September 26th, 2008
11:20 AM ET

O.J. Trial: "All is sad in Mudville"

Editor’s Note:

O.J. Simpson is on trial for robbery and kidnapping charges nearly a year after police arrested him in Las Vegas, Nevada. Prosecutors say Simpson and five other men stormed into a Las Vegas hotel room last September 13 to recover sports memorabilia that Simpson said belonged to him. They say at least two men with Simpson had guns as they robbed two sports memorabilia dealers. The following dispatches come from our Paul Vercammen covering the trial.

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Paul Vercammen
CNN Senior Producer

7:55a PT

O.J. Simpson entered the courthouse in Las Vegas Friday for what's expected to be an all out attack on him from the witness stand.

The prosecution in the Simpson armed robbery and kidnapping trial is looking for one of its final witnesses, gunman Michael "Spencer" McClintion, to blast away at the celebrity defendant.

Witnesses in the case say McClinton pulled a gun and threatened victims in the alleged armed robbery at the Palace Station Hotel.

The prosecution is looking for McClinton to testify he was simply following a plan laid out by Simpson.

The defense has maintained Simpson knew nothing about guns and had no control over McClinton heard swearing and screaming and during the secret audio recording of the incident.

When Simpson arrived at the courthouse Friday, he said "all is sad in Mudville, mighty USC struck out."

Simpson was alluding to his alma mater's stunning loss Thursday night to Oregon State in a nationally televised college football game.

September 26th, 2008
10:41 AM ET

On bended knee

Ed Henry
White House Correspondent

Two senior Democratic aides say that just moments after a tense White House meeting broke down Thursday, Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson literally got down on one knee to half-jokingly beg Speaker Nancy Pelosi and other Democratic leaders not to go to the stakeout cameras and blast the failed negotiations.

Paulson told Pelosi that he feared Democratic criticism of stalled could further rattle the markets and all but doom legislation the White House believes is desperately needed to stave off an even worse financial crisis, according to the two aides.

"Admittedly he was half-joking, but it was remarkable to see the Secretary plead with the Speaker," said one of the Democratic sources.

The bizarre scene played out in the Roosevelt Room of the White House, where several Democrats camped out after a meeting with the President in the Cabinet Room broke down. Sen. Barack Obama was among the Democrats in the group along with the Pelosi and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, who met spontaneously to plot their next move.

Suddenly there was a knock at the door in the Roosevelt Room, according to the aides, and Paulson walked in. He immediately started pleading with Pelosi and other Democrats.

"He said, 'Please Madame Speaker, don't go to the cameras,'" said one of the Democratic aides.

The aides said Pelosi and Rep. Barney Frank briefly lashed out at Paulson for asking Democrats to hold their fire even as some of the President's fellow Republicans are holding out on a deal.

But in the end, Democrats gave in and decided not to go to the cameras and microphones waiting on the White House driveway.

One Democratic aide said the group decided that rather than go on the attack, it was better "to go back to the Hill to regroup" with more meetings Thursday evening.

A Treasury spokeswoman did not immediately respond to a request for comment on Paulson's plea – on bended knee.

Filed under: Bailout Turmoil • Ed Henry • Raw Politics
September 26th, 2008
09:41 AM ET

Read the Fine Print

Steve Turnham
AC360 producer

If you want to know whether a bailout deal is possible, watch this space: www.house.gov/hensarling/rsc/.

That's the URL for the House Republican Study Group, a group of 100 conservative House members leading the resistance to the Bush bailout. If they're not on board, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi is unlikely to push a bailout through, even if she can muster enough democratic and moderate republican votes. After all, why give 100 House republicans a potent anti-Wall Street message to go home and beat you up over?

House conservatives are willing to do a deal, but only if it does not involve the actual government purchase of bad debt. Their spiritual leader, former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, put out what at first glance seemed to be a ringing endorsement of John McCain's bailout plan bailout effort Wednedsay.

Gingrich called McCain's move “the greatest single act of responsibility ever taken by a presidential candidate and rivals President Eisenhower saying, ‘I will go to Korea.’” But read the fine print, because there were some big IFs. IF, wrote Gingrich, the bill includes an economic growth component (tax cuts?), and energy solution (drilling?), and a "work-out" not a bail out for the financial sector.

The first two are killers: democrats are not going to ram through a package that gives the GOP what it wants just to get a bill passed. And what does a "work out" mean? Well we know what it doesn't mean; it doesn't mean the US government lifting the burden of bad decisions off of Wall Street and putting it onto the taxpayer, even if the White House says the taxpayer could actually profit in the long run.

As Hensarling himself put it Wednesday:

"I can put a gun to my neighbors head, take his college fund for his children, lace a bet on a roulette table in Las Vegas, and maybe, maybe, I'll triple his money. But ... that is not a risk that my neighbor voluntarily undertook. This is not a risk that the taxpayer wishes to voluntarily undertake."

Filed under: Bailout Turmoil • Raw Politics • Steve Turnham
September 26th, 2008
09:00 AM ET

Pay attention to the children in crisis

[cnn-photo-caption image=http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2008/images/09/25/art.denzel.jpg caption="Denzel Washington talks with NYC Mayor Michael Bloomberg at the Boys & Girls Clubs of America Presidents Dinner in 2004."]
Editor's Note: Two-time Oscar winner Denzel Washington joined the Mt. Vernon Boys & Girls Club in New York at the age of 6 and remained an active member for the next 12 years. The actor credits his early years spent at the club with changing the direction of his life. Since 1994, he has served as a volunteer national spokesman for Boys & Girls Clubs of America, appearing in public service announcements on television and in print. He's also a member of the group's board.

Denzel Washington
Volunteer National Spokesman for Boys & Girls Clubs of America

These are the subjects that generate headlines and much debate among the candidates.

But there is an underlying problem that we as a nation have not addressed, a situation that should concern any American with an eye on the future, regardless of party affiliation. It is the crisis affecting our children:

  • Nearly 30 percent of this year's freshman class will drop out of high school, according to the National Center for Education Statistics. That number jumps to 40 percent in some urban areas.
  • The obesity rate for our kids has gone up by as much as 300 percent since 1980, according to the National Center for Health Statistics, triggering a host of health-related problems, from diabetes to heart disease.
  • Young people account for more than 20 percent of violent crimes in the United States, according to statistics cited by Duke University's Center for Child and Family Policy. Violent juvenile crime peaks between 3 and 4 p.m., at the end of the school day.

These facts are grim enough. Factor in persistent patterns of poverty, gang activity, drug abuse and teenage pregnancy, and you have a generation of Americans that will be unprepared - indeed, unable - to meet the challenges posed by a complex world.

Keep Reading

Filed under: Raw Politics
September 26th, 2008
08:30 AM ET

Ron Paul against hurricane recovery $$ for his district?

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Ed Lavandera | BIO
CNN Correspondent in Houston, Texas

"Dr. No" really lived up to his nickname this time. If you've never heard of "Dr. No" that would be Congressman and former presidential candidate Ron Paul. He's made a name for himself for voting against virtually every piece of legislation that he sees as government overreaching.

Could you ever imagine finding a politician voting against sending billions of dollars to his own district to help recover from a hurricane disaster?

I guess you can say Ron Paul is dishing out some tough love in the aftermath of Hurricane Ike. Paul's southeast Texas congressional district includes many areas hit hard by the hurricane, including Galveston Island. The Texas Representative voted against a $22-billion aid package to help in the recovery and rebuilding of the southeast Texas region. The bill passed despite Paul's opposition. But needless to say, some in Galveston are dismayed.

"That's bad. That's sad," Galveston City Manager Steve LeBlanc told the Houston Chronicle.

The congressman's office told me that Paul voted against the bill because "it was snuck into a bill he couldn't support." But his office did say he voted for a disaster tax relief bill that will help his constituents get back on their feet.

Something tells me that's not what many voters in Galveston are going to remember.

Filed under: 360° Radar • Hurricane Ike
September 26th, 2008
08:00 AM ET

Small town politics meets mean machine

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Abbie Boudreau | BIO
CNN Investigative Correspondent

I’ve been in Alaska for one week now. But really, it only took a few hours of being here to realize how the national political machine is upsetting the small town atmosphere of a state that now feels itself at the center of a political maelstrom.

You have to keep in mind, most Alaskans were shocked when Gov. Palin became Sen. McCain’s vice presidential pick. Just about everybody we meet here, whether they support her or not, still cannot believe that “their Sarah” is now a prominent character in a national political drama.

And because people didn’t see this coming, some could argue they weren’t quite prepared for swarms of reporters and political analysts to descend on their state – and question every aspect of Alaskan and small town politics.


Filed under: John McCain • Raw Politics • Sarah Palin
September 26th, 2008
07:43 AM ET

Morning Buzz: Twists and Turns

Penny Manis
AC360 Senior Producer

So let’s see, where shall I start? Talks have imploded with regard to the bailout, Congress can’t agree on a final draft, and there is a debate tonight that we think may take place, but John McCain hasn’t confirmed he’ll be there. Did I mention that JPMorgan Chase acquired the banking assets of Washington Mutual last night after the feds seized it, marking the biggest bank failure in the nation’s history? This is the latest development in the credit crisis, and as Barack Obama points out this failure ‘shows the need for an agreement’. Like we needed any reminders? Anyways, that’s our starting point this morning. (oh and it’s raining cats and dogs in NYC too).

As of this writing, our regular programming is pre-empted due to special debate coverage. Preparations by election officials are underway in Oxford, Mississippi, so we are also gearing up to bring you this live event. Your favorite guy Anderson will be in the mix of anchors and reporters presenting this face-off. Hopefully we’ll get word soon confirming that John McCain indeed will head there tonight, but he had originally said he wouldn’t go unless there’s “enough of an agreement” on the bailout.

Filed under: The Buzz
September 26th, 2008
07:30 AM ET

Two weeks later: Houston still in the dark

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caption="Florida Light and Power Co. linemen work to restore power in the Houston area."]
Ed Lavandera | BIO
CNN Correspondent in Houston, Texas

Susan Wood feels like she’s the victim of a cruel practical joke.

Her next door neighbor’s power, in the Houston suburb of Bellaire, has been restored. All her neighbors across the street have power. Even the family that lives behind her has power. But Susan Wood sits in the dark waiting for the lights, and air conditioning, to turn on.

“It’s crazy. It doesn’t have any rhyme or reason to it,” said Wood. “So now we’re irritated.”

About 500,000 people across the Houston region are still without electrical power nearly two weeks after Hurricane Ike struck the southeast Texas coast.


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Filed under: 360° Radar • Hurricane Ike
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