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School Collapsed in Haiti: Death Toll Rising; Search for Caylee Anthony in Florida; Hurricane Paloma Gaining Strength in the Caribbean; Barack Obama Beginning His Transition into the White House

Aired November 8, 2008 - 09:00   ET


BETTY NGUYEN, CNN ANCHOR: Hello, everybody, from the CNN Center in Atlanta, I'm Betty Nguyen. This is CNN SATURDAY MORNING.
T.J. HOLMES, CNN ANCHOR: And hello to you all. I'm T.J. Holmes. Glad you could be here with us.

We do have a developing story we continue to keep an eye on, this horrible story out of Haiti where a school collapsed, the death toll keeps rising. At least 50 children are killed. Really expect possibly hundreds of others could be trapped underneath, pulling someone alive. They are also pulling out some of the bodies of others. We'll have a live report from there in just a second.

NGUYEN: And we want to give you some live pictures from Orange County, Florida, where a massive search is getting under way for Caylee Anthony, the little girl that you see in the box there. She has been missing for months. We'll bring you an update.

HOLMES: All right. We are going to get the latest on the deadly school collapse in Haiti. The sun is up there. Crews did work throughout the night, however. They used floodlights and have been digging through the rubble. About 200 children believed to be trapped underneath. Officials say the three-story school building that sat on a hill in a neighborhood just outside Port-au-Prince suddenly gave way yesterday morning.

According to the president of Haiti, we are getting word from the president that the death toll is at 82. Still, many, many others injured. At least 100 others injured. We are going to get more on this tragedy now with somebody who is there. Get to Clarens Renois he is with the Haitian Press Network in Port-au-Prince.

Clarens Renois, thank you for being here with us. Give us the very latest. We just heard that the president has updated the death toll to 82. Are they pulling out still? Are they still finding children alive underneath, or are they pulling out more bodies than anything right now?

VOICE OF CLARENS RENOIS, HAITI PRESS NETWORK: Yes. Death toll this morning, found 21 more bodies in a classroom. The students with a teacher, according to President Rene Preval. He is on the scene very early this morning with these members of his cabinet to you know supervise the operations. The rescue operations are still under way with the French team coming from Guadalupe and Travian (ph) to help the Haitians trying to get out some students who are still inside the ruble.

HOLMES: Clarens, tell us as well, has the blame game started, if you will? People trying to understand exactly how this could happen, how this building could collapse?

RENOIS: Yes, according to Rene Preval, this school has not been safe to receive so many people at the same time, 700 students. So this is a very weak construction. The structure is really weak. So, he asked his members -- the members of his cabinet to supervise the construction of a school that received so many people at the same time.

HOLMES: What do they believe is the number that's underneath that rubble right now? I know a lot of kids were in and around the area, some not necessarily in the building, but what do they -- how many do they believe are still trapped under there?

RENOIS: Yes, according to the Civil Protection of President Preval himself, maybe there are more than 100, about 200 kids still inside, maybe they are alive, maybe they are dead, but nobody knows exactly because the operations are still under way.

HOLMES: And Clarens, last thing here. There's also a situation we understand with the hospitals, not enough hospitals that are open right now, a couple of strikes going on? Is there enough -- are the students and those that are injured getting enough medical attention? Are there enough people there to help out?

RENOIS: Yes, there's teams coming from the United Nations here, Haitian teams also. Doctors without borders are there also to help. But, you know, in Haiti, a hospital is not enough to receive people injured, sick people. So right now they are still, you know, working in the hospitals, doctors without borders to, you know, to receive 100 more people injured.

HOLMES: All right. Clarens Renois on the line for us there. Clarens, we appreciate you giving us that update on just a horrible scene there. But again, the update from the Haitian president now 82 dead, still up to 100, maybe a couple of hundred still trapped underneath that rubble. So the search continues.

Meanwhile a U.S. search and rescue team en route to Haiti to help out. We got pictures now from Fairfax, Virginia, where the crews were packing up for their mission last night. A team that's going to this of about 38 people, also 4 dogs. They're expected to arrive in the region sometime today.

NGUYEN: We're also watching severe weather rather gaining strength in the Caribbean, Hurricane Paloma now a major category 4 storm. Our Reynolds Wolf is tracking Paloma for us and he joins us now with the latest on this. This thing really picked up some steam.

REYNOLDS WOLF, CNN METEOROLOGIST: It really did, especially during the overnight hours. This is just a powerhouse. It's a minimal shear environment, this very warm water which is one of the key ingredients to these storms really, and it continues to spin out there as you mentioned, Betty. A category 4 storm, winds of 140 miles per hour, gusting to 160, a major hurricane. Moving northeast at eight miles per hour.

This storm is expected to cross Cuba, as we make our way into early tomorrow morning. The latest path we have from the National Hurricane Center brings it right across the island nation with winds of 115 miles per hour into early Sunday. But then notice in the Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday and there's barely any movement at all.

You will notice it kind of meanders back into the Bahamas and south of that point, almost toward the strait of Florida with winds dropping to around 25 miles per hour as we get into Thursday. At least that's the forecast. But the storm right now doesn't pose any threat to the United States. There's a reason for that.

Reason why we don't anticipate the storm to come close to the U.S. is because of a frontal boundary that is sweeping its way across the U.S., already been bringing some snow and rain to parts of the great lakes. But it's going to be this frontal boundary that's going to keep that storm at bay and push it back into the Atlantic and far from the eastern seaboard. At least that's how it pans out for us, at least forecast-wise.

High pressure is building into the Gulf coast. With that, plenty of sunshine for the Tennessee Valley. You had a rainy day yesterday in Birmingham, Alabama. Today, no raindrops for you. You can expect plenty of sunshine, though. Look for some scattered showers in parts of the northwest. The raindrops we're going to see right along parts of the outer banks and following the eastern seaboard and we're going to stick it in too.

A rainy morning for you in New York, and then as we make our way back to the western half of the Great Lakes, again, not much in terms of rain but, rather, snowfall especially in places like Madison, Wisconsin, and just to the north of Milwaukee at this time. We're going to keep a sharp eye on this for you, let you know about the breezy conditions you're going to be dealing with through a good part of the day.

We're going to wrap it up and send it back to you at the news desk.

NGUYEN: All right. Lots to talk about. Thank you, Reynolds.

WOLF: Thank you very much, guys.

NGUYEN: Speaking of a lot to discuss today, Barack Obama's transition team is in place and it's got a lot of work to do. CNN's Suzanne Malveaux joins us now live from Chicago. She has been working non-stop just as this transition team seems like it's been. And they have more to do so what's on the agenda today, Suzanne?

SUZANNE MALVEAUX, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Betty, they've got a lot to do and already Barack Obama has accomplished quite a bit in the last couple of days. He's delivering the Democratic radio address today, but beyond that he's going to have a little down time, well deserved time with his family, his two daughters and his wife, Michelle, here in Chicago.

Yesterday, he held his first press conference as president-elect and he had his team of economic advisers, his transition team of economic advisers, about 17 folks, some executives from Xerox, Time- Warner, Google, the billionaire Warren Buffett, several former treasury secretaries, all of them really to show a hefty picture of Barack Obama trying to tell people, look, you know, he's paying very close attention to the economy, to the economic crisis. He was pushing for it in his $175 billion economic stimulus package, urging for Congress to push that through even before he takes office.

But he also was very careful, Betty, yesterday to say, look, he's got 70-something days before he officially takes office. That he's got plans in place, but there is not that much that he can particularly do until he becomes the president.

So this was something that he emphasized yesterday, that he is working very closely with President Bush.


SEN. BARACK OBAMA (D), PRESIDENT-ELECT: The United States has only one government and one president at a time, and until January 20th of next year, that government is the current administration. I've spoken to President Bush. I appreciate his commitment to ensuring that his economic policy team keeps us fully informed as developments unfold, and I'm also thankful for his invitation to the White House.

Immediately after, I'm going to confront this economic crisis head-on by taking all necessary steps to ease the credit crisis, help hard working families, and restore growth and prosperity.


MALVEAUX: And, Betty, Obama's going to be meeting with President Bush on Monday. They're going to have a meeting to talk about Iraq, as well as the financial crisis and then, of course, will be looking for some cabinet announcements perhaps in the days to come. And, Betty, one thing you might appreciate, my producer picked up these here a little -- everything is Obama here in Chicago. A little Obama bling here to --

NGUYEN: Nice, yes. I think one comes in my size.

MALVEAUX: We picked up one for you, Betty. We thought you'd like it.

NGUYEN: Can't wait to see you, Suzanne. All right. Take care. T.J., looks like one came in your size, too.

HOLMES: I like the one on the left, your right, Suzanne. Hold onto that for me. Meanwhile, Sarah Palin says they're just a bunch of jerks and she's not even talking about Democrats here. The former vice presidential candidate back at work in Alaska, but she's still answering questions about what went wrong during that campaign. You might remember they lost. She's responding to stories that are attributed to former aides of John McCain. She's calling them cowardly and, yes, she used the word jerks.

Our Gary Tuchman caught up with her in Anchorage.


GARY TUCHMAN, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Are you angry about this, that people were so disloyal to say things, to do it without their name?

GOV. SARAH PALIN (R), FMR. VICE PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Who's "they" though? I don't know who they are so it's tough to respond to. But we know that, for instance, with the whole clothes issue, the RNC purchased clothes. Those are the RNC's clothes. They're not my clothes. I never forced anybody to buy them. I never asked for anything more than maybe a diet Dr. Pepper once in awhile. I never have asked for anything.

These are Sarah Palin's clothes. You know, we don't take anything with us. So, until that stuff's cleared up by you guys doing your job, what else can I say? What else can John McCain say about all of this except these are false allegations.


HOLMES: Well, for most political news and notes, you can click on That is still your home for politics.

NGUYEN: A massive volunteer effort is getting under way right now in central Florida. I want to give you a look at some of the thousands of volunteers. In fact, some of them on the move at this hour. They've been gathering near Orlando. Trying to get some more guidance on what this is exactly that we're following there from Orange County, Florida, our affiliate WESH. What we know is all of these volunteers that we have been speaking of are taking part in the search today for Caylee Anthony.

The missing two-year-old hasn't been seen since July. OK. Here's a better picture of the volunteers who have been gathering today. A specialized search team from Texas is coordinating the efforts that you see. I want to give you a little more information as well. Her mother, Casey Anthony, is facing first-degree murder charges. She's also accused of lying to investigators looking into her daughter's disappearance. She has pleaded not guilty.

Well, in the small community of St. Johns, Arizona, an unbelievable crime. Listen to this. Police have charged an eight- year-old boy with killing his dad and another man. Police say the boy shot them to death on Wednesday inside the family's home. There's no word on a motive, but police do say the boy, who has no record of problems at school, now faces two counts of premeditated murder.

HOLMES: Premeditated. That is a tough story. We will move on to -- let's go to California here now with this third day of protests over California's proposition 8. Tuesday, voters there approved Prop 8 which is a new ban on same-sex marriages. Demonstrations started in Los Angeles earlier this week but have spread to other cities, including up to the Bay area of San Francisco. You can see some of those, again, on your picture here. San Francisco in some of these pictures, also some happening in Long Beach.

NGUYEN: Demonstrators have blocked traffic in some areas and even banged on the doors of CNN's bureau in Los Angeles. There have only been a couple of arrests associated with this. Appeals have already been made to the state Supreme Court. The court struck down a similar measure, though, back in May.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: What a beautiful (inaudible).


HOLMES: This is coming to us from one of our i-reporters helping us tell our story. This is video from Matt Hartman, showing the protests at the Mormon temple in Los Angeles. Proponents of the gay marriage ban blame the Mormon church for helping the measure to succeed on election day.

And we would like you to send us your i-report by going to Keep them coming.

NGUYEN: All right. The jobless numbers are out and they tell the story, really. That's all you need to do is see the numbers of America's difficult economic situation.

HOLMES: Yes, how many people were laid off last week. We've got hard numbers for you. Stay here.


HOLMES: Well, the wheels just continue to fall off of the automobile industry. Auto giant GM reporting a third quarter operating loss of $4.2 billion. That is up from a loss of $1.6 billion a year earlier. And far worse than analysts had forecast. Shares of GM fell to a 60-year low. Both GM and Ford could be looking at more job cuts.

I'm going to check out the jobless rate right here nationwide.

NGUYEN: Yes, in the past month of October, we've lost over 200,000 jobs, but for the year, that number is over one million jobs lost right here in the U.S. often those layoffs come with no notice, but you can protect yourself and your assets by being prepared.

CNN's Gerri Willis has information that you need to know.


GERRI WILLIS, CNN PERSONAL FINANCE EDITOR: Hi, Betty. It seems every day is bringing more layoffs, so what can you do if you find yourself without work? Well, before you start packing your stuff, grab that rolodex, your contacts could help you and that next job. All company property is off limits.

This includes customer lists, financial data, strategic plans and contract information. You may have a little time to return gadgets like laptops and BlackBerry's, but if you keep your contacts on your BlackBerry, make sure you keep a backup copy at home.

Know your rights when it comes to health care. Cobra allows you to continue your coverage for up to a year and a half after you leave your job. You'll generally have 60 days to decide whether you want at that coverage. Most companies will continue your coverage through the month.

Now, if you're confident that you can land a job quickly or you can get coverage under a spouse's plan, then you might want to rethink Cobra. Don't leave any money behind. Roll your 401(k) or pension into an I.R.A. you will have more options for retirement and won't have to pay penalty fees that come with taking a cash disbursement.

Coming up on "OPEN HOUSE," it's the transition to power. We're breaking down Obama's plans for the economy and what that may mean for your bottom line. How to navigate a tough job market. Why some folks are putting off retirement. That's "OPEN HOUSE," 9:30 a.m. Eastern -- Betty.


NGUYEN: All right. Thank you, Gerri.

You know all told, 15,000 Americans were handed pink slips last week alone. So, from the jobless rate to the election, were you texting your friends the night of the big election? If so, were you among millions with those busy fingers? We'll take a look.


HOLMES: Well, Tuesday may have been one of those moments in history, one of those where people will likely remember exactly where they were when they first heard the election results of Tuesday's election. Well, I was at Ebenezer Baptist Church in Atlanta which was certainly a rocking place that night, if you will. That's the church, of course, where Reverend Martin Luther King Jr. preached. I was there on assignment. Came away with a whole lot more than I really bargained for that night.

Take a look at what I saw.


UNIDENTIFIED VOICES: Yes, we can. HOLMES (voice-over): I have visited countless southern black churches in my lifetime. I have never been bored in one. Southern black churches are known, after all, for the energy and enthusiasm of the parishioners in the pews and the preacher in the pulpit. But I have never seen anything like this. This wasn't a Sunday service, but a Tuesday testimony. Election night at Ebenezer Baptist.

REP. JOHN LEWIS (D), GEORGIA: I want to thank Martin Luther King, Jr. He must be looking down from heaven saying, hallelujah, hallelujah.

HOLMES: The same church where Martin Luther King, Jr. preached became the place where thousands celebrated the fruits of King's labor.

REP. BERNICE KING, DAUGHTER OF MARTIN LUTHER KING, JR.: With me there's an overwhelming sense of joy and sadness. Sadness in the sense that I wish my mother could have been here.

HOLMES: King dream was of the day where his children would be judged not by the color of their skin but by the quality of their character. Those children were here Tuesday night. Daughter Bernice and son Martin III. But these weren't the only children King was talking about. He was talking about every black son and daughter out there, including the son of a white woman from Kansas and a black man from Kenya.

REV. AL SHARPTON, NATIONAL ACTION NETWORK: He will be able to persuade all Americans that he's their president and that's who elected him tonight. Millions of whites voted for him. He could not have won just on black votes. He could not have won in just one community. So he must serve all.

HOLMES: The sanctuary was at capacity, filled with young and old. Parents kept their kids up late on a school night to be part of history. People cheered. They cried. Talking to people here, there wasn't much suspense about the night's outcome, given the way the campaign and the polls looked into the closing days, but the lack of suspense didn't take away from this moment when the words, Barack Obama elected president, were flashed on the screen.


NGUYEN: What a place. Personally, I don't know of a better place to be that night.

HOLMES: You know, that night, the place where Martin Luther King preached, where he planned so many of his civil rights era movements and marches. You know that's where he fought for voting rights and all those plans were made to be in that place. John Lewis there, Bernice, Martin III there.

NGUYEN: So much history.

HOLMES: It's a special place. When CNN projected him president, that place went crazy. NGUYEN: And I know it was a long day for you because we started out very early in the morning on election day, and you had that assignment. What a really good assignment on the night of election.

HOLMES: I will never forget that one.

NGUYEN: Yes. Absolutely.

All right. So if you joined in the excitement of Tuesday night's election by calling or texting your friends you were absolutely not alone.

HOLMES: Yes. Wireless service carriers reporting a huge spike in texting that now in some cases breaks all previous records. Josh Levs joins us with that -- Josh.

JOSH LEVS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: You know T.J., it's interesting to see, to talk about this coming out of your segment there. Because people felt a sense of community that night. A lot of people all over the country wanted to reach out to a lot of people and they were doing it. One of our producers says she was getting texts all night, of course, and it got her wondering how much of that was going on nationwide. We checked with the major carriers. You have to see these numbers. Talk about people reaching out.

AT&T first, texting surged 44 percent in the hour after Obama's victory was announced. It was the biggest spike in the company's history. Let's go over to Verizon now. Verizon says across the full day, texting was up 21 percent with a total, look at that, 1.25 billion Verizon texts sent that day. We also looked into phone- calling as well. It's interesting to see that in a lot of cases it didn't jump to the exact same extent but it did go up.

Let's look at this from Sprint right here. They said they had a 125 percent increase 11:00 p.m. to midnight. That's just after people victory call. And Nextel, 22 percent increase. Some people at Verizon said they didn't see a big jump on phone. It was especially on the texting. I guess that's where people are today, reaching out to everybody and trying to have that sense of community. If you were doing it that night, that's how big it was. That's part of the history, guys.

NGUYEN: All right. We do appreciate it. Thank you, Josh.

LEVS: Thanks.

NGUYEN: Well, we've been asking you all morning long, what do you want the Obama administration to accomplish?

HOLMES: And people have been sending us their e-mail responses. We're going to read some of those. Stay here.


NGUYEN: You know, earlier, we asked you for your input and we wanted to know what you thought about the Obama administration and what it should get done in the first term. So, here's what you're saying.

HOLMES: Yes, one person -- the one thing that I would most like to see that we capture Osama Bin Laden within President Obama's term due to the fact that he has been a factor in this country's economic status and unrest in our nation. That's from A. Booth.

Another one from Richard Weeks of Columbus, Ohio. I would like to see him put us on track for alternative fuels and reduce emissions. I would like a goal date set for a man/woman on Mars.

Also from Gladys S., two things I would like to see, bring the troops home from Iraq. We have lost too many Americans in a war where people don't want us there and we shouldn't have been there in the first place.

We appreciate those responses. Keep them coming in. We will continue to share those throughout the morning, actually.

NGUYEN: "OPEN HOUSE" with Gerri Willis starts right now.