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August 22nd, 2013
12:21 PM ET

Documents: NSA Illegally Collected Internet Communications

The White House is under renewed pressure over its surveillance programs now that newly declassified documents reveal the NSA collected thousands of e-mails and other communications by Americans that were not related to terrorism.

“Newly declassified secret court opinions show the NSA collected nearly 60 thousand domestic communications a year, for three years, ending in 2011,” reports CNN's Chris Lawrence.

“The data includes emails and other internet activity. The court also said the NSA misrepresented the scope of its effort.”

Marc Rotenberg, the Executive Director, of EPIC (Electronic Privacy Information Center), says "It's very disturbing. The National Security Agency has extraordinary surveillance capabilities. These tools that are supposed to be directed toward adversaries of US, not toward the American public."

“The NSA says it collected the data by mistake, a senior intelligence official telling reporters there was a ‘technological problem that could not be avoided, rather than any overreach,’” Lawrence says.

The Obama administration is under pressure from Republican and Democratic lawmakers over the sweeping nature of the NSA's secret data collection.

President Obama insisted the government is not violating your privacy in a speech he made just two weeks ago, saying "America is not interested in spying on ordinary people. Our intelligence is focused, above all, on finding information that's necessary to protect our people."

“The NSA is supposed to target foreign communications that have to do with potential terrorism investigations.”

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Filed under: NSA • Privacy • Security
August 22nd, 2013
11:34 AM ET

Dramatic 911 Call From Inside Georgia School Shooting

It's back to school this morning for students at a Decatur, Georgia elementary school that was the scene of gunfire on Tuesday.

New details have emerged about the suspected shooter, 20-year-old Michael Brandon Hill. According to prosecutors, Hill entered the Ronald McNair Discovery Learning Academy with an AK-47 type assault rifle and almost 500-rounds of ammunition.

Police also say he'd been previously convicted for making "terroristic threats."

But it’s the dramatic 911 call from the school clerk who convinced Hill to surrender that’s grabbing attention over the gunman.

“Alone in the office of an elementary school, book keeper Antoinette Tuff is face to face with a man armed with an assault rifle and close to 500 rounds of ammunition,” reports
CNN's Martin Savidge.

“It isn't just her life on the line, but the lives of hundreds of students and staff, as well as dozens of police officers now outside.”

Tuff is now being hailed as a hero for her holding her composure with the armed-Hill, all while she’s on the phone with a 911 dispatcher.

“To connect with the suspect she pours out her own personal story, of a marriage that suddenly ended and her own thoughts of suicide,” Savidge says.

"We all go through something in life....No, you don't want that. You going to be okay. I thought the same thing, you know, I tried to commit suicide after my husband left me But look at me now I'm still working and everything is okay,” Tuff says during the call.

Her sense of fearlessness and honesty moves even the police dispatcher.

"Maam, you're doing a great job,” the dispatcher tells her over the phone.

The police barge in moments later, after Tuff convinces the gunman to put down his weapon and lay down himself.

Only then does Tuff show her fear, saying “Let me tell you something baby, nothing so scary in my life!...Oh Jesus!"

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Filed under: 911 call • School shooting
August 21st, 2013
10:33 AM ET

Claims of Chemical Weapons Massacre in Syria

Reports of a massacre in Syria has surfaced this morning.

Activists says forces loyal to President Bashar al-Assad used chemical weapons during a heavy bombardment of a rebel-held stronghold east of Damascus.

They say hundreds are dead and wounded. The Syrian government meanwhile denies the claims.

“It's very difficult to get accurate information out of Syria, but the images that are emerging are absolutely horrific,” reports CNN”s Arwa Damon.

Many images are of child victims lying on the floor, doctors in some cases trying to resuscitate them.

One doctor told CNN people are dying from asphyxiation.

“The doctors are really working under very primitive conditions,” Damon says, because they lack the drugs needs in the case of a chemical attack

Follow along at CNN.com for the latest in the story.

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Filed under: Chemical Attack • Syria
August 21st, 2013
10:20 AM ET

Georgia Elementary School Shooting

The suspected gunman who entered a Georgia elementary school Tuesday, heavily armed and opening fire on police, is now in custody.

Witnesses say 20-year-old Michael Brandon Hill told them he wasn't afraid to die.

While no one was injured in the shooting, hundreds of young students were fearful for their lives as they ran for safety when gunfire erupted in their school.

The lone gunman took office workers hostage inside, telling them to call a TV station with a chilling message.

WSB Assignment Editor Lacey Lecroy says, “He wanted us to start filming as police died.”

“The gunman fired at police, maybe a half dozen times,” CNN’s David Mattingly reports. “Officers returned fire, when suddenly, the gunman gave up.”

One office worker, Antoinette Tuff, asked him to put down his weapons and convinced him to surrender and told police he was giving himself up.

“Police searched the suspect's car for explosives,” Mattingly says.

“Children had to be escorted to buses away from the school as a precaution before being reunited with their anxious parents.”

Parents complain they were not properly notified and that many heard about it on local news.

“After they put the school on lockdown and they secured the kids, the parents should have been called immediately, right then and there,” Grandmother Celisa Raysor says.

While parents express new fears about their children’s security, students are set to go resume classes today at a nearby high school and return to their regular school building tomorrow.

Follow along at CNN.com as the story develops.

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Filed under: School • Security • Shooting
August 20th, 2013
11:31 AM ET

Contractors Want Aid to Egypt to Continue Flowing

The United States gives about $1.23 billion in military aid to Egypt yearly. Now some of that aid is temporarily being put on hold, leaving not only Egyptians on edge, but some American companies, who want that money to keep flowing because they are the ones benefiting.

“The U.S. doesn't cut a check to Egypt. It deposits the aid in an account at the Federal Reserve Bank,” reports CNN’s Chris Lawrence.

“That money pays American defense contractors to build the weapons and parts for Egypt,” including “$400 million to General Dynamics for tank kits, and $2.5 billion to Lockheed for F-16s.”

Lobbyists for the companies are partially to credit for helping them earn these contracts.

“They reminded lawmakers that if the Boeings and Lockheeds can't build weapons for Egypt, all those small town suppliers—from Lima, Ohio to Oxford Michigan—will get buried.”

Former Congressman Jim Kolbe is familiar with that pitch.

"The contractors have a vested interest in keeping the process going forward,” Kolbe says, so freezing aid would hurt the U.S.

“Cutting the aid won't get the government out of paying off the defense contracts it signed,” Lawrence reports.

Kolbe says, "It's going to end up costing the taxpayers a lot of money and getting nothing in return.

“The bottom line,” Lawrence says, “even though the U.S. has only transferred about half of this year’s $1.2 billion into the Egypt fund, withholding the other 600 million doesn't really save any money and may end up costing jobs.”

Posted by
Filed under: Aid • Defense • Egypt
August 20th, 2013
09:57 AM ET

Crews Racing to Stop the Beaver Creek Fire

Fire crews in Idaho think they may just may have turned the corner on the massive, 160-square mile Beaver Creek fire near the resort area of Sun Valley.

It's only 9-percent contained and some two thousand homes remain evacuated, but some residents were allowed to return to their homes Monday.

And there's some hope an aerial assault may be slowing the blaze.

Meanwhile, the blaze continues to ravage one of the country's most scenic spots, where many celebrities choose to build multi-million dollar vacation homes.

“Many people think this is an affluent area and it is," says Red Cross official Nicole Irwin, "but there are many people affected by this that are from different economic backgrounds and that's who is staying with us.”

Irwin is referring to residents staying in Red Cross shelters to escape the flames dangerously close to their homes.

“The Beaver Creek fire is a true beast, spreading across an area larger than the city of Denver,” reports CNN’s Dan Simon.

“Surrounded by bone dry trees and brush, it's clear this fire could keep burning for a very long time. The key is to keep the flames away from homes. But the wind has a way of pushing the fire in different directions.”

“We have plenty of resources right now and it's just a matter of having the right people at the right time, which I believe we do at this point in time,” says Fire Incident Commander Beth Lund.

“It's just a lot of work to go ahead and get this thing contained."

Posted by
Filed under: Extreme Weather • Wildfire
August 19th, 2013
09:54 AM ET

Rain Swamps Gulf Coast, Southeast

A severe weather system, parked from the Gulf Coast to the Southeastern U.S., is bringing more heavy rain to the region.

Some areas are getting five inches or more, and flash-flooding remains a major concern.

Members of one church in Gulfport witnessed waist deep water covering their car doors.

“A foot of rain fell in less than an hour,” reports CNN Meteorologist Indra Petersons. “And business owners along Highway 49, found water rushing into their stores.”

One man says, “They didn't even get that heavy during Katrina.

In Biloxi, Mississippi, stranded motorists were caught off guard by the deluge.

“The fire department rushed in to help dozens of stalled cars.”

Now that stationary front that brought heavy rain over the weekend is still soaking parts of the Southeast.

radar rainfall

And flash flood watches are out for areas in Georgia and Florida.
flood threat

August 16th, 2013
09:36 AM ET

Jackson's Former Wife Makes Emotional Testimony

More details emerge into Michael Jackson's life and who was responsible for his death as the Jackson family’s wrongful death trial against concert promoter AEG continues.

Michael Jackson's former wife Debbie Rowe took the stand again yesterday, shedding some light on what it was like to live with Jackson, and what it was like for his kids after he died.

In a second day of testimony, “Rowe mesmerized jurors talking about her life with the king of pop, including his journey into addiction, which she said started after this horrific accident in 1984 that burned Michael Jackson's scalp,” reports CNN’s Ted Rowlands.

But Rowe also dwelled on the good times with her ex-husband as photos of her, Jackson, and their children were shown in the courtroom.

"He wanted to be the best parent he could be,’ Rowe said.

Rowe tearfully testified that in Munich “she saw doctors administer doses of propofol to induce Jackson’s sleep—the drug that eventually killed him,” Rowlands reports.

“She said she told her boss, Jackson's dermatologist Arnie Klein, that she was worried that Jackson was addicted to propofol.”

According to AEG lawyers, that’s the reason they called her as a witness.

AEG Attorney Marvin Putnam says, “I don’t know how she couldn't do anything but help our case, she let everyone know that people in Michael's life were worried about his propofol use as early as the late eighties, early nineties."

But Rowlands says the most dramatic moment came when Rowe was asked about how Jacksons death affected the children.

“She referred to Paris Jackson’s recent suicide attempt saying, ‘She's devastated,she tried to kill herself.. She doesn’t feel she has a life anymore.’”

Posted by
Filed under: Michael Jackson • Trial
August 16th, 2013
09:16 AM ET

Hannah Anderson Meets with Friends and Community

Sixteen-year-old Hannah Anderson made her first public appearance since her dramatic rescue from kidnapping and murder suspect James DiMaggio.

The teenage girl was kidnapped and taken on a thousand-mile journey, before the FBI shot and killed her alleged abductor, and saved her life on Saturday.

Her “arrival at a fundraiser for her family came as a surprise to her relatives and friends,” reports CNN’s Casey Wian.

"This night was an unexpected reunion honestly,” her cousin Brandon Fambrough says. “All her friends were here… It was like we haven't skipped a beat."

The fundraiser was held at Boll Weevil Restaurant in Lakeside, California. The media was invited but not allowed inside during Hannah’s reunion.

Her father Brett Anderson told the press, "Hannah sends her love she's doing good day-by-day and we'll just keeping moving forward from here."

The fundraising event drew a large crowd of Hannah’s neighbors, friends and grandparents, wearing “Hannah Strong” and “Pray for Hannah” T-shirts.

Raffle ticket sales, cash donations and 20 percent of the restaurant's sales were all donated to the Anderson family, partly for Hannah's mother and brother's funeral.

“I wanted to say thank you all for coming,” Anderson said. “The community came together, putting on a great fund-raiser for Hannah, and hopefully her future and healing.”

Read more on Hannah's rescue here.

Posted by
Filed under: Abduction • Children
August 16th, 2013
04:53 AM ET

Pet Food Recall for Iams, Eukanuba Products

Dog and cat owners have a major news to pay attention to this morning.

In case your pet consumes products from Iams and Eukanuba, there are fears a few batches of the food may have been contaminated with salmonella.

According to a press release from the manufacturer, the Procter & Gamble Company, “No Salmonella-related illnesses have been reported to date in association with these product lots,” and the recall is precautionary.

The food in question has best by dates in November of 2014, and is limited to a number of "specific dry pet food lot codes."

You can see a full list of the products here.

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Filed under: food recall • pets
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