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July 11th, 2014
04:41 AM ET

Striking Gaza Could Buy Israel Peace For a Year, Maybe More, Analysts say

The dark curtain rises again on the tragedy of Israel and Gaza, and the next act begins much like its forerunners.

Rockets hunt humans. Bombs crush buildings. Blood spills. The dead ride in caskets through streets, and mothers wail their grief to the heavens.

As Israeli reserves gather like a storm over Gaza's horizon, the added bloodshed of an incursion appears imminent, and millions watching around the world ask: What could they hope to achieve?

There is no dramatic endgame in this, but there are concrete objectives, says Israeli military analyst and columnist Ron Ben-Yishai.

There are official ones and unofficial ones, short-term and long-term, that make sense for Israel, he argues.

Many of them will work, concedes critical Israeli columnist Gideon Levy. But he disagrees about their wisdom.

They won't cure the disease but instead feed it, he argues.

Military objective No. 1
First, the conservative government led by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu wants to stop the rocket fire by force.

And weaken the Hamas militants and other groups behind it, Ben-Yishai says.

"Erode the political clout and the ability of Hamas to act both as a political and military-terrorist movement."

Those are the official goals given by the Cabinet for the military operation named Protective Edge, he says. And they'll probably be achieved, Ben-Yishai says.

"For the short-run, no doubt," Levy concurs. But he also thinks Hamas will come back stronger militarily and politically.

That's what happened over two years ago in operation Pillar of Defense and over five years ago in Operation Cast Lead, he says.

In the latter, 1,300 Palestinians and more than a dozen Israelis died.

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July 3rd, 2014
04:22 AM ET

Hurricane Arthur's Greatest Threat May be Rip Currents

Canceled. Rescheduled. As Arthur, now a Category 1 hurricane, gyrates up the East Coast, beachfront Fourth of July celebrations are falling flat, and that could save lives.

The Atlantic storm graduated from a tropical storm to a hurricane early Thursday, the National Weather Service said. It's maximum sustained wind speeds have reached 75 mph, as it grinds towards the shoreline of North Carolina.

Even if Arthur goes down in weather history as a softie of a cyclone, it may have some lethal tricks up its sleeve.

Death in the surf

After it has finished its pass of North Carolina by the end of Thursday, it could still leave a danger lurking beneath the surf: Rip currents.

Anyone in North Carolina should stay out of the water, CNN meteorologist Chad Myers warns.

"There's no time for you to react. That's why you can't be there at all," Myers said. "This is not a landfall-problem hurricane. This is a rip-current-problem hurricane," he said.

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July 2nd, 2014
04:23 AM ET

Hurricane Arthur May Make 4th of July Holiday Driving Hazardous

If you're planning on traveling over the Fourth of July to the East Coast, watch out for Arthur.

The first named tropical storm of the season may make driving hazardous on Wednesday and Thursday but should not spoil most of Friday's festivities, as it veers away from land.

Arthur looks like it will spare the colossal fireworks show on Washington's National Mall, weather forecasters say, whisking past the day before.

The storm is expected to morph into a Category 1 hurricane on Thursday, farther south off the coast of North Carolina, with top wind speeds of 75 mph.

But it is predicted to track north of the capital and off to the east in time for Washington's show.

If predictions turn out to be off by a day, the nation could get live television coverage of the season's first hurricane.

PBS is planning to broadcast the pyrotechnics blossoming over the Reflecting Pool live via 20 cameras.

Storm clouds on Arthur's coattails might throw rain on the Independence Day parade around noon on Friday. There's a 30% chance, the National Weather Service said.

But after sundown, the skies should be mostly clear and cool. Most of the East Coast should share in the good conditions late Friday.

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June 20th, 2014
04:51 AM ET

300 U.S. Advisers Heading for Iraq, But What Will They Actually Do?

How big of a threat is ISIS really?

The White House wants to find out and is deploying as many as 300 military advisers to Iraq to assess the might of the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria.

The jihad group's rash battlefield successes make them look extremely fierce.

They have surged over from northern Syria to blitz major cities in Iraq's Sunni region, taking Tal Afar and Mosul then moving quickly south. Hundreds of thousands of civilians fled from their path, creating a new refugee crisis.

They have advanced on Baquba, just north of Baghdad and are threatening to attack the capital.

The Obama administration has said there will be no more American boots on the ground after the drawdown of all American troops - tens of thousands of them.

It's up to the advisors to help Iraqi security forces vanquish ISIS on their own.

Washington has said little about what they'll actually be doing - and expert opinions on that and on whether they should be in Iraq at all are split.

Who are they?

They are high-ranking officers. They are Navy SEALs and Army Rangers, said retired Marine Sgt. Adam Banotai.

Banotai, who scrapped through the brutal battle for Fallujah during the Iraq war, thinks the term 'adviser' is misplaced.

"It is political semantics," he said. "We are calling them adviser now...instead of combat troops or boots on the ground." said retired Sgt. Adam Banotai.

"They are the most elite fighters we have," he added. "So, if they aren't going to be combat troops - I'm not quite sure who the president is going to refer to as combat troops."

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Filed under: Iraq • President Obama
June 18th, 2014
04:32 AM ET

Benghazi Suspect on Slow Boat to U.S.

The capture of Ahmed Abu Khatallah could be compared to a large group of trappers quietly snaring rare and dangerous prey.

For days, Army Delta Force commandos, the FBI and U.S. intelligence agencies lay in wait for one of the alleged masterminds behind the deadly September 11, 2012, attack on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi, Libya.

Then on Tuesday, they lured Abu Khatallah to a point south of the eastern city and nabbed him. U.S. officials said he did not put up a fight. Not a shot was fired.

But Abu Khatallah had a reputation for hiding out in the open, relaxed and self-assured.

In an interview to CNN's Arwa Damon last year, he said he was ready to talk to U.S. investigators but "not as an interrogation."

He will now have that conversation; just not on his own terms.

Where he is now

Abu Khatallah is now on a slow boat to the United States - a U.S. Navy ship in the Mediterranean, where he is facing interrogators.

They're taking him by sea, rather than by air, in order to give investigators "maximum time to question him," U.S. officials said.

Such interviews typically are done by the FBI-led High Value Detainee Interrogation Group, or HIG, that includes agents from multiple law and intelligence agencies.

Where he is headed

When he arrives, Abu Khatallah is very likely headed to a federal trial.

That's what the Obama administration wants, a position at odds with some of the President's Republican critics.

Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina wants to postpone criminal prosecution to give interrogation more time.

"We should have some quality time with this guy. Weeks and months," he said. "Don't torture him, but have some quality time with him."

Arizona Sen. John McCain wants to see Abu Khatallah in the U.S. military prison in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.

"Where else can you take him to?" McCain said

Gitmo may be out of the question. It's a prison the Obama administration has been trying to shutter. And no detainees have been added there since the President took office, said national security spokeswoman Caitlin Hayden.

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Filed under: Ahmed Abu Khatallah • Benghazi
May 19th, 2014
05:47 AM ET

More California Wildfires Are Contained

The Cocos Fire is slated to go down for the count on Sunday, after scorching almost 2,000 acres of land.

Crews battling that blaze and other wildfires in Southern California expect to have it 100% contained before the day is done. And many of the other fires should meet with the same fate soon, they say.

A shift in the weather pattern has put the wind at their backs, figuratively speaking, bringing in cooler winds and moist air from the Pacific Ocean.

That means that Cocos resident Eloisa will get to return home after taking up temporary residence on a green cot in a high school gymnasium.

The Red Cross had converted it into a fire shelter and lined up dozens of the cots in uniform rows and columns. Most of them were empty, and Eloisa, who didn't give her last name, was one of the few guests left inside.

She told CNN affiliate KGTV that she is not ready to leave because of a culinary delight she tasted there.

"I don't like Mexican food, but they had something called fajitas," she said. "Oh, I came for seconds."

Good food at shelters notwithstanding, many residents have been able to return home, as crews have tamed walls of fire.

It has put a mass exodus into reverse.

In all, 176,000 notices of evacuation had been sent throughout San Diego County via cell phone calls, e-mails, text messages and calls to homes and businesses.

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Possible North Korea Nuclear Test Looms Over Obama's Visit to South Korea
April 25th, 2014
04:25 AM ET

Possible North Korea Nuclear Test Looms Over Obama's Visit to South Korea

President Obama arrived in Seoul, South Korea, Friday to news that North Korea may be counting down to a nuclear weapons test.

Such moves out of Pyongyang are no surprise and are typical for the North's behavior, Obama told reporters while in Tokyo, his previous stop on his Asia trip.

The President said he is prepared to deliver a firm response, if a test is conducted during his visit.

North Korea's heightened activity at its nuclear test site was already known. But now the final step needed for an underground detonation has been taken, a South Korean government official said Thursday.

The North has closed off the entrance to the tunnel at the Punggye-ri nuclear test site, the official said.

That gives Pyongyang 11 days to either detonate a nuclear device or cancel the test. It would be the North's fourth test of a nuclear weapon.

We're expecting a live news conference from the President within the hour. We'll bring it to you when it starts on "Early Start."

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April 3rd, 2014
06:30 AM ET

Fort Hood Shooter Was Iraq Vet Being Treated for Mental Health Issues

The man who opened fire at the Fort Hood military post in Texas was a veteran who served four months in Iraq and was undergoing treatment for mental health issues.

Spc. Ivan Lopez, married with children, moved to the post in Killeen in February from another military installation.

Authorities don't know what prompted the shooting spree Wednesday, where Lopez, 34, killed three people, wounded 16 - before fatally shooting himself.

There aren't indications that this was a terrorist act - but officials said they won't rule anything out until the investigation is over.

"There are initial reports there may have been an argument in one of the unit areas," Lt. Gen Mark Milley, the post's commanding general, told reporters late Wednesday.

"Obviously, we are digging deep into his background, any criminal or psychiatric history, his experiences in combat. All of the things you would expect us to do are being done right now."

Based on publicly released details, interviews with neighbors and conversations with law enforcement and other sources, here's what we know so far about Lopez:

Combat history:

He served for four months in Iraq in 2011. "He was not wounded, according to our records," Milley said. However, Lopez "self-reported" suffering a traumatic brain injury while deployed, he said.

Medical history:

Lopez suffered from depression, anxiety and other psychiatric complaints and was receiving treatment and medication. He was going through the process required to diagnose Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). "He was not diagnosed, as of today, with PTSD," Milley said. That process takes time.

Work history:

Lopez was transferred to Fort Hood from another unnamed base in February. He was assigned to the 13th sustainment command, which deals with the logistical responsibilities for the post. (It was one of two unit buildings where Lopez opened fire).

Retired Army Maj. Gen. James "Spider" Marks expressed surprise at the transfer. Lopez should have remained at the other base for continuity of care, he said.

Lopez was not in the process of being transitioned out of the military, Milley said.

Family history:

He was married and had a daughter, around 3 years old. Just over a week ago, the family moved in to an apartment complex close to the base.

Neighbor Xanderia Morris described the Lopez's as a 'typical, average family."

"They would smile whenever they'd see someone," she said.

After the news of the shooting broke on television, the wife came out crying. "She said 'I'm just worried, I'm just worried,'" Morris said. "I tried to console her and comfort her, let her know everything was OK."

When television reports identified the shooter as Lopez, the wife was "hysterical," the neighbor said.

She was taken from the apartment by law enforcement officials, and was cooperating, an FBI source told CNN.

Gun used:

Lopez used a .45 caliber Smith and Wesson semiautomatic pistol that he recently purchased in the area, Milley said. He didn't know how much ammunition Lopez was carrying.

"If you have weapons and you're on base, it's supposed to be registered on base," Milley said. "This weapon was not registered on base."

Motive:

That's the big unknown.

"There's no indication that this incident is related to terrorism although we are not ruling anything out and the investigation continues," Milley said.

Could it have been an argument? "There are initial reports there may have been an argument in one of the unit areas, but no indication of an argument at the WTU," Milley said. WTU is the acronym for the Warrior Transition Command, where wounded, ill and injured soildiders are taught resilience skills.

He also couldn't say whether Lopez knew his victims.

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Filed under: Ft. Hood
February 27th, 2014
05:21 AM ET

Smoke Smelled in Plane at Oakland, California

The smell of smoke was reported in a plane that landed at California's Oakland International Airport late Wednesday, officials said.

SkyWest Flight 4454 arrived from Los Angeles International Airport on time, landed and taxied to the gate normally. There were 75 passengers and 4 crew members on board the CRJ 900 aircraft at the time.

The reported smell of smoke was noticed shortly after landing, said Delta Air Lines spokesman Russell Cason. SkyWest is a Delta subsidiary.

There were no injuries or damage reported, and passengers disembarked at the gate, airport spokesman Scott Witner said.

Authorities could not find the source of the smoke, and fire officials have left the scene, he said.

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February 26th, 2014
06:46 AM ET

Oklahoma Father Dies in Police Encounter After Mother Slaps Daughter

It was supposed to be a fun family outing to the movies, but then Nair Rodriguez' 19-year-old daughter got under her skin. They fought, she said, and she slapped her daughter.

Moments later, police arrived on a domestic dispute call at the Moore, Oklahoma, theater and confronted - not Nair Rodriguez - but her husband Luis. They took him down, and after the encounter on February 15, he was dead.

Cell phone video taken by his wife and released this week shows the final minutes of the takedown.

Nair Rodriguez accuses officers of brutality. Police say they were following protocol and used no undue force.

Argument, upset

The mother-daughter spat upset the mother so badly that she bolted for the family car. Her husband Luis followed her to calm her down, family attorney Michael Brooks-Jimenez told reporters.

That's when a group of police and theater security officers turned up, he said.

What happened next is disputed.

His wife has said officers beat Luis Rodriguez, CNN affiliate KFOR reported. But Moore Police Chief Jerry Stillings calls the actions of his officers "reasonable."

He would not go in to much detail and said an investigation is underway. But he mentioned that police used pepper spray, CNN affiliate KOCO reported.

Luis Rodriguez ended up on the ground with five men pinning him down, and wife Nair pulled out a cell phone.

Her fearful cries fill the recording.

"Luis! Luis!" she calls out frantically. Her husband does not respond, does not appear to move.

She calls to the officers to assure her that he is alright.

"Please somebody tell me that he is alive," she implores. "He is not moving."

The officers appear calm. One tells her that he will talk to her, once they are finished securing her husband.

Then one walks over to the camera. He tells her that police have called in a medical unit to check on her husband.

It wasn't him

The officer says police received a call about domestic violence before confronting her husband.

It wasn't him, Nair Rodriguez tells him. "I hit my daughter," she says. She wants to know why they have pinned down her husband.

"He refused to give his ID," the officer said. "He got combative."

She notices blood on the officer. "Is he bleeding?" She demands to know.

"I'm bleeding; that's me," the officer says.

An ambulance can be seen in the background, and Luis Rodriguez is lifted onto a stretcher.

The video ends shortly afterward.

Cause of death

An autopsy may reveal more about why Luis Rodriguez died, and surveillance camera footage of the encounter in the movie theater parking lot may reveal what happened before his wife pulled out her cell phone camera.

What police describe as normal procedure, lawyer Brooks-Jimenez describes it as something brutal and possibly deadly.

Pepper spray to the face and the weight of five men on top of him.

CNN has reached out to Brooks-Jimenez for further comment and has placed calls to the Oklahoma Bureau of Investigation.

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