February 9th, 2012
08:06 PM ET

Overheard on CNN.com: Battle over contraception, religious freedom

Editor's note: This post is part of the Overheard on CNN.com series, a regular feature that examines interesting comments and thought-provoking conversations posted by the community.

Democrats and Republicans are grappling over a pending federal rule requiring religiously affiliated employers to provide full contraception coverage to women. So are our readers, who posted several comments in defense of birth control. Others said people should step back and think about the implications of this policy.

Contraception controversy consumes D.C., campaign

Here are arguments on each side of the issue.

LiviClaire: "This pits religious freedom for organizations vs. religious freedom for individuals. As an individual you have the right to choose whether or not to get contraceptives according to your religious beliefs. But should an organization that employs you have the right to deny you contraceptive coverage in your personal health plan? This "mandate" is not for individuals (who can always choose) but for organizations that cover individuals. I say let individuals decide if they need contraceptives. Not their employers."

tedkingston: "These are nonprofit entitites, trying to make the world a better place, and the big government bureaucracy is MANDATING that they sacrifice their values in favor of what government elites think is best for individuals. By the way, there are birth defects related to birth control and other problems. Do you really think a drug that can cause birth defects is good for you? Do you really think it's good to mandate charities provide it for their employees, against their organizational values? Epitomizes socialism/fascist liberal movement in this country. That the people can't take care of themselves and the government knows better."

An interesting discussion began about pregnancy prevention techniques. FULL POST

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Filed under: Health • Overheard on CNN.com • Politics
Overheard on CNN.com: Native American team mascots prove divisive
Jean-Philippe Lamoureux of the University of North Dakota Fighting Sioux tends goal during a game in Denver in 2008.
February 9th, 2012
06:50 PM ET

Overheard on CNN.com: Native American team mascots prove divisive

Editor's note: This post is part of the Overheard on CNN.com series, a regular feature that examines interesting comments and thought-provoking conversations posted by the community.

There's a bit of controversy going on between the NCAA and the University of North Dakota over the school's mascot, the Fighting Sioux. Readers had strong responses to CNN's story.

School will continue using Fighting Sioux nickname

Many of our commenters were supportive of the name, citing the Fighting Irish as an example of another use of cultural stereotype.

bronson2010: "This is ridiculous. The political correctness that has overtaken this country astounds me. What about the University of Notre Dame Fighting Irish? Is that offensive? Perhaps to the Irish. I'm Irish and I support North Dakota with my heart and soul, even though when you think about it, this may be considered offensive since the Irish were stereotypically known for getting drunk and fighting. Time to grow a skin people. Or did I offend you?"

This former student says the name is OK. Several commenters said the use of the name Fighting Sioux is a compliment to the Native Americans in the area.

PhiDelt: "As a former student of the University of North Dakota, I am happy they are fighting to keep this name. It is a long and storied tradition at UND, and it does honor the Sioux of that area."

A few commenters said the word "Sioux" is not an actual name for the tribe.

N8iveThought: "What people don't understand is Sioux is not a Lakota, Nakota, or Dakota word. It is French for enemy/snake. It's insulting because it's not a name we call ourselves. I'm Oglala Lakota not Oglala Sioux. There is a difference there and we natives are the only ones who know it. It's like calling every white person in the United States French or jew or whatever may have it. Also there are many tribes that were called Sioux. There are seven tribes in South Dakota alone that have been label Sioux. Which in turn are really not. We have the Cheyenne River, which consists of four bands (Itazico, O'ohenunpa, Minnecojou, and Si hasapa), Oglala, Sicungu, Yankton, Lower Brule, Sisseton Wahpeton, etc. Not to mention the tribes in Minnesota, North Dakota and Montana. So I think they'd have to get permission from all tribes to actually use the insulting name in question."

Some also mentioned the Minnesota Vikings. FULL POST

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Filed under: Native Americans • North Dakota • Overheard on CNN.com • Sports • U.S.
Will Ferrell pokes fun at NBA players in lineup intros
Will Ferrell brings his unique take on the starting lineup before the Hornets-Bulls game Wednesday night in New Orleans.
February 9th, 2012
04:12 PM ET

Will Ferrell pokes fun at NBA players in lineup intros

Poor New Orleans Hornets fans. The NBA team started the season miserably at 4-21, and ticket holders entered the New Orleans Arena on Wednesday night for what was probably going to be a beatdown by the 21-6 Chicago Bulls.

At least the Hornets faithful got some smiles on their faces before the drubbing, thanks to extended-stay visitor and actor/comedian Will Ferrell.

Ferrell, in New Orleans to shoot the movie "Dog Fight," introduced the starting lineups Wednesday night. And as Ferrell told it, Chicago Bulls star Carlos Boozer was not only a 6-foot-9 forward but also someone who "still stays with his mother."

Ferrell took biographic license with all 10 starters, sprinkling their introductions with presumably not-exactly-true nuggets and aspirations, such as Hornets guard Jarrett Jack wanting to become a rodeo clown, Bulls forward Luol Deng owning a pet dolphin named Chachi, Bulls guard Derrick Rose claiming "The Notebook" as his favorite movie, and Bulls center Joakim Noah being a horrible dancer.

(Well, he may have gotten that last one right.)

The players seemed to go along with the ribbing by Ferrell, who played an ABA player/team owner in the 2008 movie "Semi-Pro." Hornets center Emeka Okafor looked like he was amused after hearing that at the University of Connecticut, he "majored in econ, but he minored in love."

After the game, which the Bulls won in a 90-67 blowout, Deng claimed he didn't hear his intro. But having learned about it later, he said he felt the Funny or Die co-creator let him off easy.

FULL POST

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Filed under: Basketball • Louisiana • NBA • Showbiz • Sports • Will Ferrell
February 9th, 2012
04:02 PM ET

First new nuclear reactors OK'd in over 30 years

The U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission approved licenses to build two new nuclear reactors Thursday, the first authorized in over 30 years.

The reactors are being built in Georgia by a consortium of utilities led by Southern Co. They will be sited at the Vogtle nuclear power plant complex, about 170 miles east of Atlanta. The plant already houses two older reactors.

"Today marks an advancement in our nation's energy policy," Southern Company chief executive Thomas Fanning said at a press conference after the approval. "The project is on track, and our targets related to cost and schedule are achievable."

The five-member NRC voted in favor of the licenses four to one, with Chairman Gregory Jaczko dissenting.

FULL STORY
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Filed under: Energy • Nuclear
February 9th, 2012
10:22 AM ET

Deal could bring billions in mortgage relief

In the largest deal to date aimed at addressing the housing meltdown, federal and state officials on Thursday announced a $26 billion foreclosure settlement with five of the largest home lenders.

The settlement settles potential state charges about allegations of improper foreclosures based on "robosigning," seizures made without proper paperwork.

Most of the relief will go to those who owe far more than their homes are worth, known as being underwater on the loans. That relief will come over the course of the next three years, with the banks having incentives to provide most of the relief in the next 12 months.

At least $17 billion of the settlement will go to reducing the principal owed by homeowners who are both underwater and behind on their mortgages. Depending on which loans have the amount owed cut, the amount of principal relief could reach as much as $34 billion.

FULL STORY
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Filed under: Economy • Housing
February 9th, 2012
07:46 AM ET

Thursday's live events

The Republican presidential candidates have their eyes set on Maine, which will hold a caucus of its own on Saturday.  CNN.com Live is your home for all the latest developments from the campaign trail.

Today's programming highlights...

9:00 am ET - CPAC convenes - Conservative activists and officials gather in Washington for the annual conference hosted by the American Conservative Union.  Today's speakers include Sen. Marco Rubio at 10:35 am ET, Rep. Michele Bachmann at 12:15 pm ET, Texas Gov. Rick Perry at 1:20 pm ET and Herman Cain at 4:25 pm ET.

FULL POST


Filed under: Elections • Politics • Republican Party
February 9th, 2012
03:58 AM ET

U.N. considers Arab League plan for joint mission in Syria as attacks escalate

The United Nations was expected Thursday to take up an Arab League proposal that calls for a joint monitoring mission in Syria as President Bashar al-Assad escalated a brutal assault against the opposition calling for an end to his regime.

The move follows what Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon described as a "disastrous" failure this week by the U.N. Security Council to agree on a resolution to condemn the violence in Syria and call for al-Assad to step down.

The fallout from that failed vote is playing out in the streets of the besieged city of Homs - Syria's third-largest city - which has become a flashpoint in the uprising.

FULL STORY
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Filed under: World
February 9th, 2012
02:53 AM ET

California school in child abuse scandal to reopen with new staff

A Los Angeles-area school at the center of a shocking child abuse scandal reopens Thursday with an entirely new staff, including the principal, teachers, administrators and janitors

The Los Angeles Unified School District replaced the Miramonte Elementary staff to avoid "surprises," educators said.

About 70 new teachers will welcome the 1,400 students who attend Miramonte when they resume classes.

"The teachers are concerned on how the children are going to feel," said Contisia Davis, a special education assistant and 16-year teaching veteran.

Davis, 36, said she and the new faculty are trained to include social skills in their lesson plans so kids can adjust to the sudden change of having all new teachers.

FULL STORY

Filed under: Crime • U.S.
February 9th, 2012
02:16 AM ET

Authorities probe 911 response after Josh Powell's murder suicide

Authorities launched an investigation into how dispatchers handled 911 calls from those seeking help before Josh Powell killed his sons and himself in his Washington home.

Critics have said it took too long for dispatchers to grasp the danger of the situation and alert police.

"We will investigate all aspects of this incident, and if there is a need to refine our processes, (as we do continually) we will do so," said Tom Orr, director of the Law Enforcement Support Agency, which operates the 911 call center. " If there is a need to investigate from a disciplinary perspective and assign individual responsibility, we will do that as well."

Orr's comments come as the community come to grips with Sunday's murder suicide at Powell's Graham, Washington home. Powell is accused of snatching his young sons from a social worker who was delivering them for a supervised visit, locking the door, hacking the kids with a hatchet and starting an explosive fire in the home.

FULL STORY
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Filed under: Crime • Justice • Politics • U.S.
February 9th, 2012
01:53 AM ET

Maldives tense after day of street violence

A tense calm reigned Thursday morning in the streets of Male, the capital of the Maldives, a day after the country's former president and his supporters clashed with the police.

The unrest in the Indian Ocean nation, which has reportedly spread beyond Male to outlying islands, is the result of the ouster Tuesday of Mohamed Nasheed - the country's first democratically elected president in three decades - after opposition demonstrations and a police revolt.

Nasheed, who says he was forced to resign at gunpoint in a coup, has called for his successor - his former vice president, Mohammed Waheed Hassan - to leave office. His account is contested by political opponents who say Nasheed is destabilizing the country.

On Wednesday, Nasheed found himself back in the familiar role of street protester.

His party, the Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP), said the former president and several lawmakers had been beaten by police during what it described as "a peaceful protest."

Video footage posted online by RaajeTV, a user-submitted video sharing site, showed a group of police officers entering a store and escorting Nasheed out into the street. It did not show him being beaten.

FULL STORY
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Filed under: World
February 9th, 2012
01:41 AM ET

Official: Suspect in 'South Park' threats to plead guilty

A New York man charged with posting online threats against creators of the television show "South Park" is expected to plead guilty Thursday in a Virginia federal court, a senior U.S. counter-terrorism official said.

Jesse Curtis Morton was the co-founder of Revolution Muslim, a radical group based in New York City that is supportive of al Qaeda's worldview.

The former Brooklyn resident, also known as Younus Abdullah Mohammad, was taken into U.S. custody in Morocco on October 28, according to court documents.Morton left the United States in summer of 2010 because he feared arrest after two associates from New Jersey were charged with terrorism offenses in June of that year, according to the official.

FULL STORY
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Filed under: Al Qaeda • National security • Terrorism