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Fear in Iraq. Bill Clinton Stands by His Wife Against Jabs From Elizabeth Edwards. Is the NYC Steam Blast Area a Toxic Danger Zone? Obama saying that Age-Appropriate Sex Education is OK For Kindergarten Children. Some Christians Want More say in the Government. Chinese Authorities Jailed an Investigative Reporter. Castro and the Bush Administration Pointing Fingers at Each Other.

Aired July 19, 2007 - 1900   ET


Happening now -- a frightening assessment of the war in Iraq. The top U.S. diplomat in Baghdad sums up the situation in one dire word. Tonight, his candid comments and the fallout.

Also this hour, Bill Clinton stands by his wife against jabs from Elizabeth Edwards. It's a he said-she said between political spouses.

And new German resistance to Tom Cruise. The Berlin government keeps saying no to the actor because he's a scientologist.

Wolf Blitzer is off today. I'm John King. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

After more than four years of war and more than 3,600 U.S. troop deaths, the war in Iraq is being boiled down today to one word -- fear. That's how the U.S. ambassador to Baghdad now is describing the mood of the Iraqi people.

Ryan Crocker briefed impatient members of Congress today who warned time in Iraq is running out.

Let's go to our congressional correspondent Dana Bash. Dana, why such candidness now and bluntness from Ambassador Crocker?

DANA BASH, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well you know it is unclear why, but it certainly was very candid. And you know it's about two months now until the government, the U.S. government has to give to Congress a report on how the Iraqis are doing in terms of making progress on so-called benchmarks.

Well CNN is told by Pentagon and congressional sources that the ambassador was even more candid in private, behind closed doors this morning about the fact that he does not think the Iraqis are going to show much success.


BASH (voice-over): The U.S. ambassador to Iraq downplayed the importance of benchmarks, devised by his own administration as a reliable way to judge the Iraqi government success. His public testimony came after privately warning lawmakers, CNN is told, that the Iraqi government will have difficulty meeting those benchmarks by September.

RYAN CROCKER, U.S. AMBASSADOR TO IRAQ: I certainly will not try to present to you the Iraqi government as a model of smoothly functioning efficiency because it's not.

BASH: Testifying by video link from Baghdad, Ryan Crocker delivered a candid assessment of the Iraqi government's troubles. He blamed it on scars left by Saddam Hussein.

CROCKER: If there is one word that I would use to sum up the atmosphere in Iraq, that word would be fear.

BASH: The technology of this unusual testimony failed a few times.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Baghdad, can you hear the U.S. Senate? No, they obviously can't hear.

BASH: But the ambassador did hear, loud and clear, the growing impatience from the president's fellow Republicans.

SEN. GEORGE VOINOVICH (R-OH), FOREIGN RELATIONS COMMITTEE: It's urgent for them to get involved. Is there a sense of urgency? What are you doing to let them know that this time is running out? Time is running out.


BASH: Now, in an attempt to reach out to impatient frustrated lawmakers, like you just heard Republican George Voinovich, the Pentagon held a private briefing this morning, with the leaders on the ground, the general on the ground, David Petraeus, and Ambassador Crocker, about 100 lawmakers, Democrats and Republicans, John, went over to the Pentagon for that.

KING: And Dana, the administration first said it needed until September to show progress, now, it seems to be asking for even more time, past September I'm going to be that that doesn't go down well on Capitol Hill.

BASH: Not at all. You know that certainly has been the point that Republicans and Democrats have been looking at, September, that is when this report is done, and that's when they hope to know if this surge is going to be complete. You're right. What we heard from the ambassador and public, what we know these lawmakers were told in private is that it's really not going to happen.

We heard from the Pentagon, they are already saying that maybe they need until November. But I'm telling you, in talking to Republicans, September is their drop-dead date, so to speak. That is the time where they want to see a new plan from the administration, if this particular strategy isn't working, and not very many senators at all think it is working.

KING: Dana Bash for us on Capitol Hill -- Dana, thank you very much.

Republican Congressman Chris Shays was among the lawmakers who took part in today's classified briefing in Iraq. He tells me walked out still convinced that limits need to be set on how long U.S. troops stay.


REP. CHRIS SHAYS (R), CONNECTICUT: I believe there should be a timeline. I believe the Iraqis should know about this timeline. I just think it should be a workable timeline. I totally disagree with the administration that a timeline would be irresponsible, if that's what they are saying.

It's the responsible thing to do. In fact, they already know that we're going to have to reduce the number of troops. We do not have the force structure to maintain this level.


KING: Congressman Shays says he hasn't been all that optimistic about the situation in Iraq for the last few weeks, and after today's briefing he still feels that way.

Now to the celebration of a major milestone on Wall Street -- The Dow Jones Industrial Average closed above 14,000 today for the first time. Strong earning reports from some major companies helped drive the index up. The NASDAQ and the S&P 500 also rode the wave and closed higher.

President Bush keeps trying, and failing, to get much credit for the upbeat economic news. He went to Tennessee today to take another shot at it, but he got sidetracked by Iraq.

Let's bring in our White House correspondent Ed Henry. Iraq keeps out drowning any good news for the president, Ed.

ED HENRY, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Absolutely, John. I know you remember the Clinton mantra, it's the economy, stupid, so I hope you won't take it personally when I say it's Iraq, stupid. It used to be of course that a political rule that if you had a good economy as a president, you would have high approval ratings.

But the fact is here you have the Dow smashing these records, and the president's approval ratings, as you know, are in the 20's. And the president himself told his audience today in Tennessee, look, I want to talk about a good economy, but I know you are going to ask me about Iraq.

It only makes sense. Obviously, when you have this war going on, rising 401 (Ks), better corporate profits, they are going to take a backseat to the human cost of this war, John.

KING: Ed Henry for us at the White House -- Ed, thank you very much. And New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg insists there's no asbestos in his city's air. This after the blast from a ruptured steam pipe that injured dozens of people and triggered one woman's fatal heart attack. It also left a giant crater in the street and several blocks around the city were closed off.

Despite the mayor's assurances, there are still though concerns over known cancer causer asbestos, which was found in the degree. CNN's Mary Snow has been there for us. Mary, the mayor says there is no danger. Why are people still worried?

MARY SNOW, CNN CORRESPONDENT: They are John, and you know even the mayor is saying that he is acting out of an abundance of caution, that he is going to continue taking tests. You know you just mentioned that crater. If you look behind me just about a block down, you'll see there's a pretty intense cleanup effort. And this is part of that frozen zone that's been sealed off.


SNOW (voice-over): In the hours after a huge plume of steam and debris shot into the air, the city sealed off several blocks and began testing for contaminants and for good reason. New York's underground pipes are old and many are insulated with asbestos.

MAYOR MICHAEL BLOOMBERG (I), NEW YORK: We have water mains in this city that are 150 years old. So that's one of our problems in this city.

SNOW: And the city knows from experience. In 1989, a strikingly similar steam pipe explosion killed three. Back then, asbestos was spewed into the air, but for several days, that information was not made public, and people were told the air was safe to breathe.

Fast forward to the present -- yes, officials are saying asbestos was found in debris, but not in the air. Some experts say the city isn't out of the woods yet, that tests need to be conducted for weeks.

DR. IRWIN DEDLENER, COLUMBIA UNIV. PUBLIC HEALTH SCHOOL: I think we have to be concerned when there is discrepancies that immediately after it happened, between what was in the air and what was in the debris. After all in order to get into debris, a lot of that debris was up in the air, and then has gradually settled down.

SNOW: The debris settled on buildings, streets, even people's clothes. New Yorkers caught in the dust cloud are being encouraged to drop their clothing from Wednesday at a special Con Ed site for decontamination. Many of the city's emergency responders who know all too well the dangers of being exposed to contaminants are wearing these filtration masks.

Asbestos is considered dangerous. Medical experts say the risk of illness comes with long-term exposure.


SNOW: And the city expects these cleanup efforts to continue through next week. John?

KING: And Mary, you are smack in the middle of midtown Manhattan. What's the impact on all the other office buildings around that site?

SNOW: You know John in that frozen zone that was sealed off, the mayor is telling building owners to work with the Department of Health. They have to hire private contractors to inspect for asbestos and if asbestos is found to have those contractors then remove it. Big question, how much will this cost and who will pay for it?

KING: Mary Snow on the scene for us in New York. She will continue to keep track of that. Mary, thank you very much.

New York City's network of steam pipes is the largest in the country and dates back to 1882. It is made up of more than 100 miles of mains and service pipes, carrying millions of pounds of 400-degree steam every hour. About 1,800 customers in Manhattan use it for heating, hot water and air conditioning.

Some of the city's most famous landmarks rely on the system, including the Empire State Building and Metropolitan (UNINTELLIGIBLE) and the United Nations.

Jack Cafferty joins us now New York. Hi, Jack.

JACK CAFFERTY, CNN ANCHOR: I think I read this morning that pipe that exploded was put in 1924, so I mean a lot of this stuff has been around a long time.

Sex education for kindergartners is the right thing to do -- excuse me -- as long as it is age appropriate so says Democratic presidential contender Barack Obama. The Illinois senator told Planned Parenthood that when it comes to sex education, there needs to be some support from the schools.

He said, quoting here, "you certainly should not have to be fighting each and every instance by providing accurate information outside of the classroom because inside the classroom, the only thing that that can be talked about is abstinence" -- unquote.

Obama said he "honors and respects those who choose to delay having sex, but leaving teens who do have sex, which is nearly half of 15 to 19-year-olds in ignorance is potentially consigning them to illness, pregnancy, poverty and in some cases death", another quote. But then again, teenagers are not kindergartners.

Obama's campaign told ABC News the senator does not support teaching explicit sex-ed to kindergarteners, but for example if a child asks a teacher, he should be able to tell them that babies don't come from storks. Of course, the next question is likely to be then where do they come from?

And where do you go from there with a child of 5 or 6? Anyway, here's the question. Senator Barack Obama says age-appropriate sex education for kindergarteners is the right thing to do. Is it? E- mail your thoughts to or go to John?

KING: Babies don't come from storks?

CAFFERTY: John, we don't have time for this.

KING: Jack Cafferty, you are right about that. Thank you.

Coming up, Bill Clinton defends his wife against the slam by Elizabeth Edwards. You'll hear what he has to say.

Plus, tens of thousands of Cubans -- they have permission to leave the island, but why isn't the United States giving them visas?

And a Tom Cruise movie controversy -- find out why Germany won't let him film there.



KING: Hillary Rodham Clinton stood by her man, now he's standing by her. The former president is defending his would be president wife, firing back at remarks by the wife of one of her leading rivals. Little confused?

CNN's Brian Todd joins us with the details. Brian, what's the latest?

BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well John to sort it all out, we are getting some more indications that a trend that has been developing over decades now, highly educated, high profile spouses taking huge roles in politician's careers, well, that's exploding in this campaign.


TODD (voice-over): Spouse versus spouse on the campaign trail. First, Elizabeth Edwards questions Hillary Clinton's commitment to women's issues, telling "Salon" magazine, sometimes you feel you have to behave as a man and not talk about women's issues. I'm sympathetic. She wants to be commander in chief.

Then, Mrs. Clinton's husband, who knows something about that job, fires back on ABC.

BILL CLINTON, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I don't think she's trying to be a man. I don't think it's inconsistent with being a woman that you can also be knowledgeable on military and security affairs and be strong when the occasion demands it. That's -- I don't consider that being manly. I consider that being a leader.

TODD: The Clintons get a surprising ally on this one. Conservative William Bennett, a CNN contributor, has advice for John Edwards.

BILL BENNETT, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: He ought to tell her in a compassionate way to stop this stuff. This manly woman stuff has no place in politics. Of course women are strong leaders; of course they should talk about these issues. Of course they should run for president, will be president some day.

TODD: Analysts say Bill Clinton can be an effective cheerleader for Mrs. Clinton's campaign, but that his problem will come in being careful not to overshadow her.

WILLIAM SCHNEIDER, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Americans believe -- want to believe always that a president is his or her own person. So, while they may find Bill Clinton's role reassuring, they don't want to believe that he will be the real president, and I think she'll make it clear that he won't be.


TODD: Still, the former president is also making waves on Iraq, saying, quote, "there is no military victory here". A White House spokesman said they would rather not weigh in on that since it is part of a political campaign. John?

KING: So Brian, back to the original source of this, shall we call it (UNINTELLIGIBLE), if you ask voters about women's issues, ask them to rank Hillary Clinton and John Edwards, how do they come out?

TODD: Well Hillary comes out much stronger. CNN's most recent national poll of women -- of Democratic women's voters shows Mrs. Clinton far ahead of John Edwards. So, Mrs. Edwards' shot at Hillary Clinton there could have been a calculation to maybe try to make up some ground there.

KING: Excellent political analysis as well. Brian Todd, thank you very much.

Democrats and Republicans are courting the nation's religious communities with renewed fervor in response to the strong so-called values vote in the last election. Some church leaders want something in return for their support -- a greater say in government policies. That's the subject of a series of reports on "AC 360" this week.

CNN's Tom Foreman is live in New York. Tom, is that wall between church and state beginning to come down?

TOM FOREMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, it may be cracking a bit if people can get it the way they want it. Eighty-five percent of Americans call themselves Christians, and even though some liberals say religion is intruding into the government too much these days, others say such a large majority deserves a much larger voice.



FOREMAN (voice-over): In the beginning, there was a wall. A mighty barrier built by the founding fathers to separate church and state. Block one from meddling in the affairs of the other.

UNIDENTIFIED GROUP: I pledge allegiance to the flag...

FOREMAN: In school, we are taught that's what makes our country special. But what if that wall never existed? What if it's a myth conjured up in our lifetime to mask a greater truth? That America was conceived as a Christian nation?

STEPHEN MCDOWELL, SPIRITUAL HERITAGE TOURS: The Bible is the central-most important influence in the birth growth and development of the United States. Without the bible and God of the Bible, there would be no America as we know it today.

FOREMAN: These people are on a Spiritual Heritage tour of Washington, D.C. At every stop, they see proof of God's hand at work in American history.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: In 1805, Abraham Lincoln's mother and father went to a camp meeting in Kentucky. And at this meeting, they had a dramatic encounter with God. And fell down and gave their life to the Lord. Four years later, they gave birth to Abraham Lincoln.

FOREMAN: But now, they say, God is longer welcome in Washington. And America is suffering for it.


FOREMAN: There is so much more to this story. That's just a taste of what we are looking at this week. So, what issues do Christians consider most important in this election? You may be surprised to know abortion is not one of them. Not by far.

We'll tell you more and have a rare interview with influential Pastor Rod Parsley (ph), an important man in Christian circles for sure -- all of that tonight in our special series, "GOD'S COUNTRY" on "AC360".

KING: We'll be watching. Tom, thank you very much -- a fascinating report.

And up ahead tonight here in THE SITUATION ROOM, food made of cardboard. The reporter that broke the story is arrested. Is China trying to cover it up?

Plus, San Francisco stowaway -- a gruesome discovery at the airport. Stay with us. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.


KING: Our Carol Costello is monitoring stories incoming to THE SITUATION ROOM right now. Carol, tell us what you have.

CAROL COSTELLO, CNN ANCHOR: A couple of things, John. A ground crew at San Francisco's international airport made a grim discovery during a post-flight inspection of a commercial jet just in from Shanghai, China. They found a dead man lodged in the plane's wheel well. Authorities say the body is apparently that of a stowaway.

Family members of people said to be murdered by paramilitary groups in Colombia are suing one of the world's most famous fruit growing companies. Chiquita Brands International admits to paying rebel groups to protect its banana growing operations. The suit alleges that those payments amount to funding terrorists and asks for unspecified monetary damages.

He may have a star on the St. Louis Walk of Fame, but he should not expect a day named after him. I'm talking about Ike Turner. The mayor of St. Louis rejects his request. The 75-year-old Turner is to perform in the city in September. An aide says the mayor just doesn't feel right about an Ike Turner Day. Turner has publicly admitted drug use and hitting his former wife Tina Turner, those are the reasons. Ironically, this is the anniversary week that Tina Turner filed for a divorce back in 1976 -- back to you, John.

KING: Carol Costello. Carol, thank you very much.

China takes action following its fate of recent food safety scares. Chinese officials are warning the United States not to engage in what they call groundless smear attacks against Chinese products. But you might be surprised at just what action the Chinese government has taken. They jailed a reporter who broke a story on cardboard in a popular snack food.

CNN's John Vause reports from Beijing.

JOHN VAUSE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: John, police have confirmed to CNN the journalist behind the expose is now being held, awaiting trial, but there's no word on the charges. And Beijing television, which first aired the story, made a very public apology to viewers on Wednesday night, saying the story was staged, it was a hoax, and allegedly an attempt by this reporter to get higher ratings numbers.

And the station says all those involved will be punished. This hidden camera investigation showed cardboard being used as the main ingredient in a very popular snack here called baozis (ph). They are like dumplings and are normally stuffed with meat, usually pork.

Now, after the story went to air, an investigation by police apparently found no evidence of any such wrongdoing, and there are accusations that the reporter gave the baozi (ph) maker the cardboard which was then used in his report. When the story first broke, it caused shock and outrage across China.

It was widely reported in the United States, and many other countries, as well. And it caused a great deal of embarrassment for authorities here, just as they are trying to convince the world that products and especially food from China is safe. But some analysts believe the government is trying to discredit this journalist and his work. John?

KING: John Vause in Beijing -- John, thank you very much.

And just ahead, a new fight between Fidel Castro and the Bush administration -- caught in the middle -- Cubans who have permission to come to the United States.

And snakes on a plane -- find out why exotic creatures and airline security aren't mixing well.

Stay right here. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.



Happening now -- he's pled not guilty. A man indicted for allegedly stealing restricted materials from a Tennessee industrial facility, allegedly hoping to sell it to a foreign country. The material is said to be nuclear-related. (UNINTELLIGIBLE) appeared in a federal court today.

A federal judge throws out a lawsuit against Vice President Cheney and other administration officials by outed former CIA operative Valerie Plame Wilson. Wilson blames the Bush administration for blowing her cover. The judge says the suit raises important issues, but does not belong in federal court.

And in Somalia, terrorists targeting a peace conference missed their target and killed at least six children playing soccer nearby instead. That's what the mayor of Mogadishu says. The conference is tackling issues that fuelled Somalia's 16-year long conflict.

Wolf Blitzer is off today. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

Fidel Castro and the Bush administration are pointing fingers at each other in a growing spat over visas for Cubans who want to come to this country.

CNN's Morgan Neill is in Havana. He shows us who is really being hurt by all of this.


MORGAN NEILL, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): This is a scene both Cuba and the United States say they want to avoid repeating. In 1994, with economic conditions on the island nation deteriorating and President Fidel Castro declaring an open immigration policy, tens of thousands of Cubans took to the Florida Straits in barely seaworthy rafts -- a crisis that led to a rare example of cooperation.

The U.S. and Cuba signed accords under which the U.S. agreed to grant at least 20,000 visas each year to Cubans looking to immigrate. But this year, the United States won't meet that number. It won't even come close. With less than three months left, they processed little more than half the quota.

Cuba says it's a scheme to destabilize the island by encouraging illegal immigration. Washington says Cuba is to blame for blocking the personnel and material it needs to keep its diplomatic mission in Cuba, known as the intersection, functioning effectively.

Cuban officials continue to refuse to allow U.S. intersection to hire local staff to replace those who have resigned or retired. For every year, the government of Cuba has held at least 28 shipping containers at the port and the airport combined.

NEILL: Caught in the middle of this dispute: Tens of thousands of Cubans hoping to leave.

In this square, you'll always find a crowd. This time of day, mid-morning, they are all waiting on friends or relatives inside that imposing building over there, the United States Interest Section, where they are going through the interview process in hopes of getting a visa.

Rafael (ph), here with his wife, is dismissive of the latest dispute. "That's a problem of those in power who have this spat," he says.

Pablo, whose wife is inside, seems resigned. "We'll just have to wait until they resolve the problem," he says. And that seems to be the overriding sense here. Those most affected by this conflict feel they have the least power to do anything about it.

Morgan Neill, CNN, Havana.


KING: The House and Senate have agreed on a requirement for all foreign ship cargo to be screened before it leaves for the United States. The fear? Terrorists detonating a nuclear device in an American port. But what if this were waiting inside cargo? It would pose a different set of problems for screeners. Here is CNN's homeland security correspondent Jeanne Meserve.


JEANNE MESERVE, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): With fangs one and a quarter inch long, this viper is one of the most venomous snakes in the world. It strikes so fast, you have to slow it down to really see it.

Snakes like this are shipped in the same planes you fly in, along with spiders.

JOE FAUCI, SOUTHEAST REPTILE EXCHANGE: This is a pink-toed tarantula.

MESERVE: And lizards.

FAUCI: That's a baby.

MESERVE: And all manner of crawley creatures. Every week, Joe Fauci carefully packs and ships thousands of exotic animals to pet stores around the country, all as cargo on passenger planes.

FAUCI: We'll mark the bag...

MESERVE: But Joe Fauci is afraid that a change in air cargo screening rules could put a squeeze on his business.

Right now, every airline passenger, every carry-on and every checked bag is screened. But not all cargo is, even though it's going on the same flight. The House and Senate have both passed legislation to change that. The House approach is more drastic, mandating inspection of every piece of cargo by 2009.

If technology to do that isn't ready in time, it might have to be checked with dogs or by hand, including those boxes shipped by Joe Fauci.

FAUCI: You could open a container and have tree frogs all over your terminal or snakes or whatever.

MESERVE: A frightening prospect, but not half as frightening as putting uninspected cargo on planes, says Congressman Ed Markey. Markey fears another terrorist attack.

REP. ED MARKEY (D), MASSACHUSETTS: We know that this cargo hold is the place where they can place a bomb that can create another 9/11.

MESERVE: But shippers predict businesses will be strangled if the 6 billion pounds of cargo put on passenger planes every year has to be inspected.

BRANDON FRIED: That is going to create bottlenecks. And when you crate bottlenecks, you miss flights. And when you miss flights, that means goods don't get to market on time.

MESERVE: That could be a catastrophe for fish farmer Tim Hennessy.

TIM HENNESSY, FISH FARMER: These are corydoras. That's a type of cat fish.

MESERVE: He ships 6 million fish a month in the cargo hold of passenger planes. Usually, they arrive at their destination, like this pet store in Chicago, safe and sound. But a long wait for inspection in the hot Florida sun could kill them.

HENNESSY: We have to have some security. But I don't think somebody sitting on their butt in Washington is in the best position to determine what those actual steps should be.

MESERVE: Hennessy and his drivers have had background checks and training to secure cargo in the warehouse and during transport.

The Senate says this known shipper program should be expanded to secure cargo. But Ed Markey says it doesn't do the job.

MARKEY: America would be playing Russian roulette, because there really would be no true inspection of that cargo.

MESERVE: Markey says that leaves travelers vulnerable to something much more dangerous than snakes on a plane.

Jeanne Meserve, CNN, Tampa, Florida.


KING: Up ahead tonight, music mogul Russell Simmons. Find out why he's blasting the brutal world of dog fighting, and challenging one of the highest paid players in the NFL to become a role model rather than maybe go to prison.

Plus, Harry Potter outrage in Israel. Find out why some people don't want the book released, at least not tomorrow night. Stay with us. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.


KING: Nike is suspending release of a new shoe named for Atlanta Falcons quarterback Michael Vick. Federal prosecutors indicted Vick and three other men over an alleged dog fighting ring. Outrage is growing over those gruesome allegations. Now, a prominent entertainment executive is joining animal rights advocates in speaking out.


KING: Russell Simmons, thank you for joining us today here in THE SITUATION ROOM.

I want to start with a letter you wrote to the NFL and to those who use Michael Vick to sponsor their products, to endorse their products, about his arrest. You wrote this -- "Today, we sound a clarion call to all people: Stand up for what is right, and speak out against what is wrong. Dog fighting is unacceptable. Hurting animals for human pleasure or gain is despicable. Cruelty is just plain wrong."

And, sir, in that letter to the NFL and Michael Vick sponsors, you said they should, quote, "take appropriate action."

Is Michael Vick innocent until proven guilty, or should he be suspended and his endorsements suspended until this case is resolved?

RUSSELL SIMMONS, HIP HOP MOGUL: Michael Vick is innocent until proven guilty. That's a fact. But the other fact is that there's such a -- he's almost a blessing, because there's so little dialogue about this despicable crime. And the fact that we're having this discussion now and it's on the front page of the newspapers allows us to promote a different consciousness.

The suffering of animals, not only dog fighting, is something that needs to be on the front page. And so, this letter was written as part of -- maybe the best thing that could happen is that Michael Vick, instead of being fully prosecuted, he can turn into some kind of a person who promotes something different. He's a role model. It's very important that young people know that dog fighting is unacceptable.

So that's my goal is to get young people and other people, maybe his fans, to know that -- and the first thing I think we did was reach out to him and ask him to denounce the idea. Because the important thing is that people learn from this experience. Prosecuting one more celebrity on this issue is not the answer. The answer is to remind all Americans that we have to step up and change the mind-set that promotes dog fighting.

KING: Well, let me step in on that point. You say not prosecuting just one celebrity. As you know, there are some in the African-American community who suggest Michael Vick is being picked on because he is young, because he is black, and because he is rich and sometimes controversial.

Do you lend any credence to those allegations?

SIMMONS: Well, I think that anyone who is a celebrity, and who promotes something that really is harmful to society becomes a person who could then set a different example. So it's important, whether he's a celebrity or not, he should be, of course, stand up to the law, but he shouldn't be singled out. I'm not suggesting he's singled out or not, but I do know that because of him, this dialogue is on the front page of newspapers.

KING: I want to change the subject, sir, and take the opportunity since we have you here in THE SITUATION ROOM today to ask you about the state of play in the 2008 presidential race. There are some who say with the first African-American candidate with a real chance to be president of the United States, perhaps there should be a great sense of excitement in the community. And yet if you look at our own polling, our most recent poll, among African-Americans Senator Clinton and Senator Obama essentially running equal. Senator Clinton, 43 percent; Senator Obama, 42 percent.

Is that a reflection of Senator Obama needing to prove himself more in the community, or is it in your view a reflection of the fact that Hillary Clinton was first lady for eight years, an administration that had very good relationships through President Clinton in the African-American community, and therefore is well-known and well liked?

SIMMONS: Well, my opinion is that, whoever is going to look to change the condition of suffering of many in our communities is the leader. In other words, those who want to fight poverty and ignorance and those who want to give equal high-quality education, those who might want to really address poverty in a meaningful way -- so for me, that's the concern.

Senator Obama has talked a great deal about poverty, and for that, I applaud him. John Edwards has said a lot of very important things about poverty. So it's important that we talk about lifting people up.

I think America can survive. It's going to suffer even greater than it has been if we don't start to lift the people from the bottom up. The fact that there's so much corporate welfare and so much support for the rich getting richer and so little support for poor people getting an opportunity, that's a sad state that we're in, in America. And I'm very afraid, also, our foreign policy, where we promote so much abuse to so many people. Maybe Obama can travel around the world with the image that he has, since he is a person of color, and apologize for the abuse that we cause all over the world. That might be helpful as a start.

We found our military might is weak. We know in this day and age, we can't knock someone out for three generations. We have to promote love. We spend so much money promoting anger and the cycle of violence is so strong that to continue to promote it is fruitless and we're in a very scary time. The world is smaller. We cannot just abuse people and take advantage of them and expects that we can continue that process and that this generation or the next generation will be OK and we'll deal with it later. It comes up immediately.

We have to worry about those 5,000 Africans that died in the last few hours. Pointless people who died, preventable deaths. We have to worry about the 200 and some odd thousand Iraqis that are dead. We have to worry about the abuse all over the world that our corporations are causing and our government is supporting. We have to worry about the poor here in America who don't have a chance to lift themselves up because we're not giving them the proper education.

We have to change the American mind-set to be more compassionate towards ourselves and towards others. That's the only way this country will survive.

KING: Russell Simmons, we thank you for your time today here in THE SITUATION ROOM.

SIMMONS: Thank you.


KING: Up ahead, the German government is no fan of Tom Cruise. Why is the actor getting turned away again?

And, big boys do cry. Jeanne Moos on famous men who have let their defenses down in public. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.


KING: Actor Tom Cruise has begun shooting a new film in Germany. But the German government is, to say the least, making things difficult for him. CNN's Diana Magnay has the story from Berlin.


DIANA MAGNAY, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Tom Cruise should be used by now to run-ins with the German government. In 2004, he was refused permission to film scenes for "Mission: Impossible III" inside the German parliament building. Now, he is getting the same treatment, this time for a movie in which he plays a German resistance hero, Count Claus von Stauffenberg. Stauffenberg tried to assassinate Hitler in 1944, by planting a bomb in a briefcase in Hitler's conference room. Hitler was only slightly injured in the blast, much of the force absorbed by a table leg.

This is the Bendlerblock, the spot where Stauffenberg and four of his fellow plotters were brought down on the night of July the 20th, and executed after their plan to kill Hitler had failed. Tom Cruise asked for permission to film here, but the German government said no.

Guardians of the site say the decision was fair. The site should be held sacred.

JOHANNES TUCHEL, GERMAN RESISTANCE MEMORIAL: Today, it is a memorial, and, today, it's not a part for a movie.

MAGNAY: But some government members say this has more to do with Cruise's Scientology beliefs.

FRANK HENKEL, CHRISTIAN DEMOCRATIC UNION (through translator): It would not be a good signal if an ambassador of this sect that has extremist character and no concern for basic human rights shoots a movie in a place like that.

MAGNAY: Germany's latest Oscar-winning director, Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck weighed into the debate last week, claiming that Cruise would do more for Germany's image abroad than 10 World Cups.

Diana Magnay, CNN, Berlin.


KING: There's outrage among some in Israel over the new Harry Potter book. Not because of what's in it, but because of when it is scheduled to be released. Carol Costello is here with us to explain the controversy -- Carol.

CAROL COSTELLO, CNN ANCHOR: Oh, John. Some Israeli lawmakers are really hot over this issue. The "Deathly Hallows" is up for sale on Saturday, which happens to be the Jewish Sabbath. Now, by law, stores are supposed to be closed. But some bookstore owners say the law, the law be damned.


COSTELLO (voice-over): Potter mania is not a U.S. saying, it's a worldwide phenomenon. "Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows" will debut simultaneously in bookstores worldwide. And that has pitted bespectacled Harry against the speckled Eli Yishai, a lawmaker who belongs to the ultra orthodox party Shas. He doesn't want the "Deathly Hallows" released on the Jewish Sabbath to cause bookstores to defy Israeli law by staying open. He's threatening to fine bookstores that do, and he has support. AVRAHAM RAVITZ, ISRAELI KNESSET MEMBER: It's one of the most important days by Jewish people of all our history. And I think it's a little chutzpah of them to open the stores just to make money and a lot of money.

COSTELLO: Chutzpah -- some Israeli book sellers have it, vowing to open their doors despite threats from lawmakers. They say their contract with the Potter publisher requires them to. And besides, Israeli kids are clamoring for Harry ASAP.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's great that they open between Friday and Saturday, because it's a global -- it's -- they sell it all over the world at the same time. So I think that Harry fans, if they are addicted to the books, should buy it when everybody else in the world buys it.

COSTELLO: So Harry versus Eli, let the countdown begin, early Saturday, Israel. Potter wins.


COSTELLO: Potter does win. Of course, while some Jewish leaders are not so happy about Harry, many Christian leaders seem to be OK with what some had called the pagan worship and witchcraft depicted in the books. In fact, Christian authors are now writing Potter-like books of their own which include magic. And guess what? The kids are buying.

KING: Guess what? I bet that's why they are writing them, too. Success tends to breed...

COSTELLO: Success.

KING: Success, and copying, or...


KING: Joining the genre, you might say. Carol Costello, thank you very much.

The boy wizard named Harry has created magic in the publishing world: 325 million copies of Harry Potter books have been sold worldwide. About a third of them sold right here in the United States, more than 121 million copies. The Potter phenomenon translates globally. The books have been published in more than 60 languages. Anticipation for the new book, "Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows," is so intense, its first printing is a record- setting 12 million copies.

There's a Harry Potter security breach we want to tell you about, too. Leaked copies are popping up online. Our Internet reporter Abbi Tatton is here. Abbi, read the final chapter?

ABBI TATTON, CNN INTERNET CORRESPONDENT: I'm not giving away anything at all here, John. Harry Potter fans are safe here in THE SITUATION ROOM. But online, it is a different story. And the fans are mad. Imagine, they've been waiting for years to find out what finally happens to Harry Potter, and then, it's all spoiled, after a couple of clicks on the wrong Web site.

What's circulating online, hundreds of photographs, what purports to be every single page of the new book, "Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows." We've also seen book reviews. There's even a YouTube video which says that they are detailing every single major event in the book.

The U.S. publisher Scholastic is saying they are pursuing legal action against two companies they say shipped the books early. J.K. Rowling, the author, is saying at her site to the fans, please, preserve the secrecy until tomorrow night -- John.

KING: Abbi Tatton, defender of secrecy right here in THE SITUATION ROOM. Abbi, thank you very much.

And Jack Cafferty joins us now from New York. Hi, Jack.

CAFFERTY: How are you doing. Have you ever read any Harry Potter books?

KING: I have, in fact.

CAFFERTY: Have you?

KING: I have. With my son.

CAFFERTY: Well, that's very good. I haven't. We'll have to check it out one of these days.

The question this hour is this: Senator Barack Obama says that age-appropriate sex education for kindergarteners is the right thing to do. Is it?

Curtis in Philadelphia -- "Jack, maybe it's just me, but just what kind of sex are kindergarten kids having that they need to be educated on? I know kids nowadays are growing faster than we did, but honestly, what do 5- and 6-year-olds need to know about sex? Barack, baby, I thought you were going to deliver us from evil, the evil of Hillary as president. I'm a Democrat, but this kind of talk ain't gonna fly in Iowa and Kansas."

Jan in Florida writes -- "As a licensed psychotherapist, I wonder how each school district would define age-appropriate sex education for kindergarteners. At 5 years of age, children don't need sex education, and the schools have more important things to teach them."

Karen in Florida -- "Yes, Obama is correct. Age-appropriate means age-appropriate. As a teacher, I've been asked many a question by my kindergarten students. When a 5-year-old asks where babies come from and is told "from their mommies," that's all the information they want, and they move on to the next thing."

Diane in Pennsylvania -- "Teaching sex education in kindergarten should be limited to protecting them from sexual predators. I believe they are already told about good touching and bad touching, and should be encouraged to tell an adult if they feel threatened or made uncomfortable by anyone."

Kim in Maryland -- "Well, Jack, Obama just lost my vote. Any presidential candidate that thinks kindergarten is an appropriate age for sex education is misguided and not fit to run the country."

Lisa in Brooklyn -- "Sex education is necessary, but parents don't always have the facts, nor take the responsibility upon themselves. Instead of teaching 4- and 5-year-olds subject matter that's beyond their years, why not conduct a mandatory sex education course for parents when their child is enrolled in school?"

And John in Texas -- "Nothing like teaching them early. Unwanted teen pregnancy leads to pro-choice voters. Guess Obama is securing that voting block for future Democrats."

If you didn't see your e-mail here, you can go to We post more of them online, along with video clips of "The Cafferty File."

Somewhere, there is somebody in that Obama campaign that probably wishes he hadn't brought this up, John.

KING: I bet you're right. Jack Cafferty. Jack, thank you very much.

And now let's check in with Paula Zahn for a look at what's coming up at the top of the hour on "PAULA ZAHN NOW." Hi, Paula.

PAULA ZAHN, CNN ANCHOR: Hey, John. You know that countdown we're starting -- or did start on Monday? We're continuing it tonight, to next Monday's YouTube presidential debate. Nearly 1,600 questions for the Democratic candidates are now posted on YouTube. Very likely many of you out there have submitted your own. And tonight, the most provocative ones about the candidate's faith and the role of religion in public life. We have also got questions about gay marriage, gays in the military, some very controversial issues. And I've got to say, John, I've heard a bunch of the questions so far, and they are good.

KING: It's great stuff.

ZAHN: Let's just see how many of the politicians answer them on Monday.

KING: That we will. We'll press them to do that, and we will be with you in just a little bit. Paula, thank you very much.

Real men do cry. Jeanne Moos will have some high-profile examples. Stay right here. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.


KING: Real men do cry. Here's Jeanne Moos.


JEANNE MOOS, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): You're looking at a defense secretary about to let down his defenses.

ROBERT GATES, DEFENSE SECRETARY: The lion of Fallujah was laid to rest at Arlington.

MOOS: Robert Gates was speaking about Marine Major Douglas Zembiec, whose picture hangs in the secretary's conference room.

GATES: Every evening, I write notes to the families of young Americans like Doug Zembiec. They are not names on a press release or numbers updated on a Web site. They are our country's sons and daughters.

MOOS: There is a lot of sadness to go around these days. This Iraq vet lost his legs, but not his capacity to cry, and when President Bush introduced him to applause...

GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: He's a good man. We're going to get him so new legs.

MOOS: ... it seemed to choke up the president.

Usually, I prefer to laugh until I cry, but not with this story.

Be it a father emotional about his son.


MOOS: A husband distraught over the death of his wife. Or a coach leaving his team.

DICK VERMEIL, FORMER COACH, ST. LOUIS RAMS: And these players, gees. Excuse me.

MOOS: Nothing to be excused for. But try telling that to men.

You ever cry in public?


MOOS: Never?


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Publicly, no, certainly not.

MOOS: Does he cry much?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No, not in the past five minutes.

MOOS: Do you?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No. UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I cried when my mother died, my brother died, my father died.

MOOS: What do you cry about?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: When my daddy spanks me.

MOOS: Sort of like when former Congressman Duke Cunningham got spanked with a prison sentence for taking bribes.

FORMER REP. DUKE CUNNINGHAM (R), CALIFORNIA: The trust of my friends and family...

MOOS: Sometimes crying men get no respect. For instance, House Minority Leader John Boehner, talking about the war on terror.

REP. JOHN BOEHNER (R-OH), MINORITY LEADER: It's provided for the safety and security of the American people. That's at the top of our list!

MOOS: Boehner crying ended up on YouTube and the blogs, where he got little sympathy. "Ohhh pleeeasseeee!" "Does this guy keep an onion in his pocket?"

Tears are memorable, from crying anchormen, to crying Indians. This one became a anti-litter symbol.

Be careful how you cry.

BOEHNER: When we are going to defeat them...

MOOS: Tears can be self-defeating. When big boys do cry, sometimes the world cries with them.

Jeanne Moos, CNN, New York.


KING: Up right now, Paula Zahn and the CNN-YouTube debate countdown -- Paula.