January 12th, 2009
09:51 PM ET

FLDS kids back at the ranch.. they say they are thrilled

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Ismael Estrada
AC360° Producer

As we drove past the huge white gates at the Yearning for Zion ranch in Eldorado, Texas, we weren’t sure what to expect. The last time we were here was in June of last year when the state of Texas raided the FLDS property and took 462 children and placed them in state custody. Allegations of child brides, sex with minors, and abuse put a spotlight on the FLDS and what was going on inside this ranch. We were allowed in to speak with mothers who were pleading for their children to be returned. It was our first look inside this secretive religion which practices polygamy.

Today we were invited again. We were given a guided tour by one of the church leaders Willie Jessop. He says life here on the ranch is much different that what many people believe. He allowed us to meet and speak with mothers and children who say they were taken from the ranch last year before being returned.

At first, the ranch seemed desolate and the same as it was the last time we visited. As we took our tour we saw more work had been done in fields of crops they say were ruined during the raid. As time passed we began to see women and children outside their homes working and playing in front of their homes.

We came across children who were picking carrots and doing other work around the ranch. All say they are more than thrilled to have been returned to their families and the life they know. Some say that being away from their home and their life as they knew it only strengthened their faith.

Outside the ranch in the Schleicher County courthouse, 10 FLDS men were present today for pretrial motions on their cases involving sexual assault of a minor and other various charges related to underage marriage and bigamy. Their trial dates are scheduled for the fall.

Filed under: Ismael Estrada • Polygamy • Raw Politics
January 12th, 2009
09:45 PM ET

Live Blog from the Anchor Desk 1/12/09

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

Want to know what we're covering tonight? Read EVENING BUZZ

If you want to take part in our Live Blog (and we hope you do) 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 Erica Hill's webcast during the commercials. Watch our WEBCAST

And take a look at our live web camera from the 360° studio. Watch the WEBCAM

Filed under: Live Blog • T1
January 12th, 2009
09:42 PM ET

Rescue the First Dog

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Program Note: See Erica Hill's full report about the Obamas' pet search on AC360 tonight at 10PM ET.

Gail Buchwald
Senior Vice President, ASPCA

At the ASPCA, we are thrilled at the prospect that the Obama family is considering a local animal shelter or rescue group, where there are many extraordinary animals just waiting for a forever home. They could both find the perfect pet and help an animal in need - an incredible opportunity.

I spoke with my colleague Jacque Schultz, a Certified Pet Dog Trainer and Senior Director of Community Outreach at the ASPCA, and she was able to provide additional information about how both the Labradoodle and Portuguese Water Dog might adapt to living in the White House.

“In my experience, the Labradoodle in general would make the better dog for a family with little dog experience and lots on their plates. The Portie is a dog that will demand more attention and training and may be too much for the new First Family...

"However, it is important to remember these are only generalizations. It is always important to consider the individual dog, as some will be very typical of the breed and others quite atypical. I have seen representatives of both breeds that would be a good fit as First Dog.”

Whether Labradoodle, Portuguese Water Dog, purebreed or mixed breed, one of the great joys in life is the companionship of an animal. The selfless love showered upon us by our pets is one of the greatest blessings we can experience.

Filed under: Barack Obama • Gail Buchwald
January 12th, 2009
09:02 PM ET

Are the Democrats a team, or a Tower of Babel?

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Barclay Palmer
AC360 Senior Producer

Here we have "No Drama Obama," elected by the biggest majority Dems have seen in oh-so-long, about to take office, focused on hitting the ground running with a bi-partisan plan to fix the worst economic crisis since the Depression.. So why have Congressional Democrats been giving him so much lip? And where's that famously bare-knuckled Rahm Emanuel– still warming up in the heavyweight changing room?

Take Durbin. Nice guy and all that. Against seating Roland Burris in the Senate, before he was for it, before he was against it, and now? Ready to seat him, saying "we want to be fair." One option might have been to avoid fanning the fire at the Burris side show - distracting the nation from the President-elect's efforts - and Durbin's other, perhaps more important job - of figuring out how to get the nation out of this mess? (Good job on camera, though!).

And then there's Diane Feinstein, against Panetta for CIA before she was for Panetta-for-CIA-Diane Feinstein. True, you weren't consulted like you should have been. One option might have been to take it up in private. Does taking a slight public make a public official seem a bigger force, or not? Any case, in turning around and saying she now supports Panetta because he will "speak truth to power,” makes one wonder what the fuss was about. But not for very long.

And then John Kerry and Tom Harkin, who unlike Obama ran unsuccessfully for president, and the not as well known Senators Ron Wyden and Kent Conrad publicly criticized the Obama team's proposal to include tax cuts in the stimulus plan.

Yes, there is often value in airing differences in public. That's democracy, right? Hey, next time you could go straight to the press conference and hold your next meeting in public. We'll even offer a CNN Town Hall forum.

But all the conflicting voices raise a couple questions. Are Congressional Democrats setting themselves up to look like obstructionists again? In focusing on their own immediate concerns, do they risk losing the bigger game? Do they think Bill Clinton's success in moving to the center and winning Republican votes offers a useful object lesson.

For that matter, do they think Obama's effort to present an at least somewhat bi-partisan solution to the economic crisis has value... enough value to compromise? Or maybe the bigger question is this: will the Dems in Congress focus on bigger, more difficult job of fixing the economic crisis, or on the easier, but potentially self-defeating, job of getting their opposing views heard as often as possible on TV?

Under Karl Rove, the GOP was famous for maintaining party discipline, staying on message, and winning with one voice. The Democrats, on the other hand, have been compared to the Tower of Babel.

Perhaps Clyburn offered the telling clue on Friday when he said, "Democrats are going to be Democrats. Don't you expect the Democrats to act like Republicans. We're creative thinkers. We don't believe in group think."

Fine. But can you imagine a quarterback saying that right before winning the Super Bowl?

Filed under: Barack Obama • Barclay Palmer • Economy • Raw Politics
January 12th, 2009
08:22 PM ET

Evening Buzz: Plane Crash Mystery

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Maureen Miller
AC360° Writer

We're following a strange story out of Florida. Investigators believe a pilot in financial trouble has tried to fake his own death and risked his life to do it.

The pilot, Marcus Schrenker, 38, parachuted out of a small plane that crashed into a swamp, according to the Santa Rosa County Sheriff's Office.

Schrenker was flying solo in a Piper turboprop from Indiana to Destin, Florida. But near Birmingham, Alabama, he made a distress call and told air traffic controllers his plane's windshield shattered and said he was bleeding profusely.

He then turned on his autopilot and contact was lost with the plane.

That's when military jets were called to intercept the plane. They found the Piper empty, the door open and the cockpit dark.

The jets followed the empty plane until it crashed in Florida.

When rescue workers arrived at the crash site the pilot was missing, but not for long.

Investigators say the pilot was seen more than 200 miles away in Childersburg, Alabama. He went up to a cop at a store, wearing goggles, and claimed he was in a canoe accident that left his clothes wet from the knees down. The cops took Schrenker to a hotel.

When police found out about the plane crash in Florida they went back to the hotel to find Schrenker gone.

Investigators say he checked into the hotel under a fake name, paid for his room in cash, and later ran into the woods and has vanished.

Why is he on the run?

We'll have the latest developments tonight on AC360°.

We'll also have new details on the war in Gaza and the raw politics of President Bush's last news conference.

Hope you can join us for all that and more tonight at 10pm E.T.

Filed under: Maureen Miller • The Buzz
January 12th, 2009
08:12 PM ET

On the Radar: Obama’s Cabinet Nominees Face Congress

Cate Vojdik
AC360° Writer

Three of President-elect Obama's cabinet nominees – Steven Chu, Arne Duncan and Hillary Clinton - will be grilled by Congress on Tuesday. Ok, real quick, match each name to their potential post:

a) Secretary of State

b) Secretary of Education

c) Secretary of Energy

We're confident you knew that Hillary Clinton is Obama's secretary of state designate. We'll cut you some slack on the other two, at least for now. Bonus points if you aced the quiz, because not all of us did (without Googling, that is).

As important as each cabinet post may be, Clinton will likely get the lion's share of the media spotlight tomorrow, especially given the current war between Israel and Hamas and flare-ups in other foreign policy hotpots. Her confirmation hearing is expected to be generally smooth, though her husband's foundation and international activities will likely be a focus. We'll have full coverage of the hearing, plus a look at the challenges Clinton will face if nominated.

One of her toughest tasks may be negotiating with members of her own government. After all, she'll be working in a crowded foreign policy kitchen. Rumor has it that Obama has asked other big names like Dennis Ross, Richard Haas and possibly Richard Holbrooke to serve as chief emissaries in his administration. And don't forget Vice President-elect Joe Biden, with his strong background in international affairs. If you are Hillary Clinton, do all these names add up to too many cooks in the kitchen?

We'll also be following the latest out of Gaza and Israel.

See you at 10 p.m. ET.

Filed under: 360° Radar • Cate Vojdik
January 12th, 2009
06:17 PM ET

Somali pirate speaks

The release of a hijacked super tanker goes poorly. David McKenzie spoke exclusively to a Somali pirate.

Filed under: David McKenzie
January 12th, 2009
05:52 PM ET

Beat 360° 1/12/09

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:

President-elect Barack Obama speaks to reporters after lunch at Ben's Chili Bowl January 10, 2009 in Washington, DC.(AFP/Getty Images)

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.


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
January 12th, 2009
04:18 PM ET

No, Slumdog Millionaire is not a reference to Renee Zellweger's Golden Globes outfit

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Jack Gray
AC360° Associate Producer

I’m going to go out on a limb here and say that when Mickey Rourke thanked his dogs last night he probably wasn’t thanking a Lhasa Apso named Mrs. Snuggles and a Bichon named Kenneth.

In case you missed it, The Golden Globe Awards were given out last night in Los Angeles.  It was a big night for Slumdog Millionaire and a not-so-big night for The Curious Case of Brad Pitt’s Moustache.

Huge thanks to all of you who joined me for our 1st Annual Golden Globes Live Blog here on AC360.com.  We had a great response and I really enjoyed it.  I want to be clear:  Everyone realizes there are much more important things in the world than Hollywood awards, nevertheless it was fun to indulge ourselves for a few hours.  And by indulge I mean sharing a bag of Pepperidge Farm Goldfish Crackers with my dog, who kept trash-talking the dog from Marley & Me.

Meanwhile, it’s gearing up to be another big week in Washington.  Hillary Clinton’s consolation hearings, um, I mean confirmation hearings begin tomorrow.  And apparently the Roland Burris Reality Show could end as soon as today. The Democratic leadership appears to be finally ready to seat Mr. Burris now that he has complied with their request to delete Rod Blagojevich from his list of Facebook friends.


Filed under: 360° Radar • Jack Gray • Raw Politics
January 12th, 2009
03:53 PM ET

Inside scoop on the new Bush-Obama bailout agreement

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Suzanne Malveaux | BIO
CNN White House Correspondent

These are some more details from White House officials regarding the Bush-Obama Agreement to ask for funds:

White House spokesman Tony Fratto says Barack Obama called President Bush 10:25am, about 15 minutes after Mr. Bush's final news conference. The conversation lasted for just a few minutes. Obama asked Mr. Bush to formally notify Congress the Administration's intent to access the third and final portion ($350 billion) of the bailout fund.

So what happens next?

White House officials involved in the discussions with the Obama transition team and members of Congress say now Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson will prepare a report, and then the White House will notify or send up the document to the House Financial Services and Senate Banking Committees, and the House and Senate leadership.


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