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At Least 100 Dead in Series of Truck Bombings in Iraq; Mattel Recalls Chinese-Made Toys

Aired August 14, 2007 - 17:00   ET

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


SUZANNE MALVEAUX, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: And you are in THE SITUATION ROOM.
Happening now, breaking news out of Iraq. At least 100 dead in a series of three truck bombings. U.S. military helicopters are helping to evacuate dozens of wounded.

Nine million more toys made in China posing new risks to America's children. From lead paint to tiny magnets, we'll tell you what's behind this latest recall.

And every year, Americans drink billions of gallons of bottled water.

Would new taxes make us turn back to the tap?

Wolf Blitzer is off today.

I'm Suzanne Malveaux and you're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

We want to welcome our viewers from around the world as we begin with breaking news out of Iraq. Three truck bombs devastate a town in northern Iraq. Police officials report at least 100 people dead and 150 wounded.

Let's go live to CNN's Arwa Damon in Baghdad -- Arwa, what can you tell us?

What is the latest?

ARWA DAMON, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Suzanne, these were three suicide truck bombers that detonated in residential neighborhoods, three separate residential neighborhoods in a small Yazidi town about 62 kilometers -- 62 miles West of Mosul, in the northern part of the country.

Now, those attacks, as you just mentioned, left at least 100 people dead, another 150 wounded. And that death toll is expected to rise.

Now, this town is called Qahtaniya. And according to reports from Mosul police, there are U.S. military choppers currently helping to evacuate the wounded. They are being evacuated to a province in Kurdistan, the province of Dohuk. And according to reports from local television there, hospital officials are begging people to come forward and donate their blood.

This is an utterly devastating attack that comes on the heels of the U.S. military saying that they believe that this surge in U.S. forces is proving to be effective. But what we do see and what has been the trend here in the past is that when U.S. forces target the insurgency in one area, it just moves to another.

The insurgency once again proving just how effective it can be at targeting the Iraqi population here -- Suzanne.

MALVEAUX: Arwa, do we have any idea, and I know it's very early, who might be responsible for these various attacks?

Do we think they're coordinated in any kind of way?

DAMON: Well, Suzanne, the attacks all took place at right around the same time, at about 8:00 p.m. Local time. Three suicide truck bombers seeming to detonate near simultaneously. It does appear that there is an element of coordination in the attack itself.

As for who was responsible, there are countless insurgent groups that operate in this area. The province of Nineveh, where this area is located, is known to have an element of al Qaeda extremists operating in it, as well as other Sunni extremist groups. And the Yazidi population has been targeted in the past by Sunni extremists.

But, again, this is Iraq and any number of insurgent groups do have their own agenda to put forward -- Suzanne.

MALVEAUX: Thank you, Arwa.

We want to go straight to Zain Verjee, our State Department correspondent, on who these victims are.

ZAIN VERJEE, CNN STATE DEPARTMENT CORRESPONDENT: Yes...

MALVEAUX: The...

VERJEE: Suzanne, just a little bit on who they are. The Yazidi sect is a essentially a mainly Kurdish group. It has very ancient roots in this region. There are also similar groups in other parts of the Middle East, like Syria. And they're a minority sect. And they worship some sort of angel figure that many Christians and Muslims believe is equivalent to being a figure of the devil. But many of these sects live predominantly in this area.

U.S. officials have said that in northern Iraq, what's happening here is that al Qaeda and other extremists have basically moved to this area. They've regrouped in this area after being driven from strongholds in Baghdad. Some other analysts say that you know what's really going on here is al Qaeda is really being seen as trying to in some way intervene in the debate here in Washington, just ahead of a major progress report expected in mid-September by U.S. officials in Baghdad.

MALVEAUX: Zain, thank you. I want to bring in our Pentagon correspondent, Barbara Starr -- Barbara, if you can tell us what you know about this particular incident. And, obviously, it comes at a time when we are in great anticipation of that report from General Petraeus in Iraq.

BARBARA STARR, PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Well, Suzanne, that's right. And the situation still is unfolding at this hour. U.S. military officials scrambling to determine exactly what has happened and what is going on.

But as my colleague, Arwa Damon, said, we have confirmed U.S. military forces, initial forces, are on site, trying to help the Iraqis with this devastating situation. More U.S. military forces said to be on the way to this area.

Now, U.S. commanders say they are not exactly sure how many bombs went off, what the actual death toll and wounded toll may be. These numbers are coming from Iraqi government sources. The U.S. does not have independent confirmation at this hour.

But this is exactly what U.S. commanders had been worried about -- major attacks against basically defenseless Iraqi civilians in the run-up to the September report, trying to make the security situation look as bad as the insurgents possibly can, plain and simple.

Suzanne, earlier today, we learned a lot more about some of the other unexpected impacts of the surge.

(BEGIN VIDEO TAPE)

STARR (voice-over): One month before commanders report on progress in Iraq -- or lack of it, Army chief of staff, General George Casey, is the latest to warn the army is exhausted.

GEN. GEORGE CASEY, U.S. ARMY CHIEF OF STAFF: Today's army is out of bounds. We're consumed with meeting the current demands and we're unable to provide ready forces as rapidly as we would like.

STARR: Casey is just back from Iraq, where he was the top commander before the surge, often criticized for being too optimistic.

These are the latest U.S. weapons against the insurgency -- textbooks, classrooms and soccer fields. This video, provided by the military, shows where the U.S. is now holding daily classes for hundreds of Iraqi teenagers it has imprisoned for being a security risk.

1ST LT. ROB GLENN, U.S. ARMY: Juveniles in custody right now are nearly 800. That's 800 lives that we have an opportunity to impact.

STARR: That's a sharp increase from the 272 juveniles -- all boys aged 11 to 17 -- detained back in February, when the surge started.

U.S. commanders say as a result of the surge, insurgents have stepped up recruiting children to lay IEDs and act as lookouts for snipers, believing the U.S. troops will be reluctant to shoot them. The U.S. has one goal for the jailhouse school.

GLENN: We ensure that when they are released that they don't -- they pick up a book instead of an AK-47 or laying an IED. And that's what this really gets back to.

(END VIDEO TAPE)

STARR: And, Suzanne, that is what this is all about. Even as we are watching this attack unfold in Mosul at this hour, what the U.S. says is the insurgents have this new tactic of recruiting hundreds of Iraqi children to do their work. And the U.S. has taken them into custody because they're a security risk, but is trying to release them back to their families, they say, as soon as they can -- Suzanne.

MALVEAUX: And, Barbara, what do we expect that report, in about a month, from General Petraeus, is going to say in light of this attack?

STARR: Well, what he is likely to say, according to all the sources we have spoken to, is there is some progress on the security front. We've talked about that for weeks now. Political progress in Iraq is lacking that -- unless that picks up, this is all going to be very problematic. They are going to have to keep the current level of troops at least for some immediate future.

But the key problem remains, Suzanne, they don't have enough Army troops to keep it going past the spring of '08, and that's what General Casey was talking about today.

MALVEAUX: Thank you so much.

Barbara Starr at the Pentagon.

And there is also a new recall of toys today, millions of them. They all come from China, source of 80 percent of the world's toys. And U.S. toy giant Mattel announcing its second such move in as many weeks, says it is now concerned.

Let's go live to CNN senior correspondent, Allan Chernoff -- Allan, this time we're talking about lead paint again, and then tiny magnets.

What's next?

ALLAN CHERNOFF, CNN CORRESPONDENT: That's right. A major recall involving nearly 10 million U.S. toys.

Now, Mattel is blaming part of the problem on Chinese manufacturing. But some of this recall also has to do with poor design.

(BEGIN VIDEO TAPE)

CHERNOFF (voice-over): Courtney, mother of a 2-year-old boy, says she just bought her toddler one of the toy Jeeps that's now being recalled. COURTNEY: It's unbelievable that they still do that today, with all that we know about how much it hurts your children.

CHERNOFF: Mattel's Sarge Jeep, made in China, indeed is coated with lead paint, prompting the company to issue a recall just two weeks after recalling "Sesame Street" characters that also had lead paint.

NANCY NORD, CONSUMER PRODUCT SAFETY COMMISSION: There is absolutely no excuse for lead to be found in toys entering this country. It is totally unacceptable and it needs to stop.

CHERNOFF: Mattel says it discovered a Chinese supplier had subcontracted painting of the Jeeps to another Chinese company, which improperly used lead paint.

The other toys Mattel is recalling have small magnets that can come loose, posing the danger that small children might ingest them.

The company is recalling Polli Pocket toys, Doggie Daycare and Barbie and her dog Tanner. It turns out, Tanner's pooper scooper has a magnet that can come loose.

ROBERT ECKERT, CHAIRMAN & CEO, MATTEL, INC.: We have worked with others in the toy industry, with the CPSC and with other regulators to create new standards to lock in the magnets into a toy.

CHERNOFF: The company is offering vouchers to allow consumers to get replacement toys of their choice.

(END VIDEO TAPE)

CHERNOFF: The Consumer Product Safety Commission this month issued its top five hidden home hazards.

Guess what was at the top of the list?

Magnetic toys -- Suzanne.

MALVEAUX: So, Allan, what should parents do who are worried they've got toys at their home that they think that perhaps they are dangerous to their children?

What should they do?

CHERNOFF: Well, first of all, with regard to the Mattel toys, check on the Web site. They have a detail of exactly which toys we're talking about.

But the fact is, any toys with very small parts -- they simply do not belong in the hands of young children, under three years of age.

So, really, that's a critical issue for parents, because that's really where safety begins. It's all a matter of the parents overseeing their children and giving children appropriate toys. These toys were not for children under three. MALVEAUX: Good advice.

Thank you, Allan.

And can the Consumer Product Safety Commission keep the public safe?

One of its two commissioners says the agency could soon shrink to the point where it won't be able to do its job. The CPSC budget has increased just about 12 percent over the past five years, from $55 million to $62 million. The number of employees has dropped about 12 percent in that span.

The CPSC has been without a chairman for a year and has lacked the quorum necessary to meet and take action. Congress this month restored those powers for a limited time.

The CPSC says it is doing its job, issuing a record 467 recalls during the last fiscal year -- almost half involving products from China.

Jack Cafferty is in New York with The Cafferty File -- Jack, what are you finding?

JACK CAFFERTY, THE CAFFERTY FILE: It was the Spanish-born American author, George Santayana who said "those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it."

David Walker is the comptroller general of the United States, the head of a non-partisan Government Accountability Office. And he says that's a warning that's worth heeding.

In a recent speech reported in the "Financial Times," Walker says the United States could face the same fate as the Roman Empire if we don't change our ways and soon. Walker says the U.S. is on a "burning platform" -- our overstretched military, growing debt, under funded health care and lack of immigration policy could all contribute to our downfall unless we summon the national will to act.

Walker also sites declining moral values and political stability at home.

Of course, none of this is exactly news, is it?

We've known about and ignored most of this stuff for years. It's just that now, according to Walker, the window in which to fix these things is beginning to close.

So here's the question -- what can be done to prevent the United States from going the way of the Roman Empire?

E-mail caffertyfile@CNN.com or go to CNN.com/caffertyfile.

MALVEAUX: Jack, thank you.

And up ahead, surviving a mine collapse. Others have made it out alive. As rescuers dig furiously in Utah, we will look at the odds for those missing miners.

And Hurricane Flossie seen from space. Pretty soon, Hawaii residents may be getting a much closer look at the storm.

And Katie Couric has long since taken his place at CBS.

Does Dan Rather stand by what he said about dumbing down and tarting up the news?

I'll ask him.

You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MALVEAUX: Rescue officials in Utah say the third hole they are drilling to try to find six trapped coal miners could be done by tomorrow night. Amid the frustration over slow progress, there is more new video, this time of the painstaking tunneling operation within the mine.

Our CNN's Brian Todd is in Huntington -- and, Brian, what does this new video actually tell us or show us?

BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Suzanne, it tells us that this rescue effort is moving inch by inch. And every time progress is made, these teams have to make sure this main tunnel doesn't cave in.

(BEGIN VIDEO TAPE)

TODD (voice-over): Rescue miners dig furiously as their boss narrates.

ROBERT MURRAY, PRESIDENT & CEO, MURRAY ENERGY CORPORATION: See the jack?

It's moving up now. Against the roof.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Clear a line.

MURRAY: Now, once they get the jack turned against the roof, then seal it by taking this hammer device and building the seal in.

TODD: In a video his crew shot from the mine, Robert Murray shows how slow and dangerous this work is.

MURRAY: And you are here right now, right at the furthest point that we have driven toward the trapped miners, a distance of about 700 feet from where we started.

TODD: Seven hundred feet in, just over a third of the distance to the area underground where the six missing miners were believed to be when the cave-in struck nearly nine days ago.

Since then, there have been no signs of life. But all hope is not lost. Other miners have survived longer underground, according to the U.S. Mine Rescue Association.

Spring 2006 -- two miners last two weeks in an Australian mine before being rescued.

November 2005 -- a Chinese miner is rescued after 11 days. He tells journalists he drank his own urine.

LEE MCELPRANG, FORMER MINER: Nobody knows what these guys went through.

TODD: Lee McElprang mined these hills for 34 years, but not at Crandall Canyon. He says he crawled out after one collapse that killed one of his buddies and injured two others.

MCELPRANG: You've got to wait until the dust settles. You could get on your knees and run out of air. You could stand up and be in air.

TODD: When you get to the highest point you can, he says, breathe what air you can. Ration out your food. And as for the water in the mine...

MCELPRANG: Yes, that water -- that water is potable. Yes.

(END VIDEO TAPE)

TODD: McElprang says the trapped miners should move around if they can, to try to find so-called bleeder tunnels that are designed to let dangerous gases escape. But this is all in the event that they're not injured or in shell shock. He says that there's no way to describe to outsiders how fast a cave-in happens or how devastating that initial concussion is -- Suzanne.

MALVEAUX: Brian, thank you so much.

Brian Todd.

And they are battening down the hatches on the Big Island of Hawaii, where a state of emergency is in effect. Hurricane Flossie is closing in, with strong winds and surf and potentially flooding rains.

CNN meteorologist Reynolds Wolf is Naalehu on the Big Island -- Reynolds, what is the status there?

REYNOLDS WOLF, CNN METEOROLOGIST: Well, the latest that we have, Suzanne, is that we are just to the east of Naalehu right now, near Highway 11. And you can see right behind me that some community buildings already have the hurricane shutters up.

They are prepared. They're ready for this storm. The storm is still well to our southwest -- or, rather, to our southeast at this point.

This storm center expected to march just to the south of this island. But with an eye of the storm about 80 miles away, you have to remember that the storm is going to be over 240 miles wide. So this storm is going to brush the Big Island.

The wind is something we've been experiencing not just through the trees and through many of the bushes that you see behind me, but right behind me, the waves are beginning to pick up. Some of these are anywhere from 20 to 30 feet high.

We're expecting more of the wind and the waves to continue. Heavy rainfall, anywhere from five to 10 inches, expected for the Big Island.

That's the latest we've got.

Let's send it back to you.

MALVEAUX: Thanks, Reynolds.

And while Flossie is having its way in the Pacific Ocean, Tropical Storm Dean is taking shape in the Atlantic. The system is on a path toward the Lesser Antilles and Puerto Rico. It's expected to become the first Atlantic hurricane of the 2007 season by Friday. And it's too early for forecasters to tell if Dean will pose a threat to the United States.

And up ahead, she tops the list of the most powerful people in Washington. We'll find out where Condoleezza Rice gets her strength.

And can Americans count on a fair vote in the next election?

Dan Rather says he's found problems with some of America's voting machines. I'll speak with him coming up.

You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MALVEAUX: Carol Costello is off today.

Zain Verjee is monitoring stories incoming in THE SITUATION ROOM right now -- Zain, what are you looking at?

VERJEE: Hi, Suzanne.

Iran's president says he seriously doubts Iran is arming Taliban insurgents in Afghanistan. President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad rejected Western allegations during his first ever visit to Afghanistan. At a news conference with Afghan President Hamid Karzai, the Iranian leader says the U.S. does not want the two countries to even be friends.

Mr. Karzai visited President Bush in Washington just last week.

North Korea is issuing a rare, desperate appeal for help from the international community. The country's worst flooding in a decade has killed at least 200 people. Its infrastructure is in shambles and wiped out tens of thousands of acres of crops. The typically reclusive North Korea has asked the United Nations to just come and assess the situation. As many as two million people died in a famine back in the mid-'90s.

CBS says it's settled with fired radio personality Don Imus. Imus was fired in April after using a racial slur against the Rutgers University women's basketball team. It generated a storm of controversy and CBS fired Imus. The terms of the settlement haven't been disclosed. The deal could pave the way for Imus to go to work for a rival broadcaster -- Suzanne.

MALVEAUX: Thanks, Zain Verjee.

And CBS -- speaking of CBS, Dan Rather isn't backing down on what he thinks of TV news.

(BEGIN VIDEO TAPE)

MALVEAUX: Do you stand by that, the statement you made before, dumbing it down, tarting it up?

DAN RATHER, "DAN RATHER REPORTS," HDNET: Yes, absolutely. I've been saying it for 10 years.

(END VIDEO TAPE)

MALVEAUX: The former CBS anchor talks about his successor, Katie Couric; the race for the White House and much more when he joins us right here in THE SITUATION ROOM in just a few minutes.

And Americans buy and drink bottled water by the gallon.

But what would a tax make them switch to tap?

Find out who's betting it will.

You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.

MALVEAUX: We want to update you on our top story, the breaking news out of northern Iraq, where there has been a triple suicide attack.

Police say at least 100 people were killed when suicide bombers detonated three truck bombs in residential areas of a town West of Mosul. One hundred fifty other people have been wounded.

U.S. military helicopters have been helping to evacuate some of them.

And back to one of our top stories now. Mattel announces another massive recall of toys made in China -- millions of toys in millions of American homes. Now, how worried should you be?

Let's turn to CNN medical correspondent Elizabeth Cohen -- Elizabeth, often kids get poisoning from lead.

How often does that happen and what are we looking at in this situation?

ELIZABETH COHEN, CNN MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: Suzanne, millions of children get poisoning from lead. In case -- right now, as we speak, in the United States, half a million children have blood levels of lead high enough to cause irreversible damage.

(BEGIN VIDEO TAPE)

COHEN (voice-over): A parent might be panicked to hear it -- toys could be hurting your child.

So how do you know if these toys have harmed your child?

There are two problems -- lead in paint and these magnets, which are a much more acute concern. Already, three children have had surgery.

NORD: This agency has been warning about the dangers of small magnets for more than a year. If more than one magnet is swallowed, they can attract inside the body, causing intestinal perforations, infections and blockages.

COHEN: The Consumer Product Safety Commission says if your child has flu-like symptoms, is vomiting, lethargic and you think they might have swallowed magnets like these, take them to the doctor.

And as for the lead paint on toys like these, most of the time there are no symptoms. If you're worried, ask your pediatrician for a lead test. It's done with a simple finger prick.

Experts we talked to said if your child occasionally has had a toy like this in his mouth, chances are he's taken in very little lead. But since it's hard to know exactly how much time a child has spent mouthing a toy and since too much lead can cause loss of I.Q. developmental delays and even mental retardation, if you're worried, it's always best to pay a visit to the pediatrician.

(END VIDEO TAPE)

COHEN: Now many times pediatricians will do those lead tests as part of the regular annual exam that they give children.

So you could ask your doctor when is the last time my child was tested for lead -- Suzanne.

MALVEAUX: Good advice.

Elizabeth Cohen, thank you so much.

And all of the Mattel toy recall information is posted online.

Let's bring in our own Internet reporter, Abbi Tatton -- Abbi, where can you go to find out about what kind of toys are involved?

ABBI TATTON, CNN INTERNET REPORTER: Suzanne, the first place to start is Mattel's own Web site that has a list of all the products in today's recall, those affected by lead paint hazards or also problems with small magnets. But today's recall is not the only one in recent weeks, so at CNN.com we've put this great list of all the toys that have been affected by recalls in the last couple of months. That at CNN.com -- Suzanne.

MALVEAUX: Thank you, Abbi.

And is America ready for the next election? A new investigation raises fresh concerns about electronic voting systems. Behind that investigation, former CBS News anchor Dan Rather, now HDNet global correspondent for "Dan Rather Reports".

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

MALVEAUX: Dan Rather, thank you so much for joining us here in THE SITUATION ROOM.

We watched your program, and you talk about the voting machines, the fact that we are not ready for the primaries that are coming up here, the fact that there are touch screens that are not working, that there is improper maintenance of these machines.

How did this happen?

DAN RATHER, "DAN RATHER REPORTS": Well, there are a lot of things that went into it, but among the things are that we've allowed the outsourcing of the manufacturing of these machines and outsourced them overseas, that some of the touch screens have been made in the Philippines with components that come from, among other places, mainland China, and an overarching company that's rooted in Venezuela. And that's -- you begin right there.

The second thing is there has been no transparency. There is too much secrecy about who makes these machines, where, by whom, why they make them, what the profits are, and there's been no accountability. So we do move into the 2008 election cycle with many of the same problems that we had going all the way back to 2000 and the fiasco in Florida.

MALVEAUX: And you have a demonstration in the program that actually shows when you touch the screen, you choose one selection, but there is another, a candidate's name that pops up. Is that correct?

RATHER: That is correct. A very experienced election official in Florida was pointing out, was demonstrating for us what the problems he had seen, and that is you take the stylus and you put it by what you think is your preferred candidate's name, but if you don't put it just exactly right, it may register the candidate below yours. And other problems are, sometimes it doesn't -- it seems not to register at all, and therefore, you have these many thousands of votes in which people appear not to have voted for president or in the most important race in their precincts.

MALVEAUX: I want you to respond to the company that took a look at the program and are taking issue with the results there. This from the Elections Systems & Software, Inc. They go on to say, and they say that you're program, specifically, apparently includes a demonstration of a voting terminal that was deliberately miscalibrated solely for the purposes of a television story.

Do you care to respond?

RATHER: Well, I haven't seen that response, and in a way, I'm happy to see them respond at all. That we -- the program is as accurate as we could possibly make it, I suggest that people watch it and make up their minds for themselves.

But let me point out to you for a moment that we have for a very long time been trying to get companies, including ES&S, to provide an executive of the company and/or preferably both, someone who has actually worked to make the machines. They have absolutely stonewalled us, and then they wait until they haven't seen the program and naturally they attack us.

As you know as a journalist, that goes with the territory, but my hope is that anyone that sees the program, they may or may not like it, but I think they'll come away saying to themselves, we need to make some changes in the way we have this voting process, because we went from punch cards to touch screens, and now they're trying to go to something called in many places optical scan. And there are problems with all of these.

So we aren't picking on these companies. We're saying some of the equipment doesn't work according to the workers who built it and according to the election officials who use it.

MALVEAUX: So what kind of confidence should voters have in the upcoming election here? Clearly, you're pointing out the case that this equipment is faulty, that it doesn't work. What is the solution?

RATHER: Well, the solution is, first of all, to have some transparency about who makes the machines, where, by whom, why, what their profits are, how they put the machines together. The other is to have some accountability.

There is far too much secrecy in the buying and selling of these machines and the making of these machines. So you start with transparency and accountability.

Look, it's not a partisan issue, it's not Democrat, Republican, or Independent, or Mugwump. It's about the integrity of the very heart and soul of the democratic system, and that is a free person voting with a secret ballot and the ballot gets counted. It's not an opinion, it's a fact. Not everywhere, but many votes don't get counted and some votes are counted wrong. MALVEAUX: And obviously, you've covered politics for a very long time. When you look at the field of candidates now, who has the best shot at the White House?

RATHER: Who? You know, when it comes to making predictions, my crystal ball is permanently in the hop (ph) shop. I would point out that overnight's a long time in politics, a week is forever. I don't have any idea whom the two major parties would put up this time.

Clearly, Senator Hillary Clinton has a substantial lead as a Democrat. That could evaporate quickly. On the Republican side, on a national basis, Rudolph Giuliani clearly has the lead, but there are a lot of X factors on the Republican side, such as does Fred Thompson get in or not?

MALVEAUX: And want to change the subject very quickly. You've been very outspoken about Katie Couric and her helm as the first female anchor of a major, a nightly newscast on CBS. I want to quickly play what it is that you said prior.

RATHER: Well, I'm glad you asked, actually. I've never been critical of Ms. Couric. I did offer some criticism of the CBS program in the beginning of her tenure there.

Les Moonves runs CBS, and they decided that they wanted to bring portions of "The Today Show" to the broadcast and it didn't work. That's what I said, that's all I said. I did say that. But I've never been critical of her.

MALVEAUX: Let's take a quick listen to that bite.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

RATHER: You know, the trend line continues of, as I say, dumbing it down, tarting it up, going to celebrity coverage, rather than war coverage.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MALVEAUX: Do you stand by that, the statement you made before, "dumbing it down, tarting it up"?

RATHER: Yes, absolutely. I've been saying it for 10 years, long before Ms. Couric came to the evening news.

I was saying exactly the same thing about where we are in American journalism, particularly television journalism. And I do not exclude myself from that criticism.

MALVEAUX: Les Moonves says it's a sexist comment. Do you agree?

RATHER: No. And he knows that isn't true. But I understand that he was playing defense. And let me point out that after he said that, that he turned it over to some of his underlings to go on the attack. But we all understand that, and I think the public understands, and I'm willing to live by their judgment. MALVEAUX: Dan Rather, thank you so much for joining us here in THE SITUATION ROOM.

RATHER: Thank you very much, Suzanne. Thanks.

MALVEAUX: Thank you.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

MALVEAUX: We're going to go straight to Zain Verjee and that breaking news story, the attacks in Iraq.

I understand you have some new numbers, Zain?

ZAIN VERJEE, CNN STATE DEPT. CORRESPONDENT: Yes, Suzanne. We're getting new information from two different sources that are telling CNN that there are more casualties than we had been previously reporting.

The first source is the Iraqi army. It's telling CNN that at least 175 people have been killed and at least 200 people wounded in four suicide bombing attacks in Qahtaniya, which is a town in northern Iraq.

The other source is the Iraqi police, Suzanne. They're telling us at least 120 people have been killed and at least 170 people wounded in three suicide bombings.

So we're trying to sort out through all this information. It just happened a short while ago, and as you know, the information is coming in. We'll work it out and get back to you -- Suzanne.

MALVEAUX: Thank you, Zain.

I understand we also have CNN's numbers, confirming about 100 dead and at least 150 wounded.

Thank you so much, Zain.

And Condoleezza Rice, she is making her mark in a major men's magazine, but is the praise deserved?

And there is a major scandal in Japan involving a popular sumo wrestler. The reason, he lied. But there is more. The story is just ahead.

You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MALVEAUX: She has said many times that NFL commissioner would be her dream job, but for now, Condoleezza Rice is secretary of state. According to "Gentlemen's Quarterly," it's a post that has made her a true mover and shaker.

Our CNN State Department correspondent, Zain Verjee, joining us once again.

And Zain, exactly what is "GQ" saying about Condoleezza Rice?

VERJEE: Well, Suzanne, it says in Washington you're either a person with power or a person who acts like you have power. "GQ" says its list separates the contenders from the pretenders.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

VERJEE (voice over): Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice is flying high. She's number one on "GQ" magazine's list of the 50 most powerful people in Washington.

SEAN MCCORMACK, STATE OF DEPT. SPOKESMAN: I guess "GQ" feels that she can sell a few magazines.

VERJEE: Glenn Kessler, author of the new book, "The Confidante," says Rice has the power because she has the president's ear.

GLENN KESSLER, "WASHINGTON POST": The president is counting on her to help turn things around on the foreign policy end before they leave office.

VERJEE: That relationship gives Rice the clout to make major decisions, jump-start diplomacy with Iran, and clinch a deal with North Korea. "GQ" says Rice was the ultimate yes-woman as national security adviser but is now a much-needed check on Vice President Dick Cheney, who takes a much harder line on foreign policy.

KESSLER: It looks like the vice president is on the losing end of those -- of those battles.

VERJEE: "GQ" says, "Whatever hope we have of not going to war with Iran before the end of Bush's term rests largely with her."

A CNN Opinion Research poll shows Rice is very popular among Americans. While many of the top names in the president's inner circle have left him, Rice is staying put.

MCCORMACK: She has a lot that she wants to accomplish.

VERJEE: But the jury is still out as to whether she can claim any success in Iraq, Iran or North Korea before leaving office.

KESSLER: At the moment, there are lots of balls in the air, she's doing a lot of juggling. Some of them have dropped on the ground, certainly in terms of Iraq.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

VERJEE: Rice isn't the only one at the State Department that made the cut for GQ's most powerful list. Her point man on Iran, Nick Burns, as well as her Arabic interpreter, Gamal Helal, are also on the list -- Suzanne.

MALVEAUX: Zain, did you make the list? VERJEE: Well, I checked a couple of times, actually, and neither one of us made it.

MALVEAUX: Oh.

VERJEE: Can you believe that?

MALVEAUX: Who else is on the list?

VERJEE: Well, Harry Reid, the Senate majority leader, was on the list. The secretary of defense, Robert Gates, was on it. So was justice Anthony Kennedy and Nancy Pelosi. But not us. We're a bit miffed.

MALVEAUX: We'll keep working on it. We'll keep working on it. Thanks.

Now Lou Dobbs getting ready for his show right at the top of the hour.

What are you working on?

LOU DOBBS, HOST, "LOU DOBBS TONIGHT": Well, Suzanne, the first thing we're going to is demand a recount on that on behalf of you and Zain.

Tonight we're reporting on today's massive new recall of dangerous toys that have been imported from communist China. Another recall, another example of our government's failure to protect American consumers from dangerous toys, food and other imports from China.

We'll have a full report.

And a troubling new sign that what's left of our middle class in this country is on the verge of collapse. This nation's biggest retailer, low-cost retailer, Wal-Mart, saying many of its customers are in deep financial trouble. Money running out before the end of each month.

We'll have that special report.

And new skepticism about the federal government's promise to crack down on employers of illegal aliens. Some lawmakers say the so- called crackdown is nothing more than political theater.

We'll have that.

And among my guests here tonight, former CIA director Jim Woolsey, who says the United States may have to bomb Iran to stop Iran's nuclear weapons program.

Three of the country's best radio talk show hosts also will be with us tonight.

Please join us for all of that, a great deal more, all the day's news at the top of the hour right here on CNN.

Suzanne, back to you.

MALVEAUX: Thanks, Lou.

And you see them everywhere, people toting bottled water. Some want you to turn on the tap instead. Why it could cost you if you don't.

And is the U.S. headed for the same fate as the Roman Empire? Your e-mail to Jack Cafferty coming up.

You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MALVEAUX: When you're hot and thirsty, do you reach for a glass and turn on the tap, or open the fridge and grab a bottle? Americans drink bottled water by the billions of gallons, and some think that is reason enough to impose a tax.

Our CNN's Deborah Feyerick joining us from New York.

And Deborah, what's the thinking behind this?

DEBORAH FEYERICK, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, the thinking, at least on the part of Chicago, is that taxing water can help close a budget gap. Tax the water just like you tax cigarettes, and use the environment as a selling point.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

FEYERICK (voice over): Americans love their bottled water, so much so, they drank more than eight billion gallons of the stuff, shelling out $11 billion in the process. So why is Chicago thinking about slapping consumers with a tax as much as 25 cents per bottle of water?

GEORGE CARDENAS, CHICAGO ALDERMAN: It's a way of maybe hitting people over the head with it and saying, hey, listen, we just have to be more prudent in how we use our resources.

FEYERICK: Chicago is just the latest example of cities and consumers concerned about the environmental consequences -- everything from making and disposing of the bottles to depleting water resources by companies selling the water.

Trendy restaurants such as Chez Panisse in Berkeley, California, now only serve tap water.

MAYOR MICHAEL BLOOMBERG (R), NEW YORK: Our agua is terrific.

FEYERICK: The mayors of New York, San Francisco and other cities say they won't buy any more bottled water. They praise the quality of city tap, as do Chicago Alderman Cardenas.

CARDENAS: It's a great-tasting water. It's just people don't realize that.

FEYERICK: But would his constituents stay with bottled water, even if it were taxed? Our sample in Chicago was all but unanimous.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes, I would.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I'd buy bigger bottles so I wouldn't hurt the environment.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'd still buy, yes.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's a convenience.

FEYERICK: The bottled water industry says there is plenty of room for bottled and tap water.

As for Alderman Cardenas' taxing idea...

CARDENAS: Bottled water is a safe, healthy, refreshing beverage that consumers use to stay hydrated. And any action, such as this tax that would discourage consumers from drinking a healthy beverage, are just not in the public interest.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

FEYERICK: Now, it may not be in the public interest, but, however, corporate America is taking note. For example, in one case, a company has decided to use light-weight bottles, using about 30 percent less plastic. And in another case, companies are deciding whether to sell reusable bottles.

So water will still be sold, but this way, people will have the choice as to whether they want to toss the bottle after they're done or use it for another go -- Suzanne.

MALVEAUX: Got it. And we've got a lot more information on this.

The Pacific Institute studied the environmental impact of bottled water before it even reaches consumers, and it estimates that for American consumption alone, in 2006, the process just to produce the bottles required 17 million barrels of oil. The manufacturing process to make the plastic for the bottles generated 2.5 million tons of carbon dioxide. And the production process takes three times as much water as what actually goes into the bottles, which means every liter sold represents three liters of water.

Time now back to check with Jack Cafferty, "The Cafferty File" -- Jack.

JACK CAFFERTY, CNN ANCHOR: Suzanne, the question this hour is: What can be done to prevent the United States from going the way of the Roman Empire?

Kris writes from Livingston, Texas, "If you want to prevent the U.S. from going the way of the Roman Empire, the first thing we need to do is get rid of the man who thinks he's Caesar. Impeach Bush, impeach Cheney, and restore accountability to all levels of our government."

Gene writes from Houston, "Nothing, absolutely nothing. It's already happened. China and India are on the rise, the U.S. has Bush's preemptive war of ego draining everything we have left. The die is cast and our time is past."

Charles in Michigan, "It is much too late. For too long we have watched Bush fiddle while Baghdad burns. All of our resources being used up in an area two-thirds the size of Texas to impose our idea of democracy on a nation which didn't want it in the first place. When we're weak enough, our opposition will start calling in their chips."

Dick writes from Corpus Christi, "Frankly, I don't see much comparison between the U.S. and the Roman Empire, but we have a long way to go to last as long as they did. I think this is just more overwrought rhetoric from one of the many 'Chicken Littles' running around."

Ted in Rockaway, New Jersey, "First, stop having all real work performed by imported slaves. Second, stop sending the legions off to far-flung foreign wars. And last, get rid of the all-powerful crazy emperor who rides his mountain bike while the country falls apart."

Pat in Deckerville, Michigan, "It seems nothing substantial can be done, at least at present, to prevent the U.S. from becoming like Rome. We're imperialistic, sex crazy. We love blood sports, wrestling, dogfighting, boxing, et cetera. We have no deep faith in God. Our idol is money, which has many faces, as did the gods of Rome."

"Our leaders are corrupt and care not a whip about the public. If at last we come to our senses and start living moral lives, elect leaders that are honest and truthful, we may have a chance to turn ourselves around. One can only hope and pray."

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" -- Suzanne.

MALVEAUX: Thanks, Jack. It looks like you tapped into a nerve there.

Thank you so much, Jack.

And up ahead, a matter of honor. A superstar wrestler falls into disfavor with fans in Japan. Sports scandal sumo style.

You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MALVEAUX: Now we want to show you some of the more interesting video coming our way today. Take a look at this.

In Indianapolis, a sculpture at the Indiana State Fair made entirely out of cheese, titled "Winners Drink Milk." It took artist Sarah Kaufmann several days to carve using two 640 blocks of cheddar.

In New York, surf's up. Thirty-nine surfers stand on their boards and paddle around Manhattan Island. Their goal, to raise funds for environmental and autism advocacy groups.

And in China, three baby pandas were born in captivity yesterday. Only 34 were born in captivity during all of last year.

And you're looking at one of the most popular sumo wrestlers in Japan, but he has just become tremendously controversial as well.

CNN's Kyung Lah explains.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

KYUNG LAH, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice over): The scandal is gripping Japanese headlines. The country's number one tough guy sits in supersize shame, fans fearing this could bring down the nation's prized sport.

His name is Asashoryu, the 350-pound grand champ of sumo crowned the title Yokozuna. A native of Mongolia, the Japanese hungrily adopted their new sumo king, until this -- Asashoryu, the picture of sumo athletic health, head-butting a soccer ball and hamming it up in front of Mongolian TV cameras. The problem, he told the Japanese Sumo Association he was hurt, too injured to show up for a summer exhibition tournament, a shocking lie to fans who prized the yokozuna for honesty and integrity.

"He's like a big baby," says this sumo fan.

Sumo officials ordered Asashoryu back to Japan, and for the first time in the sports history, suspended a yokozuna for an unprecedented two tournaments and cut his pay 30 percent for four months. With top knot in toe, Asashoryu returned, but with an even bigger shock for fans. The mighty man began melting down.

Dr. Takahisa Hirayishi (ph) is Asashoryu's doctor. He says Asashoryu is on the brink of a nervous breakdown from the punishment and needs to return to Mongolia. But this former sumo wrestler says he needs to stay.

"If we allow him to go back," he says, "sumo would be damaged eternally. We cannot tell him to go home and rest well, we cannot keep the discipline like that."

(on camera): The Sumo Association agrees, ordering Asashoryu to remain in Japan and show remorse. So how is he doing that? Well, he's holed up in his home, basically under house arrest. A horde of media outside waiting to see what his next move will be.

(voice over): "He'd better go back to Mongolia," says this fan.

Many for now turning away from the man, saying sumo is a matter of culture and tradition. The epitome of physical and moral strength.

Kyung Lah, CNN, Tokyo.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

MALVEAUX: And "LOU DOBBS TONIGHT" starts right now -- Lou.

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