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ANDERSON COOPER 360 DEGREES

Child Trafficking Arrests; Accused Christmas Day Bomber Talking; Holding onto Faith in Haiti; 3D Help for New Orleans

Aired February 2, 2010 - 23:00   ET

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


(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: Tonight, American missionaries behind bars in Haiti. So are they well-meaning folks unjustly accused or child traffickers? Tonight, we have striking new information from inside Haiti, where the jail -- from the jail where the missionaries are being held right now. Also from the small town in Idaho where we're getting a picture of just who these people are. You can decide for yourself about their motives.

Also, I just visited one of the largest Haitian communities outside Haiti right here in New York. Tonight, I'll show you how Haitian-Americans are working to help their loved ones in need.

Also, the big "360 Interview" tonight: Pastor Joel Osteen is going to be here live. I want to ask him about Haiti and about faith. How could God allow something like this to happen? How could something so unfair be reconciled with faith?

And later, breaking news: new word the alleged Christmas bomber is talking again and only CNN has the inside details of how authorities may have won his cooperation to prevent new attacks on the country.

But "First Up" tonight, we start with Haiti: child trafficking or good intentions gone wrong? That's really the question tonight; that and 33 kids. They are now in limbo. So are the parents who gave up some of them to a group of American missionaries from Idaho, caught trying to bring the kids across the border into the Dominican Republic.

Now, the ten Americans are in a Haitian jail, as we said; that's them right there. A judge is weighing charges. The State Department today said it is up to Haiti what happens next. There are a lot of moving parts to this story, though, really confusing trying to figure out exactly what is going on. There are a lot of raw emotions, of course.

In a moment, a closer look at the church group in question.

But first, the latest from Haiti and Karl Penhaul, who joins us now. Karl, you've been tracking this thing for days now. What have you just learned?

KARL PENHAUL, CNN VIDEO CORRESPONDENT: Well, of course we know that the Americans, from their own mouths, have no documents for these kids. They have no official permission from the Haitian authorities to get the kids out of Haiti.

We spent the afternoon with three young men, the interpreters for the group of ten American Baptists. Those three interpreters spent from Tuesday through Friday with the Americans, going everywhere that the Americans went.

Those interpreters have told us today that the Americans had a meeting with a Haitian policeman on two occasions. The Haitian policeman or what appeared to be a Haitian policeman, boarded the bus on the first occasion on Tuesday. And according to the conversation that the interpreters heard, they said that the Haitian policeman told Laura Silsby, the team leader of that American Baptist group, that she could not gather Haitian children together like this.

What then followed was an offer to help from the man who appeared to be a Haitian policeman. There was a second meeting with that same man, according to the interpreters, on Thursday. That meeting on Thursday, the interpreters say, took place in the vicinity of the Dominican embassy in Port-au-Prince. And after that meeting, the American Baptists came away with a document from the Dominican embassy, according to the interpreters. Now, we know from the Americans that the only official piece of paper they say they had was a permit from the Dominican authorities to allow the kids into Haiti.

From then, on Friday, only one of the interpreters traveled with that bus to the Haitian border. The Haitian police stopped the bus and said the kids could go no further and they launched an investigation.

At that point, one of the interpreters tells us that Laura Silsby, the team leader, put a phone call in to a man he overheard her calling Jose. That man -- a man called Jose -- appeared in a uniform, coming from the Dominican side into Haiti a few moments later. The interpreter believed that that man was a Dominican policeman, who he says tried to smooth things over with the Haitian police, a tactic that didn't work.

From then, tonight, we've once again talked to the ten Americans. We were allowed access to the jail cells where they've being held. And Laura Silsby, when I put to her that there were two men who appeared to be policeman, one a Dominican, one a Haitian, first of all, the group started singing hymns and started praying to try to drown out the questions.

But eventually, they conceded that they did know a Haitian man that they say was a Haitian policeman and another man that they say was a Dominican Coast Guard -- Anderson.

COOPER: So, I mean, this clearly raises a lot more questions. A, we don't know if this Haitian policeman was actually a Haitian policeman or someone posing as a policeman. But whoever he was, seemed to have given them -- or with his aid, they seemed to have gotten some document that they may have thought allowed them to bring these kids into the Dominican Republic. But, clearly, anyone who's operating in Haiti who's interested in kids or helping kids, at this point, or even at that point last week, would have known or should have known that there was a very strict rules for how you go about helping kids in Haiti, right?

PENHAUL: The order had already gone out from the Haitian Prime Minister that no Haitian kids were to leave the country without the proper documentation or without adoption procedures being formally signed off on by the Prime Minister.

Now, we know that the Haitian authorities put a strong watch in place at the airports and because there were a lot of planes coming in and leaving, relief flights and such like. So the Haitian police were watching the airports with eagle eyes.

Now, it does, of course, seem that when this group of Americans tried to cross the Haitian/Dominican border that they were picked up, so the Haitian police there was alert as well.

When the Dominican man who appeared to be a Coast Guard, according to the American Baptists, came across to try and smooth things over, that didn't work as well. So there was no bending the Haitian police at that stage.

But, of course, this is very fresh information that we're trying to piece together just in the last few moments.

COOPER: Right.

PENHAUL: We can't connect any dots and we can't run the risk of trying to connect any dots to leap to conclusions. We've got to go bit by bit on this and try and get at the real truth of what went on here.

COOPER: Were these kids actually orphans or did some of them have parents and were given to this group? I mean, do we know how all the kids ended up with this group?

PENHAUL: That aspect we've been working on very heavily today and have got explanations from the three interpreters, which also backs up information that we got from parents themselves yesterday.

What we understand now, from a number of sources, interpreters, parents and also the SOS Children's Village now looking after those kids is that probably 20 of the 33 children have a mother or a father or in some cases both.

The status of the other 13 is still being looked into, but we do know that some of those 13, while they may not have a mother or a father, certainly have a very close relative, which could be an aunt or an uncle or an adult sibling. So in no way where all these groups, nor even the majority, orphans.

Now, according to the interpreters who translated the conversations between the American Baptists and the people that they were collecting children from, the interpreters say that they believe the Americans knew very well that a lot of these kids have parents, because they interpreted their words and what they were interpreting for them was explaining that these parents could no longer care for their children. They couldn't afford to -- Anderson.

And finally, was there actually A, an orphanage in the Dominican Republic that they run or that they have experience running or that they -- we know for a fact they were taking the kids too?

PENHAUL: We know that this group doesn't yet have a Web site running. They are registered in Idaho, not as a nonprofit organization, I understand, but they are registered as a legal entity. As far as the accommodation in the Dominican Republic, I understand from the Americans that they were going to build a purpose-built orphanage. The plan was over the next six months, and meanwhile they were going to convert a 45-bedroom hotel to serve the purpose of housing for those children.

COOPER: All right.

Karl Penhaul has been working this for a long time. Karl I appreciate you rushing this on air.

More now on the church group in question; we really want to figure out who these folks are. Are they well-meaning folks who just came to Haiti to help kids and kind of got messed up in something that they didn't expect, or is it something more, as the Haitian government now seems to be saying.

Dan Simon is in Meridian, Idaho, where the group is based.

Dan, what do we know about this church and their experience with orphans?

DAN SIMON, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Anderson first of all, picking up on what Karl just said, we can tell you that this woman, Laura Silsby, she truly is the leader in all this. And we can tell you that she and another member -- they are members of this church, the Central Valley Baptist Church and they recruited other members from this church and a nearby church to go on this mission.

We can tell you that the plan to build this orphanage was formulated a couple of years ago, but it was really in its infancy and then all of a sudden the earthquake happened. And from their point of view they wanted to go down there and do something right away.

But as we've looked into the group and the plan, I think it's fair to say, Anderson, that some questions have really arisen about their capabilities. And we can just kind of go through them one by one.

First of all, they have no experience running an orphanage -- no experience. They're also not registered as a nonprofit. It's not clear over a period of time how they would have the financial wherewithal to sustain this orphanage. And finally, that they're not registered as an international adoption agency. So we've been trying to -- trying to probe the members here today, ask them about all of this. And I want you now to hear from a woman named Samantha Lankford. She just appeared on "LARRY KING LIVE". Her sister and her mother are part of that group in Haiti.

Take a look.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SAMANTHA LANKFORD, MOTHER AND SISTER ARRESTED IN HAITI: It's my mother and my sister. And I know that their heart was to help these people and it very much hurts me that they are being accused of this. They are -- I know that they are working very hard to take care of these children, even where they are right now, they are concerned about them.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

COOPER: So, I mean...

SIMON: I think of...

COOPER: ...go ahead, Dan.

SIMON: Yes, I was going to say, I think what you have here, Anderson, is a situation where these people really had the best of intentions, where they wanted to help, at least, that's what we've been able to ascertain thus far.

That said, clearly, they didn't really jump through all the hoops necessary to put this together. They had thought about this a couple of years ago. They had put together some sort of a manifesto in terms of what their goals were, and then really sort of sat on it.

Then the earthquake happens and then, suddenly, they get on an airplane, they go down there, a lot of them paid their own money to get to Haiti and then they sort of -- sort of felt their way through it. And clearly, they hadn't dotted all the I's and crossed the T's...

COOPER: Yes.

SIMON: ...to get this done.

COOPER: Well Dan, I appreciate your reporting.

And one of the things we tried to emphasize in our coverage and will continue to is that, there are many ways to help Haitian kids who are there now. They don't all have to be taken out of the country. In fact, that's just not possible.

So a lot of the groups, UNICEF, Save the Children, a lot of groups are looking at ways to kind of have orphanages in Haiti that really help these kids. And there's a lot of support that can be done for that. And there are very strict rules in place about what kids can be taken out. And those are rules that anybody who's operating down there, any legitimate group who works with children knows those rules.

Again, we're just trying to figure out what happened with this group of Americans. They are in custody tonight and certainly they're not the image of traffickers that the Haitian government seems to be painting, but, then again, still a lot of details to be uncovered.

Coming up next tonight, how do you figure out who's an orphan and who isn't? I know it may sound easy, but in Haiti, it is anything but easy. The future of hundreds of thousands of the kids is at stake. You're going to meet the people looking out for them.

And later, the military's top general says it's time to let openly gay Americans stay in the service. You'll see the reception he got from lawmakers who will have to make the monumental change, tonight.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

COOPER: Tonight, the children of Haiti is our focus. Nearly 400,000 of them were orphans before the earthquake. And now, as you know, there's no telling how many more orphans have been created.

It is confusing, though, to figure out exactly who is an orphan. Some fall into the kind of the same category as many of the 33 kids who were taken by the ten American missionaries now in jail.

They have a parent who -- or two parents, even, who for a variety of reasons are willing to give them up, sometimes to total strangers. It is a chaotic, frequently heartbreaking mess. You see it everywhere in Port-au-Prince.

Joe Johns discovered you also see people working to clear things up and help.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

JOE JOHNS, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): One little boy we talked to said he lost his dad, but his mom's still alive. Another lost a cousin. Figuring out what happened in these kids' lives can be tricky.

A flatbed truck cruising back streets and tent cities, carrying dozens of kids back from a day on the soccer field. Most people here don't know this is organized by one of the many groups here on a difficult mission, to identify and help children orphaned by the quake.

(on camera): The day camp is more than just play time, it is a safe place for the children outside of what is a really harsh environment right now. But it also gives the group a chance to try to figure out which of these kids are the so-called new orphans, the ones that don't have any parents, don't have any family as a result of the quake.

But it's really tough trying to figure that out. There's something like 85 kids here right now; almost a toss-up as to who's who.

(voice-over): Father Rick Frechette is a priest from Connecticut who spent 22 years here rescuing Haiti's children. He says the critical thing is separating the longtime street orphans who've already figured out how to survive in Port-au-Prince from the kids who have just lost their parents in the earthquake.

REV. RICK FRECHETTE, CATHOLIC PRIEST: The kids that are used to the street, they have scars, the way they stand, the way -- you know them immediately. And the kids that are trembling and scared to death and can hardly speak, you know that they're new to the street.

JOHNS: Second problem is, not all of the orphans are orphans. Parents abandon them sometimes, hoping they'll have a better life.

Alphonso Leone was once an orphan himself. Now he also goes out searching for kids left without family by the quake. But they don't take all the kids offered to them.

ALPHONSO LEONE, NUESTROS PEQUENOS HERMANOS: Like, they would hope that I would take the children and actually, they do that almost any time, but we don't work that way. Like, you know, even the mother, with a child, would beg us to take the children, but we can't do that because we don't operate that way. We help them.

In that case, I would help the mother and the kids to have a meal and to do something, you know, if we could help in the community maybe we would do that. But I wouldn't take the children from her.

JOHNS: There's another challenge too. Some here simply distrust anyone who says they're looking to help orphans. They're wary of motives, so the groups have to work to gain trust, which is not always easy.

Just last week Alphonso and his team brought in these two little brothers who left their house before the quake and now can't find their mother. The goal is to try to determine if the boys had any other family they can stay with.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

JOHNS: That orphanage is already anticipating that it will have to expand. However, as a whole, it's really hard to see how Haiti is simply going to be able to accommodate what appears to be this growing need tonight -- Anderson.

COOPER: You know, Joe, some people listening to that man say that, you know, if a parent wants to give up his kid, they won't take them. Why not? I mean, if -- why don't the orphanage just take kids if their parents don't want them? If the kid is unwanted by his own parents, wouldn't he be better off in an orphanage?

JOHNS: Sure. Well, yes, absolutely. And I think they would very much like to be able to take over the kid, but it's a matter of priorities. And when you have so many kids out there, potentially, who have neither mother nor father nor any family that you can reach at all and those kids have nothing, they take priority over kids who at least have one parent, even if that one parent is saying, "I can't take care of this child." It's a really tough situation.

COOPER: Yes. Joe, I appreciate you being down there. Joe is reporting as part of our continuing dedication to Haiti and the children of Haiti. You can look for stories on the subject all week here on 360.

Breaking news when we come back, exclusive details about how the alleged Christmas bomber may have been persuaded to give up the goods on other terrorists plotting to attack the country. Is he talking again? That's the story tonight.

And later, Pastor Joel Osteen joins us to talk about Haiti and what he's doing to help.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

COOPER: Kiran Chetry is taking some no-dose (ph) and joined us, stayed up all day so she could be on the program for us tonight, which we appreciate. She joins us with the "360 News and Business Bulletin" -- Kiran.

KIRAN CHETRY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Right and these are the evenings when Red Bull is your friend, for sure.

Well, we start with a sobering prediction tonight from National Security officials: heads of U.S. major intelligences agencies telling today to a senate committee that another attempted terror attack on the United States in the next three to six months is, quote, "certain." They also say al Qaeda remains the top security threat to the United States.

President Obama taking his jobs message on the road today; he was in New Hampshire, promoting his plan to direct repaid bailout money towards small business loans. The president calling for $30 billion to go to investment in a new small business lending program. And New Hampshire with more than 40 percent of its registered voters independents last November, is considered a politically critical state.

And it is Groundhog Day again, and the best-known rodent prognosticator, Punxsutawney Phil, did indeed see his shadow today. That means six more weeks of winter, if you're to believe Phil.

However, our own CNN meteorologist, Chad Myers, points out that Phil gets it right just 39 percent of the time. NOAA, by the way, says that Phil has, quote, "no predictive skill at all". They're all picking on the groundhog.

COOPER: I find this confusing, I know it's like the news kicker every year, but I don't understand, how do they know that it's seen his shadow? Like how, how do we know that...

CHETRY: He has -- he and his handlers have some sort of understanding, I guess. They're able to actually... COOPER: His PR handlers, ok.

CHETRY: And we were joking this morning that the only reason that he sees his shadows is because of all the lights from the TV cameras.

COOPER: That was probably...

CHETRY: That's the only thing shocking there in Punxsutawney.

COOPER: Yes, all right. Kiran thanks.

Tonight, one man's mission to get carried away in New York.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I gave you $5. You said it was $2.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes, yes, yes.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Ready?

(END VIDEO CLIP)

COOPER: This is a guy who gets lifts from perfect strangers, as part of his very unique journey. It's our "Shot." We're going to bring you the story and the person behind it ahead. It's sort of something to make you smile before you go to bed.

But the serious stuff first, the breaking news out of Washington about this guy, new information on the alleged Christmas day plane bomber. Getting it from the White House, who tonight is telling us about the secret cooperation the suspect's family is providing authorities. We'll bring that to you. Also try to look at why the White House is trying get that information out there.

Right after the break

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

COOPER: In "Raw Politics" tonight, breaking news out of Washington on two major terror fronts. We have new information on the president's push to hold the 9/11 terror trials here on American soil.

We also have new details on the Obama administration's secret communications with the family of the alleged Christmas airline bomber.

Senior Congressional correspondent, Dana Bash, is at the Capitol. We begin with senior White House correspondent, Ed Henry at the White House who has new information on the man suspected of trying to blow up a jetliner on Christmas day.

Ed, what do you know?

ED HENRY, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, Anderson, really remarkable. Late tonight, some senior officials called us back to the White House; it's extremely rare for them to do it. And it's all because they wanted to reveal some new information that they've been secretly behind the scenes working with Abdulmutallab's family to get his cooperation.

That basically, last week, he started talking to them again and it's all because these senior officials say back on January 1st, a couple of FBI agents secretly flew to Nigeria, worked for a couple of weeks to gain the trust of a couple of relatives of Abdulmutallab.

And then on January 7th -- 17th rather, they're revealing for the first time, two relatives of the suspect flew back to the United States, again, all in secret, so that they could convince the suspect, look, you can trust the U.S. government, nothing to be afraid of. They're trying to get information, they're trying to get your cooperation.

Why is the White House doing this now? Why did they call us back late tonight? This is a case where we don't have to do any guessing. They were very blunt behind the scenes.

One of the senior officials, I was struck, I put him in my notebook, he was sort of getting a little red and angry and talking about how Republicans have been attacking the White House, saying that they've botched these terror investigations.

One official saying, quote, "It's frustrated the hell out of me," because the charge has been, basically that by reading this suspect his Miranda rights on Christmas night, that got him to clam up and that they sort of screwed up the case.

These officials tonight are asserting no. By very carefully going through this, they've now gained his cooperation by working with his family -- Anderson.

COOPER: Ed, do we know how much he is talking. I mean, do we know how significant the discussions are?

HENRY: We're told that last week he started talking again on a daily basis. The president himself has been getting frequent updates about what he's being told.

They're obviously being tight-lipped about the details, but we're told by these top officials it's what they call actionable intelligence. Information that they believe they can use to prevent future attacks on U.S. Soil.

Now Republicans tonight are insisting, look, they missed five or six weeks of information that they could have gotten if they had not read the Miranda rights. But again, they're pushing back hard and I think the significance is this White House has been beating around on the economy and the health care, they started pushing back on that last week. This week now they're pushing back hard on these terror allegations.

COOPER: Yes. Dana, certainly in terms of the timing, the administration is leaking this after a day of criticism on Capitol Hill about the president's handling of terror suspects.

DANA BASH, CNN SENIOR CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: That's right. I mean, when you walk the halls here in Congress, like I have, you definitely hear an increase in criticism about the way the president is handling terror suspects, and also about the whole idea of bringing Guantanamo detainees to be tried in civilian courts.

And what is most fascinating, Anderson, about that criticism is that more and more it's coming from Democrats. Number one, Democrats who say, it's just not the right policy. And number two, remember, this is an election year, Democrats who think they are way wrong on the politics of this.

For example, Blanche Lincoln, she is a Democrat who is facing a brutal re-election battle this year. She said, look, she can't sell this back home. And she wants the administration to hear what she's hearing from her constituents, which is, people don't support giving terror suspects the same rights they have.

Another example, Evan Bayh, he also is up for re-election. He told me today, Anderson, that he thinks at a time of deficits, why would you spend hundreds of millions of dollars to try these suspects on U.S. soil in civilian courts?

This is also the subject of the Democratic lunch today. I'm told there was a feisty debate inside those walls. And the bottom line is this, Anderson, the president must get money from Congress to follow through on this policy. And more and more, talking to Democrats, they are saying, "Sorry, Mr. President, we don't think we can do this for you right now."

COOPER: Interesting. Dana, Ed, appreciate the reporting. Thanks for the breaking news.

Also tonight, new developments in President Obama's bid to end "don't ask, don't tell". Testifying before the Senate Armed Services Committee, Defense Secretary Robert Gates said Congress should consider repealing the 16-year-old policy that lets gay and lesbians serve in the Military, only if they don't disclose their sexual orientation. And Admiral Mike Mullen, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff made it clear to the senators that he personally believes the law is dishonest.

Listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ADMIRAL MIKE MULLEN, CHAIRMAN, JOINT CHIEFS OF STAFF: Speaking for myself and myself only, it is my personal belief that allowing gays and lesbians to serve openly would be the right thing to do. No matter how I look at this issue, I cannot escape being troubled by the fact that we have in place a policy which forces young men and women to lie about who they are in order to defend their fellow citizens.

(END VIDEO CLIP) COOPER: The service members' legal defense network says more than 13,000 people have been discharged because of "don't ask, don't tell". The policy, of course, began back with former President Bill Clinton, who back then had actually asked his inner circle to vote for or against it in private meetings.

Senior political analyst, David Gergen, who at the time was an adviser to Clinton, was in the room when the votes were cast. David joins us now for a "360 Insider Briefing".

That must have been a fascinating moment that the president -- what -- he was basically polling his inner circle?

DAVID GERGEN, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Yes, he was, Anderson. He had -- President Clinton, as a candidate, had said he would like to end the prohibition against gays in the Military. It wasn't much of an -- it wasn't an issue, really, in the 1992 campaign. And shortly after he was elected back in November of 1992, he said he planned to move ahead in response to a question at a press conference and all hell broke loose.

So when he became president, he met with the Joint Chiefs, the top military people and they said, "Don't do this, Mr. President, don't get rid of this prohibition." And then leaders of Congress came in to see him from the various armed services committees and said, "Don't do this, Mr. President, you've got to keep this prohibition." So that's when he decided to go for the compromise of "Don't Ask, Don't Tell", which allowed you to stay in as a gay, as long as you didn't talk about it.

That was a compromise that was very carefully worked out; George Stephanopoulos representing the White House at the (INAUDIBLE) Pentagon to try to work out this compromise.

And then the president called -- I joined his administration in June of 1993 -- and he called about a dozen of us together for a late evening talk, a late evening, uncharacteristic of Bill Clinton to say, "Look, I've got to make a decision now. I need to know about how you feel about 'don't ask, don't tell' as a compromise. Should I do this?" And he went around and asked each of us in the group, do we want to do this compromise or not.

And each of us, I was included, said, yes, Mr. President, you have to do this. You can't get further than this. There was one exception, Anderson, that was Al Gore. He argued vigorously and eloquently that the president ought to move all the way to removing the prohibition and letting gays serve openly in the military. The president himself embraced that compromise, announced it then, and we've been living with it since.

I must tell you, at that time, the public was against it. The Congress was against it, the joint chiefs.

Times have changed, and I would have to tell you, I think everybody in that room, the vast majority of people in that room, including Colin Powell, then head of the joint chiefs, certainly I would, would now view, let's get rid of "don't ask, don't tell". Let's get -- move to letting gays serve openly. I very much believe that. I'm biased on the subject now.

COOPER: Let's talk about the politics of this. Because I want to show our viewers something that Senator John McCain said today after Secretary Gates and Admiral Mullen made their comments. Let's play that.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R), ARIZONA: I'm happy to say that we still have a Congress of the United States that would have -- would have to pass a law to repeal "don't ask, don't tell," despite your efforts to repeal it, in many respects, by fiat.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

COOPER: He's clearly -- he says, at this point, you know. These are with two wars going on; it's not the right time for that.

A lot of liberal groups pointed to something else that the senator said back in 2006. I want to play that for our viewers, as well.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MCCAIN: The day that this -- the leadership of the military comes to me and says, "Senator, we ought to change the policy," then I think we ought to consider seriously changing it, because those leaders in the military are the ones we give the responsibility to.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

COOPER: So a lot of liberal groups, David, today were saying, look, you had Mike Mullen, you know, I think highest ranking guy in uniform, saying that he personally believes this. Dana Bash talked to the spokeswoman for McCain -- for McCain, who said, and I quote, that "he is still strongly opposed to changing the policy, but he will defer to military leaders when the time comes."

He also -- the spokeswoman also pointed out that Mullen was giving his personal opinion, not an opinion on behalf of the entire military.

GERGEN: I understand what liberal groups are saying about the discrepancy.

I think the one thing we ought to understand about John McCain is, whatever else you may think about where he stands politically, he has been very, very consistent in his loyalty to what he thinks the best interests of the military are. I think his whole -- his life is a story of dedication to the United States military. So I think he's speaking from a place of conviction.

And where we find on this now, Anderson, is that the head of the joint chiefs, Mike Mullen -- appointed by George W. Bush, let's remember -- and Secretary Gates -- also appointed by George W. Bush -- both supported this today.

But what we haven't heard from the other chiefs, and my sense is, from talking to people in the military, that what you're going to find is the U.S. Army and the Air Force and the Navy are comfortable with moving ahead, with getting rid of this "don't ask, don't tell" and moving as the president wants.

COOPER: David, appreciate it.

Just ahead, a Haitian-American neighborhood in New York, still obviously reeling from the earthquake back home, but not giving up hope. I'll show you what I find there today on the streets.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

COOPER: Well, it's been exactly three weeks since the catastrophe in Haiti. Haiti's government, such as it is, says at least 200,000 were killed in the quake, though, frankly, their numbers, they don't have any idea. While aid is pouring in, rebuilding from the rubble is going to take years, we all know that.

The quake has shattered lives in the United States, as well. The East Flatbush section of Brooklyn here in New York is one of the largest Haitian populations in the United States. I went there today just to see how the community is holding up.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

COOPER (voice-over): In this Haitian-American community in Brooklyn, New York, the aftershocks of the earthquake are still being felt. There continue to be vigils for the dead and at businesses like the Caribbean Market, money and supplies are still raised for the living.

At Radio Soleil, a local Haitian-American station, the earthquake and its aftermath are all they talk about.

(on camera): In terms of the impact, I don't think a lot of Americans don't understand. I mean, everybody who is Haitian-American knows somebody who was lost.

RICOT DUPUY, RADIO SOLEIL: Everybody's impacted in a very immediate and direct way. Everybody is impacted. Just yesterday, I learned that a good friend of mine -- we went to school together. He was a very bright student. I just learned this morning that my friend got killed. Every day you hear stories of this stuff.

COOPER: Do you worry that media attention is going to drift away and that things will just be as they always have been?

DUPUY: That is -- that is the biggest challenge. That is our biggest fear.

COOPER (voice-over): Outside this popular Haitian restaurant, everyone we met had lost someone. UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I still have friends that are missing. They don't know if they're presumed dead or if they've been shipped on a boat or anything to that effect, but, you know, we're just praying and seeing what happens.

COOPER (on camera): You lost nine people?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes. My sister.

COOPER: You lost your sister?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: My sister. Five people dead. Yes, she has six children; four dead.

COOPER (voice-over): The owner of the restaurant had lost his son and pasted his picture on the wall.

(on camera): I mean, how do you go on, when you've lost a child?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Well, we have no choice, you know, no choice.

COOPER (voice-over): At the Evangelical Crusade of Fishers of Men Church, the younger members of the congregation feel lucky to be American.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You know -- and we're blessed, because we're here, same background. These are our people; these are our families. It's us. Exactly. And we have the opportunity and we're here, living, but we have my little cousins who are out sleeping on the street.

COOPER (on camera): Does it change the way you look at your own life?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Oh, yes.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We're all blessed.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Grateful and blessed.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Could have hit America, could have hit Jamaica, could have hit any country, but it happened to Haiti.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There's no difference between me and then. The only difference is that I live in America. Both of my parents were born in Haiti, and I'm Haitian, just like them. That's my blood -- that's my blood spread across the floor in Haiti.

COOPER (voice-over): They gather here and pray for Haiti and sing the country's national anthem. A song of strength and hope, a song they hope their Haitian relatives can hear.

(END VIDEOTAPE) COOPER: Well, my producers and I witnessed the same unshakable faith when we were in Haiti. Earthquake survivors, many who had lost loved ones, lost everything, would break into prayer and song, seeking and finding comfort. This was a, literally, a parade that just spontaneously occurred on the street; people singing songs of faith.

Tonight, I want to dig deeper on our big "360 Interview" with Joel Osteen, senior pastor of the Lakewood Church in Houston. His congregation funds two missions in Haiti and his brother, Paul, a surgeon, has just returned from Haiti. Pastor Osteen joins me now.

Thanks for being with us.

JOEL OSTEEN, PASTOR, LAKEWOOD CHURCH: Thanks, Anderson.

COOPER: How do you explain -- I mean, how can God let something like this happen? I mean, I know it's an obvious and a simple question, but it's a question that always comes up in something like this.

OSTEEN: Well, we -- I don't think any of us have the answer. I mean, God is a sovereign God, but, you know, we live in a world that's not a perfect place.

I mean, the scripture talks about even Jesus himself said, "In this world you will have difficulty, challenges." One part even specifically says famines, earthquakes, trouble like that. So we don't know.

But I do know this. Like you witnessed down there, in these times of need, in times of crisis, when you turn to your faith, you can feel a strength and peace that only God can give. And it's the difficult times when you need your faith.

COOPER: Yes. And it was remarkable. We would drive down a street and see a little -- a family or just a group of people who were sleeping on the street, just singing songs about Jesus and praying on the street. And we would stop and sort of take part in it, just because it was so uplifting for everybody.

And yet, it still, you know, for people who haven't grown up with faith, it's an extraordinary thing to witness.

OSTEEN: It really is. I mean, in those difficult times, I mean, we've all experienced it, maybe not to that effect. But through loss, through, you know, just terrible times, you can feel this peace that's on the inside. It doesn't really seem to make sense, but it's what I believe is the presence of God in you, giving you the strength to overcome.

The Bible talks about, you know, God will give you beauty for your ashes. In those dark times that we believe in, they're going to come out. And that's the hope that we try to give people, and I think that's the hope that they feel.

COOPER: It seems so -- I mean, it's so unfair, though. I mean, just because you happened to be born in a different -- you know, because I was born in the zip code I was born in, my life is monumentally better than someone's life there. My life is better than most people in New York City, but I mean, it's just completely random, just because I happened to be born to this zip code.

Why -- again, it's a dumb question, but why are things which are so unfair are allowed to happen?

OSTEEN: You know, I don't know, but I belive God has a plan and a purpose for all of our lives. I think of the same thing, because I've been to Africa and different places, and when you watch those people suffering and you think it easily could have been me.

I don't know, but you have to come back to that central -- central theme that God has a plan for each person's life. Those people down there, they're not here by accident. They're here for a destiny to fulfill. I think when you believe that, no matter where you are, you can rise high, that you have a purpose.

COOPER: Do you ever question your faith? Have you ever had an event which really made you question your faith?

OSTEEN: You know, I really haven't. And I don't say that because I'm super spiritual, but you know, I've grown up in this...

COOPER: Well, if you're not super spiritual, I don't know who is.

OSTEEN: I don't want to sound super spiritual.

COOPER: OK.

OSTEEN: I've grown up in this, and you know, we've had difficult times, my mom facing cancer. You know, every week -- we had a big church, so every week, you know, I pray for little babies that have cancer or that -- you know, just terrible situations.

And, you know, it makes your heart go out to them, but it doesn't necessarily make me question my faith. It lets me pump hope into them more than any -- more than ever to say, God has you in the palm of his hand. Trust him. He'll give you -- he'll give you the strength.

It doesn't always come out the way we'd like. I'd love for all those people to have been spared, but obviously, it wasn't. But you know what? We believe that even when it looks like it's out of control, that God is still in control.

COOPER: Up next, high tech help for New Orleans; how one company is helping the city recover from hurricane Katrina. Part of our new series, "Building Up America", when 360 continues.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

COOPER: We're launching a new series tonight called "Building Up America". It celebrates the strength and the spirit of the people who are helping our country recover from the recession from life-changing experiences and, of course, from natural disasters.

From now until the fifth anniversary of hurricane Katrina later this year, we're going to bring you stories of renewal from real heroes across America.

We begin with a remarkable Gulf Coast company who found success after the storm. Here's Tom Foreman.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

TOM FOREMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Along with the thousands of homes and lives Katrina took on the Gulf Coast, countless livelihoods disappeared, too. Nearly 130,000 jobs were lost around New Orleans alone as businesses crumbled and their owners fled.

MATT WISDOM, TURBOSQUID: I was born and raised here.

FOREMAN: Matt Wisdom stood firm.

WISDOM: It wasn't clear that we could return to anything that we had known before.

FOREMAN (on camera): What made you decide to stay?

WISDOM: We just decided, you know, we can't be away from it. This is the time. You either come and make it work, or leave and find a new life.

FOREMAN: Where are we now?

WISDOM: We're in the TurboSquid headquarters office in New Orleans.

FOREMAN (voice-over): But Matt's fledgling company TurboSquid, which sells 3D computer models for commercials, movies, even here on CNN, faced the same problem hundreds of others did; the town's communications, transportation, banking, and even basic civic services were in shambles.

(on camera): No one business or even hundreds of them could do anything about all of these difficulties they faced, so they got creative and they got coordinated. And A man in here knows exactly how it happened.

MICHAEL HECHT, GREATER NEW ORLEANS INC.: This storm could have destroyed this whole place, but what it really did is it gave us a chance at intense self-examination.

FOREMAN (voice-over): That's Michael Hecht with Greater New Orleans Inc., an economic development groups. Since the storm he points out aggressive efforts to improve schools, provide tax incentives for industry and a fresh business recruiting campaign have helped keep New Orleans' unemployment rate to less than half that of many other cities.

In addition ambitious young businesses like TurboSquid are being grouped into building specially refurbished and made available for them at special rates to encourage interaction, sharing of information, even markets. The result?

HECHT: For every one older professional that we lost because of the storm, two younger professionals have moved in. What you are seeing here is one of the great comeback stories of our generation.

FOREMAN: At TurboSquid Matt expanded sales into the global market and used the city's reputation as an art center to draw talent to his firm.

(on camera): What have you learned here that would help other communities as they try to get through this economic hard time?

WISDOM: Some of it is to do what you're good at. It's to focus on doing one thing or very few things incredibly well and building the best team of people around you.

FOREMAN (voice-over): It has worked. Matt's staff of 35 is twice as big as it was before the storm, and the company is now the largest online vendor in the world of 3D. Not bad for a local boy who just wanted to build up his battered home and help others do the same.

Tom Foreman, CNN, New Orleans.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

COOPER: How nice are New Yorkers? One man went on a journey to find out. It's our "Shot of the Day".

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Can you carry me at least a couple feet?

Have you ever carried somebody that you don't know in New York City?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Once.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Take me to State Street across and we're done.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

COOPER: For tonight's "Shot", proof that New Yorkers are not rude and unfriendly; something I've known all my life because I grew up -- most New Yorkers at least.

The evidence comes to us from a comedian and filmmaker Mark Malkoff who asked strangers, complete strangers, to carry him from one tip of Manhattan to the other. He recorded the journey. Here's some of it.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) MARK MALKOFF, COMEDIAN/FILMMAKER: We are in front of the Staten Island ferry entrance here in Manhattan. The world thinks that New Yorkers are not nice. What do you think? New Yorkers are nice.

Have you ever carried somebody that you don't know in New York City?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Once.

MALKOFF: I found myself really enjoying the chitchat.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Two children. Married.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I left a bad relationship in Boston.

MALKOFF: What are you cooking for dinner, anything good?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: A casserole.

MALKOFF: It seemed as though people actually wanted to carry me.

I am the emperor of Broadway.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Woo.

MALKOFF: Please don't drop me. Oh, please, don't drop me.

New Yorkers are nice.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I am.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

COOPER: Malkoff was carried by 155 people, and he's not done yet. Mark? Look, he's still being carried by our floor crew.

MALKOFF: Anderson thanks for this.

COOPER: Thank you.

MALKOFF: Classy joint.

COOPER: Yes. So -- so why did you come up with this idea?

MALKOFF: Well, I was going across America, doing a video project with the Ford Motor Company. And a lot of people in America were under the impression that New Yorkers are unfriendly. So I wanted to make this video to disprove the myth.

COOPER: So you what -- you would just go up to random people and say, "Please carry me"?

MALKOFF: Yes.

COOPER: Is there a handoff?

MALKOFF: I did. And I had a total of...

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There you go. How are you doing?

MALKOFF: I'm doing great. A total of 155 people put their hands on me and transported me 9.4 miles.

COOPER: I like when you asked the question of that one guy, "Have you ever been -- have you ever carried somebody you didn't know?" And the guy was like, "Yes, only once."

MALKOFF: It happened a couple times. It's New York, though.

CHETRY: It happened to me on the coldest day of the year. I had the best luck in Times Square. Does that mean tourists are actually nicer than the locals?

MALKOFF: I think both. I think -- yes, a lot of tourists carried me.

Oh, my dear goodness. You guys don't know this, but you're going to be carrying me back to my Queens apartment after the show.

COOPER: Who was your most surprising carrier?

MALKOFF: Most surprising were nine musical theater kids that carried me six blocks while singing Lady Gaga.

CHETRY: Is he heavy, by the way?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No, not too bad. Luckily I had a light lunch.

COOPER: And so what do you do to top this? Do you have a next plan?

MALKOFF: I honestly don't know. I don't know. Maybe go to space. I don't know. If you go to Mark Malkoff...

COOPER: How much do you weigh, by the way?

MALKOFF: One hundred and thirty pounds and I lost weight for this.

COOPER: Is that right? All right.

MALKOFF: Some of these guys, I heard, were weak.

CHETRY: You're always talking about how nice New Yorkers are. If he approached you in the street, would you run or would you carry him?

COOPER: I would not carry you. I'm sorry.

MALKOFF: Come on, Anderson.

COOPER: It's nothing to do -- does not make me a nice New Yorker. I just -- you know, I probably only weigh about 30 pounds more than you, so...

MALKOFF: Campbell Brown would carry me.

COOPER: I'm sure Campbell would. She's that kind of lady. Yes.

MALKOFF: Yes.

COOPER: Yes. Mark, appreciate it.

MALKOFF: Nice to see you. If you go to MarkMalkoff.com, you can watch my video. It's a pleasure.

CHETRY: Thank you. I saw it. It's good.

COOPER: A little plug in there. All right, Mark.

MALKOFF: I have to.

COOPER: I know you do. That's all right.

This actually inspired a lot of folks on our staff. Do we have time for this video? Very briefly, Sean Yates (ph) made a bet that Diana Miller could not carry him. And look, Diana is carrying him.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Oh my God. How did you do that?

(END VIDEO CLIP)

COOPER: There you go.

Hey, that's it for 360. Thanks for watching.

"LARRY KING" starts now.