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ANDERSON COOPER 360 DEGREES

Keeping Wal-Mart Honest; John McCain's Health

Aired April 1, 2008 - 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: Tonight, we begin with good news, in fact, the best possible news for a brain-damaged woman battling Wal-Mart. They were suing her for money she desperately needed for her own care. Her name is Deborah Shank. And, after millions of you learned of her plight on 360 and elsewhere, many of you complained to Wal-Mart.
Today, the company backed down. We have details ahead.

And later: on the trail, Barack Obama flooding the airwaves in Pennsylvania, spending massively more on ads than his opponent, Hillary Clinton, in that state. Some polls suggest it's working.

And John McCain, he will be the oldest president ever elected, if he makes it into the White House. He survived a deadly form of cancer four times. So, what's the bottom line on his health? Dr. Sanjay Gupta joins us for that.

Plus, a judgment call: An African-American judge tells whites to get out of his courtroom, so he can talk to black defendants. Some are saying it's racism. We will talk to the judge and let you make up your own mind.

We begin with the good news in a David-vs.-Goliath battle, a happy ending in the otherwise tragic story of Deborah Shank. She is the Wal-Mart employees whose life changed forever when a semitruck nearly killed her.

As CNN's Randi Kaye first reported, the accident left her with profound brain damage. She won a settlement against the trucking that nearly killed her, but was stunned when Wal-Mart sued her to get back hundreds of thousands of dollars they paid in health insurance costs. That money was set aside for her future care.

The company actually said that not suing her would be unfair to everyone else in Wal-Mart's health -- Wal-Mart's health plan.

Well, after seeing the outcry from Randi's first report and subsequent others, Wal-Mart today changed its policy.

Randi Kaye joins us now with the latest.

What happened?

RANDI KAYE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: This is really good news for the family, Anderson. Just a little background first: Her accident, as you know, occurred about eight years ago, so they have been battling Wal-Mart for some time now. She sued the trucking company, as you mentioned, got about $1 million. And after legal fees, et cetera, about $470,000 was placed in a trust just for her future care.

Well, what she didn't notice when she signed up for the company's health plan was this fine print that said, if she settled with an outside company, which she did -- the trucking company -- Wal-Mart had a legal right to recoup all of the money that it had spent on her care.

So, all of the sudden, three years after the accident, Wal-Mart sues this family for that money that they had spent. The court ruled in Wal-Mart's favor. The family appealed. But they just couldn't get anywhere...

(CROSSTALK)

COOPER: Right. They had this trust fund set up for her future care. And, basically, Wal-Mart was going to get all the money out of this trust fund.

KAYE: Absolutely.

COOPER: And, legally, they could do it.

KAYE: Absolutely. It was definitely in their right to do it.

So, today, out of nowhere, they send a letter to the family that says, hey, guess what? You can keep the money.

And here's just a portion of what that letter said: "Occasionally, others help us step back and look at a situation in a different way. This is one of those times. So, we began reviewing the guidelines for the trust that pays medical costs for our associates and their family members. We have decided to modify our plan to allow us more discretion for individual cases and are in the final stages of working out the details."

So Anderson, they're actually talking about changing, revamping their whole plan, not just letting this family keep the money.

I spoke with Jim Shank, Debbie Shank's husband, just a short time after he learned the good news. And here's what he had to say.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

JIM SHANK, HUSBAND OF DEBBIE SHANK: I got a phone call right around noon, Randi, from my attorney in Saint Louis. And this being April Fools' Day, that was the first thing that went through my head.

KAYE: How do you feel now, knowing that your wife's future will be handled and will be paid for?

SHANK: It's just a -- it's a great relief, Randi. It's just a great relief.

And what really makes it great is the fact that not only -- this is not only a victory for Debbie, but this is a victory for every Wal- Mart associate, that they're going to change their whole insurance plan, that this won't happen to anybody again.

KAYE: Is there anything that you would like to say to Wal-Mart tonight and its executives?

SHANK: Well, I just would like to let them know that they did the right thing. I just wish it hadn't taken so long. Just they should have dropped it from the beginning. But I thank them. And I hope they come through with all that they have said they're going to do.

KAYE: Since our story first aired about your family, we were overwhelmed with responses from the viewers, many of them angry at Wal-Mart. I know that you, too, have heard from a lot of the viewers looking to help. What have they told you? And were you surprised by such a reaction?

SHANK: Oh, the reaction is just -- I can't explain in words.

I mean, this is a victory for people. People have spoken. We still have a voice in this country. It just shows that, you know, we can make a difference. We all -- we all stand together.

KAYE: And why, in the end, do you think Wal-Mart decided to do this, to go ahead and forego the money?

(CROSSTALK)

SHANK: I hope it's just they saw the light, the pressure from the people and all the hit -- like you said, you have had millions of hits on your sites, expressing what they think of Wal-Mart.

And for such a retail giant, you know, maybe they finally felt the pressure of it: You know, maybe we better rethink things and come out of this as the good guy, instead of the bad guys.

And most of the people that have called me and sent me letters have seen it on CNN.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

COOPER: I want to bring in our senior -- CNN senior legal analyst, Jeffrey Toobin.

Jeffrey, were you surprised by this decision?

JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN SENIOR ANALYST: I was. I absolutely was, because they had played hardball for so long. And they had won their case. I mean, they really had no legal obligation to do this.

COOPER: I mean, this had been going on for years. Randi's report aired last week for the first time. It was the first story to report it. And, all of a sudden, boom, after years of legal wrangling and playing hardball, they -- they reversed themselves.

TOOBIN: Well, and I don't think there's any mystery about why they did. This is a public company, not just publicly traded.

But it is open to the public every day. And people have a choice about where to shop. And they can go to Costco. And they can go to Kmart. And this case was so terrible and so damaged the reputation of the company, I think they recognized that the piddling amount of money was hardly worth the P.R. hit they were taking.

And, in fairness, they did the right thing.

COOPER: You know, I have to say, Randi, she had $417,000 in -- in this trust fund for her future care for the rest of her life. Her husband is already working two jobs. They have got a son who has got to go to college. One of their sons has already died in Iraq serving this country. And there's, what, two hundred and something thousand left in this trust fund?

KAYE: Two hundred and seventeen thousand dollars.

COOPER: That's not a huge amount of money to care for this woman for the rest of her life.

KAYE: No, it isn't. And -- and they were already getting some donations from families and friends around the country. And then the donations really started pouring in after our story.

So, they're very thankful, because they knew that, eventually, at some point, they were going to have to do something. She might have had to move into a less expensive facility.

COOPER: They -- Jeff, they talked about needing to modify -- that they're going to modify their plan to allow for -- quote -- I want to get this right -- "more discretion for individual cases."

Is that legalese or just does -- I mean, are they -- does that mean anything?

(CROSSTALK)

(LAUGHTER)

TOOBIN: You know what? This is why lawyers go to law school. So, you can figure out ways to change something like this. There is no -- there was nothing stopping them from doing this in the first place. There is no reason why they should have filed this lawsuit.

This was an unnecessary pain inflicted. But, again, in fairness, they did do the right thing. I do think we need to focus on the fact that Wal-Mart is not the only company with a policy like this.

COOPER: Even our company has this policy.

TOOBIN: Right. Exactly. So, people need to be aware of this. And, obviously, Wal-Mart is so public, and the case -- the facts of this case are so egregious. But a lot of people deal with these problems. And this is a country without national health insurance. And this is one of the consequences.

COOPER: Well, Randi, it has got to feel good to do a story that then gets such a huge reaction from people that they contact the company and change like this happens.

KAYE: It really does. So often -- we don't get to make a difference like this every day. And it's nice to see that the family has -- has won this one. And at least it looks that way.

(CROSSTALK)

TOOBIN: Grade job, Randi Kaye. We are proud of you.

Seriously, this is a great thing. I'm so proud.

(CROSSTALK)

KAYE: Thank you.

(CROSSTALK)

COOPER: I haven't seen Jeff Toobin so happy in quite some time.

(CROSSTALK)

COOPER: Wal-Mart's reversal is obviously welcome news to a lot of people who believe it was simply the right thing to do.

For more on the mega-company, its worth, and what it spends on health care, let's bring in Erica Hill for the "Raw Data" -- Erica.

ERICA HILL, HEADLINE NEWS CORRESPONDENT: Anderson, and, of course, Wal-Mart is huge, but it started out as just one single store in 1962.

My, how things have grown. The discount retailer now boasts a chain of 4,000 stores across the country, 1.3 million employees just here in the U.S. alone. In 2007, Wal-Mart's profits, $11 billion. Now, that's coming in from more than $374 billion in sales. The company does support a fair amount of charities, donating $245 million last year to charitable organizations.

When it comes to health care, this is the big question for a lot of people, the company covers just over a million employees and their family members. That's a million total between employees and family members. In 2006, Wal-Mart spent $5 billion on health coverage and additional benefits. Now, if you are a full-time employee at Wal- Mart, there's a six-month waiting period before you can enroll in a health plan there. Part-time workers have to wait 12 months. But that 12-month period actually used to be two years, Anderson, although you may recall the company came under fire for that a little while ago, I believe about two years ago.

And, so, that's why they changed it at that point, Anderson, to a 12-month waiting period instead.

COOPER: All right. Erica Hill with the "Raw Data" -- thanks, Erica.

We have now some breaking news out of Iraq. Britain has halted the withdrawal of about 1,500 of their troops from the southern part of this country. Now, their departure put on hold in part because of last week's fighting, fighting in which Iraqi government forces met stiff resistance.

And we have also just learned that British forces were far more involved in the battle on the streets of Basra than anyone previously thought. They say they had to get involved to rescue Iraqi government forces, which we are just now learning were in serious danger of losing their battle with rebel Shia militia. We will have more on this later in the hour.

We will be following the story also throughout the night. And I will be online, as always, throughout the program. Just go to CNN.com/360. There's also our new Web camera right here in the studio. You can link to it from out Web page and see what's happening in the broadcast studio even during the commercial breaks. Not much, to be honest.

(LAUGHTER)

COOPER: But, you know, it might work.

Also, John McCain, how will the Iraq news affect his campaign? He's already facing plenty of challenges and overcoming a lot of them. With the economy tanking and the most unpopular Republican president in modern history in the White House, he's running neck and neck now with the Democrats. We will look at why the race in November could be a lot closer than anyone expected.

And, on the Democratic side, Barack Obama trying to spend Hillary Clinton out of the race, mounting a massive advertising blitz in Pennsylvania, and closing the gap in some polls. We have got the late details.

Also, this:

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We have to turn it around. All I was trying to do was make a difference.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

COOPER: What the judge did was tell all the white people in the courtroom to leave, so he could lecture the black defendants. Was he right? Was he wrong with good intentions or simply way out of line? You can decide. We will talk to him live -- tonight on 360.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, "LARRY KING LIVE")

SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R-AZ), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: You look like a guy caught smuggling reptiles in his pants.

(LAUGHTER)

(APPLAUSE)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

COOPER: John McCain tonight on "David Letterman." I'm not sure exactly what that reference is.

But, while Senators Clinton and Obama are still duking it out, Senator McCain is very clearly already running a general election campaign. He's also trying to smooth over some remarks he made last week on the housing crisis, remarks that his Democratic opponents say amount to leaving people high and dry.

He spoke about it today with CNN's Dana Bash.

Listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DANA BASH, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Are you concerned that there are voters out there who hear that who say, John McCain is heartless when it comes to this issue?

MCCAIN: Well, actually, I think the government should facilitate a lot of things. And there have been numerous proposals, many of which I have supported, and some that I will be coming forward with. What I worry about, of course, are massive bailouts that will then reward people who didn't behave well.

But my efforts and my proposals will be to help that homeowner who is now experiencing a great trauma of losing the American dream.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

COOPER: Well, that controversy aside, McCain is in starkly better shape politically than anyone expected even a few months ago, a statistical tie with Barack Obama in the latest NBC/"Wall Street Journal" poll, two points behind, but within the margin of error, and, likewise, with statistical tie with Hillary Clinton, but with a two- point gap in his favor.

So, how did McCain come back so strong?

Tom Foreman has tonight's "Raw Politics."

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

TOM FOREMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Even as John McCain stood surrounded by cheering fans in Alexandria, Virginia, a few miles away, at the offices of "The Politico..." JONATHAN MARTIN, SENIOR POLITICAL WRITER, "THE POLITICO": It's one of the most incredible comebacks in American political history.

FOREMAN: ... Jonathan Martin, like many political reporters here, was marveling at McCain's rise from the ashes.

MARTIN: This is somebody who is tenacious, who is indomitable. There's a reason why he survived five-and-a-half years in a prison camp. He doesn't quit easily.

MITT ROMNEY (R), FORMER MASSACHUSETTS GOVERNOR: We did what we did.

FOREMAN: Last summer, several other Republican contenders had more money, better poll numbers. McCain was fighting to pay bills, saying only one thing could make him quit.

MCCAIN: Contracting a fatal disease.

FOREMAN: Then the war in Iraq took a dramatic turn for the better. As casualty rates fell, McCain's support for the war and his own record of service brought voters to his campaign, like Jamie O'Keefe.

JAIME O'KEEFE, MCCAIN SUPPORTER: You know, no one really can understand what wars are all about until...

FOREMAN (on camera): Quite like someone who has been there.

O'KEEFE: Quite like someone like McCain, absolutely.

FOREMAN (voice-over): McCain also benefited as his rivals fell to their own political miscalculations, and he emerged as the GOP's best hope for beating the Democrats. His moderate views rankled the right, but lured the middle, voters like Dan Judy.

DAN JUDY, MCCAIN SUPPORTER: I like his independent nature. And I like the fact that McCain seems to be more pragmatic, more of a problem-solver, less ideological.

FOREMAN (on camera): And now, as the last two Democratic contenders pound on each other, looking at times like prizefighters, McCain is stalking the countryside, looking and acting presidential.

MCCAIN: It's coming along a lot better.

FOREMAN (voice-over): In a season marked by tumultuous politics, economic twists, and international entanglements, John McCain is selling stability.

Tom Foreman, CNN, Alexandria, Virginia.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

COOPER: We're digging deeper tonight with CNN's John King, Candy Crowley, and political analyst Amy Holmes. Candy, not long ago, it seemed conventional wisdom was that the presidency was the Democrats' to lose. How remarkable is it that John McCain is in a statistical tie or better when pitted against Clinton and Obama?

CANDY CROWLEY, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, the fact is, I think the race is following some very traditional rules.

The first is that, once you have a face to match with the party, it changes. People say, oh, it's going to be this Republican or this Democrat. So, when you say generically do you want a Republican president or a Democratic president, overwhelmingly, we saw Democratic. But now we see who the Republican is going to be, and he gets a boost from that.

He also gets a boost from another sort of politics 101 rule. And that is, when A argues with B -- that is, when Clinton argues with Obama -- then C, John McCain, is the one who benefits. So, I think there are a couple of those things going on.

COOPER: I stopped doing math in 11th grade, so I'm a little bit slow on your algebra there. But...

CROWLEY: That's algebra.

(LAUGHTER)

COOPER: ... I will figure it out later on.

Amy, the narrative several weeks ago was about how outraged conservatives were at John McCain. Has he soothed over those conservative skeptics?

AMY HOLMES, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, he's starting to. And I think part of it is also political 101, that conservatives are looking at who their opponent might be in November, and that's Hillary or Barack Obama.

And given these recent flaps with Hillary, the Bosnia sniper fire story that turned out to be was false, and Barack Obama with the Jeremiah Wright controversy, that is really coalescing conservatives behind McCain, because now they're really looking at the person that they're going to one to beat.

COOPER: John, has McCain made the most of this extra time to kind of launch a general election campaign, as Clinton and Obama are fighting it out with each other?

JOHN KING, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: It's a question we can't answer until we get closer to that campaign.

And part of the complication for McCain is, he's not sure who he's going to e running against. He thinks Obama, but he's not quite sure. There are a number of Republicans, Anderson, who are say, no, he should be out raising more money, a number of Republicans and some Democrats saying, boy, shouldn't he be engaging the Democrats more on policy issues, like Iraq, like the economy, trying to improve his own standing on the economy/

The McCain calculation is, let's do biography. Let's try to make a personal connection with the American people to protect him, to shield him, make him likable for when the attacks come. And they think it's working.

The most striking thing in that new NBC/"Wall Street Journal" poll you just showed, to me, was that, when you ask voters, these three candidates, you give them Clinton, Obama, and McCain, and say, who do you have a very negative opinion on, Hillary Clinton does worse, Barack Obama comes in a very decent, respectable second, but it is John McCain who fares best on that question.

That is what they want, to be likable, to build a force field, if you will, before the attacks come in full force.

COOPER: Candy, how closely tied to Iraq is John McCain? And I ask this with our breaking news tonight about -- about Britain now deciding not to withdraw -- or at least pause in withdrawing their 1,500 troops. They had planned to draw them down, but, because of the recent fighting in Basra, and basically the incompetence, or bad performance, of Iraqi forces, they have decided not to pull down.

If things get worse there, how bad is that for John McCain?

CROWLEY: Well, there is -- there is no way to separate John McCain from the war in Iraq. So, he has embraced it, the bad things that happen, as well as the good things that can happen, because the reality is that people are going to connect him with support for...

COOPER: We obviously just lost our feed.

(CROSSTALK)

COOPER: I think we just lost our feed from Candy Crowley.

John King, let me ask you that question. You heard what Candy was saying. How closely is he tied to Iraq?

KING: She's dead on, that John McCain made himself the -- if you will, the spokesman for Iraq in the campaign by defending President Bush and saying, the troops must stay, fighting with President Bush and Secretary Rumsfeld in saying there weren't enough troops there months ago.

So, he's -- this is his war as much as it is George W. Bush's war. And McCain publicly, when he was overseas, you know, just a little more than a week ago, in Great Britain, said he understood the plans to bring those British troops out, that was up to the British government and the British people.

But, Anderson, privately, he will tell you that he wished the Bush administration did a better job getting even more British troops to stay months ago, months ago, because the situation in Basra was so unstable. COOPER: And we're learning tonight it is worse perhaps than anyone had even thought, British troops apparently needing to get involved in Basra in order to rescue Iraqi government forces.

Candy, John, Amy, we will check in with you a little bit later on.

John McCain is increasingly the focus of both Senator Clinton and Obama. Obama is also flooding the airwaves in Pennsylvania, outspending Clinton massively. We will take you on the campaign trail ahead.

Later: John McCain's health. He says he's in great shape. He looks good, but he's been treated for cancer four times. We are going to check the facts with Dr. Sanjay Gupta.

Also, breaking news -- a massive fire tears through a housing complex. You see it right there. Crews are on the scene right now. We will have the latest developments coming up.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. HILLARY RODHAM CLINTON (D-NY), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Today, I am challenging Senator Obama to a bowl-off. A bowling night right here in Pennsylvania. Winner take all. I will even spot him two frames.

(LAUGHTER)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(LAUGHTER)

COOPER: Senator Hillary Clinton having a little fun on April Fools' day. It was a pretty safe challenge to make, serious or not, after her rival's bowling moves hit the gutters, literally, the other day.

Pennsylvania's crucial primary is three weeks away. And Senator Obama is spending three times more on campaign ads than Senator Clinton. With the Democrats locked in a fierce battle, we're digging deeper with John King, Amy Holmes, and Candy Crowley, who is battling the wind and rain tonight in Philadelphia, and doing a brave job of it.

Candy, let's start out with you, in case we lose you again. Democratic Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, he has backed this plan proposed originally by Howard Dean to have superdelegates endorse a candidate by July 1.

Does this plan, I mean, does it have momentum?

CROWLEY: I think it does, because the fact of the matter is, it's not a formal plan, like the Tennessee governor was proposing, saying, well, let's have a mini-convention of the superdelegates. So, it doesn't set up this whole new structure.

It basically says to the superdelegates, come on. Show us the whites of your eyes. Let's get this thing done.

And the fact of the matter is that Senator Reid and Howard Dean are reflecting what hundreds of superdelegates really feel at this point, which is, they really don't want a nasty fight or a showdown when it gets to that Denver convention in August. So, I think it does have legs, because there's no sort of coerciveness, let's all get together and you have to vote, but there's a, come on out, let's settle this thing.

COOPER: I'm not sure how much I believe polls of any sort at this point, but, John, some new polls are showing Obama slightly narrowing Clinton's lead in Pennsylvania. Can he lose there and still win there?

KING: Well, there's a question of the expectations game and if he can get somehow within five or six points, and then he can say, well, she was ahead by double digits. So, the Clinton campaign is certainly counting on a big win, Anderson.

Senator Clinton will go on. If she wins Pennsylvania, she will go on. But what they know she needs in her campaign is a big win to go on, so that she not only gets more delegates out of Pennsylvania, but that she gets the psychological boost of being able to say, he may be ahead in pledged delegates now. He may even end ahead in pledged delegates at the end, but look at what is happening as the campaign comes to an end. I am winning in the big states, the states that are critical in November, the states that are full of those middle-class, working-class anxiety voters who we need in November.

She needs that, and so she needs a big win. Can he win the expectations game if he closes it? If he's within four or five points, that will be their message. She was up 15. She was up 18. We got close. So, the senator -- that's one of the reasons the Obama campaign is spending so much money on TV, by the way, trying to at least narrow the gap. But let's not give them all the credit in the world. They're trying to win Pennsylvania. They're in with a lot of money. He's in with a lot of time. They hope to pull it off. And they think they still have time.

HOLMES: But, Anderson, you know, I would add another angle to that in terms of a Barack Obama, can he win there? Can he win there by losing? We talked about this when the Jeremiah Wright controversy -- controversy first erupted, that what he can demonstrate to the Democratic Party is that, despite that, despite the tape, despite the controversy, he was able to narrow the gap between himself and Hillary Clinton.

We know that Harold Ickes of Hillary Clinton's campaign has been trying to make the argument to superdelegates that Hillary Clinton is more electable, that the Jeremiah Wright controversy will bog Obama down in a general election, and you can't win the White House with that guy. But, if Barack Obama, in Pennsylvania, can show that he was able to overcome this -- and the exit polling will be asking the question about Jeremiah Wright, so we will be able to see more clearly how that influenced voters -- if he can have put this to rest, that will help him tremendously with the Democratic primary.

COOPER: So, Candy, on Amy's point, behind the scenes, the Clinton folks are still very much talking about Jeremiah Wright to superdelegates?

CROWLEY: Well, yes, because it is about electability.

And their point is, listen, this is going to -- you think it turns off Democrats. Wait until you get to the general campaign. It will come up again.

And let me just add to what Amy was saying, that it's not just, can he do well in Pennsylvania? It's, who can he do well with? So, if Barack Obama can bring in the male, white working-class vote, which is a key constituency within the Democratic Party, as is the African- American vote, then it shows again that he can cut into her base in a state where she was leading.

Now, we have seen him cut into her base in other states, Wisconsin, Maryland, places like that. But he needs to show here that he can still cut into her base of working-class white males. And I think that is where we will see if there is an effect, the Jeremiah Wright effect.

COOPER: Interesting.

Candy, Amy, John King, thank you very much. Appreciate it.

Still to come: an up-close look at John McCain's health. He's battled skin cancer four times. Could it come back? We will talk with Dr. Sanjay Gupta.

But, first, Erica Hill joins us again with a 360 bulletin -- Erica.

HILL: Anderson, we are following some breaking news out of Manchester, New Hampshire, where firefighters are working now to bring a four-alarm fire under control.

Now, told at least 12 units in a row of townhomes are burning tonight. There are no reports, though, of any injuries so far. We will keep following it for you.

Meantime, on Capitol Hill, executives in the world's five largest oil companies tell Congress they are not to blame for high prices at the pump. One lawmaker fired back at today's hearing, accusing the executives of playing an April Fools' joke on American families, pointing out the companies made a combined $123 billion in profits last year.

At Orlando International Airport, federal authorities say a man attempting to board a flight to Jamaica was detained after parts used to make a pipe bomb were found in his luggage. Several flights were delayed because of the incident.

And police in Waycross, Georgia, plan to charge three third- graders in a plot to hurt their teacher. Now, they were actually part of a group of nine kids reportedly involved in this plan. Investigators, though, say these three brought a broken steak knife, handcuffs, and other items to school -- Anderson.

COOPER: Third-graders?

HILL: Third grade.

COOPER: That's crazy.

HILL: Yes.

COOPER: Stick around. "What Were They Thinking?" is next. This one is a doozy. Hamas is back with another outrageous kids program. This time, a hand puppet of a little boy on the left stabs a puppet of President Bush on the right. This is what they want their kids to see.

And here's tonight's "Beat 360": Prince Charles looking around at a supermarket in Camberley, England.

Here's the caption from our staff winner, Joey: "Excuse me. Do you have Prince Albert in a can?"

HILL: You totally needed the accent there.

COOPER: Yes, I didn't want go there.

Think you can do better? Go to CNN.com/360. Send us your submission. We will announce the winner at the end of the program.

See if you can work in Prince Albert there.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

COOPER: Time now for "What Were They Thinking?", Erica.

Not quite "Sesame Street" or Barney, but in Gaza, Hamas has its own children's show. In the latest edition, a puppet of a little boy, there on the left, lashes out at a character dressed in green. The character is President Bush. That is him stabbing the president. The child calls Mr. Bush despicable and a criminal and then stabs him to death.

HILL: Yes, that's the way I would like my child to learn to deal with things.

COOPER: This, by the way, is reportedly part of the Hamas-run TV's newest Sunday feature.

HILL: Great. Yes. COOPER: Unbelievable.

HILL: You know, we've actually seen this show before, if it looks familiar to people. But they have this character -- there you see -- who looked a little like Mickey Mouse, Farfur. Yes, not quite a kind reception there for a mouse, for Mickey.

COOPER: Yes. Farfur, I guess, carries a gun and tells youngsters to engage in attacks. There you go.

Here's Kiran Chetry now with what's coming up tomorrow on "AMERICAN MORNING."

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

KIRAN CHETRY, CO-HOST, "AMERICAN MORNING": Thanks, Anderson.

Wake up to the most news in the morning, including a critical eye on air safety. From landing gear trouble to bullets in the cockpit, doors blown off in flight, here's a lot of scary stories and so-called miracles that worse hasn't happened. But could it be that planes are actually safer than we think? Safer now than before? We'll show you tomorrow on "AMERICAN MORNING," beginning at 6 a.m. Eastern.

Anderson, back to you.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

COOPER: Up next on the program tonight, John McCain's health. He could become the oldest person ever elected president. He's battled melanoma four times. His campaign says he is healthy, but he hasn't released his full medical records.

Dr. Sanjay Gupta goes up close.

And an Atlanta judge kicks everyone who wasn't African-American out of the courtroom so he can lecture black defendants. What was he thinking? He'll join us live and you can hear for yourself.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

COOPER: Senator John McCain talking to reporters about his last bout with melanoma. That was back in August of 2000. Eight years later, his campaign says he is healthy and cancer free, thankfully.

The 71-year-old Senator is also the oldest candidate in the race, and a new "Wall Street Journal" and NBC poll suggests that might be a problem. Seventy-two percent of those surveyed said voters are ready to elect a qualified black candidate; 71 percent said Americans are ready to vote for a woman. But just 61 percent said the country is ready to vote for a candidate older than 70.

If he wins in November, McCain would be the oldest man elected to be first -- elected to a first term as president. His campaign has released some but not all information about his battle with melanoma. Up close tonight, 360 M.D. Dr. Sanjay Gupta examines the decisions made to combat the Senator's cancer and what that might say about his health now.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

DR. SANJAY GUPTA, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): It's a face we're all used to seeing lately. But look closer, and you'll notice scars. Deep ones. They have many in the medical community wondering why. We decided to investigate.

(on camera) This is a picture of Senator McCain right after his melanoma surgery. What does this picture say to you?

DR. KEITH DELMAN, EMORY UNIVERSITY HOSPITAL: It looks to me as if he had surgery on the left side of his temple for this -- what we know is his melanoma.

GUPTA: Show me on my face.

DELMAN: What happens is they take off the melanoma, which is not only the melanoma but an area of normal tissue around that. So it can be a fairly sizeable defect that they take off there.

And then to take out the area in the face and the lymph node there, they took out part of his parotid gland, which sits right in front of the ear, which is an incision right just along the ear similar to an incision you'd have for a face-lift. But -- but not quite as pretty.

GUPTA: As a surgical oncologist, that strikes you as saying what?

DELMAN: It's a little bit aggressive.

GUPTA (voice-over): Make no mistake. Melanoma is a (UNINTELLIGIBLE) cancer. But why were the doctors aggressive with McCain's operation? Was the cancer more extensive than we've been told, or was it just an abundance of caution?

DELMAN: You have to speculate that perhaps they were very aggressive because he is Senator McCain.

GUPTA: So how exactly do people like Senator McCain get treated?

(on camera) When doctors operated on Senator McCain, they had a question to answer: if the cancer were to spread, where would it go? So they injected radioactive dye around his left temple, around the melanoma, and they watched it.

The patient behind me has just had the same procedure done. They injected some dye around her left eyelid, and they watched it spread down here. Question answered.

In Senator McCain's case, it spread to the lymph nodes in his neck. (voice-over) So they tested that first lymph node the dye reached. It's appropriately called the sentinel node. And they found no cancer. That was key. Very good news for Senator McCain.

But again, here's where surgeons typically stop. In McCain's case, they kept cutting and removing, and we don't know why.

Senator McCain has not released his medical records since his last run for president eight years ago. His campaign has promised to make them public in a couple of weeks. What we do know, McCain had a 22-million deep melanoma. That's considered moderately deep.

On a scale of one to four, the senator's melanoma was a two. The 10-year survival, on average, is 66 percent. And having survived eight years so far, McCain's chances are considered much better than average.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

COOPER: Sanjay joins me now with more on Senator McCain's health.

Sanjay, what is the survival rate for someone like Senator McCain, who's had, as you put it, Stage 2A melanoma?

GUPTA: Well, what we know, based on everything we've heard, is that it's about 66 percent at 10 years. You know, remember we're talking about 2000, so eight years ago.

A couple of things I will tell you, though, that are more nuanced that he has in his favor. One is the further you get out from melanoma, the better your chances of survival are. Once you're seven years out, your survival goes way up. So he's eight years out now. So that -- there's a good sign from him.

Also, the sentinel node lymph biopsy we spend so much time talking about, because he had that done, that's also very favorable prognosis.

COOPER: I just had, about two weeks ago, this spot of basal cell carcinoma moved from under my eye from around right here. How is that different then melanoma?

GUPTA: Well, first of all, I'm glad you're doing well. And you look well. Basal cell carcinoma is a much less serious form, thankfully for you. It is a type of skin cancer still. And it's basal cell carcinoma.

But the big difference between this and melanoma is that it has almost no chance of spreading, whereas melanoma can spread to the lungs. It can spread to the brain. And that is why they call it malignant, potentially metastatic cancer.

In your case, if they got it all out, there's a good chance that you won't have to come back again.

COOPER: And how do people lower their risk? And what do they look for in themselves?

GUPTA: Well, you know, one of the -- obviously looking at you, Anderson, you're fair-skinned. You lived in the northeast, I think, most of your life. But, you know, people who live in the south who tend to be fair-skinned are at bigger risk of lots of sun exposure.

And what we now know is getting lots of sunburns before the age of 18, as a child, is one of the biggest predictors of whether you get skin cancer later in life.

If you have a mole right now, if you're watching and you have a mole, there's things that you look for. They call it the ABCD's. Asymmetry of the mole, a borders changes, a color changes or the diameter changes. Look for those four things. If your mole is changing in any way, it's something you want to have your doctor look at and possibly even remove.

COOPER: All right. Good advice. Sanjay, thanks.

GUPTA: Thanks, Anderson.

COOPER: Coming up next tonight, an African-American judge who kicked the white lawyers out of his Georgia courtroom so he could lecture black defendants. Someone said his actions were racist. You can decide for yourself. We're going to talk with Judge Marvin Arrington in a moment.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MARVIN ARRINGTON, FULTON COUNTY, GEORGIA, JUDGE: You're the one committing these crimes: home invasion, murder, rape, theft by taking. So help me, I don't see what I did was wrong.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

COOPER: Standing firm for a controversial court order. In Atlanta, Judge Marvin Arrington was in the middle of arraignments. Nearly all the defendants before him were African-Americans. Suddenly, he asked everyone who was white to leave his courtroom, because he had a message he only wanted the black defendants to hear.

He told them they needed to stop the crimes, stop the drugs and change their lives. Some have called it reverse racism. Others believe it was a powerful, positive wakeup call.

We don't believe in taking sides on 360. Cable news, I know a lot of folks like to scream and yell and shove their opinions down your throat. We try not to do that. We believe in facts and letting you, the viewer, decide for yourself. So let's hear from the judge.

Marvin Arrington is the author of the book, "Making My Mark." He joins us now from Atlanta.

Judge, thanks for being with us. Why... ARRINGTON: Thanks for having me.

COOPER: Why did you ask the white people in the court to leave?

ARRINGTON: I didn't want to appear to be condescending, talking them down, what have you. See, I had been there 20 -- 20 years ago. I came out of the streets of Atlanta. And I want to see a better young person. I see them every day, every Thursday, come in. Cases involved where fathers are having sex with their daughters, people assassinating people for $15, over crack cocaine.

COOPER: So what did you say to these defendants?

ARRINGTON: I just said, "Get your life together. Get in school. You can be a better you, if you work hard." I essentially said the same thing to them that Bill Cosby said a year ago, or what have you.

COOPER: I think a lot of folks listening would say, you know, good for you and that stuff needs to be said. It's a message that needs to be heard. But I guess what some people question is why did -- why did you need to have white people leave the room to say that?

ARRINGTON: Well, they'll get a chance this Thursday, because I'm going to open the court doors and let everybody in. I'm inviting you down and others that walk in the court room, because I'm going to give the same identical speech.

You've got to do better.

COOPER: So the...

ARRINGTON: A man in my neighborhood was shot and killed while he was watering his dog, someone to take a watch off his hand. A kid was killed in Greenbriar Mall walking a young lady to a bus stop for no reason whatsoever. Home invasion. It is absolutely out of control.

COOPER: But I guess if a white judge had white defendants before him and asked all the African-American lawyers to leave the room, would that be appropriate?

ARRINGTON: I don't know. I think it's a hypothetical question. But if you're a racist, how do you get Jimmy Carter to sign your autobiography? How do you get Tom Wolf to sign your autobiography? How do you get Sam Nunn to sign your autobiography? How do you get Hank Aaron to sign your autobiography?

COOPER: I think too many folks in the media throw around the term racism far too often. And it's not something I would do. I guess, bottom line...

ARRINGTON: This city, I ran eight times unopposed, and I've been on this bench now. And the last two teams without any opposition. And when I ran for mayor, I won 90 percent of all the white precincts. This is nonsense.

COOPER: In retrospect, do you -- do you regret asking the white people to leave? Do you say next time you're going to do this, next week, you're going to have everyone in the courtroom?

ARRINGTON: Well, I thought in retrospect it was a mistake. Because my sheriff said to me, "Judge, that message should be given to everybody. Don't violate the law. Make something out of yourself. Go to school, find a role model, somebody that will help you advance your life."

You know, you don't get a chance to be a racist if you sit on the board of trustees at Emory University, sit on the parents' committee at the University of Virginia.

COOPER: Let me ask you, you've been on the bench, I think, more than six years you were saying to me during the commercial break. What's it like seeing these young African-American men before you every day, just day in, day out? It's got to take a toll.

ARRINGTON: It takes a toll, because six months to a year, those -- those same defendants come back before you after you've given them probation, made them give, you know, a certificate. They're back.

And I ask them all the time, "What progress are we making with you?" And sometimes they cannot answer.

There's no excuse to take somebody out and execute them in and around a place called Crystal City (ph) because there was a dispute about $15 worth of cocaine, whether or not the price was going to be $15 versus $20.

And to tell them not to kill, not to assassinate, not to have sex with their daughters, not to maim children and kill young people, not to shoot guns randomly (ph) in your neighborhood.

COOPER: Yes.

ARRINGTON: Now, if that is wrong, I don't want to do right.

COOPER: Well, we look forward to your speech next week, Judge Arrington. I appreciate you being on. The judge was kind enough to blog for us on the 360 blog. His thoughts on education. Very interesting thought. Check it out at CNN.com/360. Make up your own mind.

Again, Judge, thank you.

Next on the program, Washington helped bail out Bear Stearns. So will homeowners will next? A big decision today from Capitol Hill. What it means for the housing crisis.

Plus, new developments in the quest to solve the greatest hijacking mystery of all time, the infamous D.B. Cooper -- no relation -- when 360 continues.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

COOPER: Tomorrow on 360, danger in flight. Windows suddenly shattering, smoke filling the cockpit in flight with passengers onboard. Here's Drew Griffin.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

DREW GRIFFIN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): By the time it made an emergency landing here in Palm Beach, Florida, just last January, the windshield on the jetliner's cockpit had shattered. The pilot and co-pilot, already wearing masks and goggles, because the cockpit filled with smoke at cruising altitude. A half dozen people had to be treated for smoke inhalation.

What caused the terrifying incident? The National Transportation Safety Board investigators are focusing on this windshield heater on the American Airlines 757, which apparently overheated. A one-time fluke accident? Not at all. It also happened to this pilot on another American Airlines 757.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Our windscreen was shattered like a spider web. And at that point in time, my other pilot and I donned our smoke goggles and oxygen masks for fear that the second pane on the window was going to fail, between the air speed and the force on the windscreen. I probably would have gotten a face full of glass, and then we would have had a catastrophic depressurization of the airplane.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

COOPER: The pilot wants to conceal his identity because he fears disciplinary action. The federal government knows about the problem, so what's it doing about it? We're "Keeping Them Honest."

Don't miss the CNN special investigation unit report, tomorrow on 360.

Just ahead, the critter that stopped traffic on a busy Florida road. A trapper was called in, but the gator didn't give up easily. He resorted to the dreaded death roll. We'll show you in a moment. Not exactly sure what that means.

First, Erica Hill joins us again with the -- not familiar with the death roll.

HILL: Apparently, we're all about to learn about it, though.

COOPER: Yes.

HILL: So stand by for that.

Senate leaders agreeing to move forward on legislation aimed at easing the mortgage meltdown and helping troubled borrowers keep their homes. The Senate Banking Committee's top members said they will craft a bipartisan bill within 24 hours.

On day one of the new quarter, stocks surging on hope the worst of the credit market crisis just may be over. The Dow jumped close to 400 points to 12,654. Excuse me. This is the Dow's third surge of the year. The S&P 500 -- just a little -- very excited about this Dow -- how could you not? The S&P 500 rose 47 points, closing at 1,370. The NASDAQ, let's just say, was also up.

The FBI says a parachute found buried in Southwestern Washington was not used by plane hijacker D.B. Cooper. Supposedly, he was not related to Anderson. He, of course, bailed out over the Pacific Northwest in 1971, but what actually happened to him now still remains a mystery. No one knows what happened when he jumped. No one knows if he contacted Anderson Cooper.

COOPER: That's right. Do we have the -- do we have the artist's rendering of D.B. Cooper?

HILL: See, you look alike.

COOPER: There. It does kind of look like me.

HILL: It's kind of creepy.

COOPER: Yes.

HILL: But you swear...

COOPER: Yes.

HILL: ... not the same Cooper family?

COOPER: Yes.

HILL: Uh-huh.

COOPER: Sort of the look. Yes, not the same.

Anyway, now our nightly showdown between all of you and our staff, "Beat 360." We placed a picture on our Web site -- hi, Erica.

HILL: Hey, there.

COOPER: And you try to come up with a better caption than our staffers.

Tonight's picture shows Britain's Prince Charles, having a look around a Booths supermarket yesterday in England, a royal retail moment. Tonight's staff winner, Joey. His caption: "Excuse me. Do you have any Prince Albert in a can?"

Wah, wah, wah.

Tonight's winning viewer caption comes from Mark. His entry: "Excuse me, sir, but do you have any Grey Poupon?"

Ba-dum-bah.

HILL: I like the Grey Poupon one. I just like the perplexed look. COOPER: I know. He totally looks lost.

HILL: What do you people do with these things?

COOPER: Marvelous, Booths.

HILL: And there are all these boxes (ph).

COOPER: Yes. Booths.

HILL: Right.

COOPER: You can check out all the other captions we received on our Web site at CNN.com/360.

Just ahead on the program, drama on a busy Florida road. No cars involved, just a massive alligator trying its best to get away. We'll show you what a gator death roll looks like. Yikes.

Plus, from hardball to change of heart, a profoundly brain- damaged woman will get the money she needs for her care. What caused Wal-Mart to finally back down? Next on 360.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

COOPER: Time for "The Shot" now. Here's something you don't see every day or, better yet, something you don't want to see. An alligator, a really, really big alligator kind of moseying along a Florida road -- what do alligators do? Do they mosey?

Now, we're told head to tail it's 10 feet long, weighs 400 pounds down in gator country. We have people who deal with this kind of things. After several tries, deputies were able to loop a rope around the gator, who began to twirl and spin, as you're seeing.

HILL: That's a death roll?

COOPER: That's how they kill their prey, apparently. It's called a death roll. Yes. Sounds scary.

If you see some remarkable videos of alligators on the road, tell us about it, CNN.com/360. Though please, don't approach the alligator.

HILL: No.

COOPER: You can go there to see all the most recent shots and other segments from the program. Read the blog. Check out the "Beat 360" picture. Again, CNN.com/360.

Coming up at the top of the hour, she's brain-damaged from an accident and was just days away from bankruptcy at the hands of Wal- Mart. We reported her story. A lot of others did, too. You answered the call, and Wal-Mart did the right thing. The amazing and very welcome details next. Also, the secret of John McCain's unlikely political success. The pundits had kind of counted him out, even a couple months ago. A look at how he's proven the pundits wrong. That and more when 360 continues.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

COOPER: Tonight, we begin with good news, in fact, the best possible news, for a brain-damaged woman battling Wal-Mart. They were suing her for money she desperately needed for her own care. Her name is Deborah Shank, and after millions of you learned of her plight on 360 and elsewhere, many of you complained to Wal-Mart. Today the company backed down. We have details ahead.

And later, on the trail. Barack Obama flooding the airwaves in Pennsylvania, spending massively more on ads than his opponent, Hillary Clinton, in that state. Some polls suggest it's working.

And John McCain, he'll be the oldest president ever elected if he makes it into the White House. He survived a deadly form of cancer four times. So what's the bottom line on his health? Dr. Sanjay Gupta joins us for that.

Plus, a judgment call. An African-American judge tells whites to get out of his courtroom so he can talk to black defendants. Some are saying it's racism.

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