Return to Transcripts main page


How H1N1 Can Easily Spread; Previewing 'LATINO IN AMERICA'; Closing the Education Gap for Latinos; Barofsky Discusses Pitfalls of T.A.R.P. in Quarterly Report; United HealthCare Denies Coverage to Two-Year-Old For Being 'Underweight'

Aired October 21, 2009 - 10:00   ET


HEIDI COLLINS, CNN ANCHOR: Trying to ensure an accurate election in Afghanistan, the United Nation says around 200 election officials are now being dismissed. They are part of the investigation into fraud during the first vote. CNN Pentagon correspondent Chris Lawrence is live in Kabul, Afghanistan, for us right now.

So, Chris, can they really set up for a legitimate election process in such short time?

CHRIS LAWRENCE, PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Heidi, it sure will not going to be easy. We spent most of the day talking to the Afghan people here in Kabul and I asked one man pointblank, "Do you think your vote will be counted fairly?" And he told me, "No. I don't think so. Another man told us that he's not going to vote in the run-off because he said there's no Result in the first election. But yet, even that said, I did speak to people who said despite all of the problems they do plan to go out to vote for the runoff.

Here are some of the problems organizers will be facing: logistics. Just getting the word out there is a run-off. Afghanistan has less than a 30% literacy rate. So tomorrow the United Nations is launching this huge initiative outreach program targeting TV and radio all across the country trying to get people aware that there is going to be a runoff election in just four weeks. Also, on the security front, defense officials tell us that there are now more American and Afghan forces in the country in position than there were just a couple months ago during the first election and the U. N. Says they are going to be opening fewer polling places. So the security teams won't be spread quite so thin, Heidi?

COLLINS: It's kind of a catch-22. You want to make sure that this ss some type of legitimized election process but if you have to have fewer polling places because of potential violence you have to wonder what sort of strain this election will put on NATO and the U. S. troops.

LAWRENCE: Yes. There is -- you hit the nail right on the head because if you have a fewer polling stations, that means A - you either force people to go longer distances in order to get to some of those polls, which is not easy in a Country like Afghanistan because of its terrain or you disenfranchise them where they say "I am not going to vote and feel that their voting isn't counted and they're not part of the process, you know, that speaks again to the ultimate goal here which is establishing some sort of legitimate Afghan government that the people have a little faith in

COLLINS: That's right. Our Pentagon correspondent covering it all for us. Chris Lawrence, thank you, live from Kabul this morning.

Lowering the nuclear risk from Iran. A drafted deal was hammered out in Vienna, Austria It calls for Iran to send most its low-enriched uranium out of the country. Not ofcourse the material can be used for nuclear weapon. Other countries like Russia would further enrich it and return it for use in medical research in Iran. Delegates from the country, the U.S., France, Russia and the U. N. have until Friday to sign that agreement.

Democrats fighting to keep the public option for health care alive. The house is negotiating a plan that does include it and they're getting a boost from a new report by the non-partisan congressional budget office. It says the plan would cost an estimated $871 billion over ten years. That is under the $900 billion cap set by President Obama. The CBO report also claims the house would plan would cut the deficit over the first ten years. But sources say it does not have enough votes to pass yet.

Meanwhile, a fight in the Senate over Medicare reimbursements. Doctors resisted cuts to the program for years. Our Dana Bash explains why Democrats are now so eager to help them out.

DANA BASH: Barbara Fuzcow (ph) is one of dozens of medicare patients Dr. Steve Zimmet and his partners will see Today.

DR. STEVEN ZIMMET, INTERNIST: Medicare accounts 48% of our practice revenue on an annual basis -

BASH: That is half of -

ZIMMET: That is half of my practice. And it's huge.

BASH: That's why he says a blooming 21% cut in government payments doctors get for Medicare recipients would hurt his practice and his patients.

ZIMMET: And that's just really unsustainable in today's universe.

BASH: Doctors have fought for years to stop annual Medicare cuts permanently and Failed. Now suddenly Senate Democratic leaders are listening and pushing a whopping $250 billion fix.

It's a surprise move announced after a closed door meeting right here in the Senate. CNN is told by two sources in the room that Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid told doctors groups he would try to stop Medicare cuts but made clear that in return he expected them to support Democrats health care overhaul.

Several sources tell CNN there was no explicit deal but the head of the powerful American Medical Association on Capitol Hill lobbying senators carefully puts it this way.

DR. HAMES ROHACK, PRESIDENT, AMERICAN MEDICAL ASSOCIATION: This is very important. If people are serious about health system reform, we've got to get this bill passed.

BASH: To get the bill passed, Democrats are engaging in what some called "budget trickery." They are separating the enormous $250 billion doctor fix from the larger health care overhaul and here's why.

If the senate health care proposal costs roughly $900 Billion, add $250 billion and the price tag would exceed a trillion dollars, above what the President wants. Not just that, the $250 billion cost is not paid for and adds to the deficit, which conservative Democrats call a nonstarter.

We should pay for it. We shouldn't just tack it on to the debt.

BASH: Because of that opposition within the ranks Democratic leadership sources admit to CNN they do not have the votes now to permanently stop cuts in medicare payments to doctors.


We need a permanent solution to protect Medicare and ensure seniors get the security and stability they earned.


BASH: They're hoping a multimillion dollar lobbying campaign by the AMA and its Allies will change that. Dana Bash, CNN, Capitol Hill.

COLLINS: A new indictment in a cross-country terror investigation. Now, this is the case resolving around Najibullah Zazi, remember? He was arrested in Colorado last month for allegedly planning an attack in New York City. CNN's Drew Griffin from our Special Investigations Unit is here to get us up to speed on where this investigation is right now. Because we talked about it for a long time and now it's gotten kind of quiet.

What's going on?

DREW GRIFFIN, SPECIAL INVESTIGATIONS UNIT: It's gotten quiet on our end but believe me the FBI, the New York Task Force hasn't got quiet at all on this. They remained actively engaged and we just learned overnight that Ahmad Afzali (ph) that he is a Imam from Queens who's been indicted four counts of basically lying to the FBI in their investigation. What we don't know a lot about him is the relationship between Zazi, who we believe was the quote/unquote mastermind behind his and Afzali which is just another person in Queens that has been under investigation, other than they attended the same mosque occasionally. But beyond that we don't know a lot. So, this is kind of a micromove, we might say in this investigation which from all indication it is hot.

COLLINS: Remind us quickly and not to the insult of those who know the story very well but there may be people out there who don't remember because he names -- it's hard to remember them all the time in investigations like this. What exactly was at the crux of the issue here? What was going on? GRIFFIN: It was the -- a limo driver from Denver. His name was Najibullah Zazi. The FBI had learned that this man was intending to carry off a plot in New York city that would have been, according to Investigators who told us, the biggest attack on U. S. soil since 9/11. The plot involved making a homemade kind of explosive device. Zazi reportedly buying material that would be able to put these together. He did traveled to Pakistan. He did had some knowledge of bomb making experience. So it all wrapped around him, but so far he's the only one actually indicted on those specific charges. The other two people who have been charged, this man today are lying to investigators, and Zazi's father, also from Denver who was supposedly lying though He denies it.

COLLINS: I remember in the beginning when we first started talking about this, there was a lot of concern about whether the FBI, CIA, everyone who is involved, the police from all across the country, whether or not they had gone in too early and possibly had to make this investigation public before they wanted to, before they got all of the people potentially involved in this and that may have hurt the overall investigation. What's the feeling now?

GRIFFIN: That's what we heard at the very beginning. But what's different from this investigation from others we have covered was in other cases, the plots you've heard about whethere they be in Miami or other places in upstate New York, the FBI had an informant or an agent inside on those plots so they were able to basically know what was happening and control it. This was out of the blue. They had no idea when the strike was going happen. There may have been a jump. There may not have been a jump. But what we can say is there has not been an attack so in the analysis, you know, the FBI may have felt that we had to get in there and do something because we really did not know. Again, his attack was supposedly timed to the anniversary of 9/11. They were very concerned that they had targets picked out and means to deliver this kind of terrorism to New York City.

COLLINS: So, there be more going on here?

GRIFFIN: There's more going on. There's plenty of surveillance, we know of several people under surveillance in New York City. We know there's an active investigation trying to find the various components that they believe this Zazi man had bought and purchased and was going to use to formulate these explosive devices. That's ongoing.very active.

COLLINS: In fact, that's pretty incredible that we're talking to you right now about this because I'm being told in my ear that we're monitoring another situation where out of Boston there's been some sort of terror arrest. Let's go and listen in just a moment to this news conference.

MICHAEL LOUCKS, ACTING U. S. ATTORNEY: He indicated he would only supply handguns. He further alleged Mehanna wanted to be a soldier for jihad and to participate in killing U. S. soldiers and others abroad. His alleged in the court document that Mehanna obtained, watched and distributed videos of a roadside terrorist attack with an improvised explosive device used against United States soldiers in Iraq and videos of mutilation and abuse of the remains of United States soldiers in Iraq. It is alleged that in their effort to join the jihad to kill Americans broad, members of the conspiracy travelled to Pakistan, Iraq, Syria and Yemen and started training from several camps including from the terrorist group Lashka-e-Taiba and from the Taliban.

As alleged, Abousamra, in an effort to get contact information for the trip to Yemen, travelled to California to meet with and obtain from an individual whom they knew had been to Pakistan into Yemen and attended training camp contact information to be able themselves to Yemen. In December 2006 it's alleged Abousamra Ahman were interviewed by members of the Joint Terrorism Task force within two weeks, Abisam he left the United States for Syria and has not returned. Mehanna attempted to leave the United States in November of 2008 and was arrested as he was about to board a plane at Logan airport. Mehanna as I mentioned was indicted this past January with making false statements to the members of the joint terrorism task force guarding Mr. Daniel Maldonado (ph). Mr. Maldonado was captured by Kenyan troops while fighting with Al Qaeda in Somalia, he's serving a ten-year sentence following his guilty plea to a charge for receiving military type training from a foreign terrorist organization, Al qaeda. As today's court documents alleged, it was he who was one of wanted the co-conspirators when looking for the weapons they needed for a mall assault. That concludes my prepared remarks. I want to state that these are allegations and Mr. Mehanna's presumed innocent of these charges.


LOUCKS: I'm not going to expose any of that.


LOUCKS: I'm not going to expose any of that.

QUESTION: Did they ever get training at the terrorist camp?

LOUCKS: I think if you review the documents that are filed, they did not. They were not accepted, I think as a reference that one effort to attend the last Al Qaeda training camp Ahman Abousamra (ph) he was rejected because he was not an Arab. Did I get that right? Not Pakistani. I'm sorry. No, Abousamra. I believe that they could not make a contact in Yemen that would accept them into a training camp.

QUESTION: How long have you been (inaudible)

LOUCKS: I can't tell you anything on that. That's not disclosed in the pleadings that have been filed. So, I can't make any comment on that. He was out on bail.


LOUCKS: There were conditions of release. Was he on a monitor? Not on an ankle bracelet.

QUESTION: There have been discussions over the years about soft targets, the malls and so on. When you see this kind of case developing, what does that tell us? What does that tell you?

LOUCKS: You know that's very -- that's not in connection with this case and these charges, you know, we live in a free country and we don't have -- we don't live in a police state. That's one of the reasons why we all like to live where we live. And we do have places where someone if they want to do terrorist act can probably accomplish it. We do our best. We do our best to try o stop them in advance.

QUESTION: I asked only because people have said it's amazing it hasn't happened yet and then we see this kind of case developing.

LOUCKS: You know, I will say my own personal view, I agree with your comment. Amazing it hasn't happened yesterday but it's I think that's a testament to the very hard work that's been done since 2001 by the folks standing behind me and by everybody who work in their agency and by local and state enforcement officers across the United States who do their job every day with their eyes open.


LOUCKS: That's accurate.


LOUCKS: Well, I don't know what you mean by how far along. They had discussions as I said regarding how to do it. Whether to do it from multiple entrances, what to do when emergency responders arrived and one of them took a step to go to Maldonado to try to use -- utilize his -- what they believed to be his gang contacts to obtain automatic weapons.

It ended so far as we're -- as alleged when Maldonado indicated all he could obtain for them were handguns and then that member of the group reported back to the rest of them that they couldn't obtain automatic weapons and they determined it was not feasible to go forward.


LOUCKS: Yes. I don't know if it's an accurate statement to say all these gang members have automatic weapons. I'm not sure that that's an accurate statement at all.

QUESTION: No, I don't think that's an accurate statement.

LOUCKS: Yes, one of the premise of your question is that gang members have access to automatic weapons. I don't know that that's an accurate statement. I don't know that we've had a single -- I could be proven wrong on this point. But I'm not -- I don't remember a single instance where we prosecuted a gang member who had possession of a fully automatic weapon.


LOUCKS: They're different.

QUESTION: (INAUDIBLE) COLLINS: All right. Let's take a moment to get some context here as to what we are bringing you right now. You've been listening to Michael Loucks, who's the acting U.S. attorney, Department of Justice there in Boston talking about this terrorism plot, alleged terrorism plot, that was apparently broken up.

I want to go back just moments before he came to the podium. A special agent with the FBI spoke, a gentleman by the name of Warren Banford spoke and gave some background to exactly what they're talking about here.

Let's go ahead and listen to that.


LOUCKS: Mehanna was first arrested and charged one year ago with lying to FBI agents in connection with a terrorism investigation. Today's arrest, done in conjunction with a search at his home, involves broader and more serious charges.

According to documents filed in court and unsealed today, Mehanna, along with his co-conspirators, desired to take some kind of action in furtherance of jihad. He and his co-conspirators discussed what to do and took steps in furtherance of and support for terrorism including trips overseas in an effort to join training camps and to fight and kill American soldiers.

Efforts to find and obtain automatic weapons to conduct the killing of Americans in shopping malls here in the United States and the viewing and dissemination of jihad film showing the killing of American soldiers.

It's alleged that following the events of September 11th, 2001, this group believed that carrying out attacks in areas of Pakistan was not feasible for them as travel there had become more difficult.

And it's alleged that Mehanna was involved in discussions about exploring other options such as shooting and killing one or two specific members of the executive branch of the United States government.

Let me note that neither of these two government officials who Mehanna and his co-conspirators specifically identified by name are presently with the executive branch and neither were in any danger at any time from Mehanna and his co-conspirators.


COLLINS: All right. My apologies. We thought we were going to hear that background of the case from the FBI special agent, but instead we did hear more from the U.S. attorney there, Michael Loucks, giving us sort of the history there.

Drew Griffin, still sitting with me.

Drew, you've been doing a lot of work on some of these terror plots that we've been learning about in this country and how they are breaking them up. This one was interesting to me here is -- again as we're just getting the information in, the idea of these automatic weapons that were allegedly -- they were after to use in this shopping mall plot potentially.

The U.S. attorney was asked is this something that we need to be thinking about now all of these potential terrorists having access to automatic weapons in this country.

DREW GRIFFIN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: I think the takeaway here, Heidi, in both in this case which we're both learning about right now and in the Zazi case that we've talked about earlier is the threat that the FBI, the terrorism task force are facing now, which is more of a homegrown type of terrorist.

Not somebody being imported from overseas to do damage here but somebody who has a kind of terrorist spirit looking for guidance as to what to do. These men, it sounds like, were in search of a cause to fight for. And it makes it very difficult when you have these Americanized people living in the United States.

Remember, Zazi went to high school in New York City. He was a very Americanized person who suddenly became radicalized and then was seeking some kind of plot to carry fought in furtherance of al Qaeda.

COLLINS: Do we have any evidence that they indeed have not had that planned all along by way of being in this country?

GRIFFIN: Sleeper cell type of thing?

COLLINS: Yes. Exactly.

GRIFFIN: I mean, we really don't know. But based on what we know about Zazi, again, this is a new case to me in Boston, but based on what we know about Zazi, the answer is no. In other cases that we've seen, the answer has been no.

These are people who learned about radicalized Islam from various imams who are free to spew what they spew here in the United States or from the Internet and they suddenly find themselves believing in the cause and then traveling overseas perhaps to get some kind of training or guidance.

And what we believe is happening is that these overseas terrorists, I'll say quote/unquote, "real terrorists," the al Qaeda terrorists, and saying go back to the United States and do something. Do something there. Don't do something here. Do something back in the United States. And that's the type of plot that the FBI has been focusing on.

COLLINS: Yes. Well, we are trying to stay on top of all of it obviously. This news just coming to us out of Boston, Massachusetts.

Drew Griffin, we sure do appreciate that.

We also have our homeland security correspondent standing by now, Jeanne Meserve, with a little bit more information.

Jeanne, good morning to you. One of the things that we did learn from the U.S. attorney Michael Loucks there in Boston saying that one of the reasons this was broken up or did not go the way that they had possibly planned it was because they were not able to get ahold of the automatic weapons that were part of this plan.

JEANNE MESERVE, CNN HOMELAND SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: That's right. They apparently, according to the allegations made today, wanted to attack a shopping mall. They had gotten so far the U.S. attorney said as to casing out multiple entrances, talked about what they do when first responders responded and the like, and they went to New Hampshire.

There was a guy up there who had been radicalized somewhat, had gone to Somalia, and fought, he eventually was picked and is now serving time in prison. But these people apparently were familiar with him before he was in custody. They went to New Hampshire according to the allegations made in this indictment and tried to buy weapons from him.

They wanted automatic weapons. He said, sorry, can't get those. Can only get handguns. So they went away and gave up on that plan. But they obviously had a number of other possible things up their sleeves according to the U.S. attorney.

They also were talking about possibly targeting members of the executive branch. The U.S. attorney said those people are no longer in the executive branch. They were never in any harm but it shows that these people once thwarted one direction tried to find another.

But it should be underlined here they never executed. They were unable to carry off this plot.


MESERVE: Despite what's alleged here to be years and years of talking about it.

COLLINS: All right. So what do we know about who these suspects are? We were talking with Drew just a few minutes ago, Jeanne, about the idea of homegrown terrorism and whether or not these individuals and this one individual was American or not.

MESERVE: Well, it's unclear from the -- we're just getting the paperwork on this now. His name is Tarek Mehanna. Excuse me if I've mispronounced that. He's 27 years old. Described here as a resident of Sudbury, Massachusetts.

I see no mention in the few pieces of paper I've seen thus far what his nationality is. So I can't comment on that--

COLLINS: All right.

MESERVE: -- whether or not he's American born or not and whether he was in this country legally or not. Unclear at this point in time. COLLINS: OK. Understood. Will certainly part of all of the questions that we'll continue to ask. And, Jeanne Meserve, sure do appreciate your help with this as we're just getting this information in. Our homeland security correspondent.

Thank you, Jeanne.

Meanwhile, the 7-year-old girl got in a spat with friends and walked off. She made it home from school. Two days later a search continues.


COLLINS: A North Florida sheriff today said investigators have no clues into the disappearance of a 7-year-old girl. Somer Thompson was walking home from school Monday with her sister and got into an argument. She walked ahead and has not been seen since. A short time ago her mother talked at a news conference.


DINA THOMPSON, MISSING GIRL'S MOTHER: I did her hair for her in the morning. I put it up in a pony tail. I can't even remember if I told her I loved her. I went to work and told them to have a good day. She wasn't feeling well. And I told her just to try to go to school. If you need me, call me.


COLLINS: Another missing person's case, a 20-year-old Virginia Tech student hasn't been seen since a Saturday night Metallica concert in Charlottesville, Virginia. Morgan Harrington became separated from her friends. Her parents say her disappearance is unusual. They talk with her every day.

Coughing, sneezing, germs seem to be everywhere. So is there any way to avoid the H1N1 flu virus? Our medical correspondent Elizabeth Cohen has a demonstration and some answers.


COLLINS: H1N1, seasonal flu. It seems like germs are all around us especially this time of year. Normally, our bodies fight off those germs before they ever make us sick. But the H1N1 flu virus is a new strain, something we don't already have immunity to.

CNN senior medical correspondent Elizabeth Cohen is here now and looks into whether we can stay healthy and avoid H1N1, avoid seasonal flu. We deal with seasonal flu every year. The directions for trying to sort of stay away and avoid H1N1 are the same, right?

ELIZABETH COHEN, CNN SENIOR MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: They are the same. But -- I have a little cough myself. You noticed, I tried to get my elbow in there?

The difference is that many of us already have immunity to the seasonal flu because we saw that virus in previous years or because we were vaccinated. The problem with H1N1 is that the vast majority of us have never seen it before. Our bodies don't even recognize it. And most people have not received the vaccine since it just came out.

So, we wanted to take a little look -- how exactly do you get germs? What kind of contact do you need to have? The key is, if you're within 3 to 6 feet of someone who has H1N1, you could get it, too. Take a look at this germy subway ride.


COHEN (on camera): Let's pretend that you and I are going to get on the subway. We stand in line at this kiosk. And let's say I'm sick. I go like this. I touch this. You're right behind me. Now it's your turn.

DR. RHONDA MEDOWS, GA. DEPT. OF COMMUNITY HEALTH: And I'm not so happy with you right now. What happens is -- and commonly it happens every single day. People who have different illnesses, different symptoms, coughing, sneezing, runny nose, sinus infections, whatever, do what you just did without even thinking about it.

H1N1 virus can live on an inanimate object for two to eight hours. This is a virus that our bodies have never seen before. So, all of those people that touched it and if they have H1N1, they have no immunity and neither do you. This is where the adventure actually starts.

COHEN: So, we are now standing behind a whole bunch of people. If one of them were sick and sneezed, could we get sick?

MEDOWS: Yes, we can.

COHEN: Even at this distance?

MEDOWS: It's less than six feet. So, that spray, that air droplet spray could actually come into your being. You're inhaling. You're breathing. Respiratory droplets.

COHEN: All right. So, we're sitting down here on the subway. Really, really close. Smushed together. If I start sneezing -- ah- choo -- what are you going to do?

MEDOWS: I'm going to turn my face away and try to avoid the spray.

COHEN: OK, let me see what would you do? Ah-choo!

MEDOWS: I may go over and sit next to her because she's not sneezing. She looks a lot healthier.

COHEN: OK. You would actually get up and leave if you sat on a subway next to someone who was sneezing in.

MEDOWS: I want to avoid influenza that bad that I would get up and sit over there.

COHEN: I hear constantly wash your hands, wash your hands. But that's not enough.

MEDOWS: Actually, it's a lot.

COHEN: It is a lot but it's not enough. Because you're surrounded by people all of the time.

MEDOWS: That's right.

COHEN; You can wash your hands all day long, but if you're next to someone who sneezes...

MEDOWS: You can't. Washing your hands is not going to do that. You can only do things to try to reduce the transmission.


COHEN: The key here is to be hyper-aware of your surroundings, even if you're just waiting to get on a bus or in a line for movie tickets. Be aware of who is sneezing and coughing around you. Now, before, you saw me cough, and so here I am. I'm sanitizing my hands.

And where's Heidi? Where did she go?

COLLINS: Hey, I'm backing off. What is it? Three to six feet I'm supposed to be that far away from.


COHEN: I'm not offended. I do not have H1N1. I don't have a fever. I do have a little bit of a cough. And I was telling her I have two children sick at home from school. So, she's doing the right thing here. I am not offended. You're a smart woman.

COLLINS: But listen, if someone wanted to get the H1N1 vaccine to protect themselves from being sick at the office or wherever you may go, you can do that or you can't do that? Just the other day, we talked about the vaccine shortage.

COHEN: That's right. And it still is tough. If you can take the nose spray vaccine, and many people can, then you probably can find a place to get. They're at a variety of places. But many people, including pregnant women, babies, people who have diseases like asthma and diabetes, they need a shot. Those shots right now are really hard to find.

COLLINS: Yes. I'll be getting mine very shortly after the show. I can't seem to get far enough away. No, I'm kidding. Elizabeth Cohen, thanks so much. Appreciate it.

COHEN: Thank you.

COLLINS: More than 50 million Latinos live in America. They come from different countries and different cultures, but they often face a common challenge. What's being done to close the education gap.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) COLLINS: We're hours away now from "LATINO IN AMERICA," a comprehensive look at the changing face of the United States. More than 50 million Latinos now live here, but they still face major obstacles to their American dream. Among them, a major gap in education. CNN's Soledad O'Brien is here now to look at her documentary. So, we'll see you tonight, right?

SOLEDAD O'BRIEN, CNN SPECIAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes. It begins at 9:00 p.m. Eastern time. We tell the story of Los Garcias. Garcia's now the eighth most popular name in America. One of our Garcias is the CEO of six companies; another is a teenager named Cindy Garcia, and for her education is a struggle. Take a look.


SOLEDAD O'BRIEN, CNN SPECIAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Cindy Garcia's a senior at Fremont High School in South L.A. It's severely overcrowded, almost entirely Latino, and 70 percent of its students don't graduate on time.

CINDY GARCIA, HIGH SCHOOL SENIOR: I don't want to fall into the 70 percent. No. I know I deserve better than that.

O'BRIEN: It's not going to be easy. Cindy is more than a semester behind. And there's just three months until graduation.

(on camera): What happened your ninth grade year?

GARCIA: I guess I didn't find it important. Like, I didn't even care and...

O'BRIEN: Did you go?

GARCIA: To school?


GARCIA: No, I went -- I would go...

O'BRIEN: You cut every day?


O'BRIEN: Every day?

GARCIA: Kind of, yes. O'BRIEN (voice-over): Now, she's trying to make up for lost time, but family often trumps school. Cindy lives in this three- bedroom house with her mother, two sisters, baby brother and two-an-a-half-year-old niece.

GARCIA: Close your eyes.

O'BRIEN: She's constantly pulled out of school to take care of the kids and help out at the family store, which barely makes ends meet.

GARCIA: I'll check if there's some more in the back, because I don't think so.

O'BRIEN: Cindy also acts as a translator for her mother, Onelia, who speaks no English. She's been sick and eats needs help navigating doctors' appointments.

(on camera): Do you ever want to say to her, I need to be in school?

GARCIA: Yes, I do.

O'BRIEN: And do you say that?


O'BRIEN: No. Why not?

GARCIA: Because I'm the only one that can help her sometimes, you know? So, I can't -- I mean, if it was something else, like, go to the store with me, then OK. But, like, if this is very important so, I kind of have to be there.

O'BRIEN: It's a lot of responsibility. You're 17.

GARCIA: I guess, yes.


O'BRIEN: Cindy Garcia is just one of the Garcias that we profile. Another is a Garcia who makes the move from New York to Charlotte, North Carolina with the family. How do they fare? What do they give up, what do they gain in that trip? That's a look at some of the Garcias that will be coming up "LATINO IN AMERICA." Heidi.

COLLINS: Yes, it looks like people surrounding Cindy really seem to be providing some real life role models for her. That's tough for a lot of people to find.

O'BRIEN: Yes, you know, Monica Garcia is a school board president and says, listen, I grew up in poverty as Cindy did, but because of education I'm able to be a success. She's a pretty powerful political force in California.

And also the mayor himself, Antonio Virragosa (ph), is a dropout. He dropped out of school and then decided to go back and went onto law school and became the mayor of the city. So, she's surrounded by people who model for her that it can be done. We'll take a look and see how Cindy fares tonight.

COLLINS: Very good. Soledad, thank you.

In fact, our next guest has spent her adult life in education from the classroom to her current office as secretary of education in New Mexico.

Veronica Garcia has also been recognized by Hispanic groups for her work toward closing the education gap. She's joining us this morning from Albuquerque. Thank you for being with us, Veronica. We sure do appreciate it.

In talking about this, I want to put something on the screen for everybody at home. Sort of an interesting statistic. According to the Pew Hispanic Center -- you may have seen this -- but it says nearly 9 in 10, which would be 89 percent, Latino young adults ages 16 to 25 do say a college education is important for success in life. But then only about half of that number, 48 percent, say they do plan on getting a college degree. Talk to me a little bit about that. The disparity of those numbers there.

DR. VERONICA GARCIA, SECRETARY OF EDUCATION, NEW MEXICO: Well, it appears -- there's also a disparity in numbers in terms of the parents when they're asked do they expect their children to graduate from high school and go onto college, and they say the same thing.

And I think that there are many barriers to their success. One is preparation. If they have not been properly prepared in elementary and middle school and get to high school with low skills, while they may have the dream of graduating from high school and going onto college, it makes it very difficult if they didn't get an early start like the young girl that we just heard who was ditching in ninth grade. All of those kinds of efforts - rather, those kinds of barriers make a difference with their success.

COLLINS: How is it different in the Latino population than other races?

GARCIA: Well, it seems that this has been a persistent problem and one that we have not focused on as a country. I appreciate CNN highlighting it, for one.

Secondly, as we talk about Cindy and you highlighted her, the family seems to be pulling her -- she has family obligations, and so how can we make at the high school level education a priority and something that she -- that the family recognizes will require a certain degree of persistence?

One of the things that we're doing in New Mexico under Governor Bill Richardson is a project called Ideal New Mexico, which is an online learning program. We have a goal to reach 10,000 dropouts by the end of 2011.

And what that does it has an opportunity for young people to be able to access via the Internet courses for credit recovery, either at their churches or community-based centers. If they don't have computers at home or they can't come to school -- and to be able to have credit recovery in that manner.

COLLINS: All right. Interesting. We also know you're an adviser to the United States secretary of education, Arne Duncan. Have you had an opportunity to talk with him about some of these Latino issues in education? What have you told him?

GARCIA: We actually have had conversations with (INAUDIBLE) out of the White House, whose charge is Latino education. We've talked to him about the need for community outreach to better train parents to be involved in their children's education, to have them be engaged in a way that they're asking for homework, that they're ensuring that children go to school every day, and that they communicate daily to them their expectation that they graduate from high school. And how can we better work with the Latino community and with parents to better engage them...

COLLINS: Go ahead. Finish your thought.

GARCIA: Well, the other is to have programs in middle school that reach Latino students that get them thinking about themselves as college students. That they think about programs like Avid (ph) and fund those kinds of programs that get students to recognize that rigor is important. That taking those tough classes will better prepare them for high school and for college.

COLLINS: All right. Veronica Garcia, we sure do appreciate your time today. Secretary of education for the state of New Mexico. Thank you.

And just a reminder now. We're hours away from "LATINO IN AMERICA." A look at how Latinos are changing the country. That's tonight and tomorrow night 9:00 Eastern. Also will be simulcast in Spanish on CNN en Espanol.

Get out of the way. Bus coming through. One pedestrian learns the hard way to check both directions before crossing the street.


COLLINS: The $700 billion bank bailout may have rescued the economy, but it came at a cost. So says the man in charge of overseeing the T.A.R.P. program. Stephanie Elam is in's newsroom right now right now in New York. Good morning to you, Stephanie. What are you hearing on this?

STEPHANIE ELAM, CNN BUSINESS CORRESPONDENT: Yes, Heidi. We can tell you this. The T.A.R.P. inspector general, Neil Barofsky, is out with his quarterly report due to Congress today, and it's really very critical. Barofsky does say T.A.R.P. helped bring the financial system back from the brink of collapse, but he says that a lack of transparency has damaged the government's credibility. He also points out that the bailout hasn't done anything to change Wall Street's culture, so history could indeed easily repeat itself.


NEIL BAROFSKY, SPECIAL INSPECTOR GENERAL, TARP: I think some of these entities have gotten even bigger, and the consequences of their failure would be even greater. And some of them done through government intervention and support. Government-supported mergers.

So, I think that's a problem. Also, before there was basically an implicit guarantee that the government would stand behind these institutions. But through the T.A.R.P., that implicit guarantee is now explicit. And that gives these institutions a tremendous advantage over smaller institutions as well as raising risk for the entire system.


ELAM: Now, another thing we have to take into account, Barofsky doesn't think we'll get all of our money back. He (INAUDIBLE) Congressional Budget Office which estimates that $159 billion of T.A.R.P. funds will not be repaid, Heidi.

COLLINS: Is that a big surprise, Stephanie? Is it too late to change Wall Street? I don't know. Do you have any of the answers?


ELAM: Yes, I think that's not surprising to most people probably that that is the case with that. That it won't be effective right away. Critics do say giant opportunities were missed. The time to impose reforms was when the government gave the industry billions of dollars. We heard that this morning from former New York governor Eliot Spitzer. But Spitzer also says it's not too late.


ELIOT SPITZER, FORMER NEW YORK GOVERNOR: We have to restructure banking because they're making millions and millions of dollars, billions of dollars, using our tax dollars to play with it in the marketplace, then taking out those profits in bonuses instead of lending to businesses that need cash and capital to expand. The industry is opposing the fundamental reforms that are necessary.


ELAM: At a fundraiser last night in New York, President Obama criticized the financial industry for resisting tighter regulation. Congress is considering a package of reforms, including a new consumer watchdog for financial products, but Governor Spitzer (sic) also says the proposed reforms don't do enough. He says "too big to fail" is too big, and the government needs to prohibit firms from ever getting to that point. Heidi.

COLLINS: All right, Stephanie Elam. Stephanie, sure do appreciate it. Thanks.

A robber pulls a gun, the victim drops to her knees in prayer. You might not believe what happens next.


COLLINS: A runaway bus in Russia. You won't believe the video. Look at this now. You can see an unsuspecting pedestrian, thinking it's safe to cross the street. But the bus comes barreling through. It hit around 20 cars total. Russian TV reports the bus -- ohh -- was full of passengers when the brakes failed. They also say the driver passed an initial sobriety test. Four people were hurt.

The debate over health care reform has stirred a lot of passions among Americans. This next story may also raise a lot of questions. United HealthCare's golden rule says it can't ensure this two-year-old because at 22 pounds, she's considered underweight. The girl's parents say they were shocked by the rejection letter.


RACHEL BATES, MOTHER: Just because a child is above the 95th percentile or below the 5th percentile doesn't mean they're unhealthy. It just means that they're a different body type.

ROB BATES, FATHER: What we want to see is that insurance companies have legitimate reasons for denying coverage.


COLLINS: The company says it cannot publicly address individual cases but says 89 percent of the people who apply for coverage get it. The girl's parents are seeking an appeal with the pediatrician's note that the girl is healthy.

So, here's a story you might share at the dinner table tonight. A holdup in Indianapolis. Different because the armed robber has the firepower, but his victim has the power of prayer. When she kneels down, the robber hugs her and asks her to pray with him and then he, too, kneels down.

He ended up taking 20 bucks from the cash drawer but later turned himself in. Seemed his mother recognized him from the surveillance video you see there on images that aired on local TV.

There you have it. I'm Heidi Collins. CNN NEWSROOM continues in just a moment with Tony Harris.