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Pentagon Claiming Israel Running Mock Iran Raid; Who Should Get Flood Insurance?; Mass Teen Pregnancy in Mass. Town

Aired June 21, 2008 - 22:00   ET


TONY HARRIS, CNN ANCHOR (voice-over): A ball of fire. The world's top nuclear inspector, sharp words of warning. What would happen if Israel attacks Iran? And how will America's next president tackle the situation?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: My whole entire life is gone! I don't know what we're going to do!

HARRIS: No options and no insurance. Why are so many Americans not covered in the event of a flood?

Bigger, better, built to withstand the mighty Mississippi where some levees have failed, others are working exactly the way they were intended. Could all this flooding really be a man-made disaster? A CNN special investigation.

And drilling off America's coastlines, off limits for 26 years, makes you wonder how do the oil companies know what's out there? And could it hold the answer to America's problems right now?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The only thing that right now you could even see that's made in the United States is the American flag, and even that's being outsourced to China.

HARRIS: Their parents came from India, they are American. Rick Sanchez reports outsourcing strikes a nerve in our "League of First Time Voters."


HARRIS: And good evening, everyone. I'm Tony Harris. Three billion dollars, that's how much Iowa's secretary of agriculture says his state may have lost in just corn and soybean crops alone. The worst flooding in the Midwest in 15 years is taking a huge toll. As floodwaters pour south down the Mississippi tonight. In the crosshairs this hour, parts of Missouri and Illinois. Our Sandra Endo is in the Missouri town of Old Monroe, a tiny spot of 250 people, where the floodwaters are rising higher than anyone expected.

Sandra, good to see you. How are those levees holding up?

SANDRA ENDO, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, they're holding up pretty strong, Tony. But I can tell you right here at least the water level actually dropped a couple inches throughout the day. You could take a look at this post and see the water mark of where the water once was and now where it is right now.

But it is still pretty high, as you mentioned, because take a look at that building right next to it. It is pretty much 90 percent submerged, under water. And that's a lot of what we're seeing. As you go farther out into the river that way, about a dozen homes or so are looking the same way, basically submerged under water.

And also the next big issue facing communities along the river is this: you can see all the sludge and trash that's being carried down the river. And that's actually something FEMA officials are very concerned about, all the trash and debris that's just coming down the river. You can see tires right here, actually, as well. And they floated down.

So clearly the cleanup effort will be huge. And that's just one of the big problems that this flood has created -- Tony.

HARRIS: And, Sandra, that is a real problem because all of that debris could actually form a bit of a -- well, a dam, couldn't it?

ENDO: Well, absolutely. So a lot of communities are taking it upon themselves to start the cleanup effort as quickly as possible, even officials here are saying as early as tomorrow they may try to clear some of this stuff out. So you can see just the sludge and the debris all around is a big mess out here.

HARRIS: Yes, it really is. OK. Our Sandra Endo for us in Old Monroe.

You know, as if the presumptive presidential nominees didn't have enough to disagree on, now they're in a flooding fight. Obama and McCain are pointing fingers blaming, the other to for not taking action in Congress to help prevent this flooding disaster.


SEN. BARACK OBAMA (D-IL), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Yes. Both Senator McCain and I have traveled recently to the areas that have been devastated by floods. And I know that Senator McCain felt as strongly as I did, feeling enormous sympathy for the victims of the recent flooding. And I'm sure they appreciated the sentiment. But they probably would have appreciated it even more if Senator McCain hadn't opposed legislation to fund levees and flood control programs which he considers pork.


HARRIS: Now, while that's true Senator McCain did vote against the original Water Resources Development Act last year, he offered an amendment to the bill that would have prioritized projects with flood control at the top of that list. So John McCain's campaign fired back.

Quoting now: "Barack Obama opposed and voted against the bipartisan effort to assure that lifesaving levees like those that so tragically failed in Iowa and Missouri are given the highest priority and fixed first."

The McCain campaign goes on to say: "It is beyond the pale that Barack Obama would attack John McCain for actually trying to fix the problem and change the way Washington works."

Perhaps neither candidate is right about the levees. CNN's "SPECIAL INVESTIGATIONS UNIT" found out the problem is we built too many of them along the Mississippi River, not too few.

Here's Drew Griffin.


DREW GRIFFIN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The problem may not be that the levees are failing, but too many levees are holding. Up and down this massive river basin for hundreds of years farmers and cities and land developers have been trying to hold back one of Mother Nature's largest drainage pipes, the Mississippi.

PROF. TIM KUSKY, ST. LOUIS UNIV.: Since the 1700s, since we've built more than 2,200 miles of levees along the whole river system, and altogether that has had a major, major effect.

GRIFFIN: St. Louis University natural sciences professor Tim Kusky says the effect can be seen quite clearly from the air. Once huge natural flood plains are developed into towns and shopping centers, entire cities, levees are made even stronger so that people living behind them feel safer.

KUSKY: So what happens, we build levees along the river, then we constrict the flow in a very, very narrow channel. And the same amount of water has to go through this narrow channel that rises higher and higher and higher. And then people think the levees are strong and they are going to protect them.

Then we find out that they're weak and they could potentially fail. So we have a situation where the river has risen 15, 20 feet higher than it would have without the levees. And when it fails, it does so catastrophically.

GRIFFIN: Winfield, Missouri, today, says Kusky, is a classic example. That levee is breached in so many places, it's hard to tell it's even there. Unfortunately, he says, history has shown the reaction will be to rebuild the levee even higher and stronger.

(on camera): Back in 1993, this whole area was under 10 feet of water. A smaller levee had failed and turned this into an entire flood plain. What did they do? Well, instead of allowing Mother Nature to take its course, they built an even bigger levee there to protect it from the Missouri River just beyond those trees.

(voice-over): And right in that flood plain is one of the largest strip mall developments in the United States.

ADOLPHUS BUSCH, GREAT RIVERS HABITAT ALLIANCE: After the '93 flood, we were told of course that there would be no more levees, no more projects, no more development in the flood plains because everyone had learned their lesson. And that went on for a few years. But of course people soon forgot again and the development started.

GRIFFIN: Adolphus Busch, yes, one of the beer family Busches, now heads a group called the Great Rivers Habitat Alliance. There is no mistake, he wants to stop levees from being built and stop developing in the flood plain. Let the Mississippi flow naturally.

BUSCH: That's exactly what's happening now from Iowa all the way down to St. Louis, all of these levees are breaking as the water comes through, of course, that relieves the pressure for all of us downstream.

GRIFFIN: Mark Twain, who lived along this river, once said 10,000 river commissions with the minds of the world at their back cannot tame that lawless stream. Why, say critics of our current efforts, do we thing our levees can do any better?

Drew Griffin, CNN, St. Louis, Missouri.


HARRIS: Why, oh, why? Let's check in now with CNN meteorologist Jacqui Jeras. She's tracking exactly what is happening downstream.

I guess we're asking here, Jacqui, for an update on the mighty Missipp.

JACQUI JERAS, CNN METEOROLOGIST: Yes. Mississippi is still going up in some spots, Tony. You know, and with those levee breaches that took place, you know, the river rose, the levee broke, so things have dropped off. But it wasn't done cresting just yet, because that big bubble of water is still up river.

So some folks are going to be seeing what we call a secondary crest. So another one on top of the one they've already had. The areas that we're watching here really kind of stretch from Canton and Quincy, where the river is cresting as we speak. Tomorrow we can expect a crest in Hannibal. By Monday morning into Clarksville.

And St. Louis, you're kind of cresting now, but you're going to hold steady there for days to come. So the only good thing out of all of this is that below where those levees have broken, we will see the crests lower than records and lower than we had initially anticipated.

So it's a little bit of good news for some of those folks who are downstream. Now there has been some rain in this area today, and even some isolated severe thunderstorms. But it is mostly inconsequential. Not enough to aggravate the flood situation -- Tony.

HARRIS: OK. And Jacqui, help me with this. I'm seeing reports about wildfires breaking out in California. What's the story there?

JERAS: Well, we've got a storm system which has been approaching. And then we've got some moisture in the mid levels of the atmosphere which is enough to get thunderstorms started. But these are dry thunderstorms. So there's no rain with them and a lot of lightning. We've had literally hundreds of fires sparked from lightning yesterday and today. But they're mostly spot fires and not threatening.

But we have got one large one which is in Napa County, about 300 acres now. And that could be merging with the Fairfield Fire and grow to 5,000 acres. There have been some evacuations, some containment on this. But now Governor Schwarzenegger has ordered the National Guard to come in and assist. More dry thunderstorms can be expected tomorrow.

And of course, Tony, this is coupled in with some record heat in the area. So red flag warnings are flying. Some fire weather watches have been issued. And we're looking at temperatures in the triple digits. Again, look at some of the records that we had already today, 115 in Phoenix.

HARRIS: Man, oh, man. OK. Jacqui, appreciate it. Thank you.

And coming up, the pictures of devastation are terrible. But at least they've got insurance, right? Wrong. The tragic aftermath of the Midwest floods.

And a shocking story from the halls of one high school. More than a dozen girls make a deal to get pregnant. Why would they do such a thing?

And Israeli war planes make an ominous sortie into the Mediterranean region. What they did and what it could mean for Iran, the Middle East, and the U.S.


HARRIS: You know, it was quite a show. We only learned about it yesterday. And it is making lots of people in the Middle East and beyond ask a lot of questions. Here's what happened. Israel's air force, without announcement, conducted an enormous military training exercise earlier this month. Fighter pilots and bomber pilots just like these flew mock combat missions over the Mediterranean.

Now that's nothing shocking. But they flew distances and in formations that if the direction was different could be seen as training for an attack deep inside Iran. This is what we're talking about here. Let me see if I can time the information to the graphic we put together.

We're getting this information from the Pentagon. OK. Those training missions took the Israeli jets about 900 miles west over the Mediterranean. Now if you calculate the same distances to the east as we're doing here, that's inside Iranian airspace and right over a place that makes Israel very nervous, a major military Iranian nuclear facility.

OK. The prospect, likely or not, of an Israeli military strike against Iran is a frightening one to many world leaders who see it as the first step toward a total meltdown of the entire Middle East. The man who runs the U.N.'s nuclear watchdog agency speaks of it hypothetically in the strongest terms.


MOHAMED ELBARADEI, DIRECTOR GENERAL, IAEA (through translator): In my opinion, any military strike, as I mentioned, is the worst thing that can happen now. It will make the Middle East into a ball of fire. It is a lot worse than having sanctions. The military strife will lead Iran, even if it plans today to manufacture a nuclear weapon, to establish a crash course to speed the process to have the weapon with the blessings of all Iranians, even those living in the West.


HARRIS: Then there's Iran and how they interpret Israel's war games. A government spokesman in Tehran called the training exercise dangerous and a threat to global peace and security. Now what is Israel saying officially about this show they put on? Not much. And we'll get to their silence in just a moment.

But earlier this month a deputy Israeli prime minister and one- time head of the armed forces made some very aggressive comments about Iran to a newspaper reporter. Shaul Mofaz said basically that armed conflict with Iran was a question of when, not if.

Quote: "If Iran continues with its program for developing nuclear weapons, we will attack it. The sanctions are ineffective. Attacking Iran in order to stop its nuclear plans will be unavoidable."

U.S. reaction? Not much. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice on NPR yesterday said her Mideast policy remains a diplomatic one. And Israel is saying nothing about the exercise except that it happened and that they train for a variety of missions.

But would Israel ever launch an attack inside another country all by themselves? Well, they've done it before.


HARRIS (voice-over): So Israel's official line is that there is no official line. Here's their position. They can train their air force in the manner they choose when and where their self-defense needs dictate. OK. But consider that Israel has a rather solid historical record of applying military force to threats stated or implied.

1967, June, Israel launches the so-called Six Day War, a massive surprise air operation that basically destroyed the entire Egyptian air force. More than 300 planes targeted and blown up before they could even take off.

1981, June, Israeli F-16s fly into Iraqi airspace and bomb a nuclear plant south of Baghdad. Israel's position then? Iraq was planning to develop atomic weapons and remove the threat.

And then just last year, target: Syria. Israeli warplanes strike what they believed was a half-constructed nuclear reactor. None of those strikes occurred as far away as anything in Iran, but distance is not a factor in modern-day air warfare.

And that's another thing Israeli officials aren't saying, out loud anyway.


HARRIS: Cal Perry joins us now from CNN's Beirut bureau.

Cal, great to talk to you. I have to ask you what is Israel saying about these maneuvers and these exercises? Is Israel saying that this was indeed some sort of practice for a potential strike against or in Iran?

CAL PERRY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: You know, what's interesting about this whole thing, Tony, is the size of the military operation was, of course, massive. And Israel is saying nothing. We've heard some reports today and yesterday in some British newspapers sourcing anonymous sources inside Israel, confirming what the U.S. had said.

Military officials saying that this was a clear sign and a clear show of strength directed at Iran from Israel. So it hasn't been the Israelis that have come out and said this, it has been in fact, the Americans, which is very interesting, Tony, because we've seen this kind play between the Israelis and the Americans before. And it really highlights I think their military and diplomatic relations and how tight they are and how coordinated they do these things.

When Israel struck that nuclear site -- that alleged nuclear site in Syria a year ago, last September, it was the Americans that then put out this very bizarre, and I'm sure you remember this, very bizarre sort of 3D animation of what they said the building looked like and photos that the Americans now said that some Israeli espionage had gotten them from the nuclear site.

So we seem to see Israel doing something, and then the Americans are the ones that come out and provide the public face for these actions -- Tony.

HARRIS: So interesting. I'm just thinking to myself here now aloud, what ultimately happens in that region if Israel ever decides to launch some kind of a strike in Iran? I'm thinking Iran certainly could retaliate from within its borders, but I'm thinking about its affiliate groups in Hezbollah, in Lebanon, and also Hamas. It seems to me that Iran can strike from several different fronts.

PERRY: I think you've hit the nail on the head, Tony. I remember a year ago covering the one-year anniversary of the war between Hezbollah and the Israelis, I remember driving down to follow the U.N. on one of their patrols along the border and taking our BlackBerry and holding them up to the window and receiving e-mail for the first time.

In Lebanon a year ago you couldn't get e-mail on BlackBerrys. But right along the border it's just a chain link fence. There is almost virtually no border there. And we remember the war two years ago, those rockets raining down on Haifa. Well Hezbollah has said since the war they've re -- they've gotten new weapons, they've got better weapons, they've got better rockets that can strike further into Israel.

I think it's also important that we hear what Iran has said in the past, that they would not only strike Israel, but that they would hit American targets across the region, across the Gulf. And when you look at the reports that we see coming out of Iraq, they don't have to go very far to hit American targets -- Tony.

HARRIS: CNN's Cal Perry for us. Cal, good to talk to you, as always. Thank you.

The next U.S. president, whomever he is, inherits a very complicated relationship with the nations of the Middle East. Where do Barack Obama and John McCain stand when it comes to handling Iran? A reporter asked Senator Obama for his reaction when news of Israel's training exercise surfaced.


OBAMA: Well, you know, without access to the actual detailed intelligence, I want to be careful about characterizing what was done, and whether it was appropriate or not. I think that Israel is entirely justified to be concerned about the constant harangues by Iran and President Ahmadinejad and Iran's support of Hezbollah and Hamas. And so there is no doubt that Iran poses an extraordinary threat to Israel, and Israel is always justified in making decisions that will provide for its security.


HARRIS: Now Obama's opponent, Senator McCain, has long been on the record with his approach to Iran. He does not support direct talks with Iran's leaders. He sees a nuclear capable Iran as something that could further destabilize the Middle East. And would he use his position as commander-in-chief to force Iran from developing nukes? Senator McCain says he would.

Now, one note here from the fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan. It is a first that extends now over two months, coalition fatalities, that's troops killed in combat, are higher in Afghanistan than in Iraq. That first happened in May when anti-Taliban efforts ramped up in Afghanistan and several factors in Iraq resulted in a drop in violence there.

Here's how the figures break down. Since June 1st, 19 coalition troops have been killed fighting in Iraq, all but one of them American. But look at Afghanistan, where NATO commanders are leading the fight against the Taliban, 32 coalition service members killed there this month, 12 of them from the United States.

And coming up, gas prices keep climbing. And now the push is on to increase offshore drilling. Who is for, who is against, and who is flip-flopping all over the place? And teen pregnancy is a concern for every parent. But tonight we will tell you about a group of teens who all got pregnant on purpose. A shocking CNN investigation.


HARRIS: High school girls make a lot of pacts among themselves. But few like the one in a New England fishing town. As many as 17 teenagers are trading in their own childhood to become young mothers. They all got pregnant around the same time and we're told it was no accident, it was by design.

Here's CNN's Randi Kaye.


RANDI KAYE, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): High school is hard enough. So why would a group of girls from Gloucester, Massachusetts, a fishing village outside Boston, choose to get pregnant? In all, 17 girls are having babies, some as young as 15. Not one of them is married.


KAYE: High school administrators are reeling after learning there may have been some sort of pregnancy pact. Even more shocking, the superintendent believes at least one girl had sex with a 24-year- old homeless man just to be part of the group. The pact is so secretive, we couldn't even find out the girls' names.

This man told us the girls tried to convince his stepdaughter to get pregnant, too.

TED SORENSON, STEPFATHER OF GLOUCESTER TEEN: There was a tremendous amount of peer pressure -- negative peer pressure for as many girls as possible to join in this pact. And luckily my stepdaughter was smart enough or scared enough to say no.

KAYE (on camera): School officials first began to take notice last October when so many girls started showing up at the nurse's office to find out if they were pregnant. The nurse reportedly gave as many as 150 pregnancy tests. The superintendent says the girls went back over and over until they got the results they wanted.

FARMER: There's some talk of high fives and that kind of thing.

KAYE (voice-over): Amanda Ireland, who just graduated from Gloucester High, had a baby her freshman year. She knows one of the girls in the alleged pregnancy pact.

AMANDA IRELAND, GLOUCESTER H.S. GRADUATE: I asked her if she was keeping the baby, and she said yes.

KAYE: The superintendent says a handful of the girls have already delivered. Ireland can't understand why anyone would choose to get pregnant so young.

IRELAND: It's definitely not all peaches and cream.

KAYE: The superintendent says the men who fathered the children are not students. They're older, in their 20s. If the girls agree to name them, he says, they could face statutory rape charges.

And there's more. The school's doctor has resigned after coming under fire for handing out contraceptives. It's against district policy.

DR. BRIAN ORR, CLINIC MEDICAL DIRECTOR: We were on our way to trying to do things that any parent, any adult, any community would want, decreasing the initiation of having sex and decreasing the number of sexual partners.

KAYE: Also sex education is only taught freshman year.

(on camera): Why isn't it offered beyond that?

FARMER: Well, we are very poorly funded by the state of Massachusetts.

KAYE (voice-over): Plus, with the economy so weak here, and parents scrambling to make money. This mother of five says children may not be getting enough attention at home.

SHEILA HORGAN, GLOUCESTER RESIDENT: I think that parents are so busy trying to make money to survive that in this economy, that they're not focused on their children.

KAYE: Others blame Hollywood movies like "Juno" that glamorous teen pregnancy.


J.K. SIMMONS, ACTOR: You're pregnant?

ELLEN PAGE, ACTOR: I'm sorry. I'm sorry. And if it is any consolation, I have heartburn that is radiating my kneecaps, and...

ALLISON JANNEY, ACTOR: I didn't even know you were sexually active.


HORGAN: It ruins their wholes lives, it affects these children. Who is going to take care of these children? Who is going to be responsible for these children for the rest of their lives?

KAYE: It's a question many here wish the girls in the pregnancy pact had asked themselves nine months ago.

Randi Kaye, CNN, Gloucester, Massachusetts.

(END VIDEOTAPE) HARRIS: Well, the pictures of devastation are terrible. But at least they've got insurance, right? Wrong. Coming up, the tragic aftermath of the Midwest floods.

And who stands where on expanding offshore drilling? We get to the bottom of some political flip-flopping. That is coming up next.


HARRIS: Offshore oil drilling, Republicans say it's time to look for more oil off the West and East coasts where drilling by and large has been banned for 26 years. Congressional Democrats strongly disagree. What does this mean to you? We decided to do a little digging and get to the bottom of it ourselves.


HARRIS (voice-over): As gas prices go up, our thoughts reel back to moments no one wants to repeat in American history.

SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R-AZ), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: The next president must be willing to break with the energy policies not just of the current administration but the administrations that preceded it.

OBAMA: I think that's another example of where John McCain has taken the politically expedient way out. He had it right the first time.

HARRIS: And with that, political lines were drawn -- or better put, redrawn. McCain, reversing his position on offshore drilling from the 2000 campaign. But the politics here aren't the only thing that's complicated. Here's what you need to know that no one else is saying. These figures?

GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Experts believe that the OCS (sic) could produce about 18 billion barrels of oil. That would be enough to match America's current oil production for almost 10 years.

HARRIS: The government's Mineral Management Service says those figures are based on data collected before offshore drilling was banned 26 years ago in the Atlantic and Pacific, or what's called outer continental shelf, banned by a 1981 law and a 1990 executive order signed by George H.W. Bush.

Oil companies shelved their exploration efforts way back then because they couldn't drill. Here's what else we found. Right now there are 7,457 offshore drilling leases issued, primarily in the Gulf of Mexico. Of those, 1,877 are producing oil. We're told exploration and testing are under way at the others.

But look for activity about 50 miles off the coast of Florida soon, and U.S. oil companies won't be doing the drilling. Cuba is reportedly in negotiations with China and Venezuela President Hugo Chavez to start drilling about 25 miles off the communist country's coast, technically that's the OSC. It extends 200 miles off the U.S. shore. But in this case, the international waters overlap, creating what is viewed as a neutral zone.

Maybe that's why Florida's governor flip-flopped his views this week, long known to oppose offshore drilling, here's something we haven't heard from Charlie Crist until now.

GOV. CHARLES CRIST (R), FLORIDA: Floridians are suffering. And you know, when you're paying over $4 a gallon for gas, you have to wonder if there might be additional resources that we would be able to utilize to bring that price down. Simple supply and demand.


HARRIS: Charlie Crist, reportedly on John McCain's short list as a possible running mate. But the politics don't stop there. We keep hearing how market speculators are driving up the price of oil. Peter Beutel has worked for a number of trading and brokerage firms. He has also written a book called "Surviving Energy Prices." We decided to pull him in and put his expertise to the test.


HARRIS: What do you think would be the impact if we sent the signal as a nation that we were lifting the ban on the price of oil? If we sent the signal that down the road we will be using less of your oil, Saudi Arabia, less of the oil from OPEC?

PETER BEUTEL, ENERGY ANALYST: Well, you know, OPEC and the Saudis are saying to us that we need to get our own house in order. Why do we want other countries to provide us with the oil when we have the means and the oil here to drill for ourselves?

And they bring up an interesting point. But I do think that we need more oil from here domestically. I do think that we need higher mileage standards. I think that we need to look at alternative energy. I really am a kind of let's do it all kind of guy when it comes to this. And I think that the Saudis want to see us take some of our future into our own hands.

And the Saudis are also very interested in us getting our arms around what they call the speculation that they claim has been the biggest factor driving prices higher. At $135 a barrel, there's enough room to get environmentalists involved at the inception of any drilling that we do and literally you could pay a Ph.D. and some big fresh out of college majoring in environmental studies, you could have two of these guys dogging every hard hat in the ANWR, saying, don't do that, no, you missed something, you've got a drop of oil on your boot, go change it.

You could actually pay these people to do that. You could also have big oil companies probably financing a number of pet projects of some environmental groups as a quid pro quo. If you don't fight us on opening up these areas, not only will we be safe and hire people to make sure we're safe, but we'll actually clean up this river or clean up this forest or clean up something else. And I see a lot of room here for compromise, particularly with oil prices so large, so high. There's really a lot of room, not for bribery, but for common goals here and for all of them to be met and reached.

And I think that's one thing that nobody really has thought about is that, you know, environmentalists come with a group of issues that are very important to them. The oil companies have the money that can help them reach their objectives in a number of these if they were to drop their opposition to some of the oil companies' favorite plans and be part of making sure that the development is environmentally sound.

So I'm not anti-environmentalist by any stretch. I'm actually very pro environmentalist. I just think that we need to see the two sides sitting at a table working together instead of glaring across the table like they've been doing for 20 years.


HARRIS: Peter Beutel. OK. You've heard the pundits, you've heard the candidates. Coming up, a point of view on outsourcing you probably never heard. Our "League of First Time Voters" is straight ahead.

But next, the floods devastated their homes but their lack of insurance could devastate their futures. Could it happen to you?


HARRIS: So many homeowners living along the Mississippi River are left with expenses far over their heads, their homes ruined. Turns out the vast majority of them don't have flood insurance. Why is that? We looked into it.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: My whole entire life is gone! I don't know what we're going to do!

HARRIS (voice-over): Variations on a theme.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: They said because it's a flood, that they're not going to help us.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We purchased the house last spring, and when we went to get the loan, we were told that we didn't need flood insurance, so we didn't purchase any. Now it's going to have to work just a little bit more overtime and try to get a loan.

HARRIS: No insurance, big problem. Some homeowners don't know floods aren't covered by most insurance policies. And banks don't require it unless you finance a home in an area they define as a high risk. Bottom line, homeowners don't purchase it because they don't have to.

DAVID MAURSTAD, FEMA ASST. ADMINISTRATOR: When a lender or an insurance agent says you're outside the high risk area, you're just in the low to moderate risk area, so you're not required to have a flood insurance policy, people then hear that as saying, I don't need a flood insurance policy. That's part of the communication that we need to work with.

HARRIS: The federal government only requires it if you live in a so-called 100-year flood plain. That's a region with a 1 percent chance of being flooded within a year. The percentage of Midwest homes covered by flood insurance is in the single digits despite two widespread and devastating floods in recent history.

MAURSTAD: Property that we're seeing flooded in the Midwest right now, people can buy a flood insurance policy for as little as $10 to $15 a month.


HARRIS: Ten dollars to $15 a month, is that true? Steve Ellis is with Taxpayers for Common Sense. He also works on Mississippi River and coastal issues.

Steve, boy, is that true? Is it that inexpensive to buy flood insurance?

STEVE ELLIS, TAXPAYERS FOR COMMON SENSE: Well, certainly if you're not in one of those high risk areas. I mean, the rate does go down a bit in these sort of residual risk areas that are protected by a levee or some other structure. And people are learning that a levee is not a promise that you'll never flood. It is protection from flooding from certain levels.

HARRIS: Well, let's talk about some of these more risky areas. Should banks do a better job of informing people of the risk? Or does the responsibility ultimately rest with the home buyers to know the environment, know where they're buying their homes, know the risks of that land, of that property and make maybe a better informed decision?

ELLIS: Well, certainly there is a bit of a buyer beware, that you need to know your property, whether it's the flood risk or anything that's going on there. And then secondly though, I do think that the industry as a whole and not just your mortgage lender but also your insurance agent should be doing a better job in informing you, because it's generally just a policy rider that goes on your normal homeowners insurance policy.

HARRIS: You know, I keep hearing that folks should make an informed decision. And I get that. But I also hear that the maps used to determine the risk areas, the high flood prone areas, that those maps are outdated. Is that true?

ELLIS: Well, the maps are certainly outdated. And they are trying to update those. And those are things that need to be going forward. But you still can be making informed decisions. They don't change that dramatically.

And really in a lot of communities people are trying to get either a levee or some form of protection so that you're outside the 100-year flood plain and you don't actually have to buy flood insurance. And so what we've done in a lot of areas is we've sort of dumbed down the flood protection to that 100-year level, which is clearly not adequate, so that people don't have to buy flood insurance.

HARRIS: Well, let's take a big step back here. Let's go back to 1993. And I'm wondering about the lessons that were learned and taken to heart. Have a listen to -- this is Adolphus Busch, of the famed Busch family. He's with the Great Rivers Habitat Alliance. And then I have got a question for you, Steve.

ELLIS: Sure.


BUSCH: After the '93 flood, we were told, of course, that there would be no more levees, no more projects, no more development in the flood plains because everyone had learned their lesson. And that went on for a few years. But of course people soon forgot again and the development started.


HARRIS: So, Steve, try this as a proposition. We are putting more communities and more homes at risk because we are building more and more levees and in the process creating a greater risk of even more spectacular flooding.

ELLIS: Well, no, absolutely. I mean, essentially what we're doing is -- and it's not just the federal government in building the levees, it is also communities that are zoning and allowing development in these high risk areas.

And Mr. Busch is absolutely correct in the fact that the half life of a natural disaster is very brief. And so the time to take advantage and learn the lessons and try to make strong systematic changes are right now. Because it's costing us, every one of these floods, not just the individual cost and the homeowner's cost, but also the federal government cost.

HARRIS: So, Steve, if I'm flooded out right now, but my home is not a total loss, how easy or difficult will it be for me now to get flood insurance for a home that has been severely damaged by a flood?

ELLIS: Well, I mean, you can get flood insurance pretty much right away, but it isn't going to take effect for a disaster that has already occurred.


ELLIS: Now, what can happen, though, is, is that, if a community is not part of the flood insurance program, they can opt in even after the disaster, which will then allow you to get disaster payments. And so Congress just approved -- or the House just approved $2.7 billion to send out to the Midwest. And so some of that money would be able to trickle through.

HARRIS: Terrific. All right. Steve Ellis with us this evening. Steve, great to talk to you. Thanks for your time.

ELLIS: Thank you.

HARRIS: OK. And if you would like to help victims of the flooding in the Midwest, please go to our "Impact Your World" Web page where you can find links to several organizations that are stepping in to offer some assistance. That's at


HARRIS: America's first Hindu temple was built just 32 years ago. And while the Hindu-American population here is fairly small, their voice is growing, especially in this election year. You may be surprised to hear how they feel about so many American jobs being transferred to places like call centers in India. It is one of many topics Rick Sanchez covers in this week's "League of First Time Voters."


RICK SANCHEZ, CNN ANCHOR: How do you feel when you call overseas to have your computer fixed and somebody answers the phone with an accent that is very Indian, but he says his name is Bob? Do you laugh?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes, I laugh at it.

SANCHEZ: It's like an act?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's easier to have an Anglican name that they didn't have to -- valuable minutes are wasted on the call to say, hey, I'm Suresh Kumar (ph).

SANCHEZ: That makes sense, that way you get right into it. Does it bother anybody here when they get that?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I don't think so. I think for us, our parents have that kind of dialect, that accent. So it is easy for us to grasp it. I can't speak for the Americans, the Caucasian or African-Americans, but as an Indian, I don't see a problem.

SANCHEZ: Do you hear Americans complain about that?


SANCHEZ: Does it bother you?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I can see their side. But I don't try to take it to heart. I mean, it's a job.

SANCHEZ: That's it. It's a job. And that's what seems to be the big point of contention here. Many Americans thing, hey, I could do that. That could be my job. Why is some guy in India doing that? UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Outsourcing these jobs to India, I mean, with the economy being in the downturn, at the same time, I mean, I don't think that we're in a shortage of jobs -- or in a surplus of jobs, we're in a shortage. And I feel like those same jobs that we brought here -- and I mean, if Americans truly feel they can do it, I feel like we should give them a chance to do it.

SANCHEZ: So why are those jobs that many Americans feel they could do and should do, why are they in India?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Well, for all companies it's cheaper. And I feel by offering jobs in America, they'd have to pay more. They'd have to give benefits.

OBAMA: We have to stop providing tax breaks for companies that are shipping jobs overseas and give those tax breaks to companies that are investing here in the United States of America.

SANCHEZ: So this situation that we're all living with now, it is positive or negative?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: On the macroeconomic level, it is a good thing. On the microeconomic level it's not, because when Suresh Kumar is personally affected, it's not good. As a country as a whole, overall productivity is good, it's corporate America doing well, the answer is yes.

MCCAIN: I'll leave it to my opponent to claim that they can keep jobs and companies from going overseas by making it harder for them to do business here at home.

SANCHEZ: But here's the irony of this. Many Americans complain about this situation with this outsourcing, but in actuality, Americans may be getting the biggest advantage of this, right?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's the common human mentality in you see what you believe. And right now we're not going to -- no one is going to see immediate direct benefit.

SANCHEZ: But they do, every time they walk into a Wal-Mart and they are able to buy a pair of pants for five bucks.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: But they don't want to accept the fact that they're getting that so cheap, the fact that you see -- you know, the only thing that right you can even see that's made in the United States is the American flag, and even that's being outsourced to China.

SANCHEZ: But if it's such is a complex issue, why is it so hard for Americans to put their arms around it and understand it without just saying, oh, it's bad because that guy is answering my phone call with an Indian accent?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The problem is they don't make the connection. Like they focus on one thing, like, OK, outsourcing, they're taking our jobs, but they don't connect it to how we're benefiting, which is cheaper products.


HARRIS: And tune in every weekend for more of Rick's reports on the "League of First Time Voters." And if you want to register to vote or learn more, just go to to find out more.

And we'll be right back.



ROB MARCIANO, CNN METEROLOGIST: We've got 20 reports of tornadoes.

HARRIS: Eight people were killed after severe weather.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Crews are fighting fire on several fronts.

TAD SKYLAR AGOGLIA, COMMUNITY CRUSADER: The most critical phase of a disaster is the first few days. That's when you have to find the people that are in desperate need of medical attention, food, water. But you pull up and there's a building lying in the middle of the road or if 20 miles is under water, how do you get all those resources to those people?

I got this crazy idea to use one of my cranes to respond to a disaster and just open up roads so that the real heroes have the resources they need to continue to serve.

My name is Tad Skylar Agoglia, I provide help and hope to those in their greatest hour of need.

There's people on life support, there's people on oxygen, there's people that are going to die if we don't get there.

I put together a crew that stays on the road 12 months out of the year responding to disasters all over America free of charge.

Here's what I'm thinking, right? If we get on 65, we're right there.

As soon as we see a threat striking anywhere in the United States, if we feel it's severe enough, we leave immediately.

You know where we can be of some help?

We see a lot of death, we see a lot of destruction, but there is something beautiful about looking at a disaster and seeing what good can come out of it.

Stand by.

Oftentimes I'm asked why I do this. And I can't help but think, why aren't more people doing this? (END VIDEOTAPE)


HARRIS: And returning for a moment to one of our top international stories tonight, that's the very controversial military exercise that Israel launched a couple of weeks ago. Details just came out yesterday Israel sent about 100 jets, fighters and bombers and midair refuelers on mock strike missions way out into the Mediterranean, about 900 miles. And it's that distance that has people worried.

And here's why. Their training missions took off westward and flew mock strike missions. Now, if you envision those jets flying in a different direction, they would be over Iran in a position to hit a place that makes Israel very nervous, a sprawling nuclear facility in central Iran.

Now, let's be clear, Tehran says that facility is no military target. I believe I said it was earlier in the program. Tehran says the facility is a civilian energy producing nuclear plant. That's all our time. I'm Tony Harris in for Rick Sanchez. Thanks for joining us in the CNN NEWSROOM.