American hiker, Sarah Shourd is happy to be back in the United States after being held for 14 months in an Iranian prison. The homecoming, as welcome as it was, is still bittersweet. Her companions, Shane Bauer and Josh Fattal are still being held. The three were arrested last year when they were hiking near the Iran-Iraq border. Sarah Shourd talked on CNN's "American Morning" about her ordeal and efforts to get her two friends free.
If you had a spare $100 million, what is the one thing you would do? Well, Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg and TV queen Oprah Winfrey are getting together today to hand over that amount to help to give a fighting chance to inner city kids in Newark, New Jersey, which has a troubled public schools system.
Newark is a city where 46% of students fail to graduate and only 20% go on to attend a four-year college. So is giving this school system $100 million really going to make a difference? Steve Perry, CNN education contributor and principal and founder of Capital Preparatory magnet school, and David Kirkpatrick, author of "The Facebook Effect", weigh in:
John Roberts: The premiere of "The Social Network" [a movie about Zuckerberg and the birth of Facebook] is out tonight. Is he trying to fight back against that image?
David Kirkpatrick: This can't be a complete coincidence. Clearly the movie that premieres tonight and opens nationwide next week, which really does portray him unflatteringly is something he's not happy about. It cannot be a complete coincidence that the first time he's ever come out of the gate and basically done anything related to anything other than Facebook is exactly when the movie's coming out. On the other hand, I do believe he really does believe in education and I think probably what happened was, you know, this is something he's been talking about for a long time with a sort of vague aim to counter the image problem with the movie. The fact it ends up coming on the exact same day that the movie premieres has got to have been an uncomfortable coincidence that even he didn't want.
Steve Perry: This is not about the founder of Facebook. For me, it's about academics and about what happens in the schools, and we've been throwing money at the problem for a long time. I'm going to applaud the fact he's giving the money but in terms of performance, creating a better academic experience, if money were the issue, then prisons would be the most effective place to send children because that's where we spend the most money. It's about transforming the way in which we operate public education.
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Senate Democrats give up push for pre-election tax cut vote
Washington (CNN) - Senate Democrats will not vote on extending Bush-era tax cuts for families making less than $250,000 a year before the upcoming congressional elections, the spokesman for Majority Leader Harry Reid confirmed Thursday.
"We will come back in November [after the elections] and stay in session as long as it takes to get this done," said a statement from Reid's spokesman, Jim Manley.
The announcement followed reports by CNN, citing senior Democratic sources, that Senate Democrats would hold off for now on forcing a vote on the measure pushed by President Obama.
"The reality is, we will not pass what needs to be passed to change this either in the Senate or the House before the election," said Sen. Dick Durbin of Illinois, the second-ranking Democrat in the Senate.
Obama and other Democratic leaders have repeatedly expressed their desire to extend the 2001 and 2003 Bush tax cuts - currently slated to expire at the end of the year - only for families earning less than $250,000 and individuals earning less than $200,000.
Republicans have stood firm on supporting extensions of the tax breaks for all taxpayers, including the wealthiest Americans. FULL STORY
Police search for suspects in Nicaraguan diplomat's slaying
New York (CNN) - Investigators are still looking for suspects in the apparent homicide of a Nicaraguan diplomat found with his throat slashed in his New York apartment, police said.
Two knives were involved in the death of Cesar Mercado, the consul of Nicaragua in New York, police said late Thursday.
A 12-inch steak knife was found beside the blood-filled bathroom sink, New York Police Department Deputy Commissioner Paul Browne said. A second knife, a 4- to 6-inch paring knife, was found in the sink, Browne said.
Mercado, 34, was last seen alive Wednesday.
His body was found just inside the door of a small, sixth-floor studio apartment in the Bronx on Thursday by a driver who had arrived to take him to the United Nations. FULL STORY
U.N. delegates walk out during Iranian president's speech
United Nations (CNN) - Delegates from the United States and other nations walked out of the U.N. General Assembly on Thursday as Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad delivered a fiery speech that criticized Washington, capitalism and the world body itself.
Though incendiary statements from Ahmadinejad are nothing new, tension in the hall grew as the Iranian leader recounted various conspiracy theories about the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks on New York and Washington.
"Some segments within the U.S. government orchestrated the attack," Ahmadinejad told the General Assembly. He followed with the claim that the attacks were aimed at reversing "the declining American economy and its scripts on the Middle East in order to save the Zionist regime. The majority of the American people, as well as most nations and politicians around the world, agree with this view."
That appeared to be the last straw for many of the diplomats. Representatives from the United States, Britain, Sweden, Australia, Belgium, Uruguay and Spain walked out while Ahmadinejad asserted that U.S. government was involved in the attacks or allowed them to happen as an excuse to go to war in Afghanistan and Iraq. FULL STORY
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