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GM/UAW Reach a Tentative Deal; Larry Craig Hearing; Missing Madeleine; Warren Jeffs Guilty; Florida Bank Robbery; Monks Protest in Myanmar Continue

Aired September 26, 2007 - 09:00   ET


JOHN ROBERTS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: I will see you then. All right. See you then.
CNN NEWSROOM with Tony Harris and Heidi Collins begins right now.

TONY HARRIS, CNN ANCHOR: And good morning everyone. You are in the CNN NEWSROOM. I'm Tony Harris.

HEIDI COLLINS, CNN ANCHOR: Hi everybody. I'm Heidi Collins. Watch events come into the NEWSROOM live on Wednesday morning. It's September 26th.

Here's what's on the run down.

Strike over. GM and a tentative deal with auto workers this morning potentially a benchmark agreement on health care.

HARRIS: Larry Craig's case heading to court today. The senator trying to wipe a sex sting plea off the books.

COLLINS: Was this man forced to wear a bomb and then hold up a bank? The drive-thru robbery coming up in the NEWSROOM.

HARRIS: While you were asleep, the nation's largest automaker appears to have ended a strike by its union workers. The tentative deal stops a two-day walkout at General Motors at least for now.

CNN's Ali Velshi has been following the story over the last couple of days. He joins us from New York now.

And Ali, good to see you. What is in this deal that appears to be meeting with a warm response from both sides?

ALI VELSHI, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes. Both the United Auto Workers and GM are recommending workers sign the deal. Of course, it doesn't matter what GM says. The workers will do more what the UAW says.

Interesting, GM had been wanting to transfer the responsibility for its health care trust for the retired workers to the union. This is the trust they put money into where 340,000 retirees and their spouses can draw for their health care benefits. The union didn't want that responsibility but they've got it now. GM succeeded in passing that over the union. In exchange, the union is going back to work. They didn't get everything they wanted. They wanted absolute guarantees that there wouldn't be more job cuts and factory closures in the United States.

GM instead saying to them we're going to save a lot of money by you taking over this health care trust and as a result of that you can probably count on us to continue to invest in the U.S. and try and save jobs as much as possible. It's going to come down to the wording in this one as to whether it's satisfactory and whether the union is going to be happy.

What happens now, Tony, is that the union members have to vote on this probably on the weekend. And then GM -- the United Auto Workers have to decide who is next, Ford or Chrysler. We'll expect to hear that by the end of the week. But the strike is officially in recess right now. It's not off until this contract is ratified.

HARRIS: You know what, Ali? I heard a lot of noise about this being General Motors' attempt to bust the UAW. What is your analysis on that?

VELSHI: Back in 1994 there were 250,000 unionized employees at General Motors. As you saw this week, there are 73,000. In fact, if you take all of the union workers at Ford, Chrysler and GM, it adds up to about 180,000. I don't know that General Motors has to do a whole lot to bust the union. The union has been shrinking over the years and the power of unions in this country have been shrinking over the years.

This health care liability is something many companies have managed badly and this is an interesting story to anybody who is in a union or works for a company that manages their retirement in -- their health care in retirement. Someone has to manage that money. Some people think it's actually good hat the union will be managing the money because they probably won't dip into it and spend it. They'll try to make sure it grows faster than it depletes.

HARRIS: So pay attention, broader ramifications here.

VELSHI: There might be, yes.

HARRIS: OK. Ali, good to see you. Thank you.

VELSHI: All right.

COLLINS: Idaho Senator Larry Craig looking to reverse his guilty play in an airport bathroom sex sting. His attorneys go before a Minnesota judge today.

CNN congressional correspondent Dana Bash is live in Edina, Minnesota this morning for us. Good morning to you there, Dana.

What are we going to hear today?

DANA BASH, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: What we are going to hear is Senator Craig's attorneys argue before a judge that they want the judge to do something that is very, very rarely done and that is to withdraw, overturn essentially the guilty plea that senator Craig signed about a month ago pleading guilty to disorderly conduct in a bathroom, a men's room here in Minnesota in the airport, of course.

Now, what Senator Craig's attorneys are going to argue is that it would be a manifest in justice to keep the guilty plea. The crux of their argument is senator Craig was in a state of panic because the "Idaho Statesman," his hometown paper was doing an investigation into whether or not he was gay, allegations that he was gay and that is what caused Senator Craig to actually sign this guilty plea, even though he insists still that he is innocent.

And I'll read you some of the brief part of what the argument we're going to hear today what Senator Craig's lawyers argue is "Senator Craig's panic drove him to accept a guilty plea, the terms of which offered him what he thought was a private, expeditious resolution to this matter."

Now, what we are going to hear from the prosecution in this case is that that simply not an argument that the court should actually accept. Because what the prosecutor is going to tell the judge is that he actually had several conversations with Senator Craig explaining exactly what was going to go on, explaining that he thought that Senator Craig should get an attorney, which Senator Craig did not do and also making it pretty clear that this particular case would be part of the public record, that it could be out in the public, because Senator Craig has said he thought this would make it go away to plead guilty.

What the prosecutor will argue or I'll read you part of his brief which he filed with the court. "The defendant chose to plead guilty and consciously took that risk," the risk of becoming public. "The defendant's current pursuit of withdrawal of his guilty plea is reactionary, calculated and political."

So, Heidi, what we expect the prosecutor to say is, wait a minute, this is the United States senator who understands full well what the -- should be able to grasp the law. He also, in his brief, he pointed out that Senator Craig on his Web site boasts about sponsoring or cosponsoring ten bills that have to do with criminal justice so that he should understand what went on here. This is going to be quite an interesting case.

Important to note Senator Craig personally, he's not going to be here today. He told us yesterday back in Washington that his attorneys recommended that he not be here because it is only oral arguments that we're going to hear today.

COLLINS: Yes we had heard that. We were joking that you were standing in for him. Dana, I'm curious, though. You know the big thing throughout all of this has been that Senator Craig says he will resign if he can't get his name cleared, if you will, which would be in about four days, September 30th was the date, right?

BASH: That's right. Four days on Sunday. That is the date that Senator Craig, it's a self-imposed deadline. He said himself September 30th was the day he would resign. But he is really still opening the door to staying in office, Heidi. We talked to him yesterday, back in Washington before coming out here and he said he has not -- he admitted he has not yet given his resignation letter to the governor of Idaho and he said that he is going to wait until the legal deliberations are complete.

We do not expect and this is an important point. We do not expect after the hearing today that it is actually going to be complete. It could be several days, if not more. So it's very unclear what Senator Craig is going to do but he is certainly making the point, making the case that perhaps he will stay longer than he had initially said, which is this Sunday.

COLLINS: All right. Dana Bash for us in Edina, Minnesota this morning. Dana, thank you.

HARRIS: Well, a single photo getting some international attention this morning. The question will it provide a break in the case of missing toddler Madeleine McCann? A couple vacationing in Morocco took the picture late last month. It appears to show a local woman carrying a little blond girl on her back. Take a look here, while walking along a road.

Experts are using forensic techniques to analyze the photo to figure out if it is in fact Madeleine. The 4-year-old disappeared during a family vacation in Portugal in May.

A family spokesman talked with our John Roberts on CNN's "AMERICAN MORNING."


CLARENCE MITCHELL, MCCANN FAMILY SPOKESMAN: Clearly it's possibly significant. It does, as you say, look like her. It is a digital image. It doesn't suffer expansion very well. You lose a little detail if you enlarge it and that is why technical experts, with the police, are now analyzing this material and they are keeping Gerry and Kate McCann fully informed of course.


HARRIS: The spokesman says Madeleine's parents don't plan to comment on the photo.

COLLINS: In Hollywood, Florida this morning, police are investigating a strange bank robbery. The robber is using a bank employee as a weapon saying they had strapped a bomb on him.

Nicole Linsalata of affiliate WSVN has more.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The report came that he had some kind of a device strapped to his chest.

NICOLE LINSALATA, WSVN: For nearly 90 minutes this man sat alone propped up against a wall perhaps not knowing if he would live or die.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Suffice it to say, he was nervous. LINSALATA: Around him, streets in downtown Hollywood are shut down. Crowds gathered. The bomb squad arrives. Police say this man is a Wachovia bank employee and just before 6:00, he was attacked at home by two masked men.

CAPT. TONY RODE, HOLLYWOOD, FLORIDA POLICE: He's alleging they went to his home, kidnapped him and basically were attempting to utilize him as a pawn to facilitate this bank robbery.

LINSALATA: They did it police say by duct taping what looked like a bomb to his chest and then driving him to the Wachovia.

RODE: They did enter into the drive thru area. They were able to extract a rather large amount of money I've been told and they were able to make a successful escape.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's kind of crazy. I've never heard of anything happening around here like this.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Hopefully it will get resolved.

LINSALATA: Then around 7:20.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They're getting him up.

LINSALATA: Two members of the bomb squad were able to carefully take the device off the man, putting it aside and leading the shaken, shirtless man away. He and a woman believed to be his girlfriend were taken to the police department for questioning. The bomb squad used a robot moments later to blow up the device.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Number one, is this legit? Is this all a hoax? Is he truly victim?


COLLINS: Our affiliate WSVN reports the bank employee and a woman were questioned overnight. They were released early this morning.

HARRIS: Hi, Heidi!

COLLINS: Hello Tony Harris! Nice to meet you.

HARRIS: Good to see you.

COLLINS: You, too.

HARRIS: Where is that Rob Marciano? Is he around?

COLLINS: I saw him back there earlier. He has on a new tie. He's pretty proud of it. I actually kind of like it.

ROB MARCIANO, AMS METEOROLOGIST: I just decided I needed a little orange. It's fall now.

COLLINS: It matches the map now. There!

MARCIANO: Colors on the map. Nice to see you guys again.

COLLINS: A tropical storm?

MARCIANO: Probably will be a tropical storm before too long here.


MARCIANO: It definitely is getting a little bit angry out there. More bright colors on the map is usually bad news weather wise. That's what we're seeing right now. The center of this thing is in the southwestern Gulf of Mexico right around there. If it's doing anything, it's actually drifting away from the U.S. So that is good news.

Folks in Mexico this year have been getting a beating from big- time hurricanes. It doesn't look like it's going to become a hurricane at least right now and best of all looks like it's not coming to the United States.

Flare-up of thunderstorms southeast of Florida. This can become something but a great concern for folks living south of Miami. It's been bringing a lot of rain and it's going to do that again today.

Meanwhile we've got a cool front that's heading into some warm air. We've had record breaking high temperatures the last couple of days in many spots. Some storms strong-to-severe,

Temperatures -- I didn't get to fix this but more red and more orange on the map. This is the foliage report. It is highlighting the temperatures. It will be like 85, 86 degrees in New York, could touch 90 in D.C. today. Definitely some warm weather for this time of the year. Hence the orange tie.

Back to you guys.

COLLINS: We like it. I never knew you planned that far ahead!

MARCIANO: A lot of thought goes into my wardrobe every day.

COLLINS: I know it does. OK, Rob. We'll check back with you later.

Hollywood's freeway house finally out of the way. Look at that. Movers picked it up last night. The house had become quite a sight for drivers during the 11 days it sat on the side of the road. The owner was trying to save money by moving it himself but his trailer broke down several times so there it sat. Now he will be getting a moving bill from the state.

HARRIS: Monks against a military regime. Days of protest reportedly take a deadly turn in Myanmar.

COLLINS: Afghan ally. President Bush meets with President Hamid Karzai fighting for security and against the drug trade.

HARRIS: Food safety fears. E. coli cases in the northeast lead to nationwide beef recall.

COLLINS: Helping those who cannot help themselves. A push for global change by a former U.S. president.


COLLINS: Solve problems on a global scale. That's the idea behind a gathering of some big names this morning in New York. The man behind the plan, former president Bill Clinton.

Our chief medical correspondent Dr. Sanjay Gupta is at the Clinton global initiative meeting and joins us now. Looks like a lot of people there behind you, Sanjay.

DR. SANJAY GUPTA, CNN CHIEF MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes. A lot of people here and there's about a thousand leaders from around the world in business and philanthropy, religion, celebrities. Desmond Chu Chu will be here, Vice President Gore, Angelina Jolie, talking about trying to develop some solutions to some of the world's most vexing problems, as you mentioned.

You know I've been sort of fascinated by this whole idea for sometime. This idea that you really need to put in the same room, people who have money but also people who develop solutions and people who can give access as well to some of these problems to really be able to solve them. Even if the cure for AIDS, for example, came in a clean glass of water, how do you actually get it to people who need it the most? That's what happens at a place like this.

They also raise a lot of money. They have commitments for billions of dollars and you actually walk out of here with a commitment card saying I'm going to give so much money, I'm going to give so much time, I'm going to join such and such organizations. That's what's going on here today, Heidi.

COLLINS: Obviously, a very powerful combination. Sanjay, when we talk about the actual issue, children and children's health care, tell us about a little bit about some of the main issues are for children and what they're facing.

GUPTA: Well first of all, you know there has recently been some good news with regard to childhood mortality. For the first time in a long time, some of the numbers have actually gone down in terms of children under 5 specifically. Still around the world, there are children dying every day of completely preventable diseases whether it be things like diarrhea from water-born illness or whether it be diseases that you can easily vaccinate against. It's happening in many places around the world in many places.

The question sort of comes back to what we were just talking about. How do you get some of those readily available and effective vaccines and actually put them into the arms and skin and blood of people who need it the most around the world. That is something they talk about a lot here as well.

Poverty is a large part of this, there's no question in terms of not being able to actually afford this, it leads to malnutrition. It leads to unsafe drinking water practices, all sorts of different things that get discussed and hopefully specific solutions get talked about as well.

COLLINS: Yes and in talking about those solutions, how do these approximately 1,000 leaders really come together to help this millions of children, as we look at the video, it's heartbreaking, when they're at such risk of dying so early?

GUPTA: Well you know, one of the things I've noticed you know I've seen the CGI. This is the third year it's been around the Clinton global initiative. One thing is to be very clear and concrete in terms of what the objectives are. They're education, they're energy and climate change, they're global health and they are poverty alleviations. They are broad and very encompassing but that's where they break it down.

Then, they have these sessions in rooms behind me here where they get people who are experts in these particular areas, put them in the room with people who might be able to fund some of these programs and get them talking. That's what happens. It's sort of a meeting of the minds and people come from all over the world to offer their on the ground assessment of what is actually happening in some places. That's a lot of it. It's just getting the right people together in the same room, Heidi.

COLLINS: Yes absolutely. All right. Sanjay, it's a very interesting event. We appreciate you bringing it to us today. Dr. Sanjay Gupta, our senior medical correspondent, thanks.

HARRIS: Well, it is not veto proof. The House passing a bill to expand a children's health care program.

CNN's Jessica Yellin reports.


JESSICA YELLIN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: In case you didn't get it, democrats want you to know this fight is about kids.

NANCY PELOSI, HOUSE SPEAKER: Today I think more to the bible and I say to the president, Mr. President, please don't veto this bill. Please do not give new meaning to the words suffer little children.

YELLIN: They say the cost of this bill is nothing compared to the war.

REP. RAHM EMANUEL (D), DEMOCRATIC CAUCUS CHMN.: For 41 days, the war in Iraq, the cost of the war in Iraq would give all 10 million children of America health care.

YELLIN: And from the house floor, they warn Republicans will regret voting against this measure. REP. DAVE LOEBSACK, (D) IOWA: We have a moral obligation to protect and nurture our children.

YELLIN: The bipartisan compromise continues health insurance coverage to more than 6 million kids whose parents make too much to qualify for Medicaid and it provides new funds to ensure 4 million more children. Republicans who oppose the measure insist it will cover families who make too much money. They say the way it's funded raising, the tax on cigarettes to 61 cents a pack, hits the poor the hardest and they call it nationalized health care.

REP. JEB HENSARLING, (R) TEXAS: This is only the first battle in this Congress over who will control health care in America. Will it be parents, families and doctors? Or will it be Washington bureaucrats? That's what this debate is all about.

YELLIN: But they vote against it at their own political risk. This ad is now running against the senate minority leader.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Tell Mitch McConnell to stand up for the children in Kentucky, not the special interests in Washington.

YELLIN: Expect to see more ads like this as the fight continues. Even some republicans say.

SEN. CHARLES GRASSLEY, (R) IOWA: I think that we republicans will regret that our president vetoed this bill.


GRASSLEY: Well, because of the political consequences of it.

YELLIN: The Senate will vote on the bill later this week and the president is expected to veto it by Friday. Then look for the democrats to keep the pressure on Republicans by forcing them to vote on this measure over and over again.

Jessica Yellin, CNN, Capitol Hill.


COLLINS: In Iraq, lives change in an instant. A man watches fire destroy his home. He blames a U.S. helicopter flare.

HARRIS: Guilty as charged. Warren Jeffs convicted. What is next for the polygamist sect leader?


HARRIS: Polygamist sect leader Warren Jeffs looking the possibility he may go to prison the rest of his life.

CNN's Gary Tuchman has the jury's verdict from Utah.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) GARY TUCHMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Aboard this helicopter, the man thousands believe is a prophet of god, Warren Jeffs, being transported to jail as a convicted felon.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Mr. Jeffs, would you please stand as the verdict is read?

TUCHMAN: Moments earlier, the leader of the largest polygamist sect in North America standing on the left with his lawyers listened as a jury decided he had facilitated the rape of a 14-year-old girl.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Count one, we find the defendant guilty beyond a reasonable doubt of the prior charge (INAUDIBLE) of the information (INAUDIBLE) accomplice.

TUCHMAN: He was found guilty of two counts involving the same girl who was forced to be married and have sex against her will with her adult husband. The victim is now 21 and after the verdict came forward publicly for the first time.

ELISSA WALL, VICTIM: When I was young, my mother taught me that evil flourishes when good men do nothing. This has not been easy for us. The easy thing would have been to do nothing. But I have followed my heart and I have spoken the truth.

TUCHMAN: Warren Jeffs was on the FBI ten most wanted list for four months because of accusations he has done this to many under aged girls but they are either too scared or not motivated to come forward. Elissa Wall was the only one who would testify against the leader of the sect that split from the Mormon church in the late 19th century over the issue of polygamy.

WALL: This trial has not been about religion or a vendetta. It is simply about child abuse and preventing further abuse.

TUCHMAN: Jeffs' expression did not change when he heard the verdict, neither did that of more of a dozen of followers in court. Jurors had said they were split at the beginning of deliberations. And that fists nearly flew. But were united at the end. Police sharp-shooters were perched on building tops and cliffs near the court in case there was violence after the conviction but all stayed quiet.

The victim had testified that her husband forced himself upon her on many occasions. Including on this honeymoon picture when she said she tried to push herself away from him. She still has family and friends in the church who will not talk to her.

WALL: I hope all FLDS girls and women will understand that no matter what anyone may say, you are created equal. You do not have to surrender your rights.

TUCHMAN: Warren Jeffs will stay in a local jail until November 20th. That's the day his sentencing. The judge has a lot of latitude. Each conviction carries the possibility of five years to life but that's not it for Jeffs. The state of Arizona also wants to try him on similar charges. Gary Tuchman, CNN, St. George, Utah.


COLLINS: A troubled automaker, a tentative deal. A strike ended, at least for now. Larger problems though may be down the road.

HARRIS: An employee used in a bank robbery what looked like a bomb strapped to his chest. The latest on him this morning in the NEWSROOM.


HARRIS: So here we are, the bottom of the hour.

Welcome back, everyone, to the CNN NEWSROOM. I'm Tony Harris.

COLLINS: Hi, everybody. I'm Heidi Collins.

The nation's largest automaker about to rev up again today. G.M. and its striking union come to terms on a tentative contract.

CNN's Kate Bolduan is in Warren, Michigan, just outside of Detroit, with the very latest.

Kate, good morning.


Well, both parties calling this tentative agreement historic, G.M. even saying that these were the most complex and difficult negotiating sessions in the history of the relationship between UAW and G.M. And we're still waiting for some of the details of this tentative agreement to come out.

G.M. has announced that one of the major sticking points they have finally decided on, and that is G.M. will be shifting the control of the retiree health care benefits to the UAW. This will happen through the UAW's controlled health care trust fund. And G.M. will be contributing tens of billions of dollars into that fund and that will cover 340,000 retirees and their spouses.

Now, the UAW says union leaders -- they unanimously supported this tentative agreement. Of course, they're hoping to push the ratification process through. It's expected to start this weekend.

If you take a listen to a little bit more from what the UAW president said this morning.


RON GETTELFINGER, UAW PRESIDENT: A lot of hard work has went into it and we successfully resolved a lot of difficult issues. This bargaining committee gave it their all, under the leadership of Vice President Carl Rapson and his staff. We feel very good about this tentative agreement. (END VIDEO CLIP)

BOLDUAN: Now, G.M. says that this tentative agreement will help close that competitive gap with non-union automakers such as Toyota and Honda. So, a good step forward.

But going on from here, Heidi, they do need to push through that ratification process and then also the UAW needs to enter into talks with the two other major automakers to try to hammer out those contracts, as well -- Heidi.

COLLINS: Yes. We also heard that there, you know, obviously there's quite a bit of concessions here. And according to the UAW, they also did not get any of these guarantees that would mean they wouldn't suffer any more job losses. What about that?

BOLDUAN: Well, that is one thing that -- other than the health care benefits -- that is one thing that, when we spoke to people out here, Heidi, yesterday, that is one thing that was so important. They wanted guarantees that the G.M. would be -- would offer -- guarantees that they will invest in U.S. Plants, that vehicles will be made in U.S. Plants.

But that's something that we're still waiting to hear a little bit more on. We do know that the Associated Press has reported that G.M. has (INAUDIBLE) some general guarantees that they will work to invest in U.S. Plants. But we're still waiting for some more details on that one today.

COLLINS: OK. Very good. We know you'll be following it for us, as well as Ali Velshi out there, too.


COLLINS: Kate Bolduan, thank you.

HARRIS: Well, here's a kick breakdown of the tentative contract. The deal shifts most of G.M.'s unfunded retiree health care obligation to a trust fund by the union. That was G.M.'s top priority in these negotiations. The estimated cost still $51 billion. Man.

G.M. would pay much of that obligation. Its share, we're told, would cost tens of billions of dollars. The union would then invest the money and take over the health care responsibility. Included in that coverage, about 340,000 G.M. retirees and their spouses.

COLLINS: Protests led by Buddhist monks reportedly now turning violent in Myanmar. The military regime in the country formerly known as Burma clamping down on demonstrators.

Details from CNN's Dan Rivers now who reports from Myanmar's border with Thailand.


DAN RIVERS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Sources inside Myanmar are telling us that the protests have now ended for the day, after a ninth consecutive day of demonstrations of defiance against military rule. Again, tens of thousands of people, including many monks, have taken to the streets.

Today, there are reports of clashes with riot police, reports that riot police fired into the air, over the heads of demonstrators, and reports that many demonstrators were injured -- some beaten back by riot police using batons. One unconfirmed report of one monk having been shot dead.

So it seems the situation has escalated, that there are now violent clashes and that this is, perhaps, the beginning of the feared crackdown by this military government.

Where we are, right on the border with Myanmar, we've managed to cross over into the small provincial town of Tachilek today. There was no sign here of any protests or defiance.

We talked to a few people. Everyone here knew what was going on in Yangon and in Mandalay, but very few people here were willing to go on camera to talk about it. And there was no sign of any demonstrations here.

The impression we got was that this was a picture that was mirrored in lots of other small, remote provincial towns, that people didn't want to stick their head above the parapet, that most of the dissent seems to be in the big cities of Mandalay and Yangon.

Dan Rivers, CNN, on the Thai-Myanmar border.


HARRIS: A very strange story coming from Florida this morning. A bank employee used in a robbery. He says he was kidnapped. A bomb was strapped to his chest. What of this?

Susan Candiotti joins us now from Miami. Susan, what are you hearing?

SUSAN CANDIOTTI, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Tony, it was certainly a very, very scary sight yesterday, as this man told police he was taken hostage from his own home and his body was strapped with explosives. In fact, a law enforcement source describes the device as a couple of cylinders and some wires. They say it looked very, very real.

The bank robbers allegedly -- they did drive this man to the bank, went inside. He works there. He's an employee, so other people recognized him. And the bank robbers got away with a lot of money.

And then this man sat outside the bank while authorities finally approached him, removed the device from his body, defused it. We still don't know precisely whether it was a bomb or not. They're testing it.

But this man and his girlfriend were questioned for hours. In fact, the alleged victim was kept at the police headquarters until 2:30 this morning. Authorities say they still have a lot on their mind, a lot they want to ask him, and they're not satisfied just yet about exactly what occurred.

Here is the Hollywood police spokesman.


CAPT. TONY RODE, HOLLYWOOD, FLORIDA POLICE: We're just at this point now where we have an opportunity to do an extensive interview of the bank employee to see if, in fact, number one, is this legit? Is this all a hoax? Is he truly a victim? Did he somehow, some way, participate in this alleged bank robbery that apparently, you know, procured an enormous amount of money?


CANDIOTTI: Now, at this time, the police tell us they are still calling this man a victim. They did let him go home. But they told us overnight that they still have a lot of questions that they're asking him, a lot of questions in their own mind, holes in some of the responses that they got from this man.

So they haven't closed the books on this one yet. And, remember, they still have to test that device to see whether it was for real. What is for real is the fact that a couple of robbers got away with, I said, a ton of money -- Tony.

HARRIS: Man, just -- just bizarre.

All right, Susan Candiotti for us in Miami. Susan, thank you.

COLLINS: E. coli fears fuel another food recall. This time it's ground beef. Some 330,000 pounds of frozen hamburger patties being recalled by Topps Foods. The New Jersey-based company also markets the meat under the brand names Kohler Foods, Butcher's Best and Sand Castle Fine Meat. All the boxes carry the code EST9748. The beef was distributed nationwide, too. At least six people in New York got sick. All are now recovering.

HARRIS: We'll have to check the weather now.

Rob Marciano in the CNN Severe Weather Center -- what are you keeping an eye there?

MARCIANO: Oh, you've got to see.

HARRIS: You've got a big map up there.

MARCIANO: A big map.

HARRIS: Looking at the (INAUDIBLE).

MARCIANO: You guys, I know -- well, Tony -- and ...


MARCIANO: You know Heidi is a big fan of country music. Yes?

She's just nodding so where -- where were you going with this?

COLLINS: I do like it. I like the lyrics a lot.

HARRIS: But would you call yourself a big fan?

COLLINS: I would not call myself a big fan.

HARRIS: Yes, yes, yes. Yes, yes. OK.

MARCIANO: So this is ...

COLLINS: I do like it.

HARRIS: Because that would have been new information for me about you.

COLLINS: Yes, I do like it.


MARCIANO: Breaking news -- Heidi Collins...


COLLINS: Great writing. Look it, it's on the crawl now.

HARRIS: There you go.



COLLINS: I'm so excited about fall, you know?

MARCIANO: Yes, really.

COLLINS: Aren't you?



COLLINS: He loves the heat.

MARCIANO: It makes me want to play some country music.

HARRIS: I do. A Toby Keith fan. We've established that.

MARCIANO: Who isn't a Toby Keith fan, right, you know?

COLLINS: Right. Right. I almost saw him in Vegas...

HARRIS: Always working to bail you out there, Rob.

COLLINS: Like, Toby Keith in Vegas, you know, kind of an interesting venue, right?


COLLINS: OK, more on this later, because I know everyone is riveted about this.

MARCIANO: A developing story, no less.


HARRIS: Whoo. Amazing stuff.

COLLINS: All right, Rob, thank you.

MARCIANO: I got you.

HARRIS: And still to come in the NEWSROOM, war dollars. The Bush administration requesting more money for war in Iraq. Find out how much and what it's for.

SUZANNE MALVEAUX, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: I'm Suzanne Malveaux in New York, covering where President Bush is meeting with Afghanistan's president, Hamid Karzai, and critics saying dealing with issues in what they believe has been a forgotten war in the war on terror.

COLLINS: The opening bell today. It happened just a few minutes ago.


COLLINS: We'll be talking more about this tentative deal that was reached between General Motors and the UAW. We're wondering what that will do to those numbers today, if anything at all today. We'll talk with Susan Lisovicz a little bit later on.


HARRIS: A stubborn Taliban, a soaring drug trade -- the fight for Afghanistan in the spotlight this morning. President Hamid Karzai meets with President Bush in New York.

Suzanne Malveaux joins us live -- Suzanne, good morning to you.

MALVEAUX: Hey, good morning, Tony.

As you know, it's a very important meeting between these two leaders. As you mentioned, there are a lot of problems -- big problems in Afghanistan. These two leaders met at Camp David just last month and it really is kind of a progress report.

But this a country right now that supplies most of the world's opium. It is a huge drug trade. The Taliban are profiting off of this trade. You have Osama bin Laden who is still at large. Who knows if he is in Afghanistan or along the Pakistani border?

But, clearly, big, big problems in this country. And I think what the president really wanted to know is where they stand now.

Let's take a listen.

GEORGE BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Every time we meet, I ask you, are you making progress. Are more children going to school? Are more health care clinics operating now? The security forces should be more capable of dealing with the extremists. I expect progress and you expect progress. And I appreciate the support that you have given me today.

Thank you and welcome.

PRES. HAMID KARZAI, AFGHANISTAN: Thanks very much, Mr. President (INAUDIBLE) . And thank you for the great hospitality that you have always give the Afghan people and to me personally, my delegation.

The (INAUDIBLE) sometime in the future. Afghanistan, indeed, has made progress, but Mr. President. (INAUDIBLE) the American people for all that we have achieved in Afghanistan, especially the things that you mentioned, (INAUDIBLE) child (INAUDIBLE) country (INAUDIBLE) country (INAUDIBLE) and saving 85,000 lives, especially (INAUDIBLE).

MALVEAUX: Tony, it really depends on how you measure the progress in Afghanistan. If you look from the very beginning, obviously, big problems. They have brought democracy to that country, education, women's rights, those type of things -- very, very big item agendas, if you will.

At the same time, the real concern here is the back slide that is happening in that country. There's still some 20,000 U.S. Troops in Afghanistan and critics say this really is the forgotten front in the war on terror -- Tony.

HARRIS: Yes, we have heard that repeatedly.

Suzanne, President Bush has some domestic issues on his agenda, as well, this morning. What's he talking about?

MALVEAUX: He's talking about education, this No Child Left Behind legislation, the law. It's up for renewal. He is pushing big time to try to get it renewed through Congress. We are going to see the president, along with the chancellor of the New York City school system, the mayor of New York, the secretary of education, Spellings, the first lady, all of them meeting with fourth and fifth graders to tout the New York City school system. It has done an excellent job. The standards have improved.

And he is going to be talking about those national test scores that came out just yesterday. They showed that students are improving nationwide when it comes to math and reading. And he's going to use those scores to once again make the case for this legislation.

A lot of critics, however, Tony, say that this not a program that works for all children, that it's narrow in its scope and particularly in the emphasis of testing. But this something the president is going to push for before he goes back to Washington. HARRIS: Our White House correspondent, Suzanne Malveaux, traveling with the president in New York City.

Suzanne, great to see you. Thank you.

MALVEAUX: Thank you.

COLLINS: Senator Larry Craig looks for a do-over. His attorneys due in a Minnesota courtroom today. They're asking a judge to reverse Craig's guilty plea in an airport bathroom sex sting. The Idaho Republican pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor disorderly conduct charge in June.

But Craig says he did nothing wrong. Last month, he announced plans to leave the Senate September 30th.

HARRIS: Race, justice and equal treatment -- the Jena 6 case, one young man still in jail. Now a Congressman is offering some high- powered help.

COLLINS: Is this child in this picture the missing British girl, Madeleine McCann? Police doing a bit of photo forensics this morning.


HARRIS: Nine minutes -- nine minutes before the top of the hour.

I feel like I'm doing radio here all of a sudden.

COLLINS: Have you done radio? Of course you have.

HARRIS: Sure. Sure. Why not? It's just something else to be doing.

COLLINS: I did radio in Muleshoe, Texas.

HARRIS: Is that -- how many...

COLLINS: Oh, wait. I didn't do that.

HARRIS: Where is the map now, because that's a new destination for you.

COLLINS: It's West Texas.

HARRIS: Muleshoe?

COLLINS: Muleshoe, Texas.


COLLINS: Home of Lee Horsley.

HARRIS: Oh, yes, yes, yes. Actor. Yes. Actor guy. All right. Shoot. I also know the show, but I can't think of it.

COLLINS: "Matt Houston."

HARRIS: "Matt Houston." Way to go.

Hey, we're podcasting later today. All kinds of information like this for trivia bugs.

COLLINS: Yes. We'll include some little tidbits just like that.


So here's what you do. You go to and you download the CNN NEWSROOM daily pod cast. It is available to you 24-7 right on your -- let's see it again. Let's see the gizmo one more time -- right on your iPod. And there you go.

COLLINS: War dollars debate -- the Bush administration expected to request more money today for the war in Iraq. The White House is asking Congress for another $50 billion. That's in addition to the $150 billion already requested for the fiscal year that begins on Monday.

Much of the additional money would be used for mine-resistant armored vehicles. We've heard a lot about them lately. They are the ones that provide more protection against roadside bombs.

HARRIS: House fire in a war zone -- lives can change in an instant.

CNN's Aneesh Raman reports.


ANEESH RAMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): As Akram Ameen walks amid the charred debris of a destroyed life, he knows a single moment in Iraq can change everything -- a lesson learned on September 4th.

"Two helicopters were flying overhead and shot flares," he says. "Almost immediately, I sensed something burning and noticed it was my house. Within minutes, our neighborhood was in flames."

This is what Akram's house looks like -- a wooden structure that, in dry heat, caught fire instantaneously. We arrived at the scene as the firefighters did.

(on camera): It's been about an hour-and-a-half since this fire broke out. We've seen about a half dozen fire trucks now on the scene. You can see the firefighters somewhere behind here, putting out the flames.

(voice-over): In the aftermath the firefighters moved on. And for Akron, a new reality set in.

"What I had built over 40 years," he says, "was completely gone. I became homeless. My whole family became homeless." Akram's family is now trying to get compensation. And while they are convinced it was a U.S. Helicopter, other eyewitnesses say it was Iraqi. Choppers routinely patrol over Akram's neighborhood, just outside the Green Zone, and flares are fired, sometimes automatically, when there is a perceived threat.

The ensuing fire was, in all likelihood, an accident -- one that's left Akram's wife in tears.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE (through translator): We are now on the street. It is not secure. I fear for my daughters because of militias, gangs, car bombs.

RAMAN: Complaints have been filed both with the Iraqi government and the U.S. Military, which says it does not comment on ongoing claims. The family is asking for $40,000 in compensation. They say it will take at least a month to see if they'll get any of it. Akram's eldest daughter says theirs is a common story.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE (through translator): We are now homeless and every day or two, we are moving to a stranger's house. That is our life, changed in a single moment.

RAMAN: A single moment which has left Akron and his family starting over, salvaging what little they can.

Aneesh Raman, CNN, Baghdad.


COLLINS: From best-selling novel to upcoming Hollywood movie, real life kite runners fighting for supremacy of the skies.

HARRIS: School bus slapping -- have you seen this video? A mom says her son was bullied, all right?

So she takes matters into her own hand. Here, have one. You, too. Have another and another and another. Yes, that's big sister there involved in all of this, as well. Now both are in trouble with the law.

COLLINS: Monks defying military leaders. -- a look at what led to this showdown on the streets of Myanmar.


ELIZABETH LUU: OK, so here we are today at the rally. This is for people who support freedom of speech and those who are protesting, particularly, Ahmadinejad's presence here at Columbia today.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (voice-over): That's video by I-Reporter and Columbia University graduate student Elizabeth Luu. She says the crowd was huge outside the building where the Iranian president was speaking.

Jessica Lewis took these pictures while watching the crowds from her dorm room window. She says there were protests on campus and some classes were canceled.

A gathering of a different kind in Flint, Michigan. Jill Maxwell snapped these pictures of the United Autoworkers strike against G.M. earlier this week. Maxwell is a former autoworker. She says her grandfather took part in the original sit-down strikes here in Flint in the mid-'30s.

And you can also be an I-Reporter and share your videos and pictures with us. Find out how by going to our Web site at