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THE SITUATION ROOM

Bush Signs Executive Order Banning Torture; New Potter Book Released

Aired July 20, 2007 - 1900   ET

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


MILES O'BRIEN, CNN ANCHOR: Thanks you very much, Lou.
Let's go right now to London -- live pictures as Big Bend tolls midnight, take a look at these Harry Potter fans who have been waiting in line for days since Wednesday, dressed in the appropriate garb as they unveil the book, the seventh in the series by J.K. Rowling, "Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows", as they go into Waterstone's book store. Here we go.

UNIDENTIFIED GROUP: Eight, seven, six, five, four, three, two, one...

(APPLAUSE)

(CHEERING)

O'BRIEN: The frenzy continues. We'll have a live report from London on all things Potter in just a moment.

In the meantime, happening now, court to rule -- President Bush sets a new standard for interrogating terror suspects. Will it ease the heat over the treatment of detainees at Guantanamo Bay?

Also tonight, a combustible decision involving airline security -- the ban on cigarette lighters aboard airplanes is lifted. Many passengers are wondering why.

And batting for the record book -- slugger Barry Bonds is warming up for the game that could make him baseball's all-time homerun king, if he has a good night.

Wolf Blitzer is off today. I'm Miles O'Brien and you are in THE SITUATION ROOM.

President Bush is trying to clarify the rules for holding and interrogating terrorism suspects. He signed an executive order today that sends a clear message to intelligence operatives. Torture is not an option, but the devil may be in the lack of detail.

Our White House correspondent Suzanne Malveaux is here. Suzanne, first of all, why did the president make this announcement, sign this order today?

SUZANNE MALVEAUX, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well certainly the Bush administration has been under a great deal of pressure, you know, Miles, the Supreme Court essentially saying they could not keep all of this quiet, this prison interrogation process, that it actually does come under the Geneva Convention so the Bush administration really had to answer to the CIA, which was simply asking whether for some clarification in terms of whether or not this was legal.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

MALVEAUX (voice-over): President Bush under fire for his administration's treatment of detainees, accused of practicing torture, issued a new set of rules forbidding cruel and inhumane treatment. His executive order now requires the CIA to abide by the Geneva Conventions to protect its prisoners, even those considered the most dangerous terrorists like al Qaeda and some being held in secret prisons overseas.

JEFFREY SMITH, FORMER CIA GENERAL COUNSEL: It's important that CIA officers in the field have clarity about what is permitted and what is not permitted.

MALVEAUX: The order forbids murder, torture and mutilation, personal abuse to humiliate or degrade, including sexually indecent acts and denigration of one's religion. The order also requires detainees to receive basic necessities like food, water, shelter, and protection from extreme heat and cold, but it does not address specific controversial practices that have led to worldwide condemnation of the U.S., like water boarding, a practice that makes a prisoner believe he is drowning or sleep deprivation. The order also does not define what it considers extreme heat or cold.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I regret that we now have a set of secret rules that will interpret and apply them differently because I think it undermines our position around the world.

MALVEAUX: While Mr. Bush insists the U.S. has always forbidden torture, in the past he has said the Geneva Conventions protecting prisoners did not apply to renegade groups like al Qaeda. The Supreme Court ruled otherwise, so the CIA engaged in secret enhancing interrogation techniques asked for legal clarity. Critics say it's just legal cover.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

MALVEAUX: Now Miles, senior administration officials say they don't talk about the specifics because they don't want to give these would-be terrorists any kinds of heads-up on the interrogation tactics. They also say, however, that this executive order does require that they put these rules and make them public, put them forth, but it is not likely that we will find out the specifics, once again, Miles, because in all likelihood it is going to be classified.

O'BRIEN: Suzanne Malveaux at the White House -- thank you very much.

A dramatic prisoner release in Israel, all part of an effort to prop up Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas. Israel is releasing hundreds of prisoners aligned with Abbas' Fatah Party. The goal was to isolate the rival Hamas party, which Israel and the U.S. considers a terror organization.

But former Secretary of State Colin Powell says the administration should reach out to Hamas. Our CNN State Department correspondent Zain Verjee is here with details -- Zain.

ZAIN VERJEE, CNN STATE DEPARTMENT CORRESPONDENT: Miles, Colin Powell says Hamas isn't just going to go away and talking will help.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

(SHOTS)

VERJEE (voice-over): Hamas took control of Gaza and says it wants to destroy Israel. The previous and present secretaries of state have opposite ideas on how to deal with Hamas. In an interview with National Public Radio, Colin Powell says someone has to reach out.

COLIN POWELL, FORMER SECRETARY OF STATE: I think you have to find some way to talk to Hamas, as unpleasant a group as they may be, as distasteful as I find some of their positions, I don't think you can just cast them into outer darkness.

VERJEE: Condoleezza Rice says the U.S. won't talk.

CONDOLEEZZA RICE, SECRETARY OF STATE: When you can't even acknowledge the right of your partner to exist, it's going to be very hard to have peace talks.

VERJEE: Part of the problem, Hamas is listed as a terrorist group by the U.S. and U.S. law doesn't allow support for or talks with black-listed groups, but some analysts say it's time for the U.S. to encourage others to reach out to Hamas.

ROBERT MALLEY, INTERNATIONAL CRISIS GROUP: It's a reality. Somebody going to have to deal with them and if you don't deal with them, you have the risk of chaos in Gaza or of even more radical groups emerging.

VERJEE: Hamas has military, political and charitable wings.

POWELL: They enjoy considerable support among the Palestinian people. They won an election that we insisted upon having.

VERJEE: The U.S. is backing Hamas' rival, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, whose influence doesn't extend to Gaza.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: At the end of the day, if he doesn't speak for all Palestinians in Gaza and the West Bank, if he doesn't speak for those loyal to Fatah and those who are loyal to Hamas, he can't deliver stability and he can't deliver the sustainable peace.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

VERJEE: Hamas has both radical and moderate wings. A senior State Department official acknowledged to CNN that, yes, there are differences within the group, but also says that they decide their polity together and they are very disciplined in maintaining it -- Miles.

O'BRIEN: Thank you, Zain.

Iraq sits on top of the second largest oil supply in the world, and yet average Iraqis must endure long waits and endless aggravation to fill up their cars and keep their generators running. It is just one more sign the security and political situation there is in shambles.

CNN's Frederik Pleitgen is in Baghdad with more -- Frederick.

FREDERIK PLEITGEN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Miles, one of the questions that Iraqis are asking themselves of course is have their living conditions gotten any better since the end of the Saddam Hussein regime and certainly many would say that that is not the case. There is barely any employment in this country.

Security of course is a big problem and one thing that many people would not have thought -- it's very, very difficult for them to get even simple things like fuel.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (SPEAKING FOREIGN LANGUAGE)

PLEITGEN (voice-over): Move, move, the sun is killing me, this man shouts but no one here is going anywhere soon. Some wait in line for more than 24 hours. This is what Iraqis go through trying to buy gas for their cars.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (SPEAKING FOREIGN LANGUAGE)

PLEITGEN: They simply can't meet the demand. Three-quarters of fuel stations in this city are closed. Some are open, but most of them don't have any fuel. A fuel shortage in the country with one of the largest oil reserves in the world. While many drivers have to push the final yards to the pump, this is what they often see when they get there.

The service station is out of gas again and that's more than a nuisance. Many people in one place for a long time mean grave danger in Baghdad, where gas stations are increasingly targeted by insurgents like this one hit only a few days ago, killing four people. Many Iraqis are fed up.

UNIDENTIFIED GROUP: (SPEAKING FOREIGN LANGUAGE)

PLEITGEN: We are protesting here today to call upon the government to provide general services to the citizens, he says.

(on camera): But the Iraqi oil ministry says it's doing all it can to provide citizens with gasoline. It blames insurgent attacks on fuel tankers for the crisis. (voice-over): And that's not all. Gasoline pipelines like this one south of Baghdad get hit regularly, often cutting fuel supplies for days and that translates into this -- more than 24 hours waiting for gas with the next oil field only a couple of miles away.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

PLEITGEN: And Miles, many Iraqis blame the central government for what's wrong with the fuel crisis. They say there's a lot of corruption involved, but certainly the security and situation here in Iraq does play a major role -- Miles.

O'BRIEN: Thank you Frederik.

Jack Cafferty joining us now from New York with "The Cafferty File". Hello, Jack.

JACK CAFFERTY, CNN ANCHOR: So that Iraq thing we're doing is working out pretty good, huh?

O'BRIEN: Well, quite a mess there, isn't it?

CAFFERTY: Unbelievable. You want to hear something sad? Eighteen percent -- that's all -- of Americans believe that they've achieved the American dream -- 18 percent. That's according to a series of surveys done by a Democratic pollster Celinda Lake (ph).

"Fortune" magazine has done a piece on this and they report this depressing news in an article called "Losing the American Dream." They point out that despite record levels for the Dow, an economy that has grown for 22 straight quarters and low unemployment, most Americans think the economy was better five years ago and they worry that worse economic times lie ahead so what gives?

Lake points to people's concerns over the basics, things like health care, retirement, personal debt, paying the bills. She says quoting here, "People believe that corporations and wealthy interests have too much power and that they are putting up barriers to working people achieving the American dream", unquote.

She adds that at this point in history the American dream is rooted in security issues rather than opportunity as it has been at other times. There's plenty of insecurity to go around, whether it's the fast-paced global economy, the war in Iraq, the threat of another terror attack here in the United States.

So here's the question. Is the American dream still a reality for working people in this country? E-mail your thoughts to CaffertyFile@CNN.com or go to CNN.com/CaffertyFile and go out and buy a copy of "Fortune" magazine because the managing editor over there is a good buddy of mine, Andy Serwer -- Miles.

O'BRIEN: That was a nice little plug for Andy and let me ask you this -- it's almost like we're in a whole new gilded age, aren't we?

CAFFERTY: A whole new what? O'BRIEN: Gilded age, you know the turn of the previous century when there was tremendous disparity of wealth.

CAFFERTY: Absolutely. Plus we're very much a service-oriented economy as opposed to a manufacturing economy, which we were for decades during the 20th Century. And the manufacturing jobs, on balance, tended to pay better with more benefits than the service sector jobs do.

O'BRIEN: Jack Cafferty always performing a good service for us. Thank you. We'll see you in just a little bit with the responses.

Coming up in the program, what can you take aboard your next flight -- the government changing the rules again.

Also -- a prescription drug that's more addictive than its maker let on. Now there's a huge fine associated with that. We'll tell you how much.

Plus -- flaming letters fly between Senator Hillary Clinton and the Pentagon. Find out why they could boost her presidential campaign.

Stay with us. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

O'BRIEN: If you're headed to the airport anytime soon, listen up. You can change the way you pack. The government once again is changing the rules at airport security lines. No, you still have to take your shoes off, but -- and don't bother bringing a bottle of water, by the way. But there are some formerly forbidden things that are now good to go -- might surprise you.

CNN's Carol Costello is here. Carol, give us the list. What can we bring on now?

CAROL COSTELLO, CNN ANCHOR: Well if you're a mother, you can rejoice because breast milk is now a go and lighters? Yes, slip them on into your carry-on bag. As for whether any of this adds to your feeling of safety in the skies, well, that is up in the air.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

(SOUNDS)

COSTELLO (voice-over): The ban on your BIC has been lifted. Two years ago, the TSA banned cigarette lighters after Congress deemed them so dangerous they were written into the Reform and Terrorism Prevention Act of 2004, a law born in part because of Richard Reid who was convicted of trying to ignite his shoe bombs with a match onboard a flight from Paris to Miami.

ELLEN HOWE, TSA: I think at the time that they enacted it there was good reason to do so. But terrorist threats do evolve, and we know that a flame is not going to be the common detonator used for an IED.

COSTELLO: As an improvised explosive device.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: A lighter, you know you can start a fire with a lighter.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I do not like that idea.

COSTELLO: Travelers aren't so happy.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It seems illogical to pick that one to readmit considering all the things they are still banning.

COSTELLO: The frustration is born out of the TSA's habit of modification.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: My biggest problem is not the lighters or the water. It's all the flights being delayed.

COSTELLO: Let's start with shoes. After 9/11, travelers were not required to take off their shoes. But by July of 2003, the TSA said, wear your shoes. But if you do, it's likely you'll get screened a second time. By August of 2006, the TSA required you to remove your shoes.

And who can forget the all-liquid ban of 2006? On August 10th, the TSA banned all liquids after a terrorist plot to blow up airplanes using liquid explosives was foiled.

By August 13th, the TSA partially lifted the ban to allow small doses of nonprescription liquid medications but still banned toiletries. By September 25th, the liquid ban was modified again to allow three-ounce liquid toiletries if they fit into a Zip Lock (ph) plastic baggy.

Oh, and that liquid ban? It's been altered for a fourth time. The TSA now allows more than three ounces of breast milk onboard planes even if you don't have a baby with you.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

COSTELLO: Yep, and that just happened today -- back to the cigarette lighters for just a minute. The TSA says it cost $4 million a year to dispose of confiscated lighters. It collects 22,000 lighters a day nationwide. That is five times the height of the Empire State Building if you stack them end-to-end, so as you can probably determine, economics is at play here as well.

O'BRIEN: I don't suppose they can sell them on eBay.

COSTELLO: Maybe they should try it though.

O'BRIEN: Maybe they should try that. But if it really is just a money issue, surely there are other factors that are considered besides money, put it that way. COSTELLO: Well, there are. And the TSA said it doesn't really consider cigarette lighters a big threat because if someone was going to detonate an IED in the air, they are most likely not going to use a cigarette lighter, so there is another reason, but they did give me the statistic about the $22,000 thing.

O'BRIEN: Of course the shoe bomber, I think, was using something like that...

COSTELLO: A match. Not a lighter.

O'BRIEN: Yes, a match...

COSTELLO: A match.

O'BRIEN: Not a match, all right. OK. Carol Costello, thank you very much.

Interestingly, despite all the restrictions, you are allowed to carry on knitting needles, most screwdrivers, and even certain types of scissors. Those pointed tips are allowed as long as they're less than four inches in length.

Tonight we're learning about an angry dispute between a U.S. congressman and the Capitol police. Republican Chris Shays of Connecticut is now apologizing.

Let's go to our congressional correspondent Andrea Koppel joining us on the line. Andrea, what happened?

ANDREA KOPPEL, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT (via phone): Well, all this happened yesterday, Miles. And it involves about 20 of Congressman Shays' constituents who were visiting Capitol Hill from Connecticut. They were stuck out in the rain. It was pouring here yesterday and Congressman Shays had an intern who was trying to bring them to Congressman Shays so he could give them a personal tour.

There was confusion. The constituents were stuck in the rain and Congressman Shays asked the intern who he was talking with on his cell phone to get a Capitol police officer to get on the phone with him. The officer refused to get on the phone, saying it was policy that they weren't allowed to be talking on cell phones.

To make a long story short, Congressman Shays was furious. He eventually found his constituents and he found the Capitol police officer who refused to get on the cell phone with him. Now, according to Congressman Shays, he is now telling CNN that he was quote, in his words, he said "I was using the F word, pissed off".

He told the officer that -- he said he doesn't remember, but he doesn't dispute that he grabbed the officer by the collar in order to see his nametag. It was an altercation. I should tell you, Miles that I spoke with Congressman Shays earlier today, one of our colleagues also spoke with an aide in Shays' office earlier today.

They were at the time were downplaying this whole story, but they are now backtracking and saying that they apologize. Congressman Shays is deeply apologetic, and saying that he does not remember grabbing the officer's collar, but he doesn't dispute the fact that they say he did.

O'BRIEN: Well Andrea, is this the end of it or is it possible Congressman Shays could face charges?

KOPPEL: He's not going to face charges. The Capitol police have issued a statement in which they do say that he -- that the congressman has apologized and that they are -- they're basically trying to write this off. They're saying that they are filing a courtesy complaint. The officer involved is filing a courtesy complaint against Congressman Shays, but apparently the police also don't want this to escalate any further.

O'BRIEN: And a courtesy complaint, explain what that is.

KOPPEL: To be honest, I have never heard them use that characterization before. It sounds like it's the least that they can do, just getting on the record saying they feel that Congressman Shays acted in an inappropriate manner, a manner that he now acknowledges himself was inappropriate.

O'BRIEN: Andrea Koppel on the line with us, thank you very much.

Up ahead tonight in THE SITUATION ROOM -- the book millions are waiting for is flying or would that be levitating off the shelves in London as we speak. We'll give you a live look at Harry Potter mania.

Plus -- the maker of OxyContin is fined more than a half billion dollars. We'll tell you all about that. Stay with us. You are in THE SITUATION ROOM.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

O'BRIEN: Welcome back. About 24 minutes past midnight in London where author J.K. Rowling is adding to the Harry Potter magic tonight. She's reading aloud her final book about the boy wizard just a short while after it's released in the U.K., you saw that at the beginning of the program.

CNN's Becky Anderson is on hand at the Waterstone's bookstore there. And Becky, have you read the last chapter? Do you know if Harry Potter lives or dies?

BECKY ANDERSON, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, I haven't yet, but I thought what I would do is just read it out...

O'BRIEN: Oh you better stop. No, no, don't do it!

ANDERSON: I'm only joking.

(LAUGHTER)

ANDERSON: I would be reviled around the world if I do that. Miles, we're here with the thousands of people who have gathered outside who are now trickling in to what is one of the biggest bookstores in Europe here. The lucky few are now inside.

Just about 20 minutes ago, 22 minutes ago they unveiled what is the last book in the Harry Potter series, countdown with the first lucky 20 kids and adults who have been in the queue. And let me tell you how long they've been in the queue outside.

They have been there for some 48 to 72 hours, two to three days -- a couple of people from Holland, various people -- other people from around the world. There are 20 of them at a countdown in what was the Hogwarts' banqueting hall, just off to my right here, and then they unveiled the book.

A real palpable sense of excitement for many of those here who are really excited about what happens in this final book, but you're talking about this being the final chapter in the series, of course. And what an addition to J.K. Rowling's bank balance this will be. Remember 13 years ago she was an unmarried mom living on her own trying to find a publisher.

Thirteen years later she's worth a billion dollars. Let's find out why she's worth a billion dollars, shall we? Couple of my friends who have joined me here who have just got hold of the book. This is George, and this is Gene. Both of them have been in the queue for a long time.

George was lucky enough, in fact, to get an invitation to the VIP party. How excited are you, George?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Very excited.

ANDERSON: And what do you think happens in the end?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I don't know.

ANDERSON: You don't know and you haven't read the book yet, have you? So you don't know. Let me just tell you. I'll ask you, how long have you been here?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: About 13 hours.

ANDERSON: Thirteen hours, my goodness, you've got the book in your hand. Good luck. I'm sure you'll be extremely excited to read what goes on. It's been a fantastic day here. As I said, there are still thousands of people outside. The weather has been appalling but it hasn't put anybody off -- Miles.

O'BRIEN: All right. Boy, it's quite the scene of mayhem there. All right, Becky Anderson, don't spoil the ending for anybody or you'll get yourself in big trouble. Thank you very much.

Just ahead in the program -- presidential candidate Hillary Clinton's verbal brawl with the Pentagon, angry letters are flying. We'll show you what they're all about.

Plus -- it's the drug that sparked an addiction crisis. Now the maker is ordered to pay more than half a billion dollars in damages. Stay with us. You are in THE SITUATION ROOM.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

O'BRIEN: Today, Hillary Clinton is firing a new shot at her nasty war of words at the Pentagon. The woman who wants to be commander-in-chief is taking aim at an undersecretary of defense who accused her of aiding the enemy in Iraq.

At issue, Clinton's demand for details about a possible troop withdrawal. Our congressional correspondent Dana Bash is here with more. Senator Clinton, you get the sense, Dana, is trying to keep this dispute going.

DANA BASH, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: She sure is. The opportunity, Miles, for her to engage in this kind of high-profile brawl with the Bush Pentagon is like manna from the politics heavens for Senator Clinton because she is of course trying to appeal to staunchly anti-war primary voters.

Earlier today she was in Des Moines, Iowa, and speaking to that newspaper the "Des Moines Register" and she threw a counterpunch.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. HILLARY CLINTON (D), NEW YORK: Undersecretary Edelman comes from Vice President Cheney's staff. He was, I guess, second in command to Scooter Libby, comes with that whole kind of neocon world view and starts impuning my patriotism for asking for a briefing that I'm entitled to as a member of the Senate and as a member of the Armed Services Committee.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BASH: Now Clinton introduced or says she's going to introduce legislation with Senator John Kerry to force the Pentagon to brief Congress about what their plans are if they have any to withdraw from Iraq. Not a new idea, Miles, but clearly, again, another thing to try to keep the story alive.

O'BRIEN: Dana, give us a sense of what the Pentagon is saying about all of this tonight.

BASH: Well we actually have a new statement from the defense secretary himself, Miles, Robert Gates clearly trying to defuse the situation. Look at part of the statement on the wall next to me.

He said: "I believe that congressional debate on Iraq has been constructive and appropriate. I had not seen Senator Clinton's reply to Ambassador Edelman's letter until today. I am looking into the issue she raised and will respond to them early next week."

As said, clearly a way to defuse the situation. You don't have to read between the lines too much, Miles, to see that he's trying to at least distance himself a little bit from what one of his top deputies said to the senator in that letter. O'BRIEN: Certainly a bit of softening in tone. Dana Bash, Capitol Hill, thank you very much.

A lot of talk this week in Washington about the strength of al Qaeda. A new report out from the nation's intelligence experts suggest the terror group is strong as ever. But not so long ago it was a different story. After 9/11, the group was greatly weakened, and on the run. CNN's Brian Todd is joining us live. Brian, some stark contrast here when you consider a few years ago.

BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Absolutely, Miles, very stark. And to see an illustration of that, you need only look at a piece of correspondence from a disgruntled al Qaeda operative to the mastermind of 9/11, Khalid Sheikh Mohammed.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

TODD (voice-over): A sobering snapshot of al Qaeda's comeback. Look at this letter from an al Qaeda operative to a key leader. Quote, "The East Asia, Europe, America, horn of Africa, Yemen, Gulf and Morocco groups have fallen, and Pakistan has almost been drowned in one push." That was five years ago, just nine months after 9/11.

Fast forward to now.

FRANCES TOWNSEND, WHITE HOUSE HOMELAND SECURITY ADVISER: Al Qaeda has protected or regenerated three of four key elements in planning an attack on the homeland: a safe haven in Pakistan, operational lieutenants and top leadership.

TODD: Pakistan's role in losing ground to al Qaeda, well documented by U.S. officials, cutting deals with Taliban sympathizers -- a reluctance to push hard into remote tribal areas. But since that letter, other crucial factors in al Qaeda's resurgence.

PAUL CRUICKSHANK, NYU CENTER ON LAW AND SECURITY: Then came the Iraq war, which was a life line to al Qaeda because it allowed it to have a new course to recruit.

TODD: But there's internal blame as well. CNN national security adviser John McLaughlin, who was involved in the CIA's hunt for al Qaeda back in 2002 says partisan politics have water-downed America's will.

JOHN MCLAUGHLIN, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY ADVISER: Take a look for example at the controversy over the NSA monitoring program. It hasn't been settled. This is an important counterterrorism tool.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

TODD: McLaughlin makes it clear. He says U.S. intelligence and military forces are still aggressively pursuing al Qaeda, but he says it's very difficult to keep constant, heavy pressure on a group like that, which can use almost any conflict as a recruiting tool - Miles?

O'BRIEN: Brian Todd, thank you very much. Up ahead tonight -- it's no boxing match, but it is a verbal slugfest. Two presidential candidates are ripping into each other over the issue of sex education. In one corner, the Democrat Barack Obama and the other, Republican Mitt Romney.

And baseball slugger Barry Bonds could soon smash the home run record. If he does, some say they will not be cheering.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

O'BRIEN: How much should kindergartners be taught about sex? That question is now at the center of a nasty political slugfest between presidential candidates Barack Obama and Mitt Romney. And our Mary Snow has a ringside seat. Mary, this started a few days ago but it doesn't want to let up, does it?

MARY SNOW, CNN CORRESPONDENT: It doesn't, Miles. You know, Mitt Romney continues to target Barack Obama's comments on early sex education. And, as he's doing this, his own record is coming under scrutiny.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

SNOW (voice-over): Republican presidential hopeful Mitt Romney fired the first salvo in the sex education debate earlier this week.

MITT ROMNEY (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I heard a -- a quote today from Senator Barack Obama which -- which puzzled me. He said that we should have sex education in kindergarten.

SNOW: Democrat Barack Obama tells the Associated Press, Romney's claim was a -- quote -- "cheap shot aimed at gaining political points."

Here is what Obama said during a Planned Parenthood conference.

SEN. BARACK OBAMA (D-IL), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: It's the right thing to do, you know, to provide age-appropriate sex education, science- based sex education in the schools.

SNOW: Obama referred to a sex-ed program he supported in Illinois that includes kindergartners. Here he is in 2004 explaining it could address topics like inappropriate touching. OBAMA: That was included specifically in the law, so that kindergartners are able to exercise some possible protection against abuse.

SNOW: Appealing to conservatives, Romney is seizing on Obama's support of early sex education.

ROMNEY: He went on to say, of course, it should be age- appropriate.

(LAUGHTER)

ROMNEY: How much sex education is age-appropriate for a 5-year- old? In my view, zero is the right amount.

SNOW: What Romney didn't mention was that, in 2002, while he was running for governor of Massachusetts, he answered yes to a Planned Parenthood questionnaire that asked, "Do you support the teaching of responsible, age-appropriate, factually accurate health and sexuality education, including information about both abstinence and contraception in public schools?"

An adviser to Romney says Romney stressed teaching abstinence and fought to have it introduced in Massachusetts schools, but he also admits that, while governor, Romney did not challenge an existing state education framework that includes sex education for kids as early as kindergarten.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

SNOW: Now, the Department of Education in Massachusetts calls its program fairly extensive, age appropriate, but not mandatory. A Romney adviser says although they don't have hard numbers, many of the sex ed programs in the state don't begin until fifth grade -- Miles.

O'BRIEN: Mary Snow, thank you very much.

Tonight -- or the Democratic presidential candidates are gearing up for our CNN/YouTube debate in South Carolina Monday night. Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama will be engaged in a sideshow of their own as the top contenders for African-American support.

Our senior political correspondent Candy Crowley joining us from Charleston, South Carolina, which is where the candidates will face their first test among African-American voters. And there's some interesting numbers out. Hello, Candy.

CANDY CROWLEY, CNN SR. POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Hey, Miles. You're right. There are interesting numbers out. But we have to add before we show you this piece, it is far from over.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

UNIDENTIIFED MALE: How do you like the food?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Good, the food is good.

CROWLEY (voice-over): At Mac's on Main in Columbia, Barry Walker serves up soul food, peach cobbler and a fair amount of politics. This year, scrambled politics.

BARRY WALKER, RESTAURANT OWNER: You know, Bill Clinton was one of my greatest presidents. I loved him. I supported him. Hillary Clinton, I'm supporting her, too. But I'm not really sure that I want to go with another Clinton in the White House right now. Barack Obama, to me, is a bright star.

CROWLEY: It's like that in South Carolina right now. An abundance of riches for African-Americans who make up 40-to-50 percent of the Democratic primary vote.

Coming after Iowa, Nevada and New Hampshire, this first southern primary also offers the first truly diverse set of voters, which is to say the state can make or break the candidates who get this far.

REP. JAMES CLYBURN (D), SOUTH CAROLINA: I think that Democrats in South Carolina, want to be with a winner. They want to really be able to say we did launch this campaign.

CROWLEY: In the latest snapshot, a poll by CNN/Opinion Research Corporation found that black South Carolinians favor Hillary Clinton over Barack Obama by 16 points. A sizable gap, explained in part by our husband's popularity among blacks and by overwhelming numbers showing blacks believe she's more experienced, more electable and better understands community problems.

Politicals in South Carolina think Clinton's lead is nowhere near the state in a state and community still in flux over the '08 election. At Mac's on Main, Barry Walker has proof of that at home with his two 18- year-olds.

WALKER: He's a Barack Obama supporter. He believes that this guy looks like him, is young like him and represents what he believes in. I have another 18-year-old who is totally different. She's behind Hillary because she's a woman and she's a woman and she says this is what we want in America.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

CROWLEY: And to that mix, add the name John Edwards. He won the primary here in 2004. He was also born here in South Carolina, and, as one politico said to me, we really appreciate home boys here. Miles?

O'BRIEN: All right, Candy Crowley, thank you very much. Our political home girl, thank you very much.

Up ahead -- closing in on a record. Will tonight be the night for Barry Bonds? We'll take you out to the ball game live.

Plus a firsthand look at the International Space Station from your armchair. Our Internet reporters will show you the situation online. Stay with us. You are in THE SITUATION ROOM.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

O'BRIEN: This afternoon a federal judge slapped a huge fine, more than a half billion dollars on the makers of the pain killer Oxycontin. Some of the top executives of that company misled the public about how addictive the drug really is. Our Carol Costello has been reading through this ruling from the judge.

CAROL COSTELLO, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Oh, my goodness, it is a massive fine, $634.5 million and Purdue Pharma now has to pay up. Purdue Pharma, its top lawyer, former president and former chief medical officer had pleaded guilty to misleading the public back in May about Oxycontin.

That's serious stuff. They told the public that Oxycontin was less addictive and less subject to abuse than other pain medications. Oxycontin is designed to be swallowed, but if it's crushed and then swallowed, snorted or injected, it can produce a heroin-like high.

It is very addictive, it has caused a number of people to overdose. In case you're wondering the total fine, that $634.5 million, will be divided up between law enforcement and state governments. The company and its executives must provide community service aiding drug abusers. And by the way, Miles, those three executives are no longer with the company.

O'BRIEN: Is this the end of it at this point or will there further appeals of any kind?

COSTELLO: Well, the company is on probation for five years, as are these three former executives. They have to provide community service, 600 hours, I believe.

O'BRIEN: Carol Costello, thank you.

Barry Bonds is now only three home runs away from surpassing the all-time record held by Hank Aaron since 1973. He's play tonight in Milwaukee. And he's just one hot game way from history. The thing is, not everybody's cheering. Ed Lavandera is in Milwaukee for tonight's game. He got the good assignment tonight. Ed, you're with fans streaming in. What are they saying about Bonds' place in baseball history?

ED LAVANDERA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: You know, trying to adapt this story a little bit to THE SITUATION ROOM - so if you're a regular viewer, you know we've talked a lot over the years about how divided this country is politically.

Barry Bonds is the poster child of just how divided this country is. We've been talking to fans as they've been coming into. They're streaming into the cheap seats here. We're out in the outfield here. So anyone who catches one of his home run balls, those cheap sheets could turn into quite a payoff for them.

But there is quite an intense, mixed reaction here. Many fans, people walking by who say, I hate Barry Bonds and they can't stand it -- very intense, very angry about it. And many people here at this point just on hand to hopefully watch a piece of history.

Now, whether or not Barry Bonds achieves that this weekend is hard to say. We're told he'll only play two of the three games before head back to San Francisco. We just watched him hit batting practice here a little while ago and during his few short stints in the batting cages, he hit three home runs, two of them which were massive, by the way, Miles.

O'BRIEN: All right Ed Lavandera, I hope you bring your glove in just in case. Thank you very much.

You know, fair or not, some of the suspicion of Barry Bonds is rooted in the facts that he's one of the rare athletes who's gotten better and bigger and stronger with age. Now, quick check of the numbers shows that from '86 to '96, his first 10 years in the league, Bonds hit one home run once every 16 at-bats or so. That was that first era.

Then from '97 on, he hit a home run once every 10 at-bats up to this point. Now, Bonds turns 43 next week. Of course, that seems younger every day.

Jack Cafferty joining us now with a look at "The Cafferty File." Hello, Jack.

CAFFERTY: I don't even remember when I was 43, Miles.

The question this hour is, is the American dream still a reality for working people? A Democratic strategist did a survey and only 18 percent say they're living the American dream.

Lee in Palacios, Texas: "Dear Jack, the decline in the American dream began when Wall Street/Washington and the conservatives demanded the deregulation of business and finance in the 1980s. Once American capital was given wings to fly to the greatest return, the investor class abandoned the working class, took the profits we made for them and began the end of the dream."

Anthony in Connection: "I work, I get paid, I pay my bills, I feed my family, I put my daughter through college with no help from the government, and my grandson is going to college as well. The United States is the greatest country in the world and anyone who works at it can attain the American dream."

Tracy in Belle Glade, Florida: "If the American dream is hardship, fear of attack, poor health insurance and politicians that tell you what you want to hear to get elected and then crush you once in office, then the dream is alive."

Cathy in North Dakota: "I'm a member of the baby boom generation and I've been working since I was 17 and I still can't afford the dream. With gas prices, food prices, health care constantly rising on a daily basis, it is harder and harder to support my family. We need some drastic changes in this country."

Vince writes from Las Vegas, Nevada: "The American dream has been victimized by the exporting of American jobs to India. The Indian dream is very much alive. So is the Chinese dream, et cetera, et cetera.

And Jerry in St. Louis: "Jack, when you ask a Democrat a question about how the country is going, of course they're going to say badly if a Democrat is not in a charge. Wise up."

O'BRIEN: Jack Cafferty, thank you very much. Hey, where were you 38 years ago today? You remember this scene?

CAFFERTY: I don't remember where I was last Tuesday.

O'BRIEN: At 38 years ago, this was the scene. It was the first moon landing. It's a big day for space fans. It was a nail biter of a landing, as they came down, running short on fuel, dodging boulders.

But Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin landed on the moon on this day in 1969. Of course Armstrong walked down the ladder of the lunar module and said those words which are words for the ages - "One small step for man. One giant leap for mankind."

Ten other men would follow in subsequent years. NASA hasn't been back to the moon since 1973, but they do hope to be back by the year 2020.

One of the places that they say is important to complete and visit along the way in the meantime is the International Space Station. And if you're not lucky enough to be able to pay to buy a ticket to go there and see it firsthand, you have a way to do it on the Internet. Jacki Schechner is here with a look at a virtual tour of that space station. Hello, Jacki.

JACKI SCHECHNER, CNN INTERNET REPORTER: Hey, Miles. I've dubbed it the international cyberspace station. See what I did there? This is a 360-tour of the International Space Station. NASA just put this online.

And they say this isn't the actual station in space but it is a module on the ground that is almost identical to it. They actually told me today the only difference is that the one in space is a little messier because people have been living in it.

But you can tour all the components that are currently there now. I'll slow it down so you can see it better. And then you can also take a look at some of the components that haven't been added yet. NASA says they want to try to get the next three components started in the coming fall.

Now what's also really cool about this new part of their Web site is you can learn a little bit more about how the crew lives on the International Space Station, how they eat, how they sleep, how they work out.

And one of the interesting things that I got in my Miles Space School earlier today was that the astronauts can actually sleep in any position. There's no gravity. But they have to tie themselves down or put themselves in a sleeping bag so they don't float around and bump into anything. And they can get a good night's sleep.

O'BRIEN: One of those great space-age spin-offs, Velcro. All right, thank you Jacki, have a good weekend.

Still ahead in the program, submissions are pouring in for Monday's CNN democratic presidential debate. Candidates will answer questions submitted on YouTube. And there are some real doozies in there. We're going to show you the weirdest of the weird.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

O'BRIEN: Democratic presidential candidates are preparing for the CNN/YouTube debate on Monday. They'll be answering questions submitted on the Internet. And not surprisingly, those questions are pouring in. CNN's Jeanne Moos looks at some of the most unusual submissions.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

JEANNE MOOS, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): As they prepare the presidential debate set, wait until you see the latest set of questions for the candidates.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Do you really believe that god exists?

MOOS: Do you really believe some of these questions exist? Submitted to YouTube by a dolphin? By an alien?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: My name is one among many.

MOOS: By a crab.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What will you do to stop the sexually transmitted diseases?

MOOS: A lot of the questions submitted to YouTube will go down the tubes. Especially the one delivered by a tube.

UNIDENTIIFED MALE: Hey, little troopers.

MOOS: A few folks sang questions like who's going to be your running mate?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I want to know who it is and why we should say wow.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What is the world is the worst you ever did that you won't tell us?

MOOS: And then there's the catchy what would you do about telephone outsourcing questions?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I don't understand a word, a word that I have heard. Telephone outsources telephone outsources.

MOOS: Some parents apparently outsourced questions to their kids about hunting.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What will you do to stop PETA?

MOOS: About health care.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They can die by the time all the paperwork gets filled out.

MOOS: These three mounted stuffed ostriches in front of the White House to tell candidates not to bury heads in the sand.

CROWD: What's your plan to fix social security?

MOOX: They may be too young to vote, but those accusatory little pointed fingers hurt.

CROWD: How are you going to fix it?

MOOS: And then there was the guy who asked one question like this.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Hi, my name is David McMillan (ph).

MOOS: And another like this.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: How do you all, my presidential brothers and sister Hillary plan on promoting and expanding civil rights so poor brother Anderson Cooper here doesn't have to do all the work by himself?

MOOS: Don't expect YouTubers to keep their shirt on. Question for Hillary Clinton.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Can I be your intern?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Joe Biden, same question.

MOOS: Some lost their train of thought mid question.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: And I'd like to know, whoever you are, what the (BLEEP) are you going to do about it?

MOOS: At this debate, the questions might be more fun than the answers.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Does this Web cam make my boobs look weird?

MOOS: Honestly, yeah. But no candidate who wants your vote is going to tell you that. Jeanne Moos, CNN, New York.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

O'BRIEN: In Phoenix, a jewelry store robbery captured on tape along the 61-year-old -- excuse me. The 61-year-old store owner grabbing a thief's gun. No one was hurt. These are some of the pictures, great video pictures we got for you. The robbers got away with $100,000 of jewelry. There's the picture right there, we got it right there, right now.

And in New Orleans, middle picture for you, a water spout clouded the horizon on Lake Pontchatrain. We're told it could be seen for miles.

Thanks for joining us. Be sure to join Wolf Blitzer this Sunday. On "LATE EDITION," White House Homeland Security Adviser Fran Townsend is among his guests. That's Sunday 11 a.m. Eastern. We hope you'll be here for that. Join us every day from 4-6 Eastern time and then 7 p.m. Eastern for THE SITUATION ROOM. I'm Miles O'Brien in for Wolf Blitzer.

Up next, a CNN/YouTube debate countdown.

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