Program Note: Be sure to tune in for Randi Kaye's full report tonight on AC360° at 10 p.m. ET.
[cnn-photo-caption image=http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2009/images/02/19/randi.octuplets.1.jpg caption="Randi Kaye with the family of octuplets in Texas."]
Randi Kaye | BIO
As you may know, I have been covering the California octuplets' story for AC360° and I was curious what life might be like for the octuplets as they grow up.
My curiosity took me to Texas this week to visit with the first octuplets born in this country. They live about an hour outside Houston.
Nkem Chukwu (pron: In-Kem Chook-woo) gave birth to her octuplets back in 1998. One of them, the smallest of the bunch, died about a week later at just 11 ounces, but the surviving octuplets just celebrated their tenth birthday. Amazing!
Program Note: For more on what’s next in Afghanistan tune in to AC360° tonight at 10 p.m. ET. What is the end game? What is at stake? And Is the war winnable? CNN’s Joe Johns will be “Keeping Them Honest”.
[cnn-photo-caption image=http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2009/POLITICS/02/18/mckiernan.afghan.troops/art.afghan.troops.gi.jpg caption="The commander predicted the new troops will be operational before Afghan elections in August."]
Co-Founder and Chairman of VoteVets.org
In 2006, when I started VoteVets.org with a bunch of Iraq and Afghanistan veterans, one of the things that drove me bonkers was when the media would describe us as “anti-war.” Yes, we opposed George Bush’s war in Iraq (in which many of us had served), but were very clear that we saw a necessary military component in Afghanistan. In fact, we said, Afghanistan was slipping away because of the diversion of military resources to Iraq.
I mention this because from the outset, those of us who served in Iraq and Afghanistan recognized they were two very different wars, with two very different needs. That might be even more true today, as President Obama orders a remissioning of troops – sending 17,000 troops (including 12,000 combat troops) to Afghanistan, who were to be deployed to Iraq.
[cnn-photo-caption image=http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2009/images/02/05/art.getty.obama.jpg]Tony Perkins
President of Family Research Council
With one stroke of the pen, President Obama vaulted into the record books yesterday, signing what may stand as the largest spending bill ever passed in the history of America. The legislation itself is eight inches thick, so large, a White House aide joked, that it "needed to be strapped in with a seat belt on Air Force One."
Instead of relieving debt, President Obama's "stimulus" is expected to add $9,400 more debt to every family in America. According to the Congressional Budget Office, that may be a modest estimate. If the programs created by the stimulus are made permanent (as the late President Ronald Reagan said, "A government bureau is the nearest thing to eternal life we'll ever see on this earth!") the 10-year cost of this bill will be $3.27 trillion–almost triple the initial amount. Let me put that into perspective. If we spent a dollar every second, it would take 31,688 years to spend one trillion!
Unfortunately for U.S. taxpayers, there seems to be no caboose on this money train. The ink had barely dried on the stimulus before President Obama called for another $50 billion to stabilize the housing crisis. The auto industry is also striking while the money press is hot, lining up for another $17 billion handout–on top of the roughly $20 billion carmakers already received from Washington. Wall Street's finest are not far behind, as plans for a TARP 2 (Troubled Assets Relief Program) are already underway.
Carmen Van Kerckhove
President, New Demographic
A few days ago I found an email in my inbox from publisher Conde Nast, informing me that if I subscribed to Vogue now, I'd be guaranteed to receive the spring fashion issue, featuring Michelle Obama on the cover.
Magazine junkie that I am, I've received plenty of subscription solicitations in my day, but can't remember ever receiving one tied to a promise of receiving a particular issue. It goes to show how big of a deal this cover is.
Copies are selling on eBay at three and a half times the cover price. There are reports of shortages, with people desperate to get their hands on a copy. The issue is even making headlines around the globe in India, England, South America, and Australia.
Britain's business secretary, Peter Mandelson, has launched an extraordinary tirade against the head of the Starbucks coffee empire, accusing him of spreading gloom and overly denigrating the state of the British economy.
Angered at remarks by the company's chairman, Howard Schultz – who said the UK was in an economic "spiral" with "very, very poor" consumer confidence – Mandelson accused him of spreading unnecessary misery and speaking out of turn.
AC360° Associate Producer
Well, here we are. Our first full day living with the stimulus package. To be honest, I'm not quite sure how it's going. I was feeling rather stimulated for a moment, but then I realized it was the red wine. I suppose I shouldn't blog right after breakfast.
Anyway, the economy remains...um, how can I put this delicately...in hell. Everywhere you look, people are walking around depressed, angry and paranoid. And those are the ones who still have their jobs.
I guess none of us should be shocked, considering how far the bar has been lowered in recent weeks. Forget about that raise or promotion, you should now consider your day a success if you haven't been laid off by your employer or mauled by a deranged, Xanax-fueled chimpanzee in suburban Connecticut. Yes, it's a true golden age.
J. Lynn Lunsford and Andy Pasztor
The Wall Street Journal
Investigators examining last week's Continental Connection plane crash have gathered evidence that pilot commands - not a buildup of ice on the wings and tail - likely initiated the fatal dive of the twin-engine Bombardier Q400 into a neighborhood six miles short of the Buffalo, N.Y., airport, according to people familiar with the situation.
The commuter plane slowed to an unsafe speed as it approached the airport, causing an automatic stall warning, these people said. The pilot pulled back sharply on the plane's controls and added power instead of following the proper procedure of pushing forward to lower the plane's nose to regain speed, they said.
A couple of weeks before the Alaska legislature began this year's session, a bipartisan group of state senators on a retreat a few hours from here invited Gov. Sarah Palin to join them. Accompanied by a retinue of advisers, she took a seat at one end of a conference table and listened passively as Gary Stevens, the president of the Alaska Senate, a former college history professor and a low-key Republican with a reputation for congeniality, expressed delight at her presence.
Would the governor, a smiling Stevens asked, like to share some of her plans and proposals for the coming legislative session?
CNN Justice Producer
In a blunt assessment of race relations in the U.S. Wednesday, Attorney General Eric Holder called the American people "essentially a nation of cowards" in failing to openly discuss the issue of race.
In his first major speech since being confirmed, the nation's first black Attorney General told an overflow crowd celebrating Black History month at the Justice Department the nation remains "voluntarily socially segregated".
CNN Special Investigations Unit
Jeff Gray is a nice guy. He's a 45 year old father of three, a husband to a school teacher and a former Marine. He is also self-admittedly financially inept and very-near being kicked out of his suburban Maryland home. He is literally begging for help not to be foreclosed on. But when you hear his short financial history, you may come to the same conclusion that J.P. Morgan Chase has come to: Jeff Gray can not keep his home.
I sat in his living room a few weeks back and went through his mortgage papers and could not believe what I was reading. In 2005, Jeff Gray filed a tax return indicating he and his wife had a combined income of $7,900 a year. In December of that same year the couple refinanced their three bedroom home for $347,000. It would take four months of his salary to pay for just one month of his mortgage.