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California in Blazes; Endeavour Docks with the ISS; A Dying Wish

Aired November 18, 2008 - 16:00   ET


FREDRICKA WHITFIELD, CNN ANCHOR: Hello, I'm Fredricka Whitfield and you're in the newsroom. Things are getting better, but they are still aren't good as firefighters continue their battle against dangerous southern California wildfires. The hot dry Santa Ana winds fan the flames yesterday have died down a little bit but major fires continue to rage near the Sylmar neighborhood, near Los Angeles and in Orange and Riverside counties just west of L.A.. Destructive wildfires are nothing new to southern California, but Los Angeles mayor Antonio Villaraigosa says he has never seen this level of devastation before. The wildfires have burned more than 34 square miles since breaking out on Thursday. More than 1800 houses, mobile homes and apartments have been destroyed. No deaths are being reported, but authorities are searching through the wreckage of 500 mobile homes that burned in northern Los Angeles. (inaudible) conditions were reported last night in Chino hills, west southwest of Los Angeles and that's where we find CNN's Thelma Gutierrez right now. Thelma.
THELMA GUTIERREZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Fred, I can tell you that firefighters definitely have their hands full right now. They're fighting three major fires in four counties. Right here in Chino Hills, I'm standing right outside of a subdivision. You take a look right behind me, you can see what they've been doing to try to protect this neighborhood. They've actually created a backburn to try to get rid of some the fuel that leads up to property lines right here. And they've done a stunning job because this area where there are about 1,000 homes has been saved.

However, in the community of Sylmar, which is north of Los Angeles, 638 homes were lost there. In fact, there was some concern that the fire that raged through the area on Friday night may have moved so swiftly through that area that perhaps the elderly were not able to get out. So they brought cadaver dogs into that neighborhood to go through each of those homes and search the rubble for human remains. They've gone through 30 percent so far. They have found no human remains. 210 homes lost north of Los Angeles in the community of Montecito near Santa Barbara. And 168 homes lost in this area called the Triangle Fire where four fires actually merged. So they really have quite a lot to do. One of the residents who lives in this area in Chino Hills is Chris Garcia. Chris, you said you were very relieved because your house was in the path of this blaze.

CHRIS GARCIA, CHINO HILLS RESIDENT: Oh, absolutely. We were within a half mile and were hoping the winds didn't shift. So the winds died down last night and gave everybody a break. You've got to give you know high fives to all the fire crews out here. They stayed up all night, fighting fire, drawing lines and try to contain it without air support. And you know, you just can't thank them enough. I mean, for the job that they do and the magnitude, and the size and the scope of this event, is just tremendous.

GUTIERREZ: And that's what so many of the residents have been telling me. They've reached out to the firefighters and they wanted to say thank you. They've brought donuts and coffee out here and the firefighters have been very thankful for that recognition. Thank you, Chris. And I can tell you right now Fredricka that what is going on is that we have seen a DC-10 fly up over this area going into some of the hot spots in a new community called Diamond Bar. Not a new community but a new area that has been burning today. And so they're flying that DC10. A very impressive sight. They've been dropping 20,000 gallons of fire retardant on that area, trying to hold that line to make sure that that community is saved.

WHITFIELD: So I guess Thelma since the winds have calmed down a little bit that is allowing that air support to be able to do what they haven't been able to do in the last couple of days.

GUTIERREZ: Yes, that's exactly right. I mean, the wind are kicking up a little bit, but you expect that in the afternoon. They are nowhere near what they were yesterday.

WHITFIELD: All right. Thelma Gutierrez, thanks so much, from Chino Hills.

Let's check in with Jacqui Jeras in the weather center here in Atlanta just to talk a little bit more about the wind conditions, how that has really hampered the - of course, it fuelled the fire for so long but are they getting any break in terms of maybe humidity in that area now?

JACQUI JERAS, CNN METEOROLOGIST: Yes. You know the winds have dropped down a notch. They are still not great Fredricka you know we're still seeing 40 sometimes 50 mile per hour gusts at times but that's a whole heck of a lot better when we're talking about 70 and 85 mile per hour gusts yesterday afternoon. The red flag warnings are still in effect which means that threat remains critical and very high, but they should be dropped about three hours from now. So that's great news and a good indication that the winds are going to continue to gradually subside here.

And we think it will continue to do that over the next couple of days. I want to show you some of these wind gusts just from the last three hours that we've still been seeing at times, you know we're looking at 50 miles per hour there in Wiley Ridge. Warm Springs 41 miles an hour, 34 in Camp Nine, that's over near the Sylmar fire area. Simi Valley at 27 and 26 in Malibu Hills. We think those winds will be down to the 15 to 25 mile per hour range tomorrow as we head into the day part tomorrow. Here is some of the current wind speed. This is sustained wind, not to mention the gusts, and look at Cedar Falls, you're still looking at 20 mile per hour sustained wind at times, which is still rather extreme.

The relative humidity expected to stay very low even though the winds are improving, down to about 15 percent at best during the daytime. And we do think that a little bit more humidity is going to start to creep into the area by the middle of the week. We got a big ridge of high pressure sitting over the area that's starting to shift a little bit eastward. So that's loosening the gradient between our two pressure systems. And as that continues to do so, we'll watch those winds subside. Mid week things will look a lot better.

But look at this, this is our satellite picture that detects through infrared technology those heat signatures. And this is that triangle angle complex that we're talking about here and there is that Sylmar fire about 30 square miles, Fredricka.

WHITFIELD: Wow. That's incredible.

JERAS: The burn total in southern California.

WHITFIELD: Yes and how quickly it grew, that too, was pretty astounding. All right. Jacqui Jeras, thanks so much. Appreciate it.

All right. We'll continue to keep a close eye on the California wildfires. Coming up a little bit later on in this hour, we'll have a live report from Kara Finnstrom. She is in the Sylmar area of Los Angeles.

We received now progress today in Iraq's long awaited security pact with the U.S. In a meeting this morning, the Iraqi cabinet paved the way for U.S. troops to stay in Iraq another three years. A U.N. mandate allowing the troops to be stationed in Iraq expires at the end of this year. Under this draft agreement, all U.S. troops would withdraw from all Iraqi cities by the end of June of next year and they would pull out of the country entirely by the end of 2011. The agreement now goes to Iraq's full parliament.

Two U.S. troops were wounded earlier today in car bomb attacks in Afghanistan. U.S. military says it happened in western Afghanistan. This after coalition forces killed 30 militants in southern Afghanistan. Over night also yesterday, coalition troops and Afghan police killed five militants and took another 18 into custody.

In Congo, the United Nations special envoy to the Central African country met with rebel leader Laurent Nkunda. He promised he'll support a cease fire, but at the same time U.N. peacekeepers report heavy fighting in that region still.

Helping the children of her homeland.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: When I heard that the eight orphans would have no school, it touched me to say I need to help.


WHITFIELD: We'll introduce you to this CNN hero.

Plus, one journey ends, another begins for President-elect Barack Obama. His formal thank you to the state of Illinois. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

WHITFIELD: President elect Barack Obama has filled more key positions. Joining us in Chicago with all of the new names and some of the new names, CNN's Suzanne Malveaux. Suzanne.

SUZANNE MALVEAUX, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hey, Fred. Well a number of names that are coming up obviously what's interesting to note is that Senator Hillary Clinton came up a couple of days ago as the possible Secretary of State. I want to show you here, this is the local paper from this morning. It is Barack Obama's official last day. No longer Senator of Illinois. Officially resigned. He has a message to the people of Illinois. He says in the paper, "today, I am ending one journey to begin another. After serving the people of Illinois in the U.S. Senate - one of the highest honors and privileges of my life - I'm stepping down as senator to prepare for the responsibilities I will assume as our nation's next president. But I will never forget and forever will be grateful to the men and women of this great state who made my life in public service possible."

And Fred, one of the things he does he invokes the name of another Illinois son, Abraham Lincoln and he seems to be taking a page from that administration, the model that he's using to assemble his team, his cabinet, one of the things that he is doing he is reaching to rivals. And there's going to be a meeting with Barack Obama with none other than John McCain at the transition office here in Chicago. Now we're told do not expect this to be any kind of particular post or role in the administration, but rather reaching out to McCain to talk about things that they do have in common. Some approaches when it comes to energy policy. When it comes to health care, these kinds of things. They are going to try to find some common grounds so they can work together. As you know John McCain, being in the senate. Fred.

WHITFIELD: And interesting, too, and you know when John McCain was kind of acquiescing to the laws, he said that he wanted to work closely with the president-elect, and I guess they're getting this ball going before inauguration. Meantime, we also expect that maybe this week some finalization of some of the names that have been tossed around for some of the positions that the president-elect needs to fill.

MALVEAUX: Well, certainly we mentioned Senator Hillary Clinton as a possibility for secretary of state. That has not necessarily been - it's not a done deal by any stretch of the imagination. But a real possibility. Another person on that list is New Mexico governor Bill Richardson as another name that comes up. There are some lower level but key staff positions that have been announced and we expect that more of those will roll out in the days to come. A couple of them Peter Rouse. He is Obama's chief of staff in the Senate. He's going to be one of his key advisers in Washington. Another one Mona Sutphen, now she was at the Clinton administration, a member of the National Security Council. She's going to be a deputy chief of staff. And then finally, Jim Messina. He served as chief of staff to at least three democratic senators. He's also going to be a deputy chief of staff to Barack Obama. We expect those kinds of announcements to continue to happen through the week. But of course keep your eyes out, your ears out for some of the big ones later in the week. Fred.

WHITFIELD: All right. We know you'll keep us posted. Thanks so much, Suzanne. Appreciate it, in Chicago.

Well perhaps you can't get enough of the president-elect and his wife, well you're going to get an opportunity to see this evening in their first post-election television interview. Michelle Obama describes how she felt when she realized her husband had indeed won the White House.


MICHELLE OBAMA, WIFE OF PRESIDENT-ELECT BARACK OBAMA: You know, the night we were watching the returns. I guess, I'm sort of like him. I'm not sure if it has really sunk in. but I remember we were watching the returns and on one of the stations Barack's picture came up and it said President-elect Barack Obama.

And I looked at him and I said, you are the 44th president of the United States of America. Wow, what a country we live in.

SEN. BARACK OBAMA (D), PRESIDENT-ELECT: Yes, I did. Then she said, are you going to take the girls to school in the morning?

MICHELLE OBAMA: I did not. I didn't say that.

OBAMA: It wasn't at that moment.


WHITFIELD: Back to the first role, being a parent. All right. Barack Obama also said he would make cabinet appointments soon and as you heard earlier Suzanne is going to keep us posted on that as well the rest of our political team.

All right. Bailing out the banks, the credit industry and possibly ailing automakers. The Senate will vote this week on emergency loans to the auto industry, but the measures faces strong opposition from many republicans. Will Washington cut a check? Here now is CNN's Kate Bolduan.


KATE BOLDUAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): One final round for congress and President bush in a lame duck session set to be a showdown centered on the hemorrhaging auto industry.

REP. BARNEY FRANK (D), FINANCIAL SERVICES CHAIRMAN: One out of ten jobs in this country are auto related. 20 percent of our retail sales are auto related or automobiles. So this is a national problem.

BOLDUAN: Michigan democrats Senator Carl Levin is drafting the Senate version of the auto industry lifeline. The bill could see a key vote as early as Wednesday and it could conclude $25 billion in loans to the big three. The money would be carved out of the $700 billion bailout package. And attempting tow in more support for the plan. The bill is also expected to include an extension of unemployment benefits. But this will be no easy sell to senate republicans or the Bush administration.

REP. RANDY NEUGEBAUER (R), TEXAS: here's a line of companies of industries waiting the Treasury just to see if they can get their hands on those $700 billion. That is for the financial system. Let's stabilize the financial system. That should not be used.

BOLDUAN: Senator Richard Shelby is the top republican on the Senate banking committee. He says the democratic plan would reward poor management at GM, Ford and Chrysler and calls it money wasted.

SEN. RICHARD SHELBY (R), SENATE BANKING COMMITTEE: They would be, in a lot of people's judgment, a lot better off to go through Chapter 11, where they could reorganize. Get rid of the management. Get rid of the boards, the people who brought them to where they are today.

BOLDUAN: Republican leaders along with the Bush administration are pushing an alternative plan. One that would pull money from an existing loan $25 billion loan program, meant to help automakers produce more fuel efficient vehicles.

SHELBY: If we don't take care of the short term, there is no green future.


BOLDUAN: Now democrats argue automakers need those fuel efficiency fund as well as bridge loan to survive the year but democrats also need republican support here because they maintain a slim voting majority when getting even leaner with President-elect Barack Obama's resignation from the Senate. Fredricka.

WHITFIELD: So Kate, is it a little ambitious to think that there actually may be action on this this week?

BOLDUAN: It's hard to say. It's going to be a very busy week. Senate democratic leadership aides say they'll likely introduce the bill tomorrow. A test vote on the bill is expected Wednesday. Meanwhile, auto executives themselves are expected on Capitol Hill this week, pleading their case in hearings in both the House and Senate. So there's going to be a lot of activity on this, it looks like.

WHITFIELD: All right. Kate Bolduan in Washington, thanks so much. Of course, we want to know what you think about all of these. What are your concerns or worries about an auto industry bailout? Send us your e-mails at We'll read some of them later on in the show. Be sure to include your name and the city that you live in.

All right. It's docking day for the space shuttle "Endeavour." "Endeavour's" crew is now getting ready for a big home improvement project on the international space station. Let's turn now to our space correspondent Miles O'Brien following "Endeavour's" mission. Good to see you, Miles.

MILES O'BRIEN, CNN SPACE CORRESPONDENT: Hello, Fred. How are you. Let's go right to space. Shall we?

WHITFIELD: Let's go.

O'BRIEN: A 17,500 miles an hour, a couple of hundred miles above the South Pacific in the neighborhood of New Zealand. Well there's Houston. There's the shot you want to see. Take a look at the space shuttle "Endeavour." And let me walk you through it. This is inside here is all the important stuff that they're bringing to the international space station to make it possible for it to accommodate six people. It's got new bathrooms, crew quarters, galley, water purification system that will allow them to recycle all and I mean all of their waste water. Hey, just so you know.

WHITFIELD: Thank goodness.

O'BRIEN: This is the docking thing right there. That little circle thing right in the middle there. And if you look closely, you might be able to see Chris Ferguson and Eric Boe. Look at the window there.


O'BRIEN: They're waving at us now. This is a great picture. You got to admit. I enjoy, I can watch this forever. It almost looks like it's out of a movie. But this is the real deal. But there is method to this spectacle. You were looking as if you're - this camera's mounted on the space station. There are two members of the space station crew might think and Greg Chamitoff who have some pretty fancy camera gear out right now. 400 millimeter lens, 800 millimeter lens and they're going to make like happy tourists at Disney World in just a moment when Chris Ferguson gets "Endeavour" into this rpm maneuver rotational pitch maneuver which - or rendezvous pitch maneuver. We just like to call it the back flip. They're going to do the back flip. Take some pictures.

WHITFIELD: We all get that. We all get what that means too.

O'BRIEN: Yes. That I get. That's kind of a term that's user friendly. And this is all part of the post Columbia routine now for every mission of the space station. They take these pictures, high resolution pictures, send them to the ground. They make sure the heat shield is nice and intact for the orbit. There you see another shot. There's some of the equipment on board the space station in the foreground. So we'll watch the docking and the hatch opening and all the good things. And that will go on through the next couple of hours, so we'll be here.

WHITFIELD: That's great. And Miles, before I let you go, is there a short response perhaps to what NASA or all the space engineers seem to think or what they hope in the new administration, whether they'll be getting more for space exploration support or less?

O'BRIEN: The short answer isthe Obama position statement is fantastic. They read it and they go, wow. If it's true, it will be fantastic. The devil is in the Benjamin's as they say.

WHITFIELD: Oh, yes. O'BRIEN: Well see when they come.

WHITFIELD: All right. Miles, thanks so much. Appreciate it. Always good to see you.

O'BRIEN: All right.

WHITFIELD: All right. Can the economic picture get any more bleak for all of us on earth? The latest information shows pretty tough times for the labor market. A shocking number of people are out of work right now.


WHITFIELD: In two weeks, CNN will celebrate heroes that you've been meeting all year long on this network. Among the top ten finalists getting special recognition, a woman making the difference in the lives of Malawi's children. Meet Marie Da Silva.


ANNOUNCER: This is CNN Heroes.

MARIE DA SILVA, CHAMPIONING CHILDREN: Come on. This way. Children just bring joy to me, that's why I'm a nanny. I was born and bred in Malawi. I have 14 members of my family who have died of AIDS. When I visit Malawi, I visit my family at the graveyard.

We have hundreds and thousands of orphans. When I heard that the eight orphans would have no school, it touched me to say I need to help. I'm Marie Da Silva and my mission is to educate AIDS orphans in Malawi.

The Jacaranda School is in the house that I grew up in. They study in my bedroom. They study in the pantry. They study in the garage. We have a lack of just about everything. But they're doing amazingly well. This is their sanctuary. Every month, I sent in $1,000 about 30 percent of my monthly wages.

I do this because I know that the children need it. When my father was dying, there was this huge Jacaranda tree outside that brought in light. For me, the Jacaranda tree symbolizes hope and that's what I want to give the children at the Jacaranda School.


WHITFIELD: And Marie Da Silva joins me now from Los Angeles. Good to see you. And congratulations on all the work that you do, so much so that it's making an impact that voters have decided that you've made a huge impact on their lives. And that's why you're one of the 10 finalists that are being honored come Thanksgiving evening. So when you took on this huge endeavor, did you have any idea that it would catch fire the way it did?

DA SILVA: Well, no. Not really. I just did it, I started doing it just like something that I would do for my heart. You know? When the school lost its premises, I asked my mom, let's open up our house. And you know bring the orphans. We started with 70 children in the school and today, we have 230 children. They are studying as you saw, in my bedroom, in the living room, in the dining room. We provide food for them. They don't pay school fees at all, because you know in Malawi, secondary school is you have to pay school fees in order for you to attend secondary school. So this school is totally free. And I do that because I just felt that you know, education is what's going to take these children out of the situation where they're from. Because a lot of these children, 90 percent of the 230 children that we have are orphans. And all of them are orphaned by AIDS.

WHITFIELD: So was there ever a moment when you said wait a minute, you know hopefully we're starting out small, but we can address all the needs of all of these children but then realized there was such a huge need. So many kids needed it. Was there ever a moment when you said you know we can't handle it? We don't have the resources for everybody. Did you have to turn anybody away?

DA SILVA: No, not really. Because you know we started with 70 and I saw what the impact was doing. The 70 of the children were literally studying and they were you know getting the food. They were doing so well in school. So every year, what we did is we enrolled more and more. And it just seemed to be working. The kids staying in school, the kids were doing well in their exams. The kids were literally like happy to be at the school. Mainly because they were coming from homes where they had absolutely nothing.

WHITFIELD: You've seen the transformation in each of these kids.

DA SILVA: Yes, I have seen the transformation in each and every one of the kids. In fact, this year, we are expecting at least seven of our students to graduate and go to university. And this is the first time in six years that that happened. And what happened is that every year we are slowly by slowly we just tend to improve because of the help I've been getting. Just like right now, with CNN, with the Heroes thing. I've been able to build a school.

I just you know from February when I got nominated as a CNN hero, I never thought I would be able to build a secondary school. Because that was my goal. But every year, something has happened that has just taken me a step forward. And literally with all the little donations that I got after being nominated as a CNN Hero, I've managed to build a secondary school which we -

WHITFIELD: So fantastic. Congratulations. So glad that you're able to expand this way. Congrats to those kids who are going to graduate now and go up to college. What wonderful dreams coming true there. Marie Da Silva, thanks so much. Congratulations on this honor.

DA SILVA: Thank you. Thank you Fredricka. Thank you for having me here and thank you to everyone who is voting. Go out there and vote for the ten of us.

WHITFIELD: That's even a better plug that I was going to get. Thanks so much, Marie. Appreciate it. Of course, do you want to vote for these incredibly inspiring people and in order to do so all you need to do is go to and help honor these amazing people who are just so unselfishly doing so much for others. An all-star tribute, "CNN Heroes" taking place, hosted by Anderson Cooper, right here on CNN, Thanksgiving night.

And now to searching for victims. We'll take you back live to Southern California, where the wildfires are still burning there and the search is on for residents at a burned out mobile home park as well.


WHITFIELD: Happening right now, watch for an age limit to be added to Nebraska's safe haven law. One amendment being considered this weekend, no child over 1 year old could be abandoned. The law right now has no age limit.

And comedian Wanda Sykes responds to California's ban on same-sex marriage. Sykes announced at a gay rights rally in Las Vegas that she's gay and proud and that Proposition 8 made her feel like she was attacked.

And a tsunami warning has been lifted after a powerful underwater quake hit Indonesia earlier today. Preliminary estimates put the quake's magnitude at 7.5. No damage or injuries have been reported.

And now back to our top story here in this country, the wildfires raging across Southern California. Firefighters are trying take advantage of lower wind speeds today as they continue to battle major fires in and around Los Angeles. The fires have burned more than 34 square miles since Thursday. No deaths are reported, but authorities are searching the wreckage of 500 mobile homes that burned in Sylmar, a neighborhood in northern Los Angeles. Take a closer look now at the situation there in California; Jacqui Jeras is in the weather center. And our Kara Finnstrom is there in Sylmar.

So, let's begin with you -- Kara.

KARA FINNSTROM, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Fredricka, the fire swept through this mobile home park behind me with such speed, such intensity that the fear is not everyone may have been able to get out. Just a short while ago, emergency crews did hold a press conference here and confirmed that at this point no bodies have been found inside the park, but they also say that their search lot by lot with cadaver dogs is now just about 30 percent complete. Now before this area was sealed off, we did get inside and we spoke with a homeowner who was coming back the first time.


AUGUSTINE REYES, FIRE VICTIM: This is all that's left of my house. This is it.

FINNSTROM (voice-over): Augustine Reyes says his family lost everything they owned, so did his neighbors in home after home. The fires blasting through Oakridge Park decimated about 500 mobile homes. CHIEF MICHAEL BOWMAN, LOS ANGELES CITY FIRE DEPT: That's exactly what they were dealing with, a blowtorch type of effect. You've got gusts of 60 miles an hour, the fire was laying down. You had, again, zero visibility, the smoke was extremely hot.

FINNSTROM: The fear of firefighters bringing in search dogs next, not everyone may have gotten out. And emergency crews are still facing a fire out of control. A fire moving so rapidly, instead of evacuating everyone from this hospital, firefighters protected some patients inside while structures all around burned.

(on camera): Firefighters here have staged one massive fight to beat back the flames. What you see behind me here, this is one of the childcare centers on the campus of the hospital and they have been working here to contain these flames.

(voice-over): The devastation is hard to comprehend and even harder, Augustine Reyes says, to explain to his young son.

REYES: He's 7 years old and he's autistic and he doesn't do well with change, so this is going to be very hard to explain to him and bring him -- it is going to be very hard.


FINNSTROM: And, Fredricka, the toll on these families, just very hard to hear.

WHITFIELD: All right. Kara Finnstrom, thanks so much, appreciate it there, from Sylmar. Jacqui Jeras is in the weather center.

Jacqui, let's talk about the conditions that the firefighters are having to deal with still.

JACQUI JERAS, CNN METEOROLOGIST: Yes, you know, you think about the impact on the people, also want to think about the impact that this has on the firefighters and just how difficult this is for them. You know, they're out there with 60 pounds of gear on them in very rugged terrain, maybe up to their hips in shrubbery. They've got sticks and stones and all kind of obstacles along with their hoses and everything else to get through this.

Temperatures have been in the mid-90s. Winds yesterday, 70 to 80 miles per hour. Today we sliced that in half just a little bit. We want to talk also a little bit about some of the health issues that people are going to have to deal with. The air quality is extremely poor across Southern California. This is an image from NASA that we got from space and it shows you just how far out the smoke plumes are being carried.

This is the Sylmar Fire area, and this is that Triangle Complex. And this is from yesterday. As you know, the Triangle Complex certainly has picked up and expanded quite a bit. The air quality is what we call code red throughout the much of this area. You know, here's Los Angeles right there, and look at how far of an area this expands. If you've ever been in a fire before, this will burn your throat. It will burn your eyes. It gets in your skin. It gets in your hair. It gets inside your home even with all of your windows and all of your doors shut. So you want to stay inside if you're not being directly impacted by these fires today. So just one of the many, many issues that you're having to deal with here in Southern California. Improvements, Fredricka, will continue with the winds gradually through mid-week, but the humidity stays really low.

WHITFIELD: All right. Well, no, that is not good. I was about to say, that's good, but no, they want higher humidity.

JERAS: It's getting better, better, better, better. Mid-week, things will be a whole lot better.

WHITFIELD: OK. All right. Jacqui, thanks so much, appreciate it.

All right. Let's talk now the economy. Just about everybody is hurting financially these days, so how do world leaders want to deal with the global financial crisis? Here's some of what came out of that emergency meeting yesterday in Washington.

A four-month timetable for some new market rules, those guidelines would target risky investment strategies like the ones that helped get us into this economic mess, and it calls for new government spending and more interest rate cuts for some countries. The leaders also agreed not to raise new trade barriers in the next years.

Many American workers are feeling the pain of the economic crisis right now. New jobless reports show just how much. The number of people filing new claims for unemployment insurance surged to 516,000 in the week before last, that's the highest levels since the weeks following the 9/11 attacks. Especially hard hit, workers in Ohio, Michigan, and Pennsylvania.

An inspiring story now, meet a young man who is not letting his illness get in the way of him helping others in need.


WHITFIELD: For several days now, we've been sharing the story of 11- year-old Brenden Foster, a Washington State boy suffering from leukemia. Well, one of Brenden's final wishes, to donate food to the homeless. Many other people around the country have been inspired by him to do the same thing, including a California boy who also has leukemia.

Here now is a story from Serene Branson of CNN affiliate KCAL in L.A.


DANIEL CHAIREZ, LEUKEMIA PATIENT: My back started hurting. So then we went to the hospital and they kept telling us that it was growing pains.

SERENE BRANSON, KCAL REPORTER (voice-over): But after months of tests, doctors eventually diagnosed 12-year-old Daniel Chairez with leukemia. That was three years ago. After intense chemotherapy treatment, he's now in remission and now on a mission of his own after seeing the story of Brenden Foster.

CHAIREZ: I should be gone, and (INAUDIBLE).

BRANSON: This Seattle boy's dying wish to feed the homeless has touched hearts and mobilized efforts around the country and here in the Southland. It deeply touched Daniel.

CHAIREZ: I just saw his story and wanted to find out where we can donate food for the homeless.

BRANSON: Daniel went online and wrote Brenden a message. "You are my hero."

CHAIREZ: I had to because he really -- he really inspired me because he's not afraid and he wants to help people and he's not selfish.

BRANSON: Daniel did all of this unbeknownst to mom Lourdes (ph), who we asked last night how they can help. She says she already has people at work bringing in food, fulfilling Brenden's wish and now her son's.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: And we're hoping that the cancer remains in remission and doesn't come back. That's why it means a lot to us, to fulfill his (INAUDIBLE) wish.

CHAIREZ: I hope Brenden is good, and he'll be fine up there. And I'll help to continue his wish.


WHITFIELD: Aw, well perhaps you'd like to help fulfill Brenden Foster's wish as well. Please visit our "Impact Your World" page at You can see Brenden Foster's story. And you'll find links to the food banks and charities accepting donations in his honor.

A local television anchor's fall from grace leads to his self- discovery.


WARREN SAVAGE, FORMER WSB ANCHOR: I had to lose everything that I had to get what I needed. And that was humility and a real sense of who I am.

WHITFIELD: A personal story of recovery. My conversation with Warren Savage, coming up next.


WHITFIELD: Warren Savage, some of you might know his name. Well, he was once a familiar face on Atlanta television, first as a news anchorman, then for his mug shot after the cocaine arrest. Well, he wants the story of his painful fall to serve as a lesson to all young people thinking about using drugs.


WHITFIELD (voice-over): From seemingly on top of the world, Atlanta morning anchorman, to rolling the dice in Vegas as a musician in search of true happiness, to Warren Savage hooked on cocaine.

Busted for drug possession, the fall was hard.

SAVAGE: I had to lose everything that I had to get what I needed. And that was humility and a real sense of who I am. I had to lose all that stuff.

WHITFIELD: A big salary, cars, two houses, local celebrity.

SAVAGE: Good morning, I'm Warren Savage and you're not. You know, that type of attitude had to be knocked down.

WHITFIELD (on camera): But you were comfortable with that for a while. I mean, you admitted that to me.

SAVAGE: I was, I was comfortable with that for a while. But after a while, I mean, it became so vain. It wasn't me. I mean, it wasn't me. I began to feel unlike me and trying to be someone that I'm not. A lot of character defects, I was very egotistical, very arrogant, argumentative. I was hard on other people. I didn't realize until after I got arrested.

WHITFIELD (voice-over): With this image on the air, instead of reporting the news, he was now the lead story. Savage painfully realized this was no longer about just him.

SAVAGE: I got so many letters, so many letters from so many people. I mean, I well up even today when I read them. They are just so heartwarming and encouraging.

WHITFIELD: Tired of dismissing his depression, running away from reality, Savage pleaded guilty to drug possession in exchange for 18 months of enforced rehabilitation. Rehab now complete, he lives modestly in rural Georgia, his bike, his most valued position, getting him to work stocking shelves overnight at a retailer.

SAVAGE: I was heading down a destructive path, heading for a cliff. And if not for my arrest, I would have gone over that cliff.

I try to do the best I can one day at a time and I know, I know if I had to speak, if I could speak to children now, I mean, I could speak to children. There are only two roads that lead -- that drug addition, that drug use, that any drug -- that lead, jail or the graveyard. There are only two roads. I mean, that's it. That's it.

WHITFIELD: Hopeful, anyone else fighting the same kind of inner demons on the road to almost certain self-destruction or worse, can learn from his wild ride.

SAVAGE: We all have demons. We all have things that we're dealing with. Sometimes you think you know your neighbor, sometimes you think you know your co-worker who you work side-by-side next to every day. You never know what they're masking though.

WHITFIELD (on camera): So that was Warren Savage then. Who have you discovered Warren Savage is now?

SAVAGE: I have a purpose. I think I know what my purpose is. And I think it is to help other people. I think it is to help other people who may feel like they're hopeless or that they're helpless and that they can turn their lives around.

WHITFIELD (voice-over): He hasn't mapped out what's next or if whether he'll get back into television, but admits it's impossible to plan ahead without reflecting often on exactly where he has been.

SAVAGE: I had to learn that the road to hell is paved with good intentions, but the road back is paved with humility. And I needed to be on that road.


WHITFIELD: And he -- even after that 18 months of rehabilitation, Warren Savage says it's still one day at a time. More of the NEWSROOM after this.


WHITFIELD: Music, a form of entertainment deaf people can't fully experience until this one young man came along.


WHITFIELD (voice-over): Most people remember Christina Aguilera's video, "Beautiful," like this. But some people, who are deaf or hard of hearing, are now experiencing the video in a different way.

Thanks to the work of 26-year-old Sean Forbes and his use of American Sign Language, Forbes is bridging the gap between those who hear and those who don't.

SEAN FORBES, VISUAL ARTIST: Oftentimes I perform in front of cheering audiences and some of the people that have never seen me before are like, oh, my God, like this is something -- it's like a new way to enjoy music for hearing people.

WHITFIELD: Deaf since infancy, Forbes is co-founder of the D-PAN, the Deaf Performing Artist Network. D-PAN, a non-profit group, remakes popular music videos, like John Mayer's "Waiting on the World to Change," and a version of Eminem's song, "Lose Yourself." You could say that music is in his blood.

FORBES: My whole life I was -- I grew up around music. Both of my parents were musicians. So my whole life, I had that experience and it just really stuck with me.

WHITFIELD: Students in the Atlanta School for the Deaf were inspired when Sean explained to them what his non-profit hopes to do for the deaf community.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE (through translator): I've never seen anything like that before. I've never seen a deaf person perform music like that. It made me so happy.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): It's going to be great for self esteem. Deaf people can do it. We can show other people what we can do. We can express what's inside of us. And I think it's going to really get deaf people involved.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE (through translator): And we'd like to do something. Yes, I think we should do something with music. I mean, deaf people making music. We'd like to be on MTV. That would be super cool.

WHITFIELD: D-PAN has rounded up support on the Web and around the nation with many deaf artists, creating their own videos.

FORBES: The world is run by those who show up, and I've shown up and I'm really ready to do this. They really want to get deaf music out there and deaf performing out there.

WHITFIELD: Forbes proves that music doesn't need to be heard in order to be felt.


WHITFIELD: And if you want to find out more information, log on to the group's Web site at The next hour of the CNN NEWSROOM starts right now.

WHITFIELD: The destruction is brutal and it's not over yet. Firefighters continue to battle wildfires that have already burned more than 34 square miles of land in Southern California. The hot, dry Santa Ana winds that fanned flames yesterday have diminished just a bit, but a fire on the outskirts of the Sylmar neighborhood in Los Angeles is still only 30 percent contained.

And other major fires are raging in Orange County. More than 800 houses in all and mobile homes and apartments have been destroyed so far. This house went up in flames in Yorba Linda, right there southwest of Los Angeles. And despite the flames, no fire-related deaths are reported, but dogs are searching a mobile home park where 134 residents are unaccounted for.

Firestorm conditions were reported last night in Chino Hills as well. CNN. Thelma Gutierrez is there -- Thelma.