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National Mall Evacuated; Pakistanis Battle Islamists; Al Gore III Arrested for Drug Possession
Aired July 4, 2007 - 19:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
SUZANNE MALVEAUX, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Happening now, the National Mall evacuated, we'll tell you what has been threatening Fourth of July celebrations and thousands gathered here in Washington.
Also this hour, he-said, she-said, first the Los Angeles mayor speaks out about his affair. Now the other woman is talking.
And the stomach-turning truth about food from China -- health standards are low and the risk to U.S. consumers may be high.
Wolf Blitzer is off today.
I'm Suzanne Malveaux and you're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
Right now two cities are holding their breath, both want to host the 2014 Winter Olympic games and we are just moments away from learning if they'll get that chance.
The International Olympic Committee is about to make an announcement in Guatemala. The cities still in contention, a rustic South Korean town and a Russian Black Sea resort. The Olympic Committee just eliminated the historic Austrian city of Salzburg. We'll have the announcement live just in minutes.
But first tonight, severe weather is causing havoc with Fourth of July celebrations on the National Mall here in Washington -- an evacuation order testing emergency procedures in the capital. Our Brian Todd is on the mall and Brian, tell us what has happened now.
BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Right now Suzanne, the National Park Service and other officials are letting people back on the mall to enjoy the Fourth of July celebrations. I'll show you...
TODD: ... begin at about 9:10 p.m. Eastern Time and they say that should go off as scheduled, Suzanne.
MALVEAUX: And Brian, how are things going with the crowd? Are they fairly calm? Was there a sense of confusion or do things seem to be working well?
TODD: Working extremely well. We're told by officials that there was no sign of panic. They got word to people through word of mouth, through loudspeaker systems, bullhorns to just starting -- to start to file out of the mall. They did that. No panic, no injuries that we're told of. And it looks like, again, people are starting to come back on very calmly. And this may come off just as scheduled.
MALVEAUX: OK. Great -- Brian, thanks again. Be safe.
Now let's get an update from our severe weather center. Here is CNN's meteorologist Reynolds Wolf.
REYNOLDS WOLF, CNN METEOROLOGIST: Hi, Suzanne. What we're dealing with is we still have the tornado watch that is in effect for the area, but Brian is right. It seems that the worst has been moving out over near Baltimore at this time, now moving north of the beltway. We have got one system just north of Forestville, and then over near Potomac and Rockville, one cell that should skirt just north of the city.
However, farther back out to the West, we do see a little bit of development. That may bring a few more sprinkles, maybe rumble thunder, but for the most part, it does appear that the worst is over for now. Still that tornado watch will continue until 10:00 Eastern Time, so we'll keep a sharp eye on it for you -- back to you.
MALVEAUX: I'm sure you will. Thank you again, Reynolds Wolf.
Stepped-up security across the country as Americans celebrate the Fourth of July, coming this year just days after those failed terror attacks in Britain. But despite high-profile anti-terror tactics, some serious security gaps remain. Our CNN homeland security correspondent Jeanne Meserve has details.
JEANNE MESERVE, CNN HOMELAND SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: Suzanne, the backdrop for tonight's events not just monuments and skylines but London and Glasgow.
MESERVE (voice-over): A platoon of tow trucks patrols the streets of Washington to hoist and haul any vehicle violating security restrictions.
CHIEF CATHY LANIER, D.C. POLICE: We are going to be very diligent about keeping vehicles moving and keeping parking restricted areas free of vehicle traffic and parked vehicles.
MESERVE: The worry? Car bombs like those in the United Kingdom. In New York City, there were more vehicle searches, and in some communities law enforcement asked business to help.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: If they see individuals buying large amounts of propane or filling up containers of gasoline, again, bring that to our attention.
MESERVE: But there are still vulnerabilities.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And basically, right up to the front door.
MESERVE: Phil Kiver says a misplaced barrier at D.C.'s union station leaves room for a car or truck packed with explosives to pull up right to the front door.
PHIL KIVER, WASHINGTON AREA RESIDENT: I told Amtrak police about the issue. They said, talk to the park service. I told DC Metro. They said talk to Amtrak. I talked to the private security firm here at Union Station; they said speak to the management company. You KNOW I'm getting the basic runaround.
MESERVE: He says he even approached a member of a TSA VIPR team deployed specifically to keep the station safe over the holiday.
KIVER: I spoke to a federal air marshal yesterday in the Metro Station, and he told me to send an e-mail. Didn't say who to send it to, just send an e-mail. Thanks for your concern and he looked entirely too busy talking to a very attractive young lady.
MESERVE: Officials have repeatedly asked the public to report anything suspicious, but after his experience, Kiver asks, will anyone be listening? Suzanne?
MALVEAUX: Thanks, Jeanne.
And in the wake of the U.K. terror plot, the European Union has proposed a new package of anti-terror measures. Europe may now outlaw Web sites that instruct users how to make bombs. Let's bring in Abbi Tatton.
Abbi, how easy is it to find these instructions on the Web?
ABBI TATTON, CNN INTERNET REPORTER: Suzanne, Web searches turn up numerous sites, pages, even videos, how-to videos, how to make a crude bomb from small explosives to larger bombs, the type that have been used by terrorists in Iraq. And the European Union's justice commissioner cited these Web sites yesterday and proposed criminalizing, putting this kind of how-to-make a bomb type information on the Internet.
Saying people should not be free to put this kind of information online. But cracking down on this kind of information is potentially a huge task. The sites are coming from all over the world, inside and outside of the European Union. And that commissioner gave few specifics on how these proposals might work saying only that they would have to work with Internet service providers outside of the European Union, and get their cooperation to close down certain sites -- Suzanne.
MALVEAUX: And what is the law here in the United States? Is it illegal to upload those kind of bomb instructions?
TATTON: Well there's no specific law prohibiting uploading this kind of how-to information onto the Internet. However, there is a federal law that prohibits teaching someone how to make an explosive if the intent is a violent crime. And that law has been used in the past, though sparingly, in cases involving Web sites -- Suzanne.
MALVEAUX: OK. Thank you, Abbi.
And coming up, the mayor of the country's second largest city swept up in a city hall scandal, but will it end his political future?
Also -- Al Gore's son arrested. We'll have details of the charges, some of them involving drugs.
Plus -- what some call appalling food standards -- we'll show you what's behind the growing concern over Chinese products, winding up in American supermarkets.
You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
MALVEAUX: News just in from Pakistan, our own Zain Verjee is here with the story to give us some details on what is developing there -- Zain.
ZAIN VERJEE, CNN STATE DEPARTMENT CORRESPONDENT: Suzanne, CNN is learning that Pakistani forces have launched an attack on the radical (UNINTELLIGIBLE) that translates into Red Mosque (ph). There have been battles at this mosque for about two days between security forces and students based there. There are about 24 people have been killed in fighting.
News agencies are reporting that several explosions have been heard, but we don't know what the cause of those explosions are. There's been a month's-long standoff really between security forces and really a Taliban-style movement at the Red Mosque (ph). Just a little bit about it -- I mean, government security forces really haven't wanted to take any strong action against the clerics and the students at this mosque simply because they don't want to provoke suicide attacks.
But this mosque, the (UNINTELLIGIBLE) or the Red Mosque (ph) is really known symbolically in Pakistan as being a fairly radical mosque, known for criticism of the Pakistani government as well as anti-U.S. sentiment and pro-Taliban sentiment -- Suzanne.
MALVEAUX: Well, Zain, thanks. I know you'll be monitoring those developments and we'll get back to you as the story warrants.
The political future of L.A.'s mayor in doubt after he admitted to an extramarital affair, but some say he may survive this city hall scandal.
CNN's Jason Carroll is following the twists and turns.
JASON CARROLL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well Suzanne, another political scandal in California. This time when a news Telemundo news anchor read a story about Los Angeles' mayor getting a divorce, she wasn't telling the entire story. That's because the reason for the divorce was her.
(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) CARROLL (voice-over): She is Mirthala Salinas, a journalist for a Spanish language TV station who at one point covered politics in Los Angeles. And he is Antonio Villaraigosa, L.A.'s mayor. They're the characters in the story of an affair no longer being kept secret.
MAYOR ANTONIO VILLARAIGOSA (D), LOS ANGELES: It's true. I have a relationship with Ms. Salinas and I take full responsibility for my actions.
CARROLL: The media began raising questions about Villaraigosa's marriage in January when he stopped wearing his wedding ring. Then, last month, he announced he and his wife, Carina (ph), were breaking up. And this week both the mayor and Salinas acknowledged they were having a relationship.
Salinas told The Associated Press, while we are both public figures I hope that everyone can understand and respect my desire to maintain my privacy. Salinas works for Telemundo. A network spokesman says they won't comment on personal matters.
MANUEL ABUD, TELEMUNDO: There's only one thing that matters to us and that's her credibility, her connection with our audience. Her credibility is her most important asset.
CARROLL: Villaraigosa doesn't believe this personal matter will affect his ability to be mayor.
VILLARAIGOSA: I don't believe that the details of my personal life are relevant to my job as mayor.
CARROLL: A number of political figures have had affairs and have gone on to successes. New York's former mayor, Rudolph Giuliani, for example, now presidential candidate.
WILLIAM SCHNEIDER, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Will it be politically wounding? Will there be repercussions? I'm not sure. I doubt it because first of all he's not up for reelection until 2009, which is two years away. Second of all, if he runs for governor, that would be in 2010. There's a lot of time between now and then.
CARROLL: In a city where the private lives of public figures often become tabloid news, Angelinos (ph) have has mixed views.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I don't think it's anybody's business really, you know that's his private life. It should remain private.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He's an image to the public so, I mean, doing -- he shouldn't be doing those things. It doesn't look right.
CARROLL: Telemundo says Salinas stopped covering politics back in August. Telemundo also says that Salinas will continue to work there as a correspondent but will not cover city hall. Suzanne?
MALVEAUX: Thank you, Jason. And the son of former Vice President Al Gore has been released from jail hours after his arrest this morning in southern California. Our CNN's Ted Rowlands is in Los Angeles. Ted?
TED ROWLANDS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Suzanne, Al Gore III had no comment today as he left an Orange County jail facility out on bail. He raised $20,000 bail and was released this afternoon, just south of Los Angeles. He was charged with three felony drug possession charges and one misdemeanor charge.
According to authorities, he was allegedly traveling at more than 100 miles per hour in a Prius on Interstate 5 heading south in Orange County at 2:15 this morning when he was pulled over. According to the deputy, he smelled marijuana after Mr. Gore was pulled over and did a search of the car. At that point, they found a small amount of marijuana in the car, less than an ounce, but deputies said that Mr. Gore admitted to have been smoking marijuana.
Also, they found Xanax, Valium, Adderall (ph), and Vicodin. He did not have a prescription for any of those drugs. And therefore, he is facing four separate charges of drug possession. This is not the first time the former vice president's son has had a brush with the law, very similar charges in 2003 when he was driving without his headlights in Bethesda, Maryland.
He was pulled over there and was charged with possession of marijuana. It's unclear if he'll do any jail time. Typically, in the state of California, with the charges that he is facing, he wouldn't see any jail time. However, because of his prior arrest, he may be facing the possibility of jail time.
He'll have his first court date in the next 30 days. That should be assigned to him today. According to sheriff's deputies, he was very cooperative during the entire process. He did make bail.
He lives in Los Angeles and is a magazine publisher here in Los Angeles. But today he was in jail, spent a number of hours in jail, and released without incident, had no comment as he left the facility. Suzanne?
MALVEAUX: Thanks, Ted.
And we are now watching a live feed from Guatemala where the International Olympic Committee is about to decide who will host the 2014 Olympics. A decision is expected any moment now. We're going to bring it to you live when it does.
Plus, a flag controversy put at rest at last, we'll show you how a new law is being used to honor those killed in the war on terror.
And imagine going a round of golf with the number one ranked golfer in the world. On this Fourth of July, one lucky soldier got to do just that.
You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
MALVEAUX: Right now we want to go live to Guatemala City. That is where the International Olympic Committee is announcing what city will host the 2014 Winter Olympics. We are listening to the president of the International Olympic Committee.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: ... (UNINTELLIGIBLE) in the Republic of Korea, (UNINTELLIGIBLE) in Bulgaria and (UNINTELLIGIBLE) in Georgia.
(SPEAKING FOREIGN LANGUAGE)
MALVEAUX: Let's bring in our own Zain Verjee who's been following this while he makes the introductions. Who's in the running here, Zain?
VERJEE: Well, really it's come down to the wire, Suzanne. The race is between the Russian resort of (UNINTELLIGIBLE) and South Korean resort called Pyeongchang (ph). Now, the bad news for Austria was just a few hours ago when Salzburg, a resort there, was pretty much eliminated and members of that delegation broke down in tears.
So this is really key, Suzanne, a key moment. Even the president, before he opens the envelope, doesn't really know what the IOC decided, whether it's going to be Russia or South Korea, so it's going to be as much as a surprise to him in theory as it is going to be to us.
MALVEAUX: And Zain, looking at some of those pictures, you see people are nervous. They're holding hands. They look very anxious as they wait for this decision. Obviously, it's very important for these countries, certainly a source of great pride if they're selected.
VERJEE: Yes, absolutely. I mean, there's a lot of international prestige and a lot of dollars and revenue and development that are going to come to these places if they win. Just how prestigious it is, let me give you a sense. The leaders of all the countries themselves flew to Guatemala City and made a last-minute strong hard pitch to let it be their city.
President Putin went down. The South Korean president (UNINTELLIGIBLE) went down. And they're really putting their own prestige on the line. Let's listen.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: A young Guatemalan gymnast who presents the envelope to the president.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The International Olympic Committee has the honor of announcing that the 22nd Olympic Winter Games in 2014 are awarded to the city of Sochi.
(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)
MALVEAUX: So it looks like Russia gets it, Sochi, Russia is the winner here. Zain, is that surprising or -- I mean obviously the crowds, they just look elated.
VERJEE: Yes. They really do. I mean you can see the burst of applause, the excitement, hugs all around as Sochi, Russia, gets this. President Vladimir Putin making a hard pitch at the end. He's there in Guatemala City. He is actually a really keen skier and he had said, you know, we're going to spend a lot of money for this. You can get a lot of snow here.
You're not going to have any traffic jams here. It's a beautiful place, and it is. You know President Putin also went on to say that you know the athletes that are going to be at this resort are going to be very close to all the venues. This is a Russian resort city that's situated near the southern Russian border.
It's supposed to be very beautiful amid the snowcap peaks of the (UNINTELLIGIBLE) mountains, overlooking the shores of the Black Sea. And one of the interesting things about it is that it has a unique combination of weather. The weather's actually spring like, but the temperatures in the mountains are very cold. So you can hear them chant Sochi, Sochi...
MALVEAUX: We saw so many of them. They were extremely excited. They were raising their cameras, taking pictures and hugging each other. And it seems as if we're looking at a newscast that is also delivering the news here. Obviously, as you said, President Putin had lobbied very, very hard for this. It's prestigious. It is -- I think we're looking at fireworks.
VERJEE: Yes. Fireworks lighting up the night sky, and you hear the cheers, the excitement there that Sochi has got it. Sochi will host the 2014 Winter Olympic Games. This is a big deal because neither Russia nor the former Soviet Union ever hosted the winter games.
MALVEAUX: And we're seeing...
VERJEE: So these are actually live pictures from there, and plenty of cheers and excitement all around. And it will be a big boost to this resort town.
MALVEAUX: Absolutely. And to Russia as well, I'm sure, as we know, we've seen Russian President Vladimir Putin trying to reach out to many European allies. We know that there has been quite a tug of power, if you will, for Russia to find its place once again in the world. It has become much, much stronger, the economy as well as the oil. And this is just more good news for that nation.
VERJEE: Exactly, more good news at Kennebunkport, Maine Vladimir Putin caught the fish, now he catches this historic event that will be held in Sochi, Russia, as a Black Sea playground, really, that very rich Russians go to. It's a well-developed place and really something that he's been arguing is very adequate to host the 2014 Winter Olympic Games. But you're right, Vladimir Putin really trying to establish his own personal prestige as well as Russia's international prestige on the stage. And this is one thing that adds to it -- Suzanne.
MALVEAUX: Sochi, Russia, the crowds just amazed at that good news, host of the 2014 Winter Olympics.
And just ahead -- a key player in Hillary Clinton's presidential campaign accused of eavesdropping and now slapped with a lawsuit. We'll have details of the very serious allegations.
Plus -- two presidential candidates go head to head right here over the war in Iraq.
Stay with us. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
MALVEAUX: You're in THE SITUATION ROOM. Happening now, President Bush is asking you for something, to be more patient with Iraq. He spoke before members of the West Virginia Air National Guard and their families, saying the nation must win the war and asking Americans to thank the troops and their families.
A study suggests that woozy feeling after a long flight may not be jet lag but altitude sickness. Researchers say flying more than three hours in cabins where pressure equals 8,000 feet above sea level can cause nausea, headaches and other ills.
Wolf Blitzer is off today. I'm Suzanne Malveaux, and you're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
The presidential battleground of Iowa is jam-packed on this Independence Day. Several candidates are there, fighting to gain or hold their ground in the leadoff caucus state. The Hillary and Bill Clinton road show continues to be a top draw. Our senior political correspondent Candy Crowley is on the trail in the Hawkeye State. Candy?
CANDY CROWLEY, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Suzanne, backyard picnics, fireworks, flags. In Iowa, they have all the elements everyone else does for a Fourth of July. And one more.
CROWLEY (voice-over): It's the Fourth of July, and this is Iowa. You know what that means.
MITT ROMNEY, (R) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Hi there. How are you?
CROWLEY: Candidates on parade. Make that candidates and their spouses.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Bill!
CROWLEY: Bill Clinton is an uncomfortable fit in the role of second fiddle. Still, he has played it well over the past three days in Iowa with his wife, the presidential candidate.
SEN. HILLARY RODHAM CLINTON, (D) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Wouldn't you like to be free of George Bush and Dick Cheney?
CROWLEY: His part is to say supportive things and get off the stage. He has been pretty much substance free, but he is still a huge draw. And together they stole the headlines though they were far from alone. From Clear Lake to Oskaloosa, Pella to Waterloo, Iowa is awash with parades and presidential candidates.
It's a big state but a small world so nobody was that surprised when Mitt Romney showed up to march the same parade as the Clintons.
Downstate, Barack Obama and family filled the holiday gripping, grinning, and suggesting that the Clintons are yesterday's news. "We're more interested in looking forward, not backward," he told the Associate Press. Barack sees himself, not Hillary, as the agent of change.
SEN. BARACK OBAMA, (D) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Can't just be a slogan. Change has to be something that is demonstrated day to day, on an ongoing basis.
CROWLEY: At the other end of the presidential tier, Chris Dodd is on a river to river trip, busing it from the Mississippi to the Missouri. And Joe Biden was on schedule for a parade, a picnic and house party. They run on the politics of hope.
SEN. JOE BIDEN, (D) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: But I believe I will win in Iowa because I believe Iowans have not even begun to make up their mind.
CROWLEY: It is, after all, only the Fourth of July.
CROWLEY (on camera): As crowded as this state was over the Fourth of July, it is likely to get even more congested with presidential candidates, though maybe many caucus goers have not yet made up their mind, they are getting close. The caucuses are just six months away.
MALVEAUX: Thank you, Candy Crowley in Iowa.
And there are very serious allegations being made against a key member of Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton's presidential campaign. A man by the name of Mark Penn. Here's CNN's Brian Todd.
BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Suzanne, Mark Penn runs a very powerful consulting firm, a company now accused of a former partner of electronic eavesdropping. This lawsuit threatens the image of a man known for being cautious and who has a long history with the Clintons.
(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) TODD (voice-over): He's seen as indispensable to Hillary Clinton's campaign, was a long-time pollster and consultant for Bill Clinton. Now Mrs. Clinton's chief strategist, Mark Penn, is embroiled in a potentially damaging distraction, a charge that Penn's firm hacked into e-mails on a former partner's personal Blackberry and that Penn approved of it.
It's all laid out in lawsuit documents obtained by CNN from an attorney for the former partner, Mitchell Markell (ph). He claims Penn's firm violated federal wiretapping laws.
MICHAEL SHEAR, "WASHINGTON POST": That can only, you know, reflect poorly on Senator Clinton, especially if it were to be determined that Mr. Penn did know something, did perhaps do something that he shouldn't have done. Having said that, let's face it. This is not an allegation against Senator Clinton.
TODD: The Clinton campaign is not accused of wrongdoing. Contacted by CNN, a spokesperson for Penn's company denied violating wiretapping laws saying the Blackberry in question belonged to Penn's firm, not Markell. That Markell's suit is the ultimate in chutzpah, a publicity stunt.
Penn's firm had already sued Markell, claiming Markell tried to steal some of Penn's major clients, like the National Hockey League, Estee Lauder and the makers of BlackBerry, quote, "while he was still in employ and then, in violation of his agreement not to solicit firm clients."
Markell's attorney denies that. Analysts say this is reflective of a business that is intensely competitive.
JOHN MERCURIO, "THE HOTLINE": There's sort of very cutthroat competition going on within the parties, within the consulting firms, between these firms to try to get the best candidates.
TODD (on camera): Now, although Hillary Clinton's campaign is not accused of wrongdoing in the case, we did try too contact the campaign for any comment on Mark Penn's legal situation. We have not heard back. Mitchell Markell's attorney says right now he does not represent any political candidates and does not represent Estee Lauder, the National Hockey League or the makers of BlackBerry. Suzanne?
MALVEAUX: Thank you, Brian Todd.
And tonight -- two presidential candidates in a heated confrontation over the war in Iraq right here in THE SITUATION ROOM. Republican Congressman Duncan Hunter supports the war. Democratic Congressman Dennis Kucinich wants it to end now.
REP. DUNCAN HUNTER, (R) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: All Americans want to bring our troops back safely from every area. My son is -- has done two tours in Iraq, he is now in Afghanistan. We all want to have our troops come home the right way. But the right way in Iraq is to stand up the 129 Iraqi battalions that comprise the Iraqi military, stand them up, and rotate them into the battlefield, rotate out our heavy combat forces after the Iraqi troops are battle hardened.
That's the right way to leave the battlefield so that we shift the security responsibility to the Iraqis. It's not simply to stand up and stampede for the border on the basis that when we leave the al Qaeda are going to start treating us in a kinder, gentler way. I think that's naive thinking. I think we're in for a long war around the world against al Qaeda.
And the question back to Dennis has got to be this. If we are the founders of al Qaeda, according to Dennis' theory, then why did they strike us on 9/11? We hadn't done anything to Muslim nations. In fact, we had saved two Muslim nations when they hit us on 9/11 and al Qaeda still struck us. So the idea that we created al Qaeda I think is not going to go anywhere, Dennis.
REP. DENNIS KUCINICH, (D) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: May I say to my friend, Duncan, that I voted for this nation to respond to 9/11. But I did not license this kind of phony war on terror that would take us everywhere. We need to get out of Iraq and we need to end the kind of thinking, Duncan, that took us into Iraq in the first place. We need to start thinking of peace as connecting ourselves to our security capacity. And when we do that, then we have a chance to truly be secure.
MALVEAUX: Congressman Kucinich, what do you mean by phony war?
KUCINICH: I mean, this idea of war on terror, this administration uses fear as a weapon, it has tried to expand a global war, if it could, to enable it to gain more political power when the truth of the matter is that Iraq had nothing to do with 9/11 in the first place, had nothing to do with al Qaeda's role in 9/11, did not have weapons of mass destruction.
This thing with the commutation of the sentence of Vice President Cheney's assistant connected right to the lies that took us into Iraq. It's time for us to take a new direction, one that connects us to truth and justice. That's what the Fourth of July is all about, land of the free, home of the brave.
MALVEAUX: Congressman Hunter, however, calls that position naive. What do you say to him?
KUCINICH: Let's look at it now. We have time to compare things. Who's right about this? We went into Iraq based on lies. Now, has that made us more safe? Are we safer today because we fought a war that has cost us the lives of 3,500 of our brave men and women, cost us perhaps as much as a trillion to 2 trillion dollars, borrowing money from China to fight a war in Baghdad and killing perhaps as many as a million innocent Iraqis? This war has been a colossal blunder.
MALVEAUX: Congressman Hunter, if you can jump in here. KUCINICH: Let me just paint the picture of Iraq that occurred and that existed before we went in. I see the picture -- now, Dennis sees apparently a kind and gentle regime. I see the picture, the photographs of those dead Kurdish mothers laid out across that hillside in northern Iraq holding their babies killed in mid stride by poison gas as it hit them. I see these excavations in these mass graves where mothers and children all executed with .45 slugs to the backs of their head by Saddam Hussein's people, are being excavated the right now by anthropologists. I see a system of mass murder.
And that's what the United States stopped. And I think every American who participated in that, the 1.2 million Americans who have participated in both the Afghanistan and the Iraq theaters, have done a great service for the world, they have done a service for freedom. They can be proud on this Fourth of July that they have served freedom around the world.
MALVEAUX: Up ahead tonight, Iran takes on CNN and BBC. The new English language network straight from Tehran. Find out why they're taking their conflict with the west to the airwaves.
Plus -- made in China. But is it safe? We'll show you some of the country's appalling food standards. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
MALVEAUX: A new 24-hour global news channel is up and running. It originates in Iran and comes to its viewers in English. CNN's State Department correspondent Zain Verjee joining us now. Zain, tell us what this network is all about.
ZAIN VERJEE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Suzanne, Iran wants to hit back at western influence so it's doing battle on the air.
VERJEE (voice-over): In three, two, one. This is Press TV, the latest horse in a crowded race for viewers. It wants to compete with CNN and the BBC.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Coming to you live from the Iranian capital.
VERJEE: Twenty-four hours a day in English on satellite and online. According to its Web site, the goal is to break the global media stranglehold of western outlets and show what Press TV says is the other side of the story.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Innocent Iraqis are increasingly the victims of U.S. raids.
VERJEE: The Iranian government is bankrolling the news network. Amid great fanfare, President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad launched the channel saying, "Today, media is the number one tool for world dominance."
Some see it as a ploy by Iran to grab a megaphone.
STEPHEN HESS, BROOKINGS INSTITUTION: It's a propaganda tool, yes, of course. That's why most of these countries suddenly spend an incredibly amount of money.
VERJEE: Press TV of says it has correspondents around the world, including three in the United States. One of them is based in Washington.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Mike Kellerman (ph), Press TV, Washington.
VERJEE: The channel takes off as Iran comes under international pressure over its controversial nuclear program and faces new sanctions. A State Department spokesman issued a statement to CNN saying, "It is doubtful if viewers around the world are interested in Iranian propaganda," adding, "We hope the regime in Iran guarantees freedom of the press within Iran."
Media analysts say, sure, it's interesting to hear directly from other countries, like Iran, but Americans won't tune in.
HESS: Of course the history of government-sponsored stations is that it's so boring, it's so predictable.
VERJEE (on camera): A Press TV producer based in New York says is their channel isn't about propaganda, adding, they're all journalists just aiming to be fair. The producer says that they hope that this channel helps bridge the gap between the Middle East and the U.S. and says it could even help the U.S.-Iran relations. Suzanne?
MALVEAUX: So, Zain, is this a channel that is going to air here in the United States? Will we actually be able to see this?
VERJEE: Well, if you have a satellite dish and you subscribe to a package that actually has Press TV on it, you can watch it. But al- Jazeera International has not been on cable channels at all so it seems highly unlikely that an Iranian channel owned by the government that is hostile to the U.S. would actually get a slot on your TV.
Interestingly, though, Suzanne, an official with Press TV has been quoted as saying that more than 3 million people, half from the U.S., have visited Press TV's Web site over the last six months.
MALVEAUX: So maybe they'll get to see it over the Web. Thank you so much, Zain.
MALVEAUX: And Iran's President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has dismissed a proposal from filmmaker Oliver Stone to make a documentary about him. An Iranian news agency reports that Ahmadinejad's media advisor sent Stone a rejection in which he called the American director quote, "part of the great Satan." In a statement, Stone responded saying, quote, "I have been called many things but never a great Satan. I wish the Iranian people well and only hope their experience with an inept, rigid, ideologue president goes better than ours."
And up ahead -- dirty secrets about the food we get from China. The story behind the recalls.
And -- Tiger Woods scores for the troops on this Fourth of July. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
MALVEAUX: A four-month nightmare is finally over for a British journalist, Alan Johnston of the BBC. He was released 114 days after he was abducted in Gaza by a group called the Army of Islam.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ALAN JOHNSTON, BBC JOURNALIST: The last 16 weeks, of course, just the very worst you can imagine of my life. It was like being buried alive, really, removed from the world. And occasionally terrifying. You were in the hands of people who are dangerous and unpredictable and always frightening in that you didn't know when it might end.
And after two months, three months, you think, why might I not be here in nine months, 18 months, or longer? And every kidnap victim, I'm sure, worries like that. It's the psychological pressures and stresses are absolutely huge. And it's a huge battle to keep your mind in the right place and stay healthy in every way you can.
And just the most unimaginable relief that it's finally over.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MALVEAUX: Hamas, which took control of Gaza last month, said freeing Johnston was a top priority. Hamas sources tell CNN they were moments away from an assault on the kidnappers' hideout when another militant faction interceded and defused the standoff.
Now, China may be cracking down on potential poisons in toothpaste. State run media say the country is developing quote, "strict certification and evaluation procedures for its oral care products."
The move comes after several countries stopped imports of Chinese toothpaste, found to contain a chemical common in antifreeze. In light of U.S. alerts on everything from pet food to fish, toothpaste from China is just the tip of the iceberg. CNN's John Vause has details from Beijing.
JOHN VAUSE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Suzanne, critics say the bottom line comes down to this, if it comes from China and the price seems too good to be true, it probably is.
VAUSE (voice-over): So could you eat pork from pigs force-fed wastewater? Drink milk from cows given so many antibiotics it's impossible to make yogurt from their milk? How about a serving of lard made from sewage? Because all of that and more has been on China's menu in recent months.
Zhou Qin is a dissident writer who has researched this country's appalling food standards.
"The threat is so much more serious than people could ever imagine," he told me.
He says many farmers and producers are continually finding new and dangerous ways to cut costs.
"China has low labor costs but you can work out how low the price should be. Businessmen should know something is wrong if the product is cheaper than it should be."
Last week, the U.S. banned four types the fish and shrimp from China because inspectors found traces of cancer-causing chemicals and antibiotics, including malactite (ph) green, which helps fish survive in polluted overcrowded fisheries. It's still being used despite being banned here five years ago. While in the U.S., it was banned 24 years ago.
SALLY GREENBERG, CONSUMER'S UNION: We have no real sense of the regulatory infrastructure in China, which probably is about 100 years behind where we are in the United States.
VAUSE: It's not just food. Consumer alerts have been issued for products from toxic toothpaste to lead-painted toys. So far this year, 60 percent of all recalled consumer products in the U.S. have come from China.
The government here blames media hype. "Consumers shouldn't be scared of Chinese products," he says. "They should have a reputation of being good quality, cheap, and safe."
VAUSE (on camera): Well, one out of three isn't bad. No one ever said Chinese goods weren't cheap. Suzanne?
MALVEAUX: Thank you, John Vause.
And up ahead -- the president's father plays a few holes for laughs and helps Tiger Woods reward military families. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
MALVEAUX: Here is a look at some of the "Hot Shots" coming in from our friends at the Associated Press, pictures likely in your newspaper tomorrow. In Baghdad, a woman reacts after receiving a humanitarian aid package from the Iraqi Red Crescent Society.
In England, Prince Charles is towed in a dinghy during a tour of a flooded village.
In Peru, boys hold had toy guns before exchanging them for educational toys, as part of an arms under control campaign by Amnesty International.
And in Phoenix, a man from Canada displays a patriotic haircut during a ceremony where he is sworn in as a U.S. citizen.
That's this hour's "Hot Shots," pictures often worth a thousand words.
And on this Fourth of July, golfer Tiger Woods is saluting troops and their families on the links just outside Washington. He was joined by former President George H.W. Bush who did his best to lighten the mood. Take a listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GEORGE H. W. BUSH, FORMER PRESIDENT: The laughing rule is in effect. If anybody laughs when I hit it, they're dead. We have got the Secret Service here to look after it.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MALVEAUX: And CNN's Brianna Keilar picks up the story from there.
BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Suzanne, as part of this inaugural event, the AT&T National hosted by Tiger Woods here at Congressional Country Club right outside of Washington, DC, is today's event. It is called the Earl Woods Memorial Pro-Am, named, of course, for Tiger's father, a Vietnam vet who died last year. The military is featured very prominently in this week's events, including in Tiger's foursome today.
SGT. MAJ. MIA KELLY, U.S. ARMY: That was a good one.
KEILAR: Aside from Army Sergeant Mia Kelly's home course at Virginia's Fort Belvoir, the only place this career military woman may spend more time is overseas.
KELLY: I have been to Iraq, Afghanistan, Kuwait, Qatar, also a place like Germany, Korea Panama, Japan, all over.
KEILAR: But this Independence Day, Kelly is taking the tour of a lifetime. Eighteen holes with Tiger Woods in a pro-am tournament ahead of the AT&T National which Woods is hosting. Woods' father Earl, served in Vietnam, spending 12 years as a Green Beret. Tiger says growing up in a military family gives him first-hand knowledge of the sacrifice they make.
TIGER WOODS, GOLGER: I know I can't serve with them but I want to say thank you in some way.
KELLY: And it is the Fourth of July, celebrating Independence Day. For us to maintain our independence, we have to have a strong military, and so I think this is just an awesome thing.
KEILAR: Kelly, who works with an Army information operations unit started playing golf in 2004, and now she's hooked.
KELLY: It's the never-ending pursuit of that perfect golf game. The perfect shot, the perfect putt.
KEILAR (on camera): The pros start playing for real tomorrow but earlier today former President George H. W. Bush kicked things off, hitting the ceremonial first tee shot. Not too bad of a shot, in the rough, not far enough to make the fairway, but it was pretty straight, Suzanne.
MALVEAUX: Thank you, Brianna, and thanks for joining us. I am Suzanne Malveaux. Up next, Glenn Beck's "We the People" special edition from Utah.
But first, Christine Romans with the headlines.
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