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Seven Students Killed in Beach House Fire; Genarlow Wilson Released from Prison; Students Return to Class after Wildfires; Young Woman Killed Answering Online Ad

Aired October 29, 2007 - 09:00   ET


ROB MARCIANO, CNN ANCHOR: We're all scaredy-cats.
KIRAN CHETRY, CNN ANCHOR: Didn't Elizabeth Cohen say when you don't get a lot of sleep, you're easily spooked?

MARCIANO: That will happen.

CHETRY: There you go.

The set hasn't changed a bit, by the way, since 1999.

MARCIANO: Yes. You miss it there?

CHETRY: Yes. It was -- I loved living in California. That was a blast.

MARCIANO: Good living out there.

CHETRY: All right. Well, we'll see if we can be just as scared on Halloween here. Don't get any ideas, guys.

MARCIANO: Thanks for joining us. The next hour -- not the next hour. We're done, huh? Aren't we done?

CHETRY: It feels like it, but we're done.

MARCIANO: NEWSROOM with Heidi Collins starts now.

CHETRY: See you.

HEIDI COLLINS, CNN ANCHOR: You are in the CNN NEWSROOM. I'm Heidi Collins. Tony Harris is off today.

Watch events come into the NEWSROOM live on this Monday morning. It is October 29. Here's what's on the rundown.

Counselors on campus. Fire investigators on the scene. Seven students dead. We'll tell you what's surprising about the investigation.

Looking ahead, after more than two years behind bars. Genarlow Wilson talks to us about being freed and about the district attorney who sent him to prison.

And brooms for Beantown. The Boston Red Sox celebrate their second World Series sweep in four years.

It's all in the NEWSROOM.

Two college campuses in mourning. Seven students on a weekend getaway are now dead, killed in this fire that tore through a North Carolina beach house. Six of the victims attended the University of South Carolina. The other victim was a Clemson student.

More details now from Sabrina Zimring of our affiliate WTVD.


BETTY SMITH, NEIGHBOR: That is awful. When we got out there, we could start hearing things exploding. Windows were like -- breaking.

SABRINA ZIMRING, WTVD CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): This incredible home video, taken by neighbors early Sunday morning, shows just how intense this fire was.

B. SMITH: When I opened the door, on the Tea Canal (ph), on the end, I could see this house just engulfed in flames.

ZIMRING: Sounds of sirens woke neighbors in this quaint beach community. They watched from their balcony as firefighters battled the flames.

Several University of South Carolina and Clemson college students were staying here at this house. At least one person jumped to safety from the third floor. But for seven of the students, help came too late.

B. SMITH: That was what I thought. Oh, my God, people is in that house. And it was almost a panic, almost, the thought of thinking did they get out?

ZIMRING: News of this tragedy shook this small town.

MAYOR DEBBIE SMITH, OCEAN ISLE, NORTH CAROLINA: It was devastating, because I don't think anybody has seen anything like this on the island.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is one of the largest tragedies we've ever had here in Ocean Isle.

ZIMRING: But the mayor gave credit to emergency workers for their quick response.

D. SMITH: I think the fire department needs to be commended on that.

ZIMRING: Fire alarms sounded in the home, but there were no sprinklers. Right now, the cause of the fire is still unknown, but officials say they do not suspect foul play.

(END VIDEOTAPE) COLLINS: The mayor says six other students survived the fire. They were treated at the hospital and then released. Investigators say it may be Wednesday before the victims' identities are released.

At the University of South Carolina, grief counselors are on hand as classes resume. We're going to be talking with the university's vice president for student affairs, coming up right here in the NEWSROOM.

Well, he went to prison for having consensual sex with another teen. Hours after being freed, Genarlow Wilson thanked his church supporters for helping to stoke public outrage.

Most importantly, Georgia's Supreme Court also came to his aid. They ruled on Friday his ten-year sentence amounted to, quote, "cruel and unusual punishment."

In his first interview from being released from prison, he sat down with CNN's Rick Sanchez. I talked with Rick a little bit earlier.


RICK SANCHEZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Two and a half years doing hard time in a real prison. Let's not lose sight of what we have here. We have a 17-year-old who had sex with a 15-year-old. Those are two teenagers. And, seemingly, consensual sex. I've seen the videotape. I've talked to the jurors. I've talked to the prosecutors.

It's a law that's outdated, that's gone. So when I asked him all those things and put it into perspective and I said, "Look, I mean, you've got to be a little upset. I mean, you lost two and a half years of your life. You were a homecoming king. You were an A/B student. You were on the football team."


SANCHEZ: He said no. He said, "As a matter of fact, I have no time at this point in my life for any negativity against anybody or anything." Here's what he had to say.


GENARLOW WILSON, FORMER PRISONER: You can't let everything that you've been through, you know, get the best of you and turn you bitter, because you will never achieve anything.

You know, I feel like everything I've done and, you know, everything that I've endured has only made me stronger as a person. You had to be very open-minded to the situation.

Of course, I believe that it was absurd. But, you know, I had to look at it as, you know, these gentlemen were doing their job, and you know, they felt like they were carrying out the law.

(END VIDEO CLIP) COLLINS: Pretty incredible.

SANCHEZ: Even after the prosecutors pushed it -- because remember, the appeals court had freed him.

COLLINS: Oh, yes.

SANCHEZ: And then the prosecutor said, "No, now we're going to take it to the Supreme Court. We're not going to let you out of jail." And I asked him, I said, "How about then? Did that make you mad?"

He said, "No. I still think they were just doing their job."

COLLINS: Well, I'm sure he missed his family, though, so much in all that time. It's two and a half years. It has been a lot longer, I think, than most of us really realize, because time always seems to pass so quickly.

But I got to know why he didn't take the deal.

SANCHEZ: That's a good question. Because you know, he could have walked. I mean, he could have walked a year ago if he really wanted to. And he says, "I am not a child molester, and I don't want to be branded a child molester for the rest of my life, because if I become a child molester, you know what that means? I can't hang around my little sister. I can't be a big brother to my sister."

He talks about that specifically. Here it is. Let's listen.


WILSON: It wasn't necessarily just about the time. You know, it was the principle. It was that, you know, I didn't want to be labeled as a sex offender, you know, because I am not one.

I might have had lesser time, but then again, I would have nowhere to go, because I would have no home. I wouldn't be able to stay with my mother, because I have a little sister. You know, when you're a sex offender, you can't be around kids. Basically, that's like I can't even have kids myself, you know. So, what is the point of life?


COLLINS: Yes. So, I mean, obviously, this is a charge that sticks with you for life. I mean, not only just the charge and everything that goes along with that legally -- how close you can be to children and schools and so on and so forth -- but inside, in the way that people would know you, if that had gone...

SANCHEZ: I think there's some principle involved here. And I think he was sticking to the principle that "I am not going to cop to something I don't feel I am."

You know, and there's something admirable about that, because most of us, at that age, are not that forward thinking. And when you're sitting in prison, and somebody gives you a free -- a get-out- of-jail-free card, you think most guys would take it.

In fact, the other folks involved in this, the other boys involved in this, did take that deal.

COLLINS: Of course, yes.

SANCHEZ: But he's saying, "No, you know, I'm not going to do that."

I find, Heidi, after knowing this young man for the last couple of years and following this story, that he really has grown up. He has this quiet confidence about him now. He wants to be able to make a difference and tell other people not to same -- make the same mistake that he has made.


COLLINS: A little later on today, you can see Rick Sanchez's entire interview with Genarlow Wilson. "Out in the Open" airs at 8 p.m. Eastern, 5 Pacific, right here on CNN.

The Southern California wildfires. Life inches back to normal, and this morning's milestone: schools gear up for class.

CNN's Kara Finnstrom is outside a high school in Poway, California.

Good morning to you, Kara. When are kids going to be showing up?

KARA FINNSTROM, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, good morning, Heidi. Those school buses will start pulling up right here within the next hour or so. And then the kids will head right through these gates, back to classes for the first time since these fires broke out.

And for many, those classroom bells, the time to reconnect with friends, even the homework will be a welcome return to some kind of routine.


FINNSTROM (voice-over): For seven days of wildfire wars, it's been base camp to nearly 700 firefighters. Now, the soot and ash are being blasted and wiped away, and the students are coming back to Poway High.

(on camera) Are you guys a little nervous about going back?


FINNSTROM (voice-over): Lynn Gale (ph) is one of 300 students, in this district alone, left homeless by the fires.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I got, like, photos and my camera and this blanket I made. UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Kids who lost textbooks and that kind of thing, we've already got them ready for them in the library.

FINNSTROM: The principal at Poway High says counselors, teachers and friends will help students try to regain some sense of normalcy after a week of horrific chaos.

Lynn Gale (ph) is struggling.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We're going up to see our home.

FINNSTROM: Lynn's (ph) family invited us along as, for the first time, the children returned to their neighborhood.

ALEX GALE, STUDENT: How did the fire get to our house?

FINNSTROM: Lynn (ph) became too emotional to go, but her brother and sister did.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Kristen, that was your room.

A. GALE: My bedroom's right there.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And your bedroom -- no, your bedroom is this one right here.

FINNSTROM: Nine-year-old Alex and 13-year-old Kristen could barely recognize what they once called home.

KRISTEN GALE, STUDENT: When we were evacuating, I really, really thought that we were coming back to it. A house that wasn't in ashes.

FINNSTROM: This week, with more than 30,000 other children in Poway, they'll start the overwhelming task of piecing whole lives back together.

A. GALE: I want to have a normal day and see my friends.

K. GALE: It's kind of been boring in the hotel that we're staying in. So...

FINNSTROM (on camera): So, it will be good to get back with your friends?

K. GALE: Yes.

FINNSTROM (voice-over): And going back to school will be that first step.


FINNSTROM: It will be a big day for some of these students.

Now, Heidi, right behind me, you can kind of make out some of the signs still on these gates. This again, is where those firefighters stayed and directed them to where they could get food and a place to sleep.

And we're told those firefighters actually brought out their fire-hoses and helped to hose this whole place down and get all the soot away. Everything scrubbed up and ready for those kids to come back to classes today.

COLLINS: Yes. It's going to be a very big day for them. But I remember, the fires, when they were really at their worst, the school system itself seemed to really help out the community. What were they able to do?

FINNSTROM: Actually, some of the school buses that will be bringing these kids in today, they were taken by emergency officials and used to evacuate about 700 people from a nearby hospital and also from nursing homes.

And some of the cafeteria workers, who usually serve these kids up lunches, they were can cooking up meals for the emergency workers, the firefighters and some of the evacuees. So this school really did kind of get involved with all the relief effort.

COLLINS: Yes. All right. Well, I know that they can use all the help they can get, even on this very day.

Kara Finnstrom, thanks so much.

And firefighters battling wildfires now on Hawaii's big island. About 400 people were forced to evacuate over the weekend but did return home yesterday. No homes were damaged and no injuries reported. Investigators do suspect arson.

A fire official says nine fires were set along a coastal highway within minutes of each other. Although residents have been allowed to return, police say three separate fires are still burning. The fires have burned more than 2,000 acres.

Jacqui Jeras is in the weather center for us this morning. And I want to make sure I say this correctly. Tropical Storm Noel?


COLLINS: Not Noelle.

JERAS: It looks Noelle. Yes, right, exactly. That's how we used to spell it here, pronounce it here, but it's Noel, officially. K-N-O-L-L is what it sounds like, phonetically.

But it's a tropical storm. Hey, tropical season, hurricane season not over with just yet. We've got a whole month to go. This is the first named storm we've had in about a month. It's No. 14.

Noel is now moving over Hispaniola. The center of circulation over here, north of Port-au-Prince now. But take a look at all this: all of the precipitation, all the wet weather is here over the Dominican Republic. And Santo Domingo, which is right about here, is getting some of the worst conditions in terms of the heavy rain. And it was -- this from (ph) the Internet, and there, you can see a picture from And you can see all the wet weather and the traffic, though, still moving along. So they're still -- still plugging along there.

The storm is moving to the north-northwest now, and it's expected to kind of start to curve way from the United States. So that's some good news.

But we'll be watching Florida for impacts. One impact that we're dealing with right now is high pressure to the north along with low pressure to the south, driving this strong easterly wind.

Jacksonville getting in on some rough coastal conditions today. There you can see the rain is coming down, looking over the St. John's River. But along the beaches, we're going to see gusts 20 to 30 miles per hour, a very high risk of rip currents today and the rough surf to go along with it. So looking for a little beach erosion here, some of the worst weather in the country today.

The winds not great today, Heidi, across parts of the southwest. But they should be moving back onshore by tonight. So more moisture. And believe it or not, maybe a little rain or drizzle possible.


JERAS: For Tuesday and Wednesday.

COLLINS: Really?

JERAS: Yes. Really.

COLLINS: All right. We'll keep all the fingers and toes crossed for that one.

All right, Jacqui, we'll check in later. Thank you.

Beantown buzzing with cheers for their beloved Red Sox this morning. They are the champions, Boston completing a sweep of the Colorado Rockies in the World Series.

This, in fact, gives the Red Sox, a second title in the past four seasons. Both times, they swept their national league opponent.

The Sox clinched the series in Colorado, but that didn't stop Red Sox nation from pouring into Boston streets. Police in riot gear kept tabs on the crowd. They reported 37 arrests, mostly for disorderly conduct.

A pastor looks beyond God in dealing with his daughter's death.


ROLF OLSON, FATHER OF SLAIN WOMAN: I absolutely will not accept comments like "This was God's will."


COLLINS: She answered an online job, and she was killed. We're back in 60 seconds with the story.


COLLINS: Welcome back, everybody. I'm Heidi Collins. You are in the CNN NEWSROOM.

It's the buzz in London.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Cocaine, sex and the royal family are a damaging mix and a dangerous basis for blackmail.


COLLINS: Royal dilemma, royal sting coming your way in a moment.


ANNOUNCER: Live breaking news, unfolding developments. See the result in the CNN NEWSROOM.

COLLINS: Charges expected today in the death of a young woman who answered an online job ad. Police suspect a killer pretending to need a nanny.

Julianna Olsen of affiliate KARE has more.


JULIANNA OLSEN, KARE CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Katherine Olson, as fresh and young as the pink flowers she clutches after performing in "The Sound of Music" last summer.

NANCY OLSON, MOTHER OF SLAIN WOMAN: She wanted adventure, and she danced on the edge.

OLSEN: Olson found some of that adventure, like a nanny job in Turkey, on the Internet.

N. OLSON: She found things online, and we would ring our hands and say, "Have you checked these people out?"

OLSEN: On Thursday, a babysitting job she found on Craig's List led Olson to Savage.

SARAH RICHTER, SISTER OF SLAIN WOMAN: It seemed kind of fishy, but she was jut going to check it out and meet them.

OLSEN: She thought she was meeting with a married couple.

R. OLSON: If it didn't work, she assumed she would be able to turn around and leave and come home. And it didn't work out that way.

OLSEN: Early Friday, police found Olson's purse in a Savage park. Late Friday, they found her car in a Burnsville park, her body inside the trunk.

CAPT. DAVE MUELKEN, SAVAGE, MINNESOTA, POLICE: I don't have a word to describe how -- this situation. It's very tragic.

OLSEN: Police arrested a 19-year-old Savage man. They suspect he placed the ad. They searched his home, just blocks from the park where Olson was found.

R. OLSON: This was evil, and this was human brokenness.

OLSEN: Olson's father, a pastor, finds no comfort in cliches.

R. OLSON: I absolutely will not accept comments like "This was God's will."

OLSEN: Olson leaves behind a family who not only grieves for her but also for a lifetime of people who could have known her and been touched by her.

N. OLSON: We know where Katherine is. And so we are not afraid for Katherine. We will miss her terribly. She was a bright light and a free spirit.


COLLINS: The Craig's List founder says this has never happened before. He says the company works with police to solve crimes that are tied to the Web site. We, in fact, do have some calls out this morning to speak with the founder, as well as with police, about this investigation. We hope to have that for you in just a little bit right here in the NEWSROOM.

New this morning now, Israel's prime minister facing a cancer diagnosis. Ehud Olmert says he has prostate cancer. He will undergo surgery in the coming months to remove what he described as a small cancerous tumor.

The Israeli leader says the tumor was discovered during a routine check about ten days ago. He says the tumor is not life-threatening and treatment will not interfere with him doing his job.

Oil hits $93 a barrel. Is the $100 mark the next sure thing? We're "Minding Your Business" in the NEWSROOM.


COLLINS: "Deeply disturbing". That's the response from clothing giant Gap after allegations of child labor in a factory contracted to make some of its clothing. That factory in India.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) MARKA HANSEN, PRESIDENT, GAP NORTH AMERICA: It's absolute horror. You know, it's just -- it's sickening. There's nothing I can tell you, but you know, as a mother, child labor is absolutely unacceptable for us. As a corporation, for me as an individual, I can't think of anything worse.


COLLINS: It is reported some kids as young as 10 years old were forced to work 16-hour days in deplorable conditions. Gap blamed an unauthorized subcontractor. Now Gap is promising to make it right, firing the vendor and vowing not to sell the clothing.

Oil setting a new record in overnight trading. Crude prices passing the $93 mark for the very first time. Will oil shoot up to $100 a barrel? One would hope not.

Stephanie Elam is here, "Minding Your Business" now. I'm not sure this is a record anybody really wants.

STEPHANIE ELAM, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes. It's not the good kind of record, Heidi. But it's definitely not out of question, that whole idea of $100-a-barrel oil.

Let's take a look at Friday. The close here on Friday was actually $91.86. That was up $1.40. That is a new record there. So if you look at that.

Then, overnight trading throughout the world, take a look at oil, over $93 a barrel. So we may see it opening up at higher levels here.

Now, there's a few reasons that factor into this. First of all, we're hurt by the falling dollar against the euro. It's a 33 low against the Canadian dollar. So that's part of the issue there.

Mexico decided to shut down their production of oil because of a storm.

Also, you have the tension between Turkey and Iraq and those Kurdish militants. That's factoring in, as well as Iran's issues with whether or not they're ramping up their nuclear activity there.

All of that factoring in to make oil higher right now, Heidi.

COLLINS: Yes. It's always a very complicated story when you look at those factors that end up shooting those prices up. But I think everybody really wants to know what about gas prices?

ELAM: Of course everyone wants to know about that. Some analysts are saying that we may see gas prices about $3 a gallon come the end of this year. Some even saying we might even see $4 a gallon as those factors out.

There's also concerns about whether or not there's going to be enough oil to heat everybody this winter. So that's also playing a part in what we see of oil prices then filtering into gasoline. COLLINS: OK. So everybody needs money then? The Fed? Are they going to step in and just start handing out money to everybody?

ELAM: See if it will be easier for us to go ahead and get our hands on some cash. Right?

COLLINS: Yes, yes.

ELAM: Well, it is Fed week. We're looking for the Fed to meet and come out on Halloween, actually with a...

COLLINS: That doesn't sound good.

ELAM: So trick-or-treat here, right? What are we going to get?

But right now, it looks like a lot of people are expecting them to go ahead and cut interest rates. Right after the last time they cut interest rates, people are like: "There's no way they're going to cut them again."

But then we got some weak earnings numbers coming in. We also see the credit crunch hitting companies like Wachovia, Washington Mutual, Citigroup. All of that is factoring into the Fed's decision now. So some people are saying they're going to be a little conservative here and see a quarter point cut here. That would take us down to 4.5 percent.

But some are hoping for a little bit more. But that's a wide- ranging kind of a view right now. Most people think if it does happen, it will be in the quarter percentage point there.

Some say that as long as inflation stays under control, up to like 4 percent, they can cut to there. But the Fed really wants to give itself some leeway for January as well as December. Maybe they can make some decisions there, Heidi.

COLLINS: Want to place a bet?

ELAM: Yes, I'm going to go with a quarter percent.

COLLINS: You are? OK.

ELAM: I'm on the record for a quarter percent.

COLLINS: I'm writing you down right now. All right, Stephanie.

ELAM: What are you going for?

COLLINS: I'm not saying a word.

ELAM: OK, all right.

COLLINS: I'm just a journalist, just watching things happen. All right, Stephanie Elam, "Minding Your Business". Thank you, Stephanie.

ELAM: Of course.

COLLINS: The first lady becoming the first elected female leader in Argentina. Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner declaring victory in Argentina's presidential election. Returns show her leading all rivals. A job swap with her husband, in fact. She serves in Argentina's senate.

There are obvious comparisons being made to Senator Hillary Clinton, a former first lady running for president. De Kirchner will be the first woman elected as Argentina's president. And we'll be watching that story for you.

Meanwhile, is your child autistic? Spotting the signs early on. This morning, there is new hope.


ANNOUNCER: Live in the CNN NEWSROOM, Heidi Collins.

COLLINS: And good morning once again, everybody; 9:30 now Eastern Time. And you know what that mean. Just a few minutes, we're going to be going to the opening bell, stock room floor here. We're going to get a look at Dow Jones Industrial Averages after Friday, which is a great way to -- to end the week, with the gains of about 135 points. So, that was terrific; 13,806 was the close.

And there is the opening bell. So, we will see what's going to be happening with those numbers today, particularly in response to the record oil prices that we were just talking about with Stephanie Elam.

We'll be joined by Susan Lisovicz a little bit later on and tell you more about that side of the story.

Meanwhile, among our top stories this hour, two college campuses in mourning right now. Seven students on a weekend getaway are dead. They were killed in this fire that tore through a North Carolina beach house. Six of the victims attended the University Of South Carolina. The other victim was a Clemson student. Grief counselors offering help this morning on one campus. Federal agents from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms are helping to lead the investigation. The names of the victims have not yet been released. Want to let you know coming up in the NEWSROOM.

Right here, we're going to be talking with the University of South Carolina's vice president for student affairs about this tragedy and check with him about how everybody is doing there.

Meanwhile, out of prison, in the spotlight this morning, Genarlow Wilson went to church Sunday just hours after Georgia's Supreme Court ordered him freed. Wilson had been locked up more than two years. His crime? Having consensual sex with another teen. The states high court ruled his ten-year sentence amounted to cruel and unusual punishment. He sat down with CNN's Rick Sanchez for his first interview after being released.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) GENARLOW WILSON, FORMER PRISONER: You can't let everything that you've been through, you know, get the best of you and turn you bitter, because you would never achieve anything. I feel like everything I've done and, you know, everything that I've endured, it's only made me stronger as a person. You had to be very open minded to the situation. Of course, I believe that it was absurd. But, you know, I had to look at it as, you know these gentlemen were doing their job and they felt like they were carrying out the law.


COLLINS: Later today, you can see Rick Sanchez's entire interview with Genarlow Wilson. "Out In the Open" airs at 8:00 eastern, 5:00 pacific right here on CNN.

A busy day in the severe weather center. Jacqui Jeras is here with us today and watching the path, tracking a tropical storm Noel. Hey there, Jacqui.


COLLINS: Certainly, a lot of heartache caused by those Southern California wildfires though. At least one couple who lost everything is trying to trump heartache with humor. Meet Jim and Carol Wall of Rancho Bernardo.


JIM WALL, RANCHO BERNARDO: There are some wires over here so watch that.

CAROL WALL, RANCHO BERNARDO: On Monday night, we saw it on TV. We could see my car sitting in front of the house, but no house behind it.

J. WALL: When we saw it, I mean, we both cried, because -- you know, there was everything that we had, it's just gone in smoke, literally. There's so many neighbors around here. They've lost a lot of things too. So, we wanted to do something that was just going to lighten everybody up and just turn everybody around if we could. You know, it just caught my eye, caught my attention. I'm Jim Wall.

C. WALL: I'm Carol Wall.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I was trying to figure out where were they coming from.

J. WALL: Knock, knock.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They got a big bold sign.

C. WALL and J. WALL: Finally, no termites.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I was expecting the sign to say keep out.

J. WALL: We're trying to lighten up the neighborhood up. We're trying to inspire people. Let them know that this is not the end of the world.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Finally no termites. Well, you know, it just really shows that some people have a sense of humor in all of this despair.

J. WALL: There's the living room on this side and the family room is on that side. And the upstairs, there's downstairs.

C. WALL: Is right here.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: At least, it's a little humor in the face of something so bad like this.

J. WALL: Battling termites for years. And so, finally, finally, all 132 million of them are gone.


COLLINS: Have you been moved by what you've seen all week last week? It's hard not to be moved. But you can take action, if you would like. In fact, you can help the victims of California wildfires through our impact your world initiative. Just go to to see how you can help.

Spiritual support. Troops in Iraq dealing with life in the war zone. Reaching out for help.


COLLINS: We want to tell you more now about this story that we have been watching all morning long. Something that happened last week. Our Jeanne Meserve has been following this story for us, regarding this fake news conference that FEMA held. I know you just got off the phone, Jeanne with the head of FEMA, David Paulison. What did he have to say about this?

JEANNE MESERVE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: He called to apologize and say, it will not happen again. He said he was very unhappy that this had happened. To refresh people's memories on this, it was last Tuesday when FEMA called a press conference on very short notice. Reporters were not able to get there. Some of them did call in, but they could only listen. They could not ask questions. So, the people asking the questions at the press conference were actually FEMA staffers. It has created quite an uproar. FEMA says policies are being changed at his agency, he says that in future when reporters call in, they will be able to ask questions as well as listen and reporters will be given at least one hour's notice before any press conference begins.

He also said that some disciplinary action has been taken over at FEMA and that he was very disturbed at the effect this had on morale in his agency. When I asked if it had a deleterious effect, he said undoubtedly it had. Things had been going well off here. All the planning they've done for a major event for the last two years seem to be falling into place and then, this press conference happened and really took the pins out from underneath them. He did -- I did ask him also about John Philbin, also known also as Pat Philbin. He was Director of the Office of External Affairs at FEMA. He is taking a new job. His last day at FEMA was Thursday. And he is scheduled to start this morning as Head of Public Affairs for the Director of National Intelligence. I asked Paulison if he thought it was appropriate that Philbin should make the move over to another government agency. He said that's between Philbin and his new boss. But Paulison did say in an e-mail, Philbin had taken complete responsibility for what had happened at that press conference. Paulison saying, however, that his probe into this is continuing. He is still trying to get to the bottom of exactly what happened.

COLLINS: Yes. So, it's probably not a very fair question. But I'm sure everybody out there is wondering why would they feel like they needed to do this?

MESERVE: Well, I think they realized just what a damaging episode this was with the public, but also with the press. We work very closely with FEMA and all the other component agencies at DHS. We rely on them for good information and I think that they felt they really had to reestablish a level of trust here. He wanted to make it very clear. He wanted to be unambiguous about the fact that things would change. He was embarrassed and he was unhappy about what happened last Tuesday.

COLLINS: Real quickly, though, Jeanne, as we call it, you know, a fake news conference, I want to make sure that I understand and the viewers understand it, it was fake in that there was no press there. But the information that they gave out at that press conference, not fake.

MESERVE: Right. But they were questions about the quality of the questions that were being asked.


MESERVE: Were they as tough or as difficult as Harvey Johnson would have received from someone else? He is the number two in the department. And I asked Paulison if he bore any responsibility for what happened. Paulison said he really did not think that he did. That he wasn't very familiar with the public affairs staff. When he came in the room, he wouldn't have recognized that those people asking questions were, indeed, people on the staff. Paulison also said, he did not think that this was pre-planned.

He thought that the FEMA staff called this at the last minute, got into the room, saw that the reporters hadn't made it and then decided to ask the questions themselves. He didn't think there was any premeditation here. But as I'd say, it's still an investigation that's ongoing within FEMA.

COLLINS: All right. Good point. All right, Jeanne Meserve, nice to see you. Thank you so much.

And now on to this autism. We've been hearing a lot about it in recent news reports. In fact, experts say it affects 1 in 150 children in this country. Today, new recommendations now to screen for one of the most mysterious and potentially devastating conditions imaginable. Medical correspondent Elizabeth Cohen is joining us now live. Everybody wants to hear, what's the new information?

ELIZABETH COHEN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: The new information is how to figure out if your child has autism. Because as you said, that 1 in 150 number, that's really pretty high. I mean, that's a pretty big number. And so parents, sometimes these days, think, gee, could my child have autism? And up until now, there wasn't really a lot to go on because some of the signs of autism could be hard to pinpoint. But the American Academy of Pediatrics is coming out with a new report and part of this report is that they are linking to video on the Internet of children who are autistic to help illustrate what an autistic child looks like and what parents to look for.

First, we're going to show you videos that they show of a child who is typical. This is a child who does not have autism. You see that child interact, with the two adult surround him. Trying to feed Big Bird, interacts with the stuffed animal, smiles. You can see he's connecting with the outside world. However, a child with autism, it is a very different scene. This child is not connecting, even though the adults are tapping him, and trying to get him to connect. He's really interested in that bowl and that is pretty much it. He could give big bird a bottle, but he's not. And here, you see, this is interesting, that adult is trying to touch him, trying to make contact and he wants nothing to do with her.

So, there are a couple of things that parents need to look for. And I'm going to run through them now. And these are just a couple of pinpoints with dates on them. At 12 months, if your child is not babbling and babbling is the ma, ma, ma or ba, ba, ba sound that babies make or pointing, that's something, a red flag. At 16 months, if your child is speaking no words at all, that's another thing you should point out to your pediatrician. And if at two years, your child isn't using any phrases, that's another thing you should point out. And the reason you want to think about this now at such a young age is that the sooner an autistic child gets help, the better. The quicker you can get that child into some kind of therapy.

COLLINS: A little bit scary though. I imagine if people are looking at this on the Internet and trying to - I mean, we don't want to say self diagnose this, of course, but are trying to see if possibly their child does some of these things, a lot of people could say oh my gosh, you know, my child must have autism.

COHEN: Well you know, I have to say while I was working on this report, Heidi, I was reading how about repetitive things that kids with autism do. They might take a bowl off the table, on the table, off the table, on the table. When I look up with my 1-year-old was taking the magnets off the refrigerator, on the refrigerator, over and over again. I thought, golly that sounds like an autistic behavior. But then she saw her sister, and she toddled over to her and made eye contacts, so you have to look at these as a group. If your child is doing any one of these, it is probably not a problem. It's the group.

Is your child doing these repetitive behaviors and you're child isn't talking and your child doesn't make eye contact and your child doesn't smile? If several of these going on at once. The American Academy of Pediatrics is very clear. They don't want parents to panic because of this information. They want to use it in a good way.

COLLINS: And then if you go ahead and you take your child in because you are suspicious or worried, the doctor says no, no, no, your child is OK, is that enough?

COHEN: You know, I would like to say that that's enough and then you can say to yourself, OK, that's fine. My child does not have autism. But I have to say that some of the authors of this report, pediatricians themselves, they said, you know, too often we see pediatricians just saying you're fine. Don't worry. Don't worry. And in fact, they say sometimes they're wrong and the parent is right. So, the parent is saying I'm worried that my child has autism and the parent, their gut feeling actually is right.

So, these experts say look, if your gut says that something is wrong with your child that your child is not smiling at you, not making eye contact, not connecting, go get a second opinion. Go to someone else. They say too often they've seen doctors kind of -- don't worry, mom. It's all right.

COLLINS: Yes. Every child is different.

COHEN: Every child is different and that's true. Every child is different. But if it is in your gut, if you feel like your child is not connecting with the outside world, you need to go with that. You need to pursue it.

COLLINS: Yes. Absolutely. I've never seen a second opinion really hurt anything.

COHEN: No, no.

COLLINS: Medical correspondent Elizabeth Cohen, thank you, Elizabeth.

A suicide bomber on a bike, strikes in Baquba. The target, Iraqi police. At least 31 people killed, including 24 police officers and recruits. 17 people were hurt.

Another bombing today killed seven civilians and injured 15 in a town of about 90 miles north of Baghdad.

A question of faith. Soldiers turning to prayer now for help navigating the dangerous terrain in Iraq. CNN Alessio Vinci has more.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Father in heaven, (INAUDIBLE), thy kingdom come.

ALESSIO VINCI, CNN CORRESPONDENTS: Patrolling the streets of Baghdad is risky business.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Stay on the gas, dude.

VINCI: Fear of getting stuck in hostile territory can require help from a higher power.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: On earth as it is in heave. Give us this day our daily bread.

VINCI: For some soldiers, a quick prayer releases tension and mixed with a little bit of black humor...


VINCI: Boosts morale.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Father, we're grateful to gather here in your presence.

VINCI: Faith plays a big role in the lives of many soldiers deployed in Iraq. Some gather for silent prayer before setting out on patrol. Others express their beliefs more openly.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: In your way, in that you will watch after them and give...

VINCI: And church services held at most U.S. bases here give soldiers a chance to pray together for friends lost in battle and family far way. Their faith also helps them deal with the anger and resentment that can and often does well up inside.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I've been having a lot of problems dealing with the fact that -- hearing my child's first cry on the phone and right now I'm having a lot of problems praising God. Because of the bitterness.

VINCI: That is why army chaplains are always on hand to help ease the pain.

TIMOTHY WALLS, CHAPLAIN, U.S. ARMY: Just like human nature, when things are going well and those times, people tend not to look towards god as much. When things are very difficult, that forces us to come to our knees and to come to God.

VINCI: Each battalion is assigned one army chaplain. That's about a minister or a priest for every 400 soldiers deployed here in Iraq. And they don't just provide spiritual support, but also moral comfort. This army sniper says faith is essential to achieve his duties, which include killing other human beings if necessary.

CESAR ORTIZ, STAFF SERGEANT, U.S. ARMY: Me, personally, I've been raised to have faith and to believe that there is somebody above that would forgive me of my sins and protect me always and I feel like the decisions that I've made would never come back to haunt me.

VINCI: Faith and combat can be a difficult combination for believers, especially when the sixth commandment, "thou shalt not kill" is in part of their mandate. Alessio Vinci, CNN Baghdad. (END VIDEOTAPE)

COLLINS: One of the FBI's most wanted captured north of the border. He has already escaped five times before. So, can they keep this escape artist under wraps this time?


COLLINS: You already know to catch us weekday mornings from 9:00 am until noon eastern. But you can also take us with you anywhere you go. On your ipod to CNN NEWSROOM podcast. It's available 24/7. Lots of stories that we don't normally carry here (INAUDIBLE). Very funny stuff. And you can get it, right on your ipod, any time you want.

Another crash landing. Scandinavian Airlines now permanently grounding all 27 of its Bombardier turbo prop planes. The decision follows this hard landing in Denmark. No one was injured but its just the latest problem with the plane's landing gear. There were several injuries in this crash landing in Denmark last month. The Canadian airplane maker urged all airlines to temporarily ground the planes after a string of problems. You see the landing gear collapse right there. Many of the planes had just returned to the skies earlier this month. Horizon Air is the only American carrier currently using this type of aircraft.

One of the FBI's most wanted now in custody. But it's not the FBI who has him. CNN's Susan Roesgen has more on fugitive Richard McNair.


OFFICER: What color eyes you got?

RICHARD MCNAIR, FUGITIVE: Well, kind of a turquoise blue.

OFFICER: turquoise blue? You want to give me some more? You know the bad thing about it? You're matching up to him.

SUSAN ROESGEN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Who could forget this small- town Louisiana cop getting fooled by a smooth-talking killer? That was more than a year ago and Richard McNair has been impossible to catch ever since. McNair's story begins with a burglary at a grain elevator in Minot, North Dakota in 1987. As he snuck in, he was startled by the office manager and shot him.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I think he took me down like this, to my back. I ended up -- I don't know if I hit these drawers. I ended up just missing the drawers, I guess, right in here.

ROESGEN: Thinking the manager was dead, McNair shot and killed a truck driver outside the office. Convicted of murder, McNair was sent to the North Dakota state prison, where he escaped by crawling out an air vent. Recaptured, he came close to escaping several more times and wound up at the federal prison in Pollock, Louisiana. There, he worked in the prison mail room, sorting mail bags like these. Prison officials won't say exactly how he did it, but somehow McNair made an enclosure inside a stack of mail bags sort of like a beaver dam, crawled inside it had more mail bags on topped, shrink wrapped and then he was wheeled on a palette right outside the prison walls.

That was in April 2006. And after fooling the Louisiana cop, he was spotted two weeks later, a thousand miles away in Canada. He seemed to have vanished until the big break last week. Canadian Mounties in New Brunswick spotted this stolen van and chased the driver on foot a quarter of a mile. Until they tackled him, they didn't know they had captured the infamous Richard McNair.

NELSON LEVESQUE, ROYAL CANADIAN MOUNTIES: At that point, he told me we all got a big fish.

ROESGEN: But the big fish can be slippery. Just ask that small- town cop back in Louisiana.


MCNAIR: All right.

BORDELON: Still in a shocked stage here that is. You know, once I see him face to face, then I'll know it's true.

ROESGEN: The irony is that if McNair had never escaped in the first place, he would probably have been paroled by now and be free. Susan Roesgen, CNN, Atlanta.


COLLINS: A game to remember. Moving down the field by moving laterally. This one, you've got to stick around for. Perhaps the most interesting, to say the least, football play I've ever seen.


COLLINS: Fabulous football finance. Remember the play at Stanford/Cal back in 1982. The runs through the bands. Well, this one may actually top it. Take a look at this. Two seconds left in the Trinity University Millsaps College game. One pass, 15 laterals. A lot of huffing and puffing and one minute two seconds later, look at the highlighted bubble there. Trinity scores. Seven different trinity players touched the ball, one of them four times, which I guess is legal or which we would be hearing about it. In the famous Stanford/Cal game.