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Fires Burning in Central California; Zimbabwe Election Controversy; Video Released on Colombian Hostage Rescue
Aired July 05, 2008 - 15:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
RICHARD LUI, CNN CORRESPONDENT: It Is no holiday weekend for firefighters in California as they are up against flames that will not die and weather that will not help. An acting job that would put any Oscar winner to shame. Rescuers fake out FARC rebels. And free hostages from years of captivity, the shouts and tears of joy. That's not acting. We've got video of the perfect rescue mission for you.
Plus, the tale of the tape in Zimbabwe -- video that appears to capture vote rigging in progress by supporters of President Robert Mugabe.
And a very good day to you, this July 5th. We're looking at a possible hurricane brewing right now, Tropical Storm Bertha is picking up steam in the Atlantic and now bears close attention. Let's turn that over to Bonnie Schneider here in the Weather Center for more on that. Bonnie, how's it looking as Bertha moves on in?
LUI: Lots of developments on that Bonnie, stay there just for a second, we'll be right back to you. First of all, weather a big factor today in central California where hundreds of fires are burning. The one we're watching closest for you, the gap fire in Santa Barbara County. It's threatening thousands of homes there. Our own CNN's Kara Finnstrom is there, has been following it for us all day. Hey, Kara.
KARA FINNSTROM, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hello, well we've been watching water drop after water drop on these hillsides just behind us. Firefighters getting ready for what they fear could happen later this afternoon when those canyon winds pick up and start gusting through here. Very different picture of what we saw yesterday on these exact same hillsides when those winds started gusting. We want to show you some of that videotape, those tall flames actually forced new evacuations overnight. About 3,800 homes in the area are now considered threatened.
And joining us live here now, we have Bill White, who is a firefighter. Explain to us, for folks who are at home and looking at this hillside behind us, there's no flames we can see, what the big concern is out here.
BILL WHITE, FIREFIGHTER: The problem is as the day goes on and weather changes with the winds and it heats up, the hot spots that are cooled down right now have a tendency to pop up. And that's why firefighters are being so diligent with taking care of the hot spots that they see right now. And that's why you have aggressive helicopter action being taken on this ridge, as well as hand crews on the line cutting up those hot spots and reinforcing their contingency lines.
FINNSTROM: And just to the south of us down here is where a lot of these threatened homes are. This is really ground zero in the fight. Explain to us what the concern is within this canyon and how those flames will travel.
WHITE: Well, the problem here is that if this fire is allowed to get into this canyon and we get that condition known as a sundown, those down canyon winds. The fire is going to be pushed down this canyon, it will basically act like a freight train. There's no amount of air and there's no amount of ground resources that will be in place that can handle that kind of fire fight. And if it does that, that's where we have the problems with the homes down canyon that are threatened. So we want to make sure that we're aggressive and safe and put water on the hot spots right now.
FINNSTROM: All right, fire crews actually stationed all along this canyon, and as you can see, the water drops continuing in anticipation of these winds picking up later this afternoon. Back to you.
LUI: Hey Kara, it's now two weeks into this, do we know who the cause is or what the cause is rather, or who might be behind all these fires that we've been talking about?
FINNSTROM: Well the investigation is still under way here, but what we were told earlier today is that a hot line has been opened here locally. This fire started in an area where investigators say humans could have had a role, whether accidentally or intentionally and they're asking people in this area to pass along any tips, if they saw anything suspicious, anything they may have seen in that area. But officially that investigation is still under way.
LUI: All right, Kara Finnstrom, live in southern California, thank you so much for that.
With that, let's go over to Bonnie Schneider right now, who has also been looking at the weather over in California. Of course as we look at fighting the fire, they're worried about moisture and winds, Kara was saying there was some wind out there right now, Bonnie.
LUI: This is what it looks like to learn you're suddenly free after years as a hostage in the jungles of Colombia. This is it on tape, 15 hostages including three Americans and former Colombian presidential candidate right there, Ingrid Betancourt, realizing they're finally free. Now their release Wednesday, the culmination of months of planning by the Colombian military. Authorities tricked leftist rebels in this case into thinking they were moving the hostages to another location. The helicopter was piloted by undercover members of the Colombian military who overpowered the rebel guards.
Coming up in about 10 minutes, we'll take a very close look at this video for you and get you all the details on this amazing rescue bit by bit. Three American contractors as mentioned were among those hostages. They're back in the United Sates. Marc Gonsalves, Thomas Howes and Keith Stansell are all in San Antonio, Texas, undergoing tests. Our Susan Roesgen reports on their amazing ordeal.
SUSAN ROESGEN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice over): As their small plane lost power over the Colombian jungle, American Keith Stansell made the mayday call for help.
KEITH STANSELL, AMERICAN CONTRACTOR: Mutt-zero-one is declaring mayday. We have lost engine.
ROESGEN: Those were Stansell's last words as a free man. His captors made his video, released a few months later.
STANSELL: I heard gun shots and the FARC were on the ground. They were shooting into the air.
ROESGEN: This is exclusive CNN video obtained from the Colombian recovery team. Near the plane wreckage, a Colombian intelligence officer and the American pilot, Tom Janis, were found shot to death. Keith Stansell and two other Americans, Thomas Howes and Marc Gonsalves, civilian workers for a defense contractor on a U.S. surveillance mission, were taken hostage. The rebels are leftist guerilla fighters who have been trying for 40 years to overthrow Colombia's government. They are believed to have over 700 hostages right now hidden away in makeshift camps like this one. Hostages who have escaped describe being chained at the neck, kept in the most primitive and cruel conditions.
JHON FRANK PINCHAO, FREED HOSTAGE (through translator): These chains were placed under lock and key. They put them on at 6:00 p.m. We had to sleep in them. There were months when we had to wear them for 24 hours.
ROESGEN: Although the world knew what was happening, the tough U.S. policy of not negotiating with terrorists meant the three Americans seemed to have little chance of ever getting out. And only rarely were they able to record messages for their families back home.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I love you two, and I want you to know that I am being strong.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What I need is my family more than anything.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: When I feel like sometimes not going on, I think in my mind of my 11-year-old son.
ROESGEN: Imagine that you're a son or daughter, wife or parent, and these images are all you've seen. The hostages had even less to keep them going.
After an amazing rescue by the Colombian government, the Americans are home. What we can tell them about what they've missed these last five years and what they can tell us about what they've endured should be an incredible story.
LUI: All right, Susan Roesgen joins us live now in San Antonio. Good day to you, Susan. What's the latest on the hostages at this moment?
ROESGEN: Well the former hostages now, Richard, are at Brooke Army Medical Center behind me. They are going to be evaluated psychologically, physically, emotionally. They'll also be getting some debriefing by the military to try to find out everything they can possibly tell the military about where they were, the logistics and tactics of the Colombian rebels. And also they have put out a statement, the army released a statement on behalf of those three men. It says basically that they are very thankful for the rescue and also they're asking, Richard, for some quiet time with their families to get caught up about five and a half years and some time to get used to all the things that have happened in this country since they've been gone.
LUI: Susan, do we know when we might hear from them in the future? They do want to spend time with their families, as you said, but any schedule looking forward?
ROSEGEN: We don't have a schedule yet, Richard, but the army is suggesting that they will have some sort of yellow ribbon ceremony, welcome home ceremony, and at that time we expect to see them, maybe in a couple days or so, actually talking to reporters and answering some of our questions.
LUI: OK Susan Roesgen in San Antonio, thank you so much.
Tonight, a CNN special presentation for you. An HBO documentary looks at Ingrid Betancourt's kidnapping and her family's six-year struggle to free her. HBO's "The Kidnapping of Ingrid Betancourt," see it on CNN tonight at 8:00 Eastern.
A videotape secretly recorded by a prison guard appears to show evidence of vote rigging in Zimbabwe. What does the White House have to say about this?
LUI: And welcome back. As we've been reporting for you this morning and afternoon, new, shocking video about the rescue of 15 hostages from Colombia. Josh Levs has been digging through all of it for us. What do you have?
JOSH LEVS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, it's pretty amazing video, as you know. This is the drama that the world is talking about right now. What we're going to do is take you through it step by step. Let's start with it right here. I want to show you the first images that we have in this video released by the Colombian military. What you're seeing here, we're told, everyone in fatigues are members of FARC. This is the group that has had these people captive for years. Everyone in FARC, we're being told, those are the ones in fatigues. Now, we're told that they were fooled. You know what, let's take this video full. I want you to see the whole video, in and of itself. We are told that FARC was convinced that there's a humanitarian group that was going to be coming along and moving these people from one guerilla camp to another.
Now let's listen to a little bit of the sound just for a second here.
OK, here's what you're hearing here. This a member of FARC. Now, we are told that two people were traveling with this alleged humanitarian mission carrying this video camera and trying to interview a member of FARC at this point. He is saying, you know what, you cannot ask me any questions.
Now this, Richard, this is where we are going to start to see, there's Ingrid Betancourt. And you're going to see the other members, the other 15 who are about to be released just minutes from what you're seeing right here. That right there, Keith Stansell, that's one of the Americans. Let's listen him in for a moment when we're able to here him just a little bit, interact with the camera.
There you go. You can barely hear what he's saying. But we've listened to it very closely. What we are able to say at one point he said "gringo," indicating he's American. We also heard him say, "amo mi familia," I love my family.
Now what you're seeing is these hostages taking steps forward for what they think is just being moved to another guerilla camp. This is a member of FARC - no, this is one of the people being released, saying to us, let's listen to a little bit. This is a man who says, you know what, I was a Colombian soldier, I've been held for 10 years. Let's hear him.
There you go, this is a man who says he was in the Colombian military. He was one of the hostages. He's saying, I have something very important to say. Now I want to emphasize at this point, the video cuts all over the place. We didn't do this, this is how we were given it from the Colombian military. It jumps a lot at points, the sound disappears sometimes, we don't see everything but folks, that craft that you're seeing right there, that is freedom.
The steps they're taking right there are the last steps they will ever be taking as hostages, but they don't know. So this right here is Ingrid Betancourt. They think they're being moved from one place to another. What we're about to watch, Richard, is when they enter onto this helicopter and then you will see everything change for them. You'll see their expressions, let's look at Ingrid Betancourt and the others start to get on this chopper. And this is the chopper that we've been hearing about for days, the one that leads them to safety. Some people stepping out.
I want to you see what happens when they get inside. What we see might -- it does skip a couple of minutes. They don't know they're free yet, but once we're in, you're going to see the signs of freedom hit their faces. FARC is watching, thinking hey, these people, they're just being moved. They don't know what's going on. Here you go, watch, she's just been told, let's listen to the sound.
You can see them crying, you can see them celebrating, they've just told you are free. Now we're about to freeze the video, right there if we can freeze it at that point. Right there, look at that. Now, there's a reason we're doing this. Can we put this on the screen behind me? I want to point something, right in the middle is that man's knees. If you can see right here, it's kind of messy on this screen, but I'm pointing to a couple of knees in there. Why am I pointing to this? We are told, Ingrid Betancourt said when she stepped on the plane, she saw her lead captor who says has humiliated her and been cruel, named Caesar lying on the floor and was bound apparently. She knew at that moment that they were free.
So Richard, why don't you come in here. This is the key image that we think we're able to see, we can't be sure. But we believe this is Caesar right here.
LUI: When we see these pictures right here though, this is the moment where she's thinking, "What is going on? I thought we were moved from one location to another as I have been in the past." Must have been quite a shock for her.
LEVS: Exactly. And they're saying she says when she saw this, all of the sudden she realized, wait, we're not just being moved, something else is going on here. We're told that two members of FARC, including one Caesar, were subdued on the plane. Now we're looking at the chopper and now we're looking at these final images of this celebration, we're free. Let's listen.
That's it. That's where we see a little bit from earlier. But that's it. That's the whole video right there. You can see the celebration on that chopper when they say wow, this is just it, everything has just changed, we're free people.
LUI: It's all we've got, the four minutes of video, it was some 90 miles they had to go to that helicopter point, right? And at 22 minutes to freedom, boy, but just the expression on their face really tells it all right there.
LEVS: And let's emphasize, we have more questions than answers at this point. There's a lot we don't know what FARC was told what actually happened. We're going to keep looking at getting all the answers we can here at CNN.
LUI: Yes, the story has certainly evolved just within the last two or three days. Josh Levs, thanks for tearing through that for us, good stuff, appreciate it.
LUI: They are the less visible victims of the Iraq war, families surviving, but split up by the threat of violence. Now a UNICEF program is offering food and hope to these casualties of war.
(COMMERCIAL BREAK) LUI: Election monitors suspected vote rigging in last week's presidential run-off in Zimbabwe. Now, they may have some proof. A video was shot by a prison guard, then smuggled out of the country by the British newspaper "The Guardian." CNN's Nkepile Mabuse is in Johannesburg with what that tape shows. What's the latest for us.
NKEPILE MABUSE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Richard, Robert Mugabe has been accused of vote rigging for years now. Now "The Guardian" newspaper in Britain claims to have proof of this. They have obtained video footage, allegedly shot by a prison official. And this video shows prison officials voting while being watched by, the group claim, one of Robert Mugabe's war veterans.
Now this war veteran, while watching them, also asks for the ballot serial number so he can then check if they voted the way they should have for Robert Mugabe. Now this prison official comes on camera and says it was the most difficult thing for him to do because he does not support Robert Mugabe nor his party. He just voted out of fear, Richard.
LUI: Nkepile, have there been any meetings either between Robert Mugabe and Tsvangirai?
MABUSE: Well, today President Thabo Mbeki made his way to Zimbabwe to meet Robert Mugabe, but does not Morgan Tsvangirai. Morgan Tsvangirai, the opposition leader, turned Mbeki's invite down because the NBC has Mbeki. They say he's biased towards Robert Mugabe, he is not impartial and unless the African Union appoints an impartial neutral mediator, they are not going to be part of any talks. Richard?
LUI: Nkepile Mabuse in Johannesburg, thank you so much for the latest on that for us.
And we got this reaction from the White House, according to spokesman Tony Fratto. "There should be no question in anyone's mind that Mugabe was not elected by the people. He used corruption, intimidation and violence to keep this election from being free and fair, as the evidence seems to show every day. The international community," he goes on to say, "should stand together in recognizing that the election was a sham, and Mugabe is not the legitimate leader of Zimbabwe."
The United Nations meanwhile is considering sanctions against the Mugabe government.
Six straight days of record high gas prices. Air fares taking off. Can you afford to go anywhere this summer? What can your family do to help save your vacation?
LUI: Happening now for you, newly released video of newly freed hostages. It shows how the Colombian military rescued 15 hostages who spent years in the jungle with their rebel captors. Three of the rescued are Americans and say they are overwhelmed with emotion. This may be the first visual evidence supporting claims of fraud in Zimbabwe's presidential run-off. The video was shot secretly and appears to show vote rigging by supporters of President Robert Mugabe. The White House says it's further proof the June 27th election was a sham.
Then here at home, presidential candidate Barack Obama and John McCain are spending the Independence Day weekend quite differently. Senator Obama is talking to educators in Missouri and to a St. Louis church group. Senator McCain is with his family back on his Arizona ranch.
Then on the California coast, more evacuations for thousands of people as winds fan the flames two large wildfires in the state. A third blaze is now burning in Santa Barbara County and in all, California fire says they're battling some 335 active wildfires.
Fuel gas prices set a new record for the sixth day in a row. AAA saying you're paying an average of just over $4.10 for a gallon of regular, that's up $1.15 over last year. Also, AAA weighing in on this, translating those high gas prices into fewer people out there traveling. Let's talk about that with "The Wall Street Journal's" Sudeep Reddy, live in Washington. He covers the economy beat for the paper. Sudeep, how are you doing today?
SUDEEP REDDY, REPORTER, THE WALL STREET JOURNAL: Doing well, Richard, thanks.
LUI: So, are people laying back on some of their summer vacations?
REDDY: They clearly are. You've got gas prices that are $1.15 a gallon more than they were a year ago. Air fares are up at least 10 percent, probably far more than that just because of the airlines being hit by fuel price increases. So you certainly have more people staying at home, at least staying closer to home, trying to save a little bit just because the dollar isn't going as far as it would have just a few months ago.
LUI: So stay home means "staycation." What are folks doing in their own towns, I guess the question might be asked?
REDDY: That's right. You probably have more barbecues close to home, more visits with friends instead of making these long trips away from home. For people who are trying to get away though, there are some opportunities here because the companies see tat it's a tough time in the economy. You've got more bargains, more promotions, various kinds of incentives that you can get out there whether it's a hotel or amusement parks.
LIU: Should we be looking then, Sudeep, about trains and taking buses, other alternatives such as that?
REDDY: Trains and buses are probably some of the better bets right now. But you're seeing so many people trying to switch over to these other areas that demand is rising for these, for alternate transportation means and so in some cases prices are going up there and train seats are being taken a lot faster than they were before in terms of those lower fares and bus seats are filling up a lot quicker than they did, as well. So prices for those are going up as well. And so, it's really important for everyone to try to plan early and look out for some of these deals so that you're not caught by surprise when you see some of these costs for travel.
LIU: You and I have seen the headlines, the airline industry is having a lot of challenges as of late, they say gas price. But isn't it really more than just gas prices?
REDDY: It really is, you've seen these buildup in weakness in the economy, almost a slow motion decline since the middle of last year. You've go the housing market in this continuing recession there, you've got the financial markets in decline, stocks are down 20 percent from their peak last fall. Obviously everybody is feeling the hit from fuel prices and we've got the weakening labor market and when the labor market and job market declines fewer people have money to spend. And so all of this, throwing gasoline into the mix is literally like throwing fuel on the fire and adding to these problems and just creating the likelihood that we're going to see more trouble in the months ahead.
LIU: Hey Sudeep, has this thrown a little bit of water on your fire? Are you staying home this weekend then, or are you traveling?
REDDY: I am staying home this weekend, trying to stay close and see friends and catch up on work.
LIU: You're doing a little work. Well, you're helping labor productivity then, aren't you?
REDDY: I certainly am.
LIU: All right Sudeep Reddy who writes for the "Wall Street Journal." Thank you so much, sir.
REDDY: Thank you, Richard.
LIU: This July 4th weekend, our "CNN Hero" is someone you nominated as is a man working to get needy children in rural areas to the doctor. Up 25 million children under 18 years old did not have access to comprehensive continuous health care, but not the kids in Alabama, and not if Russell Jackson has anything to do with it.
RUSSELL JACKSON, CNN HERO, KID ONE TRANSPORT: There's a lot of folks that are going without in this country. I found that people of all races were suffering from poverty. In the rural areas there are no cabs, there are no buses. Millions of children have no access to medical care when they need to reach it.
I made the decision that I was going to leave my job as a firefighter and I was going to start driving kids to the doctor full- time.
I'm Russell Jackson and I make sure that thousands of Alabama's rural children get to the doctor. How's everybody doing this morning? All right. We all ready to head into the doctor?
The volume of phone calls in the first year was beyond anything that I had expected.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is Key One Transport. How may I help you?
JACKSON: Families saw our vehicle and would call and say, who are y'all? What do you do? They would sometimes cry or they'd just shout with joy, you know, "hallelujah. "
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Without it, we would be lost and always depending on a ride.
JACKSON: When I started the program, it was just myself in my little Chevy Blazer. And I drove up and met that first young man with that million dollar smile.
Look at you. How big you've gotten.
Since 1997, Kid One has transported more than 16,000 kids from 30 alabaam counties to medical or dental care visits.
JACKSON: Gollee! How are you, mom?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Hey Russell!
JACKSON: How are you sweaty?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Oh fine.
JACKSON: Good to see y'all.
Julian (ph) had never talked, he had never walked.
That's awesome, buddy.
I saw so many lives changed, so many determined children and parents who wanted to beat the odds, to know they'd beat it all because of a simple ride. That how many other kids around the country aren't experiencing the same success stories?
ANDERSON COOPER, CNN NEWS CORRESPONDENT (voice over): July is the last month to nominate someone you know as a "CNN Hero" for 2008. Go to CNN.com/heroes.
LIU: And your nominated hero could be seen right here on CNN and even further honored at an all-star tribute Thanksgiving night. It's been nearly three years, so what does it take to get FEMA supplies to Hurricane Katrina survivors? Our "Special Investigations Unit" is trying to find out what's still going wrong.
LIU: The United Nations Children's Fund is beefing up its efforts inside Iraq trying to help thousands of families shattered by the ongoing conflict. UNICEF says about half of all displaced Iraqis are kids. CNN's Jill Dougherty reports from Baghdad.
JILL DOUGHERTY, CNN NEWS CORRESPONDENT (voice over): In a Baghdad slum, a dank and dark stairway leads to the home of Samira (ph) and her six children. They're victims of this conflict, not hit by bombs or bullets, but their family has been ripped apart by the pressures of simply trying to survive, with no job, no money, no hope.
Four years ago, Samira says her husband consumed by that pressure suddenly left her. Alone with six children, she tried to make ends meet working as a street vendor, things got so bad, she says, she made the painful decision to give up three of her children, putting them in an orphanage.
SAMIRA (through translator): It was a very hard time for us. We couldn't afford to pay our rent, we had nothing to eat, nothing to drink. Honestly, my heart was set on fire, I swear to God, it was so painful. My children were crying, but I told them, it's for the best and when I can manage a better life, then I will come back for you.
DOUGHERTY: Things improved a bit when her two older sons eventually found work, 16-year-old Amir (ph) polishes shoes, Mohammad (ph), 23, gets paid for mind ing an electrical generator in the neighborhood. And with the help of a UNICEF program that reunites family, Samira was finally able to bring her children back from the orphanage. The organization provides enough food, four bags a month, to feed her family.
SAMIRA (through translator): Eggs, canned food, beef and fish, tomato paste and oil, so much food, it's very g honestly, they saved us.
DOUGHERTY: Samira has little hope for her own life, she has diabetes and tires easily. The future, she says, belongs to her children. "God knows I will not last," she says, "but all the time I think of them."
Jill Dougherty, CNN, Baghdad.
LIU: Join Dr. Sanjay Gupta tomorrow night at 8:00 Eastern for the worldwide broadcast of "The Survival Project: One Child at a Time," this one hour special will be simulcast on CNN INTERNATIONAL, as well. And be sure to check out cnn.com/impact, as well, on for a story or "The Survival Project" on our "Impact your World" page. Check that out.
The salmonella investigation heads to the border. Beginning Monday, the FDA will halt the import of some popular Mexican ingredients. This list includes: bulb onion, cilantro, scallion and jalapeno and serrano peppers. Investigators are still trying to pinpoint the cause of a salmonella outbreak that sickened more than 900 people. They have been focusing on tomatoes but expanded that probe.
It's a trend Maryland health officials find appalling, the state is at the top of the rankings for wealth, but the well-being of babies is plummeting. CNN's Kate Bolduan looks at what's being done to close that gap.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: What's you looking at, huh? What's you looking at?
KATE BOLDUAN, CNN NEWS CORRESPONDENT (voice over): Low birth weight is a leading cause of infant death nationwide and for those that survive, it can leave long-lasting effects. Elise Brown, a first-time mother living in Maryland knows that all too well.
ELISE BROWN, MOTHER LIVING IN MARYLAND: She was one pound six ounces and my son was one pound nine ounces.
BOLDUAN: Brown's twins were born three months early, fragile, underdeveloped and highly susceptible to illness. They spent two months in the hospital before her son, Duran died.
BROWN: Every time I look at her I see him. I see him.
BOLDUAN: These infants are part of a troubling friend across the country, according to the latest survey of child well-being by the Annie E. Casey Foundation, a nonprofit child advocacy group. The survey shows while there are some areas of improvement in children's health, infant health has gotten worse, largely because more babies are being born with low birth weight, which is 5-1/2 pounds or less. Maryland ranks among the worst states.
MATTHEW JOSEPH, EXEC DIR ADVOCATES FOR CHILDREN & YOUTH: It's not just that children are potentially dying, it's that if they are born with low birth weight, the implication for the rest of their lives are severe.
BOLDUAN (on camera): According to the census bureau, Maryland is the wealthiest state in the U.S. and child advocates say that's why the state's standing is so startling, 39th among the highest number of babies born with low birth weight.
JOSEPH: It would be bad enough if the last 10 years we were towards the bottom of other states, but we've actually seen the data get even worse.
BOLDUAN (voice over): Maryland state health officials say they're taking notice and making infant health a top priority. The solution, they're not sure, but a first step is offering mothers easier access to proper prenatal care long before the due date.
DR MARSHA SMITH, MARYLAND DEPT OF HEALTH: We know that we need to have more of a focus and we've actually given $2.6 million to that initiative this year to focus on a comprehensive approach.
BOLDUAN: With her baby girl gaining weight and home from the hospital, Elise Brown knows, like many moms, she had a long road ahead, but she's already seen one miracle.
Kate Bolduan, CNN, Baltimore, Maryland.
LIU: Picking the right breed of dog to bring into your home can be tricky. And if fact here, so imagine picking a dog to move into the White House. Some pooch lovers are trying to narrow the field for a possible first dog.
LIU: Groups helping thousands of Katrina victims still rebuilding their lives in Mississippi, they are outraged. Tens of millions of dollars of stockpiled supplies meant for storm victims never made it to the needy and instead were given to state and federal agencies.
CNN's "Special Investigations Unit" correspondent, Abbie Boudreau, just got back from the Mississippi coast.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SHARON HANSHAW, COASTAL WOMEN FOR CHANGE: This is bigger than what we think. This is gigantic.
ABBIE BOUDREAU, CNN NEWS CORRESPONDENT (voice over): Complete disbelief.
GLENDA PERRYMAN, UNITED HEARTS COMMUNITY ACTION: We worked so hard to help people in our community when the government is holding stuff back that we can use to give to people that don't have.
BOUDREAU: Reassembled leaders from eight Mississippi nonprofits still doing all they can to help Katrina victims nearly three years after the storm.
CASS WOODS, COASTAL WOMEN FOR CHANGE: I mean, you would have to be living under a rock not to know that there's still need.
BOUDREAU: Each expressed outrage about what CNN's investigation uncovered. None of them knew that FEMA had stored these supplies for the last two years. And they all say the need for those items is still there.
ROBERTA AVILA, INTERFAITH DISASTER TASK FORCE: Even more now than right after the storm.
HANSHAW: It's scary to know there are supplies that are harboring and people in need right now as we speak today.
BOUDREAU: Instead of the supplies going to Katrina victim, FEMA declared them surplus and in February gave them all away to federal agencies and 16 states. Louisiana's surplus agencies said no thanks to FEMA's offer because it said had hadn't been notified there was still a need.
It wasn't until U.S. Senator Mary Landrieu learned of CNN's investigation that she was able to retrieve some supplies for victims in New Orleans.
(on camera): And what do you think when you're watching these items coming off this truck?
SEN MARY LANDRIEU (D), LOUISIANA: I think I'm going to get a new pot set.
BOUDREAU (voice over): But no one is celebrating in Mississippi.
GLORIA GRIFFITH, HURRICANE KATRINA SURVIVOR: You didn't think it was going to be this way?
BOUDREAU: Howard and Gloria Griffith's home was swept away by the storm. They've been living in this FEMA trailer ever since.
(on camera): These are pictures of brand new household items that FEMA had stockpiled in warehouses for the last two years that were meant for you guys, meant for Hurricane Katrina victims.
G GRIFFITH: I've never seen none of it.
BOUDREAU (voice over): Struggling to make it, the Griffiths say they still need the basics.
HOWARD GRIFFITH, HURRICANE KATRINA SURVIVOR: Basically cleaning supplies and tough like that.
BOUDREAU (on camera): cleaning supply, kitchen supplies.
H GRIFFITH: They're expensive.
G GRIFFITH: Bath towel, wash cloths.
BOUDREAU (voice over): Both have full-time jobs and they've spent every penny they've earned to rebuild, but now, they say, they're broke and there's little chance they'll be finishing their home any time soon. That's the reality for many Katrina survivors on the coast.
But when Mississippi had a chance to help people like the Griffiths rebuild their lives, just listen to what happened. Unlike Louisiana, Mississippi, surplus agencies told FEMA, it want the supplies, but it didn't hand them to groups helping Katrina victims, instead, it gave dinnerware sets, pillowcases, men's underwear and coffee makers to state prisons. Other agencies like the Department of Wildlife became the proud owners of more coffee makers, cleaning supplies and other items. And the state even kept plastic buckets for itself. State officials did not return our repeated calls and refused our interview request to try to find out how this could have happened. But we did talk it a spokesperson from Mississippi Surplus Agencies, Kym Wiggins who told us: "There may be a need, but we were not notified that there was a great need for this particular property."
BILL STALLWORTH, HOPE COORDINATION CENTER: These families don't have anything or very little of what they need to have.
BOUDREAU: Bill Stallworth is the director of a non-profit group that helps re-house Katrina for victims. He's also a Biloxi city councilman. He says he cannot believe so many state and federal officials are this out of touch.
STALLWORTH: And when I hear people stand up and just beat their chests, we got everything under control. That's when I just want to go walk up and slap them up side the head and say, you know, get a grip, get a life.
BOUDREAU: Stallworth and other community leaders maintain if they had only known about these items, they would have begged for them.
STALLWORTH: When somebody comes up and says, oh, you know, we got it all together, everybody is taken care of, hey, have you been down? Have you looked? Have you seen?
BOUDREAU: Abbie Boudreau, CNN, Biloxi, Mississippi.
LIU: So, why didn't these community leaders get any supplies? It turns out they aren't registered with the state surplus agency. Most of them say they never even knew it existed, but now they're getting signed up. We are still trying to get someone from FEMA to explain all this for us. An agency spokesman tells us he still doesn't know why these supplies were stockpiled for the past two years.
All right now to a fun note. Barack Obama has promised his kids if he wins the election this fall he'll get them a dog. Already some people are trying to pick a possible first pooch. CNN's Jeanne Moos has the details.
JEANNE MOOS, CNN NEWS CORRESPONDENT (voice over): This may look like a placemat, but it's a ballot for potential first dog.
(on camera): I can see you in the White House, yeah. Imagine, White House dinners.
(voice over): Meet a new breed of candidate.
(on camera): Whoa.
(voice over): The American Kennel Club took note of Barack Obama's campaign promise to his kids.
BARACK OBAMA (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: We promised them that we'll get them a dog.
MICHELLE OBAMA, BARACK OBAMA'S WIFE: That was the bargain chip. It's like, if you want to run for president, we're getting a dog.
MOOS: Well, now you can vote at the AKC Web site on what dog they should get.
M OBAMA: We talk about this dog every day. Every day. What kind are we going to get, you do know we're getting it...
MOOS: The Kennel Club says at least one of the Obama daughters has allergies, so they selected five types of hypoallergenic dogs.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It's hair as opposed to fur.
MOOS: The candidate are the wheaton terrier, the bishon frise, the poodle, the miniature schnauzer and the Chinese crested. Wait a minute, the Chinese Crested is the dog that year after year wins the ugly dog contest.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: When they get old, they do tend to lose their looks.
MOOS: But "Nutmeg," here is a show dog. Don't even mention the ugly dog contest to "Nutmeg's" owner?
(on camera): Does it annoy you? Do you get mad?
AMY FERNANDEZ, OWNER OF CHINESE CRESTED DOG: It annoys me intensely. I really wish they would stop having that contest. It's such beautiful breed.
MOOS (voice over): Though it's currently bringing up the rear in the polls. By the way, this is not one of the criteria for selection.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Say Obama.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Say Obama.
MOOS: Remember how the Clinton's dog "Buddy" fought with first cat, "Socks" and current White House occupant "Barney" refused to get on Air Force One. And who could forget the time the president dropped "Barney" and "Beasley" tried to elude Secret Service agents. The Reagan's dog, "Lucky..."
RONALD REAGAN, FMR U.S. PRESIDENT: You don't stand up on me.
MOOS: Had to be retired to the ranch because "Lucky" was too hard to control. So, are the five breeds up for election, White House ready? UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Oh, somebody peed. Come here.
MOOS (on camera): It's just slobbering?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Well, she's panting because of all the excitement.
MOOS: You can't walk around the white house with turkey in your ears.
Hey, hey, hey, hey, you will sniff anything. We can't have any of this behavior in the White House.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Flirtatious little boy. Knock it off.
MOOS (voice over): Should have tried that back when Bill was president.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Knock it off.
MOOS: Jeanne Moos, CNN, New York.
LIU: All right, you know we're asking questions about the McCain household. Dogs or no dogs, if they bark back, of course we'll let you know.
And you know, it's day two of the Essence Music Festival in New Orleans, the star studded event features plenty of music, but in a post-Katrina era, it includes much more than that. Our Fredricka Whitfield is attending the festival and joins us live.
Fred, what do you got for us?
WHITFIELD: Good to see you, Richard. Well, this will get your attention. If you're tired of being used, neglected and undefended, this message is for you. That's what's on the inside flap of this book "Come on People," co-written by Bill Crosby and Dr. Alvin Poussaint. They just ended a standing room only seminar talking about all that is encompassed in this book, right now. Dr. Alvin Poussaint is with me now.
Good to see you.
DR ALVIN POUSSAINT, AUTHOR: Thank you.
WHITFIELD: Well, I could hear the cheers coming from the room. You certainly moved them. Your book, you've got eight chapters. I just selected just a few key words if we can expound on them. These are things that you explore in your book. It all starts with choice on children. What's the message?
POUSSAINT: Right the choice is that you be a good parent. That you could be a bad parent or you can be a good parent. And children are only going to do well if you give them the kind of love, nurturing, interaction, play and also supporting education. And you have to do that very early when they come out as infants, to interact in that way, read to them, talk to them so their brains develop, they physically develop and you give them a head start that way. In every way, in school and so on. And it's been shown that the more you talk and interact with your children, play with your children, the more you develop their brains and the better they do in life.
WHITFIELD: And on one of the issues or two of the issues that you both initially received a lot of, I guess, flack for from some segments of the community, you mention reinforce the English words and stay away from rap. You re-emphasized that today.
POUSSAINT: Yes. Well, I'm concerned -- you know, I like hip-hop and I like rap. I used to rap when I was a young kid and play (INAUDIBLE) and so on. But what I'm concerned about is the demeaning gangster rap, that demeans women, that demeans black people, that glamorizes violence and so on...
WHITFIELD: But, how do you get that message to young people when they look at music videos, they are enamored by celebrities. And if they're doing it, then they feel like it's all right.
POUSSAINT: Right. Well, that's right. Well, you have to have other voices saying well it's not all right. It's not all right to young black girls to be dancing to music that demeans them in such a profane way because I think it affects their self-esteem and what they feel about themselves. I also think the black youth who immate gangster rap kind of think that it's status to be thuggish. And then they begin to act out some of that behavior and their dress styles and they way they interact with other people. And so I think they should be made aware of the influence of some of these so-called role models who are directing them down self-defeating, self-destructive paths.
WHITFIELD: And how do you spread the word about education that is prolific in one of your chapters, especially when you hear from a lot of young black kids who now want to associate sounding white as sounding educated so it is condemned.
POUSSAINT: Again, you have to talk against that. See, because the young people are saying it sometimes the adults back off and they let them kind of take over with, well, it's acting white and we're going to reject you if you're academic. I ask the question, if acting white is being smart and academic, what is acting black mean? Failure? So, they have to see that they're talking really against themselves and it's the issue of their respecting and having pride and the fact that they're black and that they can accomplish things and be successful in school.
WHITFIELD: Very profound messages coming out of this seminar by way of you, Dr. Alvin Poussaint as well as Bill Crosby and of course, through your, as well, "Come on People: On the Path from Victims for Victors." Thanks so much for your time, appreciate it.
POUSSAINT: Thanks so much.
WHITFIELD: We appreciate it. All right, Richard, back to you. LIU: All right, thanks, Fred. Another great conversation that you had just there. Just ahead at 4:30 Eastern, to let you know Fredricka hosts a special in depth report from the Essence Festival with interviews and much more on New Orleans resurrection. So, be sure to catch that, again, 4:30 Eastern.