September 9th, 2009
02:34 PM ET

Afghan highway symbol of mission in crisis

Program Note: Tune in tonight for more from Michael Ware in Afghanistan. Anderson Cooper is reporting live from the battle zone and he is joined by CNN Security Analyst Peter Bergen, Dr. Sanjay Gupta and Michael Ware. Tonight 10 p.m. ET.

[cnn-photo-caption image=http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2009/WORLD/asiapcf/09/08/afghanistan.highway/art.taliban.highway.cnn.jpg caption="Trucker Mohammed Qasim takes his fuel tanker down Afghanistan's Highway 1 once a week."]

Michael Ware
CNN Correspondent

Paid for with U.S. dollars, Afghanistan's Highway 1 was supposed to symbolize a path toward a bright future when it was repaved five years ago.

The $300 million project smoothed over the highway's rough potholes and cut in half the 12-hour drive time from the capital, Kabul, to the country's political center, Kandahar.

But today, roadside bombs have re-scarred the road, and Taliban militants routinely stage brazen attacks on its travelers.

The journey between the two cities now takes at least nine hours, and people risk their lives when they travel on the road.

"It's been blown up by landmines, and there is no security on it," truck driver Mohammed Qasim said.

People have been pulled off buses along Highway 1 and executed by the Taliban. The militants man at least three checkpoints along the 300-mile road, which runs through Taliban-controlled areas of Afghanistan.

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Filed under: Afghanistan • Michael Ware
September 9th, 2009
02:23 PM ET

Obama speech a heavy lift

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Ed Rollins
CNN Contributor

The president is making a major address to the Congress and the country Wednesday night. This speech is high risk for him.

Selling a plan that is not completely developed and without accurate numbers of what it's going to cost ordinary Americans is not a surefire recipe for success.

This is not a campaign speech. The president does campaign speeches well and obviously they worked for him in the past. I am sure President Obama and his team have already found out that governing is a lot harder than campaigning. So this is speech should be about facts. Mr. President:

Leave out the emotion and the polarizing comments about how bad the insurance companies are and how doctors and hospitals are ripping us off.

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Filed under: Ed Rollins • Health Care • President Barack Obama
September 9th, 2009
12:21 PM ET

Young voices silent on health care

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Erica Williams
Special to CNN

As Congress returns to Capitol Hill, back from a recess of contentious town halls on health care reform, one new voice has the potential to break through the seemingly endless deadlock: the voice of young Americans.

Just Thursday, there were more than 880,000 Facebook status updates posted with the meme of a demand for health care reform, generated organically and spread virally from young people and other Facebook users across the country.

Some are regarding this as the first symbolic demonstration of young people's engagement in the debate despite the common, and categorically false, notion that young people "don't care about health care reform."

Young adults between the ages of 19 and 29 represent nearly a third of the entire uninsured population, and two-thirds of those uninsured young people reported going without necessary medical care because of costs in 2007, according to research for the Commonwealth Fund.

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Filed under: Health Care
September 9th, 2009
12:02 PM ET

Obama’s moment of truth

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Julian E. Zelizer
Special to CNN

On Wednesday, President Obama will make the most important speech of his presidency. We hear this phrase so much that it has become a cliché. But, in this case, the cliché is accurate.

President Obama suffered a politically brutal month in August. The opponents of health care dominated public debate about the legislation circulating in Congress. Public approval ratings for the president and his health care plan, as well as the Democratic Congress, have fallen. Democrats have become internally divided.

It is possible Obama could end his first year in the White House without a major piece of legislation beyond the economic stimulus.

For a president who began the year with his supporters talking about a transformative leader who would equal Presidents Lincoln or Roosevelt, this would be a major disappointment.

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September 9th, 2009
10:53 AM ET

Financial Dispatch: Make Or Break

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Gene Bloch
Managing Editor
CNN New York

As President Obama prepares to outline his health care reform plan to a joint session of Congress tonight, we take a look at how the plan might be financed. The compromise proposal floated by Senate Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus includes a new tax on insurance companies.

The 35% tax would be levied on any plan that costs more than $8-thousand for individual and $21-thousand for family coverage. Supporters say taxing the most expensive health care plans will raise revenue and curb overall health care costs. But critics say this tax could mean higher premiums for everyone, if insurers try to pass the cost on to consumers. Poppy Harlow reports today in The Breakdown.

The battle to shape health care reform has been bitter...and very expensive. Health care lobbying, advertising, political donations have cost about $375 million so far, the most expensive fight ever to hit Congress. Jennifer Liberto has this story on CNNMoney.


Filed under: Economy • Finance • Gene Bloch • Wall St.
September 9th, 2009
10:12 AM ET

Morning Buzz: Obama’s joint session, and the “Dust-Off Crew” in Afghanistan

[cnn-photo-caption image=http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2009/images/09/09/art.afghan.ied.ac.patrol.jpg caption="U.S. Marines on a counter IED (improvised explosive device) patrol in Nawa district."]

Eliza Browning
AC360° Associate Producer

It’s a big night for President Obama. He will deliver an address on health care to a joint session of Congress at 8 p.m. CNN will have live coverage of the speech and we’ll be breaking down the President’s message with our panel of experts. We’ll look into the points he made and the reaction from members of the GOP. Who are the most important targets for his message and who he is trying to convince? More on the speech – as well as reaction from our spot polls – tonight.

Anderson will be live from Afghanistan tonight. He’s been reporting this week from a U.S. Marine base in Helmand province where he’s gone out on IED patrols with Marines and seen the daily challenges the troops face on the front lines of this war against the Taliban. He’s joined by CNN Security Analyst Peter Bergen, and Dr. Sanjay Gupta and Michael Ware are also reporting live from Afghanistan on what President Obama has called “a war of necessity.”

Dr. Sanjay Gupta profiles one officer in Afghanistan who sleeps with his boots on. Why? Because speed matters. His job is to get injured people transported to medical centers – quickly. In his job, seconds matter. He is part of the Army’s “Dust-Off Crew” – an elite group of combat flight medics that ferry people to and from field hospitals. Dr. Gupta joins them in their chopper on one harrowing mission.

Do you want to know how the war in Afghanistan is going? Michael Ware did. He went back to what was once his hometown of Kandahar. The city is the birthplace of the Taliban and is now the capital of what has become the fiercest combat zone in the country. Local commanders tell Ware there are few signs of improvement. Although the major U.S. military offensive in nearby Helmand is weakening the members of the Taliban, it still hasn’t damaged the group’s ability to wage war. As Michael Ware reports, the view from Kandahar is one of a war machine that shows few signs of abating.

Meanwhile in Afghanistan, President Hamid Karzai extended his lead in the country’s elections, getting more than 50 percent of votes needed to avoid a run-off. But allegations of fraud continue to be raised. Is the Obama administration advising the commission responsible for investigating the claims of voter fraud? Also in the country today, a New York Times reporter who was kidnapped last week was rescued in a pre-dawn raid conducted today by NATO forces. This rescue comes about 11 weeks after another New York Times reporter escaped after more than seven months of captivity in the mountains of Afghanistan and Pakistan. More on the situation tonight.

What else are you following? Let us know and see you at 10 p.m. ET

Filed under: Eliza Browning • The Buzz
September 9th, 2009
08:46 AM ET
September 9th, 2009
08:35 AM ET

Dear President Obama #233: The power of a whisper

Reporter's Note: President Obama will speak tonight in what many are labeling a last-ditch effort to reverse eroding support for health care reform. Presidential speeches can make a big difference sometimes. Just as, perhaps, a letter to the White House might…

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Tom Foreman | Bio
AC360° Correspondent

Dear Mr. President,

My elder daughter had a teacher who knew the value of soft words. Mrs. Davis’s kindergarten class was full of energy, giggles, and excitement. But unlike teachers who greet such circumstances with a loud voice and go steadily uphill, Mrs. Davis was a master of whispering.

She would sit up front eyeing the stirring sea of children. She would give them a moment to settle, and then she would begin her lesson; speaking so softly that a rustling paper could drown her out. The kids were not perfect. Occasionally they would burst out in excited babble. And she would stop speaking and wait until they saw her eyes and the hidden promise of genuine, calm consequences. She was always fair, and always firm. As a result, she was respected, admired, loved, and highly effective.

I mention all that as food for thought as you prepare for your health care reform speech tonight. You have proven gifted at giving big speeches full of grand ideas and soaring sentences that lead from one crescendo to the next, but tonight it will be the quiet messages, I think, that will make or break your plans.


September 9th, 2009
08:33 AM ET
September 9th, 2009
08:25 AM ET
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