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September 20th, 2010
11:00 AM ET
September 20th, 2010
10:00 AM ET

Reporter's Notebook: Weather Warriors

By Rob Marciano, CNN Meteorologist

(CNN) – George Washington’s troops suffered through a brutal winter in 1776, crossing the Delaware for a turning point battle through ice, wind, and snow. That previous summer he used fog to his advantage in Brooklyn and Manhattan. One more reason to love the original GW and the boys in blue! Throughout history weather has played a huge role in warfare. Whether it's a covert operation or a D-Day type invasion, an accurate forecast is critical. During World War II the United States formed a unique fighting force – special ops warriors who are also weather experts. Rambo meets rocket scientist. Love it. Sorry Kid Rock, but in my mind these guys are the real All American Bad A**.

I’d heard about this unit over the years but never read or saw anything about them. That’s the idea. Most of the missions these weathermen perform are those you don’t read about in newspapers. Often classified and always dangerous, their mission is to go into “politically sensitive” or “hostile” areas. That’s where you’ll find the Air Force’s 10th Combat Weather Squadron and their Special Operations Weather Team (SOWT). There are fewer than 100 SOWTs in the Air Force. From World War II to Afghanistan, they’ve had one of the highest deployment ratios in the armed forces. Working with the likes of the Army Rangers, Navy Seals and other special forces, their weather calls and environmental recon are key to a mission's success.

I may be a meteorologist, but that's where our similarities end.

Filed under: AM Original • Military • Weather
September 20th, 2010
08:00 AM ET

Social conservatives embrace Tea Partiers

(CNN) – With just over six weeks until the midterm elections, the rise of the Tea Party is raising the prospects of a powerful alliance, the religious right. This was on display this weekend in Washington at the Values Voter Summit. Our Jim Acosta takes a closer look at the convergence of social conservatives and the Tea Party.

Related: Pence wins Values Voter straw poll

Filed under: AM Original • Politics
September 17th, 2010
06:00 AM ET

Nuns speak out on Vatican investigations

By Carol Costello and Bob Ruff, CNN

(CNN) – The "talk" has been "heated" of late on Sister Maureen Fiedler's WAMU radio show in Washington DC. A sample: "Some of my friends asked me whether Vatican officials suffer a deep-seated hatred of women."

Sister Maureen understands why her listeners, mostly Catholic nuns and religious women, feel the need to sound off. They've been frustrated, even angry, ever since the Vatican ordered two sweeping investigations into the religious views and lifestyles of American nuns.

"What I hear from a lot of lately with regard to this investigation," said Fiedler, "is, let me get this straight: It's priests that abuse children. Some priests, of course. It's bishops that covered it up. So they're investigating nuns?


September 16th, 2010
07:00 AM ET

Roman Catholic women priests

By Bob Ruff and Carol Costello, CNN

(CNN) – If the title makes you want to scratch you head, well, go ahead and scratch.

Catholicism, that's the Roman kind, has reserved its seats of power to men and men alone ever since Christ told Peter: "You are Peter, and upon this rock I will build my Church."

Every Catholic leader from the Pope to the village priest is male.  Women are permitted to be sisters, teach Catholicism in schools, and even assist in the Sunday Mass.  But they can't actually preside over the Mass.  Nor can they administer over most of the sacraments, which are reserved for priests and bishops.

Today, many Catholics are asking why? At a time when the church desperately needs more priests, why not allow women to preside over mass?

Some Catholic women aren't waiting for an answer from the Vatican - they say they've figured out a way around the traditional church and are leading Catholic congregations.

Gloria Carpeneto is one of them. She says she was ordained, thanks to an unnamed male bishop who secretly ordained the first female priests and bishops in 2002. Those women then ordained other women like Carpeneto, who says she is now able to hold mass every Sunday, in priestly robes, in front of small, but loyal congregations in Maryland.

"It struck me that I did not want to go to another faith tradition to be ordained," said Carpeneto. "It felt as though I had to leave my family to fulfill a call that I felt from God. And that didn’t feel right. And so the notion of being in the Roman Catholic Church within the Roman Catholic tradition meant a lot to me."

According to canon lawyers though, it is impossible for Carpeneto to be a priest. The "secret Bishop" was automatically excommunicated - or banned from participating in the Church - because he knowingly violated church law. And certainly the Vatican made that clear when it re-stated recently that ordaining women as priests was a grave offense – a crime on the same level as pedophilia.

It's something Carpeneto finds horrifying. "I thought to myself, I didn't like the notion of suddenly I'm in the swimming pool with people who had been accused of sexual abuse, crimes against children."

Father Joseph Tobin, appointed last month by Pope Benedict to oversee religious work worldwide, says the comparison was inadvertent and wrong. But, he added, the ordination of women is still a serious crime.

"The Catholic Church," he says, "has traditionally not arrived at a point where it believes it is the will of God. I have to accept that."

Despite that, the movement to ordain women priests is growing.  That first group of seven women ordained in 2002 has grown. There are now five bishops, 47 priests, 10 deacons, and 16 candidates for formation to priesthood in the United States.

Andrea Johnson, who considers herself a Catholic bishop, is thrilled by the numbers and undaunted by the fact the Catholic Church considers these women - illegitimate.

"It's Catholicism that needs us," she said. "We need the voices of men and women. We need everyone to work together in community, and I think the more we do of that the healthier the Church will be."

Those who attend services at Carpeneto's church agree. Most are women, who want something more from their Catholic faith. They feel the Church should welcome divorced people and gays, too.

But, Madeleine Rothe, from Baltimore, doubts Pope Benedict will ever bend.

"I don't think he's open and that's a huge roadblock."

It's a kind of spiritual roadblock that Gloria Carpeneto is trying to remove and the Catholic Church is resisting. Watch

Filed under: AM Original • Religion
September 15th, 2010
06:30 AM ET

Transgender politics

By Bob Ruff and Carol Costello, CNN

(CNN) – Changing American social attitudes have meant that many Americans are no longer surprised when a gay or transgendered candidate runs for public office in liberal cities like San Francisco or Boston.

But what about the bible belt?

We weren’t sure, so we flew to the politically red state of Oklahoma to check out the state house race between the transgender Democratic candidate, Brittany Novotny, and the socially conservative Republican incumbent, Sally Kern.

We caught up to Novotny as she went door-to-door soliciting votes in her State House District 84. Why would someone who grew up in Oklahoma as a man, and later underwent procedures to become a woman, put herself up to public scrutiny?

The answer sounded like the candidate she is:

“I want to run for office because I want to help make sure that Oklahoma has a better future. You know, we’ve had a lot of politicians for the last several years that have been out here dividing people up and, you know, playing on people’s fears...I think we need leaders who are focused on issues like helping our small business create jobs, insuring quality education for all our children, and investing in our transportation infrastructure and our roads.”

What kind of reaction does she get from voters?

“You know being a person who is the first transgender woman to run for office in Oklahoma, I can tell you that I’ve gotten literally zero hates. Zero hate emails. Zero hate phone calls. Nobody at the door has slammed the door at my face and called me weird. In fact people have embraced me with open arms.”

Kern is a state representative, but made national news in 2008 with controversial comments she made about gays. She told a group of political supporters:

“…Studies show that no society that has totally embraced homosexuality has lasted more than…a few decades…I honestly think it’s the biggest threat…our nation has, even more so than terrorism, or Islam…”

Kern’s remarks went viral on the Internet. She says she received hundred of hate emails. Ellen DeGeneres took several minutes out of her show to play Kern’s remarks on her nationally syndicated talk show. DeGeneres, who is a lesbian, poked fun at Kern by trying to call her on air. (DeGeneres got her voice mail.)

Does Kern regret saying what she said?

“No…because it’s what I believe. Everyone understood what I was doing. I was giving a talk to Republican activists sharing with them how there are a group of homosexual millionaires who are wanting to change the political climate of the nation. And they were doing it secretly.”

Kern singled out Colorado multi-millionaire Tim Gill, a gay political activist, who, according to the Oklahoma Ethics Commission, has doled out thousands of dollars  to gay candidates in Oklahoma since 2006.

But the Commission’s campaign contribution reports back up Novotny’s claim that she received no money from Gill, and that most of her donors are from Oklahoma.  Sources close to the Gill action fund say they have not contributed any money to the Novotny campaign.

Ben Patrick Johnson is Novotny’s largest out-of-state supporter. A Los Angeles voice-over actor, he’s donated $1,000 and recently held a fundraiser for Novotny. He says there’s no gay millionaires’ group trying to oust Kern.

One of Kern’s strongest supporters is Edmond, Oklahoma pastor Paul Blair. He says Johnson and the rest of Novotny’s out-of-state donors should stay out of Oklahoma politics. We asked him if there is an out of state plan to elect Novotny, what have they proved?

“…that even if you’re in a conservative state, you’re not safe if you take a strong stand on these moral issues. We can knock you out. If we can knock Sally Kern out of Oklahoma, when we can knock you out.”

The candidates themselves have generally avoided discussing transgender or other socially controversial subjects. So far they’ve stuck pretty much to economic issues, though in our interviews both candidates were willing to discuss religion:

Sally Kern:

“It’s no secret that I have a personal belief, I believe it’s a belief of most Christians, that the Bible teaches homosexuality is a sin just like gluttony is a sin… There are things that are going on today that would make my grandmother blush and there were things that when my grandmother was alive that were going on that that would have made her grandmother blush. So as we get farther and farther away from biblical principles, more and more things are accepted. And that’s just the way things are going.”

Brittany Novotny:

“…(Sally Kern) deeply believes that the acceptance of homosexuality and whatever else in society is what is just going to tear us apart, and what I’m say is look: you know, I’m a Christian, I grew up in  Catholic household. My mom instilled faith in me. And that faith means that whatever choices we make we know that God is ultimately up there to judge us…”

Election Day is November 2.

Filed under: AM Original • Politics
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