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Hateful Blogger Takes Leave; Global Study Group; Raiding Brothels, Saving Sex Slaves; The Cost of Being Obese; Rahm Emanuel Steps Down; Nancy Pelosi Not Backing Down; Wordplay: Traffic; XYZ: 1- 800...Enough Already!
Aired October 1, 2010 - 14:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
T.J. HOLMES, CNN ANCHOR: And, of course, top of the hour now. We've got a new hour. We've got a new "Rundown" to bring to you.
Up first here, air travel. It's going to be nasty this weekend, folks, because of that massive and also deadly storm that's making its way along the East Coast and beyond right now. We're tracking this. Chad Myers here in our Severe Weather Center.
Also, students can now study with anybody in the world. All you have to do is, of course, click that mouse.
Also, have you heard the stories all the time? It seems like every time there's a misprint of a phone number anywhere -- it can just be off by one digit -- it ends up being a phone sex line. Why? Why are there so many of those lines out there?
We've got another example to share with you and some more details. Got some things to say about it in my "XYZ" today.
But first, for days now we have been following this outrageous story, this story about this personal crusade against a student at the University of Michigan at Ann Arbor by one of the state's assistant attorneys general. Today there's a major new development.
The crusader apparently out. For now, at least.
Going to bring you the details there in just a minute on that. But first, let me bring you up to speed on this story.
Chris Armstrong is the name of -- the University of Michigan at Ann Arbor, their first openly gay student body president. He's not being targeted for any suspected crime.
Instead, in a venomous blog, the assistant attorney general of the state, Andrew Shirvell, claims Armstrong is pushing a "radical homosexual agenda." He calls the student a racist, elitist liar. A privileged pervert as well.
In a memorable appearance this week with my colleague Anderson Cooper, Shirvell not only didn't back down from those slurs, he defended them and kept up the attack.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) ANDREW SHIRVELL, MICHIGAN ASST. ATTORNEY GENERAL: I am doing this as a private citizen off work time as a University of Michigan alum. We're quibbling over tactics. We're not quibbling over substance.
The substance of the matter is, Anderson, Chris Armstrong is a radical homosexual activist who got elected, partly funded by the Gay and Lesbian Victory Fund, to promote a very deeply radical agenda at the University of Michigan.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HOLMES: Well, the very next night, Shirvell's boss, Michigan Attorney General Mike Cox, told "AC 360" that Shirvell is clearly a bully, but has a First Amendment right to air his opinions.
Now comes word that Shirvell has taken a voluntary leave of absence. Duration of that leave of absence is unknown right now.
I want to turn to David Jesse. He's a journalist with the news and information site AnnArbor.com. He's been on this story.
David, thank you for being here.
So what do we know about this leave of absence? What happened here?
DAVID JESSE, HIGHER EDUCATION REPORTER, ANNARBOR.COM: We don't know very much about it. Sometime late Thursday afternoon, we're hearing that Andrew Shirvell, the assistant attorney general, decided to take a leave of absence.
No one in Mr. Cox's -- the attorney general's office is commenting on how long that is going to be, whether he is being pushed out, exactly what's going on. All we know for sure is he's not at work today.
HOLMES: At this point he has disappeared. What else have we been getting from the attorney general? He came on our air here at CNN and actually defended Shirvell's right to that First Amendment speech. But has he come out and changed his mind in any way, form or fashion as far as looking at any kind of disciplinary action against Shirvell?
JESSE: His office has said that there will be some sort of disciplinary hearing once Shirvell comes back to work. Exactly what that is, it's unclear.
In a radio appearance this morning, Mr. Cox still continued to defend Andrew Shirvell's ability to say what he wanted to say, while also decrying, saying he was an Internet bully and that he was picking on the student. I think some of the new stuff from Mr. Cox this morning was he was talking about how Andrew Shirvell was showing up at Chris Armstrong, the student body president's house, at 1:00, 1:30 in the morning to picket and to take pictures and do stuff like that. HOLMES: What else for our viewers -- is there anything else we need to know about the relationship between Shirvell and Attorney General Cox? I mean, it's one thing to be defending an employee's First Amendment right, but are these two close, they have a history in the past where he would be taking up for a friend, if you will?
JESSE: We're still trying to explore fully what the link is between the two. We do know that Andrew Shirvell was a paid employee of Mr. Cox back in 2006 during -- on his campaign staff as he ran for attorney general. It's unclear -- Mike Cox ran this year for governor, and it's unclear whether Andrew Shirvell worked on that campaign or not.
HOLMES: All right, David. Last thing here. Is that site still up and running that Shirvell had that was essentially blasting the kid at Michigan?
JESSE: Late last night, I think probably just about the time he got out of work, he made that site password-protected. So if you know Andrew Shirvell and can get a password from him, you can get in. But for you and me, T.J., we're on the outside.
HOLMES: I'll pass, David.
HOLMES: David Jesse, we appreciate you. Appreciate your help on this story. You've been all over it. Thank you so much, buddy. You take care.
JESSE: No problem. You, too.
HOLMES: Well, coming up, calling all college students. There's now a group online that allows you to study in a unique way. You can get help from across the globe. You don't even need a passport.
Those details next.
HOLMES: Well, we turn to "Chalk Talk" today, now.
We are checking out a new study group that's geared toward helping college students succeed. It's an online study group called Open Study, and it's linking students from around the world, helping them pass some tough courses.
Joining me now is Ashwin Ram. He's the director of Georgia Tech's Cognitive Computing Lab, one of the founders of Open Study.
Sir, thank you for being here.
Open Study, this is a worldwide study group. Do I kind of have that right?
ASHWIN RAM, DIRECTOR, GEORGIA TECH'S COGNITIVE COMPUTING LAB: That's right. Open Study is a (INAUDIBLE) studying. It's run by a social network that enables students to connect and study together and get help when they need it.
HOLMES: Now, you said you've all been thinking about this for a while, for the past couple of years. What were you trying to work out, make sure there was a market for it, or is there some complicated technology you had to work out as well?
RAM: It was actually both. We wanted to get the value proposition right for students. We spent a lot of time researching the core need that students have, and that resulted in Open Study.
HOLMES: What did you determine was that core need? What did you find that students out there needed?
RAM: So, students all over the world are hitting their textbooks late at night cramming for exams. Maybe they're working on review problems, watching video lectures on iTunes or MIT.
When these students need help, who can they turn to? The core need was to be able to find someone who can help them and give them help right there, right then, no matter what time they needed that help.
HOLMES: All right. And this is, again, supposed to link students with students. Essentially a study group like at the library.
RAM: It's a worldwide study group. Our mantra is "We want to make the entire world your study group." So there's always someone who can help you.
HOLMES: How does this thing work? It looks like a social network page almost here.
RAM: It does. So let's say that you are a student, and you're one of 10,000 students studying computer science on MIT's Web site. And you're working on video lectures or problem sets (ph), and you have a question.
RAM: What do you do? You join a study group. When you do that, you get dropped into the MIT Open Study Group.
As you can see, we have over 2,200 people out there. Think of them as your classmates that can help you any time you want.
I noticed that we've just had someone join us from Kenya.
HOLMES: Oh, wow.
RAM: We actually have students from 138 countries from around the world. That's 71 percent of the world's countries.
HOLMES: Now, does this cost the kids anything to sign up for? RAM: No, it's completely free.
HOLMES: I'll be danged. So you can pretty much -- as well, you're talking about kids up all hours of the night. No matter -- somewhere in the world somebody is going to be up, somebody's going to be logged on, somebody's going to be studying.
RAM: Someone will always help you. And so if you have -- you can go in and help somebody, but if you have a question, or you want to just study together with someone, you click on "Ask a Question," type some question in that you want help with, and say, "Ask Now."
The question is posted. Everything updates in real time. And you go back to the site, and then someone will be available to start answering you.
HOLMES: Will start answering you.
All right. Are you ready for growth? Because this might catch on. Are you ready for what might come?
RAM: We are ready for growth.
RAM: We've had remarkable growth already. We've only been live two weeks. We have over 6,000 people already using the site.
HOLMES: All right. This is going to be the next Facebook, 500 million. Come back when you get 500 million members in there. All right?
RAM: Thank you.
HOLMES: All right.
Ashwin Ram from Georgia Tech.
Thank you so much. Cool concept.
RAM: Thank you. It was a pleasure.
HOLMES: Well, coming up here, at an age when lots of people thinking about retirement, we're going to introduce you to a lady who's actually planning raids on brothels and ambushing sleazy sex traffickers. That's why she's one of this year's Top Ten CNN Heroes. That's why we're going to talk to her. That's next.
HOLMES: We had some 10,000 submissions this year from you guys about our CNN Hero. We have unfortunately had to weed through a lot of them, and we're down to top ten -- all heroes, but still, we're down to the top ten, and a finalist is going to be named soon, and you'll see that.
But first, meet one of the finalists now who is giving a voice to the powerless.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ANURADHA KOIRALA, CNN HERO: I am Anuradha Koirala. And it is my strong hope to stop every Nepali girl from being trafficked.
When we go to the border, exit points, we are intercepting four girls to five girls per day.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HOLMES: And again, Anuradha Koirala, she is one of our finalists, and she is on the line with us right now from Nepal, where she does so much of her good work.
Ma'am, thank you for being on the line here.
First, let me just get your reaction to being one of our CNN Hero finalists.
KOIRALA: Thank you. It was like (INAUDIBLE) all my children and myself and my girls. And it was -- I cried first, and it was excitement. And I was also very happy that at least we were recognized for doing our work, and at least the whole world knew about the trafficking or the problem, the most heinous crime that occurs in our country. And now we are going to get support, I hope -- we all hope that we are going to get the support.
HOLMES: And Ma'am, I heard you say there -- and we hear reactions from people who were finalists before. And they say they smiled, they were shocked, they were happy. But I don't often hear people say they cried.
You say you cried when you heard. Why is that?
KOIRALA: I think it was I was too excited, or it was tears of happiness for being recognized.
HOLMES: What do you think is next now? You kind of alluded to it, that maybe you will get more of that recognition. I know you don't necessarily want some award, but it's nice that you now have a platform through the CNN Heroes.
What do you think -- or how do you think just this recognition now will be able to help you with your mission moving forward?
KOIRALA: Can you repeat the question, please?
HOLMES: I'm just asking how now, being nominated as a CNN Hero, how will that help you with your mission moving forward?
KOIRALA: OK. This is going to be absolutely a very big platform for us, because now CNN has already chosen me as the Top Ten Heroes, and it's going to be that all over people will know about this issue.
And I think now, at the first moment, also, I'm getting calls from different places and they're talking about this issue. They're trying to support me.
So this is a big platform that people are knowing, and all the people around the globe are trying to come together to fight this crime.
HOLMES: All right. Well, Anuradha Koirala, good luck to you. Congratulations on the work you have already done, being recognized already as one of our Top Ten CNN Heroes. We will talk to you again soon, ma'am.
Thank you so much.
And the Hero of the Year is going to be revealed. This happening Thanksgiving night in our fourth annual all-star tribute.
You get to decide who that finalist or who that winner, if you will -- they're all winners, but who the Hero of the Year will be. So head over to CNNHeroes.com. Check out the top 10. Check out their stories.
And once you're set, just hit the "Vote Now' button. We'll tally those up in time for our Thanksgiving tribute.
HOLMES: Excuse me one second. Sorry to have to jump in here.
CHAD MYERS, CNN METEOROLOGIST: Not at all.
HOLMES: I've got a live picture I need to show our viewers.
This is at the Supreme Court. You see there Elena Kagan, the newest Supreme Court justice, having a friendly little staged -- Chad, well, you wonder -- just wonder what they're talking about there.
MYERS: I think they're talking that it's sunny because it's hasn't been sunny in such a long time.
HOLMES: The chief justice there, John Roberts.
What we're seeing here -- she was sworn in already. We saw that back in August. You'll remember that taking place. You saw that ceremony.
But today she has a more formal ceremony taking place there. And oftentimes, we see them come out. Not allowed to get too close to them, reporters being held pretty much at distance.
But they're at the steps of the Supreme Court. They come out, let the photographers take their pictures. They have a bit of a chat.
We do our thing. We show you the live picture. This is what's called their formal investiture ceremony. This just involves a little more pomp and circumstance, kind of more of a formal ceremony where she is officially confirmed (ph) and she gets on to the court.
But again, this ceremony -- you're not seeing much of the ceremony, but again, they keep us back for a reason here, because they know we'd be rude and yelling questions. Not rude, just trying to do our job, trying to get a sound bite. I shouldn't say that.
But just showing you the picture here. Again, another -- a historic moment.
She is about to start on the court and going to be taking up a lot of major issues. She -- I can't remember the vote off the top of my head, but still, she was confirmed fairly easily, as was expected.
Now the fourth women in history to be on the court. The third woman sitting on the court currently.
Now, guys, is there -- I doubt if there's any sound. And I don't know if they're trying to possibly talk to some of the reporters there. I'll just pause for a second.
No sound, I am just told in my ear. A little better shot there, so we'll stay with them as long as we can as we wrap up the weather here, but we just wanted to show you that.
Again, a live shot. We don't have a lot of control of this particular live camera right now, but just wanted to show you what was happening there with her ceremony.
HOLMES: Coming up, NATO fuel trucks attacked and destroyed in Pakistan. This is a strategic partners of ours here, an ally in the war in Afghanistan. This is just the latest though in a series of major incidents that are straining an already fragile relationship.
We're going "Globe Trekking."
HOLMES: We turn to "Globe Trekking" now.
And our stop now is Pakistan, a strategic country that's a key U.S. ally in the war in Afghanistan. But events this week have raised some serious questions about the future of the already fragile relationship between the two countries.
This map here shows you what happened today. One day now after closing a major border crossing into Afghanistan used by NATO supply convoys. Now suspected militants today attacked and set fire to more than two dozen tankers carrying fuel for U.S. and NATO troops in Afghanistan. That attack happened near the southern Sindh province. The supply convoys like the ones seen in these final pictures are vital -- you're seeing them here now -- are vital to the war effort in neighboring Afghanistan.
The border closed yesterday. It remains off limits to convoys today. It's believed Pakistan took the action in response to a NATO airstrike earlier this week that killed three Pakistani soldiers.
Let me turn to Islamabad now, the Pakistani capital. And our Frederik Pleitgen is there for us.
Frederik, hello to you once again.
Explain to folks just how vital this area is, this passageway, if you will, for getting supplies to our troops in Afghanistan.
FREDERIK PLEITGEN, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, almost 50 percent of the supplies that go to the troops in Afghanistan actually go through this corridor, past the town of Peshawar, and then into Afghanistan from Pakistan. So it's absolutely vital.
And we saw today -- you see those 25 of 27 tanker trucks that were set on fire. That's a major blow, because it takes a lot of petrol, a lot of gasoline to obviously fuel what's going on in Afghanistan right now.
So this is a very, very important route, and it remains closed until right now. No supplies going through there to the American troops in Afghanistan.
HOLMES: And you talk about how vital it is, so I would assume that a lot of work is going on behind the scenes to try to get it back up and running. How close are we possibly to a resolution of these tensions we've been seeing the past couple of days? PLEITGEN: Well, it will probably be resolved in the next couple of days, T.J. However, there is still a lot of tension going on right now between America and Pakistan.
On the one hand, Pakistan thinks that America is doing too much in the way of drone strikes, in the way of helicopter incursions. You mentioned one where an American helicopter went into Pakistani territory and killed three Pakistani soldiers by accident.
On the other hand, the U.S. obviously thinks Pakistan isn't doing enough to stop militants from going from Pakistan into Afghanistan and threatening American troops.
So that's something ongoing right now. I wouldn't say it's at a boiling point, but it's at a pretty tense stage at this point. So, they're going to try to resolve it in the next couple of days simply for the fact that these convoys have to go and resupply American troops in Afghanistan, T.J.
HOLMES: All right. Frederik Pleitgen for us in Islamabad -- Frederik, we appreciate you as always. And coming up: we are once again putting your food in focus. The high cost of being obese. We're going to be talking to "Farmer D," as he's called. He's trying to make organic farming more accessible.
HOLMES: This week here on CNN we have been talking a lot about food with our series "Eatocracy: Mind, Body and Wallet." Right now, we want to get to the "wallet" part of things and more specifically the cost of being obese.
Our Ali Velshi is not here today, but he did leave us this piece to explain exactly what we're talking about.
ALI VELSHI, CNN CHIEF BUSINESS CORRESPONDENT: More than a third of American men and women are obese, according to a new study by the George Washington University. The excess weight is not just killing their health. It's killing their wallets.
The economic cost of being obese can be as much as $4,879 per year for a woman, $2,646 per year a man, according to the report.
Now, this is for both medical and nonmedical costs. Let me tell you what some of those are. On the medical side it makes sense -- hospital visits, emergency room fees. Obviously, if you're bigger, you got greater risks of health problems, doctor visits and prescription drugs.
But a lot of the nonmedical costs -- and this is where it seems less intuitive -- are in things like lost wages, lost productivity, when you're not working as hard as you could be, or making as much money as you could be. And listen to this one, interesting, excess gas charges.
I grew up in snowy Canada where in the winter to keep your traction on, you put bags of salt in the back of your car. And everybody I grew up with told me they were getting worse mileage as a result of it. So, the fact is that excess weight, as silly as it may sound, does actually cost you an excess gas. I don't know how much though.
Now, why is it harder for women than for men? Why does it cost more money per year to be obese if you're a woman versus being a man? Well, some people say it's got to do with gender disparity in our economy, mostly to do with lost wages.
Bottom line is if you're a guy and you're heavy, it doesn't cost you as much as if you're a woman and you're heavy. There are just things you can't -- you won't get hired to do because society isn't all that fair. So if you're a woman and you're obese, you are much more likely to earn significantly less than if you are a man and you're obese.
Other factors not included in the study by the way -- this is where it gets a little interesting -- are sort of some of the non- quantifiable factors. Let's call it things like that. The study cites things like excess clothing, food, larger auto sizes and furniture.
This is -- you know, you can debate this sort of thing -- excess clothing, you know, as I always like to say, they don't really make Prada for big people. So, I imagine you save because you never have to buy from Prada.
Food is an issue. Often, when you -- when you weigh more, you're eat more. So, you might actually be taking in more calories and we know that costs money, although we live in a society where high calorie foods tend to be less expensive than quality, low calorie foods.
Large auto sizes -- look, I don't know if there's a correlation between the fact that big people drive big cars. This is America. Everybody likes driving big cars.
And furniture -- well, that's debatable, too.
So, these might be other factors, but ultimately, it's your health and it's your wages. Those are the big issues. So, there is some good news in weight loss. Even in small amounts, well, it could benefit your waist line and it can benefit your bank account. What you can't put a price on of course is the sheer joy of eating, so there's a lot of food for thought in this one.
I'm Ali Velshi.
HOLMES: The sheer joy of eating -- a lot of people, as we know now, like to eat organic. We're told that's healthier for you. Oftentimes, it seems it can be more expensive but a lot of people are going that route.
And Darren Joffe is known as Farmer D. He's joining me from New York.
And, Darren, I got to start with this. Now, I had to check and make sure that's the farmer now, because my granddad is a farmer. And my granddad didn't look like you.
DARREN JOFFE, FOUNDER AND PRESIDENT OF FARMER D ORGANICS: Well, thanks. I'll take that as a compliment.
HOLMES: He's a good looking guy, but you look like a very hip guy, like a very hip farmer. So, what is this? You were just called the founding president of Farmer D Organics.
Now, what is your mission here?
JOFFE: Our mission, T.J., is primarily to inspire and empower people to grow their own food and to be more conscious consumers what they eat -- so, choosing organic options, eating local, shopping at farmers markets. We're really passionate about inspiring children and families to make better choices about the type of food they choose to eat and maybe even get them inspired to grow their own food at home or in their schools or in their communities.
HOLMES: Now, remind us. We hear the debate all the time. It seems like we've been hearing it for years. But you sum up for me what is the benefit of organic.
JOFFE: Well, there's lots of benefits of eating organic. I mean, one conventional and industrial food uses a lot of chemical fertilizers, pesticides, fungicides that are harmful to not only the environment but to our human health.
So, I believe that, you know, people who eat healthier, fresher food are going to feel better. They're going to -- you know, like Ali was saying -- they're going to reduce the cost of living and they're going to have more energy to go out there into the world and do something positive with themselves.
HOLMES: Now, how do you have get people on this kick? Because it seems like such a laborious thing -- we have busy lives and we're tired and it sounds like an extra effort to try to do our own farming, if you will.
JOFFE: Well, that's not entirely truly really. It's not hard to grow your own food at home. It's really not. It's as simple as, you know, putting some plants in the ground and nurturing them. And it's -- you know, people have been gardening for obviously centuries and centuries. Farming is the founders of civilization.
So -- and finding local organic food is not as hard either. Nowadays, you can even buy organic food with food stamps and WIC at farmer markets. You can go to -- even at big grocery stores now, you'll find organic options.
And the price is not so bad. And when you really look at the long-term cost of eating food that has chemicals in it that more and more research is showing us how that can really detriment our health in the long haul, eating organic might actually end up saving you money. And you can also buy directly from a farmer through a community-supported agriculture situation where you actually reduce the cost of food by cutting out the middleman.
HOLMES: What is this concept of biodynamic farming?
JOFFE: Biodynamic farming is a type of organic farming that really looks at the land with more reverence and respect for both the soil and the animals, the plants that grow there. So in biodynamic -- biodynamic farmers actually work with creating a very diverse, balanced ecosystem on their farm. So, whereas typical organic farms -- and the goal of organic farming basically is what you see in biodynamics, which is to have a healthy sustainable farm.
And, you know, because organic has become so big, we've started to see the return of organic farming moving more to an industrial scale. Biodynamics really looks at the farm as a living organism, a self contained entity. And so, biodynamic farmers work hard to give back more than what they take on the farm.
HOLMES: Well, Darren Joffe, again, he's the founder and president of Farmer D Organics, and one of the coolest, not -- no doubt the coolest farmer I have ever laid eyes on.
My man, good to talk to you today. Congratulations on what you're doing. Thanks so much. You enjoy the rest of your day.
JOFFE: Thank you, T.J. I appreciate that.
HOLMES: All right. Well, it has been rumored for quite some time. We got the confirmation today. There is a new chief of staff at the White House.
Now, how are we going to go from seeing cool and hip Farmer D to this guy? We'll try to make the transition after the break.
ED HENRY, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Come on. It's an easy transition.
HOLMES: We've been talking about this flooding. Some 22-plus inches fell in certain parts of North Carolina. New pictures we're just getting in here gives you more of an idea just bad it got there. Wow! Some of these pictures.
You're also getting from state officials there in North Carolina that, in fact, they've had to rescue over the past day, 75 people had to be plucked either from their houses or from the water in some way, form or fashion. We did get word that a number of people were killed as well as a result of some of this flooding. But again, 75 people had to be rescued in some way, form or fashion because of this flooding.
Again, new pictures. This gives you an idea. This is as we look above Windsor, North Carolina, from up above. Wow. Just the new pictures giving us more of a perspective, more of an idea how bad it is there.
They'll be dealing with certainly these waters for a little while longer. According to our Chad Myers, it should recede fairly quickly. But the rain has moved on at least. But just the new pictures we wanted to share and new information that, yes, 75 people have been rescued over the past day with that just devastating flooding we've been seeing there.
Going to turn back to Washington D.C. now. The second most powerful job in Washington, in government, a lot of people would say, the White House chief of staff, well Rahm Emanuel, he doesn't want the job anymore. He wants another job.
Let's bring in Ed Henry, senior White House correspondent. Ed, good to see you as always, buddy. You are in Chicago and that's now where Rahm Emanuel wants to be employed.
ED HENRY, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Yes, he's going to be headed here. And it's interesting, if you saw the ceremony there in the East Room of the White House today, it was very interesting how Rahm Emanuel -- sort of the rough edges, gruff, profane sometimes, he even joked about how he taught the president, he thinks, some words that maybe the president didn't know before, some four-letter words perhaps -- and we saw him sort of choking up, it's not the side of Rahm Emanuel you normally see. And there was this real bond there with the president.
And what strikes me is a lot of people forget is when we were covering the presidential campaign, Rahm Emanuel was on the sidelines. He would not endorse either candidate Obama or candidate Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton because he was friends with them both, had ties to both families and didn't want to pick sides.
Nevertheless, as soon as he became president elect, Barack Obama, and I remember being here in Chicago, jumped at the chance to get him as chief of staff. He thought it was a unique time in history and this was the person to run the trains.
And I remember during that transition calling Rahm Emanuel on his cell phone, he was working out at a gym, I think here in Chicago, and he was saying look, I don't know whether I'm going to take the job or not, you know, I'm torn about it. And it was because he wanted to stay in the House, maybe make some history by becoming the first Jewish speaker of the House, but on the other hand he had President- Elect Obama saying you've got to serve your country now.
In the end he did serve his country as chief of staff. It hasn't always been pretty. They acknowledge they've made some mistakes, but on balance what then President-Elect Obama wanted to do was get this guy's high energy to come in and deal with all these problems. They got the stimulus, they got health care reform, they got Wall Street reform. They haven't gotten everything, but they've gotten a lot of big, big things that when we look back to years from now is going to be a pretty good legacy.
HOLMES: Got emotional, there's no crying in politics. You can't cry at the White House, can you? How emotional are we talking about it? Just a little sniffle or -- ?
HENRY: Yes, it looked like he was tearing up a bit there.
You know, what's funny, though, is that early in the day there was a little bit of humor at the White House. My colleague Dan Lothian did a story on it and put it on CNN.com., it's there now. Some funny details, because they have this senior staff meeting, it's all super serious. Rahm Emanuel's really last day as chief of staff. He's hard charging, he's always kind of yelling at people and whatnot. And Austan Goolsbee, someone else from Chicago, presented him with a problem and as the story goes, Rahm Emanuel opens it up and turns out that there's a dead fish in there.
And that's because earlier in his career, Rahm Emanuel sent a dead fish to a political enemy to send a message -- a joking message, we should point out -- harkening back to one of "The Godfather" movies.
And I think that it shows that on the last day it got emotional, but people were having a little fun at Rahm's expense as well because they realize this has been somebody who is a high-wattage personality, a lot different, by the way, than Pete Rouse, the incoming chief of staff.
HOLMES: That's the funny story, a dead fish? They are hilarious up there in D.C., aren't they?
HENRY: That's our idea of a joke in Washington.
HOLMES: You mentioned Pete Rouse. If you can, do this one for me quickly. A contrast in styles we keep hearing.
HENRY: Absolutely. I mean, the bottom line is that this is someone who long time in the Senate with Tom Daschle, then with then- Senator Obama. He's not going to be on the Sunday shows. He's not going to be with Candy Crowley hanging out on Sunday. He's not the high-wattage personality like Rahm Emanuel.
But behind the scenes, people in the White House say this is somebody who has the president's trust and will get things done without maybe some of the drama of Rahm Emanuel. And that may be good for the president, because he's entering a new phase of his presidency. Some of the big things they did early, they're going to have go to smaller things now because they are going t be dealing a Republican Congress or Democratic Congress that's severely weakened coming out of these elections.
HOLMES: Always good to see you, buddy, in Chicago right now.
HENRY: Good to see you.
HOLMES: Enjoy your time there and by all means, got any other funny little anecdotes from Washington, D.C., by all means, we'd love to hear them.
HENRY: It was a funny story.
HOLMES: We'll let the humor continue with our senior political analyst Gloria Borger, she's watching developments for us at the CNNPolitics.com desk.
A funny story in D.C. is a dead fish, huh?
GLORIA BORGER, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Yes.
HOLMES: You tell us, what's crossing that desk right now, Gloria?
BORGER: Actually, T.J., I just got back from a session with a bunch of reporters in the House speaker's office, Nancy Pelosi, and I just want to share a couple of things from that session because it was quite interesting.
First of all, I'd have to say the House speaker is completely defiant about what's going to happen in this next election. She would not give an inch. We've all been talking about a wave election for Republicans. And she said, in fact -- and let me quote this. She said, "I would rather be where we are than where they are. " Hmm, talk about defying conventional wisdom.
As about the dispirited base we've been talking about, will the base democratic voters come out, she said, look, I am the base. I know the base of the Democratic Party. The Democratic Party voters will come out because, she said, we have better trained, better equipped candidates out there.
Number two, I asked her about her Democratic critics. You know, there are lots of moderate Democrats who are backing away from Nancy Pelosi. One of them, Congressman Walt Minnick recently said to CNN, look, I'm not so sure I would support Nancy Pelosi as speaker.
I asked her how she feels about that with her own Democrats distancing themselves. She said, go for it. Just go win your election. I want them to win. It's their election, it's not about me. So she's given them permission.
Third thing is, obviously, we've got the talking points about this being a choice election, about going back to George W. Bush versus going forward with Barack Obama. But I've got to say, the interesting thing to me was her favorite word in this session seemed to be "tattoo" as in, we're going to tattoo the republican candidates with a special interest money that is funding their campaigns.
But in the end, T.J., after a long discussion about why people are turning off of government, why they don't like big government, she says, by the way, it's nothing new.
The one thing she did allow as a very seasoned poll, is that that unemployment number of 9.5 percent is quite difficult for Democrats to fight. She said any political party that can't exploit 9.5 percent unemployment, ought to hang up their gloves.
HOLMES: Boy, it is -- it's just a wacky day in Washington, as always, isn't it?
BORGER: It is, but she's a fighter. You know, Nancy Pelosi, she's a fighter. So she said today don't count her out.
HOLMES: All right. Gloria Borger with the update from the desk. Gloria, always good to see you. We will see you plenty.
HOLMES: And for our viewers be sure to stay here at CNN, complete coverage of the key issues of the key races heading into the critical midterm elections. Your next CNNPolitics.com update an hour away.
HOLMES: We turn to "Wordplay" now. Today's word ties into my chat with our CNN hero earlier this hour. We're looking at the word traffic.
Most of us fortunate enough to only to know it as a noun and only being caught up in it temporarily, "out in traffic." But as a verb, traffic is serious business. It means to trade or deal in a specific commodity or service often of an illegal nature. And today, we were talking about sex trafficking, modern-day slavery where women and girls are just something to buy, sell and exploit.
For folks who don't know, this is a huge global problem. It's an embarrassment as well. According to the U.N., the U.S. is one of top 10 destinations where victims of trafficking are brought and at any given time around the world, 2.5 million people are believed to be the victim of sex or other human trafficking.
So hats off to our CNN hero and people like her trying to right humanity's wrong.
HOLMES: Well in today's "XYZ," OchoCincos. Chad Ocho-Cinco came out with this cereal, it's meant to help actually a nonprofit organization. Of course, he is the always outspoken receiver for the Cincinnati Bengals.
Now this cereal here, you buy it, the proceeds go to this organization, Feed the Children. It has a number you can call on the side that you can call and make a donation. But when you call this number on the side of this box, you actually don't get a person on the line to take your credit card for a donation. Oh, you still get a woman who wants to take your credit card number, but she's offering a type of satisfaction that differs from the kind you get from making a charitable donation, if you get what I'm saying.
The wrong prefix is listed here. It's supposed to be 1-888, instead it says 1-800 and that leads you to a phone sex hotline. You can see where that's maybe an honest mistake. But we've seen these type of mistakes before. Well, for some reason we see them all the time.
"American Idol" last year put out the wrong number for a contestant, led to a sex line.
Florida Governor Charlie Crist, last year, supposed to give out the number for a children's health insurance program, sex line.
New York, the old state DMV phone number, sex line.
The White House press release last year for a foreign policy conference call, sex hotline.
It happened to Minnesota Governor Tim Pawlenty. Gave out a call- in number for a radio show, the callers were directed to a, quote, "good time."
Also recently, the RNC sent out a fundraising mailer with the wrong number on this, you know where I'm going with this thing now.
Every time it seems there's a mistake on a phone number, why does it always lead to a phone sex line? How many of them are there in the world? Is it really that random? Apparently, yes.
As I was writing this "XYZ,," I decided to just dial 1-800 and I dialed my parents' phone number. When I dialed 1-800 followed by my parents 'number, sure enough I got an offer to, quote, "get together with interesting local people."
Now, most of these mistakes are because someone just like this got the prefix wrong. It's an honest mistake. But can you imagine now this could actually be the best thing to ever happen to this organization. People have been talking about it everywhere. I'm talking about it here now. You'll probably go look it up -- Feed the Children.
So if there's any moral to this story, please be careful with the phone numbers, but also check out Feed the Children. This might be the best thing that ever happened to them.
Brooke, a phone sex line.
BROOKE BALDWIN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: I read about that this week. I felt for the family that dialed that 1-800 instead of the 888.
T.J. Holmes, have a great day.