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June 23rd, 2009
03:39 PM ET
June 23rd, 2009
03:33 PM ET

$1.15 million for a waterless lake?

Anna Duning
AC360º Intern

Program Note: Tonight on AC 360º, we’re keeping them honest and taking a closer look at one of these projects: a $5.4 million “Eco-Passage” in Lake Jackson, Florida that protects turtles and other wildlife from becoming road-kill.

Sen. Tom Coburn, M.D., of Oklahoma has a “second opinion” about the $787 billion stimulus bill that passed in Congress earlier this year. In his recently released report, “100 Stimulus Projects: A Second Opinion,” Sen. Coburn reviews 100 projects and programs funded by the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act that, he believes, have the potential to fail or waste near $5.5 billion in tax-payer money.

Here’s a quick look at other projects detailed in the report that American tax-payers may find questionable:

  • A nearly empty lake in Oklahoma is being provided with almost $1.15 million for a new guardrail. Optima Lake was built in the 1960’s to improve water supply in the arid region, but the Geological Society of America says the lake loses 100 percent of its inflowing water to evaporation.
  • A bridge in Iowa County, Wisconsin will receive $430,000 for repairs, but according to the report, does not carry more than 10 cars a day. Another bridge in rural Wisconsin will receive $840,000 to repair damage and carries an average 260 vehicles a day, primarily to a golf course and Rusty’s Backwater Saloon.
  • At around $300 a piece, road signs are being put up at construction sites to notify drivers that the projects are being paid for with stimulus money. All together, the signs could cost up to $150,000.
  • Nantucket’s Marine and Coastal Resources Department will receive $2 million to monitor scallop reproduction and habitat.
  • A state-run liquor warehouse in Montana will receive $2.2 million in stimulus money to install skylights in its ceiling.
  • Is your home-town receiving stimulus cash? Are those funds being put to good use? Read Sen. Coburn’s report and decide for yourself.


    Filed under: 360° Radar • Keeping Them Honest
    June 23rd, 2009
    03:27 PM ET
    June 23rd, 2009
    03:22 PM ET

    Obama on Iran, healthcare and smoking

    Tom Foreman | Bio
    AC360° Correspondent

    Having been tasked with watching the entire Pres. presser, please find some highlights below, in no particular order.

    1) Iran: The President’s language on Iran has hardened a bit, although not as much as some questioners suggested.

    "The United States and the international community have been appalled and outraged by the threats, beatings and imprisonments of the last few days. I strongly condemn these unjust actions.”

    Fundamentally his position is unchanged: This is a matter to be decided by the people of Iran, not outside parties.

    2) Smoking: Sore point. He came closer today than he has before to answering questions about just how much he smokes and when, although in the end he again avoided many specifics, and he implied questions about his habit are petty or mean spirited attempts to embarrass the president. That said, it bears remembering that a First Family’s choices (even the private ones) influence public trends; i.e. Michelle goes sleeveless and women start lifting weights…and that influence can obviously be for good…or ill.

    FULL POST


    Filed under: 360° Radar • Iran • President Barack Obama • Raw Politics • Tom Foreman
    June 23rd, 2009
    03:22 PM ET

    Cop escapes jail time despite beating caught on tape!

    Ismael Estrada
    AC360° Producer

    I was sitting at home in Chicago when I saw the video for the first time. An off-duty officer was caught on surveillance tape beating a female bartender in February of 2007. I couldn’t believe what I was seeing! The guy was huge. Anthony Abbate was behind the bar slamming the woman around, throwing her to the ground and punching her over and over in the head. I called a couple friends who are cops here in Chicago to ask if they knew this guy. One friend told me, “He deserves every day he gets behind bars! This gives us such a bad name.”

    I knew the attorney, Terry Ekl, who had the tape. I gave him a call and he met me at our Chicago bureau in the morning with his client, the bartender who was beaten, Karolina Obyrcka. I remember thinking that Obyrcka was small, but I was also impressed with the fact that she was able to walk away from the beating she took.

    Obyrcka told us her story which you were able to see on AC360° that night and gave us a copy of the surveillance tape. During the interview she says she refused to serve Abbate any more drinks when he became enraged. She says he went behind the bar and started to beat her. Abbate admitted during the trial that he was drunk during the incident, but also says the 5’ 3” bartender was the aggressor in the violent scuffle.

    FULL POST


    Filed under: 360° Radar • Crime & Punishment • Ismael Estrada
    June 23rd, 2009
    02:59 PM ET

    Financial Dispatch: Carmakers get billions to go ‘green’

    Ford, Nissan and electric car start-up Tesla Motors will be the first companies to benefit from a new government program geared toward helping automakers produce more fuel-efficient vehicles.

    Ford, Nissan and electric car start-up Tesla Motors will be the first companies to benefit from a new government program geared toward helping automakers produce more fuel-efficient vehicles.

    Andrew Torgan
    CNN Financial News Producer

    More government money is flowing into the auto industry.

    It’s all part of a $25 billion loan program that Congress created to help automakers retool their factories to build cars that are at least 25% more fuel-efficient than vehicles made in 2005.

    Ford, Nissan and electric car start-up Tesla Motors will be the first beneficiaries of that program. Ford is getting nearly $5.9 billion. Nissan will receive $1.6 billion and Tesla will receive $465 million. More than 100 auto and auto parts makers have applied to the program.

    Ford says it will use some of the money to refit some of its truck and SUV plants for small-car production in North America. The company also has plans to build new flex-fuel vehicles and a variety of electric models.

    Home sales rise, but prices plummet

    Sales of previously-owned homes rose 2.4% last month as increasingly affordable home prices and a first-time tax credit attracted hesitant buyers.

    FULL POST


    Filed under: 360° Radar • Andrew Torgan • Finance • Gas Prices • Job Market
    June 23rd, 2009
    02:12 PM ET

    Iran bans election protest footballers

    Ali Karimi during Iran's World Cup qualifying match in South Korea. Photograph: Lee Jae-Won/Reuters

    Robert Tait
    The Guardian

    Their gesture attracted worldwide comment and drew the attention of football fans to Iran's political turmoil. Now the country's authorities have taken revenge by imposing life bans on players who sported green wristbands in a recent World Cup match in protest against Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's disputed re-election.

    According to the pro-government newspaper Iran, four players – Ali Karimi, 31, Mehdi Mahdavikia, 32, Hosein Ka'abi, 24 and Vahid Hashemian, 32 – have been "retired" from the sport after their gesture in last Wednesday's match against South Korea in Seoul.

    They were among six players who took to the field wearing wristbands in the colour of the defeated opposition candidate Mir Hossein Mousavi, which has been adopted by demonstrators who believe the 12 June election was stolen.

    Read more...


    Filed under: 360° Radar • Iran
    June 23rd, 2009
    01:54 PM ET

    Poll: Americans less upbeat about stimulus bill's progress

    Road construction employees work on a project funded by the federal stimulus in May in Littleton, Colorado.

    Road construction employees work on a project funded by the federal stimulus in May in Littleton, Colorado.

    Dan Balz and Jon Cohen
    The Washington Post

    Expectations for President Obama's stimulus package have diminished, with barely half of Americans now confident the $787 billion measure will boost the economy, and the rapid rise in optimism that followed the 2008 election has abated, according to a new Washington Post-ABC News poll.

    The tempered public outlook has not significantly affected Obama's overall standing, which at 65 percent approval in the new survey outpaces the ratings of former Presidents George W. Bush and Bill Clinton at similar points in their presidencies. But new questions about the stimulus package's effectiveness underscore the stakes for the Obama administration in the months ahead, as it pushes for big reforms in health care and energy on top of the singular issue of the nation's flagging economy.

    Obama maintains leverage on these issues in part because of the continuing weakness of his opposition. The survey found the favorability ratings of congressional Republicans at their lowest point in polls dating back more than a decade. Obama also has significant advantages over Republican lawmakers in terms of public trust on dealing with the economy, health care, the deficit and the threat of terrorism, all despite broad-based GOP criticism of his early actions on these fronts.

    Read more...


    Filed under: 360° Radar • Keeping Them Honest
    June 23rd, 2009
    01:48 PM ET

    Iran and the woman question

    A woman is seen throwing a rock at one recent protest in Tehran.

    A woman is seen throwing a rock at one recent protest in Tehran.

    Feminism has a rich history in Iran. Now more than ever, says journalist Roya Hakakian, it is alive and well and at its most vibrant.

    Forbes: What was your first reaction to seeing women among the protesters in the streets of Iran? Hakakian: The presence of women is not a surprise to me at all.

    Iran has had a robust women's movement for several decades now. But in the late 1990s, a new generation took charge; and in the early 2000s, they managed to organize and unite in ways that women had not since the revolution in 1979. It started as petition movement to collect signatures to ban stoning women to death and has spun out to become the "One Million Signatures Campaign." So this is precisely what I expected.

    What's the extent of risk these demonstrators are taking?

    The risk is enormous...

    Read more...


    Filed under: 360° Radar • Iran • Women's Issues • Women's Rights
    June 23rd, 2009
    01:27 PM ET

    In battle of the burqa, Obama and Sarkozy differ

    Howard LaFranchi
    The Christian Science Monitor

    In the battle of the burqa, the two Western presidents from two international defenders of freedom, France and America, are finding no common ground.

    On Monday, French President Nicolas Sarkozy forcefully condemned the burqa, the traditional female dress for some segments of Islam that covers a woman from head to toe, as a form of enslavement. And he vowed to ban it from the French republic.

    Mr. Sarkozy's position, offered in a speech to Parliament, followed by less than a month American President Obama's opposite take on the subject of covering by Muslim women.

    In his Cairo speech to the Muslim world earlier this month, Mr. Obama called on Western countries "to avoid dictating what clothes a Muslim women should wear," saying such action constituted "hostility" towards religion clothed in "the pretense of liberalism."

    To seal the Franco-American fashion debate, the issue subsequently divided the two leaders – both male, it should be noted – when they met in Normandy to commemorate the 65th anniversary of D-Day on June 6.

    Having suffered the lightning wrath of some French women's groups for his Cairo comments, Obama reiterated: "Our basic attitude [in America] is that we're not going to tell people what to wear."

    Sarkozy's response was also based on a defense of freedom, though from a different perspective. "A young woman can wear a head scarf," he said, "provided that's a decision she made freely and had not been forced on her by her family or entourage."

    Keep reading...

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