[cnn-photo-caption image=http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2009/POLITICS/02/24/palin.travel/art.palindc.gi.jpg caption="Alaska governor, Sarah Palin, spoke in Vanderburgh County, Indiana Thursday night."]
Candy Crowley | BIO
CNN Senior Political Correspondent
I'm having flashbacks.
A 5am alarm.
The small cramped plane ride.
A long pell mell trip in a car you only rent because nobody buys them.
Pulled over for speeding (technically this is known as "travel-other: on expense accounts).
Having narrowly escaped the slammer ...TAH-DAH here we are in Evansville, Indiana.
That's EXACTLY what I said to myself.
Two words, dear reader, Sarah Palin. Major Flashback.
The Governor of Alaska has come to speak to the...deep breath for this.
The Vanderburgh County, Indiana Right To Life Spring Banquet.
It is a very big deal and The Governor of Alaska is a very big deal with them. She agreed to do it, and they sold about a thousand more tickets and spilled over into another room. They love her here.
Elsewhere, not so much.
Let's face it legislatively and personally, the past several months have been....how to put this delicately ...a total mess for Palin. All My Children meets Northern Exposure.
And being in Indiana means The Governor is not in Alaska ( i didn't go to school for nothin) Anyway that really irritates the stew out of some politicians (read this democrats) in Alaska who say she is more interested in promoting her national ambitions than she is in running her state.
Listen-2012 is political light years away. I bet Sarah Palin has no idea whether she'll run, but if you start a political action committee and then trek from Alaska to Evansville, Indiana to put in a cameo appearance before 3,000 anti-abortion activists who help make up the core of the republican party...well, then I think you're thinking about it.
Gotta run she's almost here. I'll have it on AC360° very soon ..
Also, just kidding about that speeding ticket....honest...no, really.
Gov. Sarah Plain is back in the spotlight tonight. She's giving her first speech this year in the lower 48. That has people talking about whether she'll run for the White House in 2012. Do you think she should? Share your thoughts below.
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[cnn-photo-caption image=http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2009/images/04/16/art.tuchman.jpg caption="CNN's Gary Tuchman trains like a SEAL in California."]
High in the mountains, about an hour east of San Diego, we get an idea of what it takes to be a U.S. Navy SEAL sniper. We don't know the identities of the snipers who shot and killed the three pirates in the Indian Ocean, staying anonymous is part of the job. But we do know who is in charge of training SEAL snipers for three years. Brandon Webb now owns a company that focuses on law enforcement training, but between 2003 and 2006 he was in charge of curriculum for the snipers.
He entrusts me with an M-4 sniper rifle, puts me on a range, and gives me basic tips about how to become an expert sniper.
We're 100 yards from the "kill" target, somewhat farther than the distance between the vessels in the Indian Ocean drama. He lies on his stomach and takes more than two dozen shots, each one is a kill. He then gets me ready to try. Only shoot at the end of your respiratory cycle so the gun doesn't move he tells me. Position your body comfortably. Look into the high powered scope and line up the crosshairs with the target. And then fire. To my surprise, I hit the target on my first shot. And my second. As a matter of fact, I hit the target almost every time. But, I am in a stress-free situation on solid ground. I also don't have to keep my eye in the scope for hours on end. You take your eye away for a second and you can miss your target. The SEAL sniper training lasts three months and deals with countless variables and tense scenarios.
My training only lasted part of an easy day. But I left with a bit more understanding of what these snipers go through. It's not just being a great marksman; it's also having a temperment that is second to none.
For almost 30 years, Dirk Pratt believed his daughter, Francesca, was dead. This week, his tears became happy ones. He was reunited with his long, lost daughter.
The last time he saw Francesca, she was two. Pratt says her mother took her to Ecuador for a quick trip to visit family. Then he was told his baby daughter was bitten by a mosquito and died. "I couldn't function or do anything," he said. "She was my whole world."
Since then, he spent each of Francesca's birthdays looking at the one and only photo he had of her. But, six weeks ago, Pratt ran a search of his own name on Google where he found a message: "I am trying to contact Dirk Pratt. I am his daughter." "The first thought in my mind was, 'Francesca or a sick joke?'" he said.
It was indeed Francesca who had been told her father died in a diving accident. But she says she never quite believed it. "Inside of my heart I felt something. 'He's alive,'" said Francesca.
After learning the truth, she moved back to America to search for her father. Yesterday, Dirk and his daughter, were finally reunited.
"He's more happy because I am here," Francesca, now 30, said and she brought some more good news. Pratt not only got his own baby back but there will be an addition to his growing family. "I am having a baby," Francesca said. "I am pregnant. I am so happy."
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 person dressed as a Polar Bear sits in the audience during a public meeting on offshore drilling April 16, 2009 in San Francisco, California. U.S. Department of the Interior Secretary Ken Salazar held a regional meeting to hear arguments from politicians and members of the public about oil drilling off of the coast of California. (Credits Getty Images)
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[cnn-photo-caption image=http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2009/images/04/16/art.army.jpg width=292 height=320]
Special to CNN
This week, four senior retired officers wrote an op-ed in The Washington Post predicting "grave harm" to the military if President Obama moves forward with his vow to let gays serve openly.
"Our experience," they wrote, "and that of more than 1,000 retired flag and general officers," suggest that lifting the ban would harm unit cohesion, recruitment and retention, and would ultimately "break the All-Volunteer Force."
The argument is an old one, and was an effective canard in defeating President Clinton's move to lift the ban in 1993. But it has never been rooted in fact or evidence, and the effort of these officers to defeat equal treatment this time around will face mountains of opposing data and a dramatically changed cultural landscape.
The officers who oppose openly gay service do not base their arguments on any new information. In addition to their own experience - an impressive credential that's nevertheless too vague to hang an argument on - the officers rely on a single poll.
They cite an unscientific survey - it does not draw from a representative sampling but from newspaper subscribers - indicating that 58 percent of the military oppose lifting the ban and that, if it's lifted, 24 percent claim they will leave or consider leaving after their tour ends.
[cnn-photo-caption image=http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2009/POLITICS/04/14/cuba.travel.obama.castro/art.obama.today.afp.gi.jpg caption="The changes in Cuban policy was unveiled before President Obama's trip to the Summit of the Americas."]
Roland S. Martin
It is amazing to watch politicians and activists try as hard as they can to rip into Fidel Castro and Cuba with the fury of a hurricane, yet sound like a whimpering dog when you bring up China and America's absolute double standard when dealing with that communist country.
When President Obama lifted travel restrictions on the country for Cuban-Americans this week, and eased rules on allowing money and gifts to be sent back to the country, the ardent Castro haters were up in arms, calling it a horrible decision.
They want to see the 47-year-old embargo continue against the island, just 90 miles off the Florida coast, while a growing chorus of Democrats and Republicans say it hasn't worked, hasn't driven the Castro regime from power, and should be ended as we seek other means to get Cuba to move toward democracy.
Those who still favor the embargo - which has survived due to the clout of the Cuban-American community in the politically potent state of Florida - say that we shouldn't bend to a communist nation that imprisons voices of dissent and is a major human rights violator, doesn't allow the freedoms we are accustomed to in America, and is run by a dictator.
That's how they describe Cuba, but if you ask the Dalai Lama, he'll say that description fits China as well. But our politicians, and even media commentators on the left and the right, aren't willing to be as vicious in ripping China.