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CNN SATURDAY MORNING NEWS
White House Planning a Financial Overhaul; Earth Hour: Several Cities Around the World Will Be Turning Off the Lights; Democrats Busy Campaigning for Pennsylvania Primary; Bush Economic Plan to Pare Regulatory Agencies; McCain Starts Tour to Generate Headlines
Aired March 29, 2008 - 07:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
BETTY NGUYEN, CNN ANCHOR: Big news on the economy this morning from the White House: a new plan that will impact Wall Street and possibly even your wallets. Now, the goal is to stop the next financial meltdown from taking the economy. And we have all the details.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED POLICE OFFICER: From trailers to, I mean, million- dollar homes. I mean, we are out at the country club (ph) putting people out. They got elevators in their houses even, and they get evicted, also.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
T.J. HOLMES, CNN ANCHOR: Whoa. Talking about a think-less job, you know, it's all that talk about foreclosures. But can you imagine what it's like to be the person who actually has to force a family to leave their home? This is not a fun job. You will see this for yourself as we ride along with an eviction team this morning.
NGUYEN: And in politics this morning, calls from some of Hillary Clinton's Senate colleagues urging her to get out of the race. We are live on the campaign trail.
Good morning, everybody. From the CNN Center right here in Atlanta, it is Saturday, March 28th. I'm Betty Nguyen.
HOLMES: Hey, good morning, everybody. I'm T.J. Holmes. We are glad you can start your day here with us. And we are going to talk about your bank, your mortgage company, your retirement account, your investments, well, the Bush administration is proposing a major overhaul in how they're all regulated.
NGUYEN: Yes, those proposals will be unveiled Monday. Partially in response to the credit crisis and mortgage mess, but they're also part of a larger plan.
And Jennifer Westhoven in New York joins us now to talk about how big of a deal this really is, Jennifer.
JENNIFER WESTHOVEN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Good morning. Thank you.
Well, this is one of the biggest overhauls we've ever seen, proposed overhauls of the financial system that the Treasury secretary is proposing. Right now there's a huge kind of mutely (ph) patchwork of many different watch dog agencies that look over what Wall Street is doing, what brokerages are doing, what's happening with the commodities markets.
So, this is a big blueprint for a big change here. But I think one of the surprising parts of that is, you might think, well, it's coming outright now, obviously, the economy is in a lot of trouble, this must be in some kind of response to the mortgage crisis, and, yet, most of the proposals here don't have anything to do with mortgage crisis at all.
NGUYEN: Jennifer, when we're talking about the Federal Reserve really taking over a lot of this power, in a way, we're talking about less regulation, but that seems to go against what most people would expect right now.
WESTHOVEN: Yes. I think that's the surprise that you might expect of -- to be a lot of focus here on mortgages and regulations, and yet, it looks like a lot of this plan has been in the works for months, maybe even a year. In some cases, it looks like there's a lot of agreement right now, that there's going to have to be some kind of change.
When we look at what happened with mortgages, how many people got into trouble because they say they just didn't know what was happening, that there had to be some change. It looks like in some ways we know that Democrats want to come out with some very aggressive new regulations.
So this is Wall Street's side, Republicans' side, of coming up with a blueprint that looks like it calls for less regulation in many ways, so that they've got something on the table to sort of counter the more aggressive plans that might be coming from Democrats down the road.
NGUYEN: All right. So, bottom line, Jennifer, how fast will average Americans notice a change?
WESTHOVEN: It looks like this is going to be a real fight in Congress. So, some parts of this may never pass. Even some parts of this -- there might be fighting about this for years. I think, you know, maybe the bottom line for people to look at is that some parts of these really are in that trying mortgage crisis like this in the future.
There's also a part about, one of the newspapers call it, giving some financial regulators powers like a SWAT team. So, when there's a problem, they could sweep right in. So, that might be something that could prevent for example, a future Enron.
NGUYEN: Well, yes, I mean, that's a good point. But, you know, like you said, it also allows them to sweep in and hopefully you can rectify a problem before it gets as bad as we're seeing right now with the mortgage meltdown.
Jennifer Westhoven having joining us live. Thank you, Jennifer. It's always good to see you.
WESTHOVEN: Good morning. Nice to see you, too.
NGUYEN: Good morning.
All right. Well, later this hour, what happens after the bank forecloses on your home.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED POLICE OFFICER: It gets to you, but you don't think about it really until you get home and you are sitting having a cold glass of tea or whatever. Then you say, I wonder how those people are doing today since you put them out of the house, they don't have no place to go.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
NGUYEN: Yes, throwing someone out of their home is tough, even dangerous. We're going to see what it's like for an eviction team making a house call.
HOLMES: And we'll have coverage throughout the day of Issue number one: The economy. Coming up at 9:30 a.m. Eastern Time on OPEN HOUSE with Gerri Willis, learning that warning signs to avoid financial family stress.
NGUYEN: And tonight, how the American dream has just turned into a nightmare for so many. A CNN Special Investigations Report: "Busted! Mortgage Meltdown." It takes place at 8:00 p.m. Eastern only on CNN.
HOLMES: We will turn to Baghdad. An Iraqi official says a fierce fighting in Sadr City has killed at least 75 people, about 500 wounded. The U.S. military has launched air and ground operations to support the Iraqi military battling Shiite militias. One Iraqi official says about 40 members of the Iraqi national police force have defected to the militias taking their U.S.-supplied weapons and training with them.
Also: now, polls are open for several more hours in Zimbabwe. The president there, Robert Mugabe faces one of the toughest challenges of his three decades in office. And even before all the votes are counted, critics are already claiming the election will be rigged. The government promises a free and fair vote, however.
NGUYEN: Well, the Mexican government is rushing thousands of troops to the U.S./Mexico border, in Ciudad Juarez, to help stop a wave of drug-related violence. Now, Juarez officials say violence is being fueled by two rival drug cartels trying to push each other out of the region.
The mayor says about 200 people have been killed since January; around 20 of them are police officers. Juarez sits along the Rio Grande River across from El Paso, Texas. Mexico's Defense secretary says, more than 2,000 soldiers have been sent to that region. Well, also in South Texas, one inmate was killed and nearly two dozen were injured when fights broke out at a federal prison yesterday. Officials say there's no word yet on what touched off the unrest at Three Rivers Prison. It's located in a rural area about 70 miles southeast of San Antonio.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Right now we are under what they call a mission critical roster, because of the staffing and the under-funding that we have. And they created this a few years ago in attempts to save money. Well, when you do that, these types of things can happen.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
NGUYEN: An autopsy is being done to determine exactly how the inmate died. Officials now say, though, that so far no prison guards were hurt in the rioting, and the surrounding community was never in danger.
HOLMES: This is a heck of a way to start your life off: One day old and kidnapped. Yes. But the baby now is back with his parents after being allegedly taken from a hospital in Sanford, Florida.
NGUYEN: My goodness. Well, police say a woman managed to smuggle the baby out of the secure hospital unit inside a tote bag.
HOLMES: Thirty-nine-year-old Jennifer Lathom (ph), you're seeing here, was arrested shortly after the alleged kidnapping. She was pulled over by police in nearby Lake Mary, Florida. The baby was wearing a device that alerted security when he was taken.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CHIEF BRIAN TOOLEY, SANFORD POLICE: It immediately set off the infant alarm systems they have at the hospital. Hospital security responded quickly, and the woman managed to get out the door.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HOLMES: Well, the police say the baby was unharmed. And, I just looked at you when I heard that little tidbit, but I did not know -- what a heck of a security measure to give a baby a device. I did not know hospitals were doing that.
NGUYEN: Yes. That is exactly, you know, is it like a wristband or what it is to make sure? But we've heard of these cases before and obviously hospitals are being proactive in making sure that babies are monitored with a device should something like that happens. In a tote bag - like it was, you know, just something that you got off the shelf you take to the bag and take it home. Not exactly.
HOLMES: What a way to start your life off.
Well, coming up here, filling up with cooking oil. When a teenager runs out of fuel for his car, he pulls into the high school cafeteria.
REYNOLDS WOLF, CNN METEOROLOGIST: Wow, it sounds great. Hey, so many of you are so excited the weekend is finally here getting a break from work, but Mother Nature is not taking a day off. We've got a good chance for storms across parts of the southeast. We could see some snow in the Central and Northern Rockies. We got all that, plus, your official forecast for the Cherry Blossom Festival. Well, that's coming up in a few moments.
NGUYEN: Also, the painful removal of a woman's nipple ring leads to a change in airport security.
NGUYEN: All right. So, if you are headed out tonight and you just want a nice view of the skyline, well, in many cities, you might not get it because it's going to be a little bit darker tonight because beginning at 8:00 p.m. local time: Atlanta, Chicago, Phoenix, San Francisco, and many other cities around the globe, in fact, will turn off their lights for one hour.
HOLMES: This hour is called "Earth Hour" and this is what "Earth Hour" looked like in Sydney, Australia. This was a short time ago. The lights are going to go out.
The event began there in Sydney actually last year to raise awareness of climate change. This year, the World Wildlife Fund is making it a global event. More than 370 cities around the world are expected to participate.
NGUYEN: I guess you can't turn out all the lights because, you know, what would folks do? I mean, people do have to travel. So, they will just turn out the ones in the major, you know, buildings downtown and those types of things.
HOLMES: Just the skylines (ph). Yes, I guess, the traffic lights are going to keep working.
NGUYEN: Yes, I would hope so. That could pose a problem.
Well, you can joke all you want about greasy cafeteria food, but it just might cut your dependence on expensive gasoline.
HOLMES: Yes, you're listening now, aren't you? Vegetable oil from the deep fryer makes excellent fuel for some cars.
CNN's Miles O'Brien shows us how a little ingenuity can go a long, long way.
MILES O'BRIEN, CNN CHIEF TECHNOLOGY AND ENVIRONMENT CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): When Matt Willner's Beetle needs some go juice, he makes a b-line for his school's cafeteria where he taps into a mother load of crude from food. Matt has rigged up his car to run on used vegetable oil, grease, that is, yellow gold fast food tea. MATT WILLNER, HIGH SCHOOL SENIOR: I have two separate tanks. I have one for my petroleum or bio-diesel, whatever I put it in there, and here only for the veggie oil.
O'BRIEN: Matt starts his engine on diesel or bio-diesel, runs it for five minutes to warm up the grease, then hits the switch, and he's a rolling violator, greased lightning. So, what's under the hood? Not much different.
WILLNER: The only difference you can see is right here, you see my veggie oil filter.
O'BRIEN: Matt spent about $1,000 rigging up his car this way, but now he buys only 8 gallons of gas a month. So, is this for everybody?
WILLNER: It's for somebody who's willing to get their hands a little dirty.
O'BRIEN: And be willing to void your warranty and skirt the law. Technically, running on grease is a violation of the Clean Air Act, but the EPA is looking the other way. After all, what comes out of Matt's tail pipe is cleaner carbon neutral and smells great, too.
WILLNER: It's pretty much wherever I get my oil from, that will be the scent of the kind of oil I get it from.
O'BRIEN: And on this day, the grease bug smelled just like chicken.
Miles O'Brien, CNN, Englewood, New Jersey.
NGUYEN: We were just talking about that, I wonder if it smells like, you know, a French fry going down the road, because of all that grease, but he says it smells like chicken.
HOLMES: And as our Reynolds just pointed out that, you know, if you get a "tit for tat" stuck in there or something ...
NGUYEN: He said you make sure you filter it, huh.
WOLF: Yes, I'm sure he's a talk of all the people at school, hey, here's a guy who smells like chicken. It's a chicken-smelling car. No, but I mean, what is eight gallons of gas a month is what he's paying for. That's absolutely amazing.
NGUYEN: You have to make the initial investment of $1,000. But after that, you know, you're flying high.
HOLMES: But your warranty is out of here.
WOLF: Yes. HOLMES: Your warranty is gone.
NGUYEN: This is true.
HOLMES: We'll get into that (INAUDIBLE). We're talking to Reynolds here shortly.
But coming up here, folks, there were all stars in the B.S. period.
NGUYEN: Yes, and that stands for?
HOLMES: Before steroids. Yes, these baseball legends say the game hasn't changed, it's the players that have.
NGUYEN: Let's talk about a little weather today because it has been a mess in many areas. We've been talking a lot about the flooding. Are things really starting to subside this weekend?
WOLF: Well, believe it or not, in much of Arkansas, which we're going to show you in a few moments, we see few scattered showers, nothing too heavy at this point but the rivers are expected to rise overnight into tomorrow it's just beginning to drop. But this has been a mess in parts of Arkansas.
T.J., you knew very well in Missouri, you were there a short time ago. We're going to see things improve a little bit. Still some scattered showers out there. Some snow in parts of the central and Northern Rockies. It's the ski season that will never end.
Plus, we've got a look at your forecast in Washington, D.C. for the Cherry Festival.
NGUYEN: Hopefully we'll get pictures of that. There you go. It's like you ask and you shall receive.
WOLF: Absolutely. So, you have power, Betty. That's how it happens.
Take a look at this -- these beautiful, beautiful trees, the pink petals. Conditions there today should be just picture perfect. We are looking for plenty of sunshine. High pressure is just setting over much of the Great Lakes and back into parts of the eastern seaboard.
So, it's going to be sunny. You might need the sunglasses but I wish I could say the same for the rest of the country and parts of the southeast, they're not going to be seeing the sun but rather, seeing quite a bit rainfall.
Let's move right to the weather map as we do so, we're headed first and foremost for parts of Tennessee. We take you to Knoxville, we take to you Chattanooga, and back over to places like Nashville. Right now, in Knoxville, out near -- let's see, right along the river, the Tennessee River, some scattered showers, few thunderstorms, you're going to be dealing with those.
Nothing severe at this point but as we make our way back over to Arkansas, in an area that doesn't need any rain whatsoever, we're seeing some rain there, too, this morning. And as we head south towards the Dallas-Ft. Worth area, everything is moving just east of the metroplex at this hour.
And the snow levels are continuing to rise in many parts of the Central and Northern Rockies. And it looks like Salt Lake City like (INAUDIBLE) this morning, same story, up by snow bird.
Here's the story in Washington, D.C., 54 degrees, the expected high. Mostly sunny skies, can't ask for any better weather than that.
Let's send it back to you.
NGUYEN: All right. Thank you, Reynolds.
WOLF: You bet.
HOLMES: All right. We'll look now at some other stories that are making headlines at this hour.
NGUYEN: Yes. There is a shootout on a Texas highway. And this morning, one person is dead. It happened yesterday on I-20 in Dallas.
Now, sheriff's deputies say a suspect took them on a high-speed chase, opened fire on them, they shot back, killing the suspect. That chase started when officers tried to pull the man over just to check his inspection sticker.
I take you to Massachusetts now. A stretch of Interstate 91 is back open after a fiery crash killed a truck driver. It happened yesterday in Chicopee.
Now, police say, the semi was filled with thousands of gallons of gas when the driver lost control trying to avoid another accident. The tanker rolled over. Part of it exploded. Officials at the hospital say the driver did die overnight.
HOLMES: Learn English or go to jail? That's the ruling from this Pennsylvania judge. The judge handed down the unusual sentence to three Spanish-speaking men facing conspiracy charges. The judge said the men could remain on parole if they learned English, get a GED, and land a job. They will be required to take an English test in a year.
NGUYEN: Well, the CNN Election Express makes it next stop right here. We're going to find out what the latest buzz is from the campaign trail.
HOLMES: Also, deploying in a war zone.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
NIC ROBERTSON, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: We are flying into the (INAUDIBLE) operating base, which is a really good thing, because the Taliban are using more and more roadside bombs these days.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HOLMES: Yes, that's our Nic Robertson and he's with British troops about to do battle in Afghanistan.
HOLMES: All right. Let's turn to some presidential politics now. And the race for Democrats is turning into a fight to the finish. Hillary Clinton vows to keep on keeping on, and Barack Obama is motoring his way through Pennsylvania. The primary there is over three weeks away.
And CNN deputy political director and friend of ours here on CNN SATURDAY and SUNDAY MORNING: Paul Steinhauser. He's with the Election Express in Philadelphia. The weather looks fine, everything looks great there.
So, tell me, Barack Obama, I guess, this is just a prerequisite for any candidate out there, you got to get yourself a bus and you got to go on tour. And that's what he's doing.
PAUL STEINHAUSER, CNN DEPUTY POLITICAL DIRECTOR: Exactly. We're not the only ones with a bus, I guess. Yesterday, he kicked off this six-day bus tour right here in Pennsylvania. He started out west. He started in Pittsburgh. He's heading east, he's heading this way right here to Philadelphia.
And, T.J., he got a big endorsement yesterday, because, right here in Pennsylvania, the conventional wisdom is, this is Hillary Clinton's state. She's up in the polls. It's her state to win.
And she's got all the big endorsement here, the governor, the mayors of Philadelphia and Pittsburgh, but Barack Obama yesterday got a big endorsement with Senator Bob Casey, Jr. He's the only Democratic senator in this state. And that can help Obama, I think, with conservative voters, with Catholic voters, and it could help Obama as he tries to make a dent here in Pennsylvania.
And remember, he's outspending Hillary Clinton about four to one in advertisements here and commercials. I think, the Obama campaign thinks they can do it here.
HOLMES: He's certainly showing he's not giving the state up, conceding it to Hillary Clinton. But there are plenty of calls around, excuse, I should say there are more of those calls we're hearing about Hillary Clinton getting out of the race.
It's obvious she is not, because she's moving ahead and moving past Pennsylvania. She's campaigning in Indiana, also, Kentucky, but talk about some of those prominent senators we have seen now, come out and say, she should drop out of the race.
STEINHAUSER: You got it. Two big prominent senators and they are both Obama senators. Senator Leahy of Vermont, and Senator Chris Dodd of Connecticut, who, if you do remember, was running for president earlier this campaign season. They both suggested it's time for Hillary Clinton to get out of the race.
But this bitterness between the two campaigns is starting to hurt the Democrats overall and to hurt their chances to taking back the White House in November. Hillary Clinton is not getting out. And she has said that the last couple of days. She said it again yesterday. She says, this fight is actually good for the Democratic Party. Her husband said calls for her to get out are bulls.
HOLMES: So, Paul, should we take those then (ph) with a grain of salt, Dodd and Leahy, since they are, of course, Obama supporters, and we should take it with a grain of salt that they're telling her to get out?
STEINHAUSER: Exactly. I think, you know, they maybe not, won't admit this, but maybe it's coming from the campaign itself, this is coming from the Obama campaign. Put pressure on Hillary Clinton to get out, but I don't think there are signs, T.J., that she's going to do it right now. It's still too close.
HOLMES: All right. Let's take a listen now to Chelsea Clinton who we've heard her name. She's been in the news a little more lately in this campaign. And let's take a listen to what she said her response to a question about who would be the better president, mom or dad.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CHELSEA CLINTON, CLINTON'S DAUGHTER: His question is, do I think my mother will be a better president than my father? Well, again, I don't take anything for granted, but hopefully with Pennsylvania's help, she will be our next president, and, yes, I do think she'll be a better president.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HOLMES: And, I'm sure Bill Clinton's going to come out with a response to that, soon. No.
Tell us, have we seen her -- we've seen her a little more. Is she relishing this new role? Is she having much an effect out there on the campaign trail? Talk about just her role these days?
STEINHAUSER: She has been to probably to over 70 or 80 college campuses. That's where they're really putting Chelsea Clinton, a lot of college campuses and universities across the country.
As we all know, Barack Obama does very well with younger voters, with college students. So, I think they're hoping that Chelsea Clinton can grab some of those voters away and bring them over to the Clinton camp.
And one other thing though about her comment about her father being less of a president maybe, he agrees, he says, you know what, Hillary Clinton would be a better president than me because she has more experience now than I had when I became a president in '92. So, they're all on the same page there, too.
HOLMES: Oh, well. All right. Paul Steinhauser with the Election Express, and we want to note, it is a better bus than any bus than Barack Obama is going to take a tour in.
All right. Paul, good to see you, as always. And we're going to see you next hour, actually we're going to be talking about McCain and what he's up to these days. Paul, good to see you. We'll see you again, soon.
STEINHAUSER: Take care, T.J.
HOLMES: All right. And we'll be talking about how this race is shaping up. You can always catch our "BALLOT BOWL." It lets you make the call about how things are looking in the race. Your chance to hear from the candidates themselves today at 2:00 Eastern, only on CNN, your home for politics.
NGUYEN: So, we have your best political team on television and your best political bus on TV as well?
HOLMES: Yes, there's no question about the bus.
NGUYEN: You've been inside, right?
HOLMES: Been in that bus -- oh, my goodness. Nicer than my house.
NGUYEN: But, of course, right, because that's the way the political team rolls. So, should superdelegates, speaking of politics, follow voters?
Well, Joshua Levs is here with a reality check on the campaign trail. No bus for you, Josh.
JOSH LEVS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: I have never got to be on that bus. I'm calling Paul.
NGUYEN: Well, there's a reason for that. You just thought it was T.J., didn't you?
LEVS: T.J. is going to have to be the good cop today. Hey, everybody.
All right. So, this whole idea, should they follow voters? Well, that's an argument the Obama campaign has been pushing, but now, one of Obama's most prominent surrogates is saying there might be an exception to that. I'll explain coming up -- T.J.?
HOLMES: Yes, that's an interesting little twist there on that story. I can't wait to hear about that one. Josh, thank you.
And also, we'll be talking about war. Flushing out the Taliban and playing Afghanistan's game of cat and mouse. We are on the ground with Britain's Royal Marine Commandos.
HOLMES: Hello. Welcome back, everybody. Good morning to you. I'm T.J. Holmes.
NGUYEN: Yes, happy Saturday to you. I'm Betty Nguyen. We want to thank you for joining us today.
First up, a bomb explodes at a power plant killing two workers and injuring eight others.
HOLMES: It happened this morning in Southern Afghanistan. Power plant officials say, there were no power outages however. Police now are looking into this.
NGUYEN: Well, Afghanistan's bloody fight against the Taliban now. We want to talk about that because American and coalition forces have been involved for the last six and a half years.
And recently, our Nic Robertson went on patrol with a British commando team in the heart of Taliban country.
ROBERTSON (voice-over): This is the Taliban's heart land -- the desert plains and river valleys of Helman Province. We are on a British Army helicopter flying from a supply base to an outpost of war. Below us, the poppy fields that supply much of the world's opium and more hidden dangers.
(on camera): We are flying into the operating base, which is a really good thing, because the Taliban are using more and more roadside bombs these days.
(voice-over): Being in the air is no guarantee of safety either. The Taliban would like nothing better than to shoot one down. We've arrived on the eve of a big operation, Britain's elite Royal Marine commanders are gearing up for battle with the Taliban.
SECOND LT. DAN EATON, BRITISH ROYAL MARINES: Our mission as a left troop (ph) is to conduct and advance the contact north to the 335 northing (ph).
ROBERTSON: Second Lieutenant Dan Eaton is briefing his troops for operation claim war (ph). He is 24 and commands about 40 men. And this is his first posting after training. He confides to us his deepest worries as he readies his unit.
EATON: (INAUDIBLE) is casualties within my troop -- I've had one already. And this late stage (ph), I prefer not to get any at all.
ROBERTSON: An American B-1 bomber screeches overhead in a show of force. The men of D-company, 40 Royal Marine Commando are searching for Taliban.
EATON: Do you ever see people with weapons coming through here because we hear quite a lot of reports?
ROBERTSON: He wants to take home the Taliban, but avoid the risk of killing civilians. And that often means putting his men in danger.
MAJ. TONY CHATTIN, BRITISH ROYAL MARINES: They have to push the men slightly further forward to get the enemy to move, and then be able to smash them.
ROBERTSON: As we follow him into a village, we are doing exactly that.
EATON: We always feel a degree more tension as you start to come up.
ROBERTSON: Why is that?
EATON: We just have a fair number of engagements up here. It has not helped. Quite a few of the lads, as we approach north, quite a few of the lads saw families leaving the compounds from the west.
ROBERTSON: A tell-tail sign an ambush could be coming. Eight hours after leaving, we are back at Fort Gibraltar. No casualties but frustration with the Taliban's cat and mouse game and a sense that this could go on for many years.
Nic Robertson, CNN, Helman Province, Afghanistan.
HOLMES: And in the race for the White House, Republican John McCain wants you to get to know him a little better. McCain is taking a break from the campaign trail today, but next week, he kicks off a biographical tour of pivotal places in his life. McCain launched his first TV ad of the general election campaign yesterday.
Meanwhile, on the Democratic side, Barack Obama is on a campaign bus tour through Pennsylvania as we mentioned a bit ago. And Hillary Clinton holds a rally in Indianapolis later this morning.
And Barack Obama is pushing superdelegates to follow the will of voters. That will shore up his bid, of course, for the nomination, at least right now.
NGUYEN: Right. Well, but one of most prominent surrogates is suggesting some superdelegates could get out on, say, a technicality. So, here to explain all of this is Josh Levs. Give us a lowdown on this technicality.
LEVS: Yes, Betty, if this words should be a rule that they would push as a party that there is a way to get out of it. That's what we've been hearing this week. Every week is like a new argument about what superdelegates should do because it's the reality of politics.
Campaign surrogates push ideas to get help their candidates elected, even if they don't always follow those ideas themselves.
LEVS (voice-over): Barack Obama has long pushed delegates to follow the electorate instead of throwing their convention votes behind whoever they want.
SEN. BARACK OBAMA, (D) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: The superdelegates that I'd talked to are uncomfortable with the notion that they would override decisions made by voters.
LEVS: Representative John Lewis had supported Clinton, but Obama won his district. Lewis switched camps. Both Senators Ted Kennedy and John Kerry, both superdelegates, remain among Obama's prominent supporters despite Clinton's 15-point victory in Massachusetts.
Now, a new twist from Obama's most prominent surrogate.
New Mexico Governor Bill Richardson had told "The New York Times," superdelegates should reflect their state or constituency. Guess who won New Mexico?
CNN's John Roberts grilled Richardson about his endorsement.
JOHN ROBERTS, CNN ANCHOR: Are you going back on what you said just a month ago?
GOV. BILL RICHARDSON, (D) FMR. PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: No, I'm not, John. The reality is that it took two weeks, the vote was so close, so close. It ended up by less than 1 percent. I'm also the western governor.
ROBERTS: But she still won, though.
RICHARDSON: Well, yes, but, John, you know, you can't get that technical about it.
LEVS: Richardson added ...
RICHARDSON: I mean, if it been decisive, I think you're making a point.
LEVS: In a close finish means superdelegates can go either way, without being unfair to voters, how could that play out nationally?
Obama has about 170 more pledged delegates than Clinton, 4 percent of the total vote. The popular vote is within three percentage points. Pennsylvania could start to narrow the gap. In the end, Obama may finish ahead just slightly, or perhaps, to borrow Richardson's term, technically.
LEVS: So if that happens, can superdelegates really go either way and still be fair to voters? Just what determines a technical victory in this close race? And guys, know as pressure is mounting on superdelegates to follow voters, now, they can also find people on both sides who are superdelegates who have not exactly followed voters themselves.
HOLMES: I guess, we should just turn to Governor Richardson for the rules, because he seems to want to change them up as we go along. But, what if it ends up that close in the popular vote?
HOLMES: And you know, you can have it both ways.
LEVS: The popular vote could end up incredibly close and under his terms, it could be a technicality.
HOLMES: He won't be arguing that.
LEVS: Not if it's his candidate. No.
NGUYEN: No. But it's funny though, how things got switched around there at the end.
HOLMES: John Roberts couldn't stop laughing when he was listening to that.
LEVS: That's classic and thanks to John for that as (INAUDIBLE) his interview right there.
NGUYEN: Yes, good questioning there.
HOLMES: All right. We appreciate you, Josh.
NGUYEN: It just got us a little heated today, right?
Well, is party in-fighting hurting the Democrats? You can tune in to "BALLOT BOWL" today at 2:00 p.m. Eastern. Only CNN gives viewers a chance to learn about the candidates' plans in their own words. CNN is your home for politics.
HOLMES: All right. Listen to this one. We've been getting a lot of attention of the past couple of days, folks. A nipple ring removal outrage in an airport is prompting a change in security policy.
NGUYEN: Yes. Using a mannequin, Mandi Hamlin shows reporters how she took off the nipple ring with pliers. TSA screeners told her when she wouldn't be allowed on her flight unless she removed the jewelry. The ring had set off an alarm on a screener's handheld device.
Now, here's the deal though. Hamlin offered to show the rings to a female officer in private rather than going through the pain of removing them.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GLORIA ALLRED, ATTORNEY FOR MANDI HAMLIN: The conduct of TSA was cruel and unnecessary. The last time that I checked, a nipple was not a dangerous weapon. (END VIDEO CLIP)
NGUYEN: She has a point there.
HOLMES: She does have a point and she always -- she's good for sound bites. TSA statement said, officers followed proper procedures, but those procedures now must change in the future. The agency says passengers can allow a visual inspection of their piercings or removed them and also, the TSA did in fact say, they did follow procedure.
However, the woman also should have probably been offered a hand pat down as another way of doing it.
NGUYEN: As they will do with female TSA workers.
Here's the other thing, too, I mean, not only that she had to go through some pain to take that out, but you can't reinsert them on your own. I believe you have to go back to a professional to make sure that they're, you know, inserted properly. So, there's a lot of different issues with that.
HOLMES: That's all the way around.
Well, here is a question that we have loved to answer here on this Saturday morning: what do women want?
NGUYEN: Well, let's see. Should we list it?
HOLMES: OK, Betty. Do they really want it all?
NGUYEN: Of course we do.
HOLMES: One study, yes, actually says, probably. It has the answer, though.
NGUYEN: Probably. The answer isn't a definitive yes. We'll talk about that.
Plus, an all-star who got caught with everything hit third base, huh? Well, this catch is on to the modern player. We are going to delve into that story. Are we talking about steroids?
HOLMES: No. We have to stick around.
NGUYEN: Well, it was a little confusing, is all I'm saying.
HOLMES: We didn't mean to confuse the viewer, we just want to tease them a little bit and have them come back and see that story.
NGUYEN: Well, look, I'm not sure they want to come back.
HOLMES: Yes. Well, we're going to be talking to Brooks Robinson and other legends, baseballs and it's bad rap on "roids."
(COMMERCIAL BREAK) HOLMES: Yes, it's March, and it is madness. Last night's shocker: Davidson, number 10 seed behind that young man right there, Stephon Curry, 33 points, he had 40 in the first game of the tournament, he had 30 in the next, it's unbelievable. He's got a stroke. Look at this, Betty. The kid is amazing.
But Davidson, at 10 seed, now has a chance to go to the final four. I could just watch this kid all day. Davidson, 10 seed upset, three seed, Wisconsin. Down to this south regional now, the second seed Longhorns. UT Longhorns are yours. They advance to win over Stanford. Kind of a close game for a while, ended up winning by 20.
Eight teams are now left to the shot at a national championship. We're going to be talking to Rick Horrow on SUNDAY MORNING. But tonight: Xavier versus UCLA and Louisville versus North Carolina. Those teams will punch a ticket to the final four.
NGUYEN: I'm surprised you even leave your house during March Madness.
HOLMES: I don't much. I really don't. Don't bother me, don't call me. I barely even come into work.
NGUYEN: Don't go grocery shopping, nothing.
HOLMES: Just deliver the pizza and the Chinese food and I'm good.
NGUYEN: Well, spring is in the air and the fields are sprout up. You know, it's opening weekend for Major League Baseball.
HOLMES: However, with recent Congressional hearings, you got (INAUDIBLE) testimony on steroids, there's a bit of a cloud over the nation's favorite past time.
Well, in Fort Lauderdale, CNN's John Zarrella asked some baseball old-timers about the impact of drugs on the game today.
JOHN ZARRELLA, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The grass is still green. The diamond is still a diamond. And these boys of summer's past can still hit.
They are a lot older now. The bones are creaky and the game of baseball they love, no longer pure, they say. Steroids changed all that.
WARREN CROMARTIE, FORMER OUTFIELDER: I got a father who taught me to play in the Negro League. We went out and play, we practiced. We practiced, practiced, practiced. We got good. So, either you had it or you didn't. So, we didn't think about putting anything but vitamins in our body, at the time.
ZARRELLA: That's not entirely true, says, Bill Lee. They called him "spaceman" when he pitched for the Boston Red Sox. His take, like his nickname, a bit different.
BILL LEE, FORMER PITCHER: I don't see no problem.
ZARRELLA: So, I guess you really wish you were still playing today?
LEE: Well, I would have a lot of money, but I would probably be dead the way we partied, you know.
ZARRELLA: In Lee's day there wasn't the money or the performance-enhancing drugs, but the game had its wild side.
LEE: The ballplayers were working out 12 months a year. In the old day, we used to drink, you know. We used to - 80 percent of the money we spent on fine women and whiskey, and the other 20 percent we spilled.
ZARRELLA: Performance back then may have been diluted, from time to time. But not enhanced. What's real? What came from a bottle or a vile?
For Hall of Famer Brooks Robinson, that's the problem.
BROOKS ROBINSON, HALL OF FAMER: (INAUDIBLE). I think, it's terrible. I mean, it's cheating. That's just as simple as you can put it. And I know we laugh in all that said and we used to think these guys spent seven days a week in gym pumping iron, you know. We know different now.
ZARRELLA: But, so what? The hullabaloo over steroids has just prove, says "spaceman," priorities are out of whack.
LEE: Clean up the society. The game is fine. The game is a leather ball, you know, that used to be horse side, is now cowhide. You don't hear them talking about that. You want to talk about something juice the ball's juice.
ZARRELLA: The game has it always has, will survive this latest hiccup. In "spaceman's" logic, it's simple, what's there to look forward to after baseball season? Six months of ice hockey?
John Zarrella, CNN, Fort Lauderdale.
HOLMES: He doesn't like hockey.
NGUYEN: Apparently not.
Well, here's a job you probably wouldn't want. Taking someone out of their house after it's foreclosed. I don't think anyone really wants that. It is an emotional and sometimes violent process for those who do it.
HOLMES: Also, we got a big ordeal for a little kid. Get stuck in a well. How his dad came to the rescue. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)
NGUYEN: All right. Ladies, listen up, OK? Handsome looks, money, good parenting skills, loyalty, devotion. Check, check, check, and check. What every woman wants is potential, and it may, you know, someone who is going to be there and nice to look at at the same time.
HOLMES: Breaking news, right, fellas? This sounds obvious, because it is obvious. Well, actually your university, Texas, they ought to spend millions to challenge conventional wisdom.
NGUYEN: Hey, this is serious research.
HOLMES: No. OK. They challenged conventional wisdom here, Reynolds, what (ph) women value and (ph) emotionally satisfied.
NGUYEN: I'm outnumbered here.
HOLMES: Hey, we didn't set up the lineup. But look, they're challenging, they say that women usually want emotionally satisfying relationships and that's what they want above all else in a mate. Well, researchers now say, attractive women, especially, place a premium on physical appearance along with money and other such shallow things.
LEVS: And the ability to care for children is shocking.
HOLMES: So, they want it all, is what they're saying.
NGUYEN: And there's something wrong with that?
WOLF: Bring it on. Betty, is it? What do you want? That's what we're trying to find out.
NGUYEN: Hello. I want it all. Good genes. I want, you know, someone who's physically attractive, obviously. Everything that's on this list, you know. But here's what I found interesting about the list. It had loyalty and devotion last. OK. There's something wrong with that.
LEVS: Women prize their own looks that much. They put it last, the one who cares that much about their own appearance.
NGUYEN: But it also found the serious research to my alma mater, found that women looking for long-term parents, OK, or partners, I should say, want someone who's going to be a good provider for the children. Now, if you're just looking for a fling, he better be good- looking. That is what the research shows.
LEVS: That's what they're finding. (INAUDIBLE) is that women who are seeking short-term flings care more about physical attractiveness than those looking for a lifelong partner.
NGUYEN: But it also found that men really don't ...
HOLMES: We don't care. No matter what we look like, we want the same thing, a good-looking woman.
NGUYEN: Exactly, that's my point. So, why are you talking about women? I mean ...
HOLMES: But people know we're shallow, but we have evidence now that you are ...
NGUYEN: You could be a troll, and yet you want a super model.
WOLF: Is that so wrong, Betty? I ask you, is that so wrong to be a troll?
NGUYEN: Yes, because I have three men up here trying to coming down on me for, you know, what this study says about what attractive women want.
HOLMES: But we had an eight-year-old kid on last week who wrote a book called "How to Talk to Girls." He has been observing things on the playground, and you would have to spend millions at the UT, the same conclusion.
LEVS: They have the exact same point.
NGUYEN: Well, look, we had to do some scientific research.
HOLMES: All right.
NGUYEN: There you go.
HOLMES: We got to move on. OK.
NGUYEN: All right, folks, enough with that.
HOLMES: We are going to talk about the rich, the poor. Yes, thank you, fellas.
NGUYEN: For weighing in here.
HOLMES: The rich, the poor, a lot of people in between. Everybody, it seems like getting hit in this mortgage crisis right now. That's what we are going to talk about.
Take a listen here.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CPL. DEREK STEVERSON, GWINNETT CO. SHERIFF'S DEPT.: We gone (ph) from trailers to, I mean, million-dollar homes. I mean, we were out at the country club (ph) putting people out. They have elevators in their house, and they get evicted, also.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HOLMES: We are following the eviction police whose job it is to clear out foreclosed homes.
NGUYEN: Have you heard the number? An estimated two million Americans are at risk of losing their home. And President Bush went to New Jersey yesterday to highlight private efforts to help people avoid foreclosure.
HOLMES: Yes, but for a whole lot of folks, it is too late. Eviction could be coming at any time.
And CNN's Rusty Dornin was there when sheriff's deputies in an Atlanta suburb finally knocked on the door.
RUSTY DORNIN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): These two deputies, Allen Mathias and Derek Steverson come to your door, your house no longer belongs to you. It belongs to the bank.
For nearly 20 years, they have worked evictions in Gwinnett County, Georgia. No need for them to read the headlines to know foreclosures are skyrocketing.
CPL. ALLEN MATHIAS, GWINNETT CO. SHERIFF'S DEPT.: When I first came here in '85, I was lucky to get an eviction once a week. Now I get them every day.
DORNIN: Most people move out before it happens.
UNIDENTIFIED POLICE OFFICER: Somebody is home.
DORNIN: But a growing number, don't.
(on camera): Deputies found the original eviction notice inside, it's nearly a month old. So, the family knew it was going to happen, but they never knew the date.
(voice-over): When that final knock will come. At this house, deputies suspect someone is home, but no one will answer the door.
MATHIAS: Now we have to try to get them to come to the door.
DORNIN: They travel with a professional eviction team who busts the locks. Animal Control has been called for the dogs inside, and the movers begin hauling out every single thing in the house. All dumped on the front lawn.
CPL. DEREK STEVERSON, GWINNETT CO. SHERIFF'S DEPT.: We don't know what to encounter inside. A lot of people know that this is coming. A lot of times, you know, when you have lived in a house for 18 to 20 years of your life, you know, to lose everything at one swift moment, you know, people don't want the leave.
DORNIN: And when some realize they have to leave, it can be devastating. One time a man wouldn't unlock the door, and then the deputies saw he had a gun.
MATHIAS: The next thing we knew, about 30 minutes later, we heard one gunshot. He had committed suicide.
DORNIN: That happened twice last year. So, the first thing they do when they enter is look for people.
(on camera): Nobody's home.
MATHIAS: No. That's what we had to do. We have to make sure the house is clear.
DORNIN (voice-over): Then the search begins for weapons or drugs. Behind the couch, Steverson pulls out what first appears to be a rifle.
STEVERSON: Somebody (ph) point it at somebody.
DORNIN: But it turns out to be a toy. A job where the deputies can see for themselves just how far the mortgage crisis stretches.
STEVERSON: We have gone (ph) from trailers to, I mean, million- dollar homes. I mean, we are out at the country club (ph) putting people out. They got elevators in their house, and they get evicted, also.
DORNIN: Sometimes people trash the house before they leave, but others can tug at the hard strings.
MATHIAS: It gets to you, but you don't think about it really until you get home and you are sitting having a cold glass of tea or whatever, then you say and wonder how that people are doing today since you put them out of the house they don't have no place to go.
DORNIN: That fact hit neighbor Don Pilling.
DON PILLING, NEIGHBOR: I guess, I feel the pain a little bit, too. I know that this is devastating, to our community and to my neighbors. I've never seen this before on this side.
DORNIN: Sad, for sure, when financial disaster comes knocking.
Rusty Dornin, CNN, Atlanta.
NGUYEN: So tough, especially to have, you know, the family come home and see all their stuff out there on the front yard.
HOLMES: And it's over. They knock on your door, and you know you do not own your home anymore. That's something else.
We're going to have coverage throughout the day of issue number one, the economy, which includes a lot of talk about the mortgage crisis, coming up at 9:30 on "OPEN HOUSE" with Gerri Willis. You'll learn the warning signs to avoid financial family stress. NGUYEN: And tonight, how the American dream has turned into a nightmare for so many. A CNN Special Investigations Report: "Busted! Mortgage Meltdown." It happens at 8:00 Eastern only on CNN.
T.J. HOLMES, CNN ANCHOR: And good morning, everybody. From the CNN Center in Atlanta, Georgia, Saturday, March 29th, here. I'm T.J. Holmes.
BETTY NGUYEN, CNN ANCHOR: Good morning, T.J.
HOLMES: Good morning to you. We just blew by that first hour.
NGUYEN: Good day so far. I know, it is just hopping along.
Good morning, everybody. Thanks for joining us. I'm Betty Nguyen. All right, first up, we're going to be talking about money, the economy, of course.
HOLMES: Yes. And a pretty big makeover that we're getting here. This one could affect everything from your bank to your mortgage broker to your retirement account as well as your investments.
NGUYEN: The Bush administration is proposing a major overhaul in how the nation's financial industry is regulated. So joining us now to help sort things out here is Jennifer Westhoven, she is in New York.
And I think the big question, when people hear about this mortgage makeover, you know, when it comes to the Federal Reserve is, how big of a deal is this?
JENNIFER WESTHOVEN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, it changes basically the boss of all of these different groups that we've been talking about. The boss for banks, the boss for all of these investment groups. It's a complete reworking of the financial system, who polices all of these different groups?
Now of course, when they fail, it can affect all Americans, that's completely obvious from the mortgage crisis that has been happening. So there is an agreement that the current system has been failing us, that something needs to be done.
This new White House plan would set up a new mortgage commission so that -- there's a lot of different rules right now. Right now there are a lot of different rules, there are state rules, there are federal rules. This tries to iron them out into something that's a little more uniform.
Also there has been this hodgepodge of different regulatory agencies created over the years. It's alphabet soup. The SEC, the CFTC, the OTS. A lot of these would be merged. And perhaps part of the biggest of this plan, the Fed would get a lot more power.
So if the Federal Reserve thinks that some bank is in trouble, that it's market-threatening, it could swoop in and demand to see the books. That's something that might have helped in the Bear Stearns near-collapse. In some cases though it's actually less regulation, but the treasury secretary, Henry Paulson says it would be more effective than what we have now, which again, a lot of agreement even in Washington that that's not working for America.
NGUYEN: Yes, and you -- when you talk about less regulation, essentially it's because this is falling under one group being the Federal Reserve, and not a bunch of different other groups that are having to weigh in.
But at the same time when you see a sweeping change like this because the Federal Reserve is pretty much going to have control -- oversight that is, over virtually the entire financial industry, you have to wonder about the timing, is this only in response to what we're seeing now with the mortgage meltdown? Or is it something that was started a little bit earlier?
WESTHOVEN: Well, Henry Paulson of course comes from Wall Street, that's his background. So he has had to face these different agencies for a long time. So from Wall Street's perspective, it's something they want to clean up.
Now for all of us though who are looking at what has been happening in the economy, it seems like with the timing they must be coming in to rescue. But it looks like this report has been in the works for months.
Some of it does address the mortgage crisis, but again, a lot of it is much broader, it really aims to redo the entire regulatory structure which has been patched together since the Civil War and it's sometimes very confusing and that has made it pretty ineffective at times.
NGUYEN: Yes. And I understand it has been in the works since June. So there has been some time to really make this happen. But at the bottom of it, you know, when we talk about the people that are really feeling the affects, the average person, what are they going to see as a result of this change?
WESTHOVEN: Well, in some ways it's not going to help the person who right now is struggling to make a mortgage payment. It's nothing like some of the other plans going on in Congress about helping homeowners.
The way you might really feel it is if you don't see future headlines like the Bear Stearns near-collapse. The Feds would try to catch problems before they snowball into market turmoil.
I think you know when you hear market reporters, business reporters say market trouble, we all think about the Dow Jones Industrial Average. But it's not just that market.
We have had a lot of stories about hospitals and museums, universities like Georgetown who suddenly had to face a much higher payment just for money that they were borrowing for their day to day business. And that translates into higher prices for all of us, just for regular things we buy every day.
NGUYEN: Well, it will be interesting to see how this really takes effect and the people out there dealing with the mortgage meltdown are going to see some positive change because of it.
Jennifer Westhoven, joining us live this morning. Thanks for helping us sort it all out.
NGUYEN: And we, of course, will have complete coverage throughout the day of "ISSUE #1," that being the economy. Coming up at 9:30 Eastern on "OPEN HOUSE" with Gerri Willis, you can learn the warning signs to avoid financial family stress.
And then tonight, how the American dream has turned into a nightmare for so many. A "CNN SPECIAL INVESTIGATIONS" report, "Busted! Mortgage Meltdown," that airs at 8:00 Eastern only on CNN.
HOLMES: Well, fighting between Iraqi security forces and Shiite militias in Baghdad, Sadr City, rages on this morning. Iraqi officials tell CNN the number of people killed in the clashes rose to 75 today, with almost 500 wounded.
The U.S. military is supporting Iraqi security forces there. Iraq's interior ministry says at least 40 members of the national police have defected in recent days to join radical Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr's Mehdi Army.
Meantime, more rockets and mortars rained into Baghdad's International Zone this morning. Now the International Zone is the area formerly called the Green Zone.
NGUYEN: Two workers were killed and eight others injured when a bomb exploded at a power plant in southern Afghanistan this morning. Take a look at the map here. Investigators say the blast at the Helmand hydroelectrical plant was detonated by remote control. Police in the province blame the Taliban for that attack.
HOLMES: Well, critics claiming voter fraud, the government says election mistakes.
NGUYEN: Concerns hanging over voters in Zimbabwe today. President Robert Mugabe facing a challenge as he tries to win a sixth term. He's running against a former cabinet minister and a leading opposition figure. Now there are criticisms among some voters of too few polling stations and some confusion over where to vote.
HOLMES: We'll turn to presidential politics here in the U.S. now. It ain't over 'til it's over. Hillary Clinton, she is brushing off the latest calls for her to drop out of the race. Clinton says voters in the remaining primary states should have a voice and have their votes counted. She holds a rally in Indianapolis coming your way in about two hours.
Meanwhile, her opponent, Barack Obama, is on a campaign swing across Pennsylvania. In Pittsburgh yesterday, he picked up an endorsement from Pennsylvania Senator Bob Casey Jr. His next stop will be a town hall meeting today in Johnston, Pennsylvania.
While Clinton and Obama battle things out, John McCain already campaigning for the general election. Let's welcome back in CNN deputy political director Paul Steinhauser, we have been talking to him this morning. Talked to him last hour about the Democrats. Let's talk about the Republican side.
And John McCain is the only one to talk about, I suppose, is he really getting off to a real advantage here? He's the one with the spotlight. He can go and have his eyes set on the general right now.
PAUL STEINHAUSER, CNN DEPUTY POLITICAL DIRECTOR: Exactly. While the Democrats are bickering and fighting among themselves and trying to come up with a nominee, he has got it all to himself. But there's a downside to that too, T.J., because a lot of the attention is on the Democrats, not as much on the Republicans.
So that's why John McCain has got this new tour going on. It starts on Monday. They're calling it the Service to America tour. It's to spotlight his unique story, what his campaign says are unique contributions to America.
It starts in Mississippi, there is a Naval station there that is named after his grandfather. We're going to see him in Annapolis, Maryland, where he went to the Naval Academy. We're going to see him in Jacksonville, Florida. And there is also a TV commercial that is now out as well, playing, that has got to go along with that.
Listen, the McCain campaign says they're not taking it for granted that anybody knows who he is. They want Americans to know who John McCain is.
HOLMES: It seems strange to say that. He has been on the national scene for so long, he has run for president before, do Americans really still not know John McCain and his story?
STEINHAUSER: They feel this is a unique opportunity right now for them to really clearly show Americans who he is. They don't take a thing for granted. Sure, a lot of Americans may remember his run for the White House in 2000. But they want Americans to know who John McCain is, how he served in the military, he was a war hero, and they want to get that message out and they're going to start this week.
HOLMES: And, Paul, are there any signs yet that they are a bit concerned, or starting to get concerned as Iraq turns more towards violence in the offensive we have seen in Iraqi forces in Basra, which hasn't gone that well for the Iraqi forces.
But John McCain could step up and tout that, hey, I was the one who was out there preaching that the surge would work, and when things were getting better in Iraq, it was great for him, but now things are starting to take a downturn. Is that going to hurt him?
STEINHAUSER: It's interesting, you know, most Americans, when you look at the public opinion polls, they're against the war, but when it comes to who will do a good job on dealing with Iraq, John McCain does very well. I think maybe the polling indicates that American feel he as president could handle the situation in Iraq.
It's interesting that you mention the violence with the surge. General Petraeus and Ambassador Crocker are going to be right back on Capitol Hill in front of the Senate Armed Services Committee on April 8th. And you'll see John McCain there, he's the ranking Republican on that committee and it will be a chance for him to show that he is involved with how America is fighting and dealing with the war in Iraq.
HOLMES: Yes, I bet he won't miss that session. Also, Paul, let's talk about the V.P. choices. That's fun to speculate about who the possible V.P.s could be. So are there some -- is this still just that speculation or are there some serious names and some serious consideration that's out there now?
STEINHAUSER: It's still early and you know what, it gives us a chance to talk about something. But you're right, just the other day we had John McCain and Mitt Romney together in Salt Lake City, Utah, and in Denver, Colorado, at these fundraisers and that got people buzzing about the possibility of a McCain-Romney ticket.
Romney has made no secret that he wouldn't mind being number two. On the flip side, back in New York on that same day, you had Barack Obama making a big economic speech and who was he introduced by? Mayor Bloomberg of New York.
HOLMES: Bloomberg, yes.
STEINHAUSER: An independent. You got it. That got people talking too about a possible Obama-Bloomberg ticket. Even though Bloomberg says, no, I'm not interested. It's early, it's something for us to talk about. We'll deal with it for sure though this summer.
HOLMES: Something for us to talk about. Like we don't have enough to talk about, Paul Steinhauser, our deputy political director. Sir, always good to see you. We appreciate you this morning.
All right. So we're going to be talking more about how this race is shaping up. "BALLOT BOWL," let you decide for yourself how that race is shaping up. And just look at those faces, members of the best political team ever assembled in the history of the Earth -- Betty.
NGUYEN: Mankind, womankind, humankind.
HOLMES: That's today at 2:00 Eastern only on CNN, your home for politics.
NGUYEN: Get the point, don't go anywhere else for anything in fact.
In the meantime, though, let's give you this bit of news. Atlanta, Chicago, Phoenix, San Francisco, and many other cities will be a bit darker tonight because beginning at 8:00 p.m. local time, city lights around the globe will be turned off for one hour. It's called Earth Hour. This is how it appeared in Sidney, Australia, earlier this morning. You don't really see the skyline there because it's dark.
The event began in Sidney last year to raise awareness of climate change. Well, this year, the World Wildlife Fund is making it a global event. More than 370 cities and towns worldwide are expected to participate.
And, T.J., we're going to be seeing this happen right here in Atlanta this evening.
HOLMES: 8:00 to 9:00 tonight, Mayor Franklin actually going to...
NGUYEN: Flipping the switch.
HOLMES: Not a simple on-off switch, kinda sorta. But they say a switch. The skyline is going to go dark from 8:00 to 9:00. As you said, they don't turn everything off, they have got to keep some street lights on, a few things.
NGUYEN: Keep the street lights on, you know, these other things that are pertinent to living, on. You don't want your stuff in the freezer to go bad, right?
HOLMES: Stuff like that, yes.
All right. Well, you've got to stick around for this story. We've brought you this really for the past week and we talked about it a little bit here last weekend on our show. But this fight, this outrage story about a fight over money between Wal-Mart and the family of a former employee.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JIM SHANK, SUED BY WAL-MART: 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.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HOLMES: A husband fights a megastore over his wife's staggering medical bills.
NGUYEN: It has a lot of people talking and we'll get to the bottom of that, because there is a new update.
Also later this morning on "HOUSE CALL," Dr. Sanjay Gupta is unlocking the world of autism.
DR. SANJAY GUPTA, CNN CHIEF MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: Thanks, guys. We have got a special show this morning focusing on one of the biggest medical mysteries out there right now and it involves our children. I'm talking about autism. We're going to go one-on-one with the head of the CDC to find out what we really know about the cause of autism. Plus, what parents need to know about the first signs of this disorder. All that's coming up on "HOUSE CALL" at 8:30.
NGUYEN: OK, every family has problems. But not like the Shanks of Missouri. If all they had to deal with were the debilitating accident, life-threatening disease, loss of companionship, loss of a child and financial ruin, then they would probably be relieved. But instead they carry all of those burdens plus a six-figure legal judgment won by Wal-Mart, and Wal-Mart wants its money.
CNN's Randi Kaye reports.
RANDI KAYE, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Debbie Shank remembers how to count in German, but he 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.
J. SHANK: It came through her window, probably hit her head.
DEBBIE SHANK, ACCIDENT VICTIM: I 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 plans so she was covered and her family says the bills were paid promptly. What Debbie didn't notice, her husband says, is a tiny clause in the plan's paperwork that says Wal-Mart has a 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 in a trust for Mrs. Shank's care. The family's lawyer says 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.
Just last week, the family lost its final push. The U.S. Supreme Court refused to hear Debbie's case. So they wait until Wal-Mart comes to collect.
Randy Kaye, CNN, Jackson, Missouri.
(END VIDEOTAPE) NGUYEN: And since this story first aired, viewer response on the CNN Web site has just been overwhelming. Jim Shanks joins us to explain more about his family's tragic ordeal. And we also though want to let you know that we invited Wal-Mart to appear, but it declined. And instead it provided this statement, which I'm going to read to you.
It says: "While the Shank case involves a tragic situation, the reality is that the health plan is required to protect its assets so it can pay the future claims of other associates and their family members." It goes on to say: "These plans are funded by associate premiums and company contributions. Any money recovered is returned to the health plan, not the business. This is done out of fairness to everyone who contributes to the benefit from this plan." So I want to bring in now Jim Shank.
And I know, Jim, you have been through so much here. But in hearing that statement and hearing this judgment, also hearing that the U.S. Supreme Court refused to hear this case, you really have no other options. But looking at it, let me ask you this, do you think Wal-Mart is being fair? I mean, why should they make an exception for your family?
J. SHANK: Well, contrary to what they just stated, it's not required. They have the option to recover the money if they so desire to. And they desire to.
NGUYEN: So what you're saying is legally they can do it. But for a company that made $90 billion in its 2007 third quarter, is it the right thing to do?
J. SHANK: No. Well, in my case, no, I don't believe it is, it's not something they're required to do. They have the option and they have decided to take that option. I doubt their plan is really hurting that much.
NGUYEN: Last week, as I mentioned, the U.S. Supreme Court refused to hear this case. That was really something that you were hoping on. Now are you just kind of waiting for them to come and collect? What are you doing in the meantime?
J. SHANK: That's about it. We have -- due to the outpouring from around the country, we have set up a fund to collect any moneys anyone wants to contribute for Debbie's care.
But getting back from the Supreme Court, we are really, really disappointed that they didn't even want to hear the case because this kind of thing has gone on and been ruled on one way or the other in different states and there really needed to be a final ruling on it.
NGUYEN: Well, and -- Jim, and this has been really a string of disappointments for you. You have been through so much, your family has been through so much. Last summer your son died in Iraq. You're recovering from prostate cancer. You actually had to divorce your wife so that she could get more money from Medicaid. And now is it true that you may not be able to afford your car and not even be able to send your son to college? How are you dealing with all of this?
J. SHANK: Just the grace of God, get through day to day with faith in Jesus Christ. Because I'm not strong enough to handle this and as far as the car and everything, it's a wait and see. I really don't know where we stand. I haven't heard from Wal-Mart, I haven't heard from my attorney that's heard from Wal-Mart. So it's a wait and see.
NGUYEN: And what are you telling your family? I mean, you have children. I mean, what kind of I guess lesson can be learned from all of this?
J. SHANK: All I tell them is all we can do is wait and see and just pray for the best. We'll have to deal with whatever is sent our way, but what lesson? This is why people go after so much money in lawsuits nowadays, it looks like you're going to have do your cover your rear end if your insurance is the same way.
NGUYEN: Read the fine print when you sign up for a health plan.
J. SHANK: Exactly.
NGUYEN: And you mention the Deborah Shank Fund. That is at Bank of America. So for people wanting to donate, they can. Are you seeing those donations come in? Because obviously you do need them.
J. SHANK: Yesterday, they still hadn't put anything in the fund, but personally we received some checks in the mail from people that just donate. It has been overwhelming. It's really heartwarming what the country is backing us the way they are.
NGUYEN: Yes. And it's very important because your wife is going to need health care for many, many years to come considering what she has been through. We do appreciate your time today. We appreciate you coming on to talk to us about this very difficult situation.
And I just want to put it out there one more time. It's the Deborah Shank Fund at Bank of America.
J. SHANK: That is right.
NGUYEN: Thank you so much.
J. SHANK: Thank you very much.
NGUYEN: Take care.
J. SHANK: Will do.
HOLMES: Well, stay here with us, folks. Still to come, we're going to be talking about Mexico and their preparations for war with the drug cartels along the U.S. border.
HOLMES: Well, we've got a quick look now at some other stories that are making headlines.
NGUYEN: And the Mexican government is rushing thousands of troops to the U.S.-Mexico border city of Juarez to help stop a wave of drug-related violence. Juarez officials says violence is being fueled by two rival drug cartels trying to push each other out of the region.
The mayor says about 200 people have been killed since January, around 20 of them police officers.
HOLMES: One inmate was killed, nearly two dozen were injured when fights broke out at a federal prison in Texas. Officials say no word just yet on what started this whole unrest at Three Rivers Prison. This is southwest of San Antonio. Prison officials say no prison guards were hurt in the rioting and the surrounding community was never in any danger.
Well, if you have not done it yet, it certainly is that time. You need to start doing some serious thinking about your taxes.
NGUYEN: Yes, and that check that you might have to write. The April tax filing deadline is approaching. Josh Levs will join us with a lot on that, stick around.
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