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Interview With California Congressman Duncan Hunter; House Democrats Challenge President's Iraq War Strategy; Colombian Students Protest Upcoming Visit By President Bush

Aired March 8, 2007 - 15:00   ET


FREDRICKA WHITFIELD, CNN ANCHOR: Hello, everyone. I'm Fredricka at the CNN world headquarters in Atlanta.

Angry protests days before President Bush arrives in Colombia -- CNN's Karl Penhaul reporting this hour from the middle of the mayhem.

WHITFIELD: And pullout plan -- House Democrats challenge the president's war strategy. But will their plan to bring the troops home really work?

Plus, spying at sea? A former Navy crewman on this ship is accused of handing over military secrets to terrorists.

You are live in the CNN NEWSROOM.

It is the top of the hour. And we start with a breaking story.

The president is barely on his way to Latin America, but, in some places, they are already protesting.

Let's go to CNN's Karl Penhaul. He's on the phone with us from the chaotic scene in Bogota, Colombia.

And, Karl, we can hear the protesters behind you.

KARL PENHAUL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Don, there have been running battles now for several hours between hundreds of masked students and riot police.

It is in the main university campus in downtown Bogota. And students have been hurling rocks. They have been hurling gasoline bombs, Molotov cocktails. They have also been hurling homemade explosives at the riot police.

The riot police have pulled in water cannons. They have bulldozers on the front outside the main university gate. They have been responding with tear gas. They have been spraying jets of water.

But these protests will just not die out. I have been talking to some of the leaders of the student protest. And they say this protest is squarely in opposition to the forthcoming visit of President Bush to Colombia and to the entire region of Latin America. According to the students, U.S. aid to the region has brought nothing but misery, that in their words.

And that is why, for the last few hours, they have been fighting running battles with riot police -- Don.

LEMON: So, opposed, I would imagine, to the war, Karl. And I understand that you have been having to wear a gas mask while you are covering this?

PENHAUL: Exactly. The -- the riot police have been firing from a raised bridge, and they have been firing down with tear gas.

The whole university campus has been filled with tear gas. The students have been chanting slogans against Bush and against what they say is U.S. imperialism. And, then, in an effort to counteract the -- the effects of that tear gas, they have been lighting fires. They have been putting masks over their faces.

And, when they are overcome with the gas, they simply put vinegar over their faces and go out and do it all over again, Don. There's no sign that this protest is dying down.

LEMON: CNN's Karl Penhaul -- Karl, please be careful there. Thank you so much for phoning in to us.

The trip starts in Brazil, where the president is expected to sign a deal on ethanol. He will also visit Uruguay, Colombia, Guatemala, and Mexico.

WHITFIELD: And this is something we're watching here in this country out of Missouri, in Kansas City in particular, a fire under way at an asphalt refinery plant. You are looking at firefighters trying to douse the flames there. We don't know how it started or how widespread this fire is, but large enough to involve a number of firefighters on the scene there trying to contain it.

And you can see, in that wider view, the firefighters on the ground and on the ladder there trying to contain it. When we get any more information about the start of this blaze, and whether any people are injured, we will be able to bring that to you.

LEMON: Intriguing remarks from the Bush administration on Syria and Iran.

With more on the story from the State Department, CNN's Zain Verjee.

Zain, what can you tell us?

ZAIN VERJEE, CNN STATE DEPARTMENT CORRESPONDENT: Don, it may be coy, just a little bit of a wink, but the U.S. is flirting with Iran and Syria.

The idea is basically to try and hold talks one on one on the sidelines of a regional conference this weekend. But the contents of the talks, the U.S. said, will only be about Iraq. Now, the special adviser to Iraq, David Satterfield, is heading to this conference. As I said, it's this weekend, and it will include both Iran and Syria.

Earlier today, David Satterfield said this: "If we are approached over orange juice by the Syrians or the Iranians to discuss an Iraqi- related issue, we are not going to walk away."

Now, U.S. officials have told CNN the offer to talk is on the table, but they have also said Iran is not really showing any inclination or any interest to talk. The U.S. has accused Iran of arming militias and insurgents with deadly explosives that have killed U.S. troops. The U.S. also -- also detained Iranian operatives in Iraq.

And the State Department spokesman, Don, Sean McCormack, a little earlier today said that this conference would put Iran's activities in the spotlight.

Here's what he had to say.


SEAN MCCORMACK, STATE DEPARTMENT SPOKESMAN: You will have a different dynamic in that room, where Iranian activities are exposed to international discussion in -- in that room. And that certainly is positive. It certainly has a different -- I would argue, a different dynamic than the Iranians being able to operate in the shadows.


VERJEE: He also said that, even if Secretary Rice had an opportunity for a one-on-one with Iran or Syria, she wouldn't walk away -- Don.

LEMON: OK. Zain, so, the U.S. won't walk away from Iran. Is Iran likely to be seeking such a chance meeting with U.S. officials?

VERJEE: Well, Iran is likely to approach it, one expert told us, with a heavy dose of caution.

He pointed to the fact -- and Iranian officials have told us, too -- that Iran helped the United States over Afghanistan back in 2001. But they said: What did we get in return? We got burned, Iranian officials say. We got stuck in the axis of evil.

Also, Iran is beginning to feel a little isolated, with the kind of international pressure it's been under. And experts say they may view this meeting as an opportunity to feel a little less isolated, to try and manage their relations with the United States, and look for some kind of opening. But they say don't expect any breakthrough -- Don.

LEMON: CNN's Zain Verjee at the State Department -- thank you, Zain. WHITFIELD: A federal raid, hundreds of undocumented workouts, and a fallout so severe that, 48 hours later, it's being called a complete mess.

It started Tuesday, when federal agents went into this leather factory in New Bedford, Massachusetts. When they came out, they brought 327 of the factory's workers. But here's what no one foresaw. Many of those detained workers have young children who were stranded at schools or with baby-sitters. Their parents were too afraid to speak up.

Today, the governor of Massachusetts has plenty to say.


GOV. DEVAL PATRICK (D), MASSACHUSETTS: I want to be clear that the commonwealth had no role in the criminal investigation or immigration enforcement action taken by the federal government in New Bedford, other than our efforts in advance to help -- to ask them to scale back the heavy-handed nature of this approach.

Our role, from the moment we learned of this investigation, has been to make available the resources of the commonwealth, to protect the safety and well-being of the kids and the families affected.


WHITFIELD: An immigration advocacy group is speaking out at this very minute. The Immigration Department is also sounding off. And we're covering all of that. And we will bring you their comments later on in the NEWSROOM.

Meantime, he was once an enlisted man in the U.S. Navy known to some as Paul R. Hall. But federal investigators say his name is really Hassan Abujihaad. And, today, he's accused of sharing secrets about the location of Navy ships and the best ways to attack them.

Our homeland security correspondent, Jeanne Meserve, is following the case from Washington.


JEANNE MESERVE, CNN HOMELAND SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: In 2001, when he was serving on the Navy ship USS Benfold in the Middle East, Abujihaad provided classified information to people the government alleges were providing material support and resources to terrorists.

DEBORAH MCCARLEY, FBI SPECIAL AGENT: He provided details of a battle group's transition, or battle group's movements, from one place to another. As they engaged in missions concerning Al Qaeda, and as they were enforcing sanctions against the Taliban.

MESERVE: According to government documents, Abujihaad shared the battle group's perceived vulnerability to terrorist attack, described a force protection briefing given on board a ship, and even praised the attack on the USS Cole, which had taken place a year earlier. He allegedly provided this information to a London-based group which ran jihadist Web sites, Azzam Publications.

The man who led Azzam is named Babar Ahmad. He was arrested in 2004 and is currently fighting extradition to the U.S. He's described as a pioneer in jihadist use of the Internet, and is alleged to have had contacts with al Qaeda, the Taliban, and Chechen rebels. So, that he was in possession of the classified Navy information was a cause for significant concern -- Fredricka.

WHITFIELD: Well, it's pretty alarming.

So, Jeanne, any other possible links to terrorism?

MESERVE: Well, there is another twist.

Abujihaad was discharged from the Navy in 2002, and was living in an apartment complex in Phoenix for a time with a man Derrick Shareef. Shareef was arrested in December, charged with plotting to set off grenades at a Rockford, Illinois, shopping mall during the holiday season.

According to the criminal complaint, Shareef told authorities after his arrest that he had been with Abujihaad when Abujihaad read an article about the classified Navy information -- information found during the investigation of Azzam Publications. And, according to Shareef, Abujihaad said, "I think this is about me."


WHITFIELD: And that was CNN homeland security correspondent Jeanne Meserve.

LEMON: Well, this next story is just horrific: flames shooting out of doorways, mothers tossing their babies out of windows, hoping someone would catch them.

Nine people died in the Bronx this morning when fire consumed their apartment building. Eight of the dead were children.

CNN's Jim Acosta is on the scene.


JIM ACOSTA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Investigators are now starting to say more about what may have caused this fire. But the bottom line in this tragedy is that simple fire safety measures may have been forgotten or ignored.

(voice-over): As a fast-moving fire roared through this building, neighbors said they heard screaming and then ran to the rescue. At the back of the four-story building, the neighbors urged a desperate mother trapped inside to throw her children from a third- story window.

EDWARD SODO, HELPED RESCUE CHILDREN: The lady was screaming and yelling: "Please save my babies. Save my babies."

So, me and a friend of mine, we ran to jump the gate. And she started tossing the babies out the window.

ANDRE, HELPED RESCUE CHILDREN: (INAUDIBLE) all the kids was out there, was howling. So, we told them to jump. And we caught them, you know?

ACOSTA: After the mother jumped out of the window to escape the flame, this was the horrific scene: children rushed from the burning building, children receiving CPR from paramedics. It seemed everybody on the scene was in tears.

Neighbors say most of the people who shared this row house were immigrants from Mali.

Investigators say a space heater or an overloaded power strip sparked the fire. New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg said the building was up to code. The smoke detectors inside lacked batteries.

MICHAEL BLOOMBERG (R), MAYOR OF NEW YORK: Smoke detectors aren't useful unless they have batteries and -- that are operative. Here, somebody took the trouble to put smoke detectors in, but there were no batteries in either one.

ACOSTA (on camera): After the fire started, investigators say the people inside this building may have delayed their rescue by trying to put the fire out themselves, instead of calling 911.

Mayor Michael Bloomberg says, this tragedy underlines the need for all residents in the city to have a fire plan.

Jim Acosta, CNN, the Bronx, New York.


WHITFIELD: And a fire still ongoing out of Houston at a rubber manufacturing plant. The -- the fire and explosion was so severe, that it blew out the windows and some of the walls there.

About 45 people were at work at the time. One person is confirmed to have been killed in that explosion and fire. And, while the investigation is still ongoing as to what exactly happened here, preliminary indications are that a metal container used in the manufacturing process there failed. So, that may be in part what happened.

LEMON: Criminal charges are expected as soon as next week in a California case involving a baseball team and allegations of rape.

Eight players at De Anza junior college in Santa Clara County have been suspended indefinitely. All of the school's games have been canceled until further notice. The alleged rape occurred at an off- campus party last Saturday. Police say a teenage girl who attended the party was taken to a hospital by three other guests. Hospital staff called police. And now get ready for another twist in the Anna Nicole Smith saga. A little while ago, the medical examiner in Broward County, Florida, told us all to expect surprises when he releases the results of Smith's autopsy. But we're going to have to wait another couple of weeks, he said.


DR. JOSHUA PERPER, BROWARD COUNTY, FLORIDA, CHIEF MEDICAL EXAMINER: New piece of evidence which has to be obtained and evaluated, and it might change some of my conclusions. And, therefore, I decided to wait another week or two until this evidence is going to be available, and is going to be evaluated, and eventually submitted to us.


WHITFIELD: And Dr. Joshua Perper won't say what the new evidence is, but we will have a live report straight ahead.

LEMON: Democrats propose a new plan to get American troops home from Iraq by the end of the year. But Republicans are going to have something to say about that. And we will speak to one of them coming up in just a few minutes, Congressman Duncan Hunter of California.

WHITFIELD: And a sneak peek at a rare interview with the Reverend Louis Farrakhan. A controversial leader battles new demons, illness and age.


WHITFIELD: President Bush is threatening a veto, after two groups of House Democrats today announced separate plans to withdraw U.S. troops from Iraq.

Representative Maxine Waters and other liberals introduced a proposal that would pull U.S. troops out of Iraq by the end of this year. A more centrist Democratic group proposed a somewhat slower withdrawal. It would require President Bush to certify that the Iraqi government is complying with benchmarks for reform. And, if those benchmarks are achieved, the measure would require the administration to begin withdrawing troops within a year, and remove all combat troops by September 1, 2008.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi unveiled that plan.


REP. NANCY PELOSI (D-CA), SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE: We're talking about supporting the troops with the funding they need, honoring our -- the -- our promises to our veterans, holding the Defense Department to the standard that they have about readiness before we send our troops in, holding the Iraqi government accountable to the benchmarks established by President Bush, if those benchmarks are not met, or even if they are at some point, calling for the redeployment of U.S. troops out of Iraq, so that we can focus more fully on the real war on terror, which is in Afghanistan.

This bill takes giant steps toward putting the resources into that war, again, a war that has -- is unfinished and nearly forgotten by the administration.


WHITFIELD: Republicans say the Democratic proposals are blueprints for defeat.

Representative Duncan Hunter is the ranking Republican on the House Armed Services Committee and a possible candidate for the Republican presidential nomination.

Good to see you, Congressman.


WHITFIELD: So, do you oppose any sort of timetable?

HUNTER: Well, I -- I oppose a timetable. And I oppose this -- this particular piece of legislation, which is not well thought out.

You know, we have another nation that is next to Iraq called Iran.


HUNTER: And it's been -- just been reported that they are increasing now the centrifuges that they need to -- to upgrade their nuclear weapons material.

What if something happens with respect to Iran, and we have now a law in place, passed by the Democrat leadership, that requires all the evacuation of American forces?

But, beyond that, there's a right way to leave Iraq. And the right way to leave Iraq is to rotate all of the 129 Iraqi battalions that we have trained and equipped into the fight into places that are in contention right over the next six, seven, eight, nine months, to rotate them into place, and, when they hit their stride, to rotate out -- in the areas of operation, to rotate out the American forces, and supplant them with Iraqi forces.

WHITFIELD: So, then, it almost sounds like...

HUNTER: We should not...

WHITFIELD: ... even with that plan, that you would be willing to say these troops, U.S. troops, need to be there indefinitely, because you can't necessarily put a timetable on...


WHITFIELD: ... when those forces in Iraq would be equipped to handle the job on their own.


What I am saying is, very clearly, that that's why legislatures, like the U.S. Congress, are -- are not well built to run military operations, because bad things happen. Surprises happen. Enemies pop up in places where you didn't expect them.

And, if they straitjacket this administration by having an absolute timetable when you have to move out, number one, that sends a signal to your enemy that is, I think, the first sound of retreat in the war against terror.

WHITFIELD: So, you mentioned you don't...

HUNTER: But, secondly, it doesn't provide for any emergencies or exigencies that could force you to stay in place. It's not well thought out.

WHITFIELD: So, you mentioned you don't like this proposed timetable. But it doesn't necessarily mean that you are against timetables as a whole.

So, how do you construct one that is much more appetizing than what has been...

HUNTER: Here's...


WHITFIELD: ... proposed by the Democrats?

HUNTER: Well, in the first place, you talk about a timetable. We -- here -- here's what we have done for 60 years, in -- in standing up free nations.

Number one, you stand up a free nation, and you have an election, which we have done here. We have done that in Japan and El Salvador. Around the world, where we have stood up freedom, you have a -- you stand up a free government.

Number two, you stand up a military that's capable of protecting that free government. Number three, the Americans leave. Now, right now, we're on number two, which is standing up the Iraqi military and getting them battle-hardened, so they can handle this security burden.

And, after all, you have a free Iraqi government. Self- determination is self-determination. Once we stand up a military apparatus that can protect that country, the Americans leave.

WHITFIELD: Well, when -- when you have that self-determination, that means you also do have to have those barometers of progress, right, or even benchmarks. Don't you, at some point, have to say, well, you know, if this country is unable to proceed on its own, then we have to do X, Y and Z?

Aren't there contingency plans in place?

HUNTER: Well, here's -- here's the only barometer that I think is a reasonable one.

We can't control Iraqi politics. And we can't make one Iraqi political group necessarily vote to -- to do things with another Iraqi political group that they are not disposed to do. That's -- that's politics. That's a -- that's a component of having a free government.

What we can insist on is a rotation of all 129 Iraqi battalions into the fight, get them a three- or four- or five-month stint in combat in operations, where they stand up their units. They provide unit cohesion. They validate their chain of command. And they validate that link between the military, between the...


HUNTER: ... battalion commander and the government. That's very important in a free government.

Once we have matured the Iraqi force, the Americans leave, and we leave them to their own politics. But the one thing we have at that point is a security apparatus that can hold onto Iraq.

WHITFIELD: Congressman Duncan Hunter, thanks so much for your time.

HUNTER: Thank you.

LEMON: All right, let's get the latest on this, what -- what they have been talking about -- the president, of course, traveling to South America now.

And traveling with him, our very won Ed Henry. He joins us from Brazil.

Ed, is this a threat, or is this for sure?

ED HENRY, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Oh, this is a threat and for sure, both -- I mean, the White House planning to back this up, saying that they vehemently oppose this Democratic plan that would pull U.S. troops out of Iraq by August of 2008, or sooner, if the Iraqi government does not meet certain benchmarks.

Aboard Air Force One, the president still on his way here to Brazil, where I already am, arriving ahead of him, but aboard Air Force One -- White House counselor Dan Bartlett saying that this is -- quote -- a "nonstarter" for the president -- Bartlett adding -- quote -- "Obviously, the administration would vehemently oppose and ultimately veto any legislation that looked like what was described today."

Now, White House spokesman Tony Snow, also aboard Air Force One, he elaborated a little more, and charged that he believes this is a game of charades by the Democrats, that they are finally coming forward, after a lot of division among Democrats on Capitol Hill about how to move forward -- Tony Snow charging they are now finally agree -- agreeing to fund this emergency funding for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, but with all these strings attached -- Don.

LEMON: All right, Ed Henry, thank you so much for your report.

CNN NEWSROOM will be right back.


WHITFIELD: Part drill, part reality off the south Florida coast -- dozens of migrants showed up during a simulation designed to prepare for mass migrations.

More than 40 migrants, likely from Cuba, appeared on beaches near Miami, not far from where the exercises were actually under way yesterday. The drills are designed to test the response to a refugee influx, which some are predicting after the death of Fidel Castro.

LEMON: Well, this week is turning out to be a whole lot better than last week was on Wall Street. And we're now into the final hour of trading, really, almost the final 15 -- only about 17 minutes.

Let's get the latest from Felicia Taylor, who is at the New York Stock Exchange for us.

Hi, Felicia.


Well, the markets did open with a strong rally, but now they have just about cut their gains in half today, as rumors once again swirl that subprime mortgage lender New Century Financial could file for bankruptcy.

New Century's stock is plunging almost 20 percent on the Big Board. It now trades for about $4 a share, down from more than $30 just a few weeks ago.

But it is still up arrows for most other stocks today. Let's check the major averages. The Dow industrials are now better by 72 points. The Nasdaq composite is up about 14, while the S&P 500 is 10.75 higher.

LEMON: OK. Felicia, so, when it comes to the question of cash or plastic, we know many Americans opt for the plastic. And now a popular game is, too?


TAYLOR: I know. I don't know how I feel about this one.

We have all heard Visa's slogan, "Life takes Visa." Well, now Hasbro is saying it, too. One of the nation's most popular games, "The Game of Life," is getting a face-lift, to include a Visa card in place of cash. Now, the new version is called "The Game of Life: Twist & Turns," and will also come with an electronic banking unit. Now, co-branding, of course, isn't a new idea. Credit card firms have put their names on everything from video games to Barbie cash registers.

And there are certainly some big benefits to it, at least for the company. Hasbro says the new game is going to cost $35, which is more than double the cost of the original version. And don't forget, obviously, the increased exposure for Visa.

But critics quoted by "USA Today" say exposing children to credit cards is a problem. Hasbro and Visa defend the deal, saying the new game will include financial literacy enhancements meant to teach children about the benefits of proper money management.

That is the latest from Wall Street. I will be back in 30 minutes for the closing bell.

You are watching CNN, the most trusted name in news.


LEMON: It is the bottom of the hour.

For more than 20 years, he's been the powerful voice of the controversial Nation of Islam. Now at 73, illness and age threaten to silence the minister Louis Farrakhan.

A speech he delivered last month was billed as Farrakhan's final major address to his followers. Last September, he revealed details of a serious illness. In January he underwent a 12-hour operation. And yesterday, Farrakhan invited us into his home in Chicago for a rare sit-down interview. One of the first topic he hit on was his health.


LOUIS FARRAKHAN, NATION OF ISLAM: I was in constant, constant pain. And I was dying. And it got so bad, some of my naturopathic physicians told me they didn't want me to take the operation because it was horrific, because it was a complete pelvic exoneration where everything in the pelvis would be taken out. And my medical doctor said, if I didn't take the operation, I would surely die.


LEMON: Well, tomorrow in the NEWSROOM, more extensive excerpts from our interview with Louis Farrakhan. We touched on global events, U.S. politics, and he says the Bush administration, the entire Bush administration should go.

And I asked him if his fellow Chicagoan and neighbor Barack Obama was the one to replace him.


LEMON: Do you think Barack Obama can do that?

FARRAKHAN: No! Absolutely not.


LEMON: Much, much more on that answer and a full interview with the minister Louis Farrakhan tomorrow, right here in the CNN NEWSROOM.

WHITFIELD: And what it's worth to a presidential candidate to head off a possible scandal? For Barack Obama, that's not a rhetorical question.

The Illinois senator and Democratic presidential hopeful took a five-figure loss to shed a questionable investment he didn't even know he had made. CNN's Mary Snow sorts it all out.


MARY SNOW, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Senator Barack Obama and his staff move swiftly to ensure his financial assets don't turn into a political liability.

The Democratic presidential hopeful came forward after an estimated $50,000 in stock purchases became front page news on the "New York Times."

SEN. BARACK OBAMA (D-IL), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: At no point did I know what stocks were held. And at no point did I direct how those stocks were invested.

SNOW: But donors to Obama turned out to be backers of the companies he invested in. Companies that stand to do business with the federal government.

It started in 2005. Obama had a $1.9 million advance for his books and invested a portion of that money through a recommended broker. At the time, he set up a blind trust. Simply put, he'd have no knowledge of what his broker was investing to avoid conflicts of interest.

Turns out his broker had invested in a satellite communications business and a biotech firm which is developing an avian flu drug. Avian flu is an area where Senator Obama took the lead in 2005.

Obama says when he received a stock holder mailing he realized the trust wasn't so blind and sold the stocks at a net loss of about $13,000. So is there a conflict? Listen to Senator Obama.

OBAMA: What I wanted to make sure was that I didn't want to invest in companies that would potentially create conflicts with my work here or not abide by some public statements I had said in terms of how things work.

SNOW: Some of his public statements have been centered on ethics reform. It's been a hallmark of his short Senate career and his presidential campaign. OBAMA: I was proud to help lead the fight in Congress that led to the most sweeping ethics reforms since Watergate.

SNOW: One political watchdog group took notice of the speed in which the Obama camp came forward.

SHEILA KRUMHOLZ, CENTER FOR RESPONSIVE POLITICS: The fact that he did take a loss, ultimately, overall, helps him. I think it helps undercut the claim that there was some funny business going on here.

SNOW: Stock purchases are one thing. But what about those parking tickets? Barack Obama apparently decided he better pay up before the presidential race heats up. Back in January he paid some old parking fines from his time at Harvard Law School. The tickets went pretty far back. 1988. The grand total, with late fees, $375.


LEMON: Well, Senator Chuck Hagel says he'll have something big to say about his political future on Monday. The Nebraska Republican has long been considered a potential presidential candidate. He's a decorated Vietnam vet, best known as one of the most outspoken Republican critics of the war in Iraq.

Well, C-SPAN says House Speaker Nancy Pelosi violated its copyright by using its footage on her Democratic blog. But it's not getting mad. Not getting even. It's getting lenient.

The issue arose from video posted on Pelosi's blog, "The Gavel." The new bottom line for Pelosi and any other non-commercial user who wants to post C-SPAN video, help yourself. Just give the cable net full attribution.

WHITFIELD: Change your sex, lose your job? It's not your typical workplace pitfall, but it could mean a pink slip for a well- regarded city manager in Florida. Make that a formally well-regarded city manager.

CNN's Carol Costello takes a look.


CAROL COSTELLO, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Steven Stanton's life got very ugly, very fast.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Terminate Mr. Stanton.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The ethics bothers me a lot.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And everybody in the city of Largo was just supposed to roll over and accept that.


COSTELLO: Stanton was city manager of tiny Largo, Florida for 14 years. He recently got a raise for doing a good job. He was a devoted husband, a loving father, a great citizen.

But it all fell apart when the local press revealed his secret. This 48-year-old man was planning to become a woman. So Steven Stanton suddenly found himself holding a news conference, telling total strangers his wife couldn't understand why he wanted a sex change.

STEVEN STANTON, LARGO CITY MANAGER: Not pleased. She's very upset, you can imagine. This is probably a wife's worst nightmare.

COSTELLO: He hadn't yet told his 13-year-old son.

STANTON: Hopefully he's not watching television.

COSTELLO: And almost as fast, the town of Largo held a public meeting. The commissioners who had rewarded him now abandoned him.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I no longer can trust his judgment.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I do not feel that he has the integrity.

COSTELLO: And despite those 14 years of service, seven of the nine commissioners voted to fire him.

STANTON: Seven days ago, I was a good guy and now I have -- I have no integrity. I have no trust. I have no confidence.

COSTELLO: Did you expect you were going to be fired once this information became public?

STANTON: Not at all.

COSTELLO: You didn't expect you were going to be fired?

STANTON: Not at all.

COSTELLO: Steven Stanton has been a winner all of his life. But even as a little boy, he was haunted by a secret.

STANTON: What you feel when you're growing up with this condition is you feel that the outside doesn't match the inside in a very real way.

COSTELLO: On his wedding day, he hoped the confusion would end.

As you look at this young face, what was this young man thinking?

STANTON: That young man was thinking like many other transgender people do that if I get married, if I settle down, find love, I can outrun this thing.

COSTELLO: But he couldn't outrun it. So after 48 years of pretending, Steven Stanton told his boss, Largo Mayor Pat Gerard, that he was planning to have a sex change. Once he told you, what was your response? MAYOR PAT GERARD, LARGO, FLORIDA: Well, when I was able to speak again, I think I said, you know, did you ever doubt that I would support you in this? And, you know, just let him know that I would support him through that process.

COSTELLO: The mayor did fight for Stanton but so far with no success.

GERARD: We're making a decision here about whether we're going to be an inclusive and compassionate community or are we going to be small-minded and bigoted.

COSTELLO: By law there has to be one last hearing before the firing becomes final.

STANTON: I'm still extremely confident. I'm not willing to concede that something I passionately invested in that many years of my life is going to have to change because of something going on with me.

COSTELLO: Stanton says at least he takes comfort in this, for now his wife and son have decided to stand by him. Carol Costello, CNN, Largo, Florida.


WHITFIELD: Out of Georgia, the accused Barbie bandits: if they took the money and ran, as police allege, what did they do with the money? Well, they got their hair done for starters.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: So what are we going to do today? And she goes, I want you to make me really blonde. I want to be blonde like Barbie.


WHITFIELD: So what were they thinking? That's straight ahead in the NEWSROOM.


WHITFIELD: The autopsy results are in, but don't look for a cause of death for Anna Nicole Smith this week or next. In a story with far too many twists already, the Broward County medical examiner today dropped another bomb. New evidence, he says. CNN's Susan Candiotti is standing by in Miami. Why is he dangling the carrot like this?

SUSAN CANDIOTTI, CNN CORRESPONDENT: I can't answer that question, but he also dangled another, Fredricka. He said that his conclusion into Anna Nicole Smith's death might have some surprising elements to some people.

But what's intriguing is what he mentioned about this new piece of evidence. He says he knows what it is, but he won't let on what it is and he was told about it by the Seminole police chief who is looking into Anna Nicole's death.


DR. JOSHUA PERPER, BROWARD COUNTY MEDICAL EXAMINER: The piece of evidence which has to be obtained and evaluated, and it might change some of my conclusions. And, therefore, I decided to wait another week or two until this evidence is going to be available and is going to be evaluated and eventually submitted to us.


CANDIOTTI: Now the medical examiner, Dr. Joshua Perper, also told me that he has interviewed at least a dozen people as part of this investigation. He says he likes to be very hands-on about that.

Those people included Virgie Arthur, that's Anna Nicole's mother, her ex-boyfriend, Anna Nicole's ex-boyfriend, Larry Birkhead, who claims to be the biological father of Dannielynn, her baby. And the other man who makes that same claim, Howard K. Stern, her partner.

So again, Fredricka, it's hard to say exactly when we will learn more about what happened to Anna Nicole Smith the day that she died at the Hard Rock Seminole Hotel and Casino. Again, police are looking into that still. Dr. Perper figures he won't have an answer for at least another week or so. Back to you.

WHITFIELD: Wow. All right, Susan, the mystery only gets even more mysterious. Thanks so much.

LEMON: Well, it seems those alleged Barbie bandits did have other means of support. We're told the smiling teens who allegedly ripped off a bank branch outside of Atlanta, well, they worked the afternoon shift at a strip club. But they weren't working the day after the robbery.

CNN's Rick Sanchez retraces the duo's tracks.


RICK SANCHEZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice over): Police say this is 18- year-old Ashley Miller. She's the brunette on the left, caught by a surveillance camera during a bank holdup. She and her friend, who police identify as Heather Lyn Johnston, 19, and blonde, were late arrested.

So what did the pair do the day after the alleged bank heist with their picture splattered in news accounts all over the world? The answer? They went to a hair salon, where they're greeted by hair stylist Amy Cooper.

AMY COOPER, HAIRDRESSER: As soon as she walked in, you know, I went up and greeted her, and I introduced myself. And I said, "So, what are we going to do today?" And she goes, "I want you to make me really blonde. I want to be blonde like Barbie." SANCHEZ: Like Barbie? Doesn't she know that's exactly how she and her alleged accomplice will be forever known?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The Barbie bandits.

SANCHEZ: Whatever the case, here they are again, caught by another surveillance camera, this time at the hair salon, to the amazement of salon workers.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: That's them right there. And then they're going to walk over to this section.

SANCHEZ: Police now say the two young women, with the help of 22- year-old teller Benny Allen, pulled off an inside job at the suburban Atlanta bank and escaped with a considerable amount of money. All three are now charged with felony theft. But when these images were captured at the salon, the alleged teen bandits were still on the loose.

Did they seem anxious? Not according to salon manager Melissa Mathea, who says all they wanted to talk about was their planned dinner that night at the Cheesecake Factory.

MELISSA MATHEA, SALON MANAGER: They said that they had been at the pool all day. They were hanging out, so they came in with like real short shorts on and see-through tank tops and stuff. And that's the only thing that really had caught our eye about them.

SANCHEZ: And what did they talk about with their hairstylist? The same thing everybody in these parts seem to be talking about that day, the Barbie bandit case that was captivating Atlanta.

AMY COOPER: So, I was like, "Isn't that the dumbest thing you've ever heard?" I said, "Somebody would go rob a bank wearing sunglasses and think nobody would recognize them?" She said, "Yes, I know. That's crazy, right?" And then she got real quiet.

SANCHEZ: The girls are seen on tape mulling over a flat iron and splurging on some new earrings.


LEMON: It's expensive to go to the hairdresser these days. That was CNN's Rick Sanchez. Life looks a lot different for the two teens today. They face a litany of charges. Georgia police even claim Miller told them she was a drug dealer. Both teens are expected to plead not guilty to bank theft.

WHITFIELD: Coming up in the NEWSROOM, how Hurricane Katrina gave these creatures a whole new lease on life. In the Bahamas, of all places.


LEMON: Several victims of Hurricane Katrina have made a soft landing so to speak in the Bahamas. Where else? Their story from CNN's Rusty Dornin.


RUSTY DORNIN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Today, life is fun in the sun for Kelly the dolphin. It may not look like it now, but she's been to hell and back. Swept away with seven other dolphins to the Gulf of Mexico when Hurricane Katrina ravaged their giant tank at the oceanarium in Gulfport, Mississippi.

Weakened and sick after more than a week in the contaminated waters, rescuers were amazed to find Kelly and her companions swimming together. They swam to the boats, were brought aboard mats and given food and medicine.

Once back on shore, they were then put in hotel swimming pools until a new home could be found. From the wreckage of their former home and the temporary tiny hotel swimming pools to this, Dolphin Cay, one of the largest manmade dolphin facilities in the world at the Atlantis Resort in the Bahamas.

Terry Corbett has worked with dolphins and killer whales for more than 20 years. She took us in the water to meet Kelly.

(on camera): What kind of shape was Kelly in after she was rescued after Katrina?

TERRY CORBETT, MARINE MAMMAL SPECIALIST: I think a lot of them were very dehydrated. They had no fish to eat. Now dolphins get all of their water through their fish intake. So when they don't eat, you know, they get dehydrated.

DORNIN (voice-over): The eight dolphin rescued from the sea were reunited with another eight also rescued from the oceanarium. All 16 together again.

CORBETT: I think it was important not only for the dolphins, but for the people as well. You have that closure that they are in a good place. That's right.

DORNIN (on camera): Kelly is one of six dolphin rescued from Katrina that are pregnant. They are expected to give birth over the next six months.

(voice-over): The pregnant females are watched closely in a separate pen. Temperature readings taken several times a day.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Temperature should go down by one or two degrees when she's ready to deliver.

DORNIN: Anyone can pay $150 to get up close and personal with the dolphin. Despite the tourist attraction, officials here claim it's about education and rehabilitating injured marine mammal.

CORBETT: We have a state of the art laboratory facility here where we do all of our research on the animals.

DORNIN: More than 80 trainers work with the dolphins.


DORNIN: Work? Well, that might be pushing it. These creatures need a lot of playtime.



DORNIN: Kelly and her crew are thriving and reproducing after their incredible journey. Handlers here say, what more could you ask for? Rusty Dornin, CNN, Nassau, Bahamas.


WHITFIELD: Just want to jump in. Dolphins are so happy. All right. Well, they are happy, kind of, on Wall Street. At least we hope. The closing bell and a wrap-up of the action coming up.


WHITFIELD: So the closing bell is about to ring.

LEMON: Felicia Taylor standing by with a final look at the trading day. Hi, Felicia.


TAYLOR: Now let's go to "THE SITUATION ROOM" and Suzanne Malveaux.


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