December 22nd, 2008
09:44 PM ET

Live Blog from the Anchor Desk 12/22/08

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Filed under: Live Blog
December 22nd, 2008
07:47 PM ET


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Program Note: Watch Randi’s full report tonight at 10p ET.

Randi Kaye
AC 360° Contributor

Men have been donating sperm for years, but in these tough economic times more and more women are donating their eggs, for the MONEY!!

All you have to do is visit http://www.craigslist.com or pick up a college campus newspaper and you’ll see ads from young women, often between the ages of 21 and 30, offering to donate their eggs. They need the cash and can easily pick up $10,000 for donating their eggs, and as much as $30,000 if they serve as a surrogate and carry the baby.

I recently spent some time with a 26-year-old woman who lives in New York City. Courtney Smith donated eggs a couple of years ago when money got tight. She was paid $7,000 for it. She just got matched with another recipient who plans to pay her $8,000 next month to donate more eggs. The American Society for Reproductive Medicine recommends a maximum of $10,000 paid for eggs. Courtney is doing it because her bills are piling up. She works full time as a wine steward at a high end restaurant in Manhattan so she doesn’t have the time, she says, to get a second job. This is the easiest way she knows to her earn some extra cash. Once she’s matched anonymously with a recipient, usually a couple who can’t have children on their own, she begins taking hormones which stimulate ovulation. Just a few weeks later, a doctor extracts the eggs and they are given to the couple to be fertilized. Donors like Courtney walk away with the cash.

How does Courtney feel knowing that a part of her, her DNA, is out there in someone’s child that she’ll never meet? She says she’s okay with it because she’s not as attached to her eggs as any woman might be to her child. But the author of the book, “The Baby Business,” told me she’d never let her own daughter donate her eggs. She thinks because women do this at such a young age, they may not be mature enough to realize they could regret it later on. The author, Deborah Spar, says she also thinks the whole process could be dangerous, and she says there is definitely a “cringe factor.” Supporters of egg donation say it’s important to remember this helps couples who are struggling with infertility. It is one of the most effective means of treating it.

Times are so tough these days that the agency we visited told us they have seen donor applications double in recent months. As the economic news gets worse, more women offer to donate. Women can donate up to six times in their life. Courtney says she’ll keep doing it until money is no longer an issue.

What do you think of donating eggs for cash? Would you do it?

Filed under: Economy • Randi Kaye
December 22nd, 2008
06:50 PM ET

Cheney v. Biden: War of words

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Program Note: Tune in to AC360° at 10p ET tonight for the latest on the war of words between Cheney and Biden.

Dugald McConnell
CNN Producer

Vice President Dick Cheney will soon be handing the Vice Presidency over to Joe Biden, but not before first questioning whether the newcomer is up to the job of filling his shoes.

This Sunday, Cheney, who has had unprecedented influence on policy, was asked about reports that his successor sees the scope of the office differently from the way Cheney does.

"If he wants to diminish the office of vice president, that's obviously his call," Cheney answered. "I think that President-elect Obama will decide what he wants in a vice president. And apparently, from the way they're talking about it, he does not expect him to have as consequential a role as I've had during my time."

Biden spokeswoman Elizabeth Alexander fired back:

"Only Vice President Cheney would think that putting the Vice Presidency in its proper constitutional role "diminishes" the office. What the American people want from a Vice President is not boasting about how much power they have, but rather, a promise to use that power for the right purposes.

But Biden told CNN's Larry King Monday that he does still expect to have the president's ear.

"My role as vice president is unlike some of the others. I've asked for no specific portfolio – that is, I take care of the environment or one particular area – and that I be essentially his counselor-in-chief."

The shape of any vice presidency is driven more by the president's wishes than the vice president's, says Prof. Stephen Wayne of Georgetown. "In his first year, the president said Dick Cheney has a lot of power. That's what I want: I'm delegating a lot to him. I don't think Barack Obama is going to delegate that much to Joe Biden."


Filed under: Dick Cheney • Joe Biden • Raw Politics
December 22nd, 2008
06:16 PM ET

Biden starting to raise profile

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Program Note: Tune in to AC360 tonight at 10p ET for more on the Obama Administration’s plans for the economy and VP-elect Biden’s role.

Ed Henry
CNN Senior White House Correspondent

CNN has learned that Vice President-elect Joe Biden will chair a meeting of the transition team's top economic advisers on Tuesday, as the incoming administration ramps up its efforts to piece together an urgent economic recovery package and try to sell the expected $775 billion plan to Congress.

Two Democratic officials told CNN the meeting at the Washington transition headquarters will include Lawrence Summers, President-elect Barack Obama's pick to chair the National Economic Council, a key policymaking arm within the White House that will be charged with formulating the new administration's response to the financial crisis.

The fact that Biden is leading the meeting suggests the incoming Vice President will play a key role in helping to pass the stimulus package. That's significant because Biden's low profile in recent days has sparked speculation that he will be sidelined in the new administration, especially since his strongest asset - foreign policy - is going to be largely handled by Secretary of State-designate Hillary Clinton.

But Biden himself said during the campaign that he was not seeking any specific task, and would not cut as wide a swatch as Vice President Cheney. Instead Biden said during the vice presidential debate that he would focus more broadly on using his four decades of experience in the U.S. Senate helping Obama govern by move legislation through Congress.

"I have a history of getting things done in the United States Senate," Biden said during his one debate with Republican Gov. Sarah Palin. "John McCain would acknowledge that. My record shows that, on controversial issues. I would be the point person for the legislative initiatives in the United States Congress for our administration."

After being conspicuously quiet in the early weeks of the transition, Biden is suddenly raising his profile to selling an expensive economic plan to lawmakers suffering from sticker shock after one government bailout after another. He appeared on his first Sunday talk show as Vice President-elect this wekeend by going on ABC's "This Week" to declare that bolder action is needed now to prevent the economoy from "absolutely tanking" at this point.

Filed under: Economy • Ed Henry • Joe Biden • Raw Politics
December 22nd, 2008
06:04 PM ET

Beat 360° 12/22/08

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:

Dee Snider of Twisted Sister rings the opening bell (and does a little screaming) at the New York Stock Exchange.

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


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Filed under: Beat 360° • T1
December 22nd, 2008
05:20 PM ET

Put the journalists' beer on my tab

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Ed Henry
CNN Senior White House Correspondent

Many Republicans already believe President-elect Barack Obama has gotten a free ride from the national media, so they may not be happy to learn the incoming Commander-in-Chief offered to buy a round of drinks for reporters covering his working vacation on the sands of Hawaii's beaches - and the greens of its lush golf courses.

Halfway through a round of golf on Sunday afternoon, Obama rolled up to the snack bar in his golf cart to find a small pool of reporters waiting to get more pictures of him enjoying a leisurely day. No doubt realizing these might not be the best images at a time of recession, Obama suggested the reporters seek some other recreation to pass the time - rather than snapping so many pics.

"Obama then told us we should be in the clubhouse at the bar having some beers," according to a pool report by Jamie Farnsworth of CBS News. "Someone asked if he would pick up the tab and he agreed before driving off to the next hole. Pool is still holding without beer.

In a separate pool report for print journalists, Jeff Zeleny of The New York Times added helpfully: "He chatted for a moment, telling the pool to have a beer and put it on his tab. No one took him up on the offer."

Aha! So the key here is reporters covering the President-elect are having more fun here in Hawaii than we had in Crawford, Texas - and 85 degrees in the middle of the afternoon here is way better than the cold winds blowing through Chicago too. But none of the journalists were corrupted by a wee little free beer - we pay our own tabs.

And just for the record: your faithful correspondent, while enjoying the wonders of Waikiki beach, never drinks - at least not on the job.

Filed under: Barack Obama • Ed Henry • Raw Politics
December 22nd, 2008
03:02 PM ET

Five found guilty of plotting to kill Fort Dix soldiers

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A jury has found five men guilty of conspiring to kill soldiers at Fort Dix, New Jersey, a spokesman for the U.S. Attorney's office said Monday.

The defendants were acquitted of attempted murder charges but face life in prison.

The jury spent six days deliberating.

Six men were arrested on May 7, 2007, in New Jersey, as two of them were meeting a confidential government witness "to purchase three AK-47 automatic machine guns and four semi-automatic M-16s to be used in an attack they had been planning from at least January 2006," according to a criminal complaint.

The sixth defendant, Agron Abdullahu, pleaded guilty in October to a reduced charge of providing firearms to illegal aliens and received a sentence of 20 months in prison and three years of supervised release.

Abdullahu told the court in October that, from January 2006 to May 2007, he and Turkish-born Serdar Tatar provided firearms to brothers Dritan Duka, Shain Duka and Eljvir "Elvis" Duka.

The Duka brothers, born in the former Yugoslavia, were in the United States illegally.

Tatar and Abdullahu are both legal U.S. residents. The other defendant, Jordanian-born Mohamad Ibrahim Shnewer, is the only U.S. citizen among them.

The alleged Fort Dix plot came to light when two men gave an 8 mm videotape to a clerk at a Circuit City store in Mount Laurel, New Jersey, and asked him to convert it to DVD format.


Filed under: 360° Radar
December 22nd, 2008
10:51 AM ET

Financial Dispatch: Obama beefs up economic recovery plan

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Gene Bloch
Managing Editor
CNN New York

We’ve all been there – a vacation that’s supposed to be relaxing, but the stresses of the job intrude. President-Elect Obama, on vacation with his family in Hawaii, has a lot to think about with less than a month to go before inauguration. Obama this weekend expanded the goal of his economic recovery plan, which will now aim to create 3 million jobs, up from 2.5 million in the original version. That news comes as this weekend Vice President-Elect Joe Biden took to the airwaves and pressed the need for a recovery plan, saying the U.S. economy is in danger of “absolutely tanking.”

The malls were humming with holiday shoppers this weekend, but discounts were steep and profits likely thin, as retailers struggle with one of their toughest seasons in memory. We’ll find out how Americans are feeling about things Tuesday morning with the University of Michigan’s preliminary report on consumer sentiment. It’s among the slew of reports crammed into the first three days of this holiday week. The trading week is a short one on Wall Street, with a 1p closing bell on Wednesday, no trading for Christmas Day of course, and then a full day on Friday. In the early doing this morning, the Dow is near the break even mark (down 4 as of this writing).


Filed under: Bailout Turmoil • Economy • Finance • Gene Bloch
December 22nd, 2008
10:08 AM ET

Clinton campaign debt now at $6.4 million

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Robert Yoon
CNN Political Research Director

Secretary of State-designate Hillary Clinton had $6.4 million in presidential campaign debt at the end of November, according to a report filed Saturday with the Federal Election Commission.

The amount, though still significant, represents the lowest level of debt the New York senator's failed presidential campaign has reported this year. Clinton's campaign debt reached its peak, $12 million, at the end of June and has gradually fallen since then.

Clinton said she hopes to pay off her debt before her possible confirmation as secretary of state.

Clinton has also officially forgiven the $13.2 million she personally loaned her campaign. Under the McCain-Feingold campaign finance law, presidential candidates who loan their campaigns money from personal funds may only be paid back if they do so by the national party convention - in this case, the Democratic National Convention held last August in Denver.

Clinton began November with $985,000 in her campaign account and raised nearly $290,000 by the end of the month. Her campaign paid out $1.2 million, mainly to unpaid vendors, ending the month with $188,000 in the bank.

The $6.4 million in remaining debt is owed to a total of 16 creditors.


Filed under: Raw Politics • Robert Yoon
December 22nd, 2008
10:05 AM ET

Former student gets 15 years for supporting terrorism

A former University of South Florida student has been sentenced to 15 years in prison for providing material support to terrorists, including making a videotape showing how to assemble and use a remote-controlled bomb, prosecutors said.

Ahmed Abdellatif Sherif Mohamed, 26, was sentenced Thursday in federal court in Tampa, Florida. He pleaded guilty to the charge in June.

Under a plea agreement, six other charges against him were dropped.

Some of those charges stemmed from an August 2007 traffic stop in suburban Charleston, South Carolina, in which Mohamed and another USF student were arrested.

At a court hearing, a sheriff's deputy who stopped their Toyota Camry for traveling 60 mph in a 45-mph zone said he became suspicious when one of the men closed a laptop computer and placed it in the back seat when the car was pulled over. Mohamed was driving the car, authorities said.


Filed under: 360° Radar
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