May 25th, 2010
04:43 PM ET

Oil rig inspectors took company gifts, watchdog finds

[cnn-photo-caption image=http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2010/images/05/25/art.mms.getty.jpg caption="The seal of U.S. Interior Department is seen during a news conference."]

Washington (CNN) – Federal inspectors overseeing oil drilling in the Gulf of Mexico accepted meals and tickets to sporting events from companies they monitored, according to a new report from the Interior Department's inspector general.

In one case, an inspector in the Minerals Management Service office in Lake Charles, Louisiana, conducted inspections of four offshore platforms while negotiating a job with the company, the report states. Others in the same office accepted tickets to the 2005 Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl, a college football bowl game. One inspector said, "Everyone has gotten some sort of gift before at some point" from companies they regulated, according to the report.

"Through numerous interviews, we found a culture where the acceptance of gifts from oil and gas companies were widespread throughout that office," the report states. But that culture waned after a supervisor in the agency's New Orleans, Louisiana, regional office was fired for taking a gift from a regulated company in 2007.

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May 25th, 2010
02:18 PM ET

Jessica Yellin honored with Gracie award

[cnn-photo-caption image=http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2010/images/05/25/art.yellin.cnn.jpg caption="Jessica Yellin is CNN's National Political Correspondent."]

CNN National Political Correspondent Jessica Yellin is being honored Tuesday night for her distinctive reporting as a recipient of a prestigious Gracie Award for Outstanding Hard News Feature.

Yellin is being recognized for a series of stories she reported last year on "Political Women" looking closely at the role of women in politics and examining whether they are treated differently on the national scene versus men. Among the topics she examined: Whether there was a different standard being applied to former Republican Vice Presidential nominee Sarah Palin, the decision by Caroline Kennedy to pull out of consideration for an appointment to the U.S. Senate and the proportion of female cabinet appointees by the incoming Obama White House.

Among the others being recognized at the event in Beverly Hills, California are HLN's Robin Meade, NBC Chief Foreign Affairs Correspondent Andrea Mitchell, and ABC's Barbara Walters, as well as actresses Glenn Close, Drew Barrymore and Sharon Gless.

The Alliance of Women in Media sponsors the annual Gracie Awards, which recognize what it calls exemplary programming created for, by and about women in all aspects of the media, television, and radio, and ranging from news to drama to comedy to public service and documentaries and sports.

Filed under: 360° Radar • Jessica Yellin
May 25th, 2010
12:45 PM ET

Hoarders trapped under debris for weeks


Gabriel Falcon
AC360° Writer

An elderly couple was rescued Monday after being trapped for possibly weeks under mountains of debris in their apartment, Chicago authorities said.

The husband and wife, who are believed to be in their 70s, are both listed in serious condition at an area hospital, Larry Langford, Director of Media Affairs for the Chicago Fire Department told CNN.

According to Langford, rodents had attacked the couple who could not free themselves from the litter and clutter that rendered them immobile.

"They were in it," Langford said. "I'm not sure how they got in it, they were in it, and they couldn't get up and get out."

Langford described the debris in the apartment as "front to back, floor to ceiling."

The victims were found after a well check on the residence, authorities said.

Robert Perez, public information officer for the Chicago Police said the couple hadn't been seen for a couple of weeks.

Perez told CNN that fire fighters had to break down the door to gain entry into the apartment.

"When they got in there, it was just debris everywhere," Perez said,"sort of like a hoarder, that was the term that was being used."

The husband and wife were unconscious but alive, he added.

"Apparently they had been there a while," Langford said. "It's kind of an unbelievable sight. They've been in there for a long time and there's just a lot of stuff in there."

Authorities would not disclose the identity of the couple.

Filed under: 360° Radar • Gabe Falcon
May 25th, 2010
11:35 AM ET
May 25th, 2010
11:25 AM ET

Gates lukewarm to 'don't ask, don't tell' deal

[cnn-photo-caption image=http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2010/images/05/25/art.gates.getty.jpg caption="Defense Secretary Robert Gates indicates a military review should be finished before there's any repeal of the policy."]

Defense Secretary Robert Gates issued a lukewarm endorsement Tuesday of a Democratic plan to repeal the military's "don't ask, don't tell" policy.

The proposed agreement - reached Monday by the White House and top congressional Democrats - calls for a repeal of the controversial policy to become final after completion of the military review expected by the end of 2010, followed by a review certification from President Obama, Gates and Adm. Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

Initial votes on the proposal in the Senate Armed Services Committee and the full House of Representatives could occur as soon as Thursday, sources have said.

Gates "continues to believe that ideally the [Defense Department] review should be completed before there is any legislation to repeal" the "don't ask, don't tell" law, according to a Pentagon statement.

But "with Congress having indicated that is not possible, the secretary can accept the language in the proposed amendment."

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Filed under: 360° Radar • Gay & Lesbian Issues • Raw Politics
May 25th, 2010
10:21 AM ET

What's behind Rand Paul's confusion?

[cnn-photo-caption image=http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2010/images/05/25/art.rand.paul.cnn.jpg caption="Rand Paul is a darling of the Tea Party movement."]

By Tamar Jacoby
Special to CNN

Editor's note: Tamar Jacoby is author of "Someone Else's House: America's Unfinished Struggle for Integration."

Washington (CNN) - The caricatures have been flying from left and right since Tea Party Senate candidate Rand Paul started talking about the 1964 Civil Rights Act. That Rand Paul is a racist. That his nomination proves the Republican Party is, too. That MSNBC host Rachel Maddow is a man-eating sorceress. That the liberal media ... you get the idea.

But actually, whether Rand Paul knows it or not, when he appeared unwilling to tell Maddow that he could fully support the Civil Rights Act, there was an important question lurking beneath the surface of his confused remarks. It's not a new question - Americans have been grappling with it for 150 years.

But it and others like it are sure to be reopened in the months to come, as the debate begun by the Tea Party deepens and the nation revisits the issue of where government should begin and end.

Paul thrust us into one of thorniest corners of that larger question: What's the government's role in regulating how private actors - private individuals and the private sector - treat people of another race.

The framers of the 14th Amendment wouldn't go there; in 1868, America wasn't ready for it. That classic text, the foundation of all civil rights law, deals only with how the state, not individuals or private businesses, should approach racial difference.

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Filed under: 360° Radar • Raw Politics
May 25th, 2010
09:54 AM ET
May 25th, 2010
09:30 AM ET

Patience runs thin as BP preps untested maneuver

[cnn-photo-caption image=http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2010/images/05/25/art.oilspillboot.getty.jpg caption="A BP cleanup crew shovels oil from a beach on May 24, 2010 at Port Fourchon, Louisiana."]

The situation in the Gulf keeps getting worse, and so far, there's no end in sight. Anderson Cooper reports live tonight from the region as BP makes another attempt to stop the leak. Watch "AC360°" tonight at 10 ET on CNN for the latest on stopping the leak.

Venice, Louisiana (CNN) - Oil company BP is expected to discuss Tuesday its next attempt to contain the gushing oil in the Gulf of Mexico - a maneuver called a "top kill" that it plans to implement the following day.

All previous attempts by the company to cap the spill have failed, and BP CEO Tony Hayward said the top kill maneuver will have a 60 to 70 percent chance of success when it is put in place as early as Wednesday morning.

BP on Wednesday plans to pump thick, viscous fluid twice the density of water into the site of the leak to stop the flow so the well can then be sealed with cement. The top kill procedure has worked on above-ground oil wells in the Middle East, but has never been tested 5,000 feet underwater.

Carol Browner, the assistant to the president on energy and climate change, said Tuesday that she is optimistic about the method.

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Filed under: 360° Radar • Gulf Oil Spill • T1
May 25th, 2010
09:00 AM ET

Dear Mr. President #491: “The Political Heat Wave on the Gulf”

[cnn-photo-caption image=http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2010/images/05/25/100493403.jpg width=300 height=169]Tom Foreman | BIO
AC360° Correspondent

Reporter's Note: President Obama is getting more complaints by the hour over his handling of the Gulf oil spill. He’s also still getting a letter from my desk by the day.

Dear Mr. President,

I am so tired I could put my head down on my desk and nap like I did back in kindergarten. Actually, back then I did not nap so much as peek underneath my elbow at the girl a few desks over. She lived a block or so away from me, and her name was Dondi. She was blonde, smart, and outrageously cute with a big, beaming smile that made her eyes crinkle at the edges. By now I assume that has mutated into a pair of crow’s feet that would horrify Poe, but then again I’m no longer the barefoot boy with cheeks of tan either, and back then she was my idea of a dream date. Or at least my favorite target for flirting across the room when Mrs. Butler was looking the other way and we were supposed to be asleep.

I once impressed the fair Dondi by laying claim to a craving for dandelion stems by downing a fistful with gusto. She responded by picking a lunchbox full which I was then obliged to munch on all the way home on the bus, lest I betray my lack of enthusiasm for the free repast. It worked. We became pint size versions of boyfriend and girlfriend, until I regrettably could not make it to her birthday party because my family was going camping. Despite the fact that I carefully selected and sent a fully articulated, carved monkey as a gift, she could not forgive my absence and our romance went into a fatal decline. Oh well…like they say: all’s fair in love and wooden primates.

Anyway, back on target. I noticed the latest poll on how unhappy people are with how you are handling the oil leak. Didn’t I warn you about this? I don’t think anyone in his or her right mind expects you to magically come up with a technical solution to this. Certainly you can only be as effective as the combined “experts” on the scene since they are the ones who seemingly understand all the physics involved. (…emphasis on seemingly…)

But what about the parts that aren’t so hard to understand…for example, keeping the oil away from shore? I must say that the case made by local officials, including the Louisiana Governor, seems quite strong. And yet I don’t see a complimentary federal focus. Seems like every day we should be watching armies of people building up protective levees against the advance, pictures of Coast Guard vessels putting down miles of fresh barricades, in short…we should be seeing the sort of all out response that normally follows a natural disaster. And instead what we seem to be getting is a bit too much of what looks like, at least from a distance, bureaucracy.

Don’t you remember what a big fat apple the lackluster Katrina response was for you to shoot at during your campaign? I realize that this is a different sort of affair and because it is incremental it is easy to push it to the back burner on any given day. But day by day it is turning into a full on calamity.

Remember the lizard stretched out on a log in the sun. Maybe he doesn’t feel it getting steadily hotter by the hour, but if he does not move after a while, he’s cooked.

Give me a call if you are inclined. You know I’d love to hear from you. And if you could get the FBI to let me know whatever happened to Dondi, well that would be nice too. Ha!


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