Return to Transcripts main page

CNN Newsroom

Health Care Protesters: 'Kill the Bill'; United Nations Pulls 600 Staff From Afghanistan; '30 Second Pitch'

Aired November 05, 2009 - 14:00   ET


KYRA PHILLIPS, CNN ANCHOR: OK, we're going to push forward now on this hour's top stories. A drop in first-time unemployment claims, and we're all hoping it will be a long trend. Last week's figure of 512,000 is better than economists expected and one reason that stocks are way up after a rough couple of weeks on Wall Street.

A former New York police commissioner and one-time choice for homeland security chief is likely headed to prison. Bernard Kerik pleaded guilty today to tax crimes as well as lying to Bush administration officials who were vetting him for DHS. Prosecutors want to serve between two and three years.

And President Obama promising Native Americans, in his words, "you will not be forgotten." He's hosting what he calls the largest gathering of tribal leaders in U.S. history, a daylong event aimed at strengthening ties with Washington and improving Native American education, housing, public safety and health care.

And speaking of health care, the president popped into the White House briefing room last hour to highlight two big endorsements for reform.


BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I am extraordinarily pleased and grateful that the AARP and the American Medical Association are both supporting the health insurance reform bill that will soon come up to a vote in the House of Representatives. When it comes to the AARP, this is no small endorsement. For more than 50 years, they have been a leader in the fight to reduce the costs of health care and expand coverage for our senior citizens. They are a nonpartisan organization, and their board made their decision to endorse only after a careful, intensive, objective scrutiny of this bill.


PHILLIPS: Conservatives say break it, kill the bill. Thousands at the Capitol protesting the House bill.

Tea time now with CNN congressional correspondent Brianna Keilar.

Bring us up to date, Brianna.

BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, Kyra, as Democrats try to harness that momentum from some really key endorsements there from the AARP and the American Medical Association, representing many of the nation's doctors, Republicans here at a rally that just wrapped up moments ago tried to harness all of the energy of these folks.

These are opponents of the Democratic health care overhaul bill. These are the voices that you heard during those town hall meetings in August that came here for the Tea Party protests here on the Mall in September. And so this is what Republicans really have enlisted them to do, to be a voice.

And a lot of these folks that we have spoken to are actually going to head now into the Capitol complex. They're going to be heading into some of the Capitol office buildings, and they're going to go basically give a piece of their mind to their members of Congress.

Just take a little listen to some of the back and forth we have been hearing today between Republicans and Democrats.


REP. JOHN BOEHNER (R), MINORITY LEADER: This weekend, the House of Representatives is likely to vote on Pelosi care.


BOEHNER: This bill is the greatest threat to freedom that I have seen in the 19 years I have been here in Washington -- taking away your freedom to choose your doctor.



REP. NANCY PELOSI (D-CA), HOUSE SPEAKER: Anything you need to know about the difference between the Democratic bill and the Republican bill is that the Republicans do not end health insurance companies' discrimination against people with pre-existing conditions. They let that stand.

That's scandalous, the fact that it exists. I don't understand why they have not heard the American people, who have said pre- existing conditions should not be a source of discrimination.


PHILLIPS: And we'll get back to Brianna Keilar. Once again, we had a hard time connecting her with all those protesters. We will get back to her when we can.

Meanwhile, you can keep up with all the health care reform plans in both the House and the Senate online. Just click on You can read in depth about the wheeling and dealing and, most importantly, how it all affects you.

So how do you manage to have 11 bodies in your house before you land in jail? Cleveland City Council wants to know how police and others missed the red flags and the smell of death from Anthony Sowell's house.

He's a registered sex offender, and the sheriff's office would go by his house frequently to check on him but found nothing amiss. Well, the family of Tonia Carmichael wants answers too. She's the first victim so far who has been identified.


DONNITA CARMICHAEL, VICTIM'S DAUGHTER: This is what I have been saying since Monday, when we were called to the coroner's office. And since this story broke, we automatically knew that this was going to be her.

All of these women have not yet been identified. Fortunately, my mother was the first victim to be identified. And that gives us closure on knowing where she is, but we're not happy about the way the police are trying to spin it.


PHILLIPS: Well, Tonia Carmichael had been missing for about a year. Sowell is in jail without bond.

Here's another case of a sex offender, his victims, and missed opportunities. A new report now suggests that California parole officers dropped the ball in the Jaycee Dugard case. Phillip Garrido accused of kidnapping and raping and holding her captive for 18 years.


MATTHEW CATE, CALIFORNIA CORRECTIONS SECRETARY: We agree that serious errors were made over the last 10 years. We obviously deeply regret any error that could have possibly the victims living under these conditions for even one additional day.


PHILLIPS: The California inspector general's report says that Corrections didn't inspect Garrido's property the way it should have, failed to supervise parole officers assigned to his case, and listed Garrido as a low-risk offender.

Now the ever-growing menace of the Mexican drug cartels. It's not so easy growing marijuana in Mexico and shipping it north, though that certainly still happens. The modern alternative is growing pot right here on public land and Indian reservations.

"The Wall Street Journal" says half the marijuana seized last year on public and private land nationwide came from reservations in Washington State alone. So far this year, pot farms have turned up in 61 national forests in 16 states.

And guess what's complicating the U.S. military's effort to stand up on Afghan police force? Marijuana. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CHRIS LAWRENCE, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Less than 100 meters from the main road and the police station, farmers are growing a massive crop of marijuana, stacks and stacks, rows and rows, just as far as the eye can see.


PHILLIPS: Well, now see the results. A clearly stoned Afghan police officer hardly able to stand up during a visit by U.S. trainers. The Americans tell CNN's Chris Lawrence that some of the trainees are honest and motivated. Others are corrupt or no-shows, or they can't show up because they're dead. And the soldiers aren't exactly trained for this mission themselves.


MAJ. SCOTT BRANNAN, U.S. ARMY: We don't have the skill set initially to be able to mentor how to run a police station.


PHILLIPS: Well, Major Brannan adds that his troops are patient and determined because they have to be.

The U.N., meanwhile, is pulling some 600 staffers out of the country. More on that from CNN's Sara Sidner.


SARA SIDNER, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: After the targeted attack on U.N. staff members here in a guarded guest house in Kabul that left five U.N. members dead, the United Nations has decided to make some changes. They are for right now sending out about 600 foreign workers here, and they're going to assess right now the security situation for their staff.

They're sending those workers out for about three weeks and then intend to bring some of them back. But first, they want to figure out how to beef up security here.

Now, we understand though that the U.N. is very, very adamant that they are not pulling out of Afghanistan, they are simply looking at the security situation, obviously, after that traumatic time where five of their colleagues died. We should also mention that U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon is asking for about $85 million to beef up security here.

Sara Sidner, CNN, Kabul.


PHILLIPS: Well, take a look at this guy. He's been a leader all his life. Now we're trying to lead him back into the job force. But is he qualified? You better believe it. Irwin Pollack, you're our "30 Second Pitch." So, get ready.

And a prison guard taken hostage by an inmate. You're not going to believe how it ends. There it is right here. Watch this.

You'll find out what happens right after the break.


PHILLIPS: Well, if you're out of work and your unemployment benefits are about to play out, good news. The Senate has passed a bill to keep those checks coming for at least 14 extra weeks. It now goes back to the House, which gave its OK to an extension in September.

You know what the best job benefit is? Getting a job. Just because you're unemployed doesn't mean that you're unqualified.

Check out Irwin Pollack's resume. Thirty years with the Hertz Corporation, senior VP of human resources, Erwin voluntarily left the company after it was sold and a new management team came in.

He's highly skilled, high energy, and hands on. And he's our "30 Second Pitch."

He joins me live from New York. Not to mention, has a very good looking family.

I am so sorry that we're doing the interview surrounding a need for a job. I mean, I'm looking at your resume. You're highly qualified, Irwin.

What has happened and why has it been so difficult?

IRWIN POLLACK, JOB SEEKER: Well, Kyra, I thank you very much for your comments.

The job market, as you know, is very tight right now. You have issues with the unemployed out there looking, and then with the economy is just such that even those that are working are also looking.

At my stage, you know, with the 30 years of experience, you also have that "overqualified" label that you're fighting against. But I have confidence in myself and I have confidence in the economy. Things are turning around.

PHILLIPS: Now, you say, too, that it's hard to get past the hiring manager. What do you mean by that?

POLLACK: Well, obviously when you see somebody with a lot of years of experience on their resume, they automatically calculate how old you are and will either put you in the "no interest" pile or carry you forward. And...

PHILLIPS: Yes. Go ahead. POLLACK: And usually the person that you are -- the hiring manager is the recruiter, is generally a lot younger than the applicant themselves.

PHILLIPS: Yes. And that's interesting you bring up the age factor. We've had a lot of people tell us that, actually, and it's a shame, because what's the saying, the older the violin, the sweeter the tune? You have got all this experience, you've got lots to offer, correct?

POLLACK: Right. I mean, companies today, they should look at those that are overqualified or those that have very good experience, and they get a bargain. People are willing to take work. And just because you have worked for a long time at one company and making a certain amount of income, it doesn't mean you have to do that your entire career..

PHILLIPS: Well, let's get right to it. Are you ready for the "30 Second Pitch?"

POLLACK: I sure am.

PHILLIPS: All right. Let's start the clock.

Go ahead, Irwin.

POLLACK: Thank you, Kyra.

My name is Irwin Pollack, and I am speaking a leadership role in human resources which can take advantage of my years of experience, leadership strength, and passion for HR. I have industry experience in domestic and international operations. My expertise is in employee and labor relations, union prevention (ph), succession planning, M&A integration, and employee engagement.

I bring a business focus to human capitaled and lead a global reorganization which saved $200 million. I add value to the organization.

Irwin Pollack.

PHILLIPS: Appreciate it Irwin. Keep us posted. Let us know what happens. OK?

POLLACK: Well, Kyra, thank you very much. Thanks to you and Karen Zucker (ph) and CNN for putting this type of program together.

PHILLIPS: Well, thanks for reaching out to us, Irwin.

POLLACK: You're quite welcome.

PHILLIPS: And once again -- yes?

POLLACK: I also reached out to Time Warner and put in a resume at Time Warner.

PHILLIPS: OK. There you go. Get in the plug. All right. We'll check in with our hiring people and see where the heck that is.

POLLACK: You do that.

PHILLIPS: OK. Thanks, Irwin.

His e-mail is And we're going to have his e-mail posted on our blog,

And Irwin, if you want proof that "30 Second Pitch" works, check this out.

One guy who made his pitch back in August has landed a job. Remember Dave Pataki (ph)? He kept his layoff a secret at first, but he broke his silence eventually, landing a job by reaching out to his friends.

He actually starts Monday as an interim director of benefits at a large law firm in the D.C. area, a position that could become permanent.

Now, Dave didn't become a morning news anchor, as I had suggested, but still a big congratulations. You should have heard his voice. It was pretty darn good. Very smart, too.

And if you want to be part of the pitch, e-mail us your resume at, or you can tweet us at KyraCNN. If it's Thursday, it's "30 Second Pitch."

All right. Listen up, all of you news junkies. Think you've got a handle on all of the headlines? Well, prove it.

Today we're launching a new Web site called, and our Josh Levs is guiding us through it all.

Hey, Josh.

JOSH LEVS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Kyra, you know, it's a little bit addictive, I've got to tell you. We've been having a lot of fun with this today. And actually, it's getting a lot of traffic online.

A lot of people are coming to the new, testing your news knowledge. And at the end of the whole process, we actually link you to news articles about all these stories. So it's a chance to learn some as well.

Let's do this -- I'm going to start off with the basics for everyone who's just joining in on the fun right now, One of the first steps is that you pick one of these CNN personalities to guide you through, and they each give you a reason why they should be your guide.

Let's listen to Larry.


LARRY KING, HOST, "LARRY KING LIVE": I'm Larry King, but you knew that already. Pick me and let's get this thing started.


LEVS: All right. And now let's go over to Wolf.


WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Happening now, you picking me to host your quiz.


LEVS: All right.

So, basically, you pick one of these, and then what you do is you enter the CNN challenge. And this allows you to pick all sorts -- well, basically, you face questions that are about stories that we have been bringing you in the news. And they get a little tougher as time goes on.

Let's zoom in a little bit and we'll take a look at this one, some of the questions we've been looking at today.

This one says, "What is the name of NASA's new rocket flight- tested for the first time on October 28th?"

Something we were talking about last week. And you see these choices: Ares 1-X, Athena K12, Hercules X-4, Jupiter 120.

It's the Ares. And it's the Ares 1-X, actually.

And you see there? That shows me how long I took down from 30 seconds to actually answer the questions. The faster you get it, the more points you get.

Here's what we're going to do now. We have a question for you to answer. Let's show everyone that question, and then we're going to give you some time to answer it.

The question for you: What company filed for the fifth largest bankruptcy in all of U.S. history? And your choices there: Chrysler, CIT, General Motors, or Thornburg Mortgage.

Now, usually in a game you only have 30 seconds to answer. But you're lucky. You have the break during which you can go to, look up that answer, click away.

Also, send me your answers to my page here. You've got, also Facebook and Twitter, JoshLevsCNN.

Coming up, we're going to tell you if you got it right.


LEVS: We're back in the NEWSROOM. I'm Josh Levs.

We're premiering the new for you.

Before the break, we showed you the question. Let's go back to that question, and then we'll show you if you're getting the answers right.

The question: What company filed for the fifth largest bankruptcy in U.S. history? Was it Chrysler, CIT, General Motors, or Thornburg Mortgage?

This is probably the one time in my life I'll ever ask quiz questions with music under me. Anyway, here's the answer -- CIT.

There you go. And I'm happy to say people are doing pretty well.

In fact, let's zoom in on the screen behind me. We said you could send us your answers by Twitter or Facebook. One guy got it wrong there, General Motors. But this guy, StandingIdlyBy. Maybe that's why he knows a lot.

Over at Facebook, I got a whole bunch of correct answers -- CIT, CIT. So people are doing pretty well.

Now, before we go, I want to show you -- the questions do get a little tougher. We have Christiane as our guide for this section.

And you know what? When you get to the lightning round, you've got to bank through these things and they get pretty hard.

Which head of state recently addressed a joint meeting of Congress? The answer is Angela Merkel. But you have to do this in order to answer. Then it gets even tougher, and you only have 90 seconds for this whole section.

Take a look at this and then we'll tie up.

This question is: What Internet company won a $711 million judgment against the "Spam King," Sanford Wallace? The answer to this is Facebook, but you have to take the time to actually spell out Facebook, and every second that you take you're losing time.

Obviously I don't want to waste your time, but that's how that one works. Here's the idea.

Now let's show everybody the screen one more time. We've got it posted for you at the blog, and also Facebook and Twitter.

We're hearing from you, And it's JoshLevsCNN for my pages.

Tell us what you think. What do you like? What do you not like? What would you change? How well did you do? Save a screen grab if you got everything right.

And Kyra, it is nice to see our viewers overall doing quite well today from what we can tell, so that should make us happy.

PHILLIPS: Thanks, Josh.

LEVS: You got it. Thanks.

PHILLIPS: Here's some other top stories we're following for you right now.

You won't be asked whether you're a U.S. citizen in the upcoming census. Republican Senator David Vitter of Louisiana wanted that question included on census forms, but now Senate Democrats have blocked it. Vitter says it's not fair to count immigrants who are not citizens.

Remember the two Northwest pilots who overshot the Minneapolis airport by 150 miles? They want their jobs back.

They're appealing a decision to revoke their licenses. The men claim that they lost track of time while working on personal laptop computers. The FAA calls their actions extremely reckless.

Two fat to kill? A man will soon know if that defense he used will get him out of a murder rap. A jury in New Jersey is now deciding whether Edward Ates (ph) is guilty of killing his former son- in-law. Ates (ph) weighed 285 pounds at the time of the crime. He claims that he didn't have the energy to shoot the victim and then make a quick getaway.

We're heading toward Thanksgiving and the tropics are still active. Chad Myers checks in to tell us about what he knows.


PHILLIPS: Well, her family's future totally up in the air. A soldier's wife set to ship out. Her orders not from the Pentagon, though, but U.S. Immigration.


PHILLIPS: U.S. troops on the front lines have enough to worry about. The Pentagon is trying to head off swine flu fears. They're sending thousands of doses of H1N1 vaccine to Iraq and Afghanistan, but a familiar problem. Just like back home, there are more arms than shots.

Here's Pentagon Correspondent Barbara Starr.


BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): As Americans wait in lines across the country to get the H1N1 vaccine, the Pentagon this week finally began shipping limited vaccine supplies to troops fighting in Afghanistan and Iraq. Under Pentagon guidelines, tens of thousands of troops on the front line and those headed to war are the top military priority to receive the vaccine.

Even so, supplies are severely limited. Only half of what is needed is now on the way. GEOFF MORRELL, PENTAGON SPOKESMAN: And right now, we don't have enough to even take care of all of them.

STARR: The Pentagon is defending plans to offer the vaccine to detainees at Guantanamo Bay, as well as those in Iraq and Afghanistan. Prisoners are considered to be high risk, but a lower military priority than troops, health care workers and civilian personnel.

(on camera): I haven't heard an assurance that detainees will get it after civilians in this country.

MORRELL: I -- but Barbara, Barbara, Barbara, Barbara. You're -- presuming that I have the knowledge or the wherewithal to tell you the protocols that are being used for the general population here. All I can do is speak to what the priorities are in this department.

STARR (voice-over): Troops at home also a priority because they will be called upon to help in towns across the country if the crisis grows. The military's top homeland defense commander has teams that could move into action.

GEN. GENE RENUART, CMDR., U.S. NORTHERN COMMAND: And it would be to provide things like, potentially, logistics, movement of supplies, maybe additional health care providers that could assist in immunization.

STARR (on camera): The Pentagon stopped counting the number of troops that have come down with H1N1 back in July, when world health authorities declared a global pandemic. But privately, military officials say the number of cases continues to grow, and recently, Defense Secretary Robert Gates received his vaccine. Barbara Starr, CNN, the Pentagon.


PHILLIPS: Afghanistan's first known death from swine flu has closed the nation's schools for at least three weeks. The victim wasn't even a child but a 35-year-old engineer. Seven more deaths have since been reported, while eight million students and teachers try to stay busy and healthy. Access to vaccines isn't clear, but the minister of health estimates the country has about 51,000 doses of Tamiflu. He says they need three million.

If he have ever held out hope of getting that homeland security gig one day, he can probably give it up now. Former New York police commissioner Bernard Kerik is probably going to spend some time in prison. He pleaded guilty today to tax crimes and lying to the Bush administration, who were vetting him for the homeland security job. Prosecutor want Kerik to serve between two and three years.

They might be inmates to us, but to one jail guard, they're guardian angels in orange jumpsuits. Surveillance video caught it all. You actually can see the guard, Ken Moon (ph), at the jail in Tampa as an inmate comes after him, puts a chokehold on him.

Then watch this. Four other inmates come into the picture, one of them in jail for attempted murder. They could have joined the attacker and tried to bust out of the place. But no, they went after their fellow inmate, saved the guard, even called for help. The sheriff's office plans to write letters that can be used to help their court cases.

A U.S. soldier back from Iraq now trying to defend the home front, not for his country but his entire family. See, his wife is about to ship out, and she's not deploying, she's being deported. More now from CNN's Thelma Gutierrez.


THELMA GUTIERREZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): U.S. Army specialist Jack Barrios fought in Iraq. He says he's a proud American from a military family with a strong tradition of sacrifice.

(on camera): You've got seven members of your family who are in the armed forces.

JACK BARRIOS, ARMY RESERVIST: Correct. Three of them have been to Iraq (INAUDIBLE)

GUTIERREZ (voice-over): Now that he's home, Barrios says he's fighting a second battle with his own government to keep his family together. Jack's wife, Frances, was brought to the U.S. illegally by her parents when he was 8. She faces deportation, even though she's married to a United States citizen.

(on camera): If your wife is deported back to Guatemala, what will that do to you?

JACK BARRIOS: It will destroy me -- physically, mentally, spiritually -- because she's my soul mate. She's all I got. She's my best friend, mother to my kids.

GUTIERREZ (voice-over): But Mark Kerkorian with the Center for Immigration Studies, who lobbies for tougher laws against illegal immigrants, says undocumented military spouses shouldn't automatically be granted legal status.

MARK KERKORIAN, CENTER FOR IMMIGRATION STUDIES: What you're talking about is an amnesty for illegal immigrants who have a relative in the armed forces, and that's just -- that's outrageous.

JESSICA DOMINGUEZ, IMMIGRATION ATTORNEY: Aren't you grateful that someone is out there fighting for your rights, that someone is out there protecting our nation?

GUTIERREZ: Immigration attorney Jessica Dominguez (ph) says families like the Barrioses are in a tough spot, there are no special laws for military spouses who are undocumented. Jack worries about supporting his family. Before dawn, he leaves for his first job as a mail sorter. Then he's off to a full-time job at an auto parts store. To complicate matters, Jack is being treated for post-traumatic stress disorder. Even so, as a reservist, it's possible he could be called up again for duty. (on camera): If you're deployed and you're deported, have you thought about what you're going to do with your children?

FRANCES BARRIOS, ARMY WIFE: I hate thinking about it, but I guess I have to. It's really hard and it's just painful. It's really painful!

JACK BARRIOS: It kills me inside. She suffers a lot. She's scared of going to a country that she doesn't know.

GUTIERREZ (voice-over): Next month, an immigration judge will hear their case and decide whether Frances will be able to stay with her family.

JACK BARRIOS: I ask you, Mr. President...

GUTIERREZ: Jack's making his appeal to his commander-in-chief and says he will fight for his family as hard as he fought for his country.


PHILLIPS: Thelma Gutierrez joining me now from Los Angeles. So Thelma, a number of questions after seeing that piece. It got a lot of us talking today. And just considering what he is doing for our country and the fact that the military on a regular basis helps immigrants become legal citizens because of what they're doing for our country, why not their wives?

GUTIERREZ: Kyra, you're absolutely right. There's a longstanding law that goes all the way back to World War II that says if you serve this country honorably, then there's something called an expedited path to naturalization, so there is a way for fighting men and women to become citizens. However for their spouses, there is no law on the books that would make them eligible for this. And so in Frances's case, it's much worse because she was brought here illegally as a child. So for her, it's virtually impossible.

PHILLIPS: Is there anything that Frances can do to stay in the U.S.?

GUTIERREZ: That's a really tough question. And she has a hearing that's coming up on December 9th. What she's asking for is a cancellation of removal. She basically has to prove that her removal from this country is going to cause extreme hardship to her family.

And you heard me ask her husband, "What is it going to do to your children if you get deployed and your wife is actually deported? What will happen to them?" That is something they're not able to answer. And so her attorneys will try to prove that this will be absolutely devastating to the family, also in light of the fact that he does suffer from PTSD.

PHILLIPS: And as you and I well know, anything is possible in this country, so if enough people see this story, hear about this story, somebody can do something, somebody has the power to do something, whether it's at the Pentagon or at the White House or -- and I'm curious, I mean how common is this story? Is she a unique case, or are there a number of families out there dealing with the same thing?

GUTIERREZ: Kyra, that's a great question. Actually, it's hard to have an exact number because many military families don't really want to talk about this. They're afraid of the consequences. They're afraid of their spouse being deported. But we were talking to one of the experts who says that there are hundreds of families who are in this situation. So clearly, lots of people out there very worried and afraid to come forward.

PHILLIPS: Well, we'll follow up on her story, that's for sure. Keep us posted, Thelma. We really appreciate it.

And a group of retired generals and admirals say the state of America's youth is a threat to national security. The group is called Mission Readiness, and it claims that three out of four Americans between the ages of 17 and 24 couldn't join the military if they wanted to, either because they haven't graduated high school, they have criminal records or are physically unfit. The brass is pushing for better education and early childhood development, and education secretary Arne Duncan has signed on to the cause. He and other members are speaking this hour at the National Press Club in Washington.

Well, here at CNN, you can't walk three feet without seeing the signs. It's open enrollment time. We've even got them in the parking lot. Your workplace might be hammering that home, too. This year, there's good reason why your benefits peeps (ph) want your attention.


PHILLIPS: "Kill the bill." That was the chant from thousands of protesters on Capitol Hill rallying against the Democrats' health care overhaul. But the bill is getting some big backers with the AARP and the American Medical Association both giving it a thumbs-up today. Democrats hope to vote on the far-reaching legislation on Saturday.

The Palestinian president says that he doesn't want to run for reelection next year, saying that he's frustrated over the stalemate in Mideast peace talks, but it's not clear if Mahmoud Abbas has made his final decision. Some say it may be an idle threat to refocus White House attention on Middle East policy.

Let's hope these numbers keep dropping. First time claims for unemployment benefits dropped to a 10-month low, down 20,000 last week 512,000. Continuing claims fell 68,000 to about 5.75 million. And just in, we got word that the House has passed a bill to keep those checks coming for at least 14 extra weeks.

The people who are working right now know what time it is, open enrollment time. You sign up for the health coverage that you want for next year. It happens every year, but this time around, you might be in for some big surprises. Personal finance editor Gerri Willis, why is that? GERRI WILLIS, CNN PERSONAL FINANCE EDITOR: Well, hi, there, Kyra. Yes, in the past, if you didn't sign up for health coverage during open enrollment, your employer would just give you the plan you had last year. Guess what? Not happening this year. Open enrollment is mandatory. And at some companies, they reserve the right to drop your coverage if you don't participate in the annual benefits program. Others will default you to a plan you may or may not like. Bottom line, you can't afford to ignore the process this year.

Another big change you're going to see, though, higher employee costs. Price Waterhouse Coopers says 42 percent of employers plan to reduce -- reduce -- their contributions to health insurance premiums. That means you and I, employees, will pick up the resulting money up front out of each paycheck. Hewitt (ph) Associates says your premiums and out-of-pocket costs for health care will rise 10 percent next year.

And many employers are offering "consumer-driven" health plans. Don't be confused by the title. These are plans with high deductibles. You might have to pay up to $10,000 out of your own pocket. before your coverage kicks in. These plans make your monthly premiums cheaper, but you'll have to pay more every time you visit the doctor -- Kyra.

PHILLIPS: Well, so the new health insurance plans -- will they -- will it cover your entire family?

WILLIS: Well, there are issues here and details you need to pay attention to. More and more employers are auditing who you cover under your health insurance. Watson Wyatt (ph) says employers want to make sure your plan covers only the folks who are eligible. Some companies are requiring spouses to complete what they call "health risk assessments," and others are charging higher premiums for spouses who have access to health care coverage through their own jobs.

Now, there's some good news. Many employers are offering wellness incentives, things like gift cards, cash, discounted premiums if you take a health risk assessment or participate in a smoking session. Bottom line, though, Kyra, you're going to be paying more money out of your own pocket this coming year, 2010, up to 10 percent more for that coverage.

And I want to remind your viewers we're going to have a show Saturday morning, talk all about open enrollment, answer your questions, a special edition of "YOUR BOTTOM LINE" starting at 9:30 AM Saturday. E-mail me now, get at the head of the line with your question, at We want to hear from you.

PHILLIPS: Gerri, thanks.

WILLIS: My pleasure.

PHILLIPS: They're a very unhappy couple right now. Heck, they looked as sad as folks who just got their suitcases stolen. We'll tell you why these guys might be taking a trip to jail now.


PHILLIPS: If Phoenix's bag bandits are convicted, they might have to pack for prison. And let me put it this way. They got plenty of luggage. Keith and Stacy King (ph) are accused of stealing from Sky Harbor Airport more than a thousand suitcases found stashed in their home. The cops who raided the place were stunned at the discovery. Neighbors not so much.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No, I'm not surprised at all. I'm not surprised at all because I've heard all kinds of rumors.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We've been waiting for this to happen. We always thought something was happening over there.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I've just never really fathomed such a thing as what we see here.


PHILLIPS: Neighbors say that the Kings held a whole lot of yard sales. Police are still tracking the contents of all that luggage.

Well, Rick Sanchez, probably one of our lost bags were at the hoe of that lovely couple, and that's where all our goods went, sold at a yard sale for five bucks..

RICK SANCHEZ, CNN ANCHOR: My wife loves having yard sales. We have them all the time.



PHILLIPS: Do you make any money?


PHILLIPS: Do you make any money?

SANCHEZ: It's a fun day. It's like a thing to do. I guess when you grow up in the South, it's -- you have yard sales. It's really a way of visiting with people. People stop by and you sell them all your little trinkets and stuff. And it's a ridiculous waste of time for the most part, but...


SANCHEZ: ... she thinks it's cool. And she's always right, so you know, who am I?

PHILLIPS: (INAUDIBLE) so who are you to judge?

SANCHEZ: What do I have to do with any of this?

PHILLIPS: Who are you to judge? So, what are you talking about in about 10 minutes?

SANCHEZ: Oh, you have got to see this video! We've got video out of Maricopa County, of all places, of a police officer who comes up behind a lawyer's back while she's addressing the judge, opens her file, her personal, file, starts rifling through it, takes out a document while she's talking to the judge.

Like, OK, hello, there's a Constitution. You're not supposed to do that. It's personal property. You get to see all of this on video. Then she stops and she says to the judge, Your honor, what is he doing? And the -- and -- you have to wait and see what the judge's reaction is.

This is one of the most amazing pieces of video that I have ever seen, and it speaks to what makes us sometimes wonder whether there are some people out there in officialdom world who don't understand that we have this thing called the Constitution, you know, and it's supposed to protect us.

PHILLIPS: A lot of people ignore that, though.


PHILLIPS: As we well know, and we do stories on this all the time, you know, that's not always respected in this country.

SANCHEZ: It's crazy! You have to see the -- and look, I -- this does not besmirch all police officers, but this particular police officer is and should be in a lot of hot water for what he's done. I'm telling you, if you look at nothing else today, look at this video that we're going to put on in about 10 minutes or whatever the heck that is.

PHILLIPS: OK. Maybe about eight. See you soon. Not to be exact or anything.

SANCHEZ: Whatever.

PHILLIPS: All right, a final hour, a final breath for the sniper who terrorized the D.C. region, but no final words for his ex-wife. But she's got some words for him, and you'll hear them.


PHILLIPS: Well, this spring, just a couple months into office, Mayor Kevin Johnson was squarely confronted by Sacramento's dirty little secret. Actually, we all were, video of a scraggly, scrawling (ph) tent city and the folks forced to live there really hitting home nationwide. Mayor Johnson has been trying to tackle the issue ever since, and today he launched a big community initiative to give all people in Sacramento shelter.

Mayor Kevin Johnson on the line with us now. Now, Mayor, I was reading that you hope to get all homeless individuals off the streets. No one's ever been able to do this. Why do you have so much confidence that you can? KEVIN JOHNSON, SACRAMENTO MAYOR (via telephone): Well, I think -- first of all, thanks for having us on. You know, a year ago, before I got elected, my campaign slogan was "A city that works for everyone," and I really had the homeless population in mind, the least among us. And then when Oprah came out, and you know, they shined light on tent city and documented it for the rest of the world to see, it gave us a chance to confront the brutal facts.

So we launched an initiative today called Sacramento Steps Forward, and the ultimate goal is to end homelessness. Now, what that means, then, there's always going to be people that are homeless, but if we can have permanent housing for the majority of the people in Sacramento, then the people that don't have permanent housing, they have shelter or transitional housing, and they're on their way to permanent housing, then that's a very worthy goal.

PHILLIPS: But we know that a lot of those individuals are also dealing with mental illness. You can give someone a home, you can give them food, you can help them get a job, but what about the mentally ill, Mayor?

JOHNSON: Again, another fair question. You know, one of our objectives is that we have found in talking to the homeless population is they want to be empowered. They don't want a handout. So when we talk about services, you got to be able to have mental health services so that the mental health, the addiction services, the chronic ill services are all apart of the solution.

But when we talk about empowerment, every person will have a case manager, and the case manager will work on a personal empowerment plan. So that means young people who are homeless or old people who are homeless will be in education or job training programs so they can get placement and get reintegrated into society. These people want to be contributing taxpayers in Sacramento.

PHILLIPS: Mayor, Kevin Johnson, we're going to follow up, see if, indeed, you can end homelessness in your city. We will -- what did you say, in a month? When should we follow up.

JOHNSON: Give me a month or two, and let's keep updating it.

PHILLIPS: You got it. I'll talk to you in about a month-and-a- half. I'll meet you halfway.


JOHNSON: Thanks, Kyra.

PHILLIPS: Thank you, Mayor.

All right, well, a 23-day killing spree that terrorized the nation's capital back in 2002 -- next week, that man behind us, John Allen Muhammad, is scheduled to die. Family members of those caught in the snipers' crosshairs will watch, and so will some of the surviving victims. But one woman will be noticeably absent, the sniper's ex-wife. Homeland Security correspondent Jeanne Meserve sat down with her.

JEANNE MESERVE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Kyra, victims and their families, supporters and opponents of the death penalty may all make an appearance for John Muhammad's execution. But one key figure in the sniper drama intends to miss this final chapter.


(voice-over): The snipers' victims were young and old, male and female, with diverse ethnic backgrounds. Many believe John Muhammad targeted this random group as a smokescreen to obscure his real mission to murder his ex-wife, Mildred, and gain custody of their children. Mildred Muhammad has no question John intended to kill her, but she has no interest in watching him die. Even if given the chance, she will not attend his scheduled execution.

MILDRED MUHAMMAD, EX-WIFE OF CONVICTED SNIPER: I don't want to take my children to see their father die. And I don't need to see John expire like that. I'm done with John, with that world (ph). I'm done.

MESERVE: There is absolutely nothing Mildred Muhammad wants to say to her ex-husband as he faces his death.

MUHAMMAD: My feelings detached from John when I asked him for a divorce. They were severed when he told me he was going to kill me.

MESERVE: As this old home video shows, John Muhammad was at times a good father to his three children. His ex-wife's concern right now is only for them.

MUHAMMAD: My children have had a difficult journey in understanding what their father has done. But even through all of that, they still love him. They understand what he did was wrong and they don't condone it.

MESERVE: And that, only that, is what she says makes the execution difficult.

MUHAMMAD: I feel sad for my children, you know, I really do, because regardless, he's still their father. And they want him to be a part of their life, and that's something they won't be able to have. They've accepted it on one level, but they haven't completely accepted it yet. They are really OK for now. I know, internally, they're probably going through their own little struggle. But they haven't expressed it yet, and I don't bring it up unless they do.


MESERVE: John Muhammad, Jr, is now in college studying computer information systems, but his mother has temporarily taken him out of school, brought him home to be with her and his younger sisters so they can support one another in what she suspects will be a most difficult time for her children. Kyra, back to you.

PHILLIPS: Thank you, Jeanne Meserve. We will be back here tomorrow between 1:00 and 3:00. Rick Sanchez takes it from here.