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Intriguing people for December 28, 2009

By Jay Kernis, CNN

Florida coach Urban Meyer is 56-10 as head coach of the Gators.
Florida coach Urban Meyer is 56-10 as head coach of the Gators.
  • Florida football coach changes mind about resignation
  • Businessman and attorney for Malcolm X dies at 89
  • Actor Charlie Sheen charged with assault against wife, according to police

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) -- Urban Meyer
Football or health? The Florida head football coach will not step down but instead will take an indefinite leave of absence, he said Sunday. Sports Illustrated reports that Meyer said being with his players at a "spirited practice" Sunday morning persuaded him not to resign.

On Saturday, he stunned the college football world when he announced he would leave Florida after five seasons because of concerns about his health. He was rushed to a Gainesville hospital December 6 after suffering major chest pains, and he said Sunday that he had experienced chest pains for the past four years.

SI: Change of mind: Meyer will take indefinite leave

Percy Sutton
The civil rights attorney who represented Malcolm X and became an influential New York politician and broadcaster has died at age 89. Sutton was credited with leading the revitalization of Harlem, New York, including the restoration of the famous Apollo Theater. In a statement issued by the White House, President Obama said that "his life-long dedication to the fight for civil rights and his career as an entrepreneur and public servant made the rise of countless young African-Americans possible."

Sutton, a native of Texas, was an intelligence officer for the famed Tuskegee Airmen during World War II before becoming an attorney. He represented Malcolm X until the one-time Nation of Islam leader's 1965 assassination, and continued to represent his widow, Betty Shabazz, until her death in a 1997 fire. He then defended Shabazz's 12-year-old grandson, who admitted to starting the fatal blaze. After serving as Manhattan borough president from 1966 to 1977, Sutton became an African-American broadcasting pioneer by purchasing radio stations WLIB and WBLS, launching the first radio chain aimed at black listeners, civil rights leader Al Sharpton said Sunday.

CNN: Sutton, trailblazing businessman, dies at 89

Umaru Abdul Mutallab
The father of Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, the 23-year-old Nigerian man charged with trying to blow up a Northwest Airlines flight from Amsterdam, The Netherlands, to Detroit, Michigan, on Christmas Day, recently retired as chairman of First Bank PLC, one of Nigeria's premier banks. A family source told CNN that Mutallab had contacted the embassy in Nigeria's capital, Abuja, and various other security agencies about three months ago after receiving a text message from his son.

The source, who lives at the family home in Kaduna in northern Nigeria, said that in the message, the son told his family he was leaving school in Dubai to move to Yemen. He implied that he was leaving "for the course of Islam." The family member said Abdulmutallab "had no family consent or support," adding he "absconded to Yemen."

CNN: Source: Suspect's father tried to warn authorities

Robert Park
The American missionary who went missing Christmas Day may be in North Korea, according to the San Diego Union-Tribune, a California newspaper. Park's parents last heard from him in a December 23 e-mail, in which he wrote that "some great things are going to happen." They later heard from a fellow activist that Park had entered North Korea. Pyong Park said he fears that North Korean authorities have taken his son prisoner, according to the Union-Tribune.

San Diego Union-Tribune: Parents pray for son, who may be in North Korea

Charlie Sheen
Colorado law enforcement sources say actor Charlie Sheen wielded a deadly weapon, possibly a knife, during a confrontation with his wife on Christmas morning. reports that the popular actor was released from a Colorado jail Friday after he was arrested on domestic violence-related charges. Sheen, 44, was charged with second-degree assault and menacing, both felonies, and criminal mischief, a misdemeanor. Additionally, Colorado law mandates a protective order between someone arrested for domestic violence and the victim. The actor's spokesman, Stan Rosenfield, cautioned against jumping to conclusions.

Sheen has been married to real estate investor Brooke Mueller Sheen, his third wife, since May 2008. The couple has twin sons born in March. Sheen stars in the popular television comedy "Two and a Half Men" with Jon Cryer, and is one of the highest-paid actors on TV. In 1997, Sheen pleaded guilty to attacking his girlfriend, Brittany Ashfield.

KTLA: Sheen threatened wife with knife

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.