[cnn-photo-caption image=http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2009/WORLD/europe/11/09/berlin.wall.anniversary/c1main.berlin.wall.afp.gi.jpg caption="World leaders gathered in the German capital Monday to mark 20 years since the collapse of the Berlin Wall." width=416 height=234]
AC360° Senior Producer
Before I was a TV producer, or had even thought about making journalism a career, I was a 20-year old exchange student in England spending a semester abroad at Reading University, outside London.
My friends and I had started the weekend early and we were on a Friday morning train, heading from London to the beach in Brighton, when the businessman across from me opened his newspaper with the headline, “Berlin Wall Falls”.
I slumped in my seat to get an angle to read the details of his paper until finally in a very proper, and very annoyed, British accent he said, “Would you like to read my paper?” (It still makes me laugh thinking about it.)
At the next stop I got off the train, headed back to London, threw some clothes in my backpack and flew to Berlin with no idea where I was going to stay or what I was going to do but I recognized a once-in-a-lifetime chance to be part of history.
One memory stands out.
Thirteen people died after a mass shooting Thursday at Fort Hood, a sprawling Army post in Texas. Take a look at this gallery to learn more about the victims.
[cnn-photo-caption image=http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2009/images/11/09/berlin.wall.jpg caption="Two East German border guards atop the Berlin Wall look westward"]
CNN Washington Bureau
I was in Berlin for a week in 1989. Three days before ‘The Opening,’ three days during, and one day after. My memories are fragmented – not only by 20 years of time, but also by a near total lack of sleep during the week that marked the “end of history.”
I was working for ‘Nightline’ at ABC News at the time. After a busy period, the bosses decided to give me a “vacation” – two weeks covering the London bureau. Since nothing was really going on in the world, I decided to fly my wife and little girl over to see the Peter Pan statue and wander the little streets of London. As they were waiting for the taxi to the airport, I called and said I was being sent to Berlin. East Germans were streaming across to the West through other – less restrictive – countries in Eastern Europe and it looked like there was enough material for a good story. I think my daughter still hasn’t forgiven me.
While flying into Berlin, I looked down on Templehof Airport. The only other time I’d been to Berlin was to cover Ronald Reagan’s famous “pull down this Wall” speech. He’d flown in and out of Templehof which was a fantastic display of Nazi architecture – designed in the shape of an eagle with spread wings – and almost completely unused. It had been replaced by two newer airports and still had no jet ways – just canopies. You could almost see the ghost of the prop planes of the Berlin Airlift lining the empty tarmac. In the strange fashion of political and military locations, it was kept in perfect working order. I spoke to the manager and asked, “On an average day, how many flights come out of Templehof?” He thought for a minute and said, “Well, on an average day…none.”
I checked into one of the best hotels in Berlin and met up with my correspondent, the incredible Barrie Dunsmore. He was doing stories for both ‘World News Tonight’ and ‘Nightline,’ which meant I had to do the field reporting so that he could craft it into a story. I gathered up a camera crew and driver (all German) and a young interpreter. All the German citizens had to pass through one checkpoint into East Berlin and I would have to go through the American one – Checkpoint Charlie.
[cnn-photo-caption image=http://i.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2009/OPINION/11/04/pollack.uwem.akpan.oprah.bookclub/story.pollack.courtesy.jpg caption="Uwem Akpan and Eileen Pollack at a holiday dinner." width=300 height=169]
Special to CNN
Even among the hundreds of applications, this one stood out. Most applicants to creative writing programs submit stories about the angst of their suburban childhoods. This writer's stories concerned the daily ordeals of a boy living with his family on the streets of Nairobi, Kenya, and the horrific plight of a Rwandan girl whose mother is Tutsi and father Hutu.
Not only did the applicant have what writers call "material," he was blessed with an uncanny ear for human speech and the poetry to describe his characters' very unpoetic lives.
I can still remember the young Kenyan boy watching his mother decant the glue she intends to sniff. The glue, the boy tells us, "glowed warm and yellow in the dull light," and when his mother had poured enough, "she cut the flow of the glue by tilting the tin up. The last stream of gum entering the bottle weakened and braided itself before tapering in midair like an icicle."
Still, this applicant gave us pause. The writer had so much to say, he seemed to be trying to channel a raging waterfall through the tiny funnels of two short stories. His use of punctuation was idiosyncratic, to say the least. And the applicant was a priest!
Would the other students be willing to share their stories, rife as these tend to be with profanity, drugs and sex, if a clergyman was in the room? And would this particular clergyman understand what all great religious writers know - that true literature doesn't spring from one's certainties about the universe, but rather from one's questions?
All eyes are on the Senate right now, after the House passed its version of the health care reform bill late on Saturday night.
But what kind of movement can we expect on the Senate Floor? Some say we won’t see voting anytime soon. Sen. Joe Lieberman is repeating his vow to never let a bill with a public option come to a vote. So how will the health care debate play out in the Senate?
Do you have questions about the next step for health care reform? Let us know!
Send us a text message with your question. Text AC360 (or 22360), and you might hear it on air!
[cnn-photo-caption image=http://i.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2009/POLITICS/11/08/us.israel/story.netanyahu.gpo.gi.jpg caption="Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu boards a plane in Israel on Sunday ahead of his Washington visit." width=300 height=169]
CNN State Department Producer
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu called for an immediate resumption of peace talks with Palestinians Monday before meeting with President Barack Obama.
"My goal is to achieve a permanent peace treaty between Israel and the Palestinians and soon," Netanyahu said in a speech to the Jewish Federations of North America. “I say to Mahmoud Abbas, leader of the Palestinian Authority: Let us seize the moment to reach an historic agreement, let us begin talks immediately,”
Netanyahu said he would work for a lasting peace with the Palestinians, promising "great concessions" as long as they don't compromise Israel's security.
“With the support of the United States, peace can become a reality,” Netanyahu said, hours meeting with President Obama to discuss the peace process and Iran's nuclear program.
[cnn-photo-caption image=http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2009/images/11/09/cahill.forthood.victim.jpg caption="Michael Cahill survived a heart attack three weeks before the shootings at Fort Hood, Texas."]
Mallory Simon and Jim Spellman
Joleen Cahill had a gnawing feeling in her stomach.
She was at work on Thursday afternoon when she heard a gunman opened fire at the Soldier Readiness Program at Fort Hood, Texas, the same place her husband, Michael Cahill, worked as a physician's assistant.
Immediately, Joleen Cahill searched online to see if her husband was OK, but she found no answers.
She went to her Cameron home, where she and a friend huddled around the television.
"We were sitting at home agonizing," said Cahill's daughter Keely Vanacker. "We were calling every number, nobody could help, nobody could give us an answer."
Cahill tried calling her husband. She got no answer.
"I knew that he wouldn't be able to call us, and I knew just to wait," she said. "I kept hoping that no news was good news."
[cnn-photo-caption image=http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2009/CRIME/09/16/dc.sniper.execution/art.muhammad.gi.jpg caption="John Allen Muhammad, pictured in 2004."]
Jeanne Meserve and Mike M. Ahlers
John Allen Muhammad, the mastermind behind the Washington-area sniper attacks of 2002, is scheduled to die by lethal injection Tuesday evening at a state prison near Jarratt, Va.
During two lengthy trials - including one featuring testimony from young accomplice Lee Boyd Malvo - and in several years of legal appeals, Muhammad has continued to profess his innocence.
On Monday, the Supreme Court denied an appeal, meaning Muhammad, 48, is likely to go to the death chamber at Greensville Correctional Center at 9 p.m. Tuesday.
The only remaining obstacle is a clemency petition to Virginia Gov. Tim Kaine, who has already indicated he is not apt to grant clemency. Lawyers for Muhammad also could file additional appeals, although it is not clear on what grounds.
[cnn-photo-caption image=http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2009/WORLD/europe/10/09/nobel.peace.prize/art.obama.mideast.gi.jpg caption="Obama with Israeli PM Benjamin Netanyahu, left, and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas two months ago."]
Aaron David Miller
Special to CNN
When Barack Obama receives his Nobel Peace Prize next month in Oslo, Norway, one thing seems clear: It won't be in recognition of his skill in advancing Israeli-Palestinian peace.
For much of the past year, the administration has wandered around the not-so-Holy Land without clear direction, an accurate understanding of Israelis and Palestinians, or an effective strategy.
But all is not lost. The past 10 months could be, to use the president's words, a teachable moment, and with the right lessons learned, maybe, just maybe, the president could get back on track.
Keep your enthusiasm under control: In January, President Obama came out harder, faster and louder on Israeli-Palestinian peacemaking than any of his predecessors. The speech in Cairo, Egypt, and his ultimatum to the Israelis on freezing settlements seemed to suggest that this president was going to be tough and fair. No more business as usual.
Meanwhile, back on Earth, the political laws of gravity that make getting anything done on Arab-Israeli diplomacy very hard kicked in, dragging down the president's hopes and words.