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October 14th, 2009
10:02 PM ET

Concerns and optimism over Jaycee Dugard's exclusive photos

Jaycee Dugard, shown here in 1991, breaks her silence in the new issue of People magazine.

Jaycee Dugard, shown here in 1991, breaks her silence in the new issue of People magazine.

David Puente
AC360° Producer

I briefly spoke to Ed Smart today, father of Elizabeth Smart who was held in captivity for nine months before being rescued.

I called him for tonight’s segment with Anderson which, among other things, takes a look at the People Magazine exclusive pictures of Jaycee Dugard. Her family spokesperson said they released the exclusive photos as a way of letting everyone know that she and her family are doing well and that there is hope for the future.

Jaycee appears smiling and happy in all of them and tells People she wants “to thank everyone for their support.”

In one shot she’s on a horse that she rides as part of her therapy in order to foster trust. Her daughters, mother Terry, and sister Shayna also ride and are part of the People spread. We don’t see the faces of her daughters – Angel and Starlit, allegedly fathered by Phillip Garrido – they are instead photographed from behind.

I also spoke to Dr. Judith Cohen in Pittsburgh for the same segment. She’s a child psychiatrist and trauma specialist, and medical director of the Center for Traumatic Stress at Allegheny General Hospital. She analyzed some of the photos for me.

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Filed under: David Puente • Jaycee Dugard
October 9th, 2009
08:14 PM ET

H1N1 rapid rise in pediatric deaths

Health care workers in Indiana and Tennessee were among the first to receive the H1N1 vaccine.

Health care workers in Indiana and Tennessee were among the first to receive the H1N1 vaccine.

David Puente
AC360° Producer

“Is Sanjay still in the building?” that’s what I heard a senior producer in New York shouting across the newsroom at almost 6PM today.

“Not likely at this hour on a Friday,” someone else mumbled. But sure enough Sanjay said he’d be ready to be on the set to pretape a segment with Anderson on the rapid rise in pediatric deaths from H1N1. I was assigned to produce the segment so I reached out to our medical unit’s producer and formulated questions.

Then CNN’s medical unit confirmed that there were another 19 deaths of children and teens from H1N1 reported in the past week around the country. That brings the total number of fatalities to 76 among those younger than age 18.

There were two deaths reported in Maryland, three were in Tennessee, seven in Texas and one each in Alaska, Arizona, Colorado, Florida, North Carolina, Oklahoma and Wisconsin.

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Filed under: David Puente • H1N1 • Sanjay Gupta
October 8th, 2009
10:01 PM ET

Letterman – Social critic? Or dirty old man?

David Puente
AC360° Producer

For those of us in the TV news industry Howard Kurtz, The Washington Post’s media critic and host of CNN’s “Reliable Sources,” is the oracle of media analysis. On Wednesday, I called him at home before he made his way to CNN’s Washington bureau for a segment with Anderson. In our pre-interview I asked him about Late Night’s sex-extortion-explosion.

“How’s Letterman handling it”? I asked.

“Lots of people think he’s free and in the clear but I think the jury is still out. There’s a lot we don’t know yet and that could be a problem for Letterman,” he said. “The second this happened I said his ratings would be on fire. Everyone wants to watch the apology and does he poke fun at himself? The long-term question is the real one here. Will the audience see sleeping with a subordinate as something they can overlook?”

I reminded Kurtz that this week the National Organization for Women blasted David Letterman, accusing him of promoting an uncomfortable work environment. The organization’s statement said the scandal raises serious questions about inappropriate behavior in the workplace.

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Filed under: David Puente • Letterman
October 7th, 2009
06:27 PM ET

The fix for our schools

Program Note: Tune in tonight to hear more on how to stop the violence in Chicago from Steve Perry, on AC360° at 10p.m. ET.

CNN's Education Contributor Steve Perry grew up in a public housing project and he founded the school to serve kids from similar backgrounds.

CNN's Education Contributor Steve Perry grew up in a public housing project and he founded the school to serve kids from similar backgrounds.

David Puente
AC360° Producer

Yesterday before the program Steve Perry, CNN’s Education Contributor, texted me.

He said he was in make-up and wanted to come down and meet him if I had the time. Two hours earlier we had talked on the phone preparing his segment with Anderson about the violence in Chicago and the changes that need to take place in schools around the country in order to curb inner city crime.

I was happy to make time. I’d heard a lot about Steve. He’s the principal and founder of Capitol Preparatory Magnet School in Connecticut. Before that he managed a homeless shelter, campaigned as a candidate for state representative and published three books, including the best seller "Man Up! Nobody is coming to save us". As a graduate of Newark public schools in New Jersey, I’m always interested in educators who are really trying to improve schools in big cities. I know first hand the need that exists.

When I walked into the make-up room. He was already in an animated discussion about education and the economy with Ali Velshi. Ali left for his live hit so I asked Steve what he thought of Jesse Jackson’s op-ed in which he wrote “…in many cities of the country, children are sensibly scared as they go to school. They should have safe passage to school. In Little Rock, Ark., when we first desegregated students, the federal government sent in troops to guarantee safe passage to school…”

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Filed under: Chicago Killings • David Puente • Steve Perry
October 6th, 2009
03:46 PM ET

Vaccinate: Indecision, decision?

Health care workers in Indiana and Tennessee are among the first to receive the H1N1 vaccine Monday.

Health care workers in Indiana and Tennessee are among the first to receive the H1N1 vaccine Monday.

David Puente
AC360° Producer

Yesterday I met Dr. Mehmet Oz in the green room here at CNN before his segment on AC360°. We talked about the free clinic that he organized in Houston last week for Americans who don’t have health insurance, cant afford to see a doctor, but really need medical help. It broke records treating almost 2000 patients. And, of course, we spoke about whether or not to get the H1N1 vaccine.

Dr. Oz said he was getting vaccinated. As a surgeon, he said “it’s the responsible thing to do.” But he admitted that his wife and some of his kids are refusing to get the vaccine.

“Yikes,” I thought. I had hoped that this would be a good opportunity to get solid advice from Dr. Oz. Do I get the vaccine? Or don’t I? But, I thought, if his wife and kids aren’t listening to him – should I?

Regardless, I went ahead and asked, “What about me Dr. Oz? Should I be vaccinated?”

“Yes you should,” he said in the good nature that characterizes him, but also firmly, without thinking twice. “It’s the smart thing to do. Even if you aren’t in a risk group, you don’t want to take the chance.”

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Filed under: David Puente • H1N1
September 11th, 2009
03:18 PM ET

Date with Angels

David Puente
AC360° Producer

New Yorkers woke up this morning to harsh winds and rain, only adding to the feeling of gloom that comes with every 9/11 anniversary. The pain of that day comes back and hits deeper when you see the pictures of the victims and heroes on TV and hear their names read aloud by family and volunteers at the World Trade Center memorial services.

I was comforted this morning by recalling the feeling of unity that New Yorkers felt in the days after the attacks and how much of the world joined with us. I remembered how some of that international unity came from countries that some Americans might not have expected, like from Fidel Castro in Communist Cuba.

Today in New York, Cuban artists present an exhibit called “Date with the Angels.” It features 41 Cuban artists who express their reactions to the 9/11 disaster at the World Trade Center. They derived inspiration from two photographs taken in the aftermath of the attack. The exhibition was originally presented in Cuba in 2004 where Ricardo Alarcon, President of the National Assembly in Cuba, again expressed the government’s unity with New York.

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July 22nd, 2009
03:03 PM ET

Summer pet owner stress....and goodbye to a famous dog


Gidget, the Chihuahua best known for her Taco Bell ad campaign, died from a stroke on Tuesday night at age 15.

Gidget, the Chihuahua best known for her Taco Bell ad campaign, died from a stroke on Tuesday night at age 15.

David Puente
AC360° Producer

I got sad news today from Peoplepets.com about a famous Chihuahua.

I was already feeling sensitive. I'm sure many of you pet owners will understand. I'm getting ready to go on vacation for a couple of weeks and that pre-separation anxiety is on high. I'll be in Europe and the Middle East and bringing Luc, my 10 year-old Cockapoo, isn't really an option. I'm lucky that I have friends – the Fernandez Family – who have known and loved him since he was a puppy, and they agree to watch him every time I travel.

Unfortunately during the summer holidays, pounds and shelters usually see a spike in the number of pets abandoned. It seems that some people go on vacation and actually throw their pets out. Needless to say there are other solutions. Friends have helped me and Luc but what options do you use when you're on the road? Who's the best pet watcher? Friends? Home-pet sitters? Pet friendly hotels?

All this came to mind after hearing that Gidget, or Gidgey – apparently there were different Hollywood spellings of her name – the Chihuahua best known for her Taco Bell ad campaign ("Yo Quiero Taco Bell"), died from a stroke on Tuesday night at age 15.

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July 17th, 2009
12:16 PM ET

'Wise Latinas'

David Puente
AC360° Producer

After so many questions about it, Judge Sonia Sotomayor’s now famous “wise Latina” quote will likely not keep her off the Supreme Court. All indications from Capitol Hill point to her confirmation as the 111th person to sit on that court next week.

Her quote got me thinking, and although I know the role of women is paramount in all ethnic groups, all societies throughout history, I can attest to the great tradition behind Judge Sotomayor’s words where I grew up.

Throughout my youth I was surrounded by hard working, dedicated, intelligent and wise, very wise Latinas. The women of my childhood’s immigrant neighborhood played a strong and central role in family and in community.

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Filed under: David Puente • Sonia Sotomayor
July 9th, 2009
01:40 PM ET

La Dolce Vita at the G8

David Puente
AC360° Producer

A former nude model will be among some of the most powerful women in the world at the G8 summit in L'Aquila, Italy this week.

L’Aquila is the town devastated by the earthquake in April and it is also where first ladies like Michelle Obama are joining their husbands for the annual G8 summit. But an ex-glamour and lingerie model is accompanying the Italian premier Silvio Berlusconi, 72, to the summit.

Mara Carfagna, 33, was his choice for minister of equal opportunities, last year. Since then she’s been named one of the world's hottest politicians by the men’s magazine Maxim. Carfagna, not Berlusconi’s wife - who has filed for divorce - will escort Michelle Obama, Sarah Brown and the other first spouses on a tour of Rome.

Rumors about Prime Minister Berlusconi’s sex life have been the talk of the Italian media for the last several months. It’s been reported that he told Carfagna that, "If I was not already married, I would run off with you immediately."

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July 5th, 2009
07:46 AM ET

The King of Pop – and polls

Michael Jackson, loved by millions, but not by all.

Michael Jackson, loved by millions, but not by all.

David Puente
AC360° Producer

Get this - about half of all Americans count themselves as fans of the King of Pop. That’s what a new CNN poll released today says. It might seem right now like everyone's a Michael Jackson fan.

But it turns out there are big gender, generation, ethnic and even political gaps when it comes to who admires Michael Jackson.

Interviews for the poll were done between June 26-28, with just over 1000 adult Americans. Here are some of the results, tell us how accurate you think they are and how you compare…

Would you say you were a fan of Michael Jackson, or not?

Yes, a fan 51%

No, not a fan 49%

Of that total of fans and non-fans the results here broken down further by gender and race:

                                     Men        Women        White        Non-White

Yes, a fan                   45%         56%              42%            73%

No, not a fan             54%         43%              57%            27%

Broken down by age:

                              18- 34       35-49       50 – 64         65+

Yes, a fan             58%            62%          49%           24%

No, not a fan        42%            38%         49%           76%

Even broken down by political party:

                                                   Republican                       Democrat

Yes, a fan                                    63%                                     35%

No, not a fan                               36%                                     64%


Filed under: David Puente • Michael Jackson
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