June 26th, 2008
06:01 PM ET

Erica’s News Note: Updates

Erica Hill
AC360° Correspondent

One of the wildfires burning in California is approaching Big Sur. My husband mentioned this to me before I left for work today – and it hit me like a rock. He has a much closer tie to Big Sur, but the magic of this coastal town is infectious. It’s impossible to explain how Big Sur makes you feel, but trust me when I say once you’ve experienced the beauty, peace and energy of this coastal community, you will never be the same.

Hundreds of homes across the state are threatened and the damage, sadly, won’t be limited to California. New Mexico is also dealing with several fires.

Eleven years behind bars. Plenty of time for Varsha Sabhani to think about what she and her husband did to two Indonesian women they were convicted of abusing. Actually, “abuse” doesn’t really cut it. The actions of this couple led to allegations of “modern-day slavery." The details are insane. We covered this story several times on my show at Headline News, and each time the Prime News show team was left speechless by the alleged abuses these women suffered.

The victims – two women who came to the US from Indonesia to work as housekeepers – testified they were beaten repeatedly, forced to search for food in the garbage because they weren’t fed properly (and were then beaten for that), that their passports and documents were confiscated on the day they came to work for this couple. One of the women says she was forced to eat dozens of chili peppers and when she threw up, was then forced to eat her own vomit.

Her husband will be sentenced tomorrow.

This final tale may come as a shock to many, but I feel it’s my duty to keep you informed. You may want to sit down for this.

It turns out the Pope’s shoes – yes, the snazzy red ones – are NOT Prada. WHAT?!

The Vatican newspaper “L’Osservatore Romano” says Benedict XVI isn’t much for fashion, that he’s a simple man who opts for symbolism in his clothing choices, not labels. The paper goes on to say the Pope “does not wear Prada, but Christ.”

It doesn’t much matter to me either way, but if they’re not Prada shoes, why not just say so from Day One? The Pope’s snappy red footwear has been talked about since his inauguration three years ago, and consistently credited to Prada. Why not give the little guy from Novara the credit sooner? Just a thought…

Filed under: Erica Hill • Erica's News Note
soundoff (19 Responses)
  1. Moriyina

    Not Big Sur. When I heard about it from Alanis' new CD. I included it to my list of places to visit.

    June 27, 2008 at 12:06 pm |
  2. Victor in Saanich, B.C. Canada

    Erica, after the two inmates do their time, if they are not from here, will they be deported?? An added bonus n'est pas??

    June 27, 2008 at 2:54 am |
  3. Helene

    Hi Erica,
    I live in Santa Cruz County in California which is close to Big Sur and also has lots of vegetation. We've had three fires here in the past three weeks. There are so many fires in California that our firefighters are stretched thin. Bless them and their hard work.The usually beautiful blue skies that adorn our Santa Cruz summers are grey with smoke. Even the sea breeze cannot blow it away. Ash covers our decks and patios. Last week the temperature was in the 100's every day, which is unusual for us.

    Though there are lots of rumors about arson, the fires so far that have proven causes have been from lightning and misfiring car engines. All fireworks have been banned from our country. Hopefully, the fires will soon be under control and extinguished.

    June 27, 2008 at 12:26 am |
  4. Lorie Ann, Buellton, California

    Hi Erica,
    Yes, California has certainly had it's share of fires. They seem to never end. So much loss of landscape and property.
    So the Pope isn't wearing Prada? Makes you wonder if his hat is a copycat too. Gotta love a man that could care less about labels.

    Lorie Ann, Buellton, Calif.

    June 26, 2008 at 9:57 pm |
  5. Jim- Kearny, NJ

    Hi Erica : )

    I've never been to Big Sur but it looks awesome from the pictures I've seen. Let's hope for some rain really soon, without the lightning this time around.

    I remember you covering the Indonesian housekeepers. It's an appalling story and I'm kind of disappointed that Varsha Sabhani only got eleven years. I can't imagine treating people that way. It's just way beyond my comprehension. If her husband gets twenty, I'll feel better about it.

    And the Pope, well, I just can't get excited what's on his feet.

    Have a great night and see ya later : )

    June 26, 2008 at 9:53 pm |
  6. Sam, CA

    Big Sur is close to my heart as well. My fiance and I went there to celebrate our engagement and now go back every year to celebrate. It's so sad to see what is happening to the geography of Northern California. To add to that, I hate to think what breathing in all this smoke is doing to my body, especially being one of millions of Americans who have asthma. Thanks for bringing this topic up for discussion. I think more people need to know what is burning up here, it's not just "parts of California" but "parts of the wine country, parts of Big Sur, parts of Monterey/Carmel" all big destination spots that people go to when they come to CA. Thanks!

    June 26, 2008 at 9:52 pm |
  7. Kathy, Chicago

    Fires are pretty scary. I always worry about the innocent wildlife. They are trapped with no where to go. I would not want to be a home owner waiting to see how close the fire comes to their property. Our show mare was killed in a trailer fire on Monday. She was on her way to our next show. She also was trapped. My daughter and I are heartbroken. I will pray for all those living close to the fire. I hope that they are spared. P.S. I love the Pope's red shoes!

    June 26, 2008 at 9:30 pm |
  8. Annie Kate

    The Pope probably didn't pay any attention to what was being said about his shoes to realize people had made the wrong assumption. Its not at the top of the priority list to disspell rumors about the origin of his fancy red shoes. The Pope would probably rather us pay more attention to his message and less to his shoes!

    The wildfire season seems to have started sooner this year than last. I just hope it won't be worse than last year. Hope Big Sur misses this fire and any other fires around it this year. I wonder how the people from last year's fires are this year – if they have been able to rebuild, etc or if they are still waiting on insurance companies to pay.

    Annie Kate
    Birmingham AL

    June 26, 2008 at 9:07 pm |
  9. Brent-Little Rock

    Erica's married? My day is ruined!

    June 26, 2008 at 9:05 pm |
  10. Heidi,lou.ky

    It is not global warming , it calls trowing cigarettes butts trough window , people driving ,smoking , listening music,,,,,oh i can't reach ashtray, no problem ,,,roll window down ,,,there is fire,,

    June 26, 2008 at 7:45 pm |
  11. Patty Harris

    I have been there many times and you are so right. The whole route along the ocean is like nothing I had ever seen before. I was awestruck the whole way the first time I travelled it and everytime after. I hope things turn out OK and the people there are safe.

    June 26, 2008 at 7:32 pm |
  12. JC- Los Angeles

    Here in California, we are reeling from one disaster after another with no end in sight; the fires are always in the backs of our minds but when they appear alongside real estate meltdowns, entertainment strikes, a stock market crash and no leadership, it's horrendous. Arnold has been nowhere to be seen and LA mayor Villaraigosa has been flying around the country trying to advance his political career, first with Hillary and now with Obama. Thanks to all the firefighters, sheriffs and volunteers, the state isn't a total loss.

    June 26, 2008 at 7:15 pm |
  13. Tammy, Berwick, LA

    So the Pope isn't such a fashionista after all? Hmm. It took the Vatican three years to debunk this. I'm not buying it. Sounds like a cover-up to make him appear less enthralled with the trappings of wealth (although I personally never saw Prada as a trapping of anything but excellent taste). Oh well. The shoes are still pretty spiffy anyway.

    I was going to maybe try for a long weekend in the Bay Area visiting family this coming month. Maybe not now. Smoke inhalation wasn't fun the first time around. This really stinks because we always have fun there, and the weather is normally just amazing in July. The silver lining is I can use the travel money and blow it on redecorating instead.

    What were these morons thinking holding slaves in the 21st century? I think this couple should have to clean latrines, mop floors, and work in the kitchen while in jail so they can better appreciate what those women did for them. Unbelievable.

    June 26, 2008 at 7:03 pm |
  14. Jo Ann, North Royalton, Ohio


    Everybody knows that only "The Devil Wears Prada!"

    June 26, 2008 at 7:01 pm |
  15. Sabrina in Los Angeles

    We are getting the smoke from the Northern California fires down here In Los Angeles, and that makes it hard to be outside.

    I can't believe how many fires there have been already and fire season doesn't traditionally start until I think July.

    I hope people heed the Governators warning and don't light fireworks, otherwise all of California will be a blaze.

    On those people and the way they treated their maids – Bible says to give to them before yourself. "He who has a slave/servant has a master." Maybe when they are sitting in jail they can crack that book open and read up.

    LOL on the shoes. Priesthood is spiritual not material driven, a concept that is a shock for this world I know.

    June 26, 2008 at 6:35 pm |
  16. Lilibeth

    I know what you mean about Big Sur. I’m originally from California and my husband and I used to spend long weekends in coastal towns. The drive on Highway 1 is very pretty and although it zigzags, it’s very picturesque and you can’t help but be in a good mood with all the beautiful scenery.

    It’s sad and true that some people from other countries who work as housekeepers are abused like the women you described. One time I heard a story where a woman accused her housekeeper of stealing, so she burned her hands with an iron, only to find out she wasn’t the one who stole from her (it was a relative who lived in the same house). The abuses come in all forms. All these people want is a source of income so they can send money to their families in their homeland. They have a hard life as it is, but to endure this suffering besides? My goodness. I wish there’s a better way to protect them.

    Prada or no Prada…the pope isn’t as fashionable as I thought…oh well…

    I hope the broadcast tonight will talk about Zimbabwe. It’s an important story.

    See you tonight,

    Edmonds, Washington

    June 26, 2008 at 6:23 pm |
  17. Renee

    Erica: All those red shoes need is a little bling and we can call them Dorothy's.

    June 26, 2008 at 6:23 pm |
  18. Betty Ann, Nacogdoches,TX

    Hi Erica!
    Darn! Fires in Big Sur? I am headed out there next month to see the red woods and also to visit NAPA valley. That is really dissappointing.
    Lots of natural beauty and historical missions in that area.
    Holy smokes!
    Let's hope the fires are out soon!
    You know what Smokey the Bear used to say, Only YOU can prevent forest fires."
    Truth is, only YOU can prevent forest!
    Humans take their toll on this planet in peril, don't they?
    Thanks for the info! I'll be watching those fires~

    June 26, 2008 at 6:09 pm |
  19. Heather

    Big Sur was and is a big part of my upbringing. I hope they are able to protect it. Its a beautiful peaceful magical place. Its special like Carmel or Monterey.

    June 26, 2008 at 6:09 pm |