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CNN NEWSROOM

Submarine Scare; Taking Stock Of Your Money; Markets & Mortgages; Missing Georgia Boy; Changing Lanes

Aired March 14, 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: 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.

Mortgages for risky borrowers shaking up stocks. How sub-prime lending hits your bottom line. Live from Wall Street as the numbers start moving.

COLLINS: The U.S. attorney general telling CNN a short time ago he will not resign. Alberto Gonzales under fire for dismissing eight federal prosecutors.

HARRIS: A confusing freeway exit. Did it cause a bus to take a deadly plunge in Atlanta. This hour, HOV lane changes.

It is Wednesday, March 14th. You are in the NEWSROOM.

COLLINS: Pretty incredible story here. Drama on the high seas, or at least under them. A U.S. military submarine and its crew found to be safe and sound this morning. The discovery, though, after overnight fears that the nuclear powered sub had sunk. Here to explain, CNN Pentagon correspondent Barbara Starr.

BARBARA STARR, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hello to you, Heidi.

It's not often that we get to report from here that things have turned out OK for the U.S. military, but they did have quite a scare overnight. Let's explain to people.

A nuclear powered submarine, the USS San Juan, was submerged, operating on a training mission overnight off the coast of Florida. Apparently about 8:00 last night the U.S. Navy lost contact with the submarine. No communications.

They couldn't make any contact with it and then there was a reported sighting of a red flare on the ocean, which is a distress signal. The U.S. Navy fearing the worst, fearing that the submarine had been lost.

They began a search and rescue procedure. They still could not establish communication with the submarine. And then they took the extraordinary step of declaring, making an official declaration that the submarine had been sunk. At that point, that activated a series of emergency procedures, including the families of the crew based in Groton, Connecticut, the families starting to be notified of the fear at that point that the submarine was lost.

Well, thank goodness, several hours ago, after making that declaration, after beginning to notify the families, they were able to establish communications with the submarine. The Navy still cannot figure out exactly what went wrong, why they couldn't talk to the submarine. But the crew of the San Juan apparently didn't even know at that point that anybody thought they were lost, that anybody was really looking for them. They just came back up on the net and said, yes, we're here. We're fine. You know, what's going on?

But it was a heart-stopping several hours, apparently, overnight. Defense Secretary Robert Gates was informed of this potential crisis. Top military leaders brought into the Pentagon overnight as the procedures were activated for the absolute potential crisis that a U.S. Navy submarine had been lost at sea. We are happy to report it's been found and everything apparently is OK.

Heidi.

COLLINS: Yes, I can just see the way they came out of the water. What? What's the problem? And everybody . . .

STARR: Apparently that's what happened. So it's nice, for once, to be able to report, as I say, good news from the Pentagon.

COLLINS: Yes. Barbara, any idea if anything like this has happened before by way of issues with the communication system above ground?

STARR: Well, we don't think at this point that anything to this extent has happened before. You know, submarines still in peacetime operate in a very covert manner. They operate under the ocean. They do try and limit their communications. And so there are periods, to be clear, when commanders ashore are not in touch with submarines while they're submerged, while they're maintaining radio silence.

But that is not what happened here. It is an extraordinary event, Heidi, for the U.S. military to go to this procedure of submarine sunk. That is an absolute disaster. That is an extraordinary event. And I personally cannot recall when they've ever made that type of declaration before.

Again, we want to emphasize, apparently it was only a couple of hours that they went to this full blown emergency procedure overnight before they were able to establish radio communications with the sub once again.

COLLINS: Well, it kind of gives you the chills, that's for sure. Barbara Starr from the Pentagon this morning.

Barbara, thank you.

HARRIS: Prosecutors fired. Their former boss finding his own job on the line this morning. Attorney General Alberto Gonzales rejecting calls for his resignation. Critics say his firing of eight U.S. attorneys may have been politically motivated and Democrats in Congress are demanding answers. They may issue subpoenas for officials in the White House and the Justice Department. Earlier on CNN's "American Morning," Miles O'Brien spoke with Gonzales.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MILES O'BRIEN, CNN ANCHOR: Why don't you give us a self- evaluation. How do you think you did your job through all this?

ALBERTO GONZALES, ATTORNEY GENERAL: Well, obviously, I think that there were mistakes made here. And I think that part of the problem is . . .

O'BRIEN: I was asking not mistakes made. That's passive. The question is, how did you do your job? Do you feel like you did a good job?

GONZALES: I think that I did make some mistakes and we're going to take steps to ensure that that doesn't happen again. But ultimately, I work for the American people and I serve at the pleasure of the president of the United States. And he'll decide whether or not I continue to serve at the attorney general. I'm focused on identifying the mistakes that were made here, correcting the mistakes and also I'm focused on doing the work for the American people and protecting neighborhoods, protecting kids.

O'BRIEN: Is it time, when you couple all this together with some of the other issues, The Patriot Act, transgressions in the FBI's office and the other issues that your critics would talk about, is it time for you to step down?

GONZALES: I don't know what Patriot Act transgressions you're referring to. If you're referring to . . .

O'BRIEN: I'm talking about, at the Federal Bureau of Investigation, overstepping their bounds in use of The Patriot Act, going after private citizens and their records, in some cases the admit illegally.

GONZALES: NSLs, National Security Letters, were around long before The Patriot Act provisions ever came into place. And the reauthorization of The Patriot Act actually included numerous safeguard protections for civil liberties and privacy rights. Clearly . . .

O'BRIEN: The question is, Mr. Attorney General, is, do you feel it's time for you to step down?

GONZALES: That will be a decision for the president of the United States to make. I think if you look at the record of the department and the wide variety of . . .

O'BRIEN: Should you tender -- should you offer your resignation? Is it time for you to offer your resignation? GONZALES: That is a decision for the president of the United States to make. I'm going to be focused on identifying what went wrong here, correcting those mistakes and focus on doing good for the American people.

O'BRIEN: But the decision on whether to offer your resignation is yours, is it not?

GONZALES: I'm focused on doing my job.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

HARRIS: Man. Gonzales concedes his department mishandled those dismissals. It's worth noting that there's no mention by any critic of criminal misconduct.

COLLINS: Taking stock of your money. We're tracking the market this morning after the Dow plunged 242 points yesterday. Ouch. The opening bell sounded on Wall Street about a half hour ago. CNN's Susan Lisovicz watching those numbers. She joins us now from the New York Stock Exchange.

Boy, you have the most exciting job at the network as of late, I'm telling you.

SUSAN LISOVICZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, that's why the antacids are right within reach of my hand, Heidi.

COLLINS: Right.

LISOVICZ: You know, this is what volatility is all about. You know, the market opened. We told you an hour ago that we expected the market to open lower. Well, futures rallied and we had a higher open. A higher open. So whether it was a dead cat bounce or some bottom fishing or investors testing the waters, whatever it was, it didn't hold.

Having said that, you know, we're not seeing a lot of action. You know, modest rally, modest sell-off. There certainly are more stocks that are selling off than that are going higher right now. So there wasn't much of a foundation for the rally at the open.

But, you know, it really kind of reflects the debate that's going on all over the U.S. between economists, professors, investors, how big of a problem is this. Is it just sub-prime mortgage? Is it going to be largely contained? Or is it fallout something that's going to last longer and be even more dramatic? Is this something we're going to be talking about for a long time. That's really the question right now.

Heidi.

COLLINS: Yes. And also, not only is it going to last for a long time, but what sort of effect will it have on the rest of the economy?

LISOVICZ: Yes, that's part of that question, Heidi, because, you know, the housing sector -- you talk about mortgages. In the housing sector, it's a huge sector. And really it was the salvation in the dark days after 9/11 and the recession and the dotcom bust and all that, the housing sector is what held up the economy. Right now it's what's hurting the economy.

And it's not only builders per say or these sub-prime lenders, you know, it's big financial companies that may have exposure to these sub-prime players because they loaned money to them. It's home furnishing companies. It's Home Depot and Lowes.

And, you know, this is an excellent point that "The New York Times" makes today. Just because you don't directly own shares of these troubled sub-prime lenders doesn't mean you're not exposed to their problems. "The Times" says that many mutual funds hold mortgage-related debt securities, indicating that every day investors could be hurt too.

So, you know, it's a widespread -- it potentially could be much broader based than it is now. And that's why you're seeing -- that's why you saw the market sell off so dramatically yesterday. But the sell-off we're seeing so far today is modest.

COLLINS: That's what we want to hear -- modest. All right, Susan Lisovicz, we know you're watching it for us and we'll check back with you a little bit later on today. Thank you.

HARRIS: What do you say we stay with this a little longer here. Growing concerns about those risky mortgage loans rattling the stock market to be sure. Personal finance editor Gerri Willis is following the connection between those mortgages, the markets and your money. She joins us from New York.

Gerri, great to see you. Bottom line this for us. How troubling is this story that's developing?

GERRI WILLIS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: I've got to tell you, Tony, it's very worrying. Look, you know, I think Susan just said, although I couldn't hear her, the markets took a nose dive because of worries about lenders who underwrite mortgages for people with bad credit. Those so-called sub-prime mortgages. Some two dozen companies either have deep financial worries or even sold themselves to other lenders.

Worse, the crisis is also hitting better known banks and Wall Street brokerages that invested in these loans. Reverberations are being felt from Tokyo, to London, all around the globe. And I should say, a recent study indicates it could get worse. One in five sub- prime mortgages issued in 2005-2006 will fail.

HARRIS: Man. All right. This is all about me and Heidi.

WILLIS: Right.

HARRIS: What about the impact on the consumer? You and me?

WILLIS: Well, I'm telling you, this is probably leading -- well it's already leading to a tightening of credit. It will be harder for you to get a mortgage if you apply for one, and especially if you have less than perfect credit. The terms won't be as favorable. You'll pay higher rates. But you'll have to pay higher fees probably as well. More money down. None of this zero down, nothing down kind of loans any more.

It could be harder to get an adjustable rate mortgage. Those are in the cross-hairs as well. But it's a good option for a lot of people, those ARMs. It's going to be interesting to see if they throw the baby out with the bath water here.

HARRIS: Yes. What if you're trying to sell your home?

WILLIS: Well, you know, there will be fewer buyers out there and those buyers may have less to spend because they're getting less favorable mortgages. All that could lead to a lower selling price for your home. And this means that the housing slump will go longer and deeper than expected. Look, the Mortgage Bankers Association predicts that housing won't even regain its footing until near the end of 2007.

HARRIS: Boy. Gerri, one more quick one.

WILLIS: I'm trying to find some good news here for you and I'm having a hard time, you know.

HARRIS: No, that's OK. You've got to give it to us straight.

WILLIS: Yes.

HARRIS: Any impact beyond the housing market? What about some of those big ticket items that we put into those homes?

WILLIS: Well, think about it, Tony. You know, people don't just borrow to buy homes. They also borrow from their equity. They take out home equity loans to pay for college education for their kids, home repairs, to buy the new car. And all of that can be far more difficult.

HARRIS: Whew, what a couple of days here.

WILLIS: Yes, but we're going to keep an eye on it and we're going to let you know everything going on. And, obviously, we'll be covering this in "Open House" on the weekend, giving you the latest details to let you know exactly what's going on.

HARRIS: That's terrific. Gerri, thank you.

WILLIS: You're welcome.

COLLINS: Scouring the woods for a missing child. Did the boy find danger just a few doors from home? Georgia search in the NEWSROOM.

HARRIS: Raging flood waters, a dangerous rescue all caught on tape. Take a look at this moment right here. Details coming up in the NEWSROOM. GREG HUNTER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: They're changing the signs at the scene of that deadly, deadly bus crash. What are they doing? Will it help? We'll talk about it when we come back here on CNN'S NEWSROOM.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

HARRIS: And right now we want to get you back to Brunswick, Georgia. Our correspondent there from our affiliate WJXT in Jacksonville, Florida, is covering this story for us. Nikki Preede.

And, Nikki, when last we talked to you -- you are, of course, following the story of this missing six-year-old boy. When we last spoke, you gave us information of a second arrest in this case. What's the new information that you have for us?

NIKKI PREEDE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well now we have a third and a fourth arrest. We just walked out of a press conference with the Glynn County police chief here in Brunswick. And he tells us that now they have arrested a total of four people. Four people that he says they are calling suspects in the disappearance of six-year-old Christopher Barrios.

And right now, just 0.3 mile away from where we're standing, they are focusing their search on a field where the people that were just arrested early this morning claim that Christopher Barrios' body is buried.

You're going to hear from the chief in just a minute. But first I want to kind of recap things for you and let you know how the time line of these four arrests.

Christopher disappeared on Thursday around 6:00 p.m. from a trailer park just in back of where I'm standing. Then on Friday, a man was arrested, 31-year-old George Edenfield. He lives across the street from Christopher's grandmother.

Police say they went to question him because he is a convicted sex offender. During their questioning, they say that George Edenfield admitted to them that he had had unsupervised conduct with Christopher Barrios. That is, of course, a violation of his probation. So he was taken into custody.

Then police tell us a couple of days later they go back and they are talking to George Edenfield's mother, Peggy. It's at that point that they claim that she tells police that she had seen Christopher Barrios since his disappearance and she points them to a location where he may be located.

Police say that they go out, they search this location, they go back, they talk to Peggy Edenfield, they claim that she gives them another story. They also tell us this happened several times. So it's at that point late Monday evening they charge Peggy Edenfield with giving police false information and with hindering their investigation. Then early this morning at about 12:30, they arrest another man, David Edenfield. He is Peggy's husband and the father of George Edenfield. He is facing the same charges, hindering prosecution and basically holding up this investigation. It was at that point that this man, David Edenfield, led police to a fourth suspect.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CHIEF MATT DOERING, GLYNN COUNTY, GEORGIA, POLICE: Well, that led us to the name of a friend, a Donald Dale, that we picked up, asked him to come in for questioning. We questioned him. And then he gave us a statement as to having personal knowledge about his involvement in the disappearance of Christopher. That then led to not only do we have personal knowledge of it, but we actually know where he is. And he told us to look back here. That's what's going on now. Last night that we would expect to find Christopher back here buried.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

PREEDE: And right now, again, that is taking place about 0.3 mile from where we're standing. There is about a dozen canine units from all over south Georgia and they are searching. They also searched last night. Now just because police say that these suspects have given them that information, they also say they are holding out hope that Christopher is still alive.

HARRIS: OK. I was hoping we would get to that part of the story. So the authorities are at least holding out hope that they will find Christopher and find him alive.

PREEDE: They are.

HARRIS: All right, Nikki Preede for us.

Nikki, that's great information. Thanks for that update.

COLLINS: HOV lane changes in Atlanta this hour. Did a freeway ramp confuse a bus driver and lead to a deadly accident? New exit strategy in the NEWSROOM.

HARRIS: One community's sad storm legacy or a wake-up call for all of us. How can one man's disappearance go unnoticed for more than a year? Details coming up in the NEWSROOM.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

HARRIS: OK, Heidi, we're an hour into the trading day, all right, and we're a little skittish after what happened yesterday. The Dow dropping 242 points. But an hour into the day and look at what we have here. We'll call this flat. Safe. Everyone breathe and relax. Exhale for just a moment. We are checking all of the day's business news with Susan Lisovicz. The Nasdaq what? Where, Tom? All right, plus one. Flat. Safe.

COLLINS: Changing lanes after a deadly crash. Work begins on an Atlanta freeway now. New safety measures after that bus crash that killed seven people less than two weeks ago. CNN's Greg Hunter joining us now live.

Greg, tell us exactly what they're doing. We can see the workers behind you.

GREG HUNTER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, right now, Heidi, they've shut the ramp down. And one of the problems they had, one of the many problems they had, that this stop sign at the top of the ramp. The bus driver apparently didn't see this stop sign. This is one of the many things they're doing today.

This is going to be the new stop sign. Now I'm showing it to you now. But it will actually be pointed down the ramp. I'm at the top if the ramp. It will be pointed down the ramp. But this is the size of the new stop sign. As you can see, it's Just a little bit bigger from the old one. It's just one of the things they're doing today, increasing the size of this stop sign. Franklin Roy here of the GDOT has been nice enough to hold it for me.

They're also painting new markings on the road. They're putting rumble bumps on. They're putting signs across the street.

But, you know, the expert we talked to, a guy by the name of Fred Hanscom, says, a lot more needs to be done. Signs actually over the lane with arrows pointing down need to be added to this. Not just at the bottom of the ramp, but down the highway a ways.

I talked to Mark McKinnon of the Georgia Department of Transportation and he says that's one of the things they're looking into. But today, starting today, just on this ramp, new stop signs, new markings on the road. Many things to try to make this safer. Down the road, it's an engineering project, signs actually over the lanes marking the lanes.

Heidi.

COLLINS: Greg, if I remember correctly, in the investigative reports that we had over the weekend, I believe there are seven left exit HOVs in the Atlanta area. When we talk about whether or not this is going to be enough by way of improvement in safety measures, what would be the hold back for making it as absolutely safe as possible? Lighted areas. The stop sign is only that much bigger. Is this going to be enough? Are we talking about expense here? Is that the hold back?

HUNTER: Well, according to the Georgia Department of Transportation, the signs met all the safety standards. Now this is the first in a number of left-hand exits that are going to be done around the Atlanta area. They've actually shut this completely down and they're changing the signing. They're changing the paint on the ground.

But an expert we talked about, Fred Hanscom, says really there needs to be more done to actually bring it into code. And what he is talking about is the manual of uniform traffic control devices. He actually sits on the board. And he says there are some, you know, formal things that you need to do with these lanes. COLLINS: Unfortunately it looks like we lost Greg Hunter there. He was standing right where that bus accident happened on I-75 and North Side Drive there. Lots of questions and seems to be some conflicting information about whether or not the exit was safe in the first place. Hearing some different stories there. We, of course, will continue to follow that question as these improvements are made to the HOV lanes.

HARRIS: And still to come this morning, problems with the pumps. A new report says new ones installed after Katrina don't work properly and engineers knew it. Another New Orleans outrange coming up in the NEWSROOM.

COLLINS: There's no going back after this wedding. A bride leaves her family behind for good. Marriage in the Middle East in the NEWSROOM.

HARRIS: And a little girl scared and in pain. Firefighters rush to rescue with soap.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We put some soap on her hand and worked it until it came free.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

HARRIS: Curious fingers snagged by an ATM's money dispenser. Stuck for cash in the NEWSROOM.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

TONY HARRIS, CNN ANCHOR, NEWSROOM: Good morning everyone. Welcome back to CNN NEWSROOM. I'm Tony Harris.

HEIDI COLLINS, CNN ANCHOR, NEWSROOM: I'm Heidi Collins.

HARRIS: The nation's top lawyer under fire this morning, making the case that he should keep his job. This morning, Attorney General Alberto Gonzales rejecting calls that he resign. His critics suggest partisan politics were behind his firing of eight U.S. Attorneys. And Democrats in Congress are demanding answers. They may issue subpoenas for officials in the White House and the Justice Department. Earlier Alberto on CNN's "American Morning," Alberto Gonzales and one of the prosecutors he fired.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BUD CUMMINS, FIRED U.S. ATTORNEY: The evidence now seems abundantly clear that some of these decisions were made for other reasons that may not be too attractive, political pressure from outside the department by politicians and party people, just the desire to place friends and acquaintances that wanted to be U.S. attorneys in U.S. attorney positions and the attempt to create the vacancies to do that. ALBERTO GONZALES, U.S. ATTORNEY GENERAL: U.S. attorneys, I value their independence, their professionalism, what they do in the community. And this was not -- these decisions were not based for political reasons. We made an evaluation. I directed an evaluation in the Department of Justice. I charge my chief of staff to look to see where we could do better in districts around the country. The decisions were not based in any way on retaliation, were not based in any way to interfere with an ongoing public corruption case.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

HARRIS: Now Gonzales concedes his department mishandled those dismissals. It is worth noting that there is no mention by critics of criminal misconduct.

COLLINS: Check on your neighbors, it may be the moral to this story, 18 months ago hurricane Rita ravaged Beaumont, Texas. Many left before the storm hit. Later, residents rebuilt but some stayed away for good. That's what people thought happened to Gary Bumont (ph). They were wrong. The mummified remains of the 51-year-old were recently found in his home. Relatives say he cut ties with them. Still the community wonders how his disappearance could have gone unnoticed for so long. Investigators believe Bumont died of natural causes but cannot pinpoint if it happened before or after Rita.

Swept away on flood waters near Austin, Texas. Workers from a utility company manage to reach the couple but the fast-moving waters forced them apart. A short time later the woman was pulled to safety but the search goes on for her husband. The woman was taken to a nearby hospital.

Chad Myers is joining us now live to talk more about this and the rest of the weather across the country. Chad, boy, it's amazing how fast those waters move.

CHAD MYERS, CNN METEOROLOGIST: That water was really coming up because it had rained at the point in time almost six inches in 48 hours and the first couple of inches can soak in. But then after that, there is just no more soaking in. It's just all washing down. This entire red zone here is where they had six inches of rain in 48 hours. Not raining any more, at least not or at least this morning. Temperature 63 in Atlanta, 71 in Orlando, already 75 in Miami. Here's a pleasant shot from Daytona Beach. I think we're only behind Daytona -- this is WESH, their Daytona cam. You can see those boats in the harbor, that little part of the intercoastal and a pleasant day for any spring breakers out there going to Daytona today.

Temperatures in Orlando should be around 81, even with a little bit of a sea breeze coming off the ocean, Daytona should still be right around 78 today, 79 in Dallas, 61 Detroit, 57 in Chicago. Now, that's colder than you were yesterday where some spots were well up in the 60s and 70s. In Indianapolis it got to 80. Some of the rain now moving in Buffalo going to keep your temperatures down. You're not going to be as warm as let's say Boston, New York and Philadelphia, because you'll be east of the rain. There could be some more strong weather that pops up to the west of that rain right now and also there could be some strong weather down across New Orleans. It is going to be warm enough across the Midwest to see some of that severe weather.

Indianapolis broke a record yesterday at 80, Omaha was 80 degrees and Peoria 78. Now, New York and all the east coast cities are going to be fairly warm today, almost 70 degrees in the city. But then by Friday night it's actually going to be snowing again. And snow in the Pocono's through the Catskills and the Adirondacks all the way up through New England as well. Chicago, you're getting the colder air earlier than the east coast, obviously it's already here in Cleveland. You'll get it a couple days earlier as well. Back to you.

COLLINS: All right, Chad. Thank you.

HARRIS: President Bush is wrapping up his five-nation Latin American trip today in Mexico. During a visit he pushed immigration reform although his proposal has been blocked in Congress. He and the first lady sat down for dinner last night with the Mexican president Felipe Calderon. The Mexican leader called the president's visit a new stage in bilateral relations. Others had a different view. Protesters marched through the president's hotel for the second night in a row. The president was not there at the time. In the capital, Mexico City, several hundred demonstrators burned American flags and waved banners blasting U.S. policy.

Remember the bridges to nowhere? You may have thought Alaska's pet projects died. Think again. CNN's Joe Johns is keeping them honest.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

JOE JOHNS, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Building a bridge connecting a mainly uninhabited island in Ketchikan in Alaska became a metaphor for raiding taxpayers in the last year. You'll remember the project became infamously known as one of the bridges to nowhere. In the face of growing opposition Congress boldly said the so-called earmark for funding was just too much.

SEN. TOM COBURN (R) OKLAHOMA: That was an authorized earmark that doesn't pass the smell test.

JOHNS: But guess what, the project never did die. In fact, Congress still gave Alaska your tax money to pay for it.

ED FRANK, AMERICANS FOR PROSPERITY: It's like a horror movie where the villain doesn't die. You think it's killed. You think it's killed and it just keeps coming back from the dead.

JOHNS: So how did we get here? The Alaskan bridges became the ultimate symbol of what's wrong with the practice of earmarking. That's when Congress approves money for lawmakers' pet projects back in their home states. You'll recall two Capitol Hill heavyweights, Alaska's Senator Ted Stevens and Congressman Don Young, were pushing the bridges in their home state and they have a lot of sway. It all built up to a huge congressional showdown. The Congress took on the two powerful Alaskans and said absolutely no to the earmarks for the bridges but said Alaska could keep the money, $450 million, for anything it wants. And in Alaska the governor decided to use the money for, guess what, the bridges to nowhere.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We've got to start protecting the taxpayers.

JOHNS: The watchdog group Americans for Prosperity, devote a lot of their time trying to kill congressional pet projects. They toured 30 states trying to bring a megaphone to call out what they see as the biggest examples of wasteful spending. And that took them to Alaska.

VOICE OF TIM PHILLIPS, AMERICAN FOR PROSPERITY: They want to spend $223 million of our tax money to connect this uninhabited island to that island in the middle that has about 50 people on it.

JOHNS: And when you look at it that way, it's a pretty good deal for a few people. If you don't live in this part of Alaska, you wondering what am I getting out of this? What about the other bridge, it's supposed to connect a remote wilderness area to Anchorage. It's not dead either. And if it goes up, real estate developers are hoping this area will be wilderness no longer, basically, if they build it, people will come.

DARCIE SALMON, BRIDGE BOOSTER: Over here we can offer half acre, acre lots, private well, private septic, recreational, lakes, rivers, streams, snow machine. They are going to want to come here.

JOHNS: So what we learned when we were there is that a lot of people who live in Alaska aren't completely sold on the idea of the bridges and don't like this kind of attention. There is opposition, especially to the bridge in Anchorage. So, the fight goes on. But the bridges are not dead yet. Joe Johns, CNN, Washington.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

COLLINS: The catch of the day, catches up with a young fisherman. The shocking video in the NEWSROOM. Don't put your hand in the mouth.

HARRIS: No. Come on.

Also, the pain of a cash withdrawal. Grabbing money from the ATM never hurt so much. Stick around in the NEWSROOM.

COLLINS: And check on the big board again, still OK today, but kind of trying to heal our wounds from yesterday, down 214 points or so yesterday. Now we're up 14. We like the looks of that, the plus sign there. We're going to keep watching this one for you as always. Be back in just a moment.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

COLLINS: Keep your fingers and toes away from the mouth at all times. Or this could happen. Yup, that's a shark. That's a guy's hand. These young guys had just landed the four-foot shark at Delray Beach, Florida. One of them tried to take the hook out and chomp. A little bit of shark payback. Onlookers eventually pried the shark's mouth open and freed the hand and the shark, I believe, as well. The victim was treated for injuries and is OK now. Not going to do that again.

HARRIS: Perhaps I'll have another. From shark bite to machine grip, another story about curious kids putting their hands where they shouldn't. Leland Viter (ph) of our Orlando affiliate WFTV reports.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

LELAND VITER, WFTV CORRESPONDENT: The pain on the little girl's face says a lot. Unable to move, she could only stand as firefighters work to free her from the ATM. More than three hours into the ordeal the nine-year-old's hand came out from the cash slot. The relief on her face was almost instant.

UNIDENTIFIED GIRL: It hurts a lot.

VITER: Angelica Santiago's hand still hurt a lot. The ice pack helped but her eyes still showed the hours of crying from what was supposed to be just a quick trip to the store.

WILLIAM SANTIAGO, FATHER: She couldn't get her hand out. I don't know if there was a piece of metal that was stuck in it that was preventing her hand from coming out.

VITER: Fire crews descended on the store's parking lot, worried her hand might have been severed. A stretcher waited outside. Luckily it wasn't needed.

LT. JON HASKETT, ORLAND FIRE DEPT: We just had to dismantle the machine and we put some soap on her hand and worked it until it came free.

VITER: Much to the relief of the girl's parents looking on at the child in so much pain and unable to help is one of life's most difficult moments.

MARIA SANTIAGO, MOTHER: I can do nothing about that because they are emergency, can do nothing, I can't do either. I was scared that something worse happen.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

HARRIS: Oh, man. You know I have that reaction sometimes when I get the receipt after one of those withdrawals and I see all the fees. You want to reach up through there and --

COLLINS: meanwhile. There's no going back after this wedding. A bride leaves her family behind for good. Marriage in the Middle East, in the NEWSROOM.

HARRIS: And the political battle over the Iraq war. Senate Democrats push to bring the troops home. They try again today to move the debate forward. Details coming up in the NEWSROOM.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

COLLINS: You already know to catch us weekday mornings from 9:00 until noon Eastern, but you can take us with you anywhere on your iPod. CNN NEWSROOM podcast available 24/7 right here on your iPod.

Marriage vows exchanged on a dusty road behind barbed wire.

HARRIS: One union is created and a family is divided. CNN's Atika Shubert with the story you won't forget.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

ATIKA SHUBERT, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Weddings are usually happy, with much singing and dancing, like mothers everywhere, the mother of this bride fears losing her daughter.

FATMI, MOTHER OF THE BRIDE (THROUGH TRANSLATOR): I'm not happy because I won't see her again, she says. If she gets the flu, if she gets sick, if she has a child, if I die or if she dies, I still won't be able to see her.

SHUBERT: But this is not everywhere. This is the Middle East. The bride and groom are both Drews (ph), an ancient people scattered across Lebanon, Syria and Israel. The bride, Arwad, lives on the Golan Heights occupied by Israel since the 1967 war. Her groom is a Drews from Syria. Once Arwad joins her husband, she cannot return home, cannot travel between two countries still technically at war.

ARWAD, BRIDE (THROUGH TRANSLATOR): You can see on my face I'm happy, but inside I'm sad. I'm leaving my parents, my family and friends, the house I grew up in, she says. I can only return if there is peace. Without peace I can't come home.

SHUBERT: The International Red Cross organizes these weddings on the United Nation's controlled demilitarized zone that separates Syria and Israeli troops, often taking more than a year to set up.

PAUL CONNEALLY, INTERNATIONAL RED CROSS: It's always usually emotional scene because it's only through an ad hoc wedding, five or six a year maybe, where they are, through being invited to the wedding, through being a guest at the wedding, that you have the opportunity to meet your relations on the other side.

SHUBERT: The celebrations are a rare way the Drews can reunite their divided community if only for a moment. When it's time for the bride to leave for the ceremony, the emotions are too much. The news media moves in to record the moment, Israeli border forces try to control the crowd. Finally, Arwad makes her wedding march past the barbed wire to her waiting groom. This is the furthest we can go into the buffer zone. The wedding is happening behind me. They have exactly an hour for the families to meet, to conduct the ceremony and to say good-bye.

Only a few can attend. For them, there are happy reunions. Those left behind can only wave and shout, calling relatives they can see but cannot hear or touch. They plead with Israeli troops to be let across. A handful manage to get through, stealing the last minutes of the ceremony to see mothers and fathers, brothers and sisters. All too soon the wedding is over. A new family created while many more are kept apart. Atika Shubert, CNN, at the Conetra (ph) crossing.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

HARRIS: Still to come this morning, risky mortgages sapping your investment portfolio? Wall Street rattled by sub- prime defaults. Market watch all morning long in the NEWSROOM.

COLLINS: The nation's top military officer on the defensive. What he is saying now about gays in the military, ahead in the NEWSROOM.

VERONICA DE LA CRUZ, CNN.COM. The average American family with at least one credit card has racked up more than $9,000 in charges. CNNmoney.com has a few helpful tips to get you out of debt. You can control your spending by making a budget. This interactive tool can help you calculate where your money is being spent and help identify where you can cut back and pay the balance toward your debt.

To avoid late fees, experts suggest you set up automatic payments online. It will help keep your credit score clean and avoid the excessive fees. If you follow all of the advice, how long will it take you to become debt free? You can crunch the numbers with this calculator and find out and share your stories. Whether it's a disaster or a success story, you can weigh in with how you are dealing with debt. You can get the details at cnnmoney.com/debt. I'm Veronica de la Cruz for the dot com desk.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

HARRIS: A massive explosion rocks the Afghan capital killing at least 13 people and wounding 15. Dozens of shops in Kabul's old city reduced to rubble as you can see here, several vehicles as well. The source of the blast not immediately clear but an Afghan official says it was not terror related.

COLLINS: The nation's top military officer under fire and on the defensive. Joint Chiefs General Peter Pace makes no apologies for calling gay acts immoral but does he does express regret. CNN Pentagon correspondent Barbara Starr with details.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

BARBARA STARR, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The chairman of the joint chiefs of staff threw a hand grenade on the sensitive issue of gays in the military.

GEN. PETER PACE, CHMN., JOINT CHIEFS: I believe that homosexual acts between individuals are immoral and we should not condone immoral acts, so the don't ask don't tell allows an individual to serve the country.

STARR: Pace explained it was his own upbringing that led him to his beliefs but that led to ferocious criticism.

JOE SOLMONESE, HUMAN RIGHTS CAMPAIGN: I think it is incredibly disrespectful to the tens of thousands of gay and lesbian Americans who have served their country honorably.

STARR: Since 1994, more than 11,000 service members have been thrown out of the military for one reason -- openly engaging in homosexual conduct, a violation of the don't ask, don't tell policy. As criticism grew and after talking to Defense Secretary Robert Gates, General Pace took the unusual step of putting out a statement saying I should have focused more on my support of the policy and less on my personal moral views. But for gay service members there still is anger. Eric Alva lost his right leg in Iraq. Now retired, he says he wants to be known as a gay man who served his country.

ERIC ALVA, GAY IRAQ VETERAN: The irony is that the one organization that is our shield of protection against terrorism, of hatred, is the one to discriminate within its ranks.

STARR: After a day of controversy, Gates made clear the current law will stand.

ROBERT GATES, DEFENSE SECRETARY: What's important is that we have a law, a statute, that governs don't ask, don't tell. That's the policy of this department and it's my responsibility to execute that policy as effectively as we can.

STARR: But some people are having second thoughts. Retired General John Shalikazvili (ph), a former chairman of the joint chiefs of staff recently wrote that he now believes gays and lesbians can be accepted by their peers in the military. Barbara Starr, CNN, the Pentagon.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

HARRIS: Good morning everyone. You're with CNN. You're informed. I'mn Tony Harris.

COLLINS: And I'm Heidi Collins and all this keeps coming into the NEWSROOM on this Wednesday, March 14. Here's a couple rundowns. The search for a missing boy in Georgia, four suspects in custody this hour, one a convicted child molester. And is it already too late for six-year old Christopher Barrios (ph)?

HARRIS: Risky business, sub-prime mortgage defaults shake the stock markets and your 401K balance, the latest numbers in minutes.

COLLINS: New Orleans got new pumps after Katrina, and apparently the shaft. A report says the equipment is faulty and engineers knew, the pumps that don't in the NEWSROOM.

HARRIS: At the top of this hour, let's get you an update on that missing Georgia boy, Christopher Barrios.

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