December 16th, 2009
12:36 PM ET

Video: Planet in Peril, water loss in Lake Chad

Sanjay Gupta | BIO
AC360° Contributor

Lake Chad once was the sixth-largest lake in the world, but in 45 years it has shrunk to half the size of Rhode Island – only 10 percent of its earlier size.

The shallow body of water borders four countries: Cameroon, Chad, Niger and Nigeria – and provides water to 20 million people.

In Nigeria, the shrinking lake has a huge effect on human health – farmers find it more difficult to siphon water into irrigation and they have a harder time growing food, which means people become more vulnerable to diseases like malaria and yellow fever.

Scientists say water diversion (irrigation and new dams on nearby rivers) and drought are equally to blame for the shrinking lake levels.

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Filed under: 360° Radar • Anderson Cooper • Planet in Peril • Sanjay Gupta
December 16th, 2009
11:46 AM ET

Financial Dispatch: The $6.4 Trillion Man

[cnn-photo-caption image=http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2009/images/09/17/art.bernanke.gi.jpg caption="Time Magazine named Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke the 2009 'Person of the Year' Wednesday. "]

Jennifer Rizzo
Assignment Editor, CNN New York

The votes are in. One day before a Senate Banking Committee votes on a whether Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke will be given another term, Time Magazine named the chief the 2009 “Person of the Year” Wednesday. The magazine dubbed the economist “the most powerful nerd on the planet” and gave him credit for not making a weak economy much worse. CNNMoney.com’s “Bailout Tracker” calculates that the Federal Reserve’s rescue efforts total $6.4 trillion – and that doesn’t include the $700 billion TARP program.

The news of Bernanke’s person of the year status came ahead of the Fed’s interest rate announcement expected at 2pm today. The current near zero interest rate has been in place for a year and experts don’t anticipate it changing for the foreseeable future despite signs that the economy is slowly on the mend. FULL POST

Filed under: Economy • Finance
December 16th, 2009
11:28 AM ET

Risks and rewards of celebrity endorsements

[cnn-photo-caption image=http://i.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2009/US/12/13/tiger.woods.sponsor/story.tiger.woods.accenture.gi.jpg caption="Tiger Woods announced on his Web site Friday that he is taking an 'indefinite break' from professional golf." width=300 height=169]

Anita Elberse
Special to CNN

The announcement that Accenture has decided to end its marketing relationship with Tiger Woods - now that the superstar is making headlines for his infidelity and sudden break from the sport of golf - is raising larger doubts about the strategy of relying on celebrity endorsers.

Why would any firm center its marketing efforts on an athlete, particularly in today's media landscape in which a celebrity's missteps are so easily captured and disseminated via gossip and social-networking Web sites? Would it not be better for firms to shy away from aligning themselves with celebrity endorsers?

While the strategy is inherently risky - endorsers are people, after all, and people make mistakes - and while Accenture's decision to cut ties with Woods is probably justified given the circumstances, in general, the rewards of relying on endorsers very likely far outweigh the risks.

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December 16th, 2009
11:28 AM ET

Dear President Obama #331: Compromising positions

Reporter's Note: President Obama continues to push the fluids, band-aids, and aspirin on the health care reform bill, trying to keep it alive. I keep working the same three to keep myself at the keyboard, writing my daily letters to the White House.

[cnn-photo-caption image=http://www.cnn.com/2009/POLITICS/12/15/health.care.lieberman/story.obama.senators.gi.jpg.jpg width=300 height=169]

Tom Foreman | BIO
AC360° Correspondent

Dear Mr. President,

Well, I had to run back to New York again to work more on my special, All the Best, All the Worst of 2009. I’m rocking along on the train as I write, and hoping I can get back home soon because this will be my elder daughter’s last complete Christmas at home before heading off to college, and I want to enjoy every moment I can. Last night we decorated our tree and she put the star on top. And yes, that sound you heard was me sniffling. Can’t imagine our home without her or her sister. Oddly enough, I think my wife can easily imagine the house without me. Go figure. Ha!

Anyway, to business: I’ve been watching your fellow Dems flinging water out of their rowboat at a furious rate, trying to keep some version of health care reform afloat, and I have something you might want to think about. When I see a any person anywhere, in business, politics, military matters, dry cleaning, or even family finances, making huge compromises to reach some goal I assume it must be very important to that soul. Why else would he or she endure such turmoil and struggle? To that extent, their willingness to adjust their hopes to practicality is admirable. Sometimes, however, I have also seen people lose sight of what they are fighting for in the first place, and merely wind up battling to win.


December 16th, 2009
11:16 AM ET

Boom times for global organized crime


During the late 1980s and early 1990s, while chronicling the collapse of communism in the Soviet Union and in the Balkan states, journalist and TEDGlobal speaker Misha Glenny gained a deep understanding of the influence of eastern European privatized law enforcement - otherwise known as the mafia. This led him to write a book called "McMafia: Seriously Organized Crime," for which he traveled the world, talking to victims, criminals, and the police officers trying to catch them. Glenny speaks about his research and the risks he took to get the story.

Antonia Ward: At TEDGlobal, you mentioned the growth of counterfeit goods, the rise in fake malaria drugs and the threat to cyber infrastructure. Why are we seeing these kinds of atypical mafia activities?

Misha Glenny: Just like any other business in a recession, some of organized crime's main trading activities take a nosedive. But while sales of some commodities dwindle, other goods and services record significant increases. As the credit crunch started to bite last autumn, police forces throughout Europe noticed a shift in the focus of large criminal syndicates away from their traditional activities of drugs and prostitutes towards counterfeit and financial crimes.

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Filed under: Crime
December 16th, 2009
11:11 AM ET

Palin fires back at Schwarzenegger

[cnn-photo-caption image=http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2009/images/12/16/art.schwarz.cnn.jpg caption="Sarah Palin is hitting back at California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger's dig at the former Alaska governor over the issue of climate change."]

Alexander Mooney
CNN Ticker Producer

Sarah Palin is hitting back at California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger's dig at the former Alaska governor over the issue of climate change.

"Why is Governor Schwarzenegger pushing for the same sorts of policies in Copenhagen that have helped drive his state into record deficits and unemployment?" Palin wrote on her Facebook page Tuesday night. "Perhaps he will recall that I live in our nation's only Arctic state and that I was among the first governors to create a sub-cabinet to deal specifically with climate change."

Palin's comments came hours after the California Republican questioned Palin's stance on climate change in an interview with the Financial Times at the Copenhagen climate change summit
"You have to ask: what was she trying to accomplish?" said Schwarzenegger, who has backed strict new emissions controls to combat climate change. "Is she really interested in this subject or is she interested in her career and in winning the (Republican presidential) nomination? You have to take all these things with a grain of salt."

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Filed under: Environmental issues • Sarah Palin
December 16th, 2009
11:04 AM ET

Rainforest clash in Panama signals larger debate

[cnn-photo-caption image=http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2009/WORLD/americas/04/21/panama.deforestation/art.panama.smoke.jpg caption="Evidence of deforestation near the Congo Arriba river in Panama's Darien Province, April 2008. "]

David Ariosto

Hunched over a campfire in eastern Panama, Embera tribesman Raul Mezua chanted a song his grandfather taught him when he was a boy.

The words are memorized, passed down from an aging generation to a new group of tribal youths.

"The song means a lot to me," Mezua told CNN, the fire's dying embers splashing a red glow across his face. "But I don't know what it means."

It's not just the song but their language and culture that Mezua and his tribe fear losing as deforestation from logging and cattle ranching threatens the rainforest that is part of their identity.

But recent trends could usher in a welcome reversal for Mezua and his tribe. Rural workers are migrating toward cities in search of jobs, and forests are re-emerging where now abandoned farms and cattle ranches once flourished, according to a 2009 report from the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization.

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Filed under: Anderson Cooper • Planet in Peril
December 16th, 2009
10:54 AM ET

Husband of missing Utah woman provides DNA sample


[cnn-photo-caption image=http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2009/images/12/11/art.vert.crime.powell.jpg caption="Susan Powell, 28, has been missing since December 6." width=292 height=320]

Gabriel Falcon
AC360° Writer

The husband of a missing Utah woman provided a sample of his DNA to investigators looking for his wife, authorities said today. "We had him come in and we have done it under warrant," West Valley City Police spokesman Capt. Tom McLachlan told CNN. He added that the warrant was used "just to protect everybody should this go to any other classification."

Susan Powell, 28, has not been seen or heard from since December 6. Josuha Powell told police she was at home early Sunday morning when he took their two young children on a camping trip in a remote area of the state, authorities said. Powell claims his wife was not home when they returned on Tuesday.

Powell has retained a Salt Lake City attorney who police said was present while the DNA sample was taken. Capt. McLachlan said Powell also briefly talked with investigators. "We were able to ask him a few questions," he said, "Not everything we wanted to ask him. We hope to have an additional interview later on.


Filed under: Crime & Punishment • Gabe Falcon
December 16th, 2009
10:27 AM ET

Video: Eyewitness to sweat lodge deaths

Gary Tuchman | BIO
AC360° Correspondent

Filed under: 360º Follow • Gary Tuchman • James Arthur Ray
December 16th, 2009
10:23 AM ET

50on50: My final hours in the 18-49 demo


[cnn-photo-caption image=http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2009/images/12/16/art.50on50.aarp.jpg]

Michael Schulder
CNN Senior Executive Producer

My wife broke the news to me. The mail just arrived. I’d received a letter. She didn’t have to say another word. It was less than 24 hours from the moment I’d turn 50. And there it was. The most solid confirmation, short of a birth or death certificate, that I was now being kicked out of the 18-49 year old audience “demo."

The Laugh’s On Me

The only way I can properly convey this moment is to tailor an old joke for the occasion.

A man celebrating his 50th birthday is on a plane with his wife, flying over water.

The pilot announces that one of the plane’s engines has shut down and he’s making an emergency landing on an island in the middle the ocean.

He’s off the radar.

He doesn’t know the coordinates of the island.

They’re lost.


Filed under: Michael Schulder
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