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ANDERSON COOPER 360 DEGREES

Barack Obama on the Attack; Gap Contractors Accused of Using Child Labor; California Authorities Search For Suspected Arsonist

Aired October 29, 2007 - 23:00   ET

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


JOHN KING, CNN ANCHOR: But we begin in Southern California, with new fears in the battle against those catastrophic wildfires. Flames that scorched more than a half-million acres and destroyed thousands of homes were fueled by Santa Ana winds. They have died down in recent days, but forecasters now say the winds may intensify this week, which could be a major setback for firefighters struggling to keep the infernos contained.
At the same time, authorities on the hunt now for an arsonist, the one they believe ignited the Santiago fire in Orange County. They are looking for a pickup truck. They are also sifting through ashes to find clues.

CNN's Ted Rowlands is live from Orange, California, with more -- Ted.

TED ROWLANDS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, John, it's a little dark here. We're having a problem with our lights.

But I will tell you exactly what is going on with this investigation. Today, investigators are asking for the public's help once again. This time, they are asking for anyone who was in a specific location when this Santiago fire began, to call in, and give them information, and to submit any photographs or video that they may have taken.

The area is on Blackstar Canyon road, off of Silverado Canyon Road. And, apparently, there were a number of people gathered watching the flames. Specifically, they are hoping that somebody has video of not only the flames, but of the people watching. The idea is that the suspected potential arsonist or arsonists could have been captured on video.

Meanwhile, they are still looking for any information about an F- 150 pickup truck, a white Ford truck that they saw, somebody saw in the area. There's $250,000 on the table. And the hope is that the amount of money on the table will lead them to an arrest. Right now, no suspects that they are talking about.

KING: And, Ted, what about the other fires? We understand the rain, perhaps, finally helping?

ROWLANDS: Yes, huge advantage now over the last few days weather-wise. We had a little rain in some parts. Otherwise, the marine layer had covered other parts, most of the fires now 100 percent contained, all of the fires significantly contained. Most, if not all of them, should be contained within the next few days.

This one, the Santiago, 65 percent contained. But they expect to have a ring around the fire later this week. So, good news.

KING: Ted -- Ted Rowlands for us.

And welcome good news.

Ted Rowlands for us on the scene in Orange California -- Ted, thank you.

Now, the president declared parts of California a federal disaster area. That opens up, of course, the government's wallets to people who lost everything from those fires. It also raises questions about the risks of living in an area prone to natural disasters and if homeowners who take that chance deserve taxpayer-financed help.

"Keeping Them Honest" tonight, here's Kathleen Koch.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Start over.

KATHLEEN KOCH, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Here?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes. Look how beautiful it is.

KOCH (voice-over): Beautiful, but risky. Should homes be rebuilt if they are likely to be destroyed again? That's the question officials in the Midwest asked themselves in 1993, after massive floods caused $16 billion in damage across nine states.

They worked with the federal government to buy out more than 10,000 properties, so it wouldn't happen again. Entire cities, like Valmeyer, Illinois, moved to higher ground.

ROBERT RIPPLEMEYER, FORMER MONROE COUNTY BOARD CHAIRMAN: There was no danger for flood whatsoever, you know, with the city moving where it did. And that -- that worked out real well.

KOCH: Since then, the government has bought out 33,000 homes and returned the land to green space. Not all buyouts are working. In Washington State, since the Raging River lived up to its name last November with heavy flooding, only four of 90 homeowners have responded to buyout offers.

But in Hoffman Grove, New Jersey, where the Pompton River floods sometimes twice a year, most are happy to have a way out.

(on camera): So, you were ready to leave?

PETER CANDELA, HOFFMAN GROVE BUYOUT RECIPIENT: So, we were ready to leave. It was just the -- the -- the insecurity.

KOCH (voice-over): The city has bought out 35 homes, and is trying to buy more. UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It was the one way that we know we can absolutely guarantee that people are taken out of harm's way.

KOCH: But, on the Mississippi Gulf Coast, people are angry to learn, more than two years after Katrina, that federal buyouts might be offered.

Lori Williford (ph) says her family might have been interested a year ago.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We would have considered it at that point, because we were still doing a lot of cleaning up, and we didn't even start building our house until June of this year.

KOCH: Bay Saint Louis Mayor Eddie Favre says the buyout talk is undercutting the rebuilding effort.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's kind of got everything on hold right now. It's a bad situation.

KOCH (on camera): So, why no buyouts in areas where fires destroy homes year after year? First, buyouts are voluntary. Secondly, the federal government says no state has ever requested buyouts after a fire.

(voice-over): "Keeping Them Honest," we took a look at why. Half of homeowners who lose property in floods have no insurance for it and depend on federal help -- not so with fires.

DAVID MAURSTAD, DIRECTOR, FEDERAL EMERGENCY MANAGEMENT AGENCY FLOOD MITIGATION PROGRAM: Most people have fire insurance. They have it to a limit which gives them the means to be able to begin the rebuilding process.

KOCH: Also, federal buyouts have to be cost-effective. And the lands burning in Southern California are often pricey real estate. But the cycle of burning and rebuilding is also expensive, and a growing number say it should stop.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The amount of money spent in firefighting, the amount of federal aid that now has to go in to help these areas, it's a tremendous societal cost.

KOCH: The problem is...

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Oh, yes, I'm not moving.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We're -- we're not going anywhere.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I mean, California fires are just part of living in California.

KOCH: ... most Californians aren't interested in getting out of Mother Nature's way.

Kathleen Koch, CNN, Washington. (END VIDEOTAPE)

KING: What if you call a last-minute news conference and no reporters show up? Here's some career advice. Don't fake it. That's what FEMA did last week. And now Pat Philbin, the man who was in charge of FEMA's public affairs, is out of a job.

Last Tuesday, FEMA staffers posed as reporters to ask questions about the wildfires in Southern California. Making matters worse -- much worse -- real reporters who weren't given enough advance notice to get to that event in person were able to call in and listen to the fake Q&A, but were not allowed to ask their own questions.

Philbin eventually took responsibility for the mishap and was scheduled today to start a new job as the head of public relations for the director of national intelligence. He will no longer get that job. It's not clear if he offered to resign or if he was fired.

Now on to the race for the White House. It's Obama in overdrive. The numbers from Iowa tell the story. Take a look. The University of Iowa poll shows a statistical tie between Senator Obama and Hillary Clinton. His surge comes as he is changing his strategy, throwing more punches at his chief rival.

For the Republicans, Mitt Romney appears to be running away with the race. Again, this is just Iowa. But he has a huge 23-point lead over Rudy Giuliani, who is now feeling pressure from -- and this might surprise you -- Mike Huckabee.

Romney in the lead, Clinton losing her lead, lots to talk about with CNN contributor and former Clinton adviser Paul Begala, CNN senior political analyst Gloria Borger, and conservative analyst Amy Holmes. All three joined me earlier.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

KING: Paul, let's start with the Democrats.

Senator Clinton is, as we say in the business, a friend of yours. If she's looking at this poll in Iowa, is this a glass-half-empty until or glass-half-full, meaning, should she be encouraged she's on top, or should she be worried Obama is so close?

PAUL BEGALA, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: You know, any smart politician runs scared. I think this is a -- certainly a good poll for Obama. It's better to be two points ahead than two points behind, but truth is, it's all within the margin of error. And it's very hard to know who is going to turn out at one of those caucuses.

My guess is that Hillary's folks are taking this real seriously. Barack's folks may be gloating just a little bit, but they are a right to. They're -- they're neck and neck with somebody who is ahead by 20 or 30 points in all the rest of the states. But the rest of the states don't matter as much as Iowa does.

KING: And, Gloria, we will say it until caucus night. You can't really trust the polls in a caucus state.

GLORIA BORGER, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: No.

KING: But, still, if you are the Edwards campaign, and you have essentially bet the bank on Iowa, now you are looking at third place, not only third place in the numbers, but third place meaning a lot of attention now is going to go to this Hillary-Obama dead heat at the top, why is he slipping, and what does he do?

BORGER: Well, I can't figure out why he is slipping, because he's visited all 99 counties in Iowa. People like him in Iowa.

I think it isn't so much that he's slipping, as that Obama is gaining and spending a lot of time and money in Iowa. And this is -- you know, this is do or die for John Edwards. He has to win in Iowa, or place a really, really, really close second in order for his campaign to continue.

So, I would think, right now, that they are a little nervous. On the other hand, they have just lowered expectations, right, John?

(LAUGHTER)

KING: Amy, unless you let your "New York Times" subscription lapse...

(LAUGHTER)

KING: ... over the weekend, you saw Senator Obama saying yet again that now is the time to get tougher, drawing distinctions between himself and Senator Clinton. He says there are big differences.

What are those differences, in your view? And let me just ask you first to answer this one first. Is it smart to call up a newspaper and, say, here is what I'm going to do? Or should he just go do it?

AMY HOLMES, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, I think he should just go do it.

And, actually, last week, I was talking with a senior adviser to his company, and they recognize that Barack Obama, he needed to come out swinging, to be able to reassure his supporters, his volunteers, and really meet sure the sort of press clamoring for a sharper, more defined campaign, that the press was starting to sort of write him off and crown Hillary Clinton as the nominee for the party.

And for him to regain that momentum was to demonstrate to the press and to the people that he's going to fight hard and fight for this nomination. So, we knew that he was responding, going to sharpen his drawing distinctions, which doesn't necessarily mean attacking Hillary. She may try to frame it that way. Politicians don't like having those distinctions drawn. But I think you will see more of the same.

(CROSSTALK)

BORGER: I'm not so sure it's much of the press that really wants this fight as it is his fund-raisers who really want a fight, because they are trying to raise money out there. They have done a very good job. And they have seen him really be flat since last spring.

So, they want to have a new story to tell as they try and raise new money. And that's what he was trying to do through "The New York Times."

HOLMES: Exactly right.

(CROSSTALK)

KING: So, but, Paul, where's the line?

(CROSSTALK)

BEGALA: Yes.

KING: Where's the line, Paul Begala, between the politics of hope, which he has promised to be, and the politics of slash and burn, which some think he better be if he wants to knock off Senator Clinton?

BEGALA: I think that's a special problem he has. He's promised that his message is, I'm going to be a uniter. And, so, now he's in a position where he says he's going to attack.

But this notion that, before you execute your strategy, you first have to leak it to "The New York Times," I thought that died with Bob Shrum's career.

(LAUGHTER)

HOLMES: Now, now, Paul.

(LAUGHTER)

(CROSSTALK)

BEGALA: No, but it's like wooing a girl. Back -- I -- back in the Reagan administration, when I was dating my now wife, I didn't say, you know, I'm going to pretend that we run out of gas, and then I'm going to slip my arm around. Then I'm going to blow in your ear, sweetheart.

No, you just blow in the girl's ear, Barack. Don't sit there and outline your strategy for Adam Nagourney and "The New York Times." It's preposterous. And it makes him -- a lot of Democrats have done this in the past -- that's why I mentioned my old friend Shrum -- it makes us look like all we are doing is calculating, instead of acting on principle.

HOLMES: I -- you know, I have to disagree. I think -- I think that Obama, he needed to turn the page. He needed to turn the page on the story that he's going to let Hillary walk away with this nomination.

Planting the story, hey, let's face it. We're talking about it, and we're talking about him. It worked.

BORGER: Paul...

KING: Let's turn the page.

Gloria, quickly, go ahead.

BORGER: I was just going to say, Paul, have you never planted a story with "The New York Times" or any other media outlet when you worked for any candidate?

(LAUGHTER)

BEGALA: About strategy? About strategy?

BORGER: Maybe.

BEGALA: No, not about strategy. You don't talk strategy.

KING: He left that to Carville.

BEGALA: You just do it.

(LAUGHTER)

BEGALA: No.

What you do is, you leak a story about Hillary, say, you don't like Hillary. You say, you think she's lying about Social Security. Apparently, that's Barack's big thing. So, leak that story. Don't -- don't sit there and give an interview where you are blathering about your own strategy. It's nuts.

KING: All right. Let's stay tuned...

BEGALA: I hate when politicians talk about strategy.

KING: Let's stay tuned on the Democrats and flip the page to the Republicans.

If you look at this poll, and you happen to work for the Romney campaign, you are very happy.

Amy, let's take it -- take it from that perspective. Romney is ahead in Iowa. He is ahead, although not as big a lead, in New Hampshire. If you are him right now, and you're looking at the Republican race, what are you worried about?

HOLMES: Well, if I'm him right now, and look at the averages, actually, for New Hampshire, he's only 6.7 ahead. He's already spent $2.5 million in advertising. He's been advertising around the clock on television, on the radio, giving -- making phone calls, sending out mailers. And you know what? Giuliani still has a lot of arrows in his quiver. He's not aired a single TV ad yet. And, if you're looking at those averages, and he has 6.7 points to make up, I think Giuliani is actually in a strong position.

KING: And, so, Gloria, take us through that next dynamic, where you have a guy like Mike Huckabee, who has snuck right up next to Giuliani, but doesn't have the resources. He's hoping for the traditional historic Iowa grassroots, forget-about-money, forget- about-media campaign. But Rudy is sitting on like $15 million. I assume it's time to start using it.

BORGER: Well, that's right. Rudy -- and his staff will tell you at any chance -- has been on the radio. But he really hasn't been on television.

And, so, they are going to start pounding the airwaves at some point, when they think it's appropriate. They are not discussing strategy with me, Paul will be happy to note, but they are saying -- when I ask when, they are saying, we will let you know. So, they are going to go up on the airwaves. And, at that point, they think that they can blunt Huckabee and even Thompson.

KING: We will leave it there tonight.

Amy Holmes, Paul Begala, Gloria Borger, thank you very much.

BEGALA: Thanks, John.

HOLMES: Thank you.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

KING: And we want to hear from you. If you were president, what would you do? A four-day work week, maybe? Ah, that might be worth a few votes.

(LAUGHTER)

KING: Go to CNN.com/360. Hit the link to the blog and post your comments. We will read some of them coming up.

And up next, one of America's most popular clothing brands under fire.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

KING (voice-over): Kids making clothes for Gap kids. We take you inside the sickening sweatshop.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: One of the boys in particular said that he had had an oily rag stuffed in his mouth and -- because he tried to escape.

KING: Tonight, the allegations of child labor and what Gap is doing about it. Plus, people love Jesus, and people love chocolate. But remember the chocolate Jesus from last Easter? Well, that's another story.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We are making him into chocolate with genitals exposed. They're digging the knife at Christians on this.

KING: Now, chocolate Jesus is resurrected -- the controversy when 360 continues.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KING: It's a shocking story: children working as slaves, abused and brutalized by their keepers in modern-day sweatshops. The product of their labor? Clothing to be sold by a leading U.S. retailer. Now a rush to damage control by officials at the Gap, where those goods were headed.

CNN's Alina Cho has the story.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

ALINA CHO, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Ten-year-old Amitosh has been robbed of his childhood, one of many children working 16-hour days at this sweatshop in India, as reported by journalist Dan McDougall in the British newspaper "The Observer."

In these photos, Amitosh is doing intricate embroidery on blouses for children, under a brand name most people know, the Gap.

DAN MCDOUGALL, "THE OBSERVER": On one of the floors, a latrine had over-spilled, and there was excrement on the floor. And it was running down the side of the gutters, and there was quite a putrid smell.

CHO: The photos tell the story. The children, McDougall says, slept on the roof. This child doing beadwork looks even younger than 10. He says they come from poor villages to India's capital, New Delhi, crammed onto trains nicknamed the "Child Labor Express."

MCDOUGALL: The parents are effectively conned. And they sell their children for as little as $20, with the promise that more money will come.

CHO: According to Save the Children, there are 80 million child laborers in India, why it is often called the child labor capital of the world.

GEOFFREY KEELE, COMMUNICATION OFFICER, UNICEF: The conditions that some of these children work in are quite squalid and very severe.

CHO (on camera): The filthy factories in India are a far cry from the pristine stores on New York's Fifth Avenue. The blouses made at the sweatshop were supposed to end up at GapKids stores like this one. But those blouses will never hit store shelves. The Gap says they have been destroyed.

MARKA HANSEN, PRESIDENT, GAP NORTH AMERICA: And it's deeply, deeply disturbing to all of us. So, I feel violated, and I feel very, very upset and angry.

CHO (voice-over): The Gap says the Indian vendor farmed out the work to a subcontractor that was not approved by the company. And, though the Gap takes full responsibility, some argue, consumers share the blame.

MCDOUGALL: The insatiable craze for cheap clothing, you know, in America and in the U.K. right now is leading to more and more contracts being sent to the developing world. It's like a vicious circle. In the end, it's a self-fulfilling prophecy.

CHO: McDougall says, the factory where these children work was raided, but no one knows how many other sweatshops exist, with children working like Amitosh working like slaves for customers and companies a world away.

Alina Cho, CNN, New York.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

KING: All those kids working, even when it is against the law for companies in India to hire kids under the age of 14. Here's the "Raw Data."

Last year, India's child labor act was expanded, and now covers 59 professions deemed hazardous for children. Punishment for those who break the law, jail for up to two years and a fine as high as about $500. No word yet on whether justice will be served in the Gap case, but the retailer does tell CNN it will give the children money, access to schooling, and job training that will come in handy when they are legally allowed to work.

Up next, a homecoming king and star athlete sent to prison for consensual teen sex is finally free. And he's talking exclusively to our Rick Sanchez. Here why Genarlow Wilson turned down a deal that would have gotten him out of jail a lot earlier -- when 360 continues.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KING: Genarlow Wilson finally free, after serving two years of a 10-year sentence. You might recall, Wilson was imprisoned for consensual oral sex with a 15-year-old when he was 17.

Tonight on 360, a prime-time exclusive, CNN's Rick Sanchez talking with Wilson about his release and why he wouldn't cut a deal to get out earlier.

I spoke with Rick today about his interview.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

KING: So, Rick, one of the more fascinating angles of this case is that Genarlow turned down plea agreements. He could have had his freedom sooner. What die he tell you about that?

RICK SANCHEZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes. And there were some other cases -- there were some other folks involved in this case who did take those deals. He didn't.

And, when you think about it, it was kind of a forward-thinking position for him, because he's not thinking about, well, right now -- most people in that situation, you would think, boy, I'm stuck in this prison cell. I don't want to be here another hour, no less than -- you know, no more days than -- than I have to.

But he said, no, I'm going to stay in here, because, if I get out, for the rest of my life, I'm going to be branded as a sexual offender, a child molester. I don't consider myself that. I want to be able to hang around with my little sister, for example.

I asked him about it. Here is what he said, John.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GENARLOW WILSON, RELEASED FROM PRISON: I might have had lesser time. But, then again, I would have nowhere to go, because I would have no home. I wouldn't be able to stay with my mother because I have a little sister.

And, then, when you're a sex offender, you can't be around kids. Basically, that's like I can't even have kids myself. So, what is the point of life?

SANCHEZ: So, you weren't willing to do that deal?

WILSON: Of course not. That's -- you have no future.

SANCHEZ: Although others did.

WILSON: Yes, you know, but I consider myself a different person, you know? I wanted more for myself and for my family. So, I just had to -- you know, I had a little bit more difficult task.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: So, Rick, more than two years in prison. Angry? Bitter?

SANCHEZ: Wouldn't you think he would be? I mean, two-and-a-half years in prison for a law that doesn't exist, that's no longer on the books? He essentially had consensual teen sex with a girl who was also underage, but he was underage at the time.

I mean, I asked him about this. And I -- you know, and I tried to dig deep to try and get some emotion from him. He said, no. He said, they were doing their jobs, and I understand it. And I don't have time for any negative energy right now.

Here's his words.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) WILSON: You can't let everything that you have been through get the best of you and turn you bitter, because you would never achieve anything, you know?

I feel like everything I have done and, you know, everything that I have endured, it's only made me stronger as a person. You have to be very open-minded to the situation.

Of course I believe that it was absurd. But I had to look at it that these gentlemen were doing their job. And they felt like that they were carrying out the law.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: Fascinating, the way he puts that.

But, Rick, you made a key point going into that answer. He did have sex with an underage girl. Does he accept responsibility for that?

SANCHEZ: Yes. And, by the way, that was against the law when he did it. The law may have been changed now, but it was against the law at the time. As a matter of fact, he does. He doesn't have any excuses for what he did that night.

And, look, John, I mean, they were drinking. They were in a hotel room. It was a bunch of them together. One of the kids took out a video camera. They were smoking pot. There was a lot going on that night that wasn't right.

I asked him, do you in any way justify it? He doesn't. Here is his answer.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

WILSON: I don't think any of us made very wise decisions. But I don't think that any of us can go back then and change what happened.

You know, for the most part, all I think we can do is mature from it, you know, make sure it doesn't happen again, and, someone get caught up in the same thing. But, you know, yes, I -- I was young then. I -- you know, I done some idiotic things in my teen years, but -- you know, and every average teen does.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SANCHEZ: So, what it comes down to, John, is, basically, taking it back to its core.

And what the Supreme Court has decided is, you can't punish somebody by giving them 10 years in prison for doing something like this. In the end, it's a teenager who had sex with another teenager, and they gave him 10 years in prison, and branded him as a child molester for the rest of his life. That's just exceeding what is fair. Supreme Court says so.

And, apparently, that's how the case ends, alas -- John.

KING: Ends for now.

Rick Sanchez, fascinating stuff. And I'm guessing you will check back in, in six months or a year to see how this young man is doing.

Rick, thanks very much.

SANCHEZ: All right.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

KING: Another case, another update -- a 360 follow tonight on the manhunt for an escaped inmate, one of the U.S. Marshals' 15-most wanted.

Flash back to April 2006. You may remember a small town Louisiana cop got fooled by this smooth-talking killer. Watch this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What it is, we got an escapee.

RICHARD MCNAIR, ESCAPED CONVICT: Where from?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Prison.

MCNAIR: There's a prison here?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yeah.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What color eyes you got?

MCNAIR: Well, kind of turquoise blue?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Turquoise blue. You want to give me some more?

You know the bad thing about it? You're matching up to him.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: Well, tonight, a year-and-a-half later, that criminal Houdini -- Richard McNair is his name -- is back behind bars after being caught in Canada driving a stolen van. He has escaped from the law five times over the years.

The irony is, if McNair never escaped the first time, he would probably be a free man by now.

Up next, presidential feedback, what the late Gerald Ford had to say about Vice President Dick Cheney, as well as Bill and Hillary Clinton. It's "Raw Politics."

Also tonight: People love Jesus, and people love chocolate. But remember the chocolate Jesus from last Easter? Well, the chocolate Jesus is being resurrected.

That controversy -- when 360 continues.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KING: Tonight, the 360 investigation. It's about the recent beef recall, one of the largest in U.S. history, one that affected tens of millions, one that, as you'll see, nearly ended a young girl's life.

In our investigation, we uncovered flaws in how the government tests food for safety, all foods. And what we found led to a stunning admission from Washington.

CNN's Randi Kaye is "Keeping Them Honest".

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

RANDI KAYE, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Samantha Safranek was just 15, a high school sophomore, when she got sick from E. coli bacteria. Doctors weren't sure if she was going to survive.

SAMANTHA SAFRANEK, SICK WITH E. COLI: I started having more cramps, and it was becoming more severe. And, that's when it just went downhill from there.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: When she called me at work and said that they were really severe, I got really worried.

KAYE: Her kidneys were collapsing. The family traced the bacteria back to Topps frozen hamburgers they bought at this Wal-Mart. On August 31, Anna Safranek alerted the U.S. Department of Agriculture, assuming it would issue a recall right away. Instead, the USDA took almost a month.

(on camera) At one point in an investigation like this is it time to issue a recall?

DR. DANIEL ENGELJOHN, USDA: When, in fact, we have enough information to know what product to tell the consumers to look for in their home refrigerators or freezers, and to pull that out of the market.

KAYE (voice-over): The USDA's Daniel Engeljohn says that takes time. Within a week, Engeljohn says the USDA confirmed Samantha had consumed ground beef with E. coli in it, but he says, they couldn't rule out something else may have made her sick.

(on camera) What did you know on the seventh on September?

ENGELJOHN: We knew the product in the Florida case's home was positive for E. coli.

KAYE (voice-over): Why no recall? The USDA said it had to do more tests, since the package at the Sefranek's home had been opened and possibly contaminated outside the Topps meat plant. SCOTT SCHLESINGER, FAMILY'S ATTORNEY: It's an unnecessary hurdle, which created an environment that discourages and delays recalls. The likelihood that a person in their own home is the source of contamination by E. Coli, which is an intestinal germ of cattle, is highly unlikely.

KAYE: Scott Schlessinger represents the Sefraneks in a lawsuit against Wal-Mart. The retail chain declined an interview but told us in a statement that it, quote, "stopped selling this product on August 30, weeks before the product was recalled on the basis of a single complaint" -- from Samantha -- "and the serious nature of that complaint."

We take product safety very seriously at Wal-Mart. However, Wal- Mart confirms it didn't warn customers who had already bought Topps hamburger, that there was a risk. Neither did the USDA.

(on camera) So, by September 7, what do you think the USDA should have done?

SCHLESINGER: They should have done a recall.

KAYE: Without a recall or even a warning, people across the country continued to eat Topps meat. It was still on store shelves, still being consumed.

By the time the recall was issued, 15 people in six states had become ill. "Keeping Them Honest", we came here to ask the USDA why the meat wasn't recalled sooner.

(voice-over) The USDA says unopened packages of beef initially showed no signs of E. coli. So the agency ordered more tests, including a DNA fingerprint which determines if someone got sick from that specific product.

Those test results came back September 14, two weeks after Samantha's mom had sounded the alarm.

(on camera) What did you learn on the 14th that you didn't know on the 7th?

ENGELJOHN: That product caused her to be sick with that particular E. coli.

KAYE (voice-over): But still, the recall wasn't issued until September 25, 11 days later.

(on camera) Is 11 days a reasonable amount of time when millions of people could be at risk?

ENGELJOHN: In hindsight, we believe that we can, and have shortened that process. So, we can act on the information sooner.

KAYE: So, are you saying that it wasn't a reasonable amount of time, if you've changed that?

ENGELJOHN: I think, today, if this circumstance would have happened, we would have responded, really, back on September 7.

KAYE (voice-over): By September 20, with three people sick from E. coli and two states involved, the USDA chose to do even more testing of unopened packages. Still, no recall. In fact, the recall committee didn't even meet until September 24, more than three weeks after Samantha's illness was reported.

The meat was finally recalled on September 25: more than 21 million pounds. A recall so big it forced Topps out of business.

SEFRANEK: The first time should be enough to do a recall, and, you just should have to have other people get sick before you actually do a recall.

KAYE: Since then, the USDA tells me it has changed its policy. No longer will it wait for test results from unopened packages. A match is a match, even if the package has been opened, as in Samantha's case.

ENGELJOHN: We have learned from this experience, that we can do better at protecting the public's health.

KAYE: Better, and faster, too.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

KING: Randi Kaye joins us now from New York. A mind-boggling case of your government not at work. Now that the USDA admits they should have acted sooner, what changes can we expect?

KAYE: John, the USDA told us a positive test on an open package of meat will suffice, if it is a match to the victim. But in addition to that now, it says it will test more beef, including a wider variety of cuts.

It also plans now to focus its inspections on processing plants with poor track records, which, it turns out, Topps had. The USDA will also be using a more sensitive test that can pick up E. coli at lower levels.

KING: So, to help us break it down, Randi, how many people you know got sick from this beef who might not have, if this case were handled differently?

KAYE: Too many, really, John. In all, 40 people in eight states got sick from Topps meat. The USDA believes that particular strain of E. coli came from a Canadian meat supplier called Rancher's Beef, which the USDA has now since stopped importing.

KING: And more from you tomorrow in your effort to keep our broken government honest. Give us a preview.

KAYE: We're trying. We're doing our best. Tomorrow night, we investigate the Consumer Product Safety Commission. The safety commission recalled a product, then allowed it, believe it or not, back on store shelves. Now, here's what happened. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: By the time I made it from my bedroom to the kitchen, I was down on one knee. I was so short of breath, I couldn't catch my breath.

KAYE (voice-over): A hazardous chemical in Sand 'N Seal had severely damaged 30 percent of Dr. Freidel's (ph) lungs. He was hospitalized in intensive care for four days with chemical pneumonia. He needed an oxygen tank for four months, and still uses an inhaler.

If only this do-it-yourselfer had known when he bought Sand 'N Seal two years ago that it had already been recalled by the Consumer Product Safety Commission.

(on camera) Did you have any idea when you bought this product that it had made dozens of people sick and killed two people?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I had no -- no knowledge whatsoever.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KAYE: The most disturbing thing about this story is that the product could still be out there, John, even after two people died from it. How did this happen, what you should look for, that's all coming your way tomorrow night.

KING: Fascinating work, Randi. We'll be watching tomorrow. Thank you very much.

Now, here's a Halloween question for you political pundit wannabes to chew on. Want to scare the daylights out of your neighbors? Go as a presidential candidate. Which one? That's just part of "Raw Politics" tonight.

Here's Tom Foreman.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

TOM FOREMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Starting with a treat. All of the big Republican contenders are going tubing in Florida.

(voice-over) They've all signed up for CNN's next big YouTube debate. It will be the Wednesday after Thanksgiving in St. Petersburg. No turkey jokes. Seriously, this is a rare opportunity for you to ask your questions, so get those camcorders humming.

Lots of "hmm-ing" about Michael Mukasey, President Bush's pick for attorney general. He seemed a shoe-in, but when he was asked to define torture, he started serving waffles. Now, John McCain, Chris Dodd, lots of folks saying, "Hold on."

SEN. CHRIS DODD (D-CT), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: This administration has trampled all over the rule of law. I'm not about to confirm a nominee that would continue that process. FOREMAN: Trick or treat. Associated Press asked which of the presidential contenders would make the scariest costume. Hillary Clinton slashes her way to the top. Second goes to Rudy Giuliani.

Vice President "Dead-Eye" Dick Cheney started his week with a hunting trip in New York state. Not sure what he's after, but the surrounding county has been effectively cleared of Democrats.

And Republicans should have dumped Dick Cheney in the last election. That's what former President Gerald Ford said. According to a new book by Thomas DeFrank, the late president thought Cheney had become a liability.

Ford called Bill Clinton a sex addict, and said Hillary is tougher and stronger than her husband.

(on camera) Her campaign will like that but not this. Ford also calls her the "L" word, an old-fashioned liberal, with unbounded ambition.

That's "Raw Politics".

(END VIDEOTAPE)

KING: Raw indeed. Thanks, Tom.

And get another dose of "Raw Politics" with the 360 daily podcast. You don't have an iPod, watch it at CNN.com/AC360podcast. And if you do, well, go to the iTunes store.

Our documentity [sic] -- documentary, excuse me, "Planet in Peril" made its world premiere last week. Four hours in high definition TV exploring the effects of climate change on people, dwindling species, and the very appearance of the planet we call home.

Now, we're asking you to take part in the discussion by sending in questions to our panel of experts. Beth Lenharr, a fifth grader in Colorado Springs, sent this one.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BETH LENHARR, FIFTH GRADER: Hi, I'm Beth Lenharr from Midway (ph), and last year, I was the polar bear in our play. And I was wondering if the polar bears will still be here when I am going to be an adult. So, thank you.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: That's a great question and an adorable young girl. Thanks, Beth.

It's easy to submit a question. You don't have to do it in costume. Just go to CNN.com/360, click on the "send a video" link. We hope to hear from you.

Up next on 360, a top general is injured in Iraq. Plus, a beach getaway turns deadly for seven college students.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Nine-one-one. What's your emergency?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes, ma'am, there's a house fire.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes, sir. Are you the one that I talked to?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes, ma'am.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You said it was Scotland, right?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No. 1 Scotland Street.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes, we've got help on the way, sir. You said that there were people inside the house?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes, ma'am. That is correct.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KING: The "Shot of the Day" coming up. It's a mind blower of a finish, to say the least. Did somebody say 15? That's right, 15 lateral passes to the end zone. We'll show you the big play.

But first, Erica Hill joins us with a "360 News and Business Bulletin".

Hi, Erica.

ERICA HILL, HEADLINE NEWS ANCHOR: John, a top U.S. commander has been wounded by a roadside bomb in Iraq. That's according to Pentagon sources. Brigadier General Jeffrey Dorko is reported in stable condition at a U.S. military hospital in Germany. Dorko is the highest ranking American officer to be hurt since the war began.

Two college campuses in mourning tonight after a weekend outing turned tragic. Six students from the University of South Carolina were killed in a fire at a beach house in Ocean Isle Beach, North Carolina. A seventh student who attended Clemson University was also killed. Six other South Carolina students were injured, none of them seriously. Still no word on how that fire started.

Another of O.J. Simpson's co-defendants says he will testify against the former football star. Two others charged in the robbery and kidnapping case have also reached plea deals. They're expected to testify that guns were used in the alleged robbery last month of two sports memorabilia dealers in a Las Vegas hotel, something Simpson denies.

And a new record for oil prices. Just what you want to hear on a Monday. A barrel of crude spiking at more than $93 today. At this rate, industrial analysts say there is a very good chance drivers will see gas prices topping three bucks a gallon before the end of the year. Merry Christmas. There you go.

KING: Yes. OK. Well, let's move on to something more fun and interesting. Let's not talk about three bucks a gallon. Now time for "The Shot", and this one is almost an unbelievable end to a college football game in Jackson, Mississippi, this weekend.

If you haven't seen this, Trinity University, down two points against Millsap College. Time left for only one play. Now, keep your eye on the ball, if you can. One lateral pass. Then another, and another, and another. Before it was over, seven Trinity players actually touched this ball. A total of 15 laterals.

HILL: Crazy.

KING: The play took a minute, went 60 yards. In the end, touchdown, Erica.

HILL: Good stuff.

KING: Trinity wins, 28-24.

HILL: Not bad. I talked to -- I actually talked to the coach of the team earlier tonight on my show. And I said, "So what are you going to do? Are you going to give this play a name?"

He said, "I think we'll just have to call it the Mississippi miracle."

KING: I think you call it a miracle. You call it the best luck you can get. Maybe for next week you drop the 17-lateral play.

HILL: Why not shoot for the stars?

KING: Why not. Reminds me of the Stanford band play.

And we want you to send us your "Shot" ideas, or if you just happen to have video of the 17-lateral play. Any amazing video, tell us about it at CNN.com/360.

Still ahead, what would you do if you were elected president? We'll read some of your e-mails.

Plus, the second coming of chocolate Jesus. And this time, the controversial statue isn't alone. Is it art, is it blasphemy? We'll let you decide, next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KING: The likeness of Jesus can be found on, among other places, mugs, tattoos, and the occasional pastry. But if you really want to stir up some attention, nothing beats putting him in chocolate.

CNN's Gary Tuchman has the latest round in the battle between the artist and the church.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

GARY TUCHMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Is it freedom of artistic expression? Disrespect of religion? Or both?

COSIMO CAVALLARO, ARTIST: I'm doing it because I find this beautiful. That's it.

TUCHMAN: Artist Cosimo Cavallaro, at this New York City gallery with his wife Sarah, has created a life-sized Jesus Christ, made out of 200 pounds of dark chocolate. It's anatomically correct, and without a loin cloth.

C. CAVALLARO: This is basically a whole month viewing of the body of Jesus, laying on a puff pillow pastry.

I give people pastries when they come to my house, you know. I mean, it's nothing negative, when you offer somebody some nice sweets, chocolates, whatever.

TUCHMAN: This project has been resurrected, not in a divine way, after pressure led another gallery to cancel this past Easter. A different chocolate Jesus sculpted by Cavallaro was to be shown in a ground-floor window during Holy Week.

KIERA MCCAFFREY, THE CATHOLIC LEAGUE: They are saying, we are taking a devout Christian image, the crucified Christ, and we are making him into chocolate with genitals exposed. They're digging the knife at Christians on this. And to try to pretend otherwise is absurd, and they're doing it at our holiest time.

TUCHMAN: Before the gallery canceled, the Cavallaros said they were getting dozens of threats.

SARAH CAVALLARO, ARTIST'S WIFE: I was getting calls that they were going to kill Cosimo and do horrible things. They were describing how they were going to kill him.

TUCHMAN: The Catholic artist ended up storing his creation. But rodents got to it.

CAVALLARO: They started nibbling at the face, the hands and the feet.

TUCHMAN (on camera): The mice?

CAVALLARO: Yes.

TUCHMAN (voice-over): So he sculpted a new one, which was dripping a bit during our visit to the gallery. It's surrounded by eight smaller chocolate saints, including St. Michael, Francis, Firman and the Virgin Mary.

The message is said to be one of healing.

The director of the gallery admits he was a bit anxious about taking this on.

RONALD SOSINSKI, THE PROPOSITION GALLERY: It's a very different point of view than, say, having a nude Jesus Christ in the window on a Good Friday. So, I was very nervous at first. But now that the show is up, I'm very happy with it. I think it makes a very different point, and I'm a little calmer.

TUCHMAN: Cosimo Cavallaro acknowledges even some of his relatives have been uneasy.

C. CAVALLARO: For the most part, all of them were embarrassed. Because I embarrassed the family, you know. How could you do something so disgraceful to the church?

TUCHMAN: The Catholic League agrees it's disgraceful.

MCCAFFREY: I understand the original was eaten by mice, which is probably a fitting end to it.

TUCHMAN: But perhaps a little less disgraceful this time around.

MCCAFFREY: The intent seems different. It's not to thrust it in people's faces, you know, on days like Good Friday. This isn't happening then. So yes, it's less of a problem.

TUCHMAN: Cosimo Cavallaro offers no apologies.

CAVALLARO: I'm religious. Am I religious to the point where I'm not open-minded? No.

TUCHMAN: For his next project, Cavallaro says he is planning a sculpture symbolizing the last supper. You can have faith it won't be conventional.

Gary Tuchman, CNN, New York.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

KING: And one final note: when the exhibition is over, the gallery is going to sell the chocolate Jesus for $50,000. They said they don't expect any problem finding a buyer.

Earlier, we asked, What would you do, ifyou were president of United States? We'll read some of your responses, next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KING: Back to our question of the night: If you were president of the United States, what would you do?

On the radar, Ron in Bethpage, New York: "I would give all professional athletes a nice round salary, say $100,000. Then, I'd give all teachers and firefighters/police officers/rescue workers a base salary of $1,000,000."

Simon in Durango, Colorado, says, "If I were president every child reaching 18 years would spend two mandatory years serving our country in the armed forces before starting college."

A lot of the bloggers like Xtina's idea. The Chicago resident says, "I'm really into the idea of abolishing the Internal Revenue Service, letting people keep every penny they earn; then raising the sales tax to make up for it, so that people who don't report income, such as drug dealers, will pay into the federal revenue system."

And Kathy, also in Chicago, says, "If I were president, I would work on getting along with Congress. Countless hours and millions of dollars are wasted each year with all of the bickering. Maybe world powers would listen if we presented a united front. I would also like to balance the budget. This life of wasteful spending has to stop."

And here is a wild idea from Joseph in North Huntington, Pennsylvania: "If I were president, I'd call together some of my cabinet members, like Secretary of State Anderson Cooper, Secretary of Health and Human Services Sanjay Gupta, and Secretary of the Interior Jeff Corwin and see how we can best undo the damage done by the previous administration."

A nod there to our "Planet in Peril" report.

To weigh in, go to CNN.com/360 and link to the blog.

I'm John King in Washington. For our international viewers, "CNN TODAY" is next. Here in the States, Larry King is coming up.

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