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Lou Dobbs Tonight

Monster Fires in California; California Kidnapping; New Zealand Health Care; Help for Homeowners?

Aired August 31, 2009 - 19:00   ET



Tonight, a state of emergency in southern California as a monster wildfire forces thousands of people to flee their homes and threatens a major communications center.

New revelations in the case of the kidnapped girl rescued after 18 years. Police are now looking for a link between her alleged kidnapper and the killings of prostitutes.

And banks well they were supposed to be giving homeowners a break as part of the federal bailout, so why are so many strapped mortgage holders still not finding the relief they desperately need?

But first, the wildfires. At least eight fires are raging throughout California today. But the biggest and the most threatening is known as the station fire. That's just north of Los Angeles and it has doubled, doubled in size since yesterday.

Here's what we know right now about this massive fire. The station fire has grown to more than 105,000 acres and there are now mandatory evacuation orders in place for 10,000 residences. But five people who refuse to leave are now trapped. Close to 2,600 firefighters are desperately trying to bring this fire under control.

Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger has now declared a state of emergency in four counties. The fire has already killed two people, a pair of veteran firefighters. They died when their vehicle plunged down a 700-foot embankment. And this fire is burning in an area that hasn't seen a major fire in more than 60 years. It has scorched over 160 square miles, and it is just five percent contained.

Now as for why it's so fast moving, well two reasons, record high conditions and bone-dry conditions. Our own Casey Wian is near Sunland, California. He joins us now live with a report -- Casey, what can you tell us?

CASEY WIAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Lisa, that massive wildfire just behind me in the Angeles National Forest is spreading rapidly. And at this point, firefighters aren't sure how to get it under control.


WIAN (voice-over): The wildfire choking much of southern California with thick smoke is not the area's typical Santa Ana (ph) wind driven blaze. UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Wow.

WIAN: Officials say this fire is being fueled by the region's 10-year drought, triple digit temperatures and brush that hasn't burned in years. They've named it the station fire. It's unusually unpredictable and is creating its own wind patterns, so firefighters are unable to attack the flames and instead are using defensive tactics.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We're waiting for the fire to burn to locations where we can control it. With this intensity of fire, when you're talking about 100-foot flame lengths (ph), the fire is able to move several miles in just a few hours, the same terrain would take you a day to move through it and this fire can move through it in two hours. So you know we can't put our people on the ground in a situation where they can be easily overrun by the fire.

WIAN: Two firefighters were killed over the weekend. Even so, some residents ignored evacuation notices.

SCOTT HANLEY, RESIDENT: Was something you can't even describe, being you know stuck in a house with the flames and laying on the floor and the firemen looking at you, just telling you to stay down, don't move. And embers being forced through the cracks in the windows and the cracks in the door and every window you look out is just solid wall of flame. It was like a tornado of -- like a tornado with fire.

WIAN: Also at risk, television and emergency broadcast towers atop Mount Wilson (ph), as well as key electricity transmission lines north of the city. The Department of Water and Power warned residents power outages may be coming. Air quality throughout much of southern California is hazardous, four times acceptable levels of pollutants, as postman Randy Fought (ph) can verify.

RANDY FOUGHT, U.S. MAIL CARRIER: It's pretty bad. It's pretty bad. As of right now, we're just you know wearing our little masks and delivering the mail.

WIAN: The air is so bad people with heart conditions and other health problems are being advised to stay indoors or leave the area.


WIAN: The grim forecast from fire officials right now is they don't expect full containment of the station fire until September 15th, more than two weeks from now. Lisa?

SYLVESTER: Hey Casey, what can you tell us about the five people? I understand that there were a couple of people -- there were five people, they were told to leave a couple of days ago and they didn't leave and now they're stuck? What can you tell us?

WIAN: What happens in southern California, a lot of times is fire officials will go through and tell people to evacuate their homes. They don't physically remove folks from their homes. These folks were given an evacuation notice, tried to -- fire officials tried to convince them to leave. They decided to stay. And there are reports that these folks tried to set their own backfire and ended up getting trapped in their homes. And right now, there's nothing that fire officials can do to reach them because they're going to put firefighters in jeopardy if they tried to go in past those flames, Lisa.

SYLVESTER: Yeah, very, very dangerous conditions there. Thank you, Casey, for that great reporting.

And now we want to check in to see if the weather is going to provide any relief to southern California anytime soon. Our own Chad Myers, he joins us from the CNN Weather Center. Chad, bring us up-to- date. Is the weather going to help here? What are we looking at?

CHAD MYERS, AMS METEOROLOGIST: You know it's ironic. I don't want to start here, but I'm going to just talk about it. There's an almost category five hurricane, not that far from Cabo San Lucas (ph), less than 1,000 miles from this fire and that moisture won't get anywhere near it. It's just going like crazy because of how dry the air is.

Hundred-degree temperatures today and relative humidity is around 10 percent. I want to take you to an iReport because I just absolutely love this picture. This is from Brandon Riza (ph). This is a time-lapsed sequence. It looks like a volcano is going off. This is Saturday from well south, he's about 15 miles from the fire, but he had a very good camera and he was able to take pictures every minute. And there -- it was -- just go on, because I can't say enough about how amazing that video is.

The problem today is how much brush is there. There's brush on the ground, we know that. But if this hasn't burned, this area hasn't burned for 40 years that means we have treetops. We also have what's called big cone Douglas Fir (ph) and when the Douglas Fir (ph) starts to go, it's literally like a dry Christmas tree that just takes off. And it goes from not only ground fire, but from tree to tree to tree, even without those Santa Ana winds.

And that's the big story, I think here. Let's just grab this picture again, because it's live. It's KCALK (ph) CBS. There's not this wind-driven flame blowing 20, 30 miles per hour by Santa Ana winds, this flame is going straight up, the smoke is going straight up. It's choking the people that are trying to fight it and obviously choking some of the people that are living there as well.

The fire you could see back there, the smoke right here, well there -- right there, that is where people are living. Let me grab you -- I'm going to grab you my satellite picture, because I can take you to this thing. I'm going to open it up and I'm going to show you where it is. Santa Ana, Anaheim, Riverside -- go ahead, Taylor (ph), give this some move. That's the fire itself right there.

The line where the mountain starts -- if you're from L.A. just kind of look to the north -- you can see the mountains -- and then you have all of this topography. You have rugged topography up and down at 40 and 55 degree angles. That's why the firefighters can't even get in there. It is just -- it's so tough to fight a fire when you have this much topography, this much up and down, all the way through the fire and they're just waiting for it to get to some flat land. Lisa?

SYLVESTER: Yeah and Chad, you mentioned a good point, which this fire is not being driven by wind, so I guess it's very hard to predict which way it's going, right?

MYERS: That's exactly right. They would like to have a few- mile-per-hour wind. Watch what you ask for, you know we're not talking 20, 30-mile-per-hour, because then sparks can fly. But if you know that the fire is always going to move to the north, you can start to set fire lines. With this thing, the winds have been so variable, sparks have been flying in every direction.

And then -- and then I'll just take you to this because I know I can transition right to it -- this is Hurricane Jimena. Jimena, there is Cabo San Lucas (ph) -- this is a 155-mile-per-hour storm, only one- mile-per-hour from a category five. The only good news for Cabo (ph) at least right now, although Cabo (ph) is still in that cone that we talk about, Cabo (ph) at least at this point in time, we don't have to worry about it yet because it's forecast to get a little bit slower, maybe not quite the category five anymore, but it also could still bring an awful lot of flooding to the peninsula -- still a day away. We'll probably be here tomorrow talking about it.

SYLVESTER: All right. Chad Myers, thanks for that full weather wrap-up. We appreciate it.

MYERS: Sure.

SYLVESTER: And joining us now, Mike Dietrich of the U.S. Forest Service. He's the incident commander for this fire and he's at Hanson Dam (ph) where helicopters are collecting water to douse the flames. Give us the latest update. What kind of progress are you making so far?

MIKE DIETRICH, INCIDENT COMMANDER, U.S. FOREST SVC.: The progress today has been extremely difficult. We're measuring it in very small increments. The fire behavior is so extreme that folks are just able to -- firefighters are just able to get out ahead of the fire when it's backing down to them and put the fires out as they approach. In terms of collective progress, the fire's dictating our efforts right now and we're making incremental progress, but it's very slow.

SYLVESTER: Still at five percent contained?

DIETRICH: That would be a conservative estimate at this point. The fire's growing so rapidly and in many different directions that the percent containment, even though we're making progress, the math says that we're still at five percent or less.

SYLVESTER: Now, we had reports that there were five people who were trapped. Now these were people who were told, basically, leave your homes, but they decided to stay anyway. Can you give us any kind of update on them?

DIETRICH: We have no additional information of the folks who choose to stay at this point in time. We've not been able to get firefighters back in. We know that there's extreme fire behavior and right now we've not been able to neither confirm nor deny their fate right now.

SYLVESTER: OK, what are you telling -- there are folks, obviously, who might still be in their homes as this fire line moves closer to them, what message do you want to get out to them?

DIETRICH: That conditions are treacherous. You're taking your lives into your own hands by making the decision to stay.

SYLVESTER: How are -- we heard Chad Myers. He was talking about how wind or the lack thereof is really playing a role. That it's -- because this is not a wind-driven fire that it is making it harder to kind of predict where the hot spot, where you need to get the water. So how are you addressing this issue?

DIETRICH: As soon as it's safe for firefighters and other personnel to get in or law enforcement personnel, we will get in to see what has happened in that area. Until that time, there's nothing we can do and we are not in a position to put neither firefighters nor law enforcement personnel at risk at this point. They chose to stay, it's their decision.

SYLVESTER: Yeah. Mike Dietrich, I know you guys are working very hard, working around the clock, and we certainly appreciate it. Mike Dietrich from the U.S. Forest Service joining us thank you very much and all the best to you in your efforts ahead.

DIETRICH: Thank you.

SYLVESTER: Well still ahead, as part of the federal bailout, banks they are supposed to be cutting homeowners a break on their mortgages, so why isn't it working out that way?

Also, new revelations in the kidnapping of Jaycee Dugard -- could her alleged kidnapper be linked to a series of prostitute murders?

And the mystery in Georgia -- eight members of one family murdered. We'll hear the father's anguished 911-call.


SYLVESTER: Eight people are dead in what appears to be a gruesome multiple murder in Georgia. Guy Heinze, Jr., he returned to his mobile home Saturday night to find his family dead. He then made this frantic 911-call.


GUY HEINZE: I just got home. My whole family is dead.

DISPATCHER: OK, tell me what's going on, sir? What? GUY HEINZE: I just got home from -- I was out last night. I just got home just now and everybody's dead. My dad's dead. My uncle's dead.

DISPATCHER: How many people are dead?

GUY HEINZE: There's like six -- my whole family is dead.


GUY HEINZE: It looks like they've been beaten to death. I don't know, man.


(END 911 CALL)

SYLVESTER: Heinze was arrested Saturday night on charges of drug possession, evidence tampering, and making false statements to police. He remains in custody. Police, however, have not named Heinze or anyone else as an official suspect. And for now, they are refusing to say exactly how the people died.

Well, turning now to a developing story on the west coast, police are now searching alleged kidnapper Phillip Garrido's property for links to other crimes. Garrido allegedly kidnapped Jaycee Dugard 18 years ago when she was only 11 years old. He kept her on his California property, even fathering two children with her. Dan Simon has our report.


DAN SIMON, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): They lived in squalor in the backyard. These pictures obtained by CNN show the trash and clutter-filled tents that authorities say Jaycee Dugard lived in with her two children, fathered by rape and kidnapping suspect, Phillip Garrido. This photo shows a wire cage, next to it a shed with sliding doors and metal clasps, suggesting that it could only be opened from the outside.

It's not clear what either was used for. Inside this tent, dressers -- you can see a small children's lamp and teddy bears on one of them, tennis shoes on the floor amid stains and garbage. Also, this book, "A Family Affair" was found among their belongings. Seems ironic it would be here given the circumstances of the case. This picture showing raggedy furniture and an empty box for a computer printer is notable as we've learned Garrido ran a printing business out of his house -- a business that his victim was involved in operating.

(on camera): In your dealings with her through e-mail and talking to her on the phone, what was she like?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Very professional, very nice -- you know, she spoke well. SIMON (voice-over): Ben Daughdrill (ph) owned a junk hauling business before selling it a few months ago. He used Garrido's company for all his printing needs. He says it was Jaycee, a woman he knew as Allissa, who handled all the graphics and computer imaging. Daughdrill (ph) says he spoke to her on the phone and by e-mail regularly for several years and on at least two occasions met with her privately to pick up orders in front of the Garrido's house.

(on camera): What was she like then?

BEN DAUGHDRILL, CONDUCTED BUSINESS WITH VICTIM: Same way -- just professional and you know came across as a -- just a genuine nice person and didn't see anything that was weird or like she was looking over her shoulder or nothing -- just -- you know she seemed normal person.


SIMON: CNN has just confirmed that in addition to investigating Phillip Garrido for the murders of some prostitutes that took place in the 1990s, local police also looking at Garrido for the disappearance and abduction of another young girl in California, Lisa, seems like this case is just in its infancy. That girl went missing in 1988 and the details are said to match those of Jaycee Dugard -- back to you.

SYLVESTER: Oh, what a stunning story, all right. Thank you, Dan Simon for that great reporting. We appreciate it. Thanks very much -- Dan Simon.

Still ahead, we continue our coverage of health care systems around the world. Tonight, we examine New Zealand's system where the use of technology is helping keep health care costs down and a warning to California residents about the massive and deadly wildfires threatening thousands of homes. We will have the very latest in a live report.


SYLVESTER: We continue with our coverage of health care systems around the world. We have been reporting on how those systems compare to health care in the United States. Tonight, New Zealand. All of the residents there are covered under the publicly funded system, and life expectancy there is 80 years. Brooke Baldwin has our report.


BROOKE BALDWIN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): New Zealand, a country of more than four million people and a land known for its extraordinary beauty. It is here on this island country in the Pacific Ocean that health care meets high-tech. Bruce Pollack (ph) heads a business that arranges trade and study missions for senior U.S. health care representatives. He says New Zealand has one of the most impressive health care systems he's ever seen.

BRUCE POLLACK, ACADEMY FOR INTL. HEALTH STUDIES: New Zealand is far ahead of most countries in terms of its use and application of technology. Ninety-nine percent of primary care physicians have an automated patient record. The hospital care is all automated and all the ancillary results are automated.

BALDWIN: New Zealand offers universal health care to all its citizens. The extensive use of technology has helped keep health care costs down. New Zealand spends $2,510 per person versus 7,290 in the U.S. and health care consumes 9.2 percent of GDP versus 16 percent in the U.S. The health care system is financed through general tax revenue, while care in a public hospital and a visit to a specialist is free of charge, New Zealanders do pay approximately $50 to see a primary care physician. Not exactly small change, says Professor Steve Ullmann, who teaches health care management and economics at the University of Miami.

PROF. STEVE ULLMANN, UNIVERSITY OF MIAMI: You have an interesting incentive structure, because a $50 copay is not an insignificant amount for primary care. And so you might have patients that are going to be thinking twice before they go see their primary care doctor, probably only going to see the doctor when things are a little bit more serious.

BALDWIN: New Zealand has fewer doctors than most developed countries, including the U.S., one for every 434 people versus one for 416 in the United States. Doctors used to be paid on a fee-for- service basis, but the payment structure was changed about six years ago. It's now based upon the number of patients.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: With a fee-for-service structure, you tend to have an implicit incentive to do more to a patient rather than to do what's necessarily best for the patient.

BALDWIN: As is common with universal health care systems, access to care for elective procedures can involve a long wait. About a third of New Zealanders purchase private insurance for elective procedures. This insurance reduces waiting time, gives access to private facilities, and enables patients to pick their own surgeon and hospitals.


BALDWIN: And how about this? In New Zealand's public health care system, no one is on the waiting list for more than a year, and if the waiting times are too lengthy, there is the possibility that the government will subcontract out care to the private sector. Lisa, how about that?

SYLVESTER: Now that's not too shabby.

BALDWIN: Not too shabby.

SYLVESTER: Thanks Brooke for that report. And we'll continue our reporting on health care systems around the world. Tomorrow we'll report on the quality of health care in Turkey. Its system has improved in recent years, but it still lags behind most European countries. Well, the governor of Massachusetts today set a date for a special election to fill Ted Kennedy's Senate seat. The election will be held on January 19th. Governor Deval Patrick (ph) also continued to push for a change in the law that would allow him to make an interim appointment. A hearing will be held on that proposal next week.

The late Senator Kennedy, just shortly before his death, he sent a letter to Governor Patrick (ph) urging that the law be changed so a successor, presumably a Democrat, could be quickly appointed. Ironically, though, it was Senator Kennedy back in 2004 who reportedly pushed for the current law that bars interim appointments. That law was aimed at barring Republican Governor Mitt Romney from naming a successor to Senator John Kerry, who at the time, was running for president.

Well coming up, doctors divided over the president's health care plan. It's the topic of tonight's "Face Off" debate.

And unemployed Americans head back to the farm to look for work. We'll tell you why in tonight's "DOBBS AND JOBS NOW!"

And why struggling homeowners are still waiting for help from banks and the federal government. We'll have a special report.


ANNOUNCER: This is LOU DOBBS TONIGHT; news, debate and opinion, an independent view. Here again Lisa Sylvester.

SYLVESTER: At the peak of the housing crisis, the president announced his mortgage rescue plan. Banks and the government, it was promised, would work together to help families facing foreclosure renegotiate their payments and stay in their homes. Well, now five months later, a CNN investigation finds frustrated applicants searching for answers. Jessica Yellin reports.


JESSICA YELLIN, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Mark and Angela Kollar (ph) think they still have one shot left at holding on to their home.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You and I will be discussing making home affordable plan.

YELLIN: The president unveiled the making home affordable program in March to rescue four million Americans drowning in mortgage debt. A CNN investigation found the program is not always living up to its promise.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I don't wish this on anybody and I know we're not the only ones.

YELLIN: Here's how it's supposed to work. In return for taking all those bailout billions, the banks agreed to give a little back, qualifying homeowners would see their mortgages slashed to 31 percent of their monthly income. But that's not what the bank offered the Kollars (ph).

MARK KOLLAR, HOMEOWNER: You're holding my fee to the -- who is your supervisor there today?

YELLIN: The couple makes $3,000 a month so their new making home affordable loan should be 31 percent of that, about $1,000 a month. The offer they got, $2,892, about 98 percent of their income.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Now I feel like you know we've been -- what's the proper word, screwed?

YELLIN: They're not alone.

(on camera): Speaking to housing counselors, consumer advocates, and homeowners, we found endless complaints of banks rejecting, apparently, eligible homeowners or pressuring them into loans they can't afford. But by far, the most common complaint is that lenders keep giving homeowners the runaround, dropping calls, losing paperwork, all while the foreclosure clock keeps ticking.

(voice-over): The mortgage industry's top lobbyist says these are the growing pains of a massive program. Lenders are still hiring staff to handle all the applications. And, he believes, most complaints are from people who aren't eligible for the plan. Overall, he says it's a success.

JOHN COURSON, MORTGAGE BANKERS ASSN. CEO: This is a program where the interest to the homeowner and the interest of the lender are aligned because everybody wants to avoid that foreclosure and keep that loan on the books and the borrower in the home.

YELLIN: And how well is the program working?

CURSON: The program is working very well.

YELLIN: But even Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner who oversees the program, has demanded lenders do better. The latest numbers, 230,000, or fewer than six percent of eligible homeowners have new loans through the program. Some banks like JPMorgan Chase have enrolled 20 percent of their eligible customers; Citibank, 15 percent.

But two of the banks that got some of the biggest bailouts have some of the lowest enrollment rates: Wells Fargo, six percent; Bank of America, four percent. Both Bank of America and Wells Fargo tell CNN those numbers are misleading. They have many more offers in the pipeline and they have increased staffing.

Bank of America says it's much bigger than other banks than it has more applicants to process. Wells Fargo points out it has financed many hundreds of thousands of loans outside the program.

(on camera): Some consumer advocates worry that there's not enough bank oversight. The Treasury Department says it is watching the banks. Officials visit lenders and review records, there's even a help line, which brings us back to the Kollars. When they called, the representative to them, we can't strong arm the bank for you and told them to talk to a housing counselor which they'd already been doing for months.

ANGIE MORESCHI, CONSUMERWARNINGNETWORK.COM: It comes down to money. And it does not appear to be in the banks' financial interest in the long run to actually do this loan modifications and that's the sad reality that we are dealing with.


YELLIN: Now Lisa, banks say -- look, they're doing the best they can. As for the Kollars, a spokesperson for Bank of America says the bank based it's offer on information from a government approved housing counselor and they say now they're going to offer the Kollars a temporary payment for the next few months. They will monitor Mark Kollars' earnings to decide if he should really get a permanent new loan under the Obama administration's program -- Lisa.

SYLVESTER: Talk about a run-around, Jessica. I mean, that is something else. So Jessica what can other homeowners do?

YELLIN: You know, they can write their stories in to CNN at our iReport's page. The Treasury Department says they should call a number. That is 1-888-995-hope; 888-995-hope and demand that they're allowed to leave a complaint there to be passed on to officials. It's the best they have right now.

SYLVESTER: Ok and I know people are grabbing their pens right now, so repeat that number 888-995-hope.


SYLVESTER: All right thank you very much, Jessica, for that report.

And now for our continuing series, "Dobbs & Jobs." Now the H2a visa program which brings foreign agricultural workers into the country is seeing a drop in applications for work in Colorado. It's the result of a changing economy and a changing workforce.

Bill Tucker reports.


BILL TUCKER, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Conventional wisdom says this is work no American wants or will do. But conventional wisdom isn't always right.

Jason Condon can attest to that. He owns and operates Isabelle Farms, an organic farm in Colorado. When he advertised for farm hands, he got an unexpected response.

JASON CONDON, ISABELLE FARM: When we first put it up, our kind of pre-conceived notion, if you will, was that it's going to be hard to find the right people. I mean, we turned down some people that I would have hired in a minute, just because there were other people that were, you know, even better.

TUCKER: Isabelle Farms' workforce isn't exactly what you might expect to find down on the farm. Several hold masters degrees, two are working on degrees in agriculture. Another holds a degree in architecture. Several are part-time teachers, including the farm's foreman, who explains part of the attraction of the work.

BEN BOWDITCH, ISABELLE FARM: You get down with a hard day's work and take your boots off and you feel great. It's demanding, it's a lot of hours every week, but, you know, it makes me happy.

TUCKER (on camera): Isabelle Farms is not unique. While they are a small grower with relatively small labor demands, here at Sakata Farms one of the largest growers in the United States they are having no trouble finding domestic workers.

(voice-over): Sakata Farms is more than 3,000 acres, it's among the top 100 vegetable growers in the United States. They haven't used the H2a visa program for foreign farm workers for two years now. The owner says that last year he got by finding and hiring unemployed domestic help, but barely.

BOB SAKATA, SAKATA FARMS: And now, this year it was a complete change, where we needed more employees here in June and we opened up for applications, I think we had over 400 applications come in.

TUCKER: Four-hundred applications for 200 jobs. All citizens are lawfully present workers, most ready to work for minimum wage; among his employees, former construction workers and landscapers. Sceptics might think this is a trend resulting from a high unemployment rate, but Colorado's 7.8 percent is well below the national average of 9.4 percent. According to the USDA, there are plenty of crops to be harvested.

BILL MEYER, COLORADO FIELD OFFICE OF USDA: We had a good rain and it seems that all the crops are doing well. As a rule, I would say it's pretty healthy right now.

TUCKER: Bob Sakata thinks the trend is a testament to his workers.

SAKATA: Well, I didn't think that many of those people that were in real high-paying jobs would ever stoop down to come down to the farm and work. So I'm impressed that citizens here, the domestic workers, that are unemployed are willing to work on the farm.

TUCKER: And as one season draws to a close in a couple of months, another is getting ready to gear up.


TUCKER: Ski season will soon begin to blow in, in Colorado and those ag-workers could find ready work in the ski industry. Which is another industry Lisa, that is well-known for its reliance of foreign guest workers, or at least, has been.

SYLVESTER: Yes Bill, so 400 applications for 200 jobs. You know, particularly in the agricultural sector...


SYLVESTER: ...we've always been told that these are jobs that Americans won't do.

TUCKER: Funny what you'll do when you'd like a paycheck, Lisa.

SYLVESTER: Yes. And something about a hard day's work, what did the gentleman say, taking off your boots at the end of the day...


SYLVESTER: ...something about that.

TUCKER: Well, what's interesting actually, that both those farmers independently of each other told me the same thing, that a lot of people are coming and looking for just some rewarding hard work.

SYLVESTER: Yes, all right thanks Bill. And that was a terrific piece. Thanks, Bill Tucker.

Well, coming up next, as the battle over health care in this country rages, we'll hear what doctors on both sides of the issue think reform should look like. That's our "Face-Off Debate" tonight.

And a state of emergency as wildfires burn out of control in California. We will have the very latest on this breaking news story.


SYLVESTER: Members of Congress have spent much of the August recess listening to constituents voice opinions on overhauling the nation's health care system, but what about medical professionals? Are they happy with the proposed health care legislation? That's the topic of tonight's "Face-off."

And joining me now: Dr. Donald Palmisano, former president of the American Medical Association and now the spokesman for the Coalition to Protect Patients Rights; and Henrie Treadwell, researcher professor at the Morehouse School of Medicine.

Let me first start with you, Dr. Palmisano. You were the president of the American Medical Association. The AMA has actually come out though in support of HR-3200. Why do you think this piece of legislation will hurt doctor/patient relationship?

DR. DONALD PALMISANO, FORMER PRESIDENT, AMERICAN MEDICAL ASSOCIATION: Well first, let me say that the AMA is a good organization, they just made a mistake endorsing this legislation, HR- 3200 so early.

This legislation has disaster in the details. The problem with this legislation, it really boils down to, do you want, as a patient, do you want to be in control of your medical care with a doctor's trusted adviser, or do you want the government mandating and dictating your care?

And so, number one, there's a public option, as they call it, it's really a government option. And the government has all the money and can set all the rules, it's like playing a football game and that in the last play of the game, they can change the location of the goalpost when you're ready to kick a field goal.

So they will draw the other companies out...

SYLVESTER: So Professor...

PALMISANO: ...yes, go ahead.

SYLVESTER: Well, Professor Treadwell, do you agree?

PROF. HENRIE TREADWELL, MOREHOUSE SCHOOL OF MEDICINE: No, I do not agree. There's no evidence that the legislation, as proposed, would interfere with the doctor/patient relationship. And there is also a concern that people who do not have health care, at this point, have no doctor/patient relationship and that's the importance of the legislation.

People would eventually have coverage and then could hope to have a doctor who would look after their health care needs. But there's absolutely no evidence that the legislation will interfere with the doctor/patient relationship.

SYLVESTER: Ok, I want to first...

PALMISANO: Well, if I might respond? Yes go ahead.


PALMISANO: May I make a comment on it? We already have some experiments that have been performed in the United States with public plans. We have Medicaid and patients on Medicaid, they have insurance, but it doesn't do any good to have insurance if you can't find a doctor.

The government price fixes to the point where the physician can't stay in practice if he takes all of the Medicaid payments. And we have Medicare, which is going bankrupt. So we need a system where the patient is in control.

And Professor Treadwell is absolutely correct. We do want to help the uninsured. Let's find out who really is uninsured and help them. We can do that with tax credits, we can do that with vouchers, we can let people buy across state lines. We can do many market enhancements without giving the government control.

TREADWELL: I don't think that we -- it's an issue of government control. I think it's an issue of -- there are two issues. One is individuals do not have coverage, they cannot get health care. Two -- institutions that provide care to individuals who do not have coverage, such as the Morehouse School of Medicine and its clinics, do incur severe, uncompensated debt. That needs to be taken care of sooner rather than later.

We tend to say, we'll take care of the uninsured, we'll find some way to do that in the future. We've been 40 years with Medicaid and no one has found a way. It is time to find a way, before we lose the institutions that we have.

And there is nothing in the legislation that will hurt. Medicaid payments will increase. Medicare certainly has the financial ills that any institution has in these days and times, but that's because of spiralling costs that are not under control and a lack of emphasis on prevention.


TREADWELL: And if we can focus on prevention and reduce some of the chronic conditions that cause people to be sick sooner, to die sooner, we can, in fact, control costs. It can be done. And we can do it in a fair and just way now, 40 years since Medicaid began.

And those in the leadership, decision-making positions have not yet found a way to fund the poor, the underserved, the underinsured, the uninsured in this nation. The time is now.

SYLVESTER: I want to jump in here and just say -- let me jump in here and I want to ask a question...

PALIMISANO: I want to speak about costs at some point. Ok.

SYLVESTER: Ok, all right, well we'll get to the issue on cost in just a moment.

But I want to ask a question. In terms of doctors and in the future, will this mean a shortage of doctors in the future? Do you think, Dr. Palmisano, that there will be more people -- maybe reluctant to go into the medical profession if this health care bill goes through?

PALMISANO: Absolutely, absolutely. And I teach at Tulane Med School, I teach a seminar on leadership and I don't find any of the students that are number one going into private practice by themselves. The burdens and the costs are too great and they have med school debt.

And I find more and more students saying that it really looks ominous for them. It's a wonderful profession, a healing profession. And what we need to do...


PALMISANO: encourage people to go in medicine.

SYLVESTER: Professor Treadwell? TREADWELL: That's not the experience at the Morehouse School of Medicine. Lots of applications and we train the students for primary care. That is what they want to do and that is what we train them to do. And there is no shortage of applicants.

SYLVESTER: All right we really have got to get in...

PALMISANO: Well, in the bill itself...

SYLVESTER: We're going to have end to there.

PALMISANO: Well, let me just say about the cost issue.

SLYVESTER: Ok. You get the last word on cost and then we're going to have to end there.


We can fix the cost issue by letting people buy across state lines, but the reason we have not even mentioned medical liability reform in this bill, that costs billions of dollars in defensive medicine. And what we need to do is let everybody own their policy and don't discriminate against the people on Medicaid anymore or Medicare. Let them own their own policy give them a defined contribution of voucher.

That's the American way. Free enterprise system. It's a privilege to be with all of you. Thank you very much.

SLYVESTER: Ok. We are going to have to end there. But very much appreciate the discussion; Dr. Donald Palmisano and Henrie Treadwell from Morehouse School of Medicine.

TREADWELL: Thank you.

PALMISANO: Thank you.

SLYVESTER: Thank you both for joining us.

On tomorrow's "Face-Off," the focus shifts to the economy and jobs. Is the federal stimulus program creating new jobs for American workers? That's the topic of our "Face-Off" debate tomorrow night right here.

Brooke Baldwin now has an update on other stories we are following tonight. Brooke, give us the latest.

BROOKE BALDWIN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Lisa, let's get another update on these wildfires in California. A state of emergency has been declared in California as firefighter there battle as many as eight wildfires. Two firefighters have been killed.

The largest fire is called the station fire. It's burned more than 100,000 acres and is only 5 percent contained, we're told. In some places, the flames stretch for 20 miles. More than 10,000 homes are threatened and as you can imagine, there's a mandatory evacuation for folks living in the area.

The University of Oklahoma is reporting three confirmed cases of swine flu this month and 84 students have reported flu-like symptoms since Thursday. Tests are being done to determine if those cases are, in fact, swine flu, but nationwide, it's that time of year. Students heading back to campus. And within days, there are reports of the flu.

Health officials are advising schools to remain open, but the World Health Organization is warning that as flu season approaches, the number of swine flu cases could skyrocket.

And three fishermen were rescued after spending eight days stranded in the Gulf of Mexico. A fishing boat just capsized. The three men survived, they say, by just clinging to the top. The Coast Guard called off the search after a week with no sign of those men, but the very next day, they were spotted by another fisherman and pulled to safety.

None is seriously injured, but Lisa, I read there were reports they were at sea for so long, they were hallucinating. When they saw that rescue boat Saturday night, they didn't think it was real.

SYLVESTER: They are VERY lucky to be alive.

BALDWIN: They are indeed.

SYLVESTER: Thanks, Brooke.


SYLVESTER: Coming up, President Obama's approval rating at an all-time low.

And former Vice President Cheney speaking out about President Obama.


DICK CHENEY, FORMER VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: My concern is that the damage that will be done by the President of the United States going back on his word as promised about investigations...


SYLVESTER: We'll have all that and more next.


SYLVESTER: Joining me now in New York, Republican strategist former political director for the White House, and CNN contributor he had Ed Rollins, and columnist for the "New York Daily News" also a CNN contributor, Errol Louis, and here in Washington, White House reporter for politico Nia-Malika Henderson. Nia, I'm going to give you the first question. So President Obama, he's back in Washington. You've got Congress headed back. We have seen an August full of these town hall meetings and the like. How is this going to change the debate when Congress returns?

NIA-MALIKA HENDERSON, WHITE HOUSE REPORTER, POLITICO: Well, from the White House's point of view, it seems that it's going to be status quo, so far. I mean, it could be a case that they're not showing their hand in terms of what the change is going to be out of the White House in terms of pushing for health insurance reform. But you heard Robert Gibbs say they feel like the President has been really active in guiding the debate.

The question really is, what you hear from a lot of Democrats, is they want real guidance and real leadership from the President in terms of talking points for health care, but also some sort of a real proposal. I talked to a senior White House official today who essentially said that probably won't happen.

But again, it could be a case of they're not showing their cards, and we might see a change come September. Because I think their real sense is that they lost the debate in August.

SYLVESTER: Yes. Ed, we also had those new deficit numbers, and I've got to believe that's going to make it much more for difficult for the White House to try to move the meter on this issue.

ED ROLLINS, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Well, the deficit numbers are terrible. You have unemployment numbers coming this coming Friday. The president's numbers have dropped dramatically, too in the month. He's got the lowest poll numbers that they've had the Gallup also.

So to a certain extent, they've got to get their game together, and they've got to basically articulate what it is that they're selling. 80 percent of the American public and those on Medicare have health care, and you have to convince them that they're not going to lose or do more poorly in the new system.

And I think that the talking points are more important with but the substance of the bill is really what they need.

SYLVESTER: Errol, how do you think the passing of Ted Kennedy is going to change the debate at all?

And I want to play some sound first before you respond that we have of Senator John Kerry. Let's take a listen to what he had to say.


SEN. JOHN KERRY (D), MASSACHUSETTS: He would fight for that public option, because he believes -- believed that the public option, as I do, is an effective, the best way possible, to be able to reduce -- now, let me just finish. Let me finish.

He would fight for it. And he would do everything in his power to get it, just like he did for minimum wage or like he did children's health care.

But if he didn't see the ability to be able to get it done, he would not throw the baby out with the bath water. He would not say no to anything, because we have to reduce the cost, we have to make these changes, and he would find the best way forward.


SYLVESTER: Ok. I want to -- Errol, do you think this is going to the passing of Ted Kennedy? We're seeing people evoke his name already to get health care through. Is it going to change the dynamics at all, give new momentum to Democrats?

ERROL LOUIS, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: I tell you, I think his name is it is going to be used much more effectively than say his style. Senator Kerry had it exactly right, which is that Kennedy was a legislative craftsman, but he knew -- he had sort of a sixth sense in a way of what he could do and couldn't do. And he was very much in tune with the art of the possible and what the senate was willing to do.

It's unclear right now where things are, and there is going to be a knock-down, drag-out. I think on one side, the Democrats, are going to throw Senator Kennedy's name around and see if they can use it to bludgeon not the Republicans, because, you know, that's probably a lost cause at this point.

But I think for some of the moderate Democrats, some of the Max Baucus types, the Kent Conrads, I think they're going to use it to try and pull them closer to pushing for public option.

SYLVESTER: Ok. Ed, you mentioned the poll numbers. I mean, this is another factor, as well. Let's face it, President Obama's numbers have slipped; his approval numbers.

We want to put it on our screen. We've got two polls that were recently taken, the first is Rasmussen reports. 46 percent -- Take a look at that -- somewhat approve of president Obama; 53 percent disapprove. And another poll, this is a three-day average of Gallup. 51 percent approve, 42 percent disapprove.

Nia, this is not good for the White House. Somehow they have to -- they have lost some of the essence that they had going into this. There was a lot of support they had that is now somehow watered down, and it sounds like they would have to turn this around to get health care through.

HENDERSON: Yes. I mean, it's been a bad summer for the Obama administration to put it quite simply. And I think related numbers are as Ed said, the $9 trillion deficit projection, as well as what looks like it's going to be 10 percent unemployment.

People look at this $787 stimulus package, and it's not clear that it has really trickled down yet to people's kitchen tables. And so there is in a sense, yes, there is a real kind of economic turn- around. There are some signs that the recession is over, but also a sense that this may very well be a jobless recovery. And if that's the case, I think those poll numbers will continue to suffer, and he will have trouble really kind of making the case for health care reform.

SYLVESTER: Ok. Ed, you get the final word here.

ROLLINS: Here is a President who ran an extraordinary campaign and has not run a very extraordinary effort to sell his most important package. Governing is much tougher obviously than campaigning. But the bottom line with his numbers diminishing, you've got these 35, 40, 50 members of Congress that are Democrats who are in tough seats, and they're going to be worried about it. And is without his strong approval, some of them are going to run away from him.

SYLVESTER: Ok, Errol, I want to ask a quick follow-up, which is if President Obama cannot get this through, is this going to be seen as a defeat for him? Is it essentially going to be a political...

LOUIS: No question. And he's even sort of signaled that, where his spokesman says that he would rather be a one-term president than lose or cave on the most important parts of this agenda. So he is taking everything on this. And it may not look like it, but I think we're going to see some dynamic moves between Labor Day and the end of the year.

SYLVESTER: Ok, Errol Louis, Nia-Malika Henderson and Ed Rollins -- thank you all very much for joining us.

Coming up at the top of the hour, Campbell Brown. Campbell, what are you working on?


Tonight we have late-breaking news to tell you about in that California kidnapping case. Just minutes ago, police announced they had found a bone fragment near the suspect's home. We're going to have more on that coming up very shortly.

We're also, of course, keeping a very close eye on the huge wildfire near Los Angeles. Authorities there just about to give us an update on that and we'll have all of the new information for you.

Plus, this incredible story of survival. The three fishermen lost at sea for eight days, one of them joining me now tonight to tell us about their rescue, a pretty incredible story. We'll see you at the top of the hour, Lisa.

SYLVESTER: Lots there, all right. Thanks, Campbell.

And we'll be right back.


SYLVESTER: Thanks for being with us tonight. Next, Campbell Brown.