Friday, June 22, 2007
More on earmarks...
The house appropriations committee oversees 12 annual bills that ensure government agencies continue to operate and receive funding.

The 12 bills also provide the opportunity for legilsators to add on their pet projects, known as earmarks.

Under the new rules adopted by House Appropriations Committee Chairman Rep. David Obey, D-Wisconsin, these earmarks will be available for public view once the bill has cleared a "mark up" by congressional staff.

Below are the earmarks that have passed initial approval by the House appropriations process and are now considered as part of the two attached bills.

Also, to see how members of Congress have responded to our requests to see their earmark requests, check out this graphic:

-- By Drew Griffin, CNN Correspondent
Posted By CNN: 12:18 PM ET
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Raw Politics: Big oil and seersucker suits
NEW YORK (CNN) -- Candy Crowley reports about a big win for big oil and seersucker suits making a comeback on Capitol Hill. (Click image at left to play video)
Posted By CNN: 11:20 AM ET
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Thursday, June 21, 2007
Interns chase congressional pork
We've been reporting on all the debate over earmark requests. At issue is when and how members of Congress would tell the American people what they've requested.

Many of their projects are worthwhile, at least in the districts where they are needed: road projects, funding for a library, etc...

But then again, a lot of those earmarks are really just good old-fashioned congressional pork. We've told you about a few: bridges to nowhere, and renovations at a fancy Florida hotel, even a $500,000 facelift for a ski lift in Alaska.

Before Democrats came to power in the recent election, they vowed to fix the broken earmark process. They promised complete transparency. No secret spending, no backroom deals, and presumably no more bridges to nowhere.

Wisconsin Democrat David Obey, head of the House Appropriations Committee, even said on the house floor that he is "trying and so is our leadership to reduce earmarks by at least 50 percent."

Watchdog groups have told me the best way to reduce earmark requests (requests for your tax money) is to expose them early and often. The theory is that a member of Congress would think twice about what he or she is requesting, if the request itself would be made public.

Enter our intrepid interns. Their task: Call every member of congress and ask them to hand over their earmark requests.

After three days of actually calling each and every House office, 34 members of congress -- just 34 -- sent us their earmark requests.

But since then, a wave of pressure has apparently changed some minds. Our report caught the attention of political bloggers demanding Congress release its requests, The Chicago Tribune ran an editorial asking why members of the Illinois delegation were being so secretive, and today, Barack Obama raised the stakes in the presidential race by being the first in the race to release his requests.

Our results as of this writing:

  • 45 have turned over their requests.
  • 68 flat out refused.
  • 6 told us they did not request any earmarks.
  • But the majority, 316, never responded.

Want to see how your Representative responded? You can check them out in our web listing. And do me a favor. If your congressperson hasn't gotten back to us, you might want to send them a note asking why. After all, it's their plan for your money. Shouldn't you know what they want to do with it?

-- By Drew Griffin, CNN Correspondent

Posted By CNN: 4:39 PM ET
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Wednesday, June 20, 2007
Send us a song...
Like you, we're huge Celine Dion fans. That goes without saying.

We were bummed to hear Hillary Clinton had picked "You and I" as her theme song, because we had been talking about using it as our theme for 360's presidential race coverage.

So in true Celine Dion fashion, we've picked ourselves up by our bootstraps and are heading back to the drawing board, but we need your help.

So search your CD collection. Scan your iPod. Dust off those LP's if you still got them.

Use the comment option to send us your suggestions for our political coverage theme song. We'll choose the winner in a few weeks.

Some ground rules first:
1) No entries from Journey, Leo Sayer, or Sheena Easton will be considered. Ok, maybe Leo Sayer.
2) Please avoid submitting songs with explicit lyrics. Our bosses will get upset.
3) It has to have a good beat and you can dance to it. Or not.

We'll keep you posted on the ideas we like, and the ones that, well, we don't.

Thanks. And hey, keep on rockin'.

-- By Anderson Cooper
Posted By CNN: 8:08 PM ET
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20 million people can't go home
We're devoting tonight's program to a global crisis that demands attention and answers. Today is World Refugee Day, and this year there is new urgency because the number of refugees has surged by 14 percent since 2006. It's the first increase since 2000.

The U.N High Commissioner for Refugees says more than 20 million people can't go home.

14 million of them are displaced within their own countries. That's like having everyone here in New York suddenly homeless.

A lot of the increase is due to people fleeing the violence in Iraq.

Last year alone, more than one million people fled from Iraq. We're talking about numbers. But of course we are dealing with lives and families and children.

Joining us tonight will be Angelina Jolie. The Academy Award winning actress is a United Nations Goodwill Ambassador who spends much of her time trying to help refugees and raise awareness of their immense suffering.

Along with my in-depth interview with Jolie, we are going to bring you several special reports on the current refugee crisis. Our correspondents have been dispatched across the world with stories that humanize a tragedy that many feel is being ignored.

Also, we want to give you as many facts as possible. That's why we want you to check out these links:

The Global Medical Relief Fund

The List Project to Resettle Iraqi Allies

State Department's FAQ for Iraqi Refugees

Crisis Guide: Darfur

Here's another site where you can donate online.

U.N High Commissioner on Refugees

See you tonight.

--By Anderson Cooper
Posted By CNN: 4:43 PM ET
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Raw Politics: Running or not?
NEW YORK (CNN) -- Joe Johns reports on non-candidates campaigning, the Clintons playing "The Sopranos" and Senate fireworks. (Click image at left to play video)
Posted By CNN: 12:54 PM ET
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The Shot: Take my gator, please
NEW YORK (CNN) -- Anderson Cooper has the shot -- slithering pets and an 8-foot alligator who outgrew his basement. (Click image at left to play video)
Posted By CNN: 12:49 PM ET
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Tuesday, June 19, 2007
Bullies beware
I must confess I hate bullies. I didn't like them when I was in school and I surely don't like them now. I would guess everyone at some point in their life has encountered a bully. But Olivia Gardner has had to endure bullies like no one I have ever met. She's fourteen years old, a tough time for many adolescents.

It started three years ago when Olivia was a sixth-grader in Novato, California, about a half-hour north of San Francisco. Olivia has epilepsy and had a seizure in front of her classmates. Instead of comforting her, her classmates called her names and started picking on her. She and her mom say it got so bad that she had to switch schools.

But that didn't solve the problem. Despite her mother's calls to the schools and parents involved, word continued to spread that this girl "wasn't normal" and the bullying continued, and in fact, got worse. Kids in her class started an "I hate Olivia club" on MySpace.Com. Even after Olivia transferred to a third middle school, the abuse continued.

A local newspaper reporter doing a story about bullying heard about the teenager's ordeal and did a profile on Olivia. That's where this story takes a positive turn. Two sisters in her Northern California community saw the article and decided to write Olivia a sweet letter basically telling her to "keep her chin up." They encouraged their classmates to write her as well. That was in March.

That small letter writing campaign has become an international phenomenon. More local stories followed, and so did the letters. Dozens became hundreds. Hundreds became thousands. Olivia's story touched a nerve. Most of the letters came from others who had also been bullied. They spoke of the pain it caused them and told Olivia things will get better. They wanted her to know that she's not alone and that people care about her. (Watch girls read letters to Olivia)

According to Olivia and her mother, those letters literally saved her life. She had considered suicide, but the touching sentiments made her think twice.

Oliva's plight has brought attention to the problem of bullying. It has also a powerful reminder how a little compassion can make a huge difference and even spark a profound movement.

--By Dan Simon, CNN Correspondent
Posted By CNN: 2:05 PM ET
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Raw Politics: Bill Clinton on the campaign trail
NEW YORK (CNN) -- CNN's Candy Crowley reports on political apologies and Bill Clinton hitting the campaign trail. (Click image at left to play video)
Posted By CNN: 11:09 AM ET
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The Shot: Chilling crash video
NEW YORK (CNN) -- CNN's Anderson Cooper has the shot -- an Australian helicopter crashing into a ship and then falling into the ocean. (Click image at left to play video)
Posted By CNN: 11:05 AM ET
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Monday, June 18, 2007
Raw Politics: Romney's stance?
NEW YORK (CNN) -- Mitt Romney's critics say his anti-abortion stance is politically motivated. CNN's Candy Crowley reports. (Click image at left to play video)
Posted By CNN: 1:17 PM ET
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The Shot: Sea otters
NEW YORK (CNN) -- Caught on video in a chilly environment, but guaranteed to warm your heart, it's the shot of the day. (Click image at left to play video)
Posted By CNN: 1:14 PM ET
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