Return to Transcripts main page

CNN Newsroom

Congress Passes Mortgage Aid; Desegregation and the Armed Forces; India Bombings

Aired July 26, 2008 - 16:00   ET


FREDRICKA WHITFIELD, CNN ANCHOR: Help on the way for desperate homeowners. Congress antes up billions to send the wave of foreclosures.
And terrorism fears grip India. Two days, two cities, more than two dozen bombs.

And an institution that helped lead the way on equal footing? America's Armed Forces marks 60 years of racial desegregation.

Welcome back. I'm Fredrick Whitfield. Back to the NEWSROOM.

The U.S. Senate had to work into the weekend but now a housing bill finally has passed with widespread support. The bill pushed by democrats offer something for everyone. And that's what republicans didn't like about it. Kate Bolduan is in Washington with the very latest.

KATE BOLDUAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hi there, Fredricka. Well, some lawmakers call it emergency legislation needed to boost confidence in the housing market. Other lawmakers say it misses the mark. But in the end, the Senate reached a bipartisan conclusion.


BOLDUAN (voice-over): A rare Saturday session for the Senate, a vote on a massive housing bill designed to offer struggling homeowners relief and shore up the nation's mortgage finance system.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Ayes are 72, nays 13.

BOLDUAN: The housing bill passed with overwhelming bi-partisan support and ending months of debate. Democratic Senator Chris Dodd was a key sponsor of the legislation.

SEN. CHRIS DODD (D): For Americans out there today with distressed mortgages, worried about their economic future, we hope this legislation will be the first piece of good news in had a long time that we can actually respond to the situation and offer them some real hope.

BOLDUAN: So what relief can homeowners expect? The bill includes up to $300 billion in government-guaranteed loans to allow homeowners facing foreclosure to refinance to more affordable mortgages. The congressional budget office estimates 400,000 borrowers will get help from the program. The bill allows for up to two million. The bill offers $15 billion in tax breaks, including a tax credit of up to $7,500 for first-time home buyers. And there's $4 billion grants to help communities fix up foreclosed properties. The bill also gives the government new authority to prop up giant mortgage firms Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac if necessary.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The most important thing is it forestalls a major crisis. If the bill had not passed, then Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac would be on the precipice of financial crisis, which would be disastrous for many American homeowners and prospective home buyers.

BOLDUAN: Some republicans remain concern that the bill poses too much of a risk to the American taxpayer.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The U.S. Senate can and should spend time debating these issues and improving the bill instead of rubber- stamping additions that pose a taxpayer liability of billions and maybe trillions. But instead the bill is being rushed through the Senate without the careful consideration and deliberation it deserves.


BOLDUAN: Some economists do question the bill's effectiveness, saying it may not help enough people to jump-start the troubled housing market. The bill now heads to the President, and the White House says President Bush will sign the bill into law. That could happen early this week. Fredricka.

WHITFIELD: All right. Kate Bolduan in Washington. Thanks so much.


WHITFIELD: Well, here's another sign that the banking crisis is not getting any better. Yesterday federal regulators took over two banks out west. First National Bank of Nevada and First Heritage Bank. They will reopen Monday as Mutual of Omaha Banks and the Fed stressed that no deposits are in danger, even those above the insurance limit. The two banks are the sixth and seventh to fail this year.

All right. Dry weather and high winds fuelling a stubborn wildfire not on this country but on the Greek island of Rhodes. Firefighters and soldiers are working for a fifth day to try to contain it. And just last night, several thousand tourists had to be evacuated from their hotels because of the heavy smoke. Well, today the wind shifted so many had of them have been able to return. I don't know how much they're enjoying however the island with all that smoke in the air.

All right. A possible flare-up of civil war in Gaza. Hamas forces are rounding up and arresting supporters of the rival Fatah movement. Well after a series of blasts Friday that reportedly left militants and one child dead in Gaza. There is still a lot to be reporting on. CNN's Paula Hancocks is in Jerusalem with this.


PAULA HANCOCKS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Six funerals in Gaza Saturday. Hamas buries five of its members and a young girl. All killed in an explosion near a crowded Gaza beach Friday. At least 20 others were wounded, many of them enjoying a day by the sea. Hamas lays the blame at the door of President Mahmoud Abbas' Fatah party and has cracked down on its members, arresting more than 100 and setting up roadblocks and security checks throughout Gaza.

MAHMOUD ZAHAR, SENIOR HAMAS OFFICIAL: We are not going to accept our people to be killed by the Israeli or by their collaborators. Whether they are hit by the others, by Fatah or others.

HANCOCKS: Fatah denies any involvement in the blast and suggests that it is the result of Hamas infighting.

IBRAHIM ABU NAJA, PROMINENT LOCAL FATAH LEADER (through translator): What pained us severely are the false accusations laid against us so quickly. And we were accused without knowing anything when it should have been investigated.

HANCOCKS: It is the bloodiest attack since Hamas took control of Gaza by force last year. And the third blast in just one day. Hours before one man died and two people were injured when a bomb exploded at a coffee shop.


WHITFIELD: Well, earlier I spoke with Paula about the crisis and asked her about what this clash could mean for the Hamas cease-fire with Israel and if it could spell the end of the fragile peace between Hamas and Fatah.


HANCOCKS (on-camera): This is certainly the fear at this point. Tensions are very high in Gaza at the moment. A very different situation to just 48 hours ago, after this bombing. Now, certainly we have seen a lull for the past year almost. This is after Hamas took control of Gaza by force and forced many of the Fatah security guards out and many have been lying low for a long time. We really haven't seen the bloody fighting on the streets that we used to see within that year. There have been some bomb attacks and certainly Hamas has been blaming Fatah for these bomb attacks, saying they're trying to destabilize the situation in Gaza. We've also seen some bomb attacks in the past year or so on music shops, on internet cafes, some Christian institutions. They said that whoever is behind those attacks not happy with the western influences in Gaza. This will have a knock on effect between Israel and Hamas and this truce that we see.

We haven't seen very many rockets coming from Gaza into Israeli over the past month or so since that truce has been in place. But obviously, if Fatah and Hamas are fighting, if there's no unity between the Palestinians. Then that is going to affect the Israeli truce with Hamas as well. And of course, Hamas has been trying to stop other factions, other Palestinian groups from firing these rockets to try to keep this truce going. So that brings tension in itself. Now, we have seen some national unity talks among the Palestinians with attempts at attempts at reconciliation because, of course, without reconciliation between the Palestinians then a two- state solution is just not an option.


WHITFIELD: Well for the second straight day, bombs exploded in a crowded city in India. Well, today a series of explosions went off for more than an hour and left nearly 30 people dead. Let's get the latest now from our Sara Sidner. She is in New Delhi. And Sara, how far away from New Delhi is this targeted city?

SARA SIDNER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: About almost 600 miles from Delhi, about 596 miles from Delhi. Happened in the state of (Guharat), across the state of (Gujarat) more than 16 blasts went off across the state, killing 29 people and injuring 88. Those are the confirmed numbers so far. Those numbers, of course, could go higher. We should also mention that we have now confirmed that three of those blasts went off inside hospitals, further injuring people.

We should mention, too, that some of them appear to be delivered by bicycle. They were very crude bombs apparently, but obviously deadly ones. We should mention, too, an e-mail was sent out to media outlets from a group that is claiming responsibility for these several blasts. The group has called itself the Indian (Mudjahadin). They send an e- mail out saying the revenge of (Gujarat) as mentioned is several hundred miles away from Delhi. But earlier today, the home minister spoke about this saying, frankly, don't blame the police. We are looking at this, we are investigating this. We are trying to secure all the states of India. But right now what we can tell you is 29 people have been confirmed dead, 88 people injured. Those numbers obviously could change. This is still a breaking news situation.

Investigators are out on the scene. These bombs happened in succession over a 90-minute period across the state of (Gujarat). You mentioned earlier there was also several bomb blasts just yesterday in Bangalore, about seven blasts happened there. Several of those blasts went off again in succession, killing just one person in that city, that city is known for being an I.T. hub. But right now the same group has not claimed responsibility for those blasts, only claimed responsibility for the blasts that happened today around 6:30 p.m. our time, which would be about 9:00 a.m. in the morning Eastern Standard Time. So that is the very latest from here in New Delhi. Fredricka.

WHITFIELD: All right. Sara Sidner, thank you so much. Appreciate it. And all weekend long, we've been received huge responses from people who have been watching the "Black in America" series all week. Well, straight ahead our Don Lemon has heard an earful from a lot of folks while he's been in Chicago at a journalist convention and he also talks a lot more in detail about a blog that you'll see right at


WHITFIELD: Radovan Karadzic, the former Bosnian Serb leader accused so ethnic cleansing is fighting extradition to the Hague to face justice. Alessio Vinci is in Belgrade with the very latest. Alessio.

ALESSIO VINCI, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Fredricka, Radovan Karadzic is held in a cell in this building right behind me. This is a special court for war crimes here in Belgrade. His extradition not a question of if but when. It does look like now he will be extradited to the U.N. war crimes tribunal at the Hague later that then some Serb officials had hoped for.


VINCI (voice-over): It took 13 years to arrest Radovan Karadzic. His extradition won't take that long, but there are delays. His lawyer is using all possible legal loopholes to slow down the process, possibly until next Wednesday, he says. He won't even confirm whether he filed an extradition appeal or whether he mailed it from somewhere in Serbia in order to prolong the legal procedure.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): I can't tell you anything about the appeal. I can't tell you neither where nor when or who filed it. Therefore, don't ask me anything about that.

VINCI: Since his arrest, Karadzic has been held here at Belgrade's special court for war crimes. He has received visits from his lawyer, his brother, and we understand a priest. His wife who lives in Bosnia has not been able to travel here because authorities there have seized her travel documents, suspecting that she was part of the network that has helped him elude justice for so long.

Meanwhile, nationalists are taking to the street. They lead to protest the arrest but their gatherings have been mainly spontaneous, small, and peaceful. A mute reaction compared to earlier this year when embassies of western nations including the U.S. were attacked for recognizing Kosovo's independence.

Observers of the Karadzic's case suggest Serb officials will not speed up the extradition process to avoid angrier crowd reaction. Recent polls conducted after Karadzic's arrest, suggest that most Serbs believe the U.N. war crimes tribunal is biased against Serbs. But the same polls also indicate that some 43 percent of those questioned believe war crimes suspects should be extradited. Some here believe the arrest was a significant step toward a more prosperous future for people in this country.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: For them, they understood that Europe is a good thing, that Europe's future and know if they stay with radicals, with Karadzic, they don't have the future.

VINCI: A better future that is likely to come sooner if Serb officials also arrest and deliver to the Hague, Ratco Mladic, Karadzic's former military commander. Initially there were reports of regular sightings in Belgrade. Sightings that have abruptly stopped five years ago. And today there's no reason to believe that he's enjoying any greater protection from the security services than Karadzic's was thought to have endured until his arrest. In fact, several officials say they want to finish the job.


VINCI: And Fredricka, it's going to be very tough for those Serb officials to finish that job. The Serbian president, Boris Tadic, according to news reports this evening here in Belgrade, is already receiving some death threats through e-mails. One e-mail he received says, you are a dead man, signed by a man who lives in the Serb part of Bosnia. Another e-mail says, you will be punished by god. Finally, another e-mail he received from Montenegro. And finally another e-mail he received according to local press supporters here, president, you have signed your death sentence, all traitors will pay the price.

So this is the atmosphere in which Karadzic is expecting his extradition and to pressure under with Serb officials are under now to arrest his former wartime commander, Ratco Mladic.

WHITFIELD: How interesting? While you mentioned a bit about security. I imagine that security is over the top tight for Karadzic to make sure that any infiltrators, any of his supporters actually don't try to get him out, sneak him away, before any kind of extradition were to take place.

VINCI: That is correct, Fredricka. That is why we have no idea really when this extradition will take place. I've been here for a couple of days. You cannot see them right now because it is pitch dark, but during the day there are dozens and dozens of special police forces in full riot gear protecting this courthouse where Radovan Karadzic is being held. So Serb officials are really not taking any chances.

WHITFIELD: Wow, amazing stuff. All right. Alessio Vinci, thanks so much, from Belgrade.

We've been getting some pretty amazing feedback about CNN's documentary special "Black in America." My colleague Don Lemon is at the Unity Conference in Chicago which is a gathering of journalists of color. And he's been getting reaction to the reports, which have indeed sparked some lively discussion. Earlier he shared some of what he has heard.


DON LEMON, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Even my mom, who is very complimentary of "Black in America." But as a woman, you know, starting in the workforce some 30 years ago with a master's degree, just shy of a doctorate, her story was not in there, how she had to take a job as a stenographer in order just to get a job. And people, white women were coming in as secretaries or higher who only had a high school degree. And so that affected our social standing, our economic standing, what we thought we could achieve in the community and so on. There was a ripple effect. And so many people don't feel that we went back and included the people who sort of got us to this point.


WHITFIELD: And of course, we'll hear a little bit more from Don about what he talked about in his personal blog that he's been writing for the series.


WHITFIELD: All right. Time to check into our weather picture. Nationally, Jacqui Jeras is in the weather center. And what do we got? We're starting with the midsection, we're talking with stormy weather?

JACQUI JERAS, CNN METEOROLOGIST: We are. That's what the yellow box would be right there behind me. Severe thunderstorm watch, Fredricka, conditions have been going downhill in the last 30 minutes. We think these storms will become more widespread and become stronger, actually. Look at along the i-70 corridor between Hayes and Salina. Some really intense thunderstorms. These are putting down some very heavy rain and also frequent lightning. So if you have plans, yes, I know it's the weekend but 3:00, 3:30 out there, you probably want to keep the barbecue indoors and watch out for these storms in the coming hours. That watch by the way lasts until 10:00 tonight.

Thunderstorms not severe right now across the southeast, but look at this, they are just all over the place. Unfortunately, this is kind of washing things out for you from Montgomery hitting down towards the Gulf Coast. Heavy downpours will be your biggest concern if you're out there traveling today. This is going to really reduced your visibility. And could start holding things up at the airports. You're okay right now in Atlanta, but those thunderstorms are pushing through the metro as we speak.

Now, those of you that live in the northeast, we're starting to see some action here in the interior parts across the Great Lakes toward Syracuse. But we think the megalopolis for the most part is going to hold off until late tonight, and into tomorrow. But I'll probably have my umbrella in the car if we're heading out into the clubs tonight.

Into the southwest, we're looking at showers and thunderstorms here. This is the remnants of Dolly, believe it or not, still dumping down rain. We could easily see one to two inches with this in West Texas, in New Mexico. So flood watches and warnings remain in place. And this system has really stalled out so it's going to stick around for a while.

And speaking of sticking around for a while, enough with the heat already. Look at all the warnings and advisories in place. Oklahoma City, Tulsa, you've got warning in effect for you all the way down into the lower Mississippi River valley. Everywhere you see a color here on your map, it means your heat index will be at a minimum 100 degrees throughout the afternoon. And many of you are going to be seeing about 110, maybe even up towards 115. And we're talking about this heat sticking around unfortunately for quite some time. We're talking maybe five to seven days, Fredricka, before we could see significant relief in the heat.

You know, we might drop down a couple of degrees by the middle of the week, but we're kind of in this unfortunately for the long haul. We're talking well into the 90s on the thermometer, just to give you an example here across the country. 97 in Kansas City tomorrow, 104 in Dallas, 96 in Houston, and yes, you're adding a maybe good five plus degrees on top of those temperatures because the humidity. It's weather you can wear. Fredricka.

WHITFIELD: That means bad hair day, too. High humidity.

JERAS: Yes, it does. Ponytails would be coming.

WHITFIELD: My hair is a barometer for humidity. You want to know what the humidity is? I'll step outside. Watch my hair grow. All right. Thanks for that, Jacqui.

JERAS: Well, CNN aired the documentary "Black in America" this week. In our i-report website has been on fire ever since. Josh Levs joins us now with some of your thoughts on what people have been saying.

JOSH LEVS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: I'm sorry. I'm just picturing your hair growing when you step out.

WHITFIELD: Oh, just let me step outside. Just watch.

LEVS: I think I probably have a little bit of that.

WHITFIELD: If the humidity is really high.

LEVS: Oh, man. All right.

WHITFIELD: Go on. I digress.

LEVS: I know transitioning to the series. So many people are weighing in. I mean this is historic for us. We've had more than 1,000 i-reports just about "Black in America." Some people talking about their own experiences, others talking about their responses to the special. We're really running the gamut. And I'm going to show you that variety right now, including some criticisms.

We're going to start off with this. A praise from Dr. George Daniels who teaches journalism at the University of Alabama. And he called it a journalism standout and he said this --


PROF. GEORGE L. DANIELS, TUSCALOOSA, ALABAMA: I think we had reached an important point in our understanding about race in America from health disparities to educational differences to relationship challenges. We got some insights tonight that we have not seen ever reported in the way they were reported tonight at CNN.


LEVS: On the flip side, we got another i-report. This one is Brian Sowell with a different take on it. Let's take a look.


BRIAN SOWELL, LOS ANGELES: I thought it was basically scratching the surface of the true African-American experience, which you know, I can understand how it would be difficult how to really get in-depth in it on CNN in such a short span of time. But I think it mainly gives an idea for non-African-Americans because what was said is what's known already by most African-Americans.


LEVS: OK. We're running the gamut as well, not just among the videos but also submissions to For example, this is our main page for "Black in America." Our I-report right now. I'm going to scroll down right now. Every time I refresh this page, we have all new pictures here. I'm going to show you a couple very different takes. Let's start off with Ginger Daniels Oakland who wrote us this and sent a picture to go along with it.

She said that "I was out looking forward to this special. Now, I am disgusted. They used a black woman to basically perpetuate the stereotypes that frequent the U.S. media... There are so many African- Americans doing well."

But on the flip side, I want to show you this now from Eddie Carter. One of the most recent one. That's a photo of him. And he says, "I was fascinated..." Could we go back to that screen? You had it there. He says. "I was fascinated and intrigues by your series even though my father was not present in my life, my Stepfather and uncles were. Now I am a father. I many not be perfect at it, but I am honored to be in the position."

He goes on to say, "I hope the show opens the eyes of others to some of the problems in our society that help perpetuate some of the bleak images and situations depicted."

We encourage you to jump into this conversation at any time. All you need to do is go to and weigh in. You can send us your videos, stories. Let us know if it's your take on the special or your own ideas. You want to submit something. Hey, I didn't see this on the special. Here's my take on being "Black in America" or submit questions that some people can respond to. Or while you're there, also take a look at our special report at, "the Black in America." You can't miss it. It's just a link on our main page. It will take you through literally hundreds of stories you can check out throughout the day. And Obviously, Fred, we're going to keep going through these. We have a team of I-reporters checking out what gets sent it. We'll keep bringing more to you right here.

WHITFIELD: Yes. Because a lot is coming in, and we're glad for that.

LEVS: Yes, fantastic.

WHITFIELD: That kind of round it all out because there are so many different experiences. There is no monolith black experience. So it's good to hear from people.

LEVS: You got it.

WHITFIELD: All right. Thank you so much, Josh.

LEVS: Thanks a lot.

WHITFIELD: 60 years since blacks and whites equally welcomed into the armed services. Marking the milestone.


WHITFIELD: Breast cancer screening is changing with the times. In today's "Health for Her" segment, Judy Fortin looks at the difference between digital and film mammograms.


JUDY FORTIN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The fight against breast cancer is shifting from analog to digital when it comes to imaging, specifically when it comes to mammograms. More and more women are now getting mammograms done digitally instead of on film, which means doctors screening for early signs of cancer are able to get a much better picture.

DR. CARL D'ORSI, EMORY WINSHIP CANCER INSTITUTE: We can change the brightness. We can change the contrast. We can invert the contrast. We can magnify, we can de-magnify.

FORTIN: While the picture is clearer, it doesn't mean the digital cancer detecting process is better. Doctors say film mammograms are just as efficient when it comes to cancer screening with a few exceptions. One of those exceptions is if your breast contains a particular type of tissue.

D'ORSI: It's better than film in really one particular area, and at that's the woman with dense breasts. And by dense breasts we mean a woman who has a fair amount of glandular tissue, breast tissue, related to the fatty tissue that's always present in the breast.

FORTIN: And while digital costs a bit more, the biggest gains are in its lower radiation dose and a much more storage-friendly record of the mammography itself. But there's one area where digital doesn't differ from its older film version.

D'ORSI: So far we have not been able to obviate the need for compression on the standard mammography.

FORTIN: Or what experts call the "smush" factor.

Judy Fortin, CNN, Atlanta.



WHITFIELD: A historic anniversary, 60 years ago today President Harry Truman signed an executive order that called for equal treatment and equal opportunity for black servicemen. Well, the order put the armed forces at the forefront of the movement for racial equality. Joining me now from Raleigh, North Carolina, retired U.S. Army Sergeant Major Albert Brunson. He has served in both Vietnam and Desert Storm.

Good to see you.


WHITFIELD: All right. Well, you signed up or you joined the Army in 1965, right?

BRUNSON: That's correct.

WHITFIELD: Why, especially when it was just less than 20 years prior that this agreement, executive order, was signed?

BRUNSON: Well, ma'am, I was drafted in 1965 so...

WHITFIELD: And that's a big difference, isn't it?

BRUNSON: Yes, it is.

WHITFIELD: OK. So, willingly, did you feel like, OK, well, this is the card that I've been dealt, and so I'm going to soldier on? Or, you know, were you a little trepidatious about it? Did you not like the idea of being drafted?

BRUNSON: Well, I was OK with being drafted. And of course, a draftee, you were committed for a two-year term. And after those two years, I found that I found my calling, and I decided to stay on, hang around for a while.

WHITFIELD: But here's the conflict, especially as a result of being drafted. My dad was drafted, as were many had men of his generation and yours as well. And especially as a person of color, being drafted into a war when people felt -- you know, black individuals felt they didn't get equal footing here on U.S. soil so why is it now you want me to fight a war abroad and put my life on the line? Did you feel that way?

BRUNSON: No, ma'am, I was not because even though I was drafted, I had an understanding that my nation needed me, and I heeded that call.

WHITFIELD: Did you worry about how your nation would be treating you once you came back? If it would be any different after having served in war?

BRUNSON: In fact, ma'am, the conflict, or, if you will, the demonstration started to develop after I was deployed to Vietnam, and my humble opinion, those folks who had their thoughts did not interfere what I had inside of me based upon my desire to serve my nation.

WHITFIELD: So how did the military shape you or how did you, you believe, help shape the military?

BRUNSON: In fact, ma'am, the military, to me, gave me what I call a sense of purpose. I saw an organization as a young person who, once I looked at how it was formed and the opportunity for me to advance as an individual, realizing that if I paid my dues, if you will, that I could achieve a certain goal.

WHITFIELD: And can you give me some examples of how the military helped advance you as an individual that perhaps you wouldn't have achieved that kind of advancement had it not been for the U.S. military?

BRUNSON: And in fact, ma'am, as a part of the military, number one, the military, after you have spent some time in, there are structured schools that you should go to which would help you in your advancement. You had leaders who, in fact, advised you or pushed you or made you go to a certain school to make sure that you better yourself.

WHITFIELD: Did you feel that the U.S. military was a place of equality that whites and blacks, Asians, anyone who -- and Latinos, anyone was part of the military service was treated equally?

BRUNSON: You had to have an understanding of what you were involved in, and I understood that the Boarding Act was passed in 1964. I'm a person who was born in South Carolina, and I understood and I knew because I saw the sign that says, you know, colored here, whites here.

So when I was drafted into the military in 1965, I knew where to go, what to do, how to maneuver in order to put myself in a position so that I could be successful.

WHITFIELD: And do you credit yourself with helping to convey that to your family? Because -- do I understand this properly, that six members of your family actually either enlisted or served in the armed forces?

BRUNSON: In fact, ma'am, my three sons are all on active duty and two of my daughter-in-laws are on active duty at this time.

WHITFIELD: How does their experiences compare to yours? Do you all talk about, you know, in general, what your experiences are as military personnel, compare and contrast?

BRUNSON: We do not talk, if you will, about some of the things that I saw or some of the things I dealt with, because if you understand, Vietnam was quite different from Desert Storm, which I participated in. And I considered Desert Storm and Vietnam to be quite different from what is happening in the Middle East at this present time.

However, my sons and daughter-in-law will come to me and say, dad, I have this situation, what do you think about it? And I try not to give them what I call pointed advice, but I give them information so that they can make a decision.

WHITFIELD: Well, that is interesting. And I wonder, you know, what's your point of view or maybe was it -- is it a point of discussion with you and your kids about the disparity of blacks rising in the ranks in the military? All branches of the military, I've heard it many times from a number of enlisted soldiers, airmen, that there doesn't seem to be equal representation of the higher ranking officers in any branches of the military comparatively to whites who are higher ranking or who are officers.

BRUNSON: You know, ma'am, I've heard some discussions, and one of the things that I would say to you is that if you decide that you're going to make this a career, the military is your business, if you will, then what you have to do is you have to determine what is best for you, how to obtain your goal.

Now, as far as my kids and I, my daughter-in-law, when we talk about things in the military, there are times when we do speak about, you know, things that I saw. I try to advise them on how to deal with their fellow men, if you will, in this had case, men and women.

WHITFIELD: Sergeant Major Albert Brunson, we appreciate your time. Thank you so much. And can I say happy anniversary to you as well as the U.S. military as a whole, 60 years later?

BRUNSON: Ma'am, I tell you what, it would be a pleasure.

WHITFIELD: All right. Well, happy anniversary. Appreciate your time. Thanks so much. Welcome back.

BRUNSON: Thank you very much.

WHITFIELD: And, of course, if you happened to miss any of CNN's special documentary "Black in America," catch the encore presentation tonight, 8:00 Eastern, a report on the black woman and family, and at 10:00 Eastern, the black man. It's your opportunity to see the documentary that everybody is talking about.

And more now from my talk with Don Lemon about "Black in America." He has been writing a blog to go along with the series. Here's what he had to say a little bit earlier when I spoke with him today about what he wrote and the response that he has been getting.


DON LEMON, CNN ANCHOR: In this one I really took a chance and I opened up about myself, about my history, about my personal feelings in a way that I haven't done before on the air. And the response has been amazing.

But the first -- when we started talking about this coverage and they asked me about doing a blog and I said, hmm, do I really want to do this? If I do it, I've got to tell the truth, I've got to tell how I feel. It may come off as angry, as -- that's a stereotype, it may come off as someone who is privileged and who talks about racism and bias and really doesn't know what it's about.

And so my first line when I sat down and started writing it, Fred, was to ask a black man to talk about being "Black in America" is dangerous. And so I wrote this entire blog and then I had to go out and do a story about a minority flying camp in Atlanta for teen children.

And I met this guy, Brandon Henry (ph), and he's a 17-year-old young man from Louisiana. So a long story short, Brandon sort of -- not sort of inspired me, Brandon inspired me to change what I was writing about in the blog. And I wrote about him and about what -- where I was at 17. And that I did not have those opportunities. But then I also talked about not only how black people -- what I learned when I was 17 years old and younger, not only how white people discriminated against black people but how black people discriminated against each other.

And I remember that, lots of talk in my elementary school about light skin, dark skin, you're lighter than a brown paper bag, you're darker than a brown paper bag. You didn't fit in here. You had good hair, you had bad hair, you had nappy hair, you had -- you know, all of those things that we do to each other, right? And that we don't necessarily talk about.

And I'm not sure if we talked about it in our documentary enough. I know that we did address it somewhat. But how much can you do in four hours? How much can you do? But I completely opened up about how I felt about race. I didn't talk about all the things that affected me. I didn't talk about going into a store and having somebody follow me or someone -- a security guard assaulting me in a retail store once.

I didn't talk about any of those things -- because they thought that I had stolen something, I didn't talk about that because I didn't want people to think that I was angry or that -- in any way. I gave -- I felt that I gave just enough so that you could understand me without, you know, you thinking that I had some sort of agenda or ax to grind.


WHITFIELD: And Don will make another appearance here in this hour to talk a little bit more about his blog and to talk about family history, knowing it and not knowing it, and how that determines the next step.


WHITFIELD: All right. More now from my talk with Don Lemon about CNN's documentary "Black in America." The series and his blog have fostered reaction from viewers just like you.

They also opened up a dialogue within Don's own family.


LEMON: I had a conversation with my mother who read my blog and called me, and my entire family after that. So that's what this "Black in America" has done. And we talked about how we got here, how my grandmother got here and how our family got here. And you know, my family is considered, you know, a light-skinned family.

Well, the real truth, if you want to, and I'm opening up and being really honest, my grandmother got here because her mother worked for a white man and this man raped her. And that's how my grandmother got here.

And so my grandmother, I say in the blog, we really don't know the exact mixture of her race. We know that her father was white, but her father was someone who shouldn't have been her father, and her mother had different blood and what have you.

And so then that happened. But the same thing, even a generation later, happened to my grandmother. And that's how my aunt got here. And so, you know, it continued to happen so we talk about, in this documentary, personal responsibility. But we also didn't talk about -- and this is what my mom felt, how we got here.

That's how my family got here. That's how my grandmother got here and that's how my aunt got here, in those ways. And that's how we got this light skin, some of us.


WHITFIELD: And, of course, if you missed "Black in America," catch the encore presentation tonight, 8:00 Eastern, a report on the black woman and family, and at 10:00 Eastern, the black man. It's your opportunity to see the documentary that everyone is talking about.

And all eyes and ears are on Cuban President Raul Castro today. Fidel's brother speaks in about three hours from now. Today is the 55th anniversary of the beginning of the Cuban Revolution. And Cubans are waiting to hear if more reforms could be on the way.

CNN's Shasta Darlington is in Havana with more -- Shasta.

SHASTA DARLINGTON, CNN CORRESPONDENT: That's right, Fredricka. Raul Castro will address the nation tonight live on state television from the eastern city of Santiago. Now it was this day 55 years ago that Fidel Castro launched an attack on an army barracks. That was a complete disaster, but it did start his revolution which eventually triumphed.

Most Cubans, however, will be focused on their new president, Raul Castro, tonight, to see what he has to say about the struggling economy. Since taking over in February, he has launched a series of mostly modest reforms and vowed to tackle low state salaries, something very important here.

He has allowed Cubans to buy cell phones, DVD players, stay in hotels, started giving more land to private farmers. But so far none of these changes have really hit Cubans in their pocketbooks.

So you know, two years ago Fidel Castro disappeared from the public stage, exactly on this day he had his last public appearance. So now when his brother appears on this stage on this same day, Cubans will be waiting to see what he has to say, whether or not these reforms will come any faster, go any further, since he has warned that with the poor global economy, they can't be expecting too much -- Fredricka.

WHITFIELD: And, Shasta, what's interesting too is when Fidel Castro would have these kind of open forums, it would go on for hours and people felt a huge obligation to be there. So the folks would come out in huge numbers. Would that be the same for Raul Castro today?

DARLINGTON: No. Raul Castro has a totally different style, very pragmatic. We've seen very few, if any, marches since he has taken over, and his speeches are generally much shorter. I would expect it to go on for maybe an hour tonight. He's going to be giving the speech inside the army barracks where Fidel Castro attacked 55 years ago. And there's expected to be about 10,000 people on hand, a fairly modest affair -- Fredricka.

WHITFIELD: OK. All right. Shasta Darlington, thanks so much, from Havana, appreciate it.

All right. Next hour in the NEWSROOM, Kyra Phillips is filling in for Rick Sanchez. And traffic may be moving on the Mississippi again. This is something they'll be talking about in the NEWSROOM. But tell that to the birds.

And Rick may be off, but he's still working hard, talking to the "League of First-Time Voters." Wait until you hear what some evangelical college students told him when talking about gay marriage, abortion, and the war in Iraq. You'll want to stick around for that, 5:00 Eastern time.


WHITFIELD: All right. Well the aid group Oxfam calls it a catastrophe in the making. Droughts, conflicts, and rising food prices have gotten millions on the edge of hunger in the Horn of Africa.

CNN's David McKenzie reports.


DAVID MCKENZIE, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): It's the mean season in Somalia. The hungry gather in Ebarday (ph) for the monthly food ration, aid under guard because donations are often stolen by gangs.

In the Horn of Africa, a deadly cocktail of successive droughts, armed conflicts, and rising food prices has put the most vulnerable at risk. The U.N. estimates that more than 14 million people are in need of help.

MARK BOWDEN, U.N. HUMANITARIAN COORDINATOR, SOMALIA: It's terrible because people literally are facing long-term destitution. The time bomb is ticking. We've got very little time to avert a very much more serious crisis.

MCKENZIE: And it affects the whole region. Here, dead livestock litter eastern Ethiopia. Even if the rains come, many nomads will have lost their livestock and won't be able to recover. Ethiopia has the greatest number of people at risk and the youngest are affected the most.

The government says 70,000 children are believed to be acutely malnourished in the drought-hit areas. But a new threat faces a population already beset by hardship. Aid officials say droughts in previous years have been worse, but now skyrocketing food prices hammer the poor. The price of wheat in Ethiopia has doubled in six months, and in Somalia, a country that imports most of its food, rice has gone up by 350 percent. Aid is desperately needed, but dangerous to deliver. Twenty aid workers have already been killed in Somalia this year.

And though there are navy patrols in the region, none have offered to escort the vital food aid ships to Somalia since the Dutch navy's escort mandate expired in late June.

JOSETTE SHEERAN, EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR,WFP: We're really appealing to countries that have the naval capability to help protect lives for the humanitarian food that needs to get in. And these escorts can save lives because we cannot get the food in without this. We've already seen the power of this for the past six months, and I know that pirates sound like something out of storybooks, but they're very real.

MCKENZIE: The desperation of the poor in the Horn is also far from fiction. And without the world's assistance, a bad situation could get even worse.

David McKenzie, CNN, Nairobi.


WHITFIELD: That is heartbreaking. And as David reported, there are groups working to bring food and other aid to East Africans who so desperately need it. But perhaps you'd like to get involved. You can visit our "Impact Your World" page where you'll find links to Oxfam and other groups focused on famine, that's at They could use all the help they can get.

Well, Kyra Phillips is in for Rick Sanchez straight ahead in the NEWSROOM.