Return to Transcripts main page
Human Rights Activist Wants To Stay In China; Chen To Go To "Safe Environment"; FBI Suspects Active In "Occupy" Cause; High Stakes Hidden In Bridges; Doubts Over The U.S. Drawdown; Secret Service Prostitution Scandal; Bucs Sign Paralyzed Player Eric Legrand; Edwards' Ex-Aide's Wife Back On Stand; Zimmerman's Crude Comments On MySpace; Sanford Picks Interim Police Chief; Charges To Be Filed In Florida Hazing Case; Another Win For The Auto Industry; Chinese Activist Not Out of Danger; Employer has Jobs, No Candidates
Aired May 2, 2012 - 10:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
COSTELLO: Thank you, Jeff. So next hour of CNN NEWSROOM starts right now.
And good morning to you. I'm Carol Costello. Just ahead in the NEWSROOM, a Chinese human rights activist telling Hillary Clinton I want to kiss you. This morning we've got the new pictures of Chen Guangcheng in the hospital. And we're learning about China's chilly response towards the U.S. response.
We're also learning more about the man who shot and killed 17- year-old Trayvon Martin from his social media page. See what George Zimmerman posted about Mexicans on MySpace that could have an impact on his trial.
A New Jersey mother is facing charges this morning after her 6-year-old daughter suffered burns in a tanning bed. So exactly what regulations are in place to try to keep this from happening to other kids? We've got the answers for you. We've got the answers for you.
Plus, a spin on normal looking for work story you're used to hearing about these days. We're talking to an employer who has plenty of jobs open, but cannot find any qualified workers.
But we start with the latest out of China. After an emotional phone call with the Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, Chinese human rights activist Chen Guangcheng is in a Beijing hospital and China is not happy.
In fact, it's demanding an apology from the United States. We managed to get this photo of Chen a few hours ago. That means he was indeed holed up in the U.S. embassy. U.S. officials telling us Chen getting medical treatment, and he'll later we unite with his family to a safe environment.
Chen fled his home in April where he had been under house arrest for more than 18 months. He does say he wants to stay in China. CNN's Jill Dougherty has more on Chen and his emotional conversation with Hillary Clinton.
JILL DOUGHERTY, CNN FOREIGN AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT: Carol, there were some fascinating details coming out of this briefing with senior administration officials. They described how Mr. Chen had been injured. He hurt his foot, how he was in that embassy.
He wanted to stay here in China, and when he agreed to leave the embassy with his agreement, with the Chinese government, he wanted to talk to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.
When they got into the van, we're told, the senior officials, these diplomats, had left their phones in the embassy as they were required to. They had to search around to get a phone. They finally got one and the conversation began.
He thanked Secretary Clinton for the attention that she and the U.S. government have been paying to his case, and then in broken English we're told he said I want to kiss you.
So a lot of thankfulness for his situation, and if it is carried out the way it's supposed to be carried out, it could give this man a new life here in China -- Carol.
COSTELLO: Jill Dougherty reporting.
And today we're learning about the five Ohio men accused of blowing up a bridge. Several of the men described themselves as anarchists and all apparently had a beat with status quo.
The Cleveland plane dealer says they were part of the "Occupy Cleveland Movement." The local couple is dismissing them as a small fringe of the cause and cancelled yesterday's May Day events when word of the arrests got out.
We're also learning about just how catastrophic their attack could have been. A Homeland Security expert says bridges are a vital link for more than just transportation. Here's CNN's Brian Todd.
BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): They thought about all sorts of plots, including blowing up a cargo ship in the Cuyahoga River running through Cleveland. They surveyed the area, planned a Google map search then settled on their target.
The route 82 Brecksville North Field High-Level Bridge, a major artery connecting two interstates near Cleveland that's according to a criminal complaint accusing five young Americans of conspiring to blow up that bridge with C-4 explosives.
STEVEN DETTELBACH, U.S. ATTORNEY, NORTHERN DISTRICT OF OHIO: The defendants planted the explosives at the base of the bridge. The defendants armed the explosives. The defendants left and went to a remote site and they then sitting there entered the codes that they thought would blow up a bridge with innocent people traveling over it. TODD: But the men, who authorities say are self-proclaimed anarchists with nicknames like "Psycho" and "Scabby" were being duped. Federal officials said they had been tracked for months by an undercover FBI agent and informant. The explosives they were given, according to officials, were fake.
STEPHEN ANTHONY, FBI SPECIAL AGENT IN CHARGE: That no time during the course of the investigation was the public ever in danger.
TODD: But if they had been successful, they could have brought down a 150-foot high bridge that accommodates around 14,000 vehicles a day.
(on camera): Potential casualties and damage to the bridge in Cleveland were part of what could have happened in this plot, but one Homeland Security expert says American bridges have another important vulnerability to damage and destruction.
(voice-over): I scoped out major bridges in the Washington area with Randall Larsen of the Institute for Homeland Security.
(on camera): We found something under here, right, that's under a lot of bridges.
RANDALL LARSEN, INSTITUTE FOR HOMELAND SECURITY: Many bridges, Brian, have oil and gas pipelines. They have fiber-optic cables. That's how our financial system in America works. That's how we communicate, everything from internet to telephone run beneath bridges. You drop a span, you cut the city off.
TODD (voice-over): We're told by transportation officials in Ohio say there's one utility line on that bridge and at least one fiber-optic line in the area near it.
When I asked Larsen how officials can secure these bridges, he said the only way is better intelligence and law enforcement, and in this case, he says, that worked.
We could not get comment on the charges from attorneys for four of the defendants, but the lawyer for one of them, defendant Brandon Baxter, says he'll enter a not guilty plea. He says his client has suffered from mental impairments. Brian Todd, CNN, Washington.
COSTELLO: President Obama is in the air right now returning to the United States after his unannounced trip to Afghanistan. The president met with the Afghanistan president, Hamid Karzai and the two men signed an agreement to outline cooperation between the two countries once U.S. forces withdraw in 2014.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA: We're building an enduring partnership. The agreement we sign today sends a clear message to the Afghan people. As you stand up, you will not stand alone. It establishes the basis for our cooperation over the next decade, including shared commitments to combat terrorism and strengthen democratic institutions.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COSTELLO: In short, Mr. Obama will turn over security to the Afghan government in 2014.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
PRESIDENT OBAMA: We will not build permanent bases in this country, nor will we be patrolling its cities and mountains. That will be the job of the Afghan people.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COSTELLO: Not American troops. That means in 2014 most of the nation's men and women will come home after what will be 13 long years of war in Afghanistan.
I'm sure you remember October 7, 2001. The war began less than a month after the 9/11 attacks. By that December, about 2,500 U.S. troops were in Afghanistan.
Today there are about 90,000 U.S. troops in the country. President Obama says by the end of August, 23,000 troops will come home, and by 2014 that number will likely decline, although the U.S. will still have a presence in Afghanistan. It's unclear how many troops will remain.
Now the plans to draw down U.S. troops face many skeptics. They believe it expects too much too soon from the Afghan security forces. James "Spider" Marks is a retired army general who now serves as a CNN contributor. Welcome, General.
JAMES "SPIDER" MARKS, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Hi, Carol.
COSTELLO: Hi, thanks for being with us. Is this to your time frame simply too ambitious?
MARKS: Well, this has been in place for quite some time, Carol. We've always known from day one that we weren't going to be there forever. Sadly we didn't know on day one that we'd be there for 13 years.
So the 2014 timeline has been in place for some time. We're drawing down the 90,000 to an undetermined number of folks, but I think within the final numbers that remain it is more important to look at functions are going to be performed.
And clearly, there are two parallel missions, and I would say it's training the Afghan security forces to continue to make sure that that's going correctly.
And then the second mission is to target and go after Taliban as well as remnants of al Qaeda and their surrogates within Afghanistan. And the United States, with, you know in, partnership with NATO as well as our Afghan partners, will continue to do that.
COSTELLO: So supposedly in 2014 there will still be a U.S. presence there and you explained why. Do you know how many troops that might entail?
MARKS: No. Carol, frankly not at all. Again, it -- it will be what is necessary to continue to train and ensure that the Afghan security forces are meeting a standard that they can sustain.
We need to train, equip, advise and sustain the Afghan security forces as they go forward. They will certainly take the lead in terms of routine operations and requirements on the ground.
But the United States and NATO partners need to be there to ensure that that's taking place, and as I said we'll also go after bad guys as they -- as we develop intelligence.
And we can precisely do that, minimize collateral damage, but what's key to that, sorry, Carol, what's key to that is that our sustaining security agreement with Afghanistan must allow us to have a capture or kill mission going forward.
COSTELLO: OK. I want to turn the conversation to politics for just a moment because there are some who are complaining that President Obama went over to Afghanistan on the one-year anniversary of Osama Bin Laden's death and that this was purely political spectacle. As a general, president comes over, mingles with the troops, talks to them face to face. Do they consider that political?
MARKS: That's nothing but a good thing, Carol. The fact that the commander in chief spends time with his soldiers in harm's way, his service members in harm's way is nothing but a good thing.
In fact, as long as the president is there, as long as he continues to do that, I know he's flying home, that's a good thing.
Now, clearly it's not serendipitous that he signed the accord on the one-year anniversary of Osama Bin Laden's death, but that's good when the president spends time with his service members. That's great.
COSTELLO: General Marks, thanks for being with us this morning.
MARKS: OK, Carol, thank you.
COSTELLO: When the president returns home in just a couple of hours, he, as I said, could face a cool reception from some. Critics say his stealth visit to Afghanistan was a thinly veiled campaign stop in his re-election bid, but his likely opponent in that race is not piling on.
Presumptive Republican nominee Mitt Romney had this to say in a statement. Quote, "I am pleased that President Obama has returned to Afghanistan. Our troops and the American people deserve to hear from our president about what is at stake in this war. Success in Afghanistan is vital to our nation's security," end quote. Three of the 12 Secret Service agents involved in the Colombia prostitution scandal are refusing to take a lie detector test. We're told they were among the first who were dismissed from the agency when news of the scandal broke.
In an interesting twist, 120 Secret Service agents and their supervisors are taking ethics training workshops this morning at John Hopkins University. The school has partnered with the agency extensively in the past.
Still to come on NEWSROOM, George Zimmerman's MySpace page from 2005 has surfaced, and you've got to see some of the shocking comments he made about Mexicans.
Plus, it's still a scary time out there for people looking for work, but some business owners say they have the help wanted sign out, but people are not knocking on their doors. A NEWSROOM special report coming your way.
COSTELLO: Checking our top stories at just about 15 minutes past the hour. Human rights activist Chen Guangcheng is at a Beijing hospital and will reunite with his family today.
The blind lawyer and Chinese dissident escaped house arrest last week and had taken refuge in the U.S. embassy. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton says she's pleased the United States was able to help out, but China is not so pleased. It's demanding the U.S. apologize for interfering with Chinese affairs.
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers have signed defensive tackle Eric Legrand, but he won't play for them. Legrand played for Rutgers, but was paralyzed in 2010 in a game against Army.
He was told he wouldn't walk again and live on a ventilator, but five weeks after the injury, Legrand was able to resume breathing on his own and was later able to stand upright. The Bucks want to recognize his character, spirit and perseverance.
This morning the prosecution builds its case against John Edwards as the wife of his former close aide heads back to the stand. She testified while she videotaped the home and possession of the senator's mistress, Rielle Hunter in 2008 saying she needed proof of the affair. Today Edwards' former chief of staff is expected to testify.
George Zimmerman's MySpace page from 2005 was full of crude comments specifically against Mexicans. "The Miami Herald" uncovered the old profile and Zimmerman's attorney does confirm it's legitimate.
The page is called only to be king again. It shows Zimmerman had a diverse group of friends, but in some comments he brags about run ins with the law, and in one post he wrote, I don't miss driving around scared to hit Mexicans walking on the side of the street, soft wannabe thugs messing with people's cars.
In the meantime, Sanford, Florida, has picked an interim police chief. Richard Myers on the left comes from Colorado Springs and starts in Sanford on Friday. Former Sanford Police Chief Bill Lee on the right is on administrative leave after being criticized for the way the department handled the Trayvon Martin investigation.
Today, a Florida state attorney is expected to announce that criminal charges will be filed in the suspected hazing death of this man. You'll see him here, Robert Champion. Champion, a drum major at Florida A&M University died in November. His death was ruled a homicide.
George Howell joins me now. So what can we expect? How many people will be charged?
GEORGE HOWELL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: That is the magic question of this hour. We know there were at least 30 people on board that bus when Robert Champion was beaten to death.
Again, beaten so badly according to medical examiner's office, beaten to the chest, the arms and the back, that he went into shock and died from that beating, but, you know, the questions, Carol, today and there are many questions.
Number one, how many people will be charged obviously, but also what will the range of those charges be? We know that hazing in the state of Florida, it's a felony. Could this manslaughter?
Could it be a murder case? You know, that's really what we'll find out at this 2:00 p.m. news conference. To be quite frank, this is something that the family has been waiting for, for five and a half months now.
This happened back on November 19th of last year. They have been waiting very patiently for this, but listen to this clip. We can talk about it on the other side back in April where they explain how they wanted answers.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
PAM CHAMPION, ROBERT CHAMPION'S MOTHER: I think we've been patient enough, and we need to hear something kind of answer because there's no real mystery. We know who were there. We have to get rid of the hazing, and the only way to do that is to send a strong message that it won't be tolerated. So far just look. Has a strong message been sent, you know? Will it have to happen again?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COSTELLO: That's just hard -- I mean, it's taken so long for them to, you know, come to this point as far as arresting people, right?
COSTELLO: I mean, have things changed at the school? Have these -- has this fight been worth it for those parents?
HOWELL: Well, you saw the university a few weeks and a few months after this happened taking steps to, first of all, make sure that students know that hazing is not permitted, not allowed on the campus.
Certainly, the fact that this case has gotten so much attention and that these criminal charges are coming, clearly that has caught the eye of many students, maybe those who think that hazing is OK.
But the one thing this family wanted to do, wanted to make sure that students see what happened here and think twice about hazing.
COSTELLO: George Howell, thanks so much.
Coming up on NEWSROOM, it was the bird strike seen around the world, and now this video from a passenger has him in trouble with the government. We'll tell you why.
Plus, when Betty White is for you, who could be against you? The "Golden Girl" getting political. Our "Political Buzz" panel weighs in.
COSTELLO: Just about 22 minutes past the hour. Welcome back. New car sales numbers are in, and they are good. Alison Kosik is at the New York Stock Exchange. Wow, tell us about it, Alison.
ALISON KOSIK, CNN BUSINESS CORRESPONDENT: This continues the winning streak for automakers with April being a really strong month for these automakers. If you look at sales industry wide, they were up 9 percent.
And analysts say, guess what? It's not a blip or you can say it's because of the weather. It's actually because we're seeing stable growth in these car sales. Let me run down some of these automakers and let you know how they did.
Chrysler had the best April in four years. Toyota says its sales were up 12 percent when you compare them to last year. Now Ford and GM say their results slipped, but they are still optimistic so that's a good sign.
GM increased its forecast for car sales and Ford's fuel- efficient vehicles, they are doing pretty well and we're seeing all this strength being reflected in manufacturing overall.
In fact, one of the strongest parts of the economy right now so what you're seeing, Carol, are consumers and all that pent-up demand for cars coming back. Want to trade in the old and buy new.
COSTELLO: So is this going to translate into jobs?
KOSIK: And that's a good question. We are seeing that, at least with Chrysler, Toyota and GM, all saying earlier this year that they are hiring. Now, GM says, yes, we'll have to see about more job creation as the economy gets better.
But the big wild card for the U.S. auto industry that you'll have to keep your eye on is Europe's debt crisis. Yes, it's still lingering there. Those weak sales, you can see them already cutting into Ford's first-quarter earnings.
So really the question is how far will that go, but for now let's go ahead and focus on the good news that automakers are stronger in April.
COSTELLO: I do like focusing on the good news. It's so unusual these days. Alison Kosik, thank you.
COSTELLO: Now is your chance to talk back on one of the big stories of the day. The question for you this morning, what does the resignation of a gay spokesman say about the Romney campaign?
Rick Renaud was the master of the message for the Bush administration at the United Nations and all the hot issues, like Iraq, Afghanistan, the Middle East.
His expertise landed him -- landed him a job as foreign policy spokesman for the Romney campaign. Yet within two weeks he's already out. Why?
Well, you see, before he was hired Grenel had a history of posting scathing tweets, some ridiculing the appearance of prominent women like Hillary Clinton and Callista Gingrich.
Some might wonder why Grenel was hired in the first place since Republicans are actively courting women voters. But arguably Grenel's resignation had nothing to do with the snarky tweets.
But the fact that he is openly gay something that has angered some like Brian Fischer of the American Family Association. Here's what Fischer said on CNN's NEWSROOM with Kyra Phillips.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BRIAN FISCHER, AMERICAN FAMILY ASSOCIATION: The homosexual agenda represents the single greatest threat to religious liberty and freedom of association in America today.
When Governor Romney picked somebody who is an activist homosexual and puts him in a prominent position, he's sending a shout- out, it seems to me, to the homosexual lobby.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COSTELLO: In a statement, Grenel cited the hyper partisan discussion of personal issues for his resignation. Republican pundit David Frum said Romney missed an opportunity here to, quote, "declare his independence from others on the right." He apparently did not.
So the talk back question for you today, what does the resignation of a gay spokesman say about the Romney campaign? Facebook.com/carolcnn. Facebook.com/carolcnn. I'll read your comments later this hour.
Coming up next, we take you through the buzz saw. Critics calling the president's surprise trip to Afghanistan nothing, but a campaign stop.
And unemployed workers aren't the only ones struggling right now. Some employers say they can't fill positions because they can't find qualified people. A CNN special report.
COSTELLO: Just about 30 minutes past the hour. Checking our top stories now. Human rights activist Chen Guangcheng is at a Beijing hospital and will reunite with his family there.
The blind lawyer and Chinese dissident escaped house arrest last week and took refuge in the U.S. embassy. Hillary Clinton, the secretary of state says she was pleased the United States was able to help him out, but China is not so happy. It's demanding the U.S. apologize for interfering with Chinese affairs.
More explosive testimony expected today in the trial of William Balfour accused of murdering three of Jennifer Hudson's family members. A neighbor says he saw Balfour spying on the family two months before Hudson's mother, brother and nephew were killed, but the defense claims the deaths were connected to Hudson's brother's drug- dealing.
Time to check in on the presidential trail. Presumptive Republican nominee Mitt Romney talking about the economy right now in Chantilly, Virginia. He's visiting a company that specializes in cutting edge technology for trade shows and exhibits. Later, Mr. Romney visits Republican National Committee headquarters in Washington.
"Political Buzz" is your rapid fire look at the best political topics of the day, three questions, 30 seconds on the clock. Playing with us today is CNN contributor, Maria Cardona on the left and Georgetown Professor Chris Metzler on the right and comedian Dean Obeidallah, the Sultan of Snark. He's here to say smart things and make us laugh.
DEAN OBEIDALLAH, FOUNDER, ARAB-AMERICAN COMEDY FESTIVAL: Good morning.
COSTELLO: Good morning.
First question for you, a foreign policy spokesman for the Romney campaign who happens to be openly gay resigned apparently under pressure from some social conservatives. What does this say about the Romney campaign, Maria? MARIA CARDONA, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Well, it clearly says, Carol, that there are certainly no profiles in courage there and that they would in no way go out of their way to stand up for somebody who in their own words they believed was the right person for the job.
Now look, if he was going to resign, they should have used the excuse of his misogynistic tweets which I think were bad enough and clearly not helping the Romney campaign with the women's vote but to go back to the issue of his having to do it because they had to kowtow to the ultra right-wing conservative, social conservatives on the issue of gay rights, for gay and lesbian rights. I think it does not bode well for the Romney campaign.
CHRIS METZLER, PROFESSOR, GEORGETOWN UNIVERSITY: Well, you know, I think in this particular case what it says is that the spokesperson can't become the story. And I think in this case clearly the Romney camp wanted him to stay on. They made it very clear that they wanted him to do that, but he was becoming the story.
When there's so much of a distraction and the spokesperson is the story, I think they had no choice but to accept his resignation and not engage in these distractions. So we're not going to move on and talk about jobs and the economy.
OBEIDALLAH: I think Mitt Romney needs to get a backbone. I've seen single-celled amoebas with more of a spine that this guy. Remember the Rush Limbaugh incident, he attacked Sandra Fluke, he call her a prostitute. Mitt Romney's response is I wouldn't use those words and not criticizing him.
Now the American Family Association, a group on (inaudible) hate list, a group like neo-Nazi and the Klan comes out against the leader and Romney gives in. How is he going to be our President and stand up against enemies against us? It really -- I'm not being partisan, it really concerns me. Mitt Romney should have stood up for this man's rights as an American.
COSTELLO: Ok on to the second question. Let's talk about President Obama's surprise trip to Afghanistan. Here's Stephen Colbert's reaction.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
STEVEN COLBERT, "THE COLBERT REPORT": The general election hasn't even officially kicked off, but today Barack Obama used taxpayer dollars to campaign in a key swing state, Afghanistan. We've been fighting there for so long I believe they now get three electoral votes.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COSTELLO: At least one Republican, Senator Jim Inhofe, blasted the President saying the trip was basically a campaign stop, although others like John McCain and Mitt Romney were fine with it.
So guys, your turn now. Was the trip a political move? Chris.
METZLER: Well, first of all, only three, that's all they get? But I think, yes, was it political, of course it's political. But a couple of things here. I think what this demonstrates is that elections have consequences and so as the commander-in-chief, I am very happy that the President has taken the opportunity to spend some time with the troops in Afghanistan. I also think it's particularly bad for him to criticize the commander-in-chief when he's on foreign soil. I think that's particularly bad for him.
So is it political? Of course it's political, but hey, they are the party in power. That's what you got.
CARDONA: No, it's not political, Carol, because look, if President Obama was not running for re-election, he still would have made this trip, so to me in my mind that makes it not political.
Does it look political? Are people going to look through it -- through a political prism? Of course they are, and I'm glad to see that Senator Inhofe is not disappointing in terms of the GOP continuing with their latest version of the faux anger chronicles and -- and criticizing it as it being political because that's what's going to happen.
The opposition is going to look at it that way. We're in an election year, but that's the power of incumbency. He's got to do this as commander-in-chief.
OBEIDALLAH: Carol, you know I like Maria, but I'm going to have to be honest. I think this looks political to everyone but it's an election year. This is what they do.
CARDONA: I said it looked political.
OBEIDALLAH: All right. I thought that you was and I think you were saying was more like his incumbency, he's the incumbent president and look Mitt Romney visited a fire house in D.C. in New York with Rudy Giuliani.
I think make it more political. Obama should go to Switzerland and visit Romney's bank accounts there or go to the Caymans and visit his money there. That makes it more political. I think that's the ultimate political.
But you know after "Mission Accomplished" with President Bush all bets are off. Do whatever you want when you're President that's how it goes.
COSTELLO: Ok, under the third question, your "Buzzer Beater" 20 seconds each. Betty White, now she's a golden girl of California politics. Listen to this ad running in Los Angeles.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Betty, if you want a friend in Washington, do you know what you do?
BETTY WHITE, ACTRESS: Get a dog, that's what I've been told.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: And what else?
WHITE: Re-elect Congressman Howard Berman, the Valley leader who fights for the humane treatment for all animals.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: That is a great reason to like Howard but he's also unbelievably effective. Thanks to Howard we have hundreds more police officers patrolling Valley streets.
WHITE: And he has very nice blue eyes.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Betty.
REP. HOWARD BERMAN, CALIFORNIA: I'm Howard Berman and my friend and I approve this message.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COSTELLO: Hey treat a dog right, win Betty White.
President Obama and Mitt Romney both have their dog issues. So which one needs Betty White more, Maria?
CARDONA: Let's see. In this dog-eat-dog political season I actually think it's Romney that needs him more, because, look, what the President talked about in his -- in his book happened when he was a very young boy in Indonesia. It was cultural.
What Romney did, he did when he was an adult, when and he put the family dog on top of the car, so I think Romney is the one who needs Betty White more here.
METZLER: Look, this conversation is really going to the dogs.
COSTELLO: Enough of the dog puns.
METZLER: Enough. And so I think it's probably the President that needs Betty at this point more, but really I think I need Betty more. I'm trying to become a point guard in the NBA and I think probably what would happen is Betty can probably give me an endorsement. Hey, Betty.
COSTELLO: She's a powerful woman, that Betty White.
METZLER: I know.
CARDONA: No question.
OBEIDALLAH: I don't -- you know, Betty White is great, but you know who they need? They need Justin Bieber's endorsement, they need the Kardashians. These are people that move people. Betty White, ok excuse a little, I like Betty White, a great comedian, Bieber, Kardashian. Where's Lindsay Lohan in all of this you know and who let the dogs out? I won't even -- Obama should do a parody of "Who strapped the dog to the roof."
Sorry. It was just --
COSTELLO: We'll never stop talking about this, never.
COSTELLO: Thanks to all of you for playing today. We appreciate it.
METZLER: Thanks Carol.
CARDONA: Thanks Carol.
OBEIDALLAH: Thanks Carol.
COSTELLO: Leave it to Vice President Joe Biden to turn a routine photo-op into something more. This morning he hosted a Cinco De Mayo event in Washington. Yes, I know, it's a few days early and it's also a celebration of Mexico, but you might not have known that from Mr. Biden's toast.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JOE BIDEN, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: It's bad luck in the Irish tradition to toast with water, but I believe that it's good luck but -- so I'm not going to do it. I can hear my grandfather saying "Joey, no".
Let me tell you my toast was going to be without the water. To friendship, to Mexico and to America. Happy Cinco de Mayo, everyone. Welcome.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COSTELLO: Well, as you could tell, his joke was taken in good cheer, even if there was none in the glass. The gathering includes Mexico's ambassador to the United States, Hispanic media and Mexican- American members of the administration.
A bit of breaking news to tell you about. We have an update on today's top story. Controversial Chinese activist Chen Guangcheng left the U.S. embassy today but a friend told CNN he is not out of danger and was threatened by the Chinese government. We're going to take you live to Beijing.
COSTELLO: This news just in to CNN. As you can see, Air Force One landing at Andrews Air Force Base, the President arriving safely back home after his trip to Afghanistan where he signed that historic deal with the Afghan president Hamid Karzai. The president will disembark and climb aboard Marine One, the helicopter, which will take him presumably to the White House. President back on U.S. soil safe and sound.
Also breaking news just in to CNN. Controversial Chinese activist Chen Guangcheng left the American embassy under duress today; that contradicts reports that he departed of his own volition. Friends and family are now telling us Chinese authorities threatened Chen's family if he did not agree to leave the embassy. He was in the U.S. embassy, right?
Stan grant is working his sources from Beijing -- not an easy thing to do. So, Stan, what have you learned?
STAN GRANT, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes. This story continues to take more twists and turns, you're right. A very different story is emerging from those who are close to Chen Guangcheng. We've heard from a very close friend of his who has been tweeting a conversation she says she had with Chen which paints a very, very different story to the one we're hearing from U.S. officials and also the Chinese officials.
Now according to the U.S. and China, a deal had been struck where Chen would leave the embassy. He would be a free man. He would not continue to suffer any harassment, and he'd be reunited with his family.
Now according to this family friend, Chen did not want to leave the embassy. He was being threatened by Chinese officials. They said if he continued to stay there, then there would be violent retribution taken out against his wife and his children.
Now, the friend quotes and says that the wife was told that men with sticks will be waiting for them back in their village if he did not leave and that cameras had been installed inside their -- their home back in their village as well to document what they would do to them if he did not leave.
Now, this is a very, very different story, as I say, and what's contingent on this deal is China holding up its side of the bargain. If you go through the various points of this -- of this agreement, Carol, one of the significant things here is that China would prosecute or at least investigate those who had been holding Chen under house arrest. They would also ensure his safety going forward, and the U.S. has said that it will continue to monitor this deal to ensure that it wasn't broken. That appears to be cracking right now as we speak -- Carol.
COSTELLO: So I'm a little confuses because U.S. officials brought Chen to that Beijing hospital. Chen talked with the Secretary of State Hillary Clinton on the phone and had this emotional conversation. At the end of the conversation he said, you know, I could kiss you. So what are we to make of that?
GRANT: Again, we're not hearing from Chen himself. This is the critical thing here. Now, according to -- to the friend she's even disputing whether Chen actually said that to Secretary Clinton.
Chen Guangcheng is the person we need to hear from. The person who says that she is in contact with him is this friend. We've been on the phone to her, and she is painting a very, very different side of the story. But you're right. Those questions immediately came to us as well. Why would the U.S. take him out of there if he thought he was under threat? Why would they publicize this deal and why would they say that they are going to ensure his safety? All of this still up in the air, but a very different side of the story emerging from a friend of Chen's -- Carol.
COSTELLO: Stan Grant, I know you'll remain on the story. Stand Grant, live from Beijing this morning.
Still to come on NEWSROOM, job fairs are so crowded so why can't employers get the workers they need? We've got a special report for you.
COSTELLO: Our correspondents work fast. More on that breaking news out of Beijing, China, for you. Chen Guangcheng, the Chinese dissident holed up in the U.S. embassy, American officials brought him to the hospital and cut some sort of deal with the Chinese government. But one of Chen's friends tweeted that Chen was already being threatened by Chinese officials. His family was being threatened and he didn't really want to leave the U.S. embassy.
Well, our Jill Dougherty who is in Beijing just interviewed the assistant secretary whose name is Kurt Campbell, assistant secretary of state, I should make that clear, and he said, quote, "I was there. Chen made the decision to leave the embassy after he knew his family was safe and at the hospital waiting for him. And after twice being asked by Ambassador Locke, the American ambassador Locke if he was ready to go, Chen said 'Let's go'. We were all there as a witness to his decision and he hugged and thanked us all."
So the Americans are sticking by their story. They're disputing this friend who was tweeting from Beijing about what's happening to Chen. We're going to follow this story and have much more throughout the day on CNN.
Turning our attention to economic news now. There's a simple formula to an economic recovery, getting good-paying job to those who need them, but some employers say they are hiring, but they simply can't find workers. So all this week we're looking at those businesses that have positions to fill but can't find people to fill them. We'll be going across the country starting today in the northeast in the New Hyde Park area of New York. New York State has an 8.5 percent jobless rate in the latest labor figures. That's slightly higher than the national average.
And today we're profiling a company called Day and Nite All Service. The company installs and services commercial refrigeration and air conditioning. Despite the economic downturn, the company has expanded in the last five years. 140 employees are on staff, but more are needed. The owner Matt Sher joins us now. Good morning, Matt.
MATT SHER, OWNER, DAY AND NITE ALL SERVICE: Good morning, Carol.
COSTELLO: So you must be frustrated.
SHER: It's quite a challenge.
COSTELLO: Why is it a challenge?
SHER: So there's -- so I think it starts going back a good decade plus, and this funding that's been cut in school systems used to see shop programs that no longer exist. Parents, there's a certain romanticized notion that it would be nice for every child to have a college education, and -- and, you know, some of the (inaudible) programs have been cut.
And as a result there's -- there's just a lack of talent, young talent that's coming into the industry and the trades the plumbing and refrigeration, HVA, commercial cooking equipment; we certainly have a challenge finding young talent that's interested in working in refrigeration.
COSTELLO: Well, let's talk about that. I don't know if you've read the book. It's called "Shop Class as Sole Craft" (ph). It was a bestselling book. It was written by an Ivy League graduate and he talked about the very thing you're talking about right now that this love of fixing things with your hands, of working with your hands is gone in this country. And how sad it is.
And you're saying it's not only sad but we need these kinds of people with the love of working with their hands in this country.
SHER: Absolutely, Carol. There's so much that's been off-shored in terms of manufacturing, and there's -- you know, some of the most incredible products that come out of -- that are made in this country that are -- that are then attempted to be replicated elsewhere. But in terms of everyday trades and having the proper level of talent on hand, you know, it's something that goes back again.
It starts in the home and, you know, we're trying to and some of the trade organizations letting people know in the school systems that there are other alternatives. It's not for everybody, but there's certainly alternatives and a great wage to be earned and a career to be had.
COSTELLO: Ok. So how many employees do you need and where might they apply?
SHER: So, if -- you can go online to wearetheone.com, day- night.com, either/or and be able look up career opportunities, but we through each of our four divisions, Day & Nite, All-Service, Popular Plumbing, also there's cooking repairs, Day & Nite refrigeration, Day & Nite air conditioning. Each of the divisions at this time we could certainly use at least two qualified, three or four-year veterans.
And then in terms of our training program, you know, we're always interviewing and recruiting and looking for the right people.
COSTELLO: Well, we hope we'll help you out here. Thank you so much, Matt Sher, for joining us this morning.
SHER: Thank you again.
COSTELLO: Tomorrow we'll head on the other side of the country to San Francisco. We're going to talk to a business owner who is also having a hard time finding qualified employees and what he's doing about it.
And be sure to check out our Web site money.com for more information.
COSTELLO: Now to a mother and a tanning booth. In New Jersey, cops say she took her young daughter to a tanning booth, and the little girl suffered some serious burns. Her name is Patricia Crensell. She's due in court today. She faces child endangerment charges.
She actually is denying what happened. She says her daughter got burned while she was playing outside. It had nothing to do with that. That's painful to look at.
Medical correspondent Elizabeth Cohen is here. New jersey law bans kids under the age of 14 from going to a tanning bed.
ELIZABETH COHEN, CNN SENIOR MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: For a reason, right? For a reason. A tanning bed is 15 times stronger than just sitting outside, and kids are more vulnerable than you or me to UV rays. And so a kid who gets a sunburn of any kind more than doubles the chance they're going to get melanoma later. So why in the world would you want to take your kid into a tanning bed where it's 15 times stronger?
COSTELLO: Actually why would you as an adult want to go to a tanning bed?
COHEN: Yes, I mean that's true. I mean the American Academy of Dermatologists says that we should just ban them all together for commercial purposes so absolutely. When you look at it indoor tanning not only can it cause -- is it associated with skin cancer but it's associated with eye damage. It can weaken the immune system. And if that is not enough, it can cause premature aging of the skin. And who wants that.
And if you go to CNN.com/empowered patient -- wow, that's quite a tan.
COSTELLO: Oh my -- was that --
COHEN: Is that a tan -- I know. I'm so confused about what that is. But we have more about the dangers of indoor tanning for children and teenagers.
COSTELLO: I wish we had more time with you but we had so much breaking news today. We had to squeeze you in though because I do think that the popularity of tanning beds is coming back. You hear about kids going to spring break -- college kids -- go to tanning beds before so they can look healthy.
COHEN: Right. Well, if they are going on spring break, why do they need to be doing that? Right? I mean -- I don't get it.
COSTELLO: Well, Elizabeth. You know the reason why. You did it.
COHEN: I get. So they can look better before. I did the whole baby oil and tin foil thing but that was '70s before we knew. Ok. So now there's no reason for it. There's just no reason for this.
COSTELLO: I admit it I did the tanning booth thing but not anymore. "CNN Newsroom with Kyra Phillips continues after a quick break.