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ANDERSON COOPER 360 DEGREES
Tax Day Protests; Hijacked Crew Heads Home
Aired April 15, 2009 - 22:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
CHRISTIANE AMANPOUR, CNN ANCHOR: And good evening.
We begin with breaking news from Andrews Air Force Base, a homecoming for the American crew who wrestled their ship back from the heavily armed Somali pirates. A plane carrying the seamen is expected to land shortly. We will bring it to you live.
First, though, the backlash over the economic bailout. Tax day protests like this one are being held across the country. They are call TEA Parties. Organizers say they number in the hundreds, as they lash out at President Obama's stimulus package.
But are they out of touch with most Americans, who support the president's economic plans? Or could this grow into something bigger?
Candy Crowley reports.
CANDY CROWLEY, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): April 15 is not the best time to ask Americans whether they think taxes are too high, but it's a perfect day for the president to remind them they're a little lower.
BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We have passed a broad and sweeping tax cut for 95 percent of American workers.
CROWLEY: He's talking about a reduction of withholding that comes out to an average of $10 to $13 a paycheck. While the president talked up his tax policy, protesters across the country gathered for TEA Parties, meant to echo the Boston Tea Party tax revolt.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: There are taxes just continually being added to your paycheck, my paycheck, our cell phone bills, our -- our -- everything that we touch has a tax on it. You know, it's just getting worse and worse and worse.
CROWLEY: In some places, they showed up by the thousands, gathering in cities like Boston, Pittsburgh, Chicago, Oklahoma City, and Washington, D.C.
LAURA INGRAHAM, RADIO TALK SHOW HOST: And, regardless of whether the media covered this or not, I think that people are beginning to wake up.
CROWLEY: The message was broader than taxes. It was about the trillions of dollars being spent to bail out banks and stimulate the economy and about the huge debt being racked up.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Your children will be here, your grandchildren. I'm 76. I won't get to see the worst of this, but you will.
CROWLEY: Less spending, lower taxes, and smaller government is essentially Republican Party orthodoxy. Sponsors were and organizers were, by and large, fiscally and socially conservative groups, including Americans For Prosperity, a political group promoting limited government and free markets.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, "CNN NEWSROOM")
TIM PHILLIPS, PRESIDENT, AMERICANS FOR PROSPERITY: The Republican Party, frankly, is too disorganized and too unsure of itself to pull off stuff like this.
RICK SANCHEZ, CNN ANCHOR: Really?
PHILLIPS: This is a grassroots uprising that is telling elected officials in both parties, hey, guys, there is too much debt.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
CROWLEY (on camera): Most elected Republicans kept a low profile, which doesn't mean they're not watching. For the GOP, this day was a bit of a testing ground. If this is a growing movement, instead of a one-day wonder, it could be just the sort of issue the GOP can wrap itself around to rebuild a party in tatters.
(voice-over): And perhaps there is fertile political ground here. According to the latest CNN/Opinion Research Corporation poll, more than 60 percent of Americans do approve of the way the president is handling taxes.
But a recent Gallup poll found that 46 percent of Americans still think taxes are too high. Forty-eight percent think they're just about right, though, on tax day, those numbers may be a little different.
Candy Crowley, CNN, Washington.
AMANPOUR: Protests or not, today was the tax deadline for everyone, including President Obama and Michelle Obama.
The president and first lady released their tax returns for 2008 today. They reported income of more than $2.6 million. The first family paid $855,000 in federal income tax. Mr. and Mrs. Obama also donated $172,000 to charity.
So, let's get back to these Tax Day TEA Parties.
Joining some are senior political analyst David Gergen, and Jeffrey Toobin, our senior analyst here in New York, with us. First, David.
Is this, David, a grassroots movement, or is it something just whipped up for this moment?
DAVID GERGEN, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, Christiane, at first, I must confess, I did not take these very seriously.
But they do seem to have gained traction in the last couple of weeks. And they have -- I think they are given expression to what is a groundswell of a vocal minority, who are increasingly alienated and opposed to what the president is putting proposing, is putting forward, the agenda he's advancing.
I don't think this is mostly about taxes. I think it's about the general direction of bigger deficits that may lead to more taxes and more government. And, you know, the Republican Party has not found its voice, but there is clearly in the country a minority who are increasingly opposed.
And I think that this -- I think this is what this day represents. Could it grow bigger? Of course it's going to -- it is going to grow bigger, because, one day, you know what? The Obama administration is probably going to have to propose higher taxes. It's the only way you can close these deficits.
AMANPOUR: So, David is talking about higher taxes potentially, and that this is probably not all about taxes. But it does come at a time, right now, when President Obama has actually slashed taxes.
What are they doing?
JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN SENIOR ANALYST: Well, I -- I think, for most people, taxes are down, but there is a feeling -- and as David pointed out -- that the bailouts -- I think the bailouts are resented by a lot of people.
And most of the people who are there are clearly very angry about bailing out these big companies, too much regulation, too much Washington. That is a perfectly legitimate cause to protest. And a lot of people are right -- feel strongly about it.
What's disturbing about some of these protests and some of the people at these protests is this edge of anger at the government. There is a real -- a real hostility that is not just politics as usual among some of these people. You have the governor of Texas, Rick Perry, today suggesting that secession might be an option.
AMANPOUR: And how real is that?
TOOBIN: Well, I mean, it's fantasy. We fought a civil war about that.
And -- but I think it's indicative of trying to tap into an anger that's beyond rationality on a part of a small group of these people. AMANPOUR: We have talked about beyond rationality, David, and a small group. And are these protesters really out of step with the majority of Americans?
We just saw in Candy's piece that 62 percent of the people here approve of the president's handling of the economy, and that Americans rate taxes, incredibly at, the very bottom of the most important economic issues right now.
GERGEN: These protesters do represent a minority, but it's not a tiny minority.
It is a -- listen, after all, the Republican Party, after all, got, you know, 56 percent, 57 percent of the national vote. About a quarter to 30 percent of Republicans approve of what President Obama is doing, which is pretty high in some ways, but, nonetheless, about two-thirds to three-quarters of Republicans don't.
So, you're talking about a -- a significant piece of the population that is having -- you know, is -- is in some opposition. I don't think that's a dismissible group.
I -- to go back to Jeff Toobin's point, which I think is right, there -- this is a piece, though, of a lot of anger that's free- flowing in society. Some people are angry at the government. There are a lot of people out there, as Jeffrey knows, who are angry at Wall Street.
You know, so, there is -- in this kind of -- these hard times, resentments do grow. We saw this during the Depression. There were protests of various kinds. In hard times going all the way back to the beginning of the republic, there have been people who felt that they were not getting -- they were not getting a fair deal.
So, this is not totally unusual. I think that President Obama is going to have to just sort of -- this is going to be just part of the landscape. That does not mean he does not have a significant majority behind him.
He still does. He has well over 60 percent. And, very importantly for him, it's not just the great majority of Democrats who are supporting him. Right now, a significant majority of independents are supporting him, well over 60 percent.
AMANPOUR: And, David...
GERGEN: That gives him strength.
AMANPOUR: I'm sorry.
On that note, we have to go ahead.
AMANPOUR: But go to AC360.com for Jeff Toobin's blog in this regular political debate, or is the start of something worse? Join the live chat happening now at AC360.com. And check out Erica Hill's live Webcast during the break.
And next on 360: a run-up on gun sales, why some Americans are stockpiling weapons. Is President Obama really going to take away their Second Amendment rights?
Also tonight, heading home -- the crew who battled Somali pirates is flying back to Andrews Air Force Base. And we will be there live when their plane lands.
Plus, new details about the Sunday school teacher charged with killing a little girl and how the information may help her defense team.
And a star is born, and an unlikely one, at that.
AMANPOUR: The right to bear arms is protected in the Constitution, but some gun owners say they fear that it's under attack by President Obama.
Background checks for gun applications have jumped since the November election. You can see how the numbers have soared, compared to the same tine span a year before. The president's push to ban certain weapons is fueling an explosion in firearms purchases and has also led to stockpiling.
With tonight's "Uncovering America" report, here's Sean Callebs.
SEAN CALLEBS, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): This is Tyler, Texas, one of those places all over America where a kind of quiet call to arms is getting louder and louder. Just ask Attorney Sean Healy and Jimmy Moore, who's a nurse.
(on camera): A show of hands here. Who thinks President Obama wants gun control, wants to restrict the kinds of guns you can get?
SEAN HEALY, ATTORNEY: If you look at what he said in the past and look at his actions, that if he and the people in control of Congress right now could have what they want, they would heavily restrict or eliminate guns from this country.
JIMMY MOORE, REGISTERED NURSE: He voted for a 500 percent increase on the tax on guns and ammunition, doubling, basically, the cost of my hobby and my passion.
CALLEBS (on camera): So here in Tyler and other parts of the country, there's been a run on ammunition. One man ran into a Wal- Mart and said, sell me all the ammo you have. Guns, they're also flying off shelves. Those highly prized semiautomatic rifles are becoming more and more expensive.
So, this is $2,200. Why -- why is it so expensive?
STEVE PRATER, LOCK N' LOAD MANAGER: Well, right now, they're just about impossible to find. They're just hard to get. Everybody kind of got scared, the market got depleted.
CALLEBS: A run on guns because of President Barack Obama. But since he has been president, he has said, quoting here, "I will not take away your guns."
It couldn't be more clear, but listen to his secretary of state. She sounds as though she has a different message.
(voice-over): This is what she said in Mexico when asked why the administration isn't fighting the sale of semiautomatic guns.
HILLARY RODHAM CLINTON, U.S. SECRETARY OF STATE: I'm not going to, you know, sugarcoat it. It's a very heavy lift. I think that's a mistake. I think these assault weapons, these military-style weapons don't belong on anyone's street.
PRATER: It is her intent to see gun legislation passed.
HEALY: It's a little bit ridiculous to blame Americans for the fact that people in foreign countries are trying to ship illegal drugs into our country and they're committing violence against each other.
CALLEBS: Back in the gun store:
(on camera): why would someone own a semiautomatic weapon like this? I mean, is saying it's my right, is that enough?
PRATER: Yes, I believe it is. Yes, I believe it is. It's what sets us apart.
CALLEBS (voice-over): Remember Jimmy Moore, he owns an AR-15.
MOORE: I'm not a freak. I'm a registered nurse. I'm a responsible individual. I'm a law-abiding citizen. I have been one my entire life.
CALLEBS: A nurse, an attorney, not the usual portrait of Second Amendment diehards. And the man who owns the Lock N' Load gun shop, he's a cardiologist who moved here from New York.
Are you kind of profiting on this fear right now?
SCOTT LIEBERMAN, LOCK N' LOAD OWNER: I think we are. Again, I don't know how rational it is.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Good afternoon, Lock N' Load.
CALLEBS: In fact, it may not be rational at all. It might even be paranoid. But one thing is certain. Many gun owners believe this president is somehow out to curb their rights and they're stocking up just in case.
Sean Callebs, CNN, Tyler, Texas.
AMANPOUR: But, Sean, the president has said what he said about this issue. So, is this a fear that's being deliberately stoked?
CALLEBS: Well, I don't know if it's a fear that's being deliberately stoked, but it is being stoked. There's no question about that.
And perhaps leading that is the NRA. They have seen their membership go up significantly since Barack Obama was elected back in November. It is now standing at about four million. But is it paranoia, or is there something real to it?
Well, the NRA and its supporters say, look, there's definitely something real there. They say that Eric Holder has pushed, has made comments that he would like to restrict guns, push for gun control, Secretary of State Clinton, and a number of leading Democrats.
The one person who isn't is President Obama. And he's basically distancing himself from that, saying, look, this is not a fight we want to get into right now.
AMANPOUR: Sean, thank.
They fought back pirates, and are now on their way home. You're looking now live at Andrews Air Force Base. And, any moment, the sailors who battled those pirates will be landing, and we will bring it to you.
Also tonight, is the woman accused of killing an 8-year-old girl mentally competent to stand trial? The new revelations about her state of mind ahead.
And, later, courage under fire -- Afghan women protest a law that forces marital sex and strips women of the right to say no.
And from disgraced governor to reality star? Rod Blagojevich could be heading to prime-time television.
We will have the story -- when 360 continues.
AMANPOUR: Tonight, the crew of the Maersk Alabama is flying home to the United States. And we're awaiting their arrival at Andrews Air Force Base. We will bring it to you live.
They left Kenya earlier today, happy to be alive, after their cargo ship was assaulted by Somali pirates. The crew left their captain behind. Richard Phillips is still on a Navy ship that is sailing to Kenya.
But, tonight, his crew is looking forward to a reunion with their families.
Meanwhile, in Washington, Hillary Clinton promised to stop what she calls the armed gangs on the sea. The secretary of state joined President Obama in saying that officials are now exploring ways to track and freeze pirate ransom money.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CLINTON: This week, the State Department is taking four immediate steps, as we move forward with a broader counterpiracy strategy.
But let me underscore this point. The United States does not make concessions or ransom payments to pirates.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
AMANPOUR: But it's still business as usual for the pirates off the Somali coast. They're busy attacking more ships, but they're also getting caught.
And Randi Kaye has the latest on that pirate threat.
RANDI KAYE, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The crew of the hijacked Maersk Alabama, their bags packed, but before they can leave Kenya or be reunited with their captain, pirates once again steal the show.
They boldly attack the American freighter Liberty Sun. Once again, it's the USS Bainbridge to the rescue. The destroyer carrying Captain Richard Phillips to Kenya to meet his crew heads to the scene. The pirates never make it on board, but their attempted hijacking is enough to delay the long-awaited reunion.
On ABC, for the first time, gripping details about the earlier hijacking of the U.S.-flagged Maersk Alabama by four pirates.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, ABC NEWS)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I was scared. Heck, yes, I was scared.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Did the pirates look like they were ready to kill?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KAYE: This picture from ABC shows two of the pirates on board the hijacked ship. Notice their AK-47 rifles. The crew says the pirates took fuel, food, and juice from the ship, and, of course, Captain Richard Phillips.
He was supposed to be exchanged for a pirate the crew overpowered. This picture shows the sailors and pirates side by side during the attempted trade. But when the crew handed over the pirate, the pirates kept the captain.
(on camera): This may be the most memorable image of the captain's rescue. That is the lifeboat he was held on for five days. Now, if you look closely, you can see that small window right there. It's through there that a Navy SEAL sniper fired the fatal shot at the pirate who was holding a rifle to the captain's back.
You can see, the window is blown out. Remember, this lifeboat was covered. The three pirates on board at the time were all partially exposed and killed by U.S. snipers with a single shot to the head.
(voice-over): How do these sailors feel about the pirates being taken out? No regrets.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They were warned. We gave them so many outs, and they got greedy.
KAYE: Not even that deters the pirates in Somalia, who already are seeking revenge. Dawn Wednesday morning, off the coast of Kenya in the Indian Ocean, the French Navy zeros in on 11 pirates who had attacked the ship Safmarine Asia.
A day earlier, during the attack on the Liberty Sun, a crew member e-mails his mother, saying, "We are being hit by rockets."
Later, the sailor's mother told 360 what she would say to her son.
KATY URBIK, SON'S SHIP FIRED ON BY SOMALI PIRATES: The first thing I'm going to say is, I love you.
KAYE: Sailors from the Maersk Alabama hijacking feel her urgency, anxious to see their families, too.
Randi Kaye, CNN, New York.
AMANPOUR: Up next: How do you stop the pirates? We will talk to a retired U.S. Navy SEAL who now trains other SEALs to hit their targets. This will give you a better sense of how snipers killed those three pirates who attacked the Maersk Alabama.
And you're looking at a live shot of Andrews Air Force Base. We're waiting for the crew of the Alabama to return to the United States. It should happen at any moment. And we will bring it to you live. And this woman is an Internet hit. Chances are, you have heard her sing. Over eight million have watched her online. We will bring you her story.
AMANPOUR: An international armada, including the U.S. Navy, is patrolling the coast of Somalia, trying to stop armed pirates from hijacking more ships for ransom.
But the pirates' operational area is huge. They hide on a vast stretch of ocean, and they're now threatening to specifically attack American and French targets to avenge the deaths of their comrades at the hands of the U.S. and French militaries.
Just yesterday, I asked the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of staff, Admiral Michael Mullen, whether the world's most powerful Navy can keep one of the world's most vital shipping lanes safe.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
AMANPOUR: President Obama has now said, we have to stop the rising tide of piracy in those waters. How will you do that? How will the U.S. military do that?
ADMIRAL MICHAEL MULLEN, JOINTS CHIEFS CHAIRMAN: We have had a lot of focus in this area for a considerable period of time.
Sixteen countries have navy ships out there, 11 of them in a coalition to work the problem. But it's 1.1 million square miles. It's a big area. There are thousands of ships which pass through this area. And the pirates actually are pretty good at what they do. They have got good weapons. They have got good tactics. And they typically jump up on a ship that isn't armed and -- and can't keep them away.
So, the challenge is pretty significant. It's a criminal offense. It's not a military offense. We need international courts at the end of this, when we capture pirates, to try them. So, it's a huge challenge.
AMANPOUR: Special forces took out three of the pirates holding the U.S. captain.
AMANPOUR: Does this make it more dangerous, or more likely that the pirates will -- will -- will fall back?
MULLEN: I actually don't know. I am very much aware of the comments that were made by the pirates after this event, and recognize that as certainly a potential threat.
But we're prepared for threats all the time. So, we will continue to -- to, I think, aggressively address the situation out there. And I wouldn't go into exactly how we would do that. (END VIDEO CLIP)
AMANPOUR: Go to AC360.com to watch more of that interview with Admiral Mullen. In addition to pirates, we talked about Afghanistan and what President Obama is calling a Taliban safe haven.
As we mentioned earlier, the captain of the Maersk Alabama, Richard Phillips, on his way to Mombasa, Kenya, tonight, before he flies back to the U.S. to reunite with his wife and children in Vermont.
Captain Phillips was taken hostage by heavily armed pirates last week. They repeatedly threatened to kill him, until three Navy SEAL snipers took aim and simultaneously shot and killed three pirates.
It was marksmanship at its best, the way Brandon Webb teaches it. Brandon Webb retired from the U.S. Navy SEAL team three years ago. And he joins us now from San Diego.
Brandon, I think everybody wants to know how three coordinated shots, different people shooting at a moving target from a moving platform, just how did they do it and how difficult it was?
BRANDON WEBB, FORMER U.S. NAVY SEAL: Well, I think the -- the -- the training obviously speaks for itself in the actual accomplishment.
But we -- we spend a lot of time in the course putting these sniper, the SEAL sniper students, through a tremendous amount of real- world stressful situations, that, ultimately, when they get out there and have a mission to do, it becomes second nature.
I mean, obviously, it requires a close amount of coordination for a shot like that. But we rehearse these situations all the time in training, and just for this particular reason, so when it -- when they get the call that -- that the shot needs to happen, that -- that they're prepared, and it almost becomes second nature at that point.
AMANPOUR: So, give us some specifics.
I mean, I -- we all know that it's difficult enough to become a SEAL, tougher, probably, to become a sniper. What sort of specifics did you put these people through, do trainers put them through?
WEBB: Well, our course in the -- the SEAL community is -- is probably one of the toughest courses that the military has to offer.
We put them through three months of training. They receive a variety of training, from digital imagery, communications, stealth and concealment. They -- they -- we teach them how to conceal themselves in a variety of -- of different environments.
Then, they just -- throughout the three months, every day, we just really drive home the fundamentals of marksmanship. These guys become experts in external ballistics, internal ballistics, environmental factors. And when they graduate, they -- we graduate a very intelligent, capable shooter that is -- they're capable of making these -- these types of shots and these high, stressful situations. Because we work really hard to simulate the stress in training, and really work with them -- with them on mental management, rehearsal. So, you know...
AMANPOUR: Brandon, I want to play this report -- iReport from Melissa in Yorba Linda, California. Just take a look.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Going forward with these pirates, I think that we should just do the same thing that we just did. And that was call in our Navy SEALs to kick some pirate booty.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
AMANPOUR: So that's something a lot of people would like to see happen, but you even heard Chairman Mullen saying he didn't know quite what effect this would have. Would it make it safer for the crews or more dangerous? What do you think?
WEBB: I think -- you know, again, I give credit for President Obama. Those types -- his decisiveness to -- what that means to the guys on the ground. It's critical in these situations, that they have the go-ahead. And, you know, his decisiveness ultimately saved Captain Phillips' life.
And I think it sends a very clear message to the rest of the world that, you know, U.S. citizens abroad are going to be protected. And you know, it -- from my perspective, de-incentivizes these pirates, and they're going to be looking at different targets in the future.
AMANPOUR: Thank you. Brandon Webb, thank you very much indeed.
And join the live chat happening now at AC360.com and check out Erica Hill's live Web cast during the break.
Coming up, demonstrations on the streets of Kabul, women risking their lives to protest a law that some say allows men to rape their wives.
And inside the war next door. We will show you the streets where the gangs recruit their killers.
And we're live at Andrews Air Force Base, awaiting a homecoming. The crew of the Alabama is returning to the United States after battling pirates off the coast of Somalia. We'll have that reunion.
AMANPOUR: The Obama administration is alarmed at the growing militancy in Pakistan. Muslim extremists, Taliban and al Qaeda fighters are controlling more regions.
I asked Admiral Michael Mullen, the chairman of the joint chiefs of staff, about the increasingly unstable area.
AMANPOUR: Well, just at a very practical military level, swat and those areas now are being filled very rapidly by the militants and by the Taliban. Literally a nice safe haven, a base to create war.
ADMIRAL MICHAEL MULLEN, CHAIRMAN, JOINT CHIEFS OF STAFF: What I have seen from the leadership, political and military, over the last many months that I've been there is recognition of this threat. I think it's a question of how to get at this specifically.
And in fact, when you look at the suicide bombings that are occurring, they're moving closer and closer to Islamabad over time, and it must be addressed. The question is exactly how to do that.
AMANPOUR: Harsh Islamic rule is becoming more entrenched in some parts of neighboring Afghanistan. Just recently, Taliban gunmen executed a young couple in front of a crowd for trying to elope. The execution highlights a growing problem for women's rights in Afghanistan.
And today, demonstrators marched in Kabul to oppose a law that critics say legalizes rape within marriage.
AMANPOUR (voice-over): Defending their rights and risking their lives, these brave Afghan women are marching through the streets of Kabul. They are protesting a new law that sanctions marital rape.
The legislation, which is directed at the Shia minority, orders a wife to submit to her husband's demands for sex at least every four days, whether she consents or not.
The law also bars women from leaving the house, unless accompanied by a male relative. For demonstrators and human rights activists, there's chilling evidence that, although Taliban rule has gone, oppression and shame have not.
SIMA GHANI, ACTIVIST: We actually see it as a law that's limiting women's rights, no matter what religion we belong to, what sect we follow.
NISHA VARIA, HUMAN RIGHTS WATCH: I think everybody was kind of sitting back on their heels and saying that, all right, we have six million kids back in school, girls are back in school, but for a long time now, the reality hasn't been that nice. This is actually a wake- up call to the international community that women's rights and women's lives are at real risk.
AMANPOUR: This show of solidarity was met by hardliners, young religious zealots who support the law. They shouted at the women. Some reportedly pelted them with rock. International pressure is mounting on President Hamid Karzai to revoke the law that critics suspect he endures for puny political gains ahead of the summer election.
VARIA: What this actually represents is trading women's rights to broker other deals.
AMANPOUR: President Obama calls the law abhorrent. He says it's important to be sensitive to Afghan culture, but not at the cost of anyone's rights.
BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We also think that there are certain basic principles that all nations should uphold. And respect for women and respect for their freedom and integrity is an important principle.
AMANPOUR: Protecting basic principles is what they're fighting for. And they want the world to know.
AMANPOUR: So let's dig deeper. You just heard from Nisha Varia in that report. She's the deputy director for the women's rights division at Human Rights Watch. She also documents intimidation and threats against women in Afghanistan. Nisha joins me right now.
First to those protests with those women. I mean, that is extraordinary. It's a very hopeful sign, that they're actually taking matters into their hands.
VARIA: I think it's one of the most striking examples of how Afghan women and girls have been taking risks to exercise their rights and freedoms. And it's one of the reasons why the international community should support them even more.
AMANPOUR: So as they take these risks, as they go into the streets and they're heckled and attacked by -- by gangs of men there, we also see a women's activist having been shot to death in Kandahar in the south, really the Taliban's stronghold there.
Is there a risk that there could an even worse backlash because of what these women in Kabul are doing?
VARIA: Having a risk because of speaking out has been something that women in Afghanistan have been facing ever since the Taliban left. It hasn't been a series of progress for the last seven years. It hasn't been that smooth. Women have had to fight every inch of the way. And so this is continuing.
AMANPOUR: What do you think the likelihood of President Karzai revoking the law or at least getting out the most objectionable, appalling parts of it?
VARIA: We're very concerned right now. The law is being under review by the Ministry of Justice, but the people who are actually doing the review include many of the hardliners who promoted it in the first place. And so I think it needs to be under a lot of scrutiny to make sure the discriminatory elements are taken out.
AMANPOUR: Now, Angela Merkel, the chancellor of Germany, was there on her state visit. She made a very strong demand (ph) to President Karzai. He is presumably going to run for election. What are human rights groups such as yourself and others going to do to really monitor the judiciary there, which is having a big effect on these?
VARIA: It's very important that the candidates for these elections are vetted, so that we don't have people who have histories of abuse, histories of wrongdoing who are -- who are unfairly taking part in the elections and then swaying the outcomes.
AMANPOUR: You know, some people might think, well, this is Afghanistan. And you've heard talks about cultural tolerance, et cetera. But there was real progress after the Taliban was routed and after al Qaeda was routed after 9/11.
Can women get back to that stage where they were at that time? I mean, it's really reversed over the last several years.
VARIA: I think they absolutely can, and today's protest is an example of that. The women have a will to really have greater freedoms to fight for them. There's been such tremendous progress, for example, how many girls have been going back to school. They are taking enormous risks to go back to school. I think just building on the gains that have been made, further progress can be made.
AMANPOUR: Nisha, thank you very much, indeed, for joining us. And we'll keep monitoring it.
And up next, the war next door: turf wars on the streets of Mexico. We'll show you where cartels are recruiting members and what the police are doing about it.
And on a much lighter note, this woman has become an Internet sensation. Her singing even got applause from Simon Cowell. We'll bring you her story.
And we're awaiting the arrival of the crew from the hijacked Maersk Alabama. We'll bring you their reunion with their families on U.S. soil when it happens.
AMANPOUR: President Obama travels to Mexico tomorrow on his way to a pan-American summit in the Caribbean. His visit puts a spotlight on the escalating drug war along the U.S.-Mexico border. It's a conflict in which Mexican police officers are fighting for their lives in battles like this one with well-armed drug gangs.
Karl Penhaul spent several weeks tracking the drug gangs, the corrupt officials who support them, and the police who are trying to put an end to the violence.
Tonight, Karl reports on "The War Next Door." And we must warn you that this piece does contain graphic images of violence which some might find difficult to watch.
KARL PENHAUL, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The police radio crackles. Shots are being fired downtown. A city cop asks these transvestite prostitutes if they heard. Six shots, they say, a few blocks away.
It's midnight in Juarez, Mexico's most dangerous city. The gunmen seem to have faded away, so the patrol heads up into gangland, the hillside slums that ring Juarez.
"We're arresting gang members before they get together, because then there will be killings," he says.
Police say there are 1,000 gangs in the city. They go by names like the Skulls, the Sharks, the Aztecs and the Artist Assassins. They peddle cocaine, crack and heroin, and fight gun battles for turf.
The gangs, too, have become a recruiting ground for narcotraffickers, looking to hire hit men. "Organized crime reports from these gangs. They come and choose the most dangerous members," the captain says.
Captain Pinedo and his men on the anti-gang patrol know the labyrinth of alleyways by heart.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (speaking foreign language)
PENHAUL: They pull suspected gang members out of vehicles, even sniffing their fingers to see if they've been using drugs.
"A lot of them don't have any I.D., and they looks like gang bangers," he says.
For the last year Juarez's best-selling newspaper has been filled with gory photos of drug war hits. In the cartel, battles for the Juarez mob's trafficking routes. Bodies hanging from a bridge, other victims stuffed into cooking pots, another murdered and his face covered with a pig mask.
Police say many of the victims have been young gang members recruited as cartel foot soldiers.
We head back into our Juarez neighborhood, this time without the police, to try and discover why young men have been lured by the drug mobs.
This small gang calls itself Below 13. None of its members seem to know why. The few who say they work, earn less than $50 a week in assembly plants. The cartel war now raging, it offers a chance of quick money.
Some of the gang members here have joined organized crime groups and some are in prison because they were busted for selling drugs, this young man tells me. He knows working for the cartels can mean a short life expectancy.
"Of course it's easy money, because you can earn serious cash, but it's dangerous, too. Like they say, it's easy money until they kill you," he says.
Sixteen hundred people died in drug cartel killings last year in Juarez, but in this neighborhood, there's little sense the war will end.
"Thank God we're alive. We're going to show all the hit men that Juarez is No. 1," he boasts. Fighting talk that bodes of more untimely deaths.
Karl Penhaul, CNN, Juarez, Mexico.
AMANPOUR: And we want to show you some live pictures. This is a hotel in Oxen Hill, Maryland. The families of the Maersk Alabama crew are at the hotel and will be heading to Andrews Air Force Base to reunite with the sailors.
You see the buses that will take them to the base. There are two buses. We're told it's a 10- to 15-minute trip to the base. A plane carrying the sailors is expected to land shortly. The sailors who battled the pirates and who are now on their way home. We'll bring you their emotional return.
And join the live chat happening now and check out Erica Hill's live Web cast during the break.
Still to come, new details on the woman accused of killing 8- year-old Sandra Cantu in northern California. Tonight, a look at her mental health, and why experts say an insanity plea could be a tough sell.
Plus a magic new pill, how it could help millions, maybe even you.
And as we've been reporting, the crew hijacked by pirates will soon arrive at Andrews Air Force Base.
AMANPOUR: and let's get some of the other headlines tonight. Erica Hills joins us now with a "360 News & Business Bulletin."
ERICA HILL, CNN ANCHOR: Christiane, we'll get that to you right away.
A rally on Wall Street today after the Federal Reserve indicated the economic downturn may actually be letting up. The Dow climbing 109 points on the news. The NASDAQ and S&P also posted modest gains.
Legal experts say an insanity defense for Melissa Huckaby would be difficult to prove. The Sunday school teacher is charged with murder with special circumstances, including kidnapping and rape, in the death 8-year-old Sandra Cantu.
Huckaby was enrolled in a court-ordered mental health program at the time of the little girl's death, but experts say an insanity claim experts would fail if prosecutors can show Huckaby deliberately hid the body in a suitcase and dumped it in a pond.
A new medication could help alcoholics curb their cravings. The drug appears to block chemicals in the brain which are linked to pleasure, but critics warn similar drug therapies just don't work, because they do not address the behavioral aspects of addiction.
And Rod Blagojevich's 15 minutes back in overdrive. Oh, yes, they're not up. The former Illinois governor gearing up now for a possible run in the NBC reality show "I'm a Celebrity: Now Get Me Out of Here." The idea: drop Blago and other contestants into the Costa Rican jungle.
One tiny issue here, though: he's not actually allowed to travel while awaiting trial on federal corruption charges, which may make it tough for him to keep being on TV, but he may find a way, Christiane.
AMANPOUR: And next on 360, the voice heard around the globe, a woman who captivated the World Wide Web. New details on her story ahead.
And later, live at Andrews Air Force Base, the crew who revolted against their pirate hijackers is heading home.
AMANPOUR: She's been called the Internet sensation. Her name is Susan Boyle. In just a few days, her story has captured worldwide attention, and so has her voice. Her audition for a British reality show made her famous.
Erica Hill has an up-close look at this YouTube phenomenon.
HILL (voice-over): On first glance, no one seemed to have much faith in Susan Boyle's talent.
SIMON COWELL, JUDGE, "BRITAIN'S GOT TALENT": And how old are you, Susan?
SUSAN BOYLE, AUDITIONED FOR "BRITAIN'S GOT TALENT": I am 47.
HILL: The eyes said it all. And not just judge Simon Cowell. The audience on the hand for "Britain's Got Talent" didn't appear too impressed either, until she began to sing.
BOYLE: (singing "I Dreamed a Dream")
HILL: This unemployed 47-year-old's dream was to do something with her life, part of a wish to her mother. She is well on her way. This YouTube clip of her performance is scoring millions of views. BOYLE: (singing "I Dreamed a Dream")
HILL: But most unimportantly, the unlikely singing sensation wowed Cowell, known for his biting, though often accurate, criticism.
COWELL: Susan Boyle, you can go back to the village with your head held high. It's three yeses.
HILL: Susan may want to get used to the applause. It reportedly greeted her in church Easter Sunday, the day after millions of Brits watched her performance, and it didn't take long for the cameras to find Susan offstage.
On Tuesday, she sat down with Scotland's SUV (ph) on the 5:30 show.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The judges loved you. The audience loved you. Were you confident when you stepped out on that stage you would get a good reaction?
BOYLE: I wasn't sure what kind of reaction I would get, if I'm being honest. But I just got through with it. You know, you just get on with it.
HILL: She's not the first unconventional star. The 2007 winner of "Britain's Got Talent," Paul Potts, didn't seem to wow the judges on first look, either, but in this game, it's the pipes that matter.
HILL: Potts' debut album was No. 1 in 15 countries and sold more than 3.5 million copies. Susan Boyle is hoping to follow that success.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: How far do you think you can go with it?
BOYLE: To the bitter end.
HILL: To get there she'll need to translate all this Internet love into votes, which may not be that hard to do.
HILL: Now, if she does make it all the way to the end, the winner of "Britain's Got Talent" wins 100,000 pounds, which with the exchange rate, probably about $150,000, and also the chance to perform for Prince Charles at -- I believe it's called at the Royal Variety Show.
AMANPOUR: She is the master of lowering expectations.
HILL: She is, and then really delivering. I mean, let me tell you.
AMANPOUR: And it's the homecoming their families have been waiting for. They came under attack by Somali pirates, and tonight they'll be back in the United States. CNN will be live at Andrews Air Force Base when that happens.