Friday, September 07, 2007
'Lost boys' struggle in outside world
ST. GEORGE, Utah (CNN) -- Franky admits he's conflicted about the life of polygamy he has left behind along with the nearly three dozen brothers and sisters he's banished from seeing.

He also has mixed feelings about the man he once considered a religious prophet, polygamist sect leader Warren Jeffs.

Jeffs, he says, was good to him. He taught him the values of family and the need for structure. "He ain't what everybody portrays him to be," the 21-year-old says.

But still Franky rejected Jeffs' polygamous lifestyle and the teachings of the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (FLDS). He's now trying to make it on his own, one of the estimated 400 so-called "lost boys" who were kicked out of Jeffs' sect or left on their own.

It's not a term he particularly likes or embraces. "I'm not lost, because I ain't running around in a circle. No, thank you," he says.

Click here to read more

-- From Amanda Townsend, CNN Producer
Dan Simon, CNN Correspondent
Posted By CNN: 3:52 PM ET
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Thursday, September 06, 2007
Joining the search for Fossett
I have been flying now for about 10 hours over two days from the upper peninsula of Michigan to Minden, Nevada. I was in Michigan with my small airplane shooting a story on the Great Lakes when I got word that Steve Fossett had gone missing.

I could have flown commercially on this long journey, but I wanted to help join the search if I could. Along the way, I encountered some thunderstorms over the Rockies, which made me think long and hard about the risks. I am a novice mountain pilot -- brought an oxygen bottle along the way so that I can fly high enough to clear the "cumulous-granite" -- and as such decided the better part of valor was to overnight in Casper, Wyoming.

Back in 1998, Steve Fossett flew his balloon into a hellacious thunderstorm over the Coral Sea and wound up in the drink. He toyed with the notion of quitting his effort to circle the globe alone in a balloon. But of course his hesitation faded and he eventually succeeded.

Fossett is not a daredevil. He takes carefully calculated, thoroughly-planned risks. But taking big risks and living to tell the tale can be an insidious trap for humans. The mind plays tricks on us if we let it -- falsely telling us our previous good fortune is proof the odds are better than they really are. It is the same mental trap that led NASA to doom two space shuttle crews. Fossett is not the kind of guy to fall into this trap, so it seems likely whatever happened to him was beyond his control. But sometimes the odds catch up with us.

Flying over this big desert west of the Rockies (much less this big beautiful country of ours) reminds me how hard the task is for those searching for Fossett. His plane was equipped with a radio locator beacon and he wears a Breitling watch with similar capability. But so far nothing. I am listening now to the frequency that it broadcasts on -- with a whooping noise -- and it is silent. So the search continues.

-- By Miles O'Brien, CNN Correspondent
Posted By CNN: 6:17 PM ET
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Wednesday, September 05, 2007
Raw Politics: First Laddie?
Tom Foreman reports on Michigan adding to the primary election chaos and Bill Clinton's new line about being the 'First Laddie.' (Click image at left to play video)
Posted By CNN: 3:56 PM ET
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Tuesday, September 04, 2007
Steve Irwin's legacy
Jeff Corwin says he hasn't changed how he works with wildlife as a result of Steve Irwin's tragic accident.
It is hard for me to believe that just one year ago today the booming, quintessentially Aussie intonation of Steve Irwin was forever silenced by the barb of a stingray while diving off of the Australia's great barrier reef.

I remember exactly where I was the moment this tragedy dramatically unfolded -- it was in the wee hours of the morning when a colleague knocked on my hotel door, in Nome, Alaska, to tell me the tragic news. At first, I thought in was some sort of cruel prank, but upon turning on the television and tuning into CNN, I discovered that the unconceivable had become a reality.

Since that tragic day, I have often reflected upon Steve Irwin's premature death and the profound impact that it has had within the conservation community, in the world of wildlife documentaries, and upon the television hosts like myself who present them.

I am often asked if this most unimaginable accident has caused me to change my perception of the natural world along with the methods I use to work with wildlife. The simple answer is, "No." What happened to Irwin was a most unexpected, freakish event. While I never worked with Irwin and never met him, and while our styles are very different, I truly believe that he never would have wanted to put himself or the wildlife he had worked with in harm's way.

In the end, Irwin's message was one of conservation and he was very much a pioneer in his field, with an incredibly unique talent for sharing important information on wildlife to a global audience.

For millions around the world, he was an advocate for the protection of endangered and often misunderstood species. For many of his viewers, Irwin's TV programs served as an important introduction to the natural world, information that could ultimately be applied to conservation.

For me, though, the great tragedy of his death is most profound in his family's loss of a husband and father. Irwin was not television's first naturalist -- others from David Attenborough to Marlin Perkins came decades before him -- and I imagine after my work on television comes to an end, there will be many others, more talented and younger, waiting inline to replace me.

But I can't imagine my family without my presence. The thought of my child and wife moving forward in life without me there is unconceivable to me. Thus, the untimely passing of Irwin is less the loss of a great naturalist, conservationist, and television presenter (although one could argue in favor of all those attributes), but greater felt for the recognition of his irreplaceable role as a great husband and father.

-- By Jeff Corwin, Biologist and co-host of CNN's Planet in Peril
Posted By CNN: 7:30 PM ET
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Violence haunts Chicago youth
It's the start of another school year here in Chicago; a fresh start for school kids who are coming off one of the deadliest school years in the city's history. Thirty-four Chicago school kids were killed last year, the majority by gunfire.

After a promising young student, Blair Holt, was killed on a city bus going home from school, many kids left class and attended a half-dozen marches and protests demanding change. Jesse Jackson, along with the mayor and local community leaders, protested gun shops, trying to keep more guns off the streets. But the killings continued.

From her front porch in Chicago, Patricia Brown can clearly see the spot just down the street where her daughter was gunned down. Seventeen-year-old Patrice was walking to a friend's house for a sleep-over when she was killed by a stray bullet in a neighborhood shooting in late August.

Patrice's mother and grandmother have sadly familiar complaints about the violence that often erupts without warning and always seems to leave someone dead. But unlike many other grieving relatives, they let out little emotion as they talked -- Patricia and Darlene Brown say they have no more tears to shed.

"There's nothing down there but anger and hatred," Patricia Brown said. "You get so tired of coming and doing the same thing, hearing the same repetition over and over. And now it's time to stop saying enough is enough, and make it enough."

Just last week, Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich cut funding to Operation CeaseFire, an organization dedicated to mediating between rival gang members and preventing violence. He said the organization was no longer a top state priority. The Chicago police say despite all the killings, crime is down overall. They say they respond to spikes in crime, but this new school year will be no different than any other school year before.

Patrice Brown, according to her family, was an outgoing, head-strong teenager. She loved school and got good grades. She couldn't wait to start her senior year and her 18th birthday was coming up in October. Her mother planned to buy her a new laptop.

Patrice dreamed of going to college and getting a degree in business. Instead, she became another face on a shameful list of young victims, another piece of a city's future lost forever.

-- By Ismael Estrada, CNN Producer
David Mattingly, CNN Correspondent
Posted By CNN: 5:49 PM ET
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Genetic variation greater than expected
Craig Venter argues that the nature vs. nurture debate is far from settled.
From the first time it was reveled that my DNA constituted the majority portion of the human genome published by my team at Celera Genomics in 2001, I have frequently been asked what it is like to gaze at my own genetic code. Now, with today's publication of my diploid genome in the public access journal PLOS Biology as the first individual genome, it seems to have only increased people's fascination with what it's like to have your genome in hand. The difference between then and now is that many of the questions today center on what you can learn from reading your genetic code and how soon they can get their genomes sequenced.

At the start of the government funded Human Genome Project when scientists were contemplating whose genome(s) to sequence, secrecy and anonymity were the key words of the time. Fear, driven by genetic deterministic dogma (your genetic code will dictate your life events), dominated the approaches then. The genetic code does largely drive the lives of single cell organisms, but genes plays much less of a role in our bodies since we have over 100 trillion cells, each being nurtured in a unique environment.

The notion that minor changes in the genetic code of single genes will be the primary determinant of what diseases we will get arose out of some of the early genetic discoveries. The classic example is Huntington's Disease in which additional DNA insertions in a single gene are strongly linked to who has the disease. My view is that these early discovered links between genes and disease occurred because they were rare single-gene disorders and were not at all representative of the majority of human traits. Instead, the norm is an impressive array of large sets of genes together with environmental conditions that will determine life outcomes.

Our publication today shows genetic variation between people is substantially higher than we expected and that we do not all have the same sets of genes with minor variations that determine who we are and what diseases we get. While my genetic code shows many disease-linked variations, I am happy and healthy at age 60. And while I'm excited to have my genome in hand, my ultimate goal is to have a database with over 10,000 complete diploid human genomes and associated medical information. Only then will it be possible to assess what is nature, i.e., from your genes, and what is nurture or due to your unique environment. As always, I'm impatient to get to the next level as I have always believed that genomics will revolutionize our lives.

-- By Craig Venter, Chairman and CEO of J. Craig Venter Institute
Posted By CNN: 11:35 AM ET
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Monday, September 03, 2007
'Jena 6' case inflames racial tensions
The deadly weapon was his shoes. That's how the district attorney in a small Louisiana town persuaded a jury to convict 17-year old Mychal Bell, tried as adult on charges of aggravated battery.

Bell is one of the so-called "Jena 6" -- six black teenagers accused of attacking Justin Barker, a white classmate at Jena High School, last fall.

Barker was knocked unconscious and kicked as he lay on the ground. He went to the hospital and was treated for his injuries and released the same day. He went to a school function that night.

Barker was hit from behind and says he didn't see who did it, but school officials soon rounded up six "suspects". Instead of school suspension or expulsion, it became a criminal case. District Attorney Reed Walters had the students arrested and charged with attempted murder. In this state, that can mean 80 years in prison.

Mychal Bell was the first to go to trial. His attempted murder charges were dropped, but he faced a lesser charge of aggravated battery. His public defender called no witnesses. The district attorney told the jury Bell's shoes were a weapon used to kick the defenseless victim. It took an all-white jury just three hours to convict Bell, and he faces more than 20 years in prison.

That was before the news of this story sparked an interest from NAACP, ACLU, and Al Sharpton.

Now Bell has a new lawyer, and we will be in court Tuesday, as the lawyer tries to get the conviction thrown out.

Are the criminal charges realistic or racist? Depends on who you talk to in this town, and many locals refused to talk to us at all. We in the media are "making the town look bad," the mayor told me.

In a town that's 85 percent white, with a white mayor, sheriff, district attorney and trial judge, the parents of the black students who were arrested say their sons will never get a fair trial here. In conversations, they sometimes sound more exhausted than angry.

One question: If justice is blind, does that mean color blind too?

By Susan Roesgen, CNN Correspondent
Posted By CNN: 5:51 PM ET
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