August 20th, 2010
01:55 PM ET
August 20th, 2010
01:51 PM ET

Wedge issues divide politicians from independents

Ed Hornick

[cnn-photo-caption image=http://i.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2010/POLITICS/08/19/independents.wedge.issues/t1larg.mosquesign.gi.jpg caption="There has been anger and frustration over the construction of an Islamic Center near ground zero in Manhattan" width=300 height=169]

The current ruckus over building an Islamic center and mosque near ground zero, calls to change the 14th Amendment and other so-called "wedge" issues are roiling up each party's base, but they're turning off independents, analysts say.

"This is party politics as usual with respect to all of these wedge issues," said Jacqueline Salit, president of independentvoting.org, a national strategy and organizing center for independents. "I think there's more and more of a steady recognition that these kind of wedge issues and political manipulation, sensationalism and opportunism is exactly what is degrading the American political process and our democracy."

Salit, who is also the executive editor of The Neo-Independent magazine, said that people are having a hard time understanding what's happening with the economy because of partisanship.

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Filed under: 360° Radar
August 20th, 2010
01:49 PM ET
August 20th, 2010
12:40 PM ET

Tell us about your BP claim

AC360° & ProPublica

[cnn-photo-caption image=http://i.cdn.turner.com/cnn/interactive/2010/05/us/gallery.large.oil.spill/images/187.jpg caption="AC360° and ProPublica 'shine a light on BP's claims process'." width=300 height=169]

Have you filed a claim with BP? Share your experiences with Anderson Cooper and ProPublica, nonprofit newsroom.

From ProPublica: Examining the handling of 150,000 claims filed for damages from the BP oil spill is a job too big for any one newsroom. That’s why we launched our BP Claims reporting project last week, and asked newsrooms around the Gulf for help.

If you’ve filed a claim with BP, please share details of your experience with ProPublica and AC360° using this form. (This post is also available in Spanish and Vietnamese.) A reporter may follow up with you by phone, and we’ll make it easy for you to share documents and records with our newsroom.

If you haven’t filed a claim, you can help ProPublica and AC360° find claimants by doing your own outreach – tweet this, post it to Facebook, send it out to a local listserv …

BP’s data show that it has returned more than half of submitted claims because they “lack enough information for BP to make a payment.” In most of those cases, it has told people that they have to provide more documentation to prove that their claim is legitimate.

Tell us about your claim here

More from ProPublica: As claims czar takes over, a list of promised changes

Filed under: Gulf Oil Spill
August 20th, 2010
12:00 PM ET

You've gotta have faith

Tom Foreman | BIO
AC360° Correspondent

[cnn-photo-caption image=http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2010/images/08/19/c1main.obama.church.gi.jpg caption="President Obama speaking in a Washington church earlier this year." width=300 height=169]

President Obama has a problem with faith. Mind you, I did not say a problem with HIS faith. He is a Christian and has made that clear. His trouble lies in the public’s perception of his faith, because steadily growing numbers of voters are buying into the myth that he is a Muslim.

A new study from The Pew Research Center has found that one-in-five Americans now think he worships in a mosque, a sharp increase from Inauguration Day, and the numbers who think he is Christian have declined just as steeply. You don’t have to be a professor of political science to realize in our post 9-11 America, this is not the sort of thing you want echoing over your party’s already difficult midterm election, let alone your own re-election hopes.

The question is why do people believe this?

As much as pundits made of George Bush wearing his Christianity on his sleeve, Barack Obama mentions God and faith more often in his speeches and town meetings than Mr. Bush did. He and his family picked out a church near DC to abundant headlines, and yet questions continue to hover over his faith like gnats at a summer picnic.

My theory is that three things have set up this problem.

First, many voters were never quite sure what kind of Christian he was to begin with. The uproar during the campaign over Rev. Jeremiah Wright (who was more of a flame throwing political activist in the minds of some churchgoers,) coupled with candidate Obama’s crack about people clinging to religion, clearly made even a lot of mainstream Christians a tad queasy.

Second, his outreach to the Muslim world came with a certain coolness toward more traditional allies, like Germany, France, and England, many of which are predominantly Christian.

And third, just like most presidents, he doesn’t actually seem to go to church often. That’s not a problem if you are Ronald Reagan and the Christian Right is standing beside you. But that crowd is not vouching for President Obama, and so he is largely alone in his profession of faith even as the Internet grumbles with rumors, and lies about his supposed secret Muslim identity.

So I’ll say it again. President Obama is Christian, not Muslim. But it might take a miracle to convince the rest of America that it’s true.

Filed under: President Barack Obama • Tom Foreman
August 20th, 2010
10:32 AM ET

Manhunt ends with arrests of Arizona escapee, alleged accomplice

Ed Payne

[cnn-photo-caption image=http://www.cnn.com/video/us/2010/08/20/am.bpr.az.fugitive.cnn.640×360.jpg caption="McCluskey and Welch had been on the run since the end of July" width=300 height=169]

A tip from an observant forest ranger led to the arrest of an Arizona prison escapee and his alleged accomplice who had been on the run since last month, authorities said late Thursday.

John McCluskey and Casslyn Mae Welch were arrested at a campground on the edge of Apache and Sitgreaves National Forests in Springerville, Arizona, according to U.S. Marshal David Gonzales.

A park ranger noticed an unattended fire at a campsite and spotted a suspicious car backed into some trees, authorities said.

A license plate check determined it matched the description of one recently stolen in New Mexico, near where a couple was murdered.

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Filed under: Crime
August 20th, 2010
10:12 AM ET
August 20th, 2010
10:09 AM ET
August 20th, 2010
10:00 AM ET

Letter to the President #578: 'A show of faith'

Tom Foreman | BIO
AC360° Correspondent

[cnn-photo-caption image=http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2010/POLITICS/08/19/obama.jobs.bill/smlvid.obama.jobs.gi.jpg caption="As much as Americans like to talk about separation of church and state, it seems to me that it can be very hard being president if voters don’t think you are Christian." width=300 height=169]

Reporter's Note: President Obama has long fought false accusations that he is Muslim. And it’s happening again…

Dear Mr. President,

As much as Americans like to talk about separation of church and state, it seems to me that it can be very hard being president if voters don’t think you are Christian. I suppose that is patently unfair, but that pretty much seems to be the case. And as I’m sure you know, a new survey from the Pew folks says you have a problem on that front. To wit: A startling number of Americans either think you are a Muslim, or don’t think you are a Christian, or aren’t sure what you are.

Look, I know you’re a Christian, because you’ve said so many times, you’ve spoken in an easy and familiar style about Christian teachings, you’ve given me no reason to doubt your professions of faith, and who am I, btw, to say someone is not of the belief he or she claims?

But I also know a thing or two about American politics. And while voters may quibble over the details of faith (whether a candidate is Christian, Jewish, Muslim, or an atheist) they seem to really like to see occasional evidence that the faith a politician claims is one that he or she practices, at least now and then. Note that I said “see,” not just hear from the White House Press Office. It’s all very good that they say you pray every day and consult with ministers, but you and I know that has nowhere near the impact of a single picture of you and your family in a pew.

Now, I’ll grant that this is tricky territory. If you went to church every week and the cameras caught you coming and going, undoubtedly two things would happen. 1) Every single thing said from the pulpit of that church would be scrutinized and you would be pilloried over each and every statement that could even possibly damn you by association. And 2) Your opponents would be laying into you over “false piety,” and “making political hay out of your faith.”

But when voters never see you worship, which has been largely the case ever since the inauguration, well that opens you to another type of criticism; the kind that leaves people doubting whether you really believe anything, or if you believe something quite different from what you profess. (And I know, you’re wondering why I’m not talking about other presidents who didn’t show up in church much… fair point… but they were never accused of being Muslim. I know that’s not right, but it’s the way it has played out.)

My advice? It is hard for me to tell anyone to be a hypocrite; to pose about their faith, which seems to be what politics demands. So I’ll just say this: Be aware that talking about faith is sometimes not enough, especially in the public sector. And sometimes showing it… at least now and then… can make a big difference in how much faith people place in you.


Follow Tom on Twitter @tomforemancnn.

Find more of the Foreman Letters here.

August 20th, 2010
09:50 AM ET

Pakistan crisis a 'slow-motion tsunami,' UN chief says

Mila Sanina

[cnn-photo-caption image=http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2010/WORLD/asiapcf/08/20/pakistan.floods/c1main.hut.apf.gi.jpg caption="Almost 20 million people need shelter, food and emergency care " width=300 height=169]

The death toll from massive floods in Pakistan rose to 1,497 on Friday as U.N. chief Ban Ki-moon said the crisis is a "slow-motion tsunami" that is expected to grow.

The number of homeless as a result of flooding has doubled to 4 million.

Ban urged the international community to give more aid during a special fundraising meeting Thursday night.

"Make no mistake," he said. "This is a global disaster, a global challenge. It is one of the greatest tests of global solidarity in our times."

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Filed under: Pakistan • T1
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