June 11th, 2010
08:15 AM ET

Friday's intriguing people

Rick Kuykendall

The attorney and Alabama native is working with lawyers from Louisiana, Alabama, Texas, Pennsylvania, Mississippi and Florida to prosecute claims for those who have been hurt by BP's Deepwater Horizon oil disaster.

Kuykendall told CNN on Thursday that he'll be representing fishermen, business owners and land owners who have suffered economic injury as a result of the oil catastrophe.

Kuykendall is with the Murphy Firm in Baltimore, Maryland, as well as Kuykendall & Associates in Fairhope, Alabama. He says since 1995, his cases have resulted in verdicts and settlements totaling more than $2 billion.

Kuykendall said he was appointed by former Alabama Gov. Don Siegelman to his commission on environmental affairs and that he participates in the Water Keepers Alliance.

"I have prepared my entire professional life for this," Kuykendall said. "But I never expected it to happen in my back yard."

FULL POST

June 10th, 2010
07:48 AM ET

Thursday's intriguing people

Courtney Kemp

The widow of a worker on the Deepwater Horizon oil rig urged lawmakers to allow drilling in the Gulf of Mexico to continue, saying the oil industry is a major source of income for families in the region.

"Drilling in the gulf must continue," said Kemp, of Jonesville, Louisiana, whose husband, Roy Wyatt Kemp, was killed along with 10 other workers when the drill rig exploded and sank in April. The rig, operated by Transocean, was contracted to develop a well leased by BP.

"If drilling ceases, not only would offshore employees lose their jobs," said Kemp, "but the trickledown effect would be devastating not only to the coastal states, but eventually to the entire country."

FULL POST

June 9th, 2010
07:50 AM ET

Wednesday's intriguing people

Kevin Costner

The star of such movies as "Field of Dreams" and "Waterworld" is scheduled to testify Thursday at a House Committee on Science and Technology hearing on solutions to the Gulf oil disaster.

The Hill reports that Costner has invested some $26 million into his Ocean Therapy Solutions device, which uses centrifugal force to separate oil from water. According to The Hill, last month BP approved the machine for testing.

The actor and activist visited New Orleans, Louisiana, in May. WDSU-TV reports that he demonstrated the oil extraction device, which Ocean Therapy officials say will clean up the water to 97 percent.

"I just am really happy that this has come to the light of day," Costner said. "I'm very sad about why it is, but this is why it was developed, and like anything that we all face as a group, we face it together."

FULL POST

June 8th, 2010
08:21 AM ET

Tuesday's intriguing people

Daryl Hall and John Oates

The Arizona Diamondbacks announced that the most successful duo in rock history has canceled its concert at Chase Field as a protest against Arizona's legislation to fight illegal immigration. USA Today reports that the performance had been scheduled to follow a game against the Dodgers on July 2.

Hall and Oates issued the following statement: "In addition to our personal convictions, we are standing in solidarity with the music community in our boycott of performing in Arizona at this time. We would like to emphasize that this has nothing to do with the management of the Arizona Diamondbacks, who have been professional and cooperative throughout our dealings with them. This is our response to a very specific action of the state."

FULL POST

June 7th, 2010
07:55 AM ET

Monday's intriguing people

Lt. Gen. James Clapper

President Obama called him one of America's "most experienced and most respected intelligence professionals." Obama nominated the top Pentagon official to be the new director of national intelligence on Saturday.

Clapper, who retired from the Air Force in 1995 after a 32-year career, was head of the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency from September 2001 to June 2006.

Clapper would replace Dennis Blair, who resigned at the end of last month. Obama said he'll be looking for Clapper "to ensure that we have the most capable and efficient intelligence community possible."

If confirmed, Clapper will become the nation's fourth director of national intelligence in five years. The position was created after the September 2001 attacks to oversee the 16 agencies of the U.S. intelligence community. FULL POST

June 4th, 2010
08:07 AM ET

Friday's intriguing people

Guion "Guy" Bluford

The first African-American to fly in space is scheduled to be inducted into the U.S. Astronaut Hall of Fame on Saturday at NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida.

Bluford entered the astronaut training program in 1978, one of three African-Americans accepted that year. He made history on August 30, 1983, when the Space Shuttle Challenger blasted off with Bluford as one of the crew members.

The NASA website reports that it took a while for the engineer and Air Force colonel to accept the role.

He said, "I wanted to set the standard, do the best job possible so that other people would be comfortable with African-Americans flying in space and African-Americans would be proud of being participants in the space program and encourage others to do the same."

FULL POST

June 3rd, 2010
08:07 AM ET

Thursday's intriguing people

Tony Hayward

Sometimes you can't apologize enough.

BP's chief executive officer drew loud criticism this week when he told reporters that he "would like his life back" from the spill dirtying the Gulf of Mexico.

Fishermen and shop owners along the coasts affected by the spill took issue with what they perceived as a whine from the millionaire businessman. So Hayward posted an apology on BP's Facebook page Wednesday afternoon:

"Those words don't represent how I feel about this tragedy, and certainly don't represent the hearts of the people of BP - many of whom live and work in the Gulf - who are doing everything they can to make things right. My first priority is doing all we can to restore the lives of the people of the Gulf region and their families - to restore their lives, not mine."

BP also ran full-page ads in major daily newspapers, promising to "make this right." And on Thursday, Hayward himself will make that same promise in national television ads.

FULL POST

June 2nd, 2010
07:57 AM ET

Wednesday's intriguing people

Yukio Hatoyama

The Japanese Prime Minister announced Wednesday he will resign after eight months in power.

Eight months ago, Hatoyama's Democratic Party of Japan won a sweeping victory, an outcome hailed by many as a revolution in Japanese politics.

In his first speech as Japan's 92nd prime minister, Hatoyama made promises that he would conduct a clean and transparent government, launching a task force to monitor government spending. But soon afterward, allegations of illegal campaign financing tarnished his administration's image.

Some of his cabinet members were investigated for corruption. Hatoyama also backtracked on a campaign promise to move a U.S. Marine base off the southern island of Okinawa.

FULL POST

June 1st, 2010
07:38 AM ET

Tuesday's intriguing people

Archbishop Jose H. Gomez

The archbishop of San Antonio, Texas, selected by the Vatican to succeed Cardinal Roger Mahony of Los Angeles, California, indicated that he will continue to be an advocate for immigrants when he becomes cardinal.

The Contra Costa Times reports that 4,000 guests officially welcomed Gomez on Wednesday at a two-hour Mass at the Cathedral of Our Lady of Angels.

Gomez confirmed his views on the immigration debate by saying, "May this church always be a sign that God is with us and that in his own eyes no one is a stranger ... and no one is an alien for any of us."

When Mahony retires in February, Gomez, who was born in Mexico, will become America's first Latino cardinal and the leader of the largest archdiocese in the country, with 4.3 million Catholics. In 2005, Gomez was named one of Time magazine's 25 most influential Hispanics in the United States.

FULL POST

May 31st, 2010
08:46 AM ET

Monday's intriguing people

[Updated at 1:02 p.m.] Editor's note: On Memorial Day, this column honors military personnel, some of whom have given their lives during service, as well as those who support them. This weekday feature presents profiles of people whose actions, ideas or beliefs are newsworthy.

Jacob Leicht

The U.S. military, family and friends are mourning the loss of Leicht, a U.S. Marine Corps corporal.  CNN affiliate KABB-TV in San Antonio, Texas, is reporting that Leicht was the 1,000th American GI killed in the Afghan war.

The 24-year-old from Kerrville, Texas, was killed Thursday in an explosion while on foot patrol in Afghanistan, according to the station. Jonathan Leicht, the Marine's brother, told the TV station that he had only been there for two weeks.

Before Afghanistan, Leicht underwent two years of physical therapy after injuries he suffered while fighting in Iraq in 2007.

Because CNN only counts U.S. troop deaths inside Afghanistan, the CNN tally of U.S. deaths has not reached 1,000.  Other media organizations count war-related deaths in other countries, such as in Pakistan.

FULL POST

May 28th, 2010
07:54 AM ET

Friday's intriguing people

Rep. Charlie Melancon

The Louisiana Democrat lost his composure Thursday during a Capitol Hill hearing about the Gulf oil spill.

"Our culture is threatened. Our coastal economy is threatened. And everything that I know and love is at risk," Melancon, who represents many of the affected Louisiana shoreline areas, told his Capitol Hill colleagues.

Unable to finish reading his prepared statement, Melancon, who was born and raised in the area threatened by the spill, submitted his statement for the congressional record and then walked out of the hearing room as other lawmakers sought to comfort him.

FULL POST

May 27th, 2010
07:50 AM ET

Thursday's intriguing people

Etan Patz

His was the first face of a missing child to appear on the back of a milk carton. Now, nearly 31 years to the day since Etan vanished from a New York street, authorities are reopening his case.

The communications director for Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance Jr. confirmed the office is taking another look at the decades-old mystery.

Etan was 6 when he disappeared on the morning of May 25, 1979. "It was the first day that he was to walk two blocks from his apartment to the school bus stop," said Lisa R. Cohen, author of "After Etan: The Missing Child Case That Held America Captive."

Cohen said, "He had been wanting to do it by himself, and they gave him permission, literally two short blocks."

Etan was never seen alive again.

FULL POST

May 25th, 2010
07:56 AM ET

Tuesday's intriguing people

David Byrne

The songwriter, artist and former Talking Heads band member is suing Florida Gov. Charlie Crist for using the song "Road to Nowhere" in an online campaign ad without permission.

Bloomberg reports that Byrne said that he never licensed a song to be used in an advertisement and is seeking $1 million in damages.

"I'm a bit of a throwback that way, as I still believe songs occasionally mean something to people," Byrne said in a statement. "A personal and social meaning is diluted when that same song is used to sell a product or a politician."

Crist, once a Republican, is now running as an independent for U.S. Senate.

Bloomberg: David Byrne sues Crist for using 'Road to Nowhere'

CNN Political Ticker: No refunds, Crist campaign says

FULL POST

May 24th, 2010
07:40 AM ET

Monday's intriguing people

Bob Graham and William K. Reilly

President Obama wants to investigate how to prevent future oil spills. To figure that out, this weekend Obama named Graham, pictured, and Reilly to head a new bipartisan National Commission on the BP Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill and Offshore Drilling.

Graham was Florida's governor for two terms, followed by 18 years as a U.S. senator. Since retiring from the Senate in January 2005, he has served on several federal panels, including as chairman of the Commission on the Prevention of Weapons of Mass Destruction Proliferation and Terrorism.

Reilly was EPA chief in President George H.W. Bush's administration from 1989-93 and is chairman emeritus of the board of the World Wildlife Fund.

FULL POST

May 21st, 2010
09:01 AM ET

Friday's intriguing people

Craig Venter

Scientists have turned inanimate chemicals into a living organism in an experiment that raises profound questions about the essence of life. Venter, the U.S. genomics pioneer, announced Thursday that scientists at his laboratories in Maryland and California had succeeded in their 15-year project to make the world's first "synthetic cells" - bacteria called Mycoplasma mycoides.

The bacteria's genes were all constructed in the laboratory "from four bottles of chemicals on a chemical synthesizer, starting with information on a computer," Venter told the Financial Times. The research - published online by the journal Science - was hailed as a landmark by many independent scientists and philosophers.

CNN: Scientists create a living organism

Financial Times: Scientists create synthetic life form with a computer and four bottles of chemicals

FULL POST

May 20th, 2010
08:42 AM ET

Thursday's Intriguing people

Robert Redford

Robert Redford

The actor and activist is calling on President Obama and Congress to put America back in control of its energy future. In a Huffington Post essay, Redford writes, ‚ÄúThe American Power Act, drafted by Senators Kerry and Lieberman, is not perfect– but it is a significant step toward cutting our dependence on fossil fuels, limiting carbon pollution, and encouraging businesses to shift to clean energy sources.‚ÄĚ

Redford explains that he worked with the Natural Re

sources Defense Council to record a new commercial asking that leaders in Washington ‚Äústand up to big oil.‚ÄĚ Thursday marks one month since BP's oil rig exploded in the Gulf of Mexico, killing 11 people and creating what may be one of the country‚Äôs worst environmental disasters.

The Huffington Post: Mr. President: Now Is the Time For Clean Energy

National Resources Defense Council

FULL POST

May 19th, 2010
08:28 AM ET

Wednesday's intriguing people

Amardeep Singh Director of Programs of the Sikh Coalition

Amardeep Singh

The co-founder and director of programs of the Sikh Coalition, the largest Sikh civil rights organization in the United States, will be among those speaking today at a House Judiciary Subcommittee hearing on racial profiling in law enforcement policy. Singh is scheduled to talk about the racial profiling he has experienced since 9/11, especially from those who thought he is Muslim. He is Sikh, a religion founded 500 years ago and practiced today by more than 20 million people worldwide. Singh has represented dozens of Sikh victims of airport profiling, employment discrimination and hate crimes. With Department of Homeland Security officials, he helped to formulate guidelines governing the searches of Sikh passengers in U.S. airports. While at Human Rights Watch, Singh wrote the report, ‚ÄúWe Are Not the Enemy: Hate Crimes Against Arabs, Muslims, and Those Perceived to be Arab or Muslim after September 11.‚ÄĚ

The Sikh Coalition

CNN.com: Army allows Sikh to keep beard, turban, uncut hair

FULL POST

May 18th, 2010
08:07 AM ET

Tuesday's intriguing people

Richard BRichard Blumenthal lumenthal

A New York Times report alleging that the Democratic candidate lied about serving in Vietnam added fuel to a contentious Connecticut Senate race Tuesday. Blumenthal's campaign criticized the article, while political opponents demanded answers.

"The New York Times story is an outrageous distortion of Dick Blumenthal's record of service," campaign manager Mindy Myers said. "Unlike many of his peers, Dick Blumenthal voluntarily joined the Marine Corps Reserves in 1970 and served for six months in Parris Island, South Carolina, and six years in the reserves. He received no special treatment from anyone."

The newspaper report says Blumenthal, Connecticut's attorney general, never served in Vietnam but said he did in several speeches before veterans groups and military families. Reached by phone Monday night, Blumenthal told a reporter that he had always said he was a "Vietnam-era" veteran and that his intention was always to be straightforward about his military service, according to an article on the website of the Greenwich Time, a Connecticut newspaper.

The New York Times: Candidate’s words on Vietnam service differ from history

CNN.com: Allegations about Blumenthal's military service rock race
FULL POST

May 14th, 2010
07:51 AM ET

Friday's intriguing people

Sayeeda Warsi

The new British government not only has its youngest prime minister in almost 200 years and the first peacetime coalition Cabinet in 65 years, it has the first Muslim woman to be a full member of the Cabinet.

Warsi has been named minister without portfolio. It's not immediately clear what her responsibilities will be, a spokesman for the government said.

Not yet 40 years old, she's also just been appointed chairwoman of the Conservative Party. On her website, she names her proudest political achievement as securing the release of a British teacher from jail in Sudan when the woman was accused of insulting religion.

Gillian Gibbons had been accused of allowing her students to name a teddy bear "Muhammad." Warsi flew in to help negotiate her release. A trained lawyer from Dewsbury in northeast England, Warsi also lists herself as a campaigner on racial justice, forced marriages and prison conditions.

FULL POST

May 13th, 2010
07:57 AM ET

Thursday's intriguing people

Ed Reyes

The Los Angeles, California, City Council on Wednesday overwhelmingly approved a boycott of Arizona-based businesses and governments unless the state repeals a new law giving police the power to question a detainee's immigration status. The city's legislative analyst reported that Los Angeles currently has $56 million in contracts with companies headquartered in Arizona.

According to The Los Angeles Times, during their debate on the resolution, council members compared Arizona's legislative behavior to Nazi Germany and the beginning of the Holocaust, as well as the internment and deportation of Japanese-Americans during World War II.

"Los Angeles is the second-largest city in this country, an immigrant city, an international city. It needs to have its voice heard," said Councilman Reyes, a resolution sponsor. "As an American, I cannot go to Arizona today without a passport. If I come across an officer who's having a bad day and feels that the picture on my ID is not me, I can be ... deported, no questions asked. That is not American."

CNN This Just In: Los Angeles passes Arizona boycott over immigration law

Los Angeles Times: L.A. council bans most official travel to Arizona

John Legend

The singer-songwriter-pianist is helping to raise funds for Gulf Coast fishing families and environmentalists facing the challenges of the Deepwater Horizon oil spill.

Legend and many other top artists will perform May 14‚Äď16 at the Hangout Beach Music and Arts Festival in Gulf Shores, Alabama. Along with Legend will be such performers as Zac Brown Band, Alison Krauss, The Black Crowes, and Jakob Dylan.

Legend, the winner of six Grammy awards, is also scheduled to appear at the Gulf Aid benefit concert in New Orleans, Louisiana, on Sunday.

Hangout Festival website

John Legend website

Robert MacLean

An administrative judge has ruled that the Transportation Security Administration was within its rights when it fired the federal air marshal for leaking sensitive information to the media.

MacLean was fired in 2006, two years after he told an MSNBC reporter that the agency planned to remove air marshals from flights that required costly overnight hotels. The disclosure embarrassed the agency, coming only days after the government had sent out a warning about planned terror attacks on U.S. aircraft.

MacLean said he will appeal the administrative judge's decision and that he hopes for a suspension, not termination, as the appropriate punishment for his actions. He told CNN in 2009 that he never had to make an arrest in five years flying missions as an air marshal.

"It was a well-paying job with enormous responsibility, yet extremely tedious and mundane," he said. "You did the same thing every day, there was nothing new. You sat in your seat and prayed that nobody would set off an IED or ambush you mid-flight."

CNN This Just In: Judge upholds firing of federal air marshal

Maryam Ali

The 16-year-old sophomore at West Potomac High School in Alexandria, Virginia, wants to race with her school's crew team.

In a moving Washington Post profile, reporter Annie Gowen describes the challenges facing Ali - asthma, overweight, lives in subsidized housing - and how tough it was to pay for her $260 uniform and the team's $750 fees. And because she's not strong enough to row with others, her coach found her a separate boat to practice in.

Ali, who is African-American in a sport dominated by white competitive rowers, told the newspaper that her goal is to get in a race before the end of the season.

"I just want to do the best I can ... and be an important part of the team," she said.

Washington Post: Rower confronts class barriers with spot on crew team

Piers Sellers

The British-born NASA astronaut is taking a small piece of Sir Isaac Newton's famous apple tree into space on Friday on his trip to the International Space Station.

According to the Isaac Newton Institute for Mathematical Sciences, the mathematician and physicist saw an apple fall in his orchard at some time during 1665 or 1666. Newton then hypothesized that the same gravitational force that made the apple fall also governed the motion of the moon.

London's Guardian newspaper reports that Sellers, who has dual UK-U.S. citizenship, said he will let the slice from Newton's tree float around in the Atlantis shuttle.

"While it's up there, it will be experiencing no gravity, so if it had an apple on it, the apple wouldn't fall. ... Sir Isaac would have loved to see this, assuming he wasn't spacesick, as it would have proved his first law of motion to be correct."

The Guardian: Isaac Newton's apple tree to experience zero gravity

Isaac Newton Institute for Mathematical Sciences: Newton's life

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