October 28th, 2009
05:00 PM ET

Letterman and me

Details about David Letterman's office romances have surfaced since he revealed a blackmail plot on his show.

Details about David Letterman's office romances have surfaced since he revealed a blackmail plot on his show.

Nell Scovell
For Vanity Fair

At this moment, there are more females serving on the United States Supreme Court than there are writing for Late Show with David Letterman, The Jay Leno Show, and The Tonight Show with Conan O’Brien combined. Out of the 50 or so comedy writers working on these programs, exactly zero are women. It would be funny if it weren’t true.

Late-night talk shows have long snubbed female writers. (“Blaaaaame Johnny!”) Now old charges of sexism have joined new concerns about sexual harassment, triggered by an alleged extortion plot that prompted David Letterman to admit on-air, “I have had sex with women who work for me on this show.”

Most media stars responded by defending one of their own. On The View, Barbara Walters remarked that Dave “is a very attractive man” and offered a blanket excuse for his in-house affairs: “Where do you meet people? In the workplace.” Joy Behar took a tougher stance and argued that his behavior might have created an atmosphere that’s uncomfortable for other female employees, especially “if you’re one of the girls who works there and [are] just doing your job.” But Walters had little sympathy for the working girls. “Maybe you’re annoyed today, but that’s not necessarily sexual harassment,” Walters said. “It isn’t sexual harassment,” she added.


October 28th, 2009
03:46 PM ET

Oval man cave

U.S. President Barack Obama and Vice President Joe Biden make use of the White House putting green.

U.S. President Barack Obama and Vice President Joe Biden make use of the White House putting green.

Maureen Dowd
The New York Times

I felt a twinge of envy when I heard that my pal Tom Friedman had played golf with the president for five hours one September Sunday.

Tom learned a lot about Barack Obama’s positions on weighty issues and sporty ones. (This president doesn’t cheat and he does expect bets to be paid off.) My natural impulse was to shrug it off. Men have always craved private realms — the golf club, men’s club, garage, workshop, shed; a place to get away from the chatter and clatter of women and kids. (In Obama’s case, he may desire a testosterone break from his estrogen nest — a wife, two daughters and a mother-in-law.)

Gordon Thorburn, the British author of the book “Men and Sheds,” explained that the word shed derived from the Anglo-Saxon “scead,” or shade. It was, in a metaphorical sense, obscure, an “intellectual pantry” or “spiritual home” where a man could reflect and dawdle with tools and toys.

But I don’t kid myself that the presidential playing fields are merely about play. After Tom’s golf outing, Politico ran the headline: “Friedman jumps to the front of the influence list.”


October 28th, 2009
03:43 PM ET

Man killed, wife missing: Was it robbery?


Homer and Jo Ann Staton were reported missing last week.

Homer and Jo Ann Staton were reported missing last week.

Gabriel Falcon
AC360° Writer

The South Carolina man who was found beaten to death days after he and his wife disappeared may have been the victim of a robbery, his friend told CNN.

“I think that more than likely that was the case,” said Phil Gillespie, who knew Homer L. Staton for 30 years. “He would carry a good bit of money on him at times.” Gillespie said Staton, whose bludgeoned body was found near a rural road on Sunday, bought and sold gold and jewelry.

Authorities confirmed Staton’s occupation. “He sold jewelry and gold and silver,” said Lt. Garland Major of the Anderson County Sheriff’s Office. “That was his job. He dealt in cash. We are looking at robbery as a possible motive, but there are other motives out there.”

Mr. Staton, 72, and his wife, Jo Ann, 69, were last seen Friday afternoon. In a media release, investigators said the couple, who resided in Taylors, vanished after leaving a local restaurant. Their black 2007 Toyota Corolla was found a day later in Belton. Police said there were blood stains on the interior of the car. They also said Mrs. Staton’s purse was inside the vehicle.


Filed under: Crime & Punishment • Gabe Falcon
October 28th, 2009
02:43 PM ET

Financial Dispatch: Housing picture remains murky

McAllen, Texas has the fastest-growing foreclosure rate of any city in the country

McAllen, Texas has the fastest-growing foreclosure rate of any city in the country

Andrew Torgan
CNN Financial News Producer

It’s a busy day on the housing front, with the latest looks a both new homes sales and foreclosures out. And the latest information paints a somewhat troubling picture.

Foreclosure rates are easing in some of the hardest-hit areas in the U.S, but the plague is beginning to expand into new metro areas.

RealtyTrac today released its list of cities with the biggest foreclosure problems during the third quarter. As expected, towns in California, Florida and Nevada dominated the top 10, with Las Vegas taking the top spot with a rate of 1 in 20 homes.

There was a bright spot though: Half of the cities in the top 10 showed year-over-year declines in their foreclosure rates.

But if Las Vegas was the big loser, Reno was hot on its heels. The No. 9 city posted an 80% gain in foreclosures. And Boise, ID cracked the top 20 for the first time as foreclosures jumped 141%, while Provo, UT rose 120%.

Separately, sales of newly-built homes fell unexpectedly in September after rising for five straight months.

The Commerce Dept. said new home sales fell 3.6% to a seasonally-adjusted annual rate of 402,000 last month, from a downwardly revised rate of 417,000 in August. It was the first time new home sales declined since March.

One economist attributed most of the decline to the potential expiration of the $8,000 tax credit for first-time homebuyers, which is set to expire at the end of November unless Congress takes action.


Filed under: Andrew Torgan • Economy • Finance
October 28th, 2009
01:39 PM ET

Pakistan's forgotten plight: Modern-day slavery

With U.S. attention focused on Pakistan's security issues, will Hillary Clinton be able to press Islamabad's rulers to address a controversy involving rural poverty and modern-day slavery?

With U.S. attention focused on Pakistan's security issues, will Hillary Clinton be able to press Islamabad's rulers to address a controversy involving rural poverty and modern-day slavery?

E. Benjamin Skinner

As Hillary Clinton pays her first visit to Pakistan as Secretary of State, an unfolding hostage crisis will test the Obama Administration's rhetoric on human rights in the region. Officials at the U.S. embassy in Islamabad say at least three landlords have held as many as 170 bonded farmworkers at gunpoint on their estates in the country's southeast Sindh province since late September. With U.S. attention focused on getting Pakistan to deal with huge security issues to Washington's satisfaction, will Clinton be able to press Islamabad's rulers to address a controversy involving rural poverty and modern-day slavery?

The crisis began after the workers' advocates successfully petitioned three district courts to declare as illegal the debts that the landlords were using to compel the workers into indentured servitude. Those debts average around 1,000 Pakistani rupees — roughly $12. The hostages, a third of whom are children, some as young as 4 months old, are landless peasants, known as haari in Urdu. According to Ghulam Hyder, a spokesman for Pakistan's Green Rural Development Organization, the landlords have killed one hostage already and are threatening to kill the others unless they drop the cases and return to work. The landlords also abducted Amarchand Bheel, an advocate for the laborers, as he traveled to court to plead their cause.

A 2004 study by the International Labour Office (ILO) estimated that there are up to a million haari families in Sindh alone, the majority living in conditions of debt bondage, which the U.N. defines as modern-day slavery. Last fall, Pakistan's Daily Times newspaper quoted the labor minister of neighboring Punjab province as saying that landlords hold millions of forced laborers in "private prisons" across the country.


Filed under: Hillary Clinton • Human Rights • Pakistan
October 28th, 2009
01:26 PM ET

House could unveil health care bill Thursday

Deirdre Walsh
CNN Congressional Producer

House Democratic leaders are preparing to unveil a health care bill as soon as Thursday that includes a more moderate version of the public option, one that allows doctors to negotiate reimbursement rates with the federal government, several Democratic leadership aides tell CNN.

That’s a blow to Speaker Nancy Pelosi, who has argued for a more “robust” version of a the public option, one that ties reimbursement rates for providers and hospitals to Medicare rates plus a 5% increase. But Pelosi and other Democratic leaders appear to be bowing to the reality that after a week of canvassing rank and file Democrats, her preferred approach does not have enough votes. Instead the more moderate version of a public option, favored by rural and moderate Members, appears to have the most support among House Democrats.

One of these Democratic aides told CNN “the votes aren't there for robust public option, so that means we're looking at the other form of the public option.”

This aide said House Democratic leaders will meet Wednesday afternoon to make final decisions.

House Democratic leaders are planning to unveil their health care bill at a big event on the West Front of the Capitol Thursday morning. However, these sources cautioned the bill is still not final, and the event for Thursday is tentative.

“The overall message is the same as it's been at the beginning. We're committed to a bill with a public option,” one aide told CNN, arguing that the House is still presenting a strong health reform bill.

Democratic leaders expect to get a final cost estimate today from the Congressional Budget Office.


Filed under: Democrats • Health Care • Nancy Pelosi
October 28th, 2009
01:10 PM ET
October 28th, 2009
12:42 PM ET

Clinton arrives in Pakistan to write new chapter in relations

Jill Dougherty

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton arrived Wednesday in nuclear-armed Pakistan, a country hit hard by terrorism, economic crisis and rising sentiment that it is paying too high a price for its partnership with the United States in fighting extremists.

Clinton is expected to meet with top Pakistani officials, including president Asif Ali Zardari, but a major challenge during this visit is to convince Pakistanis that the U.S. wants a partnership that goes beyond fighting al Qaeda and other extremist groups.

Talking with reporters en route to Pakistan, Clinton said she wants to "turn the page" on what has been, in the past few years, "primarily a security-anti-terrorist agenda."

"We hold that to be extremely important, and it remains a very high priority," she said. "But we also recognize that it is imperative that we broaden our engagement with Pakistan."

Keep Reading...

Filed under: al Qaeda • Hillary Clinton • Jill Dougherty • Pakistan • Taliban
October 28th, 2009
12:16 PM ET

Give, but use your head

Deepak Chopra
Special to CNN

Editor's note: Deepak Chopra is a medical doctor, celebrity lecturer and author of more than 40 books on spirituality and mind-body medicine. He is best-known for his book "Ageless Body, Timeless Mind." Chopra was a Blue Ribbon Panel member who helped select the Top 10 CNN Heroes in 2007 and 2008.

Charity has always been a part of every spiritual tradition, and learning to give is an essential part of everyone's inner growth. However, charity has a dirty little secret that few of us want to face. It can fail or backfire. Our gifts can be squandered. A dollar given with compassion may wind up lining the pockets of someone who doesn't deserve it.

It's a healthy sign that the public has become more aware of these drawbacks. Yet we have to be careful to ward off cynicism. To stop giving would be the wrong choice.

Here's how I empower my own giving while at the same time bringing the compassionate gift closer to the right receiver.

First of all, fuel an aspiration. The most hopeless people in the world aren't the poorest; they're the ones who can never fulfill even a tiny dream. As a group, women are the largest population of the helpless, so I look to help them any way I can.

Keep Reading...

Filed under: CNN Heroes
October 28th, 2009
12:01 PM ET

50 days 'til 50 (and counting)


Michael Schulder
CNN Senior Executive Producer

This story is the beginning of a personal mission. A mission that I know many of you will want to join me on. In 50 days I will turn 50. And when I do, I will be kicked out of one of the most coveted clubs in America, solely because of my age. I’m determined not to let this happen. But I need your help. We need each other’s help.


The club I’m about to be kicked out of is a club I was made a member of at the age of 18. My membership has lasted 31 years. It ends in December. I’m told I can’t renew my membership in what we, in the business, call “the demo.”

There are many demos – or demographics – ways to measure the audience that determine the value of that audience to advertisers. But THE demo, the one advertisers and content programmers most covet, are men and women between the ages of 18 and 49.

I am 49. I turn 50 in December. My demo-clock is ticking fast. I am in a race to find out who determined that on December 16, 2009, the day I turn 50, I will be a less-valued member of the audience than I am today. I want names!

The reminders of my ticking demo clock are everywhere. Just the other week, in a story about Jay Leno on the eve of his prime time television premier, The New York Times mentioned that NBC bases all of its advertising sales for Leno's show on that 18 to 49 demo. Every dollar.

I see. So NBC wants Jay Leno to host their prime time show. But they don’t care if he watches it. Because Jay Leno is 59! The advertisers wouldn’t pay an extra dime to have Jay Leno as a member of Jay Leno’s home audience.




Filed under: 360° Radar • Michael Schulder
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