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U.S. judge: Texas cannot oust Planned Parenthood from Medicaid

A federal judge Tuesday indefinitely blocked Texas officials from ousting Planned Parenthood as a Medicaid health-care provider, dealing another blow to Republican-led efforts to enforce stricter abortion-related regulations and policy.

>> Read more trending news 

U.S. District Judge Sam Sparks of Austin said Texas health officials tried to punish Planned Parenthood based on “unsubstantiated and indeterminate allegations” — without any evidence that federal law, state law or Medicaid rules were broken — based on footage from an undercover video shot in 2015 by abortion opponents.

“Such action would deprive Medicaid patients of their statutory right to obtain health care from their chosen qualified provider,” Sparks wrote in the order granting the preliminary injunction sought by Planned Parenthood.

Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton said he will appeal the ruling.

“Today’s decision is disappointing and flies in the face of basic human decency,” Paxton said in a written statement. “Even the remains of the most vicious criminals are treated with respect. But the children who never had a chance at life become so-called medical waste or, alternatively, a commodity to be bartered for.”

The case before Sparks focused on whether the video, shot by abortion opponents using a hidden camera, offered sufficient evidence of medical and ethical violations at a Planned Parenthood facility in Houston to justify ousting all 30 Planned Parenthood health clinics from Texas Medicaid.

State officials said the video showed that clinic officials were willing to change how abortions were performed to better obtain fetal organs and tissue for use in medical research, a violation of federal law and accepted medical practices that could put women at greater risk.

“This video … is the closest that anyone has ever been to see what goes on inside Planned Parenthood, ” Assistant Attorney General Andrew Stephens told Sparks during a hearing last month.

Looking at the same video clips, however, Planned Parenthood’s lawyers argued that officials only offered to change clinical procedures to identify and preserve desired tissue after the abortion was completed, a legal act.

“This is the latest in a long string of attacks against Planned Parenthood in Texas, ” Planned Parenthood lawyer Jennifer Sandman told Sparks during the hearing. “This termination is not based on any problem — any problem — with the service these Planned Parenthood organizations provide.”

Sandman said dropping Planned Parenthood from Medicaid would have devastating consequences for 12,500 low-income Texans, mostly women, who get contraceptives and health care from the organization, which specializes in reproductive health and offers night and weekend hours other clinics don’t.

Federal law gives patients the right to choose their own health care provider, Sandman said.

But Stephens said the law pertains to “qualified” providers that offer competent, safe, legal and ethical care. The video showed Planned Parenthood couldn’t meet those standards, he argued.

Last year, Planned Parenthood affiliates in Texas received a combined $3.5 million in Medicaid reimbursements for health care that did not include abortions. Ninety percent of the Medicaid money came from the federal government, with the rest provided by Texas.

Relying on the undercover video, Texas health officials moved to oust Planned Parenthood from Medicaid on Dec. 18.

After the organization sued, Sparks delayed the ouster and presided over a three-day hearing in mid-January that produced thousands of pages of evidence and more than eight hours of undercover video. When the hearing ended, Sparks extended his order keeping Planned Parenthood in Medicaid for another month, leading to Tuesday’s deadline.

In a separate case last month, Sparks blocked Texas from requiring fetal remains to be buried or cremated, saying the rule placed an unacceptable burden on access to abortion, in part because a limited number of willing and available crematoriums could make it impossible for clinics to comply.

Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton said he will appeal that ruling.

The latest case also comes almost eight months after the U.S. Supreme Court tossed out two Texas regulations, passed in the second of two tumultuous special legislative sessions in 2013, that would have left nine abortion clinics operating in the state. The ruling overturned rules requiring abortions to be performed in hospital-like surgical centers and abortion doctors to have admitting privileges in a nearby hospital.

Luke Bryan and Caroline Boyer mourn after passing of niece

Luke Bryan’s most loyal fans are sharing their sympathies with him, his wife Caroline and her family, as they learned that Caroline’s niece, Sadie Brett, has passed away.

>> Read more trending news 

Brett was the daughter of Caroline’s brother Bo and wife Ellen Boyer. She was born during the summer of 2016 with undisclosed cardiac health issues that landed her at Vanderbilt Children’s Hospital in Nashville. The family was mostly quiet about Brett’s condition, although on occasion, Luke Bryan would share her progress with fans on his app.

Please flood the heavens with prayers. We will not give up on our tough, brave Brett.Posted by Ellen Boyer on Monday, February 20, 2017

2.20.17- Brett has declined overnight. Please- Please pray with us. Please pray for this infection to clear and for her liver to be able to work properly.Posted by Ellen Boyer on Monday, February 20, 2017

RELATED: Luke Bryan and wife Caroline reflect on a life filled with it’s share of ups and downs

In December, Bryan shared that the little girl had undergone a procedure in which the blood was drained from her heart, but that as it was being reintroduced, it was functioning strong. He also said that at one time, the infant had been the sickest child in the pediatric cardiac ward, but she was growing stronger.

I don't even know where to begin in singing praises.. Guys.. Dr Mettler says our Brett's surgery went as well as he...Posted by Ellen Boyer on Tuesday, December 27, 2016

This tragic loss is the most recent for Luke and Caroline Bryan’s families who have faced more unimaginable challenges than you can imagine. Bryan’s family has already lost his older brother, Chris, along with his sister Kelly and her husband Ben. The popular country music couple opened up their home to Kelly and Ben’s children, even bringing the youngest, nephew Til, to Nashville to live with them.

RELATED: Luke Bryan reveals the truth about living in a house with three boys

Bo and Ellen live near Nashville and backstage at last year’s Vol Jam, Luke remarked that the families had spent a lot of time together at Vanderbilt as Brett was being treated.

We thank all of you for your prayers. Love y'all.— Luke Bryan (@LukeBryanOnline) February 21, 2017

Survey reveals record number of manatees spotted in Florida waters

A new survey has revealed a record number of manatees spotted in Florida’s waters.

>> Read more trending stories

According to CNN, the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission released findings indicating that over 6,000 manatees were spotted in Florida for the third consecutive year. The aerial survey showed that a preliminary total of 6,620 manatees were seen swimming in Florida’s water during the 2017 survey, up from the total of 6,250 in 2016 and 6,063 in 2015.

The findings signify an even more significant increase from the 1,267 creatures spotted in 1991.

The US Fish and Wildlife Service is considering changing the sea cow’s status from endangered to threatened, meaning that federal restrictions on things like boat speed and waterfront development may be lifted.

Read more at CNN.com.

Florida woman hits pedestrian who was 'in the way'

A Florida woman who “became upset” when a man was “in the way” of her car hit and injured the man with her vehicle before fleeing the scene, police said.

>> Read more trending stories  

According to the Daytona Beach News-Journal, Amanda Weaver, 28, of DeLand, Florida, was allegedly speeding in her silver Kia on Monday when she hit 19-year-old Anderson Cantres. A man walking with Cantres at the time of the incident said Weaver became frustrated she had to wait for a pickup truck to back up, screaming profanities at the driver before speeding around the truck and toward Cantres.

Weaver’s Kia Soul struck Cantres before hitting the curb, damaging the front passenger side tire and continuing down the road, police said. Police arrived at the scene to find Cantres disoriented and suffering from multiple cuts and scratches to his body, according to the News-Journal. He was taken to an area hospital.

Investigating officers were told Weaver’s mother lived nearby and arrived at the home to find the car parked in front with a flat front tire and a spare tire sitting out.

Weaver admitted to hitting Cantres and not having any intention of calling officers, telling officers she did not mean to hit him, according to a report obtained by the News-Journal. After her arrest, police say Weaver told them she “became upset because (Cantres) was in the way.”

Weaver was charged with leaving the scene of a crash with injury and held in Volusia County Jail on $1,000 bond.

Read more at Daytona Beach News-Journal.

Florida lawmakers propose creating animal abuse registry

Keeping animal abusers from adopting more pets is the goal of a proposed Florida bill.

House Bill 871 would create an animal abuse registry that is open to the public and lists everyone convicted of animal cruelty.

>> Read more trending stories

"We don't want animals in the hands of people who are going to abuse them," Jacksonville resident Nicole Silvestre said.

Mike Merrill, founder of Florida Urgent Rescue, said the bill is long overdue.

"We need to make sure people who abuse animals are prevented from ever buying or adopted an animal ever again," Merrill said.

State Rep. Jared Moskowitz is behind the bill. It would require all pet stores, breeders and shelters to check the registry before selling or adopting an animal. The Florida Department of Law Enforcement would maintain the registry.

"Studies have shown that there's a correlation between people who abuse animals and child abuse, sexual abuse, spousal abuse," Moskowitz said.

But since it would only list convicted animal abusers, it wouldn't list people like Lee Ponting, who was arrested after admitting to Action News Jax that he killed, tied up and buried his neighbor's dog.

"That's your neighbor and if he's not convicted how do people know about it? They don't," animal advocate Kim Townsend said.

Nearly two months ago, Townsend created the national Do Not Adopt registry that lists people accused of abusing animals.

"Florida is doing a great job in starting something, but it's just not enough," Townsend said.

Tennessee passed this law last year, but the state is still in the early stages of it.

If this does become law and a person fails to check the registry before selling an animal, he or should would face fines.

Mother sends care packages full of trash to college son

 When Westminster College student Connor Cox received a pair of care packages from his mother he expected to find cookies.

 >> Read more trending stories  

Instead, Cox found the box was full of empty soda cans, used tissues and other trash. Confused, he opened the second box and found even more trash inside.

"I got two boxes, and I opened one, and it had food in it, and I realized there wasn't food in the other one," Cox, 18, told ABC News. "It was a bunch of trash, tissues (and) soda cans."

He called home to see if his mother had made some kind of mistake. Her reply? "That's the trash you were supposed to take out."  

Thought my mom was sending me a care package... but instead she sent me a box of trash i was supposed to take out. pic.twitter.com/UetdT5UoVP— Connor Cox (@thedeal_5) January 30, 2017

Turns out he'd forgotten to empty the trash can in his room, so his mother was teaching him a lesson.

Cox posted a photo of the package on Twitter. 

"Thought my mom was sending me a care package, but instead she sent me a box of trash I was supposed to take out," he wrote.

Cox, who is the only boy of four siblings, says his mother is a good mother with a good sense of humor.

But taking out the trash may not be the only chore Cox has trouble with.

"Laundry is definitely the hardest thing to do consistently in college," he wrote on Twitter on Tuesday.

Laundry is definitely the hardest thing to do consistently in college.— Connor Cox (@thedeal_5) February 21, 2017

93-year-old ‘Kung Fu Granny’ still practicing after nearly 9 decades

Zhang Hexian wakes up every day at 5 a.m. to practice kung fu, like many who either have, or hope to, master the martial art.

What makes Zhang different is that she’s made daily kung fu practice her habit for the last 89 years. Zhang, 93, has been practicing for nearly as long as she can remember.

“I started when I was 4 years old,” Zhang told CNN. “It’s my family tradition that has lasted more than 300 years.”

Don't let Zhang Hexian's age fool you: the 94-year-old woman has a particular set of skills that make her a nightmare...Posted by CGTN on Wednesday, February 15, 2017

The “Kung Fu Granny,” who has recently gained international attention for her skills, said that she was born in 1924, during a time when China was at war with other countries. For her family, kung fu was good self-defense.

Over nearly nine decades, she has mastered each of the 15 different styles that her type of kung fu encompasses. Each of those styles has 36 different moves, and it takes about three years to master an individual style.

This is so amazing! This is a real MASTER! Look at the proper position of her thumbs. That tells you she is the real...Posted by Eddie Chen on Monday, February 13, 2017

The hardest part came in the beginning, she said.

“Most difficult was learning to squat firmly, because it made my muscles so sore,” Zhang told CNN. “I remember being so sore, I couldn’t even go to the bathroom. And we were a poor family, so after practicing, I’d be starving and we’d have nothing to eat.”

>> Read more trending stories

Nearly 90 years after she first took up the art, Zhang now teaches her skills to her neighbors in Dongyuan Village, near Ningbo, Zhejiang Province, in southeastern China. The Shanghai Daily reported that she also taught the practice to her children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren.

The newspaper reported that kung fu was also what brought Zhang and her late husband together. Her husband, Feng Yongkai, was a student of her father’s.

They practiced together in the mountains, ultimately falling in love, marrying and starting a family.

Her son, Feng Chuanyin, told the Daily that his mother taught him that kung fu is for health and self-defense only. Attacking others is “absolutely unacceptable,” he said.

She once had to use her skills to save her own life from robbers, however. Zhang was accosted by three men, two of whom she took down before they could react.

The third realized that he stood no chance against his petite target and fled, the Daily reported.

Zhang told CNN that kung fu, along with plenty of sleep and a mostly vegetarian diet, has kept her healthy. She said it’s also important to keep a positive attitude and to help others whenever you can.

She was surprised to learn that photos and videos of her practicing her art had affected people around the world.

“I never thought about being famous,” she told CNN. “If people love kung fu, my family can teach them. We have been teaching people around here -- but I never imagined we'd get the attention of others around the world.”

Will Pluto regain its planetary swagger? Scientists are pushing for it

A decade ago, poor Pluto got some unsettling news.

It wasn't really a true planet, the International Astronomical Union said. Pluto was demoted to a more minor player in the solar system, a dwarf planet at best.

But a handful of NASA scientists are leading a charge to redefine the word planet in a bid that could give Pluto back its planetary swagger.

>> Read more trending stories

Because, really, being a planet is better, they said.

"In the mind of the public, the word 'planet' carries a significance lacking in other words used to describe planetary bodies," the group wrote in a proposal to IAU. "In the decade following the supposed 'demotion' of Pluto by the IAU, many members of the public, in our experience, assume that alleged 'non-planets' cease to be interesting enough to warrant scientific exploration."

The group, which includes Sol Alan Stern, the principal investigator of the New Horizons mission to Pluto, notes that the shaming of Pluto was not the intent of the IAU.

IAU's definition of planet in 2006 changed to an object that must circle the sun without being some other object's satellite and be large enough to be rounded by its own gravity, but not so big that it begins to undergo nuclear fusion like a star."

Pluto didn't cut the mustard following the discovery of other large objects in the Kuiper Belt.

Now, the scientists on Pluto's planetary team claim a common question they hear is: "Why did you send New Horizons to Pluto if it's not a planet anymore."

The proposed new definition is a bit of a mouthful:

"A planet is a sub-stellar mass body that has never undergone nuclear fusion and that has sufficient self-gravitation to assume a spheroidal shape adequately described by a triaxial ellipsoid regardless of its orbital parameters."

But can be summed up with "round objects in space that are smaller than stars." (This is the elementary school definition, the scientists note).

It's in the hands of the IAU to rule on the plan. If it's approved, Pluto may indeed regain its planetary prowess.

Milo Yiannopoulos resigns from Breitbart amid controversy over pedophilia comments

Right-wing provocateur Milo Yiannopoulos has resigned from his position at Breitbart News after controversial comments about pedophilia surfaced over the weekend and sparked outrage.

>> Read more trending stories

"I do not support child abuse," Yiannopoulos said Tuesday at a news conference. "It's a disgusting crime of which I have personally been a victim."

He said he plans to launch a media venture in the coming weeks and said he has been approached by other publishers since Simon & Schuster announced Monday that it had dropped Giannopoulos' upcoming book, "Dangerous."

In a statement, he praised Breitbart News for providing him with a platform that "allowed me to carry conservative and libertarian ideas to communities that would otherwise have never heard them."

In a separate statement released to The New York Times, Breitbart News said Yiannopoulos resigned Tuesday morning as an editor at Breitbart Tech.

BREITBART statement on Milo's resignation: pic.twitter.com/Enhro1rL0p— Michael M. Grynbaum (@grynbaum) February 21, 2017

"Milo Yiannopoulos' bold voice has sparked much-needed debate on important cultural topics confronting universities, the LGBTQ community, the press and the tech industry," the conservative news organization said.

He resigned amid scrutiny over previous comments that resurfaced over the weekend by the conservative Reagan Battalion blog. The blog shared video clips Sunday on Twitter in which Yiannopoulos discussed Jews, sexual consent, statutory rape, child abuse and homosexuality.

>> Related: Milo Yiannopoulos book deal canceled following remarks on pedophilia

In one of the clips shared by the Reagan Battalion blog, Yiannopoulos defends sexual relationships between men and boys as young as 13 years old. He also speaks approvingly of his own sexual relationship with a 29-year-old priest when he was 17.

"In the homosexual world, particularly, some of those relationships between younger boys and older men — the sort of 'coming of age' relationship — those relationships in which those older men help those young boys discover who they are and give them security and safety and provide them with love and a reliable, sort of rock, where they can't speak to their parents," he said.

He said he stepped down Tuesday to keep from taking attention away from Breitbart News.

"When your friends have done right by you, you do right by them," he said. "For me, now, that means stepping aside so my colleagues at Breitbart can get back to the great work they do."

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Hunters resist banning lead from ammo, despite threat to wildlife. Here’s why

A bald eagle recently died in northeastern Pennsylvania from lead poisoning and animal-rescue officials at the Carbon County Environmental Education Center in Summit Hill believe the eagle somehow ate a lead fragment, possibly a piece of a bullet.

Ammunition left in the wild by hunters is the most common source of lead poisoning in wildlife, according to environmental groups.

>> Read more trending news  

Before leaving office, President Barack Obama issued a directive banning lead ammunition and lead fishing sinkers on federal land, NPR reported, but now there’s a push to get President Donald Trump to overturn the ban.

Just like humans, animals can get sick and die after ingesting lead.

At the Pennsylvania environmental center, the chief naturalist described the eagle as extremely sick when it was brought in.

“It’s head was down. It was vomiting, and it had a very watery, green diarrhea and obviously neurological problems, too,” Susan Gallagher told WNEP TV. Tests later showed the 4-year-old female eagle had very high levels of lead in its system when it died.

Update on the female bald eagle - she didn't make it. Hunters and fishermen, please consider using non-lead ammo & sinkers and of course, always track down your game or tackle left behind.Posted by Drew Kelly on Wednesday, February 1, 2017

Waterfowl hunters have been using lead-free ammunition for decades.

But other kinds of hunters are resistant to banning lead in ammunition.

Opponents, including Lawrence Keane with the National Shooting Sports Foundation, contend the ban would increase the cost of hunting. Keane also pointed out, during an interview with NPR, that there’s no proof of any significant impact on wildlife due to leftover ammo in the wild.

>> Got a question about the news? See our explainers here    “There’s no reason to ban traditional ammo unless there’s evidence of a population impact, and that’s the only solution to address that problem,” Keane told NPR.

So far, the Trump administration hasn’t addressed the issue.

 

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