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Detroit in Dire Straits; Man Swallowed by Sinkhole in Florida; 13-Year-Old Hit-Man Found Dead; Detainees Freed Over Spending Cuts; World's Best Beaches Ranked

Aired March 1, 2013 - 12:30   ET


WOLF BLITZER, ANCHOR, "THE SITUATION ROOM": You'll join me later in The Situation Room, as well, starting at 4:00 p.m. Our special coverage will continue.

"Around the World" with Fredricka Whitfield and Michael Holmes, right after this.


MICHAEL HOLMES, CO-ANCHOR, "CNN AROUND THE WORLD": Welcome, everyone, a little late, to "Around the World." I'm Michael Holmes.

FREDRICKA WHITFIELD, CO-ANCHOR, "CNN AROUND THE WORLD": And I'm Fredricka Whitfield in for Suzanne Malveaux.

Of course, we're going to continue to watch more developments about the failed forced spending cut meetings between the president and leading Republicans on Capitol Hill.

HOLMES: Exactly.

WHITFIELD: But we are going to revisit some other news that's taking place, as well.

HOLMES: And there's a lot happening out there.

Let's begin in Michigan. We got some pretty important news out of there.

Detroit, the Motor City, the center of the U.S. auto industry, well, moments ago, Michigan's government declared a financial emergency in the city.

Governor Rick Snyder agreeing with an independent financial review board that Detroit's finances are in terrible shape. There's no viable solution to turn things around.

So, what does that mean to the future of the Motor City?

WHITFIELD: Poppy Harlow has been following all the developments from Detroit's financial struggles.

So, Poppy, you know, first, what are we hearing from the governor about why he is now taking this, I guess most would agree -- this is a rather drastic step?

POPPY HARLOW, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Absolutely, guys. I think this is drastic. This is historic. This essentially means that Detroit is in such bad place financially that the state is taking it over and this, from everything we've seen, marks the largest state-takeover of a city in American history.

So, what does it mean? Well, the governor, a Republican, a very decisive man -- I've interviewed him before -- came out and he said the books in Detroit look so bad, we've been deteriorating as a city for so long, the mayor and the city council don't have the means to fix it. Someone else has to come in and do that.

Now, they have 10 days, the mayor and the city council, to repeal this and say, no, we can fix it, and we don't think you should take over.

But them winning that appeal is very unlikely, so I want you to take a listen to a bit of what the governor just announced.


GOVERNOR RICK SNYDER (R), MICHIGAN: If you think about it, over the last few decades, the current system has not been working. We have not stopped the decline.

It is time to say, this is the time for us not to argue or to blame, but to come together as Detroit, Michigan, not Detroit versus Michigan, and bring all our resources to bear to say, let's just solve the problem.

Let's solve the financial issues. Let's solve the service issues, and let's grow Detroit.


HARLOW: So, what happened? Detroit's population fell from about 1.5 million people 20 years ago to 700,000 residents today, so their tax base has completely eroded. They don't have enough money to keep this city running the way it needs to be running. The auto sector went through the complete downfall. So, Detroit's been on its knees for a while.

What this means, guys, is that if someone from the outside comes in and takes over the city, they can wipe out union contracts. They can layoff government workers without any approval from anyone else, so they have sweeping powers that will ultimately save the city a lot of money.

But I think residents there -- I was there all week -- this week, told me they're very concerned about what this could mean. Is it going to be very painful for them in terms of jobs?

HOLMES: All right, so, logistically and literally, what happens next?

HARLOW: So, what happens next is there's 10 days, so if the city council and mayor oppose this, which -- important to note -- Mayor Dave Bing of Detroit was not present at this meeting. He wasn't present. They can appeal it, and then at this hearing, that appeal can either be accepted or denied.

If it is denied, then the governor will go ahead and he will put someone, we don't know who, but someone in charge of Detroit who can, as I said, wipe out union contracts, dramatically change them, lay off government workers, do whatever they think is necessary for the next 18 months to get this city back on its feet.

Then there will be a vote in 18 months. If two-thirds of the people overturn this emergency manager, then that person could go out of office.

But, at this point, it looks like this is the future. And this is to try to stave off bankruptcy. You don't want to see a bankruptcy of Detroit, so this is really the next step.

And I do want to note, by the way, the Detroit schools have been under the oversight of an emergency manager, as well, for the past few years, so the schools and now the city itself.

WHITFIELD: Yeah, a very sad state of affairs for the Motor City, for Motown City. Hard to believe.

All right, Poppy Harlow, thanks so much.


WHITFIELD: All right, something else fairly unbelievable to watch and understand and comprehend. We're talking about a house in Seffner, Florida, that was swallowed by the earth.

It's near Tampa Bay, where a bizarre and very horrifying incident happened this morning.

HOLMES: Yeah, get this. A man is sleeping in his bed. Just imagine this happens. The earth opens up beneath him, swallowing him up. It was a sinkhole believed to be about 20-to-30 feet wide and about 20 feet deep.

WHITFIELD: His brother actually tried to go after him, but rescuers pulled him away fearing that the hole could get even bigger.


JEREMY BUSH, BROTHER FELL INTO SINKHOLE: I heard a loud crash like a car coming through the house, and I heard my brother screaming.

So, I ran back there and tried going inside his room, but my old lady turned the light on and all I seen was this big hole, real big hole, and all I seen was his mattress. And that was, basically, like, that was it. That's all I seen.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You tried jumping in after him?

BUSH: Yes, I jumped in the hole and was trying to dig him out. I couldn't find him. I heard -- I thought I could hear him hollering for me to help him.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And that's the last you saw of him. Did you see any last part of him before ...

BUSH: I didn't see any part of him when I went in there. All I seen was his bed.

And I told my father-in-law to grab a shovel, so I just started digging and I just started digging and started digging and started digging.

And then the cops showed up and pulled me out of the hole and told me the floor was still falling in.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: So, you were still at risk, as well.

Now your entire family is out here in support. Why -- you guys are out -- why are you guys out here in support?

BUSH: Just to keep closure, I guess, make sure he's not dead, make -- see if he's alive.

But I know in my heart he's dead, but I just want to be here for him because I love him. It was my brother, man.


HOLMES: What an emotional scene there. Horrible story.

Officials just held a news conference, by the way. It ended moments ago. They said that engineers are on the scene trying to figure out what the next step is and we'll obviously keep a close eye on this story.

WHITFIELD: All right, this, too, is unbelievable and very disturbing. We're talking about a discovery near Morelos, Mexico. A 13-year-old boy found dead, his tortured body dumped on the side of a busy road with five other murder victims.

HOLMES: What makes this story even more chilling, the dead boy was a self-confessed hit man for a drug cartel.

Rafael Romo joining us now. Rafael, how does a boy end up as a hit man?

RAFAEL ROMO, CNN SENIOR LATING AMERICAN AFFAIRS EDITOR: That's what authorities in the Mexican state of Zacatecas are trying to find out, and what they told me this morning is that they have actually confirmed that the 13-year-old boy, whose name is being withheld, as you can imagine, was already detained previously and confessed to multiple homicides.

Now, his body was found yesterday and, again, like I said before, the state of Zacatecas in central Mexico where he was found alongside five other people, including, authorities tell me, the mother of this 13- year-old boy. Now, because of his age, previously, he had to be released to the custody of his mother because if you're 13-years-old in Mexico, you cannot get prosecuted, but it tells you a lot about the situation there.

And what a sad, sad story that somebody who's only 13-years-old is already involved in this kind of life. And what authorities are telling me was that the six people who were found dead, including this 13-year-old boy, were not only on killed, but had been previously tortured, which indicates to authorities that this was an organized crime incident, not just an isolated killing.

WHITFIELD: And by -- is the belief that this was by a rival, I guess, organization that targeted him? And you talked about the previous arrest which means his family knew about his involvement?

ROMO: At this point, authorities are going with that presumption. And something that is truly amazing here is that it's not the first it's happened.

Back in 2011, we heard the case of a 14-year-old boy who was convicted and confessed to authorities that he had beheaded -- here we see him on camera, the moment when he was arrested at an -- outside an airport. And he confessed to authorities that he had beheaded four people.

Let's listen to that particular moment when this 14-year-old boy confessed.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (Untranslated Spanish).

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (Untranslated Spanish).

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (Untranslated Spanish).

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (Untranslated Spanish).

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (Untranslated Spanish).

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (Untranslated Spanish).


ROMO: Now, the bottom line here, Michael and Fredricka, is that it seems like organized crime realizes that some of these kids cannot be prosecuted because of their age because we're also hearing of cases in, for example, Guatemala, of an 11-year-old boy who was hired as an assassin, 11-years-old, if you can believe it.

We also heard a case of two girls, aged 13 and 15, who shot a businessman who didn't want to pay a bribe.

And, so, you hear of all these cases and you begin to wonder, maybe these kids are being forced to do did that to work for organized crime because they cannot be prosecuted because of their age.

WHITFIELD: And you wonder, is it less of an issue of prosecution and more that's it's the unexpected. No one would suspect that this child would have a hit on you.

ROMO: Exactly right. Exactly right. And you see it -- you see them operating in Mexico and in Central America where some of these drug car tells are very, very powerful. They have a lot of money.

And not only that, they have the means to force people to do something for them. They get threats. If you don't this for me, I will kill your mother. I will kill your father. I know who you are and where you live and you have to do it for me.

WHITFIELD: It's heartbreaking.

HOLMES: Unbelievable, isn't it?

Rafael, good to see you. Rafael Romo.

WHITFIELD: All right, they were incarcerated until the government couldn't afford to keep them anymore.

HOLMES: Yeah, we're talking about hundreds of undocumented immigrants being released in advance of tonight's massive spending cuts. Surprised a lot of people. That's coming up next.


FREDRICKA WHITFIELD, CNN ANCHOR: All right, back in the U.S. now. Those forced spending cuts taking effect midnight tonight.

MICHAEL HOLMES, CNN ANCHOR: Yes, that's right, but Immigrations and Customs officials, well, they didn't wait for the cut to kick in before they decided to take action. Now, this week they moved hundreds of undocumented immigrants from detention centers into less expensive supervised release programs.

WHITFIELD: In fact, the Department of Homeland Security says it was not notified in advance in fact. Our Ed Lavandera caught up with one detainee whose release was -- I guess it caught him by surprise.

HOLMES: Even him.


ED LAVANDERA, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Manuel Perez was asleep in this east Texas immigration detention center last Saturday morning when he says guards woke him up at 5:00 a.m. and told him he was being let out.

LAVANDERA (on camera): Were you surprised they released you?

LAVANDERA (voice-over): "I had no idea what was going on", he says. "There were eight other people in my cell and I was the only one they let go. I wasn't expecting it at all." Perez is one of several hundred undocumented immigrants quietly and unexpectedly released from immigration custody in the last week as looming budget cuts start to effect federal government agencies like immigration and customs enforcement or ICE.

LAVANDERA (on camera): They didn't give you an ankle bracelet?

LAVANDERA (voice-over): Perez has been told to show up at an immigration court hearing in a few weeks.

LAVANDERA (on camera): The Obama administration says the illegal immigrants released from detention facilities like this one in east Texas are low risk and ICE officials say it's more cost effective to let them out while they wait for their immigration cases to wind through the court system.

LAVANDERA (voice-over): Perez came to the United States 11 years ago. He was arrested last month on a misdemeanor DWI charge, served the time in a county jail, then he sat in immigration custody for the past month. But immigrant advocates like Ralph Isenberg say detainees like Perez should never have been rounded up because of a minor offense. He says this controversy is casting a light on a broken system.

RALPH ISENBERG, IMMIGRANT ADVOCATE: They've got hundreds of people locked up that aren't supposed to be locked up. And they don't want to get the public scrutiny of it. So how do you get rid of them? Well, let's let them out and call it a budget crunch.

LAVANDERA (voice-over): Manuel Perez came back to his apartment to find that all of his belongings were stolen while he was locked up, including the tools he needs to work his construction jobs. He'll try to start over while he waits to hear if he'll be deported.

Ed Lavandera, CNN, Houston.


HOLMES: All right, picture it, warm weather, white sand, clear blue waters.

WHITFIELD: Ah, sounds good, feels good.

HOLMES: Let's go there.

WHITFIELD: Uh-huh, let's go there. Well, it's almost time to start planning those summer beach vacations. Our travel expert is here to give us the world's top ranked beaches. I cannot wait.

HOLMES: Well, half of them are probably in Australia. At least half.

WHITFIELD: They must. That's right.



WHITFIELD: I know, there's still quite the chill in the air, but let's talk about summer.

HOLMES: All right.


HOLMES: It's not -- actually it is a long way away.

WHITFIELD: It is. I know.

HOLMES: It's June the 21st. That seems like forever away.

WHITFIELD: I know it.

HOLMES: But why wait to plan the summer vacation.

WHITFIELD: You've got to do it right now to really get out in front.

HOLMES: Exactly.

WHITFIELD: Travel expert Nilou Motamed from "Travel & Leisure" is here to help us figure out, if we're going to go to the beaches, we want to go to the best. And you know where they are all around the world.

NILOU MOTAMED, TRAVEL & LEISURE FEATURES DIRECTOR: Well, we do because we asked our readers in a survey and they told us their favorite beaches in every category. So whether you want to people watch or whether you just want to relax, we have the beach for you on


HOLMES: Well, let's start with activities. If you want to do stuff.

MOTAMED: Well, if you want to do stuff, why not go to Hawaii and to Maui. The Wallea Beach in Maui is gorgeous because it offers you all the activities you could want and more, including snorkeling and paddle boarding and some amazing hotels. The Four Seasons there. The Grand Wallea. The Faramount (ph). But what I love about it is just this incredible beauty. You see the nature. It is absolutely stunning. Great for families getting away. Great for couples going on honeymoons. A popular, popular honeymoon destination.

WHITFIELD: I like that. I've actually been there. And, you know, we were talking earlier, you want to go to a beach that's kind of secluded, you can be with people if you'd like to at that beach or you can find solution.

HOLMES: You've been there?

WHITFIELD: Yes, I have. I know it's nice.

MOTAMED: Right, privacy is definitely --

WHITFIELD: OK, now what about for, you know, the family. You talk about that's a nice place for couples, et cetera, but what about, you know, a family friendly beach? MOTAMED: Well, one of the ones that our readers loved was in Florida. And I think that that's really interesting. Florida is certainly a great destination. In fact, we have two that came in, in Florida. Both the Seaside Beach, which is on the Gulf Coast of Florida, which is great because it has those big wide beaches. So very flat, very, very smooth sand. This is beautiful if you want to just go play a game of Frisbee, spend time with the family. And what I love about this is definitely it's -- I definitely think it's a family destination. It's great at the end of the day you can get a cruiser bike and ride into town and get yourself a great seafood dinner at a local seafood shack.

WHITFIELD: Oh, gosh, sign me up.

HOLMES: Yes. Yes, exactly. Beautiful.

WHITFIELD: Either one or any. All of the above, I'll take.

HOLMES: Yes, me, too. I'm sure there are Australia ones on the list somewhere?

MOTAMED: Well, there are. Bondi Beach. Bondi Beach for people watching.

HOLMES: Oh, come on. That's so predictable.

WHITFIELD: I was asking him about that.

HOLMES: That's for tourist watching, maybe.

WHITFIELD: He's not digging (ph) it.

HOLMES: No, go to (INAUDIBLE) in Australia, Red Gate(ph).

MOTAMED: You know what, if you go to Icebergs and sit there and have a cocktail while you're watching the surfers at Bondi, that's not so bad.

HOLMES: Yes, yes, you're right. That's true.

MOTAMED: I don't think that's so tourist.

WHITFIELD: Sounds fun.

HOLMES: You know your Sydney. Yes, that is true. That is true.


HOLMES: Nilou, good to see you. Thanks so much.

WHITFIELD: All right, Nilou, thanks. All the best.

MOTAMED: Thank you. Good to see you too, Michael, (INAUDIBLE).

WHITFIELD: All right, meantime, you know, maybe you're going to dance a little bit when you're on the beach.

HOLMES: Yes, probably not.

WHITFIELD: How about -- how about -- oh, come on. How about this dance, the one that's kind of sweeping the world.

HOLMES: Yes, an (INAUDIBLE) that could blow "Gangnam Style" out of the water.

WHITFIELD: My goodness.

HOLMES: We'll show you how Egyptians are getting down now to the Harlem Shake.

WHITFIELD: I like it.

HOLMES: I don't get this, sorry.


HOLMES: As we've been discussing, for some inexplicable reason, the Harlem Shake craze is spreading all across the globe. Now --

WHITFIELD: Everywhere.

HOLMES: Yes. Now, Cairo, Egypt. But the dancers --

WHITFIELD: Unbelievable.

HOLMES: Yes, the dancers in that city, they're not just busting a move for the fun of it.

WHITFIELD: No. They are hoping the Harlem Shake will actually shake up the country's ruling party. You hear the music right there. A group of pro democracy activists thrust their hips in front of the Muslim Brotherhood's Cairo headquarters this week demanding reform. Pretty bold.

HOLMES: Well, at least there's a message in that one, at least. The rest of it just seems awfully ridiculous to me. I don't know.

WHITFIELD: At least we're seeing a nice gathering there with lots of smiles.

HOLMES: There's a point. Exactly.

WHITFIELD: How's that?


That will do it for me. I've got to go now.


HOLMES: That will do it for me and -- but you're not done. Keep working, will you?

WHITFIELD: Well, thanks. It was fun. Only 30 minutes. But, hey, I'll take that.

HOLMES: Good to see you, Fred.

WHITFIELD: OK. Good to see you. Have a great weekend.

HOLMES: You too.

WHITFIELD: All right. All right, the CNN NEWSROOM is continuing right now, in fact.