Return to Transcripts main page
ANDERSON COOPER 360 DEGREES
White House has New Plans for Ailing U.S. Economy; Calls for Clinton to Quit; Pennsylvania Governor Speaks Up on Remarks Made about Obama; Stopping the Revote; Wal-Mart Speaks Up about Suing Brain- Damaged Employee; Gray Wolves Officially Off the Endangered Species List
Aired March 29, 2008 - 23:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: Breaking news is how we begin; News that may impact your wallet. We're just now learning about new White House plans to take action on the shaky economy. We've got a live report on that coming up.
Also, new calls for Hillary Clinton to quit. Senate colleagues, mostly Obama supporters, we should point out, telling her to end her run for the nomination before she wrecks the Democratic Party. She believes she has the best reason of all to keep going. Will the pressure work? Will it backfire?
What about today's new endorsement for Barack Obama? We'll ask CNN's Candy Crowley and "Time Magazine's" Mark Halperin all about that.
Also tonight, were they racist remarks or just Pennsylvania's outspoken governor telling it like it is? He said Barack Obama may have trouble winning white voters. He stirred up a storm. Tonight, see what he's saying now and why he's not backing down.
And later tonight, outrage at Wal-Mart. Nearly 2 million of you saw our story about the brain-damaged woman, a former Wal-Mart employee who is now being sued by Wal-Mart for money she needs for her care. We've been getting e-mails about it around the clock.
Tonight, Wal-Mart addresses the uproar. But I've got to tell you, what they say, just seems to add insult to injury. CNN's Randi Kaye does the reporting and senior legal analyst Jeffrey Toobin weighs in on why the biggest retailer on earth is leaning so hard on a poor, disabled woman whose son died serving his country in Iraq.
We begin with the breaking news on the economy; a story that could impact your wallet. A new plan to make sure a melt down of financial markets like we've been seeing doesn't send the economy and the country into a tailspin.
The plan is broad, even sweeping some say, the White House is expected to unveil it on Monday. We're learning about it right now.
CNN's Ali Velshi who has been looking into the details joins us now by phone. Ali, what is the plan? ALI VELSHI, CNN CORRESPONDENT (on phone): Hey, Anderson, it is a sweeping plan that the White House is working on right now. The government has confirmed to CNN that Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson on Monday will unveil changes that will basically introduce more regulation into financial markets. That is something that so many people, the candidates on the campaign trail and others have been calling for to say consumers need more protection and investors need more protection.
However, the White House is very clear. The administration is very clear that these are broad plans that could take years to implement. It's not likely to be a short-term solution but it is designed to sort of let the public know that the administration is hearing the concerns about how dangerous these markets might be and how big this economic downturn might be. And they're saying, let's get involved and let's make sure the government has oversight so that big economic problems don't get out of hand before they know they're going on.
Anderson, this is in response, in many cases, to criticism about this administration and about how it hasn't been on top of things. It hasn't been ahead of some of the problems we could have maybe foreseen that have caused this economic downturn. But again, it is sweeping, it may not be fast.
COOPER: Ali, Democrats have been calling for greater regulation. How far are we talking about here, in terms of regulating these markets?
VELSHI: Well, we're talking first of all about using the Federal Reserve, which is largely designed to regulate commercial banks. Extending its powers into regulating other parts of the market and trading and things like that. It's a very big deal, and it actually really affects the underpinnings of the way the market system works in the United States.
So it's not going to be easy to do it. We'll face a great deal of criticism, but it's a bit of an answer to people who say, are there protections for investors in a world where there are so many things that are going on that people don't understand? But it does involve the Federal Reserve in part and that's part of the big deal here. The federal government is saying we will use the Federal Reserve to regulate markets and trading and that's a big deal.
COOPER: All right.
Ali Velshi covering the breaking story for us. Thanks very much Ali. We'll check in with you later in this hour if any new developments occur.
Now politics and a lot of new developments. Barack Obama launching a bus tour across Pennsylvania today, unleashing a massive ad campaign and bagging the endorsement of one of the Keystone state's key politicians.
Also Hillary Clinton busy campaigning but facing new pressure to quit. She says why should she? After all, she's the favorite to win Pennsylvania; Indiana could be promising too. A few more big wins, a big stumble from Obama and the superdelegates could flip. That's the Clinton case.
But to many outside her campaign that looks like a stretch. Worse to them it looks damaging to the party.
John McCain today rolled out his first big national campaign ad and you can bet the Democratic leaders would prefer to be where the Republicans are with the primary fight over. But it's not. And there is no end in sight certainly not if you ask Hillary Clinton.
We have tonight's "The Raw Politics" from CNN's Jessica Yellin.
JESSICA YELLIN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): In case you have any doubt ...
SEN. HILLARY CLINTON, (D) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: There are some people who are saying, you know, we really ought to end this primary. We just ought to shut it down and ...
YELLIN: She's not getting out. Or as the other Clinton puts it.
BILL CLINTON, FORMER PRESIDENT: Let's just saddle up and have an argument. What's the matter with that?
YELLIN: She won't jump but she sure is being pushed, now more publicly than ever by these Obama supporters. Senator Patrick Leahy thinks Clinton should call it a day.
SEN. PATRICK LEAHY, (D) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: As long as there are two candidates fighting for the nomination when it's obvious which one is going to win, all that it does is to help the other party's nominee.
YELLIN: Senator Chris Dodd tells National Journal radio superdelegates should end the race in May.
SEN. CHRIS DODD, (D) CT: You have to step up to the plate and say enough is enough and we want this to be over with. We want to get behind this candidate. And we want people to pull together to win that election in November.
YELLIN: And Pennsylvania Senator Bob Casey, endorsing Obama Friday, struck yet another blow.
SEN. BOB CASEY, (D) PA: We're giving the Republican nominee more time to make the case against our nominee without having enough rebuttal.
YELLIN (on camera): Obama has won more states, more votes and more delegates. And now there's increasing talk that a group of uncommitted superdelegates should decide to back him. Effectively forcing Senator Clinton out of this race and ending the primary.
(voice-over): But Clinton supporters say the only people calling for an end now are Obama's allies. JAMES CARVILLE, CLINTON SUPPORT: If they spent more time trying to win some of these primaries as opposed to complaining about having to run it, they'd be better off. And by the way, if Democratic voters want it to end, if they vote for Senator Obama in Pennsylvania they can end it pretty quickly.
YELLIN: And Senator Clinton is using this talk to raise money. In a letter just sent to supporters she wrote, "Those anxious to force us to the sidelines aren't doing it because they think we're going to lose, they know we're in a position to win."
Senator Clinton says she's had comebacks before, and the next one could start with a huge win in Pennsylvania.
Jessica Yellin, CNN, Philadelphia.
COOPER: One other note, at a campaign stop today in Allentown, Pennsylvania, someone asked Chelsea Clinton whether her mother would make a better president than her father was. Here is what she said.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CHELSEA CLINTON, YET ANOTHER CLINTON: His question is do I think my mother would be a better president than my father. Well, again, I don't take anything for granted, but hopefully with Pennsylvania's help, she will be our next president, and yes, I do think she'll be a better president.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: Well, little interesting moment from the campaign trail today.
Digging Deeper about all things politics with us tonight, CNN's Candy Crowley and "Time" magazine's Mike Halperin who put the whole Clinton should quit story this way in a piece he co-wrote titled "Still in it to Win It." "When Clinton closes her eyes she sees John McCain triumphing in November against Obama in a contest she believes she would win." Says a lot.
Candy, today Bill Clinton said the idea that this is splintering the party is "a bunch of bull." Is the party really in peril if Clinton stays in? They're dominating the media coverage, they are flush with cash and people are paying attention to both these candidates. Isn't there some advantage to having this continue?
CANDY CROWLEY, CNN POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: I don't know if there's an advantage to it but I don't think there's any harm to it. There is still plenty of time for the party to come together. We talked about this a little last night. I think that people now are sort of looking and I think they're a little prematurely frightened at this point.
I also think that the Obama camp has to be pretty careful here, because Hillary Clinton has shown in New Hampshire when it looked like she was down and out, people came out, particularly women came out to support her. When she said she didn't have enough money left, she began to collect a lot of money. When she is down, people tend -- her supporters tend to really come out and get behind her. So I think the Obama camp has to be really careful this doesn't come back at them.
COOPER: Mark, political analyst Chuck Todd believes that calls for Clinton to drop out are premature. He wrote this. He said, "Her presence at worse is making Obama a better candidate. The Wright flare-up was the first true political crisis of Obama's national political career which is remarkable given how close he is to being the Democratic nominee. Who knows when the Wright controversy would have circulated had the nomination been locked up."
It's an interesting point that this is actually making both of these candidates better.
MARK HALPERIN, "TIME MAGAZINE": Anderson, first of all I appreciate you reading some of my stuff, although originally it was written in iambic pentameter and you didn't read it that way so I have to complain...
COOPER: I wasn't very good at tenth grade English.
HALPERIN: Right now she's testing him. It's clear the Obama campaign doesn't consider her to be no threat all because they're going after her every day.
On the other hand, I think it'd be better for Barack Obama the sooner this race ends. I agree with Candy, whenever it ends, Hillary Clinton will endorse Obama whole heartedly, even if not fully meaning it, she'll put her two fingers behind her back crossed. She'll endorse him.
I think the party will come together. I don't think that's the issue. But I do think the day she gets out he can start worrying about the general election.
I've been asking some his advisers the last few days, have you thought about the convention, have you thought about a debate strategy, have you thought about where McCain is vulnerable, and their answers are awfully tentative and awfully unwell-formed because they've got to focus on winning this nomination still and I think they'd be better off thinking like John McCain is, thinking about running mate, debates, general election strategy, taking over the national party.
COOPER: Candy, people keep talking about Democratic Party elders, you know, talking to the Clintons at some point, if it comes to that and saying, look, it's over, it's time to step down. Who can actually do that? Is there someone who would actually do that?
CROWLEY: I don't know who that could be. I can't see Al Gore, for instance, who's now considered one of the party elders going to Hillary Clinton and saying, look, I think you ought to get out. I mean, that makes no sense to me.
Ted Kennedy, a party elder, he supports Barack Obama. He's going to go to Hillary Clinton and say, you know, I think you ought to get out. I don't think it will come that way.
We're going to see pressure. There's certainly pressure, but I think the only person who could pressure a Clinton is another Clinton. They'll know if it becomes time to get out, I think she'll get out. It's just that time is not now.
COOPER: And, Mark how does this play out? You talked to the Obama people. You know, publicly they seem to be addressing McCain as the candidate. They seem not to talk about Senator Clinton very much, although the candidate doesn't talk about Senator Clinton very much on the trail, but you're saying behind the scenes there's not that extensive planning for a battle against McCain at this point.
HALPERIN: They just can't afford to do it. They've got to win this nomination. Look, there is I think four moments where she might get out of this race, assuming she's not the nominee and right now it doesn't look like she has much of a chance.
One is if she loses Pennsylvania then I think she'll get out. The second is shortly thereafter. If she doesn't win both Indiana and North Carolina, I think there's a chance she'll get out. Then there comes the end of the voting in early June.
If after that, she's not much closer in elected delegates, I think there will be extraordinary pressure for her to get out. Finally it could go to the convention.
We can talk a lot between now and then about Democratic elders and about people who support Obama calling for her to get out. But until she gets to each of those tollbooths, sees the outcome, and assesses her prospects, she's going forward.
COOPER: I don't get this term "Democratic elders." It's like something from "The Lord of Rings" like they're all hanging out at Stonehenge and they need to be consulted late at night or something.
We'll have more from Mark and Candy coming up.
If you'd like to join in our conversation I'm online during tonight's program as always. So are a lot of our viewers. Just go to cnn.com/360. The conversation's already pretty heated up there.
Up next, Pennsylvania's Governor Ed Rendell, a big Clinton supporter who's known for shooting from the hip, or perhaps the lip, he said Barack Obama might have a white voter problem in Pennsylvania. Is he stepping back from those remarks now? You'll see what he says.
And later, Wal-Mart, trying to explain why it's forcing a brain- damaged ex-employee to pay them hundreds of thousands of dollars; the money that she desperately needs to live on. Randi Kaye has that story.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
RANDI KAYE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Do you think Wal-Mart should make an exemption for your family? JIM SHANK: Who needs the money more? A disabled lady in a wheelchair with no future whatsoever, does she need it, or does Wal-Mart need $90 billion plus $200,000?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GOV. ED RENDELL, (D) PA: It wasn't intended to be racial. Anybody who knows my record as governor knows I've been probably the most inclusive governor we've ever had.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: Pennsylvania Governor Ed Rendell explaining some of the controversial remarks he made about Barack Obama. Critics have since been calling his words everything from politically motivated to racist, some people have said. The governor isn't quite backing down.
360's Randi Kaye met with him in Philadelphia.
Tonight she's up close with Governor Ed Rendell.
RANDI KAYE, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): He's blunt, brutally honest.
RENDELL: People know I don't B.S. them.
KAYE: And hardly bashful regarding his recent comments about Barack Obama.
RENDELL: The next president of the United States, Hillary Rodham Clinton.
KAYE: In a meeting with the "Pittsburgh Post-Gazette's" editorial board last month, Pennsylvania's Governor Ed Rendell, who has endorsed Hillary Clinton said, "You've got conservative whites here, and I think there are some whites who are probably not ready to vote for an African-American candidate." Yes, he went there.
RENDELL: I wasn't trying to influence the campaign, I was in a room with six guys -- I don't think it even had any windows and they asked me to handicap the race.
KAYE (on camera): The governor's remarks sent a chill through Pennsylvania's African-American community. Here in Philadelphia, the head of the NAACP called it callous and insensitive. Others have suggested it was politically motivated, even racist.
RENDELL: It wasn't intended to be racial.
KAYE: You don't regret your comments at all about Barack Obama and white voters.
RENDELL: Do I think there was anything wrong with it? Absolutely not. I told the truth, and we've got to be able to speak the truth about race without someone pointing their finger and saying, you're racist.
KAYE: Rendell calls Obama a formidable candidate who has done a great job of putting the race issue behind him. He blames the media for, his words here, "obsessing about this stuff."
Just five days after the "Post Gazette" published Rendell's comments, it printed a follow up article that seems to defend Rendell.
"Mr. Rendell didn't dump or strategically plant his opinion about race in our paper on behalf of the Clinton campaign. He appeared passive but not indifferent to or malicious about our state's backwardness."
Barack Obama agreed with the governor saying, "I think there will be people who don't vote for me because of race. There will be people who don't vote for me because I got big ears." But Obama didn't let Rendell off the hook. He also said, "Governor Rendell is a savvy politician, and I think he wants to project strength for Senator Clinton."
This is not the first time Governor Rendell injected race into a race. When he ran for governor in 2006, his opponent was former TV host Lynn Swann, an African-American. After his victory, Rendell said he believed the margin would have been closer, had Swann been white. Swann told us he thought Rendell's most recent comments about Obama were a subtle form of racism. If Clinton doesn't win the nomination, Rendell says he will support Obama. He's given him his word.
RENDELL: I had a call from Senator Obama and he said, you know I'm going to be the nominee, and I didn't argue with him, I said, sure. And he said I just want to make sure nothing happens in Pennsylvania, the campaign here, that will make it harder for us to win in the fall. And I said, senator, don't even worry about that for five seconds.
KAYE: That phone call may be the only thing to get Governor Ed Rendell to watch his tongue.
Randi Kaye, CNN, Philadelphia.
COOPER: Digging deeper again with CNN senior political correspondent Candy Crowley and "Time Magazine's" Mark Halperin.
Mark, Obama is on this bus tour in Pennsylvania. Clinton's going to go on her own bus tour through Pennsylvania next week. How far apart are they in the polls?
HALPERIN: Probable about low double digits. Clinton has had a stable lead there. Look, Obama's done incredibly well in this contest. He's the heavy favorite at this point. But there is this nagging pair of questions, which will be on display in Pennsylvania. Why isn't he beating her in these big states when he's spending more money, spending a lot of time? I ask his aides all the time, why don't you win these big states?
And the second is again, something that I bring up with you all the time Anderson, because you can only bring it up in non-polite company, which is how I consider you, which is how is he going to do with the white voters of the state if Clinton's got one argument she can make to these super delegates, it's about electability and the question of, why isn't Barack Obama doing well enough to win white votes, which I said before, that is the biggest challenge for any Democrat getting elected president; winning white votes. Any Democratic, and Obama has the same burden all Democrats do, prove that he can do it.
COOPER: So, Candy, is there a concerted effort, is there a strategy in the Obama camp to try to do just that?
CROWLEY: Well, I mean, that's part of why the economic message is being taken through Pennsylvania. It's certainly not rocket science. He's on that bus, he is talking economics, that is the big, working class issue, white or black. But that is the working class issue there and that's where he's reaching out.
It is not so much just the white vote, it is the white working class vote. That's where he's had the most problem. And she -- it's really where she shines the most, when she has those sort of smaller, economic town hall meetings, she's -- you know, has all of these facts at her fingertips. She tends to relate to whatever the problem is.
He's beginning to do more of that, but it is a focus on the economy. Because that's where the working class vote is right now.
COOPER: So, Mark, people I talk to says she needs a big win. Is a win a win no matter what for Senator Clinton, or does she need some sort of trouncing of Obama in order to hush those calls for her to quit?
HALPERIN: Well, look, the calls for her to quit will come no matter what happens in Pennsylvania. But they're coming, Senator Clinton will tell you accurately, from Obama supporters, journalists and some neutral people. They're not coming from her tens of millions of supporters.
So I suspect, if you look at the public opinion polling, she's usually above 50 percent in this state, which is a pretty good sign in a two- person race. I suspect she'll win Pennsylvania whether it's by a little bit or a lot, enough to silence people.
But make no mistake. Unless she blows it out 60-40, she won't really dig in to his delegate lead, his elected delegate lead. And that will get people to say, once again, a big state has voted, Hillary Clinton may have won, but if Barack Obama is going to be the elected delegate leader, that's one state down, nine more contests to go and she won't have dug into that.
And again, that will call for more -- that will bring more people to call for her to get out of the race.
COOPER: It's interesting, Candy. I hear a lot of people on the Clinton side saying that the media are wanting this thing to end. I don't know anyone in the media -- this is the best thing to happen to cable news, certainly in the longest time.
CROWLEY: Absolutely. I mean, look. I think it's the story right now. And it always seems when the media's reporting it that the media is pushing for it. But clearly there are people out there both behind the scenes and in front of the scenes as we saw from Senator Leahy today who are pushing her. That is the story and has been the story for most of this week.
But the story changes. I don't think it's the media pushing it so much as the media kind of mulling it over as we tend to do day after day.
HALPERIN: I disagree.
COOPER: Really? OK. Go ahead.
HALPERIN: I think if you look at reporters and their questions, not every reporter, but some reporters have written explicitly, some opinion columnists have written explicitly that she should get out of the race. She is asked now every day. Anytime anybody suggests it, it gets big headlines.
I think we're of two minds. We like this story; bigger than O.J. and Anna Nicole combined for people like you. But people more often are trying to drive her from the race. It's not really an anti-Clinton thing, although there's a lot of that. It's really reporters always want to drive people who lose out of the race. It's just what we do.
It happened to every candidate who is already out of this race. The minute there's blood in the water, the question they're asked everyday over and over is, when are you getting out of the race, why aren't you getting out of the race, shouldn't you get out of the race? So and so says you should get out.
COOPER: Two things: one, I actually didn't cover Anna Nicole very much and not really O.J. very much, but I'm not going to argue that point. But I guess the term, the media, it such a stupid term to use because frankly that term is everything from cable news to people write op-ed columns who clearly have opinions to people that do talk radio, to bloggers. So it's a ridiculous term, just an easy label to throw around, I guess.
We've got to leave it there. Candy, appreciate it. Mark Halperin as well. Thanks very much.
Up next, the raw politics behind the Michigan re-vote. Did Barack Obama use his influence to keep voters from going back to the polls? Some in the Clinton campaign certain say they did. We'll check the facts.
Also ahead, Wal-Mart trying to collect money from a disabled former employee. This story is just unbelievable; the outrage on it is growing. What they're doing is totally legal but almost 2 million of you have seen this story now, hundreds have written into our blog saying it is simply wrong.
When you hear what Wal-Mart has it to say about it, well, judge for yourself when 360 continues.
COOPER: Democratic candidates may be focused on next month's Pennsylvania primary, but they haven't forgotten about Florida and Michigan. State leaders, especially Clinton supporters, are struggling to find a way to have their delegates seated at the Democratic National Convention.
Right now they're being blocked because the states held their primaries earlier than allowed by the national party rules. You all know this. But not every Democrat is pushing for a re-vote.
Gary Tuchman takes a look at the "Raw Politics" going on behind the scenes in Michigan.
GARY TUCHMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): It's the year 2000. Democrats are angry. They want a recount in the presidential election which they don't get. Fast forward to the present; instead of a recount, many Democrats want a redo. But this time around many other Democrats redon't.
BUZZ THOMAS, MICHIGAN STATE SENATOR: I believe the redo effort is dead.
TUCHMAN: Michigan State Senator Buzz Thomas is a co-chairman of Barack Obama's Michigan campaign and just led an apparently successful effort to kill legislation to authorize a revote.
THOMAS: It's not appropriate to go and change state law at the last moment and insist on a quick fix to a very, very serious question.
JIM BLANCHARD, FORMER MICHIGAN GOVERNOR: I believe that they feel they're ahead and they don't want to have any more losses with big states.
TUCHMAN: Former Michigan Governor Jim Blanchard is Hillary Clinton's Michigan campaign co-chairman. He and his candidate want this redo.
SEN. HILLARY CLINTON, (D) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: We need to either count the votes that have already been cast in Michigan and Florida or have new, full and fair elections.
TUCHMAN: Barack Obama has shown no similar enthusiasm.
SEN. BARACK OBAMA, (D) IL: What we believe is that there should be some way of arriving at a fair settlement that respects the fact that there were rules in place. TUCHMAN: That fair settlement says Senator Thomas and his co-chairman State Senator Tupac Hunter is to split the delegates.
(on camera): If Barack Obama was leading this state but not leading in the country like he is now, would you have been more aggressive to get a redo election here than you have been now?
TUPAC HUNTER, MICHIGAN STATE SENATOR: No. If I was presented with the same redo situation, no. No. I would have explained to the candidate that I supported, I understand your agenda may be X, but as a legislator I'm expected to make sound policy decisions.
TUCHMAN: So you're not trying to help Obama?
HUNTER: It has nothing to do with that.
TUCHMAN: The two Obama chairmen say they're troubled by potential legal issues, private funding for the redo and the burden on county election clerks. They say so many senators agreed with them it never came to a vote. Dawson Bell is a state capital reporter for the "Detroit Free Press."
DAWSON BELL, "DETROIT FREE PRESS": While there were some pre-textual reasons for objecting to a do-over election that the principle one was they determined that it wouldn't be advantageous to their candidate.
TUCHMAN: Barack Obama?
BELL: Barack Obama.
TUCHMAN: Nobody knows what will happen with Michigan's delegates. Many voters throughout the state are confused and incredulous.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Michigan screwed up the whole thing.
TUCHMAN (on camera): So nearly eight years after Bush versus Gore the issue of votes not counting is in the headlines once again. But this time the Democrats don't need the Republicans as their tormentors. They've got themselves.
BLANCHARD: I'm disappointed in the party leaders in Washington, disappointed in the tactics, in this case, of the Obama advisers.
THOMAS: I'm sleeping well at night knowing we made the right decision, and luckily, you know, I guess it's good to be in the lead.
TUCHMAN: Gary Tuchman, CNN, Lansing, Michigan.
COOPER: Well, still to come tonight, Wal-Mart suing a brain- damaged employee to get money back it spent on her health care. We told you about the story Wednesday night. A lot of you have been weighing in on the "360" blog.
Today Wal-Mart responded. First, though, Erica Hill joins us with the "360 Bulletin" --Erica?
ERICA HILL, HEADLINE NEWS CORRESPONDENT: Anderson, a curfew in Baghdad is not helping to stop the violence. U.S. helicopters shot missiles in the Sadr City today after U.S. troops came under fire in the Baghdad neighborhood and insurgents continue to strike the Green Zone with rockets. One hit the Iraqi vice president's office today killing two guards.
In Virginia, 19-year-old Slade Woodson is in custody tonight, accused in shootings along Interstate 64. Two people were injured. A 60- year-old has also been charged but no name has been released.
And in California, forensic experts plan more soil testing at the ranch where convicted killer Charles Manson once lived. They're looking for any unmarked graves on the priority. Manson and his followers fled to the ranch after a 1969 killing spree in Los Angeles. He's now serving a life sentence -- Anderson.
COOPER: This is going to lead to some reporter to go and try do that Manson interview again. Every couple years someone tries to interview him, and it's just ridiculous and ludicrous and it's a total rating stunt and it's totally annoying.
HILL: Well, it won't be either of us.
COOPER: I guess not. Erica, stay right there. "What Were They Thinking" is next. A bizarre story, airport security versus nipple rings. Yeah. I know. I was -- well, yeah.
COOPER: It's bizarre. And it involves Gloria Allred, the attorney as well. Anyway --
HILL: Just stop right there.
COOPER: Here's tonight's "Beat 360." Let's move on from this. The hotel heiress who shall not be named sporting a unique look in Turkey. Here is the caption from our staff winner Gabe, isn't this how everyone wears underwear?
COOPER: The hotel heiress who shall not be named sporting a unique look in Turkey. Here is the caption from our staff winner Gabe: isn't this how everyone wears underwear?
HILL: I didn't know she knew how to wear underwear.
COOPER: Apparently she doesn't. So that's why the caption works.
HILL: I mean, at all.
COOPER: Well, yes. Think you can do better? Go to cnn.com/360. Send us your submission. We'll announce the winner at the end of the program tonight.
We'll be right back.
COOPER: Erica, time now for our segment, "What Were They Thinking?" Last month -- I'm not sure I can get through this one. Last month a woman flying out of Lubbock, Texas, claims she was forced by TSA screeners to remove her nipple piercings. We don't have a photo, thankfully. She says one officer used a plier to take off one of the piercings, yes.
HILL: Poor woman.
COOPER: She also says a group of TSA officers snickered while she was having the studs detached. It's a bizarre story. Yes, an internal government investigation is underway. So that's how the story stood.
Until enter high-profile attorney Gloria Allred and a bra-wearing mannequin at a press conference yesterday. Allred provided a reenactment of sorts of what she says happened to her client. Part of the demonstration required, yes, pliers, a bra and more nipple piercings.
HILL: Not disturbing at all by the way, to see it reenacted like that.
COOPER: Yes. That's not Gloria Allred. But I think she's -- yes, she's hovering nearby. By the way...
HILL: I think that's the woman who was stopped, isn't it?
COOPER: Yes. I would think so, yes. There are the pliers.
Anyway, we checked the guidelines under the TSA. And we learned that the passengers with body piercings are only required to undergo private pat-down inspections.
So take note, Wolf Blitzer, you don't have to worry.
HILL: Boy, is that a load off for the Wolfman, huh?
COOPER: Yes, I know, because Wolf was calling Lou, and Lou was calling Wolf. They were kibitzing about this back and forth, exactly what this meant when they were flying this weekend. But I think they're both covered.
Still ahead, an update on the breaking news we brought you at the top of the program. New White House plans to take action on the shaky economy.
And Wal-Mart suing a former employee. She's brain damaged. They want her to pay them.
Randi Kaye first reported this story Wednesday night; a lot of outrage about this. Tonight, Wal-Mart is finally talking. We'll have their response next.
COOPER: A new development on a story we brought you on Wednesday, one that continues to generate plenty of discussion and a lot of outrage. It's already received 1.8 million page views on cnn.com.
It's about a former Wal-Mart employee sued by the mega-chain after a traffic accident left her brain-damaged. Wal-Mart, the largest retailer in the world, wanted to recoup money used to cover the woman's health care expenses.
As you'd expect, the decision created a firestorm. Wal-Mart has heard the anger. Tonight the company has something to tell you. It may not be what you expect, though.
Once again, here's CNN's Randi Kaye.
RANDI KAYE, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Even after our first story, even after hundreds of thousands of you have reached out to help, Debbie Shank doesn't understand what's going on. In fact, she can't tell you what my name is minutes after meeting me. Debbie has no short-term memory.
In May of 2000, a semi truck plowed into her minivan on this Missouri highway. Debbie's brain took the brunt of it.
Today, she lives in a nursing home. Jim Shank works two jobs to help pay the bills. And his bank account may soon take another hit.
(on camera) Eight years ago when she started stocking shelves at this Wal-Mart near her home, Debbie signed up for the company's health and benefits plan. So she was covered, and her family says the bills were paid promptly.
What Debbie didn't notice, her husband says, is a tiny clause in the plan's paperwork that says Wal-Mart has the right to recoup medical expenses if the employee also collects damages in a lawsuit.
(voice-over) In 2002 the Shanks settled with the trucking company. After legal fees, $417,000 was put in a trust for Mrs. Shank's care. The family's lawyer says he told Wal-Mart about the settlement.
Then in 2005, Wal-Mart's health plan asked for its money back and sued the Shanks for about $470,000, money it had paid to cover Debbie's medical bills. The court ruled in Wal-Mart's favor.
(on camera) The fact is Wal-Mart isn't doing anything wrong here. It is their legal right to recoup this money.
JIM SHANK, HUSBAND: They are quite within their rights. But I just wonder if they need it that bad.
KAYE (voice-over): Since our story aired two days ago, viewer response has been swift and overwhelming. Some are trying to raise funds for the family. Others have started petitions against Wal-Mart, many vowing to never spend another cent there.
The company's net sales, third quarter of 2007, were $90 billion. So why go after the money? Right now, about $277,000 remains in the trust. The Shanks' lawyer argues Wal-Mart is only entitled to some of that.
Just today Wal-Mart released a statement in response to our story, saying in part, "This is a very sad case, and we understand that people will naturally have an emotional and sympathetic reaction. While the Shank case involves a tragic situation, the reality is that the health plan is required to protect its assets. Any money recovered is returned to the health plan, not to the business."
(on camera) Do you think Wal-Mart should make an exemption for your family?
SHANK: Who needs the money more -- a disabled lady in a wheelchair, or does Wal-Mart need $90 billion plus $200,000?
KAYE (voice-over): To help, last year Jim divorced Debbie so she could get more money from Medicaid. And just last week the family's final appeal was denied. The U.S. Supreme Court refused to hear Debbie's case. So they wait until Wal-Mart comes to collect.
COOPER: It's just a stunning story. This was a woman whose son died protecting our country in Iraq. Wal-Mart won the case, but at what cost?
Next on 360, we'll have some new details from Randi Kaye. We'll also talk to our legal expert, Jeffrey Toobin.
COOPER: Wal-Mart says it feels for a former employee severely injured following a traffic accident, but the company says it has the right to collect hundreds of thousands of dollars it paid to cover her medical expenses. Their right is clearly stated in the law.
Since the woman received a settlement related to the accident, she has to reimburse her employer the money. Wal-Mart says it has no other choice and has to treat all the employees the same. Wal-Mart also calls it a sad case, and that is certainly true.
But does a chain that made more than $300 billion in sales last year really have to do what it's doing? Aren't there other options?
I spoke with Randi Kaye and senior legal analyst Jeffrey Toobin.
COOPER: Jeffrey, let me read you part of Wal-Mart's statement. They said, quote, "These plans are funded by associate premiums and company contributions. Any money recovered is returned to the health plan, not to the business." Do you buy that? I mean, that Wal-Mart needs the money to make sure their other employees are covered? They're basically saying, look, they have to sue this woman.
JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Absolutely not. This -- Wal- Mart's position from the start has been that they are somehow legally obligated to sue under a law called Arisa (ph). That is not true.
They have the option of suing. It is clear. They won their case. So it's not that they have no legal basis for their position. They clearly do. But as a moral matter, they are -- or as a legal matter, they are not obligated to try to get the Shanks' money back.
COOPER: You would think, also, that they must have money that they contribute to charities or special cases. You'd think they could do something in this case.
Randi, when do the Shanks have to pay Wal-Mart back?
KAYE: Really any day now, Anderson. I spoke to the family's lawyer, and he said he's already received a call from Wal-Mart's attorneys, saying that they're sending down the paperwork.
And then he said it's really just a matter of days before this $200,000 or so is emptied out of Debbie Shank's account, which is supposed to pay for her care for the rest of her life. So what they're going to do from there, who knows?
COOPER: Yes, I mean, do they have a plan? I mean, how are they going to pay for her care?
KAYE: Well, right now, Jim Shank, her husband, is already working two jobs. There's really nothing more he can do than that. He's not going to be able to send their son to college. He's probably going to lose his car. He says his home is taken care of, but he's really not sure what he's going to do from this point on to care for Debbie.
COOPER: There's certainly a lot of interest on this story. I think on our blog, we've had more than a million page views. What are people saying, Randi?
KAYE: One point eight million page views so far, Anderson; hard to believe. People are so angry they're calling Wal-Mart's actions unconscionable. Some of them have sent out our story to everyone in their contacts list, they told me.
Even Facebook is involved. There's a petition that you can sign on Facebook and articles called "Help Debbie Shank Overcome Wal-Mart's Greed." There's actually, Anderson, a petition that you can sign on YouTube now, as well, to try and get Wal-Mart to forego this money and let this woman hold onto that cash.
TOOBIN: And you know, Anderson...
COOPER: This is a woman whose son has died in Iraq. I mean, what this woman has been through, it's one thing after another. It's simply -- it's just one of those things. It's just hard to believe -- Jeff.
TOOBIN: Well, you know, there are three other options for Wal-Mart speaking broader than the company. There is an employee emergency assistance program, which has not helped the Shanks. There is Wal- Mart Foundation, which has not helped the Shanks. And there is the Waltons' family foundation. The Waltons themselves have billions of dollars, also not helped the Shanks.
So it's not like this is the only option available to help them. But Wal-Mart, both the individuals, the company, the health care plan, all they've done is sue the Shanks.
COOPER: It's also just -- I mean, just seems narrow-minded. I mean, if they have this foundation, if the family has all this money, just to avoid the bad publicity it would seem to be in their interest to help out this family. I just don't -- don't get it.
KAYE: Absolutely. They could certainly have gotten creative --
(NOTE - THIS PORTION WAS REPEATED)
COOPER: Wal-Mart says it feels for a former employee severely injured following a traffic accident, but the company says it has the right to collect hundreds of thousands of dollars it paid to cover her medical expenses. Their right is clearly stated in the law.
Since the woman received a settlement related to the accident, she has to --
(END OF PORTION REPEATED)
TOOBIN: -- any company in America. Their executives stay two to a room when they travel on the road. They fight with their suppliers to keep prices low.
They always say, always low prices, but this is part of what always low prices means. This is the ultimate hardball company, and they're playing it with the poor Shanks.
COOPER: It's just -- it's unbelievable. Continue to follow it. Jeff Toobin, appreciate it. Randi Kaye, thanks.
COOPER: One of the things that's so horrible about this, this is a woman who has now no short term memory, so every time she hears about her son dying in Iraq, it's like hearing it for the first time. She goes through that reaction all over again.
COOPER: The northern Rockies gray wolf, nearly wiped out but making a comeback when we visited them at Yellowstone National Park for "Planet in Peril". They've been protected from hunting in Yellowstone ever since they were reintroduced there in the mid-1990s. And when we visited last July, they were also fully protected outside the park on the federal endangered species list. But starting today not anymore.
To look at what comes next, CNN's Dan Simon headed to what is now wolf country, but perhaps not for long. Take a look.
(BEGIN VIDEO TAPE)
DAN SIMON, CNN CORRESPONDENT: We're in Yellowstone National Park. The bison, elk and big horn sheep make for a memorable visit, but a bigger draw are the gray wolves, now thriving after 35 years on the endangered species list.
DOUG SMITH, YELLOWSTONE PARK BIOLOGIST: They're back here in the northern Rockies; they're back here in Yellowstone. That's something to celebrate, given their history of human hatred.
SIMON: The enthusiasm is far from universal.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I would have preferred they never came here.
SIMON: Wolves have had it rough. In the 1930s they were wiped out of Yellowstone and the western states.
BRUCE MALCOLM, RANCHER: We did wolf extermination with a vengeance.
SIMON: Doug Smith is a Yellowstone biologist and an expert on wolf behavior.
Where do they sleep in this climate?
SMITH: They'll just curl up in a ball, with their nose, tuck it in.
SIMON: Starting in 1995, Smith transplanted wolves from Canada into the park. They adapted so well and kept multiplying that the government says they're no longer endangered. Or are they?
(on camera) As long as the wolves stay here in Yellowstone they'll be safe. No hunting is allowed inside park grounds. The problem is oftentimes the wolves leave here in search of prey and that will make them prey. Getting them off the endangered species list means humans will once again be able to hunt and kill them.
(voice-over) Enemy number one? Ranchers. Bruce Malcolm is a Montana state representative and cattle rancher. He says he's lost nearly two dozen cows to the wolf.
MALCOLM: There's nothing about a wolf that's sacred. They don't need to be treated that way. They need to come down off the pedestal and fit in to the ecosystem like all the rest of the animals.
SIMON: The government estimates there are 1500 wolves across Montana, Idaho and Wyoming. But with the delisting the states are only required to maintain a total population of 300. Conservationists fear 1200 could be killed by hunters or ranchers.
SMITH: Instead of being within hailing (ph) distance of recovery and doing it right, we're going to go backwards and have to do the process all over again.
SIMON: Environmental groups are preparing a lawsuit to stop the delisting. But federal officials say the science is on their side.
ED BANGS, U.S. FISH AND WILDLIFE SERVICE: The wolf population is fully recovered. We have more wolves in more places than we ever predicted and we have had fewer problems than we predicted.
SMITH: No one has said living with wolves is easy. Living with wolves is a compromise.
SIMON: Still, it is quite a turn around from extermination to admiration, at least in some circles.
Dan Simon, CNN, in Yellowstone National Park.
(END VIDEO TAPE)
COOPER: It is amazing when you go to Yellowstone and actually see those gray wolves out in the wild like that.
For more on this story and other Planet in Peril reports, go to cnn.com/planetinperil. Look for the links to the blog there.
We'll be right back.
COOPER: Erica Hill joins us now with a "360 News and Business Bulletin" -- Erica.
HILL: Anderson, breaking news tonight. CNN has learned the White House will unveil on Monday a new plan to give the Federal Reserve broad authority to oversee financial market stability.
This sweeping proposal would expose Wall Street to greater scrutiny and also consolidate regulators. Officials say the plan was actually in the works well before the subprime crisis happened.
One of the men attacked by a tiger at the San Francisco Zoo arrested today for allegedly shoplifting two Wii controllers from a Target store, the video game console. This comes just hours after their attorney filed a claim seeking money for the Christmas Eve attack that claims that the zoo failed to provide a safe environment and defamed them by suggesting they provoked the attack.
And the gray wolf officially off the endangered species list, meaning hunters can shoot and kill those wolves once they step out of Yellowstone National Park. Dan Simon's going to take a closer look at just what this means for the gray wolf, coming up in our next hour as part of our "Planet in Peril" series, Anderson.
COOPER: All right. We look forward to that, Erica. Thanks.
Next, time for our "Beat 360" showdown. We all know how it works. We post a picture on the Web site. You try to come up with a better caption than our staff.
Tonight's picture is mystery U.S. heiress -- a.k.a. "She Who Must Not Be Named" -- trying on a veil as she poses for photographers during a photo call in Istanbul, Turkey. Because really, what else does this person do but pose for photographers?
Our staff winner is Gabe. His caption: "Isn't this how everyone wears underwear?"
I kind of liked it.
Tonight's viewer winner is Kelly. Her entry is, "For her next trick, 'she who will not be named' will vanish from the public scene."
Yes, I know. A standing ovation for that.
HILL: If only.
COOPER: Yes. Remember, you can check out the captions that didn't quite make the cut at cnn.com/"60. And, of course, feel free to play along next time.
Erica, stay right there. Two cats take on a bear. It is our end of the week "Shot of the Day," next on 360.
COOPER: Time now for "The Shot." Never underestimate -- it's been a long week. Never underestimate the power of cats. That's right.
In Florida, two little kittens managed to scare a massive bear up a tree.
HILL: Did they scare you, too?
COOPER: Apparently so. Yes, I'm flummoxed. Flabbergasted. The reportedly 200-pound bear -- there's the bear in the tree...
COOPER: Scurried high above a backyard in a subdivision. Well, I don't know how that drama can end. How can you possibly ever get a bear out of a tree?
HILL: I have an idea.
HILL: In fact, I believe it's one we may have seen once or twice. Have you ever seen bear hit trampoline? There he goes. That's right. It's an oldie but a goodie.
COOPER: I like it. And you look. Every time I think that bear has been injured, but we're told it didn't hurt the bear.
HILL: And that's the important outcome of that, yes. COOPER: Ouch.
HILL: I wonder if that bear got up the tree after it saw a cat.
COOPER: I don't know. But maybe -- you know, maybe the cats can get a video camera and get the bear out of the tree.
If you see some great video, tell us about it at cnn.com/360. You can go there to see all the most recent shots, other segments from the program, read the blog.
For international viewers, "CNN Today" is next. Here in America, Larry King is coming up.
Have a great weekend. Thanks for watching.
I'll see you on Monday night.
TO ORDER A VIDEO OF THIS TRANSCRIPT, PLEASE CALL 800-CNN-NEWS OR USE OUR SECURE ONLINE ORDER FORM LOCATED AT www.voxantshop.com