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Are We In A Recession?; Presidential Candidates Lay Out Health Care Plans; Raids in Afghanistan; The Rockefellers Issue a Challenge
Aired April 30, 2008 - 11:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
TONY HARRIS, CNN ANCHOR: And good morning again everyone. I'm Tony Harris.
FREDRICKA WHITFIELD, CNN ANCHOR: And I'm Fredricka Whitfield in for Heidi Collins.
New developments keep coming into the CNN NEWSROOM on this Wednesday, the last of April. Here's what's on the rundown.
WHITFIELD: Cut 'em or hold 'em? Fed bankers announce their decision on a key interest rate in a few hours.
HARRIS: The battle for a Baghdad neighborhood. Caught in the middle, the young and the innocent.
WHITFIELD: Austrian police probing every corner of this man's life. How did no one know about the other family he kept in the cellar? Incest investigation in the NEWSROOM.
Two major stories developing on "ISSUE #1, THE ECONOMY" one, a decision on interest rates that could reach deep into your pocket and a new development on recession.
GDP we are talking here with CNN senior business correspondent Ali Velshi with our money team is on the story. Let's start with the GDP.
Ali, .6 percent, if you gave me a raise of .6 percent I would say keep it.
ALI VELSHI, CNN SENIOR BUSINESS CORRESPONDENT: Exactly. The only thing is if I give you a raise of less than .6 percent and I gave you a raise of .6 percent of a percent last year you would be really mad because you would think I gave you less. It is the same.
So the GDP number, .6 percent, which what it was for the beginning of 2008, is the same as it was at the end of 2007. On one level, that's good news. The economy according to how it is measured by GDP did not shrink.
Let me tell you what GDP is. GDP is the total market value of goods and services produced within a given country in a given period of time. It's a very broad measure of the economy. What we know is for first three months of this year it was not negative.
How does that connect to a recession? We generally use the GDP as a measure of whether we are in a recession. The National Bureau of Economic Research, which is the organization that tells you when you went into a recession or didn't, I don't know what they do in between, says that the NBER does not define a recession in terms of two consecutive quarters of decline in real GDP. We talk about two quarters. They say rather a recession is a significant decline in economic activity spread across the economy lasting more than a few months.
Here is the pickle we are in, Tony. GDP is still above zero. We know we lost jobs. We know home prices are down. We know gas prices are up. We know we have inflation. Are we or aren't we?
HARRIS: I'll tell you, you look at that new definition and it sounds like we are. We are talking about a mortgage meltdown. We're talking about a credit crunch. We are talking about job losses. It sounds like we are.
VELSHI: That's what most Americans think as well. We leave the technicalities to the experts.
The Federal Reserve, those folks meeting today, they are making a decision on interest rates. Announce that decision at 2:15 eastern, a few hours from now. They are now sitting there saying do we cut interest rates again? If we cut interest rates, it makes more money available and maybe some businesses will expand and hire more people. Consumers will have more money.
That will stimulate the economy. That is generally thought to be a good thing if you have a slow economy. Except you know what happens to people that have more money and spend it, it causes inflation. And we know Tony, we discussed this many times, between gas prices, corn, wheat, chick yes, all that kind of stuff, we have inflation already. So a tough, tough situation.
HARRIS: I feel smarter with this man. I just feel - Ali, great to see you. Thanks for your help this morning.
WHITFIELD: All right. Pain at the pump president another day, another record. AAA says gas has hit a new high. Almost $3.62 a gallon today. That's fueling new debate in the presidential race. Hillary Clinton and John McCain favor suspending the federal gas tax for the summer.
Barack Obama calls it a political gimmick.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. HILLARY RODHAM CLINTON (D-NY), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I would immediately lower gas prices by temporarily suspending the gas tax for consumers and businesses. And we will pay for it by imposing a windfall profits tax on the big oil companies. They sure can afford it.
SEN. BARACK OBAMA (D-IL), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Let me tell you something. This isn't an idea designed to get you through the summer. It's an idea designed to get them through an election. (END VIDEO CLIP)
WHITFIELD: Most Democrats want time pose a tax on windfall profits for oil companies. Although that cost could ultimately be passed on to consumers. Earlier on CNN's "AMERICAN MORNING," one oil executive said that it is time for lawmakers to look at increasing domestic production.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JOHN HOFMEISTER, PRES., SHELL OIL COMPANY: The presidential candidates should be out there on the postings saying let's increase domestics production by 2 million to 3 million barrels per day. That would put money back into this country, jobs back into this country and it would bring more supply to what the Americans who need it.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WHITFIELD: John Hofmeister there of Shell Oil says Washington needs to fast track drilling off the coast of Alaska and in the state's arctic national wildlife refuge. Environmental concerns have bogged down those efforts.
HARRIS: Political prescriptions on your health care. John McCain promotes his plan, again, today. How does it compare to the Democrats' proposal?
Dan Lothian with the CNN Election Express in Indianapolis.
Dan, good to see you. Walk us through these plans, if you would, sir.
DAN LOTHIAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes. These plans obviously when it comes to the republicans and the democrats, they are on two different pages but they are all talking about health care and the reason they are doing that is because it is so critical. It is important. Voters have spoken out about this and said it is really important for them so that's why all of the candidates are offering solutions.
LOTHIAN: From do it yourself to letting the federal government do it for you. All three presidential hopefuls are offering prescriptions for America's health care system. Senator John McCain wants you to have the option of buying your own cheaper health insurance so he would offer tax credits -- $2,500 for individuals and $5,000 for families.
SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R-AZ), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Insurance companies could no longer take your business for granted, offering narrow plans with escalating costs. It would help change the whole dynamic of the current system putting individuals and families back in charge.
LOTHIAN: But critics say a few thousand dollars in credits would only cover a fraction of actual health care costs. For example, the average plan for a family of four is more than $12,000. And people with pre-existing conditions might be prevented from getting coverage.
The democrats are going down a much different road. Both favor some sort of federally mandated universal health insurance but differ on just who should be covered. Senator Clinton says all Americans.
CLINTON: When it comes to health care, I believe with all my heart, health care is a right, no a privilege. And everyone deserves quality, affordable health care.
LOTHIAN: Senator Obama backs a plan that would mandate coverage only for children. And makes insurance affordable for everyone else.
OBAMA: I believe that the problem is not that people don't want health care. It is that they can't afford it.
LOTHIAN: Both of the democratic candidates are campaigning here in Indiana today. They will have four events each. Of course, they will talk about health care but more importantly will be focusing on the issue of the economy. And Senator Clinton has pointed out, jobs, jobs, jobs -- Tony.
HARRIS: All right. Dan Lothian for us this morning.
Find out more on the candidates at CNNpolitics.com. CNNpolitics.com is your source for everything political.
WHITFIELD: Pouring more manpower on western wildfires. Planes and additional crews are being brought in to battle a fire south of the Grand Canyon National Park. It has already consumed an estimated 2,000 acres. Officials think the fire was man-made.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It was an abandoned or unattended campfire that started it. Some folks are being interviewed in relation to that.
WHITFIELD: No structures have been damaged. The fire was or rather has not been contained. Now the Reno crews are still battling a brush fire. Half of the 1,200-acre blaze is contained. At one point yesterday the fire briefly shut down a highway threatening some homes and forcing schools to be evacuated. Officials hope to get firefighting planes in today. They believe this fire was sparked by downed power lines.
HARRIS: You know we actually have areas of the country now under extreme fire danger. Let's check in with Jacqui Jeras in the severe weather center.
Jacqui, good morning.
JACQUI JERAS, AMS METEOROLOGIST: Hey guys. Yes, the winds, such a problem here today. We're talking about gusts up to 60 miles per hour. When you throw in a fire that's already burning and you push winds in that strong, you get what you call torching where little embers will blow off maybe a brush or maybe a tree and advance the line out further. Then you tend to get all these little spot fires all over the place, which just really makes it so much more difficult to fight it.
Very dry conditions here today. Very strong winds. Temperatures plenty warm. Look at the relative humidity, four percent to eight percent. We consider dry about 30 percent. Just to give you an idea of how extreme this is today, and of course, the prolonged drought conditions here means the fuels or brush or the grasses or the ponderosa pines that are burning out there are so dried out. It does not take much to advance this fear very, very quickly.
You can see what a large area being impacted here. There you can see the wind advisories in the yellow. The wind so far are pretty strong already, steady winds in the 20s. Check this out; Wichita, 25; 23 in Dallas; 17 in El Paso. Phoenix, winds are light right now at six miles per hour. They are really going to be picking up.
A live picture out of Phoenix today, showing you the conditions there. Is that Camel Back Mountain? I believe that it is, KTV providing that for us. Temperatures yesterday 99 degrees. You haven't hit the century mark yet so far this year. I don't think we will do it this week. We will stay down in the lower 90s today. With the winds so strong, we are going to be seeing areas of blowing gust. So watch out for that, especially along the I-8 corridor.
As this storm system tomorrow progresses, it will patch in the moisture from the Gulf of Mexico and interact with some cooler, drier air from the west. Meaning severe weather will be likely from southern Iowa all the way down to northern Texas. Cities like Kansas City, Omaha, Oklahoma City, all being impacted tomorrow by this storm.
HARRIS: We will be here to watch it. That's for sure. Thank you, Jacqui.
Fierce gun battles in Kabul. Afghan officials report seven people killed including a woman and child with ties to militants. Security forces today raided several homes in the hunt for militants linked to Sunday's assassination attempt on President Hamid Karzai.
A government official has allegedly confessed to taking part in the attack on the military ceremony. But this morning, Afghanistan intelligence chief blame militants from Pakistan for the attack. The president escaped unharmed but a lawmaker, tribal leader, and a child were killed.
WHITFIELD: Flexing military muscle. The U.S. has two aircraft carriers in the gulf region. USS Abraham Lincoln arrived on Tuesday. It will replace the USS Harry S. Truman. Defense Secretary Robert Gates insists it is not an escalation. He calls the move a reminder to Iran. It comes as Washington continues to accuse Tehran of forging ahead with efforts to supply weapons and training to militants in Iraq.
HARRIS: The army vowing to take care of its own top brass responds after a soldier's father posts pictures, barracks in a disgusting mess.
WHITFIELD: You're in the CNN NEWSROOM. I'm Fredricka Whitfield.
It's not your typical day at the office. There's a hairy, smelly visitor.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The long haired bovine just hung around the office. For a short while, the conference room was unavailable. Who needs room dividers when you have a yak?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WHITFIELD: What is this all about, straight ahead in the NEWSROOM.
HARRIS: A daughter held captive for 24 years, reunited with the children snatched from her arms. Police now looking deeper into her abusive father's past.
CNN's Phil Black in Anstetten, Austria, this morning.
Phil, if you would, give us an update. What are authorities saying about this case this morning?
PHIL BLACK, CNN CORRESPONDENT: We've just had a police briefing. We learned a little bit more about the investigation and where it is going. Interesting point to note is the key suspect, Josef Fritzl, the man that admits to imprisoning his daughter and fathering children by her is no longer cooperating with authorities.
He will not answer any of their questions. He will make no further statement to them, which means they have the job of essentially reconstructing the last 24 years of his life and those that he controlled so closely, those that he locked up in the home below and also those that he controlled quite closely as well on the surface.
We also learned a little bit more about the mental and physical state of this family that has been reunited. Many of them meeting each other for the first time. Essentially the news there is good. They are doing well. They are learning to adjust to life under the sunlight. They even had a little bit of a spontaneous birthday party for the youngest.
The authorities, the psychiatric care is altogether as one. They spoke a little bit about the measures that they are going to make their life as comfortable as possible and reacquaint them with life in society.
Let's hear them talking about that now.
DR. BERTHOLD KEPPLINGER, CHIEF DOCTOR, MAUER HEALTH CLINIC: Living quite a reasonable size living area available to the entire family. Where they can stay together and be together. They are there undisturbed in this area. They have their own personal things around them. They have 10 members of the clinic at their disposal to help them with anything they need. We have had little and we have been able to arrange a little impromptu birthday party.
BLACK: Psychologically stable. That's the initial diagnosis, if you like, of those family members. They still have a long way to go yet.
HARRIS: If you could, there's new video of Fritzl in Thailand. And maybe you can help us with the proper context on this. Clearly they're on vacation. Seen through the lens of what we know about him, it feels a bit creepy. What can you tell us about this?
BLACK: Pictures are quite extraordinary. They show Josef Fritzl on holiday in Thailand we believe around 1998. If you put that into the time frame of how long he maintained his daughter's captivity, she went into captivity in 1984. 14-year -- 14 years into the captivity. You can see him sunning himself on the beach, strutting around in swimwear. This was something he did reasonably frequent will he. Newspaper reports say he went on regular holidays to Thailand.
The question then is how did he care for his second secret hidden family during that time? How are they cared for and provided for? These are questions that the police now must answer as they reconstruct the past 24 years of suffering it seem this man is responsible for.
HARRIS: What a story. New developments all the time. CNN's Phil Black for us. Phil, thank you.
WHITFIELD: It would be as if the Kennedy family trashed the democrats or Fords announced they think Chevy has a better approach. This morning the Rockefeller family is taking a harsh public stand against Exxon Mobil, the company that traces the roots back to standard oil and the father of the oil and gas boom, John D. Rockefeller.
Miles O'Brien was there for this remarkable news conference in midtown Manhattan.
Miles, what happened? What is at issue?
MILES O'BRIEN, CNN CHIEF TECHNOLOGY & ENVIRONMENT CORRESPONDENT: Good morning, Fred.
The issue is the alternatives to fossil fuels, the Rockefeller family believes the management of Exxon Mobil is not investing nearly enough in finding new ways to provide energy for the world. They're concerned about climate change but also concerned about an adverse change to the bottom line at this amazingly profitable corporation over the long run.
They point out the great, great or depending great grandfather made his stunning fortune by offering an alternative fuel. That case, 1870s, it was kerosene over whale oil. This led to the founding of fortune oil. The fortune warped into Exxon Mobil. These days, Exxon Mobil has been reluctant to invest in alternatives and Rockefellers as the longest of long-term shareholders are pushing handful of shareholder resolutions to push the company in a new direction.
They want a task force to study global warming and its impact on poor economies. They want the company to set goals to produce greenhouse gas emissions. And they would like the company to adopt a renewable energy policy.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
NEVA ROCKEFELLER GOODWIN, GREAT-GRANDDAUGHTER OF JOHN D. ROCKEFELLER: I want to stress all of the resolutions from Rockefeller family members reinforced different aspects of the same concern. The need for Exxon to identify energy related opportunities and strengths, to complement the strengths and skills in an industry that will soon look very different than it did when many of Exxon's managers started their careers.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O'BRIEN: And specifically they spoke about this man, Rex Tillerson, who is the CEO and chairman. One of the additional resolutions is asking that that role be divided, that there be a separate chairman and a separate CEO.
Fred, 66 of 78 direct descendants of John D. Rockefeller have signed on these resolutions. They are nonbinding resolutions but they hope that other shareholders will hear about the Rockefellers' feelings about this and push some change in this big company.
WHITFIELD: Clearly, some vested interest here. That underscored by Rockefeller. Exactly how do you quantity tie the holdings or how much stock are we talking about, Rockefeller family has?
O'BRIEN: We asked them about this. The Rockefellers say they don't know how much stock they have. I guess Fredricka, if you know how much you have, you really aren't rich, right?
WHITFIELD: Exactly. If you have to ask how much then you can afford it. That kind of thing.
O'BRIEN: Exactly right, girl.
WHITFIELD: All right, Miles. Thanks so much. Appreciate it. Good to see you.
O'BRIEN: I'm always asking. HARRIS: Overcrowded, overwhelmed, Dr. Sanjay Gupta checks up on New Orleans hospitals almost three years after hurricane Katrina.
WHITFIELD: Migrant workers headed for the U.S. given a helping hand in Mexico, safe haven from corrupt police straight ahead.
Even before hurricane Katrina, ranked among the nation's lowest. Chief medical correspondent Dr. Sanjay Gupta reported on the desperate situation of hospitals right after the storm. He went back and here is what he found.
DR. SANJAY GUPTA, CNN CHIEF MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: Packed waiting rooms. Patients with fewer options. Three years after Katrina, the city's hospitals are in critical condition.
We are here in an ambulance, this particular call for a woman who complains of headaches. We're going to check it out and see what happens. These particular paramedics get 15 calls a day. Which is a lot. Each call comes with a challenge. Find a hospital with available space.
Tell me what a typical day is like in this particular hospital over here.
DR. JAMES MOISES, TULANE MEDICAL CENTER ER: When I walk into the emergency department at any time, there's probably 10 to 15 patients waiting to be seen. Emergency department is full because the hospital remains full.
GUPTA: More patients and fewer hospitals. Survey last year found nine out of ten New Orleans residents feel there are not enough hospitals to take care of them. Half the hospitals opened up here in New Orleans since Katrina.
Think about it. Labor costs are up. Utility costs are up, insurance costs are up. Not enough help. As we investigated the we something is happening here that never happened before. Five hospitals that together treat 90 percent of the patients here are joining forces to stay afloat.
DR. MARK PETERS, EAST JEFFERSON GENERAL HOSPITAL: We are all in this together. In the old pre-Katrina days, maybe it's a good thing when your competitor was not doing very well. But if somebody has to cut services now, it negatively impacts the rest of us.
GUPTA: Even with the support, all five of the hospitals are on the brink of cutting mental health and pediatric programs. Before the storm, together the hospitals made a $12 million profit. Last year, they suffered a combined loss of $135 million.
PETERS: That loss is not sustainable.
GUPTA: It is an effect that trickles from the bottom line to the front line. I asked paramedic Davis Renois how bad things are.
DAVIS RENOIS, NEW ORLEANS PARAMEDIC: The worst thing that ever happened was I waited five hours with a stroke.
GUPTA: That's something you get to the hospital within 90 minutes, they say, right?
RENOIS: Yes, sir.
GUPTA: Back to our emergency call. Remember the woman whose face was numb? She is heading to a hospital now.
As things stand today, it will be at least a two-hour wait before she is seen by a dock even though she has been taken in by an ambulance. Just one more patient living in a city that's in critical condition.
Dr. Sanjay Gupta, CNN, New Orleans.
WHITFIELD: To get your daily dose of health news online, logon to our website. You'll find the latest medical news and health library news on diet and fitness. The address is CNN.com/health.
HARRIS: Civilians caught in the middle. Deadly attacks blamed on U.S. forces in Iraq. An eye opening view, ahead.
WHITFIELD: So it was supposed to provide for his college education, but it only gives him a place to crash.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I couldn't use the G.I. Bill and pay tuition from month to month at my school, so I had to get loans. And the G.I. Bill, it covers my rent.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WHITFIELD: All right, veterans who serve their country say they're not getting served at home. This story four minutes from now.
And you are in the CNN NEWSROOM. I'm Fredricka Whitfield.
HARRIS: And I'm Tony Harris. Good morning, everyone.
HARRIS: Innocent Iraqis dying in Baghdad. CNN's Arwa Damon on the scene new of a deadly attack. We want to let you know, some of you may find some of the images in this story disturbing.
(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) ARWA DAMON, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Residents of Sadr City say the damage to these houses was caused by rocket fire from U.S. forces. The U.S. military would only say that guided rockets were fired at areas where militants were attacking them. The civilians are caught in the middle.
"They all died, they all died," this woman wails.
Fighting in this densely populated Shia slum of three million has claimed several hundred lives over the past month.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): "I dug out for the people. There was a girl. We only found her head. I kept digging, looking for her body, me and my friends, and then another rocket hit us."
DAMON: "They are dragging out dead people, oh, my God." My son, my son Allawi (ph), I want you back.
(on-camera): The battle for Sadr City has drawn U.S. forces into a fight this they have been trying to avoid. Tuesday's combat broke out when an American patrol came under fire and while they were trying to evacuate the wounded they were hit by two roadside bombs and rocket-propelled grenades, and that's when the Americans say they are fired the rockets.
(voice-over): The grief and pain at the Imam Ali Hospital are hard to bear.
A mother grieves for her young son. "Does this look like a militia man?" asks a man off camera.
Hold her down, someone orders, as a doctor tries to remove shrapnel from this girl's face. The Iraqi government says the militants are using the residents of Sadr City as human shields, and insists that the fight to cleanse Baghdad's streets of militias will continue. Civilians here say that's no justification for the suffering they inflicted on them.
Arwa Damon, CNN, Baghdad.
HARRIS: A father standing up for his soldier son. His actions spurring the Army to order barracks inspections worldwide. Edwin Frawley (ph) posted these pictures of conditions at Fort Bragg, North Carolina. His son was among soldiers arriving back on base from remote duty in Afghanistan, and dad thought the troops deserve better. Army brass agrees.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GEN. RICHARD CODY, VICE CHIEF OF STAFF, U.S. ARMY: I don't have words that I can say on TV of how mad I was that these young soldiers coming back after a 15-month tour, I was over in Afghanistan with these soldiers not two months ago, and saw the great work and the great ambassadors of America that they are, and living in terrible, tough conditions in the mountains of Afghanistan. And to have these great heroes come back to that condition is uncalled for. The Army leadership is not going to let this stand, and we're going to take care of it.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS: Twenty-four barracks at Fort Bragg built a half century ago. The army is building new barracks to replace them.
WHITFIELD: They fought wars. They're now fighting for benefits. Veterans want the government to come through on an education commitment.
Here now is CNN's Lisa Sylvester.
LISA SYLVESTER, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Todd Bowers served his country in Iraq as a Marine, but when he came back from his second tour he felt his country had failed him.
TODD BOWERS, IRAQ & AFGHAN. VETERANS OF AMER.: I came home proud, very proud of my service with a Purple Heart on my chest and a Navy Commendation Medal with "V" for Valor. But I didn't come back to the education that I was expecting. I came back to three different types of student loans, two of which had gone to collections.
SYLVESTER: Like other vets, Bowers says the recruitment promise of a paid education through the G.I. bill is hollow. A group of veterans is now lobbying Congress to increase the G.I. benefit. In past years, it was enough to pay for an undergraduate education, even graduate school. But today it barely covers public college tuition.
STEVEN HENDERSON, VETERAN: I couldn't use the G.I. bill and pay tuition for month to month for my school so I had to get loans. And the G.I. bill, it covers my rent.
SYLVESTER: The current G.I. bill pays an average of only $600 a month. Under proposed legislation it would be raised to cover the highest instate tuition rate. The bill has the support of Democratic leaders, but critics balk at the up-front cost of $2.7 billion and the Pentagon worries that it will make it harder to retain service members who might leave the military for higher education, but veteran's groups say these young men and women were willing to pay the ultimate price.
ERIC HILLEMAN, VETERANS OF FOREIGN WARS: If you're willing to send young men and women into harm's way, you should be willing to pay the price of caring for them when they return, to fulfill that promise.
SYLVESTER: While the GI benefit is about $600 a month, members of the Guard and Reserve may receive much less. That's because they're restricted from counting multiple tours and calculating their college benefits. They're only allowed to count their longest continuous service.
Lisa Sylvester, CNN, Washington.
WHITFIELD: Migrant workers headed for the U.S., giving a helping hand in Mexico's safe haven from bandits and corrupt police.
HARRIS: "Fortune" magazine released its list of the top 500 companies. We went beyond the numbers for a closer look.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This small town is best known for its Hollywood connections, and as a backdrop for movies and TV shows. But it's also full of companies that top the business box office. What small town has the most Fortune 500 companies? Find out after the break.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS: Which small town is home to the most fortune 500 companies? With a population of about 16,000, the Los Angeles suburb of El Segundo, California tops that list. Mattel, Computer Sciences, DaVita and DirecTV all call El Segundo home.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS: A safer path to the U.S. border. Migrant workers get a hand in Mexico.
CNN's Harris Whitbeck has the story.
HARRIS WHITBECK, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): It's known as La Vestia, "the beast," hundreds of tons of steel rattling towards Mexico's northern border. An often hiding in its trucks are dozens of men from Central America, on the last leg of their journey to the United States.
Riding "the beast" is just one of the many hurdles faced by migrants, like Gerson Reyes from Honduras.
"We had already been robbed once when we jumped on the last train," he says. "We were on it when it slowed down. As it was slowing down, a kid tried to jump on, but he missed, and the train sliced three of his fingers off."
(on-camera): All migrants heard about La Vestia, about the robberies and the shakedowns by corrupt officials. Even rape and murder along the migrants' path through Mexico.
(voice-over): But one suburb of Mexico City is offering a sanctuary from the hardship. Right along the railway in Ecatepec, a small white house is a place of rest and safety. It was built by the mayor's office. Migrants can stop here for a few days to have a hot shower, grab a bite to eat, try on a clean shirt and get some rest.
"The police told us there was this house down the road where we could rest for a while," he says. "When we got here last Saturday. We slept the whole day."
Ecatepec knows a lot about the hardships of migration. Many people came here from poor, rural areas of Mexico. And its mayor, Jose Luiz Gutierrez, says 100,000 of its residents have left for the United States. Offering help to others, he says, is a way of hoping his own people will be treated better across the border.
"We see our own sons in the young men who pass through here. We see our own parents and our own wives and daughters in the ones that come from afar. And all we can do is treat them as we with our own would be treated in the United States. Gutierrez says the Hardest part about setting up the haven was convincing the police to stop robbing migrants. He officially declared Ecatepec a safe haven last December. Since then, about 40 migrants a day have passed through the small White House by the railway for a few hours of rest, before reboarding "The Beast."
Harris Whitbeck, CNN, Ecatepec, Mexico.
WHITFIELD: "Grand Theft Auto," grab and go. Police say the new game led to sticky fingers led to sticky fingers and kicking feet.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Hey, knock it off! Knock it off!
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You want to get tased?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WHITFIELD: He's mad. He's a back seat driver now, too.
WHITFIELD: He may be into video, but he's camera shy.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Hey, knock it off! Knock it off!
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You want to get tased?
(END VIDEO CLIP) WHITFIELD: Suspect reacts after being arrested for stealing video games. San Diego Police say the 27-year-old man maced two store clerks and made off with $145 worth of games, including the just released "Grand Theft Auto IV." The suspect tried to get away, but it's a little tougher in real life trying to get away. He surrendered after a short chase.
HARRIS: Tase him, bro.
WHITFIELD: Well, as we wrap up April and, Autism Awareness Month, we bring you one more story about unlocking the mystery. Today a couple goes overseas to find a model for autistic adults that could work here in the U.S.
Here now is CNN's Atika Shubert.
ATIKA SHUBERT, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Raising awareness of autism is a global mission for Bob and Suzanne Wright. In the U.S., one of every 150 children are diagnosed as autistic. In the United Kingdom, one out of 100. It affects four boys for every girl. Wright says these numbers show an epidemic.
BOB WRIGHT, AUTISM SPEAKS: No country can accept the loss of 1 percent of the male population without a substantial fight. They still are in denial that these numbers are so significant.
SHUBERT: It's a personal mission for the Wrights. Their 6-year- old grandson, Christian, is autistic. He was diagnosed at 2. His grandparents say they were shocked at the lack of treatment available. So the Wrights decided to use their considerable influence.
As the former chairman and CEO of NBC Universal, Bob Wright, along with his wife, Suzanne, established the advocacy group Autism Speaks, opening doors others could not. This year establishing world autism day at the United Nations.
SUZANNE WRIGHT, AUTISM SPEAKS: We named it Autism Speaks because they needed a voice, they needed an absolute voice. And autism speaks, and finally the world is listening.
SHUBERT: They travel around the world. Now in Israel to deliver the message. But also, to share information and methods of treatments.
(on-camera): This playground is part of Homes for Life, an Israeli program for autistic adults that builds some specially designed homes inside neighborhoods and communities. It is an integrated approach that the Wrights say that the United States could learn from.
(voice-over): Here the Wrights visit inside one of the Homes for Life, where daily schedules are displayed with pictures for its autistic residents to follow. In addition to daily chores, many here also work at occupational centers under the guidance of counselors. The Wrights say this treatment from infancy to adulthood is something they want to bring home to the U.S.
S. WRIGHT: Giving them homes, giving them jobs, giving them dignity, and that's what I'm very concerned about, because my child, Christian, is now 6 years old, our grandson. He will be 16 before you know it. What are we going to do with our children now, with the numbers we have in our country?
SHUBERT: For the Wright family, a personal mission that has become a global campaign.
Atika Shubert, CNN, Jerusalem.
WHITFIELD: Autism awareness continues here at CNN. We will have more reports for new the coming months. Meanwhile check out our Web site, CNN.com/autism, or stories,
Not your typical day in the office. There is a hairy, smelly visitor. Let's yak about this one, in the NEWSROOM.
HARRIS: Great. Another idea from the boss.
WHITFIELD: All right, but this one didn't just get eyes rolling; it got them bugging out of their sockets.
Robert Mack of Seattle affiliate KING reports.
ROBERT MACK, KING REPORTER (voice-over): In an old schoolhouse on Beacon Hill, you'll find a new Seattle startup. Eight workers tried to create what they hope will be a revolution in e-mail.
JIM HARDING, CEO, CIRUE: This is Toshi (ph).
MACK: You could call the company's founder a bit eccentric. Jim Harding showed up to work today with his yak.
HARDING: Well, as you can see he's pretty calm. He is cool. He's collected.
MACK: Weighing in at just 1,000 pounds, the long-haired bovine just hung around the office. For a short while the conference room was unavailable. And who needs room dividers when you've got a yak?
RAUL RAJA, CIRQUE SOFTWARE ENGINEER: It's an unusual office that is really fun. It's a lot of fun.
MACK (on-camera): Can't say much when the boss brings in a yak. I take it that every now and then a yak might have an accident in an office.
HARDING: You mean toward the back end? Yes, he does tend to do that, about eight times a day.
MACK (voice-over): Nothing a shovel couldn't solve. Most high- tech companies try to foster a fun creative work environment. The folks here are developing a product that turns your traditional e-mail inbox into a collection of social networks. Harding figured why not add some workplace levity by bringing in one of the yaks from his ranch. He has 20 of them, an experience even Google or Microsoft couldn't match.
HARDING: I would say the majority of building owners are probably not yak friendly.
MACK (on-camera): Would you ever consider owning a yak yourself?
RAJA: I don't think it would fit in my apartment.
MACK (voice-over): By lunch hour it was time to let the yak out to graze.
(on-camera): What are you going to have for lunch?
CRAIG HORMAN, CIRQUE TECHNOLOGY OFFICER: Probably a bison burger, just for the sake of it.
MACK: Just another day in the life of a startup, and something to yak about over e-mail.