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Why Isn't America Safer for Women?; Massachusetts Man Charged with Plotting Terror; CNN Hero Works to Raise Breast Cancer Awareness; Windows 7 to Launch Tomorrow

Aired October 21, 2009 - 13:00   ET


KYRA PHILLIPS, CNN ANCHOR: Tony, thanks so much.

We're pushing forward on making the U.S. safer. A man in the states who prosecutors say had some grand plans. So little time, so many people he allegedly wanted to kill.

Plus, we've marked the 15th anniversary of the Violence Against Women Act. We've got the law. But where's the order? Two examples to tell you about, and a broader question: Is any woman safe in America?

And give those germs a hand. Do you realize just how easy it is to reach out and touch the swine flu?

Hello, everyone. I'm Kyra Phillips, live in New York. And you're live in the CNN NEWSROOM.

This is Domestic Abuse Awareness Month. So, are you aware just how big the problem is? One out of three women worldwide has been beaten, forced into sex or otherwise abused during her lifetime. Today, Nicole Kidman's testifying before Congress in the face of those staggering numbers. She works with the U.N. Development Fund for Women.

Plus, a new study's out today on child abuse in the United States. It found more than 10,000 children died from abuse or neglect from 2001 through 2007.

There's no shortage of examples of suspected crimes against children or women. We've got two very active cases, right now, that we want to talk about.

Let's start with Somer Thompson, 7 years old, gone, vanished on the way home from school. No one's seen her in three days, even though the law is turning North Florida upside down looking for her.

Listen to her mom. It's heart-wrenching.


DIENA THOMPSON, SOMER'S MOTHER: I did her hair for her in the morning. I put it up in a ponytail. I can't even remember if I told her I loved her. And I went to work and told her have a good day. She wasn't feeling well. And I told her, "Just try to go to school. If you need me, call me." (END VIDEO CLIP)

PHILLIP: Then there's Morgan Harrington, 20 years old, gone. Vanished, Saturday night during a Metallica concert in Charlottesville, Virginia. Another mother, beside herself with fear.


GIL HARRINGTON, DAUGHTER MISSING: There is a very empty place, a Morgan-shaped place, in our hearts as well as our home right now. You never thought that you'd be sitting in this place, in 1,000, 1,000 years.

DAN HARRINGTON, DAUGHTER MISSING: We just want Morgan to come back. Safely. So we have our baby back.


PHILLIPS: Well, I'll tell you what, we're keeping a close eye on both cases, but for now, let's push forward.

Do you know what, acts of violence against women should be rare in a first-world country in 2009. So, why aren't they? Why isn't America a safer place for women?

Let's bring in HLN's Jane Velez-Mitchell. She's been absolutely fuming the last couple of days. And, in fact, Jane, we've pulled a clip from your show, "ISSUES." Let's take a listen.


JANE VELEZ-MITCHELL, HOST, HLN'S "ISSUES": I'm Jane Velez- Mitchell, and here's my issue. It's happened again. A young woman out and about, not hurting anyone, has vanished.

Morgan Harrington was last seen at a Metallica concert. It appears to be another abduction. Are women safe anywhere in this country?

Recently, a mother from Georgia was just walking near her parents' home when she was abducted on a country road. There is an epidemic of female abductions, and it's happening everywhere.

Not only do we need to find the criminals responsible, but we need to address the big issue. Why are we producing a society that makes it unsafe for women to live their daily lives? We are losing the war on women! And nothing is being done to stop it. Why?

I'm Jane Velez-Mitchell, and that's my issue.


PHILLIPS: Let's talk about the why. What do you think?

VELEZ-MITCHELL: There's an epidemic of violence against women in this country. And part of the problem is that we're all accepting it as business as usual. We all cover these stories, day in, day out, year in, year out. The who, where, why, how, who, without getting to the deeper "why."

And the fact is, if we're not part of the solution, we are part of the problem. So, we have to stop just using this.

I mean, it's -- it's -- one parent after the other, desperate, holding up pictures, crying. What is this? Some sort of sick form of entertainment as a society? If we don't get to the bottom of why we're producing -- and let's face it, the majority of these crimes are committed by males -- violent males who equate masculinity with violence; why we are inundating our young people, saturating them with violence in entertainment, in the movies, on video games; if we don't get to the heart of why we are such a violent society, then this is just going to get worse.

This is an addiction to violence. And I am unfortunately -- I don't want to be, but I'm an expert in addiction, because I am a recovering alcoholic. Addiction is progressive. It only gets worse. This epidemic of violence against women is only going to get worse if we don't look at it.

PHILLIPS: All right, so -- all right, then let's talk about that. OK? You mentioned all the messages within the media, whether it's video games or what we see on television, what our kids are watching, you know, at the age of 3, what they grow up watching nowadays.

But let's talk about the laws, too, Jane. You and I know very well, they're weak. When it comes to sex offenders, when it comes to sex offenders, the laws are weak. When it comes to pedophilia, the laws are weak there, the crimes against children. I mean, so much needs to be done legally, as well.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: The only thing that has to change in this country is everything. We need to completely revamp everything. We are locking up more people in this country than any other country in the entire world. And yet we're locking up the wrong people, quite often, northern the wrong reasons: on drug charges.

So, we need to sort of revamp our priorities. And we need to put violence against women at the top, in terms of what we want to prevent.

Let me just give a scenario to you. Let's reverse the roles here. And assume for one week that we had women being arrested for assaulting men at the rate that we currently have men being arrested for assaulting women. Let's imagine the evening news with women being perp walked with their hands handcuffed behind their back, day in and day out, for perpetrating violent, hideous, sadistic crimes against men. How long do you think men would stand up for that before they gathered as a group, marched on Washington, held congressional hearings and put us all on Prozac? I'm not kidding!

But we as women have a tendency to accept male violence against us as just the way it is. That's guys; that's testosterone. The first thing that has to change is our mental attitude towards this. And the first thing we have to say is, no. This is not acceptable. We're not going to put up with it anymore.

In Northern island, it was women who ultimately ended the sectarian violence when a child was killed on the front lawn, and a woman stood up and said, "No. This is going to end!" And that was the beginning of the real peace movement in Northern Ireland.

PHILLIPS: There's a big cultural difference there, too. I mean, women, as you know, are the way they are brought up, the way the woman is looked at, the way the woman is treated, in many ways, is different in Ireland -- I spent a lot of time there -- versus the United States.

I mean, we are such a tolerant society when it comes to things like this. I mean, just -- just our TV programs, just the movies and how women are depicted. I mean, let's look at music videos, for God's sake. You know?


PHILLIPS: I mean, that's just another -- you're so right about not only, it's the heart and the mind that has to be changed.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: And we as a gender have a lot of power. In the workplace, financially, we have to start using that power and saying, "We're not going to subsidize the violence against us anymore. We're going to boycott these 'Saw' movies that show sadistic chopping up of women. We're going to demand that these corporations that -- that engage in this kind of programming change their ways."

But, see, we're not feminists anymore. In this post-feminist era, we all care about our own jobs and our own families, but we're not gathering together as a gender to say, "We are going to use our clout to make ourselves safer."

And this is not against men. This is -- look at the fathers who are -- this is domestic terrorism. What is happening to these families, I couldn't sleep last night. I woke up every hour on the hour thinking, "Morgan, what is -- what's happening with Morgan right now?"

PHILLIPS: What's happening with this 7-year-old girl?

VELEZ-MITCHELL: I kept -- and I talked to the father last night, Dr. Harrington, a psychiatrist, who is experiencing hell on earth because he doesn't know what happened to his precious daughter.

And honestly, it's -- that is -- that is torture; it's sadism. And if we're going to call ourselves a civilized society, we really have to do something to say, "No, no more!"

But as long as we just cover it day in and day out as just another story, who, what, when, where, why, how -- the cell known, the purse, the DNA -- it's not going to change.

PHILLIPS: Well, we're not doing it right now, and you're not doing it on your show, either.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: No, we're not. And thank you for -- for taking a look at the deeper "why," because that's where we need to go.

PHILLIPS: Well, your show inspired us. HLN's host of "ISSUES," Jane Velez-Mitchell. Once again, it's great to have you with me all week.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Thank you, Kyra.

PHILLIPS: What a pleasure. Let's keep doing this. We want to make a difference.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Absolutely. Let's make a difference.

PHILLIPS: All right. I love it.

Well, he's been on the FBI's radar for at least three years, and they've already arrested him once. Now a Massachusetts man is in custody again, accused in a sprawling terror plot targeting civilians and officials here, and U.S. troops abroad.

Homeland security correspondent Jeanne Meserve following all of this from Washington.

Jeanne, bring us up to date.

JEANNE MESERVE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Kyra, arrested and charged with conspiring to kill, maim, or injure people in the U.S. and abroad, Tarek Mehanna, a 27-year-old from Sudbury, Massachusetts. According to prosecutors, Mehanna and his co-conspirators repeatedly talked about their desire to participate in violent jihad against American interests and took some steps to do so.

Here's a bit of what the U.S. attorney in Boston had to say about the case.


MICHAEL LOUCKS, ACTING U.S. ATTORNEY, MASSACHUSETTS: Mehanna, along with his co-conspirators, desired to take some kind of action in furtherance of jihad. He and his co-conspirators discussed what to do and took steps in furtherance of and support for terrorism, including trips overseas in an effort to join training camps and to fight and kill American soldiers; efforts to find and obtain automatic weapons to conduct the killing of Americans in shopping malls here in the United States; and the viewing and dissemination of jihad films, showing the killing of American soldiers.


MESERVE: Authorities allege that Mehanna and the others were inspired by the Washington snipers to draw up plans to shoot up U.S. shopping malls, but they gave up the plans when they were unable to obtain automatic weapons.

Mehanna was taken into custody this morning and is expected to make his first court appearance this afternoon -- Kyra.

PHILLIPS: All right. So is anyone else involved, Jane -- or Jeanne?

MESERVE: Yes, one of Mehanna's alleged co-conspirators is identified as Ahmed Abousamra. He is believed to be in Syria. Both of these men had been in contact with Daniel Maldonado. He's an American who was convicted of training with al Qaeda to overthrow the Somali government. He is currently serving a ten-year prison sentence in Texas -- Kyra.

PHILLIPS: Jeanne Meserve, thanks so much.

MESERVE: You bet.

PHILLIPS: And if you're not a germ-o-phobe now, well, you might be in a second.


ELIZABETH COHEN, CNN SENIOR MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: We are now standing behind a whole bunch of people.


COHEN: In one of them were sick and sneezed, could we get sick?



PHILLIPS: Germ warfare in the H1N1 age. We're going to tell you how to fight swine flu and all other bugs. And, no, you don't have to get a shack in the woods.

Now, one man who's definitely out and about? President Obama. He's popping over to Maryland this hour to visit a little paper company and talk about how to try to help small businesses nationwide. We're going to bring that to you live in just about 40 minutes.


PHILLIPS: This woman is mobilizing an army in Florida. Her mission? To stop the killer of 40,000 women a year. She's our hero, and you're going to meet her.


PHILLIPS: The number is staggering. More than 40,000 women in the United States die every year from breast cancer. Even more tragic? Many of those deaths could have been prevented by early detection with a mammogram.

That test helped Andrea Ivory find out that she had breast cancer back in 2004. Well, she beat the disease, but she's still fighting for women who can't afford a mammogram. Ivory founded the Florida Breast Health Initiative, helping 600 women get a free test. That's why she's one of our top ten CNN Heroes, and she joins me live from Miami.

So good to see you, Andrea.

ANDREA IVORY, FOUNDER, FLORIDA BREAST HEALTH INITIATIVE: It's good to be here. Thank you for having me.

PHILLIPS: Well, I'm curious: did you think that something was wrong? Or were you going in for a routine test? Was this just a part of your yearly checkup?

IVORY: This was absolutely a part of my yearly checkup. Every year, at the age of 40, a woman should have her annual mammogram. And I was being obedient to the early detection guidelines for breast cancer, and that's how I was diagnosed.

PHILLIPS: So, OK, so you were diagnosed. You found out what you were going to have to deal with. That's enough to take on. What -- what turned that moment into a moment for so many other women? And for you to want to go on this mission to save so many other women's lives?

IVORY: It just so happened at the time of diagnosis I was on a quest for my purpose in life. And I knew when I was diagnosed that this breast cancer wasn't for me. It was for all women. And I truly wanted to make a difference.

And throughout recovery, I thought about those women who were dying from this disease, because they lacked access to available treatment, and they lacked awareness. So, in seeking a solution, the Florida Breast Health Initiative was founded in 2006 to serve these women, to make sure that the uninsured and underserved women in our community have the exact same opportunity that I did.

PHILLIPS: Isn't it amazing that, for so many of us, it takes something really drastic for us to sit back and think, "What is my purpose? You know, why am I here? I should be doing something greater."

IVORY: It certainly is, because we have to understand that we were not put on this earth to get everything that we could for ourselves. We were put on this earth to do a service for others.

PHILLIPS: Amen. Well, I was reading here that you had knocked on 18,000 doors. You conducted 500 mammograms. But, then, you were selected as a CNN Hero. Obviously, your story has been getting out more and more. Here you and I are talking. How has this impacted for what you're doing for women?

IVORY: It has really been the catalyst for us even thinking about taking the initiative national. And so many other collaborating partners have noticed the work that we've been doing since CNN. And we've been able to get more hospital partners to contribute and donate free mammograms to our cause. So, it's been wonderful being a CNN Hero. PHILLIPS: Andrea, final question. You know, what do people do that can't take part in your program, can't get that free test from you, in another place, in another state? What's your advice to them?

IVORY: Well, certainly, they can call us. And we would be happy to direct them to a location in their area. Believe it or not, there are opportunities all throughout our great nation that people are just not aware of. So, they can always contact us on our Web site. And we will be happy to direct them, to someone in their area that can help.

PHILLIPS: I'll tell you what, give me that Web site.

IVORY: Until we get there. Until we get there, of course.

PHILLIPS: Of course. And I know you're not going to give up. Tell me your Web site.

IVORY: It is www.fl -- like the great state of Florida --

PHILLIPS: Got it. There you go. All you ladies out there, listen up.

Andrea, congratulations.

IVORY: Thank you so very much.

PHILLIPS: You can find out more about Andrea Ivory's group or vote on "CNN Heroes." Just go to Plus, watch our all-star tribute, hosted by Anderson Cooper, Thanksgiving. That's only on CNN.

So you ready for an upgrade? The next generation of Windows about to roll out. Seems like it took a generation to get here. Well, Susan Lisovicz is here. She's going to tell us all about it.


PHILLIPS: Top stories now.

The Roman Catholic Church accused of poaching another faith, but denying the charges. The Vatican will allow dissident Anglicans, including married priests, to join the Catholic Church and recognize the pope as their leader. Anglicans split from Rome 450 years ago. Some Anglicans are angry over the church's ordination of women and openly gay priests.

Kathleen Sebelius back on the job after what she calls standard skin cancer surgery. The health secretary had the outpatient procedure yesterday. She was testifying on Capitol Hill this morning, with a slightly swollen eye and a bandage on her forehead.

In the Bahamas, the jury set to deliberate in the case of two people who allegedly tried to extort $25 million from John Travolta. They're accused of threatening to sell stories to the media about the death of Travolta's son, Jett, in the Bahamas. October 22 might as well be Christmas day in the computer world. Tomorrow is the day that Microsoft launches its newest operating system, and it's expected to juice up PC sales. It's also going to affect millions of us, whether we buy a new computer or not.

Susan Lisovicz joining me more with the scoop.

SUSAN LISOVICZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hey, Kyra, well, as you and I and everyone else knows, Microsoft's operating system is the 800-pound gorilla in computing. The launch of Windows 7 is so big that a recent study says tech companies are expected to invest $41 billion by the end of next year, developing, marketing, and supporting products and services built around it.


LISOVICZ (voice-over): It doesn't have the cool factor of an Apple event, and it doesn't have the crowds of a Sony or Nintendo launch, but the introduction of Windows 7 is bigger than any of them, and not only among geeks.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I have to buy a new computer, so hopefully it will have Windows 7 in it. Simply because the geeks tell me that Windows 7 is worthwhile having.

JUAN CAMPOS, DIRECTOR OF COUNTER INTELLIGENCE, GEEK SQUAD: The new operating system is definitely the Super Bowl for geeks. Everyone is excited about the operating system.

LISOVICZ: Windows 7 is the first operating system for Microsoft since Vista in 2007.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I had Vista. I was very unhappy with it. And I bought a Mac.

LISOVICZ: Many others simply held on to Microsoft's earlier operating system. Windows XP came out in 2001, nine years ago, an eternity in the tech world.

Microsoft's operating systems account for an estimated 85 percent to 95 percent of the global computer market, so odds are the release of its new operating system will affect you directly.

JOHN BIGGS, EDITOR-IN-CHIEF, "CRUNCHGEAR": Everybody's going to be upgrading in terms I.T. shops who have been holding off and holding off and holding off on purchasing new hardware and new computers for their employees, you're going to see a massive rush to get Windows 7 hardware into the -- into the -- in the enterprise.

LISOVICZ: Bloggers like Biggs have been trying out Windows 7 for a year. He says it's faster, less cluttered, and more compatible with hardware and software. Given the company's dominant operating system, consumers will also have to become more compatible, with Windows 7.

(END VIDEOTAPE) LISOVICZ: Yet another reason why Windows 7 is likely to factor into your life? Microsoft will end support for Vista and XP within a few years, Kyra. Better get used to it.

PHILLIPS: As we were talking about Vista, basically a disaster, didn't go so well.


PHILLIPS: Have there been complaints about this?

LISOVICZ: Well, much better than Vista.

PHILLIPS: There's always complaints, I guess.

LISOVICZ: Right. Especially I mean, bloggers like John Biggs have been trying it out for a year.

What are some of the concerns? Well, Microsoft, unfortunately, Windows has a long, unfortunate history with viruses, so anti-virus software is going to be crucial.

Another thing: Windows 7 not that easy to install. So, I'm low tech. I'm not sure about you. I don't want to reinstall all my applications, which is why so many computers, new computers, are already offering -- at Best Buy, for instance, if you bought a new computer since June, they'll do a free upgrade. Installation charge of $40, but the point is that's why it's such a big deal. Everybody -- everybody -- the whole tech world is revolving around this launch.

PHILLIPS: It seems like everything changes like every couple -- I can't keep up with everything.

LISOVICZ: Just have the geeks do it for you. That's what I do.

PHILLIPS: Geek Squad. You're my geek, my favorite geek. You keep me in tune. Thanks, Susan.

LISOVICZ: Thanks, Kyra.

PHILLIPS: All right.

Well, the swine flu bug is everywhere. So should you run for the hills? Hide in a cave? Well, you could. But guess what? We've got some less extreme tips to try and help you fight off that nasty critter.


PHILLIPS: Call it fear in the time of swine flu. Schools closing or bracing for that. Just today, Bates College in Maine says about 265 students may have the H1N1 virus. Making matters worse, delivery of the H1N1 vaccine is running behind schedule.

But several communities are pushing ahead in the battle against the virus. More schools are closing in Milwaukee and other cities around the state, all due to probable cases of swine flu. Plus, it may sound like an extreme step, but that's not stopping Manhattan, Kansas. They're turning off water fountains in schools, hoping it will help keep kids from getting the virus. And in Nashville, for the first time since the polio outbreak in the '60s, the health department is teaming up with public schools to make sure everyone gets the swine flu vaccine.

Swine flu bug is everywhere, on buses, trains, planes, escalators. You name it, and you'll find it. But don't become a hermit just yet.

CNN senior medical correspondent Elizabeth Cohen has some tips for you.


COHEN: Let's pretend that you and I are going to get on the subway. We stand in line at this kiosk, and let's say I'm sick. I go like this. I touch this. You're right behind me. Now it's your turn.


What happens is, and commonly it happens every single day, is that people who have different illnesses, different symptoms, coughing, sneezing, runny nose, sinus infections and whatever, do the same thing that you just did without even thinking about it.

H1N1 virus can live on an inanimate object for 2 to 8 hours. This is a virus that our bodies have never seen before, so all those people who have touched it and if any of them have H1N1, they have no immunity, and neither do you. And this is where the adventure actually starts.

COHEN: So, we are now standing behind a whole bunch of people.


COHEN: If one of them were sick and sneezed, could we get sick?

MEDOWS: Yes, we can.

COHEN: Even at this distance?

MEDOWS: It's less than six feet, so that spray, the air droplet spray could actually come into your being. You're inhaling, you're breathing respiratory droplets.

COHEN: All right. So we're sitting down here on the subway really, really close. Smooshed together.

MEDOWS: And obviously not...

COHEN: If I start sneezing -- achoo! -- what are you going to do? MEDOWS: I'm going to turn my face away and try to avoid the spray.

COHEN: OK. Let me see, what would you do?

MEDOWS: And I may go over and sit next to her.


MEDOWS: Because she's not sneezing. She looks a lot healthier.

COHEN: OK. But you would actually get up and leave if you sat on the subway next to someone who's sneezing?

MEDOWS: I want to avoid influenza that bad that I would get up and go sit over there.

COHEN: I hear constantly, wash your hands, wash your hands, but that's not enough.

MEDOWS: Actually, it's a lot.

COHEN: It is a lot, but it's not enough, because you're surrounded by people all the time.

MEDOWS: That's right.

COHEN: I mean, you can wash your hands all day long, but if you're next to someone who sneezes....

MEDOWS: You can't -- washing your hand is not going to do that. You can only do things that try to reduce the transmission.


PHILLIPS: Elizabeth Cohen is going to join us live next hour, and she's got the information you need to make sure you don't get sidelined by the flu. Also, the real facts on cancer screening. That's all coming up next hour.

But first, swine flu of course isn't just causing havoc at home, it's hitting people around the world. One of the big epicenters right now is China. A lot of folks there, including kids, are already getting their shots.

Senior international correspondent John Vause reports for us from Beijing.


JOHN VAUSE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: This is one of two schools in Beijing where H1N1 vaccinations are now under way. It's pretty simple. These folks here take the parental permission slips. And then over here, the students get the needle, the H1N1 vaccine. And then after this, they wait in another room for about 30 minutes to see if there are any adverse reactions. Authorities want to give the H1N1 vaccine to every middle- and elementary-school student in Beijing because it seems the young are particularly at risk. Of all of those who have caught swine flu in Beijing, almost every one of them is 30 years of age or younger.

Now, since the outbreak of swine flu earlier this year, almost 27,000 people have caught the disease in mainland China. Almost all of those have made a full recovery, but two people have died. But what's worrying health officials the most is that out of all of those cases, 17,000 were reported just last month alone. That could mean that the disease is now heading towards its peak as we move into the winter months here in the northern hemisphere.

So far, 300,000 people have received the vaccine. The plan is to give it to 65 million people. That may seem like a lot, but keep in mind, this is a country with a population of 1.3 billion.

John Vause, CNN, Beijing.


PHILLIPS: And another hard-hit country, Britain. Recently cases of swine flu have actually doubled, about every two weeks. About 27,000 new cases as of last week. The first shots are to be given today, part of a plan to vaccinate about 11 million people. Here's what folks across the pond are saying.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'm not going to be getting the swine flu vaccine. I haven't really thought too much about it to be honest.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I actually don't know enough about it because there's so many contra-indications within the media. But probably.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I don't know if I'm at risk or whether I necessarily might need it. I think people at risk are more like people with chest infections and so on, and young children, I suppose.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I don't know. It sounds a bit silly, but watching "Iron Legends" sort of put me off that because it could turn into zombies or something.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Swine flu seems to be just another virus that's another flue virus, and I think it's just been taken out of hand. I mean, I think that what I've been told, the death threat's been the same as a normal flu virus. So, I'm not going to get out of hand on the swine flu virus.


PHILLIPS; And, of course, plenty of Americans are speaking out, too. In our latest CNN/Opinion Research poll, roughly half of Americans say they believe the H1N1 vaccine is safe, but 43 percent right now are actually -- actually think it might have serious side effects. OK, those graphics are right.

Asked if health professionals should be required to get the vaccine, well, more than half of you say yes. Forty-two percent say no.

How do you tell the stories of 50 million people? Well, you better hit the airports, the streets and the towns across the land. Our Soledad O'Brien has been logging some serious mileage. She takes us behind the scenes of "LATINO IN AMERICA."


PHILLIPS: A minority quickly turning into a majority. We're just hours away from tonight's premiere of "LATINO IN AMERICA," and CNN's Soledad O'Brien has a special preview, a behind-the-scenes look.


SOLEDAD O'BRIEN, CNN SPECIAL CORRESPONDENT: Hello, Atlanta. I'm here because we have a screening. We've had a series of really good screenings so far across the country. And so, we've been jetting back and forth to show off little clips, about 45 minutes' worth of the documentary.

(voice-over): I think one of the big challenges in doing this documentary has been to figure out what exactly is the story of Latinos in America. How do you tell the story of 50 million people?

We should get our day going. That book signing's soon.

Hi there. Soledad. How are you?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Nice to meet you.

O'BRIEN: Pleasure. Nice to meet you.


O'BRIEN: My sister's Maria.


O'BRIEN: I'm Maria Soledad. It's totally different.

(voice-over): Latinos have been so great across the board, I think, about wanting to share their culture with everybody.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Soledad, mucho gusto.


(voice-over): The story about how your parents came here, whether it was nine generations ago or it was three weeks ago...

(on camera): Hello! (voice-over): ... is a story that resonates with every American because we're a country that focuses on people who've come here from somewhere else. We're a country, you know, built by immigrants.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: How difficult it is for us in our country to succeed.

O'BRIEN (on camera): Thanks to all of you for coming this evening. I truly appreciate it. I present to you our preview screening of "LATINO IN AMERICA." Thank you.

(voice-over): There is years of great stories to be told, stories that people haven't heard before, stories that challenge people's expectations and that are interesting and new and have a twist or are different.

(on camera): Thanks for joining us tonight. I'm Soledad O'Brien.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: When are we going to show about the Afro- Latino experience?

O'BRIEN: I know. My mother says that same thing.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Well, you did fantastic. Thank you very much, and I hope for the next one.

O'BRIEN: I'm taking vacation, actually, first.

(voice-over): I hope it's the beginning of many "LATINO IN AMERICA"s. "LATINO IN AMERICA" (INAUDIBLE).


O'BRIEN (on camera): I just ripped my skirt.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No, you didn't.

O'BRIEN: Yes, I so did. Pencil skirts are not for climbing on motorcycles.


PHILLIPS: Oh, Soledad. Well, tonight is the night, the premier of "LATINO IN AMERICA," a comprehensive look at how Latinos are changing America forever. CNN's two-night event takes place tonight and tomorrow night, 9:00 p.m. Eastern. It will also be simulcast in Spanish on CNN en Espanol.

Top stories now -- the alleged targets, politicians, soldiers, even shoppers. Federal agents have charged a Massachusetts man in an alleged terror plot. They say that Tarek Mehanna hoped to kill U.S. soldiers in Iraq and a couple of unidentified people in the executive branch. The feds also say he wanted to shoot up a shopping mall.

In north Florida, a mother pleads for her missing daughter's safe return. Seven-year-old Somer Thompson disappeared Monday after school let out. Police have interviewed dozens of area sex offenders but still have no clues.

The search intensifies for a missing Virginia Tech student who hasn't been seen since the weekend. Police say that 20-year-old Morgan Harrington was last spotted Saturday night at a Metallica concert in Charlottesville. Police are holding a briefing in just under two hours. Metallica has posted a message on its Web site, urging people with any information to please go to the police.

Pearl's such a good girl, helping her owner deal with the wounds that he brought back from Iraq. Life would be so much easier for both of them if they weren't so darn misunderstood.



PHILLIPS: Snow in Colorado, heavy rain in other parts of the country, and they sure don't need it. Chad Myers tracking it all for us in the CNN weather center. Hey, Chad.


PHILLIPS: All right, pushing forward to the next hour of CNN NEWSROOM, we're going to start with a look at an abortion law about to take effect in Oklahoma, dragging a very private procedure into the public arena.

And the poor, sad faces, the scars, the fear. We've seen dogs bred to fight or be bait many times before. What we haven't seen is a rescue raid. We're going to ride along with Brooke Baldwin, investigators and police as they surprise a dogfighting suspect.

Just because you can't see a veteran's disability or battle scars doesn't mean that they're not there. I'm talking about a disabled vet who had the haunting task of identifying the bodies of American soldiers in Iraq. He's about the last guy who needs to be hassled at home, right? But guess what? He catches flak pretty much every time he gets on the public bus. This story outraged me.

Rosh Lowe from our Miami affiliate WSVN explains why.


ROSH LOWE, WSVN-TV CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): He's a disabled war veteran. His name is Arthur Schwartz (ph). And he has no car. He doesn't drive in part because of his disability. He rides the county buses throughout Miami-Dade. His service dog is always by his side.

ARTHUR SCHWARTZ (ph), VETERAN: It's a real injustice. And the sad part is, I know it's not just me.

LOWE: Arthur (ph) says he's having difficulty getting on Miami- Dade County buses because of his dog. He says there is always an issue.

SCHWARTZ: OK. So, here we go.

LOWE: Inevitably he is allowed to board because he is protected by federal law, the Americans with Disabilities Act. What makes Arthur's case unique is that his disability is not apparent to the naked eye. He is not blind. He does not need a wheelchair. Arthur has post-traumatic stress disorder.

(on camera): So, this here is Pearl. She's a boxer, and Arthur's had Pearl for three years. And Arthur says, you know, look, I've been in the Army for more than 20 years. I served my country. And I need this dog. I need in dog to get around and to deal with severe anxiety.

SCHWARTZ: And on Saturday morning, I got on the bus to go to the VA. And first thing, I got on, and I got confrontations about I can't have a dog on the bus, and if I'm not blind, and if I don't explain what my disability is, and I said, well, I'm not going to do that.

So, they stop -- shut off the bus, they get on their phone, they get off the bus, they call the headquarters, and we go around and around until somebody decides they're going to get on the bus and drive the bus away. And that's usually what have most of the time.

LOWE (voice-over): In 2006, Arthur returned from Iraq, where part of his duties was to identify bodies of dead American soldiers. When his anxiety became overwhelming, Arthur's doctor thought a service dog would be effective. He says more and more soldiers returning from Iraq are given these psychiatric service dogs, who are specifically trained to calm anxiety.

SCHWARTZ: When I started to having my tough anxiety (INAUDIBLE), she will back up until she's about ready to knock me over. Then she'll turn around, and she'll look up at me, and she'll get on me, and she'll try to pull me away, and she'll get up and kind of cuddle me. She'll put her feet up on my knee.

LOWE: Pearl wears a service dog vest, and Arthur has identification.

SCHWARTZ: And on the back, it even tells everybody what the Americans with Disabilities Act says.

LOWE: Miami-Dade Transit with this statement, quote: "Our operators have been trained to permit service animals to board with customers with disabilities unless the service animals pose a direct threat to the health and safety of other customers. In Arthur's case, this animal should be allowed to board, and we do apologize.

SCHWARTZ: It's a disgrace that I can't be treated fair and live life like everyone else.


PHILLIPS: That was Rosh Lowe from WSVN in Miami. And let's not forget, folks, about one in five veterans of the Iraq war has PTSD, according to the VA's Web site. And that number just keeps on climbing.

Get rid of the dogs -- would you believe that's one insurance companies cost cutting plan? They're not talking about canines. They're talking about policyholders.


PHILLIPS: It's leaner, not meaner. Supporters of a public option are pointing to a House Democratic health care bill, one that's getting a positive review from the Congressional Budget Office. The CBO says the bill would cost an estimated $871 billion over 10 years, including the public option. And it says the plan would reduce the federal deficit. It's also cheaper than the original House bill that passed out of three committees, actually, this summer. That came in with an estimated cost of more than a trillion dollars.

Now, let's talk about the faces behind the numbers. Supporters of health care reform have a new exhibit A in their case against insurance companies. His name, Ian Pearl. His battle cry, I'm not a dog.

CNN's Jim Acosta tells us why.


ACOSTA (voice-over): Ian Pearl lives with muscular dystrophy, but only because of the around-the-clock nursing care he gets in his home. Confined to a wheelchair, he needs a ventilator to survive, but it comes at a high price.

IAN PEARL, MUSCULAR DYSTROPHY PATIENT: My expenses are $1 million a year to keep me alive.

ACOSTA: Last year, his family got this letter from their insurance company, stating their policy was being discontinued. A new policy was available, but with limited in-home nursing care.

(on camera): So when you got this letter from Guardian, you said what?

SUSAN PEARL, IAN PEARL'S MOTHER: We said immediately that this was related somehow to Ian's claims.

ACOSTA (voice-over): Their insurance carrier, Guardian, which made $386 million in profits last year, wasn't just dropping Pearl's policy. Guardian was pulling some of its policies out of entire states -- policies that included Ian's plan.

S. PEARL: The insurance industry has evolved from risk management to risk elimination.

ACOSTA: So they sued, claiming discrimination. Their lawyer discovered this e-mail from a Guardian employee, an e-mail that company acknowledges. In it, a Guardian employee brings up the line of policies covering the Pearl family and asks what the financial upside might be, quote, "if we eliminate this entire block to get rid of the few dogs."

I. PEARL: I want to know why myself and others like me who depended on this policy and are paying premiums, did nothing wrong, and we're suddenly targeted as dogs because we are disabled? Disabled people are not dogs.

ACOSTA: As for that e-mail, a Guardian spokesman tells CNN, "It's an unfortunate choice of words. We certainly don't condone it, and it certainly doesn't represent this company." In a statement, the company adds, "Guardian acted legally, appropriately and in full compliance of state laws."

The judge handling Pearl's case sided with Guardian, saying the law permits an insurer to terminate a particular type of coverage. This congresswoman wants the Obama administration to step in.

REP. DEBBIE WASSERMAN SCHULTZ (D), FLORIDA: We're going to take this all the way to the top, because it's just outrageous, and it's another example of why we need health care reform so badly.

ACOSTA (on camera): So, this is your study?

I. PEARL: Yes, this is it.

ACOSTA (voice-over): But Ian doesn't have much time. His policy is set to expire on December 1st.

PEARL: People may ask why. Why do I need this sort of coverage? Why do I need this sort of assistance? They do for me what I cannot do for myself, which is everything.

ACOSTA (on camera): Ian Pearl worries he'll be forced to move to a state nursing home, away from his nurses, who he says have saved his life time and again. The Pearl family is now appealing their case in court, and the Department of Health and Human Services says it is actively investigating what it calls very serious concerns.

Jim Acosta, CNN, Washington.