I’ve spent the last couple days in a picturesque Canadian town called Bountiful, a polygamous community of about 1000 people in British Columbia. The Fundament Church of Latter Day Saints established a presence here in the 1940’s. We traveled here to speak with Winston Blackmore, one of the top polygamy leaders in North America. We wanted to get his reaction to the raid at the FLDS community in Texas.
Blackmore rarely grants interviews. But he told us he thought the raid on the FLDS compound in Texas built 11 days ago was totally unwarranted. “I think if somebody else called for distress in any other community that size, the authorities wouldn't go in and mop up every last person that was there and put a hole in its temple,” he said.
Blackmore’s defense may seem surprising considering he’s no longer part of the FLDS church. He had a bitter feud with self-described prophet Warren Jeffs, who excommunicated him in 2002. Ever since, the community has been deeply divided. Half are loyal to Blackmore, the other half to Jeffs, even though he’s still in prison. Blackmore has great insight into the rituals and customs of the church, so his comments and opinions carry great weight. For example, he was totally thrown off by the notion that a bed was discovered inside the Texas church where ch were used to consummate marriages between older men and underage girls. “It's certainly not consistent with anything I've known with those guys,” he said.
It was also fascinating to see and meet Blackmore’s rather large family. It’s widely believed that he has more than two dozen wives and more than 100 children! My wife and I just had our first child, so I know how difficult it is to raise one! It’s mind – boggling to see that many kids running around a compound.
And then I got to take a little tour around his property as I rode around with him on horseback. It’s an assignment I won’t soon forget.
-Dan Simon, 360° Correspondent
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Breaking news tonight, for the first time in 4 years the gates are open and CNN is inside the polygamist Yearning for Zion ranch. Some of the 139 women who voluntarily left during the raid are now returning. And they’re coming back without their children. We’ll hear from one mother who hasn’t seen her children since authorities removed 416 children, saying they were in imminent danger of abuse. But is it necessary to separate mothers from their children? Legally, how long can they be separated?
Gary Tuchman is covering this story from Colorado City in Arizona, where thousands of FLDS followers held a rare meeting to learn what has happened to family members in Texas.
And, “bitter-gate” continues. As the Pennsylvania primary draws closer, Sen. Clinton vies for the working class and rural vote by talking about guns, drinking beer, and calling her opponent elitist.
And be sure to check out our new live web camera from the 360° studio. The shot features a behind the scene look at the set. We’ll turn the camera on at 945p ET and turn it off at 11p ET. LINK TO THE BLOG CAMERA
We’ll start posting comments to this blog at 10p ET and stop at 11p ET.
I just witnessed an extraordinary moment.
A busload of women from the FLDS polygamist compound just arrived at the ranch gate.
A few of them seemed very upset. They told me that state officials forced them to leave their children at the shelter and go home.
We suspected this was coming because just yesterday a judge had their cellphones confiscated, cutting off communication with men at the ranch.
Talking with the women as they left the bus, I was surprised by their eagerness to tell their story to me, since FLDS have usually refused to speak to outsiders.
I asked about the allegations of child abuse. The women said all marriages are between conscenting partners. Some said they had no knowledge of unaged girls getting married to adult men.
One woman says the report of sexual and physical abuse from a woman named Sarah is a hoax. They told me it was a fictitious story and the girl does not exist.
We're continuing to work the story.
-David Mattingly, 360° CorrespondentComments to the 360° blog are moderated. What does that mean?
From The Daily Yonder:
Senator Obama's depiction of rural Americans at a gathering of urbanites set off a new cluster of campaign brushfires. Did the message about rural economies burn up along the way?
In the Kentucky legislature there’s an insider’s rule for those who want to stay elected: Don’t make your Frankfort speech back home, or your back-home speech in Frankfort. That is to say, the speech you make when you are out campaigning in small coal field towns or in the tobacco patch about how we are not getting our fair share and about how the city people in Lexington and Louisville get all the advantages isn’t the speech you make at the state capitol. In those halls, a more sophisticated discourse about restraint and responsibility wins over your colleagues - and in the end gets you the bacon you need to bring home.
Barack Obama thought he was making his out-of-town speech to the right people, but the folks back home on the hustings got wind of it, too.
He was explaining his difficulty winning over small town voters in the East to a gathering of well-heeled donors in suburban Marin County, California, last Sunday, and talked himself into a deep political hole.
He began by pointing out what national politicians seldom mention: the continuing and systemic disappearance of rural economies. Reporter Mayhill Fowler quoted Senator Obama in Huffington Post: "You go into some of these small towns in Pennsylvania, and like a lot of small towns in the Midwest, the jobs have been gone now for 25 years and nothing's replaced them. And they fell through the Clinton Administration, and the Bush Administration, and each successive administration has said that somehow these communities are gonna regenerate and they have not.” FULL POST
Editor’s Note: Lanny J. Davis, a Washington attorney, is a supporter of and fundraiser for Senator Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign. From 1996 to 1998, he served as Special Counsel to President Bill Clinton. He is the author of “Scandal: How ‘Gotcha’ Politics is Destroying America.” In this commentary, he responds to an opinion piece by Carl Bernstein on the prospect of a Hillary Clinton presidency. To read Bernstein’s blog entry, click here.
I really wanted to write a detailed rebuttal to Carl Bernstein's extensive attack on Hillary Clinton on CNN.com. But try as I might, I could not.
(Carl and I have known each other and have been friends for many years, so I will call him "Carl").
How does one respond to a what was largely a series of personal adjectives, character attacks, and vitriol - with few, if any, facts cited to back up those adjectives and part of an completely one-sided presentation?
Emblematic is Carl's reference to "Whitewater" as one factual example of Hillary Clinton's negative record while she was in the White House. Even Ken Starr and his successor could make no finding of wrongdoing against Hillary Clinton (or President Clinton) on Whitewater after years of investigations costing tens of millions of dollars. Carl forgot to mention that.
Numerous other examples of wrongdoing he cites during the her years in the White House are also devoid of any factual basis - even though they were the subject of many accusations and headlines, innuendo and TV punditry. None of them involving Mrs. Clinton stood the test of due process and a verdict based on the facts.
Similarly, Carl's negative characterizations of Senator Clinton's presidential campaign, such as "repugnant," are entirely subjective without facts to back them up. I do find a lot of double standard in judging the Clinton vs. the Obama campaign tactics, as I will briefly describe below.
The best brief positive statement of what I believe are the facts about Hillary Clinton is this:
I know that for many Americans, the distance you have to travel to work to make sure your families have food on the table makes gas prices an enormous and very real concern. What amazes me is that we hear so much less about the other rising prices and their affect on people around the world. Grain prices are skyrocketing so fast, the president of the World Bank says they could translate to seven lost years in the fight against poverty. That’s a tough number to even wrapo your head around.
You may remember a few weeks ago I blogged about the lines and violence over government issued bread in Egypt. The price of ingredients had made bread too expensive for many Egyptians, and the government just couldn’t keep up with the increased demand for its subsidized bread. Now we’re told the price of rice is up 75 percent in some markets; wheat has skyrocketed 120 percent more than doubling the cost of a loaf of bread, according to the World Bank. The affects are likely to be felt for years.
In Boston, the MBTA – the agency that runs the T or subway system – launched a new ad campaign today to crack down on gropers.
So I’m back, and yes I actually did take a whole week off. I can't remember the last time I did that. As I’ve said before, I don't relax all that easily and since most of my vacation days are used up shooting stories for 60 Minutes, I rarely take a whole week off. I spent last week in Bogota and Cartagena, Colombia.
Many of you will say to yourselves, "why in the world would anyone go there for vacation?" But the truth is, it's a great place to go. Cartagena is an old colonial city that, even during the worst years of violence in Colombia, was a safe spot. Bogota is a vibrant, chaotic place, that hums with life. It's got great food and music. There are huge problems with violence in Colombia, narco=traffickers and armed groups are still out of control, but the violence is way down, and at no time did I feel unsafe.
Everywhere I went in Colombia, complete strangers, who didn’t recognize me from television, asked me if I was enjoying my trip, and wanted to know if there was anything they could do to make it better. Anyway, it was nice to discover a new place, and I will definitely be going back.
Campbell Brown and Erica Hill did a great job while I was away, and I want to thank them for holding down the fort.
Tonight we focus on the race in Pennsylvania. The ongoing back and forth about bitterness, and how it is playing on the trail. We also go in depth on the ongoing drama in Texas over the polygamist compound, and the repercussions last weeks raid is having on polygamist communities across the country and in Canada.
I will be broadcasting from Miami tonight, and back in New York tomorrow. It's good to be home, and I will see you later tonight.
- Anderson Cooper
On Saturday, mothers at the shelter housing hundreds of children removed by authorities from the polygamous FLDS compound in Texas wrote the governor complaining about their accomodations. So far the governor's office has not commented, but the children now have another new home.
We just watched 19 buses drive from the old shelter in San Angelo, Texas to the city's coliseum. After 11 days in custody, the mothers and the children will probably, at the least, appreciate the change of scenery.
The state won't comment yet on exactly why the move was ordered.
- David Mattingly, 360° CorrespondentComments to the 360° blog are moderated. What does that mean?
Since we aired our Special Investigations Unit documentary "Campus Rage," we have received thousands of emails. Most of these responses are from teachers and parents who think bullying is getting out of control –- not just at school, but in cyberspace as well.
Of course, bullying is not a new problem.
I saw it when I was in school and I’m sure you did too. When my older sister was in the fourth grade, she was bullied so badly, my parents chose to take her out of school and send her to a different one in the middle of the school year. Her classmates relentlessly teased her for being “too smart.” In her case, it wasn’t just other kids who picked on her, it was her teacher as well. (She was able to overcome the bullying and by the time she was a senior in high school - she was the class valedictorian and homecoming queen!)
But the questions remain - Has bullying gotten worse? Or are the kids who are being bullied seeking out more revenge?
I want to hear from those of you who are being bullied. What is your day like at school? What do you want bullies to know about how they make you feel?
And for you bullies out there, why do you pick on other kids? I would love an explanation.
- Abbie Boudreau, Correspondent/CNN Special Investigations Unit
Program note: How do you stop a killer bent on revenge? Watch AC 360° tonight at 10 p.m. ET.
Comments to the 360° blog are moderated. What does that mean?
For the first time since this long, dramatic campaign began, people are asking me whether we are heading into a fall with yet another set of disappointing candidates. Sadly, these past few weeks seems to have diminished all of them.
"Are we really going to have to choose between candidates who can't lead us out of the mess we are in?" asked a major business figure this weekend - and this from a Republican stalwart! From conversations over the past few days, I am finding that there are some serious, influential Republicans who are grumbling about John McCain's domestic policies, especially on the economy. Some were appalled by his swerve last week on mortgage foreclosures. Not only did he turn on a dime away from a position he took only a couple of weeks ago, but his new ideas seem to inject the government directly into administering who is a deserving homeowner and who is not - a position that is anathema to most free marketeers. Will he provide sound stewardship of the economy? That is a question we may hear more often in days ahead.
But if McCain is prompting some questions, that is nothing compared to what is happening to diminish the candidates on the Democratic side. Clearly, Barack Obama stumbled in his comments and before the wrong audience when he rambled on about church goers and gun owners in small towns across the Midwest. It's not that what he said is actually wrong; historians have often said, for example, that people enduring hard times often find their religious faith to be even more important. But the way Obama said it - and perhaps even the fact that he said it at all - could easily give offense in rural America. He was smart to acknowledge it right away, and he was smart to get Senator Bob Casey of Pennsylvania out on television yesterday in his defense.
One wonders, even so, whether Hillary Clinton hasn't gone too far in the way she has unleashed a relentless barrage of attacks against him in the days since.