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October 31st, 2008
04:14 PM ET

Erica Hill: Wore my dress and bonnet even when it wasn't Halloween

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Editor's Note: Happy Halloween! We asked some of our favorite CNN personalities to share with us their Halloween memories. We asked them a few 'Trick or Treat' questions.... here's what they had to say:

Erica Hill | BIO
AC360° Correspondent


Favorite Halloween costume as a kid?

My Laura Ingalls costume definitely got the most play! I LOVED "Little House on the Prairie" as a kid, and wore my dress and bonnet even when it wasn't Halloween. I had some fabulous early 80's clogs to round out the ensemble. I did like the costumes my husband and I wore last year – Richie and Margot Tenenbaum. Classic.

Favorite scary movie?

No scary movies for this girl! I am the biggest wuss you'll ever meet. When I was younger, I did like "Poltergeist" and remember watching "Tales from the Crypt" with our babysitter, but you'd never catch me watching them now.

Best Halloween memory?
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Filed under: Erica Hill • Halloween
October 29th, 2008
05:56 PM ET

Erica’s News Note: A Whole Lotta WOW

Erica Hill
AC360° Correspondent

Some days, I have to make sure I didn’t lose a contact or inadvertently click on the wrong link. I am increasingly amazed by the stories I read, yet they’re true! I thought you’d be up for a trip down Wow Lane today, if you can peel your eyes from the election coverage. Fasten those seatbelts and grab a helmet, we’re off!

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First stop, China, where now even the EGGS have melamine. How is this chemical – used in plastics and fertilizer – finding its way into food? First the pet food, then tainted baby formula, milk…what’s next, asparagus? At this point, I wouldn’t be shocked by the asparagus headline.

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In Connecticut, where tainted candy was pulled recently, the latest concern is toddler cereal from Brazil, laced with pesticide.

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Clear across the country, some “WOW” of a different sort – the kind that make you smile, rather than cringe.

Cancer is a nasty, cruel disease that is very close to my heart…a little too close. The Oregon Health and Science University Cancer Center wants the state to have the lowest cancer rate in the nation, and they may be getting closer. Nike founder Phil Knight and his wife, Penny, are donating $100 million dollars to the UHSU Cancer Center. Thank you, Mr. and Mrs. Knight.

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Also in the spirit of giving, a little wealth spreading; and for the first time in weeks, “spreading the wealth” has nothing to do with partisan politics or a certain man from Ohio. This is sharing in its purest form. Anyone who thinks it’s a bad idea needs a reality check. After winning a Powerball jackpot worth nearly $207 million, the New Mexico group that hit the magic numbers is spreading the wealth to the clerks who sold them the ticket.

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And if you really want a “WOW”, don’t miss the live webcast tonight during the 10pm ET hour of AC360, when none other than Jack Gray, the wittiest blogger around, will be my special guest. Sadly, Sammy the dog was not available – her people make it nearly impossible to book an appearance, but maybe if you all send a request, we’ll have better luck.


Filed under: Erica Hill • Erica's News Note
October 22nd, 2008
05:35 PM ET

Erica’s News Note: Sweet and Sour

Erica Hill | Bio
AC360° Correspondent

Mass layoffs in September are at the highest level we’ve seen since 9/11, according to the Labor Department. Fantastic. Manufacturing accounts for 28 percent of the mass cuts – the sector is also responsible for more than a third of unemployment insurance claims last month. The head of one outsourcing firm says large com[panies are using a “shotgun approach” – not exactly a comforting assessment.

And there could be more bullets in those guns. Sue Murphy, manager for National Human Resources Association in Nashua, N.H., says companies have to prioritize. "The companies look at the nice-to-haves and the must-haves, and the employees that are not essential will be up for review," Murphy said. "A lot of quality people will be out of work."

Fewer jobs, less money to go around on payday, your retirement funds in the toilet, looming heating bills…and a wedding ring returned four decades after it went missing. Time for your afternoon pick-me-up! Let’s leave the economy behind for a moment and focus on your sweet tooth. I once mentioned in the daily newsletter for my show on Headline News that my afternoon pick-me-up was peanut M&Ms. I’m trying to switch from the chocolate (and protein-filled peanuts!) to a healthier snack of good news. Care to tag along?

I am a sucker for a sweet love story. When you’ve got Prince Charming, Cinderella, and a wedding ring down the drain, you know it’s a recipe for sugary, mushy goodness. Enjoy!

If the Zartarians didn’t satisfy your sweet tooth, I have one more treat that just may quench your craving. With a name like Sweet Miss Giving’s bakery, how could this place not be great?! The beauty of this Chicago bakery is that the good extends far beyond the baked goods; the sweet shop is staffed by formerly homeless adults with disabilities. Half of the profits go to helping homeless and disabled Chicagoans. In Windy City Mayor Richard Daley’s words, “"The bakery goods are very good.” I’m sold. And hungry.


Filed under: Erica Hill • Erica's News Note
October 21st, 2008
08:01 PM ET

Erica’s News Note: State of the Union

Erica Hill | Bio
AC360° Correspondent

A man returns a pair of shoes after finding the same pair somewhere else at a better price (sounds like me!), but later notices a racial slur on his receipt. At first, I thought a salesperson had scrawled the hateful word on the back of his receipt. But then I watched the story and realized that nasty word was an option in the store’s computer. Why on earth would a code for a racial slur be on ANY computer, especially the one tied to a cash register? To get the full picture, you need to watch the story.

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Just how close is this country to a repeat of the Great Depression? A little too close for my comfort.

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The uncertain economy is one of the leading factors behind the findings in a new CNN poll - results that offer a jarring snapshot of the USA.

The bad news: 75 percent of Americans say things are going badly in this country, according to a new CNN poll. Americans are angry, scared and stressed to the max – though I probably didn’t need to tell you that. "Americans tend to downplay the amount of fear they have when facing tough times,” says CNN polling director Keating Holland. “The fact that more than six in 10 say that they are scared shows how bad things are getting."

FULL POST


Filed under: Erica Hill • Erica's News Note
October 13th, 2008
06:07 PM ET

Erica’s News Note: The ears have it

Erica Hill
AC360° Correspondent

One of my goals this year was to be a better listener. It’s not always easy, yet I learn so much just by keeping quiet. I am fascinated by people’s lives and their paths to the lives they create. It is the “average Joe” – six-pack optional – who always seems to have the most interesting story, not the celebrity du jour on the cover of the gossip rags.

Today, the stories of real people who we can all learn from, people not unlike the ones who may live next door or down the street: Families and young children, struggling to survive, taking life-threatening jobs to keep food in their stomach. Grandparents, opening up about the horrors of war, and the love that can grow out of misery. And reminders about just how bad things can get – and how lucky we are – from those who lived through the Great Depression. All are lessons that never grow old, and that we could miss if we don’t stop to listen.

I want to warn you the images and the details of this next story are disturbing. They are heartbreaking. And they are important. The images from Shehzad Noorani tell the tale of the “children of the dust” in Bangladesh. Their reality is documented in the book “What Matters.” Edited by David Elliott Cohen, the collection of photo essays explores environmental, economic and other issues around the world. The photos of the children of the dust will show you what child labor is truly like…and why trying to rid the world of it altogether may not be the answer.

I have always been drawn to stories of World War II, specifically, those of Holocaust survivors. I am in awe of the strength, courage and in so many cases, the forgiveness that the Greatest Generation – both here and abroad – continues to show, decades later. The lessons for us are many, but one man’s final words from his own father may be some of the best and most difficult advice yet: Don’t carry a grudge in your heart and tolerate everybody.

It is amazing how such incomparable beauty can come of such dark times, but the inspirational stories of humanity from every war are many. There are also countless stories of love born out of tragedy. It was Herman Rosenblat’s father who offered those wise words more than half a century ago. The story of Herman and his wife, Roma, is one of loss, sadness, and, ultimately, of a love and a connection that was meant to be; a couple united by the worst of circumstances.  Mr and Mrs Rosenblat recently celebrated their 50th anniversary.

My grandfather was the ultimate packrat. After he passed, my mother, aunt and uncle were cleaning out the basement; they found decades-old cardboard TV boxes, magazines, even coupons. He and my grandmother were smart with their money yet so generous with all of us. Coupons were always a big deal with my Grampa – and still are with my Mom. I admit, I, too LOVE a good bargain – with or without a coupon. But for my Mimi and Grampa, the reasons were different: they grew up in the shadow of the Great Depression. They lived through WWII and rationing. They knew what it was like to truly worry. When I was pregnant, my Mimi told me how she had one maternity dress when she was pregnant with my aunt – one dress. But she probably never complained. She’s an amazing lady, one I love to listen to.

As we hear so many cries of a “second Great Depression”, the lessons of the first one are once again en vogue…lessons we should probably all pay a bit more attention to in the boom times.


Filed under: Erica Hill • Erica's News Note
October 9th, 2008
07:13 PM ET

Erica’s News Note: The Latest

Erica Hill
AC360° Correspondent

I love learning more about my family’s safety in the skies, yet the news never seems to be as reassuring as I’d like. Like the fact that the US is operating on a World War II-era air traffic network that sends us on longer, more circuitous routes wasting not only time, but billions in fuel. I wonder if this is also the reason our recent flight from Atlanta to LaGuardia took us for a scenic aerial tour of Connecticut before finally landing. Normally, the pilot gets on the horn to let you know the tower needs the plane to circle. On this flight, however, nada…just a bird’s eye view of the yachts which may or may not be there come spring.

There is a newer, more accurate system available. It has a $35 billion dollar price tag (hmmm…not far from AIG’s second bailout amount) and snazzy GPS, which I hear is all the rage with the kids these days. Backers say the system would triple air traffic capacity, improve safety, curb greenhouse emissions and – I hope you’re sitting down – reduce delays by at least half. WOW. So why aren’t we making the switch?

FULL POST


Filed under: Erica Hill • Erica's News Note
October 8th, 2008
07:54 PM ET

Erica’s News Note: Save the best for last

Erica Hill
AC360° Correspondent

Confession: I’m a little nervous about the teenage years, though not as worried as I would be if I had a daughter instead of a son. I was a teenage girl once, and while I wasn’t a complete horror show, I do remember those years…and I shudder a bit when I look back. Frankly, my behavior makes me love and respect my parents even more. While no teenager is a joy all of the time, I also know neither I or my sister were so terrible that my parents felt they couldn’t handle us.

Some parents don't have it so easy.

In Nebraska, a new law is making it a little easier for parents who do feel they can’t deal with their children, but this isn’t what lawmakers had in mind. The state’s "safe haven" law allows parents to anonymously hand over a child to a hospital and protects the parent from prosecution. One problem: the law was intended for infants, but it lacks an age limit, and parents know it. Since this bill became law in July, only four of the 17 children left by their parents are under the age of 10. One 14-year-old girl was even brought across state lines from Iowa.

FULL POST


Filed under: Erica Hill • Erica's News Note
October 7th, 2008
04:13 PM ET

Erica’s News Note: True American stories

Erica Hill
AC360° Correspondent

The most interesting people in this world are rarely the famous ones. Celebrities and politicians may grab more airtime and more headlines – and more of our money – but in my experience, the family next door normally holds the most unexpected, inspirational and interesting tales. Need a little convincing? Try “The Oxford Project.”

In 1984, Peter Feldstein photographed almost all of the 676 residents of Oxford, IA. Twenty years later, he came back to capture them on film again. But he wasn’t alone. Stephen G. Bloom, a journalism professor at the University of Iowa, was there this time to record the stories behind the faces. Bloom says too often, we don’t hear these stories because we in the media are too focused on the power players and the big names. "The idea was not to talk to the decision makers, but talk to the people whose lives are affected by the decision makers," he says. "My job in Oxford was to talk to the voiceless, to people who don't have any voice who are the backbone of America."

The candidates could all benefit from a trip to Oxford, Iowa – but it would have to be a true visit, not a stop on the campaign trail. There are residents just like the hundreds of folks in Oxford all across the country. Many feel forgotten. They are struggling and searching for answers. They are the hard-working Americans candidates so often invoke in their stump speeches, the same people who hear the words and are waiting for the results. Will they get any answers tonight?

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I think nearly every teenager goes through a Salvation Army/thrift store phase. I did. I also enjoyed the French version, the “Kilo Shop,” where you would pay by the kilo…though somehow the cool leather jackets from the 70s we all coveted in high school were exempt from the weight bargain.

Bargain shopping is more in fashion than ever, but it’s not about being hip or edgy, it’s about being smart in a down economy.

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With all this talk of the economy and our dwindling bank accounts, who couldn’t use a getaway? Preferably one on the cheap, of course. Sit back, relax and take in the beauty of fall from around the country, courtesy of our iReporters.


Filed under: Erica Hill • Erica's News Note
October 6th, 2008
06:28 PM ET

Erica’s News Note: Market mania, and a rescue

Erica Hill
AC360° Correspondent

As our own Jack Gray said in his blog today, it is another manic Monday…and that ain’t a good thing. I decided today it was time to suck it up and check my 401(k) – wow. It probably looks a lot like yours. I think I’ll hold off checking in on it for a while… a long while.

But worrying about a retirement decades away seems trivial when you learn the number of homeless families in Massachusetts is skyrocketing, just as the unforgiving cold of a New England winter is arriving. In just one year – from September 2007 to September 2008 – the number of homeless families living in Massachusetts motels has jumped form 17 to 550. There are another 1,800 families in shelters. The executive director of the Massachusetts Coalition for the Homeless calls the current combination of our sinking economy, rising energy costs, rising unemployment and a shortage of affordable housing a “perfect storm”. Never a welcome term in these parts.

On top of those sobering numbers, for the first time, the state is now tracking how many families are ending up homeless because of foreclosures.

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Our colleagues at CNN Money has been working overtime to make sure you have not only the most current information on the financial crisis, but also the most useful. We all have questions about how this continued downturn (some 60% of Americans believe we’re headed for the other “D” word: DEPRESSION), CNN Money has answers in a special report online.

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I can’t imagine the agony this mother felt as she clung to her daughter 25 feet in the air, stranded on a carnival ride. As her daughter, Gracie, is pleading, “Help, Mommy!” this Florida Mom has to decide if the best way to help her 2-year-old is to let her fall, hopefully into the arms of someone on the ground. And it turns out, little Gracie wasn’t the only child stuck high above the ground, six more children were found in the ride when Gracie’s mom was rescued.


Filed under: Erica Hill • Erica's News Note
October 3rd, 2008
05:08 PM ET

Erica’s news Note: On the menu

Erica Hill
AC360 Correspondent

A little over a year ago, we did a segment on my show titled “Does God Want You to Be Rich?” It’s a provocative question, with some very passionate views on both sides. The so-called Prosperity Gospel basically suggests that as part of the love God has for you, he wants you to prosper, and in many circles this prosperity is directly aligned with wealth and material goods. But could that push for prosperity be responsible for some of the foreclosures across America? Our sister publication, TIME, tackles this with the question “Did God want you to get that mortgage?”

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Melamine-tainted food and dairy products made in China have now turned up in Vietnam, Russia, Australia and the US. In Vietnam alone, the tally now stands at 18 tainted products from China and two other countries. Great. Now, the FDA says trace amounts of melamine are safe in most foods, except baby formula. Really? I’m thinking if it’s not good for the little ones, it certainly can’t be good for me, even in small doses. In my completely unscientific opinion, the less processed your food, the better. Not only is it better for you, you feel better, too.

Exhibit A: non-dairy powdered creamer. This stuff creeps me out. Not only does it give me terrible heartburn, but reading the list of ingredients makes my head spin. In addition to the unpronounceable on the label is the warning that this product is “Highly Flammable” – you’re instructed to keep this white stuff away from open flames and extreme heat. Riiiight, so we’ll put it right next to the scalding coffee pot slowly charring on the HOT plate. I feel safe.

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Most of us at AC360 were disgusted at the idea of the “fish pedicure” – who knew there was something even more disgusting than the cheese grater for your heels, the Ped Egg? I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but while the Ped Egg will live on (you can’t miss the display at my local drug store – right when you walk through the door, BAM!), the fish pedicure is no more. Why, you ask? This may come as a shock, but a state licensing board says the practice of guppies nibbling on your tootsies is unsanitary. I told you, shocking.
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Apparently, Bubbe isn’t the only one who knows the benefits of a little chicken soup – Chinese zookeepers are using the original cure-all as a stress reducer for a couple of overworked pandas.

It’s been a rough week for “Hope” and “Greatness”. The three year-old pandas are a bit overwhelmed by the surge in visitors during this week’s National Day holiday – on Wednesday alone, some 30,000 people flocked to the Wuhan Zoo. A thousand of them jammed the panda enclosure, shouting at the pandas. Gee, I wonder why the poor animals were pacing. I hope they added some matzo balls to the soup – I think that’s where the real power lies in the chicken soup.


Filed under: Erica Hill • Erica's News Note
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