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PAULA ZAHN NOW

Terrorists Plotting to Bomb NFL Stadiums?; Violence in Iraq Escalates; Dow Reaches Milestone

Aired October 18, 2006 - 20:00   ET

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


PAULA ZAHN, CNN ANCHOR: And hi, everyone. Thanks so much for joining us. I'm Paula Zahn.
Tonight's top stories: in Iraq, 67 Americans dead this month alone. Wait until you hear what President Bush just said tonight about Iraq and Vietnam.

A developing story right now -- the terror warning on seven NFL stadiums. If the Homeland Security Department says it's not credible, then, why did it send out the warning in the first place?

And our "Top Story" in health: a controversy over energy drinks like Cocaine, named for illegal drugs and packed with plenty of caffeine.

First, on to the "Top Story" in Iraq, the increasingly volatile and deadly situation for U.S. troops there -- since Tuesday, 10 more Americans have been killed. That makes 67 so far this month, more than 600 this year.

President Bush has always resisted any comparison between Iraq and Vietnam, but listen to what he said today in an ABC News interview, comparing what's going on now in Iraq to a time when the Vietnam War turned against the U.S.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, "ABC WORLD NEWS TONIGHT")

GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS, ABC NEWS: Tom Friedman wrote in "The New York Times" this morning that what we might be seeing now is the Iraqi equivalent of the Tet Offensive...

GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Yes.

STEPHANOPOULOS: ... in Vietnam in 1968. Tony Snow this morning said he may be right.

BUSH: Mmm-hmm.

STEPHANOPOULOS: Do you agree?

BUSH: He could be right. There's certainly a stepped-up level of violence, and we're heading into an election.

STEPHANOPOULOS: Well, what's your gut tell you?

BUSH: George, I -- my gut tells me that they have, all along, been trying to inflict enough damage that we leave.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ZAHN: The president went on to say that he has no intention of bringing U.S. troops home, until the Iraqi government can secure that country.

Let's go straight to Michael Ware in Baghdad for more on this disturbingly violent month.

Michael, you have got an average of just about four Americans being killed every day this month.

I know you have told us that -- that you attribute that upswing in violence to the holy month of Ramadan. Does anybody expect those numbers to come down?

MICHAEL WARE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, there's certainly no sign of any easing up, Paula.

In fact, since those numbers came in, we have been alerted to the death of another American soldier, meaning it's the loss of 11 service personnel in 48 hours, bringing this month's total to 68.

There's simply no sign of any letup in the insurgents' offensive here. The coalition-led Operation Together Forward, or the so-called battle of Baghdad to reclaim the city from insurgents, militias, and death squads continues. So, the pressure is on. There's no indication at all, Paula, that either side is going to be backing off, so, there's no expectation for the casualty rates to change at this point -- Paula.

ZAHN: So, are you basically saying the Iraqi government is completely stymied here; there's absolutely nothing it can do to take this pressure off?

WARE: Well, it is trying to do some things, if you listen to its American liaisons and its coalition partners, the -- the multinational force. We have seen them take national police commando units offline, replace two of the top units of the national police.

So, we are seeing some steps. But, honestly, Paula, by and large, this government does not have the power to effect the kind of authority that America is looking for from it. It can't rule against the militias, who have essentially carved up the power within this administration.

Indeed, we saw the prime minister, according to a U.S. newspaper report, tell the U.S. forces they could not enter Sadr City, the heartland of the anti-American Jaysh al-Mahdi militia -- Paula.

ZAHN: And, against this backdrop of this resurgence of violence, you have some 54,000 Iraqi families displaced. What is the impact of that on day-to-day life there?

WARE: Well, I mean, that -- it -- it's very hard to measure, but you can imagine what it's like.

The -- according to the Iraqi Red Crescent, there's at least half-a-million people, out of a population of only 20-odd million, who have been displaced since February. The explosion in the Golden Dome Mosque and, really, the unleashing of this sectarian violence here in Iraq, to a society like this, that is real upheaval, not to mention others who have left the country completely -- Paula.

ZAHN: Michael Ware, thank you so much.

Now we move on to the administration's military strategy in Iraq. The mantra so far has been train Iraqi troops to do more of the fighting. That plan got a battle-hardened test in one Iraqi town.

As senior Pentagon correspondent Jamie McIntyre results, the results were tragic.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

JAMIE MCINTYRE, CNN SENIOR PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): For five days, Shia militiamen conducted a reign of terror in Balad, a largely Shia city turned over to one of Iraq's premier army brigades just a few months ago, under the U.S. strategy of standing up Iraqi forces to replace American troops.

As U.S. forces remained in their fortified base just outside Balad, the Iraqi troops failed to stop the killing of more than 100 people. After five days, U.S. troops had to go back into Balad to quiet things down.

It was a failure in a critical test for Iraqi forces, a failure foretold by Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld last week, almost as if he knew the plan to turn over large areas of the country to Iraqi control was tenuous, at best.

DONALD RUMSFELD, SECRETARY OF DEFENSE: Some even might go and not work out, and have to be taken back, fixed, and then given back to the Iraqis at some point.

MCINTYRE: The other linchpin of the current U.S. strategy, securing Baghdad first, and then the rest of Iraq, has also taken a deadly turn. The deaths of 10 American troops in a single day has pushed American casualties to the highest monthly rate since the war began.

And, along with improvised bombs, increasingly, sniper attacks, as shown in this graphic video obtained from insurgents, are exacting a real and psychological toll as a weapon of terror against U.S. troops.

In a speech to the Air War College at Maxwell Air Force Base, Alabama, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld acknowledged, the war is not going well, but again urged patience.

RUMSFELD: This war, like other wars, has not been a steady, smooth, upward path. To some, that's a surprise. To those who study history, it is not a surprise.

MCINTYRE: Speculation is swirling about what the bipartisan Iraq Study Group, led by former Secretary of State James Baker, might recommend next month.

But experts say, none of the options, from a phased withdrawal, to staying the course, are very appealing.

JAMES DOBBINS, FORMER U.S. ENVOY TO AFGHANISTAN: Well, it's a dilemma. Our presence is an incitement to violence, but our absence may be an invitation to even greater violence. And it's possible that an incipient civil war that's being conducted at an unconventional level at the moment could turn into a widespread, conventional civil war, with much higher levels of casualties.

MCINTYRE (on camera): One more sign the war is not slowing down, Marine officials say they are drawing up contingency plans that would send Marine reserve units back to Iraq for a second tour of duty, just like many active-duty Marine units have already done.

Jamie McIntyre, CNN, the Pentagon.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

ZAHN: And, today, there was a stunning announcement from the commander of the 101st Airborne Division. Four of its soldiers will face court-martials for the rape and murder of a 14-year-old Iraqi girl and the killing of her sister and her parents during a raid on their home in Mahmoudiya. Two of the soldiers could face the death penalty, if convicted.

Now our "Top Story" in the "Security Watch" tonight: a threat that paints an alarming terror scenario, a plot to set off radioactive dirty bombs at NFL stadiums all over the country. The Department of Homeland Security has sent warnings to NFL teams, stadium owners, and local officials in seven cities. But the department also says that threat is not credible.

So, what's going on here?

Let's take that question to homeland security correspondent Jeanne Meserve -- Jeanne.

JEANNE MESERVE, CNN HOMELAND SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: Paula, Sunday afternoon, a time for football, and, this week, purportedly, a time for terror, as well.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

MESERVE (voice-over): A message posted on a Web site claims a spectacular attack will take place this Sunday at National Football League games: dirty bombs packed with radioactive material delivered by truck, and detonated almost simultaneously at stadiums in Miami, New York, Seattle, Houston, Oakland, and Cleveland, potentially affecting hundreds of thousands of sports fans. The Department of Homeland Security says the threat is not credible, citing a lack of corroborating intelligence. But, out of an abundance of caution, the department warned the NFL and state and local authorities.

STEVE POMERANTZ, FORMER FBI CHIEF OF COUNTERTERRORISM: In a post-9/11 world, the very worst outcome would be if the government had some sort of threat information, failed to pass information on, and something were to occur. I mean, that's just the -- the worst nightmare possible. So, in order to preclude that, and prevent that, sometimes, they -- they pass on information, even though they know it's not the most credible information out there.

MESERVE: The NFL issued a statement, saying its stadiums are very well-protected, with security procedures, including pat-downs and bag searches.

But team representatives were meeting with the FBI and DHS, and some stadiums said they would be taking extra, unspecified security precautions. The owner of the Web site where the message was posted told CNN he had not been contacted by law enforcement, and was unaware of the threat.

BRIAN MARCUS, INTERNET MONITORING CIVIL RIGHTS DIVISION DIRECTOR, ANTI-DEFAMATION LEAGUE: The site that this particular message was posted on is not one that has been used for jihadist threats before. It's not one that we would consider a credible source.

MESERVE: Large sporting events have long been considered potential terror targets. Security around the Super Bowl, for instance, is always extensive. And there was a threat against the NCAA basketball tournament last spring, but no attack materialized.

One former CIA official says, this threat does not sound like al Qaeda.

MICHAEL SCHEUER, FORMER CHIEF OF CIA BIN LADEN UNIT: If they were going to the trouble of staging a seven-part operation on the same day, I think they would devote it to areas that are more crucial to the American economy.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

ZAHN: So, Jeanne, you were just talking about how large sporting events are obvious terrorist targets. What other venues do you think are vulnerable?

MESERVE: Well, any large gathering of people. That could include some place, like a shopping mall. It could include other sorts of events, like holiday celebrations.

You have seen it yourself in New York, around the New Year's Eve Times Square celebration. We see it in Washington around the Fourth of July celebration, extraordinary security, hoping to detect or deter terrorist attacks, because they fear those are exactly the kinds of places terrorists could get a big score -- Paula. ZAHN: Homeland security correspondent Jeanne Meserve, thanks.

Now let me turn to two men who keep a very close watch on terror threats. Jim Walsh is a security analyst at Massachusetts Institute of Technology. And Clark Kent Ervin is a CNN security analyst, who was the inspector general for the Department of Homeland Security.

Welcome back. Glad to have both of you with us.

So, Clark, let's talk a little bit about what Homeland Security is saying specifically about this threat: It is not credible. It is uncorroborated.

But isn't any dirty bomb threat a cause for serious concern?

CLARK KENT ERVIN, CNN SECURITY ANALYST: There's no question about that, Paula.

For a -- a number of reasons about this cause concern, the fact that we're talking about potentially multiple targets -- we know that al Qaeda likes to do multiple targets -- the fact that we're talking about football stadiums. And that's classic political iconography. Nothing is more American than football. For all these reasons, it needs to be taken seriously.

And -- and it seems to me that there's a difference, a distinction to be made between not credible and lack of corroboration. You could have a serious threat, and still lack corroboration. But that doesn't mean that the threat should not be taken seriously.

So, I think there needs to be some clarification from the Department of Homeland Security as to what the standard is.

ZAHN: And we haven't gotten that clarification yet, Jim. But, if this is not a credible threat, then, why would Homeland Security publicly release this advisory?

JIM WALSH, INTERNATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST, MASSACHUSETTS INSTITUTE OF TECHNOLOGY: Well, unfortunately, every time they use this phrase, an abundance of caution, everyone should step back, because, often, that means is that it's an abundance of people who are trying to cover their butts, rather than really being a credible threat.

I think this is completely bogus. It makes no sense whatsoever. Al Qaeda does not announce its threats in advance. That reduces its likelihood of success. And the last place you would use a radiological weapon is at a place like a football stadium, where you can easily set up radiation detectors to try to stop the attempted operation.

So, none of this makes any sense. And, when they do this, I think it -- it -- it -- it's a disservice. Listen, Paula, the -- the CIA and the Department of Homeland Security get a flood of threats every day.

ZAHN: Sure.

WALSH: They don't release all the threats. They have to make a distinction between the ones they think are serious and not serious.

And I don't think it does anyone any good to -- to go with ones that are -- that are highly suspect.

ZAHN: All right.

Clark, you know the workings of the Homeland Security Department just about better than anybody else, because you -- you inspected the place. That's a pretty strong allegation on Jim Walsh's part...

(LAUGHTER)

ZAHN: ... that these government workers are covering their rear ends here. But is there truth to that? Did you witness that?

ERVIN: Well, I -- I do think that there's truth to this.

I mean, there's no question but, in the post-9/11 environment, better safe than sorry. The last thing, as -- as was just mentioned in the piece, we need to do is to sit on information, if the government has it, that might ultimately prove to be true.

On the other hand, it seems to me that, as you say, either this is credible or it's not. And it was obviously credible enough for the department to pass this on to state and local officials and to these stadium owners.

And, so, it seems to me that the department did exactly the right thing. And the stadium owners are doing exactly the right thing, in partnership with state and local officials, by taking protective measures. If this proves to be nothing, terrific. And, if it proves to be something, and these measures serve a deterrent effect, then, all the better as well.

ZAHN: Jim, finally, are you accusing -- if these government workers are covering their butts, as you put it, that it's politically motivated, and they are trying to look the department -- make the Department of Homeland Security look like it's proactive?

WALSH: Oh, I don't know. I -- I think Clark is right that, you know, if you're a -- a decision-maker, and the last thing you want is to not warn someone, and have it come back and bite you. And, so, it may be just trying to prevent that.

But it does, Paula -- you're -- you're absolutely right. It opens them up to the criticism that they are being political, that we're three weeks out from an election, that the president wants to run on national security and terrorism. And, so, it makes them vulnerable to that charge. I wouldn't make that, but I'm sure others will. I just think...

(CROSSTALK)

ZAHN: We have seen it on the blogosphere tonight already.

WALSH: Yes, exactly. Exactly.

BLITZER: All right, gentlemen, we have got to leave it there.

Jim Walsh, Clark Kent Ervin, thanks.

WALSH: Thank you, Paula.

ZAHN: Now on to our "Top Story" in politics: Republican Congressman Curt Weldon under investigation for helping out his daughter's lobbying firm. It turns out, when it comes to lobbyists and members of Congress, it's all in the family, a lot more than you might think.

Also, a big moment on Wall Street this morning, as the Dow reached a magic mark: 12000. So, will that mean more money in your pocket?

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ZAHN: Another "Top Story" we're following tonight: a big deal on Wall Street. Coming up, what did the Dow hitting 12000 mean for you?

Our "Top Story" in politics now: the growing public contempt for Congress. Take a look at the latest CNN poll released just hours ago by Opinion Research Corporation. Check this out. Seventy-five percent of the public now feels that most members of Congress are out of touch with average Americans, the same level of discontent as 1994, when voters ended 40 years of a Democratic majority.

And now the latest political thunderbolt, the FBI's investigation of Republican Congressman Curt Weldon, and whether his lobbyist daughter benefited from his connections.

As Andrea Koppel reports, it's not a very unusual arrangement.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

ANDREA KOPPEL, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): House Speaker Dennis Hastert's son Josh used to run a small business in northern Illinois. Then, in 2003, he switched jobs to work for one of Washington's most profitable lobbying firms.

Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid's three sons and son-in-law have worked for firms that lobby. Spokesmen for Reid and Hastert say, relatives are not allowed to lobby their offices.

But, according to Craig Holman with the watchdog group Public Citizen, those restrictions aren't good enough.

CRAIG HOLMAN, LEGISLATIVE REPRESENTATIVE, PUBLIC CITIZEN: It is a very disturbing trend to find out that, you know, more than three dozen members of Congress actually have family members who are registered lobbyists. There are no formal, official records of family members who are registered as lobbyists here on Capitol Hill. These are just people I have run into, names I have run across on Capitol Hill, or names that I have been able to uncover from news sources.

KOPPEL: "USA Today" launched a six-month investigation to connect the dots, to see if lobbyists whose relatives are lawmakers really do have an inside track.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And, then, we looked in the appropriations legislation for the Transportation Department and other agencies.

KOPPEL: By combing through thousands of pages of documents, reporter Mack Kelly (ph) says they finally narrowed the list, to include 30 lobbyists related to lawmakers on appropriations committees or their top staffers who sought money for their clients.

Kelly (ph) says, in 2005, those well-connected lobbyists got about $750 million for their clients' projects. Some of that money went to an airport in Augusta, Georgia, a project pushed by William Clyburn, a distant relative of South Carolina Congressman James Clyburn, the third highest ranking House Democrat.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: William Clyburn originally told me that he had talked with his cousin about getting an earmark for the Augusta, Georgia, airport. The airport had hired him to get an earmark for their terminal construction. And the airport did indeed get $2.5 million this year for help in their terminal construction.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

KOPPEL: Now, a spokeswoman for the congressman tells CNN that it is inaccurate to say that Jim Clyburn had anything to do with this earmark, Paula. In fact, she says that it was another local Georgia congressman that claimed credit for it.

ZAHN: So, what, if anything, is Congress doing about all this, Andrea?

KOPPEL: Not a whole heck of a lot, Paula. You know, there was a lot of talk in the wake of the Abramoff scandal, the fallout.

And what we have seen now is that the House and the Senate have each passed very, very different bills, and it's highly unlikely they are going to be able to bridge those differences before the end of the year -- Paula.

ZAHN: All right. Andrea Koppel, shooting straight us with us tonight, part of the best political team in TV.

More top stories in just a moment.

First, though, let's check in with Melissa Long, who joins us to start our nightly CNN.com countdown.

MELISSA LONG, CNN PIPELINE: Mmm-hmm.

And, Paula, there's a lot of curiosity online today about a murder trial in Florida. Millionaire Ronald Samuels is on trial for plotting his ex-wife's murder. On the second day of testimony, he threatened the prosecution's star witness while the witness was on the stand.

Story nine takes you to an elementary school in Massachusetts. It has banned recess and other chase games. They're afraid that the kids may get hurt, and the school will be sued.

And story eight, also out of Massachusetts, where the death of a mail carrier in Brookline has led investigators to piles of undelivered mail. Authorities say they found stacks of mail in his home, some dating back to the early 1990s -- Paula.

ZAHN: Very strange.

Thanks, Melissa. We will check back with you in a little bit.

We're going to move on to our next "Top Story." And it happens to be in business tonight. It has finally happened, the moment folks on Wall Street have been waiting for, and all you investigators out there. The Dow hit 12000 today. How long did it stay there? And how high will stocks ultimately go? And what does that mean for you?

A little bit later, gone -- comedian Chris Rock is back in the headlines tonight. We are going to find out why his mother is filing a discrimination complaint against a popular restaurant chain. She will join us tonight.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ZAHN: Our "Top Story" in the business world tonight, and if you're investors out there, a huge milestone for the stock market today, as the Dow industrial average finally reached 12000. The market has been flirting with 12000 the rest of the day, but finally ended about eight points shy of that mark.

Still, it's a record high close. But what does it mean for the economy as a whole and for all of you out there?

We're going to take a quick "Biz Break" now with a "Top Story" panel, Susan Lisovicz, who covers the market every day, and business correspondent Ali Velshi, who did not dress like Susan and...

(LAUGHTER)

ZAHN: ... and me.

Good to see both of you.

(LAUGHTER)

ZAHN: You were down there when the magic 12000 mark was hit. What was the reaction?

SUSAN LISOVICZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: I think it's very exciting. And I think that, you know, you don't really have to exaggerate this.

The stock market has helped achieve the American dream for millions of Americans, not just the top wage earners, not just CEOs, but millions of Americans who are saving for their kids' education, for their first home, for their retirement. And this is a reflection of the economy.

No, perhaps things aren't the greatest they have ever been, but the sky isn't falling either. And this also makes Americans feel better. It's -- it's a sign of wealth. You're feeling better about it. What we feel and do helps the U.S. economy tremendously.

ZAHN: But, Ali, this is also happening at a time when some economists are concerned about the economy cooling, the housing market sort of falling off.

Put this into perspective for us overall.

ALI VELSHI, CNN CORRESPONDENT: There's -- there's only two ways -- two things that make Americans feel rich. Either your house is worth a lot of money, or you're making a lot of money in the stock market through your 401(k) and your IRA.

So, just as those housing prices are starting to cool down, and people are getting worried, well, you know what? They're looking at their -- their 401(k)s, their IRAs. They're looking at the Dow, which is meant to represent business in America. And that is arguably true or not, but the fact is, that's what it looks like. It makes people feel good.

When Americans feel good, and they feel like they're going to be employed and make money, they will go out and shop. Ask Susan. This entire economy survives because Americans shop. There's no creature on Earth more resilient than the American consumer.

ZAHN: So, does this run-up continue, which is what all these investors out there want to know?

LISOVICZ: Well, I -- I think that there is the credo, as Ali and I have said many times, buy low, sell high.

But you have to remember that the Dow industrials, the most widely watched gauge, stock market gauge, in the world, is still only 30 stocks. So, it doesn't represent the entire stock market. There's still the Nasdaq. There's still the S&P 500. They're at five-and-a- half-year highs, but they're nowhere close to hitting their all-time highs.

So, the bulls would say, yes, there's more room to run if energy prices remain low, if the economy continues to expand, but at a more moderate pace, doesn't go into recession, doesn't overheat, if the Fed stays status quo on interest rates.

So, there's a lot of ifs, but it could happen. Yes, there is still room for growth.

ZAHN: And -- and, through graphics, Ali, why don't we take a look at this milestone...

VELSHI: Yes. ZAHN: ... up on the screen, to give everybody an idea of just how long it took to get there?

VELSHI: Yes.

ZAHN: It took over seven years to reach this mark, seven years to increase 1,000 points, when, before...

VELSHI: It took 24....

ZAHN: ... it had been going up 1,000 points a year every year.

VELSHI: It -- in 1999, it took 24 days for it to get from 10000 to 11000. That was crazy. When things like that happen, you're looking for the other -- other shoe to drop.

This took seven-and-a-half years. And, if you look -- go back to 1935, and you look at the Dow, it's a steady chart, like this. It's not unreasonable. It's not like this is coming out of nowhere. This is steady growth. It just looks like there's a new record ever day because we're at the record. So every day is going to be a new record.

ZAHN: Steady growth, but to the average investor it looks like a pretty darned slow pace.

LISOVICZ: Yes, but, Paula, consider what we've been through for the last seven years. We had the dotcom bust, we had the recession, we had 9/11, we had two wars, we had hurricanes hitting the Gulf Coast, we had record high, all-time high oil prices. So this really speaks to the resilience of the U.S. economy and the resilience of the American investor as well.

ZAHN: So Ali, what do you think of our twins memo-dressing here?

VELSHI: No, I think it looks good. If I had known -- if I'd have gotten the memo, I would have...

LISOVICZ: We're channeling...

VELSHI: It frames me nicely. Let's put it that way.

ZAHN: Yes, well, all right, next time you've been forewarned, you got to dress right, Ali. Thank you, both of you.

LISOVICZ: My pleasure.

ZAHN: We're going to move on now to -- back to Melissa Long for more of our countdown -- Melissa.

LONG: And story seven tonight is about an apology from Democratic Congressman Steny Hoyer of Maryland, who described African- American candidate for governor Michael Steele as, and I quote, "slavishly supporting the Republican party". Steele had called that remark racist. The hunt for a missing baby from Kentucky is story six. And authorities have moved their search into Illinois. They believe the nine month old boy was taken by his biological mother and her boyfriend when a social worker brought the child to visit them earlier in the week. That social worker was found dead.

And story five comes out of Boston tonight. A jury has convicted a woman of nearly allowing her teenage daughter to die from an infection caused by a botched belly button piercing. The girl's mom will be sentenced next week and could get, Paula, five years in prison.

ZAHN: Ouch.

Melissa, thanks. We'll see you back here in a couple of minutes. Still ahead tonight, a top story that involves a big name in entertainment. Find shout why comedian Chris Rock's mother is planning to take a South Carolina restaurant to court.

Also tonight it was twice -- it has twice the caffeine of a big cup of coffee, and it is called Cocaine. Should companies being marketing energy drinks named for drugs to young people? You decide.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ZAHN: The top story in South Carolina tonight is making national headlines. Comedian Chris Rock's mother says she was the victim of racial discrimination at a Cracker Barrel restaurant in April, when she says waitresses there ignored her and her 21 year-old daughter for half an hour, and now Rose Rock plans to sue. She joins us from Charleston, south Carolina, along with the Reverend Al Sharpton, whose Action Network plans to finance Rock's lawsuit.

Welcome to both of you.

Rose, so we just explained that you went with your daughter to this restaurant. What happened after a half an hour?

ROSE ROCK, CHRIS ROCK'S MOTHER: Well, after half an hour, I decided to leave, but before I left, I asked to speak to a manager.

ZAHN: And what did you say to the manager?

ROCK: Well, to be honest, what I said is, because we were the only two blacks there, I asked him if perhaps I had come on a wrong day and maybe they weren't serving blacks that day. But I hadn't seen a sign anywhere, so I assumed it was OK for me to be there. At that point...

ZAHN: And what was the manager's reaction?

ROCK: Well, he offered us a free meal. He never -- well, he kind of -- well, he didn't really know what had happened, but he offered us a free meal, which I declined.

ZAHN: Can I put up on the screen what Cracker Barrel's response is to your complaint, so you all of our audience can see this out there.

"In regard to Ms. Rock's recent visit, please know that this was not a case of discrimination. Our preliminary investigation shows this was simply an honest mistake in operations as we were getting ready for the dinner hour and shifting personnel. Her table simply was not reassigned. We regret this mistake and have repeatedly tried to make amends."

So you're telling me tonight this is not good enough?

ROCK: Well, first of all, I don't believe that at all, because when we came in, we came in with other people who were served, and why did they get served and we didn't when we all came in together? And the other thing, how could they miss us? You know, how can you overlook two people sitting there?

ZAHN: So if you don't buy their apology at all, and -- nor the amends they've tried to make, does that mean are you going to go through and file suit against Cracker Barrel?

ROCK: Yes, I am.

ZAHN: And what will be the specific charge? Racial discrimination?

ROCK: Racial discrimination. Racial discrimination, which is what it was.

ZAHN: Let me ask you this. After this happened, obviously, you were very upset, but you waited about four months or so to file a complaint. Why the delay?

ROCK: No, I did not. No, I did not. I went to the channels that I was supposed to go to. As soon as this happened, I contacted the local NAACP. I contacted the Myrtle Beach NAACP. I also contacted the Human Affairs Commission in Columbia, South Carolina.

ZAHN: And the commission is now telling us that they have this information, they're working on it.

And Reverend Sharpton, we know the Cracker Barrel, in the past, has faced numerous lawsuits and a federal inquiry over allegations of refusing to serve African-Americans, but the company is now saying it has taken distinct steps to reach out to African-Americans. Your reaction to that?

REVERENT AL SHARPTON, ACTION NETWORK: Well, I think -- I think that -- when I was contacted by Mrs. Rock, we decided at National Action Network was to come and pursue this. What bothered us is that there is a pattern here with Cracker Barrel, and just two years ago, they settled with the Justice Department. And this Justice Department under President Bush has not been aggressive. Even they went after Cracker Barrel.

And so you're not dealing with a company that has not had a pattern, that has not been in the past -- in the recent past been accused of this. And when we saw the inaction for four month of the South Carolina Human Affairs Department, someone need to move this forward.

It is interesting that all of the sudden Cracker Barrel has a preliminary investigation. They didn't have anything yesterday. Today they released a statement, once I came with Mrs. Rock and raised this. I guess they did an investigation last night.

The thing that brought us into it is for four months, she's been trying to pursue this with the state officials and with Cracker Barrel. They offered her a meal, rather than say we were disciplined, whoever did it, we will abide by whatever agreement we made with the Justice Department. It seems that the pattern is continuing. You don't give people a meal when they've been disrespected, disregarded, and discriminated against.

ZAHN: Once again, you know, the company again, saying tonight in this statement, he table was simply reassigned, this was nothing intentional. It just happened as a result of a shift change.

We will be watching this carefully with the two of you, Rose Rock, Reverend Al Sharpton.

Thank you for joining us tonight.

ROCK: Thank you.

ZAHN: Appreciate it.

Right now let's go back to Melissa Long as she does more of our countdown -- Melissa?

LONG: Paula, story three on the list is about the United States, which says it will take in 10,000 refugees from the African nation of Burundi. Many of the refugees were forced to leave their homes because of ongoing civil war.

Story three, Vince Vaughn says watch what you write. The 36- year-old actor may be planning to sue the "New York Post" and two British tabloids after reporting implying that he was unfaithful to Jennifer Aniston and that the couple had broken up when they're still together.

ZAHN: They never get left alone, do they, Melissa?

LONG: No, they don't, always under the spotlight.

ZAHN: Thank you, see you back here in a couple minutes.

Still ahead, "Headline Prime's" controversial and outspoken Glenn Beck joins me. What does he have to say about the Madonna adoption controversy? And more of today's top stories. He will be here.

And then a little bit later on our top story in health. It is called cocaine, it is loaded with caffeine and it is just the latest energy drink named for an illegal drug. Are drink companies going way too far here particularly if they market to young people?

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ZAHN: Our top stories tonight cover scandals about sex and money rocking Capitol Hill. And earlier this week we looked at the controversy concerning Madonna's effort to adopt a child from Africa. With me now to talk about these stories and a whole lot more, one of the country's top radio hosts and host of his own TV show on "Headline Prime." Glenn Beck, welcome back.

GLENN BECK, CNN HOST: Hi, Paula.

ZAHN: Can you believe these poll numbers that are out, that 74 percent of all Americans don't trust their congresspeople, they don't think they're in touch at all with their lives?

BECK: What is surprising to me that it's only 70-some percent.

ZAHN: You think it should be higher?

BECK: Oh, it should be 100 percent. We're seeing right now politicians not talking about the issues, scandal. Is there anyone in America that is sitting in their couch watching these scandals unfold and say oh, Mark Foley, oh yes, that's what I want to concentrate on now for the next three weeks. Clean the mess up. Let's move on with our lives. We have a budget out of control, we have our troops under fire, we have people that want to blow up our stadiums apparently. I mean, can we deal with the real issues here?

ZAHN: What you're saying might be true, but the polls do show that this is going to affect the way people vote. People are upset. They don't like corruption.

BECK: Who does like corruption? But to me that is not the issue. The issue should be clean the mess up. There's no reason to spend two weeks on these things.

The reason why these issues are coming to bear right now is because the politicians I believe on both sides don't have any answers or don't have any answers they want to tell the American people. They don't want to really talk about immigration.

Polls show that if you would actually say you know what I don't agree with the president and I don't agree with the Democrats, shut the border down, build a fence, and let's have people come through the front door the right way, you would win. It wouldn't matter if you were a Democrat or a Republican. But neither party actually want to say that.

ZAHN: Moving onto another controversy, Madonna, I know you have a lot of strong feelings about being a father who's adopted a child. People are absolutely outraged that she's been allowed to do this.

BECK: I'm outraged for a couple of reasons. I am an adoptive dad, and I never really appreciated how much of a gift a child is until I couldn't have one and had to go through the process. ZAHN: Nobody seemed to want this child. The father gave this child up. There's an extended family in Africa. The child was languishing in an orphanage.

BECK: I get it. However, it's an appearance thing that really sticks...

ZAHN: ... Appearance of what? Buying a child?

BECK: Appearance of buying a child, appearance of lining 12 children up and saying I'll take that one and that one and wrap them up and send them to my house.

The thing that bothers me is the fact that we look at this and say well, you know, he's going to have a better life because he's going to live with Madonna. First of all, it's not about money, it's not about fame, it's not about the paparazzi. And am I alone to think that at some point the kid is going to say on oh, dear, god there's mom in her underpants being crucified on stage again.

ZAHN: All right, but the fact remains that the boy's father has more than given his blessing. He has said, "Where were these people when David was struggling in the orphanage? These so-called human rights groups should leave my baby alone. I had no money, I couldn't buy him milk. That's why I surrendered him to the orphanage. Now my son has been taken by a kindhearted woman."

BECK: Paula, I completely believe Angelina Jolie. She goes to Africa. She lives there. I completely believe George Clooney when he says Darfur. I believe he believes it to his heart and soul.

When Madonna says Africa, we should pay attention, let me go buy a kid, I have a hard time. And the reason why it bothers me is because children are such a gift. Does she really truly believe that or is it that African babies are the new hot thing?

ZAHN: I still don't buy that she's off the hook because she's a liberal tonight, but we can let the audience argue about that one. Glenn Beck, it's always great to see you.

And now we go back to Melissa Long to wrap up our countdown -- Melissa?

LONG: Paula, story two is a story you actually covered a little earlier in the program about comedian Chris Rock's mom. She's alleging she was a victim of racial discrimination at a Cracker Barrel restaurant in South Carolina. Rose Rock plans to sue. The restaurant says the incident not a case of discrimination, but a mistake.

And story one is from Wisconsin. A disabled woman's cat started a house fire by tipping over a can. The woman's trained dog came to the rescue, brought her artificial leg and the phone to call 911. But you know what, when that 13-year-old dog darted back into the house to save the cat that started the fire, Paula, the dog was killed.

ZAHN: Oh, that's sad. The dog had the right instincts, no? LONG: Yes, very much so. A woman's best friend in that case.

ZAHN: Yes, exactly, it's amazing, how gifted these animals are.

When we come back, our top story in health. Do you want your kids buying an energy drink called Cocaine? Well, it happens to be just the latest high-caffeine drink named after an illegal drug and marketed specifically to young people.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ZAHN: Our top story tonight in health, the raging controversy over energy drinks loaded with caffeine and named after illegal drugs. Cocaine just happens to be the latest.

Our Greg Hunter reports on this kick in a can for tonight's "Vital Signs".

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

GREG HUNTER, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): In the million billion dollar energy drink industry, the makers of a new beverage chose a name that was sure to draw attention. They call it Cocaine.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Everybody come over. They ask him, I need Cocaine drink, I need Cocaine drink, I need Cocaine drink. That's why I'm over there selling it.

HUNTER: Selling at $2.50 a piece in New York, L.A., and parts of Florida. Cocaine packs eight ounces of fiery red-flavored liquid in a can. A major concern: Cocaine's target demographic seems to be young adults. Their clever marketing campaign is capitalizing on youth- driven websites like YouTube and MySpace to generate big buzz.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Stop.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Stop.

HUNTER: Redux Beverages declined CNN's repeated requests for an interview.

(on camera): Naming a drink after an illegal drug is a growing trend. Already there are names like Methyl Speed, Speed Shot, and Ecstasy. Cocaine is just the latest drink to be named after a narcotic. But it's not so much what's in these drinks that has anybody concerned, it's the names.

MAYOR MICHAEL BLOOMBERG, NEW YORK CITY: I think that the bottlers ought to have their heads examined, given we have a drug problem, particularly among kids.

GENERAL AURTHUR DEAN, COMMUNITY ANTI-DRUG COALITIONS OF AMERICA: It will be causing kids to reduce their perception of harm associated with the illicit drug cocaine.

HUNTER: So what do young people think of the controversial name? We took to the streets of New York to find out.

(on camera): Is it clever or clueless?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I think it's somewhere in between. Like, I have a feeling it's going to attract a lot of people just by they want to see what it's like.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I think that it's a very interesting name, and I would probably try the drink because of it.

HUNTER: But what's inside the drink with the provocative name is plain old caffeine. Lots of it. One eight ounce can has as much caffeine as 24 ounces of strong black coffee, or two large cups, much more than any of its competitors. To put it into perspective, that's nearly four times the amount of caffeine found in the popular energy drink Red Bull.

MARION NESTLE, NEW YORK UNIVERSITY: Sugar water. How can it be good? It's extra calories that nobody needs. And does it really give you extra energy in a short period of time? Sure. As soon as the caffeine wears off, you'll feel just the way you did before.

HUNTER: Cocaine energy drink has no illegal drugs in it, but on its own website, the company claims that the beverage, quote, "numbs the throat to add an oral sensation much like cocaine does". "The legal alternative."

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I feel like I'm about to start talking a mile a minute, so I guess it's doing its jobs.

HUNTER: Redux Beverages says it does not advocate drug use and assumes that consumers, quote, "understand the difference between an energy drink and a controlled substance". But not everyone is convinced that young people will make the distinction.

Greg hunter, CNN, New York.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

ZAHN: All right. The other thing that we need to add here is the biggest health concern is what happens when kids drink too much Cocaine. Even though there's a warning on the can, saying that kids shouldn't drink it, our senior medical correspondent, Dr. Sanjay Gupta, says even small amounts of caffeine are OK most older kids, but we don't know what might happen if a child has a lot of caffeine and then goes out to play soccer with an elevated heart rate and high blood pressure.

And Sanjay also reminds us that caffeine is addictive, after all, even for adults. Sanjay advises that four or five cans of a drink with this much caffeine would come pretty close to the pschyo -- or physiological effects of something like amphetamine, including an irregular heart beat and very high blood pressure. We'll take a quick break.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) ZAHN: And that wraps it up for all of us here tonight. Tomorrow night, the Bush administration says the U.S. will not leave Iraq without victory. We're going to show you how the word victory is being redefined in the debate over what course this war should take.

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

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