Thursday, March 22, 2012

Romney advisor: 'Big win in a big state;' 'you hit a reset button for the fall campaign'

March 21st, 2012
09:59 AM ET

On Starting Point with Soledad O’Brien, Mitt Romney Senior Advisor Eric Fehrnstrom talks Illinois primary and Romney's decision to step aside in 2008 election.

Fehrnstrom says, "It was a big win in a big state…. You have to wonder where his opponents feel that they can win enough delegates to overtake what is really a commanding lead in the delegate count.”

When CNN anchor Soledad O’Brien asks about Romney stepping aside for McCain in 2008 and what happens if the other candidates don’t step aside for Romney this year, he replies, “At the time, John McCain did not have the delegates he needed to clinch the nomination but he was clearly on a path to doing that. The math was very challenging for Mitt Romney. And he made the decision that at that time, the country being at war in Iraq, it was important for John McCain to begin to rally the party behind him so he could prepare himself for the fall election campaign. Mitt Romney stepped aside. Now, in Rick Santorum and Newt Gingrich, these are both decent, honorable men who have run good campaigns. They are good Americans. They are good Republicans. And ultimately, I’m confident they'll make a decision that's not only right for their party, but right for them.”

He continues, “I think you hit a reset button for the fall campaign. Everything changes. It's almost like an Etch a Sketch. You can kind of shake it up and we start all over again.”

O’Brien questions this thinking and CNN senior political analyst Ron Brownstein adds, “You get a second look, there's no question about it. But it is not a complete, I think, blank slate.”

Starting Point with Soledad O’Brien airs week mornings from 7-9am on CNN.

Obama campaign Fund Raiser in Chicago

March 16, 2012

Obama Presidential Campaign
President Obama spoke to supporters at a campaign fundraiser. In the speech he criticized the Republican presidential candidates, who were also campaigning in the state prior to its upcoming primary. He said, "My message to all the candidates is welcome to the land of Lincoln because I'm thinking maybe some Lincoln will rub off on them while they are here."

In Montana, the bison are back

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Differing perspectives on bison relocation

Florida governor appoints new prosecutor in Trayvon Martin case

Handout / Reuters
Trayvon Martin, 17, was shot and killed by a self-described neighborhood watch guard in February in Sanford, Fla. The shooter, George Zimmerman, said he shot Martin in self-defense. He has not been charged.

In a statement, Scott called for the task force “to investigate how to make sure a tragedy such as this does not occur in the future, while at the same time, protecting the fundamental rights of all our citizens – especially the right to feel protected and safe in our state.” He said the task force would look at Florida’s “Stand Your Ground” law, which allows someone who is being threatened to use deadly force.
Lt. Gov. Jennifer Carroll will lead the task force, Scott said. The Rev. R.B. Holmes Jr., the pastor of the Bethel Missionary Baptist Church in Tallahassee, will be its vice chair.
Additionally, Scott and Bondi appointed Angela B. Corey, a state attorney from another part of Florida, to oversee the investigation. Norman Wolfinger, the state attorney who covers Sanford, where the shooting took place, asked to step down from the investigation.

Trayvon Martin was carrying a pack of Skittles and a can of iced tea when George Zimmerman, 28, spotted Martin, a black teen who was walking home from a convenience store at night in a gated community. Zimmerman told police he shot Martin in self-defense after a confrontation.

Trayvon Martin's death: Young, black and wearing a hoodie

Rep. Allen West of Florida, one of two African American Republicans in Congress, issued a statement on Facebook Thursday, criticizing how local police initially handled Martin’s death.

I have sat back and allowed myself time to assess the current episode revealing itself in Sanford Florida...

by Congressman Allen West on Thursday, March 22, 2012 at 2:02pm ·
I have sat back and allowed myself time to assess the current episode revealing itself in Sanford, Florida involving the shooting of 17-year-old Treyvon Martin. First of all, if all that has been reported is accurate, the Sanford Police Chief should be relieved of his duties due to what appears to be a mishandling of this shooting in its early stages. The US Navy SEALS identified Osama Bin Laden within hours, while this young man laid on a morgue slab for three days. The shooter, Mr Zimmerman, should have been held in custody and certainly should not be walking free, still having a concealed weapons carry permit. From my reading, it seems this young man was pursued and there was no probable cause to engage him, certainly not pursue and shoot him….against the direction of the 911 responder. Let’s all be appalled at this instance not because of race, but because a young American man has lost his life, seemingly, for no reason.  I have signed a letter supporting a DOJ investigation. I am not heading to Sanford to shout and scream, because we need the responsible entities and agencies to handle this situation from this point without media bias or undue political influences. This is an outrage.

He said that he has signed a letter supporting a federal investigation.

“I am not heading to Sanford to shout and scream, because we need responsible entities and agencies to handle this situation from this point without media bias or undue political influences. This is an outrage.”   
Sanford Police Chief Bill Lee said Thursday that he was stepping down temporarily during the investigation.

                                     Visit for breaking news, world news, and news about the economy

Bill Lee, chief of police in Sanford, Florida, announces that he will be temporarily stepping down from his position as the investigation into the shooting death of 17-year-old Trayvon Martin is conducted.

Why black people don't trust the police

By LZ Granderson, CNN Contributor
updated 7:06 PM EDT, Thu March 22, 2012
 A memorial to Trayvon Martin outside The Retreat at Twin Lakes community where he was shot by George Michael Zimmerman.
A memorial to Trayvon Martin outside The Retreat at Twin Lakes community where he was shot by George Michael Zimmerman.

Editor's note: LZ Granderson, who writes a weekly column for, was named journalist of the year by the National Lesbian and Gay Journalists Association and a 2011 Online Journalism Award finalist for commentary. He is a senior writer and columnist for ESPN the Magazine and Follow him on Twitter: @locs_n_laughs Watch him on Tuesdays on CNN Newsroom in the 9 am ET hour.
(CNN) -- I don't trust cops and I don't know many black people who do.

I respect them. I sympathize with them. I am appreciative of the work they do.

But when you've been pulled over for no good reason as many times as I have; when you've been in handcuffs for no good reason as many times as I have; when you run out to buy some allergy medication and upon returning home, find yourself surrounded by four squad cars with flashing lights and all you can think about is how not to get shot, you learn not to trust cops.

LZ Granderson
LZ Granderson
The first instance of injustice surrounding the Trayvon Martin tragedy occurred February 26, the night George Zimmerman decided to pursue, confront and ultimately shoot and kill Martin. The second started the moment the Sanford police failed to properly investigate what, given the 911 tapes, is clearly a questionable claim of self-defense made by Zimmerman. But seeing that Martin's parents were forced to sue the police department just to hear the tapes, it seems as if Zimmerman isn't the only questionable component in this case.

Thursday, Sanford Police Chief Bill Lee stepped down "temporarily." On Wednesday, Sanford city commissioners had voted "no confidence" in him.

But at a town hall meeting hosted by the NAACP on Tuesday, Sanford's black residents said they lost confidence in the police long before because of the extensive history of prejudicial treatment in the area.
Law enforcement isn't easy. In fact, it is extremely dangerous. But that in no way excuses improper procedure and lies. And given the amount of effort put forth by the Sanford chief to exonerate Zimmerman, a volunteer neighborhood watchman with a history of 911 calls that suggests paranoia, versus efforts to find out the truth, it sure feels like another case of racial profiling and police trying to cover up an impropriety. 

The shooter may not have been a police officer, but the story of how the police handled this case is oh-so-familiar.

It's the same story the nation heard from blacks in Los Angeles surrounding the 1991 Rodney King beating.

It's the same story heard from blacks in New York City surrounding the murder of Amadou Diallo, who was only carrying his wallet when he was shot 41 times by four plainclothes policemen in 1999.

That same story was heard in New Orleans, where black men were shot and killed for sport by police officers off the Danziger Bridge in 2005. The police department covered it up for two years before any arrests were made. Charges were even initially dismissed by the district judge before the Justice Department got involved and finally, last summer, officers were convicted.

And people wonder where the impetus behind NWA's "___ the Police" came from. I'll tell you where it came from. It came from knowing there are far more stories like Trayvon Martin's that the world never hears about. In fact, we almost didn't hear about this one. The nation heard the 911 tapes from last month's tragic shooting at Chardon High School in Ohio within 24 hours of the incident. Martin's parents had to file a lawsuit before they could hear the ones in this case.


If the police department had done everything it was supposed to do, if it was truly "PROHIBITED from making an arrest based on the facts and circumstances they had at the time" as the letter released by the city manager states, then why hold back until there is national media attention?

The letter said the department was still investigating the case and didn't want to compromise it, but the authorities never brought Zimmerman in for questioning. They still haven't. They tested Martin's body for drugs and alcohol, but not Zimmerman's. The only person with a weapon was Zimmerman. Martin was unarmed.

Just like the victims in New Orleans, Diallo, King. ...

In 2010, the family of Sean Bell was awarded $7 million by the city of New York after five police officers sprayed his car with more than 50 bullets, killing him. He was unarmed and to be married the next day.

"No amount of money can provide closure, no amount of money can make up for the pain," his fiancee, Nicole Paultre Bell, said after the ruling. "We'll just try to learn how to live with it and move on."

Those are words members of the black community have to say to each other far too many times when it comes to treatment by the police.

Investigators say they've found key clue to fate of Amelia Earhart

Investigators say they've found key clue to fate of Amelia Earhart
March 20th, 2012
10:50 AM ET

Investigators think they've uncovered a key clue that will lead them to solve the mystery of what happened to legendary aviator Amelia Earhart, who disappeared on a trans-Pacific flight 75 years ago.

Ric Gillespie, executive director of The International Group for Historic Aircraft Recovery (TIGHAR), said a new enhanced analysis of a photo taken on the Pacific atoll of Nikumaroro, formerly Gardner Island, three months after Earhart and navigator Fred Noonan disappeared, may show the landing gear of her Lockheed Electra protruding from a reef.

“We found some really fascinating and compelling evidence," Gillespie said at a news conference in Washington on Tuesday.

“Finding the airplane would be the thing that would make it conclusive,” he said.

Gillespie said the photo was taken by a British survey team in October 1937 and had been seen by Earhart researchers many times. But investigators took a new look at it in 2010 and, when their suspicions were triggered, had the photo checked by U.S. State Department experts. In a blind review, they determined the component in the picture is the landing gear of a Lockheed Electra.

"This is where the airplane went into the drink," Gillespie said.

On July 2, 75 years to the day after Earhart was last heard from, Gillespie will depart Honolulu on a University of Hawaii research vessel to try to find that plane in the deep waters off a flat reef on Nikumaroro.

The privately funded effort will use robotic submarines from Phoenix International, the U.S. Navy's primary contractor for deep ocean search and recovery, to comb the area. The Discovery Channel will film the exploration for a TV presentation, Gillespie said.

Gillespie acknowledged there would be skeptics after his 23 years of searching for Earhart had yet to yield an answer.

“There are some very smart people who think we’re wrong about this, but there are some very smart people who think we’re right about this,” he said.

One Gillespie supporter is Robert Ballard, the explorer who found the Titanic and other deep sea wrecks, who called himself  "a ringer" brought in to vet Gillespie's case.

Ballard said he had rejected offers to look for Earhart's plane, thinking the task too difficult.

“If you ever wanted a case of finding a needle in a haystack, this is at the top of the list in deep sea exploration,” he said at the Washington press conference.

Ballard said he did a strict analysis of  Gillespie's research and signed off on the science.

"Every time he passed the test," Ballard said. "Clearly the smoking gun was the analysis of that enhanced image."

Earhart and Noonan disappeared while on a flight from New Guinea to Howland Island that summer of 1937. The flat reef off Gardner Island, 300 miles off their course, had been a suspected landing spot. But those suspicions were largely based on speculation.

At Tuesday's press conference, Assistant Secretary of State Kurt Campbell called the disappearance of Earhart "the last great unsolved mystery of the 20th century."

If the mystery is solved this summer, Earhart's aviation trailblazing will have played a part, Secretary of Transportation Ray LaHood said.

"In no small part because of Amelia Earhart our world is smaller," LaHood said. "This very voyage to recover her remains in some ways is doable because of Earhart herself."

“We take a special measure of pride in an expedition that is as enterprising and inspiring as the woman with which it will unite us,” he said.

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton saluted Earhart's memory, too.

“Her legacy resonates today for anyone girls and boys who dreams about the stars,” Clinton said. “She gave people hope and she inspired them to dream bigger and bolder.”

Stand with Trayvon's mother for justice

By Sherrilyn A. Ifill, Special to CNN
updated 7:33 PM EDT, Thu March 22, 2012
Tracy Martin and Sybrina Fulton address supporters at the Million Hoodies March on Wednesday in New York.
Tracy Martin and Sybrina Fulton address supporters at the Million Hoodies March on Wednesday in New York.

Editor's note: Sherrilyn A. Ifill is a professor at the University of Maryland School of Law and the chairwoman of the U.S. Programs Board of the Open Society Foundations. She is the author of "On the Courthouse Lawn: Confronting the Legacy of Lynching in the Twenty-first Century."
(CNN) -- The hardest part of listening to Trayvon Martin's mother speak about her son's death is hearing the tone of her voice. It bears a heaviness that speaks not just of grief but of resignation.
Sybrina Fulton is living the nightmare that every black mother carries in the back of her mind every day. Her son has been senselessly killed by someone who didn't see her son -- a normal American teenager -- but saw just a black boy and felt threatened. The police know the killer but have not arrested him.
All of the known facts support the likelihood that Martin was pursued and killed by a zealous neighborhood watch captain. But Martin is black, his assailant, George Zimmerman, is white (Hispanic), and the events took place in Florida, which has a strong self-defense law. So rather than quietly grieve, comforted by the assurance that this terrible wrong will be forcefully addressed, Fulton must do what many black mothers have had to do for centuries. She must lead the charge to bring the killer to justice. She must hire a lawyer, although her son broke no law. She must appear at rallies and on the radio to keep public pressure on local police who have refused to arrest Zimmerman.

Sherrilyn A. Ifill
Sherrilyn A. Ifill 
In the early 20th century, the consequences for the kind of relentless determination displayed by Fulton could be deadly. Of the several dozen black women who were lynched in our nation's history, most were killed in retaliation for demanding the arrest of those who murdered their sons or husbands.
We've come a long way since those days. But Fulton still feels the pain of having to defend the honor of her son and justify the significance of his life.
She does not say this. But in her voice we hear the sound of a burden centuries old and almost too heavy to bear. In a way, she is walking the rugged path forged so courageously and publicly by Mamie Mae Till more than 50 years ago, who never rested in her search for justice for her slain son, Emmitt.
The fear of Fulton's terrible journey is what motivates so many black mothers to harangue their sons with demands that they call home when they're out, that they take a friend with them and that they watch their backs. We imagine what could happen and try to do our best to keep the nightmare at bay. Our hearts break when we hear the recount of Martin's call to a friend in the minutes before he was killed. He knew Zimmerman was following him. His fear was mixed with a young man's pride: "I'm not gonna run."
Yes, we know about those parents who don't parent, who let their children run wild without supervision. But we also know the truth. And the truth is that most black mothers parent with determination, authority and fear. Especially those mothers who have sons.
The teenage rites of passage that thrill our white counterpoints send fear down a black mother's spine. When your child is old enough to walk to a friend's house in the neighborhood, it can mean the first of many stop-and-frisk encounters with the police. When they turn 18, they can now be arrested and charged as an adult for being in the wrong place at the wrong time. A new driver's license and car opens the door to driving-while-black stops. Just having a flat tire in the road can end with a senseless murder, like the death of Camille and Bill Cosby's son Ennis on the Los Angeles freeway in 1997.
Without question, white mothers lose their sons to murder too, and black mothers who lose their sons and daughters to murder do so more often at the hands of other black men or boys. There is no comfort for any of these mothers; there is just the hope of justice. But when a white neighborhood watch captain with a record of run-ins with the law follows, shoots and kills a black unarmed teenager and no arrest is made, even the cold comfort of justice is denied.
There are too many weeping, grieving mothers in our gun-soaked, violent nation. All that Sybrina Fulton asks for are answers and justice. Every mother of every race should stand with her.

Teen's dad: Trayvon saw his death coming

The Situation Room
|Added on March 21, 2012 
A look at why Zimmerman wasn't arrested in Trayvon Martin's death - and teen's parents react to Trayvon's final moments.


Father: 'Our son did not deserve to die'

 |Added on March 22, 2012
 Demonstrators crowd into Washington Square Park to protest the killing of unarmed teenager Trayvon Martin

Zimmerman's father: My son isn't racist

John King USA
Added on March 19, 2012 
Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee tells CNN's John King why she thinks the Trayvon Martin case should be federally investigated.

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

March 22nd, 2012
12:55 PM ET

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 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  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.

Video: Using social media for 'Hoodie' march Added on March 22, 2012

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.

Video: Did Martin shooter use slur? Added on March 21, 2012

(listen to this astounding video and hear the radical 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.

Video: 'Stand Your Ground' tested in old case Added on March 21, 2012

And the situation has also forced parents of  black children to think about how they should discuss the story with their kids. What rhetoric do they use? How do they explain what they feel is happening?

CNN's Christy Oglesby wrote that her 12-year-old son knows he could have been Trayvon.
"It’s tough finding the balance between encouraging a black boy to storm the world with confidence and at the same time to fear for his life. But that’s what I must do," she wrote. "I know that at this very moment some have just sucked their teeth in disgusted disbelief and decided that I’m exaggerating. I wish that I was. I’m not. If I were, Trayvon would be alive."

That's a sentiment that author Touré wrote about for, too. In his piece called "How to talk to young black boys about Trayvon Martin," he offers eight talking points on what he calls the "potentially fatal condition of being Black."

"It’s unlikely but possible that you could get killed today. Or any day. I’m sorry but that’s the truth. Blackmaleness is a potentially fatal condition. I tell you that not to scare you but because knowing that could possibly save your life," he wrote. "There are people who will look at you and see a villain or a criminal or something fearsome. It’s possible they may act on their prejudice and insecurity. Being Black could turn an ordinary situation into a life or death moment even if you’re doing nothing wrong."

It has also forced a national dialogue on whether police handled the case properly, in general, or whether there were any racial biases in how the case was handled.

Pressure continues to grow on legislators to re-examine the "stand your ground" law, as well as on those charged with investigating the case. After a no-confidence vote and demands for his resignation, pressure mounted Thursday on the Sanford police chief. Sanford city commissioners voted 3-2 Wednesday night in favor of a nonbinding measure of no confidence against Police Chief Bill Lee.Some of the people supporting Martin's family have also made it clear they want the chief fired, tweeting out his photo and phone number and encouraging people to flood his office with phone calls.

But police did try to give insight into how and why they handled the incident the way they did in a letter from the city manager posted online.In it, they explain, exactly how the "stand your ground" law works and how, according to Zimmerman's description of what happened that night, they could not refute that Zimmerman was protected by the law.

Thursday afternoon Sanford Police Chief Bill Lee announced Thursday he is stepping down "temporarily" as head of the department.

"I am aware that my role as a leader of this agency has become a distraction from the investigation," he told reporters. "It is apparent that my involvement in this matter is overshadowing the process. Therefore, I have come to the decision that I must temporarily remove myself from the position."

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."

Video: 'Stand your ground' or duty to retreat? Added on March 21, 2012

A Seminole County grand jury will convene April 10 on the matter, according to State Attorney Norm Wolfinger, and the U.S. Justice Department has launched a civil rights investigation into the case.

It appears that a growing movement of people across the country will continue to rally behind Martin's parents as they urge an arrest in the case.  Another rally is planned Thursday night at a Sanford church.
Before the grand jury makes a decision on whether to hand down indictments in the case, it is likely that more voices will fight to be heard and added to this ongoing and heated debate.

Auto Industry and the Economy

March 15, 2012

Obama Presidential Campaign
Vice President Biden spoke to the auto workers' union in Toledo, Ohio. In his speech he He cited President Obama's actions in 2009 as key to reinvigorating the auto industry and criticized Mitt Romney's characterization of the bailout as a mistake.

Cross-dressing firemen put out fire

The Situation Room|Added on March 21, 2012Cross-dressing firemen in gowns put out a fire. Hot? Not. CNN's Jeanne Moos reports.

'Stand Your Ground' tested in old case

CNN|Added on March 21, 2012 
CNN's Randi Kaye reports on "Stand Your Ground" law in Florida and why one widow says it's a free pass for murder.

Cocaine, heart disease contributed to Whitney Houston's drowning, coroner says

I updated this to include the video of the corner
By Alan Duke, CNN
updated 6:28 PM EDT, Thu March 22, 2012
"No trauma or foul play is suspected" in Whitney Houston's death, the coroner said.

Los Angeles (CNN) -- 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 initial 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 one-page report released Thursday did not disclose the levels of each drug, but that information will be included in the final coroner report to be made public within two weeks, the coroner said.

Houston's family, which had been informed of the findings before Thursday's release, issued a statement through a family spokeswoman.

"We are saddened to learn of the toxicology results, although we are glad to now have closure," said Patricia Houston, the singer's sister-in-law and former manager.

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.

Authorities had said that police and fire officials were called to Houston's room at the Beverly Hilton after her unconscious body was found in the bathtub, just hours before she was to attend a pre-Grammy party at the hotel.

Houston won six Grammys and sold 170 million albums, singles and videos over her career.

In recent years, the singer's accomplishments were overtaken by her struggles with drug addiction.

Gunman's attack videos reportedly found

March 22, 2012CNN's Diana Magnay reports that police found horrific videos of Mohammed Merah's attacks in his belongings.  Toulouse, France (CNN) -- The French police siege to capture a suspected al Qaeda-trained militant came to a bloody end Thursday morning when commandos shot Mohammed Merah in the head as he fired wildly back at them, authorities said.

Merah emerged from a bathroom in his apartment and fired more than 30 shots at police as they burst in to end a standoff that had lasted more than 31 hours, Paris prosecutor Francois Molins said.

He jumped out a window onto a balcony, still shooting, and was found dead on the ground, officials said.
Two police officers were injured in the raid, Interior Minister Claude Gueant said.

Merah had only two bullets left in his gun when he was killed, Molins said.

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.

Authorities said the young man cited a variety of reasons for the killings, including France's ban on the wearing of Islamic veils, the missions of its troops abroad and the oppression of Palestinians.
Police found video recordings of the attacks, ammunition and ingredients for explosives after he was killed, Molins said.
In the video of the first shooting of a French soldier in Toulouse, Merah told the soldier, "You kill my brothers, I kill you," Molins told reporters. Another video shows Merah gunning down two more French soldiers in Montauban. He is heard saying "Allahu Akbar," or God is great, Molins said.

Merah claimed to have posted the videos online, but police do not know when, where or how, Molins added.

Merah was wearing a bulletproof vest when police raided his apartment, the prosecutor said.
He originally said he would surrender to police, Gueant said, but later vowed that he would resist and kill anyone who tried to take him into custody.

Suspect in French terror attacks dead

Story behind Mohammed Merah

Townsend: Fear of 'lone wolf' scenario

Gueant had said earlier police wanted to capture him alive, saying the priority was "to hand him over to the authorities."

Merah said he wanted to "die with weapons in his hands," Interior Ministry spokesman Pierre-Henry Brandet said overnight.

After Merah's death, French President Nicolas Sarkozy said everything had been done to bring him to justice alive.

But, he said, security forces could not be exposed to more danger as they sought to arrest him, since enough lives had already been lost.

Sarkozy's political rival, Socialist presidential candidate Francois Hollande, congratulated police and said France had always shown that it "knows how to stand up against its worst enemies without losing any of its values."

Campaigning for the French presidential elections, put on hold after the Toulouse school attack, has now resumed, with Sarkozy holding a rally in Strasbourg Thursday afternoon. The first round of voting is due next month.

Sarkozy told supporters that his thoughts were with the victims and their families.

The shootings were not the crime of a madman but of "a monster and a fanatic," he said, and his crimes are "inexplicable and inexcusable."

France is not racist or anti-Semitic, Sarkozy added, and the tragic events of the past few days have shown that the nation is stronger when it is united and lives by its values.

Police had surrounded Merah's house at 3:30 a.m. Wednesday, having tracked him down through computer sleuthing and clues linked to his motorcycle, authorities said.

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

The prosecutor said Merah had trained with al Qaeda in Pakistan's Waziristan region, bordering Afghanistan, and also spent time in Afghanistan.

He was sent back to France after Afghan police picked him up at a traffic stop and alerted international forces to his presence, Molins said.
Merah's activities led to his inclusion on the U.S. no-fly list, a U.S. intelligence official confirmed Thursday. 

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

Christian Etelin, a lawyer who represented Merah in an earlier incident involving a traffic accident, also said Merah went to Afghanistan two years ago.

After the suspect's death, Etelin said that Merah was psychologically damaged.

"He was completely cut off from reality," Etelin said on CNN affiliate BFM-TV.

Ebba Kalondo, the senior news editor of the television network France 24, told CNN's "Erin Burnett OutFront" earlier that the suspect called her about two hours before police surrounded his home and laid out details of the killings that only police would have known -- "very, very specific information" such as the number of shots fired and the shell casings left behind.

"He seemed to be very aware that a massive manhunt was under way for him," Kalondo said. "He said he wasn't scared, and that neither capture nor death scared him at all."

Merah had been under surveillance by French intelligence for years, Interior Minister Gueant said.

He had "already committed certain infractions, some with violence," Gueant said.

Merah was sentenced 15 times by a Toulouse juvenile court when he was a minor, Molins said.

The French defense ministry said Merah had twice tried to join the French military. His first attempt was in the northern city of Lille, where he was refused because of prior convictions, and his second, in July 2010, was in Toulouse, where he sought to join the Foreign Legion but left during the first round of tests.

Merah was born in Toulouse, said Elisabeth Allanic, a magistrate at the Paris prosecutors office. Gueant said he was of Algerian origin.

Gueant said Merah "wanted to avenge Palestinian children and take revenge on the French army because of its foreign interventions."

France has about 4,000 troops supporting the NATO mission in Afghanistan. The government has said it will pull them out by 2013.

Merah also was opposed to France's recent move to ban women from wearing a full veil, Molins said.

French suspect detained in Afghanistan?

French attack victims buried in Israel

French candidates suspend campaigns

Palestinian Prime Minister Salam Fayyad strongly rejected using his people as a justification for the French killings, calling the string of shootings a "cowardly terrorist attack."

Merah belonged to a group called Forsane Alizza, or Knights of Glory, Gueant said. The French government banned the group in January for trying to recruit people to fight in Afghanistan.

The group issued a "chilling warning" on its Facebook page before it was banned this year, calling on supporters to attack Americans, Jews and French soldiers, terror expert Sajjan Gohel said.

Police tracked Merah down via his brother's computer IP address, which was apparently used to respond to an ad posted by the first victim, Gueant said.

In that first shooting, Imad Ibn Ziaten, a paratrooper of North African origin, arranged to meet a man in Toulouse who wanted to buy a scooter Ziaten had advertised online, the interior minister said. The victim said in the ad that he was in the military.

A message sent from the suspect's brother's IP address was used to set up the March 11 appointment, at which the paratrooper was killed, Gueant said.

Four days later, two other soldiers were shot dead and another injured by a black-clad man wearing a motorcycle helmet in a shopping center in the city of Montauban, about 50 kilometers (30 miles) from Toulouse.

In the attack at the private Jewish school Ozar Hatorah on Monday, a man wearing a motorcycle helmet and driving a motor scooter pulled up and shot a teacher and three children -- two of them the teacher's young sons -- in the head.

The other victim, the daughter of the school's director, was killed in front of her father.

Police, who said the same guns were used in all three attacks, launched an intense manhunt and late Tuesday night zeroed in on the apartment, about 3 kilometers (1.8 miles) from the Jewish school.

  Watch News from Channel 2 in Jerusalem on the terrorist and the burial of the victims. This is Thursday
You also can see Wednesdays news.

Divers find 5 more bodies in Costa Concordia wreckage

By the CNN Wire Staff
updated 3:55 PM EDT, Thu March 22, 2012
The Costa Concordia struck rocks off Italy on January 13 with about 3,200 passengers and 1,000 crew members on board.
The Costa Concordia struck rocks off Italy on January 13 with about 3,200 passengers and 1,000 crew members on board.

Rome, Italy (CNN) -- The bodies of five more people killed when the Costa Concordia cruise ship sank were found Thursday, bringing to 30 the number of bodies located, Italian officials said.
Two of the roughly 4,200 originally aboard the cruise liner remain missing. The Costa Concordia, a ship belonging to cruise line Costa Crociere, struck rocks off the island of Giglio on January 13 with about 3,200 passengers and 1,000 crew members on board.
Workers completed the removal of 2,400 tons of oil from the ship's tanks this week, a delicate process that began five weeks ago, the ship's owner said Thursday.
A salvage company will be selected next month to move the ship, a task that could take a year, according to the statement from Costa Crociere.
Divers who located the three bodies Thursday were not able to immediately determine age or sex of the victims, according to Piero De Milito, an official with Italy's Civil Protection Coordination department.
"The bodies were found on the exterior side of the wreck facing the island, between the wreck and the rocks," De Milito said. "In the next 48 hours, we'll be able to bring them on the mainland."
Crews used 20 vessels, including platforms, tugs, transport ships, crane barges and tankers, to defuel the cruise ship, which remains on its side.
While the oil has been removed, the "caretaking" operation to clean the seabed and monitor the ship will continue for several months, the company said.
The cruise line will choose next month which of six bidding salvage companies will remove the wrecked ship.
"The operation to remove the wreck will be a particularly complex one and is expected to take from 10 to 12 months, depending on which tender is chosen," the company said.

‘I’m on food stamps. Don’t hate me for it.’

Story Image
Updated: March 19, 2012 7:00AM

I am on food stamps. This will surprise almost everyone who knows me. I have hidden it from friends, from family, from classmates.
I use self-checkout at the grocery store so I don’t have to face judgment from the cashiers. I read countless posts on Facebook and receive political emails telling me that being on food stamps makes me a degenerate, someone who is dependant and useless. I hear about how I should be kicked off of food stamps so I won’t be so lazy and will get a job.
At the time the economy crashed, I was studying to be a chiropractor. My (now ex-) husband was laid off from his good job. It took him over a year and a half to find a new job. During that time we lost our house and had to declare bankruptcy. Our marriage fell apart.
Living on $60 a week
I’m now a single mom struggling to make ends meet. I was faced with the decision to quit school and go back to work and pray that somehow I’d be able to make the payments on more than $100,000 in student loans or to press on with my education. I prayed about it. I applied for aid. And through the grace of God, I received food stamps.
I live on $60 a week. This pays for my gas for my car to commute and for any personal items not covered by food stamps. Silly frivolous things like soap, shampoo, toilet paper, dish soap and, at times, a cup of coffee from the bookstore. I don’t have cable, a telephone, Netflix, a DVR or a gaming system.
In the last two months,I bought one pair of dress pants because I am required to dress professionally at school, a half-dozen pairs of underwear and a package of socks. If I didn’t receive food stamps, I would have to somehow feed myself and my son out of that $60 a week I have budgeted to make it until my next student loans come. I live in a one-bedroom house. I sleep in the living room, allowing my son to have the small bedroom. Beyond that, I have a kitchen and a bathroom. I do not have a basement.
And yet so many people comment about how people like me take advantage of the system. That we have big-screen TVs — my only TV is 10 inches — and other expensive items. How we are just lazy.
This trimester, I am taking 11 classes. I am in class from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. every day. After school, I spend a little time with my son, make dinner and put my son to bed. Then I study until I collapse in bed. I get up at 6 the next morning to put my son on the bus and start my day all over again.
Studying to be a doctor is not easy. It is not lazy. And for me, it is a calling. It is a dream. And it’s a future.
‘Tired of the hate’
I’m not writing this to ask for support. I am so blessed to be able to make ends meet and continue my education. I am writing this because I’m tired of the hate. I’m tired of being embarrassed. And I’m tired of the ignorance. Unless you’ve lost everything, you cannot possibly understand what drives someone to accept food stamps. How hard it was for them. How they cried when they submitted the application. How they are made to feel ashamed for accepting help.
You are entitled to your opinion. I respect that. But please consider my story the next time you are tempted to post or email hateful jokes; the next time you discuss with a friend how everyone on food stamps is taking advantage of the system.
I never imagined this would be my story. I was an A student, top of my class. I went to college, got a job and continued my education toward a post-graduate degree.
I did everything I was supposed to do to have the bright, amazing future I was promised by my teachers in school. Life doesn’t always turn out the way it does in storybooks.
And I was one of the charmed, lucky ones growing up. I can only imagine the lives that some people on food stamps have endured.
For the record, current estimates show that 3 to 5 percent of people on food stamps are on them fraudulently. Most are like me, enduring a difficult time in their lives.
Jesus commanded us to love our neighbors. Not to ridicule and hate them for needing help.
To love.
Vicki Jones lives in Downers Grove.