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Iraq Troop Pullback; Asian markets Sink; Tropical Storm Flossie; Mattel Recall; Consumer Outrage
Aired August 15, 2007 - 06:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
KIRAN CHETRY, CNN ANCHOR: Triple threat. Three extreme storms stirring up high seas and high emotions right now from Hawaii to the Texas Gulf Coast.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: If necessary, I have to leave, I have to leave. Pray to God it doesn't happen.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
CHETRY: Baby danger. No longer just toys. This morning, a new focus on bibs made in China and the grandmother who first blew the whistle.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Things that are this dangerous could be on the market shelves for our children to get damaged brain cells from.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
CHETRY: Plus, mad money. Overseas markets tumble overnight. New concerns for Wall Street and your wallet on this AMERICAN MORNING.
And welcome. Glad you're with us. It is Wednesday, August 15th. I'm Kiran Chetry.
ROB MARCIANO, CNN ANCHOR: John Roberts is off again today. I'm Rob Marciano. Good morning.
CHETRY: And it's a good thing we have you today. We have a lot of weather to talk about.
MARCIANO: A lot of weather action. Excited about that.
CHETRY: Right. Three different storms.
But we begin with two major stories this morning. The Bush administration considering an extreme step against Iran. They're talking about putting Iran's revolutionary guard on its list of terror organizations. That would be the first time that another government's military has been put on the terror list. It would also let the U.S. go after the revolutionary guard's finances.
We're also hearing about the possibility of pulling American troops out of some parts of Iraq. "The Los Angeles Times" is reporting the top commander in Iraq, General David Petraeus, is expected to announce the pullbacks in that critical report to Congress that's due out next month. Following the latest developments on both of these stories for us, CNN's Michael Ware. He's in Baghdad.
Good to see you, Michael.
MICHAEL WARE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hey, Kiran, good morning.
Yes, that's right. We're hearing now about potential moves by the administration to brand the Iranian revolutionary guard corps as a terrorist organization under the list of foreign terrorist organizations held by the Treasury Department. Now this is nothing but a symbolic gesture. This is akin to Iran branding everyone at Ft. Bragg a terrorist.
Now it is nothing but name calling. It's certainly a sign of American frustration with Iran and anger. But in effect, it will have zero impact.
The revolutionary guard corps, which is 120,000 troops, Iran's major military formation, does not bank in the U.S. or any countries that the U.S. has access to. So really it's akin to throwing a glass of water on a raging house fire.
Now the reason this is happening is because the Iranians essentially are winning so much here in Iraq. The government here in Iraq is pretty much under the influence of the revolutionary guard's corps and most of the bombs that are killing U.S. troops now are being made in Iran and sent across the border. That's why the U.S. is trying to take this action.
Meanwhile, we're seeing stability in some of the Sunni areas of Iraq. This is because America has cut a deal with the Baathist insurgents and the tribal insurgents that have been killing Americans. As long as they kill al Qaeda, America now allows them to operate. The mood now, according to the White House sources, is to enhance that by pulling back U.S. troops.
Now, you don't want to do that too early say some of the top American commanders here. But when you do, you must realize it's a trade-off. Yes, you can pull your boys out, but essentially you've got to cut a deal with another militia. We've seen that in the north in Mosul where essentially the peshmerga (ph) or the Kurds take over, and in the south, in Iran. The Brits are able to withdraw because Iranian militias take over. There's always a price for everything.
CHETRY: Michael Ware reporting from Baghdad for us this morning on those two developments. Thank you.
MARCIANO: We are also watching markets overnight. Stocks falling in Asia. Ali Velshi tells us what that may mean for the Dow.
Is it getting ugly again, Ali? ALI VELSHI, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, good morning, Rob.
The Dow had a rough day yesterday, 207 points lower. And then overnight there were some worries because once we started looking at Asian markets, started to get worried that that might come back and hit North American markets.
Let me tell you what happened overnight. The Nikkei, Japan's major index, was down more than 2 percent. Hang Seng in Hong Kong down almost 3 percent and Shanghai was down almost 3 percent.
Mitsubishi UFJ, which is the world's biggest bank by assets, lost 5 percent yesterday. And it's all got to do with mortgages, these U.S. mortgages, sub prime mortgages, affecting credit around the world with banks unable to repay people who go to redeem their money. This is not widespread, but when it happens just a little bit, it starts to worry international investors.
So has that trickled over to Europe? Well, European markets right now, London and Frankfurt, just down about 0.5 percent. Paris is down a little bit more. But it doesn't seem to be filtering over into U.S. futures. Right now it looks like the Dow will open lower, but not substantially. So it looks like the bleeding may have stopped overnight on its way to the United States.
I'll be back to tell you about some specifics that might be of interest to investors today. But, so far, it does look like we'll open lower. It doesn't look like the degree of loss is going to carry over from Asia into the United States this morning.
MARCIANO: No doubt a little volatility again, though.
MARCIANO: That seems to be the theme. All right. Thanks, Ali.
Well, a lot of hot spots in the weather department. Here's Kiran Chetry with that look.
CHETRY: Yes, that's right. We're watching three storms developing now. Flossie now reclassified as a tropical storm overnight. This is the one pounding Hawaii with 25-foot waves, wind and up to 10 inches of rain.
Also, while Tropical Storm Dean is brewing in the Atlantic and heading for the eastern Caribbean Islands, also looking at Puerto Rico as well. Dean could become the first Atlantic hurricane of the season.
Also in the Gulf, there's a tropical storm watch for parts of Texas and Mexico. The storm is on track to hit southeast Texas tomorrow and it is expected to be a rainmaker. A live picture coming to us from Corpus Christi in just a moment. They're expect some heavy rains to begin tonight. The city issuing a boil water notice after some recent storms this month.
Jacqui Jeras is in the Weather Center, Reynolds Wolf is in Hawaii, both of them following this for us and we begin with Jacqui.
Hi, Jacqui. Good morning.
JACQUI JERAS, CNN METEOROLOGIST: Well, good morning, Kiran.
Flossie weakening quite a bit due to extreme winds sheer right now. As it gets a little closer towards the big island, maximum winds around 70 miles per hour at this time. And it's expected to continue to weaken. So getting off pretty easy here.
Big threat, though, of the rainfall. We're going to see anywhere between six and eight inches, maybe even locally heavier amounts, up to 10 inches overall. So far the reports have been very minimal. Hilo's had less than two inches so far. There you can see the forecast track staying well offshore and continuing to weaken. By Friday it's going to be out of there all together.
All right. Let's move on into the Gulf of Mexico. This is tropical depression number five. And look at that huge blossom just really trying to ramp up at this time. We do think it will be a tropical storm. If that happens, its name will be Erin. The rain bands now are just hours away. More on the tropics coming up a little later.
CHETRY: All right, Jacqui, thanks so much.
And we get a live look at the conditions as Tropical Storm Flossie passes by Hawaii. CNN's Reynolds Wolf is there right now.
What's it like, Reynolds?
REYNOLDS WOLF, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Kiran, I'll tell you, things have improved a little bit in terms of the wind overnight. We do have some good news and that is the hurricane watch that was in effect for the island has expired. However, the tropical storm warning will remain in effect.
Winds, as you can see behind me, there's a palm that has been rocking back and forth, but certainly nothing too extreme. As far as rain is concerned, we are expecting a bit more but it has been really a light drizzle.
Now this storm is expected, as Jacqui mentioned, to push a little bit farther to the west as we make our way through the morning, midday and afternoon hours. And as it does so, we can expect conditions here to steadily improve.
That's the latest. Let's send it back to you in New York.
CHETRY: All right, Reynolds Wolf reporting from Hawaii for us on that storm. Thanks so much.
Rob. MARCIANO: Kiran, new this morning, the White House condemning suicide bombings in northern Iraq as barbaric. Five simultaneous attacks hit two small towns 60 miles west of Mosul. Two hundred people killed and wounding 200 more. In a major operation, 16,000 U.S. and Iraq troops is underway to route al Qaeda from the Diyala River Valley. The colonel in charge described how entrenched al Qaeda is in this area.
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LT. COL. ANDREW POPPAS, 5-73 AIRBORNE SQUADRON: They had a hierarchy, both in terms of judicial, the political, they have a police force that maintained, they had transportation units and they had a military wing.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MARCIANO: The U.S. military plans a number of operations against al Qaeda in Iraq over the next three days.
In Israel, Benjamin Netanyahu is trying to become prime minister again. Netanyahu is once again the leader of Likud after getting 73 percent of the vote. In his victory speech, he made it clear that he wants his old job back.
And Illinois congressman and former House Speaker Dennis Hastert is expected to announce his retirement later this week. Hastert is the longest-serving Republican speaker in history. He lost the job when his party lost control of Congress last November. A formal announcement of his future plans is scheduled for Friday.
CHETRY: Thanks, Rob.
Well an update now on the situation with NASA and whether or not they will do a space walk to repair some tile damage to the shuttle. They say they're going to decide today if they're need, but they say that the testing shows they're cautiously optimistic that the shuttle can make a safe return to earth even with a hole about the size of a business card in the tiles. More tests will be done today before NASA makes a final decision about whether or not to make the repairs.
Well, from the hard wood to a court where he doesn't call the shots, an NBA referee accused of betting on the same games he officiated is now expected to plead guilty later this morning. A source close to the case tells the Associated Press that referee Tim Donaghy will turn himself into federal court in Brooklyn, New York. Commissioner David Stern called the betting scandal the most serious situation the league has ever faced. No other refs or players have been named.
And a member of the women's basketball team at Rutgers University is suing Don Imus for slander and defamation of character. Kia Vaughn claims the shock jock's comments that got him canned was racist, sexist and damaging to her reputation. On "AC 360" last night, Vaughn's attorney addressed what's believed to be the first lawsuit by a player in the case. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
RICHARD ANCOWITZ, ATTORNEY FOR RUTGERS PLAYER: You hear the phrase, "it's not about the money." Well, in this case, it kind of is about the money. She would like to set up a scholarship fund that would chair, research and study of the issue of bad speech, of foul speech, of evil and malevolent speech in society, especially racist and misogynistic and sexist speech. And that's what we intend to do.
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CHETRY: Well, the suit also named CBS, MSNBC and Imus' producer. It was filed the same day that Imus and CBS settled their legal differences over his firing in April, paving the way for Imus to return to the airwaves.
An update on the massive toy recall now. The Chinese government releasing a statement today saying that small magnets on toys were made following the guidelines from Mattel. It also asks U.S. importers to share some of the responsibility. According to Reuters, a spokesman for the Chinese toy industry says it knew as early as March about problems with the small magnets on toys. She didn't say why it took so long to get them off the shelves.
MARCIANO: Kiran, time now to check in with our team of AMERICAN MORNING correspondents for the other news happening this morning. There's a nation, a giant corporation, both on the defense as parents look for answers in this huge toy recall. Greg Hunter has that.
GREG HUNTER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hey, Rob.
Well, talk about those magnets in these Polly Pockets, very powerful magnets. Tiny, but they hold her outfits and clothes on. We'll talk about that.
Also, this little car, what does it have on it? Lead paint. It's been banned for years, particularly banned for toys. And that's on this car.
Now we'll also take a look at Mattel's other recalls. They've had millions, not just this latest with the 9.5 million toys recalled. They've had other recalls. Millions of toys recalled since the year 2000. Hey, what's up? And should parents be concerned? And what do they need to look for? We'll talk all about that coming up.
MARCIANO: Look forward to that. Thank you very much, Greg.
Meanwhile, Alina Cho is at the Brooklyn Bridge with a billion dollar plan for your morning commute. Would paying to drive into town trim down your traffic?
Alina, what's the latest n that? Hello. ALINA CHO, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hello, Rob.
Well, that's up for debate. You know, New York is not only the largest city in America, but as many people know, it is notorious for its traffic jams. You know 800,000 cars come into Manhattan on a given work day and that creates, well, a lot of gridlock. So the mayor has come up with what he calls a congestion pricing plan.
It has already been done in London and Singapore with some success. If it passes essentially between the hours of 6:00 a.m. and 6:00 p.m., Monday through Friday, cars would be charged $8, trucks $21, to enter the busiest parts of Manhattan. Yesterday the Transportation Department called it a good idea and set aside $354 million if the city can pass and implement the plan.
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MARY PETERS, TRANSPORTATION SECRETARY: New Yorkers are fortunate to have leaders willing to stand up and try something different. This plan gives commuters new hope, new choices, and new paths home.
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CHO: Now this congestion pricing plan would be the first of its kind in the nation, but it is certainly far from a done deal. Critics say it really amounts to a tax on the working class. A decision is expected some time in January.
Meanwhile, four other cities in the country are expected to get federal funds, including Minneapolis, which is still cleaning up after that bridge collapse, and Miami, where they plan to build what they call hot lanes, essentially drivers would pay extra to bypass traffic. But certainly congestion is a problem, a major one, in every major city in the country. Consider this, Rob, by the year 2030, the population in New York City will grow by a million. So this problem will only get worse.
MARCIANO: And there's only so much land to build more bridges and more roadways, so we've got to come up with solutions.
CHO: Absolutely right.
MARCIANO: Thank you, Alina.
Kiran, back over to you.
CHETRY: Well, the search for six missing miners in Utah topping your "Quick Hits" now. They have not been seen or heard from still and rescuers say they're growing increasingly frustrated. A third drilled hole could reach the spot today where they believe the miners are trapped.
A volcano comes to life in the Pacific. Ring of fire. Indonesia specifically. Plumes of smoke and ash shooting higher that the Empire State Building. Farmers are being warned to stay away from nearby villages and they're covered in dust. Up in flames, wood chips meant to protect your kids at the playground. They sparked an inferno at one elementary school. And the fire started all by itself. We're going to tell you how this happened and whether you need to be worried in your own town.
Also, recalls and apologies. Who's to blame for toxic toys making it on to the shelves in the first place? And how do we prevent this in the future? What parents need to know coming up next on AMERICAN MORNING.
CHETRY: Welcome back to AMERICAN MORNING.
We're hearing yet again of another possible danger from a product made in China and we want to make sure you know about it this morning. An article in "The New York Times" is reports that certain Chinese- made vinyl baby bibs, ones that have been sold by Toys R Us, contain lead up to three times the amount allowed in paint. Toys R Us says its own tests show that the bibs are within the guidelines and safe. So, again, lead levels in these bibs calling their safety into question, but so far there has been no recall of those bibs.
But speaking of recalls, 9.5 million toys being recalled and many parents wondering who's responsible. Mattel, the toymaker, or the government? Could anybody have done more? Greg Hunter is looking out for you and he's asking that question this morning.
Greg, what did you find?
GREG HUNTER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, I'll tell you, Kiran, parents are upset. They want to know how is their kid affected and what could be done about this in the future. Take a look.
HUNTER, (voice over): Mattel launched a second, massive recall of toys manufactured in China in as many weeks. This time the toy company took out full-page newspaper ads to reassure parents of its commitment to safety, but that didn't quell the consumer outrage.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We buy things for our children, toys, and then they come up with something like this. It's horrible.
HUNTER: Does this big newspaper ad make you want to trust them again?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Of course not.
HUNTER: Over the last seven years, Mattel has recalled more than 15 million toys. The company says that's a small number considering it makes a half billion toys a year.
RYAN STOCKTON, EXEC. VP, MATTEL: We've had a history of trust. And when you look at the number of recalls, we think we make overwhelmingly safe products. HUNTER: Mattel pledged to change procedures. It will now test every batch of toys it makes for lead and work with regulators to develop new safety standards for magnetic toys. But one toy industry watchdog says, that's good, but too late.
JAMES SWARTZ, WATCH: Realistically, we're not going to get all these items back. Once they're out there in our homes, in our schools, there's no way to get them all back. So there need to be better controls in the first place to prevent this.
HUNTER: The Consumer Product Safety Commission, relied on to safeguard toys, is supposed to oversee the industry. However, the agency's been downsized, its staff cut by more than half in the past 25 years, with only 100 inspectors for all products for the entire country.
NANCY NORD, ACTING CHAIRWOMAN, CPSC: Our economy is so big, hundreds and hundreds of millions of toys and other products come into this country every day. And the notion that somehow we are going to pre-clear these hundreds of millions of products is naive.
HUNTER: Mattel says its 75-year history of making safe toys for children should speak for itself.
STOCKTON: We are upset and we feel we've disappointed some people. And, again, we want to continue to earn the trust of consumers and they will judge us over time by our actions.
HUNTER: Let's start with some of the details of this latest 9.5 million unit recall. This is one of the smaller things recalled, one of the smaller items, the least amount of (ph). It's this toy truck. A great truck. A great little toy. Works well, except it's got lead paint on it. You know, other than that, Mrs. Lincoln, how did you like the play? So you have that.
Now let's talk about the biggest part of this recall. It's this Polly Pockets. You can see, this is a great idea. I mean the clothes will actually stick on and they stick on with very powerful magnets.
And let me show you just how powerful these magnets are. Hold on. I just lost my magnets. They're down here someplace. Where are they? There they are. Here they are. OK.
They're just tiny. Look at these things. So let's put these in my hand to then we'll give the photographer a real workout.
Here are the magnets. These are the magnets that are in these little items that hold the clothes on. So let's just see how powerful they are. And it didn't take me much. I got them out with a screwdriver. Watch this. Tong (ph), abracadabra. Can you see that again? That's how powerful these magnets are.
Well, see it again. See the magnets? See how tiny they are. They're -- look at that. Now if a little child swallows a magnet, a couple of these magnets, and they stick together at the wrong time, you know, like with the intestine wall in between, they can cause blockages. And that's why pediatricians are upset, parents are worried and upset because these magnets can come out. They're just literally just kind of glued in. Took me about, I don't know, about five seconds to dig them out with this screwdriver.
So that's what you need to look out for. And, again, this isn't Mattel's first recall. Fifteen million products since the year 2000.
Back to you guys.
CHETRY: All right, Greg Hunter for us at the toy store this morning. Thanks so much.
One quick note. We're going to be checking in with Sanjay Gupta a little bit later as well to talk about this if you have any of these toys and your kids been playing with them, what type of health danger are they in? Should you get them tested for lead? We're going to get all the answers from Sanjay coming up in a few minutes.
MARCIANO: The health of Luciano Pavarotti tops our quick hits. He could be released from a hospital in Italy today. Pavarotti was admitted last week with a high fever. He had had surgery last summer to remove a tumor in his pancreas.
And remembering Phil Rizzuto. Fans poured into the Yankee Stadium last night to play tribute to the Hall of Fame short stop and legendary broadcaster. He was quite a character. Rizzuto was battling pneumonia when he died Monday at the age of 89.
And a deadly heat wave is lingering over the south. A number of people killed and the heat is growing overnight. We'll show you what city is feeling the worse.
And new information is coming in now on admitted pedophile Jack McClellan, his past, and just what he was doing outside a daycare center. That story and much more is coming up on AMERICAN MORNING.
CHETRY: And welcome back to the most news in the morning. Your "Quick Hits" now.
The publishing world connecting with the iPhone. Consumers can already make calls, watch videos, take pictures, listen to their iPods using their iPhone. Well now Harper Collins is setting up a special link for mobile users to be able to read up to a dozen new books on their iPhone.
Well, some new coin in your pocket. The first Thomas Jefferson U.S. dollar coins are coming out today. The U.S. Mint is putting out a series of dollar coins of all of the presidents.
And Elvis impersonators or tribute artists, as they like to be called, are taking the stage at Graceland this week. The vigil tonight to honor the 30th anniversary of the death of the king. Fans gathering despite the 100-plus-degree heat that's blanketed Memphis all week. We were just talked about your trip to Graceland yesterday.
MARCIANO: Oh, yes, that's quite a place. You know, everybody's got to go once in their life. I encourage it, as a matter of fact. It's definitely some Americana. And don't ever call an impersonator an impersonator.
CHETRY: That's right. What do we -- tribute artist.
MARCIANO: Yes, an artist.
CHETRY: Well, here's a story coming up that you can't miss. We did a story about a month ago I believe on a cat who lives at a nursing home named Oscar who was actually able to predict when some of the residents were going to pass away. There's Oscar.
MARCIANO: Yes, cute and cuddly. Oscar would slowly, you know, make his way towards an ailing patient in a room and cuddle up to them. And hours later they would typically pass away.
Well apparently now there's an animal doing just about the same thing, not a cat, but we're going to show you exactly what it is that's predicting, unfortunately, death. If that doesn't bring you up in the morning, I don't know what will. But they're cute and cuddly nonetheless, for you animal lovers.
CHETRY: All right. Well, we're have more on those stories and much more when AMERICAN MORNING comes right back.
MARCIANO: Good morning, Philly. City of brotherly love. Come on, wake up. Going to be a good day. WPVI is our affiliate out that way. The Ben Franklin Bridge. Looks like the sun's perking up. And I'm told it's going to be a nice day from the CNN Weather Center.
Good morning. It's Wednesday . . .
CHETRY: Makes you want a cheese steak, doesn't it?
MARCIANO: It does. Don't make me hungry.
It's Wednesday -- by the way, nobody eats more than she does, and she's still as thin as can be. Unbelievable.
CHETRY: It's the power bars that keep Rob going in the morning. That's how you maintain your waist-to-hip ratio.
MARCIANO: You haven't seen lunch and dinner.
Good morning, web, August 15th. John Roberts on vacation. I'm Rob Marciano.
CHETRY: I'm Kiran Chetry. We already in August and haven't had a named hurricane in the Atlantic.
MARC: We could have one though as early as today and tomorrow.
CHETRY: We're tracking three big storms, one in Hawaii, one in the gulf and one in the Atlantic.
First, Bush administration is considering an extreme step against Iran. They are talking about putting Iran's Revolutionary Guard on the list of terrorist organizations. It would let the U.S. go after the revolutionary guard's finances.
We spoke earlier to our Michael Ware in Baghdad who does not believe it is going to have a big impact.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MICHAEL WARE, CNN NEWS CORRESPONDENT: this is nothing but a symbolic gesture. This is akin to Iran branding everyone at Fort Bragg a terrorist. Now it's nothing but name calling. It certainly is a sign of American frustration with Iran and anger, but, in effect, it will have zero impact.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
CHETRY: There are other analysts that say it will put pressure on the world community to step up the push for sanctions within the U.N. Security Council on Iran. There are others who say that there is a possibility it could serve to divide Iran's population.
Meantime, a top U.S. commander in Iraq General David Petraeus could pull troops out of parts of Iraq. According to a report in today's "L.A. Times," Petraeus could possibly decide this when he reports to Congress next month about some pullbacks. Many U.S. commanders say they think the troop surge has improved security.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GEN. GEORGE CASEY, CHIEF OF STAFF, U.S. ARMY: There was progress in Iraq every day. I was back there over the weekend and there continues to be progress. The surge is having the intended military effect. Our guys are seeing progress on the security front.
CHETRY: The report says Petraeus isn't ready to reveal what areas troops would leave and that he plans to keep the same overall level of forces in Iraq.
Also on our security watch this morning, two lawsuits questioning the legality of the national security agency's eavesdropping program will be heard today.
Kelli Arena joins us live from Washington with more on the challenges to the government's spy program.
Good morning, Kelli.
KELLI ARENA, CNN NEWS CORRESPONDENT: Good morning. There is a lot riding on today's hearing. It centers on the NSA's super secret surveillance program and how the government was listening in on communications without warrants. The lawsuits claim that was unconstitutional.
The government says if these cases are allowed to go forward, we will be revealing state secrets and letting the terrorists in on what we're doing to catch them, and that puts the U.S. at risk.
But if the cases are not allowed to go forward, then civil liberties groups say that U.S. citizens will never know if the government is truly up to and whether our constitutional rights are being violated. Even though some of this NSA program has been talked about, Kiran, there's a lot we do not know and remains classified.
CHETRY: Of course, intelligence officials will say that's how it should be. Right?
KELLI: They say it's exactly how it should be. In order to successfully fight the war on terror the government has to be able to work secretly. But the opposite argument is that if U.S. citizens are losing their rights, including their right to privacy, that the terrorists have already won. This is obviously a larger issue that will continue to dog us as long as this war on terror goes on. It is going to be way beyond this NSA battle. But today we'll find out whether or not these cases can even move forward.
CHETRY: Kelli Arena reporting from Washington. Kelli, thanks.
ARENA: You're welcome.
MARCIANO: We are watching three possibly extreme storms now. Hurricane Flossie downgraded to a tropical storm. There you see it about to hit the big island. It is going to bring waves of 20 feet high and winds -- also maybe some rain potentially in the mountains up to ten inches.
Also Tropical Storm Dean brewing. Where is it? We don't have Dean but it is brewing -- there it is in the Atlantic. Central Atlantic, heading towards the Leeward Islands. Promises potential to become a hurricane, the first hurricane of the Atlantic season.
Also brewing in the Gulf of Mexico, potentially, another tropical storm as well. This one would hit the southeast coastline of Texas, maybe later tomorrow morning or tomorrow night. Likely it won't bring a whole lot of wind but certainly heavy rain in an area that's already seen a tremendous amount of rain this summer. Kiran, over to you.
CHETRY: New this morning, a deadly heat wave continues to bake much of the south with triple-digit temperatures. Memphis topping the 100-degree mark for five straight days. Forecasters say they expect more of the same through Friday. The heat has been blamed on more than a dozen deaths in the region.
Some residents of a small Idaho town are refusing to evacuate. Wildfires have already burned 8 square miles and now the fire is just a few miles from the town of yellow pine. But at least 37 people are insisting on staying in their homes defying evacuation orders.
There is a major push to get the world's largest peacekeeping force into Darfur. U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon says Darfur is a top priority and wants to send a force of 26,000 peacekeepers to Darfur by the end of the year.
MARCIANO: As Kiran just mentioned, triple-digit temperatures will continue to bake parts of the south today. This morning that oppressive heat has parents facing a new and highly unusual threat. Look at this surveillance video. That's a playground engulfed in flames in Arlington, Texas. Fire investigators suspect the hot weather caused wood chips on the ground to spontaneously burst into flames. Now 20 play grounds in Arlington are closed as workers replace the wood chips with another material.
Coming up in our next half hour, next hour, we'll talk with the fire marshal. We'll get tips for keeping your kids safe on the school playground or just in your backyard.
We've been following the story of an admitted pedophile who had a restraining order against him from getting anywhere near kids. This morning we're learning more about Jack McClellan's past.
Chris Lawrence is live from Los Angeles with that.
Good morning, Chris.
CHRIS LAWRENCE, CNN NEWS CORRESPONDENT: Good morning, Rob. This morning, Jack McClellan is sitting in jail with bail set at about $150,000. Psychologists are starting to speculate where he is truly a danger to children or a twisted man just out for attention. Jack McClellan is very open about what he prefers.
JACK MCCLELLAN, ADMITTED PEDOPHILE: It's pretty much in my head now that I am more attracted to girls than women.
LAWRENCE (voice-over): And, how he lives. Sleeping in his car and collecting social security with no steady job.
MCCLELLAN: Just delivered pizzas, wash dishes, just odd jobs.
LAWRENCE: Police arrested him Monday for hanging around a daycare center at UCLA. He's been charged with violating a restraining order which makes it illegal for him to be within ten yards of any child in California. Until recently he lived with his parents outside Seattle. He was also a registered voter and says he attended community college. He also took pictures of little girls, or as he called them," LGS." Online he promoted the best places to watch them.
MCCLELLAN: I mean certainly anything is possible but I'd say 99 percent I'd never do anything illegal with a kid.
LAWRENCE: A psychotherapist Stacy Kaiser says most pedophiles are secretive. Though she's never examined him, she believes McClellan is either trying to make a point or gather a following.
STACY KAISER, PSYCHOTHERAPIST: He truly believes what he's doing is okay and he's trying to get other people to sort of join his crusade, if you will.
LAWRENCE: Already, one other self-proclaimed pedophile in L.A. has gone online offering McClellan a place to stay.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Crazy. It really is disturbing.
LAWRENCE: Disturbing, yes. But as far as we know, he's done nothing illegal. Police say McClellan never posted naked pictures, and what he said online falls within his right to free speech.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I really don't think the community has anything to fear from me going out and grabbing a kid. I mean that's probably the biggest fear. But I have no history of doing that.
LAWRENCE: Now as far as we know, that is true. But, McClellan has blogged about the fact that he would like to cuddle with young girls and he's shown a determination to go to the places where they're likely to be. Rob?
MARCIANO: Whether it's legal or not, it's certainly unnerving, Chris. Don't you think?
LAWRENCE: Very much so. A lot of the parents, law enforcement, attorneys that we spoke to said this kind of behavior is bizarre and they would much, much rather err on the side of caution when it comes to the safety of children.
MARCIANO: Chris Lawrence, thanks.
CHETRY: NASA goes back, checks its map and starts a whole new global warming debate. What it means coming up.
(voice-over): Coming up on "AMERICAN MORNING," toxic toys.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Unbelievable that they still do that today. With all that we know about how much it hurts our children.
CHETRY: More than 9 million toys from China recalled. Dangerous lead and choking hazards the culprit. Who's protecting your children? And why does this continue to happen? Find out next on "AMERICAN MORNING."
MARCIANO: A brush fire is under control this morning in L.A.'s Griffith Park. Hundreds of visitors were forced to leave the park's landmark observatory as a precaution. The cause of the fire is still under investigation.
Well, 1998, not so hot apparently. NASA has revised its list of the hottest years on record after a blogger apparently checked the math. Now 1934 is the hottest year on record in the U.S. it's followed by '98, 1921, and last year, and 1931. This only reflects temperatures in the United States and not globally but it still sparked a new debate on the blogs about global warming since 4 of the top 10 hottest years on the list took place in the 1930s.
Speaking of hot, it's been hot for sure across the Central Plains especially Jacqui Jeras in the CNN Weather Center with the heat and tropics.
JACQUI JERAS, CNN METEOROLOGIST: Hey, Rob. Yeah.
JERAS: We'll talk more about the tropics and what you can expect, maybe tropical storm Aaron. Back to you.
CHETRY: Parents everywhere are going through piles of toys in the house this morning after Mattel's second major toy recall in a month. It is a long road from the manufacturer in China to the toy store to your home. Even toy store owners have a hard time sorting out which items are safe.
We took a trip to the toy store to check it out.
CHETRY: Made in Switzerland. Denmark. Germany. That's one toy you don't have to worry about.
(voice-over): But there are plenty of other concerns, up and down every toy store aisle.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Now I got to worry about what can they choke on, what could they get lead paint, what are you going to buy today that could be recalled tomorrow.
Batman is also on. Disney cars. Polly Pockets.
CHETRY: The ripple effect of this latest recall of millions of toys can be felt at toy stores across the country. Like this one here in Manhattan. The store owners and employees must go shelf by shelf checking out thousands of toys making sure they're safe for their customers.
DONNA SCHOFIELD, TOY STORE OWNER: I have kids of my own. I have a 3-year-old daughter and a 12-year-old son. My daughter plays with Dora. I don't want to give her this product, too, so I don't want to sell it to my customers if I wouldn't give it to my own child.
CHETRY: But the do I store owner says that's difficult because she hasn't even been told by Mattel which products are being recalled.
SCHOFIELD: We saw Polly Pocket, Doggie Daycare, but you still don't know if you have to clear the shelves of these.
CHETRY: You're still waiting. What's the wait?
SCHOFIELD: We're waiting for them to fax us the sheets with the UPC codes so we can check. Because some of these items are not stuff that came in this month or last month. It could have been stuff that came in last year and it is not on that recalled stuff so we're waiting to see what items they're listing.
You think they would send us information before they announce to the world that these toys are no good.
CHETRY: She says it is hard to advise her customers. Bottom line, there are no guarantees. Today's toy may be tomorrow's recall.
SCHOFIELD: So it's really hard to say, yeah, this is a good item, buy it.
CHETRY: There you have it from the toy store owner herself. Can't even tell people whether or not she thinks these items are safe.
The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission is encouraging parents to check the toys in their homes and to match them against the recall list which can be confusing because your toy may look like one of the ones recalled but you have to check the manufacture years because it may be safe, may have been made before concerns about lead paint or choking hazards. Find links to all of those lists at CNN.com.
The Hezbollah threat topping your "Quick Hits" now. Thousands of Hezbollah supporters rallied in Beirut, Lebanon, marking the first anniversary of the end of the war with Israel. Hezbollah's leader says if Israel attacks again it will face a "big surprise" that could shake the entire Middle East.
The State Department reporting this morning that 1 in 6 American diplomats who have served in dangerous countries like Iraq and Afghanistan may suffer from post traumatic stress disorder. Symptoms of the condition can include insomnia, anxiety, depression and even substance abuse. That study was conducted from June 1st to July 15th.
Investors keeping an eye on what's happening in the overseas markets because of new concerns today for Wall Street. Big drop again yesterday. What it means for your wallet ahead on "AMERICAN MORNING."
MARCIANO: Welcome back to the most news in the morning. It is an honest teen's lucky find, tops our "Quick Hits" right now. Stephen Pfeiffer just stumbled on a Purple Heart while walking down a street in Wisconsin. It appears to be that of a man killed in World War II. So now Stephen's trying to find the family of that soldier.
There is a new oldest person in the world. Edna Parker of Shelbyville, Indiana, she's 114. Five feet tall, weighs a whole 70 pounds and she's still able to walk around in good health. Amazingly, Edna lives at the same nursing home where the world's tallest woman lives, Sandy Allen, 7'7".
No need to hide the bananas -- or hide the pill in the bananas. Zoo keepers in Japan say this old orangutan is taking her medicine all by herself. Gypsy is believed to be 51 years old. Apparently she got sick in the rainy season. Maybe got a little bit of a cold, maybe needs antibiotics. Instead of stuffing them into a banana she actually goes right to the bottle and eats them probably a little bit too much. So far no word on her overdosing which she appears to enjoy it.
Ali Velshi to the rescue. Good morning, Ali.
Some people might need something to soothe the nerves with the market these days, Ali.
ALI VELSHI, CNN FINANCIAL ANALYST: Did we not have this discussion about me following animal stories?
MARCIANO: Yes, we did, I think. I wasn't here.
VELSHI: Want to be on the record.
Markets, Dow was down 207 points yesterday. Mortgages and subprime the issues. One of the things that got us yesterday, the fact that two major retailers in America said things aren't looking great and that turning it around for the economy will take some time.
First one, biggest retailer in the world, Wal-mart came in warning about the rest of the year. They're having some problems. They say their customers are talking about high gas prices, they're worried about the cost of things and they're clustering their spending around payday. They're spending a lot during -- when they get their paychecks on the 15th and 30th of the month. Wal-mart continues to have problems in attracting a bigger audience trying to get more people to shop there so they're having some issues and they said it is going to be tough for the rest of the year.
Home Depot also reported that it's having some difficulty, also because of the fact that if these house prices are not there people don't want to invest the same amount of money in renovating or upgrading their home. Neither of these are big surprises, but unlike economic reports these are in fact people shopping and how they're actually feeling.
MARCIANO: Was this reported before the closing bell yesterday...
VELSHI: Yes, it was actually reported yesterday during the day and everybody is sort of parsing that information. Both of those stocks are Dow components and they contributed to the Dow being down that much lower.
CHETRY: How are futures looking today?
VELSHI: They are dropping. I'll be back in about ten minutes. CHETRY: We're right at 13,000.
VELSHI: Right at that point in the morning where it starts to get active. I'll come back in about 15 minutes and tell you about that.
CHETRY: Ali, sounds good. Thanks.
A Big Apple season opener. New York Senator Hillary Clinton is taking a break from her political campaigning and sitting down with a chat with Ellen DeGenerous. She's the first scheduled guest of the daytime talk show season.
Regis, Kelly and Kathie Lee? Kathie Lee Gifford with join "Regis and Kelly" next month to celebrate the 20th anniversary of the show she helped make famous. "Live with Regis and Kathie Lee" made its nationally syndicated debut in 1988. Gifford left the show in 2000 and Ripa joined Regis a year later.
Remember the grim reaper cat we told you about, the cat that seems to predict when a person was about to pass away? Now there is another animal they say can predict when a person is about to cross over. We'll show you coming up next.
MARCIANO: It is a good thing he knew how to climb. This Australian cowboy claims he spent a week up in a tree with only two sandwiches to eat because two huge crocodiles were circling underneath him waiting for dinner of their own. He also made a couple of new friends along the way.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DAVID GEORGE, RESCUED FROM CROCS: We made a bit of a game out of it. Tell them not tonight, brother.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MARCIANO: He says he finally sneaked out when he spotted a chopper that was searching for him.
Run if you see this dog coming. Scamp, a schnauzer who lives in a nursing home in Ohio, seems to know when residents are near the end. Staffers at the home say Scamp will bark or pace around the person's room. They say he's predicted nearly all 40 of the deaths at that home in three years since he's been there. Last month you may recall our story about Oscar the cat at a nursing home or hospice in Rhode Island who could also tell when the end was near.
CHETRY: It may sound morbid but some staffers say it is a little bit of a comfort for the family. Some of these people have been suffering from long-term illnesses and in these cases families have time to get there because Oscar or scamp would cull up around the patient within hours. They're actually checking it out to see whether it is a medical phenomenon. MARCIANO: Just one more heart in the closing moments, that's for sure.
CHETRY: That's true.
MARCIANO: We want to talk more about the lead paint fiasco, recall coming out of China. We really haven't hit on what lead paint can do to you and parents I'm sure are concerned.
CHETRY: How dangerous is it? Coming up, something you can't miss. Sanjay Gupta will break it down for you if you have some of these toys that have been recalled in your house, toys your child may have played with for months or years, what do you need to do to make sure your child is okay and in the clear when it comes to lead exposure. We'll talk about that with Sanjay in the next hour.
MARCIANO: The next hour of "AMERICAN MORNING" starts right now.
CHETRY: Target Iran. Report the White House is readying for a new showdown. What it could mean from Iraq to the nuclear standoff.
Extreme weather. Three tropical storms right now pounding Hawaii, closing in on Texas and gathering steam in the Atlantic.
Plus, playground fires. Wood chips, to keep your kid safe, mix with a summer heat wave and ignite a school-yard inferno. How it can happen in your town on this "AMERICAN MORNING."
(on camera): Welcome, thanks for being with us. It's Wednesday, August 15th. I'm Kiran Chetry.
MARCIANO: And John Roberts still on vacation. I'm Rob Marciano. Good morning.
CHETRY: Nice to see you again, Rob.
CHETRY: We begin this hour with a major move by the White House that could have an impact on the war in Iraq as well as tensions and possibly sanctions against Iran. The Bush administration is considering putting...
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