Program Note: Don't miss Gary Tuchman's report on the 'Ranch for Kids,' tonight on AC360° at 10 p.m. ET.
Gary Tuchman | BIO
On January 12th, a story I reported was scheduled to air on AC360°. But later that day, the horrifying earthquake hit Haiti and the story was put on hold while we covered the breaking news in Port-au-Prince.
At that point, we did not realize the irony of our story that was supposed to air. It is a report about orphans from other countries who are adopted by parents in the United States; orphans that sometimes have serious emotional problems as they grow up.
After I arrived in Haiti, I found myself doing several stories about orphans in Haiti, and their prospective parents in the U.S. who at first wanted to know if they were alive; and then wanted to get them to their new homes as soon as possible.
We are now also doing stories about the missionaries who were arrested on allegations of trying to kidnap orphans. It is likely we've done more orphan stories on CNN over the last month than we've done in years.
Tonight on 360°, too fat to fly? We'll take a look at the controversy surrounding filmmaker Kevin Smith's incident on Southwest Airlines over the weekend. We'll also have the latest on the accused Alabama University shooter and her violent past, and the day's other headlines.
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:
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[cnn-photo-caption image=http://i.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2010/POLITICS/02/15/bayh.centrist.democrats/story.bayhe.gi.jpg caption="Sen. Evan Bayh, a former two-term governor, was elected to the Senate in 1998." width=300 height=169]
Facing a backlash from the liberal wing of their party, Sen. Evan Bayh and other centrist Democrats are examining their re-election options and deciding to simply walk away, political analysts note.
"Because Democrats are scared, some people are saying 'it's not worth it ... there's not a place for my voice,' " said political analyst Jennifer Donahue. "It's looking like an exodus - between him and Sen. Chris Dodd and open seats that look like they could easily be Republican pickups."
But it not's just centrist Democrats feeling the heat from the edges of their party - former GOP Rep. J.D. Hayworth announced on Monday that he would take on Sen. John McCain, the Republican Party's last presidential candidate, in his home state of Arizona.
[cnn-photo-caption image=http://i.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2010/CRIME/02/14/alabama.university.shooting/story.shooting.suspect.ht.jpg caption="Amy Bishop was taken into custody Friday in the shooting of three people at the University of Alabama in Huntsville." width=300 height=169]Cate Vojdik
Tonight we have new revelations to report about the University of Alabama professor accused of fatally shooting three colleagues during a faculty meeting. It turns out she shot and killed her brother decades ago. The incident was ruled an accident. She was also questioned about a pipe-bombing attempt targeting a former colleague at Harvard. This information is causing some to wonder, were warning signs missed? It’s our Keeping Them Honest report.
We also begin a week-long look at Republicans under fire from within their own party–for not being Republican enough. Conservative activists and tea-partiers are going after some big-name GOP politicians, including Senator John McCain. He’s facing a potentially tough primary challenge from former Arizona Congressman J.D. Hayworth. We’ll take a closer look tonight at what McCain is up against and what’s driving the backlash.
Today brought another unexpected and bizarre turn for the 10 American missionaries being held in a Haiti prison. A judge couldn’t rule on their bail today because of quake-related power problems. Meantime, the spotlight remains on the man who acted as a legal adviser – and his alleged ties to international sex trafficking. An international arrest warrant has his name on it. That warrant includes crimes against children. The adviser denies the charges. Tonight we’ll focus on how all of this might affect the jailed Americans.
We’ll also have the latest on the major NATO operation underway in southern Afghanistan. Military officials say it’s the biggest offensive since the war began in 2001. NATO forces, including thousands of U.S. Marines, are targeting the Taliban in the city of Marjah. Over the last three days there have been civilian casualties, despite efforts to warn residents in the region in advance of the mission. We’ll look at what’s at stake for U.S. troops and President Obama.
Also in the mix tonight: a debate over weight. Should airlines be allowed to have size restrictions for passengers? Director Kevin Smith was bounced off a Southwest flight over the weekend for being too fat. He’s tweeting about it and his tweets have the whole country talking. Are obese travelers being treated unfairly? Or are they asking for special treatment? Tell us what you think.
See you at 10 p.m. eastern as always!
[cnn-photo-caption image=http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2010/images/02/15/marines.afghan.army.jpg caption="Marines and Afghan army officers at a new base in Marjah."]
These numbers and facts are compiled from CNN correspondents in the field and official military statements.
Overall Troop Numbers – About 15,000 troops from the United States, the United Kingdom, Denmark, Estonia, Afghanistan and Canada
about 5,000 Marines
about 300 Army
2,000 Afghan National Army
200 Afghan National Civil Order Police
80,000 to 100,000 residents
Military officials estimates they could encounter about 1,000 Taliban fighters. Five Taliban fighters were killed and eight were arrested in the early hours of the operation
Indivdual battalions involved
1st Battalion, 3rd Marines (US)
1st Battalion, 6th Marines (US)
3rd Battalion, 6th Marines (US)
4th Battalion, 23rd IN Stryker (US)
Combat Engineer Battalion (US)
Light Armoured Reconnaissance Regiment (US)
1 Coldstream Guards Battle Group (UK)
1 Grenadier Guards Battle Group (UK)
1 Royal Welsh Battle Group (UK)
Helmand Provincial Reconstruction Team (UK)
Operational Mentor and Liaison Team (UK)
Task Force Pegasus
Task Force Kandahar
It is unclear how many troops come from the United Kingdom, Denmark, Estonia
Program note: Tune in at 10pm ET tonight for more on the controversy surrounding Kevin Smith's removal from a Southwest flight.
Many of you reached out to us via Twitter last night and today regarding a situation a Customer Twittered about that occurred on a Southwest flight. It is not our customary method of Customer Relations to be so public in how we work through these situations, but with so many people involved in the occurrence, you also should be involved in the solution. First and foremost, to Mr. Smith; we would like to echo our Tweets and again offer our heartfelt apologies to you. We are sincerely sorry for your travel experience on Southwest Airlines.
As soon as we saw the first Tweet from Mr. Smith, we contacted him personally to apologize for his experience and to address his concerns on both Twitter and with a personal phone call. Since the situation has received a lot of public attention, we'd like to take the opportunity to address a few of the specifics here as well.
Mr. Smith originally purchased two Southwest seats on a flight from Oakland to Burbank – as he’s been known to do when traveling on Southwest. He decided to change his plans and board an earlier flight to Burbank, which technically means flying standby. As you may know, airlines are not able to clear standby passengers until all Customers are boarded. When the time came to board Mr. Smith, we had only a single seat available for him to occupy. Our pilots are responsible for the Safety and comfort of all Customers on the aircraft and therefore, made the determination that Mr. Smith needed more than one seat to complete his flight. Our Employees explained why the decision was made, accommodated Mr. Smith on a later flight, and issued him a $100 Southwest travel voucher for his inconvenience.
Ready for today's Beat 360°? Everyday we post a picture 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:
An Old English Sheepdog sits backstage during the first day of the 134th Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show at Madison Square Garden in New York.
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.
Beat 360° Winners:
“Happening Now ... You're in the Situation Room.”
"Please forgive my disheveled appearance . I got stuck next to @ThatKevinSmith on the plane getting here."
Filmmaker Kevin Smith has more than 1.6 million followers on twitter, and he is using the site to voice his outrage about a recent incident on Southwest Airlines when he was removed from the plane for not fitting "comfortably in the seat."
Southwest posted an apology to Smith on their website, but defended implementing their "Customer of Size" policy. What are your questions about the case? Let us know.
Send us a text message with your question. Text AC360 (or 22360), and you might hear it on air!
[cnn-photo-caption image=http://i.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2010/SHOWBIZ/02/15/kevin.smith.southwest/t1larg.jpg caption="Kevin Smith has battled his weight for years and took to Twitter to talk about being kicked off a flight." width=416 height=234]
AC360° Associate Producer
Today, a NATO airstrike against suspected insurgents in southern Afghanistan killed five civilians, and over the weekend two U.S. rockets killed 12 Afghan civilians. The attacks are part of a major NATO offensive targeting Taliban fighters in the city of Marjah in Helmand Province, a region that is considered a safe haven for the Taliban. It is also a major producer of poppies, which fuel the drug trade.
Military officials say Operation Moshtarak is the largest offensive since the war in Afghanistan began in 2001; it is the first major initiative since President Obama announced he was sending 30,000 more troops to the region. Some 3,000 U.S. Marines are taking part in the operation in Marjah. Troops from Afghanistan, Canada, Denmark, Estonia, and the United Kingdom are also part of the roughly 15,000-strong mission. They expect to battle up to 1,000 Taliban fighters in Marjah. By midday today, at least six large gun battles were being fought across the city.