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When and How Organic Food Is Worth It; Turnout and Message in "Waiting For Superman"; CNN Political Ticker

Aired September 27, 2010 - 10:00   ET


KYRA PHILLIPS, CNN ANCHOR: It is the top of the hour, and the leader of one of the nation's most influential black mega churches says that he's ready to fight against allegations that he preyed on four young men, using his influence to force them into sexual relationships. Eddie Long stood at the pulpit during Sunday services, defending himself in front of thousands of cheering parishioners at Georgia's New Birth Missionary Baptist Church.


BISHOP EDDIE LONG, NEW BIRTH BAPTIST CHURCH: As I said earlier, I am not a perfect man. But this thing, I'm going to fight.

And I want you to know one other thing. I feel like David against Goliath, but I got five rocks and I haven't thrown one yet.


PHILLIPS: Now, that was the first time that Long spoke publicly about the accusations filed last week.

Martin Savidge has been digging a little deeper into Long's background, and what did you make of yesterday's sermon?

MARTIN SAVIDGE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, by all admissions, especially by Bishop Eddie Long, he said last week has been the most difficult week he has ever had to face in his entire life. And, actually, for many of the members of his congregation, that was true for them as well, which is why they were so anxious to hear what their pastor had to say.


SAVIDGE (voice-over): Standing before an overflowing crowd of congregants in the mega church he built, Bishop Eddie Long was in no mood to back down.

LONG: There have been allegations and attacks made on me.

I have never in my life portrayed myself as a perfect man, but I am not the man that's being portrayed on the television. That's not me. That is not me.

SAVIDGE: It was Long's first public comments since four young men filed lawsuits, accusing him of using his spiritual position and the church's wealth to coerce them into sex.

So many came to hear what Long had to say, traffic was still snarled as the service began.

SAVIDGE (on camera): What do you hope to hear today?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The truth. The truth.

SAVIDGE (voice-over): Inside, parishioners waited an hour for their embattled pastor to appear. When he finally did, walking hand- in-hand with his wife, the crowd came to its feet. Clearly feeling at home, Long acknowledged those listening went far beyond his usual Sunday morning crowd.

LONG: Good morning, New Birth.

CONGREGANTS: Good morning.

LONG: And good morning to all our other guests.

SAVIDGE: When Long eventually turned to the scandal itself, the levity was gone.

LONG: I've been accused. I'm under attack.

SAVIDGE: And his intentions became clear, describing a legal battle of biblical proportions.

LONG: I am not a perfect man. But this thing, I'm going to fight.

And I want you to know one other thing. I feel like David against Goliath, but I got five rocks, and I haven't thrown one yet.


SAVIDGE: Interesting analogy, to be considering himself David.

One of the things we did was immediately after the service, go out and talk to parishioners as they were leaving. A lot of them believed exactly what he said. They do believe that their bishop is innocent, even though he did not use those exact words.

There were others, though, who said because he did not make a specific denial, that they weren't quite sure what to think -- Kyra.

PHILLIPS: All right. Marty, thanks.

Well, Eddie Long's scope of influence touches tens of thousands of people, but it's been a two-decade climb to reach the status of religious power house. In 1987, his congregation was just a few hundred strong. Now, there are more than 25,000 members.

They listen to Bishop Long preach that God wants people to be wealthy, that men are the spiritual bedrock of the family, and that homosexuality is unaccepted. Well, my next guest disagrees.


REV. CARLTON PEARSON, SENIOR MINISTER, CHRIST UNIVERSAL TEMPLE: You know when you're a true shepherd. You have the holy, righteous indignation rises up inside of you.


PHILLIPS: Well, the Bishop Carlton Pearson is a pioneering black televangelist and a close friend of Eddie Long's, but he lost a lot of his flock when he began preaching that everyone has a place in heaven, including gay people. The bishop joins me here, live in the studio.

Good to see you.

PEARSON: Thank you, Kyra.

PHILLIPS: Such circumstances, though, for you to be here.

PEARSON: Tenuous. Yes.

PHILLIPS: You know, maybe -- maybe just -- I'll start with why did you change your philosophy? Why did you go out on a limb and say gays are accepted in heaven, something that the black church disagrees with?

PEARSON: Well, not only the black church, the Church disagrees with is, and my gay friends and I have several -- over the years, were some of the most sensitive, loving, creative, ingenious, generous people. Some are members of my family.

I got tired of sending them to hell, but it was the hell issue. They're going through it now, but these brilliant human beings, spending eternity in a customized torture chamber, you know, it was like it messed with my theology and my heart.

And so, I started preaching the Gospel of inclusion, saying that Hindus, Muslim, Jews -- everybody has access to the grace of the God we preach, and that not only a few Christians were going to heaven, and that's what got me in trouble with Church. They -- the devotion to the devil and hell is stronger -- or as strong as anybody's devotion to Jesus in many of the Christian circles.

PHILLIPS: We're going to talk more about that in a -- in a minute, OK? And why thi sis such a taboo subject within -- within the black church, specifically.

But Eddie Long, you're very good friends. He sought your advice. He sought your counsel a number of times. Did he reach out to you when all of this started happening?

PEARSON: We -- we reached -- I reached out to him. A couple of years ago, we had -- he embraced me. When he knew that I had been sort of castigated from the Church, he walked up to me in Vegas at the Trumpet Awards and just embraced me and said, "Bishop, we didn't do you right."


PEARSON: Now, that was very powerful expression from him because no one else had said it that way. I --

PHILLIPS: Interesting, for someone who's been very vocal about homosexuality and -- and that it's not accepted and he's against gay marriage. So he came at -- he came to you and said, "We didn't do you right."


PHILLIPS: When you came out and said I accept lesbian/gay/bisexual/transgender.

PEARSON: Absolutely. I think, in his heart, he does accept them. I think in all of our hearts. It's not kosher, if I can use that terminology, to accept them because people like Ted Haggard.

Ted couldn't have gotten where Ted got. He couldn't have grown, gone where he went in our Christian evangelical fundamentalist movement if he was gay. So, he went as far as he would, and then they said, oh, no, you don't qualify any longer. He's still Ted. I know him (INAUDIBLE). The kid was on my -- my college wing at ORU.

It grieves me that we -- we treat people the way we do once we find out that they stop impersonating who they -- who they aren't. And the imposters are falling away.

What would we do if Eddie Long really was involved in these relationships? And then, what do we do? Do we throw him away? Do we -- do we castigate him? He's a prince of a preacher. He's really a prince of a person. He's a generous spirit. He's an incredible worker in the city.

Infidelity, adultery, that's a whole another subject. But, if he did this, the question is what would we do?

The people rejoiced Sunday because he didn't admit to anything. They didn't want him to.

PHILLIPS: But that's what's interesting -- he didn't admit to anything. There is a possibility. He said, I am not a perfect man, but he did not come up to the pulpit and say, I -- I am not gay. He didn't say those words. He didn't say these fears, these concerns that are coming forward, this talk about me specifically -- it was vague.

So, what -- I mean -- and -- and, of course, these are all allegations at this point. What if he does come forward, Bishop, and say, I told you I wasn't a perfect man and I've been -- I have been struggling with -- with this issue, and he does say that he's gay.

What if this story changes? How will you deal with that? Will you accept him? Will you embrace him? How would you counsel him as his friend?

PEARSON: Well, I would put my arms around him, like he did me, and say, we will do you right.

The Scripture says if a brother or person is overtaken or taken over by a fault -- some tends to translate they sin -- you who are spiritual, not you who are critical, or you who are religious, restore. The word "katartizo" in Greek, means to repair, to adjust.

If that's his case and he's been saying otherwise and he's dealing with inner issues, usually the people that speak the most vociferously against something are dealing with it in their own life. The one that's railing against drugs or drinking or sex or whatever, they're dealing --

And it's not the issue of homosexuality, it's the issue of human sexuality. How do we deal with our sexual side, our sensual side, our spiritual side? They -- because they inter -- they interplay. They interact.

So, it's -- it's wrong for -- I'm not for Christian cannibalism, eating our dead or dying, destroying them the way we do so many people. We should -- he should have been able to -- in fact, before this got into the media and even to the courts, I wish the young men would have come to some of the apostles around the minister and confronted the bishop and said, let's deal with this. And then, if he didn't, take it out to the courts.

I wish we could gather round, and we will. If -- if we find out this about -- that these allegations are true, those who really love the Church and love bishop will gather around him (INAUDIBLE) to embrace him and to let him talk to us. Who could he have spoken to if that was really his issue? What could he have said?

PHILLIPS: You've talked about this as well, the issue of being a black gay man, especially in the Church. And a -- and a man within ministry, gospel music. There have been allegations that have come forward, there have been individuals that have come forward and said, I'm gay and have been completely shut out of the black church because of that.


PHILLIPS: Why is it -- why is it so unacceptable to be a black man and to be gay and to -- and to lead a flock? Why is it so taboo?

PEARSON: Well, first of all --

PHILLIPS: It's not just biblical. I mean, there's a cultural feeling here.

PEARSON: Of course. Yes. That's for white folks. Y'all are supposed to do, when in comes to that (ph). We don't do that kind of stuff. We -- we real men.

That's -- I said that in jest, but that's the underlying -- PHILLIPS: No, but that's interesting. That's what's going on.

PEARSON: Yes. That's we don't do weird stuff.

Now, the other hypocritical aspect of that is our churches, Kyra, are filled with same gender loving people, from the -- from the music department to the pulpits. Black music, church music, where would it be without our same gender loving or gay musicians and singers? Not all of them are.

PHILLIPS: But many have come to you and said, I'm gay, but I can't come out.

PEARSON: Oh, yes. Oh yes.

PHILLIPS: And we're talking very powerful people in the gospel industry.

PEARSON: Yes, ma'am.

PHILLIPS: I've met them.

PEARSON: Yes, ma'am. With tears in their eyes, they were afraid.

There are people who've come to me and say, I embraced your gospel of inclusion, Bishop, but I can't -- it's not a theological issue with me. It's a business decision. I'll lose my flock. I'll lose my money. I'll lose my parishioners (ph). I'll lose myself. I can't love everybody. I can't even love me, he would say.

And I want to -- and I want to say to that group -- and this is a wake-up call. Until the Church -- the Church, black or otherwise -- confronts -- not combats -- confronts this issue of human sexuality and homosexuality, which is not going away. Homosexuals and homosexuality is not going away. If every gay person in our church just left or those who have an orientation or preference or an inclination, or a fantasy, if everyone left, we wouldn't have -- we wouldn't have a church.

PHILLIPS: This is -- yes. It's interesting.

PEARSON: Yes. There are gay doctors, police officers, attorneys, priest (ph). Look at the whole Catholic Church. All this idea of celibacy. It's not even natural, but it's out. It's like the Christian Church is having to confront its issues, its -- its platonic, plastic, superficial portrayals of an angry God, a vicious God, an eternal place where everybody's going to burn and this God with this terrible anger management problem who's going to get you and then He's going to turn you over to the devil, who's going to accuse you to Him.

And it's just -- it's fairy tale stuff. But we bought into it, and now we're having to face the fact that maybe we missed it on many of these issues. PHILLIPS: Well, this has definitely caught international attention. And he's a very powerful man, a very powerful man of God, and he's brought up an issue --


PHILLIPS: -- that has been simmering for a very long time. And -- and, I tell you, as this story continues -- because we know it's not going away -- can we continue this dialogue? And I would --

PEARSON: Absolutely.

PHILLIPS: -- love to talk to you more as you counsel Bishop Eddie Long. And let's talk more about this.

PEARSON: Let me just tell you, Bishop Eddie Long is just the tip of the iceberg. I think the universe is not judging, but correcting itself, and we're having to confront these issues.

I love Bishop Long. I love anybody out there hurting, and I'll be here for them. And I love your tenderness in dealing with this. It's a delicate subject. I'm trying to be as discreet and tactful as I can, but it's an issue that's not going to go away. We got to deal with it. It's here for our health (ph).

PHILLIPS: Well, I --I respect very much what you've preached, so I look forward to talking to you more about this.

PEARSON: My pleasure.

PHILLIPS: Bishop, thank you so much.

PEARSON: Thank you, Kyra.

PHILLIPS: All right.

PEARSON: Thank you, CNN.

PHILLIPS: Quick break. More from the CNN NEWSROOM, straight ahead.


PHILLIPS: Well, as the nation focuses on how to improve health care, one of the reoccurring themes has been that patients need to take more control.

Our senior medical correspondent Elizabeth Cohen has a special this weekend called "The Empowered Patient" and I'm sure by now you've bought her book, too. She joins us now with the first of four powerful lessons to save your life and the lives of those you love.

And that's big section in your book, "Empowered Patient", is what we need to do to be proactive for our kids.

ELIZABETH COHEN, CNN SENIOR MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: That's right, and we're going to be talking about this on your show all week, and then we have the special this weekend.

The first story we're going to tell you is a parent's nightmare. You know that your child is seriously ill, but when you get to the hospital, they don't take you seriously. They say your child is fine. What do you do?

Well, an Ohio family faced that question, and we're going to tell their story with the help of the animation folks at Turner Studios. They're going to help us explain what to do when you know in your heart that you're right.


E. COHEN (voice-over): One spring evening, Don McCracken was playing ball with his kids in the front yard. He meant to hit a fly ball to his son, Matthew, but instead, it socked his 7-year-old daughter, Morgan, on the head. She knelt to the ground in pain.

Morgan had quite a bump on her head. Her parents iced it down and she seemed fine.

Two nights later, something changed.


E. COHEN (on camera): Tell me what you heard.

C. MCCRACKEN: She's, "My head. It's hurting. She was holding it, saying, "My head's hurting. My head's hurting.

E. COHEN (voice-over): The McCrackens rushed Morgan to the emergency room.

E. COHEN (on camera): When the doctor showed up, what did he say?

C. MCCRACKEN: I'm sorry (ph). It's late. She's tired. She probably has a touch of the flu.

E. COHEN (voice-over): Connie and Don say the doctor told them to take Morgan home and put her to bed, but they knew better. Their instincts told them this was no flu virus. They pushed the doctor for a CT scan of Morgan's brain.

E. COHEN (on camera): What did you think the results of that CAT scan were going to be?

C. MCCRACKEN: There was something definitely wrong. You feel it in your gut.

DON MCCRACKEN, MORGAN'S FATHER: In my heart, I thought I knew there was a problem.

C. MCCRACKEN: They came back and said, "I was surprised." He says, "I'm surprised. There's something there."

D. MCCRACKEN: There was a leakage of blood into her skull.

E. COHEN (voice-over): Medics rushed Morgan by helicopter to nearby Rainbow Babies and Children's Hospital in Cleveland, Ohio.

DR. ALAN COHEN, RAINBOW BABIES AND CHILDREN'S HOSPITAL: This is a big blot clot inside the skull, outside the brain called an epidural hematoma. That's what we had to remove to take out the blood clot and stop the bleeding.

E. COHEN: Today, Morgan's just fine.

E. COHEN (on camera): Do you feel like a lucky girl?


E. COHEN (voice-over): Lucky because her parents followed their instincts.

E. COHEN (on camera): In the emergency room, the doctor said she had a virus and she just needed to get some rest. If you had listened to that advice and brought her home to go to bed and rest, what would have happened?

D. MCCRACKEN: She probably wouldn't have woken up the next morning, and we would have lost her.


PHILLIPS: I'm telling you. I mean, it is such a -- a lesson for all of us to learn, not only as parents, but even just our spouses or friends that we really are our best advocates.

E. COHEN: That's right. You know your body better than anyone else. Or, as the doctor in this piece say, we always teach our medical students, mother knows best. And you have to keep that in mind.

And, you know, you have to keep in mind also, Kyra, that medicine is more of an art than a science. So that there's not -- there's no -- often, there's no science behind what doctors say. You know, they use their best judgment and all of that, but, in the end, if you feel like something's not quite right, you have to speak up.

PHILLIPS: So -- so how do you convince your, though, that your doctor's wrong? Because, a lot of times, they -- you have to really fight for, no, I want this.

E. COHEN: Right. In this situation that this family was in, there are two things that they -- that they did that were very smart. One is they said to the doctor, you know, we are nervous that there -- that this is something more serious. It would be terrible if this were more serious than you think it is, and that made him hopefully nervous enough that -- that he then went ahead and did the CT scan.

The other thing that you can do is you can ask one simple question, and that is, Doctor, what else could this be? If the doctor says it's something and you think it's something else, ask if that something else is a possibility. It may make them pause and rejigger their thinking and wonder if maybe they've reached that conclusion too quickly.

PHILLIPS: Elizabeth, thanks.

E. COHEN: Thanks.

PHILLIPS: And, another reminder, "Taking Control of Your Health" (INAUDIBLE) with CNN senior medical correspondent Elizabeth Cohen. It airs this Saturday and Sunday, 7:00 P.M. Eastern, right here on CNN.


PHILLIPS: Airline mergers have really been taking off the past few years. First, it was Delta and Northwest, then Continental and United. And today, Southwest Airlines says it's buying AirTran.

Alison Kosik of the New York Stock Exchange. So less competition often means higher prices, right?

ALISON KOSIK, CNN BUSINESS CORRESPONDENT: Well, you know, it depends who you ask, Kyra, because fares have been on the rise this year. Some analysts actually expect them to keep going up. For one, it's because oil prices are still high and oil prices are expected to keep going higher as the economy recovers, as it improves and there's more demand for oil. Also, airlines are trying to make up for a slowdown in air travel, which is why you're also seeing those higher fares.

But, you know, the other side of the coin, others say the deal could wind up putting pressure on those mainline carriers to cut their prices. You know, since the recession, discounters have really become major players in the airline biz and Southwest carries more travelers than any other U.S. airline, so it really could become the trend setter.

Here's what we do know, though, Kyra. The deal will mean fewer fees. Southwest currently doesn't charge for your first two checked bags. AirTran does charge for that first checked bag, so we'll see how those fees pan out. After the deal closes, Southwest fee structure will take over. At least, that's what we know right now -- Kyra.

PHILLIPS: All right, so -- all right, so when can we expect to -- to see the changes permanently?

KOSIK: And the carriers will operate separately until the deal closes next -- next year, so you may not see anything really change until next year.

And Wall Street, of course, is cheering this deal today. They liked mergers -- mergers news. It's really good for the economy.

Right now, shares of AirTran are up 60 percent because shareholders are getting a big premium over Friday's closing price. Southwest shares right now are up about four percent. And the deal looks to boost Southwest earnings as well, so we'll see how they come out as well.

As for the Dow Industrial, they've been on a tear lately. Right now, though, they're kind of taking a pause. The Dow Industrial down about 18, the NASDAQ off about six, and the S&P off about two -- Kyra.

PHILLIPS: All right. Thanks so much, Alison.

KOSIK: Sure.

PHILLIPS: Well, if you're digging into breakfast, is your cereal organic or not? How about your fruits and vegetables? And those eggs?

Well, guess what? We've got a chef in the studio, telling us about the difference in price, taste and more as we kick off our long focus on food this week.


PHILLIPS: CNN has taken a cross-country food journey all this week. We've sent reporting teams to every corner of America and beyond. And our mission is to get fresh answers about how our food is grown. How the choices we make impact our health, and our state of mind, and of course, our budgets and we just love talking about the pure joy of eating as well.

We've teamed up with the new food destination, to bring you "Eatocracy: Mind, Body and Wallet." In this hour, we're focusing on the organic food boom. People are willing to pay a premium for those little stickers that say USDA organic.

Well, chew on this. Back in 1990, Americans spent a billion dollars on organic foods. Fast forward almost two decades, we've spent nearly 25 times that much. But buying organic is not cheap. We actually went to and checked prices in the L.A. area. Taking a look at basic stuff like milk, ground beef, juice and eggs, and we only put six products in our imaginary grocery chart. And the difference in price between organic and not is upwards of $12.

We really want to know if it's worth it. So, we brought in one of our local chefs, Joe Truex. He works at the Watershed Restaurant in Decatur, Georgia, which serves only fresh, organic dishes made from locally grown ingredients. So Joe, what made you want to work specifically with organic food?

JOE TRUEX, CHEF, WATERSHED RESTAURANT: Well, you know, quite frankly, it's just, in Watershed's case, it's simply a - it's their modus operandi. And being from the country myself, growing up in a small rural town in Louisiana, very close to the source is something I'm used to.

So, it's just - I can tell you, in my 26 years of cooking in the culinary field, all fine restaurants and quality establishments do this. It seems like (INAUDIBLE) formed a table and really, it's standard operating procedure for restaurants of good reputation.

PHILLIPS: I like at what you brought in. I'm seeing onions, carrots, what is this? Is this squash?

TRUEX: A zucchini.

PHILLIPS: Zucchini.


PHILLIPS: Can you tell I don't know it very well?

TRUEX: It is a squash, you're right.

PHILLIPS: Oh, OK, good - because I'm looking at it and I'm like, is that a cucumber? Is that a squash?

And, when it comes to this specific, food, you can't really tell the difference except I guess maybe in size --

TRUEX: And at the cash register.

PHILLIPS: And at the cash register, of course. So, is one better than the other? Let's just start with what you have here. And then I'm going to ask you about everything else.

TRUEX: I wanted to do something that most people -- I went to a grocery store chain and bought some organic products from there and some conventionally formed products just to kind of show really, there are some distinctions, although they look like there's not.

For example, the garlic, the organic garlic as opposed to conventionally formed garlic. Obviously, the size the different. And reason being, with conventionally formed produce, because of the fertilizer treatments and the hybrids of varieties, they get bigger. And probably a quick amount of time. Also, the same holds true for onions.


TRUEX: And the reason for this, a lot of the nonconventional forming - or conventional forming, rather -- came about to combat famine. But now, we live in a day and age where we're not starving to death., at least in this country. So, we need look at these practices to see if it's sustainable for the earth and good for our health.

PHILLIPS: Well, and that's my question, OK? Let's say we took the onions and carrots. What you have here specifically. Am I -- is it worth paying more for the organic, for these specific items?

TRUEX: Well, that's a very good question. My answer to that would have to be, well, if you can afford it, yes. And if you can't, well, no. Obviously, people need to feed families, and if you're going to take the time to cook for your family -- which is a whole new thing, too, because we have so many busy lives. If you're going to actually take the time to cook -- you know, when I go to the stores, I often see people pulling out quarters and nickels at the cash register, so obviously, it strikes me as some people - they're on fixed budget. So, it might not be practical for them to buy organic always.

PHILLIPS: Are there foods that you would say, it doesn't matter if you go organic or not? Like for example, bananas that you peel, or an avocado where you take the -- would you -- could you safely say, that is definitely not worth paying for more?

TRUEX: Well, no, but conversely, I will say that there are some things I would never deal down on.

PHILLIPS: OK. And that would be?

TRUEX: Well, you know, certain humane practices when it comes to raising animals. It's very important to me, and I think it's great that the care that of the animal's life and how it was raised is very much important, and it translates into the final product as well. But it's something that I always look for.

PHILLIPS: But say for example a drink, like a so-called healthy drink and it says organic on it. I look at some of these, it's high in sugar, high in salt. I read the ingredients and I'm sitting there, thinking, "OK, it says organic so you automatically think it's more healthy," but it's not more healthy.

TRUEX: There in lies the rub, I think. I know a lot of farmers who aren't certified organic, but they practice organic farming. They just can't afford the organic certification. And again, what exactly is that? Does it vary? Is the USDA organic has certain guidelines that one must meet, and can that be modified to get a label on something, or can people, you know?

So, you're right. If I see an energy drink that says organic, I'd probably be skeptical of that. I wouldn't associate beverages - you know, something you (INAUDIBLE) in a can as organic.

PHILLIPS: So, final question then. If I were to go into the grocery store and I really want to be healthy and I think organic's the way to go. Is there like, one or two things I should always have in my mind, if I'm weighing, OK, could this be worth it or not?

TRUEX: When it comes to vegetables, let your eyes and your instincts guide you. You know, just because it says organic, if it's kind of limpid and hanging out there, and you've got something that looks fresh and alive, go for that one -

PHILLIPS: A little obvious.

TRUEX: A little obvious. You know, just -- you have to live within your means. I think that's a resounding theme that we should all practice. Whether it's how you choose your vegetables or finanicial -- how you run your finances.

PHILLIPS: Got it. Joe Truex. The restaurant is Watershed. It's in Decatur, Georgia. If you haven't been there, fly in and come visit it.

And you've been there five months now.


PHILLIPS: -- changed that menu around, yes?

TRUEX: We are shaking things up a bit.

PHILLIPS: OK. That's always good. We always like good shake ups.

Joe, thanks for coming in.

TRUEX: Thank you. Thanks for having me.

PHILLIPS: All right.

Well, "Eatocracy: Mind, Body and Wallet." It continues next hour. And remember, for more stories on healthy eating. It's also where you can learn more about how to unlock the CNN Healthy Eater badge on FourSquare.

Well, Hollywood takes on the problem with our schools and the people who made the new movie, "Waiting For Superman," hope it sparks debate and change. It's already sparking controversy, and we're talking with the producer in just a few minutes.


PHILLIPS: Checking top stories.

All that talk this Congress about extending tax cuts, well, forget it. The consensus is that no vote will be taken until after the November election. Democrats say they don't have enough votes to keep the cuts for people making less than $250,000 a year.

The National Weather Service says a 120-year-old sand levee in Portage, Wisconsin is failing. Portage is about 35 miles north of Madison. Some homes already are flooded by recent rains. As many as 100 could be affected by the levee's failure.

Automaker Hyundai going to recall nearly 140,000 Sonata sedans manufactured over the last nine months. The concern is over power steering concerns. Hyundai deals will replace any affected parts for free.

Well, if you have a child in school, you might be familiar with the lottery to get your kid into a better school. That process is part of a new documentary about public education in America called "Waiting For Superman." Take a look.


ANNOUNCER (voice-over): For these kids, their only chance at getting into a great school depends on whether their number is picked in a lottery.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (on camera): So, if Francisca doesn't get in, is there another chance?



UNIDENTIFIED MALE: 10. 12. 2. And the last number --


PHILLIPS: Well, that movie is to teach us all about education, and it is in theaters now. Lesley Chilcott actually produced it and she's here to join us to talk about it today. Good to see you , Leslie. And thanks for coming back. I know we got jammed on time on Friday, and we really appreciated it and it actually gave us a chance to see how it did over the weekend. Are you happy with what has generated so far?

LESLEY CHILCOTT, PRODUCER, "WAITING FOR SUPERMAN": I am really happy. In the industry, we talk about a high per screen average and we had a blowout, amazing weekend. And it's really nice after working on something for so long that people actually go to the theater and see it. And they're really doing that. And I'm very pleased.

PHILLIPS: Well, you know, for decades, we've been talking about our schools and how tough it is. Depending on where you live, how much money you have, where you grow up, really defines your education. And it really is unfair when you look at what's offered throughout the United States because it's so segregated.

And you know, what was it that just finally struck you and Guggenheim and others to put this together? What was one thing that just inspired you to say, all right, we have to do this.

CHILCOTT: I think in a way, it's the fight to end all fights. I mean, how do we fix global warming, health care, poverty, you know, the economic system if we don't have an educated society? So, it's ground zero for all of these problems.

And our goal with the film was to put personal faces on this very, very large and complicated problem and bring it back through the eyes of kids and their parents and how unfair it is that every kid in America -- right now, every kid can't get a great education. We wanted to show that with these new reformers and all these amazing steps people are taking that it is possible for every kid, no matter where they're from to get a great education.

PHILLIPS: You talk about the kids, you talk about the parents and you talk about the educators. One such educator that you focus on in the movie is Geoffrey Canada. Let's take a look at a clip with Geoffrey, and then I want to ask you about him.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) GEOFFREY CANADA, SOCIAL ACTIVIST/EDUCATOR: I was like, you know, "Mom, you think Superman is" (INAUDIBLE)? She said, "Superman is not real." I was like, "He's not? What do you mean he not?" "No, he's not real."

And she thought I was crying because it's like Santa Claus is not real. And I was crying because there was no one coming with enough power to save us. Kids look at the world and make certain predictions based on the evidence they're receiving from their peers, from their parents and from their teachers. From their perspective, the world is a heartless, cold-blooded place because they realize they've been given the short end of the stick, and they don't know why.


PHILLIPS: He is dynamic, he is so well spoken. He's got interesting theories. Why did you choose him in particular as a strong character for your film?

CHILCOTT: He has done amazing things. He has literally proven by taking over 97 square blocks in Harlem and hiring and training and cultivating great teachers, that every kid can learn.

A long time ago, we used to say well, if the problems of the neighborhood or the home and all these are insurmountable, then we're just going to lose some of those kids. At his school, he says, even if the problems at home are outrageous or the parents aren't engaged, they're not going to use that as an excuse any longer. And every kid is going to be held to the highest expectations.

And so far, year after year, he's been proving that. And I just think he's a hero to a lot of people, and we were really lucky that he's been able to be a leader in this movement and participate so much in the film.

PHILLIPS: And Lesley, let me ask you about the criticism. A couple of things. One thing that stood out, this blog, a group called Learning Matters. When the president of this group says, "The film strikes me as a mishmash of contradictions and unsupportable generalizations, even half truths. And while it may make for a box office splash, its message is oversimplified to the point of being insulting."

And we know that only one in five charter schools work and do well. So, how do you respond to that criticism? Because you did pick a couple of the ones that are working very well, and hallelujah for that, you know? But what about all the other ones that don't work? And what do you think of the criticism that's come forward?

CHILCOTT: Well, I think it's interesting to talk about it in terms of oversimplifying. I mean, the problems are incredibly complicated, but the solutions are not. It's the work that is hard.

Despite how everyone feels about certain things and what the adults in this issue argue over, there is unanimous consensus that number one, there is a crisis and number two, that great teachers and cultivation and valuing of teachers.

You know, we have this prestige deficit here in America, and we don't value our teachers. We don't pay them enough. We don't reward them enough when they're really amazing. And there is a lot of agreement on this.

So, I think that is a really good start. And instead of focusing on all of what people argue about, we need to start focusing on these solutions, which are not that complicated. The work to get it done is hard, but the solutions are very, very simple.

PHILLIPS: Well, you hit it on the issue of teachers. I still keep in touch with one of my high school teachers, and boy, I wouldn't be here today if she didn't believe in me and push me hard.

Lesley Chilcott, producer of "Waiting for Superman" --


PHILLIPS: Yes, I'm sure! I bet a lot of your heart and experience went into this as well. Every successful person seems to have an amazing story about an amazing teacher, and you definitely highlight that. Lesley, thanks so much.

CHILCOTT: That's right. Thank you so much.

PHILLIPS: You bet.

A protester tries to get in the face of Senator John McCain and winds up facedown on the ground.


PHILLIPS: A post debate pushdown. Just one of the stories we're covering in our Political Ticker, next.


PHILLIPS: All right, let's find out what the latest news is from The Best Political Team on Television. Senior political editor Mark Preston in Washington at the desk there. What's crossing, Mark?

MARK PRESTON, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL EDITOR: Hey, Kyra. As you can see right behind me, Wolf Blitzer's team is preparing for their show this afternoon. Of course, your show is on the air.

Let's talk about what we have in the hopper. Right now, we've talked a lot about how Democrats are in trouble in the midterm elections. Look at these new CNN/Opinion Research Corporation poll numbers. Specifically, it comes down to the economy. We asked the American public is the economy still in a recession? Seventy-four percent of Americans said yes, in fact it is in a recession. Only 25 percent said it is not.

But even more disturbing, when asked have Obama's policies made the economy better, only 36 percent said in fact the president's policies had made the economy better. Sixty-one percent said have not, which is very disturbing certainly for Democrats as they head to the midterm election.

Let's talk about the video you talked about right before the break. Senator John McCain was debating last night, Rodney Glassman, who is the Democratic nominee. And afterwards, John McCain walking outside of that debate, and a protester came up to him and got into his face. She was saying "John McCain has got to go." Afterwards, as she was taken down with what it appears to be by a Phoenix police officer, she said "This is how peace activists get treated and the warmongerer, John McCain, gets to walk out." So, certainly, we are seeing midterm elections show some -- some controversy and raising some anger. So, we're seeing that out in Arizona.

And let's close with this. Our own Molly Levinson wrote this story about my second home where I grew up, onCape Cod. There is a congressional race down there right now, Kyra. This is actually Ted Kennedy's district. The late Ted Kennedy. We have the Democrat, Bill Delahunt, who has decided to retire. And the Republican, Jeff Perry, is taking on the Democrat William Keating, for this seat. The fact that we're even talking about a Massachusetts congressional election perhaps going into Democrat hands just shows you how bad the midterms could be for the Democrats.

And let's just close on this, Kyra. Take a look at the new CNN Politics Web site. It is just officially relaunching right now. We talked about it last week. But check this out: chock full of items. Good stuff. Good stuff on the air. Thanks, Kyra.

PHILLIPS: Thanks, Mark.

And our next political update in about an hour. For all the latest political news, you can also go to our Web site, of course,



PHILLIPS: At this time, we honor the men and women in uniform who have given their lives in Iraq and Afghanistan for all of us. We call it "Home and Away." Today, we're lifting up Lance Corporal Robert Newton from Illinois. He was killed in Helmand province in Afghanistan on August 23.

I-Reporter Cindy Miller attended his homecoming and sent us these pictures. Now, she didn't even know Robert, but she watched the motorcade and was outside during the funeral. She even brought her four-year-old son with her.

Cindy described the turnout as amazing. And she said Robert had just turned 21 in Iraq. This was his second tour. She said, "We were heartbroken. He was one of our own."

Well, if there's someone you'd like us to honor, here's all you have to do. Just go to Type in the service member's name in the upper right hand search field and pull up the profile. Send us your thoughts, your pictures, and we promise we will keep your hero's memory alive.