July 31st, 2009
02:38 PM ET

Make the economy work for everyone

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Paul Begala

So here’s the situation. You’re a certified nurse’s assistant, helping seniors get the care they need to live out their final years with dignity. You love your job, but the pay’s terrible, you’re always short-staffed, and the turnover is constant. So you talk to your co-workers and decide you should form a union, to have more of a say in the way things are run. Management’s answer? If you keep speaking out, you’re fired.

Or maybe you work at a metal factory. You’ve worked there for years. Then, one day, you realize that your face is taking on a suspicious blue coloring. And that shiver you thought was just a cold? It’s not going away. You’re terrified to discover the source of your symptoms: Your protective mask at work has cracks in it. You’ve been exposed to dangerous chemicals. When you and your co-workers decide that a union is the best way to make your job a little safer, management announces that they have a plan, too: You’re fired.

Now imagine you’re the CEO of a giant national banking corporation. Things aren’t so hot at the bank these days. But, thank goodness, you have a safety net — tens of billions of dollars of taxpayers’ money to bail you out. On your watch, the stock’s lost more than 80 percent of its value.


Filed under: Economy
July 31st, 2009
01:39 PM ET

Financial Dispatch: Recession may be letting up

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Andrew Torgan
CNN Financial News Producer

The pace of economic decline slowed substantially in the second quarter, as the U.S. economy shrank at an annual rate of 1% - far less than it did in the first quarter.

Gross Domestic Product, the broadest measure of economic activity, has now contracted for four straight quarters - the first time that’s happened since the government began tracking that measure in 1947.

But the most recent decline is the smallest since the third quarter of 2008, giving hope to some economists that the recession that began in December 2007 is nearing an end.


Filed under: Andrew Torgan • Economy
July 31st, 2009
12:05 PM ET

Jackson chef: 'So we knew something was wrong'

Transcript, July 30
Larry King Live

LARRY KING, HOST: Tonight, a prime time exclusive - hear for the first time from someone who was in Michael Jackson's home the day he died. His personal chef reveals the harrowing second by second account of what happened before paramedics were called to the deathbed. Screaming, sadness, chaos - an eyewitness account.

Our first guest tonight is Kai Chase. She was Michael Jackson's personal chef and in his home the day he died. We'll talk to Kai in just a moment.

Let's first go to CNN's Randi Kaye with breaking news on Dr. Conrad Murray and what investigators were looking for when they executed search warrants yesterday - Randi, what happened?

Filed under: 360° Radar • 360º Follow • Michael Jackson
July 31st, 2009
12:01 PM ET

OMG: That's so dangerous!

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Tom Foreman | Bio
AC360° Correspondent

Picture a car careening down a Los Angeles freeway in rush hour with the driver crunching a phone between his cheek and shoulder, one hand holding a sputtering tape recorder, the other furiously scribbling in a notebook, all while he steers with his knees. Here is a great truth of the American roadway: I have multi-tasked at 70 mph in heavy traffic like a Zen master.

But now, like a congressman caught in a sex scandal, I am ready to swear I’ll never do it again. At least when it comes to the practice of messaging or texting while behind the wheel.

A new report coming out of Virginia Tech’s Transportation Institute says texting while driving is not merely dangerous, but something akin to juggling rabid cats. Try it enough times and you’ll get hurt. In real studies of real drivers in real traffic, the researchers found that truckers were 23 times more likely to have an accident if texting, and Tom Dingus, who runs the VTTI, says there is no reason for the rest of us to think we’ll do any better.


July 31st, 2009
11:16 AM ET

What I saw at the beer summit

[cnn-photo-caption image=http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2009/POLITICS/07/30/harvard.arrest.beers/art.beer.summit.afp.gi.jpg caption="Sgt. James Crowley and professor Henry Louis Gates Jr. sit down with the president and vice president Thursday."]

Elizabeth Gates
The Daily Beast

In a world in which the conversation on race has traditionally taken a back seat to both logic and reason, it’s no wonder that yesterday’s so-called “Beer Summit” at the White House seemed to make little sense at all. It wasn’t because the President was wrong in offering up a few cold ones to my father, Henry Louis Gates, and the now infamous Sergeant James Crowley in an attempt to tame the media blitz around my father’s arrest—it was because like most issues that make their way to TMZ, the reference point had shifted.

The debate over Red Stripe and Blue Moon had somehow overshadowed the fact that this story began with a black Harvard professor and a white cop from Natick, Mass—and as CNN’s countdown clock to the event taunted viewers like a time bomb, it was clear that this day wasn’t going to be the beginning of a serious discussion on human relations but rather a circus-like ending of a misunderstanding between a couple of very decent men.

I can’t say that I was shocked.

Keep reading...

July 31st, 2009
11:15 AM ET

A toast to beer diplomacy

[cnn-photo-caption image="http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2009/POLITICS/07/30/harvard.arrest.beers/art.beer.summit.afp.gi.jpg" caption="Sgt. James Crowley and professor Henry Louis Gates Jr. sit down with the president and vice president Thursday."]

Ruben Navarrette Jr.
Special to CNN

For the last two weeks, Americans have been divided into two feuding camps: "Team Gates" and "Team Crowley." But after Thursday, those terms seem antiquated.

As everyone knows, on July 16, Harvard Professor Henry Louis Gates Jr. was arrested by Sgt. James Crowley of the Cambridge Police Department. Gates was charged with "loud and tumultuous behavior in a public place."

Thursday night, Crowley and Gates shared a beer with President Obama, who had earlier acted clumsily when he said the Cambridge Police had "acted stupidly." Once it became clear that Crowley didn't fit the caricature of a racist cop - even teaching police academy cadets how to avoid racial profiling - Obama backed off those remarks and invited the parties to the White House for some brews.

Peanuts and pretzels were served in silver bowls, but humble pie would also have been appropriate - for Obama and for Gates. Ironically, both of these learned men have talked about how this incident should be a teaching moment.

Keep reading...

July 31st, 2009
11:15 AM ET

Morning Buzz: “Pill Mills”

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Eliza Browning
AC360° Associate Producer

More details continue to emerge in the Michael Jackson case. Randi Kaye is in Los Angeles where she is digging deeper on the latest developments. Last night we learned that search warrants, carried out at properties of Dr. Conrad Murray – Jackson’s doctor, imply that investigators looking into his death believe the singer was a drug addict. Randi will have the latest tonight.

Jackson’s alleged dependence on medical treatments prompted us to take a look at how easy it can be to gain access to certain drugs. Regulations vary from state to state. Joe Johns went to Florida, a state that is known for having comparatively lax regulations when it comes to the distribution of pain medication. It has even earned the reputation for having “pill mills.” Some say it’s one of the best sources for prescription drugs. As the state confronts this pain pill problem, Joe talks to drug enforcement agents and learns about the steps Florida’s lawmakers are taking to curb the ease of gaining access to drugs.

Bad news for the clunker in your garage…you may no longer be able to take advantage of the federal program and trade it. The Cash for Clunkers program may be running out of money after only a matter of days, because car buyers have been flocking to dealerships to cash in on the rebates. With the $1 billion budget nearly depleted, the White House is deciding whether or not to continue the program.


Filed under: Eliza Browning • The Buzz
July 31st, 2009
11:11 AM ET

Civilian casualties have spiked in Afghanistan, UN says

[cnn-photo-caption image=http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2009/CRIME/07/30/robertson.al.qaeda.training/art.weapons.afp.gi.jpg caption="Al Qaeda recruits say they received training in how to handling rockets, explosives and bombs."]

Ivan Watson

Civilian casualties resulting from Afghanistan's bloody war have spiked, jumping some 24 percent above figures from last year, the United Nations reported Friday. The Human Rights Unit of the United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan announced it recorded 1,013 civilian deaths in Afghanistan during the first six months of this year. That compares to 818 Afghan civilians who were killed during the same period in 2008, while 684 civilians were killed during the first half of 2007.

Insurgent roadside bombs and suicide attacks, as well as airstrikes conducted by U.S. and NATO forces, are the two deadliest tactics being used in Afghanistan. Fifty-nine percent of this year's civilian casualties resulted from insurgent bombs. Western military airstrikes killed 30.5 percent of the civilians.

The report concluded that Taliban insurgents are "basing themselves in civilian areas so as to deliberately blur the distinction between combatants and civilians, and as part of what appears to be an active policy aimed at drawing a military response to areas where there is a high likelihood that civilians will be killed."

The UN highlighted a pattern of deadly Taliban attacks, targeting humanitarian workers, government employees, medical and educational staff… and in particular, girls' schools.

Meanwhile, the UN noted that NATO forces have redrafted their tactical directives, in an effort to reduce civilian casualties. Despite the creation last year of a military commission to track civilian deaths, Western airstrikes "remain responsible for the largest percentage of civilian deaths" attributed to foreign troops in Afghanistan.

The UN stated that these civilian casualties are counterproductive for the Western military coalition, because they are "undermining support for the continued presence of the international military forces and the international community generally."

The United States has nearly doubled the number of American forces in Afghanistan since last year. US-NATO troops have mounted on of the biggest military operations of the eight year war, in an effort to route Taliban insurgents from safe havens in Southern Afghanistan, ahead of August 20th presidential elections.

The intensified military activities have contributed to making June the deadliest month for Western forces for the war. At least 44 American service members died in the conflict zone this month, in addition to some 29 Coalition forces.

Filed under: Afghanistan • Ivan Watson
July 31st, 2009
10:43 AM ET
July 31st, 2009
10:09 AM ET

Dear President Obama #193: A hard lesson from a teachable moment

Reporter's Note: I’m not a beer drinker. I’m a letter writer. So you know what I was doing yesterday shortly after the photo op.

[cnn-photo-caption image=http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2009/POLITICS/07/30/harvard.arrest.beers/art.beer.summit.afp.gi.jpg caption="Sgt. James Crowley and professor Henry Louis Gates Jr. sat down with the president and vice president Thursday."]

Tom Foreman | Bio
AC360° Correspondent

Dear Mr. President,

You know that I try to be encouraging. You know that I try to give you the benefit of the doubt, just like I do most people. Read any one of my nearly 200 letters now, and you won’t find anything that suggests I am trying to make you or anyone else fail.

But wow! Did that photo op at the beer party look bad, or what? Seriously, you must have seen the tape by now and you have to be saying the same thing.

I’ve been around this business a long time, I’ve seen a lot of “media availabilities,” and I can think of precious few that ever looked so uncomfortable, contrived, and…well, painful.

Sitting at that bare table in the sunlight, it looked like you were stuck in some kind of garden party purgatory. The setup looked so miserable; I’m surprised even Biden came out. “Uh, gosh, sorry Mr. President, but I’ve got to go to…uh…Target to…uh…pick up some socks.” And that guy delivering the beers on a tray? If the idea is to make it look like a casual conversation among regular guys over some cold ones (and I’m pretty sure that was the goal) you can’t let us get pictures of something that looks like an episode of At Home in the Hamptons.


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