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ANDERSON COOPER 360 DEGREES

Homicide in Hollenbeck; California's Spending Spree; Will Democrats Pass Health Care Reform?; American Missionary Released in Haiti

Aired March 8, 2010 - 22:00   ET

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


ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: Good evening from Los Angeles, where our focus tonight is on life and death, not glitz and glamour, in this case, a drive-by shooting caught on tape, but the killer never captured, people scared silent. A gangbanger gets away with murder.

What makes it worse, the killing was caught on tape and witnessed by several people. Not one of them has spoken to police. This code of silence on the streets is endangering us all. And, tonight, we will show you the results, homicide in Hollenbeck.

Also tonight, President Obama and health care -- he appears fired up, hammering insurance companies. But are his fellow Democrats ready to go along? You're going to hear from a former insurance industry insider about how far insurance companies are themselves willing to go to stop reform, and you will hear from a defender of the industry as well. We don't take sides on 360. We just want the truth.

And, later, we all know California is going broke, so why are some in the government going on a spending spree? We have investigated, and found a state too poor to pay teachers and cops, but a state that is buying cars, furniture, even flat-screen TVs with taxpayer money. We're "Keeping Them Honest" tonight.

First up: "Homicide in Hollenbeck," a return after five years, this time, a drive-by shooting caught on tape, but no one came forward. It happened in a working-class neighborhood in East L.A. where most people are just trying to live their lives.

But what makes that so difficult in this community and in so many communities around America is gang violence and the code of silence that surrounds it, that enables it. People who speak out against the gangs get labeled a snitch. And that message is hammered home in hip- hop records, T-shirts, DVDs.

It's a code of silence which, as you're about to see, lets people get away with murder.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

COOPER (voice-over): On September 9, 2009, a surveillance camera captures a drive-by shooting in broad daylight. For police, the tape should be a great piece of luck.

DETECTIVE DEWAINE FIELDS, LOS ANGELES POLICE DEPARTMENT: This isn't a case where you're going to look for DNA. This is a drive-by shooting. It's -- I call it the coward's shooting, because it's really easy to drive by at 15 miles an hour and shoot at somebody.

COOPER (on camera): Where were you when it actually happened?

MILTON BUENO, FATHER OF STEVE BUENO: I was on the second-floor window looking towards the driveway.

COOPER: And you heard the shots?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I heard the shots. One of them hit the window.

COOPER (voice-over): Milton Bueno was lucky he wasn't hit. The gunman, shown in this tape obtained exclusively by CNN, fires into his driveway.

(on camera): When you first heard the shots, what did you think?

BUENO: Gang.

COOPER: You knew?

BUENO: Knew right away. This is an area surrounded by gangs.

COOPER (voice-over): Milton's son Steven, however, who is also known as Grinch, was standing in the driveway. He was shot in the head.

BUENO: Two shots rang. The second one, he dropped.

COOPER (on camera): Mm-hmm. So, this is the spot?

BUENO: This is the spot where he dropped.

COOPER (voice-over): Steven was with several friends when he was hit.

(on camera): That's his blood?

BUENO: That's his blood. His friend was holding him. Blood was coming.

COOPER: So, all this?

BUENO: All that, his blood.

COOPER (voice-over): Milton immediately knew his son was dying.

BUENO: And then, when I went to him, he got shot in the head near the eye. I was talking to him, telling him, stay, stay, stay with me, stay with me.

And I saw him curl up his hands. I knew right away he was going into shock.

COOPER: By the time paramedics arrived, Steven was brain-dead. He was 20 years old.

BUENO: It's hard for a person to see -- to see your son get shot in front of you, to see him get shot in front of you, and there's nothing you can do, but hold him in your arms while he's dying. Somebody out there had to see something.

FIELDS: It's not an easy case to solve. It's a gang case.

COOPER: Veteran Detective Dewaine Fields knows every gang in the sprawling Hollenbeck neighborhood.

(on camera): When you got to the scene, what was the first thing you did?

FIELDS: We look on the ground for casings, and then we look in the air for cameras. And that's what we do.

COOPER: For cameras?

FIELDS: Absolutely. This is the city of Los Angeles. There's cameras everywhere in this city.

COOPER (voice-over): The camera on the street was working and recorded this tape.

(on camera): And what did the video show you?

FIELDS: It showed me a vehicle, a green Honda, drive up the street, a short time later, turn around. You hear shots being fired, and you see that same green Honda take off.

COOPER: And no one's come forward with any details about who was in the car?

FIELDS: I have got a lot of names, and I think they're probably involved, but I can't put them behind the wheel. I can't put them holding the gun.

COOPER: You need an eyewitness to come forward?

FIELDS: I need an eyewitness.

Is it 18th Street? Do we know?

COOPER (voice-over): Detective Fields is convinced Steven's friends know who shot him.

(on camera): His friends saw it?

FIELDS: What I'm aware of, at least three, maybe four of his friends saw it. None of them -- none of them have come forward, of course.

COOPER: Not a single one?

FIELDS: Not a single one. They saw. They know. But I need somebody to say, yes, I saw the car. I saw who was in the car. I saw who pulled the trigger.

And they did. This was broad daylight.

COOPER: You're sure they saw it?

FIELDS: No doubt in my mind. No doubt in my mind.

Steven Bueno's best friend, Robert Deras, or High Tech, as he's known, was there when the shooting took place. But he insists he didn't see a thing.

ROBERT DERAS, FRIEND OF STEVEN BUENO: I walked back to get my cell phone. And that's when it happened. I was in the back. And I was playing with the German shepherd. And then that's when I heard the shots. I heard a couple of them, though, at least more than five, or something like that. I just got down. And then I came to the front. And I just seen Stevie bleeding. So--

COOPER: He never saw the actual shooter, he says, or the green Honda leaving the scene.

DERAS: I was in the back, so I didn't really see anything, understand anything, you know? I was in shock, you know, like -- so I just -- I wasn't really trying to think of all that. I was just concerned about my friend, you know, my homeboy.

COOPER: Richard Moya has been involved with gangs and gang violence much of his life. He says he no longer associates with a gang, but Moya says the code of silence, especially in a gang-related killing, is one of the most sacred rules on the street.

(on camera): If you're in a gang and you talk to the police about somebody else in a gang, that's a huge violation of the gang code?

RICHARD MOYA, FORMER GANG MEMBER: That's beyond a huge violation. That's just raising your hand and say, hey, I'm ready. Come and kill me, because I'm a snitch.

COOPER (voice-over): Being labeled a snitch, on the streets, it's the worst insult there is. Detectives say, because no one wants that label, some 30 percent of the gang-related homicides in Hollenbeck go unsolved. That means 30 percent of suspected killers get away with murder.

(on camera): Why was Steven Bueno killed?

FIELDS: A rival gang shot at him and killed him. Steven Bueno was well-known in that neighborhood. His name was all over the walls up there.

COOPER: They called him Grinch.

FIELDS: Grinch. He grew up in the neighborhood. So, they caught him slipping. They caught him unarmed and not repaired.

BUENO: Everybody, put your hands together.

COOPER (voice-over): Steven Bueno's father, Milton, finds it hard to believe his son had enemies.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: In Jesus' name, I pray. Amen.

BUENO: Amen.

COOPER: He hopes someone will come forward. He wants his son's murder solved.

(on camera): There's a lot of concern in -- in a lot of communities about being labeled a snitch.

BUENO: Yes.

COOPER: When you have heard that term, what do you think?

BUENO: It is a term that here is very serious. Here, you get killed for it.

COOPER: Even if it's just witnessing a crime?

BUENO: Yes. You have got to understand, the gangs out here would call you that and would label you that.

COOPER: Do you worry that some gang is going to want retribution, some of Stevie's friends are going to want--

BUENO: Yes.

COOPER: -- to get back at those who shot him?

BUENO: Yes. I talked with them. I told them, no retribution. I don't want no more bloodshed. It's got to stop here.

COOPER: Do you think it will stop?

BUENO: No. I can hold them off so long, but I can't hold them off forever.

My son is buried right here.

COOPER (voice-over): Milton visits his son's grave, trying to keep his memory alive.

MOYA: Me and my wife always come here.

COOPER: Months after the shooting, the killer hasn't been found. Unless someone talks, it's unlikely justice will be served. His death will remain just another unsolved killing in Hollenbeck.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

COOPER: We're going to be reporting on gang life in Hollenbeck all week on 360. The live chat is up and running at AC360.com. Log on now. Join the conversation.

When we come back, educator Steve Perry on what the stop- snitching code does to our communities across the country and how all of us can fight back.

Also, President Obama taking aim at insurance companies today, launching his final push for reform. He's pushing. They're pushing back -- tonight, both sides, including a man who used to be a top executive at an insurance company, before he changed sides in the battle.

And we're taking your questions. Text them and your name to AC360, or 22360. That's 22360. Standard rates apply.

Also, in Haiti, one of two of the American missionaries held for trafficking was today released. Which one was let go and why the other one is still being held, we will have that when we come back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

COOPER: Well, violent crime is down in Hollenbeck's division. It's not the same, though, as saying justice is on the rise. That's because murders go unsolved. Killers go uncaught, while parents grieve.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BUENO: It's hard for a person to see -- to see your son get shot in front of you, to see him get shot in front of you, and there's nothing you can do, but hold him in your arms while he's dying. Somebody out there had to see something.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

COOPER: If anybody did see something, nobody came forward. Was it those two words again? If you Google the phrase "stop snitching," you get a quarter million hits, 54,000 images, 8,300 videos, including a report I did for "60 Minutes" with the rapper Cam'ron a while back.

He told me he wouldn't even talk to police if a serial killer lived next door to him. He would simply move.

That's what we're up against, what CNN education contributor Steve Perry sees up close. He joins us now.

Steve, you say that stop snitching is a hallmark in a community where individuals see no hope for the future. And you think this fear to report crimes is actually gaining momentum across the United States.

STEVE PERRY, CNN EDUCATION CONTRIBUTOR: Of course.

And I don't see how anyone, Anderson, can watch that gentleman cry -- I don't care what color you are. I don't care what region you come from. I don't care what age you are.

This stop snitching is foolish. This is not about you being a courageous individual. This is about you being a coward. You're a coward if you don't tell, because this gentleman deserves some level of justice, not retribution, because retribution is not justice.

COOPER: You know, I -- people say, look, you know, part of this is that people are scared of coming forward. They're scared of retribution.

I mean, is it -- is -- are the police not doing a good enough job in terms of protecting witnesses? Because the police officers I spoke to say, look, it's very rare, actually, that witnesses do get targeted. And this one detective I talked to said it had only happened once in his entire career.

PERRY: What it is, it's a form of urban terrorism. It's the fear that something might happen that paralyzes an entire community.

It's not that -- it's not that the police are doing a bad job. This is one of those cases where we, as parents, we have know where our children are. With all due respect to all the parties involved, each one of those young people who participated in this have -- has at least two parents.

And, in each of those cases, somebody's parents need to know where their children are. And these children are off killing each other. They're not just off hanging out with their girlfriend behind the mulberry bush. They're literally taking children's lives.

And this is unconscionable. We can all about all the other things that are going on, but adults need to start acting like parents.

COOPER: What's so frustrating, though, is that this -- this whole code of silence, this stop snitching message, is actually spread through music videos, hip-hop artists, you know, who want street cred, and so promulgate this thing of don't talk to police. You see these stop snitching T-shirts in a lot of communities. You see the DVDs where you have sports stars and models and stuff telling people not to be a snitch.

And they're not even living in these communities anymore. They're -- you know, these rappers are living out in New Jersey in mansions. They're not leaving on the streets of Harlem or in Queens or the Bronx or out here in L.A., where -- you know, where this really does have consequences.

PERRY: And Connecticut. I mean, 50 Cent lives in Farmington, Connecticut, in an amazing mansion.

A lot of these performers are just that. They're actors. They're rappers and actors. This is not the life that they live anymore. And I need to call upon them, as brothers, and say, you have got to stop this. If you want to stop something, not stop the snitching; start telling the truth. It's impossible to explain snitching, because it's a ridiculous concept. You watch a young man die, and then you act as if that's OK and you're going to take care of it? How?

On the other side of it, many of our young people in the communities feel like there's no hope. They attend schools in which they don't feel like there's any love. The schools, some -- the schools in Hollenbeck have a 13 percent -- 13 percent mastery in math, vs. a nearby school, a KIPP school, which has a 75 percent mastery in math.

These are schools and communities that children feel a disconnect from the adults. They feel like the adults have let them down. So, while they may not understand why they should tell, they need to begin to understand that there are some loving adults.

And the way to do that is take not-for-profit organizations that are doing great things and connecting with other not-for-profit organizations and begin to do some amazing work in the community.

COOPER: Steve Perry, it's always good to have you on.

We're going to be reporting on Hollenbeck and gang life in the United States all this week.

Up next: the final push for health care reform and the forces trying to stop it.

You can text us your name and question on the subject to AC360.com -- sorry -- to AC360, or 22360.

We're also going to show you what President Obama is now saying about the insurance companies. And you will hear from an industry spokesman, as well as a whistle-blower who used to work for a top insurance company who's now on the other side -- all the angles and your questions.

And, later, the Oscars and what has to be the strangest moment of the night. We will show you what's up with this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ROGER ROSS WILLIAMS, OSCAR WINNER: -- wildest dreams that I would end up here. This is so exciting.

(CROSSTALK)

ELINOR BURKETT, OSCAR WINNER: -- the man never lets the woman talk.

(LAUGHTER)

BURKETT: Isn't that just the classic thing?

WILLIAMS: So exciting.

BURKETT: You know, in a world in which--

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

COOPER: President Obama took off the gloves today in his fight to get health care reform passed. During a speech at Arcadia University near Philadelphia, the president tore into health insurance companies, blaming them for recent rate hikes. He also went after his Republican critics, saying they had their chance to fix the problem.

Watch.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Say, well, don't do it right now, because the economy's weak. When the economy was strong, we didn't do it.

(APPLAUSE)

OBAMA: We talked about it during Democratic administrations and Republican administrations. I have got all my Republican colleagues out there saying, well, no, no, no, we want to focus on things like costs.

You -- you had 10 years.

(LAUGHTER)

(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)

OBAMA: What happened?

(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)

OBAMA: What were you doing?

(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

COOPER: Ed Henry is here with the "Raw Politics."

Ed, people who saw the speech said the president had a passion that they hadn't seen in a while.

I mean, is that a good read, from -- from the reaction there?

ED HENRY, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: I think it is.

I have traveled all around this country with this president for the past year, this long effort by him to try to get health reform. What's been baffling many senior Democrats in Washington is how somebody seen as a great communicator hasn't really been able to connect with these audiences around the country, hasn't been able to get some of that old magic he once had to sort of sell this.

And what I saw today was, he sort of got out of the weeds. He wasn't so much the legislator in chief, you know, sort of in the middle of a battle between Democrats and Republicans. He really sort of got out there, found sort of that groove once again.

It looked a little bit like the campaign, where the president was sort of finding his voice. Take a listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

OBAMA: So, I will be honest with you, I don't know how passing health care will play politically. But I do know that it's the right thing to do.

(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)

OBAMA: It's right for our families. It's right for our businesses. It's right for the United States of America.

(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)

OBAMA: And if you share that belief, I want you to stand with me and fight with me. And I ask you to help us get us over the finish line these next two weeks.

(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

COOPER: Ed, though, to your point, though, his critics will say, well, look, this is more about campaigning and politics than it is about actual governance and decision-making, that -- that it's picking a fight with the insurance industry, you know, plays well politically for this president, at a time when, you know, he's on the ropes in some ways.

HENRY: Absolutely.

And, ultimately, what's not going to matter is rhetoric. That's not going to matter. What will matter is -- is getting the votes to push this through.

And what I thought was a hopeful sign for this president was that, after this speech, one of the senators from Pennsylvania, Arlen Specter, came out and reiterated that he's still on board with using reconciliation, that maneuver where you will just need Democratic-only votes.

But I think there was a warning from Arlen Specter as well, because he said that he thought the president was very fiery today, very strong, but he said he wishes the president was this fiery back in the State of the Union, two months ago.

And you have to wonder if even some of the president's own supporters in those remarks are saying, you know, he should have sort of captured this passion a long time ago. And is this now too little too late, Anderson?

COOPER: All right. Ed, appreciate it. Thanks for the reporting.

Insurance companies are at the center of the fight over health care, of course. And we want to bring you both sides of the debate.

Joining us now is Wendell Potter, a former vice president of corporate communications at insurance giant CIGNA who left his post and says the industry is playing dirty tricks in an effort to manipulate public opinion. He's now a senior fellow on health care for the progressive watchdog group Center for Media and Democracy. He writes a blog on health care reform.

Thanks for being with us.

The president blasting insurance companies today for rationing health care and raising premiums. Now, insurance companies say, well, look, premiums are going up because prices are going up, costs are going up.

Is that true?

WENDELL POTTER, FORMER VICE PRESIDENT OF CORPORATE COMMUNICATIONS, CIGNA: Of course it's true, but it's not the real reason why we're having such escalation of our -- of our premiums.

The insurance companies, by and large, most of them, now are for- profit companies. One out of every three of us now is enrolled in some kind of a plan operated by one of the seven big for-profit health care companies.

And, as one of them said, in fact, the CEO of WellPoint, who was testifying before Congress last week, she said some things very differently to her investor audience just a couple of years ago, when she said that: We will not sacrifice profits for membership.

And putting it the other way, it means that they're quite willing to sacrifice their members, if it means they can make some more money.

COOPER: Well, that's one of the things the president was saying today, that, essentially, insurance companies have made a decision, a calculated decision, based on what is the best benefit, not for their customers, but for shareholders, who own stock in their companies, and, basically, that they're -- they're willing to raise premiums and potentially lose some people, but they're kind of gambling that -- that there's not enough competition, and, therefore, folks will be stuck and kind of have to just pay these higher premiums.

POTTER: And that's what's been going on for quite a long time. And it's one of the reasons why I left my job in the first place. It became very clear to me that this is exactly what they're doing.

In their endeavor to make profits, they have been rescinding policies, which means they're canceling policies when people get sick. And they're purging small businesses. They're doing a lot of things just to make sure that they can satisfy and meet the expectations of the shareholders.

And what we're seeing now is just their -- their ability to do this. Even during this heated debate on health care reform, they're quite willing to go forward to do that, because the people they answer to are the analysts on Wall Streets -- Wall Street -- and their investors.

COOPER: So, when -- when you hear insurance companies say, well, look, we are for reform, the system needs reform, we want to work with those who want reform, you just don't buy it?

POTTER: I don't buy it at all. I mean, they want certain reform. They want to have the reform that delivers them everybody who is uninsured, making sure that they have to buy insurance, and then they can get not only the premiums from them, but subsidies from the federal government. That's what they want. They don't want some of the other controls, the oversight that's necessary if the government does that.

And that's what they're fighting. They will say that they're for reform. And I knew that they were going do be doing that before I left my job.

But what I also knew is that, behind the scenes, they would be doing all they could to shape this reform and kill it if it doesn't take the shape like they want it to do it, funneling millions and millions and millions of our premium dollars into front groups and organizations like the U.S. Chamber of Commerce to run attack ads against this -- this reform.

COOPER: Wendell Potter, I appreciate your perspective. Thanks for being on.

POTTER: Thank you, Anderson.

COOPER: Now, we show both sides on this program.

Joining us now with the insurance company's perspective is Mike Tuffin, the executive vice president of America's Health Insurance Plans, which represents over 1,300 health insurance companies.

Mike, thanks for being with us.

(CROSSTALK)

COOPER: Just -- before we start, though, I just want to be clear to our viewers we had actually asked you to be on with our previous guest, Wendell Potter. You wouldn't appear with him. Why?

MIKE TUFFIN, EXECUTIVE VICE PRESIDENT OF STRATEGIC COMMUNICATIONS, AMERICA'S HEALTH INSURANCE PLANS: I'm sorry, Anderson. I wouldn't appear with Wendell?

COOPER: Yes.

TUFFIN: I'm happy to discuss anything Wendell wants to discuss, any of the points that he made.

COOPER: OK. Well, we were -- we were told you wouldn't appear together. Your people said you wouldn't appear together. I just wanted, for accuracy's sake, to give you an opportunity to say why. But--

TUFFIN: I'm here to -- I'm here to discuss any of the comments that Mr. Potter made or any questions you might have to ask, Anderson.

COOPER: OK.

Let's talk about what the president said about insurance companies and your industry. He basically said that -- that you guys are fine -- you're jacking up premiums, that you're racing premiums across the country. Is that true?

TUFFIN: Premiums are escalating in the individual insurance market, which covers about 7 percent of Americans who have private health insurance.

That's happening for two reasons. Medical costs are soaring. And, secondly, in a slow economy, healthier, younger workers choose not to get coverage. And, in the voluntary individual insurance market, that means the pool gets less healthy, which creates pressure on premiums for everyone else. That's part of what reform has to address.

COOPER: But the president today specifically said that there have been conference calls to investors in various insurance companies in which folks from Goldman Sachs and other places have very clearly said that, look, these companies have decided they will raise premiums and they will take the risk that some people would drop out, but they're basically gambling that most people, there's not enough competition, and, therefore, most people will be stuck paying the higher premiums.

Is that true?

TUFFIN: No, I -- I don't think that's right. I think the report that's caused this commotion, Anderson, it was actually an insurance broker who made these comments. It wasn't a spokesperson from a health insurance plan or one of our companies. It was the opinion of an insurance broker who -- who sells policies. It's -- it's that individual's opinions.

Our plans are eager to cover more customers, as all enterprises are. Most of our business is -- is provided through the employer health care system, through -- 175 million Americans get coverage through their employers. There's an incredible amount of focus on the individual market, which covers about 17 million. It needs to get fixed.

We support fixing it. We support that additional oversight as part of a plan to get everyone covered. And it's also important to note, every survey -- and this doesn't get much coverage, but every survey shows that Americans are strongly satisfied with their current coverage.

One of the concerns the American people have had throughout this process is that reform gone wrong will disrupt their current coverage, which they like and which they count on.

COOPER: We have -- we have got a text 360 question from a guy named Jim.

He says, "Is the insurance industry in favor of any health care reforms, or is it just no to everything?"

For instance, preexisting conditions, the president says point- blank that -- that should not rule out people from getting health insurance. Why are -- is the health industry in favor of changing the policy?

TUFFIN: You bet, Anderson. Before the president was inaugurated, we issued a proposal to make preexisting conditions a thing of the past. We have supported those--

COOPER: Why hasn't that already happened? Why not do that on your own? Why wait till -- for a law--

TUFFIN: We can't do it on our own because you have a voluntary market. And if people get insurance only when they -- only when they're sick, for instance, on when they're headed to the hospital, you're going to have exploding premiums.

The president, himself, has made that case very powerfully. You've got to get everyone covered to make these reforms work. The president said that in his address to the congress and to the country. We agree. We support no more pre-existing conditions. Rating reforms. But you've got to get everyone covered to make it work.

Mike Tuffin, I appreciate your perspective, as well. Thanks for being with us, Mike.

TUFFIN: Thanks, Anderson.

COOPER: Still ahead tonight, new developments from Haiti, including the release of one of the Americans being held on kidnapping charges for more than a month.

And up next, new video just coming in. A tornado touching down and the damage that it did. Breaking news when we continue.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

COOPER: Breaking news out of western Oklahoma. Take a look at this. Tornado touching down in the town of Hammond.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: That is not good. I hope those people are all right. Oh, my gosh. Back up. Reverse.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No, we're good. We're good. It's going to go right--

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I know. I know.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Power flash.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

COOPER: A number of homes there that have been destroyed; 900 have lost power. Fortunately, there was ample warning. People had time to prepare before the tornado hit. No one was hurt. Local authorities say that everyone appears to be accounted for.

Joining us now on the phone is the man who took these images, storm chaser Andy Gabrielson.

Andy, this is just incredible. I don't think I've seen something this close up with this level of -- I mean, just this close up with this kind of destruction. What was it like being there? How close were you?

ANDY GABRIELSON, STORM CHASER (via phone): We were probably about 80 yards away at the time it crossed the road. Kind of kitty- corner there. And it was -- it was an amazing event to experience.

It was very frightening. When it started to impact the homes of several of the residences of Hammond, the excitement kind of turned to fear and concern immediately once that happened. But finding out there was no injuries was a great relief.

COOPER: And the -- the flare we see in the rear, that kind of blue light, are those -- I'm assume that's, what, transformers exploding?

GABRIELSON: Yes. It actually took out a line -- a power line across town there, and knocked the power lines across the road and stuff. They actually had to close the road, I believe, for a while. So--

COOPER: And it's incredible to see the debris this thing is picking up and just twirling around like it's nothing.

GABRIELSON: Yes. It impacted some of the homes on the southern side of Hammond. A few trailers. Some of the outbuildings there. Some of the homes. And it appeared that a couple of the houses were there (UNINTELLIGIBLE) in Hammond.

COOPER: How much warning was there that this thing was coming?

GABRIELSON: This tornado was on the ground for over 20 minutes, at least, and it had to have had some warning. They had the tornado warnings out.

When we were there one of the first things I noticed when we were shooting video just outside of town is that the tornado sirens were on. So I'm hoping that they -- they had plenty of warning. You know, the emergency manager and the firemen there did a great job. COOPER: And how long did it take -- I mean, from the -- how did you get to be in this spot?

GABRIELSON: We -- we actually went over to western Oklahoma during the day and just kind of waited it out. We actually tracked the storm. It started as a small rope tornado, and it listed and then came down as a larger stove pipe tornado, a little bit wider tornado, and it tracked to the east and to the northeast. And we actually -- we actually followed it for the entire time that it was on the ground, and we never lost sight of it.

And it actually impacted the other homes outside of Hammond. We came up on a small home or a trailer that had been damaged out in the country as well, but everybody was all right there.

COOPER: Yes, 900 lost power, as we said. A number of homes have been destroyed. I know you talked to a couple people who had just gotten out of their storm shelters after this thing passed. How are they doing?

GABRIELSON: They were all right. They seemed pretty shooken [SIC] up, just kind of confused as to what really had happened. You know, it was an experience I never personally had where my home has been struck by a tornado. But I can only imagine the feeling of walking up, you know, out of the earth and seeing your property destroyed.

COOPER: Well, damages are just incredible. Thankfully, no one hurt. Local authorities say everyone appears to be accounted for.

Andy Gabrielson, thanks so much. Stay safe.

GABRIELSON: Thank you.

COOPER: Well, there's more happening around the country and world. Stephanie Elam joins us right now with a "360 News & Business Bulletin" -- Stephanie.

STEPHANIE ELAM, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hi, Anderson.

Well, the U.S. ambassador to Iraq tells CNN that this weekend's elections went really well. Election officials say turnout was 62 percent nationwide, despite dozens of attacks that left 38 people dead. Some initial results will be announced tomorrow, but it may take weeks or months for a new government coalition to take shape.

AIG is halfway through paying back its $102 billion debt to taxpayers. The insurance company announced today it's selling its foreign life insurance business, Alaco, to MetLife for $15.5 billion. Last week, AIG announced plans to sell Asian life insurance giant AID for $35.5 billion.

And country singer Brad Paisley is out of the hospital. Take a look at that. After taking a nasty fall during a South Carolina concert Saturday night. Paisley used Twitter account to ask fans for video of the fall and tweeted to let them know that everything's OK. And despite how bad it looks, nothing was broken, Anderson.

COOPER: Yikes. That's, like, head first right onto the stage.

ELAM: Right. Maybe more of a bruised ego. But still, that doesn't look good.

COOPER: Yes. Stephanie, all right, thanks.

Remember, you can join the live chat happening now at AC360.com.

Still ahead, the good, the bad, the ugly from Hollywood's biggest night last night.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ROGER ROSS, DIRECTOR, "MUSIC BY PRUDENCE": -- dreams that I'd end up here. This is so--

ELINOR BURKETT, PRODUCER, "MUSIC BY PRUDENCE": Let the woman talk. Isn't that just the classic thing. You know, in a world in which--

(END VIDEO CLIP)

COOPER: Bizarre moment. What was that all about? We'll explain. We'll talk to Joy Behar from HLN about her take on what happened last night.

Plus, a 360 dispatch from Haiti, where living conditions for survivors has gone from bad to worse. Those big rains have come. We're going to look at why so many people still don't have tents and proper shelter. Who's responsible? We're "Keeping Them Honest."

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

COOPER: A lot of you have been asking on our blog at AC360.com about the latest news from Haiti. We're, of course, committed to covering all the developments as the country struggles to rebuild.

Tonight, a major development in the case of American missionaries accused of kidnapping 33 Haitian kids in January. Charisa Coulter released today. Laura Silsby, the woman believed to be the leader of the group, however, remains in custody.

Meanwhile, President Obama plans to meet with the president of Haiti, Rene Preval, at the White House on Wednesday. This as conditions at the camps where hundreds of thousands of Haitians are living have gone from bad to worse.

Matt Marek is coordinator for the American Red Cross. He joins us now via Skype from Port-au-Prince.

Matt, we talked to some people from Doctors without Borders today. And they mentioned a camp they'd been to about 8,000 to 10,000 people in it. The camp had no running water, no access to water, no toilets, very few structures, and it hadn't been seen -- really seen any hope at all. And their sense was that there are a lot of camps like this.

What have you found? What's the situation for hundreds of thousands of people?

MATT MAREK, AMERICAN RED CROSS: Well, I would have to agree that there's probably a lot of people that have yet to fully receive everything they should have at this point.

But the amount of people that we've been able to reach so far has been equally as great, greater. If we look at just the target numbers that the Red Cross is looking at, looking to meet the needs of about 400,000 people. That's a half a million people.

And to this point we've received or distributed, OK, approximately 40 percent -- 44 percent of the needs of those individuals that are in our target group. So certainly there are gaps, but we're certainly moving ahead and getting to the people that need to get the resources they need to receive.

COOPER: But Matt, I mean, the rains have already come, and it's only going to get worse in the weeks ahead. And I mean, this is a really serious situation.

Haiti is prone to mudslides, even in years where there hasn't been this earthquake. You now have hundreds of thousands of people living in these tent encampments, literally just drenched in rain. We're looking at people kind of bailing themselves out. They're like in a sinking life ship. Life raft. But that's -- these are their tented camps.

With the rains coming now and getting worse in the weeks ahead, what's the biggest concern in terms of disease, in terms of living conditions? What's your greatest concern?

MAREK: Certainly. For me, having spent a lot of time in the camps throughout the past, you know, few months, living conditions, they're an extreme concern of mine for the individual comfort of these individuals.

And the risk, the risk of the children. Haiti has a history of mudslides and floods throughout the country, and often it results in death. And we, you know, see how more vulnerable the individuals in Port-au-Prince are these days, as from years in the past when hurricane seasons have hit hard in his island country. And that vulnerability really concerns us. We do not want to see more victims of any type of natural disaster.

COOPER: Bottom line, though: is there a plan as to what's going to happen to these hundreds of thousands of people? I mean, if they don't have homes to go back to, they don't have structures or the structures are not safe, they don't own the land that they were living or squatting on anyway, what's going to happen to them? Is there a plan yet?

MAREK: There's -- there are a number of plans that are place, Anderson. And I know we're moving forward on ours, and that is to continue to get people from camps back into -- either into transitional shelters or back into a more permanent living condition in some -- some form.

In the meantime, we have to continue to meet the immediate needs that are out there for these individuals.

COOPER: It -- it feels overwhelming. It's going to take years. But Matt, I appreciate you talking to us -- talking to us about an update. Thanks very much, Matt.

MAREK: Thank you, Anderson.

COOPER: Just a desperate situation, still.

Coming up next, a spending spree. Using taxpayers' millions to buy flat-screen TVs, new cars, even office furniture. All this in a state that's supposed to be broke. We're "Keeping Them Honest," ahead.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

COOPER: California's become a poster child for the recession, including a $20 billion budget deficit. So you would think that the state's Department of Transportation, CalTrans, is pinching pennies, right? Well, instead, it turns out it's spending a fortune, and you will not believe on what.

"Keeping Them Honest" tonight, here's Ted Rowlands.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

TED ROWLANDS, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): These pricey new desks are part of a $75 million shopping spree at a time when the state of California is in deep financial trouble. The money is about what it could cost to pay 800 teachers, but instead, it went for new office furniture and new vehicles.

Some of the vehicles are sitting unused in a parking lot in Sacramento.

(on camera) Four hundred and thirty-three thousand dollars of taxpayers' money was sent on furniture here at the state of California's Air Resources Board, spent on cubicles of 40 employees. After taking a look at the furniture, it seems like an awful lot of money to spend, but nobody here will talk to us about it.

(voice-over) So off to Sacramento and the state capitol to ask the head of the Air Resources Board.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I have the CNN News here for Mary Nichols.

ROWLANDS: After an hour of waiting, we get, "Sorry, no interview."

DEMITRE STANICH, CALIFORNIA AIR RESOURCES BOARD: It's been a difficult situation for all of us. I can't go any further than that. ROWLANDS: Difficult why?

STANICH (on camera): Because of the circumstances surrounding this. I'm sorry. That's all I've been allowed to tell you.

ROWLANDS (voice-over): The agencies did have to defend the spending to lawmakers. The vehicles, according to the Transportation Department, were part of a normal fleet turnover system.

As for the desks and other office furniture, the Air Resources Board spent $7,000 per cubicle.

(on camera) A $7,000 cubicle, is that normal in office furniture?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes, this is the state contract provider.

ROWLANDS: So the state contracts, the state workers get a $7,000 desk? State assembly members, Audra Strickland and Hector De La Torre (ph), a Republican and Democrat, are on the oversight committee that brought the spending to light.

AUDRA STRICKLAND (R), CALIFORNIA STATE ASSEMBLY: It's an insult to folks having to make tough choices in their own families and in their own small businesses.

ROWLANDS: The problem is what to do about it. It seems government employees are virtually impossible to discipline, let alone fire, and lawmakers don't even have direct authority over many state agencies. So they're exasperated.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We can embarrass them into changing policies.

ROWLANDS: Taxpayer advocate John Coupal says the way governments at every level spend is an embarrassment.

JOHN COUPAL, HOWARD JARVIS TAXPAYERS ASSOCIATION: Bureaucrats have this idea that they need to spend it or they will lose it. And first of all, we need to change that mentality. And also, they need to be held to the same standards as the private sector in how they use taxplayer dollars.

ROWLANDS: When California passes a new budget in a few months there's a good chance jobs will be lost, possibly leaving some of the $7,000-cubicles empty and new cars parked in a lot.

Ted Rowlands, CNN, Sacramento.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

COOPER: Unbelievable.

A programming note: this weekend CNN brings you a fascinating story about a city manager with a life-long secret, a desire to change his gender.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I looked at my body floating in the water and imagined I was a beautiful nurse, but I knew this was long. I was a boy. Not a girl.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

COOPER: Private choice, with a very public consequences. CNN's broadcast premiere of "Her Name was Steven" Saturday and Sunday night at 8 p.m. Eastern.

Coming up next on 360, the Oscars, the hits, and the misses. Mostly the misses. Joy Behar joins us with her take on Hollywood's biggest night.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

COOPER: All right. Up close tonight, the Oscars. It was a big slow with a blockbuster audience. An estimated 41 million viewers tuned in last night, the largest audience they've had in the last five years.

Let's talk about it with Joy Behar, host of "THE JOY BEHAR SHOW" on HLN, and of course, co-host of ABC's "The View."

So, did you like it?

JOY BEHAR, HLN ANCHOR: In a word, no.

COOPER: Why?

BEHAR: Because it wasn't entertaining. It was boring, except when Alec Baldwin was on with Steve Martin. They were funny.

COOPER: And they weren't on enough, I don't think.

BEHAR: Exactly. You wanted more of them and less of those -- those ridiculous dancing numbers, and that opening number was boring. It was just a drag.

And I don't really care to see the sound mixer and the sound editor get his award. I'm sorry. I know it's a little snooty, maybe it sounds, but can't they do that in a technical ceremony? This is supposed to be entertaining. The thing should be one hour, no longer. No more than that.

COOPER: Well, I'm always surprised at how disappointing everyone's speeches are. Like you expect, you know, there's always one or two kind of dramatic moments and, like, heartfelt speeches that are emotional, but they're that way because they stand out in stark contrast to 90 percent of the speeches, which are just these dry recitations of, like, their agents and lawyers.

BEHAR: Right. And I don't really care if you want to thank your piano teacher. You need to prepare an interesting thank you speech.

COOPER: Right. Exactly. BEHAR: That's -- I mean, it goes on and on, and they thank people that we don't know. I think that they can't figure out if it's an inside show or if it's an entertaining show. They haven't been able to figure that out, and somebody needs to help them.

COOPER: I thought it was a little disappointing when Mo'nique started her speech. And you kind of were expecting this emotional speech, and she later referenced Hattie McDaniels. But basically, I think it was the first or second person she thanked were her team of lawyers, which kind of, for me, killed it.

BEHAR: Well, yes, that's true. Her team lawyers, that's more important than anybody. Let's face it. Because they're the ones who do the deal. They're the ones who are going to find out how much money you're going to make.

COOPER: There was this bizarre moment when, in the documentary short category, when the winner of the best documentary short film. I just want to show our viewers what happened, in case they were getting popcorn or something.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: -- Elinor Burkett.

ROSS: I never imagined in my wildest dreams that I'd end up here. This is so exciting.

BURKETT: Man, let the woman talk. It's not just the classic thing. You know, in a world in which most of us are told and tell ourselves that we can't, we honor--

(END VIDEO CLIP)

COOPER: This was sort of -- it was like the Kanye moment almost. Except it's the Academy Award version, where a deranged lady comes on the stage. I guess they had been in some sort of legal battle.

BEHAR: Yes. But apparently, she was involved in the beginning of the process, and then they cut her out.

She's going to be on my show tomorrow night, and I'm going to ask her a few questions. Because that is obviously a woman who is ticked off. And it was like, "Enough about you. It's about me, me." And I enjoyed that moment. Because you need that in these shows. There was nothing, no fun, no Princess Little Feather. Remember Marlon Brando's Little Feather girl there?

COOPER: Yes.

BEHAR: That was great. That was the best.

COOPER: There was also the -- there was a streaker once when David Niven was speaking and, you know, which is sort of a legendary moment. You kind of wanted a streaker in this one, I think. BEHAR: I think anything. I mean, I would have liked, let's say, foreign documentary should have been presented by Snooki of the "Jersey Shore," for example.

COOPER: Well, they should watch -- they should take your advice and next year do better.

BEHAR: OK.

COOPER: You can watch Joy every night on "THE JOY BEHAR SHOW," 9 p.m. Eastern on HLN.

Snooki, now that would be something. A lot more ahead, top of the hour. Stay around.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)