Friday, May 04, 2007
Big corporation, big controversy
So now it's official. No more talk. Don Imus plans to take action.
His attorney, Martin Garbus, said today he'll file a breach of contract lawsuit against CBS Radio by the end of next week. We got a copy of the outline for the lawsuit. Imus will seek $120 million dollars for damages and other costs. That includes the $40 million dollars he says he's owed under his five-year contract with CBS Radio.
Imus' attorney says his client is due that money because of a clause in his contract that we told you about Wednesday night on "360." It says that CBS Radio acknowledges that Imus' services are "extraordinary", "irreverent", "controversial" and "desired".
CBS Radio plans to fight the lawsuit. It stands behind its decision to fire Imus last month for calling the Rutgers women's basketball team "nappy-headed hos." In a statement, CBS Radio said, "Based on the comments in question and relevant contract terms, we believe that the termination was appropriate."
Beyond the debate over Imus' comments, there's another issue at stake: Is this really all about big corporations calling the shots? Do they encourage controversy and then not acknowledge their role?
Tonight on "360," we'll cover all the angles, and we'll hear from Don Imus' lawyer.
When it comes to the money, what do you think? Should Imus get $120 million dollars? $40 million? Nothing? We'd love to hear from you on the blog. See you tonight. -- By Anderson Cooper
Hot Links: Stories we're watching today
Thursday, May 03, 2007
Do early debates make an impact?
Tonight, I'll be hosting a special two-hour edition of "Larry King Live" with Ryan Seacrest of "American Idol." We'll look back at 50 years of pop culture as seen through the eyes of Larry King. The special is part of a weeklong celebration of Larry's 50 years in broadcasting. It starts at 9 p.m. ET and is followed by "360" at 11 p.m. ET.
On tonight's "360," we'll have reaction to the first Republican presidential debate of the campaign season. The 10 candidates will square-off at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library north of Los Angeles. The debate is scheduled to be 90 minutes long, which is plenty of time for missteps. Presidential hopeful and ex-Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney told Jay Leno last night his goal is to "Get on, get off, keep your hair from getting messed up."
What would you like to hear from the candidates? Do you think a debate this early in the election season even makes an impact?
-- By Anderson Cooper
Sometimes 'God' gets us in trouble
There is something impossibly chilling about it: an insurgent races into a street to fire a rocket, unload with an AK, or fling a grenade, the whole time crying out the name of Allah.
Holy war. That's what it sounds like. That's what insurgents call it.
There is nothing holy about it, of course. Muslims all over the globe have denounced the tactics of terrorism and extremism for just what they are: thuggery masquerading as devotion. Maybe those Muslim voices of dissent are not loud enough for us as we watch our young troops fight and die, and even Muslim leaders have told me they want much more from their own communities in terms of opposing radical sects.
But Middle East analysts say we are also making it harder for moderate Muslims to stand up against the radicals. They say each time an American leader invokes the name of God, or makes reference to Islamofascists or the Axis of Evil, it makes it easier for radicals to claim the entire Muslim faith is under attack...by holy warriors from the West.
President Bush once referred to the war on terror as a "crusade." It's just a word to most of us, but for many Muslims it recalls crusades that started 900 years ago, pitting Christians against Muslims. The president says, "Freedom is a gift of God." Many of us may agree, but we still largely consider freedom a positive, secular value, like democracy. Not so for radicals in the Muslim world.
One Middle East analyst told me these forces are listening to every word our leaders say, and every time they hear the word "God," they roar out the news: a new heresy from the West, a new reason for Muslims to unite and fight.
Polls indicate most Muslims don't believe it, don't think this is really a holy war. But four years of fighting tell us that enough do. So should America's leaders avoid using the name of God whenever they talk about the war or terrorism to deny radicals the propaganda? Or would that itself be a kind of defeat?
-- By Tom Foreman, CNN Correspondent
Wednesday, May 02, 2007
Imus' contract allowed 'controversial' program
We have some breaking news tonight about Don Imus that is bound to get some attention. The stakes are enormous: $40 million.
Some background: Today's news cycle has already reported Don Imus has retained well-known attorney Martin Garbus in anticipation of a wrongful termination lawsuit against CBS. You'll recall after a week-long storm CBS fired Imus after his controversial remarks about the Rutgers women's baskeball team.
Now our news: CNN Senior Legal Analyst Jeffrey Toobin has obtained PART of Don Imus' contract with CBS Radio, including the clause that is at the heart of Imus' case. Toobin suggests it is a very unusual contract provision that may force CBS to pay off the $40 million remaining on Imus' contract.
"Company [CBS Radio] acknowledges its familiarity with the program Conducted by Artist [Imus] on the station [WFAN] prior to company's ownership thereof and it, and its familiarity with the reviews and comments, both favorable and unfavorable concerning Artist and his material by critics, reviewers and writers of the various media both in New York and nationally. Company acknowledges that Artist's services to be rendered hereunder are of a unique, extraordinary, irreverent
, intellectual, topical, controversial
and personal character and that programs of the same general type and nature containing these components are desired
by Company and are consistent with Company rules and policies."
(The bold highlights are ours.)
Tonight, we'll have Jeff Toobin and much more about what this means about Imus, CBS and what big media companies are actually expecting, if not encouraging, from some of their talent. CBS had no comment on this story.
-- By David Doss, "360" Executive Producer
From polar bears to Joan Baez...
Have you ever taken the "red eye" flight across the country? No matter how much you are able to sleep on the flight, you still wind up feeling kind of disoriented. That's the way I feel right now, but I'm sure it will wear off by the broadcast tonight. Let's hope, at least.
I'm back in New York after covering the immigration rallies in Los Angeles. As we showed on the program last night, the Los Angeles rally ended with police firing rubber bullets to disperse a crowd. The LAPD has launched an investigation.
Tonight on "360," we're covering a range of stories. It seems Don Imus has hired an attorney and there is talk of a lawsuit. We'll look into what his options are tonight, and whether or not CBS might have violated his contract by firing him the way they did.
President Bush said this morning he's confident a compromise can be made between Democrats and Republicans on Capitol Hill regarding the $124 billion war spending bill. He vetoed the measure yesterday. This afternoon, he's meeting with congressional leaders at the White House. Democrats are talking about requiring benchmarks to measure the progress in Iraq. The question facing lawmakers is whether to require consequences if the benchmarks aren't met.
Tonight, we're also planning to talk with folk-singer and antiwar activist Joan Baez, who had wanted to sing for injured troops at Walter Reed Medical Center. In a letter to the Washington Post published today, she said rocker John Mellencamp asked her to perform with him and she accepted the invitation. She says days later she found out she was banned from performing. Baez says some soldiers might have thought she was a traitor for being against the war in Iraq, just as she was against the war in Vietnam 40 years ago. But this time, she says, she felt she could make sure the troops had a better welcome home and that's why she wanted to sing at Walter Reed.
I'm curious to hear what you think: Should Baez be allowed to perform? Have we done enough to take care of and welcome back our returning troops?
We'll also continue our "Planet in Peril" reports tonight. Wildlife Biologist Jeff Corwin spent the last few days in Alaska and beyond. He went out on a polar bear chase with a team of government scientists. They shot the bears with tranquilizers and then gathered data on the bears' height and weight. They did this in the middle of the arctic on a massive sheet of ice in temperatures that felt like negative 15 degrees. It's important work for the scientists. I wish I had been able to join them on that adventure, though I must say I'm enjoying the nice 70 degree weather here in New York. See you tonight.
-- By Anderson Cooper
DNA analysis challenging older CSI-techniques
My story tonight on real-life CSI took me to the NYPD crime lab, which is a crime buff's paradise. It's located in an unmarked building in a remote section of Queens, and each floor is fascinating.
The ballistics lab may have been my favorite. They have wall after wall of seized guns -- I even got to hold an Uzi -- as well as a display of the most notorious items in the collection, including the .44 that David Berkowitz used to terrorize the city in 1977 and the gun that Mark David Chapman used to kill John Lennon.
We spent most of our time in the hair and fiber unit, where we learned that the contrast between the increasing use of DNA evidence and the popularity of other techniques made famous by the CSI shows is creating controversy.
Hair and fiber analysis is a traditional forensic science. As we all know from watching CSI, a criminalist looks at, say, two hairs under a microscope -- one found at the crime scene and one from the suspect -- and gives her subjective opinion about whether they could have come from the same person.
DNA evidence is different. Analysts breakdown the molecular structure of hair and use provable, established science to ascertain with mathematical precision whether the two hairs match.
The question now is whether courts should still allow juries to hear the results of old-fashioned, microscopic analysis, when better options, such as DNA analysis, are usually available.
While at the crime lab, we also learned about how the NYPD is trying to bring some of those old practices into the 21st century in a program called Biotracks, which uses DNA evidence to solve burglaries.
It turns out that burglars often eat and drink while they're stealing, and what they leave behind -- like a soda bottle -- can yield tell-tale clues that scientists can put to the test. For more on the subject, see my story in this week's New Yorker.
-- By Jeffrey Toobin, CNN Senior Legal Analyst
Tuesday, May 01, 2007
Smugglers cram illegal immigrants into truck
Looking at the large, late-model pickup truck at the San Ysidro border crossing, nothing obvious seemed out of place, but U.S. Customs and Border Protection Officers were suspicious.
They pulled the truck aside, detained the driver and went to work. Immediately, they found two people huddled in a passenger compartment behind the driver's seat.
But the real eye-opener came next. When they looked under the lid, or cap, over the back bed, ten more people rolled out, shaken but still alive. Even on a cool day like this one south of San Diego it was an uncomfortable arrangement. Some were laying on their sides and arranged so that their feet were by the next person's head. Some were on top of each other.
Officers here say they are constantly being surprised to see what smugglers will try next. They've seen people hidden inside gas tanks and next to engine blocks. They've also found people hidden inside rolls of carpet. One man was even sewn inside a seat cover.
Their biggest fear is that someone will die on one of these journeys. It's a very real risk, as some people some willing to try anything to get into the United States and some smugglers seem unafraid to jeopardize someone's well-being to get them across the border.
-- By David Mattingly, CNN Correspondent
House held 160 illegal immigrants
So-called "stash houses" or "drop houses" are all over Phoenix, Arizona. These are buildings that human smugglers use to hide illegal immigrants.
I've come here to meet Alonzo Pena, the special agent in charge of the Immigration and Customs Enforcement office in Phoenix. We're about to take a drive around the city to see some of these stash houses.
But first, Agent Pena shows me a city map with little red dots showing where these houses are located. The map is peppered with so many dots that it looks like it's been used in target practice at a firing range. In the first four months of this year, authorities say they have discovered nearly 80 new stash houses.
This highlights a disturbing trend in how human smugglers, or "coyotes," as they are often called, are operating these days. Coyotes are no longer just a border phenomenon, according to federal law enforcement authorities. They're organized like drug cartels and getting more viscious and lethal. And they're moving further north into the United States. (In Houston, one person was killed and two others wounded in a recent midday shootout; federal authorities say rival coyotes may have been fighting over a carload of illegal immigrants.)
Agent Pena says these smugglers fight each other over "loads" of immigrants mostly because there's big money at stake. Coyotes charge Mexican nationals a $1,500 smuggling fee, according to law enforcement officials and immigration activists. For people south of Mexico, the fee ranges from $3,000 to $5,000. Of course, coyotes will often "renegotiate" later, and that's when things can get really ugly.
Agent Pena and I pull up to a beautiful stucco home with a Spanish tile roof. You would never suspect the house was used by smugglers. "I wouldn't mind living in a house like this," Pena says. His agents found 160 illegal immigrants stashed in this house.
-- By Ed Lavandera, CNN Correspondent
Mistaken for a marcher
I wasn't sure what to expect at the immigration rally today in Washington, D.C. -- how big or how raucous.
But I did make sure to avoid wearing the belt with the colorful weaving I bought in Guatemala. I didn't want to seem like I was a participant instead of a journalist. But the color of my skin falsely betrayed me and I was handed leaflets and signs as I walked through the crowd.
As a Hispanic at these types of events and stories, I take full advantage of being bilingual, doing interviews for both CNN and CNN en Espanol. It's a point of pride for me to have that versatility.
The rally turned out to be a small one, only about 400 people, but colorful and with music. It wasn't angry or vitriolic, but passionate, despite the numbers.
-- By Silvio Carrillo, CNN Producer
'Keep Our Families Together' -- sign says
About 200 protestors carrying American and Brazilian flags shouted and marched the two miles from the city of Everett, Massachusetts, to the city of Chelsea, Massachusetts, where they met up with another group of about 200 protestors.
The latter group had been loudly voicing its opposition to the government's effort to deport illegal immigrants. They waved colorful signs that said "Stop the Separation of Our Families" and "Don't Break Up Our Families" and "Keep Our Families Together."
The protestors were referring to the families they say were split up when agents raided the Michael Bianco leather goods factory and arrested more than 300 allegedly illegal immigrants, mostly women. Many were taken to Texas for processing, leaving husbands and other relatives to care for young children.
Other signs read "We Are Humans" and "We Demand Legalization Now." The groups, speaking mostly in Spanish, say the government needs to change its policy.
One woman, shouting into a megaphone, said, "We need to ask for immigration reform, we need to push for immigration reform." The crowd broke out in applause.
For New England, this was an especially warm, sunny day, about 70 degrees. Men, women, and children crowded into Chelsea square as each speaker stood on a granite traffic barrier and led the crowd through this immigration rally.
Shortly after the two groups joined up, they hit the road again, following a couple of motorcycle cops. They headed to the third and final stop in East Boston. That's where a more formal rally, with speeches, is now underway.
-- By Dan Lothian, CNN Correspondent
Border agents discover marijuana bricks
This truck was searched by border agents after a dog noticed something amiss.
The K9 got a funny whiff of the black GMC Yukon at the San Ysidro Port of Entry on the U.S.-Mexico border.
U.S. Customs and Border Protection agents thought the vehicle's driver was acting out of place.
So they took the driver and the truck to a secondary screening area, where they were able to x-ray the truck using a side-scan mobile x-ray machine.
As the agents lowered the spare tire from underneath the car, I looked back and noticed the suspect's leg shaking wildly.
Agents cut into the tire and found four bricks of marijuana. Just another day at the office for America's border agents.
-- By Eric Marrapodi, CNN Producer
Fear colors immigration rallies
We are back in Los Angeles for the May Day protests. Exactly one year ago today, I was downtown, on the corner of Wilshire and La Brea, surrounded by hundreds of thousands of people. Many of them were illegal immigrants and their supporters. Some demanded sweeping reforms. Others wanted amnesty or a legal road to citizenship.
Their voices were heard. Their faces were seen. And for one day, millions who live in the shadows stepped into the light. While there will be marches today, the motivation to hit the streets may not be the same. Much of that has to do with fear.
Illegal immigrants who choose to speak out could risk immediate deportation. Since last year, more than 200,000 illegal immigrants have been removed from the United States, an increase of 20 percent over the year before, according to the New York Times.
There is also anger in the air, as just about everyone in this debate seems to be upset with our government. After last year's demonstrations, Congress seemed poised to pass legislation on illegal immigration. But nothing happened.
Of course, last year's demonstration came in the middle of the mid-term elections. There was pressure then to act or at least to act like you might act. Now, even though we are in the early days of a presidential campaign, that pressure is not the same -- not yet anyway.
Tonight, we are going to devote much of the program to the immigration issue. I'll be in Macarthur Park, the sight of one of the largest rallies in the city.
Besides covering the protests, we will also have reports from the Texas border, where arrests are dramatically down this year. We'll also have a live report from San Diego, at one of the busiest border checkpoints in the nation. See you tonight.
-- By Anderson Cooper
Mexicans swim for U.S. border
I am sitting on the banks of the Rio Grande in Reynosa, Mexico, with my CNN crew. I am also sitting next to six Mexican citizens who are getting ready to try to swim across the river and into the United States.
We are in a heavily wooded area that's full of clothes disposed of by people getting read to hop into the Rio Grande. The Mexicans we are with seem desperate, and they are scared to see us. They think we are police. I tell them we are journalists. I'm not sure they believe me.
One of our cameramen speaks fluent Spanish and tries to reassure them, but they remain nervous. They say they are waiting for a so-called "coyote," or human smuggler, to take them over. The coyotes get hundreds of dollars and sometimes more to do that job.
The U.S. government says apprehensions of illegal immigrants are down about a third from last year due to increased border patrol presence and the addition of the National Guard along the border.
That claim appears to have credence on the streets of Reynosa. Many people we interviewed here, including those who have spent much illegal time in the United States, say they are now more wary of trying to go back.
Anyway, back to our six guys on the banks of the river. As they sit next to their small rubber boat, we see three other men in the distance, also hiding in the woods. We go to talk to them.
It appears they are the coyotes. They tell us to get out of there with our cameras. Their threat of ramifications is implicit, but their threatening tone is explicit.
We leave and go to another part of the river. It's there we see a man paddling furiously in the Rio Grande. He sees us and turns back. His name is Enrique.
He claims he was just out for a swim. But he is wearing all his clothes and says he has swum to Texas many times before, earning some jail time on a previous visit. We're not sure why he swam back, but we don't think that he too was so pleased to be on camera.
It's another sad and pitiful day on the border.
-- By Gary Tuchman, CNN Correspondent
Snapshot of New York City's immigration rally
The scene at Union Square so far...
Some ralliers are scattered throughout Union Square, holding signs that say "equal rights for all workers" and "stop raids and deportations." A larger crowd is expected later this afternoon, though organizers expect a smaller turnout than last year.
Aaron Paez, a plumber from Mexico, said he's frustrated only three of his five colleagues took the day off to show up for today's rally. He said they're missing out on the opportunity to make a difference. Paez, 28, has been living illegally in the United States for 10 years and seeks legalization.
Meanwhile, there are several folks who have been selling flags throughout the park -- American, Mexican and various Central American countries -- $3 for the small ones; $10 for the larger ones.
-- By Ines Ferre, CNN en Espanol Correspondent
Chicago man fears deportation
One of the people I interviewed before today's immigration rally in Chicago is a man named Javier (he asked me not to use his last name). Javier says he could be deported back to Mexico at any time. It is stories like his that have protesters here demanding immigration reform.
"I cry every day," he told me.
Ten years ago, Javier says, his parents got into a bad car accident in Mexico. At the time, Javier was living in the United States and had applied for a green card. The rules of his application required him to stay in the United States. But Javier took the risk, went to Mexico to see his folks, and on the way back, as he tried to sneak across the border, he got caught.
Javier is married with three teenage kids. He says everyone in his family is a U.S. citizen, except him. He says he worries that sometime soon he will be forced to leave the United States, his home for the past 18 years.
"I'm not a criminal. I'm a father," he said, adding that he made one big mistake. "Only one. I don't know why no one gave me one chance, one opportunity for me, for my family."
Today, Javier says he'll march in Chicago with his wife and three kids. His hope is that he will somehow be able to find a path to citizenship and avoid having to move his family to Mexico.
-- By Keith Oppenheim, CNN Correspondent
Are we ready to talk about immigration?
I had a fascinating conversation with Tom Tancredo in the CNN green room in Washington Monday. Tancredo is a Republican congressman from Colorado and immigration is his issue. He wants to close the borders and deport people that are in the country illegally.
Tancredo is also a long shot candidate for president. He knows the odds of him being elected president are slim-to-none, but his campaign is all about keeping immigration on the political radar.
"Most people are uncomfortable talking about the immigration issue," he said. "They want it to go away. I am here to force them to talk about it." He was speaking about the other presidential candidates, but it got me thinking: Are we comfortable talking about immigration?
Race, class, tradition, money. All in play.
Can we be concerned about our changing neighborhoods and schools without feeling like racists? Is this nation of immigrants ready to talk honestly about immigration?
-- By Jim Spellman, CNN Producer
Monday, April 30, 2007
Illegal immigrant takes refuge in Chicago church
Elvira Arellano, an illegal immigrant from Mexico, has taken refuge at a Methodist church in Chicago since last August. For some of the people marching in tomorrow's immigration rallies, she has become a symbol of the complications involved in the debate over illegal immigration.
The legal issue is clear. Arellano is here illegally after first coming to the United States in 1997, and there are orders for her deportation. On the other than hand, she has a child who is an American citizen because he was born on American soil. What happens to him? Should his need for a mom affect what happens to Arellano?
With Arellano's story on the minds of many here in Chicago, I've been asking would-be marchers why they plan to demonstrate so publicly. The people we've interviewed so far say the answer is rooted in poverty.
They say they will march because they want to show Americans that there are hardworking, good people living in the shadows of their society. They say they will march because there is no alternative; the poverty is so bad where they are from that they are willing to take risk deportation in order to change immigration policy.
Many tell us that current policy is a contradiction. Arellano's son is 8 years old. If she leaves, he could stay behind in the United States and become a taxpayer-supported ward of the state. Yet his mother, even though she's here illegally, paid taxes, owns a home, and has paid for her son's upbringing. So deporting Arellano could actually wind up costing American taxpayers more money than letting her stay.
If you multiply that cost by the estimated 3-4 million parents and children in similar circumstances -- legal kids, illegal parents -- then you're talking about a large burden on taxpayers. How to deal with this situation is not necessarily straightforward and clear.
The people who are marching say they want an immigration policy that doesn't contain these kinds of contradictions. Arellano's argument is simpler: I'm a mother and I need to be with my son. Her son, meantime, has been traveling the country and lobbying for her to be allowed to stay.
-- By Soledad O'Brien, CNN Special Correspondent