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Health Care Reform: Two Parties, One Solution; Trigger: The Last Best Hope?; President Obama's Speech Before Congress

Aired September 08, 2009 - 14:00   ET


KYRA PHILLIPS, CNN ANCHOR: Recess is over, back to the Hill, Congress. It's time to push forward on health care reform. A lot's happened since the House and Senate were last in session. Tons of town hall meetings across the country, not all of them low key affairs. The death of health care reform's biggest champion, Ted Kennedy, debate over the public option is off the table, on the table, and the possibility that the White House will put its own plan on that table. The president meets with the House and Senate leaders this hour to reenergize Democrats.

And the bipartisan Gang of Six senators are meeting to talk about a health care reform solution both parties can live with.

Let's get straight to CNN's senior congressional correspondent Dana Bash. Dana, how important is the meeting?

DANA BASH, CNN SENIOR CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: It's incredibly important, Kyra. And you know, by the way, I should mention that I am outside of this place where the meeting is going to take place. It is the office of the finance chairman, Senator Max Baucus. The meeting's going to start in about a half an hour.

You see a lot of people behind me. They're actually -- they're a group of lobbyists here to lobby the senator on -- you guessed it -- on health care reform. But to answer your question, how important is it, it is absolutely critical. We have been standing here before Congress went to recess for months, really, talking about the fact that this bipartisan group had been meeting. Well, these six senators now for them, really, the rubber is meeting the road because of the president's speech tomorrow night.

He is going to make a speech, and that means that Max Baucus knows his time is up. And that means that he needs to get answers in this meeting which will start in about a half an hour, particularly from the Republicans, on whether or not he thinks he could get them on board for a bipartisan approach. And that is an approach, Kyra, that we have here.

This is the proposal that Max Baucus sent around to members of this bipartisan negotiating team, those six senators. He sent it over this weekend, and we have some details in it, and I'll just give you just a couple of very quick examples.

PHILLIPS: Yes, tell us, what's in the plan?

BASH: Yes. I'm glad you asked, because this is actually -- this is about 18 pages, so it's definitely not legislative language, it's not anywhere near the 1,000-page bill that we have seen that came over from the House. But it does have some interesting ideas in it, some things that aren't in the House proposal.

And there is one thing that we want to focus on, and that is that there is a requirement -- a requirement for individuals to get health care coverage. And if they don't -- we should say that there are people -- for people who are about at the poverty level or a little bit above, they will get help from the federal government in this proposal. But if they don't -- for example, if there is a family of four making at least $66,000 a year or more, they are going to have to pay a fine of $3,800.

And another interesting part of this proposal is how they're trying to pay for it. There are a number of different ways that they're raising revenue to pay for the about $900 billion proposal, but one is something new, and that is a $6 billion tax on insurance companies. That is something that they just came up with, and that is probably going to be one eof the most contentious things that they're going to talk about with the Republicans, because they simply don't like that idea, to tax insurance companies in order to pay for reform -- Kyra.

PHILLIPS: All right, Dana. Keep us posted on that meeting. Appreciate it.

BASH: Will do.

PHILLIPS: During the recess, two words have become real fighting words -- public option. Now there's another word working its way into the debate, trigger. It's an idea that has support from people in both parties.

And CNN's Jim Acosta explains.


BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We have never been this close.

JIM ACOSTA, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): As the president delivered one more campaign-style pitch on health care reform, the question remains whether he will make a play for the public option, the idea of giving Americans the choice of joining a government-run insurance plan.

OBAMA: And I continue to believe that a public option within that basket of insurance choices will help improve quality and bring down costs.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Why do you continue to support a Nazi policy?

ACOSTA: During that noisy congressional recess...

REP. BARNEY FRANK (D), MASSACHUSETTS: On what planet do you spend most of your time?

ACOSTA: One of the more soft-spoken voices of the Senate, Maine Republican Olympia Snowe, was quietly talking to the White House about a compromise that would replace the public option with something called a trigger. Unlike the proposal in the House, the trigger would threaten the insurance industry with a public option down the road. The idea is backed by two former Senate leaders.

BOB DOLE (R), FORMER SENATE MAJORITY LEADER: We recommend that after about five years, and if the insurance companies don't clean up their act, then there's sort of a trigger where certain things happen and we think that's a step in the right direction.

ACOSTA: Throughout the health care debate, Snowe has shied away from radical changes to the nation's private insurance system.

SEN. OLYMPIA SNOWE (R), MAINE: You know, protect those who have currently have good health care, you know, insurance plans, and they want to preserve it, they want to maintain it. And we don't want to interfere with that, nor do we want to interfere with the doctor/patient relationship.

ACOSTA: Even though Snowe's trigger could win over Senate centrist like Nebraska Democrat Ben Nelson, congressional liberals have said in no uncertain terms no public option, no deal.

SEN. BARBARA MIKULSKI (D), MARYLAND: I say there is no option but a public option. For those who say we need a trigger, I say be careful. You could be shooting down health care.

ACOSTA: Political analysts wonder whether in the end Democrats will shoot themselves.

LARRY SABATO, DIRECTOR, UVA CENTER FOR POLITICS: What politicians say in September and what they do in November or December are often two different things because they come to terms with reality.

ACOSTA (on camera): And that reality is the trigger may be the last, best hope of getting a few Republicans on board. But after those rowdy town halls, liberal Democrats wonder if a bipartisan health care deal is already out the window, and many in the party say the trigger just gives the insurance industry another pass.

Jim Acosta, CNN, Washington.


PHILLIPS: As the Senate reconvenes, a moment of silence for Senator Ted Kennedy.

SEN. HARRY REID (D-NV), MAJORITY LEADER: Mr. President, thank you very much.

PHILLIPS: Remembering 47 years of the lion of the Senate. You saw the flowers there on Ted Kennedy's seat there. He now rests in peace alongside his brothers, Bobby and JFK, at Arlington National Cemetery.

The health care debate affects everybody, and everybody wants to be heard. Later this hour, we're going to hear the most urgent health issues facing African-Americans, personally, financially, politically, from the head of the National Urban League, Marc Morial. He joins me live in just about 10 minutes from now, right here in the CNN NEWSROOM.

And tomorrow night, the president makes his most important pitch yet for his most important domestic priority -- health care for all. A primetime speech to a joint session of Congress follows a Labor Day speech to union workers yesterday and a back-to-school speech to American students today.

At this hour, the House Speaker and the Senate Majority leader are huddling with the president.

CNN's Suzanne Malveaux joins me live from the White House.

Now, Suzanne, let's go ahead and start with the president's no- nonsense advice to school kids.

SUZANNE MALVEAUX, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: It was kind of a tough love message, Kyra, but it certainly wasn't political, as some of the critics had painted, or even suspected that it would be. The president delivered, as the White House said, really an inspiring message to schoolchildren.

He talked about the fact, his own personal humble beginnings, that his father had abandoned him when he was 2 years old, that they didn't have a lot growing up. He said there were times when he was lonely, he felt like he didn't fit in, and that he wasn't as always focused as he should have been, that he got into trouble, and that, really,, it was a series of second chances that allowed him to be the kind of person to succeed, one who asked questions and wasn't afraid to fail. And that essentially was the message to schoolchildren, that they have a responsibility for their own success, and that despite some misgivings or shortcomings, that they can overcome those and they ultimately can make themselves proud, as well as their country.

Take a listen.


OBAMA: You can't let your failures define you, you have to let your failures teach you. You have to let them show you what to do differently the next time.

So, if you get into trouble, that doesn't mean you're a troublemaker, it means you need to try harder to act right. If you get a bad grade, that doesn't mean you're stupid, it just means you need to spend more time studying.

No one's born being good at all things. You become good at things through hard work.


MALVEAUX: Kyra, the president mentioned in a Q&A with ninth- graders before he gave this speech that he, in his own words, admitted that he was a bit of a goof-off before he went to college, but he managed to really find something he was really passionate about, community service, and he had suggested that other students to do the same.

I do want to turn the corner, Kyra, and let you know as well, at this hour, the president is meeting with the Democratic leadership, Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid, on the health reform effort and the kind of timetable that they see for actually voting on some of the legislation, the various bills, the committees that have been involved in this. He is working on that speech. It's a very important one before the joint session of Congress tomorrow.

I had a chance to speak with Melody Barnes -- she's the domestic policy adviser -- just moments ago, and she said the president is going to be more specific about what he is looking for, but she did not say whether or not he was going to mention that public option that everybody's talking about. Clearly, White House aides say it's his presence, but they actually acknowledge, they don't think that that's going to happen, at least not on the Senate side -- Kyra.

PHILLIPS: And, of course, tomorrow we'll be taking that health care speech live.

Suzanne Malveaux from the White House.

Suzanne, thanks.

And our colleague Ali Velshi has spent the past few days on the road on the CNN Express asking folks to express their opinions on the economy, on health care, on the state of their lives in general, and they're not holding back.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You're in Naperville, Illinois, with the CNN Express.

ALI VELSHI, CNN SENIOR BUSINESS CORRESPONDENT: What do you think about this debate that really sent us on the road on this bus? Do you think that this administration is doing the right thing to try and reform health care?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: If it doesn't happen now, I don't know when it's going to happen.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I think it's going to go on and on and on. It's been in our main consciousness for a dozen years now. And I don't think there's any end to it anytime soon.

Is it the right time? I mean, how can this happen in four years?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: If you ask somebody, hey, who's for world peace? Everyone's going to raise your hand, right? But then when you...


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Exactly, right. So there isn't going to be a perfect plan where everybody's going to be happy.

VELSHI: I was last in Naperville several months ago, and things have changed, because back then we were still at that point where we really were confused about where this economy was going. There was still a lot more attention around it. And that seems to have dissipated a little bit.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Well, the shock is kind of over. Now it's like -- like Lisa said, how do we rebuild? Where do we go from here? You know, start planning for the next steps.

VELSHI: What do the next steps include?




UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I think that's one thing America...

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes. A lot of examining...

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We never live within our means. And now hopefully this is, like, a big wake-up call.

VELSHI: Do we even know how to do that?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes, I think we do.

VELSHI: What do you think?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I think so, but I definitely think we do a lot less impulse shopping. Now, when I shop, I'm not like, oh, I want this and this and this. I'll be, like, let me think about it before I really buy it or not.

VELSHI: Let's talk a little bit about this government.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Frankly, a lot of politicians focused on, what is the other party saying and how can I disagree with them in an eloquent manner?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: But (INAUDIBLE) continues to spend, and perhaps just like we are, belt-tightening needs to get a little more serious. And I just don't know if sending a crew off to resurface a road is really a re-investment in our country.


PHILLIPS: All right. Let's take you to the Supreme Court. You can see there Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor next to Chief Justice John Roberts. This is actually a photo-op for all members of the media as she gets ready to head into the formal investiture ceremony where she will be installed. Well, that's the technical language, installed in public office formally.

We're going to follow it. And if we get insight into the ceremony, we will bring that to you live as well.


PHILLIPS: Let's take a look at health care, race, and politics for a minute.

A recent CNN/Opinion Research Corporation poll shows that 94 percent of African-Americans approve of President Obama's job performance. Only six percent don't. Now contrast that with the views of white Americans, half of whom now disapprove, slightly fewer approve.

Now, a large majority of blacks also like the president's health care plan. Fifty-five percent of whites say they oppose it. These next figures may have something to do with that.

In 2007, more than 20 percent of African-Americans were uninsured. Among whites, the number was 10.8 percent. And while illness doesn't discriminate, some conditions hit African-Americans especially hard. Here's what they include: heart disease; diabetes; HIV/AIDS; Vitamin D deficiency; and cancers of the lung, breast, colon and prostate.

So, improving the health of African-Americans is a core mission of the National Urban League, whose president, Marc Morial, joins me now live from New York.

And Marc, just looking at that list of everything that African- American are especially hard hit with, the various diseases, the cancers, diabetes, I mean, if they are not able to get the right kind of coverage, I mean, the death toll will just rise.

MARC MORIAL, PRESIDENT, NATIONAL URBAN LEAGUE: Yes. It's a compelling case to be made for a comprehensive plan that creates access, which means gives people an opportunity to afford health care and afford health insurance, which in turn gives people an opportunity to participate in an ounce of prevention.

Right now, what we see for so many uninsured urban residents, African-American, Latinos, and whites and Asians, is that they are accessing health through the emergency rooms at hospitals. And I would invite anyone to visit the emergency room of an urban or even a suburban hospital and witness the number of people with who are there without life-threatening problems. And that is what is occurring.

So, we are paying now as taxpayers for people who access care through emergency rooms. So, a comprehensive plan that gives everyone a chance to afford to pay for their own health care, as well as for those who may not be able to afford to pay for health care, an option for them, I think is so critical for this nation at this time.

PHILLIPS: You cannot have the clinic option. We talked about the public option, but not the clinic option, right? I mean, that is what you support tremendously.

And tell me how that will make a difference when it comes to all these issues that African-American are dealing with, including the uninsured issue.

MORIAL: Well, let me say this -- there's been a lot of discussion about the public option, but there's been very little explanation about why it's important. One of the reasons why it's important, Kyra, is we need more competition in the health insurance industry. And more competition will lead, we think, to lower prices, lower premiums, lower health care costs in the long run.

For example, in the state of Pennsylvania, I believe two insurers control about 80 percent of the business. So, I think Americans who tune in will learn more about what this public option is for. But more importantly, how this plan has to produce more competition, more access, and therefore more affordability for Americans.

For African-Americans, the support is there because the large number of uninsured, the higher death rates, the higher disease rates, it's a problem that needs a solution. And I applaud all legislators and the president for working hard on trying to find a solution that works, and to do it as quickly as possible.

PHILLIPS: And one of the aims of the bill, prevention, and you have mentioned that a number of times since we have been chatting here. I mean, prevention on so many levels can bring down all those staggering numbers when it comes to African-Americans and the conditions that they deal with.

MORIAL: You know, what's interesting is that the focus on prevention means that many preventive tests that people now access would be accessible under the bill without an insurance company being able to charge you a deductible or a co-pay. In effect, it encourages you to get the kind of preventive tests that lead to early detection. And therefore, in the long run, that's going to not only make us healthier, but also reduce health care costs for all. Because as we know, it's people with long-term illnesses, it's people with acute health problems. Those are the kinds of things.

So, we need to have a careful, thoughtful, civilized discussion about this as a nation. And we think that the comprehensive plan that's been debated is a good plan, and I would challenge those that oppose it to come up with a better plan. The cost of the status quo is much more than the cost of change.

PHILLIPS: And I know you're holding a live event tomorrow there on the Hill. We'll follow it.

Marc Morial, always great to see you.

MORIAL: Thanks, Kyra. PHILLIPS: Marc also mentioned the growing Latino population in the U.S. It's struggling with health care every single day as well.

The National Council of La Raza says that the biggest concern is affordability and coverage. More than one in three Latinos is without health insurance. Another concern, equity and access for those who pay their fair share for health care, and addressing the gaps in health care quality for the Latino community and others of color.

A quick programming note. In October, CNN will present "LATINO IN AMERICA," a comprehensive look at how Latinos are changing America, reshaping politics, business, schools, churches and neighborhoods. " LATINO IN AMERICA," this October, only on CNN.

More worries for Afghanistan's troubled presidential election. The country's election commission has ordered a partial recount of the August 20th vote. Several provinces have reported serious allegations of ballot box stuffing and fraud. The recount may take up to three months.

And more than a dozen people are dead across northern Argentina and Brazil after a devastating tornado. Dozens more people were injured. That storm also hit part of neighboring Uruguay. Power was knocked out to thousands of people, and trees are blown down over a widespread area.

You've seen her stunning images for decades, but soon celebrity photographer Annie Leibovitz could lose the rights to her life's work. The 59-year-old shutterbug apparently put the rights to her pictures up as collateral for a $24 million loan. Now it's time to pay the piper, or, in this case, the lender, and she just doesn't have the cash.

Just in time for the post-holiday workweek, the Bay Bridge back in business. A day early to boot.


PHILLIPS: Rush hour zooms across the San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge. It's a day ahead of schedule. Traffic is streaming across after workers fixed a big crack in a steel support beam. They thought it would take until tomorrow, but they worked nonstop all night, and they say the bridge is now safe.



PHILLIPS: We are three days away from the eighth anniversary of 9/11, the day that changed life as we all know it. It changed families, devastated our economy and sent our sons and daughters to war.

Eight of them died today. Four in fighting in Afghanistan and four others in bombings in Iraq. One of the top American commanders in Iraq, Major General Richard Nash stopped and acknowledged the losses. It was a unique moment.


MAJOR GENERAL RICHARD NASH: Every day I'm impressed by the work and accomplishments of the soldiers, airmen, sailors, Marines and Coast Guardsmen of Multinational Division South (ph). They strive daily to help ensure Iraq security and improve the quality of life for this emergent democracy.

Our deepest gratitude goes out to the families, friends, loved ones and employers of these patriots and professionals. Our thoughts and prayers continue to be with the family of those who have given the last full measure (ph). Both Americans and Iraqis can be proud of the fine job their sons and daughters are doing. I have complete confidence that working together, we can overcome any obstacle as we move forward by, with and through our Iraqi partners.


PHILLIPS: And this is why we have special coverage all this week from Afghanistan. Eight years after 9/11, the Taliban has not been wiped out. And nowhere is that more apparent than along the main road from Kabul to Kandahar. Here's CNN's Michael Ware, who's frequently traveled the dangerous highway.


MICHAEL WARE, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Afghanistan is hurting badly. Eight years after America's war began here, the combat continues with the death tolls among coalition soldiers, Afghan security forces and civilians ever rising. Politically, it's little better, with the nation in limbo.

The final results of last month's presidential election have been stalled by a storm of corruption allegations. But it wasn't meant to be this way.

Having turned its back on Afghanistan throughout the 1990s, once the Soviet army lost its war here, the United States has spent these eight years trying to make good on its past neglect. But true, undeniable success is hard to see.

(on camera): Well, for most ordinary Afghans, this, perhaps, is the simple, clearest measure of that. This is Highway Number 1. It's here that Kabul ends, and 300 miles down that road is Kandahar and the Taliban heartland.

I remember when taking the journey from Kandahar to Kabul was more than 12 exhausting hours. But in 2004, American aid money re- paved this road and cut that down to a mere five or six. Now, that journey is back to nine or 10 hours.

There's at least three known Taliban checkpoints on this American-paved highway. People are being pulled off buses and executed by the Taliban. (voice-over): Truck driver Mohammed Qasim runs this Taliban gauntlet once a week. He hauls fuel in this tanker. The road, he says, is in terrible shape, wrecked by explosions. Drivers are left completely exposed.

"It's been blown up by landmines and there is no security on it," he says. A father of three, Qasim has to provide for his children. He takes his life in his hands each time he travels Highway 1. "I'm compelled," he tells me. "How else do we eat? There's simply no alternative."

Highway 1 looks like this. It is one of the most vital arteries in Afghanistan, rebuilt with almost $300 million in American aid money. Its asphalt rolls out from the capital, Kabul, to the west, towards Kandahar, the nation's second largest city and a political epicenter.

(on camera): And this is the other end of that road. Kandahar is just a short distance down there. Kabul, hundreds of miles that way.

But here in Kandahar, this is a city surrounded by pockets of Taliban resistance, and just a few miles down that dirt road is a Taliban-controlled district. A few miles up the highway is the first Taliban checkpoints.

The fact that the Taliban has been able to strangle the life out of this highway is a testament of the fact that there's simply not enough American, British, international or Afghan troops to secure it. What had once been an American project hailed as a sign of progress has now become a mark of a mission in crisis.

(voice-over): Michael Ware, CNN, Kandahar.


PHILLIPS: And as battles rage on in southern Afghanistan, trauma teams and medics work around the clock to treat civilians. Their workplace, Kandahar Role 3 (ph), a hospital in the middle of that war zone. CNN chief medical correspondent Dr. Sanjay Gupta took a tour of the complex where most of those being treated are not Americans, and among them, a young Afghan boy fighting for his life.


DR. SANJAY GUPTA, CNN CHIEF MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): That sound you hear is a drill being used to remove the skull of a child, a two-year-old Afghan boy. He fell down a cliff while playing. His name is Malik. And he has a massive brain injury. Almost dead.

Doctors here are trying to give him a fighting chance. He is one of the cutest boys you'll ever meet.

(on camera): But it's nighttime out here in Kandahar. You see what's going on behind me, a helicopter is about to land. We don't have a lot of information, we just know there's patients on this particular chopper. Look over there, two ambulances, all the medics are over here, preparing to run out to the chopper and we're going to go with them.


PHILLIPS: Our Sanjay Gupta and Anderson Cooper take you inside Afghanistan all this week. "Live From the Battle Zone" tonight, don't miss special coverage, "AC 360," 10:00 Eastern.

A white teen severely beaten in Buffalo, New York, now is dead. Now his dad wants his son's attack treated like a hate crime. Eighteen-year-old Brian Milligan, Jr. was so badly injured he has to drink his food through a straw. His jaw is wired shut. Milligan thinks his son's race triggered that attack. He was allegedly beaten by several African-American teens armed with chunks of concrete. Milligan, who is white, has a black girlfriend, and the interracial couple says they have been taunted in the past.


BRIAN MILLIGAN, JR., BEATING VICTIM: We were going to fight, and then she stopped me.

NICOLA FLETCHER, BEATING VICTIM'S GIRLFRIEND: I think it is a hate crime because why would you approach somebody and yell out, "Don't come back to my neighborhood, don't date our women."


PHILLIPS: Now, Buffalo police say they're still investigating the case, but so far it's not been classified as a hate crime.

More than 21 years of murder and mystery in Milwaukee. Who would have thought the big break would come from a toothbrush? Detectives say the DNA taken from the brush has linked 49-year-old Walter Ellis to nine killings between 1986 and 2007. His own mouth might have given him away.

Ellis is charged in two cases, but more might be in his future. Most of the victims of the so-called North Side Strangler cases were prostitutes. The family of one victim talked with Charles Benson of Milwaukee's WTMJ. He starts his report with Police Chief Edward Flynn.


CHARLES BENSON, WTMJ-TV CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Chief Flynn says a lot of hard work went into bringing a conclusion to several cases that were cold but not forgotten.

CHIEF EDWARD FLYNN, MILWAUKEE POLICE DEPARTMENT: Good police work and good police science have led us to Walter Ellis.

BENSON: The nine victims were all women, many with a history of drug and prostitution. They were strangled or stabbed to death. DNA found on the victims linked them to a single suspect, but not to a known name. The missing link was a DNA match with Ellis. That came from a toothbrush from Ellis during a search warrant.

FLYNN: We offer our condolences to surviving family members with the hope that today's news gives them confidence there will be justice.

BENSON: Carron Kilpatrick's family hopes so. She died three weeks after giving birth to her fifth child in 1994. Her sister does not want to be seen on TV.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: This is the best news ever.

BENSON (on camera): (INAUDIBLE) says police recently came by to talk to her about the cold case and a possible suspect, but she says she never thought this day would come.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Bring closure to me, you know what I'm saying, as to know what happened, you know, to my sister.


PHILLIPS: That was Charles Benson from Milwaukee's WTMJ. Chief Flynn told us the cold case science that made the arrest possible only became available this year.

New revelations today about one of the people killed in a mobile home in coastal Georgia. Guy Heinze, Sr., the father of the suspect in the slayings, recently won a civil lawsuit. The payment? $25,000. He had not seen any money yet. The award was under appeal. Guy Heinze, Jr., charged with killing his father and seven others, had a preliminary hearing today.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention offering more guidance today on dealing with the H1N1 virus. They're holding a news conference in Atlanta this hour. We're monitoring it for new updates, and we'll bring you the latest developments as they become available.

And Discovery's crew is one step closer to greeting their loved ones again. The space shuttle is scheduled to pull away from the international space station next hour, and it's bringing home a plastic astronaut, Buzz Lightyear. This all will appear on video shots on the station to help educated kids about NASA.

When Warren Buffett speaks, Wall Street listens. Now he's betting on electric cars. We'll head to New York to find out why.


PHILLIPS: Warren Buffett is called the Oracle of Omaha for a reason. When he makes a bet, Wall Street takes notice and so should you. So, listen up. He's betting on electric cars.'s Poppy Harlow has our "Energy Fix" from New York. Can we invest, Poppy?

POPPY HARLOW, CNNMONEY.COM: He's putting a lot of money into it, Kyra. Buffett's Berkshire Hathaway bought a 10 percent stake into a company you may never have heard of. It's called BYD. It's a Chinese electric car and battery maker. He made that investment last year. It cost him a pretty $230 million, and there's talk right now that he might be upping that stake.

This comes from what BYD's chairman suggested, which was just that, last week, that Buffet would put more money into his company. And Buffett told me this morning -- we called him up and asked him if these rumors were true. He said, Kyra, I can't say one way or the other, I'll let the head of that company speak to that. But we should know that Buffett actually wanted to buy a 25 percent stake in this automaker last year, but they weren't willing to sell him that much, Kyra, so it looks like he may be increasing his bet on electric cars.

PHILLIPS: All right. Well, most of us probably haven't heard about BYD, right? So, what can you tell us about it?

HARLOW: Most people haven't. It actually stands for -- I love the name -- "build your dreams," it was actually one of the largest cell phone battery makers in the world. Then they bought out a bankrupt Chinese car company so they could transfer that advanced battery technology to cars.

Next year, here in the U.S., they're going to launch an all- electric vehicle they claim, Kyra, it can get 249 miles on a single charge. And the timing of this is really significant because it's going to hit the market here just around the same time that GM's Chevy Volt is going to come out and we're going to see electrics from Nissan and Chrysler, Kyra. So, more competition from U.S. and foreign automakers, and the price point is probably going to be a lot lower than GM's car.

PHILLIPS: All right, we'll follow it. Thanks, Poppy.


PHILLIPS: The days of baking a file into a cake are so over. Hidden cell phones are the problem now. Inmates can make a call from the inside, then a witness on the outside is dead. How do you cut that deadly connection to the outside world?


PHILLIPS: (INAUDIBLE) cell phone. You use them, I use them, and so do prisoners. They're using really some clever tricks, though, to sneak cell phones past the guards, and that's allowing them to commit more crimes from the inside. Here's CNN's Jeanne Meserve.


JEANNE MESERVE, CNN HOMELAND SECURITY CORRESPONDENT(voice-over): Using dogs and searches, Maryland corrections officials ferreted out for than 900 contraband cell phones last year. Across the country, inmates have used cell phones in extortions, escapes, drug deals, even murders. In 2007, a Maryland prisoner used a cell phone to order a hit on a witness who was about to testify against him in a homicide case.

GARY MAYNARD, MARYLAND SECRETARY OF PUBLIC SAFETY AND CORRECTIONAL SERVICES: We want to use all the technology available to detect, to jam, to discover.

MESERVE: Jamming is illegal, but some other technologies recently got a tryout at a closed prison in Jessup, Maryland. One product claims to detect a cell phone every time the phone is used or even turned on.

KATHY HOFFMAN, COMPUCAT USA: And then they will know exactly where that cell phone is and they can go and retrieve it.

MESERVE: Another company says its product can selectively block unauthorized calls.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I tried twice on basically an AT&T network, and it didn't go through.

MESERVE: If legally authorized, it can also collect information about calls and even record them.

JAY SALKINI, TECORE NETWORKS: If Mike is calling John and Mike sends tell them, kill Sam, we know exactly who said what.

MESERVE: Some say a more effective solution would be to jam all cell phone calls in and out of prisons. But critics say that could block legitimate users nearby, even emergency calls.

JOHN WALLS, CTIA-THE WIRELESS ASSOCIATION: Maybe that 911 call for somebody who needs urgent help right away, right now, and that would be tragic if that call was blocked by jamming technology.

MESERVE (on camera): Congress is considering changing the law, banning jamming the exception for prisons. Many corrections officials favor that idea, but say they'd like an array of tools to fight what has become a pervasive and dangerous problem.

Jeanne Meserve, CNN, Washington.


PHILLIPS: This just in to CNN, this is coming to us from the Associated Press. Apparently the British military is investigating a suspected bomb that was found at a UK air base. This is what we know. The Ministry of Defense says it could be an improvised explosives device, an IED, that has been discovered at the Royale Air Force base in Lyneham. The air base is actually one of the largest and busiest RAF hubs in Britain.

The military is going on to say that an explosive ordinance disposal team is on site. We'll try and bring you more information if we find out if indeed this is an IED, how it got there and how it's affecting the UK air base there.

As always, Team Sanchez working hard on the next hour of CNN NEWSROOM. What are you working on, Rick?

RICK SANCHEZ, CNN ANCHOR: There's movement on that story we have been telling you about. You know the preacher from Phoenix, actually Tempe, which is right outside of Tempe.

PHILLIPS: The one who wants to kill President Obama?

SANCHEZ: Yes, the one who prays that he dies, and that his teeth should be kicked in, among other things.

We're finding out, interestingly enough, that he's running a business out of the same area where his church is. That's as much a question mark as it is a declarative statement because he would argue that the church is being leased to himself so he can use it.

The problem is, there's some illegalities there that he might have to deal with. We're looking into what's going on there, we're going to bring you the facts, and there's this huge altercation between him and a reporter. And you're going to see that play out. It gets very heated by the way.

And as you know, this might play out during our hour, Harry Reid, Nancy Pelosi. They're going to visit the White House, they're going to talk to the president. They may find out before we all find out tomorrow what the president's going to say.

I mean, how is he really going to sell this to the American people? Because I've got to tell you, I think generally speaking, Americans are just confused. They have no idea what this health care reform is supposed to look like or who they're supposed to be focused on. It's the president's job to focus them. We'll see if he can do it.

PHILLIPS: All right, Rick.

SANCHEZ: Back to you.

PHILLIPS: Thank you.

Now, the follow-up that you have been waiting for. Traffic in Samoa. We told you about it yesterday, the nation's historic switch from the right side of the road to the left. The first time in decades any nation anywhere has crossed the center line. The goal in Samoa is to drive like Australia and New Zealand and thus enable all the Samoan ex-pats to ship their used cars back home. Cars with steering wheels on the right.

Follow me? There's a reason countries don't do this sort of thing often. But so far, Samoians say, so good.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It went well. I'm so thankful, I thank God for today.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's just straightforward. You just drive on the other side.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: That car just (ph) set to go and the other one is set to stop. (END VIDEO CLIP)

PHILLIPS: All right, there is some confusion, but it could have been worse. Samoa called a two-day national holiday and actually banned the sale of alcohol for three days.

A wallet, a toothbrush, a tie. Personal items recovered from a man killed in a plane crash, but the widow is still seeking the one item that would give her some sense of closure.


PHILLIPS: It's a bittersweet time for relatives of the victims of Colgan Air Flight 3407. They're finally getting the chance to identify the belongings of their loved ones recovered from the February crash. For the widow of the victim, one item mattered more than anything else, her husband's wedding ring. Alyssa Holmes from our Buffalo New York affiliate WIVB has her story.


ALYSSA HOLMES, WIVB-TV CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): A charred wallet, a toothbrush, part of a necktie still knotted. Jennifer West has received four boxes full of items that were with her husband, Ernie, aboard Flight 3407. But she was always holding out hope that his wedding band would still be found.

JENNIFER WEST, WIDOW OF FLIGHT 3407 PASSENGER: My life started when I met him, and I never thought I would get married or have kids. And when I married him, you know, that's when my life began.

HOLMES: Now, all of 40,000 other items scattered about the scene of the crash have been posted to a web site to be identified and claimed by victims' families.

WEST: I'm very nervous I'm praying, praying, that I find the ring.

HOLMES: Ernie West was sitting right beside his co-worker, Darrin Talsma (ph). His wedding band has already been returned to his wife, Robin.

ROBIN TOLSMA, FOUND HUSBAND'S WEDDING RING: It's kind of bittersweet because my anniversary was last weekend, yesterday would have been his birthday. But it is a symbol of what you had. If I don't find anything else of Darrin's, I'm okay. I just wanted to make sure that Jen has Ernie's ring today.

HOLMES: So, together the two women bonded by tragedy, slowly started scanning through almost 300 pieces of jewelry, desperately searching for that two-toned ring with diamond-cut markings. Slowly, reality started to sink in.

WEST: I don't think it's there.

HOLMES: The pain so fresh, so raw once again. WEST: I mean, I know he's with me, I was just really hoping I could get the ring back because I know it was on his hand, you know, in the last moments.

HOLMES: That same anguish or joy is being felt by 49 other families, all searching for ways to keep the memories of their loved ones alive.


PHILLIPS: And that was Melissa Holmes with CNN's Buffalo, New York affiliate WIVB. We're going to keep tabs on this story.

That does it for us. We'll be back here tomorrow. Rick Sanchez picks it up from here.