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State of GOP Senate Hopes; Study: Merit Pay Doesn't Work; Counting Carb(on)
Aired September 23, 2010 - 14:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
ALI VELSHI, CNN ANCHOR: It is a new hour. I have a new "Rundown."
It's been an age-old philosophy in education. You give teachers bonuses, they'll teach better and then the students will learn more. Now a new study, a rigorous new study, might be smashing that theory to pieces. I'll talk to the head researcher.
Plus, she's scheduled to be the first woman executed in the United States in five years. She has less than seven hours to live. You'll hear what she told CNN.
Also, Teresa Heinz and glaciers. You're probably wondering what they have in common. You're going to find out this hour.
Well, if you want to make a Republican smile, mention the 1994 midterm elections. They came halfway through the first term of a Democratic president, Bill Clinton. Republicans picked up 54 House seats, eight Senate seats, more than enough to win control of both houses of Congress.
Sixteen years later, right now, we are halfway through the first term of a Democratic president with a Democratic majority in Congress, and Republicans aren't the only ones who are making comparisons and predictions and promises. This morning the House Republican leadership rolled out its "Pledge to America," a longer and less- specific version, you'll remember from 1994, the Contract with America.
The setting for the announcement, a lumber company in northern Virginia. The key points are these: a halt to any stimulus spending that hasn't gone out yet and a rollback of overall stimulus spending to pre-stimulus and pre-bailout levels; repeal of health care reform; permanent extension of the Bush-era tax cuts for everybody, along with new tax breaks for small businesses; a freeze in non-security-related federal hiring; and a requirement that al new legislation pass a Constitution check.
Those last two points, freezing federal hiring and a Constitution check, are a nod to the Tea Party, which, by the way, handed several Republican candidates their hats in this year's primaries.
Now, some brand new polling is boosting Republicans' hopes in November Senate races with one big exception. CNN Deputy Political Director Paul Steinhauser joins me from D.C. to run the numbers -- Paul.
PAUL STEINHAUSER, CNN DEPUTY POLITICAL DIRECTOR: Ali, you know, we've been talking about the battle for the House of Representatives, that the Republicans likely have a chance of winning it back. But what about the Senate? And that's what these new polls are about.
In the Senate, the Republicans need a net gain of 10 seats to recapture the chamber. Can it happen? It's a lot tougher than the House, but check out these brand new numbers from CNN, "TIME" and the Opinion Research Corporation.
And let's start in Pennsylvania. That's a seat that is a Democratic-held seat by Arlen Specter, but he lost the primary.
And you see right here, according to these numbers, Joe Sestak, the Democratic nominee, is trailing Pat Toomey, the Republican nominee, by five points, 49 percent to 44 percent. That's within the sampling error of the poll, but other polls showing the same thing, Republicans ahead.
Ali, a similar story. And let's go to Wisconsin and take a look at that.
Russ Feingold, long-time Democratic senator, fighting for reelection, but our poll indicates that he is trailing the Republican nominee in that state. And that is Ron Johnson, who is a Tea Party- backed candidate. Down by six points, Feingold right now. Again, right at kind of the edge of the sampling error.
But troubling news for the Democrats. Other polls also suggesting that Feingold trails.
Let's move right over to Colorado. A similar story. Democratic- held seat, Michael Bennet, he was named to that seat about a year and a half ago. He, according to this poll, trails the Republican nominee, Ken Buck, who, again, is backed by many in the Tea Party movement.
But as you gave -- mentioned off the top, what about Delaware? That was the story we've been talking about since that primary a week and a half ago. Check out these numbers, and it's very different there.
Christine O'Donnell, the conservative candidate who knocked off Mike Castle, the moderate Republican in the primary, well, you can see she's trailing Chris Coons. He is the Democratic nominee, and she's trailing by a lot in our poll.
But you know what's interesting, Ali? If Castle had won, our polls indicate that he would be leading over the Democrat right now -- Ali.
VELSHI: Yes, that's the interesting thing to remember. So you combine that with what Gloria just told us, that when you poll all voters, versus polling likely voters, the situation changes a little bit. And so, in Delaware, it's really meant that a Republican was in the lead until she won -- until O'Donnell won the Republican primary, and now the Democrat is in the lead.
STEINHAUSER: Exactly. And, you know, you and Gloria were just talking about that before Mark Preston gave her that beautiful hug on television.
But, you know, the other interesting thing, registered voters is what you poll usually up until right around the election. And then you move to a likely voter model. And what the likely voter model is showing, it seems that the Republicans are more energized and more likely to vote than Democrats.
Six weeks to go, a little less now. We'll see if that changes between now and Election Day -- Ali.
VELSHI: All right. Good. Are you joining us at the end of the hour with Mark?
STEINHAUSER: I look forward to it.
VELSHI: All right. Very good.
Paul Steinhauser. My two good friends, Paul Steinhauser and Mark Preston, will give us our next update at the end of the hour.
When you are the president of the United States, you may be in a suburban back yard one day and at a global arena the next. Just ask President Obama.
A day after chatting up ordinary folks about health care, he took center stage at the annual meeting of the U.N. General Assembly on the topic of Mideast peace. As you may know, Israelis and Palestinians restarted serious talks three weeks ago after a break of about two years. The prospects of success are uncertain at best.
Our "Sound Effect" is Mr. Obama's argument for pressing ahead.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: If an agreement is not reached, Palestinians will never know the pride and dignity that comes with their own state. Israelis will never know the certainty and security that comes with sovereign and stable neighbors who are committed to coexistence.
The hard realities of demography will take hold. More blood will be shed. This holy land will remain a symbol of our differences instead of our common humanity.
I refuse to accept that future. And we all have a choice to make. Each of us must choose the path of peace.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
VELSHI: We are all waiting to see what happens on Sunday. That is the end of Israel's self-imposed freeze on expanding Jewish settlements in the West Bank. Palestinians have made it clear they will not keep talking if the Israelis resume building.
OK. On to teaching.
Could paying teachers based on merit help fix our schools? The thought is that kids will learn more, they'll learn better that way. A new study, a rigorous study, says it won't work.
I didn't believe it. I want to know why. I want to find out more. So will you after the break.
VELSHI: All right. Facebook's "Boy Wonder" may be following in Bill Gates' footsteps. Founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg is expected to announce that he is donating $100 million to the Newark Public School System.
The 26-year-old was just listed by "Forbes" magazine as the 35th richest American with a net worth of $6.9 billion. Zuckerberg isn't from Newark, but he may have been swayed by a conversation with the city's dynamic mayor, Cory Booker. Booker has traveled the country trying to business leaders to try and raise money for Newark's beleaguered school system. The announcement is expected to come tomorrow, the same day a new movie about Zuckerberg is set to hit theaters.
Also in "Chalk Talk" today, we're taking a closer look at teacher merit pay. I told you about this first yesterday. A new study done by Nashville's Vanderbilt University did what's billed as the first scientifically rigorous test of merit pay for teachers.
The study looks at 296 middle school math teachers from 2006 through 2009. Half of the teachers were eligible for bonuses ranging from $5,000 to $15,000 if their students scored significantly higher that expected on Tennessee assessment tests.
Fifty-one of the eligible teachers got a bonus at least once, so that's about 34 percent. Only 18 teachers got the bonus all three years. But overall, the students didn't test better or learn any faster than those taught by teachers who were not eligible for bonuses.
Joining me now is Matthew Springer. He's the lead researcher on this study.
Matthew, ,thank you for joining me.
I have to say, I don't really understand this. I sort of thought this was a foregone conclusion, that if you're paying people on a merit-based system, that the outcome is going to be better.
Were you surprised by the outcome, or did you not go into it with any expectation?
MATTHEW SPRINGER, ASST. PROF., VANDERBILT UNIVERSITY: We didn't go in really with any expectations at all. I think the most important piece here is that we haven't had any systematic evidence on whether merit pay would work in education. And we've been debating this for over a century.
What we brought to the table was a rigorous study where we could actually address the question. At the same time, I think it's important to stress that we only tested one form of merit pay. Merit pay can take many different forms, and it's important that we continue to explore those as well.
VELSHI: Right. OK. And that's a very important distinction. If somebody doesn't follow this whole public education sort of issue that's going on in its specificity, you were looking at merit pay as tied to student performance.
SPRINGER: Whether a teacher received a bonus or not was completely contingent upon their individual students' growth from one academic year to the next. But there's other ways we can --
VELSHI: Let's talk about that for a second. What are the other ways to look at this? What are the other ways to say that teachers can be paid on merit through other measurements?
SPRINGER: I mean, we could reward teams of teachers. So within school groupings, such as a grade-level team or an interdisciplinary team. We could reward the whole school or a hybrid model of using individual awards in part, but also team level. I mean, we may reward different types of outcomes that don't necessarily have to be student achievement.
VELSHI: Now, let's talk about -- I want to just tell you -- read you a quote from Education Secretary Arne Duncan's spokesperson on this. When asked about the results of the study, she said, "While this is a good study, it only looked at the narrow question of whether more pay motivates teachers to try harder." She said, "It did not address the Obama administration's push to change the culture of teaching by giving all educators the feedback they need to get better."
Now, in fairness, you're not saying that you were doing anything other than taking this measurement, but what do we draw from it? In other words, was there something you were able to draw that gives us something that you can look at, that teachers and administrators can look at positively?
SPRINGER: Yes. I think the one major piece that we really can look at positively is that the teachers weren't against the program. Seventy percent of those teachers who were eligible to participate participated.
In the past, we have always heard that teachers don't want differentiating compensation or pay-for-performance programs. And in fact, we don't' see this in the data, we don't see it necessarily in the survey data that we collect from the teachers. And so I think it's worth it. You know, we can move forward and look at different models and not have to worry about so many of the critiques in the past that have said it's never going to happen in education. VELSHI: Right. And so much of it has been so politicized. And what you've done is being able take the politics out of it and get all the parties involved to participate.
So we will follow very closely the further research that you do. Matthew, thank you for joining us.
VELSHI: Matthew Springer is a assistant professor at Vanderbilt University and the head researcher of this report that we've been discussing.
All right. It's not a low-carb menu. It's a low-carbon menu. We'll take you to a restaurant that is saving the environment one order at a time.
VELSHI: Saving the planet one meal at a team. That's the way I like it. That's what one restaurant is doing by asking diners, would you like less carbon with that? It's "One Simple Thing."
Here is Becky Anderson.
BECKY ANDERSON, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): This is not your typical fast-food restaurant. Instead of counting carbs, the diners at Otarian in London are counting carbon.
Every item on the vegetarian menu has been chosen based upon its environmental sustainability. Its carbon footprint calculated to include everything from how its ingredients are grown to how it's thrown away, and then compared to its fast-food alternative. The savings are noted.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Thank you. You just saved an average of 2.8 kilograms of carbon, which is equivalent to driving 16.8 miles in an eco-car.
ANDERSON: It's an idea borne out of necessity for lifelong vegetarian Radhika Oswal, Otarian's founder and CEO.
RADHIKA OSWAL, OTARIAN FOUNDER & CEO: If you're a serious vegetarian, you would know that (INAUDIBLE). And additives used nowadays in those things are -- they fit no criteria of being vegetarian. And sometimes no criteria of being an ingredient.
ANDERSON: And so Oswal started researching what it would take to start up a chain of vegetarian fast-food restaurants and found inspiration in sustainability.
OSWAL: It's in our product. It's in everything we do. It's in all our endeavors.
ANDERSON: Endeavors that include the restaurant design --
OSWAL: There are tables made of recycled plastic. The chairs are sustainable bamboo.
ANDERSON: -- the food packaging --
OSWAL: We have 800 percent recyclable and (INAUDIBLE) packaging range even down to our soup lids and stickers.
ANDERSON: -- even the electricity.
OSWAL: And we also are using green energy from suppliers who are producing green energy rather than those who just have the certificates for it.
ANDERSON: Though some items in the restaurant may not be so green, sparking some criticism. Otarian, for instance, serves soft drinks.
OSWAL: I guess it's part of providing customers a reason to come in as well, because we want to provide them a delicious meal, so having it sort of once in a while is not the end of the world.
ANDERSON: Otarian's green mission statement perhaps an unusual for Oswal, who is married to Pankaj Oswal, the billionaire behind Burrup Fertilisers, owner of one of the world's biggest liquid ammonia plants.
A connection, while anything but organic, that Oswal says is consistent with the restaurant's message.
OSWAL: There's lots of people out there who, you know, have billions of dollars, and they talk a lot, but they don't take it out of their pocket and put it in sustainability. I think we've put our money where our mouth is, and that's doing our bit.
Besides, as far as fertilizers are concerned, the (INAUDIBLE) of fertilizers is an inherent process and convention of farming, without which it's not possible to feed the world. So it is a sustainable (INAUDIBLE).
ANDERSON: For Oswal doing her bit involves just one simple thing: to make the world greener.
OSWAL: We have calories nowadays in restaurants. I also want footprinting.
ANDERSON: That's carbon footprinting, one fast-food meal at a time.
Becky Anderson, CNN, London.
VELSHI: OK. Just last hour we broke the seal on a big announcement and named the "Top 10 CNN Heroes" of 2010. One of these incredible folks will be named the "CNN Hero of the Year" in our fourth annual all-star tribute on Thanksgiving night. These are people you guys admired and nominated to get their good deeds some recognition.
Anne Mahlum is a familiar face. She's familiar with the process, too. She was a "Top 10 CNN Hero" back in 2008 for a running club she started called Back On My Feet. The goal was helping homeless folks she'd pass on her daily runs through Philadelphia.
Well, we wanted to check in with Ann and see how things are going two years on. She joins us from Washington, which is actually one of the several cities that Back On My Feet has expanded to.
Anne, I remember watching the story about you the first time. A remarkable story. Just take us back to that.
You're from Philadelphia. You were a runner. And you'd come across homeless people in your run. Pick it up there and tell us what happened.
ANNE MAHLUM, "TOP 10 CNN HERO," 2008: Yes. I lived about a half-mile away from a homeless shelter, and was passing this group of guys every morning who quickly became my cheerleading squad. And running has always been a really powerful activity for me in my life.
And running by these guys, they reminded me a lot of my dad, who went through drug and alcohol and gambling recovery. I never could figure out a way to help him. And so running doesn't discriminate. It doesn't matter if you're white, black, rich, poor, homeless or not. And I thought running could benefit these guys just as much as it helped me, and in some weird way that I could vicariously help my dad by helping these guys.
VELSHI: What is it about running? I've got to tell you, when times are not tough for me, I couldn't imagine getting up and running. For guys who are sort of set back in life, what is it that this did for them?
MAHLUM: Yes, running is really primitive. And there's so many life lessons that surround the sport about taking things one step at a time.
You know, you can't get to mile five without doing one through four first. And it just really allows you to understand goal-setting and really also understand what you're capable of and what your potential is, and combine that with a positive support system of a group of people who are there to encourage you and, you know, offer you appreciation and credibility. And, you know, just really be there for you. It's been having phenomenal results on a lot of individuals' lives.
VELSHI: Let's talk about this. Back On My Feet is in five cities now: Philly, Baltimore, Washington, Boston and Chicago. You just opened up Chicago yesterday, I understand.
VELSHI: And you are planning to double to 10 chapters by the end of 2011.
What does that involve? What does adding a chapter actually mean? What does that do?
MAHLUM: Yes. It takes a lot of research. And when we expanded to Baltimore in 2009, a lot of people told us not to expand, but early on we really took it on, our mission to want to help as many people as we possibly could.
So we spent the first year screwing up, making mistakes, fixing things, listening, observing, making more mistakes. And we knew that we had to try expansion, and Baltimore was a perfect city for us to do that in.
So, through that process, we really learned about the infrastructure that had to be in place for us to be able to have these local chapters throughout the country, how they're going to work with the headquarters. So the organization has really been evolving, and it's been a lot of fun and challenging.
And, you know, when we go into a new city, we have this three-to- four-month pre-launch period where we're talking with city officials, talking with other organizations who are working in this field, and working with our corporate partners to really set up a system there for us to be successful.
So, yes, we are doubling in size next year in regard to chapters. And then in 2012, you know, who knows yet? It could be 15 or 20 more cities for that year.
VELSHI: Well, we'll continue to follow you, as we enjoy doing. Thanks for the great work that you've done, and thanks for joining us today, Anne.
MAHLUM: Thank you.
VELSHI: Back to the heroes class of 2010 and from 2008. The new "Top 10" will be honored on Thanksgiving night, but only one will be named "CNN Hero of the Year." That person will be awarded an additional $100,000.
And as always, you get to decide who it's going to be. This is a process that involves you at every step.
Our voting site is live now. Head over to CNNHeroes.com. We've got all the top 10 there. You can click on them to refresh your memory about who everybody is and the incredible things that they're doing.
Once you're set, hit the "vote now" button. Choose the person that inspires you the most. By the way, you can cast ballots for more than one person. The last full day to vote is November 17th.
We're going to tally those up for the "CNN Heroes All-Star Tribute" hosted by Anderson Cooper. Again, that is live Thanksgiving night, November 26th.
I know you'll all be full and sleepy. Do it. Watch this thing. It is incredible.
OK. Huge protests at the U.N. ahead of Iranian president Mahmoud Ahamadinejad's speech. We're going to take you there when I come back.
VELSHI: A huge demonstration unfolds right now, right outside the United Nations. Protesters are denouncing Iranian president Mahmoud Ahamadinejad, calling him a murderer among other things. Just ahead of his scheduled speech.
CNN's senior correspondent, Allan Chernoff, is there joining us live. Allan, what's going on?
ALLAN CHERNOFF, CNN SENIOR CORRESPONDENT: Ali, we're across the street from the United Nations at (INAUDIBLE) plaza. As you can see, the rally actually is breaking up. But for two-and-a-half hours, a very impassioned crowd was shouting down Ahamadinejad, protesting his presence here in New York, here at the United Nations. In particular complaining about his nuclear ambitions, about violations of human rights, violations of women's rights. Speaker after speaker referred to that.
Rudolph Giuliani, the former mayor of New York, spoke. Also, John Bolton, the former U.N. ambassador. But the biggest crowd, the biggest applause of all, came for Maryam Rajavi. And you see the purple balloons over here. She is the leader of the opposition in exile. She addressed the crowd from Paris via satellite.
Frankly, this was a very well-organized rally because they were transmitting video feed over satellite and via the Internet so that people in Iran actually could see the thousands and thousands of people protesting. People did come from all over the world. I met people from Luxembourg, from England, Paris.
One very interesting participant over here, Amir Emadi. Amir, you say that you have family in prison now still in Iran.
AMIR EMADI, OPPOSITION SUPPORTER: Yes, in fact, I have 18 members of my family.
CHERNOFF: Eighteen members of your family? All sorts of alleged crimes?
EMADI: Yes, exactly. In fact, they've been charged to be in support of the PNOI, the greatest opposition movement against the Iranian regime. And really, the only solution who's backed by a woman president, Mrs. Maryam Rajavi.
CHERNOFF: Amir, how do you feel? Now, you live here in the United States. You live in California I understand, right, sir? how do you feel about Ahamadinejad coming here to the U.N.?
EMADI: I think it's shameful. It's very distressing to thousands of Iranian-Americans around the United States. In fact, many of them are here. 20,000 members of the Iranian-American community all around the U.S., 40 different states, are really here to show that there's a solution. That we say no to Ahamadinejad and yes to Maryam Rajavi.
CHERNOFF: Now, we've heard from the United States, they're saying that, oh, Iran seems ready to actually have some negotiations related to their nuclear ambitions. Response?
EMADI: It's not true. It's not true. In fact, the message we're sending here to the United Nations, the U.S. and across the world, that negotiations, engagement and even war as another option will not work. There's a third option, and it's Maryam Rajavi.
CHERNOFF: Amir, thank you very much.
As you can see, people very, very emotional here, Ali. It was a very interesting rally. Lots of people packed in here, screaming down just before the Iranian president is to address the United Nations. Ali.
VELSHI: Allan, thanks very much. We'll stay with you and find out what's going on. Let us know if there are further developments there.
There are some spectacular photographs I want to show you. Btu they also tell a grim story about climate change. The man who took them along with the philanthropist who rewarded him, coming up next.
VELSHI: Let me bring you up to speed with some of the stories we're following here at CNN.
New jobless numbers today show a rise in first-time filings for unemployment benefits. The Labor Department says 465,000 people filed last week. That's a rise after two straight weeks of declines. It was also higher than economists expected. Economists say the companies are still trying to cut costs and that, of course, means less hiring.
Five million cans of a popular baby formula are being recalled because of bugs. We're talking about Similac brand powered formulas - powdered formulas, I'm sorry. They found evidence of beetles in samples produced at the Abbott Laboratories plant in Sturgess, Michigan. The plant is being fumigated. Liquid formula from Similac is not part of the recall. You can find the full list at CNN.com.
The FDA has decided to severely restrict the popular diabetes drug Avandia. They say it can only be prescribed to diabetes patients if there is no other option. Avandia had been linked to increased risk of heart attack or stroke. Some have called for Avandia to be pulled off the shelves altogether. GlaxoSmithKline, the maker, say they still believe the drug is important for the treatment of diabetes. At it's peak in 2006, Avandia sales reached $3 billion.
OK, today's "Mission Possible." When senator John Heinz died in 1991, his widow, Teresa Heinz, was urged by many to run for the Senate herself. That might have been the easy decision to make. Instead, she made the personal choice to take up philanthropy for the Heinz Family Foundation.
Since then, among other things, she has helped create the Heinz Awards. It gives out ten unrestricted prizes of $100,000 each to people who have created an innovative and inspiring body of work that addresses the world's environmental challenges.
Theresa Heinz joins me now from Washington, and one of the winners of this year's prize is James Balog. Already known as a nature photographer, he started a project called the Extreme Ice Survey. Sounds like an incredible challenge. He modified 39 Nikon cameras just with materials from his local hardware store, set them up around the world to take time-lapsed pictures of glaciers.
The results were remarkable. You'll see them in a moment. He joins me from Boulder, Colorado.
Theresa Heinz, I'd like to start with you. On a personal note, you had some challenges with cancer, diagnosed last year. You look great. How are you feeling?
THERESA HEINZ, HEINZ FOUNDATION: It's a process. Thank you for asking. And you kind of work on it every day. And people say it's all gone. Well, I hope it's all gone, but you never know. You have to wait two, three years before you know.
VELSHI: Well, we're with you and we're thinking about you.
HEINZ: Thank you.
VELSHI: James, you were already known as a nature photographer, but not -- I don't know. Were you known as an environmentalist before you took on this project?
JAMES BALOG, NATURE PHOTOGRAPHER: Well, not as much. A lot of my projects did tackle environmental themes, but it's been more explicit here. Honestly, I don't exactly consider this an environmental project. I consider this a collecting of rational evidence that reveals trends that are there for all to see if people are willing to look at it with eyes wide open.
VELSHI: Teresa, tell me how you make determinations about who gets the -- who gets the -- these prizes.
HEINZ: We have nominators around the country. I don't know who they are, unless every now and then I meet someone, and I did last week, who was a nominator. I did not know it. He says, I've been nominating for a long time. And I said, have you ever won anyone? He said yes. But I didn't know the person. I didn't know they were nominators.
And they generally are experts on one of the five fields that we started these awards with. As you know, the awards were first of all five awards at 250. And in the last two years, we deemed that these issues facing the world, call them environmental -- call them anything you want to call them -- but they're around reality in the world. And that we would instead give a body of people ten awards that would really tell a very big story, a bigger story than having someone in the arts, someone in technology, et cetera. What we will do next year, I don't know.
So we have these nominators who send in a lot of names and material, background material on these people, and then we double- check all of that against all kinds of references. And then at the end, there are now 15 jurors. Normally, 50 jurors who come together and deliberate on their different sections on who the winners are. And they are definitely experts in the field.
And I did not attend this year's jury meetings because I didn't feel quite up to it. I normally go, run in, run out. I cannot participate in them. I keep away from that. But it's always a very exciting day when they meet because all of these jurors are very uplifted at the end of the day by the inspiring people that they, being experts themselves, read about and find out about.
And I think the reason I did this is -- is important, too. It's not because my husband was only an environmentalist or only -- he was many things. But more importantly, he was very concerned that we do not have -- and he died in '91, so almost 20 years ago -- that we did not have the ability to do a crossover between those that didn't trust business and the business folks that didn't trust the other side. And so there was not intelligent dialogue. Not Socratic dialogue. And his interest was in establishing that or enhancing that, enabling that.
In the press, too. I mean, generally the press covers what is, and if it isn't, they don't bring it up.
VELSHI: Right. That's a good point.
HEINZ: So -- yes. And so it's reflective more than provocative. Let's put it this way.
VELSHI: OK, fair enough.
VELSHI: That makes sense, yes. Go ahead.
HEINZ: And so this -- this is -- this is intended to enable that conversation to go on, to be nonpartisan, to be based on facts.
VELSHI: Right. HEINZ: And of course, on deductions some, but obviously on facts.
HEINZ: And then it hopefully elicits from people not so much a defense response, but an interest response.
HEINZ: And so -- and that's what we try to do is to -- to inspire people and say, my God, look at what these people have done, and look how much good we can still do, and --
VELSHI: You know, James, that's an interesting point that's made there. You said you're not even sure it's an environmental project. You put yourself at personal risk, in fact, and suffered some injury in telling this story.
As an artist, I guess that's the same thing that Theresa is saying, right? You're looking for some response to the work you do. If it's concurrent that that response is that people would like to save the earth, that suits you just fine.
BALOG: Yes, absolutely. I mean, this is very much a combination of art and science. You know, there are about -- the art and science are two parts of the human experience, the human brain. When you merge art and science together, you get a deeper, richer, more dynamic understanding of what's going on in the world. If you just look at it from one side or the other. So, that's what we've done here.
HEINZ: Mm-hmm. Mm-hmm.
VELSHI: By the way, James, you did -- I wasn't kidding. I think you did -- you got some injury from this, right? You kiking up all of these mountains and doing things like that has hurt your knee.
BALOG: Yes. I've left a lot of knee cartilage in Greenland and Iceland, actually, and I've been through a couple of surgeries as a consequence. But I really believe in what I'm doing, and I will see this out to the end. We've got quite a few years yet to go. And we will make it happen.
VELSHI: Thank you both --
BALOG: I've got a capable team, lots of people working.
VELSHI: Well, thank you both for telling us about this.
BALOG: Thank you, my pleasure.
VELSHI: -- Balog. It' our pleasure to talk to you. He's a nature photographer. And of course, Theresa Heinz, the chairman of the Heinz Family Philanthropies and Heinz Endowments. Pleasure to see you. We wish you continued good health. For more information --
HEINZ: Thank you. And congratulations.
VELSHI: Thank you so much. Well, listen, for more on this, go to my blog, CNN.com/ali and I'll get you all the links that you need.
VELSHI: Republicans unveiled their Pledge to America today, and the early reviews are in. Your "CNN Equals Politics" update is next.
VELSHI: Time now for our "CNN Equals Politics" update with CNN's senior political editor, Mark Preston and CNN deputy political director Paul Steinhauser at the CNNpolitics.com desk in Washington.
Looks to me like we're starting with you, Paul. What's going on?
PAUL STEINHAUSER, CNN DEPUTY POLITICAL EDITOR: Yes, come on over here, Dave Jenkins, our cameraman. Let's start with me. Forget about that guy.
Ali, let's talk about the vice president, Joe Biden. You know, we talk a lot about him. He's really on the campaign trail quite a lot, helping out Democrats. Doing the same thing again tomorrow. He's going down to Florida.
Take a look at this right here on the CNN Political Ticker at CNNpolitics.com. He's going to Florida, going to do a rally down there with Democratic candidates down there and do a fundraiser as well. It's part of the job when you're the vice president. The vice president, be it Joe Biden or Dick Cheney before him, part of the job.
Hey, another thing. It's not even on the Political Ticker yet, Ali. I'm writing it as we speak. So, you get it first before anybody else. It's often been said this year is once again the year of the angrier voter, and that Republicans and independents are angrier than Democrats. A new poll out today indicates, yep, that's pretty much the way it is. An AP/JFK poll indicates that Republicans and independents are a lot angrier and more disgusted at the state of politics than Democrats are.
You know, we had our own CNN poll last month that said the same thing. Republicans, very angry about the conditions of the country. Democrats, not so much. It will be interesting to see if angrier voters are more motivated, more inclined to actually vote on election day. That could be troubling for Democrats.
Over to Mark!
MARK PRESTON, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL EDITOR: Hey, Ali. Of course, there's been a lot of talk today about the new Republican Pledge to America. This is their governing policy. They say this governing document. But really, what is it? It's a campaign document, it's a campaign pledge, of course, to voters across the country saying that we can do better here in Washington.
But what are the reviews? No surprise, Ali. Democrats are painting it by and large, politicians are embracing it. But what are the conservatives saying?
Mixed reviews on that as well, Ali. "The National Review" says we'll take the pledge, and actually describes it as bolder than The Contract with America. Of course, that's that 1994 document that Newt Gingrich used to take back control of Congress.
But what is the RedStates saying? That's a very influential blog. Basically what they're saying is that it's an 8,000 -- if I can -- so many words here. Eight thousand-word term paper of inside-the- Beltway regurgitation that lacks the one thing that the American people seem to be dying for, and that is leadership.
But let me just point right here very quickly over Francis' shoulder. Boehner, "I am the business community." This is an exclusive interview that you will see only here on CNN from CNN's Dana Bash. He just did it a few hours ago, Ali. Big stuff.
And of course, this is the new CNNpolitics redesigned Web site. We're giving you a little bit early view. It's not supposed to roll out til Monday. But we all wanted you to take a look at it. Ali?
VELSHI: You boys are both too young probably to have been this active back in 1994, Paul, but the Contract for America came with leadership and, frankly, I don't know how long it was, but you weren't -- you didn't have to read it to understand what they were saying. So, really this success of the Republicans in this case is going to hinge on the idea that they can take this messaging from -- from their proposals and get it out there fast and make it resonate with people.
STEINHAUSER: I think you're absolutely right. That's -- you know, they were under pressure. Republicans were under pressure. Democrats criticizing them as "the party of no." They needed to put this out to say, you know what? This is what we stand for. We're not just against the Democrats and the White House, but we need to stand for something. That's what this is part of as well. Six weeks, a little less, until election day. We'll see how this plays, Ali.
VELSHI: Yes. Next time I say to either of you guys, "You're too young to remember" something, your response needs to be something like, "Oh, Ali, you're the same age. You're too young to remember it, too."
So, perhaps we'll have you back on the show sometime.
VELSHI: Paul Steinhauser and Mark Preston, good to se you both.
All right. We'll, of course, keep you posted on that. We'll have another Political Ticker in the next hour.
She's got seven hours left on earth. Hear the voice of a condemned woman straight from death row and the controversy over her case, next.
(COMMERCIAL BREAK) VELSHI: Okay. Go to CNNheroes.com right now. The site is live. Vote for the hero who inspires you the most. The site is always live. The voting is live now. All ten will be honored on Thanksgiving night during "CNN Heroes: An All-Star Tribute." Put that in whatever it is you write - you keep a schedule in right now. It is a must-see show. It's hosted by Anderson Cooper. If you have a dry eye after watching that, then you are a cold-hearted person.
The presiding judge has called her case one of greed, lust, and lies. All woven into murder for hire. Teresa Lewis pleaded guilty in the murders of her husband and stepson. She is due to die for it in less than seven hours. Barring an unexpected reprieve, she will be the first woman executed by the state of Virginia in nearly 100 years. The first woman executed in America in the last five years. But her situation has drawn global attention for deeper, darker reasons.
CNN's Brian Todd has been following this case. He talked to Teresa Lewis from death row. He joins us now from Virginia, the home of the Greensville Correctional Center -- Brian.
BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Ali, Teresa Lewis, we're told, has met with her spiritual advisers and her immediate family. She is scheduled to meet with her attorneys later this afternoon. She is scheduled to be put to death, as you just mentioned, about six hours from now, a little over six hours from now, here in the Greensville facility.
This controversy has several facets. You mentioned the case. She did plead guilty in the 2002 murders of her husband and stepson, but she did not pull actually the trigger in those murders. The two men who did, who conspired with her to commit this crime, got life sentences. She got the death penalty. That's part of the controversy.
Another part of the controversy is that her attorneys argue that she has a level of intelligence that is just above mental retardation and that she has dependent personality disorder, which makes her susceptible to be manipulated by others. They say that she was manipulated into this crime. But she -- the prosecutors say that none of that is true, that she has a level of intelligence above that and that she was actually doing the manipulating.
On Friday, I got a chance to speak to Teresa Lewis. This was just before Virginia governor Bob McDonnell rejected her appeals for clemency. I asked if she could say anything to the governor, what would she tell him?
(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)
TERESA LEWIS, DEATH ROW INMATE : I would tell the governor if I could speak to him one-on-one how sorry I really am for allowing this to happen to two people that I loved very much. And I just wish I could take it back. And I'm sorry for all the people that I've hurt in the process.
(END AUDIO CLIP) TODD; But on Friday, the governor rejected her appeal for clemency. He tehn rejected a second try at clemency. The Supreme Court has rejected her appeals. All of these appeals have been exhausted. Teresa Lewis, scheduled to be put to death by lethal injection about six hours from now, Ali.
VELSHI: Brian, thank you for that. We'll stay on top of the story. If there are any developments, including as you said, that unexpected reprieve, give us a shout and we'll get you back on.
We'll be back right after this.
VELSHI: All right. That's all the time we have right now. I promise you, the good fun continues up next with Rick Sanchez and "RICK'S LIST."