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Ex-Sailor Describes Abuse by C.O.; Terror Attacks Kill Dozens in Pakistan; Man Shoots Fiancee Night Before Wedding; American Prof First Woman to win Nobel Prize for Economics
Aired October 12, 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: Hi, T.J. Thank you.
Not just a job: it's a misadventure bordering on misery. What happened to a U.S. Navy dog handler shouldn't happen to a dog. Pushing forward on military hazing turned to torment by other troops.
Green Berets in the back seat. Iraqi Special Forces take the lead on a high-stakes raid, and only CNN takes you along for the ride.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
STEVE DOMMER, LIVES IN LAS VEGAS: I fill this thing up right here with water I get at the top and turn it like this. And I get under it, and I take myself a shower.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
PHILLIPS: Underground, overlooked, but getting by. Life in a storm drain. Cold reality in a city built on fantasy.
Hello, everyone. I'm Kyra Phillips, live at the CNN world headquarters in Atlanta. You're live in the CNN NEWSROOM.
All right. You join the military; you sign up to fight. Simple as that. But no one signs up for abuse, humiliation, torment, all from their fellow soldiers. But that allegedly was common in a U.S. Navy unit in the Persian Gulf. Only years later are the details coming out, and they're not easy to hear.
CNN's Carol Costello has more.
CAROL COSTELLO, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Joseph Rocha is not hiding anymore. He's out and proud. But it wasn't always that way. Rocha's journey to Washington's gay rights march has been painful, thanks, he says, to a stint in the Navy.
JOSEPH ROCHA, FORMER NAVY DOG HANDLER: I cannot wrap my head around the degradation and the barbarity of it.
COSTELLO: Rocha was 18 in 2005 when he joined the Navy's canine unit in Bahrain. He played by the military's rules and kept his sexual orientation under wraps. But even though he says no one in his unit knew he was gay, he still suffered because of something the Navy has long outlawed: hazing.
ROCHA: I was ordered to get on my knees and pretend to have oral sex with another service member. I was instructed as to how to be "more queen," "more queer," "more homosexual," "more believable." And...
COSTELLO (on camera): And who was instructing you to do these things?
ROCHA: My chief.
COSTELLO (voice-over): Rocha says the hazing was widespread. Gay, straights and women in his unit were targets, too.
In its own investigation of the Bahrain unit, the Navy found more than 90 incidents of hazing and other abuses, with sailors hog-tied, force-fed liver dog treats, and told make dog and duck sounds, and duct-taped to a chair, rolled outside, and then left in a dog kennel until released.
According to the investigation, Rocha and several others in his unit also allege the man who ordered much of the abuse was Chief Master-at-arms Michael Toussaint.
SHAUN HOGAN, NAVY RESERVIST: He loves his authority. He loves his power.
COSTELLO: Shaun Hogan says he was hazed, too. He and other sailors told CNN that Toussaint created such an atmosphere of fear, no one was immune, even Toussaint's number two, Jennifer Valdivia.
HOGAN: On video, I witnessed another training (ph) scenario, where Michael Toussaint ordered Jennifer Valdivia, his second in command, to -- well, she was dressed apparently, only in her bed sheet. And she was handcuffed to a bed in a barracks room. And she was in a -- almost like a cat fight with two other women.
COSTELLO (on camera): It's unclear whether Toussaint was found to have violated any rules or if any disciplinary action has been taken against him. We do know he has since been promoted to senior chief, working with the Navy SEALs.
We tried for a week to reach Toussaint for a comment. He didn't respond. A Navy spokesman told us he is now deployed and declining interview requests.
(voice-over): As for Toussaint's number two, Jennifer Valdivia, her father told us she expected to take the fall for what happened in Bahrain. She committed suicide after posting this message on MySpace: "Tired of being blamed for other people's mistakes."
(on camera): Do you still love the Navy?
ROCHA: I love the Navy. I love the Navy...
COSTELLO: How is that possible now? ROCHA: Because I understand that this is not a representation of the military.
COSTELLO: But Rocha has left the Navy. He's in college now and hopes one day the Navy will do what's right and hold someone accountable for what happened in Bahrain.
PHILLIPS: Carol now joins us live from Washington.
So Carol, is the Navy reviewing its 2007 investigation?
COSTELLO: It is now reviewing that 2000 [SIC] investigation -- I'm going to read you a quote here -- the Navy said, "The incident that occurred within the military working dog division does not reflect who we are as the Navy."
But when I asked, Kyra, if anyone was going to be held accountable for any of this, they couldn't answer my question. They just said that they were reviewing this 2000 investigation.
A U.S. congressman has now gotten into the act. He's demanding answers, so we'll see what happens.
PHILLIPS: It's 2000, not 2007. Is that right?
COSTELLO: 2007 investigation.
PHILLIPS: OK, got it.
COSTELLO: The abuse allegedly happened between 2005 and 2007.
PHILLIPS: Got it. All right.
Now, I understand that congressman, Joe Sestak of Pennsylvania, wants answers. Does he expect he's going to get any? And if so, when?
COSTELLO: Yes, he's met with high officials within the Navy. He says he expects a full report in just a couple of weeks. And believe me, his office tells me they call the Navy every day demanding answers, because, according to Congressman Sestak, someone needs to be held accountable for this. And he points to the commanding officer.
PHILLIPS: Well, I know you're going to stay on top of this, as well. Carol, thanks.
PHILLIPS: In southern Iraq, two U.S. Army sergeants stand accused of mistreating their own G.I.'s to the point of cruelty and worse.
The military version of a grand jury heard testimony over the weekend from ten soldiers. They claimed the sergeants brutalized them and others verbally and with grueling exercise. A legal case was opened when a 19-year-old private, Keifer Wilhelm of Plymouth, Ohio, killed himself just days before joining the unit.
The sergeant's lawyers say that they are tough but they never cross the line. A decision on courts martial is still weeks away.
An idea whose time has gone, and President Obama says he hasn't changed his mind about ending "don't ask, don't tell," the Clinton-era policy that allows gays to serve in the U.S. military, as long as they keep their sexual orientation secret.
Now, commander in chief Obama spoke to the Human Rights Campaign, the nation's largest gay rights group, and this is what he said.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We should not be punishing patriotic Americans who have stepped forward to serve this country. We should be celebrating their willingness to show such courage and selflessness on behalf of their fellow citizens, and especially when we're fighting two wars.
We cannot afford to cut from our ranks people with the critical skills we need to fight, any more than we can afford for our military's integrity to force those willing to do so into careers encumbered in compromise, by having to live a lie.
So I'm working with the Pentagon, its leadership and the members of the House and Senate on ending this policy. Legislation has been introduced in the House to make this happen. I will end "don't ask, don't tell." That's my commitment to you.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
PHILLIPS: If and when "don't ask, don't tell" is abandoned, the U.S. will fall into line with most of NATO and, apparently, most of the European Union. Among the five permanent members of the U.N. Security Council, British and France allow gays to serve openly. The U.S. and Russia allow gays to serve, but not openly. China's policy seems to be, don't even acknowledge it's an issue.
More meetings, no answers. The president is huddling again with his national security team this week as they hash out how to handle Afghanistan. The big question: whether to send in thousands more U.S. troops, like the top commander there wants.
Republicans and Democrats putting their two cents in.
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SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R), ARIZONA: I think to disregard the requirements that has been laid out and agreed to by General Petraeus and Admiral Mullen, I think, would be an error of historic proportions.
SEN. DIANNE FEINSTEIN (D), CALIFORNIA: I don't know how you put somebody in who is as crackerjack as General McChrystal, who gives the president very solid recommendations, and not take those recommendations. If you're not going to pull out.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
PHILLIPS: A final decision could be weeks away.
The U.S. is leaning on Pakistan to help deal with Afghanistan, but now there are two more bloody examples of Pakistan's own problems. A brazen ambush over the weekend and a suicide bombing this morning.
CNN's Reza Sayah reports from Islamabad.
REZA SAYAH, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): A teenage boy wearing a suicide vest blows himself up on Monday, killing more than 40 people in Northwest Pakistan. This according to military officials. It has been a terrible week here in Pakistan, with a string of deadly militant attacks.
The one on Monday, taking place at a busy marketplace in Swat Valley. Officials telling CNN the teenage suicide attacker targeted a military convoy. Six of the fatalities were, indeed, soldiers. But because this was a busy market area, the remaining fatalities all civilians.
The attack on Monday comes after perhaps one of the most audacious attacks ever in Pakistan. Ten armed insurgents storming and penetrating the army headquarters in Rawalpindi on Saturday, killing 11 security personnel, and taking dozens hostage. The standoff ending early Sunday morning, when commandos stormed the headquarters, killing nine of the militants, capturing the militant commanders alive.
The military coming under heavy criticism because of the apparent security breech on Monday. The army spokesperson defended the military.
GEN. ATHAR ABBAS, PAKISTANI ARMY SPOKESMAN: Can anybody guarantee today that, 100 percent, any organization, for that matter, any army or any outside party can prevent a single act of terrorism? It's not possible.
What is more important is how we react to that.
SAYAH: The army spokesperson also saying that telephone intercepts reveal the assault on the army headquarters was planned by the Taliban in South Waziristan. Officials say a military offensive targeting South Waziristan is coming soon. South Waziristan, of course, a Taliban stronghold and, according to Washington, a safe haven for al Qaeda.
Reza Sayah, CNN, Islamabad.
PHILLIPS: A groom to be says he could have sworn he heard an intruder inside his house.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JOHN TABUTT, SHOT FIANCEE: I thought I had an intruder in the house, and I shot the intruder, but the intruder is my wife.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: OK.
TABUTT: And she's got a gunshot wound.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: OK. Where is she shot at?
TABUTT: Right in the chest.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
PHILLIPS: A life together over before it even begins.
PHILLIPS: If the impact didn't get them, the deep, dark and dangerous Gulf surely would. Waves, jellyfish, sharks. How on earth did they make it for 12 hours?
PHILLIPS: A Florida man says that he thought the person he shot in his hallway was a burglar. It turns out he'd shot and killed the woman he was going to marry the very next day.
Here's Erik von Ancken with our affiliate, WKMG.
ERIK VON ANCKEN, WKMG-TV CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The community is quiet. Neighbors who live on both side of John Tabutt do not want to go on camera out of respect for him, they say. He has earned their respect through everything he's done for his community here in Winter Springs, his friends and his bride-to-be. In fact, they believe he was just trying to protect Nancy Dinsmore here at their home when he shot, it turns out, her.
TABUTT: I thought I had an intruder in the house, and I shot the intruder, but the intruder is my wife.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: OK.
TABUTT: And she's got a gunshot wound.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: OK. Where is she shot at?
TABUTT: Right in the chest.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: OK. What kind of gun did you use?
TABUTT: Thirty-eight. VON ANCKEN: Tabutt made that 911 call from his home here on Andover Circle early this morning. Minutes later, crime scene investigators were here, collecting clues to see if his story matches up with their evidence. Police tell us so far it does.
And neighbors tell us Tabutt had a reason to be armed and ready to shoot. The house next door was just broken into, along with other homes on this street. Police believe it was an awful accident, especially after listening to the rest of the 911 call.
TABUTT: We were supposed to get -- we were supposed to get married this Saturday. Oh, God!
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The paramedics are on their way, OK?
TABUTT: That's fine, that's fine.
PHILLIPS: That was WKMG's Erik von Ancken, reporting from Winter Springs, Florida. Police are still waiting on some forensic results, but for now they are calling this a tragic accident.
A half mile long and still growing. They're calling it a heavy, moving mess. Well, it's -- or a heaving moving mess, actually. It's a massive landslide in south central Washington state. It's already blocked a highway. It's diverted a river, and it's destroyed at least two houses. Dozens of people have fled.
Other parts of the West Coast, well, bracing for a pretty big storm. Make that the leftovers of a typhoon. Right, Chad?
CHAD MYERS, AMS METEOROLOGIST: If you can believe it. We talked about this super Typhoon Melor that hit Japan, what, five days ago. It made its way all the way across the Pacific Ocean, and now it's affecting California. At least, if it's isn't doing it yet, it will do it tonight and tomorrow.
With inches of rain along from Reno to Sacramento and snow above 10,000 feet. Now there's not a lot above 10,000 feet in the way of roads. Obviously, there are ski resorts that will use that snow, but at this point in time, because it was a tropical system, it was a typhoon, it is very warm. And so it will not bring the snow levels down to, really, the pass levels.
Very heavy rainfall in the southeast. That's an oxy -- I mean, it has been so -- raining so heavily today the floods are back in southeastern Georgia, and some of these lakes that have been so dry for years are up to -- on sometimes flood stage.
Minneapolis, you're picking up some snow. There will be more snow across parts of northern Iowa into Minnesota for Wednesday, as well, but that's the only snow we're seeing today.
Here's the heavy rainfall as it moved through Atlanta. There's a break right now. And the rain will be back for the afternoon rush. The airport in Atlanta is about 90 minutes delayed, and there are airport delays all across the country because of very low ceilings, low humidity. The visibility is low in Minneapolis, low in parts of the northeast. And, obviously, with an hour and a half in Atlanta, that backs up the entire system, Kyra.
PHILLIPS: All right. We'll keep tracking it all. Thanks, Chad.
MYERS: You're welcome.
PHILLIPS: Well, this story easily could have gone the other way. But we're talking about triumph instead of tragedy. Peter Jacobson's small plane lost power Friday night near the Florida Everglades. His stepdaughter and her husband were on board.
Let's listen and hear the rest of the story from them.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
WHITNEY PAGE, SURVIVED CRASH: Everything went quiet, and we thought, "Hmm, how weird." And then we hear Peter call over a mayday to the air traffic controller. And we thought, well, that's not right. And so he said, grab the life jacket. We're going to hit the power.
BEN PAGE, SURVIVED CRASH: As far as I know, the engine quit, and he tried everything he knew to do. And he had no other choice than to take us down. That's where we were headed.
We found a lobster buoy, but the current was too hard -- too fast for us. So we held on for a little while, but the waves and current were just too much. So we let go of that and drifted for about maybe another hour or two and found another buoy. And the current had subsided for a little bit. So that was easier to hold on to. We tied off to that and sat there about nine hours, ten hours.
W. PAGE: The rest of the night.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
PHILLIPS: They actually spent about 12 hours in the company of jellyfish, sharks before the Coast Guard even found him. Everything's OK: just a few stings, bumps and bruises, as you could see, and a whole lot of gratitude.
Speaking of survivors, these soldiers made it. Eight of their comrades didn't. What was it like to be surrounded by hundreds of insurgents, heavily armed and hell-bent on killing you?
PHILLIPS: Finally facing justice. He allegedly helped to hijack a plane from New York and divert it to Cuba back in 1968. Now Luis Soltren has been arrested at JFK Airport after arriving on a flight from -- guess where -- Cuba. He faces arraignment tomorrow. And talk about an itchy trigger finger. North Korea has test- fired five short-range missiles today, according to South Korean news reports. Earlier the South had proposed talks with its communist neighbor.
She's smiling but talking tough. Secretary of State Clinton lashing out at, quote, "thuggish tactics" by people who want to derail peace in Northern Ireland. Clinton spoke to lawmakers in Belfast today, pledging U.S. support for the peace process.
Two American professors sharing this year's Nobel Prize for Economics. For one of them, the announcement marks a major first for the awards.
Susan Lisovicz on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange with a look at the winners and why exactly they won.
SUSAN LISOVICZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hey, Kyra.
The Nobel Prize for Economics goes to two Americans: Oliver Williamson, who is a retired professor at UC Berkeley, and Elinor Ostrom, who is a professor at Indiana University and, yes, she is the first woman to receive this prize in economics.
What's also notable, Kyra, is that you can actually understand her research. It concludes that common property, like lakes and woods, are often better managed by the people who use them, rather than state bureaucrats.
She said these kind of rules are -- often evolves over time, so they're tweaked and refined. It shows that self-governance can be successful. And one of the most notable lines from her research says, "Rules imposed from the outside or dictated by powerful insiders has less legitimacy, and are often more likely to be violated."
In other words, the people can do it better, oftentimes, than government.
In any case, let's hear from Professor Ostrom herself.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ELINOR OSTROM, WINNER, NOBEL PRIZE FOR ECONOMICS: I think we're entering a new -- we've already entered a new era. And we recognize that women have the capabilities of doing great scientific work. And, yes, I appreciates that this is an honor to be the first woman, but I won't be the last.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
LISOVICZ: Amen to that, Kyra.
LISOVICZ: Professor Ostrom, by the way, will split the $1.4 million purse with her male colleague, Professor Williamson.
PHILLIPS: Ah, because she's a fair person. I love it. Well, it's been a big year for women and the Nobel committee all around, right?
LISOVICZ: It sure has been. In fact, five women this year have won the Nobel Prize in one category or another. That's also a record. And think about it: the Nobel Prizes have been around since 1901.
What kind of prizes went to women? Well, an Israeli, Ada Yonath, shared the chemistry prize with two men. Romanian-born German writer Herta Mueller took the prize for literature. And Americans Elizabeth Blackburn and Carol Greider share for medicine.
It's also been a banner year for Americans. Eleven of 13 winners took the prize this year, including the current resident of the White House.
PHILLIPS: People are still talking about that. That's pretty remarkable.
LISOVICZ: In case you're living under a rock and didn't hear that one.
PHILLIPS: Exactly. It's just a small headline for the past, you know, handful of days.
Susan, thanks so much.
LISOVICZ: You're welcome.
PHILLIPS: A dead-of-night raid by Iraqi soldiers. U.S. Green Berets playing backup. That's unusual. Only CNN takes you to the heart of the action.
PHILLIPS: All right. The bad old days are coming back in central Iraq. Anbar province, once the epicenter of the Sunni insurgents, later a relatively stable oasis. Today, Anbar's capital city, Ramadi, under curfew after three car bombings inside an hour. At least 23 people are dead. Cars are barred from entering or leaving until further notice now.
And one big change from years past in Anbar and beyond is the role of Iraqi soldiers. They no longer follow in the shadows of their U.S. counterparts. Americans no longer call the shots, but they haven't gone away.
CNN correspondent Cal Perry, embedded with U.S. Special Forces on the condition that we would not reveal the identities of U.S. or Iraqi troops. Here's his exclusive report.
CAL PERRY, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The Green Berets, one of America's elite military units, prepare for a mission in Hillah, Iraq, in the middle of what used to be known as the triangle of death. Heavy metal blares while they gear up, but tonight, these highly trained soldiers, who are used to being out in front, will take a back seat. Iraqi special forces are spearheading the mission.
UNIDENTIFIED U.S. GREEN BERET OPERATOR: Obviously, they've taken the lead now. It's their show. They -- we are definitely to the point where it is "train the trainer" and not just "train the troops."
PERRY: The Iraqi special forces get their own briefing before they, too, mount up and head out. Their sound track, distinctly Iraqi, as team rolls through the town of Hillah, but it doesn't all go smoothly. In a dramatic sign of the distrust between different parts of Iraq's security forces, the soldiers confiscate cell phones from the local police in case they tip off the targets.
Off the paved roads, clouds of sand obscure the soldiers' view. Radios crackle as they close in. Then, in a flash, they crash the target building.
(on camera): The emergency response brigade, basically Iraqi special forces backed by United States Special Forces Green Berets, have detained who they believe to be alleged members of al Qaeda. You see them here, four individuals who have warrants against them. They've also found weapons in this house.
(voice-over): The team checks names and I.D. cards against the names in the judge's warrants. Later, the U.S. military tells us the individuals detained are suspected of involvement with an al Qaeda cell operating in this volatile province. They are driven away to be detained not in a U.S. camp but in an Iraqi prison.
Cal Perry, CNN, embedded with U.S. and Iraqi Special Forces in Hillah, Iraq.
PHILLIPS: Situation critical at Combat Outpost Keating in central Afghanistan. An overwhelming attack by the Taliban early on the morning of October 3rd. By the time the battle ended some 12 hours later, eight U.S. soldiers and more than 100 militants were dead. Surviving troops are sharing their remarkable accounts in military interviews hosted online by the Pentagon and NATO. Take a listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SGT. JAYSON SOUTER, U.S. ARMY: I think that the best moment what told me, you know, what great of a unit I was in, what great guys I was working with, was when everyone basically came together and in the midst of it all, they were donating blood for the wounded that we had. They all pulled together to make sure, you know, we could pull up our buddies out of this.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What did Keating look like after that? LT. CASON SHRODE, U.S. ARMY: Different. I mean, it looked as you could expect for most of Keating to catch on fire. By the next morning, it was pretty much ash besides that one building. I mean, that's the best way to describe it. Most of it had burned down, so we were pretty much at one building. And then the rest was just a shadow of what it used to be.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What were your impressions?
SOUTER: After the aftermath, COB Keating was completely changed. Like he said, almost all of the buildings had burned down. There were trees that were cut down trying to save other buildings from catching fire. And then just remnants of a mass attack afterwards.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
PHILLIPS: This was the single deadliest attack on U.S. forces in Afghanistan in more than a year.
PHILLIPS: Army Specialist Stephen Lee Mace was one of the eight soldiers killed in that Afghanistan attack. And in Purcellville, Virginia, his loved ones are remembering their fallen hero. On Sunday, hundreds of people lined the streets to pay tribute to the 21- year-old soldier, an outpouring that overwhelmed Mace's family.
Kris Van Cleave from affiliate WJLA brings us his final trip home.
VANESSA ADELSON, MOTHER: We put my son in the plane and took him home.
KRIS VAN CLEAVE, WJLA-TV CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): A solemn sight rarely seen in the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, the flag-draped casket of a fallen hero coming home, his mother by his side the entire way.
ADELSON: I brought him into the world, and I wanted to take him. It was my responsibility to take him back home to where he belonged, to his family and his community.
VAN CLEAVE: Making this even more remarkable is just how big of a community 21-year-old Specialist Stephen Mace had waiting for him. First, hundreds early Sunday morning at Leesburg Airport.
RANDY DESTEUBEN, ASHBURN, VA., RESIDENT: It's awesome. I mean, we don't know this gentleman. I mean, we just, you know, thought it was proper for us to come out here.
VAN CLEAVE: Countless more lined up along the 13 miles from the runway to Purcellville, Mace's home town. Police and firefighters, signs and flags, parents with children standing on the shoulder, in driveways, on overpasses. KAY PETRO, GRANDMOTHER: We just can't thank everybody enough. We really can't. It really helps. We love him, and I know he'd be proud of this. And we're proud of what he did.
VAN CLEAVE: And when the lengthy procession pulled into Purcellville, where American flags lined the streets, it seemed the entire town was waiting. Stephen's friend Brittany McKimmey wanted to say good-bye to her true hero.
BRITTANY MCKIMMEY, FRIEND: I think it's absolutely amazing. As soon as I got here, I broke down. Just the support from everyone in the community.
VAN CLEAVE: Mace was one of eight soldiers killed in vicious fighting when the Taliban attacked a remote U.S. outpost in eastern Afghanistan October 3rd. He's the first Purceville resident to die in Afghanistan, a sacrifice met with a hero's welcome by a town promising he'll never be forgotten.
ADELSON: These people with their flags and signs and -- we could just never thank everybody. It just -- it was overwhelming. That's all I can say.
PHILLIPS: Specialist Stephen Mace is just one of the 780 U.S. servicemen and women who have given their lives in the war in Afghanistan.
PHILLIPS: Top stories now, a suicide car bomber killed dozens in northwestern Pakistan, the latest in a strings of attacks targeting the military across the country. The Taliban claimed responsibility for the earlier blast. Pakistan's military has launched a new military offensive against them.
Thirty-one years after his assassination, Harvey Milk is being celebrated. Today, Arnold Schwarzenegger signed a bill remembering the gay-rights pioneer. It sets aside May 22nd, Milk's birthday, as a day of significance. Milk was the first openly gay politician elected to office in California.
If you like the clothes that she wore in "The Way We Were," well, today, you can buy them. Barbara Streisand auctioning off wigs, dresses and other mementos from her acting and singing career. The money goes to her charity, which aids humanitarian causes.
Move over, Magnificent Mile. This is some of Chicago's most exclusive real estate now. Who cares if it's a big old money pit and needs lots of work? The neighbors are first rate.
(COMMERCIAL BREAK) PHILLIPS: Well, hold on to your wallet. With lawmakers poised to vote on a health care reform tomorrow, the insurance companies are now squaring off against the president. But their blunt warning, get ready to dig deeper to pay for your health care.
Senior medical correspondent Elizabeth Cohen is here with some perspective. So, Elizabeth, what's with the switch?
ELIZABETH COHEN, CNN SENIOR MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: It is interesting, Kyra. The insurance industry has been on board with health care reform, being very rah-rah. And now all of a sudden, right before a vote in the Senate, they're saying, eh, no, you know what, we changed our minds. We don't like this so much. This is going to cost American consumers a lot more.
How much more? Well, according to the health insurance industry, a family like the Smiths, a family of four, their increases would go -- their premiums would go up $1,700 per year. That's quite a bit, obviously. Now, for individuals, the increase wouldn't be quite as much. For individuals, the increase would be approximately up $600 a year.
So, the insurance industry, again, after months of saying that health reform was a good thing, now we're saying American consumers should be wary -- Kyra.
PHILLIPS: All right, so what's the response been from the White House and also Baucus?
COHEN: Oh, they have come out definitely on fire about this. They say, look, you know, what's going on here? Both the White House and Baucus have said this is a hatchet job, that the health insurance industry is doing this out of their own selfish purposes.
PHILLIPS: All right, so how much do they say premiums will actually change?
COHEN: Well, that's what's interesting is, it's really hard to get an exact amount on there because the Baucus bill does very different things for different people. For example, let's say you can't get any insurance right now, but you could under the Baucus bill. Well, obviously, your premiums are going to go up. You're going to go from paying nothing to paying something because you'll finally get insurance.
So, it's very difficult to estimate. But I just talked to someone from Baucus's office, and she says that on the whole, premiums would actually go down a little bit under the Baucus bill.
PHILLIPS: OK. We'll keep following it. Tomorrow's a big day. Thanks, Elizabeth.
COHEN: Thanks. That's right.
PHILLIPS: Next hour, we're pushing forward on two big parts of health care reform that affect you. First, what can you expect from tomorrow's vote? Plus, it's open enrollment season. So, could there be nasty surprises in your company's insurance plan? Now more than ever, you really do need to read the fine print.
Most of you can get your swine flu shots or nasal mist sprays this week, but poor nations will have to wait until next month. The World Health Organization hopes to begin delivering some 60 million doses in November alone. The vaccine is being donated by drugmakers and rich nation, including the U.S., after they've taken care of their own folks.
It might be the most sought-after fixer-upper ever. Just hitting the market, a Chicago home in a very nice neighborhood, so nice it's got the presidential seal of approval.
CNN's Alina Cho went and toured the place.
ALINA CHO, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hey, Kyra. This is a very special property, a beautiful mansion, but it's not the house that's getting all of the attention. It's where it is. You know, the old adage about real estate is true -- location, location, location.
(voice-over): How much would you pay for this house? Six thousand square feet, 17 rooms, three floors, next door to the president?
BILL GRIMSHAW, PRESIDENT OBAMA'S CHICAGO NEIGHBOR: Location, location, location.
CHO: 5040 South Greenwood Avenue is next door to 5046, home to the Obamas. Not this home. This one, which also has round-the-clock Secret Service. Peer out the dining room window of Bill Grimshaw's place, and just 15 feet away is the Chicago home of the president. Grimshaw and his wife bought their house in 1973 for $35,000.
(on camera): Why would you want to sell?
GRIMSHAW: It's expensive to live here, and then there's this thing the Realtors are calling the Obama factor.
CHO (voice-over): There's more -- cache. President Obama taped a commercial at the Grimshaw home during the campaign.
BARACK OBAMA, THEN-PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: From our family to yours, I'm Barack Obama, and I approve this message.
MALIA OBAMA, DAUGHTER: Merry Christmas.
SASHA OBAMA, DAUGHTER: Happy holidays.
CHO: There's a neighborhood dog. Urban legend has it Malia and Sasha Obama grew fond of dogs after playing with this one. The downside, getting in is almost like breaking into Fort Knox. Two barricades. Secret Service. Everyone is prescreened.
GRIMSHAW: People don't drop in on the Grimshaws anymore.
CHO: But there is an upside.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They've not locked their front door in two years.
CHO: Then there's that chance you could get a glimpse of the first family.
GRIMSHAW: Michelle has rules, and Michelle's a very strong woman. And so, when Barack wanted to have a cigarette, he had to go out on the back porch to smoke, and gave my wife ideas.
CHO: Anyone who buys the house should be prepared. Friends who drop in may have ulterior motives. Like the time the Grimshaws had a Christmas party.
GRIMSHAW: And they stood most of the time staring out the window at Barack's house. I'd say, would you like a sandwich? Would you like a drink? No, we're fine.
CHO: Yes, but to be the president's neighbor.
(on camera): Some people might say that you are sitting on the most important property in the United States right now.
GRIMSHAW: Well, there's the White House.
CHO (voice-over): That one's not for sale. This one is. Next door to the Obamas, yours if the price is right.
(on camera): Beautiful, beautiful home. Little bit of a fixer- upper.
GRIMSHAW: Fixer-upper. The basement is a disaster. It's...
CHO: You're an honest man.
GRIMSHAW: Well, I think I'm selling location and not my basement, so I can afford to be honest.
CHO: Which begs the question, how much will it cost you? Well, the Obamas paid $1.65 million for their Chicago home back in 2005. The Realtor says if the Grimshaw home was down the block, in this down market, they probably could ask $1.5 million. But remember, Kyra, there's the Obama factor. What that's worth, nobody knows -- Kyra.
PHILLIPS: Thanks, Alina.
Pushing forward to the next hour of CNN NEWSROOM, they call him Russia's Obama. Only he's trying to win office where racists killed six people just last month.
Plus, testing students, it's a given. But I'm talking about breathalyzer tests. A Massachusetts school's trying to pass a plan to do it.
Wanted, a 6-year-old boy, aspiring Cub Scout, last seen trying to write lower-case letters, considered armed and extremely adorable. There he is, folks. Whatever you do, as cute as he is, do not approach him by yourself. He's packing a spork, and he knows how to use it. Just imagine how he could kill a bowl of mac and cheese with that thing.
All right, we laugh and it sounds like a joke. But guess what, this is no laughing matter for Zachary Christie (ph) of Newark, Delaware. He brought a spork to school, and in case you don't know, a spork is a highly evolved utensil, half spoon, half fork, all action, especially for Cub Scouts who camp.
Anyway, Zachary took his new spork to school because he wanted to eat lunch with it, maybe a little "spork and tell." What did the school say? Sorry, kid, that's a weapon, and it violates our zero- tolerance policy. Now this little Scout could face 45 days in reform school for a spork.
Well, Mom is not happy and says this is a bit out of control. So, she is homeschooling her straight-A son while she tries to overturn this punishment. Did we mention it's a spork?
Well, it's not the luxury suite at Caesar's Palace, but believe it or not, it is Las Vegas. And in this case, what happens in Vegas stays underground.
PHILLIPS: Finally facing justice. He allegedly helped to hijack a plane from New York and divert it to Cuba back in 1968. Now Luis Soltren has been arrested at JFK Airport after arriving on a flight from guess where? Cuba. He faces arraignment tomorrow.
Talk about an itchy trigger finger. North Korea has test-fired five short-range missiles today. That's according to the South Korean news reports. Earlier, the south had proposed talks with its communist neighbor.
She's smiling but talking tough. Secretary of State Clinton lashing out at, quote, "thuggish tactics by people who want to derail peace in Northern Ireland." Clinton spoke to lawmakers in Belfast today, pledging U.S. support for the peace process.
High rollers, glamorous showgirls -- that's Vegas, right? Hold on. There is a side of the Strip that you've probably never seen unless you're down on your luck. We're taking you underground, deep underground, beneath the bright lights and the big city.
Here's our Ted Rowlands.
TED ROWLANDS, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): There are things you don't know about Las Vegas. Past the lights, under the casinos, there's another world.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'm always a little bit on edge deep in this tunnel.
ROWLANDS: Matthew O'Brien (ph) serves as our guide, trekking through four different tunnels beneath the city. He wrote the book "Beneath the Neon: Life and Death in the Tunnels of Las Vegas," focusing on people who live underground, like 43-year-old Steve Dommer. Some shelters like Dahmer's are elaborate, and like the city above, you have to see it to believe it.
DOMMER: And it's quite dark in these tunnels. Without the light, most people would be wandering into total darkness.
ROWLANDS: Watch as our cameraman turns his light on and off along Dommer's path. It is pitch-back down here.
DOMMER: After you've done it a few hundred times like I have, you could actually walk down here without any light at all. It's just like anything. You get used to it. If you're claustrophobic, you don't want to be down here, I'll tell you that.
ROWLANDS: Dommer says unemployment, drug use and run-ins with the law drove him down here. After walking a half mile through the flood channel, we reach the spot Dommer's called home for the past two years.
DOMMER: Entering our living room.
ROWLANDS: It's near a sealed grate with light from the Vegas Strip above. Dommer shows us how he survives by adapting and innovating.
DOMMER: I fill this thing up right here with water I get up at the top, turn it like this, and I get under and take myself a shower.
ROWLANDS: This is his prized dumpster find.
DOMMER: Here's our wonderful, wonderful comfy bed.
ROWLANDS: Aside from being practically underneath the Las Vegas Strip, you could almost call it normal. That's what Dommer and his girlfriend, Katherine (ph), who moved in last year, say they strive for. So, why doesn't anyone try to clear them out?
DOMMER: I look at it as just out of sight, out of mind.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes.
ROWLANDS: O'Brien (ph), our tour guide, says that's one of the reasons he wrote his book.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You've got to watch your head.
ROWLANDS: To bring the situation to light. UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Kind of the history of Vegas PR is to ignore the bad issues. I think that's still kind of the instinct of the city and the county.
ROWLANDS: Six months ago, O'Brien (ph) started escorting social workers into the tunnels to assist the homeless living here. He says so far more than a dozen people have found housing and escape from the underground dangers of disease, drugs, fires and, yes, floods. Remember, it is a storm drain.
DOMMER: If it rains for, like, three solid days, and it just comes down and down and down, that water's going to get up to here, and there's nothing we're going to be able to do except leave.
ROWLANDS: But Steve and Katherine (ph) say the odds of that happening don't keep them up at night. It's a gamble they made when they decided to call this place home.
Ted Rowlands, CNN.
PHILLIPS: Pretty amazing.
We're pushing forward. Not so fast, though, a day before a make- or-break vote on health care reform in the Senate Finance Committee. The insurance industry says it's not on board after all. It's claiming the so-called Baucus bill would jack up costs for consumers, but supporters are not backing down.
And we're pushing forward on the politics, the policies and most importantly, your premiums. This much we do know -- after months of talk, the only health care reform bill that ever aspired to bipartisan support will be voted on for the first time tomorrow.
It's projected to cost $829 million over 10 years and cover 94 percent of the country while trimming the federal deficit. It was crafted by a finance committee subpanel dubbed the gang of six -- three Democrats, three Republicans. But no Republican has publicly signed on.
Insurance industry support had been seen as a game-changer in favor of reform. Now, who knows?
CNN's Christine Romans takes a hard look at the figures and of course the fallout.
CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN BUSINESS CORRESPONDENT: Kyra, at the 11th hour, the insurance lobby has released a study that says insurance coverage under new health care reform will be more expensive than we think over the next ten years. Insurers say the bill to be voted on tomorrow by a key Senate committee will raise the cost of coverage for a single person by $1,500. And family coverage would be $4,000 more expensive than expected, $25,900 per family by the year 2019. Why? According to the study, cuts to Medicare will push costs on to other insurance users. New taxes on some health care sectors and a tax on high-cost plans will also be passed along to consumers.
And the insurers worry that young, healthy people will choose to forego insurance and pay fines, coming into the system only when they're sick, raising costs for everyone.
The Democratic spokesman on the Senate Finance Committee blasted back, saying, "This report is untrue, disingenuous and bought and paid for by the same health insurance companies that have been gouging too many consumers for too long as they stand in the way of reform yet again."
The insurance lobby had been at the table with the administration for months on health reform, but now, a public rift. White House health spokeswoman Linda Douglass called the insurance analysis self- serving and said, "The analysis completely ignores critical policies that will lower costs for those who have insurance, expand coverage and provide affordable health insurance options to millions of Americans who are priced out of today's health insurance market or are locked out by unfair insurance company practices."
The powerful insurance lobby helped defeat health reform during the Clinton administration. So far, it says it is still hoping for "workable, bipartisan reform" -- Kyra.
PHILLIPS: Christine Romans, thanks so much.