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"Hidden Girl" Hearing in Hartford; Immigration Reform; Bush- Putin Meeting

Aired June 7, 2007 - 13:59   ET


ROB MARCIANO, CNN ANCHOR: Hello, everybody. I'm Rob Marciano, at the CNN world headquarters in Atlanta.
Don Lemon is on assignment in India.


This allegedly is Edwin Roy Hall last Saturday, minutes before he allegedly kidnapped and killed a young Kansas woman named Kelsey Smith.

MARCIANO: This is Hall now, in jail. And soon to face a judge with charges of aggravated kidnapping and first-degree murder.

We're on the case, and you're in the NEWSROOM.

PHILLIPS: First this hour, keeping an eye on the sky for dangerous storms.


MARCIANO: Kelsey Smith, "She lived more in 18 years than many people do for a great deal more time." Those are the cheerful words of a father who just learned his daughter had been murdered.

Twenty-six-year-old Edwin Roy Hall has been arrested, accused of killing the Kansas teenager. The married father of one is expected to go before a judge later this hour on charges of aggravated kidnapping and premeditated murder.

Police believe Hall is the man caught on Target surveillance tape right before Kelsey Smith was attacked in the store's parking lot. They don't believe Hall knew the girl before that, and the motive is still a mystery.

Well, bond was set today for a 41-year-old man and two women accused of holding a missing teenage girl in their Connecticut house. Fifteen-year-old Danielle Erica Cramer disappeared almost a year ago and was found yesterday in a small hidden room in a house in West Hartford, Connecticut.

CNN's Jim Acosta is in Hartford right now -- Jim.


Yes, as you mentioned, this is not your classic case of abduction or kidnapping, as it's being alleged by the authorities. These three individuals who we are now talking about are actually being charged with essentially hiding this young girl in their house. And the official charge is unlawful restraint.

But earlier today, yes, 41-year-old Adam Gault, 40-year-old Ann Murphy and 26-year-old Kimberly Cray -- those are the three suspects -- they had their charges read formally in court earlier today. And bail was set between anywhere between $750,000 and $1 million.

Essentially, what is happening now is that these individuals are going to be held unless they can post that bail until later on this month, where they have their next court appearance. But so far, they've had a chance to talk to their attorneys, and one attorney for one of these defendants, Kimberly Cray, attorney Mike Georgetti addressed reporters gathered outside this courthouse after this court appearance this morning and basically said that what these individuals were doing was actually protecting this young girl, 15-year-old Danielle Cramer, from what was happening at her home.


MICHAEL GEORGETTI, DEFENSE ATTORNEY: This is not a case of kidnapping. What you're going to find is this is a case of individuals try to protect a young girl from being sexually assaulted and physically assaulted.

QUESTION: By whom?

QUESTION: By whom?

GEORGETTI: By individuals that I'd rather not discuss at this point.

QUESTION: By her family?

GEORGETTI: I'd rather not discuss that at this point.

QUESTION: Someone in the house?

GEORGETTI: No. By individuals in the home where she originally resided.

QUESTION: Is it true that she was living under an assumed name?

GEORGETTI: She was free to come and go at all times. She had a cell phone. She was given a cell phone, and she had complete use of the cell phone, and she went to school.


ACOSTA: Now you heard right there that this young girl, Danielle Cramer, had a cell phone. She was going to school, according to this attorney, Mike Georgetti.

None of this has been substantiated. And the press conference that's being held this afternoon by the local police department here in West Hartford, they are expected to be asked a lot of these questions, because it raises sort of these issues as to, well, if she was going to school, was she actually missing? And if she was going to school, why didn't anybody tell her parents?

And so as we're hearing more about this case, we're hearing -- we're coming up with more questions as to what was going on with this young girl over the last year -- Rob.

MARCIANO: And you'll be there to answer our questions. Thanks.

Jim Acosta, live for us in Hartford, Connecticut.

ACOSTA: I hope so.

PHILLIPS: Immigration reform hits another roadblock on Capitol Hill.

Standing by live with the latest, CNN Congressional Correspondent Dana Bash.

Dana, we're actually following the live debate going on right now. The first vote, I'm told, not so good. Second one hasn't happened yet, right?

At what point is this completely dead?

DANA BASH, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, that is a big open question, but we will likely know by the end of the day, probably by early evening, whether or not this much-publicized, highly- controversial immigration bill will live or die.

I'll tell you that in terms of that vote they're aiming towards early this evening, a procedural vote, what the Senate majority leader just told reporters is, if that does not pass, he said, "The bill's over with. The bill's gone."

Now, that is from the Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, of course making it clear that that's what he believes. But that's also a tactic, Kyra.

What he's trying to do is convince Republicans who voted against an earlier procedural message -- amendment, I should say, to support one this evening.

Here's what's going on. Here's what is behind all of this procedural maneuvering.

The Senate majority leader wants to have a final vote on immigration by the end of the week. In order to do that, he has to limit the number of amendments that will come between now and then.

Republicans, with their vote this morning, said, we don't support that. We want to be able to offer more and more amendments. So, that's why they voted against it. What you're seeing now on the Senate floor, what you'll see between now and this evening, is more opportunity for Democrats and Republicans who oppose the underlying controversial immigration bill to try to change it.

Now, so far, though, we've already seen positioning in terms of what happen if this, in fact, does die. And what Democrats have said all day today is they've tried to remind voters and viewers and everybody out there, that this is the president's top domestic priority.

Take a listen.


SEN. HARRY REID (D-NV), MAJORITY LEADER: I think someone should get word to the president that if this bill goes down with the vast majority of the Democrats voting for this, action to move forward on this, and the Republicans vote against it, he and I discuss what the headline is going to be. The headline is going to be: "Democrats Vote to Continue the Bill, Republicans Vote Against It. The President Fails Again".


BASH: There you heard the Senate majority leader talking about a conversation he had with the Homeland Security secretary what happens if it fails. And there has been passionate debate on the floor this morning, especially from the number two Republican in the Senate, who basically said that this is really a do or die moment, not just for this piece of legislation, but also the Senate body, because this is such an important piece of legislation.

Let's listen.


SEN. TRENT LOTT (R), MINORITY WHIP: If we can't do this, we ought to vote to dissolve the Congress and go home and wait for the next election. Can we do anything any more?

I don't like a lot of these amendments, I don't like a lot in the bill. I was in and out of the meetings, but I was not one of the people that worked on the so-called grand bargain. Some people are acting now like it was a sinister operation. I don't believe so.


BASH: So now we're going to continue to see debate. There you see Senator Claire McCaskill on the floor right now. And we are going to wait to see what happens with that vote.

Unclear what time it's going to be. Probably early this evening -- Kyra.

PHILLIPS: We'll follow it.

Dana Bash on the Hill.

Thanks. BASH: Thank you.

MARCIANO: President Bush, Russian President Putin face to face today for the first time in six months. The place, Germany. The subject, missile defense and a chill reminiscence of the battle days.

Let's go there right now, to the G8 summit. Ed Henry is live for us.

Ed, what did you see today?

ED HENRY, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, Rob, we saw a rather dramatic development, really. President Bush appearing to get the upper hand in this war of words.

You know Mr. Bush for the last couple of days had really been urging both sides to calm down in these U.S.-Russian tensions. On the other side, we saw Mr. Putin really ratcheting up the rhetoric, going so far as to basically threaten to point nuclear weapons at Europe if the U.S. did not back down from putting together this missile defense program in Eastern Europe.

Today, we saw Mr. Putin, a dramatic reversal. He came to the negotiating table in a meeting more than an hour with Mr. Bush here at the summit and basically said, rather than demanding to end it, he just wanted to amend it. He is saying he wants this missile defense program, the radar for it, to be based in Azerbaijan instead of the Czech Republic, which is what Mr. Bush wants. And Mr. Bush seemed to receive this news pretty warmly.


GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: He expressed his concerns to me. He is concerned that the missile defense system is not an act that a friend would do. He made some interesting suggestions. As a result of our discussions, we both agreed to have a strategic dialogue, an opportunity to share ideas and concerns between our State Department, Defense Department, and military people.


HENRY: Now, not a bad day for Mr. Bush, because he also seems to have gotten his way a bit on climate change. The host of this summit, Angela Merkel, the German chancellor, announcing that there is a deal among the G8 nations to basically deal with climate change in the long term, but the language says that the eight nations "will consider seriously" Merkel's push to have global emissions by 2050.

The key is, they are going to look at it seriously, but they're not agreeing to hard targets, as Merkel wanted, instead taking a bit more of the approach that Mr. Bush wanted. That's why you can see now he's -- in the last few minutes has been casually socializing with the other G8 leaders, who are going to have a dinner, as well, as this summit wraps up tomorrow -- Rob.

MARCIANO: Well, Ed, it's good to hear that they're getting some other things done other than talking about Russian -- Russia and the missile defense plan.

I see Mr. Bush there with Angela Merkel, Tony Blair, hanging out, socializing. Did you see or notice any sort of you know, good things happening between the president and President Putin? Anything off camera, away from the cameras, where they had some nice gestures for one another?

HENRY: You did see -- I mean, the president always likes to joke about how he calls him "Vladamir," he doesn't call him "President Putin". And you know that's sort of the informal way about Mr. Bush.

And they were -- as they walked up to the television cameras, what you may not have seen is that they were talking and gesturing with one another. But I think I read in the body language a much happier U.S. president.

Mr. Bush was smiling and gesturing a bit more. Mr. Putin -- as he normally does, it's not out of the ordinary -- but he was very stiff, not quite smiling the way Mr. Bush was. I think it's a clear sign that in this fight, Putin blinked a bit. He had really been talking tough, ratcheting up the rhetoric. He took a big step back today in terms of all of these tensions that have been building and building -- Rob.

MARCIANO: Of course, they'll have plenty more time to chat and socialize when President Putin visits the U.S. in just a few weeks.

All right. Thanks.

Ed Henry, live for us at the G8 in Germany.

PHILLIPS: The general tapped by President Bush to advise him on Iraq and Afghanistan got some praise today, but zero envy from the senators who have to confirm him. At his hearing on Capitol Hill, Lieutenant General Douglas Lute heard senators criticize White House policies.


SEN. CARL LEVIN (D), ARMED SERVICES CHAIRMAN: He's been nominated for an unenviable position. He will be responsible for bringing coherence to an incoherent policy, a policy that is still floundering after more than four years of war in Iraq.


PHILLIPS: Well, in the past, Lute has questioned the U.S. troop buildup, and today he offered a sober assessment of where things stand.


LT. GEN. DOUGLAS LUTE, JOINT STAFF DIRECTOR OF OPERATIONS: Where are we today? Not where any of us would like, especially in Iraq. Progress has been too little and too slow.


PHILLIPS: Later, Lute said that it's still too early to evaluate the success of the buildup in and around Baghdad.

Well, here is a little bit more about Douglas Lute.

He's a 1975 graduate of West Point. He also has a Masters Degree from Harvard. In 1991, Lute served in Operation Desert Storm.

MARCIANO: The enemy of my enemy is my friend. Iraqi insurgents who are fiercely anti-American become even more fiercely anti-al Qaeda.

PHILLIPS: And Ohio surgeons but the breaks on risky separation surgery for conjoined twins. Why? We'll tell you.

You're watching CNN, the most trusted name in news.


PHILLIPS: 2:17 Eastern Time right now. Here are three stories that we're working on from the CNN NEWSROOM.

A Kansas murder suspect is expected in court shortly. Edwin Roy Hall is accused of kidnapping and killing 18-year-old Kelsey Smith last Saturday.

Cooling tensions at the G8 summit. After meeting one on one, President Bush and Russia's President Putin say they will work toward a compromise on missile defense.

And the House has just passed a bill to ease restrictions on stem-cell research that could set up a veto battle with President Bush.

MARCIANO: Sisters, joined at the head. And a team of surgeons in Ohio was ready to begin a series of high-risk operations to separate the girls. But it was called off soon after the first procedure was started.

CNN Medical Correspondent Elizabeth Cohen joins us now to talk about what happened.

I mean, you look at that picture, and you can just imagine how complicated these procedures are.

What's going on?

ELIZABETH COHEN, CNN MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: Oh my goodness. Well, they started to do this procedure yesterday, and they were not able to complete it in the way that they hoped they would because two problems arose with these little girls you see right here.

First of all, Anastasia -- and she's sort of the more dominant, kind of the taller girl who you see in there -- her blood pressure dipped a little bit low, and they didn't know why, and it made them really kind of cautious about wanting to continue. And then also, when they removed the skull bone, they saw that there was some swelling in the brain tissue, so those two things made them just sew the girls right back up, put them in recovery. So they did not get to start the procedure.

Now, this was not going to be the surgery that actually separated them. This was the first in a series of surgeries. As the doctor who spoke at a press conference today said, it's a long and winding road. And he meant it.

MARCIANO: So, are they committed now to move forward? Can they have the surgery in a couple of weeks, a couple of months down the road?

COHEN: Right. The doctor at the press conference said that he thinks that what's going to happen is that these girls can rest up for two weeks, and then they will check and they'll see. They have lots of tests then can do, MRIs, other kind of imaging, to see if these girls in about two weeks will be ready to try to do the surgery that they tried to do yesterday but weren't able to do.

But they said all the way through, this was an extremely risky surgery. And so, you don't know. It's not like they are going in to get their tonsils out. They really don't know what the outcome is going to be.

MARCIANO: And what are the doctors up against? I can imagine how difficult it is just to take some tonsils out, let alone separate two young girls like that.

COHEN: Right. This isn't done very often. And these two girls, they share brain tissue.

So you have to be very careful. You want to leave each girl with as much tissue as they need.

They also share a circulatory system. Here you can see -- these are images where you can see that they share brain tissue. It's almost like two brains kind of put together.

And also, one of the girls has two kidneys and the other girl doesn't have any kidneys. So, they have to take one kidney from one girl and eventually they'll transplant it into her sister. So there's so many things that they share, that this is going to be a long and difficult road.

MARCIANO: You may have already mentioned this. Is there a mortality rate with this, or is it a case-by-case basis?

COHEN: It's really a case-by-case basis. Because there are so few, it's hard to come up with good data. But they've been very clear that there is a serious and real risk that one or both of these girls could die, or that they could survive these surgeries, only to have brain damage.

MARCIANO: It's a tough thing, that's for sure. COHEN: It is tough.

MARCIANO: Elizabeth Cohen, thanks very much.

COHEN: Thanks.

PHILLIPS: Well, straight ahead, the TB traveler and the tale of the tape. Hear for yourself the patient's own recording of what health officials told him before he left for Greece.

We'll have that straight ahead from the CNN NEWSROOM.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Look at the tail coming down. Look at it. It's coming down.


MARCIANO: A South Dakota twister on tape. The aftermath ahead in the NEWSROOM.


PHILLIPS: Nothing like talking a little missile defense and taking a little walk down the boardwalk. Just prior to that, having a cocktail in a really nice cafe.

World leaders obviously meeting for the G8 summit. The biggest development out of there, President Bush and Vladamir Putin from Russia privately agreeing to work together somehow on a missile defense system.

Now they are just coming before all of the cameras for a little photo-op there, but we'll continue to following -- continue to follow all of the issues at hand.

Protesters of course there, protesting against the Iraq war, globalization, as the leaders meet and try to hammer out all of the big issues there in Germany. Specifically missile defense today.

MARCIANO: A nice place to do it, that's for sure.

All right. What goes up eventually comes down. At least that seems to be the way it goes on Wall Street.


PHILLIPS: The enemy of my enemy is my friend. Maybe not when it comes to U.S. forces and Iraqi insurgents.

We'll explain straight ahead in the CNN NEWSROOM.


PHILLIPS: Hello. I'm Kyra Phillips, live at the CNN headquarters in Atlanta.

MARCIANO: And I'm Rob Marciano. A first court appearance is moments away for Edwin Roy Hall, accused in the kidnapping and murder of 18-year-old Kelsey Smith.

PHILLIPS: We'll bring it to you as soon as we get it. You're live in the CNN NEWSROOM.

If the enemy of your enemy is your friend, as the saying goes, then U.S. forces in Iraq should benefit from the recent split between Sunni nationalists and al Qaeda fighters. CNN's Karl Penhaul is standing by for us in Diyala province with more. Karl?

KARL PENHAUL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: The divisions in these insurgent factions seem to have come around after disputes over the religious and ideological lines being carried out in some of these towns. And what it seems is, that a lot of the nationalist factions are revolting against al Qaeda's brutal treatment of some of the civilians in their areas.


(voice over): This is the masked face of an insurgent backlash. Nationalist anti-American guerrillas and former Saddam Hussein loyalists are turning sights on al Qaeda radicals.

God is great, God damn the al Qaeda criminals, they chant. The al Qaeda organization has dominated and humiliated Sunnis, Shiites and Jihadis it has forced people from homes. They can't get enough blood. They killed many honest scholars, preachers and loyal Mujahideen.

Based in Tahred (ph), a small district 40 miles north of Baghdad, they call themselves the United Jihad Counsel. An alliance of battle hardened insurgent factions including the 1920s brigade and the Mujahideen army.

They say two months of fierce fighting forced even mosques to close. Last Friday marked the first public prayers since the Jihad Council drove out al Qaeda. This worshiper thanks the masked gunmen for taking control of his town. The insurgent greets him with a kiss and pats him down for hidden weapons.

Inside, the faithful listen to the Imams, by now customary, rant against U.S. occupation. The message is now mixed with condemnation of al Qaeda and its brutal tactics.

(through translator): We will fight oppressors and with God's support we will defeat al Qaeda. Al Qaeda made us suffer, they killed our clerics, our children and our women. They left their bodies dumped on the ground.

PENHAUL: Underscoring those words, a shallow grave near the mosque gives up its secrets. These Jihad Council gunmen express surprise this victim was not beheaded but he was handcuffed. Evidence, they say, it was al Qaeda execution. Until the split two months ago, nationalist insurgents and al Qaeda militants united in their war against the Americans. As in this fire fight in the nearby town of Boroughtz (ph) in 2004.

(on camera): Civilian sources living in the area say the rift came after nationalist insurgents rejected al Qaeda's calls to enforce extremist Islamic rule. They also oppose the influx of al Qaeda's foreign fighters and the murder and torture of civilians for even the mildest dissent.

(voice over): It's a rift U.S. military commanders in this region are keen to exploit. Similar insurgent in-fighting was documented in western Iraq earlier this year.

CAPT. BEN RICHARDS, U.S. ARMY: People have pretty much decided -- that if they discovered that if they want to have a future, if their children want to have a future, if Iraq is going to have a future, that that future is not with al Qaeda.

PENHAUL: Once divided by common hatred of each other, the U.S. army and these insurgents have for now, found a common foe in al Qaeda.


PENHAUL (on camera): Now U.S. military commanders in this region are still putting together their plans on exactly how best to exploit this rift in insurgent ranks. But among the plans, including coordinating U.S. forces much more closely with those renegade factions and also arming some of those factions to send them on scouting missions to hunt down al Qaeda radicals, Kyra.

PHILLIPS: Karl Penhaul, in Diyala province. Karl, thanks. In the top forces in Iraq is just supporting what you just heard from Karl. In an exclusive interview with Tony Harris in the CNN NEWSROOM, this morning, General David Petraeus says that recent successes in battling al Qaeda can be attributed to the Sunni fighters.


LT. GEN. DAVID PETRAEUS, CMDR., MULTINATIONAL FORCE-IRAQ: What has taken place in Anbar is almost breathtaking. In the last several months, tribes that previously at the very least, turned a blind eye to what al Qaeda was doing in that province, are now opposing al Qaeda very vigorously, and the level of violence in Anbar has plummeted. Although there clearly is still work to be done, particularly in eastern Anbar province and in some areas inside the city of Fallujah. We'll do that work as we get all of the forces on the ground here in the weeks and months ahead.

TONY HARRIS, CNN HOST: And general, finally, do you have, perhaps irreconcilables within the Iraq security forces? Here's the question, do you have a problem with Iraqi police being a part of these teams working with insurgents? Iraqi police, working with insurgents, in planting some of these horrific, deadly IEDs? PETRAEUS: Tony, there is no question but that some elements, particularly of the Ministry of Interior Forces, during the height of the sectarian violence during 2006 were, what we call hijacked by certain militia interests in particular. Some of those undoubtedly remain within the force, and as we identify those individuals and we have, and we then take action with the Ministry of Interior against them. This minister has fired well over 1,500, I believe it is, members of Ministry of Interior forces, there are some more that need to go, and our partnership with him indicates that he is willing to make those kinds of tough decisions and to discipline his force.


PHILLIPS: Petraeus says that all elements connected to the U.S. troop increase will be on the ground in Iraq within two weeks.

MARCIANO: A first look now at a rare Middle East cyclone. At least the devastation, at least. At least 20 people were killed and miles of highway flooded after cyclone Gonu battered Oman's coast. The storm is making a beeline, now, for southeast Iran, but it has weakened so much it may very well dissipate before it gets there.

Well, our I-Reporters are giving us a look now at the devastation there. Jacqui Jeras in the severe weather center to share those photos with us.

JACQUI JERAS, CNN METEOROLOGIST: Yes. We've gotten some incredible pictures in, Rob. All from Oman. And the good news is, at least that the threat is over with for now. Gonu is no longer even a tropical cyclone and it is slowly moving on up to the north. You mentioned it was going towards Iran. It is expected to continue to dissipate. The winds right now about 40 miles per hour. But boy, it caused a lot of damage. At least 28 people have died.

We have an I-Reporter Visitid (ph) Chelladurai, he's from New York City. Well, his brother, Zavier, took these photos and sent them in this morning. Zavier is a professor in Muscat, Oman and says the damage is terrible. There you can see a car covered up with asphalt. What probably happened here was a big flooding event and the flood water so high to float car and move it on over.

Look at these three cars just stacked up there. Just tremendous damage. This is a very arid area, so the rain that came down caused tremendous flooding. That was the biggest problem, not to mention some of the wind damages. We were trying to get a hold of, Zavier by the way, and had some problems with cell phone coverage, so they may have a little bit of trouble with that.

But the good news is the worst is over and done with. Of course, we're under hurricane season now here, too guys. As of June 1, nothing brewing in the tropical Atlantic or the Pacific right now but we've got a lot of severe weather to talk about this afternoon. And coming up in a little bit, I'll update you on the threat of tornadoes and damaging winds in the upper midwest.

MARCIANO: Jacqui, we had a few yesterday. I want to show the folks some pictures of ominous this sight. A funnel cloud spotted yesterday in Kyle, South Dakota, late in the day. Several people report seeing it touch down on the Pineridge Indian Reservation and taking out a house and a trailer. No one was home and no one was hurt.

PHILLIPS: A warning from a presidential hopeful.


BARACK OBAMA, (D) U.S. PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: These quiet riots that take place every day, are born from the same place as the fires of destruction and the police decked out in riot gear and death.


PHILLIPS: Barack Obama's blunt message and the fight for the black vote, straight ahead in the CNN NEWSROOM.


PHILLIPS: The father of TB patient Andrew Speaker says he's got it on tape: a local health official saying his son wasn't contagious before he flew to Europe. Apparently, that's what it says. The comings and goings of Andrew Speaker have prompted fears and accusations that he put fellow travelers at risk. Speaker appeared on "LARRY KING LIVE."


LARRY KING, CNN ANCHOR: Just to be safe, Andrew, why didn't you say to your bride, let's get married in the United States, let's keep me close to hospitals here, doctors here that I'm aware of, and not risk the idea of travel?

ANDREW SPEAKER, TB PATIENT: I -- I think that something that hasn't come across, you know, like anyone who gets a diagnosis that they're sick, you go to your doctors and you ask them about your condition. There was never a sense conveyed about, you know, doom of my condition, that it was -- it was just something you had to take care of. You got on the treatment and you took care of it.

KING: In that meeting, you insist you were told you were not contagious. Now, let's hear part of a tape that starts with your father asking about a stay at that Denver Hospital. Listen.


TED SPEAKER, FATHER OF TB PATIENT: And where does he stay? Physically at the hospital?

A. SPEAKER: Like, for three weeks am I just sitting in a hospital bed?

DR. ERIC BENNING: Now that I don't know. But because of the fact that you actually are not contagious, I mean, there's no reason for you to be sequestered. (END AUDIO CLIP)


PHILLIPS: The health officials say that they warned Andrew Speaker not to travel. Speaker says they advised him against traveling but didn't stop him.

MARCIANO: Disconnect and discontent. Barack Obama reaches out to the African communities alienated by poverty and politics. And he gives their angst a name.

CNN's Mary Snow reports.


MARY SNOW, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): He calls them quiet riots in poor black communities. Democratic presidential hopeful Senator Barack Obama says, unlike the L.A. riots 15 years ago that gained so much attention, these go unnoticed.

SEN. BARACK OBAMA (D-IL) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: These quiet riots that take place every day are born from the same place as the fires and destruction and the police decked out in riot gear and death. They happen when a sense of disconnect settles in and hope dissipates.

SNOW: Obama told a conference of black ministers that Hurricane Katrina exposed some of those quiet riots.

OBAMA: This administration was color blind in its incompetence. But, but, everyone here knows that the disaster and the poverty happened long before the hurricane hit.

RONALD WALTERS, UNIVERSITY OF MARYLAND: Barack is digging down a little deeper into some of the issues that affect the black community, really responding to some of the criticism that has been lodged, not just against him but the whole set of presidential field of Democratic candidates.

SNOW: Criticism that issues affecting the black community are absent from the political debate. Racial issues have been a theme for Obama on some occasions, including a speech in Selma, Alabama, to mark the civil rights movement.

OBAMA: Don't tell me I'm not coming home when I come to Selma, Alabama. I'm here because somebody marched, for free.

SNOW: Now Obama's bringing attention to quiet riots in his efforts say political observers, to deal with social conditions in the ghetto, and it comes amid fierce competition for black voters.

JAMAL SIMMONS, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: You've got Hillary Clinton because of her long time association with Bill Clinton and you've got Barack Obama, who are both pulling on the heart strings of African- American voters. SNOW: And John Edwards' focus on poverty is also adding to that competition.

Mary Snow, CNN, New York.


MARCIANO: Tomorrow night, a special presentation of "Faith and Politics." Democratic presidential candidates Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama, John Edwards, give their views on whether faith, values and politics can co-exist. That's tomorrow night at 8:00 p.m. Eastern time, only right here on CNN.

PHILLIPS: The paint on the "Free Paris" posters didn't even have time to dry. Ahead in the NEWSROOM, TMZ's Harvey Levin weighs in on the early release of L.A.'s most famous former jailbird.


PHILLIPS: Entertainment news, in just a second, but first Jacqui Jeras working some severe weather for us. Jacqui?


MARCIANO: Well, three days proved all she could take. Paris Hilton released from L.A. county jail just hours ago. Instead of doing her three-week sentence we're told because of medical considerations, is the reason she was released early from that jail. was first to break the story. And we have with us the editor of that Web site, Harvey Levin joins us from Glenddale (ph), California.

Harvey, three days, three weeks, medical considerations? Do you know any more than that?


We have confirmed with law enforcement sources that what happened here was not physical. Her shrink, Dr. Charles Sophie (ph), visited her yesterday and the day before that and he felt she was on the verge of having a nervous breakdown. So what I'm told, is that they actually consulted, the sheriffs officials consulted the medical team at county jail and everybody agreed she should get out of there, and this was signed off on by the sheriff himself, Lee Backa (ph). And it is creating a firestorm of controversy.

MARCIANO: We're getting all sorts of things into the CNN NEWSROOM. Al Sharpton, the black community leaders are getting into the act, here. They are pulling out the race and the privilege card, saying it's not a fair show of justice. You're an attorney. Is she getting off easy?

LEVIN: Well, look. I think she got hammered going in, Rob. I mean, nobody gets 45 days for what she did. I mean, you're usually in and out of jail within two and a half days, and that's the norm. The problem here for the sheriff's department is that they're not releasing her based on overcrowding.

They're releasing her because she's a head case and is she really a head case? Could she have been treated by the psych ward at county jail rather than letting her go home to her plush house? I think that's what has ticked off a lot of people in town. And, I'm telling you, it's reaching a fever pitch right now.

MARCIANO: Harvey, another question is, was he is a head case before she even went into the slammer? This is what she said over the weekend. I want you to listen to what she said over the weekend with a lot of bravada.


PARIS HILTON, SOCIALITE: Well, I did have a choice to go to a paid jail but I declined because I feel like the media portrays me in a way that I'm not. And that's why I wanted to go to county to show I can do it and I want to be treated like everyone else and I'm going to do the time, I'm going to do it the right way.

MARCIANO: There she is talking tough. Now she's having a breakdown and the African-American community leaders are having a field day with this. Is she going to have to make the circuit -- start making apologies once she serves her sentence?

LEVIN: Well, she's issued a statement, basically thanking the sheriff's department. And you know, Rob, I think it's a mistake to view this as an African-American versus a white issue.

That ain't what it is. I mean, what the issue is did she get celebrity justice? It's about John Doe versus Paris Hilton. That's what this is all about. But it's not black-white. That's ridiculous. The celebrity justice issue is a valid issue to raise, and it's going to be a difficult one for the sheriff's department to defend. I mean, there are a lot of people who felt you know, how do you let somebody out? She seemed fine at the MTV Music Awards. She didn't look like she was falling apart then. Jail is tough. It's why they call it jail. So, a lot of people think, come on.

MARCIANO: You know, you speak about celebrity justice. We think of a football star, 10 or so years ago that may or may not have gotten off easy. Forty day sentence, house arrest, ankle bracelet, does that mean she -- regular house for a normal person, 3,000 square feet. For her, it might not get her out of her kitchen or bathroom.

LEVIN: It's her closet!

MARCIANO: What can she do?

LEVIN: You know, basically she can't stray from home. And if she does, I'm telling you, this judge is out for blood. He wanted to nail her in the first place. And the judge issued a statement to us a while ago, basically saying hey, I didn't have anything to do with this. This was basically the sheriff's department's deal. But, if she violates probation here, or the terms, she will be hauled back into court with a very ticked off judge. MARCIANO: She just couldn't go quietly, could she, Harvey?

LEVIN: Doesn't seem.

MARCIANO: editor, thank you very much. We appreciate the update. You'll see much more of this tonight on "Showbiz Tonight," Paris out of jail, late-breaking news, all of the developments, the reaction from coast to coast, on CNN headline news, 11:00 p.m. eastern time.

MARCIANO: Well, is your state in the crosshairs for severe weather? Jacqui Jeras in the weather center, she'll zero in on the problem areas coming up. Also, video just in from Lebanon. Apparently violence and an attack. We've got these pictures just in. Our Brent Sadler working it for us right now. Well, have more, right after the break.


PHILLIPS: Hello, everyone, I'm Kyra Phillips at the CNN center in Atlanta.

MARCIANO: And I'm Rob Marciano in for Don Lemon today.

The storms, well they are popping. The watches and warnings are posted. It's that time of year and that type of weather in the upper Midwest.

PHILLIPS: Our Severe Weather Center is all over the outbreak and you're live in the CNN NEWSROOM.


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