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Huge Victory for Hillary Clinton; President Bush Arrives in Israel; Chinese Troops Rush to Plug Leaking Dam

Aired May 14, 2008 - 10:00   ET


FREDRICKA WHITFIELD, CNN ANCHOR: Officials estimate that more than $9 million in damages may have occurred. Flames have scored 10,000 acres. That's about 15-square miles and at least 40 homes were gutted. Another 120 buildings damaged.
TONY HARRIS, CNN ANCHOR: As we wait for the start of the news conference, let's get you to Palm Bay. Our Rob Marciano is there. And Rob, you broke the news of this person of interest last hour. And moments after we wrapped with you, we learned that person of interest had been arrested.

ROB MARCIANO, CNN, METEOROLOGIST: Indeed he has. You know, we saw some suspicious activity when we were awaiting to go on at 9:00. About an hour and a half before, police cars racing up the street. Police chopper in the air. And some of the streets near this area closed off. So, certainly, we something was going on. Now we have this person in custody. His name is Brian Crowder. He is 31 years old. He is described to have a lengthy criminal history. As a matter of fact, he was on probation at the time. So, this man in custody as a suspect for one, if not more, of these fires, which has done the damage you see behind me.

This is one of 40 homes completely unlivable. An RV with this home, also a trailer, it has a couple of motorcycles. You know, this has affected people's lives, not just by given the yards burned off, 120 structures were also affected by this particular fire. 10,000 acres on all in Brevard County. On average, about 40 percent of that is contained. The Palm Bay fires, a greater percentage. About 70 percent of them contained. These are the fires that have done the most damage. Schools still closed here. I-95 has been reopened. And we are not under a critical fire danger today like we have been the past couple of days.

So, firefighters certainly hoping to continue to get the upper hand with this particular fire. Just to give you an idea of, you know, many of these fires were started by man. Either intentionally which they think this one was or unintentionally. There was one down in St. Louis, a kind of a smaller fire where a teenage girl was - she burned some love letters that she was upset with. And that started a fire down there. So, it doesn't take much when you get these kind of conditions like we saw over the weekend. Here is how the city manager in Palm Bay described how they caught the suspect.


VOICE OF LEE FELDMAN, PALM BAY, FLORIDA CITY MANAGER: The public helped identify him this morning. And help us locate him with a perimeter that was set up. It was their eyewitness accounts of him in the neighborhood, was able to lead his apprehension.


MARCIANO: So, they got him. Now, they're going to question him. Of course, this is just an alleged person here that may have done this. But he has a criminal history. One of the ways they -- one of the lead they got was they saw this man or someone that looked like him driving around a car Sunday, throwing something into the woods. It was citizens that saw that suspicious activity and gave the police those leads in order to apprehend this particular person.

So, that is the latest here from Palm Bay, Florida. Tony and Fredricka, the mop up efforts here, of course, people's lives turned upside down.

HARRIS: You said it.

MARCIANO: That's the other issue that they are going to have to deal with for a long, long time.

HARRIS: OK. We're going to get additional information in just a couple of moments. I just sort of stole a look at our monitor there as we get set for the news conference. It looks like it is about to get to start shortly. And we will get the latest from Palm Bay and Brevard County in just a couple of minutes right here in the NEWSROOM.

WHITFIELD: Hillary Clinton coming off a huge victory. Today, she reassured key supporters that she is staying in the race. But is her West Virginia win too little, too late? Jessica Yellin live from Charleston, certainly Senator Clinton's campaign would say no, it is not too little, too late.

JESSICA YELLIN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: That is true, Fredricka. She has the kind of win last night that could turn around a campaign. But it really is all about timing. And some folks who have even been Clinton supporters for years are saying that it's just too late. Lloyd Roamer, who was a former governor of Colorado, and a co-chair of the Clinton re-election campaign in 1996, a longtime Clinton supporter, has said now she's controlling - he said Senator Clinton cannot win the nomination at this point. And he came out for Barack Obama yesterday. Senator Clinton is, as you say, assuring her top supporters that none of this is stopping her and she is continuing to go on. Last night, she sounded determined.


SEN. HILLARY CLINTON (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: It has been a long campaign. But it is just an instant in time when compared with the lasting consequences of the choice we will make in November. That's why I am carrying on. And if you give me a chance, Democrats, I will come back to West Virginia in the general election and we'll win this state and we will win the White House.

(END VIDEO CLIP) YELLIN: Now, Fredricka, she was talking both to the people in the room and also, though, to the superdelegates. She is trying to make this case that the superdelegates need to look beyond who the people had voted for and think about who is best for the Democratic Party, who is best to defeat John McCain. And today, as you said, she is meeting with top supporters, reassuring them that she is going to be strong in making this case. But Barack Obama, he has moved on. He is focusing on John McCain. And yesterday he did not hold a primary night event. Instead he spoke earlier. Really shaping what is clearly his general election message.


SEN. BARACK OBAMA (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: That's what our government should be about. Not about who is high on the polls or who is saying what about who. But rather, who is helping you make sure you can achieve your American dream. That's what this is at stake at this election. So that's why I'm running for president.


YELLIN: Now, the schedules for both the candidates are very telling. Senator Clinton has plans to go to all the states that have upcoming primaries next -- Kentucky, South Dakota, Oregon and others. Barack Obama, though, he is going to a state today that has not -- already held its primary but it's not really getting seated. Michigan. Because he want to lay the groundwork there, to run in the fall. He did not campaign there because their delegation wasn't seated and making it clear he is there today because he plans to win there in November. Hmm, Fredricka.

WHITFIELD: All right. Interesting chess game, as they say. Jessica Yellin, appreciate it.

HARRIS: Let's take a lock at the all important delegate count. It seems to be a numbers game following a West Virginia primary. Barack Obama still leads Hillary Clinton by 168 delegates, according to CNN estimates. He has 1,881. She has 1,713. It takes 2,025 to win the nomination. Up next, Tuesday's Kentucky primary with 51 delegates at stake, counting also begins Tuesday in the mail-in primary. That's in Oregon. 52 delegates up for grabs there.


WHITFIELD: What a mess. Streets turning into streams. Flash flooding, slowed or stopped motorists in Shreveport, Louisiana, last night. 6 1/2 inches of rain fell in just three hours. Four inches in one hour alone. And more than just streets were flooded. 911 lines were so overloaded that police had to call in more dispatchers. Lightning caused several fires in the area as well. And an apartment building was damaged. But no injuries reported there.

HARRIS: How about this? Just a moment to thank Jacqui Jeras for her help last hour in sort of identifying that new threat for the people in Myanmar. What's churning around there. Tropical depression is what we would call it, in the Bay of Bengal? JACQUI JERAS, CNN METEOROLOGIST: Yes. Think, you know, think Katrina.


JERAS: A week and a half later getting a tropical depression. Bringing in two to eight inches of rain.

HARRIS: Yes, exactly. But thanks for that. That was very helpful. And I know that you are turning your attention now to a lot of weather in Louisiana and that storm system moving farther to the east now as well.

JERAS: Yes. And speaking of two to eight inches of rain, hey, that's exactly what you got and then some. In Shreveport, in the last 24 hours, the rain has been incredible. We are talking all-time record. In just three of those hours, more than six inches of rain fell. So, that's why we have been seeing pictures like this. Take a look at all that standing water. So, it has been a really rough go of it in the Louisiana area, particularly northwestern Louisiana, in Shreveport.

For the most part - it has been street. We got word the medical center may have some water in the basement there. But don't drive through this. If you live in Shreveport, if you live in this area along i-20, if you are traveling today, just be real careful. Find a different route.

You also see that red box there, meaning there are tornado watch is in effect. Some of these thunderstorms could be severe. You see the lightning popping up all over the place as well. So be aware of that. And some of these showers and thunderstorms could come down really heavy again this afternoon. So, flood watches in effect. Light green from Jackson and up towards Memphis. That includes you in Little Rock, extending into extreme parts of eastern Texas as well. And then the dark green means that's where we had the warning.

The rainfall will be heaviest everywhere you see this orange and kind of yellow colors. That's more than two inches of rain. And some locally heavier spots. Some of those purple. A few, another four inches. The other extreme weather that we are dealing with here today is what's going to be developing across parts of the west. Big ridge of high pressure pushing in here. Impacting much of central and southern California today.

Tomorrow things really begin to heat up. And this is going to last right through the weekend. We are talking temperatures more than 20 degrees above normal. Phoenix, you haven't hit 100 yet. We think that's going to happen over the next couple of days. Excessive heat warnings in effect for San Jose. You should be topping 100 tomorrow. So, really uncomfortable. We're going to talk more about this heat when I see you guys again. But summer, who is ready for it? It is coming.

WHITFIELD: It is scorching already.

HARRIS: That's for sure. All right, Jacqui, thank you.

JERAS: Sure.

ROBERTS: And reports just in from China's official news agency. Some 2,000 troops are right now rushing to plug an extremely dangerous cracks in a dam. It is up river from one of the cities hit hardest by Monday's earthquake. The official death toll in Central China stands at almost 15,000. That figure is expected to go much higher. Chinese soldiers have been pulling more bodies from crumpled buildings at the quake's epicenter in Sichuan province. Tens of thousands of people are still missing, many of them buried. Heavy rain, collapsed bridges and damaged roads, all complicating efforts to get troops and aide workers to the worst-hit towns. Railways now diverting passenger trains to ferry disaster relief troops personnel and goods.

One uplifting note here. Rescuers pulled a 34-year-old woman out of the rubble alive after being buried for 50 hours. Get this. And get this eight months' pregnant.

WHITFIELD: Well, misery in Myanmar continues. And now, another threat on the horizon. Another powerful storm is brewing off South Asia. Torrential rains could hit as early as tomorrow. It is a potentially devastating blow for a country reeling from the deadly cyclone that struck 11 days ago. The U.N. says as many as 100,000 people died. And up to two 2 million need housing, safe water and food.

Myanmar's military government allowing a bit more international aid to trickle in. Most of it is piling up however along the border. The United Nations now warns of a second wave of deaths if survivors do not get the supplies soon. And we know that you my want to help. At we have a special page on the devastation in Myanmar complete with links to aid agencies that are organizing help for the region. It is a chance for you to impact your world. Let us be your guide.

HARRIS: Well, sure it is smart on gas. Turns out the smart car is no crash test dummy either. Smashing success in the NEWSROOM.


HARRIS: OK. Let's get you now to the Palm Bay, Florida, press conference. We believe Palm Bay's Police Chief Bill Berger is speaking now.

BILL BERGER, PALM BAY'S POLICE CHIEF: ... an accelerant was thrown out in a section of Palm Bay and that actually started a fire. Our fire units responded. And that was put out-when I say minimum damage, there was some foliage damage that occurred. It was a definite arson. Within moments of that, units, because I think as I said yesterday, we have had tremendous amount of police units in the area. Again, anticipating that maybe this would occur again.

An individual by the name of Brian Chowder, C-H-O-W-D-E-R, date of birth, 1977, was observed by one of our officers in a dark vehicle. Again, I cannot tell you if that's the vehicle. But as we described the first day, there was a dark vehicle involved. That person jumped out of the vehicle, bailed out from the officer. And the vehicle was tracked to this particular individual that I mentioned to you a few moments ago.

Subsequently, we went to the residence that he was last known to be at. He attempted to elude the police. He ran into the wooded area. After about an hour and a half, a search of the area, we now have Mr. Crowder in custody. Again, as have mentioned, that we've got various violations of probation, warrants that were issued for him. He has a known drug past. I cannot say at this point - and I need to caution you, I'm not saying that he's the individual that created this arson. However, based on coincidentally of him being this close and being, like I said, being connected to that vehicle which was, again, spotted by one of our officers at 4:18 in the morning, I can tell you that we made an arrest. Now the hard work.

You know, on "CSI" in 43 minutes the show is over and the bad guy goes to jail. And now we got a lot of work to see if, in fact, one, if he is in fact the person. And two, forensically can put it together. I can give you a description. Again, I don't want to interfere with the forensic investigation. It was a glass bottle. With some type of accelerant inside. That's what we recovered.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Did you notice a pattern with these fires? Was there anything that might connect it at this point.

BERGER: When you mentioned patterns, we highly suspect that, you know, arson was involved in these other fires. So this was an arson that was with intent. No doubt.

We will give you the address in a minute. We got a search warrant being conducted as we talk right now. We are waiting for a judge to sign it. And then we will be able to comment on that later.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I understand when he was taken into custody, the canine unit -

BERGER: Well, canine - again because of the vegetation. Before this fire occurred, just imagine, we have acres and acres of this vegetation. We had probably 60 officers involved in this search for this individual along with our helicopter units. K-9 issues, that's a normal protocol. And subsequently - I have to really thank the neighbors. They were giving us almost moment-by-moment of an individual ran past by my backyard. I think he is in this area. Eventually we were able to condense about a mile perimeter down to a very small area. And subsequently canine. Had suffered very minor injuries. We -- he is being treated at a local hospital. Hopefully we will speak to him that.


BERGER: He did. Yes, sir, for about one and hour of time.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We were told he was shot.

BERGER: You mean like a gunshot? UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes.

BERGER: I've never heard that.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: What else can you tell us about him?

BERGER: Really, when i say it is breaking, an hour ago this all occurred. All I could tell you is a white male in the past.


BERGER: C-h. Let me get it right. I believe. I apologize.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Has he said anything to you?

BERGER: Yes, Brian - B-R-I-A-N. I believe it's C-H-O-W-D-E-R.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: C-R-O-W-D-E-R. In the date of birth is 1/25 of '77.

BERGER: I mean, this is virtually happening as we are talking right now. So, we have not officially talked to him. And I can't comment because I don't know if he spoke to the officers who actually arrested him.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We have been able to -- have you been able to find him on an action that happened in the overnight hours? Is there -- is there any possibility that he is connected to the previous 11 fires?

BERGER: That I can't tell at this time.


BERGER: Well, certainly, we tell the public - and I told you. Many times in these arsons, you know, it's many times, it's that one person. People are fascinated by fires. They may want to go out, create their own activity. Again, too, all we know is what I told you. It this individually possibly connected to the arson that occurred this morning.


BERGER: Well, that's a key thing.

Arson specialists -- Ernie Divo, who's our lead investigator, at least on the police side and joined by the Fire Department and the Department of Agriculture, and all the folks in forestry. They will put it together. Ernie is in Brevard, the leading arson investigator in Brevard, one of the leaders in the state. So, we got a good team of people. But now is a tough time, you got to prove that - what the substance was, did this occur. I mean, there's modeling soot that has to be examined. Things that forensically can connect the dots.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Sir, what hospital?

BERGER: I don't know what that hospital is right now.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Do you know if he has any history of this sorts of episodes --

BERGER: I don't.


BERGER: Yes, ma'am, to the lower lake area. That's what I have been told.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Does he have a criminal record, You got violations, you talk about -- talk more about -

BERGER: I wish I could tell thaw. All I know is from my perspective, six violations of probation. Again, he had a drug past. I don't know specifically what they were.


BERGER: I think the sprinkler -- the answer would be no. What search warrants of course, and expectation of privacy. Any type of hair or any type of thing on the skin would be automatically accessible to us. But somebody asked earlier - did we smell gas. I can't tell you that because I was not at the scene. I haven't heard that yet. I mean, it virtually broke within the last hour.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What kind of vehicle did you find him in? Does it match?

BERGER: It's a dark vehicle. A ford Tempo. And again, too, it is similar to what the description was. But we never got a license tag or anything specific.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Sounds like you got a lot f calls from residents.

BERGER: We did. Not advertising one company but we use code red. Go ahead and put that information out and it is a great tool for law enforcement.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Where was he actually arrested? What was that last known address?

BERGER: I don't have that specifically. But within blocks of his house, of his last known address.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Is that the breakwater address?

BERGER: Yes, sir. It is.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Clarify where this fire began.

BERGER: From where he lives, it would be within a mile. From where he was -- additionally, we believe seeing is within few blocks.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I m going bring in Assistant Chief Stable to discuss the fire that we are talking about and some other details.

JIM STABLES, ASST. CHIEF, PALM BEACH FIRE DEPT.: Good morning. Basically we had a fairly small fire from what we are discussing today about a ten-by-ten area was caused by an act of mankind. And that's basically it. As far as the other fire conditions go, we have all of the other fires are being addressed. We have nothing that's active. We are in mop up with most of those.

Depending what the weather does around noontime, we will dictate where we are going with the rest of this. But we have units in place and we will have 24 hours of rotation of crew through there.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: He made all of those 10,000 acres that were burning last night.

STABLES: Well, because we have roadways contained -- it is a pretty broad sense of -- we have fire trucks in all of the areas. Patrolling, making sure that we don't have anything that is burning in an unburned area. Most of the smoke and the flames that people are seeing are well within the burned areas that have already burned. We have people working in the areas, well trying to restore power and make sure we don't have any unsafe conditions out there.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: This is all the area that burned today (INAUDIBLE).

STABLES: Correct, correct. It was about that. And the reason is we have units out in the area that were able to immediately respond and get on it before it became something bigger.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Who called it in? Did they stumble upon it or who called that?

STABLES: Actually, t was called in. I don't know who called it in.


STABLES: Yes. It was not a structure. It was in the Woodlands area.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: What street was that off of?

STABLES: It was in the area of El Dorado and Jupiter. I don't have the specific location. But it was in the area of El Dorado and Jupiter.


STABLES: Ten feet by ten feet. Yes, sir.


STABLES: We believe so. I will leave it at that for now.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The number of homes? About 150? STABLES: That were affected, I believe the city manager is going to address the damage assessment. We do have some updated numbers but I'm not aware of them right now.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: What allowed you to contain the fires?

STABLES: Well, the cooperation of the fact that we've got resources from all over the state. The division of forestry sent in that incident management team and we kind of consolidated our operations and unified. It is allowing us to get the resources here quicker than the fires are intensifying. So, we've actually have gotten the resources on the ground. In the beginning, we were trying to --

HARRIS: So, let me sum this up very quickly here. When you hear Bill Berger, as you did just a couple of minutes ago. Palm Bay's police chief, described the situation as very fluid and really taking shape over the last hour. He is really being right on with that.

Rob Marciano, as you will recall, was on the air in the 9:00 hour describing a lot of police activity in the area where he was working out of. And then just moments after that, we talked to the Lee Feldman, the city manager of Palm Bay who told us that a suspect was under arrest. We just learned from the Palm Bay police chief, the suspect is Brian Crowder. He is the suspect. Although, he is not being identified as the person police believe to be responsible for the fires.

WHITFIELD: And they were very careful about that.

HARRIS: Careful about that. You heard that, too, Fred. So, they are waiting to get an opportunity to talk to him. His name is Brian Crowder. Good police work all around leading to this arrest. And Brian Crowder apparently has something of a checkered criminal past, several warrants, at least six role violations, a drug past. If you would like to continue to watch this news conference live, let us direct you to live. And we will continue to update the story with the NEWSROOM.

WHITFIELD: So, I suppose it's fair that he is still being called, maybe a person of interest.

HARRIS: I think that's fair.

WHITFIELD: Now in custody.


WHITFIELD: Well, before the ax falls, how to prepare for a layoff in troubled economic times. Gerri Willis has the advice straight ahead.


WHITFIELD: All right. We are always watching your money and will do so. "Issue #1" noontime eastern. Meantime, Dow up 117 points. Nasdaq is up two slightly, 21 points. We're going to continue to watch the markets for you all day.

HARRIS: You know in the last couple of months or so, major employers from Dell to GM even NASA have cut workers 260,000 jobs have been lost in this economy this year alone. Gerry Willis is here with some tips to help you brace yourself financially if your job is on the line. Another great topic. As usual, Gerri. What's the first thing you want to do if you have some concerns in this area?

GERRI WILLIS, PERSONAL FINANCE EDITOR: Job, number one if you're faced with a lay-up is protecting your money. You may be offered some sort of a severance pay, depending on your seniority. It is often based on your service. You can ask for more. But it is more likely you will be able to negotiate the smaller stuff, like the length of time you can receive outplacement services. And Tony, You shouldn't discount the value of these services. Having access to an office, career counselors, it can be critical to getting that next job. Look, ultimately, you will want to roll over any 401k into an IRA. But take your times, you don't have to rush here. If you have big part of your 401K though invested, a big part of your 401k, now is the time to move it to a broad mark i fund. Layoffs are not a sign of corporate health.

HARRIS: OK. You are facing a layoff, you think -- loss of job. A loss of insurance, what's your best advise for folks who are really concerned about health care?

WILLIS: Well, this is the big kahuna. One essential to negotiate if you're laid off -- your health care coverage. If you're without coverage let's face it, one accident, one serious illness could turn what might have been a short gap in employment, into a financial disaster. Look, if you can't extend your employer's coverage, look into COBRA continuation health coverage. It provides former employees, retirees, spouses, dependent children, temporary continued health coverage under group rates. Now, it's going to be more expensive than what you are paying now since your employer won't pay any part of the premium, but it's usually less costly than paying for individual coverage.

If you want more info, you can go to the Department of Labor's Web site at Search under the word COBRA.

HARRIS: That's a great tip. What should you do in so many of these cases, folks get the word that their job has ended.

WILLIS: Right.

HARRIS: And they are rushed out of the building -- you've got 10 minutes, and there is security and everything else. It's just so intimidating a process. Is there anything that you can do to get ready and to better handle that situation?

WILLIS: Well, you feel a little bit like a criminal because security comes then, right?

HARRIS: Yes, yes. WILLIS: So here's what you need to think about. When the layoff does come, instead of being rushed to the door, you need to take charge. It's important to create a file of important documents before or shortly after you are handed a pink slip. Look, grab your rolodex. You're going to need that in your next job. Certainly do that before the axe falls. Get a copy of your personnel file, that's also critical. This could include important documents, everything from performance reviews, which you'll want, letters of recommendation. Remember, your boss may get fired too, you don't know. They may not be available to you. It's also useful to make copies of work samples, things have you done in the past, so you can prove what kind of employee you are.

Of course if you have questions send them to us at We love answering those questions, and we do it right here every Friday in the CNN NEWSROOM.

HARRIS: Absolutely. Do you put these tips online? Are these tips available for folks?

WILLIS: Yes, sir.

HARRIS: Do you really?

WILLIS: Yes we do., baby. You got to go to--

HARRIS: They're just terrific. All right, "ISSUE #1" coming up in just a couple of hours right here. Less than that, in the CNN NEWSROOM at noon Eastern Time. Give us a bit of a preview if you would, Gerri.

WILLIS: Well, we're talking about inflation. I don't know if you saw the numbers this morning.

HARRIS: Absolutely.

WILLIS: They were just astounding. And what's worse than oil right now is food prices -- through the roof. We'll be talking about that and what you need to know. It's going to be a fascinating show. We'll also answer your e-mails. Join us, noon Eastern for ISSUE #1.

HARRIS: Well, we have missed you the last couple of days. Good to have you back with us here in the NEWSROOM. Good to see you this morning, Gerri.

WILLIS: It's great to be here.

HARRIS: Well listen, we'll see you at noon Eastern Time. Thanks.

WILLIS: Thank you, Tony.

HARRIS: And just past the half hour. Welcome back everyone to the CNN NEWSROOM. I'm Tony Harris.

WHITFIELD: And I'm Fredricka Whitfield. A celebration and a fresh push for peace. President Bush arrived in Israel, the first stop of his Middle East tour.

CNN's Atika Shubert, live from Jerusalem now -- Atika.

ATIKA SHUBERT, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, this is President Bush's second visit to Israel, but he got an especially lavish welcome at Tel Aviv Airport earlier today. This is part -- in part because Israel is celebrating 60 years as a nation and that's why President Bush is here. He got an especially warm welcome from Israel's Prime Minister, Ehud Olmert, at a welcoming speech. Here is what he said:


EHUD OLMERT, PRIME MINISTER OF ISRAEL: Since assuming office almost eight years ago, President George Bush has been our closest ally and partner. Your decision to celebrate this historic milestone with us is an extraordinary gesture of friendship.


SHUBERT: Now, President Bush remains upbeat that a peace deal with Palestinians can be achieved by the end of his term in office. He met with Israeli president, Shimon Peres, and highlighted Israel's success in the last six decades. Here's what President Bush said:


GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I'm delighted to be here for the 60th birthday party. As a person who is 61 years old, it doesn't seem that old. But I suspect if you looked back 60 years ago and tried to guess where Israel would be at that time, it would be hard to be able to project such a prosperous, hopeful land.


SHUBERT: Now President Bush may be optimistic, but Israelis and Palestinians here on the ground are not. Just to give you a sense of the state of mind here in Israel, a recent poll showed that 70 percent of Israelis do not believe that a peace deal will be achieved in the next five years, much less in the next eight months -- Fredricka.

WHITFIELD: Oh, that's a sad reality isn't it? No -- very little hope on whether there will be some progress.

All right, thanks so much, Atika Shubert.

HARRIS: A new crisis in China. Troops rush to plug a leaking dam cracked by Monday's earthquake.


WHITFIELD: All right more of presidential politics. A top Democrat calling on Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama to drop their verbal weapons and come out with their hands clasped.

Here is CNN's Brian Todd.


BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Pressing on, amid increased concern about a fractured party. While Hillary Clinton vows to fight through the remaining primaries, a new "USA Today"/Gallup poll shows 55 percent of Democrats surveyed say both she and Barack Obama should stay in the race. But 35 percent now believe Senator Clinton should pull out -- a jump of 12 percentage points in a week.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Given the overwhelming press coverage which is suggesting Hillary Clinton should end the race, it's amazing to me that that many Democrats think she should keep going, and not at all a surprise that more Democrats though think she should end her bid.

TODD: Analysts say the longer Senator Clinton stays in, the more nervous Democrats are getting about party unity heading towards the August convention.

Now, former Democratic nominee George McGovern takes a stab at unifying. Just last week McGovern said Mrs. Clinton, who worked for his presidential campaign in 1972, should pull out. And he endorsed Obama.

Now McGovern writes an op-ed in the New York Times, saying the two Democrats should make joint appearances at the five remaining primaries sites after West Virginia, should agree not to criticize each other, and simply lay out their agendas. McGovern warns of a situation like the one he faced in 1972, when he says the candidates he defeated in the California primary, led by Hubert Humphrey, tried to get some of his delegates assigned proportionally instead of letting the winner take all. McGovern tells us he had to spend a huge amount of energy before that convention just trying to hold on to his delegates.


GEORGE MCGOVERN, FORMER DEMOCRATIC NOMINEE: We went into that convention with no time to devote to picking a running mate and having them properly vetted. We had no time to plan for an orderly convention. And we paid a heavy price for that. I don't want that to happen this year.


TODD (on camera): We ran McGovern's new idea past the Clinton and Obama campaigns. A Clinton aide called it interesting and said they would consider it. Obama's team says there have been no talks about joint appearances and they say Obama plans to campaign on his own in South Dakota this week as he had planned.

Brian Todd, CNN, Washington.


(COMMERCIAL BREAK) HARRIS: Trying to get you the latest information on the situation developing right now in central China. Our Jaime Florcruz is with us from our Beijing bureau. Jaime, good to see you.

Jaime, what do you know about the latest information that we received here in the NEWSROOM about 20 minutes ago of cracks, not a crack -- but several cracks in a dam up river from the hard-hit province of Sichuan Province, the epicenter really of Monday's earthquake?

JAIME FLORCRUZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, Tony, apparently there have been cracks in the Duijiangyan irrigation system. Let me clarify -- this is not a huge dam. This is more of an old -- an ancient irrigation system, in fact, as old as 2,200 years old. It was first built to control flooding along the Minjiang River. And it's still functioning as an irrigation system. In fact, it irrigates some 5,300 kilometers of land there. It also irrigates and crosses through 40 counties. Now in China, that's a lot of people around it. A county in China has about 100,000 or even more population. So the worry is that the cracks could lead to flooding.

However, we just saw an aerial video of the Duijiangyan River and we see that the water level there is not very high. It's about a meter or even higher than the ground level. We saw signs of people in cars and walking around. But the officials say they are not going to take unnecessary risks and they are looking into how to repair the cracks -- Tony.

HARRIS: It sounds like a very positive response from everyone involved to try to avert what sounds like -- could be a real problem and a potential disaster.

FLORCRUZ: Yes. That's the good news here. It seems that the government is in charge. It seems they are responding very quickly and efficiently whenever they see problems -- Tony.

HARRIS: OK, Jaime Florcruz for us from our Beijing bureau. Jaime, good to see you. We appreciate it. We'll take a break and come back with more CNN NEWSROOM in a moment.


WHITFIELD: We want take you to Capitol Hill where actor Dennis Quaid and his wife, Kimberly, were talking to lawmakers before the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee in a hearing on FDA drug regulations. Why? Because their newborn twins nearly died from a drug overdose while in the hospital. Let's listen in to what Dennis Quaid had to say moments ago:


DENNIS QUAID, ACTOR: Now it's hard for me, Mr. Chairman, to imagine that this is what Congress intended when it passed the Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act in 1938. Did Congress intend to give appointed bureaucrats and the FDA the right to protect a drug company from liability, even when that company cuts corners and jeopardizes public safety? Now a federal ban on lawsuits against drug companies will not just deny victims compensation for the harm that has been done to them, it would also relieve drug companies of the responsibility to make drugs as safe as they can be and moreover, to correct problems after that drug has been on the market.


WHITFIELD: So again, you can kind of hear pretty emotional still, Dennis Quaid there talking about how the regulation -- FDA regulated drugs, difficult to pursue these pharmaceutical companies after they have received FDA approval.

He and his wife have sued the drug company of Heparin. Heparin was the drug that their children were given too high a dose of. But the company has filed a motion to dismiss that suit because the FDA says that you cannot sue drug companies as long as the drug actually received FDA approval. So that's what's taking place on Capitol Hill. We'll see what the end result may be as a result of that testimony and others.


WHITFIELD: Dreams delayed.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Does it make sense to retire now?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No. Do I want to retire now?


WHITFIELD: Packed and ready to go. Then, the economy slowdown.


WHITFIELD: They're supposed to be the golden years. Economic reality forcing empty nesters to put retirement dreams on hold completely.

CNN's Allan Chernoff reports.


ALLAN CHERNOFF, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Charles and Anna Berge (ph) had already started packing, expecting they'd retire this year to their condominium in Florida. They wrapped up the china, took down pictures and filled up cardboard boxes.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Where you're standing now, our dining room table was here. We sold our kitchen table.

CHERNOFF: But then the housing market collapsed. And then the stock market took a hit. Bruising the Berge's 401k retirement account. And now the price of gas is soaring.

(on camera): Does it make sense to retire now?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No. Do I want to retire now? Yes.

CHERNOFF (voice-over): Charles and Anna's dream of an early retirement is on hold. Even though 53-year-old Charles can get an annual pension worth nearly two-thirds of his salary, if he retires from his job as a superintendent with New York City's Sanitation Department.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I have college to pay for. I have gas to pay for on three cars. It just doesn't make sense.

CHERNOFF: The value of their family home has dropped. And realtors warn the couple it could take nearly a year to sell even at today's reduced price -- which they would need to do to retire.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I was very disappointed. I was crying. I just wanted to go.

CHERNOFF (on camera): A growing number of aging baby boomers are deferring dreams of retirement. In the past year, nearly a million Americans, aged 55 to 64, have rejoined the work force. And another 400,000 over the age of 65 have gone back to work.

(voice-over): Financial planner David Frisch says Charles is only one of his clients who is putting off retirement.

DAVID FRISCH, FRISCH FINANCIAL GROUP: People are scared. People are scared. The ultimate question is, how long is the market going to be suffering? How much will expenses rise? How long will it take for the housing market to come back into play?

CHERNOFF (voice-over): Charles now plans to retire in three years, when he hopes the real estate market will have recovered. Anna is counting on it, leaving her fine china exactly where it is.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Now everything stay in the box. It's too much. Too aggravation to take everything out of the box again and then start to pack again. So everything is going to be in the box.

CHERNOFF (on camera): For three years.


CHERNOFF (voice-over): The Berges are still determined to retire early. But for a growing number of Americans, the whole idea of early retirement, or even retirement at age 65, is simply no longer an option.

Allan Chernoff, CNN, Horum (ph), New York.


HARRIS: Arrest in Florida. Police questioning a man about arson fires in Palm Bay. New developments, in the NEWSROOM.


HARRIS: And good morning again, everyone. You're informed with CNN. I'm Tony Harris.