Hospitals on alert for an influx of H1N1 patients. We take you to the front lines of the fight. Plus, are Democrats in danger on election day next Tuesday? We've got the raw politics. And, millions of your tax dollars wasted and lives lost. Don't miss our exclusive 360 investigation on the deadly tsunami that hit American Samoa.
Want to know what else we're covering? Read EVENING BUZZ
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[cnn-photo-caption image=http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2009/WORLD/meast/02/15/saudi.female.minister/art.king.jpg caption="Saudi King Abdullah used his power Monday to overturn a criminal court sentence of 60 lashes and a two-year travel ban imposed on female journalist Rosanna Yami."]
CNN Senior Editor Mideast Affairs
King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia has been called "The King of Hearts" by many of his countrymen and women. This is a reflection of what many Saudis believe are his compassionate attempts to reform his ultra-conservative kingdom and bring it up-to-date with the rest of the world.
He used his power Monday to pardon Saudi female journalist Rosanna Yami. By doing so, he saved her from 60 lashes - a sentence handed down by a Saudi criminal court – and a two-year travel ban from the kingdom.
While this is an unusual move for the King, it certainly is not unprecedented. In 2007, he pardoned a woman who was gang-raped but was still sentenced to hundreds of lashes for being in the presence of the unrelated males who raped her.
The journalist’s case started with a controversial Lebanese TV show that explores taboos of the Middle East. When 'A Thick Red Line' featured a Saudi man - Mazen Abdul Jawad - bragging about his alleged sexual escapades, the station's Saudi offices were closed and Abdul Jawad was sentenced to five years in jail and 1,000 lashes.
It was around the time that I explained why I was going to Los Angeles – "Soleil Moon Frye invited me to a Twitter conference at The Kodak Theatre" – that my friends’ heads exploded. It was as if I had never before flown cross-country to discuss social media with a TV icon at a Hollywood landmark. They had completely forgotten about that night outside Whisky A Go Go and the woman I thought was Alan Alda.
Nevertheless, I’m thrilled to be in L.A., a city I visit far too seldom. I didn’t realize how much I’ve missed its palm trees and Kardashians.
Frankly, the reason I don’t come to Los Angeles more often is that I have a slight to moderate fear of flying. Luckily, on my flight out, I was distracted by the gentleman next to me; a man who – for reasons known only to his grocer and/or therapist – kept fiddling with a variety of deli meats.
Transcontinental salami aside; it has so far been a great trip. The only caveat is that I’m nervous about this afternoon. That’s when I’ll be joining Ms. Moon Frye (call her Punky Brewster and she’ll cut you) and businesswoman/writer Jane Buckingham (she’ll hold you down while Punky cuts you) for a panel discussion of Twitter. Hardly a seasoned public speaker, I have no idea what to expect of myself. I suppose I should just play it safe and stick to religion and politics.
Of course, our panel discussion is just one of many over the course of the two-day 140 Conference. And while it and the fake Oscar acceptance speech I may or may not attempt to deliver before being ripped from the stage are stressing me out, it’s nothing compared to the anxiety I feel knowing that my boss, CNN/U.S. President Jon Klein, will be there. In. The. Same. Room. Watching. Me. Speak.
[cnn-photo-caption image=http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2009/WORLD/asiapcf/09/30/samoa.tsunami.witness/art.redtruck.afp.gi.jpg caption="Debris clutters a road in Pago Pago, American Samoa, after a devastating earthquake and tsunami last month."]
Drew Griffin | BIO
CNN Investigative Correspondent
It’s New Orleans all over again. Just 2,600 miles south of Hawaii, so nobody is noticing.
American Samoa IS an American territory, but in some parts, it looked to me like the third world. Children rummaging through broken scraps of what once was a house, a woman making the family meal on an outside counter made from a broken door. A three- year-old, yes just three, walking barefoot through a debris field filled with nails. And where was any sign of government help? Nowhere.
After a devastating tsunami rocked the territory on September 29th, we got a tip by email.
The email told us American Samoa had a grant from the U.S. Department of Homeland Security to build a tsunami warning siren system. The system was never built. Thirty-four people died. And it's now the subject of an FBI investigation.
But the trip also uncovered much more: American Samoa’s government has been unresponsive to the needs of its hardest-hit villages. Billions of dollars in U.S. government handouts to this island show little to no signs of doing any good, and despite all the money taxpayers send here, very few federal officials have bothered to find out where it has been spent.
You will see the first of our reports tonight. When you watch, ask yourself what I kept asking: is this really America?
[cnn-photo-caption image=http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2009/WORLD/asiapcf/10/01/samoa.earthquake/art.samoa1.cnn.jpg caption= "Red Cross workers walk past a boat last month that was uplifted by the tsunami at Pago Pago Harbor, American Samoa."]
When a tsunami hit American Samoa last month 34 people were killed and one victim is still missing. They were all struck by a killer wave with no warning. We decided to find out why there wasn't a warning system in place and what we uncovered is startling.
Records show U.S. taxpayers shelled out nearly $13 million in disaster preparedness grants to the tiny island in the south Pacific since 2003. Yet, there were no sirens, no warning system and 34 deaths when the tsunami hit.
U.S. Homeland Security investigators tracked the money. They say the cash was instead spent on leather furniture, plasma televisions and other luxuries.
Don't miss what else Drew Griffin uncovered in our exclusive 360° investigation tonight.
We're also following a shocking story outside San Francisco, where police say a girl was gang raped for two-and-a-half hours outside a high school homecoming dance. Investigators say as many as 15 people, all males, watched the assault and did nothing. They never called police. They never helped the victim.
The girl was discovered badly beaten after police got a call from someone who overheard people talking about the attack.
Educator Steve Perry will join us to talk about this disturbing case. He says if you haven's been to a school lately you should be afraid, very afraid. Perry warns there is a "twisted perception of what is acceptable behavior." He has some suggestions to change the environment. It is something everyone needs to hear.
Also on our radar tonight are the sweat lodge deaths in Arizona. We continue to stay on this story demanding answers.
How did three people die and nearly two dozen get sick from taking part in the ceremony? Tonight you'll hear from the family of Liz Neuman. She died of organ failure a week after participating in the new age ritual run by self-help guru James Arthur Ray.
Join us for these stories and much more starting at 10pm ET. See you then!
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 big dog frolics with a little dog in the yellow leaves of a central Minsk park. (Getty Images)
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.
UPDATE BEAT 360º WINNERS
" Rehab Program for Vick dogs has mixed results."
Shawn Hendricks, Fairplay, MD
"Cloning still has a way to go."
Program Note: Tune in tonight to hear more from Steve Perry. AC360° at 10 p.m. ET.
[cnn-photo-caption image=http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2009/images/10/27/gangrape.highschool.jpg caption="Police say a student at Richmond High School was gang raped outside during a homecoming dance."]
CNN Education Contributor
Our kids are subjected to environments and images of violence on a level never seen before. They are numbed. I asked a group of girls about why listening to Chris Brown was wrong and I was not prepared to be blown away by their twisted perception of what is reasonable behavior.
If you have not been in a school lately you ought to be afraid, very afraid. The highest rates of violence are directly related to what is considered acceptable.
From the streets of Chicago – where children watched and an adult taped a child be beaten to death – to Richmond High School where children watched a child's innocence ripped from her soul, we have seen what happens when children lose respect for life.
This is the direct result of kids feeling unraised and unloved. It is also the result of kids growing up without adult structure and high expectations. Communities can become Lord of the Flies environments in which the kids make adult decisions and they decide wrong every single time.