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United Families; Three in Jail on Bomb Charges; Iran Second Nuclear Plant; Latino Immigrants without Health Insurance; Republican Activists Meet; Domestic Violence and Muslim Women

Aired September 26, 2009 - 15:00   ET


WHITFIELD: Hello again, I'm Fredericka Whitfield and you're in the CNN NEWSROOM.

Uniting in Washington, families from all over the country all have lost a family member in Iraq or Afghanistan. The families come together each September for an event that acknowledges their sacrifice. The time of remembrance ceremony featured several well known speakers. This year that list includes, Joint chief chairman Admiral Mike Mullen, former presidential candidate Ross Perot and actor Kevin Bacon.


KEVIN BACON, ACTOR: Each of you has lost someone special in your life. There are no words that anyone, least of all, me, that can say that we will heal your terrible hurt. I want you to know that my thoughts and the thoughts of our country are with you. I'm thinking of a quote I heard once which certainly applies to each and every one of you here. To the world, he was one, but to me, he was my world. Thank you. Thank you for your sacrifice.


WHITFIELD: Thousands of military family members attended today's ceremony including our next guest, John Ellsworth who lost his son in Iraq. We understand Mr. Ellsworth your son, your 20-year-old son literally threw his body on top of an IED and that's what took his life.

JOHN ELLSWORTH, V.P. FAMILIESUNITED: That's correct. Thanks for having me.

WHITFIELD: Thanks so much for being with us. Give me an idea of what this is like to be alongside hundreds of other family members who are still grappling with the losses of their loved ones in these on going wars?

ELLSWORTH: Well it's very consoling to be able to be with each other. Nobody understands like another gold star parent. That is the reason we got together before and after the event to share each others stories, to hear each other laugh and cry and talk about our loved ones.

WHITFIELD: This happened before the event. Meaning a lot of people make connections, long lasting connections through this annual rite. ELLSWORTH: Absolutely we make lifelong friends. It's unfortunate we have to belong to this club. Once we find a new, unfortunate member, we welcome them into our families, United Family. And that is what we are here for, is to help support each other and be here for each other. Say it's OK to laugh and say it is OK to cry. It's very, very comforting for all of us.

WHITFIELD: And understanding, even though you are still dealing with and this will take forever, I'm sure, dealing with the loss of your son, you have spent a good part of today consoling and comforting others. What can you say or you can do you think that you try to impart to them that you feel like you needed the first time you were in attendance.

ELLSWORTH: I think a lot of it has to do with I also get comfort from the fact that I'm able to share my son's story and they, in turn, share their story of their loved one. It helps both of us. It's selfish on my behalf to be able to share my son's story and get his name out there. My son was 20 years old, Justin Ellsworth. These people know it. They know my story and they know my son's story. I know their story. It's a bond. We appreciate the opportunity to do that. We make lifelong friend that is way.

WHITFIELD: Is it a time when you and other family members even talk about the ongoing war? Do you talk about the U.S. commitment to the wars at all?

ELLSWORTH: Very rarely do we talk about the war itself. We talk about the sacrifices that our military men and women are making every day. We still appreciate the fact of what they have been able to accomplish. What our sons and daughters what their vision was. Their voices may be silent. One of the things, we want to make sure that they see their mission through. We are here to support them.

WHITFIELD: John Ellsworth thanks so much for your time and of course thanks for the service of your son and his ultimate sacrifice, Lance Corporeal John Ellsworth. Thanks for your time, appreciate it.

Turning now to the alleged terror plot here at home. Investigators insist the cases are unconnected. Three men are in jail this weekend accused of planning various bomb attacks. A 19-year-old, Hasama (ph) a Jordanian national living in Texas. Allegedly wanted to blow up a Dallas skyscraper.

Twenty nine year old Michael Finton (ph) an American ex convict who attended an Illinois mosque accused of trying to blow up a federal courthouse in Springfield. And 24 year old Najibullah Zazi an Afghan immigrant who lived in Denver is accused of plotting to bomb New York commuter trains. He was flown to New York yesterday to face charges. The case against Najibullah Zazi includes allegations that he bought beauty supply chemicals, very simple chemicals that can be used to make explosives. Here now is CNN national correspondent Susan Candiotti with some exclusive surveillance camera pictures.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) SUSAN CANDIOTTI, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice over): The surveillance video obtained exclusively by CNN Thursday matches court documents that puts a terror suspect in a beauty supply store twice in July and August. The stores owners says the FBI approached during a campus of businesses last week looking for unusual sales of hydrogen peroxide a chemical used to make a powerful explosive called TAETP. In the first video, a man who would be alleged plotter Najibullah Zazi wearing a baseball cap backwards walks up to counter in a rural Colorado with six bottles of a cheap peroxide hair product. He throws in a few more items including a shower cap.

A few weeks later, the FBI says Zazi goes back to the same store and buys a dozen more bottles and a make up bag. He puts the bottles into a shopping cart and moves it down the aisle. The stores chain CEO says that is an odd amount. But employees weren't alarmed. The customer joked that he was buying it for a lot of his girlfriends.

KARANI HOSS, CEO, BEAUTY SUPPLY WAREHOUSE: There was small talk. Specific to the product, I believe one the employee actually asked what are you using all this stuff for. He jokingly said oh, I have a lot of girlfriends.

CANDIOTTI: The store voluntarily turned over to the FBI the video and two receipts that coincided with purchases on those dates. He paid cash, the bottles are cheap and all 18 bottles for $3 each. The court documents prosecutors say Zazi and others bought other large quantities of chemicals tending to make a bomb.

So far no chemicals have been found and no other helpers arrested.

Susan Candiotti, CNN, New York.


WHITFIELD: Iran says it will allow U.N. inspectors into its newly revealed nuclear facility. Tehran acknowledged yesterday it has a second uranium enrichment plant about 100 miles southwest of the capital. But it denies it was trying to hide anything. Here is how the Iranian ambassador of the IAEA responded to criticism by western leaders.


(UNIDENTIFIED MALE): We are arranging and inspectors will confirm very soon. You will be aware of that. Of course, we are very disappointed with the hostile reaction yesterday by three leaders.


WHITFIELD: CNNs Elaine Quijano joins us now from Washington. So Elaine we understand, a short time ago, there was reaction from the secretary of state Hillary Clinton. What did she say?

ELAINE QUIJANO, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, well at an event in New York, just a short time ago, our CNN State Department producer asked secretary of state, Hillary Clinton, whether that pledge by the Iranians was welcome news. And Secretary Clinton said it's always welcome when Iran makes a decision to comply with international rules and regulations.

At the same time, something also made clear that come Thursday during nuclear talks in Switzerland, the U.S. is going to want to hear a time frame on when exactly Iran plans to allow those inspectors into that facility. Experts say that time frame of course is going to be key here. The president, for his part, said the world is more united than ever, he believes, when it comes to Iran. But if Tehran does not cooperate, there will be consequences. Here is how he put it this morning in his weekly radio and internet address.


BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE U.S: All of the permanent members of the United Nations Security Council and Germany have made it clear that Iran must fulfill its responsibilities. Iran's leaders, they can live up to the responsibilities and achieve integration for the community of nations or they will face increased pressure and isolation and deny opportunity to their own people.


QUIJANO: Iran insists however that its nuclear activity is for peaceful energy purposes. However, President Obama says the facility's size and configuration is not consistent he says with peaceful intentions.


WHITFIELD: Also, you know, the U.S. got some support from Russia as it pertains to Iran. What does this mean?

QUIJANO: It's pretty significant, Fredricka. This week, earlier this week, on Wednesday in fact, President Obama sat down and he actually briefed Russia's President Dmitry Medvedev (ph) about this second facility. And it was interesting to note that afterwards, the Russian president basically said sometimes sanctions are inevitable. That is pretty significant because as you know in the past, Russia, which has and energy ties with Iran has been really reluctant to press for tougher sanctions.

So this could be a significant shift. Of course, obviously officials are waiting to see if the actions on the part of Russia are enough to match the talk. Certainly, the Russian leader this is sending a very different signal from in the past when, again, Russia was pretty hesitant to clamp down too hard on Iran.


WHITFIELD: All right. Elaine Quijano in Washington. Thank you for that update.

All right, you could say it's a tough weekend for a lot of folks in Georgia. They are cleaning up after some nasty weather bringing nasty results. But now another concern. There might be more rain on the way. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

WHITFIELD: Knee deep in mud and muck. That's the situation a lot of people in Georgia are facing this weekend as they clean up from record setting floods. Now another worry more rain on the way. CNNs Catherine Callaway joins us now from Hiram, Georgia, northwest of Atlanta. Well everyone looks fairly dry now, but there's a little sprinkling in the air, right?

CATHERINE CALLAWAY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: It's actually pouring down rain. I am inside the house. This is the Sosi house, one of a thousand homes that have been damaged. We are bringing you this story because the Sosbi's are fortunate enough to have help from a group that is called Samaritan's Purse. A bunch of volunteers who for no reason at all accept their concern for fellowman came here to help this family actually gut this house Fredricka.

I am in what used to be the den. You can see where the water came up to here. We have a buckled floor down here. But I want you to look at what they have been doing the last six hours. This is what is left of the other side of the house. As you can see, it's been totally gutted. We are down to where you can see the dirt under the home, this is severely damaged. John Pryor is the manager with Samaritan's Purse. He's been here all day along with their crew trying to rip out what's been damaged in this home. Tell us why is this such a help to the owner because demolition is expensive work, isn't it?

JOHN PRYOR, SAMARITAN HOUSE DISEASTER RELIEF: That's right. Demolition of a home like this could cost about $20,000. So we are saving the Sosbi's about $20,000 in demolition. What we have done is we tore down the dry wall and we see there is 2 x 2s. They don't meet code. We have to take down walls. The only wall remaining is the load bearing wall right here.

CALLAWAY: I know you go to these disasters all over the country. What do you think of this type of damage compared to what you have seen in others in other floods?

PRYOR: Sure. Samaritan House does work around the world, over 100 different countries. In Atlanta, this is just about the worst flooding I have seen. It's terrible how fast and high the water got.

CALLAWAY: And this house the water was up beyond the ceiling in fact. Do you think there's going to be any way they will be able to rebuild here?

PRYOR: I'm not sure what the Sosbi's will do. They will bring in a contractor and see exactly how much it will cost to rebuild the home.

CALLAWAY: All of these people from all over the country flew in and are working free of charge, missing work, missing their families. What brings you to do this?

PRYOR: We share the love of Christ. We want to reach out in the community and let them know they are not forgotten. CALLAWAY: All right. We appreciate you taking time to speak with us. Fredricka, they were ripping the floor out from under me while I am trying to read the story to you. They have other homes they want to go to. They are going to go next door and help the family next door that is in a similar situation. A lot of good work here, people helping each other.

WHITFIELD: Yes, that's fantastic work. They are working fast. The folks are very grateful for their help. All right. Catherine Callaway thanks so much from Hiram, Georgia. Georgia and Himam not the only places that are already seeing a downpour. Other places, too. Jacqui Jeras is tracking it all. What a mess.

JACQUI JERAS, CNN METEOROLOGIST: It really is. The rainfall today is heavy. Try to put this in perspective. We have flash flood watches. These are not like river flood watches, not at this time. We are expecting to see maybe some rises on the rivers and creeks and streams, but we are not expecting a major flood. Also, urban flooding is going to be likely with this rainfall. So you know, intersections, the low lying areas maybe your community tarp. Be real careful, if you have to travel today, across the southeast.

You can see the heavy rain. It's across parts of the Deep South that we are most particularly concerned about. Where you can see the red radar return. We could see some one to two inches per hour in some of these heavier rain showers. All this ground is saturated even though we have had a couple dry days here in the southeast, but the ground is very moist. Every drop that we get today is going to run off and there are a lot of clogged sewer drains and things like that, that could make flooding happen very easily. So best to stay home today.

Here, you can see the showers and thunderstorms in the downtown area. This isn't too bad just now. But look at this big line back toward Cartersville, down across I-20. We have the storms lined up, one after the other. It could be training where storm after storm moves over the same area. It's why we are concerned with the flooding. Here is a tower cam of the Atlanta/metro area there you can see downtown. You can see the rain showers and the cloudy conditions at this time. Overall rainfall amounts expected to be between one and three inches.

The bright side of all of this, our cold front is moving on through. We're going to start to see improving conditions by tomorrow. We think we're going to get this sweep; we will be in between fronts of systems, so a little muggy, maybe tomorrow. But we'll see some sunshine, then our big front from the upper Midwest is going to swing on through and the entire east is going to see a nice drop in temperatures as we head into the workweek. It will be a taste of fall for many. Hang in there, really the next six to 12 hours are critical across the southeast before things are going to get better, then it will be better for awhile.

WHITFIELD: So this is all transitional. Thanks a lot, Jacqui.

Well, it is a growing concern across America. Illegal Latino immigrants without health insurance. We will tell you just how widespread the problem actually is. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

WHITFIELD: A growing health care problem in the U.S. illegal Latino immigrants with no health insurance. A new report shows six out of ten illegal Latino immigrants don't have insurance. That is more than twice the number of Latino's who are citizens or legal residents. And nearly four times the U.S. population as a whole. The report also found that more than four in ten illegal immigrants received their health care at community clinics or health centers. Those centers are funded by a variety of sources including federal and state tax dollars.

In Houston, Texas hundreds of people were in line before daylight to get free medical care. The Dr. Oz Show, a daily TV program hosted by cardiac surgeon Dr. Oz he sponsored the event around 500 healthcare experts including, 160 doctors and 200 nurses volunteered their time. Texas has the nation's highest rate of people with out health insurance. More than 25 percent of people in Texas don't have insurance.

We are also asking the question, actually, we're not, we are piggy backing off someone who has asked the question, are men happier than women? A huge study actually says yes. What is behind the disparity? We will take a hard look at that question next hour of the CNN NEWSROOM.

Our CNN Josh Levs is here because already people are commenting. Oh, boy. It's kind of widening the divide in some circles between men and women.

JOSH LEVS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: I haven't heard anyone not have something to say about it. Even people who work here. It's been all over the internet. This is our question to you in the blog. Are men happier than women? We'll show you how to weigh in.

One of our guests today, a very well know author Marcus Buckingham wrote about it. What happened to women's happiness? They also do have this from Prof. Carol Rivers who is calling it a myth. We're going to ask him and look at specifics. It's interesting to check it out. I have been looking at the blog and I was looking at facebook and twitter. So far, by far, the vast majority of people weighing in agree with what seems to be the finding here. As a rule, they feel women are less happy than men these days.


LEVS: Go ahead.

WHITFIELD: No, you go ahead.

LEVS: We're both happy. We're both equally happy. You have the blog. You can send your e-mails and go to facebook, I have facebook and twitter going. I'm literally following all the things I showed you.

WHITFIELD: It's a simple question. It really oversimplifies the whole thing. There were so many dynamics that were measured in which men and woman answered whether or not they were happy. Everything from family life to work life. It really is a fascinating conversation; I think we're going to have in the hour of the 4:00 p.m.

LEVS: I'll save it for them. It's a tease now, but we're going to show a chart that shows happiness and the studies that have been done. And you have the men like this and the women steadily going down over time.


LEVS: It's interesting when you look over the years what's happening to women versus men. I'm looking forward to this discussion.

WHITFIELD: We have some dynamic people. Thanks so much Josh.

So, what would you do if you only had a few years to live? This young man is on the road spreading the word about his fatal genetic disorder and in the process inspiring people across the land.


WHITFIELD: A look at our top stories now. There was a funeral service in California for Annie Le. She was the Yale graduate student found dead in a research building on the very day that she was supposed to be married. The laboratory assistant is charged with her murder.

And there is more rain today in Georgia. Which is still cleaning up after heavy floods through out the week. The state insurance commissioner today double his damage estimate to now $500 million.

In southern California, 27 square mile Ventura County wildfire is 95 percent contained. Firefighters hope to have it completely surrounded sometime tomorrow. They say the hot, dry, Santa Ana winds that had been feeding the fire have died down and the flames are no longer making any significant progress.

You are about to meet an amazing young man. He's fighting a killer, one that took his brother's life and threatened his own; His name is Darious Weems and if you don't know the name, ask your kids. They just might be fans of his.


WHITFIELD (voice-over): He is welcomed like this at schools across the United States. He is not a rock idol or TV star, but he is a man with a mission.

Darius Weems has devoted his life to finding a cure for Duchenne muscular dystrophy, the most common fatal genetic disorder to affect children around the world.

The disease causes every skeletal muscle in the body to slowly deteriorate, a fact Weems knows all too well. He has felt the full force of Duchenne muscular dystrophy since he was a child. When he was just 11, he began using a walker while he watched his older brother, Mario, succumb to the disease.

DARIUS WEEMS, HAS DUCHENNE MUSCULAR DYSTROPHY: A 100 percent fatal disease and I lost my brother at 19.

WHITFIELD: His brother's death brought Weems a life changing friendship when Mario asked camp counselor Logan Smalley to look after Darius.

LOGAN SMALLEY, DIRECTOR, "DARIUS GOES WEST": When Mario first asked me to take care of Darius, I definitely didn't understand what exactly it meant, but then it was through our relationship that I -- that's when I realized, you know, how much Darius had in him.

WHITFIELD: Logan and 10 other camp counselors decided to take Darius on the ultimate road trip across the country.

WEEMS: Ah ha!

WHITFIELD: Their adventure to seize life that led Darius to the ocean and the Grand Canyon for the first time also led him to realize what is possible. And the trip became the award-winning documentary "Darius Goes West."

(on camera): Initially, their effort was driven by one goal, fulfill a promise to Darius's dying brother, Mario. After thousands of miles, lots of laughs, film festivals, and awards, a realization that this project had a reach well beyond Darius and his 11 friends.

(voice-over): It also brought attention to Duchenne muscular dystrophy and the quest to find a cure became their cause. With a campaign to sell DVDs of the film, they have been raising funds for medical research through the nonprofit Charley's Fund. To increase their reach and raise greater awareness, they launched an innovative pay it forward campaign.

SMALLEY: You can go to our Web site and you'll see a place where you can click to watch the entire movie for free. You get your own distinct link to the film. So, if you share it, you can track how much awareness you raise for DMD and you can track how much money.

WHITFIELD: They also created the DGW Know About It program, offering teachers viewing guides, lesson plans, and discussion questions. Over 200 schools have adopted this program, increasing awareness and raising over $85,000 from middle and high school students across America. To bring attention to this program, Darius and his team spent most of his 19th year on the road, visiting as many schools as possible.

(on camera): So, you've been able to really get the message out in so many different kinds of ways and people are catching on.

SMALLEY: Oh, yes. I'd definitely say that we, you know, with this RV and with our leader here, we've started a small fire in a ton of places across the country.

WHITFIELD (voice-over): The extensive traveling is a heavy investment of time for Darius, who does not know how much time he has left. As he turns 20, he thinks often about his brother, who never reached this milestone.

WEEMS: It was off my brother's idea of telling Logan to watch over me, so you know, this -- what I'm kind of doing to the kids that got the same disease I got, so when I leave this world there's still going to be some left behind to help others kind of like my brother did. So, I call the younger generation my brothers. You know, I'm trying to save them.

WHITFIELD: To help those that will be afflicted with Duchenne muscular dystrophy, a life mission bringing these young men and thousands of American children together through one remarkable journey.

Fredricka Whitfield, CNN, Athens.


WHITFIELD: So, he's a hero on a mission to tell the world about a disease that will end his life way too soon. You'll hear what he has to say.

And helping women to avoid becoming a victim of domestic violence, she's the CNN "Hero" of the week.


WHITFIELD: And now our "Hero" of the week. Nearly one in four women will become a victim of domestic violence in their lifetime. Women of all backgrounds are at risk, but Muslim women can be more reluctant to ask for help. Our CNN "Hero" is raising awareness in New York's Islamic community to prevent women from suffering in silence.


ANNOUNCER (voice-over): This is CNN Heroes.

ROBINA NIAZ, PROTECTING THE POWERLESS: Abuse cuts across race, religion, culture. I'm a Muslim, born and raised in Pakistan. I migrated to New York in 1990.

Within the Muslim community, there's a lot of denial about the issue. The Koran condemns abusive behavior of women. If we witness injustice, we're required to speak up.

I am Robina Niaz, and I help Islamic women end abuse in their lives.

We do a lot of community outreach. A lot of our sisters are being abused.

This affects all of us. We need to talk about it.


Rabina's family is originally from Pakistan. (END GRAPHIC)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I was afraid for my life. I didn't have a place to go. My family would disown me. My father even said to me that you're lucky that you live in America, because if you lived back home, you would have been dead by now. Robina understood the cultural nuances and all the religious issues.

NIAZ: The psalm (ph) says our first duty is protect ourselves. We tell them how to get into a shelter, what their rights are.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: She really made me understand that I'm not alone.


Since 2004, Robina's organization has helped more than 200 Muslim women with issues of domestic violence.


NIAZ: We are here whenever you want to come to us.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I told my friend about you.

NIAZ: (INAUDIBLE) when it's the right time.

There have been threats to my safety, but I know that God is protecting me because I'm doing the right thing.


WHITFIELD: So, to find out more about Robina or any of our hero's work, go to, right now, and next week we'll be making a special announcement, actually, throughout the day on October 1, Anderson Cooper will tell us which of the remarkable heroes, who we have been telling you about all year long, have been selected as the top 10 CNN "Heroes" of 2009.

So, moments ago, we told about the story of Darius Weems, a courageous young man fighting a disease that is fighting to take his life. Well, next, you'll find out why it's a very big weekend for Darius.

Also, the run for the White House is a long way off, but that's not stopping some Republican contenders from already sounding off.


WHITFIELD: So, you saw the story of Darius Weems and why he went West. Well, this weekend is a big weekend for him, he turns 20. I sat down with the major players.


Darius Weems and Logan Smalley with me, now. And our of New York MTV's Jason Rzepka. All right, gentlemen, let's talk about the big birthday bash. Darius, I know you can't wait.

WEEMS: Yeah, I can't wait. It's exciting, you know, celebrating my birthday and also being on MTV and also being able to spread the word, so you know, it's the ultimate birthday present, you know, I'm happy.

WHITFIELD: And we brought you three together, even though this weekend you will be together in a very big way. "Darius Goes West," this beautiful documentary is going to get a debut on MTV. And Jason, that's where you come in.

But Logan, this really is an interesting relationship that came about, because it all began with Darius going west to pimp your ride, right, and you were hope iing to pimp your ride, it -- that didn't necessarily happen, but instead blossomed a relationship now, between you and MTV, right Logan?

SMALLEY: Well, so it all started with Darius' brother, actually, you know, I knew his brother Mario and he asked me to watch out for "D." that turned into a 7,000 mile road trip where we tried to get his wheelchair customized. Unfortunately, at the time, MTV was unable to do it, but you know, we've been promoting the film and raised about $2 million Darius' disease and we really appreciate MTV recognizing our efforts by broadcasting. You know, they are doing our national television premier.

WHITFIELD: Yeah, that's fantastic, and so Sunday on MTV2, folks can watch it at Noon, "Darius Goes West" and then again on Sunday at 6:00 p.m. on MTVU.

So Darius, what is this going to be like, in your view, to see this documentary aired at the same time you're having a big birthday party that will kind of sandwiches the debuts of "Darius Goes West?"

WEEMS: Well, you know, just like, it shows like all of the struggles that we went through to get to this point and you know, it makes you appreciate stuff and it makes you feel like the work that you put in is, you know, taking off and I can show other people my point of view on how I'm living with this disease and I'm trying to hear. And so, it just feels good.

WHITFIELD: Jason, you know, this is fascinating because Darius and Logan, obviously very determined. They were going to make this journey happen, they were going to make this documentary happen and MTV certainly took notice, weather it was the "Pimp the Ride" or whether it was the documentary. Give me an idea why it's so important for MTV to be airing this documentary?

JASON RZEPKA, MTV PUBLIC AFFAIRS: We had known about this and seen it in the past and we felt that there was a poetic justice in us being able to come in here and really bring this remarkable documentary that they've created and this movement that they've started to a much wider audience. So, I think, why we believe that this is really important is from the beginning of MTV, really been about worshipping at the altar of our audience and also about celebrating the best of youth culture.

And I think, what Darius has done and the impact that they have had is the pinnacle of what's possible with this generation and with our audience. So, I think we have a responsibility to celebrate people like Darius and to bring his story to an even wider audience and do what we can to help accelerate the momentum of this movement.

WHITFIELD: And Jason, what do you think this message is really telling to your audience, mostly very young audience? And these young people have said, you know what, a lot of folks may not know about Duchenne muscular dystrophy, we're going to teach them and we're going to live by example that it really is about informing people and at the same time, not just impacting Darius' life directly, but they are doing this because they want to save other young people's lives.

RZEPKA: I think the biggest take away for the audience is that this is within your grasp, that you absolutely have the technology at your fingertips. You have the ability to go out and affect meaningful change in the world. And that's what we really love about working with young people today is that the drive that we're seeing and this belief that we can conquer anything and we can go out and start a movement and really impact a lot of people. It's not just taking it on in your neighborhood, it's like, we are going to solve the problem and I think that at the end of the day, there's a good chance that Darius and these efforts are going to be what pushes the ball over the goal line in terms of finding a cure for Duchenne and that's really powerful.

WHITFIELD: And so, Darius, this birthday party, all of your closest, nearest, dearest including, you of course, Logan, to be in New York and watching the debut. You're also going to be Tweeting. So, what's this dialogue going to be like that you're encouraging people to talk about, you know, their thoughts about your journey, going West?

WEEMS: Yeah, I think I'm going to be doing most of the party and I'm going to leave Twitter to Logan, but, yeah were going to have, definitely, a good time. And I hope we get a lot of feedback on Twitter about the movie being shown on MTV and stuff.

And I think MTV is the biggest like, biggest logo for the youth, so, you know, like me being on there, you know, on MTV is the channel that -- the channel of the youth and, you know, it's a perfect opportunity for me to be on there and showing my story to the youth and showing them, like, you know, it's tough times in life and sometimes you got stick -- you got to keep going and you know, keep your head up and just keep living. So, I think it's the perfect channel for me to be on.

WHITFIELD: And it seems as though you've stayed positive through all of this, throughout. But, did you ever invasion that it would reach this kind high point like this and get the world's attention and get the young people involved, particularly, involved and consciences of this in this kind of way?

WEEMS: Not at all. You know, we felt like this was a goal we should be active towards, you know, like, this is a fatal disease, 100 percent fatal and a lot of people don't know about this and you know, we took it upon ourselves to try to travel out to the West Coast and get my ride pimped, but we had no idea that it was going to reach this level of success, you know. It showed like when something is important to you, you got to put work towards it. And also, care about it.

WHITFIELD: Logan, you'll be doing most of the Tweeting because that's what Darius said. So, folks can find you on Tweeter.

SMALLEY: I'll tell you what's going to happen. He's going to tell me what to say.

WHITFIELD: Oh really?

SMALLEY: Yeah, so as the scenes go along, we'll be talking to the followers that we have gotten from all across the country and hopefully some new followers. I can't wait until the Guslavy (ph) scene plays out.

WEEMS: Oh, no.

WHITFIELD: So people can find you on Twitter at Darius Goes West?

SMALLEY: Exactly.

WHITFIELD: You looking forward to this? You never knew it would come to this either, did you?

SMALLEY: I never knew it would come to this, but it feels so great. And I want to thank for setting us up and MTV. You know, millions of viewers, all of them the age that lives and dies with Darius' disease and also the generation that experts agree will cure it. That's the bottom line. It's amazing.

WHITFIELD: It is amazing. You all are amazing. Have a great birthday celebration, Darius.

WEEMS: Thanks.

WHITFIELD: Thanks so much for you all's time. Appreciate it. And we got a chance to be a part of the ride a little bit, too, and it's been an incredible journey.

WEEMS: Thank you.

WHITFIELD: Darius Weems, Logan Smalley, Jason Rzepka out of MTV coming to us from New York. Thanks to all of you and have a great birthday weekend.

WEEMS: Thanks, Jason.

RZEPKA: Thank you. Happy birthday, Darius.

WEEMS: Thanks.

(END VIDEOTAPE) WHITFIELD: And go to for a link to you want to see it, it is so moving. And you can review the film and get information on how to make a donation and you'll learn all about Darius and Logan's courageous campaign.

All right, Republican activists are meeting this weekend in Michigan, and they're being wooed by a host of candidates for statewide office. Some potential presidential candidates are dropping by, as well. Chris Welch, CNN's all platform journalist is there, he joins us live.

There you are, kind of by phone, right? Broadband from Mackinac Island, Michigan.

CHRIS WELCH, CNN JOURNALIST: That's right. We're actually broadcasting live via broadband, that's what I do most of the time, but actually there's no other way to do it on this island because cars aren't allowed here, it's either bicycles or horse-drawn buggies, believe it or not. But, yeah, as you mentioned, Republican possible presidential hopefuls giving speeches, today. We had Minnesota governor Tim Pawlenty, who just wrapped up a speech, Mitt Romney who we all remember from the last cycle, speaking tonight.

Last night we also had Florida governor, Charlie Crist, give a speech. Now, he may not be running for president this time around, he's actually running for Senate right now in Florida. He's the current governor of Florida, looking to take former Senator Mel Martinez's spot. He gave a speech last night. And there were some interesting comments, there, where he actually talked about how he thinks President Obama could be at risk when the election comes around just as Jimmy Carter was when he ran for re-election and lost to Ronald Reagan. He thinks something similar might happen to Obama. Here's what he said last night.


GOV CHARLIE CRIST (R), FLORIDA: I think the people wanted a change. I think it was that simple. They wanted a change back in 1976. Do you remember? Richard Nixon had been president. That ended. Gerald Ford took over. The people decided they wanted a change. They got one, Jimmy Carter. Four years later they took care of business, Ronald Reagan. It may happen again.


WELCH: So, interesting comments there from current governor of Florida Charlie Crist.

Today we're expecting Mitt Romney's speech tonight. We don't have any excerpts, we really don't know exactly what to expect from him tonight, but it could be, you know, could touch on health care which Charlie Crist briefly touched on last and Minnesota governor, Tim Pawlenty, attacked President Obama, slightly, today, on health care. But, this is sort of something that Governor Pawlenty had been doing for the past few weeks and he's been campaigning -- well, I shouldn't say campaigning because he's not officially running for anything yet.


WELCH: He has, though, set up, they've announced that he's setting up a political action committee. They're setting that up in the coming weeks. And so he's starting to become the focus of criticism from the Democratic National Committee.

WHITFIELD: Wow. Even if you're not running for office, that's a nice place to be, Mackinac Island, Michigan. Enjoy it, Chris. Thanks for your report. Appreciate it.

All right, high heat and football can sometimes be a deadly mix. A new sensor worn inside the helmet could actually help keep players safe. We have the story in today's "Techno File."


WHITFIELD: Although football is played in the fall, the hitting and tackling begins in the heat of summer. A new sensor warning inside a football helmet could help keep players safe. Gary Tuchman explains in today's "Techno File."


GARY TUCHMAN, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): High school football is back.


TUCHMAN: A big concern for players and coaches this time of year? Sweltering temperatures, which can increase the risk of heat stroke, and in some cases, death.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: If we get that cloud cover, we'll be all right.

TUCHMAN: To beat the heat, a Georgia company has developed these dime-sized sensors worn inside players' helmets.

JAY BUCKALEW, HOTHEAD TECHNOLOGIES: What we're trying to do is to just give that early warning alert system that that athlete is getting dangerously close to heat stroke.

TUCHMAN: The sensors constantly monitor the body temperature of a player on the field. Every 10 seconds, updates are sent to a small device carried by coaches or trainers and if a player exceeds 102.5 degrees from more than 30 seconds, an alert sounds.

PRESTON BAZEMORE, BLESSED TRINITY ATHLETIC TRAINER: We want to prevent the injury before it happens. This is another tool in our little back pocket that we can use to make sure these kids are made safe.

TUCHMAN: A few high schools and colleges are using the system this season. It costs about $100 per player. The technology could also be used by firefighters and military personnel. For these players, it's safety first, then Friday night lights.

Gary Tuchman, CNN.


WHITFIELD: All right, and we'll be right back.