Recently in National News Category

Arizona has passed a law that says pregnancy can begin two weeks before a child has been conceived, news sources report.

The bill changes the system that determines the age of a fetus, using the date of the woman's last period rather than the date of conception. The bill also bans all abortions after 20 weeks, or 18 weeks using the old system, except in the case of medical emergency, the Huffington Post reported.

The mandate will affect a relatively small number of abortions in the state -- only about 2 percent, according to the group behind the bill -- but the measure includes other aspects placing additional requirements on doctors, abortion clinics, and the state's health department, Reuters reported.

Such restrictions include requiring women to have ultrasounds at least 24 hours prior to receiving an abortion, forcing women considering abortion because of fetal abnormalities to undergo counseling, requiring clinics to post signs warning against abortion coercion, requiring doctors and the state's health department to provide additional information about abortion's risks, mandating a state-run website with adoption information and images of developing fetuses, and requiring school districts to promote parenthood or adoption as more acceptable than abortion, according to Reuters.

Those opposed to the bill see the new mandate as another blow to reproductive rights. The Center for Reproductive Rights' state advocacy counsel, Jordan Goldberg said the new law "disregards women's health," according to the Huffington Post.

"The women of Arizona can't access medical treatment that other women can," the Huffington Post quoted her as saying to the Daily Beast.

Republican Governor Jan Brewer signed the bill into law Thursday, saying it would "safeguard our most vulnerable population-the unborn," according to the Huffington Post.

George Zimmerman's lawyers withdraw from case

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George Zimmerman's attorneys withdrew from the Trayvon Martin case Tuesday, saying they have lost contact with their client and that Zimmerman has been speaking with people without their consent, news sources report.

The lawyers Craig Sonner and Hal Uhrig claim Zimmerman has not been returning their phone calls or emails since Sunday, but he called special prosecutor Angela Corey and Fox News talk show host Sean Hannity even after they instructed him not to speak to anyone about the case, the Miami Herald reported.

Zimmerman's lawyers said Corey refused to talk to Zimmerman without his attorneys' consent and Hannity wouldn't tell them what was discussed, the Star Tribune reported.

Zimmerman also set up his own website,, even as his lawyers were creating one for him at his request. Visitors to the site can donate money to cover Zimmerman's living and legal expenses, the Miami Herald reported.

"As of the last couple days he has not returned phone calls, text messages or emails," the Star Tribune quoted Sonner from a news conference outside the courthouse. "He's gone on his own. I'm not sure what he's doing or who he's talking to. I cannot go forward speaking to the public about George Zimmerman and this case as representing him because I've lost contact with him."

Zimmerman, 28, shot Martin, 17, on Feb. 26 in the gated community in Sanford, Fla., but claimed the death was in self-defense. The news from Zimmerman's lawyers comes as many believe the special prosecutor is nearing a decision of whether to charge Zimmerman with a crime, the Star Tribune reported.

During the press conference, Sonner and Uhrig noted that Zimmerman has been under extreme pressure, and questioned his mental stability.

"This has been a terribly corrosive process. George Zimmerman, in our opinion, and from information made available to us, is not doing well emotionally, probably suffering from post-traumatic stress syndrome. We understand from others that he may have lost a lot of weight," Uhrig said, according to the Star Tribune.

"To handle it this way suggests that he may not be in complete control of what's going on. We're concerned for his emotional and physical safety."

Obama denounces GOP budget plan as 'radical'

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By Alysha Bohanon

President Obama gave a speech blasting the Republican budget plan Tuesday, calling it a "Trogan horse" that would greatly deepen inequality in the United States, news sources report.

In the speech to editors and reporters of the Associated Press, Obama warned that the budget plan produced by the House would create severe cuts to college scholarships, medical research, national parks, and even technology to make accurate weather forecasts, the New York Times reported.

He also compared the plan to Newt Gingrich's legislative manifesto of 1994, saying the budget was "so far to the right, it makes the Contract With America look like the New Deal," the Washington Post reported.

Obama also made broader claims about the GOP as a whole, arguing that the entire party has shifted and become much more radical. One of the party's more moderate icons, Ronald Reagan, would be unelectable in the modern Republican Party, Obama said, according to the Washington Post.

Echoing the themes of his State of the Union address, the president argued that the GOP's "radical" plan that slashes spending to social program and gives tax breaks to the wealthiest Americans will not strengthen the economy.

"In this country, broad-based prosperity has never trickled down from the success of a wealthy few," the president said, according to the New York Times. "It has always come from the success of a strong and growing middle class. That's how a generation who went to college on the G.I. Bill, including my grandfather, helped build the most prosperous economy the world has ever known."

The 2013 budget was drafted by Representative Paul D. Ryan (R-Wis.). Obama claims the proposal calls for across-the-board cuts in discretionary spending, and includes tax cuts which would disproportionately benefit the wealthiest Americans and would cost $4.6 trillion over the next decade, according to the New York Times.

"Disguised as deficit reduction plans, it is really an attempt to impose a radical vision on our country. It is thinly veiled social Darwinism," The New York Times quoted Obama as saying. "And by gutting the very things we need to grow an economy that's built to last -- education and training, research and development, our infrastructure -- it's a prescription for decline."

The speech drew immediate push back from the right, including the budget's author. "Like his reckless budgets, today's speech by President Obama is as revealing as it is disappointing: While others lead by offering real solutions, he has chosen to distort the truth and divide Americans in order to distract from his failed record," Ryan said in a statement, the Washington Post reported.

By Alysha Bohanon

A JetBlue flight from New York to Las Vegas was diverted to Amarillo, Texas, on Tuesday after the captain "exhibited erratic behavior" and was wrestled to the ground by passengers, news sources report.

The captain began to act strangely during the flight, which concerned the plane's co-pilot. The co-pilot locked the captain out of the cockpit during the flight, CNN reported.

"The pilot ran to the cockpit door, began banging on it and said something to the effect of, 'We've gotta pull the throttle back. We've gotta get this plane down,'" passenger Laurie Dhue told CNN.

The pilot began shouting, "'Iraq, al-Qaeda, terrorism, we're all going down.' It seemed like he went crazy," passenger Gabriel Schonzeit told the USA Today.

"At that point, the two flight attendants tried to subdue him, and then seemingly out of nowhere, about six or seven large guys stormed to the front of the plane and wrestled the captain of the plane down to the ground and had him subdued in a matter of moments. It was really like something out of a movie," Dhue told CNN.

The flight had the "burly" men on board because it was taking passengers to Las Vegas for a security convention, according to the USA Today.

The incident happened on Flight 191 to New York, which had 135 passengers on board, the Chicago Tribune reported.

Following the "medical situation" with the captain, another captain who was traveling off-duty helped the co-pilot land the plane, the Chicago Tribune reported.

The captain was removed from the plane and taken to the hospital after landing in Texas. JetBlue sent out a new plan and crew to bring the passengers to Las Vegas, according to the Chicago Tribune.

By Alysha Bohanon

Six former executives and concert promoters of the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum have been accused of a scheme to embezzle millions of dollars from the historic site, news sources report.

The 29-count, grand jury indictment released by Los Angeles County prosecutors charges the six defendants with bribery, embezzlement, conspiracy and conflict of interest, according to the Los Angeles Times.

Prosecutors claim that millions of dollars were stolen from the operations of the stadium, which has been a lankmark since the 1920s and was once the site of Olympics, Super Bowls and other major events. The site fell on hard times in recent years and is now the host of rave concerts, according to the Huffington Post.

The indictment was returned late Tuesday against former Coliseum general manager Patrick Lynch, former events manager Todd DeStefano, former technical manager Leopold Caudillo Jr., music and event promoters Pasquale Rotella and Reza Gerami, and janitorial contractor Tony Estrada, according to the Los Angeles Times.

DeStefano is charged with one count of conspiracy to commit embezzlement, 15 counts of embezzlement by a public or private officer or agent of public funds, two counts of accepting a bribe, and five counts of conflict of interest. Rotella and Reza are each charged with one count of conspiracy and bribery and multiple counts of embezzlement, according to the Los Angeles Times.

Lynch, who resigned as general manager in February 2011, is charged with two counts of conspiracy to commit embezzlement, six counts of embezzlement and one count of conflict of interest. Estrada, 72, is charged with one count each of conspiracy to commit embezzlement and embezzlement. A third Coliseum employee, Caudillo, 41, was charged with one count of conflict-of-interest after he allegedly directed stadium business to a firm he founded, the Los Angeles Times reported.

Hiker missing for nearly a month found with cat

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By Alysha Bohanon

A hiker lost for three and a half weeks in a New Mexico national forest has been found alongside her cat, news sources report.

Margaret Page, 41, was found in a sleeping bag Wednesday in Gila National Forest, where she had gone hiking with her cat around Feb. 10, KARE 11 reported.

Family members reported Page as missing Feb 14, but crews didn't begin searching for her until this week, according to Fox News.

Page was found emaciated and malnourished but well-hydrated. According to Fox News, she has a history of mental illness. Authorities believe she stayed alive by drinking water from a nearby creek while she fed her cat with cat food she had packed.

"Her cat was in better shape than she was," Marc Levesque, New Mexico State Police Search and Rescue incident commander told Fox News. "Her cat was also hunting. (Page) ran out of food a while back."

Page purposefully left the trail between Feb. 10 and Feb. 12. Temperatures in the area dropped below freezing every night, Fox News reported.

Levesque told Fox News that when Page arrived at Gila Regional Medical Center she was alert and articulate. She checked herself out of the hospital late Wednesday.

New Mexico Police find child's body in 30-foot hole

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A search for a missing New Mexico boy led authorities to a deep, narrow hole in a neighbor's backyard where a child's body was located Sunday, news sources report.

Authorities believe the child is 4-year-old Samuel Jones, who went missing Saturday. A detective searching for the boy Sunday morning spotted the body when he shined a light into the neighbor's well, according to CNN.

Carlsbad, New Mexico Police Chief Daniel Fierro told a CNN affiliate that rescuers initially began with rescue procedures, but found that the conditions inside the hole were not survivable. Measurements of oxygen and temperature were taken, and the body showed no signs of life.

Because of the location of the body, police believe it is the body of Samuel Jones, but this identity can't be confirmed until the body can be retrieved from the hole.

"We have reports of one missing child, and this child is right next door to the missing child's house," Carlsbad, New Mexico police spokeswoman Lt. Jennifer Moyers told the Associated Press.

It could take a day for mining crews to reach the body safely, state police told CNN.

"It's a little tricky in that you have to start to dig kind of away from the hole and dig at a slant until you get down deep enough to go laterally," Moyers told the Associated Press. "They're going to have to put in retaining so that the dirt doesn't cave in on what they've dug out."

Virginia abortion bill suspended at last minute

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By Alysha Bohanon

A proposed Virginia legislative bill involving abortions was abruptly suspended Thursday after it had been passed by a Senate committee to be seen by the full body, news sources report.

The suspension came one day after Gov. Bob McDonnell ordered Republicans in the House of Delegates to soften the original version of the bill, which required a woman to undergo a vaginal ultrasound before having an abortion. After the bill drew fire from Democrats and women's advocacy groups, the bill was altered to require a noninvasive abdominal ultrasound, the New York Times reported.

According to the Washington Post, the lawmakers hadn't originally realized that for an ultrasound to determine the age of a fetus, as mandated by the bill, it would usually require a vaginal probe.

"This is a major disgrace for the Republican leadership," said Don Blake, who runs the Virginia Christian Alliance, a conservative group that backed the bill. Republicans should have had the votes to pass the bill, he said to the New York Times.

After the measure began to receive media attention and opposition, it was suddenly suspended. There was broad speculation that McDonnell was behind the move, according to the New York Times.

McDonnell is a Republican and possible candidate for vice president, and it is believed that he may not have wanted to put his name on such a strictly conservative bill, according to the Washington Post.

"Pro-life groups are concerned that the governor had a hand in this," Blake said to the New York Times.

By Alysha Bohanon

The future of Newt Gingrich's campaign for presidency rests on his performance in the Georgia primary, the Republican presidential hopeful suggested during a campaign stop in Georgia Friday, news sources reported.

Gingrich represented Georgia during his 20-year congressional career, CNN reported, and has high hopes for the state.

"I would hope to win here and I think, given the years that I spent both helping represent the state in Congress but also helping grow the Republican Party, I think I have some reasonably good likelihood of winning here," said Gingrich, according to CNN.

The state will hold its Republican primary on March 6, along with 10 other states scheduled to hold primary elections or caucuses on Super Tuesday. Georgia has the most delegates at stake that day, according to CNN.

Gingrich told reporters that Georgia would be a "very, very important state," MSNBC reported. "We actually have a very good chance of doing well here and that gives us a springboard then to go across the whole country."

Gingrich has been campaigning across the state with fellow Georgian and former candidate Herman Cain.

Gingrich assured supporters that despite rough patches in nomination race, he will continue campaigning in the hopes to win Georgia.

"The fact is I have never seen anything like this nominating process. It has been wild. It will remain wild for a while," he said, according to MSNBC. "Some places we've won and some places we've lost, but we are in the hunt."

Women in military moving closer to the front lines

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The Pentagon announced Thursday that women would be officially permitted to fill certain positions closer to the front lines, but women soldiers are still not allowed to serve in combat, news sources report.

After a yearlong Pentagon review ordered by congress, the decision "allows women to be permanently assigned to a battalion -- a ground unit of some 800 personnel -- as radio operators, medics, tank mechanics and other critical jobs," according to the New York Times.

The word "permanently" is key. Many critics view the move as a very small step forward, because Female troops have been informally serving in such positions in Iraq and Afghanistan for years on a "temporary" basis, and the decision largely formalizes existing arrangements, the Times reports.

About 150 women soldiers have been killed in Iraq and Afghanistan so far, the National Journal reports.

Because the guerilla conflicts don't have fixed front-lines, women serving in support roles have found themselves in dangerous combat positions such as firefights with insurgents, flying helicopters into active battles, treating injured soldiers and other tasks typically reserved for the front-lines, according to the National Journal.

Critics say the current policy of restricting women from serving in the infantry, in combat tank units and in Special Operations commando units unfairly holds women back and keeps them from promotions contingent on serving in such assignments. Supporters of the policy say the physical demands are too strenuous for most women, and there is a psychological barrier preventing male soldiers and Marines from trusting women in combat, the Times reports.

"I think the infantry in me will have a very hard time ever accepting that I'm going to rush against the enemy and there's going to be a female right next to me," Capt. Scott A. Cuomo, a company commander of 270 Marines in Afghanistan and a strong supporter of women in the military, said in an interview in 2010 to the New York Times. "Can she do it? Some might. I don't know if this sounds bad, but I kind of look at everything through my wife. Is that my wife's job? No. My job is to make sure my wife is safe."

The Pentagon's announcement said more positions may be opening up in the future. Defense Department spokesman George Little said that each of the military's branches had been directed to conduct a six-month review of what other positions could be opened to women, the National Journal reports.

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