July 23rd, 2010
08:30 AM ET

Friday's intriguing people

Zack De La Rocha

The ever-outspoken "Rage Against the Machine" lead singer will reunite with the band after a 10-year hiatus to urge other artists to boycott performances in Arizona because of the state's immigration law.

The legislation is scheduled to go into effect July 29 and is being challenged by the Obama administration and the ACLU.

De La Rocha and other stars will perform Friday night at the Palladium in Los Angeles, California, under the banner "The Sound Strike Stop SB1070 Benefit Show." On The Sound Strike website, De La Rocha, who was born in Long Beach, California, said the concert is a necessary protest against a law which encourages racial profiling of the Latino community.

"SB1070 is part of an entire state campaign to criminalize an entire population," De La Rocha said. "I think its intent is to create a state of constant fear, constant intimidation and by using this legal wording of 'reasonable suspicion' [to] clearly open the door for the police and state agencies to go after people because they are Latino."

He added, "We as artists have to intervene."

The Sound Strike website


July 22nd, 2010
08:33 AM ET

Thursday's intriguing people

Ken Hechler

The 95-year-old veteran of West Virginia politics has filed papers to run for the seat once held by Robert Byrd, who passed away last month at the age of 92 and was the oldest member of the Senate at the time of his death.

If elected, Hechler would be 96 if he assumed the Senate seat in 2011. If he served a full term in the Senate, he would become the oldest senator in history. Sen. Strom Thurmond of South Carolina was the oldest person to serve in the Senate. He was 100 at the time of his death in 2003.

A U.S. congressman from 1959 to 1977 and former four-term West Virginia secretary of state, Hechler submitted paperwork Wednesday to enter the special election Senate primary, the secretary of state's office confirmed to CNN. He'll be challenging West Virginia Gov. Joe Manchin, also a Democrat, who announced Tuesday that he's running for Byrd's seat.

According to a biography on his website, Hechler was a special assistant in charge of research for President Truman as well as research director for Adlai Stevenson, the former Illinois governor and Democratic Party nominee for president in 1952 and 1956.

Hechler told the Charleston Daily Mail he doesn't expect to win but throwing his hat in the ring is part of his campaign against mountaintop removal mining. According to the newspaper, Hechler was arrested last summer for obstructing and impeding the flow of traffic outside a Massey Energy prep plant in West Virginia.


July 21st, 2010
08:10 AM ET

Wednesday's intriguing people

Tom Vilsack

The agriculture secretary said early Wednesday that he will review the case of a former Agriculture Department official who resigned after a video clip surfaced of her discussing a white farmer.

Shirley Sherrod - an African-American - resigned this week under pressure after the video clip first appeared on a conservative website and later on Fox News. In the video, she seemed to say she withheld services from a white farmer.

However, Sherrod later said the clip only shows part of her comments and that she tells the story of her experience - from nearly a quarter century ago when she was not a federal employee - to illustrate the importance of moving beyond race.

The video initially brought condemnation from the NAACP, which it later retracted after the context of the clip became clear.

Vilsack said Tuesday that the controversy, regardless of the context of her comments, "compromises the director's ability to do her job." He said, "She's a political appointee, and her job is basically to focus on job growth in Georgia, and I have deep concern about her ability to do her job without her judgments being second-guessed."

Before his appointment by President Obama, Vilsack was governor of Iowa for two terms, the first Democrat elected to that office in more than 30 years.

According to his official biography, Vilsack, a native of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, was born into an orphanage and adopted in 1951. He received a bachelor's degree from Hamilton College in 1972 and earned his law degree from Albany Law School in 1975.


July 20th, 2010
08:31 AM ET

Tuesday's intriguing people

Shirley Sherrod

The African-American employee of the Department of Agriculture resigned Monday after conservative media outlets aired a video of her telling an audience she had not given a white farmer "the full force of what I could do" to help him save the family farm.

Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack said he had accepted the resignation of Sherrod, the department's state director of rural development for Georgia.

"There is zero tolerance for discrimination at USDA, and I strongly condemn any act of discrimination against any person," Vilsack said. "We have been working hard through the past 18 months to reverse the checkered civil rights history at the department and take the issue of fairness and equality very seriously."

Conservative website publisher Andrew Breitbart originally posted the video, which shows Sherrod telling her audience that the farmer she was working with "took a long time ... trying to show me he was superior to me." As a result, she said, she "didn't give him the full force of what I could do. I did enough."

To prove she had done her job, she said, she took him to a white lawyer. "I figured that if I take him to one of them, that his own kind would take care of him," she said.

Sherrod told CNN on Tuesday that her remarks were taken out of context and failed to include the point of her story - that people need to move beyond race.

The incident took place in 1986, before she worked for the USDA, she said. "I was telling the story of how working with him helped me to see the issue is not about race. It's about those who have versus those who do not have."


July 19th, 2010
09:12 AM ET

Monday's intriguing people

Mark Williams

The Tea Party activist says he's done discussing the controversy stirred up by his attack on the NAACP. The National Tea Party Federation, an organization that seeks to represent the Tea Party political movement around the country, has expelled Williams and his Tea Party Express organization because of an inflammatory blog post Williams wrote last week, federation spokesman David Webb said Sunday.

In response, Williams announced in another statement on his blog that "I am refusing all media requests on this" and canceled a scheduled interview on CNN to discuss the controversy Sunday evening, citing a last-minute change in travel plans.

Williams wrote the incendiary blog post that satirized a fictional letter from what he called "Colored People" to President Abraham Lincoln in response to an NAACP resolution that called on Tea Party leaders to crack down on racist elements in the movement.

"Dear Mr. Lincoln," began the letter posted by Williams. "We Coloreds have taken a vote and decided that we don't cotton to that whole emancipation thing. Freedom means having to work for real, think for ourselves, and take consequences along with the rewards. That is just far too much to ask of us Colored People and we demand that it stop!"

Williams, a conservative talk radio host, said the post was intended as satire.

CNN: Tea Party leader says he's done talking about race controversy


July 16th, 2010
10:22 AM ET

Friday's intriguing people

Paul AllenPaul Allen

The Microsoft Corp. co-founder has pledged to give away most of his fortune to charity. "[M]y philanthropic efforts will continue after my lifetime," Allen said in a statement Thursday. "I've planned for many years now that the majority of my estate will be left to philanthropy."

Allen's commitment comes as two of America's richest men, Bill Gates and Warren Buffett, have invited fellow billionaires to give half their wealth to charity. The unusual initiative is being promoted through the website GivingPledge.org and is aimed at members of the Forbes 400, a list of the richest Americans.

Allen has donated more than $1 billion through personal giving and his foundation. The 57-year-old billionaire was diagnosed with non-Hodgkin's lymphoma in November 2009, more than 25 years after he was treated for Hodgkin's disease, a spokesman at his company Vulcan Inc. said at the time.

Allen, who co-founded Microsoft with Gates in the mid-1970s, was that company's chief technologist until he left in 1983, the year he was treated for Hodgkin's lymphoma, according to the website for his Paul G. Allen Family Foundations. In March, Allen ranked 37th on the Forbes list of the world's billionaires. His net worth was $13.5 billion, according to the magazine.

Allen once said, "When it comes to helping out, I don't believe in doing it for the media attention. My goal is to support the organizations that need help."

CNN: Microsoft co-founder pledges to donate majority of fortune

The Giving Pledge


July 2nd, 2010
08:12 AM ET

Friday's intriguing people

Jaycee Dugard

The California Assembly on Thursday passed a bill appropriating $20 million to the kidnapping victim to settle her claims against the state Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation, according to the chief clerk's office.

Dugard vanished in 1991 at the age of 11. She was found in August 2009, living in a shed in the Antioch, California, backyard of Phillip Garrido, a registered sex offender who had been on parole since January 1988. Investigators said Garrido fathered two children with Dugard during her captivity.

He and his wife, Nancy, are charged with 29 felony counts in the case. Both have pleaded not guilty.

In a report issued in November, the state inspector general's office found the Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation failed to keep tabs on Garrido properly or properly supervise the officers assigned to his case.

According to CNN affiliate KCRA-TV in Sacramento, corrections officials entered into the settlement with Dugard, now 30. The settlement process was "pretty much unprecedented," said Jeff Long, spokesman for Assemblyman Felipe Fuentes, who sponsored the bill.


July 1st, 2010
08:22 AM ET

Thursday's intriguing people

Barry Wong

The attorney and Republican candidate for the Arizona Corporation Commission says if he’s elected, the commission would require regulated utilities to check the immigration status of customers.

Wong, who was born in Phoenix to Chinese immigrant parents, told CNN on Wednesday, “Illegal immigrants use electricity that puts more demand on the system. If we continue to have the illegal population growing, the rate payers would have to shoulder the burden of the cost."

According to The Arizona Republic, commission members have the constitutional authority to regulate utilities such as the Arizona Public Service Co., Tucson Electric Power Co. and private water companies. Given the national debate over Arizona’s new immigration law, Senate Bill 1070, Wong told CNN he understands that his idea is controversial.

“There will be critics that will say, ‘Barry you’re very close to the immigration system. How can you advocate for this?’ But my parents, they came here under legal cover. They succeeded in America, working long hours in the grocery store and shunned assistance, and we took care of ourselves. Eventually they sent their four kids to college. I’m the last person to attack immigrants as a class in general.”


June 30th, 2010
08:17 AM ET

Wednesday's intriguing people

Thurgood Marshall

The Howard University Law School graduate who fought to end the legalized segregation of the nation’s schools and was selected the first African-American associate justice of the U.S. Supreme Court has become a constant presence at Elena Kagan’s confirmation hearings.

Although he died 17 years ago, Marshall was mentioned more than 30 times Monday, the first day of the hearings, many times by critical Republicans.

"It's clear that he considered himself a judicial activist and was unapologetic about it," said Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas. "He described his judicial philosophy as quote, 'Do what you think is right and let the law catch up.' "

After questioning about Marshall continued Tuesday, Kagan said, “I love Justice Marshall. He did an enormous amount for me. But if you confirm me to this position, you'll get Justice Kagan - you won't get Justice Marshall."

President Obama’s nominee was Marshall’s law clerk during 1988 and 1989. She recalled that Marshall playfully called her "Shorty" during her clerkship.


June 29th, 2010
08:13 AM ET

Tuesday's intriguing people

Sen. Daniel Inouye

The 85-year-old Democrat from Hawaii is about to become the highest-ranking Asian-American in U.S. history.  Inouye, who is Nisei - a second generation Japanese-American - will become the president pro tempore of the Senate, replacing Sen. Robert Byrd,  who died early Monday after nearly 52 years in the Senate.

Politico reports that the position puts Inouye, now also the most senior member of the Senate, in the presidential line of succession behind Vice President Joe Biden and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-California.

On June 11, Inouye became the second longest-serving senator in U.S. history - 47 years - beating the record held by the late Sen. Strom Thurmond. When he surpassed Thurmond's record, the highly decorated World War II veteran was honored on the Senate floor by his peers.

"This is a very special day for me and my family and friends who helped make it possible. When I took the oath of office in 1963, I pledged to uphold and defend the Constitution of the United States. I spend every day trying to live up to that oath," Inouye said.


June 28th, 2010
08:28 AM ET

Monday's intriguing people

Otis McDonald

The 76-year-old retired custodian asked the U.S. Supreme Court to overturn a 1982 municipal handgun ban so that he can protect himself in his inner-city Chicago home. On Monday, the high court ruled unconstitutional the Illinois city's ban on handgun
ownership, a potentially far-reaching case over the ability of state and local governments to enforce limits on weapons.

McDonald told the Chicago Tribune that he has lived in the same area of Chicago for 38 years. After thugs broke into his house three times, McDonald said he used his own hunting rifle to chase them away. In 2005, when Illinois lawmakers considered an assault-rifle ban, McDonald attended a gun rally.

"I was the only black guy that I saw," McDonald told the AARP Bulletin.

At the rally, he met Alan Gura, the attorney who helped to overturn Washington, D.C.'s handgun ban. Gura persuaded McDonald to become the main face of the Chicago lawsuit.

"It doesn't matter what anyone's motives were for picking me for this," McDonald told AARP. "I have my own motives, and they are so compelling and so heavy that to me this is worthy of my effort."

The Chicago law has been shown to reduce crime, according to gun-control advocates. Chicago Mayor Richard Daley is a powerful supporter of the ban.

"Maybe he could come there and spend the night, especially during the summer, and listen to what I listen to out my window," McDonald said. "Maybe he would understand where I'm coming from."


June 25th, 2010
08:35 AM ET

Friday's intriguing people

Lady Gaga

The recording artist - born Stefani Joanne Angelina Germanotta in 1986 - and President Obama are the top competitors in a popularity contest that could have one of them setting a record by this weekend. Facebook publicists told CNN on Thursday that the pop star and the president are neck and neck in the race to become the first living person with more than 10 million fans on the social- networking site.

As of early Friday, Obama was in the lead, with 9,058,881 fans. Lady Gaga trailed behind with 9,023,966. Both of them were more than 4 million fans behind the No. 1 individual, Michael Jackson, who had 13,285,811. The singer died a year ago Friday.

Obama's page, which is run by the group Organizing for America, includes photographs of his recent Gulf Coast visit and links to speeches from news conferences. Lady Gaga's page lists upcoming concerts and includes a biographical article describing how the 24-year-old pop star, who played piano by ear as a toddler, grew into a theatrical performer who wows the masses with flashy performances in international concert tours. "I'm just trying to change the world one sequin at a time," she says in the posted story.

CNN: Obama, Lady Gaga compete for Facebook fan record


June 24th, 2010
08:55 AM ET

Thursday's intriguing people

Julia Gillard

Australia’s Labor Party selected the 48-year-old lawyer Thursday to replace Kevin Rudd as prime minister, ending his 2 1/2 years in that position.

Gillard said she was aware that the move makes her the nation's first woman prime minister, "and maybe the first redhead," but added, "I didn't set out to crash my head on any glass ceilings; I set out to keep my feet on the floor."

Gillard said she would work to harness wind and solar energy and to pursue putting a price on carbon emissions, but said she would not address the latter goal - which her predecessor had been unable to achieve - until after a general election.

Gillard said she would also pursue increasing taxes on mining companies, another issue that has stirred controversy and fierce opposition from the industry. "Australians are entitled to a fairer share of our inheritance of the mineral wealth that lies in our grounds," she said.

Born in Wales, she moved with her parents to Australia when she was a child. After studying law, she was elected to the House of Representatives for Lalor, Victoria, in 1998, 2001, 2004 and 2007 before joining Rudd as deputy prime minister.

"Julia's unique, hard-working, passionate, driven by noble ideals and wants to do good things for the country," John Gillard told Seven Network Australia about his daughter.

CNN: Gillard takes Australian helm: 'The government was losing its way'


June 22nd, 2010
08:13 AM ET

Tuesday's intriguing people

Gen. Stanley McChrystal

The top U.S. commander in Afghanistan apologized for remarks critical of the Obama administration in Rolling Stone magazine.

In the profile, scheduled for publication Friday, author Michael Hastings writes that the general's aides mocked top civilian officials, including Vice President Joe Biden.

McChrystal, in a Pentagon statement, said early Tuesday he was sorry.

"I extend my sincerest apology for this profile. It was a mistake reflecting poor judgment and should never have happened. Throughout my career, I have lived by the principles of personal honor and professional integrity. What is reflected in this article falls far short of that standard. I have enormous respect and admiration for President Obama and his national security team, and for the civilian leaders and troops fighting this war and I remain committed to ensuring its successful outcome."


June 21st, 2010
07:50 AM ET

Monday's intriguing people

Alan A. Allen

One of the country's most experienced oil spill experts told CNN that he believes very strongly that BP is doing everything it can to clean up the disaster in the Gulf.

Allen said he was contacted by BP on day three of the oil disaster and is now under contract to the oil company.

He said there are three proven methods of cleanup: dispersants, skimming and burning. Allen said BP is doing all three of these things in "unprecedented" measure.

Allen's company is called Spiltec, and according to his website biography, he has more than 38 years of experience as a technical adviser and field supervisor involving hundreds of oil spills around the world. He has developed strategies and equipment for the prevention, surveillance and control of oil spills and has conducted hundreds of oil-spill training courses under all kinds of weather conditions.


June 18th, 2010
08:06 AM ET

Friday's intriguing people

Neda Agha-Soltan

The night before she was killed on the streets of Tehran, the woman the world would come to know simply as Neda had a dream.

"There was a war going on," she told her mother, Hajar Rostami, the next morning, "and I was in the front."

Neda's mother had joined her in the street protests that erupted after Iran's disputed June 12, 2009, presidential election. But on that fateful morning, she told her daughter she couldn't go with her. As Neda prepared to leave, she was filled with anxiety, her mother told CNN last November.

"I told her to be very careful, and she said she would."

On June 20, Neda headed to Tehran's Nilofar Square, where thousands of protesters gathered. Tear gas was lobbed at the crowd. Her eyes burning, Neda headed to a medical clinic to get them washed. As she walked toward her car, a single bullet struck her chest, and Neda, 26, was dead. It was captured on video by bystanders and the graphic images were sent around the world.

Journalist Saeed Kamali Dehghan traveled to Tehran to interview Neda's relatives for a new HBO documentary on her life and her tragic death. "For Neda" airs Sunday on HBO and can be seen on HBO's website.


June 17th, 2010
08:00 AM ET

Thursday's intriguing people

Kenneth Feinberg

BP has reached an agreement with the federal government to place $20 billion in an escrow fund to pay for claims in the Gulf of Mexico oil disaster, President Obama announced Wednesday at the White House. The fund will be administered by an independent, third party, Obama said.

Feinberg, the attorney who oversaw the $7 billion compensation fund for victims of the September 11, 2001, attacks, will oversee the claims process. The Washington Post's WhoRunsGov website reports that Feinberg also was the "special pay master" who set the salaries of the top 100 executives at companies rescued by the federal government in 2008-2009.

According to the website, Feinberg, a former chief of staff for Sen. Edward Kennedy, started a mediation firm in 1992. One of its cases was to determine the fair market value of the film taken by Abraham Zapruder as John F. Kennedy's motorcade passed through Dealey Plaza in Dallas, Texas, on November 22, 1963.


June 16th, 2010
08:20 AM ET

Wednesday's intriguing people

Carl-Henric Svanberg

President Obama will have his showdown Wednesday with BP top executives and said he will tell the company it must pick up the tab for the massive oil disaster in the Gulf of Mexico. Obama is scheduled to meet with BP CEO Tony Hayward and with Svanberg, the oil giant's chairman, who has kept a lower profile so far as the Gulf disaster worsened.

According to The Swedish Wire, Svanberg, 58, was appointed BP chairman in 2009. Before then, he was CEO of Ericsson, a telecommunications firm. The Swedish-born former ice hockey player and hockey fanatic is listed as a member of the advisory board of the Earth Institute of Columbia University in New York.

The website's biography reports that "he is personally committed to and an advocate for many corporate responsibility issues, including human rights, climate change and the United Nations' Millennium Development Goals."


June 15th, 2010
07:39 AM ET

Tuesday's intriguing people

Meg Whitman

In June 2007, the current Republican candidate for governor of California allegedly became angry at an eBay employee and shoved her in an executive conference room.

The New York Times, after interviewing multiple anonymous sources with knowledge of the incident, reports that Young Mi Kim was preparing the eBay chief for a news media interview when the dispute began.

According to the newspaper, Kim hired a lawyer after the incident, but the dispute was resolved under the supervision of a private mediator, and the company paid Kim a six-figure settlement.

Kim, who is now an eBay senior manager for corporate and executive communications, said in an e-mail that she and Whitman had overcome their differences.


June 14th, 2010
07:57 AM ET

Monday's intriguing people

Russell Pearce

The Arizona state senator who pushed SB 1070 - the controversial immigration law that allows law enforcement officers to question the immigration status of the people they stop - has a new idea.

TIME magazine reports that Pearce and other Arizona Republicans are considering a bill that would deny birth certificates to children born in Arizona of parents who are not legal U.S. citizens. But the 14th Amendment to the Constitution states that "All persons, born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States. No state shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States."

According to TIME, Pearce says the 14th Amendment has been "hijacked" by illegal immigrants.

"They use it as a wedge," Pearce says. "This is an orchestrated effort by them to come here and have children to gain access to the great welfare state we've created." FULL POST

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