Return to Transcripts main page

CNN NEWSROOM

Eight Years: Now What in Afghanistan?; Dallas Terror Suspect to Appear in Court; Earthquake Victims Mourned; Autism Rate Surges; Latino Farmers Allege Discrimination; Innocent Man Executed in Texas?

Aired October 5, 2009 - 13:00   ET

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


KYRA PHILLIPS, CNN ANCHOR: Tony, thanks so much.

Choosing sides in Afghanistan. One side wants more troops. The other: regroup, scale back, hit and run. One fact is certain, though: the Taliban isn't going away.

First came the crime that never happened, then the execution that should have -- should not have happened. Now some see a Texas-sized cover up with the governor at the center.

And from the Mojave Desert to the highest court in the land.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We just love our veterans, and we feel that they should be honored.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

PHILLIPS: Does an old rugged cross on federal land cross a constitutional line? We're pushing forward on the controversy.

Hello, everyone. I'm Kyra Phillips, live from CNN world headquarters in Atlanta. You're live in the CNN NEWSROOM.

This week marks the eighth anniversary of the U.S. war in Afghanistan. The need for a plan more urgent than ever. And over the weekend, Taliban forces by the hundreds, hitting U.S. outposts near the Pakistani border. Eight U.S. and two Afghan troops died.

The pressure only growing on President Obama now to grant a request by his hand-picked commander for more troops, or take a different path. Security may be the operative word here.

While the military tries to stop terror before it starts, the feds are playing defense on the home front. One hour from now, a teenager from Jordan will be in a courtroom in Dallas, accused of trying to blow up a skyscraper.

More top-level meetings are on the White House agenda. And a big one was just penciled in. Tomorrow afternoon, for the first time in weeks, Mr. Obama will bring in leaders of Congress from both parties to hear, in private, what many are saying in public. And lawmakers aren't the only ones speaking out.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GEN. STANLEY MCCHRYSTAL, COMMANDER, U.S. FORCES IN AFGHANISTAN: I believe that the loss of stability in Afghanistan brings huge risks that transnational terrorists like al Qaeda will operate from inside Afghanistan again.

GEN. JIM JONES (RET.), NATIONAL SECURITY ADVISOR: I don't foresee the return of the Taliban. And I want to -- I want to be very clear that Afghanistan is not in danger, imminent danger of falling.

RICHARD BARRETT, U.N. AL QAEDA-TALIBAN MONITORING TEAM: Can't necessarily (ph) say that, if the Taliban were back controlling chunks of Afghanistan, al Qaeda would immediately follow in, recreate their bases there and start mounting attacks against other countries.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

PHILLIPS: CNN senior political analyst Gloria Borger joins me now to kind of cut through the fog of war. And if you listen to those three right there, Gloria, I mean, how do you win a war in Afghanistan when you've got various analysts and commanders and advisers all with different theories?

GLORIA BORGER, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, that's why we elect presidents, right? To make those tough decisions.

And you've just crystallized the arguments that are being made to the president, really, in private and now -- and now in public. And I think what I've been told from my sources, Kyra, is that the questions, really, that the president is asking is focused around this notion of whether, if the Taliban took over again in Afghanistan, whether that would provide a sanctuary for al Qaeda.

Because what the president is really most concerned about, it's not nation-building in Afghanistan. It's not political stability in Afghanistan. What the United States president is concerned about is whether al Qaeda is going to attack the United States again.

And so those are the conversations that are going on internally and will continue.

PHILLIPS: Well, and as you heard from the competing voices, you know, OK, send in more troops. No, just send in a certain amount of troops and get rid of the rest of al Qaeda. OK, send in troops to support the Taliban. We think that the Taliban could be a trusted government, if you got rid of al Qaeda.

I mean, who do you listen to as president when you have all these competing voices?

BORGER: Well, I think the president -- it's very clear that he's got arguments right now that kind of bracket the problem. You know, on the one hand he's got his vice president, who says, "We don't need as many as 40,000 more combat troops. The real problem is in Pakistan. We need a regional strategy in Afghanistan and Pakistan." On the other end of the spectrum, you've got General McChrystal, who's been on the ground and said, "My mission was to stabilize Afghanistan, and my mission was a counterinsurgency mission, not a counterterrorist commission. And if you want me to continue that mission of counterinsurgency, I need as many as 40,000 troops."

Somewhere in between, maybe what the president comes out with, I know for a fact that the secretary of defense, Secretary Gates, is working with his generals to try and come up with a strategy that may not be 40,000 troops all at once. That may escalate to a certain degree. We just don't know where the president is going to come down on this. But he does have it bracketed for them at either end.

PHILLIPS: And we're going to follow those high-level meetings this week. Gloria Borger, thanks so much.

BORGER: Sure.

PHILLIPS: Nuristan province is the site of that horrendous fire fight that killed eight Americans. It's as close to the ends of the earth as most people get. But not even Nuristan is too far for CNN.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

NIC ROBERTSON, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: With this terrain here, it's really tough. Nuristan is so remote, it doesn't have any paved roads. It doesn't have any hospitals. It doesn't even have a proper central government.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

PHILLIPS: And that's our Nic Robertson, actually following the story wherever it leads. That was in April of 2007. You'll see his remarkable journey this hour in the CNN NEWSROOM.

From the fight overseas to the fight here in our homeland, 19 years old, thought he was about to blow up a skyscraper in Dallas, but all he'd really done was take the FBI's bait. That's a nutshell version of the bureau's case against Hosam Smadi. He's back in court in about an hour. He might hear -- or we might hear, actually, more about what prosecutors have on him.

Ed Lavandera pushes forward our "Security Watch."

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

ED LAVANDERA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Nineteen-year-old Hosam Smadi will appear in a courtroom in the downtown Dallas federal courthouse, just blocks away from the building that FBI investigators say he plotted to blow up.

(voice-over): Smadi is a Jordanian citizen who has been held in jail here in the Dallas area since his arrest a little more than a week ago.

FBI authorities say they came across Smadi in an Internet chat room, where he was speaking in these chat rooms about carrying out jihad against the United States, and his anger and hatred of America. They say that he also pleaded his allegiance to Osama bin Laden on several occasions -- on several occasions, in hopes of carrying out this attack.

The entire time that Smadi thought he was talking with some like- minded individuals. Those turned out to be FBI undercover agents.

The FBI here in Dallas says that Smadi went as far as plotting and scoping out several locations that he thought would be ideal targets to blow up. One of those included the Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport. But eventually, FBI investigators say he settled on the Fountain Place skyscraper, one of the signature buildings in the downtown Dallas skyline.

They say that little more than a week ago, Smadi had driven an SUV which he thought was full of explosives into the underground garage of that building and then tried to blow it up, when he left the building by dialing a phone number that was given to him by the undercover FBI agent. That phone number turned out to be FBI headquarters, and he was instantly arrested at that moment. Authorities say that is the key piece of evidence they needed that he intended to blow up that building, by dialing that phone number.

(on camera): Now, whether or not Smadi will plead -- not guilty or guilty to these charges today is unclear. We do know that he's being represented by a court-appointed attorney in this case. But appears that in this probable cause hearing, that FBI investigators will lay out more of their case that they have built against Smadi so far.

Ed Lavandera, CNN, Dallas.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

PHILLIPS: Investigators are also pushing forward the terror case against Najibullah Zazi and pushing it outwards.

Zazi is accused of conspiring to detonate explosives in the U.S. We've now learned the fire power might have included fertilizer. Prosecutors claim that Zazi and others went to Petawar (ph), Pakistan, last year and got explosives training at an al Qaeda camp. CNN has learned at least a few of those others are back in the U.S. right now and likely have FBI eyes watching him.

Zazi has pleaded not guilty. A grand jury in New York is considering more charges.

And right now you're looking heartbreak in the face. So many people dead and so many missing after the earth turned on Indonesia. A lot of survivors dying on the inside.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

PHILLIPS: There's so much we don't know about autism. We thought we knew how many kids had it, right? Well, guess what? The numbers are changing right before our eyes. But why?

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

PHILLIPS: Chances of survival are impossible. The latest word from Indonesia as the rescue efforts from last week's massive earthquake now shift to providing desperately needed aid to survivors.

The death toll is over 600, but it will almost surely climb once the missing are declared dead.

CNN's Arwa Damon visited one -- one of the hardest-hit areas and spoke to survivors.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

ARWA DAMON, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): A rescue worker peers into a market that's collapsed. No, he signals, there's nothing here. Not surprising, because this is what's left of the two-floor market.

On a street nearby, we meet 38-year-old Harnayenti. Her family owned a shop inside. She tells us how they were just sitting around, chatting to customers, when the earthquake struck.

"I jumped from the top of the staircase screaming, 'Daddy,'" she remembers. "He thought my mother was with me, but then we couldn't find her anywhere." Her mother's body is one of the few so far recovered.

"I couldn't stand seeing my mother burnt," she sobs, "and now everyone who comes by here just covers their face."

She tells us her family might still be digging on the roof, looking for her uncle's body.

We don't find them, but we meet Rinaldi (ph), whose sister also perished here. He shows us how he broke through the cement and then dug through the rubble to reach his sister's trapped and charred body. He had recognized her by her necklace.

(on camera): It's actually quite chilling to be standing up here. One moment, right underneath my feet, people were going about their daily business, buying and selling fresh fruits, vegetables, meats. The next moment, the earthquake strikes, and the roof of this marketplace comes crashing down as one massive slab of concrete. And anyone who would have perhaps survived that but was trapped, anyone who was trapped on the lower levels, well, they died in the fire that broke out two hours later.

(voice-over): No one knows how many died here, but the estimates are in the hundreds. One of them was Harnayenti's mother.

"A parent's love, I won't get it from anyone else," she says. "My mother gave her children everything."

A few moments of terror. For those left behind, a lifetime of remorse.

Arwa Damon, CNN, Padang, Indonesia.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

PHILLIPS: The sudden wrath of a tsunami, plus its deadly aftermath still being felt in the Samoan islands. More than 165 people died when the tsunami waves roared ashore after an underwater earthquake struck last Tuesday. Now, some 300 responders from the U.S. relief agencies are there, helping survivors face the painful job of rebuilding their wrecked lives.

Survival and starting over also playing out in the typhoon- ravaged Philippines. Parma has been downgraded to a tropical storm but refuses to go away. It's lingering off the northern coast and dumping heavy rain, which in turn is triggering flooding and landslides. At least 16 people have been killed there.

Well, it's hot out west as a wildfire hops (ph), the so-called Sheep Fire has burned some 7,500 acres in Southern California's San Bernardino National Forest. Firefighters getting a bit of a helping hand, though, right, Chad?

CHAD MYERS, AMS METEOROLOGIST: A little bit of a helping hand today. The winds not downhill, not warming up, not completely dry like we've been the past couple of days.

Here's L.A. Here's the L.A. Basin. Here's San Diego and on up would be, obviously, San Francisco. I'm going to fly you down and kind of show you what we're talking about. Because there would be LAX, way over here L.A. Now you're talking about Fontana, and then Hesperia. This is the area here, if you would be driving up the canyon that you would have seen the pictures. I'm going to show them to you in a second.

But here's the canyon road, on the way up to Wrightwood. A beautiful part of the country. I mean, really just -- really just so picturesque, and this Wrightwood, the town of Wrightwood, lots of trees in here. And that's great, because you think, oh, that's great shade. But also, the potential when those trees dry out, that those trees can be a lot of fuel to the fire.

So thousands of people have been evacuated from this town here, although not, obviously, in the town yet. Close enough. But all these hot spots. Everywhere that you see one of these little flames, that is a modus hot spot. That is a hot spot from the satellite. It sees the picture, it sees -- that satellite sees that hot spot being much warmer at that one spot than, let's say, anyplace else around it. And it will put that fire icon there for us.

One thing else I want to get to you, too, because obviously, California in a big way, but another very large storm, a super typhoon. I know you've heard of Katsana and Parma, and here's Parma here. And it's going over the Philippines. But this, this is the next one. This is Malore (ph) or Melor. And as it turns up, it's going to make a run at Tokyo, Japan, at maybe a 70- or 80-miles-per- hour hurricane. I know they're called typhoons here, but you get the idea. It would be a Category 1, but right now it's Category 4 to Category 5. It has a lot of slowing down to do as it makes its run at Japan -- Kyra.

PHILLIPS: All right. Chad, thanks.

MYERS: You're welcome.

PHILLIPS: You see a job opening, but you're not qualified. You see another, but you're not qualified. And it goes on and on. Finding a job is tough. But filing [SIC] -- filling a job might be even tougher.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

PHILLIPS: Chicago police now searching for three others in the deadly beating of honor student Derrion Albert. Police say that the three are on amateur video of the beating, in which wooden railroad ties were used.

Albert got caught up in a gang fight while on his way to school. Four people are already under arrest, charged with murder.

Relief workers targeted by terrorists. A suicide bomber killed five workers at the U.N. food agency's headquarters in Islamabad, Pakistan. The agency is temporarily closing its offices but will continue aiding more than 2 million Pakistanis.

The Supreme Court beings its new term today with a new look. Justice Sonia Sotomayor, the first Hispanic justice, joins the eight others. Today's question: how long should a suspect's request for a lawyer stay valid?

Going to get worst before it gets any better, the last thing people out of work want to hear right now, but they're hearing it from former Fed chief Alan Greenspan. He expects the U.S. jobless rate to top 10 percent and maybe stay there a while.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ALAN GREENSPAN, FORMER CHAIRMAN, FEDERAL RESERVE: The silver lining is, at some point, we're going to start to see an improvement in employment. But remember that, unless there is a monthly increase of more than 100,000 a month, we've still got the unemployment rate continuing.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

PHILLIPS: Greenspan calls the September jobs report pretty awful. The government says the unemployment rate climbed to 9.8 percent.

Now, with a rate that high, it's hard to believe that there are any jobs available. But there are. And get this: some employers say that they're having a hard time actually filling opened spots. Susan Lisovicz on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange. Boy, there's millions of Americans looking for work, so why are companies struggling to find those applicants?

SUSAN LISOVICZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Let's help them out, Kyra, you and me.

Well, the problem is that these are highly specialized jobs that often require an additional year or more of training or education. But there are jobs out there, and pretty much we talk about them every month.

Health care. You can always count on health care creating jobs, every month, despite the losses to the economy we see overall, Kyra. What kind of jobs? Nurses; pharmacists; technicians that deal with ultrasound or -- or MRIs; physical therapists.

Also, scientists, just basic scientists, research scientists, as well as green-collar jobs. All of the -- all of the interest right now in windy efficiency and solar. This is a growth industry, both here as well as overseas.

What other kinds of jobs? Well, we're talking about electrical engineers, also in the sciences. Accountants, software, software sales representatives. These are jobs, Kyra, that often start, base salary, $50,000. So it's a good time to be thinking about -- about a career change. Because they are good jobs.

PHILLIPS: Well, what about all the jobs that have been cut this recession? Will we ever see those jobs return?

LISOVICZ: Well, this is -- you know, this is just sort of the natural ebb and flow. Unfortunately, there's a lot of ebb in this kind of recession, Kyra. What kind of jobs will probably be gone for good? Manufacturing. This is an industry that has been in decline since the 1950s, but there are other industries that are certainly greatly impacted, as well.

Financial real estate, probably slow to return, given all the losses we've seen. What else? Well, other industries that depend on consumer spending. Retail and leisure, for instance, highly dependent on what we do over the next few years, their rate of return.

And the latest example of the changes we're seeing in the economy. The nation's oldest food magazine, Kyra, "Gourmet" magazine, which has been around since the 1940s, is going out of business. Conde Nast is putting it down. I just put a recipe from this magazine last month. Its advertising was down 50 percent in the second quarter. If I have to say one thing: the future of jobs, good jobs, Kyra, three words: math and science. That's where the future is, Kyra.

PHILLIPS: I don't know, not your recipes. I want you to be able to continue to bring those about, Susan. If folks only knew what a chef you are.

Thanks, Susan.

LISOVICZ: You're welcome.

PHILLIPS: Well, the name means land of enlightenment. But that's not the first words you think of when you set foot in Nuristan province on the Afghan-Pakistani border. War doesn't get any tougher than right here.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

PHILLIPS: Everything you think you know about Afghanistan is doubly true in Nuristan province in the northeast corner of that country. It's on our radar because a weekend attack by the Taliban has killed eight of our own. It's a timeless chunk of menacing terrain that our Nic Robertson saw for himself in April of 2007.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

ROBERTSON (voice-over): Every step an effort. Every breath hard to draw in the thin mountain air.

Patrols rarely come harder than this for the soldiers of the 1st 158th Infantry Battalion.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's all over there, Kiki (ph).

ROBERTSON: Just arrived in one of Afghanistan's most inaccessible provinces. To find it on a map, look in the far northeast of Afghanistan next to Pakistan.

The province is called Nuristan, which means land of enlightenment.

(on camera) With the terrain here, it's really tough. Nuristan is so remote it doesn't have any paved roads, doesn't have any hospitals, doesn't even have a proper central government here. Doesn't even have a provincial capital, not a real one.

And as the commanders here like to say, where the roads end, that's where the bad guys begin.

(voice-over): If the rugged terrain looks familiar here, that's because the last time Osama bin Laden and his deputy were seen together on video, U.S. officials believe that it was somewhere near here. That was 2002. The worry is, they could still be hiding here.

DAVID KATZ, U.S. STATE DEPARTMENT: It is an area that is little understood and little visited by outsiders. So it would be very possible that they could be living in some valley with -- in total security, without outsiders being aware of their presence there.

ROBERTSON: For the first time, U.S. troops are moving in here in numbers strong enough to hunt down their enemies. While the exact numbers are classified, a tiny outpost is being beefed up. A major part of the effort, a so-called provincial reconstruction team aimed at winning local support and intelligence on al Qaeda and the Taliban. SECOND LT. JONATHON REABE, U.S. ARMY: Some of the villages that we've gone into kind of weren't too happy, it seemed like, when we first rolled into them. And now, they're waving at us. They're smiling at us. The kids come out, and we give them some candy and school supplies and all that kind of stuff.

ROBERTSON: Others are harder to win over. The message these guns are designed to send: The U.S. military can help or it can fight.

(on camera): The highest mountains here are about 6,000 meters, 18,000 feet. Over there, where the snow-capped peaks are, on the other side, that's the border with Pakistan, and that's where these soldiers believe that al Qaeda and Taliban still have relatively free movement.

(voice-over): Afghan and U.S. troops are regularly attacked along this border with Pakistan. The fear is, without more U.S. troops, al Qaeda and the Taliban could get stronger.

REABE: I know that we're helping people out, and I know that if we can help the defeat the enemy here, then I know that my friends, my family and everybody back home will be safe.

ROBERTSON: What plays in the favor of the soldiers is that the people here are culturally linguistically and ethnically different from other Afghans. Only converted to Islam 140 years ago, they are less willing to side with the Taliban and al Qaeda. Building on that difference may be these soldiers' best chance of success.

Nic Robertson, CNN, Nuristan, Afghanistan.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

PHILLIPS: And for every man or woman serving in Afghanistan, there is a story, a story about the service and sacrifice. So, we now salute fallen heroes of that war. Captain Benjamin Sklaver leaves behind his parents and fiancee. He's also being missed by thousands of people in Uganda who knew him as Moses Ben (ph). The 32-year-old founded an organization that provided clean drinking water to them. Sklaver was killed in an enemy attack on Friday.

Thirty-nine-year-old Thomas Ridgelon (ph) was killed in combat in Afghanistan on Saturday. The Army National Guard sergeant leaves behind a wife and three daughters. His family says they loved him very much and will miss him even more.

These are just two of the 777 American servicemen and women who have given their lives in Afghanistan. And today, we salute, honor and remember them.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

PHILLIPS: President Obama's setting the record straight as he kicks off a critical week in his battle to reform health care. Doctors from all 50 states surrounded him in the Rose Garden during his latest public appeal. He says that physicians know the problems firsthand.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: You know, every one of you here today took an oath when you entered the medical profession. It was not an oath that you would spend a lot of time on the phone with insurance companies. It was not an oath that you would have to turn away patients who you know could use your help. You did not devote your lives to be bean counters or paper pushers.

You took an oath so you could heal people. You did it so you could save lives. The reforms we're proposing to our health care system will help you live up to that oath. They will make sure...

(APPLAUSE)

OBAMA: They will make sure that neither some government bureaucrat or insurance company bureaucrat gets between a patient and their doctor.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

PHILLIPS: A key congressional committee could vote on its latest version of the reform bill this week, and that could ignite more heated debates in the House and Senate.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

RON CLARK ACADEMY STUDENTS, SINGING: We can vote however we like. I said we can vote however we like.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

PHILLIPS: You know them, you love them and you can't get their songs out of your head. Remember these middle-school kids from the Ron Clark Academy right here in Atlanta? Well, they took America to school on the election last fall. Now they've solved America's health care issues. You're going to hear their brand-new tune live next hour right here in the CNN NEWSROOM.

Hospitals in Memphis and Indianapolis among the first to get batches of the swine flu vaccine today. They're getting doses of the nasal mist spray. But don't line up just yet. Doctors, nurses and other health care workers are getting inoculated first so they can stay healthy enough to give the vaccine to everyone else. Innoculuations won't be in full swing until next week.

Well, is it better reporting, a more informed diagnosis or a troubling trend for the nation's children? New findings show a jump in the number of kids with autism and related disorders.

Senior medical correspondent Elizabeth Cohen talking about why the rates are increasing. Is there any way to figure that out?

ELIZABETH COHEN, CNN SENIOR MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: You know what, there really is no way. All they know is the numbers are jumping up. So, let's take a look at those numbers, and then we'll talk about the theories as to why it's happening.

Take a look back to the 1990s. One in 166 children in this country had a diagnosis of autism. Fast-forward to 2002. That number jumped to one in 150 kids has autism. Now, one in 91 children in the United States has autism.

Now, it is possible according to the Centers for Disease Control that it's something different about the air we breathe. Maybe there's something in the air or in the water we drink or in the food we eat. That's possible.

But they also say it could be other things. For example, people are parenting children later in life. There's a study that shows that men who father a child after the age of 40 are more likely to have a child with autism. And also, there's the reporting issue, which Kyra alluded to, which is that as doctors get smarter about autism, they're going to diagnose it more.

For example, a doctor might have seen years ago a child with autism and said, oh, they're mentally retarded and given them that label, whereas now, they're more likely to be specific and say, this child has autism. With that increased knowledge comes rates that go up.

PHILLIPS: There's also a concern about overdiagnosing, too.

COHEN: Right. That's true because there is no blood test for autism. There's no CT scan. And so, definitely some people think that perhaps autism is being overdiagnosed, and kids who don't have autism are being given the label. For example, in this study, they ask parents, did your child have autism, and do they now. Forty percent of the parents said their child used to have autism but doesn't anymore.

Now that's sort of a red flag to a lot of doctors because technically your child can't get rid of autism. They can be treated, but they can't get rid of autism. So, when a child (SIC) says their child no longer has autism, it's a red flag that perhaps, Kyra, that child never had autism to begin with.

PHILLIPS: Well, and you brought up an interesting point. Just because a child has autism doesn't necessarily mean that the child has a severe disability. A lot of people stereotype kids with autism because many of them are mainstreamed in regular schools. They don't have to go to a special school, right?

COHEN: Right, exactly. I think when we think of autism, we think of a child who couldn't think of a child who couldn't handle a regular school or perhaps is banging their head against the wall or -- we've all seen movies with people with autism.

Really, many children with autism, with milder forms of autism, go to a regular school. You wouldn't necessarily pick them out as a child with autism. That may be another reason why these numbers are going up, that more children with mild forms of autism, like let's say Asperger's syndrome, are getting the diagnosis of autism. And it is autism, but it's not what many of us think of autism as being. It's much more mild and treatable.

PHILLIPS: Thanks, Elizabeth.

COHEN: Thanks.

PHILLIPS: Innocent, vulnerable, born too early and dying too soon. A new report focuses on the growing global problem of premature birth. According to the March of Dimes, every year more than a million preemies die before they're only a month old, and one in 10 births around the world are premature. Not surprisingly, the highest rate of premature births is in poor countries in Africa. But it's followed closely by North America, even though rich nations like the U.S. have much better neonatal technology.

Whatever the president wants, he'll get. That's the assurance of Defense Secretary Robert Gates about the war in Afghanistan. A fierce debate rages on over whether the U.S. should target the Taliban or target al Qaeda terrorists, and whether tens of thousands more troops should head over.

CNN has learned the president plans to host a bipartisan meeting with congressional leaders tomorrow.

A Jordanian teen accused of trying to blow up a Dallas skyscraper is due in federal court next hour. Hosam Smadi's probable cause hearing will determine if there's enough evidence to go to a grand jury. The FBI nabbed Smadi in a sting as he allegedly tried to set off a bomb-laden truck with a rigged cell phone.

And it's a tough call for rescue crews in Indonesia. They've given up the search for survivors in hard-hit Padang from last week's devastating earthquakes. Now they're just trying to recover bodies. More than 600 people were killed in those quakes. Relief teams are concentrating on getting more to remote villages.

Priced out of their American dream because they couldn't get loans from the American government.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

THELMA GUTIERREZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: How many of you are still farmers today? None of you?

What are you doing now, Joe?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'm running harvesting crews for a company.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I'm working in Kmart.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

PHILLIPS: Get this -- the USDA admits discrimination against Latino farmers but still won't pay up.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) PHILLIPS: Latinos are the fastest-growing segment of U.S. farmers, the future of farming, many folks say. But for years now, they've been fighting the government over admitted discrimination in loan programs. That's right, admitted discrimination. The lawsuit dragging on so long, many farms have folded.

CNN's Thelma Gutierrez reports.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

GUTIERREZ: We're talking about hundreds of small family farmers across the country who allege the USDA has denied them disaster relief, access to government loans and has treated them unfairly based on their ethnicity and race.

(voice-over): In Texas, New Mexico, Colorado, California, hundreds of Latino farmers say the U.S. Department of Agriculture discriminated against them and forced many families out of business. Like John Carrillo, whose father built a thriving family farm in Salinas, California.

JOHN CARRILLO, FORMER FARMER: That's our logo here. Our American dream was to succeed as a Hispanic farming company.

GUTIERREZ: And after the devastating floods of 1995, Carrillo asked for disaster relief.

CARRILLO: I was denied three times.

GUTIERREZ: He wasn't alone.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We lost our 300-acre ranch that we were leasing in Greenfield, California.

GUTIERREZ (on camera): What did you lose?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: One hundred and fifty-one (ph) acres.

GUTIERREZ: What did you lose?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (INAUDIBLE).

GUTIERREZ (voice-over): Latino farmers allege that over decades, the USDA denied them loans and assistance that white farmers were able to get. They filed a complaint known as the Garcia case, charging the government with discrimination. The case has stalled for nearly a decade.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Mr. Hill. How are you?

GUTIERREZ: Attorney Stephen Hill represents the Latino farmers. His Washington, D.C. law firm took their case pro bono.

STEPHEN HILL, ATTORNEY FOR LATINO FARMERS: The original defendant in this case, Secretary Glickman, has admitted in testimony before Congress that good people lost their farmland not because of bad weather, not because of crops, but because of the color of their skin.

GUTIERREZ: Latino farmers, Native Americans, women and African Americans all filed class-action lawsuits against the USDA claiming discrimination. But the government settled only with the black farmers.

HILL: And, to date, the government has paid out nearly a billion dollars to some 15,000 black farmers.

GUTIERREZ (on camera): And the allegations that the black farmers made were similar to the Hispanic farmers?

HILL: Not similar -- identical.

GUTIERREZ (voice-over): The only difference between the two cases, according to Hill? The black farmers were certified to fight as a group, whereas the court has not granted Latino farmers class- action status.

TOM VILSACK, U.S. AGRICULTURE SECRETARY: The Garcia case is a little different because it wasn't certified as a class action.

GUTIERREZ: Tom Vilsack, the current agriculture secretary, acknowledged as much in a recent video posted on YouTube. A spokesman for the Justice Department, which represents the USDA, told CNN it could not comment on the case, citing pending litigation.

(on camera): How many of you are still farmers today? None of you? What are you doing now, Joe?

CARRILLO: I'm running harvesting crews for a company.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I'm working in Kmart.

GUTIERREZ (voice-over): A bitter end to an American dream.

(on camera): The farmers say if they're forced to fight the government individually, many families will not be able to afford the legal battle, and their cases of discrimination may never be heard.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

PHILLIPS: And in two weeks, CNN's Soledad O'Brien presents "LATINO IN AMERICA," a two-night look at how Latinos are shaping our communities and culture and reshaping them. October 21st and 22nd, so watch for that. You can also check out cnn.com/latinoinamerica.

Pushing forward to the next hour of CNN NEWSROOM, high over the Mojave Desert, a symbol of the church covered up by order of the state. This contentious case is now the Supreme Court's cross to bear.

And anarchists, arrested at the G-20 summit, not for rioting in the street but for tweeting in a motel room. Microblogging and maximum security collide. It's a real talker, so we'll talk about it, and you're a part of the conversation. Well, attention, New York City students: Drop those doughnuts and cut out the cake because this year school bake sales have been suspended. It's part of the Department of Education's wellness policy, which limits fatty and sugary foods in schools.

Some kids and teachers say it will also limit extracurricular activities, since they use bake sales to raise cash. Almost 40 percent of New York K through eight students are overweight or obese. That's according to a Department of Ed survey this summer. It also found a link between kids' health and test scores.

Meantime, another study says daily candy as a kid could lead to prison time as an adult. We're going to check that out next hour.

And one thing about the death penalty, if you execute it, you've got to get it right the first time. Well, there's mounting evidence Texas got it dead wrong in at least one guy's case. So, what's the governor going to do about it?

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

PHILLIPS: The State of Texas executed 23 people back in 2004 on Governor Rick Perry's watch. And at least one of them might have been an innocent man. Now accusations the governor is standing in the way of truth for the sake of politics.

Well, here's CNN's Randi Kaye.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

RANDI KAYE, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): This is the question. Is Texas Governor Rick Perry, a Republican in a tough re- election fight, trying to cover up the execution of an innocent man on his watch?

SCOTT COBB, TEXAS MORATORIUM NETWORK: This is a clear case of the governor sabotaging a public agency in order to cover up the findings for his own political advantage.

KAYE: Here's what happened Friday morning.

(on camera): The Texas Forensic Science Commission was supposed to hear the latest findings on what really happened in the small town of Corsicana, Texas, nearly 18 years ago in 1991. Still a question because the original investigator said an arson fire killed three baby girls. It took a jury less than an hour to convict their father of arson homicide.

But since then, three forensic investigations found there was no evidence of arson, none.

(voice-over): One of those reports even came before Cameron Todd Willingham was executed. Still, the governor stands by his decision. Friday, for the first time, the state's own hand-picked expert was to present a scathing report that showed once again no evidence of arson. But 48 hours before the scheduled meeting, Governor Perry stopped the entire process, removing three of the commission members.

GOV. RICK PERRY (R), TEXAS: Those individuals' terms were up. So, we replaced them. It's not -- nothing out of the ordinary there.

KAYE: Governor Perry's critics suggest he's trying to delay and maybe even derail the state's own investigation. Willingham died by lethal injection after Governor Perry refused to grant him a stay, even though he was presented new evidence the fire was not arson.

Scott Cobb heads a group pushing for a moratorium on executions. Cobb says Perry's move was politically motivated.

COBB: Governor Perry saw the writing on the wall. He moved to cover that up.

KAYE: If the commission had proceeded, the state's final report may have been released just weeks before the governor's primary election. And if it found it was not arson, critics say that would prove Perry is the first governor in history to preside over the death of an innocent man.

COBB: And I think that's what he's afraid of.

JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN SENIOR LEGAL ANALYST: There really is no excuse for a delay. Here finally is a case with overwhelming evidence that an innocent man was executed by the State of Texas.

KAYE (on camera): "Keeping Them Honest," we tried to interview Governor Perry, but his office said they couldn't make it work. He has said there was overwhelming evidence Willingham was guilty. But one of the investigators who reviewed the case over the years called it b.s., bad science.

(voice-over): As for the state's expert who was supposed to formally deliver his findings Friday, he said the fire marshal who testified at Willingham's trial had an attitude characteristic of mystics and psychics.

So, will the commission ever hear this report? Maybe not. Governor Perry's new commission chairman, a political ally, is the man who postponed Friday's hearing indefinitely and told CNN he couldn't begin to guess when it might be rescheduled.

Five years ago, when Cameron Todd Willingham was executed, he said, "I am an innocent man convicted of a crime I did not commit." Governor Rick Perry's future may depend on a dying man's last words.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

PHILLIPS: Randi Kaye now joining us live from New York. So, Randi, the timing of this certainly makes you wonder, did Governor Perry have to remove these people just because their terms were up?

KAYE: Actually, Kyra, he actually could have reappointed them, it turns out. One of the commission members who the governor removed told us that he had called the governor's office and told them that making a change at the commission now would, quote, "disrupt the work they've done on this case." But that didn't seem to change the governor's plans to do so.

But there is no law, it turns out, or any type of regulation in place that would have required the members to be replaced or step down once their terms expired, which is why the timing of this raises so many questions, just 48 hours before the big hearing on that controversial execution. And, Kyra, the governor still hasn't made time to speak with us.

PHILLIPS: Well, you -- well. And also you mentioned the governor is in a tight race to hold on to his seat. The state's final report could have come out right in the middle of his primary race. So what has his opponent said? If he's not speaking, maybe the opponent has said something.

KAYE: She certainly is. He's running in the primary against fellow Republican Kay Bailey Hutchison. And we called her office about this, and they gave us a statement. It reads, "The recent events surrounding the Texas Forensic Science Commission are both disappointing and disturbing. The governor's actions have cast a cloud over the entire process. It's a sad day for Texas."

And that's coming from another candidate who is also, Kyra, in favor of the death penalty. So, that's a pretty big statement.

PHILLIPS: We'll follow it. Randi, thanks.

KAYE: Thank you.

PHILLIPS: And a judge in Ohio has put another execution on hold. This comes a few weeks after the governor stopped the lethal injection of Romell Broom. Executioners had trouble finding a workable vein. Broom's next date with the executioner is now on hold. His lawyers argue a second try amounts to cruel and unusual punishment.