American Morning

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July 30th, 2009
12:18 PM ET

Distracted driving: Senate to ban texting at the wheel

Laws against texting and driving could become as common as seat belt laws. A new bill in the Senate would require states to ban the habit, or risk losing federal highway money. Drivers are 23 times more likely to crash when they're texting. For the past ten years researchers at the University of Utah have been studying the affects of driving while using cell phones. Bottom line is whether texting, or talking hands free, you are increasing your chances of crashing. CNN’s Jason Carroll shows you this phenomenon.

Filed under: Controversy • Crime
July 30th, 2009
12:12 PM ET

Obama's former doc doesn't like health plan

September is the earliest lawmakers would be agreeing on health care reform. Doctors are gathering on Capitol Hill today to see if they can influence the outcome. The President's former doctor from Chicago is among them. You might be surprised by whose side he's on. CNN's Jim Acosta met with him and he's not holding back.

Filed under: Health
July 30th, 2009
08:38 AM ET

A child driving NYC Subway Train? Rider says 'It's shocking'

[cnn-photo-caption image= caption="Cattie says he hopes his findings makes the system a little bit safer."]

New Yorkers will tell you they've seen strange things underground on the subway. This past weekend a subway rider saw a child 8 or 9 years old in the train operator’s cab and said it appeared she was teaching the boy how to run the train. He snapped a picture with his cell phone before getting on train.

The subway rider, Jules Cattie, spoke with CNN’s Carol Costello Thursday.

Carol Costello: The story is so unbelievable.

Jules Cattie: Even in New York, it’s shocking.

Costello: You said you snapped the picture because you didn't think anybody would believe you.

Cattie: In New York people say crazy things all the time and you tell friends and people say ‘no, that couldn't happen.’ Well, this actually happened.

Costello: You're sitting on the train. When does this first come to your attention that a child might be in the driver's seat of this subway train?

Cattie: Well I left work, was going home to watch a U.S. soccer game and I heard someone kind of yelling instructions. But it didn't sound like a co-worker to co-worker, like training an MTA employee, it sounded like a mother and a child. The tone was like that.

Costello: So what was she saying to the boy?

Cattie: The words, I heard: ‘green, go, yellow, slow down’ and things like that which I thought that was kind of - the MTA has to have better instructed people if they don't know that green means go.

Costello: And at this time, the train was actually moving?

Cattie: Yes. Yes.

Costello: So was he doing a pretty good job?

Cattie: It’s a rail so I don’t know. It was going and then we eventually - the train stopped at UNION SQUARE and the train was delayed a little bit and all of a sudden the young boy came out, popped the door open and announced why the train was delayed.

Costello: The little boy popped out and said why the train was delayed, the same kid that was driving the train?

Cattie: At this point, I didn't know that. He popped out and made the announcement. Everybody on the train kind of nervously looked around and giggled like ‘did that really just happen?’ And it's kind of shocking and he went back in. At that point I went up to the cab to kind of investigate and see what was going on.

Costello: You went up to the cab to investigate and what did they tell you?


Filed under: You Have to See This
July 30th, 2009
07:34 AM ET

'Jungle monkey' e-mail jeopardizes Boston officer's job

(CNN) - A Boston, Massachusetts, police officer who sent a mass e-mail in which he referred to Harvard professor Henry Louis Gates Jr. as "banana-eating" and a "bumbling jungle monkey" has been placed on administrative leave and faces losing his job.

Officer Justin Barrett, 36, who is also an active member of the National Guard, sent an e-mail to some fellow Guard members, as well as the Boston Globe, in which he vented his displeasure with a July 22 Globe column about Gates' controversial arrest.

The columnist, Yvonne Abraham, supported Gates' actions, asking readers, "Would you stand for this kind of treatment, in your own home, by a police officer who by now clearly has no right to be there?"

In his e-mail, which was posted on a local Boston television station's Web site, Barrett declared that if he had "been the officer he verbally assaulted like a banana-eating jungle monkey, I would have sprayed him in the face with OC [oleoresin capsicum, or pepper spray] deserving of his belligerent noncompliance."

Barrett used the "jungle monkey" phrase four times, three times referring to Gates and once referring to Abraham's writing as "jungle monkey gibberish."

He also declared he was "not a racist but I am prejudice [sic] towards people who are stupid and pretend to stand up and preach for something they say is freedom but it is merely attention because you do not get enough of it in your little fear-dwelling circle of on-the-bandwagon followers."

According to a statement from Boston police, Commissioner Edward Davis took action immediately upon learning of Barrett's remarks, stripping the officer of his gun and badge. Barrett is "on administrative leave pending the outcome of a termination hearing."

CNN has been unable to reach Barrett for comment.

Davis wants Barrett, a two-year veteran of the Boston police force, fired, a source close to the investigation said. But Barrett will continue to be paid while on administrative leave, and no date has been set for his termination hearing.

Keep reading this story »

Filed under: Controversy
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.

Keep reading this story »

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.

Keep reading this story »

Filed under: American Morning
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