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THE SITUATION ROOM
Giuliani Stops Speech; No Release for Last of "Jena 6"; Double Shooting on Campus; What if We Stop Spending; Illegal Immigrants in the Driver's Seat; Your Most Treasured Possession; Fidel Castro to Appear in Taped Interview on Cuban TV Next Hour
Aired September 21, 2007 - 17:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
COSTELLO: And Rudy Giuliani taking a cell phone call right in the middle of a speech. Apparently it's not the first time he's done that. Find out what on Earth was so important.
Wolf Blitzer is off today.
I'm Carol Costello.
You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
The Senate's senior Republican bugged by the FBI. A source telling CNN agents taped conversations between Alaska's Ted Stevens and an oil company executive who has pleaded guilty to bribery.
CNN's Brian Todd is working the story for us -- Brian, what did you find out?
BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Carol, we know that Senator Stevens is being looked at or, at the very least, listened to by federal officials, in this case. But he's not been charged and he's not talking.
(BEGIN VIDEO TAPE)
TODD (voice-over): A powerful U.S. senator brushes off CNN's questions about FBI recordings of him in a bribery case.
SEN. TED STEVENS (R), ALASKA: I said it's a nice day. I hope you enjoy it and are having a good day. I'm having a great day.
TODD: Ted Stevens, the longest serving Republican in the Senate, is on FBI tape speaking with Bill Allen, the former head of an oil services company who'd pleaded guilty to describing Alaska state officials. That's according to a source close with knowledge of the investigation. Not known -- what's on the tape, how many recordings there were or when they were made.
Allen, a long time contributor to Stevens' campaigns, admitted in court that his oil firm, Veco, helped remodel Stevens' home outside Anchorage, which was searched by federal agents this summer.
BILL ALLEN: I don't think there was a lot of material. There was some labor. UNIDENTIFIED MALE: So you -- there wasn't a lot of material, but you paid some labor bills that went into remodeling Senator Stevens' house?
TODD: One contractor involved in the renovation told CNN he sent his bills directly to Allen's oil company, but he was paid by Senator Stevens.
Stevens said this about the work.
STEVENS: Every bill that was presented us has been paid -- personally, with our own money.
TODD: Stevens has not been charged and there's no evidence of so- called quid pro quo -- that Stevens gave Veco something in return for work on the house. But experts say if investigators can prove intent for that...
JEFFREY JACOBOVITZ, CRIMINAL DEFENSE ATTORNEY: He doesn't have to have performed it in a bribery case or in a gratuity case. But, in fact, if he knew he was getting the money to do something to further their interests, then, in fact, Senator Stevens has some issues.
(END VIDEO TAPE)
TODD: And that may be where these FBI tapes prove critical one way or another.
We tried to contact Stevens' attorney regarding the taped conversations. He did not return our calls.
This investigation has already led to bribery and conspiracy charges against three current and former Alaska lawmakers -- Carol.
COSTELLO: Yes, but it's not over.
Doesn't it involve the senator's son, too?
TODD: Yes, Ben Stevens, a former state senator in Alaska, has had his offices raided by the FBI. That was last year. But he also has not been charged in this case.
COSTELLO: Brian Todd reporting live.
Pulling the plug on one of Stevens' pet projects, the so-called bridge to nowhere. You know that. Stevens secured $398 million for a span connecting the city of Ketchikan to the island airport. But the massive project, benefiting relatively few people, came to symbolize Congressional pork barrel spending and the funding was revoked. Today, Alaska's governor said she will look for a better alternative.
American commanders are reporting progress in securing Baghdad thanks almost exclusively to U.S. forces. It turns out Iraqi troops are providing security in only 8 percent of the capital.
CNN's senior correspondent, Jamie McIntyre, joins us live -- Jamie, what does this say about the situation in Baghdad?
JAMIE MCINTYRE, CNN SENIOR PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Well, Carol, you know, the U.S. commander in Baghdad, Major General Joseph Fil, has two-and-a-half extra U.S. brigades. That's almost 9,000 troops there. Still, he reported today that progress has been frustratingly slow.
(BEGIN VIDEO TAPE)
MCINTYRE (voice-over): Eight months after the surge began, less than half, 46 percent of Baghdad, is under control, with Iraqi forces in a leading role in only 8.2 percent of neighborhoods.
Most of West Baghdad is still a battle zone, with 16 percent of city neighborhoods rated as "in disruption." So even while arguing the trends are good -- attacks in the Iraqi capital are at a 10-month low -- the Baghdad commander concedes when the surge ends, the fighting won't. There are some areas he just can't secure.
MAJ. GEN. JOSEPH FIL, COMMANDER, MULTINATIONAL DIVISION BAGHDAD: Sadr City, for example, is an area in which we do not have extensive forces right now. We have one corner of it.
MCINTYRE: It's the same, old problem -- the Iraqi troops are better, but too few. Fil says his main focus right now is tightening factories like this one, which make the IEDs that are still the biggest killer of his troops. Baghdad has been designated a top priority to get the new MRAP armored vehicles, but none has yet arrived. The Pentagon says they'll get there by the end of the year -- just as some troops are leaving.
(END VIDEO TAPE)
For all of Baghdad's problem, General Fil remains somewhat optimistic, saying he senses a real shift in the mood of the city residents. Some 8,000 have volunteered to defend their homes. He says that is indicating what he believes could be a catalyst for enduring change.
And, of course, Carol, as we know, in Iraq, hopeful forecasts and hopeful predictions often don't pan out.
COSTELLO: Unfortunately, that's true.
Jamie McIntyre reporting.
In the meantime, the U.S. Embassy Baghdad says controversial security contractor, Blackwater, is once again guarding diplomatic convoys outside of the protected Green Zone. And a source tells CNN full operations will resume tomorrow.
Now, that comes less than a week after a shooting incident involving Blackwater workers that the Iraqi government says killed as many as 20 civilians. It called for Blackwater to be expelled from Iraq.
Today, Secretary of state Condoleezza Rice said that she's ordering a complete review of security practices for U.S. diplomats. That's on top of a probe by a joint U.S./Iraqi commission.
Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad is getting a cold shoulder from New York, where he will attend a United Nations meeting next week. He's been denied permission to visit Ground Zero. But in a controversial move, Columbia University is welcoming him.
CNN's Mary Snow is live in New York -- Mary, what is the university saying?
MARY SNOW, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Carol, the university is holding firm and it's not caving to pressure to withdraw its invitation to the Iranian president.
(BEGIN VIDEO TAPE)
SNOW (voice-over): New York's message to Mahmoud Ahmadinejad -- "Go To Hell!," reads one tabloid headline. "Axis Of Evil" reads another.
Even though the Iranian president's request to visit Ground Zero was denied, outrage is building. Columbia University is opening its doors to the man who denies the Holocaust ever happened and who's said he wants to wipe Israel off of the map.
Holocaust survivor Elie Wiesel, for one, says if it were up to him, he'd expel Ahmadinejad.
ELIE WIESEL, NOBEL LAUREATE, HOLOCAUST SURVIVOR: This man is a disgrace -- a disgrace to diplomacy, a disgrace to international relations, a disgrace to culture.
SNOW: Columbia University says it wants to challenge Ahmadinejad firsthand on his beliefs.
PROF. RICHARD BULLIET, COLUMBIA UNIVERSITY: I think that the idea that exposing our students and faculty to a firsthand look at a major world figure is a -- certainly a satisfactory rationale. SNOW: City Council Speaker Christine Quinn says she's all for free speech and says Ahmadinejad can practice it on any sidewalk in New York. But...
CHRISTINE QUINN, CITY COUNCIL SPEAKER: There is no reason why he should be extended the privilege -- not the right, but the privilege of an invitation to such a prestigious university, where he will use that stage to spew his hate.
SNOW: Quinn is calling on the university to withdraw its invitation.
But Columbia is holding firm. Republican presidential candidate John McCain also turned up the pressure, referring to Iranian-made bombs and rockets used by Iraqi insurgents: "A man who is directing the maiming and killing of American troops," he says, "should not be given an invitation to speak at an American university."
But Professor Richard Bulliet says it is because of war that Ahmadinejad should be heard.
BULLIET: Here we have an opportunity, in a situation where there is potentially another war, to hear directly from the president of the country that we could find ourselves at war with.
(END VIDEO TAPE)
SNOW: And so far, there's been intense interest at Columbia to hear Ahmadinejad, the university saying that it gave away about 600 tickets to Monday's event within the span of one hour.
Now, the student newspaper at Columbia is reporting that some students, though, do plan to rally to protest Ahmadinejad's event on Monday -- Carol.
COSTELLO: Oh, and they can be very vocal at Columbia, as well.
SNOW: They certainly can. And they've been known for a few feisty protests in the past couple of years.
COSTELLO: Yes, they h.
Mary Snow reporting from New York.
Up ahead, an airport bomb scare. Find out why police say the student who caused it is lucky she wasn't shot.
Also, America's most famous documentary filmmaker turned his lens on World War II. Ken Burns in THE SITUATION ROOM with a preview.
Plus, a double shooting on a university campus. The latest on search for the shooter.
You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
COSTELLO: Some frightening moments at Boston's Logan Airport, where police arrested an MIT student wearing what looked like a bomb. Officials now say she is lucky they didn't shoot her.
CNN's Dan Lothian joins us live -- Dan, what did this device turn out to be?
DAN LOTHIAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, it turned out to be just a fake device. No one is disputing, though, the fact that this 19-year- old you talked about -- her name is Star Simpson, a sophomore at MIT -- no one is disputing the fact that she walked into Boston Logan International airport wearing a sweatshirt with a device.
But what prosecutors call a fake bomb that alarmed many people inside the terminal her defense attorney calls a work of art.
Now, this all happened around 8:00 a.m. this morning inside Terminal C. Authorities say Simpson approached an information desk and asked about a flight her boyfriend was on from Oakland, California. State police say she was wearing a black sweatshirt with a circuit board, wires, lights and a battery attached to her chest and carrying putty on her hand.
She then turned around and walked away. The airport customer service employee called state police, who found Simpson and arrested her at gunpoint.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MAJOR SCOTT PARE, MASSACHUSETTS STATE POLICE: I'm shocked and appalled that somebody would wear this type of a device to an airport in this time. We're currently in the orange. The threat is there against aviation. I don't think she understood the seriousness until the information person said I'm calling the state police.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
LOTHIAN: So Simpson was hauled off to court. She was arraigned in Boston court for possession of a hoax device and disorderly conduct. She pleaded not guilty and was released on $750 bail.
Her lawyer says that she had been wearing the sweatshirt -- believe this or not -- she was wearing the sweatshirt to help her stand out at a career fair at MIT, where she is an engineering student.
By the way, MIT issued a short statement saying, in part, that her "actions were reckless and understandably created alarm at the airport" -- Carol.
COSTELLO: Yes, that's an understatement.
So, what kind of punishment could she get for this?
LOTHIAN: Well, it all depends. I mean one of the things was that prosecutors were asking for $5,000 bail. So they were really pushing for something that could have been a little more serious here. But they did lower that to $750 bail. But, you know, that -- possession of a hoax device is a felony. So, if convicted, she could spend a little time behind bars.
We're not sure it will ever get that far, but it certainly is serious. She'll be back in court, by the way, the end of October.
I wouldn't think it was very funny if I saw it in an airport.
Thank you very much.
LOTHIAN: That's right.
COSTELLO: Dan Lothian reporting from Boston.
Our Internet reporter, Abbi Tatton, is also following the story.
She has more details on the MIT sophomore's -- what is -- what is this Star Simpson saying about herself online -- Abbi.
ABBI TATTON, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Carol, on her personal Web site she says I'm an artist, an inventor and I love crazy ideas and then follows photo after photo of her creations, things she says online are her inventions. There are roller skates here, powered roller skates. There are a couple of robots, other forms of transport on this Web site.
That device that police have described today, we didn't see online. But there are other electronics here. This one -- this gadget, she lists online is something she put on her dorm room door to show via the lights whether she was inside or not or sleeping.
There's plenty more online here -- Instructions on how to make some of these gadgets. Some of them have been viewed thousands of times by people.
That personal Web site is now down. But when we captured it earlier, she summed herself up in a sentence: "I'm a student and I love to build things" -- Carol.
COSTELLO: She just built the wrong thing and wore it at the wrong time.
Abbi Tatton, thank you.
Randi Kaye is monitoring stories incoming to THE SITUATION ROOM right now -- Randi, what do you have?
RANDI KAYE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Good to see you again, Carol.
A police officer in Warren, Ohio, who is accused of using a stun gun on a handcuffed woman is now on administrative leave. Video from his cruiser shows him jolting the woman with a taser gun. The officer's own police report says he shocked her seven times, twice after she had been handcuffed. Police say she was wildly out of control after being forced from a bar. They say once inside the cruiser, she kicked a window and broke it.
The suburban St. Louis police officer who was caught on tape berating a motorist is now out of a job. Aldermen in St. George, Missouri voted to fire the officer. Twenty-year-old motorist Brett Darrow had a video recorder inside his car. He was at a commuter lot on September 7th when the officer approached him.
On the tape, the officer is heard taunting and threatening Darrow. The video was widely seen on the Internet.
A sixth man sought in the armed robbery case against O.J. Simpson has surrendered in court. Charles Ehrlich of Miami was taken into custody in Las Vegas after a brief hearing. The judge set his bail at $32,000. Ehrlich is charged with kidnapping, armed robbery and assault with a deadly weapon.
And here's something to make a note of. If you signed up for the do not call list against telemarketers, well, you may need to sign up again next year. The registry began in June 2003. The numbers, in turns out, are valid for five years. After that, telemarketers can call again. Congressman Mike Doyle of Pennsylvania is introducing legislation to make registrations permanent. The bill, Carol, has bipartisan support.
COSTELLO: Oh, thank goodness for that.
KAYE: Yes. Make a note on your calendar. I certainly am.
COSTELLO: I am, too.
Up ahead, Rudy Giuliani asked the National Rifle Association, do you mind if I cake a call?
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
RUDY GIULIANI (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Hello, dear?
I'm talking -- I'm talking to the members of the NRA right now.
Would you like to say hello?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COSTELLO: So, was Giuliani being rude or was it a joke that no one got?
We'll talk about it.
Plus, Ken Burns joins us to talk about his epic documentary on America's epic war.
Stay with us.
You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
COSTELLO: Filmmaker Ken Burns is out with a new documentary on World War II. The film is called "The War" and it's raising new questions about the Iraq War.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP FROM "THE WAR," COURTESY PBS)
SIDNEY PHILLIPS, WORLD WAR II VETERAN: Some men could take it and some just physically could not take it -- the sheer terror of knowing that the next one was going to have your name on it. And that goes on and on and on and on. You get a strange feeling in which you seem to become detached and you just think well maybe this will end, and maybe it won't and maybe we'll all be blown up and maybe we won't.
But who cares?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COSTELLO: Joining us now, Ken Burns.
KEN BURNS, FILMMAKER: Thank you for having me.
COSTELLO: You know, my first question is this -- one of the veterans that you interviewed in your documentary said that this was the last necessary war. And I'd like to ask you about that in the context of what's happening now with the Iraq War. A necessary war, as opposed to the Iraq War.
BURNS: Well, I think he was referring -- fit was an interview done well before the Iraq War started. He said there's no such thing as a good war, which is what some people refer to as the Second World War as. There are only necessary wars.
And I think that's the important thing that, particularly for people in a democracy who have an opportunity to vote on whether their leaders send them to war, we have to be aware of the cost. And what we try to do in this film is show you exactly what combat was like and what the losses are like, and, also make sure that we participate only in necessary wars.
So there's not a political bone in this film's body. But people are making that connections and asking those questions, and that's a good thing, because war is so expensive in human lives and treasure that we ought to be darned sure that it's a necessary war.
COSTELLO: But in your investigation of war, when you look at World War II, when you look at the Iraq War, in your opinion, is the Iraq War a necessary war?
BURNS: In my own personal opinion, no, I don't think it is. And I think we were lied to about some of the reasons for going in. It remains to be seen what our obligation is in getting out. And that's not something for historians or, indeed, amateur historians.
What we were trying to do in this film was bear witness to the incredible struggles of so-called ordinary people as they tried to get through the greatest cataclysm in human history, which is the Second World War.
And there's a huge difference between then and now. Now, we have a separate military class that suffers its losses apart and alone from the rest of us. At the time of the Second World War, it touched every family on every street in America.
Now, you know, we are asked to sacrifice nothing. After 9/11, we were told to go shopping. In the Second World War, the leadership knew that the American people could be brought together by asking them to sacrifice. And the strange paradox is, is that in shared sacrifice, we made ourselves richer, not just spiritually richer, but materially and financially richer.
And that's the secret, I think, lost on this present generation. We're all responsible. The media is responsible. The people are responsible. Our leaders are responsible. We need to remember that in shared sacrifice we do, indeed, make ourselves richer and ensure our survival as a people.
COSTELLO: OK. You said that, you know, it's up to historians. Well, you are a historian and I see another documentary coming down the pike.
I want to play for our audience a couple of clips, because they're so very moving and so very powerful. And the veteran we're going to listen to is talking about killing the enemy. And I found this so poignant.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
QUENTIN AANENSON, WORLD WAR II VETERAN: As I was doing this, I was doing it knowing I had to do it, that it was my job. This is what I had been trained to do. And I dealt with it fine. But when I got back home to the base in Normandy and landed, I got sick. I had to think about what I had done. Now, that didn't change my resolve for the next day. I went out and did it again.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COSTELLO: Again, this has got to be how many of our soldiers in Iraq are feeling.
BURNS: Of course.
COSTELLO: How does this man deal with it today?
BURNS: You know, we were so fortunate, my co-producer and co- director, Lynn Novick, who did all the interviews for this film, was able to elicit from these people stories that they had, in many cases, not told their own families. We'd be doing an interview and someone would say, "Pop, you never told me this before."
We tend to think that these past events are distant, that memory is distant. But memory is sort of on our hard drive. And when we access it, it's as present as anything we know. And so I think that these people lived now 60 plus years since the conclusion of this war, with the memory of it. Quentin Aanenson, the gentleman who was just speaking, still has a kind of palsy after a difficult night remembering a time when his strafing had killed so many Germans and he had to shift his hand onto the joy stick. And his wife now lovingly hands the cup of coffee -- without a word -- to the other hand. It's a poignant moment to remind us that the scars of war, the memories of war, the trauma of war is there forever.
And we know it's going to be in these young Iraqi soldiers, as well.
And we need to understand that though each wars are separate and there's so many distinctions between the Second World War and this current war, there are some essential things that are the same -- I was scared, I was bored, I was hot, I was cold, I saw bad things, I did bad things, I lost good friends. And that was true of war 2,000 years ago. It's true of war now. And we are obligated to the memory of the sacrifice of these extraordinary human beings from that World War II generation to honor what actually took place and not to sort of drown the Second World War In bloodless, gallant myth. It's not only for them, it's for us, so we understand what's going on now.
COSTELLO: We take your words seriously.
Ken Burns, thank you for joining us today.
We appreciate it.
BURNS: It's been my pleasure.
-- Coming up next, racial tensions in Louisiana fired up again. Two people arrested for driving around with nooses hanging off the back of their pickup truck.
And illegal in the USA -- New York grants driver's licenses.
You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
COSTELLO: You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
Happening now, a watchdog group recently named him one of the most corrupt members of Congress. Now, Republican Congressman Jerry Weller of Illinois says he will not seek an eighth term because he wants to spend more time with his family. Weller is fighting a subpoena in a former colleague's bribery trial.
Some people in Central Florida are cleaning up from major storm damage. Severe weather, including a possible tornado, damaged about 50 homes last night. At least four people were hurt. And about $1 million Simplicity and Graco cribs are being recalled. That's after three babies became entrapped in their cribs and died of suffocation. In all three deaths, the consumer had installed the drop rail side of the crib upside down.
Wolf Blitzer is off today.
I'm Carol Costello.
You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
An incident involving presidential candidate Rudy Giuliani shows politics colliding with real life.
Here's senior political analyst Bill Schneider.
I don't think I was standing in quite the right place.
Bill Schneider is here and we're going to talk about Rudy Giuliani.
BILL SCHNEIDER, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Yes. He spoke today to the National Rifle Association. That was a surreal moment in that speech when he took a cell phone from his wife -- he took a cell phone call.
COSTELLO: We have video of that. He's talking to the NRA. He's trying to gain their support. And you're right, right in the middle of it all, his cell phone goes off. So let's watch.
RUDY GIULIANI (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: This is my wife calling, I think.
Hello, dear. I'm talking to the members of the NRA right now. Would you like to say hello? I love you and I'll give you a call as soon as I'm finished, OK? OK. Have a safe trip. Bye-bye. Talk to you later, dear. I love you.
COSTELLO: So, as analyst extraordinaire, what do you make of that?
SCHNEIDER: No one knew what to make of it. The audience was puzzled. When I was there this morning I thought maybe it was a setup for a joke and there was no punch line. The audience was a little puzzled. And then they figured, well, it probably was genuine. So, they broke out into applause. And the mayor laughed and went right on with his speech. It was a surreal kind of moment.
COSTELLO: It was. We called the Giuliani camp to see if it was planned. They said, no, it was totally spontaneous. Actually, this kind of thing has happened before back in June and we have video of that. Thanks to You Tube. Let's look at that.
We don't have it. But believe me, it is on You Tube. Doing exactly the same thing happened. He got a big applause. I mean is this beneficial to him in any way? Does it soften up his image? SCHNEIDER: Well, he obviously thinks it accomplishes something or it wouldn't have happened twice. You know, he took this second phone call from his wife. And, you know, his personal life could become an issue because the co-chairman of the Clinton campaign, Tom Vilsack, said this week, he said there's a lot that the rest of the country is going to get to know about Mayor Giuliani, that a lot of the folks in New York City know. I can't get into the number of marriages and the fact that -- and the relationship he has with his children.
So, that was clearly a threat to make his personal life an issue. And the mayor may have responded to that by once again taking a phone call from his wife, on the stage, in the middle of a speech. But he did it back in June, as well.
COSTELLO: I know. You just never know. I wanted to talk a little bit about Mrs. Giuliani. Because there's been very vile things written about her. And you haven't really seen her up front and center during the campaign. Does this help her at all?
SCHNEIDER: It's clearly an indication that their relationship is close and very loving. That may be the point he was trying to make. He took the phone call from her in front of everybody. He said I love you. Have a good trip. It was a very warm family conversation.
COSTELLO: If you're someone's wife, you don't call them in the middle of an important speech.
SCHNEIDER: Well, she might not have known that was the moment he'd be speaking. So those allowances. But it was still a very unusual moment.
COSTELLO: It certainly was. Bill Schneider, thanks a lot.
The last of six, young, African-Americans, jailed in the beating of a white student, was not released today, as had been widely expected. The case drew tens of thousands of protesters to Jena, Louisiana, yesterday. CNN's Sean Callebs is there.
Sean, what happened at Mychal Bell's hearing?
SEAN CALLEBS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: This day started with such promise for Bell and his family. We want to show you Bell walking out of the LaSalle Parish courthouse just a couple of hours ago. These are the first real pictures we have seen of him since all of this began to unfold; leaving again in shackles, defiantly pumping his arms, however, before getting in a van, taking him back to the LaSalle Parish correction center.
This morning, basically, his defense attorney went in there and tried to get bail bond set. It didn't work. We don't know if even the subject was able to come up. But he did not receive bond today. He did not receive bail. So, he is back in the lockup this evening. A very frustrating day for the family. They all left in a very despondent fashion. Also, his legal team left, as well. And we know the judge in this case, J.P. Mauffray, cautioned everybody in the courtroom today.
And, of course, the public was not allowed to come because this was a juvenile hearing. But the judge cautioned everyone not to speak to the media. Not to speak in public. Or run the risk of being cited for contempt of court.
But we want to take you back to what happened yesterday. Because it's just an amazing demonstration, very peaceful, lasting throughout the day; 15,000 to 20,000 people descending on this small town in Louisiana, demanding justice for those known as the Jena six.
But despite the fact that it was so peaceful, a very ugly incident last night. That coming from the mayor of Alexandria. That is a small town about 25 minutes from Jena. We want to show you. Look at this truck. There's a red Ford pickup truck. We have pictures of from some I-reporters. And there are nooses, nooses hanging off the back of this red pickup truck.
Now, what happened, apparently this 18-year-old kid, was cited for driving for DUI, with these two nooses on the back of the pickup. And people leaving the demonstration saw this. They immediately called the police. The police came over. They arrested an 18-year- old. And also took a minor who is 16 into custody, as well. And the 18-year-old faces very serious charges. He runs the risk of trying to incite a riot, simply trying to taunt scores of people leaving this demonstration yesterday.
The mayor said it was a very ugly incident. And he said certainly, he didn't want to put a damper on what happened here yesterday at Jena, just an entire day of peaceful demonstrations.
Back to you.
COSTELLO: It was peaceful. Sean Callebs reporting live from Jena, Louisiana, thank you.
A school in lockdown, classes canceled; a double shooting throwing Delaware State University into panic. Now, police are talking to one, what they call two persons of interest. CNN's Kathleen Koch live in Dover.
Kathleen, what about this person of interest?
KATHLEEN KOCH, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well Carol, what we're seeing tonight, is university officials and the university police chief, really pulling back and beginning to downplay the circumstances of the shooting that occurred just before 1:00 a.m. this morning when a group of what they say was eight to ten students were leaving a campus cafe. Police say they made their way to a grassy pedestrian area at which point a gun was pulled. Four to six shots were fired. And two young students, both 17 years old, from the D.C. area, were shot. A young woman shot twice is in serious condition. A young man shot once, in stable condition. And police say they do have two persons of interest., one who they have in custody who they've been talking to, another who is at-large. But according to the university president, Allen Sessoms, and also to the police chief, James Overton, they say this is not a case of terrorism. Not a case like at Virginia Tech, of a crazed gunman, loose on campus. But the university president says its case of "our own students making incredibly poor choices."
ALLEN SESSOMS, DELAWARE STATE UNIVERSITY PRESIDENT: These are just kids who did very, very stupid things. I don't think it can be characterized in any other way. Just stupid things. And we have to deal with that.
KOCH: Now, the police chief and the president of the university say that they plan to reopen the campus tomorrow for students only to sporting events. They'll let us know if and when they will resume classes. They say they will do that when they are sure all students can be safe, Carol.
COSTELLO: Kathleen Koch, reporting from Dover, Delaware, thank you.
Driver's licenses for illegal immigrants? One state's coming under fire for a controversial move. Find out why the governor calls it sound law.
And more people pinching pennies as the housing market slows. Will all that pinching strangle the economy?
Stay with us. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
COSTELLO: Most people know that problems in the housing industry are affecting the overall economy. But now, we have a closer look at exactly how that's happening. Joining us now, Frank Sesno with this week's edition of "What If."
FRANK SESNO, CNN SPECIAL CORRESPONDENT: Great to be here. Let me ask you this. This week, we had credit crunch, interest rates, mortgage mess, you know it so a little economy. Questions, you ready?
COSTELLO: I think I'm ready.
SESNO: All right.
How much of our economy is driven by what we spend, by consumer spending; one-third, a half, two-thirds?
COSTELLO: I would say how much of the economy is driven by what we spend? I would say - gosh that's a hard question. How about one- third?
SESNO: No. Two-thirds. Two-thirds of the economy. A lot of people don't realize this. But the economy is driven by consumer spending.
Next question for you, what is the percentage of Americans who say the economy's in pretty good shape right now? This is a CNN poll fairly recently; 32 percent, about half, 54 percent, or 68, more than two-thirds.
COSTELLO: I must say 32 percent.
SESNO: 54 percent. That's the other thing. With all this bad news, it's actually a mixed signal. Slightly more than half say the economy's still in pretty good shape.
The fed helped or tried to by rolling back interest rate but it's the ripple effect that's got people worried.
What if you have an adjustable-rate mortgage and your payment go up, $200, $300, $400 a month? What if you're trying to sell your house and it sits and sits and you cut the price? And what if it's not your house but the one across the street sitting? You may ask, what's my place worth? Fair question since the Cassandra's out there say home values could drop 20 percent or more. It all makes for some sleepless nights and uncertain days.
So, maybe you start to pinch pennies. Make that dollars, big ones, perhaps. Maybe you hold off on buying that new car or fridge, or cut back on the fancy meal. Or the ski trip to Aspen. That's partly why a very worried fed dropped interest rates a half a point. And why people are whispering recession.
What if consumers stop spending? The folks who build the cars and make the appliances, who cook the food and work the lifts, are in big trouble. Construction jobs are already in peril, since single- family home starts, for example, are down 20 percent from a year ago.
And if people are working less and spending less, that means less in taxes, which means less for schools and roads and police.
What if we stopped spending? Well Carol, that's not going to happen. Consumers, Americans don't stop spending. But they could slow. That is a worry.
Check this out, a map of the United States. These are the housing markets. And the percentage increases in the inventory, that is houses sitting on the market for sale up 56 percent in Seattle; 26 percent in Chicago; 31 percent in Baltimore; 31 percent in Miami in a year.
COSTELLO: In a year?
SESNO: In a year. So, the housing market is glutted. These interest rates are still unpredictable. And there are some real worries in the economy.
COSTELLO: Real worries because with those numbers, isn't a recession likely?
SESNO: Well no one is ready to say that a recession is likely. And actually, there's some pretty good reasonable bright spots relatively speaking. Inflation is still under control, corporate profits reasonably healthy, productivity is going fairly well. So, it's a mixed bag both in the economy. But the psychology right now is what is dangerous. That mixed number in the poll I mentioned, consumer confidence still at a low point in the last almost year and a half.
COSTELLO: Yes and as a person who is trying to sell a home, and cannot, I'm not thinking very positively right now.
SESNO: Well and that's the thing. It's the whole psychology thing. Kind of like a tennis game. A lot of it's in your head.
COSTELLO: Frank Sesno, thanks.
SESNO: You bet. Thanks.
COSTELLO: New York is the latest state to put illegal immigrants in the driver's seat and I mean that literally. The state will stop requiring applicants to prove their status, a move that has immigration critics fuming.
CNN's Jim Acosta is live in New York.
Jim, what are the critics saying?
JIM ACOSTA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well Carol, after Congress failed to pass immigration reform, many states have tried to enact their own measures to crack down on undocumented workers. But New York is going in the opposite direction, giving illegal immigrants the green light.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: People united will be driving in New York.
ACOSTA: It may be the most applause the DMV has ever had. Activists for undocumented workers cheered in both English and Spanish, as New York's governor made it official. The 500,000 to 1 million, illegal immigrants in the state, can be licensed to drive.
GOV. ELIOT SPITZER (D), NEW YORK: We are proud to say to them, you are welcome. And we will not create in the DMV, a barrier to your participation in our society.
ACOSTA: By next April, applicants for driver's licenses in New York will no longer have to prove their legal status. Instead, they will simply check a box that states they're not eligible for a social security number.
Spitzer insists it's not his fault federal immigration officials have, as he put it, failed to do their job.
SPITZER: The I.N.S, is a broken organization. I will not, as governor of New York, let them shift the burden of taking their job and put it on the shoulders of every agency of the state of New York. That's wrong. We're not going to do it.
ACOSTA: But with New York being the largest of the eight states offering licenses to undocumented, illegal immigration critics slam the looser restrictions as another assault on the nation's borders. DAN STEIN, FED. FOR AMER. IMMIGRATION REFORM: It's fantasy to believe that the federal government by itself, could ever enforce illegal immigration.
If New York State is going to give driver's licenses to illegal aliens, they are, in our view, breaking the law. They are running their own immigration program because New York State will be aiding, abetting, and encouraging people to come to this country illegally.
ACOSTA: We found one illegal worker from Mexico who is ready to line up for his driver's license photo.
AMILTAR SERRANO, ILLEGAL NEW YORK RESIDENT: I feel happy. I don't have the fear of being -- have trouble with the law, basically.
ACOSTA: Now, as you notice in that piece, Spitzer referred to immigration authorities as the I.N.S. Actually, the agency name was changed to I.C.E. four years ago.
Critics of this new policy ask, if the governor can't get the name right, how can he get the law right?
COSTELLO: Man. Another question for you, what about the real idea that Congress passed? Wasn't that supposed to make it more difficult for illegal immigrants to get driver's licenses?
ACOSTA: It was. But that is not supposed to take effect until 2013 and what immigration critics are saying is that this is already undermining that law that is now in process of becoming a law that is in full effect.
But immigration supporters, advocates of illegal immigrants in this country say, now hold on. If you want to get folks out on the roadways and do it safely, you want to make sure that everybody is insured to drive that automobile.
And what this does, according to the governor and those advocates of immigration or illegal immigrants in this country say, you know those folks need to be insured if they're going to be behind the wheel.
COSTELLO: Jim Acosta, live in New York, thank you.
Up ahead, share photos of your day with America. It's being called the largest collaborative project in Internet history. And you are invited to participate.
Stay with us. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
COSTELLO: Who could argue with this, that home is the most important place in the world? One man, partly responsible for the book series, "A Day in the Life in America," is now behind what is being called the largest collaborative project in internet history. All this week, Richard Smolan and his team want you to pull out your digital cameras and open up your special place, home.
RICK SMOLAN, "AMERICA AT HOME": Every day, if you come to our website, which is www.myAmericaAtHome.com, we have an assignment for people. And if you fancy yourself as being a photographer, we're inviting you to help us create this portrait of how everybody in America, celebrates the idea of home whether you invite people over for dinner at night, if there's one object. One of the things on Saturday is your most treasured object. So what's the one object you would run out of the house with if your house was on fire?
COSTELLO: Well, that's a difficult one. But let's concentrate on the home because I find this fascinating because home means different things to different people. And we have some examples of the photographs that people have been sending you.
SMOLAN: Yes. These are some of the pictures that have been flowing in to our servers so far.
COSTELLO: And some of them are excellent. Some of them confuse me a little like I must admit the ones with the kids in the car. Why does that say home to somebody?
SMOLAN: Well, I'll give you an example. I have two children, Jesse and Phoebe. They're 5 and 7. Phoebe went for a sleepover about two months ago. And she came back full of beans because the mother let her eat breakfast cereal for dinner. She asked if I remembered my first sleepover. I remembered going to a little boy's house and as I was about to eat food and I looked around, everybody was praying. And the whole family had their eyes closed. They were holding hands. I remember thinking, gosh everybody has a different way of having -- home life is different for every single person.
You're asking me about this picture of the boys asleep. Well, as somebody with young children, we're always -- my wife and I are always carrying our kids in and out of the house, into the car, strapping them in. It's a real ordeal if you're a commuter.
We've asked people all over America to imagine someday, your great grandchildren are going to pick this book up. Wouldn't you love to see from 100 years ago, how people lived their lives?
COSTELLO: Yes. I love to look at old pictures now.
Let's go to another photo because some of these are quite good like the woman with the clothesline. That looks like it was taken by a professional.
SMOLAN: It is. It was taken by a professional photographer. It's actually a guy named Carlos Ortiz. He was photographing an Amish country.
So I mean you know everybody has a different thing that happens in the morning. One of our traditions, one of the assignments we have is called morning rush. And so that day, we were asking people to photograph during the morning and show us how their day begins.
You were asking me before, how we got the word out to let people know we're doing this. We were trying to think of the company that sort of is most associated with kind of home. So, we went to IKEA. I don't know if you know them. But they're wonderful. OK. I love the company. And they said, look. We love this idea of inviting all of Americans to tell their story.
Then, we went to Google. And Google has actually put us on the landing page for Google images. So millions of people everyday are seeing this thing saying, show us your home. Tell us your stories and you could be published in a book like this.
COSTELLO: Let's go through one more picture.
COSTELLO: Because the one in the far corner, is it a man looking out into space?
SMOLAN: Yes, from the top.
COSTELLO: It seems very lonely to me.
SMOLAN: You know what that is hanging from the ceiling? Those are toasters. This guy collects toasters. This whole house, the ceilings, the walls, every surface in house, he collects antique toasters. So we're showing people that are kind of -- some people are obsessed. Some people collect things. Some people turn their -- my wife, when she was growing up, used to actually raise rats in her bedroom. She had hundreds of rats. She would sleep in the living room. People have different ways of doing these things. She loved animals.
One of the things we're doing right now, we have this little Nikon Coolpix camera. And when I take a picture of you right now this is going out. This has a WI-FI card in it, like your cell phone camera. So the pictures are actually going out through the internet, back to our servers, so while our photographers are out there all over the country right now taking pictures, we're able to see their pictures in real-time.
COSTELLO: So you have a lot of work to do. That's a lot of pictures. Rick Smolan, thank you so much for joining us.
SMOLAN: Thank you.
COSTELLO: This is a fascinating thing. And like if people want to join, you gave them the website.
ANNOUNCER: This is CNN Breaking News.
COSTELLO: And we do have breaking news to tell you about. Fidel Castro, the ailing Fidel Castro, has apparently given an interview to Cuban television. He's appeared on the air. We're trying to wrestle up Morgan Neal from Cuba to tell you more. But Fidel Castro did speak. We're going to have more for you after this break. Stay with us.
COSTELLO: And CNN has confirmed that Fidel Castro will give an interview to Cuban television in just about five minutes. Now this is important because there have long been rumors that he's near death, he is dying, he's not in control of his country.
Let's go to Morgan Neal who's in Havana to find out more.
MORGAN NEAL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: That's right, Carol. We're hearing from the Cuban government that within just some five minutes or so, there's going to be broadcasts on Cuban television, a prerecorded interview with President Fidel Castro on a show normally known as "THE ROUND TABLE." This is a political show, where President Fidel Castro has done an interview like this in the past.
No word on just what it is he's going to talk about. But like you say, perhaps the most important thing here is just the image of Fidel Castro will be out there on the television. There have been many, many rumors about what could have happened. We haven't seen the president since early June so this will be the first appearance since then and hopefully or potentially could quiet some of those rumors but we'll just have to see what we see on the video, Carol.
COSTELLO: Morgan Neal, thank you; Morgan Neal reporting from Havana. And again, this is important because as Morgan said, there have long been rumors that Fidel Castro is dying or he is nearly dead and he has not in control of his country. In fact, there have been celebrations in Miami celebrating his supposed death.
If he appears on Cuban television, of course this will put those rumors to rest. As for what he'll say, we don't really know but when Fidel Castro begins speaking on television, of course we will bring that to you and you can hear it for yourself.
Right now, we want to send it the "LOU DOBBS" show and Kitty Pilgrim.
Kitty Pilgrim, take it away.
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