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Alaska Ocean Rescue; More Midwest Misery; WalMart Fight; Easter in Iraq

Aired March 23, 2008 - 18:00   ET


RICK SANCHEZ, CNN ANCHOR: This is happening right now. Four people are dead, a sinking ship right off the coast of Alaska. What has gone wrong? The rescue efforts going underway right now. We're going to have a live report. Also, a little girl's dying wish to see her dad.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We have never asked them to release him early, we've never asked them to change anything. We've asked them to just give him some time to be here.


SANCHEZ: Should an inmate be allowed to spend some final moments with his dying daughter. This is an ethical dilemma, it is straight ahead.

Speaking of dilemmas, a Wal-Mart employee badly injured, suffers brain damage. Now the retailer wants her to pay them. Controversy.

And later, caught on tape, what one immigration official allegedly demanded in exchange for a green card. You can probably imagine. All this coming up next.

Here we go. Emergency and a bad one in one of the most remote parts of the world, a fishing boat is sinking as we speak. It's off of Alaska's Dutch harbor in the Bering Sea along the Aleutian Islands we've all heard about. Though it is technically springtime there is nothing springlike about the conditions there. We've heard that at least four of the crewmen went overboard and have died or have already been declared dead. The U.S. Coast Guard is on the scene. They're doing what they can to try to help. On the phone with us right now the Dutch harbor's coast guard lieutenant, Eric Eggan. Describe to us what has happened with this fishing vessel.

LT. ERIC EGGAN, U.S. COAST GUARD (on phone): Yes, sir. Early today, we received a call. They were -- the vessel was taking on water. They later abandoned ship. It was initially reported that they had all gone into the life rafts, but we responded with Coast Guard Cutter Monroe and several aircraft. Also responding was the sister ship, the Alaska Warrior.

SANCHEZ: And when they got to the scene, what did they see? What were the conditions there like as far as the seas? And what was the condition of the boat itself?

EGGAN: The boat was sinking. The last photo I saw was several hours ago and it was listing to port. The seas were six to eight feet and there was 25 knot winds.

SANCHEZ: Six to eight feet, that's not so bad for a boat that large?

EGGAN: Well, if you're in a life raft, you may feel it a little more, but ...

SANCHEZ: You don't think the seas are what contributed to the boat sinking, do you? Or did they just maybe hit a chop wrong or something?

EGGAN: We're investigating that. We have to specifics on that yet.

SANCHEZ: Has the boat sunk?

EGGAN: We are trying to confirm that too, sir.

SANCHEZ: How about the guys who went overboard. Apparently, what -- besides the four that have already died, were there others that were overboard as well?

EGGAN: We're not sure about that either. We do know that there were four reported deceased and we're still actually looking for one.

SANCHEZ: Is there a possibility that the number of dead in this case could grow tonight?

EGGAN: Well, we have everyone accounted for except one person. So, yes, it's possible.

SANCHEZ: Listen, we thank you can be Captain Eggan, for taking time to talk to us. We're going to continue checking back with you guys. I know you guys are always - semper paratus when it comes to situations like this. We appreciate your effort and your time to talk to us as well.

Meanwhile, the misery for folks in Missouri just keeps coming. While hundreds are wading through their flood-damaged homes, looking to save just about anything, others in the state are waiting for a second round of flooding tomorrow. In Arkansas, forecasters are warning that a river there could cause some of the worst flooding in the region's history. KATV's Jessica Dean is in Des Arc. It's an hour east we understand of Little Rock. She is joining us now I guess right off the coast of the river. Have we seen the waters finally start to recede and what about the evacuations?

JESSICA DEAN KATV CORRESPONDENT: I wish we could say we have, but people here are telling me it's going to be three more feet before they recede and it keeps going and keeps going. If you take a look behind me, this used to be a campground and trailer park, but right now it looks more like a lake. Look at this sign back here, you can see where they were supposed to go and stop at the office. And behind that the house is totally underwater and if you go farther behind there are more and more homes just like that and in this whole area.

And you mentioned evacuations, they pretty much have gotten everybody out. There are a few homes here to my right that are not completely underwater yet and they've chosen to stay in those homes right now and are just going to wait this one out. But I tell you what, these waters keep rising and it is very devastating to this community. The man that owns this land, this was supposed to be his retirement. You can see there's really not much left of it.

SANCHEZ: How close are you to the city itself? Where you see the bulk of the people who may be living close to this river?

DEAN: Right. We're not that far away. We're probably, I'd say, about two or three miles away and in the city itself they've blocked off roads and are telling people not to go over the bridges and levees because they're hoping that those hold the water back because there's so much pressure on them right now.

SANCHEZ: That's amazing. We're going to be following this throughout the day. Our thanks to you, Jessica, for bringing us up to date on this situation. Certainly if anything changes, we'll get right back to you. All this flooding's got New Orleans worried as well. Why? Forecasters are saying that the Mississippi River, think about it now, the waters rising up north and eventually have to go south. The city could be at a risk of flooding anytime in the next three weeks. Emergency officials are on guard against any levee problems. The river's expected to crest next month at just half a foot below the official flood stage. Jacqui Jeras is checking this as well as everything else that's going on with the weather. The flooding in parts of the Midwest and the situation down south. What you got, Jacqui?

JACQUI JERAS, CNN METEOROLOGIST: A lot of flood warnings out there, absolutely. The river right here, Mississippi River, you can see all the dark green kind of lined up there. The reason being, rivers like the Arkansas River, rivers like the Merrimac River, a lot of them -- rivers like the Ohio River flow into the Mississippi River and then it all goes downstream. Most of the damage was already done early last week with all of the heavy rainfall, a little bit of snow melt on top of that. And those rivers have gone out of their banks and it's going to take days for them to recede. Many of the rivers up in this area have already begun to recede, but it's going to be midweek before they're back below flood stage. Rivers down here are on the rise and we'll be watching some crest by the middle to latter part of this upcoming week. The best news I can tell you altogether, no major weather systems are coming in to produce heavy rainfall, heavy enough to aggravate those rivers and streams and provide more runoff.

So we've got a little bit of light shower activity, a little bit of snow shower activity as well, but everybody should be staying under a quarter of an inch for sure. It's just kind of a nuance for your travel here and the roadways might be a little bit on the slick side across parts of Wisconsin on up to northern Illinois.


SANCHEZ: A lot of rain in South Florida. I was reading, as a matter of fact, they had to suspend play at the Doral Open. It seems the only thing that can beat Tiger Woods is the rain.

JERAS: Is Mother Nature. Yeah.

SANCHEZ: Thanks so much, Jacqui.

Sex for a green card. Could somebody actually do something like that? These are shocking allegations. We are investigating it for you.

First, though, almost 4,000 American war dead. That's almost 4,000 shattered families. We'll meet a mother who lost her son and so much more.


SANCHEZ: We welcome you back to the CNN NEWSROOM. I'm Rick Sanchez. Easter Sunday in Iraq was like most other days there, violent and deadly all over the country. Several separate insurgent attacks left at least 30 people dead. The worst was in Mosul. It's north of Baghdad. A suicide truck bomber detonated outside an Iraqi military base. That happened about 7:00 a.m. and killed 10 Iraqi soldiers. In Baghdad Sunday, someone fired mortars and rockets into a Shiite neighborhood and into the so-called Green Zone that you know is so protected. That's where the U.S. and other embassies are located. Nobody hurt there. Several people were killed in the neighborhood attacks. Something very interesting also happened in Iraq today. U.S. forces took down an alleged suicide bombing cell today in Baquba. Now, they killed 12 suspected terrorists. Here's the interesting part of the story and why we want you to pay attention to this. The bodies of six of the insurgents were completely shaved. Their entire bodies.

Now what does that mean? Larry Johnson is on the phone for us. He's a former CIA analyst and he's now with the security company that does the consulting, Berg Associates. He's good enough to join us to bring us up to date on this. When you hear that, that their bodies were shaved, what are you thinking?

LARRY JOHNSON, BERG ASSOCIATES (on phone): They're suicide bombers. These guys are probably foreign fighters.

SANCHEZ: So they shave their bodies to get ready to meet their maker?

JOHNSON: Right. And most of the foreign fighters are, a substantial portion of them are actually wearing suicide belts all of the time. Sometimes they'll actually detonate themselves unintentionally.

SANCHEZ: Is this the -- is this the kind of thing that we've seen before over there? How unique is this?

JOHNSON: Oh, yeah, no, this is common. I was over there with the forces, I'm sure who carried out this particular raid in may of 2006. Most of the violence that's underway in Iraq is not caused by the foreign fighters. But that said, the foreign fighters that are coming in, most of them are wearing suicide belts, most of the suicide attacks, at least with the belts on the individual are carried out by these foreign fighters or people directly working with them.

SANCHEZ: Do you happen to know, why would they have done it so far ahead of whatever attack that they were planning? JOHNSON: Because actually, they're wearing it full-time. It's not just that they're wearing it for -- in other parts of the world, we have seen that suicide bombers will prepare for a particular attack. These guys are actually wearing these things 24/7. So more often than not, they're ready to go.

SANCHEZ: So if they're wearing it 24/7, when, then do they know that this is the time and that's the place where you have to go and attack?

JOHNSON: You mean for the -- when do the bad guys choose their targets?

SANCHEZ: Yeah. Who ...

JOHNSON: They try to get access to the targets, and in reality, some of the effectiveness of the security forces limits what they can do. Some of them have been -- they literally -- there's certain tactics that are employed, for example, U.S. forces in some situations will use dogs. These foreign fighters will allow the dogs to come in and bite them, because they then know that U.S. troops will follow and get the dog off and they wait for the U.S. troops to get close and then they'll detonate themselves.

SANCHEZ: That's fascinating. The M.O. really known on both sides. Listen, Mr. Johnson, we thank you for taking time to talk to us and take us through that as we continue to get details on this story.

JOHNSON: Thank you.

SANCHEZ: We do know plenty about U.S. troops sacrificing their lives in the now five-year-old Iraq War, nearly 4,000. But think about the mothers behind every one of those soldiers who has gone down and marines. CNN's Cal Perry met with one mother. He met her son years ago in Baghdad's combat hospital and now, their story.


CAL PERRY, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): It was May the 4th of 2006 when we met Caleb Lufkin here in Baghdad's busiest combat hospital. He was scared and near death.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Don't you dare try to die on me. Don't die on me. I won't let you die, I promise. I give you my word, OK.

PERRY: It was a roadside bomb that shattered his body and Caleb like thousands other veterans flew to Walter Reed hospital for follow-on surgeries. Two years later we wanted to hear for ourselves what had happened to Caleb after he had left that hospital, so we came here to his hometown of Knoxville, Illinois, and visited with his mother. Marcy Gorsline immediately cast her mind back 20 years when her eldest son was just a kid.

MARCY GORSLINE, CALEB LUFKIN'S MOTHER: His little hand and take him to the first day of kindergarten, he had the little backpack on and get him to the doorway, you don't want to let go of their hand. PERRY: He grew up fast and seemed destined for a life of public service. He wanted to become a firefighter here in his hometown. But soon after he left high school ...

GORSLINE: He called me up one day and said, mom, he said, I need my Social Security card. I said, why? He said, well, mom, I'm going to join the Army.

PERRY: And he did. Graduating from basic training.

GORSLINE: He was suddenly a man. I mean, he went from being, I guess, my little boy -- he was a man.

PERRY: Marcy was against the war in Iraq, but she still had to let her boy go. So he joined the Fifth Engineering Battalion of the U.S. Army and was soon packing for his first deployment overseas.

GORSLINE: He had his backpack on and his fatigues. Of course, we're all crying. He looked over his shoulder before he got on the plane, he said, I'll be all right, mom.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Breathe for me, Caleb. Are you having trouble breathing over there?



PERRY: Marcy flew immediately to his side. Meeting him at Walter Reed Hospital and preparing for what was to be his final surgery before going home.

GORSLINE: He said, you're going to fly home with me, right? I said, you're darn right I am, we're flying home. And so he went into surgery and right before he went in I tussled his hair and I kissed him on the forehead and I said, I love you bulb, and he said, I love you too, mom.

PERRY: And then in an instant, Marcy faced every mother's worst nightmare, Caleb's heart had stopped and he died on the operating table.

GORSLINE: We had to get on the plane without him. I felt like I let him down. You know someone said, what's this war mean to you? What has it done? It took away dreams. It took away dreams. To the world, he is number 95, for Illinois. To us, he was the world.

PERRY (on camera): That's why you decided here?

GORSLINE: Here's where he's supposed to be.

PERRY: Under the flag?

GORSLINE: Under the flag. Dog gone it, there we go.

PERRY (voice-over): Every day she comes to Knoxville's cemetery and tends to the grave of her eldest son. Her world is still turned upside down.

GORSLINE: Moms shouldn't have to bury her child. So now the flag's protecting him instead of him protect thing the flag.

PERRY: But what's important to Marcy.

GORSLINE: I don't want anybody to forget him. And I don't want anybody to forget the other 4,000.

PERRY: Cal Perry, CNN, Knoxville.


SANCHEZ: The world, she says, she's number 95 in Illinois, to us, he was the world. Powerful. We'll be right back.


SANCHEZ: We welcome you back to the world headquarters of CNN. I'm Rick Sanchez. We've heard the nightmare scenarios about families who can't afford to pay for health care. Well, this story is a little bit different. And perhaps even more disturbing. A woman disabled from a car accident had a job, had health care, but her employer is now fighting her every step of the way. Here's CNN's Randi Kaye.



RANDI KAYE, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Debbie Shank remembers how to count in German, but she has no idea what she had for breakfast or what my name is minutes after meeting me. Debbie has no short-term memory. In May of 2000, a semi truck plowed into her minivan on this Missouri highway. Debbie's brain took the brunt of it.

JIM SHANK, SUED BY WAL-MART: It came through her window and probably hit her head.

D. SHANK: I don't remember.

KAYE: Today she lives in a nursing home. Jim Shank works two jobs to help pay the bills, and his bank account may soon take another hit.

(on camera): Eight years ago when she started stocking shelves at this wal-mart near her home, Debbie signed up for the company's health and benefits plan, so she was covered and her family says the bills were paid promptly. What Debbie didn't notice was a tiny clause in the plan's paperwork that says Wal-Mart has the right to recoup medical expenses if the employee also collects damages in a lawsuit.

(voice-over): In 2002, the Shanks settled with the trucking company. After legal fees, $417,000 was put into a trust for Mrs. Shank's care. The family's lawyer said he told Wal-Mart about the settlement. Then in 2005, Wal-Mart's health plan asked for its money back and sued the Shanks for about $470,000, money it had paid to cover Debbie's medical bills. The court ruled in Wal-Mart's favor. (on camera): The fact is, Wal-Mart isn't doing anything wrong here. It is their legal right to recoup this money.

J. SHANK: They're quite within their rights. But I just wonder if they need it that bad.

KAYE (voice-over): We tried to ask Wal-Mart why go after the money. The company's net sales third quarter of 2007 were $90 billion. A Wal-Mart spokesman who called Mrs. Shank's case "unbelievably sad" told us, "Wal-Mart's plan is bound by very specific rules. We wish it could be more flexible in Mrs. Shank's case since her circumstances are clearly extraordinary. But this is done out of fairness to all associates who contribute to and benefit from the plan."

(on camera): Do you think Wal-Mart should make an exemption for your family?

J. SHANK: My idea of a win-win, you keep the paperwork that says you won and let us keep the money so I can take care of my wife.

KAYE: If Wal-Mart's health plan gets the money back, Jim says he won't be able to pay for his wife's care or his own. He's recovering from prostate cancer. He may lose his car and he won't be able to send his youngest son to college.

J. SHANK: Who needs the money more? A disabled lady in a wheelchair with no future whatsoever? Does she need it or does Wal-Mart need $90 billion plus $200,000?

KAYE: The Shanks' lawyer says Wal-Mart is entitled to only about $100,000. Right now, about $277,000 remains in the trust, far short of what Wal-Mart wants back.

J. SHANK: That's what they got you for Christmas.

KAYE: Last year, Jim divorced Debbie so she could get more money from Medicaid.

(on camera): The trauma to Debbie brain is so severe, Jim says she won't remember us visiting her. In fact, she doesn't even accident that put her here. She's in a private room now due to severe mood swings and tendency to scream all related o her injuries. But she might not be able to afford the room much longer.

Last summer the Shanks appealed the ruling in Wal-Mart's favor and lost. One week later, another terrible loss. Their son, 18-year-old Jeremy, in Iraq just two weeks was killed. Debby went to the funeral but doesn't remember her son is dead. When reminded, it was as if she was hearing it for the first time.

One final push is underway. Jim is petitioning the U.S. Supreme Court to hear Debbie's case. What's left of Debbie's trust will remain frozen as the battle rages on. Randi Kaye, CNN, Jackson, Missouri.

(END VIDEOTAPE) SANCHEZ: The war in America has cost nearly 4,000 lives -- the war in Iraq, I meant to say, pardon me, I misspoke. Is it also to blame for the slumping economy in America and the weak dollar? We are going to take a look at this, a close look. Stay with us.


SANCHEZ: And we welcome you back. Five years into the war in Iraq and Americans are taking stock. We now know that Saddam Hussein had no weapons of mass destruction. We're all worried about where the economy is heading. That has become issue number one, so-called here on CNN as we follow it every day. Some blame the war for that. But let's be fair. With the mortgage meltdown, rising gas prices and so many people losing their jobs is the Iraq War inextricably linked to the faltering U.S. dollar?


SANCHEZ (voice-over): Calling for an end to it, marking the five-year anniversary of its beginning.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Five years too long!

SANCHEZ: A majority of Americans now say they are war-weary. The results of a new CNN Opinion Research poll. Seven out of 10 Americans now believe government spending on the war in Iraq is hurting the very people paying for it. Hard words to hear in a military town like Columbus, Georgia, home to Ft. Benning, one of the country's largest army training bases. And many here believe what history supports.

PVT EDGARD HERCILA, U.S. ARMY: Any kind of spending stimulates the economy, be it military or civilian spending.

SANCHEZ: Not necessarily, says Linda Bilmes of Harvard's Kennedy School of Government.

LINDA BILMES, HARVARD: We actually know that if we look at this war in particular, it is especially non-stimulating to the economy because of the way that we have paid for this war. First of all, we have borrowed all the money to finance the war so far, so what we have done is we have simply added $800 billion on to our national debt. And we have borrowed, of course, much of that money from overseas for the first time since the Revolutionary War.

SANCHEZ: According to Pentagon estimates, we're paying about $9.5 billion a month to finance combat operations in Iraq. Yet in her new book, Linda says if you add in new factors like long-term care for war veterans and replacing military equipment that figure is closer to $25 billion a month. Not everyone agrees spending for Iraq is behind our current economic troubles.

ROBERT HORMATZ, GOLDMAN SACHS ECONOMIST: The war is not a significant cause of the current recession. It's negative for the economy, but not a significant cause of the current recession.

SANCHEZ: Everyone agrees the price of gas is not helping. In 2003, the week we invaded Iraq, gas prices were hovering around $1.73 a gallon. Now, some are paying $4 a gallon.

BILMES: And when we look at what's happened on Wall Street, what we see is that countries like the Middle Eastern countries are actually buying large chunks of our banks, of Citibank, Merrill Lynch, et cetera with the money that they have received from us paying for these higher oil prices.

SANCHEZ: Another sign from Wall Street. Last week's $30 billion bailout of Bear Stearns, engineered by the Federal Reserve in a move rarely seen since the great depression. A product of the mortgage mess, which as military supply store business owner Paul Voorhees points out, has nothing to do with the war in Iraq.

PAUL VORHESS, BUSIENSS OWNER: I think it's more than just the war in Iraq. I think there is other things that has hurt the economy. Especially the loans they have made to people they shouldn't have made. People could borrow money 120 percent and now the house not even worth what they paid for. They can't sell it for what they owe for it. And people went in with nothing down. And I think that really hurt us more than the war in Iraq.


SANCHEZ (on camera): So you add it all up, what do you get? You get dire economic full-times. But what label do we slap on it as we doll out $50, $60, $70 to put gas in one of our cars. And as truck drivers were telling me the other day, they are paying $1,000 to fill up their rigs. A thousand dollars.

Is it a recession, is it the next depression around the corner? What is it? We need to know as Americans, but many of us don't know enough. This man does. Jeff Rosensweig is an associate professor at Emory University. He's also an expert on global economics. He's good enough to join us now.

Let's get some of the business out of the way first that we were just talking about in that report. That was the idea that Americans are convinced that the Iraq War has not been good for the economy. Are they right?

JEFF ROSENSWEIG, GLOBAL ECONOMIST: It hasn't been much either way. It has brought some spending into an economy, defense contractors and others and people in military and then the spending comes on through the system. Nothing like World War II which got us out of the Great Depression, but on net, it's not that important economically.

SANCHEZ: Those of us on the outside look at this and economists look at this and say, why in the world have we borrowed so much money? Which it does seem that we have. Are we more in debt now that we ever have been in the history of our country?

ROSENSWEIG: Oh, yes. Our government will soon hit $10 trillion of gross debt.

SANCHEZ: Why is that important to me? Why is that important to the guy sitting at home watching this newscast? ROSENSWEIG: If the person at home is below age 40, they may never get Social Security. I think what we'll have to do is delay their retirement age, maybe as far as 75 for your kids, for instance, to be able to hold it all together. Depending on how old that person is, their Medicare benefits may have to ...

SANCHEZ: So we're owing countries like China, Brazil, and India, countries that usually borrowed from us in the past and suddenly we're in ones in debt to these nations. There is something peculiar, almost ironic and sad about that.

ROSENSWEIG: Ironic is a great word. It goes against everything we teach, usually rich or advanced countries lend to more poor or developing countries so they can develop. They have large labor forces. Here a rich advanced country, the richest on earth for the last 100 years is borrowing for countries that are trying to develop. It's a complete reversal.

SANCHEZ: So is this an episodic thing we'll be able to climb out of, or is this something that looms larger?

ROSENSWEIG: So I think in terms of the economy, I'm optimistic. I'm going to be buying stocks in a couple of months, I'm going to be looking maybe to pick up some real estate very cheaply in a year, year and a half. I do think the economy cycles and the Federal Reserve is taking action as will other central banks around the world to get the economy on its feet. On the other hand, at this point, the debt is going up inexorably. Because there's interest on the debt. And when the baby boom retires, they will be drawing on Social Security. That I see more as an inexorable we're going to have and the Iraq War threw about $2 trillion by the time it's done on top of that $10 trillion.

SANCHEZ: Three trillion they are saying now. That's a lot of money.

ROSENSWEIG: They're trying to sell books, they're trying to raise that number.

SANCHEZ: Sure. I understand that. Let me ask you this, I know you're not here to be political, but when Americans look at the situation we're in right now economically speaking, is our government to blame? Is the White House, the Congress, people who have been making these decisions, have they made bad decisions that put us there?

ROSENSWEIG: The original decision of going into Iraq has certainly in the long run hurt us economically. It's not the right way to do things. The decision to give tax rebates, we need to do what we can now to stay out of recession. If we're in recession, make it short. And I think we'll do that. So those decisions are good.

But fundamentally, we have been running these large government deficits for a long time while all of us baby boomers are in our prime earning years. If anything, we should not have been building up debt now. We should have been getting into a good position for when the 76 million baby boomers retire. SANCHEZ: That's interesting. Because the debt you speak about is a personal debt for many Americans and also a collective debt for America as a nation.

ROSENSWEIG: That's right.

SANCHEZ: There's irony in that as well. Where does this thing end up? You say possible recession, but we're not in a depression, don't look for the "d" word down the way.

ROSENSWEIG: No. And the worst thing people can do is get too pessimistic, for instance, sell their stocks when they're way down. The best thing to do is stay very steady. Let's say you're building towards your retirement. Keep some money in stocks, some money in fixed income, don't sell your house and go rent. It's not going to be that bad.

SANCHEZ: Don't do anything crazy?

ROSENSWEIG: Right. And be opportunistic. I think in five or 10 years, a lot of money will be made for those who didn't give up and were opportunistic and picked up maybe great properties in the right areas.

SANCHEZ: I like that. The glass is half full, right?

ROSENSWEIG: That's right.

SANCHEZ: Professor, thanks for coming in.

ROSENSWEIG: Thank you.

SANCHEZ: We certainly appreciate it.

She wanted to become a citizen. He allegedly wanted something else. Sex in exchange for a green card. Would an official of the U.S. government do something like that? This is an outrageous story. Stay with us.


SANCHEZ: Pushed to the breaking point and then pushed some more. It's intense, it's grueling, it's boot camp. It's our own Dr. Sanjay Gupta with his latest "Fit Nation" report.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Ten, nine, eight.

SANJAY GUPTA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: unning drills, push-ups.


GUPTA: Sit-ups, all of it before sunup.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Let's go, everybody! GUPTA: Operation Boot Camp is about pushing you to your limit.

SHANNON ALEXANDER, BOOT CAMPER: By 8:00 I'm off to work and I know I can handle anything. I just handled rolling around in the wet grass and doing 800 sit-ups. I can do anything that's going to come after me.

GUPTA: Thirty-four-year-old Shannon Alexander couldn't always handle it. But a routine doctor's appointment became an epiphany.

ALEXANDER: I found myself in the doctor's office with lower back pain and I just kind of had a moment. I was like, I'm 34 years old, I have a 6-year-old son, I should not be feeling this kind of crippled and limited by my own body.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Ten, nine, eight, seven.

GUPTA: So Alexander joined this intense 6:00 a.m. boot camp class.

ALEXANDER: I really didn't know what to expect. I was terrified that first morning.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: A little lower, a little lower.

GUPTA: Now just six months in, Shannon has lost weight, gained confidence, and started training for a marathon. Most importantly, she says she feels happier.

ALEXANDER: It's definitely had a huge impact on just helping me to feel stronger, more capable, more hopeful. You know, I can play with my son now and keep up with him. Heck, he can hardly keep up with me.

GUPTA: Dr. Sanjay Gupta, CNN, reporting.



SANCHEZ: Welcome back to the CNN NEWSROOM. I'm Rick Sanchez. The power of a green card, or in this case you're about to hear, the alleged abuse of power of a green card. It's a 22-year-old woman, she's from Colombia, and she says that an immigration official demanded special favors or he wouldn't process her paperwork. And you probably can imagine what we mean by "special favors."

CNN has gotten a hold of some of the taped conversations that you are about to hear. In fact, here's Jim Acosta.


JIM ACOSTA, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): This is how hundreds of thousands of immigrants entering the United States normally get their green cards. They take a number. But investigators say this man, Isaac Baichu (ph), a federal immigration official who interviews green card applicants had other ideas. Last year authorities say Baichu met with a woman from Colombia and her husband to go over her application at this Long Island immigration office. That's when he allegedly asked for her cell phone number.

According to local prosecutors, Baichu later called the woman and asked her to meet him here, in the parking lot of this diner. What Baichu did not know, is that she was recording the conversation on her cell phone.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I don't know. You said we were going to be friends.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Be friends. I want sex. One or two times. That's all. You get your green card and you won't have to see me anymore.

ACOSTA: What prosecutors alleged happen next is detailed in the criminal complaint. The woman told prosecutors she attempted to leave the car, but that Baichu grabbed her by the arm and told her that he expected her to perform oral sex upon him then and there. She said she gave into his demand, prosecutors say, due to his position of authority.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'm a nice guy. I'm an honest guy. I'll do it for you. I'll order my green cards. You're nice to me, I'll be nice to you. All right? Don't worry. Just lean over. I'm going to be one second.

ACOSTA: At that moment, the recording obtained by "The New York Times" goes silent.

SALLY ATTIA, ATTORNEY FOR ISAAC BAICHU: We have pled not guilty and we deny any wrongdoing.

ACOSTA: Baichu's lawyer Sally Atilla (ph) claims that her client was entrapped and the woman wanted something called a U visa which offers temporary legal status to undocumented immigrants who are the victims of a crime.

ATTIA: My understanding now, the alleged victim in this case is eligible to apply for this visa.

ACOSTA: Baichu is not the first immigration official accused of taking advantage of the undocumented. This ICE agent in Miami is scheduled to take trial on charges that he raped a woman in his custody. In 2006 this former high level immigration official testified before congress on what he described as rampant corruption in the agency.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Charges including soliciting sex for citizenship.

ACOSTA: The Department of Homeland Security released this statement. "The U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services has absolutely no tolerance for employee misconduct." Advocates for undocumented immigrants argued that the potential for abuse is enormous.

MICHELLE BRANE, WOMEN'S ADVOCATE: Because this is a population that's very vulnerable and they're at the mercy and disposal of people who hold a lot of power over them. So this woman was very brave to come forward. If you think about it, she was taking a chance.

ACOSTA: Isaac Baichu himself an immigrant from Guyana knows a green card is gold.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I got my green card just like you. I became a citizen just like you. I know how hard it is for you, OK?

ACOSTA (on camera): Earlier this month, prosecutors say Baichu was arrested after he once again allegedly propositioned that Colombian woman for sex. That time, prosecutors say, they were listening in too. Jim Acosta, CNN, New York.


SANCHEZ: And for the best crime coverage on the Web, you can check It's the new effort from our friends at TruTV and You can actually go behind the police tape and go into the courtroom like never before at

You would think that a man who is running for mayor wouldn't want people to know that he is a sex offender, right? Would you vote for a guy who's a sex offender? Well, the reason I ask you these questions, you guessed it, is there's a sex offender in Texas running for mayor and he doesn't think that should stop him. Here's KTXA's Jay Gormley.


JAY GORMLEY, KTXA CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): James Brian Sliter is running for mayor of Wilmer, Texas. Nothing unusual about that, until you find out he's a registered sex offender.

JAMES BRIAN SLITER, CANDIDATE FOR WILMER MAYOR: People need to realize people make mistakes and they need to look past those mistakes and forgive and move on. I'm not asking anybody to condone what I did.

GORMLEY: On the Texas Department of Public Safety sex offender's Web site, you'll find his picture. It was four years ago and Sliter was 48 when he was arrested for soliciting sex from a minor.

(on camera): Brian Sliter was busted as part of an Internet sting. He was chatting online with what he believed to be a 15-year-old girl. When he showed up for sex, the police were waiting.

(voice-over): Sliter received deferred adjudication and was placed on 10 years probation. He was also required to register as a sex offender. His plea, however, kept him from being convicted of the crime, and with no conviction, the 42-year-old was able to legally file as a candidate for mayor.

SLITER: I need to prove to the community that I can be an asset to the community, I can be a contributing member to society even though I made a mistake in the past.

GORMLEY: Sliter says he's truly sorry for his mistakes. He says his friends and supporters believe him and therefore encouraged him to run for office. But one person that is not in his corner is the current mayor.

MAYOR DON HUDSON, WILMER, TEXAS: Will a sex offender serving as mayor put a stigma on this city? You bet it will.


SANCHEZ: KTXA Jay Gormley reporting. We'll follow it for you.

A dying girl had one final wish, to hug her father one last time. But there is a problem, he's in jail and the state won't let him make the trip. It's a story you don't want to miss.



SEN. BARACK OBAMA, (D) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: The statements that were the source of controversy from Reverend Wright were wrong and I've strongly condemned them. I think the caricature that's being painted of him is not accurate.


SANCHEZ: Senator Barack Obama, as you've heard, commenting on the media's portrayal of his former pastor, Jeremiah Wright. This entire controversy centers around a series of sound bites or television reports from several of Wright's sermons, like this one.


REV. JEREMIAH WRIGHT, TRINITY UCC: And then wants us to sing God bless America! No, no, no, not God bless America, god damn America. It's in the Bible. For killing innocent people. God damn America.


SANCHEZ: You've heard that sound bite and heard a lot of others before. Right? Here's what we want to do for you. We want to go beyond the sound bite. I think this is important for country. We're going to do that tonight at 10:00 p.m. right here. We've gotten a hold of some of those sermons. You'll hear Reverend Wright before and after that comment you heard right there. Everything that happened before the controversial comments and everything that happened after. That stirred up so much controversy.

It's what you didn't hear him say that many people saying that is just as important, on both the left and the right. Again, that's tonight at 10:00 Eastern right here only on CNN.


SANCHEZ: A little girl is dying and all she wants is to be with her father. Here's Andrew Osake from CNN's affiliate in Omaha, KETV.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) ANDREW OSAKE, KETV CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Comfort is all Vonda Yaeger can give her daughter now. Ten-year-old J.C. is losing her battle with cancer and morphine can't numb all the pain.

VONDA YAEGER, JAYCI'S MOM: She wants her daddy. She goes to her room crying because she wants her dad.

OSAKE: Jason Yaeger is at a federal prison in Yantham (ph), South Dakota. He was convicted of meth charges four years ago and is scheduled to be released next February.

VONDA YAEGER: We have never asked them to release him early. We've never asked them to change anything. We've asked them just to give them some time to be here.

OSAKE: Yeager's been allowed three escorted visits, but each trip lasts only a couple of hours and costs the family thousands of dollars. Requests for longer furloughs have been denied.

YAEGER: It doesn't constitute an extraordinary circumstance.

OSAKE: A spokesperson for the Yantham facility would not respond to specific questions about the situation, but referred me to the Federal Bureau of Prisons Web site for their policy. It says furloughs can be allowed for a family crisis and that decision is left to the warden.

YAEGER: We've asked them numerous times, what is an extraordinary circumstance? And they dance around it. They don't give us a direct answer.

OSAKE: Yaeger still calls when he can.

YAEGER: He talks to her. We put the phone to her ear and she cries.

OSAKE: Vonda says there have been several times when she didn't think Jayci would make it through the night, but she keeps fighting.

YAEGER: Honestly I feel as if she is hanging on for her dad.


SANCHEZ: The Yaeger family says they'll fight to get Jason out at least enough to grant his little girl's last wish.

Well, he's a Muslim in Italy and he's one of the most recent people to be baptized by the pope, a Muslim. In case you didn't hear that. We'll be right back.


SANCHEZ: Tonight's story of a convert during Easter services at the Vatican. Pope Benedict baptized this man, who was a Muslim. He was born a Muslim in Egypt, educated by Catholics at the Italian Embassy in Cairo. Did you catch all that?

And then there was Easter in Baghdad today. Men and women worshipping on one of the most sacred days on the Christian calendar. It was dangerous, but they did it by faith. Our Kyra Phillips is there as well.


KYRA PHILLIPS, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): This is no ordinary Easter Sunday. It's a celebration of the resurrection of Jesus Christ in a war zone. Where Christians in a Muslim country not only honor the life of Jesus, but thank him for protecting their own. For the Tammas family, their faith sustains them.

"Because I have a deep faith in Jesus, I decided to come to church and not let the violence top me. We shouldn't be afraid of the terrorists, because a strongest thing in a human is faith."

And back at home, there was something else that wasn't going to top Salwa.

So you couldn't find white eggs? "I searched everywhere and could only find brown eggs, so we couldn't color them." This is Easter Sunday, Iraqi style.

(on camera): You think about the life and death of Christ and here you're dealing with life and death in a war zone.

(voice-over): "Of course. This is our life here in Iraq. At any moment we could die so we have to believe in life and death just like Jesus taught us."

Death that came knocking at this family's door three times. This is from the car bomb that blew up just outside their window.

(on camera): That's the car? So you saw all the dead bodies and the destruction?

(voice-over): "Yes, I did. Seven bodies."

"But today is a day of forgiveness, joy. We should live in harmony. We as Iraqis should be able to live together without discrimination and love each other."

Tests of faith. Commitments to their religion. The Tammas family gives thanks for yet one more Easter Sunday.