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Health Care Debate Rhetoric Heating Up; Arkansas Health Care Divide; Surviving the Black Friday Frenzy; Revisiting Historic America-Indian Occupation of Alcatraz; President Obama Delivers Remarks on Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics
Aired November 23, 2009 - 11:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
TONY HARRIS, CNN ANCHOR: And good morning, everyone. It is November 23, 2009. And here are top stories for you this Monday morning in the CNN NEWSROOM.
Health care reform heads for debate by the full Senate. Several Democrats demanding tweaks.
And something you may not dwell on this holiday shopping blitz -- your safety.
Good morning, everyone. I'm Tony Harris, and you are in the CNN NEWSROOM.
The health care debate is simmering on the back burner until after Thanksgiving, but the rhetoric is heating up. Senate Democrats voted over the weekend to begin debate, and now they have a fight on their hands from Republicans and moderates in their own party.
Our congressional correspondent, Brianna Keilar, live in Washington for us.
And Brianna, look, Republicans seem locked on no. That leaves Democrats, and particularly their leaders, with the increasingly difficult job of keeping everyone on board.
BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: And that's obviously the goal, Tony. But you can't rule out the Democratic leaders will be trying to get some support from Republicans.
They may not have a choice, they may need it, because, keep in mind, this vote Saturday was a vote just to begin debate on the Senate floor. And yesterday, on the Sunday shows, Senator Joe Lieberman and Senator Ben Nelson, both of them who voted yes Saturday, basically said they wouldn't vote for this bill as is with a government-run insurance plan in it.
Now, two others, Senator Mary Landrieu of Louisiana and Senator Blanche Lincoln of Arkansas, have major reservations about the bill. So that just shows you that, if Democrats lose even a single one of these senators here, they're going to have to look across the aisle to Maine Senators Olympia Snowe and Susan Collins, both of them moderate Republicans, to try to get some support there if they can -- Tony.
HARRIS: Brianna, any doubt in your mind that the bill that the Senate will begin debating after the Thanksgiving break will change?
KEILAR: It will have to in order to get the 60 votes that Democrats need. And the number two Democrat in the Senate, Dick Durbin, indicating yesterday that leaders are open to adjustments on this controversial government-run insurance plan, the public option. They know that this is going to have to change.
Now, if it turns out Democrats need Republican support, remember Senator Olympia Snowe has this idea that we talked about in months past, Tony, of a public option with a trigger, meaning that the government-run insurance plan only kicks in if, really, insurance companies don't hold up their end of the bargain, bringing down costs or covering the number of Americans that Congress wants them to.
HARRIS: Hey, Brianna, what's the timeline on this? When will the Senate actually have a vote on this bill?
KEILAR: Well, the next step is debate on the Senate floor after Thanksgiving. And we're waiting to see exactly when the vote will be.
Obviously, the goal is before Christmas, and there is a sense that, you know, Congress is going to be hanging around for a while going into the holiday break. Then for final passage of the bill, where the House and the Senate would have to vote on their bill, that's moving now into the new year. The ultimate goal, it seems for Democrats, really, to get this bill to the president's desk before his State of the Union Address at the end of January.
OK. Our congressional correspondent, Brianna Keilar, for us.
Brianna, appreciate it. Thank you.
Democrats pushing for the Senate health reform bill say it is time for action. California Senator Dianne Feinstein says the system is in need of an overhaul.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. DIANNE FEINSTEIN (D), CALIFORNIA: America's in serious problems with respect to health care. We -- virtually every other developed country has a better system than we do. Ours is costly. In places it's ineffective, it's deeply troubled, and the time has come to really see that people who have no insurance can get insurance.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS: Well, the Senate's top Republican says Democrats are taking an arrogant approach to health care reform. On CNN's "STATE OF THE UNION," Minority Leader Mitch McConnell told our John King Democrats are ignoring the will of the people.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JOHN KING, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: On a scale of one to 10, the likelihood the Senate will pass a health care legislation this year and that Congress will send the president a bill before the State of the Union Address next year?
SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL (R), MINORITY LEADER: Well, we don't often ignore the wishes of the American people. They are literally screaming, many, telling us, please don't pass this, don't pass this bill.
If the majority is hell bent on ignoring the wishes of the American people, they have 60 votes in the Senate. You would think that they might be able to do this. But I believe there are a number of Democratic senators who do care what the American people think and are not interested in this sort of arrogant approach that everybody is sort of, shut up and sit down, get out of the way, we know what's best for you.
We're hearing from the American people. They don't want us pass it. So I would -- you know, it's hard to handicap the ultimate outcome, whether the majority will ignore the American people or not, but they'll be heard.
The American people will be heard. They'll either be heard sooner or they'll be heard later.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS: OK. Checking the wire and the day's other big stories.
Insurgents in Afghanistan have killed four U.S. service members in the last 24 hours. Officials say three died in roadside bombings, another was killed by insurgent gunfire. NATO has charged allied nations to commit more forces to the Afghan War ahead of a U.S. decision of whether to send additional troops.
We are learning President Obama will meet with his national security team on Afghanistan and Pakistan. That meeting to take place tonight.
In California, a transit police officer and a passenger both injured in a scuffle and takedown. Take a look at the video here.
A witness shot camera phone video of this arrest Saturday night -- wow -- and posted it on the Internet Sunday. Bay Area Rapid Transit Police have been under scrutiny since the fatal shooting of an unarmed passenger last New Year's Day. A BART spokesman promises a thorough investigation of this latest incident.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
LINTON JOHNSON, BART SPOKESMAN: The video was posted by somebody who has jumped to conclusions as to what he believes happened. And we're not saying that that person is wrong or right, but what we do need to say to that person and to the rest of the world that we're going to look at all of the facts, not just what you see on the video, and then we'll make a conclusion as to what happened.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS: Federal investigators trying to narrow down the cause of a radiation leak at Pennsylvania's Three Mile Island nuclear plant. This is where the nation's most serious nuclear event occurred in 1979, leading to tighter oversight of the industry. A spokesman says Saturday's leak was confined to a reactor building and was not a threat to the public. About 150 workers were sent home.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JOHN WHITE, NUCLEAR REGULATORY COMMISSION: We've also looked at the exposures of the individuals that were involved here. Based on the information that we see to date, we found that while there were some contaminated individuals, and possibly some intakes of radioactivity, we found nothing that indicates that there was anything significant, anything that exceeded NRC regulatory limits.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS: I believe we have live pictures for you now of the third and final spacewalk for Shuttle Atlantis astronauts. They are attaching a fresh oxygen tank and science equipment to the International Space Station.
By the way, one of the astronauts on today's walk just became a father for a second time on Saturday.
Arkansas voters are divided over health care reform and the idea of a government-run insurance option. A senator facing a tough reelection fight is caught in the middle of that divide.
The story now from Chief National Correspondent John King.
KING (voice-over): Aisha's Fish and Chicken is a family business known for its friendly service.
STANLEY WALKER, OWNER, AISHA'S FISH AND CHICKEN: We're going to hook them today, huh?
KING: Wings and catfish...
WALKER: A five-piece wing, extra sauce on it.
KING: ... and a spicy signature sauce.
KING: Tough times in a bad economy, so owner Stanley Walker says health care is out of the question.
WALKER: It's too expensive right now. We're kind of having a little bit of trouble keeping our head above water. We had it at one time, but it was so expensive that we finally dropped it. I get a lot of complaints from my wife about it that we don't have health care.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Five-piece, no sauce.
KING: It is both a business decision and a personal risk. Stanley has diabetes and takes just half of his four-pill a day prescription because he can't afford the $500 a month bill for the full dose.
WALKER: Because I work by myself a lot and I'm always moving all the time, I don't want to get somewhere and go into a coma, you know, because my sugar dropped too low. It's a situation where you actually take a gamble, but you can't afford not to.
KING: Stanley hopes Congress makes it makes health care more affordable and thinks creating a new government-run public option is the best way to do that.
WALKER: If they don't do that, then I don't think I will vote for them.
KING: It's an important statement because African-American votes in places like Pine Bluff will be critical in next year's midterm elections. And Democratic Senator Blanche Lincoln faces a tough re- election race.
PROF. ART ENGLISH, UNIVERSITY OF ARKANSAS AT LITTLE ROCK: No question they see an opportunity here and an opportunity to win a Senate seat doesn't come often for Republicans in Arkansas.
KING: Senator Lincoln opposes a public option, and while that angers liberals, political scientist Art English says Lincoln needs to worry about conservative Democrats and independents in a state President Obama lost by 20 points.
ENGLISH: It's tough. It's like that show, "Malcolm in the Middle," but this time it's kind of, you know, Senator Blanche Lincoln in the middle, and it has been tough on her.
KING: Larry Levy owns this Little Rock brake shop, and has gone from paying 100 percent of employees' health care to 60 percent.
LARRY LEVY, OWNER, STUART'S BRAKE SHOP: It kept going up and as my employees got older, the premiums, they began to get so high we just couldn't realistically afford it.
KING: But Levy sees disaster in Democratic plans to create a public option or a mandate that everyone buy health insurance.
LEVY: We don't know what it's going to cost us. We have health issues, I agree. There needs to be reform. But let's identify the problems that we have and let's fix those problems. Let's just don't throw out everything and start all over.
KING (on camera): They say that if taxes go up, it will only be on people above 250 grand a year, but you don't buy it?
LEVY: No, no, I don't. I don't buy it. We middle-class people will shoulder the burden. I have no question about that.
KING (voice-over): Levy describes himself as a conservative who did not vote for Mr. Obama, but does sometimes votes for conservative Democrats. He is not a fan of Senator Lincoln.
LEVY: She is playing games right now, I think, you know? She is just kind of swaying back and forth. I know she's in a tough position, but if she'll listen to her constituents we don't want her to vote for this, I think.
KING (on camera): You think that she has -- she had better listen?
LEVY: I think she needs to listen if she wants to keep her job, yes.
KING (voice-over): But Levy says Lincoln has already lost his vote. He sees Washington as veering too far left and sees the midterm elections as a chance to vote Republican and put the brakes on the Obama agenda.
John King, CNN, Little Rock.
HARRIS: Boy, a perfect question after that piece from John King. In a Saturday night vote, as you know now, the Senate agreed to begin formal debate on a bill after Thanksgiving. But as you've heard this morning so far, there's plenty of division over the bill as it stands now.
So we want to know what you think. And think about this question for us, please.
Is the status quo better than what's outlined in either the House or Senate bills? Is the status quo better than reform as it is being proposed right now?
Just go to CNN.com/Tony and leave us your comment. And we will share some next hour.
For months, we have been telling you about the frustrations of refinancing your home. Now one woman takes on the credit companies to prove she's alive.
And as you know, this is getaway week. Folks trying to get home for the holidays. We have sort of rebranded ourselves as your holiday travel headquarters. And there's the man, Rob Marciano.
That is such a fake conversation you're having right now. What are you talking about, Rob? That is just for the camera. That is terrible.
Rob is back in just a moment.
ROB MARCIANO, CNN METEOROLOGIST: Here comes the turkey.
HARRIS: All right. There it is.
MARCIANO: Come on.
HARRIS: Come on.
MARCIANO: It's a good looking bird.
HARRIS: And let's do this -- let's check the numbers on Wall Street now. I guess we're about, what, 90 minutes -- better than 90 minutes into the trading day? And the Dow is in positive territory, up 157 -- 155 points. That's a bit of a robust rally.
We're back in a moment. You're in the CNN NEWSROOM.
HARRIS: So, the day after Thanksgiving, a lot of you watching will jam stores looking for holiday deals. The nation's largest retailer, Wal-Mart, is taking new steps this year to keep customers and workers safe.
Here's National Correspondent Susan Candiotti.
SUSAN CANDIOTTI, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The mad dash for bargains can be funny to watch, but last Thanksgiving weekend in New York, it was horrific. A Long Island Wal-Mart security guard was trampled to death in a stampede on Black Friday, arguably the biggest shopping day of the year.
EMMANUEL MOULTRIE, BLACK FRIDAY SHOPPER: People were screaming. People coming in the store, passing out, falling out. It was a horrible site.
CANDIOTTI: Emmanuel Moultrie took us back to that Wal-Mart. He says when the doors opened at 5:00 a.m., an hour later than expected, the crowd surged forward, glass shuttered and guard Jimmy Damora (ph) was caught in a human steamroller.
MOULTRIE: I mean, you had at least seven to eight people on top of each other. You didn't even see him. And it was on top of him, and they were stuck because they were squashed, compacted in there.
CANDIOTTI: Moultrie says he felt like he was swept up in a tidal wave, trapped against a vending machine.
MOULTRIE: I said I will not hit that ground. If I hit that ground, it would have been -- I couldn't even get my arms from my side.
CANDIOTTI: Wal-Mart avoided criminal prosecution by agreeing, among other things, to improve crowd control at all New York stores. The giant retailer says it's also voluntarily instituting changes nationwide this week.
Wal-Mart declined a CNN interview. Instead, the company provided a pre-taped statement that said sports and entertainment crowd control experts gave them help.
DAPHNE MOORE, SPOKESPERSON, WAL-MART: We're committed to looking for ways to make our stores even safer for our customers and our associates this holiday season.
CANDIOTTI: Changes may include snaking lines outside and inside stores similar to airport checkpoints and scattering sales items. Some stores will remain open 24 hours starting Thanksgiving Day through the weekend, so when Black Friday sales start at 5:00 a.m., shoppers can already be inside, possibly avoiding chaos.
For shoppers up before dawn for door-buster deals at any retailer, this safety advice from police...
JOHN TIMONEY, CHIEF, MIAMI POLICE DEPARTMENT: If you're seeing pushing and shoving, and arguing for no valid reason, you know you have a potential problem right there. And if that's the case, I'd walk to the end of the line, let them all go in.
CANDIOTTI: Emmanuel Moultrie, who received a settlement from Wal-Mart, says he wouldn't be burned again.
MOULTRIE: If you reach (ph) to a store and you see that's not -- that that behavior's not being demonstrated, you need to leave, fast. Leave fast.
CANDIOTTI (on camera): As part of its agreement with prosecutors, Wal-Mart paid nearly $2 million to a victims' fund and a community grant. OSHA cited the retailer for exposing its employees to danger when it should have known better. Wal-Mart says in a statement, "Safety is always a top priority."
Susan Candiotti, CNN, New York.
HARRIS: Let's get you caught up on our top stories now.
The debate is simmering over health care reform. Senate Democrats voted over the weekend to begin formal debate after Thanksgiving. They say their bill will bring down costs and expand coverage. Republicans say it will mean more taxes and government bureaucracy.
Wow. OK. That's Pope Benedict XVI. He sings and prays to modern music and ancient chants on a CD due out soon. It's called "Alma Mater: Music From the Vatican." And portions of the proceeds will go to music education for underprivileged children.
"New Moon" smashed box office records over the weekend. Did you see it? How about your teenage daughter? Yes, the latest in the "Twilight" series brought in an estimated $140 million nationwide. That is the third largest domestic open in history, right behind "The Dark Knight" and "Spider-Man 3."
The holiday shopping season is here. Get ready to be frustrated with different prices, long lines. Don't you love it?
Personal Finance Editor Gerri Willis has your "Top Tips."
HARRIS: The holiday shopping spread starts Friday. A survey released last hour by the Consumer Federation finds shoppers will spend more this season than last. Here's something that is free when you spend -- the hassles of holiday shopping.
Personal Finance Editor Gerri Willis is here to talk about some of the little things that make a shopper grumpy.
Gerri, what's on your list?
GERRI WILLIS, CNN PERSONAL FINANCE EDITOR: All right. Well, there's a long one, you know, Tony?
HARRIS: Yes. Yes.
WILLIS: According to a new survey out by Consumer Reports tomorrow, Americans find the shopping a painful experience. Here are their top gripes.
Seventy-two percent say that stores never open all of the checkout lanes, and that's a major annoyance. Sixty-eight percent cite fake sales. You know, if something is always 20 percent off, Tony, that's not really a sale.
HARRIS: Ah. Got you.
WILLIS: Sixty-two percent of people are annoyed by the extended warranty pitch. Fifty-eight percent of folks don't like the practice of cashiers asking for your phone number.
Why do they do that?
And 52 percent don't like that store cards are pushed at the cash register. People are complaining about coupons that seem to exclude everything in the store and in-store prices that don't match online prices.
So, there's a lot to be grumpy about -- Tony.
HARRIS: Yes. How do you keep the annoyance factor to a minimum here, Gerri?
WILLIS: Well, let's keep the annoyance factor a minimum in spending, right?
WILLIS: I mean, it's a tough year. So, resist those special offers. Avoid being upsold. It happens all the time. Your holiday gift doesn't have to include every bell and whistle.
If you are buying high-end electronics, purchase with a credit card so that you can return the items, no questions asked. That gets you out of paying for an extended warranty. Getting the store card will negatively impact your credit score, so don't get the store card.
Limit your spending, create a budget. Does this all sound familiar?
WILLIS: Shop with a goal in mind. And another idea here, Tony -- keep the kids at home.
HARRIS: Yes. Yes.
WILLIS: They're not a help if you're trying to shop for the holidays and you only want to spend a little bit.
HARRIS: No, that's a good point.
Hey, Gerri, tell us about this Consumer Federation holiday spending survey. Some encouraging news in it?
WILLIS: Well, look, as you mentioned, consumers do plan on spending more this year than last. This year, only about 43 percent of consumers are going to cut back on their holiday spending. Compare this to last year, when 60 percent said they would cut back.
Another trend, fewer people are concerned about meeting monthly debt payment this year than last year. That's good news.
About a quarter of people said they were concerned about meeting their credit card payments. That's less than 28 percent last year.
And, of course, please, share your holiday gripes or tips with us. E-mail me at Gerri@CNN.com. We love to hear from you.
HARRIS: Because Gerri will then share it with us, and we can share it with everyone. It's the sharing time of year.
WILLIS: That's right.
HARRIS: Gerri, good to see you. Thank you.
WILLIS: Thank you.
HARRIS: It is one of the biggest nights of the year -- Thanksgiving. CNN shows you the CNN Heroes celebration. We will take you behind the scenes next. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)
HARRIS: Got to tell you, it is difficult to pick one hero from 10 who have all done amazing things to make the world a better place. But almost three million of you did just that. You cast your vote for CNN's Hero of the Year, and over the weekend the winner was announced.
CNN's Brooke Anderson was there.
ANDERSON (voice-over): It was a night of tears...
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: God bless this country.
ANDERSON: ... and triumph. A night to honor everyday people doing extraordinary things.
GEORGE LOPEZ, ACTOR/COMEDIAN: You know what? It's the Oscars of giving.
ANDERSON: Ten finalists for CNN Hero of the Year were recognized for helping others around the world. Among them, a 20-year-old amputee who's getting artificial limbs to kids who need them.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I think that's every amputee's goal, is to not be limited or defined by their situation.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: CNN Hero Jordan Thomas.
JORDAN THOMAS, CNN HERO: It's been the greatest night of my life. So thank you very much.
ANDERSON: A Florida man who refused to stand by while his fellow vets suffered on the street.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There will be no man left behind, as long as we are this nation!
ANDERSON: The heroes night began on a star-studded red carpet in Hollywood and continued inside the Kodak Theatre, home of the Oscars, where musical greats paid tribute in song. Some of Hollywood's biggest stars joined in.
NICOLE KIDMAN, CNN HEROES PRESENTER: Let's honor our hero, Betty.
ANDERSON (on camera): How cool is tonight?
PIERCE BRONSON, CNN HEROES PRESENTER: Truly cool. Truly memorable. Truly wonderful. Keep doing good things.
ANDERSON (voice-over): Two point seven million votes cast online to determine which of the honorees would be named CNN Hero of the Year. The honor went to...
ANDERSON COOPER, CNN HEROES HOST: Efran Penaflorida.
ANDERSON: Penaflorida created a classroom on wheels in the Philippines to educate his country's forgotten children.
EFRAN PENAFLORIDA, CNN 2009 HERO OF THE YEAR: Each person has a hidden hero within.
ANDERSON: He received $125,000 to continue his work. The nine other honorees award $25,000 each. No dollar value can be put on the inspiration they provide.
Brooke Anderson, CNN, Hollywood.
HARRIS: You can watch this entire event here on CNN Thanksgiving night 9:00 Eastern and Pacific.
HARRIS: If you have ever tried to correct errors on your credit report, you know what a Herculean effort it can be. One Seattle woman had to prove the obvious to get a mortgage. She's not dead.
Here's reporter Connie Thompson with CNN affiliate KOMO.
CONNIE THOMPSON, KOMO REPORTER (voice-over): All Ann Howe wanted was lower mortgage payments, the last thing she expected was more stress. Months earlier she discovered her husband of 55 years dead in his sleep.
ANN HOWE, LISTED AS "DECEASED": And then I was misdiagnosed with a problem I had on my forehead.
THOMPSON: It turned out to be cancer. Days after that surgery, she need open heart surgery, and almost died.
HOWE: I was still grieving and I -- and then all of the surgeries and the radiation.
THOMPSON: Then, when she applied for refinancing,, the bank said no.
HOWE: Because somebody made a real ignorant mistake when they -- when they told Experian that I was dead. I mean, that was a terrible blow.
THOMPSON: Her Experian credit report had her listed as deceased. One of her creditor's had reported her as dead. Correcting the mistake was a nightmare. An interstate nightmare that took the full time attention of Ann's daughter in California. Letters, faxes, notarized explanations, long distance phone calls. For months a brick wall.
JULIE KERR, DAUGHTER: We don't care, we have to get a credit score, and without that credit score we can't make the loan and we can't get a credit score because you're deceased. Now, we know you're not deceased but they think you are so we're not going to do this loan.
THOMPSON: In desperation, Ann's daughter contacted our ABC affiliate in San Francisco, one phone call did the trick. The creditor admitted their mistake and sent an apology.
KERR: It was just mind boggling.
THOMPSON: Ann got her loan, but she's still furious.
HOWE: Because it was just stupid. And nobody should go through this.
HARRIS: Look, here's the deal, experts will tell you to check your credit report at least once a year. Here's what you do, you got to annualcreditreport.com to order your free report. It is the website authorized by the Federal Trade Commission.
More than 7 million people have lost their jobs during this recession. So the burning question is, when will the lay-offs end? Susan Lisovicz is at the New York Stock Exchange with details of a new survey of economists.
OK, Susan, what's the forecast?
SUSAN LISOVICZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, a whole bunch of economists, Tony, looked into the crystal ball and they say that the labor market will hit rock bottom in the first quarter of next year, so January to March we'll see the bottom for the labor market, and that hiring will actually begin in the second quarter.
The problem, however, is that it will take a long time to make up for those 7 million jobs lost. And more than half of the economists surveyed say they don't expect those jobs to be recovered until 2012. That will keep a lid, obviously, on economic growth. And the expectation is pace of recovery will be painfully slow.
HARRIS: Yes, yes. What about other sectors, Susan, like housing?
LISOVICZ: Well, that certainly is topical, Tony, no question about it today. The economists' expectation for next year that is the housing sector will contribute to overall economic growth, which would be the first time since 2005. And obviously, we have fresh signs of a housing rebound today because existing home sales surged 10 percent in October to the highest level in more than 2.5 years.
Economists also expect business spending to pick up as companies restock inventories and they expect stock prices to continue to rise, and that is what we are seeing today. A terrific rally for the start of the week. The Dow, the Nasdaq, the S&P 500 each up about 1.5 percent, Tony.
We'll be talking more about the housing report, by the way, in the next hour.
HARRIS: Love it. Love it. Susan, appreciate it. Thank you.
LISOVICZ: You're welcome.
HARRIS: Could settling for a job now hurt you when the job market begins to pick up? You know, if that's your concern right now, you may be in better shape than most. We've got a special report on your job search at CNNMoney.com.
Native-Americans determined to take back a piece of land they once owned. It happened 40 years ago on Alcatraz, site of the abandoned federal prison off San Francisco. Our Nicole Lapin takes us back with one of the occupation's organizers.
NICOLE LAPIN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Can you take me back to 40 years ago when you were on similar boats? What was it like?
ADAM FORTUNATE EAGLE, OCCUPATION ORGANIZER: Exciting. It was that element of danger. We had no idea when we were -- the first boat we ever took out there was a two-masted schooner called the Monte Cristo. And he allowed 50 Indians on board.
LAPIN: What was your real motive?
EAGLE: To take the island.
We said, hey, it's surplus, we would like to have a little piece of our land back again. It's about time. We're going to claim the island by right of discovery. Well, that's the same policy that Columbus used on us.
It was very, very festive in the first few months because we were so excited about taking a piece of ground for the Indian people.
LAPIN: While Adam Fortunate Eagle leading the Indian occupation, his kids were living in the cells. His daughter, here in the D-block.
ASHA NORDWALL, LIVED ON ALCATRAZ DURING OCCUPATION: We knew it was history making in that something big was happening, but we couldn't grasp it at the time. So we were just kind of happy to be a part of all of these Indians coming from everywhere, which was exciting.
That was a bed. And I slept on the bed and my girlfriend, she slept right by me. And we had our little flashlights because there was no electricity, so everybody had candles or flashlights and we prepared with that. Then to secure ourselves in, not that we felt we needed it because we always felt safe, but we had our little rope. And you know, we tied a rope, put a little knot on it, and that was our lock basically.
And in the morning we'd get up and we'd go down to the communal kitchen where every pitch in have breakfast and we'd welcome new boats. We'd go down to the dock and welcome new Indians from all over the country.
LAPIN: Why do you think 40 years later people don't know this story?
EAGLE: Because the government and the whole educational system still does not want to acknowledge American Indian history in our own country. There's not a textbook out here in the school system that I'm aware of that puts the Indian story of Alcatraz together and the significance.
RICH WEIDEMAN: When visitors come here, and they come to Alcatraz all observe the world, they're surprised to hear about the Indian occupation. They know about the federal prison. It's a significant part of the Alcatraz history.
LAPIN: The occupation lasted 19 months. Among other things it greatly influenced the government's decision to end what was known as the Indian Termination Policy. It's basically a push to assimilate native-Americans into mainstream American culture.
Now Native-Americans look at this at a symbolic time in their history. Not only did they go there, Tony, to make a statement, but they went there to fight to reclaim their identity. It's a fight they tell me that continues to this day.
And Tony, when you think of Alcatraz, I know you, you think of "The Rock," Sean Connery. That is part of the story but it's not the entire story, as you just saw.
HARRIS: Yes, I feel look a bit of a knucklehead. You doing your story led me to do Google search and I'm learning more about it. Thanks, Nicole.
Let's get you caught up on our top stories now, the table set for a post-Thanksgiving fight over health care reform. Senate democrats voted over the weekend to the begin formal debate next week on their reform bill. It faces staunch opposition from republicans and some moderate democrats want changes.
A live picture -- oh, not live? Astronauts from Shuttle Atlantis are attaching a new oxygen tank and some science equipment to the International Space Station. That is going on right now. This is the third and final spacewalk of this mission.
Take a look here. OK. Entertainer Jennifer Lopez up for the count, right, after falling at last night's American Music Awards. No harm, though. OK. Beyond that a big night for singer Taylor Swift. A big night on what has been a big year. She won artist of the year along with four other -- all right, enough of that with J. Lo! Enough! Not again. Lord.
Boosting science technology, engineering, and math, we are awaiting an event with President Obama and we will bring it to you right here live when it happens. You're in the CNN NEWSROOM.
HARRIS: Sarah Palin is signing copies of her book in North Carolina today. Last night she flew into Asheville for dinner with the Reverend Franklin Graham and his father, the Reverend Billy Graham. The elder Graham is 91 and in declining health. He issued a statement saying he has been impressed with Palin's commitment to her faith, to family and love of country.
Palin's tour to promote her autobiography, "Going Rogue," is by all accounts going well. CNN iReporters are documenting long lines. Thousands jammed this Sam's Club parking lot outside Pittsburgh for a chance to meet her in these photos from CNN iReporter Josh Drespling. Palin's book sold 300,000 copies on its first day and remains the number one seller at Amazon.com. Keep sending your iReports to CNN.com.
HARRIS: And President Obama in the Eisenhower Executive Office Building now highlighting several initiatives this morning to boost science, technology, engineering and mathematics.
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BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: ... and Secretary Steven Chu, who is our energy secretary. They are both doing outstanding work each and every day.
I want to acknowledge Representative Eddie Bernice Johnson, who is from Texas. And she is one of the members of our Science and Technology Committee and doing outstanding work.
NASA Administrator Charlie Bolden is in the house. Where's Charlie?
There he is, right there in front.
NSF director, Dr. Arden Bement, is here -- right there.
Dr. John Holdren, my science and technology adviser. Where's John?
Melody Barnes, our Domestic Policy Council chair or head, director...
(LAUGHTER) ... director.
And then we've got some students from some -- some wonderful students from some wonderful schools. Oakton High School in Vienna, Virginia, Longfellow Middle School in Fairfax, Virginia, the Washington Mathematics Science Technology Public Charter High School here in D.C., and the Herndon High School in Herndon, Virginia.
Now, the students from Oakton High School are going to be demonstrating the Cougar Cannon designed to scoop up and toss moon rocks. I am eager to so what they do, for two reasons. As presidents (sic), I believe that robotics can inspire young people to pursue science and engineering. And I also want to keep an eye on those robots in case they try anything.
It's an honor to be here, and to be joined by Sally Ride, the first American woman in space.
There's a person who's inspired a generation of girls and boys to think bigger and set their sights higher.
I want to thank NASA and Charlie for providing the interactive globe, an innovative and engaging way of teaching young people about our world.
Welcome Myth Busters from Discovery Channel.
Where are they?
There they are.
I hope you guys left the explosives at home.
And, finally, allow me to thank the many leaders here today who have agreed be part of the historic effort to inspire and educate a new generation in math and science.
You know, we live in a world of unprecedented perils, but also unparalleled potential.
Our medical system holds the promise of unlocking new cures, but it's attached to a health care system that's bankrupting families and businesses and our government. The sources of energy that power our economy are also endangering our planet. We confront threats to our security that seek to exploit the very openness that is -- is essential to our prosperity.
And we face challenges in a global marketplace that link the trader to Wall Street to the homeowner on Main Street to the office worker in America to the factory worker in China; an economy in which we all share in opportunity, but we also share, unfortunately, in crisis.
The key to meeting these challenges, to improving our health and well-being, to harnessing clean energy, to protecting our security and succeeding in the global economy, will be reaffirming and strengthening America's role as the world's engine of scientific discovery and technological innovation.
OBAMA: And that leadership tomorrow depends on how we educate our students today, especially in those fields that hold the promise of producing future innovations and innovators.
And that's why education in math and science is so important.
Now, the hard truth is that for decades we've been losing ground. One assessment shows American 15-year-olds now rank 21st in science and 25th in math when compared to their peers around their world.
And this isn't news. We've seen warring statistics like this for years. Yet, time and again, we've let partisan and petty bickering stand in the way of progress. And time and again as a nation, we've let our children down.
So I'm here and you are here because we all believe that we can't allow division and indifference to imperil our position in the world. It's time for all of us in Washington and across America to take responsibility for our future.
And that's why I'm committed to moving our country from the middle to the top of the pack in science and math education over the next decade.
To meet the goal, the Recovery Act included the largest investment in education in history, while preventing hundreds of thousands of educators from being fired because of state budget shortfalls.
Under the outstanding leadership of Arne Duncan, we've launched a $4 billion Race to the Top fund, one of the largest investments in education reform in history.
And through the Race to the Top, states won't just be receiving funding; they'll have to compete for funding. And in this competition, producing the most innovative programs in math and science will be an advantage.
In addition, we are challenging states to improve achievement by raising standards, using data to better inform decisions and take new approaches to turn around struggling schools.
And because a great teacher is the single most important factor in a great education, we're asking states to focus on teacher effectiveness and to make it possible for professionals, like many of the people in this room, to bring their experience and enthusiasm into the classroom.
But you are here because you know that the success we seek is not going to be attained by government alone. It depends on the dedication of students and parents and the commitment of private citizens, organizations and companies. It depends on all of us.
And that's why, back in April, at the National Academy of Sciences, I issued a challenge: to encourage folks to think of new and creative ways of engaging young people in science and engineering. And we are here because the leaders in this room answered that call to action.
Today we are launching the Educate to Innovate Campaign, a nationwide effort to help reach the goal this administration has set: moving to the top in science and math education in the next decade.
We've got leaders from private companies and universities, foundations and nonprofits and organizations representing millions of scientists, engineers and teachers from across America.
OBAMA: The initial commitment of the private sector to this campaign is more than $260 million, and we only expect the campaign to grow.
Business leaders from Intel, Xerox, Kodak and Time Warner Cable are teaming up with Sally Ride and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, as well as the Carnegie Corporation, to find and replicate successful science, math and technology programs all across America.
"Sesame Street" has become a two-year initiative to teach young kids about math and science, and Discovery Communications is going to deliver interactive science content to 60,000 schools, reaching 35 million students.
These efforts extend beyond the classroom. Time Warner Cable is joining with the Coalition for Science After School and FIRST Robotics, the program created by inventor Dean Kamen, which gave us the Cougar Cannon to connect 1 million students with fun after-school activities like robotics competitions.
The MacArthur Foundation and industry leaders like Sony are launching a nationwide challenge to design compelling, freely available science-related video games.
And organizations representing teachers, scientists, mathematicians and engineers, joined by volunteers in the community, are participating in a grassroots effort called National Lab Day to reach 10 million young people with hands-on learning. Students will launch rockets, construct miniature windmills and get their hands dirty. They'll have the chance to build and create, and maybe destroy just a little bit...
... to see the promise of being the makers of things, and not just the consumers of things.
The administration is participating as well.
We've already had a number of science-focused events with young people at the White House, including astronomy night a few weeks ago.
The National Science Foundation and the Department of Energy, under the leadership of a terrific scientist, Steven Chu, have launched an initiative to inspire tens of thousands of students to pursue careers in clean energy. And today I am announcing that we are going to have an annual science fair at the White House with the winners of national competitions in science and technology.
You know, if you win the NCAA championship, you come to the White House. Well, if you're a young person and you produce the best experiment or design, the best hardware or software, you ought to be recognized for that achievement, too. Scientists and engineers ought to stand side by side with athletes and entertainers as role models. And here at the White House, we're going to lead by example. We're going to show young people how cool science can be.
Through these efforts, we're going to expand the scope and scale of science and math education all across America. And we're going to expand opportunities for all our young people, including women and minorities who too often have been underrepresented in scientific and technological fields, but who are no less capable of succeeding in math and science and pursuing careers that will help improve our lives and grow our economy.
I also want to note that this is only the beginning. We're going to challenge the private sector to partner with community colleges, for example, to help train the workers of today for the jobs of tomorrow, even as we make college more affordable, so that by 2010 America once again leads the world in producing college graduates.
OBAMA: Now, I have to say to the young people who are here, we can't let students off the hook. In the end, the success of this campaign depends on them. But I believe strongly that America's young people will rise to the challenge if given the opportunity, and given a little bit of a push.
We've got to work together to create these opportunities because our future depends on them.
And I just want to mention the importance not only for students but also of parents.
You know, I was in Asia, I think, many of you are aware, for a week. And I was having lunch with the president of South Korea, President Lee. And I was interested in the education policy -- they've grown enormously over the last 40 years -- and I asked them what are the biggest challenges in your education policy.
He said, you know, "The biggest challenge that I have is that my parents are too demanding."
He said, "Even if somebody is dirt poor, they are insisting that their kids are getting the best education." He said, "I've had to import thousands of foreign teachers because their all insisting that Korean children have to learn English in elementary school."
That was the biggest education challenge that he had was an insistence, a demand from parents for excellence in the schools.
And the same thing was true when I went to China. And I was talking to the mayor of Shanghai, and I asked him about -- how he was doing recruiting teachers, given that they've got 25 million people in this one city.
He said, "We don't have problems recruiting teachers because teaching is so revered and the pay scales for teachers are actually comparable to doctors and other professions."
That gives you a sense of what is happening around the world. There is a hunger for knowledge, an insistence on excellence, a reverence for science and math and technology and learning. That used to be what we were about. That's what we're going to be about again.
And I have to say that this doesn't get a lot of focus. Not once was I asked about education policy during my trip by the press, and oftentimes events like this get short shrift. They're not what's debated on cable.
But this is probably going to make more of a difference in determining how well we do as a country than just about anything else that we do here.
And everyone in this room understands how important science and math can be. It goes beyond the facts in a biology textbook or the questions on an algebra quiz.