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Train Jumps Tracks in Chicago; Former White House Press Secretary Slams Administration; Judge Upholds DNC Decision on Florida; Photo Surfaces of Polygamist Leader with Underage Wife
Aired May 28, 2008 - 13:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: One of these days, he and I are going to be rocking on chairs in Texas, talking about the good old days.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
T.J. HOLMES, CNN ANCHOR: Scott McClellan begs to differ with the president on just how good those "good old days" were. The former White House spokesman is speaking out like never before about Iraq, Katrina, and his own official falsehoods. We are live with the White House reaction.
BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN ANCHOR: And we're also in Chicago where a South Side 'L' train is off the tracks and passengers there are hurt. We're going to get the latest from first responders.
Hi, there. I'm Brianna Keilar at CNN World Headquarters in Atlanta.
HOLMES: And I'm T.J. Holmes. And you are in the CNN NEWSROOM.
We are following this mess right now, happening in Chicago, a big commuter disruption. An 'L' train has jumped the tracks. You can see it there, the 'L' train clearly off the tracks. Again, these are famously the 'L' train, the elevated trains there in Chicago. This happened on Chicago's South Side.
Fire department reports ten people suffered non-life-threatening injuries. The derailment involves two cars and four of the cars from the actual train.
Now, right now they're still trying to figure a lot of this out and see where this thing exactly fell and as investigators work out what happened. Service in the area -- service suspended right now. Shuttle buses right now are operating to take some of the passengers away. And they're also working some other things out for commuters around the Chicago area.
We do want to get on the line now with the public information officer for the Chicago Fire Department, Larry Langford.
Sir, we appreciate you giving us some time. Can you give us an update about the numbers of injured? And also the severity of the injuries?
LARRY LANGFORD, PUBLIC INFORMATION OFFICER, CHICAGO FIRE DEPARTMENT: Final numbers appear to be 14 transports. And we should make it very clear we have nothing in the way of life-threatening injuries here.
Of the 14, three of them are what we call yellow condition. That means they were put on back boards and given collars as a precaution. The rest of the people transported are in what we call green condition, in more common terms, walking wounded, people with bumps and scrapes and minor complaints, with nothing obvious wrong with them. They have been taken to several area hospitals for checkouts.
But this has not turned out to be a major event. Yes, there is a derailment. Yes, you can see from the pictures, the train is kind of across the tracks. But as far as the rescue and treatment, it was very routine for the fire department. They brought in tower ladders that are elevators to go right up to the doors. The triage people bring them right out the doors and take them down gently to the ground, where the ambulance crews treat them from there.
So nothing dramatic in the way of rescues on this. All very, very much run of the mill.
HOLMES: Do you have an idea or can you explain to us as best you can about the incident itself? We understand that two actual vehicles were involved. But then we've got these four train cars involved, as well. Just how this all happened in the first place?
LANGFORD: Well, all I can tell you is that this is a junction between the east and west leg of what we call the Green Line. It goes down to East 63rd and West 63rd. And somewhere in the switch mechanism, one of the cars left the rail.
The accident involved nothing but CTA trains. There were no passenger vehicles or any other type vehicles. This is an elevated structure, not a crossing.
So somewhere in the switch something happened and one of the cars left the track and took another car with it. But at no time was anything, the cars involved over the end, hanging over or tipped over. They remained very stable.
HOLMES: And again, I want to make sure I got this point clear. That it was just the train itself, no other vehicles, no other cars involved? Did I hear that right?
LANGFORD: That is correct. It's an elevated structure. No street traffic involved there at all. It's about -- about 30 feet above the street.
HOLMES: OK, that works. Well, sir, again, Mr. Langford, Larry Langford, public information officer for the Chicago Fire Department. Sir, again, sounds like you say, kind of routine there and you all are handling the aftermath just fine. So glad to hear. And glad the update there on the walking wounded and not too many with serious injuries. So we appreciate your time and good luck with the rest -- rest of the cleanup there.
LANGFORD: Thank you.
HOLMES: We do want to let our viewers know, as well, that we are expecting a press conference coming up soon. We'll hopefully get more details about what exactly happened there. When that happens, we'll bring that to you live.
KEILAR: You may not remember the name Scott McClellan, but you probably know his face. His tenure with President Bush goes back to when Mr. Bush was the Texas governor. McClellan rose to the post of White House press secretary. But today he is making his own headlines.
His new book slams the Bush administration, top White House aides, even the president himself.
Our Anderson Cooper has more.
BUSH: I thank Scott for his service to our country.
ANDERSON COOPER, HOST, "ANDERSON COOPER 360" (voice-over): Two years later, the former press secretary stuns his old boss with charges of deception and denial deep inside the White House. Scott McClellan's accusations against President Bush and some of his most trusted advisers are shocking and spelled out in his new 341-page book.
BUSH: Major combat operations in Iraq have ended.
COOPER: Some of the strongest attacks against the Bush White House concern Iraq. Listen to what McClellan said to the American people back in 2005.
SCOTT MCCLELLAN, FORMER WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: There have been some that have tried to suggest that we don't have a plan. I know some congressional members of Congress have -- Democratic members of Congress have suggested that, and they are flat-out wrong.
COOPER: That's what he said then. But in his new book, McClellan claims Bush and his top lieutenants used propaganda to drum up support for the war, writing, "He and his advisers confused the propaganda campaign with the high level of candor and honesty so fundamentally needed to build and then sustain public support during a time of war. In this regard, he was terribly ill-served by his top advisers, especially those involved directly in national security."
McClellan also sharply criticizes the White House over its handling of Hurricane Katrina, writing, "One of the worst disasters in our nation's history became one of the biggest disasters in Bush's presidency. Katrina and the botched federal response to it would largely come to define Bush's second term."
Remember this photo, the president looking down at the destruction from Air Force One? McClellan says it was Karl Rove's idea to take the picture, even though he and former presidential counselor, Dan Bartlett, opposed it.
The book paints also both himself and Bush as victims in the case of CIA officer Valerie Plame. Some accuse former White House advisers Karl Rove, Lewis "Scooter" Libby and Elliot Abrams of leaking Plame's name to the media. This was McClellan's response to that allegation in 2003.
MCCLELLAN: There are unsubstantiated accusations that are made. And that's exactly what happened in the case of these three individuals. They are good individuals. They are important members of our White House team. And that's why I spoke with them, so that I could come back to you and say that they were not involved.
COOPER: McClellan now suspects he and the president may have been tricked by Rove and Libby over the Plame disclosure, writing, quote, "I had allowed myself to be deceived into unknowingly passing along a falsehood. It would ultimately prove fatal to my ability to serve the president effectively. I didn't learn that what I'd said was untrue until the media began to figure it out almost two years later."
Anderson Cooper, CNN.
KEILAR: While Washington buzzes over his former spokesman's bombshell, President Bush is in Colorado today, delivering the commencement address to the Air Force Academy. And our Elaine Quijano is standing by for us at the White House.
Elaine, what can you tell us?
ELAINE QUIJANO, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, President Bush himself not commenting, no mention of this, certainly, in the speech that the president delivered just a short time ago out west.
The reaction today coming from the current press secretary, Dana Perino, who keep in mind, worked very closely with Scott McClellan. In a written statement she says, quote, "Scott, we now know, is disgruntled about his experience at the White House. For those of us who fully supported him before, during and after he was press secretary, we are puzzled. It is sad. This is not the Scott we knew.
"The book, as reported by the press, has been described to the president. I do not expect a comment from him on it. He has more pressing matters than to spend time commenting on books by former staffers."
Last night, as well, we should mention that former homeland security adviser, Fran Townsend, fired back against the book on "A.C. 360."
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) FRAN TOWNSEND, FORMER HOMELAND SECURITY ADVISER: I fear (ph) for him to write about his experience. But I think, Anderson, as people are looking at his factual allegations in this book, I hope that people will ask him about, was he at the meetings in the Oval Office with the president and the secretary of defense when they discussed sensitive Iraq policy issues? Was he at the most sensitive NSC, National Security Council, policy meetings?
You know, the press secretary has a very distinct role, and it doesn't include being in some of the most highly classified, sensitive policy discussions. And so I think his view is limited, and there may -- some of this may be misunderstanding on his part of what he saw and heard.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
QUIJANO: Now, Scott McClellan is expected to do some television interviews in the coming days, so we'll likely hear more about why he decided to come out with this book in this way. But for now he is telling CNN that he is standing behind the accuracy of his book -- Brianna.
KEILAR: Elaine Quijano for us, out the -- at the White House.
I should also mention, Scott McClellan that is going to be on "THE SITUATION ROOM" on Friday. So we'll be able to hear from the man himself then.
And as well, CNN contributor Frances Townsend is going to join us in the next hour. She used to be the president's homeland security adviser. And as we just heard, she has some very strong opinions about McClellan's book.
HOLMES: A federal judge in Florida has thrown out the Democratic strategist's lawsuit that was aimed at seating Florida's delegates at the convention. CNN's Susan Candiotti has been following the case for us in Tampa, Florida.
And Susan, this isn't the first, just the latest of this type of lawsuit to get tossed out.
SUSAN CANDIOTTI, CNN CORRESPONDENT: That's right. And in this case, this judge, same judge threw out this lawsuit once before. It was filed originally last August.
But before Judge Richard Lazzara ruled in favor of the Democratic National Committee, he said the following: "I don't live in a cage. I know a lot of people in Florida are disgruntled about this." Well, to say the least.
And then the judge went on to say that the Democratic National Committee has a constitutional right to make its own rules and to set its own primary schedule and to punish those who don't go along or abide by those rules.
And the judge also said that the DNC did not discriminate using race or ethnic background when it allowed the states of Nevada and South Carolina to schedule primary and a caucus earlier in the run. Now, in the case of Nevada, he was referring to the large Hispanic population, as well as labor union vote. And in the case of South Carolina because of its large Hispanic -- or rather, black population.
Now, even though Democratic activist Victor DiMaio and his attorney were trounced by this judge, both said they're not ready to give up their fight.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MICHAEL SEINBERG, ATTORNEY: It's a slippery slope. It's opening the door for discrimination based on race and national origin.
VICTOR DIMAIO, PLAINTIFF: The point here is that Florida still does not count as a whole state. And if they decide on Saturday to seat half the delegates of Florida, then we're going to be counted as half a state. And that's ludicrous. That -- that's stupid.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
CANDIOTTI: And so the attorney for Victor DiMaio is going to be filing appeals simultaneously, both in Atlanta, the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals, as well as with the Supreme Court.
And they know that they're running out of time, but they feel strongly about their battle, even though the Democratic National Committee rules committee is meeting on Saturday to try to hammer out an agreement to settle the Florida and Michigan primary debacle.
Now, we can also add this. The judge said in the end, you know, "I really think this case was all about pride. Just a matter of who wanted to go first, who wanted to play shortstop versus play out in right field." And he said this should be a political solution, not a legal one.
Back to you, T.J.
HOLMES: And he used a little baseball analogy there.
CANDIOTTI: Yes, he did.
HOLMES: All right. Susan Candiotti there for us in Florida. And our coverage of the goings-on at the meeting there this weekend will happen. Nine a.m. is when our coverage begins this weekend.
KEILAR: Topping our political ticker now, they don't agree on much. But Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton and John McCain agree that the violence in Darfur, Sudan, has to stop. All three presidential candidates signed an ad in today's "New York Times." They pledge to work toward peace and security for Sudan, regardless of who takes office next January.
And President Bush is on the road. He's raising cash for John McCain. Mr. Bush will be the star attraction at two fundraisers today in Utah. One in Salt Lake City. The other is in Park City. And actually, McCain won't be there, but he did attend a private fund- raiser with the president last night in Phoenix.
Hillary Clinton is running out of time and opportunities to catch Barack Obama, but in a speech last night in Montana, the Democratic hopeful claimed Obama is more likely to lose to John McCain in November than she is. In her words, she said, "We have not gone through this exciting, unprecedented historic election only to lose."
HOLMES: The National Weather Service says it was every bit as fierce as it looked. We've got the word on just how powerful this tornado was that tore up a town in northeast Iowa.
HOLMES: We knew it was a monster storm. And now the National Weather Service confirms it. The tornado that barreled through Parkersburg, Iowa, Sunday was, in fact, an EF-5.
Tim Colder (ph) caught this thing on camera -- you're looking at some of the pictures here -- before it leveled half his town and killed seven people in the area, is when he got that video.
Here is some of the aftermath. It was the strongest tornado to hit Iowa in 32 years. Let's bring in Chad Myers.
In 32 years, so we don't see these things that often. Just what does that mean, EF-5?
CHAD MYERS, CNN METEOROLOGIST: Well, about 1 out of 1,000 tornadoes actually get to that EF-5 number. Now, I'm just going to tell you, because I'm going to be as honest as I can. Back a couple years ago, the National Weather Service monkeyed with the system. And I'll show you the numbers. There's a lot of numbers on the map. This thing probably should have been an old F-4. But now we're saying, oh, it was an EF-5, and there's only so many of these.
Well, all right. Let me just go through the numbers. Here's what Parkersburg had. And this is not taking anything away from the devastation, or the deaths or the fatalities. Wind speeds up to 205 miles per hour. The thing was on the ground for 43 miles. For a time, it was over a mile wide. And it was the first EF-5, with a star there, in Iowa since 1976.
So why the star? Well, here we go. This is the EF scale problem. And if we're -- this is -- this is baseball before steroids and baseball after steroids.
Go to the right side of the map, and you're going to see the new scale. EF-5, 200 to 234. This tornado was 205. Now go to the left side. Before we got steroids or after we got steroids. I don't know. You pick. Two-oh-seven is where the F-3 stopped; 208 is where F-4 stopped (sic). So was that an old F-5? No. Was it a new F-5 -- EF- 5? Sure.
Was it a dangerous, deadly, and unbelievable tornado? Guys, absolutely. The damage there was absolutely complete. An old EF-5 (sic), though, when you go back on some of the tapes, you go back to some of the tapes for the Texas tornadoes, towns that don't exist anymore, you can't even find the structure. You can't find a stick. You can't find anything in the storm at all. All you see is either a basement or a slab. And there were a few areas like that. But this was not the old F-5 tornado that you might see in Kansas and Oklahoma or Texas that we saw before.
Now, this is a monster storm. Trust me. This is a mile-wide tornado. It's impossible to get out of the way of this. And at some point in time this tornado became only survivable if you were in the interior building of your room or, for that matter, you needed to be underground, because this was sucking up everything in its path. And when a tornado sucks the bark off a tree, man, it just -- you can tell how intense this is.
But in Oklahoma, I've seen a tornado suck the asphalt off a road.
MYERS: And this is complete devastation. Don't get me wrong. But you still see a few walls standing on some of the buildings. So at 205, we're talking apples and, maybe, grapes. I don't know.
LEMON: Two-zero-five -- that fell under an F-3 under the old scale.
MYERS: Well, it would probably have been a small F-4.
LEMON: A small F-4.
MYERS: They would have bumped it to 208...
MYERS: ... just to make it an F-4.
LEMON: We've got to let you go now.
MYERS: It's -- you know, I mean, it's not an exact science. You know, we're still practicing.
LEMON: OK. I want to get you back later and actually ask you why they monkeyed with the system in the first place. Remember talking about it...
MYERS: Don't get me started.
LEMON: OK. We'll let you go now. We'll see you later.
MYERS: All right.
KEILAR: A wildfire burning in the Santa Cruz Mountains is now surrounded. It consumed more than 4,200 acres. It destroyed at least three dozen homes in six days, and now folks who fled are coming back to see what, if anything, is left. It is still not clear how this so- called summit fire started.
Well, here is how one family made it out alive.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: This is right next to our Ownsley (ph) home. People...
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Flames!
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It's OK, dearie. Now. Get in. Get in. All right. I don't know, man.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (UNINTELLIGIBLE)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: (EXPLETIVE DELETED)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Mom!
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I don't have a phone.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Hurry!
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I don't have a phone. God. Not good. Fire it up. Go forward. We don't want to trap our family.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KEILAR: The father, Kenny Rich, will be joining us later in the NEWSROOM.
LEMON: Well, American soldiers dying in Iraq, but not at the hands of the enemy. At least a dozen U.S. service members have been electrocuted over the last few years. Who's responsible? We'll get the details from our special investigations unit.
KEILAR: And we'll also show you some new photos that have come to light in the polygamy sect investigation in Texas. They actually show the head of the sect here, Warren Jeffs, and a girl that reportedly married.
LEMON: Some new photos have come to light in the ongoing battle between the state of Texas and a polygamist sect. The photos show the group's leader, Warren Jeffs, and a girl he reportedly married. It's being described as a spiritual marriage.
Evidence introduced in court indicates the girl was 11 years old at the time.
Child welfare authorities are fighting for custody of hundreds of children from the polygamist ranch near Eldorado. Our legal analyst, Sunny Hostin, who's a former U.S. attorney, has been watching this case here closely. What bearing? This case has kind of gone back and forth. But what bearing will these photos now, certainly shocking photos for a lot of people, what bearing will they have on the case, really, though?
SUNNY HOSTIN, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Well, I think it really supports the Texas Department of Family Protective Services position. They have always said that this is a systemic abuse of children.
And when you look, you know that most of these people at the sect follow Warren Jeffs. He is considered the prophet. He is considered the leader of the sect. And now looking at the pictures, you see that he is not only with a 15-year-old or a 14-year-old, but someone that is so young, so petite, clearly, clearly underage, and kissing her as a man would kiss his wife.
And so I think this really, really supports their position that there is child abuse going on. You just look at the pictures. I think everyone is really outraged by them.
HOLMES: Can we say, since we know the judges in Texas have said that the -- you know, the prosecution hasn't exactly proven its case and shown that these children were in any kind of immediate danger.
Is this what we're seeing now with these photos? Is this the closest thing or maybe even some of the best evidence that the state could use to show that, you know what? Look at this. These children are in some serious danger and being abused?
HOSTIN: Well, I think absolutely. And the Texas appellate court found, you know, they aren't in any imminent danger. And I think the court got it wrong. Does that mean that a child has to be abused before a child protective agency can act? No. We should -- we should be able to protect our children before additional abuse occurs.
And so I think that these pictures are very strong evidence to support their position that not only has there been abuse, there is the imminent danger, the urgent need to protect these children now.
HOLMES: Well, there are still -- there are still hundreds of these children who are in state custody. But there was a time line, I believe, just a window of time before the kids would have to be released from state custody if the -- if the state could not prove its case.
How are we looking there? Is there a chance that all these kids will end up going back to their parents if the state doesn't make some kind of a move soon?
HOSTIN: Well, right now the Texas appellate court decision only applies to some of the children, not all, you know, over 400 children. What I think is going to happen is Texas Supreme Court is now determining whether or not they should look at this appeal and whether or not they should stay the case.
And so we're really, really watching, because that should be happening today, tomorrow, Friday. We're going to find out whether or not everything stays the same, all of the kids remain in state custody, and the Texas Supreme Court now weighs in on this.
HOLMES: And finally here. Back just on these pictures again, what case -- what argument, I guess, could attorneys for the families make? How do you go about possibly, God forbid, having to use the word, defend these pictures. But I mean, what argument can you make? Can you say, hey, you can't prove this girl is a certain age? Could that work?
HOSTIN: Well, the argument that they're making is, fine, perhaps this child is under age and perhaps that is Warren Jeffs doing and his wife, but that doesn't mean anything and doesn't apply to our families. Because we didn't do it. And that's the argument that we're hearing. Their lawyers are saying, fine, these are certain pictures, but that doesn't mean anything to our particular case.
But of course, the department is saying that applies to everyone, because this is a systemic abuse, and this is what you believe in.
HOLMES: That has been a back and forth. And here we go with these. And again like you say, just so disturbing to a lot of people who see those pictures.
HOLMES: Sunny Hostin, thank you so much. It's always good to see you and good to have your analysis. Thank you so much.
HOSTIN: Thanks, T.J.
HOLMES: You can certainly see more with our legal analyst, Sunny Hostin, weekdays on "AMERICAN MORNING." She provides all the day's legal briefs. Again, that's on "AMERICAN MORNING" from 6:00 to 9:00 Eastern.
KEILAR: They survived the battlefield, only to die on U.S. bases in Iraq. At least 12 troops here electrocuted. It all could have been prevented. A CNN special investigations unit report is coming up.
KEILAR: Another blow to the American auto industry. Ford Motor is reportedly planning to cut thousands of jobs.
Susan Lisovicz is on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange to tell us maybe how it's affecting things there -- Susan.
SUSAN LISOVICZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hey, Brianna.
Well, it's just a painful blow to a company that's already going through a massive restructuring, so a very bitter pill for Ford employees. "Detroit News" saying that Ford will cut 10 to 12 percent of its salaried work force, which would translate into about 2,000 American jobs. And what's especially telling, Brianna, is this time around the job cuts will not be voluntary, which really speaks to the urgency of the problem. Ford feels that it just doesn't have the time for people to decide whether they want to take a buyout package or not. They've really seen a drop-off in their bread and butter, SUVs and pick-up trucks, as gas got to $3.50 a gallon and above.
When you think about it, 11,000 salaried positions in North America have been eliminated since 2005. And most of those were through voluntary buyouts.
Ford shares have been rising today, but really, it's pretty quiet here today. Perhaps just yet another effect of the Memorial Day weekend holiday. We are seeing oil prices started lower, but up now $1.60 and back above $130 a barrel.
We're watching the Dow try to rebound to try to carry through its gains from yesterday. Up now ten points. The NASDAQ, meanwhile, is up three points.
And in the next hour, we're going to have high noon in Dallas. Exxon Mobil versus the Rockefellers. What a story. We'll tell it to you, the next hour.
Brianna, back to you.
KEILAR: What a story. Looking forward to it, Susan. Thanks so much.
LISOVICZ: You're welcome.
KEILAR: For U.S. forces -- sorry. We're actually going to take a bit of a turn here. The next hour of the CNN NEWSROOM starts right now.
HOLMES: Hello to you all. Good afternoon. I'm T.J. Holmes, live at the CNN World Headquarters in Atlanta, Georgia.
KEILAR: And I'm Brianna Keilar, in for Kyra Phillips.
We're actually standing by for two campaign events to begin. Senator John McCain is in Nevada this hour, and Senator Barack Obama is in Colorado. We're going to have live coverage of both here in the CNN NEWSROOM.
U.S. forces dying in Iraq, not from enemy fire, but faulty wiring.
CNN's special investigations unit is on the story. Here is correspondent Abbie Boudreau.
ABBIE BOUDREAU, CNN INVESTIGATIVE CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): A memorial for a fallen soldier.
CHERYL HARRIS, RYAN MASETH'S MOTHER: The doorbell rang, and I looked at my husband and I said, oh, the neighbor.
BOUDREAU: Ryan Maseth was 24-years-old from Pittsburgh.
HARRIS: And he went to answer the door, and -- I could hear the boots coming in the door. I could hear the footsteps.
BOUDREAU: No ordinary soldier, Ryan Maseth was highly decorated. An Army Ranger in the Special Forces, a Green Beret. He was trained to survive, one of three brothers serving in Iraq. Cheryl Harris is Ryan's mother.
HARRIS: I remember saying to him which one? And he just stood there and looked at me quietly. And I just said, one of them are dead, one of them has died. And they finally said Ryan.
BOUDREAU: But Ryan Maseth did not die on the battlefield. He died on a U.S. base in his bathroom.
HARRIS: I can't make sense around Ryan's death. That he died like that. That he was so trained.
BOUDREAU: She was told her son was electrocuted while he was taking a shower. She says Army officials told her he may have been holding a small appliance when it happened.
HARRIS: It just created so much doubt. And I know Ryan, I know that he would not have been in a shower with a small appliance and electrocuted himself.
BOUDREAU: Ryan's mother felt the Army wasn't telling her the whole truth. She kept pushing. Soon uncovered what really happened to her son.
The army finally told her that her son's shower water pump was improperly grounded. It short-circuited sending a lethal jolt of electricity through him, leaving burn marks across his body and even singeing his hair.
Reports show he likely suffered a long, painful death. Electrocutions in Iraq have been a problem the Army has known about for years. In 2004, the Army even issued this warning bulletin calling electrocution a killer, growing at an alarming rate. Ryan Maseth is just one of at least 12 U.S. military personnel who have been electrocuted in Iraq since 2003, according to military and government officials.
(on camera): So why weren't the problems in Ryan Maseth's building fixed? These Army documents show a U.S. paid contractor inspected his building and found serious electrical problems, that was 11 months before Sergeant Maseth was electrocuted.
(voice-over): The contractor is Houston based Kellogg, Brown and Root or KBR. KBR noted several safety issues concerning the improper grounding of electrical devices. But KBR's contract did not cover quote, "fixing potential hazards", only repairing items as they broke. So the electrical problems were never fixed. Only after Sergeant Maseth died did the Army issue an emergency order for KBR to finally fix the problem.
In this internal government e-mail obtained by CNN, a Navy captain admits the Army should have known the extent of the severity of the electrical problems. The e-mail then states the reason the Army didn't know was because KBR's inspections were never even reviewed by a qualified government employee.
LARRAINE MCGEE, CHRIS MCGEE'S MOTHER: The impression I got was that this was the first time that it had happened. Chris was the first and that because of that they were going to correct the problem and it wasn't going to happen again.
BOUDREAU: Larraine McGee's son, Sergeant Christopher Everett was also electrocuted in Iraq. He was on U.S. base and washing a Humvee. That was in 2005, three years before Sergeant Ryan Maseth died.
When Army officials talked to Larraine, they told her the generators supplying electricity to the power washer that her son used was improperly grounded.
MCGEE: We're not supposed to bury our children. They're supposed to bury us and that's a very difficult thing to do.
BOUDREAU: She said they also told her this kind of electrical problem would not happen again. She found comfort knowing other mothers would not have to experience the same type of loss. Then she heard about Ryan Maseth.
MCGEE: I find out recently that that wasn't the case. He was not the first. And he hasn't been the last. And that's what upsets me. It makes me very angry because there is no reason for this to be going on.
REP. HENRY WAXMAN, HOUSE OVERSIGHT COMMITTEE: How did this happen? And why wasn't it corrected when we had the first signs that people were dying from electrocutions?
BOUDREAU: Congressman Henry Waxman, Chairman of the House Oversight Committee is now calling for an investigation.
WAXMAN: It's inexcusable to contemplate the idea that we send our soldiers to Iraq and then because of neglect or incompetence they died because of electrocution.
BOUDREAU: In a statement to CNN, the Department of Defense wrote this is a serious issue. Adding that they have no information that their contract management officials failed to take appropriate action in response to unsafe conditions brought to our attention. They are reviewing the issue.
Still, Cheryl Harris is suing KBR.
HARRIS: Ryan should be here.
BOUDREAU: Hoping to find someone to hold accountable for a death she says should have been prevented. HARRIS: No, I'm not looking to bring Ryan back. I can't. Can I help another mother? If I can prevent one more family from not feeling the pain that I do feel, then that's all that matters. Let's not have them watch their family member come off a plane in a casket.
BOUDREAU: KBR declined to speak on camera to CNN, but the company sent us a statement that said it found no evidence of a link between the work it's been asked to perform and the reported electrocutions. The defense contract management agency responsible for handling the contract for KBR also declined to answer CNN's questions.
KEILAR: This is such a sad story, Abbie. What happens next here?
BOUDREAU: Well, in a way, it's really just the beginning. Congress, as well as the inspector general, are investigating all these deaths. There are still serious questions that need to be answered, like who is responsible and why has this been going on for so long? And I can guarantee you, these families will not stop until they get those answers.
KEILAR: No, and I know that You'll be bringing us answers to that as well. We certainly appreciate this report, Abbie. Thank you -- T.J.
HOLMES: All right, Brianna, we are still continuing to keep an eye on a breaking story out of Chicago, an 'L' Train derailed. There are injured. The latest right here in the NEWSROOM. Stay here.
HOLMES: About twenty minutes at the top of the hour and here are three of the stories we are working on in the CNN NEWSROOM.
Some dazed and shaken passengers in Chicago after this Transit Authority train derailed on some elevated tracks. At least ten people were taken to hospitals. Their injuries described as non-life threatening. No word on what caused this train to jump the tracks.
Also, an urgent search going on right now for this missing Atlanta area baby. The name is Precious Diamond Spencer, who was last seen over the weekend in a Honda Accord belonging to her mom, who was later found dead. No word on who was driving the car, no word on who the father is, where the father is. The child requires weekly medical treatment.
Also the White House calling it the work of a disgruntled former employee. Ex-press secretary Scott McClellan is out with a new book in which he says the White House was full of propaganda and spin.
KEILAR: Cell phones and cancer. Is there a connection? We are paging Dr. Gupta, next.
KEILAR: Cell phones and cancer. Over the years you may have heard rumblings about a suspected connection.
Well, CNN chief medical correspondent, Dr. Sanjay Gupta, investigates.
DR. SANJAY GUPTA, CNN CHIEF MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: The prevailing scientific wisdom about cell phones and health effects is that, for the most part that they're safe.
But most established scientific organizations also conceived that we probably can't prove they're safe for sure. There's just not enough data out there. One of the most interesting things is that the prevalence of cell phone use around the world makes us a particularly interesting public health issue. Now, people really come down on both ends of the spectrum here.
Dr. Keith Black, who was Johnnie Cochran's neurosurgeon, he believes that cell phones as well as other things in the environment do contribute to brain cancer.
Dr. Vinnie Carana (ph), a neurosurgeon out of Australia, shares that belief.
In fact, he says that cell phones out there can increase your brain cancer risk by several fold, in addition to memory problems, in addition to concentration problems. He is convinced of that after looking at more than 100 studies.
Now, we've talked to several people including the American Cancer Society, including the trade groups as well -- the cell phone trade group. And they say this: There is a "consensus among leading health organizations regarding published scientific research showing no reason for concern."
And again, that does seem to be the case. But the question is are the studies out there long enough, are they good enough and do they look at children? Children starting to use cell phones, as well. Now one of the tumors is something known as an acoustic neuroma. Take a look here at this image. Spin that brain around and here you sort of hone in on that part of the ear. Go into the inner ear there. That red area is the tumor. That is the acoustic neuroma, that is a tumor of concern.
Now take a look at this MRI scan. That big, white mass -- that is what that tumor looks like on an MRI scan. Dr. Vinnie Carana, again, Dr. Keith Black, believe acoustic neuromas they put a greater risk by the use of cell phones. Now, take a look at cell phones. I mean, over the years cell phones have changed quite a bit, as you might know. For example, these cell phones over here used to come in a bag. They came out before a lot of you were born. This cell phone over here, in 1983. This Motorola flip phone was 1984. And then so on. This is one that came out in 2001.
Most cell phones give off between 850 and 1,900 megahertz. Scientists will say they were safe then, they're safe now, they've always been safe. But they have gone down in the amount of non- ionizing radiation. That is what cell phones give off -- non-ionizing radiation. Best bet, according to the experts we've talked to, wear an ear piece. And if you're carrying a cell phone, don't put it in your pocket, put it in the approved holster and wear it on your belt.
Back to you, for now.
HOLMES: All right, a lot of good information in there from the doc.
Well, coming up here, why are some voters still questioning Barack Obama's patriotism? We'll try to answer that question.
HOLMES: A live picture, a live look you're taking here of Senator Barack Obama, a Democratic presidential candidate, right now addressing students out at a school in Thornton, Colorado. Addressing many issues of education at this town hall.
Let's take a listen in.
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SEN. BARACK OBAMA (D-IL), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: ... this outstanding achievement, but also to hold up this school and these students as an example of what's possible in education if we're willing to break free from the tired thinking and political stalemate that's dominated Washington for decades.
If we're willing to try new ideas and new reforms based not on ideology, but on what works to give our children the best possible chance in life. This defining moment in our history, they've never needed that chance more. In a world where good jobs can be located anywhere there's an Internet connection. Where a child in Denver is competing with children in Beijing and Bangalore. The most valuable skill you can sell is your knowledge. Education is the currency of the information age. No longer just a pathway to opportunity and success, but a prerequisite.
There simply aren't many jobs today that can support a family where only a high school degree is required. And if you don't have that degree, there are even fewer jobs available that can keep you out of poverty. In this kind of economy, countries who out-educate us today, will out compete tomorrow. Already, China is graduating eight times as many engineers as we are. By 12th grade, our children score lower on math and science tests than most other children in the world. And we now have one of the highest high school dropout rates of any industrialized nation in the world. It is worth crying about.
OBAMA: No doubt.
OBAMA: In fact, if the more than 16,000 Colorado students who dropped out of high school last year had only finished, the economy in this state would have seen an additional $4.1 billion of wages over these students' lifetimes. That's the cost directly to this state's economy when we fail to educate our kids. Now, there's still much progress to be made here in Thornton, but the work you've done shows us we don't have to accept this future for America. We don't have to accept an America where we do nothing about 6 million students who are reading below their grade level. We don't have to accept an America where only 20 percent of our students are prepared to take college level classes in English, math and science.
Where barely one in 10 low-income students will ever graduate from college. We don't have to accept an America where we do nothing about the fact that half of all teenagers are unable to understand basic fractions. Where nearly nine in 10 African-American and Latino eighth graders are not proficient in math. We don't have to accept an America where elementary school children are only getting an average of 25 minutes of science each day, when we know that 80 percent of the fastest growing jobs require a knowledge based in math and science.
This kind of America is morally unacceptable. It's economically untenable and it's not who we are as a nation. We are a nation that's always understood that our future is inextricably linked to the education of our children, all of them. We are a country that has always believed in Thomas Jefferson's declaration that talent and virtue needed in a free society should be educated regardless of wealth or birth. That's who we are.
OBAMA: That's who we are and that's why I believe it's time to lead a new era of mutual responsibility in education. One where we all come together for the sake of our children's success. An era where each of us does our part to make that success a reality. Parents and teachers, leaders in Washington and citizens all across America.
Now, this starts by fixing the broken promises of No Child Left Behind.
OBAMA: I was talking to Michael, earlier on our tour. And we agreed fundamentally, on how we need to approach this. I believe that the goals of No Child Left Behind were the right ones. Making a promise to educate every child with an excellent teacher, is right. Closing the achievement gap that exists between white students and black and Hispanic students, that is right. More accountability is right. Higher standards are right. But what's wrong with No Child Left Behind, is how we have implemented trying to achieve these goals. Forcing our teachers, our principals and our schools to accomplish all of this without the resources that they need is wrong.
OBAMA: Promising high quality teachers in every classroom and then leaving the support and pay for these teachers behind, is wrong.
OBAMA: Labeling a school and its students as failures one day and then throwing up your hands and walking away from them the next, that's wrong.
OBAMA: We have to fix No Child Left Behind. We have to provide the funding we were promised. Give our states the resources they need, and finally meet our commitment to special education. We also need to realize that we can meet high standards without forcing teachers and students to spend most of the school year preparing for a single high-stakes standardized test.
OBAMA: Recently, 80 percent of Colorado teachers said that testing was crowding out subjects like music and art. But we need to look no further than MESA to see that accountability does not come at the expense of a well-rounded education. It can help complete it, and it should.
OBAMA: As president, I also intend to work with our nation's governors and educators to create and use assessments that can improve achievement all across America by including the type of researches, scientific education and problem solving that our children will need to compete in a 21st century knowledge economy. The tests our children take should support learning, not just accounting. If we really want our children to become great inventors and problem solvers of tomorrow, our schools shouldn't stifle innovation they should let it thrive.
That's what MESAs doing, by using visual arts and drama and music to help students master traditional subjects like English, science and math. And that's what we should be doing in schools all across America.
OBAMA: And by the way, let me just interject one last thing Michael and I were talking about. This doesn't mean that we won't have a standardized test. I believe children should master that skill as well. And that should be part of the assessment, the tools that we use to make sure that our children are learning. It just can't dominate the curriculum to an extent where we are pushing aside those things that will actually allow children to improve and will actually accurately assess the quality of the teaching that's taking place in the classroom.
All right. So this is not an either/or proposition, it's a both/and proposition. And that's what we're going to be working on by fixing No Child Left Behind. But ...
OBAMA: ... fixing the problems of No Child Left Behind is not an education policy all by itself. It's just a starting point.
A truly historic commitment to education, a real commitment will require new resources and new reforms. It will require a willingness to move beyond the stale debates that have paralyzed Washington for decades. Democrat versus Republican, vouchers versus the status quo, more money versus more accountability -- those are false debates. We need all of the above. It will require teachers in Washington who are willing to learn a lesson from students and teachers in Thornton or Denver about what actually works.
That's the kind of president I intend to be. And that's the kind of education plan that I've proposed in this campaign.