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FDIC Working On Mortgage Buy Out Plan

Aired October 30, 2008 - 14:00   ET


KYRA PHILLIPS, CNN ANCHOR, CNN NEWSROOM: The $700 billion bailout, it had some homeowners feeling left out. Couldn't the Treasury spare a few billion for Main Street? You know, the street where all the foreclosure signs are popping up? Turns out they can and will.
Nebraska's tight spot. Its safe haven law for parents who cannot care for their kids has been more popular, if that is the right word, than anyone expected, but not everyone thinks that the law needs tweaking.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Would you mind talking to me about who you voted for?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Well, the black man. I voted for him.



UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And what is his name?

PHILLIPS: Fifty-six years old, with the mental capacity of a five-year-old. Was he voting independently? Or just following the guy who runs his daycare program?

And hello, everyone. I'm Kyra Phillips live in the CNN World Headquarters live in Atlanta. You are in the CNN NEWSROOM

A plan is in the works to break off a piece of that $700-billion bailout package and help homeowners struggling to keep their heads above water. There is no shortage of people who need help and the Mortgage Bankers Association claims that more than 4 million homeowners are at least one month behind in their payment, a half a million have entered into foreclosure and nearly one fourth of homeowners owe more on their loans than their homes are even worth.

Let's bring in Personal Finance Editor Gerri Willis.

Gerri, we understand about the $50 billion that could be used to help fight off foreclosures, but it is not a done deal yet, right?

GERRI WILLIS, CNN PERSONAL FINANCE EDITOR: No, it is not a done deal. But let me tell you about what is on the table right now, because it is backing up some $500 billion worth of loans.

You know how we have been talking about this. Some of these are toxic loans. The kind of loans that reset to the higher rates continually, the kinds of loans that carry heavy, heavy fees. Now, this deal if it were to come to pass will cover up to some 3 million homeowners. Basically, as you have been saying it would cost $50 billion. So big help for a lot of people in big trouble.

Let's talk a little now about this fits into the rest of the programs that have been offered up to folks in trouble. You remember HOPE Now, it was offered up about a little over a year ago, now. An 800-hotline that you could call to get help, restructure your loan with your lender. FHA Secure, another program that came out from the Department of Housing and Urban Development. They have had 400,000 loan modifications so far for that program. And then HOPE for Homeowners, that came out of the summer's bailout bill, $300 billion to stand behind these loans. Lenders had to agree to take a 10 percent haircut on the value of those loans and then get a new loan, essentially, through the government, a government-backed loan.

But with each of the programs, Kyra, I have to tell you that the lenders were reluctant to participate, and their participation was really at their own decision. They had to decide voluntarily if they wanted to cooperate or not, many of them did not want to. And so as a result, you have lots of critics of these plans.

Now, here is what this proposal could do. It could bring some stability to the housing market if lots and lots of folks, and 3 million could get a new home loan. It would put a floor under housing prices and that is something we desperately need right now. It would provide some relief for lenders who are really looking for help here. They are having a hard time figuring out what these houses are even worth, much less figuring how to write a new loan. And, finally, it would make a foreclosure moratorium less likely.

Now, as you remember, this is something Barack Obama has suggested that we should do to help homeowners out here, is to put a moratorium. A big stop on foreclosures for at least 90 days. That way folks would get breathing room, maybe get a new loan in the meantime. So, this is one proposal out there. It is the fourth really coming out of the administration, but this - the ideas on the table right now really come from the FDIC.

These are bank regulators and Sheila Bair who heads up the FDIC has been an outspoken critic, really, of what the administration has done. She says that more needs to be done. That is what this outfit, or these regulators, are talking about doing next. And we will probably have to wait until after the election to find out if it is going to come to pass - Kyra.

PHILLIPS: All right, Gerri. Thanks.

WILLIS: My pleasure.

PHILLIPS: Countdown to the election: 10 issues and 10 days. We have looked at where the presidential candidates stand on the economy, taxes, energy, health care and education. Today we turn to the page, housing. Here it is, Barack Obama proposes a $10 billion foreclosure prevention fund. John McCain wants to spend $300 billion the buy bad mortgages from the banks and homeowners. Obama supports maintaining the role of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac and guaranteeing mortgages. McCain supports government aid to prevent the collapse of Fannie and Freddie. Now Obama supports allowing troubled homeowners to refinance with loans insured by the Federal Housing Administration. McCain backs the so-called "Home Plan" that converts bad mortgage loans into low- interest loans insured by the Federal Housing Administration.

Well, from putting a lid on loose nukes to tightening the borders to keep out terrorists, we set our sights on homeland security tomorrow. What will the candidates do to keep you safe? The problems, the plans, 10 issues and 10 days only on CNN.

Now with a five days left in the race, a brand new CNN Poll of Polls shows narrowing gap; Barack Obama favored by 49 percent of likely voters, John McCain, 44. That 5-point margin is down to from 7 points yesterday. The candidates, meanwhile are running hot and cold. See for yourself, McCain is spending the day in chilly northern Ohio. Obama held a rally this morning in sunny Sarasota, Florida. We will see him next around the dinner hour in Virginia Beach, that is when it is off to the second late night rally in two days. This time in Columbia, Missouri.

You don't need a magic board to know which state each campaign thinks it can and must win. Just look at their homestretch travel plans. But our John Roberts does have a magic board and a changing electoral landscape.

JOHN ROBERTS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Kyra, we have some new polls to tell you about and changes to the electoral college map. Let's get right to them using the 2004 election results as a template and zooming in here on the Mountain state of Colorado, a new CNN/Time/Opinion Research Corporation poll shows Barack Obama 8 points ahead, which is definitely going to create some changes to the electoral-college map.

A couple of doors over in the state of Nevada, we now have Senator Obama ahead by 7 points. His big bases of support here in the Las Vegas area as well as southern part of Washo County, around Reno, Hispanic voters will no doubt make the difference in the Silver State. They represent 12 percent of voters; higher than many other states.

And here in Ohio, where it is still a 4-point race, we have an interesting finding. John McCain has strength up here in the northeast, as well as in the center of the state. Not surprising since most of that voted Republican in the last election. But down here, in the southwestern part, heavily Republican territory, Barack Obama leads John McCain by 5 points. This little area here, this little bit of blue, is the Dayton, Ohio, area which John Kerry won by a couple of points in 2004. But that is Republican territory right there. So for Senator Obama to be ahead there is a big change-up.

How is this all going to affect the electoral college map? Here is where we were before these polls came out, 277 for Barack Obama -- projected mind you - and 174 for John McCain. But we are going to change a few things up. First of all, Nevada is going to go from tossup to lean Obama category; the same thing for Colorado. And Indiana, here, which was leaning John McCain, is now going to go into the toss-up category. So, he'll lose 11 electoral votes there. That now puts our projections at 291 for Senator Obama,163 for John McCain.

Which is why the state of Pennsylvania is so important for John McCain. Let's just for instance, just for the sake of argument, give Senator McCain Missouri, Indiana, Ohio, North Carolina and Florida, all of which went for President Bush in 2004. If he manages to turn those 21 electoral votes in Pennsylvania to his benefit, he is now at 268. Obama would still win, but John McCain very much closer. It makes his route to the White House a little easier here.

If he managed to turn New Hampshire back, in his favor, he would get over the line with 272. If he managed to hang on to Nevada, that would put him over the line if he managed to hang on to Colorado, and that would put him over the line as well. But if you don't have Pennsylvania in there, his route to the White House much more difficult.

You could give him Colorado, you could give him Nevada, you could give him New Hampshire, and he still wouldn't get to the line. It is all hinging on whether or not he is able to turn it around. Right now, Kyra, the poll certainly not in his favor.

PHILLIPS: Reminder to the early voters, dot your I's and cross your T's and above all, sign your name. One example from the all- important battleground state of Florida. Election officials in Jacksonville have rejected about 200 absentee ballots for not having signatures. Another 1,300 are being examined because of questionable signatures. And on the bright side, no mention, so far, of hanging chads.

It took two tries, over four days, but a Georgia woman finally exercised her right to vote. She had to clear her name first though. Angela Brown was turned away from her polling station last week when it turned out she had the same name and Social Security of another woman. But that woman happened to be a convicted felon, out on parole, with a warrant out for her arrest. But after Angela Brown, the voter, was fingerprinted and authorities did some digging, well the case was solved.


JUDGE SAM DAVIS, ELECTION SUPERVISOR: Whoever this person is was in jail in 2007 and 2008. So we called our Angela Brown's employer, who verified she has not hardly a day of work since 2001. So we obviously knew it just was a case of stolen identity.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You have a smile on your face?

ANGELA BROWN, VOTER: Yes, because I can vote now.


PHILLIPS: By the way, the other Angela Brown has not yet been found. Well, they are legal voters but the votes are in question. Some disabled adults find themselves in an electioning controversy, we will explain.

And voting concerns of a different kind. Will Virginia be ready on election day? The NAACP is raising some questions.


PHILLIPS: Well, American Express, it is the latest company to get hit head on by the credit crisis. AmEx plans to cut about 7,000 jobs and freeze hiring and some raises. The company hopes that the slashing and freezing will save about $2 billion. The layoffs add up to about 10 percent of its global workforce.

One industry still going strong is big oil. ExxonMobil's earnings are once again shattering records. Susan Lisovicz, at the New York Stock Exchange with the latest details.

Susan, we were talking about this morning, how can this company make such large profits at a time when we were paying so much for gas and not even able to get gas. It is hard to understand where all the profits are going.

SUSAN LISOVICZ, CNN FINANCIAL CORRESPONDENT: I mean, when you just look at what we were paying, just a few months ago, right? $4, I know in Atlanta there were problems getting gas, but I mean, that was not the case really in much of the rest of the country. And we really need that product. And that has created a lot of problems, not for ExxonMobil, though. Not for its quarterly earnings, that is for sure.

Exxon earned nearly $15 billion over the past three months, which beats its own record set in the previous quarter. So no surprise that the company benefitted from high oil prices, which approached $150 a barrel in July. But oil has plunged since then. Today oil is down to $65 a barrel. That is pushing Exxon, a Dow 30 stock, down 1 percent, but overall the Dow is holding onto the gains.

Right now the Dow is holding on to it's gains, right now the blue chips are up 139 points or 1.5 percent. The GDP report for the third quarter was bad, but not as bad as feared. And that is why you are seeing the stocks rally. The Nasdaq composite, meanwhile, is up 2 percent, Kyra.

PHILLIPS: OK, 2 percent? All right. Let's talk about Exxon just - about making so much money. But the oil prices have fallen so much, so try to make sense of this. I am still trying to grasp it.

LISOVICZ: Well, this is the thing, and I actually have had this conversation a number of times. I mean it is - when you think about the record profits for a company like Exxon, it has benefitted from the sky-high price of commodities, but that is the nature of commodities. Maybe not as extreme as what we have seen this year. It is extreme in so many ways this year, but commodities do drop as well. And oil prices have tumbled dramatically. So what we will see in the fourth quarter could be completely -- should be completely different. And no doubt about it, I think compared to a year ago, I think that ExxonMobil will see a complete reversal of fortunes, Kyra. Because oil is trading down so dramatically and with the worldwide decline - and the economy, I think that you are going to see less of a demand. That is why oil is coming down and it will hurt companies like ExxonMobil.

Some people are not going to be so bothered by that, but no question about it, it will hurt profits at this quarter.

PHILLIPS: Susan Lisovicz, thanks. Recent violence in the Congo brings a threat of another humanitarian disaster. We will have the latest from that region and what lies ahead.


PHILLIPS: In the last hour we heard from Joe Biden, who is out stumping, of course, as we approach November 4th. Meanwhile in Sandusky, Ohio, Dana Bash is on the trail with John McCain at a rally there. That is about to start.

Hey, Dana.

DANA BASH, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hey, well, it did start and you said you heard from Joe Biden earlier. Well, guess what, we heard from Joe the Plumber here, Kyra. We had a little bit of a mishap earlier, in the morning, when John McCain started his bus tour. He was supposed to then have the first appearance with Joe the Plumber, the man who really changed the end of his campaign. Joe the Plumber was not there and he was sort of awkwardly calling out for him. Well, they hooked up with him, and he is actually here at this rally that is going on, as we speak, behind me.

But this bus tour, Kyra, this is really going from the western part of the state all the way across to the eastern part of the state. He is trying to hit small towns, largely Republican towns, and this is all about getting out the Republican vote. Blue-collar voters, rural voters and these are the people who McCain aides who are traveling with say they simply need to make sure that they go to the polls if they have any chance at winning this state.

We don't need to repeat, but maybe we do need to repeat, Kyra, that this is an absolutely critical state, the state of Ohio, for any Republican, particularly Republican, because history shows no Republican has won the White House without winning this state. That is why you hear John McCain, very loudly explaining his policies, particularly, as you probably hear. The issue of taxes, pounding away on that issue, and saying Barack Obama is going to raise your taxes and I will keep them low. That is always a big crowd pleaser, particularly in these Republican areas, Kyra.

PHILLIPS: OK. Let's listen to John McCain right now. Dana Bash, thanks.

JOHN MCCAIN (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I want to say one other thing. I am sure you heard about "Joe the Biden" the other day. "Joe the Biden", you know, he's the gift that keeps on giving.

The other day said that, he said to a bunch of fundraisers out on the West Coast, he said, mark my words, mark my words, that Senator Obama, if he is president will be tested. And there will be an international crisis. My friends, he may be tested, because he has been wrong on every issue, but I have been tested, and the enemies know me, and our friends know me. I won't be tested by an international crisis.

And my friends, I want you to know, again, there was a time when I supported increasing our troops in Iraq and changing the strategy, and the pundits said my campaign was dead. I said I would rather lose a political campaign than loose a war. And I meant that then and I mean it now.


There is a lot of veterans in this crowd. Please, our veterans, raise your hands so we can say thank you for serving. Thank you for your service to our country. Thank you for your sacrifice. Thank you and God bless you.

My friends, every single day I think of an experience I had a year ago last August at a town hall meeting in Wolfeboro, New Hampshire. A woman stood up at the town hall meeting and she said, Senator McCain, will you do me the honor of wearing a bracelet with my son's name on it. My son Matthew Stanley; he was 22 years old, and he was killed in combat outside of Baghdad just before Christmas last year. I said I will be honored to wear this bracelet. And I wear it and I think about him single everyday. Then she said, "But Senator McCain, I want you to promise me one thing. I want you to promise me that you will do everything in your power to make sure that my son's death was not in vain."


And my friends, I think of him everyday. I have spent my life in service to this country since I was 17 years old. I have always put my country first. I want to be president because I believe I can inspire a generation of Americans to serve a cause greater than their self- interests. And we may disagree from time to time, but I want you to know that you can always be assured that my entire life, I have put my country first. You vote for me, and get out our vote, and carry Ohio and win this election, and I will never, never let you down!

Thank you, and God bless you and God bless America. Thank you for being here. Let's fight for the vote. Get it out and win this election. Thank you.

PHILLIPS: John McCain campaigning there in Ohio. We are following all of the candidates as we approach election day.

Meanwhile, straight ahead, it lets families abandon two dozen kids, most of them teenagers, but not everyone thinks that the Nebraska's safe haven law should be changed. We are going to talk with state senator who says Nebraska got it right. And voting in Virginia, new developments in a lawsuit claiming unfair allocation of election equipment and staff. We've got an update.


PHILLIPS: Well, it is a story that hits at the heart of the right to vote, and the rights of the disabled. It surrounds a group of disabled adults in California who recently cast their ballots. Reporter Lisa Amin of our affiliate KGO has their story.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Would you mind talking to me about who you voted for.


LISA AMIN, KGO (voice over): Michael Rascon voted in his first presidential election. He and nine other developmentally disabled clients at the Thumbs Up adult care home in Tuolumne (ph) County recently cast their absentee ballots. All but one voted for Barack Obama.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Did somebody help you vote?


AMIN: David Simmerly (ph) is the home's director. He admits to helping any client with his ballot who asked.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Nobody's vote should be coerced. I think that's the bottom line.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The state Republican Party now questions the validity of the Thumb's Up votes. They want the secretary of state to investigate.

PAMELA KARLAN, STANFORD UNIVERSITY: If they haven't been declared competent to vote and they are a citizen, and they are over the age of 18, and they are a resident, a legal resident, they are entitled to vote.

AMIN: Stanford Law School Professor Pamela Karlan says legally, someone like Director Simmerly (ph) can fill out a ballot for his clients if they're illiterate or incapable. Freedom of speech even gives Simmerly the right to share his political opinions.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We try to be totally non-partisan. We didn't tell people how to vote. We told people how to vote.

AMIN: But Michael Raskin's (ph) father believes that his son was manipulated.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He wouldn't know one candidate from another. AMIN: There is no requirement that a voter be well-informed on the issues or have a sophisticated understanding of economics or the like to vote.

DOUG TURNER, FATHER OF DISABLED CHILD: I don't know the issues, but I do not think I would be upset if a caregiver took my daughter, who was of age, and had a legal right to vote, to vote.

AMIN: Doug Turner's daughter has Down syndrome and he expects her to vote one day, unless a court found she was incompetent, he has no idea why she wouldn't.

TURNER: I think that we should, you know, teach our children to vote to take part in the democratic process.


PHILLIPS: Well, let's talk more about elections and the rights of the disabled. Curtis Decker is executive director of the National Disability Rights Network.

Curtis, first of all, I just want to address this situation in particular with Thumbs Up there in California, the executive director, David Simmerly, and we heard from some of the developmentally disabled voters there. Did he do anything wrong?

He did come forward and say that when we register people to vote, we try to be totally nonpartisan. He insists he exerted no influence over his clients, despite the fact that nearly all of them voted Democratic in the otherwise Republican county, he said.

He also said he allowed them to choose their candidate freely although he did fill out some of the ballots for those who can't read or write. Did he do anything wrong from that perspective?

CURTIS DECKER, NATL. DISABILITY RIGHTS NETWORK: No, he did not. As the previous speaker said in your piece, the law allows for assistance in voting. This has been a long tradition with voting rights for people with disabilities, certainly people with sensory disabilities such as blindness have had to have assistance for years.

So there is no legal restriction on assisting people to vote, and as the professor said, as long as they have not been found incompetent for the right to vote, they are entitled to cast their ballot.

PHILLIPS: OK. So whoever is assisting them when they cast their ballot, it is basically up to them morally to have a good heart and just explain the system and hope that they vote the way they want to vote and not influence them.

DECKER: That is right. And I do think that it is a mistake to assume that people with disabilities, all levels of disability, don't have the ability to make a sound decision any more than any other person in our society to pick a candidate of their choice.

We certainly see lots of reasons why people without disabilities use to pick their candidate, and we may disagree with that, but that is their right. And it is wrong to assume that people with disabilities don't have that capability.

PHILLIPS: You know, you bring up a good point, because I was interviewing some fourth, fifth, sixth graders just the other day, asking them about the candidates, and they were very well-informed. They had been learning from school. They had been learning from their parents.

And the young man that we saw -- well, the older man we saw profiled in this piece, 56 years old, but he has got the mentality of a fifth grader, we do need to be understanding that you can teach them and educate them on a fifth-grade level, of course, about the candidates.

And so, you do believe even in that type of situation, OK, they can make an informed vote?

DECKER: Absolutely. And there is very clear that people in residences for people with developmental disables are very much exposed to television, so they, like us, have probably had quite a fill of candidates' profiles and advertisement and they can make a decision based on likeability, and as well as issues.

PHILLIPS: So what do you think about the California Republican Party, because I'm reading they just came forward with a statement that the secretary of state has been asked to investigate this incident. Is that fair? Do you think that should happen?

DECKER: Well, they have the right to do that, but I would warn any political party to not assume that the disability community votes in a bloc, and write off that vote. And possibly in California in this particular group home, it might look like it is more liberal and more prone to one candidate, but there is certainly lots of places around the country that -- where there may be a different political take.

People with disabilities reflect the -- both the ethnic and diversity of the general population and so there is no reason to assume either way that they would be predisposed to any one candidate. Disability has always been bipartisan and it is the one minority group you can join. So, I think that the party makes a mistake if they assume that anyone with an intellectual disability is automatically going to vote one way.

PHILLIPS: Right. And, Curtis, just because of your experience, I mean, you are executive director of the National Disability Rights Network, say you were to take this group to go vote and you were going to help them if they were not able to read or write, how would you have approached this and avoid this type of controversy? Would you have handled this any differently?

DECKER: I don't believe so. I do think that we would have tried to expose people with intellectual disabilities to all of the candidates, all of the material, and make sure that they had access to all of the information. And then when they requested assistance, give them that assistance, and hope that who is ever assisting them doesn't unduly influence them.

I do believe that given some of the stigma and the prejudice against certain types of disabilities, poll workers and party officials are going to question their ability to vote regardless of what you do.

PHILLIPS: Right. Yes, I hear you on that. I grew up with family members and my mom teaching kids with disabilities and it is really frustrating when people stereotype and don't understand, because they can be on many levels a lot brighter than many of us.

DECKER: Absolutely.

PHILLIPS: Curtis Decker, a pleasure talking to you. Thank you so much.

DECKER: Thank you.

PHILLIPS: Well, now to Virginia where the NAACP is poring over new information from the state on how it plans to staff and equip polling sites. And we have been reporting that the civil rights group has filed suit in federal court claiming Virginia was shortchanging precincts that serve mostly minority voters. Well, some sort of resolution may be in the works. And CNN's Dan Lothian is on the phone from Richmond with the latest.

So, Dan, what do you think? We were just talking about this a few days ago and it seemed like they were pretty much at odds, we were hearing from the state that they had enough polling stations and the NAACP was saying, nope, there's not enough, and minority voters are not getting to take part in this election. It is not fair. What happened?

DAN LOTHIAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, one thing we did find out today is that the state as well as the NAACP had been in mediation. They had been trying to work something out behind the scenes and essentially the lawsuit has now been withdrawn, but the NAACP says that they are essentially putting the lawsuit on hold.

And the reason for that, Kyra, is because, you know, what they were very concerned about is that there were not enough voting machines in areas -- especially what they were concerned about, areas where there were a lot of African-Americans. And they felt that if they didn't get these voting machines in the right places that some African-Americans across the state would not have the right or be able to vote.

Well, they said that they were provided new numbers from state officials yesterday, they pored over the numbers and they said that based on the numbers, that they are somewhat some comfortable with the fact that there are enough machines that have been allocated to the various communities so that there won't be a major problem.

Now I just talked to an official with the state elections commission, and she told me that basically she believes the NAACP was just looking at old numbers. They were looking at old numbers. They filed the lawsuit. When they got a chance to look at the updated numbers, they realized that there really are enough machines to handle the high number of people expected to show up on Election Day.

PHILLIPS: Interesting. So NAACP, it was not the pressure that they were putting on the state, they just might have gotten their information incorrect, and their -- so where did their claims come from, Dan? I mean, they were saying that they had numbers that they knew for a fact that in black communities they were not getting a fair chance to vote?

LOTHIAN: The basic way to answer that is that it is a moving target. These numbers are a moving target. You can look at numbers from back in September and it may not -- it may look like, well, you know, there are not enough machines in this particular area, but you look at numbers from, you know, a week ago and you find out that they have reasons...

PHILLIPS: And all of a sudden they change.

LOTHIAN: Exactly. They have reasons -- and that is how they pointed it out to us. It is a moving target. So just because you looked at numbers from a month ago, that doesn't mean that is how it is going to end up on Election Day, when they finally sat down, they looked at how things had been reallocated, they realized, well, yes, the state really has done a job in trying to meet the demands in various communities.

PHILLIPS: Well, that is good news, definitely. Dan Lothian, thanks so much, just one more thing to add to the frustrating process of voting this year.

Well, CNN is "Keeping Them Honest." If you have trouble at the polls, call the CNN voter hotline, help us track the problems and we will report the trouble in real time, 1-877-462-6608. We are "Keeping Them Honest" all the way through the election and beyond.

Well, it is the other side of Nebraska's safe haven controversy, lawmakers who want to keep the current law letting parents abandon as old as 18. We are going to talk with a state senator who feels just that way.

And violence returns to Congo, and civilians are caught in the crossfire. We'll update efforts to prevent another catastrophe.


PHILLIPS: Well, another day, another child abandoned in Nebraska. A 17-year-old boy is the 24th minor dropped off under the state's safe haven law. Hours earlier Nebraska's governor called a special session of the legislature to try to change that law. Every other state limits the safe haven to infants, but Nebraska does not. And most of the 24 kids abandoned have been teenagers, some even driven in from out of state.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) GOV. DAVE HEINEMAN (R), NEBRASKA: There is no use engaging in hindsight, I don't know what that is going to prove. What we are trying to do now is correct the unintended consequences of what occurred. You know, everybody had the discussion, hoped this wouldn't happen, said it wouldn't happen. It has and now we need to deal with it.


PHILLIPS: Well, some Nebraska lawmakers have quite a different view. Let's bring in State Senator Brad Ashford.

Senator, can you hear me OK?


PHILLIPS: All right. Let's take a look at the numbers of kids. Twenty-four so far, ages 1 to 17. And here is what is interesting, it's not Nebraska, but Georgia, Iowa, Michigan where parents have dropped off these kids. Did you ever expect that this many kids would be dropped off in addition to kids from other states?

ASHFORD: No, I don't think we expected any particular number. The concern here in Nebraska in the legislature was that there was a -- if there was going if be a problem with older children where a dysfunctional family situation, we wanted to make sure there was a safe place for them to go before any violence occurred.

We have -- unfortunately in Nebraska, certainly in Omaha where I live, there have been fairly severe -- there have been several incidents of violence involving children that had had mental health issues and other issues and there was concern in the body that this sort of gap in services that may exist that we cover it with the safe haven.

I would defy any other state that -- to pass something like this and not have this kind of result. There are problems out there in these communities. And the legislature has vowed to address it certainly in the next session which starts in January by dealing with some of these underlying issues.

The safe haven, how many children, we didn't know how many would come in. It certainly has exposed some concerns, some problems in the community, but we will fix the hospital abandonment issue in the special session on -- which will start in the middle of the month.

PHILLIPS: OK. Well, let me ask you a question, because you want to protect the older kids, too, you don't want them to fall through the cracks. So if this law does not change in the special session and you keep it from infant all of the way up to 18...


PHILLIPS: ... are you going to bring in more money for foster care, for social services, for education, for mental health?

ASHFORD: Right. Well, I don't know so much of it is money. First of all, the law will change in all probability, and it will...

PHILLIPS: Do you think it will go back to infants?

ASHFORD: It will apply to infants, but there will be -- in fact, we are drafting a bill ourselves in the judiciary committee to deal with expanding the jurisdiction of the juvenile court to deal with some of the issues. I don't think it is so much more money, necessarily, but it's a recognition of the problem and reallocating resources to where the problems exist.

This is not anybody's fault in government, in my view, the legislatures or the health and human services department here in Nebraska, I think what has happened is there are just problems out in the communities that exist that are real, they are not imagined.

PHILLIPS: So how do you address those instead of saying...

ASHFORD: Well, I think we attempt to fill the gap. Many states -- there are states across the country that have dealt with this in a variety of ways. Florida has a family in need statute, for example, New York has a particular way to do it. There is just a gap here, we believe, in Nebraska, that we can look at filling with other entry points into the system. We will do that. We are not going to ignore the plight of these families. I don't think that is the -- I know it is not the governor's intent, it is not the legislature's intent.

PHILLIPS: Well, it is a sad state of affairs when you see parents as dumping their kids off...


ASHFORD: Well, it's not -- you know, but it's dumped -- what they're doing is they're getting their children in a place of safety, because they -- and it is not necessarily parents, in most cases these are individuals who had been wards of the court and then had been adopted out to family members or guardians. So we are not dealing with individuals who had not had prior problems.

PHILLIPS: True. I mean, there was one parent that said, look, I could not even handle my kid, he was a complete nightmare, I didn't know what to do, so I dumped him off.

ASHFORD: Right. I think there are problems like this throughout the country. There are issues in Nebraska, we are going to address them. Our legislature and the governor had the guts to address it last session. It was intended, we didn't anticipate the number of children that this has affected or impacted.

However, the problem does exist, the issues exist, they are real, they exist out in the communities. We are going to deal with them in the legislature next session. We are not going to forget about it. We are not going to just change the law and go do something else with our time. This is a real issue, these are real families, and real children in need, and we are going to address it. But I...

PHILLIPS: And we are going to track the special session, too. We want to find out...

ASHFORD: Well, I'd love to have you.

PHILLIPS: We will, November 14th, correct?

ASHFORD: We are a unique legislature and we get things done. And we will address this issue and we will address the larger issue come January.

PHILLIPS: We will follow up. Senator Brad Ashford, appreciate your time.

ASHFORD: OK. Thanks, bye.

PHILLIPS: Straight ahead, illegal fires burning through Amazon rainforests, environmental crime or economic necessity? That is the focus of our "Planet in Peril."



HARRIS WHITBECK, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Fires like these crackle all around the Brazilian Amazon, flames destroying decades', centuries' old growth in just minutes. This is the deforestation of the largest rainforest in the world, illegally burned to turn into farmland, and this year it is happening three times as fast as last year.

Government officials blame the spike in the burn rate on local politics.

CARLOS MINC, BRAZILIAN ENVIRONMENTAL MINISTER (through translator): Historically, deforestation increases during municipal election years, because governors and mayors don't want to be unpopular with potential voters by implementing fines on the eve of elections.

WHITBECK: But some environmentalists say rising global food prices are also to blame. Brazil is already one of the world's largest producers of soybeans. Ranchers looking to increase profits turn to clearing more land to plant more soy.

Imagery taken from space confirms the increased destruction; 300 square miles of Amazon were destroyed in September versus only 90 square miles in August of last year. The government says it will increase patrols of vulnerable parts of the Amazon to prevent more illegal clearing.

MINC (through translator): This will be essential in the fight against environmental crimes. And in order to put an end to the impunity that reigns in Brazil.

WHITBECK: But with 3.4 million square miles of forest within its borders, Brazil has a lot of territory to protect and a lot of economic interests bent on destroying it. Harris Whitbeck, CNN, reporting.



PHILLIPS: Hoping for ecstasy, bracing for agony, and nervous from the anticipation, African-Americans are excited the nation might elect its first black president next week. But many are bracing themselves for a historic letdown. Lola Ogunnaike went to Brooklyn for some honest reaction.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Personally, I'm definitely going to cry. I know I'm going to cry.

LOLA OGUNNAIKE, CNN ENTERTAINMENT CORRESPONDENT: You definitely know that you'll shed tears that day?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I know I'll shed tears, 100 percent. I definitely feel like that kid on Christmas that's waiting. I can't -- I'm waking at 5:00 in the morning to vote.

OGUNNAIKE: What would it mean for you to see a black man in the Oval Office?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Well, it would mean that there's somebody who has a different perspective than all of the other leaders who have been in that office, held that position. To me, that's a huge, huge, huge shift.

MICHAELA ANGELA DAVIS, ESSENCE MAGAZINE: It's not just about Barack, it's Barack-Michelle and those two little girls. We haven't seen an intact black family since the Huxtables, and they weren't real.

OGUNNAIKE: It's approaching. Does it get scarier as the days get closer?


OGUNNAIKE: Or do you get more excited?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I get more excited, I've claimed it, you know, it looks like when you claimed something, that's it. That's it. He is our president.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It's nerve-racking. Bit it's not because I think we're going to lose, it's because I'm afraid of that one little thing that may mess it up at the last minute.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Obama not being president, I thought that through a number of times and the best thing that I can come up with is give one heck of a concession speech. I haven't thought about the day after. I'm not sure that I want to. OGUINNAKE: So how are you going to spend election night?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Election night, I think I'm going to turn the TV off.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I'm going to turn the TV off. I think the emotions are going to be just too much.

OGUNNAIKE: Are you going to be watching on election night?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I am going to let my son, who is 5 years old, stay up until we find out who is going to win.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I'm pretty excited. I'm hoping that through him, like the inner city, like, educational system gets improved. Because like, I'm just so excited. Yes, I can't...

OGUNNAIKE: You wake up November 5th, guys, and he has not won -- oh, you didn't even let me finish and you started shaking your head.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I think it would just be devastating. I've lost the words right now even thinking about it, like he brought reality back to me, like, wow. And I haven't even said anything, I'm like, don't say it because you're going to jinx it, you don't even want to speak of it.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I'm very nervous, but I'm still very hopeful. Like I feel like it's going to be -- like, November 4th, it's going to be a good day, and that's all I'm thinking about.


PHILLIPS: All right, Lola, young, old, did you get the same type of reaction?

OGUNNAIKE: You know what is interesting, I think older people are more scared than the younger people. The younger people are not nearly as invested, but there are a lot of people who were around for the civil rights movement, some who remember segregation and its realest forms, and they are more afraid and more worried that it may not happen -- Kyra.

PHILLIPS: Well, you asked around, if Barack Obama wins, would the 5th -- November 5th be a national holiday?

OGUNNAIKE: Let me tell you something, Kyra, Chris Rock has a joke -- Chris Rock has a joke that says, no matter what happens, November 5th, there will be no black people at work.


OGUNNAIKE: And I think he got it right. Either they will be out celebrating or from what I am gathering, they will be depressed. So, I will be here.

PHILLIPS: I was going to say, I will be pretty bummed out, because I'm going to lose the diversity of my staff, that would not be a good thing, and you had better be at work, we need you.

OGUNNAIKE: I will be here, but I am just saying, Kyra.

PHILLIPS: All right. You have to love Chris Rock.

OGUNNAIKE: Got to love Chris Rock.

PHILLIPS: Just saying. Thanks, Lola.

Rick Sanchez takes it from here. See you back tomorrow.