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National

    Southwest Airlines says a child was hurt by a support dog as passengers boarded a plane in Phoenix. A passenger tweeted that the dog bit the girl as she approached and that she screamed and cried. Southwest said Thursday that the dog's teeth 'scraped a child's forehead' and that paramedics checked the child, who was not identified. The child stayed on Wednesday's flight to Portland, Oregon, while the dog and its owner stayed behind. Southwest said it could not confirm the child's age. The incident came as Delta and United airlines prepare to crack down on emotional-support animals on planes. Unlike service animals such as guide dogs, support animals need no training. However, passengers can be asked to show a medical professional's note explaining why support animals should travel.
  • Authorities say a driver intentionally crashed into a Connecticut hospital emergency room with his car and then set himself on fire. Middletown Mayor Dan Drew says the driver had multiple gasoline containers in the vehicle when he crashed through an entrance to Middlesex Hospital Thursday morning. Drew says the man's motives aren't known. No one else was hurt. Authorities say the driver is a man in his 20s who is known to Middletown police. A man who lives across from the hospital said he heard what sounded like an explosion and saw a man on fire come running out, screaming for help. The witness, Gary Mills, said responders put the man on a gurney. Local authorities evacuated homes in the neighborhood where the driver lives and notified federal authorities.
  • A condemned Texas inmate set for execution Thursday awaited word on whether Gov. Greg Abbott would accept the state parole board's rare clemency recommendation to spare the prisoner's life at the urging of his father. Thomas 'Bart' Whitaker, 38, is scheduled for lethal injection for masterminding the fatal shootings of his mother and brother at their suburban Houston home in 2003 in a plot to collect inheritance. Whitaker's father, Kent, also was shot but survived and has led the effort to save his son from execution. The seven-member Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles, whose members are appointed by the governor, recommended unanimously Tuesday that Abbott commute Whitaker's death sentence, meaning Whitaker would get a life sentence. Abbott, a Republican, could accept the recommendation, reject it or do nothing. His office did not respond Wednesday to inquiries about the Whitaker case. 'The board only recommends,' said Keith Hampton, one of Whitaker's attorneys. 'The power resides purely in Gov. Abbott. He could do nothing, which would be pretty amazing. He could literally do nothing. Then (Whitaker) gets executed.' State law doesn't specify the governor 'must' act, another of Whitaker's lawyers, James Rytting, said. It's only the fourth time since the state resumed executions in 1982 that the parole board has recommended clemency within days of an inmate's scheduled execution. In the previous cases, then-Gov. Rick Perry, also a Republican, accepted the board's decision in one case and rejected the other two, who subsequently were put to death in the nation's most active capital punishment state. Executions were also scheduled to take place Thursday in Florida and Alabama. If all three were carried out, it would mark the first time in more than eight years that three convicted killers are put to death in the U.S. on the same day. Prosecutors in Fort Bend County, where the Texas killings occurred at the Whitaker home in Sugar Land, just southwest of Houston, criticized the parole board recommendation. If Abbott agreed to the board's clemency recommendation, 'then it's a total injustice, absolute injustice on this,' said Fred Felcman, one of the trial prosecutors. The U.S. Supreme Court, which last year refused to review appeals in Whitaker's case, also could weigh in. Whitaker and another Texas death row inmate are plaintiffs in an appeal pending before the high court questioning whether Texas' use of a compounded version of the powerful sedative pentobarbital for executions would cause unconstitutional pain. The case had been scheduled for the justices' conference on Friday, the day after Whitaker could be executed. State attorneys were opposing the request to block the execution, saying claims about the drug's ineffectiveness had been repeatedly rejected in the courts. Kent and Patricia Whitaker and their two boys had returned home the night of Dec. 10, 2003, following a restaurant dinner to celebrate Bart Whitaker's college graduation when they were confronted by a gunman wearing dark clothes and a ski mask. Patricia Whitaker and her 19-year-old son, Kevin, were killed. Kent Whitaker and Bart were wounded. Nearly two years later, Bart Whitaker was arrested in Mexico after investigators determined he arranged the plot in hopes of collecting a family estate he believed was worth more than $1 million. 'I'm 100 percent guilty,' Whitaker testified at his trial in 2007. 'I put the plan in motion.' He hated his parents and brother at the time, he said. Whitaker's father said he loves and has forgiven his son, calling him a changed person. 'As the greatest victim in this case, you don't have to convince me how awful this crime was,' Kent Whitaker said. Evidence showed the plot included two of Bart Whitaker's friends and was at least his third attempt to kill his family. Whitaker's wound to his arm was meant to draw attention away from his involvement. Unknown to his parents, the dinner celebration marking his graduation was a fraud. He'd dropped out of school months earlier. The gunman, Chris Brashear, pleaded guilty in 2007 to a murder charge and is serving life in prison. Steve Champagne, who drove Brashear from the Whitaker house the night of the shootings, took a 15-year prison term in exchange for testifying at Whitaker's trial.
  • Olive Garden has added a pizza to its menu -- sort of. Delish reported the Meatball Pizza Bowl is part of a new Lunch Duos menu, which offers an entree and unlimited soup or salad. The bowl, which is made of pizza dough, has similar toppings to the restaurant’s famous breadsticks. It has three cheeses -- Parmesan, mozzarella and Asiago, according to USA Today. >> Read more trending news  The price of the entree, which Thrillist reported is topped with 10 meatballs, starts at $6.99, although prices vary depending on the location. The Meatball Pizza Bowl is available for lunch Monday through Friday before 3 p.m.
  • A Rhode Island state senator facing charges of sex extortion and video voyeurism has announced his resignation. Coventry Republican Nicholas Kettle said in a letter Thursday that he has 'determined that it is in my best interest to resign and concentrate on the unfounded allegations against me.' Senate leaders on Wednesday took the first step in trying to expel Kettle, the Senate's minority whip. Kettle was arrested last week and charged with extorting a male page for sex on two occasions in 2011 and with video voyeurism that involved trading nude photos of his ex-girlfriend and a New Hampshire woman taken without their consent. Kettle's resignation letter also says he was disappointed that he was denied due process by fellow Senate members.
  • Nicholas Hernandez was recounting the frightening moment he heard knocking on the door of his classroom at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School on Valentine’s Day. “When we found out, this is not a drill,” Hernandez said late Wednesday night, “it’s almost like the world came crashing down and souls died in a way. It was a near-death experience. I’d like to think that keeping calm saved lives. But it was him. It was him at the door.” >> Read more trending news Hernandez and his friends saw things no student should that day. Hernandez is a 15-year-old freshman and a mass murderer took the lives of 17 of his friends and teachers. And so Hernandez showed up at the BB&T Center for CNN’s televised town hall, hoping not only to show solidarity with classmates, but also to hear out two senators, a representative, a sheriff and a spokesperson for the NRA about what might change. Like many of Hernandez’s Douglas classmates, he declared mixed feelings after the event, in which students, parents and teachers were among those who came face-to-face with policy-makers. >> See coverage of the Broward County shooting from the Palm Beach Post “I think that so many good points were aired, but the reactions from the government officials weren’t up to par,” Hernandez, 15, said. “I feel like they need to know what we need and how to give us what we need in an appropriate way. I think that the NRA official really needs to open her eyes and realize that if we continue with these policies and the way they are now, we are never going to receive change. And we’ll just continue to have these mass shootings.”  Several students said they did not believe spokesperson Dana Loesch of the National Rifle Association or Senator Marco Rubio answered some direct questions in a direct manner. “I am angry,” said Douglas freshman Haleigh Gross. “There weren’t a lot of questions answered completely. And a lot of questions were avoided. And that just makes me angry. I still want to know what can be done to keep the kids more safe in schools.” >> Related: WATCH: Florida school shooting survivors perform emotional song at CNN town hall “When they didn’t answer the questions directly and they kind of went off topic, that’s very frustrating,” Douglas junior Emily Bernstein said. “Especially since these people were brave enough to ask these questions, they should be willing to answer them.” “More frustration than anything else, I would say,” Douglas freshman Olivia Blaker said. “Because many questions were not answered very clearly, simple yes or no questions.” Several students said the most memorable moment of the night was when student Cameron Kasky asked Rubio if he would turn down future donations from the NRA. Rubio did not say he would. “That really got me into my emotions,” Hernandez said. “Because I felt like as a government official, in this situation, especially in the state of Florida, it’s almost your obligation to say, ‘No, I will not accept donations.’ It would have made me feel better if he had said, ‘No, sorry, I am going to accept it.’ I would have been like, ‘OK, he needs their support.’ But instead of being direct with us, he simply dragged on and on and didn’t answer the question. And that infuriated me.” >> Related: Marco Rubio faces a tough crowd during CNN's town hall for gun reform Several students did say that they were a bit encouraged that Rubio at least appeared to show a bit of flexibility in potentially altering his stance on some gun control laws. “I think some of the questions really opened up Rubio’s mind,” Douglas senior Jenna Korsten said. “I think you saw he was saying he’d compromise. The other lady (Loesch), I don’t think so. I don’t think she was open-minded at all. I think people kept booing her because she wasn’t open-minded. And wasn’t listening. There were people asking her questions and she just wasn’t giving an answer.” Douglas freshman Kayla Sibble added, “I wish that the person from the NRA had answered the questions about if she thought guns were the problem. She totally deflected the question, in my opinion, and never answered it.” Some students seem to realize how difficult a challenge it might be to see a ban on most or all semi-automatic weapons in the near future. “They can do just as much harm as any other weapon,” Hernandez said. “And it just angers me that there are these lethal death weapons. These are not hunting weapons, they’re weapons to kill, and they are getting in the hands of a 19-year-old? If it was my choice, they wouldn’t be in the hands of anybody, except for law enforcement.” >> Related: Hundreds of students walk out in mass protest, march to Parkland high school Despite some frustrations, many students said they continue to believe they will be the group that finally ends the spate of mass school shootings. And they appreciated that CNN gave them an opportunity to continue to take their demands for change to the world. “I feel powerful,” Bernstein said. “I feel like with all these people around me, we could really make a change. And I think that everyone had really good, quality questions. I think they definitely messed with the wrong city and the wrong school. Parkland and Marjory Stoneman Douglas are going to do something about this. We’re going to be the last people that this is going to happen to.” “I am very positive about this,” Sibble said. “Because we’re not a generation to stay silent. We want action and we’re not going to stop until we get it.” “I would say I’m really glad that this town hall happened, especially in such a big arena, where so many people could attend,” Hernandez said. “Because I think it gives the government, and the whole nation, since it was televised, a piece of what we need as a community. More shootings can happen. We really do need to see a change in this country.”
  • President Donald Trump has ordered his Justice Department to work toward banning rapid-fire bump stocks like the ones used in last year's Las Vegas massacre— but officials aren't sure they can. Trump's surprise order this week comes as officials from the department's Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives are well into a review of whether they can regulate the devices without action from Congress. The path to a ban is neither simple nor quick. An ATF ban on the accessories, which allow semi-automatic rifles to mimic machine guns, would likely thrust the department into a prolonged legal battle with gun manufacturers while the devices remain on the market. But any congressional effort to create new gun control laws would need support from the pro-gun Republican majority. And Republicans have moved in the other direction, attempting to loosen gun laws, even after 59 people were killed in Las Vegas. Despite the president stepping up pressure on the department in the aftermath of the Florida high school shooting, some ATF officials maintain that only Congress can render such devices illegal, and, in any event, amending existing gun laws or passing new legislation would be a faster approach. Acting ATF director Thomas Brandon has sent mixed signals on what the agency can do. He told lawmakers in December that the ATF and Justice Department would not have initiated the review if a ban 'wasn't a possibility at the end,' but he has also expressed doubt that it would be able to do so without congressional intervention. ATF reviewed bump stocks and approved them in 2010, finding they did not amount to machine guns that are regulated under the National Firearms Act that dates to the 1930s. But after bump stocks were used in Las Vegas, the deadliest shooting in modern U.S. history, calls mounted for a ban. The Justice Department announced in December it would again review whether they can be prohibited under federal law. Trump told officials to expedite the review, which the Justice Department said is ongoing. ATF has received about 100,000 comments from the public and the firearms industry and says it has devoted additional manpower to reviewing them as quickly as possible. Many of the comments are from gun owners angry over any attempt to regulate the accessory, which they view as a slippery slope toward outlawing guns all together. Gun Owners of America, for example, wrote that doing so 'would set an incredibly dangerous precedent which would leave to administrative bans on virtually any type of firearm.' In that sense, they agree with Democrats like Sen. Dianne Feinstein of California that it's up to Congress to make any changes. After the Florida shooting, Republicans have proposed strengthening federal background checks but may not consider any gun control measure beyond that. It would be legally problematic and politically untenable for the ATF to change course on its earlier finding, said Michael Bouchard, a retired assistant director who is now president of the ATF Association. Reversing its earlier evaluation could be seen as an admission that it was legally flawed, which manufacturers could seize on in court. 'How can they just change their mind now and go to court and defend that position, other than to say the president told us to find a way to ban them?' said Bouchard, whose association of current and former ATF officials wrote a letter to lawmakers in October arguing the burden is on Congress to clarify or modify existing law. 'There are so many other kinds of devices that mimic what a bump stock does, it's a can of worms as to which one you ban and which one you don't.
  • McDonald’s Shamrock Shake is back at some locations this week.  USA Today reported on Wednesday that the fast-food restaurant has brought back the popular minty treat.  >> Read more trending news  This year, there is no other flavor. In 2017, the restaurant had four Shamrock Shake flavors outside of the mint one: frappe, chocolate, hot chocolate and mocha. Instead, McDonald’s is offering a Shamrock Shake Finder app on iOS and Android so customers can locate the popular dessert. “Fans simply need to download the app and from there, locate participating restaurants locations, swap Shamrock Shake-themed stickers and raise a shake with friends to toast St. Patrick’s Day,” McDonald’s said of the app in a Feb. 12 news release. “In addition to helping fans find the nearest Shamrock Shake, the app also features a brand new camera mode, featuring an augmented reality (AR) experience for iPhone X.” The Shamrock Shake was introduced in 1970 and is typically only available for a limited amount of time, disappearing around St. Patrick's Day.
  • You may want to store up some extra sleep in the next few weeks because you are about to lose an hour of it. Come March 11 at 2 a.m. most of America will be “springing forward” as daylight saving time kicks in, giving us another hour of sunlight. Here’s a look at seven things you may not have known about daylight saving time. “Spring forward and fall back” is an easy way to remember how to set the clock when daylight saving times begins and ends. You set your clock forward one hour at 2 a.m. on March 11. You’ll set it back one hour at 2 a.m. on Nov. 4. In the United States, daylight saving time began on March 21, 1918. U.S. government officials reasoned that fuel could be saved by reducing the need for lighting in the home. Ancient agrarian civilizations used a form of daylight saving time, adjusting their timekeeping depending on the sun’s activity. Many people call it daylight savings time. The official name is daylight saving time. No ‘s’ on ‘saving.’ Benjamin Franklin came up with an idea to reset clocks in the summer months as a way to conserve energy. A standardized system of beginning and ending daylight saving time came in 1966 when the Uniform Time Act became law. While it was a federal act, states were granted the power to decide if they wanted to remain on standard time year-round. Arizona (except for the Navajo, who do observe daylight saving time on tribal lands), Hawaii, American Samoa, Guam, the Northern Mariana Islands, Puerto Rico and the United States Virgin Islands do not observe daylight saving time.
  • Funeral arrangements have been announced following the death of famed evangelist the Rev. Billy Graham. The well-known religious figure, who counseled several presidents and preached to millions of people worldwide, died Wednesday, according to the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association. He was 99. READ MORE: Photos: Billy Graham through the years | Photos: Notable deaths 2018 | Billy Graham quotes: He made Christian principles accessible to millions | Billy Graham named among 10 most admired men for 59th time | MORE