Babies love their backpacks

— Back to school means back to lugging around unwieldy backpacks for schoolkids, but many little ones who want to be just like their older siblings and role models love the idea of carrying their prized possessions on their backs.

CNN asked its iReport community for photos of children carrying backpacks, whether they were returning to class, starting school for the first time or simply heading to Grandma’s house for babysitting.

Some of the best shots we received featured tiny tots who wouldn’t think of leaving home without their colorful satchels, filled with a change of clothes, a favorite toy or snacks for the road.

Check out the gallery of cute kids wearing backpacks.

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Muhammad Ali ‘vastly improved’ after bout of pneumonia

— Famed boxer Muhammad Ali has “vastly improved” after being hospitalized over the weekend with a mild case of pneumonia, his spokesman Bob Gunnell said.

“Ali’s team of doctors hopes to discharge him soon,” said Gunnell.

Ali, 72, was admitted to an undisclosed hospital on Saturday.

“The Ali family continues to request privacy and appreciates all of the prayers and well wishes,” read a statement sent from Gunnell.

Ali was born Cassius Clay and won an Olympic gold medal as a light-heavyweight at 18.

In 1964, he became world heavyweight champion in an upset victory against then-champion Sonny Liston, according to Ali’s official website.

Shortly thereafter, he changed his name to Muhammad Ali to reflect his conversion to Islam.

The boxer was also known for his protest against the Vietnam War and refusal to be drafted into service out of religious conviction.

He retired from boxing in 1981 and announced his diagnosis with Parkinson’s disease three years later.

Ben Brumfield, Joe Sutton, Kevin Dotson and Mayra Cuevas contributed to this report.

Rihanna Instagrams, channels ‘Scandal’ at the White House

— Some call gridlocked Washington a “hopeless place,” but the “Good Girl Gone Bad” found much more than just love outside 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue on Monday — Rihanna found new Instagram photos.

The photos don’t prove she could “Run This Town,” but Rihanna’s certainly got a flair for this “This Town.”

Less than two weeks after making her triumphant return to Instagram, the pop star toured the White House on Monday with a large entourage and seemed genuinely excited to see the inside of the White House.

Rihanna even took to the podium in the White House briefing room and pretended to field questions from the press before taking a walk on the North Lawn.

The Barbados singer apparently also channeled her inner Olivia Pope, the fictional star of ABC’s “Scandal,” played by Kerry Washington.

In one caption where Rihanna is talking on a pay phone, the caption reads “Fitz, darling,” an apparent reference to Scandal’s President Fitzgerald Grant, the fictional two-term incumbent Republican and former governor of California. In another caption, Rihanna drops the acronym “O.P.A.” though it was unclear if she was referencing Oliva Pope and Associates, or the Department of Health and Human Services branch Office of Population Affairs.

But the tour wasn’t all fun and games as Rihanna also met with administration officials about potential areas of partnership like working on the President’s “My Brother’s Keeper” initiative.

Rihanna is in town for the Veterans Day benefit Concert for Valor, where she will perform Tuesday alongside the Bruce Springsteen, Carrie Underwood and other artists.

CNN’s Kevin Liptak also contributed to this report.

Smell test may help detect Alzheimer’s

In the future, a test of your sense of smell may help doctors predict your risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease, according to new research presented at the Alzheimer’s Association International Conference in Copenhagen, Denmark, this week.

In two separate studies, scientists found that people who were unable to identify certain odors were more likely to experience cognitive impairment. The researchers believe that brain cells crucial to a person’s sense of smell are killed in the early stages of dementia.

Researchers say this information could help doctors create a smell test to detect Alzheimer’s earlier. Early detection means early intervention and treatment to slow the progression of the disease. Doctors today can only diagnose Alzheimer’s disease once it has caused significant brain damage.

“In the face of the growing worldwide Alzheimer’s disease epidemic, there is a pressing need for simple, less invasive diagnostic tests that will identify the risk of Alzheimer’s much earlier in the disease process,” Heather Snyder, director of medical and scientific operations for the Alzheimer’s Association, said in a statement.

More than 35 million people worldwide live with dementia today, according to a new report. By 2050, that number is expected to more than triple to 115 million.

CNN’s Jacque Wilson and Stephanie Smith contributed to this story.

Michelle Howard becomes Navy’s first female four-star admiral

The U.S. Navy has promoted Vice Adm. Michelle Howard to admiral, making her the first female four-star officer in the Navy’s 236-year-history, the White House said Tuesday.

Howard, who was the first African-American woman to command a Navy ship, will become vice chief of naval operations, according to her online Navy biography.

“Her historic career is taking a next step today,” White House spokesman Josh Earnest said.

Howard’s promotion comes nearly six years after Army Gen. Ann E. Dunwoody became the U.S. military’s first female four-star officer.

Howard, a 1982 graduate of the Naval Academy, made history when she commanded the amphibious dock landing ship Rushmore in 1999, Earnest said.


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Hospitalized Tracy Morgan upgraded to fair condition

— Comedian Tracy Morgan, who was badly injured in a collision June 7, has been upgraded from critical to fair condition, his publicist said.

“Happy to pass along that Tracy has been upgraded to fair condition, which is a great improvement,” publicist Lewis Kay said. “His personality is certainly starting to come back as well.”

The actor-comedian was seriously injured after a Walmart truck slammed into a limo bus occupied by Morgan and four others on the New Jersey Turnpike. The collision killed comedian James McNair and injured the others. Morgan was hospitalized with broken ribs, a broken nose, a broken femur and a broken leg.

Another of the passengers in the limo, Jeff Millea, has also improved to fair condition, Kay said.

The truck driver, Kevin Roper, turned himself in to police the night of the crash and has pleaded not guilty to charges that include vehicular homicide and assault by auto. In a criminal complaint, police said Roper had been awake for more than 24 hours at the time of the crash.

Morgan was a regular on “Saturday Night Live” for seven years and later received an Emmy nomination for his role in the comedy series “30 Rock.”

CNN’s Deborah E. Bloom contributed to this report.


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Jet magazine says it’s ending print edition as times change

— Jet magazine will stop publishing a print edition and switch to a digital format in June, the magazine’s publisher announced Wednesday.

“We are not saying goodbye to JET. We are embracing the future as my father did in 1951 and taking it to the next level,” Linda Johnson Rice, chairman of Johnson Publishing Company, said in a statement.

Rice said the African-American publication is living up to its name.

“Almost 63 years ago, my father, John Johnson, named the publication JET because, as he said in the first issue, ‘In the world today, everything is moving faster. There is more news and far less time to read it,'” she said. “He could not have spoken more relevant words today.”

It’s not the first magazine to shift its focus to the online market.

Newsweek ended its print edition in 2012, but returned to newsstands this year. In December, New York magazine announced it was scaling back publication of its print edition to a biweekly format.

“As long as the (publishing) business model in the United States is based on revenues from advertising and not on circulation, we are going to see more decisions as such,” Samir Husni, a professor at the University of Mississippi who directs its Magazine Innovation Center, told CNN last year.

While readers increasingly gravitate toward electronic versions of magazines on tablets and phones, magazines in print are increasingly “collector’s items,” Husni said.

Jet chronicled the civil rights movement and also became known for news, entertainment, fashion and health coverage.

CNN’s Brian Stelter contributed to this report.


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Pope Francis named Time Person of the Year 2013

— Time has named Pope Francis its person of the year.

Jorge Bergoglio of Argentina is known as a humble man, a capable administrator and — as expected of a new Pope — a man of great faith.

He is also a man of many firsts: the first non-European Pope in the modern era; the first pontiff from South America; and the first Jesuit to be elected head of the Roman Catholic Church.

In his first public act, the new Pope broke with tradition by asking the estimated 150,000 people packed into St. Peter’s Square to pray for him, rather than bless the crowd first.

Francis, 76, was born in Buenos Aires on December 17, 1936. The son of an Italian immigrant, he trained as a chemist before deciding to become a priest.

He was ordained by the Jesuits in 1969 and became co-archbishop of Buenos Aires in 1997, then sole archbishop of that city one year later. He was made a cardinal in 2001 and was president of the Argentine bishops conference from 2005 to 2011.

As cardinal, Francis clashed with the government of Argentine President Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner over his opposition to gay marriage and free distribution of contraceptives.

He was runner-up in the 2005 papal conclave, behind then-Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, according to a profile by CNN Vatican analyst John Allen published by the National Catholic Reporter.

The new Pope brings together the first and the developing worlds, Allen writes. Besides his Italian roots, Francis studied theology in Germany.

His career coincided with the so-called Dirty War in Argentina, which lasted from 1976 to 1983. It is estimated that as many as 30,000 people were killed or disappeared during the country’s military dictatorship.

The church was seen by some as not having done enough in that period. In particular, Francis was accused in a complaint filed three days before the 2005 conclave of complicity in the 1976 kidnapping of two liberal Jesuit priests, Allen writes. Francis reportedly denied the charge.

He is known for his simplicity and has a reputation of being a voice for the poor.


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Thai locals arrested over Rihanna Instagram photo

— Two men in Thailand are in trouble with the law thanks to an Instagram photo posted by pop star Rihanna during her recent visit to the holiday island of Phuket.

The singer was visiting Phuket for a few days between stops on her Diamonds World Tour, departing on Sunday for Singapore.

During her visit she shared many of her experiences on Twitter and Instagram, including a photo of her holding a loris — an endangered primate native to Southeast Asia.

The Instagram picture, believed to have been taken at Phuket nightlife hotspot Bangla Road, was captioned “Look who was talkin dirty to me!” and “liked” by more than 230,000 viewers.

The problem is, it’s illegal for anyone to charge tourists money to take photos with the endangered primates — an issue wildlife groups have long been trying to stamp out on the island.

Thai authorities react swiftly

Officials in Thailand quickly went on the defensive when outrage over Rihanna’s loris image spread.

The government ordered the Ministry of Natural Resources and local Phuket officials to urgently investigate the matter, reported local website

Sunday night, a raid on suspected touts led to the arrest of two men, aged 16 and 20, who were taken to a local police station and presented to the media.

“It is very difficult to do the raids because the touts have spies,” Awat Nithikul, leader of the patrol officers, told The Phuket News.

“If someone hears that the police are coming their way, there will be a person who calls the touts and tells them to move. But this is a big deal because it might affect Thailand’s reputation.”

The newspaper says the two arrested touts are waiting to be bailed, and the two lorises in their possession will be returned to a national park in the nearby province of Phang Nga.

Rihanna’s X-rated experiences

It wasn’t just the loris issue that stirred up controversy.

Rihanna’s tweets about her X-rated experiences relating to some of the country’s more infamous tourist attractions also led to red-faced explanations by embarrassed officials.

According to the Bangkok Post, an English-language daily newspaper, Rihanna’s tweets led to one official saying, “Sex shows were completely against the law.”

“The authorities and law officials have surveyed the area to arrest and fine those involved [in staging sex shows],” he said. “But the shows still happen.”

On the flip side, some of the photos posted during Rihanna’s holiday will likely be appreciated by the local tourism industry — including multiple shots of her in bathing suits that show off the area’s gorgeous scenery — given she does have more than 9.7 million Instagram followers.


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Paula Deen’s extortionist signs plea agreement

— A Georgia man accused of trying to extort Paula Deen by threatening to divulge “true and damning” information about the embattled celebrity chef has signed a plea agreement with federal prosecutors, court documents show.

Thomas George Paculis, 62, had previously pleaded not guilty.

Paculis sought $250,000 from Deen in exchange for not divulging the information to the media. No other details on the agreement were immediately available.

Deen has been scrambling since admitting, in a deposition related to a lawsuit brought by a former employee, that she’s used the n-word in the past.

Former employee Lisa Jackson alleged that Deen and her brother Bubba Hier committed numerous acts of violence, discrimination and racism that resulted in the end of her five years of employment at The Lady and Sons, and Uncle Bubba’s Oyster House, two Savannah, Georgia, restaurants run by Deen and her family.

Savannah is where Deen built her business and brand into what many consider the folksy face of Southern cooking.

In the media firestorm that followed, Deen lost lucrative endorsements and her Food Network cooking show, while the publication of her eagerly anticipated cookbook was canceled.

According to a criminal complaint, Paculis interjected himself on June 24, five days after the details of Deen’s deposition became public.

On that day, he sent an e-mail to Deen’s lawyer, vowing that he was “about to go public” with information about the chef’s use of the n-word at The Lady and Sons, according to a copy of the e-mail cited in the complaint.

“The statements are true and damning enough that the case for Jackson will be won on it’s merit alone,” Paculis wrote, according to the FBI. “As always … there is a price for such confirmation.

“You can contact me here if you feel it is necessary,” he said, referring to his e-mail address, the criminal complaint states. “Or I can go public and we will see what happens then.”

CNN’s Vivian Kuo, Alan Duke and Greg Botelho contributed to this report.


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