April 10th, 2009
01:47 PM ET

Hostage dies as French attack Somali pirates

French commandos last year training for operations against pirates.

French commandos last year training for operations against pirates.


A French hostage and two pirates died Friday in a rescue operation off Somalia's coastline, the French president's office in Paris said Friday.

Four hostages, including a child, were freed from the hijacked yacht after almost a week of captivity, Nicolas Sarkozy's office said.

The French military decided to move in when pirates refused their offers and increased threats against the hostages, it said.

The four adults and a child had been held aboard their yacht, the Tanit, since it was seized in the Gulf of Aden on Saturday, the president's statement said.

There has been a series of high-profile and increasingly sophisticated pirate attacks in recent months.

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Filed under: Pirates
April 10th, 2009
01:38 PM ET

What would Jesus tweet?

Nicole Seiferth
Trinity Wall Street Church

'Twitter the Passion,' is probably the first Passion Play ever performed on Twitter.

A Passion Play is a re-telling of the last days and hours of Jesus' life. In the Christian tradition, its purpose is to remember Jesus' journey toward death and to identify with the "passions" of that journey - the betrayal of the community, the desertion of friends, the isolation from family and eventually a total trust in God.

So the Episcopal Trinity Wall Street Church decided to marry the tradition with the latest in social networking trends for Good Friday.

Here's how it works: followers receive tweets from the main characters as the events of Christ's passion unfold.

A total of 18 tweets will be delivered over three hours from Jesus, Mary, Mary Magdalene, Peter, Pontius Pilate, and a Serving Girl, who also serves as the voice of the crowd.


Filed under: Religion
April 10th, 2009
12:54 PM ET

America and its Muslim allies: BFF's?

Tom Foreman | Bio
AC360° Correspondent

You have to give this to President Obama – he seems to have no fear about making a tough sell. Here it is, Easter week, the holiest time of year for the world’s roughly two billion Christians, and he’s out talking up the notion of how Muslims deserve more respect.

Considering our actions in the world of late, it may be a good idea to try to make nice, but back home it’s a little like preaching against beer in Milwaukee. Or against bonuses on Wall Street. A recent CNN/Opinion Research Corporation poll finds that while 51 percent of the public says we should trust Muslim nations as allies just as much as we trust anyone else, 48 percent believe we should trust them less.

If you don’t know why Americans feel that way, welcome to the country where September 11, the continuing whispers from Osama Bin Laden and Al Qaeda, the Danish cartoon controversy, and the always entertaining idea about the Taliban offering marriage counseling, all seem to remind Americans that some of the folks belonging to the second largest religion in the world may not be as keen to get along with us.

Ant that’s unfortunate because a poll last year taken by the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life found that a majority of American Christians are now willing to accept that non-Christians can also be headed for eternal salvation. In many churches it is no longer, to paraphrase AC/DC, “my way or the highway to hell.” Of course, that doesn’t address the growing number of non-faithful, who may take offense at the very concept of God, but that’s a debate for another day.

But it all comes down to a game of percentages. Most Muslims are family-loving, peace-loving, decent people who seemingly want nothing more than to live and let live. But most Americans, contrary to what the President suggests, do not deal regularly with Muslims on either a personal or professional level, thus raising their level of unawareness. Muslims are less than one percent of the American population and outside of major urban areas, they are all but invisible. There are more than twice as many Mormons in this nation and Mitt Romney can tell you he had an uphill climb as a politician who belongs to that church, even though his religion started in this country.

Christians, Muslims, and Jews all have historic reasons to be closer since all three faiths descended from the Biblical character, Abraham. But there are historic reasons why they clash, too, and President Obama may find changing America’s mind is very tough, even if he has the faith to move mountains.

Filed under: Islam • President Barack Obama • Tom Foreman
April 10th, 2009
12:49 PM ET

The U.S. and Iran talking – or just talking tough?

Iranian journalists toured the nuclear facility in February.

Iranian journalists toured the nuclear facility in February.

Elise Labott
CNN State Department Producer

Is the U.S. invitation to join talks over Iran’s nuclear ambitions backfiring? Diplomats and journalists around the world are weighing that question. Yesterday, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad boasted on national TV of new nuclear achievements, including the testing of 7,000 new centrifuges whose capacity is “several times greater” than existing ones. Centrifuges are used to enrich uranium.

The  invitation to join talks over Tehran’s nuclear program was the latest in a series of overtures by the Obama administration, which has promised more “engagement,” including President Obama’s New Year’s message to the Iranian people. Those who watch Iran closely say the response by spiritual leader Ayatollah Khamanei and President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has actually conciliatory. They argue the regime is actually flirting with the U.S. overtures and opening the door for talks.

One of the reasons for that is the sorry state of the Iranian economy. The global economic crisis, coupled with declining oil prices and financial sanctions have made the regime vulnerable. Iranian anger over the economy is at a slow boil and the regime needs to get on America’s good side to lift the sanctions and get its economic house in order.


Filed under: Elise Labott • Global 360° • Iran
April 10th, 2009
12:31 PM ET

Kumar to the White House!

Program Note: Tune in tonight for Anderson's interview with Kal Penn on AC360° at 10 p.m. ET.

Kay Jones
AC360° Coordinating Editorial Producer

It happens in every election, these days. But this past political season, it seemed that celebrities were stumping for the candidates more than ever before.

America Ferrera, star of "Ugly Betty" and her "Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants" co-star Amber Tamblyn posted videos on Youtube of their travels stumping for now Sec. of State Hillary Clinton.

CSI: NY's Hill Harper was on many different shows talking about why his Harvard law school buddy, Barack Obama, would be a great President.

And actress Angie Harman and The View co-host Elisabeth Hasselbeck made it clear with their support of Sen. John McCain. All of these celebs, and more, have gone back to their day jobs.

But while Pres Obama is closing in on his 100th day in office, there is one actor who is taking his election year support, and turning it into a job in the White House.

Kal Penn was most recently on "House," and made a dramatic exit this week as his character committed suicide.

But turns out, it was his choice to leave the show so that he could embark his new career as the associate director in the White House office of public liaison.

What does this job entail? We'll ask him tonight as he joins Anderson on set.

Filed under: 360° Radar • President Barack Obama
April 10th, 2009
12:15 PM ET

Gitmo closing faster than expected?

Jessica Yellin
CNN National Political Correspondent

Jokes aside about how boring the supplemental budget appropriation might be, I found a surprising detail.

President Obama asking for 30m to close Gitmo. And 5m for terrorism prosecutions. Seems to give a sense of his timetable for closing the place: this funding is for between now and September. So this might give pause to critics who complain that President Obama is all talk and no plan.

More supplemental docs, including OMB’s letter, break down funding not just for Iraq and Afghanistan, but elsewhere – examples:

$800 million for the Palestinian Authority $800 million for UN peacekeeping, $400 million to fight financial crisis in developing countries and, yes, that $30 million for DOJ to shut down Guantanamo Bay.

Filed under: Guantanomo Bay • Jessica Yellin
April 10th, 2009
11:51 AM ET

Piracy update: Frigate on the scene

Program Note: Tune in tonight to hear more on the situation on AC360° at 10 p.m. ET.

Attackers hijacked the Maersk Alabama, shown here, formerly known as the Alva Maersk.

Attackers hijacked the Maersk Alabama, shown here, formerly known as the Alva Maersk.

Chris Lawrence
CNN Pentagon Correspondent

The USS Bainbridge is “within a few hundred yards” of the lifeboat holding Richard Phillips, the kidnapped American captain of the Daemsk Alabama, a US defense official confirms.

The pirates have larger “mother ships” nearby. The Navy is aware of their locations and doing surveillance.

The USS Halyburton, a frigate with choppers and guided missiles, is also “in the area” now, which I took to mean it’s not right there on the scene but is in the general area.

The amphibious USS Boxer, which has choppers and a hospital unit, is still “a day or two away.”

Filed under: Chris Lawrence • Pirates
April 10th, 2009
11:43 AM ET

Morning Buzz: American Captain Makes a Break for It

Capt. Richard Phillips of the Maersk Alabama is being held by pirates on a lifeboat off Somalia.

Capt. Richard Phillips of the Maersk Alabama is being held by pirates on a lifeboat off Somalia.

Penny Manis
AC360° Senior Producer

American captain Richard Phillips jumped overboard and tried to swim away from the lifeboat where he is being held by Somali pirates, perhaps towards the USS Bainbridge, a naval warship in communication with the gunmen holding him. The pirates jumped in after him and brought him back to the lifeboat. Meanwhile, more US warships are heading his way, we'll have the latest on this dramatic story.

Fire crews in Oklahoma and Texas are desperately trying to get a handle on wildfires raging across these 2 states. More than a hundred homes have been destroyed, and in fact the town of Midwest City, Oklahoma is being described as a war zone. We'll bring you this report.

Kal Penn, best known for his role in cult classic “Harold and Kumar” has announced he will put acting aside to become an associate director of the White House Office of Public Liaison. His job will focus on outreach to young people, arts professionals and the Asian American community. He will join Anderson tonight, this should be an interesting interview!


Filed under: Penny Manis • The Buzz
April 10th, 2009
10:29 AM ET

Obama, Biden agree on immigration?

Ruben Navarrette Jr.
Special to CNN

The Obama administration's stance on immigration reform is like a never-ending telenovela with multiple plot twists –sometimes more than one in the same news cycle.

One minute the administration is saying it's going to push for immigration reform this year; the next, the message is that it won't push that hard.

According to an article in Wednesday's New York Times, President Obama plans to begin addressing the country's immigration system this year, and those plans will include looking for a path for illegal immigrants to become legal.

The article quotes Cecilia Muñoz, deputy assistant to the president and director of intergovernmental affairs in the White House, as saying that Obama will frame the new push as "policy reform that controls immigration and makes it an orderly system."

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Filed under: Immigration • Joe Biden • President Barack Obama
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