American Morning

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April 17th, 2009
10:23 AM ET

Fmr. Bush Adviser: Memo may hinder terror war

Frances Townsend speaks to CNN's John Roberts about newly-released torture memos.
Frances Townsend speaks to CNN's John Roberts about newly-released torture memos.

A Bush-era memo released by the White House Thursday revealed interrogation methods used by the Bush administration including waterboarding, sleep deprivation and forced nudity. Some of the methods Bush lawyers approved included keeping detainees naked, in diapers or in cramped confinement. Some former Bush officials say President Obama’s decision to declassify these memos is putting the country in danger.

Fran Townsend, former Homeland Security Adviser to President Bush, spoke to John Roberts on CNN’s American Morning Friday.

John Roberts: What is your take on the release of these memos? These were among the Bush administration's most closely-guarded secrets.

Fran Townsend: John, we should be clear with our viewers. Even during my time in the administration, I wasn't a part of the policy discussions but I will tell you here is my concern about the release of them. Regardless of what you think on the issue of whether or not waterboarding is torture, there were legal documents created and relied upon by career intelligence officials who then implemented the program. There were very strict controls on the program. These people relied on them and, now, to release them and to subject these people, these career professionals to a sort of public humiliation and opprobrium and then the potential of a congressional investigation really will make our intelligence community risk-averse.

I think that is what Mike Hayden, the former director of CIA, is getting at when he says “look you’re going to make us less safe.” I think there’s real potential in that. I think the administration needs to come out and tell us why did you release them? I think they made the right decision to say they are not going to prosecute intelligence officials and I think Dennis Blair, Director of National Intelligence, made a very strong statement on that issue. But I will tell you, then why did you release them? What was the purpose? Because we've won legal cases in the courts to protect those memos up to now from public disclosure.

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Filed under: Controversy • Terrorism
April 17th, 2009
08:52 AM ET

Maya nut changes lives while aiding the rain forest

Erika Vohman's Equilibrium Fund teaches women how to reap the benefits of the Maya nut.

Erika Vohman's Equilibrium Fund teaches women how to reap the benefits of the Maya nut.

FLORES, Guatemala (CNN) - In the rain forests of Central America grows the nutrient-rich Maya nut. The marble-sized seed can be prepared to taste like mashed potatoes, chocolate or coffee. To those who stumble upon the nuts on the ground, they're free for the taking.

The problem, however, is that many people living in areas where the Maya nut grows abundantly don't know about it.

Erika Vohman is trying to change that - and improve rain forest conservation and women's status in the process.

"People are living right there, in extreme poverty, not even eating more than one meal a day and there's Maya nut lying all around," Vohman said. "They don't eat it because they don't know."

Vohman has traveled to Honduras, Mexico, Guatemala, Nicaragua and El Salvador, conducting workshops that teach women how to harvest, prepare and cook or dry the prolific seeds into tasty, hearty foods.

The 45-year-old biologist first encountered the Maya nut while visiting rural Guatemala a decade ago for an animal rescue effort. An indigenous colleague told her of the native resource, once an essential food staple of his Mayan ancestors; the civilization had widely cultivated the large tropical rain forest tree, the Brosimum alicastrum, that produces the Maya nut.

That colleague prepared a Maya nut soup for Vohman and she found it delicious.

Keep reading this story


Filed under: CNN Heroes
April 17th, 2009
08:23 AM ET

UK singer 'gobsmacked' by overnight stardom

Susan Boyle breaks into song Friday on CNN's American Morning.
Susan Boyle breaks into song Friday on CNN's American Morning.

(CNN) - Overnight singing sensation Susan Boyle says she's overwhelmed by the attention coming her way through millions of views on YouTube.

"I'm gobsmacked, absolutely gobsmacked," she told CNN Friday morning. Watch her sing

The 47-year-old shocked and inspired the audience, judges and Web watchers after she powered through "I Dreamed a Dream" from the musical "Les Miserables" on the TV show "Britain's Got Talent."

A clip of Boyle's performance had more than 15 million views on YouTube by Friday, and the world's media have beaten a path to her door in Blackburn, West Lothian, Scotland.

"I'm enjoying every second of it," she said of her sudden fame, but said it won't change her.

"I wouldn't want to change myself too much, because that would make things a bit false," she told CNN's "American Morning." "I want people to see the real me, the real person."

Keep reading this story


Filed under: Pop Culture
April 17th, 2009
06:12 AM ET

What's on Tap – Friday April 17, 2009

Here are the big stories on the agenda today:

  • President Obama is heading to Trinadad and Tobago this morning for a Summit of the Americas. The weekend gathering is expected to tackle issues such as the drug wars, global warming, and the recession. The President also hopes to improve relations with America’s neighbors – relations that deteriorated during the Bush presidency. The big question many people have – will the President meet with Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez? According to the White House, there is no “one-on-one” meeting currently scheduled. What will the two leaders say if they happen to bump in to each other? We’ll have live coverage.
  • So how did the President’s trip to Mexico go? We know he and Mexican President Calderon talked about a wide range of issues from the deadly Mexican drug trade seeping across the border, and global warming, trade and immigration. But what did the huddle really accomplish? Both leaders agree that reintroducing a ban on deadly assault-style weapons in the United States could help reduce violence on both sides of the border. President Obama says he has not backed off a campaign pledge to try to restore the ban – although political observers in the United States say the President will not attempt to tackle the thorny issue any time soon.
  • We’re also wrapping up our series called “Drug Nation” and what can be done to better protect our borders.
  • Also today, Dr. Sanjay Gupta looks at how addicts often don’t check into a rehab center until it’s too late – so how do you get ahead of the problem and how do you choose the right center for you? Dr. Gupta has the answers in his series “Addiction, Life on the Edge”.
  • And an unassuming, unemployed 47-year-old woman from Scotland opens her mouth and shocks the world. We’ll introduce you to singing sensation, Susan Boyle. How’s she handling the meteoric fame and what will she do if she’s offered a big-time recording contract that is already rumored to be in the works?

Filed under: What's On Tap
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