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Cutting Executive Pay; Remains of Missing Florida Girl Found; Afghanistan Election
Aired October 22, 2009 - 10:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
HEIDI COLLINS, CNN ANCHOR: Here are some of the other stories we're watching right now.
New jobless numbers out this morning; 531,000 people made new claims for unemployment benefits last week. That's up 11,000 over the week before. Overall the number of people claiming unemployment benefits dropped last week to 5.9 million.
We are expecting an update from the hospital this morning on the condition of 15-year-old Michael Brewer. He's the Florida teenager who police say was set on fire by some of his classmates last week. He's in critical condition in the burn unit right now. His family says he's been getting get well cards from as far away as England and Japan.
Fallout from the financial crisis. Remember the billions of dollars spent to keep some companies afloat? Well, many taxpayers have been outraged that some of those same firms are still doling out huge paychecks and bonuses to their top executives. That's about to change.
CNN's Christine Romans joining us now with more details. So how is this going to work, Christine?
CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, the way that this is going to work is Ken Feinberg, the Treasury Department special master for compensation, he is somebody who has been asked to look at each one of these contracts for the top 25 of these seven big recipients of federal aid and figure out what's fair. And it looks as though he's going to cut their overall compensation in half.
He's going to cut the cash part of their compensation by 90 percent. Who are these firms? Well, it's AIG, it's Citibank, it's Bank of America, it's GM. It's any of these seven big companies that took exceptional assistance from the American taxpayer. They wouldn't be here if it weren't for your money, Heidi and my money and everyone else's money that kept them in business.
This is as I'd like to call it the bailout hall of shame. These are these companies that really are not the companies that took some TARP money, the bailout money and then paid it back. These are companies that have had to subsist on it. The idea here is to change the culture. At least to start to do that, to pay for performance, to pay for how a company is doing and not pay for taking big exciting and wild risks in the short-term and this is after all taxpayer money. If these companies are subsisting under a lot of taxpayer investment, it is theoretically taxpayer money that we are paying these bonuses. So Ken Feinberg what he has to do, Heidi, is he has to find a balance between allowing these companies to retain and keep and attract really good talent because boy, taxpayers need the best and the brightest at these firms to get them out of the bailout track, the TARP trap, but also not to reward with millions and millions of dollars companies that wouldn't be around if it weren't for taxpayers.
COLLINS: Yes, absolutely. All right. Christine Romans from New York this morning. Thanks, Christine.
COLLINS: We want to take a look at how much those companies have gotten from the government. Now, insurance giant AIG has received the most help you probably remember this. At last check though that was about $182 billion.
Bank of America, had cashed in $45 billion of federal aid and Citigroup 50 billion. General Motors has collected nearly 50 billion in federal money. That's more than three times the amount of Chrysler. GM's financing arm, GMAC, has received more than $13 billion in federal money while Chrysler Financial has received $1.5 billion.
As you may have noticed, Bank of America and Citigroup among the seven targeted companies but those executives may avoid some of the painful cuts. The man overseeing the Troubled Asset Relief Program, TARP, says the government loopholes are so big you can drive an armored truck right through them.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
NEIL BAROFSKY, SPECIAL INSPECTOR GENERAL: The TARP had some restrictions on money that went to the institutions and the executives on pay. A lot of the other government support programs by the Federal Reserve, by the FDIC, have no such conditions. So you see some of these institutions even though they paid back their TARP funds, they're still relying on government programs. They are still reaping these profits based on cheap money and support that's given to them by the federal government.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COLLINS: And on another grim note, Barofsky says American taxpayers will never get all of their money back from the bailed out banks and he says the system may be at risk more than ever. That's because the same banks that were too big to fail are now bigger than ever.
You're talking about those executive pay cuts on our blog this morning. We want to know if you think the government should be forcing these companies to slash salaries. Just go to cnn.com/heidi and give us your opinion and then we'll of course share some of those comments coming up in our next hour. Authorities believe a body found in a landfill is a 7-year-old girl who is missing since Monday. Somer Thompson disappeared while walking home from school in Orange Park, Florida. Investigators followed garbage trucks from the neighborhood where the girl disappeared to a landfill in Folkston, Georgia. Investigators then searched through the trash to find the body.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SHERIFF RICK BESELER, CLAY COUNTY, FLORIDA: Had we not done this tactic, I believe that that body would have been buried under hundreds of tons of debris, probably would have gone undiscovered forever. And the key piece of evidence in this case, which is the body itself, would have been lost.
Or at the very best would have had a degradation at any time that would have made any evidentiary value extremely limited. This was the break in the case that we needed, now we just need one more break in actually getting our hands in the people responsible for doing this.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COLLINS: The (INAUDIBLE) of identification is based on clothing and a birthmark. An autopsy is planned for today in Savannah, Georgia, that could positively identify the young girl.
Florida authorities now turn their focus to finding a suspect and part of that job for investigators is canvassing Somer Thompson's neighborhood. Want to take a moment to show you this map. It's pretty incredible. It shows a five-mile radius surrounding the girl's home. You see all of these pin marks here. Different colors.
The blue markers on the map show where registered sex offenders live. The red ones pinpoint the locations of sexual predators. And the purple markers show the homes where multiple offenders could be living. The Florida Department of Law Enforcement say there are a total of 161 offenders in this area, this five-square-mile area. Sheriff Rick Beseler says police have already questioned more than 70 of them and plan to question more.
CNN's senior legal analyst Jeffrey Toobin just sent us some information a moment ago to me here about the difference between a sexual offender and a sexual predator. I want to let you know because there were so many marks on our map that we just showed you.
He said that a sexual offender is someone who has been convicted of a specific sex crime, which could be rape or even indecent exposure. And a sexual predator is a little bit less specific. It means someone who is actively dangerous and possibly a repeat offender. We'll keep our eye on that story.
Meanwhile, to another missing person's case. This one in need of a break. 20-year-old Virginia Tech student Morgan Harrington has been missing since Saturday night. Police have now upgraded the case to a criminal investigation. Harrington went to a Metallica concert at the University of Virginia with friends. She stepped outside but was refused re-entry due to arena policy.
She called her friends but then that's the last they heard from her. Harrington's mother spoke on HLN's "Nancy Grace" last night. Jill Harrington says she doesn't blame her daughter's friends for her disappearance.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GIL HARRINGTON, MOTHER OF MORGAN HARRINGTON (via telephone): I think the disconnect is that children think that they are invincible. And I think that was the disconnect. They are good kids. They've been in and out of my home since they were young. They're holding a vigil for her on Thursday. There was no wrongdoing on anybody's part.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COLLINS: Harrington's parents say the disappearance is out of character since she calls them almost every day.
President Obama getting an inside look at the upcoming election in Afghanistan. Now he meets this hour with the U.S. ambassador to Afghanistan. The president is weighing the decision on sending more troops to the country. Earlier this week defense secretary Robert Gates said the U.S. may not be able to wait until election day to make that decision. It's November 7th.
This morning Gates moved away from that subject instead talking about the need to ensure a fraud free vote in Afghanistan this time around.
Two militant fighters on motorcycles attacked a military vehicle in Pakistan's capital this morning. Two soldiers in the car are dead. It's the latest in a series of attacks by militants in Pakistan. The attacks come at the same time that Pakistani military is in the middle of a major offensive against insurgents near the Afghan border.
Breaking ranks. Thirteen Senate Democrats help defeat a measure known as "Doc Fix." It would have prevented cuts in Medicare systems, Medicare payments I should say that doctors receive. The bill costing $247 billion over 10 years was separate from the health care reform proposals that are now being talked about. Opponents said they were worried about adding to the federal deficit.
Hospitals as you know can be magnets for germs and now some limiting visitors hoping to curb the spread of swine flu.
COLLINS: More now on the missing Florida girl whose body is now believed to have been found in a Georgia landfill. Reporter Casey Black from affiliate WJXT is joining us now live. She's been following this story closely and is standing outside of the girl's elementary school in Orange Park, Florida. Casey, I understand that the principal made a statement this morning.
CASEY BLACK, WJXT-TV CORRESPONDENT: Yes, she did. She essentially said, Heidi, that she's absolutely heartbroken by what happened. And who wouldn't be? They're investigating right now the Clay County sheriffs the murder of a 7-year-old little girl. She said this morning that a lot of parents are choosing to keep their children out of school today just as a safety precaution until they have an opportunity to find out who may be responsible. We heard from her just a moment ago. And here's what she had to say.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
LYNDA BRAXTON, PRINCIPAL, GROVE PARK ELEMENTARY: We're just extremely heartbroken with the outcome of this incident. We, like everyone else, certainly hope that they find the culprit and that what I would personally like to see the media do is be more involved in promoting safety and in watching these elements in our society that are a threat not only it our child but to yours. No kid is safe.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLACK: Let's talk about the investigation right now and where it stands. There's an active crime scene going on as we speak at a landfill in Folkston, Georgia. Investigators are literally sifting through tons and tons of debris to try to find a shred of evidence that may be able to shed some light onto what happened.
The sheriff saying this morning they're very fortunate that they were able to find this body relatively in a short amount of time meaning that there might be DNA evidence that's on that body that may help them figure out who is responsible and he also credited one of his detectives saying it was his not so much hunch.
But it was his decision to go ahead and pre-emptively check the garbage in Orange Park, Florida, and check where that went and to which landfill it went to and that is one of the key parts of this case. For now, live in Orange Park , Florida.
Casey Black, Channel 4 or I should say CNN for you guys.
COLLINS: That's right. Casey, there are a lot of questions, and I'm just wondering what you're hearing from directly where you are in the community on this. And I'm sure you're well aware the sheriff also mentioned this morning and actually yesterday that they were going in a direction of doing several interviews of sexual offenders in the area.
We had an opportunity to put a map on the screen earlier today on this show showing how many live in this area. There you see it again in this five square mile radius within the home of the little girl. There are something like, and this is according to authorities there, 161 offenders. Now, are people in that community talking about that? What are you hearing?
BLACK: Yes. I've had an opportunity, Heidi, to talk to a parent who brought her child to school this morning. She walked that child all of the way from her house to the school, and she says she's going to be here to pick up that child when school is over today. Investigators say that they have tried to interview as many of those sexual offenders as possible. At the point when I talked to them this morning, they interviewed more than 70, but they are still planning to interview many more and they haven't been able to get in contact with all of them yet. That is a key part of the investigation seeing where they were if they know any information about it.
But as far as the community is concerned, a lot of people are on edge. And the sheriff said at best. He said right now there's a child killer on the loose and until they have resolution to this case, everyone should stay very vigilant -- Heidi.
COLLINS: And also I'm wondering, Casey, do parents or people in the community, were they aware about this number of sexual offenders in the area? Are they just now, you know, getting this information upon this horrible tragedy that's happened?
BLACK: Well, there's a web site that you can go to. Florida Department of Law Enforcement. And you can go ahead and look and see what registered sex offenders are in your area but you know, when you think about it, do you really do that on a daily basis? You know, it's not one of those things - these people in this community really thought would hit home or happen to them.
I probably can guarantee they're going to be a lot more vigilant now and they're probably going to be checking out that web site. There was also - very quickly, a report of a child that was not an abduction but there was a child that was almost abducted and it was a while ago about 10 days.
They investigated that. Found out that it was nothing. But when that happened, nobody in the community knew at that point in time that that had happened. So a lot of people are saying you had this alleged abduction. This girl was walking home from school and somebody tried to pick her up. We should have known 10 days ago about this and they were saying that yes, that's something that we should have released to the media a long time ago.
COLLINS: Yes. Very interesting. All right. Well, again. No conclusions here by way of finding a suspect but we do know, as you mentioned, Casey, the direction that they're going in and the interviewing that's taking place of these different sexual offenders. There's 161 in that five square mile radius surrounding her home.
We sure do appreciate it. Casey, coming to us from the area right in front of the little girl's school there, Grove Park Elementary. Thanks so much.
Now to an update on the swine flu. Clinics around the country that have the vaccine that we've told you about are actually swamped. Take a look at some of these lines. People lined up for hours at a clinic in Montgomery County, Maryland, yesterday. But only 1,200 doses of the vaccine were actually available. Only 200 doses were the injectable kind given to high risk groups like pregnant women.
Meanwhile, the number of students who are getting sick is way up from around 2,200 on Monday to more than 65,000 yesterday. Now, it's not confirmed if all of them have swine flu but education officials say they have closed 198 public schools across 15 states as a precaution.
That includes schools like St. Charles East High in Illinois. Administrators there have canceled classes through tomorrow plus all extra curricular activities including the football game.
Fears over spreading H1N1 flu forcing some hospitals to crack down on visitors now. Just this week, Cedars Sinai in Los Angeles put out the no children allowed sign. As CNN Ted Rowland's reports, no one under age 18 is allowed to visit.
TED ROWLANDS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Five-year-old Jack and his 8- year-old brother, Michael, are waiting with grandma on the front steps of Cedars Sinai Hospital while the rest of the family visit their aunt, who just gave birth to a baby boy.
H1N1 cases in Los Angeles County have shot up over the past two weeks. Many hospitals including Cedars are restricting children's visits as a precaution.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: And I think that's a good idea. It's best for everyone.
ROWLANDS: Inside the hospital there are plenty of anti-bacterial stations and reminders for people to wash their hands. The reason children aren't allowed according to the Dr. Rekha Murthy is simple. The evidence shows that with this virus they're the most vulnerable group, meaning the odds are higher that they'll either get it here or spread it here.
DR. REKHA MURTHY, CEDARS SINAI MEDICAL CENTER: We are experiencing an epidemic that appears to be actually escalating in our community and hospitals have to respond to that escalation until we know that its going to peak and reduce.
ROWLANDS: Hospitals around the country have instituted similar visitation restrictions. The new policy at Cedars went into effect Monday. Security guards turning away children at hospital entrances.
JOHN SAIZA, HOSPITAL SECURITY: Hardly any problems at all. I think maybe 90 percent of everybody who has come is very understandable of what's going on.
ROWLANDS: Jack and Michael's new cousin is scheduled to come home at the end of the week. Cedars and other hospital say that they're hope that children will be welcomed back soon.
Ted Rowlands, CNN, Los Angeles.
COLLINS: For the love of the game. A little boy who lost his leg isn't letting it keep him from playing football. And being an inspiration to his teammates at the same time.
COLLINS: Checking some of the top stories we're following this morning. President Obama meeting this hour with his top diplomat in Afghanistan. The U.S. ambassador in Kabul is expected to brief the president in preparation for the upcoming runoff election on November 7th.
A judge in the Bahamas declares a mistrial in the John Travolta extortion case. A paramedic and a former Bahamian senator are accused of trying to get millions of dollars from Travolta to keep details of his son's death private. Jett Travolta died in the Bahamas in January. The judge suspects one of the jurors revealed the possible verdict to someone outside the jury room.
In a statement released just a short time ago, Travolta's press representative says they are disappointed and will continue to cooperate with prosecutors.
Microsoft's newest version of Windows hits the market today. Windows 7 is available on new computers and as an upgrade for some older PCs and it's expected to work better than its predecessor, Vista. Windows 7 promises to boot up faster, cut down on clicks and have fewer annoying notifications.
An inspiring story from the football field now. Tens of thousands of kids play peewee ball, as you know, and for one second grader his desire to get back on the field has helped him overcome long odds. We get the story from our Chris Hawes from affiliate WFAA in Dallas, Texas.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Set. Go.
CHRIS HAWES, WFAA-TV CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): One of these players is different but which one? Watch them drill. Tackle. And try to see what many opposing teams never realize. Number 43 is an amputee. We first met Anthony (INAUDIBLE) last November days after he lost his left leg below the knee in a train accident.
When the cameras left, his mother tells us the reality of his lost set in.
MUNTRICIA JOHNSON, ANTHONY'S MOTHER: When we got home and he started to do therapy and was trying to learn how to walk on a leg this is when it hit him.
HAWES: By spring Anthony returned to his second grade class but not his football team.
Not being able to go outside and play with the kids he got kind of sad.
HAWES: Then in August newly fitted with a prosthetic leg, Anthony made a decision, he wasn't sitting on the sidelines any longer.
JOHNSON: First, he learned to ride his scooter and then his bike and from there it's been on.
HAWES The first day of practice Coach Floyd Douglas thought he would let Anthony set his own limits. He is still waiting for that to happen. This is Anthony in the green shirt.
FLOYD DOUGLAS, COACH: When it came to hit, he was ready to hit and ready to go at it. I just couldn't say no.
JOHNSON: At first I was, kind of like don't let him tackle my baby.
HAWES: As it turned out, it may be the other players who deserve the concern. Anthony wasn't too interested in answering our questions instead preferring to save his voice to lead his team in a cheer.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's hot in here! One, two, three.
HAWES: A year ago looking down on her son at a hospital bed, Muntricia Johnson prayed her son would find normalcy. Today the family's goal is higher as Anthony aims for extraordinary.
Chris Hawes, Channel 8 News.
COLLINS: "Latino in America," numbers grow and problems persists so what does retired Army Lieutenant doing about it. He's got a battleground for the classroom.
ANNOUNCER: Live in the CNN NEWSROOM, Heidi Collins.
COLLINS: After falling for five of the last six weeks, jobless claims jump again. Susan Lisovicz is at the New York Stock Exchange with more on this morning's report. Good morning to you, Susan.
SUSAN LISOVICZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Good morning, Heidi. It would be nice if we would continue to see initial claims fall, but it would be unrealistic when you are talking about the recession that we are suffering through. So, yes, we did see a reversal here. Initial claims jumped by 11,000 last week. It's something economists and everybody else kept a close eye on because it is considered an excellent gauge of the pace of layoffs and also companies' willingness to hire.
The good news here, Heidi, is that continuing claims fell to 5.9 million. Yes, that's a huge number. But that number had been above 6 million since March.
Florida, if you want to break it down, hit hardest last week. It has the largest increase in claims due to layoffs in construction, services, manufacturing, followed by New York, Wisconsin, Indiana, and Arkansas. California reported the largest drop in claims. Tennessee, Maine, Nebraska also reported declines. Heidi.
COLLINS: Yes. Some of those drops -- the continuing claims, anyway, sound pretty good, but it can't mean that some people aren't getting -- it can mean, I should say, that some people aren't getting benefits anymore. So, what about that?
LISOVICZ: That's true. It's an excellent point. The optimist would say, well, you know, the drop in continuing claims shows companies more willing to hire.
But you have to take note that so many people are exhausting their benefits right now. An estimated 7,000 people a day are losing their eligibility to continue collecting, and that's why Congress is debating yet a third extension.
Initial claims, sure, they represent recent job losses. The level of continuing claims, Heidi, indicates how hard or easy it is for displaced workers to find new jobs, and what this report shows clearly is that it still remains very difficult.
Not a big reaction here on Wall Street. Obviously, if this remains a trend where you see continuing climbs in initial claims, might have more of a reaction. The Dow right now is positive. NASDAQ seeing a little bit of weakness. Very busy day here. Information overload with corporate earnings. Most of them pretty good, though.
COLLINS: Yes. All right. We'll watch those numbers and how they shape the rest of the trading day. Appreciate it. Susan Lisovicz, thanks.
LISOVICZ: Thanks, Heidi.
COLLINS: The outrage about executive pay has reached a tipping point, especially when it comes to companies that received huge bailouts from taxpayers. And now, the government is doing something about it. The Obama administration will have the final say on pay.
CNNmoney.com's Poppy Harlow has a "Breakdown" for us from New York now. So, Poppy, which companies are we talking about? The biggies that we've heard about many times, right?
POPPY HARLOW, CNNMONEY.COM: Yes, Heidi, we're talking about seven main companies together added all up. They have $350 billion in government bailout money. You can guess most of them. Let's take a look here, though, and show you what we're talking about.
Citigroup, AIG, Bank of America, Chrysler and also embattled automaker General Motors, and the finance arms of those two automakers, GMAC and Chrysler Financial. The new pay rules -- what they will do is affect the top 25 top-paid executives at these companies.
In terms of the result there, specific compensation rules should be announced this afternoon. We're waiting to hear from the pay czar, Ken Feinberg (ph) at about 1:30 Eastern time.
Here's what we know so far and what we've been reporting. The annual salaries of the top 25 executives at these companies should fall 90 percent on average. Let's give you an example. Someone who is making $2 million a year, that could be cut all of the way down to $200,000 a year. When you look at the total compensation package outside of salary, including stocks, bonuses, perks, we're talking about a cut of about 50 percent.
Also, what we're hearing from multiple reports that we could get confirmed this afternoon, perks such as, say, country club memberships, private plans, company cars. That would need approval over $25,000. Also, what we very well likely may see, Heidi, is the splitting of the CEO and the chairman roles. Trying to provide more of that check-and-balance system. That's what you already have at General Motors. That's also what you have at Bank of America.
COLLINS: So, specifically, do we know what some of these top execs are going to end up with, then, by way of pay?
HARLOW: We don't yet. We don't yet. Neither do they until they get final word from the pay czar. It's really a case-by-case basis. We do know that most of these top salaries are expected to, after the cut, stay below $500,000 per year.
A lot of companies have already cut pay. Gm's CEO Fritz Henderson already has taken a nearly 30 percent pay cut to abou $1.25 million. When you look at Citigroup -- that company, their CEO (INAUDIBLE) is making $1 a year, Heidi, and he says he'll get no bonus until that bank turns profitable.
We'll like see restricted stock compensation used more. It's already used on Wall Street but used more trying to closely tie that pay to performance, something we talk about all the time.
COLLINS: Yes, we do. All right. Poppy Harlow with "The Breakdown" this morning. Thanks, Poppy.
In fact, on our blog this morning, we're asking do you think the government should be forcing these companies to actually cut their salaries because they received taxpayer money? Here's what some of you had to say as we head over to Heidi Mac. Here's CNN.com/heidi. Go ahead and register your comments there.
Dan says this. "Wow, if this happens, then maybe they will start making what the normal, average citizens make. Oh, wait, they will still be at about $500,000 per year. I say bye-bye. They are the ones that got their companies into the pathetic situations in the first place."
Then Cliff writes, "No, the government should not be cutting pay for executives or anyone in the private sector. They shouldn't have used taxpayer money to bail them out in the first place."
And Michael writes this. "The damage has been done. They need to be fired and replaced. These execs have caused people to lose their life savings from greedy, careless spending, destroying others' futures. They deserved criminal prosecution"
We, of course, still want to hear from you. Just go to CNN.com/heidi. Put your comments there and we'll share more of them a little bit later in the show.
And this week, CNN has been looking at the changing face of the United States. "LATINO IN AMERICA" looks at the problems within the Hispanic community and solutions that have emerged. One take the form of a former military officer on a different mission. CNN's Soledad O'Brien has details.
SOLEDAD O'BRIEN, CNN SPECIAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Omaha, Nebraska: Consuelo Castillo Kickbusch has just addressed a thousand Latino teenagers, urging them to stay in high school and go to college.
Now she's mobbed. The kids are packed three deep, hungering for kind words.
CONSUELO CASTILLO KICKBUSCH, LT. COL., U.S. ARMY (RET.): I love you.
O'BRIEN: Or in Juana Mendoza's case...
KICKBUSCH: You come with me. Come on.
O'BRIEN: A little extra advice.
Latinos are a quarter of the school kids here. Roughly six in ten will graduate from high school, about the same number nationally.
Omaha's a city ripe for Consuelo's message; part inspirational, part biographical.
KICKBUSCH: Although I have shoes today, most of my life, I didn't wear them. I was barefoot.
O'BRIEN: She was born in the barrio to Mexican immigrant parents. Her teachers, she says, couldn't see past her brown skin and thick accent.
KICKBUSCH: They told me my algebra was a cashier machine.
O'BRIEN: Undereducated, she tested poorly. But she found a mentor who helped her prepare for college; after that, a masters degree. Then a successful career in the Army where she rose to lieutenant colonel; then, she gave it all up.
COLLINS: Now let's continue the story of Consuelo Castillo Kickbush. She's actually joining us this morning from Dallas.
Good morning to you. Thanks for being with us. Great piece there. I do want to know why you gave up your Army career, though. You were a lieutenant colonel.
KICKBUSH: Good morning, Heidi. It was what I call my mother's dying wish. My mother stayed in the community that I was raised in Laredo, Texas, and she saw tremendous drastic changes, particularly among our youth talking about gang violence, high dropout, young Latinas becoming pregnant.
So, she believed that a community means just that. That we all help each other. It was her dying wish. I was studying cybernetics in San Jose. I was an officer in the Army, and she told me you need to do something. You came from here. You know the whole story.
She returned to Texas. Passed away two weeks after that. So, at the peak of my career -- and I loved serving the United States Army, it was time to honor her wish. And well, Heidi, today, 1 million children later, here I am.
COLLINS: Yes. Well, thank you for your service to the military and also for what you're doing in Texas right now. Did you ever have an opportunity to talk with your mom about why she thought some of those changes as you mentioned had taken place or had begun taking place?
KICKBUSH: Yes. Through her window, she saw that the families were not staying together like they used to or that they weren't working their problems out as much, which is why today I design the Family Leadership Institute. And it's an effort to help families, all families, certainly Latino families, come to a place where they learn about themselves and learn about navigating the educational system.
My mother was also concerned with children not having places to stay active, places to go to. The elders being separated in many cases, families were migrating and didn't have a support system. So, she saw the gangs coming in and taking control, taking our young people and influencing them. I'm sure the media in some ways had a lot to do with that, as well, compared to the time when she grew up.
COLLINS: Yes. You do all this motivational speaking, and we saw some of that in the piece. You have an opportunity to be out there with kids in these Latino communities. What do they tell you? What are their concerns? We hear a lot from school administrators, we hear a lot even from Washington and maybe state senators and so forth about what they think the problems are. But they're not in it every day. So, what do they tell you?
KICKBUSH: The children basically are frustrated. They feel disappointed that they find themselves coming into a junior high level experience, a high school, so poorly prepared. We're talking they're very poor writers, they're poor readers. They're obviously they're not at the grade level. I find, however, in places like Houston, ISD, where are they doing what they can to help students.
But the bottom line is this. By the time they come to high school, they look in the mirror and they see they're not going to be able to graduate with all of the testing that's required. They get frustrated. They feel that it's hopeless. And the best answer, they think, is to drop out. And my role is to step into their lives during this hopelessness, during this frustration.
At the same time, I work with school districts. I try to do what I can. But that's really what the kids are saying is, "Hey, I can't read. I'm 16. I've got all these tests I got to pass. I'm not going to make it. What am I doing here? Let me just drop out of the system." What I try to explain to them is you may see it as you're just one. It doesn't matter. It does matter.
When you look at the statistics -- this is an American crisis. It's not just a Latino crisis. Any child that drops out in this nation is going to have a ripple effect on the welfare of this nation. So, to them, they don't see it that way. They're 16. They only see it as, "Who cares?". We should care.
COLLINS: You are certainly one of those people who cares and is out there talking with them on a very regular basis. Appreciate that work.
And look forward to seeing more of "LATINO IN AMERICA" and more of the pieces that were done on you. Consuelo Castillo Kickbush, sure do appreciate that.
Again, I want to remind everybody an all new "LATINO IN AMERICA," our groundbreaking look at how Latinos are changing America does continue. The finale airs tonight at 9:00 Eastern. It will also be simulcast on CNN en espanol.
Top stories now. An autopsy scheduled for today could confirm a body found in a landfill is that of Somer Thompson. The seven-year- old from Orange Park, Florida, disappeared while walking home from school on Monday. Investigators followed garbage trucks to a Folkston, Georgia, landfill where they found a child's body yesterday.
A ten-hour hostage drama has ended peacefully in Canada. Authorities say eight people were taken hostage yesterday at a workers' compensation building in Edmonton. That forced about 700 employees to be evacuated. Police say the alleged gunman had a grudge with a doctor and the way his case was handled. No one was injured.
The Olympic torch was officially lit in a special ceremony in Greece this morning. It was lit by sunlight and a mirror in the ancient sign of Olympia. The torch will make its way to Vancouver, Canada, for the upcoming Winter Games. Twelve thousand torchbearers will carry the flame through Canada before February's opening ceremonies.
A case of too much all at once. Heavy rains drenched part of Texas, flooding city streets and more severe storms on the way.
COLLINS: A big wind and rain event. That's about all Tropical Storm Rick could muster by the time it plowed ashore Mexico's Pacific Coast before midnight. No reports of any major damage or injuries. Once a fierce Category 5 hurricane, though, Rick made landfall with much less force. Its winds clocking 55 miles per hour. Rob Marciano standing by. Yes, this thing, got to remember was a Cat 5 when it first took off.
ROB MARCIANO, AMS METEOROLOGIST: Scary to look at that on satellite picture. We thought it would weaken a bit but certainly not that much. So, one extreme to the other. We'll certainly take the lower extreme.
COLLINS: Okay. Very good. Let us know, Rob. Thank you.
MARCIANO: All right. You got it.
COLLINS: Life as you probably never seen it. Our Josh Levs is here now with some pretty amazing images. What are we talking about?
JOSH LEVS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: I'll tell you, Heidi. It's amazing. Let's show you one close up. You can take it that way. We're going to tell you what this is, exactly. Here's a hint. You probably have taken a lot of these. This and a lot of other amazing images and the mysteries behind them coming right up.
COLLINS: All right. Check this out. It's been named one of the most amazing images of the year. So, what is it? Our Josh Levs is here to unravel the mystery. Now, I know what it is because I read ahead.
LEVS: You cheated a little bit. But these images are incredible. I love this. I saw this yesterday. There's a Web site all about it, Welcomeimages, where they posted the most amazing medical images from throughout the world across the year.
And I have it here. Let's zoom to this, because it will show you this up close. These are images taken under microscope. Sometimes they use dyes or they color on (ph) afterwards. But all of the shapes are true to real life.
This is a pill. It can pretty much be any medicine. The red part on the inside is what you take and the blue part is coating designed to make it last a while in your system.
Let's go the next one, another one of these winners that won one of the most amazing images of the year. This is inside a small intestine. This is what it looks like. They took this one inside a mouse. But these images are the villi inside the small intestine.
Let's bang through a few more, and then we'll talk to Heidi about some of her experience with this. This is up-close aspirin. This is an aspirin crystal. And these again, are images submitted all over the world. We'll tell you about techniques in a second.
One of my favorites is coming up right now. What we're seeing here is just before the beginning of life. It looks like a giant sun. This actually is an egg right here. These tiny salamander-y things down there are the sperm trying to get through. They captured this image as well just before conception, just before the beginning of life.
Let's do a couple more because they're so beautiful.. This next one is from a plant. It's called "Bird of Paradise." This is a seed taken from that plant. And again, oftentimes we're using microscopes and capturing the images.
I think we have time for a couple more. Let's go to this one. Sensory nerve fibers on a hair follicle. All this again, every shape you're seeing, is true to real life. So, you've got the hair follicle, and you have all these teeny-tiny microscopic sensory nerves that what we all have. If you feel something in your hair.
Yes, we still have time. Let's keep going. Now we get into the ones where they have illustrators come along and imagine things. So, this is not true to life. This one is some imaging what if someday, you can make a giant image of DNA and kind of tackle it? You have tiny people here say it's futuristic, way off in the future, you'll be able to make a huge image of DNA and predict what would happen if you changed it.
I think we've got two more. This one here, lung cancer -- rather, this is a mechanical heart. Again, this is an imagining, futurism. Someone saying what if could you study the heart as an object outside of the body and attach it to all these things and study it in a whole new way, 3-D, still working?
And this is the last one. This is kind of a bad thing, but it does look beautiful. This is a lung cancer cell. We're back to what's real here. You have these -- purple here is what should not be there. That's cancer. The rest of the area in this cell -- one cell studied under a microscope. You're seeing the rest of it is where the cancer is not filling up (ph).
So, Heidi, all of these images winners of the Welcome Image Award for the entire year. People submit them from all over the place. They have different techniques they use. Use microscopes in different ways, they'll add a little bit of dye, they'll do some illustrating afterward. But in all those, except the two that were imaginings, you see real life images. Life as we've never seen it. What medicine, what the body is really like, Heidi.
COLLINS: Yes. I've seen some great art done as well with people's DNA. They make beautiful art and pictures out of that. Gorgeous.
LEVS: They do. And I know you've had some experience with getting medical images taken as well.
COLLINS: Yes. (INAUDIBLE) Let's save that for another day, though.
LEVS: OK. We'll talk about it next time.
COLLINS: All right, Josh.
LEVS: Party on.
COLLINS: Thank you.
We're talking about some real bad guys. The FBI's most wanted fugitives. Who are they, and what did they do? Find out next hour in the CNN NEWSROOM. For now, I'm Heidi Collins. CNN NEWSROOM continues with Tony Harris.