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Battle Over Student Loans; Interview With New York Congresswoman Carolyn Maloney

Aired April 27, 2012 - 22:00   ET


ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: Good evening, everyone. It's 10:00 here on the East Coast.

We begin tonight "Keeping Them Honest" with a fight over student loans, specifically with Democratic charges that the Republican solution to this problem pays for it by waging war on women's health. That is part of what they're calling the GOP war on women.

Is that a fair accusation? Stay tuned. Today, the House with 30 Republicans and 14 Democrats switching sides voted to extend a law keeping interest rates on student loans from doubling. That law, by the way, was passed easily five years ago with broad bipartisan support. Not this time.

Quickly, some background for you. Initially, House Republicans wanted to scale it back, handing President Obama a very big opening politically.


BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Now is not the time to double your interest rates on student loans. Michelle and I, we have been in your shoes. We only finished paying off our student loans about eight years ago.

Americans now owe more on their student loans than they do on their credit cards. Student loans. Student loans. Student loans. Let's give those student loans directly to students. Can I get an amen?

CROWD: Amen.


COOPER: With that as a campaign drumbeat, Mitt Romney quickly said he fully supports extending the loan program and House Republicans got on board.

But the bill they passed today is paid for by eliminating preventative care funding in the health care reform act. House Democrats wanted to tax oil companies. That's how they wanted to pay for it. Some members, Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi and others, also calling the GOP funding plan another attack on women.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) REP. ROSA DELAURO (D), CONNECTICUT: What the majority would do today with taking the funds here instead of taking it from special interests and closing corporate loopholes was to just pile on, on that assault on women's health care.


COOPER: Well, a short time later, House Speaker John Boehner erupted.


REP. JOHN BOEHNER (R-OH), SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE: People want to politicize this because it's an election year. But, my God, do we have to fight about everything? And now, now we're going to have a fight over women's health. Give me a break. You know, this is the -- this is the latest plank in the so-called war on women, entirely created by my colleagues across the aisle for political gain.


COOPER: So "Keeping Them Honest" on this issue, who's right? Well, we looked at what the House bill eliminates. It's called the Prevention and Public Health Fund. About $1 billion this budget year. The categories include tobacco prevention, HIV screening, nutrition programs, hospitals and infection control, immunization, increases in the number of doctors and doctors' training, but no line items for things like mammograms, Pap smears, prenatal care, or any other specific women's health issues with the exception of breast-feeding.

Yet Congresswoman Maloney, who you will hear from in a moment, we're going to talk to her, says cutting the prevention fund would, in fact, broadly affect women's health.


REP. CAROLYN MALONEY (D), NEW YORK: It's interesting that the fund they keep going back to is one that particularly benefits, it benefits men too, but it particularly benefits the reproductive health care, childbearing health care, preventative health care that is so necessary to women.


COOPER: She's saying it is particularly about reproductive health care, child health care. Again, you're going to hear more from Congresswoman Maloney in a moment about the facts she's using to support that claim.

We found a report from the Centers for Disease Control, CDC, which says that low-income breast and cancer screening programs would be jeopardized if the prevention fund is eliminated. That's absolutely true.

Currently, though those services for in a very different program but are scheduled to come into the prevention fund next year. "Keeping Them Honest" though that's only about 0.2 of 1 percent of the $1 billion fund. It's a tiny, tiny fraction.

Does that add up to a war on women? The cuts under today's bill drastic, there's no doubt about it, they do a lot of things, none of them especially good for public health. That's not the argument. But do they target women specifically as the Democrats are now saying and attacking the Republicans on?

And the evidence doesn't seem to support that. There's also this. House Democrats who now oppose the cuts didn't always consider the prevention fund off-limits. "Keeping Them Honest" in fact they agreed under Republican pressure to use some of the fund to pay for an extension of the payroll tax cut earlier this year.

And when Minority Leader Pelosi was asked why it was OK then but not OK now, she answered, and I quote, "Good question, and all the more reason why we shouldn't be taking any more money out of it." She went on to say, she didn't favor doing it then, but said it was the only way to get the tax cut done.

I spoke with one of her caucus members, New York Congresswoman Carolyn Maloney, just minutes before airtime.


COOPER: Congresswoman Maloney, you and Nancy Pelosi are portraying this Republican move to take money from the Prevention and Public Health Fund as another example of an assault on women's health care.

You said this fund "particularly benefits the reproductive health care, childbearing health care, preventative health care that is so necessary to women." But this fund gives money to a lot of different initiatives, increasing the number of doctors, suicide prevention, anti-smoking efforts, Alzheimer's education, efforts against HIV, obesity, hepatitis, cancer.

It doesn't seem like it benefits any one group in particular, men, women, children. How can you claim that is specifically an assault on women's health?

MALONEY: Well, women depend very much -- a big part of it is preventative health care for cancers, breast cancer screenings, Pap smears, all types of screenings for women.

COOPER: But that's actually not true, though. I mean, it's actually a tiny percentage on -- is on breast cancer and cervical cancer. It's 0.23 percent.

MALONEY: Well, the immunizations for children, that's important for families. And women are concerned about their husbands too that are getting a benefit from it.

The preventative health care program is important for men, women, children, Americans that can access it and can benefit from it.

COOPER: I'm not arguing that, but you are portraying it and Nancy Pelosi is portraying it particularly as an assault on women's health, something you're saying the Republicans have done a lot of. If you're saying that women worry about their husbands and therefore that's how it's an assault on women, that doesn't really seem to hold up.

MALONEY: Well, the main point is that we moved today to preserve the interest rates and kept them from doubling.

COOPER: But Republicans are saying that look, you and Nancy Pelosi and other Democrats are trying to trump up this idea of an assault on women and you're doing it in particular on this issue when in fact the facts don't back it up.

I mean, isn't this about politics? You want to portray the Republicans as having an assault on women. You in fact voted in favor of doing this exact same thing to this preventative health care fund earlier in year. You voted in favor of extending the payroll tax cut and nearly $5 billion was taken from the fund.

MALONEY: That was very, very unfortunate and all the more reason why we should not go back and cut this fund now.

COOPER: Right. But when you did that, when you voted for money to be taken out of this fund earlier this year, you didn't say, I'm doing this and it's an assault on women. I mean, but now when the Republicans want to do it you're saying it's an assault on women. Isn't that basically just about politics?

MALONEY: Well, Anderson, I think it's political for the Republicans. They certainly change their tactics, but not their heart.


COOPER: My question is, isn't it about politics?

MALONEY: Let's take women out and look at student loans.


COOPER: But you're not taking the women out of it.


MALONEY: ... student loans for the people who need them, the seven million families who need them.

If they were serious about continuing these student loans and not raising the interest rates, they would have worked with us on a common ground pay-for.

COOPER: Right. But with all due respect, the Republicans are saying they could say the exact same thing about you, that if you're serious about making a compromise, don't politicize and attack the Republicans saying this is a war against women when it doesn't seem like there's evidence to back it up. I'm just wondering, do you feel it really is an assault on women to cut money from this -- I'm not saying whether -- it obviously is not good for anybody for preventative health care to be cut, but how can you say it's an assault on women?


MALONEY: Well, I do believe that if you look at what is happening in statehouses, on the floor of Congress, in the Senate, and in the House, there are movements to roll back gains that we have in choice and in some cases even access to contraceptives.

But that issue is real, and it's strong. There is an 18-point gender gap that I believe the Republicans have worked very hard to achieve. And that has been efforts to roll back gains that women have had. We have had in the statehouses, one statehouse the governor said he would not enforce fair pay.

We have others that have called it a nuisance. We know that not many Republicans voted for the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act. We know that there have been really many, many efforts with ballot initiatives and separate bills across this country to roll back in some cases even access to contraceptives. I think that that's a move in the wrong direction. I don't think it's helpful to women and I think women are seeing it.

COOPER: Right.


MALONEY: They will be taking their distrust into the ballot box on it.

COOPER: This is clearly an issue that Democrats feel they have a benefit on, but aren't you politicizing it all the more by doing something when they're taking from the preventative health care or want to by saying it's assault on women, portraying it like that? Just the facts don't back that up.

MALONEY: Well, I would say that women and families care a great deal about preventative health care.

COOPER: But men do as well. So do children. So do old people.


MALONEY: I would say that the Republicans are politicizing it by calling it a slush fund.

COOPER: So no Democrats are politicizing it?

MALONEY: Anderson, I believe they're politicizing it by calling it a slush fund. I don't think that many families who needs these health care services would consider it a slush fund.

(CROSSTALK) COOPER: So Republicans are the only ones who are politicizing it?

MALONEY: Some Republican leaders called it silly. I don't consider access to health care silly.

I don't consider having access to preventative health measures for both men and women and children silly and I do not consider it a slush fund. So who is politicizing it?


COOPER: Right, but, Congresswoman, no one ever acknowledges that their side also politicizes things. And you seem unwilling to do that as well. You're saying the Republicans are politicizing it. I just want to ask you one more time, are Democrats at all politicizing this?


MALONEY: I believe very strongly, Anderson, that we should have been cutting the subsidies to big oil. The big oil should not have been protected, that families should have been more protected and that the preventative health care program should have been protected.

But that's a difference in values. That's a difference in priorities. I believe this is an important program. The president does too. And when you get a veto threat, you know that you are not getting a solution. They should have come back and worked with us on a common ground compromise for the pay-for.

COOPER: It was the president though who opened up the idea of taking money from this fund earlier this year to pay for the payroll tax which is also what you voted for.

MALONEY: He felt that was very important and I did too, to give working families a pay cut and it was also a way to move money back into the economy to help with the recovery. I think that was an important priority also.


COOPER: But if the Republicans had then said that that was a war on women by the Democrats, would that have been accurate?


MALONEY: Pardon me?

COOPER: If the Democrats then had said that was an attempt by the Democrats to have an assault on women, as you have now said about the Republicans, would that have been accurate, back then during the payroll tax?

MALONEY: I don't think I called it an assault on women.

(CROSSTALK) COOPER: But when you did it, it wasn't.


MALONEY: ... insult by insult, women are looking at a whole range of things that are happening to them.


MALONEY: This one I believe was the wrong value, the wrong priority. We should have looked for another pay-for.

What's wrong with cutting the subsidy to big oil? Why are they so coddled and protected? Why are they a protected special interest more than the health care that is provided to the men and the women and the children, male and female, in this country?

COOPER: Congresswoman Carolyn Maloney, I appreciate your perspective. Thank you.

MALONEY: Thank you.


COOPER: More now on the issues and the politics of it with senior political analyst David Gergen and chief political correspondent Candy Crowley.

David, I don't want people to suddenly tweet me, saying I am for cutting this. I don't take positions one way or the other on cutting preventative health care, but my issue is they're portraying -- the Democrats are trying to portray this as part of an assault on women's health care and the facts, the evidence just doesn't back that up when you look at how the money is spent.

Do you think it's going to fly this argument, whether or not there has been a war on women, an assault of women's health care by Republicans on other issues?

DAVID GERGEN, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: This argument won't fly, Anderson. In the past, the Democrats have been right to go to the barricades to protect women's health, contraception and the like and they have had a majority of voters behind them.

But on this one, it appears to be very much a trumped up charge. After all, as you pointed out, the president of the United States himself asked to cut money from the fund in order to pay for the payroll tax. Democrats wanted to cut money from this fund.

That fund clearly has been identified as Democrats as one that is not a compelling interest for the country. They're willing to cut it. They have been willing to cut it in the past. To turn around now and go down this road and charge it is as an assault on health I think only diminishes the force of their arguments on other things where they have been right. COOPER: Candy, you interviewed House Speaker John Boehner today. He's digging in and said overall there's no war on women, that the president is the who politicized student loans. Who has the upper hand right now and where does this debate go?

CANDY CROWLEY, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: I think the guy with the biggest microphone which is actually President Obama because he can command it wherever he goes.

Look, he kicked this off with that sweep through swing states at college universities, very important voting demographic, younger folks, talking about these student loans. Listen, it's going to happen. They are not going to raise the interest rates on college loans. They will get this worked out. I don't know if they will end up taking money out of this health care fund.

Speaker Boehner did leave open the possibility, look the Senate hasn't said what they want to do or where they want to get the money. So let's just see how this goes. But they really believe and you heard him, he was quite vociferous on the subject, that this is a lousy trumped-up political charge and point out as you did that not only did the president sign legislation that took money out of this fund before, but almost 150 Democrats voted for it.

So they have -- look, it is hard to do a scale these days on the House floor or anyplace else. We're in full swing now. Full tilt for political here.

COOPER: David, is that what this is about? This is just the run-up to the elections and everything now becomes politicized and scoring points?

GERGEN: You know, it's hard to believe things could become any more politicized than they were a year ago, but they're being overly politicized.

I think the president scored points on the student loan issue. And that's why John Boehner rushed this bill to the floor and protected Republicans. They voted to freeze the student loans and I think that will go through. But on the assault on women, I think the Democrats have stumbled on this one. What it does underscore, Anderson, is we are going to be hot and heavy politics right through the elections on the House floor as well as out on the hustings.

COOPER: Polls show, Candy, though the Democrats have a big lead in terms of this perception of being pro-women.

CROWLEY: Yes, they have a very large gap. I think the last time I saw it, it was about 18 percent more women prefer President Obama to Mitt Romney.

COOPER: I didn't phrase that question very well, but go ahead.


CROWLEY: There's time to make that up certainly. But this has always been a hard climb for Republicans. They have always done better among males than among females.

So they have to narrow that gap. They don't necessarily have to win it. But they certainly have to narrow it. And the president has been very good on the score, you know, for women voters -- and that's most voters.

COOPER: Right.

CROWLEY: The president has been the choice of more than Mitt Romney has been.

COOPER: David, very briefly, you wanted to get in?

GERGEN: President Obama will win the women's vote. Democrats have won the last five elections winning the women votes. But as Candy says, the issue is how big is the margin?

COOPER: Right.

David Gergen, Candy Crowley, appreciate you being on tonight. Thank you.

As I mentioned, Candy's guest this Sunday on her program, "STATE OF THE UNION" is John Boehner. You can catch it Sunday morning 9:00 Eastern and again at noon Eastern.

Let us know what you think. We're on Facebook, Google+. Follow me on Twitter. We're talking about this on Twitter right now @AndersonCooper. I

Big court day in the Trayvon Martin case. Now that it's been revealed on this program last night the defendant, George Zimmerman, isn't as poor as his lawyer claimed at the bond hearing, we will talk to a Martin family attorney next to see if he believes that should change the status of George Zimmerman right now out on bond.

And a case in which Florida's stand your ground law did not work so well for the defense. Details ahead.


COOPER: Welcome back.

News we broke last night on this program was the focus of today's hearing in the George Zimmerman's case. He's accused of second-degree murder in the shooting obviously of Trayvon Martin. Prosecutors asked the judge to raise Zimmerman's bond in light of the fact that it turns out he has $204,000 that he's raised online from supporters, money that his lawyer, Mark O'Mara, revealed on this program last night.


COOPER: How much money, specifically, to your knowledge, has been raised by George Zimmerman and his supporters?

MARK O'MARA, ATTORNEY FOR GEORGE ZIMMERMAN: Well, my understanding was there were two accounts, one with about $700 and one with about $2,000 by some friends of his. In talking to George after I was trying to shut down his full Internet presence, because of some impersonators and other problems with Twitter an Facebook, he asked me what to do with his PayPal accounts.

And I asked him what he was talking about. And he said those are the accounts that had the money from the Web site he had and that there was about $200,000, $204,000 that had come in to date.


COOPER: Now, O'Mara told me he only learned about the money two days ago. Because you remember at Zimmerman's bond hearing last week, his lawyer, O'Mara, told the judge his client didn't have much money at all. Zimmerman said nothing about all the cash he was sitting on so bail was set at $150,000. Zimmerman posted $15,000, 10 percent or so, as required, and was released from custody.

Well, today, the judge said he needs more information before ruling on whether to raise Zimmerman's bail. He also declined to consider a gag order by prosecutors.

Joining me now is Daryl Parks, an attorney who represents Trayvon Martin's family.

Mr. Parks, as we mentioned, the lawyer, O'Mara, says he didn't know about the roughly $200,000 that George Zimmerman had in these PayPal accounts. He also said he didn't think his client meant to deceive anyone. Do you buy that?

DARYL PARKS, ATTORNEY FOR TRAYVON MARTIN'S FAMILY: Well, I think you have to look at the whole situation. Obviously, a bond hearing, the whole apparatus in being there was to make sure that he either had the means to post bond or not.

Well, the undercurrent was that he did not have the means. And in fact, one of the things that the lawyer said in the hearing is that he intends to go indigent for costs in this particular matter. Well, we now know that was totally untrue.

One of the important things, Anderson, in this particular case, is that in this particular case, Mr. Zimmerman sits there, he hears all of the testimony, and he knows that this was about whether or not he has the means to bond out of jail. Well, he had the means. And, in fact, we now know that he has probably spent somewhere between, you know, $0 and $50,000 towards expenses.

COOPER: So do you think -- I mean, Mr. O'Mara on the program last night said it's very possible the bail would have been higher if the judge had known and if Mark O'Mara had known that his client had $200,000 or $204,000. Do you think bail should now be set higher?

PARKS: Well, bail is about what resources are available to you. However, in this particular case, there are two issues that the court needs to deal with. Number one was whether or not he was forthright with the court or misleading to the court? Number two, what means are available to him? We now know that he had a total of over $200,000 available to him. At a minimum, the bail should have been $1 million or $2 million if he had $200,000 available to him.

COOPER: Daryl Parks, I appreciate you coming in. Thanks very much, Daryl.

The Trayvon Martin case has set off fierce debate over Florida's stand your ground law. We all know that. We have been talking about it now for weeks. It's a controversial statute and critics say it's a license to kill.

But a case that hasn't been getting as much attention as the Trayvon Martin killing doesn't fit that argument. Like George Zimmerman, Marissa Alexander told authorities that she feared for her life in the moments before she fired her gun. It took a jury just minutes to convict her.

Here's Gary Tuchman.


GARY TUCHMAN, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): She walks down the jail hallway in handcuffs. Marissa Alexander is facing 20 years behind bars, convicted of aggravated assault with a deadly weapon.

She says she was defending herself, standing her ground, from a husband who had been arrested before on charges of abusing her.

(on camera): He was arrested for doing what to you?

MARISSA ALEXANDER, FACES 20 YEARS IN PRISON: He choked me, he pushed me forcefully into the tub. He pushed me so hard into the closet that I hit my head against the wall and I kind of passed out for a second.

TUCHMAN (voice-over): Her husband received probation after that incident. Months later, Alexander says she was in the bathroom at their home here in Jacksonville, Florida, when her husband started pounding on the door. She says he was in a jealous rage over text messages on her cell phone.

ALEXANDER: He managed to get the door open, and that's when he strangled me. He put his hands around my neck.

TUCHMAN: Alexander got away from her husband and then made a fateful decision. She could have run out the front door and escaped. Instead, she went into the garage, but says she did not have her car keys and the garage door was stuck. So instead, she grabbed her gun she kept in this garage.

(on camera): What did you think you were going to do with it?

ALEXANDER: I thought that I was going to have to protect myself.

TUCHMAN: Were you thinking you might have to shoot him?

ALEXANDER: Yes, I did, if it came to that. He saw my weapon at my side, and when he saw it, he was even more upset, and that's when he threatened to kill me.

TUCHMAN: But how is he going to kill you if you're the one with the gun?

ALEXANDER: I agree. I thought it was crazy too.

TUCHMAN: But why didn't you run out the door at that point?

ALEXANDER: There was no other way to get out of the door. He was right there threatening to kill me.

TUCHMAN: And what if you would have gone around him to go out the door? Your life would have been easier today if you did that.

ALEXANDER: Yes, but the law states I don't have to.

TUCHMAN (voice-over): The law she is talking about is the controversial stand your ground law. Instead of running, she did what she thought she was allowed to do. She believed she stood her ground and fired the gun into the wall.

Nobody was hurt, but it was enough to scare her husband, Rico Gray, and he left the house with his two young children from a previous relationship. Alexander was safe from her husband, but not from the law. She was arrested, her stand your ground defense rejected and found guilty by a jury.

(on camera): Marissa Alexander's husband, Rico Gray, agreed to do an on-camera interview with us to counter his wife's allegations, but a few hours later he made the decision not to do the interview, claiming that going on camera would put his life in danger.

(voice-over): However, later, he sent us an e-mail saying he would do an interview if he got paid, which CNN does not do. But he has already said quite a bit.

During a deposition with the prosecutor from the office of state attorney Angela Corey and a defense attorney for his wife, Rico Gray acknowledged hitting his wife in the past and said this about the shooting incident. "If my kids weren't there, I knew I probably would have tried to take the gun from her. I probably would've put my hand on her."

Marissa Alexander's attorneys then asked the husband what he meant about putting his hand on her. And Rico Gray responded, "Probably hit her. I got five baby mamas and I put my hands on every last one of them except for one."

ALEXANDER: I believe when he threatened to kill me, that's what he was going to do. That's exactly what he intended to do. And had I not discharged my weapon at that point, I would not be here.

TUCHMAN: But later at a court hearing to determine whether Marissa Alexander should get immunity based on the stand your ground law, Rico Gray changed his story, saying he'd lied repeatedly in the deposition to protect his wife, claiming he did not threaten to kill her, and testifying, "I begged and pleaded for my life when she had the gun."

The jury deliberated for 12 minutes before convicting her. The Jacksonville NAACP wrote a letter to the trial judge, saying Marissa Alexander may not have received justice because of her race, gender, or economic status. Some African-American news Web sites are saying much the same thing, that if Marissa had been white, her stand your ground defense would have been accepted and she wouldn't be facing 20 years in prison.

But Alexander will not say if she agrees with that possibility.

ALEXANDER: I'm going to be honest with you. I'm uncomfortable answering that.

TUCHMAN: For now, she sits in the city jail, awaiting her sentencing scheduled for next week.

She had a baby girl with Rico Gray almost two years ago, but she only sees her child in photographs. That's because Rico Gray has custody. He's considered the victim, his wife the criminal.

ALEXANDER: This isn't -- my life I'm fighting for. This is my life -- and it's my life, and it's not entertainment. It is my life.

TUCHMAN: The 20-year sentence is a mandatory 20 years, meaning no chance of parole.

Gary Tuchman, CNN, Jacksonville, Florida.


COOPER: Up next, breaking news in the Secret Service scandal.

Also tonight, Andrea Yates. If you remember, she killed her five children, was declared mentally unfit for trial. Now she wants out of the mental hospital to go to church. We will talk about that with Dr. Drew Pinsky.


COOPER: There's breaking news tonight in the Secret Service prostitution scandal. A name. Specifically, the name of the agent who touched off the entire mess. The one who allegedly argued in that Colombian hotel with the escort or prostitute over her fee for the night of sex that they allegedly had.

Details now from Drew Griffin.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) DREW GRIFFIN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): A hotel security guard at the Hotel Caribe says the commotion began in the seventh floor hallway where some of the agents were staying. According to hotel records, CNN can now confirm at least three agents assigned rooms on that floor apparently left Cartagena early.

Sources with knowledge of the investigation have indicated to CNN that two agents have been cleared, but that the agent who stayed in room 707 may already be gone from the service.

According to hotel records reviewed by CNN, agent Arthur Huntington was checked into this room. Two sources with knowledge of the investigation say it was Huntington who had the dispute with the escort named Dania Suarez.

Suarez has now hired an attorney, and through statements credited to the attorney, demands she was an escort, not a prostitute. Her attorney isn't talking.

Earlier this week, a man who identified himself as Arthur Huntington declined comment to a CNN producer. Yesterday, CNN returned to Arthur Huntington's home, where the door was gently pushed shut without comment. The home was just listed for sale this week.


COOPER: Has this agent, Drew, made any statement at all?

GRIFFIN: None whatsoever. We've been trying to reach him, Anderson, or any representative he may have since Monday. There has been absolutely silence coming from this agent.

COOPER: There were two other agents you were able to identify who were staying on the same floor of the hotel. Are they among the nine who have been dismissed?

GRIFFIN: They are actually among the three who have been retained, which is why we are not going to name them. Our sources tell us that those two gentlemen, one who was directly across the hallway from Mr. Huntington have been cleared and will be going back to work. As you said, nine have been forced out of the 12 involved. But those two other gentlemen on that floor are apparently not involved.

COOPER: All right. Drew, appreciate the update. Thanks.

Still ahead, the case Andrea Yates. Remember, the Houston mom. She drowned all five of her kids 11 years ago. Her attorney is now making a special request to a judge. We'll explain what it is.

But first, Isha is here with a "360 Bulletin" -- Isha.

ISHA SESAY, CNNI ANCHOR: Anderson, Syria's government-run news agency claims a suicide bombing in the capital of Damascus killed nine people and wounded dozens more. It called the attack a, quote, "terrorist bombing." Violence in other parts of Syria today killed civilians and security forces.

A "360 Follow" tonight on the case of missing toddler Ayla Reynolds. Police in Maine are examining items discovered this week to see if they're connected to her disappearance. The 20-month-old vanished from her grandmother's home in December. Police refused to describe the items and would only say they were found not far from where Ayla disappeared.

And, Anderson, the Space Shuttle Enterprise, sitting atop a 747 arrived at New York's JFK Airport this morning, headed to its permanent new home aboard the USS Intrepid, which is docked in Manhattan. The Enterprise exhibit will open to the public in mid- June.

So I have a question for you.


SESAY: Did you know that the Enterprise wasn't originally meant to be called the Enterprise.

COOPER: Really? What was it meant to be called?

SESAY: Constitution.

COOPER: I did not know that.

SESAY: And it was "Star Trek" fans that wrote in and asked it to be named Enterprise.

COOPER: Thank you, Isha.

SESAY: Stick with me, kid. I'll keep you informed.

COOPER: All right. Andrea Yates is asking for some of her freedom back tonight. She became infamous, obviously, in 2001 after murdering her five Young children. She was eventually declared insane, but now her doctors say she should be allowed to go to church outside the mental hospital where she's been living. Dr. Drew Pinsky weighs in, ahead.


COOPER: In "Crime & Punishment," will Andrea Yates get some of her freedom back?

In June 2001, you'll remember, she called police to her house, and what they found was unimaginable. Yates had murdered her five Young children, drowning them in the bathtub, one after the other.

Her long history of mental illness came out during her two trials, and she was ultimately found not guilty by reason of insanity. But since then, she's been receiving treatment at a mental hospital.

Now she wants to get out once a week to go to church. That's going to be up to a court.

We're going to hear from Dr. Drew Pinsky in a moment. But first with a look back, here's Randi Kaye.


RANDI KAYE, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): She's a woman in search of redemption, nearly 11 years after filling a bathtub at her Houston area home and methodically drowning her five children.

GEORGE PARNHAM, ATTORNEY FOR ANDREA YATES: She's a very spiritual person, reads the Bible constantly.

KAYE: For more than five years, Andrea Yates has been locked up inside a Texas mental hospital. But now her doctors say she's made such progress that they'd like to grant her request to attend church outside the facility once a week.

Her defense lawyer, George Parnham, says a congregation has agreed to let her come.

Long before that awful day in 2001, Andrea appeared to be a healthy, happy mother.


KAYE: She home-schooled her children.

But in the years leading up to the murders, Andrea became delusional. With each birth, it got worse. She hardly made sense when talking with a psychologist before her trial.

YATES: The cartoon characters were talking to us.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The cartoon characters?

YATES: Yes, saying, "Hey, kids, stop eating so much candy."

KAYE: Before the murders, Andrea had been hospitalized four times, attempted suicide twice, and was on and off anti-psychotic medications. Her defense team claimed she suffered from severe postpartum depression. She thought she was a bad mother and that her children were doomed to spend eternity in hell. The only way to save them, she thought, was to kill them.

PARNHAM: What loving mother would want their children to burn in hell?

KAYE: On June 20, 2001, Andrea waited for her husband, Rusty Yates, to leave for work, then filled the bathtub, holding each child, one by one, under the water. The oldest, Noah, was 7. The Youngest, Mary, just 6 months.

When she was done, she calmly called 911.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Are you having a disturbance? Are you ill or what?

YATES: Um, yes, I'm ill.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Do you need an ambulance?

YATES: No, I need a police officer. Yes, send an ambulance.

KAYE: Andrea later confessed.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: After you drew the bath water, what was your intent? What were you about to do?

YATES: Drown my children.


KAYE: At her 2002 trial, she was convicted of capital murder and sentenced to life in prison.

But after it was discovered a key prosecution witness had lied on the stand, Andrea got a new trial. At her 2006 retrial, a jury found her not guilty by reason of insanity.

She and Rusty divorced in 2005.

(on camera) As part of her divorce settlement, Andrea Yates was given permission to be buried next to her children here at this cemetery outside Houston. In all these years, she's never been able to visit their graves. And even if she is allowed out to attend church, she still won't be able to come here.

But her attorney told me that he comes to visit the grave site every year on the children's birthdays, because their mother can't.

(voice-over) Her attorney says Andrea has been treated for depression and still takes medication for her bipolar disorder. It will be up to a judge to decide if she's well enough to attend church.

(on camera) This is a woman who drowned five of her children.

PARNHAM: I understand that.

KAYE: Why on earth should she be allowed to do anything, let alone attend church?

PARNHAM: It's my belief, is that if you're not mentally culpable, then you're not responsible criminally for those acts.

KAYE (voice-over): But Andrea has a dark history with religion. Her defense team claimed her delusions got worse after the couple befriended a traveling preacher named Michael Woroniecki. He convinced them to give away their possessions and move their children into a 340-square-foot bus.

(on camera) Are you at all concerned that she might be negatively influenced by the scripture, sitting in church again?

PARNHAM: No. Because Andrea was ill at the time that the parameters of her delusion, which happened to be the images that Woroniecki and his group would foist upon her ill mind. She's not that way now.

KAYE (voice-over): George Parnham says all she wants is a stable church where God and Christianity can have a role in her life.

(on camera) I'm just curious. Does she feel any guilt?

PARNHAM: She mourns, and she feels a great deal of remorse, and perhaps you can equate that with guilt.

KAYE (voice-over): Try as she may, all the prayers in the world may not be enough to assuage the guilt of such a horrific crime.

Randi Kaye, CNN, Houston.


COOPER: It's still so unthinkable, what she did. And to many people, it may be unthinkable to grant Andrea Yates her wish. I spoke earlier to Dr. Drew Pinsky, host of HLN's "DR. DREW."


COOPER: Dr. Drew, what do you make of this request that Andrea Yates be allowed to leave the psychiatric hospital to go to church?

DR. DREW PINSKY, HLN ANCHOR: I'm not that surprised by it, frankly. I mean, the fact is, you've got to remember, this was a woman that was in multiple psychiatric hospitalizations and then allowed to return home.

And although something terrible has happened since those hospitalizations, the fact is she's been in psychiatric care. And part of that care is creating increased autonomy and independence and the possibility of moving about safely in the world, hopefully. So something like church makes sense to me of something that could be hopeful for her.

COOPER: She did say, though, in 2006, that she drowned her kids because she didn't want them to go to hell. Should something like that have an impact on the judge's decision?

PINSKY: I'm sure it would have an impact on it. I mean, this is a really interesting topic, which is psychotic religiosity versus somebody having a spiritual component to their treatment.

If she is no longer psychotic and if she is not hyper religious, there really is -- and church and the spiritual community has been an important part of her life, in a way, if -- again, if she doesn't go start to spin in a psychotic fashion, it could be an important part in her healing.

COOPER: So the -- kind of the religious ideation is -- comes out of her psychosis for her, not the other way around?

PINSKY: Well, it's hard to know, but it's religiosity, hyper- religiosity is a sign of psychosis. People eventually themselves start saying they believe they're Jesus or they'll believe they're possessed. They'll believe all these various kinds of unrealities that are part of a psychotic process, and it can be fueled by religious beliefs and religious ritual.

COOPER: So you -- I mean, this could be a first step to -- her lawyer said it could be a first step to her getting a job and living on her own one day. Is that -- do you see that as a possibility?

PINSKY: I see that as a possibility. I'm not sure how wise that is.

I mean, this whole situation, when you really read her case, it is such a failure and an indictment of not just our health-care, mental health system, but particularly our insurance policies.

I mean, she was repeatedly let out of the hospital psychotic. They -- and I've worked in psychiatric hospitals for over 20 years. And you can't imagine the circumstances under which we are forced to take people out of a hospital setting. And then when horrible things happen, the insurance companies look back and go, "That wasn't mine -- we don't practice medicine. That's Dr. Pinsky's name on the discharge plan -- on the discharge sheet there. He was the one that sent her out."

While the reality is, if I said to keep someone in the hospital, they would become financially responsible for every day there, and they don't want to do that. They're in a catch 22. They usually leave. In this case, what she needed was years of structured hospitalization before even anybody would contemplate sending her out into the world.

Now, you're asking, Anderson, should she go out into the world? I really can't answer that in a real way, not knowing her as -- knowing how she's doing now.

COOPER: What sort of treatment, though, I mean, do you think she's been getting? What has she been doing all this time?

PINSKY: You know, it's hard to predict. I saw various diagnoses that she's been labeled with. One thing is for sure. She had a very severe psychosis, and medication will very often stabilize psychotic process. And that with a supportive environment, structure in her life, some therapy can really go a long way to stabilizing people.

The fact of the matter is treatment works, but because these are brain disorders, they take long periods of time for them really to work to the point that somebody can go from where she was to being safely out in the world.

COOPER: Interesting. Dr. Drew, thanks.

PINSKY: Thanks, Anderson. (END VIDEOTAPE)

COOPER: Well, as each day goes on, the testimony just gets more dramatic in the John Edwards trial. What his former aide told the jury today, next.


SESAY: I'm Isha Sesay with a "360 News & Business Bulletin."

And the John Edwards today, dramatic testimony from Edwards' former campaign aide, Andrew Young. He's considered the star witness against the former presidential candidate, who's accused of Edwards. Young said he was so intimidated in his dealings with Edwards and two wealthy donors that he was scared for his life.

Stocks ended the week on a high note. The Dow Jones closed up 24 points. The S&P rose 3 and the NASDAQ was up 18. The Dow was up 1.5 percent for the week.

A black bear that wandered on to the Boulder campus of the University of Colorado went up a tree and was shot with a tranquilizer gun. The bear was OK and wildlife experts released it back into the mountains.

And the much-anticipated new superhero movie "The Avengers" doesn't open in the U.S. until next Friday, but it's already playing in theaters around the world and doing big business. "Entertainment Weekly" reports the movie took in $17 million on its first day this past Wednesday when it opened in ten countries -- Anderson.

COOPER: Isha, thanks. Coming up, the RidicuList.


COOPER: Time now for "The RidicuList." And tonight we're asking, what's in a name? It's a little Friday night sampler platter of stories, a Puu-puu platter, if you will. A story about freaking out over the f-word, and in some case, just the letter "F."

Let's start with that one, shall we? So a guy in Virginia had this personalized license plate. As you can see, it reads "F.OSAMA". He says he's been driving around for seven years with this plate, no problem, that it's meaning is open to interpretation.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It can mean whatever you want. Fight Osama. Forget Osama. Anything you want.


COOPER: All right. So after having the license plate for seven years, the DMV suddenly notified him that he couldn't use it anymore, because it could be seen as profane, obscene or vulgar. So they randomly gave him this one as a replacement: 6668UP. This guy is not happy. He says he doesn't like anything with "666" on it, and to him the new license plate has a meaning that's far more offensive than his original one.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The devil ate you up.


COOPER: Now, I don't know which is worse, the devil ate you up or the implication of the "F"-word. We'll let you make that call on that one and on this one, as well.

This next story comes from West Palm Beach, Florida, where a restaurant owner has been denied a trademark request because of the name of his establishment. The owner says it is pronounced fuku and that it's a Japanese word meaning good fortune, wealth, and prosperity. Of course, passersby tend to see something else.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Everybody so far that I know that knows the name or has seen the name automatically assumes that it's "F" you.


COOPER: Here's what the restaurant's owner's lawyer had to say.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They're culturally unaware of what the word means. And I think there's some puritanical viewpoint that's been added into there, based on the letter we've received.


COOPER: So apparently according to this letter, the trademark wasn't approved, because the name "fuku" was thought to contain immoral, deceptive or scandalous matter.

How scandalized could the state of Florida possibly be. Florida has, like 52 Hooters and four or five Fuddruckers. Fuddruckers. The place is crawling with Hooters and Fuddruckers. I'm just saying.

And if fuku won't fly in Florida, perhaps it can find a warmer welcome overseas. Like in this town in Austria, perhaps. Yes, the blurred letters are indeed the ones you are thinking. However, it's pronounced "Fook-ing."

There have been reports that the "Fook-ing" residents want to change the name because they're tired of English-speaking tourists stealing all their signs.

Reuters quotes the "Fook-ing" mayor as saying, "Nope, that's the name. And they are sticking with it." So at least for now, in one tiny Austrian hamlet, it seems a town by any other name would not be as sweet.

And with that we bid you a hardy TGIF on "The RidicuList."

Hey, that's it for us. Thanks for watching. "ERIN BURNETT OUTFRONT" starts now.