[cnn-photo-caption image=http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2009/POLITICS/03/27/pm.geithner.treasury/art.geithner.afp.gi.jpg caption="Timothy Geithner announced his plan for taking toxic assets off of the balance sheets of troubled banks."]
David Gergen | Bio
CNN Senior Political Analyst
We have just come off the set taping the next CNN Money Summit to be shown Friday at 11 p.m. (and again on Saturday at 8 p.m.) As usual with Ali Velshi hosting, it was a spirited, often provocative conversation in which all of us learned something.
Clearly, as Ali explained, we are seeing glimmers of hope in the economy, and the country is breathing a sigh of relief. But is this the bottoming out that all of us have been looking for or is it a nice ledge that we are sliding across before we go over the edge again? I am not sure any of us could provide a confident answer on that question.
The stock market is up some 20% from its low earlier in March and housing starts are up nicely. Because both housing and investments are so critical to people's sense of well-being, these are very encouraging signs. Yet, as we shall see with the government's announcement on the Detroit auto industry - expected very soon - painful job losses are likely to continue for a while.
The scariest moment in the whole show came when Ali unveiled a graphic from the Congressional Budget Office predicting that the nation's unemployment rate won't return to pre-recession levels until 2013 - four whole years from now! Wow, that would be tough.
One question that I raised with the panelists is whether the glimmers of hope that we are seeing represent in any sense an "Obama effect." Several of the President's programs haven't had a chance to kick in very much yet - for example, that big stimulus package. But ever since the stimulus package was enacted, President Obama has shifted to a more optimistic tone about the economy and has been encouraging Americans to look toward a brighter future. Is that having some effect now upon home buyers and others who are trying to buy new durable goods for the future? The question brought an interesting response from the panel.
[cnn-photo-caption image=http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2009/CRIME/01/07/security.expert.kidnap/art.felixb.jpg caption="Felix Batista, 55, disappeared December 10, after a meeting at a restaurant in Saltillo, Mexico."]
In a quiet neighborhood in Miami on a street that could be in any city, in a home that could be yours, lives a family whose shoes you would not want to be in. Every day they wait for the phone call that never comes. Every day they pray that Felix will come home. Every day is filled with anguish. "Every hour on the hour I think of Felix and his well being. Where is he?," asks his wife Lourdes Batista as she holds back the tears.
Felix Batista was sitting in a restaurant in the city of Saltillo, Mexico when he got a call on his cell phone. He left the table, went outside and got in a car. That was December 10th. He has not been heard from since. Vanished. Gone. Batista is perhaps one person you would never expect could be kidnapped. You see, he is an internationally respected anti-kidnapping consultant. When he disappeared, Batista was in Mexico participating in a seminar on how not to get kidnapped. Mexican authorities say surveillance video from the restaurant shows he got in the car willingly.
For the first month, the Batista family kept quiet. They were advised not to go public. There was a belief, even a hope that a ransom would be demanded and the ordeal would be over quickly. That never happened. Even since they first went public in January with their pleas to whoever took Felix, the phone has been silent. But, the family will not give up hope. Lourdes and her five children work constantly keeping Felix in the public eye.
When I met them, two of his daughters Amari and Diana were writing messages on t-shirts that say, "I don't want money, I want my dad." They wear the t-shirts when they are passing out fliers on street corners or a schools or at the county fair. The fliers ask people to sign a petition calling for Felix's story to be part of every conversation a U.S. official has in Mexico. The petition will be delivered to the White House next month.
In another room of the house Felix's sister Jackie and his daughter Adrielle are pouring over pictures of Felix that will be used on a new web site. There's one of Felix playing a guitar. Adrielle says she always made her dad play the guitar and sing her to sleep at night. Doing all this is the only way the family knows to make people aware of what happened to Felix Batista. It is also, says Jackie, cathartic. Jackie lives in New York. She flew down a couple days ago to support Lourdes when she appeared on the Larry King Show. Staying active, Jackie says, is the only way she can get out of bed every morning.
They are a strong family. But as you sit there and talk with them and watch them you can sense the pain. There is great pain in not knowing. The comfort is in knowing they have each other.
[cnn-photo-caption image=http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2009/WORLD/americas/03/24/us.mexico.relations/art.mexico.juarez.afp.gi.jpg caption="A federal police officer guards a checkpoint earlier this month in Ciudad Juarez, Mexico."]
Documentary Filmmaker and Author
I’ve been documenting the Mexican drug cartels and their operations in Mexico and the U.S. on film and in print for the past four years. I’ve had a front row seat to one of the most violent and brutal uprisings in the history of our two countries and still I am amazed that so few people, especially within our government comprehend this problem and haven’t a clue as to the true effects it is having on our own society, economy and geopolitical landscape.
I’ve had the opportunity to get at close range to some of the most powerful drug trafficking organizations in the world. Whether that has been a blessing or a curse remains to be seen, but nonetheless, it has given me insight to a situation that is not only dangerous, but frightening— to see first hand what they are successfully doing with the money, power and influence they are amassing by selling their wares to our own people and around the world.
The men that run these organizations are not a bunch of coked out cowboys, slinging their pistols in the air as they party day and night. No, these are intelligent, educated men with the resources to surround themselves with some of the sharpest minds on the planet. They run global, multi-billion dollar businesses that operate around the clock, around the world. They know the power of knowledge. They have the latest in technologies and weaponry available, they use satellites for communications and surveillance. They employ their own private armies, fully trained and armed to teeth, in order to protect their operations.
[cnn-photo-caption image=http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2009/US/weather/03/27/north.dakota.flooding/art.sandbags.cnn.jpg caption="Volunteers at Fargo city facility continue to fill and stack sandbags Friday."]
The next 24 hours will be crucial for Fargo, North Dakota and parts of Minnesota. Thousands of people have fled their homes due to the surging Red River. There could be some serious flooding. At this hour, the river is nearly 22 feet about flood stage and about a foot above the previous record of 40.1 feet, set in 1897.
CNN Meteorologist Reynolds Wolf is in Fargo tonight. We'll check in with him for the latest.
U.S. military forces and equipment, including 15 helicopters, are headed to the area. Already some 1,700 National Guardsmen have been inspecting sections of the dikes.
Thousands of volunteers are also preparing for the possible worst. They've filled at least three million sandbags.
Already across the Red River from Fargo, some homes have been destroyed by flooding in Moorhead, Minnesota.
Join us for this story plus the latest on the drug war in Mexico. Anderson will be reporting tonight again from the U.S.-Mexico border.
See you at 10pm ET.
Tonight on AC360°, Anderson is continuing our special coverage on the "War Next Door". He's still along the U.S.-Mexico border reporting on the drug violence. We think this is an important story that need to be told. Thousands of people have been killed. Tonight, Anderson gives us a look at the gruesome reality of this battle. He reports on a mass grave that's been found in Juarez. Plus, we track how the cartels get their drugs here into the U.S. Do you think American drug users share the blame for the drug war? Some have made that accusation. We'd love to hear your thoughts.
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The United States and Mexico share a border – and much more. The two countries have a robust trade relationship that is growing but also strained by tensions. People, drugs, guns, consumer goods and commodities cross the U.S.-Mexico border every hour of every day. Much of the traffic is legal but much is not. Here’s a look by the numbers.
Of the 10.3 million unauthorized immigrants in the United States, 57 percent are of Mexican origin.
There are nearly one million legal border crossings daily between the US and Mexico.
The number of accidental immigrant deaths during attempted border crossings doubled between 1999 and 2005.
Mexico is America's third largest total trading partner and its second largest export market. Trade between the United States and Mexico exceeded $350 billion in 2008.
Since NAFTA implementation in 1994, U.S. exports to Mexico have risen 223 percent and Mexican exports to the U.S. have grown 396 percent.
In early March, Mexico announced tariffs totaling 2.4 billion dollars and affecting nearly 90 American products. The announcement came on the heels of a congressional action effectively ending a pilot program allowing Mexican trucks access to US roads.
[cnn-photo-caption image=http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2009/POLITICS/03/27/us.afghanistan.troops/art.obama.afghanistan.cnn.jpg caption="President Obama, here with Hillary Clinton on Friday, calls the situation in Afghanistan "increasingly perilous.""]
CNN National Security Analyst
The Obama plan for Afghanistan and Pakistan announced Friday has a great deal to recommend it, with its emphasis on protecting the Afghan population and delivering more aid directly to the Pakistani people instead of to the Pakistan army.
These are just two among a raft of other sensible and long-overdue shifts in South Asia policy.
That the strategy is well-calibrated is not surprising, as some of the most able officials in the administration helped to put it together - Richard Holbrooke at the State Department, Bruce Riedel at the National Security Council and Michèle Flournoy at the Pentagon, supplemented, of course, by Gen. David Petraeus and his experienced team at Central Command.
But the new strategy does not answer the largest question that hovers over the entire "Af-Pak" enterprise because it is, to a great degree, unanswerable.
Every government official involved in the Af-Pak review understands that Afghanistan can never be stable if al Qaeda and the Taliban continue to be headquartered in Pakistan.
Yet the Pakistani government does not have any real strategy to defeat the militants on its territory.
How then can the United States have a strategy to succeed in Pakistan when the Pakistani government itself does not have a strategy to defeat its own proliferating insurgencies?
Anderson Cooper reporting live from El Paso, TX.
Our satellite truck sits alongside the very long border between the US and Mexico.
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U.S. President Barack Obama laughs as U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder jokes about his basketball skills during his ceremonial installation at George Washington University March 27, 2009 in Washington, DC.(Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)
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