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ANDERSON COOPER 360 DEGREES

Glimmers of Economic Hope?; Chicago Student Killings

Aired May 4, 2009 - 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 glimmers of good news -- maybe -- Wall Street taking off, the Dow industrials up 214 for the day, indexes now back or almost back to where they were at the beginning of the year, the market seeing good news in housing, pending home sales up more than expected, construction spending unexpectedly rising, also climbing, people's confidence in the health of the economy.

President Obama talks about green shoots. All the same, unemployment is approaching 9 percent, and banks are still shaky. So, what is the bottom line for this economy?

We're talking about your money and your future.

Chief business correspondent Ali Velshi.

Ali, so, the Dow surged today, but he also pointed out that the S&P 500 has erased its losses from earlier this year. Why is that so important?

ALI VELSHI, CNN CHIEF BUSINESS CORRESPONDENT: Anderson, good question.

We talk a lot about the Dow. That's the board. That's those numbers we see. But the S&P 500 is 500 stocks, as opposed to the 30 that are in the Dow. And your mutual funds, your IRA, your 401(k) may have more to do with the S&P 500 than it does the Dow.

Take a look at where the Dow opened the year -- 903, the S&P 500. It's a different measure than the Dow. Take a look at what happened. You see this -- this choppy drop until March 9. You and I talked about it on March 9. That was the -- that bottom that we have seen in this market.

Now look what's happened since then. Again, it's choppy going all the way up. But we close at 907 vs. 903. In other words, the losses for this year have been erased for many, many Americans. That is an interesting point, because this is about your retirement. Things are definitely looking up. The market tends to be forward- looking. It tends to be ahead of other indicators in the economy.

But that's an important thing to consider -- Anderson.

COOPER: So, I guess the question is, why? Why the rebound?

VELSHI: Well, listen, for several weeks, you and I have been talking about the things that have been making this economy feel a little stronger. Remember, three months ago, Anderson, I couldn't find anything good to say about the economy.

But, over the weeks, we have been seeing things. Now, here's what we got this morning. We -- we -- these are measurements from March, because, obviously, these economic reports are a little delayed sometimes. But housing sales, pending home sales -- that's homes under contract -- up 3.2 percent in March. That's much better than people expected. That's because home prices continue to be lower and interest rates continue to be quite low.

It was in March that we saw those interest rates actually start to drop. Then, we also saw something else that was interesting. Construction spending was up three-tenths-of-a-percent, again, not much, but in the right direction.

This isn't home construction, because, obviously, homes are not being built, because they won't be sold just yet. But, generally speaking, public construction was up. So, these two things made things feel a little better. And, of course, last week, Anderson, you and I talked about the fact that one major economist that tracks the economy says this recession will end in 2009, maybe as early as summer -- Anderson.

COOPER: All right, so two indicators today, maybe things are turning around a little bit.

But, as you say, it is still -- I mean, it all comes down to jobs.

VELSHI: Yes.

COOPER: What about on that front?

VELSHI: It really all does come to jobs -- down to jobs. We have an unemployment rate of 8.5 percent. On Friday, we will get the unemployment report for the month of April. And we know, Anderson, no matter how these things look, the bottom line is, we are going to lose hundreds of thousands of more jobs. We may see the unemployment rate edge closer to 9 percent on Friday.

And, ultimately, until we have got more people work -- working and having an income, we won't get that consumer confidence back. And that is what this economy relies upon. So, we are nowhere out of the woods, Anderson. But we have just got, as you mentioned earlier, green shoots, some glimmers of hope in the economy.

COOPER: All right, Ali Velshi, appreciate it. Thanks.

On now to the kind of milestone that measures heartbreak, not wealth -- take a look at this picture. This is a boy. His name is Alex Arellano, 15 years old. Now, this is a vigil for Alex that is happening tonight, because he was found dead in a Chicago alley where his body was badly burned. That's where it was found. That's where the vigil is taking place at this hour.

Undetermined, why he was set on fire. Was he set on fire before or after the fatal gunshot wound to his head? Also unknown, why anyone would want to kill this 15-year-old boy. He's now the 34th student murder victim of the year in Chicago, 34. That's more than any other school district in the United States and seven more than the 27 killed last year, all of last year. That was 27 too many.

So, why is this happening? What's being done about it? Heartbreak and outrage.

With "Crime & Punishment" tonight, here's David Mattingly.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

DAVID MATTINGLY, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Even in Chicago, a city long suffering from deadly youth violence, the mysterious murder of 15-year-old Alex Arellano is unbelievably brutal.

He was last seen Friday leaving a girlfriend's house. She told his family he was chased and beaten by young men with baseball bats. No one could say why. After a frantic search, they found his body the next day. He had been severely beaten, shot in the head, and burned.

JUAN TIRADO, UNCLE OF ALEX ARELLANO: Why would they do this to -- to a child that has nothing to do with nothing, and -- and just -- and just, on top of that, you know, brutally killing him?

MATTINGLY: Police say Alex had no criminal record and no known ties to gangs. In his last school picture, he looks straight into the camera and doesn't smile. His family says he was very shy, almost fearful of strangers.

And, even though he was well behaved, it wasn't enough to keep him out of harm's way. His family says they took Alex out of school in September to protect him, after he was threatened by gang members.

ASHLEY RECENDEZ, FRIEND OF ALEX ARELLANO: It's sad, because they didn't have to torture him that way. He was -- he -- he never did nothing wrong, never. He was -- he was a good kid. It's -- it just gets to me. It's -- it's crazy.

MATTINGLY: Alex is the 34th school-age victim in Chicago to die violently this school year, according to an unofficial tally kept by "The Chicago Tribune."

This is nothing new. Chicago Public Schools counted 27 deaths last year and 31 the year before. In May 2007, teenager Blair Holt was an innocent bystander caught in the crossfire of a gang shoot-out. His death sparked public protests.

(on camera): At the time, grieving family and activists blamed lax gun laws, insufficient police numbers, even bad parenting. But now the unexplained murder of Alex Arellano and the rising death toll clearly shows the problem rages unabated.

When asked for comment, a spokeswoman for Chicago Public Schools told us, "It's an insult to the family, students and schools to count these poor kids and refer to them as numbers." To this grieving Chicago crowd, Alex Arellano will never be a number. But, in just three years, his murder is the 92nd reason to ask, how much more of the city's future will die before the violence stops?

David Mattingly, CNN, Atlanta.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

COOPER: We focused a lot on this story last year. We were in Chicago. We did a whole hour on this topic. This is a story that, frankly, deserves all the attention it gets. We are going to continue to follow it.

If you would like to weigh in, you can join the live chat happening right now at AC360.com. You also watch Erica Hill's live Webcasts, of course, during our show tonight.

Coming up next: the latest on swine flu -- the bug's on the move. But there's also reason for relief. We are going to tell you where the virus is heading and where cases appear to have peaked. And was a lot of this just hype? We are going to look into that with Dr. Sanjay Gupta.

Also tonight, the story that is riveting Los Angeles -- an alleged serial rapist and killer, now a former colleague is speaking out about the man he knew -- or thought he knew. This might be the most -- one of the worst serial killers in American history.

And, later, Madonna's court battle now under way to adopt a Malawian girl, and the legal effort to stop her.

Plus, all the commotion, not to mention the remarkably touching photos, that come with a president and first lady just going out on a date.

We will tell you details -- ahead.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

COOPER: Tonight, new numbers on the swine flu and some possible signs of hope.

The Centers for Disease Control counts nearly 300 confirmed cases in at least 36 American states. Worldwide -- worldwide, they're talking about more than 1,000 cases confirmed.

Now, across the border, Mexican officials say the deaths linked to swine flu have climbed to 26. But they think the worst there may be over. Mexico has now lowered its public health alert.

And, here in America, a Catholic school that closed in New York because of an outbreak also reopened today. Meantime, in Hong Kong, hundreds of people, mostly Western travelers, continue to be quarantined at a hotel -- you see them right there -- after one guest -- just one guest -- tested positive. Guests and employees have not been allowed to leave the building since Friday.

Tonight, Mexico is accusing China of discrimination.

Let's talk about all this with 360 M.D. Dr. Sanjay Gupta, who spent a lot of time in Mexico last week.

Sanjay, we heard from Homeland Security Secretary Napolitano today, saying, in essence, what they're seeing is not any stronger than the regular seasonal flu. I want to play this for our viewers.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JANET NAPOLITANO, U.S. HOMELAND SECURITY SECRETARY: As the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention noted over the weekend, we have started to see encouraging signs that this virus may be mild, and that its spread may be limited. We are, therefore, cautiously optimistic. But, nevertheless, we realize that this is not the time to rest.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

COOPER: You know, all last week, just about every night, I was asking you the question, and any guest we had, is this hype? And now you have the government coming out and saying, well, actually, it's kind of mild.

You compare that to what the World Health Organization said last week about humanity itself being threatened, were they hyping this thing?

DR. SANJAY GUPTA, CNN SENIOR MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, you know, I think, you know, hindsight's always 20/20 when it comes to something like this, and I think you learn more information as you go along.

At the time, Anderson, as you remember, all we had to go on -- or all they had to go was that this was a virus that the world had never seen before, and it seemed to be causing deaths, and those deaths were in people in the prime of their lives. So, all those things are certainly red flags from a public health standpoint.

What we now know, a couple of things, one is that, if you peer deep into the structure of this particular virus, it seems to lack some of the traits that make viruses particularly deadly. So, that -- that's a good thing. It doesn't seem to replicate as easily. It doesn't seem to transmit as easily as they -- as they worried about.

Also, I think, just from a timing standpoint, you're -- you're starting to enter into a time of year where, in the Northern Hemisphere, flu season is starting to really end. So, the transmissibility of this thing is going to go down even more as a result of the season.

So, all the indicators, Anderson, seem to be -- seem to be pointing in the favorable direction now. COOPER: At the same time, though, officials are saying that flu season hasn't even started in the Southern Hemisphere. How concerned are they now that this could continue around the globe and maybe even come back stronger next year?

GUPTA: Well, you know, I mean, we do have history to go on in some regards, looking at how viruses behaved in years past and pandemics past, and you're absolutely right. I mean, you can look at something like this and say, well, in certain -- in the Northern Hemisphere, you're going to have sort of a decrease in cases. The Southern Hemisphere, in some ways, may be a harbinger or a forerunner of what's to come.

I think the message that I keep hearing -- and I have talked to lots of infectious disease doctors about this over the past week, both in Mexico and here in the United States -- is that, you know, we -- we -- it's -- we're going to see an overall decrease in cases overall around the world. We will look at the Southern Hemisphere very, very carefully to see how this virus is behaving, and really, really preach diligence and vigilance come fall and winter, because, most likely, the swine flu's going to still be sticking around.

We're just not going to hear about it much. And then, when the fall, winter comes around, and people are -- are sort of in close quarters again, it's going to come back, hopefully, though, still with the low fatality rates that we see now, Anderson.

COOPER: Do we know at this point why there were so many deaths in Mexico, and -- and not anywhere else?

GUPTA: It -- it's a great question. I probably asked, you know, a dozen doctors down there, and I asked a bunch here.

I -- I -- the right answer is, nobody knows for sure. It could be a couple of things. One is that at the time that these -- that the swine flu started to emerge, nobody knew what it was. Nobody was getting any kind of treatment. And everyone was sort of just not -- simply not worried about it.

Now that we're thinking about it more, people are -- are just exercising more diligence. It could be that there may have been an associated infection. Along with H1N1, there may have been something else that was also acting. And that's what Mexican investigators have told me that they're specifically working on.

And it could be that maybe some of the people who died also had underlying diseases that made them more susceptible. But, Anderson, you know, you have been asking the question. I have been asking the question. We simply don't have a good answer to that question right now.

COOPER: All right. Still a lot of unknowns.

Sanjay, appreciate it. Thanks.

GUPTA: Thank you. COOPER: There's much more about swine flu on our Web site, at AC360.com. You will find answers there to a lot of questions about this new strain of flu.

Just ahead in our hour: the small-town verdict that's being argued over nationwide. Was it justice, or did an all-white jury let two young men get away with murder in the beating death of a Mexican immigrant? New calls for federal charges and a heated debate over hate crimes -- we're going to have the latest developments and the facts. You can judge for yourself.

And, later, new charges in the craigslist killings -- authorities say they have now got more evidence connecting Philip Markoff to another craigslist-related crime.

And we are going to update you on Madonna's fight now in Malawi's highest court to adopt a 3-year-old girl -- that and more when 360 continues.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

COOPER: Small-town street corner, words exchanged, a fight breaks out, and someone dies. It's not exactly common, but it rarely makes national news.

Tonight, though, there is a national outcry over the verdict in a small-town case with explosive racial overtones -- Latino leaders in eastern Pennsylvania today telling CNN they are going to push for federal charges against two young white men accused -- acquitted, I should say, on Friday night of killing a Mexican immigrant.

Was it a hate crime or simple -- simply a brawl that turned deadly? And should what is said during a crime be a crime in its own right? A discussion shortly.

But, first, the facts of the case.

Soledad O'Brien tonight "Uncovering America."

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

SOLEDAD O'BRIEN, CNN SPECIAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Shenandoah, Pennsylvania, a small coal-mining town of 6,000 people nestled in the Appalachian Mountains, a place that's never garnered much attention, until now.

In July 2008, Luis Ramirez, a 25-year-old undocumented immigrant from Mexico and father of two, was beaten to death by a group of white teenagers, turning the town into an unlikely flash point in the national debate over immigration and racism.

It all began on this street corner, where a middle-of-the-night encounter turned into a melee. Prosecutors say Ramirez was called a "spic" and other epithets. He was kicked and punched until he was unconscious. Two days later, Ramirez was dead.

Lou Ann Pleva, who grew up in Shenandoah, was horrified.

LOU ANN PLEVA, GREW UP IN SHENANDOAH, PENNSYLVANIA: It was unthinkable. How could kids do this? How could kids who were raised in my hometown do this?

O'BRIEN: Following the attack, four teenagers were arrested. One is on trial in juvenile court. Three others, high school football standouts Derrick Donchak, 19, and Brandon Piekarsky and Colin Walsh, both 17, were charged as adults.

Donchak was accused of aggravated assault, Piekarsky and Walsh of third-degree murder. All three charged with ethnic intimidation, a hate crime in Pennsylvania. All pleaded not guilty, saying Ramirez was an active participant in a street fight that went horribly wrong.

Colin Walsh's father, Michael, said last year, his son's a good kid.

MICHAEL WALSH, FATHER OF ACCUSED ATTACKER: He has straight-A grades. I never had a problem with Colin. Or I don't believe any of these other boys were in trouble either.

O'BRIEN: State prosecutors later dropped charges against Walsh, when he pleaded the guilty to federal civil rights violations. He then testified in court against his friends, saying, racial slurs were used in the attack.

An all-white jury of six men and six women convicted Donchak and Piekarsky of simple assault.

FREDERICK FANELLI, DEFENSE ATTORNEY FOR BRANDON PIEKARSKY: In my mind, it was the lack of evidence to tie these kids to these serious charges that they brought.

O'BRIEN: The prosecutor accepted the verdict.

JAMES P. GOODMAN, DISTRICT ATTORNEY: The jury has rendered their verdict. And they took a long time and deliberated it, deliberating the case. And we respect their verdict.

O'BRIEN: But the verdict has engaged proponents of Latino rights.

GLADYS LIMON, STAFF ATTORNEY, MEXICAN AMERICAN LEGAL DEFENSE AND EDUCATION FUND: In this case, the -- the message is that a person who may not be popular in society, based on their national origin or a certain characteristic, has less value in our society.

O'BRIEN: While some may think this depressed coal town is an incubator of fear and intolerance, the truth is much more complicated. Shenandoah is very proud of its diversity. People whose families come from Lithuania and Poland live alongside Puerto Ricans and Mexicans. Many residents feel overwhelmed by all the attention, and they say they have gotten a bum rap.

JOHN PHILLIPS, LOCAL BUSINESS OWNER: They have these vigils. It's everybody from out of town. They don't want -- we just want them to go away. We just want to get on with our lives.

O'BRIEN: Yet, many locals told us there are racial tensions. And the case has cast a pall over the town.

Before the verdict, we spoke with Luis Ramirez's girlfriend, the mother of his children. She was hopeful that the young men would be found guilty on every charge. When we reached out to her after the verdict to comment on this story, she declined, out of fear for her safety.

Soledad O'Brien, CNN, Shenandoah, Pennsylvania.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

COOPER: Let's dig deeper now with senior legal analyst Jeffrey Toobin and John Amaya of the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund.

Jeff, did -- did the verdict surprise you?

JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN SENIOR ANALYST: Well, you know, hate crimes are hard to prove, because they're not just about proving an assault. You have to prove the intent of the person. You have to prove why someone committed a crime.

In most criminal prosecutions, you don't have to prove why. You simply have to prove that they did it. And, here, they had to prove that this was done out of ethnic hatred. And that's tougher for prosecutors. And the jury didn't buy it.

COOPER: John, you believe this was a hate crime, though?

JOHN AMAYA, LEGISLATIVE STAFF ATTORNEY, MEXICAN AMERICAN LEGAL DEFENSE AND EDUCATION FUND: Absolutely. There's no question in our mind.

The individuals who testified who took part in the brutal beating, they, themselves, said that this was a result of their bias against Luis for the fact that he was a Mexican. And, so, in our mind, the -- the evidence was there.

We are just really appalled and outraged by this result, because what this does is, it sends a message to certainly Shenandoah Latino residents, but residents around the country, that, if you're Latino and you're brutally beat, there is no justice for you.

COOPER: We're going to have more with our panel just after this short break.

Also ahead tonight, the justices and Janet Jackson -- the Supreme Court actually weighing in on -- remember that wardrobe malfunction? That's what they called it. Well, what the order said and why it could have far-reaching consequences on indecency.

And stepping out of the White House -- it is date night for President Obama and Michelle Obama -- what they did and where they went and how successful it was getting away from all the reporters and Secret Service and stuff like that. We will tell you -- ahead on 360.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

COOPER: We're talking about the beating death of a Mexican immigrant and the acquittal by an all-white jury of two young men charged with beating him to death while shouting ethnic slurs.

We're back now with senior legal analyst Jeffrey Toobin, and John Amaya of the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund.

Jeff, you -- you were talking about intent and -- and -- and motive and bias before the break. If -- while someone is being attacked, if -- if the attackers are using ethnic slurs, does that not indicate some level of -- of bias?

TOOBIN: Absolutely.

In fact, that's usually the best evidence you have, as a prosecutor, that a hate crime is taking place. And that's what the prosecution put forward in this case, as I understand it.

The problem is, the jury, for whatever reason, didn't believe that that had taken place. So -- so, they acquitted them. But, yes, that's the best evidence, usually, you can have.

COOPER: And -- and -- and, Jeff, does that automatically mean -- I mean, do words equal a hate crime? I mean, if you use certain words, that equals a hate crime?

TOOBIN: Well, often, that -- they -- they do.

I mean, there are other ways of proving a hate crime. You can prove, for example, planning. If you can find a group of people that talked about, you know, "We're going to go out and get" some member of an ethnic group, and then they do it, even if they don't use slurs at the time, that can be evidence of a hate crime.

There are a variety of ways to prove it, but it all winds up in front of a jury. And you have got to persuade the jury.

COOPER: John, is there any evidence that this was some sort of predetermined plan?

AMAYA: Well, I don't know that there was evidence if it was a predetermined plan, but, certainly, there was plenty of evidence by individuals who took part in the beating that they went after and instigated Luis. They are the ones that...

COOPER: But the jury didn't -- the jury didn't buy that, though. Why do you think that was?

AMAYA: Well, you know, it's -- it's interesting that you mention that. Always, a trial is going in the jury -- in the hands of the jury.

And the problem that -- that we could foresee in this was -- was bias, because, from the very, very beginning, you had local city officials who were publicly pardoning these -- quote, unquote -- "good old boys," that they could not imagine these particular boys, coming from certain families, doing such a heinous crime.

And, so, we were very concerned, and we certainly pushed for a change of venue because of this very reason, because we felt there would be bias. And, lo and behold, now we're hearing about the jury foreman is mentioning that there was racial biases in the deliberation.

COOPER: How has he said that?

TOOBIN: Well...

COOPER: Jeff, what were -- you were about to weigh in?

TOOBIN: Well -- oh, I was just going to say, the facts and circumstances of this case certainly call for at least a federal investigation, because it is possible, when a group of individuals are acquitted on state charges, that -- that federal bias charges can be brought. That doesn't count as double jeopardy.

The most famous example, of course, was the Rodney King case. After the cops were acquitted in state court, they were eventually successfully prosecuted in federal court. And it -- and many people in the community are calling for a federal investigation here. And it sure seems like at least an investigation is called for, if -- if not a prosecution.

COOPER: And, John, that's what you want as well?

AMAYA: Absolutely. We are on complete -- in complete support of the Department of Justice coming forward with a thorough and complete investigation top to bottom, not just of the incident, but the actions that took place subsequent to the beating on through the trial.

We think that it's outrageous, it's egregious. And that's what the civil rights laws are in place for. It is well within the means and the authority of the federal government and the Department of Justice to come in and -- and seek justice out for Luis and his family.

COOPER: All right. We will continue to follow it.

John Amaya, appreciate your time.

Jeffrey Toobin, as well, thanks.

AMAYA: Thank you.

COOPER: Tell us what you think about -- about this case. Join the live chat now at AC360.com, and Erica Hill's live Webcasts, of course, during commercial breaks.

Still ahead on the program: Three Republican heavyweights kick off a listening tour to help their party try to get its groove back. What's it going to take to maybe reshape the GOP? David Gergen, Kevin Madden, and Joe Johns joins me for a discussion coming up.

Also tonight, if police are right, he led a chilling double life for decades. His co-workers never had an inkling he might be the most prolific serial killer to terrorize Los Angeles, one of the most prolific in the United States ever. Is he? Details ahead.

And a new twist in Madonna's quest to adopt a little girl in Malawi -- details on that just ahead as well.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

COOPER: A poll out today shows Senator Arlen Specter with a 20- point lead over one Republican he'll likely face in his re-election race next year. Specter, of course, left his longtime party last week, a move many in the GOP are calling purely political. Specter answered that charge on NBC's "Meet the Press." Take a look.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. ARLEN SPECTER (R), PENNSYLVANIA: There's more than being re-elected here. There's the factor of principle. The Republican Party has gone far to the right since I joined it under Reagan's big tent.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

COOPER: Meantime, former governors Jeb Bush and Mitt Romney are joining House Minority Whip Eric Cantor on a listening tour to reshape the Republican Party's image.

Joining me now, senior political analyst, David Gergen, former Romney spokesman Kevin Madden, and Joe Johns.

David Gergen, first of all, on Specter, I mean, principle aside, there's no doubt that the timing of this thing has all -- I mean, his switch is all about how he was doing in the race. It's not that he just suddenly woke up one day and said, "The Republican Party's moved away from where I am."

DAVID GERGEN, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, that's certainly true, Anderson. Remember, he was 20 points behind in the Republican primary poll just a couple of weeks ago just before he switched. And now he's 20 points ahead of all comers. So it made a big difference for him in his political fortunes. And that clearly was a major, major factor.

But he also has a point, that this has -- this has become less of a big-tent party than -- than the one that existed 10 or 15 years ago.

COOPER: Kevin, I want to play something that Rush Limbaugh said about these town-hall meetings essentially, this listening tour that Republicans are on. Let's take a look at this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) RUSH LIMBAUGH, RADIO TALK SHOW HOST: Look, folks, it's this simple. We do not need a listening tour. We need a teaching tour. That is what the Republican Party/conservative movement needs to focus on. Listening tour ain't it. Teaching tour is more apt.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

COOPER: So, I mean, are Mitt Romney and Jeb Bush going about it the wrong way, in your opinion?

KEVIN MADDEN, FORMER ROMNEY SPOKESMAN: No, look. I would actually disagree with the idea that it's a rebranding. I think it has more to do, Anderson, with reconnecting with a lot of voters.

Look, the reason we lost in 2008 was because we lost not only Democrats and independents that had long been, you know, members of this grand Reagan coalition, but we lost a lot of Republicans, and we lost a lot of Republicans because of our positions on issues like spending and taxing. And I think those are the reasons why we are seeing an effort like this.

We're going out and reconnecting with a lot of these voters. And especially those voters in the middle class. If you go and do a data discovery of the voters and their opinions after this last campaign, Republicans had failed to win the middle class on issues and ideas that really mattered to them.

COOPER: Joe Johns, is it too simple to make the breakdown in the Republican Party between those who want a big tent and those who want, you know, more sort of social or economic conservatives? I mean, a lot of big-tenters would be economically conservative, but social conservatives? Is that where the fissure is?

JOE JOHNS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: It's true. I talked to one Republican who used to work in the House of Representatives during the Tom DeLay days, not Kevin Madden, of course. And he told me, you know, you can't really choose social conservatives versus everybody else in the party.

His point is, you're not going to get rid of the social conservatives. They're going to be there for good. What you can do is try to inject some balance so that the voters out there, the swing voters that this tour is trying to reach, don't end up alienated because it looks like you just have one issue, whether it's abortion or gay rights or what have you. A little bit more balance they want to try to interject.

COOPER: David, what do you make of this listening tour or town- hall meetings, whatever you want to call it?

GERGEN: Well, I think it is a good idea for a party to listen, especially when it's taken a couple of pastings. And Hillary Clinton had a listening tour. These are -- these are good ideas in politics.

But equally important for the Republicans to, in my judgment, to consult their own past. And this weekend seems to be a particularly important time to remember what Jack Kemp was all about and why he was such a popular figure.

In the first place, Jack Kemp was the Republicans' happy warrior. He was -- you know, there's a grumpiness now among some Republicans that Jack Kemp never had, and it attracted people to him.

Jack Kemp was also very, very concerned about how do we find policies that make a difference for the poor and the down and out, the downtrodden? I remember walking the streets of Buffalo with him. And blue-collar people came up to him from all over, because they thought he cared about them.

And finally, Jack Kemp was constantly a source of ideas. Usually around tax cuts, but he had many other ideas, too, about private enterprise zones and the like. And I think that there is a lot about what Jack Kemp represented that, if remembered well, would help to revive the Republican Party.

And it just seems to me, this is a time when you remember the Jack Kemps, the Ronald Reagans and others who had been successful and what it was that made them successful.

COOPER: All right. We're going to have to leave it there. Kevin Madden, appreciate it. David Gergen and Joe Johns, as well, thank you very much.

Tonight, some stunning new allegations of piracy. But this time, we're not talking about on the high seas in Somalia. We're talking about right here in America. These alleged crimes taking place along a Texas highway. And according to victims, a team of highly-organized roadside robbers has stolen hundreds of thousands of dollars from innocent people, families included.

Even more shocking, is who many drivers are actually blaming for these robbers. Get this: they're blaming police. The police deny the accusations against them. Gary Tuchman has been investigating. We're going to have the complete report tomorrow. But tonight here's a preview.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

GARY TUCHMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Many of the people pulled over on Highway 59 tell us they are guilty of one thing and one thing only: driving while black or Latino.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There's disproportionately going after racial minorities.

TUCHMAN: So are the allegations true? After our repeated calls were not returned, we found the people you just heard about: the cop who has made most of these arrests.

(on camera) Hey, officer?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes.

TUCHMAN: My name's Gary Tuchman with CNN. I want to know if you recognize this guy. We're doing a story about this guy, Roderick Daniels. He was pulled over here by you a year and a half ago. And you took his money and his jewelry. Do you recognize him?

(voice-over) The district attorney, we located her at a fund- raiser.

(on camera) Ms. Russell, do you have any comments about these allegations regarding the forfeiture accounts? Ms. Russell?

(voice-over) Both the D.A. and the cop were very surprised to see us.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

COOPER: Gary Tuchman will have that full report tomorrow. You've got to watch that.

Coming up next, a social worker who may have been living a deadly double life. Was this man one of the worst serial killers in our history, responsible for the rape and murder of over two dozen women? Police say he is. We've got the latest details in this serial murder mystery.

And remember Janet Jackson's Super Bowl wardrobe malfunction? Seems like years ago. Well, it was. Well, right now the Supreme Court is weighing in, and the network that aired the public exposure may have to pay. We'll tell you why.

Also tonight, President Obama and Michelle -- Michelle Obama out on the town. We've got the photos and details of their date night in Washington. We'll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

COOPER: Imagine that one of your coworkers turned out to be an accused serial killer. What would that be like? Tonight you're going to find out exactly what it's like.

In Los Angeles. An insurance claims adjuster suspected of being the notorious Southland Strangler. Police believe he may have murdered dozens of women over the years, and now a former colleague is speaking out about the man he thought he knew.

Kara Finnstrom has tonight's "360 Follow."

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

KARA FINNSTROM, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Is this the most prolific serial killer in Los Angeles history? L.A. cops say DNA links him to the murders of two elderly women in the 1970s but fear the toll may be much higher. CHIEF WILLIAM BRATTON, LOS ANGELES POLICE DEPARTMENT: He's also suspected in as many as 25 other murders and scores of rapes that occurred in the Southland during the 1970s and 1980s.

FINNSTROM: His name is John Floyd Thomas Jr., a 72-year-old convicted sexual offender, married five times, who's been in and out of prison for decades. When he was free, police fear he was preying on and murdering women.

He was also working, holding down jobs as a hospital employee and social worker, leading a seemingly normal life, which criminal profiler Pat Brown insists is exactly what serial killers try to do.

PAT BROWN, CRIMINAL PROFILER: And they present that image, almost like a Clark Kent image, that no one would ever suspect that there's a secret life, that there's action going on. This is their cover for being able to get away with all their crimes.

FINNSTROM: Double lives, we've seen it before. Son of Sam killer David Berkowitz worked in a post office. John Wayne Gacy was a businessman. BTK killer Dennis Rader was a husband, father and church president.

At the time of his arrest, Thomas was a claims adjuster for the California state compensation insurance fund. And Earl Ofari Hutchinson was his former colleague. What does he remember about the suspected serial killer?

EARL OFARI HUTCHINSON, FORMER COLLEGE OF SUSPECTED KILLER: This was an individual who struck me as someone who was very concerned, very engaging, always very friendly, always had a smile on his face, always very placid, very soft-spoken.

FINNSTROM: Hutchinson also recalls a friendly coworker who sometimes shared religious e-mails.

HUTCHINSON: Scriptural sayings, passages from the Bible. It would be inspirational things for the day to live your life by. And I said, "Ah, I didn't realize that he was a very religious, a very spiritual person."

FINNSTROM: And for ten years, never a sign of anger or rage.

HUTCHINSON: Never saw any outward signs of hostility or even being withdrawn. Never saw any of that.

FINNSTROM: He's shocked by the charges. If it turns out Thomas is a serial killer, Brown says it fits the pattern.

BROWN: A psychopath is someone who has no empathy for anyone, who is totally narcissistic. Everything is about him. And he's learned to manipulate people around him and learned to in order to get away with what he wants to get away with.

FINNSTROM: Thomas will be arraigned on May 20. His public defender refused a request from CNN to comment about the case. Kara Finnstrom for CNN, Los Angeles.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

COOPER: Amazing.

Now some of the other stories we're following. Tonight, Erica Hill joins us with the "360 News Bulletin" -- Erica.

ERICA HILL, CNN ANCHOR: Anderson, new developments in the Craigslist murder case. Rhode Island police today charging medical student Philip Markoff with assault and weapons violations for allegedly pulling a gun on a stripper he met through Craigslist.

Markoff is in custody in Boston for the murder of 25-year-old Julissa Brisman and the robbery of a second woman. Both women advertised masseuse services on Craigslist.

The fight over Janet Jackson's wardrobe malfunction continues. First, the FCC fined CBS $550,000 after the pop singer's breasts were exposed during her 2004 Super Bowl performance. Noting the incident lasted just 9/16 of a second, an appeals court overturned that decision. But then today, the Supreme Court ordered that court to reconsider its ruling. And so here we are again.

Former presidential candidate John Edwards now facing a federal probe into misuse of campaign funds. Of particular interest here: more than $100,000 paid to his former mistress, Rielle Hunter, for a video she made about his candidacy.

Edwards acknowledged his affair with Hunter last year. His wife, Elizabeth Edwards, writes about the infidelity in her soon-to-be- released memoir.

President Obama unveiling plans today to close tax loopholes and crack down on overseas tax shelters for multinational corporations. The White House projects the proposed changes will raise $210 billion over ten years.

Critics, though, say they could push more companies and jobs overseas. Senate Finance Chairman Democrat Matt Backus -- Max Backus, rather, said the changes need more study.

And two years after a 3-year-old British girl disappeared from a Portuguese resort, her parents are convinced she is still alive. Appearing today on "The Oprah Winfrey Show," Kate and Jerry McCann released a computer-generated image of what their daughter, Madeleine, might look like today and vowed not to give up the search.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

OPRAH WINFREY, TALK SHOW HOST: I hear you keep her, Madeleine's room, ready for her. KATE MCCANN, MOTHER: Yes. We're ready, waiting.

WINFREY: Do you go in the room often?

MCCANN: I do, yes. I go in about twice a day.

WINFREY: Do you talk to her?

MCCAIN: I do. Usually I open and close the curtains and say hello, really. We're still going, and we're going to do everything we can to find her.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

HILL: Officials' search for Madeleine ended last year.

Madonna took her effort to adopt a 3-year-old girl from Malawi today, even as a man claiming to be the little girl's father tried to stop the proceeding. The singer's attorney urged judges to overturn a decision to deny the adoption due to lack of proper screening by Malawi authorities. No date has been set for a decision, Anderson.

COOPER: And we should point out that's a picture of her son, David, whom she adopted.

HILL: Exactly. That is some file footage there.

COOPER: Right. Coming up next, Erica, a table for two in Washington. President and Michelle Obama's date this weekend. Got the pictures and the details.

And who takes care of the girls, Sasha and Malia, when the president and first lady are out? Well, the first grandmother, Marian Robinson. Tonight we go up close. Her life at the White House.

And for our "Shot of the Day," artists around the world record a single song without ever meeting. You will want to see this.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

COOPER: Well, if it's May fifth, it must be Cinco De Mayo, national holiday in Mexico and a day celebrated by millions here in the United States, including Michelle Obama. The first lady visited a public charter school today. She watched the kids sing and dance. She also told them it is OK to fail, because that's how you learn to succeed.

Michelle Obama also spoke about her mom, Marian Robinson, and we all know Robinson moved from Chicago to live at the White House. She's looking out for Sasha and Malia, and that's not all.

Erica Hill has an update on the president's mother-in-law.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) ERICA HILL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: A leisurely stroll for the president and the first lady after a rare night out. Mr. Obama gave his advisers the night off to recharge and followed his own advice, taking Mrs. Obama on a date to Georgetown's Citronel restaurant.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They walked in, ordered two martinis, and made it very clear that they wanted to spend some time alone.

HILL: Back home at the White House, the first grandmother may or may not have been watching daughters Malia and Sasha. Last week Mrs. Obama made it clear her mother isn't sitting home every night, saying, quote, "She has a very full social life. So much so that sometimes we have to plan our schedule around her schedule."

In the April issue of "O" magazine, the first lady revealed to Oprah Winfrey she had to hire a baby-sitter on the night of the Obamas' first state dinner, because her mother had plans.

Mrs. Obama also noted her mother's been to the Kennedy Center more than she has. Clearly, Marian Robinson is settling in, an about- face from the days leading up to her arrival in Washington.

CAROL LEE, POLITICO: She said during the campaign that she wasn't going to be thrilled about moving to Washington. She's going to be in a brand-new city and having a much, much higher profile.

HILL: But along she went, an invaluable part of the family.

TATSHA ROBERTSON, DEPUTY EDITOR, "ESSENCE" MAGAZINE: When Mom and Dad are busy being, you know, first lady and president, it's Marian Robinson who they call the secret weapon, who keeps the two kids really grounded.

HILL: Mrs. Robinson and Mrs. Obama graced the May cover of "Essence" magazine, one of the first major interviews with the first grandmother, who still prefers to keep a low profile. As a private citizen, it's easier for her to explore the Capitol than it is for the first family. Though she does occasionally join the Obamas for big events like the White House Easter egg roll.

And even if her busy social calendar means the Obamas need a sitter now and then, just knowing the first grandmother lived in the same house offers some much needed normalcy, like an evening stroll, hand in hand.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

HILL: And Anderson, one thing I found interesting: at the restaurant, one of the managers actually said it was sort of embarrassing, but he had to ask, how were they going to pay? Was he supposed to charge them? Was he not? He didn't want it to be awkward. And the White House assured him that the Obamas would pay, and in fact, the president paid with a personal visa card. There you go.

COOPER: There you go. That's cool. That's a cool detail. Do we know what they ate?

HILL: We do. Mrs. Obama had the lobster burger, which is apparently a specialty there. Not that it was on the dinner menu, but they made it for her And I believe the president had a Salad Nicoise.

COOPER: Wow. What's a Salad Nicoise?

HILL: A Nicoise salad.

COOPER: Pardon my ignorance.

HILL: It's got tuna, capers, some olives, green beans.

COOPER: OK.

HILL: It's quite tasty.

COOPER: I didn't know.

HILL: I make them all the time. I bring them for lunch. I'll share next time.

COOPER: I would appreciate that. Erica, thanks.

Coming up, "The Shot" is next. This "Shot" is really -- you've got to see this. It's going to put a smile on your face. Virtual recording studio of classic song, "Stand By Me" like you've never heard it before, from people around the world. It's really cool what they do. We'll show it to you.

Also at the top of the hour, the recession perhaps a rebound. Stocks soaring. Good news in the housing market. Has the economy maybe turned a corner? The latest details ahead.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

COOPER: Erica, for tonight's "Shot," the power of music and technology put to good use. Started with one street performer here in L.A. named Roger Ridley, simply playing guitar, singing "Stand By Me," a great song. That track was passed around and around and around, around the world, until a bare-bones rendition becomes a symphony.

Listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

(MUSIC: "Stand by Me")

(END VIDEO CLIP)

COOPER: I got goose bumps the first time I saw this. We found this clip on Dismoto (ph) dot com. The site said this video will make you smile. It certainly did that. You can also check it out on YouTube. It's a great piece. It goes on for, like, five minutes. In the end, it's just so, so strong. HILL: It is great.

COOPER: Yes. All right. You can see all the most recent "Shots" on our Web site, at AC360.com. To watch the entire song and share it with friends, go to AC -- oh, that's good, we put it up on our Web site, AC360.com.

HILL: We've got it on there.

COOPER: So you don't have to bother with YouTube. You don't have to bother with the other.

HILL: Just go to the AC360.

COOPER: It's all you need there on that.

Coming up at the top of the hour, the market rally. What it means to your money and your future. We'll be right back.