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Pistol-Packing Pilots; City Center Open in Las Vegas; Militants From Pakistan
Aired December 16, 2009 - 14:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
DREW GRIFFIN, CNN ANCHOR: We are pushing forward now on airline security, and TSA secrets. As we speak, the Homeland Security subcommittee is opening a hearing into passenger screening guidelines that mistakenly wound up on the Internet. The acting chief of the Transportation Security Administration is bracing for a bruising. Though the document was apparently old and didn't really give that much away, still five TSA workers are on administrative leave.
Ever wonder when you board a plane whether the pilot is packing heat? Lots of airline pilots do, and of course they are licensed and trained. And you're about to get an unprecedented look at the training they go through thanks to our Dallas affiliate KDAF and reporter Walt Maciborski
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We believe the threat is very much alive.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Please verify your level at 350.
WALT MACIBORSKI, REPORTER, KDAF (voice-over): Terrorists targeted U.S. planes once. And eight years after 9/11, pilots are convinced they'll do it again.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Do I think that the threat is still out there? Absolutely, I do.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: So you're focused on the center of that door.
MACIBORSKI: That is why these pilots who can't be identified are training at a new secret facility in Dallas as part of required re- certification to carry a gun in the cockpit. All of these pilots got their initial training at a federal school in New Mexico three to five years ago, and were deputized as federal flight deck officers to send a message to terrorists.
MIKE KEANE, TSA FEDERAL AIR MARSHAL SERVICE : If we can demonstrate on a regular basis that they're not going to succeed, then they're going to have to go somewhere else.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I told you there was going to be a threat.
MACIBORSKI: This is the first time cameras have been allowed inside the Dallas facility.
RICHARD BURT, SPECIAL AGENT FOR FLIGHT PROGRAMS: There's defensive measures, there's judgmental shooting, and it makes them think and respond and develop what we call a muscle memory.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Out of the cockpit! Close the door!
MACIBORSKI (on camera): The goal here is to train pilots to basically fight in a closet...
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Out of the -- out!
MACIBORSKI: ... and make sure that their moves are second nature.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Close the door! Close the door!
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes. Good.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's real life, real world, very much what happened on that fateful day.
MACIBORSKI (voice-over): This man lost a copilot and a good friend on 9/11.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It gets very personal, and I will never forget what they did.
MACIBORSKI: And considering the TSA just accidentally leaked one of its own training manuals online with detailed security measures, some security experts say we just gave the terrorists our playbook to help them get a gun or explosives on board.
CLARK KENT ERVIN, FMR. INSPECTOR GENERAL, HOMELAND SECURITY: Every year, on a quarterly basis, it seems, there's another inspector General report or TSA report or media investigation showing just how easy it is to get these weapons past the screeners.
MACIBORSKI: So chances are the only person to handle the threat would be an armed pilot.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And that's my role, is to be a last line of defense.
GRIFFIN: You may have recognized the former homeland security official in Walt's report. That is Clark Kent Ervin, now director of Homeland Security program at the Aspen Institute. He joins me from D.C.
Good to see you, Clark.
ERVIN: You, too, Drew.
GRIFFIN: And again, you know, we see another report with this TSA leak that shows holes in the system, not as secure as it should be.
Is this a big a deal in your eyes, this leaking or potential leaking of a TSA screening document?
ERVIN: I think it is a big deal, Drew. There's no question but that this really showed terrorists a roadmap as to what the vulnerabilities are that could be exploited, exactly what the weaknesses are in certain detection equipment, what protocols are followed and how those protocols could be defeated.
So, the good news is, the TSA has taken the right steps. There, as you know, is an independent inspector general investigation under way. And as you just noted, the five people apparently involved in this had been suspended pending the outcome of that investigation.
GRIFFIN: But, you know, once again, I'm reminded of the fact that we get a report that screening is not taking place as much as of us thought it was, or cargo was not expected, or time after time we see screeners at airports who fail to recognize these test bombs that go through these machines.
Clark, is the TSA really working the way it should, or are we just really being lucky since 9/11?
ERVIN: Well, you know, there have been improvements on TSA's part, that's right. But it's also fair to say, it's accurate to say, that there have been a number of missteps.
You know, there is a recent GAO report noting that about $800 million has been spent since TSA's inception to install equipment, and there's been no cost benefit analysis or risk analysis with regard to that equipment. We don't know whether it's working well.
There is a recent IG report showing that equipment, millions of dollars of equipment, has been not deployed to the field. So, there has been one problem after another.
One thing that would help tremendously, I think, is to have a permanent TSA administrator in place. There is a terrific nominee from Los Angeles in charge of the Los Angeles police force there at the airport who is the nominee, but he is yet to be confirmed by the Senate. I think that step needs to be taken right away.
GRIFFIN: A lot of the pilots are trying to take matters into their own hands, you know, getting trained, buying their own equipment, and getting into the cockpit with a gun. I wonder what your take is on that.
Should pilots be carrying these guns? Some in the federal government think maybe that isn't such a great idea.
ERVIN: Well, actually I think it's a very good idea in theory, as long as these pilots are properly trained, as long as they undergo psychological testing beforehand, and as long as a thorough terrorist and criminal background check is done to make sure that there is nothing shady in their background. This provides, as your piece noted, an additional layer of protection should, God forbid, terrorists get past the checkpoint, as apparently they can do on occasion. And had there been armed pilots on 9/11, perhaps the tragedy that unfolded on that day might have been avoided. So, with those caveats, I think the program is good one and I think it ought to be expanded.
GRIFFIN: All right. Clark, good to see you.
Clark Kent Ervin with the Aspen Institute.
Always good to see you, sir.
ERVIN: You too, Drew.
GRIFFIN: Have a good holiday.
Well, you name it, this has got it. It's got rooms, pools, restaurants, super high expectations. The City Center in Las Vegas takes gambling to a whole new level, but can it save a whole sparkly city?
We're going to take you there live.
PHILLIPS: The new mega attraction opening in Las Vegas today is being called the city's biggest gamble ever. An $8.5 billion City Center like nothing Vegas has ever seen, if you can believe that, it take up 67 acres, multiple hotels, bars, and, of course, casinos. At 19 million square feet, it's twice the size of the World Trade Center towers. It also adds another 6,000 hotel rooms to the city's inventory.
Our Dan Simon is inside City Center. Susan Lisovicz is in New York. We're all going to talk about the ambitious opening amid this recession.
Dan, just, first, tell us about this thing. I'm getting e-mails after I kind of downplayed it on our last shot telling me that this is really great, it's huge and it's wonderful.
DAN SIMON, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, first of all, let me just tell you where we are. We're in the middle of an empty casino, and they are really hoping that this is the last time you ever see this casino empty.
It's going to debut at 11:00 tonight. Obviously there'll be tons of people here hoping they get a lot of high rollers and make back some of that money in terms of what it took to make this City Center.
But, Drew, you kind of hit on it in your introduction there. There is just so much to City Center.
There are six towers. There's four hotels. Obviously, countless swimming pools and restaurants.
But City Center is unlike any Las Vegas resort you have ever been to. It's not a theme property, say, like what you might see at the Excalibur.
It's really based upon this premise of creating this urban culture with hotels and condos and all of that together. There are public parks here. It's something that you have never seen before in Las Vegas, and they are obviously hoping that this is going to be a must-see resort for people coming to Las Vegas.
As a matter of fact, they are hoping that people book trips to Las Vegas just to see City Center. I mean, it's no exaggeration for them, really, to say -- they haven't told me this, but they are looking at this along the lines of you would go to Paris to go see the Louvre. Well, they want you to come to Las Vegas to see City Center. That's how special they think this property really is -- Drew.
GRIFFIN: Well, Susan, how much is really gambling on this? There is so much mothballed construction in Las Vegas -- this one almost became that -- they're really putting a lot of money into betting that we'll come.
SUSAN LISOVICZ, CNN BUSINESS CORRESPONDENT: That's exactly right. You know, Drew, Dan was just explaining how big City Center is even for Las Vegas, which likes to do things over the top. Well, one of the reasons why Las Vegas is in such deep -- has so many deep problems is because it overbuilt residential, as well as commercial. And we have gotten to the point where one in every 100 Las Vegas housing units received a foreclosure notice last month.
What we are seeing is that there are fewer visitors to Las Vegas, that gaming revenue is down, and that certainly housing prices are down. So, will City Center be a success? It may, but it's like a Wal-Mart, when a Wal-Mart comes to town, and this is the equivalent of about 100 Wal-Marts coming to town.
It's creating jobs, but it may take away business right down strip. So, when we are seeing less demand, you know, who is going to suffer as a result? It may be cannibalizing its next-door neighbor.
GRIFFIN: So, was this a financially smart time to bring, what, 6,000 hotel rooms, Dan, on to the market, and have this big, huge casino floor that needs to be filled up?
SIMON: Well, the skeptics obviously would tell you no, that it's a lousy time, but, really, what we are seeing is that Vegas is a good barometer for the overall economy. And as Susan alluded, we have seen 22 straight months of declines in gaming revenue, and that is obviously because people aren't coming to Las Vegas like they once did. And also, when they do come, they are not opening up their wallets.
So, they're saying to themselves, OK, you know, it may not be the best time to open up a massive resort, but, that said, it is open. They believe they have a truly special place, so special that they think they're going to start bringing people back to Vegas in mass numbers again, and that's going to have a positive ripple for other resorts around town.
Obviously, there are a lot of naysayers, and we'll just have to see how it plays out, so to speak.
GRIFFIN: Susan, let me ask you one more question. If this thing does go -- and let's hope it does for the sake of the thousands of workers that are now hired in Las Vegas to make it run -- is that going to be a barometer of this city, this region, and Nevada's perhaps bounceback before things like housing?
LISOVICZ: Well, I think that one of the things that you can certainly say about City Center is that it's a milestone for a lot of reasons, and one of them is the fact that it survived, the fact that it even built, because this is a project that was really at death's door. Wall Street didn't want to lend to it, one of its partners, Dubai World, sued. So, the fact that it is built -- it's not completed. I think they're still having problems with selling condo units, for instance -- but the very fact that it was able to get to this point is a big triumph.
And I think that really says a lot about people and partners working together and figuring things out, and hopefully that is a barometer of what we are seeing in the economy overall. Las Vegas is really one of the epicenters of the housing crisis, and for it to pull off a project like this is a great triumph.
GRIFFIN: All right. Well, we wish them well. Dan and Susan, thanks.
And Susan, you will be along in a little bit to tell us what the Fed did. We expect a decision on interest rates, and Susan will be back from Wall Street with that.
Well, his book is called "Facts I Ought to Know About the Government of My Country." And here are a couple of interesting facts. It was due back at the library when President Taft was in the White House, and Arizona and New Mexico weren't even states.
GRIFFIN: Some key interest rates have been at record lows for a year now, but lately there have been signs the economy is improving. Home construction rebounding, job losses abating, stock market rallying.
How will that affect today's Fed decision on interest rates?
Susan Lisovicz at the New York Stock Exchange with details.
Susan, we teased that you'd have this number coming up. Apparently, it's back.
LISOVICZ: That's right. The Federal Reserve has just announced that it is going to keep a key short-term interest rate, Drew, at a historic low, between zero and a quarter percent, even though everything you just mentioned is true. And the Fed noted that, that the housing market has shown improvement, that the deterioration in the labor market is abating, that economic activity is picking up. The Fed, nonetheless, decides that recovery, if that's what you want to call it, is still fragile enough that it wants to keep these rates at a historic low. Not only that. The Fed is saying that it is going to wind up some of its emergency programs that have helped up the economy. It's giving dates now in the new year.
But the bottom line is that it's going to keep this key interest rate unchanged on the day that the chairman of the Federal Reserve, Drew, as you know, has been named TIME's "Person of the Year." "TIME" saying today that, "He is the most important player guiding the world's most important economy. His creative leadership helped ensure that 2009 was a period of weak recovery rather than catastrophic depression." "And he," Ben Bernanke, "still wields unrivaled power over our money, our mobs, our savings and our national future."
Ben Bernanke and the Federal Reserve keeping interest rates low. And that's one of the ways that the housing market -- today, we saw housing starts, Drew, surge nearly nine percent in November. One of the reasons we've got mortgage rates are low.
GRIFFIN: Yes. And not to dig too much into this, but the economy of it is, they would only raise the interest rates if they thought inflation was coming on. Is that right?
LISOVICZ: Yes, but there are a lot of worriers who say that, you know, when inflation starts to creep in, it actually doesn't creep in. It can come at you very fast.
It creates all sorts of problems onto itself. And, yes, that is one of the consequences of very low interest rates. And that's why a lot of folks have been saying, hey, we want an exit strategy for all of these extraordinary measures you're doing, including low interest rates.
When are we going to stop? You know, if we're starting to see the economy improve, maybe we don't need to keep it where we are.
Well, the Fed apparently says, yes, we're going to keep it right where it is for now.
GRIFFIN: All right, Susan. Thanks for the latest from Wall Street.
Our top stories now.
A New Jersey man could learn today if he's going to get his child back.
David Goldman's 9-year-old son is in South America now. You remember this? The boy's parents divorced, mom took the child to her native Brazil more than five years ago, then she died. The child is still there, and the American dad has been struggling to get him back. An appeals court in Rio could make a ruling sometime today.
Wow, that has got to hurt. Deadlock on the inside, protests on the outside of the planet summit today in chilly Copenhagen. Several hundred demonstrators have been detained after clashing with police. Security forces fired pepper spray and used their batons. Inside, talks on a final deal have stalled in a dispute between rich and poor nations.
And another couple without an invite gets an invite to an event at the White House. This one happened back on Veterans Day.
A Georgia couple shows up at the White House for a prearranged tour on the wrong day, so security decided they're going to screen them and usher them into a breakfast attended by the president. The couple called it dumb luck. The White House calls it a nice gesture.
Well, maybe next century CNN will report on a rare, valuable DVD rental of "The Hangover," found and returned to the store, 99 years overdue. But today we've got this book returned to the library in New Bedford, Massachusetts, nearly 100 years late.
"Facts I Ought to Know About the Government of My Country." A man said he found it as he went through his late mother's things. He did return it to the library. There is no fine. Apparently, if you go super tardy, you're OK> The book is headed for a special collection.
GRIFFIN: A quick update now on the man often called France's biggest rock star. You ever hear of this guy? His name is Johnny Hallyday, known as the French Elvis.
He had an operation in Los Angeles last week for back problems and doctors had to place him in a medically-induced coma. Well, things are looking up for Johnny. Hallyday's press office says doctors brought the 66-year-old out of a coma on Monday.
GRIFFIN: Threats from outside of Afghanistan. General David Petraeus is there assessing the mission. He's also talking with neighbors about possible security threats.
CNN Pentagon Correspondent Barbara Starr has more.
BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: As we have been traveling around Afghanistan for the last two weeks, U.S. and Afghan commanders tell us there are some reports that some fighters in Pakistan may be moving back into this country.
(voice-over): General David Petraeus arrived in Afghanistan after a round of meetings in Pakistan with fresh concerns about border security between the two countries. We caught up with him on the tarmac to discuss reports that the Pakistani military operations in the border tribal region have put some top level al Qaeda and Taliban on the run. GEN. DAVID PETRAEUS, U.S. CENTCOM COMMANDER: Even though in some cases they have not been specifically targeting some of these other groups, they are focusing, of course, on the extremists threatening their country. But in the process of that, there's no question but that they have encountered these other elements of the extremist syndicate and have gotten into fights with them as well.
STARR: Petraeus is in highly sensitive discussions trying to determine the extent to which these fighters may now have been forced back into Afghanistan.
PETRAEUS: Well, interestingly, some of the Pakistani leaders we talked to today out in the northwest frontier province area did think that some of these may have been pushed back after initially some coming to help their fellow extremists when they were under fire from the Pakistanis. Indeed, there is some possibility of cross-border movement, and one of the reasons for being here, of course, will be to compare notes with the intelligence elements that are here to see if that has been confirmed.
STARR: The next problem? U.S. troops have been pulling back from some of the lightly populated border areas in Afghanistan to concentrate on cities and towns. Petraeus says some Pakistani leaders are now worried that the U.S. strategy could lessen border protection and lead to a new terrorist safe haven inside Afghanistan.
GEN, DAVID PETRAEUS, U.S. CENTCOM COMMANDER: Well, indeed, the Pakistani leaders have some of those concerns as well as do we.
STARR (on camera): General Petraeus discounts reports that Osama bin Laden may be on the move or even back inside of Afghanistan. He says it's been years since the U.S. had any hard information about the al-Qaeda leader's whereabouts.
Barbara Starr, CNN, Kabul.
GRIFFIN: Now, a follow up on a story we reported last week. An old policy. This is not to send condolence letters from the president to the families of service members who committed suicide. That policy's been under review and CNN's Elaine Quijano in Washington has been covering it.
Elaine, this is really a hard story to tell because so many service members have been committing suicide.
ELAINE QUIJANO, CNN CORRESPONDENT: You know, it is a very difficult and complicated issue, Drew. I can tell you we first brought you this story when we profiled the Keysling (ph) family of Indiana last month. Greg and Janet Keysling's son, 25-year-old Army specialist Chancellor (ph) Keysling actually shot and killed himself in Iraq, back in June. Well after the funeral the Keyslings waited for what they thought would be a presidential condolence letter and it never came. They found out that there has been this longstanding White House policy not to send presidential condolence letters to the families of Military suicide victims. Now we should know that this is a policy that has been in place for a long time. It goes back -- at least as far back as the Clinton White House.
But now as you mentioned, Drew, the White House says it is currently reviewing this policy. But this is a very difficult situation as I mentioned off of the top, a complicated manner. Here at the Pentagon the Defense Secretary Robert Gates does write condolence letters, but like the President, does not write condolence letters to the families of Military suicide victims.
And just a short time ago, Drew, his spokesman Geoff Morrell laid out what likely is one of the factor that the White House is considering as it reviews this policy.
Take a listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I think that you could talk to people in this building who believe that if you were to extend your letter writing to include suicide victims, that it would somehow diminish the sacrifice of those who have died in combat.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
QUIJANO: I have to tell you, Drew, that is exactly the same kind of sentiment that we saw expressed on CNN.com. Our original story that aired there generated hundreds of comments, a lot of them really emotional, Drew, some tough stuff.
We heard, for instance, from one person who said he served in Fallujah, Iraq, in 2003, and he said, look, there is no honor in suicide. At the same time, on the other side, you had people like a woman who said she is an Army spouse, and said, look, there should be a basic level of human compassion here and that people shouldn't judge.
I can tell you that this is an issue that appears to be getting some momentum, because now Drew, there are some lawmakers who are basically trying to mount an effort to put some pressure on the Obama administration to change this policy.
It is a bipartisan effort. They're circulating a letter that they plan on delivering to the president here perhaps within the next week or so, basically saying, look, if you decide to change this policy, that would send a very strong signal about removing some of the stigma when it comes to mental illness, especially in the Military.
But certainly some tough stuff here, very difficult issue as this situation continues to play out. And the White House -- one last thing, Drew -- says that its review of this policy, they hope to conclude it shortly -- Drew. GRIFFIN: All right, Elaine, that is tough, especially when the families are punished when they're already hurting really, that's what this is about. It's not rewarding a suicide or honoring a suicide. It's reaching out to the a family that sent its loved one overseas.
QUIJANO: Yes, but you know at the same time, if you talk to folks here in this building, what they will say is, as painful as that situation is they also think about their comrades who have died in combat. And they say it just somehow in their mind, as we heard Geoff Morrell say diminishes and minimizes a little bit the sacrifice that was made in combat and when people are killed by enemy fire.
So it's certainly not an easy question here, but the Obama administration is attempting to grapple with it. Again, no specific time frame on when this review is supposed to wrap up. They're only saying that they hope to conclude it shortly -- Drew.
GRIFFIN: All right. Elaine Quijano, thanks. And you're going to have your full report I think tonight on Wolf Blitzer's show, right?
QUIJANO: That's right. 5:00.
GRIFFIN: OK. Thanks a lot. Elaine Quijano.
Guys, are we going with this breaking news at this time? OK.
Well, while the Senate's knee deep in the health care debate, the House is rushing through today's agenda hoping to wrap things up. And there might be a good reason that the speaker is eager to bang the gavel and go. Nancy Pelosi's in a rush to get on a $10,000 an hour government-owned Boeing executive jet -- like that one there -- and fly to the final day of the climate summit in Copenhagen.
Why is she going? Well, officially, she isn't, but really, she is. I asked her spokesman Drew Hammill why it's important for her to go and this is what he told me.
"You are asking me to talk about something we haven't announced yet."
I said, it's no secret she's going. I'm asking you why she feels a need to go to Copenhagen.
"We cannot speak to her being there for security reasons."
Well, the speaker doesn't like to talk about her government paid junkets overseas. Remember, she was criticized for the Italy earlier this year. Wined and dined by the Italian politicians. Even presented an Italian family's birth certificate records. But what we do know is the Speaker Pelosi and about 19 or as many as 23 Democrats and five or six Republicans, including Joe Barton of Texas, Marcia Blackman of Tennessee and James Sensenbrenner, a Republican from Wisconsin are packed up and ready to go as soon as the House wraps up business. One Congressional staffer says, we need to go tonight. That's the goal. Otherwise the climate conference will be over before we can get there. Ultimately though, it is going to be the speaker's call to go or not. She's not leaving until House is finished today.
And on the House floor today, that need to go was seen by at least one Republican as a major reason that spending bills were whisked through the House. A lot of debate. Representative Virginia Fox of North Carolina was one of them who took a swipe at Speaker Pelosi's government-paid trip to climate summit on a Military jet chastising the speaker to go a little slower on the legislation in Washington, and to maybe put off the Copenhagen trip. The Speaker's office says it is the appropriate time. The Speaker's travel plans will be announced. We are waiting for that announcement to take place.
Well, Ronald Reagan had just moved into the White House when Donald Gates went into prison for rape and murder. Half a lifetime later, Mr. Gates has walked out a free and exonerated man. Nothing but $75, a box of stuff and a bus ticket to his name. DNA testing has cleared him of a Georgetown (INAUDIBLR) murder. Gates says he knew that the day would come somehow after almost three decades still keeping the faith.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD GATES, WRONGFULLY CONVICTED: I am happy that I'm a free man, and I'm going home.
JAMES BRYANT, SERVED TIME WITH GATES: He knew that he was going to go because he kept telling them that he's innocent and he had nothing to do with it. And he knew that eventually something would come down. And he got a blessing and he knew that he didn't do it.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
GRIFFIN: Five years after the cell doors slammed shut on Donald Gates a New York man got the death sentence or so he thought at the time. Dennis deLeon learned he was HIV positive in 1986. After he was named the city's human rights commissioner deLeon decided to come out with the status at a time when few public figures dared. Dennis deLeon has just passed away of heart failure at the age of 61.
And this is kind of a surprise coming into the NEWSROOM. Roy Disney, the nephew of Walt Disney has died. Disney, a successful businessman, philanthropist, filmmaker and award-winning sailor who played a key part in the revitalization of the Walt Disney company and Disney's animation legacy. Disney had been battling cancer, according to his spokesman for Disney's company Shamrock Holdings. He died this morning. Roy Disney dies at the age of 79.
GRIFFIN: The hour's top stories now. Christmas travel chaos. It's happening in the UK and anywhere else British Airways flies to and from. British Air hopes a judge in London is going to block a Yuletide strike by the cabin crews. The Union hopes she won't. Bag handlers and counter staff Heathrow Airport are now threatening to walk out, too.
State Farm isn't leaving Florida after all. Back in January the insurance giant said it was not going to cover property in Florida anymore. Now comes word that it'll scrap at most, 125,000 of 810,000 residential policies that it had on the books this fall. In return the state has approved a rate hike of almost 15 percent on the policies State Farm is going to hold on to.
And meet the most powerful nerd on the planet. A tribute we think from "Time" magazine to the person of the year, Fed Chair Ben Bernanke. "Time" says that the story of the year was a weak economy that could have been much, much weaker and credits Bernanke for heading off a second great depression.
We hear everyday about the tough job market. Imagine graduating from college these days and looking for the first job. As part of his series Recovery Road, our Ali Velshi has been talking with some young people who are coping with the tough times.
Ali, take it away. Can you hear me?
ALI VELSHI, CNN CHIEF BUSINESS CORRESPONDENT: Drew, I'm in (INAUDIBLE) South Carolina. I was in Columbia last night. Six students, two of them are still in school until May, but four of them have just graduated this week. Now, I should tell you, Drew, to be fair, college graduates have an unemployment rate that is half of the national average.
They do pretty well, actually, but the bottom line is that nobody really thinks of themselves in relative terms. These are kids coming out of college with debt on their hand and in some cases they've got jobs in other cases, they don't.
Listen to some of my conversation with them.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
VELSHI (on camera): You're all of a generation where you've not seen this in your lives.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Not really.
VELSHI: I mean, a lot of people haven't seen this in their lives, so this is pretty serious.
NEDRICK RIVERS, ADVERTISING MAJOR: This is a very competitive world, a very competitive field. I wasn't prepared for that. Basically.
AJA SANDERS, TOURISM & HOTEL MANAGEMENT MAJOR: We go to school for four years and most of don't hope to be paid hourly. But, you know, we hope to have a salaried job. But I really can't complain right now. A lot of people don't have jobs.
VELSHI: Has that hit your confidence?
SANDERS: Nobody is too great to take a low paying job. I mean, this is really America. I mean, people start low and they go up real high. You know, you have the start somewhere.
CATHERINE MCABEE, PHARMACOLOGY MAJOR: Well, and hopefully our generation will learn from these mistakes that led up to the recession. And we won't be going out and buying outrageous houses that we can't afford and getting mortgages. We really appreciate our jobs.
VELSHI: How are you different from somebody who graduated five years ago?
SANDERS: I graduated in a depression. I mean, not just like economic depression like, everybody is depressed.
JEFF BARNHILL, CHEMICAL ENGINEERING MAJOR: No doubt that I have the job that I have now because I got in while the game was good, for a lack of a better term. I started internships back in '05 and '06, when they were very intent on hiring a lot of people, and kind of stayed with it. And if I didn't have that, I'd probably be in the same boat as most other people now.
VELSHI: Anybody having disagreements with their families, or siblings or friends about the direction that they're going in?
DANIELLE MCQUEEN, RETAIL SALES & FASHION MERCHANDISING MAJOR: I was a nursing major for two years and when I changed my major to retail, everybody was like, what, what are you doing?
VELISH: Nursing's got to be one of the biggest growing jobs in the country.
MCQUEEN: Nursing was not my passion. My passion was retail and fashion merchandising. So, you know, I'm just going off of faith. And that's what I really want to do.
VELSHI: You'd rather struggle a little bit and do the thing that you want to do?
MCQUEEN: That I want to do. Because it will fulfill me.
SANDERS: I understand there are majors that pay more. But if it doesn't make you happy and you go to work hating your job then there was no point in your doing it. Because I'd rather go to work everyday and be happy be paid less than go to work and be miserable and hate my life.
VELSHI: The point of this trip, as I said to you earlier was to take things that we're learning on the street from people, put them on TV and have our viewers, who may see themselves in each of you, get some lesson out of it.
And what's interesting in this conversation is that each of you, I think, I'm going to ask you for the lesson. If somebody's looking at you right now, what's your advice to them?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Study hard.
MCABEE: Plan for if future.
SANDERS: Make sure you are happy.
RIVERS: Don't ever feel like you're too good to do anything.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Help people out, so that when you need help, they can help you.
BARNHILL: Don't be intimidated by the situation. I mean, it's a horrible situation, but like you said, we've been talking about it for a year. Everybody knows it's a horrible situation but you can't use it as an excuse. You got to put on your big boy pants and go for it.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
VELSHI: Put on your big boy pants. That's one of the lessons.
Listen, that's what we're doing on the road here. We're calling it Recovery Road. We're going from town to town getting advice from people who are working. We're heading off to Savannah. Drew, we'll talk to you from there.
GRIFFIN: All right. Ali Velshi on the bus with his big boy pants on.
A concerned teacher flags a provocative drawing and a little kid is dragged off for psych testing. What was the drawing? Jesus on the cross. Not kidding. Stick around.
GRIFFIN: The sounds tell us that wisdom and strength come from the mouth of babes. But I'm here to tell you that the drawings of those babes can get them in trouble. We get the picture from reporter Jack Harper of CNN affiliate WCVB. He's in Boston.
CHESTER JOHNSON, BOY'S FATHER: I don't care how much they sugar coat it or whatever, it was wrong.
JACK HARPER, WCVB REPORTER (voice-over): Chester Johnson says his 8-year-old meant nothing bad when he drew this picture of Jesus on the cross.
JOHNSON: All he did was he went to the lasalette with his mother. Thanksgiving night, right? Everybody goes to the laslette. And then he was asked to probably draw something after he went to the lasalette. He drew what came to his mind.
HARPER: Which was Jesus on the cross.
JOHNSON: Right, which is a great thing. This kid gets a 100. This is a kid with a learning disability. This kid tries. Look at that -- 101.
HARPER: Johnson says his son is hurting because he was forced to undergo a psychological review to get back into school.
JOHNSON: How was that? This was never meant to be with this but it happened and it matches. And my son is saying he's laying on the cross. Now we got TV shows that show murder, adultery, rape on the TV everyday. But a kid does this and he gots to be punished for it.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I think that's awful. What an awful thing to do. That's a shame.
HARPER: Is that threatening or violent to you?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: No. No, not at all. I know the little boy. I'm his neighbor. He's a sweet, sweet, sweet kid.
JOHNSON: They made me psychologically get him evaluated to get him back into school. See what they did? They put my back against the wall. If you don't get him psychologically evaluated, he cannot come back. I can't afford to have him out of school. I'm just saying, look what happened out in the suburbs of Taunton. I thought we was past that.
GRIFFIN: OK. We called the school district for a response, but haven't heard back. The district did issue a written statement saying the child wasn't suspended and claiming the drawing being shown to reporters isn't the one discovered by the child's teachers. It's also denying the drawing was a class assignment. We did reach out to the dad. He hasn't called us back either.
Hey, we've got some breaking news if you've been following this kid in Brazil. His dad lives in New Jersey. Mom and dad divorced, the mom went back to Brazil with the kid and then she died after marrying another guy. It's been a big custody battle now over that child who's 9 years old now.
According to a Brazilian TV network Globo, 9-year-old Sean Goldman is due to get back to New Jersey with his dad. That ruling coming out of Brazil, according to the Globo TV. That David Goldman will get custody of his child and be able to move Sean back to New Jersey, reuniting the son with his biological father. More on this as we get it, but that is some breaking news coming in this afternoon.
Violence in Chicago schools. When the hardest part of the day is actually surviving the walk home, walk in my shoes. Our T.J. Holmes continues his special series. We'll have that next.
(COMMERCIAL BREAK) GRIFFIN: When your kids get ready to go for school, do you ever worry if they'll come back safely? Well, for some teens in rough neighborhoods that can be an everyday threat. And we want you to see how they struggle firsthand.
Our T.J. Holmes took the trip with two students on Chicago's South Side.
T.J. HOLMES, CNN ANCHOR: This takes you where?
ERIC NIMELY, CHICAGO PUBLIC SCHOOL STUDENT: This takes me to the "l".
HOLMES (voice-over): It's not yet 7:00 a.m. And 17-year-old Eric Nimely is facing his first test of the day, getting safely to school on Chicago's South Side.
NIMELY: Everybody gets on the bus and sometimes coming home we are fighting, you know, stuff like that on the bus, things like that.
HOLMES (on camera): You actually switched routes to school because it got so bad?
HOLMES (voice-over): To walk in Eric's shoes is to get a glimpse into a world where getting to school is all about survival.
(on camera): How would you describe that neighborhood for somebody who doesn't, you know -- doesn't know it?
NIMELY: It's rough, yes.
HOLMES (voice-over): Like 95 percent of the city's public school students, Eric is responsible for getting to school on his own. He says he tries to travel with friends to avoid trouble.
NIMELY: If you don't have any friends, you're going to get -- I'm not saying you're going to get picked on, but it's like a group of guys standing on the corner, and you're walking. If nobody knows who you are, I mean, like they're going to say something to you.
CHARLES ANDERSON, ASST. PRINCIPAL, TEAM ENGLEWOOD HIGH SCHOOL: We definitely want to protect them from violence.
HOLMES: Charles Anderson, assistant principal at Eric's Team Englewood High School says it's not uncommon for kids to get jumped, robbed or worse in the tough neighborhoods of Chicago, where during the last school year, 49 public school students were killed.
(on camera): You're almost securing a perimeter around a few blocks around this school.
ANDERSON: Yes, we are. But you know, it's worth it if we can get a kid to feel comfortable to come to school and then we can help them focus on their education.
HOLMES (voice-over): Principal Peggy Korellis-Byrd says it's hard for her teachers to break through that tough exterior, kids have to keep up.
PEGGY KORELLIS-BYRD, PRINCIPAL, TEAM ENGLEWOOD HIGH SCHOOL: It's very hard to sort of drop that wall and maybe not be so tougher on guard in school. So we have to break down a lot of that.
HOLMES: But as difficult as mornings can be, students say the afternoon journey home is even worse.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: So we'll be walking down the street, there will be people hiding in cars, jumping out of cars. That's what the clowns do.
HOLMES: It's 6:00 at night when 16-year-old Amber Ward heads home from Manley High School on Chicago's west side.
AMBER WARD, CHICAGO PUBLIC SCHOOL STUDENT: I'd be scared because I ignore people. When they try to talk to me, I just keep walking. And that makes people so mad these days, people will do anything. I'll be feeling like they're going to pull out a gun and shoot me from the back. So when I keep walking, I always do like this, you know, keep looking back.
HOLMES: For Amber, it's a three and a half block walk to the bus stop where we wait 15 minutes.
WARD: And I sit in the back so I can see everything ahead of me.
HOLMES: And along with sitting in the back of the bus so she can spot danger better, once off the bus, she tries to keep an eye out for who might be hiding in the dark on the side streets.
(on camera): We just passed a dark alley and here we are, I'm coming up on the corner. A couple of guys just standing there, doing who knows what.
What do you think when you walk past a group like that and you're walking down the street by yourself, it's dark. There aren't a lot of streetlights out here, you know?
WARD: I'm so used to seeing it. I mean, I'm used to guys standing on the corner.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Oh, yes.
WARD: See that? That's what I'm talking about. This is crazy.
HOLMES: And you're just used to it, huh?
WARD: I'm used to it.
HOLMES (voice-over): Along the way, Amber points out a drug house. (on camera): What's going on with that house now?
WARD: It's abandoned, so a lot of people will just be out there selling drugs, playing dice, doing what they do.
HOLMES: Tell me what they do.
(voice-over): And Amber's final rule of the road -- walk fast.
WARD: If I would be by myself, I guarantee you I would have been a Jackson (ph). I guarantee you.
HOLMES: It's only when Amber catches sight of her house 45 minutes after she left school, she knows she's back in safe territory.
(on camera): So that's a successful day, right? You made it?
WARD: Yes, I made it.
GRIFFIN: Just another day on the South Side of Chicago.
Rick Sanchez with the NEWSROOM takes over now -- Rick.