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President Bush Delivers Mixed Report on Iraq; Nurses Under Attack; Was Pizza Bomb Victim Willing Participant?
Aired July 12, 2007 - 15:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
DON LEMON, CNN ANCHOR: Iraqi security may seem a contradiction in terms, but the White House says Iraqi politics is in even worse shape.
We will break down the benchmarks this hour.
FREDRICKA WHITFIELD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: And, just we thought we might coast through the rest of the summer, gas prices shoot up again. It's another fine mess for the nation's refineries and everyone else.
LEMON: And are some people really natural-born killers? If so, can they be stopped before others die? Our Soledad O'Brien investigates, and she joins us here live.
Hello, everyone. I'm Don Lemon live at the CNN world headquarters in Atlanta.
WHITFIELD: And I'm Fredricka Whitfield, in today for Kyra Phillips.
You're in the CNN NEWSROOM.
The White House report on Iraq issued today cites glimmers of progress, but not enough for lawmakers who want immediate plans for a pullout. Well, not for the first time President Bush is asking for patience.
With the latest from the White House, here's CNN's Elaine Quijano.
ELAINE QUIJANO, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Hello to you, Don.
That's exactly right. President Bush is insisting that lawmakers must give his surge strategy time to work, despite the fact that the Iraqi government has not been able to meet key political benchmarks. Unmet legislative goals that even the president acknowledges in his interim report to Congress deserve an unsatisfactory rating.
Now, at the same time, President Bush in his news conference earlier today delivered a sharp message to lawmakers. He believes he should remain fully in charge of the Iraq war.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I don't think Congress ought to be running the war. I think they ought to be funding our troops.
I'm certainly interested in their opinion. But trying to run a war through resolution is a prescription for failure, as far as I'm concerned, and we can't afford to fail.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
QUIJANO: And, Don, a message that the president was aiming not just at Democratic critics, but also some fellow Republicans who have become increasingly vocal about their discontent with the president's handling of the war.
President Bush is continuing to make the argument that it is early yet in his view, that the lawmakers should allow General David Petraeus to continue on with the surge, and that the lawmakers should wait until September, when General Petraeus is due to deliver his own report, before making any decisions on the next step for Iraq -- Don.
LEMON: And, Elaine, I imagine it may be along party lines for much of it. But how's the president's message regarding the assessment report being received in Congress?
QUIJANO: Yes. Well, as you might expect, Democrats were very quick to pounce on the results of this interim report, particularly on the fact that the Iraqi government has been unable to meet some of those key political benchmarks.
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and others say that this report shows why President Bush should change course immediately.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. HARRY REID (D-NV), MAJORITY LEADER: The time to do this is now, not September. We're told good progress is being made; wait until September. Good progress is being made.
How many times over the last four-and-a-half years have we heard this?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
QUIJANO: Now, the bottom line is that even as President Bush continues to try to point to signs of progress, it is not just the voices of Democrats that the White House understands it is having to deal with now, but also increasing criticism, public criticism, from fellow Republicans on Capitol Hill -- Don.
LEMON: All right, Elaine Quijano at the White House -- thank you, Elaine.
WHITFIELD: So, one of the loudest voices in Congress urging the pullout of troops says, the president reads the results wrong and is outnumbered. I spoke with Senator Joe Biden a short time ago.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. JOSEPH BIDEN (D-DE), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: When the president doesn't know what he's doing, it's the president's responsibility to step in. The fact of the matter is, you remember, Fredricka, the vast majority of the members of the chairmen of the Joint -- of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, the vast majority of the retired military opposed this surge, said it would not make -- would not work.
He had to go all the way out to find a new chairman of the Joint Chiefs to agree with him. He found one general who thought it made sense. The truth of the matter is, the vast majority, the vast majority of the military leaders in America, in and out of government, think the president is wrong.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WHITFIELD: Supporters of the war say the military picture has brightened with the influx of thousands of U.S. troops, and in addition to what was already there.
We spoke this afternoon with retired General David Grange. He is a CNN military analyst.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BRIGADIER GENERAL DAVID GRANGE (RET.), CNN MILITARY ANALYST: I think that new strategy's working. The clear hold-and-build phases are taking hold. I think collaborations with some of our former adversaries in Anbar Province, as an example, is a success story. And I think the sectarian violence is down in the types that we were concerned about with death squads and those type of things.
WHITFIELD: How do we know that? How is that measured? Because it seems every day, just about, or at least on a weekly basis, we are hearing about violence that has claimed the lives of dozens, if not hundreds, of Iraqis, as well as U.S. forces, and it seems that it's difficult for a lot of people to discern whether it's sectarian violence or whether it's insurgency or terrorists or who is to blame.
GRANGE: Sure, it's very difficult, because, usually when -- when the coalition forces have -- and Iraqi forces have success, the response from the adversary is to pick up the pace. And so you're going to get some violent responses.
The other thing is, it's not a steady rise, as many people call. These are peaks and valleys of violence. And as U.S. forces, Iraqi forces, as an example, do something, you get counteractions and vice versa.
And the other is, you don't count it, you can't measure it really in the number of people killed on either side. It has to be assessed a local manner, a localized manner, by commanders in these particular areas.
GRANGE: In the reports that I have seen, they're very positive and progress, though it be slow.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WHITFIELD: Well, that was retired General David Grange speaking to us from Chicago today.
And, if you would like to know more about the passing and failing grades assigned to those Iraq benchmarks, just visit CNN.com. We have got the administration's complete report on our Web site.
LEMON: A former member of Phil Spector's defense team has agreed to testify in Spector's trial just a few hours from now.
Spector, of course, is the famed 1960s music producer accused of murdering actress Lana Clarkson four years ago inside his home. Sara Caplan is a former Spector attorney. In a previous hearing away from the jury, she testified that, while visiting the site of Clarkson's death, she saw a defense expert pick up an object the size of a fingernail, but the object was never seen again.
Autopsy photos showed Clarkson missing a fingernail, and prosecutors claim it's evidence Clarkson struggled with Spector before her death. Caplan faced jail time if she refused to testify.
WHITFIELD: A new headache for Republican presidential hopeful John McCain -- one of his Florida campaign co-chairmen has been arrested and charged with soliciting sex from an undercover police officer.
State Representative Bob Allen was arrested yesterday in Titusville city park. It's the latest bit of bad P.R. for the McCain campaign. Most of his top campaign leadership resigned earlier this week. And recent financial reports show him lagging behind his top rivals in fund-raising.
LEMON: The campaign staff is back at work at the John Edwards for president headquarters in Chapel Hill, North Carolina. The office was evacuated today after a suspicious package arrived with a beeping device inside.
Now, police say the bomb squad -- quote -- "rendered the device safe." It's not clear yet whether the package posed any real threat, but the investigation goes on.
WHITFIELD: Republican presidential hopeful Rudy Giuliani is taking criticism from what might seem an unlikely source. A firefighters union has released a video that attacks the former New York mayor for his actions before and after 9/11. The International Association of Firefighters is angry with Giuliani for his decision to speed the removal of World Trade Center debris, a decision they say hindered efforts to find firefighter remains. They also say the Giuliani administration didn't provide up- to-date radio equipment to first-responders.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They attacked us in 1993.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And yet eight and a half years later, New York city firefighters, the greatest fire department in the world, were using the same radio that we knew didn't work.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We have remains of dead heroes out at the garbage dump because of Giuliani and his administration. And they are still there today, and they won't remove them.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WHITFIELD: The Giuliani campaign says the group behind the video doesn't speak for rank-and-file firefighters. They also say Giuliani was always a strong supporter of firefighters during his terms as mayor.
LEMON: Not guilty, that's what Kenneth Barnes stated this morning at his first court appearance in Erie, Pennsylvania. Barnes says he had nothing to do with a bank robbery plot four years ago that ended up killing his friend, Brian Wells.
Before the bomb fastened around his neck exploded, Wells told police he was forced to take part in the robbery. But investigators now say Wells was in on it. Co-defendant Marjorie Diehl-Armstrong is due in federal court tomorrow. She's already in state prison for killing her boyfriend.
Brian Wells' family isn't buying the feds' conclusion.
CNN's Rick Sanchez reports.
RICK SANCHEZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): "Why is no one coming to get this thing off of me?"
Brian Wells tells a story of how he was forced to rob the PNC Bank in Erie, Pennsylvania, by someone who turned him into a human grenade.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BRIAN WELLS, KILLED IN BOMB EXPLOSION: He pulled a key out and started a timer. I heard the thing ticking when he did it. It's going to go off.
(END VIDEO CLIP) SANCHEZ: Minutes later, it did. Wells died instantly.
The big question, was Wells a victim or participant?
Today, a stunning announcement: Prosecutors say he was both.
MARY BETH BUCHANAN, U.S. ATTORNEY: Our investigation has led to the belief that Brian became involved in a limited role with a group of individuals s who planned to rob the PNC Bank.
SANCHEZ: Marjorie Diehl-Armstrong and Kenneth Barnes both indicted on charges that could keep them in prison for life.
MARK POTTER, BUREAU OF ALCOHOL, TOBACCO AND FIREARMS: Death was just another byproduct of an evil scheme.
SANCHEZ (on camera): But was Wells in on that evil scheme that ended up killing him? Prosecutors say he was, at least during the early planning stages of the bank robbery.
A source with knowledge of the investigation tells CNN that Wells helped plot the heist, believing that he was going to be wearing a fake bomb. They say he was even told what to say if he was caught.
BUCHANAN: That three black men had held him down and -- and put this bomb around his neck.
SANCHEZ (voice-over): But, at the 11th hour, they say, Wells had second thoughts.
BUCHANAN: We have reason to believe that, at some point, right before the bomb was fastened to his neck, that -- that he was coerced.
SANCHEZ: Just before the robbery, a very real bomb was slapped around his neck.
Wells' family says, none of that is true; Wells was an innocent victim.
JOHN WELLS, BROTHER OF BRIAN WELLS: They grabbed him at gunpoint. If you're a co-conspirator, you don't shoot at your co- conspirators.
J. WELLS: And if you're a co-conspirator, you don't put a bomb on yourself.
SANCHEZ: With his emotions raw, John Wells lashes out at investigators.
J. WELLS: When you have a bomb locked to your neck and the federal authorities chop your head off to get the bomb off, there was no way Brian put that on himself. Nineteen hours after the bomb had gone off, the federal authorities chopped his head off to get that collar off. SANCHEZ: Still, many questions remain. And Brian Wells is the only person who could have answered them.
Rick Sanchez, CNN, Atlanta.
WHITFIELD: And, now, mass murderers, serial killers, even, after they're caught, people always say they saw the warning signs. But can you recognize red flags and intervene before there is a body count? CNN's Soledad O'Brien investigates, next.
LEMON: Running on empty. Oil supplies fall way short of demand in the nation's midsection. What's behind the shortage? That's ahead in the CNN NEWSROOM.
WHITFIELD: And sick of long security lines, lack of leg room and those chatty toddlers, perhaps? An Oregon man floats an alternative.
That's next in the NEWSROOM.
WHITFIELD: Now 15 minutes after the hour. Here are three of the stories we're working on in the CNN NEWSROOM.
President Bush says he still thinks the Iraq can and must be won, but responding to a new report on benchmarks, the president admits the Iraqi government has a lot of work to do.
John Edwards' presidential campaign headquarters was evacuated today. Police in Chapel, North Carolina, investigated a suspicious package, but soon after sounded the all-clear.
And a powerful typhoon is heading toward Japan. It could hit the U.S. Air Force base on Okinawa tomorrow morning with winds equivalent to a Category 4 hurricane.
LEMON: Jeffrey Dahmer, Ted Kaczynski, the Columbine shooters, we know them because they were killers. Were there signs of their madness before they committed their crimes? If so, could anything have been done to stop them?
That's what CNN Soledad O'Brien is investigating with a documentary that airs this weekend on CNN.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Real quiet, real shy.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It's how everyone remembered him, the kid that never spoke through high school.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Dahmer was the victim of abject loneliness.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Are you the Unabomber? UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Ted, did you do it?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Whenever guests would come, he would run up to his room in the attic.
SOLEDAD O'BRIEN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The red flags were there, the isolation, the remoteness. Could killers like Cho, Jeffrey Dahmer, and Ted Kaczynski have been helped if their silences had been identified much earlier?
DR. J. REID MELOY, FORENSIC PSYCHOLOGIST: The law states implicitly that you have a right to be psychotic and you have a right to be free with your psychosis, as long as you're not in imminent danger to yourself, others or gravely disabled.
DAVID KACZYNSKI, BROTHER OF TED KACZYNSKI: I remember being so struck by how shut down Ted seemed. It's a man buried in his own thoughts.
O'BRIEN (on camera): He's not smiling, standing stiffly.
KACZYNSKI: Yes, very stiffly.
O'BRIEN (voice-over): David Kaczynski says he tried hard to get his brother Ted help. Holed up in his Montana cabin for 25 years, Ted hinted at his madness in the letters he sent to David.
KACZYNSKI: He goes on to say that, he's never been happy in his life.
O'BRIEN: Years after Ted left for Montana, David had the letters analyzed by a psychiatrist, who noted symptoms of paranoia and schizophrenia, but the law made it clear, Ted could not be forced to get help.
KACZYNSKI: That's where we got our sort of cold awakening, because the answer was, basically, your hands are tied. Given that Ted was an adult, essentially, there was nothing we could do.
LEMON: And Soledad O'Brien joins me now, joins us here in the NEWSROOM.
So, we always hear from that people: You know, I always knew something was going to happen.
And you said there were signs for Dahmer and Kaczynski and they had some sort of mental illness. What could the family, Soledad, have done to gotten them treatment?
O'BRIEN: In many cases, they tried and tried and tried. And what they found was a system that didn't allow them to do anything.
For example, in the case of Jeffrey Dahmer, his father, who we interviewed, told us that when Jeffrey was in prison -- he had been in prison for a child molestation -- he begged the judge to not let him out, to have him stay in prison and get some kind of help.
But instead he negotiated a way out a little bit early and was able instead to get out and not get any kind of treatment at all. His father said, what could he do in a system that was not supporting him? When he would talk to the psychiatrist who was supposed to be working with his son, and say, what kind of progress are you making, it was off limits. Even though he was his father, he couldn't get any information.
So, he was clearly very frustrated in his efforts and does feel, if Jeffrey had gotten help, maybe the way things turned out, as horrifically and as brutally as they did, maybe it wouldn't have happened that way. And you see those red flags over and over again, whether you are talking about some of these notorious killers or you're talking about regular people.
LEMON: And you were talking about Jeffrey Dahmer. But I want to know, Soledad, is that the case across the U.S., or do some states have better ways of dealing with the mentally ill? What can be done?
O'BRIEN: You know, we have seen a lot of -- actually, many states across this country now realizing that there is a problem in the interaction between law enforcement and people who have mental problems, even basic mental problems, not necessarily the people who turn out to be Jeffrey Dahmer.
And, so, they are putting systems into place where they are training their police officers. And we follow around one of these officers, where she confronts a guy who has got a six-inch knife. Normally, usually, historically, that would have ended up horribly, in that a police officer would say, put down the knife. The person, even though or because are mentally disabled, would have argued with the police officer. And often that would have ended in tragedy.
The officer at some point would have probably shot the guy with the knife. Recognizing that there are mentally ill people who you have to negotiate and deal with, they have training -- and it started in Memphis -- training the officers to negotiate and deal and recognize people who have mental illness. And what they're finding is that they are not having these shootings that they had before.
It all came out of a tragedy, and we will tell you that story in our documentary.
LEMON: Soledad, it just sounds fascinating. And I can't wait to see it. Thank you for joining us today in the CNN NEWSROOM.
O'BRIEN: Of course. The pleasure is mine.
LEMON: All right.
That fascinating report, that investigation into the criminally insane, it airs this weekend on CNN. That's Saturday and Sunday at 8:00 p.m. Eastern.
WHITFIELD: Violence in the E.R. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I have been punched. I have been kicked. I have been spit at.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WHITFIELD: Protecting nurses from violent patients, that's straight ahead in the NEWSROOM.
And running on empty. Oil supplies fall way short of demand in the nation's midsection. What's behind this shortage? That's straight ahead in the NEWSROOM.
LEMON: Look at these pictures. This is just in to the CNN NEWSROOM. Man, this one is going. This boat, as it says there at the bottom of your screen, in flames. It's a 20-foot boat. This is happening in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, off state road 84. Not exactly sure which canal this is, which waterway, but we're going to work on this story and bring you more information.
But this boat that's right there at the end of this dock, you can see it burning, safe to say, out of control, because there don't appear to be any firefighters anywhere near this.
Fredricka, you can see the top of that boat there caving in.
WHITFIELD: Yes, and even part of the dock there catching fire.
WHITFIELD: Except that now it looks like firefighters are there. You see those there.
LEMON: Yes, there they are.
WHITFIELD: And maybe they will at least try to get it under control before much more of the dock is on fire.
LEMON: Yes, we are going to continue to update you on these spectacular pictures coming out of Fort Lauderdale, Florida, right here in the CNN NEWSROOM.
WHITFIELD: But, definitely, boat gone.
WHITFIELD: All right.
Meantime, violence in the E.R., it's a growing problem that often strikes those on the front lines of emergency care. We're talking about the nurses. The situation has gotten so bad that pressure is being put on hospitals to safeguard their workers.
Here's CNN's Dan Lothian.
DAN LOTHIAN, FOX NEWS CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): They save lives and help patients heal, but this is the thank you some nurses get.
KAREN COUGHLIN, PSYCHIATRIC ER NURSE: I have been punched, I have been kicked, I have been spit at.
ELLEN MACINNIS, EMERGENCY ROOM NURSE: I had a patient grab my hand and dig her nails in me and say to me: If you have children, I will find them and I will kill them.
LOTHIAN: It gets worse for Boston emergency room nurse, Ellen MacInnis. Last summer as she was drawing blood from an intoxicated HIV positive patient.
MACINNIS: She just exploded and tried to hit me. And I was covered with blood. Well, I knew that I was in danger.
LOTHIAN (on camera): It doesn't cause much to spark rage: Slow service, frustration, mental illness, or the pain from whatever landed them at the hospital in the first place.
(voice-over): One survey conducted last year by the Emergency Nurse's Association, found 86 percent of its nurses nationwide reported being a victim of workplace violence during the prior three years. Nineteen percent said it happened frequently.
(on camera): You're supposed to be helping people heal, get better, and your life is being threatened?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Absolutely.
LOTHIAN: It became so routine that Boston area psychiatric emergency room nurse, Karen Coughlin says her family began to worry for her safety.
COUGHLIN: My son asked me, did anyone threaten you today, mom? And I was just, I was so taken aback because my kids shouldn't have to ask me that.
LOTHIAN (voice-over): The Massachusetts Nurse's Association blames the sometimes hostile hospital environment, in part on staffing levels, cut by shrinking budgets.
EVELYN BAIN, MASSACHUSETTS NURSES ASSOCIATION: There aren't enough people to address the patients.
LOTHIAN (on camera): Do you see that, a shortage of nurses, as part a problem? KAREN NELSON, MASSACHUSETTS HOSPITAL ASSOCIATION: I see that, actually, as more of a knee-jerk reaction to a -- and a solution that's not really the answer to a -- what's really a societal problem.
LOTHIAN (voice-over): In other words, and increasingly violent society that it's spilling over into America's hospitals. In a state where some of the nation's leading health care facilities are located, some Massachusetts hospital officials say they are focused on more effective safety solutions, like stepped up security and training for nurses.
But Ellen MacInnis is backing a state bill that would put more pressure on hospitals to safeguard their worker.
MACINNIS: I'm in my 19th year of nursing.
LOTHIAN: Testifying at a hearing last month, she told her story of being covered splashed with HIV infected blood and enduring a rigorous cocktail treatment. Of being physically and mentally unstable and off the job for about two months. A dramatic account, but not everyone thinks a new safety law is the answer.
NELSON: Is that it's pretty much exactly redundant with existing rules, regulations, standards...
LOTHIAN: Both of these veteran nurses continue work at local hospitals. MacInnis pressed charges against her attacker.
MACINNIS: I felt my life had been threatened.
BAIN: It's one of the things that we really encourage nurses to do, because perpetrators should be held accountable for acts of violence.
LOTHIAN: It's what other nurse haves done too, as they fight for a safer environment to do what they love.
MACINNIS: Nurses aren't made. We're born. It's what we do. We take care of people.
LOTHIAN: Dan Lothian, CNN, Boston.
WHITFIELD: And now running on empty. Oil supplies fall way short of demand in the nation's midsection. So, what is behind that shortage?
That's straight ahead in the NEWSROOM.
LEMON: Hello, everyone.
I'm Don Lemon live at the CNN World Headquarters in Atlanta.
WHITFIELD: And I'm Fredricka Whitfield in for Kyra Phillips.
Well, stocks are soaring. A lot of good news there, up 246 points, at least for the Dow right now. We're only about a half hour away from the bell closing, in fact.
LEMON: Yes. We're going to get a wrap of all the action with Stephanie Elam in just a bit.
You are in the CNN NEWSROOM.
But first some other business news. Gas prices -- they went up overnight. A couple of refineries in the Midwest are having some problems and drivers are obviously worried about a shortage. They're waiting in long lines to fill up and the truckers who deliver gas for a living are right there next to them.
Mike DeJacomo (ph) of our Omaha, Nebraska affiliate, KTTV, has more.
(BEGIN VIDEO TAPE)
MIKE DEJACOMO, KTTV CORRESPONDENT: (voice-over): The trucks line up outside the Magellan Petroleum Terminal north of downtown Omaha.
PAT MCMAHON, GASOLINE HAULER:
I go for comfort. It's a lot better than sitting in that truck.
DEJACOMO: Pat McMahon could wait up to an hour-and-a-half to fill up his tanker. There's no fuel at some other area terminals, including this one in Lincoln.
DAVID NELSON, FUEL HAULER: They're running out up north. So they're coming down here or they're taking it from up here there.
DEJACOMO: There's a temporary shortage of fuel coming into the Midwest.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I have run out of no-lead before.
DEJACOMO: Some gas station owners worry this temporary slowdown not only leads to higher prices, but could leave them without fuel for periods of time.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It takes 20 minutes to load a truck and there's only two bays. Do the math.
And how many stations are in town?
DEJACOMO: At least three stations around the state have already run dry. Stores in Carney, North Platte and Doniphan report being out of gas for a short time.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You'd like to think there's a big supply.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I don't think there's a -- they're going to run out of gas.
DEJACOMO: Governor Dave Heineman's executive order will allow gas and fuel haulers to spend more time behind the wheel, because for a good chunk of the day, these truckers are standing still.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's getting crazy out there. I think people need to sit back and just chill.
(END VIDEO TAPE)
LEMON: Well, that was Mike DeJacomo from our affiliate, KTTV. And he reports several refiners are either shutdown or operating below normal.
Let's check in with Stephanie Elam at the New York Stock Exchange -- Stephanie, what impact are these refinery outrages having on gas prices nationwide?
STEPHANIE ELAM, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, I'm sure it's no surprise, Don, especially when you listened to that package there, that the biggest impact is in the Midwest. But the problems there are pulling up the national average, as well.
AAA says gas prices jumped about two-and-a-half cents overnight. That brings the national average to more than $3.02 a gallon.
As we just heard, prices in the center of the country have been surging after a refinery that services the region was closed because closed because of flooding. Oil prices have also been on the rise, although they fell slightly today. A barrel of crude now goes for about $72.50 a barrel -- Don.
(STOCK MARKET REPORT)
WHITFIELD: In the meantime, grading progress in Iraq. Congress mandated a report and set a few benchmarks. Well, they got back a lot of black marks, particularly regarding Iraq's ability to go it alone politically. Of course, things are being interpreted differently by opposing sides in Washington.
And that's where we find our Brianna Keilar -- Brianna, what does the report say exactly?
BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hi there, Fredricka.
Well, it's the military goals -- that's where the Iraqi government is showing some progress. But when it comes to the political strides, this report card gives the government of Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki a pretty dismal grade.
If you take a look at a few of these 18 benchmarks, one of them asks that three Iraqi brigades be trained and ready.
So are they?
The White House says yes in its report. So what about Iraqi forces being able to work alone without assistance from U.S. troops?
That's another benchmark. No. The report actually says that the Iraqi Army has seen a back slide in this area.
And then some political benchmarks now.
What about progress on the Iraqi constitution?
According to the report, yes, steps have been made, though the constitution still has not been finished. And then there's also a benchmark for an oil revenue sharing law.
Has the Iraqi government made progress toward writing a law that divides Iraq's oil wealth equally?
And this report says no -- Fred.
WHITFIELD: All right, Brianna Keilar, thanks so much, from Washington.
LEMON: We're talking about the weather now.
Higher humidity out West may mean a break for firefighters. More than 40 large wildfires are still burning in a dozen states. Five in Utah, including the Milford Flat fire. It's the biggest in the state's history, destroying about 340,000 acres so far. Much of that is rangeland. Firefighters have managed to corral nearly half of that.
A super typhoon streaking towards Tokyo. In its path, the island of Okinawa to almost 18,000 U.S. troops. Now, if it stays on track, the storm will hit within four miles of the Kadena Air Base, with winds equal to a category four hurricane.
Jets and helicopters are being hauled into hangars. Other aircraft are being flown elsewhere into the Pacific.
It's another soggy day through the plains. They need the sun, not more storms, as they're getting.
Rob Marciano, can you help them out at all?
LEMON: A first today in the U.S. Senate and it ends in protest. Among those involved, a visiting Hindu chaplain.
Details straight ahead in the CNN NEWSROOM.
WHITFIELD: And perhaps you're sick of long security lines, lack of leg room and you heard the story earlier about chatty toddlers. Well, an Oregon man floats an alternative.
That's straight ahead in THE NEWSROOM.
COLLINS: Well, there are people around us every day who are doing extraordinary things to make our world just a little bit better. All this year, we're bringing you stories of people we're calling CNN Heroes. And we're also inviting you to tell us about heroes you know.
Today we introduce you to a man from Wisconsin, who went from fighting insurgents in Iraq to becoming a single father.
Scott Southworth is today's CNN Hero.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Hi.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Uh-huh.
SCOTT HAROLD SOUTHWORTH: No soldier goes to war with the expectation of coming home and adopting an orphan from the war zone.
My name is Major Scott Harold Southworth.
I'm a member of the Wisconsin Army National Guard and the proud father of an Iraqi orphan by the name of Ala'a.
Come on, Ala'a.
My soldiers and I volunteered at the Mother Teresa orphanage in Baghdad, Iraq. I did not choose Ala'a, Ala'a chose me.
ALA'A: Sakumaku (ph).
When the sisters informed me that they were going to have to move him to the government orphanage, I instantly told them I would adopt him. There were a number of obstacles to bringing him to the United States -- not having enough money and not having a stable enough career, not having a wife. But I could not, as a Christian man, walk away from that little boy. It really was a step of faith for me to just put that into action.
Who is your little boy?
ALA'A: I am.
SOUTHWORTH: I know you are. OK.
It's been about two-and-a-half years since I picked Ala'a up in Baghdad. Nice steps today, OK?
He's learning how to walk. He's doing addition and subtraction. He's learning to read the English language. He's just a brilliant little boy.
Come on, keep those legs (INAUDIBLE). Work those legs.
He's limited by some of the things he can do physically. But I never treat Ala'a as though he is disabled.
ALA'A: I love you, daddy.
SOUTHWORTH: I love you, too, my buddy.
Ala'a is so much more a blessing to me than I am to him.
See, this tickles you.
I felt a ton of sympathy for Ala'a when I was in Iraq. But Ala'a didn't need my sympathy. What he needed was some action.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WHITFIELD: Now, that's an incredible pair.
Well, if you'd like to nominate your hero for special recognition later on this year, you'll find more information on our Web site at cnn.com/heroes.
LEMON: Certainly is a hero there.
An historic moment in the U.S. Senate disrupted by protesters.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Let us pray. We meditate on that transcendental glory of the deity supreme ...
(DISRUPTION BY PROTESTERS)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: who --
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The sergeant at arms will restore order in the Senate, in the chamber.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
LEMON: Rajan Zed is believed to be the first Hindu clergyman ever to offer the Senate's morning prayer.
He was interrupted by three people in the Senate gallery who shouted: "This is an abomination!" before being led away in handcuffs. The protesters described themselves as Christian and patriots.
Eight Democrats and one Republican -- that's who showed up for a presidential candidate forum at this year's NAACP convention in Detroit. Senator Barack Obama, the only black candidate, got the loudest ovation. Republicans often avoid NAACP functions, claiming the civil rights group is biased toward Democrats. But Republican Tom Tancredo was there today, declaring his message is for all Americans. Tancredo, a fierce opponent of illegal immigration, said illegal workers drive down the wages of African-Americans.
Sick of long security lines, lack of leg room and those chatty toddlers, all this stuff we've been telling you about today?
Well, an Oregon man floats an alternative for you.
I'm not sure. I don't see any engines there or seatbelts.
We're going to tell you about it straight ahead in the CNN NEWSROOM.
LEMON: Obviously, Drew Griffin there talking about some super investigation he's working on.
Maybe he's working on this, trying to figure out, is it a bird, is it a plane, is it a flying lawn chair?
That's right, an Oregon man attached more than 100 helium balloons to a lawn chair and flew more than 190 miles.
On today's "AMERICAN MORNING" --
WHITFIELD: The question is why?
WHITFIELD: Come on, now.
LEMON: Ken Couch told our Kiran Chetry what it was like.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP FROM CNN's "AMERICAN MORNING")
KENT COUCH, LAWN CHAIR BALLOONIST: I'm kind of a fun, happy-go- lucky guy. And I had a friend that is a -- more of a calculating guy. So what we did is we figured out how much lift each balloon had, you know, and we found out our each balloon had about four to four-and-a- half pound of lift. So then we calculated --
KIRAN CHETRY, CO-ANCHOR, AMERICAN MORNING: So your balloons were about this size, the ones we have here?
COUCH: No, they were about twice that size.
CHETRY: twice this size. OK. KENT COUCH, LAWN CHAIR BALLOONIST:
Yes, they were about four feet, four-and-a-half feet wide. And so anyway, what we do is we calculate up how many balloons we've got and how much lift and how much we needed --
CHETRY: Right. You could control, you know, the lift (INAUDIBLE) and down?
COUCH: Yes, lift. Yes.
CHETRY: This took you nine hours. You ended up going 193 miles, which is pretty impressive in a lawn chair.
What does it feel like when you're up there?
COUCH: It's -- it's serene because they're -- you're moving with the wind. No noise, just peace. It's the most peaceful thing you could experience. Just -- just moving along and you don't get the ups and downs and the bumps of an airplane, you know, for example.
I did run into some other --
CHETRY: How high up are you?
COUCH: Basically 9,000 to 15,000 feet.
CHETRY: What was your -- what was your safety precautions, if you will?
I mean you were just sitting in your lawn chair?
COUCH: Well, yes. I was sitting in it. But I had a parachute -- which, I had learned how to skydive the year before. And so if things didn't go well, I didn't like what I was experiencing, I would just jump out and have a nice little glide down.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WHITFIELD: That expression tells me you wouldn't do it.
LEMON: No way.
WHITFIELD: But he had a parachute.
LEMON: I know.
WHITFIELD: Which you didn't know initially.
LEMON: I hate going up in like even outside elevators, you know, the glass elevators which you see.
WHITFIELD: Yes, yes.
LEMON: I don't even like that.
Well, Couch landed by popping balloons. But after he jumped out, the wind grabbed his chair and his video recorder and swept him away.
LEMON: So he's offering a $500 reward for the return.
WHITFIELD: No. Bummer.
LEMON: You know, the next person we're going to talk to, he doesn't need a lawn chair or balloons, because he's superman, don't you think?
WHITFIELD: Oh, I like that.
Wolf Blitzer, we're talking about you.
LEMON: CNN's Wolf Blitzer.
WOLF BLITZER, HOST, "THE SITUATION ROOM": Do not try this at home, any of you who are watching.
BLITZER: This is not necessarily a brilliant idea, but he did it and he survived.
Thanks very much, guys.
Patchy progress at best, but the president says the U.S. can still win in Iraq. I'll be talking about that with Democratic Congressman John Murtha and Deputy Secretary of State John Negroponte, as we bring you reaction to the White House update on the war.
Dirty bombs back in the news. A new government reports reveals just how easy it was for Congressional investigators to get their hands on radioactive material.
And a former first lady and a member of the Kennedy family teaming up. Rosalyn Carter and Patrick Kennedy spearheading a fight to get big insurance to cover mental illness just like they do other illness.
All that guys, coming up right here in "THE SITUATION ROOM"
WHITFIELD: All right, a packed show.
We're looking forward to all of that.
Thanks a lot, Wolf.
LEMON: Do you ever have to have your iTunes -- no.
LEMON: She's used her iPod all of twice in her life.
WHITFIELD: Three, three, three times.
LEMON: All right. Well, then you won't have to worry about this. But a lot of people may want to steer clear of lightning storms in case there might be another -- not already be steering clear of lightning storms and we're going to tell you why and give you an earful coming up next.
WHITFIELD: And a closing bell and the wrap-up of action on Wall Street. All that, straight ahead.
LEMON: All right, look out. It sounds like your iPod could rock your world in a way nobody really wants and needs.
There's been a couple of freak accidents in which people listening to their iPods during storms have been struck by lightning. Now, doctors say an iPod doesn't increase your chances of being hit, but it can exacerbate the injuries. It's a combination of rain, sweat and metal. And it's not just an iPod. Any electrical device made of metal can be a problem. Easy solution -- turn off the tunes in the rain. Common sense.
WHITFIELD: Yes. Some scary stuff.
All right, well, let's talk about the closing bell, because it's about to ring seconds from now.
(STOCK MARKET REPORT)
LEMON: Now it's time to turn it over to "THE SITUATION ROOM" --
WHITFIELD: And Wolf Blitzer -- Wolf.
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