Wednesday, March 25, 2009

The War Next Door from El Paso

The AC360 broadcast from the El Paso, Texas/ Juarez, Mexico border on Wednesday began with Anderson Cooper ticking off the chilling facts.
• Every year Mexican cartels smuggle 40 million dollars worth of drugs into America.
• 6,500 people were slaughtered last year in the cartel wars.
• 90% of the cocaine consumed in America comes through Mexico.
• 95% of the weapons the drug cartels use come from the United States.
Drew Griffin took a look at the Mexican drug trade and its violent aftermath. There was talk of the scrutiny police now provide at gun shows in the Southwest and the death of a commander in Juarez and then his boss, the police director, both gunned down by the Mexican drug cartel.The follow up discussion was with author Rusty Fleming, who shared a clip on how cartels smuggle large quantities of drugs across the border from his documentary 'Drug Wars...Silver or Lead'. And Arvin West, Hudspeth County sheriff, who has made quite a name for himself appearing on Hannity & Combs, Laura Ingraham and giving testimony before the appropriations committee for Homeland Security last year, as well as being profiled in Fleming's movie.
Randi Kaye reported on a kidnapping story of the Hall family, from San Diego, who were traveling in Mexico. The family were headed back to the border hauling a type of motor home that was covered in racing car stickers. Just the sort of conspicuous lure that would label them as affluent by highway bandits. After they were stripped of their money, ID's, personal belongings... basically everything they had, they were left in a ditch thinking that they were going to be killed. Their lives were spared but what a horrible memory to have to live with. And to be still living in the same house that was on the ID's that the bandits stole just sent chills down my spine.
This story struck a cord with me because when we lived in SE Asia, we used to travel into the countryside which was poor and unpoliced, much like Mexico. The US Embassy discouraged these trips because Americans were presumed to be affluent (like they are in Mexico) and prime targets. We were told if we were to travel to always do it during the day and in caravans. We didn't tow large, expensive trailers but thinking back our string of 5 or 6 company owned Mercedes sedans probably wasn't any less conspicuous.Tom Foreman backtracked the drugs that enter the US to their origin in his report on Wednesday night. A typical scenario would be an order goes out to Columbia for a ton of cocaine. It is hidden inside a container semi along with coffee. The shipment is driven through Central America and also can possibly diverted to a boat that bypasses any problem areas. Eventually it makes it's way to a Mexican port where it is offloaded and then continues it's journey toward the border by highway. When it reaches the border it is stopped until an optimum time is determined for attempting to cross without detection.
Once across the border the semi will begin a process of deliveries in various cities across the county. The locals cut the cocaine they have purchased with talcum powder and turn one ton into five tons. Within 48 hours the cocaine is selling on the street supplying hundreds of dealers in dozens of American towns.
Tom Foreman filed a second report on how the money earned from the drug sales gets back into Mexico. He said some is simply smuggled in, but the cartels also have been known to buy consumer goods, for example large appliances, ship them back to Mexico and sell them, thus laundering the drug money.Next up was an interview with Frank Burton, counter terrorism analyst, on how dangerous travel into Mexico is, with a focus on the resort areas. In a nutshell he said it is safe if you use common sense, don't leave the resort after hours, stay out of taxis and keep a cool head. He also said much of the violence is specifically along the border. There has been violence in Mexico City but mostly on a high profile level. AC mentioned that he had been in Baja a few weeks ago and felt perfectly safe.Jill Dougherty reported on her interview with Secretary of State Hillary Clinton today in Mexico City. The SS said we're not doing a very good job of stemming the tide of drugs nor of convincing Americans that drugs are not a wise choice. She said we need more treatment programs to help break this vicious cycle of supply and demand.If you are a recent AC fan you probably are not familiar with the newsman's fascination with holes in the ground. I swear they bring out the little boy in him. It all began back in 2006 when he climbed into that tunnel outside of San Diego. Then there was the one in Nogales that caught his attention and the most famous one of all in Afghanistan, which housed Saddam Hussein. When he started talking tonight about the drainage tunnels that can take you from the border into the center of El Paso I said 'don't do it Anderson', and he didn't. But tomorrow is another day!

Tom Foreman brought us the 360 Bulletin with reports on the President's meetings with Dems on the budget, Wall Street's good day, the record floods in North Dakota and John Hope Franklin's passing at the age of 94.
I think most of you will agree with me that Wednesday's AC360 was about as good as it gets. They finally got out of the political/economic/faux breaking news rut that they've been mired in for months for an in depth look at a serious, getting worse by the minute situation on our southern border. Bravo and *fingers crossed* that Thursday night will be just as good, if not better.

The amazing Julie found a few pictures on Flickr that are new to me. They were taken in Akrotiri, Cyprus on July 20, 2006. I looked back into the ATA archives and found a post that mentions that night's program airing from Cyprus. It looks to me, from browsing the archives, that it was part of an extended stay in the Middle East for AC360. Can you imagine a few weeks on location these days? Seems like they struggle to stay put for more than 2 nights.

We've got one more night of AC360 from the border to look forward to. If it's anything like Wednesday I'll be glad to give up McDreamy for field Anderson. Until tomorrow. ~Phebe

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All Things Anderson is a blog dedicated to CNN's AC360 and its host Anderson Cooper.


On_Love_Street_With_Jim_Morrison said...

36o last nite was FANTASTIC. It was the best I have seen in years. When 360 is good it is really good.

Randi Kaye's piece was very scary. That poor family. Its just awful what happened to them, but luckly they got out alive.

I found Tom Foreman's piece on how the drugs make it to the US very interesting.

I loved that they showed Anderson in that tunnel from 2006. I'm surprised he wasn't crawling in those drainage tunnels. When he was talking about them I was sure he had been in them earlier in the day. I bet tomorrow he'll find something to craw in. I think they do bring out the little boy in him.

When 360 is good its really good. I hope tonite is just as good. Last nite is a perfect example of what 360 can do if they just put their minds to it. Field Anderson is always great. Its nice to see him away from his anchor desk.

aries moon said...

An excellent 360 last night - the amount of info that was packed into the hour about the Mexican drug war was really impressive - the program managed to be very thorAn excellent 360 last night - the amount of info that was packed into the hour about the Mexican drug war was really impressive - thorough and sobering without being excessively sensational in its presentation of the facts. It was also clear from the outset how engaged and energized Anderson was and how he remained that way throughout the entire program - there is something about field work that really brings out the best in him. Tom Foreman was working pretty hard himself - he had several reports going. The absence of panels and the nearly singular focus on the drug war made this one of the best broadcasts of 360 in quite a while. I was really struck by Anderson's remark about how the cartels now have their own intelligence and surveillance methods - clearly this is going to be a difficult fight and its outcome uncertain - I hope we will get frequent updates on this story from 360.

Anyone who might be thinking about taking AC's advice and going on a trip to Mexico should probably remember that he said in that Outside Magazine interview that his perspective on dangerous areas of travel is somewhat warped!

@Austin, 3:05 am on the other post - thanks for your excellent comments and support - I thought I was all alone in my opinion here. :)

Anonymous said...

The show was very good last night, but I wonder why we didn't get a new piece from Anderson?

OregonMJW said...

Not that I was ever a fan of “Anatomy,” but I’d be willing to give up Daily Show repeats for the 2nd hour of AC360 if they could be like last night!

I totally echo the already posted comments praising the absence of panels! And, unlike the Road locations, virtually the entire show was about the location – even clips from the Prez.

Anderson was just totally on top of his game. Bravo to everyone; I can’t wait until tonight’s show. (You’ve got a bar to meet now; don’t blow it.)

It was instructive to see the tiny little footprint they were making there by the wall. Talk about traveling light. It doesn’t take a village, apparently. Hm-mmm, does this mean that a really great program can be executed from a remote location with relative ease? Does it? Hm-mm?

I so enjoyed that tunnel clip they played – seems like not long ago that the original was broadcast. You’re right, Phebe, the boy comes out. It’s not just tunnels. Walking and talking is classic Anderson. Looking back at the poor camera guy carrying that huge camera & light rig – “Let’s dig deeper.” You can almost hear the guy groan. Love it.

Let’s review: compelling subject; relevant location; no panels; perfectly integrated pieces by not only Anderson, but by some of CNN’s best reporters - who are also on location and on topic; all seamlessly sewn together by an energized, totally engaging host in casual clothing! Wow! Why didn’t somebody think of this before?

Anonymous said...

There is yet another Anerson Cooper site closing down,this time it is the Gunmetal Grey one over at Yahoo Groups.
For the past three or four years there used to be so many sites about him,now there are hardly any left.

Anonymous said...

Feisty comments from yesterday's blog! As far as tonight's show, you will get more great stories. There were a couple that we couldn't finish for last night that are just amazing, including Gary Tuchman's. Most of our reporters and producers will post blogs today if you want to check out the previews. I know it drives many of you crazy when we rerun pieces, but the stories we rerun are so great and not everyone who tuned in last night got to see it the first time. It's definitely relevant to the story so that's kind of the mindset behind it.
The moment of the show that stuck out to me was the sheriff saying his counterpart was found with his head in an ice chest. I was floored, especially because he was so matter of fact about it. I think, judging by Anderson's face and response, he felt the way I did. How sad is it that this is the world that sheriff lives in?
Hope you all have a great Thursday!

Anonymous said...

Great to hear from you, Kay! I found last night's program outstanding. Thank you, and Anderson, for all the work that the crew of 360 does.

Anonymous said...

Now this is what I had hoping and waiting for for what seems like ages,please say that our old 360 is back,and well,our old Anderson,too?

So much politics,doom and gloom,so many panels(enough please),this is a refershing welcome change.
It is like the 360 I used to know and first started watching.To be honest,lately,I was not sure I even recognized the show at all,it has drifted so far off to,who knows what.
At times,I wonder if it just Campbell Brown again,just exchanging hosts.They really need to mix up producers of these two shows,not make them just a repeat of each other.

Let us dare to hope we get more like last night,have they finally woken up over there,or are we simply getting our hopes up yet again?The former,I hope.

See it CAN be done,CNN,if you really want to,that is.

That program Anderson did down in the tunnel was one of my favorites.
Hard to believe it was 3 years ago.

Em said...

Loved it and knew Anderson would find a hole to climb down or something. Like the rest of you, I'm surprised we didn't get a guided tour from the drain pipe to City Hall.

@Kay please tell Anderson to stay out of the drain pipe! As fascinating as his trips into various holes and tunnels are, these cartels seem to mean business!

Love the picture of Anderson, Charlie, and (I believe) Neil with the Marines. Those three have produced some of my favorite AC360 segments. My apologizes for not mentioning other staff members who made these programs possible. You are appreciated,I just can't identify you in a picture!

Gotta run to another stimulus meeting...can't wait for tonight's program! Thank you AC360 for a most excellent Wednesday night!

Anonymous said...

I remember Anderson saying back on his Larry King interiew,that some of the people who work with him have been there for years.It really does seem to be the case with Neil,Phil,and Charlie,doesn't it?
Seems like they make a great team, and work well together,and they have done some outstanding work as a team,giving us great stories these past few years,
Hurricane Katrina and PIP just to name a few.
One thing that really sticks in my mind,and I am not exactly sure why, is Charlie Moore grabbing onto that STOP sign during Katrina,to keep the boat from tipping.
I hope we get to see more of field Anderson and these guys throughout the rest of the year.It really IS them at their finest,and I miss all those blog reports we used to get from the 'guys' during PIP.

Oh,and a note to Anderson,if you must go through some tunnels in the near future,and I do not think you ever met a tunnel you did not like, or have to explore,at least wear a danged helmet or hard hat.I could have smacked your head off back in 2006 when you were crawling all about down there with nothing on your head.LOL

Kristien said...

I really enjoyed last night's show, eventhough for the most part the stories were nothing to be happy about!

I agree with Aries Moon: lots of info was given and the guests all had interesting things to say.

Randi's piece was scary! Going through something like that would put me of going anywhere for life!

@KayI'm looking forward to Gary's piece, they are always interesting.

Can I just say that I loved Anderson's sweater, looks like he's into sweaters lately, lol.

Well I hope that tonight's show will be even better, it will be the last one for me for a week, I'm off to New York (yay for me, lol)!

Thanks Phebe.

Phebe said...

It's great to hear from Kay again and I'm really looking forward to another great program tonight.

@Kristien, safe travels and enjoy your trip and that very special event!! ♥

@Em, I emailed you a thank you for the card & also a question several days ago. Since I didn't get an answer I assume I used the wrong email addy yet again. Could you email me soon? ♥

Anonymous said...

The situation along the Mexico/US Border Towns is gut wrenchingly frightening, not to mention how horrifically violent the killings have become in recent years. Unfortunately this situation did not just escalate overnight, and obviously neither is this just isolated to Mexico. Decade after decade South and Central America has been notorious for Naco-Trafficking, hostage-takings and hijacking, the list that goes on forever. This catastrophe has so many complicated layers of crisis that the US Administration and Mexican Government have to contend with, there will never be a one stop-shop solution to overcome this Issue.

A handful of contentious issues the Administration have to contend with:
1. Better Gun Control laws in the US to curtail the supply of weaponry and artillery accessible to these Mexican Cartels.
2. Immobilize the escalation of this insatiable demand for drugs in the US, which by the way is at its worst in modern history, and has consistently fuelled this fire over multiple decades.
3. Enforcement and Border Security – the US Border States can not cope with this issue alone. Send down the National Guard I say. Nip this demon in the bud, right at its core!
4. Distribution Networks – the local LEOs are just not equipped to handle these Cartel Networks. DHLS needs to step up to the plate here and make this a National Priority, or as high a priority as that of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.
5. Cease their assets and prosecute these Cartels and Warlords to the fullest extent of the Law. Sever the opportunity for them to EVER get back in to business.
The challenges to content with this Catastrophe are massive, but we can overcome them. Our Government as well as the Mexican Govt. must come together on ALL Levels, and with every resource they’ve got, and we will get through this. We have to. This is not an option. We have no Choice if we want our Countries back from the grasp of this toxic NACO-addiction.

CNN is certainly spending a lot of time and resources on this story, and rightfully so. I know we will probably continue to receive additional Status Updates and continued “Dispatches” on this situation, as milestones are reached on the progress to overcome this issue.

Tedi B said...

It was nice to see "field" Anderson again. I hope he is able to get out and tell more stories.

I'd LOVE to see a real honest to goodness follow up of New Orleans. It would be cool to see a whole show dedicated to all the things that have progressed and the things that haven't.

Seems like the story of how things are coming along after the tsunami would be good too.

Anonymous said...

Loved loved loved the show last night. Every story was different, yet relevant to the overall topic. We got the story from many different points-of-view. Just great! I was at the CNN Center yesterday so I was extra hyped up about 360 and it did not fail to deliver. Great birthday present 360 team :)!

Nebraska Fan said...

Loved, loved, loved last night's show. It is great when he's on location just focusing on where he's at. I especially like the shots that show him from a distance, because then you can really see that it's just a few of them standing there with a camera, which is fascinating to me to see how they put it all together.


Have a wonderful time on your trip! I have always wanted to go to New York and as soon as I find someone that will go with me, I'll be there!

snooks said...

360 was terrific last night - I love seeing Anderson in the field - his reporting as well as those of Randy Kaye, Tom Foreman, Drew Griffin, etc were great

Here's hoping that tonight's program is equally as good

Loved seeing Anderson in the tunnel again and in light of the current situation of the drug cartels it was appropriate

The violence being commited by these drug cartels is barbaric and the corruption from the the Mexican officals are problems that may take years to solve

Kudos to all at 360 both those in front and behind the scenes for airing a powerful report

Laurie Beth said...

Excellent recapping again, Phebe. Thank you so much.

I also thought the show was outstanding...the problem with that is that I'm kind of speechless about it.

I am familiar with Anderson's fascination with climbing into holes, never *do* grow up, do they?

I'm wondering...should we be speculating as to whether we *can* travel safely in Mexico, or whether we *should* be? If one of the major contributing factors is the corruption and lack of cooperation in the Mexican government, should we really be supporting the tourism industry? If Americans, Canadians and even Europeans all of a sudden stop vacationing in Mexico, that might get them to jump. Boycotts work if they're widespread and well-orchestrated.

Please tell me our beloved reporter--and his crewmembers--had bulletproof vests on under their jackets.

@Anon 10:31 AM, Gunmetal Gray is a bit outdated. It's from the Mole days and hadn't been updated since before the advent of 360 (the bio says that the webmaster hoped he'd get his own show soon). It was cute that it was still there, but I can understand why it's being removed since it had been abandoned for a good six or seven years.

Kay, when Anderson had that long pause after the guy confirmed that the chief of police had been beheaded, I was wondering whether he was shocked or someone was talking in his ear. It's a bit disturbing that it's the former rather than the latter because he's seen and heard so much over the years, when something shocks him you know it's got to be bad. Just a measuring stick for how unprecedented this situation is. Thanks for commenting here and for Twittering with us; you're awesome.

I agree with Tedi B--once this whole thing is wrapped up and you guys get some rest, I think NOLA deserves a good solid two hour show...maybe even a week of one-hour shows (since in order to prep for a two hour show you'd probably have to be there several days anyway).

Kristien said...

@Phebe: thanks, I will and I will! xxx

@Nebraska fan: thanks. I decided to go before I had a travel compagnon. Luckely my sister-in-law was up for it! Hope you get to go soon!

On_Love_Street_With_Jim_Morrison said...

@Kristien, enjoy your trip to NY. I am so jealous of you. I have always wanted to go there.

Anonymous said...

It was good to see Hillary on 360 last nite. A shame AC didn't get a one on one with her, but she's correct about our "insatiable appetite for illegal drugs that is fueling the violence." If there was no "need," there wouldn't be any exchange across the border at all. The US is partly to blame.
Don't know whether my HD is overly sensitive, but Hillary didn't look her vigorous self. She looked rather "weary" and that's not like her. On the campaign trail when asked how she kept up her energy level, she said she drank a lot of water and ate green peppers. She might take that advice again. Being Secretary of State requires constant travel and that in itself is tedious.

Anonymous said...

Anderson's efforts have paid off, according to TVNewser. Though still lower than Greta, he seems like the only bright spot, in a rather bleak CNN prime time line up.

Anonymous said...

@Kristien: Since you're coming to NYC, was wondering if you bought tickets to Radio City where AC is interviewing, what I consider I dull panel of participants....if you arrive by Tuesday, that is.

Kristien said...

@ACAnderFan: thanks, you'll get there some day!

I'm gonna miss ATA though...but not for long, haha! (just kidding Phebe!)

QuotidianEditorialist said...

Just a quick weigh in as I was out and about all day:

Agree with you guys 360% - the program was amazing last night... looking forward to more of the same this evening. The guests that Anderson spoke to were all fascinating and very informative.

All of your comments about Anderson crawling into holes and tunnels made me LOL. I was waiting for him to go for the tunnel last night too. You know he was thinking about it.

Along with the rest of the gang, I pray for the safety of our 360 gang. Difficult story in scary times. You just never know what these folks are capable of. Beheadings say it all. Surely Anderson and the rest of us were stunned when hearing of that poor sheriff. Good Lord.

OregonMJW said...

Interesting article and interview with Huffinton Post's Hanna Ingber, with Anderson on Mexico. And you may want to collect the really great picture that accompanies it!

Anonymous said...

AC was on Campbell's show interviewing a masked, former cartel member. This is really a war, and the fact that the cartel member was hiding his own identity makes you wonder if it's safe for Anderson to even be there. At least we know he's in Texas...and not on the other side of the border. Scary times!

Anonymous said...

This is anon 8:47pm: My mistake in reporting a former masked cartel member. He is an acitve masked cartel member. Scarier yet! Hopefully AC will be on his way back by tomorrow. It also seems we will be having a repeat of Wednesday nites show on Friday.
Another good show and I'd like to say "great masked guest," but....he does come with an "at your own risk," warning.