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November 19th, 2013
06:20 AM ET

Zimmerman Charged With Felony

George Zimmerman was charged Monday with felony aggravated assault after allegedly pointing a shotgun at his girlfriend, according to Dennis Lemma, chief deputy with the Seminole County, Florida, Sheriff's Office.

Zimmerman, who was acquitted earlier this year of murdering teenager Trayvon Martin, was arrested after the incident at the home of Samantha Scheibe, Lemma said. He also was charged with two misdemeanors - domestic violence battery and criminal mischief - in connection with the same incident, Lemma said.

Zimmerman is being held in jail without bail and will make his first appearance in front of a judge Tuesday at 1:30 p.m. ET.

According to a police report on the incident, Scheibe said that after an argument Zimmerman broke a table with a shotgun then pointed it at her "for a minute."

Scheibe called 911 at 12:30 E.T., Lemma said.

On a 911 call recording released by police, a woman can be heard telling authorities: "He's inside my house breaking all my (things) because I asked him to leave."

The woman then says to someone at the house, "I'm doing this again? You just broke my glass table. You just broke my sunglasses and you put your gun in my freaking face and told me to get the (expletive) out."

A man is heard telling her to calm down, but then she tells the dispatcher that the man just pushed her out of the house and locked the door.

On a separate 911 call, a man calls to report that his girlfriend was "for lack of a better term, going crazy on me" and throwing his things out. The caller says the woman is outside with police.

When asked why he is calling, the man says, "I just want everyone to know the truth."

He says he never pulled a firearm and that it is in a bag, locked. He claims she was the one who broke the table.

When deputies arrived at the house, Scheibe gave them a key. When they pushed open the door - which was blocked by several small pieces of furniture - they found Zimmerman, who was sitting and unarmed, Lemma said. He was passive and cooperative, Lemma said.

The sheriff's office was seeking a search warrant to look for two guns deputies believed were inside the home, he said. According to the police report, Zimmerman had locked up the guns before police arrived.

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November 18th, 2013
06:36 AM ET

Tornadoes Rip Through Midwest

They sifted through the darkness, hoping their flashlights would shine on something - anything - salvageable.

Instead, they found their life's belongings strewn in pieces among heaps of rubble where their homes once stood.

But they were the fortunate ones - the ones who survived after 81 reported tornadoes tore through the Midwest on Sunday. The storms killed six people and destroyed at least 70 homes in Illinois alone CNN's Indra Petersons reports.

"These storms having been moving so fast today, it's been hard to keep up," storm chaser Tony Laubach told CNN as he watched a tornado touch down outside Lebanon, Indiana.

In their aftermath, the storms left impassable roads, widespread outages and blocks and blocks of homes stripped bare. Hundreds of thousands were affected; the economic impact in the millions.

"A lot of people have a pile of rubble still, and I don't have anything," said Michelle Crumrine. "It's gone. I don't know where it went."

Crumrine was out of town when her neighborhood in Washington, Illinois, was hit. She returned to a wasteland.

Of all the cities ravaged by the storms, this city of 10,000 people in central Illinois was perhaps the hardest hit.

"It was complete destruction," said resident Anthony Khoury. "There are people in the streets crying."

As the dark twister churned toward his home, Khoury kept his camera glued to the window - and prayed. "Our father, thou art in Heaven, hallowed be thy name."

"The tornado happened in my backyard, and you can hear people screaming," Khoury told CNN's iReport. "We were freaking out."

Investigators have yet to determine the extent of the wrath - including exactly how many tornadoes touched down. Two National Weather Service teams will survey the damage Monday - one in Washington, and one in east central Illinois.

November 15th, 2013
06:03 AM ET

Obama Offers Fix For Canceled Plans

Americans may be able to keep their individual insurance plans for one more year, under a fix offered by President Obama on Thursday to address a controversial provision of the Affordable Care Act.

The deal is meant to mollify millions of people enraged after their insurers canceled policies that do not meet Obamacare requirements. But how many it will ultimately help remains to be seen.

The uproar over the cancellations has ensnared the White House for weeks, shining a spotlight on Obama's previous promise that people who liked their insurance plans can keep them.

"This fix won't solve every problem for every person. But it's going to help a lot of people," the president said at the White House.

But the fix, as reported earlier by CNN's Dana Bash, puts the onus of the renewals outside the president's control: The administration is not requiring insurers or state insurance commissioners to extend the existing plans, but instead is letting them offer an additional year of coverage.

Also, insurers must notify policyholders of the difference in benefits between their policies and the Obamacare plans available on the insurance exchanges. And the companies must inform people that additional policies are available on the exchanges and that subsidies may be available to those who qualify.

Not everyone who has received a cancellation notice, however, may be able to extend.

Since insurance is regulated at the state level, it remains up to the commissioners to permit the extensions and the companies to do so. The president noted that not all commissioners may agree to extensions. At least four states - California, Idaho, Virginia and Kentucky - are requiring all individual plans adhere to Obamacare rules.

The insurance industry said the reversal could cause major problems, including a hike in premiums if fewer younger and healthier people opt to buy in the exchanges.

"Changing the rules after health plans have already met the requirements of the law could destabilize the market and result in higher premiums for consumers," said Karen Ignagni, chief executive of America's Health Insurance Plans, an industry trade group. " Additional steps must be taken to stabilize the marketplace and mitigate the adverse impact on consumers."

In his remarks, Obama said he didn't want his signature policy to be the reason people are losing their insurance.

"The key point is that it allows us to be able to say to the folks who receive these notices, look, you know, I, the president of the United States, and the insurance - the insurance model of the Affordable Care Act - is not going to be getting in the way of you shopping in the individual market that you used to have," he said.

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November 15th, 2013
06:02 AM ET

Is It The End for Toronto Mayor Rob Ford?

Is Friday the beginning of the end for Toronto's troubled Mayor Rob Ford?

Not so, if you ask Ford. But a growing contingent in Toronto's City Council seem to think it's time for him to go.

The council is scheduled to meet Friday to begin mapping out a plan to usurp much of Ford's power. Despite admitting last week that he had smoked crack cocaine in a "drunken stupor" about a year ago, Ford has defiantly said he will not leave his job.

But while fighting for his job Thursday, Ford added to his growing list of missteps.

Early in the day, a scrum of reporters approached Ford to ask him about new allegations of drunkenness, drug use and the verbal and physical abuse of aides.

In the course of answering, he denied a female staffer's allegation that he sought to perform oral sex with graphic language of his own, stunning reporters.

Later in the day, he backtracked.

With his wife at his side, he went back before reporters to say he had been under "tremendous, tremendous stress" and was getting unspecified support from "a team of health care professionals." But he called the latest allegations "100% lies."

"When you attack my integrity as a father and as a husband, I see red. Today I acted on complete impulse in my remarks," Ford said. He took no questions from reporters, who shouted sharp inquiries at him as he entered the office.

"Mayor Ford, why should we believe you? Why would you subject your family to this?" one asked.

"What's the matter with you, Mr. Mayor?" another said.

SEE FULL STORY 

November 14th, 2013
05:57 AM ET

The Latest on Obamacare Enrollment

Here is CNN's latest reporting on how many Americans have enrolled in Obamacare through the federally run website and through state-run programs, and who have signed up for expanded Medicaid coverage:

White House officials revealed Wednesday that 106,185 Americans signed up for health insurance through Obamacare in the program's first month of operation.

Fewer than 27,000 Americans selected an insurance plan through the federal HealthCare.gov site, which is handling enrollment for 36 states.

In addition to sign-ups, nearly 975,500 people have submitted health insurance applications and learned whether they are eligible for Obamacare subsidies. Those people, however, have not yet selected a plan.

See more at CNN.com.

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November 14th, 2013
05:56 AM ET

Toronto Mayor Rob Ford's Intervention

Explosive new allegations surfaced about embattled Toronto Mayor Rob Ford in court documents released Wednesday - the same day the city council voted to ask him to take a leave of absence.

The court report, more than 500 pages long, alleges a pattern of drug use, and erratic and sometimes abusive behavior by the mayor. A judge ordered the report's release late last month.

The documents include police interviews with former staff members, information obtained from surveillance crews and cameras, and even an examination of the mayor's garbage.

The documents were used by Canadian police to get a search warrant for Alexander Lisi, Ford's friend and occasional driver, whom police accuse of marijuana possession and trafficking.

Several staffers said they were asked to buy alcohol for the mayor. One incident described by a former staffer alleged that Ford, while driving, stopped the vehicle, guzzled some vodka, and drove on.

Chris Fickel, who worked as a special assistant to Ford, said the mayor would ask him to perform odd jobs at his house. Fickel said he would be called "to change light bulbs in the front lawn, change batteries in his children's toys, buying cartons of cigarettes, bleach, laundry detergent and diet Coke for the mayor's wife."

One staffer told police the mayor was inebriated on St. Patrick's Day in 2012 and got into a physical altercation with two staff members. He alleges the mayor was verbally abusive and inappropriate with a female staff member.

Another staffer said the same night, he saw a woman who may have been an escort or prostitute in the mayor's office.

Ford's former press secretary George Christopoulos also said women often came to the mayor's office, "and told staffers that they have smoked a joint with the mayor on the street outside of the bar. These women were told by the mayor that they could have a job." Christopoulos would then have to interview these women and try to talk them out of a job.

None of the allegations against Ford has been proven, and he faces no criminal charges.

November 13th, 2013
06:00 AM ET

New Heat On Health Care Law

Congressional Democrats are upping the pressure on President Barack Obama to fix what's ailing his signature health care initiative with some in the party warning they may be forced to back a House Republican proposal if the White House doesn't offer an alternative by week's end.

"We've got to get out of the bunker and fix these problems," a senior congressional Democratic source told CNN's Chief Congressional Correspondent Dana Bash of flaws in the newly rolled out law that have energized Republican efforts to weaken the President and his allies and derail a policy they have long considered unworkable.

The White House has until Friday to devise a solution to the problem-plagued roll out of the Affordable Care Act, the source said.

That's when House Republicans will take up a bill to address one of the more politically potent Obamacare problems for the President and Democrats - those losing their health coverage due to the law despite Obama's assurances in selling it to the public that Americans could keep their plans if they wanted.

The House bill would allow those insurance plans to extend into next year and gut a major part of the law by allowing anyone to purchase them, even though the existing policies don't meet the tougher requirements of the Obamacare initiative.

Among other things, the Affordable Care Act prohibits discrimination for preexisting conditions and mandates coverage for mental health, prenatal care and other issues. This is a primary reason why insurance companies are dropping existing coverage.

"In the absence of a solution that Democrats can support from the White House, you will see more and more Democrats voting for the Upton bill," the Democratic source said of the plan being advanced this week by House Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Fred Upton of Michigan.

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November 13th, 2013
05:56 AM ET

Tons of Food Teaches Typhoon-Ravaged Philippines But...

Tons of food from around the world have arrived in the Philippines, but the hundreds of thousands homeless and starving after Typhoon Haiyan decimated part of the country have yet to get a bite of it.

More than 2 million people need food aid, the Philippine government said. But endless landscapes of devastation were still blocking much of it from reaching the hungriest victims Wednesday.

The World Food Program has delivered at least 2,700 tons of rice to the country, but the logistical nightmare of traveling to the many islands ripped to pieces by one of the strongest storms in recorded history has it arriving in drips and drabs.

Clearing roads and runways has taken a long time, UNICEF spokesman Christopher De Bono said.

"I don't think that's anyone's fault. I think it's the geography and the devastation," said.

"We need food; we need to eat!" chanted a crowd gathered around supply plane after it landed in Guinan on Tuesday.

The town of 50,000 was wiped off the map by the storm Friday.

Haiyan made its first landfall there. The storm, one of the strongest in recorded history, went on to kill at least 1,833 people and injure 2,623 more.

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November 12th, 2013
05:47 AM ET

Typhoon Haiyan Leaves 1,774 Dead, Aid Efforts Mobilize

Typhoon Haiyan has killed too many people to count so far and pushed to the brink of survival thousands more, who have lost everything, have no food or medical care and are drinking filthy water to survive.

By Tuesday, officials had counted 1,774 of the bodies, but say that number may just be scratching the surface. They fear Haiyan may have taken as many as 10,000 lives.

The storm has injured 2,487 more, and displaced 660,000 people from their homes, the government said.

As authorities rush to save the lives of survivors four days after Haiyan ripped the Philippines apart, a new tropical depression, Zoraida, blew in Tuesday delivering more rain, the Philippine national weather agency PAGASA reported.

Zoraida is not a strong storm, but it is holding up desperately needed aid in at least one province, Iloilo, where Gov. Arthur Defensor Sr. has grounded relief flights, until it has passed.

Boats and trucks will still operate, but like in many areas, whole houses, vehicles, trees and debris piled high cover miles of roadways in affected areas.

It will take heavy machinery and much time to clear them, and although international supplies that have begun to arrive by at airports, much of it is still not getting through to people who need it most.

November 12th, 2013
05:44 AM ET

European Airports Aim To End Liquid Ban on Planes

For the past seven years, flyers have been restricted to no more than 3.4 ounces of liquids allowed in carry-on bags both in the U.S. and Europe.

Now, new technology could allow airports around the country to ease the rules, CNN's Rene Marsh reports.

London is taking the first step toward the goal of lifting restrictions on liquids by 2016. They are planning to install new liquid scanning technology at Heathrow Airport.

The Ohio-based company which developed the machines says it scans containers in less than 10 seconds, uses radio frequency and ultrasonic technology and alerts security personnel of suspicious substances. The company didn't specify the margin of error only saying it was "very low and varied on factors such as the type of container."

All European airports have been mandated to have technology capable of scanning for liquid explosives by 2014.

The TSA tells CNN developing liquid scanners that would allow them to lift restrictions "remains a long-term goal."

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