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October 22, 2007

Anderson Cooper is actually looking hot!


I have probably never said this before, but CNN's silver fox Anderson Cooper was looking fine this weekend showing off a little bit of his new buff body at a New York screening of "Planet in Peril."

If you want to see more of Cooper's bulging pasty biceps and maybe a little more, you can catch CNN's two night presentation "Planet in Peril" on Tuesday and Wednesday beginning at 9pm EDT on CNN.

NEW YORK (AP) — It's a tough world, all right.

Too bad it's not tougher. Right now Earth is looking pretty fragile as it suffers from increasing human punishment.

This isn't really news, of course. But CNN has packed the two-night, four-hour "Planet in Peril" with information and images that give a familiar story new urgency. Here is an eye-opening, often heart-wrenching exploration.

Airing Tuesday and Wednesday at 9 p.m. EDT, "Planet in Peril" dispatched correspondents Anderson Cooper and Dr. Sanjay Gupta, as well as Animal Planet wildlife biologist Jeff Corwin, to report on far-flung instances of "environmental change." This term encompasses four key areas: climate change, vanishing natural habitats, disappearing species and human overpopulation.

By taking on so much, the series risks becoming a catchall bin of environmental woes.

"At first glance, it may seem unfocused," said executive producer Charlie Moore. "But those are the four pillars. Almost everything falls under them, and they're all interconnected. For instance, you can't talk about endangered species without dealing with overconsumption of the world's natural resources and overpopulation."

Just a few days before his airdate, Moore was racing to put the final touches on a project that began, he said, about a year ago, during a conversation with David Doss, his producing colleague on "Anderson Cooper 360," who served as senior EP for "Planet in Peril."

"We wanted to take a look at all of the world's environmental problems in one big swipe," said Moore, "and we wanted to avoid the clinical, classroom approach by going to the front lines of the stories."

CNN's first high-def production, "Planet in Peril" was shot — beautifully — all over the world, beginning last February in Brazil, where Cooper and Corwin explore connections between the rapid deforestation of the Amazon River Basin and changes in the world's climate.

Other points of interest include Cambodia, Alaska, Wyoming's Yellowstone National Park, Greenland and the African nation of Chad.

One segment finds Cooper and Corwin in Bangkok. They accompany undercover police attempting, with little success, to raid shops that illegally traffic in wildlife from all over the world. Among dozens of other threatened creatures for sale, rare tortoises are glimpsed by CNN's hidden camera. They were imported all the way from Madagascar.

So off goes Corwin to Madagascar — a large island off the southeast coast of Africa — for the next segment. With 90 percent of its wildlife found nowhere else, Madagascar is a powerful draw for poachers. Meanwhile, deforestation and other environmental assault has left only 10 percent of its original habitat to support all that life, Corwin reports.

In a segment from China, Gupta reports that, partly thanks to economic boom and a surging population, China can claim 16 of the world's 20 most air-polluted cities.

More than half of that vast country's rivers are severely polluted, he adds. He interviews the young widow of a farmer who died of colon cancer at age 30, just one of many cases in a community dubbed a "cancer village." No wonder. The local river used for drinking and irrigation is polluted with carcinogens from nearby iron-ore mining operations that have gone on for decades.

For the average viewer, this is a troubling story. But then, a bit later, the scene shifts to New York, where Cooper submits to a "body burden assessment" — a complex, comprehensive blood test measuring the presence of 246 synthetic chemicals. Weeks pass while Cooper's blood is analyzed. Then he learns, not happily, that he tested positive for more than 100 of those chemicals, including the long-banned carcinogens DDT and PCBs.

No worries, says the president of the American Chemistry Council in an interview: "Just because we find chemicals in the body doesn't mean that it causes disease."

Maybe not. But, as Cooper notes, no one knows for sure what the health implications might be. Questions far outstrip any research to answer them. This is how Tuesday's installment ends.

"I wanted each night's episode to end up at home," Moore explained. "The fact that bad things are happening in faraway places doesn't make them any less important. But I wanted to make sure that the issues don't feel too removed from the viewer's everyday life."

No doubt about it: "Planet in Peril" has an up-close-and-personal global reach. Its immediacy can be measured in the blood flowing through the veins of one of its reporters.

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