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U.S. Motorists Hit Brakes in March; John McCain Expected to Turn Attention to Nuclear Security

Aired May 27, 2008 - 10:00   ET


TONY HARRIS, CNN ANCHOR: Boy, your money, your concerns. New numbers are out this morning and they're giving us a better snapshot of the economy. Here's what we know. There are ugly new numbers on how much your home is worth. Just last hour, we learned that U.S. home prices fell a record 14.1 percent in the first quarter of this year. At any moment, we'll get another measure of your largest investment. The federal government releases numbers on new home sales. Also this hour, how do you feel about the economy? Consumer confidence predicts whether you will spend or save. The health of the economy may be riding on your answer.
Meanwhile, U.S. motorists hit the brakes in March, and then some. The government says Americans cut back their driving at the steepest levels ever recorded. The reason, ever-climbing gas prices. Today's national average, almost $3.94 a gallon. That is the 20th straight day of new records.

And CNN personal finance editor Gerri Willis will be joining us in a couple of minutes to talk about these numbers.

HEIDI COLLINS, CNN ANCHOR: Meanwhile, though, a major stress this morning in China's earthquake zone. Tens of thousands of people are being evacuated right now because of the potential for massive flooding. CNN's Hugh Riminton reports from Mianyang, China.


HUGH RIMINTON, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Behind me flows the Fu River that goes through the heart of the city of Mianyang, a city some five million plus people. Down here ultimately will come the water that is flowing down will potentially flow down if there is any breach of this largest of the 30-odd quake lakes that have developed since the earthquakes on May the 12th. How large is this lake? To give you some idea, the engineers on the scene say the water has amassed now to the depth of half a mile, more than 725 meters. It is continuing to rise. As it rises, the weight of that water builds up pressure behind the landslide that is holding it back. Now, they're trying to avoid a catastrophic collapse, of course. Engineers on the scene, plus soldiers are trying to dig a spillway to ease some of the pressure. They've also laid in ten on tons of explosions with the mind to making a controlled explosion to try to have a controlled release of the water.

As a final contingency, there's even talk of aerial bombing to try to release some of the water, but not all of it. Now, if this doesn't go to plan, they've ordered the immediate evacuation of 150,000 people downstream. In the worst-case scenario, if the entire dam front was to break, they say 1.3 million people would be directly affected. There would be an immediate need to the evacuation of all those people. And in the last few hours, just a further reminder of just how unstable all of this, two major aftershocks, one 5.4, the other, 5.7 magnitude. And that will put fresh anxiety into the minds of the people trying to control this new threat in this earthquake zone. Hugh Riminton, CNN, Mianyang, China.


COLLINS: You can help at We have a special page on the devastation in China and also in Myanmar, plus links to aid agencies that are organizing help for the region. Here's a chance for you to impact your world.

HARRIS: The presidential campaign shifts to the west, fresh from a weekend swing in Puerto Rico, Hillary Clinton is in Montana. That state's primary, one week from today. Barack Obama talking about the mortgage crisis in Nevada. Obama marked Memorial Day with veterans in New Mexico. John McCain is criticizing Obama for not having been to Iraq lately. He tells the Associated Press, they should visit the war zone together. Today John McCain will get some help from the man he wants to replace. President Bush appears at a McCain fund-raiser in Arizona.

And two hours from now, John McCain is expected to turn his attention to nuclear security and a speech in Denver. We will have that live at noon Eastern. McCain and Obama both courted veterans over Memorial Day. CNN's Mary Snow has more. And Mary, good morning to you.


MARY SNOW, CNN, CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): John McCain marked Memorial Day with fellow veterans in Albuquerque. He responded to criticism from Democrats, particularly Senator Barack Obama for opposing a G.I. bill that would extend education benefits to veterans. He didn't mention Obama by name, but he did refer to fellow veteran Senator Jim Webb who introduced the bill.

SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: It would be easier, much easier politically, for me to have joined Senator Webb in offering his legislation.

SNOW: The bill applies to people who have three years of service. McCain says he's concerned it would encourage people to leave the military after one enlistment. He wants the benefits tied to length of service, pointing out the country is fighting two wars.

MCCAIN: One study estimates that Senator Webb's bill will reduce retention rates by 16 percent.

SNOW: But others, including Obama, say it would encourage enlistment in the long run. In Las Cruzes, New Mexico, Obama paid tribute to vets. He did not mention McCain by name, but stressed the need for the bill. SEN. BARACK OBAMA (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Making sure that the G.I. bill for a 21st century is passed. And although George Bush has threatened to veto it, our intention is to override that veto.

SNOW: But ever since the Senate passed the bill Thursday, Obama has taken aim at McCain for opposing it.

OBAMA: Putting a college degree within reach for our veterans isn't being too generous. It's the least we can do for our heroes.

SNOW: And the argument has turned personal, with McCain highlighting his military service.

MCCAIN: I take a backseat to no one. My affection, respect, and devotion to veterans. I grew up in the Navy.

SNOW: McCain last week took aim at Obama, saying he didn't need to be lectured by someone who chose not to serve in the military. A charge, Obama says, made no sense. And Obama has made his case personal, reminding people his grandfather served in World War II.

OBAMA: We should make sure that today's veterans get the same benefit that my grandfather got when he came back from World War II.


HARRIS: Mary Snow joins us live from Denver where Senator McCain is set to speak in just a couple of hours. Mary, good to see you. This is interesting. John McCain seemingly picking up on something we heard over the weekend from Senator Lindsey Graham, inviting Senator Obama to Iraq.

SNOW: Yes. You know, Tony, that was the first time this idea was floated. And Lindsey Graham, as you mentioned, had mentioned over the weekend, but also pointing out, saying that Senator Obama had not been to Iraq since 2006 and he thought that he should go to Iraq with John McCain to see the fact that he claims that progress is being made. This because, of course, Senator McCain opposes withdrawing troops from Iraq right now. And in terms of -- we heard this yesterday from John McCain in an A.P. article, in an interview, saying that you know, he'd be open to this idea. We're expecting to ask him about this and get more later on today.

But as far as the Obama camp goes, yesterday it was asked for a response. And it said, it felt that Memorial Day should be about the nation's veterans, not political posturing, in their words. So that's the response we've gotten so far from the Obama camp, but we're certain to hear more about this idea.

HARRIS: Well, Mary, very quickly, what are you hearing about today's Denver speech?

SNOW: Today's Denver speech, Senator McCain, is going to be focusing on nuclear arms, what the United States should do. Of course, we expect to hear him talk more about North Korea and Iran. And this, Tony, as he has been trying to distance himself a bit from President Bush and his policies. But, of course, as we know, President Bush is going to be out in Arizona later today fund-raising for Senator McCain. It's the first time we've seen them together in about two months. Since we saw John McCain at the White House right after he became the presumptive Republican nominee.

HARRIS: That's right. All right, Mary Snow in Denver. The speech at noon Eastern time. And we'll have it for you right here in the NEWSROOM. Mary, good to see you. Thank you.

And interest in potential vice presidential candidates certainly heating up. You can find out more about them as well as information on the presidential candidates at Your source for everything political.

COLLINS: Back to our top story, now. Your money. Your home is probably your greatest investment and in this economy, it may also be your greatest concern. Here to break down the new numbers this morning, CNN's personal finance editor, Gerri Willis. Gerri, nice to see you.

GERRI WILLIS, PERSONAL FINANCE EDITOR: Heidi, great to see you. You know, we've got some big numbers in from the Commerce Department just this morning. New home sales increasing, unexpectedly. That's the first time in six months we've seen an improvement. But sales remain near their lowest level in 17 years. Here are the numbers. Sales of new homes in April up 3.3 percent and in April to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 526,000 units, that is. This, of course, is very good news for the housing industry and a big surprise to Wall Street and others. There are other news out on the housing front today. This from SNPK Schiller. They have their national home price index. This isn't sales. It's down a record 14 percent in the first quarter of 2008, and that is the largest drop in the 20-year history of the index as prices here lagging sales, as you can see.

Last week the National Association of Realtors also had some bad news. A lot of inventory out there on the market. It was up 10 percent in April. So as you can see, we're still waiting for that housing market, looking for the bottom, trying to find the bottom. But this is good news. We'll have to wait and see whether we can, you know, pile on a couple more months of this to see if there's a turnaround.

COLLINS: Yes. At least a couple more months. Maybe even in bigger chunks. That would be nice. In fact, do these numbers say anything about when we will see a turnaround. Am I too early in asking that question?

WILLIS: Well, you know, it depends on who you talk to. A lot of folks out there say they think the turnaround will come by the end of this year. More folks say, possibly, next year. It's going to take a long time for this market to turnaround. As you know, we have widespread price declines across the country in many markets. And just to point out from that Case Schiller report of today, prices in a couple of markets, Vegas, was the worst loser, down 26 percent.

COLLINS: Good lord. WILLIS: Miami down 25 percent. But at least some ray of sunshine there from the Commerce Department this morning.

COLLINS: Yes. Hey, if you want to build a casino or something, maybe now's the time to do it in Vegas. Or maybe buy one.

WILLIS: Well, I don't know about that, Heidi. Welcome back. Good to see you.

COLLINS: Thank you. Thank you. I'm trying to find the silver lining, you know. Thanks, Gerri.

WILLIS: My pleasure.

HARRIS: A clean up today in the heart of tornado alley. Severe storms packing tornadoes and hail hit Kansas last night, but there are no early reports, fortunately, of damage or injuries. And it's official. The National Weather Service confirms it was a tornado that struck the town of Hugo, Minnesota, over the weekend, killing a 2- year-old boy. The agency says the storm had winds up to 165 miles an hour.

In Iowa, officials say Sunday's tornado stretched 43 miles long through the northeastern part of the state. At least six people were killed in the town of Parkersburg. Some 600 homes destroyed or damaged. That's about half of the homes in that town.

COLLINS: Wow. It's unbelievable. We keep seeing video like this. Jacqui Jeras is joining us now with more on all of the weather across the country today. Where we starting out, Jacqui?

JACQUI JERAS, CNN METEOROLOGIST: Well, I'm starting out on a different topic. We've talked a lot about tornadoes and the number of deaths and how high we've been for deaths and number of tornadoes all year long, but typically in a year, more people will die from rip currents. And unfortunately, we had two deaths yesterday on Florida beaches because of rip currents. So we brought you a picture to show you what's going on in the Miami area right now. Just a light shower pushing through. The rest of the state is dry. And we do anticipate a high risk of more rip currents today. So if you're trying to extend that holiday weekend or you know, it's the unofficial start of summer, a lot of people taking vacations to Florida. It's really something you have to pay very close attention to.

In fact, in Daytona Beach yesterday, there were more than 100 rescues which took place. So that's a lot of people being impacted here. High pressure controlling here. That brings in some very strong easterly winds. And when those winds move perpendicular to the coast like that, it pushes the waves. And then they start to break away and they develop these currents that push away from the shoreline. And so a rip current is a very fast-moving channel of water. And they're really, really tough to get out of. In fact, even an Olympic swimmer may not be able to escape a rip current. They say if you do get caught in one, make sure that you try to swim parallel to the shore and you might be able to get out of it, and then swim back towards the beach. So be aware of that risk today. Probably is going to be sticking around through tomorrow as well.

Now, on to the severe weather, we're expecting to see showers and thunderstorms which could reach severe levels. We think this afternoon from Texas through Oklahoma and Arkansas and western parts of Tennessee. And we have a secondary area of severe weather we're anticipating this afternoon, sometime after the noon hour along the coastal areas here into the northeast. We think damaging winds will be the primary threat there. However, we have already seen some rain showers that have developed across the northeast. They've been really, really light so far. The strong stuff will come in later this afternoon.

And as for the plain states, look at that bow echo which has developed and pushed out of Oklahoma into parts of Arkansas and Little Rock is going to be getting hit with some really strong storms here as well. Flooding, pretty widespread across this area now. Two to five inches has already dumped out. And we could see another one to three on top of that. Heidi and Tony.

COLLINS: Boy, all right. We'll keep our eye on that one. Thanks so much Jacqui.

Wounded in Iraq -


SGT. MARY DAGUE: I'm laying there and I start to hear this woman screaming as the gonging sound is going away. She just keeps screaming and screaming. And then I slowly realize that it's me. I couldn't feel myself screaming.


COLLINS: A bomb destroyed her arms, but not her life. Thanks to help from her husband. I'll tell you about their journey coming up in the NEWSROOM.


HARRIS: And good morning, again, everyone. You're in the CNN NEWSROOM. I'm Tony Harris. A wedding photographer at work then China's quake hit. Happily ever after. Well, that's on hold in the NEWSROOM.


COLLINS: Quickly we want to get you an update on the situation in China now. Beijing, China, to be particular. Associated Press is now reporting aftershocks there that we've been talking about for a couple of days now have actually caused 420,000 homes to collapse. Again, that's just the aftershocks. Again, the Associated Press reporting 420,000 homes have collapsed due to aftershocks in China. We'll stay on top of that one for you, as other evacuations are going on as you might imagine.

HARRIS: And Heidi, this next story is a story that our sister network CNN International has been following closely. I want to bring you up to speed on it here, because there are some developments worth reporting.

A Dutch shipping company in negotiations with Somali pirates - that's what they are - and there seem to be some developments here for the release of crew members. Our David Mackenzie is on the line with us with the latest developments on this story. There he is in person. All right. David, what's the latest on this story?

DAVID MACKENZIE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, the latest, Tony, is that that Dutch shipping company, the Reider Company, which had that freighter attacked by pirates, nine of their crew members were taken hostage. That carrier was carrying a decommissioned oil rig. Now, they have said to CNN International that in fact they are negotiating with those pirates. Now that nine of those crew members are safe, but it's going to be a tense negotiation. Last year, Tony, millions of dollars were given to these pirates that are running rampant off the coast of Somalia. Back to you.

HARRIS: And David, when we talk about negotiations, are we talking about a situation here where this might end up being resolved with the payment of a ransom?

MACKENZIE: Well, that's right, Tony. This will be resolved, if it's resolved at all, by paying a ransom. Those companies like the Reider Company are very - they don't want to give the details of those ransoms. Last year, though, they said millions of dollars of ransom was paid to them. I'm here at a U.S naval base that is part of an operation that's trying to stop these pirates. The Somalia border is a few miles that way. And in fact, they're losing that battle, I have to say right now, unless they get more resources and legal means to take those pirates in territorial waters.

HARRIS: And that's a key point, David, because we know that the United States and France are working on a draft U.N. resolution that will allow countries to actually chase and arrest these pirates. That's something that we will continue to follow. CNN's David Mackenzie for us this morning. David, appreciate it. Thank you.

COLLINS: Rolling through a swing state. That's Bill Schneider. He always plays music like that. Who would have thought? You wouldn't want to miss Bill Schneider aboard the CNN "Election Express."


COLLINS: A husband and wife in the war zone in Iraq. Their new life changed forever by a bomb. CNN's Pentagon correspondent Barbara Starr is here now with their heartbreaking and yet inspirational story, Barbara?

BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Heidi, you know, we're coming up on the month of June, the month for weddings and brides. Meet a military bride you may not soon forget.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) STARR (voice-over): 23-year-old Sergeant Mary Dague married her army sweetheart, 22-year-old Specialist Jared Tillery in a Justice of the Peace ceremony in 2006, just before they both deployed to Baghdad. Life changed last November.

SGT. MARY DAGUE, WOUNDED VETERAN: I heard this huge gong sound. Everything goes black, and I remember hitting something. It was a humvee. And I am laying there, and I start to hear this woman screaming as the gonging sound is going away. She just keeps screaming and screaming. And then I slowly realize that it's me. I couldn't feel myself screaming.

STARR: A bomb destroyed Mary's arms.

SPC. JARED TILLERY, HUSBAND OF WOUNDED VETERAN: I didn't know how to feel. I didn't know whether to cry or -- part of me is, you know, scared to death because she got hurt and the other part is happy she's still alive. You know, at that point, all I want to do is just get to her and see her and everything.

STARR: Within hours, Mary was airlifted out of Iraq, Jared at her side. Jared now takes care of everything for Mary. There have been many low times.

DAGUE: I had this breakdown where I was like, why me? And I started screaming and crying and I hated it. I hated everything.

TILLERY: It's kind of hard to think sometimes that I am 22. I feel like I should be older in a way.

STARR: They still both grieve for Jesse, Jared's 19-year-old brother killed in Iraq just before Mary was injured.

TILLERY: I mean, it was less than a year from my little brother and everything. Yes, it was just all too much.

STARR: The couple is now planning a formal wedding. Mary is trying to find a dress that will make her feel beautiful.

DAGUE: I like just checking out different things, like, you know, would a prosthetic look good in this or should I go without my prosthesis. I found one that I adore. You know, it's the whole back is just baby blue and it's in kind of a corset kind of fashion and it flows down in this big baby blue train. The front is white with just a baby blue, you know, front on the top. It's - you know it was like my perfect wedding dress. I saw it and I am like, oh, god, I wish I would look good in that.


STARR: Heidi, perhaps worth reminding everyone, when you look at this young married couple, they are 22 and 23 years old and Mary says when she gets better. Yes, she still hopes to stay in the Army and continue to serve.

COLLINS: Boy. It is just amazing and it's so fantastic to see that she has that support by her side too. I know that you visited Brooke Army Medical Center. It's really a spectacular facility. I wonder, is she going to spend some time at the center for the intrepid too where they do all the rehabilitation for - in this case?

STARR: Well, in fact, that's where we met her. We conducted this interview actually at the Center for the Intrepid where they have set up an apartment, a fully furnished apartment with a living room, a kitchen, and a bedroom, and they bring in the wounded there and conduct rehabilitation there so they can see how to move around an apartment or a home that they might live in and regain those skills of daily living. What the wounded continue to tell us, as they have now for so many years, they want their lives back. They want to be able to function for themselves as much as they can. And the Center for the Intrepid is an amazing place that's trying to make that happen. Heidi.

COLLINS: Yes, there's no question about it. It is truly an amazing facility for some amazing people, obviously, too. Thanks so much, CNN's Pentagon correspondent, Barbara Starr. Thanks, Barbara.

STARR: Sure.

COLLINS: The church crumbles during a quake. Wedding parties running for their lives. The scene captured by the wedding photographer.


COLLINS: Lease losers. Drivers finding a way out. Someone to sublet their SUVs. Have you heard of this?

A story coming up about ten minutes from now, right here in the CNN NEWSROOM.

Good morning once again, everybody. I'm Heidi Collins.

You're in the CNN NEWSROOM.

HARRIS: And good morning, I'm Tony Harris.

New this morning from Myanmar, military rulers ignore international appeals and extend the detention of a major opposition leader. The editor of an exiled newspaper tells CNN the house arrest of Aung San Suu Kyi, has been extended for another six months. She's already been confined to her house for the past 12 years. Suu Kyi, has become the face of Myanmar's pro-democracy movement.

Meanwhile, more aid for victims of that deadly cyclone. International aid workers were finally allowed into the delta region today. They've been blocked for more than three weeks by the country's military leaders.

COLLINS: A major new threat this morning in China's earthquake zone. Emergency workers are rushing to evacuate tens of thousands of people right now because of the potential for massive flooding.

Landslides after the quake created so-called quake lakes.

Our Hugh Remington is telling us now, the water behind the landslides is about a half mile deep. Officials fear it could break through the unstable rock bar barrier and send that water downstream. Emergency crews are trying to carve channel to drain the water. They hope to finish the evacuations in the next three hours or so.

Meanwhile, capturing the quake. A wedding photographer clicks away as everything around him crumbles.

CNN's Kyung Lah has the story from southwestern China.


KYUNG LAH, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Frozen in time. The moment the quake struck. A bride in her wedding dress, her church in ruins. Young couples who had all scheduled wedding photos taken months before their wedding day, as is Chinese custom. They hope to capture their joy and were now immortalized in horror. This is one of the young couples, minutes after the quake.

I heard people shouting earthquake, she says. I couldn't run anywhere. I fell forward, crawling on the ground, until I found my fiance. He held my hands tightly as the ground was shaking and shaking.

Photographer Wang Qiang, never stopped taking pictures. I could hear the walls crashing, but my mind was blank. I started taking pictures out of instinct. Through the aftershocks, they managed to crawl out of the rubble. Their shoes, wigs, and wedding veils left behind. They made it to this village, or what was left of it.

Jiang You Cong's home was destroyed, but that night he shared everything he could. Clothes, food, and a fire to stay warm. They're not local, says Jiang, but we are all one nation. How could I not help them?

A coal truck gave them a lift out of the village. Back home, their families were all safe. Their homes, still standing.

(on camera): There were six couples having their wedding pictures taken that day. Some 33 people were inside this building. All of them somehow managed to make it out alive. There are very few signs that this was once a church, but a few remain.

(voice-over): The story of this church and the images have made their way around the world on the internet, embraced as a symbol of hope amid ruins. They're something we'll keep nor the rest of our lives, says the groom. They're the most important wedding photos for us. It's a moment that's changed them as a couple forever. They do have a few photos before the quake hit. But it is the ones after and their life together that they will cherish.

Kyung Lah, CNN, Bailu, China.

(END VIDEOTAPE) HARRIS: Amazing pictures to show you.

Now, a fiery six-vehicle crash kills five people in Los Angeles, and injures 19 others. Police think it started when a van ran a red light. Boy, another driver with a green light crashed into it. That sent the van flying. The van burst into flames, then collided with four more vehicles, a chain reaction. Three people, including two children, died at the scene. Two others died at the hospital.

Memorial Day shooting spree. This morning, New York police are looking for whoever shot and wounded at least seven people in Harlem. It happened around 10:00 last night. Police say they got a call about a large group of teens leaving a park. About the same time, shots were fired. The victims were found in different spots within a six- block area and there were two other unrelated shootings at that same park yesterday.

COLLINS: They're called swing states, big players in the election. So how are these leaning these days?

CNN's Bill Schneider, is part of the best political team on television. He hopped aboard the election express to find out for himself.


WILLIAM SCHNEIDER, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST (voice-over): Ohio voted twice for Bill Clinton, narrowly. Then it voted twice for George W. Bush, narrowly.

PAT CROWLEY, "CINCINNATI ENQUIRER": It's the microcosm of the country. You have the big urban areas, about half a dozen of them. You have huge growing exurbs, the big McMansion suburbs, and then you have some parts in the eastern part of the state that are some of the most economically depressed in the country.

SCHNEIDER: Hillary Clinton won the Ohio primary. If Barack Obama gets the Democratic nomination, will her supporters in Ohio, rally behind him?

Some said yes.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: He has the ability to make change. And that's why I'd vote for him.

SCHNEIDER: Some said they would go with John McCain.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It is because of John's experience. I just feel for comfortable with him leading our country.

SCHNEIDER: This long-time observer of Ohio politics says Obama needs some of Clinton's fighting style.

CROWLEY: They want a good fight, and they want somebody who will go toe-to-toe for them and with them. And he needs -- he's going to have to show some of that. SCHNEIDER: If Obama's the nominee, Senator Clinton says she will do her part.

SEN. HILLARY CLINTON (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I'm going to do everything I can to make sure that anyone who supported me, the 17 million people who have voted for me, understand what a grave error it would be not to vote for Senator McCain -- Senator Obama and against Senator McCain.

SCHNEIDER: There's a scene Ohio Democrats will be waiting to see.

CROWLEY: I can see a rally in downtown Cincinnati or Columbus or out in the hills of southeastern Ohio where she would throw her arm around Barack Obama and that would be a huge help.


CNN's Bill Schneider, is with the Election Express, standing by the Columbus, Ohio.

So Bill, with the economy being obviously a major issue for everybody, what does McCain have to do to win the state?

SCHNEIDER: He has to convince the voters here that he has a credible plan to turn the state and the nation's economy around. Which means bringing jobs back to Ohio.

They have lost nearly a quarter of a million manufacturing jobs here since 2000. And that he can do something about gas prices, and now food prices. You know, people here are talking about his putting a Republican Ron Portman on the ticket, who is the director of the Office of Management and Budget, and is from Ohio. But the problem is, he's connected to the Bush administration.

To make that case, I think McCain will have to separate himself as far as possible from the Bush administration.

COLLINS: Well, what about Clinton and Obama? I mean, they're in New Mexico, which is another swing state.

SCHNEIDER: I'm sorry, I couldn't quite understand. You said Clinton and Obama --?

COLLINS: Yes, they're in another swing state today, New Mexico.

SCHNEIDER: They're in another -- I'm sorry, I can't. There's a lot of traffic going, sorry.

COLLINS: That's okay. Let's talk about this instead. We'll get back to that one.

We want to hear about how it's been to be on the road, Bill?

SCHNEIDER: Well, it's great. The bus is well appointed, very luxurious. We went from Cincinnati, yesterday here to Columbus, today. We're going to go up to Canton, Ohio, tomorrow to visit the home of William McKinley. He's the candidate who ran for president from his front porch in Canton, Ohio. We want to see just where that campaign was centered.

COLLINS: All right. Very good. We like the music you've been listening to too. Thanks so much. Bill Schneider, standing by the Election Express. Appreciate it, Bill.

Interesting potential vice presidential candidates also heating up. You can find out about all of them as well as information on the presidential candidates at

Your source for everything political.

HARRIS: OK. From on the run to run down. Oh, man, oh -- that had to hurt. A chase and a hit all on tape.


HARRIS: All right, so here's the question. Why did the cheese roll down the hill?

Can't we just roll this for a while, for like the next hour and 15 minutes?

They're all falls.

COLLINS: Like it was a serious face plant.

HARRIS: No, no, no, no. Just -- yes. No, no, just look at this. There are several, oh this is the tease to the story coming later?

OK, better question. Why did these foolish people chase after it? Fun with cheese, the tease, coming up.

COLLINS: Sorry. We kind of showed the whole thing. We'll show it again a little later.

A naked man, a five-ton truck, and the chase is on. It happened in Vancouver, Canada, yesterday. You know, I saw this on the air, but I did not know he was naked. Police say the suspect wearing no clothes stole a pair of overalls and a big truck. The man allegedly threatened to blow up a bridge before leading police on a wild, half- hour chase. He stopped the truck on a highway and apparently tried to get away by foot, but he was --


COLLINS: Good lord, hit by a police car. He was treated for minor injuries and then handed over to the authorities.

HARRIS: Yes, he probably laid there for a good, long time, I would think.

So are you stuck with your SUV? high gas prices have people looking to get out from under their big vehicle leases.

CNN's Chris Lawrence reports.


CHRIS LAWRENCE, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Gas wasn't a big deal two years ago, when this real estate agent leased her SUV.

MARISELA MONTOYA, LEASING AN SUV: It was a little bit over $2 per gallon. Now I'm paying almost double it.

LAWRENCE: First came the housing crash, which wiped out a lot of her business. Then fuel costs cut into what little she had left.

(on camera): Do you just feel stuck with a truck you can't afford?

MONTOYA: Yes. It is very frustrating. I can't afford the $500 payment on top of the $200 or $300 gas payment.

LAWRENCE (voice-over): To break the lease, Marisela Montoya, would have to fork over up to $5,000. And thousands of people are in the same boat.

JOHN STERNAL, LEASETRADER.COM: We've tracked about a 24 percent increase in customers now looking to downsize their vehicles.

LAWRENCE: has seen a surge of SUV leaseholders looking for a way out. Sites like this charge a few hundred dollars and match them with people who want to take over the payments for however long is left on the lease.

Some are pretty attractive. Like a year and a half left on a Pathfinder for under $300. Others may have a hard time finding a suitor. Who wants to spend nearly three years with this Escalade at more than $1,100 a month.

STERNAL: There are some people, that you know what -- their vehicles aren't as marketable as the next person.

LAWRENCE: With her job, Montoya can't even cut back on how much she drives.

MONTOYA: I have to take my clients all over southern California to look for properties.

LAWRENCE: But after we first spoke with her, Montoya's leasetrader listing got a last-minute breakthrough. With ten months left on her lease, she finally found a taker. And will be free to find that small car she needs.

Chris Lawrence, CNN, Los Angeles.




COLLINS: Home sweet home, until you see the sour numbers on first-quarter prices. We're going to show you, coming up in the NEWSROOM.


HARRIS: China takes no chances. Residents of 170 towns and villages under orders to evacuate right now. The fear, flooding. The story, next hour in the CNN NEWSROOM.

COLLINS: The Supreme Court ruling on retaliation and two big cases today. The first deals with race and retaliation over discrimination complaints. The court ruled 7-2 that workers can sue using provisions of an 1866 law. In the other case, the court ruled federal workers deserved equal protection under an age-discrimination law. The law had previously only been cited in the private sector.

HARRIS: The Marines V-22 Osprey is an odd bird, huge propellers and a broad body, but has it proven itself?

Here's CNN's Jamie McIntyre.


JAMIE MCINTYRE, CNN SR. PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): When the V-22 Osprey flies unescorted, a lone tail gunner is its sole protector, but while not bristling with guns, the revolutionary pillow (ph) plane is bursting with speed, and that's its best defense argues the commander of the first V-22 squadron to see combat in Iraq.

LT. COL. PAUL ROCK, V-22 SQUADRON CMDR.: It's harder to hit a rabbit when he's running, you know, and we're just moving faster and much more maneuverable airplane, difficult to engage.

MCINTYRE: The V-22's original design included a front-mounted gun that was dropped to save on weight. That was after former Marine Corps Commandant Jim Jones retired.

(on camera): Does it bother you there's no nose gun?

GEN. JIM JONES (RET.), FORMER MARINE CORPS COMMANDANT: No, I would prefer that, but I may be just kind of traditional Marine that an airplane going into a hot zone that can't fire, you know, to the front.

MCINTYRE (voice-over): A hot alzier (ph) landing zone is one where enemy fighters are trying to shoot down the V-22 as it is stopping off or picking up Marines in combat. In its combat debut, the Osprey never faced that kind of trial by fire because by the time it arrived in Anbar province, peace had broken out. Last year, "TIME" magazine portrayed the V-22 as a flying shame, unsafe, unable to shoot straight, unfit for battle. Mark Thompson who wrote the cover story says the jury is still out.

MARK THOMPSON, "TIME" MAGAZINE: Basically the V-22 performed well as a commuter bus in Iraq. I mean it did one medivac in its seven months there. It might have been shot at twice. It basically operated as a bus or a dump truck and did all those missions well.

MCINTYRE: One of "TIME" magazine's criticisms, the lack of a forward-firing gun has been validated by the fact that now after sinking $100 billion into the Osprey , the Pentagon is about to pony up millions more to retrofit it with a belly-mounted gatling gun on a gimble.

(on camera): Could you use a little more fire power on the plane?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's a (INAUDIBLE) I mean never ask a Marine if you'd like more guns. I mean, we'd always take another weapon on anything, an airplane, a Humvee or anything else.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: If it's doable and feasible, I would like to see one there and I think most pilots would also.

MCINTYRE (voice-over): The call for arms could be even more critical next year when the Marines hope to take on a bigger role in Afghanistan.

Jamie McIntyre, CNN, the Pentagon.


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

COLLINS: Hi there, everybody. I'm Heidi Collins. Developments keep coming into the CNN NEWSROOM on Tuesday, the 27th of May. Here's what's on the rundown. Home sales rise, home values plummet. Today's new economic numbers, what they tell us about the battered economy.

HARRIS: Gas prices jumped to another record high with summer driving just down the road. Find out how hot fuel could cost you cold cash.

COLLINS: New this morning, close to half-a-million homes in China collapsed today, powerful aftershocks, in the NEWSROOM.