April 13th, 2009
10:45 AM ET

Dear President Obama #84: Ten things – Money for Nothing

Reporter's Note: President Obama would like Americans to give advice to the White House on how to help the country progress. As part of my continuing series of letters and mindful that it’s hard to know where you are going if you don’t know where you are I am currently writing on Ten Things You Ought to Know About America, But You Might Not Know From Watching the News.

This is Part Seven.

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Tom Foreman | Bio
AC360° Correspondent

Dear Mr. President,

I went to a steel plant north of Pittsburgh once, in a small town by a river, to watch those beautiful streams of molten orange pour out of the great dark cauldrons and hear a story of hope and despair. The plant was profitable and had been for years, the keystone of a local family’s fortune and the town’s economy. But the family had grown old and had sold the plant to an international corporation, which decided to break it up and sell the parts for quick cash.

The workers banded together to try to buy the plant back. I don’t know how it turned out in the long run. I suspect not well. But in the course of covering their struggle I had a conversation with a Methodist minister, which convinced me of a truth about America that is having an earth shaking impact, and yet is oddly unnoticed in the media.

We are trying to measure everything in terms of money, and that is undermining our success.

The minister put it this way. “For the local man who owned the plant, it was more than just a business. When he rode to work he saw the school his children attended, the creek where he fished. The steeple of his church was above the shops downtown, where he watched the Fourth of July parade. So when the steel business was not so good, he would think of these things, and hold on. He kept the plant open because while it was his livelihood, it was also the centerpiece of his life.”


April 13th, 2009
10:35 AM ET

What Mexico really needs from Obama

[cnn-photo-caption image=http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2009/US/04/09/asu.obama.tickets/art.obama.asu.gi.jpg]John M. Ackerman
Los Angeles Times

President Obama should not focus exclusively on short-term military goals during his visit to Mexico this week. The violence there, which has taken the lives of 10,000 Mexicans over the last two years, must be stopped. But the helicopters, weapons scanners and listening devices that have been the cornerstone of promised U.S. support will only go so far. The real solution lies in effective institution-building.

It does no good to capture drug kingpins if they don't go to jail. During 2008, only one out of every 10 suspects arrested in Mexico for drug offenses was convicted, according to official statistics. In Chihuahua, one of the bloodiest states in the country, only 1,621 out of the 5,674 suspects arrested over the last 12 months have even had to stand trial, because of the weakness of the prosecutors' cases.

Almost a decade ago, the U.N. special rapporteur on the independence of judges and lawyers, Param Cumaraswamy, discovered fundamental problems of inequality and inefficiency with Mexico's system of criminal justice. Today, the grim picture he painted has changed little. Mexico's jails remain full of petty thieves while serious criminals with money and connections roam the streets.

Last year, Mexico passed a major constitutional reform that would introduce oral trials - to replace trials conducted only through written documents - and transform the role of government prosecutors. The goals are to reduce case backlogs by speeding up trials, to prevent corruption by increasing transparency and to improve criminal investigations by dropping the requirement that prosecutors issue a preliminary judgment on the culpability of suspects. With this latter change, prosecutors would be able to dedicate themselves exclusively to investigating cases and avoid conflicts of interests. But the authorities have dragged their feet on implementation. Congress has delayed passing all of the necessary follow-up legislation, and the commission created by the reform, with representatives from the executive, judiciary and legislative branches, has not convened.


April 13th, 2009
10:30 AM ET

Tea parties forever

[cnn-photo-caption image=http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2009/images/03/30/art.steeleseal0330.gi.jpg caption="RNC chairman Michael Steele."]
Paul Krugman
The New York Times

This is a column about Republicans — and I’m not sure I should even be writing it.

Today’s G.O.P. is, after all, very much a minority party. It retains some limited ability to obstruct the Democrats, but has no ability to make or even significantly shape policy.

Beyond that, Republicans have become embarrassing to watch. And it doesn’t feel right to make fun of crazy people. Better, perhaps, to focus on the real policy debates, which are all among Democrats.

But here’s the thing: the G.O.P. looked as crazy 10 or 15 years ago as it does now. That didn’t stop Republicans from taking control of both Congress and the White House. And they could return to power if the Democrats stumble. So it behooves us to look closely at the state of what is, after all, one of our nation’s two great political parties.

One way to get a good sense of the current state of the G.O.P., and also to see how little has really changed, is to look at the “tea parties” that have been held in a number of places already, and will be held across the country on Wednesday. These parties — antitaxation demonstrations that are supposed to evoke the memory of the Boston Tea Party and the American Revolution — have been the subject of considerable mockery, and rightly so.


Filed under: Raw Politics • Republicans
April 13th, 2009
07:37 AM ET

Sound Off: Your comments 4/10/09

Editor's Note: We received a lot of comments about the Pirate situation off the coast of Somalia and the death of Natasha Richardson. Viewers gave suggestions on how to rescue Capt. Phillips from the Pirates and asked why they aren’t called “terrorists.” What do you have to say about the show?


In the pirate hostage case- can the US army/navy personnel not reach the pirate boat thru sub marine or deep divers & than attack pirate boat & get the Captain back

Why are we not talking about arming every merchant ship transiting dangerous waters with a 50 caliber machine gun on either side of the ship? 6 crewmembers could be trained to man them, in shifts. The ships already have radar and searchlights. It would surely cost less than the extra premiums the owners must now be paying for insuring the risk. No small pirate vessel would want to be engaged with 50 cal armor piercing rounds. Armed merchant vessels are nothing new in war – and the international community needs to agree that piracy is a form of war.

At what point do the "Pirates" become "terrorists"? I believe they are terrorizing capt Philips and many other innocent victims. These pirates/terrorists have hijacked ships much like the 9/11 terrorists hijacked airplanes. I do not see the difference. Can you explain the different terminology? Whatever you call them the verb remains the same they are inflicting terror on the world.

Dear Anderson, Why can't the Naval ship just hook up the tender and drag it away!!!! So far that the pirates wouldn't follow!!!


Filed under: Behind The Scenes
April 13th, 2009
05:40 AM ET

Obama daughters to get Portuguese water dog named 'Bo'

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Ed Henry
Senior White House Correspondent

The frenzy over the First Dog is finally over. The Obamas are welcoming a Portuguese water dog to the White House that Sasha and Malia have named "Bo," according to two Democratic sources familiar with the secretive process.

The sources confirmed an account in Sunday's Washington Post that Sen. Edward Kennedy, who has three Portuguese water dogs, played a critical role in lining up the pup.

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Filed under: 360° Radar • President Barack Obama
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