American Morning

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July 30th, 2009
07:06 AM ET

Caller in Gates case says she'd do it again

[cnn-photo-caption image= caption="Lucia Whalen, who called 911 to report a possible break-in, speaks to reporters Wednesday."]

(CNN) - In her first public appearance, the woman who made the 911 call that led to the arrest of Harvard professor Henry Louis Gates Jr. said Wednesday she would make the call again if placed in the same situation.

The arrest and its aftermath have sparked accusations of racial profiling, and even President Obama has become involved. He plans to meet Thursday with Gates and the arresting officer, Sgt. James Crowley, at the White House.

Gates was arrested for disorderly conduct July 16 in Cambridge, Massachusetts, after he had shown Crowley that the home he was suspected of breaking into was his. The charge was later dropped.

"If you're a concerned citizen, you should do the right thing if you're seeing something that seems suspicious. I would do the same thing," Lucia Whalen said.

Whalen said she contacted police after an older woman with no cell phone told her she was worried that someone was trying to break into the house.

She said she was en route to lunch when the woman approached her.

"I thought: 'I'm the one with the cell phone. I should probably call'" police, she explained.

Although Whalen never referred to black suspects when she called authorities about the suspected break-in, the incident prompted a heated discussion across the nation on race relations in the United States.

Police released tapes Monday of her 911 call.

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Filed under: American Morning • Controversy
July 30th, 2009
07:01 AM ET

Senators push nationwide ban on texting while driving

[cnn-photo-caption image= caption="A law that went into effect January 1 in California makes it illegal to send text messages while driving."]

WASHINGTON (CNN) - Four senators pushed for a bill Wednesday to ban texting while driving, a day after a study found that drivers who text while on the road are much more likely to have an accident than undistracted drivers.

Sens. Chuck Schumer, D-New York; Robert Menendez, D-New Jersey; Mary Landrieu, D-Louisiana; and Kay Hagan, D-North Carolina, unveiled the ALERT Act, which would ban truck and car drivers and operators of mass transit from texting while driving.

The proposed legislation would prohibit any driver from sending text or e-mail messages while driving a vehicle, said an earlier news release from the senators.

If the bill passes, the Department of Transportation would set the minimum standards for compliance.

States that do not enact text-banning laws within two years of the bill's passage could lose 25 percent of their federal highway funds, Schumer said in a news conference announcing the legislation. The noncompliant states could recuperate that money once they meet the text-banning standards, Schumer said.

CTIA, a cellular phone industry group, said that it supports legislation that addresses text messaging while driving.

"CTIA and our member companies continue to believe text messaging while driving is incompatible with safe driving," said a statement on CTIA's Web site.

Fourteen states, including the home states of three of the bill's sponsors, and the District of Columbia already have laws barring texting while driving: Alaska, Arkansas, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Louisiana, Maryland, Minnesota, New Jersey, North Carolina, Tennessee, Utah, Virginia and Washington.

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