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Tom Tancredo Drops Out of Presidential Race; Controversy Erupts Over Destruction of New Orleans Housing

Aired December 20, 2007 - 15:00   ET


KYRA PHILLIPS, CNN ANCHOR: Nobody likes public housing in New Orleans, so, why all the pushback over plans to tear it down and rebuild? Push comes to shove at the City Hall gates. And we have got it live.
What's ailing Rudy Giuliani? We have been waiting to hear all day from the hospital Giuliani was expected to walk out of hours ago. We're live in Saint Louis with the latest.

Hello, everyone. I'm Kyra Phillips at the CNN world headquarters in Atlanta. Don Lemon is off, and you're live in the CNN NEWSROOM.

Well, this hour, we hope to hear more on the condition of presidential hopeful Rudy Giuliani. He is hospitalized in Saint Louis right now, where he checked in complaining of flu-like symptoms yesterday. And a spokeswoman says the Republican presidential candidate didn't feel well enough to continue on a flight to New York, but doctors found nothing alarming and cleared Giuliani to fly home today.

We hope to bring you more information this hour if and when developments warrant.

And this looks like the end of the faltering presidential campaign of Colorado Republican Tom Tancredo. A campaign official tells CNN that Tancredo is pulling out and will make the announcement anytime now. Tancredo's nationwide poll numbers barely register. We are going to bring his comments when we see him step up to the mike.

Live pictures right now from where it's going to happen -- we will take it live when he does make his announcement.

And a setback today, minor, we hope, for a California family that was stranded for three days in a snowstorm. Fifteen-year-old Lexi Dominguez is back in a hospital after complaining of pain in her feet.

She suffered frostbite in her toes when she, her father, and two brothers got lost while looking for a Christmas tree. Hope was fading fast, but today they're celebrating their almost unbelievable rescue by the California Highway Patrol.


CHRISTOPHER DOMINGUEZ, SURVIVED THREE DAYS IN CALIFORNIA WOODS: We all heard the helicopter. I -- we were all yelling -- or we were all sitting down at the time. We all had each other's feet and tried -- inside each other's jackets, trying to keep our feet warm, because they were all frozen, and just trying to keep our feet warm. And we heard the helicopter.

And I told my dad, the helicopter, the helicopter. Josh saw the helicopter. My dad, he just ran out there and started waving his arms, screaming, help, help. And that's when they started circling and going down and going down. And we were all just happy, happy to be rescued.


ALEXIS DOMINGUEZ, SURVIVED THREE DAYS IN CALIFORNIA WOODS: It was really, really scary. Like, I remember going under the tree and just -- we were all trying to like be next to each other. The shelter wasn't very big. So, Chris and my dad weren't like really in the shelter. It was really just me and Josh in the shelter.

And, so, it was just really, really scary, the most scariest thing that could happen.

FREDERICK DOMINGUEZ, SURVIVED THREE DAYS IN CALIFORNIA WOODS: My youngest boy is like, dad, are we going to make it? Are you sure we're going to make it? I said, son, I would tell you what I bought you for Christmas if I thought we weren't going to make it.


PHILLIPS: We will get back to that story, but we want to take you live to Tom Tancredo, about to announce he's pulling out of the presidential race.

Let's listen in.

REP. TOM TANCREDO (R), COLORADO: Thanks for coming. This is great.

And -- but I guess we shall also proceed to the business at hand.

You know, for the past 10 years I have dedicated my public life to warning the nation of the perilous consequences of massive uncontrolled illegal immigration.

And while the people across this great country have come to understand the real and present danger that our open borders (OFF- MIKE) creates for us, this message, unfortunately, has fallen on deaf ears in the highest office of the land.

And without a president who is committed to securing the nation, we will always, of course, remain jeopardy.

And so, in spite of what we knew at the time were incredibly long odds, I made the decision to become a candidate for the presidency of the United States of America. And as I admit, it is -- it was certainly then -- and we have always known the odds were enormous against that happening, but nonetheless I felt committed to pursue that particular agenda.

But nonetheless, I felt committed to pursue that particular agenda. And I am happy to say I am ecstatic about the fact that we can say we have made remarkable progress along those lines.

And I have to thank every single person who has worked on this campaign from day one, through all the miles that we have travelled together throughout Iowa and New Hampshire and states in between, it's really been my pleasure -- my deep and abiding pleasure and it's something I will always treasure; the fact that so many good folks have worked so hard in this endeavor.

And we have made, as I say, great progress.

In fact, according to Newsweek, the Tancredo campaign has already won. And just this month, The Economist, The New Yorkers, The Wall Street Journal, and even The New York Times have grudgingly accredited our campaign with forcing the issue of immigration to the forefront of the national debate and, more importantly, with forcing nearly every Republican presidential candidate to commit themselves to an immigration plan that calls for securing our borders.

PHILLIPS: So, now, with Tom Tancredo out, his followers, few that they were, will have to redirect their support elsewhere. So, where?

Let's bring in CNN senior political analyst Bill Schneider to talk about that.

Bill, I think the first problem was, no one could say his name right, Tancredo, Tancredo. We even had a problem here at CNN trying to hammer that out.

WILLIAM SCHNEIDER, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, I believe it's Tancredo, although I'm not certain of that.

But he was a presence in the race because he brought the issue of illegal immigration, a very tough line on that, into the debate. And in the CNN/YouTube debate in Saint Petersburg, Florida, last month, you may recall that he said to other candidates, in some amazement, all I have heard here is people trying to out-Tancredo Tancredo.

Now, that's exactly right. Almost all -- in fact, I would say all of the other Republican candidates, including John McCain, who was a champion of immigration reform, adopted some parts of Tancredo's tough line on illegal immigration.

Now, what happens when you out-Tancredo Tancredo? You don't need Tancredo anymore. And that's why he's getting out.

PHILLIPS: Bill Schneider, thanks for putting it in perspective for us. You saw it right there, the live pictures from that announcement taking place right now, Tom Tancredo pulling himself out of the presidential race.

Well, the other story that we have been following all afternoon have been those protests in New Orleans, Louisiana, just outside of the gates there at City Hall. Now, protesters saying they don't want certain housing developments abolished.

Yet, the mayor, those involved with Housing and Urban Development, HUD, saying, look, they're dilapidated, crime-infested. There's murders taking place, drug-running going on. Let's tear them down. Let's put up new ones. We will take care of everybody living there, give them these vouchers while we rebuild. They can come back in and have better conditions.

It's still a controversy. Some are for it. A lot of people are against it, as you can see by the protests here going on outside of City Hall.

Reverend Marshall Truehill, public housing advocate, joins us on the phone.

Reverend, we have gotten the perspective from HUD. We talked to a former law enforcement official that talked about the crime in those housing developments. But are in supporter of these protesters? Do you think that some of these developments or all of these developments that are still there should stand?

REVEREND MARSHALL TRUEHILL, PUBLIC HOUSING ADVOCATE: Well, let me set the record straight. Pre-Katrina, every housing development in New Orleans was at the table. Those resident leaders and group of residents was in negotiation with the HANO, the Housing Authority of New Orleans, and HUD, working on a phased demolition plan, with redevelopment, mixed-income neighborhoods.

And they enjoyed resident collaboration, participation and cooperation. There was no dissension at all. No one's saying for the demolition to be halted entirely.

They're saying to halt the demolition temporarily until we can understand where's the plan to rebuild and where's the money to rebuild. Part of the problem in New Orleans is that people do not trust the Housing Authority or HUD, because their track record has been to demolish without rebuilding.

We have about a 20-acre site that was demolished 15 years ago. That site is still vacant land today. We have about 33 acres at the C.J. Peete Housing Development that was demolished 10 years ago. It's still vacant today.

PHILLIPS: Reverend, what about Saint Thomas? That was in pretty bad shape when I lived there. That was rebuilt.

TRUEHILL: You know, when people say bad shape, first of all, we're talking about buildings that were structurally sound and had great architectural value.

We have warehouses in New Orleans that are much, much older than any public housing structure in New Orleans that was renovated and turned into high-end condominiums. These buildings could have been gutted, if that was necessary. The configuration of the apartments could have made differently. They could be used as viable housing today.

The question is not the buildings. The question is the people who live in those buildings. And there's always been stereotypical thinking and myths circulating about the people and their community.


TRUEHILL: ... back in the mid-1990s got rid of welfare; 86 percent of the residents in public housing were working at the time of Katrina. The other 14 percent were children, elderly, the infirm, and a few people who didn't have jobs. So, there are a lot of myths circulating.

PHILLIPS: Well, Reverend Truehill, but it's definitely not a myth that some of these -- a number of these housing developments dealt with the drug running and the crime.


PHILLIPS: I remember being a reporter there and going to the murders that happened at least four times a week at some of these developments. So, how do you find the happy medium?

TRUEHILL: A lot of the murders that occurred didn't always occur in the development. The news media reported murders that happened near. And sometimes near was as far as three blocks away.


PHILLIPS: Well, how do you find the happy medium, Reverend? Obviously, there's money coming in, so how do you make housing development living better? And, obviously, you're pointing out that some of these buildings have been around for a while, some of the architecture. They have got a lot of history to them, a lot of culture to them.

How do you find that happy medium of working on the ones...


TRUEHILL: You find the happy medium by people in power sitting down with the people who are affected, and talking about things and working things out.

As I said when I began, that was happening pre-Katrina. The residents were sitting at the table. There was no contention about the whether to demolish buildings or whether to create mixed-income neighborhoods. There was no dissension. There was only cooperation and collaboration. The Housing Authority of New Orleans took advantage of a natural disaster and a forced evacuation of the city to shut off the housing development, block out the innocent, law-abiding people who were working and had a right and legal lease to live there. They did not go about it in the proper way. You cannot just violate people's human rights in the United States of America.

PHILLIPS: Now, HUD is saying they're given vouchers to these residents, so they will have a place to live, and have a place to basically carry on as they have been in these housing developments as they are rebuilt. Are you seeing that? Do you trust that system?

TRUEHILL: No. No, we don't see it and we don't trust it.

First of all, as I said, there's about 200 acres of vacant land that's been vacant for a long time that if HUD were going to build any viable housing, they could have done it. Why destroy everything at once, when you could be rebuilding right now?

We have 12,000 homeless people on the streets of New Orleans, and possibly another 30,000 to 40,000 more homeless people all the way back as FEMA evicts people from travel trailers. Those people are not going to be homeless in Houston, Dallas, Atlanta, and all those places. They got to come home to be homeless, where they know the city, they know the people. There's possibly a support network. They're going to come back here.

They're exacerbating an already serious problem for the city administration and for the citizens and the social service infrastructure of New Orleans.

PHILLIPS: Reverend Marshall Truehill...

TRUEHILL: We don't think it's prudent to do that.

PHILLIPS: ... public housing advocate, Reverend, sure appreciate your time. We have had a chance to talk to you, also a representative from HUD, and also we have been covering the protests all morning and throughout the afternoon. We will stay on top of the vote, see what happens with the housing developments there in New Orleans.

Reverend, thank you.

TRUEHILL: You're welcome.

PHILLIPS: Appreciate it.


PHILLIPS: Presidential hopeful Rudy Giuliani has been in the hospital, and when he's released at the bottom of the hour, you are going to hear about it right here in the CNN NEWSROOM.

He tugged at your heartstrings and you reached out to help him. Months and several operations later, find out how little Youssif is doing. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

PHILLIPS: Well, holiday times for kids means gimme, gimme, gimme, right? Well, hold on. Wait until you see who is leading a most selfless drive to help others.


PHILLIPS: Well, you first met little Youssif this past summer, a little Iraqi boy savagely burned by mass attackers in Baghdad. His journey to a California burn center is the subject of an hour-long special, though, that is going to air this Christmas Eve right here on CNN.

And here's a clip hosted by our chief medical correspondent, Dr. Sanjay Gupta.


DR. SANJAY GUPTA, CNN SENIOR MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Desperately wanting to help his son heal, Youssif's father wrote letters to government officials, hoping someone would help.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I never got help anywhere.

GUPTA: That's when this father's love prompted him to take an enormous risk, to put his own safety in jeopardy for his son. For his safety, we're not identifying him in any way.

ARWA DAMON, CNN CORRESPONDENT: His father had been pounding the pavement in Baghdad for about nearly eight months. He happened to be in a store where he heard about CNN, was told that perhaps CNN could help.

GUPTA: Just going to the CNN bureau in Baghdad, Youssif's father was risking his life. Youssif's father returned to the CNN bureau four times before a producer, Mohammed (ph) had time to see him.

For his safety, we aren't showing his face either.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And he showed me the first picture of Youssif before the incident. And that smile, I couldn't help myself but to cry. I said, oh, my God, this is your son before the incident. I run with this picture to Arwa. And Arwa also was like in the middle of something busy. I said, Arwa, leave everything. Look to this picture.

DAMON: And, for us, that was it. We were going to do the story, if only for the sole reason of trying to get this kid help.


PHILLIPS: I'll tell you what. That story did revolutionize a lot of things around here. We just sort of took little Youssif in like one of our own. GUPTA: You know, it's so interesting, Kyra, because you have that feeling as a journalist, that you see so many of these things happen, you see bad things happen so often, but to have that next step, what Arwa did specifically -- she wrote that article. Two million people read that. It was the most read column outside a breaking news story.

And people responded. It was pretty remarkable, just the money, the letters, the thoughts, the sentiments. It was really incredible to see. It shows that it's out there.

PHILLIPS: And just to think that that is the reality of what's taking place in Baghdad, these attackers wanting to blow up and set the face on fire of an innocent little boy, it's just disgusting when you see the acts of violence and terror that are happening there to these Iraqi people.

GUPTA: I think it's so emblematic of just how random, how violent, how vicious. I mean, it's a 5-year-old boy. He was sitting, playing outside, eating chips. They come over to him, pour gasoline. He probably didn't even know what was happening until he was literally on fire. And then he's shouting out to his mother: "I'm on fire. I'm on fire."

And you saw -- you could see what the result was.

PHILLIPS: And there is no rhyme or reason to that, either. It's just pure terror.

GUPTA: Nothing can justify that.

PHILLIPS: You have spent a lot of time with him. What did you think of him? And you're a doctor. And, so, I'm just curious about your thoughts were about him, you know, psychologically, physically, emotionally.

GUPTA: I think the good news is that he's recovering psychologically.

And I'm glad you asked that, because so many people are going to be focused on his cosmetic appearance, but the psychology of it is so important as well.

PHILLIPS: Much deeper.


When I first saw him, he wanted nothing to do with me.


GUPTA: He was just ignoring me completely. But then I noticed a transformation in him, both in terms of his healing, but also in terms of his well-being psychologically.

He wanted to play. He wanted to be outside, Kyra. He was so self-conscious at first of just having people see him, and then he's actually outside and playing. And we kicked a soccer ball around. He wants to go to the beach, all sorts of stuff like that. So, I think he is going to improve.

They have got some difficult decisions ahead, Kyra, as you might imagine, because they have to decide whether they're going to back to Baghdad or they're going to stay here. And Youssif is just one boy. He's representative of so many other children who could benefit, just like he did.

PHILLIPS: Can't wait for the special. I know it touched you quite a bit, didn't it?

GUPTA: Yes, absolutely.

PHILLIPS: Especially as a dad.

GUPTA: Yes, a totally different prism when you have children, absolutely.

PHILLIPS: No doubt.

All right, Sanjay, thanks.

GUPTA: Thank you.

PHILLIPS: And it's an hour you definitely don't want to miss. You just got a little taste of it there with Sanjay.

But "Rescuing Youssif" is the name of it. It airs first on Christmas Eve, 10:00 Eastern, right here on CNN. Then we are going to replay it for you Christmas Day at 4:00 Eastern.

Presidential hopeful Rudy Giuliani has been in the hospital. If he's released, you are going to hear about it right here in the CNN NEWSROOM.



PHILLIPS: Well, holiday time for kids usually means, gimme, gimme, gimme, right? Well, hold on. Wait until you see who is leading a most selfless drive to help others.

You're going to meet him.


MILES O'BRIEN, CNN CHIEF TECHNOLOGY AND ENVIRONMENT CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Michelle Hamilton gets all shook up when she goes to the doctor these days. But that's a good thing.

MICHELLE HAMILTON, MRE PATIENT: I just laid on the table, and it was noninvasive. There was no pain. It was relaxing. O'BRIEN: Michelle has hepatitis. And doctors used to give her a needle biopsy to check her liver, a scary, painful procedure. But, for Michelle, the needle biopsy is history, replaced by a new kind of MRI machine.

RICHARD EHMAN, PROFESSOR OF RADIOLOGY, MAYO CLINIC: It's a bit like being able to touch the liver and see how soft it is.

O'BRIEN: Richard Ehman is a radiologist at the Mayo Clinic, where they developed a technique called magnetic resonance elastography, or MRE. The device can tell how soft or how hard your insides are.

EHMAN: The normal liver is very, very soft to the touch. And, on the other hand, we know that a very fibrotic live or a very cirrhotic liver is actually very hard to the touch, almost rock-hard.

O'BRIEN: An MRE sends out sound waves, which cause vibrations. Hard, diseased tissue does not vibrate as much as the healthy, soft liver.

And, so, an elastogram image can clearly spot problems. MREs are brand-new and not widely used just yet, but Dr. Ehman believes they will soon help doctors fight breast cancer and Alzheimer's and any other disease where hard tissue is a sure sign of trouble.

Miles O'Brien, CNN.



PHILLIPS: Live pictures now from our affiliates there out of St. Louis, Missouri. Thank you to KSDK for these shots.

We're actually waiting to see Rudy Giuliani. The presidential hopeful had checked himself into this hospital while he was on the campaign trail. He had flu-like symptoms. But we haven't had a chance to hear from doctors exactly what his condition was. We're just getting word he is supposed to be released today. He didn't feel good enough to fly back home to New York. Apparently, he'll be flying home today. So we're still waiting to get a lot of information and find out what caused him to check into the hospital and if, indeed, he is OK. We'll bring that to you live once we see him -- get a visual and see him leaving.

An update now on the California family that was stranded for three days in a snowstorm. The three children returned to the hospital today for follow-up exams. That happened after 15-year-old Alexis Dominguez complained of pain in her feet. She suffered frostbite in her toes when she and her father and two brothers got lost while looking for a Christmas tree. Hope was fading fast, but the family didn't panic. They ate snow to stay alive and they used twigs and branches to spell out "help" in the snow. Eventually, a Highway Patrol helicopter spotted them and moved in for the rescue.

They talked about their ordeal with CNN's Anderson Cooper.




A. DOMINGUEZ: They were so numb. And, so, like I couldn't really feel them. But I tried to keep walking. And then, when we were under the tunnel, my dad like cut up his shirt and Chris cut up his shirt and we made new socks so our feet could stay warm.

CHRISTOPHER DOMINGUEZ, SON: Yes, it worked for a while through the night, and -- but after a while, they just got wet, since we were by the water. And the snow came in. And it was just hard. And so we actually had to take off our shoes and just leave our socks on that we made and let our shoes dry out for a little bit. And it helped. Our feet were pretty cold, but it worked out.


PHILLIPS: Frederick Dominguez says that he was terrified during those three long days in the wilderness, but he stayed strong for his children.


FREDERICK DOMINGUEZ, FATHER: My daughter was singing songs and we were singing and everything during the day. But the nights were just miserable. And my youngest boy was like, dad, are we going to make it? Are you sure we're going to make it?

I said, son, I would tell you what I bought for Christmas if I thought we weren't going to make it.

When it boils down to it, you have your faith, you have family and you have your friends and that's it. And you know what? When you're in a place where you think, wow, we may not make it, all you want to do is tell those people how much you love them, how much you miss them and how much you respect and love them.

And you know what? I'll probably do that a little more now.


PHILLIPS: Amen. Well, Dominguez says that next year he's playing it safe. He's buying a plastic Christmas tree.

Well, boys and girls, presents and stockings, Santa Claus and what's under the tree -- Christmas for the average kid is largely a matter of what am I'm going to get? But this wouldn't be the news if we were talking about the average.

Check out this inspiring report from our Houston affiliate, KTRK, and reporter Cynthia Cisneros.


CYNTHIA CISNEROS, KTRK CORRESPONDENT: If Christmas represents the spirit of giving, then this little boy is filled with the Christmas spirit. At 8-years-old, he is already considered a veteran fundraiser.

(voice-over): For Stephen Smith, the idea is a simple one -- all children should have Christmas presents. Growing up in River Oaks, getting gifts is a certainty for Stephen and his family. Yet Stephen realized his reality is, for some kids, an unattainable dream.

STEPHEN SMITH, HEADING UP TEXAS TOY DRIVE: It's not really all about rich people like, oh, I can buy this but other people can't buy this.

CISNEROS (on camera): What's it about?

S. SMITH: It's really just about like people are really different. Everybody's different in a way. And so that's why.

CISNEROS: Stephen's philanthropy is not surprising to his father.

JEFF SMITH, STEPHEN'S FATHER: He started as early as we can remember. Of course, he is an 8-year old boy, so there are times when he's not quite as philanthropic as others. But he always kind of comes back around. And it's almost that he has the true -- he has the true meaning of Christmas and he was born with it. He understands that it's not about him all the time.

CISNEROS: This year, the Salvation Army has partnered with Stephen -- a sign that response to Stephen's dream is growing and inspiring others.

TAMA KLOSEK, DONOR: It starts at home. I think it starts with parents who are raising awareness with their kids and telling them about philanthropy and that it needs to start young and that you need to make your kids aware that there are children who don't have toys, who don't have homes, who don't have food, who don't have all the wonderful things that we have.

S. SMITH: You should be treated as other people would like to be treated, too.

MAJ. MARSHALL GESHNER, SALVATION ARMY: If we didn't have kids who had been encouraged when they were young somehow and grown up to want to help people around them, the Salvation Army wouldn't be able to do what we do. We're able to help 25,000 kids or so this Christmas in the greater Houston area.

CISNEROS (on camera): Stephen says he's going to continue doing this as long as he can. And he said when he gets as old as me, he hopes to have the whole city of Houston involved. And it looks like he's off to a pretty good start.

Cynthia Cisneros, 13, Eyewitness News.

(END VIDEOTAPE) PHILLIPS: Well, quite an amazing story and an even more amazing kid. And he's with us live on CNN right now.

Stephen Smith, welcome.

S. SMITH: Well, hello.

PHILLIPS: It's great to have you with us.

S. SMITH: Thank you for inviting me.

PHILLIPS: It is my pleasure and honor.

So, Stephen, tell me, why did it touch you so knowing about homeless people and finding out that not every child gets a gift at Christmas? Why did that move you when your parents explained that to you?

S. SMITH: Because I think that everybody is just as important as everybody else and so that's why I really wanted to have a Christmas party, so everybody is -- really celebrates Christmas.

PHILLIPS: And where did you learn that, Stephen? Is that just something you knew deep down in your heart or did you learn that from mom or dad?

S. SMITH: I learned it from my parents, from my Bible teacher, from my church.

PHILLIPS: Wow! And your brother and sister, I understand, pitch in and help you out, right? Little Sammy helps you out and Mary Kate?

S. SMITH: Yes, ma'am.

PHILLIPS: What do they do?

S. SMITH: They -- when I have people come, they tell them where things are. They carry the presents in. They -- they helped when I gave out money to the poor on the street.

PHILLIPS: Now, Stephen, when you started doing this, you were only three-years-old -- oh, and we lost our connection to him. That is a big bummer.

What do you think, you guys, can we get the satellite link-up back up?

All right, we're going to work on getting Stephen back with us. We can't let him go. We've got to continue that interview. So while we work that, we're also monitoring something else right now.

And that's Rudy Giuliani. The presidential hopeful checked himself into the hospital in Missouri when he was on the campaign trail. He wasn't feeling well, said he had flu-like symptoms. He checked in and ended up staying there. He didn't go back to New York. So we're trying to get some answers from doctors and from the hospital. Apparently, he is supposed to be released today. We're monitoring the doors, as you can see, through our affiliate, KSDK, out of St. Louis.

As soon as we get a visual on him, we'll try and get some more answers about how he's doing, his condition and why he had to check himself in and stay a little longer than just a few hours.


PHILLIPS: Well, it's a story that we've been following all afternoon. And it's these protests that are taking place in New Orleans, just outside of city hall. You may have seen the video earlier in our newscast. Police -- New Orleans police actually had to use pepper spray and stun guns to get these protesters away from charging in to city hall. The whole issue is and the whole controversy is over these housing developments in New Orleans. Protesters saying we don't want them torn down, we need a place to live.

However, HUD and the city -- mayor there in New Orleans says we've got to tear these down and put up new facilities so you can have a better way of life and we can cut down on the crime that takes place in these housing developments.

We got to see, also -- Travers Mackel did some reports for us early on with our affiliate WDSU.

Travers now joins us live -- Travers, you're actually behind the gates where it's safe. But has it sort of calmed down, the protests, now?

TRAVERS MACKEL, WDSU CORRESPONDENT: It's actually calmed down a lot, Kyra. One of the reasons why is because it's storming outside right now. So that has turned a lot of protesters away. But I can still show you this -- the gates are still chain locked right here. They have been that way for the better part of the morning.

About 250 people went inside the New Orleans City Council chambers. When he got to the max capacity, they told everybody else, you can no longer go inside. You can stay behind the gates and protest. The protest was peaceful at first and police told all of these protesters if things got out of hand, they will have to use force.

They started shaking the gates and shaking the gates. Finally, just before 11:00, protesters broke through.

Police officers, as you just mentioned, had to use stun guns. They had to use and pepper spray. They said it's not something they wanted to do, but they thought it was justified and something that they had to do.

Now, the council is still hearing arguments inside before they vote to tear down these public housing units.

PHILLIPS: And Travers, are these actual individuals that live in this housing development that's slated to get torn down and rebuilt? And what's the main concern here -- that they'll be out of a home? Because HUD says they're all get vouchers, they'll have a place to live while their housing develop is being rebuilt.

TRAVERS: Right. HUD does make a pretty good argument. And their argument is that everybody who has been displaced since Hurricane Katrina does have a voucher. They will not be homeless. A lot of the people protesting -- that's a very good question -- are not former or current residents or current residents.

In fact, there are, if you will, professional protesters. They are people here volunteering. They have been out in force for weeks, if not months. I would probably say 70 percent of the crowd is made up of people who have not and do not live in those housing units, but just don't want to see them torn down. They feel that it's unfair to the people who used to live there to not be given the chance to come back.

And we should also point out that when HANO, the Housing Authority of New Orleans, and HUD plans to do this, they want to put there what they call mixed income housing -- basically low income, medium income and high income. And they want to -- they think that will be better for the community, instead of having what they call warehouses of condensed poverty.

PHILLIPS: Travers Mackel with our affiliate WDSU out of New Orleans. We'll follow up on that vote. Travers, thank you so much.

Now we want to get back to our little special guest that we were talking to before we lost our satellite connection there. We apologize.

And we're talking about Stephen Smith -- never too young to help others. That is for sure. Eight-years-old -- but it started when he was three. He started raising money and collecting gifts for the homeless, and specifically for kids that couldn't afford to receive gifts under the tree.

All right, so, Stephen, let's get back to our discussion. And you had learned a lot from bible study, you said, from your church, from your parents about giving back and how important it is to give back. But you were three-years-old when you started to collect money and when you noticed that people were homeless and that you noticed that not every child was going to have a Christmas present underneath the tree waiting for them.

How did you know that at three-years-old? Did you even understand what poverty was?

S. SMITH: My parents taught me about it. The first time that I actually saw somebody, I asked my parents what they were doing. And they said that they don't have a home. They don't have any money. And so that's how my parents -- that's I learned.

PHILLIPS: Wow! And how do you get people to give toys and to participate in your party?

S. SMITH: I ask them to donate, if not their nicest thing, but something that can actually change somebody's life.

PHILLIPS: And when you see all these gifts arrive and when you witness your own party and you see what you have done for five years now, how does that make you feel?

S. SMITH: Good.

PHILLIPS: Just good? Not fantastic?

S. SMITH: Well, yes.

PHILLIPS: Now, have you ever had a chance to meet any of the kids that receive these toys?

S. SMITH: Yes, ma'am.

PHILLIPS: Really? So tell me about that. So where did you go? Do you remember anyone specific that you met and how did that make an impact on you?

S. SMITH: I went to the Salvation Army, where all the kids stayed. And they were giving -- they were giving presents out that I came with. And I talk -- I just talked to them.

PHILLIPS: Oh, and I bet you made them feel so good. What do you want to be when you grow up, Stephen?

S. SMITH: I want to be either in the Navy or a police officer.

PHILLIPS: All right. Well, those are fantastic goals at 8-years- old. And congratulations on your holiday toy drive. You are a remarkable, remarkable young man.

S. SMITH: Thank you.

PHILLIPS: You're welcome. I wish I could adopt you, but your parents love you a lot, don't they?

S. SMITH: Um hmm.

PHILLIPS: OK. Thanks, Stephen.

All right, we want to take you back now to that hospital where Rudy Giuliani checked himself in. It's in Missouri. We're getting word now that he is possibly going to be released. These live pictures coming to us from KSDK, our affiliate there in St. Louis, Missouri.

Just to give you a little background, he was on the campaign trail and apparently we just obtained a statement from his campaign, saying that the mayor has been (AUDIO GAP).

OK. Are we talking about Giuliani?

OK. So, presidential hopeful Rudy Giuliani, we are being told, is going to be released with a clean bill of health. And he will be returning to New York. Is that coming to us from the mayor of St. Louis?

OK. It's coming to us from his campaign. A little confused about the information there. But that's the word that we are getting, straight from his campaign, that he has got a clean bill of health. He will be released. He'll return to New York. He had checked in with some flu-like symptoms. We weren't being able to get a lot of information. We weren't quite sure -- there he is right there.

It looks like he has been -- he has officially been released. Live pictures now from this Missouri hospital. KSDK, thanks to you for these live pictures. He looks like he is in good health. He had checked in with flu-like symptoms, wasn't feeling so good, didn't feel good about flying back to New York.

So it looks like the presidential hopeful is giving a few comments there to some reporters that are making a shout-out to him. Elizabeth Cohen with me here by my side -- medical correspondent.

I don't know if you've been able to get any more information from the hospital or the doctors or -- I mean, does it look like he just wasn't feeling so good?

He checked in, then he's OK. I mean this is someone who's got a background of cancer, right?


PHILLIPS: He fought cancer. And didn't he have some heart issues at one time? Or maybe I'm -- I'm just thinking about the cancer.

COHEN: Certainly there are lots of things that you would want to keep in mind. You know, if Rudy Giuliani walked into your emergency room not feeling well, there's definitely certain things that you want to check out. When we -- all we've heard is he had flu-like symptoms. That can mean a whole bunch of different things. Flu-like symptoms can include a cough, fever, chills, extreme fatigue, body aches. Obviously, with flu-like symptoms, the first thing you're going to check is does he have the flu?

If he truly had the flu in a very intense way, we wouldn't have seen him walking around the way we just saw him. Doctors say, you know, if you really have the flu, you are knocked out. You are off your feet. You are not able to be that mobile.

There are many, many things that could cause flu-like symptoms. We don't even have time to list them all. Certainly one of them is food poisoning. That's something that they check for. They would also check for other kinds of infections.

So there's a whole lost of things. Flu-like symptoms is extremely vague. We haven't been given anything more detailed than that.

PHILLIPS: All right. So we'll keep working that and see if we can get more information. But it looks like everything's OK at this point. COHEN: That's what we're hearing.

PHILLIPS: I mean they're -- I mean any -- obviously, he's a -- you know, he's running for the presidency.

COHEN: Right.

PHILLIPS: And we've always followed Rudy Giuliani. And when we weren't getting a lot of answers or information -- and we're not hearing from him, as well, not hearing from the doctors. That could -- hopefully that's good news. They think it's not a big deal. He's being released and everything is OK.

COHEN: Right, because sometimes these viral infections can just -- maybe it just was a viral infection that was just very quick and dissipated very quickly. Maybe it was food poisoning. Who knows? It's very difficult to say.

PHILLIPS: All right, Elizabeth Cohen, appreciate it.

COHEN: Thanks.

PHILLIPS: Well, nearly down and out, a soldier back from the front eyes a new beginning.


CPL. CARL DUDA, U.S. ARMY: It's the most amazing gift I've ever gotten besides my daughter.


PHILLIPS: Well, it's an early Christmas gift that you won't believe.


PHILLIPS: Just moments ago, you saw it here on CNN -- Rudy Giuliani, the presidential hopeful, released from the hospital there in Missouri. He wasn't feeling so well. He checked himself in with flu-like symptoms. As you can see, he left. And said to the reporters and the camera folks there, "I'm doing fine."

We still don't know exactly what happened. Hopefully, we'll get more information through "THE SIT ROOM" coming up at the top of the hour. Suzanne Malveaux is hosting. She'll bring us the update on Giuliani's condition.

Time after time, he answered his country's call. Wounded in Iraq, a soldier came home to Pennsylvania only to find that he had been fired from a civilian job and was facing financial ruin. But don't forget, 'tis the season of giving.

Reporter Stacia Erdos of CNN affiliate WPXI has more on an early Christmas present.


STACIA ERDOS, WPXI (voice over): The stars and stripes proudly displayed outside the new West Mifflin home of Corporal Carl Duda. The free, newly refurbished home is a Christmas present that will help wipe away much of the family's hardship.

DUDA: It's the most amazing gift I've ever gotten besides my daughter.


ERDOS: Corporal Duda was so proud to be an American, he volunteered multiple times for active duty -- the last time severely wounding his back in Iraq. His employer at home, firing him.

DUDA: We were almost bankrupt. The company I used to work for terminated me because I volunteered for military duty again. And that shows the very worst in our people towards soldiers.

ERDOS: But it was more than Duda's amazing story that caught the attention of the Hope Lives Foundation, which was holding an essay contest to give away, for the second time, a remodeled, debt-free home to a returning veteran.

JIM TONER, HOPE LIVES FOUNDATION: When he found out about the contest, instead of keeping the information to himself, he made sure all the other vets knew about it. So he put others in front of him, and that's what a soldier does. So that pretty much cinched it for us.

DUDA: I just wanted to welcome you, from me, my wife and my daughter.

ERDOS: If neighbors say hello, Duda's feeling more secure now about his future with his wife and young daughter. And if there is a Santa, he now believes.

DUDA: We're going to just relax and enjoy the holiday season. It's going to be a lot easier than the last four or five years have been.


PHILLIPS: Well, because of his injuries, Duda says that it will be hard to find work. So he's hoping the military will offer him medical retirement.

Here comes the bride -- and you won't believe what she's wearing.


PHILLIPS: Well, it's a tear jerker time, but run for the tissue.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It gives me great pleasure to pronounce that you are husband and wife. Joy, you may kiss your bride, but please don't squeeze the Charmin wedding dress.


PHILLIPS: Well, who needs a hankie when you're wearing toilet paper?

Yes, you heard it correctly -- the bride's wedding dress is made of a certain paper product. It was made by designer Hannah Kim, winner of the 2007 Toilet Paper Wedding Dress Contest. You didn't know they had that, did you?

Bride Jennifer Cannon and groom Doy Nichols exchanged their vows in a temporary rest room in New York City -- Susan Lisovicz, why in the world would ...


PHILLIPS: ...anybody want to do that?

LISOVICZ: I just hope it was two ply tissue paper, if you know what I mean, because the bride would really be blushing then.

PHILLIPS: The marriage is already in the toilet, that's what I say.