[cnn-photo-caption image= http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2009/POLITICS/02/27/conscience.rollback/art.gloves.operation.gi.jpg caption="The rule protects the rights of health care providers who refuse to participate in certain procedures."]
WASHINGTON (CNN) - The Obama administration plans to reverse a regulation from late in the Bush administration allowing health-care workers to refuse to provide services based on moral objections, an official said Friday.
The Provider Refusal Rule was proposed by the Bush White House in August and enacted on January 20, the day President Barack Obama took office.
It expanded on a 30-year-old law establishing a "conscience clause" for "health-care professionals who don't want to perform abortions."
Under the rule, workers in health-care settings - from doctors to janitors - can refuse to provide services, information or advice to patients on subjects such as contraception, family planning, blood transfusions and even vaccine counseling if they are morally against it.
"We recognize and understand that some providers have objections to providing abortions, according to an official at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. The official declined to be identified because the policy change had not been announced. "We want to ensure that current law protects them.
"But we do not want to impose new limitations on services that would allow providers to refuse to provide to women and their families services like family planning and contraception that would actually help prevent the need for an abortion in the first place."
WASHINGTON (CNN) - CNN is told that Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi used a private White House briefing Thursday night to tell President Obama point-blank they have concerns about his plan to keep as many as 50,000 troops in Iraq.
In a window into how sensitive the issue is for Democrats, CNN has learned that when the president was telling lawmakers about his plan, Reid urged him to be sure to highlight the lower figure. Sources familiar with the meeting tell CNN that Reid told the president that he would have an easier time selling the plan if he focuses on a range from 35,000 to 50,000 troops.
[cnn-photo-caption image= http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2009/CRIME/02/27/enemy.combatant.almarri/art.marri.gi.jpg caption="Ali Saleh Kahlah al-Marri was a student at Bradley University in Illinois when he was arrested in 2001."]
WASHINGTON (CNN) - A Qatari man held for years in military custody in the United States was charged Friday in federal court with conspiracy "to provide material support and resources" to al Qaeda, prosecutors announced.
The Supreme Court was to hear arguments in April on a challenge by the suspect, Ali Saleh Kahlah al-Marri, to the principle that the president has the authority to detain suspected terrorists indefinitely and without charges.
The indictment means the case will be transferred to civilian courts for prosecution.
The Supreme Court is likely to approve an expected request from federal prosecutors to dismiss the pending appeal before the justices.
The decision by the Obama administration to criminally charge al-Marri after he spent more than seven years in custody - more than five years in virtual isolation in a Navy brig in North Charleston, South Carolina - is the latest twist in the ongoing legal saga of the only remaining "enemy combatant" held in the United States.
He has been accused of - but until this indictment had never been charged with - being an al Qaeda "sleeper agent."
Before laying out his administration's plans for the U.S. military in Iraq Friday, the President called former President George W. Bush. (Photo Credit: Getty Images/File)
(CNN) – President Barack Obama called former President Bush on this morning to tell him about his plan to withdraw troops from Iraq, the White House said Friday.
Obama called the former president “as a courtesy” right before his speech at Camp Lejeune in North Carolina, according to White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs.
Obama also called Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri Al-Maliki from Air Force One to brief him on his plan to withdraw most troops from that country by the end of August 2010. The preident also “sought and received” an agreement from the prime minister that he would receive Christopher Hill as the next U.S. ambassador to Iraq.
On Friday, Obama released his plan to end combat operation in Iraq by August 31, 2010.
[cnn-photo-caption image= http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2009/images/02/27/art.dobson0227.gi.jpg caption="Focus on the Family announced Friday that James Dobson has stepped down from his position as chairman of the group's board."]
(CNN) - James Dobson, evangelical leader of the Christian ministry Focus on the Family, has stepped down as board chairman, he announced Friday.
During a meeting with employees, Dobson, 72, said the move means he will no longer be involved with the administrative side of the ministry, according to spokesman Gary Schneeberger.
But Dobson's public role isn't expected to change. He'll still appear on his daily radio broadcast and as an advocate for socially conservative issues, Schneeberger said.
CNN Senior White House Correspondent Ed Henry breaks down the week in presidential news, from the budget showdown to troop withdrawal plans, and more.
"44 with Ed Henry" is live on CNN.com every Friday 11 am – 12 pm ET. To subscribe to the podcast, go to http://www.cnn.com/podcast
[cnn-photo-caption image= http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2009/POLITICS/02/27/education.school.year/art.duncan.gi.jpg caption="Education Secretary Arne Duncan suggests giving incentives to teachers whose students perform well."]
WASHINGTON (CNN) - Those lazy days of summer may become a thing of the past if the new secretary of education has his way.
Arne Duncan, the Cabinet secretary charged with overhauling America's educational system, is studying programs that keep kids in school longer to boost their academic achievements.
"When I go out and talk about that, that doesn't always make me popular with students. They like the long summers," Duncan said in an interview Wednesday with CNN conducted in the Education Department's library.
But Duncan said American students are "at a competitive disadvantage" because the United States has shorter school years than other countries such as India and China.
"It doesn't matter how poor, how tough the family background, socioeconomic challenges," Duncan said. "Where students have longer days, longer weeks, longer years - that's making a difference."
More time in school is one of several ideas under consideration as Duncan settles into his new role.
[cnn-photo-caption image= http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2009/CRIME/02/27/obama.HIV.blood/art.obama.hiv.gi.jpg caption="Police say blood-stained letters were addressed to President Obama and top aide Rahm Emanuel."]
WASHINGTON (CNN) - An Ethiopian immigrant with a history of mental health problems is in custody after being accused of mailing a letter with HIV-tainted blood to Barack Obama when he was president-elect, according to court records.
Saad Bedrie Hussein told investigators that he is an admirer of Obama and that the letter - containing his photo, an admission ticket to Obama's election night victory party in Chicago's Grant Park and six index cards containing writing and reddish stains - was his way of seeking government help and tickets to Obama's inauguration.
Hussein, who has HIV, said he "purposely cut one of his fingers with a razor so he could bleed on the letter," according to an affidavit by Terry L. Cullivan, an investigator with the U.S. Postal Inspection Service.
The letter, postmarked December 27 and written in an Ethiopian language, was addressed to Obama at the Illinois Department on Aging in Springfield, Illinois. When the letter was opened two days later, it was found to contain an orange powder, Cullivan said. A state employee then took the letter to another state office, resulting in a two-hour lockdown of the building, affecting more than 300 people, the affidavit says.
[cnn-photo-caption image= http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2009/POLITICS/02/27/iraq.dems/art.pelosi.gi.jpg caption="House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has questioned the need to keep 50,000 troops in Iraq until 2011."]
WASHINGTON (CNN) - Top Democrats have expressed concerned over President Obama's plan to draw down nearly two-thirds of U.S. forces in Iraq by August 2010, while some key Republicans are offering praise.
At issue: Obama plans to leave between 35,000 to 50,000 residual forces in the war-torn country, serving in a training or advisory role to the Iraqi military.
All U.S. troops have to be out of Iraq by December 31, 2011, under an agreement the Bush administration signed with the Iraqi government last year. There are currently 142,000 U.S. troops in Iraq.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-California, recently cited concern that the residual force Obama is planning to leave in Iraq is too large.
[cnn-photo-caption image= http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2009/HEALTH/02/26/toning.obama.arms/art.jpg caption="Michelle Obama's appearances in sleeveless outfits have inspired some women to start toning their arms."]
(CNN) - First lady Michelle Obama has a fashion following, with blogs tracking her daily garment choices.
She's on the March cover of Vogue in a sleeveless silk sheath. Then there was the purple sleeveless Narciso Rodriguez she wore to the president's joint session of Congress on Tuesday. And she's on the cover of the latest People magazine in a lacy pink number, also without sleeves.
Those toned arms are becoming a trademark. And a source of inspiration for some women.
Rylan Duggan, a personal trainer who runs Go Sleeveless, a blog that instructs women how to tone up flabby arms and "eliminate bat wings," said that in addition to asking how to get "Madonna arms" or "Kelly Ripa arms," clients are now asking about getting "Obama arms."
"The Obama effect has been that women of all ages have been inspired to take responsibility for their health and their body," said Duggan. "As the first lady of the United States, at 44 years old, and with two young children, Mrs. Obama has shown the world that you are never too busy to take care of yourself and look good doing it too," he said.