December 23rd, 2008
09:44 PM ET

Live Blog from the Anchor Desk 12/23/08

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Tonight on AC360°,  new details on the Obama senate seat scandal. The President-elect's secret report revealed. We'll tell you how much contact the Obama team had with Illinois Governor Blagojevich and the bombshell no one expected.  Plus, why waiting to the last minute to do your holiday shopping may pay off for you this year. We'll have those stories and more.

Here's how you can be a part of tonight's program. Just scroll down and share your thoughts on the headlines.

Just 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 Kay'es webcast during the commercials.  She's got that duty since Erica is filling in for Anderson 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 23rd, 2008
09:05 PM ET

Save jobs. Buy something.

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Steven Malanga

An international group holds an event every holiday season called Buy Nothing Day, in which members protest our consumer culture by urging shoppers to restrain for at least one day from shopping. This year, not surprisingly, the event was reportedly a smashing success. Although I imagine many shoppers took part unwillingly, having lost their jobs or witnessed the value of their assets plummet, others said they were buying nothing, or at least buying considerably less this year, in sympathy with those who were struggling.

“Even though we can afford to spend more, we're not going to,” someone identified as Mary from Brenham, Texas told CNN. “It just doesn't seem right to spend lots of money when so many are hurting.” Bart, the head of a nonprofit in Springfield, Missouri, told a local newspaper that with so many people struggling, “It just doesn't feel right to go out and spend a bunch of money on Christmas gifts." The sentiment seemed pretty much the same across the pond, where a columnist for the London Times observed that rich friends “have all cancelled their customary Christmas holidays. Sure, they could afford Tobago as usual, but this year it just doesn't feel right.”


Filed under: Economy • Raw Politics • Steven Malanga
December 23rd, 2008
07:25 PM ET

Cyclist, cancer survivor Armstrong to have 4th child

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Cycling legend Lance Armstrong - a survivor of testicular cancer - and girlfriend Anna Hansen are expecting a baby, CNN learned Tuesday through his charitable organization.

The baby is due in June.

Armstrong was diagnosed in 1996 with testicular cancer that had spread to his brain, lungs and abdomen. He underwent treatment for the disease and was able to return to cycling, eventually winning seven consecutive Tour de France races.

The harsh chemotherapy left him unable to have children, although he and then-wife Kristin Richards had three children using sperm the cyclist had donated before the treatment. Armstrong and Hansen, however, are expecting without the use of any artificial fertilization process.

"This is a hopeful thing for testicular cancer survivors," CNN medical correspondent Dr. Sanja Gupta said. "It means his body healed from the chemotherapy and surgery."

Armstrong retired from cycling after his seventh Tour de France win in 2005, and focused his energy on the Lance Armstrong Foundation (livestrong.org), which supports people affected by cancer. Armstrong founded the organization in 1997.

Armstrong announced in September that he was launching a comeback with the goal of winning that prestigious race in 2009.

"After talking with my children, my family and my closest friends, I have decided to return to professional cycling in order to raise awareness of the global cancer burden," he wrote on LiveStrong's Web site.

He is currently training for several races leading up to the Tour de France, including Australia's Tour Down Under and the Giro d'Italia.

Filed under: 360° Radar
December 23rd, 2008
07:09 PM ET

The problem with the GOP is... me

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Mark McKinnon
The Daily Beast

There are too many of us white, out-of-touch, out-of ideas guys and we're running the party into the ground.

The problem with the Republican Party is there are too many wooly mammoths like me wandering around. It’s time to kill us off. Just slaughter us all. Drive us into the tar pits and move on.

Republicans working in leadership and the trenches are largely old, white, male, out-of-touch, out of ideas, technology averse, and living in the past.


Filed under: Mark McKinnon • Raw Politics
December 23rd, 2008
07:06 PM ET

Beat 360° 12/23/08

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:

Here we see a picture of... um... me?

I can't explain how it happened. Somehow the staff got hold of this picture – and they have never let me live it down!! What's worse? They're making me post it as tonight's Beat 360°

Before we go any further, I must defend myself – It was not a 'photo-shoot' as they would have you believe... I was in college news class... we were 'journalism-ing' somewhere in NYC... a friend snapped this photo between reporting... and the rest is '360° jokes around the water-cooler' history!

Now I know we haven't talked lately- I'm sorry. The blog has grown exponentially this year (thanks to you guys!) and it has kept me insanely busy (thanks to you guys!). I really do love this blog, you know I do. But I'm switching assignments. Fear not, I'm still at CNN – and you'll hear from me from time to time! Trust me, you are in very capable hands – we have an army of bloggers. This evening I e-mailed my good-bye letter to the staff... ready for a roller-coaster of internal emotions – But wouldn't you know, THIS PICTURE CAME BACK 'REPLY-ALL' TO HAUNT ME!

So back to the picture. I can't recall what I was thinking at the time – Maybe it was the future 360blog, maybe the Beat360, I'll never know. Maybe I'm giving a fake/funny news report... maybe you can help me figure it out – (early staff submissions go to the tune of: “Hmmm… I wish they had a magazine devoted to Google maps. I love them so.”)

So come on you die-hard fans of 360° – as a final gesture – help a guy out – Let's win this game and please 'Beat 360°!'

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

David M. Reisner
AC360° Digital Producer


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 23rd, 2008
01:43 PM ET

Biden: Report to clear Obama, staff in Blagojevich matter

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Vice President-elect Joseph Biden said Tuesday an internal report will show that neither President-elect Barack Obama nor his aides had inappropriate contacts with embattled Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich.

FBI agents arrested Blagojevich on December 9 after federal prosecutors alleged, among other things, that he had tried to "sell" Obama's former Senate seat.

"I don't think there's anything to exonerate," Biden said when asked about the report, which the Obama camp will release Tuesday afternoon.

"It's been clear that the president-elect has had no contact with Blagojevich ... or anyone on [Blagojevich's] team - that he's asserted. And you'll soon find in the reports that ... there has been no inappropriate contact by any member of the Obama staff or the transition team with Blagojevich."

Two Democratic officials predicted Monday night that the long-awaited report largely will vindicate Obama's transition team.

"You're going to see this is a lot about nothing," one Democratic official said.

The report is significant because of lingering questions about what role - if any - top Obama aides such as Rahm Emanuel played in the so-called pay-to-play scandal engulfing the governor of Obama's home state.


Filed under: Barack Obama • Raw Politics • Rod Blagojevich
December 23rd, 2008
11:34 AM ET

Financial Dispatch: Econorama

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Gene Bloch
Managing Editor
CNN New York

“It could have been worse” has often struck many of us as a silly expression. Couldn’t anything on earth always have been worse?

Maybe those who use it are trying to offer some measure of comfort in a difficult situation.

With that thought in mind, this morning we received a slew of economic news, and while it was pretty bad, it could have been worse.

First off, sales of existing homes tumbled 8.6% in November, a steeper decline than expected, and the median price of a previously-owned home slid 13.2% from a year ago to $208,000. That price decline is the biggest since the Great Depression.

Sales of new homes were down last month by 2.9%, which is also worse than expected.

A key measure of consumer confidence meanwhile showed unexpected improvement. The Retuers/University of Michigan revision for December showed a nearly 5-point increase in its index. How to explain the increase? It’s people feeling better about lower prices. One in four people according to the survey expect declines in prices, which is more than any time since the 1950’s according to the survey’s director, Richard Curtin.


Filed under: Bailout Turmoil • Economy • Gene Bloch
December 23rd, 2008
09:00 AM ET

Playing dumb in Baghdad

CNN Foreign Affairs Correspondent

Western female journalists face many challenges in Iraq but there's one that a flak jacket can't protect them against: male chauvinism. The Iraqi press corps is overwhelmingly male. So is the Iraqi government. So is the military.

On a recent shoot, one Iraqi official who had never met one certain female journalist before, greeted her in English with a friendly "Hello, my honey!" That certain female journalist chalked it up to another "lost in translation" moment.

Another time, another female journalist was invited into a government office where five officials were smoking and drinking the sweet tea that Iraqis love so much. Within minutes, the officials were commenting on the journalist's weight. One official said straight away that the journalist should lose a few more pounds. Another official said no, he liked her just the way she was.

A few minutes later, that official picked up the phone to call what appeared to be his girlfriend. "You're stupid," he said to her, at which point the Western journalist reacted with surprise. "Let me tell you something," the official said. "We Iraqi men like our women stupid and if they're smart we like them to play dumb." The Western journalist was tempted to write that down in her notebook to help her at future news conferences.

Waiting for news conferences in Baghdad, as in many countries, can take hours.

But at one presser it took a male Iraqi journalist only a half hour to get the courage to approach a Western female journalist and propose marriage. "I am a good man," he said. "I am looking for a good wife." Journalists of any nationality do like to come to the point rather quickly.

One advantage for female journalists is that Iraqi men are appalled at the sight of a women carrying heavy equipment. This can save a lot of effort when that female journalist is lugging around a heavy TV tripod. Iraqi men invariably spring into action to relieve the woman of her burden.

Coming back to the West can be a jarring experience for a female journalist: no marriage proposals; no direct comments on her weight. There, she has to carry her own equipment – and she can't play dumb.

Filed under: 360° Radar • Global 360° • Women's Issues • Women's Rights
December 23rd, 2008
08:43 AM ET

Morning Buzz: Shirtlesss in Hawaii

Penny Manis
AC360 Senior Producer

Is there something fundamentally odd about seeing a President w/ his shirt off in an unsuspecting ‘celebrity-style’ pose that paparazzi snap and sell to tabloids? I’m talking about P-E Barack Obama in his swimsuit, a picture causing quite a buzz.

I will hand it to him, though, he's in shape. Move over Brad Pitt, the tabloids have a new subject. Who knew the Oval Office could become so glam?

Today P-E Obama releases a long-awaited internal investigation about his Transition team’s contacts with the office of controversial Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich. A major question is what role senior aides had in the ‘pay to play’ scandal, specifically related to P-E Obama’s old Senate seat.

According to sources, while there was some contact btwn P-E Obama’s Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel and Gov. Blagojevich, there was no wrongdoing and this report will largely exonerate the transition team. Ed Henry will have the latest from Hawaii where he is covering P-E Obama (but Ed is keeping his shirt on).

Today Joe Biden chairs a meeting of the transition team’s top economic advisors as they ramp up efforts to piece together an urgent economic recovery package and sell the $775 billion plan to Congress.

And speaking of huge $$ packages, what did you think of the reports yesterday illustrating how little transparency there’s been in determining how the TARP (bailout money) has been spent by banks? Outrageous.

A surprising poll this morning: 74% of Americans believe that investment fraud like the recently revealed Ponzi sheme run by Bernie Madoff is a regular occurrence on Wall Street, so there are many cynics out there! 22% said government regulation is too tight, while 18% said the government's current market oversight is exactly right. Gov't regulation has been a hot topic since the credit crisis began.

The vast majority of Americans said they’d rather place money in a bank or stuff it under the mattress than invest in stocks or bonds. No wonder Wall St bankers are stressed out. How they are expressing their stress may surprise you. NY therapists tell us that the number of Wall St. bankers reporting an increase in sex addiction has tripled since the economy has tanked. Randi Kaye has this report tonight.

For those of you who still haven’t finished xmas shopping, here’s an idea. Joe Wurzelbacher (aka: Joe the Plumber) who became a blue collar poster boy during the final leg of the Prez campaign has a new book out offering his take on American values. Just what your significant other/uncle/mother wanted, right?

See u tonight!

Filed under: Penny Manis • The Buzz
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