CNN: Texas abortion bill dies as confusion marks end of session
The Texas legislature's special session ended in chaos and confusion early Wednesday, with Republicans unable to pass before a midnight deadline a bill that would have greatly restricted abortions in the state. Lt. Governor David Dewhurst stepped to the Senate floor around 3 a.m. to declare the bill dead and the special session over. And thus ended a night of intense drama that both sides of the abortion debate followed breathlessly, in large part to cheer - or jeer - the efforts of a lone lawmaker who talked for 10 straight hours to run out the clock. Texas state Sen. Wendy Davis tried Tuesday to block the abortion bill by attempting a 13-hour filibuster, but fell short three hours early when the chairman ruled she had gone off topic.
CNN: Russian Foreign Minister rejects U.S accusations regarding Snowden as baseless
Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said Tuesday that Russia had no connection to U.S fugitive Edward Snowden. Speaking at a joint press conference with the Algerian foreign minister in Moscow, Lavrov said: "I want to say, right away, that we have nothing to do with Mr Snowden, or his movements around the world. Snowden did not cross the Russian border and United States accusations of Russia with regard to Snowden case are totally baseless".
WSJ: Charter Schools Receive a Passing Grade
Students attending publicly funded, privately run charter schools posted slightly higher learning gains overall in reading than their peers in traditional public schools and about the same gains in math, but the results varied drastically by state, according to one of the most comprehensive studies of U.S. charter schools. The study, published Tuesday by the Center for Research on Education Outcomes at Stanford University, found that charter students in Rhode Island, for example, gained the equivalent of an additional 86 days of reading comprehension and 108 days of math comprehension annually compared with peers in traditional public schools. In Nevada, however, charter students had 115 fewer days of learning in reading and 137 fewer in math annually, the study found. Overall, the new study found that charter students gained an additional eight days of reading, while the math gains were identical. Low-income Hispanic and African-American students did much better in charters than their peers in the traditional school option, while white children did worse in charters.
CNNMoney: 76% of Americans are living paycheck-to-paycheck
Roughly three-quarters of Americans are living paycheck-to-paycheck, with little to no emergency savings, according to a survey released by Bankrate.com Monday. Fewer than one in four Americans have enough money in their savings account to cover at least six months of expenses, enough to help cushion the blow of a job loss, medical emergency or some other unexpected event, according to the survey of 1,000 adults. Meanwhile, 50% of those surveyed have less than a three-month cushion and 27% had no savings at all. "It's disappointing," said Greg McBride, Bankrate.com's senior financial analyst. "Nothing helps you sleep better at night than knowing you have money tucked away for unplanned expenses." Even more disappointing; The savings rates have barely changed over the past three years, even though a larger percentage of consumers report an increase in job security, a higher net worth and an overall better financial situation.
USA Today: Government begins education blitz for uninsured
A week after a Government Accountability Office report said new health insurance exchanges may not be fully ready to launch in October, the government Monday began a 100-day public education blitz by releasing a new website, call center and publicity campaign. The campaign is designed to educate those who do not have insurance about how the marketplaces will work and how to obtain health insurance. Most Americans who do not have insurance now will need to purchase insurance to avoid paying a fine. The health exchanges, or marketplaces, are meant to provide less expensive, but better, insurance options that are easy to understand. Consumers will go to either a state or federal website, compare and contrast plans from several insurers based on benefits and costs, and purchase insurance. Those making less than 400% of the federal poverty level will receive financial help with the insurance, which will automatically be applied when they sign up online.
WSJ: Americans Worked Less, Watched More TV in 2012
With the economy struggling to find its footing, Americans spent less time at work last year and found more time for leisure activities such as watching television, a new government survey finds. The average American aged 15 or older spent three hours, 32 minutes a day doing work-related activities last year, according to the American Time Use Survey released by the Labor Department on Thursday. That is down from 2011, when time spent on work jumped from three hours and 30 minutes to three hours and 34 minutes. While such changes may not seem big, average yearly changes in time spent on different activities tend to be small, and even minor changes are significant. The survey, which has been conducted annually since 2003 and includes both employed and unemployed persons, suggests America's sluggish recovery continues to hamper workers. While the U.S. unemployment rate fell last year from 8.3% to 7.8%—it is now at 7.6%—other trends are likely holding down average hours spent at work. The number of part-time workers was higher in 2012 than the year before, for example.
CNN: Colorado's devastating Black Forest Fire 100% contained
One of the most destructive fires in Colorado history was 100% contained Thursday after burning 16,000 acres in nine days, a spokesman for the county said. Officials made the declaration after extinguishing small areas of smoke that kept popping up in one small corner of the Black Forest Fire, El Paso County spokesman Dave Rose said. Sheriff Terry Maketa allowed residents back in Thursday night. The 16,000-acre Black Forest Fire killed two people and destroyed more than 500 structures, and it prompted thousands of people to flee. "This is the worst fire in Colorado history in terms of damage," Rose told CNN. Investigators are still trying to figure out what caused the fire. Investigators scouring a 24-square-foot area where the fire is thought to have begun on June 11 have "all but ruled out natural causes," Maketa said.
ALSO SEE: Denver Post: Colorado wildfires burning at multiple sites, some at zero containment
LA Times: Exodus ministry to shut down after apology to gay community
A controversial Christian ministry devoted to changing people "affected by homosexuality" announced Wednesday night that it was shutting its doors after operating for more than three decades. The announcement by Exodus International came during its religious conference in Irvine and after its President Alan Chambers apologized to members of the gay community for "years of undue judgment by the organization and the Christian Church as a whole," the Florida-based ministry said in a statement. "I am sorry I didn't stand up to people publicly 'on my side' who called you names.... I am sorry I have communicated that you and your families are less than me and mine," Chambers said in his apology. "More than anything, I am sorry that so many have interpreted this religious rejection by Christians as God's rejection. I am profoundly sorry that many have walked away from their faith and that some have chosen to end their lives."
CNN: James Gandolfini's remains await autopsy in Rome
The body of actor James Gandolfini was transferred to a hospital morgue in Rome early Thursday, where it awaits an autopsy. By law, medical examiners in Italy are required to carry out the postmortem 24 hours after the body's arrival in the morgue, a hospital spokesman said. Before Italian authorities can release his remains for transport back to the United States, the U.S. Embassy in Rome must issue a death certificate. Gandolfini was not alive when he arrived by ambulance at the Policlinico hospital late Wednesday, said spokesman Antonio Spasola. Though the cause of death is not yet known, his managers believe that a heart attack killed the man who portrayed Tony Soprano, a washed-up mob boss suffering from panic attacks. He was 51.
CNN: Afghanistan suspends security talks with U.S.
Afghanistan has suspended security talks with the United States - one day before American officials are set to meet with the Taliban for formal talks. President Hamid Karzai's office announced the suspension Wednesday, but offered a vague reason for doing so. "In view of the contradiction between acts and the statements made by the United States of America in regard to the peace process, the Afghan government suspended the negotiations," the statement from the office said. It wasn't clear whether Karzai's decision had anythig to do with the U.S.-Taliban meeting.
ALSO SEE: CNN: Taliban talks announced as Afghanistan assumes security
USA Today: Medical group recognizes obesity as a disease
The American Medical Association decided Tuesday to recognize obesity as a disease, requiring a range of medical interventions to advance obesity treatment. The American Medical Association, the nation's largest physician organization, decided Tuesday to recognize obesity as a disease that requires a range of medical interventions for treatment and prevention. The decision was made at the group's annual meeting in Chicago. Experts in obesity have struggled for years to have obesity recognized as a disease that deserves medical attention and insurance coverage as do other diseases. Previously the AMA and others have referred to obesity as "a major public health problem."
CNN: Afghan forces formally take over security of country.
Marking a key transition in the more than decade long war, Afghan forces have formally taken over security for the entire country from NATO-led troops, Afghan President Hamid Karzai announced at a handover ceremony in Kabul on Tuesday. "You are the sons and guardians of this country and it is your responsibility to protect it," Karzai told the troops. ""I wish a long-term peace in Afghanistan." The head of NATO said Afghans are now in charge. "The main effort of our forces is shifting from combat to support. We will continue to help Afghan troops in operations, if needed, but we will no longer plan, execute, or lead these operations," NATO secretary general Anders Fogh Rasmussen said at the ceremony. Inside a firefight with the Taliban Born solely to serve others Packing up, shippping out of Afghanistan "By the end of 2014, our combat mission will be completed," Rasmussen said.
ALSO SEE: Reuters: Explosion in Kabul coincides with Afghan security handover
Secretary General of NATO Anders Fogh Rasmussen tweets:
CNN: Colorado blaze leaves 2 dead as firefighters battle on
The forecast Friday provides little hope for firefighters trying to make headway against a raging wildfire northeast of Colorado Springs. The high temperatures and blustery winds will be back, along with little chance for meaningful rain. The weather is expected to cool some over the weekend, with calmer winds, but no significant showers. The Black Forest Fire has been dubbed the most destructive in state history after it scorched close to 16,000 acres, destroyed 379 homes and claimed at least two lives by Thursday evening.
(CNN) - New Jersey Governor Chris Christie dropped by NBC's Late Night with Jimmy Fallon Wednesday to try his hand at "Slow Jamming the News" - a bit famously started by NBC newsman Brian Williams.
And while a special Senate election may not sound like a natural topic for a slow jam, somehow it worked. Christie said his decision to hold the election this October - criticized by Democrats and even some Republicans - wasn't "about playing politics. It's about doing the right thing."
CNN: Israel pushes ahead with settlement expansion
Israel said Thursday it will build 675 new settlement homes on the West Bank. The housing units are part of an old agreement and not a new plan, Prime minister spokesman Mark Regev has said. The expansion of Jewish settlements on the West Bank have been a lasting thorn in the side of Palestinians.
Reuters: UN documents 93,000 deaths in Syria, says real toll much higher
At least 93,000 people had been killed in Syria's conflict by the end of April this year, but the true number is "potentially much higher", the United Nations human rights office said on Thursday. An average of more than 5,000 people have been killed every month since last July, while Rural Damascus and Aleppo have recorded the highest tolls since November, it said in its latest study compiling documented deaths.