August 22nd, 2008
09:30 AM ET

New polygamist indictments, more martyrdom

[cnn-photo-caption image=http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2008/images/08/21/jeffsjeffs.jpg caption="Warren Jeffs" width=292 height=320]

Gary Tuchman
AC360° Correspondent

Warren Jeff's fundamentalist polygamist sect has never been so vulnerable.

A grand jury in Texas has indicted three FLDS members on charges related to accusations of sexual abuse of children through marriage of underage girls to older men.

This follows the indictment of five others last month, including Warren Jeffs himself on new charges, Jeffs is already in prison after being convicted as an accomplice to rape for arranging an underage marriage.

There is no reason to doubt that more members of this church are being investigated.

One might think all this is giving some  members second thoughts. But in this church, where the hierarchy is as rigid and strict as old Stalinist regimes, no member in good standing would ever tell an outsider that.

On the contrary, one member I called tells me this "strengthens his faith." It's an attack against their religion, he says.

Justice may be getting served. But it's also increasing a martyr complex among members of this church. And you have to wonder what effect that might have on the men, women and children of this church.

Filed under: FLDS update • Gary Tuchman • Polygamy
August 22nd, 2008
09:30 AM ET

Morning Buzz: Who's the VP?

Barclay Palmer
AC360 Senior Producer

Good morning all!

In a moment that could shape history for decades to come…. Wait, pause button… True, if a butterfly flaps its wings in China, that could change history too, but this could have a much more direct impact… Will Barack Obama name his VP choice today?

That’s the expectation.

Obama has said he wants someone who can help him with the economy, someone “independent… not a yes person” … someone he “can spar with.”

That would be admirable, maybe even helpful.

Is it a real clue, or a red herring?

Any case, it’s hard to imagine a couple of those mentioned as short-listers fulfilling those qualifications. Evan Bayh?

Does it matter who’s chosen? Some say it doesn’t… that candidates win and lose on their own merits… that candidates have won—and lost—despite their VP candidates. Dan Quayle… Al Gore… did they make the difference? Ah, no.

Gore might help a lot this time, now that he’s achieved rock star status among liberals, winning an Oscar, rolling out a vision to save America - and the planet - from greenhouse gasses.

Gore has said he’s not interested. But as John King asked on our air last night, if Obama told him, “I need you, your country needs you, give me four years,” could Gore in good conscience really say no?

We might never find out. Or - Surprise! - we just might.

Thinking through the scenarios, the anticipation and the breaking news are always lots of fun.

And this time, it just might matter.

Filed under: Barclay Palmer • The Buzz
August 22nd, 2008
09:15 AM ET

Executed... and innocent?

[cnn-photo-caption image=http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2008/images/08/21/camerontoddwillingham2.jpg caption="Cameron Willingham, convicted of capital murder and sentenced to death, was executed on Tuesday, Feb. 17, 2004." width=292 height=320]

Gabriel Falcon
AC360° Writer

Before the lethal drugs poured into his vein, stopping his heart and ending his life, Cameron Todd Willingham gave a last statement from the Texas death chamber. This is what inmate # 999041 said:  

“The only statement I want to make is that I am an innocent man – convicted of a crime I did not commit. I have been persecuted for 12 years for something I did not do. From God's dust I came and to dust I will return – so the earth shall become my throne. I gotta go, road dog. I love you Gabby.”

Willingham was executed on February 17, 2004. More than four-years later, state investigators will decide if an innocent man was put to death. The Texas Forensic Science Commission has agreed to review the case  because key evidence has been called into question.

Willingham was convicted of murdering his three young daughters. Prosecutors said he intentionally set fire to their home. A jury agreed.

Now, more than four years after the execution, the forensic testing that the prosecution used to argue it was arson has been called mistaken.

A panel commissioned by the Innocence Project determined that an incendiary agent was not used, concluding that in all likelihood the fire was accidental.

The state said  justice was served.  Now many wonder if that was just an injustice.

Filed under: Crime & Punishment • Gabe Falcon
August 22nd, 2008
08:55 AM ET

McCain slams Obama on Rezko; will Obama slam McCain on Keating?

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Roland S. Martin | Bio
AC360° Contributor
CNN Political Analyst

Editor’s Note: You can read more from Roland at RolandSMartin.com

The back and forth between Sens. John McCain and Barack Obama today regarding a housing gaffe has been amazing.

McCain tells Politico.com that he can't remember how many homes he and Cindy McCain owns, and the Obama camp immediately jumped on it.

The McCain camp hit back, invoking disgraced Obama fundraiser Tony Rezko, who was convicted this year for misdeeds not related to the junior senator from Illinois.

Then the Obama camp came back hard with an ad blasting McCain about not knowing how many homes he owned.

How did McCain respond?

Spokesman Brian Rogers told Politico.com: "Voters care a lot more about candidates' personal ethics than about how many houses or residences or doghouses that John and Cindy McCain own. The reality is that Barack Obama purchased his million-dollar mansion in a shady deal involving a convicted felon, and it raises questions about his ethics and judgment."
Key words: personal ethics, shady deal, convicted felon, ethics again, and judgment.

The ball's now in Obama's court. Will they take the opening to hit McCain hard on his own past with a convicted felon: Charles Keating.


Filed under: Barack Obama • John McCain • Raw Politics • Roland S. Martin • T1
August 22nd, 2008
08:50 AM ET

Obama in Falwell territory

[cnn-photo-caption image=http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2008/images/08/21/art.obama.lynchburg2.jpg
caption="Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Barack Obama, speaks during a town hall meeting at the E.C. Glass High School in Lynchburg, Va., Wednesday."]
Richard Morris
CNN Associate Producer

Wednesday night Obama visited my hometown, Lynchburg, VA, also the home of the late Rev. Jerry Falwell. Lynchburg is located in the central part of Virginia, a very idyllic setting at the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains and next to the historic James River.

Rev. Jerry Falwell, died last year, but his church and fellowship remain strongly rooted in the community. Even the college Falwell founded, Liberty University (LU), has continued to expand.

LU has been buying real estate over the past few years, including a strip mall called The Plaza that became the site of a political turf battle this week.

Obama held a town hall at my alma mater, E.C. Glass High School, just across from The Plaza. Unfortunately for the school and Obama supporters, parking at E.C. Glass was tight due to freshman orientation occurring at the same time as the town hall. So the campaign suggested The Plaza for any overflow parking.

LU says it was never approached about this plan, and only learned of it when the media began to publicize logistics for the event.

The university then said it would be unable to accommodate the overflow parking due to "IRS" tax laws. The IRS says tax-exempt organizations, such as LU, are not allowed to assist campaigns in any way. So as Obama supporters arrived, they were greeted by LU security officers who turned them all away - while allowing in patrons of The Plaza.

The town’s solution was to have town hall attendees park at the city stadium located about a mile or so down the road, and bus them back and forth to the high school.

It all worked out.. sort of.. but many were left wondering - was this Southern Baptist university simply adhering to the tax code, or was it an example of Tip O'Neil's famous phrase, "All politics is local." Or both?

Filed under: Barack Obama • Raw Politics
August 22nd, 2008
08:40 AM ET

What that box on your tax return is really for

[cnn-photo-caption image=http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2008/images/08/21/art.vert.conventionballoons2004.jpg width=292 height=320]
Drew Griffin
Special Investigations Unit

I doubt that after you read this you will check off that box on your tax form ever again….then again, here's a little tale about what's behind that box and you can decide.

Here’s the idea: If taxpayers fund the presidential campaigns, then big money, you know, the usual "bad guys"–big corporations, unions, PACs, contractors–would have less influence. That’s why this system was set up way back in 1971.

In 1974 Congress even took the added step of allowing you to opt-in or opt-out by checking or not checking that box. It wasn’t really a donation. It was a way to tell congress you would like to “earmark” a dollar of federal money for the cause.

Well, that little “check in the box” is now worth $3 dollars on your tax return. And if you are wondering where the money is going, next week turn on CNN and look at all those balloons about to drop. FULL POST

August 22nd, 2008
08:02 AM ET

Pirates strike again – no kidding

Pirates are running rampant off Somalia. This past June, CNN's David McKenzie embarked with the forces trying to stop them.
Pirates are running rampant off Somalia. This past June, CNN's David McKenzie embarked with the forces trying to stop them.

David McKenzie | BIO
CNN Correspondent

It's been called the worst spate of piracy in years.

Three ships were hijacked in one day off the coast of Somalia, in East Africa. The ships are flying German, Japanese and Iranian flags. They were targetted by pirates who now seem to be striking at will.

These are not your Jack Sparrow romantic pirates of yesteryear. They use speedboats that operate from mother ships to take on merchant vessels. The pirates are heavily armed with RPGs and heavy machine guns. Merchant vessels are defenseless.

The attacks today bring the number of vessels currently being held by pirates off Somalia to seven.

Capt. Pottengal Mukudan of the International Maritime Bureau told CNN that the Combined Task Force-150 - a multinational naval force that monitors the region - should "give piracy a much higher priority to bring this under control."

[cnn-photo-caption image=http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2008/images/08/22/art.vert.somalia2.jpg width=292 height=320]
"Four attacks in two days, ships being hijacked and crews being taken, and large ransoms being demanded is completely unacceptable," Mukudan said.

I spent time with the CTF-150 warships off Somalia. The multinational force said they would do all they could to stop pirates but that their mandate only allowed them to work in international waters.

That mandate has since changed, allowing them to take on pirates more aggresively. Yet we haven't seen proactive tactics to meet the threat. FULL POST

Filed under: David McKenzie • Global 360°
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