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Intriguing people for December 11, 2009

By Jay Kernis, CNN
Cincinnati coach Brian Kelly gets a victory soaking after his team's win over Syracuse to claim the 2008 Big East title.
Cincinnati coach Brian Kelly gets a victory soaking after his team's win over Syracuse to claim the 2008 Big East title.
  • Notre Dame taps Cincinnati coach Brian Kelly to help resurrect a football dynasty
  • An undercover NYC cop kills a well-armed panhandler in crowded Times Square
  • George Stephanopoulos sets his alarm earlier -- a LOT earlier -- to host ABC's morning show

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) -- Brian Kelly
At a news conference Friday in South Bend, Indiana, the University of Notre Dame is expected to announce that Kelly has signed a five-year contract to become the Irish's fifth coach this decade -- the worst in Notre Dame's history, with a 70-52 record. Kelly won two Big East titles as head coach at the University of Cincinnati. The son of an alderman in Chelsea, Massachusetts, Kelly worked on Gary Hart's 1984 presidential campaign in the Boston area and had considered a career in politics.

University of Notre Dame: Brian Kelly named 29th head football coach

Gene Barry
The debonair, always well-dressed actor who starred in such television series as "Bat Masterson," "Burke's Law" and "The Name of the Game," died at age 90 at a rest home in Los Angeles, California. He is also remembered for his appearance in the 1953 science-fiction classic movie "War of the Worlds" and on Broadway in the role of Georges, the gay night club owner in Jerry Herman's hit musical "La Cage aux Folles," which earned Barry a Tony nomination in 1984.

Internet Movie Database: Gene Barry filmography and bio

Daniel Deng
He's one of 18,000 boys who for years in the late 1980s braved the battlefields of southern Sudan to march all the way to Kenyan refugee camps. Many ended up in the United States. Daniel Deng was among the lucky "Lost Boys" who survived the fighting, but his year-long march cost him his legs. A dual U.S./Sudanese citizen, he returned to Sudan in his wheelchair to mobilize Sudanese to vote and for the first time determine their future.

CNN:Refugee returns to Sudan to sign up voters

Christopher Newsom
The New York City police sergeant runs a task force that monitors aggressive panhandling. Yesterday in Times Square, he stopped a vendor named Raymond Martinez, who was pushing pedestrians to buy his CDs. When Newsom questioned Martinez, the peddler began running and fired with a machine pistol that held 30 rounds, getting off two shots before it jammed. The officer fired four times, striking Martinez in the chest and arms and killing him. No one else on the crowded streets was hit. Police found four business cards linked to Virginia gun dealers. One of the cards had a handwritten message on the back: "I just finished watching 'The Last Dragon.' I feel sorry for a cop if he thinks I'm getting into his paddy wagon."

CNN: Suspect dies in Times Square shooting; holiday crowds unharmed

George Stephanopoulos
ABC News, after a three-month search, has selected its chief political correspondent to succeed Diane Sawyer as co-anchor of "Good Morning America." The campaign strategist and former aide to President Clinton was one of the most successful political insiders before he ever set his sights on broadcast news and was featured, along with James Carville, in "The War Room" documentary on the successful 1992 Clinton campaign.

CNN: George Stephanopoulos named 'Good Morning America' anchor

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.