October 27th, 2014
11:40 PM ET

Hawaiian town threatened by lava flow

The town of Pahoa is in the path of a massive lava flow. It's moving at 10 – 15 yards per hour and swallowing just about everything in its way. Paul Vercammen has the latest as residents fear for their homes.

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Filed under: Hawaii • Paul Vercammen
May 14th, 2014
10:28 PM ET

Dangerous battle to contain San Diego area wildfires

At least seven massive wildfires forced the evacuations of tens of thousands of people around the San Diego area. The evacuation order includes a nuclear power plant, part of a U.S. Marine base and the Legoland amusement park. Paul Vercammen reports on firefighters battling to control the fires while also dealing with dangerous heat.

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Filed under: Paul Vercammen • Wildfires
April 30th, 2014
10:22 PM ET

Hundreds of firefighters battling Southern California wildfire

Strong winds and high temperatures are helping to spread a fast moving wildfire that started in the San Bernadino National Forest today. More than 500 firefighters are battling the flames. Paul Vercammen reports the wind is so strong it is keeping firefighting planes and helicopters grounded.

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Filed under: Paul Vercammen • Wildfires
July 2nd, 2010
12:28 PM ET

Field Report: 'A Whale' in the Gulf

Paul Vercammen
CNN Senior Producer

Correspondent Ed Lavandera, photo journalist Phil Littleton and I got onto "A Whale" by a basket or "man hoist" hanging on like kids on a playground cargo net. A Whale is three and a half football fields wide, a football field long, seven stories above water and three below. They've reconfigured it in Portugal with gates or inlet openings called jaws and the ship's brain trust thinks it can suck up and skim gobs of oil in unprecedented numbers. They say the skimming capacity could be 250 times of a small fishing boat trying to skim in the gulf.

When you walk around the monstrous vessel, you get a sense for the international community's will to help. The ship is owned by Taiwanese tycoon, and run by a 32 man crew from India, and was built in South Korea in 2010.

We navigated through the entrails of the ship, rainwater dripping in dark tunnels like something out of the "Alien" movies. The crew, polite and enthusiastic, thinks they can be a huge help in the Gulf by skimming all that oil through the gates.

Now what they want is permission to turn "A Whale" lose on an ecological disaster and start skimming.


Filed under: Ed Lavandera • Gulf Oil Spill • Paul Vercammen
March 20th, 2009
12:18 PM ET

Dispatch from Foreclosureville

[cnn-photo-caption image=http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2009/images/03/20/art.new.home.jpg caption="The Lepley family's new home, recently purchased for $250,000 once valued at more than $550,000."]

[cnn-photo-caption image=http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2009/images/03/20/art.newhome.family.jpg caption="Derrick, and Mary Ann Lepley with their daughter, Melody."]

[cnn-photo-caption image=http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2009/images/03/20/art.home.sell.jpg caption="The house that the Aceves family is trying to short sell."]

Paul Vercammen
CNN Senior Producer

The two-story homes on Fir Circle in an upscale Lake Elsinore, California neighborhood tell two stunningly different tales.

Some are vacant, bank-owned and beat-up inside.

Others are filled with kids' laughter and the sounds of boxes unpacking and families moving in.

Mary Ann Lepley, her husband Derrick and their two-year-old daughter Melody have been in their 3,000 square-foot home on Fir Circle for almost three months.


Filed under: Economy • Housing Market • Paul Vercammen • Road to Rescue
March 18th, 2009
06:51 PM ET

A journey to a job

[cnn-photo-caption image=http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2009/images/03/18/art.murietta.motorcycle.jpg caption="Jim Cheatley on his motorcycle."]

[cnn-photo-caption image=http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2009/images/03/18/art.murietta.plant.jpg caption="Inside the SRS plant."]

Paul Vercammen
CNN Senior Producer

Call it a journey to a job. Jim Cheatley rode his motorcycle from his San Clemente, Calif. home, through the north San Diego County countryside on the windy Ortega Highway, past the Eucalyptus trees, crossed into Riverside County and parked his bike at SRS Engineering.

The married father with a six-year-old son walked into the industrial park, resume in hand, and to apply for work with SRS Engineering.

“It was a great ride from San Clemente to here,” Cheatley smiled. “No problems on the road, beautiful.”


Filed under: Paul Vercammen • Road to Rescue
March 17th, 2009
05:05 PM ET

Can green tortillas create new jobs?

Program Note: For more on Alonso Arellano's green tortillas, tune in to AC360° tonight at 10 p.m. ET.

[cnn-photo-caption image=http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2009/images/03/17/art.tortilla2.jpg caption="Alonso Arellano in his Nopaltilla factory. He says the demand for these green tortillas is greater than the supply."]

[cnn-photo-caption image=http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2009/images/03/17/art.tortilla1.jpg]

Paul Vercammen
CNN Senior Producer

Alonso Arellano believes the green tortillas flopping onto a conveyor belt in his small factory are their own economic stimulus in a clear plastic package. The tortillas, called Nopaltillas, are made with powder from the nopal or prickly pear cactus, renowned in Mexico for its healthy properties.

Arellano says right now the demand for these tortillas is greater than supply.

[cnn-photo-caption image=http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2009/images/03/17/art.tortilla4.jpg]

“You know instead of giving all this money to AIG executives, they should just give it to me to invest,” Arellano says. “I could take that money, rebuild tortilla factories that are struggling in this economy. And that would create jobs.”

Arellano is one of those restless entrepreneurs who runs around acting like he’s just glad to be breathing.

And he is. Arellano almost took his last breath at the age of 11 while visiting the United States on vacation from Mexico.

“I always had this pain in my legs, and they started hurting real bad so my mom took me to the doctor,” Arellano explains, “They did some tests and found I had 90 percent blockage in the artery near my heart.”

Arellano underwent heart surgery and never returned to Mexico.

But Arellano still clings to much of his Mexican heritage – including the belief that the prickly pear cactus is a cure-all.

“Growing up all I ever heard was how good the prickly pear is for you,” Arellano explains “They say it helps reduce cholesterol, that it’s high in dietary fiber and it’s only 50 calories for one tortilla,”

[cnn-photo-caption image=http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2009/images/03/17/art.tortilla3.jpg]

Now only four people work for Arellano making tortillas, but he says that number could grow. Arellano is in talks about partnerships with a major health food store chain, a northern California distributor that ships to 150 stores, and a Latino supermarket chain.

“If any one of these hits I will go from shipping boxes of tortillas to palettes,” he says. Most of his sales are from stores.

But he also sells the Nopaltillas on the internet for $1.49 a dozen, and $2.99 for three dozen.

Arellano says he tested and fiddled with the recipe for months.

Seems like he got the formula right. Take a bite out of one of these Nopaltillas without anything extra on it and it tastes great plain.

It's nice to see something as simple as a green tortilla can inspire a little consumer spending.

Filed under: Paul Vercammen • Road to Rescue
March 16th, 2009
11:14 PM ET

Can a little wind help cure the economy?

[cnn-photo-caption image=http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2009/images/03/16/wind2.jpg caption="Technicians climb wind turbines in Tehachapi, CA."]

[cnn-photo-caption image=http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2009/images/03/16/wind1.jpg caption="Wind Turbines in Tehachapi, CA."]

Paul Vercammen
CNN Senior Producer

Tehachapi, California. It blows here, hard enough it seems to strip feathers from chickens, or stiff enough to straighten out in two minutes some housewife's curly hairdo that took two hours to coif.

As local legend goes, they started wind power up here in the early 1980s, building crude erector sets with propellers and converting all that spinning into energy.

Tehachapi is about a two hour-drive North of Los Angeles and a cultural divide away.

People here don't ride in black Limos. They drive dusty trucks.

They don't take a dip in the Pacific. They dip chewing tobacco.

[cnn-photo-caption image=http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2009/images/03/16/wind3.jpg caption="Mike Mesier is VP for Operations and Training for Airstreams, a company that trains folks to fix wind turbines."]

Tehachapi and neighboring hamlets are full of McGyvers, men and women who can fix anything and create art with a screwdriver.

They say Mike Goldsworthy can make a cabinet so useful and beautiful, you can admire your image in the reflection on the outside, and on the inside store the china and the plastic cups from concession stand.

But when the economy tanked, cabinetmaking became a luxury. Goldsworthy couldn't find a job so he threw caution to the relentless wind and started climbing.

Now this craftsman who owns mules and horses tends to his wind turbines up in the air, making sure the herds of them that dot these hills are healthy.

"Look out my office window," laughs Goldsworthy, standing on a hill carpeted with grass that's mid-March green and lined with wind turbines that sing when the blowing brings them to life.

"It's fantastic. Who would not want to work out here in the air. You got 360 degree views. Beautiful weather. Sunshine. Occasionally you get snowed on. No biggie."

Well if the recovery needs to officially start somewhere, why not here in the rolling, wind-whipped hills with Goldsworthy.

Some predict in 20 years, 20 percent of America's electricity demands will be provided by wind which means more Mike Goldsworthy-types are needed.

There's more wind turbines to be built.

And for anyone anywhere who ever cursed the wind in their backyard for rattling the windows or snapping the flag, there could be something in there for them - a job.

Filed under: Economy • Energy • Paul Vercammen • Road to Rescue
January 16th, 2009
03:15 PM ET

Anything helps, even if you're broke

[cnn-photo-caption image=http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2009/LIVING/01/15/cancer.wedding/art.smiles.cnn.jpg caption="Jessica Keenan, 34, is getting married January 24, thanks to the Dream Foundation."]

Paul Vercammen
CNN Senior Producer

You may not be stone cold broke, but you are watching your money. You want to help terminally ill adults, but how are you going to do it without writing a hand-cramping check?

Check out Dream Foundation - your donated frequent flier miles, hotel points or corporate connections can ease the pain of dying adults and their families.

Help send Ed and his wife off to Florida. Bone cancer is expected to kill the 41-year-old Missouri man in six months or less. They could use a hotel room.

There are plenty of wishes to grant on the Dream Foundation website.

A Quincieniera celebration for a daughter who sticks by her dying mother.

A woman who is a Lakers fan and just wants to go to one game before she joins late great announcer Chick Hearn in heaven.

Maybe you know companies that would love to help.

I showed up at a Beverly Hills boutique, Monique Llhuillier, which went all-out for a brave young woman.

What a funny scene: there I am under-dressed alpha male CNN producer with a gaggle of bridesmaids watching their girl try on wedding dresses in this upscale store.

Really cool to see how Dream Foundation hooked up Jessica, a stage four breast cancer patient, with an awesome wedding.

Hey, even a 25 dollar check helps out.

Multiply that times four other people donating the same amount and you have a good start on the snacks for the Quincieniera.

Know any cool D.J.s in So Cal?

Anything helps.

Editor’s Note: Read Paul’s story on how the Dream Foundation helped a breast cancer patient plan her wedding.

Filed under: Health Care • Paul Vercammen
December 5th, 2008
11:06 AM ET

With OJ, expect the unexpected

[cnn-photo-caption image=http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2008/CRIME/12/05/oj.simpson.sentencing/art.closings.jpg]

Paul Vercammen
CNN Senior Producer

Today at 9a PT (noon ET) Sentencing in the O.J. Simpson trial begins

On October 3, a jury convicted Simpson, 61, and co-defendant Clarence "C.J." Stewart of 12 charges, including conspiracy to commit a crime, robbery, assault and kidnapping with a deadly weapon.

Their convictions stem from a September 13, 2007, fracas at the Palace Station Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas. Prosecutors alleged that Simpson led a group of men who used threats, guns and force to take sports memorabilia from dealers Bruce Fromong and Al Beardsley.

Length estimated: one to two hours

Courtroom insiders expect closer to one hour as Judge Glass stays true to her no-nonsense form.

Besides defense and prosecution lawyers, another expected speaker is former prosecution witness and alleged victim Bruce Fromong.

In this bizarre tale of Men Behaving Badly, memorabilia dealer Fromong will testify FOR Simpson, saying the crime does not warrant a long sentence.

The prosecution will call no one.

Simpson for now is not expected to speak, unless asked to by the judge.

Judge Jackie Glass is expected to be tough on Simpson. There was palpable tension between Glass and the defense team all trial long. Glass has called Simpson arrogant and cut him zero slack in his legal proceedings.

Glass has tremendous leeway under Nevada State law to impose a variety of senteces ranging from eligible for parole in six years (according to several sources) to life in prison.


Filed under: Crime & Punishment • Paul Vercammen
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