AC360° Senior Producer
Which is bigger news: Kutcher beats CNN on Twitter, or President Obama goes to Mexico?
Ok, that sounds like a reductive and absurd question. But it's not, or not completely anyway, and here's why:
When a movie star and a news network persuade hundreds of thousands of people in less than a week to "follow" them on a hot, newish social networking site, as part of a charity competition – at the same time that the number of eyeballs on cable, network and print news outlets struggle even to hold steady despite millions of dollars in marketing – it says something.
Like what? Like a couple things:
Like a high-powered flashlight, it shows us very clearly where our society is – and is headed. It shows that young, mobile, digital people are THE driving force in business, technology, media and – as the election of President Obama and the size of the anti-tax tea parties on Wednesday showed – politics. No surprise, I know, but what a fast and glaring confirmation. We'd better pay attention.
Another thing: Kutcher's entertaining and bravado-fueled victory over @CNNbrk last night in signing up more than million Twitter "followers" – complete with low-grade, Youtube-distributed camera phone video of Kutcher ranting and goading Larry King while driving (so much for anti-cellphone driving laws) – also gets 11,000 mosquito nets to April 25th's 2nd annual World Malaria Day. Kutcher promised to send 10k mosquito nets if he won, and 1k if he lost. CNN promised the same.
That means thousands of real people will actually be better protected against a disease that infects and weakens more than 500 million people a year, and kills more than a million people. Despite all our advances in medicine, malaria still threatens 40% of the world's population, according to the World Health Organization (WHO).
Those are stunning numbers, aren't they?
CEO, Malaria No More
This week, the world discovered a new and powerful weapon in the fight against malaria: Twitter. The social networking and micro-blogging tool mobilized a million people to battle the disease by helping Ashton Kutcher be the first to reach one million Twitter followers—saving lives, 140 characters at a time.
Earlier this month, Ashton decided to help raise awareness about malaria for World Malaria Day on April 25th. To do so, he leveraged his popularity on Twitter to spread the word and encourage his followers to donate $10 mosquito nets at http://www.MalariaNoMore.org. This simple act (or “tweet”) brought a message of malaria awareness to a new audience in an innovative way and galvanized hundreds of thousands of people to take action.
Innovation like this is exactly what’s needed to end malaria deaths. When Ashton challenged CNN in a race to a million Twitter followers, he added a twist: 10,000 mosquito nets for Malaria No More to help families protect their children in Africa if he reached the target first. CNN quickly accepted the challenge and pledged 10,000 nets if they could beat Ashton to the magic number.
The gauntlet was thrown and the race was on. But the fight to end malaria deaths had already scored a major victory.
As a technologist, I’m always looking for the next big thing in new media and breakthrough communications. Twitter is a phenomenal tool—but this is the first time I’ve seen it used in such a powerful way. With this race, Ashton not only showed the power of new media, he also launched what may be the biggest technology-driven, pro-social movement in history.
Every individual who participated in the Twitter race played a vital role in moving the world toward one in which no child dies of malaria. To make a difference, Twitter followers didn’t need to make a large donation or a grand gesture. The race to a million showed that the power of dedicated individuals united behind a common cause can spark a movement. Every Twitterer involved—regardless of whether they followed Ashton or CNN—took a simple action that will have outsized impact in the lives of families across Africa.
Malaria is a preventable and treatable disease that kills a child in Africa every 30 seconds—but we know how to stop it. Thanks to new tools, resources and political commitment across the globe, we are winning the fight against malaria. Public engagement shows our leaders that we are determined to beat malaria. Ashton and CNN’s Twitter race shows how we can catalyze technology and innovation to tackle a social problem and make real and lasting change.
We’re working to end malaria deaths by 2015—we can do it, but we need everyone’s help. Every tweet helps, every mosquito net helps, every person has the power to help save lives. Join the world in the race to end malaria deaths by getting creative and using the tools at your fingertips. Visit http://www.MalariaNoMore.org or use the power of Twitter, MySpace and YouTube to amplify your voice and inspire others.
Ashton set an ambitious goal of reaching a million Twitter followers this week. Inspired by his success, we’re setting an ambitious target of our own: help us get to one million mosquito nets in one week to celebrate World Malaria Day on April 25th.
As Ashton proved today, anything’s possible.
Follow @malarianomore on Twitter
Tonight on 360°, bullied to death. A child taunted at school takes his own life. Who's to blame?
And could the school have stopped the teasing? Carl Joseph Walker Hoover’s mom says kids taunted him saying "you act gay" and "you look gay." Today thousands of students across America participated in a Day of Silence to draw attention to anti-gay harassment in schools. We’ll have all the angles.
And, don't miss Erica Hill's webcast on bullying and tonight's other headlines during the commercials. Watch our WEBCAST
Want to know what else we're covering tonight? Read EVENING BUZZ
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Ready for today's Beat 360°? Everyday we post a picture – and you provide the caption and our staff will join in too. Tune in tonight at 10pm to see if you are our favorite! Here is the 'Beat 360°' pic:
California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger greets marchers after a rally at the last stop of a four-day march through the Central Valley by farmers, farm workers, and supporters to bring attention to the California water crisis on April 17, 2009 at San Luis Reservoir near Los Banos, California. (Credits Getty Images)
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The real headline is not who made it to 1,000,000 Twitter followers first. It’s that I had nothing better to do at 2:30am than watch a live webcast of Ashton Kutcher, Demi Moore and – wait for it, waiiiit forrrr ittttt – yes, Soleil Moon Frye, dancing to “Celebration.”
After checking to make sure I hadn’t taken the wrong pills on the wrong day, I realized that Mr. Kutcher had indeed, by about a half hour, beaten CNN Breaking News (@CNNbrk) to the one million mark. I informed my dog of the news, at which time she promptly yawned and scratched herself.
What can I say? I’m no Ashton Kutcher (@aplusk). I'm only me (@jackgraycnn). I have a mere 2,000 or so Twitter “followers.” No surprises there. I mean, it’s not like I was the star of “Dude, Where’s My Car?” Although I once was asked by a woman on the subway if I would star in a film she was shooting on her cell phone camera called “Dude, Where’s My Girdle?”
Anyway, Larry King (@kingsthings) was the point person for CNN on this contest. And, let’s face it, I’m no Larry King, either. I mean, sure, I put on suspenders and shout out “Wichita, you’re on with Priscilla Presley.” But, frankly, that’s between me and the other shoppers at Bed, Bath and Beyond.
CNN Senior National Editor
The Susan Boyle phenomenon is what educators call a “teachable moment.”
Just look at the reaction of the audience of the British television program as Boyle steps on stage. Boyle’s is a face that you wouldn’t notice twice walking down the street, a newspaper said, certainly not one to raise expectations.
But when she opened her mouth to sing jaws drop en masse.
Remember the adage about not judging a book by its cover?
Well, the audience in the auditorium (and no doubt also the viewers at home) pre-judged Boyle based on her appearance. And appeared stunned by the quality of what they heard.
"It wasn't singer Susan Boyle who was ugly on 'Britain's Got Talent' so much as our reaction to her" was the headline above a piece by Tanya Gold in the British newspaper the Guardian.
“Is Susan Boyle ugly? Or are we?” Gold wrote at the start of her commentary.
The New York Review of Books
When it comes to torture, it is not what we did but what we are doing. It is not what happened but what is happening and what will happen. In our politics, torture is not about whether or not our polity can "let the past be past"—whether or not we can "get beyond it and look forward." Torture, for Dick Cheney and for President Bush and a significant portion of the American people, is more than a repugnant series of "procedures" applied to a few hundred prisoners in American custody during the last half-dozen or so years—procedures that are described with chilling and patient particularity in this authoritative report by the International Committee of the Red Cross.
Gary Tuchman and I were in Tijuana last month covering a story on the drug war and the way it has impacted tourism when we heard about a gruesome discovery. 3 bodies were found just minutes from the US border next to a Tijuana bull ring. The bodies were missing heads, arms and legs and a note was attached with the word “snitches.” Turns out, one of those bodies was a 38-year-old American who had been living in Tijuana.
George Norman Harrison is described by his family as a loving man who loved Mexico and the Mexican people. He was born and raised in San Diego County, but lived in Tijuana, Mexico just south of the U.S. border for 13 years. He loved Harley Davidson motorcycles and owned 2 pizza shops in Tijuana calling them Harley’s Pizza. His employees describe him as a great boss, his friends describe him as a hard working, honest man, his family describes him as a loving, caring person, but law enforcement in Mexico say he was connected to the drug cartels, but could offer no evidence as to what those connections were.
On Feb 3rd, 3 men kidnapped him while he was working in one of his pizza shops. His family and friends would never see him again. His family says he was held for ransom, with the kidnappers asking for 1 million dollars. The family says when kidnappers realized they didn’t have the means to come up with the cash, the ransom was lowered to 100 thousand dollars. It took them time to raise the money and had to make more than one payment to the kidnappers. The family says kidnappers delivered 2 of Harrison’s severed fingers to his home to keep pressure on the family to come up with the money.
On the day a second payment was made, George Harrison’s lifeless, beheaded body was found.
We talked with family members who were negotiating with the kidnappers and struggled do deal with Harrison’s brutal murder.
Gary Tuchman has the story tonight on AC360.
Editor's note: This is a short excerpt from the full article. For more in depth analysis on this and other topics, check out Harper's Magazine.
I am ready for the story of all the dead men who last saw his face.
As I drank coffee and tried to frame questions in my mind, a crime reporter in Juárez was cut down beside his eight-year-old daughter as they sat in his car letting it warm up. This morning as I drove down here, a Toyota passed me with a bumper sticker that read, with a heart symbol, i love love. This morning I tried to remember how I got to this rendezvous.
I was in a distant city and a man told me of the killer and how he had hidden him. He said at first he feared him, but he was so useful. He would clean everything and cook all the time and get on his hands and knees and polish his shoes. I took him on as a favor, he explained.
I said, “I want him. I want to put him on paper.”
And so I came.
The man I wait for insists, “You don’t know me. No one can forgive me for what I did.”
He has pride in his hard work. The good killers make a very tight pattern through the driver’s door. They do not spray rounds everywhere in the vehicle, no, they make a tight pattern right through the door and into the driver’s chest. The reporter who died received just such a pattern, ten rounds from a 9mm and not a single bullet came near his eight-year-old daughter.
I admire craftsmanship.
The first call comes at 9:00 and says to expect the next call at 10:05. So I drive fifty miles and wait. The call at 10:05 says to wait until 11:30. The call at 11:30 does not come, and so I wait and wait. Next door is a game store frequented by men seeking power over a virtual world. Inside the coffee shop, it is all calculated calm and everything is clean.
I am in the safe country. I will not name the city, but it is far from Juárez and it is down by the river. At noon, the next call comes.