July 2nd, 2009
09:45 PM ET

Lose yourself in Buenos Aires

[cnn-photo-caption image=http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2009/POLITICS/06/30/sanford/art.sanford.gi.jpg caption="Gov. Mark Sanford has said it's better for him to keep his governorship to learn lessons."]

David Puente
AC360° Producer

There’s another twist in the story of South Carolina Gov. Mark Sanford today. His wife, South Carolina First Lady Jenny Sanford said she is “willing to forgive Mark for his actions,” though she did put the onus on him publicly. “Mark has stated that his intent and determination is to save our marriage…I hope he can make good on those intentions,” she said in a statement.

I was covering the disappearance of the governor last week, before being pulled into the breaking news of Michael Jackson’s death. Though it feels like it’s been longer than that, it was just last Monday when Sanford’s spokesman Joel Sawyer said his boss was on the road, “to kind of clear his head after the legislative session." Then Wednesday morning was when I read the governor’s first account of his trip to Buenos Aires in The State, South Carolina’s largest newspaper. “I would get out of the bubble I'm in," Sanford said describing why he traveled to Argentina. But something about even the article’s headline just didn’t ring true: “Governor Says He Cruised Along the Coast of Buenos Aires.”

During one of my visits to Buenos Aires, I wanted to go to the beach but it never happened because the nearest “decent” one, I was told, was about 250 miles away. So it seemed unbelievable to me that the governor would want to travel for so many hours just to go cruising along a “decent” coastline. Of course if he had really wanted to go to a beach, he could have stayed in South Carolina as its official tourism website says, the state’s coast has “miles of crystal white sand” and it’s a great place to “relax at a romantic island resort”.


Filed under: 360° Radar • David Puente
June 17th, 2009
11:38 AM ET

Young Iranians hoped for more reasons to party

[cnn-photo-caption image=http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2009/images/06/17/art.puente.iran.party.jpg caption="A picture of people at the party David Puente attended in Washington, D.C."]

David Puente
AC360° producer

I normally travel to Washington DC for work, not for parties.

I've been to the White House for an interview with Bill Clinton when he was president and I returned several times during George W. Bush's administration. I was there for Barack Obama's inauguration and most recently I went to report on which DC church the Obama family may choose to attend.

But this past weekend I went to Washington for a birthday party.  I'm writing about it for two reasons; first it was my good friend's 25th birthday party, Jacquelyn Puente, (no relation), who works for a public affairs firm and supports various conservative causes in the Beltway.

She is a charismatic, up and coming Latina who can out-debate policy types twice her age. She also knows how to throw a party. It was an over-the-top Miami Vice-themed night and most of the guests ended up in the heated outdoor swimming pool, (some in underwear, others in designer dresses/some of us dove in, many were thrown in).

But more importantly, I'm writing about the party because so many of the guests, including Jackie's husband Robert Fardi, are young Iranians, or of Iranian descent, who work and live in the US now.


Filed under: 360° Radar • David Puente • Iran • Middle East
June 16th, 2009
09:37 PM ET

Video: Father Cutie in Miami

David Puente
AC360° Producer

Father Alberto Cutie, who millions of Hispanics know simply as El Padre Alberto, has married the woman that he called “the love of his life”. The charismatic Miami priest left the Catholic Church after photos of him kissing his girlfriend – now his wife – on the beach were published in a magazine.

Father Alberto left the Catholic Church last month to become an Episcopal priest. Now many believe the Episcopal Church will become better known and more popular especially with Hispanics who know Father Alberto from his radio and TV broadcasts across the US and Latin America. He's been dubbed "Father Oprah."

June 3rd, 2009
06:30 PM ET

Sotomayor 'racist'? Hispanic leaders weigh in

[cnn-photo-caption image=http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2009/images/04/06/art.newt.jpg]

David Puente
AC360° Producer

Initially he called Supreme Court nominee Judge Sonia Sotomayor a “reverse racist” and wanted her to withdraw from consideration. Newt Gingrich has apologized for his choice of words. Some, including President Obama himself, believe Judge Sotomayor would have also chosen some of her past words differently if she had the chance.

In the conservative magazine Human Events, Gingrich writes this week: "My initial reaction was strong and direct - perhaps too strong and too direct. ... Since then, some who want to have an open and honest consideration of Judge Sotomayor's fitness to serve on the nation's highest court have been critical of my word choice. ... The word 'racist' should not have been applied to Judge Sotomayor as a person, even if her words themselves are unacceptable."

According to Gloria Borger, senior political analyst for CNN, Gingrich's apology came because he was feeling the heat from his own party whose members are trying to avoid personal name calling.

Newt Gingrich and others called Sotomayor a racist after learning about her now infamous statement, "I would hope that a wise Latina woman with the richness of her experiences would more often than not reach a better conclusion than a white male who hasn't lived that life."


Filed under: 360° Radar • David Puente • Sonia Sotomayor
May 21st, 2009
11:00 PM ET

Sailing around the globe...and not even 18!

[cnn-photo-caption image=http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2009/images/05/21/art.zac2.jpg caption="Zac Sunderland on his boat."]

[cnn-photo-caption image=http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2009/images/05/21/art.globe.sail3.jpg caption="Mike Perham holds the world record for being the youngest person to sail across the Atlantic all alone."]

[cnn-photo-caption image=http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2009/images/05/21/art.globe.sail2.jpg]

David Puente
AC360° Producer

Zac Sunderland is sailing around the globe on his own and he's only 17, intent on becoming the youngest sailor to circumnavigate the globe. He's expected back in California next month, exactly where he started almost a year ago.

Sunderland says he was destined to live the "sailor's life". He comes from a family of yachtsmen and as a young child was "deciphering Lat/Longs, not streets and avenues."

But during what he hopes is his record-breaking voyage, a slightly younger sailor Mike Perham from England embarked upon a similar quest in a larger, faster boat, and threatens to upstage his Yankee counterpart.

Perham holds the world record for being the youngest person to sail across the Atlantic all alone.

I spoke to American Zac Sunderland today who says he and Perham have become good friends since meeting up in South Africa during their voyages. Now Sunderland is in Panama and heading north hoping to reach the California coast next month. Here's my chat with him via skype:

AC360° Producer David Puente talks to Zac Sunderland in Panama.
AC360° Producer David Puente talks to Zac Sunderland in Panama.

Check out Zac Sunderland's web site and track his progress:

Zac Sunderland's web site: http://www.zacsunderland.com

Follow David Puente on Twitter @puenteac360

May 19th, 2009
09:47 PM ET

Mexico travel warning lifted, but U.S. Swine Flu cases keep rising

[cnn-photo-caption image=http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2009/HEALTH/05/09/swine.flu.cases/art.swine.jpg]

David Puente
AC360° Producer

Health officials in the US are investigating two more possible deaths from the H1N1 virus, also known as swine flu, a 16-month old toddler who died late yesterday in New York and a 44-year-old man who died today in Missouri. At the same time, they are also trying to confirm whether or not swine flu killed a New York assistant school principal. These deaths could bring the US death toll to nine.

Meanwhile, the World Health Organization said today nearly 10,000 people worldwide have been sickened by the virus. But the threshold which would make the WHO declare a global pandemic isn’t the number of cases, as much as it is how many regions are affected. Phase six of a pandemic alert kicks in if two or more world regions become affected. Right now we’re at phase five with most cases concentrated in Mexico and the US. Only three states have dodged the virus – Alaska, West Virginia and Wyoming.


Filed under: 360° Radar • David Puente • H1N1
May 7th, 2009
11:59 PM ET

Parents, Kids & Swine Flu Parties?

[cnn-photo-caption image=http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2009/HEALTH/05/07/swine.flu.future/art.face.mask.swine.flu.gi.jpg]

David Puente
AC360° Producer

You can probably picture the scene. Well, sort of...

Parents gather in a suburban living room, eating cookies, having coffee and discussing how quickly their children outgrow their new clothes.

Meanwhile, in the play room, the kids lay on mats and cushions, tired from an intense hide-and-seek and tag session. But then, the parents encourage the children to share ice cream spoons, whistles, soda cups even bubble gum.

Does that sound strange? Maybe. But this is exactly what happened at chicken pox parties that some of us grew up with. And the point is to have the boy with the red dots on his face infect all of the small children in the room.

Usually parents who want their healthy children to get chickenpox believe it will help them build immunity against more virulent strains. Others oppose vaccination.

Now there's a buzz on the Internet about “swine flu parties,” and it has medical experts across the country up in arms as the H1N1 virus continues to spread across the U.S. In fact the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, (CDC), says it “expects that more cases, more hospitalizations and more deaths from this outbreak will occur over the coming days and weeks”.

The latest numbers in the US according to the CDC: There are 43 states reporting cases, in total there are 1,639 cases and two deaths.

The “swine flu party” chatter on flu web sites and public health blogs like Effectmeasure and flutrackers.com has even gotten the attention of a top US health official.


Filed under: 360° Radar • David Puente • H1N1
April 16th, 2009
08:23 PM ET

Reunited three decades later

[cnn-photo-caption image=http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2009/images/04/16/art.pratt.jpg]
David Puente
AC360° Producer

For almost 30 years, Dirk Pratt believed his daughter, Francesca, was dead. This week, his tears became happy ones. He was reunited with his long, lost daughter.

The last time he saw Francesca, she was two. Pratt says her mother took her to Ecuador for a quick trip to visit family. Then he was told his baby daughter was bitten by a mosquito and died. "I couldn't function or do anything," he said. "She was my whole world."

Since then, he spent each of Francesca's birthdays looking at the one and only photo he had of her. But, six weeks ago, Pratt ran a search of his own name on Google where he found a message: "I am trying to contact Dirk Pratt. I am his daughter." "The first thought in my mind was, 'Francesca or a sick joke?'" he said.

It was indeed Francesca who had been told her father died in a diving accident. But she says she never quite believed it. "Inside of my heart I felt something. 'He's alive,'" said Francesca.

After learning the truth, she moved back to America to search for her father. Yesterday, Dirk and his daughter, were finally reunited.

"He's more happy because I am here," Francesca, now 30, said and she brought some more good news. Pratt not only got his own baby back but there will be an addition to his growing family. "I am having a baby," Francesca said. "I am pregnant. I am so happy."

Filed under: 360° Radar • David Puente
April 9th, 2009
11:57 AM ET

911 operator didn’t warn cops of guns

[cnn-photo-caption image=http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2009/images/04/07/art.call.center.911.jpg caption="An example of a call center for emergency services."]

David Puente
AC360° Producer

The three police officers ambushed and killed in Pittsburgh last Saturday in a domestic dispute were never told by a 911 dispatcher that guns were in the home.

"It was pure human error, and a terrible thing that occurred," Bob Full, chief of emergency services for Allegheny County, told CNN affiliate WTAE.

The officers were responding to a fight between Richard Poplawski, 22, and his mother. She made the call to 911 and told the operator that the guns in the home were all legal, but the operator did not make the appropriate notation to alert responders as she had been trained to do. The operator involved is now on administrative leave and receiving counseling herself.

Investigators believe Poplawski, wearing a bullet-proof vest, fired more than 100 rounds at officers with an AK-47 and two other guns. We will never know if the events may have played out differently if the officers had known there were weapons in the home.


Filed under: 360° Radar • David Puente • Gun Violence
April 7th, 2009
02:37 PM ET

How porn on campus can become a Freedom of Speech issue

[cnn-photo-caption image=http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2009/TECH/02/27/facebook.democracy/art.facebook.gi.jpg]

David Puente
AC360° Producer

Sometimes it’s surprising which posts get the most reaction on Facebook and Twitter, but today I found out that if you post anything about porn and college, you are bound to get attention. As part of my daily duties here at AC360° I am expected to pitch stories, write questions, and interview newsmakers. But I also tweet on Twitter and post updates on Facebook about what I’m up to for the show.

Earlier today I shared a story on Facebook that I passed along to my boss in an email this morning. University of Maryland students are protesting today what they see as an intrusion by ‘Big Brother.’ Some lawmakers threatened to cut off funds to the public school if the campus screened the hard-core porn movie Pirates II: Stagnetti's Revenge. It's a takeoff on Disney's Pirates of the Caribbean series and screened at colleges across the country. Now students at the University of Maryland are planning to defy authority and screen the flick all in the name of academic freedom and freedom of speech.


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