Thursday, September 24, 2009

Terrorism Plots In The U.S., More Fun At The U.N., Family Pics Interpreted As Child Porn, Possible HIV Vaccine, And John McCain Interview

Hi everyone. A lot going on tonight. As I often (okay, basically never) do, this evening I sat down to watch my local news. Did I find the usual nice normal story about the latest shooting and/or stabbing? No! Terrorism has come to my neck of the woods! Well, almost. As we learn from Anderson Cooper, American Michael Finton converted to Islam while in prison, became a John Walker Lindh wannabe, and just tried to blow up a federal courthouse in Springfield, Illinois. Eep!

If that's not bad enough, we also learn that in Texas, a Jordanian in the US illegally, was plotting to give a Dallas office tower the WMD treatment. WTF? Is this crazy terrorist day? Did I miss the memo? Okay, this all didn't just go down today. From Jeanne Meserve we learn the details of how the FBI investigated and thwarted both plots. Normally all we hear about is government screw ups, so total gold star to them.

Like celebrity deaths, I guess news about crazy terrorists also comes in threes. Today Afghan immigrant Najibullah Zazi was charged with conspiracy to use WMDs. We're shown EXCLUSIVE stills of him buying stuff at a convenience store. From Susan Candiotti we learn that this allegedly included hydrogen peroxide, a shower cap, hair rollers, and nail polish. Apparently, this stuff is used to make bombs, but um, hair rollers? Maybe he likes to look pretty while he's being an evil doer.

For discussion of all this, we're joined by Peter Bergen and former FBI specialist Don Clark. They talk bombs, and then ponder what's up with all these U.S. terror plots lately. We all know that Britain has a problem with homegrown terrorism, but the conventional wisdom has been that America is cool in that area. Peter notes we might have reason to worry that isn't so. Or maybe it's just a coincidence or something. Either way, sleep tight! Le sigh.

Because one day of U.N. fun just isn't enough, we now transition to Israel's prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, getting a little pissy that Holocaust-denying Mahmoud Ahmadinejad was even allowed to speak. To lay down some analysis on this bad boy, David Gergen and Reza Aslan are stepping up to the plate. The Gerg is happy Netanyahu brought this stuff to the table, but also believes the U.N. is a place where everyone should get a say--even batshit insane, members-only-jacket-wearing dictators.

Reza pretty much agrees with the Gerg, but also wants to point out that Netanyahu isn't exactly a member of the U.N. fan club, so there are several thing going on here. They then start talking about Obama's foreign policy and the Gerg admits he's had concerns the prez isn't strong enough. May I remind you of the POTUS's awesome Jedi-like fly-killing skills? Also, he totally didn't hesitate to take out those pirates. (That seems like forever ago, doesn't it?)

Change-up now to the specific topic of Iran, with Reza noting that the priorities of the U.S. and Israel differ when dealing with the country. He thinks the U.S. needs Iran to accomplish our other foreign policy goals. The Gerg, on the other hand, thinks it's all going to be about the nukes. "I believe that the central purpose of what we're going to be focused on as an international community is whether the Iranians are willing to freeze their nuclear weapons development," he tells us.

But Reza has heard something he does not like: "David, it's not a freeze of a nuclear weapons program. It's a freeze of uranium enrichment. Let's not conflate the two. These are two different issues." Ooh, tiny polite snap! The Gerg counters that they're not separate issues, and is about to go on, but then says, "let's leave it there for now." What? No! It was just getting good. Argh! Don't get me wrong, I hate arguing, but the Gerg and Reza wouldn't do that. Instead we would have had an intelligent debate between two people who don't fall into the tired left vs. right spectrum. How often does that happen on cable news? Never. And it didn't happen tonight either.

Transitioning now to an outrageous story of how one family practically had their lives ruined just because they took pictures of their children. A.J. and Lisa Demaree snapped some normal bath time photos of their three little girls, took them to be developed at Wal-Mart, and were promptly accused of engaging in child pornography. We're shown the pictures (kids faces are blurred out) and they are completely innocent.

But what happened to A.J. and Lisa was not innocent at all. They join us live and we learn they were placed on a sex offenders list and had their children temporarily taken away. Lisa was even suspended from her job for a year. All this and they did NOTHING wrong. They're now suing the city, state, and Wal-Mart. I fully support protecting children, but it's kinda terrifying how easily the state can just take your kids from you. Hopefully they won't have any long term issues due to being separated from their parents.

For the legal lowdown, we've got Jeffrey Toobin, who differs with the Demaree's lawyer in that he believes Wal-Mart does have a responsibility to report questionable pictures. I gotta go with Jeff on this one. As much as I hate Wal-Mart, I think they're the least at fault here. But Jeff does note he thinks the people at the store and the Peoria PD must have perverted minds themselves to think the pictures were erotica. True dat. The lesson in all of this? According to Jeff (and what I wrote in my notes while watching the Demaree's interview) is use a digital camera.

Next up, swine-flu-survivor Sanjay Gupta is here to talk about a possible HIV vaccine. That would be awesome! What's interesting is that the vaccine is a combination of two other vaccines that previously failed. Also of note, is that because of mutation, there might actually be different vaccines for specific parts of the world. Complicated stuff. In any regard, availability is years away, but it's a good step.

On now to "The Big 360 Interview." Fancy-pants graphic! Anderson got himself an EXCLUSIVE with non president John McCain. In all honesty, there's not much here, but I'll expand on that in a second. For now, let's skip to the part where Anderson brings up his new favorite topic of how we're nation building in Afghanistan. And I say that without snark, by the way. You keep pressing, baby! However long it takes until this mission is better defined.

McCain responds, like Lindsey Graham the other night, by saying we need to first get the security situation under control before we can progress on other fronts. "unless we do what we did in the surge in Iraq, which is clear, hold and secure areas, then it's very difficult to defeat an insurgency," he says. I'm sorry, this is crap. Everyone paying attention knows that the "success" of the surge was brought on by a multitude of factors (such as putting insurgents on the payroll) and was not strictly due to a troop increase. are we going to replicate those factors in Afghanistan? And do we want to? And dude, where is the follow up?

Anderson then reads a quote from McCain that basically says we shouldn't send men to fight a war that the public isn't behind. He brings up the recent poll numbers on the war and wonders if Afghanistan will "end up being, once again, the incredible efforts of our troops in the field bearing this thing alone." I got this one. Go out on the street and grab five people. Ask them to first give you a summary of the last episode of "Dancing with the Stars." Then ask them what they know about what's currently happening in Afghanistan. There's your answer. The troops are already bearing it alone.

Okay, then there's some more stuff, but it's all very talking point-esque. So on to the lightening round! Yes, for real. Speaking of "Dancing with the Stars," our anchor wants to know what McCain thought about Delay's (child-frightening) performance. McCain says he actually spared himself from seeing it, which leads Anderson to recommend he hit the YouTube. I will take that to mean that the Silver Fox is not a big fan of the senator from Arizona.

Our next stroke of lightening is a question about Ghadhafi's tent, specifically, uh, what's it like in there? They both chuckle and McCain says "bizarre," but let's back this train up, shall we? Okay, the other day they led with the very serious outrage (OUTRAGE) over Ghadhafi pitching his tent and now it's a joke? I think you need to choose, guys. Anyway, like I said, I wasn't hugely impressed with this interview, but I do give big props that Anderson is actually doing interviews nightly now. Variety is the spice of life. I won't love them all.

Finally tonight, David Mattingly joins us to talk about a dead census worker, which sounds like it could turn into something bigger. But I'm tired and am going to just wrap things up. The show was good again. It felt like a lot was covered and not much ridiculousness. The ratings last night were pretty good, so...lock in the formula, 360! I think you finally got it. (Watch, now tomorrow we'll get 30 minutes of speculative sensationalism.) That'll do it. Until we meet again.

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