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Firefighters Battle Dozens of Florida Fires; Thousands Feared Trapped after Chinese Earthquake; Voters Head to Polls in West Virginia; Children Suffering after Myanmar Cyclone; Economy Impacts Small Business Owners

Aired May 13, 2008 - 10:00   ET


TONY HARRIS, CNN ANCHOR: Enormous power of China's violent earthquake caught on tape. Some 30,000 people either killed or trapped.
BETTY NGUYEN, CNN ANCHOR: Steady winds, dry brush, explosive combination in central Florida today. Wildfires chase hundreds from their homes.

HARRIS: And West Virginians vote. Hillary Clinton may be headed for a landslide win today, Tuesday, May 13.

You're in the CNN NEWSROOM.

NGUYEN: Let's get you straight to our top story this morning. Florida firefighters, they are stretched to the limit. Eighty-two wildfires burning in that state right now. Take a look. Sixteen thousand acres already scorched.

The biggest of those wildfires is in Palm Bay. That's jut southeast of Orlando. Investigators say the Palm Bay Fire may have been set.

Here's what we know about the situation. So far the fire has scorched 3,500 acres in Palm Bay. That's about 5.5 square miles. Crews estimate 70 homes have been damaged. And three firefighters are injured.

So let's take you to the scene. And our Rob Marciano is in Palm Bay. Spoke with the mayor a little bit earlier. And he just seemed a little frustrated at the fact that, you know, he is running out of help to fight these fires.

ROB MARCIANO, CNN METEOROLOGIST: Yes, they're frustrated on many fronts, Betty. They're frustrated on the fact that this is probably set by an arsonist; if not one maybe several. And their resources are just stretched thin.

We are standing in an area that has been burned. I mean, this fire has been burning for almost -- almost two days now. And the pine trees here, the palmettos, still smoldering. This stump still smoldering. You can still feel the heat here.

To give you an idea of the randomness or maybe -- as good as the fire department's protected things, here's a home that's fine. Meanwhile, there's a power and telephone pole that has been pretty much cut at the bottom by the flames. You can actually still see flames burning right here. Look at that.

So power obviously out. Communication lines in many cases are down. But the sun is up. And the winds aren't quite as heavy as they have been. So that's the good news.

But still, a critical fire danger today. I mean, they haven't really received any sort of really good rain in over a month. These are palmettos. They really flame up real good with their palm fronds and the long needle pines, as well. And just the heavy -- the heavy brush that can go up without a problem at all.

Thirty-five hundred acres have so far burned here in Brevard County. You know how much containment they have? They're pretty much saying none. How much control they have? They're pretty much saying none.

And it's -- unlike a traditional fire in a forest, where you cut a containment line around that fire, this has been jumping; it's been going through residential neighborhoods. So they are in structural protection mode. Meaning when a structure starts to flame up or flames get close to it, they send the engines in there.

But they are stretched thin. Even getting equipment and assets from as far north as Daytona, as far west as Tampa, and as far south as Miami, they're still having a hard time containing this.

As you mentioned, Betty, you know, over 80 fires burning across the state right now in 14 different counties. So this isn't the only spot. Unfortunately, this is the spot where the most residential homes have been damaged or destroyed. And they're just trying to stop that from happening today.

I can hear the choppers now. They're finally up in the air. Some air assets from the Division of Forestry, trying to put these -- battle this blaze from above.

Betty, back to you.

NGUYEN: Yes. They're going to need all the help they can get. Eighty-two wildfires, 16,000 acres scorched in total. Rob Marciano joining us live. Thanks, Rob.

HARRIS: Betty, why don't we get the latest from the Florida Forestry Department? Gerry Lacavera is on the phone with me.

And Gerry, good to talk to you.


HARRIS: I've got to -- I was just looking here at information about you. It says you are a wildfire mitigation coordinator for the Division of Forestry for the state of Florida. What exactly is your job? What do you do? LACAVERA: Well, depending on the day, I wear a lot of different hats. We have about 13 mitigation specialists throughout the state of Florida that I coordinate their activities and assist them with projects.

One of the -- the basic projects that we do are providing information and training, providing information and educational programs to homeowners about how to keep their homes safer during wildfire disasters. And of course, providing public information to everyone who needs it during the wildfires that we have.

HARRIS: Gerry, so in your role now, are you helping both firefighters in terms of putting together some kind of a strategy for fight thing fire? Are you also helping homeowners in terms of identifying where the fires are? And identifying areas that maybe local officials should start some evacuations?

LACAVERA: Strategy is left up to the local people. They are on the ground, and they know what situation is. They know what the vegetation is and their surroundings. So coming up with strategies on fighting the -- fighting the fires is totally up to the local level.


LACAVERA: Also, local information goes out from our people and from the fire departments and emergency management. So my job is to help coordinate that and be a funnel for more of the national news releases.

HARRIS: OK. And in terms of -- what is your view of what we're watching now? I mean, this is clearly an event that's been going on for several days now. In terms of scale and scope, where does this rank?

LACAVERA: These are -- these serious fires, obviously, or we wouldn't have so many assets that are out there working on them. We've got a lot of wildland-urban interface in those fire areas. In other words, areas where the homes are intermingled with vegetation.

And that causes a lot of problems, both in terms of suppression and in terms of protecting the homes.

HARRIS: Yes. What's the hope here? Best-case scenario? We heard from Rob Marciano just a moment ago that we're not talking about containment percentages at this point. What's the hope in terms of ideal weather conditions? I'm sure you would love to get some rain. But if the winds would die down, that would be a huge help. Wouldn't it?

LACAVERA: Sure. If we could get the winds lowered and the humidity to come up, we'd be in much better shape. Unfortunately, that isn't in the weather forecast right now.


LACAVERA: But hopefully, the weather forecast will be wrong, and we will have winds die down and humidity come up to help the firefighters get a better handle on it.

HARRIS: OK. Gerry Lacavera is with us with the Wildfire Mitigation Office of the Division of Forestry, state of Florida. Gerry, thanks for your time this morning.

NGUYEN: Well, our other big story this morning, the China earthquake. The numbers, they are staggering. The scale of the destruction, well, that is still coming to light. Here's what we know right now.

The death toll continues to jump. And at this hour, more than 12,000, according to official Chinese media, by all accounts, though, it is certain to climb.

At least on 50 bodies have been pulled from the rubble of a middle school. More than 800 other students are believed buried.

China's official news agency reports more than 1,800 people are trapped in just one -- 18,000 people are trapped in just one city alone. But there is no way of knowing how many people are buried in the ruins of homes, schools, and businesses.

There is a massive relief effort that is underway. Tens of thousands of troops have fanned out across central China near the epicenter. And China says it welcomes international aid. But international relief workers will not be allowed into the hardest-hit areas as for now, because it's difficult to get through the roadways and get down to the hard-hit areas.

HARRIS: More now on China's massive earthquake. CNN crews are bringing you all the latest on the unfolding disaster. John Vause is near the epicenter and is the only U.S.-based correspondent there. We will hear from him shortly.

But first, let's go to China's capital. CNN's Beijing bureau chief, Jaime Florcruz, joins us now with the very latest.

Jaime, I'm just -- Betty was just sort of highlighting some of the numbers. And the numbers are just so staggering, just difficult to wrap your mind around. So for a moment, let me ask you, what you know today, what have you learned today that is different from what you were reporting at this time yesterday?

JAIME FLORCRUZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: A very important point is that 18,000 people believed to be buried in just one city alone. That shows you how difficult it is and how staggering the numbers could be in that city alone, which is a city of about 5 million people. Not too far from the epicenter.

There is a loft industries there. It is heavily populated. And the fear is that many buildings there may have collapsed and trapped thousands of people. And the problem is rescuers are -- gave been unable to reach them. In some places roads have been destroyed and impassable. If other places, rain has been hampering, also, the rescue efforts. And aftershocks, hundreds of aftershocks have been registered in the past several hours. And that is causing a lot of panic among people. Panic that forces them out into the streets. Also, panic among officials, warning people to stay away from the buildings, because they may have been damaged already. And another huge aftershock could make the buildings collapse and trap even more people -- Tony.

HARRIS: And Jaime, let's be honest about this. This is an effort that is going to take months. It is going to take months to sift through all this rubble, all of this debris, and find victims, isn't it?

FLORCRUZ: It will. One Chinese official conservatively estimated this could take at least a week in terms of searching and rescuing people. Their problem now is just to find the people who may have been trapped, you know, in all the corners of these many, many places.

And also, the problem of delivering the goods, the badly needed goods, relief goods, that they are trying to deliver them. And the rain and the roads, impassable roads, plus aftershock have been hampering them. It's a very desperate, difficult task. At least the Chinese are aggressively dealing with.

HARRIS: Jaime Florcruz for us in Beijing, China. Jaime, appreciate it. Thank you.

NGUYEN: Let's get to the weather here, because I understand Jacqui Jeras is manning the severe weather center. And the folks that experienced all those storms over the weekend may get hit again. Is that the case?

JACQUI JERAS, CNN METEOROLOGIST: Yes. It's the last thing they want to hear. But yes, the threat has actually increased. They have upgraded the risk area from slight to moderate now, meaning that they are anticipating a higher risk of severe weather, including those large destructive tornadoes that stay on the ground for a very long period of time.

And yes, over here towards Neosho (ph), on to the Picher area it could be -- see more active weather.

Right now, the big focus has been along the Mississippi River and across the St. Louis metro area. We've had some good hail makers with these thunderstorms. In fact, nickel-sized hail reported in Modoc with this severe thunderstorm warning right here. That's for Randolph County, until about quarter past the hour. We could also see strong winds, excess of 60 miles per hour.

St. Louis metro area, you can see east side, still dealing with some heavy rain at this time. But looking a little bit better off to the west.

All right. Let's talk about this risk area. We really think things are going to start kicking later on this afternoon, maybe between the hours of, say, 4:00 and 8:00 p.m. when the greatest threat will be.

Notice the dark red area. That's where we had the greatest potential of seeing tornadoes. In fact, there's about a one in ten chance that a tornado is going to come within 25 miles of your house if you live in this red area.

And there you can see really focused in Kansas, southwestern Missouri, throughout much of western Arkansas. The eastern half of Oklahoma and the six bends (ph) down towards the Dallas-Ft. Worth area.

This storm system will be moving down towards the south and to the east. And we may see severe weather again tomorrow. And that focus will be eastern parts of Texas, Louisiana, into Mississippi. And about the southern two-thirds of Arkansas.

So big weather expected over the next couple of days. I'll be here through the noon hour. Meteorologist Chad Myers here all afternoon and through the night as necessary to keep you up to date on the latest of these severe storms.

NGUYEN: We'll be listening. Yes. Thank you, Jacqui.

Well, the primary spotlight is on West Virginia today. Hillary Clinton hoping voters send a resounding message her candidacy still counts. CNN's Sean Callebs following today's vote from Kana (ph) City, West Virginia.

I imagine we're going to see record turnout in this area, just as we've seen in many other states?


NGUYEN: I know. That's right. You're from there. You would know that.

HARRIS: He is from there, right.

CALLEBS: I know, I know. But it's difficult to say. And I've been telling people all morning.

NGUYEN: Kanawha. I'll practice it.

CALLEBS: You look at it, "Cana-wah." Everything.

But yes. There's -- there's a real healthy turnout so far here today. Beautiful weather conditions out here today. I think a lot of people are really focusing on the issues.

And West Virginia really hasn't had this kind of limelight in terms of the political landscape a long time. You have to look all the way back to 1960, when they had this kind of impact on a national election. That was with John F. Kennedy, when this state helped put him in the White House.

We're in the polling precinct here that actually -- four precincts rolled into one. We just stopped three random voters here. We have Claudette Patterson, Lisa Brown, Jeremy Brown. We're going to start with you, Claudette.

Ironically, all three of you are for Barack Obama. And if the polls are accurate, he's not going to do terribly well here today. What do you think about that, that the pundits have come out and said so much, that Hillary Clinton is expected to carry this state? But this could, not necessarily be her swan song, but it could be very difficult for her to keep going in the future?

CLAUDETTE PATTERSON, VOTER: Well, one thing about it is that, whether it's Hillary or Obama, I think that it is a great and historic moment because of her being female and him being black. And whether West Virginia stands up to the plate and puts Obama in. According to the -- what you're saying, that won't be so. But it's still a great movement and moment to participate in.

CALLEBS: It is nice to have a state in this kind of limelight right now.

Lisa, let me ask you, what are some of the issues you think that West Virginia is facing right now? Certainly, you have to talk about the economy when you talk about this state.

LISA BROWN, VOTER: Absolutely. And also, just the issue -- and this is an issue in every state in the country -- gas prices. You know, companies aren't able to make it, you know, with gas prices the way they are.

Education is always an issue. Also, the war. I think that's a major issue in West Virginia.

CALLEBS: People may not know it, but this state has such a high per capita of young men and women who do enter the armed forces. And people here really hold it very close to their heart. What about the war? What are people here saying?

L. BROWN: I think you get a mixed review. I mean, there are some people that -- you know, they feel strongly about it because they have family members that are serving in Iraq. And you also have people that are totally against the war. So it's kind of a mixed -- mixed population when with it comes to views on the war in Iraq here in West Virginia.

CALLEBS: Jeremy, let me ask you. We talked just a bit ago. What do you think about all the attention that the race is getting here today? And the fact that so many are saying, no matter what Senator Clinton does, she's not going to be able to go forward terribly long?

JEREMY BROWN, VOTER: I'm not sure. Perhaps she's trying to use this state as some sort of a tool to maybe vie for the vice presidency spot, to vie for another spot in a future administration if Obama goes on to win the presidency.

Or perhaps she's using this just as a tool to further her argument with the super delegates. That's kind of my thoughts on it.

CALLEBS: Right. You voted already? All three of you.

J. BROWN: Yes.

CALLEBS: Thanks a lot for joining us here this morning.

L. BROWN: Thank you.

CALLEBS: We appreciate it.

One thing about this state is its demographic changed somewhat significantly over the past 20 years. Very liberal voting state in the '70s and '80s, but as its population continues to get a bit older, we've seen it become more conservative.

Even though Democratic voters, Betty, outnumber Republican voters and registration about two to one, McCain's camp is conceding nothing. Because if you look back at 2000, 2004, George Bush carried the state in those years -- Betty.

NGUYEN: Right. We'll see what history does this time around. All right. Sean Callebs joining us live. Thank you, Sean.

So if you are a political junky, is the place for you. Check out our interactive delegate counter game, where you can play real-time "What If" scenarios with delegates and super delegates. Go to

HARRIS: Helpless victims. Myanmar's children at the center of the storm, left waiting for help from anyone.


NGUYEN: Hello, everybody. You are in the CNN NEWSROOM. I'm Betty Nguyen.

High gas prices. Does the U.S. need to keep pumping up its oil reserves when it's so hard for you to fuel your car? Congress at odds with the president and voting today.


HARRIS: Authorities in Myanmar now say more than 30,000 people were killed in last week's cyclone. It's estimated that nearly 10,000 of the dead are children.

CNN normally doesn't show images of children who have died, but for this report, a warning: we are making an exception. And the images are very disturbing, but they show what the surviving children are going through.

Those children, some suddenly orphaned, are fighting to find clean water and food and shelter. And as CNN's Dan Rivers reports, they may also suffer psychologically for years to come after seeing the bodies of so many friends and family members. (BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

DAN RIVERS, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): They lie as if asleep, their young voices silent, their bodies untended. Children by the thousands have perished in Cyclone Nargis's indiscriminate furry.

Many of those who survived probably can't understand why there's no clean water, no food, why their parents aren't alive. A generation blighted by tragedy. The aid agency Save the Children estimates up to 40 percent of the dead and missing children. And UNICEF says disease could take even more.

RICHARD BRIDLE, UNICEF: Children are going to be more at risk of malnutrition, diarrhea, Dengue Fever, malaria, and other diseases than will adults.

RIVERS: Some aid agencies, including World Vision, are setting up special child-friendly spaces so they can help children cope physically and mentally.

This girl says simply, "Thank you," to the donors, but she says they need more help.

The situation is also tough on parents who have left their children to come to neighboring Thailand to work. This man is lucky. He says he's heard from his wife in Myanmar and says she and their 3- year-old son are alive. But the little boy has severe cuts that now have become infected. His feelings about the lack of medicine are clear.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Angry. Very much angry.

RIVERS: He doesn't want to be named, because he's deserted the army but is frustrated more isn't being done to help children like his.

He says, "We don't have enough assistance from the government. We don't have any other help from outside. Right now there is a lot of disease, diarrhea. They should give assistance to the people who really need it."

(on-camera): Myanmar's lost children are foremost in the thoughts of exiles here in Thailand: men and women who have come here to earn money, who are now desperate for news of their kids.

(voice-over): And after the immediate emergency, it may be months or years before the surviving children are back to any semblance of normality.

SAMSON JEYAKUMAR, WORLD VISION: What will happen to them? That's going to leave a scar on their lives. In fact, it could even alter -- alter their personality over time. They may change from who they are to -- to a different way of being. And the ability of the people may change, and the orientation towards God and religion could possibly change. RIVERS: The children of Cyclone Nargis, their eyes have seen death in all its terrible hues. Vivid memories that may well haunt them forever.

Dan Rivers, CNN, Bangkok.


HARRIS: At we have a special page on the devastation in Myanmar, complete with the links to aid agencies that are organizing help right now for the region's children. It is a chance for you to impact your world.


NGUYEN: Hello, everybody. You are in the CNN NEWSROOM. I'm Betty Nguyen. So are you feeling the pinch? A tough economy puts the squeeze on some but not all small businesses.


HARRIS: What do you say we get everyone to the New York Stock Exchange now, Betty, for a look at big board, inside the first hour of the trading day?

Now, this is a bit confusing. You know, the NASDAQ and S&P futures indicated we might get a nice little positive start. Maybe we did right at the open. But we're down, as you can see: 28, 29, 30 points now. The NASDAQ is basically flat.

So what's going on here? I think there's some new figures out on home prices. Not good. Maybe that's part of what's going on here. We'll get a market check with Susan Lisovicz coming up in just minutes right here in the NEWSROOM.

NGUYEN: Well, Tony, here's something that is not down today. Another record high, in fact, for gas prices. The sixth day in a row, folks.

AAA puts the national average for a gallon of regular at a little more than $3.73 this morning. That is up more than a penny from yesterday.

Oil is still trading well above $120 a barrel. And Congress wants to do something about it. Voting today on a measure to stop the shipment of 70,000 barrels -- barrels of oil a day to the nation's Strategic Petroleum Reserve.

President Bush has refused to do that. He says it would do little to bring down the prices at the pump. And for security reasons, he wants to keep the emergency reserve at full capacity.

Well, Nissan is moving full-speed ahead with plans to make a totally electric car. Nissan plans to introduce the car in the U.S. and Japan by 2010 and market it worldwide two years later. Now, it would be powered by lithium batteries. And Nissan says the car would be able to go farther than previous electric models before needing a recharge.

HARRIS: That's what I'm talking about.

And economic slowdown can mean different things to different people. CNN's John Zarrella takes a look.


JOHN ZARRELLA, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): For four years, John Fedoruk has watched his business go up in smoke. That's good when you run Three J's (ph) cigar shop in Davy, Florida.

JOHN FEDORUK, SMALL BUSINESS OWNER: Six and seven-eights by 48. Give me couple of those.

ZARRELLA: But now Fedoruk finds himself searching for new ways to bring in business.

FEDORUK: Have to get somebody to go out to the golf courses and hand out a free cigar with my business cards.

ZARRELLA: Fedoruk says business is off 10 percent. Smokers say their cigar money now goes into their gas tank.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I was smoking about two a day. But in the last month, I've cut back to, like, one a day because of gas prices.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: So I find myself now trying to smoke a less expensive cigar.

ZARRELLA: The smokers say they're eating out less, too. Many restaurants are suffering. But at Anthony's Coal-Fired Pizza, people are loosening their belts, not tightening them.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You can't give up the good food.

ZARRELLA: In a tough economy people are still going to eat out, says owner Anthony Bruno.

ANTHONY BRUNO, RESTAURANT OWNER: I think they just care about their dollar a little bit more. They'll still spend it. As long as they're getting something and they can count on it.

ZARRELLA: Bruno's costs have gone up. Flour doubled in price. But Bruno says business is up 25 percent at this gourmet pizza, chicken wings and salad restaurant. And the poor economy actually helped the company's expansion plans.

BRUNO: We can get a little better deals, a little better locations. A little less money.

ZARRELLA: It's a concept that Bruno says just caught fire, sort of like the pizzas.

John Zarrella, CNN, Ft. Lauderdale.


HARRIS: Let's drive you to "ISSUE #1." Keep watching CNN. Our money team has you covered on the issues impacting you and so many now: debts, savings, price...

NGUYEN: Mortgage meltdown.

HARRIS: Mortgage meltdown, credit crunch. "ISSUE #1," the economy it is a special report. Join us today at noon Eastern, only on CNN.

HARRIS: How about that? we landed squarely on the bottom of the hour. Welcome back, everyone, to the CNN newsroom.

NGUYEN: Hello everybody on this Tuesday, I'm Betty Nguyen.

Among our top stories this morning, Florida firefighters stretched to the limit -- 82 wildfires burning in that state right now and you can take a look at it here -- 16,000 acres already scorched. The biggest of those wildfires is in Palm Bay. That is just southeast of Orlando. Investigators say the Palm Bay fire may have been intentionally set. Here is what we can tell you about the situation there: So far, the fire has scorched 3,500 acres that's about 5.5 square miles and crews estimate about 70 homes have been damaged. There are three firefighters injured.

HARRIS: You know, they consider themselves Clinton women, but who could they identify with if their candidate is no longer around?


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I'm really in a dilemma. I can't believe that I would vote Republican.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Would either probably not vote or vote for McCain.


HARRIS: Possibly, tough choices come November.


NGUYEN: Pat Tillman, killed by friendly fire. Conflicting stories from the U.S. military. But now his family is sharing their story. Pat's mother, Mary Tillman, talks live about her son and her search for the truth.

HARRIS: The China earthquake. The numbers, absolutely -- well we've been saying it for the last couple of days now. Staggering, the scale of a destruction still coming to life. Here's what we know right now. The death toll continues to jump at this hour, more than 12,000, according to official Chinese media. By all accounts it's certain to climb. At least 50 bodies have been pulled from the rubble of a middle school. More than 800 other students are believed buried there. China's official news agency reports more than 18,000 people are trapped in just one city alone. But there is no way of knowing how many people are buried in the ruins of homes, schools, and businesses. Massive relief efforts are under way. Tens of thousands of troops have fanned out across central China near the epicenter. China says it welcomes international aid but international relief workers will not be allowed into the hardest hit areas, at least for now.

NGUYEN: West Virginians taking their turn at the polls right now. Hillary Clinton hoping those voters will help a candidacy on the ropes. Complete results tonight at CNN. Starting at 7:00 Eastern. Meantime though, feeling the love for their candidate, but could another turn their heads?

CNN's Erica Hill sits down with Hillary Clinton supporters.


ERICA HILL, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The mother of all campaigns could come down to women. And on Mother's Day, Hillary Clinton invoked one of the strongest women in the nation's history.

SEN. HILLARY RODHAM CLINTON (D-NY), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: One of my favorite sayings of Eleanor Roosevelt is especially appropriate for Mother's Day. "A woman is like a tea bag. You never know how strong she is until she is in hot water."

HILL: That water is boiling and so are many of Senator Clinton's staunchest backers. We gathered a panel of six New Yorkers, ranging in age from 21 to 80. All Hillary supporters.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I think Hillary is a candidate of our lifetime. I have never had a candidate in any capacity that embraced all the things that I believe in for our party, for our country.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I really, before I die, would like to see a woman in the White House. And if not now, when? And if not Hillary, who?

HILL: But what if Hillary isn't the nominee? In Indiana, nearly half of Clinton's backers said they wouldn't go for Obama. Nationwide, 28 percent said they would vote for McCain.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Women make up over half the voters in the election. Any of the candidates is going to have to work to appeal to them. Women's issues across the board are going to be big, particularly things like health care and security, the war in Iraq.

HILL (on-camera): Just by a show of hands, how many of you ladies would vote for Barack Obama if, in fact, he was the nominee? Georgianna (ph), you're not quite sure. Are you a maybe?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I would vote for the Democratic nominee, whomever that person is.

HILL (voice-over): If only it were that easy for Barack Obama. He needs these women. And many more to win. But getting their support isn't a given.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I'm really in a dilemma. I can't believe that I would vote Republican.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Would either probably not vote or vote for McCain.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I think there are a lot of people out there that are more enthralled by the idea of Barack Obama than they actually are by the ideas of Barack Obama.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I think for him to win over that bloc, he's got to show a lot more substance.

HILL: But for these women it isn't about what Obama might do to get their vote. They have their candidate. And their focus is simple.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I'm an old football fan and football teams go in to win and I believe that she's qualified and is ready to lead.

HILL: A message Hillary Clinton has heard loud and clear.

CLINTON: My favorite message was from a woman named Angela. Keep strong, she says. It is not over until the lady in the pant suit says it is.

HILL: Erica Hill, CNN, New York.


NGUYEN: So, new strategy, Barack Obama putting Hillary Clinton in his rearview mirror. Looking ahead to November. That's ahead in the CNN NEWSROOM.

HARRIS: Positioning himself as a candidate of change on climate change. John McCain distanced himself from President Bush.

Here's CNN's Dana Bash.


DANA BASH, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Republican candidates don't often come to the Pacific Northwest to decry the effects of global warming. Precisely the reason John McCain did.

SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R-AZ), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: We need to deal with the central facts of rising temperatures, rising waters, and all the endless troubles that global warming will bring.

BASH: He rebuked President Bush whose administration has been skeptical of science showing global warming.

MCCAIN: I will not shirk, the mantle of leadership that the United States bears. I will not permit eight long years to pass without serious action on serious challenges. BASH: McCain promised to abandon what he called dead-end diplomacy to push for a new global treaty. To reduce greenhouse gases, he proposes a cap and trade solution which caps gas emissions but allows companies to trade emission credits.

MCCAIN: As never before, the market would reward any person or company that seeks to invent, improve, or acquire alternatives to carbon-based energy.

BASH: Portraying himself as a rare species of green Republicans is a regular part of McCain's stump speeches.

MCCAIN: ANWR I believe is a pristine place. I don't want to drill in the Grand Canyon and I don't want to drill in the Everglades.

BASH: But coming to Oregon to highlight his environmental proposals is all about the fight with Barack Obama for independent voters. In 2004, one-third of Oregon voters were independent. Among the highest of the battleground states. It's why McCain is using one of his most precious resources -- campaign cash, for this new TV ad here.


MCCAIN: I believe that climate change is real. It's not just a greenhouse gas issue. It's a national security issue.


BASH (on-camera): Democrats and several left leaning environmental groups blasted McCain for what they call hypocrisy. Putting out for example that he praised renewable energy here at this wind power plant, but voted against tax credits to promote research. The McCain campaign insists that legislation and others like it collided with another priority which is to cut excess spending.

Dana Bash, CNN, Portland, Oregon.


HARRIS: Find more on the candidates at is your source for everything political.

NGUYEN: Listen to this story -- her wheelchair stuck on the train track and here comes that train. But, someone else is there to save her too.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Thank you again and again.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Oh, no problem. I'm just glad to help.


NGUYEN: Oh, that's a great story, saved by a whisker in the NEWSROOM.


NGUYEN: Well, we do have new information just in to CNN. We've learned that aid getting into China from the U.S. Let's take you to our Zain Verjee who is at the State Department with the latest on this.

Hey there, Zain.


This just coming in to CNN moments ago. I just spoke to Ky Luu, the director of the Office of Foreign Disaster Assistance at USAID. And he tells CNN that the U.S. has offered humanitarian aid to China and China has accepted. What the U.S. is going to do Betty, is this: They are going to make an initial contribution of $500,000. Now, that's just initial. That money is going to be going to the International Federation of the Red Cross as part of their appeal.

The U.S. though, is saying that they are prepared to do more if China asks. I also asked about the search and rescue team that the U.S. could put on standby to help and so far, there's been no request by China for that -- Betty.

NGUYEN: And I'm sure part of that has to do with the fact a lot of these roads are blocked and there's really no way to get into some of the hardest hit areas especially around the epicenter, and maybe we will hear as time goes by, that they will start allowing relief workers in.

What were you going to say, Zain?

VERJEE: The reason for that is the USAID is saying that in a situation like this, you only have a 72-hour window to be really effective. They say that China has their own teams, their own systems on the ground that are actually really effective and they do have a good capacity to deal with this and they don't want to put boots on the ground and interfere with China's own abilities especially as a time is running out. So the U.S. says their best bet is to help the regional partners already on the ground.

NGUYEN: Makes good sense. All right, Zain Verjee joining us live from the State Department. Thank you, Zain.

HARRIS: Hey, Betty, just to give you additional information on one of our top stories this morning. The Florida wildfires right now, so far 82 of those wildfires burning in that state -- 16,000 acres already scorched, 3500 acres, that's about 5.5 square miles. The numbers starting to running together here just a little bit, about 70 homes have been damaged.

We've just received word that a 34-mile stretch, if you can imagine this -- a 34-mile stretch of I-95 has been closed because of the wildfires. And let me see if I can sort out the points here that we're talking about. This is in -- okay. I-95 from U.S. 192, in southern Brevard County, mile marker 181, south to state -- route 60. That's in Indian River County, mile marker 147 -- just closed down now because of the flames.

It seems that the wildfires have been close to the median in this particular area, and the visibility is very poor. So a 34-mile stretch of I-95 closed down right now I understand. Eric, is this correct? The news conference at the top of the hour. OK, we will bring it to you here in the newsroom.


NGUYEN: Witness to disaster. We are going to talk to an American who felt the terrible might of China's earthquake on the rim of the epicenter -- his story and his words, in the NEWSROOM.

At the top of the hour, we are waiting for a news conference out of Florida regarding those wildfires. You are looking at the microphones right now. So far, we understand 82 wildfires are burning. Some 16,000 acres charred. Some 70 homes damaged. And on top of all of that, a 34-mile stretch of I-95 is closed. So they have a lot of problems on their hands. And we're going to get the latest on the wildfires in Florida -- just as soon as someone comes to that microphone and we'll bring it to you live.

HARRIS: You know, it's a bang-bang play and it doesn't happen often. Toronto Blue Jays at bat, two runners going on the pitch -- the manager trying to get something going here. You're going to see a sinking line drive, stabbed by the second baseman there for the Cleveland Indians, and what does he do here? He touches second base to force one runner and then he tags out another runner. And there you go. What you have here, it is the 14th unassisted triple play in Major League Baseball history. Hey now.

NGUYEN: Well, there is no time to waste. A passerby, listen to this, watches as an elderly woman falls from her wheelchair onto railroad tracks. And a train is headed straight for her.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: She was laying right about here. So I come running up. I grab her underneath the arms and I kind of take her back a couple steps. And the train's about to hit the wheelchair right now so I turn around because I didn't want to get hit by debris.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: He put him there so that he could take me off of the railroad tracks.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Police say the train traveling 40 miles per hour missed the elderly woman and the good samaritan by just three feet. Hard to believe it, looking at the pictures you can see the wheelchair was just crushed.


HARRIS: All right, time now to take a look at some of the most clicked on videos at I would imagine that story would be one of the most clicked on.

NGUYEN: You would think, yes.

HARRIS: Too skimpy for the prom. Where is the rest of that ensemble? A Houston senior only got as far as the lobby before she was escorted out and told her dress violated every school code imaginable.


HARRIS: Wildfires still raging in Florida. Check out this look from above as helicopters captured the planes near Orlando. And in Oklahoma, one couple says their bathtub saved them from this weekend's tornado. Man, look at these pictures. For more of your favorite video, go to And of course, don't forget you can take us with you anywhere on your iPod with the CNN daily NEWSROOM podcast. The CNN NEWSROOM podcast available to you 24/7, right there on your iPod.

NGUYEN: The power of nature -- a violent, shaking, pure fear etched on their faces -- the China quake in the NEWSROOM.


HARRIS: And good morning again, everyone. You're informed with CNN, I'm Tony Harris.

NGUYEN: Yes good morning everybody, I'm Betty Nguyen.

HARRIS: Developments keep coming into the CNN NEWSROOM on this Tuesday morning, May 13. Here's what's on the rundown.

NGUYEN: The awesome power of China's earthquake on tape -- look at that. The violence shaking leaves thousands dead or trapped. And just moments ago, the U.S. announces a cash donation.

HARRIS: Flames in Florida, winds are slowing today. Firefighters hope to speed up progress.