Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl, the last American prisoner of war, returned home early Friday morning, his hero's welcome supplanted by a controversial prisoner swap and his reputation tarnished by accusations he was a deserter.
He arrived in San Antonio, Texas, from a military hospital in Landstuhl, Germany, where he'd been recuperating since his release May 31 in exchange for five Taliban figures held at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.
The 28-year-old Bergdahl, the longest held American soldier since the Vietnam War, was taken to the San Antonio Military Medical Center.
"The Army will continue to ensure that Sgt. Bergdahl receives the care, time and space he needs to complete his recovery and reintegration," Pentagon spokesman Rear Adm. John Kirby said.
Bergdahl's full physical recovery may take months; his public rehabilitation will likely take longer.
The swap that freed Bergdahl has stirred up a political storm in Washington. And almost-daily revelations about Bergdahl's time in Afghanistan have not helped matters.
"Everybody has a piece of the story, and very few people have the whole story," a Defense Department psychologist told reporters.
The backlash has gotten so bad that a public celebration in his hometown of Hailey, Idaho - one that the 8,000 residents there had waited five years for - has been scrapped for fear of protests.
"It isn't over for us," Bergdahl's father, Bob, told reporters last week. "In many ways, it's just beginning for Jani and I, and our family. There's a long process here."
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Embattled Toronto Mayor Rob Ford said he is taking a break from his re-election campaign to seek help for alcohol abuse - hours after a local newspaper reported on a new video that allegedly shows him smoking crack cocaine.
"It's not easy to be vulnerable and this is one of the most difficult times in my life," Ford said in a statement Wednesday. "I have a problem with alcohol, and the choices I have made while under the influence. I have struggled with this for some time."
The statement, provided to CNN by Canada's CTV News, comes after the Toronto Globe and Mail reported on the new video.
In the video purportedly filmed Saturday, the newspaper reports Ford is seen smoking what a drug dealer described to the paper as crack cocaine from a copper-colored pipe. Two Globe and Mail reporters viewed the video, and the publication said it was shot in what appears to be Ford's sister's basement.
The paper said the substance in the pipe could not be confirmed.
The video is part "of a package of three videos the dealer said was surreptitiously filmed around 1:15 a.m., and which he says he is now selling for 'at least six figures,'" the paper reported.
See the latest on "Early Start" and get MORE on this story on CNN.com.
A vein on an Oklahoma inmate "exploded" in the middle of his execution Tuesday, prompting authorities to abruptly halt the process and call off another execution later in the day as they try to figure out what went wrong.
The inmate, Clayton Lockett, died 43 minutes after the first injection was administered - according to reporter Courtney Francisco ofCNN affiliate KFOR who witnessed the ordeal - of an apparent heart attack, Oklahoma Department of Corrections Director Robert Patton said.
That first drug, midazolam, is supposed to render a person unconscious. Seven minutes later, Lockett was still conscious. About 16 minutes in, after his mouth and then his head moved, he seemingly tried to get up and tried to talk, saying "man" aloud, according to the KFOR account.
We have the latest on "Early Start," and you can see more on this story HERE.
In a sea of uncertainty, two bits of good news emerged Wednesday.
Searchers picked up fresh signals that officials hope are locator beacons from the data recorders of the missing Malaysia Airlines Flight 370.
The Australian ship Ocean Shield had first picked up the underwater pulses Saturday. But then, for the next three days, nothing.
On Tuesday, the ship once again reacquired the signals. That's four signals in the same broad area: two on Saturday; two on Tuesday. All of the signals are within 17 miles of one another.
"I believe we are searching in the right area, but we need to visually identify wreckage before we can confirm with certainty that this is the final resting place of MH370," said Air Chief Marshal Angus Houston, who's coordinating the Australian operation.
The second piece of good news? Authorities analyzed the signals picked up Saturday and determined they weren't natural occurrences, but likely came from specific electronic equipment. Some marine life make similar sounds.
"They believe the signals to be consistent with the specification and description of a flight data recorder," Houston said. "I'm now optimistic. We'll find the aircraft or what's left of the aircraft in the not too distant future."
Signals getting weaker
Wednesday is Day 33 in the search for Malaysia Airlines Flight 370, which went missing March 8. It was carrying 239 people.
Authorities haven't given up trying. Instead, they are pinning their hopes on the pings.
But time is not on their side.
The batteries powering the flight recorders' locator beacons are certified to be working for 30 days. Stored in a plane's tail, they are designed to begin sending off distinct, high-pitched signals as soon as they come in contact with water.
"The signals are getting weaker. Which means we're either moving away from the search area or the pinger batteries are dying," Houston said.
The first signal, at 4:45 p.m. Perth Time on Saturday, lasted 2 hours 20 minutes.
The second, at 9:27 p.m. Saturday, lasted 13 minutes.
The third signal was picked up Tuesday at 4:27 p.m. That lasted 5 minutes 32 seconds.
The fourth, at 10:17 p.m. Tuesday, was 7 minutes long.
"It's certainly encouraging that more signals have been detected," Pentagon spokesman Adm. John Kirby told CNN. "There is still much work to do, however."
U.S. Navy Capt. Mark Matthews did not join the speculation over the new signals, instead sticking to the black and white world of science.
"I'm an engineer so we don't talk emotions too much," he said.
Matthews is overseeing the American equipment being used aboard the Ocean Shield to pick up the signals.
Scouring for debris
There's still no indication of wreckage from the plane. And so the visual search goes on.
Wednesday's effort includes up to 11 military planes, four civilian aircraft as well as 14 ships. Three of them - the Ocean Shield farther north, and the British HMS Echo and Chinese Haixun 01 to the south - will be focusing underwater.
All told, everyone involved will be scouring a 29,000-square-mile zone centered about 1,400 miles northwest of Perth.
That's roughly the size of South Carolina.
But it still pales in comparison to the once nearly 3 million miles, at sea and on land, the searchers were scouring for signs of the lost aircraft a few weeks ago.
Kevin McEvoy, a New Zealand air force commodore involved in the effort, noted that authorities once "didn't even know which haystack" to look in for the aircraft.
"I think we have got a much clearer picture around the areas that we need to concentrate on," McEvoy told CNN's Erin Burnett from Auckland.
Authorities greatly reduced that area after analyzing satellite data to determine Flight 370 had set off from Kuala Lumpur toward Beijing, turned around to go back over the Malay Peninsula, then ended up in the southern Indian Ocean.
Why? No one really knows.
The best chance to answer that question may rest wherever the plane - and its so-called black boxes, with their trove of information about the plane and its movements - now resides.
Search planes dispatched day after day looking for evidence of the missing airliner - a floating wing, a seat cushion, anything - thus far have come up empty.
The latest, greatest hopes have come from crews listening underwater for signs of Flight 370.
The ocean to contend with
The first such possible breakthrough came last Friday and Saturday, when a Chinese ship detected pulses that may have been from the plane. No more have been heard since.
According to McEvoy, "the main focus" centers around the site of Ocean Shield's discovery. The ship used more advanced detection gear than that aboard the Chinese vessel and was found some 375 miles away, leading Houston to believe they are separate signals.
Beyond the dwindling battery life, there's all the ocean to contend with: The Ocean Shield signals were in water about 2.6 miles deep, meaning a number of things could literally get in the way of or otherwise disrupt the pulses.
To make sure the waters in the area isn't roiled any further, air and sea traffic there is being limited. That's why there's no rush to put in underwater drones to take photos.
Ocean Shield can search six times the amount of area with a towed pinger locator than can be done with the sonar on a drone, Houston said.
"The better the Ocean Shield can define the area, the easier it will be for the Autonomous Underwater Vehicle to subsequently search for aircraft wreckage," he said. "Bear in mind with the Air France disaster, it took the underwater vehicle 20 days to get to the wreckage."
A painstaking process
If more pulses are detected, it's not as if they'll lead down in a straight line to the flight recorders. As is, the pings that were heard could have emanated from anywhere within a 5-mile radius, said Mary Schiavo, a former inspector general for the U.S. Department of Transportation.
Finding more signals could narrow the search area. Without them, authorities could then start the painstaking process of using side-scanning sonar to try to find the aircraft on the ocean's bottom.
The absence of wreckage near these detected signals leaves some skeptical, worried that the Chinese and Australian ship's finds could be yet another false lead in an investigation that's been full of them.
Acknowledging "a very high-speed vertical impact" could explain the lack of aircraft remnants, CNN aviation analyst Miles O'Brien said there's reason to be cautious.
"It's either the most extraordinary event, or those pings weren't real," O'Brien said. "It's somewhat befuddling."
Sarah Bajc, the partner of American passenger Philip Wood, isn't convinced about anything. She told CNN's Erin Burnett she thinks the plane was hijacked.
"All of us pretty well agree that until there's the bulk of the plane, the bulk of the bodies discovered, and a black box intact, we won't believe that it's final evidence," Bajc said early Wednesday from Beijing. "I don't think the authorities have given us much confidence of their investigative skills so far."
The lack of clarity makes it hard to "grieve properly and ... move on" - something that she's not yet willing to do.
"I want to fight to find him, in whatever form that ends up being," said Bajc, who is coordinating with other passengers' kin to press for answers. "And I think most of the families feel the same way."
Until they get answers, family members like Steve Wang are clinging to hope while trying to hold themselves together. His mother was on the plane.
"We're just going through so many kinds of emotion," Wang said. "Desperate, sad and helpless - something like that. Everything."
Brig. Gen. Jeffrey Sinclair - once one of the U.S. Army's top commanders in Afghanistan and accused of "sodomy ... by force" and other military crimes - is to set to plead guilty Thursday to some charges but not the most serious levied against him, his lawyer said.
Sinclair will plead guilty on three of the eight charges he's facing in military court, according to the office of lawyer Richard Scheff. These include "wrongfully engaging in ... inappropriate relationships" with three women soldiers from 2009 to 2012 overseas in Iraq, Afghanistan and Germany as well as domestically at Fort Bragg, North Carolina, and Fort Hood, Texas.
He'll also admit to having requested and possessed "pornographic and sexually explicit photographs and movies," having "sexually explicit communications with a female Army captain, and trying "to engage in an inappropriate relationship" with another woman. And the brigadier general will plead guilty to impeding the investigation into him by deleting nude photographs and an e-mail account, his lawyer said.
But Sinclair will not admit to the most serious accusations against him, including the sodomy charge and that he threatened "to kill (one of the soldiers) and her family if she told anyone about their relationship, or words to that effect."
He is also charged with "using his rank and authority to coerce and compel" a woman "subject to his orders ... to maintain a sexual relationship with him and prevent her from ending (that) relationship."
"The government now has a big problem: It took pathetically weak assault charges and put a fancy wrapper around them," Scheff said. "We just tore the wrapper off. The prosecution team no longer gets to distract us with salacious details about acts that aren't even criminal in the civilian world."
Yet Sinclair could still be found guilty on all the charges against him.
It's up to a military judge to accept the guilty pleas as is, though Scheff's office indicates that they expect he'll do so. Moreover, the full trial is still set to proceed as planned with opening arguments kicking off at some point Thursday.
Sinclair was sent to Fort Bragg from Afghanistan in 2012, the same year the last alleged incidents occurred and when he was originally charged. He had been deputy commander of the Army's 82nd Airborne Division.
Scheff said Wednesday that his client "has consistently admitted his shortcomings and taken responsibility for them."
Bitter cold. Below-zero. Blizzard conditions.
Sorry, Northeast. But those are phrases you'll be using a lot Friday amid a monster storm.
And not just the Northeast, forecasters said. About one-third of the nation - approximately 100 million people in 22 states - is in the path this storm.
But the Northeast will be hardest-hit, the National Weather Service said.
"Heaviest snow will fall from central New York to the Massachusetts coast. Blizzard conditions are possible for eastern Long Island and the Massachusetts coast. Bitter cold will move into the Midwest and East following the storm," the Weather Service said.
The storm was expected to be at its fiercest between 8 p.m. Thursday and 10 a.m. Friday, according to CNN meteorologist Dave Hennen.
"Falling and blowing snow with strong winds and poor visibilities are likely," the Weather Service said. "This will lead to whiteout conditions making travel extremely dangerous. Do not travel."
Across the country, the nasty weather has snarled travel plans for many.
More than 2,200 U.S. flights had been canceled as of late Thursday night, reported FlightAware.com, which tracks cancellations due to weather and mechanical problems. It's not like things will suddenly clear up: the same website reports that some 1,300 flights already have been canceled in advance for Friday.
Thursday's most affected airport was Chicago's O'Hare, with more than 650 cancellations in and out and about the same number of delays. Newark's Liberty International Airport, New York's LaGuardia and Cleveland's Hopkins were also affected.
See more at CNN.com
It's ugly out there. And it's only getting uglier.
Tuesday has been a mess for much of the East Coast. A massive storm that started in California soaked a huge swath from Florida to New England, with snow and sleet falling in pockets of Pennsylvania and New York, CNN Meteorologist Indra Petersons reports the latest.
This system isn't going away anytime soon. In fact, it could cause even more problems and headaches on Wednesday, especially if you are among the thousands at airports waiting and waiting and waiting to fly home for Thanksgiving.
That's because winds are forecast to pick up and sock densely populated places in the Northeast in the next day or so.
For drivers, big gusts mixed with drenching rains can slow things down any day. For air travelers, there is always a big trickle-down effect when places like New York's LaGuardia and Kennedy airports or those in Philadelphia and Boston experience wind delays.
According to flight tracker websites this morning, Roughly 200 flights have been canceled nationwide, with about 120 delays at this hour, reports CNN's Rene Marsh. (SEE VIDEO BELOW)\
After all the bickering and grandstanding, the billions lost and trust squandered, it was much ado about nothing
The partial government shutdown's finally over. The debt ceiling debacle has been averted. Obamacare remains virtually unscathed.
The hardline House Republicans, whose opposition to the President's signature healthcare law set this all in motion, got pretty much zip - except maybe their reputations marred.
"To say we as Republicans left a lot on the table would be one of the biggest understatements in American political history,"Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina tweeted.
But it's all temporary - the cliched kicking of the can. In a few months, Congress will come back to fight the same battles.
For now, though, thousands of furloughed federal workers will return to work Thursday, the U.S. can pay its bills, and an economic superpower can again boast a functioning government.
Pundits will conduct a post-mortem of the bitter stalemate. And the public will look ahead to what's next.
CNN's Athena Jones says the House and Senate budget chairs will meet Thursday to talk about the big challenges ahead like getting a fiscal budget for 2014.
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The country crashes into the debt ceiling at midnight, and there is no deal yet in Washington.
The deal-making resumes Wednesday, as the government slides into day 16 of the shutdown.
Legislators dropped hints on their way home Tuesday that Senate leaders will present a deal to raise the debt ceiling and reopen the partially shuttered government.
And a Republican member of the House of Representatives is holding out hope that Speaker John Boehner could break with a Republican tradition to put that deal on a fast track.
After adjourning the Senate for the night around 10 p.m. Tuesday, majority leader Sen. Harry Reid sounded upbeat. "We're in good shape," the Nevada Democrat said.
Senate staffers burned midnight oil to draft a framework bill, and a spokesman for Reid said he and his counterpart, minority leader, Republican Senator Mitch McConnell, "are optimistic that an agreement is within reach."
The Senate isn't in session until noon Wednesday, but it's possible that statements may go out in the morning in an effort to assure the markets of progress.
It's been seemingly nonexistent in Washington for weeks, as Republicans and Democrats squabbled about funding the government and whether to raise its borrowing limit. Both sides drew their lines in the sand and talked vociferously at each other, but not to each other.
On Thursday, 10 days into the government's partial shutdown, the tide appeared to turn. House Republicans offered a plan to temporarily stave off the threat of a first-ever U.S. debt default. President Barack Obama listened to them. Both sides agreed to keep on talking.
Said Rep. Pete Sessions, a Texas Republican: "We're all working together now."
Sessions spoke early Thursday evening after he and fellow House Republicans talked with Obama at the White House.