December 17th, 2010
11:59 PM ET
December 17th, 2010
09:55 PM ET

9/11 First Responders In Limbo: Join the Live Chat

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

For years lawmakers have been praising  and in some cases profiting from the heroes of 9/11.  We're talking about the first responders who risked their lives and in too many cases paid with their lives and their health.  So why now are lawmakers so slow to respond to their needs? We're keeping them honest. Plus, tonight'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:

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
December 17th, 2010
05:45 PM ET

U.S. monitoring kidnapping case against citizen in Haiti

[cnn-photo-caption image=http://i.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2010/WORLD/americas/12/17/haiti.american.jailed/story.waggoner2.mmrc.jpg caption="'A Haitian judge has decided that there's sufficient evidence to hold Paul Waggoner, a U.S. Embassy spokesman said." width=300 height=169]

CNN Wire Staff

(CNN) - The U.S. is keeping close watch on the case of an American relief worker jailed in Haiti under suspicion of kidnapping a 15-month-old boy, the State Department said Friday, but it remains unclear whether the U.S. is working for Paul Waggoner's release.

"We have monitored his court appearances and continue to track the case closely," said P.J. Crowley, spokesman for the State Department.

A Haitian judge concluded after a hearing Wednesday that sufficient evidence exists to hold Waggoner while investigators evaluate a man's complaint that the American kidnapped his critically ill son from a hospital, according to Jon Piechowski, a spokesman for the U.S. Embassy in Haiti.

Waggoner is the co-founder of Materials Management Relief Corps, a humanitarian organization that seeks to provide logistical support to medical workers in Haiti, where a major earthquake caused extensive damage in January.

Waggoner was working at the Haitian Community Hospital in Petionville in February when a Haitian man sought treatment for his 15-month-old son.

Accounts differ as to what happened next, but the father believes the child survived and that Waggoner kidnapped him, Piechowski said.

Waggoner's supporters, including two physicians, have said the child died, and his body was cremated because the father would not claim the remains.

Full story

Filed under: 360° Radar • Haiti
December 17th, 2010
05:33 PM ET

Letters to the President: #697 'A hard won victory'

Tom Foreman | BIO
AC360° Correspondent

Reporter's Note: President Obama has signed the tax measure. I have signed my latest letter to the White House. So we’re even.

Dear Mr. President,

My heavens, I nearly missed writing to you today! But you won’t be that lucky. Ha!

I guess I am just too busy to concentrate. My wife was off on big errands this morning, the younger daughter wrangling with school and after-school activities, my elder daughter came home for Christmas break from Georgia Tech, and I had the pleasure of winding through a massive traffic jam all the way from my office to the airport to pick her up in the middle of the day. What fun!

We intend to push pretty hard through this weekend with the Christmas preparations, because it would be so very nice if by Monday we could be down to just nice things, such as wrapping, baking cookies, and hiding behind bushes to fling snowballs at neighbors.

All that said, I must congratulate you on the final approval of your tax compromise. I know that you took some heat over it. I know that hard core lefties and righties are plenty unhappy with the whole arrangement, but most of America seems pleased and in this day and time that is saying something.

December 17th, 2010
05:01 PM ET

Update: Obama signs tax deal into law

[cnn-photo-caption image=http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2010/POLITICS/12/17/tax.deal/c1main.obama.sign.pool.jpg caption="'This is progress' and 'good news,' the president said." width=300 height=169]

CNN Wire Staff

Washington (CNN) - President Barack Obama signed an $858 billion tax bill into law Friday, saying, "this is progress, and that's what (the American people) sent us here to achieve."

"We are here with good news for the American people this holiday season," he said. "By a wide margin, both houses of Congress passed a package of tax relief that will protect the middle class, that will grow our economy and will create jobs for the American people."

Obama was flanked on stage by both Democrats and Republicans, including Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, who was instrumental in getting the bipartisan legislation passed. Incoming House Speaker John Boehner, however, did not attend the signing.

"Candidly speaking, there are some elements in this legislation that I don't like. There are some elements that members of my party don't like. There are some elements that Republicans here today don't like. That's the nature of compromise."

With Obama's signature, states can begin to reinstate unemployment benefits, so that people "will get them in time for Christmas," he said.

"Not only will middle class Americans avoid a tax increase, but tens of millions of Americans will start the New Year off right by opening their first paycheck to see that it's actually larger than the one they get right now.

"This is real money that's going to make a real difference in peoples' lives. I would not have signed this bill if it didn't include other extensions of relief that were set to expire."

The House of Representatives gave final approval late Thursday night to the deal, negotiated by the White House and top Senate Republicans. The final vote of 277-148 had almost equal numbers of Democrats and Republicans in support.

Full story

Filed under: 360° Radar • 360º Follow • Raw Politics
December 17th, 2010
04:48 PM ET

Beat 360° 12/17/10

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:

CNN senior executive producer Wendy Walker presents Larry King his microphone during King's final broadcast party Thursday, Dec. 16, 2010 in Beverly Hills, CA. (Photo credit: John Nowak/CNN)

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:

Kirk McDonald
"I swear to God, if she mentions that book one more time…"


Jeff, Washington, PA
"25 years and all they give me is a lousy microphone."

___________________________________________________________________________Beat 360° Challenge

Filed under: Beat 360° • T1
December 17th, 2010
11:45 AM ET
December 17th, 2010
11:06 AM ET

Obama to sign tax deal Friday afternoon

CNN Wire Staff

Washington (CNN) - President Barack Obama plans to sign an $858 billion tax deal into law on Friday afternoon.

The House of Representatives gave final approval late Thursday night to the deal, negotiated by the White House and top Senate Republicans. The final vote of 277-148 had almost equal numbers of Democrats and Republicans in support.

The package includes a two-year extension of the Bush-era tax cuts set to expire December 31. It also would extend unemployment benefits for 13 months, cut the payroll tax by 2 percentage points for a year, restore the estate tax at a lower level and continue a series of other tax breaks.

The bill, which cleared the Senate 81-19 on Wednesday, passed despite objections from both the left and the right. However, the pending expiration of the lower tax rates dating back to 2001 created a deadline that forced both sides to accept provisions they had long opposed.

Full story

Filed under: 360° Radar • 360º Follow • Raw Politics
December 17th, 2010
10:50 AM ET

9/11 responders bill defeated by Senate GOP filibuster

CNN Wire Staff

Washington (CNN) - Senate Democrats failed Thursday to win a procedural vote to open debate on a bill that would provide medical benefits and compensation for emergency workers who were first on the scene of the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.

The motion for cloture, or to begin debate, needed 60 votes to pass due to a Republican filibuster, but fell short at 57-42 in favor.

While supporters said they would try to bring the bill up again, either on its own or as part of other legislation to be considered, the vote Thursday jeopardized the measure's chances for approval in the final weeks of the current congressional session.

The House previously passed the bill on a mostly partisan 268-160 vote.

Full story

Filed under: 360° Radar • 360º Follow
December 17th, 2010
10:47 AM ET
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