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Will Oprah's Endorsement Make Obama President?; American Dream Gone Wrong

Aired September 08, 2007 - 22:00   ET


TONY HARRIS, CNN ANCHOR: She's the queen of daytime, he's the Democrats' golden boy. And tonight is the pair's big night. Oprah brings Hollywood home to meet Obama, but will her endorsement get him into these impressive digs?
For most people, it's the biggest purchase they will ever make. So what if your house just broke in half?


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes, I heard this like huge like popping sound. And I was like what is that?


HARRIS: It's the American dream gone horribly wrong in tonight's special report. A house divided. What does this look like to you? A piece of rope hanging from a tree, or a symbol of racial hatred? That's the question swirling around the University of Maryland tonight. So is this or isn't this a noose?

She went to Iran to visit her family and ended up staying much, much longer.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: There were moments that I dreamed of this return.


HARRIS: Imprisoned in Iran as a spy, she is now free and has granted CNN an exclusive interview about her ordeal.

And some people just have all of the luck. How else do you explain a millionaire congressman who's won the lottery not once, not twice, but three times? It's enough to make you throw away your scratch-off ticket. You're in the CNN NEWSROOM.

Good evening, everybody. I'm Tony Harris sitting in again for Rick Sanchez. Heading home, we just got word from Portugal that the parents of little Madeleine McCann have had a change in plans. They now plan to head home to Britain tomorrow instead of staying in Portugal to clear their names. Portuguese police this week named the couple suspects in their daughter's disappearance, adding more fodder to a case that's had as many twists and turns as it's had headlines. And now there's one more. Let's go live now to CNN's Paula Hancocks. Paula, talk to us about this latest turn of events here.

PAULA HANCOCKS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Tony, sources close to the Portuguese police have told CNN that Gerri and Kate McCann are indeed leaving Portugal tomorrow morning. Probably in around about seven hours or so, they'll be heading back to Britain, close to where they live.

Now we understand from this source that they do have permission from the police. We know from press associations as well, they have to apply to permission from the police. They still to retain their passports.

So even though they are suspects, formal suspects in the disappearance of their 4-year-old daughter, Madeleine, they are still able to go home.

Now the fact is they were planning to go home, you know, on this Monday morning anyway until they became formal suspects. And then through the weekend, we were told by many members of the family that they didn't want to leave, because they didn't want to seem as though they were running scared. They wanted to stay and try and clear their name.

But now we have confirmed from that source and from P.A. that they will be leaving. Now of course, it's expected that they will be taking their twins with them. We have to remember they do have two very small children as well, two-year-olds who they want to take back. It must be very difficult for them being holed up in this villa behind me here in southern Portugal.

We haven't seen them since Gerri McCann left the police station late on Friday night. And of course, that was the Friday when both of them walked in as witnesses and walked out as suspects. Tony?

HARRIS: Very interesting. Paula Hancocks for us. Paula, appreciate it. Thank you.

OK now, some politics and some show biz. Show biz and politics. If you're a cynic, you'll say they are interchangeable. Well, whether you feel that way or not, there are traces of each in both. And if an A-list Hollywood type hangs a hat on you, the candidate, you better believe that's a mighty powerful hat.

Here's what we're talking about here. Oprah Winfrey throwing her name and her support behind Barack Obama. And we're not just talking money, although she generates plenty of that. Oprah brings a nation of people, loyal followers, most all of voting age. And do Oprah fans do as Oprah says or as Oprah does? Oh, yes, of course, they're glued to her show. They subscribe to her magazine. They surf her website. And today, Oprah threw an Obama fundraiser at her place near Santa Barbara expected to drum up millions.

Here's some of the red carpet action at Oprah Winfrey's estate in Montecito. Tickets to this gala, $2300 apiece. My invitation somehow or another got lost in the mail. That's the maximum amount a person can give to a presidential campaign. Plenty of Hollywood's talented and beautiful people turned out. Sydney Poitier, Chris Rock, Forest Whitaker, Cindy Crawford. And some guy named Stevie Wonder, you may have heard of him, he performed.

But let's look at this clearly for a moment here. Oprah can make or break a best-selling book. We know that. She can start a fitness craze. But politics? Can Oprah Winfrey really change the tide of a presidential campaign? Our senior political analyst Bill Schneider says maybe.


BILL SCHNEIDER, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): This year, Oprah Winfrey is doing something she's never done before.

LARRY KING: Have you endorsed a candidate before?


SCHNEIDER: She's endorsing Barack Obama for president. She's hosting a fundraiser for Obama in California this weekend, but she doesn't just bring in money.

WINFREY: I think that value to him, my support of him is probably worth more than any check that I could write. Yes.

SCHNEIDER: Oprah Winfrey has more than an audience, she has a following.

MARTY KAPLAN, PROF., UNIVERSITY OF SO. CALIFORNIA: I think what Oprah can do is potentially bring out the congregants in the church of Oprah. She is a charismatic leader of a lay congregation.

SCHNEIDER: Oprah's core audience is women. Her endorsement could help Obama compete with Hillary Clinton for women's votes.

KAPLAN: One of his campaign officials in California told me Oprah is everything. So they have high hopes for the endorsement.

SCHNEIDER: Oprah's relationship with her audience is personal. So is her relationship with Obama.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They met way back here in Chicago in sort of the African American social circuit here in Chicago back in, I believe, either the late 1990s or around 2000 when he was running for Congress.

SCHNEIDER: Obama's campaign message is not ideological, it's personal.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I think what he is trying to sell is a hope and optimism and a message that, you know, a new day can come, that we can change things for the better.

SCHNEIDER: When Oprah Winfrey tells her audience that she likes Obama and she trusts him, she's helping him sell his political message.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: She can make the case, as Obama makes, that it's not about experience. It's about judgment.

SCHNEIDER (on camera): A source close to the Obama campaign tells CNN that there's a chance Oprah might play a more visible role in the campaign, although there are no definite plans at this point. Might we be seeing Oprah Winfrey at Obama campaign rallies or in TV ads? She is, after all, the second most admired woman in America according to a December Gallup poll. Who's the first? Hillary Clinton.

Bill Schneider, CNN, Washington.


HARRIS: And before you think Oprah is the only A-lister waving a candidate's flag, check out these celebs and their campaign contributions.

Tom Hanks and Paul Newman both have pledged the maximum allowable amount to the Hillary Clinton campaign. Jodie Foster and Will Smith both firmly in the Barack Obama camp. By the way, these contributions have to be made public, the rules here. And the Bill Richardson campaign enjoys the support and money pledged by Steven Spielberg and Bette Midler.

Check out to see how all the candidates stack up. Of course, it is also a busy weekend on the stump for the rest of the candidate field, sniping among the Democrats. John Edwards in New Hampshire took Senator Hillary Clinton to task today on one of her much repeated themes.


JOHN EDWARDS (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Senator Clinton is right. You can't pretend the system doesn't exist, but you also can't pretend that it works. And this is where she and I part company. Because I believe that if you defend the system that defeats change, you can't be the president who will actually bring change.


HARRIS: John Edwards also lashed out Senator Clinton's famous support of universal healthcare, calling it "rigged against regular Americans." Also in New Hampshire today, the newest official candidate who's really been a candidate for some time, right? Former Senator Fred Thompson went old school attending a chili fest and shaking a lot of hands. And talk about old-school campaigning. Rudy Giuliani swallowed his Yankee pride long enough to throw out the first pitch at a Rangers game in Arlington, Texas. He also talked immigration and terrorism at a rally afterward.

Police at the University of Maryland tonight say they may have a hate crime on their hands. They're investigating the discovery of a rope resembling a noose hanging from a tree. Here is a picture of what they found. There is chatter about whether this really is a noose or a type of a slip knot. What do you think?

But what makes this incident hard to dismiss is that the rope was hanging just outside of the university's cultural center. In a statement, university officials said they will not tolerate any racially motivated harassment, discrimination, or acts of hate.

We are just getting started here in the CNN NEWSROOM. Kept against her will for months, accused of being an American spy by Iran. An American-Iranian academic Haleh Esfandiari tells the story to our Jill Dougherty. Her exclusive interview is straight ahead.

And Michael Baisden, the self-proclaimed bad boy of radio, put out an old call for justice in Jena, Louisiana. We will talk to him coming up in the next half-hour.


HARRIS: Welcome back, everyone, to the CNN NEWSROOM. Another day of amazing pictures into the NEWSROOM. Want to take you to Austria first. Take a look at this. Two days of torrential rains and this is what you have. The Danube River and other waterways overflowing and apartments are flooded. Just a real mess there.

The good news in all of this, no injuries, water levels in some parts of Austria at 20-year highs.

Let's take you to Holland, Michigan right now. And some of the folks in Austria for the UV vehicles. Amphibious vehicles originally built in Germany in the '60s. At the time, a number of them, thousands of them, sold in the United States for about oh, $3,000. About 1,000 of them left right now. If you wanted to get one right now, it would cost you about $100,000, if you can find one. Only about 1,000 remaining.

And take a look at this scene in Texas. Montgomery County, Texas right now. This red truck involved in a wild chase as you can see right here. Authorities actually spotted the driver of that truck involved in what they considered a drug transaction. Took off after him. The driver led the police on a chase for about 30 minutes. They finally were able to stop the vehicle with road spikes. And there you go, in all of this, no injuries whatsoever to speak of.

Still to come in the CNN NEWSROOM this evening, Jill Dougherty joins us with an exclusive interview with a woman imprisoned in Iran for 100 days. That is coming up in 60 seconds.


HARRIS: For most people, it's the biggest purchase they will ever make. So what if your house just broke in half?


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Bam, I heard this like huge like popping sound. And I was like what is that?


HARRIS: It's the American dream gone horribly wrong in tonight's special report. A house divided. She went to Iran to visit family and ended up staying much, much longer.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: There were moments that I dreamed of this return.


HARRIS: Imprisoned in Iran as a spy, she is now free and has granted CNN an exclusive interview about her ordeal.

And some people just have all of the luck. How else do you explain a millionaire congressman who's won the lottery not once, not twice, but three times? It's enough to make you throw away your scratch-off ticket. You're in the CNN NEWSROOM.

Back home on American soil with quite a story to tell, one we've been following for months here. Every since Haleh Esfandiari was first imprisoned in Iran, accused of harming national security and jailed in the political wing of Tehran's Evan Prison, the 67-year-old Iranian-American scholar is with family tonight in Maryland, but she has also spoken with CNN's Jill Dougherty, who joins me from Washington.

Jill, great to see you. I know this is one happy lady to be home, particularly with her granddaughters. Tell us why she was arrested in the first place.

JILL DOUGHERTY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: You know, it's a complicated story. She goes back in December 2006. She goes to Iran to visit her 93-year-old mother. Think she's going spend a week. And then as she's going to the airport, her passport is stolen. As three men stop her car, they actually had knives and masks. They take her - all of her belongings and her passport. So she's stuck there.

And then begins the cycle of all sorts of questioning by government officials. And it ends up -- that goes for four months. And then finally, she ends up in prison in Tehran for more than 100 days. The charge was actually endangering Iran's national security.

So we sat down today, a very happy woman. And I asked Haleh Esfandiari, how did you get through all of this?


HALEH ESFANDIARI: I'm a very disciplined person. So I decided either I'm going to succumb to this fate, or I'm going to try and make the best of these conditions. And the best of these conditions was to have a discipline day. So I would exercise for many hours. I would read. I would walk a lot, three or four hours a day. Even in the room, you know, I would pace up and down, timing myself. And at some stage, I had access to television. And I had access to newspapers. But as I said, prison is a prison.


DOUGHERTY: Prison is a prison, indeed. Haleh Esfandiari is quite well known. She's a very respected scholar, head of the Mideast Department over at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars.

But on a personal level, she seemed extremely happy to be out. And here is some of what she said also about being back with her husband, who is also a scholar and her family.


ESFANDIARI: Elated to be home. Delighted to be home, you know, sleeping in my own bed after eight months, taking a shower in my own bathroom in eight months, walking around the garden.


DOUGHERTY: And she also says that she is not going to stop her work. She's going to continue to bring scholars together to discuss Iran. Tony?

HARRIS: Jill this is a great get. Can you tell us why? What's the thinking here on why she was ultimately released?

DOUGHERTY: Well, one factor that she would note is a letter that was sent by the head of the Woodrow Wilson Center. That's very well- known former Congressman Lee Hamilton.


DOUGHERTY: He wrote a letter to the Supreme Ayatollah of Iran and basically asked for his help. And in a very rare event, the Ayatollah actually wrote back. And it happened. So she is back.

HARRIS: Boy, great to see her. Great to see her. Jill Dougherty with us from Washington. Jill, great to see you as well. Thanks.

He talks and talks, talks some more. What he does.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: All right, let's get to work. Everybody in here. Let's go.


HARRIS: Well now, he is turning his words into action. Syndicated radio host Michael Baisden is rallying for justice in Jena, Louisiana. We will talk about his nationwide initiative coming up in the NEWSROOM.

And can you even believe this? The man here got lucky playing the lottery once, and again, and yes, one more time. The twist -- he's not only a congressman, but also - well, stick around. We'll fill you in.


HARRIS: Time now to chew on some political headlines in dogbone politics. We start with Senator John McCain, who wasn't taking any guff from a high school student. I did say guff, didn't I? Who asked the senator worries that he might be a bit too old to serve in the White House.


SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R ), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: People will judge by the bigger and the enthusiasm associated with our campaign. Every campaign I've ever been in my life, I've outcampaigned all of my opponents. And I'm confident that I will. And thanks for the question, you little jerk!


HARRIS: OK, back in 2000, John McCain couldn't count on a lot of support from his fellow senators for his White House run. But one senator who did endorse McCain over George W. Bush from Tennessee is Fred Thompson. Fast forward to the present, Fred Thompson is battling McCain and others for the Republican nomination. He told Jay Leno with a smile that he and McCain are still friends, unless of course, McCain beats him.

Norman Hsu gets around. He is a big time Democratic party fundraiser, but he was also on the lam from a theft conviction for 14, make it 15 years. His past recently caught up with him, but he skipped a court hearing and turned up sick in Colorado, so has given $260,000 to various Democrats through the years, including both Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama. The FBI plans to send him back to California as soon as his health improves.

And we have to tell you about Congressman James Sensenbrenner. He won $1,000 last week in the District of Columbia lottery. Pretty good, huh? Well just last spring, he won another grand in the Wisconsin lottery. Not bad. Well get this. Back in 1997, he won $250,000 in the D.C. lottery. And this is a guy who recently reported a net worth of more than $11 million. Some guys have all of the luck.

Still to come in the NEWSROOM, it's a homeowner's nightmare come true.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There's eight feet of mud right underneath where we're standing. There's nothing holding this house up.


HARRIS: How about your brand new home getting swallowed by the earth? You think I'm kidding? Just wait until you hear that story in about 10 minutes right here in the CNN NEWSROOM.

Plus, Southwest Airlines going full throttle as the ultimate fashion police. What's the appropriate passenger outfit and what is it? In about 20 minutes here in the NEWSROOM. And this guy, Michael Baisden, national radio host, is talking justice in Jena. And we are talking to him right after the break.


HARRIS: Well, there's more legal wrangling in the case of the so-called Jena Six this week. A judge threw out a conviction, raising new questions about justice in Jena.


HARRIS (voice-over): Seventeen-year-old Mychal Bell sits in a jail cell facing the possibility of 20 years in prison. Tuesday, the judge threw out Bell's conviction on a conspiracy charge, but Bell still faces sentencing on a second degree aggravated battery charge. His lawyers say they'll file an emergency appeal.

Charges against two of the other accused teens were also reduced. The original charges against Bell and the five other defendants, attempted murder.

It all started last September. Black students at Jena High School were outraged after finding nooses hung from this tree in the school courtyard, a perceived racial threat. Then in December, six black students were accused of beating and kicking a student to the point of unconsciousness.

Justin Barker was taken to the hospital for injuries, but was well enough to be released and back at school that very same night. The Jena Six, as they came to be called, were arrested and sent to jail. Michael Bell was the first to go on trial, convicted of aggravated battery by an all white jury.

That touched off racial protests in this town of 3,000, where just 12 percent of the population is black. Where the teams were arrested last year, district attorney Reed Walters released a statement saying he has never charged anyone based on who they are. He has had no comment since then.

But advocates for the teams say the charges don't fit the crime. They say the case should be handled in juvenile court. The young men all say they're innocent. Only Mychal Bell is in jail. The judge refused to lower his bail, citing his criminal record, including two simple battery charges.

The tree outside the school where the nooses were hung and all this got started, has been cut down. In a couple of weeks, Jena could be filled with people from all over the country, people who want to show their support for Mychal Bell and the other members of the so- called Jena Six.

And joining me now, one of the organizers of this demonstration. Michael Baisden hosts the nationally syndicated "Michael Baisden Show." Michael, great to see you.

MICHAEL BAISDEN, HOST, "THE MICHAEL BAISDEN SHOW": How are you doing? Thanks for having me.

HARRIS: It's been a few years.


HARRIS: Michael, tell me why you're involved?

BAISDEN: Well, first of all, let me thank CNN for being one of the only networks to step up and give us some coverage on this story. Just in case your audience doesn't know, this is the most important story for blacks in America and it should be for Americans in general. Now we have a very serious problem going on down in Jena. And we're going to deal with it.

HARRIS: Tell me about the problem as you see it?

BAISDEN: Well, as I see it, we have a high school fight, where there should be a policy within the high school, which I think there is, on how to deal with fights within a high school. Young men should not be going to prison for 22 years for having a fight. It's just gotten way out of hand. Have you read the details of the story, Tony? I mean, all of the details?

HARRIS: Yes. Well, you know, there's probably one or two that I've probably missed, but I feel like I'm pretty up on the story.


HARRIS: What are you getting at here?

BAISDEN: Well, if you want to be upset in a way that you probably can imagine...

HARRIS: Oh, yes.

BAISDEN: read the details, all the shady testimony, the all-white jury.


BAISDEN: One of the jurors, well actually a best friend of the father who graduated from the school, the gentleman who testified that he saw Mychal Bell kick this young man when he was down was actually one of the young men who hung the noose over the tree. The young lady who testified that she saw him hit this young man was actually saying two days after her testimony that she couldn't remember anything. But all of a sudden during the trial, her memory comes back.

HARRIS: Well, let me get into this with you, Michael.


HARRIS: Justin Barker is the kid who was beat up... BAISDEN: Sure.

HARRIS: ...pretty savagely from the accounts that I've heard of it. Do you know if any of the teams involved - who -- if any of the teams who make up this so-called Jena Six, do you know whether or not any of them was involved in beating up?

BAISDEN: I don't think there's any solid testimony. Because from what I understand, it was a scramble. Once the fight broke out, people were running all over the place.

HARRIS: But Michael, here's what I'm getting at. If the kids who are charged were not involved, how did they get singled out? And...

BAISDEN: Easily because...

HARRIS: ...if they were on the fringes of this, have they come forward to tell the authorities who was actually involved?

BAISDEN: They were chosen because they were the strongest young men willing to stand up and protest this thing in the first place. And let's not forget, the district attorney Walter Reed, I believe is his name, came into the assembly at the school and -- with police officers in a school auditorium, come on man, give me a break, threatening these kids by saying I can take away your life with a stroke of a pen.

This is not the job of a district attorney to come in threatening young people. And you as a parent know as well as I do if I found that out, I would be outraged about it.

HARRIS: But do you know whether or not, and it's a small point, but I just want to try to bring some balance to this story...

BAISDEN: There hasn't been any -- nobody has really even brought in the type of testimony that can really point the finger at any one individual, because it was a scramble. And that's what people don't understand.


BAISDEN: So we haven't even sorted these things out. And regarding what we're going to do in Jena, I think that this country has kind of fallen asleep to think all blacks. Maybe you're watching too much videos. We care about our children. These young men are our children.


BAISDEN: They're trying to take away the lives of these young men. And we're not going to tolerate it.

HARRIS: What do you -- how do you respond to this whole notion that what you're going do, Michael Baisden, is you're going to load a bunch of folks on a bus, you're going to take them down to Jena, Louisiana, and you are just going to, as outsiders come in, and just stir a whole hornets' nest. And people's attitudes will be hardened in that community.

BAISDEN: We're here to show the family support. We're here to let the nation and the world know that we stand together, not only as black people, but as parents, man. I mean, this thing is unequal justice for anyone.

So anybody out there, the poor whites, Hispanics, Asians, anybody else, we know the system doesn't work. And we are not going to allow them to put these six young men in prison for 22 years for nothing more than a high school fight. It's not going to happen.

HARRIS: OK, Michael Baisden, great to see you. Thanks you for your time.

BAISDEN: Thank you very much.

HARRIS: All right.

Now to a story about the biggest investment in your life. It is a nightmare that any of us can face. Brand new homes literally sinking into the ground and leaving new homeowners footing the bill.

Rick Sanchez brings us this report from Sedona, Arizona, a house divided.


RICK SANCHEZ, CNN ANCHOR (voice-over): They come for the Red Rock mountains, dramatic sunsets, southwestern homes that seem to blend into the land. Sedona, Arizona, it's where newlyweds Carol and Bill Bruderman decided to start a new life together, a second marriage for both.

BILL BRUDERMAN, HOMEOWNER: Living here was like a dream for us.

SANCHEZ: They bought a brand new home in this picturesque neighborhood just south of uptown Sedona.

B. BRUDERMAN: That's a good girl.

SANCHEZ: Bill placed every rock for their southwest Garden of Eden. Carol planted a garden, tomatoes, zucchini, plum trees. But two years into living out their fantasy life, things soured.

CAROL BRUDERMAN, HOMEOWNER: My son was in for Christmas. And there was a really big rain. And he looked up one day and he said, mom, did you see the crack in the ceiling?

SANCHEZ: What started out as a crack became two. They kept noticing more and more. There were so many, they began numbering them with stickies.

C. BRUDERMAN: There's something like 60 or 70 cracks.

SANCHEZ: They called the builder.

C. BRUDERMAN: They said to us that the house was settling. And I said I built a house before. And houses don't settle like this.

SANCHEZ: Carol says she hears large popping and cracking noises at night. Roaches crawl through the cracks and they keep spraying poison to try and keep them back. And they say since the developer didn't agree that there were foundation problems, they hired an attorney who sent an engineer to check it out.

B. BRUDERMAN: We had to pay thousands and thousands of dollars for soil testing, forensic experts, structural engineers, all rendering opinions, you know, with data and firm tests to confirm what we already know, that the house is sinking.

SANCHEZ: Not just sinking, but literally splitting in two. The Brudermans filed a lawsuit. Their case is now in arbitration. Bill estimates he spent $80,000, not for repairs, $80,000 just to try and figure out what the problem was.

C. BRUDERMAN: We came to Sedona to live a dream. And we ended up in a nightmare.

SANCHEZ (on camera): We spoke with the builder of the Brudermans home, who says that they're not going to be commenting since this case is still under negotiations. Now the Brudermans, by the way, aren't the only ones that are living in a house divided.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The other night I was sitting here, and I heard a crack. And I thought, oh, my gosh.

SANCHEZ: Up next, retiree Judy Pitzer, who sunk much of her life savings in this home. Now goes straight to the top to try and find out why this continues to happen.


HARRIS: And more from Rick in just a few minutes. Also ahead in the NEWSROOM tonight, it's not exactly room service, but the deliveries did arrive in some of the best hotels. Drug trafficking at the Breakers, Ritz, and Four Seasons? You 'got to be kidding me. In about 20 minutes.

Plus, grounded because you're too hot to fly. We uncover the whole story in about 10 minutes.


HARRIS: So before the break, you met the Brudermans, whose home started to crack apart just two years after they bought it. The problem goes way deeper than the Brudermans' foundation. Our Rick Sanchez gets to the bottom of it.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: From the front of the house, zigzags all the way across to the other side.

RICK SANCHEZ, CNN ANCHOR (voice-over): Like the Brudermans, retiree Judy Pitzer had to pay out of her own pocket for forensic tests to determine the cause of this cracking.

JUDY PITZER, HOMEOWNER: The other night I was sitting here, and I heard a crack.

SANCHEZ: She says her developer told her these only were cosmetic problems.

PITZER: They fixed it, it broke again. Then they fixed it, and it broke again. So it just keeps breaking away.

SANCHEZ: So like the Bruderman's, she called a construction defect attorney, who sent out engineers. They found Pitzer's home too is sinking, built on unstable soil.

PITZER: It's very unfortunate that someone who has worked all their lives and are ready to retire and enjoy life a little bit, that this kind of thing can be done to them.

SANCHEZ: She filed her lawsuit against her builders last month to force them to pay for her costly repairs. But for now, she's just living with the cracks. We contacted her developer, who denies Pitzer's home has any structural problems. They say they've attempted to settle with her, but that she decided to sue.

Arizona is the fastest growing state in the country. Building superintendent Jack Judd says in the rush for land, some developers are taking short cuts and building on cheaper property, where the soil isn't so stable.

JACK JUDD, BLDG. SUPERVISOR, YAVAPAI CTY.: People are building where you wouldn't normally build. I mean, they're moving mountains. They're bringing in soil from other parts of the location.

SANCHEZ: Engineers tell CNN if expansive or collapsible soil isn't properly compacted to stabilize it, or a stronger foundation built to control the movement, the land is a ticking time bomb.

To make met matters worse, local and state governments in Arizona do not require soil tests for all new homes, only one per subdivision. And engineers say that's not nearly enough to catch the problem. And developers won't spend money if they don't have to.

JUDD: I don't think we're really in the position within our jurisdiction to require it on every single family dwelling that's built.

SANCHEZ: Judd says building codes here don't require inspectors to check for soil issues. Only a visual inspection is recommended. And engineers tell us, that's not enough.

But what's really surprising is the state offers little recourse once the homeowner is faced with a cracking house. The state agency which licenses the developer says they won't hold a builder liable if complaints are made two years after the home was built. Even the agency's director admits most of the problems don't crop up until after two years.

FIDELIS GARCIA, ARIZ. REGISTRAR OF CONTRACTORS: One of the things that happens with expansive soils is they don't necessarily present themselves within our two-year statute of limitations. Two years may not seem like a long time for a consumer. But for a contractor, you know, two years can be a very long time.

SANCHEZ: For the Brudermans, their home cracked two years and two months after they bought it, too late to get any state help. Same with Judy Pitzer. But even if the crack happened within two years, going through the state, they still would have had to pay for their own legal counsel, or else they're up against a big developer and a lot of high-priced attorneys.

GARCIA: It is difficult -- the average layperson is not legally trained. So it is somewhat of a learning process to them. But they certainly do have their day in court.

SANCHEZ: A year and a half has passed since the Brudermans filed their lawsuit against the builder to get him to pay for repairs. Meanwhile, they just live with the cracks, the noise, and the knowledge it's just going to get worse.

BILL BRUDERMAN, HOMEOWNER: I think they're hoping that people who will run into this situation don't have any money and don't have the stomach for a fight. I can't sell the house. And we can't not fix it. We have no place to go. This is home.

SANCHEZ (on camera): Consumer advocates are telling us that this is happening all over the country. And while each state has laws that give the consumer varying amounts of protection, the best thing they say you can do is ask for a soils report, even hire your own private home inspector to try and make sure that your house isn't being built on unstable soil. And so you don't end up in a house divided.

Rick Sanchez, CNN, New York.


HARRIS: From the apparently unstable to the allegedly inappropriate. A mini skirt, a maxi flap. Can a micro mini skirt get you tossed off a plane? You're 30 seconds away from the story right here in the CNN NEWSROOM.



CAROL COSTELLO, CNN ANCHOR (voice-over): Southwest says it always tries to do the right thing, touting itself as a no frills airline with a sense of humor.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: If you're embarrassed to fly the airline with the fewest customer complaints in the country, Southwest will give you this bag.

COSTELLO: But Kyla Ebbert isn't laughing. The 23-year-old college student, who's also a Hooters waitress, was escorted off a Southwest flight to Tucson, for wearing this outfit -- a mini skirt, a tank top, and a sweater. And yes, she is wearing a bra. Too hot to fly?

Southwest Airlines thought so.

KYLA EBBERT: I had worn that outfit before and nobody has ever said anything. I was just sitting there reading my magazine and playing on my cell phone.

COSTELLO: In a statement to CNN, the airline said "Southwest Airlines was responding to a concern about Ms. Ebbert's revealing attire on the flight that day. As a compromise, we asked her to adjust her clothing to be less revealing, she complied, and she traveled as scheduled."

So much for that sense of humor.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Remember what is like before Southwest Airlines? You didn't have hostesses in hot pants.

EBBERT: I was really embarrassed. I was really upset. So I asked for a blanket and I just covered myself in a blanket.

COSTELLO: According to "The San Diego Union Tribune," when Ebbert's mother complained, Southwest wrote to her saying there were concerns about the revealing nature of her outfit. Not a concern among people we talked to.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I think that's outrageous.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: She paid. She should be able to fly.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: think it's ridiculous.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I think it's something that's very difficult to police.

COSTELLO: Feminist Ann Friedman can't imagine this happening to a man.

ANN FRIEDMAN, FEMINISTING.COM: The fact that she's a very attractive younger woman is something that, you know, perhaps somebody on the plane was offended by more than just some, you know, schlubby dude.

COSTELLO: Ebbert says before she was allowed back on the flight, she had to listen to a lecture on proper dress and agree to pull down her skirt and pull up her tank top.

(on camera): Kyla told me she simply wanted an apology from Southwest Airlines. That did not come. So now she's thinking of filing a lawsuit. Carol Costello, CNN, Washington.


HARRIS: Still to come in the CNN NEWSROOM this evening, reports of weed problems at some upscale Florida hotels, but it's not a problem for landscaping crews. Drug trafficking and high-priced Florida hotel lobbies, are you kidding me? The full story in about 10 minutes.


HARRIS: So imagine if this happened to you. You're starting first grade. And someone makes this promise -- graduate from high school and I'll pay for your college education. In Oakland, California, a woman named Oral Lee Brown said just that. How she kept her promise is what makes her today's CNN hero.


ORAL LEE BROWN: These are our kids. We should at least take them to a position in their life that they can lead their way. And they can't do it without an education. An education can get you everything you want. You can go wherever you want to go. It's the way out of the ghettos, bottom line.

YOLANDA PEEK, FORMER SCHOOL PRINCIPAL: She says, give me your first graders who are really struggling and who are most needy. I want to adopt the class. And I want to follow the class until they graduate from high school. And she says that she was going to pay their college tuition.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: How many are going to college?

BROWN: At the time, I was making I think $45,000, $46,000 a year. So I committed $10,000 to the kids. I grew up in Mississippi. I lived off of $2 a day. That's what we got, $2 a day for picking cotton. And so I really feel that I was blessed from God. And so I cannot pay him back, but these kids are his kids. These kids, some of them are poor like I was.

LAQUITA WHITE, FORMER STUDENT: When you have that mentor like Ms. Brown, a very strong person, you can't go wrong, because she's on you constantly every day. What are you doing? How are you doing?

BROWN: The world doubted us. I was told that, lady, you cannot do it. And I would say, you know what? These kids are just like any other kids. The only thing that they don't have the love and they don't have the support.

You're looking at doctors, and lawyers, and one president of the United States. When you give a kid an education, and they get it up here, nobody or nothing can take it away.


HARRIS: What a story. What a person.

You got to be kidding? Drug trafficking in the hotel lobby? Orders by telephone. The full story straight ahead.


HARRIS: OK, a little weed problem tonight at several prestigious hotels in Florida. Only it's the kind of weeds that arrives in boxes. Drug trafficking at the Breakers Ritz in Four seasons. You've got to be kidding here.

Police say this guy, there he is, Eduardo Vasquez mailed huge boxes of pot to the most exclusive hotels in Palm Beach and then tried to claim them. He was not a guest. And it doesn't work there. One hotel seized the package, and thinks it's suspicious. Calls in a bomb squad. Imagine their surprise when they found it wasn't explosive at all. At least it could get you bombed. Sorry.

Next up, a harsh lesson on the value of a meat-free diet. This Wisconsin teacher may soon be out of a job, which he said was all in bad taste. He clashed with school administrators over some informal student discussions about his vegan life style and the need to respect animals. This week, he was sent home until further notice. At least PETA likes him. He's getting a compassionate educator award from them.

And the jokes on Australian police, but no one's laughing. Some TV comedians decide to play a motorcade prank in honor of President Bush in Sydney for the APEC Summit. They make it through two security checkpoints, if you can believe it, with an Osama bin Laden lookalike riding in the back seat. 11 people arrested. Three vehicles impounded. Bunch of embarrassed security officers. Big check.

I'm Tony Harris in for Rick Sanchez. Stay with CNN.