December 3rd, 2013
10:40 AM ET

Rights Group Seeking "Legal Person" Status For Chimps

Should a captive chimpanzee have the same rights as a "legal person"?

That's the debate set to unfold after an activist group filed lawsuits on behalf of four chimpanzees, asking the New York Supreme Court to grant them the "right to bodily liberty."

“In some ways it's a classic habeas corpus case, positioned as an example of wrongful imprisonment,” brought on by the Nonhuman Rights Project, reports CNN’s John Berman.

The group wants chimpanzees in captivity to be released based on scientific evidence proving that the animals are very "self aware."

"When we go to court on behalf of the first chimpanzee plaintiffs, we'll be asking judges to recognize, for the first time, that these cognitively complex, autonomous beings have the basic legal right to not be imprisoned," said Steven M. Wise, founder and president of the Nonhuman Rights Project. 

According to the group, the four chimpanzees are all held in New York state:

• Tommy, 26, is living in a cage on a trailer lot in Gloversville.

• Kiko, 26, formerly worked in the entertainment industry and is now living in Niagara Falls on private property, where he is caged.

• Hercules and Leo, two young males, are owned by New Iberia Research Center and used in a locomotion research experiment in the Anatomy Department at Stony Brook University in Stony Brook.

"Not long ago, people generally agreed that human slaves could not be legal persons, but were simply the property of their owners," Wise said. "We will assert, based on clear scientific evidence, that it's time to take the next step and recognize that these nonhuman animals cannot continue to be exploited as the property of their human 'owners.' "

Neither the owner of Tommy nor the owner of Kiko has responded to CNN's requests for comment.

But Stony Brook University spokeswoman Lauren Sheprow said the university "has not seen any legal papers related to this matter and therefore is unable to comment."

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December 3rd, 2013
10:40 AM ET

Deadly Shark Attack in Maui

A man fishing from a kayak off a Hawaiian island has died after being bitten by a shark, authorities said Monday. The incident was the latest in an alarming spate of shark attacks in the state this year.

“…This is the 13th shark attack reported in Hawaii just this year alone. Eight of those attacks happened in Maui,” CNN’s Zoraida Sambolin reports.

The attack took place Monday morning half a mile off a point near Little Beach in Makena State Recreation Area on the island of Maui, the Department of Land and Natural Resources (DLNR) said.

The victim's companion, who was also on a kayak, told the department that his friend was fishing for baitfish with artificial lures when a shark bit one of his feet, which was dangling over the edge of the boat.

The man's companion, who was about 500 yards away when the attack took place, paddled over to him, tied a tourniquet to try to stem severe bleeding and called on a tour boat in the vicinity for help, authorities said.

The tour boat brought the man to shore, and he was then taken to the hospital. But authorities believe he died of his injuries during the boat journey, said Rod Antone of the Mayor's Office of the County of Maui.

The man was in his 40s, but authorities are unsure if he was a local resident or a tourist, Antone said. The identities of the man and his companion have not been disclosed.

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December 3rd, 2013
10:40 AM ET

President to Showcase Affordable Care Act

All eyes were on the problem-plagued Obamacare website Monday after the administration said it would smoothly handle most users following its botched launch two months earlier.

White House spokesman Jay Carney told reporters that 375,000 visitors went to by 12 noon ET, almost half the total daily capacity of 800,000 that officials announced Sunday as a result of a round-the-clock effort to fix the site.

However, Carney provided no details about how many of those visitors were able to sign on and enroll in insurance exchanges set up under President Barack Obama's signature health care reforms.

Today, the White House is launching a three-week campaign that will try to refocus the public on the benefits of Obamacare.

President Obama will try to use his pitch to get past the glitches and remind people about the program instead of just the website, reports CNN’s Brianna Keilar.

This after new function created in the latest technological overhaul completed Sunday put people trying to sign up in an online waiting queue if capacity exceeded demand. They could wait until their turn came to enter the system, or ask to receive an e-mail when they could try again at the front of the line.

Three CNN journalists who attempted to sign on Monday ended up in the new queue around midday and then two hours later. Their wait lasted a few minutes before they received a prompt on their screen to proceed with enrollment.

Later in the day, users proceeded directly to enrollment without waiting, indicating reduced volume at the end of the afternoon, as officials had predicted.

Having declared the site working as intended on Sunday, the administration effectively painted a target on it for detractors led by conservative Republicans, who will look for any anecdotal evidence of continued problems with the 2010 Affordable Care Act.

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December 3rd, 2013
10:40 AM ET

Biden Arrives in Asia Amid China-Japan Tensions

U.S. Vice President Joe Biden will visit Japan and China this week as a dispute seethes over Beijing's recent claim of a large swath of airspace in the region.

The Chinese declaration less than two weeks ago has prompted a war of words between governments and flights through the contested air zone by military planes from the United States, China, Japan and South Korea.

"Biden's trip was supposed to be about trade and the economy. now in fact it's all about the Chinese military," reports CNN's Barbara Starr.

The uneasy situation in the sky over the East China Sea has raised fears that a midair incident could cause circumstances to spiral out of control. It has also fueled concern about how far China is willing to go to pursue its interests in the Asia-Pacific region and push back against U.S. influence.

U.S. officials say that during his visit this week, Biden will raise American concerns about Beijing's newly declared air defense identification zone - which the United States and Japan reject - and encourage dialogue among countries in the region to ease tensions.

He will also "make the broader point that there is an emerging pattern of behavior by China that is unsettling to China's own neighbors," a senior Obama administration official said in a briefing last week.

U.S. State Department spokeswoman Jennifer Psaki reiterated Monday that Washington doesn't recognize the air defense zone nor China's demand to be notified of plans by jets from other nations to fly into the area. Psaki said the U.S. position is separate from any U.S.-based airlines' decisions to comply with China's demands.

"The U.S. Insists it will continue flying military aircraft through the Chinese zone and has begun a long-plan deployment of advance P-8 reconnaissance aircraft to japan that can carry torpedoes, missiles, bombs and mines," Starr says.

"Now the U.S. Is already calling on china not to establish yet another restriction zone and Biden arrives in Beijing on Wednesday to talk to Chinese leaders about all of this."

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