretary Tom Vilsack and Surgeon General Regina Benjamin during the event at the auditorium in the Department of Agriculture.

A statement released by the Department of Agriculture said the new icon will be "an easy-to-understand  visual cue to help consumers adopt healthy eating habits." An individual familiar with the new guidelines told CNN last week the new icon will be a plate.

The move is part of Obama's push to fight childhood obesity.

Garrido sentencing: Two decades after kidnapping Jaycee Dugard in front of her California home, Phillip and Nancy Garrido will be sentenced to life in prison Thursday.

The married couple pleaded guilty in late April in El Dorado Superior Court to the kidnapping and sexual assault of Dugard, whom they held captive from age 11 through age 29.

They abducted Dugard when she was 11, and held her in a hidden compound on their home's grounds in Antioch, California.

Dugard was snatched from the street in front of her home in South Lake Tahoe, California, in 1991. Authorities found her in 2009.

Phillip Garrido, a registered sex offender on parole at the time of his arrest, is accused of fathering two daughters with Dugard during her captivity.

Illinois civil unions: Thirty couples will participate in civil union ceremonies Thursday in Chicago's Wrigley Square at Millennium Park as the city celebrates the first day such unions are allowed in Illinois.

The Illinois Religious Freedom Protection and Civil Unions Act, allowing same-sex unions in the state, became law on Wednesday, allowing couples to obtain their licenses from a county clerk's office. Under Illinois law, couples must wait a day after obtaining their civil union licenses before the ceremonies may be performed.

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Filed under: Civil Rights • Courts • Food • Illinois • Jaycee Dugard • Justice
High court upholds outspoken church's right to protest
Shirley Phelps-Roper, right, and her daughter Megan of Westboro Baptist Church protest Tuesday in Hyattsville, Maryland.
March 2nd, 2011
10:29 AM ET

High court upholds outspoken church's right to protest

A Kansas church that attracted nationwide attention for its angry, anti-gay protests at the funerals of U.S. military members has won its appeal at the Supreme Court, an issue testing the competing constitutional limits of free speech and privacy.

The justices by a 8-1 vote on Wednesday said members of the Westboro Baptist Church had a right to promote what they call a broad-based message on public matters such as wars.

The father of a fallen Marine had sued the small church, saying those protests amounted to targeted harassment and an intentional infliction of emotional distress.

"Speech is powerful. It can stir people to action, move them to tears of both joy and sorrow, and– as it did here– inflict great pain," Chief Justice John Roberts wrote. "On the facts before us, we cannot react to that pain by punishing the speaker."

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Filed under: Civil Rights • Courts • Gay and lesbian • Justice • Military • Protest • Religion • Supreme Court
Schools' plans for MLK holiday prompt objections
Kids got to play in the snow this week in Charlotte, North Carolina, but it's back to school on Monday, holiday or no holiday.
January 14th, 2011
04:58 PM ET

Schools' plans for MLK holiday prompt objections

Some school districts in the South are making up for  days missed because of this week's snow and ice by requiring students to attend class on Monday's Martin Luther King Jr. holiday, a decision that does not sit well with some parents and community leaders.

The issue is especially sensitive in King's home state of Georgia, where administrators in two rural districts  - Fannin and Gilmer counties - have canceled the school holiday.

"We have eight days that we've missed, and we're just in the 14th day of January," Fannin Superintendent Mark Henson said. "Here in the North Georgia mountains, history proves we have a lot of snow in January and February and sometimes into early March."

Both districts are considering canceling Presidents Day (February 21) and part or all of spring break as well, the administrators said.


Tuesday's intriguing people
Romeo Beckham, 8, is Britain's 26th-most-stylish "man," behind his father, who’s at No. 16, according to GQ magazine.
January 4th, 2011
11:35 AM ET

Tuesday's intriguing people

Romeo Beckham

The 8-year-old son of soccer superstar David Beckham and former Spice Girl (Posh) Victoria Beckham is one of Britain’s most stylish men, according GQ magazine in the UK.

The youngster came in No. 26 in GQ’s annual ranking of Britain’s 50 most stylish men. That puts Romeo one spot in front of the recently engaged Prince William but 10 spots behind his L.A. Galaxy midfielder father.

GQ calls the Beckhams' middle child “a frighteningly tuned-in (and well-connected) eight-year-old.” Not shocking for a boy who last year signed a deal to design his own line of sunglasses.

Top on the list is “Kick-Ass” and “Nowhere Boy” actor Aaron Johnson.

Other notables include Prince Harry at No. 5, British Prime Minister David Cameron at No. 20, singer Elton John at No. 21 and actor Daniel Day-Lewis at No. 50.


November 8th, 2010
12:32 PM ET

Monday's intriguing people

Alex Trebek

Clue: The 70-year-old Ontario native who has hosted “Jeopardy” for more than a quarter-century and who may set his sights on the Canadian governor-general’s office when his career in showbiz is over.

Answer: Who is Trebek?

More people are familiar with his career as clue handler on the long-running trivia game show than they are with his political ambitions, but that could change in coming years.

During an interview with The Globe and Mail in Toronto – in which he surprised the reporter with his knowledge of Canadian politicians - the once-mustachioed Trebek said he might seek political office five years from now.

“In five years, I will be ready to retire from showbiz,” Trebek told the paper. “And would I consider returning to Ottawa and being governor-general? Absolutely.”

Trebek was in Ottawa last week to receive a gold medal award from the Royal Canadian Geographical Society for his achievements in geography.

The society says that in addition to a busy television career, Trebek has hosted several student geography competitions, including the National Geographic Bee and the Geography Challenge.

Trebek’s familiarity with geography was doubtless augmented by his time as “Jeopardy” host and also by his philanthropic endeavors.

According to the game show, he has worked with World Vision to bring attention to the plights of children in impoverished countries, he adopted a village and helped build a school in Zambia, he traveled to Haiti to assist in relief efforts after the January earthquake and he supports The Smile Train, which provides cleft-palate surgery for poor children across the world. He also has done 12 USO tours since 1987.

“There are so many people who struggle on a daily basis just to get by. I feel extremely fortunate and have made it a priority in my life to help others who are in need,” Trebek has said.


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Filed under: Australia • Canada • Celebrity • Civil Rights • Courts • Gay and lesbian • Missouri • Most Intriguing People • Politics • Religion • Showbiz
October 21st, 2010
01:50 PM ET

NPR cans Juan Williams, stirs up blogosphere, Twitterati

Many have run to analyst Juan Williams' defense, but some feel NPR was right to can him.

NPR has fired Juan Williams over remarks he made on "The O'Reilly Factor" this week, and there is no shortage of opinions on the analyst's ouster.

Many have jumped to his defense and others have applauded NPR's stand, while a few have expressed concern about the recent firings of journalists who made remarks deemed insensitive or inappropriate. One observer compares the editing of the Williams clip to the video of Shirley Sherrod, which saw the U.S. Department of Agriculture employee fired before her remarks were put into context.

NPR CEO Vivian Schiller said his remarks were inconsistent with NPR's editorial standards and practices and undermined his credibility as a news analyst with NPR.

NPR's ethics code provides some insight into the firing: "In appearing on TV or other media including electronic Web-based forums, NPR journalists should not express views they would not air in their role as an NPR journalist. They should not participate in shows electronic forums, or blogs that encourage punditry and speculation rather than fact-based analysis."

To recap, Fox News Channel's Bill O'Reilly faced heat last week after remarks he made about Muslims on "The View." He was discussing those comments with Williams on "The O'Reilly Factor" when Williams made the remarks NPR found objectionable.

"I mean, look, Bill, I'm not a bigot. You know the kind of books I've written about the civil rights movement in this country," Williams said. "But when I get on a plane, I got to tell you, if I see people who are in Muslim garb and I think, you know, they're identifying themselves first and foremost as Muslims, I get worried. I get nervous."

Here is a roundup of reactions from blogs, columns and tweets around the nation:

Sarah Palin: "NPR defends 1st Amendment Right, but will fire u if u exercise it. Juan Williams: u got taste of Left's hypocrisy, they screwed up firing you"


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Filed under: Civil Rights • Islam • Sarah Palin • Twitter
September 24th, 2010
01:57 PM ET

Friday's Most Intriguing People

Hossein Derakhshan

The Iranian blogger accused of working with "hostile" governments, propaganda against the Islamic establishment, propaganda in favor of anti-revolutionary groups, and insulting religious sanctities says he has been convicted, his mother says in London's newspaper the Daily Telegraph.

The prosecutor in Iran is seeking the death penalty.

Derakhshan, known as the "blogfather," is credited with creating a blog platform for Persian characters. While living in Canada and Britain, he became known as a defender of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. He also has traveled to Israel on a one-man peace mission.

The Telegraph reported that he was arrested within weeks of his voluntary return to Iran in 2008.

Telegraph: Prosecutors seek death penalty for 'blogfather'

Reporters Without Borders: Two bloggers held by Revolutionary Guard


August 28th, 2010
02:06 PM ET

Sharpton-led rally recalls King's "Dream" speech

The Rev. Al Sharpton indicated at a Washington rally Saturday that conservative forces will face a fight in the upcoming elections.

"We're coming out to fight and we're not going to let you turn back the clock," he said.

Sharpton was the organizer of a rally to commemorate the 47th anniversary of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.'s "I Have a Dream" speech.

Across town at the Lincoln Memorial, where King delivered that seminal address, conservative talk show host Glenn Beck was hosting a rally called "Restoring Honor."


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Filed under: Civil Rights • Politics • U.S.
August 19th, 2010
12:11 PM ET

Caller confused, hurt by Dr. Laura's words

Nita Hanson told CNN she called Dr. Laura Schlessinger for help and never expected to hear the N-word uttered 11 times.

Schlessinger said earlier this week she would not continue her radio show after her contract runs out this year because she wants her First Amendment rights back. But Hanson, whose five-minute phone call about her white husband's friends and relatives making racist remarks led to the comments, said Schlessinger, 63, is old enough to know better.

Schlessinger has apologized and attempted to justify her comments by saying the word is commonly used on HBO and by black comedians.

"I think she apologized because she got caught," Hanson told CNN. "At this point, there's nothing she can do for me."


August 4th, 2010
09:58 PM ET

Judge overturns California's ban on same-sex marriage

A federal judge in California on Wednesday struck down the state's ban on same-sex marriage, ruling that voter-approved Proposition 8 violates the U.S. Constitution - handing supporters of gay rights a major victory in a case that both sides say is sure to wind up before the U.S. Supreme Court.

The 136-page opinion, issued by Chief U.S. District Judge Vaughn Walker in San Francisco, is an initial step in what will likely be a lengthy fight over California's Proposition 8, which defines marriage as a union between a man and a woman.

At stake in the trial was whether California's ban on same-sex marriage violates gay couples' rights to equal protection and due process, as protected by the U.S. Constitution.

The high-profile case is being watched closely by both supporters and opponents of same-sex marriage, as many say it is destined to make its way to the U.S. Supreme Court. If it does, the case could result in a landmark decision on whether people in the United States are allowed to marry people of the same sex.


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Filed under: Civil Rights • Gay and lesbian • Proposition 8
July 29th, 2010
11:53 AM ET

Sherrod to sue blogger who released video clip

Former Agriculture Department employee Shirley Sherrod said Thursday she will pursue a lawsuit against conservative blogger Andrew Breitbart - the man responsible for posting an edited video clip of Sherrod appearing to say she discriminated against a white farmer looking for assistance.

"I will definitely do it," she said when asked whether she was considering legal action. Sherrod made her remarks during an appearance at the National Association of Black Journalists convention in San Diego.

Breitbart "had to know that he was targeting me," Sherrod said. "At this point, he hasn't apologized. I don't want it at this point, and he'll definitely hear from me."


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Filed under: Civil Rights
July 29th, 2010
10:32 AM ET

Obama: Sherrod deserved better

President Barack Obama said Thursday that Shirley Sherrod "deserves better than what happens last week when a bogus controversy ... led to her forced resignation."

"Many are to blame" for the reaction that followed, he said, "including my own administration."

Her whole story, Obama said he told Sherrod, "is exactly the kind of story we need to hear in America (because) we all have our biases."

The president made his remarks during an appearance at the National Urban League's 100th Anniversary Convention in Washington.

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Filed under: Barack Obama • Civil Rights
July 23rd, 2010
07:26 PM ET

Hugs and joy as Sherrod, farming family reunite

Redeemed former Agriculture Department employee Shirley Sherrod reunited Friday with the Georgia couple whose story  - albeit heavily edited to the point of slant - sparked a national firestorm on racial politics.

Roger and Eloise Spooner waited patiently as Sherrod approached them, arms outstretched. "I want the first hug," Roger playfully said as they embraced.


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Filed under: Civil Rights • On CNN.com today • Race
July 23rd, 2010
01:40 PM ET

iReporters back off initial criticism of Shirley Sherrod

Sometimes it doesn't pay to be quick on the draw.

Animator Carter MacDowell, an iReporter from North Carolina, said President Obama wouldn't have had to pull his "apology gun" if the administration had gotten the whole story before firing USDA employee Shirley Sherrod. Watch MacDowell's iReport

Sherrod has been at the center of a fierce political debate since she was accused of being a racist after an edited video of a speech was posted on the internet.

Frequent iReporter Egberto Willies, an Obama supporter from Houston, Texas, initially said that Sherrod's comments were racist and that she had to be fired. He apologized later that day after he watched the entire speech.


July 23rd, 2010
10:13 AM ET

On the Radar: Bonnie, USDA, Comic-Con, royal jewels

Bonnie - Tropical Storm Bonnie is dumping heavy rain on South Florida, but the greater concern is how it might affect efforts to clean up the Gulf Coast oil slick. Thad Allen says it could interrupt work on relief wells and cleanup for as long as two weeks; he'll give a live update at 10:30 a.m. ET. CNN's Josh Rubin takes a poignant look at the treasures that Gulf Coast residents have had to sacrifice to stay afloat through the drawn-out crisis.

USDA - Shirley Sherrod got her conversation with President Obama, but Cheryl Cook, the Agriculture Department official who repeatedly called Sherrod to press her to resign, is maintaining a low profile. The dust-up over the Sherrod affair has frustrated White House hopes to highlight recent successes.

Ford - Things are looking up at Ford Motor Co., which reported its best quarterly results in six years, a $2.7 billion profit. In the same period a year earlier, it suffered a $638 million loss.

Comic-Con - Fantasy fanatics are swarming San Diego, California, and CNN is right there with them. Embedded iReporters are delivering the inside dope from every corner of the convention, while genre superstars J.J. Abrams and Joss Whedon give insights on imagining parallel universes. Meanwhile, fans debate what belongs in the Comic-Con club and what doesn't.

Bling - An epic love story continues its 70-year run as Sotheby's announces it will auction several pieces of extremely valuable jewelry once owned by England's Duke and Duchess of Windso, the former King Edward VIII and Wallis Simpson. (In case you don't remember, Edward abdicated the British throne in 1936 to marry the American divorcee.)

Filed under: Business • Civil Rights • Gulf Coast Oil Spill • On the Radar
July 21st, 2010
05:07 PM ET

Vilsack apologizes to Sherrod, offers new job

Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack says he has apologized to Shirley Sherrod, who resigned from her Agriculture Department position under pressure this week over a video showing her making comments about a white farmer.

"I started off by extending to her my personal and profound apologies for the pain and discomfort that has been caused to her and to her family over the course of the last several days," Vilsack told reporters late Wednesday afternoon in Washington, D.C.

"She was extraordinarily gracious," Vilsack added. "I wanted to make sure that she understood that I regretted the circumstances, and that I accepted full responsibility for that."

Vilsack said he told Sherrod by phone that the USDA would have another position for her should she want it. Sherrod answered that she needed some time to think about it, Vilsack said.


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Filed under: Civil Rights • Race • U.S.
July 21st, 2010
12:05 PM ET

Race and resignation, 24 hours of Shirley Sherrod

Tuesday was all about ex-USDA official Shirley Sherrod, who said she was pressured to quit her job after she was accused of making racist comments. Those remarks were part of a video clip that was posted over the weekend on a conservative blogger’s website and subsequently aired on Fox.

CNN picked up the story Tuesday morning, telling Sherrod’s side of the story, and by Tuesday night there had been a complete 180 in the matter. Those who initially criticized her, including the NAACP, have now said they were duped by the clip. U.S. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack said Wednesday that he’s reviewing Sherrod’s case.

- Last week, the NAACP accused the Tea Party of protecting racist elements in its movement.

- Over the weekend, conservative blogger Andrew Breitbart published part of a video of Sherrod giving a speech at a March 27, 2010, NAACP dinner. In the 2 1/2-minute video, she appears to be talking about how she treated a white farmer in a 1986 case. At the time, she was not employed by the USDA. Her remarks seem racist.

- Fox News picks up the video, airs it and writes about it on its site.

- Monday, Sherrod resigns. She says she was pressured by at least four phone calls from her superiors telling her the "White House" wants her to leave her job as the head of the Department of Agriculture's rural development office in Georgia.

- Tuesday morning, CNN breaks the story about Sherrod's resignation.

- Sherrod defends herself on CNN, saying her comments have been taken out of context. She urges everyone to watch the full video of her speech in which she goes on to tell the audience that she learned from working with the farmer that all people must overcome their prejudices.


Filed under: Civil Rights • Race • U.S.
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