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Heavy Flooding Along Gulf Coast; Romney's Post-Convention Push; Wet Seal Accused of Racial Bias; The Aftermath of Isaac; Isaac Soaking Parts of The Midwest; Syrian Refugees Stream Into Turkey; Losing Weight by Eating Right

Aired September 1, 2012 - 06:00   ET


RANDI KAYE, CNN ANCHOR: From CNN world headquarters in Atlanta, this is EARLY START WEEKEND.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: First we were going to try to leave, and then we didn't, because we had nowhere to go.


KAYE: The storm is over, but the heartache has just begun. Stories of survival in the wake of Hurricane Isaac.


MAYOR CORY BOOKER (D), NEWARK, NEW JERSEY: We are the party that says America can be America for everyone. And that is what this platform is about.


KAYE: All week the spotlight was on the Republicans. Now it's the Democrats' turn. This morning, we're putting the Democratic platform in focus.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I wanted someone with blonde hair and blue eyes.


KAYE: She says she was fired for her looks. And now some say it is corporate policy. We'll look at the ugly side of retail.

It is Saturday, September 1st. Good morning, everyone. I'm Randi Kaye. Glad you're with us on this Labor Day weekend.

We start with Isaac this morning. The storm that continues to drench the Gulf Coast. So far, the storm is being blamed for four deaths in Louisiana and Mississippi. One couple was found in this house in their flooded kitchen. The heavy rains have also caused massive flooding. And it's not done yet. John Zarrella has more on the damage and the lingering effects of Isaac. JOHN ZARRELLA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Randi, thousands of people living within half a mile of the banks of the Tangipahoa River here in Louisiana were ordered to evacuate. There was concern after the storm that a dam up north in Mississippi might break. One of the many lingering effects from Hurricane Isaac.


ZARRELLA (voice-over): Hurricane Isaac descended on Louisiana Tuesday night, nearly seven years to the day that Hurricane Katrina struck. Isaac wasn't such a monster, but it was still a killer, parked on top of Louisiana, Mississippi and parts of Alabama. Hundreds had to be rescued.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What's it like back there now?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Bad. The water's over the top of the roof. We had to break through the ceiling and come through the attic.

ZARRELLA: Others weren't so lucky. The category one hurricane has claimed at least four lives in the U.S. And some, like Gene Odo (ph), were trapped in their own homes.

GENE ODO (voice-over): Right now, in my attic with my wife and my year-and-a-half-old baby. The local police came around about 2:00 in the morning, told us the levee broke. And within an hour, the water was coming up. It looks like we lost everything.

ZARRELLA: And it's not over yet. The slow moving storm continues to wreak havoc, with heavy rainfall and flooding, which overtopped the levee with water in New Orleans.

BILLY NUNGESSER, PRESIDENT, PLAQUEMINES PARISH: I have more damage for this storm than I did for Katrina.

ZARRELLA: In Mississippi, there was concern over a potential dam collapse. Now officials say the dam, holding back the Isaac swollen Tangipahoa Lake is not failing, but engineers are working to pump water out to release the pressure.

Down river in Louisiana, the parish president ordered thousands to evacuate along the 54 miles it runs through the parish, just in case.

GORDON BURGESS, PRESIDENT, TANGIPAHOA PARISH: My concern is whether it's one person or 50,000. A life is a life is a life.

JOHNNY WOMACK, KENTWOOD, LOUISIANA, RESIDENT: It's down here. It's like that all time.

ZARRELLA: Not everyone is listening. Johnny Womack sent his family to higher ground, but he's not going anywhere.

WOMACK: I ain't going nowhere, man. I've been here work -- I built that house myself and I ain't going to leave and let somebody just take it from me. If he take it from me, at least I'm going to see it go. ZARRELLA: Isaac has left many with unsafe drinking water and more than 800,000 without power. Not just in Louisiana, but Mississippi, Alabama and even Arkansas.

And it's not over yet. There's a chance of tornadoes as the region digs out from what Isaac left behind.

John Zarrella, CNN, Amite, Louisiana.


KAYE: And be sure to stick with us for more on Isaac and what's next.

Coming up in about 30 minutes or so, I'll be talking with the Red Cross about their efforts in the area and we'll let you know how you can help.

The remnants of Isaac will making for a wet holiday weekend in the Midwest. You can also blame the storm, at least partially, for the rise in gas prices. If you're driving this Labor Day weekend, prepare to pay the highest Labor Day prices in recent memory. $3.83 a gallon is the national average for a gallon of regular. It's up 30 cents from what you paid in July.

To politics now and the race for the White House. Mitt Romney moving on from Tampa, Florida. and the Republican Convention. Today he is in Ohio. We'll bring his comments there to you live later this morning. Ohio is just the latest stop on the post convention tour as the campaign looks to build momentum. CNN national political correspondent Jim Acosta has more.

JIM ACOSTA, CNN NATIONAL POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Randi, instead of visiting three battleground states, Mitt Romney made a surprise visit to New Orleans to survey storm damage after Tropical Storm Isaac. It's just another reminder that in this two month sprint to the finish, there will be some twists and turns along the way.



ACOSTA (voice-over): Just before takeoff from Florida, Mitt Romney picked up where he left off at the convention, returning to his sales pitch to independent voters who chose the president four years ago.

MITT ROMNEY (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: You listened to the last guy running for president. He laid out what he would do. He was unable to do it. It's time to give someone new a chance. Hold us accountable.

ACOSTA: Joining the GOP nominee to make the case, arguably the star of the convention, Ann Romney.

ANN ROMNEY, MITT ROMNEY'S WIFE: Give this man a chance and he will not fail.

ACOSTA: And his running mate, Paul Ryan, tried to set the terms for the debate to come.

PAUL RYAN (R), VICE PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: This is the chance where we have a choice. Do we want the failed leadership, the stagnant economy, the debt crisis, the welfare state or do we want that opportunity society, that American idea where everybody can make the most of their lives and define happiness for themselves?

ACOSTA: Romney was showing off a newly wrapped campaign plane and mixing up his schedule. He dropped a previously planned trip to Virginia to survey the damage left by Tropical Storm Isaac in Louisiana.

M. ROMNEY: And I've got a lot of questions for you, but I'm here to learn and obviously to draw some attention to what's going on here so that people around the country know that folks here need help.

ACOSTA: There was also some cleaning up to do after the convention that had nothing to do with all of those balloons.

CLINT EASTWOOD, ACTOR AND DIRECTOR: What? What do you want me to tell Romney? I can't tell him to do that. He can't do that to himself. You're crazy.

ACOSTA: Clint Eastwood's rambling improm (ph) script with an empty chair that was supposed to be President Obama had some on the convention floor cheering. But reporters took note the Romney family was not laughing.

A. ROMNEY: We appreciated Clint's support. And he's a unique guy and he did a unique thing last night.

ACOSTA: The campaign seemed to defend the actor in a statement saying, "judging an American icon like Clint Eastwood through a typical, political lens doesn't work. His ad libbing was a break from all the political speeches, and the crowd enjoyed it."

But the president's Twitter account took notice, sending out this tweet aimed at Eastwood and Romney that says, "this seat's taken."

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE, POLITICAL AD: Not a word about his record in Massachusetts where job growth was 47th out of 50.

ACOSTA: In signs of the tough fight to come, the Obama campaign released a web video countering Romney's speech and Joe Biden offered a rebuttal of his own in Ohio.

JOE BIDEN, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We do not think you grow the economy from millionaires down. We know you build it from the middle class out. That's how you build America.


ACOSTA: Romney advisers are downplaying any expectations of a post convention bump in the polls, but the GOP nominee did one up the president in one category, getting to Louisiana first. President Obama arrives here on Monday. Randi.

KAYE: Jim Acosta for us this morning. Jim, thank you.

He'll be back with the Romney campaign this afternoon in Jacksonville, Florida. And as I said, Romney holds a campaign rally in Ohio. That's later this morning. And we'll bring that event to you live in our 10:00 hour.

Paul Ryan, meanwhile, also in Ohio, but on the opposite side of the state than his running mate.

The Democrats are preparing for their turn. But before the convention, there is the platform, delivered by the rising star of the Democratic Party. We'll hear from him.


KAYE: Welcome back.

Back to politics now. And the Republican Convention ended with a bang and a whole lot of balloons. Mitt Romney wrapped it up with criticism for President Obama and a cheer for Republican principles. But now it is the Democrats' turn. Their convention kicks off next week.

We are focusing this morning on the DNC, their message and their platform. Here's how Newark Mayor Cory Booker describes it.


MAYOR CORY BOOKER (D), NEWARK, NEW JERSEY: And let us be clear. This is a platform. And what do you have to do with a platform? You must stand upon it. We now must stand as Democrats. We must stand for the middle class and expanding opportunity for all Americans. We must stand for equality and inclusion. And whether you are a single mother here in Detroit, whether you are a gay man in San Francisco, whether you are a blue collar worker in Newark, New Jersey, this is the party for you. And we must stand for your rights and for your values and your American dream, too.


KAYE: Booker is the co-chair of the Democratic platform committee. Probably the most controversial plank is the platform is the one on same-sex marriage. Democrats will pledge their support for marriage equality, their support of churches and religious institutions and their rights on the issue. And the work to repeal the federal law that only recognizes marriage as between a man and a woman. Booker will deliver the platform for the Democrats with his speech. He's just one of the high profile speakers on the schedule for next week. Former President Jimmy Carter will be there. First Lady Michelle Obama gets her chance on the same day as Carter. Wednesday belongs to President Bill Clinton. Vice President Joe Biden goes on Thursday, right before President Obama. One thing a lot of people will be watching for is the post convention bump, of course, in the polls. But take a look at these numbers. The bump has been nearly nonexistence during the last few elections. John McCain in 2008, John Kerry in 2004 got pretty much nothing. The change in numbers coincides with two things, the rise of cable news and the Internet as news sources and the scheduling of the conventions. After all, there used to be a month between political conventions. Now there are just four days.

The conventions are a big show, but are voters tuning in or tuning out? Next hour, I'll talk to a couple of young political leaders to get their take on the message and the messengers as well.

Calling in the quarterback who happens to be a girl. Find out how her history-making play turned out.


KAYE: Good morning (ph), everyone. Fourteen minutes past the hour. Stories we are following cross country.

Some history made under the Friday night lights in south Florida. With just under two minutes left, Erin DiMeglio entered the game for South Plantation against Nova. DiMeglio is thought to be the first female ever to play quarterback in a boy's regular season high school football game in Florida. South Plantation beat Nova 31-14. You go, girl.

Some naked truth in Seattle. Top of the sixth, nobody out, runner on first, Angels up 5-1 and, yes, they call him "the streaker." This fan dressed in nothing but a Speedo dashed from first base to second. Then he rambled into the outfield before being taken down by security. Angels beat the Mariners 9-1.

And you want laid back? Take Marita and Bladimir Agnite of Fremont, California. After more than a month, they finally came forward Friday to claim a lottery prize worth $52 million. The couple knew they'd won, but didn't realize how much they won. And the money will come in very handy. Mr. Agnite has been laid off from his job for a year now.

Blonde hair and blue eyes. One former worker says that's the brand image she didn't fit and, as a result, was fired from a popular clothing store. Now she is part of what could be a class action lawsuit against Wet Seal. Here's Kyung Lah with the details.


KYUNG LAH, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Young, hip and trendy. This is the image of teen retailer Wet Seal. An image that Nicole Cogdell did not fit. At least that's what she says management made clear to her.

NICOLE COGDELL, PLAINTIFF: A brand image is one thing. However, being terminated because you're African-American is something totally different.

LAH: Fired, says Cogdell, because she's black. In 2008, she was the manager of a Wet Seal store at this mall in Springfield, Pennsylvania. A mall where there are more black customers. Cogdell says she did so well at her job that the district manager promoted her to a new store in a higher end mall, the King of Prussia. Most of the customers there are white. Then the vice president of the company came to inspect the store. That's when Cogdell says she heard this.

COGDELL: She literally looked to my district manager and said, that's the store manager? I wanted someone with blonde hair and blue eyes.

LAH: Four days later, Cogdell was fired. Cogdell says her replacement at the King of Prussia mall was a white manager with less experience and poor performance record, but paid more.

LAH (on camera): There have been cases like this against the fashion industry before. What makes this one so different is that lawyers say they can trace the discrimination to a vice president at Wet Seal with an e-mail.

LAH (voice-over): The e-mail was forwarded to Cogdell. She says it's from the very same vice president who said she wanted a blonde manager with blue eyes. The e-mail from the VP, who has since left Wet Seal, says, quote, need diversity. African-American dominate. Huge issue.

LAH (on camera): When you read that, what did you think?

NANCY DEMIS, PLAINTIFF'S ATTORNEY: I thought this is the essential smoking gun.

LAH (voice-over): Lawyer Nancy Demis represents Cogdell and two other former Wet Seal managers who say they were either fired, denied pay raises and promotions as part of an unwritten but enforced corporate policy because black employees don't fit the brand image. The e-mail, says Demis, is a window into the ugly secret of retail.

DEMIS: In retail in particular, people are accustomed to making judgments about people based on their looks. And I think that they lose track of the fact that under the law, you may not make decisions about employees based on their race.

LAH: They're asking a federal court in California to declare this a class action lawsuit on behalf of 250 current and former black managers at Wet Seal. Wet Seal would not speak to CNN on camera, but released this statement. "We do not discriminate on the basis of race or any other category. We are confident that when all the facts come out in this matter, the public and our customers will see that African-Americans are well represented and valued members of our employee base, including our management.

Wet Seal's image campaign does include an African-American model. But Cogdell, who no longer works in retail, believes this, like much of fashion, is just an image.

Kyung Lah, CNN, Los Angeles.

(END VIDEOTAPE) KAYE: This is getting a lot of attention. And we want to hear from you. Should Wet Seal face a class action lawsuit? Is this straight up discrimination or just marketing to the brand? What are your thoughts on this one. You can tweet me @RandiKayeCNN and we'll read some of your responses on air later this morning.

To weather. It has been just four days since Isaac made landfall as a hurricane. About a half million people are still without power. We're talking about what's being done to help.


KAYE: This morning, thousands of people are waking up in storm shelters fearing that when they return home, all their belongings will be ruined from Isaac's flood waters. Power companies are scrambling to return power to a half million people who lost it in the category one hurricane. Some haven't had electricity for four days. We know at least four people were killed in the storm. And now people are looking to clean up and try to move on.

On the phone with us from New Orleans this morning is Sam Kille, regional communications director for the American Red Cross.

Sam, good morning. I bet you have your hands full there. Some people's homes still flooded, especially in Plaquemines Parish. How long are we expecting this water to stick around?

SAM KILLE, AMERICAN RED CROSS REGIONAL COMMUNICATIONS DIRECTOR: Well, (INAUDIBLE) days that water floods out some communities. And so far we've had thousands of people who have stayed in our shelters across the Gulf Coast. As a matter of fact, we've had shelters open in -- from Florida, all the way to Texas. That's just the effect that this storm has caused. And the Red Cross has thousands of volunteers who are on the ground. And now that the storm's passed, we're starting to move supplies into various areas to make sure that we can help everybody.

KAYE: How deep is the water in some spots? I mean are you guys able to get around?

KILLE: There are a lot of areas that -- and no one can get around right now. And, as I said, and some places, it will be like that for a little while. But as I said, long before the storm even came, we started to open up shelters, move supplies and volunteers into the area. And we're going to be here for as long as we're needed.

KAYE: And from those shelters and elsewhere, have people been able to reach out and contact their loved ones, let them know they're OK?

KILLE: Yes, they have. And I can say one thing that I found very interesting in all of this, because I was -- happened to be in New Orleans before the storm actually hit and walking through areas like the French Quarter, which is usually so busy with people, I mean it was empty. And I think that was really an indication that a lot of people listened to evacuation orders, which is good. I think it's one of the reasons, you know, we may have seen such a small amount of casualties in this.

But there are a lot of people who are affected by this. Of course it came, you know, on the seventh anniversary of Katrina. So that's causing, you know, having to -- people are dealing with raw emotions of that, remembering, you know, what happened seven years ago.

KAYE: Yes.

KILLE: And while this is -- has not been as bad, it's been a pretty emotional, trying time for people. But that's one of the great things about the Red Cross, is we -- among our volunteers are thousands of mental health volunteers who can help provide emotional support to people in a time like this.

KAYE: How is the Red Cross doing right now? What's needed at this point, if anything?

KILLE: Well, this has been a very large operation for us. You know, this storm started out aimed at Florida and then kept shifting over across the Gulf Coast. And it effected people all across the Gulf Coast. So we've had to move a lot of volunteers and resources into the area. So this is a costly operation for us. And, unfortunately, you know, it's going to cost tens of millions of dollars. We still don't know exactly how much yet. But donations aren't keeping up with that. So we really encourage Americans to help us by going to, call 1-800-RED-CROSS, or taking out their cell phone and texting the word "red cross" to 90999 to make a donation today.

KAYE: We appreciate your time. Sam Kille from the American Red Cross, thank you very much.

And to find out how you can help those devastated by Isaac, you can also visit our Impact Your World page. That is at You heard it there, they certainly need some help.

And even though Isaac has weakened, the storm is still dumping lots of rain in parts of the country. For more on the kind of weather you can expect, if you're in Isaac's path, let's bring in meteorologist Bonnie Schneider.

Bonnie, Labor Day weekend --


KAYE: A lot of folks wondering if they're going to get soaked. How does it look?

SCHNEIDER: It's not good, right, the timing, unfortunately. We have Isaac out there bringing lots of heavy rain to the Midwest in a drought stricken area. But too much rain too soon, of course, that does run the risk for flooding.

Let's take a look at where Isaac is right now. It's a -- basically a tropical depression, but it's bringing some very heavy rain across parts of the heartland. And we can see even some thunderstorms and some lightning popping up. This is important to note for those of you that are driving. If you're in the Kansas City area, maybe you're headed to Peoria or Champaign, we are going to be looking at a lot of rain.

In fact, as I put this into motion, look at the forecast total rainfall and you'll see it stretches all the way across Missouri well into Ohio and Kentucky. So Isaac, even though it's no longer a strong tropical system, it's still a rainmaker.

And you may be wondering, how is this going to impact the drought- stricken areas. Well, we have exceptional drought where you see areas in dark red, and that does includes Arkansas and Missouri. But yesterday, as Isaac's remnants and the moisture came in, it really just brought too much rain. So we've had some flooding in the area. Luckily, the only flood advisories we have right now are just a little bit left over in Louisiana. And that's because New Orleans had 20 inches of rain. So it's going to take a while for that moisture to subside and we'll start to see things look a lot better.

Just to let you know, for those of you that are traveling, and many of you are, I'm anticipating lots of delays today due to Isaac. Chicago, Cincinnati, St. Louis, San Diego, Las Vegas. Oh, boy, what a day for travel when you have a tropical system out there right across the country.


KAYE: Yes, certainly bad timing, as you said.

But let's talk about -- it's not just affecting the weather, right? I mean we're talking about Isaac. It's also driving up the prices of gas at the pump. AAA reporting, we're telling you this morning, the national average for regular unleaded, $3.83 a gallon. A record going into Labor Day. So the question is, can we expect a decrease in prices, Bonnie, any time soon? What do you think?

SCHNEIDER: Well, I think that we are not going to see too much (INAUDIBLE) in terms of decrease right now because, remember, we're still in the heart of hurricane season. We are not done yet. There's actually two other tropical systems in the Atlantic, Kirk and Leslie. And right now they don't pose an immediate threat to the U.S. But remember, September 10th is really the time for the peak of hurricane season and I think until we get through hurricane season, we're not going to see too much relief in the gas prices.

KAYE: Kirk and Leslie. All right, I guess we'll be talking about them.

SCHNEIDER: Yes, we're not done yet.

KAYE: Thank you, Bonnie.


KAYE: Appreciate that.

This week's CNN Hero is caring for children who are caring for others. We'll introduce you to a hidden community. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Let me help you.

My mom has been sick for as long as I can remember.



KAYE: Thirty-one minutes past the hour. Welcome back, everyone. I'm Randi Kaye. Thanks for starting your day with us. Glad you are here.

The Taliban are claiming responsibility for twin suicide bombings at a joint U.S.-Afghan military base in central Afghanistan. Officials say 12 people were killed, 57 others injured. Most of the casualties are civilians. No coalition troops were killed. Authority say, one bomber blew himself up, then the other detonated a truck.

In South Africa, 270 miners face charges in the death of dozens of their colleagues even though police apparently fired the fatal shots. 34 miners killed, 78 others were injured during a violent running with police last months. Their fellow workers are charged under a controversial apartheid-era law that blames them for taking part in the unrest. The charges are sparking public outrage, and South Africa's justice minister wants to hear from prosecutors why they are charging the miners.

Now, to Syria, where more fighting and gunfire is ringing out today. Caught in the crossfire, helpless, unarmed civilians. Tens of thousands have been fleeing across Syria's borders. Many have sought sanctuary in neighboring Turkey. Some marched to the border earlier this week, chanting Turkey is their only hope.

Our senior international correspondent Nic Robertson is at the Turkish-Syrian border and joins us now this morning by telephone.

Nic, good morning.

How many Syrian refugees have fled to Turkey and what are the living conditions like there for these refugees, Nic?

NIC ROBERTSON, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: There are -- there are about 80,000 Syrian refugees who have fled the Turkey and who have crossed the border. And the camps that they are in are fairly well established with visible facilities. The problem is, for the other people -- the others -- there are 8,000 estimated just across the border from where I am.

We walked across there a few hours ago, just a half a mile from where we are standing, inside Syria. That border point is now controlled by the Free Syrian Army. And inside that area, there are now people who are literally just camping out in the open with their family, women, children. Blankets on the ground. There are water supplies being brought in to them. And I talked to one young man, he told me they had been there ten days, and that they had been told that they would be allowed to cross into Turkey within a couple of days. That isn't happening. And these are the people that want to get across the border.

KAYE: And the Turkish foreign minister, Nic, is urging the U.N. Security Council to take action to deal with this crisis unfolding in Syria. What does he want the U.N. to do, exactly?

ROBERTSON: Well, what he would like to do, the Turkish prime minister has called for representatives of the U.N. Security Council to come to border camps so that they can look at the conditions and situation and to see, to motivate them, to see how they can help.

There's been discussion as well about trying to make these displacement camps that we just walked across to inside Syria, make these camps more secure, provide accommodation, provide food, provide water for people in those camps inside the border with Syria, not across in Turkey. We've heard the Turkish prime minister now who said if you are going to create these sort of buffer zone, then you need to create a no fly zone. But there seems to be little international appetite for that.

Having said that, while we are standing here, in the last half an hour, we've seen what appeared to be a small group of diplomats possibly from the United States, possibly from a European country go inside one of the border camps on the Turkish side of the border to inspect that.

KAYE: Is there frustration, Nic, as far as you can tell, in Turkey at the response by the U.N. and the West?

ROBERTSON: There is. There's plenty of disagreement at the U.N. The Turkish recognize that, they want more to be done. It's hard for them to cope with the influx of refugees. They don't know when there could be a huge push. It's dependent on the fighting. There are 8,000 people approximately across the border from where we are. They are afraid if they let all of those in quickly, then there will quickly be others who will come in because they will hear that the border is open and they will try and cross into Turkey.

They are building another three camps in this -- in this sort of border region. There are an estimated 30,000 refugees inside Turkey who are actually living in schools and in public buildings. The schools here start up again in a couple of weeks. They will have to be moved out and housed. So, the problem is compounding itself.

And the Turkish problem is having a great difficulty absorbing these large numbers of people. And the fear is, there could be a very great influx that could overwhelm them at some point.

KAYE: Yeah, certainly seems that way. Nic Robertson for us this morning on the border. Nic, stay safe. Thank you very much.

We've been following the progress of a young woman who has dumped the diets to drop some weight. Is she sticking to the plan? She'll join me for an update with her nutritional expert.


KAYE: As children across the country head back to school, behind closed doors, 1.3 million of them are caring for ill, disabled or aging family members. Nearly a third of them are under the age of 12. This week's "CNN Hero" is bringing this hidden population and their labor of love out of the shadows, helping them stay in school and hold on to their childhood.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Are you OK? Here, let me help you.

My mom has been sick for as long as I can remember.

You need more methadone.

Helping her out is a bigger priority than going to school, because I don't know what I would do if something happened to her. I wouldn't be able to really live.

CONNIE SISKOWSKI: In the United States, there are at least 1.3 million children caring for someone who is ill or injured or elderly or disabled. They can become isolated. There are physical effects. The stresses of it and the worry.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Thank you, baby, thank you so much.

SISKOWSKI: But these children suffer silently, people don't know they exist. I'm Connie Siskowski. I'm bringing this precious population into the light, to transform their lives so that they can stay in school.

We offer each child a home visit.

Has a ramp been helpful?

We look at what we can provide to meet their need. We go into the schools with a peer support group, and we offer out of school activities that give the child a break.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is so relaxing.

SISKOWSKI: So they know that they are not alone. We give them hope for their teacher.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Now, I'm getting A's and B's. And I feel more confident.

SISKOWSKI: But we have a long way to go. There's so many more children that really need this help and support.

KAYE: Connie's group has provided support to more than 500 kids in Florida. To learn more about her, you can visit Also, we want to let you know that in a few short weeks, we will be announcing the top ten "CNN Heroes" for this year.


KAYE: Welcome back. If you have ever been on a diet, then you probably know that exercising is only half the battle. What you eat is just as important. And sometimes diets, we all know, just don't work. That's exactly what celebrity fitness and nutrition expert Mark MacDonald, author of the book "Body Confidence" teaches. Alexa Kesler has been working with Mark to drop 25 pounds in three months. A bit of a challenge, but a tough one for you. But you are going for it, which we love. Mark and Alexa joining me now for a bit of a progress report. Good morning to both of you. Mark, let me start with you first. Tell me just briefly the program that you put Alexa on.

MARK MACDONALD: So, Alexa has been a chronic dieter. So, our goal was to shift that mindset and stabilize her blood sugar. So, simply eating the protein and the carbohydrates that she loves, every three to four hours in the right calories. That bounces her hormones, stabilizes her blood sugar, releases the stored fat, and with the right exercise, she burns that fat up.

KAYE: Every three to four hours? So you are able to do that? I mean, how is the plan working out?

ALEXA KESLER: The plan is working great. You know, it is extremely hard. You know when -- once you are so used to losing weight quickly --

KAYE: Right.

KESLER: -- and seeing results --

KAYE: -- not the right way.

KESLER: Not the right way, you have to eat -- when Mark is like eat six times a day? I'm like that's how I lose weight, eating six times a day? Wait, eat more? What?

KAYE: Yes.

KESLER: And what has really helped is pre-preparing my food. So, weighing my food, putting them in bags, throwing them in my fridge, keeping a cooler in my car. So, instead of being stressed out about when I'm going to get my next meal or am I eating the right amount --

KAYE: Right.

KESLER: Grab it out of my fridge, have it in my car. And that's what's really helped.

KAYE: Yeah. And we all know, Mark, when you are starving, you end up eating all the wrong things. Right?

MACDONALD: Because your blood sugar is low.

KAYE: Yes. MACDONALD: And you don't have to wait forever. It's a first couple of weeks.

KAYE: Right.

MACDONALD: And once you get it, then now you are empowered. That even when you are in Europe, you know exactly how to eat.

KAYE: Well, speaking of traveling -- you were in South Africa for a couple of weeks. So, on this plan, a bit of a challenge, and you actually recorded a video for us. Let's watch that.


KESLER: And I wanted a glass of wine, but this whole trip is going to be full of (inaudible) drinking. So I wanted to keep my options open, so I had water and ordered this salmon, veggies and sweet potato. (inaudible). I absolutely would love to have the burger, but I have to compromise.


KAYE: All right, Mark. So watching that, what did she do right there and what do you think her biggest challenge is?

MACDONALD: Well, you know, her education is right. So, she is starting every time she eats, she is looking OK, where is my protein, where is my fat, where is my carbs. So she knows how to balance out her food, and she is making sure she is getting her water in.

Now, Alexa's biggest challenge is what everyone's biggest challenge is, it's shifting your mindset. She's been a chronic dieter since she was five years old. She's missed meals, skipped meals, and always starved herself. And she's got -- dropped weight, but she always regained the weight. Now she's learning that it's not what you feel, it's actually what you decide.

She's got the right tools. And now, she's shifting her mindset. And she's developing a lifestyle that's going to permanently reprogram her metabolism and take her body to the next level.

KAYE: Off camera before you were telling me some of her progress. Update us.

MACDONALD: She is doing fantastic. She is down over 4 percent body fat, she's down eight pounds of fat. She's rocking the program.

KAYE: Wow!

MACDONALD: So, she's really moving forward. And she did great the first two weeks. She maintained a bit in South Africa. As you do when you are on vacation, and right when she got back, she dove right in. So she's doing so well. I'm so proud of her.

KAYE: Do you feel differently? I mean, I know like is your energy up? Do you feel like you are sleeping better? I men what's -- KESLER: Oh, yes. And finding a balance between exercise and food was a challenge. If I didn't have the food right, I had the exercise right. If I didn't have the exercise right, I had the food right. So, trying to get both of those to go together. I found a great spinning class. It has totally changed my life. I love it. I crave going, which has been such a difference. And not being so worried about the weight, just feeling healthy.

KAYE: Yes.

KESLER: And it is hard sometimes. My old mindset does creep in. I call Mark, crying sometimes saying Mark --

KAYE: We all call Mark.


KESLER: You know, and I just need that little boost. I need that little help. But I was feeling down. He gave me a pep talk. I went to the grocery store, started right then and there and I feel good. But it's constant.

KAYE: Yeah.

KESLER: My thing is keeping it constant --

KAYE: Right.

KESLER: -- and doing it every day, because as we said, we can do it for two days and feel great. But doing it every day.

MACDONALD: But real quickly, I mean the big thing is when Alexa got back from South Africa, she went back to school, she took a job. So like she never has made her health a priority.

KAYE: Right.

MACDONALD: She was always just a dieter. So, now she actually tries to carve time out, which everyone has to do. Once you make that time --

KESLER: Yes. It's like a side job.


KESLER: It really is.

MACDONALD: It's just like (inaudible) - like being in a relationship, it's like raising children.

KAYE: Right.

MACDONALD: It all takes work. But what you get from that is everything. It's not about being easy, but it's worth it. So like I can never promise that it's the easiest thing.

KAYE: Yes. MACDONALD: -- but I can promise you it's worth it. And that's what she's learning.

KAYE: And just to be clear for the viewers at home, who think oh, wait, you are telling us to eat more. Here is you are really saying, eat more often, right, smaller meals more often.

MACDONALD: Exactly. That's how you keep your blood sugar balanced. You are never spiking your blood sugar when you store fat, you are never skipping meals when you burn muscle. So it's all about the right balance.

KAYE: Right.

MACDONALD: And once you get it, you unlock your body's full potential.

KAYE: All right. High five. Keep going.

MACDONALD: Let's rock it!

KAYE: Thank you. Great job.

MACDONALD: Thank you.

KAYE: Nice to see you both.

KESLER: You as well.

KAYE: And of course, we'll be checking with them throughout this journey to see just how well it continues to progress.

Just over a month ago that the Colorado movie shootings rocked the nation. Millions of dollars were donated to the victims' families. So, where is that money now? We'll explain.


KAYE: They call themselves the Aurora 12. The families of the 12 victims killed in the Colorado theater shooting. Now they are meeting with charity and government officials to make sure donations meant for those left behind will get to the right people. For these families, it's a pretty simple issue.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: When people make a donation and they are making it toward a specific cause, you are expecting it to go to that cause.


KAYE: This latest meeting was productive and included promises that improve transparency, plus victim involvement in how and where money is distributed.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Oh, we agreed on a lot of things. 100 percent of the money will go to the victims. We agreed on how we defined victim. We agreed that we need to work collectively and we agreed to the representation of the victims on the committee.


KAYE: Giving first, the charity collecting money for Aurora victims is also promised to change its website to make it easier to donate.

In sports, and the action at the U.S. Open tennis championship now. Andy Roddick cruised o a straight-set win last night to reach the third round. The 2003 U.S. Open champ has announced that he's retiring after this year's event. Serena Williams, Andy Murray and Roger Federer will all be in action today. Looking forward to that.

There will be some new faces on the football field this Wednesday as the NFL season kicks off with replacement referees. A labor dispute and the lockout has left the regular refs on the sidelines. Players have been critical of the replacements, but the NFL says they are improving.


KAYE: Two police officers in St. Paul, Minnesota are now on leave after this disturbing video went public. Take a look.

It shows officers arresting a man, identified as Eric Hightower and then kicking him in the chest as he lay on the ground coughing because he had just been sprayed with pepper spray. He's heard on the tape shouting his innocence. You then see the officers pulling Hightower's hair, walking him over to the police cruiser and slamming his head on the hood of the car. Hightower is charged with stalking a woman in the neighborhood and making terrorist threats. The police department says it is doing an internal investigation.

The St. Paul Police Federation, the union representing the officers, released this statement saying in part, we believe the facts will show that a good cop was in a dangerous situation with a known dangerous individual. The video does not provide complete context of the incident. And by no means demonstrates how the officer perceived the threat at hand. We encourage the community and its leaders to pause and let the facts emerge before rushing to judgment."

Now, to Washington state where vicious case of classroom bullying was caught on tape. The worst part, the teacher is accused of inciting the bullying and even bullying the child himself. In the video, you are seeing the teacher wrestling with the 13-year old boy, pulling him by the feet. And you see other students stacking chairs on top of him. The video was taken in February, but it was just released by the boy's attorney.

The veteran teacher identified as John Rossi was disciplined at the time, but was retrained and allowed to return to a different school. He's now on administrative leave again while the sheriff's office investigates. Rossi did not respond to a CNN request for comment. But had previously said he viewed the incident as horseplay. The boy's attorney disagrees.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The teacher poked him in the belly, the teacher turned around and put his bottom up in his face and said he felt gassy.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And by the way, I'm feeling kind of gassy.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: He had a pillow placed on his face where he couldn't breathe for several seconds. He had his own socks shoved into his mouth. It wasn't horseplay, because there was no play going on.


KAYE: The boy who we are not identifying had to go through therapy and no longer attends that school.

And take a look at this video. The FBI is offering a $5,000 reward for information leading to the capture of the so-called ninja robber. Police believe he has held up nearly a dozen gas station, convenience and liquor stores in South Florida. He was caught on surveillance camera in this robbery in Miami last Sunday holding a gun, as you see there, to the woman's head. Police say he's striking more frequently. And they are worried he's also becoming more violent.

And check out what happened during last night's college football game between Boise State and Michigan state. The Boise State quarterback lobbed a pass toward the end zone, the ball sailed out of bounds, and then a cheerleader with her back to the field got leveled. Oh my, look at that. Luckily, she is OK. Apparently, she even just laughed it all off after the surprise takedown. Wow. She is a tough one.

Thanks for starting your morning with us. We've got much more ahead on CNN SATURDAY MORNING, which starts right now.