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Tanker Explosion on I-91 Near Chicopee, Massachusetts; Texas Prison Riot; Primary Fight; Castro Lifts Cell Phone Restrictions; Boy Falls in Well; Dodging Mortars & Rockets in Green Zone; Tanker Accident in Massachusetts; Making Money on Foreclosures in Atlanta
Aired March 28, 2008 - 10:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
TONY HARRIS, CNN ANCHOR: Golden retriever retrieved. A dog named Tracey (ph) was on a walk with her owner when she -- ah boy, she walked too far and fell into a frozen lake. Oh, man. The shivering dog's owner called 911. The ice rescue team was deployed. The rescuers grabbed Tracey and got her back to dry land. And her grateful owner, they dried her off and it was -- warmed her up.
FREDRICKA WHITFIELD, CNN ANCHOR: I love that. That's a happy ending.
HARRIS: Yes. Here we go. Dry her off and warm her up and look at that.
WHITFIELD: That's one lucky dog.
HARRIS: Yes. Absolutely.
WHITFIELD: Wow. All right. Well, that's a nice way to begin the news hour, isn't it? End the old hour, begin the new one. Good morning again, everyone, I'm Fredricka Whitfield in for Heidi Collins.
HARRIS: And I'm Tony Harris. Stay informed in the CNN NEWSROOM. Here's what's on the rundown. Any minute now, Virginia State Police will update us on the Interstate 64 shootings, a possible arrest, live coverage.
WHITFIELD: Militants strike back in Iraq, slamming the vice president's office in Basra -- rather in Baghdad. But then in Basra, Iraqi troops call in U.S. air strikes.
HARRIS: The steps of foreclosure, they end here on the courthouse steps. Inside a fast-paced auction.
Today, Friday, March 28th, you are in the CNN NEWSROOM.
WHITFIELD: All right. We're following breaking news out of Virginia. A possible arrest in an interstate shooting spree. CNN affiliate WSLS reporting the arrest of at least one person this morning, that comes after state police searched a home in Albemarle County overnight. The shootings occurred on Interstate 64 west of Charlottesville.
Well, police have been seeking at least two people. Six vehicles were hit by gunfire before daybreak yesterday. Two people were injured but not seriously. A 20-mile stretch of I-64 was closed for about six hours while police searched for the shooter. State police plan a news conference this hour. We'll bring that to you when it happens.
HARRIS: Also developing this morning, living and dying in Iraq's Green Zone. Deadly rockets and mortars rain down on the fortified area where Americans are said to be at their safest. Some of those explosives fell short and exploded outside the office of Iraq's vice president. Two guards were killed, several injured. The vice president reportedly wasn't there at the time.
Meanwhile, clashes are flaring between government forces and Shiite militia fighters. It is considered a major test for Iraq's government and its troops. Overnight, U.S.-led coalition planes bombed militia positions in Basra.
In Baghdad, Iraqi civilians aren't allowed on the streets until Sunday morning. The government is trying to diffuse rising anger among followers of radical Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr. They say U.S. and Iraqi forces are targeting the movement unfairly, taking advantage of a seven-month-old cease-fire.
The U.S. embassy in the crosshairs of the insurgents. Americans under fire and under orders to protect themselves. Details from CNN State Department correspondent Zain Verjee.
ZAIN VERJEE, CNN STATE DEPARTMENT CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Insurgent firepower steps up. The target, the U.S. embassy in Baghdad.
SEAN MCCORMACK, STATE DEPARTMENT SPOKESMAN: We've seen rocket attacks on March 23rd, March 25th, March 26th, and March 27th.
VERJEE: Those attacks in the International Zone, U.S. officials say, are becoming more sophisticated, more accurate. The State Department is instructing all embassy employees to stay and sleep in hardened structures, buildings like Saddam Hussein's old palace, or the new U.S. embassy compound.
In an advisory to U.S. employees, the State Department says: "Personnel should only move outside of hard cover for essential reasons. And essential outdoor movements should be sharply limited."
If U.S. employees are outside, they must wear protective body armor like flak jackets and helmets.
HARRIS: And Zain Verjee joins us now from Washington.
Zain, great to see you. A couple of questions here. First of all, where are these attacks coming from?
VERJEE: They're coming from Sadr City, Tony. As you know, it's a heavily populated Shia area. There is something like 2.5 million people that live there in abject poverty. It's also a stronghold of the militia group known as the Mehdi Army. U.S. officials say the militia weapons are being supplied by Iran and some of them are pretty recent. They have 2007 stamped on them. So they're getting some new stuff from Iran.
HARRIS: Yes. And, Zain, how are people coping? How do you cope in the embassy compound?
VERJEE: Well, I just actually spoke to someone who used to live and work there and has been under this kind of rockets and mortar fire. I'm told that most people in this situation just try to go about business as usual but all extra activities and social events, they are all just shut down.
Everyone going outside does wear their flak jackets and helmets. Employees, this person told me, have a choice whether they want to sleep inside the building in cots in their offices. Some people still choose, Tony, to just stay in their trailers that a lot more vulnerable. Several thousands of people on this compound live in those trailers all over the place. They're not clustered together but they're about a five-minute walk to the embassy.
HARRIS: Yes. Beginning to feel more and more untenable, that situation there in the Green Zone. Our State Department correspondent Zain Verjee for us. Zain, great to see you, thanks.
WHITFIELD: A U.S. military contractor is in deep trouble for reportedly supplying old degraded Chinese ammunitions to the Afghan army. The Miami-based company called AEY is run by the man you just saw, 22-year-old Efraim Diveroli. He is accused of providing Chinese- made ammunition to the U.S. military to sell to Afghanistan. That would be in violation of the company's contract and U.S. law.
The Army has suspended AEY's contract and the company is under criminal investigation for claiming the munitions were made in Hungary. A House committee plans a hearing next month.
The White House says North Korea shouldn't be testing missiles while nuclear talks are stalled. North Korea reportedly fired off a series of missiles overnight. The show of force comes during increased tensions between the north and the south. South Korea's president is dismissing the test as just ordinary military training.
HARRIS: Keeping your wallets closed. New numbers out this morning on consumer spending, adding to concerns about the sluggish economy. The Commerce Department says consumer spending rose just 0.1 percent last month. That is the weakest performance in 17 months. Economists are keeping a close watch on the numbers since consumer spending accounts for two-thirds of the total economic activity in this country.
The housing slump, the credit crunch, concerns about jobs all taking a toll on consumer confidence, to be sure. The cost of filling up going up. AAA says gas rose almost a penny today. The average price of almost $3.20 a gallon is a cent lower than record high reported earlier this month. But the price is still about 65 cents higher than a year ago. California and Hawaii lead the nation with the highest average prices. New Jersey has the lowest.
Sold to the highest bidder. American dreams auctioned off on the courthouse steps, fallout from the mortgage meltdown later this hour in the CNN NEWSROOM. And again, keep watching CNN. Our money team has you covered, whether it's housing, jobs, debt, or your savings. Join us for a special report. It is called "ISSUE #1: The Economy" That is at noon Eastern only on CNN.
WHITFIELD: The presidential campaign trail runs through several states today. On the Democratic side, Hillary Clinton has stops in Indiana. She attends a town hall meeting this morning and ends the day with a rally. Indiana holds its primaries May 6th.
Then Pennsylvania has the next big contest for Democrats. Barack Obama begin a six-day swing through the state today. He has a stop at Pittsburgh this morning where he picks up the endorsement of Pennsylvania Senator Bob Casey.
And on the Republican side, John McCain attends a fund-raising luncheon in Las Vegas. McCain also launches his first TV ad of the general election today.
The Democratic Party chief urging the candidates and their supporters to take it down a notch. DNC Chairman Howard Dean says the campaigns should be careful not to hurt the party's chances of winning in November. On CNN's "AMERICAN MORNING," he called for the campaigns to focus on the issues.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
HOWARD DEAN, DEMOCRATIC NATIONAL COMMITTEE CHAIRMAN: Personal attacks demoralize the base. People are not going to vote for John McCain in the fall, they're going to know that he's going to put some more right-wingers on the Supreme Court and that's a big difference between him and Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama.
But we need to focus on Iraq. We need to focus on gas prices, on mortgages. We need to focus on the economy. Those are the things that people care about. They don't care about bickering over pastors and who said what in Bosnia.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WHITFIELD: Dean says he thinks the disqualified delegates from Michigan and Florida will be seated once they reach an agreement with the candidates on exactly how to do that.
Cnnpolitics.com is your source for everything political, from the candidates' movements to the latest delegate count. Get all that and more at cnnpolitics.com.
The bitter divide now. How it could cost Democrats the White House. That's straight ahead in the CNN NEWSROOM. HARRIS: Boy, it is a story we have been watching for days now. In Arkansas, there we go. Get my collar right, come on. A river on the rise, a flood warning is out for the White River. Forecasters say flooding at Clarendon could be the worst in 25 years. At St. Charles, the river could rise several feet to levels not seen since 1973. Nearly half of Arkansas' counties have been declared disaster areas by the governor. A weather service official says water in areas could rise a foot a day over the next several days. What do you say we get to Reynolds Wolf now in the Severe Weather Center?
And, Reynolds, you can't wish it away, you can't hope it away. It just has to recede. We've got to get the cresting and then it has to just -- we need to get the waters into the Mississippi and then into the Gulf.
REYNOLDS WOLF, CNN METEOROLOGIST: You're absolutely right. And you know, we've got a ways to go. We're not cresting just yet. Right about 32.9 for us. That's the latest we have on the river gauge for the White River. And we're expecting it to go to about 33.5 feet. That should be on, let's see -- that's Sunday -- early Sunday morning. So, yes, it is going to be something we're going to be dealing with, not just Sunday, but possibly into Monday, even Tuesday before things get back to normal.
Then even when the flood waters recede all together, you have to deal with all the water-logged area. And that's going to be a big problem. A lot of damaged buildings, a lot of damaged homes. It looks like it's going to be a rough time for many people.
HARRIS: Reynolds, you know where Chicopee, Massachusetts, is?
WOLF: Sounds very familiar, indeed, yes.
HARRIS: Yes, it's a small enough state that we should be able to figure this out in just a couple of moments. I'm going to take you there right now. Take a look at these pictures from our affiliate there, WWLP. Just moments ago, a tanker explosion. Man, take a look at this. Pretty dramatic scene there. And the smoke billowing from that explosion into the sky there. A tanker and three cars involved in a collision on I-91 northbound. You can see an affiliate reporter there preparing to do a live shot for her affiliate.
The accident occurred at exit 13-A if you're familiar with that interstate. Again, a tanker and three cars involved. And we're understanding -- getting news here, what was that again, Joe? OK. Near Springfield, Massachusetts. Appreciate that. Thank you. A driver may be trapped in one of the vehicles.
And, Fred, I-91 is closed, I would suspect for several miles, don't know that to be true. But I would suspect that would be the case at exit 13-A and beyond. So this is a scene we will continue to follow and see if we can get an update on the condition. Word is that there may be a driver trapped in one of those vehicles. But a horrific scene there. Chicopee, Massachusetts, very near Springfield, Massachusetts.
We'll keep an eye on that and bring you more details. I think we're actually working on some new details. But, Fred, as you can see, just a horrible scene right now.
WHITFIELD: Yes, that's incredible. It really is. Pretty frightening to see and you can see the firefighters on the ground there doing the best they can. You know, sometimes you have these tanker fires involving, you know, fuel or -- you know, whatever kind of combustible material they may be carrying and they don't want to use water to douse it because it only makes matters worse.
But in this case we did see a hose being used. So you know, you know the experts know what they're doing. They're on the ground. But this looks like it's going to take a while to really get under control.
HARRIS: And so if we think about this, we're talking about at least, whoever is driving, the vehicle in the tanker, and then the occupants in the other two vehicles that we're understanding may be involved in this. A tanker and three vehicles involved. So the immediate concern is for the well being of those people involved. And I have no idea of the ripple effect of something like this.
If on the fringes there may be other vehicles involved. But again, this is a situation we'll keep a close eye on, a tanker and three vehicles involved on this collision on I-91 northbound in Chicopee, Massachusetts, very near Springfield, Massachusetts. And a portion of that interstate has been closed. And that makes all the sense in the world.
WHITFIELD: All right. And now this is just coming in, too. This is another type of trouble taking place on an interstate. This time in Alabama where we're understanding that several children have been injured in a charter bus accident taking place on Interstate 59 near Birmingham. You're looking at some of the still images right here. The bus reportedly carrying elementary students. Well, it overturned.
State police say at least 25 people were injured. The extent of the injuries, however, not known. Reportedly the bus was headed to the Tennessee Aquarium in Chattanooga. The traffic at that accident site now being rerouted. And we will bring you more information as we get it.
HARRIS: Well, the FBI taking its expertise overseas. Agents in a war zone, ahead in the CNN NEWSROOM.
WHITFIELD: All right. Moments ago, we first told you about this horrible accident talking place right there in Chicopee, Massachusetts, outside of Springfield, Massachusetts. A tanker truck and three vehicles somehow in a collision there. And it means that the northbound lanes particularly on I-91 are at a stand still. And consequently the southbound lanes are pretty backed up as well.
But here's the latest situation there in Massachusetts. Thomas Murphy with Massachusetts State Patrol is on the line with us now. And so, Mr. Murphy, can you give us an idea of how the people are who are involved in this accident?
THOMAS MURPHY, MASSACHUSETTS STATE POLICE: Well, at this time we're still obtaining more information. All we know at this time is that the crash occurred at approximately 9:38 a.m. on route 91 northbound in the town of Chicopee. This was approximately north of exit 12, between exits 11 and 13.
WHITFIELD: OK. And we're looking at the images which a moment ago showed some fire hoses trying to put out the flames. What do you know about chemical that's burning here? What is -- what had started this fire besides the collision of these vehicles?
MURPHY: Well, preliminary investigation has revealed that it's partially diesel fuel and we're still ascertaining more information at this time.
WHITFIELD: All right. So if it's diesel fuel, how do you try to put this out, do you let it burn or will these fire hoses actually help?
MURPHY: Well, it's going to be up to the fire officials are going to determine that at this point.
WHITFIELD: OK. Now, we understand that there were some rescue efforts or at least some concerns about one of the passenger or drivers of the vehicle. Which one, was it the tanker truck or what do we know about who is involved here?
MURPHY: Right, again, I don't have any particulars on that. We're still ascertaining information at this point. All I can really tell you is that northbound traffic is going to be diverted at exit 12, which is route 391. And southbound traffic is diverted at exit 13. We're still gathering more information from the officials on- scene right now.
WHITFIELD: OK. Thomas Murphy of Massachusetts State Patrol, thanks so much. So big problems there on Interstate 91, particularly northbound where you're seeing the flames, the smoke here as a result of the collision between a tanker truck carrying diesel fuel, we understand now, and three other vehicles. More information as we get it.
HARRIS: And, Fred, we are getting indications of an arrest in Virginia connected to an interstate shooting spree there. The shootings occurred on Interstate 64. Again, that's Interstate 64 west of Charlottesville in Virginia. Virginia State Police expected to hold a news conference at any moment now. When that begins, we will, of course, bring you that update from that news conference live right here in the CNN NEWSROOM.
WHITFIELD: Sold to the highest bidder. American dreams auctioned off on the courthouse steps. Fallout from the mortgage meltdown.
WHITFIELD: All right. Take a look. The folks are getting in position in Virginia. We understand that press conference is about to take place momentarily. This involving the shootings on Interstate 64. Two people were suspected of firing shots. We understand that there may be an arrest of one suspect. And when that, of course, press conference takes place, we will be able to bring that to you as soon as possible.
Meantime, let's take a look at numbers. We're watching "Your Money," we're watching the markets. Take a look right now. A little encouragement here on this Friday. The Dow up 26 points. The Nasdaq up about 15 points at last check. We're watching "Your Money" for you throughout the day.
HARRIS: Dreams auctioned off on the courthouse steps. Foreclosed homes sold to the highest bidder. Gerri Willis looks at the mortgage meltdown in one state.
GERRI WILLIS, CNN PERSONAL FINANCE EDITOR: Atlanta, Georgia. The first Tuesday of any month sounds like this.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: ... electronic registration system...
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Hear ye, hear ye.
WILLIS: Today, 4,000-plus homes are about to foreclose on the courthouse steps.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Are there any further bids?
WILLIS: Georgia is one of only nine states that sells off distressed properties outside the court.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The opening bid for this property is $105,068.44.
WILLIS: Homes are sold to the highest bidder. And if no one bids...
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Sold to Medici Financial.
WILLIS: It's the property of the lender.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Let me know when you buy something.
WILLIS: Victor Warren (ph) and his wife, Robin (ph), have spent Tuesdays on the steps for the last 26 years.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: So where I was willing to pay three...
WILLIS: He buys foreclosed homes and tries to sell them for a handsome profit.
(on-camera): How much are you prepared to bid today?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There's over two commas here.
WILLIS: So over a million dollars?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: That's correct.
WILLIS (voice-over): Victor has an ear on every crier.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Seven sixty-five Coleman Street.
WILLIS: The lawyers representing the lender.
(on-camera): What happens to you that you find your house being foreclosed on in this public fashion?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Well, first of all, you would have had to have missed typically one or more payments, sometimes up to six payments.
WILLIS (voice-over): That's right. Here in Georgia miss a few monthly payments and 30 days later your home could end up here. Homeowners have always ended up here after the loss of a job, a divorce, or an unexpected illness.
But in the last two years, foreclosures in Metro Atlanta have more than doubled. Why? Because of subprime loans. Loans designed for borrowers who Andy Shupin describes as...
ANDREW SHUPIN, CRIER: People with credit scores that demonstrated an inability to pay their debt were buying houses.
WILLIS (on camera): And here we are today.
SHUPIN: Right, but the pressure I think in society was to get people in houses. This is a segment of society. But there are a lot of people that are just one notch above who are struggling and actually making those payments.
HARRIS: How a dream purchase turned into a nightmare for so many? Don't miss a CNN "SPECIAL INVESTIGATIONS" report tonight, CNN teams up with Fortune magazine to bring you "Busted! Mortgage Meltdown." Don't miss this. Tonight at 8:00 Eastern right here on CNN.
WHITFIELD: And a situation we continue to watch in Massachusetts, Interstate 91. Look at that.
HARRIS: The picture is getting more and more dramatic.
WHITFIELD: It's ridiculous. We see incredible flames and smoke all because of a collision between a tanker carrying diesel fuel, we understand, and three other vehicles. Still, we don't know about the passengers or drivers involved here. But you had better believe there are backups on I-91 both north- and southbound. Firefighters and other hazmat teams on the scene there doing the best they can trying to make the best judgment. You're looking at live pictures right now. This is just outside Springfield, near Chicopee, Massachusetts.
HARRIS: And still to come, the bitter divide. How it could cost Democrats the White House. That story ahead in the CNN NEWSROOM.
FREDRICKA WHITFIELD, CNN ANCHOR: Hello again. You're in the CNN NEWSROOM. I'm Fredricka Whitfield.
TONY HARRIS, CNN ANCHOR: I'm Tony Harris. Good Friday morning to you.
We are getting some indications out of Virginia that an arrest has been made in connection to an interstate shooting spree. The shootings occurred, as you may recall, on Interstate 64. That is west of Charlottesville. An update on the case from Virginia state police is scheduled this hour. The reporting from CNN affiliate WSLS is that a possible arrest has been made. When the news conference begins we will bring it to you.
WHITFIELD: Another situation where we're watching for you right now. A crash and explosion on a Massachusetts interstate. This is the scene right now. Live pictures here. Chicopee in the western part of the state. This is Interstate 91 there in Massachusetts. Police say a tanker truck and three cars were involved in a collision. And there may be someone trapped in one of the vehicles. The driver of the tanker has been taken to a hospital. He is reportedly in serious condition. The interstate meantime is closed in both directions. The traffic is being diverted. A state trooper told us just minutes ago the tanker was carrying diesel fuel. We'll bring you more information as we get it.
HARRIS: We're getting word out of San Antonio, Texas. Live Oak County, to be more specific here, of a riot at a federal prison there. A riot, we understand, broke out at the federal corrections institution. That's about the eight miles west actually of Three Rivers. The sheriff's department is report that up to 30 inmates may have been stabbed in the riot that broke out about 7:00 a.m. local time. Medical helicopters we understand are being dispatched to the area right now. The prison, we understand, is also a medium-security facility that houses male inmates and if you're curious, the Three Rivers area is located about 80 miles south of San Antonio.
This is also a situation. We'll be looking for pictures here. I see us working on a Google map of the location. I will continue to repeat the story. Once again, we understand -- there we go -- a riot has erupted at a federal prison in Live Oak County. As many as 30 inmates may have been stabbed. So this is pretty serious. Medical helicopters are being dispatched to the location right now. This is a medium-security facility that houses male inmates. We will keep an eye on this situation and get you first pictures as soon as we can right here in the CNN NEWSROOM.
WHITFIELD: Also Tony, living and dying in Iraq's green zone. Deadly rockets and mortars rained down on the fortified area where Americans are said to be at their safest. Some of those explosives fell short and exploded outside the office of the Iraqi vice president. Two guards were killed, several injured. The vice president reportedly wasn't even there at the time.
Meanwhile, clashes are flaring between government forces and Shiite militia fighters. It's considered a major test for Iraq's government and its troops. Overnight, U.S. lead coalition planes bombed militia positions in Basra.
In Baghdad, Iraqi civilians aren't even allowed on the streets until Sunday morning. The government is trying to diffuse rising anger among followers of radical Shiite cleric Muqtada al Sadr. They say U.S. and Iraqi forces are targeting the movement unfairly taking advantage of a seven-month-old cease-fire.
Chasing criminals in a war zone? CNN's Kelli Arena looks at the FBI's Baghdad office.
KELLI ARENA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: The bombing of the U.N. building in Baghdad, kidnapping of an American journalist, the ongoing hunt for terrorists.
ANDREW BLAND, FBI: Unquestionably, the security was the major impediment when it came to conducting investigations.
ARENA: Andrew Bland ran the FBI's Baghdad office for nearly two years. Speaking exclusively to CNN, Bland admits how scary it gets when investigations take agents outside the secure area known as green zone.
BLAND: I'm a former army airborne ranger, you know, middleweight boxing champion at West Point, former S.W.A.T. team member. But the experiences that I went through traveling from the green zone to the red zone were the most fearful in my entire life.
ARENA: Another challenge, working with Iraqis. Once they're seen collaborating with the U.S., insurgents mark them for death. Bland remembers one woman from the intelligence agency who came to the FBI for training.
BLAND: She herself was abducted, horribly tortured and then killed. Her body was dumped just outside the green zone.
ARENA: Still, FBI officials say that there's no shortage of agent volunteers to serve in Iraq and many agents who have been there say they bring much-needed expertise. Chris Hamilton helped oversee the FBI's Iraq office from Washington.
CHRIS HAMILTON, FMR. FBI COUNTER TERRORISM OFFICIAL: We were able to use forensics to identify terror cell, terrorist individuals from hairs and fibers and evidence we would collect on the scene on all of these events.
ARENA: Some agents don't completely buy it and privately tell CNN that there are limits what the FBI can and should be doing in Iraq. They point to the Blackwater investigation as a prime example. That company's employees were allegedly involved in a shooting incident that killed 17 Iraqi civilians.
HAMILTON: By the time investigators got there, it was after the event. Conducting an interview, even being seen talking to an American would probably be very problematic for Iraqi citizens.
ARENA: Some agents suggests the investigation is merely a political cover for the U.S. and say putting agents in harm's way to play politics is flat out wrong. FBI officials obviously disagree.
Kelli Arena, CNN, Washington.
HARRY: Of the bitter fight between Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama comes at a high cost. The new poll finds 16 percent of Clinton supporters and the same number of Obama supporters claim that they will stay home if their candidate isn't the nominee. It's a Democratic divide that could doom the party.
CNN's Tom Foreman reports.
TOM FOREMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Democrats were almost measuring the white house for curtains last summer with a deep field of well- liked candidates. But now the party is bitterly divided, arguing overrules, arguing over policy, arguing over arguments.
JAMES CARVILLE, CLINTON SUPPORTER: It would have been a wonderful thing to have democracy at work and allow this to happen. Congressman. And the fact that is that agents and lobbyists of the Obama campaign stopped it.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Stop it. You know that's not the way it --
CARVILLE: Of course it happened that way.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: That's not the way it happened.
FOREMAN: The brutal primary season has produced numerous wedges according to political analysts, include that very public spat over whether delegates from Florida and Michigan should be counted. The tortured debate over whether superdelegates should decide the winner. And, of course, angry words over race and gender. Jenny Backus is a Democratic strategist.
JENNY BACKUS, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: We have two most reliable bases symbolized by African-American in Barack Obama and women with Hillary Clinton fighting with each other. That's tough. So we're going to have to have some reconciliation. But we have lots and lots of time.
FOREMAN: Both candidates talk about party unity.
SEN. BARACK OBAMA (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I want to make sure that the tone of this campaign remains -- creates the situation where democrats are going to win in November.
SEN. HILLARY CLINTON (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: The most important goal is for us to put a democrat back into the white house next January.
FOREMAN: Still, winning will be tough unless those voters who are feeling battered by this process can feel good enough about it again to keep participating.
What do you have to do to get those people back in the tent?
BACKUS: Pick a fight with John McCain.
FOREMAN: Maybe. But for now, the democratic demolition derby rages on.
Tom Foreman, CNN, Washington.
HARRIS: If you are a political junkie, CNNpolitics.com is the place for you. Check out our new interactive delegate counter game. Haven't tried this yet. Need to because we're getting close here.
WHITFIELD: Looks fun.
HARRIS: This is where you can play real-time what if scenarios are delegates and superdelegates. Just look for the delegate calculator. That and much more at CNNpolitics.com.
Ahead in the CNN NEWSROOM, is Barack Obama too liberal? Some say yes. He says no. We do a fact check.
WHITFIELD: All right. Cell phone freedom. Cubans now have it. Today President Raul Castro lifted a restriction against ordinary civilians owning cell phones. Until now only people who held key positions with the government or worked for international companies were allowed to have them. It's the kind of reform many Cubans have been hoping Castro would put in place after taking over the presidency from his older brother Fidel last month.
HARRIS: Delivering aid to Afghans while tracking the Taliban. The search for insurgents report ahead in the NEWSROOM.
HARRIS: Try to get you the latest information as we -- boy -- bring you the amazing pictures, stunning pictures out of Chicopee, Massachusetts, just outside of Springfield, Massachusetts. It looks at least at this moment as if firefighters are getting a handle on that tanker explosion and fire. And what a fire. We'll probably loop in some of the pictures from earlier. What a scene it was. Tanker, three cars involved.
Jaclyn Cashman is with our affiliate WWLP, the affiliate that has been providing these amazing pictures. These pictures from earlier.
Jaclyn, what can you tell us about this explosion, the dramatic pictures of the fire and injuries associated with this?
JACLYN CASHMAN, WWLP REPORTER: Let's just start right from the beginning. 91 south here is an area where a lot of trailers do actually overturn at this exact spot in Chicopee. This isn't a total surprise. What is a surprise is what happened next.
When the tracker trailer fell over, it fell on top of three cars. And then part of that tractor trailer fell off of the highway and, boom, a massive explosion. Plumes of smoke could be seen from literally miles away. When we got down here to the scene there was massive firefighters already trying to work on it. And I spoke to somebody that was just going down and they said they actually saw people get out of their cars and run into the plumes of smoke trying to save some of those people.
So it was really a just heroes. There's no other way to put it. These people that would risk their own lives, people they don't even know. We can only hope that they got out alive, but we don't know at this time. The best news at this hour is that the rain is coming down really hard and definitely help this fire. It's almost gone at this point.
HARRIS: OK. Let's sort of back up a little bit. A lot of information in that recording there, Jaclyn. We at this point have no idea how many people trapped when the tanker overturned on the three vehicles. We have no idea.
CASHMAN: Absolutely no idea. I went to a few police officers, listen, tell me off the record, is this going to be massive fatalities here? What's going on? And he said, honestly, we have no idea. We have are just working. There are several fatalities. We are doing everything we can to stop this fire and get in there and figure things out.
HARRIS: Whoa. All right. The next point, you mentioned that this is an area that is known for accidents and collisions. Have you driven that stretch of road and what are the particular design features of that stretch of road of interstate 91 that makes it so dangerous?
CASHMAN: Well, this is 91 south and north and basically this is a road that people from Connecticut and Vermont and New Hampshire travel. This is a through way for them, you could say. But this exact spot is called the Chicopee curve. What happens is a lot of tractor trailers just don't anticipate this curve. And they basically come at it too fast or what have you and they overturn. So this has happened a number of occasions. HARRIS: So describe the situation again. You mentioned a moment ago that this is a situation where the tanker overturned and lands on a couple of vehicles. And then at least the explosive content of the tank itself -- wow -- rolls over the bridge and lands below. Is that correct?
CASHMAN: That's exactly right. Because where we are is 91 -- what happens is right underneath we have an underpass. What happened was part of that tractor trailer did roll off. I believe that's when the explosion happened. To be completely honest with you, a lot of details are still just coming in to us because the smoke is just filled so big and so large. All we're going on is accounts from people who saw it themselves. That's what we know at this hour.
HARRIS: Jaclyn, we will let you get back to your reporting duties there. It sounds like a horrible situation, Chicopee curve, Chicopee, Massachusetts. Chicopee curve there on interstate 91.
Fred, it sounds like this is a very dangerous stretch of this road, first of all. And it sounds like that this is a tanker that just did not anticipate the curve, overturned, flattened a number of vehicles. And then the actual contents inside the tank, that disconnects, comes apart. And now we have an explosion and the fire and the dramatic pictures we've been showing you throughout the morning.
We will continue to update this story and get some kind of an indication of the conditions of those injured as soon as we can right here in the NEWSROOM.
WHITFIELD: That is remarkable.
Tony, the next chapter in economic downturn will likely be written by the American consumer. So far, the early drafts aren't looking so good.
Stephanie Elam is at the New York Stock Exchange with details on that.
STEPHANIE ELAM, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hi Fred.
You know, our economy is driven mainly by the consumer. That's two-thirds of our economy. Consumer spending in February actually fell to a 17-month low. The Commerce Department said spending rose but just barely, inching ahead by .1 of 1%. Adjusting for inflation, that means it was flat. This is important because spending accounts for so much of our economy.
And a lot of analysts say it's a sign the economy could be flipping into a recession. It is interesting to note that this report about disposable income, it shows that it actually rose in February and that means consumers have money but are being much more cautious than usual ability spending it, Fred. WHITFIELD: And so that's got to be bad news for retailers. They want people to spend money and folks don't have money, they're not going to spend it.
ELAM: Exactly. That's exactly how it works and retail stocks are taking a hit today. The spending new isn't the only factor weighing on the sector. JC Penney's, you know this department store, they say they expect first quarter sales and earnings below its previous forecast. The company's CEO says it accounts for more than half of American families among the customers and that most customers are under increasing economic strain. He also goes on to say that while the stimulus package could help, he's a weak still expecting 2008. As you're probably not surprised to hear, shares of JC Penney are down, off 9% at this time.
However, the rest of the market is performing a little bit better. The Federal Reserve says Wall Street firms are not showing much demand for direct loans from the central bank. That may sound wonkish, that's the word of the day, wonkish, but it means that these firms probably aren't desperate for cash and that the credit crunch could be easing.
We have green on the screen. The Dow industrials up 32 points, 12,335. NASDAQ better by close to 11 points at 22,091.
Fredricka and Tony, that's how you find people in the ATL.
WHITFIELD: I think folks in the ATL are OK right now.
ELAM: Here, too, at the NYC.
WHITFIELD: Cool. Speaking code now. Thanks so much, Stephanie.
HARRIS: Waiting for that tax rebate check? If you didn't file a tax return next year the check won't be in the mail. Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson said 20 million Americans who don't normally file a return and do need to do so and help is available tomorrow.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
HENRY PAULSON, TREASURY SECRETARY: We're doing everything we can to help them. Many of them have already received letters. As you said, the IRS is going to be opening up all of their regional offices on Saturday. We've got a good number of partners opening up their offices, AARP, united way of America. Why would say to people, if you need help, you might want to go online, www.irs.gov or call the IRS hot line.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS: What do you say we give that number here? I thought he was going to do it but we will take care of it. The IRS hot line number, here it is 800-906-9887 and you can find out about the volunteer tax preparation sites. Again, the website is irs.gov.
WHITFIELD: That's going to be a busy website, I would say, over the next few weeks.
All right. How about this? Boy falls in well. Water ten feet deep.
MATT CHUMBLEY: My head come out of the water. I already had his above the water and he's looking at me crying, saying daddy, daddy, help me.
WHITFIELD: Oh, my gosh, that is a scary story. But guess what, happy ending.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Were you scared?
WHITFIELD: This is a parent's nightmare. Turning away for a few seconds, and then turning back to see your child in deep danger. Steve Carlin of affiliate KCCI reports on the boy who fell in the well.
STEVE CARLIN, KCCI REPORTER: It happened quick as a flash.
CHUMBLEY: I hadn't had my eyes off of him for 30 seconds at the most.
CARLIN: Around 4:00 on Wednesday afternoon, Matt Chumbley was out in the yard raking.
Were you scared?
His 2 1/2-year-old son Ayden was next door.
CHUMBLEY: When I turned around he was gone.
CARLIN: Chasing Fred, the family cat.
CHUMBLEY: When I had last seen the cat she was standing with this well platform.
CARLIN: A rotten plywood platform that crumbled under his 25 pounds.
CHUMBLEY: He was yelling for daddy and I looked down and he was down in there.
CARLIN: Thankfully Ayden was treading water.
CHUMBLEY: He had on a big Carhartt coat and I think it just acted like a life persevere.
CARLIN: Quickly clearing away rotted wood and cinder blocks to get to his son, Matt made a big mistake.
CHUMBLEY: But when that block hit him, I -- I was scared, very scared. CARLIN: A cinder block fell in. The impact sending Aden underwater. In the well, his dad dove. Now, we don't have permission to be on the neighbor's property but Matt Chumbley tells me that well opening is about as big around as my shoulder. And the water ten feet down. Ten feet down and at least ten feet deep.
CHUMBLEY: When my head come out of the water I already had his above the water. He's looking at me crying, saying daddy, daddy, help me.
CARLIN: Climbing out quickly, Matt ran to his wife Beth.
BETH CHUMBLEY, MOTHER: And they were soaking wet and had junk all over them.
CARLIN: It looked like the cinder block had done some serious damage.
Your nose hurt a little bit and your head hurt as little bit.
Bleeding and scared, they rushed Ayden to the hospital, anxiously watching the examination, Matt and Beth overheard their brave little boy sweetly answer this question from an EMT.
CHUMBLEY: Is your daddy your hero? Ayden just looked, my daddy's my hero.
WHITFIELD: What a sweetie pie. Besides the bumps and bruises, doctors say the boy is going to be just fine.
HARRIS: What a story.
WHITFIELD: That was a close call.
HARRIS: Sure was.
Still to come, we've been showing you these pictures throughout the morning. Fiery collision, a tanker truck mixes it up with cars and then plunges off an overpass.
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