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Volcano Impact: 200 Tons of Produce Rotting in Kenya; Nuclear Power Concerns; Former Neo-Nazi on Growth of Extremism

Aired April 19, 2010 - 12:00   ET


TONY HARRIS, CNN ANCHOR: I'm Tony Harris. Top of the hour in the CNN NEWSROOM, where anything can happen.

Here are some of the real people behind today's biggest stories.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's a bit frustrating to be standing for hours, and then to get to the end of the queue to be told that there's nothing available. And there's no trains, no planes, no nothing.


HARRIS: So here we go. Travelers antsy from the five-day air shutdown over Europe. Iceland's volcano giving hints the ash cloud may be breaking.

Plus this --


LINA HOWARD TRAVIS: We had protests, and we voiced our opinion, and we didn't want them, but it's just, you know -- we're just the little peons.


HARRIS: President Obama pushes nuclear energy, but not in their back yard. A Georgia town wants to know if its high cancer rate is linked to nuclear plants.

Let's do this -- let's get started.

Air quality assessment begins this hour. European aviation officials meet to discuss results of various test flights conducted by major airlines. This comes as the volcanic ash-choking skies across the continent begins to clear.

Our meteorologist Chad Myers is monitoring from the Weather Center for us.


HARRIS: Thousands of people are trying to deal with this travel dilemma. From London to Hong Kong to New York, it is a global problem. Less than a third of Europe's normal Monday flights are getting off the ground.

Here in the states, travelers are trying to figure out how and when they will get to their destinations.


JOHN REISS, STRANDED BRITISH TRAVELER: I tried to phone and of course couldn't get through at all. This was yesterday. Tried on the Internet, and all they were offering were flights at the end of the week at over $11,000 for a one-way flight.


HARRIS: My goodness. The situation is so bad, Britain is calling on the Royal Navy for help.

In London, earlier today, Prime Minister Gordon Brown announced that ships will be sent to pick up some of its citizens stranded overseas. Britain's Defense Ministry is working on identifying ports where the ships can dock. The prime minister says he has been speaking with Spanish officials about using airports in Spain as a hub for returning British citizens home.

A lot of people in Greenwood, South Carolina, are also feeling the effects of this ash cloud. The travel disruption is preventing members of the 1055th Army Reserves from getting home after almost a year of service in Iraq. The reserve unit was due back last week.

Africa also feeling the cloud's impact. About 200 tons of produce is rotting in a warehouse in Kenya awaiting export to Europe.

Our Zain Verjee visited the warehouse and spoke to the manager.


ZAIN VERJEE, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Just look at the amount of fresh vegetables stuck here at the airport. This one company alone has something like 200 tons lying around, things like red chilies, green chilies, broccoli, asparagus, onions, peas, stir fries. And these are things you see on shelves in Britain, as well as in other parts of Europe.

Edward is running things around here.

Have you ever seen it this bad?

EDWARD KARANU, VEGPRO OPERATIONS MANAGER: Not at all. I have been here for 18 years. I have seen real severe floods. I have seen severe drought. I haven't seen anything like this in my life here. This is a catastrophe.



An American couple stranded in Britain may have a dual citizenship baby if this ash cloud doesn't go away soon. Mom is pregnant. They attended a wedding in Paris and were set to fly home from London when the skies were closed.


TOD BRILLIANT, STRANDED IN THE U.K.: Andy (ph), my wife, is 32 weeks pregnant. So she's the one doing with the discomfort.

ANDREA BARRETT, STRANDED IN THE U.K.: If we're grounded for several more weeks, then there's definitely the potential that my child may have dual citizenship.


HARRIS: U.S. domestic flights may not be troubled by ash, but by extra luggage fees. Have you heard this story? Spirit Airlines announced this weekend it will charge as much as $45 for carry-on bags starting August 1st. Spirit's CEO defends the move, saying a flight will actually now be cheaper.


BEN BALDANZA, CEO, SPIRIT AIRLINES: People are bringing more and more on board in order to avoid the checked bag fee. We've decided to address this issue by lowering our base fares, lowering checked bag fees, and letting people with bags board the airplane first.

We've lowered our fares by $40 or more, and the fee to carry the bag on is either $20 or $30. So you bring the bag and you're still going to save around $10. You don't bring the bag and you save $40 or more. So that's why we say it's cheaper.


HARRIS: All right.

Meanwhile, five major carriers have agreed not to follow Spirit's fee hike. They include American Airlines, Delta, United, JetBlue and US Airways.

Senator Chuck Schumer secured the pledges.


SEN. CHARLES SCHUMER (D), NEW YORK: I didn't really have to pressure anybody. One of them said they wouldn't do it alone, but if I got others, they would do it. But all the others said, look, this is not a good idea. In the words of one of the executives, "It steps over the line." And every one of them was pretty quick to say we do not want to do this, we will not do it.


HARRIS: Is nuclear power the problem?

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) LINA HOWARD TRAVIS: Not only the older folks. You're talking about the young folks are dying with cancer, throat cancer, stomach cancer. And it's from what, the food? Water? Is it in the air?


HARRIS: A small town dealing with an advanced cancer death rate now worried about a new reactor. It's a CNN special investigation.

But first, though, our "Random Moment" in 90 seconds.


HARRIS: We are getting waxed down under for today's "Random Moment." Have a look and a listen.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I look like some sort of strange superhero.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Ready to get ripped?



HARRIS: We are in Sydney, Australia, where a "Dan the Adventurous" is selling strips of his own body hair for the Australian Red Cross. You pay, you rip, Dan screams.

This video has gone viral on YouTube. Dan says it was all his girlfriend's idea and he hopes you'll be able to be inspired to find your own way to raise money for charity, or copy his girlfriend's idea.


HARRIS: President Obama's big push for nuclear energy brings us to a small town not used to being in the spotlight, that's for sure. Shell Bluff in Burke County, Georgia, is where there are two nuclear reactors right now. The president hopes for two new reactors to be built, but here's the problem. People in Shell Bluff say they are afraid of more reactors because they say people in their community are dying from cancer, and they want to know why.

In fact, the county's death rate from cancer is 51 percent higher than the national average.

CNN Special Investigations Unit Correspondent Abbie Boudreau visited Shell Bluff.

And Abbie, first of all, good to see you.

How do these people know if they are safe or not.

ABBIE BOUDREAU, CNN SPECIAL INVESTIGATIONS UNIT CORRESPONDENT: Well, that is the big question. The people in Shell Bluff want to know if someone can figure out why the cancer rates are so high. And so, in this town, there's already two reactors. On top of that, it's across the river from an old nuclear weapons plant which is a superfund toxic site.

So we went to Shell Bluff for a full 24 hours, where the ground has already been broken for the new reactors, and let the people there voice their concerns.


BOUDREAU: These are the first reactors being built in the United States in nearly 30 years. We're about to meet this one woman. This is Annie Laura Stevens. And she's actually here with her brother who recently passed away. She lives in Shell Bluff. And she has concerns about the two new reactors, as well as the two existing reactors that are in her town.

(voice-over): Shell Bluff is located in Burke County, Georgia. Its cancer death rate is 51 percent higher than the national average, according to the Centers for Disease Control.


BOUDREAU (on camera): Hi.


BOUDREAU: I'm Abbie.

STEVENS: Hello. Hello, Abbie. How are you doing?

BOUDREAU: Nice to meet you.

STEVENS: Well, thank you. Nice to meet you, too.

BOUDREAU: Right away, she introduces us to a local reverend. He knew we were here doing a story on the reactors and he is concerned about his congregation.

REV. CHARLES UTLEY: Yes, you hear that there's a lot of cancer, related cancer, maybe respiratory and circulatory things that's going on with them. You know, why is there so much in such a small population?

BOUDREAU (voice-over): This community fears contamination from both the nearby nuclear power plant and an old nuclear weapons facility. A superfund toxic site across the river.

In 1991, the National Cancer Institute studied all counties near nuclear facilities and found no increased risk for cancer. But another study in 2007 focused only on Burke County. Now it found that since the reactors have been built, cancer rates have risen by 25 percent. But the study doesn't say why.

(on camera): Earlier I showed you the picture of Annie Laura's brother Hiram (ph), who died of cancer in 2008. After we left the church, we met Hiram's wife, Jannie.

JANNIE HOWARD, HUSBAND DIED OF CANCER: Why, you know. How could -- I mean, you know, for him to be the type man he was, how could this just happen like that, and so quick?

BOUDREAU: I talked to a few people at the bible study who said they didn't want the new reactors in. How did you feel?

HOWARD: Well, I don't think anybody really want them near.

BOUDREAU: Why not?

HOWARD: I mean, because they're right on, like, right on top of us.

BOUDREAU: Do you think the president has done enough to make sure that people like you are safe before new reactors are built?

HOWARD: He probably don't even know we live there.

STEVENS: That's exactly right.

HOWARD: He doesn't know we're down here.

STEVENS: He doesn't know we're down here.

BOUDREAU: We're back in Annie Laura's house. She showed us this emergency information pamphlet about what they need to do in case there is some sort of leak at Plant Vogtle (ph), which is the nuclear plant in town. And we were looking at it and noticed that she circled her evacuation route. And next to it she says "have mercy upon us all."

(voice-over): The Nuclear Regulatory Commission allows power plants to monitor themselves to see if they're contaminating the environment. Both the NRC and the plant's operator say the facility is safe.

(on camera): It's the morning of day two here in Shell Bluff. We're headed over to the church right now. I think that more people are realizing that CNN is in town. And people are sort of reaching out, wanting to talk and tell their stories.

LINA HOWARD TRAVIS: We had protests, and we voiced our opinion, and we didn't want them, but it's just, you know -- we're just the little peons.

So this is after she had cancer.

BOUDREAU: The people that we've talked to are concerned that people in their family are getting sick and even dying from cancer. But they're not saying that it's caused -- they're not saying the cancer is caused from the reactors. They're just concerned, and they have questions about why so many of their family members are dying from cancer. TRAVIS: Not only the older folks. You're talking about the young folks are dying with cancer, throat cancer, stomach cancer. And it's from what, the food? Water? Is it in the air?

BOUDREAU: We're about to meet with a couple of the guys who do environmental testing at nuclear sites throughout the state of Georgia.

I'm Abbie.

JIM SOMERVILLE (ph): Jim Somerville (ph). Nice to meet you.

BOUDREAU: Nice to meet you.

JIM HARDEMAN: Hi, Abbie. Jim Hardeman.


HARDEMAN: Nice to meet you.

BOUDREAU: So all this stuff is for your environmental testing.

HARDEMAN: All this stuff was for environmental testing.

BOUDREAU: And now it's just sitting here in a warehouse or what?

HARDEMAN: Yes. Most of this equipment was taken out of service at the end of 2004.


HARDEMAN: When our federal funding ran out.

BOUDREAU: And how much federal funding do you get?

HARDEMAN: Right now, none.

BOUDREAU: Nothing?

HARDEMAN: Nothing.

BOUDREAU (voice-over): Hardeman says they're still doing limited environmental monitoring around the reactors, and he does feel they're safe.

(on camera): How is anybody supposed to do a long-term health study on people in Shell Bluff?

HARDEMAN: That's a good question. I don't have a good answer to it.


HARDEMAN: I really don't. I mean, you can't do that kind of study unless you've got the data to base it on. I mean, otherwise, you're just speculating as to what might be there or what might not. BOUDREAU: Well, we're leaving here with so many questions. I mean, who's watching out for these people? Where is the government accountability?

They want there to be a long-term health study, and they don't understand why no one is knocking on their door asking for blood samples or hair samples or whatever the case may be. Why no one is testing their well water. And those the kinds of things that they're hoping will happen before two new reactors are built in their community.


BOUDREAU: Now, just days after leaving Shell Bluff, we did talk to the Department of Energy about what we learned. Well, since then, the department now plans to reinstate its federal funding to the state of Georgia for independent environmental monitoring. The money will officially be designated to the superfund toxic site across the river. But depending how much funding the state gets will determine the amount of additional testing that can be done on other parts of this community.

So this is really great news.

HARRIS: Yes. Very good, Abbie.

Is there any talk of new health studies?

BOUDREAU: Yes. Actually, we talked to the chairman of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, and the agency says it's now commissioning a new national health study to reexamine the cancer risks for people living near nuclear power plants. They say that study will get started sometime in the summer.

So, again, this is really good information for the people of Shell Bluff. I mean, these are the kinds of things that they wanted answered. Hopefully their questions will get answered.

HARRIS: Good, good, good stuff. Thank you, Abbie.


HARRIS: Toyota denies wrongdoing, but agrees to pay millions to avoid a sticky situation in court.

We're back in a moment.


HARRIS: Let's get you caught up on the top stories now.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Please join me in 168 seconds of silence.

(END VIDEO CLIP) HARRIS: Oklahoma City paused today to remember the 168 people killed in the bombing of the Murrah Federal Building. This is the 15th anniversary of the worst homegrown terror attack on U.S. soil.

Toyota agreed today to pay a record $16 million fine to the Transportation Department. The government says Toyota had problems and hid those problems with the sticky accelerators for several months. Toyota says it will pay to get the matter behind it, but the company denies it broke any law.

The Supreme Court is hearing arguments today over whether a Christian college group has the right to turn away gay students. The Christian Legal Society is asking the justices to strike down a school policy that forces them to accept those students as voting members.

We will get another check of our top stories in 20 minutes.

What makes militia groups tick? Jim Acosta gets an up-close and personal look at a militia family.


HARRIS: As Americans remember the 15th anniversary of the Oklahoma City bombing today, experts say the poor economy and political climate are fueling the growth of extremists. We decided today would be a good day to look inside.

T.J. Leyden recruited for the white supremacist and neo-Nazi movements, but no more. Leyden tells the story of his journey from hate to hope in the book "Skinhead Confessions," and he joins me from Las Vegas.

T.J., it's good to see you. Thanks for your time, sir.

T.J. LEYDEN, CO-AUTHOR, "SKINHEAD CONFESSIONS": Well, thank you, sir, for inviting me.

HARRIS: So you were an active white supremacist and a neo-Nazi for 15 years. Can you tell us what led you into that life?

LEYDEN: For me, it was just a broken family, a lot of problems at home. I started hanging out in the streets. And a group of older guys found me, started mentoring me in a very negative way.

HARRIS: Del Jensen, a detective with the San Bernardino, California, Sheriff's Department, says you were more dangerous than the average gang member because you were very intelligent and had a lot of influence over youngsters.

What kind of activities were you organizing?

LEYDEN: I was organizing concerts, music festivals. I was giving them a lot of things that kids like -- video games, comic books, magazines that had a lot of, you know, pretty attractive girls in it. And it attracted a lot of the young men.

HARRIS: Why did you hate?

LEYDEN: Well, looking back on it now, I think I hated out of just ignorance. Back then, I believe I hated because I had a cause. I believed that the federal government was evil, along the same lines as Timothy McVeigh and other nationalists and extremists.

HARRIS: Why did you hate black people, Hispanic people?

LEYDEN: I hated minorities a lot of times because I didn't understand their culture, their background. And I think in a lot of ways, they were our rivals. You know, in the gang mentality, they were the enemy, along with law enforcement.

HARRIS: More than a decade ago you left that life. Can you tell us why?

LEYDEN: I left the life because I started seeing my children becoming me. You know, 15 years ago today, when Oklahoma happened, I got a phone call from one of my friends saying that my now ex-wife had an early birthday present.

When I started seeing the initial reaction of the bombing, I was kind of pleased back then. But then I started seeing the different things. I saw the picture of the firefighter holding the young child, and I had a son at that time who was only 14 months old. And that kind of, you know, was one of my wakeup calls, I would say.

HARRIS: You know, T.J., last month, nine members of a Michigan group called the Hutaree -- I know you know this story --


HARRIS: -- were arrested for plotting to kill police officers. You know, we are also seeing a lot of hate speech in public gatherings of various groups across the country. I'm not going to single anyone out here.

Can you give us some insights from your experience back in the day? What pushes these people from talking to plotting to action?

LEYDEN: I think what happens is, you get people in a lot of different fields. We just had a bunch of kids arrested -- not only the nine -- we had some kids arrested with a group called the White Wolves. Some of the members were military members. But you get the rhetoric, and you get people who end up going to -- and I'm not trying to single anybody out either -- but you get people who go to the Tea Party protests, and you get people who go to the militia gatherings, you get people to go to white supremacy gatherings, and they keep hearing the same rhetoric over and over -- the government's evil, the government's wrong, the government's overtaxing us, the government's taking everything away from us.

And then you get those people inside who say, you know what? I need to become the next George Washington, I need to become the next Thomas Jefferson, the next, you know, revolutionary. And so they feel that the only way to do it is through an arms struggle. And sometimes the gray line, when you go to these rallies, you hear that stuff about, you know, we can't vote our way out of this anymore, we have to react. And some people actually take that call to action.

HARRIS: How much of what you've just described would you say is exacerbated by the fact that we have an African-American president?

LEYDEN: I think it's a lot more exacerbated. I think the thing with President Obama being in office, I think a lot of people look at that as -- especially in the white supremacy movement -- as a slap in the face to America. And they look at it as a potential problem.

His presidency isn't going overly great. It's not going overly bad. So they're kind of in the middle. They're kind of angry at the fact that they don't know which direction to go.

HARRIS: How big a threat, in your mind, are these groups?

LEYDEN: I think they're a giant threat. I mean, today's the 15th anniversary of 168 people who were killed, over 600 who were wounded. They pose a giant threat to society.

I think they pose a threat to race relations in this country which are making great grounds. I mean, we have a biracial president.

Forty years ago in this country, you know, his mother and father could have been killed for walking down the streets in some parts of our country. Today that's not the case. I think we have a long way to go, but I think these groups are highly dangerous.

HARRIS: What can be done to sort of, in your view, fight the messages of hate that, frankly, you were a part of years and years ago but have since turned away from?

LEYDEN: Well, I go out and give lectures across the United State at colleges, military, law enforcement. I think the thing is education.

I think teaching kids when they're younger what makes them similar to each other. I think as they get older, teaching kids to embrace each other's diversity. And what makes this country great is the fact that we aren't just one group of people, that we're a collage of many people.

HARRIS: T.J. Leyden, good stuff.

LEYDEN: Thank you.

HARRIS: Thank you, sir. I enjoyed that. That was good. Thank you, sir.

Still to come, so what makes militia groups tick inside a militia family? Ahead in the NEWSROOM.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) HARRIS: Several rallies are planned today by so-called patriot groups. According to the Southern Poverty Law Center, there has been a dramatic resurgence in the patriot movement recently, and its paramilitary wings, the militias. The number of patriot groups more than tripled, from 149 in 2008 to 512 in 2009. One hundred and twenty-seven of those new groups are militias. CNN's Jim Acosta got to spend some time recently with one group in Michigan.


LEE MIRACLE, SOUTHEAST MICHIGAN VOLUNTEER MILITIA LEADER: And we only fight over the important things, baby, spinach pie.

JIM ACOSTA, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): It's dinnertime and Lee and Katrina (ph) Miracle they their hands full.

KATRINA MIRACLE: Do you want a lot of meat or a little bit?

ACOSTA: For starters, they have eight kids.

(on camera): With eight kids, you've had combat experience.

L. MIRACLE: Oh, we've had more than combat experience with the kids.

We're practicing target acquisition.

ACOSTA (voice-over): Then there's Lee's weekend hobby, leading training exercises once a month for the Southeast Michigan Volunteer Militia.

L. MIRACLE: Yes, that would be Lee and Kate plus eight plus a gun rack, I guess, I don't know, you know.

Thank you, Emily (ph).

ACOSTA (on camera): Are you normal guys?

L. MIRACLE: Yes. Absolutely. I mean we don't have barbed wire or barricades or gun emplacements around the house. I mean we're normal people.

I love that sound.

ACOSTA (voice-over): For the Miracle family, normal includes keeping more than 20 guns in the house. Not all of them under lock and key.

(on camera): And this is one out of how many in the house?

L. MIRACLE: Twenty-two, I think.

ACOSTA (voice-over): And they bring their children, like Megan (ph), on militia outings.

(on camera): And they use the weapons? They use the firearms? L. MIRACLE: Yes. Yes.

K. MIRACLE: They have -- sure, they've all shot, from the youngest to the oldest.

ACOSTA (voice-over): Even Morgana (ph).

K. MIRACLE: I do want to point out, though, that she's not using it by herself. She's being highly supervised.

ACOSTA (on camera): Are you raising them to be in the militia?

L. MIRACLE: No, that's their -- that's their choice. Megan, of course, is -- she's already in, as far as I'm concerned.

ACOSTA (voice-over): The Miracle family is out to show there's more to the militia than what critics see gun-toting extremists venting their frustrations at the government. From Lee's YouTube page

L. MIRACLE: When you hear a story about the militia in the media, this is probably the image that you get, a crazy guy with camouflage on, in a wacky helmet holding a rifle. I'm here to show you a different picture.

ACOSTA: To his job as a postal worker.

(on camera): Is there a little irony in that, being in a militia and working for the federal government?

L. MIRACLE: Not at all.

ACOSTA (voice-over): But this self-described, happy warrior admits he's angry at the government, suspicious of the Obama administration's stance on gun rights and even opposed to health care reform, which he deems unconstitutional.

L. MIRACLE: But I'm really angry when 300 million other people are not as angry as I am. So I blame a lot of -- a lot of my anger is directed at America as a whole, because they are letting this happen.

ACOSTA: Lee Miracle believes a well-armed population is the best defense against government excess.

L. MIRACLE: What's one good thing about today?

ACOSTA: Growing up in a militia may not be everybody's idea of the all-American family. But it is to them.

K. MIRACLE: So, what do you want for dinner tomorrow?

L. MIRACLE: Maybe some taco salad or something.


(COMMERCIAL BREAK) HARRIS: A slice of country life in the big city. A New York man is raising chickens. CNN photo journalist Jonathan O'Beirne shows us today's "Green Solutions in Focus."


DECLAN WALSH, RED HOOK POULTRY ASSOCIATION: When we first started doing this, it was a result of me lying to my son. Somewhere along the line I had said to Shamus (ph) that I would get chickens. But we were at a bed and breakfast in Pennsylvania in the Amish country. As the farmer was serving us breakfast my son said, oh, dad, is this where we're getting the chickens? And I just looked at the farmer and he looked at me and he said, well, do you want some chickens. So we ended up driving home from Lancaster, Pennsylvania, with four Rhode Island Reds and this barn wood, which we made a chicken coup out of.

Right here in sort of industrial Brooklyn, we have this little farm system going. All of the scraps from our kitchen table get recycled. So we have no food waste. We don't feed them chicken, but we feed them a little beef. They love everything. They love Thai food. They love noodles. They're sort of our backyard composters. We get an egg out of it.

They poop. It goes into this -- it mixes in with the hay and it decomposes. And then I dig this out once or twice a year and bring it to our neighborhood farm that they put the poop in the compost. There they put on the land and we buy our food from them.

The hardest thing about taking care of chickens is setting up the coup. It's just sort of securing the space, because chickens, they know what to do. There's no training. There's no nothing. You just -- you put the chickens out, they know. You eat and you lay and you sleep.

I'll hold up my eggs against any organic egg just because like I know exactly what they've eaten. They're not just getting an organic feed. They're getting real food.

The color of the yolk is so rich. It's like this deep orange. And that's all just a factor of what they eat. You're eating an egg right out of the backyard. It's not been on a truck. It's not had to be shipped. It's just -- it's right there. It's really satisfying.

My kids, they have a real appreciation for what they eat. And, you know, picking up your chicken on a Styrofoam plate or, you know, telling your kid it's like, oh, it's an organic and it's from here. But to see it and eat it is -- it gives you a whole new appreciation, you know. You don't have to have loads of land. You don't have to have, you know, loads of money to have like, you know, your little gentlemen (ph) farmers farm. You can have a few chickens in your backyard and you can go out and just get it. It's really cool.


HARRIS: That is kind of cool. In observation of Earth Day, CNN photo journalists are looking at solutions to environmental issues and the people who are trying to make a difference before it's too late. The award-winning "In Focus" team tells the stories of these people and the impact they're having in their neighborhood and beyond. Watch it unfold on "Green Solutions in Focus" Saturday, April 24th, at 3:00 p.m. Eastern.


HARRIS: All right, checking top stories for you now.

Two major al Qaeda operatives have been killed in Iraq. They were killed during a joint Iraqi/American operation north of Baghdad. One is the leader of al Qaeda in Iraq. The other heads a larger group called the Islamic State of Iraq.

The volcano ash cloud closing European air space is not as dense today. Some British airports will reopen tomorrow. Meantime, Britain is sending navy ships to pick up stranded British citizens. Eurostar is adding 80,000 seats to its Paris to London train route.

CNN's Tom Foreman has been on the road finding those communities that are not only coping but building up America in these challenging economic times. Today, Tom is joining us from the land of the Wizard of Oz -- Tom.


I am here in Wichita, in Kansas, which is the geographic center of the United States. But more than that, you could say right now that it's an economic center, too. Yes, they've been hit hard by the recession here, but they are relying on the same things they have always relied on to build up again and it's working.


FOREMAN (voice-over): Out at the tourist attraction called Old Cowtown, amid the canon and guns, Kansans are reenacting some of the battles from their state's historic past. But their present struggle is for the future.

(on camera): Do you see a lot of people around here worrying about the economy right now?


GREGORY HUNT, OLD COWTOWN MUSEUM: Yes. My friends, some of them, don't know where their next check is coming from.

HUNT: I'm in the automotive industry, and we've seen a big downturn and everybody's worried about it.

FOREMAN (voice-over): Worried, but like that famous Kansan Dorothy in "The Wizard of Oz," not sitting still. Smack in the middle of the country, Kansas has historically rolled out wheat, cattle, transportation and aviation products worth billions. NOAH WRIGHT, OZ WINERY: Yellow Brick Road. It's a blend of Chardonnay and Vinyo (ph).

FOREMAN: So to build up, many here have turned to past success for inspiration, and a competitive edge. That's what Noah Wright did.

WRIGHT: Kansas, before prohibition, was the third largest grape producing state in the nation.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: This wine is not to sweet, not to dry.

FOREMAN: Just three years ago, he had an idea to combine the state's little-known wine-making past, with its fame as Dorothy's home. And Oz Winery has been booming ever since, despite the recession.

WRIGHT: Since we've opened, we've grown every year. And we don't know if we'd be ten times more than that, or if we would just be the same level, you know. We just don't know if it's affecting us yet. We have no way to tell.

FOREMAN: Such efforts by thousands of small businesses have helped produce an unemployment rate well below the national average. A housing market on the rebound and a population, of not entirely upbeat, at least hopeful.

(on camera): That classic American tune, "Home on the Range," was written in Kansas almost 140 years ago. And since that time, it's become a lot more than just the state song. For many people here, it is a measure of commitment. Their commitment to always build up whenever times turn down.

DINA BISNETTE, SMALL BUSINESS OWNER: The people here still had the same mentality. Whatever happens to us, we're going to manage. We're going to make do.


FOREMAN: And I can tell you, the skies are not cloudy here today. And they certainly aren't in those little towns like Wamego, where Oz Winery was, or in Topeka, or here in Wichita, or in so many others where they are finding that despite these hard times, they really can build up again -- Tony.

HARRIS: Oh, thank you, Tom. Tom Foreman for us.

Don't mess with the Second Amendment. Supporters of gun rights send that message to government today. We will go live to their rally in Washington.


HARRIS: You know, they are standing up today for gun rights at a rally on the Washington Mall. Homeland Security correspondent Jeanne Meserve is there. And, Jeanne, we've been listening a little bit in the break here. It sounds like there's a party forming there. But the truth is, these folks who have gathered there on the mall come to Washington with a pretty serious message.

JEANNE MESERVE, CNN HOMELAND SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: They are, Tony. And probably the emotional spike of this rally took place a couple of minutes ago when the head of a group called the Oath Keepers, Stuart Rhodes, stood up and he got the hundreds of people who are here, most of them to stand up, raise their hands and swear to support and defend the Constitution of the United States, so help me God.

Now, the Oath Keepers is hoping to get many active duty members of the military and members of police forces to take their pledge and refuse to take orders, which he foresees as being unconstitutional. Those would be to disarm Americans and to hold Americans in any sort of dissension. They would refuse orders to impose martial law. Things of that (INAUDIBLE).

But the principle message here today is one about gun control. People here are very upset that their Second Amendment rights are being compromised. Here's a bit of the rhetoric we've heard from the stage.


ERICH "MANCOW" MULLER, RADIO PERSONALITY: Our right to have a gun doesn't come from Barack Obama, it comes from God. We have a right to protect our family. If you want to break into my house, you're not going to hear me calling 911, you're going to hear me chambering a round.

DICK HELLER, SECOND AMENDMENT ACTIVIST: Take Hitler. He said governments are fools that let their people have guns. Hitler wanted total power. Are we going to be disarmed? No! Do we want another Hitler? No! What do we want? Freedom!


MESERVE: Today is, of course, the anniversary of the Oklahoma City bombing. The people here say that has absolutely nothing to do with why they're here. They say they're here because this is Patriots Day. They believe they represent the true revolutionary spirit.

Tony, back to you.

HARRIS: All right, Jeanne Meserve for us from the Washington Mall. Jeanne, appreciate it. Thank you.

It was once the gold standard on Wall Street. Now, Goldman Sachs is facing a possible huge financial penalty. We are talking it over with Christine Romans. That's next, right here in the CNN NEWSROOM.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) HARRIS: I was just checking the headline story there at And I've got to tell you something. It says "Wall Street -- where -- I don't have any glasses. The font's too small. "Wall Street reform: Senate Duel Set." Boy, we are set up for a really tough fight here over financial reform in the Senate. And, of course, we'll follow that pretty closely with our Money team. Christine Romans is coming up in just a second right here in the CNN NEWSROOM.

As we get to the New York Stock Exchange and the Dow, you'll see that we're trading in negative territory. We're back and forth with the Dow. Mostly down. And we're pretty much flat to negative right now. But the Nasdaq is taking a bit of a beating today. Down 21 points. We'll keep an eye on these numbers throughout the day for you.

You know, first, Goldman Sachs came under fire over bailout money and big bonuses. Now the Wall Street investment bank faces fraud charges stemming from subprime mortgages. We all remember the mortgage meltdown that ignited the financial crisis. Where is Christine? She's joining us from New York now with more on the charges against


HARRIS: Good to see you, Christine.

Hey, where do you want to start here? Do you want to help us put the charges in some kind of context?


HARRIS: Explain them and then maybe what Goldman is saying?

ROMANS: And I want to introduce you to the players here.

HARRIS: Great. Great.

ROMANS: So, of course, let's talk about the siblies (ph) if we can. The players. John Paulson, Paulson & Company. A billionaire hedge fund. This guy is number 45 on the Forbes billionaire list. He was sure that these risky mortgages in the housing market was going to tank. He went to Goldman and said, let's find a vehicle that I can invest against, that I can short, so I can make money on what I think is going to be the coming collapse of this industry. He made $1 billion in profit from this transaction. He helped hand-pick, according to the SEC, some of the bad mortgages that were in this vehicle.

Now, there's Goldman Sachs. They are the folks who stood in the middle and didn't reveal Paulson's conflicted interest to the investors who ultimately bought it. In this lawsuit, it names a Goldman Sachs vice president, Fabrice Tourre, who in one e-mail called himself the fabulous fab. It's some really interesting reading.

HARRIS: Yes. ROMANS: Goldman made $15 million in fees for helping develop this investment vehicle, that it then sold to these investors. And these investors are the people who ended up losing $1 billion on it.

Goldman, though, in its own defense, interestingly, Tony, says it also lost $90 million on the investment. Although we don't know many of the details of how or why it lost that money.

But those are essentially the three players, the three people who are at the center of this -- people, if you will, at the center of this SEC fraud charge against Goldman Sachs, Tony.

HARRIS: Boy, you know, I don't have time, but I want to know, why when Paulson goes to Goldman and says, I want to work with you guys on putting together a portfolio that I will then bet against, why Goldman says, OK, we'll play that game with you. But I don't have time. So let's do it tomorrow. Are you back tomorrow?

ROMANS: OK. I'm back tomorrow. And I want to make -- I want to make a quick point, that the SEC has not charged Paulson with anything.


ROMANS: Just Goldman Sachs. Paulson is not charged with misleading anybody. Goldman Sachs is charged with misleading the investors. Just make that clear.

HARRIS: Boy, you seem pretty clear here about what he was trying to do here.

All right, Christina, appreciate it. Thank you.


HARRIS: Got to tell you, 15 years ago today, the worst home-grown terror attack on U.S. soil destroyed hundreds of lives. A teenage survivor of the Oklahoma City bombing tells her story.


HARRIS: Remembering the worst home-grown terror attack on U.S. soil 15 years ago today. The front page of "The Dallas Morning News" summed up the Oklahoma City bombing in one word, there it is, "Terror." More than two weeks later, the search ends, 164 bodies found. The actual death toll, 168. And these were images from today's memorial ceremony in Oklahoma City. Friends and family of victims gathered to remember. Now, here in her own words, from one of the survivors.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We mentioned to you earlier, the little girl who we had not been able to connected her with her parents, we understand the little girl's name is Rebecca.

REBECCA DENNY, OKLAHOMA CITY BOMBING SURVIVOR: They had to do surgery on my face. And I had 240 stitches in my face.

My name is Rebecca Denny. I'm 17 years old. And I survived the Oklahoma City bombing.

Every day, because of my brother, I'm reminded constantly of what happened 15 years ago.

My family was split apart for almost a year due to Braden's (ph) injuries which needed therapy and treatment out of state.

I really want people to understand that when you go through something