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ANDERSON COOPER 360 DEGREES
Gaza Meltdown; U.S. Peacekeepers; Katrina Tragedy; Pet Projects; Pensions for Criminals; Unsafe Imports; Unguarded Border; Hospital Calls 911
Aired June 15, 2007 - 23:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
JOHN KING, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: You're watching the only live newscast on cable right now.
In just a few moments, Anderson's got a 360 "Keeping them Honest" special report. He'll be looking at your money, your government and the ways in which institutions set up to work for all of us sometimes don't. Tonight we're holding them accountable.
First, though, some late news. The war on terror by way of the civil war in the Palestinian territories. Hamas tightening its grip on Gaza, Fata now hanging on for the West Bank and serious questions about what it means in the war on terror.
CNN's Ben Wedeman is tracking all of this and he's standing by for us now in Jerusalem with the latest -- Ben.
BEN WEDEMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, John, it does seem that now that Hamas has control of Gaza, that they are trying to stabilize the situation somewhat. We've seen that orders have gone out that masked gunmen should no longer be in the street, that Palestinians should respect the property. We've also heard Halid Michel (ph), the leader of Hamas who is exiled in Syria, put out a statement that the kidnappers of the BBC's Gaza Correspondent Allen Johnston must be released immediately.
And there are reports that the kidnappers are suggesting that today, here in the Middle East, which is Saturday now, that Allen Johnston will be released.
He was kidnapped on the 12th of March by a group that calls itself the army of Islam. Despite these efforts, it does appear that the divide between the West Bank and Gaza is getting even wider.
The government of Mahmoud Abbas, the leader of the Fatah movement, says it will not deal with the -- what it calls the murderers in Gaza. So it does appear that we are in the process of seeing the development of two very distinct Palestinian entities -- John.
KING: And Ben, are we seeing any diplomatic initiatives at all? The United States, of course, says it will not talk to Hamas. Is there any effort by any leading country in the West to try to go in and see if there is any way to talk their way to a solution here?
WEDEMAN: In the West, no. Basically the only country that's really involved in diplomatic efforts is Norway. Other than that, the Arab league is going to send a fact-finding committee or delegation to Gaza. And within a month, this delegation is supposed to come up with recommendations.
Unfortunately, John, the Arab league is probably one of the most -- one of the world's most ineffective diplomatic bodies. So nobody's really expecting much to come out of that effort -- John.
KING: Sober assessment from our Ben Wedeman in Jerusalem.
Ben, thank you very much.
And back in Washington, a dilemma in the purest sense of the word. A choice of two equally hard options. Talk with Hamas, which again, the Bush administration says it will not do, or send supplies and possibly even troops to bolster Fatah which many believe simply would not work. Many including apparently the secretary of defense.
Here's CNN's Jamie McIntyre.
JAMIE MCINTYRE, CNN SENIOR PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): In Brussels, Defense Secretary Robert Gates ruled out peacekeepers and ruled out supplying Fatah.
ROBERT GATES, DEFENSE SECRETARY: I'm a little out of touch here, but to the best of my knowledge the answer to both questions is no.
MCINTYRE: Experts say anything the U.S. does to aid the moderate secular Fatah government of Mahmoud Abbas against militant Islamic Hamas could be counterproductive.
FAWAZ GERGES, MIDEAST ANALYST: The more the Bush administration stays out of it, the better for regional stability and also for American vital interest in that part of the world.
MCINTYRE: So far everything the U.S. has tried has had unintended consequences. The U.S. encouraged the Israeli withdrawal from the Gaza strip and the subsequent Palestinian elections, never anticipating it would bring Hamas, which the U.S. considers a terrorist group, to power.
It then engineered a boycott that simply increased local support of Hamas and fueled anti-American and Israeli sentiment.
Even the delivery of non-lethal aid to forces loyal to Abbas just seemed to embolden Hamas to seize Gaza.
So what can the U.S. do about the possibility of a militant Islamic semi-state on the border with Israel? Not much. In fact, the Israelis have no good military options either.
PROF. SHIBLEY TELHAMI, UNIVERSITY OF MARYLAND: And if they -- we occupy Gaza, they may weaken the current Hamas leadership as they did in the past. But it doesn't resolve the problem, back to square one. MCINTYRE (on camera): And at the State Department a spokesman acknowledged Mahmoud Abbas has lost control of Gaza and says the U.S. is now looking for ways to support President Abbas's new government without doing more harm than good.
Jamie McIntyre, CNN, Washington.
KING: That does it for me tonight. Have a great weekend. But don't go anywhere.
Time now to turn things over to Anderson with a 360 special report.
ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: And good evening. We're coming to you tonight from a pump station along the 17th Street Canal in New Orleans. This is a brand-new station that was built in the last two years since Hurricane Katrina. It's one of the stations that's supposed to protect this city in the event of another storm like Katrina. The question is, will it work?
That's one of the things we're here investigating.
It's been almost two years since we first made our "Keeping them Honest" promise. We've returned to New Orleans and done some 20 shows or more since the hurricane hit.
Tonight, this is a 360 special, "Keeping them Honest." Hundreds of millions of taxpayers dollar were wasted by the government in the scrambled recovery effort following Katrina.
But it doesn't take a catastrophe to invite government waste. In fact, it happens every day.
And tonight, in this 360 "Keeping them Honest" special, we'll give you the truth of how your tax dollars are being spent.
COOPER (voice-over): Your money goes a long way in Washington, really, it helped pay for a ski lift in Alaska, an airport runway expansion in rural Wisconsin, and renovations at a historic hotel in Florida.
Your money also funds pensions for convicted lawmakers. In "Keeping them Honest," we'll also look at a border checkpoint. Problem is, there is no checkpoint. Security there is based on the honor system, if you can believe it.
Also ahead in this hour, a flaw in the medical system where a hospital handled an emergency by calling 911 to try to save a patient's life.
We begin right here in New Orleans where bodies from Hurricane Katrina still haven't gotten a decent burial. Some of them unidentified, some simply unclaimed. All of them lying in a kind of bureaucratic limbo. The question nearly two years since the storm is why?
CNN's Susan Roesgen investigates.
SUSAN ROESGEN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): In the first few days and weeks after Katrina, search teams recovered more than 1,000 bodies in the New Orleans area. And most of the dead were identified and buried. Most but not all.
Every day New Orleanians drive past this unmarked warehouse on the Poidra (ph) Street near the superdome, never knowing that the bodies of 100 men and women lie in plastic-wrapped caskets inside. Thirty are still unidentified. DNA tests have found no matches. The rest are identified, but unclaimed by families who haven't been able to bury them.
DR. FRANK MINYARD, ORLEANS PARISH CORONER: I hate to go over there. And I've always -- but what were we going to do? I mean, we were lucky to find Poidra (ph) Street.
ROESGEN: The New Orleans Coroner Dr. Frank Minyard has a plan, but not yet enough money to pay for it. Minyard wants to put the bodies in mausoleums, in a memorial designed to look like the shape of a hurricane. The memorial would be here in an old cemetery.
But ground hasn't been broken yet because the memorial would cost about $1.5 million, and the coroner's only been able to collect about $250,000 in private donations. And he's unwilling to move any of the bodies that have been identified but unclaimed out of the warehouse.
MINYARD: I just think, I mean, you can't spread these victims all over. This is a memorial to the hurricane.
ROESGEN: So this is where the bodies remain.
But Terry Kent, who believes one of her relatives may be among the unidentified bodies, says the city has waited long enough to give the dead a proper burial.
TERRY KENT, BELIEVES RELATIVE MAY BE AMONG THE DEAD: Please bury those bodies. Even if she's not there, those people need to be buried too. Everybody needs a resting place.
COOPER: It's amazing that this is going on. Why does the coroner have to go hat in hand for donations?
ROESGEN (on camera): You know, you would think with all the billions of dollars sent to New Orleans for hurricane recovery, you wouldn't have to do that.
But actually, government recovery money can only be spent on things that were damaged or destroyed. And this is a memorial that wasn't there before that they want to build a new. So that's part of the problem.
But the other problem is that the coroner says, look, this city is broke. I can't go to the city council and ask for money. I can't go to the mayor's office and ask for money. The city is so cash strapped, nobody has anything to give.
COOPER: And it's taken a long time for this memorial ditch and really get off the ground. I mean, it seems like such -- it's a necessity. I mean, the way it should be remembered what happened.
ROESGEN: You would think so too, but I think there are two things that have slowed that down. First of all, in the beginning, all they really cared about was identifying the bodies. Nobody wanted to bury them because they were still trying to get the DNA matches.
After that, Anderson, if you can believe this, the state of Louisiana offered to bury all these dead in a cemetery plot paid for by the state to build a chapel, to make it nice for the families to come and grieve the loss.
And Mayor Nagin said no. This was about an hour away from New Orleans. He said no, I want them here in New Orleans, even knowing that the city had no money to pay for it.
COOPER: It's an unbelievable report.
Susan Roesgen, appreciate it. Thanks very much. "Keeping them Honest" tonight, you know, people deserve a proper burial. They also deserve shelter.
FEMA, the Federal Emergency Management Agency spent $2.7 billion on mobile homes and trailers after Hurricanes Katrina and then Rita. It was your money, all of our money.
Then came all the red tape and the foul-ups that delayed the trailers' arrival when people desperately need them. Now many of the trailers are coming back and they've been vandalized.
CNN's David Mattingly wanted to know whodunit and who did it? Who trashed the trailers and who wasn't looking out for their property and your money? Here's what he found out.
DAVID MATTINGLY, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Hundreds of empty FEMA trailers parked side by side. Endless rows of aluminum boxes, baking in the sun. We have seen these pictures before. But have you never seen FEMA trailers like this.
(on camera): Is that what I think it is?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Bullet holes.
MATTINGLY: Bullet holes?
(voice-over): These trailers are trashed and vandalized. Many apparently by victims of Hurricanes Katrina and Rita who once lived inside. Purchased at taxpayer expense for $18,000 or more, FEMA officials say nearly 10 percent of them came back unfit to use again.
DON JACKS, FEMA: We wonder why people would then cause excess damage to the place that they had been given to live in. And sometimes we just don't know.
MATTINGLY: FEMA says its trailers are inspected every 90 days. But apparently a lot can happen between inspections.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This one they -- they just took everything.
MATTINGLY: At a FEMA storage site near Houston, manager Josh Davis (ph) shows us how thoroughly someone stripped and looted their former home.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The couch, all the lights, smoke detectors, vent covers.
MATTINGLY: Almost everything was gone but the kitchen sink.
(on camera): They took the toilet?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They took the shower controls. It looks like they started trying to take the tub out and decided not to.
MATTINGLY: So what happens to the people who ruin these trailers? Paid for by your tax dollars. Chances are absolutely nothing. In most cases, even if the trailer is completely unusable, the government usually decides it is just not worth going after the person who trashed it.
JACKS: The cost of prosecution far outweighs the value of either the trailer or the value of the damage or what we could get from the person who was living in that trailer.
MATTINGLY (voice-over): Keeping them honest, we wanted to find out just how many trailer trashers have been punished. Calls to state prosecutors in Texas and Louisiana reveal they have taken no one to court. And neither the U.S. Justice Department nor the Office of Inspector General for Homeland Security could say for sure if they were working on any cases.
As for the trailers, they simply go up for auction on a government Web site.
JACKS: Putting them on the auction and receiving a third, maybe even as -- a half of what was originally paid for the trailer.
MATTINGLY (on camera): But some of these trailers don't get that much, do they?
JACKS: And I can't answer that because I have not looked at every trailer that has been sold on the Web site. I have checked it and I'm seeing trailers that the bids are 1/4 of what they sold for new. One half of what they sold for new.
MATTINGLY (voice-over): Checking auctions in progress on line, we found one damaged trailer with a single bid of only $601. And with losses per ruined trailer potentially reaching the thousands, the cost to the taxpayer is adding up.
COOPER: David, what does FEMA do when they find someone who's trashed a trailer?
MATTINGLY: Anderson, I wish I could tell you that they got really tough, but all they do is send them a letter, and not a very strongly worded one at that. All they tell them is, here's what you broke. Here's what you need to pay us to fix it or to replace it. And if you don't do that in 30 days, then there could be more enforcement action.
And the few times that they've done this, you could count on one hand. So they're not going after it very aggressively, in part because they believe that the people that were living in these trailers don't have the money to pay.
COOPER: So that's why they're not being more aggressive. They think people just can't pay?
MATTINGLY: Also because FEMA says they're not an enforcement agency. When it comes to these trailers, they're just landlords dealing with a bad tenant. So all they can do is go to the enforcement agencies and say we want this person rounded up and prosecuted. But haven't done that yet.
And of course the enforcement agencies don't really know what's going on with this case and they haven't done any prosecutions themselves.
COOPER: Never heard of a landlord who's not aggressive like that.
David, appreciate it. Thanks for reporting.
"Keeping them Honest" tonight, David Mattingly.
It's not just in New Orleans, it's also in Washington and beyond. We're "Keeping them Honest."
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER (voice-over): From sprucing up a ski lift to shelling out for an airport.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Right down here. To Rice Lake Regional Airport, various improvements, $2 million.
COOPER: The gifts your tax dollars bring to Congress. It was supposed to end.
DREW GRIFFIN, CNN INVESTIGATIVE CORRESPONDENT: There was supposed to be some kind of change. SEN. TOM COBURN (R), OKLAHOMA: Well, they lied to the American public.
COOPER: So what happened? That's next.
TRACY SPIVEY, WIFE: He was panicking, very scared. I had never seen that kind of fear in his eyes, ever.
COOPER: Scared because he was dying. He should have had help. He was in a hospital. So why did they have to call 911?
GARY TUCHMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: And were you stunned that here you are in a hospital and they're calling 911?
T. SPIVEY: All I can remember saying is -- looking at him and saying is, you've got to be kidding.
COOPER: That's just ahead when "Keeping them Honest" continues.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
62,000 out of 81,000 businesses re-opened
11 of 17 acute care hospitals in operation
17 mil+ cubic yards of debris removed
70+ conventions in 2007
Source: City of New Orleans
COOPER (on camera): Welcome back to this 360 "Keeping them Honest" special. We're coming to you from New Orleans, from the pump station at the 17th Street Canal.
Before the break we showed you how people in power right here need to be held accountable for promises they made and continue to make about rebuilding New Orleans.
Of course, the demand for answers goes far beyond this city. There are lawmakers on Capitol Hill who have no problem spending billions on pet projects that often make no sense at all. And we're all we're paying for them.
CNN's Drew Griffin tonight, "Keeping them Honest."
DREW GRIFFIN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): We're on a treasure hunt, looking for your money.
Let's start with $2 million, your tax dollars right here. Listen...
(on camera): I think I hear a plane.
(voice-over): This is the tiny airport in tiny and remote Rice Lake, Wisconsin. Pull up a chair, grab a magazine, a newspaper, because it's going to take a while to show you how your federal tax dollars were spent here.
JERRY STITES, AIRPORT MANAGER: It's a pretty slow day. So if we had known you were coming, I'm sure we would have been busier.
GRIFFIN: We'll get back to how Congress spent your money in Rice Lake in a moment.
Meantime, here are more ways Congress has secretly spent your money.
Chances you are weren't a guest at the historic Biltmore Hotel in Coral Gables, Florida, last summer. But taxpayers spent $96,000 to help renovate it.
Skiing more your style?
You paid $250,000 last year to renovate a ski lift. In our treasure hunt, it was tricky to find that one. The money came out of last year's massive transportation bill. No mention of skiing.
TIM PHILLIPS, AMERICANS FOR PROSPERITY: For the construction of the Alyeska Roundhouse in Girdwood, Alaska, $250,000.
GRIFFIN: In Congress, such treasure is called an earmark.
ANNIE PATNAUDE, AMERICANS FOR PROSPERITY: Again, no -- no name. And oftentimes these earmarks are certainly a bit vague.
GRIFFIN: Annie Patnaude watches Congress for a conservative economic watchdog group. She found two earmarks for the Alyeska Roundhouse -- a total of $500,000 for the top of a ski lift.
Tim Phillips is president of the watchdog group.
PHILLIPS: I mean, imagine this. You've got a blank credit card that's the people's money. And you have the ability to spend that money in complete secrecy, without ever having to be accountable for that. No wonder we're having abuses and waste and fraud and mismanagement. It's a recipe for it. GRIFFIN: That recipe for pork was supposed to change this year. The new open, Democratic Party controlled Congress promised the earmark process would no longer be secret. All earmark requests would made public with plenty of time for debate.
(on camera): But Dave Obey, the chairman of the House Appropriations Committee, and one of those Democrats bragging about the changes, has decided that earmarks -- those generous gifts of your money -- will be inserted into bills only after the bill has cleared the House floor. In other words, earmarks will still be done in secret -- no public debate.
There was supposed to be a change.
SEN. TOM COBURN (R), OKLAHOMA: Well, they lied to the American public. It was a game.
GRIFFIN (voice-over): Senator Coburn says it's the same over on the Senate side.
CNN obtained this e-mail written in February from the Senate Appropriations Committee, asking Senators to submit all requests for earmarks by April 13. So the earmark requests for this year -- and there have been thousands in the past -- have already been filed. But not even other members of Congress can find out who asked for how much and for what.
COBURN: No, they aren't published. And they're not out there. I couldn't find them if I wanted to.
PHILLIPS: If you're a member of Congress and you're asking for tax dollars for a project, the least can you do is have the, you know, let's say the political courage to put it up on your Web site in advance and to disclose it well before any vote takes place.
GRIFFIN: Sounds reasonable. But not to the Senator who gets final say on spending -- Appropriations Chairman Robert Byrd.
In an e-mail to CNN, the Senator's staff told us, allowing the public to actually see earmark requests in advance isn't a good idea.
Apparently the public can't be trusted with that information.
"If all earmark requests are made public," the e-mail says, "this would almost certainly lead to an increase in requests, as members are pressured from home to compete for more projects."
PATNAUDE: This is an omnibus appropriations bill.
GRIFFIN: This behemoth of a bill is chock full of one-line requests for your tax dollars. We followed the clues back to where we started this treasure hunt.
(on camera): So this is the Rice Lake Airport I asked you about?
PATNAUDE: Sure. Look for it on there. GRIFFIN: And this is on page 1,384.
And it's somewhere in this fine print, I'm taking it.
PATNAUDE: Look for it.
GRIFFIN: Right down here.
GRIFFIN: So Rice Lake Regional Airport, Carl's Field, Wisconsin, various improvements, $2 million.
(voice-over): $2 million in federal funds without debate.
Back at Rice Lake, Wisconsin, we sat at the end of the runway and waited four hours. In all that time, we counted one corporate jet, one twin engine plane and five single engine planes -- a total of seven aircraft in four hours.
On a good day, we're told, 34 planes in an hour. But no commercial flights.
(on camera): But this airport is vital for corporate executives. They like to visit Rice Lake's manufacturing plants, but apparently don't like to stay the night.
STITES: Before we did the expansion on the runway, they couldn't land here. They had to drive an hour-and-a-half to get to their plant because our airport wasn't large enough for that.
GRIFFIN (voice-over): And which U.S. Congressman decided extending the runway for a few corporate jets was worth your money?
Wisconsin Democrat David Obey -- the very same person now in charge of appropriations and earmarks.
He said in a statement, Wisconsin doesn't get its fair share. "My only apology," he wrote, "is that I can't do more for Wisconsin."
In the next few months, in what Congressman Obey says is the most open earmark process ever, the bills will be drafted, the earmarks added. But only then, just before those bills are passed, will the public learn where the treasure is buried.
(END VIDEO TAPE)
COOPER: Drew, the Democrats promised this was going to be the most open earmark process in history. Is it?
GRIFFIN (on camera): They made that promise before they got in power; then once in power, it all kind of clammed up, Anderson, and they kind of changed the definition of what "open" was going to mean.
Now we're told "open" is going to be, well, we'll tell you what we spent the money on after we've approved it in conference committee. Now, this week they've been fighting over whether or not they're actually going to tell us a couple of days or even a week before they vote on it. So we might actually see what they're going to spend our money on before they actually spend it.
It's been a very confusing process.
COOPER: Wow. Imagine that.
From the shameful but legal practices of earmarks to criminal allegations. We're keeping everyone in Congress honest.
See this guy? It is Democratic Congressman William Jefferson. He was indicted on 16 federal corruption charges when his home was searched. You may remember authorities found $90,000 cooling off in his freezer.
Jefferson's future may include prison time and to help pay for his defense team, maybe he can use some of the money he'll collect from his pension if he retires.
Like we said before, it is your money.
Once again, here's Drew Griffin.
GRIFFIN (voice-over): Former Congressman Randall Duke Cunningham pleaded guilty to accepting more than $2 million in bribes, but he still gets his Congressional pension of an estimated $64,000 a year.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: What are you going to tell the judge today?
GRIFFIN: Convicted Congressman James Trafficant gets an estimated $40,000 a year. Both of them are still in prison.
Why hasn't anyone stopped it?
Senate Bill 2268 was introduced last year to do just that. The bill would have banned the pensions of lawmakers convicted of what its co-sponsor called the really bad crimes: stealing, bribery, public corruption.
SEN. KEN SALAZAR (D), COLORADO: It's really that white-collar crime where people, instead of representing the public interest and the people of the country, instead of representing their own personal interests. And so that's why we went after the white collar crime.
GRIFFIN: But even as good as it sounds, the bill never even got a vote. It got to this Senate subcommittee and died.
The chairman of last session's committee was Republican George Voinovich of Ohio. His staff told us he was just too busy. The ranking Democrat was Senator Daniel Akaka of Hawaii. He emerged from a vote in the Senate says he doesn't know where there was no vote last year.
(on camera): You support it and you will support it?
SEN. DANIEL AKAKA (D), HAWAII: I will. Yes.
GRIFFIN: I -- but I'm still -- I spent two days trying to figure out why nobody supported it last year.
AKAKA: Yes, that's right. I didn't, but this year is different.
GRIFFIN (voice-over): Two more Senators on the subcommittee, one Democrat and one Republican, also had no explanation for last year's failure. In fact, they couldn't remember what happened.
SEN. TOM COBURN (R), OKLAHOMA: The question is, is what happened to it last year? I don't know the answer to that question.
SEN. MARK PRYOR (D), ARKANSAS: I can't remember all the specifics. We had a lot of amendments last year.
GRIFFIN: If their memories are a little weak on the subject of getting crooks a pension, it's because they say last year ethics weren't a big issue. Now they are.
PRYOR: This year we're going to try to do our dead level best to pass the amendment to take pensions away from Senators and Congressmen who have been convicted of public corruption while they're in office.
GRIFFIN: But critics are telling us nothing will change, and if we want to find out why, just go into the House Ways and Means Committee hearing room and see how Congress has treated one of its own who was caught and convicted, but certainly not forgotten.
(on camera): That is convicted Congressman Dan Rostenkowski's picture up there. The former chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee went to prison for stealing public money. He got a pardon from Bill Clinton. He got a spot on the wall. And he gets from you and me, the federal taxpayers, an estimated $126,000 a year pension.
MELANIE SLOAN, GOVERNMENT WATCHDOG: This is money they don't want to take away from their colleagues and their colleagues' families. These are their friends we're talking about.
COOPER: Drew, since you first reported on this, Jefferson's been indicted. If he was convicted and went to prison, would he lose his pension?
GRIFFIN: No. Anderson, that bill that they promised would pass hasn't even been voted on. It hasn't passed. So the Congressman is going to get his pension no matter what -- no matter what he's convicted of, no matter if they kick him out of Congress. He's going to get that pension because of the fact that Congress has, again, not done anything to move this bill along. His pension will go through.
The only exception is if somehow buried in all these charges is the charge of treason, and I haven't seen that. He's just charged with padding his own pockets.
COOPER: Promises made and promises broken.
Drew, appreciate you keeping them honest tonight.
Next, we're traveling halfway around the world. A deadly chemical linked to China found in pet food and other items here in America. How did it happen? Is the federal government doing enough to keep you and your pets safe? "Keeping them Honest," when 360 continues.
COOPER: Welcome back to this 360 special, "Keeping them Honest." Before the break, we were on the money trail. Convicted members of Congress collecting pensions. Hundreds of millions of taxpayer money for pet projects. That's what people in power are doing with your money.
"Keeping them Honest" means holding them accountable.
They make decisions that change lives. Some might say cost lives. Take, for example, the pet food scandal. How did deadly chemicals get from China to here, and who's to blame?
CNN's Joe Johns investigates.
JOE JOHNS, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): How does their food get on our tables? Call it globalization 101.
American companies buy China's cheaply produced food at cut-rate prices. China opens up its vast consumer market to American companies. We buy their food. They buy our products. But what goes into the food may not always meet the same standards.
March. A number of dogs and cats mysteriously die across the U.S. The likely cause? Pet food tainted with melamine, a compound found in plastics.
The source? Wheat gluten from China. Melamine was most likely slipped in to artificially boost protein levels, making it more valuable.
The big question -- what other foreign chemicals are finding their way into American food? And what do consumers think about it?
WENONAH HAUTER, FOOD AND WATER WATCH: I think most Americans would be shocked to know how much of their food supply is coming from other countries. JOHNS: An estimated $68 billion worth of agricultural products from other countries will come into the U.S. this year. Your dinner table is like a mini United Nations.
HAUTER: When you eat a ground hamburger, it could come from 100 cows from 20 countries.
JOHNS: Now, in the wake of the pet food scare, a new focus on people food. Turns out melamine contaminated food from China has been fed to fish, chicken and hogs headed for U.S. dinner tables.
But since the government says melamine in small amounts isn't harmful to humans, we're not supposed to worry about it.
But there have been other problems. Chinese catfish, banned by states like Alabama and Mississippi because they contain antibiotics that aren't allowed in the U.S.
Chinese toothpaste, discovered to contain a poison commonly used in antifreeze. Not something you want on your child's toothbrush.
China insists the concerns are overblown.
Still, the government says it's cracking down. You would think the U.S. would be cracking down on China. Only about 1 percent of food imports actually get inspected.
Still, the pet food scandal has gotten Washington so worked up, Congress and the administration are actually talking about enforcing a law they enacted five years ago. It requires meat, fruits and vegetables to be packaged with a label saying where they came from. It's called Country of Origin Labeling, COOL for short. It's already being used on shellfish and seafood. But politics and lobbyists have kept it from going into effect on other foods like meat.
Now, though, after all that Fido and Fritz went through, COOL's time may have come.
SEN. BYRON DORGAN (D), NORTH DAKOTA: I think, you know, the scandal of tainted pet food is going to move us in this direction because finally I think people say, you know, this is not just some academic debate. Country of Origin Labeling, understanding where the meat you purchased, where it comes from, fruits and vegetables, where it comes from, it's a matter of human health. In some cases, life and death.
JOHNS: But keeping them honest, Country of Origin Labeling, while it sounds good, is not all it's cracked up to be.
BRUCE KNIGHT, USDA: Country of Origin Labeling doesn't apply to the pet food, doesn't apply to institutional uses, doesn't apply to what you purchase in a restaurant, does not apply to anything that's been processed food. It only applies to that which shows up in the retail case.
JOHNS: Meaning the raw food you'd cook yourself, not whatever your kids eat at school or at college while studying, perhaps, globalization.
COOPER: So Joe, is melamine harmful or not, and why hasn't the government been able to figure out the answer to that by now?
JOHNS (on camera): Well, it certainly seems harmful to pets if you combine it with cyanuric acid.
It doesn't seem harmful to humans, but the whole issue here really, Anderson, is that the pets seem to be sort of the canaries in the coal mine.
Early warning that with global product manufacturing, you really don't know what you're bringing into your home to feed to your pets, to your children, even to yourself. This time it was melamine and cyanuric acid. What's it going to be next time?
COOPER: Scary stuff, Joe. Appreciate the reporting. Thanks.
"Keeping them Honest" next, on the border.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER (voice-over): Security or insecurity?
GARY TUCHMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: My name is Gary Tuchman. I think you'll find I have a clean record.
COOPER: What looks like a shack is actually a border checkpoint that relies on the honor system. What are they thinking?
And later, the hospital in need of a doctor.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The last words she said were, "I'm in trouble."
COOPER: A patient slipping away, and no one is there to save him.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: (UNINTELLIGIBLE) baby girl, our daddy got very sick. I said, our daddy's not coming home.
COOPER: How could this happen? We're "Keeping them Honest" next on this 360 special.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
Covers 5,795 miles, over land and water
On assignment: 863 Border Patrol agents
By comparison: 12,246 agents patrol U.S.-Mexico border
which is a third as long at 1,951 miles
COOPER (on camera): All the presidential candidates sound the same about our border. It needs to be safe, secure, well guarded. Well, maybe they should take a trip up north to see the kind of border protection you've been promised and you're putting up the money for. It is almost laughable at times.
CNN's Gary Tuchman tonight, "Keeping them Honest."
GARY TUCHMAN, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): It's late afternoon, rush hour in many places. But not here. On this desolate roadway in the Canadian province of Manitoba where a monument separates Manitoba on the left from Minnesota on the right, a sign warns that you're about to arrive to the official U.S. border checkpoint. And then there it is -- the Jim's Corner Immigration Customs Reporting Station. Which looks like a shack and operates on the honor system.
Two sheriffs on the American side are not happy about it.
(on camera): What percentage of people in general do you believe check in there?
DALLAS BLOCK, SHERIFF, LAKE OF THE WOODS COUNTY, MN: I believe it's less than 30 percent. Maybe even far less than that.
TUCHMAN (voice-over): When we entered Lake of the Woods County, Minnesota, from Canada, we went through the rather unorthodox process.
(on camera): Push the call, push the American flag.
Inside the shack, a videophone connected to a border agent 50 mile away.
Hello, U.S. Customs. I'm at the Jim's Corner. My name is Gary Tuchman. I think you'll find I have a clean record.
The agent looks at you through the camera, and you look at the agent.
What is your name?
OFFICER JOHNSON, BORDER AGENT: Officer Johnson.
TUCHMAN: Hello, Officer Johnson. (voice-over): Officer Johnson would have no way of knowing if people were just driving by the shack without stopping, which indeed often happens because many honorable people can't be bothered with the videophone that often doesn't work.
(on camera): I'm going to hold you up my passport first. Can you see it?
TUCHMAN: That's me.
(voice-over): We were approved to enter the U.S. in a most unusual tourist town called Angle Inlet. It's actually an enclave not physically connected to the rest of the U.S. You have to drive 40 miles within Canada to the northern side of the Lake of the Woods to get there.
There are far more deer than people who live here. The town is the state's only remaining one-room public schoolhouse. But amid the charm of this tranquil town, the sheriff of Lake of the Woods County says drug dealers drive past Jim's Corner, and then take boats in the summer or snowmobiles in the winter into the heart of the U.S. And he says there's even more.
(on camera): It is your professional opinion that terrorists have gone through Angle Inlet into the mainland United States?
BLOCK: Yes, it is.
TUCHMAN: And that's through intelligence you have?
BLOCK: Yes. We have pretty accurate, pretty reliable intelligence that that has happened. I don't think Osama bin Laden's going to check in there, but. So you're really on your honor system.
TUCHMAN: It's 6:00 p.m. on a chilly day. So most of the boaters have gone back to shore for the evening. This lake is very empty. But even in the summer in the middle of the day, it is very uncrowded on this lake, which makes it easy for people who might be up to no good to go relatively unnoticed.
(voice-over): Some of the year-round residents are concerned all this talk could scare away tourists.
Jerry Stallock owns a restaurant.
JERRY STALLOCK, OWNER, JERRY'S RESTAURANT: I personally don't think this is as big a threat as some of the other people.
TUCHMAN: But the sheriff says in this post-9/11 world, one cannot be too careful. Although he does admit to a transgression.
Do you stop at the border station?
BLOCK: I do. Sometimes. TUCHMAN: U.S. Customs and Border Protection tell CNN its officers who periodically visit this border area will start making more frequent visits. And better technology will be added, including cameras providing surveillance over the area, not just inside the shack.
We did encounter one man from Manitoba who did stop at the videophone.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Any luck?
JOHN FUNK (ph), CROSSING BORDER: No luck.
TUCHMAN: But it didn't work, so he called on a pay phone.
FUNK (ph): Yes. John Funk (ph), reporting in at Youngs -- Jim's Corner.
TUCHMAN: To report his arrival into the United States of America.
COOPER: Gary, has anything changed at the border since you filed that report?
TUCHMAN (on camera): Well, if you paid a visit there right now to that part of Minnesota, you would still see the video cameras there. The people at the Border Patrol say they still don't think because of the remoteness, because of the lack of people who go there, that they need a living person inside the booth.
That being said, though, they've increased the frequency and the thoroughness of the patrols in their border patrol vans around the areas. They say they're keeping a real careful eye on the area.
COOPER: So what do the people who live there -- the locals think?
TUCHMAN: It's funny. We had a mixed reaction when we went up there. There were some locals who said yes, we think it's OK to have some people come in on eight-hour shifts and watch this border.
But most of the people, I would say, told us, please don't give us publicity. This has worked fine. We don't have to stop at a border when we come home all the time. You're just giving the terrorists information.
Our outlook, Anderson, of course, is the bad guys know what they're doing already before they're watching CNN. We do the stories for the good people to keep them warm -- we don't want to keep things like this quiet.
COOPER: When we come back, there's no time to spare. It sounds outrageous and it is. A hospital forced to call 911 when a patient stopped breathing -- a hospital. All the doctors had gone home for the night. How could that happen? And could it happen to you? Next, on 360.
45 million Americans have no health insurance
110.2 million people a year go to the emergency room
That equals 39 out of every 100 people
COOPER: Part of our "Keeping them Honest" promise is to get the facts, the answers. Even when we have them, some stories -- well, they don't make sense.
Take this next report of a hospital in Texas. Believe it or not, when the staff needed a doctor for a patient in dire need, they had to call 911.
Once again, here's CNN's Gary Tuchman.
TUCHMAN (voice-over): This is Steve Spivey's father, his mother and wife. What they went through when Steve was in the hospital was harrowing.
TRACY SPIVEY, WIFE: He was panicking. Very scared. I had never seen that kind of fear in his eyes, ever.
TUCHMAN: Steve Spivey, a father of three, was in this Abilene, Texas, hospital for neck surgery after a truck accident. The operation seemed to go well. But the 44-year-old started to choke that night. His wife was at his side.
T. SPIVEY: The nurses felt like he was just having a panic attack. And the last words he said were, no, I'm in trouble.
TUCHMAN: The hospital Spivey was in is one of about 140 in the country owned by the physicians who work there. But all the doctors had gone home for the day when Steve lost the ability to breathe.
T. SPIVEY: His eyes were bright green. And they turned very dark. His face turned dark. And he grasped my hands and shook my fist and looked me in my eyes and then closed his eyes and went out. That was his last breath.
TUCHMAN: Tracy Spivey kept yelling to call a doctor. But in the meantime, incredibly, she says she performed CPR by herself for 15 minutes. T. SPIVEY: There was no pulse. I checked, you know, three different places for pulse and could find none. I told him, we have no pulse. And one of the nurses said, what's wrong? What's happening? And I said, he's dying.
TUCHMAN: About two hours after Steve started gagging, the surgeon arrived.
T. SPIVEY: All I heard was the surgeon yell very loudly to call 911.
TUCHMAN: And were you stunned that here you are in a hospital, and they're calling 911?
T. SPIVEY: All I can remember saying is looking at him and saying, you've got to be kidding.
TUCHMAN: Steve Spivey was pronounced dead at a different hospital.
This week Tracy went back to the hospital with her attorney as they met with the hospital lawyer in preparation for a likely lawsuit.
DARRELL KEITH SPIVEY, FAMILY ATTORNEY: I look forward to being their champion.
TUCHMAN: Darrell Keith is her lawyer.
D. SPIVEY: Well, I think that the physician-owned hospitals, as a general rule, tend to be more, you know, profit driven than patient safety driven.
TUCHMAN (on camera): After the death of Steve Spivey, the federal government decided to no longer allow the use of Medicare at this hospital. And now the facility is shut down.
(voice-over): The hospital's CEO did not want to go on camera, but did tell us, "911 is a last resort in (Mr. Spivey's) case. We were trying to get the patient to a higher level of care."
He also said the facility may reopen someday in a different form.
At another physician-owned hospital in Arlington, Texas...
GREG WEISS, CHIARMAN, USMD HOSPITAL AT ARLINGTON: If we treat every patient like a family member, the patients will want to come here. The referring doctors will want to refer here.
TUCHMAN: Doctors are in the facility around the clock. The physicians here at USMD reject the broad-brushed criticism they hear about doctors owning hospitals and have immense pride in their facility.
DR. JOHN HOUSE, PHYSICIAN OWNED, USMD HOSPITAL: We want a place where we can take care of our patients the way that we want to take care of our family members. And we have the ability to do that by owning and controlling our own facility.
TUCHMAN: But some members of Congress want to take a closer look at how these types of hospitals are regulated.
REP. PETE STARK (D), CALIFORNIA: The hospitals are often second rate. Sometimes illegal. And it takes profitable business away from community hospitals.
TUCHMAN: Tracy Spivey still has nightmares about when she told her 10-year-old daughter the horrifying news.
T. SPIVEY: I just pulled her in my lap and held her. And told her I need her to be real strong. And I said, baby girl, our daddy got very sick. I said, our daddy's not coming home.
TUCHMAN: Tracy still can't believe a hospital had to dial 911.
COOPER: So what is the latest on the case?
TUCHMAN: The latest on the case is this. The West Texas hospital still remains closed. The family, no later than next week, will file the initial papers they need to file the lawsuit.
And the saddest part of the story, Anderson, we did this original story in April. In May, Steve Spivey's mother passed away, the mother who we showed at the beginning of the story. So it's been a very tragic time for the Spivey family.
COOPER: Gary, appreciate the report. Thanks.
That ends our special report.
We take our "Keeping them Honest" promise seriously. From here in New Orleans to Washington and across the country. We're committed to accountability, checking the facts against the hype. We won't let up, and we hope you won't either. Thanks for joining us.
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