Return to Transcripts main page

CNN NEWSROOM

Election Coming Up in Massachusetts for Ted Kennedy's Seat; More Information on Haiti Relief Effort; Three Presidents Unite; USNS Comfort on its Way to Haiti

Aired January 16, 2010 - 12:00   ET

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


FREDRICKA WHITFIELD, CNN ANCHOR: Of course, the situation is very dire and it's growing thus, minute by minute. Here's the latest on what we know going on in earthquake ravaged Haiti. U.S. officials say search and rescue efforts remain in full force despite diminishing hopes of finding anymore survivors within the rubble ever the Haitian capital.

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and a team of relief workers are en route to Port-au-Prince. And as President Obama enlists the help of former Presidents George W. Bush and Bill Clinton to raise money for the Haitian relief effort. We'll have much more on that in a moment.

But first, food supplies are beginning to trickle in for survivors who have gone without food for four days, now. But in one instance, confusion over the safety of certain items meant the hungry actually got nothing. CNN's Chris Lawrence joins us now from Port-au- Prince with more on that.

We're talking about a confusion over what was stamped on these energy biscuits. Right?

CHRIS LAWRENCE, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: That's right, Fredricka. There was one stamp that said, you know, like November 2008. That was the date it was packaged. There was another stamp that said November 2010 is the date it expired. So these biscuit were good for the rest of the year, but people saw that second date and a massive misunderstanding just led to people throwing away a lot of very good food.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

LAWRENCE: The United Nations truck heading to the center of the city. You can see we're jammed in pretty tight with a lot of the same supplies that the World Food Program's going to be delivering to the people of Haiti. You can take a look and see some of the U.N. guards. It's going to be their job to try to keep some form of order so things don't get out of hand.

The trucks now made it here to the park near the presidential palace, a lot of people starting to push and shove their way, trying to get up to where the food is. You can see a lot of the men pushing their way up. Haven't seen any of the women being able to get up here. It's swiftly getting a little chaotic, here. They had to stop -- they started blowing their whistles and had to stop it about 10, 15 minutes ago. It just started back, but seems to only be able to last for about five minutes before it starts getting out of hand again.

The thing I'm noticing, too, there's a lot of small kids in there that are getting jammed up against other people, or they're just getting pushed out of the way, entirely.

(voice-over): The World Food Program is trying to distribute water purification tablets and high energy biscuits. The biscuits are vitamin fortify and OK to eat, but a massive misunderstanding about the expiration date is causing people to refuse to eat them.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (Speaking foreign language)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's not good. It's not good. That's OK. It's not good like that.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Not good.

LAWRENCE: what is wrong with the biscuits? Why don't people want to eat them?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's bad.

LAWRENCE (on camera): What's happening is, they're confusing the date that it was packaged on, which was 2008, with the expiration date, which is November 2010. I know it's hard to see, but he's basically yelling and telling people, do not accept these biscuits because they're no good.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They are very concerned about the biscuits are very good. They're OK. No.

LAWRENCE: But, you can see, everybody's following the truck, but there it goes. They're trying to hold on to the back of it, but it's pulling away. A lot of people ended up with nothing, but -- I don't know if you can still see, they're running after the truck trying to get it. But, that truck's gone now.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

LAWRENCE: The most frustrating thing about that was that I watched those trucks get loaded up. I can tell you, there was probably half a truck full of supplies still in there. Another big concern besides food and water is obviously medical attention.

What we see here is a triage that's been set up, right here on the street corner. Instead of having to make people come to other people to try to, you know, trying to get these people to go to a hospital or clinic, can be very, very difficult. So what they've done is brought the medical attention out here on the street.

Right now I'm watching a woman with a huge, huge gash in her -- in her leg, in her ankle, almost cut in half and she's receiving treatment. There's several doctors, clinics. We've been watching people come up here the last couple of hours trying to get whatever medical attention they can. Now, again, this is the Haitian government. You know, parts of the Haitian government trying to take some form of control and trying to help some of their own people, here -- Fredricka.

WHITFIELD: So, since you have some of the government representatives there, that means that also cuts down perhaps on maybe some language confusion with the French or Creole speaking versus those who don't know that language as all to convey to them that the energy biscuits, for example, are OK to eat.

LAWRENCE: Yes, exactly, Fredricka. You know, when you looked at that, you had English speaking and even had some people from the World Food Program who were French speaking, but when people were shouting in Creole, they couldn't necessarily understand them. The U.N. security guards where, I think, from Nepal, so language can be a big concern.

It's one of the biggest differences from this disaster compared to, you know, what happened after Hurricane Katrina. You did not have that same language barrier as you have with a lot of the folks who are coming into some of the programs ,here.

WHITFIELD: All right, Chris Lawrence, thanks so much from Port- au-Prince, we'll be checking back with you periodically throughout the day. Appreciate that.

Meantime, we're talking about an earthquake that was 7.0 magnitude. That was Tuesday. There have been reports of lots of aftershocks along the way. Our Reynolds Wolf is with us now, because reportedly, there is yet one more today?

REYNOLDS WOLF, CNN METEOROLOGIST: That's right, Fredricka, the most recent 4.5 on the scale. Let's show you where it is. We're going to go pull up Google Earth here for a moment. You see that red blerp right there in the middle of the screen, that's where it is, not far from Port-au-Prince.

And I'll tell you, a 4.5 under any normal circumstance would not be something that would really cause great concern. But then, Fredricka, when you think about the weakened state of thousands of buildings. We're talking homes, we're talking all kinds of structures, it can be just the smallest aftershock could cause one of those buildings to give way. And of course, if you've go people trapped in the rubble, well, there's the scenario that you really don't want to discuss. That's certainly some rough stuff that could occur.

You know, earlier today, we had General Honore who was with us, and he was telling us that one way that we could get aid into this area would be through the air. Obviously we've had issues with ports. The airports, of course, are in some rough shape. But what we need is some really good weather. And I'll tell you, we've got a fairly decent forecast. Here's Haiti, here's the Dominican Republic and we do have some traffic of planes that are coming in. Not sure, of course, if these are the C-130s or fixed wing aircraft that are going to come in and drop some supplies. But, weather conditions should be pretty good if they do decide to drop supplies, create like a drop zone some place and certainly if the 82nd Airborne would come in and give assistance, the weather conditions from today, tomorrow, even Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday look pretty darn good. A mix of sunshine and clouds. Maybe a few stray showers. This is a tropical environment, but nighttime lows mainly into the 70s.

We're looking a lows tonight of 71 degrees. And Fredricka, although that doesn't sound very tough for anyone in the U.S., you have to remember, that a pretty cool night for people that live in that environment. They're going to be exposed again to all the elements. No power, no water, no food. It's just a brutal existence for them, there's no question.

WHITFIELD: People are having to sleep outside overnight on sidewalks.

WOLF: Oh, absolutely, they're exposed to everything.

WHITFIELD: Because there are no structure in which to feel safe. All right, thanks so much, Reynolds. We'll check back with you. Appreciate that.

All right, meantime, the doctors, many doctors, are back now, but last night CNN's chief medical correspondent Dr. Sanjay Gupta took care of 25 patients by himself at a field hospital in Haiti. Dr. Gupta quoted doctors at the scene as saying, United Nations officials ordered a medical team to evacuate because of security concerns. A U.N. spokesperson said this morning the U.N. did not order anyone to leave, but other organizations might have.

Dr. Gupta and his television crew stayed with the injured all night long, even after the generators gave out. He administered painkillers, intravenous drips, monitored vital signs and stabilized three new patients in critical condition. You see him there, alone.

Medical teams rejoined our Dr. Gupta at the field hospital this morning.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

DR. SANJAY GUPTA, CNN CHIEF MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, it's around 7:00 in the morning now, outside of these field hospitals. And as you know by now, we had an unusual night. The doctors that were caring for these patients were asked by the United Nations to leave. And we decided to stay and try and take care of these patients who would have otherwise been abandoned.

We didn't know quite how this was all going to end, but we know that more patients even came in throughout the night. Patients with head injuries, patients with legs have either been fractured or even amputated, these are the types of injuries that are happening, here.

But, just a short time of ago, the doctors did return. These Belgian doctors and they're back to taking care of the patients and I gave a sign out what was going on with all of these patients so they can go forward with their care for the future.

Certainly a lot of discussion is going to come out of this, but this is the most important point for me. Patients are all doing great and they're all going to get great care.

Back to you.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

WHITFIELD: All right, that's our Dr. Sanjay Gupta. So, again, doctors told him that they were ordered by the U.N. to leave the U.N. this morning saying that other organizations might have told those doctors to leave. We're still trying to sort out the direction there, who gave the directive to those doctors. And, of course, when we get that we'll be waibel to bring that to you.

Meantime, two former U.S. presidents divided by party and policy, but this time coming together in the name of helping Haiti. Last hour, here on CNN, you saw President Obama welcome his two Oval Office predecessors, former presidents George W. Bush and Bill Clinton, there, drafted by President Obama to help earthquake victims by getting you to help with this effort.

Just listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Here at home, presidents Bush and Clinton will help the American people to do their part because responding to a disaster must be the work of all of us. Indeed those wrenching scenes of devastation remind us not only of our common humanity but also of our common responsibilities. This time of suffering can and must be a time of compassion.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

WHITFIELD: And we also understand that more medical aid is on the way to Haiti. The USNS Comfort left port in Baltimore early this morning. The floating hospital has around 500 doctors, nurses and sailors onboard. The ship has 12 fully staff operating rooms and 250 hospital beds. The crew has been warned to expect the worst, but say they're eager to help.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CPO DAVID ROBERTS, U.S. NAVY: We're there to render aid, to fill a need. And right now they need assistance and that's what we're here for. We're here to give that assistance, we're here to do whatever we can for as many people as we can do it for.

DAVID CRUMBLEY, U.S NAVY: We have sadness for the people of Haiti. Concern and hope that we can do -- the best for them, and really we'll help them out, get there as soon as we can. Do as much as we can to help out our fellow man.

(END VIDEO CLIP) WHITFIELD: So the "Comfort" was also dispatched to help Haiti after a series of tropical storms in 2008. So, in part they do know what they are likely to encounter. The USS Comfort arrives in Haiti later on next week.

Meantime, this is how other medical aid is getting into Haiti. The Red Cross has a huge convoy heading over land from the Dominican Republic. That's because Haiti's airport is completely congested, and on that convoy, a 50-bed field hospital, surgical teams and more equipment to establish emergency communication. The new teams of Red Cross workers are expected to arrive in Port-au-Prince later on today.

And of course, you can help out as well. Logon to our Web site at CNN.com/impactyourworld, there you'll find a list of agencies providing emergency relief. You'll also see a find your loved ones module with a State Department toll-free number and a link to the iReport, looking for loved ones photo gallery.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

WHITFIELD: Thousands of people desperate to find their friends and relatives in Haiti. Many are turning to the internet and posting pictures pleas, anything that might help. Josh Levs is here with more on the searches and amazingly they've allowed people to connect in a very big way.

JOSH LEVS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: They have. Yeah, I mean, look, I'm going to say at the top, we know the death toll her is tremendous and overwhelming but we do also know there are a lot of people out had unable to reach loved ones because their loved ones can't get a hold of phones or computers. But, what is happening is that there are all of these TV crews there, including CNN and there's the Internet.

I'm going to show you an example now of something we're doing. Going around gathering video from people giving them an opportunity to tell their loved ones in the United States and all over the world that they're OK.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is (INAUDIBLE) Alexander, your cousin and your fathers still life and your cousin (INAUDIBLE), she's got cut on the face and the hands break, but I'm still have a life.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: My name is (INAUDIBLE) Jean Philip (ph) and I would like say to everybody that I am living at SMC (ph) of my friend who's' (INAUDIBLE) New York, my family is all alive.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (INAUDIBLE) We are here at (INAUDIBLE), right now. Me and my family, we are alive.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

LEVS: So, you can see some of that at the Web site you can just seeing CNN.com/haitimissing. Let's come in here, I want you to see a few things right now, it makes it really easy to find all this's this. This right here is the main page of CNN.com. and when you look at main page right here, "looking for loved ones," you can't miss it. What happens here, it would bring you over to the iReport Web site, CNN iReport in which people have posted photos, videos, information about their loved ones who are missing right now.

And what we also have here is about I think 500 people that are listed as found. They're basically resending in iReports or people from inside Haiti are sending information saying this person's OK, they're alive, even sending new video or photos of them to let you know how they are. So, people are getting updated information this way online and you know what, the Internet is working in Haiti right now and so many places people have that.

What I'm going to do now, show you a handful of the photos for people who have not yet been found, who the families are hoping these people will be found, holding out hope. Holding out in prayers everything they can to get through this incredibly difficult time.

This is just a handful of photos that we have up at CNNiReport from family members saying this is my niece, this is my granddaughter, my aunt my cousin, my best friend, someone I work with, whoever it is. They're sending in descriptions. They're saying where these people work, where they hang out, what they might have been wearing, how tall they are, any identifying information.

Our goal here, though all of this is to help people reconnect with loved ones. Obviously, Fred, we're all holding out hope as many people as possible will find those names being found at CNN.com.

WHITFIELD: Yeah, and I know you're committed throughout the day to sift through the images and read this information for people so that we might be able to reconnect a lot folks. Josh Levs, thanks. Check back with you momentarily.

LEVS: Thank you.

WHITFIELD: All right, other news we're following, two officers who actually knew the Ft. Hood alleged gunman could be in trouble. Our legal guys are ready to delve into this one.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

WHITFIELD: All right, other stories we're following for you right now, Democratic lawmakers crafting a health care reform Bill say that they're in the home stretch of completing the massive legislative proposal. A draft version of most of the built could be bound for the congressional budget office later this weekend for a cost estimate.

And health care figures large into Massachusetts' special election set for Tuesday. Bay state attorney general and Democrat Martha Coakley getting stiff opposing from GOP relative new-comer Scott Brown. Some suggest the contest for the seat previously held by the late Ted Kennedy serves as political canary in the coal mine in the ongoing health care debate. A GOP win would also wreck the Democrats' filibuster-proof 60 votes in the Senate.

And federal regulators criticizing the makers of Tylenol, they say the company should have acted faster in pulling potentially contaminated products from store shelves. Some consumers have reported a moldy smell and feeling sick after taking the pain relieving medication. Johnson & Johnson is now expanding its voluntary recall to other over-the-counter medications, now.

All right, let's check in with our legal guys because there are a lot of interesting cases that we want to talk about. And that including the Ft. Hood massacre. We're talking about the alleged gunman who now apparently is, has exhibited so many signs that now military officers and even doctors are being held accountable. We turn to our legal guys Avery Freedman, a civil right attorney and law professor and Richard Herman in New York, criminal defense attorney and law professor.

Good to see both of you.

RICHARD HERMAN, CRIMINAL DEFENSE ATTORNEY: Hi, Fred.

AVERY FRIEDMAN, CIVIL RIGHTS ATTORNEY: Hi Fred.

WHITFIELD: Richard, let me begin with you, Richard. If this is the case, if that many officers or even doctors who should have read the signs, we're talking about the defense secretary, Gates, said they should have read the signs and should be held accountable. To what degree?

HERMAN: Yeah, they should be held accountable, Fred. You know, one of the causes for the massacre at Ft. Hood is an overwhelming sensitivity to race, religion and political correctness. If we examined this animal Hassan's history the last two years, objectively speaking, meaning we didn't know his race, his religion, and we just looked at him objectively, his actions, people would be appalled at what this guy was doing, and nobody did anything.

They let it go, because they were afraid. They were afraid to push a button on this guy to interrogate him, to perhaps charge him. The signs were everywhere, Fred. And now when they do the investigation, we're going to see just how corrupt the process was at Ft. Hood.

WHITFIELD: So, Avery, am I hearing you in agreement or disagreement?

FRIEDMAN: I am in absolute disagreement.

WHITFIELD: Why?

FRIEDMAN: Let me tell you why. This was a very thoughtful and careful report that Secretary Gates ordered. The two primary problems, Fredricka, are No. 1 we were using a 20th century process for 21st century problems, like terrorism. The second piece was that ever since the joint terrorism task force were created, that is the coordination among agencies. The big problem here is that it appeared the Pentagon was not plugged in to joint terrorism task force information. In other words, lack of sharing. There's no dispute that Nadal was problematic, this was truly a bad guy, but if you had the wrong process, then those eight people who were identified in the report should indeed be accountable for what happened.

WHITFIELD: And in fact, so as many as eight Army officers could face discipline for failing to do anything. What kind of discipline are we talking about?

FRIEDMAN: Well, essentially relating to the military uniform code of justice up to court-martial. That actually means someone could wind up in the brig. I don't think we'll see that but there's eight people that should have known and should have been accountable.

HERMAN: Hey, Fred we have to be plugged in. In this day and age, we can't afford not to be plugged in.

FRIEDMAN: Agreed.

WHITFIELD: OK, let's talk about Wizards' player Gilbert Arenas, he pled guilty, but does that mean, Avery, that he might be escaping, what could be up to six years in jail because of that guilty plea? Part of a deal would be maybe probation? Do we know yet?

FRIEDMAN: Well, I predicted this last week. I think there was a brilliant effort on the part of his defense team to convince the U.S. attorney instead of charging him with four felonies, to charge him with one. Now, that felony is a significant one, bottom line, he's still going to jail.

WHITFIELD: And we're talking about bringing four weapons, guns, into the locker room. So, reduced to one felony, which would be what?

FRIEDMAN: Well, it could be up to five years. He's looking at probably six months.

HERMAN: Probably six months, Fred, but more important than that, I think, and I'm going to tell you right now, Avery, I believe David Stern's going to ban him from the NBA.

FRIEDMAN: I agree with that.

WHITFIELD: Suspension, is going to end up being banned altogether?

FRIEDMAN: I agree.

WHITFIELD: No more playing for the NBA?

HERMAN: Yep.

WHITFIELD: Boy, that's a big old penalty.

HERMAN: Sure is. Hurt his pocketbook, Fred. FRIEDMAN: Hurt the franchise.

WHITFIELD: $40 million contract?

HERMAN: Yeah, he's supposed to make $17 million in the next three years.

FRIEDMAN: And the franchise will equally be penalized because of his behavior. No doubt about it. Absolutely.

WHITFIELD: All right, also now let's talk about jury selection to begin in the case of Scott Roeder, he's accused of killing Dr. George Tiller who performs abortions, but we're not talking about now just murder charges, but now there's another federal level that would be involved here, because we're talking about the protection of the rights of clinics and doctors who perform such procedures. Right, Avery?

FRIEDMAN: Absolutely right. The face legislation, which actually it's federal law which protects individuals from this sort of behavior. What's significant in this case is that if Scott Roeder did it alone, Fredricka, there probably wouldn't be a federal face potential. But in the car, an operation rescue individual was found. Roeder and that individual had been communicating. Roerder had been involved in obstruction of clinics in the past. I think that we're at the beginning of the investigation. I think we're looking for federal charges here.

WHITFIELD: So, Richard, the arrest then?

HERMAN: There will be, Fred, and...

WHITFIELD: What's taking so long?

HERMAN: Exactly. What took so long. Right. The investigation, the wheels of justice turn. They don't turn so fast. They turn slowly, but they do turn and prosecutions under this federal face statute are very, very serious. That's where they're going in this case.

WHITFIELD: OK, and Richard, Avery, we will be seeing you again later on this hour.

FRIEDMAN: Are you sure?

HERMAN: See you in a little bit.

WHITFIELD: Yes, I am sure. That's right , I'm not going to make that error again in 2010. We're going to talk about the clash of the contracts. NBC, Jay Leno, Conan O'Brien. What's going on? We're at the beginning stages of that. All right, I know you guys have great ideas on that.

Meantime, we are going to continue our coverage on all that going on in Haiti and all that's not going on. But here is some evidence of what's is going on. New images right now of apparent new deliveries of food and perhaps even water. It's unclear what the source of these supplies are coming from.

But we have been seeing all morning long a flurry of activity at the airports with lots of deliveries being made. The biggest problem has been in the course of the past four days is actually getting the materials, medical supplies, water, food, from airports to people and now we're seeing some evidence of that. It doesn't look like it's a huge, huge outpouring in that delivery right now, but there is some distribution that we're seeing right in.

When we get more information we'll be able to bring that to you. Much more after this.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

WHITFIELD: All right, we're closely watching developments in Haiti. Search and rescue efforts will continue throughout the weekend. The first 72 hours are usually the most critical for finding survivors, but U.S. officials say they're not stopping.

There are 26 U.S. and international rescue teams in Haiti right now and U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton is on her way there. She's expected to arrive there later on and she's going there to meet with Haiti's president and to monitor relief efforts underway.

All right, New York's Little Haiti community is desperate for word about their relatives back home. Our Carter Evans is speaking with Haitian-Americans in Brooklyn, and what are you learning from them, Carter?

CARTER EVANS, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, first and foremost, Fredricka, this is a very large Haitian community in Brooklyn here -- 61,000 people from Haiti according to the U.S. Census are here in Brooklyn right now. So, you can imagine there are a lot of people who are trying to get information and information is very hard to come by.

There are very few good stories that are coming out of Haiti right now. There are certainly a lot of sad ones. So, people need a place to vent, they need a place to talk about their frustration and they got that last night at Holy Cross Church. It held a special service on Friday night. Now, they normally don't hold a mass on Friday night, but they did last night. A couple dozen people gathered there to try and talk about the situation.

There is a Haitian-born bishop in this church; he knows this community, he knows they need help and he knows they need comfort. These people are devastated and getting together right now really helps a lot.

It is hard to imagine exactly how painful this is to lose many family members, in some cases. One woman was at the service, she had a picture of her son last night. He's just a memory now. She lost her son. She lost every single person in her family.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) NICOLE JOINVILLE, MOURNER: Their house collapsed. So, he died, my sister died, my mother died. My niece, too. My niece, 10 years, my niece, four years, my cousin, all of my family died.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

EVANS: So, it's a tough situation here and that's just one of many stories. There is one way, Fredricka, that people are getting information both to Haiti and back, it's very interesting. There's a radio station just a couple of blocks down called Radio Soleil. It's a Haitian radio station.

What they're doing right now is rebroadcasting a transmission out of Haiti. There is one station in Haiti that is transmitting and basically, a lot of people are coming to this radio station, they're giving information about their loved ones so people they can't get in touch with.

That information is being sent over the internet to that radio station and then broadcast out in Haiti and, of course, rebroadcast here in New York so people can get any updated information about their family members as soon as it's available.

WHITFIELD: Yes, that's turning out to be one of the better networks that people can actually try to convey a message or find some comfort in any way they can when they have loved ones there in Haiti. We're going to actually hope to talk with Rico Duprey of that radio station, Soleil, a little bit later on today to see how they're trying to keep that momentum going. Thanks so much, Carter Evans. Appreciate that.

And this programming note -- on CNN Monday night, two special -- rather a two-hour special of "LARRY KING" and how you can help Haiti. The powerhouse group of celebrities, leaders and activists will be joining us to show you how you can take action and be part of this global outreach. A very special two-hour "LARRY KING LIVE" Monday night at 8:00 Eastern right here on CNN.

All right, there is other news that we are also covering. Leno, Conan and the possibility of a $40 million lawsuit? Oh, our legal guys can't wait to talk about a potential breach -- or not -- of a contract or two?

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

WHITFIELD: A look at our top stories. Democrats are hard at work this weekend trying to smooth out the rough spots on health care reform, but their 60-vote majority may be in jeopardy. The president and Democratic leaders are trying to help salvage Massachusetts' Senate seat for the Democrats.

Democrat Martha Coakley's campaign to take over the late Ted Kennedy's Senate seat could get a boost from President Obama. He is expected to make a last-minute campaign trip for her tomorrow. Coakley is locked in a very close race with Republican Scott Brown in Tuesday's special election. The tightness of that race caught many Democrats by surprise and that's why they're now worried about health care reform.

President Obama has a new message for Wall Street bankers. If you can afford those million dollar bonuses for executives, you can pay back taxpayers. In his weekly address, he outlined a proposal to tax banks to pay for the government's bailout plan. We'll get another check of the top stories in about 20 minutes from now.

All right, so how binding are contracts anyway? We're about to find out. We turn to our legal guys, Avery Friedman, a civil rights attorney and law professor. Good to see you again.

FRIEDMAN: Hi, Fredricka.

WHITFIELD: And Richard Herman, a criminal attorney in New York and also a law professor. All right, let's talk about this contract, oh, boy ...

FRIEDMAN: Yes.

WHITFIELD: ...involving Jay Leno, we're talking Conan O'Brien and NBC. So, Conan O'Brien says, you know what? I'm not doing late night if it means starting at midnight. But what if, Richard, his contract says late night and there's no time slot referred to in that contract? Would he be breaching that contract?

HERMAN: Fred, that's exactly why this case is going to be settled because ...

FRIEDMAN: Yes.

HERMAN: ...they're not going to litigate that issue because it could go either way and therefore -- and we haven't seen the contracts, so it's pure speculation. But you know, "The Late Show" from Jack Paar to Johnny Carson to Leno to the present time, we know the time slot it's in, yet it's deemed "The Late Show." So, you know, I don't know where they're really going ...

WHITFIELD: So, that historical precedence ...

FRIEDMAN: Right.

WHITFIELD: ...is all that's necessary? If it's never started at midnight before, it's always been 11:30, 11:35, then that's enough for I guess Conan O'Brien to say, you know what, as far as I know, late night is at this time slot?

FRIEDMAN: I don't know.

HERMAN: I don't think so, Fred.

WHITFIELD: Really? You don't think so, Avery?

HERMAN: No.

FRIEDMAN: No, no, no, although I'll tell you, Professor, you really nailed the issue. It's the question of the ambiguity. It's a bit of a knuckle-headed provision. In other words, they say late show, but they don't -- it's not time specific. And Richard's exactly right. $40 million on the line. The best information we're picking up in the battle between Team Conan and NBC Universal, he's going to walk away with about $30 million as a way of settling the case and he's gone from NBC.

WHITFIELD: Really?

FRIEDMAN: Yes, that's what's going to happen.

HERMAN: And he better think twice about that, Fre, because honestly, he was not very funny in that time slot. That's why ...

FRIEDMAN: Yes, but he thinks he's funny.

HERMAN: ...his ratings were crashing and -- he thinks he is.

FRIEDMAN: He thinks he's funny.

HERMAN: Yes, he thinks he is, but he's been pretty dedicated to NBC.

WHITFIELD: And his fan base, too, thinks he's funny and thought, you know, I don't know. You've heard people come out on both sides, saying ...

FRIEDMAN: Sure.

WHITFIELD: ...yes for Leno, you know, and others who say yes for Conan who thought that maybe he would be sticking with.

FRIEDMAN: Yes. Why is Jay Leno going to be funnier at 11:30 than at 10:00? And the numbers will just explode.

WHITFIELD: It's a different audience.

FRIEDMAN: I guess -- good argument, OK.

WHITFIELD: No?

HERMAN: But when he was at 11:30, he was No. 1 at 11:30, so I don't know.

FRIEDMAN: Yes, that's exactly right.

WHITFIELD: Yes. OK, let's talk ...

FRIEDMAN: Good gamble.

WHITFIELD: All right. Let's talk about Proposition 8 because in California, a gay couple is challenging Prop 8 in federal court now, saying that civil unions and domestic partnerships, not the same. Where might this go, Richard?

HERMAN: Well, this is -- you have two powerhouse attorneys representing the plaintiff in this particular case. This is going to go on and on and on. Whether or not the distinctions and the way the California statute is drafted, is that going to be deemed constitutional? Is it going to hold up? Are they going to be able to segregate gay and lesbian from society? Prevent them from being married?

You know, these are issues that we've been fighting for a long time in California. And I don't think it's going to hold up. It's formidable, formidable prosecution attorneys in this case.

WHITFIELD: So, Avery, you know, there -- this couple's argument kind of caught my ...

HERMAN: Plaintiff's attorney.

WHITFIELD: ...attention, as it did a lot of other people. They say, you know, it's like putting a twinkie at the end of a treadmill and saying you can only have a bite, not the whole thing.

FRIEDMAN: Well, that's a whole bunch of metaphor there. I think that's true. Look it ...

WHITFIELD: You don't like it?

FRIEDMAN: Anywho, if it works, it works. Look ...

WHITFIELD: I thought it was quite catchy.

FRIEDMAN: Look it, the bottom line is is Richard's right ...

HERMAN: You're blushing, Avery.

FRIEDMAN: ...constitutional challenge, it's an equal protection challenge. It's going to go all the way to the Supreme Court. Actually, the action in the case this week took place in the U.S. Supreme Court because the federal judge in San Francisco, Fredricka, wanted to bring in a feed to YouTube and guess what? The Supreme Court said no. So, we're going to have to look at conventional media to find out what's going on.

WHITFIELD: OK.

FRIEDMAN: Yes.

WHITFIELD: Now, let's talk about this New Jersey mom ...

FRIEDMAN: Big case.

WHITFIELD: ...who's now facing jail time, or for second (ph), facing jail time for cussing out or cursing out, depending on which part of the country you're from, cursing, cussing out. The principal didn't know this could get you in, you know, deep, deep trouble -- Richard?

HERMAN: Well, you know, these criminal statutes are drafted a certain way and I guess the school district had a little power with the district attorney's office and kind of forced them to bring these charges. I don't know that this would have been disorderly conduct in New York, but you know, I handled a case in New Jersey, and one of the defendants was charged with howling at the moon at night. So, I -- you know, I don't know.

FRIEDMAN: Look, look ...

WHITFIELD: So Avery, what was she mad about anyway?

FRIEDMAN: Wait a minute, wait a minute.

WHITFIELD: What's at the root here? Does she have good reason to be, you know, hot under the collar?

FRIEDMAN: She -- look it, this mother of a daughter who was pantsed (ph) by a bunch of punks in school. The district she felt wasn't accountable for it. She -- her language was colorful.

Let me tell you something. I want to make a reservation to court in New Jersey right now -- this case should be thrown out. It's protected speech under the First Amendment. I'm outraged that the district would actually work with the prosecuting attorney to charge this woman. The cases will be dismissed. The case will be dismissed against her. It is absolutely protected speech. Good for mom, absolutely.

HERMAN: It may not be protected -- it may not be dismissed on the trial level, Avery, but at the appellate level, it definitely will be.

FRIEDMAN: Hey, one way or the other, Cindy Schwalb is going to win this case, no doubt about it.

WHITFIELD: Oh, all right, interesting. Before I let you guys go, let's talk just really quickly about, you know, the status of many Haitians who are in the U.S., and you know, the discrepancy, the differences between, like, the Cuban, you know, status ...

FRIEDMAN: Oh OK.

WHITFIELD: ...of, you know, what law versus you know, Haitians who come to this country who usually get deported right away.

FRIEDMAN: Right.

WHITFIELD: There have been some changes just within the past 24 hours as a result of what's taken place with the earthquake there. What now, Avery?

FRIEDMAN: Wet foot/dry foot is the name of the policy. If you came from a Communist country, they brought you in. If you didn't, you weren't allowed in. You're Right. The past 24 hours, changes at the State Department. Coming out of the White House, some of these people will be able to come to the United States, not all. A very important policy change at the Department of State, absolutely.

WHITFIELD: All right. HERMAN: In response to this tragedy, Fred, you'll see more and more changes daily.

WHITFIELD: Yes. We're talking about at least right now, I mean, you've got a Haitian-American population of 500,000, and a great bulk of it in south Florida and many who are facing, you know, deportation not within that 500,000 number. Many who are facing deportation and really are looking and watching very closely about what changes in their status in the coming days and for their loved ones, too.

FRIEDMAN: A major change, a major change, Fredricka. Major.

WHITFIELD: All right, Avery Friedman, Richard Herman, thanks so much. Appreciate that.

FRIEDMAN: OK, good to see you. Take care.

HERMAN: See how the law adapts to situations, Fred. It's good.

WHITFIELD: I know.

FRIEDMAN: Yes, absolutely.

WHITFIELD: And you all help bring that to our attention all the time, and we so appreciate that.

FRIEDMAN: Pleasure.

HERMAN: And you chair it, Fred.

WHITFIELD: All right, you guys.

FRIEDMAN: See you later.

WHITFIELD: Thanks so much. Appreciate that.

All right, let's talk more when we come back about what's taking place in Haiti. Medical resources, food, water, all of it starting to get into that country. How well is it getting to the people? We'll have the latest on the devastation four days after that earthquake.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

WHITFIELD: The massive relief effort in Haiti has been hampered by a gridlocked airport and impassable roads during these critical hours. And we want to get some insight now from someone very familiar with major humanitarian efforts, retired Lieutenant General Russel Honore. He commanded the military's response to Hurricane Katrina and now, he is a CNN contributor.

All right, good to see you. So, just within this hour, we've seen some new shipments get into people. We saw a pickup truck and people were there at the ready to grab whatever these rations were, food, water, we're still not sure yet because we're not even sure of the source. But describe for me the various ways that we're going to see these deliveries being made because we know ships are coming into port, airplanes have landed, but the biggest obstacle is getting the stuff to people.

LT. GEN. RUSSEL HONORE, U.S. ARMY (RET.), CNN CONTRIBUTOR: I think you'll see mostly distribution will happen by the Haitian people themselves. The government, people are very concerned about doing search and rescue and taking care of their families. You will see the infrastructure start to kick in now to focus on taking those supplies from the military and taking them to distribution points, and making distribution.

Obviously, the military can do more, if we didn't have the challenge of the port being out and the limited capacity at the airfield. So, they're doing all they can to get that port open as well as increase the capacity at the airfield now. But I think the solution's going to be, Fred, is that the Haitians taking charge of this distribution themselves, and then complementing that by clearing landing zones for helicopters so helicopters can come in and reinforce those distribution points.

WHITFIELD: But even that sounds very sophisticated, trying to coordinate, find landing locations. We know that the USS Carl Vinson aircraft carrier is in the area. There are choppers onboard it. It is expected that those choppers will start making some of those drops.

But does it need to be that coordinated where someone needs to find a nice landing zone or is it as simple as, you know what, you see an area where there are pockets of people, you just start making the drops. But then, how do you do that and make sure the people don't lose their minds fighting one another to get it?

HONORE: Well, I'm an advocate for that. I think you've got to adapt and overcome. If you play this thing overscripted, we're worried about safety, we're worried about coordination, a lot of people are going to perish because there's no food and water, but that -- what we do is very orderly.

WHITFIELD: Yes.

HONORE: And when people are hungry, that's one of the reaction is they want food and water.

WHITFIELD: So, that's a big challenge, striking the balance, you know, of ...

HONORE: Between ...

WHITFIELD: ...the whole security, protecting people who are making the deliveries and protecting people who are victimized from this from one another, fighting over things. So, that almost sounds like it has to be secondary to just getting this stuff in because people are dying because they don't have water. They're not dying just because of their injuries, they're dying because they are, you know, in 90-degree temperatures, no water, no food. HONORE: Having seen a part of this rodeo before ...

WHITFIELD: Yes.

HONORE: ...in New Orleans. There were things that didn't happen early on because people were worried about security.

WHITFIELD: Right.

HONORE: And you know what? No one was attacked by the people. All the people want is research and rescue to happen and to evacuate. I do think a priority has got to be put on evacuation, though, Fred.

WHITFIELD: Yes, OK. General Honore, we're going to talk to you again in a matter of minutes. We'll continue our conversation about that. Thanks so much.

All right, meantime, other news that we are following. A special election in Massachusetts -- well, it could send ripples across the country apparently. It's a closer than expected race for Senator Ted Kennedy's seat, with the future of health care reform hanging in the balance.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

WHITFIELD: A special election coming up on Tuesday could have a huge impact on health care reform. People in Massachusetts are choosing a replacement for the late Senator Ted Kennedy. CNN deputy political director Paul Steinhauser joins us now from Washington.

So Paul, how in the world did this get to be such a nail biter of a moment?

PAUL STEINHAUSER, CNN DEPUTY POLITICAL DIRECTOR: Everybody's asking that because they're like, this is Massachusetts where Democrats dominate. This is Massachusetts, Ted Kennedy had this seat for nearly 50 years, but Scott Brown could become the first Republican to win a U.S. Senate seat from Massachusetts since 1972.

Recent polls, Fred, they say that the race is basically dead even. Two well-respected analysts say this race is a toss-up. Here's why. Tough economic times, that means rough times for the incumbents, the Democrats are the incumbents in this race.

And just last month, Coakley right there on the right, she's the Massachusetts State Attorney General, she was up by 30 points over Brown there on the left. He's a state senator. Many people think maybe she took it for granted. She coasted while he was campaigning, she took the holidays off, Fred.

WHITFIELD: So then, now you wonder President Obama's presence in Massachusetts, might that really make a difference when we're talking about just a couple days away before people go to the polls? Might it really make an impact for Coakley?

STEINHAUSER: It might because the Democrats need to get the vote out in Massachusetts, it's crucial. That's why you saw former President Bill Clinton with Coakley on Friday. Today, the widow of the late Senator Kennedy was with her and tomorrow, the president is going. The Democrats need to get their voters out. This is a special election. People normally don't vote in big numbers.

But Fred, why does this matter if you don't live in Massachusetts? Here's why: health care reform. If Brown wins, a Republican, he becomes the 41st Republican in the Chamber. That denies the Democrats their 60 seats super majority. They need 60 votes to pass health care reform and give it to the president to sign into law. Brown says he will not vote for it. The clock is ticking. This is really, really interesting with national implications.

WHITFIELD: Wow, interesting. All right, Paul Steinhauser, thanks so much. Appreciate that.

All right, the clock is ticking there in Haiti as well. Live pictures right now. We understand that once this convoy kind of moves by, you're going to see a number of people there streaming toward aircraft. We understand that this is part of a large evacuation now underway.

We don't know who the majority of the people here are, whether these are mostly Americans who are being evacuated or Haitian- Americans or if these are -- if this is a mix of folks that are injured and all those survivors there who are getting their way out of Haiti.

You're also seeing the convoy of vehicles coming in, presumably a lot of this big moving equipment will help make some of the roads passable. That's kind of the hope, as well as you saw some of the cargo aircraft on the runway there. Hopefully, at some point also unloading a number of relief items to get to the many people there in this devastated country.

Now, to south Florida. There, you see Vice President Joe Biden. He's actually at Homestead, at the Homestead Air Reserve Base. This actually is a location in south Florida where a large number of the relief material supplies are actually in Homestead before it makes its way to Haiti.

Let's listen in to what the vice president has to say.

(JOINED IN PROGRESS)

JOE BIDEN, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATEs: ...Haiti to meet with the archbishop and the pastor and a number of other priests and parishioners who are engaged in relief work and getting things moving.

And at the outset, I'd like to point out to you that I had been -- we have been absolutely astounded by the resolve and capacity of the community. Put one case in point -- the pastor of the church while he's meeting with us at the recreation center and then trying to give comfort to the community told me as an aside, he just lost family himself, and he found out that morning. One of the priests at the church, we were there, I -- he looked devastated and he had just heard, literally minutes before of the loss of a close family member. I think it was his brother. So, everyone in the community with whom we met, literally everyone, including Patrick Gaspard, who is the president's chief political guy in the White House, Patrick is here with us. He's lost family.

So, it's one thing to respond to a crisis of a significant proportion. It's another thing to respond when your own flesh and blood has been the victim of that same crisis. So, our hearts go out to all Haitian-Americans and others who have family and close friends who are caught in the midst of this absolutely devastating disaster.

The images we all see on television are devastating for the average American, but I can't imagine the -- how silence, how the silence of contacting by cell phone a relative in Haiti and hearing nothing on the other end. How deafening that silence is for so many Haitian-Americans. I can't imagine how searing the pain they feel is at this moment.

Ladies and gentlemen, the tragedy in Haiti is unimaginable. And you know, in public life, we tend to use adjectives that heighten a description of a circumstance, but -- and sometimes it results in hyperbole, but this is close to unimaginable, close to unimaginable. You saw what we went through with Katrina and Rita and we lost a thousand people -- thousands, several thousand people, but here we're talking about tens of thousands of dead.

A city, a region from the epicenter out, if you look at the -- at the telemetry, this is absolutely devastating, devastated beyond recognition. The American government and the American people are responding in a way that makes me once again sound so trite proud to be an American.

Yesterday, I was keeping a long-standing commitment, meaning in three or four weeks, to visit Lake Charles, Louisiana, and New Orleans, Louisiana, because now under the leadership of Janet Napolitano, our Secretary of Homeland Security, FEMA is really actually delivering the goods of last year in Louisiana. There's still a great deal to be done.

I'm meeting in a, an area of -- in the parish, the largest parish in Louisiana, where Lake Charles is. Out in a windswept area where there's just some housing that's been recently built for the owner of it, and I walk into a community room, and the first questions they ask me are, how can we help the people of Haiti? They're just getting up off their feet in New Orleans.

In the meetings I had, these meetings with people from the ninth ward and other places still devastated, and they're organizing, they're organizing, the firefighters in New Orleans have been decimated. The police were decimated. And they're organizing volunteers who say they're ready if we can get them there to go to Haiti.

So, ladies and gentlemen, this is an effort and an undertaking that has the full, total, unrelenting support of the president of the United States and the government of the United States. We're moving as quickly as is possible, we're moving aggressively with all the assets available to this great government. We're saving lives and we're beginning a full-scale recovery, but, put this in focus. Put this in focus.

There is one, one airport. The entire world is trying to get help to Haiti. We're only able to land because of one apron, one apron in the airport. One taxiway, 48 aircraft on the ground a day, from all over the world. That includes the U.N. trying to resupply their people, and they were devastated. That includes that the ability to refurbish and try to get back up on its feet, the mission, 7,000 folks on the ground for some time.

We were able to, and correct me, General, if I'm wrong, I believe we were able to get yesterday 17 airframes in. We have the capacity to send 700 airframes. So what I want the American people to understand is we are here in a position of trying to help another country, and we are going by as we should their priorities. They're telling us what they want in first.

So there's going to be a lot of second guessing, why didn't you send in more docks? Or why didn't you send in the 82nd Airborne quicker, or why didn't you send -- because we're being told now what we need and we know what they need.

Search and rescue teams, the secretary of state's got more teams in. These are the best in the world. They're coming from other parts of the world as well, to get those, those vivid images you see of people caught between slabs of concrete. Voices being heard from somewhere below trying to get them out. That's the first priority.

The second priority we're being told by the government, they need water. Just need water. What's going to happen here as we go through, we're going to get all this in shape, but I just want everybody to know that this first 72 hours, this first week, is pretty hard to get everything in there we have the capacity to get in there.

As the General said to me, it's like putting a bowling ball through a straw. This is the tail end of this. It's very constricted. All of the roads to the port is basically not able to be used. Not basically, it's not able to be used. So the airlift all of this in and what the General told me, we're looking everywhere from the DR to every other airport in the region to be able to get people in and then take them over land which will take seven and eight hours. So we're doing everything in our capacity to do this.

Right now, there is help on the island, and much more is on the way. With each passing day, more and more assistance will greet the Haitians who are in desperate need of our help. We've already begun one of the largest recovery missions in recent history. Search and rescue teams from Virginia, California, Florida, are already on the ground.

Coast Guard is there, Coast Guard responded immediately with the ships they had available to them and the helicopters. The army's 82nd Airborne, some are on the ground already roughly 400. But 3,200 are committed, 3,200 are committed. It's sequencing and getting them in. The aircraft carrier USS Vinson has arrived as 19 helicopters and over 3,000 men and women onboard. It's already, already moving.

The fact of the matter is, we're ferrying, moving people in, getting survivors out. We've already rescued a number of Americans and Haitians have come out. People come wanting to come back home, American citizens that we've been able to process through here. And so the fact of the matter is, this is just the beginning. The American Marine Expeditionary Unit is on its way.

One of the reasons why they're so important, what we can't get on, into a port, we're going to get over land from amphibious landing craft. We're using every available tool that we have to try to get you know, what's your phrase, Janet? Force on mass? Mass on force?

JANET NAPOLITANO, U.S. SECRETARY OF HOMELAND SECURITY: Mass on target.

BIDEN: Mass on target. But the target is big. The mass we have is enormous, but the bottleneck is how physically we can get it there. And so I just want to begin by thanking our military for the incredible job, general, you're doing. The admiral of the Coast Guard, everyone. They and the president made it clear on the "Situation Room," with our four-star general on the other end saying, General, anything you need, anything you need is at the disposal of this rescue mission.

Here at Homestead, we're, they're supporting the deployment of rescue teams, the development of mobile energy response systems. They are sending water and cots, meals, hygiene, blankets, docks, on Thursday the president announced a median investment of $100 million relief effort, that is going to be life saving equipment, more food, more water, more medicine, more of everything the people of Haiti need including the ability when we get the 82nd on the ground, more security on the ground.

Because everybody knows how this works, everybody knows how it works. Initially everyone is just so focused on staying alive. After that, there's a tendency for fear and panic to set in. There's a tendency for relative bad actors to begin acting bad. So, we're trying to.