September 4th, 2009
02:15 PM ET

Courage under fire

Program Note: Watch AC360° tonight for a profile of Rusty Fleming and his work reporting on the drug trafficking along the border of U.S. and Mexico. Tonight AC360° at 10 p.m. ET.

[cnn-photo-caption image=http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2009/images/02/25/art.juarez.bags.hat.jpg caption="Inside a morgue in Juarez, Mexico. The belongings of victims killed in the violence."]

Rusty Fleming
Documentary Filmmaker and Author


A couple of weeks ago I was in New York, meeting with network television producers about a series they wanted to run about a story my production team and I have been reporting for more than five years: the narco-insurgency currently wreaking havoc on the U.S. and Mexico.

Just as we all sat down around the conference table, my cell phone rang. Given the importance of the meeting, I normally would have let the call go to voice mail, but when I looked at the number I knew I had to pick it up. This person would not be calling unless it was an absolute emergency. I opened the phone and didn’t even get the “Hello” out of my mouth before a shaken and somewhat scared voice said, “Rusty when can you be here?”

The caller was my most trusted source in Mexico. Slightly stunned by the abrupt nature of the call, I responded inquisitively, “pretty soon, I should wrap up here in New York in a couple of days, why?”

“We have to talk right away, we have a huge problem down here and you’re in the middle of it” he exclaimed.


Filed under: 360° Radar • Mexico • Rusty Fleming
September 4th, 2009
01:49 PM ET

Dear President Obama #228: Speaking of school kids

Reporter's Note: As school kids across the nation return to their classes, the White House will offer a televised address from the president to young scholars everywhere. That’s the subject of my daily letter to the White House. I hope my old English teacher is proud.

[cnn-photo-caption image=http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2009/HEALTH/08/07/swine.flu.h1n1.schools/art.school.daj.gi.jpg]

Tom Foreman | Bio
AC360° Correspondent

Dear Mr. President,

Wow! As if you did not have enough hornets swirling around you over the economy, now you’re being swarmed over your plan to speak to the school kids of America.

As I understand it, you’re going to talk to students coast to coast next week, encouraging them to stay in school, study hard, and not bite off anyone’s finger while protesting about health care reform…(oh, sorry, lapsed into thinking about a different story which also left me shaking my head.)

Some conservatives think you are trying to indoctrinate the nation’s children into accepting a socialist point of view. They suspect it will be not so much a “Welcome Back to School, Kids!” as a “Welcome Back to the Factory, Comrades!” speech. (There is more to it, of course; the whole kerfuffle over the extra materials and lessons that may or may not be taught around this speech. I have no idea what to make of it all.)


September 4th, 2009
12:47 PM ET

Financial Dispatch: Unemployment rate jumps to 9.7%

[cnn-photo-caption image=http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2009/images/09/04/t1home.unemployment.line.gi.jpg caption="Companies trimmed fewer jobs in August than they did the prior month, but the unemployment rate jumped to a 26-year high." width=292 height=320]
Andrew Torgan
CNN Financial News Producer

Companies trimmed fewer jobs in August than they did the prior month, but the unemployment rate jumped to a 26-year high.

Employers cut a fewer-than-expected 216,000 jobs in the month, according to the Labor Department. That was the fewest jobs lost since August 2008 and lower than the revised loss of 276,000 jobs in July.

But even with the lower numbers, nearly 7 million jobs have been cut from payrolls since the start of 2008.

And the unemployment rate, which in July fell for the first time in 15 months, turned higher again, jumping to 9.7% from 9.4% in July. This is the highest the unemployment rate has been since June 1983.


Filed under: Economy
September 4th, 2009
12:01 PM ET

The cold war of Afghanistan

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Tom Foreman | Bio
AC360° Correspondent

“Only stretch your foot to the length of your blanket.” That is an old Afghan proverb, and with summer quickly fading both here and there, it is worth bearing in mind, because it has deeper meaning than just keeping your tootsies toasty. What it is really saying is be careful about overextending yourself. Don’t overreach your resources. Don’t push yourself out into the cold. And that is the undercurrent of much of the talk in DC these days when it comes to Afghanistan, as the political crowd feels the chill of changing seasons in the war.

When we stormed into Kabul in the wake of 9/11, we had broad support in the world. We had overwhelming tactical and strategic advantages. We had the power and justification to drive the Taliban like a nail and we did.

Today, much cooler winds are blowing. In our latest CNN/Opinion Research poll, 57 percent of all voters oppose the war. Among Democrats, the President’s party, the number is well over 70 percent. Some in Congress are grousing for Mr. Obama to set an exit timeline, just as they badgered Mr. Bush about the same thing in Iraq. The White House seems unable to define what an “end” to this war might look like. And military analysts say the Taliban has grown considerably more skilled at attacking our troops. Casualties are mounting.


Filed under: 360° Radar • Afghanistan • Tom Foreman
September 4th, 2009
11:49 AM ET

Photo Gallery: California blaze

[cnn-photo-caption image=http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2009/US/08/31/california.wildfires/art.fire.drive.away.gi.jpg caption="The California wildfire has charred more than 147,000 acres in Southern California and destroyed dozens of homes north of Los Angeles"]

A massive fire that has charred more than 147,000 acres in Southern California and destroyed dozens of homes north of Los Angeles was caused by arson, a U.S. Forest Service spokeswoman said Thursday.

A homicide investigation has been initiated by the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department into the deaths of two firefighters as a result of the Station fire, said spokeswoman Rita Wears. The firefighters died Sunday in a vehicle crash while trying to escape fast-moving flames.

The fire was at 38 percent containment Thursday. It has been burning for more than a week. Fire officials said progress has been made, particularly on the west side of the fire, but the blaze was still producing hot spots, including one that forced the evacuation of 25 residents early Thursday.

Click here to see a photo gallery of the California wildfires.

Filed under: Wildfires
September 4th, 2009
11:04 AM ET

Get real about Afghanistan

[cnn-photo-caption image=http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2009/WORLD/asiapcf/08/15/afghanistan.explosion/art.afghanblast2.gi.jpg caption="A car burns after the suicide blast outside NATO's Afghanistan headquarters last month."]

Ruben Navarrette Jr.
Special to CNN

As someone who often takes a conservative stance on issues, I once again find myself in the curious position of defending President Obama to disillusioned critics within his own liberal base. And once again, I'm glad to do it.

This time, it's Afghanistan. In one of the most complicated corners of the world, Obama - and his military commanders - are pursuing a troop build-up that has those on the anti-war left shaking their heads. Since taking office, Obama has sent an additional 21,000 troops to Afghanistan. And more could be on the way.

In a recently leaked report to the White House, Gen. Stanley A. McChrystal, the U.S. commander in Afghanistan, called the situation "serious" but insisted that "success is achievable."

McChrystal didn't specifically ask for more troops. But that request is expected soon. Senior Pentagon officials are expected to ask for as many as 45,000 additional American troops this month. Currently, there are about 68,000 U.S. troops in Afghanistan.

Keep Reading...

Filed under: 360° Radar • Afghanistan • Ruben Navarrette Jr.
September 4th, 2009
10:24 AM ET

Morning Buzz: Cartel threat

[cnn-photo-caption image=http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2009/WORLD/americas/03/14/mexico.bodies.found/art.juarez.bodies.02.afp.gi.jpg caption="Police look on as one of the nine bodies found in a common grave near Ciudad Juarez, Mexico, is removed."]

Eliza Browning
AC360° Associate Producer

The drug war in Mexico among cartels and government forces has become increasingly violent over the past year. The U.S. – Mexico border, especially, has experienced a dramatic surge of violence ever since President Felipe Calderon declared war on the drug cartels. Authorities believe cartel leaders are responsible for a shooting that killed 17 patients and wounded two others in a drug rehabilitation center earlier this week. A Mexican civic group said last week that Ciudad Juarez, just across the border from El Paso, Texas, had the most slayings per capita in 2008 of any city in the world.

One documentary filmmaker has been reporting on the drug cartels for many years and he says his life has been threatened by narco-traffickers. He was recently informed by sources that if he ventures across the border, he will be spotted, kidnapped and likely tortured and killed. This may sound like hyperbole, but in today’s Mexico – where more than 50 journalists have been killed for covering this story in the last decade, such a threat must be taken seriously. Gary Tuchman investigates.

We also have part three of our series on the black market for human organs. Our investigation continues into the thriving and illegal trade of human body parts. Drew Griffin introduces us to some of the desperate donors who gave up pieces of themselves – literally. But they were left not with large cash payments, but rather with big scars and even bigger problems.


Filed under: Eliza Browning • The Buzz
September 4th, 2009
07:47 AM ET
September 4th, 2009
07:01 AM ET

Sound Off: Your comments 9/3/09

Editor's Note: Our viewers from Thursday night’s AC360° had much to say about continued coverage of Michael Jackson’s death. There was a pretty even split of feedback from those who feel “enough is enough” and from those who feel keeping it in the news is the best way to let fans get the closure they need. We also heard from many with opinions and questions around how he died and those involved, including suggestions that because they believe Jackson demanded the drugs, Dr. Murray may be accused of assisted suicide rather than homicide. Lastly, we heard from some of you with opinions on the topic of President Obama’s upcoming message to America’s children and the discussion about it between Roland Martin and Jim Greer. Take a look at some of the feedback we got, and tell us what you think?


Are you kidding me with this Michael Jackson soap opera, you guys should really move over to the E! channel! How about covering a little NEWS, isn't that what CNN stands for???

Congratulations on the coverage of the Michael Jackson funeral. I confess that I thought would be tiresome, but it was interesting. And the live blog comments were intelligent and emotional. I really was wrong and you hit upon.

Thank you so much for the great coverage of the Michael Jackson funeral. With it running so late, I was concerned CNN may have to switch broadcasting.


Filed under: Behind The Scenes
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