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May 14th, 2009
03:15 PM ET

CIA denies Cheney request on interrogations

Program Note: Tune in tonight for more on the CIA denial of Cheney's request on AC360° at 10 p.m. ET.

CNN

The CIA rejected former Vice President Dick Cheney's request to declassify records of abusive interrogations of suspected terrorists, a spokesman for the spy agency said Thursday.

In a written statement, CIA spokesman Paul Gimigliano said the two documents Cheney requested are the subject of a pending lawsuit and cannot be declassified.

Cheney has said he wants the documents released so there can be a more "honest debate" on the Bush administration's approval of "alternative" interrogation techniques against suspected terrorists. He argued that those techniques provided valuable intelligence that saved American lives, but critics say they amounted to the illegal torture of prisoners in U.S. custody.

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Filed under: 360° Radar • Dick Cheney
May 14th, 2009
03:11 PM ET

From Sully…to Sullied

The tail of the aircraft is visible at the crash site in Clarence Center, New York, in February.

The tail of the aircraft is visible at the crash site in Clarence Center, New York, in February.

Miles O'Brien
True/Slant

When the wreckage of Colgan/Continental Flight 3407 was still smoldering near Buffalo, I blogged that aircraft icing was a likely potential cause of the crash. Turns out, it was just icing on the cake – a cake that has been in the oven for more than thirty years now.

It was October 24, 1978 when President Jimmy Carter signed the Airline Deregulation Act. There were a lot of good reasons then to remove the tie-downs and chalks on the airline industry. The Civil Aeronautics Board had become egregiously bureaucratic and good people with good business plans were stymied by government rules and inaction.

So why not allow the free market to prevail? Wouldn’t competition be a win-win for the American people and the airlines? Thirty years later, it is hard to find a winner – unless your only metric is your ability to fly roundtrip coast-to-coast for $200.

Well I have news for you: your mother was right…you get what you pay for. And tragically, Flight 3407 is what we ordered up back in 1978.

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May 14th, 2009
02:56 PM ET

Marijuana potency surpasses 10 percent, U.S. says

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

Mahmoud ElSohly says marijuana's potency will continue to rise before tailing off in the next five years.

Mahmoud ElSohly says marijuana's potency will continue to rise before tailing off in the next five years.

Jeanne Meserve and Mike M. Ahlers
CNN

The average potency of marijuana, which has risen steadily for three decades, has exceeded 10 percent for the first time, the U.S. government will report on Thursday.

Scientists working for the government predict that potency, as measured by the drug's concentration of the psychoactive ingredient THC, will continue to rise.

At the University of Mississippi's Potency Monitoring Project, where thousands of samples of seized marijuana are tested every year, project director Mahmoud ElSohly said some samples have THC levels exceeding 30 percent.

Average THC concentrations will continue to climb before leveling off at 15 percent or 16 percent in five to 10 years, ElSohly predicted.

The stronger marijuana is of particular concern because high concentrations of THC have the opposite effect of low concentrations, officials say.

In addition, while experienced marijuana users may limit their intake of potent marijuana, young and inexperienced users may not moderate their intake and possibly suffer from dysphoria, paranoia, irritability and other negative effects.

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May 14th, 2009
02:36 PM ET

Abu Ghraib commander: Release abuse photos

Abu Ghraib reopened this year under control of the Iraqi Ministry of Justice.

Abu Ghraib reopened this year under control of the Iraqi Ministry of Justice.

Janis Karpinski
Special to CNN

About-face! President Obama's reversal of his administration's decision to release more photographs of prisoner abuse is disappointing and infuriating.

It is sad and tragic. The reversal will absolutely stir up more controversy than release of the photographs, causing an outpouring of rampant speculation - What is the government hiding? Who are the people in the photographs? How awful can these new photos be? And worse.

The president is going to Egypt, and discussions surrounding the photographs are inevitable. He is far better off armed with the ability to have open discussions on all topics instead of apologizing for holding back information. Withholding evidence is counterproductive and does not sound like "truth," and it surely does not sound like "change."

The truth is always helpful. If we put all the photographs on the table, clearing the air, then, and only then, we can get on with the discussion of how to make sure this never happens again. The truth will set us free - free to find the roots of the problem, allowing us to do what we did best - making the world a better place to live.

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Filed under: President Barack Obama • Torture
May 14th, 2009
01:51 PM ET

"Every picture tells a story, especially with the pope"

Pope Benedict leaves the Church of Nativity in his pope mobile after celebrating Mass Wednesday in Bethlehem.

Pope Benedict leaves the Church of Nativity in his pope mobile after celebrating Mass Wednesday in Bethlehem.

John L. Allen Jr.
CNN Senior Vatican Analyst

For some time now, people have asked why someone doesn’t give the Vatican some PR help. This afternoon, someone finally did – and it was a Jew to boot.

The setting was an inter-faith meeting in Nazareth, the traditional hometown of Jesus and his parents, Joseph and Mary, in the Galilee region of northern Israel. The event brought Pope Benedict XVI together with local leaders of the Christian, Muslim, Jewish and Druze faiths.

As it turned out, the event produced arguably the best visual of the pope’s week-long trip to the Middle East. At the end of the brief session, Alon Goshen-Gottstein, a Jew who runs an inter-faith center in Jerusalem, led the assembly in a rousing song he had composed specially for the occasion. It was titled “Salaam, Shalom, Lord Grant Us Peace.”

As the song went on, the religious leaders on stage began to join in, including the pontiff himself. At the end, the rabbis, sheikhs, bishops, and other spiritual leaders rose from their seats and held hands, as the word for peace in various languages was belted out in the hall. Benedict was standing in the center of the group, singing and holding hands with a rabbi and a Druze sheikh.

FULL POST

May 14th, 2009
01:10 PM ET

Financial Dispatch: Chrysler dealerships hit hard

Gene Bloch
Managing Editor
CNN New York

The pain of Chrysler’s bankruptcy filing is hitting hard today – 789 Chrysler dealerships representing about 25% of the auto maker’s 3,181 dealerships – are getting word today they will be shut down. That means thousands of salespeople and staff out of work and a major impact on communities. General Motors is expected to soon announce an even bigger number of closures, as it heads toward a June 1st deadline to restructure with or without a Chapter 11 filing.

Most analysts expect GM will have to file as well.

Ahead of the Chrysler news this morning, more signs that the jobs picture is worsening, even as some signs on the economy are positive, or at least showing a slower pace of deterioration. A record 6.5 million people are now collecting unemployment claims, and the number of first time filers jumped last week by 32-thousand to a total of 637-thousand.

Inflation at the wholesale level jumped a bigger than expected 0.3% in April, but the year-over-year change in the Producer Price Index was DOWN 3.7%, which is the biggest decline since 1950, as a weak economy means prices must be cut to entice retailers to buy.

President Obama, as I write this is making a push at a high school town hall event in New Mexico the credit card legislation making its way through Congress – Mr. Obama has railed against hidden fees and sudden interest rate hikes that have many Americans outraged.

FULL POST


Filed under: 360° Radar • CNN Money Summit • Economy • Energy • Finance • Gene Bloch • Unemployment
May 14th, 2009
12:37 PM ET

Mr. Cheney, you did not keep us safe

Program Note: Tune in tonight to hear more from Paul Begala on AC360° at 10 p.m. ET.

Paul Begala
CNN Contributor

For The Huffington Post

If 3,000 Americans had been killed on your watch, in an attack that could have been prevented, perhaps you'd be a little hesitant to accuse anyone else of endangering America. And if you had advocated torture, and the torture produced false information that you used to mislead America into an unwise, unjust and unwarranted war, you might be a tad sheepish about defending the use of torture.

Not Dick Cheney. Mr. Cheney has stepped up his attack on Pres. Obama's security strategy, telling CBS's Bob Schieffer that Obama's refusal to use waterboarding and other "enhanced interrogation techniques" (i.e., torture) endangers American lives.

The truth is the Bush-Cheney policies did not keep us safe, and Mr. Cheney is not a credible spokesman on issues of national security.

First, this awkward fact. When it came time to risk his hide to serve our country during the Vietnam War, Cheney got five draft deferments. He later told the Senate, "I had other priorities in the sixties than military service." John Kerry did not. Nor did John McCain. Nor Gen. Colin Powell, nor Gen. Jim Jones, nor Gen. Wes Clark, nor Jim Webb. These warriors – and so many others – strongly oppose the use of torture. They were willing to die to protect America. It is insulting for a doughy draft dodger like Mr. Cheney to suggest they would endanger us today.

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Filed under: 360° Radar • Paul Begala
May 14th, 2009
11:58 AM ET

Video: Bill Clinton targets Cheney

Former Pres. Bill Clinton took a shot at former VP Dick Cheney Wednesday on CNN's The Situation Room.


Filed under: Bill Clinton • Dick Cheney
May 14th, 2009
11:53 AM ET

My journey to every country on the planet

A city in Yemen, one of the countries Guillebeau plans on visiting this year.

A city in Yemen, one of the countries Guillebeau plans on visiting this year.

Chris Guillebeau
AC360° Contributor

On a six-hour train trip through Eastern Europe several years ago, I counted up the dozens of countries I had been to and realized I was in reach of 100. Doing a quick time-and-money estimate in my journal, I calculated that the cost to get to 100 would be about $30,000.

My first thought: only $30,000? My friends were buying S.U.V.s with that kind of money. I could have a large vehicle or I could have the world. Easy choice.

I had been living in West Africa, volunteering as an aid worker while moonlighting at night as a business consultant via the Internet , before moving to Seattle in 2006 for graduate school. During every school break, I traveled – to Uganda, Kosovo, Jordan, Brunei, and beyond.

While on one of those trips, I was daydreaming on a ferry from Hong Kong to Macau when the thought hit me: instead of just 100, why not try to visit every country in the world? I decided to go for it. Every good goal has a deadline, so I set mine for my 35th birthday, currently four years from now. By then I plan to have visited every country in the world, all from my new home base in Portland, Ore.

FULL POST

May 14th, 2009
11:17 AM ET

The end of prostitution as we know it?

Michael Schulder
CNN Senior Executive Producer

Here’s the name of the technique prosecutors have come up with to end prostitution as we know it. They call it "manual blocking.”

Manual blocking is what a coalition of U.S. Attorneys General have pressured Craigslist to institute as a way of filtering out ads for prostitution. No special software. Actual human beings will be responsible for the job.

What is a manual blocker – and how will he or she help end the solicitation of prostitution on the internet? The answer in a moment. But first, the hard news.

Goodbye Erotic, Hello Adult

Craigslist has agreed to shut down its "erotic services" section. The Attorney General of Connecticut called the heavily trafficked classified ad section "a blatant internet brothel." The Cook County Illinois Sheriff called it "the single largest source of prostitution in the nation." But enough testimonials.

Craigslist was started by self-described internet nerd, Craig Newmark, in 1995 as a simple email list for friends and coworkers about events going on in the San Francisco Bay Area. It has grown into a huge classified ad site, dominated by clean categories such as Community, Housing, Jobs, For Sale. And company officials did make a strong argument for salvaging the erotic services section. They argued that by keeping it on-line the vice is easier to track. Which makes sense. We know that nothing is completely private on the internet. But the company ultimately relented.

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