December 16th, 2008
09:45 PM ET

Live Blog from the Anchor Desk 12/16/08

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Tonight on AC360°, the biggest Wall Street scam ever and why the SEC chairman is "gravely concerned by the apparent multiple failures" in its dealings with Bernard Madoff. How did the so-called "Sheriff of Wall Street" miss his alleged $50 billion scam for so many years? We're keeping them honest. Plus,  tonight's other headlines.

We'd love to hear your thoughts on the headlines.  Just scroll down and share your thoughts on tonight's stories.

But please follow our rules.

Here are some of them:

1) Keep it short (we don't have time to read a "book)
2) Don't write in ALL CAPS (we don't like screaming)
3) Use your real name

Don't miss Randi Kaye's webcast during the commercials. She's filling in for Erica tonight. LINK TO WEBCAST

And take a look at our live web camera from the 360° studio. LINK TO THE BLOG CAMERA

Filed under: Live Blog
December 16th, 2008
08:39 PM ET

Jackson: 'I am not a federal informant'

[cnn-photo-caption image=http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2008/POLITICS/12/10/senate.candidates/art.jackson.gi.jpg caption="Rep. Jesse Jackson, Jr."]
Roland S. Martin
AC360° Contributor

An angry Congressman Jesse Jackson Jr. is pushing back against media reports suggesting that he has worked as a federal informant for the last decade in response to corruption in his home state of Illinois.

Jackson telephoned me a few moments ago and said that as a public servant, it is his duty, and that of any other, to immediately report instances of corruption when they come across it.

"And I have done that," he said. "But I am not, nor have I ever been a federal informant."

Jackson's spokesman, Rick Bryant, added that "Jackson has been sharing information about public corruption with federal investigators for years."

The issue of Jackson's dealing with federal prosecutors comes in the wake of the scandal involving Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich, who federal prosecutors accuse of trying to sell the U.S. Senate seat vacated by President-elect Barack Obama.

The embattled governor was captured on federal wiretaps discussing appointing a Senate candidate later identified as Jackson in exchange for campaign contributions. Jackson denied that he or anyone associated with him has participated in a pay-to-play scheme with Blagojevich.

Editor’s Note: You can read this and more from Roland Martin on Essence.com.

Filed under: Raw Politics • Rod Blagojevich • Roland S. Martin
December 16th, 2008
06:09 PM ET

Madoff scandal: Did the SEC blow it?

Editor's Note: These are quick notes from Fortune Magazine Managing Editor Andy Serwer. See Andy's full report on AC360° tonight at 10pm ET.

[cnn-photo-caption image=http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2008/images/12/16/art.bernie.madoff.jpg caption="Bernard Madoff leaving his home on Dec. 15, 2008."]

Andy Serwer
Managing editor FORTUNE

  • It’s unclear how many times the SEC was flagged but it was flagged more than once on Madoff and took no enforcement action. This is not a small thing – the SEC has gone after smaller operations and closed them down. There are some suggestions that Madoff was friendly with people in the SEC and it's unassailably true that because he was a former NASDAQ chairman, it could have predisposed people to say that this guy couldn’t have been bad.
  • As far as smaller operations, the SEC spent a lot of time and money going after Mark Cuban for insider trading. It's a tiny amount – he avoided losses of $750,000. I'm not saying what Mark Cuban did was right but it's ridiculous that they're spending time and money going after this guy for $750k but were flagged numerous times essentially on one of their own and really did nothing. They spent countless man hours on Cuban and partly it’s because he’s an outsider to Wall Street and not liked by a lot of people in general because he’s brash, etc.
  • Every scandal is the same and every scandal is different. This is the Mother of all scandals. True to form, Madoff seems to be wrong even on how much money is lost because he said $50 billion and it's probably more like $20 billion. He couldn't even tell the truth about how much money was stolen.
  • Wall Street never learns. The bull market brings out the crooks and the bear market is when they get caught. What happens in a ponzi scheme, people start pulling money out and you can't get new investors and the house falls apart.
  • Fortune.com has another story about a guy named Richard Whitney. In 1929, he served for 5 years as President of NYSE, supposedly halted panic in the 1929 crash and ended up being guilty of fraud. In other words, he was part of the club on Wall Street and not guarding hen house, he was stealing from it.
  • I actually talked to a shrink about Madoff today and the shrink said 3 things: 1. He's narcissistic; 2. He suffers from delusions of grandeur; 3. He was psychopath.
  • He's a very peculiar person. Usually these people prey on people they don't know. He preyed on weakest people in society and went after charities of people he believed in. He may have fallen into this. He probably got behind one quarter and he fudged some figures to cover it and it snow-balled. He might not have started out as a crook but turned that way.
  • How did he fool investors? Same thing that fooled the SEC, fooled investors. People said this is a former NASDAQ chairman, returns are good but not through the moon. His returns were just good enough to be a good investment but not so much to be implausible.

See all of Andy's columns at Fortune.com.

Filed under: Andy Serwer • Finance
December 16th, 2008
05:39 PM ET

Beat 360° 12/16/08

Ready for today's Beat 360°?

Everyday we post a picture – and you provide the caption and our staff will join in too.

Tune in tonight at 10pm to see if you are our favorite!

Here is the 'Beat 360°' pic:

US president-elect Barack Obama (C), vice-president elect Joe Biden (L) and nominee for education secretary Arne Duncan (R), listen to a student at a local school, the Dodge Renaissance Academy, in Chicago on December 16, 2008.

Have fun with it. We're looking forward to your captions!

Make sure to include your name, city, state (or country) so we can post your comment.

UPDATE: Check out our Beat 360° Winners!


Beat 360° Challenge

But wait!… There’s more!

When you win ‘Beat 360°’ not only do you get on-air prime-time name recognition (complete with bragging rights over all your friends, family, and jealous competitors), but you get a “I Won the Beat 360° Challenge” T-shirt!

Filed under: Beat 360° • T1
December 16th, 2008
03:44 PM ET

Obama’s pick for education secretary pushed for gay high school

[cnn-photo-caption image=http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2008/POLITICS/12/16/transition.wrap/art.tue.afp.gi.jpg caption="Arne Duncan listens Tuesday as President-elect Obama announces him as his choice for education secretary."]

David Brody
CBN News

Obama’s new pick for Education secretary is Arne Duncan, head of Chicago Public Schools. He’s been pushing for Chicago to start their first gay high school. Not kidding.

Obama is going to get a lot of flack over this pick from social conservative groups and it wouldn’t surprise me if Republican Senators raise a fuss about this during his confirmation hearing. Mark my words. Read below from The Chicago Tribune:

The Chicago Public Schools' first high school designed for gay, lesbian and transgender teens is among 20 new schools recommended to the school board today by CPS Chief Arne Duncan.

The proposed schools range from technology-focused high schools to the School for Social Justice Pride Campus, which officials said would cater to but not focus exclusively on gay youth.

Backers said they envision a small high school offering a college-preparatory curriculum in which students would take four years each of English and math, three years each of foreign languages and science, as well as fine arts and physical education. It would be a performance school, meaning it would have the same staffing and oversight requirements as other district schools.

The announcement of the schools, which are expected to open in the fall of 2009 and 2010, took place at the Chicago International Charter School's Ralph Ellison Campus, 1817 W. 80th St. Public hearings on the proposed schools are expected before the Board of Education votes on them Oct. 22.

"If you look at national studies, you see gay and lesbian students with high dropout rates...Studies show they are disproportionately homeless," Duncan said. "I think there is a niche there we need to fill."

Supporters have said the Pride Campus would help students find a safe school environment because studies have shown that gay youth are at a greater risk of dropping out of school and abusing drugs and alcohol, and are two to three times more likely to attempt suicide. A 2003 district survey shows that gay and lesbian youths are three times more likely to miss school because they don't feel safe.

Opponents have called the move a misuse of public funds. At a recent public hearing on the proposal, some gay rights advocates have said the move would segregate these students and said the district should work more on fostering acceptance by mainstream students, teachers and other school officials.


December 16th, 2008
03:16 PM ET

Bush's shoe thrower – a national hero and heel

Octavia Nasr
CNN Arab Affairs Editor

It all began with a shoe, the ultimate insult in the Arab world. What followed was a reaction of major proportions, reported on Arab media, discussed on Arab streets, and in chat rooms and message boards across the internet.

The internet is buzzing with several shoe-throwing games and comments in Arabic cheering on the shoe thrower. Special websites have been set up, asking people to show their support for the man "who dared" - as one website describes the Iraqi reporter who threw his pair of shoes at the US president. And a FaceBook group in solidarity - not with the reporter - but his shoe, is drawing thousands of supporters.

But not everyone is cheering for the shoe-thrower. While most callers to Al-Baghdadiya, the shoe-thrower’s employer, hailed him as a national hero, critical voices made it to air as well.

A caller by the name of Nasseem Mansour told the Baghdadiya anchor, "This man abused his role as a reporter and insulted the entire journalism profession. His meaningless act was carried out at the expense of the Iraqi people. Only Iraq loses as a result."

Media in Iraq and the rest of the Arab world are covering the story from all angles, with guests, anchors and reporters, not sure what to make of this unusual news story. Perhaps political cartoons explain the sentiment best:

In Saudi Arabia’s Al-Wattan newspaper, a political cartoon shows Bush entering the history books with the heavy burden of a shoe while US tanks burn in the distance.

From Qatar, Al-Wattan’s political cartoon has a sign asking reporters to leave their shoes outside the briefing room.

From Lebanon’s Annahar, two simple words, printed on the sole of a pair of worn shoes. summarize the end of Mr. Bush's era.

Filed under: Global 360° • Iraq • Islam • Octavia Nasr
December 16th, 2008
02:53 PM ET

Caught in the, eh, shoe-fire?

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Philippe Naughton
Times Online

It looks like she's been in the wars. In fact, she just joined President Bush on his weekend trip to Baghdad and came back with what she calls a "shoe-venir".

Dana Perino, the White House Press Secretary, was sporting a clearly visible black eye as she returned to work in Washington today, briefing reporters on subjects including car industry bailouts and Middle East peace.

Ms Perino was in the room when an Iraqi reporter, Muntadhar al-Zaidi, pulled off his shoes and flung them at Mr Bush on Sunday in a gesture of contempt that has seen him hailed as a hero in the Arab world.

Mr Bush, who was giving a joint press conference with the Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, ducked sharply as the size 10 loafers whizzed past his head. His spokeswoman, sitting to his right, was hit in the face by a microphone boom sent flying by a presidential bodyguard.


Filed under: Iraq
December 16th, 2008
02:21 PM ET

Ivory wars: the latest herd count and poaching report

Program Note: CNN’s award-winning Planet in Peril returns this year to examine the conflict between growing populations and natural resources. Anderson Cooper, Dr. Sanjay Gupta, and Lisa Ling travel to the front lines of this worldwide battle. Planet In Peril: Battle Lines will re-air on Thursday, Dec. 25


Darren Potgieter
Wildlife Conservation Society

I took-off at mid-afternoon on Friday for a long patrol flight. I had been away in the capital for the week to have maintenance done on our little Cessna. Now I needed to see what had passed while I was gone.

I wanted to check all the elephant hotspots; to follow up on the herds and make sure there had been no poaching. While I was away the guards had been making patrols and recorded no incidence of poaching, but I was still uneasy about what we would find.

First we buzzed around the large open flooded plain in the north east of the park– the area was full of large buffalo herds that were there to profit from the last of the wet season’s greenery. We also found two good elephant herds, of around 60 and 80 individuals.

The elephants were feeding in the open, and this was a good sign– they were relaxed and unthreatened. We continued our search and found life everywhere. The park is teeming with thousands of buffalo, huge flocks of crowned cranes, pelicans, many different antelope species, giraffe and predators. It is easy to be lulled away by the beauty.

We’d been flying for more than an hour when my attention was drawn away in the distance to a lone white pelican. He was sitting at the very top of a tree, in stark contrast to the dark green foliage and was oddly out of place being as far as he was from water. My curiosity directed the plane for a closer look.

As we neared I noticed that his post was shared by a horde of vultures and just as the meaning of this registered in my brain, David somberly responded; “Damn, carcass on my side”.

There were two and they were fresh, not more than five days old– their faces hacked off. One of the two was a
juvenile, confirmed the following day to be about five years old. His tusks would have been tiny, a few hundred grams worth– but still more valuable to some than the life of this little elephant. I was angry– it can’t be a coincidence that this happened as soon as the plane left for its maintenance in Ndjamena. We found another two carcasses before touching down in the fading gleam of dusk. Zakouma! This place equally full of life and death....

We’ve lost at least 11 elephants since the middle of October, and of course in the present conditions with tall grass and dense canopy cover we are not seeing all of them. Eleven in less than two months. It would be more if it weren’t for the guards and our plane, but it is clear they won’t stop trying until they’ve mined all the ivory from Zakouma.

It is full moon now and it is a good time to poach. It is bright enough to find and shoot the elephants, the cool of the night will make the arduous task of hacking out the ivory easier, and of course the rest of the world should be sound asleep. I have bought cheap lanterns to use as runway lights and will fly at night now.

Filed under: Africa • Environmental issues • Planet in Peril • T1
December 16th, 2008
01:25 PM ET

Cheney on waterboarding: 'Did it produce the desired results? I think it did.'

[cnn-photo-caption image=http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2008/POLITICS/12/16/cheney.iraq/art.cheney.gi.jpg caption="Vice President Dick Cheney brushes aside ex-colleagues' assertions he has morphed into a unrecognizable figure."]

In his first TV interview since the presidential election, Vice President Dick Cheney once again staunchly defended the Bush administration's record in the war on terror and, more specifically, the decision to go to war in Iraq.

While admitting that he shared "frustration" over faulty intelligence regarding weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, Cheney asserted to ABC News' Jonathan Karl on Monday that "the world is better off with Saddam [Hussein] gone."

"I think we made the right decision in spite of the fact that the original [intelligence estimate] was off in some of its major judgments," Cheney said.

"Saddam Hussein still had the capability to produce weapons of mass destruction. He had the technology [and] he had the people. ... [He] had every intention of resuming production once the international sanctions were lifted. This was a bad actor."

Keep Reading...

Filed under: Dick Cheney • Iraq • War on Terror
December 16th, 2008
12:59 PM ET

Will Blagojevich resign? His lawyer says no

[cnn-photo-caption image=http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2008/POLITICS/12/15/blagojevich/art.blagojevich.gi.jpg caption="Gov. Rod Blagojevich spent nearly eight hours Sunday talking to a high-priced Chicago attorney."]

The attorney for embattled Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich said Monday night that he does not believe Blagojevich will resign.

Criminal defense attorney Ed Genson confirmed that he will represent Blagojevich against corruption charges.

Asked whether believes his client will resign Genson said, "No."

The statement came after a review of President-elect Barack Obama's transition activities concluded Monday he and his staff had no inappropriate discussions with either Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich or Blagojevich's staff about filling Obama's vacant U.S. Senate seat.

"There is nothing in the review that was presented to me that in any way contradicted my earlier statements that this appalling set of circumstances that we've seen arise had nothing to do with my office," Obama said during a news conference Monday afternoon.

Obama noted that U.S. Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald, who is heading the investigation of Blagojevich, has requested a week's delay of the public release of the review so that it would not "interfere with an ongoing investigation" of the governor.

Keep Reading...

Filed under: Raw Politics • Rod Blagojevich
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