July 13th, 2011
11:59 PM ET

'Ex-terrorist' rakes in homeland security bucks

Editor's note: Watch Part 2 of Drew Griffin's special investigative report about Walid Shoebat Thursday on AC360° beginning at 10pm ET.

Rapid City, South Dakota (CNN) - Walid Shoebat had a blunt message for the roughly 300 South Dakota police officers and sheriff's deputies who gathered to hear him warn about the dangers of Islamic radicalism.

Terrorism and Islam are inseparable, he tells them. All U.S. mosques should be under scrutiny.

"All Islamic organizations in America should be the No. 1 enemy. All of them," he says.

It's a message Shoebat is selling based on his own background as a Palestinian-American convert to conservative Christianity. Born in the West Bank, the son of an American mother, he says he was a Palestinian Liberation Organization terrorist in his youth who helped firebomb an Israeli bank in Bethlehem and spent time in an Israeli jail.

That billing helps him land speaking engagements like a May event in Rapid City - a forum put on by the state Office of Homeland Security, which paid Shoebat $5,000 for the appearance. He's a darling on the church and university lecture circuit, with his speeches, books and video sales bringing in $500,000-plus in 2009, according to tax records.

"Being an ex-terrorist myself is to understand the mindset of a terrorist," Shoebat told CNN's "Anderson Cooper 360."

But CNN reporters in the United States, Israel and the Palestinian territories found no evidence that would support that biography. Neither Shoebat nor his business partner provided any proof of Shoebat's involvement in terrorism, despite repeated requests.

Back in his hometown of Beit Sahour, outside Bethlehem, relatives say they can't understand how Shoebat could turn so roundly on his family and his faith.

"I have never heard anything about Walid being a mujahedeen or a terrorist," said Daood Shoebat, who says he is Walid Shoebat's fourth cousin. "He claims this for his own personal reasons."

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Filed under: 360° Radar • 360º Follow • Islam
July 13th, 2011
11:54 PM ET

KTH: Man says he's an ex-terrorist

Editor's note: CNN's Anderson Cooper reports about assertions by Walid Shoebat, who says he used to be a terrorist.

Related: 'Ex-terrorist' rakes in homeland security bucks

July 13th, 2011
11:45 PM ET

Raw Politics: Tense moments in debt ceiling talks

Editor's note: CNN's Jessica Yellin reports on a confrontation of sorts between Pres. Obama and House Majority Leader Eric Cantor.

Related: Latest deficit talks end with a tense exchange

July 13th, 2011
09:45 PM ET

Tense W.H. Deficit Talks: Join the Live Chat

The latest deficit talks at the White House ended with a tense exchange between Pres. Obama and House Majority Leader Eric Cantor. The Virginia Republican says Obama cut him off this afternoon by saying "I'll see you tomorrow" and walked out of the meeting. We've got the Raw Politics. Plus, CNN's Ben Wedeman and his crew get caught in crossfire of new fighting in Libya. And, see what the Foo Fighters have to do with tonight's 'RidicuList.'

Scroll down to join the live chat during the program. It's your chance to share your thoughts on tonight's headlines. Keep in mind, you have a better chance of having your comment get past our moderators if you follow our rules.

Here are some of them:

1) Keep it short (we don't have time to read a "book")
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5) Watch your language (keep it G-rated; PG at worst - and that includes $#&*)

Filed under: Live Blog
July 13th, 2011
08:27 PM ET

Republican leader says latest deficit talks ended abruptly

Washington (CNN) - A fourth straight day of talks intended to head off a possible government default ended on a tense note Wednesday, with House Majority Leader Eric Cantor saying President Barack Obama cut him off by saying "I'll see you tomorrow" before walking out.

The exchange concluded almost two hours of talks that failed to achieve a breakthrough. Another session - the fifth in five days - was set for Thursday, participants said.

Administration officials have warned that a failure to raise the current $14.3 trillion debt ceiling by August 2 could trigger a partial default. If Washington lacks the money to pay its bills, interest rates could skyrocket and the value of the dollar could decline, among other things.

The seriousness of the situation was reinforced when a major rating agency said Wednesday it would put the sterling bond rating of the United States on review for possible downgrade.

Moody's Investors Services said it had initiated the review because of "the rising possibility" that Congress will fail to raise the debt ceiling in time - something that could lead to a U.S. default on its debt.

Cantor, R-Virginia, told reporters after Wednesdays meeting that he proposed a short-term agreement to raise the federal debt ceiling, a position Obama has previously rejected. The president wants one deal that will raise the amount of money the government can borrow to sufficient levels to last through 2012 - after his campaign for re-election.

"That's when he got very agitated and said I've sat here long enough - that no other president - Ronald Reagan - would sit here like this - and that he's reached the point that something's gotta give," Cantor said, adding that Obama called for Republicans to compromise on either their insistence that a debt-ceiling hike must be matched dollar-for-dollar by spending cuts or on their opposition to any kind of tax increase.

"And he said to me, 'Eric, don't call my bluff.' He said 'I'm going to the American people with this,' " Cantor quoted Obama as saying.

"I was somewhat taken aback," Cantor said. When he continued to press the issue, Cantor said, Obama "shoved back from the table, said 'I'll see you tomorrow' and walked out."

A Democratic source familiar with the talks said on condition of not being identified that Obama cut off Cantor at the end when the Virginia Republican questioned him for the third time on his opposition to a short-term extension of the federal debt ceiling.

Another Democratic source, also speaking on condition of anonymity, described the tone of the meeting as tense but constructive and said that at one point, Cantor was challenged on what the source called "talking out of both sides of his mouth."

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Filed under: 360° Radar • 360º Follow
Beat 360° 7/13/11
Vice President Joe Biden, right, talks with White House Chief of Staff Bill Daley, left, while President Barack Obama, 3rd left, meets with, left to right, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA), House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH), Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV), Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY), and Sen. Dick Durbin (D-IL), in the Cabinet Room of the White House in Washington, DC. (Photo credit: Mark Wilson/Getty Images)
July 13th, 2011
07:47 PM ET

Beat 360° 7/13/11

Ready for today's Beat 360°? Everyday we post a picture you provide the caption and our staff will join in too. Tune in tonight at 10pm to see if you are our favorite!

Jarman Day-Bohn
“Why won’t the Vulcan pinch work in the real world?!”


Lynda Nelson, BC Canada
Vice President Joe Biden: “I mean it Bill ... hold off on jokes about Boehner's tan... you'll bring him to tears – LITERALLY!!"

Beat 360° Challenge

Filed under: Beat 360°
Libyan rebels looted and beat civilians, rights group says
Libyan rebels taking position near the hill village of Kikla, during an offensive by forces loyal to Moammar Gadhafi on July 13, 2011.
July 13th, 2011
07:45 PM ET

Libyan rebels looted and beat civilians, rights group says

Zintan, Libya (CNN) - Libyan rebels have looted and burned homes and abused civilians, a human rights group said Wednesday.

The New York-based Human Rights Watch said that, in "four towns captured by rebels in the Nafusa Mountains over the past month, rebel fighters and supporters have damaged property, burned some homes, looted from hospitals, homes, and shops, and beaten some individuals alleged to have supported government forces."

The accusations came as rebel forces inside Libya managed to retake a village from Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi 's forces, and rebel leaders were in Europe meeting with NATO officials and the European Commission.

Mahmoud Jibril, chairman of the executive board of the opposition Transitional National Council, said the complaints represent only a "few incidents" that "took place in the very early days of the revolution, and we've been investigating those cases. We are against any human rights violation whomever is the source of those violations." Those responsible are "going to be brought to justice," he vowed.

Jibril spoke at a news conference after meeting with European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso in Brussels, Belgium.

In the news release announcing the accusations, Human Rights Watch said its representatives had "witnessed some of these acts, interviewed witnesses to others, and spoke with a rebel commander about the abuses."

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Filed under: 360° Radar • 360º Follow • Middle East
July 13th, 2011
07:00 PM ET

Debt ceiling: Moody's puts U.S. on notice

NEW YORK (CNNMoney) - The public pressure on lawmakers to raise the debt ceiling was ratcheted up Wednesday when a major rating agency said it would put the sterling bond rating of the United States on review for possible downgrade.

Moody's Investors Services said it had initiated the review because of "the rising possibility" that Congress will fail to raise the debt ceiling by Aug. 2 - something that could lead to a U.S. default on its debt.

If the debt ceiling isn't raised by then, the Treasury Department says it will no longer be able to pay all the country's bills in full and on time without being allowed to borrow new money.

"Moody's considers the probability of a default on interest payments to be low but no longer to be de minimis," Moody's said in a statement.

The United States enjoys its AAA rating in part for having always stood behind its debt and paid its bills on time. As a result, U.S. Treasury bonds are considered the world's safe-haven investment.

The Treasury Department issued an immediate response Wednesday.

"Moody's assessment is a timely reminder of the need for Congress to move quickly to avoid defaulting on the country's obligations and agree upon a substantial deficit reduction package," Treasury official Jeffrey A. Goldstein said in a statement.

FULL STORY on CNNMoney.com

Filed under: 360° Radar • 360º Follow
Court: Jared Loughner can refuse anti-psychotic medication
Lawyers representing Jared Loughner contend that forcing him to take drugs against his will violates his rights.
July 13th, 2011
09:15 AM ET

Court: Jared Loughner can refuse anti-psychotic medication

(CNN) - A three-judge federal appeals panel has ruled that Tucson shooting suspect Jared Lee Loughner can refuse anti-psychotic medication.

Tuesday's ruling comes days after the court said it would review an appeal by attorneys for the government who argued the alleged gunman should be forced to take anti-psychotic drugs for his behavior.

The federal appeals court last week temporarily halted the forced medication.

"Since Loughner has not been convicted of a crime, he is presumptively innocent and is therefore entitled to greater constitutional protections than a convicted inmate," court documents said.

"While both interests are significant, we conclude that preserving the dignity and bodily integrity of an individual who has not been convicted of a crime is the stronger interest, especially when the government has demonstrated that it is able to prevent that individual from harming himself or others."


Filed under: 360° Radar • 360º Follow
July 13th, 2011
09:05 AM ET

Gergen: Why Obama's pushing for a mega-deal

Editor's note: David Gergen is a senior political analyst for CNN and has been an adviser to four presidents. He is a professor of public service and director of the Center for Public Leadership at Harvard University's Kennedy School of Government.

(CNN) - With a debt-ceiling crisis building in Washington, the administration on Tuesday opened another window into President Obama's thinking about the best ways to bring resolution.

On Monday, I wrote a piece arguing that the major players in the debt negotiations have all painted themselves into corners.

The Republicans were the first to lock themselves in, signing pledges during their campaigns promising not to raise taxes - period. Democrats insist they won't accept any deal that doesn't have significant new revenues. And Obama on Monday promised to kill any compromise that is short term. If we are to avert a default, I wrote, all three parties must find ways out of their corners and compromise.

On Tuesday, a high-ranking official familiar with the president's thinking explained to me why Obama's opposition to a short-term solution makes sense. He made some persuasive points, though I still think that Obama may need some wiggle room before this is over.

The president clearly sees himself as the man in the middle trying to pull off a historic grand bargain. So far, he thinks that while Democrats will strongly resist, they would ultimately go along with entitlement reforms as a way to get a mega-package of some $4 trillion in savings over 10 years. There is give on their side, he believes. But there are no Bob Doles and Pete Domenicis on the Republican side willing to show similar flexibility on taxes.

With prospects dimming for a mega-deal, the president is driving hard to ensure that whatever agreement emerges will keep the country below a new debt ceiling until February 2013. The administration calculates that it will need to raise the current debt ceiling between $2.5 trillion and $2.7 trillion to get to that point.

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