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CNN NEWSROOM

Hurricane Dolly Now Category 2 Storm; McCain's Tour: Holding Town Hall Meetings; Household Costs: Congress Mulls Families' Plight; Dolly Also Hits Northern Mexico; 'Black in America': Violent Struggles

Aired July 23, 2008 - 11:00   ET

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


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

HEIDI COLLINS, CNN ANCHOR: Hi there, everybody. I'm Heidi Collins.

Developments keep coming into the CNN NEWSROOM on this Wednesday, July 23rd.

In fact, breaking news to tell you about, the very latest on Hurricane Dolly. We are understanding now a Category 2 hurricane. We're watching it for you right here.

HARRIS: And this hour, live updates from the danger zone -- tracking the storm from the weather center, our iReports for you, your hurricane headquarters.

We're there throughout the morning -- in the NEWSROOM.

COLLINS: Quickly want to update you on the situation with Hurricane Dolly. In fact, breaking news to get to right now.

We are learning a Category 2. Hurricane Dolly has pushed from Category 1 to Category 2 now.

From some of the wires that I am looking at, apparently we're talking about 100-mile-per-hour winds now off of southern Texas. We've be following it all morning long.

This is new video coming into us from South Padre Island, where our Reynolds Wolf is standing by. We've been watching him all morning long sort of blow around, for lack of a better, more accurate meteorological term there.

Once again, the breaking news is that Hurricane Dolly has now jumped to a Category 2 hurricane, with winds of about 100 miles per hour off of Texas. Of course, we are covering the hurricane from all angles.

As I said, Reynolds Wolf is in South Padre Island. That is in Texas, of course. Wow, we see him there. Ed Lavandera in Brownsville, right along the Texas/Mexico border. And also, of course, CNN Meteorologist Rob Marciano tracking that storm and all of the mapping up of it in the severe weather center here.

HARRIS: OK. Let's start with South Padre Island, an unprotected strip of land off the Texas coast.

Our Reynolds Wolf has been really taking a beating there throughout the morning. And he joins us live.

Reynolds, just moments ago the word that the storm is now a Category 2 hurricane. I was going to ask you if it's intensified in your area, but clearly it has.

REYNOLDS WOLF, CNN METEOROLOGIST: Absolutely, Tony. You know, for a Category 2 storm, you have to have those winds right at 96 miles per hour or higher. You know, winds, some gusts upwards of 100.

If that's what they're saying, yes, I'll buy it. Yes, it sure seems that way. The wind really has intensified, especially over the last couple of minutes.

Now, obviously, we've moved from our perch up on the balcony on a two-story building. We've moved down here in the saw-grass. The saw- grass -- what's important about this vegetation is that the extensive root systems are one of the things that really holds onto the dunes, keeps the -- gives the dunes that great structure. But if you happen to look over just to my immediate left, you'll notice the path that leads out (INAUDIBLE).

That was actually put there. That sand was put there by some earth movers to help ward off some of the storm surge, a surge that could be anywhere from six to eight feet.

Now, the wind has intensified. The wind is a huge problem. There's no question about it. But the other (INAUDIBLE) with some rainfall.

We're talking anywhere from six to eight inches of rain, maybe even up to 10 inches of rain in some spots. But there's the issue of isolated amounts of rain topping a foot, maybe even 15 inches of rain in spots like Brownsville -- Brownsville, Texas. It has a dark history when it comes to flooding (INAUDIBLE).

In fact, you go back to 1967, where they had Hurricane Beulah, which made its way onshore, caused some widespread flooding. Over three feet of rainfall in places. And with that, you had over of 50 fatalities.

Certainly a bad scenario. They don't want that to play out again. Because of that, they've really upped the sandbagging efforts just over the last 24 to 36 hours. And with that, Governor Rick Perry has declared 14 different counties as disaster areas.

They've also -- sorry, folks.

HARRIS: Whoa.

WOLF: They have also set up some staging areas for the National Guard in Austin, San Antonio, and in Houston, preparing for what this storm could possibly bring.

I'll tell you, Tony, we're really kind of at a precarious spot.

HARRIS: You look really exposed.

WOLF: This is, of course -- I'm telling you, man, this is as flat as can be, as flat as can be. And we're really kind of isolated here because the bridges that go back to the mainland, all shut off.

They were closed last night as soon as those winds topped 39 miles per hour. No one is getting off this island or getting on until this thing passes. Tony, it's 39 miles an hour. More than double that (INAUDIBLE).

Back to you, Tony.

HAYES: All right. You're a free standing structure out there, you and your crew. We would rather see you sort of bungee to some kind of railing, or something a little more supportive out there. But your signal breaking up, your audio breaking up.

WOLF: Yes, sir.

HARRIS: And that's a real indication of just how fiercely those winds are blowing.

Reynolds Wolf, South Padre Island, Texas.

Reynolds, appreciate it. Thank you. What a look.

COLLINS: Well, let's get to Brownsville, Texas, not too far from where Reynolds is. Bracing there for the flooding that could come.

And CNN's Ed Lavandera is live in Brownsville this morning.

Ed, how do things look now? Obviously, I see pretty heavy rain. I believe that's what I'm looking at coming down, or is that just the wind?

ED LAVANDERA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, it's a little bit of the wind and the rain, you know, coming in sideways here at this point.

COLLINS: Yes.

LAVANDERA: These are some of the strongest winds we've seen up to this point. So clearly we're getting a lot of the heavy part of the storm that has already blown past Reynolds.

We're about 25 miles inland from where he is. And, of course, as the rain continues to fall here, I'm just on the edge of the Rio Grande. Just over this hill you see behind me is where the river is. You go back over that way, you get into Mexico.

And officials here along the Rio Grande, from Brownsville, to McAllen, very closely watching the river levels. And they say, you know, if these rains continue to last all day long, because it is a slow-moving storm -- they're expecting 10, 15, possibly 20 inches of rain. And there's some real worries and concern that that amount of rainfall would bring river levels over the levees in certain areas. So they'll be watching that closely.

So far, what we have heard is it is just too early to tell at this point. It just hasn't been raining long enough at this point. So they'll continue to watch that.

But some of my colleagues have been driving the streets of Brownsville this morning. They say from the last check we had, much of the power still seems to be intact, even though the winds and the rain are picking up intensely. But the streets are quiet.

The pedestrian bridges that go back and forth between Mexico and the U.S. are usually filled with people, are virtually empty this morning. And traffic on the streets is incredibly light, so you really get the sense that a lot of people here in the south Texas region just kind of hunkering down and waiting for all of this to pass by -- Heidi.

COLLINS: Yes. Wow. It looks like it's going to be at least a little bit of a wait, anyway.

Ed Lavandera, let us know. We shall check back with you. Appreciate it.

(WEATHER REPORT)

HARRIS: To politics now.

Barack Obama continuing his Mideast swing. He sat down with Palestinian and Israeli leaders today and answered questions from the media in Israel just moments ago, actually.

He vowed to become a constructive partner in Mideast peace. He was asked about the future of Jerusalem.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. BARACK OBAMA (D-IL), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I continue to say that Jerusalem will be the capital of Israel, and I have said that before and I will say it again. And I also have said that it is important that we don't simply slice the city in half, but I've also said that that's a final status issue. That's an issue that has to be dealt with, with the parties involved, the Palestinians and the Israelis, and it's not the job of the United States to dictate the form in which that will take, but rather to support the efforts that are being made right now to resolve these very difficult issues that have a long history.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

HARRIS: Obama's latest stops are part of a trip that has also taken him to Jordan, Kuwait, Afghanistan and Iraq.

COLLINS: John McCain hoping to steal some of the spotlight from Barack Obama's world tour. A town hall meeting today in Pennsylvania.

CNN's Dana Bash is following the McCain campaign from Washington.

I believe that Senator McCain, from the looks of that picture, is still at the microphone there and taking questions, Dana?

DANA BASH, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: That's right. He's taking questions from voters, what John McCain calls his favorite kind of event.

That, of course, is a town hall forum. And he's doing it in the state of Pennsylvania. That, of course, a major battleground for November, and that really is an example of the strategy inside the McCain campaign this week while Barack Obama is overseas.

It's actually sort of a two-part strategy, Heidi. First of all, to go to these battleground states. He was in New Hampshire yesterday, today he is in Pennsylvania. He'll be in some others later this week.

He started out talking about the economy. There, he's trying to show while Barack Obama is overseas, he's talking about issues he knows full well that voters care most about here at home. So he's talking about the economy, but he's also making sure at every of single stop to talk about Obama's foreign policy, especially what McCain calls his misguided policy on the war in Iraq.

Listen to what he said.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R-AZ), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Now, Senator Obama said that the strategy of the surge would not succeed. He said it was doomed to failure. He said that there would be an increase in sectarian violence. He still to this day has said that the surge has not succeeded.

It's a remarkable, remarkable failure to understand the facts on the ground. So, apparently Senator Obama would rather lose a war in order to win a campaign.

(APPLAUSE)

And my friends, he still -- he still fails to acknowledge that we have succeeded, and he is in favor of an unconditional withdrawal. An unconditional withdrawal, my friends, without paying attention to the facts on the ground could lead to our failure, a resurgence in our enemies, and we would have to go back.

My friends, when I'm president of the United States, we will come home, we will come home with victory and honor, but we'll never have to go back because we will have won this conflict. And we are winning and we are succeeding.

(END VIDEO CLIP) BASH: And the McCain campaign has had a bit of a message challenge during this trip. One they might not have expected it. And that is because the Iraqi government, while Barack Obama was over in that country, made pretty clear that they agree with Senator Obama in the big picture, and that they think troops should be leaving Iraq by 2010.

And what Senator McCain has been trying to do to answer that is to say, I want troops to come home, I believe troops should be withdrawn also, but not unconditionally. And that's where you just heard Senator McCain draw the line.

But I've got to tell you, Heidi, as much as Senator McCain is hitting this issue of the war in Iraq, this town hall format is providing some illustration of just how tough that is. Already in this particular town hall he's holding right now, two voters stood up and asked him some tough questions on the war. One about why the United States is spending so much money overseas when we're in such dire economic straits here at home, and the other, a voter said, you know, why isn't the president admitting that it was, from this voter's point of view, a mistake in the fist place to go into the war -- into Iraq?

So, Senator McCain is having to have exchanges with voters on this issue even as he's trying to stay on message with regard to Senator Obama.

COLLINS: Yes. And it's hard, because obviously we are already in the war. So both presidential candidates will have to go from here. So it's sort of like, at this point, it seems to be a moot point and obviously a tough issue for both of the candidates.

We sure do appreciate it.

CNN's Dana Bash from Washington this morning.

BASH: Thanks, Heidi.

COLLINS: We are also watching Hurricane Dolly, and so are our iReporters. We'll show you what they found.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

COLLINS: Well, the news today, Hurricane Dolly. Brownsville, Texas, in the path of the storm now. A major concern there is flooding.

Joining us on the phone is Johnny Cavazos. He is the emergency management coordinator for Cameron County, and that includes Brownsville.

Johnny, if you could, please just tell us what the conditions look like to you.

JOHNNY CAVAZOS, EMERGENCY MANAGEMENT COORDINATOR, CAMERON COUNTY: Sure, Heidi. Right now we're expecting the land fall of the eye of the storm. It's -- we're also expecting it to be upgraded to a Category 2 hurricane before it makes land fall.

Right now we're experiencing at our emergency operations center winds of between 50 and 60 miles an hour. We should expect winds of between 95 and 115 miles an hour within probably an hour, hour and a half or so.

A lot of rain. The National Weather Service is forecasting 15 to 20 inches of rain with this storm in Cameron County.

COLLINS: Yes. Well, you know, it has been upgraded to a hurricane -- or, I mean, excuse me, a Category 2 hurricane. That's true.

And I'm looking at one of our looping graphics here that says it's about 26 miles from where you are now, with winds gusting of 100 to 120 miles per hour. So obviously this thing is growing. And as we were saying with our meteorologist, we hope that it won't stay on the ground or stay on land for very long because, obviously, that is what presents all of the problems for people living in places where you are.

Talk to us, if you would, about the levee situation there and what type of complications could exist.

CAVAZOS: Well, we've got -- we've got -- flooding is our number one problem. You know, the storm surge that is going to be created by this hurricane is forecasted to be between four and six feet.

Now, it will push a whole lot of water up the mouth of the Rio Grande River between Mexico and Texas, and it will cause a rise, a significant rise, in our water level. However, we're not anticipating any type of real problem at this time with the levees based on the latest forecasts from the National Weather Service.

COLLINS: All right. Well, very good. We, of course, will keep in contact with you, if that's OK. I know you have a whole lot on your plate being part of the emergency management team.

So, Johnny Cavazos, we appreciate your time. Thanks.

HARRIS: War strategy with the commander in chief. President Bush today defending a Defense Department briefing at the Pentagon. The discussion to focus on moving more U.S. troops to Afghanistan because Taliban attacks there are on the rise. Top U.S. military officials have made it clear they want to boost U.S. troop levels in that war zone, but not at the expense of the Iraq war effort.

COLLINS: Less money coming in, more money going out. Is your household feeling the squeeze of the tight economy?

CNN's Kate Bolduan on what Congress is doing about it.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) HARRIS: OK. Your money, your concerns, and the latest headlines on the nation's economy.

The price of oil continues to slide, down almost 20 bucks a barrel since last week. Those savings are trickling out at the gas pump.

AAA reporting the average for regular unleaded down more than a penny this morning, to $4.04 a gallon. It's the sixth straight day of declines.

Today on Capitol Hill, the House could vote on a massive housing bill. It would give an unlimited credit line to troubled mortgage giants Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, also more affordable mortgages for homeowners caught up in the credit crunch. And this morning, the White House announced President Bush would sign the bill.

Let's check the Big Board. The New York Stock Exchange right now, as you can see, the Dow up 35 points, the Nasdaq up about 29 points.

We're going to talk to Susan Lisovicz, I promise, this hour, right here in the NEWSROOM.

COLLINS: Prices rise, the dollar shrinks, and countless American households find it tougher to make ends meet. Today Congress looks at the big squeeze.

And CNN's Kate Bolduan is on Capitol Hill where that hearing is now under way.

Good morning to you, Kate.

KATE BOLDUAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Good morning, Heidi.

Well, amid rising energy costs, food prices, as well as a floundering housing market, the Joint Economic Committee is trying to simply find some answers, both short-term and long-term solutions on how to get the economy back on track, specifically as it affects the middle class. Committee chair Democratic Senator Charles Schumer laid out the challenge this morning of what he calls one of America's kitchen table issues.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. CHARLES SCHUMER (D-NY), JOINT ECONOMIC CHAIRMAN: For the first time, we're seeing danger in the economy on both sides. Growth is too slow and inflation is too high. And who's squeezed in the middle? Once again, the middle class.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BOLDUAN: One startling example of today's tough times pointed out in the hearing this morning is median income. Right now, median family income is not keeping pace with the expenses that families face. For example, one witness calculates that median family income dropped by about $1,200 between 2000 and 2007 after correcting, of course, for inflation. By the same calculations, the average family is spending almost $5,000 more on basic expenses. Now, that is a squeeze any way you figure it.

Now, the witnesses today range from a policy analyst to an economist. And they're all offering a range of ideas on how to help cash-strapped families.

Ideas are including more domestic drilling to increase oil supply and hopefully decrease the price at the pump. Also suggested, Heidi, a second stimulus package focusing more on assistance to states and infrastructure investment.

COLLINS: All right.

CNN's Kate Bolduan on top of all of it for us.

Thank you, Kate.

BOLDUAN: Thanks, Heidi.

HARRIS: Hey, how about this? There's apparently a silver lining to those high gas prices. Americans driving slower, driving less, and traffic deaths around the country are plummeting.

The National safety Council reports a nine percent drop in motor vehicle deaths from January through May this year, compared to the same time last year. And you know, there was a similar drop during the Arab oil embargo in 1973, '74. Fatalities then tumbled 17 percent nationwide.

COLLINS: A bullfight in Colombia, but the real drama is in the stands. Watch as the first section -- man -- of bleachers collapses, and adjoining sections tumbled like dominoes, as you just saw.

Dozens of people are said to have been hurt, no deaths reported at this time. And wow, look at the -- look at the bull there. The cause of that collapse certainly under investigation.

HARRIS: And we are tracking Hurricane Dolly, a Category 2 storm now. We are watching it as it batters the coast. Texas and Mexico could face serious flooding.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

COLLINS: Good morning again, everybody. It's 11:30 Eastern Time.

I'm Heidi Collins.

HARRIS: And I'm Tony Harris.

Hurricane Dolly, it is the story of the day. It will be for the next couple of days, to be sure. Gaining strength this morning, upgraded to a Category 2 storm just about 30 minutes ago.

You can see the details right there on the right side of your screen. Now here's a look at some video shot by one of our photographers on South Padre Island, where Reynolds Wolf is, about to be blown away.

The fear in many areas is flooding. Texas Governor Rick Perry has already declared a disaster in 14 counties.

COLLINS: The severe weather warnings not limited to Texas either. Northern Mexico also getting hit this morning.

CNN's Harris Whitbeck is live in Matamoras, Mexico, just across from the border of Brownsville, Texas. Some people might call it Texico (ph).

Harris, tell us the very latest from where you are.

HARRIS WHITBECK, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Hello, Heidi.

Well, as you can see, the rain has started coming down a lot stronger. The winds have picked up as well. Hurricane Dolly now a Category 2.

I can't move around too much because we'll lose our satellite signal, but if you can notice behind me, there is still a lot of traffic on the streets here. People are taking the hurricane seriously, but not seriously enough to feel that they have to be inside all of the time.

Yesterday, the authorities here in (INAUDIBLE) urged people to stay at home. Today, a lot of the factories that operate along the border were closed so that people won't have to be on the roads going to and from work.

There were thousands of people in shelters yesterday. The authorities suggested to 23,000 people that they should leave their homes, particularly those who live along the coast of the Gulf of Mexico.

The main concern here is flooding. The hurricane is moving very, very slowly. It's going to dump a lot of rain on this part of Mexico.

This part of Mexico, the earth here is very, very dry. It's not -- it doesn't have the capacity to absorb a lot of moisture. So the main concern is flooding -- a lot -- 10, 15 inches in some cases. That's going to be the main problem here once the storm passes 00 Heidi.

COLLINS: All right. We will keep our eye on that from where you are, too. It looks pretty precarious, obviously.

Harris Whitbeck, thanks so much.

HARRIS: Boy, and take a look at the weather team hard at work here, tracking all of the precise movements of Hurricane Dolly. (WEATHER REPORT)

COLLINS: Meanwhile, new charges for jailed polygamist leader Warren Jeff's. A Texas grand jury has indicted him on charges of sexual assault of a child. Investigators say evidence collected during the raid on his group's Texas compound months ago shows Jeff's spiritually married four girls.

Investigators say evidence collected during the raid on his group's Texas compound months ago shows Jeff's spiritually married four girls. Investigators say two of them were 14, the other two 12. The indictment also charges four of his followers with sexual assault of a child. A fifth person charged with failure to report child abuse.

And new developments in the search for a missing 2-year-old named Caylee Anthony. This morning, Florida prosecutors say it's starting to look like the little girl was killed.

Her mom, Casey Anthony, has been charged with child neglect and lying to investigators. Police say Caylee disappeared in mid-June, but her mom didn't report it until last week. Investigators say cadaver dogs picked up the smell of human remains in her car. Anthony's attorney says the evidence is circumstantial and does not prove the little girl was killed.

HARRIS: Barack Obama continuing his Mideast swing. He sat down with Palestinian and Israeli leaders today. And moments ago, he answered questions from reporters gathered in Sderot, Israel.

He vowed to become a constructive partner in Mideast peace, and he reiterated his support for Jerusalem as the undivided capital of Israel. Obama's latest stops are part of a trip that has taken him to Jordan, Kuwait, Afghanistan and Iraq.

A town hall talk with John McCain. He rallied voters in Wilkes- Barre, Pennsylvania, this morning. Later today, McCain heads to New Orleans. There he will meet with Louisiana Governor and possible running mate Bobby Jindal.

COLLINS: John McCain on a troop buildup on Iraq. Did he mix up the timeline? McCain was asked about Barack Obama's point that a Sunni uprising against al Qaeda had already been reducing violence in Iraq. Here's what McCain said to CBS Tuesday.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MCCAIN: I don't know how you respond to something that is such a false depiction of what actually happened. Colonel McFarland (ph) was contacted by one of the major Sunni sheiks. Because of the surge, we were able to go out and protect that sheik and others, and it began the Anbar awakening. I mean, that's just a matter of history, thanks to General Petraeus, our leadership, and the sacrifice of brave young Americans.

(END VIDEO CLIP) COLLINS: The Obama campaign was quick to point out the Anbar awakening started months before President Bush announced plans for the troop buildup. That brought this response from the McCain campaign: "Democrats could debate whether the awakening would have survived without the surge or whether Shiite militias would have unilaterally disarmed without U.S. troops, and our Iraqi allies disarming them by force, but that is a transparent effort to minimize the role of our commanders and our troops in defeating the enemy."

HARRIS: Hurricane Dolly barreling in on the U.S./Mexico border. Our iReporters have been busy documenting this storm.

Veronica De La Cruz has some of what they've shot and sent us.

Veronica, what's out there?

VERONICA DE LA CRUZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: All right, Tony, let's go ahead and start with Todd Work (ph). He's in Brownsville, Texas.

You know, Tony, this type of weather is definitely a first for him. He's originally from Seattle so he really is not used to dealing with all of this stuff, dealing with hurricanes.

Tony, he went out last night to stock up on some supplies. He decided to document his experience for us. So here is what some of what he bought. Take a look.

He says that he went to the store. He was really frustrated. He goes to the store, and they've run out of flashlight. But he did notice that they had a full supply of Nintendo Wiis. So, something that he wasn't too happy about.

He took a drive through the city, Tony, snapped a couple of these photos for us, a couple of the homes in the area that had been boarded up. Todd said that throughout the night it has been really, really windy.

He woke up this morning, first thing, and decided to shoot some video for us. So let's go ahead and take a listen for a moment. This is 7:00 a.m. local time.

It looks like we're having some problems with the video there. Anyway, let me tell you about the video.

He shot that video for us this morning, 7:00 a.m. local time. He lives on this golf course in a low-lying area. And he says that because of all this rain, the drainage ponds there are already full. And we can see some of that in the video there.

And he said -- we just talked to him -- that the rain is still coming down really hard at this hour. So that was Todd Work (ph). He's there in Brownsville, Texas.

And there is the video. There's a portion of the video.

HARRIS: Oh, good, good, good. DE LA CRUZ: So, again, he shot that this morning, 7:00 a.m. local time. He's been really great, Tony. He's been with us all morning long, he is continually updating the iReport Web site.

HARRIS: OK.

DE LA CRUZ: So I know there's some new stuff on there from Todd right now.

Wanted to show you what else is going on, on the Web, Tony. Something really cool on the NOAA Web site.

NOAA is actually experimenting with podcasts. Podcasts. Yes, they're hoping to have a fresh podcast available every four hours. This is experimental right now.

So, if residents want to check out the latest information from NOAA, hopefully they can upload that to their iPod. We're looking at the Web site there. It's NOAA.gov.

And Tony, also wanted to remind you all out there to continue sending us iReports, and we're going to get those on the air throughout the day. Log on to ireport.com -- Tony.

HARRIS: Very good. All right. Veronica, thank you.

COLLINS: We, of course, are also watching Wall Street. Can the markets build on yesterday's gains? CNN's Susan Lisovicz is joining us from the floor of the New York Stock Exchange.

(STOCK MARKET REPORT)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

HARRIS: A landmark documentary premiering tonight. CNN Presents "Black in America," a four-hour documentary examining successes and struggles 40 years after the assassination of Martin Luther King, Jr., including black families torn apart by violence. Homicide rates in the African-American community are staggering.

CNN's Special Correspondent Soledad O'Brien sat down with a trauma surgeon who sees the effects every day. He is stepping up to make a difference.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

SOLEDAD O'BRIEN, CNN SPECIAL CORRESPONDENT (voice over): Every 30 minutes a murder is committed in America. Forty-nine percent of the victims are black. It's a staggering statistic, especially when you consider that black Americans make up just 13 percent of the population.

Baltimore, Maryland, the R. Adams Cowley Shock Trauma Center is the state's busiest hospital for violent injuries. Victims of beatings, stabbings and shootings come here to be saved.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: All right. We're going to lean you back. OK?

O'BRIEN: It's here a young man is struggling to survive.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: One, two, three.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: One, two, three. All right. Come on back.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I felt like I was dying. I never felt that way before. Everything was dark.

O'BRIEN: He's 17-year-old Martin Pinkney (ph), and he has a bullet lodged near his spine. His life was spared by mere metrics. If the bullet had gone two inches in a different direction, it would have hit his aorta and killed him.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Better?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: My back still hurts.

O'BRIEN: Young men like Martin are nothing new at this trauma center. And Dr. Carrnel Cooper (ph) estimates he's operated on hundreds of them. He's grown tired of saving patients only to see them return months later with worse or sometimes fatal injuries.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Using that scalpel blade to save their life is the first step in our minds. The next step is to try to do things that keep them from coming back.

O'BRIEN: For 18 years, Dr. Cooper (ph) has worked in Baltimore, where 93 percent of homicide victims are black. In 1999, he launched VIP, the Violence Intervention Project. It begins in the hospital recovery room.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Part of the goal of the program is to help you get back on your feet again and moving forward. You're a little bit angry right now and a lot of things are going through your mind.

O'BRIEN: In Martin's condition, he's hesitant. And then a moment of truth.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Are you interested in the program?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Not really, but yeah.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes.

O'BRIEN (on camera): When you visit a young man who is in the hospital recovering from a gunshot wound, and you say, I'm going to help change your life, what's the reaction?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Well, first of all, they're surprised, because it's not what they expect. We say, look, you know, here's an opportunity. We're going to help you find a way to get out of the game. And we're going to help you get your GED, help you get a job. We're going to help you move forward and we're going to be there to support you. (END VIDEOTAPE)

HARRIS: Well, it is an unparalleled television event. CNN Presents "Black in America.." Don't miss this groundbreaking documentary tonight and Thursday, 9:00 p.m. Eastern, only on CNN.

And be sure to watch a special hour, "Black in America: Your Reaction," tomorrow at noon Eastern, streamed live at CNN.com. Tomorrow, noon Eastern. Once again, CNN.com.

COLLINS: A president's legacy -- the Kennedy Space Center, Reagan National Airport, Washington, D.C. Now get ready for a new possibility, the George Bush Sewage Plant.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

COLLINS: Raising a stink, San Francisco will soon vote on a controversial measure: bestowing a dubious honor on President Bush.

CNN's Dan Simon has more.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Four, three, two...

DAN SIMON, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice over): A lot of things are named after U.S. presidents.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Lift off of Discovery.

SIMON: There's the Kennedy Space Center and the Reagan National Airport, among the countless streets and public schools named after our top officeholders.

(on camera): But a sewage treatment plant? Well, voters in San Francisco are being asked to consider naming this one after President George W. Bush.

DANA PERINO, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: I just don't think it dignifies a response.

SIMON (voice over): That's the White House's position. But as for the San Francisco organizers who dreamed up the idea...

(on camera): So why a sewage plant?

STACEY REINECCIUS, ORGANIZED INITIATIVE: It's representative of the quality of his thinking, his judgment and his capability.

SIMON (voice over): These guys collected 12,000 signatures, more than enough to force the measure on the November ballot.

BRIAN MCCONNELL, ORGANIZED INITIATIVE: The intent is to make people think and discuss what's happened over the past eight years.

SIMON: It might seem like a complete joke, but this is San Francisco. Former mayor Willie Brown says he's voting yes.

WILLIE BROWN, FMR. SAN FRANCISCO MAYOR: I wouldn't be caught voting any other way. You think I want to be run out of this town?

SIMON: But workers at the Oceanside Water Pollution Control Plant -- that's what it's called now -- think a name change undermines their important work. Critics also fret about the cost to San Francisco taxpayers. A new sign, brochures, and stationery costs money.

TYRONE JUE, PLANT SPOKESMAN: This initiative is going to cost about $50,000 just to change the naming of this facility to the George W. Bush Sewage Treatment Plant.

SIMON: And the San Francisco Republican Party, well, they says it stinks too.

HOWARD EPSTEIN, SAN FRANCISCO REPUBLICAN PARTY: It's embarrassing for the city. You know, we already have a reputation as being full of nuts, and this just emphasizes that.

SIMON: But in a city where only nine percent of the voters are Republican, the measure has an excellent shot of passing. And if it does, the George W. Bush sewage plant will become a reality when he leaves office.

Dan Simon, CNN, San Francisco.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

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