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CNN NEWSROOM

Dragster Crash in Tennessee; Palestinian Crisis; Search Continues for Missing Soldiers; Genarlow Wilson Still Behind Bars; Refugee Crisis in Darfur

Aired June 17, 2007 - 19:00   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Oh, my god.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

RICK SANCHEZ, CNN ANCHOR: A drag racer loses control of his vehicle. Several spectators lose their lives as a result.

Also, a call to boycott the state of Georgia, all because of this prisoner. New details tonight in the case of a teen sent to prison for 10 years for having consensual sex with another teen.

Also.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SANCHEZ: There are thousands of people who are going around stealing cargo.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Right.

SANCHEZ: All over the country?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Right. Unfortunately it's relatively easy to do.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SANCHEZ: That's the FBI. Very easy to do. That's video you're looking at secretly taken. It's home based for thieves, thousands of people taking off with tires, computers, printers, furniture. And it's costing you 10-to-20 percent more every time you buy just about anything. So I investigated how bandits are carting off $6 million worth of cargo and how their game is truly your loss.

Hello again, everybody. I'm Rick Sanchez. We start with the anguish in a west Tennessee town. Six people are dead after a drag race for a charity in Selmer. More than a dozen others got hurt in the event, including the dragster's driver. Now, let's start with this amateur video we've been talking about and let you see what happens. One witness called it tremendously chaotic.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Oh, my god. Oh, my god.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SANCHEZ: It's unbelievable to look at. The driver was performing what was called an exhibition burnout, spinning the tires to try to make them smoke and make noise. Before then gunning the gas and taking off. A witness describes how this car just careened out of control into the crowd along the roadside.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Lost control, started fishtailing. And he kind of gained control a little bit. Then he lost it again. I guess he got back in, and it come around, hit the lightpost, slid over, hit the people on the four-wheeler. There was bodies everywhere. Flying through the air.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SANCHEZ: We have obviously been checking on a lot of angles on this story. We found out a couple of things. First of all the wheel, the man who was at the wheel, the dragster, probably is not going to be facing any charges at this point. You can only imagine the punishing thoughts going through his mind after experiencing it and then looking at this video.

WMC-TV reporter Blair Simmons has been covering the crash for us. She is on the phone from Selmer now to pick up the story. We understand the numbers have changed somewhat. Now they're saying instead of seven dead, there are six dead, right?

BLAIR SIMMONS, WMC-TV REPORTER (on phone): That is correct. Six killed and about 18 injuries. We're looking at a little over a dozen injuries. These are serious injuries. Some of those still could be critical.

SANCHEZ: I'm told, as I understand it, that a couple of the dead are children?

SIMMONS: Yes. It's looking right now at least five of the six killed are all under the age of 20. These are young lives. Certainly a huge tragedy being felt by this whole community.

SANCHEZ: Tragedy is the right word. When you look at the pictures, and I think a lot of people at home would agree with us, it almost looked like a tragedy waiting to happen. You've got 20 to 40,000 people sitting on the side of the road watching some guy spin his wheels and then take off in a car going at ungodly speeds. Was this thing organized? I mean, who checked to see that this kind of thing didn't happen before the event took place?

SIMMONS: There are no barricades. That is the crazy thing. There are no barricades separating the crowds from highway 45. You're right, there are thousands of people sitting on the side. People are just saying it is an accident waiting to happen. We're not exactly sure who regulates that, but they're saying definitely from now on, somebody will be looking at that.

SANCHEZ: That's amazing, no barricades. So, this guy, even if he wasn't going at that speed, he still could have clipped people just during the normal course. When we look at the video -- run the video one more time.

Let's look at it one more time together here. Look how close they are to him. I mean, the only thing that separates them is like one lane of highway. And now you see it right there. As soon as he goes beyond that white line, he's into the people, right?

SIMMONS: That's right. These cars have the ability of going up to 300 miles an hour.

SANCHEZ: Now, we see a barricade where the video was taken. But I'm presuming from what you said it ran out past that?

SIMMONS: That's right.

SANCHEZ: Unbelievable. Blair Simmons, thanks so much for bringing us up to date on this story. We're going to be all over this thing. We expect more information coming from investigators in the area as well as the night goes on.

By the way, later in the hour, this man who is a witness to this unbelievable crash, Cody Whitehead, see him right there? We've been hearing him give some accounts. We wanted to check on a couple of things that he said. So we're going to have him on. He said at one point it was like a human war zone. We'll have him here in about 30 minutes or so.

Fear returned today to the northern Israeli town, quiet for nearly a year, after weeks of devastating rocket attacks from Lebanese soil. This is what it looked like after at least two rockets landed on a part of Kiryat Shmona. They caused minimal damage. No Israeli casualties, but they left residents wondering if more is on the way in the form of more rockets.

Last year Kiryat Shmona it was pounded by rockets fired by Hezbollah. Hezbollah's denying responsibility and the Israeli government says that it suspects the Palestinian militants are operating out of southern Lebanon who are responsible.

Tonight the Palestinian movement is splintered though with militants taking hold of the Gaza strip, and moderates having retreated now to the West Bank. I know, it gets a bit confusing.

So essentially it's two different factions working against each other. Some would say more fundamentalists than the other. This was the scene just hours ago.

Mainstream President Mahmoud Abbas swore in the new West Bank government saying that it represents all the Palestinian people. The United States and Europe are trying to see what they can do to make this thing calm down and they're pledging their support.

Meanwhile, in the Gaza, supplies are now running low amid fears that the enclave may be shunned under the rule of Hamas. Gaza's sole supplier of gasoline cut off shipments today. The private Israeli firm said there is no one in the Gaza to guarantee payment. What they're watching and what they're concerned about are the ties to Iran. Israelis say they're watching this warily.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ALEXANDRA, JERUSALEM RESIDENT: Well, we always find ourselves in the middle of other people's battles. This is between Fatah and Hamas. We have nothing to do with it, but for sure, the people are going to suffer all over the country.

SYLVIA, JERUSALEM RESIDENT: I think Israel could do something. I also think Egypt could do something. I believe Israel could have done something in the past by giving more faith in moderates, leadership amongst the Palestinians and everybody's suffering. We are and they are.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SANCHEZ: They could have done more by giving more faith, or having more faith in the moderates, she said. Interestingly enough, Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert has arrived in the United States. He met today in New York with U.N. Secretary Generals. He meets Tuesday with President Bush.

In Iraq, an intriguing clue about two missing U.S. soldiers has led nowhere thus far. But U.S. forces continue to search for Specialist Alex Jimenez and Private Byron Fouty. The two were kidnapped last month. The story now as told by what else has been found in this case, and here's Karl Penhaul.

That's that very canal where they originally found some of the information from one of the soldiers. Now, remember that there were three soldiers that were taken during the ambush. One of them was killed. He was later found floating in part of the Euphrates River. The other two are the ones that have still been missing.

The information that we're getting today is not only were their identification cards found, but what was also found was even more of their belongings: personal items like letters that they had written to their parents, some pictures that they had had of some of their loved ones back home.

That's why some of the officials who have been following this story are now saying there is a possibility that they could use just basic investigative tools to try and determine exactly where these soldiers are.

We're trying to see if we can get that story back up for you. Claude, do we have it, or do you want to go to the interview instead? I'm sorry? Let's do this. Let's bring in now the mother of one of the -- this is Alex Jimenez. Remember yesterday, Byron Fouty's father? We had an interview with him here in the CNN NEWSROOM. Well today we were also able to make contact with the other soldiers' parents. This is Private Jimenez's mom. Here's what she had to say.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE (through translator): I haven't lost hope. I am trying to remain as positive as I can all the time. I remain positive and I keep praying and asking God to get me through this.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SANCHEZ: Specialist Jimenez hails from Lawrence, Massachusetts. He is 25-years-old.

In Kabul now, Afghanistan, a scene of absolute carnage. A suicide bomber blew up a bus packed with police officers. Police say at least 35 of the officers were killed. That makes this attack the deadliest in Afghanistan in six years.

To the south now in Kandahar Province. A roadside bomb killed three members of the U.S.-led coalition and an Afghan interpreter. Right now, we still don't know what countries those troops actually came from.

An emotional Father's Day on the National Mall in Washington today. Sons and daughters were paying tribute to a special group of fathers. The dads they lost decades ago in the Vietnam War. Many are leaving notes and roses at the wall. The Vietnam Veterans Memorial, some 1,500 roses are being placed in remembrance of the fallen.

There is much more to come here in the CNN NEWSROOM. Obviously we'll try to get the report that we weren't able to bring you just moments ago.

Also, take a look at this video. Unbelievable pictures. A place where they don't usually get this much rain. By the way, this has to do with the president, so to speak. Lots of angry water under that bridge -- do you know where Crawford, Texas is? We'll take you there.

Also, he's already got former president Jimmy Carter, Mavericks owner Mark Cuban in his corner. Now, more friends lining up for Genarlow Wilson locked up for 10 years because of consensual teenage sex.

Check this out. Millions of dollars worth of stuff. It's stolen. It's cargo and it's costing you and me 10-to-20 percent more every time we buy something. So what are officials doing about it? I investigate for you. You're watching CNN, the most trusted name in news.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Hey, this is Major Brent Challenger (ph) in Kuwait. I would like to say happy father's day to my dad Chal back in Augusta, Georgia. Happy father's day, talk to you soon. Love you. Take care, bye.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SANCHEZ: There you see folks in the CNN NEWSROOM putting some of the stories together for you. And tonight, there is more pressure on Georgia's governor and attorney general to free Genarlow Wilson. He was sent to prison for 10 years for having oral sex with a teenager when he himself was a teenager.

Well today, the pastor of the very church where Martin Luther King once preached is calling a news conference to say this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REV. RAPHAEL G. WARNOCK, EBENEZER BAPTIST CHURCH: Genarlow Wilson's ongoing incarceration is not only cruel and unusual punishment, it is Georgia's shame.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SANCHEZ: Earlier this week, the state Supreme Court judge called Wilson's 10-year sentence an injustice and said that he should be freed. But Georgia's attorney general is refusing to free Wilson, saying, it could mean the release of hundreds of others. Is he right? We check the facts for you.

But first, a lot of you are asking why prosecutors in this case seem so adamant in keeping Wilson behind bars, bucking public pressure or what certainly seems to be. This is a hot issue in this case. And that is where we tonight pick up our follow-up.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

SANCHEZ (voice-over): He had said it all along, to me, in jail.

At no time did you tell that young lady that she had to give you oral sex?

GENARLOW WILSON, INCARCERATED: No, sir.

SANCHEZ: Then the attorney who prosecuted him confirmed it to me.

EDDIE BARKER, ASST. DISTRICT ATTORNEY: From what we've seen on the videotape, and heard from the victim ourself, we do not believe there was any physical force used.

SANCHEZ: Genralow Wilson convicted of aggravated child molestation under an antiquated law that has since been changed is now getting support from somebody else, the mother of that other teenager.

Girl's mother defends Wilson, says penalty too severe was the way the headline in the "Atlanta Journal-Constitution" put it. But the article goes on to say that after making the comment, the girl's mother was paid a visit by state prosecutors and investigators.

B.J. BERNSTEIN, WILSON'S ATTORNEY: It was extremely shocking to believe and read something that almost reminds us of what happens in a communist country, that when you speak out about something to the media, you get a visit from the government.

SANCHEZ: The girl's mother is quoted in the article as saying she testified against Genarlow Wilson because prosecutors told her she could face legal trouble for neglect as a parent if she didn't. But prosecutors deny they threatened her. B.J. Bernstein says the prosecutors are out of control, and is questioning the Georgia attorney general's support of them.

BERNSTEIN: I know that you need to support your prosecutors, but you don't support prosecutors who are out of control. You don't support prosecutors that intimidate.

SANCHEZ: We spoke with prosecutor David McDade by phone, who says the accusation that anyone from his office threatened or intimidated the teen's mother is quote, "absolutely, categorically untrue."

And he calls the newspaper article grossly inaccurate. Attorney General Thurbert Baker, who is appealing the superior court's decision to throw out Wilson's conviction called a news conference late this week.

THURBERT BAKER, GEORGIA ATTORNEY GENERAL: There are over 1,300 inmates in the Georgia prison system currently serving time for aggravated child molestation. And this ruling, if it stands, would have the potential to reduce or set aside the sentences of a significant number of those convicted felons.

SANCHEZ: Of the 1,300 other convicted felons, we checked and found that only seven, like Wilson, were teenagers when they were found guilty.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

SANCHEZ: So what is he talking about? We told you we would check the facts for you and we did, even further. This is what else we found.

Regarding those seven cases of teens, not 1,300, convicted of aggravated child molestation, it's also important to note that those cases may not really be the same as Wilson's case because it's not clear whether the acts in those cases were consensual as the jury told me in an interview I did with them, they thought it was in the Genarlow Wilson case. We've been following this case from the beginning and we'll continue to stay on top of it for you.

Some call it a silent epidemic -- high school dropouts. Why do they do it? How much it's costing you, the taxpayer, and what can we do to keep them in school.

Also, is the price right for Rosie O'Donnell? Newly retired Bob Barker says it's Ms. O'Donnell that should take his job. We'll tell you more. You're in the CNN NEWSROOM.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Hi, my name is POC DeRoyne (ph). I'm stationed in Kuwait and Iraq. I just wanted to give a shout out to everybody back in home in Port Arthur, Texas. I want to tell my mom and dad I love them. Happy father's day and mother's day.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SANCHEZ: Isn't that amazing? Listen to that. Wow. Listen to the speed and strength of that rushing water, sparked by heavy rains. And by the way, this is Crawford, Texas. Flooding actually closed the main road into the small community where President Bush was spending father's day at his ranch.

To the south in Laredo, it also saw some serious flooding. At least one death was reported there as a result of this. Jacqui Jeras is joining us now to bring us up to date on this. I imagine, you know, places like this, they just don't get that much rain, so when they get it, it looks like that, right?

(WEATHER REPORT)

SANCHEZ: Now let's check some of the most popular stories today on CNN.com.

The wife of evangelist Billy Graham was laid to rest this afternoon in North Carolina. Ruth Graham was buried in a simple casket, hand-built by convicts (ph). She was 87.

Is the right price right for Rosie? Did I get that wrong, by the way? Let me try that again. Is the price right for Rosie? Just retired host Bob Barker of "The Price is Right" fame says that he thinks network suits are meeting with Rosie O'Donnell about filling his spot and he thinks the comedienne can definitely do it. But he's not sure if CBS wants quote, "a lady host" at this time.

And this wonder from down under, scientists in Sydney are working to craft a new global standard for the kilogram. They're grinding some silicon 28 into two perfect spheres to replace the deteriorating platinum bar that's currently the so-called international protype. And if any of that makes any sense to you, then you're certainly a lot smarter than I am. Huh?

Here's a frightening figure for you. There are more than eight million people on earth with no country to call home, living simply wherever they can. Up next, the startling number of refugees roaming from place to place.

And take a look at these guys, making a killing at your expense. A new type of criminal raking in billions of dollars a year from you and from me -- thievery.

Also, eye-popping numbers about graduation rates, right here in the NEWSROOM. You're watching CNN LIVE SUNDAY.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SANCHEZ: This is unbelievable. Take a look at this video. I mean, a car just careens out of control right into the fans. Six people dead, some 14 or 15 injured. Some of them critically, children killed. And we have a witness who was there when it happened in Selmer, Tennessee. His name is Cody Whitehead. Mr. Whitehead, are you with us?

CODY WHITEHEAD, WITNESS (on phone): Yes, I am.

SANCHEZ: What did you see when you got to the scene?

WHITEHEAD: Well, actually, I was not a direct eyewitness. We were about a quarter of a mile down the path here where the parade took placed.

SANCHEZ: Right, but I understand you were on the scene shortly after it happened. What did you see?

WHITEHEAD: Yes, we were. It was just extremely chaotic. There were at least two bodies of deceased -- of the deceased, rather, that were already been covered up when we got here. Numerous injuries. That's when the medical helicopters from the surrounding hospitals started coming in, the ambulance agencies and everything like that. It was something to see.

SANCHEZ: Did it appear to you that they even had a chance?

WHITEHAD: To be honest with you, with the speed that the car was going, and the impact and everything, probably not. I mean, who knows. You know, that's just speculation.

SANCHEZ: Let me ask you a question. Are you surprised that they let this go on this road so fast, with 20,000 to 40,000 people lined up there on the streets watching?

WHITEHEAD: Well, unfortunately the way I see that, it was just an accident. I mean, this is something going on now, I think this was the 18th year. It was just all meant to be in fun. But unfortunately it took a tragic turn.

SANCHEZ: Well that's why some people are wondering why it's an accident waiting to happen given the way the thing was set up, and the fact that there were not any barricades in front of the people who were hit. But we're going to be over this throughout the evening, following the story and obviously asking a lot of questions that a lot of the viewers want answered.

Mr. Whitehead, you're very kind to join us tonight, sir.

WHITEHEAD: Thank you.

SANCHEZ: We appreciate it.

Here's a situation that's hard to imagine. Being a refugee, constantly on the move or living in limbo with whatever belongings you have because you can't go back home -- 8.5 million people live like this, whether they're escaping political persecution, religious persecution, racial or ethnic cleansing.

This Wednesday is World Refugee Day. And our chief international correspondent Christiane Amanpour gives us her impressions of what refugee life is like in some of the worst refugees disaster areas.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

CHRISTIANE AMANPOUR, CNN CHIEF INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): I started covering refugee crises just after the first Gulf War when millions of Iraqi Kurds fled Saddam Hussein's violent campaign of revenge.

We watched them huddle pitifully across the border in Iran. But soon the U.S. formed a no-fly zone to protect them as they returned to resettle in northern Iraq.

Right now, the biggest and most urgent refugee problem is in Darfur, an embattled and poor region in western Sudan, where people have been caught up in a seemingly endless ethnic conflict.

Hundreds of thousands of them have died, and many more hundreds of thousands have been driven from their homes, refugees in their own land.

(on camera): We're here at the Riyad (ph) camp outside El Geniena, the capital of western Darfur and what you can see is people living in basic structures. You can't even call these huts because they're just a bunch of twigs and straw matting that people have had to put up. They don't even have plastic shelter. And that's going to be a big, big problem, because the rainy season has just started.

Sometimes it comes down in sheets, like this one person described sheets of glass. We're in what's called an ambulatory therapeutic feeding center. This is set up by the French relief group, and it's something that they've done exceptionally here to treat the most severely malnourished children.

First they put them in these scales to determine their weight, compared to how old they are.

(voice-over): This little upper arm bracelet tells the story. Green is OK. Yellow, at risk. Orange is malnourished. And red is severe malnutrition. That's the case with Humdi Islamil (ph). He's one and a half years old and weighs only about 12 pounds.

His grandmother Hadija (ph) has brought him here because he can't keep any food down. She says he's also got the flu. For a population on the edge like this one, a simple case of diarrhea can be a killer.

MSF has found 20 percent of the children in western Darfur are severely malnourished. That's one in every five children. Those as badly off as Hamdi (ph) don't have long to live unless they can keep fluids and formula down.

(on camera): Here we are in Habila (ph), a village that has not had any food distribution since June. And so this plane is bringing in much-needed food aid. It's a giant Russian Elutian commandeered by the U.N., the world food program. Any minute now it's going to open up -- there we see it and 12 tons of aid is going to fall to the ground.

Then these armies of people come to collect it and take it to the distribution points. There are columns of men who come up here and they're going to haul it back on their backs. Then there are the ladies, these people have come with their little straw brushes, little baskets, and literally they're picking up every single grain. It's that desperately needed.

(voice-over): It is the promise of home that sustains millions during their darkest hours. While never being allowed to return home, just sows the seeds for the next generation of war and conflict.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

SANCHEZ: By the way, not all refugee stories end up badly. If you're wondering what else a refugee looks like, you're looking at one.

The Darfur conflict has been going on now for four years. Sudan's government is in a civil war with rebel groups. And Darfur's people are caught in the middle. The U.S. State Department says Sudan has systematically targeted innocent civilians as part of an ethnic cleansing campaign to stop the rebels. The U.N. estimates the war has killed between 200,000 and 400,000 people. President Bush has promised to take action.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: And I promise this to the people of Darfur. The United States will not avert our eyes from a crisis that challenges the conscience of the world.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SANCHEZ: Joining us is human rights activist John Prendergast.

Well, the president seems to be talking the talk when it comes to Darfur of late. But is he walking the walk?

JOHN PRENDERGAST, HUMAN RIGHTS ACTIVIST: No, it still leaves a pretty big deficit, a pretty big gap between the rhetoric and the reality of action.

You know, to use the term genocide and say we're going to do all we can, and then to implement a series of what seemed to be very muscular unilateral sanctions, but then not take the requisite next steps.

SANCHEZ: Which should be what?

PRENDERGAST: Which is to go to New York, work in the Security Council to rapidly pass a bill that multilateralizes all the unilateral sanctions that the rest of the world comes along with us.

There has to be, after four years of a commission of genocide in Darfur, there has to be some kind of a cost to the perpetrators and to the orchestrators of that genocide.

SANCHEZ: Are you talking about troops?

PRENDERGAST: I'm talking about specific economic measures, financial sanctions that we would implement through the United Nations Security Council. We'd get the world to work with us, to impose a cost, to hit them in their wallets, to make it a lot more difficult for them to do business in the international community.

SANCHEZ: Do you think, and I've heard you say this, that the president is conflicted in this case?

PRENDERGAST: I think he personally really wants to do more. But the United States and the regime in Khartoum have a counterterrorism relationship that makes it more difficult for the United states to push very hard in the United Nations, to try to get more significant penalties for what Khartoum is doing.

We want to maintain that access, understandably, so we've got a genuine policy conundrum. We're not sure where we ought to hit them harder for what they're doing in Darfur for the commission of genocide, because we want to retain the access to those files about al Qaeda and some of the other terrorists that we get information on.

SANCHEZ: Why can't the world wrap its arms around this thing and try and figure it out? Why can't we get folks from the international side at the U.N. or even here at the United States and B, why can't people like you and me get it well enough to be able to push them in that direction?

PRENDERGAST: Well, I think there are great divisions internationally. You've got china, which is the biggest investor in Sudan's oil sector running interference for the regime in Khartoum and basically threatening to veto anything that comes out of the United Nations Security Council that would have meaning.

Europe has largely stood on the sidelines. The Arab League is largely in support of the government in Sudan no matter what it does, though of course they're not saying -- standing on the rooftoops saying they support genocide, they just support the government there.

So we have a difficult terrain that we have to navigate if we are going to build an international coalition to effectively counter the policies the government of Sudan is perpetrating.

The Janjaweed are sort of the KKK, the Ku Klux Klan of Darfur. They've been used by the government to attack non-Arab civilian populations, to wipe them out so that they undermine the rebellion in Darfur.

SANCHEZ: Why doesn't the average American watching the news every day get that, or care?

PRENDERGAST: What I've found, and I've been working on -- in war zones and on war -- civil war issues in Africa now for almost a quarter century, I've never seen anything like it.

Traveling all across the United States, you have in churches, in synagogues, in universities, in town halls, growing numbers of people who get together and have events and they learn and they do letter-writing campaigns.

We have a genuine fledgling embryonic anti-genocide movement that's brewing in the United States. It's not a headline news issue. You hardly read about it in the paper.

But yet without a face, that you're talking about, without that face, there's still somehow galvanized a fairly significant sub- segment of the population, particularly rooted in the faith communities and the universities, throughout the United States. And it's starting to have an impact.

SANCHEZ: We'll have to see if not only does it have an impact, but it grows some legs and expands even more. John Prendergast, we thank you for taking the time to take us through this.

PRENDERGAST: Thank you, Rick.

SANCHEZ: By the way on this issue and others, we know someone who's covered it. We're proud of one of our own. Chief international correspondent Christiane Amanpour, we're all familiar with her excellent work.

Now the queen of England has been honoring her as well. Amanpour was named the commander of the order of the British empire. The honor pays tribute to the Brits with outstanding service. Amanpour's assignments have taken her around the globe.

June is the month that many graduates celebrate their achievements. But did you know that only 70 percent of high school seniors are even getting diplomas? Still to come, we'll tell you how dropouts are costing the entire nation a pretty penny.

Plus.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SANCHEZ: There are thousands of people who are going around stealing cargo.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Right.

SANCHEZ: All over the country?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Right. Unfortunately it's relatively easy to do.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SANCHEZ: Just an ordinary warehouse, right? No. It is a pot of gold for thieves. Computers, clothes, furniture, multi-billion- dollar theft rings operating all over the country, and you as a consumer are getting the short end of the stick on this one.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ALI VELSHI, CNN CORRESPONDENT: The economy is holding its own thanks to low unemployment and increasing wages. But fixed mortgage rates are moving higher and that is not going to help the glut of unsold homes on the market.

Higher mortgage rates obviously make it more expensive to own a home. Well, this week we'll get the latest snapshot of home construction when figures for May housing starts, and building permits are released.

Fewer than two million residential building permits were issued the previous month. That's the lowest number in more than three years. With summer officially starting on Thursday, most of the country should expect to see warmer weather, and with that possibly higher electric bills. Natural gas prices have also been on the rise, which means running your air conditioner might be more costly. A significant amount of electricity in this country is generated by natural gas.

And today is Father's Day, of course. And despite the fact that high gasoline prices might be eating into your wallet, spending on gifts for dad is expected to reach nearly $10 billion this year.

That's according to a survey from the National Retail Federation. The most popular purchase is not a world's greatest dad T-shirt, it's a Father's Day greeting card, followed by dining out, apparel and gift certificates.

If you want more of this sort of thing, watch me on "Minding Your Business" each weekday on "AMERICAN MORNING." That's it from New York, I'm Ali Velshi.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Hi, this is Major Darrell Otto (ph) from Camp Taji (ph) in Iraq. I just wanted to say happy father's day to my father in Pensacola, Florida. Go Seminoles!

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SANCHEZ: I love you for what you're doing, but go Kings.

It's high school graduation season across the country when millions of cap and gown teens get that precious diploma. But way too many never made it to the big day.

According to "Education Week" magazine, some 1.23 million seniors failed to graduate this year. Nationwide, dropouts are big, and it's also an expensive problem.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

SANCHEZ (voice-over): Pomp and circumstance, the sign of the end of a major milestone looks like happy times here. But only 70 percent of Americans who enter high school graduate. So where are we losing these students? Meet Lyle Oates who dropped out in 10th grade.

LYLE OATES, DROPPED OUT IN 10TH GRADE: I needed the money, and school wasn't, how shall I say, wasn't telling me how to make money. It's more drilling information into my head that I thought was useless for me.

SANCHEZ: Oates was part of a panel discussion sponsored by "Education Week" magazine. He said he made money selling drugs on the street and it looked like he was going to defy the odds of a high school dropout until.

OATES: I got arrested and found out that when I got arrested, I had a possibility of facing two years in the correctional facility. And the choice was either go to jail, or get a real job, get an education, and be a regular person in society and pay taxes like everybody else.

SANCHEZ: A study by a Princeton economics professor shows that a dropout makes $260,000 less than a high school graduate over the span of a lifetime.

The Heritage Foundation estimates that taxpayers pay about $32,000 in benefits a year to families headed by a high school dropout. Secretary of Education Margaret Spellings says that dropouts cost the United States more than $260 billion in lost wages, lost taxes, and lost productivity over their lifetimes.

Like Lyle Oates, many students say they drop out because the information being taught is not relevant to their everyday lives. Others feel like they're not being challenged.

FALLON O'HAGAN, DROPPED OUT IN 9TH GRADE: I was really bored in my classes. I just got bored of it. And eventually I left.

SANCHEZ: And that's another problem. So many like Fallon O'Hagan never make it to high school. She dropped out in 9th grade and said she's making ends meet, but.

O'HAGAN: I definitely made the wrong decision by dropping out of school. I really would like to go back to school.

SANCHEZ: The same survey in "Education Week" revealed many of those who quit after middle school are minorities.

BILL GATES, PHILANTHROPIST: Three out of ten 9th graders do not graduate on time. Nearly half of all African-American and Hispanic 9th graders do not graduate within four years.

SANCHEZ: Bill Gates addressed this issue before Congress earlier this year. He and his wife have poured almost $2 billion into high school reform through their foundation. In 2005, Gates called U.S. high schools obsolete.

GATES: Unless we transform the American high school, we'll limit the economic opportunity for millions of Americans. As the nation, we should start with the goal of every child in the United States graduating from high school.

SANCHEZ: At 19, Oates is now back in school, pursuing his diploma. In her 20s, O'Hagan says she's worried she's too old to go to high school.

There are two faces of what some call the silent epidemic, America's high school dropout problem. One that if improved, could be the key to solving many problems our nation now faces.

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SANCHEZ: By the way, to find out how your local school district ranks on the dropout issue, you can log on to www.edweek.com.

Up next, it's an ordinary warehouse, right? Well, that's exactly what thieves want you to think. Stolen cargo, this is a fencing operation, a multi-billion dollar industry and it's taking money right out of your pocket. It's coming up in the NEWSROOM.

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SANCHEZ: Here's a story I've been telling you about that I went out to investigate. It's about cargo theft. It's not just a problem for big business. When thieves steal cargo shipments, they're also ripping you off.

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SANCHEZ (voice-over): This may look like a typical storage area that you would find at any local discount store, but what you're seeing here is home base for thieves.

It's a fencing operation, where people who steal take their stash to get it sold -- high-tech electronics, tires, soft drinks. If you can send it through ports, highways, railways, thieves will try and steal it.

You see those containers? They can carry anywhere between $12,000 to $6 million worth of cargo. So they'll either take the entire truck and drive it away or they'll bring their own truck and just take the containers, like the ones we see behind you?

STEPHEN EMMETT, SPECIAL AGENT, FBI ATLANTA: Correct, or the other scenario is back up to the trailer itself and offload it.

SANCHEZ: This is undercover video. It shows two men being arrested for allegedly trying to sell a truckload of stolen laser printers out of Nashville, Tennessee. Watch carefully. As you see one of the suspects trying to make a quick get-away.

What do you do with thousands and thousands of pounds of pills or clothing or milk?

EMMETTT: Well, unfortunately, a city like Atlanta contains numerous fences that trade in stolen goods. We've had numerous raids on warehouses recently. Several days ago in Cobb County we had a raid on a warehouse that was full of stolen goods.

SANCHEZ: In all, police say they nabbed six suspects at this warehouse each charged with five counts of theft. Two of them had also been arrested in 2003 for their involvement in this warehouse fencing operation we showed you earlier.

There are thousands of people who are going around stealing cargo.

EMMETT: Right.

SANCHEZ: All over the country.

EMMETT: Right. Unfortunately it's relatively easy to do. A lot of these freight yards are located in industrial areas, or economically depressed areas where security is very difficult.

SANCHEZ: Mike Goldstein manages one of the largest storage container lots in Atlanta.

MIKE GOLDSTEIN, METRO TRAILER: The king pin lock basically attaches up underneath the trailer to the king pin, which is what attaches to the inside of the trailer.

SANCHEZ: He says thieves continue to beat the system. So they just back their truck in there, lock it in and drive away with it?

GOLDSTEIN: Take off. Sure.

SANCHEZ: Wow. That's brazen.

GOLDSTEIN: It's pretty brave, too.

SANCHEZ: They get caught once in a while but not enough, I guess?

GOLDSTEIN: Not enough. The incidence is high. It's a major loss to the industry.

SANCHEZ: Here's the biggest upshot. Cargo theft is costing all of us.

EMMETT: The victims in cargo theft start with the retailers, the manufacturers, and insurance companies that pay for this. But bottom line, the consumer will pay up to 20 percent more for their product at retail because of cargo theft.

SANCHEZ: The FBI estimates losses to be around $6 billion a year. That's conservative. Some in the cargo industry put that figure closer to $16 billion.

EMMETT: Cargo theft is lumped in with thefts, with property crimes. And that is not giving us an accurate picture, when some of these thefts are millions of dollars worth of merchandise.

SANCHEZ: But that's about to change. Congress has passed a law that makes cargo theft its own crime. That will make the penalty more severe. And they're also using beacons, GPS technology to track the cargo.

The thief wouldn't know it, but the very loot he thinks will make him money is sending off a signal that will eventually make him get a lawyer instead.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

SANCHEZ: Here is another point to ponder about how widespread this problem is. In my investigation, I found out while billions of dollars of cargo theft goes reported each year, federal authorities say some 60 percent of the thefts are not reported.

You know why they're not reported? Because a lot of the people who are getting heisted from say they're afraid if they report it, then their insurance will go up and it will end up being more expensive for them.

Up next, see how brazen thieves are stealing your good name to cheat credit card companies. Learn how not to become a target, next in a CNN "SPECIAL INVESTIGATIONS UNIT" report: "How to Rob a Bank." That's right here at the top of the hour.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

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