Friday, October 19, 2007
Planet in Peril: A photographer's take
Shooting video above the Arctic Circle is not for the faint of heart.
It all started with an e-mail from Charlie Moore of "360": Would Neil Hallsworth and I like to spend six months filming around the world ... without being shot at? Hell yes!

We had both spent the better half of the previous year covering regions of the world where the bullet was favored over the ballot. Of course, there was one small catch with this new venture. It was to be CNN's first big foray into the world of high-definition video, which meant I would have to figure out how to use this new equipment on the fly.

Not to worry, with cameras and support gear I got onto a plane (on my birthday), armed with the camera manual as my reading matter, and headed for Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, to meet up with "Lord" Hallsworth, and then into the Amazon. It was wet, very wet.

Hallsworth and I both went on the journey so we would have two cameras gathering pictures from two photographers with polar opposite ideas. We would work in the same space filming -- one wide lens and one tight -- to provide some varied and interesting views and images.

The Amazon left a lasting impression on me. So much so, in fact, that I still have a little worm crawling around in my leg.

From Brazil it was on to Southeast Asia -- Thailand, Cambodia and Burma. Here we used a "hidden cam" -- a camera the size of a shirt button -- to catch vendors selling endangered species.

The small cameras took a little getting used to. The first time out, in a small border town in Burma, with Charlie (one of the producers) looking to acquire illegal tiger skins, we wound up with some very fine video of the ceiling. Ever intrepid, we returned and got what we needed.

Yes, that's me hugging a baby polar bear.
As we were leaving Burma, I was told the last photographer who had gone undercover in that country was still in jail. Hmmm, perhaps I should have been told this beforehand. Well, that is where the warm tropical weather ended for a while.

We were off to film some polar bears in Alaska. I have selectively forgotten the name of the town, as it is a Dry Town. We found, darted and tagged the bears and I even got to hug a baby polar bear, the first time in my life I put my camera down and picked up my subject for a photo-op.

We then visited Greenland, within the Artic Circle. The landscape is so stark, when you look around you have the feeling of standing on top of a great white ball. Now I have pottied in many places and varied conditions, but never had I been to a "shiggloo", which is a toilet seat on top of an ice hole with a few blocks of ice to stop the whistling wind.

Here we also did the first live transmission from the Artic via broadband (or any means). The picture was so good that Anderson was able to open that night's "360". Yes it was cold, very, very cold.

Finally, warm weather again, as we went into Africa and a vanishing lake in Chad. It was extremely hot and dusty, with long rides through never-ending soft white sand. The sun never ever set; it simply faded away at the end of each day.

Chad was the first place I had ever had to help jump start a plane. A small four-seater was supposed to take us over Lake Chad to film. It arrived, so in we went.

"Merda," the pilot said. With my limited French, I knew that was not good. "We jump start," the pilot said. We got the battery from our vehicle and did what was required.

The next stop in our journey was Madagascar. Here we participated in a RAP (Rapid Assessment Program -- scientists gather a lot of information very quickly) or as Neil and I would come to say -- Rapidly Acquiring Pictures.

Then we went back to the USofA and Yellowstone and the wolves. Finally off to China to see where all the wildlife we had been filming thus far was being consumed.

The amusing moment here was when a plate of penis from many kinds of animals was placed on the restaurant table for consumption. And here I leave you to imagine the comments that filled the air. I do not need another trip to human resources.

From there, Hallsworth went to the South Pacific and I went to India. Interesting filming. Let's put it this way -- getting a fairly long shot of a beach or river scene in Mumbai without someone going to the toilet is challenging.

Enough said about all this. I, like you, await the final documentary. From what I am hearing, it should be epic. All I ask for now is another war to go cover.

-- By Philip Littleton, CNN Photographer
Posted By CNN: 5:12 PM ET
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Mom fears 'stinky neighborhood' caused son's cancer
HOUSTON, Texas -- Six-year-old Valentin Marroquin went from being apparently healthy one moment to battling leukemia the next. As his mother Rosario Marroquin started searching for answers, she kept coming back to their Houston, Texas, neighborhood, and the stench that often envelopes it.

"We're the stinky neighborhood," she said. "But we've gotten so used to it that we don't know that's just how we smell."

The Marroquin family lives in the Manchester area of Houston, next to the Houston ship channel, the largest petrochemical complex in the United States. Day after day, oil refineries and petrochemical companies pump hazardous pollutants, including known cancer-causing chemicals like benzene and 1-3 butadiene, into the air.

Click here to continue reading

-- From MaryAnne Fox, CNN Producer
Posted By CNN: 12:36 PM ET
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Thursday, October 18, 2007
Do you trust Pakistan as an ally in the war on terror?
Our question tonight:

Do you trust Pakistan as an ally in the war on terror?

Click on the comments section below to share your thoughts online. We'll also be reading some of your comments during the show. And a reminder, you can always send us a v-mail.See you tonight at 10p.m. ET.
Posted By CNN: 10:05 PM ET
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Wednesday, October 17, 2007
Do you think President Bush is a lame duck?
A lame duck is a term used to describe an elected official who seems to have less political power because they are nearing the end of their last term in office. Does it apply to President Bush? He can't run again. He has just 15 months left in the Oval Office and with a democratic-led Congress, we ask:

Do you think President Bush is a lame duck?

Click on the comments section below to share your thoughts online. We'll also be reading some of your comments during the show. And a reminder, you can always send us a v-mail.See you tonight at 10p.m. ET.
Posted By CNN: 9:41 PM ET
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On the ropes or roping them in?
Watching President Bush's news conference this morning, you would never think he was a man on the ropes. His approval ratings are appallingly low, the public does not trust him to handle the war, and the Democrats are all but putting up party decorations to celebrate recapturing the White House.

Yet, Mr. Bush is on the attack and clearly sensing weakness in the Democratic front. How can this be?

Maybe because the Democrats are becoming their own worst enemies, and fast:

- Their top presidential candidates will make no commitment to when or how they will end the war in Iraq, infuriating the left-wing of their party and puzzling the public, which wants such a plan from the Democrats.

- The Democratic governor of New York, a massively important state in any election, wants to give drivers licenses to illegal immigrants, despite public outcry against it.

- National Democrats are at war with their state counterparts over the primary voting schedule.

- And somehow, at a time when economic worries are rising fast, Democratic forces in Congress are openly sparring with each other over legislation regarding what happened to Armenians almost a hundred years ago, legislation which could cost American troops in Iraq important logistical support from the country of Turkey.

There are dedicated, well-meaning Democrats involved in all these measures who firmly believe in what they are doing. But overconfidence has been the downfall of many potential winners.

The Raw Politics Read: George Bush and the Republicans are on the ropes, but if the Democrats continue wandering down all these political side streets and ignoring the issues that concern the vast moderate middle of voters, they may find there is plenty of room on the ropes for both parties.

What do you think: Are the Democrats squandering the goodwill of voters at a critical time?

-- By Tom Foreman, CNN Correspondent
Posted By CNN: 6:54 PM ET
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When pork flies
In most of America, "when pigs fly" is still a good way to describe an event that will never happen. In Congress, as it turns out, pigs -- or should I say pork -- is flying all the time. And in tonight's Keeping Them Honest segment, we're uncovering three of the most blatant examples of pork in flight that I have ever seen.

The three airports that serve the metropolitan New York area -- JFK, LaGuardia and Newark -- are among the most congested in the country, with clogged runways and delayed flights and abysmal on-time records for the first half of this year.

I personally spend a lot of time sitting on the runway at LaGuardia. It's always the same. Board the flight, creep out to the runway and listen to the pilot explain that we are number 24 for takeoff and we'll do the best we can to make up some of this time in the air.

It turns out while I was sitting on that runway, Democratic Senators Ted Kennedy and John Kerry of Massachusetts and their Republican colleague, Ted Stevens of Alaska, were focusing on their own congested skies and they've come up with some personal solutions.

For Kennedy and Kerry, the answer to the crowded skies is to replace the control towers at airports that make it easy for them to get to their vacation homes. The Massachusetts duo has inserted $8 million dollars in earmarks into the pending transportation bill to replace the control tower at Barnstable Airport near Hyannis (and the Kennedy Cape Cod Compound) and the control tower at Nantucket Airport (near the island home where Kerry likes to windsurf).

Senator Stevens, currently under investigation for steering federal money and contracts to political and business friends, has a $3.5 million earmark in that same bill to build an airport on an island in the Aleutians where one of his political donors runs a big commercial fishing venture.

I'm sure the senators have very good reasons why we should pay for airports that seem to benefit them and their friends while the rest of us sit on the tarmac at LaGuardia. But after weeks of asking and being turned down for interviews, I think I'll get an answer when pigs actually do fly.

-- By Drew Griffin, CNN Correspondent
Posted By CNN: 4:00 PM ET
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U.S. troops use new film to scout enemy
A new documentary that focuses on the motivations of Iraqi insurgents opens later this week in the United States, but reviews are already coming in from a surprising source: U.S. troops serving in Iraq.

At a recent screening in Baghdad's Al Faw Palace, American soldiers listened to their enemies talking about why they want them dead.

"It tells us a lot about the culture and how they pretty much feel about us. Well, not the entire Iraqi culture, just the insurgents, and how pretty much their faith is pretty strong," Staff Sgt. Jason Privitera said.

Click here to read rest of story

-- By Catherine Mitchell, CNN Producer
Posted By CNN: 1:02 PM ET
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Tuesday, October 16, 2007
Sen. Craig speaks out
Idaho Sen. Larry Craig is speaking out for the first time about charges he solicited gay sex in a Minneapolis Airport men's room. Craig said he was entrapped in a sex sting. He talked to CNN affiliate KTVB - you can see some of the interview on tonight's 360. We want to hear from you. Do you think Senator Craig is getting a fair deal? Post your comments on the blog, and we'll read some at the end of the show.



Posted By CNN: 9:12 PM ET
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Hillary's many fans
Who wants Hillary Clinton to be the Democratic nominee for president?

New poll numbers suggest many in her own party hope she gets the nod. In the latest USA Today/Gallup survey, the New York senator has the support of 50 percent of Democrats and Democrat-leaning independents. That's more than twice as much as her closest rival, Barack Obama.

But some Republicans also hope she gets the nomination. How come? She and her husband are both polarizing figures. Some analysts believe the pair could give Republicans more than enough ammunition for attack during the campaign, paving the way for the GOP to have the edge on Election Day.

While many of you commented on yesterday's blog that the Republicans don't stand a chance in '08, do you think they could claim the White House if Hillary Clinton is indeed the opponent?

Let us know.

-- By Gabe Falcon, "360" Writer
Posted By CNN: 3:14 PM ET
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Monday, October 15, 2007
Will the GOP be DOA in '08?
The Republican candidates have been on attack of late, and it's not the Democrats who are taking the hits.

Giuliani, Romney and McCain are lashing out at each other about who, among them, best serves the party. The bickering is getting nasty. Here's what McCain said a few days ago:

"One of the other Republican candidates made an extraordinary statement yesterday. Former Governor Romney yesterday proclaimed himself the only real Republican in this race. As we all know, when he ran for office in Massachusetts being a Republican wasn't much of a priority for him. In fact, when he ran against Ted Kennedy, he said he didn't want to return to the days of Reagan-Bush. I always thought Ronald Reagan was a real Republican."

You can bet the Democrats are loving this little feud. And they probably hope it continues.

But, aside from the internal unrest, given the turmoil and controversy over the eight years of the Bush administration, do you believe a Republican candidate will be elected president in 2008?

-- By Gabe Falcon, "360" Writer
Posted By CNN: 6:56 PM ET
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Catholics ousting nuns...
The Sisters of Bethany convent in Santa Barbara, California, is home to three elderly nuns who have lived there for decades. The oldest, Sister Angela Escalera, has lived in the home for 43 years.

But they are now being evicted by their landlord -- the Los Angeles Archdiocese. The Archdiocese told us they want to sell the convent in order to raise money to pay the hundreds of millions of dollars they owe to victims of sexual abuse by Catholic clergy. It is not yet clear where the nuns will go.

This was an incredibly frustrating story to report for several reasons.

First, we were not able to speak to the nuns and we couldn't even photograph them because their Mother General, their boss so to speak, ordered them not to interact with anyone from the press. This order came after one of the nuns, Sister Angela, criticized the Los Angeles Archdiocese for its decision to evict the nuns, saying it was unfair that she had her fellow sisters had to suffer for crimes committed by priests.

A representative from the archdiocese told us everyone in the church had to pay a price for the indiscretions of these priests, even though it may not always seem fair. What was frustrating was not just seeing these elderly nuns now thinking about moving from a place they called home since the late 1950's, but also the hurt to the largely latino community which came to rely on them.

A group of women told us how the nuns took them to the hospital when they didn't have cars and brought food to their families when they were hungry. They now have the same question I have: Who will be there to do that now for the people who need it?

The church has to meet its financial obligations, but it's not just the nuns that lose, it's the community they dedicated themselves to serving.

-- By Jason Carroll, CNN Correspondent
Posted By CNN: 6:09 PM ET
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Raw Politics: Campaign cash avalanche
Big stars on the red carpet and an avalanche of campaign cash. CNN's Tom Foreman has it all in Raw Politics. (Click image at left to play video)
Posted By CNN: 12:26 PM ET
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