Return to Transcripts main page


Volcanic Ash Chokes Air Travel; Hospital Rules on Same Sex Partners; EZ Tax Scheme

Aired April 17, 2010 - 16:00   ET


FREDRICKA WHITFIELD, CNN ANCHOR: All right. We now know because of those potential dangers of the volcanic ash, we know that President Barack Obama has actually scrapped plans to travel to Poland for the funeral of the Polish president. Because of this ash cloud that continues to cover much of Europe, the White House announcement came just about an hour ago, about six hours in all before Mr. Obama was due to leave. The ash cloud makes flying hazardous and has all but shut down flights in most of Europe since Thursday.

Here is a look at the volcano from space. Take a look. The ash still growing. Right now it is affecting airports in about two dozen countries and no travel relief expected for at least another day.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We had to pay for hotel because the airlines wouldn't pay for it.

Well, we tried to get out. I'm always hopeful. I work at an airport in Philadelphia, so I know that sometimes you can just - something will happen.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Our flight was yesterday evening. And it was canceled. And yesterday they told us that they were going to rebook us on a flight on Sunday but that got changed and they said it is going to be Tuesday evening. The spokesman from British Airways we spoke said it changes hour by hour, really, so nothing is confirmed until you're actually get on a flight, I don't think.


WHITFIELD: A 15-year-old girl from Wisconsin is among the stranded travelers in Paris. Her mother, Kara Hellwig, joins us now on the phone from Neenah, Wisconsin. OK, well, give me an idea - just how worried you are, Kara, about your daughter who is with many other students, correct, that are on a trip to Paris, but now they're stuck.

KARA HELLWIG, DAUGHTER STRANDED IN PARIS (on the phone): Yes. That's correct. They are stuck in Paris. I'm hoping to find out, the last word was Tuesday they would get a flight out. But we don't know that for sure.

WHITFIELD: OK. And I guess since they are with other students or she's with other students and there are chaperones, et cetera, you have to feel fairly comforted that they're being taken care of well, right?

HELLWIG: Oh, absolutely. They're not in any grave danger. It is just a little bit inconvenient and, of course, we miss them.

WHITFIELD: And how expensive is it getting? Because something tells me, well, whenever a child is abroad, mom and dad get a call to send a little bit more money, even when the trip is going as scheduled, but now that they have been there a little bit longer than planned, how are you able to help financially, if at all?

HELLWIG: Well, actually, they are with a tour group through ACIS, the high school booked the tour through this group and they have been wonderful in helping to accommodate the kids. They did get a hotel near the airport. And all the kids are able to stay together so they did help with that. And they also provided meal vouchers for the kids. Of course, I did load up the travel card a little bit more just in case.

WHITFIELD: So how are you communicating with your daughter?

HELLWIG: She does have a cell phone, it is a little expensive but it doesn't matter at this point. I just enjoy hearing from her and knowing that they're safe. So she has a cell phone and she was able to get her cell phone to some of the other students so they were able to call home and tell their families that they're safe as well.

WHITFIELD: That's nice. So your daughter, Megan, is she able to give you an idea whether they are still turning this experience that they're having with the volcanic ash, the delayed flights et cetera, into part of their school project?

HELLWIG: You know, that's a good question. I think they probably will turn it into some sort of a school project. I told her it would be a great story to tell to her kids some day. But I'm hoping that her teachers will be a little bit forgiving with homework being that they've already missed one week of school already.

WHITFIELD: And how are you keeping abreast of the potential of, you know, when they might they actually be able to fly out? Because nobody knows when this volcanic ash will end, for one, or when it will discontinue the spreading?

HELLWIG: Of course I stay glued to the television set. The parents all have e-mail, we all have access to each other's e-mail, so e-mail whenever somebody hears an update or whenever somebody hears from one of their kids. And, you know, just following the news and checking on Air France to see if any flights are going in or coming out.

WHITFIELD: OK. Kara Hellwig. I can think of worse places to be stuck. Paris is not one of them. I don't know. Maybe these kids are a little lucky right now. They're just not disclosing how much fun they really are having with this extra time there in gay Paris.

Kara Hellwig, thanks so much, out of Wisconsin. All the best to you and to the kids traveling in Paris. HELLWIG: Thank you so much.

WHITFIELD: Safe travels back home.

HELLWIG: Thank you.

WHITFIELD: All right. Meantime, President Barack Obama joins a growing list of world leaders and dignitaries who have indeed canceled their plans to attend the funeral of the Polish president because of that ash cloud cover over much of Europe.

In Warsaw today, however, about 100,000 people packed the main square for a memorial service. The nation is mourning the president, his wife and more than 90 others killed in a plane crash last weekend in western Russia.

The volcanic ash is also an issue for the U.S. military, which is unable to use Ramstein Air Base in Germany. Injured troops from Iraq and Afghanistan are now being flown directly to Andrews Air Force base in Maryland. Officials say at least one Medevac flight is now scheduled to land at Andrews today on a direct flight from the war zone.

Our Jacqui Jeras and the weather center, this is really a disruptive, very disturbing and rather frightening, isn't it?

JACQUI JERAS, AMS METEOROLOGIST: Yes. Biggest disruption in air travel ever, right? I mean, that's pretty major and unfortunately we don't see any big breaks anytime soon. You know, the winds continue to drive in from the northwest, and so that is bringing it right over the U.K., right over, you know, Sweden and Finland and down through much of Europe. It is really southern Europe that is doing OK at this time. And we'll show you the air travel across the region.

And it is the yellow that you see here, these are planes that are actually flying so you can see them over the Mediterranean, from Spain. We had flights take off from Italy as well as over into Turkey. But nothing happening up here. And it's just one of those unfortunate inconvenient things that nobody really has any control of and the airlines are losing a whole lot of money. So they want to get you out of there just as much as you want to get home.

WHITFIELD: Right. I think it is costing the airlines something to the degree of $200 million a day that they are disrupted.

JERAS: Oh, wow. A day?


JERAS: That's amazing.

WHITFIELD: It's huge.

JERAS: So many of them, you know, have been having financial troubles as well.


JERAS: So that's really such a shame. Here you can see on satellite imagery, the big ash cloud coming through, and this yellow orange-ish haze that's been moving through too. We had ash fall reports now too across parts of the U.K.. Now the weather pattern is going to change a little bit. So we are expecting to see those winds turn a little bit more farther up to the north.

So hopefully we'll see some of this shift but it doesn't look like that's going to take place until the middle to the latter part of the week. And then the other thing that we're dealing with too is the volcano keeps erupting. So until it stops, we don't know when that will be unfortunately.

WHITFIELD: Right. Oh, gosh, so unpredictable. Thanks, Jacqui. Appreciate that.

JERAS: All right. How about this, turning the IRS into an ATM? For whom? We'll tell you what some prison inmates in Florida have been up to lately. And guess what, it is not just Florida.


WHITFIELD: Gay rights activists are applauding President Obama this week. He ordered the Health and Human Services Department to establish a rule that would prevent hospitals from denying same sex couples the right to visit their partners.

Sara Lee joins us live with the story of a Maryland couple who knows only all too well what can happen without this kind of guarantee. Sara.

SARA LEE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Fredricka, same sex couple Gita Dean and Lisa Polyak says the President's mandate takes them back 11 years, when they say they were nearly separated for the birth of their second child.


LEE (voice-over): Armed with legal paperwork for protection, same sex couple Gita Dean and Lisa Polyak thought they had their bases covered for the births of both of their daughters.

LISA POLYAK, SAME SEX PARTNER: We made sure that we had our wills, we had our powers of attorney, our medical power of attorney and our birth plan, probably more paperwork than anyone should take to the hospital. But, you know, we had been advised to do that was to be protective of our relationship and also of, you know, for the baby, if anything should happen.

LEE: And they say something did happen during the birth of their second child. It all started when Dean asked an anesthesiologist to administer a epidural to help with labor pains.

POLYAK: She said, who are you? I said, I'm her partner. And she said, you need to go. And I, you know, it was the middle of the night, so I said, but we had planned to do this together, you know, I've been with her for all the labor, and she just cut me off and she said, if you don't leave, she doesn't get the epidural.

GITA DEAN, SAME SEX PARTNER: And with the very difficult part, I was scared because she kept saying to me, you know, if you move, you can be paralyzed and all of this stuff and I was crying and upset and now Lisa was gone.

LEE (on camera): Did you feel discriminated against?

DEAN: You know, the thing is, I think that it was just us, we probably would have settled for what life brings to gay and lesbian couples, but once we had kids, we didn't want our kids to have that experience. We had done everything right, so that we could both share this, because it is the birth of our daughter, but so I was pretty hurt and angry about it.

LEE (voice-over): Polyak did eventually return to the delivery room to see their daughter born. A spokeswoman for Union Memorial Hospital tells CNN while she can't comment on an 11-year-old case due to privacy reasons, she insists disallowing a domestic partner from being at a patient's bedside is not their practice and is not their practice in 1999.

(on camera): So then fast-forward to this past Thursday, and you hear the announcement from the White House and the president, what were you guys thinking?

POLYAK: I feel like I'm exhausted from asking for our rights a millimeter at a time. But when I read the text of the memo that the president wrote, I started to cry because I thought, finally, finally, finally.


LEE: While Dan and Polyak applaud the President's decision, there are critics even within the gay and lesbian community who feel the president still has not done enough on behalf of their community. Fredricka.

WHITFIELD: And so Sara, what about this couple and the hospital, were they able to kind of go toe to toe with the hospital about what happened to them?

LEE: Well, the couple says that they did tell their story to a hospital customer service representative who called after they were discharged, but they claimed there was never any follow-up. The hospital, however, tells us there is no document or record of complaint.

WHITFIELD: All right. Sara Lee in Washington, thanks so much for bringing that to us.

All right. Every one of us has been affected by the recent financial meltdown, right? Losing homes, jobs, a lot of money in our retirement accounts. Well, now the government is going after one of the biggest players on Wall Street, Goldman Sachs, charged with civil fraud in connection with its subprime mortgages.

The Securities Exchange Commission alleges the investment firm defrauded investors by selling securities to one group while letting another bet against them. The firm calls the charges, "completely unfounded."

Tax payers already cover their room and board, turns out the IRS has been paying prisoners too. CNN's John Zarrella looks at a tax scheme that has raked in millions.


JOHN ZARRELLA, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Just a routine search of a jail cell. Officer Mark Lindback didn't expect to find much.

SGT. MARK LINDBACK, MONROE COUNTY DETENTION CENTER: After the inmates have exited the cell, went over, basic, pulled up the mattress, you know, some of the items on his mattress, additional items underneath the bunk.

ZARRELLA: The items, tax form and address book with social security numbers, birth dates and cheat sheets for filling out returns. That was December of 2006. What Lindback had stumbled upon was a lucrative income tax fraud scheme run by inmates at the Monroe County jail near Key West. Before they were busted, the inmates filed for more than one million in tax refunds, involving half the jail population.

CAPT. PENNY PHELPS, MONROE COUNTY DETENTION CENTER: But what they would do is go to other inmates and suggest to an inmate, I can get you $4,500 in a tax return. It will cost you $500.

ZARRELLA: In some cases, with the help of friends and family, the prisoners would fill out the 1040 EZ short form. Then attach a 4852 form with the names of businesses that didn't exist. And income they never earned. The 4852 is a substitute used when an employer doesn't provide a W-2. The initial investigation was handled by county prosecutor Jonathan Ellsworth. Phone calls were recorded.

JONATHAN ELLSWORTH, FORMER ASST. STATE ATTORNEY: One of the main guys at one point is telling one of his cohorts that he's not going to do white collar street crime anymore because Uncle Sam is taking good care of him.

ZARRELLA: Before they were caught and the jail started intercepting incoming checks, the inmates collected, Ellsworth says, at least $100,000 from the IRS. One inmate had a check sent to his brother's house.

(on camera): Dozens of checks going to one address, and that didn't raise any red flags with the IRS?

ELLSWORTH: Apparently not. I mean -

ZARRELLA (voice-over): By 2007, Ellsworth turned over boxes of evidence to the IRS. Case closed, right? Not so fast.

RICK ROTH, FMR. MONROE COUNTY, FLA. SHERIFF: They said, well, we're working on it, we're investigating. We can't take your investigation and prosecute from your investigation. We have to do our own investigation.

ZARRELLA: Earlier this year, nearly 3 1/2 years after the scheme was busted, federal indictments were finally brought against a couple of the ring leaders and family members. Why so long? The IRS wouldn't say.

(on camera): Now, don't think this inmate get rich quick scheme started here at the Monroe County Detention Center. Oh, no. Authorities tell us it has been go on for decades, at state and federal prisons all across the country.

PHELPS: One of the inmates that I interviewed said he had learned of it when he was in a federal prison.

ZARRELLA (voice-over): In a statement, the IRS told CNN that it has programs to combat this. But the IRS said, "it is not a simple process particularly considering the fact that some inmates are entitled to tax refunds and that the prison population is not static."

According to congressional testimony, in 2004, more than 4,000 bogus refunds were issued to prisoners for almost $15 million. But the IRS blocked more than $53 million in false claims.

ROTH: The system has a flaw that needs to be fixed. And it should be easy enough to fix by changing the form or changing the submission.

ZARRELLA: And while the IRS is now prosecuting the Monroe jail case, guess what some inmates are still doing? Filing fraudulent returns and still getting checks.

CHIEF TOMMY TAYLOR, MONROE COUNTY DETENTION CENTER: I think we have one here that came in that was for about $5,000 -

ZARRELLA (on camera): There it is.

TAYLOR: Yes, about $5,000.

ZARRELLA: This is an IRS check -

TAYLOR: Right.

ZARRELA: That was sent to -

TAYLOR: This inmate here.

ZARRELLA: That inmate.

TAYLOR: Right.

ZARRELLA: for $5,920. TAYLOR: Exactly.

ZARRELLA (voice-over): At least here, the checks end up in the hands of the FBI.

John Zarrella, CNN, Key West, Florida.


WHITFIELD: The American dream interrupted by reality. Parents trying to put their kids through college while still paying off their own student loans.


WHITFIELD: A look at our top stories right now. President Barack Obama had to cancel his trip to the memorial service in Poland for the 96 victims of last weekend's plane crash. The crash killed the Polish president, his wife and top military and civilian leaders. About 100,000 people filled Warsaw's main square today for the memorial mass. Funeral services for the president will still be held tomorrow.

And new problems for Toyota. The Japanese automaker is recalling about 600,000 Sienna mini vans sold in the U.S. because of possible corrosion problems. Toyota says exposure to road salts may cause the cable holding the spare tire to break, allowing the spare to fall off and create a safety hazard. The recall covers 1998 to 2010 model year Siennas with two wheel drive sold or registered in 20 cold climate states and the District of Columbia.

And space shuttle "Discovery" is on its way home. The shuttle undocked from the International Space Station earlier today after spending 10 days at the orbiting space lab. "Discovery" and it's seven astronauts are set to land at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida on Monday.

For victims of school bullies, telling an adult can often make matters worse. So a middle school in Austin, Texas, has come up with a high tech way to battle the problem. It allows students to anonymously send e-mails or texts to administrators or teachers at the school, even bus drivers, and alert them to the situation.


BARBARA PARIS, PRINCIPAL: It gives them a way to speak honestly, there is no fear of retribution. There is no fear of students knowing that they visited with us online.


WHITFIELD: So the program is believed to actually be taking down some of the bullies, before it was set up, 75 percent of students cited bullying as a concern. A year later, that number has gone down to 25 percent. Now for college students, and their parents, the rising cost of tuition can be quite overwhelming. A recent education reform bill signed into law by President Obama is supposed to ease the tuition burden in the future. But as CNN's Thelma Gutierrez reports, many families simply can't afford to wait.


CHRISTIAN GOMEZ, MARYMOUNT COLLEGE FRESHMAN: I'm Kristen (ph) Gomez. I'm 18, I attend Marymount College.

ANTONIO GOMEZ, PARENT: My name is Antonio Gomez, and my biggest fear is getting my 18-year-old daughter through college.

THELMA GUTIERREZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): This is a story about a family who's willing to sacrifice everything to educate their children and break with the past.

VOICE OF ANNE MARIE GOMEZ: My father was a janitor. My husband and I were born and raised in east L.A.. I was seven months pregnant when I graduated from Garfield High School.

GUTIERREZ: By all accounts, Anne Marie Gomez wasn't supposed to make it. She was 17 with a baby. But she was determined not to become a statistic. So she married Antonio, went on to the University of Southern California, where she eventually earned a masters degree in health care administration.


GUTIERREZ: We met the Gomez's in east L.A. at a fast food restaurant they own. Her husband runs it while she works full time as a business developer. Their income is about $90,000 a year. It sounds good but with a mortgage, two younger children and a struggling business, they're barely able to afford Kristen's tuition at Mary Mount College.

(on camera): So when your daughter needed $25,000 for her first year of tuition, what did you guys do?

ANTONIO GOMEZ: I pulled money out of my 401(k).

GUTIERREZ: Because of her parents' income, Christian doesn't qualify for many government student aid programs. So the family has come up with creative ways to fund-raise. They collect plastic bottles to recycle, they sell chocolate and even run 5ks for pledges to help pay for books and other expenses.

(on camera): You must reflect on the opportunity that your parents have given you to be here, to be able to go to school here and sacrifices that they have made.

CHRISTIAN GOMEZ: Yes, I do a lot. It is stressful at times. And I feel bad, but at the same time I just really appreciate it.

GUTIERREZ (voice-over): The Gomez's are also taking out loans to pay for college tuition which is rising three times the rate of inflation. At the same time, they're paying back $59,000 that Anne Marie borrowed 12 years ago to attend USC.

(on camera): Your family struggles each and every semester to be able to come up with the money to send her to school. What if you're not able to come up with that money?

ANTONIO GOMEZ: It is not - I want to buy a big house. I just want to provide for them. Provide for my kids, a better education.

GUTIERREZ: To pay them back, Christian's determined to graduate with honors. Thelma Gutierrez, CNN, Los Angeles.


WHITFIELD: And we invite you to join us for a CNN special "Fixing America's Schools." That's tonight, 7:00 Eastern time with an encore presentation tomorrow at 6:00 p.m. Eastern.

All right. It is the season of red, yellow and blue, red itchy eyes, yellow pollen and you're feeling kind of blue suffering from miserable allergies symptoms. We got some inexpensive ways to help you take control of springtime allergies.


WHITFIELD: We're now on our top story, the volcanic ash that shut down air travel in much of Europe. As you can imagine, it is causing travel woes in other places as well. We talked to frequent flier Ben Fogel (ph). He's trying to get back home to England and his journey started in Africa, but it had a few twists and turns along the way.


BEN FOGEL, STRANDED TRAVELER: My journey started way down in the south of Ethiopia. I had a 12-hour journey (AUDIO GAP) Addis Ababa and then I had to fly from Addis, I was supposed to obviously fly back to the U.K. but that was canceled. I was stuck there for a few days and then eventually I got a flight to Beirut, and then from Beirut, in Lebanon, I was able to catch another flight after waiting for another night in the airport there, I caught a flight to Rome.

It is amazing. You have to be really proactive and quite imaginative with how you travel now. I've been using Twitter to-the social networking site-to kind of let people know what I'm planning on doing.


WHITFIELD: That's pretty extraordinary. Scientists say activity on the volcano in Iceland shows no signs of slowing down. So folks are not going to be getting on their way anytime soon in a lot of cases.

How about this, itchy, watery eye, sneezing, scratchy throat. Sound familiar? They're symptoms that many people are suffering now because of the springtime allergies. But there are ways to take control of the symptoms and limit your exposure to pollen. Medical educator Doctor Bill Lloyd joins us from Sacramento.

It has been so long since I've been able to say that. There you are with your props. I love it.


DR. BILL LLOYD, ALLERGIST: Set the clock for 60 seconds, I'm going for a million dollars, Fredricka.

WHITFIELD: OK. I know you're an allergy sufferer, so you've gotten used to doing that over and over again. Really everybody is suffering from this. Particularly this year it seems like a lot of folks who never had to deal with allergies before suddenly are. What's going on?

LLOYD: Well, you're exactly right. The climatologists have an explanation. We had an extraordinary long, cold, wet winter, trees normally blossom in sequence. But because of that long, cold winter and that sudden burst of warm weather, all the trees are blooming at the same time, so essentially we're having a blizzard of pollen. One out of four people from springtime allergies, it is probably double that this year.

WHITFIELD: Wow. What can we do if you don't go to your doctor and get a prescription what sort of measures can you take?

LLOYD: There are two big steps to do. The first, of course, is prevention, to limit your exposure to allergens when you're outdoors. Wearing a pair of sunglasses is a great way to reduce the amount of pollen. Disregard the local pollen counts. The only pollen count that matters is the one here at the tip of your nose. You want to make sure that you close the windows in your house, disregard what your mom says.

WHITFIELD: And your car.

LLOYD: Keep the windows shut and keep the pollen out. Keep your pets outside. If you have to bring them in, bathe them frequently. And Fredricka, bathe yourself frequently. You don't want to go to bed covered in pollen and sleeping with that pollen all night. So a soak free, clear water shower, right before bed is a great way too prevent the allergy symptoms.

WHITFIELD: OK, that's smart. And then say you really do feel like you want to take something, you want to take advantage of the many allergy products out there, go to your, you know, local pharmacy or drugstore, what really works? What do you get?

LLOYD: The cheapest solution is nasal saline, that's right. Spray it up your nose, it will wash away a lot of the allergens and many people get relief from that. Stay away from the over the counter decongestants. The only thing you'll get out of that is a good nap. If your symptoms persist talk to your doctor now because there are so many wonderful products, nasal sprays to stop the inflammation, things like steroids and cromolyn, they may take a few days to kick in to work.

You can also ask your doctor about these new second- and third- generation antihistamines, they claim to be non-drowsy. Be careful. That doesn't mean never drowsy. You might want to take id and stay home for a while and see how it affects you.

The news, Fredricka, the great products coming in are immunomodulators. These are drugs that stop what we call leukotrienes, an important part of the cascade that makes people allergic.

WHITFIELD: And so these are measures that most of us can really take, you can almost heal or treat yourself. But what if you feel like this problem is just so overwhelming, you want to get some qualified help, what is your advice?

LLOYD: Sure. Well, of course, if your symptoms are interfering with your daily activities, go see the doctor. But there is also some important warning signals as well. If you have any kind of trouble breathing or if you start wheezing, you need to get to the doctor right away. Anyone experiencing problems, for example, with shortness of breath, coughing, persistent sneezing, a doctor can help you with that too.

A special warning, if you start feeling sinus pain, chronic headaches, or a fever, it could be a secondary problem that started with an allergy, but now needs more intensive care.

WHITFIELD: And sometimes people have to take pretty extreme measures. Is it not extreme to get a shot?

LLOYD: A lot of people take allergy shots. They identify what the specific allergen is that makes them itchy. You might be committed to it for two or three years. And if you are thinking about it, you want to check with your insurer first to make sure you're covered for that kind of protection. For everyone else, the latest prescription medications will help you get through this spring allergy season.

WHITFIELD: And these seem like great measures to take if you're an adult. What if you are a kid, what if you got a small child who seems to be, you know, responding to these allergens in the air, what is the best advice on how you can try and help them out?

LLOYD: We know the connection between children and asthma. And spring allergies can trigger these asthmatic symptoms. It is important not only that they have access to these medications, but for the most severe asthmatic children, they ought to be taking them now before the symptoms begin. So pediatricians and allergists know what medications are authorized for use in children, the doses that work best for children, and to start them early before they begin rubbing their eyes.

WHITFIELD: How much longer do we have to endure all of this stuff, Doctor Lloyd?

LLOYD: Guess what, allergy season is now year round. And 80 percent of people that have springtime allergies have allergies that persist throughout the year, whether it is hay fever in the fall, or those dust mites in the winter. So close the windows, clean your house, get the right medication, take a shower, everybody chill.

WHITFIELD: OK. I like that. Doctor Lloyd, good to see you. It has been way too long and I look forward to seeing you again over the course of the next few weeks. And what you got for me, another box of tissues?

LLOYD: Thanks so much, Fredricka. We'll talk again soon.

WHITFIELD: OK, good job. Thanks so much.

You can hear more of Doctor Bill Lloyd's health tips on XM Satellite Radio. He's the host of a weekly program on Reach MD called "Office Hours" on channel 160. Don't miss him there. And you can now see him on a fairly regular basis here on the weekends too.

All right. Investment giant Goldman Sachs in trouble with the Fed. The government says the "too big to fail firm" bet against its own investors.

Also ahead, Robert Downey Jr. straps on the mantle of a superhero, again, in what some say could be the blockbuster hit of the year. We're checking out "Ironman 2" and other movies coming to a theater near you, as early as this spring, but mostly this summer.


WHITFIELD: Keeping kids in school is a challenge for educators across the country and perhaps there is a lesson to learn in New Hampshire. CNN's Education Contributor Steve Perry explains.


STEVE PERRY, CNN EDUCATION CONTRIBUTOR (On camera): Here in New Hampshire to take a look at how one community is solving one of America's most challenging issues, dropouts.

As you went through school, did you miss a lot of school?


PERRY: What is a lot to you?

GRAY: I was tardy every day or suspended every other time I went in the school. I wanted to go to school.

PERRY: Really?

GRAY: I was just caught in a cycle of like screwing up and being suspended. PERRY: What do you feel makes this program successful?

KAREN WHITE, PRINCIPAL, MANCHESTER SCHOOL OF TECHNOLOGY: I would say it is just that the students are engaged. There are actually doing, it is real-life learning.

PERRY: So now you're here. How old are you?

GRAY: 21 now.

PERRY: You're 21 and you are going to graduate from high school.

GRAY: Yes, June 10th I graduate.

PERRY: I hear you have an interest in education.

GRAY: Yeah.

PERRY: What do you want to do?

GRAY: I want to teach.

PERRY: How cool is that?

GRAY: It is pretty cool, I feel.

PERRY: What is the reason you want to be a teacher?

GRAY: They are the people that have had the most impact on me. They made me turn my life around basically.

PERRY: So, when you started this project, why did you choose 2012 as the time in which for you in New Hampshire there will be no more dropouts? That is quite an edict.

GOV. JOHN LYNCH, (D) NEW HAMPSHIRE: Well, and it is very, very aggressive. Very aggressive to say by 2012 we have as a goal, because I really think you need to have a goal, you need to have a line in the sand. And also it needs to be aggressive, because if it is aggressive, people get excited about it. They'll approach it with a sense of urgency.

If I had said let's do it in 2020, you know, people might have yawned and said it was good, but there would have been no sense of urgency to get it done. Now there is. What we see here in New Hampshire is everybody working together.

PERRY: Steve Perry, CNN, Concord, New Hampshire.


WHITFIELD: A look at our top stories now. Thousands of travelers are stranded across the globe and in many cases their flights are simply canceled. A number of major airports including London's Heathrow are shut down, stranding people, all because of the thick ash spreading east from an erupting volcano in Iceland. Ash particles can cause jet engines to fail.

In Haiti, the attorney general is denying reports that charges have been dropped against nine U.S. missionaries accused of trying to kidnap children after the country's earthquake back in January. This week a U.S. senator said kidnap charges had been dropped against all of the missionaries except the group's leader, Laura Silsby, who remains in jail in Haiti.

And Wall Street giant Goldman Sachs now faces allegations of securities fraud. The Securities and Exchange Commission filed the complaint yesterday, among other things the firm is accused of selling bad securities to one group of investors while letting another investor bet against them. Goldman Sachs calls the charges completely unfounded.

We're doing something a little different in our trip to the movies this weekend. We'll look way beyond this weekend and look ahead to next month, and beyond. Film critic and host of Turner Classic Movies Ben Mankiewicz is here with me now.

OK, this is a little fun, because we are getting a way big sneak peek ahead.

BEN MANKIEWICZ, FILM CRITIC: Yes, because the movies over the summer are so big

WHITFIELD: If that makes sense, way big.

MANKIEWICZ: We can't even -- way big is fine. We can't even-we are not even doing the whole summer. We're going through June. There is like 15 movies we could talk about, I have picked sort of six that I think, and other people, are looking forward to.

WHITFIELD: Let's look forward to "Ironman 2" because I know people are crazy about it. I saw "Ironman 1," surprisingly I liked it.

MANKIEWICZ: That was great, yes.

WHITFIELD: So, should I like "2", do you think?

MANKIEWICZ: I'm definitely sort of excited for it, because I thought "Ironman" the first one, was -- it was almost like a small movie. It was a big, giant film in a sense, but it was this little character movie. I think it caught a lot of people off guard.


MANKIEWICZ: Right. It was on my top 10 list for 2008. John Favreau, directing this one again. My only concern about it, and again, I haven't seen it, and I'm excited to see it and I think pretty much everyone will see it, they added a lot of characters, Mickey Rourke is in this one. Sam Rockwell is in it, Scarlett Johansson, Sam Jackson, who it was teased at the end of the first one, he's in it in addition to, obviously Robert Downey Jr. and Gwyneth Paltrow. And Don Cheadle replacing Terrence Howard in it. There is a lot for them to get to and I hope it stays small, hope it stays sort of a character-driven movie.

WHITFIELD: Doesn't sound like it is staying small with that kind of cast.

"Shrek Forever After", who didn't love "Shrek 1" and 2, don't tell me there was a 3.

MANKIEWICZ: There was a 3.

WHITFIELD: There was a 3?

MANKIEWICZ: This is 4, four ever after.

WHITFIELD: Oh, ha-ha.

MANKIEWICZ: There you go.

WHITFIELD: Got it. It took me awhile, I'm slow sometimes.

MANKIEWICZ: I didn't think of it. This is out May 21st. "Ironman" is out May 7th. This is the final chapter of the "Shrek" series. Mike Myers, Eddie Murphy is back, Antonio Banderas.

WHITFIELD: Didn't they say that about "Friday the 13th" The final chapter and all that? I'm not believing it.

MANKIEWICZ: I think this at least attempts to wrap this up. Apparently there is like a lost, like, story line, there is an alternate world where Shrek doesn't exist, and he's got to fix it. Cameron Diaz, obviously, still in this one. Yes, they are all-- DreamWorks knows how to make an animated movie. If you liked first few, I'm sure kids will like this one.

WHITFIELD: We know it is not just for kids. Because it has so much adult humor.


MANKIEWICZ: It is one of those great movies that adults can get through, too.

WHITFIELD: Speaking of a movie that is for the adults only, we are talking abut "Sex and the City 2".


WHITFIELD: The girls get together again. You don't want to tote along your toddler to this one.

MANKIEWICZ: No. But very excited for "Sex and the City 2".

WHITFIELD: You are, really?

MANKIEWICZ: I didn't-you know, I watched the series, so I'm not un-excited for it. And I liked the first movie fine, it was just like five episodes. All four girls are back, Kristen Davis (ph) is back. Evan Handler is back as Charlotte's husband.

WHITFIELD: So, it's really-

MANKIEWICZ: I know a lot about it.

WHITFIELD: You do. And it is not happy in paradise, is it, for Carrie and Mr. Big?

MANKIEWICZ: We don't know. They have been very secretive about what happens. The speculation is that they're splitting up, or that they're having a baby, you know, you know, Aden is back, and, you know, my God, is she going to --

WHITFIELD: Oh, that means there is trouble in paradise. What is going to happen with Carrie and Mr. Big, are they going to splitting up and get back together? I don't know, I'm so excited.


WHITFIELD: That's scary, isn't it?

MANKIEWICZ: And then a lot of Miley Cyrus has got a cameo, Penelope Cruz is in it, there have been rumors about Bette Midler, she denies it, Liza Minnelli is in it.

WHITFIELD: It is a big secret. It is hard to keep a secret in New York City.

MANKIEWICZ: Yes, but exactly what happens.

WHITFIELD: And other places on location because they do go to Abu Dhabi, right?

MANKIEWICZ: They do go to Abu Dhabi, apparently, which seems a little ridiculous but --


MANKIEWICZ: But I mean, look, it is going to make-

WHITFIELD: Hey, it is "Sex and the City," you can be over the top.

MANKIEWICZ: Yes, and they will.

WHITFIELD: The "A-Team." What is that all about?

MANKIEWICZ: Yes, well, you know all the movies we're talking about are all in the top 112 grossing films of all time. The first ones are. These are all sequels. To give a sense of Hollywood's originality. Except "The A-Team," which is, of course, taken from a television show. This is Bradley Cooper-



MANKIEWICZ: Bradley Cooper, Liam Neeson, Sharlto Copely, from "District 9" and Quentin "Rampage" Jackson in the Mr. T role, couple of guys from the original series, Dirk Benedict and Dwight Schultz will have cameos in this. Mr. T apparently not going to have a cameo. But I've been debating whether to say, this, but "I pity the fool" who doesn't think Mr. T is going to show up in this movie"

WHITFIELD: Oh, you had to use it.

MANKIEWICZ: I had to, I'm sorry.

WHITFIELD: Again, it is the "A-Team," and in this case they are Iraq war veterans trying to clear their name, which is essentially what they were, they were special forces guys trying to clear their name in the series. I sense you, like me, did not spend a great deal of time watching "The A-Team" when you were growing up?

WHITFIELD: Not really. But I feel like I knew all about it.

MANKIEWICZ: Anyway it is a certainly a big summer movie. Here is what is going to happen on "The A-Team," a lot of stuff is going to blow up.

WHITFIELD: Well, of course. That's what happens.

MANKIEWICZ: Your kind of movie.

WHITFIELD: My kind-how did you know. OK, "Toy Story 3".


WHITFIELD: I, you know, I have to admit I didn't even see one or two.

MANKIEWICZ: They're great.

WHITFIELD: I know. I've only heard great things about it. But I guess I have to start over and I'll see them all to appreciate it.

MANKIEWICZ: Well, first of all, you got to -- you have a son who would love these movies.

WHITFIELD: I know he'll be all over it. I'll catch up with it.

MANKIEWICZ: So, you can show him the first ones. Also, this is the first full-length entirely, make sure I get it correct, computer- generated film, "Toy Story 1" was.

This is the third one, Tom Hanks, Tim Allen, John Ratzenberger, all the voices are back. Pixar, these guys know how to make these animated movies. Those are the guys that did "Up" last year, "Ratatouille," which as good an animated film as there is. WHITFIELD: There are really the ones that got adults so on board with animated films, again. It wasn't just for the kids.

MANKIEWICZ: DreamWorks and Pixar have done a great job. "Wall- E", "Finding Nemo", these guys know-John Lassiter knows what he's doing. And I suspect "Toy Story 3" will be fairly impressive.

WHITFIELD: All right. Ben Mankiewicz, very fun. Lots of good things to look forward to. Appreciate it.

MANKIEWICZ: Always good to be here, Fredricka, thanks.

WHITFIELD: Thanks so much.

I love that Ben and going to the movies you can catch Ben Mankiewicz at the Turner Classic Movies film festival in Hollywood next week from April 22nd to 25th. We'll try to get a little time from him to tell us what is going on with that film festival. TCM is part of the Time Warner family, which is the parent company of CNN. Just wanted to share that with you.

All right, new provocative comments by the man known as Doctor Death. What Doctor Jack Kevorkian is saying about playing God.


WHITFIELD: Did you hear this, this week? Doctor Jack Kevorkian is doing something he doesn't do much anymore, speaking out publicly about his belief in a person's right to die and physician assisted suicides. The retired pathologist dubbed Doctor Death claims to have participated in more than 100 assisted suicides of seriously ill people. He served eight years in prison for second degree murder and was released just three years ago. In a rare interview with CNN's Anderson Cooper, Doctor Kevorkian responds to critics to say he's playing God.


ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: A lot of people, as you know, say, look, you're playing God, that --

DR. JACK KEVORKIAN, ASSISTED SUICIDE ADVOCATE: Isn't the doctor who takes a leg off playing God?

COOPER: You're saying doctor play God all the time?

KEVORKIAN: Of course. Anytime you interfere with a natural process, you're playing God. God determines what happens naturally. That means that when a person is ill, he shouldn't go to a doctor because he's asking for interference with God's will. But, of course, patients can't think that way. They want to live as long as possible and not suffer. So they call a doctor to help them end the suffering.


WHITFIELD: Earlier we asked you to weigh in on Doctor Kevorkian's comments and this is in response from Michael Armstrong Sr. who says, the doctors are playing God by prolonging death.

It has been said that sometimes the things you're looking for most in life are right in front of you. For Steven Goosney and Tommy Larkin of Newfoundland, it turned out to be just across the street. The two brothers were separated as kids almost 30 years ago, when they were adopted by separate families. And then just two weeks ago they found each other.


TOMMY LARKIN, STEPHEN GOOSNEY'S BROTHER: Well, there are a lot of similarities coming, and there are going to come more and more as more time we spend with each other.

STEPHEN GOOSNEY, TOMMY LARKIN'S BROTHER: Newfoundland would have been really exceptional, but across the road is just something amazing.


WHITFIELD: Pretty amazing all right. The two have been neighbors for seven months without ever even realizing they were brothers. In fact, both say they couldn't remember ever seeing or speaking to one another before that reunion.

Thanks so much for joining us. I'm Fredricka Whitfield. Don Lemon is coming up next with more of the NEWSROOM.