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August 27th, 2012
09:08 PM ET

Letters to the President #1316: 'And the clock ticks'

Reporter's Note: Each day, I write a letter to President Obama. And this week in particular, I have the time.

Dear Mr. President,

I'll take a day in which I am too busy over one in which I am not busy enough any time of the week. Today was a trial. In simple terms, everyone here for the convention in Tampa is basically hunkered down, waiting for the rain to end and for the politicking to begin and it is not a lot of fun.

Don't get me wrong: I am having a decent time connecting with reporters, producers, photographers and others whom I often don't see for very long periods, and even your political pals are pleasant enough. Although I suppose they're not all your pals, as such.

I was trapped for a short while in a building entryway by the rain, and I chatted with Ted Yoho from here in Florida. He is the veterinarian who whipped a long term Congressman in the primary by running hard as an outsider.

Once I made it over to the convention center, I also talked for a while the mayor of Los Angeles, some of the Daily Show folks, and some students from Southern Methodist University, among others. But mainly, I and everyone else here just waited. The heat, the dampness, and the creeping clock all reminded me of some of the stories I covered years ago living in New Orleans, during which I would have to sit in some steaming news car waiting for some guy to come out of a building, or some woman to get arrested, or some person with something to show me to show up... yadda, yadda, yadda.

Anyway, just in case you ever considered becoming a Republican, you were wise not to make it this year, at least in terms of the convention. I'm sure the skies will clear and it will be much better soon, and the people of Tampa are certainly doing all they can to make it nice. But for now... we wait.

Regards,
Tom

August 26th, 2012
10:21 PM ET

Letters to the President #1315: 'On the storm front'

Reporter's Note: Each day, I write a letter to President Obama. Even when it is the weekend… and I’m in Tampa… and I’m surrounded by Republicans… and a hurricane is coming… or at least something like it.

Dear Mr. President,

Landed in Tampa this morning after a severely truncated weekend, amid rampant speculation about the coming storm Isaac and what it will or won’t do to the Republican convention. As of this moment, it appears to be swerving more in the direction of my old friends in Louisiana and Mississippi; or maybe toward the panhandle of Florida and up into Alabama, where my family lives.

My mother, sister, and brother all live far enough inland that usually when a big storm comes their way they just get rough winds and heavy rain. Sometimes trees come down and they lose power, but that’s about it. It is, as you know, a whole different story on the coast, where storm surges can wreck whole neighborhoods.

Still, it is cause for some concern for everyone who is potentially in its path, I am sure. I’ve told you before that I find such storms fascinating and have often gone to considerable effort to be in the path of one, to report on what happens, but that does not diminish my respect for the genuine, awful consequences for those who must live there.

Many years ago I did a documentary on the 20th anniversary of the great Hurricane Camille, and its lasting legacy. As part of the report, we hiked well back into the woods to find a house that was washed there by that storm two decades earlier. It was a tumbling down wreck, sitting crookedly amid the pines and kudzu. There were still tattered pieces of furniture inside, and remnants of curtains hanging in the windows, all long overgrown with mold. Scrub plants grew up through the broken floor, and spiders knitted their webs amid the buzzing of summer bugs in the woods.

I stood there wondering who, if anyone, was inside when the storm struck, and what became of them. Just as every time a storm comes upon our coasts now, I wonder whose home might wind up swept before the waters, and where they might land.

I’m sure you are hoping the very best for all our citizens along the coast, as am I. It doesn’t look like a monster storm at the moment, but then you never know…

Call if you can.

Regards,
Tom

August 25th, 2012
10:43 PM ET

Letters to the President #1314: 'The man in the moon'

Reporter's Note: I write a letter to President Obama every day. Today it is about the passing of astronaut, Neil Armstrong.

Dear Mr. President,

Neil Armstrong spoke at a dinner I attended a few years ago here in D.C. An acquaintance who left the new business for work in the satellite and space imaging industry invited me to attend, and it was an evening packed with expectation.

As you probably know, the first man on the moon may have liked standing among those distant craters, but in his later years in particular he did not often appear before earthly audiences. When time for the big introduction came, you could see everyone in the room craning to get a look at the reclusive Mr. Armstrong. He was professional, polite, well-spoken, and his speech lasted about 20 minutes or so.

The subject was the father of modern rocketry, Robert Goddard, and Armstrong's passion for the subject was clear. He spoke with intense admiration of Goddard's ground breaking experiments. He explained how those early efforts became the building blocks for many of the much more advanced systems we know today. He praised Goddard as a genuine pioneer... a hero, if you will... for the space exploration community.

What he did not mention, not even once, was his experience of being the first man on the moon. No talk of "one giant leap". Not a word about Apollo, or the dicey landing, or the earth rising on the lunar horizon. There was, at best, one veiled reference to the notion that he, Armstrong, had once been somehow involved in the space business. Other than that, any casual listener who did not recognize him might have suspected the man at the podium was a history professor, or perhaps a science buff.

After the speech, I went backstage and said hello. I shook his hand, told him my elder daughter is interested in space, and he wished her luck.

It is hard to imagine someone who literally rose to such heights, seeming so reticent to talk about it. Maybe he just went over it so much in the days right after it happened, that he grew weary of the whole carnival. Perhaps there is something inherently exhausting in knowing that you have done something before any other living soul, and that now it will define your life forever.

But having heard him speak with such commitment about the need to remember the work of Goddard, is suspect part of the equation is also that he realized, either right away or later in life, that it is the work that matters... not the individual. The greatness of a scientist, an astronaut, a politician, or anyone else, lies not in their glory, but rather in the lasting value of their work. It does not matter, ultimately, if we remember the man. We will all be forgotten, given time, even you. What matters is that we do good work for the future, so that people may benefit long after we pass to dust, and our names fade into the cosmos.

Farewell, Mr. Armstrong.

Regards,
Tom

August 25th, 2012
01:04 AM ET

Tropical Storm Isaac nears Haiti

CNN's Gary Tuchman talks to people on the ground in Haiti awaiting the landfall of  Tropical Storm Isaac.

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Filed under: Anderson Cooper • Haiti • Isaac
August 25th, 2012
12:55 AM ET

Sean Penn talks about risk for Haiti

Sean Penn's J/P HRO foundation is helping Haitians prepare for Tropical Storm Isaac. He talks to Anderson Cooper.

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Filed under: Haiti • Haiti Earthquake • Hurricanes • Isaac • Sean Penn
August 24th, 2012
11:59 PM ET

Author of "Tour de Lance" on Lance Armstrong

The U.S. Anti-Doping Agency today slapped Lance Armstrong with a life-time ban and said the superstar cyclist will be stripped of his seven Tour de France titles, after Armstrong announced he's giving up his battle to clear his name of doping charges.

Armstrong maintains he's innocent, that he's never used performance enhancing drugs, and that he's never once tested positive.

So why then is he giving up the fight to clear his name and save his legacy?

Bill Strickland, editor-at-large at “Bicycling” magazine, has followed Armstrong's career from the beginning. He shares his take with Anderson.

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Filed under: Anderson Cooper • Bill Strickland • Lance Armstrong
August 24th, 2012
11:58 PM ET

Raw Politics: Romney 'birther' remark

Mitt Romney revived the sensitive "birther" issue today while campaigning in his birth state of Michigan.  Romney remarked that he and his wife, Ann, were born at nearby hospitals and stated 'I love being home in this place where Ann and I were raised, where both of us were born... No one has ever asked to see my birth certificate. They know that this is the place that we were born and raised.'
FULL POST

August 24th, 2012
11:05 PM ET

Empire State Building shooting witness

Alex Nott is visiting New York City and heard gunshots near the Empire State Building this morning, and documented the scene with video shot on his cell phone.

The video you will see shows the gunman on the ground, along with wounded bystanders. This is part of the crime scene, located on a crowded city street. This video was shot during the aftermath of the shooting, and is graphic and terrifying.
Anderson Cooper spoke to Alex about what he witnessed.

August 24th, 2012
11:03 PM ET

NYC Shootings in the shadow of the Empire State Building

CNN's Anderson Cooper recaps the events of the shootings at the Empire State Building that left two people dead.

A warning before viewing, this video shows graphic scenes.

August 24th, 2012
11:00 PM ET

NYPD release graphic shooting surveillance video

CNN's Anderson Cooper talks to Lou Palumbo about new surveillance footage of the Empire State Building shootings.
A warning before viewing, this video shows graphic scenes.

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