August 21st, 2009
03:13 PM ET

Man goes from heroic husband to hammer-wielding wife killer

[cnn-photo-caption image=http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2009/CRIME/08/21/florida.hero.killer/art.ratley.sheriff.jpg caption="Michael Ratley will spend the rest of his life in jail, without parole, for killing his wife with a hammer."]

Mallory Simon

Michael Ratley was known as a hero. In December 2006, Ratley carried his 2-week-old son, Aiden, and his wife, Effie Ratley, 29, from the flames as fire engulfed their Bryceville, Florida, trailer.

Days after the fire, a teary-eyed Ratley told local media that love drove him to save their lives. "I might have lost everything physical, but I've still got my two most precious things," Michael Ratley told CNN affiliate WJXT-TV at the time.

A month later, Effie Ratley was dead, bludgeoned with a hammer in a bedroom of her in-laws' home, not far from the trailer's ashes on a dirt road marked only with a black arrow on a wooden sign.

The man who was hailed as a hero for saving his wife was convicted in July of murdering her.

Keep reading...

Filed under: 360° Radar
August 21st, 2009
03:11 PM ET

After wrongful conviction, young man shares '10 things I've learned'

[cnn-photo-caption image=http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2009/images/08/21/art.vert.mattingly.tyler.jpg caption="David Mattingly talks to Tyler Edmonds, who adopted his dog from an animal shelter." width=292 height=320]

David Mattingly | BIO
AC360° Correspondent

When other 14-year-old boys were playing football, learning to drive and chasing girls, Tyler Edmonds was locked up with adults serving a life sentence in a Mississippi prison for a murder he didn't commit.

Now a free man after winning a new trial and an acquittal, Tyler comes across as an easy-going 20-year-old. But he carries a lot of resentment toward the state's expert witness whose testimony helped put him away for nearly four years.

It only took a few questions from me for it all to come spilling out.

For more details please see my story about Tyler on AC360° tonight. For now, I thought it was best to share something from Tyler that shows what a strong and thoughtful person he has struggled to become.

These are Tyler's "10 Things I've Learned" ...enjoy.


August 21st, 2009
03:05 PM ET

Test your health care debate knowledge

[cnn-photo-caption image=http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2009/HEALTH/08/20/herbs.vitamins.harmful/art.fish.oil.gi.jpg]
Health Care Reform


Have you been paying attention to the news about health care reform? Answer these questions and find out.

To take the quiz, click here.

Filed under: Health Care
August 21st, 2009
01:42 PM ET

On Obama's agenda next week: Golf

[cnn-photo-caption image=http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2009/images/08/21/art.golf.gi.jpg caption="Obama is expected to play golf a 'number of times' while on vacation, said the White House."]

Alexander Mooney
CNN Ticker Producer

White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs is giving few specifics on how President Obama will spend his week-long vacation on Martha's Vineyard.

But one thing seems certain: Obama will likely sneak in several rounds of golf, just as former President Bill Clinton did when he vacationed on the island in the 1990's.

"There are no official events scheduled in the weeks ahead," Gibbs said Friday. "I anticipate he'll play golf a number of times."

According to the Boston Herald, rumored to be among his partners on the course is Tiger Woods, who is coming off a disappointing loss in the PGA championship last weekend. Woods is already set to be in the Boston area for the Deutsche Bank Championship.

But Gibbs said Friday he has no idea if the golfing legend will actually tee it up with Obama, who is estimated to be between a 16 and 24 handicap and has golfed several weekends in the Washington area over the summer.

Keep reading...

Filed under: President Barack Obama
August 21st, 2009
01:25 PM ET
August 21st, 2009
01:12 PM ET

Financial Dispatch: Fed chief says economy is on the mend

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Andrew Torgan
CNN Financial News Producer

Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke says that the economy is about to start growing again, although he cautioned it will be a slow recovery with continued high unemployment in the near term.

Speaking at an annual symposium in Jackson Hole, WY, Bernanke echoed a statement made by the Fed earlier this month, saying that "economic activity appears to be leveling out, both in the United States and abroad."

Bernanke went a step further though, indicating that "prospects for a return to growth in the near term appear good."

But the central bank chief warned that problems remain in financial markets around the globe, and that with banks facing "substantial" additional losses ahead, businesses and consumers will continue to have trouble accessing credit.

Home sales spike

Sales of previously-owned homes, the biggest portion of the housing market, soared more than 7% in July - the largest monthly increase in 10 years.

The National Association of Realtors says home sales rose 7.2% to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 5.24 million last month, from a pace of 4.89 million in June. That’s the fourth-straight monthly increase and the highest level of sales since August 2007.


Filed under: Economy • Finance • Gas Prices • Oil • Wall St.
August 21st, 2009
12:47 PM ET

Fix the healthcare system (and fight the recession, too)

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Dana P. Goldman and Neeraj Sood
RAND Corporation

A little-known proposition amid the highly charged health care debate is that properly controlling health care spending could generate economic growth equal to 1 percent of gross domestic product.

It may not be obvious that cutting health care spending would stimulate the economy. After all, delivering health care also means jobs. If we spend less on health care, doesn't that mean fewer jobs for health workers? And if cutting health care spending leads to worse health, wouldn’t more people take more sick days or leave the work force entirely? One might believe that any attempt to trim spending on health care would trigger more unemployment and lower productivity.

The fact, however, is that much of our health care spending is wasteful. The U.S. spends more on health care than any other industrialized nation, yet our population fares worse than many others. Unnecessary surgical procedures are a good example of how the U.S. overinvests in often-ineffective treatment at the expense of prevention. This spending adds nothing to our economic output – let alone the damage it does to our health.

The goal of health reform should be to slash health care spending that does not improve health outcomes. President Obama's advisors estimate the potential savings to the private sector at $140 billion annually. Our research suggests that such savings are ambitious, but attainable. In a $14 trillion economy, this amounts to about 1 percent of economic output.


August 21st, 2009
12:14 PM ET

12-year-old boy could face life in prison after alleged robbery attempt, killing


[cnn-photo-caption image=http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2009/images/08/21/art.crime.trish.babcock2.jpg caption="Steve Babcock holds a senior portrait of his daughter, Trisha Babcock, who was 24 when she was killed in Detroit on Aug. 1."]

Gabriel Falcon

AC360° Writer

It is just after midnight on August 1 in Detroit. Trisha Babcock and a friend sit in a car on West Outer Drive. A figure approaches the vehicle. A gun appears. A shot is fired. Babcock is mortally wounded. She dies a short time later.

For homicide detectives, the circumstances are sadly familiar. Except for one detail: the murder suspect is 12-years-old.

He is just a child, but authorities in Michigan believe the boy was old enough to kill. And if convicted of the crime, he could face a possible lifetime inside an adult prison. “As you can imagine, it’s a very sensitive case because of the nature of it,” Deputy Chief John Roach of the Detroit Police Department told CNN.

The situation is both sensitive and highly controversial. The boy is currently being held at a juvenile center in Wayne County. Authorities say they are awaiting a preliminary examination before releasing his name.

The office of Wayne County Prosecutor Kym Worthy announced the suspect will be tried as a minor. However, under Michigan law, if he is found guilty, he can be designated as an adult for sentencing.

“The judge would have three options at the time of sentencing,” Maria Miller, the spokeswoman for Worthy said to CNN in a phone interview. “To sentence him as a juvenile, sentence him as an adult, or a blended sentence.” A blended sentence gives the judge discretion of sending a juvenile offender to prison when he or she reaches the age of 19.

[cnn-photo-caption image=http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2009/images/08/21/art.crime.trish.babcock.2.jpg caption="Steve Babcock shows a photograph of his daughter Trisha, at right, and a friend. The 2003 Davison High School graduate had planned to attend Mott Community College in Flint this fall and become a nurse, he said."]

The suspect is charged with felony murder, armed robbery, felony firearms, and a curfew violation, according to Roach, who also provided a detailed description of the shooting:

“The 12-year-old approached the vehicle and pointed his gun at Babcock. After a brief struggle, he fired one shot, striking her in the chest. She was taken to Sinai-Grace hospital where she died a short time later.”

Witnesses told police the boy was attempting to rob Babcock, who ironically was 24-years-old, twice his age.

Roach said forensic evidence linked the boy to the homicide, who, accompanied by his father, turned himself in on August 14.

He is young, but he may appear older than he looks.

“He is 6′2″, Maria Miller said, “he’s a big kid for his age, a big kid.”

Roach, who said the suspect turns 13-years-old next month, can not recall a similar case to this one ever in Wayne County. He called it an “aberration.”

However, he added “the reality is that we do have a lot of juvenile shooting suspects which is a very serious issue. It’s at the center of what our new chief is trying to address.”

The judge assigned to the case was unavailable for comment. Attempts to determine if a defense attorney has been retained or appointed have been unsuccessful.

The child’s next court appearance will be August 26.

Filed under: 360° Radar • Crime & Punishment • Gabe Falcon
August 21st, 2009
12:01 PM ET

Rumors influencing health care debate

[cnn-photo-caption image=http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2009/POLITICS/08/20/health.care.bad.info/art.town.hall.gi.jpg caption="False rumors about health care have been aired at town hall meetings, like this one in Maryland last week."]

Tom Cohen

A woman asked Rep. Allen Boyd at a town hall meeting the other day if health care reform proposals would force people to let the government access their bank accounts.

"That's not true," the Florida Democrat responded. "When someone sends you something on the Internet that sounds crazy, how about just checking it a little bit?"

The CNN Truth Squad, which fact-checks political claims, has debunked the bank-access rumor as false. Yet that claim, and others that have been disproved, keep coming up in the national debate on health care reform, inflaming an already emotional issue.

Heated protests have disrupted town hall meetings nationwide, with people shouting at legislators and venting anger at President Obama.

While the anger is genuine, some of it is based on misunderstandings of the actual proposals, said Kenneth Thorpe, a health policy expert at Emory University.

"People are freaked out because there's a lot of bad information and misinformation being ... put out there by opponents of health care reform," Thorpe told CNN.

Obama and the Democrats say misleading information sows fear and anger, particularly among senior citizens who are worried about how changes in health care could affect Medicare. The White House and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi have set up Web campaigns to refute what they describe as provably false information.

Keep reading...

Filed under: Health Care
August 21st, 2009
12:01 PM ET

Fundamentally not fun

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Tom Foreman | Bio
AC360° Correspondent

Less than a year ago, John McCain uttered seven words that proved disastrous to his Presidential dreams: “The fundamentals of our economy are sound.” September 2008. Wall Street was in freefall. The housing market was reeling. Massive companies were trembling card houses in the teeth of a gale. Unemployment was climbing like a cat on the curtains. McCain looked out of touch and Barack Obama pounced.

For too many voters, McCain’s gaffe was a political infield fly. “We can see that things are collapsing. Don’t try to tell us they are not.” The first George Bush lost to Bill Clinton the same way; trying to tell voters that the economy was fine when they knew otherwise.

But now, President Obama is trying to stoke optimism, find encouraging signs, and convince voters he is leading them out of these dark economic woods. And that’s the problem. Because those fundamentals are considerably worse than they were when he wailed on McCain for saying the future looked promising.


Filed under: 360° Radar • Economy • President Barack Obama • Raw Politics
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