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Your World Today

Is U.S. Turning a Blind Eye in Hopes of Keeping Cairo on its Side?; World Bank Chief Out as of June 30th; Gaza Plunges Deeper into Chaos

Aired May 18, 2007 - 12:00   ET


GAMILA NOUR, WIFE OF AYMAN NOUR: We are backing dictatorships to crush the bones of the opposition.


JIM CLANCY, CNN INTERNATIONAL ANCHOR: Ayman Nour went from campaigning for Egyptian -- the presidency, to being beaten up in a Cairo jail cell, but the U.S. doesn't seem to want to talk about his case for fear it could anger an ally in the war on terror.

RALITSA VASSILEVA, CNN INTERNATIONAL ANCHOR: Before he resigned, Paul Wolfowitz complained his name was dragged through the mud. But the World Bank's handling of the scandal didn't do its reputation any good either.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Probably about 18 months is when it finally dawned on me there was something not quite right about him.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Adam wasn't really picking up words.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: He stopped saying the words that he had.


CLANCY: Parents talking about that heartbreaking moment when they discovered their child was autistic.

VASSILEVA: And wildlife officials in California try to serenade a pair of lost whales past to sea and back to safety.

It is 7:00 p.m. in Cairo, 12:00 noon in Washington. Hello and welcome, everybody, to our report broadcast around the globe.

I'm Ralitsa Vassileva.

CLANCY: I'm Jim Clancy. From Gaza to Ramadi, from the Sacramento River to Google headquarters in Silicon Valley, wherever you're watching, this is YOUR WORLD TODAY.

VASSILEVA: And the United States makes it clear the war on terror is a top priority. But in its quest to win that battle, is America abandoning the fight for Middle East democracy?

CLANCY: Well, some are saying yes, and that there's no clearer sign of that than Washington's relationship with Egypt. A pro- democracy activist there is in prison today for what supporters say are political reasons.

VASSILEVA: And critics say the U.S. is turning a blind eye in hopes of keeping Cairo on its side.

Aneesh Raman has more on that.


ANEESH RAMAN, CNN MIDDLE EAST CORRESPONDENT (voice over): His was the face of democratic reform. His campaign in 2005 the main challenge to Hosni Mubarak, and Egypt's first-ever multi-candidate presidential election. But Ayman Nour ended up coming in a distant second, and soon after ended up here, caged in court, sentenced to five years in prison for forging signatures on a petition. A sentence Nour and many international rights groups charge was politically motivated.

Now, after a year and a half in custody, his wife Gamila claims that earlier this week, her husband endured the worst abuse yet.

NOUR: He was beaten up very badly in his chest and his left part of his chest. His rib was broken.

RAMAN: The Egyptian government so far hasn't commented on the charge, but even before this alleged incident, Nour was in poor health, suffering from diabetes and a heart condition. And yet, he remains in prison, not just because of the Egyptian president, Gamila says, but also because of the United States.

NOUR: They are backing dictatorships to crush the bones of the opposition. And this is my conclusion, especially after what happened to Ayman.

RAMAN: President Mubarak has been in power for 25 years, and now his opponents feel betrayed by shifting American priorities.

(on camera): Once a vocal champion of democratic reform here, over the past two years the Bush administration has had to change focus in the Middle East, to Iraq and nothing else.

(voice over): And while it maintains reform in the Middle East is an important goal, increasingly they say it must come from within.

TOM CASEY, U.S. STATE DEPT. SPOKESMAN: And that change has to be led internally by the people of the region. But our support for it continues, and it continues without any break or any change.

RAMAN: Gamila Nour is far from convinced.

NOUR: We are not going to believe again what they said before just after the elections. We are not going to believe again. My husband was one of thousands of people who believed.

RAMAN: Once the face of hope for many Egyptians, Ayman Nour is now the face of an opposition fading away.

Aneesh Raman, CNN, Cairo.


CLANCY: Now, we talked to the Egyptian embassy in Washington about this story. They denied there was any political influence in this case against Ayman Nour. They said democratic reform continues to make progress in Egypt.

In the meantime, an Egyptian court has rejected Nour's appeal, meaning he's going to have to complete his five-year prison sentence.

The U.S. State Department recently called Egypt's handling of Nour's case a miscarriage of justice, but says Egyptian politics has shifted for the positive and the U.S. must not forget that Egypt is an ally -- Ralitsa.

VASSILEVA: Well, Jim, he proclaimed his innocence, he pleaded for his job, but in the end it wasn't enough to save World Bank president Paul Wolfowitz. The neoconservative thinker and architect of the war in Iraq is now leader of the bank in name only. His resignation going into effect on June the 30th.

And now the search is on for his successor. The White House says the new president will be chosen in consultation with other World Bank member countries.

CLANCY: Well, the Wolfowitz scandal obviously may have already damaged the institution's reputation around the world.

Zain Verjee joins us now from Washington.

And Zain, we look at this, the negotiated settlement, and what we see is both sides saying he's a wonderful guy, everybody had the best interests. Is this all just an exercise in P.R.?

ZAIN VERJEE, CNN STATE DEPT. CORRESPONDENT: Well, Jim, in some ways maybe it is. I mean, it's a tightly-crafted negotiated settlement that basically let's Paul Wolfowitz walk away and save face. It also saves face for the World Bank, and they hope it will stop all the mudslinging that has really hurt it over the past six weeks, and expose the very serious turf wars within the bank so with this settlement all sides can say, we won.

It's a real Washington-style deal, Jim.

CLANCY: Zain, what really came out here, too, as they bickered before, you know, this agreement came out, it that, look, turf- oriented there inside the World Bank, like an elitist bureaucracy, with entrenched self-interest by a lot of people.

VERJEE: Well, there are countries that seriously do need help from the World Bank, and there are taxpayers around the world that help and contribute money for that cause. But the question is, do these programs really work?

Some of them do, but many of them don't. So, you ask why.

So, what's happened here is this scandal has exposed the bureaucracy, the turf wars, as you say, as well as the inefficiencies of the World Bank. And it raises serious questions about whether the bank is really working out the problems of the third world or is also just protecting its own interests.

Now, to be fair, there are many very well-intentioned people at the bank with an enormous amount of expertise that do really good work. So we're going to have to see, Jim, if the bank does some serious and skillful house cleaning after all of this.

CLANCY: Now, the U.S., is it going to be the one to recommend a replacement? And is this going to be another reformer?

VERJEE: Well, by tradition, yes, the U.S. picks the head of the World Bank. President Bush has said that he's going to hang on to that tradition.

Some may be really concerned though that the U.S. may want to put in a really strong reformer back in the World Bank, really as a payback to all of this, and could breed a lot of resentment. But Jim, in all likelihood, the U.S. may really be looking for someone that can calm the waters, as well as protect U.S. interests, because, you know, of all of the bad blood that's passed here, it's going to be a very tall order to find someone who can step in and navigate the terrain.

President Bush has said that he really wants to consult this time around closely with the international community about a replacement.

CLANCY: All right. Zain Verjee, some important perspective today, as obviously Paul Wolfowitz is headed towards the door at the World Bank.

Thanks, Zain.

VERJEE: Thanks.

VASSILEVA: To the Middle East. Gaza plunges deeper into chaos. During the latest violence, Palestinian security officials say an Israeli air strike targeted a car traveling in northern Gaza City. Palestinian sources say at least three people were killed. They also say 11 others were killed in earlier air strikes from Israeli planes.

Some officials are accusing Israel of taking advantage of six days of fighting between rival political factions. Israel says it is just defending its citizens against rockets fired from Gaza.

Ben Wedeman is following it all from Jerusalem.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) BEN WEDEMAN, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice over): Pandemonium and panic after another rocket attack from Gaza. The Israeli town of Sderot has been the target of dozens of Hamas' crude Qassam missiles in recent days. Crude or not, the Qassams are wreaking havoc on Sderot's residents.

Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert came to see the damage Thursday night and extend his sympathies. But in a town where patience is all but exhausted, sympathy is no substitute for action. With each new rocket that crashes into Sderot, and each new civilian casualty, pressure mounts on Olmert and his government to hit back hard.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We shall break this wave of rockets. It may take some time, but through pinpoint attacks on the perpetrators, on the planners, we shall break it.

WEDEMAN: Israel has already carried out a series of air raids in Gaza, striking Hamas targets, while the latest truce between Hamas and its arch rival, Fatah, is barely holding. Hamas leader and prime minister Ismail Haniyeh is appealing for calm.

"Since yesterday," he says, "I've been calling on all security services, on all gunmen to withdraw from the streets, to return to their positions and barracks and homes."

The men with the guns, however, don't seem to have received his call. They still rule the roads. The gunfire still echoes over Gaza's deserted streets, leaving the civilians caught in the middle in increasingly dire straits.

The refrigerator is all but bare at the home of Gaza taxi driver Alni Sawafiri (ph). The family virtual hostages in their own home.

"All the stores are closed, so there's no where to get food," says Alni (ph). "On every street there are masked gunmen asking who you are, where you're coming from, where you're going."

At Gaza's Shiffa (ph) hospital, it's harder to say which is busier, the emergency room or the morgue. Soon, they may both be even busier.

Israel is beefing up its forces around Gaza. It may be only a matter of time before Gaza feels the full weight of Israel's military might.

(on camera): But Israeli military officials worry that Hamas is ready for, indeed, eager for, a ground invasion. First, because it would help reunite the Palestinians. And second, because it would give Hamas the opportunity to put into practice lessons learned from Hezbollah in last summer's Lebanon war.

Ben Wedeman, CNN, Jerusalem.

(END VIDEOTAPE) CLANCY: Now, there are a lot of reasons why we're seeing this conflict unfold the way that it has, but if you want to point to a single important factor, it's probably those Qassam rockets. At least for the events that are going on today.

We're going to have much more on that crude weapon a little bit later as Jonathan Mann joins us with a whole segment on this, looking it as an end sight.

VASSILEVA: But coming up next on YOUR WORLD TODAY, a whale of a rescue mission.

CLANCY: Scientists trying to help two injured whales return to the Pacific Ocean. Will underwater sounds and songs help move in the right direction?

VASSILEVA: Also ahead, the charm offensive. U.S. soldiers out on the streets of Ramadi try to hold on to a tenuous peace.

CLANCY: And then a little bit later, games, exercise, massage, free food. No, it's not a fancy spa. It is the company that's been dubbed the best place to work in America. You can Google the answer before we tell you about it next.

VASSILEVA: That's a tease.


CLANCY: Hello, everyone. And welcome back to CNN International and YOUR WORLD TODAY.

VASSILEVA: We're covering the news the world wants to know. And some of it is simply fascinating, like this story we have today.

CLANCY: That's right. It's the story of a pair of wayward whales making a real splash out in California.

VASSILEVA: An injured mother and calf have been spotted far up the Sacramento River, and scientists are now doing their best to set them right.

CLANCY: The question, though, they're asking and everybody is asking, really, is time running out?

Kara Finnstrom has the report.


KARA FINNSTROM, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Wildlife experts from around the world have converged on Sacramento to face what they call new territory.

PIETER FOLKENS, ALASKA WILDLIFE FOUNDATION: We've never been in a situation where we had a cow/calf pair, both of whom are injured and they are 77 miles up a fresh water river. FINNSTROM: To herd them back to the ocean in safety, they're turning to haunting unearthly recordings. Biologists say sounds like these of other humpback whales feeding and socializing may be able to entice the whales back to open waters.

So far, it hasn't worked. This is part of the reason biologists are now working around the clock. The mother whale has a two-foot gash on her back. The calf has a similar wound, both possibly caused by a ship propeller.

FOLKENS: The two of them were together near the surface resting. The calf was rolled over a little bit perhaps in the possible nursing position. And as the wheel came by, it just clipped them both.

FINNSTROM: Biologist Pieter Folkens believes the wounds would heal on their own if the whales were in saltier cleansing ocean waters. He says this mother and calf need to get back to the ocean and away from human interference.

FOLKENS: We also are pretty sure that there is no humpback food here, so it's doubtful that the mother is feeding at this time.

FINNSTROM: The pair's dangerous journey is far from over, but it just may help in an unexpected way.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: There she is. Look, look, look, she just sprayed, see her?

FINNSTROM: By endearing them and the plight of endangered whales, the crowds of onlookers in a wide-eyed new generation.

In Sacramento, Kara Finnstrom, for CNN.


VASSILEVA: Well, computer giant Microsoft is making a multibillion-dollar Internet deal. What they hope to get in the bargain.

CLANCY: And a family's nightmare turned media sensation as TV and newspapers battle over the story of a kidnapped toddler. Why her desperate parents are hoping to fuel the fight.



UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The climate, the political and social climate, is such that people can do that in daylight, and that the authorities do not intervene.


VASSILEVA: A savage response to forbidden affection. Still ahead, dozens stand and watch as a young woman is stoned to death in a shocking quest for honor. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)


CLANCY: Now the Israeli military say some 90 rockets so far have landed in southern Israel. The so-called Qassam rockets are crude, but so far Israel has been powerless to stop them.

Jonathan Mann joins us with some insight -- Jonathan.

JONATHAN MANN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: If you've got a pipe for the casing and fertilizer to make the fuel, you can build a rocket. The rocket they build in Gaza is called the Qassam, and as simple as it sounds, Israel has not found a way to stop the rockets raining down.


MIRI EISIN, ISRAELI GOVT. SPOKESPERSON: Half a million Israelis right now are living under the dread of rockets. The Hamas are killing their own people, killing other Palestinians, killing Israelis.


MANN: If you look at a drawing of a Qassam, you can see that it's a pipe, a real pipe, with essentially just fins at the back and a warhead. For years the pipes came from Israel, imported for Gaza's sewage system. And they were used by the guerrillas instead. Now Israel is more careful,a and the rocket makers manufacture the casings themselves. The engines itself is powered by products that are easy to find, potassium nitrate fertilizer and powdered sugar. The warhead has the explosives, but it's not very big, and there's not much of it, roughly a pound of explosives in the early versions, 50 pounds in the Qassam III. The fins helps stabilize it in flight, but not really that much. This is a rocket with no guidance system, and it can't be aimed with any accuracy.

Still, the rockets, the explosives and the fuel they carry have all been getting bigger over the years. When the first Qassams were launched they could barely could get out of Gaza itself, and injured a few Palestinians along the way their range was so small. Nearby towns like Sderot were the only places that were vulnerable to the Qassam I.

Now, updated versions, the Qassam II and III, have a range of more than six miles or 10 kilometers, still not very far. But that means they can get as far as Ashcolon (ph), in the north, on Israel's Mediterranean coast. And Friday, Ashcolon declared high alert, worried about that very thing. Sderot, though, remains a favorite target. Why? It is still nearby, and it's a sensitive spot. It's the hometown of the Israeli defense minister, Amir Peretz, who still lives there. So Perez is under pressure three different ways. Palestinians are attacking his hometown. The people who live there are furious. They aren't being protected. And even an official investigation is now saying that Israel should have done more to defend himself.

So Peretz, for his part, has been increasing the pressure on the Palestinians with the attacks we've been reporting on.


AMIR PERETZ, ISRAELI DEFENSE MINISTER (through translator): Reporter: Israel will not be part of the internal Palestinian power struggle, but Israel will respond with severity to the continued firing of Qassam rockets. Nobody will be immune from our response.


MANN: The calculation Israel has to make is a strange one. Qassam are such primitive, inaccurate weapons. They take Israeli lives, and Israelis mourn their lives, but it doesn't happen all that often. An incursion by Israeli troops could easily be more costly in human life, easily losing more lives than it would save.

CLANCY: Jon, Israel, doesn't it have the Arrow missile system. It's got the Patriot anti-missile system. Couldn't it stop these?

MANN: These are designed for missiles coming from far way. The Qassam rockets are in the air for 20 seconds or less. And in that time, the system would have to notice the launch, find the trajectory, program it into a missile, send the missile into the air, and have the missile hit the Qassam. It takes longer to talk about than they would have to do it. So the simple truth is, the technology isn't there yet, and the Israelis are angry that they haven't got it.

CLANCY: Low-tech seems to be winning out over high-tech here then.

MANN: In this case.

CLANCY: All right, Jonathan Mann with some insight. Thanks, John.

All right, in northern Iraq the brutal killing of a teenage girl was captured on cell phone video. As the police looked on, a crowd kicks and stones that girl to death.

Brian Todd reports it's a practice known as honor killing, and we warn you, some of the images you're about to see are violent and, for most people, extremely disturbing.


BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): You're about to witness an honor killing -- a 17-year-old girl dragged into a crowd in a headlock.


TODD: Uniformed men -- apparently security forces -- look on and do nothing. Plenty of other men around to stop it. Instead, many capture it on cell phone video.

Partially clothed, Do'a Khalil is kicked and stoned to death. A top official in northern Iraq's Nineveh Province, where this occurred last month, tells CNN Do'a had been seen with a Sunni Muslim man. She had not married him or converted, this official said. But her attackers believed she had.

Do'a's family belongs to the Yezidi sect. It draws on the beliefs of religions like Christianity, Islam and Judaism, and does not approve of mixing with people outside the faith.

HOUZAN MAHMOUD, ORGANIZATION OF WOMEN'S FREEDOM IN IRAQ: The climate -- the political and social climate is such that people can do that in daylight and that the authorities do not intervene.

TODD: the province official tells CNN four people have been arrested, including two members of Do'a Khalil's family. They're looking for four other men, including a cousin.

The U.N. and human rights groups say there are thousands of honor killings worldwide each year. Dozens have been committed in Iraq this year. And Amnesty International say there are frequent reports of them in the northern Kurdish region.

Do'a Khalil was Kurdish. But the killing occurred outside Kurdistan. Still, Kurdish officials condemn the attack and tell us what they're doing to prevent more of them.

QUBAD TALABANI, KURDISTAN REGIONAL GOVERNMENT: One of the things we're doing is trying to bring more female officers into the police and security organizations. This would give -- anyone that is a victim of these crimes or feels threatened by these kinds of crimes can feel more comfortable in speaking to a lady officer.

TODD: As for the police officers in the video, the province official says he doesn't believe they could have done much to top stop Do'a's killing. Still, at least three officers are being investigated. He says they could be fired, and the top police official in that town is being replaced.

Brian Todd, CNN, Washington.


VASSILEVA: It's just so horrible to watch.

CLANCY: Very difficult, and you hope something can be done, because it's pretty deeply ingrained in the societies.

VASSILEVA: Well, on to another story, also from Iraq, U.S. forces in Ramadi, they're trying on a new tactic there. The city west of Baghdad was once considered the heart of Iraq's Sunni insurgency.

CLANCY: It's the capital of the Anbar province, the epicenter of that Triangle of Death. The U.S. military worked with Iraqi security forces to secure the city. Now the focus really, try to win over the weary residents.

Nic Robertson followed U.S. Marines on patrol there. (BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

NIC ROBERTSON, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Sipping sodas under a sun shade in a bustling Ramadi market is not the way Marine Captain Marcus Mainz expected to fight the war in Iraq. But just weeks before he arrived in Ramadi, an edgy peace broke out. He switched gears, told his Marines to rethink their tactics.

CAPT. MARCUS MAINZ, U.S. MARINE CORPS: The Marines normally stay contact patrol. They focus on the enemy, making contact with him. What we've got to understand is this form of contact, the people are everything to us. And without them, we wouldn't have the security that we have today.

ROBERTSON: In streets that just a few months ago Marines battled insurgents, Mintz is going out of his way to be nice to people.

MAINZ: Once they put a human face on things, everything goes well. It's just getting that human face on things is the hard part.

ROBERTSON: He's giving money to the needy. Paper bullets, he calls the dinar bills, funding cleanup projects and spending in the local stores. On the surface at least, Mainz's message of friendship is selling.

MOHAMMAD YOUSEF MOHAMMAD, STOREKEEPER (through translator): The people were friendly with Americans for a long time. But the people were afraid of the terrorists. So if you made contact with Marines or Americans, they will kill you. Now the terrorists are gone, and we have come back to being friendly with the marines.

ROBERTSON (on camera): Compared to when I've been here before, people seem much more relaxed. When we speak to them on camera, they even tell us their names. Nobody would dare do that before when the insurgents had sway here.

(voice-over): Beneath the surface, there are complex emotions and simmering discontent.

Hallard (ph), a market trader, "tells me the Americans killed lots of people. We don't like them. It's the Iraqi police who are bringing us security," he says. But then admits the Marines are getting better.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: we built this station from the ground up.

ROBERTSON: Worryingly for Mainz, the Iraqi police he helps mentor and relies on for security claim not to have been paid for over three months.

Answering frustrations about a lack of water and electricity is also a daily battle for Mainz, shades of Iraq post-invasion 2003. He knows only too well the costs if his new tactics fail.

MAINZ: The insurgency comes from people's complaints, people's misgivings. A grievance is what really starts an insurgency. ROBERTSON: If sociability can trump snipers and suicide bombers, Mainz has it in spades.

Nic Robertson, CNN, Ramadi, Iraq.


CLANCY: That was Nic Robertson reporting. Interesting story from Ramadi. Meantime, we're going to take a short break. It's a heartbreaking discovery for millions of parents, trying to put their finger on what is different about their children.

VASSILIEVA: Ahead on "YOUR WORLD TODAY," a new documentary that looks into the eyes of parents that deal every single day with the mystery and anguish of autism.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I just don't think this is going to work.

I see David, you know, I'm trying to get to him, and he's not there. He's not there. I don't know where he is, but he's not there.



VASSILEVA: Welcome back. We would like to spend a few moments now on a topic that we don't normally talk about in the news, but it's affecting millions of people around the world.

CLANCY: Well, and it is news because we're looking at it in a different way. We know, autism, a complex, developmental disability. Typically, it appears in the first, one, two, third year of life.

VASSILEVA: And children and adults with autism have a difficult time communicating with each other, also interacting socially.

CLANCY: Yes, and that's what makes it hard, that interaction, all of that. And it is -- what you really learn about it, only by seeing cases, and a new documentary, brings us out, introduces us to several families who are dealing with their own autistic children.

VASSILEVA: Here's a sample of that film.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: He smiled at six weeks, he sat up at six months. A beautiful kid, and really sweet. He walked at 13 months.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He was my first child. I just thought, he was doing what young kids do.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Probably about 18 months is when it finally dawned on me there was something not quite right about him.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Adam really wasn't picking up words.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: He stopped saying the words that he had, he had about eight words. He almost seemed like a precocious child at the time.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: What am I doing wrong?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What's wrong, little man?

UIDENTIFIED FEMALE: What do I have to do differently as a parent and why is he having all these tantrums?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What was starting to get odd was he really wouldn't play with other kids and he was having trouble eating food.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: And he would sometimes stare up at lights in funny ways or he'd examine the hardware on a door with such intense interest, we said, this is not right.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: As the weeks went on, he became more and more what I referred to as distant. And I didn't quite understand, and my husband didn't really understand it. And I kept going back to this very prominent, by the way, upper-east side pediatrician who kept telling me, oh, he's upset. He knows he's here. He's fine.


VASSILEVA: Well, that documentary is titled, "Autism Every Day," and the person whose personal experience with this disease inspired this film joins us now.

Suzanne Wright has made it her life's mission to spread the word about autism. Her grandson, Christian, was also, unfortunately, diagnosed with that condition.

Suzanne, before we talk, let's take a look at another clip from this documentary.



UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I have no idea what he knows, actually. So, if we're doing a puzzle or looking at a book, that's how I learn what he knows.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: There are a lot of things in his brain that are working well, it's just that probably many areas of the brain are not connected appropriately. And so, you just see glimpses of intelligence.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I never have heard Jason (ph) count higher than five, even though he's six-years-old. And he actually counted to 14, and I had no idea he knew any of those numbers.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: For Daniel, I think that he actually knows everything that's going around. I think he's incredibly smart. And I feel like receptively, he gets everything. But he just can't express it.





UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Excellent, buddy. That was a great job.


VASSILEVA: Suzanne, how did you find out that your grandson, Christian, had autism? What were the signs?

WRIGHT: Well, my grandson had a wonderful vocabulary, he was potty trained, he was meeting all his milestones, and then we had another little baby born in the house and they moved. And he started losing his speech. So, we went to several doctors, not several, five. And they told us, don't worry about it, this is what happens with boys, they regress.

But I knew it was -- I had three children, I knew there was something very wrong with Christian. We ended up in New York at a hospital, they gave us the word, Christian has autism. And I said, how could we not know about this.

At the time, my husband was president and chairman of NBC Universal, a media company, and we had no idea about this autism epidemic. And then I found out it was one to 166, one in 104 boys. I said, how could this not be in the national vocabulary? I said, well that's where we started, we have to do something.

VASSILEVA: And why does it happen so often? Why are the rates so high?

WRIGHT: We don't know, it was 1 in 10,000 just 13 years ago. Now, two months ago, the CDC changed the numbers again, it's 1 in 150. It's one in 104 boys. It's shocking.

VASSILEVA: It is indeed shocking.

WRIGHT: Shocking.

VASSILEVA: You were telling me that, by the time you took all these five doctors, you went to all these doctors ...

WRIGHT: We lost seven months.

VASSILEVA: lost seven months.

WRIGHT: Right.

VASSILEVA: Why is it so important that parents ...

WRIGHT: It's so important because the earlier you get intervention and therapy and treatment, you have a 50 percent chance of mainstreaming that child into public school.

VASSILEVA: And when you say mainstreaming for the child to function just as any other ...

WRIGHT: Just as normally as any other child would function.

VASSILEVA: What would you advise parents to look for in those tiny little babies? It's hard to understand the baby, anyway.

WRIGHT: Well, it is very difficult. Meet the milestones, go to our Web site, And if you think something is wrong with your baby, most likely it is. You can be an hysterical mother, I can be an hysterical grandmother, in the day of the autism epidemic, you need to watch that child very closely. I mean, the -- the pediatricians have to understand exactly the complications of autism and what is causing (ph) in this country.

So, I would say, in my case, the loss of speech, that's a really big red sign, no eye gaze. I mean, anything like that that you suspect the child is not communicating with you, no joyful expression, that's a big red flag.

VASSILEVA: In this movie, you tried to communicate to the viewers the emotional toll it takes on a family to deal with autism every day. Let's look at a clip.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It's very hard to manage the emotional issues, the financial issues, which are huge.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We had to borrow money from my parents, we had to borrow money from my sister, so that we could create this environment for the kids, but all the money in the world, the $50,000 that we're in debt is all about the autism.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: What I spent on the medical activities that the insurance companies are not paying for, it's a large number.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I've been spending 75, $100 an hour for speech therapy, $100 an hour.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: All the way. You got it, very good, Adam.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: In order to pay for my son's therapy, we've had to give up a lot of things.

We make the decision of whether or not I'm going to buy that CD, but that CD'll pay for a quarter of time for speech therapy. So, I'm not going to buy that CD. Or, you know what, that car looks really good, but he needs occupational therapy for the next year. UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We had a big leak in the living room that was coming down in like a bucket. It's been over two years, and those holes are still there because we don't have any money to fix that.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We keep saying that we're just sending, you know, Daniel to Harvard over and over again, every year for the rest of his life.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We just keep taking out loans to pay the bills. And we pay for special food and extra therapies, all out of loans. So, you just keep borrowing, and you just keep trying. And you just keep being disappointed, and you just keep going broke.


VASSILEVA: I was reading on your Web site that it takes three million dollars over a child's lifetime to take care -- this is beyond the means of even Americans, some of the most affluent people in the world. How do people do it?

WRIGHT: They don't. They mortgage their homes, their marriage dissolves. It's amazing. Nobody is looking at the coverage for these children. Nobody is helping these families. They're out there by themselves. I cannot believe, when this happened to me with our means, that's when I said to Bob, we have got to do something, if we are here basically having to pay for everything, what are these people doing that can't afford it? It's a terrible situation. And it's not just here, it's worldwide. It's all over the world.

VASSILEVA: Suzanne, we will continue our conversation on autism, on the important documentary that you have done, "Autism Every Day." We'll just take a short break now, we'll be back with more, and Suzanne Wright and autism and its impact on families around the world.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Probably about 18 months is when it finally dawned on me there was something not quite right about him.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Adam really wasn't picking up words.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: He stopped saying the words that he had.



VASSILEVA: And we continue our conversation with Suzanne Wright, the executive producer of the documentary "Autism Every Day." Autism, a complex developmental disability that makes it very difficult for children to communicate with their parents and to express what they feel.


VASSILEVA: Going back to your documentary, you're trying to raise awareness. You're trying to show people what it takes for parents to cope with this, and the numerous worries they have. Let's take a listen to another clip from your documentary.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I guess what keeps me awake mostly is, a, I want him to live with me as long as he can. And I worry about that. And I worry about what happens when I'm gone.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I worry about his future, I worry about where he'll live. I worry about who'll take care of him if something happens to me.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: If we die early, who is going to have the time, the inclination, the resources and the history to be able to deal with him? It's certainly not my 6-year-old son and 4-year-old daughter.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I can never die. Nothing can ever happen to me.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Sometimes, I have to block it out of my head and think about today. Because if I think about that too much, it can make you really lose it.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We never talk about that in my house. We live like alcoholics, just one day at a time.


VASSILEVA: And as difficult as it is for Americans to deal with this, you went around the world. You went to Qatar recently talking about this. What did you find there?

WRIGHT: Well, what I found there is that her heiness has started (INAUDIBLE), children with special needs, and they have plenty of autism there as well. And what she wanted me to do was come over with the ad council. The ad council is -- has a campaign for autism -- for our autism epidemic. And we went over there and we presented and we showed this movie, and they were so taken with all that we had accomplished in the two years that we've just been in business, that they now want to collaborate with us, and see how we can help them with their awareness campaign, with registry, and genetics.

So, we are very excited about that because they -- it is a global problem. When I walked into her (INAUDIBLE) center, I could have been walking into Christian's school. Same autism over there as I have here.

VASSILEVA: Best of luck.

WRIGHT: Thank you so much.

VASSILEVA: This is very important work.

WRIGHT: This is my pin, the piece of the puzzle that's missing, autism speaks and finally the world is listening.

VASSILEVA: Hopefully, they will find that piece of the puzzle: a cure.

WRIGHT: A cure, thank you so much.

VASSILEVA: Thank you so much, Suzanne Wright, executive producer of "Autism Every Day." Thank you so much.

WRIGHT: Thank you.

CLANCY: You know, a fascinating subject, important subject, and if you want to learn more, go to That's Get all the information you need, learn a little bit more.

That has to be our report for today. I'm Jim Clancy.

VASSILEVA: And I'm Ralitsa Vassileva. This is CNN.