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THE SITUATION ROOM

Nine Firefighters Die in Building Collapse; Secret Service Training

Aired June 19, 2007 - 17:00   ET

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


JOHN KING, GUEST HOST: And you're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
Happening now, they rushed into a burning warehouse to save trapped employees, but nine firefighters died when the building collapsed. A stunning loss, a city in mourning.

Candidates are already crowding the presidential campaign trail. For the Secret Service, there's no room for error. We'll bring you an exclusive look, as agents train to put their own lives on the line.

And the Vatican issues a new set of Ten Commandments -- for drivers, saying violations of road safety rules can lead to death and sin.

Wolf Blitzer is off today.

I'm John King.

You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

Shock and grief are sweeping Charleston, South Carolina. The city and the nation are mourning nine firefighters killed in the line of duty. They rushed into a blazing warehouse to try to rescue trapped employees. It's one of the country's worst firefighting losses. In President Bush's word, "They are true heroes."

CNN's Brianna Keilar is in Charleston and she joins us now -- Brianna, have they released the names of these nine firefighters yet?

BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN CORRESPONDENT: They have, John.

And we now know more about these nine firefighters. But federal and state investigators here in Charleston still don't know what caused the fire, although initially they say they don't believe it was arson.

Meanwhile, these nine men are being remembered here as heroes.

(BEGIN VIDEO TAPE)

MAYOR JOE RILEY, CHARLESTON, SOUTH CAROLINA: They go to danger. They don't flee from it.

KEILAR (voice-over): And Monday night, Charleston firefighters ran into a burning furniture store and warehouse, rescuing two employees before part of the building collapsed in what one witness described as a tornado of fire.

CHIEF RUSSELL THOMAS, CHARLESTON, SOUTH CAROLINA FIRE DEPARTMENT: These nine guys were my friends. I lost nine of my best friends.

KEILAR: Among the fallen, two 27-year-olds, three captains and one firefighter with 32 years of service.

THOMAS: I looked at this list last night and early this morning. We lost over 100 years of service to the city of Charleston.

KEILAR: Not since September 11th have more firefighters died in the line of duty in one event. Chaplain Rob Dewey led a prayer service this morning, as the bodies were removed from the wreckage. Firefighters saluting their fallen comrades.

ROB DEWEY, CHAPLAIN: They brought them out just like you saw in 9/11, through a passageway and with full military honors.

(END VIDEO TAPE)

KEILAR: And now the next step here is planning funerals for these nine firefighters. And that's already underway here in Charleston -- John.

KING: And, Brianna, as they plan those funerals, what kind of assistance are they offering to the families?

KEILAR: Well, the firefighter community here is tightly circling around these families and supporting them. But there's also a fund that's been set up by Charleston County. A lot of people called in wanting to help, and this way they can, with donations -- John.

KING: Brianna Keilar for us in a difficult duty in Charleston.

Thank you very much, Brianna.

And including the nine fatalities in Charleston, 56 firefighters have been killed in the line of duty this year. Last night's fire was the fourth deadliest for firefighters in the past 30 years.

An oil refinery fire in Romeoville, Illinois claimed the lives of 10 firefighters back in 1984. Fourteen firefighters died battling a wildfire in Colorado in 1994. And the deadliest day for firefighters was, of course, September 11th, 2001, when 343 members of the New York Fire Department lost their lives at the World Trade Center.

Now to Iraq. A busy commercial district in central Baghdad was devastated today when a truck bomb blew up near a historic mosque. The U.S. military says the vehicle was apparently loaded with propane tanks.

CNN's Hala Gorani is in the Iraqi capital.

HALA GORANI, CNN CORRESPONDENT: John, a few days of relative calm in Baghdad shattered to pieces today. A massive truck bomb exploded outside a Shiite mosque, killing dozens and injuring 200 people. This is the second attack on a major Shia shrine in less than a week in Iraq.

Last Wednesday, the al-Askariya Mosque in Samarra was targeted by suspected Al Qaeda insurgents that turned the mosque's two minarets into piles of rubble.

Today's truck bomb attack is highlighting the difficulty of controlling the violence that is killing so many every month -- John.

KING: Hala Gorani in Baghdad.

The U.S. military has sent thousands of troops into Baquba in an effort to rout Al Qaeda militants believed to be behind many of the attacks like the one that rocked Baghdad today.

Let's go live now to our senior Pentagon correspondent, Jamie McIntyre -- Jamie McIntyre, you spoke with a top commander of the offensive.

What did you learn?

JAMIE MCINTYRE, CNN SENIOR PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Well, you know, he said that one of the objectives of this Operation Arrowhead Ripper is to target the al Qaeda networks that have made Baghdad one of the most dangerous cities in the world.

(BEGIN VIDEO TAPE)

MCINTYRE (voice-over): The immediate target is Diyala Province, just northeast of Baghdad. Backed by helicopters, warplanes and artillery, a combined U.S.-Iraqi force of more than 3,000 troops moved into the capital, Baquba, under cover of darkness, into a dangerous urban battleground laced with powerful explosive booby-traps.

MAJ. GEN. BENJAMIN MIXON, U.S. ARMY: We had tactical surprise against the enemy last night when we moved in and our soldiers have already successfully disengaged up to 10 of these very large IEDs with no damage and no casualties caused to our soldiers.

MCINTYRE: The U.S. says it rounded up almost two dozen suspects and the U.S. general in charge of Diyala says in an exclusive interview with CNN: "It will now be the job of Iraqi forces to secure the city while U.S. troops keep up the pressure on Al Qaeda."

MIXON: That will then allow us to move outside of Baquba to do detailed operations in the areas where we believe the enemy will move from once we defeat him in Baquba.

(on camera): And every time you put pressure on Al Qaeda, on the Sunni insurgents, on Shia insurgents, they simply move some place else.

Where would they go from here?

MIXON: Well, the nature of this enemy -- he will hide in the farmlands and palm groves. But there's a difference this time. We have the support of many of the locals that live in the area, the sheikhs that are in the area. He's going to have a tough time finding a place to hide following and during this particular operation.

(END VIDEO TAPE)

MCINTYRE: Still, Diyala Province is much more diverse than Anbar Province to the west, where Sunni sheikhs have allied themselves with the U.S. against al Qaeda. And General Mixon concedes that's going to make getting and keeping local support in Diyala Province that much harder -- John.

KING: Still, he sounded quite optimistic, General Mixon, today.

Do they believe that after this operation we will still see bombings like the one we saw in Baghdad today?

MCINTYRE: Well, they do, in the short-term, because they say they know that al Qaeda, in the past, has simply picked up and moved its bomb making operations elsewhere. That's why they say it's so important to hold the progress in Baquba and allow those U.S. troops to -- to move out. And they know they've only got months to show progress, not years.

KING: Jamie McIntyre for us at the Pentagon.

Jamie, thank you very much.

And Jack is in New York with The Cafferty File -- hi, Jack.

JACK CAFFERTY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: John, some of New York City's poorest residents will soon get cash rewards for good behavior. The so-called healthy lifestyle payments have been used in places like Brazil and Mexico, where they've been credited with changing behavior among the poor.

Possible rewards include $25 for attending a parent-teacher conference, $25 a month for elementary and middle school kids with 95 percent attendance records, $50 for getting a library card, $100 for each family member who sees a dentist every six months, $150 a month for adults who work full-time, $200 for visiting a doctor every year and $400 if you graduate high school.

New York will actually use private money for this that was raised by Mayor Michael Bloomberg, the billionaire Republican. He raised all the dough himself for this experimental anti-poverty program.

He went to Mexico. He studied the program that's in effect there and he thinks paying people to make good decisions could help improve their prospects for the future.

Critics say cash reward progress promote the idea that poor people could be successful if they only made better choices in life and some suggest it would be a better and more effective way to attack the problem by focusing on things like enforcing the wage laws and improving benefits for working people.

Nevertheless, here's the question -- is it a good idea to give the poor cash regards for things like graduating high school, going to the doctor and working full time?

E-mail your thoughts to caffertyfile@cnn.com or go to cnn.com/caffertyfile.

As long as it's private money, John, I guess it doesn't hurt -- it doesn't hurt to give it a try. But the problem becomes if it starts to work, will the taxpayers be asked to -- to pick up the tab if it goes forward from here?

KING: I'm just grateful that Noah and Hannah King are away on a camping trip and nowhere near a television so they don't get the idea.

CAFFERTY: Well, right.

We'll see what the viewers have to say.

KING: Maybe you should start paying for the best e-mails.

CAFFERTY: Maybe not.

KING: We'll see you a little later, Jack.

Thank you.

CAFFERTY: All right.

KING: And up ahead, they're armed and ready for danger. We'll give you an exclusive look at the training of Secret Service agents protecting the nation's president and presidential candidates.

Also, getting out of Gaza -- why scores of desperate refugees are caught in a standstill with nowhere to go.

And would you believe a highway on the world's tallest mountain?

Why Mount Everest is getting a makeover ahead of next year's Summer Olympics.

Stay right here.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KING: A shocking story now from Baghdad, where troops stumbled upon badly abused children in an orphanage.

CNN's Brian Todd joins us.

And we must warn our viewers, they may find some of the images in your piece, Brian, quite disturbing -- tell us what you're learning.

BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: John, there is a full investigation of this facility now underway, not a moment too soon for some of these boys, who appeared to be near their last breaths when Iraqi and U.S. forces found them.

(BEGIN VIDEO TAPE) TODD (voice-over): Many lying naked, some on a concrete floor, at least one tied by the ankle to a crib. Most are emaciated, appearing near death, even as packaged food and clothing is stored nearby.

This is the al-Hanan Orphanage (ph) in northwestern Baghdad.

An Iraqi official tells CNN, Iraqi security forces and U.S. troops raided it last week, after witnesses told them the staff was abusing the young boys. These pictures, obtained by CBS News, which reports there were two dozen boys here, many of them special needs children. This facility run by the Iraqi government.

LOUAY BAHRY, MIDDLE EAST INSTITUTE: I think that they're run badly.

Where is this money going with the corruption that's going on in Iraq?

How much of this money is reaching the orphanages?

TODD: U.S.-based Iraqi Professor Louay Bahry says the orphanage system was run much better under previous governments -- even Saddam Hussein's.

We couldn't get Iraqi officials to respond directly to his charges of corruption, but they did tell us a full investigation into this facility is underway, on the orders of Prime Minister Nouri Al- Maliki.

After a few days in the care of U.S. and Iraqi officials, CBS captured images of the same children in much better shape. But many of them seem starved for any human contact. Iraqi officials would not say where these children are now or if any of them died.

Professor Bahry says In the Iraqi culture, if a child loses his parents, it's expected that extended family or neighbors will take care of him. With so many lives extinguished every day in Iraq, he gives a stark picture of what these children may have gone through to get to a place like this.

BAHRY: It shows that they went through psychological trauma. They have seen, probably, their parents shot and killed in front of their eyes.

(END VIDEO TAPE)

TODD: In fact, CNN has reported recently that there are no reliable figures on how many children have been made orphans by the ongoing violence, but the Iraqi government has admitted to us it is having trouble providing food and shelter for the growing number of orphaned children there -- John.

KING: And, Brian, what about the officials who ran this horrible orphanage?

Have any of them been apprehended or are in any way being held accountable?

TODD: We are told by an Iraqi security official that the prime minister has ordered a number of them to be detained. We are told now that at least four have been placed in custody.

KING: Brian Todd, a disturbing story.

Brian, thank you very much for your reporting.

President Bush and visiting Israeli prime minister, Ehud Olmert, today pledged to back Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, who has set up an emergency government in the West Bank after the violent takeover of Gaza by Islamic militants from Hamas. The two leaders say they share a common vision for a Palestinian state living peacefully alongside Israel. But the reality on the ground today is very different.

CNN's Paula Hancocks is in Jerusalem.

PAULA HANCOCKS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: John, many Palestinians are currently trying to flee Gaza. Many of them are Fatah members and their family, as they're trying to escape the now Hamas-controlled Gaza Strip.

They're trying to get to the West Bank. But to do that, they have to cross Israel. And at this point, Israel won't let them.

(BEGIN VIDEO TAPE)

HANCOCKS (voice-over): Ares today resembles less of a crossing between Israel and Gaza and more of a refugee camp. Many Palestinian families are trying to escape the violence in Gaza and finding themselves trapped, unable to enter Israel, unwilling to risk the journey back home.

This woman says there is no stability or security. She's afraid to be in her house. But it's just as dangerous to be here. Monday evening, a cross-border gun battle broke out between Hamas militants and Israeli soldiers. One Palestinian was killed, a number wounded. Some of those wounded in the fighting were evacuated by Israeli medical staff on Tuesday. But the vast majority are still holed up in the long concrete tunnel with no toilets and little hope of being allowed to cross the border.

This man is calling on Salaam Fayyad, the emergency Palestinian Authority prime minister, to talk to the Israelis, saying we are sitting here in the middle of the fighting.

This woman says she's been here for five days. She can't go back because she feels threatened.

Indicative of life in Gaza today that many are risking their lives to escape.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's not a realistic option for Palestinians to leave Gaza in large numbers, so they're stuck here. And that's why, of course, their frustration, their sense of despair is growing all the time.

HANCOCKS: Many of those trying to escape are already displaced and classed as refugees.

Hundreds of thousands of Palestinians fled their homes in what became the state of Israel back in 1948. The tents on the beach may no longer exist, but just as 60 years ago these new refugees relied on humanitarian aid, today the United Nations is still trying to avert a humanitarian crisis in the coastal strip.

And just as 60 years ago, Palestinians fled with as many possessions as they could carry, today those that can leave Gaza are -- in any way possible.

(END VIDEO TAPE)

HANCOCKS: But for many of those Palestinians, it would appear they'll have to turn back at some point, as the sanitary conditions in the tunnel that leads to the Israeli side of the border are bad and getting worst -- John.

KING: Paula Hancocks in Jerusalem.

Coming up, he was forced into hiding two decades ago by a death decree from Iran. Now, prize-winning author Salman Rushdie faces new threats from Pakistan.

And the Vatican warns that violating road rules can lead to death and sin. A new Ten Commandments for drivers.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KING: Our Carol Costello is monitoring all stories incoming into THE SITUATION ROOM right now -- Carol, tell us what you have.

CAROL COSTELLO, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Some interesting medical news to start off.

Thousands of women across the United States may have a genetic predisposition for breast cancer, but are not getting tested for it. That's because the genes are hidden in their father's side of the family, not their mother's. That's according to a new study just released in the last hour. Half of genetic breast cancers are inherited from a woman's father. Researchers are urging insurance companies to change guidelines to ensure proper testing.

Across Pakistan, protesters are condemning Britain's decision to award a knighthood to author Salman Rushdie. Pakistan's Foreign Ministry launched a complaint with Britain, and Pakistan's religious affairs minister suggested the award could be used to justify suicide bombings. Rushdie was forced into hiding in 1989 after Iran's Ayatollah Khomeini issued a death degree against him for allegedly blaspheming Islam in his novel, "The Satanic Verses."

Cuba is mourning today for the wife of Acting President Raul Castro. Vilma Espin died yesterday at the age of 77. She was one of the country's most powerful female revolutionaries and helped her brother-in-law, Fidel Castro, rise to power. Espin strongly sported women's rights in Cuba and served as Fidel's Castro's first lady. Her ashes will be placed in a mausoleum with full military honors.

The chief U.S. envoy to North Korea says that the money is in the bank -- North Korea needs to get to work and shut down its nuclear reactor. Diplomat Christopher Hill says an estimated $25 million have been transferred to an account in Russia. The frozen funds had stalled nuclear disarmament talks. A Russian news agency quotes a North Korean official as saying Pyongyang plans to shut its reactor down, and that's supposed to happen next month.

China wants to ease the Olympic torch's path to the top of Mount Everest. Beijing plans to build a highway on the side of the world's tallest mountain. Construction will start next week and is expected to take about four months. The torch relay for next Beijing's Summer Olympics will cross five continents, in addition to scaling the 29,000-foot Mount Everest.

That's a look at the headlines right now -- John.

KING: We're going to watch that construction project as that one unfolds.

COSTELLO: Four months. That's it. That's amazing.

KING: We'll see if they can pull that one off.

Carol Costello.

Carol, thank you.

And coming up, a bumper crop of presidential candidates this year puts the Secret Service to the test. We'll give you an exclusive look behind the scenes as agents train to keep the candidates safe.

And Jack Cafferty wants to know if New York City should be giving the poor cash rewards for things like graduating high school, going to the doctor and working full-time.

Stay with us.

You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KING: You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

Happening now, Lewis "Scooter" Libby's lawyers are challenging a judge's ruling that Libby should be behind bars while he appeals his conviction. They're asking a federal appeals court to delay his sentence. Vice President Dick Cheney's former chief of staff received two-and-a-half years in prison for lying about the leak of ex-CIA operative Valerie Plame Wilson's identity.

Fierce fighting has flared up again in a Palestinian refugee camp in northern Lebanon. The Lebanese military says two soldiers were killed in battles today with Islamic militants holed up inside that camp.

And the Space Shuttle Atlantis is homeward bound. The shuttle undocked from the International Space Station today and left the station freshly stocked with new solar power wings and a new crew member.

Wolf Blitzer is off today.

I'm John King and you're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

At last count, there are 18 declared presidential candidates jostling for space on the campaign trail. That's a challenge for the Secret Service, which plays a big role in guarding major candidates. It expects to spend a record $110 million on campaign protection this cycle and there are concerns that other missions could suffer, as more than 250 agents are shifted to campaign security roles.

CNN recently got an exclusive inside look at how agents train to protect the candidates and the eventual winner.

(BEGIN VIDEO TAPE)

KING (voice-over): The arrival is without incident. The candidate heads inside for the next event. A would-be assassin is waiting and draws his gun and approaches. A quick and decisive response is textbook.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What have you got?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We've got one down now.

KING: This is training -- Secret Service simulations of scenarios agents will see time and time again guarding a president or the candidates for president.

Senator Hillary Clinton has had a detail since her days as first lady. Senator Barack Obama gets Secret Service protection, too, months earlier than anticipated because of large crowds and worrisome calls and letters.

Don Coyer oversees Secret Service staffing and training and plays down any distinction in protecting an African-American candidate.

(on camera): That can bring some ugly things into it, like hate mail, racial threats.

DON COYER, DEPUTY ASSISTANT DIRECTOR, SECRET SERVICE: True. But for us, the Secret Service, it doesn't -- it doesn't really change anything that we do. We're -- we -- we deal on the dark side of things all -- every day. I mean hate mail, threats, it's second nature.

KING (voice-over): With so many candidates running, the Secret Service anticipates an unprecedented workload this campaign and is scrambling to assemble more teams and put them through drills their training supervisor, Renee Triplett, says can humble even 20-year veterans.

RENEE TRIPLETT, SPECIAL AGENT IN CHARGE: This is the area where here it's OK to make mistakes. We'd like to not see that, but it's better you make them here, where we can correct you, refocus you on what it is we want to see done, want to -- how we want to see you react.

MITT ROMNEY (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Thank you. We're happy to see you.

KING: Rope lines are a part of daily campaign life and a constant Secret Service worry because of easily concealed weapons like the blade in this pendant or a ring that on the flip side is a potentially deadly razor.

Practice begins in this padded room. If we're standing in as the protectee, it gives one a feel of how the lead agent's job is to yank the president or candidate away from trouble. Then, more realistic environments.

Things practiced again and again in training second nature by the time it really matters. It matters because hands out of sight could be hands reaching for a weapon. But not always. One might be innocently reaching for a camera or a cell phone.

So judgment is honed by mixing up what happens in these scenario drills, and also in a high-tech simulator where the candidate comes under different forms of attack and the agent sometimes has to wait for a clear shot. Gunfire is the ultimate test. Instinct is to take cover. The Secret Service agent is trained to shield the target, even take a bullet if necessary.

DON COYER, DEP. ASST. DIR., SECRET SERVICE: You as a shield, it's not natural. And again, it's drill, drill, drill. It's repetition, repetition, repetition, and drum it into somebody.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

KING: The Secret Service was founded in 1865 as a branch of the Treasury Department to fight counterfeiting. It was established by Abraham Lincoln on the very day of his assassination.

It was in 1902 that the Secret Service assumed full-time responsibility for protection of the president. Today the Secret Service is authorized to protect the president, the vice president, and their immediate families, along with former presidents and their spouses.

Current law limits Secret Service protection to 10 years from the date a former president leaves office. Under that law, Bill Clinton may be the last president to be guaranteed lifetime protection.

They helped the Democrats take control of Congress last November. Now labor unions are hoping for a reward. Here's our congressional correspondent, Dana Bash.

Dana, are union workers likely to benefit now that the Democrats run Congress?

DANA BASH, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: The Democrats say that they already have given unions something that they really wanted, which is an increase in the minimum wage. But labor unions have a lot more on their legislative wish list, and everywhere you turn today here in Washington, you see labor activists who say, we got Democrats in power, now Democrats have to act.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

BASH (voice over): On Capitol Hill, thousands of labor activists rally for a new law making it easier to unionize. It's what you could call payback time for the Democrats.

SEN. HARRY REID (D-NV), MAJORITY LEADER: I am the majority leader of the United States Senate. We do have a majority in the United States Senate because of you.

BASH: Senate Democrats will vote on a top labor priority that was off the radar under Republican rule, a bill to allow a union into the workplace if it gets a majority of workers to sign cards approving it, and eliminate employers' right to challenge a union by asking for a secret ballot first.

Republicans vow to block the measure, calling it an affront to democracy.

SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL (R), MINORITY LEADER: In 2007, to have anyone in this country advocating getting rid of the secret ballot in any way, particularly related to the selection of a union-representing organization, is truly astonishing.

SEN. EDWARD KENNEDY (D), MASSACHUSETTS: When they call the name "Kennedy," the vote will be aye, the hand will be in the air. Will you stand with us? Will you stand with us?

BASH: It is in Democrats' interest to beef up union membership. In 2006, like all election years, labor galvanized its grassroots to get out the vote for Democrats and gave Democrats much of their campaign cash. According to the Center for Responsive Politics, since 1989, six out of 10 of Democrats' biggest donors have been unions. And from the Capitol steps to the presidential campaign trail, Democrats are kissing labor's ring.

GOV. BILL RICHARDSON (D), NEW MEXICO: If I am elected president, I will nominate a union person to be secretary of Labor.

SEN. BARACK OBAMA (D-IL), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I think we can have a Department of Labor that actually understands it's the Department of Labor and not the Department of Management.

SEN. HILLARY RODHAM CLINTON (D-NY), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: The way I see American history, the American middle class was largely helped along the way by the American labor movement.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

BASH: And this measure making it easier for unions to organize in more places across the country, that is expected to fail. And Republicans say this is nothing more than Democratic pandering in order to make up for a couple of things that they have really done to actually anger unions since they have been here in Congress.

Actually, two things that are on the Senate floor as we speak, two big pieces of legislation -- that is, immigration and also energy. What unions say is that there are provisions in both of those bills that hurt the American worker -- John.

KING: Dana, forgive me, but isn't this the flip side of what the Democrats used to say about the Republicans when they were in charge, that everything they did was political payback to some interest group?

BASH: That is exactly what you're hearing from Republicans today, John. There's no question about it.

They say, wait a minute, weren't you Democrats the ones who got mad at us for putting things like bans on flag burning or a ban on gay marriage on the floor of the United States Senate or House at a time where you said that there were other things more in the interest of Americans to have -- to have up for debate? That is certainly what Republicans are saying today.

The answer Democrats are giving, of course, is that they don't see anything as important as trying to help the American worker. And they insist that this piece of legislation does that. Republicans, of course, disagree.

KING: And the back and forth continues.

Dana Bash for us on Capitol Hill.

Dana, thank you very much.

BASH: Thank you.

KING: Up ahead, Fred Thompson heads to England to burnish his foreign policy credentials just in case he runs for president.

When we come back, our Richard Quest will tell us who Thompson's meeting and what he's doing.

Also, the pope comes out with a new list of Ten Commandments. This is a story you have to hear. And our Carol Costello has it.

Stay with us here in THE SITUATION ROOM.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KING: He's one of the most talked about potential White House contenders even though he's not officially in the race yet. Former Republican senator Fred Thompson of Tennessee is in London, where he's meeting with former prime minister Margaret Thatcher and delivering a foreign policy address. Thompson told the London audience that you cannot take the military option off the table when it comes to Iran.

Let's go to CNN's Richard Quest now for more on Thompson's transatlantic journey.

RICHARD QUEST, CNN CORRESPONDENT: John, as you will know, it's the oldest political trick in the book. When you want to burnish up your international credentials, you get on a plane, cross the pond, and visit the other side of the Atlantic.

British politicians have been doing it for years, visiting the White House, talking to members of Congress. And now Fred Thompson is doing the same thing in reverse.

And the best thing about coming to Britain, it's safe, safe, safe for your political credibility. After all, who can criticize a speech that talks about strengthening the transatlantic alliances or makes reference to how western democracies must stick together?

It's safe, safe, safe.

Fred Thompson has gone one stage further, though. Other Republican candidates who have already announced that they're running have wrapped themselves in Ronald Reagan's cloak. Fred Thompson is visiting the former British prime minister Margaret Thatcher. Now, that's a new one, wrapping yourself in Margaret Thatcher's skirt.

John, back to you.

KING: A day without Richard Quest is a day without sunshine.

The Vatican wants you to steer clear of road rage. It's issuing 10 new commandments for those who might commit minor sins or major sins behind the wheel.

Let's rejoin Carol Costello.

Carol, what exactly is the Vatican telling all of us, especially me, I can and cannot do.

CAROL COSTELLO, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, I'm still laughing from Richard Quest. I'm sorry. How can you follow that?

But, no, you're right. It kind of sounds like a joke talking about the Vatican now, but the pope is asking you to drive safely, calling you to be like Jesus in your driving, as in showing charity to other drivers and prudence on the roads.

And in case you need more, there are the commandments.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

COSTELLO (voice over): It comes straight from the Vatican: driving can lead to needless death and sin. So pray, and remember the drivers' Ten Commandments.

REV. EDWARD BECK, THE PASSIONATE COMMUNITY: If you're taking somebody else's life, or you're threatening other people's lives by your driving, this is a moral issue. This is sinful.

COSTELLO: The commandments just issued by the Vatican urge drivers to obey traffic regulations, drive with a moral sense, and to pray behind the wheel. Commandment number two reads: "The road shall be for you a means of communion between people and not have mortal harm."

We know the pope cares, but why is this coming from a man who doesn't even drive?

DELIA GALLAGHER, CNN FAITH AND VALUES CORRESPONDENT: They also want to show that, you know, they're down with the people, as it were. I mean, they know what the average person is doing every day. They understand road rage.

COSTELLO: The Vatican needs only to look into the streets of Rome to understand that. It says drivers exhibit primitive behaviors that brings out rude gestures, dangerous driving that leads to the highway to hell.

This Ferrari revving its engine near the Holy See, that would be in violation of commandment number five. "Cars shall not be for you an expression of power and domination, and an occasion of sin." Translated, show off in a flashy car or a big, expensive SUV, and you will get into trouble.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It's not power. It's protection on the highway against accidents.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: If you have, you know, three children under five, you need a large vehicle.

COSTELLO: But most driving the streets of New York are with the pope.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He's right.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The pope is right.

COSTELLO: But the Vatican wants to make the commandments idea easy to follow. It wants to set up chapels at truck stops so drivers can pray.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

COSTELLO: If you want to peruse the other commandments, you can go to CNN.com. And if you find yourself in a state of road rage, the Vatican says make the sign of the cross, you know, over and over, and the Vatican says it will calm you -- John.

KING: I'm guessing the Popemobile fits the new ten commandments. Carol, are they doing this really to improve people's driving, or as Delia suggested in your piece, are they doing this to just sort of seem in touch with people?

COSTELLO: Well, they issue this kind of document every year. They pick an issue, you know, depicting real life. And this year, the issue was driving.

But as Father Beck told us, it leads to something practical, something we deal with in everyday life, and something we can look to the Vatican for guidance.

KING: Vatican for guidance from the highway.

Carol Costello, thank you very much.

(NEWSBREAK)

KING: And up ahead here, should America's poor get cash rewards for good behavior?

Your e-mail to Jack Cafferty straight ahead.

Also, Michael Moore on the red carpet. Our Jeanne Moos checks out the big fuss over Moore's "Sicko" documentary premier.

Stay here. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KING: Back to our top story now.

President Bush and first lady Laura Bush are offing their condolences today to families of those nine firefighters killed in South Carolina. The president says their commitment to their neighbors is an inspiration to all Americans.

For more on that, let's bring in our Internet reporter, Jacki Schechner.

Jacki, what are you seeing online form Charleston?

JACKI SCHECHNER, CNN INTERNET REPORTER: John, we're seeing some compelling photographs from I-Reporters in the area.

The first series of photos come to us from a photographer named Dan Folk from Ridgeville, South Carolina. And he says he saw the smoke from about a mile away, pulled into the parking lot of this Dunkin' Donuts. And his series of photographs really show how quickly this blaze seemed to spread.

He said at certain points the fire was so hot, and the smoke was so dark, that even though it was still sort of daytime, it looked like night. You can see there a firefighter standing in front of the glass panels that were shattered by the smoke. Here another image from the same perspective. He said at one point, you could see where this storage unit seemed to buckle and cave in because of the heat from the fire. And he said that the crews continued to battle as the night went on.

Another perspective comes to us from an I-Reporter named Jaime Bunker. She is in a neighborhood about a half a mile away. Nobody in the area had an idea of just how tragic this was going to be, but you can see the perspective there of just how thick that smoke became.

If you see something like this take place, of course you can always send it to us here at CNN. You can take a photograph with your cell phone and send it directly to ireport@cnn.com.

Also, John, if you go online to cnn.com/ireport, there are instructions on how to share incidents as they happen with us here at CNN.

KING: Incredibly powerful images.

SCHECHNER: Yes.

KING: Jacki, thank you very much.

And time now to check back in with our Jack Cafferty -- Jack.

JACK CAFFERTY, CNN ANCHOR: Our Jack Cafferty.

John, the question this hour: Is it a good idea to give the poor cash rewards for things like graduating from high school, going to the doctor, or working full time?

P.J. in New Hampshire writes, "It is just affirming the mentality for some people that they should be getting money for someone else for doing something everyone else does just because it's the right thing to do. It's a sad commentary on our future if you have to be bribed to be a decent person and a good citizen."

Mary in Iowa writes, "Jack, Yes, it's a good idea to give cash rewards as long as they're American citizens. After all, the illegal immigrants get enough government perks as it is."

Tom, serving with U.S. forces in Japan, "Jack, the welfare system began under Roosevelt, expanded under LBJ, and which, since, has become an artifact of big government, does not work (four generations of welfare recipients case in point). Why not try this?"

Denise in Pennsylvania, "I work in public housing. When tenants don't work, they don't pay rent. When they get a job that requires them to pay rent, they often quit. Freebies are not the answer. You pick up your welfare check after your 40 hours of mandatory community service. That's the only answer."

Shelby in Florida writes, "Yes, cash rewards for grades, attendance, proper health care, et cetera, are a great idea. How about including unwed teen pregnancies? Or is that a hot potato?"

"We've tried many other approaches. Nothing seems to work. Show me the money, especially since it's privately funded."

A high school English teacher from Missouri who didn't sign his or her name writes this: "Why not a $100 payment to cable television writers and commentators who use English correctly? It is not graduate high school, it is graduate from high school. Or even more precisely, use the passive -- a student has graduated from high school. The diploma is bestowed on him. Graduate high school is up there with gone missing, another favorite of cable television."

Whoever you are, I stand corrected. I made a mistake.

Nick writes from California, "Jack, Yes, rewarding good behavior is a good idea as long as it's balanced by punishing bad behavior. As for John King's idea of your rewarding the 'best e-mails,' that's a very good idea. Hell, I'd be rich."

Not nearly as rich as you think, Nick.

And P.J. in Washington writes, "I'm leaving for New York today."

If you didn't see your e-mail here, you can go to cnn.com/caffertyfile. We post more of them online, along with video clips of "The Cafferty File".

A lot of viewers got be straightened out on the end of that "Sopranos" thing, John. Apparently, Tony has gone to the great beyond.

KING: Maybe he can get a check from Mayor Bloomberg for staying disappeared for a while.

CAFFERTY: Much too big a reach, John.

KING: Much to big a reach.

OK. I'll send you a check for calling your "Our Jack Cafferty". I clearly violated some rule with that one. The check's in the mail.

CAFFERTY: Oh, no, no. I'm all yours, John.

KING: Jack, thank you very much.

Up next, the big fuss over moviemaker Michael Moore's new movie. Our Jeanne Moos takes a look. You won't want to miss it.

Stay here. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KING: Here's a look at some of the "Hot Shots" coming in from our friends at The Associated Press, pictures very likely to be in your newspaper tomorrow.

In India, a man protests the killing of a 17-year-old in a gun battle between police and suspected Kashmiri rebels. In Hong Kong, growers compete in a drag and boat race, a tradition honoring an ancient Chinese scholar who drowned why denouncing government protection.

In Idaho, a pet rat is giving oxygen by a firefighter after being pulled from a burning house.

And in El Salvador, look at this one, quite colorful, clowns attend the second annual clown congress.

And that's this hour's "Hot Shots," pictures often worth a thousand words.

Another picture you won't want to miss, red carpet fever in the Big Apple. Michael Moore's much talked about health care documentary "Sicko" premiered in New York. Our Jeanne Moos was, where else, on the red carpet, and has this most unusual look.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

JEANNE MOOS, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice over): Prepare for more Michael Moore mania. Soon you may be sick of hearing about...

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: "Sicko".

BARBARA WALTERS, "THE VIEW": "Sicko".

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: "Sicko".

MOOS (on camera): Don't you love the name of the movie.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes.

MICHAEL MOORE, FILMMAKER: I always come up with a title first, and then after I come up with a title, then I decide what the movie should be. I know that's a weird system, but I was raised by nuns and that's how we did it.

MOOS (voice over): Hours before "Sicko's" New York premier they were taping down the red carpet. Didn't want anyone to trip and hurt themselves at a documentary about how bad American health care is.

"Sicko" cites a woman who was knocked out in a head-on collision.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE, "SICKO": I get a bill from my insurance company telling me that the ambulance ride wasn't pre-approved. I don't know when I was supposed to pre-approve it, after I gained consciousness in the car, before I got in the ambulance?

MOOS: Back at the red carpet, it looked like an accident waiting to happen. Celebs at the premier ranged from Fran Drescher...

FRAN DRESCHER, ACTRESS: High five.

MOOS: ... high-fiving a fellow cancer survivor, to Joan Rivers, to the big man himself. MOORE: I lost over 30 pounds now just by eating these fruits and vegetables.

MOOS: Some truly sick people featured in "Sicko" walked the red carpet. Cancer survivor Donna Smith went with Moore to Cuba and got flack for it.

DONNA SMITH, CANCER SURVIVOR: A coworker right before I left on Friday afternoon said to me, "It gives a whole new meaning to red carpet, doesn't it?"

MOOS: Red, as it communist-loving Cuba.

(on camera): Michael, they're cheering.

MOORE: I know. Cheerleaders are with me.

MOOS: Give me an M.

CROWD: M.

MOOS: Give me an O.

CROWD: O.

MOOS (voice over): Real nurses agitating for health care reform.

UNIDENTIFIED GROUP: Health care shouldn't be (INAUDIBLE).

MOOS: The film features a guy without insurance who sawed off two fingertips but could afford to repair only the cheaper of the two...

MOORE (voice over): ... reattach the middle finger for $60,000 or do the ring finger for $12,000.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE, "SICKO": I can do that thing where, you know, the man used to pull the finger off.

MOOS: But it's two thumbs up for "Sicko," though "The New York Post" called it a botched operation. Even a FOX News reviewer described it as brilliant and uplifting.

As for the title...

MOORE: It's a word I have heard referred -- talking about me.

MOOS: After seeing the premier, I can at the very least say that "Sicko" doesn't sucko.

Jeanne Moos, CNN, New York.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

KING: We'll see you back here in THE SITUATION ROOM at 7:00 p.m., just one hour from now. Until then, I'm John King.

"LOU DOBBS TONIGHT" starts right now.

TO ORDER A VIDEO OF THIS TRANSCRIPT, PLEASE CALL 800-CNN-NEWS OR USE OUR SECURE ONLINE ORDER FORM LOCATED AT www.voxant.com

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