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July 14th, 2009
04:06 PM ET

Euna Lee – Still a mom in captivity

Supporters rally for U.S. journalists Euna Lee and Laura Ling on June 4 in Seoul, South Korea.

Supporters rally for U.S. journalists Euna Lee and Laura Ling on June 4 in Seoul, South Korea.

Mallika Chopra
Intent.com

I wanted to share a story about Euna Lee, who along with Laura Ling, has been held in N. Korea for 4 months. As a mother, the story has been haunting me since I heard it. It haunts me because I can totally relate to Euna's actions.

Several weeks ago, we had Euna’s husband, Michael, over for dinner. I have never met Euna, and it was the first time I met Michael. Because of my brother’s close friendship with Laura Ling, it seemed natural to connect with Euna’s family, as well.

Michael is wonderful – vivacious, smart, funny. It was the first day, since this ordeal started, that he had left their 4 year old daughter, Hana. She was spending a night with his father. It was also the first time– at that time, the girls had been in captivity for about 3 months – that he was alone and could process his feelings. As other parents will relate, we often put aside our own emotions to focus on our children’s emotions.

Read more...


Filed under: Lisa Ling • North Korea
July 14th, 2009
03:38 PM ET

Presidential first pitches

President Obama threw the opening pitch at the 2005 Chicago White Sox-Anaheim Angels game.

President Obama threw the opening pitch at the 2005 Chicago White Sox-Anaheim Angels game.

Keating Holland
Director, CNN Political Unit

When Barack Obama steps on the mound at tonight's All-Star game in St. Louis to throw out the ceremonial first pitch, it will be only the fifth time in the 76-year history of the All-Star game that a president has done so, and the first time in more than 30 years.

Presidents routinely perform this task at Opening Day festivities and less frequently at World Series games, but a presidential appearance at the Midsummer Classic is rare. Here is a list of presidential first pitches at All-Star games:

July 7, 1937 F. Roosevelt – Threw out first pitch
July 10, 1962 Kennedy – Threw out first pitch
July 14, 1970 Nixon – Threw out first pitch
July 13, 1976 Ford – Threw out first pitch
July 14, 2009 Obama – Scheduled to throw out first pitch

George H. W. Bush attended the 1991 and 1992 all-star games but did not throw out the first pitch on either occasion. In 1991, the game was held in Toronto, and Bush probably deferred to his host, Canadian Prime Minister Brian Mulroney. (News reports indicate that Mulroney decided not to throw out the first pitch because he risked getting booed. Canadian-born Hall of Famer Ferguson Jenkins did the honors.) It's less clear why Bush didn't throw out the first pitch in 1992, when he had Mexican President Carlos Salinas de Gortari as his guest. Bush, as Vice President, threw out the first pitch at the 1988 All-Star game in Cincinnati as a presidential candidate.

FULL POST


Filed under: 360° Radar • President Barack Obama
July 14th, 2009
02:30 PM ET

Billings family releases statement

Program Note: Tune in to AC 360º tonight at 10 P.M. ET for more coverage on the murder of Byrd and Melanie Billings, the parents of 16 children in Escambia County, Florida. Below is the statement issued by the family.

Byrd and Melanie Billings were shot to death in their Florida home last Thursday night.

Byrd and Melanie Billings were shot to death in their Florida home last Thursday night.

We would like to start by thanking everyone for their support, especially the good people of Escambia County and the surrounding community. We would also like to thank the investigative agencies involved in this matter.

The family cannot begin to find the words to adequately express the pain and disbelief of these last few days. To know there are people among us capable of this type of violence and with this magnitude of hate and evil in their lives is sickening.

Our Mom and Dad only had love in their lives. Since the day they met, 19 years ago, they knew they were soul mates. They chose a life that many people did not understand.

Together they decided to adopt a child, which turned into the adopting of many children. They had a calling to adopt, and to provide love to children that most did not see as normal. To my Mom and Dad their children are perfect. In their eyes their children had no disabilities and presented no challenges. They saw them as angels that God provided to them and Mom and Dad knew they would love them eternally. Mom and Dad had the ability to provide their children with lives full of fun, joy, patience and love. Though they have 17 children, love was never scarce, never withheld. They loved and cherished each child as much as a person is possibly capable.

Read more...


Filed under: 360º Follow • Crime & Punishment
July 14th, 2009
01:46 PM ET

Financial dispatch: Madoff arrives at federal prison

Bernard Madoff, aka prisoner no. 61727-054, shown here in his MCC mugshot.

Bernard Madoff, aka prisoner no. 61727-054, shown here in his MCC mugshot.

Andrew Torgan
CNN Financial News Producer

 
Convicted Ponzi scheme mastermind Bernard Madoff has arrived at a federal penitentiary outside Raleigh, North Carolina.

The 71-year-old former financier was transferred today from a corrections facility in Atlanta, Georgia to the Butner Federal Correctional Complex, which is about 30 miles north of Raleigh.

Madoff, otherwise known as federal prisoner No. 61727-054, is expected to undergo a physical and psychological evaluation at Butner before he learns where he'll serve his sentence. It's not immediately clear if Butner is where he’ll stay.

Madoff was sentenced in June to 150 years in prison for a multibillion-dollar fraud that burned thousands of investors.

Goldman is golden

Wall Street has been expecting big things from Goldman Sachs - the first of the major banks to report this earnings season - but this morning’s blowout far exceeded even the most optimistic expectations

Just six months after reporting its first loss as a public company, Goldman posted second-quarter earnings of $3.44 billion, boosted by strength in its trading and underwriting businesses.

And just last month, Goldman repaid $10 billion in taxpayer bailout money that it received as part of the government’s Troubled Asset Relief Program.

Other big names reporting financial results this week include JPMorgan, Bank of America, Citigroup, IBM, General Electric and Intel.

Economy in focus

Also on our radar today… retail sales rose for the second straight month in June, but the gains came mostly from auto purchases (believe it or not), higher gas prices and a modest pick up in electronics sales.

The Commerce Department says total retail sales rose 0.6% last month, compared with May's gain of 0.5%. Sales excluding autos rose a weaker than expected 0.3%.

And a key gauge of inflation at the wholesale level jumped by twice as much as expected in June on a big rise in energy prices.

The Producer Price Index, which measures prices received by farms, factories and refineries, increased by 1.8%, the steepest gain since November 2007, the Labor Department said.

Core prices, which strip out volatile food and energy costs, rose a much greater-than-expected 0.5%, boosted by car and truck sales.

Speaking of retail sales… back-to-school spending is set to slip 7.7% this year, according to a survey released this morning.

Thanks to pay cuts and job losses, cash-strapped consumers are planning to spend less on everything from pens and paper to fall clothing.

The average family with students in grades kindergarten through high school is expected to spend $548.72 on school supplies, down from $594.24 in 2008, according to the National Retail Federation.

So who is spending money?

 The government – that’s who.

 The federal budget deficit increased in June as spending surged and tax receipts sunk, pushing the total budget shortfall to over $1 trillion in the first 9 months of the fiscal year, according to a government report released Monday.

To put that in perspective: In the first nine months of 2008, the United States government was $285.9 billion in debt. For all of fiscal 2008, the government racked up a $454.8 billion shortfall.

 Is anyone saving money?

 Drivers are, when compared to last year anyway.

 Gas prices dropped 1.2-cents overnight to $2.517 - the 23rd straight day of declines.

 In the last 23 days, the average price has decreased 17.6 cents, or 6.53%. The average price of a gallon of gas is also down $1.597, or 38.8%, from the record high price of $4.114 that AAA reported on July 17, 2008.

 The highest gas prices are in Hawaii ($3.257). The cheapest are in Missouri ($2.268).


Filed under: 360° Radar • Andrew Torgan
July 14th, 2009
12:53 PM ET

Sotomayor's legacy on the bench

Sonia Sotomayor, here at her 8th-grade graduation, had to finish homework and chores before she could go out.

Sonia Sotomayor, here at her 8th-grade graduation, had to finish homework and chores before she could go out.

CNN

The following are past key rulings made by Supreme Court nominee Sonia Sotomayor, who begins a week long hearing in the senate judiciary committee on Monday.

Keep Reading...


Filed under: 360° Radar • Sonia Sotomayor
July 14th, 2009
12:49 PM ET
July 14th, 2009
12:46 PM ET

How Sotomayor stacks up with other justices

Sonia Sotomayor speaks before the Senate Judiciary Committe on Tuesday, the second day of her hearings.

Sonia Sotomayor speaks before the Senate Judiciary Committe on Tuesday, the second day of her hearings.

CNN

Sonia Sotomayor, if confirmed, would be the first Hispanic to serve on the U.S. Supreme Court. But she has many things in common with the eight justices she would sit with.

Read More...


Filed under: 360° Radar • Sonia Sotomayor
July 14th, 2009
11:44 AM ET

Internet is the new street corner drug dealer

These pills were sent to CNN's Drew Griffin, even though he was never seen by a doctor.

These pills were sent to CNN's Drew Griffin, even though he was never seen by a doctor.

Editor's Note: Four Emmy nominees for Outstanding Investigative Reporting on a Regularly Scheduled Newscast were announced today. CNN's David Fitzpatrick and Drew Griffith were nominated for their pieces on online prescription drug abuse.

Drew Griffin and David Fitzpatrick
CNN Special Investigations Unit

Every night before he went to bed, he would open a prescription bottle of the muscle relaxant Soma and swallow the 8 or 9 pills his wife says would be the only way he could get to sleep. Only last summer the doses were increasing.

She thought the drugs, arriving at her doorstep every week were being prescribed by a treating physician. Her husband had been in a car accident, suffered from back pain, and Soma was the one drug that could relieve the aches.

She was wrong. Although she wants to protect her husband’s identity and hers so as not to embarrass her husband’s family, she is willing to tell the story of how he died.

She found him last August in bed in a pool of vomit. FULL POST

July 14th, 2009
11:40 AM ET

Internet drug sales crackdown

These pills were sent to CNN's Drew Griffin, even though he was never seen by a doctor.

These pills were sent to CNN's Drew Griffin, even though he was never seen by a doctor.

Editor's Note: Four Emmy nominees for Outstanding Investigative Reporting on a Regularly Scheduled Newscast were announced today. CNN's David Fitzpatrick and Drew Griffith were nominated for their pieces on online prescription drug abuse.

David Fitzpatrick
Special Investigations Unit Producer

If there was any doubt at all that the sale of prescription drugs over the internet, without a doctor’s legitimate authorization, is very big business, what happened in Kansas over the last couple of days should dispel those notions in a heartbeat.

The Kansas Attorney General’s office arrested and jailed three people, a pharmacist and the co-owners of a small pharmacy in the northwestern part of the state, on multiple felony and misdemeanor counts. Hogan’s Pharmacy is in a tiny town called Lyons. And according to documents filed in court, this small storefront operation, in a town of no more than 3,000 people, handled nearly $1.9 million in wire transfers in 2007 alone.

CNN Correspondent Drew Griffin and I went to Lyons a few months ago as part of an AC 360 investigation into internet prescription abuse. We had met and interviewed a young widow only the day before. Her husband had ordered the muscle-relaxant drug Soma over the internet—time and time again. Many of the pills came from Hogan’s Pharmacy and came without any legitimate order from a physician. One day last year, she went to their bedroom and found her husband unresponsive. He had died of an overdose of Soma.

There’s a good reason why doctors limit doses of Soma. Research by the Food and Drug Administration shows that it is one of those class of drugs which can be easily abused. According to the Drug Enforcement Administration, there’s now some consideration being given to classifying Soma as a “controlled substance,” putting it in the same category of dangerous drugs such as Xanax and Hydrocodone..

I was sitting in my New York City office when that widow telephoned me to express her thanks to the Kansas authorities and to CNN for the investigative work. She told me she would likely testify in any coming trials and was looking forward to doing so.

Keeping them honest, we’ll continue to investigate prescription drug sales over the Internet.

Attorney General Steve Six announced charges today against Hogan’s Pharmacy owners Jolane and Mark Poindexter for their part in an Internet pharmacy scheme. The pharmacist in charge, Rick Kloxin, was charged earlier this week.

July 14th, 2009
11:12 AM ET

Morning Buzz: Part II with the Prez and getting grilled on the Hill

The Obama family walks around the Cape Coast Castle in Ghana.

The Obama family walks around the Cape Coast Castle in Ghana.

Eliza Browning
AC360° Associate Producer

Anderson met up with President Obama this past weekend on his first visit to Sub-Saharan Africa as president. You may have caught the first part of their conversation last night, when they took a walk around the Cape Coast Castle – which was once used as a dungeon and a final departure point for slaves bound for the western hemisphere.

The President talked about the significance of the history of the transatlantic slave trade and referred to it as a human ‘capacity for cruelty.’ We’ll be airing the second part of the interview tonight. The President had a lot to say about Afghanistan and about a potential war crimes investigation. But he also had some softer moments too – especially when he talked about how visiting the Cape Coast Castle affected Michelle, who is a descendant of slaves.

Joe Johns went looking for Michelle’s roots and traced them back many generations to a plantation in South Carolina where one of her relatives may have worked. This genealogical research was much harder than you might expect. Watch his report tonight.

FULL POST


Filed under: Eliza Browning • The Buzz
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