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CNN NEWSROOM

CSX Train Fire; Arraignment Set In Missouri; Baghdad Bombing; Wintry Wallop; CIA Leak Case

Aired January 16, 2007 - 10:00   ET

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


HEIDI COLLINS, CNN ANCHOR: And good morning, everybody. I'm Heidi Collins.
TONY HARRIS, CNN ANCHOR: And I'm Tony Harris. Spend a second hour in the NEWSROOM this morning and stay informed. Here's what's on the rundown.

Kentucky train wreck, touching off a spectacular fire this morning. Tanker cars put off, choking black smoke. So thick airplane flights are actually diverted.

COLLINS: Insurgents in Iraq launching wave after wave of attacks today. Car bombs at a university, a marketplace shooting, dozens killed and wounded.

HARRIS: His case could but Vice President Dick Cheney in the witness chair. Former aide, Scooter Libby, on trial today. Tuesday, January 16th. You are in the NEWSROOM.

And quickly now let's get to TJ Holmes in the CNN NEWSROOM with the latest information on this train derailment in Brooks, Kentucky.

TJ, give us a complete reset on this story if you would, please.

TJ HOLMES, CNN CORRESPONDENT: All right. We'll do this for you here, Tony.

This is in Brooks, Kentucky, just south of Louisville. Not far south. We've been watching this for a little over an hour where there has been some kind of a crash and then explosion of a train and several cars are on fire. There are tankers there. The issue has been trying to figure outs exactly what's on those tankers and what is causing this fire to burn the way it is.

You can see this just unbelievable scene. This black, black smoke has been going into the air, just like we're watching here. And it's been doing this for the past hour. We've been watching these live pictures and the fire doesn't appear, at least as how we've been watching it the past hour, to be getting any smaller. It's been about the same size. A huge, huge fire.

Now the emergency officials are telling us now that schools in the area are being evacuated. There was some kind of possible inhalation risk, even though we do not know at this point exactly what was on those tankers. Emergency officials themselves are trying to figure out what's on those tankers. This train was operated by CSX, this company, one of the largest railroad haulers in the country, we heard from our Ali Velshi a short time ago.

But you're getting a better idea here with this wide shot of the area. A fairly rural area, but certainly some structures and whatnot in the area. A few homes on either side of this road. We do know that I-65, the highway in this area, has been shut down. And also flights from Louisville International Airport are being sent in different directions so they don't have to contend with this smoke.

At this point, we don't know about any injuries. Or no reports, I should say, of any injuries to go along with this railroad crash, but this is the scene. Again, we've been looking at this for a full hour, guys, and the fire doesn't appear to be getting any smaller. You see water coming from the screen of your screen and a little from the bottom there, firefighters trying their best to get a handle on this thing.

But there's a risk to them now as well, they've got enough of an issue trying to just deal with these flames. But they don't know what they may be inhaling right now. Officials there, emergency officials, trying to figure out what is burning like this. CSX, the company that operates, even though they said they didn't exactly know what the contents were in those tankers, they are at least telling officials that we do believe that possibly whatever is on there does pose some kind of inhalation risk.

So we're keeping an eye on this thing. A lot of questions here. But evacuations are underway. So certainly emergency officials in the area taking this very seriously, taking all the precautions and getting people out of there until they figure out exactly what's going on and exactly what people may be inhaling and how dangerous it may be right now.

Tony.

HARRIS: TJ, thank you. That's a great update. Thank you.

COLLINS: Want to go ahead and attempt to get some more information now as we continue to look at these live pictures coming to us from Books, Kentucky. As we have been saying, we do know that this train is operated by CSX. So our next guest is a great person to have. He actually investigated train derailments for Conrail. That company has been purchased by CSX. So Rick Whitley is joining us now, a former Conrail terminal superintendent.

And, Rick, if you could, let us know why this is -- and maybe we're being a little impatient here, but we have been looking at these pictures for an hour -- how difficult is it to find out what is in these cars and what is being transported here?

RICK WHITLEY, FORMER CONRAIL TERMINAL SUPERINTENDENT: Well, as soon as there's a derailment, the first thing they do is take the train (INAUDIBLE), the chief crew dispatcher (ph), put it in the computer and it will tell them how many hazardous material cars is in that train, what they are and their location in the train. So they knew within about five minutes what they've got. The problem is, the fire department may not know. And right now I'm looking at some tank cars that pretty well could wipe out that whole area, at least a half mile radius, and take everybody with it. Water may not be the wisest thing to be putting on there.

COLLINS: OK. Tell us, once again, what exactly you do or did, I should say, as a former terminal superintendent, as far as investigating train derailments?

WHITLEY: Well, besides running the railroad, when we would have an incident of this nature, we would dispatch various crews, fire department personnel, hazardous material personnel, along with myself, management, to ascertain and take care of the crew and any surrounding area to save lives.

COLLINS: Rick, does it seem strange to you then, given the information that we have just put out, but you saying that most likely through their computer system and good records that they keep on their cargo, that they would possibly have known within five minutes what is being carried here, that they are not talking to those crews on the ground by way of containing this and what types of chemicals or materials they should be using to extinguish the flames.

WHITLEY: Well, they should be. I don't understand why they haven't told the fire department and the fire department can look at those tank cars and there's placards on those tank cars with a number on it. If it's loaded with hazardous material, they refer to the hazardous material rate, 224, which tells them what that is and how to handle it, whether to use water, get away and just let it burn. Right now, I would evacuate that whole area and let it burn.

COLLINS: Well, we should -- and it is important to mention that there have been some evacuations in place. Certainly we know of an elementary school, Brooks Elementary School, that has been evacuated. I-65 shut down and some other areas have been evacuated. So in all fairness, we should say that.

Is it possible, Rick, because they are using water and because they are -- you know it looks like anyway, getting as close as they can to this, that those materials inside may not be hazardous?

WHITLEY: Well, it's possible. But when you have a tank car, and I've seen several of them, they're placarded anyway because even empty there's a residual amount of whatever they have. And if they have propane in there, that's a bomb. That thing can -- after it burns for a while, the tank metal weakens, it (INAUDIBLE) and it takes off like a rocket ship up to about a half a mile away.

COLLINS: So what typically happens? Again, we should point out that we have been watching this for about an hour now and it really -- it does not seem to be slowing as far as the burn and that smoke we see come off of that. What typically happens once they get this contained, get people out of the way? Talk to us a bit, if you would, and we may be getting ahead of ourselves a little bit here, but by way of investigation as to what happened in the first place.

WHITLEY: Well, that's what the next phase of the investigation would be. But, again, looking to the tank car, and this is about the amount of time it takes for one of those cars to blevie. So any minute that thing could actually blow.

But back to you questions was, the first thing you start doing on the investigation side is to pull the tapes on the train, see if the crew was speeding, if there's any kind of crew problem. The crews are tested. The car department looks at the cars to ascertain if there was any problems with the cars. The track department looks at the railroad track and comes up with the actual point the derailment occurred. And then they start eliminating the problems there to determine what the cause was.

COLLINS: And quickly, because, Rick, you've had quite a bit of experience with derailments here, as we look at these three pictures that are up on our screen, this looks big to me and it looks like it is just not giving in, if you will, to everything that they're using. What does it look like to you by way of severity? You're saying this could go at any moment and you mean explode at any moment.

WHITLEY: Yes. See that pack (ph) by the tank car right there? That big white one.

COLLINS: Right.

WHITLEY: That's probably propane or empty propane. It could, however, be some other chemical in there. It depends on how the placarded it. But the best scenario here would be to -- that guy on that ladder is -- his life is in danger. He should be out of there and let the thing burn.

COLLINS: Can you tell us a little bit more, Rick, and again don't want to speculate here because we just don't have confirmation on what is the cargo on this particular train, Butedane (ph), what more do we know about that or how can you explain to us what that chemical is?

WHITLEY: Well, I'm without my hazardous material book handy. It's a federal guidebook which tells you everything that's hazardous material. It's a red book. You're required to have it by law. And every official in the railroad and dispatcher, alone with the fire departments, all have that same book. That's what they need to be looking up right now to determine what that is and how you handle it if it is a backed (ph) on fire.

COLLINS: Yes, well, and it certainly looks like a frightening situation from what we are seeing here. And again, working very hard to try and confirm what that cargo is as we speak with Rick Whitley. He is a former Conrail terminal superintendent, investigated trail derailments for Conrail, which as we have said, has been purchased by CSX. And we do know that CSX is the operator of this particular train that has derailed in Brooks, Kentucky.

Rick, thank you so much for your insight. We'll continue to check back with you, if that's all right with you, as we get more information here.

HARRIS: And we are just learning, this just in to CNN, much anticipated, expected in fact, that Illinois Senator Barack Obama will take the first steps toward a run for the presidential nomination, Democratic presidential nomination in '08 by forming an exploratory committee. The first step in the process for the run for the presidency in '08.

Our Dana Bash is reporting that Senator Barack Obama will form an exploratory committee. The first step in a likely run for the presidency. We will continue to follow this story and get Dana Bash up in just a second with more details on her breaking news at this hour.

In Missouri, the deepening mystery of the kidnapped boys. Detectives outside St. Louis have two assignments. First and foremost, building a case against the man suspected of snatching them off the streets. Then, filling in the blanks. How did one boy spend four and a half years in captivity? There may be clues on the Internet. CNN's Chris Lawrence is in Union, Missouri.

Chris, what's happening outside of the courthouse. I understand we may have a date set for the arraignment of Michael Devlin.

CHRIS LAWRENCE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: We do, Tony, and it is going to be Thursday at 8:30 in the morning right here in Union, Missouri. We've taken a look now at the affidavit and we just spoke with the prosecutor and the sheriff. That arraignment will be a video arraignment for security reasons. The prosecutor is going to do a video arraignment, meaning that Michael Devlin will not leave the jail. He'll be arraigned via a camera remotely.

I also spoke with the sheriff who told me that, because of all the coverage, that a significant witness came forward on Sunday and he is now in the process of trying to interview and get more information from that witness. He expects his investigation to continue over the next few days.

Tony.

HARRIS: All right, our Chris Lawrence.

And, Chris, once again, the news this hour is that the arraignment is scheduled this Thursday morning.

LAWRENCE: That's correct, 8:30 in the morning.

HARRIS: OK. Great. Chris Lawrence for us.

Chris, appreciate it. Thank you.

COLLINS: And more breaking news this hour now from Baghdad. Gunmen on motorcycles, a series of bombings, including a massive double bombing near a university. Dozens of people dead or wounded. Our Michael Holmes has details now live from Baghdad.

And, Michael, we are hearing some new information about a bomb in a parked car and possibly a suicide bomber on foot. Can you clear up the latest details? MICHAEL HOLMES, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, that's exactly what appears to have happened. That Mustinsiriya (ph) University, Heidi, in northeastern Baghdad. Initially authorities were saying it was two car bombs. Now we're learning that one of these explosions was caused by a suicide bomber on foot, the other was a car bomb under a pedestrian bridge near the main gate.

The suicide bomber was outside the back gate. The car outside the front gate. Coordinated. They both went off at pretty much the same time. So a very coordinated attack and it happened just as students and faculty were leaving the university.

The latest death toll we have is 60 people have been killed and 110 have been wounded. These numbers have been going up every few minutes, I have to say, Heidi. It was indeed a massive blast. The pictures certainly bear that out.

This happened in an area about a mile outside of Sadr City, which, as you know, is the headquarters of Muqtada al-Sadr, the head of the Mehdi army, one of the most problematic of the militias in this city. After the explosion, Mehdi militiamen were there, alongside police in fact, securing the area.

Now, interestingly, the motorcycle attack you mentioned also occurred in an area controlled by the Mehdi army. Gunmen on motorcycles riding into a busy marketplace and opening fire literally at random. They killed 10 civilians and seven others were wounded. They are the latest figures we have. And this came a few hours, all of this, after a series of other bombs went off. Twenty people killed, 80 wounded in that. The death toll in Baghdad certainly a somber one this day.

Heidi.

COLLINS: Michael, and just quickly want to clear this up and make sure I understood you correctly. We are talking about the Mehdi army here, Muqtada al-Sadr's militia. And I understood you just say that they were in the streets after this bombing at the university, trying to also secure the area side by side with police?

M. HOLMES: Indeed. And there's long been an accusation against Iraqi security forces that they have been infiltrated by militiamen belonging to the Mehdi army. It was interesting. We had a producer down there on the streets, a CNN producer, and he said that when police came in to secure the area and start removing the dead and the wounded, many militia men appeared on the streets as well, blocking cars from coming in. So, yes, they were certainly on the streets and a presence, Heidi.

COLLINS: All right. Michael Holmes, we know you'll continue to watch the situation from a very safe distance indeed.

M. HOLMES: Yes.

COLLINS: Live from Baghdad today. Michael, thanks. HARRIS: And still to come this morning, high wire act. Ice coats east Texas, bringing down power line. A miserable cold blast is what it is, in the NEWSROOM.

COLLINS: A high profile chase in court today. The vice president's former chief of staff on trial. The case, the charges and potential testimony from Dick Cheney. A live report in the NEWSROOM.

HARRIS: And back to these live pictures. I believe these are live pictures right now out of Brooks, Kentucky. A train derailment in Brooks leading to the evacuation of a nearby school, homes in the area. We've been watching this for the last hour. We just heard from Rick Whitley, a former Conrail terminal superintendent, saying that the firefighters who may be working on this fire now -- there we go to the live pictures -- really need to stand clear of this area until there is a clear determination what was in those cars, what is burning. Look at those live pictures. We'll update the story on the other side of the break. You are in the NEWSROOM.

COLLINS: And the Duke lacrosse case in question. The focus now on the district attorney, as much as the case itself. We'll take a look in the NEWSROOM.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

COLLINS: This information just in to us. More on Senator Barack Obama. We are learning that he has announced in an online video that he will file papers to form that exploratory committee that we talk about so often here. To create a presidential exploratory committee, I should say. Thinking about running for president, as we have suspected.

But he has also sort of made his own deadline as February 10th. That will be the day that he will make the decision whether it is a definite or not. But at this point, he will file papers to form that exploratory presidential committee. So he says he's going to be talking to people for the next several weeks around the country and trying to learn about the challenges that our nation faces. So, once again, Senator Barack Obama will be filing those presidential exploratory committee papers.

HARRIS: And the story we've been following, boy, Heidi, what, for the last hour or so, this train derailment in Brooks, Kentucky, south of Louisville, leading to an evacuation of a nearby school, some homes in the area. We just heard a short time ago, Heidi talked to Rick Whitley, a former Conrail terminal superintendent, who has dealt with this kind of accident before, saying that firefighters need to sort of -- we see some in the area working on this -- need to stay clear of the scene and perhaps shouldn't be putting water on this right now until there is some clear indication of what is burning right now. The train is operated by CSX. Not clear again what the train was carrying.

Several tanker cars, as you can see, stacked up there. And according to the Kentucky State Police, the train's operator has indicated that the contents, the burning right now, are an inhalation hazard. So we may be very close to a full on hazmat situation there in Brooks, Kentucky. Again, evacuations of a nearby school, some homes in the area. We will continue to follow this story and bring you the very latest.

Let's get you know to Chad Myers in the Weather Center.

Chad, so many things we can talk about right now. There's this huge storm that is now working its way across the eastern portion of the country. We're concerned about wind conditions there in Brooks, Kentucky. And I guess you're getting a couple of I-Reports. Who knows where they're coming from and covering what part of the story.

(WEATHER REPORT)

COLLINS: And more now on this. The ice storm coating trees and power lines, causing a slippery mess around Austin, Texas. Amy Hadley with News 8 Austin is at a truck stop in Williamson County. That's about 40 miles or so outside of Austin.

Amy, tell me what you're finding out. I imagine those driving conditions for those truckers pretty challenging.

AMY HADLEY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: It is. This is the place to be too because nobody wants to be on the road. You can see some of the trucks who are camped out here at this truck stop. A lot of them that I've talked to thought that they would wait until the sun came up to get back on the road. But with the overcast conditions like they are, it hasn't melted off any of the ice that's real slick here in central Texas. And so a lot of them have said, we're just going to take it easy and stick around here.

In fact, a guy coming all the way from Pennsylvania said he got stuck yesterday in Dallas and only to get this far and he's stuck again here just north of Austin. And to make matters worse, his delivery clients are closed today. So he's going to have to stick around a little bit longer. And I know this couple over here has been here for quite a while.

Man, did you guys -- what time was your wreck this morning? Like 4:00?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: 6:00.

HADLEY: 6:00. So you've been stuck here since then because your car's totaled, right?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes.

HADLEY: So what's next. What are you guys doing?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Well, we're just waiting for the ice to freeze over (ph) to melt.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes, whatever gets her back to school quicker. Sorawal (ph) State University, Rolanite (ph).

HADLEY: Where are you trying to get to now, Austin?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes, we're going to Austin.

HADLEY: And are you waiting on a ride then since your car is totaled?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes. Yes, the car's gone. This girl here can't drive. Like America to know that she can't drive. That's why.

HADLEY: So there's a lot of folks kind of stuck here waiting out the conditions, including a guy that we met over here who's also come quite a ways, making his first appearance here in Texas, just moved to town or at least you're trying to, anyway, Matthew, huh?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes, I'm trying to move to Austin. I left yesterday morning from Virginia and was trying to drive all the way through. It's a 24-hour trip, so I figured I'd leave in the morning at 7:00, I should get here in the morning at 7:00, but it didn't quite work out that way.

HADLEY: Wow. So what made you decide to pull over here?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I was driving down the road and all of a sudden I hit the patch of ice, the tail of my truck started spinning out I decided, you know, that's it. I got control of the truck, you know, and I was able to pull into here and now I'm just going to wait it out like everything else.

HADLEY: All right. So in Austin the word is, pretty much everything's closed down, including parts of the highways. I know in north Austin, five different jackknifed semi-trucks have closed down part of the highway on I-35.

Heidi.

COLLINS: All right. Amy Hadley, we certainly appreciate it. Sort of some of the color there that's running around the truck stop. It's a tough situation, that's for sure. Everybody be careful driving.

HADLEY: It's cold, too.

COLLINS: And it's cold, too. Amy, thanks again.

HARRIS: Still to come, a high profile case in court today. The vice president's former chief of staff on trial. The case, the charges and possible testimony from Dick Cheney. A live report in the NEWSROOM.

COLLINS: A massive explosion, dozens of casualties. A car bombing outside a Baghdad university. The latest in the NEWSROOM.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

COLLINS: The vice president, a possible witness for the defense. Dick Cheney's former chief of staff, Lewis Scooter Libby, on trial. CNN's Brian Todd is live now in Washington with details on this long and often complicated case.

Brian.

BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: It has been, Heidi, and it will get even more complicated starting today. This is the kind of political theater that this town just thrives on. It involves, as you mentioned, Dick Cheney, his former chief of staff, Lewis Scooter Libby, and other top members of the administration. It involves the justification for going to war in Iraq. And an measure, it involves some top members of the national media.

Now the main protagonist, former Cheney chief of staff, Lewis Scooter Libby, arrived just a short time ago, entering the court for the first day of jury selection, which has actually just started. It's going on now. Mr. Libby is charged with perjury, obstruction of justice and making false statements to federal agents. This is concerning his knowledge of the status of former CIA covert agent Valerie Plame. And it also has to do with Mr. Libby's contacts with journalists, what he told them, when he spoke to them, about Plame's identity. All of that is germane to the charges he faces.

And you've alluded to, Heidi, the highlight of this trial is going to be if and when the vice president, Dick Cheney, is called to testify. The defense has indicated they will call Mr. Cheney to testify. It's unclear exactly when they will do that. Not totally clear if they will, but they are expected to call him.

If he does testify on behalf of his former chief of staff, he will be the first vice president to testify during a political trial.

How politically charged is this case? Well, jurors right now are being asked questions about their political affiliation, what they think of Dick Cheney.

And here is one poll question that they are being asked: Based on what you know at this time, do you believe the administration misled the American people to justify going to war? It will be tough to pick a fair an impartial jury, especially in this town, because Democrats outnumber Republicans 9-1. They're going through that process right. Sixty potential jurors are in there being questioned. This process is expected to take two about two or three days. Opening statements next week in the trial should last up to about six weeks -- Heidi.

COLLINS: Boy, I find that question fascinating. Is that what the trial is about?

TODD: It really is. It strikes to the core. A broader question, beyond the guilt or innocence of Scooter Libby, is did the administration engage in a campaign to tarnish the reputation of Joe Wilson? He is Valerie Plame's husband, who wrote a very critical column in July of 200 about the administration's justification for going to war, essentially accusing the administration of twisting the intelligence.

And the question that this case may very well answer, is did the administration engage on a campaign to besmirch and to tarnish his reputation. The defense and Mr. Libby claims they did not, that his statements that were misleading to investigators were simply misstatements, that he didn't mean to make them, that he misspoke because he was confused about dates and times, because he was distracted by national security matters. So that's their defense. But the prosecutor, Patrick Fitzgerald, who's a very tough prosecutor, is expected to argue in the other way, that there was this kind of campaign, And Libby was at the heart of it, and that he lied about his role in it.

COLLINS: And the $64,000 question is, what will Vice President Dick Cheney say? We will just have to wait, won't we? Brian Todd, thanks for that.

TODD: Thank you.

HARRIS: T.J. Holmes is going to get us back to Brooks, Kentucky right now, the scene of this train derailment.

T.J., what's the latest?

T.J. HOLMES: The latest now, as we are looking at this picture -- this is a live shot from a local affiliate in Brooks, Kentucky. You can't see the fire. This is right across the street from where the fire is happening, but you're seeing some of the pictures on the right side of the screen as well, while we keep the live picture on the left side there.

But a massive fire, top-right corner, this is a train wreck that happened about 9:00 Eastern time in Brooks, Kentucky. This is just south of Louisville. A train wreck, don't know how, why it happened. But what we do know is that this fire has been going strong a good hour and a half least now.

Firefighters have been trying to attack this thing. But it seems to even at times be getting bigger. But we know that there are tankers on this train. And at least 14, according to local officials, caught fire. We can see them in the middle of that fire there.

And the issue is, we're trying to find out what was on board, what was on these tankers? Some kind of chemical. Many are assuming right now, but don't know exactly what it was or what it is, and why it's burning and how it's burning, and if there is an inhalation risk. There have been some evacuations in the local area. This is a fairly rural area here in Brooks, Kentucky, but a school has been evacuated, some people are being evacuated from their homes just in case. Also, AP reporting that people are being warned some distance away, that if you see this smoke or smell this smoke, you need to stay inside and put towels and things around your windows so this stuff does not get inside.

The train operated by CSX, which has informed the officials that, sure enough, yes, there was something onboard. We think it was -- it may pose an inhalation risk. But we -- still, it hasn't been identified, at least to us. We heard from a guy, an expert a little earlier, that said they checked it out, and they probably do know, but it just hasn't been passed on to us at this point at least.

But on the left of your screen, a live picture, this has been a constant for an hour that we've been seeing it burn like this. And it doesn't seem to be burning itself out; it just keeps continuing to go and go and go. We know that I-65, a highway nearby, has been shut buy, a good 18-mile stretch has been shut down.

Also the Louisville International Airport, flights are being sent a different direction, so they don't have to come this way and fool with this smoke in the air.

Also we don't know of any injuries right now. No word of any injuries. That is a good thing in all of this. But the thing that hasn't been released to us, at least at this point, is exactly what was on board those tankers and why it continues to burn like this. And It doesn't appear, at least from our eyes, that for the past hour or so, this fire is getting any smaller. This thing continues to just go, guys.

HARRIS: OK. T.J. Holmes for us in the "NEWSROOM." T.J., appreciate it. Thank you.

COLLINS: A series of bomb blasts in Baghdad today. Dozens of people killed, and that death toll climbing through the day. The blasts include a pair of explosions at a university. We are learning from Michael Holmes there a very coordinated attack, one in a car under a bridge the front gate of the university, and another with a suicide bomber on foot at the back gate of the university. And a police convoy targeted in another bombing with a second bomb going off when help arrived. Also in the city, Iraq's defense ministry says raids led to 92 arrests and the seizure of weapons.

HARRIS: Testing the waters. Is Senator Barack Obama ready to run? you may not have to wait much longer for an answer. New information this morning in the NEWSROOM.

COLLINS: And what role did race play in the Duke lacrosse case? Paula Zahn takes a closer look in a special edition of "PAULA ZAHN NOW" called out in the open, live in Durham, North Carolina. You can see that at 8:00 Eastern tonight.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

HARRIS: Two boys rescued, their alleged kidnapper in custody. But a lingering question, what kept Shawn Hornbeck a hostage more than four years. Neighbors say he seemed to lead a normal life, playing and socializing freely, but according to a St. Louis newspaper, he may have been imprisoned by an overriding fear.

Here's part of an interview from CNN's "AMERICAN MORNING."

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

AISHA SULTAN, ST. LOUIS POST-DISPATCH: That's what my colleagues were reporting in today's "Post-Dispatch," that officials -- sources have told them that Shawn's life was threatened, his family's life was threatened, and that might shed some light on why he seemed to have this relative freedom, yet didn't reach out or draw attention to himself.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

HARRIS: So many questions remain in the Missouri missing boy's case. Many surround suspect Michael Devlin.

CNN's David Mattingly has more.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

ROB BUSHELLE, NEIGHBOR OF MICHAEL DEVLIN: He pointed to this sign over here.

DAVID MATTINGLY, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Late last summer, Rob Bushelle says he got into a loud argument with a neighbor over a parking space.

BUSHELLE: He -- he wanted this space. And I was kind of in the middle of these two.

MATTINGLY: That neighbor was an irate Michael Devlin.

(on camera): So, he was getting angry at you just that quick?

BUSHELLE: When he pulled up, he was angry. When he saw my car here, he was already angry. It was, I mean, just like, boom.

MATTINGLY: Were you -- were you intimidated?

BUSHELLE: A little bit. I mean ...

MATTINGLY: Did you think there was going to be a fight?

BUSHELLE: I -- yes. I -- I mean, my first instinct is that I'm about to get in a fight with this guy.

MATTINGLY (voice-over): There wasn't a fight. At the time, Bushelle says Devlin was accompanied by the abducted Shawn Hornbeck. But, in a move that no one today can understand, Bushelle says Devlin himself called the police.

BUSHELLE: That was my first and last run-in with him.

MATTINGLY: And other neighbors say they had problems as well.

Harry Reichard lives above Devlin, and complains Devlin disturbed him with frequent late-night shouting and unexplained noises.

HARRY REICHARD, NEIGHBOR OF MICHAEL DEVLIN: And the yelling and -- and -- and vulgarity and everything, it -- it's just ridiculous.

MATTINGLY (on camera): You never got a chance to talk to him about this, though, did you? REICHARD: No, I wanted to stay away from that guy. I don't like that man. He -- he basically, you know -- you know, is somebody that I don't want to deal with.

MATTINGLY (voice-over): But, whatever problems Devlin might have had at home, they didn't follow him on the job. He worked at this local pizzeria for 20 years, becoming a manager, and had a reputation for being dependable and good with the customers.

(on camera): Devlin worked here during the times that each of the two boys was reported missing, but his boss says, he never saw any signs of any suspicious behavior.

In fact, the day before he was arrested, Devlin was in this very restaurant, having a friendly conversation with a police officer.

(on camera): What was his demeanor during this conversation?

MIKE PROSPERI, BOSS OF MICHAEL DEVLIN: Like you and I are talking right now. Just not -- his voice probably wasn't shaking as much as mine is. You know, he was just -- just cool as could be.

MATTINGLY: Mike Prosperi says, the 300-pound Devlin had health problems and recently quit smoking, and was trying to lose weight.

Still, he kept his private life private and almost never missed work. It wasn't until Devlin missed a day of work last week, when Ben Ownby was reported missing and his vehicle matched a police description, that Prosperi considered calling authorities.

PROSPERI: And, even at that -- at that time, I told the captain -- I said, I'm 99.9 percent sure that it's -- that this is not Mike.

MATTINGLY: It was the end of many long standing perceptions and the beginning of many unanswered questions.

David Mattingly, CNN, Kirkwood, Missouri.

SUSAN LISOVICZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: I'm Susan Lisovicz at the New York Stock Exchange, where we're watching oil prices drop again by more than a dollar. Gas prices are coming down too, but not as much. I'll explain why when NEWSROOM continues. You're watching CNN, the most trusted name in news.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

COLLINS: There is an awful lot happening here today in the CNN NEWSROOM and we don't want to forget about this. T.J. Holmes now on Naomi Campbell, the cell phone, and the jeans.

T.J. HOLMES, CNN ANCHOR: This is a story that I was really pressing for. I just heard Naomi Campbell and I said, let's do it.

But, there she is. Yes, just for the video.

COLLINS: She got a haircut. HOLMES: She does and it's okay with me. This is Naomi Campbell, the 36-year-old super duper model. Well, she has pleaded guilty after that incident of course we talked about, we've heard about. She allegedly threw her cell phone at her maid over a dispute over a pair of missing jeans.

COLLINS: You know, jeans are expensive these days.

HOLMES: They are and I have my favorite pair and it can be upsetting if you can't find your jeans. But, she pleaded guilty -- misdemeanor assault. She could have faced jail time over this, so some fairly serious charges here, but she has been sentenced to five days community service, fined $363 dollars and you have to throw in some anger management classes as well.

COLLINS: More of those.

HOLMES: But that's it. Let's just roll the video for a moment or two.

COLLINS: It's the same video.

HOLMES: It's good video though -- Tony.

COLLINS: Thanks, T.J.

HARRIS: It's outstanding. All right.

(MARKET REPORT)

COLLINS: Coming up next now, a house party, reputations ruined, a prosecutor's career in question. Rape charges against Duke lacrosse players fall apart. Where the case stands now -- coming up in the NEWSROOM.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

HARRIS: And quickly, we want to get you to our congressional correspondent, Dana Bash right now.

Dana has been very busy this morning. Dana, you've got news on who will be giving the Democratic response to the president's state of the union address next week and also news on Barack Obama.

DANA BASH, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: That's right. Let's start with the state of the union. CNN has learned that Democrats have tapped Senator Jim Webb of Virginia to give the official Democratic response to the president's state of the union, that is one week from today.

Jim Webb is of course, Democrat from Virginia, he just won re- election, excuse me, won election in November. Not only that, but he is the Democrat who put this his party over the top to get the majority in the Senate.

Not only that Tony, he is somebody who was a Republican and ran for the Senate primarily because he was so opposed to the Iraq war. He is a former Navy secretary, a Vietnam veteran, and he made his name, really became well-known for wearing his son's combat boots on the campaign trail.

His son is currently serving in Iraq as a Marine. So, Senator Jim Webb of Virginia will be officially giving the Democrats' response to the president one week today for the state of the union -- Tony.

HARRIS: And Dana, news, not that very long ago, maybe inside the last 40 minutes or so that Illinois Senator Barack Obama is forming one of these presidential exploratory committees.

BASH: That's right. Senator Obama made this official, where else these days, but on the web. He has a video up there where he says in a pretty expansive way that he did not expect to be here a year ago, but that he has traveled around the country extensively, as we have all seen and that he has read e-mails and letters and been struck by how, quote "hungry we all are for a different kind of politics."

So what he says in this address is that he will file formally with the Federal Election Commission later today, exploratory papers so he can start to actually, as a way to raise money for this, he will spend the next 3 1/2 weeks or so traveling around, talking to folks.

He has given himself a deadline -- he says that he is going to formally decide whether to go forward with a presidential run by February 10th. So again, that's in about 3 and a half weeks.

And he says in this, that he understands that -- he sort of addresses what we all know, that somebody should not run on the basis of media hype or personal ambition alone. That's why he said that he went to Hawaii over the holidays. He talked to his family. He has two young daughters and they have discussed what has really taken him and many in politics by surprise -- his ascendance.

Tony, it's worth repeating, I know many people know his biography at this time, but he has only served in this Capitol, in the Senate for two years. There already are a lot of people who also want to be president quietly making the case that maybe he does not have the experience needed to run for president but certainly he has gotten enough attention and enough encouragement from many Democrats across the country that he is going to take this first step to decide whether he will formally run and again he will make that final decision on February 10th he says.

HARRIS: A busy morning for our congressional correspondent, Dana Bash. Dana, thank you.

COLLINS: And back quickly now to this story that we have been telling you about all morning long in Brooks, Kentucky, a live sot there of a train derailment.

We are getting new information in right now about what is the cargo on this train operated we know operated by CSX and we are learning the very latest. Apparently hazardous materials are on board that train. We want to get over to T.J. Holmes who is standing by in the NEWSROOM now with the very latest. T.J., what can you tell us?

HOLMES: CSX is now telling -- at least it's being reported by the AP, that sure enough, hazardous materials were on board this train. Now, we're also getting word here from the Kentucky division of emergency management that that chemical is something called butadiene, this is a colorless, flammable gas, mainly used to manufacture rubber and paint and that is the word coming to us from the Kentucky division of emergency management.

We're also being told, the firefighters telling us, that they have decided to pull back, to get away from this thing and let it burn itself out. That's been something we're watching, as they were trying to figure out what was on this train earlier.

The fire officials didn't know for some time after the fire had started. They were telling us, they still didn't know what the chemical was, and they were just right up there next it to, trying to fight it.

They now have made the decision to pull back, let this thing burn itself up. Again, we've been watching this since about -- it's coming up on two hours now almost that we've been watching this fire, and it doesn't seem to have been going out a bit, no matter how much water they try to douse this thing with. But a huge massive fire that continues to go again in Brooks, Kentucky, just south of Louisville.

A decision being made to let it burn itself out. Evacuations, we do know are underway in the area, school has been evacuated, one school in the area. You see those homes there on the left side of your screen, where the smoke is really coming over and covering some of those homes, is a rural area, not many folks around, not many homes around, but still, the ones that are there, folks are evacuating.

Don't know of any injuries right now to report, but firefighters now making a decision to just get away from this thing, let it do its thing, and see what happens -- Heidi.

COLLINS: Yes, and that brings us back to our guest that we had on here a little earlier, Rick Whitley, who was saying, boy, if they know right away that this was some type of propane, which was his guess because he has worked so much with train derailments, formally with, the terminal superintendent for Conrail, which has now been purchased by this company, CSX.

He said, yes you have to clear out of there because you just have no idea if it could explode and really hurt some people. So, as we continue to follow this, we will watch it for you. T.J. Holmes, thank you.

HARRIS: Massive explosion, dozens of casualties, car bombing outside a Baghdad university, that story in the NEWSROOM.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

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