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Texas Wildfires; H&R Block Financial Fraud Case; Earthen Dam Bursts in Kauai; More Troops to Iraqi

Aired March 15, 2006 - 11:00   ET


DARYN KAGAN, CNN ANCHOR: Let's go ahead and take a look at what's happening in the news.
Reports today that opera great Luciano Pavarotti is in the hospital. The tenor apparently canceled a show in Brazil and was flown to New York to treat a back injury. Pavarotti is currently performing his farewell tour.

Some Catholics who plan to celebrate St. Patrick's Day on Friday won't have to give up one of the holiday traditions, corned beef. Because St. Patrick's day falls on a Friday this year, that would conflict with Lenten rules that keep Catholics from eating meat on Friday. But some bishops here in the U.S. are bending the rules. They're offering parishioners a special dispensation that allows them to enjoy their corned beef.

Good morning, and welcome to the second hour of CNN LIVE TODAY.

I'm Daryn Kagan at CNN Center in Atlanta.

A developing story right here in the CNN newsroom. Our Carol Lin has that -- Carol.

CAROL LIN, CNN ANCHOR: Daryn, any moment now we're going to be hearing from New York Attorney General Eliot Spitzer, who is going to -- we're expecting him to make a major announcement about allegations against a major tax preparer. We are working on the story for the confirmed details, but it is a company you have heard of, I guarantee you. We're expecting that he's going to make some kind of allegations that this tax preparer apparently disguised the true cost of an IRA program that they were offering customers, and tens of thousands of people across the country are going to be affected.

So when that happens, Daryn, we're going to bring it to you live.

KAGAN: OK. We'll have you watch that for us. Thank you, Carol.

LIN: You bet.

KAGAN: Meanwhile, preparing for the worst, that is what firefighters are doing today in their battle against raging wildfires that have scorched about a thousand square miles of the Texas panhandle. Eleven people have died in the blazes and now the wind is the big worry.

Our Ed Lavandera joining us now live from Amarillo, Texas. Ed, what about the conditions today?

ED LAVANDERA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Daryn, everyone here in the Texas panhandle on high alert again today. Low humidity, high winds. One official told us yesterday that they're expecting similar conditions to what was seen here on Sunday when these massive wildfires broke out that have burned 850,000 acres across the Texas panhandle.

So in many places, everyone on high alert. They've put out the call for reinforcements. Many of these firefighters, many of them volunteer firefighters, are, quite frankly, exhausted from all the work they've done the last couple of days. So the Texas Forestry Service had put out the call for help to 13 surrounding states for anyone who could come and help these firefighters out.

We understand that many of those people have been coming here. An exact number I don't have for you, but we've seen a number of these people coming here and helping these firefighters out.

KAGAN: All right. Ed Lavandera, more from you in Texas in just a moment.

Right now, live to New York and Attorney General Eliot Spitzer.


ELIOT SPITZER, NEW YORK ATTORNEY GENERAL: ... talking about and what the actual impact was on investors.

Let me say David Brown, who is hiding and lurking in the background, the head of the Investor Protection Bureau, who has also played a critical role in this, and as always, let me say thank you to the Investor Protection Bureau that has done so much over the past couple of years to ensure integrity in the marketplace and to ensure that investigators get what they are due, which is honesty and integrity, if not a guaranteed investment, of course -- honesty and integrity in the advice they are given.

Let me begin by just setting this in context. This is the continuation of an effort on the part of this office to ensure that those most vulnerable investors and savers are given fair access to capital and honest information.

You may remember a number of years ago -- I think it was actually the first year that I was in office, in '99 -- we began to make cases with respect to predatory lending. We made a sequence of cases with respect to basic banking, which are the accounts that are supposed to be provided by the major commercial banks and others to low-income savers which are non-fee or very low-fee savings accounts that will permit individuals who might not otherwise have access to savings vehicles to permit them to gain access to the banking system rather than the -- and to permit them to leave the cash economy behind.

So we have focused on this for some period of time because there's an underlying truth that is that access to the banking system is critical for advancement, it is necessary to be able to gain credit rating, to be able to succeed as a member of -- as a small business owner, as a homeowner. And so we have wanted to make sure that those who are having their first contact with the banking system and financial vehicles generally are dealt with fairly and honestly, which means giving them fair, straightforward advice and not misrepresenting either the nature of any particular investment vehicle or the returns one might get.

This case that we're announcing today, as you know, relates to H&R Block, a company that has been advertising itself quite consistently as being "in your corner." I think it is fair to say they are not in your corner. They've been putting their clients in the corner instead.

It is a shame. They've been dealing untruthfully and unfairly with the clients whom they have said could rely upon their advice.

This case is about the Express IRA product. And I want to also point out that -- I want to differentiate between the many individuals who work for H&R Block, who are honest, good individuals, and those who make the decisions about what products to market and how to do so.

We heard about this case, in fact, from somebody inside the company who said there was a little bit of discomfort about this product in the way it was being marketed, and that is what led us raise the inquiries that led to the case. And so I want to not only thank the workers at the company who have expressed their dissatisfaction with it over time, but also, in particular, that one person who was wise enough to bring this to our attention.

H&R Block, unfortunately, has been saying to the investing public and to low-income individuals, open an Express IRA account and it is, to use their words, "These have great rates and it is a better way to save."

Unfortunately, what they have been failing to do is disclose the fees that attend to these accounts. Without understanding what the fees are, one cannot make a rational analysis about whether or not the product is a good investment or not. And, in fact, without disclosing the fees, H&R Block was able to pretend that this was a good way to save when, in fact, it was not.

Had people been told about the fees that were extracted year after year, it is our belief that those investors would have made a fundamentally different choice about whether or not this open these accounts, whether or not to invest in them. And unfortunately, because there was not adequate, fair, disclosure, over 500,000 accounts were opened without the requisite of fairness that is, of course, embodied in the law.

The fees that they did not disclose were a $15 account opening fee, a $10 account maintenance fee, a $15 re-contribution fee that was -- that was imposed every time another deposit was made, and then a $25 account closing fee that was reduced in their generosity from $75, the first fee, the $75 applicable in the first couple of years when somebody closed the -- the account. Now, to put his this in context, many of these accounts were opened with $300, and the number 300 will come back in several of the exhibits I'll show you in a moment. Understand that for an account with $300 earning the interest rate of 2 percent, which is what they were earning at -- for much of the period of time that we're talking about, you, therefore, earn annually $6 in interest.

If you're earning $6 in interest, you therefore understand why a $15 account opening fee and a $10 account maintenance fee that is imposed every year thereafter is not only material, but can be dispositive to your analysis about whether or not this is a good account to open.

KAGAN: We've been listening in to New York State Attorney General Eliot Spitzer talking about a case that the state of New York plans to bring against H&R Block, talking about fees that they say were presented untruthfully and unfairly to customers.

Our Carol Lin has more on that -- Carol.

LIN: That's right, Daryn. Fifteen dollars, $75, it doesn't sound like a lot of money, but it is a lot of money for people who can only afford to put $300 into their IRA account.

We have been looking also, I just want to make mention, for comment also from H&R Block. We are working on that as the attorney general of New York has just made the statement.

But let's check in with Susan Lisovicz right now, who's also working this story.

Susan, how big a blow is this to H&R Block?

SUSAN LISOVICZ, CNN BUSINESS CORRESPONDENT: It's a huge blow, and it's one of a series of blows, unfortunately, for the nation's largest tax preparer, Carol. And you can see the immediate impact on Wall Street.


LIN: All right. Thanks very much, Susan.

Daryn, we're going to be watching this story for you from the breaking news desk.

KAGAN: Carol, thank you.

LIN: Sure.

KAGAN: And thanks to Susan as well.

We go from New York to the opposite end of the U.S. We have some spectacular pictures from Hawaii to show you. That is where an earthen dam burst on the island of Kauai. It unleashed a wave of towering -- some 50 feet tall towering water and swept at least two homes into the Pacific. At least one person was killed and as many as seven other people are still missing.

The only road on the island's north shore is washed out and thousands of homes are cut off. Officials say the reservoir dam gave way without warning after several days of heavy rains.

Joining us right now on the phone with more on this developing story is Chief Petty Officer Michael De Nyse of the U.S. Coast Guard.

Good morning.


KAGAN: Now, I know it's very early there for you in Hawaii. How is the search going for the missing people?

DE NYSE: Well, right now, as far as updates, we have an HH-65A Dolphin helicopter on scene, as we did all night long. We searched throughout the night.

Right now, we are gearing up and ramping up for first light search with our Coast Guard cutter Washington, which was on scene monitoring but was not actively searching due to the safety precautions -- searching at night with the Coast Guard cutter.

KAGAN: Any dog teams, K-9 teams being used to search for people who might have been swallowed up by the water and the mud?

DE NYSE: Yes. There has been an urban SAR team that was from Oahu. It's been transferred via Coast Guard C-130. It was under way at 5:30 this morning Honolulu time. It should be arriving on scene any moment now. It should be arriving at Lihue Airport.

KAGAN: Petty Officer De Nyse, stay with me a second. I want to welcome in our meteorologist, Chad Myers.

Chad, talk about weather conditions there in Hawaii, on Kauai today as they go about this search.


CHAD MYERS, CNN METEOROLOGIST: Was this closer as the water came down and across the highway? Was it close to that Princeville area that we hear about so often here on the north side?

DE NYSE: Well, as far as on-scene activities, I have to say that I have not been on scene. That would be better asked by state civil defense.

MYERS: Tell me what you're seeing there where you are. Is it raining? Obviously, the weather service is saying rain now for the next three or four days.

DE NYSE: It is overcast right now on Oahu, but as far as weather conditions on Kauai, I'm not quite positive.

MYERS: Isn't it amazing how it does change from island to island just a couple of...

DE NYSE: It's just a small distance away -- yes, it does.

MYERS: Wow. I mean, a couple of days ago, the big island was just getting pounded all the way from the volcano, all the way around to Kona. And now that's kind of shifted a little bit farther off to the east, with another batch of rain coming in.

Are you preparing for more of this?

DE NYSE: Well, the Coast Guard is gearing up and doing all they can and exhausting their assets they have in the fleet right now to prevent -- whatever we can do to save in search and rescue. We have our Coast Guard Station Kauai getting ready to adjust and prepare for weather -- whatever weather permits with their assets on scene.

KAGAN: Petty Officer Michael De Nyse is with the U.S. Coast Guard in Hawaii.

Thank you.

DE NYSE: You're welcome.

KAGAN: And Chad, thank you to you, as well.

As we move ahead, when the president-turned-prisoner takes the stand in Iraq, the judge has to take the stand. They work -- they work things a little bit differently there in Iraq. We're going to bring you the courtroom drama, the fireworks between the judge and Saddam Hussein as he testifies for the first time in his trial, coming up in just a bit.

Also, sleepwalking sleep-driving, how about sleep-eating? A popular pill linked to some bizarre behaviors. How about a late-night trip to the fridge that you don't remember in the morning?

Details on that coming up.


KAGAN: Want to get back to the story we were just listening to, the state attorney general of New York making some very strong, fraudulent charges against H&R Block. Apparently, the company has now prepared a statement, and Carol Lin has that for us now -- Carol.

LIN: Yes, we just got this statement now.

Eliot Spitzer, the attorney general of New York, was saying that they were fraudulently marketing these IRAs, not telling these consumers that there were fees attached to their transactions. Well, H&R says in a statement there -- here that they have helped more than a half million Americans taking this critical first step towards saving for their future.

They say, "Make no mistake, we believe the Express IRA product. We believe in it." And that "We are proud of the opportunities for our clients." And that "If this unfortunate matter goes to court, H&R block will fight vigorously to defend Express IRA products and ensure that it remains available to our many clients."

Daryn, they do not directly talk about the allegations that the state attorney general has made about these extra fees and not disclosing it to the clients. But they're saying that if it does go to court, they're going to fight.

KAGAN: All right. Carol, thank you.

LIN: Sure.

KAGAN: Come back to you if there's any more developments on that story.

Meanwhile, let's talk military. U.S. military officials today confirming a bump-up in troop strength in Iraq. There are now about 132,000 U.S. forces on the ground, up to 700 more troops are expected to join them.

Our Pentagon correspondent, Barbara Starr, here to explain their role.

Barbara, the number 700, how significant that is?

BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Well, as you say, Daryn, do the math, 700 out of a total force of about 132,000, 133,000 U.S. troops. So, fundamentally, it does not change the situation on the ground. But General Casey, the commander in Iraq, has asked for these extra troops.

They've been in Kuwait on a standby in case they were needed. There is a Shia religious holiday coming up. He'd like to have a little extra manpower in some places to help back up the security forces of Iraq. But the key question remains, of course, about what is really going on in Iraq.

General John Abizaid on Capitol Hill this morning saying he's still does not believe Iraq is in a civil war. There is no breakdown of society, he points out. Iraqi government and security structures still continue to function. But nonetheless, General Abizaid says, the situation is serious, the sectarian violence of great concern to him.


GEN. JOHN ABIZAID, COMMANDER, U.S. CENTRAL COMMAND: I am concerned about the levels of sectarian violence. They have certainly shown that bubbling beneath the surface is a great deal of concern in the various communities.

I do believe that it is absolutely essential that a government of national unity emerge soon that leads the country, leads the country well, builds strong ministries that are not dominated by various sectarian concerns, and move forward in order to move the country towards peace and prosperity and defeat the insurgency. (END VIDEO CLIP)

STARR: Military commanders, Daryn, now really looking at this situation in Iraq every day, as you might expect, trying to determine who is behind the sectarian violence, how they can best help the Iraqis counter it, disarm the militias and really determine whether this is now the long-term picture in Iraq. General Abizaid saying, unless the Iraqis can get that new government in place, which is key, he believes, to solving this problem, it will be harder, he says, in his words, for the Iraqis to hold things together -- Daryn.

KAGAN: And Barbara, you know, we started talking about these 700 troops. As you point out, they're being brought in from Kuwait, across the border, where they've been standing by.

Aren't there, in fact, thousands standing by in Kuwait, if they're needed?

STARR: Well, there is a brigade, indeed, of the 1st Armored Division. That's about 3,500 troops.

Let's be clear, they're not all combat troops. When a brigade moves, there's combat, there's support forces, there's the logistics, the supply, all of it that comes with them.

They have been in Kuwait. They were on standby. It was determined that things were going so well in Iraq a few months ago that they were not need to go in, as originally scheduled. They're a unit from Germany, so they have been there.

But these 700, at the moment, are slated only to go in for about a 30 to 45-day period, and then there will an assessment of the security situation to determine if they are needed to stay on further or whether more troops are needed or perhaps more U.S. troops can be sent home if the Iraqi security forces really can take on more ground and control more of the situation -- Daryn.

KAGAN: Barbara Starr, live from the Pentagon.

Thank you.

Let's talk about this that's go on in Iraq. Saddam Hussein's trial, it has been adjourned for three weeks, after a day packed with courtroom drama.

About 20 minutes after the former dictator took the stand in his trial today, the judge threw out the media. The judge was fed up with the political pep talk from the president-turned-prisoner. He was urging his people not to fight among themselves but to unite against the occupying force.

Here is one of several heated exchanges between Saddam Hussein and the judge.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) SADDAM HUSSEIN, FMR. IRAQI DICTATOR (through translator): I'm honored to have a conflict with America. I will not assume the role of my people against America. It's my people against America.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): This is to discuss the Dujail case, this is not a place for a speech.

HUSSEIN (through translator): You don't have right to talk to me. The judge has right to talk to me. You don't have any right to speak to me.


KAGAN: That trial will continue, by the way, in the first week in April.

These are live picture we're getting from our affiliate WTVT. This is Polk County, Florida, near Tampa. As you can see, serious wildfire taking place will there.

Chad Myers, we'll bring him in.


KAGAN: On to medical news. Who hasn't raided the fridge in the middle of the night? But this is more than just your light-night munchies. Ahead, Dr. Sanjay Gupta reports on eating well under the influence of a popular sleep medication.


KAGAN: It has been more than two months since a deadly explosion ripped through a West Virginia coal mine. Today, operations resumed at the Sago Mine for the first time since the tragedy that killed 12 miners.

The reopening of the mine follows a company report that blamed the January explosion on a massive lightning strike. The initial investigation by the mine's owners concluded that a bolt of lightning ignited methane gas. The company's CEO called it unpredictable and highly unusual. The government has not yet released its findings.

Let's go to the phones now. Vicki Smith is with The Associated Press. She is in Buckhannon, West Virginia, having had a chance to talk with some of the miners and some of the families.

Vicki, good morning.


KAGAN: Any reaction from these miners about this government report saying that it was lightning? Not the government report, the company report saying that it was lightning that caused the explosion?

SMITH: One of the miners I spoke to this morning really didn't want to discuss the cause of the explosion. But I also spoke with the brother of one of the miners who died at Sago.

He is not particularly surprised to hear that lightning was the apparent cause. That had been a working theory almost from the very first hours after the explosion.

John Groves, who's the brother of miner Jerry Groves, told me it's a very plausible theory and the company seems to have some very compelling evidence, although it has yet to explain exactly how the electrical charge somehow made it from a lightning strike 250 feet into the ground, into this field chamber.

KAGAN: What is the mood there as these miners go back to work?

SMITH: I spoke just recently with a gentleman named Rocky Starky (ph), who has worked at this mine for three years. And he was very happy to go back to work. I think there are some mixed feelings. In some ways, these miners are kind of confronting the ghosts of their lost friends. They have to go back into a mine where they lost people they cared about. But they don't seem to have any concerns about their safety. Mr. Starky told me that they are confident it's safe. They're confident that International Coal Group has done all it can to make that mine safe, and they're just looking forward to getting back to work. For them, that's closure.

KAGAN: This was a nonunion mine when this took place. Any effort to unionize now, to get better representation for the miners?

SMITH: I wouldn't say there's an active effort to unionize it. In fact, there has been friction between the UMW, which has been sitting in on the investigation, and this independent mine. A number of miners stated they really don't want the union's help. They feel that ICG took care of them before this accident. They feel that ICG is taking care of them now.

KAGAN: And I don't know if you have access to this information, but the latest on Randy McCloy Jr., the sole survivor of that mine explosion?

SMITH: Yes. Yesterday afternoon I spoke with family spokeswoman, and she told me that Randy went home with his family for a couple of hours. He was able to walk through the door of his own house with some assistance. But that was a very big day for Randy and his family. His wife, Anna, had been saying for a long time now that she would not walk back into that house until Randy could go with her. And that moment came yesterday. So that was a huge landmark for that family.

KAGAN: Vicki Smith with the Associated Press, on the phone with us from West Virginia.

Vicki, thank you for all that updated information.

KAGAN: Sleepwalking, sleep driving, sleep eating. There's a popular pill. It is linked to some very bizarre behave, like a late night trip to the fridge, but you don't remember the binge in the morning. Details on that coming up.


KAGAN: A story about a popular sleeping drug has us talking here. Apparently, for some people they take it, and it makes them wake up in the middle of night and go on these intense eating binges. But then when you wake up in the morning, you don't remember having done that.

Dr. Sanjay Gupta has more.


DR. SANJAY GUPTA, CNN SR. MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT (voice over): It happens under the cover of darkness during sleep, the mysterious urge to eat. For years, doctors wondered how sleeping and eating could happen at the same time. Now two unpublished studies suggest that a possible cause may be the popular sleep drug Ambien.

DR. CARLOS SCHENK, MINNESOTA SLEEP DISORDERS CENTER: Ever since Ambien came on the market there were sporadic reports of sleepwalking being induced by the Ambien, and then there were some reports coming out about eating with the sleepwalking induced by the Ambien.

GUPTA: Six years ago, Judy Evans began taking Ambien for insomnia. Soon after, curious side-effects set in. She said that night after night she would leave her bed and trudge like a zombie to the kitchen.

JUDY EVANS, AMBIEN USER: I had gotten out of bed and I was cooking. I don't even like eggs, and I was cooking eggs and bacon.

GUPTA: Each night brought another trip to the kitchen to make a sandwich, cook an elaborate meal, and one time turning the oven up to 500 degrees.

Suspecting something was wrong, her son stayed awake. He was startled by what he saw.

EVANS: He told me what I had done, and I said, "No way. I did not do that."

SCHENK: In all cases, there is complete amnesia the next day. There is no recall whatsoever of what that person engaged in.

GUPTA: And Ambien may account for more than just sleep-eating. There have even been cases of sleep-driving, says Dr. Carlos Schenk, who led the studies linking Ambien with abnormal sleep behaviors. Dr. Schenk says that in sleepwalking, sleep-eating and sleep-driving, Ambien may confuse the brain. You can perform complex behaviors while the mind is partially asleep.

SCHENK: You're acting like a zombie and you're rolling the dice. And whenever you roll the dice it is very dangerous. GUPTA: In a statement, Ambien's manufacturer, Sanofi-Aventis, says it could not comment on specific cases, adding that "It is difficult to determine with certainty whether a particular instance of sleepwalking is drug induce, spontaneous in origin, or a result of an underlying disorder."

Now, there is no large study to gauge the risk. And even Dr. Schenk says the vast majority of Ambien users should not worry, and to follow the warning labels provided with prescriptions.

SCHENK: For people who are carefully diagnosed with insomnia or trouble falling asleep, Ambien an excellent medication. For most people it is very safe and well-tolerated.

GUPTA: The manufacturer says if you find yourself sleepwalking after taking Ambien, see your doctor.

Dr. Sanjay Gupta, CNN, reporting.


KAGAN: And now a topic that might keep you up at night, just because there's so much to think about: the right to choose, but for men.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Men should have the same rights. Men should have equality under the law. Men should have certain choices that they don't have right now.


KAGAN: A reluctant dad's case against the mother of the child. He told her he was not ready to be a dad. It's a talker. Straight ahead on LIVE TODAY.


KAGAN: How does this get video of the day. Well, where it's taking place. Wild, wacky weather in California. Yes, we're not in Kansas anymore. Funnel clouds were spotted yesterday in San Francisco and the Sacramento areas as well. One of them near Davis. And another near Rio Vista. Neither funnel cloud touched down. They looked pretty ominous from the ground.


KAGAN: The landmark abortion case Roe versus Wade empowered women with the right to choose, but the would-be fathers have no legal rights to take partial in the decision, even though they could have a huge emotional and financial stake in its outcome. Well, now a Michigan man and a growing movement are calling that unfair, unequal and unconstitutional.

CNN's Jonathan Freed has this report that first aired last night on "ANDERSON COOPER 360."


JONATHAN FREED, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice over): Matt Dubay is 25 years old. He's single, and for now he wants to keep it that way. But Dubay is also the father of an 8-month-old girl named Elizabeth. And that's the problem.

(on camera): Was filing the lawsuit a difficult decision for you to make?

MATT DUBAY, FATHER OF ELIZABETH WELLS: It was a long decision to make.

FREED (voice over): Dubay is suing his ex-girlfriend, 20-year- old Lauren Wells, because he believes he shouldn't be forced to pay $560 a month in child support.

DUBAY: During the time we were seeing each other, I made it very clear to her that I was not ready to be a father, and she made it very clear to me that she was incapable of becoming pregnant because of a condition.

FREED: The ex-couple's battle here in Saginaw, Michigan, has become the centerpiece of a national campaign to allow men to reject the responsibilities of fatherhood.

A rights group called The National Center for Men is backing the lawsuit, calling its legal crusade "Roe versus Wade for Men," after the landmark Supreme Court decision that gives women the legal right to an abortion.

MEL FEIT, DIRECTOR, NATIONAL CENTER FOR MEN: I want this to be a very narrow right, a very limited time in which a man can say to a woman, you knew I did not want to be a father, we have discussed this. And now it is your body, it is your right to do with your body and your pregnancy what you want. But I am letting you know now that I choose not to be responsible. I will have no rights to this child, but I will also relinquish responsibilities.

FREED: Dubay feels he was shut out.

DUBAY: She was given the right to, you know, have an abortion, keep the child, put the child up for adoption, and whatever she chooses, I have to go along with. You know, under, you know, our laws, our Constitution, that doesn't seem right to me.

FREED (on camera): Matt Dubay saw his child for the first time a few months ago here at the Saginaw County courthouse. It was for a blood test to establish if he was the father. And it is the only time he has seen his daughter.

(voice-over): Women's rights groups insist men like Dubay are not being forced into parenthood, saying child support payments are a fair and modest alternative to the lifetime commitment of being a father. KATHY RODGERS, PRESIDENT, LEGAL MOMENTUM: All I see in this from the men's point of view is, you know, they want to have all the fun and none of the responsibility.

FREED: Dubay's lawyer insists the lawsuit isn't trying to create an escape route.

(on camera): So you're saying this is not an attempt to give men an easy way out of being careless during a one-night stand?


FREED (voice-over): Jeff Cojocar says it's about trying to extend to men the freedom of choice the Supreme Court decision gave to women.

COJOCAR: Men should have the same rights. Men should have equality under the law. Men should have certain choices that they don't have right now.

FREED: But, while equality under the law sounds like a good idea, some say the law is very different once a baby is born.

RODGERS: It's been decided that both parents have to have responsibility. And that means the father in this case has to pay some money. And that's all he has to do.

BILL SMITH, LAUREN WELLS' LAWYER: Their 8-month-old daughter Elizabeth is a vibrant and healthy baby.

FREED: Baby Elizabeth's mother issued a statement through her lawyer.

SMITH: "My focus is on providing a nurturing home for our baby. I am disappointed that Matt has decided not to participate in Elizabeth's life so far."

FREED: The lawsuit also names the state of Michigan. And Dubay's lawyer says if his side wins he's hoping it will force state legislators to redraft the rules, giving men and women the same rights.

DUBAY: For the child to be growing up in a broken home, where the mother and father do not get along, you know, I just don't see that as a fit environment for a child to be raised.

FREED: If successful, the lawsuit could encourage similar court challenges in other States.

Jonathan Freed, CNN, Saginaw, Michigan.


KAGAN: Let's delve deeper into an issue that is a veritable minefield of both emotions and legalities. Kim Gandy is the president of NOW, the National Organization for Women, and Mel Feit, as you might recognize from that previous report is with the National Center for Men.

Good morning to both of you. Thanks for being here with us.


FEIT: Good morning.

KAGAN: Kim, let's start with you. If you or I get pregnant and we decide we don't want to participate in parenthood, we do have a choice. Why shouldn't men have the same choice?

GANDY: Well, it's interesting, because what they'd like is a way to have no responsibility under any circumstances. He wants to able to say, OK, you're pregnant. Either have an abortion or I'll have no responsibility for the child. Well, guess what? Those are magic words, because if she has the abortion, he has no responsibility. If she doesn't have the abortion, he still has no responsibility.

Either way, he has no responsibility. But the fact is,he does have some responsibility if there's a child that's brought into this world that is his child. He has responsibility. He can't escape that by saying magic words that put 100 percent of the responsibility on her, no matter what happens.

KAGAN: Mel, let he you jump in here and pick where we heard you in the piece. Are you talking about a narrower definition of what kind of responsibility and choice a man can have?

FEIT: I want men to be responsible for choices that they make to -- I want them to be fathers when they choose to be fathers. I don't believe that DNA is the measure of fatherhood and I don't believe having sex with another person makes you a dad.

I am standing up as an advocate for choice. I want to expand this principle of reproductive choice, I want to declare it a fundamental human right. I expected that my opposition in this debate would come from pro-life activists. Instead, it comes, ironically, from the president of the National Organization for Women who, in my view, by making an eloquent anti-choice statement, has done more to damage choice for women than any legislator in South Dakota or anyone from the Christian right could ever do. How sad and how ironic that it comes from NOW?

GANDY: It's interesting that you have -- you have a different definition of choice than I do.

FEIT: No, I don't.

GANDY: Choice means...

FEIT: No, I don't. GANDY: Choice doesn't mean abortion. Choice means having the choice, making the decision. You would like for a man to be able to say to a woman who does not herself believe in abortion, you must have an abortion because I want you to.

FEIT: No, absolutely not.

GANDY: We all believe that that is wrong. A woman should not be forced to have an abortion simply because the man wants her to. At the same time, we have men's groups out there saying I should be able to force her to have the baby, because I'd like to be a father. One group wants to make her have an abortion, one group wants to make her have the baby. The reality is, it's got to be her decision.

KAGAN: Mel, hold that thought you have right now.

FEIT: I believe...

KAGAN: Mel, hold that thought you have right now.

FEIT: I believe.

KAGAN: Mel, hold on, I want you to keep that thought. I'm sure it's a really good one. I need to get a break in here. The conversation I want to continue, and we're going to do it after this break.


KAGAN: Welcome back. We continue our conversation about a Michigan man who says he told his former girlfriend he was not ready to be a father, and when she became pregnant and had the baby, he is now fighting a legal case saying, he does not want to be the father, and shouldn't be forced to be a father.

I want to welcome back Mel Feit from the National Center for Men, who is siding with the man, and Kim Gandy from the National Organization for Women.

Mel, I talked to you, you were talking about choice and where you think it fits into this argument.

FEIT: I want women to have control of their bodies. I want women to be able to make the ultimate reproductive choice. I don't want men to be able to interfere with that.

But, Kim, there is one law that applies to all women regardless of their moral values, and that is every woman knows that in the event of a contraceptive failure, no person, not even the most powerful person in the government, can force her to be a parent, can make decisions for her that will affect the rest of her life. And because that's the law for women, it also has to be the law for men.

And one other thing, I think that this is such an empowering thing for women, I would think that women would want to share that power with the men that they love. KAGAN: Kim, I'm going to step in here, because I want to take the conversation in a different direction. We're talking about what a man can do, what a woman can do. What about the child in this case? Do you think that that person is being forgotten?

GANDY: Exactly, and that's the point I was making, as someone who used to be a former prosecutor in juvenile court and pursued child support cases. And I'm the mother of two young daughters myself. I know that the cost of raising them is -- the monetary cost is a very, very small part of that. But it's also a loss of joy. And I'm sorry that he's going to lose the joy of being part of his daughter's life.

KAGAN: Mel what about the baby here? What about the child?

FEIT: He never chose to be a father. I have to tell you something, I'm not buying this argument, what about the child? First of all, in Michigan and in every state, a woman can give birth and then abandon her baby, walk away, and no one from NOW ever says to her, well, what about your child? She's relieved of all responsibility.

GANDY: That's not true. That's not true.

FEIT: Adoption is an alternative here.

GANDY: That is not true.

FEIT: Child abandonment laws exist in virtually every state, Kim, and my point is...

GANDY: And there has to be the father's consent for adoption.


GANDY: The statement that was made earlier is simply not true.

FEIT: And your statement is flat-out wrong. If a woman abandons her baby anonymously, the biological will never know, will never be able to challenge that. Adoption is the alternative.

KAGAN: Before this turns into a shouting fest, I want to get your take -- Kim, Kim, hold on. I want your take from each of you, the legal atmosphere that we exist in today in terms of abortion rights versus pro-life. Do you think this is the right legal atmosphere to pursue this case? Mel, you first.

FEIT: I think that this is an attempt on our part to really solidify choice. I am so sorry that the president of NOW takes it as an opportunity to make an anti-choice statement. I think we bring men into this movement. We ask men and women to share this as a fundamental basic human right, which is what we're going to ask the judge in Michigan to declare this, as a fundamental right that has to be shared with men, I think we solidify choice for women.

KAGAN: And, Kim, to you, do you think that this is the right legal environment for something like this to move forward? GANDY: I see this as another attack on women's reproductive rights, men who want to force women to have an abortion. If she doesn't want one, men who want to force a woman to have a baby if she doesn't want to have one. It fits right into the actions of the right wing, who simply don't recognize that it has to be the woman's decision. It's her body.

KAGAN: And on that note, I will end it. Kim Gandy, Mel Feit, thanks for starting a discussion that I'm sure is going to continue in offices and homes across the country.

FEIT: Thank you.

GANDY: Thank you.

KAGAN: That's for being here with us.

That's going to wrap up our two hours together. World news coming up for you. I'm Daryn Kagan. I'll be back in about 20 minutes with the latest headlines from here in the U.S. I'll see you then.



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