November 18th, 2009
11:04 PM ET

Obama in China: A wake-up call!

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David Gergen | BIO
AC360° Contributor
CNN Senior Political Analyst

Barack Obama has recently been reading up on the presidency of John F. Kennedy. Coming home from China, he might well focus on Kennedy’s first summit overseas with the leader of the Soviet Union, Nikita Khrushchev. Indeed, we all could learn from that episode.

Like Obama, Kennedy came into office as an inspiring figure, an idealist who stirred hopes for the future and yet was inexperienced in the exercise of power. At the time, the Soviet Union was a rising nation that was threatening the global leadership of the United States.

In the fall of his first year in office, Kennedy went to Europe where he was welcomed grandly until he arrived in Vienna to sit down with Khrushchev. Kennedy, the idealist, thought that his charm and his appeals to reason would win over the Soviet leader. Instead, Khrushchev bullied him unmercifully and the men were unable to agree on anything of substance. Polite reasoning went nowhere.

According to Kennedy biographer Richard Reeves, Khruschev left the meeting telling associates, “He’s very young… not strong enough. Too intelligent and too weak.” Khrushchev concluded that he could push Kennedy around and started causing mischief from Berlin to Cuba.


Filed under: 360° Radar • China • David Gergen • President Barack Obama • Raw Politics
November 18th, 2009
10:23 PM ET

Sound Off: Your comments 11/18/09

Editor's Note: Most of the feedback we received last night focused on the “Killing at the Canal” segment. Many feel that the killings were justified and the interrogation was leading SGT. Michael Leahy to say he did it. On the Wal-Mart segment, viewers ask why Heather Ellis hasn’t asked to see the video surveillance from inside the store at the checkout. What do you think>?


The killing at the canal.. Listen Military Justice System is 250 yrs old and never updated. What these guys did wasn’t murder. it’s not like they grabbed some civ and woman and raped and beat them.. This is a different situation and the CID are not good interrogators and should not of pushed this.. They also should not of served any time they at min if the army felt it was bad just discharged them under general discharge.. I went through military courts and they are a Joke.. Think about the civ case of the kid who had a few hits of acid at a grateful dead concert and got life.. Make zero sense.

AC, the interrogation tape sounded like the interrogator was leading him to come to a conclusion he, the interrogator wanted which is a confession and an admission of guilt. On a separate note, I feel for these soldiers. They are being fired at and being killed by an enemy who doesn't fear to face a criminal conviction....I give these guys a break!!!!


Filed under: Behind The Scenes
November 18th, 2009
09:44 PM ET

Live Blog from the Anchor Desk 11/18/09

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We have breaking news from Capitol Hill. Senate Democrats have revealed their health care bill. Plus, Sarah Palin speaking out about the Ft. Hood massacre. And, we have part two of our special report "Killings at the Canal: The Army Tapes."

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
November 18th, 2009
09:30 PM ET

Senate democrats unveil $849 billion health care bill


Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid unveiled the Senate Democrat's proposal for health care reform entitled the "Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act."

With analysis from the Congressional Budget Office it is estimated the bill will extend coverage to 30 million Americans who are currently uninsured and cost approximately $849 billion over the next 10 years while still reducing projected budget deficits by $127 billion.

Read the full contents of the Senate's proposal

November 18th, 2009
07:07 PM ET

Why Heather Ellis wishes she were not a black woman

[cnn-photo-caption image=http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2009/images/10/30/heather.ellis.1.jpg caption="Heather Ellis is facing 15-years in prison for allegedly cutting line at a Wal-Mart store in Missouri."]

Dr. Boyce Watkins
Special to AC360°

Heather Ellis is in trouble. The 24-year old preacher’s daughter has spent most of her life doing the right things: Going to college, getting ready for medical school and staying out of trouble. What Heather didn’t realize is that even when you do the right things, your margin of error as a person of color in America is virtually non-existent.

When I wrote my book, “What if George Bush were a Black Man?” the key point was that America’s justice system has a difficult time understanding that punishments must match the magnitude of the crime that has allegedly been committed. The actions that a “frat boy” can get away with 20 times during college can send an African American to prison for the next 20-years. America is a country that has, without question, consistently over-charged, over-searched, over-incarcerated and over-sentenced African Americans for the past 400 years of its existence.

Given its ugly past, the criminal justice system has very little credibility, and even police reports are subject to being questioned – especially in a town like Kennett, MO. My father’s a cop, so I know how all this works. Even when black men were lynched 100 years ago, there were always “witnesses” and police reports to say that he was a bad person. Fortunately, lynching does not occur anymore (although a black boy – Walter Currie Jr. – was burned alive by his white classmate in the same area as Heather), but the noose has been replaced with the long prison sentence as the most typical and most devastating form of punishment. As a result, black men and women are filling up America’s penitentiaries at an alarming rate, and it is destroying the core of the black family.


Filed under: 360° Radar
November 18th, 2009
06:59 PM ET

Evening Buzz: Senate Dems Unveil Health Care Bill

Maureen Miller
AC360° Writer

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid unveiled a new health care reform bill that would extend coverage to 30 million Americans who are currently uninsured and would cost $849 billion over the next decade.

The price tag comes from a cost analysis by the Congressional Budget Office, which estimates the proposal will also cut the federal deficit by $127 billion over the next 10 years and at least $600 billion in the following decade.

"We all acknowledge that this legislation is a tremendous step forward. Why? Because it saves lives, saves money and protects Medicare, it makes Medicare stronger," Reid said this evening on Capitol Hill.

Reid must now work to get 60 votes in the Senate to avoid a GOP filibuster and start debate on the bill.

That means if all 40 Republicans stay unified in opposition to the measure, the Reid must get support from all 58 Senate Democrats, as well as independents Sens. Joe Lieberman of Connecticut and Bernie Sanders of Vermont.

It's expected to be a heated debate.

"Higher premiums, tax increases and Medicare cuts to pay for more government. The American people know that is not reform," said Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell.

Reid's bill includes a government-run insurance plan, or public option. Though, states can opt out if they want.

We'll have a breakdown of what's in the proposal tonight on 360°.

And, don't miss part two of Abbie Boudreau's special report "Killings at the Canal: The Army Tapes." Tonight we have the starling confession of Sgt. Michael Leahy, one of three U.S. Army sergeants who killed four Iraqi detainees at a Baghdad canal in 2007. His confession is part of 23 and a half hours of Army interrogation videotapes obtained exclusively by CNN.

We'll also have live coverage of Pres. Obama's press conference in South Korea. It's the last part of his 11-day tour of Asia.

Join us for these stories and much more starting at 10pm E.T. See you then

Filed under: Maureen Miller • The Buzz
November 18th, 2009
06:38 PM ET
November 18th, 2009
05:35 PM ET

The side of China President Obama didn't see

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Ole Schell
AC360° Contributor

Barack Obama was in Beijing as part of a three-day visit to China this week. No doubt he saw many examples of the prosperity of the country: the avant-garde Rem Koolhaas architectural marvels and even the new sterile malls popping up around every corner. What he probably didn't see it what's left behind, the last vestiges of traditional Beijing that barely exist in the city's vast networks of winding alleys know as hutongs.

Hutongs were originally formed when rows of traditional courtyard houses were connected to each other by small alleys in a spider web-like grid. For centuries several families would live in one residence that surrounded its own courtyard. Typically, there would be a single bathroom for each neighborhood and sometimes only one faucet as well.
Even today you might see a line of people around the corner waiting to use the communal toilet in the morning.

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This disappearing China is an inconvenience. Its buildings are bulldozed and its people sometimes displaced. A few months ago, while making a documentary about the country's new generation of entrepreneurs, I saw this disappearing world firsthand.

In my neighborhood of Sanlitun, known as the bar district of Beijing, I frequently noticed a knife sharpener riding his bicycle down the street with a grindstone on the back. He rode around the city so people could bring their dulled blades to him. As recently as 10 years ago, the streets of Beijing were teeming with such bicycle merchants and tradesmen, but today he is among a dying breed. I decided to ask if I could tag along with him for the day.

We never exchanged names – I don't speak Chinese - and while much of the growing middle class in the major cities is now learning English, I have yet to meet a tradesmen or laborer who is able to. We communicated by hand gestures alone. In order to set up our excursion, I simply walked up to him and handed him my cell phone with a Chinese speaker on the other end who explained my proposition.


Filed under: 360° Radar • China
November 18th, 2009
05:16 PM ET

Dispatch from the Ellis trial

Program Note: Tune in tonight to hear Gary's report from the Heather Ellis trial. AC360° at 10 p.m. ET.

Gary speaks to Heather Ellis' father, Pastor Nathaniel Ellis.

Gary Tuchman | BIO
AC360° Correspondent

Heather Ellis just turned 24-years- old this weekend. She hopes to be a doctor one day. But first, she faces the possibility of up to 15 years in prison for allegedly assaulting two police officers.

I'm sitting 10 feet away from her inside a courtroom in Dunklin County, Missouri during the process of jury selection; a process than in itself could seal her fate for good or for bad.

But this isn't an ordinary assault trial. This one is wrapped in racial controversy. Ms. Ellis is an African-American. The cops she is accused of assaulting are white.

Heather Ellis' father tells the allegations are part of a "racist conspiracy." He says white customers in a Wal-Mart started harassing her after she moved into a quicker checkout line where her cousin was standing. Racial insults were hurled at her, and ultimately police assaulted her, says her father.


Filed under: Gary Tuchman
November 18th, 2009
04:36 PM ET

Photo: Fort Leavenworth Military Prison

The three sergeants who killed the detainees were convicted of premeditated murder and conspiracy in a military courtroom in Germany earlier this year. All three are serving their sentences at the U.S. military prison at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas.

Learn more about the case here.

Filed under: 360° Radar
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