Return to Transcripts main page


Thousands Turn Out to Support Jena Six; Will Mortgage Crisis Escalate?

Aired September 20, 2007 - 15:00   ET


DON LEMON, CNN ANCHOR: To some, this is a protest. To many others, it's a pilgrimage.
FREDRICKA WHITFIELD, CNN ANCHOR: That description comes from CNN's Susan Roesgen in Jena, Louisiana, a small Southern town under a big national spotlight over a simple American ideal, equal justice under law.

Hello, everyone. I'm Fredricka Whitfield, in today for Kyra Phillips, at the CNN world headquarters in Atlanta.

LEMON: And I'm Don Lemon.

Kyra and Susan and CNN's Tony Harris all at that rally in Jena, Louisiana. They're going to tell us all about it, right here, live, in the CNN NEWSROOM; 3:01 Eastern time, thousands of protesters, or pilgrims, whatever you want to call them, they have converged on Jena from across the country.

Here's Susan Roesgen with an update.


SUSAN ROESGEN, CNN GULF COAST CORRESPONDENT: Thousands of people from all across the country made the long, hot march here to Jena High School, the scene of such racial tension last year that a white student was beaten unconscious, and now six black classmates face felony charges for that attack.

The question for the protesters here is were the charges excessive? But the march itself was peaceful, peaceful but passionate. The marchers hope that by turning out in force, they can force a change in what they believe is the racial inequality of the American justice system.

Susan Roesgen, CNN, Jena, Louisiana.


WHITFIELD: And now we want to take you to some breaking news taking place out of South Florida, a frightening situation where a man with his 11-year-old in the vehicle became victims of a car jacking. You're looking at pictures right now coming from our affiliate WSVN. You will also see some images from our affiliate WFOR.

But what is taking place right now, that there's an Amber Alert for the 11-year-old child who was in the vehicle, a 2007 Nissan Maxima, that was taken by gunpoint by allegedly two gunmen who approached the man, presumably the father, who was also the driver of this vehicle, approached him by gunpoint and then took off with this vehicle, all this taking place near a bank at the corner of McNabb (ph) and Andrews (ph) there in Broward County.

And apparently this man was forced out of his vehicle. It turns out that the 11-year-old was his stepson. The description that we have of the 11-year-old, Hispanic, dressed in a red Miami Heat number three jersey and shorts.

On the line with us now is a spokesman for the Broward County Sheriff's Department, Elliot Cohen on the line with us now.

Mr. Cohen, what more can you tell us about the ongoing search for the vehicle and, most importantly, the 11-year-old?

ELLIOT COHEN, SPOKESMAN, BROWARD COUNTY SHERIFF'S DEPARTMENT: Well, Fredricka, most importantly, obviously, is going to be the search for the car at this point.

As you mentioned, it's a 2007 gray Nissan Maxima. It's got a temporary tag. Essentially, that means not a real license plate, but a paper tag that's on the car.

And the other two things which for anyone listening to this that may catch your eye on this vehicle, we're told that the left rear window has the name Papo, P-A-P-O, on it. And the right year window has the name Jess (ph).

So, if you're driving behind this car from behind, you are going to see Papo and Jess.

As for how this whole thing got started, as you mentioned, we have got an 11-year-old who is missing. We believe he is involved in the car jacking which started on the corner of McNabb and Andrews in the city of Pompano Beach. And we are looking for him and looking for the car.

WHITFIELD: And correct me if my information is incorrect, Mr. Cohen, that the vehicle, this Nissan Maxima, had just recently left a bank before being apprehended by these alleged gunman at that corner that you described, right?

COHEN: Yes, we -- at least at this point, we believe that the driver of the car, the stepfather, had just left -- had just left the bank, was pulling out, telling our deputies that he was essentially sitting in traffic, when two men ran up, at least one of them armed with a gun, and carjacked the car with the boy inside.

But, as far as the boy's description, he's about five feet tall, 100 pounds and he's wearing a red Miami Heat basketball jersey with the number three on it, red shorts and black shoes. So, if anyone spots the boy or spots the car, you need to call 911 as soon as possible.

WHITFIELD: All right, most importantly.

Thanks so much -- 2007 Nissan Maxima, dark gray, and inside may be an 11-year-old boy, as you described, Mr. Cohen, five feet, 100 pounds, Hispanic, dressed in a red Miami Heat number three jersey and shorts.

All right, everyone can help out in the South Florida area if they happen to see this little boy or this vehicle.

LEMON: Absolutely.

WHITFIELD: Thanks so much, Mr. Cohen.

LEMON: Now back to the Jena Six case. It brought a lot of attention to the small Southern town, not all of it welcome and not all of it fair, at least in the minds of many who call Jena home.

Several spoke with our Kyra Phillips.


REVEREND EDDIE THOMPSON, RESIDENT OF JENA, LOUISIANA: If you go shopping, you know, you go to Wal-Mart, you're going to see people of both races. You know, you go to the swimming pool, it's going to be, you know, people of both races.

It's not something on the surface so much as it is just something that people maybe talk about, you know, in their living rooms, around water fountains at the business, things like that.

LAURA FINK, RESIDENT OF JENA, LOUISIANA: I think this is a good community. I think people stand together, black or white, here. And I have been here about 14 years. And I like it here. And I think they're not portraying us for what we really are.

EVELYN TALLEY-MOSER, RESIDENT OF JENA, LOUISIANA: It's one of the truly integrated communities in this area, and I think it's so unfair, you know, because Jena High School is integrated. And many of the schools around here in the bigger cities are not.

This is a microcosm of what people from other places in the United States think it should be. And, all of a sudden, this wonderful little town, you know, has this reputation. And I think it's completely unjust and unfair.

You know, how did this happen? You know, why? You know, it's not the community. Martin Luther King said, judge people by the content of their character, not by the color of their skin. And I would like to add not by their geographical location. Just because this is South does not mean that this is not an integrated community.


LEMON: CNN takes a close-up look at the racial tensions in Jena, Louisiana, this evening. Tune in for a CNN "SPECIAL INVESTIGATIONS UNIT" report, "Judgment in Jena." That's tonight at 8:00 p.m. Eastern, only here on CNN.

And, until then, we have got a lot to cover on this story.

Joining us now from Jena, a musician we can call him, actor, Mos Def.

Where are you residing these days? Are you in New York or are you in L.A.?

MOS DEF, ENTERTAINER: I'm a citizen of the world.

LEMON: Citizen of the world, all right.

But, wherever you are, this story I guess roused you enough so to speak for you to go down to Jena, Louisiana, and take part in this pilgrimage. Some are calling it a pilgrimage. Some are calling it a protest. Why are you there?

MOS DEF: Why not? Why wouldn't I be here? It's a vital issue. It's an issue of national security. It's a national security issue.

LEMON: What do you mean national security? Talk about that.

MOS DEF: Well, I mean, you know, this is a human rights issue. And more so than terrorist threat or where al Qaeda may or may not be at the moment, I think the real issue in national security and priority is how the young are treated, how justice is administered in this country.

And this country cannot expect to achieve the greatness that it has the potential to achieve or to sustain the greatness that it has achieved in the past if it intends to treat its own citizens in such a way to prohibit them from enjoying full citizenship or to judge them harshly or without mercy, particularly when they're young people, when they are our children, when they are our students. It's unacceptable.

LEMON: Let me ask you this. You have been -- when did you get there? Did you get there today or yesterday?

MOS DEF: I'm just getting here today. I'm just reaching today.

LEMON: Have you had a chance to spend any time in the town?

MOS DEF: I have walked -- we were at the fork in the road where the state troopers were and they were directing traffic. And I walked down. So, this is my first time. I have only been here for a couple of hours.

LEMON: The reason I ask you that...

MOS DEF: I have only been here for a couple of hours.

LEMON: And the reason I ask you that is because the people who live there, Mos Def, say, you know what? We're not racist people. We are just doing the best that we can. We have a close-knit community here. And some are, you know, repeating the words of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

What I'm wondering is if you have noticed that and do people always act on what they know and have you witnessed any of that interaction in the town? That's the only reason I ask you.

MOS DEF: Well, I was -- you know, I was at one of the local -- the shops here just, you know, picking up some drinks and little sundry items and however.

And it was the white shop owners. They were very polite. They were nice and decent. I don't think anybody's coming down here with the expectation of all of the whites down here being racists. There have been stories of people holding up Confederate flags and planting them firmly in the ground as people are coming.

But I met one of Mychal Bell's classmates in the store. He said, I'm a friend of Mychal Bell, a young white dude.

And I said, we're here to support him. So, I understand how the residents feel, but they should put pressure on the people who represent them, like the district attorney and the governor of Louisiana, to really come to some real resolve on this issue, because it is -- it is a misrepresentation, I'm sure, how a lot of people in this community, black or white, but white in particular, feel about this issue.

LEMON: And I have one more question. And then I'm going to turn it over, because my partner here, Fredricka Whitfield, wants to ask you a few questions.

But this morning, I got up and I called for my mom who is down there. And she read the paper. And she said, heating up tensions -- this is from the newspaper down there -- heating up tensions were such sights as a man driving a utility truck through town with a large Confederate flag flying prominently in the back.

A white man standing in front of a business saw the truck approaching, got down on his knees and with his arms outstretched bowed several times as the flag passed by.

You mentioned the Confederate flags, that you saw some people carrying them.

MOS DEF: Yes. No, I have heard stories of people...

LEMON: And it's all -- it's about symbolism. It's the question about symbolism of that Confederate flag those nooses?

MOS DEF: It's provocative. It's provocative to do that where black people are present, where you know there's going to be a large number of black people congregating and for a particular reason.

It's not productive. It's not good for any of the citizens, black or white. It's not productive. It's played out. You know, racism is ridiculous. It's silly. WHITFIELD: Mos Def, let me ask you a question. It seems like there are a couple of objectives here that are being sprouted from this demonstration, one underscoring the injustices that you were just describing, and, number two, by having this kind of outpouring to perhaps help offer some pressure to win the release of Mychal Bell or at least reduce the charges imposed against him.

Do you feel any more confident or any more comforted that that objective will actually be met as a result of the crowd that came out today?

MOS DEF: That has to happen. That has to happen. Why wouldn't that happen? Why wouldn't that happen?

Why wouldn't these young men be released or have the charges dropped against them? If they were Jewish students who sat under the tree and the following day had swastikas or offensive racial imagery hung from those trees, and they decided to respond to that imagery with their fists, they wouldn't have charges placed against them in this country or any other country, for that matter.


WHITFIELD: It's in the hands of the prosecutor, however, to make that decision, according to the appellate court this week, to make this decision within the next couple of weeks. Do you believe that he might buckle or might be responsive to the outpouring today?


MOS DEF: If someone in a position of public trust like that cannot see that the responsible thing for him to do is the fair thing to do and the right thing to do, as opposed to the legal thing to do, then that person doesn't need to hold that position.

These are positions of public trust. They're not -- they're not -- they're not positions where people can -- should use them as their own personal platforms to, you know, push their own ideas and sentiments. This is a public trust.

So, yes, the prosecutor and the district attorney should have to be made to know that the responsible thing to do is the right thing to do. These are young men. There's no justification in ruining their lives over something that is ridiculous.

The young man who was the object of the attack is fine. He's healthy. He's under no health risk. It's completely outrageous and absurd. So, it has to be dealt and in the right and humane way, not in just in terms of what's legally acceptable, but what is humane and decent.


WHITFIELD: All right, we appreciate your time. Mos Def, thanks so much. LEMON: Well, very interesting, touching all -- you see the story touching all parts of the community, the hip-hop community, entertainment community.

Of course, yesterday $10,000, one of the entertainers donated.

WHITFIELD: David Bowie.

LEMON: David Bowie, $10,000. So, you see that it's touching nerves.

WHITFIELD: For the legal defense fund.

LEMON: And, also, according to Tony and Kyra, you know, there are white faces in the crowd as well. So, everyone touched by this story. And we are going to continue to follow it.

WHITFIELD: Many famous and many not so famous.


WHITFIELD: All right.

Well, a tearful announcement from the San Diego mayor, Jerry Sanders, on issues that you might not necessarily expect. Political change of heart?

Well, Sanders is reversing his previous opposition now to gay marriage. He says his daughter, Lisa, is a lesbian and in a committed relationship with another woman.


JERRY SANDERS (R), MAYOR OF SAN DIEGO: I couldn't look any of them in the face and tell them that their relationship, their very lives, were any less meaningful than the marriage I share with my -- with my wife, Rana."


WHITFIELD: Well, until now, Mayor Sanders, a Republican, had supported civil unions, but not same-sex marriages. He now says he will back efforts to actually overturn California's gay-marriage ban.

LEMON: What can the government could do about the home mortgage crisis? Two days after an interest rate cut, the chairman of the Fed reports to Capitol Hill. And CNN's Gerri Willis is coming in NEWSROOM to tell us whether now is the right time to refinance.

We're back in a moment.


WHITFIELD: Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke is predicting that the worst of the mortgage crisis could be yet to come. Testifying today on Capitol Hill, Bernanke said the rate of home foreclosures in the battered subprime level is likely to keep rising. At the same time, owners hoping to sell are facing falling home values. So, what do you do if you're stuck? Is it time to refinance?

Here with some answers, Gerri Willis, our personal finance editor.

And, so, are you going to bring us good news? Or -- it's kind of tough to do that, isn't it?

GERRI WILLIS, CNN PERSONAL FINANCE EDITOR: Well, I got to tell you, it's tough to find good news here, Fred.

But first off, whether or not you refinance depends on what kind of mortgage you have and what the terms are. Generally speaking, though, if you're stuck in an adjustable-rate mortgage in which your interest rate is are resetting higher, the Fed's move won't make much difference to you.

That's because mortgage lenders have already anticipating much of what the Fed has done. If you got an ARM that you want to get out of, however, now is a good time to lock into a 30-year, fixed-rate mortgage. That's because rates are still below their long-term average of 8 percent.

And some experts believe that fixed rates will creep up over time and locking in now would allow you to beat that move.

WHITFIELD: All right, so go for the fix now if you can, but just in case, are there other options you need to look at?

WILLIS: Well, the one winner here is the home equity line of credit. HELOCs are generally tied to the prime rate, which moves with the rate the Fed cut. So, the rate on HELOCs will probably go down about a half-percent as well.

And this is going to give some breathing room to folks out there with HELOC debts. Savings could show up as soon as your next statement. Borrowers looking for a new fixed-rate home equity loan should also see lower rates.

WHITFIELD: Oh, that's interesting, because I thought actually it was going to be even more difficult for folks to get those equity loans if, you know, they are able to hold on to their mortgages.

WILLIS: It has been harder. It has been harder.

But, you know, a lot of people have these loans already and they are going to see those rates tick lower.

WHITFIELD: Yes. All right.

So what kind of good news might there be even for those perhaps who don't have homes, but always want a piece of the American dream?

WILLIS: Well, everybody's got a credit card, right?


WHITFIELD: And the vast majority of credit cards carry variable rates. The Fed's move will help many credit card holders.

Any adjustments will show up in the next couple of billing cycles, if, that is, the change doesn't drop you below any floors the credit card issuer has set. Student loans with rates tied to the prime rate will also see an improvement in their payments.

But this is bad news for savers, Fred. Interest on C.D.s and money market funds, well, they will fall, so, some positive, some negative. It depends on where your money is.

WHITFIELD: Oh, man. All right. Well, folks have to just continue to follow the bouncing ball, because it seems to change from week to week these days, as it pertains to those interest rates.

Thanks so much, Gerri.

WILLIS: You're welcome, Fred.

WHITFIELD: And, of course, Gerri will have more on the mortgage crisis on "OPEN HOUSE." That comes your way Saturday at 9:30 a.m. Eastern. And you see it Saturday and Sunday again at 3:30 p.m. Eastern on Headline News.

And, Fred, Gerri, there's a lot of financial information out there. We want to tell you about this. And we have compiled it all for you. It's online. And for more solutions to the mortgage meltdown, just go to, great tool,

It's surgery day for the little Iraqi boy burned by attackers in Baghdad. It's an operation made possible in large part by you, CNN viewers -- an update from Dr. Sanjay Gupta, who was in the O.R.

That's straight ahead, right here in the NEWSROOM.



WHITFIELD: All right.

Well, we're also watching some weather conditions. And you see -- we were talking about the color of money. Well, there's a lot of color on that map, too. And it means a lot of different things, severe weather, in short.

Our Chad Myers is in the Weather Center -- more when we come right back.


LEMON: Straight now to the Weather Center, where we're tracking a severe weather or the possibility of it -- Chad, what do we have? CHAD MYERS, CNN METEOROLOGIST: Yes, just to the south of Avon, about 10 minutes ago, spotters saw a funnel cloud coming out of a storm. Now, that's not far from St. Cloud. And I know that's not the Twin Cities, but it is still a fairly large town with some significant population density here.

And so, we are going to watch this cell hear near St. Cloud, especially just to the west and northwest of St. Cloud, possibly spin for the next few minutes. That's why that big purple box is there. That is a tornado warning -- not a watch box, a warning -- which means there is a storm. Someone has seen it and there's something coming out of the bottom of it, so you need to be taking cover if you're anywhere near and anywhere north of St. Cloud, Minnesota.

We're also going to watch something else here in the Gulf of Mexico.

What do we call these? The spaghetti lines. They're spaghetti lines because they come from the bottom side of what could be the next storm. It could be the next tropical storm. And if it is, it would be Jerry. Jerry will be the next thing, J-E-R-R-Y. But for now, this is a couple of days away.

OK. Now, we will keep watching a storm up there near St. Cloud that could have a tornado on the ground at any time.

LEMON: Yes, I was just saying, until you said it, there was a couple days a week, because those lines went right through Louisiana and you've got all those people traveling there for Jena.

MYERS: Absolutely, they did.

LEMON: OK, a couple days away.

Thank you, Chad. We'll check back with you.

MYERS: All right. You're welcome.

WHITFIELD: All right, this is a parents' nightmare. An 11-year- old Florida boy is missing, last seen in a car that was carjacked in Pompano Beach. Police say two men forced a man out of a gray 2007 Nissan Maxima today and then drove away with his stepson, Luis Gonzales, in the back seat. We spoke to the sheriff's office a short time ago.


ELLIOT COHEN, BROWARD COUNTY SHERIFF'S OFFICE: Most importantly, obviously, is going to be the search for the car at this point. As you mentioned, it's a 2007 gray Nissan Maxima. It's got a temporary tag. Essentially that means not a real license plate, but a paper tag that's on the car. And the other two things which -- for anyone listening to this -- that may catch your eye on this vehicle, we're told that the left rear window has the name "Papo," P-A-P-O, on it. The right year window has the name Jess. So if you're driving behind this car from behind, you're going to see "Papo" and Jess. As for how this whole thing got started, as you mentioned, we've got an 11-year-old who is missing. We believe that he is involved in the carjacking, which started on the corner of McNabb and Andrews in the city of Pompano Beach. And we are looking for him and looking for the car.

WHITFIELD: And correct me if my information is incorrect, Mr. Cohen, that the vehicle, this Nissan Maxima, had just recently left a bank before being apprehended by these alleged gunmen at that corner that you described, right?

COHEN: Yes, we -- at least at this point, we believe that the driver of the car, the stepfather, had just left -- had just left the bank, was pulling out, telling our deputies that that he was essentially sitting in traffic when two men ran up, at least one of them armed with a gun, and carjacked the car with the boy inside.

As far as the boy's description, he's about five feet tall, 100 pounds and he's wearing a red Miami Heat basketball jersey with the number three on it, red shorts and black shoes. So if anyone spots this boy or spots the car, you need to call 9/11 as soon as possible.


WHITFIELD: All right, those comments from Elliott Cohen, spokesman from the Broward County Sheriff's Office.

Police say the missing 11-year-old is wearing shorts as he described and that red Miami Heat jersey with the number three on it.

LEMON: Fredricka, happening right now, a sea of humanity in Jena, Louisiana. You're looking at live pictures from there. Protesters are filling the streets in a show of support for six black teens accused of beating a white schoolmate. Civil rights leaders call the charges excessive and based on race, and this is a result of their call to action.

Thousands of people converging on the tiny town from across the country.

Mychal Bell is the focal point of today's rally. Right now he's the only one of the teens behind bars. Last week, an appeals court threw out Bell's battery conviction, saying he should not have been tried as an adult. Bell could still face charges in the juvenile court.

Let's head down there for the latest now from Jena and check in with CNN's Tony Harris. He's at the courthouse -- Tony, update us on what's going on now.

HARRIS: Well, you know, it's very interesting, I've got to tell you, we've had a bit of a scene shift here in the last few moments. As you know, there have been three central locations here in Jena for today's march and rally. There's a ball field down the road a piece, about a mile-and-a-half. There's also Jena High School, about a mile or so up the road in this direction. And then, the other central location is where we are right now. And it's the courthouse building right here in downtown Jena, Louisiana.

And we understand that over the course of the last couple of minutes, the ball park location has essentially closed down and we saw just a mass movement -- and you'll see some more of the officers, the state troopers, coming behind me in a second -- have essentially closed that location. The action has moved farther down the road to Alexandria. And now we're at a place where the officers are moving up here to the courthouse location.

Why is that remotely significant? Well, the police, it must be said, the state troopers here in Louisiana have done a remarkable job at sort of, A, showing presence and showing strength; but allowing this march and rally to play out.

Let's be clear about this -- the permit for this event here at the courthouse expired oh, two-and-a-half hours ago at noon local time here and the decision has been taken that this will be allowed to end at its own pace, at its own time. So maybe you just saw more of the troopers coming to the location. But clearly the decision has been made that while folks could be moved out of this area, the decision has been made to let this protest, this demonstration -- for some, this pilgrimage -- end at its own time and its own pace -- Don.

LEMON: And it would be kind of tough to corral all those people out of there. And think about, you know, how that would look, all those people being yanked out of there.

Hey, Tony, I've got to ask you something. You've been interviewing a lot of people there on the ground, a lot of the people who have been visiting from all over the country and some of the residents.

And one of the questions -- and I'm not sure, I didn't get to see all of it this morning as I was preparing for this show -- we interviewed black and white residents, black and white people from the town.

Did anyone pose the question to the whites there what they thought of the act of the nooses and what they thought of the charges there? Do you have any insight on that for us?

HARRIS: Yes. I think maybe the best answers I received on that came from the representative from the school district who we talked about -- from the school board -- who we talked to about an hour or so ago. I think what Johnny Fryar expressed is that a sense that they had handled the situation inside the school system, that this was something they could handle.

And I don't think, and expanding on that, that there was a true recognition of the symbolism of the nooses in this town and how, if that story got out -- remember, folks here thought that that would be sort of a Jena story and that it wouldn't get out beyond these borders.

LEMON: Right. HARRIS: I don't think there was a real sensibility to the fact that if that story got out beyond this town, that it would resonate with African-Americans and others -- African-Americans and whites around the country.

LEMON: Right.

HARRIS: So I don't know that there was a real sensibility to that. And that once the incident with the fight -- some call it a vicious attack -- took place on December 4th, that gave room for everyone to sort of investigate the background of racial tensions here in Jena.

LEMON: Right.

HARRIS: And we certainly found that story and ran with it.

LEMON: Because, you know, everyone's been saying -- asking -- do you think your town is racist? Do you think, whatever -- but I'm just wondering, barring race -- just as a human, a parent, whatever, what do you think of the act of the nooses? What do you think of the excessive charges? That was just sort of what I was wondering in all of this, you know?

HARRIS: Well, you know, Kyra Phillips tried to talk to some of those -- to some of those parents and some of the relatives of the kids involved in that. And, you know, at one point she was greeted by shotguns.


HARRIS: So perhaps it's a better -- yes, so that will give you an indication of -- and I don't know if that's a refusal to talk about the issues or just folks being sick and tired of the media and this we've turned this thing into an encampment. Maybe folks are just sick and tired of our presence.

LEMON: Yes. Yes.

Tony Harris, thank you. And you bring up Kyra Phillips. Thank you very much for that.


LEMON: You bring that up. Kyra, of course, tonight 8:00 here on CNN, will be doing a story on Jena -- not a story, an investigation.

WHITFIELD: "Judgment In Jena".

LEMON: There it is, "Judgment in Jena". This story has riled so many people and gotten the interest of so many people. So we're going to be doing that tonight.

Also, we have some e-mail questions for you, your thoughts on what's happening in Jena. WHITFIELD: Right. We asked folks, you know, what do you think will actually be accomplished? And here's a taste of some of the responses that we've received.

LEMON: Well, Shirley writes: "The march in Jena may not accomplish anything as far as the verdict is concerned, however, the number of people in attendance is an indication of what a noose means in 2007.

WHITFIELD: And Keith from Killeen, Texas writes: "We are all of the same race -- the human race. We have black men and women fighting and dying beside our white men and women everyday in the military to protect the freedom for all. Do we need to bring them home only to have them fight a race war here?"

LEMON: And Eric, a viewer who says he grew up in a small town in Louisiana. Says: "This rally will help the black community of Jena and surrounding areas to no longer accept the plight of their minority status. I hope the white residents of Jena would lift the veils of ignorance to the racial tension in their community so social cohesion can begin."

And we'd like to thank everybody for their e-mails to us.

WHITFIELD: Meantime, we're hoping for some hopeful news out of this. It is surgery day for this little Iraqi boy, burned by attackers in Baghdad. It's an operation made possible,, in large part, by you -- CNN viewers. An update from Dr. Sanjay Gupta, who was in the O.R. That's straight ahead in the NEWSROOM.


WHITFIELD: So what happens if you're diagnosed with cancer and have to have your leg amputated at the hip and you're only age nine?

Well, that is exactly what happened to today's CNN Hero.

But he quickly realized that his athletic and lifelong dreams didn't have to stop because he lost a leg. To make sure that other amputees get the same message, he has created a community to give them a place to be heard and understood.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'm rolling. Steve.



JOSH SUNDQUIST, CNN HERO: There's no way you can sort of separate having an amputation from the rest of my life.

If you'll say like, well, did it change your life?

It changes everything. I was a kid. No one my age had ever beat me in a foot race. And I figured I was probably one of the fastest people in the world. That was -- that was kind of what I told myself.

I started having pain in my left leg when I was 9 years old. The doctor found cancer.

A lot of grieving sort of happened for me before I lost my leg. I really remember being -- can I just go out and live a normal life with one leg?

An amputee that I met was a guy named Larry Klowpak (ph). Like he drove a convertible. He had a normal job. And I was just like, wow, you know, he lives like a normal life. That was really what kind of turned the corner for me.

I don't think most amputees have friends that are also amputees.

Online, there wasn't really a good place for people to like meet centrally, provide information and then ask for information and meet other people. And so I thought that just needs to happen.

I'm Josh Sundquist and I created an online community for amputees to meet other amputees, ask questions and get answers. I wanted it to be like a catchy name, you know, like give me a hand or like a leg up. And every pun I could think of was taken. So, finally, I thought of "Less than Four," which admittedly is not quite a pun, but it's kind of catchy. And also it can be sweetly abbreviated.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I stumbled across this spot looking for a t- shirt with an amputee on it. The site seems pretty cool.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You make me laugh and if you only knew how much that helps me out.

SUNDQUIST: And the best thing of it is that the community is sort of like rising up. Leaders from within are sort of taking the time to like help other amputees and I think that's pretty cool.


WHITFIELD: Wow! No, he's pretty cool.

And you can go to to check out Josh Sundquist's ski racing, as well as video clips from his Web site's members. And while you're there, you can also nominate your own hero. Remember, you've got only until September 30th to get in your nominations. Selected winners will be honored during a special live global broadcast on December 6, hosted by our own Anderson Cooper.

LEMON: Wonder what's happening in your backyard while you're at work, Fredricka?

Well, there you go. Bears in the backyard. Would you run for the hills or run for your video camera?

WHITFIELD: They're having so much fun.

LEMON: We showed you this yesterday. There's an update. You know, we're going to hear from this woman with the close encounter...

WHITFIELD: I know. I can't wait.

LEMON: ...with these three bears. They're kind of cute.

WHITFIELD: They're very cute.

LEMON: I don't know if I'd want to...

WHITFIELD: And they're having a ball.

LEMON: Yes. Straight ahead. We're back with an update.


LEMON: An unthinkable act of cruelty left his little face horribly scarred. But surgeons took a major step today to correct that, thanks to so many of you. A little Iraqi boy named Youssif is out of the operating room and he's recovering this hour.

CNN's chief medical correspondent, Dr. Sanjay Gupta, scrubbed in to watch the procedure.


DR. SANJAY GUPTA, CHIEF MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: For the past few hours, I've been watching one of the most fascinating procedures I have ever seen. By now, you all certainly know the story of Youssif, the 5-year-old Iraqi boy who was burned with gasoline that covered his face, his hand, as well. And he has had a long process getting here to the United States, that has been supported, in large part, by the efforts of many CNN and viewers.

The operation itself, today, had several different components to it. But there were a couple of goals. One was to try and remove a lot of that scar there that you see on his face. In this animation, actually, removing all that scar, removing the contractures that sort of pulled his eyes and his lips all together and getting that out of there, but also to take these tissue expanders and place them along his right cheek and along his neck. The goal there is a simple one -- expand the good, healthy skin; expand it to the point where you could actually take it later on down the road and cover those areas of scar and of a removed tissue from the burns.

This is going to be a long process. Youssif has had a major procedure today, one of the most important procedures in his overall recovery. But there will probably be several more over the next year. And as they happen, we're going to continue to bring them to you.

(END VIDEOTAPE) LEMON: And as Sanjay just said, today's surgery is the first of probably about eight procedures expected to take place, that will happen over the next several months. And, also, as he said, we're going to stay with this and bring you Youssif's progress every step of the way.

Thousands of people, including you, the viewers, have responded to Youssif's story through CNN's Impact Your World initiative. Your donations helped make his treatment possible.

Excuse me, if you are looking for a way to make a difference for Youssif, you still can. Just log on to and click on Iraq burn victim. Learn how you can become part of the solution, impacting your world, just a click away at

WHITFIELD: All right, the closing bell and a wrap of the action on Wall Street, straight ahead in the NEWSROOM.


LEMON: It's close to that time to check in with Wolf Blitzer.

WHITFIELD: Let's do that.

LEMON: It is that time. Yes.


WOLF BLITZER, HOST, "THE SITUATION ROOM": Hi, guys. Thanks very much.

Coming up at the top of the hour, we're following several stories, including a political collision course. The name calling and the attacks flying fast and furious among the liberal group and its critics. Today, President Bush called the group's ad attacking David Petraeus disgusting and an attack on the entire U.S. military.

Right now, coming up here in "THE SITUATION ROOM," the executive director of will debate an Iraq War veteran. You'll want to see that.

Also, Hillary Clinton says restless Republicans are huddling with Darth Vader. But who is she comparing to the brutal enforcer of the dark side?

And its critics call it "a nexus for terrorist financing," but Dubai wants to buy part of the Nasdaq stock market. Now some are worrying over the national security implications.

All that, guys, coming up right here in "THE SITUATION ROOM".

WHITFIELD: All right, we look forward to that. Thanks so much, Wolf.

All right, how about this? The story we couldn't wait to see.

LEMON: Oh, from Wolf to bears.

WHITFIELD: Hey, there you go.

Goldilocks, well, she stayed home. But the three bears certainly came out to play. This video was taken by New Jersey homeowner Susan Kehoe, as these cubs and a mama bear -- you know what that combination could mean -- actually frolicked in her backyard. Now, most people would have run for the hills, instead of running their camcorder like Miss. Kehoe did. But this animal lover is right at home. So take a look.


KIRAN CHETRY, CNN ANCHOR: This was taken earlier this morning while we were setting. And there, you're standing there calmly and there is a bear not too far -- there you go chasing it away.

Do you ever get scared of those bears?

SUSAN KEHOE, SHOT VIDEO OF BEARS IN HAMMOCK: No, I don't. Not at all. I've been living up here for over 20 years and I've got accustomed to seeing them and dealing with them properly containing my garbage. And I've never felt threatened at all.


WHITFIELD: So without missing a beat -- I'd say Miss. Kehoe has a relationship with those bears.

LEMON: Where is that video? I want to see that again.

WHITFIELD: You want to see it again?

LEMON: That is crazy.

WHITFIELD: You can't get enough of it -- of the three bears playing or the fact that she just like so boldly tries to challenge the bears?

There they are.

LEMON: Her challenging the bears. I mean, that's cute, but I don't know if I'd be close to a bear, I don't care how big or small it is.

WHITFIELD: Well, she'll -- she explains. You know, of course, like in every situation where you have bears in people's backyards, they're looking for food.


WHITFIELD: So, look out this winter, you know?


WHITFIELD: That they may be coming back to -- to store up, maybe this fall, to store up for their winter hibernation.

LEMON: I guess if you're used to it.

WHITFIELD: As she is.

LEMON: As she is. But I think I'd have a...

WHITFIELD: Completely at ease.

LEMON: ...shotgun in my hand or something before I would be right there.

WHITFIELD: But she's -- no. Well, she's at ease and so are...

LEMON: Well, to shoot them -- not to shoot them.

WHITFIELD: are the bears very at ease, having fun. Tsar. You'd better watch it. No shotguns.

LEMON: Susan Lisovicz is a bear lover. Bears, what is it, bears and bulls, right, on Wall Street?

There you go.

SUSAN LISOVICZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: I know. You know, I swear the mama bear looks like a person dressed up in a bear suit.


WHITFIELD: Standing up kind of like holding the hammock so her kids can fall.

LISOVICZ: A little too agile with the hammock, I'm afraid.


LISOVICZ: They're very suburbanite bears.



LEMON: Time now to turn it over to "THE SITUATION ROOM" and Wolf Blitzer -- hello, Wolf.