'Morning after' pill to stay prescription-only for girls under 17
Makers of Plan B One-Step had asked the FDA to make the drug available over the counter to all sexually active girls and women.
December 7th, 2011
10:57 PM ET

'Morning after' pill to stay prescription-only for girls under 17

The secretary of Health and Human Services overruled Wednesday a Food and Drug Administration recommendation that would have made the emergency contraceptive pill Plan B One-Step available over the counter to girls younger than 17.

In February, Teva Woman's Health Inc, the drug maker, had asked the FDA to make the drug available without prescription to all sexually active girls and women.

At the time, FDA Commissioner Dr. Margaret Hamburg said that, after reviewing all relevant data, "Plan B One Step is safe and effective and should be approved for non-prescription use for all females of child-bearing potential."

But HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius overruled that recommendation. "Because I do not believe enough data were presented to support the application ... I have directed FDA to issue a complete response letter denying the supplemental new drug application," she said in a statement.

In July 2009, Plan B was approved for use without a prescription for females aged 17 and older, but girls under 17 needed a prescription.

Emergency contraceptives prevent a pregnancy by preventing a fertilized egg from embedding in the uterus. They are intended for use within 72 hours after sex, but are most effective if taken within 24 hours. Proponents say requiring a prescription can delay access to the drug.

Wednesday's decision was criticized by the American Society for Reproductive Medicine, which counts more than 8,000 members.

"We are very disappointed that Secretary Sebelius opted to insert herself into what should be a scientific decision made by the experts at FDA," said the group's president, Dolores J. Lamb. "The data are clear that emergency contraception can be safely used by adolescent women without requiring a prescription. Sadly, it appears that once again our leaders are putting political expediency ahead of reproductive health."

But Dr. Lisa Flowers, associate professor in the Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology at Emory University's School of Medicine, said Sebelius' decision "might be the right thing to do until we get a really good system by which we can educate young kids about prevention of pregnancy and understanding the risks of getting involved in sexual intercourse, and what are the outcomes."

Flowers suggested the FDA consider allowing over-the-counter access for girls under the age of 17 if they are accompanied by a parent to the drugstore.

Filed under: Abortion • Health • Health Care
2011 is record year for $1B disasters in U.S.
A series of April tornadoes in the Southeast, including in Tuscaloosa, Alabama, was one of 2011's costliest weather events.
December 7th, 2011
08:25 PM ET

2011 is record year for $1B disasters in U.S.

The United States had a record 12 weather and climate disasters that caused at least $1 billion in damages in 2011, and that number could increase as other assessments wrap up, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration said Wednesday.

The country’s old record for weather and climate disasters costing at least $1 billion was nine, set in 2008.

The year’s costliest disaster so far is the April 25-28 tornado outbreak that killed 321 people in central and Southern states, including Alabama, where the Tuscaloosa, Birmingham and Huntsville areas were hard hit. Losses in that outbreak have totaled $10.2 billion, according to NOAA.

Also on the 2011 list is a multimonth drought and heatwave in the southern Plains and the Southwest, which so far has caused nearly $10 billion in direct losses to crops, livestock and timber, NOAA says. The cost will rise because the drought and the year aren’t finished.

Another disaster on the list is the May 22-27 Midwest/Southeast tornado outbreak, including a tornado that killed 158 people in Joplin, Missouri. That outbreak killed at least 177 people and caused damages of more than $9.1 billion, according to NOAA.

“In my weather career spanning four decades, I’ve never seen a year like 2011,” National Weather Service director Jack Hayes said in a video posted on NOAA’s website. “Sure, we’ve had years with extreme flooding, extreme hurricanes, extreme winter snowstorms and even extreme tornado outbreaks. But I can’t remember a year like this in which we experienced record-breaking extremes of nearly every conceivable type of weather.”


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Filed under: Flooding • Hurricanes • Tornadoes • Weather
Overheard on CNN.com: Should wealthy Americans be taxed differently?
Congress is debating how to extend the payroll tax cut set to expire at the end of the year.
December 7th, 2011
07:35 PM ET

Overheard on CNN.com: Should wealthy Americans be taxed differently?

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.

In light of Congress' work to fix the budget and haggle over the payroll tax cut, the perennial debate over the haves and have-nots is heating up. President Obama said Tuesday that some of the wealthiest in America pay far less in federal taxes as a percentage of their income than many lower on the income scale. He said in a speech that "a quarter of all millionaires now pay lower tax rates than millions of middle-class households. Some billionaires have a tax rate as low as 1%." (These numbers are not fully verifiable.)

Obama: Billionaires and millionaires should pay more taxes

The CNNMoney commenter response to this statement was interesting, and both passionate and personal. We heard from several folks who read the story and talked about how they became wealthy.

clr33: "I was a single, broke female with a child. I scratched a living while I put myself through school with no child support (father dead). I am now quite wealthy. I still work over 14 hours a day. I donate 20% of what I make. I set aside 10% more for my son and his family's inheritance. I pay for my parents' mortgage as a means to pay back the help they gave me in a time when I needed someone to watch my son. Why am I condemned now for this? Why must I give over most of my money to those who do not want to work this hard?"

There was also some cynicism about earning wealth.

bobbiss: "I have associated in a partnership with so-called millionaires in my career, as a partner and both were crooks. I went on my own. So my opinion of millionaires is just that, they got their fortunes, as crooks. The system is set up for them to screw people. The system is there to help them succeed. I am retired with money I earned honestly and paid taxes for and still pay taxes. I left these partnerships when I smelled a rat. The Occupy generation needs your support to get it right."


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Filed under: Economy • Finance • Overheard on CNN.com • Taxes
FAMU holds off on dismissals of band leader, 4 students
Florida A&M University's longtime band director Julian E. White had been dismissed after a hazing-related death.
December 7th, 2011
04:12 PM ET

FAMU holds off on dismissals of band leader, 4 students

Florida A&M University has put on hold its move to dismiss its band director while the Florida Department of Law Enforcement investigates the death of a who drummer died of an apparent hazing-related death, the school said Wednesday.

The school said that band director Julian E. White was placed on administrative leave with pay on Monday. He will remain on paid leave until the FDLE completes their investigation into the incident. The school also rescinded the dismissal of four students who were disciplined as a result of the death.

“Consistent with the commitment of the FAMU Board of Trustees and President (James) Ammons to be fully cooperative, we are awaiting the outcome of the investigation before any personnel or disciplinary actions are taken,” said FAMU Spokesperson Sharon P. Saunders. “We are honoring the recommendations of not only FDLE, but the Orange County Sheriff’s Office and the Board of Governors as we await the completion of their investigations.”


Overheard on CNN.com: Baldwin's refusal to turn off cell phone no surprise to many
Word of actor Alec Baldwin being booted from an American Airlines plane spread quickly.
December 7th, 2011
03:42 PM ET

Overheard on CNN.com: Baldwin's refusal to turn off cell phone no surprise to many

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.

Alec Baldwin's addiction to the cell phone game "Words with Friends" got him booted from an American Airlines plane parked at a Los Angeles International Airport gate Tuesday, the actor's spokesman said.

Baldwin tweeted he would never again fly on American Airlines, "where retired Catholic school gym teachers from the 1950's find jobs as flight attendants."

Readers focused on two issues: outrage over Baldwin's behavior toward a flight attendant and frustration over rules about the in-flight use of cell phones and electronic devices. They also commented on Baldwin's past treatment of his daughter and public comments he's made.

Game addiction costs Alec Baldwin his airline seat

Many readers, such as MistrMistr, expressed outrage: "So because he's a 'star' he can break the rules? Then he goes on Twitter and tells his sheep about (it) so they can all be amazed that they would do that to the 'Alec the Great.' But the worst part? American Airlines is kissing his butt."

Other commenters agreed, saying celebrities should not be entitled to special treatment on airplanes.

lcook5: "American Airlines is not a big favorite with me, but this is ridiculous. Not complying with federal flight restrictions should get anyone kicked off a flight. Why do some of the rich and/or famous see themselves as above the law? If I were American Airlines, I would permanently ban him from any additional flights and advise all other airlines of the potential problems if they allow him to fly with them. Baldwin should be ashamed of himself."


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Filed under: Air travel • Aviation • Overheard on CNN.com
December 7th, 2011
01:42 PM ET

Sandusky arrested on new child rape charges

[Updated at 2:34 p.m. ET] Former Penn State assistant football coach Jerry Sandusky was arrested Wednesday on additional child rape charges, which raise the number of alleged victims from eight to 10 people, the Pennsylvania attorney general's office said.

The new charges include four counts of involuntary deviate sexual intercourse and two counts of unlawful contact with a minor, involving two new alleged victims who were boys at the time of the alleged encounters.

Sandusky, who maintains his innocence, faces a preliminary hearing on December 13 at 8:30 a.m.

"Today's criminal charges were recommended by a statewide investigating grand jury, based on evidence and testimony that was received following the initial arrest of Sandusky on November 5," Pennsylvania Attorney General Linda Kelly said.

The new alleged victims - identified as Victim 9 and Victim 10 - encountered Sandusky at The Second Mile charity, a nonprofit organization he founded for underprivileged children.

Victim 9 was between 11 and 12 years old when he met the former coach around 2004, who allegedly gave him gifts and money and took the boy to university football games, according to the statement.

Sandusky allegedly met Victim 10 in 1997 after a counselor recommended the boy attend the charity "because of difficulties in his home life."

A grand jury report made public last month detailed 40 charges against the former coach in a child sex abuse scandal that, at the time, involved eight alleged victims, spanning 15 years.

A look at the grand jury report

The eight alleged victims identified in that report, like the two new accusers, first encountered Sandusky through the Second Mile, the attorney general's office said.

"As in many of the other cases identified to date, the contact with Sandusky allegedly fit a pattern of 'grooming' victims," Kelly said. "Beginning with outings to football games and gifts, they later included physical contact that escalated to sexual assaults."

December 7th, 2011
01:33 PM ET

Blagojevich sentenced to 14 years for corruption charges

[Updated at 1:33 p.m. ET] Former Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich has been sentenced to 14 years in prison.

Blagojevich was also sentenced to pay a $20,000 fine.

The judge said he does not have report to prison for 90 days.

"I do accept his apology in his testimony, and I do believe he may regret the fate of others," Judge James Zagel said.

But that wasn't enough for the judge.

"It comes late," he said, of Blagojevich's accepting responsibility for his actions.

In announcing the sentence Judge James Zagel said Blagojevich's abuse of the governor's office "is more damaging than any other office in the U.S." besides the presidency.

Zagel noted that he did not resign as governor despite the indictments, but if he had it might have helped show he accepted responsibility.

The judge told Blagojevich that he had ruined the careers of a few people who worked for him. Zagel also questioned part of Blagojevich's accepting responsibility.

"Why did the thoughts of his children not weigh heavily on his reckless conduct?" Zagel said.

Robert D. Grant, Special Agent-in-Charge of the Chicago Office of the Federal Bureau of Investigation applauded the sentence.

“The sentence handed down today represents a repayment of the debt that Blagojevich owes to the people of Illinois," he said. "While promising an open and honest administration, in reality, the former governor oversaw a comprehensive assault on the public’s trust."

[Posted at 1:03 p.m. ET] Former Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich apologized to his state, his family and the judge, saying he is "unbelievably sorry," during his sentencing hearing for corruption convictions Wednesday.


December 7th, 2011
01:01 PM ET

Arrest made in Georgia girl's killing

[Updated at 2:59 p.m. ET] Information from the public led to the arrest of a suspect in the sexual assault and slaying of a 7-year-old Georgia girl, police said Wednesday.

Authorities said Brian Brunn, an employee of the apartment complex where victim Jorelys Rivera lived in Canton, Georgia, was arrested Wednesday.

Rivera's body was found earlier this week in a trash bin outside the apartment complex, three days after she was reported missing. Authorities have said that she died of blunt force trauma to the head, was stabbed and had been sexually assaulted.

"(Brunn) was well known in the apartment complex because he was employed there," said Vernon Keenan, head of the Georgia Bureau of Investigation. "This investigation will continue on for several months. This is mammoth case. We believe that this horrendous crime was planned and calculated."

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Filed under: Crime • Georgia
Mumia Abu-Jamal no longer faces death penalty
Abu-Jamal, convicted of killing a Philadelphia police officer in 1981, argued there were procedural errors during his sentencing.
December 7th, 2011
12:27 PM ET

Mumia Abu-Jamal no longer faces death penalty

Philadelphia prosecutors have dropped their pursuit of the death penalty against Mumia Abu-Jamal, who was convicted of fatally shooting a police officer nearly three decades ago.

Abu-Jamal will instead serve a life sentence in prison, prosecutors said Wednesday.

Abu-Jamal had been sentenced to death for the 1981 killing of Philadelphia police Officer Daniel Faulkner, but a federal appeals court in April declared the death sentence unconstitutional, ruling that the jury instructions at Abu-Jamal's original 1982 murder trial were unclear.

His attorneys have repeatedly argued that confusing jury instructions and the verdict form given to the jury favored a death sentence instead of life in prison.

The April appeals court ruling does not grant Abu-Jamal a new trial, so his conviction of murder stands. Last month, the state Supreme Court rejected a request from the Philadelphia District Attorney's Office to overturn the federal appeals court decision, meaning Abu-Jamal would get a life prison sentence unless the district attorney decided to seek another death sentence from a new jury.

Witnesses testified that Abu-Jamal shot Faulkner in the back and head after the officer pulled his brother over during a late-night traffic stop. He was wounded in the encounter and later confessed to the killing, according to other testimony.

Abu-Jamal has been on death row at a state prison in southwest Pennsylvania, where he's been an outspoken activist from behind bars - claiming there were procedural errors during his capital sentencing, and that too few blacks were on the jury.

The case has attracted international attention, amid charges of prosecutorial misconduct. Abu-Jamal, a former Black Panther and onetime radio reporter and cab driver, has been a divisive figure, with many prominent supporters arguing that racism pervaded his trial.

Others counter Abu-Jamal is using his race to try to escape responsibility for his actions. They say he has provoked community unrest for years with his writings and advocacy.

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Filed under: Crime • Pennsylvania
Gotta Watch: Hero dogs go to great lengths
This dog saved two kittens that were dumped on a road and run over by a truck in Iowa.
December 7th, 2011
11:36 AM ET

Gotta Watch: Hero dogs go to great lengths

Move over Lassie, you’ve got some competition. These real-life dogs went to great lengths to save the lives of their owners and other animals alike. Maybe this is why they’ve earned the title of “man’s best friend.” You’ve Gotta Watch these heartwarming videos.

Cats and dogs – Cats and dogs might traditionally be enemies, but one pooch in Iowa rescued two kittens. Several cats were sealed into a “Meow Mix” bag, abandoned on a road, and hit by a car. A dog dragged the bag back to his owner’s house and whined until the owner discovered what was inside. See what became of the felines.

[cnn-video url="http://www.cnn.com/video/#/video/living/2011/12/07/dnt-dog-rescues-kittens.who"%5D


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Filed under: Animals • Dogs • Gotta Watch
December 7th, 2011
11:21 AM ET

DA: Bernie Fine accusers credible, but statue of limitations expired

[Updated at 12:05 p.m. ET] A district attorney in central New York says that despite credible allegations of sexual misconduct against minors, he cannot bring charges against a former Syracuse University assistant basketball coach because the statute of limitations has expired.

Onondaga County District Attorney William Fitzpatrick offered a personal apology to Bobby Davis, a former Syracuse ball boy who says he informed Syracuse police in 2002 that he was subjected to inappropriate sexual contact by Bernie Fine.

Davis, now 39, alleges the former coach touched him inappropriately beginning in 1984, before he entered seventh grade, and the abuse continued until he was 27.

Timeline of Bernie Fine case

Fitzpatrick said was forced to get a subpoena to compel Syracuse police to hand over records related to the case.

Mike Lang, a stepbrother of Davis, also accused Fine of inappropriately touching him at various locations, including university basketball facilities. Similar allegations made by Zach Tomaselli, 23, are still being investigated by federal authorities.

Fine has not been charged with a crime and has maintained his innocence, saying the allegations are "patently false in every aspect." Syracuse fired him last month after Davis reiterated his allegations in an interview with ESPN and Lang went public with his allegations.

The district attorney's announcement comes after federal agents searched the home and office of the former coach, looking for possible evidence of his alleged interactions with minors, according to unsealed court documents.

The investigation at Syracuse comes in the wake of a sex abuse scandal at Penn State University, in which former assistant football coach Jerry Sandusky was accused of sexually abusing boys over a span of 14 years. Sandusky has maintained his innocence throughout the investigation - saying he only "horsed around" with the disadvantaged boys in his care - and is currently free on $100,000 bail.

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Filed under: Basketball • College basketball • Crime • New York • Syracuse
Gadhafi son tried to go secretly to Mexico
Moammar Gadhafi's son, Saadi Gadhafi, tried to flee to Mexico, officials say.
December 7th, 2011
11:01 AM ET

Gadhafi son tried to go secretly to Mexico

Saadi Gadhafi, a son of the deposed Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi, tried to travel secretly to Mexico with false documents, Mexico's interior minister said Wednesday.

Four people have been implicated in the plot - a Canadian, a Dane and a two Mexicans, said the minister, Alejandro Poire.

The arrests of the plotters were made in November and announced Wednesday.

"With these actions, the federal government contributes actively to a safe North America," said Alejandra Sota, a government spokeswoman.

The plan was to provide false documents claiming Mexican nationality for Saadi Gadhafi and his family, and to purchase a number of properties in Mexico that would be used as safe houses, Poire said.

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Filed under: Libya • Mexico
December 7th, 2011
10:17 AM ET

Egyptian prime minister given powers, swears in cabinet

Egypt's newly appointed prime minister was granted most of the powers of the president Wednesday by the country's military rulers.

Afterward, he swiftly moved to swear-in his cabinet.

Prime Minister Kamal Ganzouri was given all presidential powers excluding control over the military and the judiciary, armed forces spokesman Lt. Col. Amr Imam told CNN.

A day before the swearing-in, Ganzouri said on state television that "the new national government will be the salvation government of the January 28 revolution."

The new cabinet will serve until the presidential elections.

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Filed under: Egypt
December 7th, 2011
10:16 AM ET

Pearl Harbor survivors honor friends, ensure memories never die

Editor's Note: Live coverage of Pearl Harbor remembrance events begin at 7:30 a.m ET and 12:30 p.m. ET. You can watch all of the events live on CNN.com here.

Survivors of the surprise Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor will remember the 2,400 people who lost their lives 70 years ago Wednesday.

Flying from aircraft carriers on Dec. 7, 1941, Japanese aviators attacked eight battleships, destroying two, and left a trail of death and destruction across the verdant landscape. They also struck other military installations on Oahu, Hawaii. The attack shook America's confidence and ushered the country into World War II.

For 70 years, survivors of the attack on Pearl Harbor have captivated listeners with their firsthand accounts, recalling buddies who died in their arms or the glasses worn by a low-flying Japanese pilot.

The annual commemoration in Hawaii begins at 7:40 a.m. (12:40 p.m. ET ) at the Pearl Harbor visitor center.

They have participated in solemn wreath-laying ceremonies and spoken to civic groups and school children about the infamous day and the need for the United States to remain vigilant. But the gradual loss of the World War II generation has accelerated, and this year, perhaps more than any before it, evidence of a tide change is inescapable.

So for them, today will be another chance to share their stories of what happened, in the hopes that their memories live on even after they don't.

Bob Kerr, 90, can still draw a detailed map of the Hawaiian island of Oahu from memory. He points out Pearl Harbor, the adjacent Hickam Field, and even the path the Japanese planes took over the island on December 7, 1941.

"It’s important for people to know that there was such a thing as an attack in 1941 on December the 7th," Kerr said. "It’s part of history. It’s one of the biggest events in our history. 9/11 may equal it, but it can't be forgotten."


December 7th, 2011
09:55 AM ET

Pakistani leader's trip to Dubai spurs talk of his departure

Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari has traveled to Dubai for medical reasons, fueling speculation in Pakistan that the embattled leader may resign.

The president was undergoing routine tests related to a previously diagnosed heart condition, according to his spokeswoman, Farahnaz Ispahani.

His trip sparked rumors that he has suffered a heart attack, but a spokesman for Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani, Farhatullah Babar, described those reports as "speculative, imaginary and untrue."

The president went to Dubai "at the insistence" of his children, the prime minister said.

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Filed under: Pakistan
December 7th, 2011
09:27 AM ET

Gorbachev calls for new Russian elections

Mikhail Gorbachev, the last Soviet leader, called Wednesday for new parliamentary elections in Russia over concerns about vote fraud.

"Mikhail Gorbachev is very concerned about how the situation in Russia is developing," spokesman Pavel Palezhchenko told CNN. "People don't believe that the will of the people is reflected in the results."

He confirmed a report by the Russian news agency Interfax, which quoted the former premier as saying the elections were unfair and new elections were needed.

Demonstrators have been protesting against what they describe as electoral fraud in Sunday's national vote, which kept Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin's party in power but significantly decreased the number of seats it holds in Parliament.


Filed under: Russia • World
December 7th, 2011
07:49 AM ET

Wednesday's live events

The 2012 presidential election may be 11 months away, but that doesn't mean CNN.com Live is resting on its laurels.  We are your home for the latest news from the campaign trail.

Today's programming highlights...

9:05 am ET - GOP candidates address Republican Jewish Coalition - Six Republican presidential candidates will speak at a gathering of the Republican Jewish Coalition in Washington.


Filed under: Elections • Politics
Pearl Harbor survivor, 90, still on mission to tell story
When Pearl Harbor was attacked in 1941, Bob Kerr, now 90, had the grim task of finding out which men in his squadron died.
December 7th, 2011
07:03 AM ET

Pearl Harbor survivor, 90, still on mission to tell story

Seventy years have not dulled the memories of Bob Kerr.

One need only look at the detailed map of the Hawaiian island of Oahu he drew for me off the top of his head on a napkin during our lunchtime conversation.

Kerr, 90, is one of an estimated 8,000 survivors of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, who are still alive. Telling that story became a big part of his life.

(Click the audio player to hear a podcast version of this story from CNN's Matt Cherry.)

He points out Pearl Harbor, the adjacent Hickam Field, and even the path the Japanese planes took over the island on December 7, 1941.

"It’s important for people to know that there was such a thing as an attack in 1941 on December the 7th," Kerr said. "It’s part of history. It’s one of the biggest events in our history. 9/11 may equal it, but it can't be forgotten."

Nation pauses to recall Pearl Harbor


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Filed under: Hawaii • War