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Foley Alcoholism Treatment; Foley Fallout; Damage Control; Political Fallout; Overpass Collapse; Fall Travel Tips

Aired October 2, 2006 - 10:00   ET


SOLEDAD O'BRIEN, CNN ANCHOR: That's it for us on AMERICAN MORNING. CNN NEWSROOM with Tony Harris and Heidi Collins begins right now.
HEIDI COLLINS, CNN ANCHOR: You are in the CNN NEWSROOM. Watch events unfold live this Monday, the 2nd of October. I'm Heidi Collins.

TONY HARRIS, CNN ANCHOR: And good morning, everyone. I'm Tony Harris. The FBI on the e-mail trail. Washington buzzes about a politician's alleged sexually laced computers messages and questions about a possible coverup.

COLLINS: Three decades after Watergate, Bob Woodward still rattling Washington's most powerful. His new book, his explosive claims about the Iraq War.

HARRIS: And collapsing concrete. An investigation into the falling overpass that crushed several motorists. You are in the NEWSROOM.

COLLINS: He is out of office and today he's in treatment. Former Congressman Mark Foley says he has checked into alcohol rehab just days after resigning his congressional seat. The scandal that forced him out, allegations he sent sexually charged e-mails to teenage boys. CNN national correspondent Suzanne Candiotti is in West Palm Beach now, the heart of Foley's former congressional district.



And confirmation of what you just said comes from Mark Foley's attorney here in Florida, David Roth (ph), who says that Foley has indeed begun treatment for both alcohol and emotional problems. The lawyer says that Foley has written a letter that he has distributed via some news media outlets to his constituents acknowledging, as he puts it "events led to his resignation have crystallized long- standing, significant alcohol and emotional problems."

Now it is not clear from the letter whether Foley is blaming his alleged behavior on alcohol or emotional problems. But he does say this in the letter. "I strongly believe that I am an alcoholic and have accepted the need for immediate treatment for alcoholism and related behavioral problems." He goes on to say, "I deeply regret and accept full responsibility for the harm I have caused." Now he also leads one to believe that he might have sought mental health counseling in the past because he said he has been in touch again with someone that he has talked with before, who he describes as a mental health expert in Florida.

Now, on to the governor. Florida Governor Jeb Bush, over the weekend, decided to start his own investigation into Foley's alleged misbehavior by contacting the Florida Department of Law Enforcement. They, in turn, reached out to the FBI, who will take the lead in this investigation. Florida Department of Law Enforcement will be using its cyber crime unit to determine in part, of course, whether any of these e-mails, instant messages or any other kind of meeting might have originated in the state of Florida. That would bring them, the state of Florida, into this investigation.

Friends that we have spoken with thus far, Heidi, tell us that they, so far, have had absolutely no knowledge of any of these allegations. They were blind-sided by them. And also said they had no knowledge of any problem with alcohol.

Heidi, back to you.

COLLINS: And, Susan, since you are in Representative Foley's former congressional district, it's where you come to us from today, any chance that you've been able to speak with the people, his constituents, for their reaction to all of this?

CANDIOTTI: Well, yes, some of them. We did that already over the telephone so far and that's when they told us that they had no idea about this. As to how this will affect the upcoming election is another matter. As you may know, later on today, Florida Republican leaders are going to be getting together to decide on a replacement candidate. But the question is, what kind of bearing this will have on the election. Remember, Mark Foley's name will still be on the ballot because of the rules in the state of Florida, so it's going to be a tough hurdle and obstacle to overcome

COLLINS: Yes, going to certainly be one to watch now, that's for sure. CNN's Susan Candiotti, thanks so much for that.

HARRIS: Sexually charged, politically explosive, Democrats are asking if Republican leaders covered up for Foley. The Republican speaker of the house asked for a federal probe and the FBI is investigating. CNN congressional correspondent Andrea Koppel joins us now with the latest.

Andrea, good morning.


Well, ever since this story broke late last weekend and Democrats began suggesting the possibility of a GOP election year coverup, Republican leaders have gone to extraordinary lengths to do damage control. Over the weekend, the press releases from Republicans were flying through cyberspace, suggesting the events as they saw them.

In fact, this morning, we got a statement from the speaker of the house, Dennis Hastert's spokesman, basically saying, "the speaker is outraged and disgusted with Congressman Mark Foley's actions. He says that, "he is now in Washington and will meet with the clerk of the House, Congressman John Shimkus," who is the head of the page board, "and his staff, to review the procedures of how we protect pages while they are here. The speaker is additionally concerned about how Congress can protect pages after they leave."

Now, CNN has confirmed that the FBI has opened a preliminary investigation to see if criminal charges or criminal investigation even is warned. The chairman of the page board, as I mentioned, Republican Congressman John Shimkus, was among those who was notified last fall about Foley's e-mails to that 16-year-old page. And he met with Foley back then to immediately cease communications with the young man. That was his message.

Now fast forward to the spring of this year. That's when Congressman Rodney Alexander, a Republican of Louisiana, who was not only the teen's sponsor, he was also his hometown representative, he discussed what he described as over friendly e-mails with his colleague, Congressman Tom Reynolds, who heads up the Republican Congressional Campaign Committee. Now Tom Reynolds said over the weekend he then notified Speak of the House Dennis Hastert. Now Speaker Hastert says he doesn't recollect this, but he doesn't challenge this.

Nevertheless, over the weekend, House leaders, including Speaker Hastert, issued another statement calling Foley's communications with the page "an obscene breach of trust." And then late yesterday, Speaker Dennis Hastert, really in an extraordinary move, sent off two letters, one of them to the governor of Florida, Jeb Bush, the other to the attorney general, Alberto Gonzales, asking them to investigate Foley. In his letter to the attorney general, Speaker Hastert said, "I request that the scope of your investigation include any and all individuals who may have been aware of this matter, be they members of Congress, employees of the House of Representatives, or anyone outside the Congress.

Tony, it is obvious we're five weeks away from midterm elections and Republicans are trying to put this out before it spreads any further.

HARRIS: So, Andrea, all of this is happening now, but do we have an explanation as to why House leaders did not ask, for example, that the Justice Department look a little more closely at the e-mails? Not the instant messages, but the e-mails? The initial e-mails?

KOPPEL: Well, they way, what they've been saying thus far, is that they saw it as a very innocent exchange. They described it as over friendly. And they also note that the teen's parents had said that they didn't want to pursue things any further and so they felt that they had handled it by dealing with the head of the page board and with the congressman himself, Congressman Foley, telling him to stop communications

HARRIS: Very interesting. CNN's Andrea Koppel, part of the best political team on television. Andrea, thank you. COLLINS: The White House dealing with fallout on two fronts now, explosive allegations about former Republican Congressman Mark Foley and the bombshell book on the Iraq War. Our Suzanne Malveaux is joining us now live from the White House.

First, Suzanne, reaction to the Foley story from the White House.

SUZANNE MALVEAUX, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Heidi, they're really in full outmode damage control at this point. This is the last thing they anticipated five weeks before the congressional midterm elections. This is something that the White House officials have come out over the weekend. We anticipate over the next couple days as well.

They make three points here. First and foremost, they say they were not aware of these allegations or this scandal surrounding Congressman Foley until just last week when it was made clear in the media. Secondly, they are calling these e-mails reprehensible. And, third, they are expressing their confidence in the Republican leadership that they are ultimately going to handle this investigation and this scandal in an appropriate way.


TONY SNOW, WHITE HOUSE SPOKESMAN: Look, I hate to tell you, but it's not always pretty up there on Capitol Hill and there have been other scandals, as you know, that have been more than simply naughty e-mails. I think it's -- look, again, I will reiterate my point. I think it's important to protect these kids and make sure that they have a good experience. And, look, like you, I want to find out what happened. But before we prosecute, let's figure out what all the facts are. That's probably the most important thing to do is to be fair to all parties.


MALVEAUX: So, Heidi, while clearly the White House is trying to distance itself from this scandal, obviously they have a dog in this fight. They are counting on the Republicans to keep the majorities in the Senate and the House so that President Bush can get something done over the next couple of years and that is why you hear White House officials expressing such confidence in the Republican leadership, that they're going to handle this in the correct manner.


COLLINS: All right. Now to this other topic. We know what White House staffers were doing over the weekend. I bet they were doing some reading of this book by Bob Woodward. How now is the Bush team responding?

MALVEAUX: Well, they're trying to downplay this. They are trying to change the subject and get this out of the way. So what we've heard from White House officials over the weekend, today, various denials about some of these accusations. First, denying that these requests for troops were ignored. Also denying that Condoleezza Rice, then national security advisor, basically dismissed warnings that al Qaeda was prepared to attack the United States. And also denying from the former Chief of Staff Andy Card. Card also making some statements over the weekend that he was conducting a campaign to get rid of Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld. Card himself saying that that was out of context, but Card did not deny that he wanted Rumsfeld to go. Simply that it was -- denying a campaign was taking place.

So what you're hearing, Heidi, is a very carefully orchestrated campaign here from White House officials to get this story out of the way, not talk about the Iraq War, get back on focus here, which is the war on terror. They believe that is going to play well to the American people for the Republicans come November.


COLLINS: Suzanne Malveaux outside of the White House this morning. Suzanne, thank you for that.

And I want to remind everybody, coming up next hour, today's White House briefing. That will be live here on CNN in the NEWSROOM, 11:45 Eastern.

Midterm elections just five weeks away now. Republicans today trying to contain some of the political fallout. Former Presidential Advisor David Gergen joining me now from Watertown, Massachusetts.

David, thanks for being here.

You know, let's get to Bob Woodward's book first, if we could. The charge is pretty consistent throughout the book and we have heard it before from Woodward that the administration has just flat-out not been honest with the American people. Your thoughts on that?

DAVID GERGEN, U.S. NEWS & WORLD REPORT: Well, that is, coming from Bob Woodward, that's a very deep charge. This is the basic, gravest offensive in Bob Woodward's mind, when governments do not tell the truth. Remember that Bob Woodward got his start in Watergate and that convinced him that governments that are dishonest, ultimately that are governments that fail and that fail the American people. And that's his basic allegation. This is the same Bob Woodward who earlier in a book, about two books about the Bush administration, was much more favorable, but now his reporting has lead him to different places.

I think this is a -- this story, like the Mark Foley story, has legs. It will go on. It will color the election environment. The White House has been hit by a one-two punch out of nowhere on Mark Foley. They knew the Woodward book was coming. But it's very tough for them right now, just when they thought they were getting some momentum heading into the midterm elections. These have been two big setbacks for them.

COLLINS: David, what changes in a war when the American people know all of the details behind it?

GERGEN: Well, what changes in a war is that support for the war and belief in the administration is that it melts away. It becomes very difficult to prosecute the war. We saw this in Vietnam. And the tragedy here is that all of us who lived through Vietnam remember what upended the government was a sense that they weren't being honest about body counts, they weren't telling us straight what was happening in the war. And people who were on the -- you know the reporters who were there, coming back with much more pessimistic accounts. And eventually support for the war just disappeared and President Nixon, of course, then had to withdraw.

And the fear here now is that, we're in a very tough place in Iraq. We're in a place where the president may indeed need to increase troops or think he needs to do that after the elections. There's a lot of rumors in Washington about that. So to have now this Woodward book coming on top of -- a lot of other books, by the way, have made similar allegations.

But when it comes from Bob Woodward, it has a special weight. You know, he's going to be on "Larry King" tonight. He was on "60 Minutes" last night. The press is going to continue playing this, continue talking about it. It really gives weight. All of the books together, it sort of, you know, come together and I think give weight to the argument. Not only do we have a mess in Iraq, but we're not being told the truth about it.

COLLINS: Well, of course, the White House vehemently denies that. That President Bush has been anything but honest and is the type of leader to be honest. But what does he get from not being honest and not telling all of the details?

GERGEN: Well, what you get on the campaign trail is a Democratic charge that we're in a mess in Iraq where nobody quite knows how to get out of it. But do you want to leave it to people -- do you want to leave the conduct of the war to people who got us into the mess and now aren't being straight about it or do you want some new managers in there to help try to figure out how to get there. That's the argument that's going to come against them. And it's difficult.

Now, let's be clear about it. The president has been much more sober and candid in his assessment in recent months. We've been talking about this now since the beginning of the year, how his rhetoric has shifted. But what Woodward is saying is, fundamentally, all the way along, they have put an upbeat assessment on this. And the latest assessments inside say that sectarian violence, the violence in Iraq, is going to get worse next year, not better, at the very moment the administration is arguing it's about to get better.

COLLINS: Quickly before we talk about the Congressman Foley story, I want to ask you about something that I thought was very interesting in the book about Henry Kissinger and saying that -- Bob Woodward saying that he's basically sort of become a part of the family. He meets with the president. He meets with the vice president on a very regular basis. You mentioned Vietnam. His strategy for an exit strategy, if you will, was nothing short of victory being the only meaningful exit strategy. Is Henry Kissinger involved in fighting the war in Iraq?

GERGEN: Well, Bob Woodward has played on television last night a tape of Dick Cheney saying that Henry Kissinger was in to see him regularly and in to see the president regularly. And, by the way, I actually think that's good news. It's good news and it's the right thing to do for the president to reach out to Henry Kissinger, a former secretary of state, after all, and to others. Henry Kissinger, for example, on Iran has got a view that is different from the administration's.

And we've been accusing the president of living in a bubble and not seeking outside advice. So, you know -- and to be reaching out to Henry Kissinger and also, very importantly, very importantly, reaching out to Jim Baker, his father's secretary of state, about what to do in Iraq. Jim Baker's heading up a commission now, with Lee Hamilton (ph), that's going to be reporting after the elections. That advice is going to be critical in trying to figure out where we go from here, possibly to a plan B in Iraq. So I thought -- I read the Kissinger story as being good news.

COLLINS: OK. Understood. Quickly now to Representative Mark Foley. Obviously it's a shame. I mean it's not a good story. Not been proven guilty yet, we should be clear on that. But it makes you wonder about a number of things -- the page program, you know, one person sort of making a very bad name for the party at a critical time during the election. You think of the victim. I mean, what are your thoughts on this?

GERGEN: This is a setback for the Republican Party because it -- you know, they have been -- Mark Foley has been self-righteous about these issues and here it turns out he's engaged in predatory action on the Internet against kids. I mean the e-mails are disgusting. So I think this story has legs. We're going to be hearing and reading about the fallout here for days to come. We haven't heard from the Christian right yet.

But I do want to have this one caution. Let's not jump to the conclusions about Republican leadership in a coverup. It is -- I think the case for negligence on their part in not investigating this fully is out -- is there.


GERGEN: But a case for a coverup, that means that they actually knew how graphic these were. We have seen no evidence of that. I think we should be careful in not going that far.

COLLINS: It seems like a whole different level, that is true.

GERGEN: Yes, exactly.

COLLINS: David Gergen, always appreciate your time here.

GERGEN: Thank you, Heidi.

COLLINS: Bob Woodward reveals more explosive details from his new book when he joins "Larry King Live." That will be tonight at 9:00 Eastern right here on CNN.

HARRIS: And still to come, too young to vote, but they still have a place in politics. A closer look at the congressional page program. That's coming up.

COLLINS: A grim scene. Five deaths now tied to a collapsed overpass on a busy highway.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: For me it was like being in a roller coaster. It happened so fast in such a situation. So I really didn't have the time to panic.


HARRIS: And stay right here for the latest on that story.

Plus, the 9/11 hijackers. Was Mohammed Atta the key?


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: If it wasn't for Atta, 9/11 may have never happened. The rest were like -- they were described by some people as dumb and dumber wherever they went.


HARRIS: New insights from a newly revealed terror tape. You will see it straight ahead in the NEWSROOM.


HARRIS: Coming up next hour, today's White House briefing. Good stuff, Heidi. David Gergen, a lot of back material (ph), right?

COLLINS: Yes, definitely.

HARRIS: Will be touched upon in this briefing. 11:45 a.m. Eastern Time. Questions on Bob Woodward's new book, the Congressman Foley episode. 11:45 a.m. Eastern Time in the NEWSROOM, today's White House briefing.

COLLINS: Just outside Canada's second biggest city, a nightmare start to the work week for thousands of commuters. Part of a major highway near Montreal now shut down after an overpass collapsed. Five people were killed, six others injured. CTV reporter Genevieve Beauchemin is with us now from the scene.

GENEVIEVE BEAUCHEMIN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, here at the scene, has been clearing up all morning. People have been working to pick up the huge pieces of rubble, concrete that just fell down. And, of course, there's people around here who just still can't believe that this happened. People have been coming to the scene all weekend to see here this road they travel on almost every day and there's been a lot of shock, a lot of anger, a lot of nervous people who say that they're just driving in the underpass, something they do every day. And all of a sudden it's just collapsing and killed those people, hurt all those people.

COLLINS: Genevieve, tell me a little bit about the history of this project. I mean, is it not true that there have been other instances where people noticed some of the structure kind of coming down, little pieces of concrete, I guess, maybe falling off?

BEAUCHEMIN: In fact, just an hour before the overpass collapsed, people called police to report that there had been pieces of concrete about the size of a shoe box that had fallen on to the overpass and so transport Quebec officials were called here. They came to the scene, picked up this piece of concrete, did a visual inspection, also listened for anything unusual but decide there was no reason to close the highway. And then, less than an hour later, it all collapsed.

There are a lot of roads in Quebec. There's a lot of corrosion from salt here because, of course, we have to get these roads to be passable with all the snow that we get. And so a lot of people say that there's corrosion on a lot of those overpasses. And so they're concerned that this is the problem, that this is what happened here, that it could have led to the structure to fall down because of that. There are other structures that are also quite damaged in the province and people are nervous that what happened here is just a symptom of what could happen again.

COLLINS: Boy, understandably so for sure. Quickly, tell us what happens next. There's a public inquiry that's been launched, correct?

BEAUCHEMIN: Absolutely. There's a public inquiry because people are saying they just don't understand why this fell. This bridge is 35 years old. They expected it to last 70 years. Why did it happen? Why was there not more warning? Why wasn't the overpass closed right before. These are all questions that the inquiry will try to answer.

COLLINS: All right. Genevieve Beauchemin, thanks so much for the insight there coming to us live from Quebec.

BEAUCHEMIN: Thank you.

HARRIS: Well, some of baseball's best denying steroid allegations. That story straight ahead in the NEWSROOM.

COLLINS: And Gerri Willis. Hey, I love this. This is my favorite one you've done so far, fall travel. Love it. Let's talk about Aspen in Colorado, maybe.

GERRI WILLIS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, exactly. We want to do some leaf peeping. We'll give you the latest on airline security and fall travel deals. That's next on "Top Tips."


COLLINS: And a check of the big board now on this Monday. We are looking at a little bit of a positive number there. Very incontessel (ph) at this point. But the Dow sitting at 11,679. And the Nasdaq down five points at this point. We'll continue to watch that for you.

HARRIS: Well, the temps dropping, leaves turning. Yes, it is autumn. For many, the perfect time to travel. Here are some "Top Tips" to consider if you're planning a fall trip. CNN personal finance editor Gerri Willis joins us from New York.

Gerri, good morning, good morning, good morning.

WILLIS: Hey, good morning, Tony.

HARRIS: You know, folks want to catch a plane, get to some of these sights, see some of these leaves changing and falling. Couple of things to keep in mind, security is still tight out there, isn't it?

WILLIS: That's right. If you want to leaf peep, you should know that if you're going to fly to your destination, security is still tight. But the big news here, there's been a loosening of some rules. Now you can take beverages on board, provided you purchased them in the boarding area of the airport, Tony. Travelers can carry three ounces of liquid in their carry-on luggage. That means if you have eye drops or maybe nasal spray, you can take that.

But if you're booking your holiday trips now, you may want to consider sending your gifts ahead of time, especially if you're sending perfume or wine. It's just going to be easier if you let the mailman deliver them.

HARRIS: Got you. But if you want to travel right now, can you find decent deals, good deals? What do you think?

WILLIS: Oh, I'm telling you, the Caribbean right now is one of the best deals out there for fall travelers. That's because hurricane fears gave way to some major bargains. Experts we talked to said travelers can save up to $400 on airfare and vacation packages. That's a whole lot of dough.

Now if you're concerned about the hurricane season, check out lower risk, more southern areas like Aruba or Trinidad. Now, Tony, these places are below the typical hurricane belt, so you're really going to feel safe there when you do travel.

HARRIS: OK. So if you don't want to fly, say you want to drive, where in Atlanta, if you want to drive into the Georgia mountains, there's good news there, isn't there?

WILLIS: Yes. Now we're talking about some real leaf peeping. Here is some good news for those people. Gas prices have been dropping steadily. The average price for a gallon of gas nationwide $2.30. That's very good news. Of course, that price won't you let buy a cheaper air ticket probably. But if you're going to the pump, you're really going to benefit. And that's a big help for people who want to get out and about.

HARRIS: Hey, I want to get to a couple of spots to check out the changing foliage but, you know, it can be a little bit hit or miss. Is there a site or something that I can go to that will help me out here?

WILLIS: I'm telling you, it's all about timing you trip to the peak foliage, right?

HARRIS: Yes. Yes.

WILLIS: So if you're doing it up here in the northeast, go to The website tracks the spread of peak colors in New England. Doesn't that sound fabulous? Look at those pictures.

HARRIS: Yes, it does.

WILLIS: And to check the foliage in the southwest, Midwest, Rocky Mountains, go to Great places to go. Great information.

And, Tony, I just want to remind your viewers, we want to hear from you. Send us your questions to We'll answer them right here every Friday.

HARRIS: And we turn those around at the end of the week.

Gerri, good to see you. See you tomorrow.

WILLIS: Good to see you.

HARRIS: OK. Take care.

COLLINS: What did they know and when did they know it? Republican leaders on Capitol Hill are facing some questions this morning. Democrats calling them on their handling of the Mark Foley scandal. The questions first arose months ago, about e-mails the Florida Congressman had sent to teenage boys. The youngsters had worked on Capitol Hill as congressional pages. Some of the e-mails are described as sexually explicit. The office of the house speaker says it was unaware the e-mails were anything than quote "overfriendly." Speaker Dennis Hastert has asked for a federal investigation now on how lawmakers handled the matter.

The Florida Congressman resigned from office on Friday. His attorney now says he is in alcohol rehab for treatment.

HARRIS: The congressional page program, it's been in place for more than a century. Over the years there have been both successes and scandals.

Our Gary Nurenberg has a closer look.


GARY NURENBERG, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The congressional page program begun in 1829 was reformed in 1983 after two congressmen were censured for sexual misconduct involving boy and girl pages.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I have not yet apologized to my colleagues in this body for the shame I brought down on this institution.

NURENBERG: Pages were moved from apartments and private homes to a new dormitory on Capitol Hill where boys and girls live on separate floors and are under constant supervision.

LUKE MOSES, FORMER PAGE: You have to go through a metal detector to get into your dorm every day. You are only allowed out with a buddy.

NURENBERG: That supervision continues when the pages do their work in the capitol, running errands and delivering messages for representatives.

KARA FRANK, FORMER PAGE: There are definitely people on the House floor, especially in the cloakroom that definitely overlooked the interactions between congressmen and congresswomen and pages. They were sort of there to make sure that no lines were crossed.

NURENBERG: Kara Frank was a page in 1999, away from home for the first time, admittedly naive.

FRANK: I definitely think that more precautions should be taken and things should be monitored because you know you are a minor and you're 16, you know, you're still a kid.

NURENBERG: It's hard work. The pages are up at 5:30 every morning, go to school in the Library of Congress and then move to the capitol to help representatives with seemingly endless tasks. In 2002 for example, paying attention to the Australian prime minister when he addressed a joint session of Congress.

MOSES: Like half the members were there. So they let the pages sit in the seats to try to fill up the seats on camera.

NURENBERG: Luke Moses loved his time with Georgia Congresswoman Cynthia McKinney.

MOSES: She was very kind to me. We remain close today. She took me to briefings and lunches.

NURENBERG: And not unusual for a mentor/student relationship, he says, they remain in e-mail contact. He says the program gave him an appreciation of Congress that other former pages share.

FRANK: It really is the basis of, you know, how this country began and how it's continuing to grow, and I just think there's something really special about that.

NURENBERG: Gary Nurenberg, CNN, Washington.


COLLINS: They've left town to hit the campaign trail before midterm elections, but before members of Congress headed out of Washington, they took care of some business. Lawmakers passed the Port Security Act. Its purpose, to make more than 300 ports across the country safer from biological, chemical or nuclear attacks.

But here's what was removed from the bill the day before, a provision that would have barred felons from working in dock security jobs, a little something that was tucked into that bill, a ban on most forms of Internet gambling as well. The measure will make it illegal for banks and credit card companies to make payments to online gambling sites. Some Democrats say Republicans pushed the bill to satisfy conservative voters.

The Senate signed on with the House to approve construction of a 700-mile long fence at the U.S./Mexico border, after a lot of talk about action on immigration, that's the only major issue both sides could agree on.

To get your daily dose of the latest political news, just click on to CNN's new political ticker. Go to

HARRIS: And coming up next hour, today's White House briefing, live here on CNN, in the newsroom, 11:45 a.m. Eastern Time.

COLLINS: And gunmen dressed as Iraqi security forces storm in and kidnap at least 14 people. We've got a live report from Baghdad coming up next in the NEWSROOM.

You're watching CNN, the most trusted name in news.


HARRIS: Across Iraq, more chaos and carnage. Insurgents are keeping up their attacks with several deaths reported today. In Baghdad, more bodies are discovered, and another mass kidnapping. Because of the violence, the country's state of emergency is extended.

The latest now from CNN's Arwa Damon who is embedded with U.S. military forces in Baghdad -- Arwa.


That's right, it has been a very violent day across Iraq. A mass kidnapping took place in central Baghdad with gunmen dressed as Iraqi security forces. Now this is a tactic that we often see here, where gunmen do dress as either Iraqi police or Iraqi army, that helps facilitate their access into certain areas.

In this case, they raided several computer stores and kidnapped at least 14 people. We are told by the Iraqi police that it was about 25 gunmen that carried out this attack in seven vehicles.

Now this follows another mass kidnapping that actually took place yesterday. Again, the gunmen were wearing Iraqi security forces uniforms. In that case, they targeted a meat-processing plant and kidnapped approximately 26 people.

And, again, more sectarian violence as Iraqi police find 60 bodies, all bearing signs of gruesome torture. And, Tony, I'm embedded with a unit that is part of the U.S. Army's First Infantry Division, and we spent about eight hours out in the streets. Just to highlight what sort of an environment Baghdad has become and what challenges both Iraq and U.S. forces are facing here, the troops, the platoon we're with this morning, set out with the intention of trying to build up relationships with the Iraq population in the area that they operate in, which is in eastern Baghdad. But instead, they were taking so many pot shots from insurgents, presumably fired from roof tops, who then just blended into the local population, that instead of being able to carry out their original mission, which was to try to build this crucial relationship with the Iraqi population, as one soldier put it, they spent all day chasing the ghosts of small-arms fire -- Tony.

HARRIS: CNN's Arwa Damon, embedded with the U.S. military in Baghdad. Arwa, thank you.

COLLINS: Now to Afghanistan, a NATO convoy has come under attack, police say a suicide bomber blew himself up on a busy road in Kabul. Six people were injured, including three NATO soldiers. No one has claimed responsibility for the blast, but Taliban insurgents have admitted to a string of similar attacks.

Separately, about a dozen people have been killed in other violence.

HARRIS: The Lebanese flag flies again in the country's south. Lebanese troops reclaim land long controlled by Hezbollah. The military rolled in today, promising to prevent rocket attacks on Israel. Most Israeli troops withdrew from Lebanon on Sunday, in accordance with a cease-fire deal, but Israeli forces still remain in one border village. Lebanon's president calls that a territorial violation.

A wild and violent weekend in the Palestinian territories. Fighting broke out between Hamas and Fata security forces. At least nine people were killed. The clashes sparked by government employees who haven't been paid in months. There are also reports of more fighting today. Hamas and Fata reps are meeting to discuss all the tension.


The 9/11 hijackers, was Mohammed Atta the key?


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: If it wasn't for Atta, 9/11 may have never happened. The rest were like -- they were described by some people as dumb and dumber, wherever they went.


COLLINS: New insights from a newly revealed terror tape. You'll see it, coming up in the NEWSROOM.



HARRIS: You want to talk about tense. Neighbors Russia and Georgia are trading shots today. A spy scandal threatens to escalate in a cross-border crisis.

Senior international correspondent Matthew Chance joins us from Moscow.


Well, this is a spy scandal that's really been plaguing the relationship between Russia, which is a giant country, and its tiny former Soviet neighbor of Georgia for the past week, since four Russian soldiers were arrested in the Georgian Capitol, Tablesi (ph), put under detention there, accused of espionage.

Well, today, within the last hour or so, those soldiers, under international pressure, have been released by the Georgian authorities there, en route now back the Moscow. But the diplomatic crisis hasn't come to an end, because even though Georgia announced that it would release the soldiers today, Russia has come up with a whole load of very painful sanctions that it's decided to impose on Georgia as a result of this. If they're carried through, and it's not altogether clear they will be implemented, but if they are, they'll be very severe indeed. Russia has said that it intends the sever all transport links with Georgia, including road, and rail, and air and sea transport links. It also says it's cut off the postal service between Russia and Georgia as well. That could have a big impact on Georgia, which is very dependent still economically on Russia, has a very tiny economy, and many analysts are saying this is the Kremlin's way of punishing its tiny neighbor -- Tony.

HARRIS: OK. CNN's Matthew Chance for us in Moscow.

Matthew, thank you.



LIN: And now, Chad Myers at the CNN Weather Center with a severe weather update. We are looking at the Midwest, major delays.


LIN: All right, Chad. Thank you for that.


HARRIS: Major League Baseball's playoffs begin this week, but for now, those games are sharing headlines with a troubling story.

CNN's Larry Smith reports.


LARRY SMITH, SPORTS ANCHOR: It's a report that is sending shock waves through baseball. According to the L.A. Times, former pitcher Jason Grimsley implicates Houston Astros pitchers Roger Clemens and Andy Pettitte as having taken illegal performance enhancing drugs.

Clemens denied the accusations, saying, quote, "I been tested plenty of times. My physicals I have taken, they have taken my bloodwork. I have passed every test. Again, I find it amazing that you can throw anybody out there." End quote.

Pettitte also denied the report saying, quote, "I've never used any drugs to enhance my performance in baseball. I don't know what else to say. It's embarrassing my name would be out there. End quote.

The Astros were in Atlanta to play the Braves in the final game of the season, and defended their teammates.

BRAD AUSMUS, ATROS CATCHER: I've read the report. I really don't put any stock in it. I've played with these guys for three years, at no point has it even crossed my mind that they might be taking something.

LANCE BERKMAN, ASTROS OUTFIELDER: I just feel bad for Andy and for Roger because, you know, it's one of those situations where, I mean, I could say well, so and so, I know for fact took steroids. And even if I was lying or, you know, didn't know what talking about, well, his reputation would always have a cloud of suspicion around it just because I threw that accusation out there.

PHIL GARNER, ASTROS MANAGER: Our guys have been tested through the Major League Baseball program. Roger was tested the World Baseball Classic program. And both guys have been clean. There's no reason for us or anybody else to think that they have been doing anything.

SMITH: According to the Times report, Grimsley also allegedly told investigators that Baltimore Orioles player Miguel Tejada used anabolic steroids. Tejada denied the accusations in comments to the Baltimore Sun, saying, quote, "I know I have never used that and I know I am clean. I will get checked out for anybody, anytime, any moment, whenever they want." End quote.

The timing of this report couldn't be worse. With the playoffs set to begin on Tuesday, it becomes the latest in a series of major league distractions for baseball as it continues to try to get a grip on the problem of performance enhancing drugs.

Larry Smith, CNN, Atlanta.


LIN: A scandalized congressman out of office, his Republican party under the microscope. The Foley fallout just weeks before the midterm elections. That's ahead in the NEWSROOM. And coming up next hour, today's White House briefing. You'll see it live right here on CNN in the Newsroom, 11:45 eastern. Stick around for that.



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