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Drywall Test Results In; Afghan War Strategy; State Visit With India's Prime Minister and Live Press Conference

Aired November 24, 2009 - 12:00   ET


TONY HARRIS, CNN ANCHOR: Let's go here. Time for your top-of- the-hour reset.

I'm Tony Harris in the CNN NEWSROOM.

It is just past 9:30 p.m. in Afghanistan, where U.S. troops will soon learn if President Obama will send reinforcements.

Noon at the White House, where President Obama is treating the leader of India to the pomp of a state visit.

And from south Florida, you will hear from the parents of a teen who was set on fire and from one of the boys who was there when it happened.

Let's get started.

Live pictures now from the East Room of the White House, where in just minutes we are expecting to hear from President Obama and India's prime minister, Dr. Manmohan Singh. The prime minister in Washington for talks with the president and a state dinner tonight. It will be the first state dinner for the Obama presidency.

Focusing first now on the war strategy in Afghanistan, President Obama's long-awaited decision whether to send more troops is now just days away, so says the White House.

Let's get straight to CNN's Elaine Quijano at the Pentagon.

And Elaine, good to see you.

What are you hearing? When could the president actually announce his decision?

ELAINE QUIJANO, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, senior Pentagon officials, Tony, are telling us that early next week is what they understand, that all eyes certainly are on that particular time frame for President Obama to announce his new Afghanistan strategy. Early next week is what they're telling us, and that's certainly is in keeping of what we've heard from the White House.

The White House indicated that it would not come -- an announcement would not come this week, Thanksgiving week, and we heard White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs. We saw him say that within days is the time frame for the announcement here. That is coming on the heels of the president's meeting last night in the Situation Room with his national security team. This is a meeting that White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs called a rigorous and final meeting. There have been nine meetings so far since September, and Gibbs saying this was a final meeting.

Interesting to note that, obviously, the president, we're waiting for his appearance here in the East Room, but, you know, obviously a lot of questions are circulating, certainly right now.

HARRIS: Absolutely.

QUIJANO: Not just about when the president's going to make the announcement, but also the cost, Tony. And in that picture that you just saw of that meeting in the Situation Room, we saw someone that we haven't really seen in these other photos before, these previous strategy sessions, and that is Peter Orszag.

He is the president's budget chief, the White House budget chief. So, as there's this discussion, not just about the cost when it comes to lives, of course, as this Afghanistan war effort continues, also a lot of pressing questions about how the administration is actually going to pay for this effort going forward. So, all of that certainly on the table there, those important discussions.

HARRIS: Yes. Yes.

QUIJANO: Peter Orszag having a prominent place there at the table at that meeting last night -- Tony.

HARRIS: OK. Elaine Quijano at the Pentagon for us.

Time to slip in maybe one more quick story here before we get to the president and India's prime minister.

The latest now on your feelings on the war in Afghanistan.

A new CNN/Opinion Research Corporation poll shows 45 percent of people favor the war, 52 percent oppose it. Americans are split over a middle ground option. If President Obama decides to send about 34,000 more troops to Afghanistan, 50 percent say they would favor it, 49 percent would oppose it.

Let us know what you think the U.S. should do next in Afghanistan, and you can share your thoughts on my blog, at, or you can grab your camera and send us an iReport. That would be great. You can do that at

You know, it seems the recovery didn't get out of the gate with as much oomph as the government first thought. The Congress department's revised readout on third-quarter GDP came in today.

Gross domestic product showed 2.8 percent growth from June to September. That's not as robust as the 3.5 percent rate that was initially reported. Consumer confidence improved slightly this month. Important, since consumer spending, as you know, accounts for 70 percent of all economic activity. The Commerce Board says high unemployment is keeping sentiments down.

And let's get you now to the East Room of the White House. President Obama meeting with India's prime minister, Dr. Manmohan Singh.


I am very pleased to welcome Prime Minister Singh to the White House on this, the first official visit of my presidency.

As I said earlier, this reflects our admiration for the prime minister's leadership, the deep bonds between the peoples of the United States and India, and the historic opportunity we have to strengthen and broaden the partnership between our nations.

India today is a rising and responsible global power. In Asia, Indian leadership is expanding prosperity and the security across the region. And the United States welcomes and encourages India's leadership role in helping to shape the rise of a stable, peaceful and prosperous Asia.

Beyond Asia, as the world's largest multiethnic democracy and as one of the world's fastest-growing economies and as a member of the G- 20, India will play a pivotal role in meeting the major challenges we face today. And this includes my top economic priority: creating good jobs with good wages for the American people.

So I believe that the relationship between the United States and India will be one of the defining partnerships of the 21st century. And this visit underscores the strengthening of that partnership which I hope will continue throughout my presidency. That's why I've made it a priority to broaden the cooperation between our nations.

My administration's commitment to India can be seen in our new strategic dialogue, which addresses the full range of challenges and opportunities before us.

And I'm pleased that we're joined today by the co-chairs of our dialogue, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Foreign Minister Krishna.

And our commitment to India can be seen in my personal partnership with Prime Minister Singh. We worked together on economic matters at our G-20 summits in London and Pittsburgh as well as L'Aquila.

I consider him a wise leader who has helped unleash India's extraordinary economic growth. He is a man of honesty and integrity. I respect him and I trust him, and I have happily accepted his gracious invitation to visit India next year.

Now, this spirit of friendship infuses our very productive discussions today and is the reason we've made so much progress in recent years. We agreed to strengthen the economic recovery and expand trade and investment so we can create jobs for both our peoples, Americans and Indians.

Indian investment in America is creating and sustaining jobs across the United States, and the United States is India's largest trading and investment partner. There is significant balance in our trading relationships that I think is very important and reflective of the framework that we put forward at the G-20.

And to sustain this momentum, we're creating new initiatives to promote trade, investment and technology cooperation, especially among our small and medium-sized businesses that create most of the jobs here in the United States.

I reaffirmed to the prime minister my administration's commitment to fully implement the U.S.-India civil nuclear agreement, which will increase American exports and create jobs in both countries.

We agreed to move forward with our commitments at the G-20 summit in Pittsburgh to pursue balanced growth, while ensuring that emerging economies like India have a greater voice in shaping the international financial architecture.

We've made progress in confronting climate change. I commended the prime minister for India's leadership in areas like green buildings and energy efficiency. And we agreed to a series of important new efforts: a clean energy initiative that will create jobs and improve people's access to cleaner, more affordable energy; a green partnership to reduce poverty through sustainable and equitable development; and a historic effort to phase out subsidies for fossil fuels.

With just two weeks until the beginning of Copenhagen, it's also essential that all countries do what is necessary to reach a strong operational agreement that will confront the threat of climate change while serving as a stepping stone to a legally binding treaty. And to that end, Prime Minister Singh and I made important progress today.

We reaffirmed that an agreement in Copenhagen should be comprehensive and cover all the issues under negotiation. We resolved to take significant national mitigation actions that will strengthen the world's ability to combat climate change. We agreed to stand by these commitments with full transparency, through appropriate processes, as to their implementation.

All this builds on the progress that we made in Beijing, and it takes us one step closer to a successful outcome in Copenhagen.

We also agreed to deepen our cooperation against transnational threats.

The American people join our Indian friends in remembering the horrific attacks in Mumbai one year ago this week. To prevent future attacks, we agreed that our law enforcement and intelligence agencies will work even closer, including sharing more information.

We discussed my review of our policy in Afghanistan. And I thanked Prime Minister Singh for India's substantial contributions to the Afghan people.

I welcomed the Prime Minister's support for the nonproliferation agenda that I laid out in Prague, and I look forward to India's participation in our nuclear summit -- nuclear security summit next year, as well as India's participation as a full partner in our shared vision of a world without nuclear weapons.

Now, part of that vision is working together to ensure that all nations, including Iran and South -- North Korea live up to their international obligations.

We agreed to expand the educational exchanges that will fuel our knowledge-based economies. We're dramatically expanding the Fulbright-Nehru Program that brings so many of our students and scholars together, especially in science and technology. And we are increasing ties and exchanges between our universities and community colleges as part of a new Obama-Singh, or Singh-Obama...


... 21st-Century Knowledge Initiative. We think it's appropriately named.

To advance our historic food security initiative, American and Indian researchers will collaborate to improve agricultural output and reduce hunger, not only in India, where enormous strides have been made, but around the world. And India has much to teach the developing world in terms of achieving food sufficiency.

And our Centers for Disease Control and Prevention will partner with their Indian counterparts to create a new disease detection center in India to combat infectious diseases and promote global health.

This is the concrete progress made today across a whole range of issues to create jobs, opportunity and security for our people. As a result, I believe the relationship between our two countries has never been stronger: a reminder that it will be one of the defining partnerships of the 21st century.

We look forward to celebrating our partnership tonight as Michelle and I host the Prime Minister and Mrs. Kaur at the first state dinner of my presidency. It will be another opportunity to convey to the prime minister and the people of India as India assumes its rightful place as a global leader in this century that you will have no better friend and partner than the United States of America.

Mr. Prime Minister, thank you so much for your presence here today. The floor is yours.

MANMOHAN SINGH, PRIME MINISTER OF INDIA: Mr. President, distinguished ladies and gentlemen of the media, I thank from the core of my heart President Obama for his very generous hospitality and for his very warm sentiments toward India and to me in particular.

I am honored to be here today in this great country at the invitation of His Excellency, the president.

When India and the United States meet, it is a moment to celebrate the values of democracy, pluralism, liberty and freedom.

Today, we have done that and much more.

In our discussions today, we reaffirmed the importance of our relationship and decided on future steps to enhance our strategic partnership. We have agreed to further intensify our trade, investment and economic cooperation in a way that creates jobs and prosperity in both our two countries and stimulates global economic recovery.

We admire the leadership that President Obama has provided to stimulate and guide the G-20 process that is now fully in place.

We have decided to give a fresh impetus to collaboration in the fields of education, agriculture and health. We will deepen our ongoing cooperation in frontier areas of science and technology, nuclear power and space.

This will open new opportunities for our universities and laboratories, and create human capital to meet the global needs of the future.

We had a very constructive exchange of views on strategic issues. Our defense cooperation is progressing well. We agreed on the early (ph) and full implementation of our civil nuclear cooperation agreement.

Our strategic partnership should facilitate transfer of high technologies to India. The lifting of U.S. export controls on high- technology exports to India will open vast opportunities for joint research and development efforts.

SINGH: It will enable U.S. industry to benefit from the rapid economic and technological transformation that is now under way in our country.

In a few weeks from now, the meeting of the conference of parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change will take place in Copenhagen. Both President Obama and I have agreed on the need for a substantive and comprehensive outcome which would cover mitigation, adaptation, finance and technology. We reaffirmed our intention to work to this end bilaterally and with all other countries.

We welcome the president's commitment to a major program for promotion of renewable energy. And I drew his attention to India's own ambitious national action plan on climate change, which funds (ph) national missions, covering both mitigation and adaptation. Just as we partnered each other in the shaping of the knowledge economy, we have the opportunity today to become partners in developing the green economy of the future.

I underline India's desire to benefit from clean and energy- efficient technologies from the United States. Our partnership will contribute to global efforts to combat climate change and achieve energy security.

We had a detailed discussion on important regional and global issues. We agreed that the Indo-U.S. partnership was important for addressing the challenges of an increasingly interdependent world that we live in.

The global economic crisis has brought home the fact that our prosperity is interlinked.

Our dialogue covered the need to have an open and inclusive architecture in the Asia-Pacific region.

It is important for the international community to sustain its engagement in Afghanistan to help its emergence as a modern state. The focus -- the forces of terrorism in our region pose a grave threat to the entire civilized world and have to be defeated. President Obama and I have decided to strengthen our cooperation in the area of counterterrorist.

India welcomes the renewed the international interest in nuclear disarmament and nonproliferation. We have been a consistent advocate of a world free of nuclear weapons. We will work with the United States and other countries for the success of the nuclear security summit which President Obama is hosting next April.

In our discussions today, there was a meeting of minds on the future direction of our relations. I was deeply impressed by President Obama's strong commitment to the India-U.S. strategic partnership and by the breadth of his vision for global peace and prosperity.

I have invited President Obama to visit India. A very warm welcome awaits him, his gracious wife and his two daughters.

I thank you.

OBAMA: Thank you very much.

We're going to take one question each, one from an American journalist and one from an Indian journalist.

And I'm going to call on Mark Knoller.

Where's Mark?

There you are.

Good to see you, Mark. QUESTION: Good to see you, sir.

Mr. President, I suspect you don't want my colleagues and I to rely on leaks until next week. So I'd like to ask you about...

OBAMA: Why -- why stop now?


QUESTION: Well, perhaps you'd like to help us set a new -- set a new stage in our relationship by telling us where you stand on your decision on Afghanistan. You had your -- what we were told was your final meeting last evening.

QUESTION: Can you tell us how many more troops you will be sending to Afghanistan, how you'll be paying for them, and whether you'll be announcing a timetable and/or exit strategy (INAUDIBLE)?

OBAMA: I will be making an announcement to the American people about how we intend to move forward. I will be doing so shortly.

I think that the review that we've gone through has been comprehensive and extremely useful and has brought together my key military advisers but also civilian advisers.

I can tell you, as I've said before, that it is in our strategic interests, in our national security interests, to make sure that al Qaeda and its extremist allies cannot operate effectively in those areas. We are going to dismantle and degrade their capabilities and ultimately dismantle and destroy their networks. And Afghanistan's stability is important to that process.

I've also indicated that, after eight years, some of those years in which we did not have, I think, either the resources or the strategy to get the job done, it is my intention to finish the job.

And I feel very confident that when the American people hear a clear rationale for what we're doing there and how we intend to achieve our goals, that they will be supportive.

Now, I think it's worth mentioning, since I'm with the prime minister of India, that this is important not just to the United States, but it's important to the world, and that the whole world, I think, has a core security interest in making sure that the kind of extremism and violence that you've seen emanating from this region is -- is tackled, confronted in a serious way.

Now, we have to do it as part of a broader international community. And so one of the things I'm going to be discussing is the obligations of our international partners in this process.

It's going to be very important to recognize that the Afghan people ultimately are going to have to provide for their own security, and so we'll be discussing that process whereby Afghan security forces are properly trained and equipped to do the job. And it's going to be important to recognize that, in order for us to succeed there, you've got to have a comprehensive strategy that includes civilian and diplomatic efforts.

So I think that's a sufficient preview to last until after Thanksgiving.


OBAMA: After Thanksgiving.


And -- and I'm sure that, at that point, if there are further questions, that we'll be answering them to the satisfaction not just of you but to the satisfaction of the American people.


QUESTION: So my question to you, would you term India and the U.S. as natural allies, especially in the sphere of combating terrorism in our region?

Because there is a perception in India that the military aid that you give Pakistan is misused against India and it is really the epicenter of terrorism.

Did this issue come up in your discussions with the prime minister? And would you be pressurizing Pakistan to get its act in order?

And to the prime minister, I'd like to ask: When is the nuclear deal really going to go on the road?

OBAMA: Well, first of all, I think that the United States and India are natural allies not just around counterterrorism issues, but on a whole host of issues, as we discussed earlier. We're the world's two largest democracies. We have a range of shared values and ideals. We're both entrepreneurial societies. We're both multi-ethnic societies. We are societies that believe in human rights and core freedoms that are enshrined in our founding documents.

And one of the things that I think makes us such strong allies is the people-to-people contact. You know, it's one thing for leaders to have exchanges like this one. And that's very important, obviously. But the incredible contributions that Indian-Americans have made to the growth of our country and the degree to which they are woven into the very fabric of our society, the fact that very few Indians don't have some family member somewhere who has a connection to the United States -- that kind of exchange strengthens and deepens the bonds between our two countries in a profound way.

Now, with respect to security issues in the region, you know, the prime minister and I -- Prime Minister Singh and I had extensive discussions about that. I think we both recognize that our core goal is to achieve peace and security for all peoples in the region, not just one country or the other.

And one of the things I admire most about Prime Minister Singh is that I think at his core he is a man of peace.

Obviously, there are historic conflicts between India and Pakistan. It is not the place of the United States to try to, from the outside, resolve all those conflicts. On the other hand, we want to be encouraging of ways in which both India and Pakistan can feel secure and focus on the development of their own countries and their people.

With respect to the relationship between the United States and Pakistan's military, I think that there have probably been times in the past in which we were so single-mindedly focused just on military assistance in Pakistan that we didn't think more broadly about how to encourage and develop the kinds of civil society in Pakistan that would make a difference in the lives of people day-to-day.

And Secretary Clinton, I think, has done an excellent job in trying to move forward -- where is she? I thought she was around here somewhere.


But, anyway, she's done an excellent job, I think, in helping our State Department of refocus our energies on that front, as well.

And, obviously, Pakistan has an enormously important role in the security of the region, by making sure that the extremist organizations that often operate out of its territories are dealt with effectively.

And we've seen some progress. The work that the Pakistan military is doing in the Swat Valley and in west -- in South Waziristan all indicates the degree to which they are beginning to recognize that extremism, even if initially directed to the outside, can ultimately also have an adverse impact on their security internally.

So my hope is is that over time what we're going to see is further clarity and further cooperation between all the parties and all peoples of good will in the region to eradicate terrorist activity, to eradicate the kind of violent extremism that we've seen. I think that will benefit the peoples of Pakistan and India, and the world community as well.

SINGH: The president and myself had a very useful and productive exchange of views relating to security, peace and counterterrorism in our regions. I'm very satisfied with the outcome of my discussion with President Obama.

As far as the nuclear deal is concerned, the president has reaffirmed that it is the common resolve of our two governments to operationalize the nuclear deal as early as possible.

There are a few i's and t's which have to crossed, marked -- crossed around. And I am confident, and I have the assurance of the president, that that process can be completed without much further loss of time.

OBAMA: Thank you very much, everybody.

HARRIS: President Obama and India's Prime Minister Singh holding a press availability complete with statements, a couple questions. You heard the president prodded there to reveal when he will announce his Afghanistan strategy. The president saying he will announce his decision to the American people.

You did hear the president saying he intends to finish the job in Afghanistan. The president and the prime minister both looking forward to the climate change summit in Copenhagen in two weeks as the two leaders attempt to work more closely together on clean energy and the greater economy and global warming.

We are back in a moment. You're in the CNN NEWSROOM.


HARRIS: You voted and now join Anderson Cooper to see who will become CNN's hero of the year. Nicole Kidman, Carrie Underwood and Maxwell just a few of the celebrities scheduled to appear in the all- star tribute. Dare to be inspired, CNN HEROES Thanksgiving night 9:00 Eastern and Pacific.

President Obama a short time ago wrapped up a joint news conference with the leader of the world's biggest democracy, Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh. This evening Singh and his wife become the first to be honored with an official state dinner hosted by the President and Mrs. Obama. Our foreign affairs correspondent, Jill Dougherty, looks at why India's leader.


JILL DOUGHERTY, CNN FOREIGN AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): It's the world's largest democracy. population almost 1.2 billion. It's a nuclear power, a major trading partner with the U.S.

Now, President Barack Obama puts India center stage, hosting Prime Minister Manmohan Singh at his first state dinner, so large, the White House has constructed a massive tent on the back lawn.

ROBERT GIBBS, U.S. WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: This is a very important relationship with a very important country that we have in the world. That's why India was chosen to be the first visit.

DOUGHERTY: The relationship started with economics and trade. President George W. Bush reached a landmark civil nuclear deal which allowed the U.S. to do business with Indian on nuclear technology. Now, no matter what the issue, India's importance is growing -- counterterrorism, nonproliferation, climate change, the conflict in Afghanistan.

MANMOHAN SINGH, PRIME MINISTER OF INDIA: I sincerely hope that the world community would have the wisdom to stay engaged in that process and any premature talk of exit will only embolden the terrorist elements who are out to destabilize not only our part of the world, but civilized worlds everywhere.

DOUGHERTY: President Obama's recent visit to China and his attention to Beijing makes India nervous. So does his focus on India's neighbor and rival, Pakistan. This visit is one way Mr. Obama will try to alleviate those concerns. But long term, India's burgeoning economy and its effect on global warming, says one expert, could be a key issue between the U.S. and India.

TERESITA C. SCHAFFER, CSIS: I will also be listening for what, if anything, they say about climate change, where India and the United States are actually both having a little difficulty taming this issue domestically. They both have serious domestic problems with what we'd like to do.


HARRIS: CNN's Jill Dougherty joining us live now from the White House.

Jill, there's a sizable population of Indian-Americans here in the United States. Could this be a part of the reason why the president invited Prime Minister Singh for his first state visit?

DOUGHERTY: I think that's part of it, Tony. They really are a growing group. They have a lot of economic clout and now increasingly a lot of political clout. And also, you have to look at this when you listen to what both men said. They're talking a lot about trade and that's what both sides are looking at very strongly.

What are the dollars that can flow from this? The president making the point, of course, jobs, jobs, jobs. And the Indian prime minister talking about lifting controls on high-tech exports, things that -- that India wants very much. And then also there is the security side to all of this, Tony.

HARRIS: And, Jill, a little news on Afghanistan came out of this morning's joint appearance, didn't it, probably what you're alluding to here.

DOUGHERTY: It did. I mean, all day long, the other subject, of course, here has been when will the president make his announcement about his strategy on Afghanistan? And you had one reporter try to pin him down. He did say shortly. He did not say precisely when it would be. But we do know it will be after Thanksgiving.

And interestingly, Tony, I think that you're beginning to see the outlines of the case that he's going to make to the American public. He didn't talk about troops. He was asked about that. He didn't get into numbers. But the components would have to be troops. The other thing he's talking about is obligations of international partners, in other words, what NATO and other countries that are involved can do. What can the Afghan people do, that means training and preparing their -- equipping their military...

HARRIS: Absolutely.

DOUGHERTY: ... and their police and then the final thing is the civilian and diplomatic role and that's where the State Department comes in. Bringing people who are not military, in fact, there's very much civilians, going there to help out.

HARRIS: Jill Dougherty at the White House for us. Jill, appreciate it. Thank you.

Let's do this now. Let's get you caught up on our top stories today.

A cheery forecast for black Friday. Shopping is expected to increase by 16 percent from last year. That is according to the National Retail Federation. Stores are extending their hours. Some plan to open at midnight on Thanksgiving.

GM plans to sell its Saab subsidiary is kaput today. The Swedish buyer backed out of the deal. GM says it will take a few days to figure out what to do with Saab. Another check of the top stories in 20 minutes.

One of the boys who was there when a Florida teenager was set on fire is speaking out today. We'll also hear from the victim's parents. That's next.


HARRIS: We have been telling you about the shocking case of a Florida teen who was set on fire on October 12th. Just a short time ago, a 13-year-old allegedly linked to the incident spoke to reporters. Jeremy Jarvis is expressing remorse over what happened, concern for his brother who is charged in the case and concerned for the victim, Michael Brewer.


JEREMY JARVIS, LINKED TO ATTACK: I want to express my deepest sympathy to Mikey and his family. I will pray for Mikey to grow stronger every day and for Mikey's speedy recovery. I want to tell my brother DC I love and miss him. I just hope and pray we all get through this.


HARRIS: Florida authorities have just interviewed Michael Brewer for the first time about the attack that almost killed him. Brewer has been heavily sedated in intensive care since the attack.

Shannon Hori of our affiliate WFOR talked with the parents about their son's fight to survive.


SHANNON HORI, WFOR CORRESPONDENT: Does he know he's in a hospital? Does he know what happened to him? VALERIE BREWER, MICHAEL'S MOTHER: Sometimes he does. Sometimes he just needs -- like I said, he's on a lot of medications, so he doesn't really.

MICHAEL BREWER SR., MICHAEL'S FATHER: The other day he wanted to talk to his Uncle Danny, and I let him put the phone up to his ear. Hey, Dan, I got burned. I'm in the hospital.

HORI (voice-over): Fifteen-year-old Michael Brewer hasn't been able to fully grasp what happened to him. But even with all of the drugs he's on for the pain, he has horrible flashbacks.

(on camera): What does he say?

M. BREWER: He says, I need some water, I got to put these flames out.

HORI (voice-over): The five teens accused of dousing him with rubbing alcohol and then using a lighter to set him on fire left him with second and third-degree burns on 65 percent of his body.

V. BREWER: The first time I saw him, I really don't remember because I was in shock. I just remember fear for him.

HORI: Fear for their child who they say wasn't afraid of anything. His parents say he loved to swim, skateboard and play with his cousins, a typical teenage boy, one his father always wanted.

M. BREWER: When we first got together, I told her, I said, just give me a son so I can have my name go on. I tell you what, he can be a male like me, but he can have your green eyes and he came out with green eyes.

HORI: And his family says he has a big heart.

V. BREWER: He still comes and sits on my lap.

M. BREWER: And he comes out in the morning when he wakes up and gives me a hug. He used to give me a hug when I dropped him off at school, but, you know, when he got about 14, that stopped.

HORI: Being in a hospital is a familiar situation for the Brewer family. When Michael's father was 13 years old, a car hit him and put him in a coma for 12 days. He pulled through. His family calls him a miracle. They hope they are now witnessing another miracle with Michael.

REENIE BREWER, MICHAEL'S GRANDMOTHER: He's shown us that his strength and his stamina is like a superhero. I told him I'm having a cape made for him.

HORI: They believe his recovery is going so well because they stay positive.

V. BREWER: I don't ever cry in the room with Michael because he senses it. He can sense what mood you're in. HORI: And because of all of the prayers reaching them from the community and around the world.

V. BREWER: I want to thank everybody, everybody, for everything that they've done for my son and for our family. It's just -- it's renewed my faith in humanity. After this horrific thing, it -- it has really empowered us and helped us to concentrate on Michael.


HARRIS: Three teens charged as adults in the attack on Michael Brewer pleaded not guilty to attempted second-degree murder last week. The judge set the next hearing for January 17th.

Now, in a moment Michael Brewer's mother describes how he relives the nightmare of the attack.


HARRIS: A Florida teen who was attacked and set on fire is improving, but still faces a long and difficult recovery. Shannon Hori of our affiliate WFOR has more of her interview with Michael Brewer's parents.


V. BREWER: I don't tell him what happened. There will be time enough for that. I just tell him that he's in the hospital and that he's safe and that he's getting better. And he'll say, am I going to be OK? I'm, like, Michael, you're going to be fine. You're going to be just fine.

HORI: Fifteen year-old Michael Brewer has a long, painful road ahead. Even in his drug-induced state, he continues to relive the nightmare over and over again.

R. BREWER: He screams for his dad, and he screams help. And he says he's on fire.

HORI (on camera): And you have to tell him...

R. BREWER: Yes, yes.

HORI (voice-over): Michael has second and third-degree burns over 65 percent of his body. Fortunately he protected his face as he ran into a pool and jumped in, an act that likely saved his life.

V. BREWER: Most of the burns are on his back and on his -- on his rear end. Michael's not going to remember the ICU unit, because of all the drugs that he was on, and that's comforting to me, to know that he's not going to remember this incredible pain that he was going through. We're going to remember it.

HORI: Valerie and Mike Brewer have been at Michael's bedside since it happened. His father remembers seeing him for the first time after the accident and Michael reached out to console him. M. BREWER: From the first day, he put his hand up to shake mine and hold my hand, the one that was burnt, and it was when he was all swollen, so his eyes were closed, of course. He put his hand up, so from that day on, I've been a lot stronger than I should be, but because that was, like, it's all right, dad.

HORI (on camera): Tell us about his typical day. I heard that it takes four hours to change his bandages.

V. BREWER: In the beginning it did, yes. He's come so far, he's healing so well, that they only have to change his bandages every other day now. They take him outside for 10 minutes. We go in a secluded area where there's not any people, because people coming up to him make him a little nervous and he starts crying. He doesn't understand why everybody knows who he is.

HORI: In 10 years, how will he look?

V. BREWER: It depends on his actual skin, how he's going to heal. Whether it's going to be smooth or whether it's going to be discolored in any way or if it's going to be rough. And it depends on, from what I understand, the deepness of the burn.

HORI (voice-over): He has deep, third-degree burns on his lower back, but his parents say the other areas seem to be doing well. The Brewers have had other good news recently. Michael's breathing tube was taken out and he spoke.

V. BREWER: We had gone outside for the first time and somebody was walking up, and he says, in his little whisper voice, can I have a dollar? I want a milk shake and fries. It was -- it was quite cute. It was -- definitely daddy ran out and got milk shake and fries for him.

HORI: He was able to eat four fries. He still has a feeding tube to help him regain weight and enjoys eating junk food right now especially chocolate chip cookies. Though Michael is talking, he has not yet spoken to investigators about that day.

V. BREWER: He is nowhere near ready for that. He's -- he's got a long way to go before he'll be able to do that and I'll leave that up to his doctors.

HORI: Police say five teenage friends doused Michael with rubbing alcohol and set him on fire, all because Michael told police one of the teens stole his father's bike. Police say they stole the bike because Michael didn't pay one of the boys 40 bucks for a video game.

(on camera): Have any of the parents of the other boys tried to contact you?

V. BREWER: No. No.

HORI: Three of the boys have been charged as adults.

V. BREWER: We can't focus on that right now. I don't even think about it.

M. BREWER: They'll get theirs, all we can say.

V. BREWER: I -- I don't focus on it.

HORI (voice-over): Right now, they are focusing on their son and giving their loving child all the support they can.

V. BREWER: I don't know how many 15-year-olds get out of the car in the morning and kiss their mothers good-bye before they go to school, but that's my son.


HARRIS: And, again, we just got word today that detectives have now interviewed Michael about the attack. The three teens charged as adults in the case pleaded not guilty to attempted second-degree murder. The next hearing is set for January 17th. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)


HARRIS: CNN NEWSROOM continues right now with T.J. Holmes!

TJ HOLMES, CNN ANCHOR: Thank you, kind sir.

HARRIS: Yes, sir.

HOLMES: Talk to you soon.