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CNN IN THE MONEY
2 Former IBM Employees Claim They Were Poisoned On Job; What's Really Behind The Walls Of Terrorist Camp In Guantanamo Bay; Story Of An Indian Tribe That Reestablished Itself With Gambling
Aired December 7, 2003 - 15:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
ANNOUNCER: From New York City, America's financial capital, this is IN THE MONEY.
JACK CAFFERTY, HOST: Welcome to the program. I'm Jack Cafferty. Coming up on today's edition of IN THE MONEY: Welcome to club dread. Find out what it's really like behind the walls of camp X-Ray, down there at Guantanamo Bay in Cuba, where military detention facility where they're keeping a lot of the detainees in the war on terror.
Plus, head-to-head with big blue: Two former employees of the company are suing IBM, claiming they were poisoned on the job. We'll tell you what's riding on the outcome of the case. Could be huge.
And from obscurity to prosperity: We'll speak with author Brett Fromson, about the Indian tribe that reinvented itself and created a gambling empire.
Joining me today, a couple of the IN THE MONEY veterans, "Fortune" magazine's editor-at-large, Andy Serwer, and my pal Allen Wastler, managing editor of the CNN/Money website.
So, there was a story last week that December the 17th may be the day that President Bush announces that he wants America to go back to the moon with people and establish some sort of permanent presence there. What do you think?
ALLEN WASTLER, MONEY.COM: I kind of like it. I mean -- you know, I think -- you know, the country should always be driving forward, and I'm a sci-fi fan and so all my great dreams come true, and also it will be good for American business because that's another thing that our contractors can get (UNINTELLIGIBLE) contracts on. So...
ANDY SERWER, "FORTUNE": Yeah. I don't know. You know, "Alice, one of these days to the moon." I -- you know, I guess whether people talk about sending radioactive waste up there or people they don't like up there, I -- OK, I'll be serious, I don't see any reason to do it. We've already went there, we got a bunch of rocks.
SERWER: Neil Armstrong had the great little speal (SIC) when he got off and said, "One giant step..." and all that. So, we've don't that, we've gotten the rocks, there's nothing there. Why bother?
CAFFERTY: Because the Chinese have announced that they want to be there by the year 2020.
SERWER: Oh, that's a good reason. Yeah.
CAFFERTY: And my hunch is that the president -- if the Chinese want to get there, he'd like to be there when they land. But just a -- just a hunch...
WASTLER: Just to say "hi, how ya doin'?"
SERWER: How about mars?
CAFFERTY: Welcome to my moon.
SERWER: Right. Yeah.
CAFFERTY: All right. Looks like a bunch of detainees at Guantanamo Bay are about to find themselves on the sunny side of the barbed wire. "Time" magazine reports this week, at least 140 of the detainees are on track now for release. That's according to an unnamed source in the U.S. military. Viveca Novak is a Washington correspondent for "Time" magazine who has been taking a look at life inside of the detention camp. Literally. She's been there. She joins us from Washington, D.C.
Viveca, nice to have you with us. How much access did they give you down there?
VIVECA NOVAK, "TIME" MAGAZINE: Well, you -- you see what they want you to see. Reporters are accompanied at all times and you never get to talk with detainees, you never get to talk with interrogators. You really don't even get to see the detainees unless you happen to glimpse them accidentally. But, they show you the cells -- what the cells are like, what the cell blocks are like, the kind of food they get, the kind of exercise they get. They show you what the camps are like, but without the detainees in them.
SERWER: All right, Viveca, well tell us what they're like. I mean, open ended question -- just describe here, how big is it? What is it like? How hot is it? What -- give us an idea what's down there.
NOVAK: I think in Guantanamo, 320 hot, sunny days a year and the rest of the time there's a little rain. It's very muggy. But, they keep the cell blocks at about 85 degrees without air conditioning, but with some ventilation system. There are strong steel mesh walls, but the detainees can see each other through the walls, so once the detainees move out of the highest level of security, where they only get to shower and exercise twice a week, they can actually -- they are issued checkerboards and checkers so that a detainee can set up a checkerboard and the one next to him can tell him where to move his pieces and they can play a game. These are the kinds of things that are held out to them as incentives for cooperating with interrogators and generally behaving well, and they're told that camp four is where they want to be. They start at camp three, then go to camp two, camp one, and then camp four, which is the least secure of the facilities where they get to live up to 10 per room, eat outside with other detainees, play soccer on teams and they have a lot more privileges.
WASTLER: Viveca, there's been a lot of hand wringing about Geneva Convention and rule of law and -- you know, the detainees being denied certain rights, which -- you know, you can give that debate forever, but reading the article in "Time," apparently some of these guys were working on various projects, got hijacked by the local chieftain in Afghanistan, turned over to the allies, them saying, "Oh, it's an al-Qaeda guy," and the guy is all of a sudden finding himself in Guantanamo. And, "hey, I was just -- you know, this isn't right," and they're sort of denied rights. As an American, that's kind of disturbing.
NOVAK: Yeah, a lot of people find it kind of disturbing. We were offering a bounty over there, and some people turned in, I think, people who did not have much, if anything to do with al-Qaeda or the Taliban. It's taken an extraordinarily long time to sort these cases out. Some of these people have been there almost two years, so the people that will be releasing, probably this month and next month, are, what I was told are the easiest 20 percent, the people we have determined, after all this time, really aren't that much -- that dangerous or have that much intelligence for us.
CAFFERTY: When you got on the plane to come home, the journalist was riding in one seat, but Viveca the human being was riding right next to her. What was the thing that blew your mind about the trip you'd just made, the story you'd done, the places that you'd seen, people you'd met, et cetera?
NOVAK: Well, it's extraordinary to visit this sort of a tropical area -- tropical island that is entirely and utterly control by people in camouflage. But, I think the thing that struck me most about Guantanamo is how we're really digging in, right before 9/11, a lot of structures were scheduled to be torn down, the base was really in caretaker status, but things have been -- you know, seriously ramped up since then, and all kinds of buildings are being rehabbed now, and new hosing is going up. Expensive new road barriers on the way to Camp Delta, a new prison facility, new amenities for the troops, and it looks like we are planning to be there a long time with this operation.
WASTLER: Viveca, there's been some -- you know, some fairly big news about -- you know, certain security breaches there at Guantanamo. How badly did they toss your files and toss your stuff before you walked out?
NOVAK: Not too bad for me, but it is true that they are more thoroughly searching everybody who leaves Guantanamo now, than they were before.
SERWER: OK. We'll have to leave it at that. Viveca Novak, Washington correspondent for "Time" magazine. Thanks very much.
Up ahead on IN THE MONEY: Trying to link an old job to a new illness. We'll tell you why some former IBM workers are suing the company.
Plus, CPR for a dying tribe: We'll speak with an author about the birth of an Indian casino in Connecticut and the legal moves that made it happen.
And, special delivery: Find out how one woman's determination to support U.S. troops is making a difference in Iraq.
SERWER: At first, it might not sound like much, a couple of retired IBM employees suing big blue. They claim that toxic chemicals at the company poisoned them, eventually causing cancer. But, there's a lot more at stake here than a two-person lawsuit. IBM is facing 250 such cases in New York and California and the one involving the two workers is only the first to go to trial. In a statement about the Allegations, the company says, quote, "These are tragic cases, but there is no scientific evidence to back up the claims," end quote.
Nicholas Varchaver has been following that story. He's the senior writer with "Fortune" magazine and he's our guest today.
NICHOLAS VARCHAVER, "FORTUNE" MAGAZINE: Thank you.
SERWER: So, how's the case going? What's your take on the plaintiff's side of the story, to start?
VARCHAVER: Well, about a month into trial, the plaintiff's side is a very -- there's a huge gap between the law and reality. There's some support for some of their concepts, but they have to prove so much that I think it's a really hard case for them to make fly.
CAFFERTY: What exactly are they claiming, though? That some condition inside this chip plant at IBM caused cancer?
VARCHAVER: Actually, it is...
CAFFERTY: How can you prove something like that?
VARCHAVER: It's very difficult to prove. Making microchips is a very chemical intensive process. The workers are surrounded by chemicals; their claims are that those chemicals made them sick, like the cancer. The hard thing is that the law requires they prove not only that, but that IBM knew about it at the time, and that's where I think the cases have real problems in California.
WASTLER: Now Nicholas, this has a lot of implications for the industry as a whole, I mean -- you know, chip making, back when they -- these workers were claiming they were exposed, it was sort of, in it's infancy, sort of growing up, but now it's a big business and there are a lot of chip fabrication plants.
VARCHAVER: Right. I think there's a lot of fear about what these cases could mean. The reality is, though, these fears have been around for about 20 years, now. There's never been an explosion in cases. Similar conditions prevailed, Intel, AMD, you haven't seen a big -- you know, bevy of cases like that. So, I think you have to be cautious about what all these things mean.
SERWER: Nick, you say in the article that there's stuff on both sides that those parties don't want out. What do you mean by that?
VARCHAVER: Well, IBM -- you know, there's so many chemicals in there, they don't really know about the dangers of all of them -- you know, I think, IBM, I think, is correct in saying it's very hard to prove that you could get cancer from these things, but the part that sort of goes against IBM is they don't really know, there are hundreds of chemicals in there, and many of these chemicals have not been studied at all, so people don't even know what the potential interaction could be and what could...
SERWER: But, what don't the plaintiffs want out?
VARCHAVER: What the plaintiffs don't want out is -- you know, some of their workers didn't spend a lot of time in clean rooms; some of the workers had a lot of other things that could have caused some cancer. Some of the things they said in court, I think, are dubious. So, you know, I think there are real health risks there. I have questions about the plaintiffs' cases.
CAFFERTY: Why, though, based on your research and your work on the story, why just IBM? Why not AMB? Why not Intel? What is it about IBM that makes them the target of 250 of these cases and nobody else is being sued?
VARCHAVER: I think they were the first ones there -- you know, back when the conditions happened, they were the biggest. I think if the plaintiffs win, there will be suits against other ones. I don't think anyone is claiming that IBM is worse, in fact, IBM generally has a good reputation, so I think they're just kind of the unlucky...
CAFFERTY: Test pilot.
VARCHAVER: Yeah, basically.
CAFFERTY: You mentioned that in order for the plaintiffs to win they've got to prove that IBM knew that this was a danger and that they intentionally exposed their workers to this danger.
CAFFERTY: And yet in the follow-up discussion, we were just talking about, you admitted that nobody knows the effects of a lot of these chemicals that were being used to manufacture these chips.
CAFFERTY: So, if nobody knows what the effects of the chemicals are, how can you accuse the company of intentionally knowingly that they were exposing their workers to a cancer cause causing environment. VARCHAVER: Well, and I think that's where IBM has the advantage. Of course, I think, in the court of public opinion, that doesn't help IBM because you're -- you know, admitting you didn't know.
VARCHAVER: But in court, I think, IBM has some advantages, there. I mean, there are dozens of chemicals there, some of them are known to be carcinogens. Those tend to not be the ones that the plaintiffs in this case were actually exposed to. It's fiendishly complicated.
WASTLER: Two different venues going on for these cases, California which is leading right, but also New York.
VARCHAVER: That's right.
WASTLER: Does -- is there a better shot in either one of these areas?
VARCHAVER: Yeah, absolutely. There's a better shot in New York with a certain subset of cases. There -- most tragic cases are there's about 50 in which people are suing, claiming their kids got birth defects because the chemicals affected the reproductive system. The legal barriers are much lower for those kind of suits, and emotional impact of, you know, horribly injured kids means those cases dramatically are bigger risks, I think, to IBM.
SERWER: Nick, do you see this as part of this larger wave of litigation in this country -- you know, people suing corporations, suing McDonald's over obesity, suing Coca-Cola over sweet soda, or whatever -- hot coffee being spilled at McDonald's. I mean, is this part of this or is it more legitimate than that?
VARCHAVER: I think it's more legitimate than that. I think it's hard to prove exactly what happened, but you're talking about people who got cancer, allegedly from chemicals in the workplace over a period of years. So, it's not just -- you know, they poured hot coffee on their lap at McDonald's. This is like -- you know, serious chemicals that we're talking about.
CAFFERTY: A long in the court system, I would assume, particularly, if the lower courts find for the plaintiffs, IBM, obviously would appeal this all the way, they can't afford not to.
VARCHAVER: Right. First of all, they've already been in the system for five years. I think IBM will ultimately prevail on the law in California cases. I just don't think the plaintiffs can meet that burden.
WASTLER: One of the more silly things I read in your article is that everybody's looking at, well we've got a study going to see what chemicals are going to do what and how this affects people, but it's being sponsored and conducted by IBM. Isn't that a little weird? SERWER: The study's being sponsored by them?
VARCHAVER: IBM is doing a study -- you know, that's a really hot, open question. You know, should the government be doing the study? Should IBM do it? You know, I think you can ask -- you know, is an IBM-funded study the most honest thing?
SERWER: IBM probably thinks they should be doing the study.
WASTLER: IBM, I'm certainly...
VARCHAVER: IBM would also argue that the federal authorities don't have the ability and the skills and resources to really do these kind of studies. So, there's something on both sides of that, and it's very hard. You know, whose study is really the final credible one.
WASTLER: Our government incompetent? Heaven forbid.
CAFFERTY: Now, now, now. You're such a cynic. Nick, we've go to leave it there. Thanks for being on the program. Good stuff.
VARCHAVER: My pleasure.
CAFFERTY: Nick Varchaver is a senior writer "Fortune" magazine, court cases against IBM that'll be worth keeping an eye on.
As we continue, we have to step out for a second, but we will continue: When we come back, the CEO bails out at Boeing. We'll look at whether the boardroom shuffle will help the aircraft giant's stock gain some altitude.
Plus, how did an obscure Native-American tribe become the owners of a huge billion-dollar a year casino empire in Connecticut? Fascinating story, we'll take a look.
And thanks to one committed American woman, it's getting easier to send more than just moral support to U.S. soldiers serving overseas and just in time for Christmas, too we night add. All that and more, as IN THE MONEY continues.
SERWER: Let's look at the top stories this week in our "Money Minute." Roy Disney's feud with Disney's CEO Michael Eisner just keeps getting nastier. Mr. Disney quit the company board in protest of Eisner's leadership and fellow board member, Stanley Gold, quit along with him. It didn't stop there, though. Two days after quitting Roy Disney sent an e-mail to 200 company executives accusing Eisner of, quote, "stifling creative energy," end quote, at Disney. Wow.
Enron headquarters in downtown Houston has been sold at auction for 55.5 million bucks. A group led by a local heart doctor made the buy. It's a far cry from the $285 million J.P. Morgan Chase paid for the building before leasing it back to Enron in the late 1990s.
And, if you work at a big corporation, you're much more likely to be satisfied with your benefits package. That's according to a survey sponsored by the Society for Human Resource Management and CNNFN. The poll shows employees rated benefit packages as second most important after job security for overall job satisfaction.
Phil Condit stepped down as CEO of Boeing this week and most reports about his announcement focused on the scandals now swirling around the jet maker. But, investors might want to look a little harder at Condit's seven-year record at the helm. When he too the job, Boeing was the world's No. 1 airline company and now it's a definite No. 2. And those investors are probably not too happy about Boeing's stock price either, these days. It's trading about half the value it was in early 2001. But, Condit's tenure wasn't all about failure, by all means. Especially when you consider how the company has increased its business as a defense contractor and Boeing therefore, is our stock of the week.
Airbus is the No. 1 airplane maker, now. It's not Boeing. But, he did move the company into defense, which has obviously been a growing business, lately.
CAFFERTY: Those defense contracts are at the heart of some of those high-profile resignations that preceded Phil Condit's, so I wonder if the timing of him deciding to leave the company would risk painting his legacy, perhaps, as being a little bit under the shadow of these questionable relationships with some of the Pentagon brass who were offered jobs, they were consultants on contracts. What about the timing of his decision to walk away?
WASTLER: Oh, defiantly. I mean, he's trying to fall on his sword and save the image both of the company and his legacy after all this -- this will blow over. I mean, this is -- you know, scandals like this in government oh -- government guys and civilian guys doing hanky-panky. There's a news flash. I mean, Boeing's too big to fail, it's always going to have government...
CAFFERTY: Then why -- why would he leave?
SERWER: You know, I think it was some sort of kind of face saving thing. It reminds me of sort of the Japanese thing, that it was just a scandal that made him look bad. There's probably a lot more to it then that, but you got to figure that his move into defense was a good one, because the commercial business has been terrible, especially since 9/11. There's an aircraft graveyards out west, you guys, they're in Roswell, New Mexico; Mojave, California; and Tucson, Arizona. I checked out there, 805 commercial aircraft parked out there in the desert that have been growing like crazy over the past couple of years. So, not a good business. Airbus -- you know, he's sort of letting them have the business, which is not a good one, I guess.
WASTLER: Of course, Boeing did stumble in a few of the new of the businesses it was going to go into, I mean, digital cinema that would be piped all around, well they had to give that up, and so far a lot of their satellite business hasn't really gone great gun. So, but some of them seem to be working.
SERWER: Anytime they get away from the core businesses you have it watch out. The guys running the place, Harry Stonecipher, he's an old McDonald-Douglas guy, Loy Platt, he comes from Hewlett-Packard. And actually, the stock -- you know, we were badmouthing it. Over the past five years, I looked at it, and it's actually done better than the market, I mean, it's up a little bit. So, -- you know, it is a mixed bag for this guy and, I mean, he was a giant of the airline business. It will be interesting to see.
CAFFERTY: But, the stock is well off the highs, the question is, do you buy the shares now at the discounted price from the highs with the uncertainty about where the company is going without Condit?
WASTLER: I think that's a tough question Jack, because...
CAFFERTY: That's what we do, we try to ask the tough questions. That's our job.
WASTLER: Yeah, but you know what? I was looking at that same trend thing, and the Boeing stock sort of tracks the regular DOW, it seems to be more of a reflection of the market. The company's fortunes just seemed right to go with the market and the economy in general.
SERWER: It's a big, big economy...
Yeah, we don't let guests get away without answering the question. Do you buy the stock or not?
SERWER: No, I wouldn't buy it.
CAFFERTY: What about you?
CAFFERTY: All right.
SERWER: Oh, all right. We'll check back two years later. Mark down the date.
CAFFERTY: The ultimate payoff: We'll have the inside story of how one Indian tribe, starting with just one Indian, went from losers to big-time winners by betting big on gambling in Connecticut.
And the one-woman support system in the war on terror. We'll introduce you to a California mom who's made it her duty to provide emotional cover to U.S. troops in Iraq, this after she tried to enlist herself.
CAFFERTY: In just a few decades, Connecticut's Pequot Indian tribe has gone from practically off the map to most definitely in the money. A little play on the show's title there. Did you get that?
CAFFERTY: The story of how it happened begins in colonial America and runs right up to the present day with a casino in Connecticut grossing over a billion, with a "B" dollars per year. Here to tell us about that is Brett Fromson. He's a financial journalist and the author of "Hitting the Jackpot: The Inside Story of the Richest Indian tribe in History."
Welcome to the program. Nice to have you with us.
BRETT FROMSON, AUTHOR, "HITTING THE JACKPOT": Thanks, Jack.
CAFFERTY: When this whole thing began, there was only one Pequot Indian, right? And his heritage could have been considered marginal?
FROMSON: Well, yes. There was an older lady who lived alone on this 200-acre reservation that was not federally recognized. She died. And then her descendants essentially re-invented a tribe.
CAFFERTY: And then went on to build this billion-dollar-a-year gambling empire. You refer to the Pequots as a Monty Python tribe. What does that mean, exactly?
FROMSON: Well, you remember the old Monty Python skit about the dead parrot?
FROMSON: And the guy goes in and he's -- the shopkeepers say -- he sold him a stuffed parrot and he says, "It's not dead, it's just sleeping." Well, the Pequots are a dead parrot, but they somehow convinced basically the people in Connecticut -- and this is the late '70s, early '80s, when gambling wasn't on the map, no one really cared. It was completely -- you know, people consumed with historical guilt.
No one wanted to check their bona fides, no due diligence. And so they basically got it on -- they just got it off the radar screen. They got federal recognition, and then were off to the races.
SERWER: All right. Well, you're critical of these guys, Brett, and I understand that. I mean, these guys obviously got themselves recognized as a tribe and got one of the greatest windfalls of American history. On the other hand, what's wrong with this picture, though?
We're talking about a transfer of wealth to a bunch of people who have been in serious poverty for hundreds of years. And this is true with Indians all across the country. So what's wrong with that?
FROMSON: Well, the problem of the Pequots is that they were not an Indian tribe. You see, you have to be a tribe in order...
CAFFERTY: That's a problem. FROMSON: ... to get this particular...
SERWER: But then how did they become a tribe? How did they get themselves recognized as a tribe?
FROMSON: Well, basically, what happened was they had very skilled and talented lawyers who came down from Maine, and they basically convinced the state of Connecticut, not in a public way, but in a quiet way, through a (UNINTELLIGIBLE) suit. They sued some landowners.
Some landowners basically went to the state and said, oh, my god, we're being sued for our land. Then say it's their land. Help us.
The State said, no way. Forget it. We're not helping you.
But then this guy from Maine, who was their lawyer, said, well, I have a solution. We'll go to Congress, we'll go to Capitol Hill. They'll get some money to pay off the tribe that wants it, but give the trial federal recognition.
The landowners will get their money. The State, you won't have a problem anymore. And it will be done and it will all go away.
SERWER: But these people have some Indian blood in them, don't they?
FROMSON: Well, I figure typical Pequot -- and this is assuming they are who they say there are -- and there's a lot of question within this tribe and outside the tribe as to the authenticity. Your typical Pequot today is between 1/64 and 1/128 max.
WASTLER: Now, nevertheless, though, they were able to take advantage of a lot of -- you know, from want of a better term, middle white class liberal guilt.
FROMSON: Yes. I mean, basically, you know, I grew up in Connecticut, and I'll tell you, people in Connecticut no more could identify an Indian tribe than -- they wouldn't know a tribe if they tripped over it.
CAFFERTY: Isn't there a certain irony to the fact that this thing is in the state of Connecticut? I mean, to me, there's something very rich there.
FROMSON: The land of steady habits?
CAFFERTY: I mean, they tend to be a bit Victorian, if you know what I mean. Well, you said you're from there.
FROMSON: Yes, I'm from -- I mean, the whole idea that this -- when I was a kid in Connecticut, we had blue laws.
FROMSON: Liquor stores were called package stores. The whole bit. Basically, this was basically a really smug little place, and no one had a clue.
CAFFERTY: They really are.
FROMSON: And the key thing here is that, the reinvention takes place because none of the political leaders in the state wanted to look too carefully. They just wanted to sort of sign off on this and move on.
And so, you know, you have guys in the story like Wechler (ph) and Dodd and Lieberman comes into play. And basically, everyone wanted to be a nice guy. And they thought, if we're a nice guy, it would all go away. And it's a classic story of unintended consequences. And so now they're the richest tribe and, in my view, they're a tribe in name only.
SERWER: What are the national implications, though? I mean, this is not just a Connecticut issue. It's a nationwide issue.
FROMSON: Oh, it's wild. You know, the thing about the Pequots is that they're in a really bizarre way. The sort of progenitor for what a lot of other Indian tribes want to become, which is to say, incredibly rich.
You know, it's a $1.2 billion revenue. They're probably taking in somewhere in the range of $200, $250 million a year. There are about 600 of these people, men, women and children. So they're really rich.
So a lot other tribes that are legit tribes want in. And what's happened is that we've seen this across the country in Connecticut, with, you know, Governor Arnold now -- I mean, he's now in this big battle with the tribes to try to get some money.
The issue is, with about 200 tribes into gambling and about 300- plus Indian casinos, the problem has to do with the gambling aspect of it. People don't begrudge the Indians making more money, but gambling is basically a grubby business with a lot of side effects. Because suddenly, in these small towns they're finding they've hookers on the street, they've got traffic up the wazu (ph), pollution.
Suddenly, they've got 20,000, 30,000 people a day visiting their town who they don't know. The cops are overwhelmed. The schools have suddenly all these temporary workers who are dumping their kids into public schools and people are going nuts. And they're going, OK, well, (UNINTELLIGIBLE) my life is turned upside down, and...
CAFFERTY: Right. Tax revenues.
FROMSON: And it's becoming -- and I think, at the end of the day, this is undercutting -- significantly for real Indian tribes, this whole gambling thing is combustible. Because these tribes rely on large-scale national, political support for their continued existence.
SERWER: Well, I think you put it best when you said "unintended consequences." And obviously, it's a very controversial subject. And I hope we can revisit it with you.
Brett Fromson, great to see you. My former colleague at "Fortune" magazine and author of "Hitting the Jackpot: The Inside Story of the Richest Indian Tribe in History." Thank you.
FROMSON: Andy, thanks.
SERWER: Just ahead: support troops. What started as one woman's mission to bolster the spirit of American soldiers overseas is gathering steam. We'll have the details.
And you use the Internet at work only for important job-related research. Yes, right. We'll check in with our Web master, Allen Wastler, who has the scoop of goofing on online.
CAFFERTY: 'Tis the season, you know? And as the season of giving kicks into gear, U.S. troops overseas are doing some receiving, thanks to one very determined woman from Los Angeles, California.
Carolyn Blashek wanted to sign up for military service herself after the September 11 attacks on America. It turned out she was over the age limit, so she found her own way to support America's servicemen and women. She calls it Operation Gratitude, and she joins us on IN THE MONEY from Los Angeles now.
Carolyn Blashek, nice to have you with us. Tell us a little about your program, what you're doing, how's it growing. This sounds like a wonderful idea.
CAROLYN BLASHEK, OPERATION GRATITUDE: Well, thank you. And thank you for having me on.
I founded Operation Gratitude for two reasons. The first was to bring a smile to every service member's face who we could find and who we could send something to and let them know that I personally, and we as a community, appreciate the sacrifices that they're making to protect our freedom.
And then, secondly, I wanted to provide the American people a means of expressing their gratitude. So by doing collection drives to provide items for the packages, by doing letter-writing campaigns, and by contributing to the cost of postage, Americans all over the country could be a part of this.
SERWER: All right. Carolyn, tell us a little bit more specifically about what you do. Are there gift packages you send? You mentioned that. And tell us the scope of your project, please.
BLASHEK: OK. Well up through -- from March through October, I was operating entirely out of my home, and sent out 650 care packages to individually-named troops. And the packages contained items ranging from snack foods to toiletries to entertainment items.
And then several months ago, I realized over the holidays so many people were going to be away from their loved ones, and I teamed up with the Army National Guard, 746th Quartermaster Battalion here in Los Angeles, and we organized a "Support the Troops" rally for the weekend of November 8 and 9, at which over 200 volunteers came in and helped us package up over 3,000 packages.
Since that time, we've sent an additional 1,200 packages. So altogether, we've sent close to 5,000 packages to the troops overseas. And we will be sending at least another 2,000 over the next few weeks.
WASTLER: Carolyn, how do you identify who gets the packages here? I mean, how do you get the names?
BLASHEK: Well, it started out with really networking through the Internet. And mostly, just every person I met I would ask, "Do you have a loved one overseas that I can send a package to?"
And then in every package, I would include a letter from Operation Gratitude explaining what this was for and who I was, and to let them know that if they knew anyone else who would like to receive something, to have them get touch with me through my Web site or through e-mail.
And then once the Web site was online, friends, family members and the troops themselves could actually sign up through a secure form on the Internet -- well, on my Web site -- and provide information. Now I also work with several senior personnel in the field.
CAFFERTY: Where does the stuff that goes into the packages come from? Is that donated by businesses, by individuals? I mean, can I get involved if I wanted to donate something? Tell me how that works.
BLASHEK: Oh, Absolutely. Yes, absolutely.
BLASHEK: It's a combination of both. Individuals and organizations of either civic organizations or schools or groups of employees at a business can get together and do collection drives, and pull together all the items that we use in the packages, and ship them to us.
In addition, for the holiday drive, since I knew we were going to be sending so many thousands of packages and we would need really large quantities of items, I did contact many companies throughout the country, and was just overwhelmed with the positive response and the generosity of many businesses that provided their products.
CAFFERTY: If I want to get involved, do you have a Web site I can go to? Tell me how to get in touch with you.
BLASHEK: I sure do. The Web site is www.opgratitude.com. And there's a whole section on how you can help for individuals or organizations or businesses.
SERWER: Carolyn, let me ask you, did you run into any problems with red tape with the military? I mean, how much can private citizens do in terms of supporting the troops and helping out?
BLASHEK: Well, I didn't run into red tape in the sense of anyone stopping me. And I think I've developed a good trust with military members knowing that I personally inspect every item that goes into the packages and I read every letter that goes in.
After 9/11, the postal regulations changed in terms of not being able to send packages addressed to any soldier. One needs to have an actual -- specific name and address of a service member. And that was why I started the networking, to develop those names. So a civilian who does not otherwise have the name and address of a soldier, their best bet is to work through Operation Gratitude to get a package overseas.
CAFFERTY: I'm sure you hear back from these soldiers. I'm just curious, give me a memorable response that you got back from one of the troops over there.
BLASHEK: Well, I received one just yesterday that I just thought was adorable. It was from a woman who had sent me names from everyone in her unit. And they -- all the packages had just arrived, and she wrote back saying how thrilled everyone was, that it was like Christmas time. And that even the commanding officer had a smile on his face because he received a package, too, and he had never received anything ever before.
CAFFERTY: Even the boss got one.
BLASHEK: Even the boss, yes.
SERWER: All right. Carolyn, well that's certainly great. And it's great to hear that kind of story this time of year. Thank you very much. Carolyn Blashek, founder of Operation Gratitude.
BLASHEK: Thank you.
SERWER: Still ahead on IN THE MONEY: the great escape. You can't get out of work, but you can get into wasting some time there. We've got some Web sites that will help.
CAFFERTY: Oh, good.
SERWER: And here's another way to get busy. Write and tell us what's on your mind. Our e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org.
CAFFERTY: Worker productivity is way up according to the latest government reports. A lot of experts say that computer technology deserves most of the credit for making us work smarter and more efficiently.
However, not so fast. Our Web master, Allen Wastler, has the other side of the story. He's got the goods on how we all use our computers to goof off and waste time on the job. All of us, except, of course, those of us who work on IN THE MONEY. WASTLER: Oh, very hard. Very hard.
Got some numbers from Nielsen MetroMedia (ph). They track this stuff. OK.
During a month, on average at home, your Internet surfing is about 27 hours. OK? At work, per month, it's 80.
SERWER: Work is more boring. That's why.
WASTLER: So you're talking 20 a week. And if you work a five- day workweek, that's four hours a day that you're on the net.
SERWER: Every single...
WASTLER: Now, look at this. This is -- my boss will get mad at me. But this is our Web site traffic. OK?
See the down part? That's midnight. See the up part? That's lunch hour. OK?
That will tell you when the people are coming in to our site. All right?
WASTLER: I see this stuff every day. I make sure we have all the juicy news up there right at about 8:00, 9:00 when people are showing up to work. Oh yes. People (UNINTELLIGIBLE), now, naturally, they have to come to CNN money to do their job.
SERWER: Well, the computer is the greatest goof off machine in the history of mankind. I mean, before, you just had a newspaper and the water cooler. I mean, that didn't take up enough time. Now the computer is endless, right? You just spend as much time as you want.
WASTLER: You can go on there. And more and more companies are employing the tracking technology and we're going to block certain sites.
SERWER: Oh, I hate that.
WASTLER: But they found out that that actually will impede some types of productivity, if, say, there's a big news event the company has to react to and they've got to go to it.
WASTLER: Now, here's a place you don't have to. This is a ishouldbeworking.com, one of my favorites. It comes equipped with a panic button. You can put up a spreadsheet that will come up if your boss...
CAFFERTY: Oh, OK. WASTLER: All right? This is some of the back pages of it.
And now we've got, amIboardatwork.com, another good one. Lots of selections. Some amiboardatwork.com has some dirty words on it. So you might want to be careful going there.
Another one I like is, iworkwithfools.com, where you can just write in your complaints about different people. And just post them there for everyone to read.
Now, if you really want to fool around, there's places like gophergas (ph), where we can watch a little -- mock animals playing. Mr. Potato Head. This is a great one.
SERWER: Oh, I could spend a lot of time there.
WASTLER: Ooh, is that my boss? No, not quite.
Of course, there's lots of games you can do, too. I found a nice arcade spot where you can play Asteroids -- well, this is Sub Hunter. Remember Sub Hunter? One of my favorites.
CAFFERTY: I started playing something called Snewd (ph). One of my daughters at home got Snewd (ph) up on the computer.
SERWER: I have a report due this afternoon. Maybe I'll do a little Snewd (ph).
CAFFERTY: It must cost a lot of money, though. I mean, we sit here and kid around about it, but this kind of stuff costs billions of dollars a year, right?
WASTLER: It does. And think about it. Four hours on the Internet at work, most of us don't have jobs that require surfing that much. I do, of course.
CAFFERTY: Yes, sure.
WASTLER: But most people, you don't need to do that. So you've got to wonder.
CAFFERTY: That's why they call him the Web master.
SERWER: How do you get that job? I want to be a Web master.
CAFFERTY: I don't know. What about the people who work for you. Since you know all about this stuff, are you the pain in the tuchis about what other people are doing?
WASTLER: I cast my eye on things from time to time and see what they're doing. But generally we're having fun.
CAFFERTY: All right. Allen Wastler, the Web master.
Coming up next, we'll read some of your responses to our e-mail question about whether or not if someone in your family was gay and got married, if you'd attend the wedding ceremony.
And if you can't help tell us about what you think about the show and about the topics we cover, by then all means, Virginia, unburden yourself. Drop us a line at IN THE MONEY at cnn.com. We have a guy on the staff whose job it is to read this stuff and respond to each and every letter. They let him out three hours a day to do this.
CAFFERTY: Welcome back. Time now to get responses to our question about gay marriage. We asked whether you'd go to a family member's wedding, even if it were a same-sex wedding.
Most of you said you would, including Jonathan, who said this: "I'd go to the wedding even though I wouldn't feel very comfortable being there. Family is still family, and that bond goes beyond my beliefs."
Gail wrote: "The real problem is we're mixing a religious institution with legal and financial laws. It's time to get government out of the religious institution of marriage completely. Let's replace civil marriage with civil unions. Then religious organizations can marry any one they want."
Jeff in Massachusetts said this: "Sure, I would attend a same-sex wedding, but only if I didn't have to go to the bachelor party, bring a date, or kiss the bride."
Now for our e-mail question of this week: Do you use the Internet more to waste time or save time while you're at work? And please try to be honest. Send your answers to email@example.com. You should also visit our show Web page.
This is a good way to waste time while working: money.com/inthemoney. Not really. Everything there is pertinent and most worthwhile.
Thank you for joining us for this edition of IN THE MONEY. I appreciate having you with us. My thanks to "Fortune" magazine editor-at-large, Andy Serwer, and in for Susan Lisovicz this week, ably handling the chore is money.com managing editor Allen Wastler.
Join us next week, Saturday at 1:00 Easter, Sunday at 3:00. Or you can catch Andy and me all week long on "AMERICAN MORNING," which begins at 7:00 Eastern time.
Thanks again. See you next time around.
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