March 22nd, 2012
09:51 PM ET

CNN prime time: Houston autopsy results, Gingrich fires at De Niro

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NAACP president: This is a national issue

Benjamin Jealous talks about why the Trayvon Martin case transcends the scene of the crime.

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Houston cause of death determined

CNN's Dr. Sanjay Gupta and HLN's Dr. Drew explain the coroner's findings regarding Whitney Houston's death.

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Gingrich: De Niro joke 'wrong'

GOP candidate Newt Gingrich responds to Robert De Niro's controversial "white first lady" joke.

Overheard on CNN.com: How do you discern self-defense under 'stand your ground' laws?
The death of Trayvon Martin has stirred up lots of conversation about the "stand your ground" law in Florida.
March 22nd, 2012
09:40 PM ET

Overheard on CNN.com: How do you discern self-defense under 'stand your ground' laws?

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.

Trayvon Martin, an unarmed teenager, was shot and killed by neighborhood watch volunteer George Zimmerman last month. Readers are debating Zimmerman's self-defense claim as well as the pros and cons of "stand your ground" laws. They've also wondered if race was a factor.

Trayvon Martin's parents to meet with justice officials

CNN.com reader Patrick Ingram of Arlington, Virginia, said in a video comment that he believes "stand your ground" laws may make it too easy for people to kill others.

"I could be walking home from a bar somewhere late at night, and someone could look at me and shoot me and not be prosecuted to the full extent of the law because of this rule," he said.

He also emphasized that he thinks acts made in self-defense should be protected, especially if someone is in danger. FULL POST

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Filed under: Florida • iReport • Overheard on CNN.com • Trayvon Martin
Big reaction to Tebow trade in the Big Apple
Editors of New York's tabloids had fun with the trade of quarterback Tim Tebow to the New York Jets.
March 22nd, 2012
07:51 PM ET

Big reaction to Tebow trade in the Big Apple

First, New York had Linsanity. Now it's Tebow Time. Fans in New York are fickle after all.

After a few hours of on again, off again wrangling, Tim Tebow inked a deal with the "city that never sleeps" and is now a member of the New York Jets. Is Tim Tebow the answer to Jets fans prayers? Will Tim Tebow be accepted by New York City's large liberal and secular population?

New York sports radio was aflutter yesterday with comments from listeners both for and against the trade. Jets legend Joe Namath, who took New York by storm when he led the Jets to become Super Bowl champions in 1969, called the trade a "publicity stunt" on ESPN Radio and said, "I'm sorry I just can't agree with this situation. And I'm a Tim Tebow fan, but I'm a bigger Jet fan than I am a Tim Tebow fan."

Tebow, many say, is the polar opposite to the flamboyant ladies' man Namath. Neither Mark Sanchez, the current Jets starting quarterback nor his head coach Rex Ryan made any public comments about the trade.

The news of Tebow's departure from the Denver Broncos to the New York Jets may have left a sour taste in Broadway Joe's mouth, but do all Jets fans feel the same way? How will Tebow fair in a city with so much flare?

The New York tabloids seized the moment with a full Tebow blitz with front page headlines reading, "Amen" and "God Him." Even Lady Liberty herself took a knee and "Tebowed."

When asked about the Tebow trade, New York City Archbishop Timothy Dolan chose to remain neutral, saying, "we are going to stay away from this one at this time."

On the New York Jets' official Facebook page, fan reaction was mixed. One fan who was clearly in favor wrote:  "Can't wait to start cheering on the Jets!! Treat Tebow well. He is a great role model for all the young and not so young men as well as girls. You will not be disappointed! God put him on your team for a reason. Just have faith and Believe."

Not everyone was as positive on the Facebook fan page, with one comment saying,  "The only people that like Tebow here are women, kids, and the Tebow Cult lol sad."

CNN took to the streets of New York to get the pulse of the people. Outside the New York Jets store in Manhattan, many of the fans we spoke to had mixed emotions.

New Yorker Andrew Rubin said, "I think that the trade was terrible. I think, if you get Tebow without giving out a fourth round pick, you shouldn't have done it because that locker room is gonna be Tebow guys, and there's gonna be Sanchez guys, and the Jets have so many holes to fill that giving up that fourth round pick, it’s terrible."

Julio Moran, a Jet fan visiting New York who hails from Florida, said: "I love it. It’s great. I think it’s good for publicity and I just think ... he’ll bring fire to the team. Even though Sanchez will be No. 1, he’ll light a fire under his butt."

When asked if Tebow can handle all that New York has to offer and stick to his religious morals, Jets fan James Colasanto said:  "He’s different than most guys who come into the NFL, you know, where he sticks by his religion. He seems like there’s nothing fake about him, so he shouldn't have any problems, I don't think, handling New York in that sense."

Some are calling the move sheer genius from a marketing perspective. Ronn Torossian, CEO and president of 5W Public Relations, said: "I think Tim Tebow can be the King. ... He comes to New York already a celebrity."

Torossian added there is a lot of rewards in New York but also lots of risks. He points out that Tebow has lived a relatively sheltered and private life and that will most definitely change in New York.

"Tebow needs to be careful of the liberal media, who he gives access to and how. One mistake in New York off the field can make his brand change very,very quickly," Torossian said.

CNN spoke to former New York Giants player Amani Toomer about Tebow coming to the Big Apple and the temptations he faces.

"Whatever type of person you are, New York City is not going to change you," Toomer said. "New York City is not that place where it turns you into something you are not. I don't see him having any problem being in New York City."

Whatever side of the discussion you’re on, one thing is certain, Jets fans in New York will have to wait until next season to see what type of Hail Mary passes Tim Tebow throws and if he is in fact their new "savior."

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Filed under: New York • Pro football • Religion • Sports • Tim Tebow
March 22nd, 2012
07:09 PM ET

Gotta Watch: Extreme bungee jumping

A catastrophic motocross accident confined a Canadian woman to a wheelchair, but did not prevent her from seeking her latest thrill-seeking adventure - bungee jumping. You gotta watch as she leaps into the air and completes her uncharted mission. A CNN anchor couldn't resist the thrill either, and tried his hand at the daredevil feat. And while both made it safely to the ground, see how another thrill-seeking bungee jumper survived a different fate.

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Woman bungee jumps in wheelchair

A group that organizes extreme sports for the disabled helps a paraplegic woman bungee jump off a Canadian bridge.

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CNN anchor bungee jumps

Take a leap with Errol Barnett as he bungee jumps in Zambia.

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Tourist survives bungee cord break

A tourist survives a fall after her bungee cord breaks during a jump.

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Filed under: Gotta Watch • U.S.
Official: Soldier to face 17 murder counts in Afghan shootings
U.S. officials have alleged that Staff Sgt. Robert Bales killed 16 people in two villages in southern Afghanistan.
March 22nd, 2012
06:53 PM ET

Official: Soldier to face 17 murder counts in Afghan shootings

U.S. Army Staff Sgt. Robert Bales will be charged with 17 counts of murder and six counts of assault and attempted murder in connection with a March 11 shooting spree in Afghanistan, a senior U.S. official told CNN.

The charges are expected to be announced on Friday. The official did not explain why Bales is to be charged with 17 counts, as opposed to 16, which is the number of people reported to have been killed in the incident.

U.S. officials have alleged that Bales killed 16 men, women and children in two neighboring villages in the Panjwai district of Kandahar province, in southern Afghanistan.

Bales is being held in a military prison in Leavenworth, Kansas.

FULL STORY
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Filed under: Afghanistan • Courts • Crime • Justice • Military • U.S. Army
3 plead guilty to hate crimes in Mississippi killing
Auto plant worker James Craig Anderson was run over and killed by a group of white teens in June, Mississippi authorities say.
March 22nd, 2012
05:51 PM ET

3 plead guilty to hate crimes in Mississippi killing

Three white Mississippi men pleaded guilty to federal hate crimes Thursday in connection with the 2011 beating death of an African-American man in Jackson, the Justice Department announced.

Deryl Dedmon, John Aaron Rice and Dylan Butler each admitted to conspiracy and violating the 2009 federal hate-crimes law in last June's killing of James Craig Anderson. They face sentences of up to life in prison and $250,000 in fines, federal prosecutors said.

The 19-year-old Dedmon had already pleaded guilty to state murder and hate-crime charges Wednesday in a state court and was sentenced to life in prison. Rice, 19, and Butler, 20, made their initial appearances with Dedmon in federal court Thursday morning.

The men are among the first defendants to be prosecuted under the federal hate-crime statute that President Barack Obama signed in 2009 and the first to be prosecuted in a fatal attack, Assistant Attorney General Thomas Perez, the head of the Justice Department's civil rights division, said in a statement on Thursday's pleas.

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Filed under: Courts • Crime • Justice • Mississippi
March 22nd, 2012
05:46 PM ET

Overheard on CNN.com: Not-so-fabulous flights send some readers' tempers soaring

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.

United Airlines Flight 857 wasn't exactly the best flight ever. The toilets broke, so the flight stopped in Anchorage, Alaska, and things only got more interesting from there. The 13-hour flight from San Francisco to Shanghai was three days late. Readers commented on this story and griped about modern air travel.

Broken toilets strand United passengers in Alaska

There were a few readers who dread flying.

AngelaD: "Once a year, I fly overseas with my children ... and this is one of the scenarios I dread and fear. And although I understand that some of these things can happen, it is the endless waiting in the plane and the airport just for an answer that can drive one crazy. My tickets cost thousands of dollars (in economy, of course) and I wonder what they all do with my money. I feel for the people of that flight."

But some said readers should stop complaining.

SherwoodOR: "They could have just flown on and finished the trip with the toilets backing up into the aisles. In some parts of the world on some airlines, that would have been the choice. Would you prefer that?"

Take the train instead. FULL POST

Coroner: Houston drowned after cocaine use
Whitney Houston performs at the O2 Arena on April 25, 2010, in London.
March 22nd, 2012
05:24 PM ET

Coroner: Houston drowned after cocaine use

Whitney Houston died from an accidental drowning in a hotel bathtub, but the "effects of atherosclerotic heart disease and cocaine use" were contributing factors in her death, the Los Angeles County Coroner said in an autopsy report released Thursday.

Houston, 48, was "found submerged in bathtub filled with water" and "no trauma or foul play is suspected," the coroner said.

The toxicology tests found other drugs in her body, including marijuana, the anti-anxiety drug Xanax, the muscle relaxant Flexeril and the allergy medicine Benadryl, the report said. But these drugs "did not contribute to the death," it said.

The final coroner report is expected to be made public within two weeks, the coroner said.

Houston died February 11 in her room at the Beverly Hilton Hotel in Beverly Hills, California, the day before the music industry gathered for the annual Grammy Awards in Los Angeles.

FULL STORY
March 22nd, 2012
03:45 PM ET

Sanford police chief 'temporarily' steps down

Sanford Police Chief Bill Lee said he must "temporarily remove myself" from duty, a day after the City Commission voted 3-2 in favor of a nonbinding measure of no confidence in him.

"My role as the leader of this agency has become a distraction from the investigation …." Lee said during a news conference.

He added, "I do this in the hopes of restoring some semblance of calm to the city, which has been in turmoil for several weeks."

Lee had come under fire following concerns that his police department did not adequately handle the fatal shooting last month of 17-year-old Trayvon Martin.

Martin was shot February 26 while walking to the house of his father's fiancee after a trip to a convenience store. George Zimmerman, a neighborhood watch leader, said he shot the unarmed 17-year-old in self-defense.

Following the shooting, thousands of people tweeted out Lee's photo and phone number asking them to flood him with calls because they believed his department had not properly investigated the case. Many of those people believed Zimmerman should have been arrested for the shooting.

"It is apparent that my involvement in this matter is overshadowing the process," Lee said.

Zimmerman has not been arrested. Police say they have not charged Zimmerman because they have no evidence to contradict his story that he shot in self-defense, leading to a new debate over a controversial state law.

Florida's deadly force law, also called "stand your ground," allows people to meet "force with force" if they believe that there is danger of serious harm to themselves or someone else.

Lee said he continued to stand by the police department as well as their investigation into Martin's death.

A Seminole County grand jury will convene on the matter April 10, according to State Attorney Norm Wolfinger.

FULL STORY
March 22nd, 2012
01:38 PM ET

Slain suspect in French shootings was on no-fly list, official says

A suspected al Qaeda-trained militant who was shot dead Thursday after a siege in Toulouse was on the U.S. no-fly list, a U.S. intelligence official confirmed Thursday.

The official said Mohammed Merah had been on the list for some time, one reason being that he had attended an al Qaeda training camp.

Merah, 23, was wanted in the killings of three French paratroopers, a rabbi and three children ages 4, 5, and 7. The shootings began March 11 and ended Monday with the slaying of the rabbi and the children at a Jewish school in Toulouse.

Merah died Thursday during a police raid on his Toulouse apartment after a standoff that had lasted more than 31 hours, Paris prosecutor Francois Molins said.

FULL STORY
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Filed under: France
March 22nd, 2012
12:55 PM ET

Trayvon Martin case sparks dialogue on racial inequality, meaning of justice

Nearly one month ago, few people knew the name Trayvon Martin.

The teen, who was walking to the house of his father's fiancée in Sanford, Florida, with a drink and Skittles in hand, was shot by George Zimmerman, a neighborhood watch captain who had called police to report suspicious activity. If you had looked on February 26, it would have been hard to find much discussion or major national coverage about the shooting.

On its face, that day, it was simple: Zimmerman told police that Martin, who was unarmed, attacked him, so he shot Martin in self-defense, which can be a protected activity under Florida law.

But now, this case, at least in terms of the conversations swirling around it, is anything but simple. And Trayvon Martin's name has now become part of the vocabulary of a debate on attitudes about race.

What began as a local shooting has turned into a global story that you couldn't miss, even if you tried. It is a story that has sparked outrage, cries of racism, accusations of vigilantism and questions about gun laws and whether police properly investigated the case. It has in many ways turned into a full-scale moment of reflection for Americans, of all races, as to whether we as a nation have moved forward in our quest for equality among races.

A petition on Change.org calling for Zimmerman's arrest, now handled by Martin's parents, shows how ingrained the topic is in the cultural zeitgeist. Early Thursday, the petition had reached 1 million signatures, with them coming in at a pace of 1,000 signatures a minute, according to Noland Chambliss, communications director for Change.org.  Chambliss said the petition at times has been getting 50,000 signatures an hour.

It is one of the more dominant conversations on news and social media sites, becoming a sort of rallying cry from those who feel an injustice has occurred. Those who feel that Zimmerman took Florida's "stand your ground" protection too far, or used it as an excuse to gun down a black teen because he was wearing a hoodie, took to the streets around the country to make their voices heard.  Demonstrators crowded New York's Union Square on Wednesday night, in a "Million Hoodie March" attended by Martin's parents.

The demands for justice grew largely because of a massive social media campaign with the help of major African-American celebrities trying to bring attention to the case, leading to Martin's name trending worldwide. But it's gone beyond just being a word or topic being typed out in a tweet or a post.

Most of the outrage comes from the idea that some people believe Zimmerman specifically targeted Martin because of his race, a claim that Zimmerman's father denies. Questions have swirled about whether Zimmerman used a racial epithet during his call to police about Martin. A top CNN audio engineer enhanced the sound of the 911 call, and several members of CNN's editorial staff repeatedly reviewed the tape but could reach no consensus on whether Zimmerman used a racial slur.

Many of those outraged with the case believe that Zimmerman had no reason to gun down a teenager who had no weapon. But the truth is we don't know exactly what happened between the moment Zimmerman called police to report his concern and the moment that cops showed up and found the black teen dead in the grass.

And perhaps it is all of those unknowns that have stoked the flames of outrage. It may be those unknowns that have sparked so many questions, and the inherent need to know exactly why this happened. Those concerns have led us to dissect the lives of Martin and Zimmerman to try and understand what may have happened that fateful night. Those questions have led some to criticize Florida's gun law and question whether it allows killers to go free.

FULL POST

Gotta Watch: The perils of texting and walking
A teen walks and texts.
March 22nd, 2012
11:35 AM ET

Gotta Watch: The perils of texting and walking

We’ve all texted when we probably shouldn’t have. Maybe it was while waiting in line, walking down the street, or pushing a cart at the grocery store. The people below have suffered the consequences of texting while walking, too. They’ve done everything from dropping into a manhole to falling into Lake Michigan. Consider this a warning to avoid the same fate. Have you ever run into anything while texting? Post your stories in the comments below.

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Pier plunge

A Michigan woman was sending a text near Lake Michigan and didn’t realize how close she was to the water. She tripped and fell six feet into the water below. See what she did when she realized she was falling.

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Fountain fall

This video of a woman falling into a mall fountain while texting made a big splash online. But it was her behavior after the memorable moment that really sent Anderson Cooper over the edge.

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Manhole mayhem

After a New York teen fell into a manhole while texting, we found plenty of examples of other texting mishaps. Compare yourself to these people to see if you‚Äôre a ‚Äútechnosexual.‚ÄĚ

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Filed under: Gotta Watch • Michigan • Technology
March 22nd, 2012
11:17 AM ET

Renegade soldiers declare coup in Mali

Renegade soldiers in Mali declared Thursday that they have seized power in the West African nation and dissolved public institutions because of the government's handling of an insurgency.

Soldiers wearing fatigues said on state media that they have suspended the constitution, closed the borders and imposed a curfew in the country, which U.S. officials have previously described as "one of the strongest democracies on the continent."

"Considering the incapacity of the regime in effectively fighting against terrorism and restoring dignity to the Malian people, using its constitutional rights, the armed forces of Mali, along with other security forces, have decided to take on their responsibilities to put an end to this incompetent regime of President Amadou Toumani Toure," said Amadou Konare, the spokesman for the soldiers.

FULL STORY
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Filed under: Africa
Marine says he faces discharge over Obama comments
Stein is facing discharge from the Marines due to comments he made about President Obama.
March 22nd, 2012
10:44 AM ET

Marine says he faces discharge over Obama comments

A politically active Marine who has questioned President Barack Obama's authority said Thursday he is facing administrative discharge proceedings over his comments.

Sgt. Gary Stein, who founded the Armed Forces Tea Party, said his commanding officer at Camp Pendleton near San Diego has accused him of violating a catch-all military justice provision against conduct endangering "good order and discipline."

He is also accused of violating a Department of Defense policy limiting the political activities of service members.

Stein came under scrutiny from Marine officials after posting that he would not obey Obama's orders.

FULL STORY
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Filed under: Barack Obama • Marines • Military • Politics • U.S.
March 22nd, 2012
07:42 AM ET

Thursday's live events

The race to the Republican presidential nomination heads to Louisiana.  Watch CNN.com Live Saturday for results and reactions from the Louisiana primary.

Today's programming highlights...

9:30 am ET - IRS tax fraud hearing - IRS Commissioner Douglas Shulman testifies before the House Ways and Means Committee on what the agency is doing to fight tax fraud.

FULL POST


Filed under: Economy • Elections • Finance • Politics • Republican Party • Taxes
French killings suspect dead after siege, minister says
Members of the RAID special police forces lay siege to the area where suspect Mohamed Merah was holed up.
March 22nd, 2012
07:14 AM ET

French killings suspect dead after siege, minister says

[Updated at 7:14 a.m. ET] The suspect in the killing of seven people in and around the southern French city of Toulouse is dead after a police siege of his apartment lasting more than 31 hours, French Interior Minister Claude Gueant said Thursday.

Merah, 23, was wanted in the killings of three French paratroopers and of three students and a rabbi at a Jewish school in Toulouse, in a string of shootings that began on March 11. Gueant said earlier police wanted to capture him alive.

"We hope that he is still alive," Gueant said overnight. "We have a priority to hand him over to the authorities."

But they had no contact overnight with Merah.
Police fired stun grenades at the building every hour through the night, but there was no response. They launched a raid amid gunfire around 11:30 a.m. (6:30 a.m. ET) and Gueant announced the suspect's death soon afterward.

As police first attempted to seize him early Wednesday morning, Merah shot and wounded two officers, Paris prosecutor Francois Molins said.

[Posted at 4:31 a.m. ET] French authorities have had no contact overnight with Mohammed Merah, who is suspected in seven recent killings and is holed up in an apartment in the southern French city of Toulouse.

FULL POST

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Filed under: Crime • France • World
March 22nd, 2012
04:27 AM ET

Al Qaeda leader calls for Afghans to rise up against Western troops

Al Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahiri calls on Afghans to rise up against Western troops - especially American forces - in their country and back the Taliban, according to a recent audio message posted on jihadist web forums Wednesday.

The message, running more than 11 minutes in length, condemns the values of "crusader secular Western civilization" and follows a series of acts by American soldiers in Afghanistan that have been heavily publicized, including U.S. Marines urinating on the bodies of slain insurgents.

"This act represents their values," al-Zawahiri says,"and this is their view toward other people in general and the Muslims in particular, and this is their way of treating us."

Other events inflaming Muslim passions included the accidental burning of Qurans by U.S. troops and a shooting spree by an American soldier that left 16 Afghan civilians dead. The United States has apologized for the acts.

FULL STORY

Filed under: World
March 22nd, 2012
03:37 AM ET

Myanmar invites U.S. and EU to observe April elections

Myanmar has invited the United States and the European Union to send representatives to observe elections in April, according to officials in the region.

Surin Pitsuwan, the secretary-general of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, said in a post Wednesday on his official Twitter account that Myanmar's deputy minister for foreign affairs had told him that all members of the association's regional forum were invited to observe the elections.

The regional forum is much broader than the association's core membership and includes the United States and the European Union, as well as big Asian democracies such as India and Japan.

FULL STORY

Filed under: World
March 22nd, 2012
03:09 AM ET

Al Sharpton to join protest over killing of unarmed Florida teen

The Rev. Al Sharpton heads to Florida Thursday to join the growing crowd protesting the killing of unarmed teenager Trayvon Martin.

Sharpton, the outspoken activist and television personality, said he will hold a rally Thursday night in a church in Sanford, the city in the crosshairs of this national controversy.

Martin was fatally shot February 26 while walking to the house of his father's fiancee in Sanford after a trip to a convenience store. George Zimmerman, a neighborhood watch leader, said he shot the teen in self-defense.

Zimmerman has not been arrested. A police report describes him as a white male; his family says he is Hispanic.

FULL STORY

Filed under: Crime • Florida • Trayvon Martin • U.S.