A president and former president walk into the White House briefing room. No joke, you've never heard this one before. We'll show you the remarkable moment. Barack Obama and Bill Clinton walk in, but only Clinton stays, at his old podium, to make a powerful pitch for President Obama's policies. We've got the raw politics and tonight's other headlines.
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Tonight on 360°, a look at the church preaching hate that plans to picket Elizabeth Edwards' funeral. Edwards, 61, died Tuesday of breast cancer. Her funeral tomorrow in Raleigh, North Carolina, is open to the public.
You'd expect words of comfort at a funeral, not words of hate. But tomorrow members of the controversial Westboro Baptist Church plan to demonstrate at the Edwards' funeral. The Kansas church is known for its protests at funerals for troops killed in Iraq and Afghanistan, where it speaks out against homosexuality.
Now the church is taking aim at Elizabeth Edwards and her family.
The church explains why in a disturbing post on its website.
"This witch spent her life in defiance and disobedience to God, and blasphemed Him with her dying breath."
The church goes on and on, calling the cancer that killed her God's punishment.
Again, these are the words of Westboro Church.
Several groups plan counter-protests against the church tomorrow. Anderson will talk with two of those counter-protestors tonight.
We'll also have an update from Haiti where people have been taking to the streets protesting the disputed presidential election.
The violence began Tuesday night after Haitians learned a popular candidate did not qualify for January's runoff election. Many Haitians call the election a fraud.
We'll check in with actor and activist Sean Penn who is back in Port-au-Prince.
Plus, see who landed on our Ridiculist.
Join us for more on these stories and tonight's other headlines at 10 p.m. ET on CNN. See you then.
What do Hustler founder Larry Flynt and Black Panther Bobby Seale have in common with Brian Mitchell, the man accused of kidnapping Utah teen Elizabeth Smart?
All three have been disruptive defendants at their criminal trials, either through sartorial choices (diapers), Christmas hymns ("O Holy Night") or by calling the judge names ("pig").
Distracting defendants pose a tough challenge for judges, who are tasked with maintaining order in the court and preserving a defendant's fair trial rights, even when those interests seem to conflict.
"A judge won’t put up with any kinds of shenanigans or behavior – intentional or unintentional – that might have the effect of swaying the jury one way or another. He wants the jurors focused on the evidence and not the other things," said Paul Lisnek, a trial consultant who has worked on the cases of O.J. Simpson, Phil Spector and Heidi Fleiss.
"But, the judge is also always thinking about getting overturned on appeal," he added. "An appellate court may say, 'Why didn’t you control your courtroom?' "
Mitchell’s disruptions began in pretrial hearings in 2004, when he’d sing and hum to himself –- an action he took toward the end of his police interrogation a year earlier. The behavior continued during his federal trial, which began in October in Salt Lake City.
Each day, he’d enter the courtroom and sing at the defense table. U.S. District Judge Dale Kimball advised him that he’d waive his right to attend his trial if he kept singing. The judge waited, the singing continued and Mitchell was led each day to a room equipped with audio and video feeds, where he could watch the trial.
He’d stop singing as soon as he entered the room, according to testimony.
It was a delicate balancing act for the judge to keep the jury focused while ensuring Mitchell’s right to a fair trial. Mitchell’s rights include the ability to confront witnesses, to defend himself against the accusations and to have the proceedings explained to him at every step of litigation, said Georgia defense attorney Ann Fitz, who is not involved in the Mitchell case.
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:
US President Barack Obama, joined by his family including First Lady Michelle Obama, and daughters Sasha and Malia, react as they push a button to light the National Christmas Tree during a ceremony on the Ellipse near the White House in Washington, DC, December 9, 2010. (Photo credit should read SAUL LOEB/AFP/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:
"Kids, cover your ears. That's the last time Biden gets to speak before the tree lighting."
Steven – New Orleans, LA
"The Obamas look on in horror as Hillary Clinton does an interpretive dance to her favorite holiday jingle."
Tom Foreman | BIO
Reporter's Note: President Obama says he’ll still work out a tax deal, despite opposition. I say I’ll still write a letter a day to the White House, whether or not he ever responds.
Dear Mr. President,
With the weekend looming, I’ve been ruminating (and we all know how painful that can be) about all the trick plays I’ve seen in the NFL this year. Weird formations; strange combinations of punts, passes, and kicks; one notable play in which a wide receiver actually caught a cab to another stadium. Well, not really, but it wouldn’t surprise me.
I personally think this is all an offshoot of that astonishing onsides kick by the Saints to start the second half of the Super Bowl. I think that play convinced other coaches to take more unexpected chances, because it proved that such maneuvers really can work even though traditionalists would argue against them.
You’re part of that movement, too. Your campaign, your approach to debates, your ideas about taking on the Democratic establishment to win the nomination were all avant garde. And arguably, where you have stumbled has been in the process of becoming a more traditional, predictable DC politician.
In that sense, and purely from a non-partisan “I’m just interested in interesting things” reporter’s point of view, I am delighted to see how you are hanging in there with your efforts to get some action on the Bush tax cuts. The pundits and other political players here have weighed in ceaselessly with the conventional wisdom about how you are infuriating your base, taking a huge political risk, handing the White House keys to the Republicans, yadda, yadda, yadda.
But just from having watched what you do, I have to say that I think your game is absolutely at its best when you are defying the odds, making surprising rules, and frankly doing just what you said you’d do: Trying to change the way Washington works.
I know this year has been tough for you. I’m sure it’s not easy seeing your approval ratings plummet and being lambasted from both sides of the aisle. But with that comes a certain freedom, don’t you think? A chance to get back to what you said you wanted to do and win back the support of many Americans, even if both major parties find that frustrating. Hey, they’ve frustrated voters enough….turn about is fair play, and if you can be the turner I suspect that will be so much the better for you.
Call if you can. Sorry for getting this to you so late today.
[cnn-photo-caption image=http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2010/images/12/10/westboro.jpg caption="Timothy Phelps, a member of the Westboro Baptist Church from Topeka, Kansas, stands with banners in front of the US Supreme Court on October 6, 2010 in Washington,DC."]
CNN Political Ticker
Members of the Westboro Baptist Church announced Thursday plans to picket Saturday's funeral for Elizabeth Edwards in Raleigh, North Carolina.
The Kansas-based Church – monitored by anti-hate groups such as the Anti-Defamation league and the Southern Poverty Law Center – is known for its extremist opposition to homosexuals, Jews and other groups.
The church members also oppose the War in Iraq.
According to the church's website, members will hold a protest from 12:15 p.m. to 1 p.m.
Edwards, the estranged wife of presidential candidate John Edwards, died Tuesday after a six-year battle with breast cancer.
Program Note: Tonight on AC360° Sean Penn, founder of J/P HRO, will discuss the turmoil in Haiti nearly a year after the devastating earthquake at 10pm ET.
J/P HRO is taking very aggressive action in fighting Haiti’s cholera epidemic. Since the initial outbreak almost 2 months ago, we've been deploying a constant supply of medics and resources to some of the hardest-hit areas in the country. We've also been proactive and very effective thus far in stemming the spread of the disease within our own camp.
J/P HRO’s response to the outbreak is recognized by Haiti’s Ministry of Health and the Red Cross as one of the most successful of any organization in the country. This recognition has enabled us to continue to devote resources and personnel well beyond our camp. Our teams of medical staff & volunteers have treated thousands of patients, and supplies from our donors continue to save lives on a daily basis.
At Petionville Camp, our ability to keep the cases in our Cholera Treatment Unit to a minimum can be directly attributed to unremitting health education campaigns & strong partnerships with NGO’s who provide key services like water and sanitation.
Unfortunately, we haven't even begun to see the worst of this epidemic. The escalating infection and mortality rate demonstrate that without immediate response and adequate resources, this epidemic will devastate Haiti. Cholera as a disease is simple to treat, but it requires a consistent supply of very specific supplies and very dedicated medical personnel.
DONATIONS URGENTLY NEEDED:
· Ringer’s Lactate 1000cc IV bags
· IV fluids
· Oral Rehydration Salts
· 24g needle IV giving sets
· Chux or absorbent bed pads
· Personal Protective Gear: Gowns, Glove
· Stool sample containers.
· Doxcycline 300mg tabs
VOLUNTEER WITH J/P HRO TODAY:
As long as cholera is in Haiti, medical professionals will be needed to fight the disease. We are accepting applications for MD's, NPs, PAs, RNs, Paramedics and EMT's to assist with Cholera relief efforts.
Find out more on J/P HRO here.
CNN Medical Managing Editor
After studying the DNA of the strain of cholera responsible for the outbreak in Haiti, researchers believe this disease was brought to the Caribbean nation by humans.
Researchers used cutting-edge DNA testing to identify the origins of the bacteria responsible for the large cholera outbreak. By sequencing the genome of this strain and analyzing the DNA from strains found in Latin America and South Asia, researchers found this Haitian strain of cholera is nearly identical to strains circulating in South Asia, according to a study published online in the New England Journal of Medicine on Thursday. However, it was distinct from the strain in Latin America, says lead author Dr. Matthew Waldor, a physician and researcher at the Harvard School of Medicine.
Since the strain from this large outbreak matches the strains from South Asia, which is so far from Haiti, Waldor and his co-authors conclude the disease came into the country through human activity, rather than coming from environmental means such as ocean currents, which was another hypothesis because cholera can be found in brackish bodies of water.
Health officials on the ground trying to contain this rapidly spreading infection that in the most serious cases can kill within hours if left untreated, tell CNN that the origin of this epidemic is less important than treating those already sickened and preventing further spread.
However Waldor says by analyzing the genetics of this strain in Haiti, he and his co-authors were able to learn that this bacterium has a form of cholera toxin that is probably more virulent and therefore makes the disease more harmful and spreads more rapidly.
Waldor says figuring out how cholera got to Haiti is important, so this type of outbreak can be prevented in the future. It's not about blaming any particular group, he says, but knowledge is power and lessons can be learned. He suggests before people leave an area where cholera is prevalent to go help those in an area where this disease has been absent, they should be screened and either given an antibiotic or a vaccine to prevent the possible spread of this disease.
Lena Jakobsson and Michael Christian
A federal jury has found a homeless street preacher guilty of kidnapping Elizabeth Smart in 2002 and transporting the 14-year-old girl across state lines with the intent to engage in sexual activity.
Jurors deliberated for about five hours before announcing the verdict in the case of Brian David Mitchell, 57, court officials said.
Smart, now 23, was the prosecution's star witness. She spent three days on the witness stand after traveling to Utah from Paris, France, where she is on a mission with the Mormon church. Afterwards, she sat with her parents in the front row of the courtroom, watching the trial.
Smart testified that she awoke to find a man holding a cold steel blade to her neck. She was taken from her bed and marched up a rugged mountain path in her red silk pajamas. When they reached Mitchell's remote camp, Smart testified she was "sealed" to her captor in a marriage ceremony, raped and shackled between two trees with a metal cable. She said she was degraded and treated "like an animal."
Smart said she was raped nearly every day during nine months in captivity and forced to drink alcohol, smoke cigarettes and watch Mitchell have sex with his legal wife, Wanda Barzee. She was forced to wear robes and a veil in public and was not permitted to speak to other people. She said she feared Mitchell would act on his threats to kill her and her family if she did.
"I felt that because of what he had done to me, I was marked," Smart testified. "I wasn't the same. My personal value had dropped. I was nothing. Another person could never love me," she added. "I felt like I had a burden the size of a mountain to carry around with me the rest of my life."
A look back at Elizabeth Edwards as she discussed the challenges in her life.