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Intriguing people for December 8, 2009

By Jay Kernis, CNN
Danica Patrick. the first woman to win an IndyCar event, will begin driving for a NASCAR team.
Danica Patrick. the first woman to win an IndyCar event, will begin driving for a NASCAR team.
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Racer Danica Patrick's jump to NASCAR makes her one of Tuesday's intriguing people
  • U.S. citizen charged with helping terrorists is also on our list
  • Teen researcher, gang area bus tour operator, and legendary actress round out the list

Editor's note: Every weekday, CNN focuses on a handful of people in the news. This is a chance to find out more about what they've done -- good or bad -- what they've said, or what they believe, and why we think they're intriguing.

(CNN) -- Danica Patrick
The first woman to win an IndyCar race (the 2008 Indy Japan 300) is expected to announce today that she will drive for a NASCAR team co-owned by Dale Earnhardt, Jr. Born and raised in the Midwest, Patrick began racing go-karts at the age of 10, dropped out of high school to race professionally full time, and was once on the team co-owned by "Late Show" host David Letterman. Her third-place finish at the 2009 Indianapolis 500 was the highest finish by a woman in the event's history.

CNN: Six women who beat the boys

David Coleman Headley
The U.S. citizen from Chicago, Illinois, is charged with helping to plan the November 2008 terrorist attacks in Mumbai, India, which killed 160 people, including six Americans.

The Justice Department said Headley attended terrorism training camps in Pakistan and conspired with members of the group Lashkar-e-Tayyiba to carry out attacks in Denmark and India.

CNN: U.S. citizen charged in Mumbai attacks

CNN: Mumbai remembers terror attacks

Ruoyi Jiang
The 17-year-old high school senior from Long Island, New York, won top prize and a $100,000 scholarship in the national Siemens Competition, which honors research in technology, science and math. Jiang lost his biology teacher and mentor this year to esophageal cancer, and says he wants to research chemotherapy treatments to combat cancer.

Siemens Competition home page

Alfred Lomas
The gang intervention worker, a former gang member himself, is now part of a non-profit group that will soon begin bus tours of some of the toughest gang areas of Los Angeles. For $65 per adult, tourists will be able to visit the sites of gang shoot-outs and see decaying public housing. L.A. Gang Tours says it will send any profits to community job-creation programs and make loans to inner-city businesses.

L.A. Gang Tours home page

Leslie Caron
The French actress will get a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame today. She danced with Fred Astaire and Gene Kelly, and starred in such classics as "Gigi," "An American in Paris" and "Daddy Long Legs," becoming the epitome of talent, chic, glamour, and sophistication. She also won a 2007 Emmy Award for her appearance on "Law & Order: Special Victims Unit."

Internet Movie Database: Leslie Caron

What makes a person intriguing?

There are people who enter the news cycle every day because their actions or decisions are new, important, or different. Others are in the news because they are the ones those decisions affect. And there are a number of people who are so famous or controversial that anything they say or do becomes news.

Some of these people do what we expect of them: They run for office, pass legislation, start a business, get hired or fired, commit a crime, make an arrest, get in accidents, hit a home run, overthrow a government, fight wars, sue an opponent, put out fires, prepare for hurricanes, and cavort with people other than their spouses. They do make news, but the action is usually more important than who is involved in the story.

But every day there are a number of people who become fascinating to us -- by virtue of their character, how they reached their decision, how they behaved under pressure, or because of the remarkable circumstances surrounding the event they are involved in.

They arouse our curiosity. We hear about them, and want to know more. What they have done or said stimulates conversations across the country. At times, there is even a mystery about them. What they have done may be unique, heroic, cowardly or ghastly, but they capture our imaginations. We want to know what makes them tick, why they believe what they do, and why they did what they did. They intrigue us.

 
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