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Intriguing people for January 8, 2010

By Jay Kernis, CNN
Defense Secretary Robert Gates served under President Bush and remained when President Obama took ofice.
Defense Secretary Robert Gates served under President Bush and remained when President Obama took ofice.
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Secretary of Defense says he'll remain in job for at least a year
  • Soldier killed in Iraq first combat death in 43 days
  • Photo exhibit displays intimate portraits of young Elvis Presley
RELATED TOPICS

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) -- Robert Gates
The Secretary of Defense will continue in that position in the Obama administration for at least another year, a Pentagon spokesman said Thursday. "Secretary Gates met with the president just before Christmas and gave him a commitment to stay on the job for at least another year," Geoff Morrell, deputy assistant secretary of defense and Pentagon press secretary, told CNN. Gates served as Secretary of Defense in the last two years of the Bush administration and stayed on in the post when President Obama took office. According to his biography, Gates is the only defense secretary in U.S. history to be asked to remain in office by a newly elected president. Gates once served as president of Texas A&M University.

CNN: Gates to remain as defense secretary

Department of Defense: Robert Gates biography

Army Spc. David A. Croft Jr.

The 22-year-old Plant City, Florida, soldier died Tuesday in Baghdad. Iraq. USA Today reported that insurgents attacked his unit with a makeshift explosive device and small-arms fire. Croft's death was the first in Iraq in 43 days, which is the longest span of time with no deaths since the war began. So far, more than 4,300 U.S. troops have died in the fighting there. President Obama has said that the combat mission in Iraq will be over by the end of this year.

USA Today: First combat death in Iraq in 43 days

Jeff Zucker
The president and chief executive officer of NBC Universal must have had a very busy day yesterday amid rumors that talk show host Jay Leno's 10 p.m. show is not doing well with NBC affiliates or TV audiences. Bill Carter reported in the New York Times that NBC may give Leno back his old time slot of 11:35 p.m., followed by the "Tonight Show" hosted by Conan O'Brien, who replaced Leno. On his Thursday night show, Leno said, "So far, nobody's said anything to me, but...if we did get canceled, it would give us time to maybe do some traveling. I understand that Fox is beautiful this time of year." According to his biography, "Zucker has spent his entire career at NBC Universal, joining the company's Olympic unit in 1986, straight out of college. Zucker was appointed executive producer of 'Today' in January 1992 at age 26, which made him the youngest executive producer in the history of the program."

NY Times: NBC wants Leno back in old time slot

NBC: Jeff Zucker biography

Nick Saban
Alabama's Crimson Tide defeated the Texas Longhorns on Thursday night, 37-21, winning the BCS National Championship at the Rose Bowl. Sports Illustrated reports that Saban is now the first coach since 1936 to win national titles at two different schools: LSU in 2003 and now at Alabama (14-0), which hasn't won such a title since 1992.

SI: Alabama wins national title

Alfred Wertheimer
Elvis Presley would have been 75 years old today, and events around the world will mark the occasion. Among them, the Smithsonian Institution is launching "Elvis at 21," at the Grammy Museum in Los Angeles, California. Wertheimer's 40 intimate photographs of the legendary singer capture Presley during a 1956 road tour, just as his star began to rise. You may know one of the famous images. It's Elvis, in a jacket and tie, kissing a young woman who seems quite thrilled by it all. It's not so much a kiss as a touching of tongues. "People often asked me later on what was so different about Elvis? First of all, he made girls cry and second, he permitted closeness." Wertheimer says on the Smithsonian Web site. Wertheimer is now 80 and lives in New York. He told USA Today, "Elvis keeps me young. Every time I pore over those negatives, I discover something new." Presley died in 1977 at the age of 42.

USA Today: Meet Elvis Presley before he became the King

Smithsonian: Elvis photos by Alfred Wertheimer

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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