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Omaha Mall Shootings; Mortgage Crisis and Election Politics

Aired December 5, 2007 - 19:00   ET


LOU DOBBS, CNN ANCHOR: Wolf, thank you.
Eight people have been killed, five wounding this afternoon. A man with a rifle opened fire at a shopping mall in Omaha, Nebraska. Police now say the gunman also shot and killed himself. We'll coverage of that breaking story and much more, straight ahead here tonight.

ANNOUNCER: This is LOU DOBBS TONIGHT: news, debate, and opinion for Wednesday, December 5. Live from New York, Lou Dobbs.

DOBBS: Good evening. Just 20 days before Christmas, eight people have been shot and killed. They were killed this afternoon in a shopping mall packed with shoppers in Omaha, Nebraska. Police say a lone gunman shot his victims with a rifle, witnesses say the gunman fired down on shoppers from a third floor balcony.

Police say the gunman then shot and killed himself. The Christmas shoppers and employees running from the mall as the shooting broke out just before 3:00 p.m. Eastern Time. Some were seen walking out of the building with their hands up. That mall is in an upscale neighborhood in Omaha. We're told it's one of the most popular shopping malls on the city's west side and has 135 stores. About 14.5 million people shop there each year. Witnesses today describing hiding in clothes racks, dressing rooms and bathrooms after hearing those shots and trying to elude the gunman.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We heard, pop, pop, pop and someone came running in and said hurry.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I heard five shots.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: What did you see?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Bodies, bodies and blood.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yeah I heard several shots.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: And then I looked back and (INAUDIBLE).

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yeah, I didn't see him, but I -- we heard a lot of shots right outside the door. UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I was actually steaming an outfit for a customer in the back room. And all of a sudden I heard some loud noises and I -- my last thought was that it was like gunshots. I didn't know what was going on.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: All of a sudden we just saw people just running from every single direction, running down. Nobody was saying anything. They were just trying to get out of the store as fast as they could. And then we were asked to stay in Onkers (ph) where they locked all the doors.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We heard the shots and my manager was in front of me and Janet was in front of her (INAUDIBLE) says get down. She put her hand out for me to get down because I was behind her and I went around and I looked back and then I saw the guy.


DOBBS: Let's -- right now let's go to our affiliate, KETV in Omaha as they are covering this tragedy.

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Well Rob and Julie, the Hampton Inn, which is just southeast of the (INAUDIBLE) Mall Complex is were Omaha police have advised loved ones, family members, anyone who can't get a hold of someone they think might have been inside Westroads Mall during all of this to come up to the Hampton Inn. They're being debriefed by a number of officers. We've seen the Omaha fire chaplain, as well as the Omaha police chaplain, a number of different officers, deputies, people from different departments making their way inside.

Now within -- it was about two hours ago that announcement took place. We have seen a flurry of vehicles driving up here, frantic people gripping their steering wheels; you can almost see it in their faces, gripping their steering wheel, holding their cell phones to their faces. They were trying to make their way into the parking lot, find a spot, and make their way inside to find out some answers.

There are more people walking in even as we speak. Now we're trying to respect their privacy at this time. At the same time you can see in the parking lot behind me, Von Maur (ph), lit up with holiday lights. Just kind of a reminder at this point we are getting close to the holidays. This was very close to lunch hour. When we arrived here earlier this afternoon, about 2:00, the parking lot was full, a lot of holiday shoppers.

We can only imagine how many inside of Westroads at the time all of this took place, so you can imagine. You can see some of the video there, a lot of people coming out in the moments following the shooting. Other people -- there's one of the officers running inside, running in the front. We saw a lot of that, the SWAT team in place, people leaving the building.

Finally this gentleman with his arm held up appears he got shot or injured somewhere in his upper body, maybe his arm out there. A lot of family members seeing this footage throughout the day, maybe hearing whispers of the story in their workplaces or through cell phone messages or phone calls. You know they want to find out what happened.

They're seeing all of this, want to come up here and get some answers about who was inside? And we don't know a lot of that at this point. And (INAUDIBLE) come up here to Hampton Inn, get some of those questions answered, just get some of that emotional support. We've seen volunteers from the Red Cross, from the Salvation Army; again the chaplains of both Omaha police and fire have been up here, as well as a lot of these officers who I would imagine need a lot of emotional support as well for themselves.

Many of these officers, we can only guess, were covering the president's visit early this morning. We saw all of the security involved in that. It was about half an hour that we first started hearing the calls of this incident at Westroads, so we can only guess a lot of these officers have been up, awake and out work on a very emotional day for quite some time. It's pretty cold out here as well, so our guess is a lot of these volunteers, again, the Salvation Army, the Red Cross doing their part to keeping these volunteers and these officers going for as long as they can.

Now another thing officers are saying, if you're out and about, do not come to Westroads Mall. Again, this is a crime scene out here. Nine people murdered inside. Another number of people...

DOBBS: We're watching and listening, the coverage of our affiliate KETV in Omaha, Nebraska. It is also worth noting that President Bush was in Omaha just hours -- and left just hours before this incident in Omaha. That by the way, it is remarkable. This year, this incident represents the fourth shooting incident at a mall in this country this year, seven other people dying in the previous three incidents at those malls.

And tonight, obviously the reports are that eight people were shot by the gunman. He killed himself. Another five are injured in this shooting in Omaha, Nebraska, taking place this afternoon. Omaha police also reported a disturbing find at that same mall. Just four days before today's mall massacre, the police in Omaha found a grenade in the parking lot of the Westroads Mall. Police say the pin of that grenade had not been removed. The bomb squad safely removed the grenade and police still have no suspect in that incident.

For more now on today's tragic shootings, we turn to Kelli Arena in Washington -- Kelli.

KELLI ARENA, CNN JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Lou, federal officials obviously keeping a close eye on what's going on in Omaha. They say obviously this is a local incident right now, but they stand ready to help. And security experts say this points out how much more there needs to be done at malls across this country.

They suggest additions like magnetometers, for example, but they say mall owners here will not make a significant investment in security until there is what they consider to be a major catastrophe. Now, Lou, mall owners certainly know about the risks. Law enforcement has been warning them for years that malls are very vulnerable.

The mall in Omaha, as you said, isn't the only recent target. This is the fourth shooting at a mall this year. And in an alert put out just two weeks ago by the FBI, officials warned about places where people congregate during the holidays and malls were singled out in that advisory. Now that alert advised law enforcement and security personnel to be on the lookout for anything that could be described as surveillance, like someone trying to get information about entry points or observing drills.

But Lou, malls are privately owned. And offering guidance is about all the government can do at this point.

DOBBS: And at this point, Kelli, we have no information about the -- that would give us the identity of this -- of the shooter yet in this horrible incident today in Omaha, nothing even at this point, correct?

ARENA: That's right, Lou.

DOBBS: All right, Kelli, thank you very much. And Kelli, there's one other aspect of this that law enforcement is not covering and perhaps it's not their responsibility. But all of the steps that can be taking by law enforcement, by security forces and malls and other places where we all aggregate in our communities.

We're watching something that is happening in this country sociologically that has to be analyzed, has to be understood and has to be discussed because our society is turning upon itself. This is sickness in terms of the individual but it is also a sickness in terms of our society that we have got to understand. Is law enforcement, in particular at the federal level, are they talking about beginning that examination and certainly is our Congress?

ARENA: Well, Lou, obviously law enforcement has been you know warning about this increase in violent crime and about the people who are committing it are getting younger and younger every time there's a new survey that's put out, so this is an epidemic that they have been trying to ring the alarm bells about. I don't see any move in Congress at this point, but again, you know in a situation like this, Lou, I mean this is where you need to get private industry involved as well because security is not just a law enforcement issue, it is a national issue.

DOBBS: We're going begin that process on this broadcast. I will guarantee you that we'll begin it as a matter of fact tomorrow evening here, because this -- it is time for this country to start being honest -- we've got to start being honest amongst ourselves about what is a path that certainly no nation would want to go down; our society demonstrating too many signs of significant illness and dysfunction when this occurs.

Kelli, thank you very much; Kelli Arena from Washington, D.C.

We will be monitoring, of course, the tragic situation in Omaha. We'll be reporting to you any new developments and bringing them to you just as quickly as humanly possible here throughout this broadcast and certainly throughout the evening here on CNN.

As I said, President Bush was in Omaha, Nebraska today. He left the city just about an hour before the shooting took place in the mall. The president talked at the One World Community Health Center. It's a clinic that provides health care to low income people. Afterwards, President Bush attended a political fundraiser. The president was never any closer than seven miles to the mall where that shooting took place.

Turning now to politics -- the Bush administration tonight apparently finalizing a plan that would freeze mortgage interest rates to help millions of Americans facing foreclosure. The president is expected to announce that plan Thursday, but Senator Clinton today outlined her plan to deal with the crisis.

Mary Snow has our report -- Mary.


MARY SNOW, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Democratic presidential hopeful Senator Hillary Clinton moved to get a step ahead of the Bush administration outlining her plans to deal with the mounting foreclosures threatening to trigger an economic recession.

HILLARY RODHAM CLINTON (D-NY), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: The administration was asleep at the switch but we can't wait until we have a new president.

SNOW: Senator Clinton is calling to impose a moratorium on foreclosures for at least 90 days, freeze adjustable rate loans for at least five years or until sub-prime mortgages are converted into affordable loans, and ask for regular status reports from Wall Street on the progress it is making. Senator Clinton is pointing her finger at Wall Street and giving a choice, do this voluntarily or she'll seek legislation to mandate it.

H. CLINTON: I believe Wall Street shifted risk away from people who knew what was going on to people who did not. Wall Street may not have created the foreclosure crisis, but Wall Street certainly had a hand in making it worse.

SNOW: But on Wall Street some analysts say presidential politics could make the situation worse if it stalls aggressive action.

ARTHUR HOGAN, CHIEF MARKET ANALYST, JEFFERIES: This is going to become that political football that everyone kicks around and by the time the election comes about I think a lot of the medicine is going to already have been taken.

SNOW: One thing that does seem certain is that the economy is moving into the forefront for voters. And for some states it's a bigger concern that for others.

ROGER ALTMAN, CLINTON ECONOMIC ADVISER: When you look at the electoral map, it is very interesting that the states that are being hardest hit are some of the most important in the presidential campaign season.


SNOW: Now analysts view the states as being hardest hit so far by the mortgage crisis is Ohio, Michigan, Florida, and Nevada and California, of course all big states in the presidential election -- Lou.

DOBBS: Well I think we have to take our hats off to Senator Clinton coming out strong and hard and early on this issue. She started talking about this issue several weeks ago and talking about it in the standpoint of the homeowner. This administration has still not come to a policy conclusion. It is really remarkable that they've been so slow to move, so slow to focus on the two million people facing foreclosure.

SNOW: And you know one thing you often don't hear from people on Wall Street is when Washington starts getting involved or politicians start getting involved in these kinds of issues. This however is an exception and the number of people I talked to today said the fact that there are solutions being offered out there such as Senator Clinton's and they see as a positive development whether or not they agree with all the specifics.

DOBBS: It is positive. It is early. No one can ask it to be a completely satisfactory solution or a complete solution, but at least it's the beginning; it's the right direction. And I do believe that it has also forced this administration to look at this crisis in our credit markets and in our housing sector from the standpoint of the homeowner, rather than the traditional view for this administration to the institutions that they think are too big to permit to fail.

This -- early suggestions from this absolutely embarrassing economic team in the Clinton administration -- talking about 75 to $100 billion for money center banks, big money center banks. You're kind to suggest this crisis did not begin in Wall Street. This crisis began by a regulatory environment which was created by this administration and the previous administration -- let there be no mistake about it -- that permitted this kind of predatory lending, these kinds of artificial financial structures that have placed risk upon first the homeowner and tried to hide it from the investor and the regulators as well.

Mary Snow, thank you very much. Appreciate it.

Well coming up here next, illegal alien amnesty advocates, open borders advocates, well they're meeting in Washington, D.C. Why? Well they're going to lobby for amnesty for millions of illegal aliens. They want the keep those borders open and they don't want you to notice.

Louise Schiavone will have the report for us -- Louise.

LOUISE SCHIAVONE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Lou, while some Hispanic groups would like to make you the issue this election year, the truth is like everyone else these citizens will be voting their wallets. DOBBS: They want to make me the issue? Oh my...

SCHIAVONE: You know that.

DOBBS: Oh my goodness. Thanks, Louise. We'll look forward to the report.

Next toys with dangerous levels of lead -- I guess I'm the issue on that story too because we think that those very dangerous imports from China should be regulated, should be inspected and the American consumer should be protected. That makes us really, really wild-eyed populist radicals. Those products are still being sold in this country. Your government is doing nothing about it. We'll have the report.

And an extremely violent turn in Mexico's already violent drug wars. It all began with a discovery of a drug smuggling tunnel and a brutal murder. We'll have the story next. Stay with us.


DOBBS: You may have noticed that the radical left wing and the conservative corporatists are both squealing like stuck pigs because illegal immigration is fast becoming a prominent issue in this presidential campaign. Neither the left nor the right likes it because all of the rest of us in the middle are taking note. The political battle is leading one knew group, which includes leading amnesty and open borders supporters to try to figure out a new way to push their agenda that's being rejected by the American people. But surprisingly there was more discussion of pocketbook issues in the early going than amnesty. Louise Schiavone has our report.


SCHIAVONE (voice-over): It was billed as a forum on immigration and Hispanics, but had far more to do with the hoped for power of the Latino vote in 2008.

SEN. ROBERT MENENDEZ (D), NEW JERSEY: And that the road to the White House to a large degree comes right through Hispanic communities.

SCHIAVONE: Advocates complain their interests are lost in the nation's bitter debate about illegal immigration with health care, literacy, education and prosperity on the minds of Latino voters. Hispanics are pledging to make a difference in 2008. A snapshot prepared by the New Democrat Network, self-described as politically progressive finds that while Hispanics represent 15 percent of the population, they represent eight percent of the electorate. A decisive segment, both Democrats and Republicans have courted the Hispanic vote.



SCHIAVONE: And all the GOP presidential hopefuls except Colorado's Tom Tancredo are planning to participate in the Spanish language cable television debate this weekend. But citing University of Maryland research, the Center for Immigration Study says citizens of Hispanic heritage are more likely to vote their wallets than their ethnicity.

STEVE CAMAROTA, CENTER FOR IMMIGRATION STUDIES: It's not clear that there really is a Hispanic vote. Other things like income and education may just simply matter more and being Hispanic may not be that important.

SCHIAVONE: Rendering statements like this:

JANET MURGUIA, NATIONAL COUNCIL OF LA RAZA: Despite you know Lou Dobbs fear-mongering and rallying cry that anything short of mass deportation is amnesty the public does want a path to citizenship for those who are willing to pay their dues.

SCHIAVONE: Nothing more than the usual rhetoric.


SCHIAVONE: This week the Pew Hispanic Center releases its latest read on registered Latino voters, finding a philosophical migration to Democratic candidates, but that say other analysts is mostly a function of pocketbook issues -- Lou.

DOBBS: Well these ethnocentric interest groups have really exposed themselves to be what they are -- they are race-based organizations trying to drive race-based goals with race-based motives. They're not interested in the common good. They're not interested in the national interests.

They're interested in pursuing their ethnocentric interests, which is interesting because there is no evidence whatsoever that Hispanic Americans have anything in common with these what are now becoming quickly radical groups, La Raza, MALDEF, LULAC. It's sort of a sad process to watch. And Janet Murguia just said -- she just said something she knows better. The idea that I would call for deportation, she knows better and I have never called for deportation of illegal aliens in this country. Did you ask her about that ridiculous comment?

SCHIAVONE: Well the truth is analysts say that Hispanic voters are law abiding citizens who are caught in the war on the middle class, as you've described it, and when they go to the polls, that's what they think of.

DOBBS: And the fact is you know I have to believe that many -- I certainly cannot speak for Hispanic Americans any more than Janet Murguia or MALDEF or LULAC, in point of fact, but I just can't imagine that these activist organizations who are ethnocentric can continue this charade much longer. They're embarrassing just about all of us, but certainly Hispanic Americans that they are tying to the issue of illegal immigration. I would think that they would just be annoyed as the dickens if not outright furious with these people. One thing about it, they're showing themselves to be rather silly activist groups and so long as they continue to expose themselves this way, they'll just be that much less effective and you know what?

If we can get rid of group and identity politics in this country and start focusing on the common good, we'll be a lot better off as a nation, so the sooner they implode, the better, as far as I'm concerned. Thanks very much. Appreciate it, Louise Schiavone.

Time now for some of your thoughts. Ken in Kansas saying, "Hillary beat 'W' to the punch regarding the need to help hurting homeowners. On second thought, Bush has probably already begun doing something by helping the lenders and the banks at taxpayer's expense. The administration is pathetic."

We'll just leave that without further comment. It is not really needed -- further comment I mean.

And John in Pennsylvania, "Lou, between your informative war on the middle class segment, the GOP and Dems not having a clue and the gray skies and snow here in Pittsburgh, Santa came early to brighten my day. Today, I received my Independent voter card. Happy Holidays." Well Merry Christmas, partner, and Happy New Year. It's going to be a wonderful time if more of us can get to those polls as registered Independents.

And Thalia in Ohio said, "After years of procrastination, I finally purchased two new Christmas trees. While assembling the first one, I discovered two tags. One states the product was made in China. The second tag cautions the owner to wash the lead off after handling the electrical wirers. Lou, does it ever end? There's something rotten in Denmark -- I mean China."

And unfortunately, there is also something rotten in this country where we have to put up with this kind of nonsense. We'll have more of your thoughts here later in the broadcast. Each of you whose e- mail is read here receives a copy of my new book, "Independents Day: Awakening the American Spirit", suitable for purchase and disbursement to every one in your neighborhood.

And coming up next, massive contaminated food outbreaks, well they're not only threatening American consumers, they're worrying just about all of us. Two senators are joining me tonight, they're taking action. Try to protect our food supply.

And lead-tainted toys made in communist China, nothing new except we just had a promise two weeks ago that we wouldn't have to deal with this frightening prospect again. Well, a new report shows they're still being sold in our stores. We'll have the story. Why in the world would anybody buy a toy made in China?

Stay with us. We'll be right back. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

DOBBS: I wish I had better news for you in the Christmas shopping season, but tonight we can tell you that after recalls of millions and millions of toys this year, there are still lots and lots of toys in stores containing dangerous levels of lead. In fact, recent testing of more than 1,200 children's products found 35 percent of them contain lead. Bill Tucker has our report.



BILL TUCKER, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): It doesn't get much hotter than Hannah Montana and there aren't many girls' handbags with more lead than this Hannah Montana handbag. Nearly four times the allowable standard, the handbag has not been recalled nor have hundreds of other toys containing lead.

MICHAEL SCHADE, CTR. FOR HEALTH, ENVIRONMENTAL & JUSTICE: We tested over 1,200 toys since the late summer. We found that approximately 35 percent of the toys contained detectable levels of lead. Over 15 percent of those toys contain levels of lead that were over 600 parts per million, which is the CPSC standard for lead and paint.

TUCKER: has a complete list of the toys it tested with its findings. The Web site for consumers is the result of the Center for Health, Environment and Justice, the Ecology Center and other consumer groups not satisfied with either the Consumer Product Safety Commission standards or efforts.

JEFF GEARHART, ECOLOGY CENTER: We had 215 products that tested over the CPSC recall standard OF 600 parts per million. Only 23 of those have been recalled by the Consumer Product Safety Commission. So we hear about the recalls, but we don't hear about the products that they're missing.

TUCKER: Nor do consumers hear about the high levels of other toxic chemicals found in toys like cadmium, mercury and arsenic. It's an old complaint for consumer groups that regulators are working with outdated regulations.

JEAN HALLORAN, CONSUMERS UNION: CPSC standards are extremely out of date. Having had very little staff, one of the things they've neglected is adding standards and updating standards, the lead standard in particular is from 30 years ago.

TUCKER: Current legislation have passed would dramatically increase funding to the Consumer Product Safety Commission and double the size of its staff.


TUCKER: But there is no attempt to currently underway to update the 30-year old standards governing chemicals that are allowable in products. We did try and call the CPSC today. They did not get back to us despite the fact that they promised they would. I would like to give viewers a website, It's very popular. Be patient.

LOU DOBBS, CNN ANCHOR: I hope we've put up the link. Let's try to help. If you can take care of that.

TUCKER: It's been taken care of.

DOBBS: I'm sure our producers with moving to make that happen. You know Bill, I don't know. I've got grandchildren. I have small children. I mean everybody in this country has got to be frustrated that there is no protection here. It's beginning to look like the only possible choice is to say no, I'm not going to be buying these toys because of the safety issues. These toy companies have been lying through their teeth. We continue to find problem after problem. Each week brings greater exposure to a crisis that's facing us.

TUCKER: Consumers have no with to turn except to these consumer groups and these environmental agencies. The CPSC is not guarding the gate.

DOBBS: Every one of you watching this, if you believe this is about ideology and free trade; you don't know the role of government. Put your ideology aside through the Christmas season and protect your young ones, whether they're children or grandchildren. This is very, very serious. I can't believe that this administration hasn't stepped in. These toy brands, I mean, there has to be an investigation. If we did not have Consumers' Union, all of the groups working on behalf of the American consumer. We have to say thank you to them and highlight their efforts. We're deeply grateful what their doing.

TUCKER: Absolutely.

DOBBS: We're more than just a little frustrated with what the federal government and the Consumer Product Safety Commission and others are not doing. All right. Thank you very much, Bill Tucker.

In tonight's poll, our question is straight forward. Do you believe our government can keep you and your family safe from dangerous toy imports this holiday season? Yes or no? We'll have the results here later in the broadcast.

Up next, I'll be joined by two U.S. senators. They're here to talk about their push to make our food supply safe again.

And Colombian and Mexican drug smugglers using faster, more high tech methods to bring illegal drugs into the United States. Mexico already the leading source of those drugs.

And a police chief assassinated in a Mexican border town just hours after the discovery of a drug tunnel. We'll tell you about worsening violence there as well.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) DOBBS: Our Coast Guard is trying new ways to catch illegal drug smugglers before they reach our shores. But as Jeanne Meserve now reports, the drug traffickers are using brand new tactics and much faster boats and outwitting our law enforcement agencies in the war on drugs.


JEANNE MESERVE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: March of this year, the largest cocaine bust ever made by the U.S. Coast Guard. They seized 355,000 pounds of cocaine this year, worth an estimated $4.7 million, a two percent increase over the previous year.

COMMANDER ROBERT WATTS, U.S. COAST GUARD: We have a lot of human intelligence. We have a lot of tactical intelligence. We have a lot of interagency cooperation.

MESERVE: One former counter-narcotics official is skeptical.

MATHEA FALCO, DRUG STRATEGIES: Even the largest seizures will not make a dent in the market. We know that prices continue to go down despite is the large seizures.

MESERVE: The Coast Guard says traffickers have shifted their routes, traveling as much as 1,000 miles offshore, using other boats to refuel mid trip.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He's not out there to go fishing.

MESERVE: Traffickers are also using new tactics. Twice this year they've been caught in semi submersibles each worth half a million dollars. In a new trend, the Coast Guard is seeing more liquid cocaine. Once gallon can be converted into almost four and a half pounds of pure cocaine. The Coast Guard argues these adaptations are a sign of the success.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It tells me we're doing something right. The old days were you could just load up a boat and go are not there.


MESERVE: The only truly effective way is to curb demand for them here in the U.S. Lou.

DOBBS: It seems to me that we've learned over three decades is we have to do both, deal with supply, demand, treat the crisis and addiction in this country. But we've got to blow the dickens out of the all of the boats. Why is there not more effort, if you can had hazard an effort, why is there not a bigger effort to keep the drugs from crossing the border?

MESERVE: There is a big effort but the fact of the matter is this is a tremendously good business for the traffickers. They will do everything they can to circumvent and counter ever measure that law enforcement puts in place. The Coast Guard is dealing with shipments from Colombia. They have treaties that have helped them reach the numbers.

DOBBS: There's no question, with all of the missions our Coast Guard is responsible for, they're doing a remarkable job with an overwhelming challenge in front of them given all of the miles of coastline they have to protect. Thanks, Jeanne.

Mexican police are investigating the cold blooded assassination of a border town police chief. The killer struck just hours after Mexican police cooperated with U.S. law enforcement and the discovery of a tunnel used to smuggle drugs into the United States. Casey Wian reports from California.

CASEY WIAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Another sophisticated drug smuggling tunnel discovered under the U.S. Mexico border, this time just a few dozen yards north of the Takota port of entry. Another Mexican law enforcement officer assassinated, the newly promoted commander. He was shot 50 times in his home as he slept. It was an apparent retaliation by Mexican drug cartels.

PATRICIA NAVARRO, MINISTRY OF POLICE TEXATE, MEXICO: We received a call that the official was killed in his house by an armed group. We found two vehicles about a mile away that were not parked straight. One of the vehicles had a California plate. We found gloves, a metal cutting tool. That shows you anyone can do what they did.

WIAN: Two days after the nearly one mile long tunnel's discovery north of the border, federal agents continued to pull evidence from underground. They also seized a large load of marijuana. U.S. military personnel helped to map the path. An immigration and customs enforcement spokeswoman says the tunnel shares similar traits, electricity, drainage systems, evidence of people living underground, as the 2006 tunnel that was found. ICE says more than 30 tunnels have been found since 2005.

REP. BRIAN BILBRAY (R), CALIFORNIA: The cartels are taking over the northern part of Baja and the border region mostly because we're allowing them to make money bringing drugs and aliens north and money south. It's very scary.

WIAN: It's also another blow to President Felipe Calderon's war on drugs. 25,000 federal troops have failed to loosen the cartel's grip on huge areas of Mexican territory.


WIAN: While U.S. official continue to investigate the tunnel, Mexican law enforcement say they're determined to find out who killed the police chief. Anyone that dared cross the cartels, whether a citizen or public official, is risking his life.

DOBBS: No question about it. The drug cartel violence goes on, unabated and indeed is expanding assassinations, popular music groups there and vocalists, singers. Tell us what is being done about that now.

WIAN: The Mexican officials say that at the state level and at the federal level they're going to be investigating this. As we've seen, President Calderon is making the effort to stop this. They are so brazen as to assassinate him next to his wife as she slept and his children are in the house. It shows how they operate with impunity in Mexico. On the U.S. side of the brooder, there's an intense effort going on at the U.S. entrance to the tunnel. There were lots of army personnel, DEA personnel, homeland security operations teams. This is clearly a high priority ingest gags.

DOBBS: You're not suggesting that the Bush administration is awakening to part of the threat posed there? Surely not?

WIAN: All I can tell you is what I've and that they are investigating this drug tunnel very aggressively.

DOBBS: Terrific. Thank you very much, Casey Wian reporting for Texate, Mexico.

Up next, new efforts to keep the food supply safe. I'll be joined by two senators sponsoring new legislation aimed at protecting American consumer, Senator Grassley and Casey join me.

Our American school system failing a generation. It appears to be failing African-American and Hispanic men the most. We'll be talking to education experts next.


DOBBS: Two senators are serious about trying to protect you from imported item, food, the first bipartisan food safety legislation. Chuck Grassley and Bob Casey join me. Thank you all for being here. The idea that we have to have this legislation, why now? Do you think there's any prospect that the American consumer will be safer soon? I'll begin with you Senator Grassley.

SEN. CHARLES GRASSLEY (R), IOWA: First of all Senator Casey needs credit for detecting the problem. I'm helping him move forward with this. The prosperity of the American farmer is at stake too. The other thing I would say is that there has always been some inspection but it's been inadequate. With the legislation, the first line of defense has to be making sure that we approve of inspections that go on in individual countries before it's exported to us.

DOBBS: Senator Casey, among the other parts of the legislation, $30 million to train, private labs will be FDA certified, private labs will be testing imported foods, penalties on falsified results and public notification for smuggled and recalled food. At this point are you also going to introduce country of origin labeling as well? It's been on the books for four years.

SEN. BOB CASEY (D), PENNSYLVANIA: I think that's a good summary of the bill you provided. I appreciate that. I think the issue has many facets to it. This administration focuses on smuggled or illegally imported foods. Country of origin labeling is part of the challenge. We're trying to make a couple of common sense proposals within the context I should say of the existing facilities, homeland security, department of agriculture, FDA, health and human services and to focus on training. We hire some 250 individuals, taking them as well as others and cross training them so we can prevent these things from occurring at the border.

DOBBS: What would you say if I said your legislation, if food and product responsibility act, this is a crisis. We're importing just about 20% of the food into this country. We're seeing increasing numbers of recalls. There is a great lack of confidence as Senator Grassley said right now in our food chain, our food supply and in the interest of our government to protect the American consumer. This seems to me it should be a priority of the democratic leadership in the house and senate.

CASEY: I think it is, Lou. As cow know of you're cover from all the pieces of legislation, in the senate, we need the majority to cover it, at least 60 votes. Senator Grassley lends a lot of help to the bipartisan effort.

DOBBS: Can you get it done on the republican side?

GRASSLEY: I think we can. Country of origin labeling is part of the farm bill. That will put a stop to the four-year delay.

DOBBS: It would be nice to see you push back against the food lobby. You have been railroaded by the food lobby.

GRASSLEY: Everything has within against the country of origin. It doesn't make sense. You know everything else imported into the United States is labeled except your food. The consumer ought to have the same knowledge of the origin of food that they do your t-shirt.

DOBBS: Senator Casey, Senator Grassley, we thank you both. We hope for a quick passage of your legislation.

Up next, the great equalizer in the country, our public schools. They're failing an entire generation of Americans. Stunning charges tonight from two top educators. We'll be right back with that. Stay with us.


DOBBS: Coming up at the top of the hour, "OUT IN THE OPEN" with Rick Sanchez. Rick.

RICK SANCHEZ, CNN ANCHOR: Unbelievable. This breaking story that's been taking place out in Omaha Lou. Eight people are dead. A guy just takes out a rifle and he starts to shoot people. We'll be all over that. We'll have several guests from there. We'll talk the police and other officials.

We'll bring you the latest of what's going on in Houston. If a man sees a burglar ripping off his neighbor's house, does he have a right to shoot them? This guy did and now it's causing a lot of controversy because people are saying he did the right thing but he may be charged as a result.

Also that illegal immigrant that came through the border into the United States and stopped to save a little boy whose mother had died in a car accident and he stayed with him, he's with us live to tell us what happened on that night. All of this and a hole lot more right here "OUT IN THE OPEN." My friend, Lou, back to you. Hey that rhymes.

DOBBS: Thank you very much. A reminder now to vote in our poll. Do you believe the government can keep you and your family safe from dangerous imported toys this holiday season?

Coming up next, education, public education, the great equalizer in our country. Why isn't this administration, these candidates talking about this national crisis? I'll be talking about two men that have views on this. Stay with us. We're coming right back.


DOBBS: I often refer to the public school system as the great equalizer in our society. The public schools are failing an entire generation of Americans. Joining me are Jawanza Kunjufu, author of "Black Students, Middle Class Teachers," and Pedro Noguera, a teacher, co-editor of "Unfinished Business."

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: How are you, Lou?

DOBBS: I am good. I'm terribly concerned about the students in the high schools we've created. We're created dropout factories. Why is that? Why can't we see a better performance from the schools serving all students?

JAWANZA KUNJUFU, AUTHOR, "BLACK STUDENTS, MIDDLE CLASS STUDENTS": What's really tragic is that in most urban areas, we have a dropout rate above 50%, especially for black and Latino males. They drop out in ninth grade. You're 16 years of age, in the ninth grade with a fourth or fifth grade reading level. That's demoralizing. We have to make schools smaller. A school of 5,000 students and seven different teachers and no one knows your name. That's one. How can you live in a capitalistic country and not teach black and Latino males about capitalism? So many of our boys believe, Lou, the best way to earn money in America is either going pro in the NBA, becoming a rapper like 50 or becoming the first drug dealer never to be caught.

DOBBS: I think we need to blame corporate America for that. We see it in nonsensical commercials. I think it's scurrilous what's we're doing. Peter, we have talked about the need to reduce the size of the classroom. Are we getting any closer to that?

PEDRO NOGUERA, NYU SCHOOL OF EDUCATION: I think we are in some places. Some schools, some districts, even Atlanta and New York City. But we have a long way to go.

DOBBS: You said some schools. One of the things that strikes me -- and I say just (inaudible) you can beat the hell out of me if you want to, but I really believe bringing ideology to public education is a crazy business.

We have a bunch of liberals who want charter and magnet schools instead of quality public schools in the community, and we got a bunch of conservatives who think that vouchers as choice is a solution. I wish we could push away those extremes and just talk about creating and demanding and absolutely enforcing quality public education in the communities where the schools exist, building new schools if necessary. Why can't we do that?

KUNJUFU: Lou, you know, the research shows principals make the difference. And there are two types of principals -- those who are CEOs that want to run the budget and manage the facilities, and those who are instructional leaders who monitor classrooms. Because, unfortunately, there are five types of educators in our schools. We have custodians, we have referral agents who refer students, we have instructors who want to teach subjects. But we have few teachers who understand the relationship between pedagogical teaching styles and learning styles. And even fewer coaches, who not only understand curriculum, pedagogy, but they also bond with their students.

We also know that if we increase time on task, then we also can increase learning. If we can make the curriculum more...

DOBBS: Can I be honest with you? You're wearing me out with all that. You know what?

KUNJUFU: Well, Lou, you only gave me seven minutes.

DOBBS: I know, I know...

KUNJUFU: And Pedro and I will tell you, we give three- and four- hour workshops, but we only have seven minutes.

DOBBS: I know you do. But let's assume I'm a high school student. I still got my high school student's attention span. It may be a little shorter than that.

Why in the world can't we convince these presidential candidates this is a crisis? We don't have time for No Child Left Behind. Enough of the BS. Let's get and create exactly what you all are talking about. Let's start relating to students, let's get the classrooms under control, let's put money at the problem and let's not wait. Let's go to 1958 and turn it around.

KUNJUFU: Lou, let me ask this question: Why is it that our politicians for some reason are not addressing the fact that Head Start is cost-effective, Pell Grants are cost-effective, Title I is cost-effective, and yet we're spending $28,000 a year to incarcerate someone with a recidivism of 85 percent? It is obvious that prisons are not cost-effective. There is a relationship between the schoolhouse and the jailhouse...

DOBBS: Partner, you just lost me. You lost me. And you got political on me instead of educational. And I've got to tell you, I understand what you're saying.


DOBBS: But I want to get the schools straightened out. KUNJUFU: Title I....

NOGUERA: I think that we have had seven years of No Child Left Behind, and we still have this dropout rate that we started with. And it really speaks to the failure of policy.

Too often, our politicians have really focused on gimmicks, on quick fixes, instead of really focusing on the quality of teaching, quality of leadership, and really making -- creating the best public schools we can do, we can have.

DOBBS: I think these two gentlemen, by the way, ladies and gentlemen, bear great listening to. We're going to listen to them a lot. I'm going to beg you to get back here every couple of weeks, whenever we can, your schedules permitting. But we're going to get at this and we're going to keep expanding the dialogue.

Because I really think it's something that we've just got to quit. It's got to -- it's got to get fixed. It's a crisis.

KUNJUFU: We have to raise teacher expectations and raise parental involvement.

DOBBS: Thank you very much. Will you come back soon?

KUNJUFU: Yes, I will.

DOBBS: Pedro, need you back soon.

NOGUERA: All right, I'll be ready.

DOBBS: Appreciate it. Thank you.

Thanks for being with us here tonight. We thank you for watching. Good night from New York. "OUT IN THE OPEN WITH RICK SANCHEZ" begins now -- Rick.