October 31st, 2010
09:00 AM ET

Letters to the President: #650 'Ladybugs, Halloween, and the tricks among the treats'

Tom Foreman | BIO
AC360° Correspondent

Reporter's Note: I don’t think one can trick or treat at the White House. Of course, I didn’t think I could post a letter every day for more than a year and half and not get a visit from the Secret Service either, so go figure.

Dear Mr. President,

We’re very big on Halloween at our house. Our basement has enough costumes in it to spur accusations that we are running an unlicensed dinner theater, albeit one that seems to specialize in rarely seen stage revivals of “The Texas Chain Saw Massacre.”

So I was both entertained, and - what’s the word? - intrigued by a report that Delaware Senate candidate Christine O’Donnell showed up on Halloween some years back dressed as a ladybug. As a practical matter I don’t even drink, and yet on any given day of the year there is a reasonable chance I’ll slap on a pirate hat and go for a stroll, or slip into a cape for a 7-11 run, or even hit the McDonald’s drive-through sporting Groucho glasses and a fake nose.

Where the O’Donnell story gets sticky, of course, is in the part about her alleged escapades in her ladybug regalia. I won’t get into the seamy details in the report, nor do I want to excite more of the furor that followed. Suffice to say, the critics are right: This report was sleazy, demeaning to the political process and to O’Donnell, and it makes you want to go wash your hands. (Right after reading the article, the rebuttal, the follow-up, and looking at all the pictures, of course.)

But I fear in the political climate of today we’ll never see the end of such tales; and a lot of men and women will come to regret nights of less than circumspect behavior. I’m not going to say a word of judgment about that behavior. We have plenty of “social values” watchdogs on the left and the right which bark relentlessly over such issues.

October 30th, 2010
03:59 PM ET

Henry in the House: Meek story shows Dem fears of Senate wipeout

[cnn-photo-caption image=http://i.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2010/POLITICS/10/29/meek.democrat.fears/t1larg.meekclinton.gi.jpg caption="Rep. Kendrick Meek, left, is still running for the Senate in Florida, despite reports former President Clinton asked him to quit." width=300 height=169]

Ed Henry
CNN Senior White House Correspondent

Washington (CNN) - The point that many people seem to be missing in the Florida Senate saga is that this whole mess actually has very little to do with Rep. Kendrick Meek or the Sunshine State - it's all about a much broader fear among senior Democrats that they may be about to lose control of the chamber.

There are some fascinating inside details I've been able to piece together about how and why this Meek story exploded into the public.

In the words of one senior Democratic Party official, the Meek story came to a head because former President Bill Clinton "flew into a purple rage" about the Democratic candidate breaking a private pledge to him to get out of the Senate race and endorse independent candidate Charlie Crist.

But a source close to Clinton said he "never saw anything close" to rage from the former president, who is at peace with how this wound up.

"He always believed this was Meek's decision,' said the source close to Clinton.

As for the Obama adminstiration's role in this, I'm told by senior Democratic officials that while White House aides were in the loop on the Clinton-Meek talks, they were not driving the conversation and were not lobbying Meek to go.

I'm also told that senior officials deliberately kept President Obama out of the loop on these behind-the-scenes conversations because they did not want to get him personally tainted by the Meek story. That came no doubt in part because they didn't want it to blow up in his face like the botched attempt to get Joe Sestak out of the Democratic primary in the Pennsylvania Senate race so many months ago. (Clinton was the intermediary then, too).

But all the jockeying and horse-trading is really just a sideshow. The real story is how bad the broader electoral map has gotten for Democrats heading into the final weekend of this midterm election: Top Democratic officials privately say they believe they are going to lose the House, but as they survey the country they are getting increasingly worried they will also lose the Senate.

Full story

Filed under: 360° Radar • 360º Follow • Ed Henry • Raw Politics
October 30th, 2010
09:28 AM ET

Letters to the President: #649 'Scary days'

Tom Foreman | BIO
AC360° Correspondent

Reporter's Note: Reports of an attempted terror attack have Washington buzzing; that’s the subject of today’s letter to the White House.

Dear Mr. President,

One day, we’re not going to catch them. I don’t think that’s a likelihood. I think it is a mathematical fact. Despite all we’ve done to carry out the so-called “war on terror” and despite all our successes (and there have been many), there are still an awful lot of people on the planet who would love to attack us if they could. And they’ll keep trying. And one day they will succeed.

While I appreciate that, at times like this, any president must reassure the public and calm our fears, that is the message I hope to hear more when the immediate threat has passed –from you and many other political leaders.

I think we, the people of America, need to be reminded that our country is vast, filled with more than 300 million people who, while united, also all have their own views. Our country is open; we benefit from a great and extraordinary 24-7 flow of ideas, goods, services, and people from all over the globe. Without that openness and freedom, we would not be the success story that we are - economically, politically, or culturally.

And some day, someone is going to be able to circumvent all of our safeguards and hurt us. Maybe a little. Maybe a lot. It will be a terrible day. But what happens immediately afterward will determine just how terrible.

October 29th, 2010
11:59 PM ET

Dr. Phil slams Arkansas official for 'non-apology apology'

Martina Stewart
AC360° Digital Producer

(CNN) – Outspoken anti-bullying advocate and TV talk show host Dr. Phil is far from satisfied with the apology offered Thursday by an embattled local Arkansas school district official.

Related: Arkansas school board member to resign over anti-gay post

“This is the biggest non-apology – non-apology apology I’ve heard,” Phil McGraw says about Clint McCance in an interview that airs Friday on CNN’s Anderson Cooper 360°. “He did not apologize for what he said. He didn’t apologize for the message that this gives to children, to kids, to parents out there. What he apologized for was saying that suicide was the only out and that he’s sorry for that he said that.”

Clint McCance, the vice president of the Midland School District in Arkansas, took to his personal Facebook page earlier this week and slammed a recent national awareness campaign sparked by a rash of suicides by young people who had been bullied because they were gay or perceived to be gay by their peers.

The local elected official wrote that he wanted gay people to commit suicide, according to The Advocate, a magazine focusing on gay news. McCance promised to disown his own children if they are gay and said he enjoys "the fact that [gay people] give each other AIDS and die."

After his postings sparked national attention, McCance apologized for his comments Thursday in an exclusive interview on Anderson Cooper 360°.

October 29th, 2010
09:48 PM ET

Terror Plot Foiled: Join the Live Chat

[cnn-photo-caption image=http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2009/images/01/02/liveblogfinal.copy.jpg]

Tonight on 360°, exclusive new information about the two packages at the center of today's terror scare. They were packing a truly devastating punch. Plus, tonight's other headlines.

Want more details on what 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
October 29th, 2010
09:09 PM ET

Evening Buzz: More Explosive Devices Shipped?

[cnn-photo-caption image= http://i.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2010/US/10/29/security.concern/t1larg.toner.white.cnn.jpg caption="Authorities say this was the device found in Dubai that was to be shipped on a FedEx flight to the U.S." width=300 height=169]

Maureen Miller
AC360° Writer

We're following new developments on the suspicious packages found overseas that were bound for Jewish places of worship in Chicago. Pres. Obama called the discovery "a credible threat against our country."  The devices "apparently contain explosive material," he added during an afternoon news conference at the White House.

Tonight the credible threat is possibly still ongoing. There are reports of at least 13 other packages that could have been sent. Due to that possibility authorities have checked cargo planes and delivery trucks in several cites, including Philadelphia and Newark, New Jersey.

As for the two devices found, a U.S. official tells CNN they likely contained the explosive compound PETN. That's what the accused "underwear bomber", Umar Farouk AbdulMutallab, allegedly used aboard a flight as it approached Detroit, Michigan last Christmas.

The two devices found overseas in this case were sent from Yemen.  One was found in Dubai, in the United Arab Emirates, before it was put on a FedEx flight to the U.S.  The other was found at an airport in Great Britain.

We'll give you a timeline of how this plot was foiled and talk about who may be responsible tonight on 360°.

We'll also talk with Dr. Phil McGraw about the anti-gay rant on Facebook by Clint McCance. Does Dr. Phil buy his apology? McCance said he's resigning from the Midlands School Board. Dr. Phil has some tough words for McCance.

Join us for these stories and much more starting at 10 p.m. ET. See you then.

Filed under: Maureen Miller • The Buzz
October 29th, 2010
08:33 PM ET

Suspicious packages 'contain explosive material,' Obama says

[cnn-photo-caption image=http://i.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2010/US/10/29/security.concern/story.cargo.update2.jpg caption="The circuit board bears similarities to a cell-phone, according to an engineer for a wireless phone parts manufacturer." width=300 height=169]

CNN Wire Staff

(CNN) - Suspicious packages found in at least two locations abroad that were bound for Jewish organizations in the United States "apparently contain explosive material," President Barack Obama said Friday, calling the discovery "a credible threat against our country."

The packages led to increased searches of cargo planes and trucks in several U.S. cities, said law enforcement sources with detailed knowledge of the investigation.

U.S. officials believe that al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, commonly referred to as AQAP, is behind the incident.

Obama confirmed that the packages originated in Yemen, the stronghold of al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula.

"We also know that al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula ... continues to plan attacks against our homeland, our citizens, and our friends and allies," he said during a press briefing on the incident.

Full story

Filed under: 360° Radar
October 29th, 2010
07:00 PM ET

U.S. says al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula behind cargo terror plot

CNN Wire Staff

(CNN) - U.S. officials say that al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, a fairly new arm of the umbrella terrorist organization, is behind an apparent plot to send explosive devices to U.S. destinations via cargo planes.

"Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula is an organization of several hundred individuals that are dispersed throughout the country," presidential counterterrorism advisor John Brennan told reporters Friday. "They are murderers and they are determined to carry out attacks on innocent lives, whether they be Yemeni, Americans, Westerners or others. ...

"If anything, this just demonstrates to us and, I think to the Yemenis as well, that we need to redouble our efforts so that we're able to destroy al Qaeda, and we will."

Brennan pointed to the botched attempt last Christmas to blow up a Northwest Airlines passenger jet en route from Amsterdam, Netherlands, to Detroit, Michigan, on Christmas Day. U.S. and Yemeni officials have linked the attempt by man who tried to ignite explosives in his underwear to al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula.

Formed in 2009, al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula is a regional terrorist group known for targeting government and Western interests in Yemen and Saudi Arabia. Yemeni forces, with support from their U.S. allies, have stepped up military and political pressure on the group in recent weeks, despite continued threats from its leader.

A key figure in the group is Yemeni-American militant cleric Anwar al-Awlaki, whom U.S. authorities have linked to Fort Hood shooting suspect Maj. Nidal Hasan as well as the man accused in the Christmas Day bomb attempt. Brennan would not specifically name al-Awlaki as a suspect.

Full story

Filed under: 360° Radar
October 29th, 2010
05:33 PM ET

Beat 360° 10/29/10

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:

Senate Republican Conference Chair Lamar Alexander and Republican Senate candidate Christine O'Donnell hold a news briefing at Buckley's Restaurant October 29, 2010 in Centreville, Delaware. (Photo credit: Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

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.

Update: Beat 360° Winners:

William Armsby
“Double, double toil and trouble; Fire burn, and caldron bubble… Uh, I forget the rest. Vote for me!”


Alexander, CT
“I'm no Samantha Stephens, but I still remember an incantation or two.”

___________________________________________________________________________Beat 360° Challenge

Filed under: Beat 360° • T1
October 29th, 2010
05:17 PM ET
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