February 28th, 2008
11:24 AM ET

International manhunt becomes humiliating TV blunder

It was going to be, "the most spectacular manhunt in the history of 'Aktenzeichen XY,'" Germany’s top-rated and longest-running crime show.

In an unprecedented move, America’s FBI was asking the German public for help in a global manhunt for Boston mob boss James J. "Whitey" Bulger - one of America's most wanted crooks - allegedly on the run in Europe.

On the show, FBI agents showed old pictures of Bulger and a photo of an elderly couple, supposedly resembling the gangster and his girlfriend Gail Marcinkiewicz. The new photo was taken by an American tourist in Italy last year and came with a warning: “the couple may be  armed and  is extremely dangerous.”

Calls started pouring in to the show and to Germany's federal investigators.  One was from a young man who had just seen his parents presented as murder suspects on the German media.

It turns out the couple shown in "Aktenzeichen XY" were German pensioners enjoying a summer holiday in Italy at the time. According to their son, they were shocked to find themselves the focus of an international manhunt with a hefty price on their heads.

ZDF, the broadcaster that aired the show, says they didn't have the chance to verify the photos for themselves before they went to air. Rather, that was the job of the FBI and German investigators. The German investigators said it was up to the FBI, not them, to check whether the photo really was that of Bulger himself.

The FBI, despite the mix-up, waited a good five days before they took the offending photo off their website.

We weren’t able to reach the elderly couple in question for comment, though a representative from the show said she had managed to clear the air with their son. It’s not clear whether they're considering legal action.

On a positive note, the show had some of the best ratings ever. Who knows - maybe "Whitey" himself tuned in. If the FBI ever does catch up with him, it'll probably be because he’s laughing so loud at one of TV history's biggest ever blunders. 

– Frederik Pleitgen/CNN Correspondent
CNN's Diana Magnay contributed to this blog

Filed under: Frederik Pleitgen
February 28th, 2008
11:22 AM ET

Back from North Korea, and longing for reunion

I'm back in Seoul, South Korea after four days in communist North Korea covering the New York Philharmonic's historic concert in Pyongyang.  What a life-changing experience.  Being in that concert hall while the orchestra played the “Star-Spangled Banner” before a mostly North Korean crowd was surreal.  There were tears in the audience and in the orchestra during the finale, "Arirang," the most famous Korean folk song on both sides of the DMZ.  "Arirang" is about the longing for reunion.


Alina Cho reporting from Pyongyang, North Korea

North Korea is truly like no other place on earth.  In the capital of Pyongyang, the roads are paved, but the streets are empty. Owning a car is a luxury.  There are department stores, but no shoppers.

It’s so sad to see how people live there, without adequate food or heat. But the North Koreans I met were exceedingly warm.  The elevator attendant at the hotel told me more than once he hopes I can come back to Pyongyang.  My government guide - remember, journalists are not allowed to go anywhere without a so-called "minder" - told me that when I talked about how my own family struggled during the Korean War, he was impressed.  He said officially he couldn't comment, but as a human being, he was moved.  That touched me.

Finally, though I was there for professional reasons, I was also on a personal mission.  Two of my dad's uncles disappeared during the Korean War.  Nobody in my family knows whether they were kidnapped or defected because they were never seen again. My family believes - if they are still alive - they are in North Korea.  I had sent a letter to the North Korean government in hopes that they could track my relatives down and that I could meet them while I was there.  It was not to be, at least not this time.  The government told me there was simply not enough time to find them.  I still have hope, and I'm certain I'll be back someday in Pyongyang. 

– Alina Cho, CNN Correspondent 

Filed under: Alina Cho • North Korea
February 28th, 2008
06:28 AM ET

Morning Buzz

Good Morning Folks!!! There are lots of headlines to plow through this morning. SO grab your coffee and lets just get to it...

Top Stories
8 shot at L.A. bus stop...
Five children and three adults were shot Wednesday afternoon by a gunman who opened fire at a busy South Los Angeles bus stop minutes after classes were dismissed at a nearby school.

House approves new taxes on big oil companies...
The House approved $18 billion in new taxes on the largest oil companies Wednesday as Democrats cited record oil prices and rising gasoline costs in a time of economic troubles.

Justices take on oil spill battle...
The Exxon Valdez oil spill, which caused a 3,000-square-mile oil slick and still affects Alaska’s fisheries after nearly 19 years, was a “tragedy,” Exxon’s lawyer told the Supreme Court on Wednesday.

Virtual fence constructions is delayed...
The Bush administration has scaled back plans to quickly build a "virtual fence" along the U.S.-Mexico border, delaying completion of the first phase of the project by at least three years and shifting away from a network of tower-mounted sensors and surveillance gear, federal officials said yesterday.

Sunni forces losing patience...
U.S.-backed Sunni volunteer forces, which have played a vital role in reducing violence in Iraq, are increasingly frustrated with the American military and the Iraqi government over what they see as a lack of recognition of their growing political clout and insufficient U.S. support.

Taliban killed in clashes...
A militant ambush of an opium poppy eradication force sparked clashes that killed 25 Taliban fighters and a policeman, a provincial authority said Thursday. Four other militants died when a bomb went off.

Lawmakers to push for apology for slavery...
Five states did something over the past 12 months that no state had done before: expressed regret or apologized for slavery

Raw Politics
Bloomberg ops out...
New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, who has publicly flirted with the idea of a run for the White House as an independent, says he will not run for president

Questions arise about McCain's birthplace...
The question has nagged at the parents of Americans born outside the continental United States for generations: Dare their children aspire to grow up and become president? In the case of Senator John McCain of Arizona, the issue is becoming more than a matter of parental daydreaming.

Presidential challenges...
The next U.S. president will face a world fraught with far more foreign policy challenges than President Bush did when he took office.

Obama v. McCain...
Sens. John McCain and Barack Obama engaged in a pointed exchange over al Qaeda in Iraq on Wednesday.

Race is NOW a factor...
When John McCain apologized to Barack Obama this week for the comments of his warm-up act at a rally, it was not the first time–and probably won't be the last–that the most competitive black presidential candidate in U.S. history has heard the words, "I'm sorry."

Longtime Clinton aide returns to the fray...
Harold Ickes may be Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton's last hope for winning the Democratic presidential nomination.

Crime & Punishment
Ex-cop gets life...
Jurors spared the life of a former Canton, Ohio, police officer who killed his pregnant girlfriend and tearfully asked them for mercy. A judge then sentenced him Wednesday to 57 years to life in prison.

Keeping Them Honest
Mine poses danger...
In a snowswept trailer park, Emily Medina wakes each morning wondering whether she will be washed away by toxic water that local officials fear could burst from a decaying mine tunnel near her home.

Thousands warned of clinic's dirty syringes...
Thousands of patients may have been exposed to the hepatitis C virus because of an inappropriate medical practice at an outpatient clinic here over the past four years, state health officials said Wednesday

What YOU will be talking about TODAY
LAPD considers Spears probe...
Los Angeles police say they are looking into allegations that someone drugged Britney Spears but have not decided whether to open a formal investigation.

Spanking study...
Children whose parents spank them or otherwise inflict physical punishment may be more likely to have sexual problems later, according to research to be presented today to the American Psychological Association.

February 28th, 2008
12:29 AM ET

Blog from the Back Row

Our Senior Producer, Charlie Moore, was out sick yesterday so I was in the front row and since the title of this isn't "Blog from the Front Row" (That just doesn't have the same ring to it, does it?) I didn't have an entry last night. Sorry.

Last night Charlie was sick and tonight Charlie's panel was sick, electronically speaking. About two minutes before the show started Charlie said "hello" to Anderson and Anderson said "hello" back except Charlie couldn't hear him.  That's not a good thing just as the show is about to go to air.

Compounding the situation was the fact that only one of the two preproduced pieces needed in the first seven minutes of the show was done. We have a big digital screen on the "NASA" wall in the control room that allows us to quickly see which pieces are ready for air and which aren't. When something is pink it means it's not ready. I don't like pink. It turns white when the piece is ready. I like white.

Charlie came up with the workaround of swapping seats with the line producer until engineering could reset his panel. (It happened to me once before too when I was in that seat. Engineering claims that Charlie and I both emit some sort of electromagnetic field that shorts out the panel. I know nothing of electrical engineering but that doesn't sound plausible to me.) 

While he was handling that mini-crisis, I checked with the tapes producer and satellite lines coordinator who both assured me that the missing piece that was slated to go to air in about 6 minutes would be there. It was coming from DC and was being handled by a producer, Katie Ross, who they swore had never missed a deadline. (There's a lot of trust required in this business.)

Katie still hasn't missed a deadline because at just about the time that Charlie was back in his seat with a fully functional panel, the last pink line on the NASA-like board turned white.

See you tomorrow. Maybe.

Sean Yates, Sr. Producer, AC360

Filed under: Behind The Scenes
February 27th, 2008
09:48 PM ET

Live Blog from the Anchor Desk 2/27/08

Anderson and Erica are ready to blog.  Last night, Anderson had a few technical glitches but he swears things are worked out tonight.

We'll start with the latest from the campaign trail, Roger Clemens and a potential Justice Department investigation, and a shark attack that killed a diver.

Variety – the spice of 360°

The blog opens for comments at 10p ET and closes at 11p ET.

Filed under: Live Blog
February 27th, 2008
09:37 PM ET

Why did police shoot?

What would lead police to shoot and kill an unarmed young mother holding her baby boy in her arms? We flew to Lima, Ohio to find out.

We found a community with a deep distrust of its police force that was brought to the surface with the shooting of Tarika Wilson. 

This past January, Lima police stormed Wilson's home with a warrant for her boyfriend who was a suspected drug dealer. Wilson’s family says during the raid, police shot Wilson while she held her 14-month-son in her arms.


Tarika Wilson, shot dead by police in Lima, Ohio

Wilson died, and her baby was hospitalized with a gunshot wound to his shoulder and hand.  The raid is now under investigation.

Lima has been under scrutiny since the raid. Many people have pointed to racial tension in the town between the residents, many of whom are African American, and police, who are mostly white. 

The tension is reflected in emails sent from angry community members to a local newspaper.

Many emails were critical of Tarika Wilson, pointing to the fact she had several children with different fathers.  These comments are troubling to her family and supporters.   What does her having several children have to do with circumstances surrounding the shooting?

We wanted to speak with Police Chief Greg Garlock about the rift between the community and his force. Garlock initially agreed, but then canceled the interview with no explanation.

To his credit, Lima’s mayor was candid about the problems facing the community, and urged everyone to wait for the results of the investigation.

But the facts remain, Tarika Wilson was unarmed; she's dead; her wounded son is left without a mother; and so far no one has been able or willing to explain why.

-Jason Carroll, CNN Correspondent

February 27th, 2008
09:19 PM ET

Erica’s News Note: The money’s drying up!

The euro has finally made it past the $1.50 mark, and I’m not too happy about it. Sure, it’s great news for my sister who lives in France and is paid in euros. Not so stellar for the rest of the family on this side of the pond. I remember back in the days of the French franc when the tables were turned; during one visit, it was something absurd like 6+FF to the dollar. Ahhh, the salad days…

Add the euro news to ever-rising gas prices ($4 this summer, eh? Kids, we’re going on a picnic for vacation, and we’re walking there; it’s in the backyard), the drop in home sales (anyone in the market for a great loft in Atlanta?), and those depressing holiday sales numbers and you’ve got a nasty economic combo. I always try to focus on the positive, but it’s tough with this one. I can only hope that we – and I mean all of us as a country – learn that living within our means (read: not on credit or home equity loans) isn’t the worst way to be. Trust me, I’ve got some work to do on my end. 

Fed Chief Ben Bernanke didn’t make things sound much better today on Capitol Hill; he, too, is concerned. Beef up on his take here:

And speaking of cutting back… the drought in Georgia is getting some more ink. Remember, I just left Atlanta (that loft is still available), where at one point last fall it seemed like the world was 90 days from ending. We were told we were on the verge of running out of H2O. Turns out, the situation is bad, but wasn’t quite the doomsday scenario it originally seemed to be.

Fast forward to today, and a little “wet kiss” from the mayor of Chatanooga, TN: 2,000 bottles of water delivered to Georgia lawmakers. Last week, those same Georgia lawmakers passed a resolution stating a survey done nearly 200 years ago mistakenly put Georgia’s northern line just shy of the Tennessee River. They want the map redrawn, which would give Georgia access to said river, and lots of the wet stuff. You can bet the Tennesseeans aren’t exactly volunteering to comply… But, hey, they did bring Georgians a little refreshment to tide them over. 

If the water delivery can’t bring everyone together, maybe our favorite dancing prisoners can.  They’re back in tonight’s Shot, with some new moves you won’t want to miss. See you at 10!

-Erica Hill, 360° Correspondent

Filed under: Economy • Erica Hill • Housing Market
February 27th, 2008
08:50 PM ET

On the death of a man bitten by a shark in the Bahamas

Editor's note: Last weekend, diver Markus Groh died after being gnawed during a shark dive in Bahamian waters.  Rob Stewart is an photographer and documentary filmmaker who has vast experience with sharks.  He is a guest on Wednesday's 360° at 10p ET.

This is a tragedy that should be thought of as a terrible accident.  It's the first death in history from any shark diving tourism.

The shark that bit Markus Groh was biting at a box of fish very close to the diver, and when the sand was stirred up and the visibility decreased, the shark bit Markus' calf instead.

The shark didn't remove any flesh, and didn't come back for a secondary bite. That alone shows that the intention of the shark was not to eat him, it was to eat the fish that attracted the shark to the area.

Shark populations have dropped so dramatically that it's extremely difficult to find sharks underwater without bringing food into the water to attract them.

Hopefully, this incident will not further our fear of these important and threatened animals, and demonstrate that sharks are not predators of people.

Shark diving is still a safe and effective way of changing the public's view of sharks.

– Rob Stewart, Photographer/Documentary filmmaker

Filed under: Shark Attack
February 27th, 2008
06:33 PM ET

CNN Exclusive: Christiane Amanpour’s meeting with N. Korean Nuclear Negotiator

A day after the New York Philharmonic's triumphant debut in Pyongyang, I was invited for tea and a chat with North Korea's chief nuclear negiotiator at the Foreign Ministry. It was an exclusive meeting, but off camera, and Vice Foreign Minister Kim Kye Gwan was evidently basking in the aftermath of the orchestra's successful trip.


The cooling tower of a 5 Megawatt nuclear reactor is seen at the Yongbyon Nuclear Center in North Korea

Relaxed and welcoming, he called it "wonderful and very successful art-diplomacy."  I was stunned when he laughed and said the performance of the US national anthem anywhere in North Korea, much less in a full public outing in an unprecedented live brodcast to the nation, "was a political breakthrough" that took "great political courage...the courage of both nations." Mr. Kim reminded me the U.S. and North Korea are afterall still technically at war; only an armistice was signed to end the Korean conflict in 1953.

A day before the concert I had been allowed exclusive access to their Yongbyon nuclear facility, where with U.S. technical expertise, they shut down the plant last summer, and are disabling it. He told me that it is 90% done, and that despite slowing down the process while they wait for the U.S. to fulfill its promises in return, such as lifting sanctions, they remain committed to the nuclear talks and disarmament process.

As for the Philharmonic's performance, the ovations, the applause and the waving, he seemed as suprised as everyone else who watched at the enthusistic reaction of the North Korean audience and the American musicians, telling me the visit would contribute to better understanding between the two nations. As I left after about an hour of conversation through an interpreter, Minister Kim kye Gwan noted "music can be communicted between people without any interpreters."

– Christiane Amanpour, Chief International Correspondent

Filed under: Christiane Amanpour • North Korea
February 27th, 2008
06:02 PM ET

Swing, batter batter

Lisa Bloom

Lisa Bloom is a frequent contributor to the AC360 Blog.

It is not the least bit surprising that Roger Clemens may now be investigated by the Justice Department. His sworn deposition testimony and his statement under oath to the House Oversight Committee always seemed to me to be a setup, a slow pitch, for this obvious end result: legal action against him. If they can't get him for the steroids, they can try to get him for perjury.

Martha Stewart.

Scooter Libby.

Why on earth would Clemens, represented by competent counsel who surely advised against it, fall into this trap? Why do prominent people testify under oath when they don't have to, knowing this will give hostile authorities new ammunition? Must be a combination of ego and denial that scientists have not yet cracked.

– Lisa Bloom, “In Session” Anchor/360° Contributor

Read more Lisa Bloom blogs on “In Session”

Filed under: Lisa Bloom
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