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CNN NEWSROOM

Airline Safety Commanding Attention of Lawmakers on Capitol Hill; Barack Obama Reaches Out to White Male Voters in Pennsylvania

Aired April 3, 2008 - 10:00   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN ANCHOR: Good morning, everyone. I'm Brianna Keilar.
TONY HARRIS, CNN ANCHOR: And I'm Tony Harris. Stay informed all day at the CNN NEWSROOM. Here's what's on the run-down. Whistle blowers talk. Live this hour on Capitol Hill. Spending allegations about the FAA and your safety.

KEILAR: Your tax money to the rescue of a Wall Street heavyweight. Congress demands answers this hour.

HARRIS: A quarter million people displaced. The camp that stretches for ten miles. Powerful images you won't forget. Today, Thursday, April 3rd.

KEILAR: Airline safety is a developing story with deepening concerns this morning. In fact, it's commanding the attention of lawmakers on Capitol Hill. A hearing set to get under way soon and among the troubling matters that they want to investigate a pair of whistle blowers who first talked to CNN. The two FAA inspectors are accusing Southwest Airlines of not only ignoring their safety concerns but trying to hide them. Here is a preview of what they will likely tell lawmakers today.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BOBBY BOURTRIS, FAA SAFETY INSPECTOR: On March 15th, when Southwest Airlines found out that they had 47 aircraft out of compliance, on a serious safety issue, why didn't they ground them? It is sad that an FAA inspector has to become a whistleblower in order to do his job. And the job is we were hired by the taxpayers to ensure the airlines provide safe transportation for the flying public. It shouldn't have to come to this.

DOUGLAS PETERS, FAA SAFETY INSPECTOR: I think that's why we are here today. Bobby and I were not happy with the state of Southwest Airlines maintenance program. We weren't happy and we saw that the airline was at risk due to the lax oversight. And because of this, we just weren't willing to accept anything less than sweeping change.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KEILAR: Let's head straight to Washington now for the latest on this hearing. CNN's Kathleen Koch setting the stage for us. And Kathy what issues are we expecting to hear about this in this hearing? KATHLEEN KOCH, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Brianna, let me say this will be fascinating hearing this morning between the House Transportation and Infrastructure subcommittee. First, of course, we will hear about the Southwest situation from those two FAA inspectors turned whistle blowers who basically got so frustrated with the fact that Southwest Airlines was not conducting mandatory checks for fuselage cracking that these inspectors had to go to Congress to air their concerns. Now, the inspectors in an exclusive interview where you just saw clips from with CNN's Drew Griffin said that they had been warning the FAA and Southwest for years that those necessary inspections were not being performed.

But instead of listening and acting, one inspector says the airline tried to get him removed for complaining. The inspector basically charged that their employer, the FAA allowed Southwest to postpone inspections and fly planes that should have been grounded. FAA officials will be testifying this morning. They are expected to push back on that. They are trying to blunt criticism yesterday by coming out and announcing sweeping changes in how the FAA now monitors airlines. And it also announced yesterday that an audit that it conducts how airlines overall are doing when it comes to complying with these required safety directives and the directives found that actually 99 percent are complying.

Congress will certainly want to hear Southwest's side in all of this. Chairman Herb Kelleher, CEO Gary Kelly will be testifying this morning, defending their airline. Southwest's side on all of this they say that the inspections involved in extremely small area in one of many overlapping inspections that were basically redundant. And it insisted that discovering that oversight itself disclosed it to the FAA and reinspected all of the potentially affected aircraft last March.

Oh, and then just to wrap it up lawmakers will be hearing from two retired safety inspectors from Continental Airlines and for Fedex. Now, they will certainly be freer than most to talk about what they've seen. So it will be a long and I think, Brianna, safe to say, a fascinating hearing this morning.

KEILAR: A fascinating hearing. We know, of course, that your expertise is aviation issues. So, we know you're going to be following this carefully with an informed eye. Thank you, Kathleen.

KOCH: You bet.

KEILAR: And we're going to be taking those proceedings live as the developments warrant. You can also watch the hearings live on our website. That's at cnn.com, of course.

HARRIS: OK. For the second time this week, a U.S. airline shuts down. ATA Airlines canceled all of its flights today. After filing for bankruptcy, the Indianapolis-based carrier says it couldn't stay in business after losing a key contract for its military charter operation. The company flew about 50 flights a day. It is asking other carriers to help passengers who may be stranded by the abrupt shutdown. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We got a note that says sorry, we are canceling all flights as of today, this morning. Yes. Very disappointing. Hopefully we can find another airline that will, you know, help us out.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

HARRIS: Well, you know, there is no word on exactly how many ATA passengers are left scrambling this morning.

KEILAR: the economy and jobs. Today, unfortunately, another disappointing snapshot. A government report released last hour shows new filings for unemployment, spiking to the highest level in 2 1/2 years. Like so many other recent government reports the grim numbers came as a surprise to analysts.

HARRIS: The economy stumbles and you feel the pinch at the gas pump and at the grocery stores. Yet billions of dollars of your tax money could be at risk and what some say is bailout of Wall Street. This hour, live pictures, now lawmakers are demanding answers. CNN senior correspondent Allan Chernoff is on Capitol Hill. Allan, if you would, tee this event up for us.

HARRIS: Tony, this is all about the bailout, as you said. But the Federal Reserve chairman said it was not bailout. So, let's use the term rescue of Bear Stearns, the fifth biggest investment bank in the nation. Let's go back to March 13th, Thursday. All of a sudden Bear Stearns informed the Federal Reserve Bank that it is about to go bankruptcy. Three days later, a rescue has been engineered. All arranged by the Federal Reserve and leaders of the Treasury Department and the Securities and Exchange Commission also involved as well.

Now, $30 billion of our money suddenly was put out there to basically assume any losses that there might be for risky investments that Bear Stearns had made. What happened here? Well, there was basically a run on the bank, the Federal Reserve said hey, we can't let this happen. We are going to step in. So today we are going to have the Senate Banking Committee check into this. Senator Dodd, the head of that committee, will be asking hey, why put our taxpayer money out there when we have homeowners who are struggling. People can't pay their mortgages. They are being foreclosed on. Where was the Securities and Exchange Commission? They are supposed to regulate the investment banks and really did the Federal Reserve do the right thing? Well, Chairman Bernanke of the Federal Reserve did talk about this a little bit yesterday on Capitol Hill. He said the rescue was necessary not to save Bear Stearns but to save the financial markets and the economy. And he will be saying that once again today. Tony.

HARRIS: Cannot wait. Talking about Ben Bernanke for a second, did he actually use the dreaded in quotes here underline "r" word yesterday?

CHERNOFF: He used the "r" word but said it's possible that we are having a recession. He wouldn't say that we are having one just yet. He said during the first half of this year, it is very possible that the economy is contracting but he said that we won't really know if there is a recession for a long time from now. Keep in mind, though, lots of private economists say that we are in one right now.

HARRIS:: Well, I see everyone is in place. Opening statements are about to begin. The photographers have been shoed out of the way. Allan Chernoff, we appreciate it. Thank you. And we will keep a close eye on the hearing throughout the morning and we will dip in live as developments warrant.

KEILAR: Another day, another milestone for gas prices. AAA saying that prices overnight hit an average of almost $3.29 a gallon. That's 12 cents more than this time last month. And 59 cents more than a year ago. It may come as a small consolation. 1981 prices still hold the all-time record when you factor in inflation. It's a real consolation.

HARRIS: No, not really. I bet you're all fueled up for the morning. There he is. Rob Marciano in the severe weather center. Rob, good morning to you.

ROB MARCIANO, CNN, METEOROLOGIST: Hi, Tony. Brianna. We got some flames on the map here, not because it is dreadfully hot but we got critical fire danger in effect for parts of southeastern New Mexico. And a bunch of other red on the map. That's never good. Severe thunderstorms, flooding. We got a lot of things to talk about today. And when you get multiple "Ls" tied in to one of these squiggly lines here, that means there are multiple impulses and they're going right along the same spots that have has some serious floodings over the last couple of day. So, we'll talk more about that.

First up though, large hail, damaging winds, a few tornadoes possible across northern Texas and southern Oklahoma. Beginning this afternoon, lasting overnight tonight and maybe even in through tomorrow morning. So, we are in that time year where severe weather begins to become a prime concern. A couple of blurbs showing up the radar but nothing to be concerned about right now.

A live shot from San Antonio, (inaudible) doing there this weekend. I don't know if you've heard. Got a little (inaudible) KENS is our affiliate and did you say KENS down there? I'm not sure but any way, that's a gorgeous shot. Thanks very much for that San Antonio. Good luck to the final four. UCLA, Memphis, Kansas, Carolina.

HARRIS: Carolina. Carolina, baby.

MARCIANO: You got it. All right.

Here we go. Looking at Paducah eastwards towards parts of Kentucky. Nashville hasn't seen some rainfall this morning. A lot of that actually has moved off to the east. And some heavy weather rolls through Little Rock earlier. That is now heading through Memphis. Heavier rains, some gusty winds and maybe a little bit of hail into there as well. And then we're going to see this kind of agitate the atmosphere over the next couple of days. (inaudible) systems possible in areas that already have seen flooding, that may very well be a news flash weather story. Brianna and Tony.

HARRIS: I'm sick of this pattern for our friends in Arkansas, Texas, Missouri. It's just been - and Oklahoma, Oklahoma City has just been insane over the last what two, three weeks.

MARCIANO: Yes. It's been almost a month. Trying to shake this pattern this morning.

KEILAR: I like how Rob puts it. You see that red, that's not good.

HARRIS: Not good.

KEILAR: I'm breaking it down.

MARCIANO: Not to dumb it down. But you know.

KEILAR: Meteorology challenge, folks.

MARCIANO: I'm not one to argue. Thank you.

KEILAR: Thanks, Rob.

HARRIS: Rob, thanks.

The presidential candidates, what are they up to? Hillary Clinton raising money in California tonight. And on with a new version of her 3:00 a.m. ad in Pennsylvania. This time the middle of the night crisis calls in on the economy. And her target, John McCain. Barack Obama is narrowing Clinton's lead in Pennsylvania. The latest polls showing a nine percentage point gap. And Obama is reaching out to Al Gore. He says he wants the former vice president on his team and if elected possibly in his administration. John McCain campaigning today in Florida. And drawing up a list of possible VPs. McCain says he is looking at about 20 names.

KEILAR: Barack Obama reaches out to white male voters in Pennsylvania. CNN's Dan Lothian reports.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

DAN LOTHIAN, CNN, CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): He went to Harvard and lived in a million house but this is the picture Senator Barack Obama wants to paint in Pennsylvania. I can bowl. I can pet a cow. I can drink a beer at the bar.

SEN. BARACK OBAMA (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: You work so hard you don't get a chance to drink the beer.

BILL ROSENBERG, DREXEL UNIVERSITY: Those are the kinds of things emotionally says this guy is a guy that I can feel comfortable with.

LOTHIAN: It's in part an appeal to working class white males. They make up about 27 percent of the vote in Pennsylvania. And are concerned about keeping money in their pockets.

SHELDON GOBERMAN, UNITE HERE COMPTROLLER: They feel alienated. They are not -- haven't been represented.

LOTHIAN: Now, they could be a crucial swing group.

ROSENBERG: The white males are group that are sort of still watching, still waiting, trying to decide who they are going to vote for.

LOTHIAN: Many of them were attracted to Senator John Edwards but then he dropped out of the race. Senator Hillary Clinton connected with them in Ohio. And hopes to do the same here by focusing on health care, job creation, and the overall economy.

SEN. HILLARY CLINTON (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Tax breaks should be shifted away from oil companies. And instead, put to work in helping create the jobs of the future.

SEN. BARACK OBAMA (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: We need to challenge the system on behalf of America's workers.

LOTHIAN: Obama's message at town hall meetings and in TV ads that now seem tailored to working class voters, is that he offers the best solution for their problems. An endorsement by Senator Bob Casey Jr. who has strong support among unions and other blue collar voters doesn't hurt.

ROSENBERG: This is a swing group vote that usually does not come in play but this is an unusual election year.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

KEILAR: Now, Dan Lothian is with the CNN "Election Express" there in Philadelphia where Obama has been spending a whole lot of time talking about NAFTA in Pennsylvania. And how is he using that to connect with white male voters, Dan?

LOTHIAN: Well, that's right. He has been talking about the North American Free Trade Agreement NAFTA and not only Obama but also Clinton and they are both talking about this in terms of it is something that they are not for. But Senator Obama has been pointing out at least yesterday he was that Senator Clinton has been misrepresenting her position on NAFTA. That's obviously something that the Clinton campaign says is not true. The reason that they are both talking so much about it is because these are issues that really appeal to the white male voters here in Pennsylvania. And those union workers, they are against NAFTA. Many are against NAFTA because they believe that it really sets a lot of the blue collar jobs overseas and that obviously has caused problems, the unemployment problems here in Pennsylvania. This is an issue that really touches at the heart of some of the concerns of the voters that they are going after here.

KEILAR: All right. Dan Lothian in Philadelphia. Thank you.

HARRIS: Rumblings of political change rolling across the plains and mountains of Zimbabwe.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

HARRIS: Somalia, a country in despair. Almost a quarter of a million people with no home and little hope. Two staffers from Refugees International share an exclusive picture with CNN's Barbara Starr. A caution here the images are powerful. It may be difficult for some viewers.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

BARBARA STARR, CNN, PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Listen closely, even the African wind can't drown out a child's cries. In Afgooye, Somalia, just west of Mogadishu, nearly 250,000 Somalis live a heartbreaking existence. In huts made of twigs, garbage, bits of cloth.

ERIN WEIR, REFUGEES INTERNATIONAL: This is where families sometime families with eight or nine children are living.

STARR: These extraordinary videos and pictures were shot by aide worker, Patrick Duplat and Eric Weir of Refugees International.

PATRICK DUPLAT, REFUGEES INTERNATIONAL: This is simply the largest concentration of displaced people in the world. It is absolutely massive.

STARR: Technically these aren't refugees. These Somalis are internally displaced persons. Trying to live inside their own country. And more arrive each day walking for miles, escaping the fighting in Mogadishu. Already 60,000 people have fled the capital this year.

WEIR: Most of the people we interviewed said they fled because their homes had been shelled, their family members killed. They lost their livelihood.

STARR: The camp now stretches for more than ten miles. One woman arrived that morning.

DUPLAT: She arrived with her eight children and she was holding a 1-month-old little girl. And her husband had been killed the day before. He was crushed under the debris because of shell landed on the family's home.

STARR: The U.N. can't keep up with the desperate need for aid.

DUPLAT: The food is never enough. Water is never enough. If somebody arrives day after a food distribution they have to wait until the next month to get food.

STARR: When Patrick and Erin finally climbed on to a roof, they were stunned.

DUPLAT: My most enduring memory is quite clearly walking on the roof of that school. And seeing the extent of displacement. It is the largest camp in the world and all the people that we speak to want us to bring their voices and their stories to the international community.

STARR: 250,000 Somalis wanting the world to know that they are here. Barbara Starr, CNN, Washington.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

HARRIS: Somalia may now be the worst country on earth to be a child, according to the United Nations statistics. The U.N. says one child in eight dies in Somalia before age 5. Malnutrition rates are among the highest in the world. Less than a third of the population has access to safe drinking water. But you can make a difference. Go to cnn.com to see how you can support relief agencies working in the region and for ideas to impact your world, the address is cnn.com/impact.

KEILAR: Rejoining the world after 14 years on death row. Why was an inmate freed and what does he plan next?

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

HARRIS: You know, Brianna, Ben Bernanke is back on Capitol Hill today making comments. Well, today it is more about Bear Stearns and the "bailout." He refers to it as a rescue plan to fix Bear Stearns with JPMmorgan Chase. You know but the truth of the matter here, it is a bailout. It's taxpayer's money. But anyway, an hour into the trading day, here we are, the New York Stock Exchange now, the Dow down 42 points. The Nasdaq down 13. We are following the market throughout the morning with Susan Lisovicz right here in the NEWSROOM.

KEILAR: Well, if you are on the paycheck-to-paycheck merry-go- round, you are not alone. CNN's Gerri Willis has some tips to stretch your dollar and Gerri, I'm really wondering what is step number one?

GERRI WILLIS, CNN, PERSONAL FINANCE EDITOR: Hey, there, Brianna. Well, step number one is getting the plan. Setting up a budget is the first step knowing where your money is going and where you can cutback. Check out the website called mint.com. this site let's you input you username and password for each of your bank, credit card and investment account and then it automatically draws in all your transactions and balance info and you'll receive an alert when there is unusual activity, a low bank account balance or an upcoming bill. The site called wesabe.com also stores your banking info. Now, this is a community based website so members share info and tips on how to help each other.

Finally, cnnmoney.com has a budget calculator where you can see how you're spending compares to others like you.

KEILAR: But it certainly would be nice just to pad your wallet with a little more money, you know. Do you have tips for how to fatten your wallet?

WILLIS: Well, here's an easy. If you are looking forward to a big refund from the tax man this year, it means you have been giving too much money to Uncle Sam. I suggest you change your tax withholdings so you can take more cash in your paycheck. Adjust your withholdings so that your tax payments will match your actual tax liability. Easy way to do that go to the calculator at irs.gov.

KEILAR: And let's talk about making your money go further. Just being a very conscientious consumer, I guess.

WILLIS: Exactly, you know, you make your money go further by taking advantage of pretax spending programs offered by your employer. And you may be able to contribute money to a medical flexible spending plan. Now, this lets you put aside pretax dollars to cover expenses like doctor's co-pay, prescription medicines, over the counter remedies. You may also be able to take advantage of flexible spending accounts when it comes to child care and transportation. And, of course, you don't want to miss out on getting your employer match on your 401k. That's just - that's free money.

KEILAR: And I'm actually in the middle of your book right now, "Home Rich." It's really good. And I realized that you kind of know the -- you got -- you give us the secrets. You know, and I'm just wondering in this case if you can tell us about some perks?

WILLIS: Perks and benefits. You may be - listen, I don't think most people think about this. But you are only always looking for a little money in your budget. So, you could be eligible for a bonus if you bring in new business or if you refer people to company jobs. Many employers pay one-time bonuses to workers who bring new business, refer candidates for hard to fill company jobs. You should find out. Go to HR. Does your company offer a spot award program and you can figure out what it takes to get it.

KEILAR: And of course, Gerri, you are doing this awesome program at noon Eastern, very interactive and answering a whole lot of e-mails from viewers. "Issue number one, the economy." What's ahead?

WILLIS: That's right. Join us because we are going to be talking about all the things that matter to you, your housing, your debt, and your investments. We will be listening in on a hearing in Washington. Talking about Bear Stearns, and how that company - I guess you can say was rescued by the Federal Reserve. It will be a big debate on that and we will be following the ins and outs of that.

KEILAR: That's right. Rescue Bailout. Rescue bailout. That's the question being passed around by critics.

WILLIS: Stay on line. It really is. Sure.

KEILAR: All right, Gerri. We will be looking forward to that at 12:00 Eastern. Thanks.

WILLIS: My pleasure.

KEILAR: Hi, there. I'm Brianna Keilar, in for Heidi Collins.

HARRIS: And welcome back to the CNN NEWSROOM everyone. I'm Tony Harris. Another round of voting ahead in Zimbabwe. President Robert Mugabe's ruling party saying a presidential election runoff is inevitable. Joining us on the phone now, a reporter in the country. We are not identifying her out of security concerns.

Let me first ask you, what can we expect in terms of new voting, the runoff, I know by law, it is supposed to happen in three weeks. Is it likely to happen that quickly?

VOICE OF REPORTER IN ZIMBABWE: No one knows at this point, Tony. And sources in the country, outside of the country are now saying that the situation is very chaotic, even within Robert Mugabe's own party. As you just said, Tony, they are supposed to be having that runoff within thee weeks. They are now worried that instead Robert Mugabe's government may decide to try and deal with some kind of proclamation which means they would delay a runoff for several more weeks.

If that happens, the diplomatic sources I have spoken to said of course is the fear that the election would be open to fraud, intimidation, and certainly the outcome will not be what Zimbabweans will think it's a free and fair election. But I have to tell you, Tony, very few people know what's going on now and that includes people close to Robert Mugabe. There are a lot of dissension in the ranks. There are a lot of different opinion about what anyone should be next. Everyone is waiting for the vote count that comes from the Zimbabwean electoral commission. They are supposed to report back tomorrow.

HARRIS: You know, you mentioned, described a bit of a scene that sounds pretty chaotic. We know that this is a very contentious time for the country. Has it been a mostly peaceful time for the country? Have we seen the outbreak of violence?

REPORTER IN ZIMBABWE: Certainly the political chaos really belies what is a very calm kind of business as usual progression here, certainly in the capital. Of course, the country's been enduring crazy inflation and a terrible economic catastrophe. That continues minute by minute, hour by hour. That certainly hasn't changed. I certainly have seen more riots on the streets, paramilitary. I've seen harassing people on the streets. I can tell you that that is happening.

But more or less, Tony, things are very calm. Everyone is waiting for the other shoe to drop. That's the situation. I think tomorrow it will be incredibly tense. Robert Mugabe is expected to be seen for the first time since he voted, again, at a large very government party meeting tomorrow morning, as well as finally the Zimbabwean Electoral Commission is supposed to announce the final results for the presidency.

Our reporter in the country, in Zimbabwe. We appreciate it. Thank you for the update on the situation.

KEILAR: How do you drop a high school dropout rate? You'll be alarmed at how high it is. We've got an expert with some answers.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

HARRIS: New numbers this week on education and they are jaw dropping, to say the least. We are talking about graduation rates in the nation's high schools.

Here's a look.

Suburban areas topped the list with a nearly 74 percent graduation rate. That's above the national average. Compare that with just over 60 percent graduating -- 60 percent -- in all urban schools and just around 52 percent in the nation's 50 biggest urban school districts. Seventeen of those had graduation rates under 50 percent.

Detroit's city schools scored lowest. Just under 25 percent of students there graduated. Indianapolis had a graduation rate just above 30 percent. Mesa, Arizona, topped the list of urban graduates at more than 77 percent. San Jose, California, Nashville, Tennessee are right behind.

The report was compiled by America's Promise Alliance.

Let's go behind the numbers to get a closer look at the dropout problem and maybe some solutions here.

Former Colorado governor, Roy Romer, now with a group called Strong American Schools.

Governor, good to see you.

ROY ROMER, STRONG AMERICAN SCHOOLS: Good to be here, Tony.

HARRIS: You heard all those numbers, right?

ROMER: I did.

HARRIS: What's going on here?

ROMER: Well, this is a real crisis. A third of our kids are not graduating. It's very costly to the nation. If you -- the difference in your lifetime earnings of million dollars, if you are a dropout as over against graduated from college. So economically it's very hard.

Crime -- it really increases the crime in America. This is a very expensive crisis. But it's not just those who drop out. Those who graduate...

HARRIS: Yes.

ROMER: ...are not well enough trained.

HARRIS: OK. Let me stop you there. We need to parse this out a little bit. OK. I understand the numbers. But what's going on here? Where is the problem?

ROMER: The problem is several fold. One, we're not setting our standards high enough. Two, we don't have enough effective teachers in the classroom. Three, we're not spending enough time. And four, these dropouts need a caring adult in their lives. Many of them are -- just got other problems in their lives socially and they need to have an adult, who says I really believe in you.

But those four things are the most important.

HARRIS: OK. Priorities then. We just -- as a nation, where are we in terms of education as a priority in this country? Look, you ran the school system. You ran all the schools in Los Angeles.

ROMER: Yes.

HARRIS: Give me some straight talk here.

ROMER: Well, the straight talk is America is drifting down compared with the world. Let's look at 15-year-olds.

HARRIS: OK.

ROMER: If we compare ourselves with the 30 industrial nations of the word, we're 25th from the top in math. We're 21st from the top in science and we're getting worse. Now, we really need to have a very concentrated focus in improving education in America.

HARRIS: Governor, what about No Child Left Behind? Was than that about standards? And isn't that what that's in place for?

ROMER: It was a start but it isn't enough. Let me tell you, it was a good start. It needs to be improved. But we need to have leadership beyond No Child Left Behind. One of the problems of Leave No Child Behind is that it left the standards up to 50 different states.

We need to have a more rigorous and more uniform set of standards in this country. The rest of the world is ahead of us here. And we need to raise our standards and we need to improve teaching. And we need to spend more time on that.

HARRIS: OK. More straight talk. The rest of the world is ahead of us because we really just don't care about educating urban kids. We don't care about black kids in inner cities. We don't care about Hispanics and we don't care about educating poorer white kids. We just don't care. And certainly we don't care enough.

ROMER: That's right. This nation has gotten soft. We have gotten used to a good life and think that it comes without effort. The world is overtaking us, economically, you can see it in the subprime mortgage, you can see it in our debt to China.

I tell you, in the next 20 to 30 years, this nation's really got to get in gear if we're going to have -- and continue standard of living that we want.

HARRIS: Would you do anything differently? Would you do anything -- structure the school year any differently? Let's talk about some concrete options here for facing this.

ROMER: Let's be -- let's be concrete.

HARRIS: OK.

ROMER: These 30 nations, their average school year is 13 days longer than ours. We ought to extend our school year and our school day. We need more time for these kids to learn.

HARRIS: I like it.

ROMER: Secondly, we've gone -- we're going to have to hire two to three million new teachers. We need to make that job more attractive. Korea, you'll hire teachers from the top third of the graduating class. We hire teachers from the bottom third of the graduating class.

A lot of that is economic and it's cultural.

HARRIS: I like it.

ROMER: We need to improve the quality of teaching the classroom. Third, we need to raise our expectations. Kids will do better if you ask more from them. And as a community, let me tell you, this campaign for president revolves around four issues.

HARRIS: Right.

ROMER: You know, national security, economy, health care and global warming. You cannot approach any one of those four unless you first improve the educational level of this nation. Education has got to be discussed in this presidential campaign by both parties and that's what...

HARRIS: Hey...

ROMER: ...and a way to solve it.

HARRIS: All right. Well, here's what we're going to do. We're going to bring you back here. We'll work it out. We'll be in touch with your office, governor. We'll figure out a way to keep this conversation going.

ROMER: Thank you.

HARRIS: Thanks for your time this morning.

ROMER: All right.

KEILAR: A North Carolina man gets a second chance at life. Freed after 14 years on death row.

Reporter Erin Hartness of CNN affiliate WRAL has his story.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) ERIN HARTNESS, REPORTER, WRAK (voice over): Edward Chapman dreamed of this exact moment for 15 years. Still he wasn't quite ready.

EDWARD CHAPMAN, FORMER DEATH ROW INMATE: I'm still shocked. Yes. I feel weird.

HARTNESS: Chapman found out 10 minutes before his release he was about to be a free man.

CHAPMAN: Everybody like, you're going home. I still didn't believe it until I was actually out.

HARTNESS: Freedom brought reality.

CHAPMAN: You can't go back and give somebody 15 years, 16 years back.

HARTNESS: Chapman was convicted in 1994 of killing two women in Hickory. A judge ordered a new trial saying the evidence was flimsy and an investigator lied under oath. For those reasons, prosecutors dropped the charges.

Chapman must now define his future with a decade and a half void in his past.

CHAPMAN: I know time has changed and I know I'm going have to adapt to that time.

HARTNESS: Chapman used a cell phone for the first time.

CHAPMAN: I couldn't actually hear that good.

HARTNESS: There are more personal adjustments like getting to know his two sons, now 17 and 22.

CHAPMAN: I have no bitterness. Why should I give somebody the benefit of knowing that they just made me bitter?

HARTNESS: Chapman acknowledges problem with the justice system, but says the system is necessary. He says he'll miss his friends on death row. Chapman believes some of them are also innocent.

CHAPMAN: I wouldn't be surprised. The question is: is somebody going to do anything about it? I was lucky.

HARTNESS: He called his lawyers his dream team. Chapman says he doesn't know where he'll go from here but he does have one place in mind.

CHAPMAN: Disneyland.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

KEILAR: That was Erin Hartness with WRAL.

And Chapman's attorneys say they are considering filing a lawsuit.

HARRIS: Wow. Some story.

Images of autism. Researchers studied the brain for clues to the disability. What they say parents should do.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

HARRIS: Republican Senator John McCain says he is making a list of possible VP candidates. It's about 20 names so far.

Earlier on CNN's "AMERICAN MORNING," he had something to say about Hillary Clinton's new 3:00 a.m. ad attacking McCain on the economy. In the past McCain has acknowledged it is not one of his strong points.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I said it wasn't my strongest because I spent 22 years in the military and I have been a member of the Armed Services Committee and involved in every major national security challenge in the last 20 years. I have been involved as chairman of the Commerce Committee. I've been involved as part of the Reagan revolution where we cut taxes and restrained spending and embarked on one of the strongest periods of economic growth in the history of this country.

I know economics very well, certainly better than Senator Clinton and Senator Obama. So let's...

(END VIDEO CLIP)

HARRIS: McCain is on the road today in Jacksonville, Florida.

KEILAR: Well, the health of the labor market is in serious doubt after a surge in new filings for unemployment claims.

Susan Lisovicz is on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange with the details.

Hi, Susan.

SUSAN LISOVICZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hi, Brianna. Well, more than 400,000 people applied for unemployment benefits last week. That is a big jump from the week before. And in fact, it's the highest level since we've seen -- since September of '05. And if you remember -- September '05, you'll remember that it came right after Hurricane Katrina.

Economist did expect claims to fall. And you know, frankly, we don't really talk about weekly unemployment claims that much because it's so volatile. But the trend is more important and the fact that it's coming one day before the monthly jobs report is ominous because of -- we've been looking at that very closely not only here on Wall Street but as "ISSUE #1" to voters as well -- Brianna.

KEILAR: And the head of that report, do we have any idea what it's going to say? Where the job market is heading?

LISOVICZ: Well, we always have estimates of -- economists estimates and they can be -- sometimes they hit it dead on, sometimes not. What they are expecting is a loss of 50,000 jobs for the month of March. That would mark the third consecutive month of decline that we've seen in the overall jobs report from the government. Remember that a creation of at least 100,000 keeps pace with just new -- with the population, with the growing population. So that is not good at all.

We did get a report yesterday that showed growth in the private sector but the Labor Department puts on a much broader report. That includes government, government work force as well. We do know that there's a whole lot of folks at ATA Airlines that may be looking for work, 2300, in fact. The airline canceling all flights, filing for bankruptcy for the second time now since '04. It's lost a key military contract and it is grounded. That also affects Southwest Airlines, by the way, which had a partnership with the Southwest Airlines. Shares of Southwest Airlines are down about 1.5 percent.

Stocks overall modestly lower as well. Obviously we're listening in to what Ben Bernanke and a whole lot of other folks are saying about that rescue of Bears Stearns. But BlackBerry maker Research in Motion bucking the trend. Its shares are up 6 percent. Its quarterly profits and sales doubled.

What economic slowdown, you might ask, when it comes to the BlackBerry? Doing pretty nicely. People are still buying it. And you know what? It's not only corporate clients. A lot of folks in the mainstream buying it as well. So it's doing well.

But the three major averages under a little bit of pressure.

And I'll be back in the next hour to give you more numbers. See and talk to you then.

KEILAR: You'd think, Susan, that the BlackBerry would be a luxury item. But it's...

LISOVICZ: Well, it's -- you know, it's an addiction, as we know. So then you have no choice.

KEILAR: That's right. And they're also doing well with the -- their smart phone, which is also not cheap, I might add.

LISOVICZ: Sure, sure. It's not cheap.

KEILAR: All right. Susan Lisovicz, we'll be checking back in with you a little later in the NEWSROOM. Thanks.

LISOVICZ: You got it.

HARRIS: "AUTISM, UNRAVELING THE MYSTERY." All this week we 're keeping the focus on a disorder that impacts so many lives.

CNN's Kitty Pilgrim looks at what researchers are doing. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

KITTY PILGRIM, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice over): This is an image of autism. Dr. Eric Courchesne and Dr. Karen Pierce at the University of California Autism Center are looking for abnormalities in the brains of young infants who developed autism.

DR. ERIC COURCHESNE, UNIV. OF CALIF. AUTISM CENTER: This region of the brain here, the frontal lobes, is larger than a typical child his age.

PILGRIM: Autism is a developmental disability that causes impairment of social behavior and communications and can include unusual behaviors in interests.

Jimmy is a patient at the clinic and is undergoing an MRI to better analyze what is happening in his brain.

COURCHESNE: New imaging techniques, new genetic techniques, new techniques for identifying molecular characterization -- characteristics in blood samples now make it possible to really understand the genetics, the underlying molecular biology, and the brain basis for this disorder in a way that was never dreamed of 10 years ago.

PILGRIM: Early diagnosis means early treatment and the chance of a better life for each child.

Research like this may also identify new types of autism. The definition of autism was expanded in 1994 and since then the number of cases has been going up.

COURCHESNE: There is an increase in the rate of autism. When I first began the research years ago, it was about 1 in 2,000. Now it's estimated that it's about 1 in 150. So that's an alarming difference.

PILGRIM: The cause is still unknown. Most researchers agree it is partly genetic but what triggers autism is still not known. Dr. Courchesne talks about the theory that early childhood vaccines may trigger autism.

COURCHESNE: One of the concerns was Thimerosal, which is a chemical that was used as preservative in vaccines. The concern about Thimerosal is it is a possible cause or trigger for autism is now -- considered to be really rejected because it's no longer in the vaccines and the rates of autism remain high.

PILGRIM: Dr. Susan Swedo at the National Institute of Mental Health is working to discover possible environmental triggers to autism.

DR. SUSAN SWEDO, NATL. INST. OF MENTAL HEALTH: This is a brain- based disease in which the children have a genetic vulnerability. But something in the environment has triggered it in them.

PILGRIM: She is focusing her research on viruses or microbes that may be a trigger for autism.

SWEDO: Many people think of environmental triggers as vaccines or toxins or something that man has done to them. But we also know that the microbes are changing. And it's equally possible that it's a virus or a bacterial infection.

PILGRIM: For patients like Jimmy there is still no clear answer.

Kitty Pilgrim, CNN.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

HARRIS: And researchers say the best care for a child who may have autism is early screening and a diagnosis so a full range of therapies can be tried.

KEILAR: We've got some fundraising numbers to tell you about in the race for the Democratic nomination for president. Just got word from Senator Barack Obama's campaign that they are estimating $40 million in fundraising in the month of March. They say there were 442,000 contributors in total.

And just to let you know these are estimates. This is not the official number. This is what's coming from the campaign. We're actually not going to know the official number for fundraising until the campaign submits its filing to the FEC. And that's not actually due until April 28th.

We are still waiting on numbers from Hillary Clinton's campaign.

But again, Barack Obama's campaign saying that they raised $40 million in the month of March.

HARRIS: You know, it's sort of like Murphy's Law with a British accent. Problems at Heathrow's new Terminal 5.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ANNOUNCER: This is CNN, the most trusted name in news. Now back to the CNN NEWSROOM.

KEILAR: It's really been a week that British Airways would like to forget. Trouble at the new state-of-the-art terminal in London.

CNN's Jim Boulden now from Heathrow.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

JIM BOULDEN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice over): Last Thursday started with so much promise. Passengers on an overnight flight from Hong Kong were the first to Christen Heathrow Terminal 5, the more than $8 billion new home for British Airways.

But a group of anti-airport expansion protesters was the least of the headaches. After a few hours, it was obvious something was wrong. WILLIE WALSH, CEO, BRITISH AIRWAYS: There's some minor issues. But in a building of this size with the logistics involved, I think these are small issues.

BOULDEN: Then a meltdown before the world's media, including CNN's Richard Quest.

RICHARD QUEST, CNN INTERNATIONAL ANCHOR: No one could have imagined the disaster that took place when the baggage system failed to operate.

BOULDEN: The problem, the baggage was backing up in the bowels of the new terminal. British Airways put its entire reputation on the line by moving much of its operation to T5 over one night.

WALSH: We failed. And I'm hugely disappointed and I sincerely apologize to our customers.

BOULDEN: BA canceled hundreds of flights and something between 20,000 and 30,000 bags piled up, no one really seems to know the final tally.

(On camera): The operator BAA hasn't allowed cameras into the Terminal 5 for several days now. But I was there almost exactly a year ago when BAA was showing off this state-of-the-art baggage system.

(Voice over): Back then, BAA and the company that supplied the system were deep into testing. So I said...

(On camera): If there's one issue that causes headaches at new airports and terminals it's baggage. That's why BAA has already spent more than a full year testing the systems here at Terminal 5.

(Voice over): The solution now, BAA has sent thousands of bags by trucks around Britain and thousands more, 800 miles to Milan, Italy, where a shipping company will deliver to customers across Europe.

BA says it's quicker to send them by ground rather than screening each suitcase by hand, which is required when putting unaccompanied luggage on airplanes.

And you, too, can do your part for British Airways's CEO Willie Walsh by logging on to this spoof site and helping him put bags on the conveyor belt.

Jim Boulden, CNN, London.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

HARRIS: Yes, (INAUDIBLE), I've been screaming for that story all week. Just -- still to come in the NEWSROOM this morning, it happened twice this week now. Another low-budget airline shuts down, passengers left to scramble.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

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