April 10th, 2009
11:59 PM ET

Rescue the American: Not could we, but when should we?

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Ken Robinson
Terrorism and national security analyst

The United States government conducted the “mother of all” Secure Video Teleconferences (SVTC) on Thursday night regarding the piracy hostage crisis off the coast of Somalia.

What’s the difference between this week’s seized vessel and any other over the past year?

A big one!

The pirates over-reached, and took as “U.S. flagged vessel” (MV Alabama), triggering a challenge of doctrine as old as the republic, Freedom of Navigation.

The Pirates also didn’t count on the crew being populated by very angry, determined ex-Marines, who fought back, and quickly retook their ship.

Currently the problem is one of the laws of the sea, and the laws of nature.

Three of the pirates made off in a life vessel, intended for deep water, not the shallow and treacherous waters of the Somali coast. The boat is currently out of fuel, and drifting. A quick glance at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) web site will tell you that the boat won’t make it to shore, where according to my sources, no one wants the problems of an American hostage, anyway.

It is listing, heading north.


Filed under: 360° Radar • Africa • Ken Robinson • Pirates
April 10th, 2009
11:58 PM ET

In Dog We Trust

[cnn-photo-caption image=http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2009/images/04/07/art.vert.jack.sammy.ears.jpg caption="Sammy Gray celebrates Easter Week 2009." width=292 height=320]

Editor's note:  TMZ is reporting the First Dog, a six-month old male Portuguese Water Dog, will arrive this coming Tuesday.

Jack Gray
AC360° Producer/Writer
**this blog was originally posted on April 7th, 2009**

Now that his overseas trips is complete, President Obama can get back to focusing on the important things. Like getting his Portuguese Water Dog so his critics can call him un-American.

The president told Jay Leno a few weeks ago that the First Dog would be “in place” when he returned from the G-20 and NATO summits. I have, of course, no reason to doubt his timetable. Even a politician wouldn’t have the gall to tell a fib while sitting in a chair once occupied by Hillary Duff.

The whole thing reminds me of when I got my dog, Sammy, four and a half years ago. I was looking through the classifieds for a competitively priced mime class when I stumbled upon an ad for Labrador Retriever puppies. Seeing as how I was already going out to get a touch-up on my “Doritos are for Lovers” tattoo, I figured why not get a dog while I was at it.

I would later find out that the so-called “experts” advise you to actually think carefully about whether you have the time and financial resources necessary to raise a living, breathing, pooping animal with a life span of 10-15 years but, frankly, that seemed like too much math.

Plus, as far as I was concerned, if it didn’t work out, I could always enlist her in the Coast Guard. (Fortunately it didn’t come to that because it would have been a crap shoot as to whether she could have passed the drug test.)

Anyway, I remember pulling up to the breeder’s residence, which looked like the house from The Brady Bunch…if the Bradys were anti-government survivalists and Alice was selling stolen DVD players out of the laundry room.


April 10th, 2009
09:45 PM ET

Live Blog from the Anchor Desk 04/10/09

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Tonight, we'll have more of our 360° investigation into the death of Natasha Richardson. A lot of you have been asking questions on our blog about the actresses' death last month following a fall on a ski slope in Mont Tremblant, Canada. Dr. Sanjay Gupta went to the ski resort and tracked her moves that fatal day. Would a medic chopper have helped save her life? Dr. Gupta will tell you what he uncovered and answer your lingering questions.

Don't miss Erica Hill's webcast on the Natasha Richardson investigation and tonight's other headlines druing the commercials. Watch our WEBCAST

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

Keep in mind, you have a better chance of having your comment get past our moderators if you 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 (there's no need to yell)
3) Use your real name (first name only is fine)
4) No links
5) Watch your language (keep it G-rated; PG at worst - and that includes $#&*)

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

Filed under: Live Blog • T1
April 10th, 2009
08:45 PM ET

Evening Buzz: Showdown at Sea

[cnn-photo-caption image=http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2009/WORLD/africa/04/10/somalia.u.s.ship/art.boxer.navy.jpg caption="The guided missile frigate USS Halyburton, with helicopter capabilities, is now at the scene."]

Maureen Miller
AC360° Writer

Tonight, more pirate ships are on the move off the coast of Somalia. They're trying to find the lifeboat holding American Richard Phillips, the captain of a U.S. freighter, who was kidnapped Wednesday by four pirates.

The additional pirate ships are headed into a showdown with the U.S. Navy. The pirates say they're bringing with them at least 50 hostages, or human-shields. They'll use them to stop the Navy from firing at them if they try to get Capt. Phillips off the lifeboat and onto one of their ships and then to Somalia.

Former FBI hostage negotiator, Chris Voss, doesn't believe the U.S. Navy will allow the pirates to take Phillips to shore. That's when it could get really ugly.

Do you think the pirates will attempt this bold move?
Share your thoughts below.

The latest tactics come hours after Phillips tried a daring escape. Just after midnight, he tried to swim to the USS Bainbridge, an American warship just a few hunderd yards away. But he didn't make it. Within seconds, the pirates fired their AK-47 riffles, jumped into the water and grabbed him. Phillips was not hurt.
He was later seen moving inside the lifeboat.

Tonight another Navy ship, the USS Halyburton, is on the scene and the USS Boxer should arrive Saturday.

Today Phillips wife issued a statement:

"My husband is a strong man and we will remain strong for him," she said.

Meanwhile,  the French military attacked another boat today where five people were being held captive.  One of the French hostages and two pirates were killed.  The four other hostages, including a child,  were freed. We'll have all the details on the deadly rescue effort.

Join us for the latest on the high seas drama and tonight's other headlines starting at 10pm ET.
See you then and have a great weekend!

Filed under: Maureen Miller • The Buzz
April 10th, 2009
05:36 PM ET

Beat 360° 4/10/09

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: A White House carpenter, who is also a beekeeper, lends his skills to the White House after a swarm of Honey Bees nested near one of the front gates at the White House. (Credits 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.

UPDATE: Check out our Beat 360° Winners!

________________________________________________ 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
April 10th, 2009
04:35 PM ET

More pirates on the way

Program Note: Tune in tonight for Randi Kaye's full report on AC360° at 10 p.m. ET.

[cnn-photo-caption image=http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2009/WORLD/africa/04/10/somalia.ship.crew.member/art.captain.family.photo.jpg caption="Capt. Richard Phillips of the Maersk Alabama is being held by pirates on a lifeboat off Somalia."]

Randi Kaye
AC360° Correspondent

Picture this: Four ships held hostage by pirates in a showdown with at least two US warships, with Captain Richard Phillips in a tiny lifeboat caught in the middle, literally. We are very likely heading for a showdown smack in the middle of the Indian Ocean.

The pirates want to hold onto Captain Phillips for ransom so here’s how they plan to pull it off. It’s pretty bold.

They are planning to bring as many as four ships, currently being held hostage, back out into the Indian Ocean. We know one is a German ship. The pirates are not taking any risks by heading out in their little skiffs this time. They are using the big ships and they will be bringing along with them at least 50 hostages they are currently holding.

These poor folks will essentially be used as human shields to try and keep the U.S. warships from firing on the pirates.


Filed under: Pirates • Randi Kaye
April 10th, 2009
03:36 PM ET

Is China friend or foe?

[cnn-photo-caption image=http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2009/WORLD/europe/04/01/g20.china.us/art.hu.obama.afp.gi.jpg caption="U.S. President Barack Obama meets with Chinese President Hu Jintao in London on April 1."]

David Gewirtz | BIO
Editor-in-Chief, ZATZ Publishing

Like two schoolhouse enemies forced to work together on a class project, the fortunes of China and the United States are inextricably linked. But that doesn't mean both nations have to see eye-to-eye on everything - or that they even play well with one another.

As the United States struggles to pull itself out of numerous troubling challenges - a banking system in tatters, two wars, massive job losses - China appears to be flexing its muscles.

It seems like every week, we learn of a new possible national security threat emanating from China. Is the People's Republic of China a threat to the United States, a partner, or both?

In recent months, the Chinese navy has been harassing U.S. Navy survey vessels operating in international waters of the South Chinese Sea.

Last month, the U.S. Naval Institute reported that modified Dong Feng 21 missiles might be capable of extremely long-range flight and might also be able to destroy American aircraft carriers.


Filed under: China • David Gewirtz
April 10th, 2009
03:33 PM ET

The quiet indictment of Rod Blagojevich

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Jamie Floyd | Bio
In Session

As you may know – or you may not – Rod Blagojevich has been indicted. The former governor of Illinois was finally indicted last week.

The announcement was exceptionally quiet, especially given the fanfare that followed his arrest late last year on charges of conspiring to gain financially from his appointment to the U.S. Senate seat vacated by Barack Obama. In a press conference held by U.S. Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald, he called the charges against Blagojevich “a truly new low” and gratuitously added that “the conduct would make Lincoln roll over in his grave.” The 76 page FBI affidavit was laced with cuss words, the best bits read aloud, with seeming glee, across the 24/7 spectrum. There was also the unprecedented media tour conducted by the still-sitting governor on every outlet (including ours) to save his seat and perhaps change the course of criminal events.

It didn’t work.

Last Thursday, the feds handed down their indictment on 16 counts, including racketeering, fraud and extortion counts. Coming nearly four months after federal agents roused the governor out of his home in a pre-dawn arrest and weeks after lawmakers dumped him from office, the indictment of Blagojevich, his brother and four former top insiders was anti-climactic.

But that’s a good thing, if you ask me. This case shouldn’t be tried in the court of public opinion. It should be tried in a court of law. And now, it will be.

Filed under: Crime & Punishment • In Session • Jami Floyd • Rod Blagojevich
April 10th, 2009
03:13 PM ET

More pirates – and shots fired

[cnn-photo-caption image=http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2009/WORLD/africa/04/10/somalia.u.s.ship/art.captain.family.photo.jpg caption="Capt. Richard Phillips of the Maersk Alabama is being held by pirates on a lifeboat off Somalia."]
Mike Mount
CNN Pentagon Producer

The U.S. military believes a number of pirates in hijacked vessels are looking to find and help the pirates holding Richard Phillips, captain of the hijacked Maersk Alabama, an official with knowledge of the situation tells CNN. The military believes their intention is to assist the pirates in the lifeboat.

The military is hearing this from audio intercepts.

Pirates fired shots when Phillips jumped in the water this morning, trying unsuccessfully to escape. And one pirate jumped into the water to get their hostage back.

Phillips was seen walking around inside the covered lifeboat after his escape attempt.

One of the pirated ships heading to the scene is the German cargo ship Hansa Stavanger, seized April 4th off the east coast of Somalia. The ship's crew of 24 includes five Germans, three Russians, two Ukrainians, two Filipinos and 12 from Tuvalu.

Filed under: 360° Radar • Mike Mount • Pirates
April 10th, 2009
02:34 PM ET

Pirates raising the stakes

[cnn-photo-caption image=http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2009/WORLD/africa/04/10/somalia.u.s.ship/art.alva.maersk.jpg caption="Attackers hijacked the Maersk Alabama, shown here, formerly known as the Alva Maersk."]

David McKenzie
CNN Africa Correspondent

I have been covering Somali piracy for over a year, sailed with the USS Shoup patrolling the waters off Somalia searching for bands of marauders, and interviewed merchant sailors who had been held for months.

But nothing compares to this.

Pirates brazenly attacking a giant US flagged container ship off the coast of Somalia carrying food aid. In the ensuing fight the crew took back the ship, but the pirates made off with their captain in a lifeboat.

In his desperation to escape from his Somali Pirate captors, Captain Richard Phillips tried to escape from pirates on Thursday night by diving off the lifeboat where he was being held to swimming for the nearby US warship, said U.S. officials. The pirates hauled him back.

It was a brave attempt to get loose from his captors who are now trying to spirit him to the lawless Somali shore, according to a source well-connected to the Somali pirate scourge.


Filed under: David McKenzie • Pirates
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