March 27th, 2012
08:06 PM ET

Overheard on Readers go back and forth as Supreme Court mulls health care law

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

As the U.S. Supreme Court hears oral arguments about President Barack Obama's Affordable Care Act, our readers are making some arguments of their own. Some are even protesting. Comment below and share your thoughts and ideas about health care.

Supreme Court divided over health care mandate

We've been hearing from several readers, including a bunch of iReporters, about this measure.

"We need universal health care," says Matt Sky of New York. He suggests the insurance companies have a conflict of interest when treating people. Jannet Walsh of Murdock, Minnesota, says she likes the law in theory but is unsure that people will be able to pay for it. Houston, Texas, resident Vera Richardson says we're already required to purchase auto insurance, so why not health insurance?

Some, like Mark Ivy of Farmersburg, Indiana, suggested leaving health care programs to the states.

k3vsDad: "I say no to this being a federal mandate. To me this is a violation of the 10th Amendment. This is an issue that should remain with the states. The states have a much better handle developing health care programs tailored to their citizens. One size does not fit all. Every time the federal government overreaches, it is never better, but worse. Give health care back to the states."

Egberto Willies of Kingwood, Texas, says he believes Obama's plan was a compromise, and he might even like to see it go further. FULL POST

March 27th, 2012
07:02 PM ET

World contest, mountains next for 2-time U.S. memory champ

[Updated at 9:08 a.m. ET Wednesday] After winning his second straight U.S. memory championship, Nelson Dellis has had little time to think.

Since Saturday, when he successfully defended his USA Memory Championship title against 50 competitors in New York, he has done loads of interviews and answered many e-mails but still is finding time to savor his win after training for at least four hours daily over many weeks.

“I just did my first deck of cards since the competition this morning,” Dellis said Tuesday by phone from his home city of Miami, referring to part of his training routine. “I’m just taking it all in.”

Dellis, 28,  broke his own U.S. record in one of the events in which competitors memorize as many computer-generated digits as they can in five minutes.

He correctly recalled a string of 303 digits in that event, breaking his 2011 record of 248. Through that and other preliminary events, he qualified for the title round in which he memorized the order of two shuffled decks of playing cards in the five minutes given. (The runner-up, 2009 and 2010 U.S. champion Ron White, lost when making a mistake on the 67th card.)

Dellis, who was profiled on a day before the competition, began dabbling in mnemonics - the association techniques that memory competitors use to remember seemingly impossible strings of cards, words and numbers - in 2008, inspired in part by his desire to sharpen his mind after watching his grandmother suffer from Alzheimer’s disease. He’s since turned full time to memory-related ventures and has performed like no other American in the speed events, with records not only in speed numbers but also speed cards (officially 63 seconds for a deck of cards, but he says he once did it in 33.13 seconds in practice).

He might have been poised to break the speed-numbers record Saturday, but he said a few distractions hindered him. In one heat, he unexpectedly needed to remove two jokers while he was being timed (he says they were supposed to be taken out before he was given the deck), and in the second, someone took two flash photos in front of his face as he was studying the deck. His top speed cards time - the best of any competitor Saturday - was 87 seconds.

Dellis says he now has plenty to look forward to:

- Mountain climbing for Alzheimer's: Dellis will go to Peru in July to climb in the Cordillera Blanca mountain range, part of a mountain-climbing series for his Climb for Memory charity, which raises awareness and funds for Alzheimer's research. The climb will be preparation for a planned 2013 trip to scale Mount Everest and the nearby Lhotse peak - a trip in which he hopes to raise more than $290,000 (adding a zero to Mount Everest's roughly 29,000-foot peak) for Alzheimer's.


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Filed under: Florida • Health • New York
Gotta Watch: Rescues caught on video
A crew working to rescue a man trapped in mud at a construction site almost needed rescuing themselves.
March 27th, 2012
05:27 PM ET

Gotta Watch: Rescues caught on video

An Atlanta Fire rescue crew saves a man from drowning in mud. You "gotta watch" how they pulled him from more than 4 feet of mud near a construction site. In Oregon, see how a team used a rope and pulley system to save a quarter horse from a septic tank. And watch how a Good Samaritan saves a man from drowning in Oregon's Willamette River.


Man almost buried alive in the mud

An Atlanta Fire Dept. batallion chief explains how crews saved a man from being buried alive in thick mud near a construction site.


Good Samaritan saves drowning man

A man drowning in Oregon's Willamette River was saved by a good Samaritan.


Horse rescued from septic tank

Portland firefighters were able to rescue a 34-year-old horse named Roxy after she fell into a septic tank.

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Filed under: Georgia • Gotta Watch • Oregon • U.S. • Uncategorized
Gotta Watch: Is that mic on?
President Obama’s candid conversation with Russian President Dmitry Medvedev was caught on an open mic.
March 27th, 2012
02:27 PM ET

Gotta Watch: Is that mic on?

President Obama is taking heat after his candid comments to Russian President Dmitry Medvedev were picked up by reporters’ mics. He’s hardly the first public figure to unknowingly have private comments become very public. We’ve gathered the best caught-off-guard moments.

In 2000, then-presidential candidate George W. Bush made a “major-league” gaffe when he was overheard bashing New York Times reporter Adam Clymer on the campaign trail. You’ve got to see what running mate Dick Cheney said in response.

In 2009, President Obama was overheard talking about Kanye West rushing on stage during Taylor Swift’s acceptance speech at the MTV Video Music Awards. Obama’s pop culture comments got him in trouble.

Remember Rev. Jesse Jackson’s headline-making open mic moment in 2008? Using some colorful language, he was seen talking to a fellow guest on Fox News about how presidential candidate Barack Obama was “talking down to black people.”

President Ronald Reagan did it, too, but he wasn’t talking to just one person. During a sound check before a radio address in 1984, President Ronald Reagan joked about bombing Russia. Check out all these moments and even more favorites in the video below.


CNN looks back at some infamous open mic gaffes in politics.

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Filed under: Gotta Watch
March 27th, 2012
12:59 PM ET

Pope's Havana visit raises questions of whom he'll meet

Wrapping up his visit to Santiago de Cuba and bound for Havana, Pope Benedict XVI has sparked widespread speculation that he will meet with the island's former President Fidel Castro.

Church officials say Benedict is scheduled to meet again with President Raul Castro, along with his family. The meeting could include Raul Castro's famous older brother, who stepped down from power in 2006 after battling illness, though it is not clear if that will occur.

Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez also arrived on the island over the weekend, reported by Cuban state television to be in Cuba for radiation treatment for cancer.

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Filed under: Cuba
March 27th, 2012
12:37 PM ET

Affiliate roundup: Woman who lost legs in tornado returns home

A sampling of Tuesday's headlines from some CNN affiliates nationwide:

WDRB: Woman who lost legs in tornado goes home

A southern Indiana woman who lost part of both of her legs as she shielded her children from two tornadoes this month has been sent home from a hospital, CNN affiliate WDRB reported.

Stephanie Decker, of Henryville, was released Monday from a rehabilitation hospital in New Albany, Indiana.

Decker said she covered her son and her daughter in their basement with a blanket and her body on March 2 when a tornado damaged the home, causing debris to fall on and severely injure her legs. She said she continued to shield her children as another tornado came through the area.


Filed under: Florida • Indiana • Ohio • Pennsylvania
Mega Millions lottery jackpot hits $363 million
The cash option payout for Tuesday night's Mega Millions drawing is $259 million.
March 27th, 2012
12:34 PM ET

Mega Millions lottery jackpot hits $363 million

Strong sales of Mega Millions lottery tickets are reported across the country for Tuesday night's estimated $363 million jackpot, the third largest in the game's history.

"Peak sales hours for Mega Millions are typically on the day of the drawing during the evening rush hour. We anticipate brisk sales as people head home from work," said Tandi Reddick, media relations manager for the Georgia Lottery Corp.

The drawing is at 11 p.m. ET Tuesday.

A winning ticket must match all five numbers drawn from a pot containing 56 balls and then match the Mega Ball, which is drawn from a pot containing 46 numbers. Odds of winning are almost 176 million to 1. Each ticket costs $1.

The $363 million prize is payable as an annuity over 26 years. The cash option payout for Tuesday's jackpot is $259 million. Both are before taxes.

Arizona lottery officials say that Tuesday night's cash option payout is the largest in history, a fact they attribute to the country's current low interest rates.


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Filed under: Lotto
March 27th, 2012
11:55 AM ET

Official: British man arrested in Somalia

A 45-year-old British man has been arrested in the Somali capital, Mogadishu, for suspected ties to al Qaeda, a spokesman for Somalia's president said Tuesday.

The man is not of Somali origin, said Abdirahman Omar Osman, also a senior adviser to President Sharif Ahmed.

Osman said the suspect had come to Somalia without a visa and upon questioning said he wanted to help Islam. Authorities have seized his computer.

A spokesman at the UK Foreign Office said it was aware of the matter and was looking into it.

Al-Shabaab, a militant Islamist group allied to al Qaeda, controls much of southern Somalia and is active around Mogadishu.

It has waged an insurgency against the weak Transitional Federal Government since 2007.

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Filed under: Somalia • United Kingdom
March 27th, 2012
11:14 AM ET

SAT, ACT institute tough new measures to prevent cheating

[Updated at 2:27 p.m. ET] Sweeping new security measures to prevent cheating on the SAT and ACT college entrance exams were announced Tuesday.

Beginning with exams taken in September, students will have to submit a photo of themselves when they apply for a test. That photo will be printed on the student's test admission ticket and the roster provided to proctors at testing sites. Testing staff will compare the submitted photo to a photo ID and to the student in person at the testing site.

Photo checks will take place when the student arrives at the testing site, during breaks and when tests are handed in.

Student photos will also remain in the testing databases and be checked again by high school counselors and college admission officials once scores are calculated and submitted.

The new rules were announced at news conference in Nassau County, New York, where 20 people were arrested last fall in a SAT/ACT cheating scandal.


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Filed under: Crime • Education
March 27th, 2012
11:05 AM ET

Strauss-Kahn lawyers fight against prostitutes claim

By Saskya Vandoorne, CNN

Lawyers for Dominique Strauss-Kahn pushed back Tuesday against allegations that he facilitated prostitution in France, saying there was "no significant evidence" the former International Monetary Fund chief knew young women at parties he attended were being paid for sex.

Other suspects held over an investigation into prostitution centered around the city of Lille "said that Dominique Strauss-Kahn did not know that these women were being paid," Strauss-Kahn's lawyer Henri Leclerc said in a press conference.

"We hear that these women say otherwise. Well, no! I can tell you these women do not say otherwise," he said.

Strauss-Kahn was formally warned Monday that he is under investigation for "aggravated pimping" for accusations that he participated in a prostitution ring, prosecutors said.


Filed under: Dominique Strauss-Kahn • France
March 27th, 2012
07:43 AM ET

Tuesday's live video events

The race to the Republican presidential nomination remains up in the air.  Watch Live for all the latest news and views from the campaign trail.

Toda's programming highlights...

8:30 am ET - Pro-Affordable Care Act briefing - The Supreme Court holds another day of hearings on the legality of the Affordable Care Act and, once again, there are no TV cameras inside the courtroom.  But there will be plenty of action outside the courthouse, with supporters of the law briefing reporters.  The Tea Party Patriots will hold an anti-Act briefing at 10:15 am ET, while Act opponents hold a "Hands Off My Health Care" rally at 1:00 pm ET.


Filed under: Elections • Health • Health Care • Health care reform • Politics • Republican Party
Syria accepts peace plan, U.N. official says
Kofi Annan, United Nations and Arab League special envoy to Syria.
March 27th, 2012
06:45 AM ET

Syria accepts peace plan, U.N. official says

The Syrian government has accepted U.N. envoy Kofi Annan's plan to forge peace and end violence, Annan's spokesman said on Tuesday.

Annan has offered Syria a six-point plan - supported by the U.N. Security Council - as a way to halt the violence.

The proposal seeks to stop the violence and the killing, give access to humanitarian agencies, release detainees, and start an inclusive political dialogue to address the legitimate aspirations and concerns of the Syrian people, according to a U.N. statement.

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Filed under: Syria
TV station gets video of France shootings
Policeman stand guard in front of the 'Ozar Hatorah' Jewish school in Toulouse, France, where four people were killed on March 19.
March 27th, 2012
05:11 AM ET

TV station gets video of France shootings

Al Jazeera's Paris bureau received video of the shootings in southwest France blamed on Mohammed Merah, and gave the material to the police, bureau chief Zied Tarrouche said Tuesday.

The video arrived by mail on Monday on a USB stick along with an unsigned letter crediting al Qaeda with the attacks, he said.

The memory stick contained two clips with a total of 25 minutes of material, Tarrouche said.

Al Jazeera kept a copy when police took the original, but has not decided whether to air the footage, he said.

Mohammed Merah, 23, was killed Thursday at the end of a 32-hour siege of the apartment in the city of Toulouse where he was holed up.

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Filed under: Crime • Justice • World
March 27th, 2012
03:31 AM ET

Kofi Annan visits China to discuss Syrian crisis as reports of deaths mount

U.N.-Arab League special envoy Kofi Annan arrived in Beijing on Tuesday to rally support in helping end the bloodshed in Syria.

Annan's visit to China comes after a stop in Russia, the other country that has stymied U.N. Security Council attempts to condemn the Syrian regime.

During his two-day trip to China, Annan will meet with foreign ministry officials, China's state-run Xinhua news agency said.

Both China and Russia have said they want the violence to stop but argued that draft resolutions by Security Council peers were not evenhanded. Both countries have major trade ties with Syria, but have said they are not trying to protect a regime.

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Filed under: Arab Spring • Syria • World
March 27th, 2012
03:06 AM ET

Parent's of slain Florida teen to appear on Capitol Hill

That George Zimmerman, a neighborhood watch captain, shot and killed 17-year-old Trayvon Martin is not in dispute. Everything else is - from the circumstances, to the motivation - sparking a national debate about race, and coast-to-coast demands for justice.

On Tuesday, lawmakers take up the issue when the House Judiciary Committee holds a hearing on racial profiling and hate crimes. Martin's parents are expected to attend.

Ahead of the hearing, protesters plan to march to the White House demanding a federal investigation. A CNN/ORC International poll has found that nearly three-fourths of Americans - including 67% of whites and 86% of non-whites - believe Zimmerman should be arrested.

From the halls of Capitol Hill to the streets of America's cities, the case has generated widespread outrage - attitudes on display Monday in more than dozen cities, from Atlanta to San Francisco.

Many demonstrators wore hooded sweatshirts and carried Skittles candy - just like Martin had, on the night he was killed.

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Filed under: Crime • Politics • U.S.
March 27th, 2012
02:20 AM ET

North Korea refuses to halt launch plan despite Obama's warnings

North Korea said Tuesday that it would not abandon its plan to carry out a satellite launch next month despite recent warnings from President Barack Obama over the move.

The North "will not give up the satellite launch for peaceful purposes, which is a legitimate right of a sovereign state and requirement essential for economic development," Pyongyang's official Korean Central News Agency reported, citing the country's Foreign Ministry.

Obama said Sunday that if North Korea moves forward with the launch - which the United States, South Korea and others say is a way of disguising a long-range missile test - it will further deepen its isolation, damage relations with its neighbors and face additional sanctions that have already strangled the country.

The North Korean report Tuesday said that Obama's stance "reflects his wrong conception" of the situation.

"The U.S. says that it has no hostility" toward North Korea, the news agency cited the ministry as saying. "But it has not yet departed from the inveterate conception of confrontation. That is why it regards the launch of a satellite for peaceful purposes as a launch of long-range missile."

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Filed under: North Korea
March 27th, 2012
02:06 AM ET

Body of slain Iraqi woman to be flown home for burial

The body of an Iraqi woman, whose brutal beating death may have been a hate crime, will be flown home for burial.

Shaima Alawadi, a 32-year-old mother of five, died of a severe head injury after the attack at her home in Southern California on Wednesday. A note beside the body threatened the family to go back to Iraq and called them "terrorists," her daughter said.

Alawadi, hospitalized in critical condition after the beating, was taken off life support Saturday.

Late Monday night, the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) said Alawadi's body would be taken to Iraq for a funeral and burial.

Hanif Mohebi, executive director of the organization that advocates for Muslim civil liberties, said he did not know exactly when the funeral will take place, but believed the Iraq government was footing the bill for the transport.

Alawadi and her husband have three daughters and two sons, ranging in age from 8 to 17, Mohebi said. They moved to the San Diego County area in 1995 and had lived there, except for a short stint in Dearborn, Michigan.

Both El Cajon, where they family lived, and Dearborn have sizable Iraqi communities - among the nation's largest.

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Filed under: Justice
March 27th, 2012
01:47 AM ET

Obama to meet Pakistani prime minister amid tensions

President Barack Obama is scheduled to meet Tuesday with Pakistani Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani amid efforts by the United States and Pakistan to redefine their relationship after a string of damaging episodes last year.

The meeting between the two leaders on the sidelines of a large nuclear security summit meeting in Seoul comes as the Pakistani parliament is expected this week to start debating a committee's recommendation that the United States stop drone strikes inside its territory and apologize unconditionally for airstrikes that killed two dozen Pakistani soldiers in November.

The Parliamentary Committee on National Security, a group of 18 members of parliament responsible for reviewing relations with the United States, made the recommendation in a report to lawmakers last week.

"No overt or covert operations inside Pakistan shall be tolerated," the report said.

The talks Tuesday between Obama and Gilani are the highest profile meeting between the two countries since the airstrikes on November 26 that killed 24 Pakistani soldiers on the Pakistani-Afghan border.

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Filed under: Afghanistan • Military • Pakistan
NFL focuses on players in Saints bounty probe
March 27th, 2012
01:38 AM ET

NFL focuses on players in Saints bounty probe

More suspensions could be coming in the New Orleans Saints bounty scandal and this time NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell says he's focusing on punishments for players.

"Before I make any decisions I would like to hear from the players," Goddell said Monday at the football league's annual meeting in Florida.

Goddell would not give a timetable of when the punishments would come, saying he wanted to talk to the NFL Players Association first.

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Filed under: Sports • U.S.