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June 30th, 2012
09:53 AM ET

Letters to the President #1258: 'On the fire line'

Reporter's Note: I write letters to President Obama. I’ve done it ever since he was inaugurated.

Dear Mr. President,

I neglected to mention your visit to the wildfires out in Colorado yesterday, and heaven knows I should have. I’ve been to an awful lot of big fires like that over the years, and they can be awfully tough on communities when they come roaring through. Obviously it is terrible for people who lose their homes, but even for those who do not, such a disaster can affect them for years; their local economy, the value of their homes, the incidence of depression, and on and on.

I’ve always had mixed opinions about presidents visiting the scenes of such disasters. As well intentioned as such trips can be, they put a strain on law enforcement and local officials at a time when they are already under a lot of pressure. I know you’ve expressed the same thoughts from time to time.

Simultaneously, I know that any president who does not go to visit Americans in such challenges circumstances risks public condemnation for not caring. It puts every president in a difficult spot, to be sure.

Still, I think erring on the side of “going” is usually better. Even though you can’t man the fire lines, or cut trees, being President involves an awful lot of symbolism. I think it makes people feel a little less alone when the top elected official in the country takes time to stop by and tell the nation that this suffering matters; that we all ought to be thinking of our fellow citizens and preparing to help when the calamity has passed.

On top of which, I lived in Colorado a long time, and I find myself thinking about all the good people back there an awful lot.

Hope your weekend is nice.

Regards,
Tom

June 29th, 2012
11:01 PM ET

KTH: Supreme Court ruling spin

Both parties are using talking points to address the health care mandate as a tax, as ruled by the Supreme Court.

June 29th, 2012
10:59 PM ET

Syrian activist: It's hell over here

Syrian activist Zaidoun says the government has escalated the violence to an unprecedented level and his family is in danger.

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Filed under: Syria
June 29th, 2012
10:58 PM ET

Military dogs classified as 'equipment'

A bill could ensure military working dogs return home and receive care after serving the country overseas.

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Filed under: Military
June 29th, 2012
10:56 PM ET

Military dogs are 'best friends 24/7'

Anderson Cooper asks Staff Sgt. Price about the relationship between troops and their military working dogs.

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Filed under: Military
June 29th, 2012
10:05 PM ET

Woman records fire evacuation

A Colorado resident films her evacuation from the Waldo Canyon Fire, which claimed her home of 18 years.

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Filed under: Wildfires
June 29th, 2012
10:03 PM ET

Lawyer: Penn State e-mails are appalling

A lawyer for one of Jerry Sandusky's victims reacts to emails between Penn State officials on dealing with suspicions of child sex abuse.

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Filed under: Jerry Sandusky
June 29th, 2012
09:30 PM ET

Disturbing e-mails could spell more trouble for Penn State officials

With convicted serial child sex abuser Jerry Sandusky behind bars, new questions are surfacing about what Penn State officials knew about a 2001 incident involving the former assistant football coach's encounter with a boy in the shower - and whether they covered up the incident.

Sandusky sexually abused other boys in the years after the 2001 incident and before his arrest.

CNN does not have the purported e-mails. However, the alleged contents were read to CNN.

The messages indicate former Penn State President Graham Spanier and two other former university officials knew they had a problem with Sandusky after a 2001 shower incident, but apparently first decided to handle it using a "humane" approach before contacting outside authorities whose job it is to investigate suspected abuse.

"This is a more humane and upfront way to handle this,' Gary Schultz, who was a university vice president at the time, allegedly wrote.

Read more...

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Filed under: Jerry Sandusky
June 29th, 2012
08:29 PM ET

Letters to the President #1257: 'Taking a break'

Reporter's Note: Every time the sun rises, I write a letter to President Obama. Well, not at that precise moment. I mean, sometimes I’m still asleep…

Dear Mr. President,

We’ve had a wild day around here, in a way. For some reason we’ve had several false alarms with the fire alarm system sending everyone grabbing their bags and heading to the stairs, only to have our security folks come on the intercom system and tell us everything is ok, go back to work.

As you probably know, anytime people in D.C. get an excuse to knock off early on a Friday afternoon in summer they are half way to the beach before their computer cools off. So you can imagine how frustrating all the false starts were. A lot of our folks, I think, were kind of hoping we’d be told that we had to clear out and just come back on Monday. But alas, no.

I’m not complaining. I have so much to do following up on the big Supreme Court decision, I could not afford to split that early anyway. Which reminds me of an old joke that TV news people like to tell. Don’t know if you’ve ever heard it.

A producer, a correspondent, and a cameraman have chartered a helicopter to a remote island, and it crashes in a freak storm. They wash up on the beach amid the wreckage, where they find a brass lamp half buried in the sand. They rub it. A genie appears and says, “I will grant each of you a wish.”

The correspondent says, “I’ve spent so many years on the road, I’m so ready for a break from the travel and dangers, I want you to send me home with enough money that I’ll never need to do this again!” Poof. He’s gone.

The cameraman says, “I’ve lugged this heavy gear all over the planet, sweating and struggling; I want a beautiful place in the mountains with a beautiful view, a good dog, and no worries for the rest of my days.” Poof. He’s gone.

Then the genie turns to the producer and says, “And what can I do for you?”
To which the producer responds, “Get those guys back here. We have work to do!”

Anyway, call if you get a moment. I’m still here working and could use the break.

Regards,
Tom

Tonight on AC360: Bringing military dogs home
Anderson Cooper with Sergeant Price and military working dog Gino.
June 29th, 2012
05:00 PM ET

Tonight on AC360: Bringing military dogs home

In a war zone, the importance of military dogs can't be underestimated. The canines detect explosives to save the lives of troops, and they serve as steadfast companions.

The United States has nearly 3,000 military working dogs, with about 600 overseas serving alongside soldiers. Currently they're classified as "equipment," which can prevent them from returning home with those they protect.

If a dog retires on a base abroad, considered "excess equipment," they're not entitled to fly back home. And the shipping costs are expensive, possibly thousands of dollars.

A bill that was passed in the House and awaiting a vote in the Senate would change the classification and policy. Supporters of the legislation believe the dogs deserve care at home for their contributions to the country.

Anderson spoke with Staff Sergeant Price and met Gino, a 7-year-old German Shepherd who is being adopted after years of service. Gino is an explosives patrol dog who helped with convoys, roadway searches and other risky missions in Afghanistan. "He's a friend, a family member, and definitely someone to watch my back," said Price.

Watch the interview tonight at 8 and 10 p.m. ET, and find out more about the Canine Members of the Armed Forces Act from CNN's Chris Lawrence.

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Filed under: 360° Radar • Military
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