AC360 Tuesday 8p

Ferry crew members answered questions about why more life rafts were not deployed. Tonight on AC360, the latest from South Korea on the effort to reach victims.
February 15th, 2010
04:08 PM ET

Afternoon Buzz: Too fat to fly?

Kevin Smith has battled his weight for years and took to Twitter to talk about being kicked off a flight.
Kevin Smith has battled his weight for years and took to Twitter to talk about being kicked off a flight.

Ella Perlis
AC360° Associate Producer

Today, a NATO airstrike against suspected insurgents in southern Afghanistan killed five civilians, and over the weekend two U.S. rockets killed 12 Afghan civilians. The attacks are part of a major NATO offensive targeting Taliban fighters in the city of Marjah in Helmand Province, a region that is considered a safe haven for the Taliban. It is also a major producer of poppies, which fuel the drug trade.

Military officials say Operation Moshtarak is the largest offensive since the war in Afghanistan began in 2001; it is the first major initiative since President Obama announced he was sending 30,000 more troops to the region. Some 3,000 U.S. Marines are taking part in the operation in Marjah. Troops from Afghanistan, Canada, Denmark, Estonia, and the United Kingdom are also part of the roughly 15,000-strong mission. They expect to battle up to 1,000 Taliban fighters in Marjah. By midday today, at least six large gun battles were being fought across the city.

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Filed under: Ella Perlis • The Buzz
January 21st, 2010
11:34 AM ET

Israel's medical operation in Haiti

Program Note: Tune in tonight for live coverage on the situation on the ground in Haiti. AC360° at 10 p.m. ET.

A medic at the IDF Field Hospital in Port-au-Prince checks on an injured child.
A medic at the IDF Field Hospital in Port-au-Prince checks on an injured child.

Ella Perlis
AC360° Associate Producer

Medical professionals in Haiti are struggling to help critically ill patients with limited resources. We've heard horror stories about doctors forced to substitute vodka for rubbing alcohol, and use hacksaws for amputations. These dramatic and desperate images are described by some as "civil war medicine." However, this is not the situation at an Israeli-run field hospital in the earthquake-ravaged Haiti.

Located on a Port-au-Prince soccer field, the facility has operating rooms, an intensive care unit, a pediatric ward, and even a pharmacy. The technology is as sophisticated as most Western hospitals: it has x-ray equipment, respirators, monitors, and incubators that have sustained at least two pre-mature babies born since the earthquake.

How did a country that has never experienced a major earthquake respond so quickly and efficiently? To find out more about Israel's response in Haiti, I spoke with an Israel Defense Forces (IDF) officer. The man on the other end of the phone sounded familiar – a New York accent, distinctly from Queens – and the voice of my old friend from summer camp years ago.

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Filed under: Ella Perlis • Haiti Earthquake • Opinion
January 18th, 2010
03:09 PM ET

Afternoon Buzz: Desperate for help in Haiti

Looters search under the rubble in Port-au-Prince
Looters search under the rubble in Port-au-Prince

Ella Perlis
AC360° Associate Producer

Specially trained international teams continue to search for and rescue trapped victims throughout Haiti, but many of those saved are in dire need of medical care. More relief organizations and troops are arriving, but with communication limitations and travel restrictions, the desperately needed food, water and supplies are not reaching people fast enough. The frustration over the delay has left many wondering if the U.S. has done enough to help, and who will take charge in the coming days to protect the injured and homeless? Donations are flowing in through text messages and websites, but how can the cash turn to aid immediately?

Anderson encountered a chaotic scene this afternoon at a Port-au-Prince store. It’s the type of trouble that disaster experts have feared since last Tuesday. People forced their way over debris and into the store through the roof to take whatever they could reach. The owner, armed with guns, fired into the air to scare the scavengers away from his property, but they could not be deterred. Anderson described violent altercations, including rock throwing that left a boy bleeding profusely from his head. He removed the boy from crossfire, but there’s no telling how many others will be hurt in the pandemonium. Who can instill order? Were these people looting or rightfully fighting for survival? We’ll get Anderson’s full report on the situation tonight.

Through the destruction and despair, there are also stories of compassion and joy. On Friday, Gary Tuchman reported on an orphanage that lost its shelter, and ultimately its safety, in the quake. Tonight he brings us an update as several of the children from the orphanage, as they travel to the U.S. for adoption. Gary accompanies these boys and girls as they experience a first – flying in an airplane – and embark on a new life after the trauma from the quake. We’re also digging deeper on how the quake will affect the children that are in the process of being adopted, and those who still need a family.

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Filed under: Ella Perlis • The Buzz
December 28th, 2009
07:32 PM ET

Evening Buzz: Why did airliner terror suspect still have U.S. visa?

Ella Perlis
AC360° Associate Producer

Tonight we’re following the latest discoveries in the plot to take down Northwest Airlines Flight 253 on Christmas Day. The suspect, Umar Farouk AbdulMutallab, checked no luggage, reportedly paid cash for his ticket, and allegedly smuggled a powerful plastic explosive, PETN, aboard the plane carrying 300 passengers. Experts say if he had successfully detonated the explosive, it could have blown a sizeable hole in the aircraft.  While investigators continue searching for possible accomplices, AbdulMutallab, a Nigerian citizen, is being held for attempting to destroy the plane and placing a destructive device on the aircraft. AbdulMutallab told authorities he is affiliated with al Qaeda in Yemen; today Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula claimed responsibility for the attempted attack, saying it was in retaliation for U.S. strikes on Yemeni soil and threatening further attacks.

The incident on Flight 253 has focused new attention on Yemen, a country that may not immediately come to mind when you think of the war on terror. But in fact, Yemen, a poor and lawless country, is the ancestral homeland of Osama bin Laden and the target of covert U.S. military operations because it is attracting terrorists pushed out of Afghanistan and Pakistan. It’s fair to ask: Will the thwarted Northwest Airlines threat bring American operations in Yemen out in the open and result in U.S. troop involvement? Tonight, we’ll dig deeper into the possible impact on U.S. military strategy and the threat of future attacks by Yemeni al Qaeda operatives.

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Filed under: Ella Perlis • The Buzz
September 17th, 2009
03:30 PM ET

Afternoon Buzz: Race and politics in America

Ella Perlis
AC360° Associate Producer

Tonight we continue our eye-opening series on medical malpractice. If you think tort reform will result in a decline of costs and spending, you may be surprised by Gary Tuchman’s report tonight. He went to a town in Texas, where despite caps on medical malpractice awards, treatment and tests for Medicare patients costs almost $15,000 per year, per patient! That is about double the national average for Medicare spending. Do you think tort reform is a necessary part of the health care overhaul?

Four days ago Annie Le’s body was discovered in the walls of a Yale medical lab, and today Raymond Clark was charged for her death. Police collected over 250 pieces of evidence before arresting him at a Super 8 motel this morning. Clark is being held on $3 million bond. Police describe the crime as an incident of “workplace violence.” Both Le and Clark worked in the lab, but authorities still have not released details on their relationship. We are digging deeper and will have more information tonight on Clark and the investigation.

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Filed under: Ella Perlis • Health Care • Iran • Race in America • The Buzz
September 16th, 2009
03:29 PM ET

Afternoon Buzz: Is Carter right about racism?

Ella Perlis
AC360° Associate Producer

We are continuing our series on medical malpractice. Tonight, Randi Kaye profiles a doctor who saved a patient’s life and was sued months later for malpractice. She was cleared of all wrongdoing, but is left with the emotional trauma of the legal proceedings, and a hefty annual bill for malpractice insurance. A recent Harvard study reported that 40% of lawsuits brought against doctors are without merit. How do unfounded lawsuits affect medical treatment and the health care industry overall? We’ll dig deeper on this issue.

President Carter said he believes recent protests against President Obama are “based on racism.” He was asked specifically about Rep. Joe Wilson’s “you lie” outburst, but also said many Americans are demonstrating because they simply do not want an African American president. Do you think President Carter is right to assume that feelings of discontent are based on the President’s skin color? Will anyone who speaks out against President Obama’s policies be accused of being a racist? Is this happening only in the south (Joe Wilson represents South Carolina), or is that a misconception? How do you think President Obama feels about Carter’s statement, and will he address it this Sunday when appears on 5 talk shows, and as a guest on Letterman next Monday?

Michael Steele, the African American chair of the GOP, said President Carter is “flat out wrong,” and accused the Democrats of creating a distraction to take attention away from the health care debate.  Steele also called on President Obama to rebuff Carter’s statement. Rep. Wilson’s son, Alan, also joined the fray to defend his father, calling the allegations “ludicrous.”

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Filed under: Ella Perlis • The Buzz
August 27th, 2009
11:55 AM ET

A healthy obsession?

Ella Perlis
AC360° Associate Producer

America is a country obsessed with body weight. Paradoxically, we revere fit and lean figures, while also cherishing all-you-can eat buffets, fried fast food, and activities that require little to no movement whatsoever (I’m looking at you, video games).

If the extra pounds were simply unaesthetic, we could dismiss our attention to the scale as mere vanity. Yet, more than ever, we know that being overweight has real and dangerous health consequences, along with damaging effects to our economy.

According to the CDC, in 2008 every state (except Colorado) had a 20 percent or higher incidence of obesity. In the U. S., 17 percent of children ages 6 to 11 are obese; 17.6 percent for ages 12 to 19. The CDC says obese and overweight children are more likely to become obese as adults and risk suffering from heart disease, diabetes, certain types of cancer, stroke, respiratory problems, liver and gallbladder disease, and osteoarthritis. There are also psychological problems associated with obesity. Additionally, the CDC points to a study released in July 2009 that estimates the medical costs of obesity as $147 billion per year.

The facts are clear: the number of people with weight-related health issues continues to grow, the costs are up and we now find ourselves in the biggest debate about the future of health care since the Clinton administration. Weight is a pervasive topic in our health-conscious – but junk food-loving – society. And controversy surrounding this subject abounds. Here are just a few examples:

Dr. Regina Benjamin, nominee for Surgeon General: Obama's pick for America's top doc ignited a surprising weight debate, with both attackers and defenders discussing her size. Dr. Benjamin should be judged on her credentials, experience, and vision. Yet, critics claim she is incapable of ending the U.S. obesity epidemic because she doesn’t look the part. Being healthy doesn’t necessarily mean having a small waistline, so are the skeptics being unfair? When you take a fitness class do you expect the teacher to look like he or she stepped off the set of Baywatch? Does it bother you if the instructor doesn’t look nearly as good as you aim to be? And ultimately, does that principle apply to doctors, including the U.S. Surgeon General? The scrutiny over Dr. Benjamin’s weight and qualifications increased when it was revealed that she was paid to serve on a scientific advisory board for Burger King, a company that is consistently blamed for adding to America's growing waistline.

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June 1st, 2009
03:39 PM ET

The Prince in action

Prince Harry playfully spits champagne to Nacho Figueras (R) after polo match Saturday at Governors Island.
Prince Harry playfully spits champagne to Nacho Figueras (R) after polo match Saturday at Governors Island.

Ella Perlis
AC360° Associate Producer

As if by royal edict, the sun was shining on New York City Saturday, banishing a streak of bleak weather and bad hair days.

It was a perfect backdrop for the immaculate polo field on Governors Island, where Prince Harry of Wales was set to compete in a polo match. It was just one of the 24-year-old’s stops on his first official trip the United States.

Prince Harry played in the Veuve Clicquot Manhattan Polo Classic to raise money for his organization, Sentebale, a charity that helps orphans in the African nation of Lesotho. His team was up against a formidable opponent – Black Watch, captained by Ralph Lauren model Nacho Figueras.

I had the opportunity to meet Nacho prior to the match; I told him New Yorkers wanted to know if he intended to kick the Prince's ‘butt’ in the game. Although he was gracious, I got the impression he wasn’t going to go easy on his good friend, Harry.

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April 20th, 2009
10:11 AM ET

Into thin air

Ella Perlis
AC360° Associate Producer

Frequent fliers, you might just rejoice! Your flights may be delayed or canceled, you still have to pay a fee for extra bags, the snacks are lame, and drinks aren't on the house, BUT if you fly United Airlines, you'll never have to share a portion of your own seat with a fellow traveler again.

Recently, United announced a new policy for portly passengers. The airline's website says that if a person cannot buckle the seatbelt with a single extender and/or is unable to put the armrests down when seated, they will employ the “Passengers requiring extra space” policy. The first step is to relocate the customer to a seat next to an unused seat at no extra cost. No empty seats? That individual needs to upgrade the ticket to a more expensive, larger seat. No upgrade seats available? Apparently, that person would be kindly asked not to take that flight. He or she can then purchase another seat, for a total of two seats, for the next available flight.

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Filed under: 360° Radar • Airline Safety • Ella Perlis