It's the final countdown to the Senate vote on Capitol Hill. Plus, a father's victory. We're digging deeper on the New Jersey father who will be reunited with his son in Brazil. The boy's mother took him there five years ago and never returned. She ended getting remarried and died last year in childbirth. And, we have more of the memorable moments of 360° from 2009.
Want to know what else we're covering? Read EVENING BUZZ
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Time charts the top ten political gaffes of 2009.
1. Joe Biden's Swine Flu Hysteria
The official word from the White House that week was that the swine flu outbreak was not a cause for alarm. Then came Biden, suggesting on national TV that people avoid planes, subways and classrooms to keep from catching the bug. Biden's press team quickly sent out a statement after the interview claiming that he was trying to warn people who already had swine flu to avoid enclosed spaces, and White House press secretary Robert Gibbs at his daily briefing apologized on Biden's behalf.
Tonight on 360°, a look at the frightening moments for those aboard an American Airlines flight that overshot a runway and stopped just feet from the Caribbean Sea.
Randi Kaye reports on the accident in Jamaica. The video and photos from the accident scene are remarkable. They show the plane broken in several places. Amazingly, no one was killed.
We're also following the latest developments in the health care fight on Capitol Hill. A vote on the Senate version is expected at 7 a.m. ET.
And, President Obama gives himself a B+ for his first year in office. Tonight, we have a strategy session on the topic. CNN Senior Political Analyst and former presidential adviser David Gergen, who worked for Nixon, Ford, Reagan and Clinton weighs on Mr. Obama's presidency. You'll also hear from CNN Political Contributor and Republican Strategist Leslie Sanchez and Tanya Acker of Huffington Post, who is a former Clinton White House staffer.
Plus, due to popular demand, we'll share some more of the most memorable moments of AC360° from 2009. I have three words for you: Oscar the Grouch.
Join us for these stories and much more starting at 10 p.m. ET on CNN. 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:
Richard Heene and Mayumi Heene walk past a group of cameramen after their sentencing hearing at the Larimer County Justice Center December 23, 2009 in Fort Collins, Colorado.
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.
"Richard Heane, science detective, and his wife start filming their new reality show: “Behind Bars”.”
"After the Reality TV balloon bubble bursts, reality sets in."
[cnn-photo-caption image=http://i2.cdn.turner.com/money/2009/07/16/news/economy/healthcare_doctors_shortage/luis_manriquez.03.jpg caption="Medical student Luis Manriquez said he's been told that primary care doctors are less respected as physicians." width=300 height=169]
Parija B. Kavilanz
Luis Manriquez and Katherine Glass share a common - and increasingly rare - ambition: They both want to become family doctors.
"As a primary care doctor, you are a gatekeeper of the medical system," said Manriquez, 26, who with Glass is a first-year student at the University of Washington School of Medicine. "Primary care is where you can have the most immediate impact in affecting patients' lives by managing their health."
Still, Manriquez realizes that he's setting himself for considerable challenges.
For one thing, as a family doctor, Manriquez will probably make one-fourth the salary of a specialist while trying to pay down $140,000 on average in medical school debt.
"That's why only the most committed pursue primary care. Kudos to them," said Jonathan Weiner, professor of health policy and management at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health in Baltimore.
[cnn-photo-caption image=http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2009/US/06/19/brazil.child.custody/art.david.sean.goldman.jpg caption="David Goldman has been locked in a legal battle over custody of his 9-year-old son, Sean."]
It's hard to watch the judicial farce playing out in Brazil right now and not remember the one that began during the holiday season here in Miami 10 years ago. Brazil's Supreme Court on Thursday halted the return of nine-year-old Sean Goldman to his American father — even though international law clearly dictated that the boy should have been handed over when his mother, who had absconded to South America with the child five years ago, died last year. It sounds a lot like the case of Elián González, the six-year-old Cuban boy who, after washing up in Florida in 1999 after a boat disaster his mother did not survive, was for seven months kept from his father in Cuba by a string of outrageous and politically motivated U.S. court rulings.
The Sean Goldman case sounds so much like the Elián González case, in fact, that Brazil has opened itself to charges of especially egregious hypocrisy. It's no secret that Brazil, especially under hugely popular President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, has become a hemispheric counterweight to the U.S. And it loves to play tit-for-tat with Washington. Because Washington still insists Brazilians secure a visa before entering the U.S., Brasilia makes Americans pay for a "reciprocal" permit to get into Brazil; after the U.S. started thumb-printing foreigners in immigration lines after 9/11, Brazil obliged Americans to do the same. Those are understandable counterjabs. But while no one is suggesting that the Brazilian justice system has been keeping Sean from his father as payback for Elián, Americans can't forget how loudly — and rightly — Brazil and the rest of Latin America decried America's violation of international law in the Cuban case.
[cnn-photo-caption image=http://i.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2009/POLITICS/12/21/health.care.faqs/t1larg.bill.gi.jpg caption="The Senate plans to vote on its health care bill before Christmas." width=300 height=169]
Dr. Sanjay Gupta | BIO
CNN Chief Medical Correspondent
Late last night, I finally finished reading the senate bill and the manager’s amendment. I will admit: it was tough to get through and took me back to my medical school days. At some point, I would love to know how many people have read it or understand it well enough to formulate a decision. That is not, however, where I want to go today.
Instead, I want to try and summarize the hundreds of blog comments I have received. It appears most people are in favor of addressing the access issues of the uninsured and the underinsured. Most seem to think that is a noble, worthwhile and perhaps even moral goal. The largest concerns seem to revolve around cost and concerns about the possibility of worse care.
More specifically, there were many comments about the increase in taxes necessary to pay for this. That will likely happen for a segment of the population making over a certain amount of money. That amount is still being debated. There is a plan to decrease Medicare spending by close to 500 billion over 10 years. Supporters say this will finally remove inefficiencies. Critics charge it will lead to worse care for seniors. There could be a tax on Cadillac health plans. If your plan costs more than $23,000 to cover your family – not what YOU pay, but the total cost of the policy, there will be a 40% excise tax on any amount over that $23,000 amount. No doubt, most agree it is going to cost a lot of money to insure 31 million more Americans.
[cnn-photo-caption image=http://i.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2009/POLITICS/12/23/gay.military.communication/t1larg.danchoi.gi.jpg caption="Army National Guard Lieutenant Dan Choi has spoken out against 'don't ask, don't tell' since publicly coming out." width=416 height=234]
There's a constant fear that hangs over some service members deployed to a war zone - and it's not necessarily the threat from insurgents or roadside bombs.
One Marine serving in Afghanistan said suppressing the truth about his sexual orientation is gut-wrenching.
"I do worry a lot about being outed and kicked out," he said in an e-mail to CNN. "So far the military has been my livelihood and my source of work/income for the past six years. I don't want that all taken away from me and me being discharged anything but honorably."
The Marine requested anonymity because of the military's 1993 congressionally mandated "don't ask, don't tell" law prohibiting gay, lesbian and bisexual service members from coming out.
Reporter's Note: The Senate now plans to vote on approving its version of health care reform on Christmas Eve. Nothing says Christmas quite like a steaming bowl of lawmaking, eh? So like a captured solider on a forced march I continue trying to follow it all, and writing my daily letters to the White House.
[cnn-photo-caption image=http://i.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2009/POLITICS/12/22/health.care.senate.vote/story.senate.floor.pool.jpg width=300 height=169]
Tom Foreman | BIO
Dear Mr. President,
A group of friends and I went golfing once, and this guy Craig said, “Hey, let’s put some money on the game to make it interesting.” Not being a regular or particularly skilled golfer, my immediate response was, “My tee shot just sliced over two fairways and knocked out the beer cart girl. Don’t you think that’s interesting enough?”
Apparently it wasn’t, because we all agreed that a side wager would be fun. So then Kevin, who golfed all the time chimed in. “OK, let’s keep it simple. We’ll go with a Manhattan Low, over-under split bet on the even holes, with the best putts trumping the best drives for triple backpays on the odd holes. Bogeys are a buck. Fair enough?” We all stared at him in dumb wonder and asked for a more complete explanation. Five minutes later as he continued to make the little abacus in my head clatter uncontrollably, I interrupted. “How about this, Kev; let’s just play and when we’re done, tell us how much we owe you.”
That’s pretty much how I feel about health care reform now. Trying to figure out what a final deal is going to look like, and who is going to vote for it, and whether it will pass, and how much it is going to cost whom and when, and what might we be overlooking in the whole equation, is exhausting. The trapezists in Cirque du Soleil spend less time calculating angles and timing. The effort is sapping my will and robbing me of sleep.
The Senate hopes to vote on its health care bill before Christmas
CNN’s Political Unit
Senate Democrats claimed a major victory this weekend after voting to end debate on their version of the health care bill.
The Senate is on track to hold a final vote on Christmas eve, but there's still a long way to go before a bill is on President Obama's desk.
Here are answers to some frequently asked questions about what's in the House and Senate health care bills and what's next.
Where does the health care debate stand?
The House passed its version of health care reform last month. The Senate, which follows different procedures than the House, is slated to vote on its version of the health care bill before Christmas.