April 24th, 2009
04:38 PM ET

A beauty pageant gets ugly

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Tom Foreman | Bio
AC360° Correspondent

Like an earth tremor on the San Andreas Fault, or the paparazzi behind Britney’s car, I could have told Miss California it was coming.

I had a long chat with Perez Hilton a few months ago and he made it screamingly clear that while he earns a living as a celebrity blogger, his life is about gay rights. So I was not surprised when he threw that ticking bomb of a question at her while he was serving as a judge during the Miss USA contest: “Do you think all states should approve same-sex marriages?”

The answer from Carrie Prejean, just in case you haven’t heard, was polite and in keeping with typical beauty pageant punditry. After saying she thinks it is great that people can choose their own mates, she added, “I believe that a marriage should be between a man and a woman. No offense to anybody out there, but that’s how I was raised.”

Often when people say “no offense,” what they mean is they are about to offend you, but you shouldn’t get all huffy about it. And that is precisely how many same-sex marriage proponents took her comment. They have been slamming the First Runner Up as intolerant on the blogs, YouTube, TV, and every other available platform.

And her supporters have been slamming right back by posting their own messages saying either that she is right to defend traditional marriage, or the critics are wrong to attack her free speech. One Alabama legislator even introduced a measure to commend her actions. Of course, he may just be snippy. The last time a Miss Alabama won the Miss USA crown was more than forty years ago, and this year she didn’t even make the top 15.

The real scandal in the contest, I should mention, is the extraordinary dominance of Texas: 8 crowns since 1985. Seems fishy. I’m just saying.

I digress. It’s easy to portray either side as the victim. But in the modern world of public debate, there are only winners coming out of this mess. Sure, Prejean did not win the crown, but she’s been on TV a heck of a lot more than the winner (who was that, by the way?) and even without a tiara, she’s being treated like royalty by people who share her views.

Hilton and his supporters are also getting what they want and that is another chance to publicize their struggle to have same-sex marriage approved coast to coast.

The fight is only going to get uglier, but the combatants on each side would have it no other way. As long as they are in the headline, they are sitting pretty.

April 24th, 2009
04:04 PM ET

Bono interviews Clooney

Rock star Bono interviews George Clooney for a Time 100/Anderson Cooper 360 special airing May 1 at 11:00 p.m. ET.

Chuck Hadad
AC360° Producer

My days are never boring as a producer at AC 360’ but my latest assignment definitely goes down in the annals of producer history: shoot Bono interviewing George Clooney. Clooney is being honored by Time magazine as one of the world’s 100 most influential people and Time asked Bono to write the profile. As Time’s partner, we shot the interview and other famous pairings for an upcoming Time 100/Anderson Cooper 360’ Special aptly titled “The World’s Most Influential People.”

While Bono and Clooney are acutely aware of their own fame, it seems to be inversely proportional to the fanfare surrounding both of them. Clooney showed up to the interview solo: no security, no entourage, just a guy in combat boots and a leather jacket. I met him on the street in New York outside of our interview location and joked with him as I lead him to a green room that Bono was looking forward to getting him in the hot seat. I didn’t know it at the time but that was truer than I could have ever imagined.

Bono trailed him by a few minutes in a separate car and while I tried to keep things professional on the outside, on the inside I felt like the 10 year old kid who wore out his tape of U2’s “The Joshua Tree.”
The two stars are good friends and when I showed Bono to the same green room, he began to belt out the Beatles “Hey Jude” on a piano but changed the lyrics to butter up Clooney for the interview: “Hey George, don’t make it bad …”

I left them to catch up and ran out to be sure our crew was ready. As far as productions go, for this one we went all out and were shooting the interview at Rose Theater at Frederick P. Rose Hall, Home of Jazz at Lincoln Center.

Ten minutes later, Bono and Clooney walked into the theater, introduced themselves to the entire crew and Bono had the closest he came to a diva moment during the entire afternoon. “Could I get a clipboard so we can make this interview official?!” he said with a smile and a wink.

With clipboard in hand, he sat down, I called for quiet on the set and Bono began.

“You recently slept with someone that I have a crush on … tell me about that?” was one of his first questions to George Clooney and it set the tone of their nearly 40 minute interview: although they’re good friends, Bono would leave no stone unturned.

The special airs next Friday at 11 pm ET. Check out the video above for a sneak peak.

April 24th, 2009
01:34 PM ET

Financial Dispatch: Detroit’s drive to survive

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Andrew Torgan
CNN Financial News Producer

Could Detroit’s Big Three soon be the Big One?

Ford this morning reported a smaller-than-expected loss for the first quarter, and the company says it remains on track to meet its internal financial targets despite the worst quarter for auto sales in 26 years.

Ford, the only American automaker that did not take any federal bailout money, posted net losses of $1.4 billion. Revenue plunged 37% during the quarter to $24.8 billion as vehicle sales in the U.S. dropped 43%. But revenue was also better than analysts' forecasts.

Still, the latest losses come on top of $30 billion in net losses the company reported from 2006 through 2008.

Ford CEO Alan Mulally says that the company is still confident it will not need a federal loan unless the economy gets significantly worse, or unless there is an uncontrolled bankruptcy in the industry that disrupts the flow of parts from Ford's suppliers.

Meanwhile, privately-held Chrysler has one week to reach deals with Fiat, unions and banks, raising doubts it can avoid bankruptcy.

The New York Times is reporting that the Treasury Department is directing the automaker to prepare a Chapter 11 bankruptcy filing as soon as next week.


Filed under: Andrew Torgan • auto bailout • Economy • Finance • Unemployment • Wall St.
April 24th, 2009
12:22 PM ET

Big jumps in private loan borrowing

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Project on Student Debt

New federal data show that the percentage of undergraduate students who borrowed private student loans jumped from 5 percent in 2003-04, to 14 percent in 2007-08.

At proprietary (for-profit) colleges and universities, the percentage of students who took out these loans skyrocketed from 13 percent in the 2003-04 school year, to 42 percent last year.

Check out this analysis of the data by the Project on Student Debt.

Filed under: Economy • Education
April 24th, 2009
12:06 PM ET

Torture Memos vs. Red Cross Reports

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Olga Pierce

Take a look at this comparison of the recently released "torture memos," prepared by Bush administration lawyers, and a leaked Red Cross report in which prisoners were interviewed about being on the receiving end of the interrogation techniques. The chart is based on research by the ACLU, which filed lawsuits to get the memos released. Also, here is our list of still-missing Bush-era memos on prisoner treatment and warrantless wiretapping.


Filed under: 360° Radar • Torture
April 24th, 2009
10:45 AM ET

Torture memos aren’t criminal

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Ruben Navarrette Jr.
Special to CNN

For someone who insists he is personally opposed to torture, President Obama has a rhetorical knack for it.

This week, Obama tortured the right, left and center with his parsing, hedging, and flip-flopping on newly released Bush-era torture memos and what to do about them.

Along the way, he also tortured logic and consistency, making a total mess of his own position. Only the most die-hard Obama supporters - those who are invested to the hilt in his presidency and find it hard to see the blemishes - could deny this.

Obama angered Republicans by releasing the confidential documents, over objections by CIA Director Leon Panetta and Bush administration officials who worried that it would telegraph to terrorists how far U.S. interrogators are permitted to go in trying to extract information.

Keep Reading...

April 24th, 2009
10:18 AM ET

Past, President and Future

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Peggy Noonan
The Wall Street Journal

What makes it hard at the moment to write sympathetically of Barack Obama is the loud chorus of approbation arising from his supporters in journalism as they mark the hundred days. Drudge calls it the "Best President Ever" campaign. It is marked by an abandonment of critical thinking among otherwise thoughtful men and women who comprise, roughly speaking, the grown-ups of journalism, the old hands of the MSM who have been through many presidents and should know better. They are insisting too much. If they were utterly confident, they wouldn't be.

In the area of foreign affairs, one of the arguments for candidate Barack Obama was that he would put a new stamp—new ways, new style and content—on America's approach to the world. This might allow some in the world—occasional allies, foes, irritated sympathizers—to recalibrate and make positive readjustments in their attitude toward Washington. With George W. Bush, everyone got dug in, and the ground froze. After 9/11 he cut like a sword and divided: You were with us or against us. He launched a war that angered major allies. For seven years there was constant agitation, and the world was allowed to make a caricature of U.S. leadership. There was no capture of Osama bin Laden, the man who made 9/11 and whose seizure would have provided a unifying Western rallying point and inspired instructive admiration: Those Yanks get their man.


Filed under: President Barack Obama • Torture
April 24th, 2009
09:37 AM ET

Morning Buzz: Taliban Retreats, Student Loans

[cnn-photo-caption image=http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2009/WORLD/asiapcf/04/24/pakistan.taliban.control.gilani/art.tali.jpg caption="A Taliban fighter in the district of Buner, which is only 96 kilometers from Islamabad."]

Penny Manis
AC360° Senior Producer

Taliban fighters retreat back to their stronghold in the Swat Valley after moving into an area which is only 60 miles from Pakistan’s capital earlier in the week.

Are we near a ‘tipping point’ where Pakistan, a nuclear armed state, could be overtaken by Islamic militants? We'll ask Nic Robertson reporting from Islamabad if the Pakistan military thinks they have succeeded in keeping militants away from the capital.

The US gives the Pakistan military a lot of aid (read: money) each year, we'll ask what they do with that money and is it enough to help them stop the Taliban.

The Pentagon is set to release another batch of photos the ACLU says show prisoner abuse in Iraq and Afghanistan at the hands of US personnel. ACLU had filed a suit for the pictures to be released and they are expected end of May, according to the group. We’ll try to get information on what these pictures could show, and what could come from making them public.


Filed under: Penny Manis • The Buzz
April 24th, 2009
08:58 AM ET

Video: Bullied boy hanged self

A Georgia boy who was bullied in school and called "gay" and "the virgin" hanged himself in his closet.

April 24th, 2009
08:46 AM ET

Obama health plan is too big

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John Feehery
Special to CNN

President Obama has taken the advice of famous Chicago architect Daniel Burnham. "Make no little plans," Burnham said, "they have no magic to stir men's blood."

The president has called for the complete restructuring of education in this country. He wants to recast the energy industry. He promises to tackle the looming problem of Social Security and Medicare. He wants to raise taxes on the rich and give money to the poor. He plans on redoing the banking and investment industries.

He has even weighed in on the college football bowl system.

But when it comes to another of his ambitions, health care reform, history shows that it is the littler plans that usually get done.

The president certainly has big ambitions when it comes to health care. He wants to boldly restructure the insurance market so that everybody is covered. He also wants to dramatically cut costs so that everybody can afford to get the health care they need.

Keep Reading...

Filed under: Health Care • President Barack Obama
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