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CNN NEWSROOM

Four Killed in Pennsylvania Gym Shooting; Ling and Lee Freed from North Korean Prison; President Obama Stumping for Stimulus Package in Indiana; Ahmadinejad Takes Oath of Office and Begins Second Term; How Washington Is Preparing Against Swine Flu; Will Bill Clinton's Visit Affect Future U.S.-North Korea Relations?; Battery Research As An Economical Jumpstart; Fortieth Anniversary of Charles Manson Murders; Economics and Giving Up Babies in South Africa

Aired August 5, 2009 - 10:00   ET

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


HEIDI COLLINS, CNN ANCHOR: A shocking glimpse into the mind of a suspected killer.

First, the horrifying details. A gunman walks into a fitness center, stroll to an aerobics class, opens fire, killing three women and wounding others.

CNN's Susan Candiotti is on the scene in Collier Township, that's just outside of Pittsburgh, with the very latest this morning. So, Susan, boy, it's just an unbelievable story. We are actually learning about the suspect, though, this morning.

SUSAN CANDIOTTI, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Right, we're finding out a lot about him, and it's hard to think about how stunning this must have been for the people who went here for their nightly workout in a crowded gym for an aerobics class, never imagining encountering a hail of gunfire, and, in fact, at least three people losing their lives.

So, this gym member was among them. He is identified as George Sodini. Apparently he had one thing in mind, going in there and taking out as many people as he could with him, firing indiscriminately. Here's the police chief and eyewitnesses.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: What happened was - they were in a pilates class or something like that, and they turned the lights out, and all of a sudden the shooting started.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: She shot the lights off in the aerobic room. And by the time I realized this was going on, I looked over in the aerobic room and I could see flashes in the dark and that's when I realized that someone was actually using a firearm inside of there.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It was pretty intense, you know, at first, I didn't get a chance to think about it because it happened so fast. But then once you realized that you are outside, what happened, you saw the people running around and there were people that were shot and bleeding. It was a lot to take in.

(END VIDEO CLIP) CANDIOTT: And we are learning more about a blog that this alleged gunman left behind, George Sodini. By the way, he worked as a systems analyst at a local law office here in the Pittsburgh area. It says this blog, there was an entry written Monday of this week, I'm going to read it in part. "I need to work out every detail. There is only one shot. Last time I tried this in January, I chickened out. Let's see how this new approach works. Maybe soon I will see God and Jesus." And he goes on to say, "also any of the practice papers left on my coffee table I used or the notes in my gym bag can be published freely. I will not be embarrassed because, well, I will be dead."

And in fact, this man did leave behind a note in his gym bag, according to police. A source tells me in it he expresses his hatred for women, and the police chief said it's pretty clear that nothing was going to stop this man, nothing at all. Heidi?

COLLINS: Boy, oh, boy. All right. Susan Candiotti staying on top of the story for us there. Just outside of Pittsburgh this morning. Susan, let us know if we need to come back to you, if any more information comes available.

Meanwhile, so very happy to be home. That is what freed American journalists Laura Ling said shortly after getting off a plane from North Korea. There is a moment. It was an emotional homecoming for Ling and, of course, Euna Lee reuniting right there with her husband and four-year-old daughter. You saw it live right here. The women spent five months, 140 nights, in a North Korean prison. Their pardoned came after a face-to-face meeting between former President Bill Clinton and North Korean leader Kim Jong-Il.

CNN's Thelma Gutierrez is there at the airplane hangar when all of this took place and saw the reunion. A very emotional one, a lot of us choking back the tears on that. First hand, Thelma Gutierrez this morning. Hi, Thelma.

THELMA GUTIERREZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hi, there, Heidi. Yes, it was absolutely emotional and it was so perfectly produced. I think John had said that only in Burbank, California, could you have something like this. As the hangar doors open and you have the sunrise in the background and the plane pulling in this and this marvelous reunion between these children and their mothers and just a very touching scene.

Right now I can tell you that it looks as though the families will be leaving the airport. They've been here for a short amount of time and they made their public statements and we were told by the organizers that they would meet off site with former President Clinton and also Al Gore. After that then they would give the families time alone so that they could go off and have some private time after spending 140 days separated. Laura Ling spoke, she went to the mic and she spoke. She really had some emotional things to say.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

LAURA LING, FREED AMERICAN JOURNALIST: And then suddenly we were told that we were going to a meeting. We were taken to a location and when we walked through the doors, we saw standing before us President Bill Clinton.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

GUTIERREZ: Now Euna Lee, her colleague, who is her editor actually did not come to the mic and speak, but it was very emotional to watch the reunion between Euna and her four-year-old daughter, Hannah. Hannah was standing there as the plane pulled up and then she saw her mother get off of that plane and she went to her and they held each other and she looked very surprised and her in-laws came up, the grandparents of Hannah and they were all hugging. So really, some very emotional moments. Something that many of the people, members of the media, there were lots of sniffles behind me.

COLLINS: Oh, yes. I understand that one. You kind of can't take your eyes off of it, that's for sure. I think if Euna Lee had gotten to the microphone, she might not have been able to just say anything because it is just so darn tough. Continue to look at those pictures of her with her four-year-old daughter there. Absolutely brings tears to your eyes. All right. Thelma Gutierrez inside the airplane hangar there, just still keeping our eye on the family cars because we understand they're getting ready to leave now as Thelma mentioned.

Former President Bill Clinton did not speak, instead, he released this statement. We want to put it on the screen for you. "I am very happy that after this long ordeal, Laura Ling and Euna Lee are now home and reunited with their loved ones. When their families, Vice President Gore and the White House asked that I undertake this humanitarian mission, I agreed. I share a deep sense of relief with Laura and Euna and their families that they are safely home."

On our blog today, we want to know what you think - Laura Ling and Euna Lee's return actually mean, if anything now, to the official relations between the United States and North Korea. Logon to cnn.com/heidi and tell us what you think. What this could really mean in a bigger picture or you can give us a call at the "Hotline to Heidi," that number is 1-877-742-5760.

Diplomacy with North Korea a success in this case, but will it have an effect on those nuclear talks? That is the question we will pose a little bit later on this hour with two experts in the field. So make sure you stick around for that.

Meanwhile, President Obama stumping for the stimulus package and taking his message to the heartland. This morning he arrived in Elkhart County, Indiana. It's an area especially hard hit by the recession and CNN's senior White House correspondent Ed Henry shows us now why any optimism will be welcome.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

ED HENRY, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The recession has absolutely rocked the RV capital of the world. Elkhart, Indiana, unemployment rate peaked at 19 percent, twice the national average as dealers of recreational vehicles struggle to stay afloat. ROB REID, GREAT LAKES RV CENTER: It's been the most difficult thing I have done in my 42 years of life. It was a struggle and nobody saw it coming.

HENRY: Rob Reid says he's using less electricity each day to pinch pennies at this location after closing his other dealership, forcing him to lay off a dozen employees.

REID: Being a smaller or medium-sized company, they become your friends, because we're with them even more so, than we are families, a lot of time.

HENRY: At city hall, Democratic mayor Dick Moore says traffic at local food banks has never been so intense and donated backpacks are pouring in for kids going back to school. Still, the mayor believes Elkhart is getting back on its feet. Thanks to $14 million in stimulus money though he cautions the president can't get too optimistic.

MAYOR DICK MOORE, ELKHART, INDIANA: That's what I would say to him, thank you, Mr. President. This program is working here in Elkhart, Indiana. Now, the problem with that is the guy standing here in your place is unemployed. He doesn't buy that at all.

HENRY: The mayor insists stimulus money spent around the country is trickling down to his city as people are starting to buy RVs again.

MOORE: It isn't an Elkhart, Indian stimulus program. It is a state of Indiana stimulus program. It's a stimulus program for the United States of America. So when you talk about how the money flows, somebody gets money in California and one of our factories here supplies some parts to that company in California, we benefit from it.

HENRY: Back at the RV lot, Rob Reid agrees sales have picked up, and so has his outlook.

REID: I always feel optimistic because if you start to feel it, then your customers are going to feel it. So, you know, we're optimistic no matter what happens because we don't want the economy or the doldrums of Elkhart right now to set the tone for our business.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

COLLINS: And just a quick reminder, we will have live coverage of President Obama's speech in Elkhart County, Indiana. It will be coming your way 11:55 Eastern, 8:55 Pacific. Of course, we'll carry it live when it happens.

Remember the government's mortgage rescue plan? Well, it's off to a bit of a slow start. In the past six months, the Treasury Department reports only nine percent of homeowners facing foreclosure have had their loans modified. Financial institutions say they have offered to modify about 15 percent of delinquent loans, that's more than 400,000 across the United States.

COLLINS: Take a moment now to check out the big board for you because we have been kind of liking what we see and nobody likes to see a negative sign there but down right now by 78 points. Dow Jones industrial average is just about 40 minutes into the trading day. We'll keep our eye on it for you.

Seven suspected home-grown terrorists back in federal court today in Raleigh, North Carolina. Daniel Patrick Boyd and six other men are charged with plotting to kidnap, maim and kill people in a foreign country. Authorities played an audiotape in court yesterday. They say Boyd discussed the virtues of a violent jihad. According to report the courtroom was packed with vocal supporters of the alleged terror suspects. An eighth suspect is still being looked for.

A disputed president, a bitterly divided country, an inauguration rekindled the anger in Iran.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

COLLINS: In Iran, hard-line President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad takes the oath of office and begins a second term. His inauguration came as hundreds of protesters gathered under the watchful eyes of riot police. CNN's Reza Sayah following the very latest and joining us now from our international desk in the NEWSROOM. The Iran desk, we should be more specific.

So yes, a lot of protesters as this inauguration happens.

REZA SAYAH, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Heidi, whether the supporters, the protesters like it or not, it's official President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad starting his second term with a swearing in ceremony this morning in Tehran.

Let's take a look at some of those pictures. The ceremony broadcast live on television beginning at 9:00 a.m. local time. Missing from the ceremony was a number of big names, opposition leaders who still insist this vote was rigged. There you see President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad standing next to the head of the Judiciary Ayatollah Sharudi. There you see embraced President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad taking an oath and taking aim at nations who have yet to congratulate him.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

PRES. MAHMOUD AHMADINEJAD, IRAN (through translator): Nobody in Iran is waiting for anyone's congratulation. The people of Iran do not care about their frowning foreheads and neither do they care about their smiles and congratulations.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SAYAH: There you heard President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad rejecting all those countries that have yet to congratulate him. Among those countries, France, Great Britain, the UK and the U.S., although yesterday White House spokesperson Robert Gibbs did acknowledge that President Ahmadinejad is the elected president, but the opposition leaders among them Mir Hossein Mousavi, former presidents Rafsanjani and Ayatollah Hatemi, they have yet to acknowledge him as the legitimate president. So, a lot of challenges this president's facing in his second term, Heidi.

COLLINS: Yes, wow. A lot going on. Once again, we'll continue to follow this story from our Iran desk. Reza Sayah this morning. Thanks, Reza.

SAYAH: Welcome.

COLLINS: Secretary of State Hillary Clinton is in Kenya on the first leg of a seven-nation African tour. Clinton spoke at a trade conference in Nairobi aimed at increasing U.S. imports of African product. She told the gathering, the growth of business and trade in Africa cannot happen unless governments improve democracy. Secretary Clinton is also meeting with Kenya's leadership from Kenya she will then travel on to South Africa.

Over to the severe weather center now where, hey, Rob Marciano is standing by, ready to tell us about -- what do we have storms?

ROB MARCIANO, AMS METEOROLOGIST: We do have some storms...

COLLINS: In the Chicago area?

MARCIANO: At this time, yesterday, we were getting our folks in Louisville, Kentucky...

COLLINS: Yes.

MARCIANO: And parts of southern Indiana really getting hammered with the heavy thunderstorms. And record-breaking rain through parts of Louisville. I want to show you some of this video coming out of this. Six inches of rain like in a two-hour period, some aerials for you. Interstate 65 shut down at one point and a number of roads and a couple feet of water, obviously folks are getting stranded, as well. Even at Churchill Downs, the racetrack there --

COLLINS: Oh, no.

MARCIANO: They had to evacuate over 30 thoroughbreds because the water was rising there in the stables and a part of that race track under water. A lot of this has receded since these pictures were taken but it just came and went in a hurry and folks there cleaning up from the muddy record rainfall. Right now the rain is occurring across parts of eastern Kentucky and a lot of the rain right now south of Memphis heading across southern parts of Arkansas and this has been fairly active today, as well, as far as seeing damaging winds and heavy rain there.

It is moving a little bit faster, we don't suspect they will see as much flooding. They could use the rain out west and other excessive heat warning expected for Phoenix westward towards the California border. We'll see temperatures 5 to 10 degrees above average. 110 to 115, this is the time of year where they typically get the thunderstorms in the afternoon but that doesn't want to set up as far as that monsoon flow is concerned.

And these sort of thunderstorms that had been popping across the west has been sparking wildfires because it's been so hot and dry there. So red flag warnings up there and fire watches also posted for this part of the country. 107 expected in Phoenix, 102 meanwhile in Dallas and 92 degrees is expected in Memphis.

One other point I want to make, Hurricane Felicia strengthened now to a cat 2 and that will be heading in the general vicinity of Hawaii over the next seven days. So we'll watch that as it wraps what will be left off Enrique. Heidi, back over to you.

COLLINS: OK. All right. We'll keep our eye on it. Thank you, Rob. Check back a little later on.

MARCIANO: Good.

COLLINS: It has spread around the world in only a few short months and it's not even flu season yet. How Washington is preparing now to protect you against the swine flu.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

COLLINS: A grim milestone this week. The number of people who have died from the H1N1 virus or swine flu has now topped 1,000. The World Health Organization puts the total number as of yesterday at 1,154. The virus first came out in April in Mexico and has since spread to every continent. In the U.S., health officials are worried about the upcoming flu season and our senior medical correspondent Elizabeth Cohen is joining me now to talk a little bit more about this. So you were at this briefing yesterday at the White House, with some senior administration officials, what did you learn? keep thinking about school, too. Because for us the school down here starts on Monday.

ELIZABETH COHEN, CNN SENIOR MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, definitely, I think a lot of people are nervous that their kids are going to be walking into a H1N1 swine flu fest with all these kids together? What I learned at this meeting is that federal officials are concerned that people are going to freak out this flu season. Freak out is my term, not theirs. But they're concerned because swine flu kills young people and pregnant women.

This is very different from seasonal flu where usually the victims are the elderly. So, when swine flu season starts in full swing in the fall and the winter and there are all these news reports about young people dying, students, college students, pregnant women, they're worried that people are really going to panic.

COLLINS: Yes, well, hopefully that won't be the case and everybody will get the right information they need, but we also want to know, you know, what are the plans to protect everybody?

COHEN: The number one plan is vaccinations. So they're testing the vaccine right now and the people who are supposed to get the vaccine these are very different list than the regular seasonal flu shot. So let's take a look at the list of people who are first in line or should be first in line to get a swine flu shot. Pregnant women, anyone who takes care of a child, who is - I'm sorry, I skipped there. Everyone six months to 24 years old is supposed to get a swine flu shot and anyone who takes care of a baby who is under six months is supposed to get a swine flu shot because those babies that young can't get the shot on their own. Also emergency and health care workers should get a swine flu shot and seniors with health conditions. So not all seniors, but seniors with health conditions. So these five groups are supposed to be first in line to get the swine flu shot.

COLLINS: And we have the swine flu shot? The vaccine?

COHEN: No, don't have it yet. Don't have it yet and that's part of the issue is that things are going it be a little bit, I think slower than some officials would like. The shot is expected to come out in mid-October at the earliest. That's the best case scenario. You have to get two shots. They have to be spaced three weeks apart and you're not fully immune until two weeks after the second shot. So if you do the math, these senior administration officials said we're not really going to have an immune population until December. So it's going to take a while.

COLLINS: And how do they really know that because when we talk about things like the flu, I mean, there are so many different strains and are we really certain that this is going to be, as you say, fully, you know, immune to...

COHEN: We're going based on the experience that they've had with seasonal flu. I mean, they have been giving regular flu shots for many, many decades now.

COLLINS: That's all the strains of it, right?

COHEN: Well, this one. I mean they targeted the swine flu shot to swine flu. So I don't think that that's a concern. If the virus doesn't mutate, they definitely nailed it and so far it hasn't mutated. I mean, its killed 1,000 people and it's been in, you know, many, many countries all around the world and it hasn't mutated although they're definitely hoping it stays that way.

COLLINS: Good. Because I remember in the beginning we talked about the possibility of that happening obviously and not really knowing what we're dealing with. Remind us very quickly, swine flu is different from seasonal flu how?

COHEN: It's really different in who it attacks. Seasonal flu, you worry about older people and in swine flu, you don't worry so much about older people. You're worried more about younger people. And the reason is, Heidi, this is actually kind of interesting, old people have an advantage here. It appears at some point in their lives they were exposed to some swine flu-like virus that is protecting them now. But for younger people, their bodies are completely vulnerable and their immune system has never seen this before and that's why they're dying in higher numbers than older people. COLLINS: All right. Well, we'll stay on top of that obviously with you. Thanks so much. Our senior medical correspondent, Elizabeth Cohen, thank you.

Two American journalists finally back home, but will their release change the dynamic now between the U.S. and North Korea?

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

COLLINS: An emotional homecoming for two American journalists freed from a North Korean prison. In fact, you saw it live right here last hour. Laura Ling and Euna Lee arriving at the airport in Burbank, California, after spending five months in a North Korean prison. Greeted there by their families and former Vice President Al Gore, former President Bill Clinton secured their release after a meeting with North Korean dictator Kim Jong-Il.

Let's talk about how this all plays out moving forward. Because there are so many moving pieces, if you will. Mike Chinoy wrote "The Meltdown: The Inside Story of the North Korean Nuclear Crisis." He is joining me live from Beijing this morning and from Washington, John Park with the U.S. Institute of Peace. Thanks so much, guys, for being with us.

We all keep going over these pictures every time we see them we get a little weepy and really incredible reunion of these journalists with their families today. That's one side of the story, the other side of the story undeniably is the nuclear situation and the relations between the United States and North Korea. What do you think will happen next, if anything, on these lines? Mike, I want to start with you.

MIKE CHINOY, AUTHOR, "THE MELTDOWN": Well, my own sense is that the ball is now in the court of the Obama administration. The North Koreans have made this gesture, they've freed the two women. I think the reception that they gave to president Clinton, the fact that he spent a long time talking with North Korean leader Kim Jong-il who seems healthy enough to be in charge at the moment, I think sends a signal that the North is now eager to engage the United States but on a bilateral basis.

So, the challenge for the Obama administration is to figure out from what Bill Clinton reports about his meetings whether there's anything to work with there that will see the Obama administration talking directly with the North or whether they're going to stick to their guns and say if you don't come back to these six-party talks, nothing is going to happen. If that is the case, I think we're going to have more trouble. If they can find a creative way to explore further with the North Koreans, this may be an important opening.

COLLINS: Yes. Very, very interesting. I can't wait to see what happens here. John, want to bring you in. What do you think, if, in fact, they have to go to some sort of creative way to move the situation further. What do you think can be done?

JOHN PARK, U.S. INSTITUTE OF PEACE: Heidi, I think that's the word. We need creativity right now. The administration very consistent in saying what President Clinton did was a humanitarian mission, and this was separate from the ongoing efforts with denuclearization.

The connecting point is momentum. We have a positive momentum coming out of the release of the two U.S. journalists, and right now the North Koreans have consistently stated that they are interested in bilateral talks, not six-party talks, and the United States is saying that six-party talks is the only way to go. So, how we creatively bridge that gap is the opportunity right now.

COLLINS: Yes., because the former administration said that and this administration is sticking with that, correct?

PARK: That's correct. The six-party talk approach is not just a talking point, but a mechanism now. If we look at it from the other angle of financial sanctions and financial sanctions are being used and implemented in a multilateral way, and implementation of the six- party talks agreements from previous months will also be implemented in a multilateral way.

COLLINS: I want to put something on the screen for the both of you. I think it is interesting when we talk about, sort of, -- I hesitate to use the word, but diplomacy here as to what could happen next. These are just some of the actions, just some of the actions that North Korea has engaged in recently.

April 18th, North Korea says this. Any sanctions or pressure applied against it following its recent rocket launch would be considered a, quote, "declaration of war." In May, late May, North Korea conducts its second underground nuclear test and United Nations Security Council members unanimously condemn the nuclear tests. Fast forward to mid-June, June 13th, North Korea vows to strengthen its nuclear capabilities in defiance of the U.N. Security Council's move to tighten sanctions against it.

Mike, did America give up anything in securing the release of these two journalists?

MIKE ------: I don't think in substantive terms it did. I think in important ways, it gained something. Because the way the North Korean system works, there's one guy at the top that calls all the main -- makes all the main decisions. And that's Kim Jong-Il. Throughout the Bush administration, the nature of the diplomacy was such that at no point did any senior American official actually meet the man who makes the major decisions in North Korea.

What you have now is an exceptionally experienced and savvy political American figure, former president Clinton, sitting down for several hours with the man who is really in charge in North Korea and Clinton will be able to tell the Obama administration the way no one else has done, not only what his sense is of his health, his mental capabilities, but what he's talking about, what his concerns are, whether there are some openings here.

One other point I want to make about sanctions. The track record of the last eight or nine years has been the coercion, pressure and sanctions don't work. If anything, it prompts the North Koreans to do the opposite of what the U.S. wants, to become more provocative. There is no evidence, however much pain you inflict on North Korea,that it leads to a change in their behavior. And there is some evidence that negotiations can produce a change. That's why I'm convinced that finding a way forward to talk offers at least a better chance, no guarantees, of making some headway whereas sanctions are almost certain to just produce more tension in a crisis atmosphere.

COLLINS: Yes. That being said, John, I will bring your attention to something that was written in "The Washington Post" by John Bolton, obviously the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations -- former, I should say. He wrote this: "Despite decades of bipartisan U.S. rhetoric about not negotiating with terrorists for the release of hostages, it seems that the Obama administration not only chose to negotiate, but to send a former president to do so." What do you think this kind of message is sending to the rest of the world?

PARK: Well, first off, in anything related to North Korea, there will always be a group that supports that action and a group that is against that action. But with respect to the way that this trip was framed, it was the visit by President Clinton but in a private capacity. The administration went to great lengths to clarify that point. So, from that perspective, certainly there were connections with the administration, but an official capacity he went as a private citizen.

COLLINS: Do you think the Americans, the journalists, I should say, were too much of a liability for the North Korean government at this point?

PARK: It depends at which stage. Early on, you can imagine the North Koreans detaining these two journalists and finding out they're U.S. citizens and then trying to figure out what they're trying to do with them. Over the course of months of negotiations, very careful negotiations with the U.S. side, the opportunity came about to eventually do something that on the surface looked very smooth, but required a great deal of coordination, not only in the United States, but internationally.

COLLINS: All right. Well, obviously, the two of you alongside us will be watching what happens next here very, very closely, and love hearing your insight on all of it. Mike Chinoy, author of "Meltdown: The Inside Story of the North Korean Nuclear Crisis." And also, John Park from the U.S. Institute of Peace. Thanks so much, guys. We appreciate it.

Also, we have been asking you on our blog to weigh in on whether the release of Laura Ling and Euna Lee will actually mean anything for the future of U.S. and North Korea relations. Want to let you know what some people were saying out there today. Head over to the Heidi Mac here and check out our blog to see what you guys have been saying.

Janet says this, "All I can say is the Republican party had it all wrong when they said you can't talk to your enemies. This administration proves you get further with friendly diplomacy rather than fear, hate and threats." The next one says this, "As long as the enemies of the U.S. know that they're going to keep holding tourists, journalists and whoever they can get expecting this type of response, they will keep doing this."

All right, so, just a couple of our blog comments that have come through today. Of course, we always appreciate your comments, and you can go to CNN.com/heidi to tell us what you think.

Meanwhile now, I want to get to Detroit. Can battery research jumpstart the economy? What? Later today, Vice President Joe Biden expected to name the first winners of federal research grants. The government will hand out about $2 billion to develop the next generation of batteries for electric cars. Michigan is competing for a big chunk of that.

The future of the U.S. auto industry could hinge on advance battery technology, but catching up won't be easy. CNNmoney.com's Poppy Harlow has our "Energy Fix" from New York. Yes, Poppy a lot of catching up to do, as you say.

POPPY HARLOW, CNNMONEY.COM: A lot of catching up. But this could be the big break that Detroit needs. As you said, Vice President Biden just a few hours away from speaking in Detroit to name those winners of the battery manufacturing grant. Michigan really setting its sights on becoming the world leader in building and developing electric cars and the batteries for them right in this country.

Help on the way. It's actually expected that 11 Michigan companies, Heidi, will get these government grants. That will be more than any other state. The goal here, create jobs, create permanent jobs, create well-paying jobs. That's the big focus, but huge obstacle is the fact that right now it's Asia that dominates the car battery sector. Clearly, they have a clear lead, and earlier this year, Governor Jennifer Granholm of Michigan sat down and told us it's time for that to change. Take a listen to what she says.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GOV. JENNIFER GRANHOLM (D), MICHIGAN: You'd hate to substitute a reliance on Middle Eastern oil for a reliance on batteries from Asia or anywhere outside the U.S. If you want it be energy independent as a nation, you have to have the solutions for that energy independence in the United States.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

HARLOW: Well, on top of those billions of dollars in federal grants being awarded today, Heidi, Michigan has also set aside about $700 million in the form of tax credits for any company that will set up shop to make those batteries in this state. This is the push to be that green energy corridor we hear so much about.

COLLINS: Hang on a minute, because betting on batteries assumes the electric car itself will catch on. Are we even there yet? HARLOW: That's a great question because the price tag, it's going to be high, especially at first. It's rumored to be 40 grand for the new Chevy Volt that is going to come out in not too long. Also you have the issue, where do you charge it, right? If you live here in Manhattan, you don't have a garage. There are not charging stations on every corner like there are gas stations.

I do want to note here that we're seeing a paradigm shift in how people buy their cars. What cars they're looking for because of the cash for clunkers program. New data that's out is showing us that hybrid sales and compact car sales have been at the top of what people have been trading their clunkers for. Eighty-three percent of the vehicles traded in have been trucks and SUVs. Sixty percent of those purchased as result, Heidi, have been the smaller, mere fuel-efficient cars. That suggests even though gas prices are down 37 percent from last year, you have that fuel efficiency as a top concern. That could be really good news for people betting on the electric car.

We want you to weigh in quickly, facebook.com/poppyharlow. Would you buy an electric car? Heidi.

COLLINS: Hey, how come your picture back there isn't as creepy as mine?

HARLOW: You know what? They e-mailed me and said we don't like your old picture and they put the new one up.

COLLINS: Oh, very good. I like it.

HARLOW: Thanks.

COLLINS: Poppy, thanks so much.

Staying on the idea of hybrids here -- the hybrids craze. It worked for some cars, it worked for some SUVs. Could it work for those giant semi trucks you see on the highway? Arvin Merriter (ph) in southeast Michigan says yes, it will. The company wants to build a whole entire fleet, in fact, but the CEO says it needs money from Washington to do it. President Obama's energy advisors seem open to the idea.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It's very exciting. I mean, the idea that we're going to be able to give the drivers, the fleet owners, more efficient cars and we'll have less pollution, it's very, very exciting.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I think if we can get more of this combination between the public and private, I think it will help develop these new technologies quicker to the marketplace. And as importantly, create the incentive for the user -- consumer to want to be able to try these new technologies.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

COLLINS: A bill to fund more auto research will hit the House floor next month.

Forty years after the notorious Manson murders, the family still behind bars, but for how long? Each making their appeals to finally get out.

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COLLINS: This week, we are looking back 40 years to a crime spree that shocked the nation because of its brutality. Carried out by Charles Manson and his followers known as "the family." CNN's Ted Rowlands has more now on their role and their efforts to get paroled.

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TED ROWLANDS, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): They shocked the world, young, good-looking American kids in their 20s, laughing about butchering their innocent victims.

The Manson killers are now in their 60s. Tex Watson, Leslie Van Houten, Patricia Krenwinkel and Susan Atkins. All disciples of a mad man who turned them into monsters.

(on camera): Watson and Krenwinkel took part in all seven murders, five at the home of actress Sharon Tate in Beverly Hills, then the next day, they came to this house with Van Houten about ten miles away, where they tortured and killed Leno and Rosemary La Bianca.

LESLIE VAN HOUTEN, SERVING LIFE SENTENCE: I stood in the hallway and I looked into a blank room that was like a den. and I stood there until Tex turned me around and handed me a knife and said, "Do something." I went back in the bedroom and Mrs. La Bianca was laying on the floor on her stomach, and I stabbed her numerous times in the back.

ROWLANDS (voice-over): Atkins was with Watson and Krenwinkel during the taped murders, holding down eight-and-a-half-month pregnant actress Sharon Tate as she pleaded for her and her child's life.

How Manson convinced his flock to kill and torture without remorse baffled the world. Manson family members say it was a combination of charisma, drugs and Manson's knack of recruiting the right group of vulnerable followers.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It was us, like little birds with our mouths open. "Feed us," and be saying the things that we had been thinking. We thought that he had an in to our very thoughts and our very hearts.

ROWLANDS: Atkins, Krenwinkel and Van Houten said they left broken homes. Watson would be Manson's right-hand man. The faces of the Manson killers have gotten older. The courthouse smiles and giggles replaced with pleas for forgiveness.

SUSAN ATKINS, SERVING LIFE SENTENCE: I'm appalled that I could have even been involved with something like that. PATRICIA KRENWINKEL, SERVING LIFE SENTENCE: It's terrible. I admit (INAUDIBLE), because I feel terrible about it, but I cannot change it. No matter what I do, I cannot change one minute of my life.

CHARLES "TEX" WATSON, SERVING LIFE SENTENCE: Granted, I have committed one of the most heinous crimes in the history of mankind. And I realize that, and I'm very remorseful for that and would give anything if I could pay for it.

ROWLANDS: First sentenced to death, the Manson killers were given life sentences when the death penalty was abolished by the state supreme court. Charles Manson remains in prison and has, over the years, attended his parole hearings.

Susan Atkins has terminal brain cancer. Last year, her request for compassionate release was denied, but she's scheduled for a parole hearing next month. Krenwinkel and Watson have parole hearings in before the end of the year, is not expected to have a hearing before 2010. Forty years later, all four claim they're remorseful, but the family of Sharon Tate do not believe they deserve the mercy that Sharon and her unborn child never saw.

Ted Rowlands, CNN, Los Angeles.

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COLLINS: Be sure to tune in to "ANDERSON COOPER 360" tonight for part two of the series on the Manson murders 40 years later. "AC360" comes your way tonight, 10 p.m. Eastern.

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COLLINS: Take you back over to the Severe Weather Center where Rob Marciano is standing by. Talking about more storms out there today, yes?

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COLLINS: All right, we're watching close, thank you, Rob.

MARCIANO: You got it.

COLLINS: Still ahead. When the economic crisis hits home and breaks the mother's heart. We look at the youngest victims of the global recession and the toughest decisions some families will ever face.

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COLLINS: The banking crisis, the housing crisis, now the baby crisis. In one country, the recession has hit so hard and so deep that an ever-growing number of mothers are being forced to give up their newborns. CNN's Robyn Curnow is in Johannesburg, South Africa.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) ROBIN CURNOW, CNN CORRESPONDENT (on camera): The oldest of these babies is just 6 weeks old. They've been given up for adoption by their mothers who say they just can't afford to look after them.

Now, of course, they weren't even born when the full extent of the global financial crisis hit late last year. But they, too, are victims.

(voice-over): They are more than double the number of babies in this adoption home than last year, say the staff. A bottleneck of children waiting for homes. They say it's because less people are adopting, and more mothers are giving up their babies.

PAM WILSON, JOHANNESBURG CHILD WELFARE: It's the economic situation in South Africa at the moment. We noticed a definite increase in the number of children left in (INAUDIBLE) and in various places in Johannesburg, possibly mothers who are struggling financially are just very desperate in abandoning their children in various places around the city.

CURNOW: Caring for children has become more expensive. The prices of formula, milk and diapers have increased, and jobs remain scarce, which is why these two young pregnant women, who did not want to be identified, say they're giving up their unborn babies.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I couldn't financially manage, so that's why.

CURNOW (on camera): You wouldn't be able to afford to keep this baby?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes.

CURNOW: Could you afford to keep your baby?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: No. I couldn't because if I could, I wouldn't be giving him away in the first place.

CURNOW: You wouldn't give him away if you could pay for him?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: No, no. Because I love the (INAUDIBLE), which is inside me, you know, and I want the best for him.

CURNOW: Soon after giving birth, many more mothers than usual are journeying to this church on a nondescript road in Johannesburg's inner city where every three days, a baby is abandoned. A huge increase from previous years, where only four babies were handed over a month.

(on camera): To deal with the increase of desperate mothers who want to abandon their babies, this church has come up with this. Door of Hope. You open it and put your baby inside and close it and you walk away.

(voice-over): On the other side of the wall, in the church property, the babies are rescued by Kate Allen or one of her staff. KATE ALLEN, DOOR OF HOPE: We call this hole in the wall, wall of hope...

CURNOW: Or baby bin...

ALLEN: ... or baby bin.

CURNOW: Basically, you can throw away the baby you don't want in here.

ALLEN: Basically, yes.

CURNOW (voice-over): Inside, simple bedding. Layers of thin foam, old cardboard and a rudimentary sensor system that sounds off a loud alarm when the baby is placed on it.

ALLEN: The baby is not in here for very long. It is literally maybe one minute. They would otherwise have been thrown away in rubbish dumps and maybe flushed down toilets, wrapped in bubble wrap and left in shop windows, in plastic bags, all of which we have had babies come to us in those conditions. This is really just a safer way to abandon your baby. Absolutely. Absolutely.

CURNOW (on camera): And when was the last time a little parcel was departed here?

ALLEN: Just last week.

CURNOW (voice-over): In hard times, it is the vulnerable who often suffer the most.

Robyn Curnow, CNN, Johannesburg, South Africa.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

I'm Heidi Collins, thanks for watching everybody. CNN NEWSROOM continues now with Don Lemon.