Good evening folks. The live blog opens for business at 10pm ET and closes at 11pm ET. Erica and Anderson are on set getting ready for the broadcast. Our top story is Prince Harry's cover being blown in Afghanistan. Then it's on to presidential politics. Looking forward to hearing from you.
It is COLD today in NY. I am a New Englander by birth, so I know cold, but I still shiver when I think about the wind whipping off the Charles River in Boston as I tried to make my way to class in college. I think that same wind just found me in Manhattan. After an afternoon spent drinking tea at my desk while scouring news sites, I’m finally thawed out enough to get this blog written. (Yes, that is my excuse for getting this to you a bit late today.)
There is nothing like international politics to put the U.S. political scene in perspective. Here on 360°, we’ve brought you more than one international dust-up from the hallowed halls of parliament in Asia or Europe. But this gem from Russia offers a new take. After a recent debate, one presidential candidate attacked his rival’s campaign manager. Truth be told, neither one of these guys has much of a chance – it’s pretty much a done deal that outgoing Pres Vladimir Putin’s pick will win Sunday’s election. Some say this is the most excitement Russia’s presidential race has seen so far.
A different tiff has put a Nazi treasure hunt on hold. Not sure if you’ve been following this one, but a few of us on the 360° team were talking about it the other day. (FULL STORY)
Here’s the condensed version: a treasure hunter said geological surveys recently revealed an underground chamber where he believes the Nazis may have stashed valuables, including clues to the whereabouts of the Amber Room, which remain a mystery. If you’re not familiar with the Amber Room, it was a room made of amber and gold in a St. Petersburg palace, looted by the Nazis at the beginning of WWII.
Anywho, long story short, this treasure hunter and the mayor of the German town where he was digging got in a “disagreement” with the mayor when said burgermeister wanted to bring in some scientists to make the expedition more credible. Can’t imagine why that would upset the treasure hunter…
Also on my radar, Bob Knight heading to ESPN as an analyst. I’m not a huge sports fan, but I have always enjoyed college basketball. I grew up in UConn Husky territory; my husband is a Hoosier, so you can bet any story about the former IU basketball coach is going to make me stop. I’m curious to see just how blunt he’ll be, this man known as much for his record (winningest coach in NCAA D-1 men’s basketball) as for his on-court antics. He’s not one to hold back. We won’t need to wait very long to find out – he’ll begin the new gig two weeks from now, just before the start of March Madness (read: your chance to win the office bracket pool). Stay tuned for that – but only when you’re not watching 360°.
The Arab world gets its news from satellite television – Al Jazeera, Al Arabiya and others. Networks that have brought plain speaking to a region where government censorship is the norm, and has been for decades. Now those governments – members of the Arab League – plan to rein in these free-wheeling broadcasters.
A new charter adopted by Arab information ministers bans anything that "undermines social peace, national unity and public order."
The sweeping charter threatens to revoke an Arabic broadcaster's license if it defames politicians, national figures or religious leaders. Or if it criticizes religion. Egypt's Information Minister says the ban is needed because "some satellite channels have strayed from the correct path."
Journalists are up in arms, saying repressive regimes want to restrict their editorial freedom. Saad Jabbar, an International Law Expert, told Al-Jazeera: "This is like going backward to the dark ages. They want to muzzle all opinions that disagree with them."
Critics say the restrictions could even extend to comedy, including hit shows that poke fun at politicians. And if the charter is applied with force, cartoons lampooning leaders may become a thing of the past. It could make life even more difficult for bloggers like Wael Abbas in Egypt. He's already spent time in jail after exposing torture by Egyptian police. Another Egyptian blogger Abdel Karim Suleiman is in prison after being convicted of defaming President Mubarak and inciting hatred of Islam.
The irony is that Saudi Arabia is a sponsor of the charter, but Saudi financiers run many of the Arab world's independent media outlets, including al Arabiya. The only countries not to sign the charter were Lebanon and Qatar, home to al Jazeera.
The charter has caused such a stir that it's even made it to the cartoon pages – this one showing an Arab journalist carefully avoiding mouse traps.
In the past, Arab League declarations and charters have withered and died – the organization has no executive power. But journalists across the region are worried – some describing it as a dark day for press freedom in the Arab world.
-Octavia Nasr, Senior Editor, Arab Affairs
Hi, bloggers! We're tracking Prince Harry on the frontlines and the cash flow in the battle for the White House. Plus, officials in a Louisiana parish go on the defensive after listing a living man as dead on a Katrina memorial. Oops! Here's your afternoon buzz. Let us know what you think of the headlines. We'd love to hear from you.
Prince Harry fighting in Afghanistan
The UK's Prince Harry has been serving on the frontline in Afghanistan and seen combat, the UK Ministry of Defense confirmed Thursday. He was deployed 10 weeks ago and his fellow soldiers were sworn to secrecy.
At least 6 hurt in Strip Mall Explosion
Authorities in the Chicago suburb of Waukegan are searching the rubble of a strip mall for anyone who may be trapped.
Bush: We're in a slowdown
President Bush acknowledged Thursday that the economy has slowed down but said the United States is not headed toward a recession.
Clinton raises $35 million February
Rebounding from weak fundraising in January, Sen. Hillary Clinton is expected to raise $35 million in February - a figure rival Sen. Barack Obama's campaign said it would surpass, a campaign official said Thursday.
Nader announces running mate
Independent presidential candidate Ralph Nader selected Matt Gonzalez, a former member of the San Francisco Board of Supervisors, to be his running mate.
Keeping them Honest
Survivor listed on Katrina memorial
Uriel Little's name is among those on the granite monument in St. Bernard Parish listing people killed by Hurricane Katrina. The only problem is that Little is still alive.
Crime & Punishment
Report: 1 in every 100 adults behind bars
For the first time in history, more than one in every 100 American adults is in jail or prison, according to a new report.
Neighbors sell dead man's stuff
When 70 year old Sydney Kolber passed away in April, police say his neighbors went to work clearing out his house, selling his belongings at a yard sale, and then writing more than $34,000 worth of fraudulent checks out of a Bank of America account.
What YOU will be TALKING about TONIGHT
Exchange student says Host family starved him
Maine teenager returns home weighing 97 pounds
Baby falls down train toilet onto tracks
A newborn baby girl fell through the toilet in a moving train and onto the tracks moments after her mother prematurely gave birth, surviving nearly two hours before being found, relatives said Thursday.
It's time for 'Beat 360°' Everyday we post a picture – and you provide the caption. Our staff will get in on the action too.
Tune in every night at 10p ET to see if you are our favorite! Can you Beat 360°?
Here is today’s “Beat 360°” pic of the day. A picture of New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg with former President Bill Clinton....
Have fun with it.
Make sure to include your name, city, state (or country) so we can post your comment.
I first saw the news on a website popular amongst us media types this morning: “Web Exclusive: Prince Harry is fighting the front lines in Afghanistan.”
I was shocked and my first thought was about the safety of the troops serving with him. Gen. Sir Richard Dannatt, the head of the British Army, released a statement today saying:
"It was my judgement that with an understanding with the media not to broadcast his whereabouts, the risk in (deploying him to Afghanistan) was manageable. Now that the story is in the public domain, the Chief of Defence Staff and I will take advice from the operational commanders about whether his deployment can continue."
He also said,"I am very disappointed that foreign Web sites have decided to run this
story without consulting us."
What do you think? Was the website right in reporting this today? Was the safety of Prince Harry and his fellow soldiers compromised?
On 360° tonight, Nic Robertson will have the latest on this story, including an interview with Prince Harry and exclusive access to him on the front lines.
- Kay Jones/360° Guest Producer
After the plethora of publicity over Starbucks closing every store in the country for three hours the other night, I want to add my own little postscript:
Not every Starbucks was closed!
That's right; you heard it here first.
Supposedly, every store in the ubiquitous chain shut down for a special training session in how to make sure customers enjoy the full “Starbucks experience,” including “the art of espresso.” But no such shutdown happened at the Starbucks in Boston Logan Airport's Terminal A.
I know that because I was there. It was 7:30pm Monday night, two hours into the alleged 100 percent Starbucks shutdown.
I had wandered over to the Starbucks after getting off a plane and saw a woman behind the counter appearing to be working. I was beyond shocked.
I asked her if she was indeed open for business, and she most courteously replied, "Of course." I then asked her why she wasn't closed like all the other Starbucks in the United States of America, and she looked at me like I'd been drinking too much sangria at Chili's.
She then asked me if I wanted any coffee. I'm not a coffee drinker, (I do like Starbucks desserts) but I almost got one anyway just for the novelty of being perhaps the only Starbucks customer in the nation during that three hour period.
But alas, it was late at night, and I was in a rush, still having to rent a car and drive to Providence, Rhode Island for a story I was covering. So I said no thanks, and the woman behind the counter wished me a good night, smiling at the guy she thought was trying to pull her leg.
Well, after I related this story to my friends at 360, one of our fine co-workers David Reisner, presented me with some research showing there were exceptions.
You see, Starbucks owns most of its stores, but others are franchises. Many of those Starbucks indeed stayed open, although they are supposed to have their training at a later date.
So next time I stop into Logan Airport, I’ll find that kind Starbucks worker behind the counter, and find out if she’s heard that she, too, will be ultimately be part of a training session in the “Starbucks experience,” which turned into a mega public relations event.
- Gary Tuchman/360° Correspondent
It was going to be, "the most spectacular manhunt in the history of 'Aktenzeichen XY,'" Germany’s top-rated and longest-running crime show.
In an unprecedented move, America’s FBI was asking the German public for help in a global manhunt for Boston mob boss James J. "Whitey" Bulger - one of America's most wanted crooks - allegedly on the run in Europe.
On the show, FBI agents showed old pictures of Bulger and a photo of an elderly couple, supposedly resembling the gangster and his girlfriend Gail Marcinkiewicz. The new photo was taken by an American tourist in Italy last year and came with a warning: “the couple may be armed and is extremely dangerous.”
Calls started pouring in to the show and to Germany's federal investigators. One was from a young man who had just seen his parents presented as murder suspects on the German media.
It turns out the couple shown in "Aktenzeichen XY" were German pensioners enjoying a summer holiday in Italy at the time. According to their son, they were shocked to find themselves the focus of an international manhunt with a hefty price on their heads.
ZDF, the broadcaster that aired the show, says they didn't have the chance to verify the photos for themselves before they went to air. Rather, that was the job of the FBI and German investigators. The German investigators said it was up to the FBI, not them, to check whether the photo really was that of Bulger himself.
The FBI, despite the mix-up, waited a good five days before they took the offending photo off their website.
We weren’t able to reach the elderly couple in question for comment, though a representative from the show said she had managed to clear the air with their son. It’s not clear whether they're considering legal action.
On a positive note, the show had some of the best ratings ever. Who knows - maybe "Whitey" himself tuned in. If the FBI ever does catch up with him, it'll probably be because he’s laughing so loud at one of TV history's biggest ever blunders.
- Frederik Pleitgen/CNN Correspondent
CNN's Diana Magnay contributed to this blog
I'm back in Seoul, South Korea after four days in communist North Korea covering the New York Philharmonic's historic concert in Pyongyang. What a life-changing experience. Being in that concert hall while the orchestra played the “Star-Spangled Banner” before a mostly North Korean crowd was surreal. There were tears in the audience and in the orchestra during the finale, "Arirang," the most famous Korean folk song on both sides of the DMZ. "Arirang" is about the longing for reunion.
North Korea is truly like no other place on earth. In the capital of Pyongyang, the roads are paved, but the streets are empty. Owning a car is a luxury. There are department stores, but no shoppers.
It’s so sad to see how people live there, without adequate food or heat. But the North Koreans I met were exceedingly warm. The elevator attendant at the hotel told me more than once he hopes I can come back to Pyongyang. My government guide - remember, journalists are not allowed to go anywhere without a so-called "minder" - told me that when I talked about how my own family struggled during the Korean War, he was impressed. He said officially he couldn't comment, but as a human being, he was moved. That touched me.
Finally, though I was there for professional reasons, I was also on a personal mission. Two of my dad's uncles disappeared during the Korean War. Nobody in my family knows whether they were kidnapped or defected because they were never seen again. My family believes - if they are still alive - they are in North Korea. I had sent a letter to the North Korean government in hopes that they could track my relatives down and that I could meet them while I was there. It was not to be, at least not this time. The government told me there was simply not enough time to find them. I still have hope, and I'm certain I'll be back someday in Pyongyang.
- Alina Cho, CNN Correspondent
Good Morning Folks!!! There are lots of headlines to plow through this morning. SO grab your coffee and lets just get to it...
8 shot at L.A. bus stop...
Five children and three adults were shot Wednesday afternoon by a gunman who opened fire at a busy South Los Angeles bus stop minutes after classes were dismissed at a nearby school.
House approves new taxes on big oil companies...
The House approved $18 billion in new taxes on the largest oil companies Wednesday as Democrats cited record oil prices and rising gasoline costs in a time of economic troubles.
Justices take on oil spill battle...
The Exxon Valdez oil spill, which caused a 3,000-square-mile oil slick and still affects Alaska’s fisheries after nearly 19 years, was a “tragedy,” Exxon’s lawyer told the Supreme Court on Wednesday.
Virtual fence constructions is delayed...
The Bush administration has scaled back plans to quickly build a "virtual fence" along the U.S.-Mexico border, delaying completion of the first phase of the project by at least three years and shifting away from a network of tower-mounted sensors and surveillance gear, federal officials said yesterday.
Sunni forces losing patience...
U.S.-backed Sunni volunteer forces, which have played a vital role in reducing violence in Iraq, are increasingly frustrated with the American military and the Iraqi government over what they see as a lack of recognition of their growing political clout and insufficient U.S. support.
Taliban killed in clashes...
A militant ambush of an opium poppy eradication force sparked clashes that killed 25 Taliban fighters and a policeman, a provincial authority said Thursday. Four other militants died when a bomb went off.
Lawmakers to push for apology for slavery...
Five states did something over the past 12 months that no state had done before: expressed regret or apologized for slavery
Bloomberg ops out...
New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, who has publicly flirted with the idea of a run for the White House as an independent, says he will not run for president
Questions arise about McCain's birthplace...
The question has nagged at the parents of Americans born outside the continental United States for generations: Dare their children aspire to grow up and become president? In the case of Senator John McCain of Arizona, the issue is becoming more than a matter of parental daydreaming.
The next U.S. president will face a world fraught with far more foreign policy challenges than President Bush did when he took office.
Obama v. McCain...
Sens. John McCain and Barack Obama engaged in a pointed exchange over al Qaeda in Iraq on Wednesday.
Race is NOW a factor...
When John McCain apologized to Barack Obama this week for the comments of his warm-up act at a rally, it was not the first time–and probably won't be the last–that the most competitive black presidential candidate in U.S. history has heard the words, "I'm sorry."
Longtime Clinton aide returns to the fray...
Harold Ickes may be Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton's last hope for winning the Democratic presidential nomination.
Crime & Punishment
Ex-cop gets life...
Jurors spared the life of a former Canton, Ohio, police officer who killed his pregnant girlfriend and tearfully asked them for mercy. A judge then sentenced him Wednesday to 57 years to life in prison.
Keeping Them Honest
Mine poses danger...
In a snowswept trailer park, Emily Medina wakes each morning wondering whether she will be washed away by toxic water that local officials fear could burst from a decaying mine tunnel near her home.
Thousands warned of clinic's dirty syringes...
Thousands of patients may have been exposed to the hepatitis C virus because of an inappropriate medical practice at an outpatient clinic here over the past four years, state health officials said Wednesday
What YOU will be talking about TODAY
LAPD considers Spears probe...
Los Angeles police say they are looking into allegations that someone drugged Britney Spears but have not decided whether to open a formal investigation.
Children whose parents spank them or otherwise inflict physical punishment may be more likely to have sexual problems later, according to research to be presented today to the American Psychological Association.