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FAA Whistleblowers Testify Before Congress; Airline Declares Bankruptcy; Study: Abuse of Newborns Common; Dengue Fever Sweeps Southern Brazil; Obama, Clinton Court Working-Class Voters

Aired April 03, 2008 - 13:00   ET


BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN ANCHOR: Passing inspection or bypassing inspection? When it comes to airplanes, the difference can be life and death. Congress hears from FAA inspectors who blew the whistle on Southwest Airlines and their own bosses.
T.J. HOLMES, CNN ANCHOR: Also, who would abuse, neglect or otherwise mistreat a baby? Apparently, the parents of 1 in 50 babies born in America. Our Elizabeth Cohen sheds light on a heart-wrenching study.

Whoever's doing NEWSROOM, Ali, happens to be me, T.J. Holmes, sitting in today for Don Lemon at the CNN world headquarters in Atlanta, Georgia.

KEILAR: And I'm Brianna Keilar, in today for Kyra Phillips. You're in the CNN NEWSROOM.

Are airline passengers put at risk by an all-too-cozy relationship between the airlines and the government? Well, that's what two whistle-blowers told a congressional committee today. The two safety inspectors for the Federal Aviation Administration say they were pressured to ignore problems at Southwest Airlines.


DOUGLAS PETERS, FAA SAFETY INSPECTOR: June 11, 2007, at approximately 1 p.m., acting manager Bobby Headland (ph) stopped by my office. That was during the time frame of the FAA's initial internal investigation of the A.D. overflight.

I was typing my written statement to FAA security special agent Jay LaFlare (ph), and I informed Headland (ph) that I would be sending him a memo regarding unethical actions taking place by inspectors in the Southwest CMO. He agreed to look into the matter once he received the memo.

Before Headland (ph) left my office, I told him that I thought writing my concerns about unethical actions was the right thing to do. He stated and agreed that we should always do the right thing. And that's what his father had always told him to do. And got out of the chair and walked over to my bookcase, where I keep pictures in frames.

He picked up a picture of my son that was taken next to an aircraft and said, "This is what's important: family and flying." He then pointed to a picture of my family and said, again, "This is what's important."

On his way out the door, he made the following statement: "You have a good job here. Your wife has a good job over at the Dallas FSDO. I'd hate to see you jeopardize yours and hers career, trying to take down a couple of losers."


KEILAR: Correspondent Drew Griffin of CNN's special investigations unit spoke with the whistle-blowers last night. We're going to have part of that interview at the bottom of the hour.

HOLMES: Another one bites the dust. Talking about a U.S. airline here. ATA Airlines, based in Indianapolis, canceled all its scheduled flights, fired more than 2,200 employees and sent thousands of would-be passengers scrambling to change their travel plans. Well, unfortunately for those folks that are newly unemployed, they have got a ton of company.

And CNN's Susan Lisovicz on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange for us today, with the latest, and the latest ain't good.

Hey there, Susan.


Well, let's first talk about the major headline about ATA, a carrier that's been in business since 1973, flew about 10,000 passengers a day. About 50 flights a day, half of them charter, half of them scheduled. Has a big partnership with Southwest, which says it is trying to rebook those passengers that had some sort of connection with ATA.

ATA, as a lot of folks know, flew mainly between Hawaii and four western cities, but also flew Chicago, served Chicago, Dallas and Chicago.

So it's 2,200 ATA employees who will now be looking for work, because this is -- the company says it's ceasing all flights as it files for bankruptcy, by the way, for the second time since 2004.

The problem here, T.J., was that it was a loss of a key military contract. Not a good time for that to happen, especially at a time when, of course, jet fuel costs are rising.

And we, of course, have more evidence here of rising unemployment. We just got a weekly unemployment report, of jobless claims. I should mention, that came in much, much higher than expected, 400,000, which is a bad omen for the monthly jobs report that we get tomorrow -- T.J.

HOLMES: OK, it sounds like you're answering the question I was about to ask. These folks are entering the workforce, unfortunately and unexpectedly, but I guess what's the jobs prospects? Are they going to find jobs? LISOVICZ: Well, you know, we do get this jobs report tomorrow. And we're expecting the third consecutive monthly decline. You know, we're looking at the estimates, now, of loss of 50,000 in the U.S. labor market.

That is saying quite a bit, T.J., when you think about it. Most economists say you need to add at least 100,000 jobs a month just to keep pace with the new numbers of people entering the workforce. In other words, to keep pace with the -- with the U.S. population. So that is not good. And so there will be a lot of competition for the work for those people who are now suddenly jobless at ATA.

In terms of what's happening on Wall Street, well, we've seen a modest rally. It's been volatile. We've been listening to what Ben Bernanke is saying for a second day on Capitol Hill. We're also listening -- looking at those numbers from the jobs market. But we do see a modest increase right now. The Dow and the NASDAQ, broader S&P 500 for that matter, all about a third of a percent -- T.J.

HOLMES: All right. Susan Lisovicz, a lot of stuff going on right now in the business world. We appreciate you being on top of it. We'll see you again soon.

LISOVICZ: My pleasure.

KEILAR: I know that you're tired of hearing this. Trust me, I'm tired of reporting this, but gas prices are still going up. AAA reports a slight uptick overnight, just two-tenths of a cent, but it's still a new record. $3.289 a gallon on average. That's for regular unleaded.

HOLMES: Well, now, the government has put up $30 billion to help JPMorgan buy Bear Stearns. Federal Reserve chairman Ben Bernanke says without the Fed's intervention, the domino effect from a Bear Stearns collapse could have severely hurt the economy.

The treasury undersecretary for domestic finance put it this way at a Senate hearing.


ROBERT STEEL, TREASURY UNDERSECRETARY: The failure of a firm at that time that was so connected to so many corners of our markets would have caused financial disruptions beyond Wall Street.

We weighed the multiple risks such as the potential disruptions to counterparties, other financial institutions, the markets, and the market infrastructure. These risks warranted a careful review and thorough considerations of potential implications and responses.


HOLMES: Well, that hearing continues. A live look at that hearing happening right now on Capitol Hill. Going to be hearing from the executives from both companies. Also going to be hearing from Allan Chernoff, our Allan Chernoff of CNN. He'll have the latest for us next hour, right here in the CNN NEWSROOM.

KEILAR: Neglect and abuse of babies and even newborns. A study just released by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention shows just how common it is.

Let's go ahead and bring in our medical correspondent, Elizabeth Cohen.

We're talking babies here, infants.

ELIZABETH COHEN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: We're talking tiny, tiny little babies. This is the first time a study has really focused on babies under the age of 1. Many of these babies who were neglected and abused were under 1-week-old. This is very, very sad.

Let's take a look at what they found in this first-ever study. One in 50 victim -- infants are victims of abuse or neglect. Nearly one-third of these victims were a week old or younger. So, some very, very sad statistics about what can happen sometimes to babies.

KEILAR: Nearly one in third of the victims a week old or younger. Newborn babies. What type of neglect, abuse? What are we talking about here?

COHEN: Unfortunately, it runs the gamut from downright physical abuse to abandoning babies in the hospital, not coming back to get them, to moms using drugs while pregnant, so the babies are born drug- addicted, to not meeting all their needs for food and for clothing. So it really runs the gamut.

KEILAR: And it causes problems, obviously, throughout a child's entire life.

COHEN: Oh, yes.

KEILAR: So what can be done to help these kids out?

COHEN: You know, they already know what can be done, because they've done some pilot programs. And what they found is that if you get to parents early, you really can prevent abuse and neglect.

For example, if you get the parents when -- in the hospital right when the baby's born, that can really make a difference. If you do home visits when the baby first goes home, that can really make a difference. And of course, getting to parents while Mom is pregnant, that makes a difference, too.

So really getting in there, right in the home, right in the hospital when the baby is very, very young makes a difference.

KEILAR: I mean, this is such a difficult story...

COHEN: Oh, it's horrible.

KEILAR: ... to report but important, nonetheless. Elizabeth Cohen, thank you. COHEN: Thanks.

HOLMES: Well, our Bonnie Schneider standing by in the weather center for us.

Bonnie, we're talking severe weather once again?

BONNIE SCHNEIDER, CNN METEOROLOGIST: Absolutely. And we're also talking about flooding in a place just two weeks ago suffered from severe flooding. So unfortunately, more rain is falling in areas of the heartland and the Mid-south right now.

Look at this: Bowling Green, Kentucky, getting hammered with downpours of rain, as in western Tennessee. We're also seeing it in Southwest Missouri in Poplar Bluff, for example. We already have an inch of rain, about almost a inch and a half since 4 a.m. this morning.

The rain is also coming in across the Mississippi, working its way towards Alabama.

Now, this flooding is a concern, and there are flood watches posted that will extend straight into the evening hours. And they stretch pretty far and wide, all the way from Oklahoma up through Missouri and into St. Louis. And if you're thinking this looks very similar, exactly the same path of storms. And it looks like we're going to see that threat for flooding all the way into West Virginia, as well.

Now, the other thing that we're watching is the threat not only for the flooding but for severe weather in terms of tornadoes and large hail. This system that's rolling through this area of low pressure is also tapping into some gulf moisture. So, conditions are ripe that we could see some very strong storms in this region here, through lower sections of Oklahoma and Northern Texas, where just last Monday we saw some severe storms in and around the Dallas area. So, be watching for this once again.

This particular system will likely develop large hail and damaging winds. A little bit less in terms of tornadoes than we saw earlier in the week, but it's definitely something to keep an eye on for heavy rain and severe storms in the mid-South and the southern plains -- T.J.

HOLMES: Brace yourselves once again.


HOLMES: Bonnie, we appreciate you. We'll be talking to you again here soon.

We've got a health crisis to tell you about in South America's biggest country. Dozens of deaths in Southeastern Brazil, linked to dengue fever. We'll take a closer look at this virus spread by mosquitoes. Could it come to the U.S.? KEILAR: And we'll meet some tween angels, a group of preteens who are spending their free time making sure that your kids are safe online.


KEILAR: Dengue fever is sweeping Southeastern Brazil and the crisis getting worse by the day. More than 55,000 cases of the mosquito-borne virus have been reported in Rio De Janeiro state over the past four months. The death toll is at least 67, and in the city of Rio De Janeiro, the municipal hospital has run out of beds. Brazilian troops are doing what they can to help.

HOLMES: Some facts now about dengue. It's transmitted to humans by the bite of an infected mosquito. It cannot be spread from person to person. More than 100 million cases are reported around the world each year.

Symptoms include high fever, severe headache, back ache, joint pains, vomiting, eye pain and rash. Dengue hemorrhagic fever, or DHF, is a more severe form of the virus and can be fatal if it is not treated.

We've got a lot more information coming your way here in a short time. We did talk to a doctor from the CDC who was here with me on the set a short time ago to explain more about dengue fever.

And also a lot of people concerned here in the U.S. Is this something that can travel here? Well, he said, it's already been here. It's been here. It's just not widespread. And in many cases, Brianna, folks will have it and won't even know it. It just kind of works itself out. Most people can fight it off and ward it off. But he has some information a lot of people are going to want to hear.

KEILAR: Sure, and if you travel, you're going to want to hear it, too.


KEILAR: I know I went to Peru in November.


KEILAR: And when I got my vaccinations I was warned about it. And it's some scary symptoms, of course. But good information.

And you may assume that your doctor knows everything about your health, from test results to medications, but remember you're not his or her only patient. So learn how to help your doctor help you.


HOLMES: All right. Think back, folks, to your last doctor visit. You were probably in and out of the exam room in a few minutes, right? Well, after he made you wait in there for about half an hour, of course. But how can you make sure, after visiting with a doctor for just that few minutes, that you and your doctor covered everything? Well, our medical correspondent, Elizabeth Cohen, here to help us become empowered patients.

COHEN: And efficient patients.

HOLMES: OK. Efficient patients.

COHEN: And effective patients.

HOLMES: Effective patients.

COHEN: Because if you help your doctor help you...


COHEN: ... you're the one who wins in the end.

HOLMES: Going to help you (ph).

COHEN: Right. And as we all know, doctors' appointments are way too short these days. As you said, sometimes you're just in and out of there in a matter of minutes. So what do you do to make the best use on what time you have?

We have some hints on today. There are five hints. We're going to give you two of them now on TV. You can hear without even clicking what two of the hints are.

First of all, bring in a list of medications. This is so important. Doctors really hammered away at this. What you're taking, how often you take it and what the dosage is.

Also, write out your list of your top three concerns. Because you may think, "Well, I made the appointment. I know why I'm there." But you know what? You get into that exam room. You're in the little gown that opens in strange places and, you know, you sort of forget. Even doctor friends of mine say they get in, when they're a patient, they forget. You get a little bit plus flustered. So write it down so that you know why you're there.

HOLMES: OK. Don't even know why you're at the doctor. All right. Another thing: a lot of people these days, you got a doctor for your back, one for your neck...

COHEN: Right.

HOLMES: ... one for your feet, one for your this. How do you get that team together? How do you kind of get everybody together?

COHEN: You know, you have to assume that you are going to be the team leader. Do not assume that they're talking to one another, because there is an excellent chance that they are not talking to one another. So what you want to do is when you're done with one doctor visit, say "Thank you, Dr. Smith. When you write up your notes from this visit, could you please get me a copy so when I go see Dr. Jones next week, I will have it with me." Because technically they should be sending the notes to Dr. Jones, and he should have them, but you know what? It doesn't happen a lot.

HOLMES: But they should be.

COHEN: They should be. But it doesn't always happen. So, if you have the notes in front of you, you can say, "Here you go. Here's what the other doctor had to say." And you just give it right to hem.

HOLMES: OK. And you listed there in the graphic top three concerns that you should take in. But a lot of people have a lot of problems. Got a lot of concerns. We've got a new study that Elizabeth Cohen is telling us about every week and Dr. Sanjay Gupta. So you got all these problems, and well, what if you have all that stuff?

COHEN: Well, what you might want to do is, if it's not an emergency, you might want to save it for another appointment. So think about making multiple appointments. And you take care of your top three concerns at one and then another concern, then another. That might be the best use of your time.

Now, to learn more about that hint and other ones, go to And you'll see it right there, "Ways That You Can Help Your Doctor Help You."

HOLMES: I know my doctor. He's the smart one. I shouldn't have to help my doctor.

COHEN: No, you shouldn't have to. But you know what? We live in the real world.

HOLMES: OK, you're right.

COHEN: We live in the real world, and you got to help them if you want good care.

HOLMES: All right, Elizabeth Cohen. We appreciate you. And you're not done. We're actually going to see you again. She's going to be back with us next hour. Going to be looking at the latest link between smokers and lung cancer. Could it be in the genes? So we will see you shortly.

COHEN: Sounds good.

KEILAR: Some good news and bad for the U.S. today at the NATO summit convening in Romania.

NATO leaders bowed to pressure from Russia and denied early admission to the former Soviet states of Ukraine and Georgia. President Bush lost that battle, but the alliance pledged the two countries -- the alliance to the -- the alliance -- NATO, rather, pledged that the two countries eventually will be able to join.

Now, on the positive side of the ledger, NATO endorsed the president's plan for a European missile defense system, over Russian objections. The president was also pleased that NATO invited Croatia and Albania to become alliance members.

Leading our political ticker, another huge month for Barack Obama. Money-wise, anyways. Obama's campaign said it raked in more than $40 million, and almost half of the 442,000 donors were actually first-time givers. The Democratic front-runner's taking a break today from campaigning.

Hillary Clinton is raising money tonight in Beverly Hills. Her campaign says it won't release its March numbers until April 20, which is the deadline for filing documents with the FEC. A spokesman says the Obama campaign has outspent Clinton 4-1 in Pennsylvania, but he says the Clinton camp will have the money it needs to compete.

Barack Obama says if he's elected, he'd consider Al Gore for a cabinet post. Obama says the former vice president would play a central role in trying to solve global warming. He says he talks with Gore on a regular basis and consults him on climate-change issues. Gore, though, has not endorsed anybody.

HOLMES: All right, you white guys with the blue collars, I'm talking to you. And the Democratic candidates for president want you, especially if you are in Pennsylvania.

CNN's Candy Crowley reports.


CANDY CROWLEY, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The itinerary tells all you need to know about the power voters in the Pennsylvania primary.

SEN. BARACK OBAMA (D-IL), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: We visited steel mills and apparel factories, and I played basketball with Bob Casey. And I fed a calf milk. I visited a chocolate store/museum. I -- and I bowled. That didn't go so well.

CROWLEY: The political power in Pennsylvania this year is the working-class vote.


CROWLEY: And with Hillary Clinton expected to get most of the female vote and Barack Obama most of the African-Americans, Pennsylvania is more specifically about the white male working-class vote.

BILL ROSENBERG, DREXEL UNIVERSITY: The white males are a group that are sort of still watching, still waiting, trying to decide who they're going to go for. CROWLEY: And that explains all those visits to sheet-metal plants and steel plants, at diners and, yes, bowling alleys, and it's why the talk of the AFL-CIO convention in Philadelphia is about trade deals.

OBAMA: What I opposed and what I will always oppose are trade deals that put the interests of Wall Street ahead of the interests of American workers. That's why I opposed NAFTA. That's why I voted against CAFTA. That's why it didn't make sense to normalize trade relations with China.

CROWLEY: And union power.

CLINTON: So, if anyone asks you if labor will have a seat at the table in my White House, I hope you know the answer. Of course, you will. Labor built the table.

CROWLEY: The white male, working-class vote is roughly 27 percent of the Pennsylvania electorate, enough to make a difference in a race that now shows a shrinking gap between Clinton and Obama. Down from her double-digit lead, Clinton still holds a 9-point edge, in large part because she is beating Obama among whites, male and female, by 25 points.

He is closing the gap, in part, because he has picked up support among men. Obama was once ten points behind with the male vote. He now polls about even.

The battle continues, with white male workers in the cat-bird seat.

OBAMA: They don't just lose their job. They lose their pension. They lose their health care. They're trying to figure out how to make ends meet. Working at a $7-, $8-an-hour job at the local fast-food joint or at Wal-Mart.

CLINTON: So when people ask me what are the issues in this campaign, I say jobs, jobs, jobs, and jobs.

CROWLEY: Twenty days until the Pennsylvania primary, so little time, so many work sites to visit.

Candy Crowley, CNN, Philadelphia.


KEILAR: The debate rages on over a possible link between autism and childhood vaccinations.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And our practice is seeing over 100,000 kids.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: All of these, though. I mean, honestly. Let's look at this.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They recommend it.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Which of these do you want your child to get?


KEILAR: We've got more of this emotional exchange ahead in the NEWSROOM.


HOLMES: Hello again, everybody. I'm T.J. Holmes, live in the CNN world headquarters in Atlanta, Georgia, sitting in for Don Lemon, who is on assignment today.

KEILAR: And I'm Brianna Keilar, in for Kyra Phillips. You're in the CNN NEWSROOM.

Just shocking testimony about airline safety. Two FAA inspectors say they were pressured to keep quiet about problems at Southwest Airlines. They testified before the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee today, but before that, they spoke with CNN special investigations unit correspondent Drew Griffin.


BOBBY BOUTRIS, FAA SAFETY INSPECTOR: It is sad that an FAA inspector has become a whistle-blower in order to do his job, and the job is that we were hired by the taxpayers to ensure that the airlines provide safe transportation for the flying public. It shouldn't have to come to this.

DREW GRIFFIN, SPECIAL INVESTIGATIONS UNIT CORRESPONDENT: What I don't understand is why the airline itself would allow it to come to this.

BOUTRIS: I don't understand that either, sir. And the only, I guess, concern I have, and I hate to answer your question with a question, is, on March 15th, when Southwest Airlines found out that they had 47 aircraft out of compliance, when they a safety issue, why didn't they ground them?

GRIFFIN: Do you think any of this would have come to light if the congressional committee was not asking these questions?

DOUGLAS PETERS, FAA SAFETY INSPECTOR: Well, it's highly suspicious, and we have our opinions...

GRIFFIN: It seems like it's being swept under the rug.

PETERS: And I think that's why we're here today. Bobby and I were not happy with the state of Southwest Airlines' maintenance program. We weren't happy, and we saw that the airline was at risk due to the lax oversight. And because of this, we just weren't willing to accept anything less than sweeping change. (END VIDEO CLIP)

KEILAR: The Minnesota congressman who's presiding over that airline-safety hearing says it is time for a shakeup at the FAA, and CNN's Kathleen Koch has more on the hearings from Washington.

What's going on, Kathleen?

KATHLEEN KOCH, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, you know, Brianna, you know, how sometimes congressional hearings can be very dry. Today's certainly has not been. Has drawn some really strong emotions. Anger first from many lawmakers, including the gentleman you just mentioned, committee chairman James Oberstar. He described to the FAA as basically turning a blind eye to the missed fuselage crack inspections at Southwest as, quote, "systematic malfeasance, bordering on corruption."

Emotions came, too, from these two FAA inspectors, who just saw, who said that they've been warning the FAA and Southwest for years that the necessary inspections weren't being performed.

The second gentleman, who you just saw, Douglas Peters, he described an incident when his supervisor made a not-so-subtle threat if he went forward with his concerns.


BOUTRIS: For me, safety comes first and my job second. I'm not a disgruntled employee. I'm a person with integrity. And I do believe that we should cooperate and collaborate with airlines, but not to the point that we go outside our guidance and break the law.

PETERS: June 11, 2007, at approximately 1:00 p.m., acting manager Bobby Headland (ph) stopped by my office. That was during the timeframe of the FAA's initial internal investigation of the A.D. overflight. I was typing my written statement to FAA security special agent Jay LaFlare (ph), and I informed Headland that I would be sending him a memo regarding unethical actions taking place by inspectors in the Southwest CMO. He agreed to look into the matter once he received the memo.

Before Headland left my office, I told him that I thought writing my concerns about unethical actions was the right thing to do. He stated and agreed that we should always do the right thing, and that's what his father had always told him to do, and got out of the chair and walked over to my bookcase, where I keep pictures in frames. He picked up a picture of my son that was taken next to an aircraft, and said, this is what's important, family and flying. He then pointed to a picture of my family and said, again, this is what's important. On his way out the door, he made the following statement: You have a good job here. Your wife has a job over at the Dallas FISDO (ph). I'd hate to you jeopardize yours and hers career trying to take down a couple of losers.

(END VIDEO CLIP) KOCH: The hearing is still going on and so far FAA managers have not testified. You can certainly expect lawmakers to ask them about that threat when they do come up for their time before the committee. And we'll also be hearing from executives with Southwest Airlines -- Brianna.

KEILAR: Wow, Kathleen. Obviously it was not easy for the men to come forward, but commendable that they did. All right, Kathleen Koch for us in Washington.

HOLMES: Well, another U.S. airline bites the dust. ATA Airlines, based in Indianapolis, canceled all its scheduled flights, fired more than 2,200 employees and sent thousands of would-be passengers scrambling to change their travel plans.

CNN's Susan Roesgen has the latest from Chicago's Midway Airport.


SUSAN ROESGEN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Very little advanced notice. We are talking a couple of hours, Tony.

ATA has been in business for 35 years, but with really only a few hours' notice early this morning, the entire operation nationally shut down. That left as many as 10,000 passengers that generally fly ATA each day simply stranded.

The company has more than 2,000 employees. Again, some 10,000 passengers a day fly on about 30 different flights.

This is a discount carrier that normally goes to Hawaii and to Cancun, Mexico, as well as Oakland and Dallas. But today, as you can see, the ATA counters here at Midway were absolutely empty.

We talked to one guy who was going to Guadalajara, Mexico. He was up late, he checked the Web site, the ATA Web site, at 3:00 this morning, saw that his plane was scheduled to depart on time. Then about 7:00 this morning, he says he got a call from ATA saying simply, "Your flight is canceled." He got here to Midway anyway. And then there was no one around to greet him.

JORGE AGUIRRE, ATA PASSENGER: No one is around to talk to. No one is around to give any answers or anything. So, I -- I'm not sure, you know, what to do. I'm not sure what happened or why, you know -- they didn't even have the courtesy to send somebody.

ROESGEN: Passengers can find a blue slip like this, that basically gives an 800 number for Southwest Airlines. Southwest Airlines shares many flights with ATA, and Southwest has agreed to either refund passengers' money or accommodate them on some other flight.

However, those who booked solely through ATA may not be able to get a refund unless they file a claim through the company's chapter 11 bankruptcy filing. The company has apologized to its employees and passengers, saying it had to shutdown immediately because of the unexpected loss of military charter business.

Susan Roesgen, CNN, Chicago.


KEILAR: Still no official results from Saturday's presidential election in Zimbabwe, but the party of longtime leader Robert Mugabe wants a runoff. The opposition claims it won the presidency outright, and official results confirm it won a majority in parliament. Mugabe has been in charge since Zimbabwe declared its independence from Britain in 1980, and for years his country flourished as one of Africa's brightest lights with a bustling economy and a booming agriculture. Now lately, however, it's been crippled by food shortages and rampant unemployment, inflation as well, estimated at 150,000 percent.

HOLMES: All right, the CNN Election Express, check that thing out, the best political bus on the road. There it is, in Philly these days. Actually, Pennsylvania there? The state is getting more bad economic news. We'll get the latest from the bus, from Philadelphia, when we come back.


KEILAR: On the campaign trail, John McCain's so-called Service to America tour keeps rolling along. And today's stop is Florida. The Republican Party's presumptive presidential nominee is in Jacksonville, where he's retracing part of his military career. On CNN's AMERICAN MORNING, the Arizona senator sought to clarify some earlier comments he made on the campaign trail when he said the economy is not his strong suit.


SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I said it wasn't my strongest because I spent 22 years in the military, and I have been a member of the Armed Services Committee, and involved in every major national security challenge in the last 20 years. I've been involved as Chairman of the Commerce Committee.

I've been involved as part of the Reagan revolution, where we cut taxes and restrained spending and embarked on one of the strongest periods of economic growth in the history of this country. I know economics very well, certainly better than Senator Clinton and Senator Obama. So, let's clear that up.


KEILAR: After his stop in Florida, McCain's biography tour takes him home to Arizona.

HOLMES: Well, less than three weeks before the Pennsylvania primary now and that state has turned in the nation's biggest increase in jobless claims. That is sure to echo loud and clear in the next few weeks and in the next few speeches, and rallies we see from the candidates. And our Dan Lothian joins us now from the CNN election express from Philadelphia. Good afternoon, kind sir.

DAN LOTHIAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: That's right. And, you know, that's not the kind of news that folks here want to hear, that they have -- losing those jobs in the state of Pennsylvania, but it shows why the candidates have been spending so much time talking about the economy here.

Certainly other parts of the country have been hard hit, but this state has also lost its share of manufacturing jobs and some jobs that the union labor forces here say have been taken overseas. So, both Senator Clinton and Senator Obama have been hitting the economy hard, talking about job creation and about preventing some of the jobs from going overseas. Take a listen to Senator Obama in Pennsylvania yesterday --


SEN. BARACK OBAMA (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: We're going to stop giving tax breaks to companies that ship jobs overseas, give those tax breaks to companies that are investing here in the United States of America. We need a president who's going to be looking out for U.S. workers.


LOTHIAN: Now Senator Clinton had her economic summit here, and she was really laying out various different parts of her economic plan that she believes can really help to energize places like Pennsylvania, and she was talking about some $7 billion plan which essentially would be an incentive for these companies that send jobs overseas to keep jobs here at home.

Now, one other thing, T.J., that both of the candidates were also talking quite a bit about, obviously, that ties into this was NAFTA. Both of them say they're against it. Senator Obama, though, criticized Senator Clinton saying that she really has not been really clear on where she stands on NAFTA.

But, you know, from the union, the labor unions, I mean, this is something that they do not like, because they really feel, as I mentioned earlier, that a lot of jobs, because of NAFTA, a lot of blue-collar jobs, have gone overseas.

So, again, an issue very important to voters here, particularly those white male, working-class voters here, those are the ones that the candidates are really trying to reach out to. They make up about 27 percent of the electorate here. Could make the difference in the upcoming primary, T.J.?

HOLMES: Dan, sounds like a familiar theme that played out in Ohio as well. Dan Lothian therefore us at the election express. Good to see you. Thank you.


KEILAR: It's 44 after the hour and here are three of the stories we're working on in the CNN NEWSROOM.

At least eight people are dead including an infant after a middle-of-the-night house fire in Brockway, Pennsylvania. Two other people are missing and presumed dead. ATA Airlines has filed for bankruptcy and ceased operations, stranding thousands of passengers. The low-cost carrier based in Indianapolis had 50 daily flights and more than 2,000 employees.

And we're still waiting for a verdict from a British inquest jury that has been investigating the 1997 death of Princess Diana. The coroner has already ruled out exercise theories involving Prince Philip and British secret agents.

HOLMES: Well, is it more than a coincidence? Mothers find something in common between their sons.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: They were both very focused and they were both kind of shy.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: He was walking on his toes. He was flapping his hands.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: She told me that she saw -- she saw characteristics of autism.


HOLMES: Two moms, two boys, with autism. And the donor dad they share.

KEILAR: The debate rages on over a possible link between autism and childhood vaccinations.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And our practice has seen over 100,000 kids a year.

JENNY MCCARTHY, 5-YEAR-OLD SON HAS AUTISM: Do we really need all of these? I mean, honestly, let's look at this.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They're recommended.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Which disease do you want your child to get?


KEILAR: We've got more of this emotion exchange on LARRY KING last night. Jenny McCarthy takes on autism experts in the newsroom.


KEILAR: All week CNN is focusing on unraveling the mystery of autism. And last night we saw an emotional exchange between two guests on LARRY KING LIVE. Actress Jenny McCarthy, whose 5-year-old son has autism confronted a pediatrician over the use of vaccines, which she blames for her son's disorder.



JENNY MCCARTHY, 5-YEAR-OLD SON HAS AUTISM: Saving lives. But the increase is ridiculous you guys. Look it, it's plain and simple. It's (EXPLETIVE DELETED).


MCCARTHY: Yes it is.

KARP: Excuse me.

MCCARTHY: Too many shots, too soon.

KARP: Let's bring it down just a notch here for just a second. OK, when we look at autism, 75 percent of kids with autism, there's demonstrated change that the child has in the first year of life before they get to this period when they're getting the measles, mumps, German measles vaccine.

MCCARTHY: Give my son the measles. I'll take that way over autism any day.

KARP: But that is not the option.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: But these vaccines are given right at birth almost.

KARP: That is not the option.


KEILAR: Now, McCarthy says that a gluten-free diet and vitamins have helped her son and she's urging the medical community to recognize that a healthy diet can help ease the symptoms of autism.

HOLMES: Well, unraveling the mystery of autism, certainly a huge challenge. Autism comprises a wide range of conditions, none of which can be cured per se and none of which can be traced to a specific cause.

But CNN's Randi Kaye turned up a few cases that can be traced at least to a specific parent who happened to be a sperm donor.


DYLAN JACKAWAY (ph), BOY WITH AUTISM: My room is over here.

RANDI KAYE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Your room's over there.

D. JACKAWAY: It's behind this wall.

KAYE (voice-over): At just five-and-a-half, Dylan Jackaway appears wise beyond his years. He reads and writes music and has practically memorized New York City's entire subway grid.

D. JACKAWAY: can take the ell over to Fifth Avenue, ride through the tunnel over to Seventh, and then take the uptown one (ph).

KAYE (on camera): Perfect. That should be pretty quick, huh?

(voice-over): Remember, he's just five-and-a-half. Dylan's mother, Gwyneth Jackaway, had always wanted a child. Single and tired of waiting, she picked an anonymous sperm donor, donor X. On paper, donor X looked perfect. A high IQ and a love for travel and music. Gwyneth wanted those traits in her child. But donor X may have passed along a lot more than that.

GWENYTH JACKAWAY, MOTHER OF A CHILD WITH AUTISM: It's just, you know, the -- the role of the genetic dice.

KAYE: At age two, Gwenyth's son Dylan was diagnosed with autism.

G. JACKAWAY: It's terrifying when you first hear the word.

KAYE: Gwenyth used to find other moms who used the same donor. Like Theresa Pergola, who had triplets from donor X. Minutes after meeting, the women noticed similarities between their boys.

THERESA PERGOLA, MOTHER OF A CHILD WITH AUTISM: They were both very focused and they were both kind of shy.

G. JACKAWAY: He was walking on his toes, he was flapping his hands.

PERGOLA: She told me that she thought she saw characteristics of autism.

KAYE: At Gwenyth's urging, Theresa had Joseph (ph) tested. He, too, is autistic.

(on camera): Imagine, two different mothers, the same donor father, two boys who are autistic. How could this have happened? The fact is donors can't be screened for autism because there's no test for it. Experts still aren't even sure which gene or combination of genes may cause it.

(voice-over): California Cryobank which supplied donor X's samples told us has "One of the most thorough and rigorous donor screening processes in the industry."

PERGOLA: I was a little angry at the bank, because I felt like I needed someone to blame about his condition, and the more I thought about it, I was less angry, because there's no way to screen for this.

KAYE: Gwenyth could not have predicted what happened next. The autism web was about to widen. Of the six families Gwenyth had contacted and the 12 children among them, she says she learned three of them are autistic, and one shows signs of autism. Cryobank confirmed the donor was notified, and his samples were removed from the general catalog.

(on camera): Do you wish that there were some type of way to screen for this so you didn't have a child with autism?

G. JACKAWAY: To say yes to that would mean to say that I wish that Dylan isn't Dylan. I love my son, and everything about him, and that means loving his autism also.

KAYE: A woman who wanted the gift of a child, now a mother with a son she loves, no matter what.

Randi Kaye, CNN, New York.


HOLMES: And you can get a lot more about autism online at Share your personal stories as well with an i-Report. Learn more about this mysterious illness and we have a virtual resource center for those with autism. Just go to

KEILAR: Kids with a very big job. Veronica De La Cruz going to be talking with some pre-teens who are spending their free time making sure that your kids are safe online.


KEILAR: A cracked windshield on an American Airlines' jet.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: My entire windscreen was shattered like a spiderweb.


KEILAR: Is it a clue to collusion between the airlines and the government? We'll have a report.

HOLMES: Well, a Web site saying to pre-teens, even pre-schoolers popping up every day. Well, how can parents make sure that they're safe? Well, you ask the kids.

CNN's Veronica de la Cruz met some "Tween Angels."


RYAN, "TWEEN ANGELS" PROGRAM: I want to make a difference to make the Internet a lot safer for younger kids.

VERONICA DE LA CRUZ, CNN INTERNET CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Twelve-year-old Ryan is a cyber crime fighter. He's about one of 100 children around the country belonging to a group called "Tween Angels." Their mission: to teach other children about Web safety.

PARRY AFTAB, EXEC. DIR., WIREDSAFETY.ORG: These kids are connected, and they're connected all the time. And they're connected at earlier and earlier ages.

DE LA CRUZ: Parry Aftab is the creator of the Tween Angels program, something which grew out of her original program "Teen Angels for Teenagers."

I recently sat down with the kids from her Ridgewood, New Jersey, chapter.

(on camera): What do you tell your friends when you go into schools?

RYAN: We teach them about stop, block, and tell.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Stop what you're doing. Block the person. And tell a parent or guardian.

DE LA CRUZ: Show me.

CHILDREN: Stop, lock, and tell.

DE LA CRUZ: What else can a person do?


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Like, you don't respond back and become a cyber buddy yourself.

DE LA CRUZ: Almost all of you are wearing a "Megan" T-shirt. What does the T-shirt mean?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You're honoring the pledge, the Megan pledge.

DE LA CRUZ (voice-over): They're talking about 13-year-old Megan Meier, who took her own life in 2006 after being cyber-bullied.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Hang with my friends.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Hey man. What's up?

DE LA CRUZ: In addition to informing kids about Megan's tragic story, the Tween Angels have created skits and cartoons. And there's an educational Web site. These kids say the reason they decided to get involved is simple.

RYAN: You know that you're helping other people get to be protected. It's a pretty good feeling.

DE LA CRUZ: Tween Angels founder Parry Aftab says cyber bullying is one of the greatest problems facing younger Web users. She says out of the more than 45,000 students that she's polled, 97 percent of them say that they have been cyber-bullied. And of that 97 percent, only five percent have told their parents. Veronica de la Cruz, CNN, New York.


HOLMES: Well, the next hour of the CNN NEWSROOM starts right now.