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Get Flu Shots or Get Fired; President Obama Speaks at University of New Orleans

Aired October 15, 2009 - 14:00   ET


KYRA PHILLIPS, CNN ANCHOR: Hard times lately for minorities in New York City. Within three weeks, two brutal attacks, two apparently hateful attacks leaving two men in the hospital.

September 23, Brooklyn, Mario Vara (ph) is riding his bike home from a food pantry. Minutes from his front door, three men descend on him, their message loud and clear.

More now from Stacey Sager of our affiliate WABC.


STACEY SAGER, WABC-TV CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): A tearful Anna Galardo (ph) tells us she just hopes her husband, Mario Vara, can pull through.

ANA GALLARDO, VICTIM'S WIFE (through translator): They really beat him up without cause. And I as his wife felt helpless when he came home.

SAGER: She says it was back on September 23 that Vara (ph) left a food pantry here at his church in Lower Manhattan, carrying his groceries. He biked across the Williamsburg Bridge and into Bushwick, where police say he was allegedly struck in the head, then thrown off of his bike as three black males yelled anti-Mexican slurs. Two or three men told him, "Moharo (ph), go back. "Moharo (ph), go home. Moharo (ph), leave America."

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE (voice-over): After Vero (ph) stumbled home and collapsed, his wife took him here to Woodhull Hospital, where doctors sent him home with Tylenol. But his conditions worsened, and days later, an MRI here at Beth Israel Hospital in Manhattan showed three blood clots and traumatic injury in his brain.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE (through translator): My husband's condition is bad. They say he could come out of it quickly or it could take years.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He doesn't recognize his own daughter. He doesn't recognize his family.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Advocates for his family say this biased attack occurred only a few blocks away from another one last December in which an Ecuadorian man was killed. In that case, there were racial slurs as well, and community leaders fear it stems from anger that has gone unchecked, anger over immigration status, even over some immigrants' hard work.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They call us sometimes ATM, mobile machines. Because we sometimes carry money and cash, they are assaulting us.


KYRA PHILLIPS, CNN ANCHOR: That was WABC's Stacey Stager (ph) reporting.

Now to Queens, October 9th.

Jack Price, a gay man, walking home from a deli. As you can see in this security video, he was set upon and attacked, anti-gay slurs shouted at him. Two men have been arrested in that attack. At least one charged with a hate crime.

This statement came from New York Police Commissioner Ray Kelly. "It's a despicable crime. The individual was attacked specifically for his orientation, and we will not tolerate that in this city."

The attorney general tells CNN that hate crimes are expanding, and a hate crime bill should be expanded, too, so justice can catch up.


ERIC HOLDER, ATTORNEY GENERAL: If one looks at the expansion, the number of hate crimes that we have seen, I testified for the hate crimes legislation for the first time 11 years ago, when I was the deputy attorney general in the Clinton administration.

And since that time, there have been about 12,000 hate crimes committed, about 8,000 or so of those are related to sexual orientation. This bill would expand the definition of a hate crime to include sexual orientation, gender, disability, all places where we need to have the federal ability to help our state and local partners prosecute these kinds of crimes.


PHILLIPS: Pending legislation in Congress will let Holder's Justice Department go after those who discriminate against gays, lesbians, bisexuals and transgender people.

Of course just a week or so ago, Holder was in Chicago promising federal help to deal with deadly teen violence in that city. Now an emotional plea from Florida from the mother of a teen who was doused with alcohol and set on fire by other teenagers.

Fifteen-year-old Michael Brewer viciously attacked, allegedly for telling on a boy who tried to his steal his dad's bike. Five boys aged 13 to 15 faced felony charges now, including one boy now charged with attempted murder. Michael Brewer is in intensive care in a Miami hospital.

Some health news now, and it might leave those of you who haven't broken the law just a little miffed.

Sick prisoners could get the swine flu vaccine before it's available to law-abiding citizens in Massachusetts. There's fear that the H1N1 virus could spread quickly behind bars, so 21,000 vaccine doses will go to prison health care workers and high-risk inmates the second week in November. The general public can get vaccinated at the end of the month. Health prison inmates are last in line.

Flu shots are not mandatory for the public, but should they be required for health care workers? A New York nurse doesn't think so, and so now she's suing.

CNN's Susan Candiotti reports.


SUSAN CANDIOTTI, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): At a hospital in Upstate New York, nurse Sue Field was told get flu shots or else.

SUE FIELD, REGISTERED NURSE: If we did not comply with this mandate of receiving the H1N1 vaccine and the seasonal flu vaccine that we would be terminated from our employment.

CANDIOTTI: New York is the only state forcing hospital health care workers to get vaccinated, even private doctors who make hospital rounds.

DR. RICHARD DAINES, NEW YORK STATE HEALTH COMMISSIONER: When patients go to a hospital, they ought to have that -- that expectation that the hospital and the workers have done everything they can to make it safe for them.

CANDIOTTI: Nurse Field is suing, arguing New York is overreaching. She's not against vaccines in general, but says hospital nurses already take extraordinary precautions to guard against viruses. And still others say they aren't convinced the vaccine has been fully tested. And then there's this argument.

FIELD: I have an issue with the government mandating me to get these vaccines and telling me that if I don't comply then I don't have a job.

CANDIOTTI: New York State Nurses Association is backing her up, saying "The State Emergency Regulation is unwarranted in the absence of a declared emergency." Her attorney points to the Centers for Disease Control and President Obama. Neither is calling for mandatory hospital vaccinations.

PATRICIA FINN, ATTORNEY: If President Obama recommends a voluntary swine flu injection, I really don't see where the commissioner of health has the authority to mandate this particular group. It's arbitrary and capricious, we believe.

CANDIOTTI: But New York's health boss says his state may be leading the way to a national policy. DAINES: We do things (ph) that a state or local level, prove that they're safe and effective and practical, and then they're adopted nationally.

CANDIOTTI: Nurse Field says, not so fast.

FIELD: Seasonal flu and H1N1 this year, what will the government then have the right to say they want to inject us with next year?

CANDIOTTI (on camera): Others, including New York's Civil Liberties Union, are also suing over the mandatory shots, arguing they violate a constitutional right of health care workers to control their own bodies.

Susan Candiotti, CNN, New York.


PHILLIPS: What will health care reform look like by the time it hits the congressional floor? Top Democrats meeting behind closed doors today to try to hash that out. This comes after the Senate finance Committee approved an overhaul plan on Tuesday, but it's getting ripped apart by both parties. Republican say it will boost your taxes and your premiums. Democrats say it needs a public option to keep health care affordable for the middle class.

And it could be weeks before we have a new war strategy. President Obama and his national security team still trying to figure out the best way forward in Afghanistan. They huddled again yesterday for the fifth time in recent weeks.

The president is weighing calls for more American troops in Afghanistan. The top U.S. commander there says up to 40,000 more are needed to fight an increasingly brazen Taliban.

Want proof of that? Look at Pakistan. It just can't get a break from the violence today. Another string of deadly attacks. Militants took aim at two police training centers and a federal agency, killing at least 47 people. The victims, police officers and civilians. Eleven militants also died.

The Taliban say they carried out those attacks.

Convicted, executed, buried and now cleared. Better late than never? Sure. But surely too little too late.


PHILLIPS: Live pictures out of NOLA right now. We're going to hear the president's remarks any minute from a town hall meeting there at the University of New Orleans.

It's his first trip to that city, the Crescent City, as president. We'll have that speech for you live as soon as he begins.

New year, new raise. Or, actually, new year, no raise for Social Security next year. More than 15 million Americans collect those checks, and this is the first year without a raise since 1975. But those bank accounts could be getting some padding, thanks to President Obama. He's calling for seniors to get an extra $250 payment.

The worst three months of all time -- that's what an online marketer that tracks home foreclosure numbers is actually saying about the third quarter. RealtyTrac says more than 937,000 homeowners got foreclosure notices. That means that one of every 136 homes in the U.S. is in foreclosure. Nevada is the hardest-hit state, with one of every two dozen homes in foreclosure.

After 75 days in an Iranian prison, today could mark a big step toward freedom for three American hikers. We're following up on the trio now. They strayed into Iran about two months ago, and since then their moms have collected more than 2,000 signatures for their release. Today, they plan to present that petion to Iran's U.N. mission.

An American dad jailed in Japan in a custody fight. Well, he's a free man for now.

Christopher Savoie was released today after about two weeks behind bars. He's accused of going to Japan to try to snatch his kids back from his ex-wife, who abducted them from the U.S. A U.S. court had given him custody, but Japanese prosecutors are still investigating.

Again, we're going to hear President Obama's remarks any minute now from this town hall meeting at the University of New Orleans. When he starts, we will go there live.

You can see Mayor Ray Nagin there, coming into the room. Also, you see a number of -- actually, I think there's one -- yes, I saw Ray Nagin. I think that's Mitch in there, too. Now I lost him in the pics.

Anyway, as soon as the president comes out and starts speaking, we will take that live. The first time that he's been there as president, actually.

A lot of people frustrated with the president, wanting more from him in rebuilding that city, particularly in the Ninth Ward. Others says that he has done a lot and shown his support.

So, hopefully we'll get a lot of good Q&A from folks there in that town hall once he begins.

There's Bobby Jindal there, the governor of Louisiana, as well.


PHILLIPS: Let's see what the president has to say in post- Katrina. First time he's been back there as president. He's at the University of New Orleans.


BARACK H. OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: ... who are with us here today. So, I just want to make sure that I announce them all.

First of all, I want to thank Chancellor Tim Ryan...


... and all of the staff here at the University of New Orleans for their outstanding work.


I want to thank the governor of the great state of Louisiana, Bobby Jindal, who's here.



No, no, Bobby's doing a good job.


Hey, hey, hold on a second.

Bobby, if it makes -- hold on. Bobby, first of all, if it makes you feel any better, I get that all the time.


And the second point is that, you know, even though we have our differences politically, one thing I will say is, is that this person's working hard on behalf of the state. And you got to give people credit for working hard.


He's a hard-working man.

We've got our senior senator from the great state of Louisiana, Mary Landrieu.


We've got our lieutenant governor -- I don't know if he's related -- his name is Mitch Landrieu.


We've got an outstanding member of Congress, Charlie Melancon.


And we've got our newest member of the Louisiana delegation, Joe Cao from this district, with his beautiful daughter. Joe, what's your daughter's name?

(UNKNOWN): Betsy.


(UNKNOWN): Betsy? She is adorable.


OBAMA: Hey, Sophia. How you doing?


Yes, those are some cute kids.


They look like mom.


That's mom right there. There you go. Well, she's -- she's gorgeous, like your daughters.

I'm big on daughters.


We've got the mayor of New Orleans, Ray Nagin's in the house.


This is a feisty crowd here.


House Speaker Pro-tem Karen Carter Peterson is here.


Senate President Joel Chaisson is here.


And we've got just some wonderful members of my Cabinet who have been down here nonstop trying to make sure the federal government is a good partner on the recovery process. Secretary Janet Napolitano of the Department of Human...


... Homeland Security.

Secretary Shaun Donovan of HUD.


Secretary Arne Duncan of education.

Arne was supposed to be sitting right here. I don't know where he is. He was right behind me.

Chairwoman of the White House Council on Environmental Quality -- which is very important in terms of restoring wetlands -- Nancy Sutley is right here.


OBAMA: And finally, just I want to say thank you to Reverend Phoebe Roaf for the invocation, Maggie Calmes for leading the pledge, and Shamarr Keith Allen on the horn playing the national anthem.


All right. Good to be back in the Crescent City.


OBAMA: I love you back.


It's always an inspiration to spend time with men and women who have reminded the rest of America what it means to persevere in the face of tragedy, to rebuild in the face of ruin. Katrina may have swept through the city but it did not destroy this community, and that is because of you, the people of New Orleans.


It has now been just over four years since that terrible storm struck your shores. And the days after it did, this nation and all the world bore witness to the fact that the damage from Katrina was not caused just by a disaster of nature, but also by a breakdown of government, that...


... that government wasn't adequately prepared and we didn't appropriately respond.

I saw the consequences of this failure during my visit here as a senator and then as a candidate for president. So when I took office as president, one of the first things I did was tell my Cabinet and senior staff that our Gulf Coast rebuilding efforts and our disaster response efforts were going to be top priorities for this White House. I wanted to get it right and I wanted us to be ready.

And so far I'm pleased to report that we have made good progress. We got a long way to go, but we've made progress.


Over the last nine months, we have sent more Cabinet members to this region than almost anywhere in the country, not just to make appearances but to listen and to learn and help you move forward.

As we've continued this recovery effort, I've made it clear that we're not going to tolerate the usual turf wars between agencies, so we've prioritized coordination between all levels of government.

We put in place innovative review and dispute-resolution programs, to get projects moving forward quickly. We freed up over $1.5 billion in recovery and rebuilding assistance that had been tangled up in red tape for years.

And this assistance is allowing us to move forward together with projects that were stalled across the Gulf Coast, projects rebuilding and improving schools, investing in public health and safety, repairing broken roads and bridges and buildings.

And this effort has been dramatically amplified by the Recovery Act, which has put thousands of Gulf Coast residents back to work.


On the housing front, we're tackling the corruption and inefficiency that plagued the New Orleans Housing Authority for years.


We've also been able to dramatically cut the number of people who are still in emergency housing. We're moving forward -- we're moving families toward self-sufficiency by helping homeowners rebuild and helping renters find affordable options.

On the education front, I just visited Martin Luther King Charter School.


The first school to reopen in the Ninth Ward, and an inspiration for this city.

We've also worked to be a better partner and free up funding that has allowed places like this university right here, the University of New Orleans...

(APPLAUSE) ... and the Southern University of New Orleans to rebuild.


We're looking for ways to be more flexible, so New Orleans can build the school system it deserves. And because a lot of your public schools opened themselves up to new ideas and innovative reforms, we're actually seeing an improvement in overall achievement that is making the city a model for reform nationwide.

That is good news, thanks to the hard work being done right here in New Orleans.


When it comes to health care, we've invested in supporting health centers and in recruiting more primary care providers and nurses and other medical professionals to fill the shortage left by Katrina.

We were remain committed to building a new V.A. medical center in downtown New Orleans, so we can better serve and care for our veterans.


OBAMA: And to help fight crime, we're helping to hire cops and rebuild jails. So that's what we're doing in terms of rebuilding and recovery, but we're also focusing on preparedness and response so that history does not repeat itself.

We are committed to making sure that a disaster like Katrina does not happen again.


And that means in Washington, a focus on competence and accountability. And I'm proud that my FEMA director, Craig Fugate, has 25 years of experience in disaster management in Florida, a state that's known its share of hurricanes. And I think Republicans and Democrats will testify to his skill and experience.


We have -- we have put together a group led by Sean Donovan and Janet Napolitano to study disaster recovery across the country to figure out how to do it better. Across the country, we're improving coordination among different agencies. We're modernizing our emergency communications. We're helping families plan for crisis.

And here on the Gulf Coast, we're working to make sure this region is protected in the event of a 100-year storm. We've already seen 220 miles worth of levees and flood walls repaired, and we are working to strengthen the wetlands and barrier islands that are the first line of defense for the Gulf Coast.


This isn't just critical to this region's physical protection, it's critical to our environment, it's critical to our economy. That's why we're establishing an interagency working group that will be responsible for coordinating our restoration efforts across the Gulf and all levels of government.

Now, even with all the action we've taken, all the progress we've made, we know how much work is left to be done. Whether you're driving through New Orleans, Biloxi or the southern part of Louisiana, it's clear how far we have to go before we can call this recovery a real success.

There are sewers and roads still to repair. There are houses and hospitals still vacant.

There are schools and neighborhoods still waiting to thrive once more.

So, I promise you this. Whether it's me coming down here or my Cabinet or other members of my administration, we will not forget about New Orleans. We are going to keep on working.


We are not going to forget about the Gulf Coast.


Together we will rebuild this region and we will rebuild it stronger than before. It is going to be stronger than before.


I know that, for a lot of you, the questions and concerns you have aren't limited to the Recovery Act and the efforts that are taking place here on the Gulf. You're also wondering about the recovery effort that's taking place throughout America.

Because an economic storm hit about nine months ago, 10 months ago, caused this recession that is as bad as anything we've seen since the Great Depression.

And obviously, it hasn't left behind the death and destruction that Katrina and Rita left behind. But it's caused incredible pain and hardship for communities all across this country, communities that have seen too many jobs disappear, too many businesses close, too many middle-class families who are just barely making it.

And these families are the backbone of America. They're the ones who built this country and made it great -- you -- and keep this country going each and every day. And so you deserve leaders in Washington who are willing to work as hard as you work, who are willing to fight for your future. And that's why our goal is not just to rebound from this recession; it's to build an America that works for everybody, where everyone who's looking for work can find a job...


... not just a temporary job, but a permanent job that lasts from year to year, season to season.


We want an economy where our stock market's not only rising again, but our businesses are hiring again and people's incomes are going up again.


We're not going to rest until we get there.

Now, the Recovery Act we passed earlier this year has helped stop the bleeding. Everybody agrees on that. It's put tax cuts in the pockets of working families and small businesses. It extended unemployment insurance and health insurance to people who had been laid off.

It's saved or created hundreds of thousands of jobs in the private sector and made sure that teachers weren't being laid off and police officers weren't being laid off in states that were hemorrhaging because of lost tax revenue.

But the Recovery Act's just the start.

If we want a recovery that lasts, if we want an economy that really grows again, we've got to rebuild stronger than before, just like you're doing here in New Orleans.

We need to come together and meet the challenges that were with us before this recession hit. Schools that weren't closing, before the recession. That means building a clean energy economy that can lead to millions of new jobs and new industries.


That means building an education system that equips every citizen with the skills and training they need to compete with any worker in the world.

That means building a health care system that finally offers security to those who have insurance and affordable options to those who don't.


And let me say we're going to get it done. We're going to get it done.

Too many Americans -- too many Americans have waited too long for this to happen. We are going to pass health care reform by the end of this year. With the help of Mary Landrieu, with the help of Charlie Melancon, maybe with the help of Joe Cao, we're going to get health care done this year.


Now, just in case any of you were wondering, I never thought any of this was going to be easy.


You know, I listen to sometimes these reporters on the news and, "Well, why haven't you solved world hunger yet?"


Why -- why hasn't everybody done it? It's been nine months. Why?


I never said it was going to be easy.

What did I say during the campaign? I said change is hard.


OBAMA: And big change is harder.


OBAMA: And after the last nine months, you know I -- I wasn't kidding.


I wasn't kidding about it being hard, but you notice I wasn't kidding -- I don't quit. We get this stuff done. We keep on going until we get it done.


I don't quit.


You know, let me tell you, those folks who are trying to stand in the way of progress, they're -- they're all -- let me tell you: I'm just getting started.

(APPLAUSE) I don't quit. I'm not tired, I'm just getting started.


We're just getting started.


OBAMA: I don't quit.


I'm not tired; I'm just getting started.


I'm just getting started.


AUDIENCE: Yes, we can! Yes, we can! Yes, we can! Yes, we can! Yes, we can! Yes, we can!

OBAMA: See, I'm getting all -- you're getting me fired up.


No, but I -- I think it is important for those folks to understand, I'm -- I'm just ready to go. I am -- we're just going to keep on going.


And the reason is because there are too many folks out there who are having a tough time to get tired.


The easiest thing in the world would be to just say, OK, well, I don't want any controversy. Let me take the path of the least resistance. But that means that the same folks who were struggling before we got elected are going to keep on struggling.

People, if they had high premiums on their health care before, they're going to have even higher premiums after. That's not why -- that's not why I applied for the job.

The challenges we face, both here on the Gulf Coast and throughout America -- they're big; they're complex challenges. They don't lend themselves to easy answers or quick fixes. Meeting them requires diligence and perseverance and patience.

It also requires more than just government programs and policies; it requires a renewed spirit of cooperation and commitment among our citizens, a renewed sense of responsibility to ourselves and to one another, which is why it's important, whether you're dealing with a Republican or a Democrat, that we are maintaining civility, that we are listening to each other...


... that we are willing to find areas of common ground and cooperation.


OBAMA: It's the same spirit that took hold of this city and this region in the days after Katrina, the spirit that's sustained you to this day.

You didn't get tired. As hard as it was, you're still out there. Still working hard. Still rebuilding. Still committed to your city.

I've talked a lot today about what steps we've taken at the federal level to help the Gulf Coast recover and rebuild, but the true story of this -- is this community's unbending resilience. That doesn't start in Washington; it starts right here...


... in the reborn neighborhoods of the New Orleans. It begins with the men and women who waded in the deep water or climbed onto rooftops and risked their own lives to save people they'd never met before.

It begins with the doctors and nurses who stayed behind to care for the sick and the injured, without equipment, without electricity, like our nation's surgeon general, Dr. Regina Benjamin...


... mortgaged her house, maxed out on her credit cards, so she could reopen her clinic and help care for victims of the storm.

All the volunteer firefighters from this city who recently traveled to Iowa to help another community recover from the devastation of a tornado. They went because they still remember when New York City firefighters, who'd been through 9/11, came down to New Orleans to help folks out here after Katrina.


The story of this city's resilience begins with all the men and women who refused to give up on their homes, who stayed to clean up and rebuild not just their own homes, or their own yards, or their own lives, but their neighbors too.

Here at the University of New Orleans, and in other colleges and universities in this city, this year's graduating class will be the first class that chose to apply to a New Orleans school after Katrina.


Think about that. They knew what had happened here. They knew how much work was still left to be done. But they chose to come anyway. They wanted to be here.

Of all the signs of progress I've mentioned today, that's the most powerful, the idea that there's still people coming to this city, especially young people, who are committed to its future, who are ready and willing to withstand what storms may come, eager to rebuild something better in place of what was.

That's the kind of commitment and determination we need at this moment, not just here in New Orleans, but all across America. And if we can harness that spirit, I have no doubt that we will succeed in meeting our greatest challenges.

And I am grateful to all of you, because I know that you are here because you believe in the possibilities of remaking America to become what it can be.


Thank you very much, everybody. Appreciate you. Thank you.

Now here's -- hold on a second.


OBAMA: First of all, I'm going -- I'm going to get a sip of water.


OBAMA: Excuse me?


OBAMA: Well, it's nice to see you.


All right. Everybody can sit back down. We're going to take some questions.

Now, the -- here's what we're going to do, is we're going to just -- whoever has a question, raise their hand. I'm not going to be able to get to every single person. I -- I'm going to go girl, boy, girl, boy, so you all don't...


... so nobody gets mad at me.

And if there are people with microphones in the audience, so, when I call on you, if you can wait until you get the microphone and introduce yourself so that we know who you are, all right?

I'll -- I'll start with that gentleman in the -- right there. Reverend, good to see you. You look good today.

QUESTION: Thank you, sir.

OBAMA: You bet.

QUESTION: I'm Reverend Smith from Rayville, Louisiana. And, Mr. President, my question is that we have a 30 percent dropout rate in the United States.

And in my community -- what we feel like in our community -- we don't knock private schools; we don't knock other schools, but in our community, we took our dropout rate from 13 percent to .8 percent. And we have a -- we have a 97 percent attendance rate.


OBAMA: That's excellent.

QUESTION: We don't have any gangs in our schools, and our -- and our graduation rate went up from a 64 percent this year to a 73.5 percent.


And that's a concern to me, in the United States, that we are losing so many young men, not only Afro-American men but all men.

And my question to you is that -- I know that my secretary of state, and I support you and him -- we should not look at just different schools, but we should look at all of our children and all of our schools and target that, you know, because no one school does not have all problems; we have problems.

OBAMA: Well, look, the -- there's a reason why I went to visit Martin Luther King Charter School, because, as I said before, a good news story about New Orleans -- let's face it; the schools weren't working for the children of New Orleans before the storm.


And -- and what has happened is that this community has actually used the crisis as an opportunity to start rebuilding and try to experiment with new ways of learning.

One of the things that we did in the Recovery Act, that got very little attention at the time, but I think is one of the most important things we did, is we said, you know, we're going to help schools on construction; we're going to put money into the state so that, you know, the governor doesn't have to lay off or, you know, the school -- local school districts don't have as big of a problem in terms of their budgets.

But what we also did was we set up something called Race to the Top. And what Race to the Top said is we're going to set aside $5 billion that states can compete for. But here's the deal: In order to compete for it, you've got to make sure that you're showing us how are you reducing the dropout rate and improving performance in low- performing schools?

How are you improving teacher quality and really emphasizing teachers, because that's the most important thing in a school is teachers. And are we giving them the support and the -- and the training that they need?

How are you keeping effective data, so that we know what's going on in these schools and people -- kids aren't falling through the cracks?

So, there are a whole series of things that we are initiating to try and be a good partner with state and local school districts to raise our expectations, but also give them the tools.

I mean, one of the problems with No Child Left Behind was that it had a bunch of tests and had, I think legitimately, high expectations, but it didn't always follow through with the tools that schools needed in order to actually achieve these goals that had been set.

So, we want to provide those resources.

Now, Reverend, I think you'll -- you'll agree with me when I say that I can work hard, states can work hard, the city can work hard, all these -- every government official can work hard to try to improve our schools, but if our parents don't insist on excellence from their children, we won't succeed.

So that's why, you know, when I visited the school today, I had -- beautiful kids. I mean, they were just charming and smart. And they're sitting there and introducing themselves and describing all their projects. And they were very proud of their school.

You could tell that the adults had invested in making sure that they understood they were important, they were special, but we also had high expectations of them. They were sitting still. They were "Yes, sir," "Yes, ma'am." Just that home training makes a big difference.

Now, not -- not -- not every child -- not every child is going to get the support they need at home. Let's face it. But all of us in one way or another in our communities can be supportive of our children, helpful ...

(INTERRUPTED BY LIVE EVENT) PHILLIPS: All right, we're going to step away from the president for a moment here. Some pretty unbelievable pictures coming to us live from KUSA, and we have this on delay, and for very good reason. A six-year-old boy, we are being told, is actually inside what is being called an experimental aircraft. As you can see, it's just floating along -- within the sky here.

This is Larimer County, Colorado. As you can see, the aircraft somewhat resembles a hot air balloon. Pretty hard to believe that a six-year-old boy is inside of this. But this is basically what we're getting from officials in Larimer County right now, that this boy, this six-year-old boy managed to climb into an access door of this experimental aircraft.

No word on how he managed to get the thing airborne. But he worked his way inside that contraption there. And now, authorities are scrambling and trying to figure out how the heck to rescue him. The aircraft is described by sheriff's officials there in Colorado, as you can see as domed shaped, but it's about 20 foot -- 20 feet high, five feet wide there on the bottom, covered with foil.

The Federal Aviation Administration, the FAA, we're told -- and we are going to black for good reason here. There we go -- it's coming in and out, because Nine News out of Colorado is actually tracking this live for us. They're following it and giving updates. And I don't know if it's possible, guys, if KUSA has broken in live and they're giving any kind of narration. Let me know, maybe we can cut to that.

But the sheriff's office says the boy was last seen, if you know this area well, just south of Evans near County Road 46 and Highway 85. If you have an idea for that area. I'm not familiar with it. But we're just continuing to get information in about the location as the KUSA -- OK, helicopter is following this live -- give me that name again? Greg? Got it.

Craig Kennedy, you're on the phone with me, I understand you know hot air balloons pretty well. Are you tracking this with us live?

CRAIG KENNEDY, HOT AIR BALLOON EXPERT (via telephone): I just got a call from you folks telling me what was going on. And I got to tell you, I'm horrified at the prospects. Please give me a quick update. Do we have a six-year-old child alone in a balloon? The pilot has been dumped out?

PHILLIPS: Apparently, Craig, the information that we're getting is he -- this experimental aircraft was at home. It's a large helium balloon that was attached to their home on Fossil Ridge Road in Fort Collins, if you're familiar with that area. And according to the family and various officials, including law enforcement, the six-year- old boy actually got into the aircraft when nobody was watching and detached the rope that was holding it in place.

So, that's all we know at this point. So, I guess what I want to know from you as we are watching this live via KUSA, is how much longer does this helium balloon have to be airborne? Because as we have been watching it live, we can see that it is getting smaller on one side of the balloon. And we keep cutting in and out because we're on a delay, and we of course don't want to watch anything -- God Forbid disastrous, Craig happen here.

KENNEDY: Sure. You're asking for a great deal of speculation without me being able to see anything that's going on. But if you're talking about a helium balloon that was able to lift out of a backyard with a child on board...

PHILLIPS: Yes, exactly.

KENNEDY: ... and you're saying that that balloon somehow has enough lift to carry the child. In a best-case scenario, the balloon would eventually slowly lose its lift, gently bringing the child back down to ground.

I will tell you that my familiarity with a somewhat similar situation -- I believe it was in the late '80s or early '90s -- was in the Colorado Springs area, and it involved an 11-year-old boy who was actually mentally challenged. He was out for a hot air balloon flight with an adult who on landing, the adult pilot was bounced out of the wicker basket, leaving the 11-year-old boy alone in flight.

In that case, it ended spectacularly because there was a radio on board, and the little boy was able to radio down to the chase crew and essentially be taught how to fly by a crew chief by the name of David Hollenbach (ph) from Colorado Springs. And it was one of those things that was, you know, gut-wrenching, of course, but it ended -- it ended right.

PHILLIPS: OK. That's good news. that's the best-case scenario. So, what you're telling me, and I realize you don't know a lot about what's going on here, and neither do we. We just know that this is an experimental aircraft, but it's basically a helium balloon, a large helium balloon that has some kind of basket attached underneath. And it looks like it's all enclosed, Craig.

And so, let's say this six-year-old -- there's no type of communication system, he doesn't know how to use the communication system. How do you pilot something like this? You're saying that eventually the helium will -- eventually the balloon will lose the helium, and it will come down to the ground, hopefully safely. And in a safe spot.

But how do you pilot something like this? Is it possible that a 6-year-old could have watched mom or dad and be able to figure it out in some way?

KENNEDY: I would be very afraid that the answer would be no to that. How a helium balloon is typically operated is by letting out ballasts. A pilot would carry aboard sand or water and allow an amount of that to be released from the balloon, making the balloon go higher.

Conversely, the pilot would then open a valve or a vent in the helium balloon portion itself, letting some of the lifting gas or the helium escape, bringing the balloon back down toward the ground. In this case, I don't know enough about the aircraft, but all I can hope and pray for is that this balloon comes back down gently in an open area.

PHILLIPS: And apparently, this has the potential to rise to 10,000 feet. So, put that in perspective...

KENNEDY: Well, you tell me right now. How high does this balloon appear to be, according to the photographs or pictures that you're seeing?

PHILLIPS: They're saying about 7,000 feet right now.

KENNEDY: OK, the question is, is it a warm day outside? Is there plenty of sun outside? If there are clouds in the way, it would keep the sun from warming that helium gas inside the balloon, further causing the balloon to rise further. If it's -- if there's no more sunlight, then there's no reason to believe that the balloon should continue to rise with the weight of that child on board. And in theory, that gas would start to leave the balloon at some point and come back down toward the ground. And hopefully it would do so gently.

PHILLIPS: Well, Craig, let's bring in Chad Myers. He's monitoring the weather conditions. Can you comment on that, Chad?

CHAD MYERS, AMS METEOROLOGST: It's 66 degrees at the surface, Kyra, but it is 32 at 3,000 feet. That's 3,000 feet above the surface. You have to remember this is near the mile-high city. So, you're already starting at a base of 5,000 feet.

Now, is this balloon at 7,000, which is in relative to the 5,000? So, only 2,000 feet above the sea level or above the ground, or is it really 7,000 feet above the ground, we don't know that. If it litereally is 7,000 feet above the ground, the air temperature there would be 7 degrees Fahrenheit, so obviously, well below freezing and almost to zero.

At that altitude, the winds are coming from the northwest at 30 miles an hour. So, if we take -- and we kind of fly you into this area. This balloon is flying away from the mountains. That's good news, it's going toward flatter land, back out toward Lyman (ph) and so on. But the wind out of the northwest will keep this thing from going, I would say, at least 30 miles an hour. That would be a very rough landing at this point in time. Now, the wind will die down after sunset if this balloon does stay in flight that long, Kyra.

PHILLIPS: Is there any way, Chad or Craig, to figure out how much time this balloon has? I mean, by taking a look at its size, the capability of how much helium is in there? I mean, there's some mathematics to do here, a little science and math?

MYERS: We don't know how heavy the child is, either.

KENNEDY: And based on what you're saying, if the outside air temperature at 3,000 feet above the ground is that much cooler, that would keep that lifting gas from expanding, making the balloon climb much higher. So, that would be good news as well. And I'm very happy to hear that the winds are carrying out toward the eastern plains of Colorado.

And let's assume that that balloon were to fly through the day and stay at a relatively low altitude based on the child's weight aboard and based on no further heating of the helium. Then, typically afternoon winds, as it gets colder, as the sun begins to go down, it could bring that child down relatively softly and into calmer winds closer to sunset. The wind typically will go down the closer we get to sunset.

PHILLIPS: Chad, Craig, stay with me on the phone. Kathy Davis from the Larimer County Sheriff Department with a statement.

Kathy, what can you tell us? We're trying to piece together all the details of how this six-year-old got into this experimental aircraft, this hot air balloon of sorts and is now floating high above in the skies.

KATHY DAVIS, LARIMER COUNTY SHERIFF'S DEPT. (via telephone): Our office received a call this morning, and our emergency services in patrol responded to a south Ft. Collins address on the report of a homemade flying saucer built by an adult male that came loose from its tether and started flying in a easterly direction.

Apparently, a six-year-old boy had climbed in the access door and is in the device at this point. We have contacted the FAA, and we're on an Air Force base and a balloon company and we're trying to determine the best course of action. We do have a visual on it and it's over Wells County, Colorado, at this point.

PHILLIPS: Kathy, what is the best course of action? What can you do? I mean, do you just keep eyes on it and try to have vehicles -- emergency vehicles at a spot where it looks like it's getting lower and might finally come down?

DAVIS: We're just going to have to respond as best we can. This is a first, and we'll do what we need to do.

PHILLIPS: Now, did the six-year-old boy just wander in into this and undo the rope and took off? Or were his parents around? Do you know the details of how he got in there alone and airborne?

DAVIS: I do not know the details, I'm sorry.

PHILLIPS: So, the parents aren't giving any information about that?

DAVIS: I not have that information at this time.

PHILLIPS: Who called 911?

DAVIS: I'm sorry, I don't know that either.

PHILLIPS: OK. How did you find out about this? DAVIS: A call was made into our dispatch center.

PHILLIPS: Was it a 911 call?

DAVIS: I'm sorry, I don't have that information, either.

PHILLIPS: OK. So, right now, what you can tell us is that you are tracking it and trying to determine what to do. Can you tell me who all is involved in what will hopefully be a safe rescue here? Is it fire, police, air? Can you tell me all the agencies involved?

DAVIS: We have contacted Warren Air Force base. We have several area news agencies with helicopters who have volunteered to help. We have contacted an air balloon company. We have contacted everybody we can, and we're in the process now of trying to figure out what to do.

PHILLIPS: OK. Has the Air Force done anything? Have they dispatched any aircraft? Are they monitoring it through radars or -- how has the Air Force gotten involved?

DAVIS: We contacted Warren Air Force base to see if they had ideas and could help us. I'm not in the dispatch center right now, so I don't know any status on that at this moment.

PHILLIPS: So, the family is describing it as a homemade flying saucer?

DAVIS: Correct.

PHILLIPS: But from what you can tell, is this basically a hot air balloon completely covered with silver lining?

DAVIS: I'm sorry, I don't know.

PHILLIPS: OK. All right, Kathy Davis with Larimer County Sheriff's Department, appreciate the statement, the information you're bringing to us.

OK, Chad, you heard what she had to say. Craig, you also heard. It's a first.

Folks, right now, if you are just tuning in, you're actually looking at live pictures via our affiliate KUSA of what apparently the family has described as a homemade flying saucer that was there on the grounds in Fort Collins. But what it looks like is a homemade hot air balloon. And apparently their six-year-old son, not quite sure if he did this on his own or if he was with his parents, got inside that hot air balloon and was able to take off on his own. He is in that hot air balloon by himself.

Chad Myers has been following the weather conditions...

MYERS: Kyra?

PHILLIPS: Yes. Go ahead, Chad.

MYERS: Do you know that it's a hot air balloon and not a helium Mylar balloon? Do we know that?

PHILLIPS: You know, that's a good -- you know what? You bring up a very good point, because it says according to News Nine, the affiliate out there, they're saying it's helium. They're saying it's a large helium balloon that was attached to the family's home.

So, that's a good point. Craig maybe you can funnel out the differences between hot air balloon and a helium balloon for us. Craig, are you still with us?

KENNEDY: Yes, can you hear me?

PHILLIPS: Yes. I can hear you now.

KENNEDY: I am taking a look right now at a still photograph on Nine And it appears to be clearly a saucer-shaped Mylar- coated helium balloon of some variety.

This is very much unlike a hot air balloon in its shape and its size and in its function. A hot air balloon is going to be an open cell, which is going to be heated with propane gas and would make the balloon rise or fall depending on how much heat is applied. This particular aircraft looks like it is a closed cell of helium inside this Mylar balloon. It's not unlike a party balloon, that it appears to me that you would pick up for a birthday party, that it would be made of Mylar.

Obviously, I can't really see a great deal of detail on this aircraft. But I would certainly hope that the Mylar coating would keep it from taking on too much heat and continuing to climb very high. And that the cooler temperatures at 3,000 feet, if that's what I'm hearing correctly, would keep that balloon from going up very high, and perhaps as the sun goes away, as the sun begins to fall for the day, that the balloon will lose its lift and will come back down to the ground gently and hopefully in calmer winds.

PHILLIPS: All right. So, obviously I am not an expert here, Craig, on hot air balloons, nor Mylar helium balloons. I mean, you think of Mylar balloons with helium, you think of birthday parties. You don't think of some massive balloon taking your six-year-old airborne.

Is one safer than the other? I mean, is this kid in a better situation in a big Mylar balloon with helium versus an hot air balloon in an open basket?

KENNEDY: I can't say that I could determine which one would be safer under these circumstances. You know, frankly, having a six- year-old free-flying in an aircraft that's seems to be uncontrolled scares me to pieces. I can only hope for the best.