September 7th, 2009
11:00 PM ET

Photo dispatch from Marine Camp Leatherneck

Program Note: We're reporting live from Afghanistan tonight. Anderson is on the ground with U.S. troops in the region, Dr. Sanjay Gupta reports from a hospital in the war zone and Michael Ware is live from Kabul. Tonight 10 p.m. ET.

Charlie Moore

AC360° Senior Broadcast Producer

The first thing you do after deplaning at Marine Camp Leatherneck is drive – for awhile. The place is sprawling. You pass the contractor trucks bringing fuel, the raw, open desert field where more barracks are being constructed, the huge gravel mountain that will soon be spread across the expanding camp to help keep down the blowing sands.

There are other massive U.S. military bases around the world of course, but maybe none as impressive as this one. There are around 11,000 Marines based out of Leatherneck, and the entire place was scratched from the desert only about eight months ago. It’s now the launchpad for what U.S. military leaders consider the last, best hope to gain control of the southern part of this country from the Taliban.

The Marines are confident they can do it. Yesterday we talked to the Brigadier General Larry Nicholson, the commanding General of the Marine Expeditionary Brigade headquartered here. BG Nicholson says he’s too busy to pay attention to new polls saying the majority of Americans no longer support the mission here.

He doesn’t think of this fight as being eight-years-old, but instead just over two months. Indeed, it was 63 days ago when the surge of Marines arrived here. He says the new strategy of engaging the Afghan population – turning them against the Taliban – is already working. The people of Afghanistan have seen war for 30 years, he says, and they’re tired of it. They want the peace and stability a country without the Taliban can bring.

To execute the new strategy, Marines are constantly deploying from Leatherneck to smaller forward operating bases and combat outposts. Super Stallion helicopters come in and out of the camp at a relentless pace, either ferrying Marines to the remote reaches of the country, or bringing them back to Leatherneck where they’ll go out again in just a couple of days.

Our team spent the night here and we’re now waiting to depart Leatherneck for an operating base further south. As we waited to leave this morning, we had a few down hours.

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Some read to pass the time, while others rest up for what we’re expecting – and hoping – will be a Marines-eye-view of this conflict from the remote, front lines.

We’re sharing a helicopter with the 2nd recon Marine platoon that is going to a different location. To make sure we get off at the right spot, the logistics team draws the initials of our destination on our hands with a Sharpie.

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It’s a 30-minute ride to our base, and assuming we get off at the right spot, we hope you get a chance to watch the coverage this week.

Filed under: Afghanistan • Charlie Moore
September 7th, 2009
09:45 PM ET

Live Blog from the Anchor Desk 09/07/09

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We have breaking news out of Afghanistan where Anderson is reporting live from tonight. There are growing allegations of voter fraud in the country's presidential election last month. That led to some surprise action from the U.S. Ambassador to Afghanistan today. We'll have that for you and more.

Want to know what else we're covering? Read EVENING BUZZ

Scroll down to join the live chat during the program. It's your chance to share your thoughts on tonight's headlines. Keep in mind, you have a better chance of having your comment get past our moderators if you follow our rules.

Here are some of them:

1) Keep it short (we don't have time to read a "book")
2) Don't write in ALL CAPS (there's no need to yell)
3) Use your real name (first name only is fine)
4) No links
5) Watch your language (keep it G-rated; PG at worst - and that includes $#&*)

Filed under: Live Blog • T1
September 7th, 2009
08:30 PM ET

Follow Anderson's tweets from Afghanistan

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Anderson Cooper | BIO
AC360° Anchor

Anderson is live from Afghanistan this week where he's embedded with troops and reporting on the situation in the war-torn country.

He is tweeting whenever possible. Check out his latest updates over the weekend.

@andersoncooper: From ac: in kabul. Got here last night. It's dawn now and we are heading out. I can't say where just yet. Not sure what to expect....

Go here to follow his tweets this week.

Filed under: Afghanistan • Anderson Cooper
September 7th, 2009
08:24 PM ET

Text of Pres. Obama's back-to-school speech

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The White House released the text of a controversial back-to-school speech to students from President Obama that has angered some conservative parents and pundits.

The speech was posted to the White House website.

The President: Hello everyone – how’s everybody doing today? I’m here with students at Wakefield High School in Arlington, Virginia. And we’ve got students tuning in from all across America, kindergarten through twelfth grade. I’m glad you all could join us today.

I know that for many of you, today is the first day of school. And for those of you in kindergarten, or starting middle or high school, it’s your first day in a new school, so it’s understandable if you’re a little nervous. I imagine there are some seniors out there who are feeling pretty good right now, with just one more year to go. And no matter what grade you’re in, some of you are probably wishing it were still summer, and you could’ve stayed in bed just a little longer this morning.

I know that feeling. When I was young, my family lived in Indonesia for a few years, and my mother didn’t have the money to send me where all the American kids went to school. So she decided to teach me extra lessons herself, Monday through Friday – at 4:30 in the morning.

Read the rest of the speech here and tell us what you think.

Filed under: 360° Radar • Education • President Barack Obama
September 7th, 2009
08:07 PM ET

Talking down public education

Editor’s note: At 12:00pm  ET tomorrow, President Obama will go to a high school in Arlington, Va., to deliver a back-to-school speech to the nation’s students. The White House plans to release the speech online today.

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Dave Schechter
CNN Senior National Editor

You frequently hear claims that the United States has the best health care system in the world, despite data that suggest otherwise.

You never hear claims that the United States has the best school system in the world, because of data that suggest otherwise.

In fact, you never (okay, almost never) hear anything good about public education in this country, at least not until the subject is college or university.

Have the public schools been talked down to the point where broad-based success (rather than the individual student, school or district) is impossible – a sort of self-fulfilling prophecy?

Americans often say they distrust Congress and the whole lot of them should be thrown out – but then go ahead and re-elect their own representative.

Well, something like that goes on when the topic is public education.

In the most recent edition of an annual poll by the educators association Phi Delta Kappa International and Gallup more than half of those responding graded their local schools with an A or a B but gave the nation’s schools overall significantly lower marks, with fewer than one in five awarding an A or B. "This continues a long-standing difference, suggesting that Americans like the schools they know but are much less positive about public education in general," a review of the poll observed.


Filed under: David Schechter • Education
September 7th, 2009
07:05 PM ET

Evening Buzz: Live from the Battle Zone

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Maureen Miller
AC360° Writer

Tonight Anderson reports live from Afghanistan, along with CNN's Sanjay Gupta, Michael Ware and Peter Bergen. This is a critical time for Afghanistan. It's home to a war that many Americans say they no longer support. But Pres. Obama says U.S. forces must fight and win.

We'll bring you up to date on the war front. Some success stories. Some troubling areas.

There's also the battle over Afghanistan's presidential election. We have breaking developments in the disputed vote count. U.S. officials are taking action. We'll have the details. Here's the back story: Over the weekend, Afghanistan's Independent Election Commission said it was tossing ballots from 447 polling stations. The exact number is unclear. Though, there are reports as many as tens of thousands of ballots won't be counted. President Hamid Karzai is seeking a second term. But his challenger, Abdullah Abdullah, Karzai's former foreign minister, claims "state-engineered fraud" in last month's election.

There's more from the war on terror front.


Filed under: Maureen Miller • The Buzz
September 7th, 2009
06:47 PM ET

Hicks: 'The right should know better'

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Joe Hicks

Vice President, Community Advocates, Inc.

There are some interesting things going on these days around presidential politics. Oddly, while critics endlessly attacked Senator John McCain for his choice of Sarah Palin as his running mate and accused his staff of conducting an inadequate vetting process, there has been a nearly deafening silence from those same critics regarding another vetting process, this time on the part of the Obama administration.

Van Jones, President Obama’s self-professed “Green Czar” has been forced to resign after it became known that he had what some call an “interesting past.” He was linked to radical leftist organizations, arrested during political protests, called Republicans derogatory names, and joined with the bizarre “truther” movement when he signed a petition implicating the government in a 9/11 conspiracy. How’d a guy like this slip under the radar screen?

Still on the payroll is another odd selection. Mark Lloyd, the FCC’s newly-named Chief of Diversity (yes there’s such a position), has made statements that appear to favor the quieting of popular conservative radio talk show hosts.

What’s the larger meaning of this? Is it just a matter of bad choices? Are there sympathetic politics at the White House? Or is this just a poor vetting process on display? That President Obama’s basic political instincts veer to the left should not be a shocking premise – he was after all a Chicago community organizer, a guy who hung out with the reverend Jeremiah Wright for more than 20 years.

However, none of this excuses the paranoia that has seemingly found a home at the fringes of America’s political right. It can be seen in the so-called “birthers” movement, as well as among those who maintain that Obama is really a closet Muslim of some sort.

This was evident recently in the near-hysteria that was unleashed by the announcement that Obama was poised to address the nation’s schoolkids – something hardly new, this was done by two previous Republican presidents, including Ronald Reagan.

But, we’ve seen this phenomenon before. This craziness was previously identified as a “Bush Derangement syndrome, with the likes of Michael Moore and the Code Pink-types castigating President Bush as a dangerous figure for eight long years. Now, elements of the political right are engaging in similar behavior – let’s just call it the Obama derangement syndrome.

The right should know better. Conservatives rightly attacked the left’s silly anti-Bush paranoia, and its members are aware of the destructive and polarizing nature of the politics of personal destruction.

Speaking as an independent conservative, there are plenty of policy issues with which to disagree regarding this president. Obama’s tendency will be to lean to the left, which will inevitably cause principled opposition from Republicans and conservatives. But they will need to maintain their focus on policy decisions and issues that may have long-term implications for the nation. Paranoia, or derangement fantasies have no place in mature politics.

Editor's Note: Joe R. Hicks is a PJTV commentator and vice president of Community Advocates, Inc.

Filed under: Republicans
September 7th, 2009
03:53 PM ET

Beat 360° 9/7/09

Ready for today's Beat 360°? Everyday we post a picture – and you provide the caption and our staff will join in too. Tune in tonight at 10pm to see if you are our favorite! Here is the 'Beat 360°' pic:

A llama handler tries to get his llama moving on a hot day at the Sherwood Forest Golf Club August 29, 2009 in Cedar Mountain, North Carolina. The llama's carry golf bags at a local golf course as part of the Llama Caddy program which uses the gentle pack animals to carry clubs and calm golfers.

Have fun with it. We're looking forward to your captions! Make sure to include your name, city, state (or country) so we can post your comment.

_________________________________________________________________________________ Beat 360° Challenge

Filed under: Beat 360° • T1
September 7th, 2009
10:48 AM ET

Morning Buzz: Live from the Battle Zone

[cnn-photo-caption image=http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2009/WORLD/asiapcf/08/10/afghanistan.taliban.challenge/art.soldiers.run.afp.gi.jpg caption="A U.S. soldier takes his position near a building attacked by the Taliban south of Kabul, Afghanistan, last month."]

Eliza Browning
AC360° Associate Producer

Anderson is reporting in live from Afghanistan this week where he is embedded with troops along the frontlines of the war against the Taliban. August was the deadliest month for U.S. troops in Afghanistan since the U.S.-led invasion in 2001. President Obama has called it a “war of necessity,” but is the U.S. in danger of losing the battle?

Anderson is at a base where U.S. forces have secured an area in its fight against insurgencies, he looks into the progress the military has made, as well as the challenges it continues to face, tonight.

Dr. Sanjay Gupta is also in Afghanistan where he spends time in a hospital and reports on what doctors are dealing with in war zones. He profiles patients who are in need of critical care and what hospital staff members deal with around-the-clock in this battle. Michael Ware reports from Kandahar on a road to Kabul that was built by U.S. forces. But things have gotten messy since the road was first constructed. More on who exactly controls the passage in his report tonight.


Filed under: The Buzz
September 7th, 2009
08:30 AM ET

Dear President Obama #231: A big job on Labor Day

Reporter's Note: President Obama has now had his new job for well over 200 days; long enough to know most of the office gossip, to have a pretty good idea who shows up late every day, and presumably how to wield the enormous power of the Presidency. I’ve had my job much longer; long enough to know how to wield the comparatively puny power of the pen, which I nevertheless do every day in my Letter to the White House.

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Tom Foreman | Bio
AC360° Correspondent

Dear Mr. President,

I will be in the office working on Labor Day, which I must say doesn’t really bother me.

Oh sure, I’d like to have a day to kick back like anyone else, but I’ve always found it strange that we celebrate “working people” by taking a day off from working. If we had a Slacker Day do you think we’d celebrate by making everyone repair a shed or dig a ditch? I doubt it.

That said I won’t waste a lot of your time, just in case you are trying to catch a breather. In fact, I want to say just one thing to you on this day: Remember that someone just lost a job.

Somewhere out in this country some family (or if the statistics are running true a lot of families) is not celebrating this holiday. They are worrying. Last week, or the week before, or last month they were swept out to sea by our troubled economy and now they don’t know what is coming next.


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