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Los Angeles Fire; Explosion In or Near Green Zone as Cheney Visits Baghdad; Tainted Food Scare

Aired May 9, 2007 - 11:00   ET


TONY HARRIS, CNN ANCHOR: And let's get you straight to Jacqui Jeras in the severe weather center.

HEIDI COLLINS, CNN ANCHOR: Well, the stuff of Hollywood legend. James Dean, of course, got the star billing, but Griffith Park was a prominent co-star in "Rebel Without a Cause". Today, the Los Angeles landmark seeing a real-life fir drama.

CNN's Thelma Gutierrez is there.

And Thelma, it sounds like we've got a little bit of good news. I see some sunshine behind you, but that was a little frightening because of those high temperatures.

THELMA GUTIERREZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, that's exactly right, Heidi. In fact, that's what firefighters are going to be looking at today, is how the weather behaves. They are saying they're hoping the winds don't kick up and they're hoping that it doesn't get very hot. But those are two factors that are not likely to work in their favor, because weather -- people have said that they are expecting the winds to kick up to 20 miles an hour, and they expect the temperatures to reach 97 degrees, so that is not good.

In addition, this is what they are taking a look at. This is what they are keeping an eye on right now. Thy have been monitors these hot spots all morning long, and you see how dry it is, how quickly this brush ignites.

They've been hoping that these trees would not become torched. This could create a big problem if the winds kick up and carry those embers to other areas in the park.

Six hundred acres have been charred so far, 300 residents were evacuated yesterday. But those residents were allowed back in their homes today.

It was a very different scene yesterday, however. One of the fire captains told me that he actually saw tornadoes made of fire scattered throughout the hills in this area. He said it was a very, very scary situation. Eric French is with L.A. City Fire and joins us now.

Can you tell me where this fire started and who started it, or could it have been arson? ERIC FRENCH, L.A. CITY FIRE DEPARTMENT: Well, we believe the fire started on the north side of a golf course here in the park. And it has been reported that it may have been caused from a careless flicked cigarette.

At this point, no one has been arrested for it. One person was questioned, but they are not listed as a suspect at this time. But it's still -- the cause is still being determined, and it's under investigation.

GUTIERREZ: All right. Thank you very much.

And one home was damaged. It had a wood shake roof. And there was one civilian who was hospitalized with second and third-degree burns. But there have been no firefighters who have been injured in this fire -- Heidi.

COLLINS: Thank you, Thelma. Especially with some of the pictures that we've seen, very good news that firefighters are OK.

Of course we will be watching this one. And hopefully it continues to be contained.

Thelma Gutierrez for us live this morning.

Thanks, Thelma.

HARRIS: Into the disaster zone. President Bush arriving this hour, within minutes -- in fact, may actually be on the ground in Greensburg, Kansas. He is getting a first-hand look at the devastation from the monster tornado that leveled the town.

The president will also get an update on the recovery effort. The mayor of Greensburg vowing to rebuild a brand-new town with help from the federal government. He says the top priority is to get the utilities up and running again.

We can certainly understand that.

Officials are also trying to find a place for mobile homes sent to the area by FEMA. As much as 95 percent of Greensburg was destroyed by the tornado.

COLLINS: An explosion heard in Baghdad's Green Zone as Vice President Dick Cheney visits the Iraqi capital.

Let's go live to Baghdad now and CNN's Arwa Damon with the latest on all of this.

Arwa, what we do know at this point?

ARWA DAMON, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Heidi, what we do know about the explosion -- and this according to Iraq's Ministry of Interior -- was that it was in fact a single mortar round that exploded inside the heavily-fortified Green Zone. At this point, though, no reports of any casualties. But as you just mentioned, this attack comes as the U.S. vice president, Dick Cheney is meeting with senior officials here in the capital. The aim of those meetings, his message, according to a senior administration official, is that it is time to pull together. It's game time.

That, his message, directed specifically to the Iraqi government, to Iraqi prime minister Nuri al-Maliki. This is a very delicate and difficult time for the Iraqi government.

Al-Maliki's government increasingly being viewed by the Iraqi people, by members of the Iraqi parliament, as weak, fractured, paralyzed and basically incapable to actually carry out any of the promises that it has put forward to the Iraqi people. This really is a very difficult time, again, for Iraqi prime minister Nuri al-Maliki.

Vice President Cheney saying that talks have been productive. Al-Maliki himself saying that talks had been productive and serious.

Now, the vice president was last here back in December of 2005, following Iraq's historical elections that saw pretty much most of Iraq's political parties coming forward and voting. Many Sunni Iraqis, many, in fact, people across all of Iraq now wondering what they risked their lives for as they look at this government that was meant to be one of national unity essentially falling apart -- Heidi.

COLLINS: Well, we will certainly continue to watch that over the days to come here to see if there is any change in store. Who knows?

We know you are on top of it, as well.

CNN's Arwa Damon for us live in Baghdad this morning.

Thanks, Arwa.

HARRIS: Nowhere in Iraq is immune. This scene the latest evidence.

A suicide truck bomb ripping the Interior Ministry headquarters in the Kurdish city of Irbil. At least 14 people were killed, dozens were wounded. Irbil and other Kurdish areas, as you know, have been relatively calm. It is the first big attack there in more than three years.

COLLINS: The military tracking increased attacks in Iraq. Live to the Pentagon ahead in the NEWSROOM.

HARRIS: A town lives up to its name. Big Lake, Missouri, overrun when major river levees break.

Flooded in the Midwest, that story in the NEWSROOM.

COLLINS: A restaurateur to O.J. Simpson: Grill your steak somewhere else. The former murder defendant keeps his cool.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And it's the first class he has shown, in my opinion, since the murders.


COLLINS: Simpson steakhouse shun in the NEWSROOM.

HARRIS: Danger on the dinner table. Tainted animal feed. Now the focus is on another mealtime staple.

That's ahead in the NEWSROOM.


COLLINS: You're in the NEWSROOM. I'm Heidi Collins.

Targeting children with an American icon.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Mickey Mouse is America. America is Mickey Mouse. And then you're taking Mickey Mouse to laugh at the United States. It's very, very significant.


COLLINS: A poor excuse of Mickey Mouse in the Middle East. And the message is disturbing. That story ahead, coming up in the NEWSROOM.


COLLINS: Want to take you directly to Vice President Dick Cheney, making some remarks. He is in Baghdad for the second time now. Let's go ahead and listen for just a moment.

RICHARD CHENEY, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We believe it's very important to move on the issues before us in a timely fashion, and that any undue delay would be difficult to explain, and that we hope they would approach these issues with deliberate dispatch, if I can put it in those terms. I think they're somewhat sympathetic to our concerns.

Brett Baier, FOX News.

BRETT BAIER, FOX NEWS CORRESPONDENT: Mr. Vice President, following on that, if I could, first, are you confident that the Iraqis now will not take this two-month break from your conversations?

CHENEY: I can't make I can't make that prediction, Brett. That's a sovereign issue for them.

COLLINS: Well, as you can see, it looks like we lost the signal there for a moment. It looks to me to be back up if we want to hear the answer to that question.

Can we go back to it?

QUESTION: General Petraeus, you're going to give a progress report in September. A lot of people in Congress are now pinning that as something to look to pin funds to.

Would that harm your ability to fight this war on the ground?

GEN. DAVID PETRAEUS, COMMANDER, MULTINATIONAL FORCE, IRAQ: Well, first of all, let me just say that that's going to be a joint endeavor. This is going to be the ambassador and myself offering that assessment to our leaders in Washington and to the congressional leadership.

We see that as presenting an assessment at that time. I have offered that it will take several months after all the forces are on the ground, which will be around the mid-June time frame, for us to see the impact of those forces.

The Iraqis are also continuing to build their forces. That's part of both the deliberate effort that's been under way for some time, and their own surge, if you will. Some 9,000 Iraqi soldiers graduate from training this month alone, just to give you an example.

So we see that as a time where we'll have had, we think, enough of a period to assess the joint security effort and the progress in the political and economic arena.

And I will let the ambassador perhaps add to that, as well.


RYAN CROCKER, AMB. TO IRAQ: Well, certainly from the political- economic side, just as is the case with the military, our people need the tools to get the job done. And the tools in this case are money. We really need to get the money out here so we can start making a difference on the streets.

CHENEY: Ken Fireman, Bloomberg.


You said you were impressed by the responses that you heard from Prime Minister Maliki and his colleagues. Did they offer any specific commitments, particularly time commitments, in moving forward on some of the specific measures that you and other American officials have talked about? Namely, hydrocarbon law, debaathification, provincial elections, and constitutional reform?

CHENEY: I believe Prime Minister Maliki plans an address to the parliament this week on many of these issues. And of course it's a -- it's a political process. It depends upon action by their legislative body. And -- but as I say, I do believe that there is a greater sense of urgency now than I've seen previously.

FIREMAN: But no specific timetable?

CHENEY: It's difficult to do with our own Congress, let alone somebody else's.

Thanks, everybody.

COLLINS: There you have it now. As we mentioned, Vice President Dick Cheney in Baghdad for the second time, holding a press conference there with General Petraeus and Ambassador Crocker.

Listening into that, talking more about how long it's going to take to really see some impact here for the forces that are on the ground. As you know, 35,000 more troops ordered as relief just yesterday.

Now you are looking at Greensburg, Kansas. The president is on the ground there getting ready to tour the horrific damage in this city, this town, and try to offer some comfort to the people of Greensburg, Kansas.

HARRIS: And there is a situation, Heidi, at Washington Dulles International Airport in Dulles, Virginia.

Fredricka Whitfield is in the newsroom, and she's following that for us.

Fred, good to see you. Good morning.


Well, if you are flying in and out of Dulles International Airport in Dulles, Virginia, and you are experiencing delays, well, this is why. Apparently, there have been some sightings of smoke and fumes in the main control tower. And four of the employees there in the control tower are now being treated for exposure -- we don't know exactly what the source of this smoke or these fumes are.

Can't even explain anything more about the smoke and fumes, but it has interrupted some of the operations there at the main control tower. So, what this also means now is an alternate control tower is now being put to use so operations can continue to go on at Dulles International Airport. However, not as smoothly as would be on a regular day.

Our Dave Hennen is checking the operations there at the airport.

And Dave, already we are experience something delays, not necessarily cancellations, but delays as a result of this problem in the main control tower.

DAVE HENNEN, CNN METEOROLOGIST: Yes, that's true, Fredricka. We have seen delays now averaging about 30 minutes or so.

As you said, no cancellations that we have seen yet. But at least for the foreseeable future, we expect to see some delays, because the average delays are about 30 minutes. But there are some flights delayed for hours.

Let's take a look at our flight explorer, and that will give you an idea of what we are talking about.

What I've done here is kind of filter the number of planes. Here is IAD. That is Dulles Airport. So these planes are all inbound in to Dulles Airport. There are about 80 planes right now that are heading towards Dulles. And we are looking at some of them now beginning to turn around and land.

This little cluster of planes I've been watching in the last about 10 minutes or so, and some of these have been heading away from the airport, which would lead me to believe that they are circling around, waiting for conditions to improve. But just in the last few minutes, things have lined up.

This is typical when you look at flights for where planes are landing at an airport. Kind of lined up here like birds heading into the airport.

Same thing. We are expecting the conditions, it looks like, to improve, though. So they have moved into this alternate tower, and it looks like now that things are getting better.

We'll continue to keep a close eye on the flight explorer and keep you updated.

WHITFIELD: All right. Thanks a lot, Dave.

All right, Tony and Heidi, back to you.

HARRIS: OK. All right, Fred. Thank you.

Dave, thank you.

COLLINS: She is getting down to business early. Andrea forms in the Atlantic, as you just heard, 22 days ahead of hurricane season. The developing story, Dave's watching it for us in the NEWSROOM.

HARRIS: Danger on the dinner table? Tainted animal feed. Now the focus is on another mealtime staple.

That's ahead in the NEWSROOM.


COLLINS: Growing concern over tainted animal feed again threatening the human food chain.

CNN's Joe Johns takes a look at the very latest.


JOE JOHNS, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice over): The scope of the contaminated feed scare is now almost biblical, reaching the beasts of the field, the birds, the fish of the sea. It's not just the dogs and cats anymore. Creatures raised for human food are under scrutiny -- thousands of swine, millions of chickens, and now it's fish raised on farms. Federal regulators are trying to determine whether the fish could have entered the human food supply after eating meal contaminated with chemicals from China that weren't supposed to be there. Chemicals including melamine and cyanuric acid, which when combined form crystals in kidneys that can kill pets.

DR. DAVID ACHESON, FDA: It's come to our attention that some of the contaminated product from the companies in China that we already knew about went onto Canada and was then used to make fish food. And that fish food, part of it was then imported into the United States.

JOHNS: So far, the FDA says fish that got the food at one farm it examined were young, not ready for sale. So the chance they ended up in the human food supply is slight. And authorities say the disclaimers that apply to all the other animals also apply to the fish, that whatever chemicals the fish got were in very low doses and not believed to be a danger to humans.

But there is a caveat.

ACHESON: I don't want to leave you with the impression that melamine is no threat to humans at any level. If you expose animals to high levels of melamine, you'll have a problem. But you have to take this into the context of how much a human being is exposed to it.

JOHNS: The FDA just disclosed that the food shipped here from China that has caused all the controversy was not only adulterated, it was apparently mislabeled, as well. The agency said the suspect shipments were originally passed off as high-protein wheat gluten. But when forensic analysts tested it, they discovered it was actually just wheat flour.

Mislabeling is a potential regulatory violation, and FDA said it is considering possible enforcement options. One U.S. company that bought the tainted product from China, Kim Nutra (ph), said it was extremely surprised about the report and called it "... hard to believe".

As it turns out, concerns about unwanted chemicals in imported fish, specifically fish from China, have been with us for a long time. The states of Alabama and Mississippi recently banned the sale of catfish from China after finding they had illegally been given antibiotics to keep them healthy.

Investigators say they suspect melamine was added to animal feed for the same reason that antibiotics were added to catfish, to artificially inflate their value. In other words, it's all about the money.

JEFF MCCORD, CATFISH FARMERS ASSOCIATION: The price differential at the moment, Chinese catfish fillets are about $1 per pound cheaper. And that explains why there's been such a tremendous increase in imports.

JOHNS: FDA investigators are on the ground in China hoping to find out who is putting chemicals in our food and our pet's foods, and could be back here next week with some answers.

Joe Johns, CNN, Washington.


COLLINS: To get your "Daily Dose" of health news online, log on to our Web site. You'll find the latest medical news, a health library, and information on diet and fitness. The address:

HARRIS: The president on the ground in Kansas this morning. His message of hope for the town that lost it all to a tornado later in the NEWSROOM.

JACQUI JERAS, CNN METEOROLOGIST: And I'm meteorologist Jacqui Jeras in the CNN severe weather center.

We've got our first named tropical type system on the board. We'll tell you the latest on that, and also talk about the wildfires later, coming up.


TONY HARRIS, CNN ANCHOR, NEWSROOM: Bottom of the hour. Welcome back to the CNN newsroom. I'm Tony Harris.

HEIDI COLLINS, CNN ANCHOR, NEWSROOM: And I'm Heidi Collins. Into the disaster zone, President Bush arriving just a short time ago in Greensburg, Kansas. He is getting a first hand look at the devastation from the monster tornado that leveled the entire town virtually. The president will also get an update on the recovery effort. The mayor of Greensburg vows to rebuild a brand-new town with help from the Federal government. He says the top priority is to get the utilities up and running again. Officials are also trying to find a place for mobile homes sent to the area by FEMA. As much as 95 percent of Greensburg was destroyed by the tornado.

HARRIS: Rising water and high anxiety in the Midwest. Rain- choked rivers and streams spilling over their banks in northwest Missouri. The tiny town of Big Lake inundated after several levees gave way. Just how bad is the flooding there? CNN's Sean Callebs takes a look.


SEAN CALLEBS, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): This is Big Lake, Missouri. Right now the city, the town, is living up to its name standing in several feet of water. I want to show you where we really are. We move the camera down just a bit, you can see a bunch of debris, but right in the middle of the remnants of a cornfield you see a white line. That white line marking the shoulder of highway 159. Now just across from the railroad tracks you can see a number of homes. Water has either creeked right up to the edge of those houses or in some cases swamped it. There are some 300 homes here in the area; 150 are occupied year-round. The other 150 are summertime vacation homes and flooding is severe up in this area. What happened? Well this area, the Missouri River area is protected by earthen levees. We know that those levees gave way in a number of places, at least five places. Out here, out over this way, this expanse that looks like a great lake is actually somebody's cornfield. The corn has been growing about that high. Now it's simply a total loss. People all along this river system, we are about 1 1/2 hour north of Kansas City, are doing what they can, trying to keep the river from jumping its banks or swamping levees and saturating fields or flooding homes. Really, everybody in this area, the plains area, (INAUDIBLE) flooding disasters. By 1993, a summer of horrific flooding. They tell us it's a lot different. I was here a few weeks back in '93. The big difference, this was the result of flooding from a flash flood, rain that came down in a very short period of time, some 7 1/2 inches over 24 hours. Back then it was just punishing unrelenting rain that came in day in and day out. So it saturated levees and didn't take nearly as much to breach those levees and compromise the integrity of those levees.

So what people are hoping for is that the water came up very fast so they are hoping it is going to go down just as fast and hopefully they can look back on 2007 as the one that wasn't nearly as bad as it could have been. Sean Callebs, CNN, Big Lake, Missouri.


COLLINS: Jacqui Jeras is following all of the weather for us. Now Jacqui, boy, we've got this whole situation swirling whirling behind you and then the stuff in the Midwest and the fires out in the LA area.

JACQUI JERAS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: There is a lot going on, guys. Two of the things are related. The fires that are going on right now in Georgia and Florida and our first subtropical storm. These two stories coming together because we really need some rain here so even though this is a subtropical storm, it isn't all bad news. We are going to have some big waves. We're also going to have some beach erosion, but the rain coming with this is certainly beneficial. Not a lot of damage is going to be expected with this storm. In fact, it's probably going to weaken pretty considerably before it ever makes its way toward the shoreline. The tropical storm watches up from Altamaha (ph) Sound all the way down to Flagler Beach.

That means tropical storm conditions are possible within the next 36 hours. Right now maximum sustained winds are at 45 miles per hour per hour. It's slowly drifting to the west right now. It's expected to start to kind of drift down to the southwest and make its way across the Florida peninsula. Most of the rain on the east side of this system right now so we'll have to wait until it really gets onshore before we see a lot of rain associated with this, but a few hours already making their way in, nothing too heavy, maybe picking up a good 1/4 inch of rainfall overall. The winds are still very strong and it's going to be difficult travel here. Look at this in Charleston coming out of the northwest, over 30 miles per hour. Back to you guys.

COLLINS: Certainly a lot going on in that mess. We'll be checking back with you Jacqui. Thanks.

The violence on the rise again in Iraq. Now CNN has specific details of what the military is tracking and just how bad it is. Our Pentagon correspondent Barbara Starr joining us now live. Barbara, you've been doing quite a bit of research on this, talking with military officials. What are they telling you?

BARBARA STARR, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, you know Heidi, we all understand that violence always appears to be on the rise in Iraq. Now what we do have are some specific details of just how bad it is and what it means for U.S. troops. We have spoken to some top commanders. Lieutenant General Ray Odierno who's in charge of day-to- day operations in Iraq has confirmed some details to CNN, specifically about a category of weapons called explosively formed penetrators or projectiles. These are the armored penetrating weapons that the U.S. military believes have been shipped into Iraq from Iran.

And the statistics are very grim, Heidi. For the month of April, there were 69 attacks using these kinds of weapons, according to the U.S. military. That is a huge spike over the past month before that March and also an increase over the last several months of statistics that you see there. Those 69 attacks in April resulted in 14 U.S. troops being killed and 47 wounded. General Odierno also saying Heidi, suicide car bomb attacks on the rise, about a 30 percent increase since the first of the year. So these trend lines that we see certainly are appearing to be part of the analysis that top officials are doing about whether or not they think the security plan, the increased numbers of troops on the ground in Iraq is really going to work. Heidi.

COLLINS: And a lot of people talking about it today. Military leaders, senior generals up here on Capitol Hill, Vice President Cheney we just saw in Iraq with General Petraeus and of course the news conference is expected a little bit later today with Defense Secretary Gates at Pentagon. What sort of questioning do you think Gates is likely to get about this?

STARR: You know, I think what you were talking about a second ago, the increased troops levels, the thing that the administration calls the surge. That's their word for it. A lot of questions even in the last few minutes as Secretary Gates testifies before the Senate Appropriations Committee this morning on Capitol Hill. A lot of questions from the senators about you see the hearing going on still, about the evaluation of whether this policy is going to work and when is the evaluation going to be made? What the top generals have been saying is in September they will try and come to some understanding of whether they are seeing the trend lines that they want to see. That's political progress and a drop in the violence. They say they don't expect zero violence, but enough of a drop in the violence that the Iraqi government can really begin to take hold. That kind of evaluation will happen in September, but Secretary Gates and others also making it clear today that the higher troop levels may be, in fact, maintained for some time after that. Even if they see positive signs in September, that doesn't mean they are going to turn around, pack up and come home any time soon. Heidi?

COLLINS: Likely not. All right. CNN's Barbara Starr at the Pentagon for us today. Barbara, thank you for that.

And we will be getting more insight on the U.S. troops and the war in Iraq from the army vice chief of staff General Richard Cody (ph). He will be with us live in the NEWSROOM tomorrow. That'll be at 11:30 Eastern, 8:30 Pacific here in the studio on CNN.

HARRIS: A little bit more now on the defense secretary's morning, the political battle over funding the Iraq war dragging on, a live picture. Now today a new warning from Defense Secretary Robert Gates. He says the standoff between the president and Congress already is having an impact on military operations both at home and abroad. Gates and joint chief Chairman General Peter Pace testifying this morning as you see live before a Senate Appropriations subcommittee.

ROBERT GATES, DEFENSE SECRETARY: The army is already trying to cope with this. We will probably, if we pulled out all the stops, used everything possible available to us, we probably fund the war into July, but I would tell you the impact on the Department of Defense in terms of disruption and canceled contracts and programs would be huge if we had to do that.

HARRIS: Now remember last week President Bush vetoed a funding bill because it contained a timetable for pulling U.S. troops out of Iraq.

COLLINS: An American icon used to spread hatred in the Middle East. Blatant attacks or simple misinterpretation? CNN's Atika Shubert takes a look.


ATIKA SHUBERT, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Farfur (ph) looks like Mickey Mouse, but this Palestinian children's character doesn't talk like Mickey or sing like any Mouseketeer. Farfur dances with an imaginary gun in his gloved hands as a young call-in listener recites an ode to an AK47. This is tomorrow's pioneers, a weekly children's show on al Aqsa TV, the Hamas owned and operated television station in Gaza and it's been running now for three weeks. Farfur and his human companion Sara (ph) encourage Palestinian kids to drink milk and study hard, but also to engage in violent acts of resistance against Israel and the U.S. Farfur cheers for Islamic supremacy in a squeaky voice, saying, we will win, Bush. We will win, Condoleezza. Militant propaganda is not new in this part of the world, but using an iconic cartoon character to appeal to children is.

ITAMAR MARCUS, PALESTINIAN MEDIA WATCH: Mickey Mouse is America. America is Mickey Mouse. Then you are taking Mickey Mouse to laugh at the United States. It's very, very significant. The danger is it's the mixing of the poison with the drink milk and the child doesn't even realize that he's being poisoned.

SHUBERT: This was publicized by groups like Palestinian Media Watch and MEMRI, the Middle East Media Research Institute, privately funded pro-Israeli groups. Both al Aqsa TV and Hamas refused to comment on the video, but the Palestinian minister of information was alarmed. MUSTAFA BARGHOUTI, PALESTINIAN MIN. OF INFORMATION: It is a very unfortunate video. We communicated with the station as soon as this was brought to our attention and the station has informed us that they would stop it immediately and they will do a full revision of it.

SHUBERT: But there is another twist to this story. What exactly are Mickey and his friends saying? Media watch dog MEMRI translates one caller as saying, quote, we will annihilate the Jews. But according to several Arabic speakers used by CNN, the caller actually says, quote, the Jews are killing us. MEMRI told us it stood by its translation.

YIGAL CARMON, MIDDLE EAST MEDIA RESEARCH INST: We stand by this translation by the very words, by the context, by the syntax and every measure of the translation.

SHUBERT: What's for sure is that children in this part of the world are quickly exposed to virulent political messages. The Palestinian minister Barghouti says that children in Gaza are more vulnerable than most.

BARGHOUTI: Surrounded by the Israeli army from every direction. Fishermen are shot at when they try to fish. The passages are closed. People cannot move freely in or out of Gaza. It's a situation of imprisonment for years. That oppression, this (INAUDIBLE) system of course drives people crazy and creates certain actions as the one you have seen.

SHUBERT: The moral of the story, nothing is simple in the Middle East, even Mickey Mouse. Atika Shubert, CNN, Jerusalem.


SUSAN LISOVICZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: I'm Susan Lisovicz at the New York Stock Exchange. Here is something you haven't heard recently. Home prices are going up in some markets, that is. I'll name names next on NEWSROOM. You are watching CNN, the most trusted name in news.


HARRIS: Here's the thing. Things aren't getting any better for the housing sector. That's what one major home builder is saying about the nation's housing market. Susan Lisovicz is at the New York Stock Exchange with the latest dose of bad news. Now, Susan, Warren Buffett told you what, last weekend, that the housing sector is sick?

LISOVICZ: And of course it's coming on the heels of sales that we have never seen before, just too many houses on the market and he said, yeah, that we are going to be seeing this condition for some time. Now we have Toll Brothers today Tony saying that things aren't getting any better this year. In fact, it's cutting its earnings forecast for the year. The company's CEO also says that a turnaround in the housing market may not be as close as we originally thought. The reason, tighter lending standards and a drop in confidence among potential home buyers. Those factors are hurting sales of the company's lower-priced homes Tony.

HARRIS: Susan, any good news on the housing market at all?

LISOVICZ: Despite what Warren Buffett, the oracle of Omaha says and despite what Toll Brothers says, there are some cities where home prices are hot right now. That is, they are exceeding the national increase in home prices. The "Wall Street Journal" points out several where prices are climbing even in the double-digits. Home values rose much greater than the national average in Portland, Boise, Seattle and Salt Lake City, as well as Houston, and Austin, Texas and Charlotte and Raleigh, North Carolina. Why are these markets bucking the national down trends? There is no single explanation, but many of them missed the housing boom of the past five years. Most of them also have some strong industries that drive their economies. For example, colleges and tech in Raleigh and energy, think oil. In Houston, Toll Brothers, Pulte Homes, KB Homes, other home builders are under pressure here on Wall Street today and stocks mostly are treading water ahead of the Federal Reserve's decision on interest rates. No change is expected, but the Fed's language and the accompanying statement can cause some big swings. No big swings on the market right now. In fact, there is no pulse, it seems. The Dow industrials practically flat at 13,309, 13,309 that is. The Nasdaq Composite down about 9 points or 1/3 of 1 percent. Of course, we are going to be monitoring it throughout the day. In the meantime, Tony and Heidi, I'll throw it back to you.


COLLINS: Coming up in just about 10 minutes, "Your World Today" right here on CNN. Rosemary Church will be at the anchor desk today. Hi there, Rosemary.

ROSEMARY CHURCH, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hello to you both. A short time ago before your break you ran that story on the very familiar cartoon character in the Middle East spreading that message of hate. We heard what he had to say. We want to hear what you have to say. So send us your e-mails of your views at We'll be reading some of your reports out on air. All right, another story we are following, we want to bring out this picture. This is the island of Kish. The reason we're saying that is we'll have an exclusive interview with the wife of former FBI agent Rob Levinson who was last seen on that island. And we want to find out why he was there and we'll find out that and more in that exclusive interview. And Chinese authorities are holding a man they say is responsible for the contaminated food scandal associated with the deaths of dogs and cats here in the United States. Our (INAUDIBLE) goes into the prison to find out what that man you see there being held has to say. Those stories and a lot, lot more coming up in "Your World Today" at the top of the hour. Back to you both.

HARRIS: Thank you, Rosemary.

COLLINS: Well, it's not a question of space. The Reverend Al Sharpton says he wasn't insulting Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney or other Mormons. Sharpton had made the following comment in a debate with atheist author Christopher Hitchins (ph). (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REV. AL SHARPTON: As for the one Mormon running for office, those that really believe in God will defeat him anyways, so don't worry about that. That's a temporary situation.


COLLINS: Sharpton later said his comment about those who don't believe in God was directed as Hitchins, not Romney. This morning Romney responded to Sharpton's comment saying, quote, I can only wonder whether there is not bigotry that still remains in America. That's an extraordinary thing for someone to say. I cannot imagine what prompted him to say something of that nature, end quote. Catch CNN's Paula Zahn tonight at 8:00 p.m. Eastern. The Reverend Al Sharpton will be a guest.

HARRIS: Just last month we asked voters in New Hampshire if Mitt Romney's religion would affect their vote. Here's how they answered in the first primary state. Four percent said they would be more likely to vote for him, 10 percent, more likely to vote against him and 86 percent said it would have no effect on their vote. Last year we asked Americans if they thought Mormons were Christians. Their responses were equally divided, 34 percent said yes, 35 percent, no. The rest weren't sure.

COLLINS: Backyard bears just hanging around, no unbearable joke here, just the real story coming up in the NEWSROOM.


HARRIS: 93-year-old James Hammond didn't start to sprint competitively until he was in his early 80s. He is now a record- holding sprinter in the senior Olympics and he is setting his sights on a world record. We spent some time with him to get the secrets to a long and happy life.


JAMES HAMMOND, 93 YEARS OLD: This is from the 100 meter, this is the 400 meter. I won gold medals in both. Next time I'll win the world record. The number one thing is staying healthy because it's hard to be happy if you are not healthy, particularly so when you are older. If you are going to (INAUDIBLE) you look for things to complain about, you will not be a happy person. I'm not happy unless I'm reading something, doing something, writing something and I know if there is anything that's not used, it suffers. You have to exercise to keep your joints in good shape. By the same token, you have to use your mind. (INAUDIBLE) I think in terms of 10 to 15 years, I'll be over 100 (ph). I think you have to think healthy to be healthy. And think happy thoughts. My goal is to stay well and happy (INAUDIBLE)


(COMMERCIAL BREAK) COLLINS: He was looking for love in all the wrong places. A bear finds startled humans instead of honey. Erin Cox (ph) of affiliate WTNH has the story from Hamden, Connecticut.


MURIEL McKENZIE, HAMDEN RESIDENT: Here in my backyard and the police officers were telling me, stay in the house, ma'am.

ERIN COX, WTNH CORRESPONDENT: A black bear spent the morning wandering this Hamden neighborhood, going house to house, seeming to have no worries. But police were trying to contain the nearly 300- pound visitor.

McKENZIE: I was on the phone with my daughter screaming at the top of my lungs. The cops were saying, stop screaming, you are going to scare him. There's a bear in my yard. There's a bear in my yard. I said my girlfriend was saying, get a picture. I don't have batteries.

COX: News channel 8 photographers were roaming as environmental officers kept pace, steering the bear away from busy streets, using rubber bullets to encourage him to climb a tree.

KATIE WAGONER, HAMDEN RESIDENT: I didn't want to look. I was scared. I didn't want them to hurt the animal.

COX: Quite a crowd was watching, holding their breath as crews first tranquilized the bear. Once he's knocked out, a rope was tied around the bear's paw. With a gentle push, he is slowly lowered to the ground.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You heard them gasping when the bear started falling. And then everybody applauded they knew it was OK and safe.

COX: After sleeping it off, he's be returned to the woods leaving folks with a bear tale to tell.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: That's not something you're going to see every day. It's a very residential area.


COLLINS: You got to be careful, because bears are coming out of their dens. It's the time of year you don't want to see them. It's not a good idea.

Also I want to say happy birthday to my dad, happy birthday dad.

HARRIS: Tom, happy birthday.

COLLINS: (INAUDIBLE) The whole country wants to know I'm sure. CNN NEWSROOM continues just one hour from now.

HARRIS: "Your World Today" is next with news happening across the globe and here at home. I'm Tony Harris.


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