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February 8, 2016

It took five decades, but Betty Morrell, 82, finally tracked down her 96-year-old birth mother after stumbling upon a key piece of information online.

Morrell was adopted as an infant, and told that her biological mother died during childbirth. She waited until her adoptive parents died before trying to find her birth mother, and since it was a closed adoption, information was scarce. Morrell was finally able to determine that she was born in Utica, New York, in 1933 to a 13-year-old ward of the state named Lena Pierce. Her name at birth was Eva May.

Morrell's granddaughter, Kimberly Miccio, 32, spent years helping her grandmother search for any details on her birth family, and in September, she finally found on Ancestry.com the name of a distant relative, who put her in touch with Pierce's daughter, Millie Hawk. "I had found my baby sister, who's 65," Morrell told The Associated Press. "We just clicked. It was like we had known each other all our lives." It turns out, she also has three other sisters and two brothers, and Pierce is still alive and living in Hallstead, Pennsylvania.

Hawk said when she told her mother about Morrell, "she just sat down in a chair and cried. She said, 'My Eva May, they found her?' It was just so emotional." Morrell flew up from Florida with Miccio to meet her newfound family, and there were tears, Pierce said. "It sure was a joy to finally meet up with her," she added. "It's kind of hard when you have a child that you get separated from. I never wanted to give her up." Morrell and Hawk now talk all the time, and they're already planning their next visit. Morrell told AP that people searching for their birth families should keep hope alive: "I say absolutely don't give up. There's always something that will link it. It's a lot of work. It took me 50 years." Catherine Garcia

12:48 p.m. ET

A crowd of onlookers and a brass band on Sunday applauded the official opening of new, expanded locks in the Panama Canal, which from today can accommodate larger shipping freighters than ever.

A 984-foot container ship from China made the inaugural trip through the new facilities, the first of many such mega ships that will now transport up to 14,000 containers at a time through the canal, which connects the Atlantic and Pacific oceans. Previously, the largest ships the canal could handle carried just 5,000 containers.

"This is a grand accomplishment for the people of Panama," said U.S. ambassador to Panama John Feeley of the occasion. "This expansion will reconfigure, permanently, the map of the global shipping industry." The expansion took $5.4 billion, 10 years, and 40,000 workers to cpmplete. Bonnie Kristian

12:18 p.m. ET
Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

Democratic candidate Bernie Sanders said Friday that he would be willing to vote for his competitor, Hillary Clinton, come November, but in a CNN interview Sunday he reiterated that he is not yet ready to formally endorse her.

Clinton will have to "stand up" and "be bolder" than she has been to ensure his voters — who are numerous enough to sink the Clinton campaign in the general election if they chose not to support her — will come around to the presumptive nominee, Sanders said. "Those people voted for me, I believe, because they said it is time to have a president who has the guts to stand up to big money interests," he explained, citing issues including health care, education, and fracking as topics on which he wants to see progress from Clinton.

Sanders also reiterated his strident opposition to presumptive Republican nominee Donald Trump, but maintained that "a lot of that responsibility about winning the American people over to her side is going to rest with Sec. Clinton." Bonnie Kristian

11:51 a.m. ET
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The Supreme Court is due to render judgment Monday on Whole Woman’s Health v. Hellerstedt, a major abortion case involving a Texas law which holds independent abortion clinics to state standards for "ambulatory surgical centers" (small facilities that host a limited range of surgeries) and requires the clinics' doctors to have admitting privileges at a full hospital no more than 30 miles away.

Supporters of the law say it is a necessary regulatory protection for women seeking abortions, while opponents note that in practice it has caused most Texan abortion clinics, which failed to meet these standards, to close. This, they say — and the Supreme Court will evaluate — places an "undue burden" on women per the standards of SCOTUS's 1992 ruling in Planned Parenthood v. Casey.

Now, right before the ruling is expected to appear, a state employee has accused the Texas Department of Health Services of intentionally suppressing data relevant to the case and "instructing staff members to mislead people who ask for it." The information in question is the official annual data on abortions performed in Texas in 2014, the first full year the law under review was in effect.

The department has released a provisional data set which does not include the detail the final report will contain. "The data is not final," said spokeswoman Carrie Williams. "If the data were final, we would release it. We hope to have it finalized soon." Bonnie Kristian

11:33 a.m. ET
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Iceland elected its first new president in 20 years on Saturday, picking for the mostly ceremonial office a historian named Guðni Jóhannesson.

A professor at the University of Iceland, Jóhannesson campaigned on an anti-establishment platform, including a proposal to allow citizens to initiate referendums for the whole country of 323,000 to weigh in on proposed legislation. He has never been a member of a political party and only decided to run for office a few months ago.

The previous president, Ólafur Ragnar Grímsson, served five consecutive four-year terms, but suffered a drop in popularity after the revelation that he, like former Prime Minister Sigmundur Davíð Gunnlaugsson, was implicated in the Panama Papers scandal. Iceland's parliament, the Alþingi (or Althing), is the oldest extant democratic assembly in the world. Bonnie Kristian

10:58 a.m. ET
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Alexander Hamilton is among the most famous American statesmen to never be president, but the hit Broadway musical based on his life will perhaps help Hillary Clinton do what Hamilton did not.

The Clinton campaign has rented the whole 1,300-seat Richard Rogers Theatre for a special fundraising performance of Hamilton on Tuesday, July 12. Individual tickets start at $2,700 — the same as the maximum individual donation permitted for a given federal candidate per election cycle — though big spenders can pay $100,000 to sit with Clinton herself and get an invite to the Democratic National Convention, which may also host Hamilton creator Lin-Manuel Miranda.

The money raised — expected to top $3.5 million — will be split between the Clinton camp and the Democratic National Committee per a joint fundraising agreement. Bonnie Kristian

10:39 a.m. ET

At least two people have died in a fast-moving wildfire in central California which started on Thursday and is finally showing signs of slowing its growth. Firefighters found additional remains in a mobile home Saturday, but they were too badly burned to immediately determine whether the body belonged to a human or an animal.

The fire has spread to cover about 35,000 acres and has destroyed 150 homes so far. Evacuations from affected areas are mandatory, and firefighters say the blaze is 10 percent contained as of Saturday night. Bonnie Kristian

10:13 a.m. ET
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U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry updated his European itinerary to include stops in London and Brussels, the de facto capital of the European Union, abbreviating in the process scheduled talks with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

While in each city, Kerry will meet with top diplomats to address the implications of the Brexit vote and urge a careful approach to the extrication process. Kerry believes a smooth transition will help "the marketplace understand there are ways to minimize disruption, there are ways to smartly move ahead in order to protect the values and interests that we share."

"The most important thing," he said in Rome on Saturday, "is that all of us, as leaders, work together to provide as much continuity, as much stability, as much certainty as possible." Bonnie Kristian

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