December 29th, 2009
09:45 PM ET

Live Blog from the Anchor Desk 12/29/09

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Tonight on 360°, the intelligence failure linked to the bombing attempt on a U.S. jetliner on Christmas Day. Plus, the top medical headlines of 2009 and an up close look at Charlie Sheen's latest legal troubles.

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
December 29th, 2009
07:54 PM ET

Evening Buzz: "Systemic Failure" in U.S. Security

[cnn-photo-caption image=http://i.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2009/CRIME/12/29/airline.terror.cia/story.suspect.air.usm.jpg caption="Umar Farouk AbdulMutallab is accused of trying to blow up an airliner as it was landing in Detroit on Christmas." width=300 height=169]

Maureen Miller
AC360° Writer

Pres. Obama said today a "systemic failure" is to blame for the attempted bombing of a jetliner as it was landing in Detroit on Christmas Day.

"I consider that totally unacceptable," he added.

"There were bits of information available within the intelligence community that could have and should have been pieced together. We've achieved much since 9/11 in terms of collecting information, but it's becoming clear that the system that has been in place for years now is not sufficiently up to date to take full advantage of the information we collect and the knowledge we have," Pres. Obama told reporters while on vacation in Hawaii.

As for those "bits of information", a reliable source told CNN's Jeanne Meserve that the father of suspected bomber Umar Farouk AbdulMutallab talked about his son's extremist views with someone from the CIA and a report was prepared, but the report was not passed along to other agencies.

We'll have the latest developments tonight on 360°.

We're also tracking new details on AbdulMutallab that have emerged from online postings he made on http://www.gawahar.com, under the name Farouk1986 – apparently a combination of his name and year of birth.

The 23-year-old Nigerian writes on the site about feelings of loneliness and the struggles he faces as a Muslim in a secular world.

In a 2005 posting, Farouk1986 mentioned that "loneliness leads me to other problems."

Join us for this story and much more starting at 10 p.m. ET on CNN. See you then.

Filed under: Maureen Miller • The Buzz
December 29th, 2009
07:39 PM ET

U.S. official gives details of assistance to Yemen in fight against al Qaeda

[cnn-photo-caption image=http://i.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2009/POLITICS/12/29/yemen.al.qaeda/story.yemens.gi.jpg caption="Yemenis protest last week against a government raid that targeted suspected al Qaeda members."]

Barbara Starr
CNN Pentagon Correspondent

"Solid intelligence" from U.S. and Yemen services finally persuaded Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh last summer to accept increased help in fighting al Qaeda in his country, a senior U.S. official told CNN.

After years of pressure from the United States to crack down on al Qaeda in Yemen, Saleh was persuaded to accept help after he was presented with intelligence that al Qaeda "was targeting inner-circle Yemeni leaders," and that there was a growing number of terrorist training camps in Yemen, the official said.

The official, who declined to be named due to the sensitivity of the situation in the wake of the attempted attack on Northwest Airlines Flight 253, detailed to CNN growing U.S. involvement in fighting al Qaeda in Yemen.

A Nigerian man is accused of trying to blow up the Northwest flight carrying 300 passengers from the Netherlands to Michigan on Christmas Day. A federal security bulletin obtained by CNN said suspect Umar Farouk AbdulMutallab claimed the explosive device used Friday "was acquired in Yemen along with instructions as to when it should be used."


Filed under: al Qaeda • Barbara Starr • Terrorism
December 29th, 2009
06:32 PM ET

Toobin: Civilian courts likely to handle bomb case

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The 23-year-old Nigerian man who has been charged with attempting to blow up a Detroit-bound international flight on Christmas Day is likely to be treated as a regular criminal defendant, according to CNN senior legal analyst Jeffrey Toobin.

Toobin spoke with CNN on Tuesday:

CNN: What's in store for the defendant?

Jeffrey Toobin: He's entitled to a jury trial like any other criminal defendant.

CNN: Does it make a difference that he's not an American citizen?

Toobin: The fact that he's not a citizen makes no difference. He has the same rights as any other criminal defendant, citizen or non-citizen.

CNN: What happens if it's shown that he acted on behalf of al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, which claimed responsibility for the incident?

Toobin: The legal system has already proven that it can deal with cases involving al Qaeda. Zacarias Moussaoui was obviously connected to al Qaeda in some way, and he's already been sentenced.

I don't see any basis for treating this guy differently than Richard Reid, who was promptly and successfully prosecuted in a civilian court. Moving him into a military tribunal would add tremendous legal uncertainty, because there hasn't been a successful military tribunal, one which has been upheld by the courts, since World War II.

Keep reading...

Filed under: Crime • Jeffrey Toobin • Terrorism
December 29th, 2009
05:39 PM ET

Beat 360° 12/29/09

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:

Jonathon Seed, Joint Master and Huntsman with the Avon Vale Hunt, leads the hounds and the horses for their traditional Boxing Day hunt, December 26, 2009 in Lacock, England.

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.


Steve Brusk

"White House photo op begins hunt for those responsible for intelligence systemic failure."


Patty A Banks, Palmdale, CA

"London's Heathrow's Airport unleashes new sercurity system"

_________________________________________________________________________________ Beat 360° Challenge

Filed under: Beat 360° • T1
December 29th, 2009
05:19 PM ET

Extra stress of holidays can trigger domestic violence

[cnn-photo-caption image=http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2009/images/12/29/sheen.red.carpet.jpg caption="Charlie Sheen's wife told police the actor pinned her on a bed, put a knife to her throat and threatened to kill her in a Christmas Day fight."]

Regine Labossiere
Hartford Courant

The holidays can mean festivities and family gatherings. But for families already dealing with domestic violence, the holidays and periods of economic stress may trigger abuse, said Kristi Salters-Pedneault.

The clinical psychologist and assistant professor of psychology at Eastern Connecticut State University in Willimantic said that although each incident of domestic violence is unique, there are themes she has seen during her years of counseling and research at the Veterans Affairs' National Center for PTSD [post-traumatic stress disorder] in Boston.

Salters-Pedneault discussed these issues in an interview with The Courant and in an e-mail exchange. Her answers have been edited for space.

Q. Is there an increase in domestic violence during the holidays?

A. Anecdotally we definitely see more people reporting more stress in their family, more incidents of violence happening. However, the research doesn't necessarily bear out an increase during the holidays. There's probably a few reasons for that.

One is that during the holiday season, people are really motivated to keep the status quo. People don't want to leave their families or break up their families right in the middle of the holidays. ... It's actually after the holidays end – in January and February – that you're more likely to see an increase in the reports of violence happening.

Q. So what is it about the holidays that might lead to an increase in domestic violence?

A. General family stress increases that type of violence. In addition, there's more financial stress during the holidays, so people are feeling that strain. Particularly in this economy, that makes it a recipe for more violence.

Often in relationships where there's violence, there's issues around jealousy and attachment. So, during the holidays, a partner might want to spend more time with their family or be around other people, and that can be very threatening for the partner who is the abuser who feels threatened or powerless in a relationship.

And people are drinking more during the holidays, too, and so that can disinhibit the abusive partner.


Filed under: Crime • Women's Issues
December 29th, 2009
04:04 PM ET

Financial Dispatch: Home prices flatten

[cnn-photo-caption image=http://i.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2009/POLITICS/12/22/economy.poll/story.jobfair.afp.gi.jpg caption="Job-seekers attend a job fair in Los Angeles, California, in early December." width=300 height=169]

Andrew Torgan

CNN Financial News Producer

Bad news on the housing front: home price gains of the past few months flattened out in October, compared to the month before.

The S&P/Case Shiller Home Price Index covering 20 of the largest metropolitan areas in the nation was unchanged in October, after four consecutive months of gains. The index is also down 7.3% from a year ago.

Analysts had been expecting a slight month-over-month increase in October and a year-over-year loss of 7.1%.

An executive at Standard & Poor's says today’s numbers are likely to spark worries that home prices are about to take a second dip.

Separately, a key measure of consumer confidence rose for a second straight month in December, with the outlook for the next few months hitting a 2-year high.

The Conference Board, a New York-based research group, said its Consumer Confidence Index rose to 52.9 in December from an upwardly revised 50.6 in November.

The figure, which is based on a survey of 5,000 U.S. households, is closely watched because consumer spending makes up two-thirds of the nation's economic activity. Still, the overall index remains at historically low levels and is lower than it was in August.

Job hunters may get a reprieve in the New Year.

A new study found that 20% of employers plan to increase their number of full-time, permanent employees in 2010. That’s up from 14% in 2009, according to CareerBuilder's 2010 Job Forecast.


Filed under: Andrew Torgan • Economy • Housing Market
December 29th, 2009
01:08 PM ET

Testing the TSA with banned items, fake boarding passes, and suspicious behavior

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Program note: Tune in tonight at 10pm EST to hear Jeffrey Goldberg discuss his experience challenging airport security procedures.

Jeffrey Goldberg
Atlantic National Correspondent

If I were a terrorist, and I’m not, but if I were a terrorist—a frosty, tough-like-Chuck-Norris terrorist, say a C-title jihadist with Hezbollah or, more likely, a donkey-work operative with the Judean People’s Front—I would not do what I did in the bathroom of the Minneapolis–St. Paul International Airport, which was to place myself in front of a sink in open view of the male American flying public and ostentatiously rip up a sheaf of counterfeit boarding passes that had been created for me by a frenetic and acerbic security expert named Bruce Schnei­er. He had made these boarding passes in his sophisticated underground forgery works, which consists of a Sony Vaio laptop and an HP LaserJet printer, in order to prove that the Transportation Security Administration, which is meant to protect American aviation from al-Qaeda, represents an egregious waste of tax dollars, dollars that could otherwise be used to catch terrorists before they arrive at the Minneapolis–St. Paul International Airport, by which time it is, generally speaking, too late.

I could have ripped up these counterfeit boarding passes in the privacy of a toilet stall, but I chose not to, partly because this was the renowned Senator Larry Craig Memorial Wide-Stance Bathroom, and since the commencement of the Global War on Terror this particular bathroom has been patrolled by security officials trying to protect it from gay sex, and partly because I wanted to see whether my fellow passengers would report me to the TSA for acting suspiciously in a public bathroom. No one did, thus thwarting, yet again, my plans to get arrested, or at least be the recipient of a thorough sweating by the FBI, for dubious behavior in a large American airport. Suspicious that the measures put in place after the attacks of September 11 to prevent further such attacks are almost entirely for show—security theater is the term of art—I have for some time now been testing, in modest ways, their effectiveness.


Filed under: Terrorism • Travel
December 29th, 2009
12:43 PM ET

Dr. Gupta found H1N1 Patient Zero – here's how

[cnn-photo-caption image=http://cnnpagingdrgupta.files.wordpress.com/2009/12/lagloria3.jpg caption="Dr. Sanjay Gupta and crew found patient zero tucked away in this small mountain village in La Gloria, Mexico"]

Danielle Dellorto
CNN Medical Producer

It was late April. I remember it being a somewhat quiet news day when I received the call. It was an editor on our international news desk alerting us that about 100 people had gotten very ill in Mexico City with severe flu-like symptoms. They had no clue what was causing it at the time. The only thing health officials were telling us was that the patients had contracted a highly contagious virus that hadn’t been seen in humans before. The hunt was on: Dr. Sanjay Gupta and I hopped on the next flight out to Mexico City to track down the mystery virus that was getting so many people so sick.

Within 24 hours of arriving, the dense city of about 8 million people had literally turned into a ghost town. The mayor was urging people to stay inside; the hospitals were overcrowded; schools, public transportation, and restaurants closed their doors. At one point, I remember walking down the unusually empty streets of Mexico City in awe. It was an eerie feeling, but also a defining moment for me as a journalist. I realized that people, not just in Mexico City, were scared of this unknown killer virus. What was it? Would they be infected? What should they do? We didn't know it at the time, but H1N1 influenza was about to become a global epidemic and the world was already looking to us for answers.

Keep reading...

Filed under: Dr. Sanjay Gupta • H1N1 • Medical News
December 29th, 2009
11:58 AM ET
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