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Bridging the Border; Real Life "Da Vinci Code" Character Speaks Out

Aired May 17, 2006 - 10:30   ET


DARYN KAGAN, CNN ANCHOR: Taking a look at live pictures from Capitol Hill. You know the face. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, he is testifying today before the Senate Appropriations Committee. There to talk about things like budgets for Iraq and Afghanistan, but certainly going to get a bunch of questions today about how he expects this will work President Bush's proposal to put National Guard troops along the U.S./Mexican border. We will listen in in a bit. Right now, the defense secretary only in his opening statements.
Speaking of immigration, illegal immigrants risk their lives to cross the border, but not in Fort Hancock, Texas. A casual stroll across the foot bridge gets you in there.

CNN's Ed Lavandera has the story that first aired on "ANDERSON COOPER 360."


CHIEF DEPUTY MIKE DOYAL, HUDSPETH COUNTY SHERIFF'S DEPARTMENT: Just an open footway traffic for people coming across.

ED LAVANDERA, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Sheriff's Deputy Mike Doyal shows us one of the four unguarded foot bridges that connect Fort Hancock, Texas, to Mexico.

DOYAL: Prior to our arrival, anyone that wanted to go up across there, was free to do so.

LAVANDERA: Border Patrol agents make daily patrols through town, but every day people cross to work and even go to school, skipping past the official checkpoints.

DOYAL: And those are not the people that we have a problem with, because I'm going to make it real clear that some of those people on the other side are some of the nicest people you would ever want to meet in your life.

LAVANDERA: Fort Hancock sits about 50 miles southeast of El Paso. Its one claim to fame is a moment in the movie "Shawshank Redemption."

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I got a postcard in the mail. It was blank, but the postmark said Fort Hancock, Texas. Fort Hancock. Right on the border. That's where Andy crossed.

LAVANDERA: The old 1880s military barracks, built to protect the U.S. border, are now crumbling into the alfalfa fields cut by migrant workers. It's a timeless place. For people who live here, the border barely exists. We found these Mexican cattle ranchers moving their herd along the river. A few times the cows would move into the U.S., the buckeros (ph) road across the dried out river and collected their animals.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This one right here is red chilies.

LAVANDERA: Chili farmer Gale Carr welcomes the people who cross the border with good intentions. He thinks new laws or work programs won't stop illegal immigration.

GALE CARR, CHILI FARMER: Because as long as it's so bad next door, the kids from next door are going to want to hang out with our kids. You know, that's just the way it is.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is one of the labs here.

LAVANDERA: And the kids are coming. Fort Hancock School Superintendent Jose Franco says 99 percent of his students are Hispanic. He knows some of them are here illegally, but says it's not his job to kick them out.

JOSE FRANCO, SUPERINTENDENT, FORT HANCOCK ISD: If they show up to your doorstep, you educate them. You know, these are public schools. If they can just show some kind of proof that they live within the boundaries of the school district, you know, electric bill, they're pretty much in.

LAVANDERA: As the immigration debate rages across the country, life goes on here. The Rio Grande is like the community swimming pool to people on both sides, and as a group of tired Mexican cowboys gather their herd and sit down for lunch on the American side, no one seems to care.

Ed Lavandera, CNN, Fort Hancock, Texas.


KAGAN: You can catch more stories from Ed Lavandera on "ANDERSON COOPER 360," 10:00 p.m. Eastern right here on CNN.

Just a couple minutes ago, before we watched Ed's piece, we were dipping in on the Senate Appropriations Hearing Committee meeting, where Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld is testifying. Well, just minutes later, there was this disruption at the hearings.


DONALD RUMSFELD, SECRETARY OF DEFENSE: We owe it to them and to the country that they have sworn to protect to see that we provide the resources and the capabilities that will not only win today's wars, but also best assure peace in the decades ahead.

Thank you, Mr. Chairman.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Whoever that is, security, please remove them.

Mr. Secretary, thank you very much. What you've said that...


KAGAN: Well, they are public hearings. That was rather mild, in terms of a demonstration and removal of what we've seen in the past. But we'll continue to monitor those hearings and most importantly, what the defense secretary has to say.

More now on immigration. A startling admission by one of the president's most trusted insiders. Here now is Attorney General Alberto Gonzales in a candid exchange with CNN's Wolf Blitzer during "THE SITUATION ROOM."


ALBERTO GONZALES, ATTORNEY GENERAL: Three of my grandparents were born in Mexico. They came to Texas. My parents, both my parents, were born in Texas. Extremely poor. My mother had...

WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: But when they came to Texas, were they legally documented, were they unlegally documented?

GONZALES: You know, it's unclear. It's unclear. And I've looked at this issue, I've talked to my parents about it, and it's just not clear.


KAGAN: Gonzales says that those humble beginnings gave him the route to the American dream. His father had only a second grade education. Gonzales has gone on to become the government's top lawyer.

Thirty-five minutes past the hour. We're talking now about buckling up. The government wants some of you to hear that message loud and clear. The government says some 31,000 people are killed each year on the roads. About 48 million people don't regularly wear seat belts. In pickup truck accidents, about seven in ten who died were unbelted. The government also says that too many unbelted people are dying in crashes on country roads. So police may be keeping a closer eye on young men driving pickups in rural areas, because they often fail to buckle up.

Well, we all know seat belts can save lives, but one belt was a life saver in a very unusual way. The story comes to us from Florida. We have a belt, a bra strap, of all things, and it helped deflect a bullet. Details now from reporter Tanya Arja of affiliate WTVT in Tampa.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) TANYA ARJA, WTVT REPORTER (voice-over): When Robin Key put on her seat belt Sunday night to head over to St. Pete Beach, she had no idea the tightly woven strap was about to save her life.

(on camera): The Keys pulled up to this light at 3:01 at Boyette (ph) Road. They were stopped for just about a minute when they say they heard something that sounded like an explosion.

ROBIN KEY, STRUCK BY BULLET: I felt stuff fly back and hit me, and I like got pushed back into the seat and I just didn't know what it was at first.

ARJA (voice-over): Robin yelled out she was shot after she saw this bullet hole in the windshield and felt a pain in her right shoulder.

DONNY KEY, ROBIN KEY'S HUSBAND: She started frantically looking, trying to find out where she was bleeding at. And I was looking on her, too, trying to find out where she was bleeding at.

ARJA: But they couldn't find where the bullet hit.

D. KEY: Then we realized the seat belt is what actually saved her life. A few more inches away, and she -- the bullet might have penetrated into her body.

ARJA: The bullet, from a .38 caliber handgun, came through the windshield and hit Robin right where her seat belt was stretched across her shoulder. It made a mark on the seat belt, but never pierced through. The bullet fell into her lap. Investigators have now charged Anthony Bachelor (ph) and Chris Walker (ph), and say they shot at two other drivers earlier in the day.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Don't know why. Getting their kicks. We're unsure. But it ended up with this woman very lucky.

ARJA: Detectives say Walker was the shooter, but Bachelor was wearing a bullet-proof vest.

(on camera): What were they planning on doing? Because that's just scary.

D. KEY: Well, they were looking to kill someone, there's no doubt. Because they randomly fired a shot into -- you know, right into traffic.


KAGAN: A footnote here. Besides Key's seat belt, police say her bra also played a role. It seems the thick strap helped to deflect the bullet. Absolutely incredible.

Well, how's this for testing your faith? Some critics not impressed with "The Da Vinci Code." Is the stage set for a box office flop? More on CNN LIVE TODAY. And ex-Beatle Paul McCartney, big personal news. He says he's splitting with his second wife. The couple spreads blame for the failed marriage. Live to London in the next hour.


KAGAN: Outsourcing, it was a tech industry buzzword not too long ago. But now outsourcing overseas, so last year.

CNN's Miles O'Brien brings it all back home.


JENNIFER: Five, 10 years ago I felt like I was going to be pretty safe as an I.T. industry employee. I recently lost my job. They said that I was redundant. They never truly say you are being replaced with employees over in India. I very much worry about knowledge that is moving offshore. Are we going to slowly experience a brain drain? We're becoming more of a world economy, which has its benefits, but what will be our expense?

MILES O'BRIEN, CNN ANCHOR: Jennifer's concern is a valid one. If you've ever called an 800 number and gotten someone in Bangalore, you know the story. Right now, U.S. companies employ somewhere between one million and two million service workers offshore. Another three-and-a-half million overseas jobs to be added in the next 10 years.

But they may be overlooking a homegrown option.

KATHY BRITTIAN WHITE, FOUNDER, RURAL SOURCING: I think the lure of the big city isn't quite what it used to be.

O'BRIEN (voice-over): Kathy Brittian White, founder of Rural Sourcing, says there is a wealth of untapped I.T. knowledge right here at home.

WHITE: There were people that were working at McDonald's or Wal- Marts or other places with a college degree. So we really came in and gave them an opportunity to work in the field.

O'BRIEN: White says many companies that employ offshore workers find they don't save as much as they hoped. The overhead is high and what's more their customers are often dissatisfied.

WHITE: We can either sit and whine that there is a global economy or we can get serious and realize we have the responsibility to be competitive and we have to find new ways to innovate. That's what's always made American workers great.



KAGAN: Well, a muffin could make your morning. It could also make you sick. Faculty members at a Dallas high school learned that the hard way. Eighteen went to the hospital with nausea, lightheadedness and dizziness. Police think that they ate a badge of a batch of bad muffins they discovered in the teachers' lounge.


TERRY LONG, PRESBYTERIAN HOSPITAL E.R.: With any of those things, symptoms generally wears off in just a brief period of time, unless it's a massive overdose.


KAGAN: Police say they still don't know exactly who dropped off the muffins. The FBI has joined in on the investigation to see whether the breakfast treats were tainted by nature, or a mischievous muffin man.

The rains are over for now for one New England town. That's good news. But a river is still running through it. Live picture there from Massachusetts. The flood of '06. A live update in our next hour.


KAGAN: The curtain has gone up on "The Da Vinci Code," and guess what's coming down? A few insults. CNN's Brooke Anderson is at the Cannes Film Festival. Critics there had a sneak peek at one of the most anticipated movies of the summer blockbuster season.


BROOKE ANDERSON, CNN ENTERTAINMENT CORRESPONDENT: "The Da Vinci Code" is one of the most controversial films in recent history. And after months of anticipation, it gets its world premiere here tonight at the Cannes Film Festival.

Now, some of us got an early look at the movie last night in the first world screening for critics, and the critics haven't been kind. While there have been some lukewarm reviews, most of them have been highly critical and negative. Some saying the film is dull, is disjointed, and is painfully long at 2.5 hours.

Now, despite the fact that Christians and religious leaders around the world are denouncing "The Da Vinci Code" and calling for boycotts, the cast and crew of the movie seem unfazed. They seem totally unaffected by the controversy. They arrived here at Cannes yesterday from London by a train and they were all smiles, waving at the press and at the fans.

Now, Ron Howard and Tom Hanks have said there's no need for anyone to be incensed by the movie, that is simply a thriller. It is simply a work of fiction. "The Da Vinci Code" opens in the U.S. Friday.

Reporting from the 59th Cannes Film Festival, I'm Brooke Anderson.


KAGAN: And then there's the "Da Vinci Code" debate. What's fact, what's fiction? You're about to meet the one character who's not a figment of the author's imagination. He knows a lot about art, but he says he does not know the author Dan Brown.

With more on Da Vinci, here's our CNN's Alessio Vinci.


ALESSIO VINCI, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): "The Da Vinci Code," Chapter 40. The plot thickens.

"Everyone loves conspiracies, and the conspiracies kept coming. Italian art diagnostician Maurizio Seracini had unveiled the unsettling truth."

That truth, according to Dan Brown's novel, is that Leonardo knew where the Holy Grail was hidden and that he peppered his art with clues to its location. That may be fiction, but art expert Maurizio Seracini is not.

(on camera): Maurizio Seracini is the only non-fictional character in "The Da Vinci Code," and what attracted Dan Brown to him was his long investigation uncovering hidden images beneath one of Da Vinci's most famous paintings, "The Adoration of the Magi."

(voice-over): Dan Brown calls Seracini an art diagnostician, but Seracini describes himself as a doctor who analyzes the origins of paintings by sending a beam of infrared light through paint, which detects original drawings underneath.

(on camera): Have you ever met Dan Brown?

MAURIZIO SERACINI, ART DIAGNOSTICIAN: No. First I tried with an e-mail, didn't have any success, then I sent him a real letter -- but that hasn't got any answer -- where we say, why don't you come over and I'll show you the results? So you can see yourself if there is or not any secret.

VINCI (voice-over): He says the invitation is still open, and he says Dan Brown would be surprised by what he would find.

SERACINI: Well, I must say there was a lot hidden under the paint. As a matter of fact, almost 70 figures never seen before. Each of them is a masterpiece. So indeed, there was a lot hidden. And that is worthwhile talking about. Where I did not find anything related to mysteries to some esoteric tale.

VINCI: Images like these two horsemen engaged in a violent battle. Seracini believes they were covered up because they weren't fitting for a nativity painting.

(on camera): Enough for a conspiracy theory?

SERACINI: Well, if you want to speculate on it, or if you want to put it in a fiction book and you want to make it like a conspiracy, well, go ahead with it. But let's keep it under the idea, under the frame, that it is a fiction book.

VINCI (voice-over): But the claim made by Dan Brown that a description of artwork, architecture and document are accurate is what bothers Seracini the most.

SERACINI: If he says that it's for real, then it's not a fiction anymore, it's a book of documents. And if want to make a fiction book, you don't declare that everything in the book is real.

VINCI: As far as he is concerned, Maurizio Seracini is the only authentic part of Dan Brown's bestseller.

Alessio Vinci, CNN, Florence.


KAGAN: Well, here's an interesting transition for you. We're going from "The Da Vinci Code" to gator hunting. A gator hunter's work is never done.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I've been tired for five days.


KAGAN: It's a busy time for Florida trappers. Our Susan Candiotti goes along. CNN LIVE TODAY goes gator hunting.

And the badlands along the border. Common ground on Capitol Hill. The latest on the immigration battle when CNN LIVE TODAY continues.



UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Like a bomb that blew up, and big mushroom cloud of smoke -- looked like a big, black mushroom in the air.


KAGAN: Well, it looked like the real deal, but workers at this Mesa, Arizona airport say that these explosions were only a test, Hollywood style. The booms are a sample of what you'll see in an upcoming movie. Reports say "The Kingdom" will star Jamie Foxx, Jennifer Garner and Chris Cooper.

So a guy named guy goes for a job interview. Well, poor guy, he ended up live on the news.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Well, Guy Keaney (ph) is the editor of the technology Web site News Wireless. Hello, good morning to you.



KAGAN: Is that expression priceless or what? The shocking interview ahead in the second hour of CNN LIVE TODAY, which, by the way, begins right now.


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