December 29th, 2009
11:32 AM ET

Condemnation as China executes Briton for drug smuggling

Supporters of British national Akmal Shaikh hold a vigil at the Chinese Embassy in London.

Supporters of British national Akmal Shaikh hold a vigil at the Chinese Embassy in London.


The British government condemned China's execution of a British national Tuesday on drug smuggling charges.

"I ... am appalled and disappointed that our persistent requests for clemency have not been granted," Prime Minister Gordon Brown said. "I am particularly concerned that no mental health assessment was undertaken."

Akmal Shaikh was convicted of carrying up to 4 kilograms (8.8 pounds) of heroin at the Urumqi Airport in September 2007. According to Chinese law, 50 grams (1.76 ounces) is the threshold for the death penalty.

China defended the execution in a statement issued by the Chinese Embassy in London.
Video: China executes British citizen

"Drug trafficking is a grave crime worldwide," the statement said. "The concerns of the British side have been duly noted and taken into consideration by the Chinese judicial authorities in the legal process, and Mr. Shaikh's rights and interests under Chinese law are properly respected and guaranteed."

The 53-year-old is the first European executed in China in 50 years, according to the British legal group Reprieve.

Keep reading...

Filed under: China • Crime
December 29th, 2009
11:11 AM ET
December 29th, 2009
10:37 AM ET

The Tipping Point in Iran

Abbas Milani
Director of Iranian Studies at Stanford University

When millions of peaceful demonstrators took to the streets of big Iranian cities in June to protest what was widely assumed to be a stolen election, many in the West wondered whether the movement had the will and vision to sustain itself.

Apologists for the regime here in America and in Iran dismissed the democratic protests as the angst of a small minority of Westernized yuppies or discontented academics. Clerics loyal to the regime used the incendiary language of class warfare. They dismissed the opposition as accomplices of the Great Satan and a small minority composed of wealthy urbanites fighting to reverse the gains the poor—mustazaf—have made around the country.

Over the past six months the regime has killed dozens of demonstrators, arrested hundreds of activists, and forced hundreds of others into exile. It took false comfort in the belief that it had defeated what it self-deludingly claimed had been nothing but an American-concocted velvet revolution.

This weekend's bloody protests during the holiday of Ashura culminate a pattern of persistence and perseverance on the part of the opposition. There can now be little doubt about the movement's staying power.


Filed under: Iran
December 29th, 2009
10:26 AM ET

Officer shot in chest is saved by badge

Lori Brown

This story gives new meaning to the phrase badge of honor. After all, it is a badge that is credited with saving Oakland Police Officer Joshua Smith's life, after a man shot him at point-blank range.

"It felt like someone hit me in the chest with a baseball bat," Smith said, speaking out for the first time since the shooting on Christmas Eve.

"I couldn't breathe, I couldn't catch my breath. At that point I was worried about finding a wound and stopping the bleeding," Smith said.

But there was no wound, and there was no bleeding, thanks to his steel badge. Officer Smith says it all started at one in the morning Christmas Eve when he spotted a car weaving wildly on Highway 64 in Oakland.

He pulled the car with an expired temporary tag over and ordered the driver to get out for a field sobriety test. The passenger also got out, and swung a knife at Smith. As Smith subdued the passenger, the driver pulled a gun out and shot Smith at point-blank range.


Filed under: Beyond 360 • Crime
December 29th, 2009
09:40 AM ET

Is aviation security mostly for show?

Bruce Schneier
Special to CNN

Last week's attempted terror attack on an airplane heading from Amsterdam to Detroit has given rise to a bunch of familiar questions.

How did the explosives get past security screening? What steps could be taken to avert similar attacks? Why wasn't there an air marshal on the flight? And, predictably, government officials have rushed to institute new safety measures to close holes in the system exposed by the incident.

Reviewing what happened is important, but a lot of the discussion is off-base, a reflection of the fundamentally wrong conception most people have of terrorism and how to combat it.

Terrorism is rare, far rarer than many people think. It's rare because very few people want to commit acts of terrorism, and executing a terrorist plot is much harder than television makes it appear.

The best defenses against terrorism are largely invisible: investigation, intelligence, and emergency response. But even these are less effective at keeping us safe than our social and political policies, both at home and abroad. However, our elected leaders don't think this way: They are far more likely to implement security theater against movie-plot threats.

Keep reading...

Filed under: 360° Radar • Terrorism • Travel
December 29th, 2009
09:23 AM ET
December 29th, 2009
09:22 AM ET

Beyond Copenhagen

K.B. Keilbach
Author, Global Warming i$ Good For Business

The 2009 United Nations Climate Change Conference went out with a whimper, much to the dismay of environmental activists who had pushed for a legally binding agreement to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Business leaders were also reportedly disappointed in the results, which gave little or no concrete steps for action. In spite of Danish Minister for Climate and Energy Connie Hedegaard’s insistence that failure was “not an option,” critics claimed that little of substance was actually agreed to during the days of tumultuous and often acrimonious negotiations that surrounded the Copenhagen Accord.

The questions of how much each country must pledge to limit its greenhouse gas emissions and where exactly the funds will come from to help poorer, developing countries cope with climate change were left unanswered for the moment. And maybe that’s not such a bad thing because maybe the real question we need to be asking is not how to curb emissions or subsidize poorer countries but how to develop the clean energies that will make these discussions moot.


Filed under: China • Economy • Environmental issues
December 29th, 2009
07:25 AM ET

Dear President Obama #344: Holiday icing

Reporter's Note: President Obama has spoken up about the attempted terror attack on that airplane; however, as promised, I am keeping to my stories of the holiday season in my daily letters to the White House.

Tom Foreman | BIO
AC360° Correspondent

Dear Mr. President,

I’ve followed the news of that attempted airplane bombing only loosely. As I have mentioned, I worked so hard during the past few weeks, that I just don’t have much heart for it during these few days off. Glad he was stopped. Glad you’re taking it seriously. Glad you are the president right now, and not me. That said, in the continued spirit of relaxation, I want to tell you another story of holiday seasons past. This one is not so much about Christmas, as about the season of cold.

When we lived in central Illinois, out in the midst of the soybean and corn fields, the entire area was blanketed with an ice storm one particular winter. It came overnight and glazed everything as surely as if molten glass had been poured over the landscape and hardened there. Trees bowed and broke beneath the weight; fence lines sagged as thick as Tootsie Rolls; and cattle swayed beneath heavy mats of ice on their heads and shoulders.

The grass was a marvel; each individual blade so encumbered, that they looked like so many frozen fingers poking up from the turf. A lady who lived in the next farm house walked over to see how we were doing and slipped, taking a beating from those frozen blades in the process.

But what interested my brother and I most, as we wandered the landscape inspecting nature’s handiwork, was the road. It was coated a full inch thick with a crystal clear sheen. “You know,” Robert said, surveying its length, “We could sled on this.”


December 29th, 2009
07:16 AM ET

Sound Off: Your Comments 12/28/09

Editor's Note: The feedback we heard from you last night was mainly about the man who allegedly lit an explosive during a U.S.-bound flight, and the airport security concerns you have as a result. Many of you wanted to let us know how much you enjoy Erica Hill filling in for Anderson.
I am honestly frustrated with everybody blaming the system, airport security, screeners and so on, but my only question remain to be when this kid's father made the US embassy aware of his son's activities why didn't the embassy suspend this kid's entry visa that would have prevented him from boarding the aircraft in the first place, as of matter fact DID ANY ONE IN THE EMBASSY BOTHER TO CHECK AND SEE IF THIS KID EVEN HAS A VISA AND WHAT WAS THE STATUS OF IT. I think someone at that embassy should be held liable. After all the system works and works great I travel on international flight all the time, that's how I know it works.

A while ago there was a story on CNN about some new enhanced scanners but some did not like due to them revealing peoples private parts etc. The moment I saw that story, I thought to myself, I bet within a short time there will be some guy who goes through the airport and straps a bomb near his private parts and this new enhanced scanner will be put into every airport. Sure enough that is exactly what happened! Conspiracy theory? Perhaps but then how do you explain how that guy got as far as he did?

Please show what is happening in Iran. They are killing innocent unarmed people. All I see is news about a terror subject. We count on you CNN to cover the issues. Tx

First time serious watcher: very impressed with your reporter: Erica Hill - very professional, strong eye contact that supports the oral presentations; excellent oral communication skills, just right amount of emotion for each of the different stories presented; great representation of the CNN brand......... great job

I like Erica Hill. I like her professionalism, her sense of humor, and I think she needs to be shown more.


Filed under: Behind The Scenes
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