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August 20th, 2009
09:37 PM ET

Live Blog from the Anchor Desk 8/20/09

We have new information tonight about an alleged struggle within the Bush administration just days before the 2004 presidential election. According to Former Secretary of Homeland Security Tom Ridge, senior officials including former Attorney General John Ashcroft and former Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, pushed to raise the terror threat level to orange after Osama Bin Laden released an audiotape critical of then President George W. Bush.

And victims' family members and advocates are grieving today as the only man convicted in the 1988 bombing of Pan Am Flight 103 over Lockerbie, Scotland - which killed 270 people - was released on humanitarian grounds Thursday from a British prison. We speak to one man whose brother was killed in the attack.

Want to know what else we're covering? Read EVENING BUZZ

Scroll down to join the live chat during the program. It's your chance to share your thoughts on tonight's headlines. Keep in mind, you have a better chance of having your comment get past our moderators if you follow our rules.

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Filed under: Live Blog • T1
August 20th, 2009
08:54 PM ET

Flynn: "Don't dishonor Lockerbie victims"

Program Note: Tonight we'll be covering the release of the only man convicted in the 1988 bombing of Pan Am Flight 103 over Lockerbie, Scotland. He was freed from prison and sent home to Libya on "compassionate grounds." Brian Flynn, whose brother was killed in the attack, will be on tonight. 10 p.m. ET.

Abdelbeset Ali Mohmed al Megrahi, 57, boards a plane after his release from prison.

Abdelbeset Ali Mohmed al Megrahi, 57, boards a plane after his release from prison.

Brian Flynn
For The Guardian

Imagine if one of the September 11 hijackers had lived, that he was fairly tried, convicted and sentenced to a lengthy jail term. Then, after just a few years, under an agreement with the Afghan government, we sent him back to serve out his term with the Taliban under Osama bin Laden.

Although it seems almost impossible, a painfully similar scenario is playing out in the Scotland. Abdelbaset al-Megrahi – the terrorist convicted in the Lockerbie bombing – may soon be released by the Scottish government and handed over to Libya, the very government that plotted this cowardly mass murder.

The evidence against Megrahi is overwhelming and has withstood more than two fervent appeals. He was a member of Libyan intelligence travelling under a false passport to Malta on the day of the bombing, and lied about it more than once. Any rational person reviewing the evidence would conclude that Megrahi is guilty. Even more damning, the court's conviction clearly stated that Megrahi committed the murder for "furtherance of Libyan intelligence". There has been no regime change or democratic revolution. And yet the Scottish government is eager to return this murderer to his dictator – Muammar Gaddafi – a man who has gone on the record as hating all things western.

Read More...

August 20th, 2009
08:51 PM ET

The Evening Buzz: Terrorist Welcome Home

Al Megrahi, now 57, is suffering from terminal prostate cancer.

Al Megrahi, now 57, is suffering from terminal prostate cancer.

Charly Feldman
AC360° Intern

We have new information tonight about an alleged struggle within the Bush administration just days before the 2004 presidential election. According to Former Secretary of Homeland Security Tom Ridge, senior officials including former Attorney General John Ashcroft and former Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, pushed to raise the terror threat level to orange after Osama Bin Laden released an audiotape critical of then President George W. Bush. Ridge says he successfully thwarted the effort, and the threat level stayed at yellow. Ridge describes the behind-the-scenes White House drama in his new soon-to-be-published book, “The Test of Our Times.” Ed Henry will have the latest on this developing story.

Long before September 11, 2001 another terrorist attack sent shock waves around the world. The 1988 bombing of Pan Am Flight 103 killed 270 people. Today, Abdel Basset Al-Megrahi, the only person convicted in the horrific attack, was released from the Scottish prison where he has spent the last eight years. He’s been diagnosed with terminal prostate cancer and was released on compassionate grounds. Freeing prisoners on compassionate grounds is an established feature of the Scottish judicial system—but al-Megrahi’s release has ignited controversy around the world. President Obama says it’s a mistake. Randi Kaye has the details.

President Obama is hitting back at critics of his health care reform plan. Today, he sparred with conservative talk radio host Michael Smerconish and took questions from callers. Mister Obama says Republican lawmakers are playing politics with health care reform just to put themselves in a better position for the midterm elections. Tonight, we’ll hear from Congressman Ron Paul, who’s also a medical doctor. He’ll tell us why he thinks the government should stay out of health care. It’s one view in a debate with many voices and opinions.

It’s been three weeks since we’ve heard from the three American hikers being held in Iran. Shane Bauer, Sarah Shourd and Josh Fattal have been in custody since July 31st, and their families are pressing for diplomats to gain access to the three and help arrange their release. They want to know how their children are doing—and where exactly they are being held. Anderson will talk to the mothers of the hikers in an exclusive AC360° interview.

We’ll also have details on a new development in the murder investigation we told you about last night. California prosecutors say former reality television contestant Ryan Alexander Jenkins has been charged with murder in the death of his ex-wife, who was found stuffed in a suitcase in a trash bin over the weekend. Police say Jenkins apparently slipped into his native Canada on foot after a 1,000-mile car and boat trip from Southern California. He vanished after the body of 28-year-old former model Jasmine Fiore was found. Now police are scrambling to find him.

These stories and more, tonight at 10 pm eastern. See you then!


Filed under: 360° Radar • The Buzz
August 20th, 2009
08:25 PM ET

Families of American hikers detained in Iran speak out

Sarah Shourd, like the other two hikers, is a graduate of University of California-Berkeley.

Sarah Shourd, like the other two hikers, is a graduate of University of California-Berkeley.

Program Note: Family members Nora Shourd, Laura Fattal and Cindy Hickey will be on AC360° TONIGHT 10p ET.

http://www.freethehikers.org

Travelers accidentally strayed across an unmarked border while hiking in Iraqi Kurdistan.

The families and friends of Shane Bauer, Sarah Shourd and Josh Fattal, the three young American hikers detained in Iran on July 31, today launched http://www.freethehikers.org, a web resource to inform the world about their detention.

The families also appealed to Iranian authorities to grant consular access to their children, who were detained when they accidentally strayed into Iran across an unmarked border during a five-day hiking trip in Iraqi Kurdistan.

“We still know nothing about how our children are and where they are being held. We respectfully urge the Iranian authorities to grant them their right to consular access so we at least can know they are safe and well,” the families said in statement. “If our children had known the border was there, they wouldn’t have crossed it. We continue to hope and believe that the Iranian authorities will realize that our children entered their country by accident and will return them to us.”

Freethehikers.org provides up-to-date news about the hikers’ detention, as well as background materials about the three Americans and their case. The site links to a Facebook group formed for the hikers soon after they were detained. Almost 1,400 friends, relatives and well-wishers have already joined the Facebook group.

Shane Bauer, Josh Fattal and Sarah Shourd were detained while hiking in the mountains of Iraqi Kurdistan near the Ahmed Awa waterfall, a popular local tourist spot. The three, all graduates of the University of California at Berkeley and experienced world travelers, were in a peaceful region of northern Iraq that is increasingly popular with Western tourists for its natural beauty, culture and history.

While the Iranian government has confirmed it is holding the three hikers, it has not charged them with a crime and has not allowed them to contact their families. Swiss diplomats, who represent U.S. interests in Iran, have been seeking consular access.

Check out www.freethehikers.org for more information.

August 20th, 2009
06:25 PM ET

Tribute site for Lockerbie victims

270 people were killed in the Lockerbie plane bombing in 1988.

270 people were killed in the Lockerbie plane bombing in 1988.

VictimsofPanAmFlight103.com

Victims' family members and advocates are grieving anew as the only man convicted in the 1988 bombing of Pan Am Flight 103 over Lockerbie, Scotland - which killed 270 people - was released Thursday from a British prison.

Abdelbeset Ali Mohmed al Megrahi, 57, sick with advanced prostate cancer, was released on compassionate grounds and sent home to Libya to die, Scottish authorities said. Megrahi, who prosecutors said was a Libyan intelligence agent, was convicted in 2001 of placing a bomb on the Boeing 747.

Check out this tribute site devoted to the victims of the Pan Am Flight 103 terrorist attack. To learn more about the victims and to read about the attack, click here.


Filed under: 360° Radar • Terrorism
August 20th, 2009
06:16 PM ET

Internal combustion

From left: former President Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, Sadeq Larijani and President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

From left: former President Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, Sadeq Larijani and President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

Abbas Milani
The New Republic

Ever since the June 12 election, the world has seen signs of serious rifts in the ranks of the Islamic regime in Iran. The main locus of these tensions was between the regime (led by the triumvirate of Khamenei, Ahmadinejad, and the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps) and regime defectors like Mir Hossein Moussavi, Ali-Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, Mohammad Khatami, and Mehdi Karubi. The opposition repeatedly stood up to Khamenei, defying his orders instead of accepting them as absolute and final. For this transgression, almost 2,000 people are still incarcerated, and at least 20 have been killed in prison and in demonstrations.

During the past week, the Iranian political crisis took a surprising new turn, when the first major rift in the ranks of the triumvirate who engineered the June electoral coup became public. The crisis began when Ahmadinejad, still not sworn in as the new president–or, more accurately, before the "consultative" vote of the people in the general election had been confirmed by the supreme leader–decided to name Rahim Mashai, a man widely understood to be his intellectual guru and also his son's father-in-law, to the all important position of first deputy president.

Immediately after the Mashai appointment was made public, a chorus of conservative voices demanded its repeal, claiming that Mashai's apparent sins were unforgivable. A few months ago, he had been accused of saying Islam does not have the ability to cope with twenty-first-century problems, and that Iranians have no natural enmity against the citizens of Israel. Ahmadinejad ignored demands for firing Mashai, defending him as one of the most pious men he has ever had the good fortune to meet. Aside from family ties, the two men share a passion for the messianic return of Shiism's Twelfth Imam.

Read more... ]


Filed under: Iran
August 20th, 2009
06:10 PM ET

Man blames science for nearly 20 years he spent in prison

Steven Barnes, now 43, was wrongfully convicted of rape and murder at the age of 23.

Steven Barnes, now 43, was wrongfully convicted of rape and murder at the age of 23.

Stephanie Smith
CNN Medical Producer

For 20 years Steven Barnes has relived one day over and over in his mind; the scenes sometimes unfold like a filmy, disjointed dream, and sometimes with a stark and painful furor.

It was the day he was arrested, at age 23, for a crime he did not commit.

"When they came to arrest me I was screaming and freaking out saying I didn't murder nobody," said Barnes, who is now 43, and was released from prison last November just a few days after his conviction was overturned.

His conviction hinged on what he calls "junk science." In 1989, Barnes was convicted of raping and strangling to death 16-year-old Kimberly Simon on the evening of Sept. 18, 1985, in Marcy, N.Y. The case against him relied heavily on forensic evidence and he spent nearly 20 years in prison.

Investigators testified that hairs found in Barnes' truck had similar characteristics to hairs found at the crime scene. They suggested dirt found in the wheel wells of his pick-up truck was similar to dirt at the crime scene - and the clincher - according to investigators, a smudge on the side of Barnes' truck bore a similar imprint to the jeans worn by the victim. Barnes says investigators suggested that the victim leaned against the truck before he allegedly raped and killed her.

It is all of these suggestions that still make Barnes bristle.

"That was all their scientific evidence," said Barnes, with an air of scorn at the word 'scientific'. "It was all about similarities. Similar hair, similar jean imprint. You don't put someone away that long for similarities."

FULL POST

August 20th, 2009
06:08 PM ET

The world's most powerful women

Forbes.com

Forbes' Power Women list isn't about celebrity or popularity; it's about influence. Queen Rania of Jordan (No. 75), for instance, is perhaps the most listened-to woman in the Middle East; her Twitter feed has 600,000 followers.

In assembling the list, Forbes looked for women who run countries, big companies or influential nonprofits. Their rankings are a combination of two scores: visibility–by press mentions–and the size of the organization or country these women lead.

At No. 1, for the fourth consecutive year, is German Chancellor Angela Merkel. Up for reelection this September, she is leader of the world's fourth-largest economy. She faces a tough year: Germany's GDP is expected to shrink this year despite a small uptick in the second quarter.

Read more...


Filed under: Women's Issues
August 20th, 2009
05:46 PM ET

Most families outraged at Pan Am 103 bomber's release

Victoria Cummock holds daughter Ashley during a 1995 memorial service. John Cummock died in the bombing.

Victoria Cummock holds daughter Ashley during a 1995 memorial service. John Cummock died in the bombing.

Jim Kavanagh
CNN

Victims' family members and advocates are grieving anew as the only man convicted in the 1988 bombing of Pan Am Flight 103 over Lockerbie, Scotland - which killed 270 people - was released Thursday from a British prison.

"I feel sick. I feel depressed and outraged. I mean, I am just heartbroken," said Susan Cohen, whose daughter Theodora, a 20-year-old Syracuse University music student, was killed in the bombing.

Abdelbeset Ali Mohmed al Megrahi, 57, sick with advanced prostate cancer, was released on compassionate grounds and sent home to Libya to die, Scottish authorities said. Megrahi, who prosecutors said was a Libyan intelligence agent, was convicted in 2001 of placing a bomb on the Boeing 747.

Libya has formally accepted responsibility for the bombing and has compensated the families, although longtime Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi denied any culpability in the attack.

Keep Reading...

August 20th, 2009
05:44 PM ET

Beat 360° 8/20/09

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:

Zack Neil rides his ash tray bike in down town Amsterdam on August 19, 2009 in Amsterdam, Netherlands. Zack Neil informs inhabitants and tourists about the negative effects of cigarette butts and chewing gum on the environment. The Central Amsterdam government has recently started with this awareness campaign and in the Dutch city of Rotterdam the 90 euro (128 US Dollars) fine has occasionally been handed out. It takes more than 10 years to break down a cigarette butt and up to 50 years for chewing gum. (Photo: Michel Porro/Getty Images)

Have fun with it. We're looking forward to your captions! Make sure to include your name, city, state (or country) so we can post your comment.

UPDATE

STAFF WINNER

Jill Billante
New Arizona GOP ad shows President Barack Obama touring the streets of Amsterdam.

VIEWER WINNER

Michael Kajdas, Chicago
I’d ask for a light but I don’t want to make an ash of myself.

_________________________________________________________________________________ Beat 360° Challenge


Filed under: Beat 360° • T1
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