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CNN NEWSROOM

Following the Day's Primary and Campaigning

Aired January 26, 2008 - 11:00   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


BETTY NGUYEN, CNN ANCHOR: First up, it is on and popping in South Carolina. Right now Democrats are heading to the polls, casting their votes in a fiercely contested presidential primary. Let's get straight to it and CNN's Jessica Yellin, she is live at a polling station in the state capitol of Columbia. And we heard that this was going to be a big one. Folks would be coming out in droves. Not seeing too many people behind you yet.
JESSICA YELLIN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: That's true, Betty. They are predicting a record high turnout statewide among the Democrats. Now, I am in what is a democratic stronghold. This has not been a particularly busy morning so far at this polling station, but it's still early here, and we're told that the Democrats certainly expect a much, much, much impressive, more impressive turnout than they've had in years past. Now, we've heard the candidates on the campaign trail really focusing on economic issues. Lots of questions they're taking about people's fears of recession, about the need for more affordable housing, particularly in light of the sub prime mortgage crisis. And the candidates have also been comparing their leadership styles, the kind of president they would be, with Barack Obama emphasizing the fact that he would be a straight-talking president, who would communicate honestly and directly with Americans. Senator Clinton emphasizing that she would be a president who doesn't just talk but does, not just a talker, but a doer. And Edwards, of course, hitting his theme that he is the guy who will fight hardest for the little guy against the special interests.

The campaign has also taken a much more bruising nature here in South Carolina than we've seen more recently, a more negative tone. You saw Bill Clinton very critical, former President Clinton critical of the Obama campaign, the Obama campaign critical of the Clintons' tactics, as they put it. And the subtext of all this has been about race. Has race been used appropriately and discussed responsibly in this contest or has it been used as an issue to wedge and divide? And the one who has really benefited from that squabble, if you will, is John Edwards, who has come out saying, look, as he calls it, "I'm the grown-up wing of the democratic party." Let's listen to what some of these candidates have had to say.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. HILLARY CLINTON, (D) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: The difference between a politician and a statesman is that a politician thinks about the next election, and a statesman thinks about the next generation. I want us to start thinking about the next generation and what we're going to do to make sure our children have the opportunities they should have. JOHN EDWARDS, (D) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDAT: I'm not the glitzy candidate, and I'm not the candidate with $100 million. That's the other two. I'm also not the candidate spending all my time bickering with another politician. I'm out here in the trenches working and fighting for you.

SEN. BARACK OBAMA, (D) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: In Washington we play these games where what you say is twisted and distorted in ways that leaves us not to make progress. So --

(END OF VIDEO CLIP)

YELLIN: Now, it's hard to say what is a must-win state. Of course, the candidates want to win them all, but for today, there is particular pressure on John Edwards. He was born here and he really could use a strong finish to justify him going on in this race. Barack Obama would like a victory here to prove that Iowa was no fluke. Of course, today South Carolina, the last big primary, the last big push for Democrats before this race goes nationwide on Super Tuesday. Betty?

NGUYEN: It is a big day for the Democrats, vying in that primary -- what, 7 hours, 56 minutes until those polls close, and we'll see how it shakes out. Jessica, we do thank you.

HOLMES: And while the Democrats are doing their thing in South Carolina, Republicans are campaigning in Florida, which holds its primary on Tuesday. CNN's Dana Bash reports from Miami.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

DANA BASH, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): For John McCain, an urgent rush to make a new, clear distinction between his candidacy and Mitt Romney's.

JOHN MCCAIN: I know how to lead and inspire.

BASH: Leader versus manager.

SEN. JOHN MCCAIN, (R) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: You can hire managers all the time, people who do the mechanics. Governor Romney is touting his qualities and his experience and resume as a manager. I am trying -- I am telling the American people, and they know it, that I am a leader.

MITT ROMNEY, (R) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: And so he's had to come back and flail a bit, trying to attack my record, saying --

BASH: Romney fired right back, mocking McCain for insisting his senate experience qualifies him to tackle the bad economy.

ROMNEY: Being on the commerce committee in the senate, that's his expertise, you need to know about how the economy works. Yeah, oh yeah. And I think he's detoured from what was some straight talk.

BASH: Economic issues is one question that plagues McCain, ability to attract conservatives crucial in Florida's primary another.

MCCAIN: Governor Frank Keating, Tim Pawlenty, Tom Coburn, the list goes on and on of very strong conservatives that are supporting my candidacy.

BASH: Romney is trying to capitalize with this ad.

He's the full spectrum conservative.

A supporter of free-market economics and limited government, moral causes, such as the right to life.

BASH: Trying to take a shot at what he thinks is your biggest weakness.

MCCAIN: He has changed positions on literally every major issue.

BASH: Meanwhile, Mike Huckabee took a shot of cafe Cubano, mining for votes in Little Havana.

MIKE HUCKABEE, (R) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: If you get a foot on dry soil, you should be able to come here.

BASH: Rudy Giuliani courted Florida's Cuban vote, too.

RUDY GIULIANI, (R) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: The best thing to do is to keep the pressure on the Castro regime.

BASH: Even shook some maracas.

(On camera): One of the most prominent Cuban-Americans here in this state, Senator Mel Martinez, endorsed his fellow Senator John McCain. That just a day after Senator Martinez told CNN he was going to stay neutral, but he said that he decided at the last minute to endorse Senator McCain because he thinks he's best qualified to be commander in chief. That after intense lobbying by McCain's campaign looking for any boost they can find in this razor-tight race. Dana Bash, CNN, Miami.

(END OF VIDEOTAPE)

HOLMES: And CNN's "Ballot Bowl" back again this weekend. Our special political coverage gives you the chance to see the candidates unfiltered and on the campaign trail. "Ballot Bowl" kicks off about three hours from now. And be sure to stick around with us for complete results of today's South Carolina Democratic primary. That guy right there, Wolf Blitzer will be holding it down with the best political team on television from the CNN election headquarters in New York. Our special coverage gets under way at 6:30 p.m. eastern. NGUYEN: Want to turn you now to some weather, more rain is expected in soggy California tonight, raising fears about new mudslides and avalanches. There are voluntary evacuations in Orange County where last year's wildfires destroyed trees, leaving a lot of loose earth. Storms have been rolling through California all week long. Two people are now confirmed dead after avalanches in the San Gabriel Mountains near Los Angeles occurred. There is a mudslide caught on tape. Look at this, this one south of San Francisco. Rain was blamed for flight delays of up to two hours yesterday at San Francisco International Airport.

(WEATHER REPORT)

HOLMES: All right, well, there is new speculation folks about a closely watched criminal investigation. After a surveyor found a badly decomposed body near train tracks in Chicago. An autopsy today could shed light on whether it's the body of Stacy Peterson, who's been missing since October. Peterson's husband Drew, a former police sergeant, has been a suspect in her disappearance but he claims his wife ran off with another man. Drew Peterson's lawyer says he can guarantee that the newly discovered body is not that of Peterson's wife.

NGUYEN: Well, a drug bust involving troops. Three army rangers and an army medic face federal charges for allegedly plotting to steal cocaine from drug dealers. Federal agents arrested three of the men Thursday in suburban Atlanta. While the fourth soldier allegedly covered for them at their north Georgia base. A bond hearing is set for Wednesday.

HOLMES: Well, of course, we've all spent some time in Las Vegas before and seen a lot of stuff that probably scared us a bit, if you will, but this was --

NGUYEN: Still traumatized by some of it.

HOLMES: Yes, still. But this is something else altogether here folks. Flames shooting out of a high-rise casino hotel. We'll tell you what happened here.

NGUYEN: And tensions are very high along the border of Gaza. Check this out. Our own reporter is caught in the middle of the conflict. We'll give you the latest.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

HOLMES: Out of Vegas today, investigators trying to nail down the cause of that hotel fire. Construction workers were on the roof before that fire broke out, but did they have anything to do with sparking this thing? Kara Finnstrom outside the Monte Carlo Hotel for us this morning. Good morning to you again, Kara.

KARA FINNSTROM, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Good morning, T.J. You can see the charred exterior of the Monte Carlo just over my shoulder. Overnight crews did take some of these hotel guests back in to gather up their belongings, but the hotel and the casino both remain closed this morning. Now, yesterday all along the strip crowds gathered, and they simply just watched as huge plumes of smoke rose from this hotel and big chunks of burning debris fell down, and as firefighters just hung out of these windows. Firefighters in this county have been specially trained to battle blazes in these high-rise casinos. So yesterday they actually attached themselves with a type of webbing to the building and then dangled out the windows to fight the fire.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ED CAGALO, CLARK COUNTY, NEVADA FIRE DEPT.: High-rise fires are never easy to fight, and as you can see, with it being outside, our firefighters actually had to hang out the windows to try and cut the fire off, or we directed our fire streams at an angle where we could make contact with the fire. So it wasn't an easy fire at all.

(END OF VIDEO CLIP)

FINNSTROM: Now, inside the hotel yesterday, crews went door to door knocking on different guests' rooms, making sure that everyone was out. There are more than 3,000 hotel rooms inside. Two big questions remain this morning, and those are, one, when this hotel will reopen. We do know that all of the damage was really focused on the top floors and the roof of the building. So local leaders here are telling us that they expect the casino to actually reopen before the hotel. And the other big question is what actually started this fire, T.J. they are saying that there were some welders on top of the building at the time doing construction work, but fire investigators say the cause remains very much under investigation at this hour.

HOLMES: And I guess this is a heck of a sight, of course, down the strip to see this, but it has been seen before, if you will. This one certainly turned out better than fires on the strip in the past, but I guess it harps back to memories of the 1980 fire, that one certainly turned out a lot worse than this one did.

FINNSTROM: Certainly did. More than 80 people -- 84 people killed in that fire and about 700 people injured. That was a horrific fire called the worst tragedy in Las Vegas history. And obviously, you know, these huge casino complexes are a big concern for fire officials here. And they say they work year round to make sure that all the right inspections take place and all the right evacuation orders are in place so that when these emergencies do take place that they can be, you know, followed correctly. And they say in this case -- we spoke with fire officials this morning -- they really feel the evacuation went smoothly.

HOLMES: All right. And that fire back at the MGM back in 1980. You're absolutely right, that was a lot worse. This one at least appears just minor injuries. Good news there. Kara Finnstrom for us on the strip in Vegas. Kara, we appreciate you this morning.

NGUYEN: And we are getting other dramatic pictures of the Las Vegas hotel fire from our i-Reporters. Chris Gagen shot this video of the smoke and charred exterior of the hotel. He works next door at the ESPN Zone. And take a look at this photo sent to us by Zach Sherman, he says he was driving up I-15 when he saw the smoke. As he got closer, he could see the hotel on fire. He used his i-Phone to take the picture.

HOLMES: A freeway crash to tell you about in Los Angeles. Crashes actually happen every day on freeways out there in L.A., but not quite like this. This is a helicopter, slammed onto 110, burst into a fireball. Traffic, as you saw there in the first part of this picture, backed up for miles. Rescuers arrived to find the chopper still burning. Pulled one body from that wreckage. Investigators not sure, but they say the helicopter may have been a homemade aircraft. So details to come.

NGUYEN: Well, an American woman has been kidnapped in Afghanistan today. It happened on the outskirts of the southern city of Kandahar. And Afghan officials tell CNN gunmen pulled the woman from her car. She apparently had no security detail. The woman works with a relief agency based in the Philippines.

HOLMES: At first they were on foot. Now Palestinians driving out of Gaza into Egypt to stock up on food and supplies. After four days now, Egypt is struggling to close that border. It says 36 security workers have been injured in scuffles there. Our Ben Wedeman is on the scene at the Rafa border crossing.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

BEN WEDEMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): A border threatens to become a battlefield. Egyptian forces are slowly attempting to bring order. At this crossing allowing Palestinians to return to Gaza, but not letting them go the other way. Precipitating a tense standoff that frequently erupted in stone throwing and cursing. Hamas militia men tried with dubious methods to control the crowd while others tried to control the media.

If the Egyptians --

(On camera): Clearly closing this border is going to be very difficult. The people here in Rafa want to get out, want to get to Egypt. But the Egyptians really have a hard time controlling the situation.

(Voice-over): A five minute walk away is a scramble over a wall into Egypt for people and others while the heavy goods enter overhead.

(On camera): One spot along the border they're not letting anybody in, but there are other areas where people are just crossing without any controls whatsoever. Clearly it's going to take more than riot police to close this border.

(Voice-over): Frenzy spurred on by fear this may soon all come to an end. They want to close us in again says this man. We want this border to stay open.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I would like to see it officially legally open, people go in and out under inspection. Because some people, they brought items like food, computers, TVs, but some people also bring weapons, hashish, drugs.

WEDEMAN: Others accept the border may slam shut again but are just glad to have had the chance to get out, in some cases for reunions with families long separated by the wall. I'm happy I saw them says this woman. I haven't seen my sister's children in five years. I didn't even recognize them. As long as there's a way out, it's going to be hard to stop them. Ben Wedeman, CNN on the border between Gaza and Egypt.

(END OF VIDEOTAPE)

NGUYEN: All right, so you'd better beware of the hungry shark. Look at its mouth. You know, this is what I often wonder, why you don't see this more often. This is at an aquarium. We'll tell you what happened to the poor little thing in that shark's mouth.

HOLMES: Also, folks, will a paycheck make your child study harder?

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

NGUYEN: Let's get you the stories that people are talking about across America on this Saturday. Bar owners in central California are texting customers with a warning. A DUI checkpoint is nearby. Yep, pub managers say they are not trying to encourage drinking and driving, but police checkpoints near a bar are, well, bad for business.

Take you to Minnesota now. Hostile takeover at the mall of America shark tank. Look at this. Jesse -- that's the big shark -- decided to make a meal of a tankmate -- more like tank meat. That's a no-no. Shark handlers rescued the small white tip. And get this, despite how it looks, that little shark inside the shark is apparently going to be ok.

HOLMES: Shark inside the shark. What's the little guy's name? We named Jesse, the big shark. What's the little guy's name?

NGUYEN: Tankmate.

HOLMES: Tank meat you said, right?

NGUYEN: More like it.

Ok, so what was this? Are you looking closely? It's kind of hard to see, but we're talking about that blue haze. Investigators think they know the source of that mysterious haze that covered the Charleston, West Virginia area. At first though, everyone figured it was a chlorine leak, but now officials say it was probably smoke from coal-fired power plants. Unique weather conditions are said to have caused it to hover near ground.

HOLMES: All right, folks, Georgia has begun a bold experiment in education that I am a huge advocate of -- no, I'm kidding! Well, I would have been at the time, paying students to study. Kids selected for this program, Josh, they could pocket close to $500 for doing the same work that their classmates are doing for free and should be doing for free. Josh, ok -- getting paid to study? Are you kidding me?

JOSH LEVS: It's $8 an hour, it's something.

HOLMES: That's better than minimum wage.

LEVS: Yes, it is. Again, good morning -- it's better than minimum wage. So you would have done this?

HOLMES: Are you kidding me? You really have to ask me this? Show up to study?

LEVS: I just think you're one of those big super smooth guys who was secretly getting A's and nobody knew it.

HOLMES: I was, but my parents made sure I only got like $1 for an A or something like that around report card time.

LEVS: See, some people got money at home. This is what we're hearing, like some people's parents gave them money --

HOLMES: This is hourly, though, man.

LEVS: And here it's not parents anymore. Now we're talking about the school doing it and that's what's so striking here. Even folks I'm talking to say they have never heard of anything like this. What we've got is a school paying kids not for getting good grades, but just for showing up.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

LEVS (voice-over): Kids study to learn, get good grades, get into a good college, but should they study for money? At Creekside High near Atlanta, these kids are getting $8 an hour to be tutored in math and science.

Two times three --

LEVS: An experimental program targeting promising students with low grades.

ROBB PITTS, FULTON COUNTY COMMISSIONER: If we don't do something, we're doing a disservice to our children.

LEVS: The idea came from Newt Gingrich. There is no taxpayer money involved. His daughter heads a foundation sponsoring the program.

JACKIE CUSHMAN, LEARNING MAKES A DIFFERENCE: Is it the answer no, is it possible that it might work? Yes.

LEVS: Some people wrote the "Atlanta Journal-Constitution" calling the program unfair to kids who work hard to begin with and "one of the dumbest things I have ever heard." Some experts say it could make kids less interested in learning when they're not being paid.

ALFIE KOHN, AUTHOR, "PUNISHED BY REWARD": Rewards aren't just ineffective, they're counterproductive, and we've seen this over and over again.

LEVS: Some studies suggest rewards for grades or test scores may work, but these kids get paid for showing up. Two hours, twice a week. There are about 2,500 students at this school, but for this program, only 20 were chosen. As for the money --

PITTS: In many instances, these kids are working because whatever they earn, their families need that.

LEVS: Organizers say kids with jobs could cut back work hours, but for some --

ALEXIS YARGER, 11TH GRADER: The money doesn't really matter. I just need extra help in math.

LEVS: 14-year-old Jailyn Brown is in the same program at a nearby middle school, he has plans for the money.

JAILYN BROWN, 8TH GRADER: Probably give it to my mom. She needs it.

LEVS: After 15 weeks, organizers will check all 40 students' grades and test scores.

PITTS: If the results are as we think they will be, all of those naysayers will go away and this program, we'll be able to export this program nationwide.

(END OF VIDEOTAPE)

LEVS: Which is why people all over the country right now are taking a really close eye at this program. It's possible that in this short period of time, 15 weeks for these 40 students, it will pay off. Based on what they're saying, T.J., we really could see more schools around the country do this.

HOLMES: It will pay off, literally. It will pay off. So the kids, no matter what happens, it's going to pay off with a $500 check.

LEVS: Let's see what they do with that money in the end.

HOLMES: What's the government going to do here? This is a public school we're talking about. Are you going to start paying public school kids to go to school?

LEVS: Yeah, that's the thing. Because for now they're saying no taxpayer money, but one concern is later on in another school district, does it become a public-funded idea? I called the education department and I asked what's their position on this, they've never heard of anything like this. They told me there are times that there is money involved as a reward for getting a great SAT score or maybe a school will buy a bunch of iPods if someone gets straight A's, they get one of those. But they haven't seen a case like this. What the education department tells me is they too are going to keep an eye on this, they see this as a pilot. They're going to see whether it pays off. And if it does, then they might come up with a position as well. So really, this experiment might ultimately lead to more programs around the country.

HOLMES: And what will be success, again, if it does work, if it pays off, what is their measure of success? LEVS: The first one will be if grades and test scores at the end of this 15 week period are up substantially for the 40 kids.

HOLMES: Substantially.

LEVS: Like if it's very slight, it wouldn't have been worth it but if it's up substantially for in general the 40 kids, then they're going to decide it's a success.

NGUYEN: Yeah, but here's my question. What kind of message is this sending to the students who are making good grades, that aren't getting paid to study?

LEVS: Like all of us, like what we did.

NGUYEN: Well, not exactly, but they're looking at the other kids going, man, all I had to do was get bad grades and go to study hall and get paid for it.

LEVS: That is a problem and that's why some people are complaining about it already. They're saying this should never be the reason for any kid to think that's why you should succeed in school. That's not a school's role to get involved in that kind of dynamic. That's another thing we're going to have to see, are kids out there getting the wrong message? And they'll take a look at that too.

NGUYEN: It is interesting, to say the very least.

HOLMES: All right Josh, that's a good one! Appreciate you. Good reality check for us this morning.

LEVS: Thanks, guys.

HOLMES: Thank you sir.

NGUYEN: Let's talk about this now -- final pitches from the top Democrats as South Carolina voters head to the polls.

HOLMES: Also, Saddam Hussein -- yeah, we're not done talking about him just yet. More of his story is coming out from one of those who interrogated him.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

NGUYEN: It is 32 minutes past the hour. Happening right now across the country -- southern California. Take a look. Avalanches are blamed for two deaths, and with more storms on the way, some people are leaving their homes. Areas ravaged by last year's wildfires are especially susceptible to landslides. As you saw a little bit earlier there on the right-hand of the screen, now in the middle, voting under way right now in South Carolina's democratic presidential primary. The polls close at 7:00 p.m. eastern. As always, CNN is staying on top of all of the election developments.

HOLMES: And democratic hopefuls campaigning in South Carolina getting down to the wire now. Pretty much, this is the wire. All right, they're voting today. CNN's senior political correspondent Candy Crowley reports from South Carolina.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

Thank you.

Thank you so much!

Thank you so much!

Glad to be back. Glad to be back.

CANDY CROWLEY, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Politics 101 -- you never get a second chance to make a last impression. So in the final hours in the battle for Carolina, everybody's on their best behavior.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This might be a good place to eat.

CROWLEY: She's all business now in a democratic kind of way.

SEN. HILLARY CLINTON, (D) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: The failed approaches of President Bush are now coming home to roost. We've got to begin by recognizing people are hurting. This is not an abstraction. This is not a conversation for some kind of talk show.

CROWLEY: In the state where the black vote is about half the primary electorate, Hillary Clinton began her day in a chapel on a historically black campus, reinforced by two major league African- American politicians from New York.

CLINTON: I am particularly pleased to have two of my friends come down to witness for me.

CROWLEY: She ticks through her agenda now -- lower interest rates on student loans, universal health care insurance, an end to the war.

CLINTON: That's a big difference between us and the Republicans. You hear them talk, they say they're happy to leave troops in Iraq for 100 years. Well, that is not going to happen because we're going to elect a democratic president.

Tell me about your situation.

CROWLEY: Barack Obama threw his final pitch straight at Clinton's strength, courting the female vote with plans to drive down health care costs, invest in early education, restructure bankruptcy laws, pushing hope, talking turkey.

SEN. BARACK OBAMA, (D) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Women in particular are vulnerable today as well as these predatory lending practices and sub prime loans, and then it gets hard for people to dig themselves out.

EDWARDS: What's good for working people -- CROWLEY: Lacking the spotlight but not the heat, John Edwards pounds the roads and visits the living rooms of rural South Carolina, driving home his base. He may be the beneficiary of the Clinton/Obama feuding. New motto -- Edwards the grown-up.

JOHN EDWARDS, (D) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Senator Clinton and Senator Obama this week have brought their New York and Chicago politics to South Carolina. While they're intent on tearing each other down, I'm intent on building up the people of South Carolina, giving them a real chance, focusing on jobs, health care, the things that really affect their day-to-day lives.

CROWLEY: There is much on the line. Edwards says he'll move on after South Carolina, but with a winless record, it's hard to see where he breaks the streak. A victory for Hillary Clinton might be the beginning of the end for everyone else. Iowa moved Obama down the road. South Carolina will put the wind at his back.

OBAMA: I promise you this -- I will not just win this Saturday, I will not just win the Democratic nomination, I will not just win the general election, but instead, you and I, we are going to march into the future, we are going to transform this country, we are going to change the world.

CROWLEY: He speaks into the beauty of election eve, when all things are possible.

OBAMA: Thank you!

CROWLEY: Candy Crowley, CNN, Rock Hill, South Carolina.

(END OF VIDEOTAPE)

HOLMES: Well, folks in South Carolina, are you heading to the polls today? If so, tell us what it's like out there. Send your video, pictures, in an iReport. Go to cnnpolitics.com and send those to us.

NGUYEN: The Republican presidential candidates are looking ahead to Tuesday's primary in Florida. Mitt Romney began the morning with a speech in St. Petersburg. He's scheduled to appear in Lakeland, oh, in about 2 1/2 hours from now. John McCain was in Ft. Myers this morning and he has stops scheduled in Sun City and St. Petersburg. Also campaigning in Florida today, Mike Huckabee and Rudy Giuliani. Well, CNN's "Ballot Bowl" is back again this weekend. Our special political coverage gives you the chance to see the candidates unfiltered on the campaign trail. "Ballot Bowl" kicks off today, 2:00 p.m. eastern.

HOLMES: And please be sure to stay with us for the complete results of today's South Carolina democratic primary. You can join Wolf Blitzer and the best political team on television from the CNN election headquarters in New York. Our special coverage gets under way at 6:00 eastern time.

And a young futures trader in custody for police questioning this morning in Paris. Jerome Kerviel, just 31 years old, accused in the biggest bank con job in history. The bank is Societe Generale. It says Kerviel made big bets on European equities. He tapped into money he was not authorized to use and wracked up $7 billion worth of losses in a year. The bank says he was a computer genius, awfully smarter than they are, apparently. And he hid the losses by tweaking the bank's computer system. "The New York Times" reports there is some indication the scandal helped fuel this week's dramatic stock market turbulence as the bank dumped stocks to cover the losses. The sell off and the rumors it stirred up snowballed into sell orders worldwide.

NGUYEN: My goodness!

Well, one of the puzzling questions about Saddam Hussein -- why did he pretend to have weapons of mass destruction when he didn't? Well, it seems it's all about what neighbors thought. CNN's Brian Todd reports.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): War over weapons of mass destruction, but the man who allegedly had those weapons told his interrogator it was mostly smoke and mirrors. FBI special agent George Piro, who questioned Saddam Hussein every day at least five hours a day for nearly seven months, says Saddam told him he was bluffing about having WMD and didn't expect the United States to invade but faked a weapons program because he was afraid that Iran would. A clip of Piro's interview with CBS' "60 Minutes" is on the network's website. Another surprise from Saddam, according to Piro -- he had stayed one step ahead of U.S. forces on the night major combat operations started.

GEORGE PIRO, FBI SPECIAL AGENT: He said that he was at one of the locations -- he said it in a kind of a bragging fashion, that he was there but that we missed him and he wasn't bothered by the fact that he was there. It was more of the fact that he was there but we still weren't able to get him.

TODD: The full interview with Piro can be seen on "60 Minutes" on Sunday. We spoke with Ron Kessler, who interviewed Piro for his new book "The Terrorist Watch." Piro told Kessler Saddam was a neat freak, who would wash his hands compulsively if he ever shook yours. The former Iraqi president also flirted with an American nurse while in custody, writes Kessler, and had plenty of romantic advice for his young FBI handler.

RONALD KESSLER, AUTHOR, "THE TERRORIST WATCH": Saddam said our women are better at a certain age because they'll be loyal to you and American women are too independent.

TODD: The agent told Kessler when it was time to part ways, he smoked Cuban cigars with Saddam Hussein, then --

KESSLER: They hugged each other in a traditional Arabic way, which made George rather uncomfortable, but then Saddam definitely was shaken and teared up. TODD (on camera): George Piro told Kessler he found Saddam Hussein likeable with a good sense of humor, but Piro said he never forgot what an evil man Saddam was and said he felt his conviction and execution were fair. Brian Todd, CNN, Washington.

(END OF VIDEOTAPE)

HOLMES: What about this here? A little bit of wedding diplomacy?

NGUYEN: Hmm-hmm. Can marriage bridge the gap of ethnic tensions in Iraq? A remarkable story of hope ahead, right here in the NEWSROOM.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

NGUYEN: We all know the United States bills itself as a big melting pot, relationships cross racial and religious lines all the time.

HOLMES: But in Iraq, a mixed marriage can get you killed. Here now, CNN's Arwa Damon.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

ARWA DAMON, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): A night to remember in Baghdad. 70 couples brought together in a mass wedding, unique not only because, after all, this is a war zone, but because these couples are of mixed religious and ethnic backgrounds. A month after the ceremony, 26-year-old Yasid and his young bride look back on that magical night.

VOICE OF TRANSLATOR: Honestly, when we sit together, she's always telling me she wishes she could live that moment again.

DAMON: He's Shia, she's Sunni. They played together as children. Then the war forced them apart. But they never forgot each other and Iraq's sectarian divide couldn't keep them separated.

VOICE OF TRANSLATOR: Sure, it's a challenge, given the current situation. I advise young people not to consider others as Sunni or Shia, but just look at the beautiful things about that person.

DAMON: They live with Yassif's family. His neighborhood considered safer than hers for a mixed couple. Marrying someone of another sect or ethnicity used to be common in Iraq, but then, suddenly, a sectarian tension flared, a mixed marriage could get you killed. It's a reality that still shocks many Iraqis. And so, one newspaper organized the mass nuptials, trying to rekindle pride in Iraq's secular past and defy those who want to keep Shia and Sunni divided.

GHADA AL-AMIRI, AL MADA NEWSPAPER: We wanted to highlight the situation in Iraq, which is the harmony between Sunnis and Shia.

DAMON (on camera): To get the word out, the publication distributed these pamphlets throughout the entire country. They also ran an ad in their own paper, then they had TV commercials running on Sunni, Shia, and Kurdish television stations. They say that within the first day, at least 100 couples had responded, but they had to cut it off at 70.

(Voice-over): There were financial incentives, as well. Each couple is of little means and received $1,000 and household appliances, but the gifts were nothing compared to their bravery shown by the couples. The event shown on television, their faces and commitment boldly on display.

VOICE OF TRANSLATOR: It broke the siege of terrorism and put a smile on Iraqi faces. I'm proud because I love my husband and I did not think whether he is Shia or Sunni.

DAMON: The wedding just a part of a small but growing movement on the streets of Iraq, a grassroots effort for reconciliation, accomplishing what the politicians have not. Arwa Damon, CNN, Baghdad.

(END OF VIDEOTAPE)

HOLMES: All right, Wall Street's wild has you holding onto that wallet of yours.

NGUYEN: In New York, it's not just highly paid traders who are feeling the impact of the market's jitters. We have their stories just ahead.

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NGUYEN: All right, so after this week's brutal swings in the markets, everybody chose decaf on Monday morning, don't you think?

HOLMES: Stock losses have given many Americans a bad case of economic jitters. Here now CNN's Ines Ferre in New York.

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INES FERRE, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Tajamil Mian has been driving taxis in New York City for 15 years. He says he's rarely seen business as slow as this.

TAJAMIL MIAN, CAB DRIVER: The last couple of weeks I see things getting bad. My business, the cab business like 30 percent down.

FERRE: Mian says recession fears and Wall Street's manic swings are forcing New Yorkers to think twice before hailing a cab. New Yorkers at this Manhattan coffee shop are anxious about work and stocks.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'm seeing my hours getting cut back where I work. There's less money coming in this year than there was last year.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Who wants to lose money? I mean you know, you work hard for your money. In fact, last week I made a tremendous investment, which is killing me that I did. FERRE (on camera): Wall Street is by far the largest industry in New York City, accounting for roughly 20 percent of salaries. That's why city officials are keeping a close eye on every stomach-turning market move that happens here.

(Voice-over): New York City racked up a nearly $5 billion budget surplus last year as Wall Street prospered. This year it doesn't look so good.

WILLIAM THOMPSON, NYC COMPTROLLER: We're, you know, the financial capital of the world. So you know, Wall Street's sliding, the market's sliding. All those things combined are having a huge effect, or at least we expect it will have a huge impact on New York City, on our budget.

FERRE: Wall Street lay-offs and less tax revenue would hurt the city's bottom line, and a sharp reduction in bonuses paid in cash could make a dent in New York City's real estate market.

CHRISTOPHER MAYER, COLUMBIA BUSINESS SCHOOL: If we see declines in employment like we saw on Wall Street in the early 1990s, we're definitely going to see price declines. People think that it's impossible to see New York prices fall double-digit levels. I think that's just not true.

FERRE: But not all of city businesses are worried about hard times ahead. In fact, Wall Street drinking holes say market woes can be good for their bottom line.

BRIAN KELLY, OWNER, AJ KELLY'S: When it goes down 200, they come out and they drink their sorrows away. When it's up 200, they're happy, they're partying, they're drinking. So when the market's up or the market's down, they're coming out and they're drinking.

FERRE: Finally, one place in New York where the glass isn't half empty. Ines Ferre, CNN, New York.

(END OF VIDEOTAPE)

HOLMES: And of course, CNN, the place to be for the latest news, best analysis of your financial security. Find out why Monday morning when we cover the markets in the NEWSROOM.

NGUYEN: Well, the NEWSROOM does continue at the top of the hour with one of our favorites, Fredricka Whitfield. She's joins us with a preview.

FREDRICKA WHITFIELD, CNN ANCHOR: No, you all are my favorite. I mean, it's great to see you guys! And I hope you have a great weekend, too.

HOLMES: Should we hug? We should hug.

NGUYEN: Give her a hug.

WHITFIELD: Ok. All right. Well, of course, throughout the day we're going to continue to cover what's taking place in South Carolina, the state's primary, the first primary in the south of 2008. And maybe, you know this, maybe you don't. But of course, half of the Democrats voting in South Carolina, half of them are black and half of them are black women. No presumptions can be made about exactly what is of importance to them as they head to the polls. Not on the issues, not on whether they are voting gender or race. We're going to explore this thoroughly as we talk to a host of very interesting women here in Atlanta. All that straight ahead. And of course, you'll want to stick with us throughout the day because the "Ballot Bowl" begins at 2:00 p.m. eastern. You want to hear all the candidates unfiltered, uncensored right here on CNN.

NGUYEN: It's good stuff.

WHITFIELD: All that straight ahead.

NGUYEN: Yeah, I can't wait. Thank you, Fred.

WHITFIELD: Ok.

HOLMES: Thank you, Fredricka.

NGUYEN: And in Detroit, the mayor, let's just say he's got a little explaining to do.

HOLMES: Yeah. He's having a tough day when the public is reading your text messages. Can you imagine your text messages being out there on CNN right now? We'll show you what the mayor has been texting.

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NGUYEN: A major tourist attraction in an historical city is about to become history itself. Vienna, Austria, Mozart, the feat of a once mighty Austria Hungarian empire and transplanted home to one of Europe's longest living artifacts. This enormous Chinese fan palm tree, well, they call it the sissy palm, ever since it was moved inside back in the 1880s, and there is a problem. The tree is 82 feet tall and still growing. Europe's largest greenhouse is 82 feet high with a glass ceiling. So you can't prune this type of tree. It will die. So sadly, the tree's got to go. Better hurry if you want to take a look at this old-timer. The ax falls literally next month.

Now we want to talk about this, text and sex. It's a scandal that is rocking Detroit.

HOLMES: Yes, it sounds silly, but there are some serious ramifications here possibly for the mayor. Did he lie under oath about an extramarital affair. CNN's Carol Costello has the embarrassing revelations.

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CAROL COSTELLO, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Detroit Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick is in deep trouble now, possibly facing perjury charges. Last year he denied under oath that he had had a sexual affair with his top aide, but new evidence has emerged suggesting otherwise. The evidence is among 14,000 text messages between the very married mayor and his chief of staff, Christine Beatty, this one from April of 2003. Mayor Kilpatrick: "I'm at a Laker game. The security doesn't believe I'm mayor." Beatty: "And did you miss me sexually?" Kilpatrick: "Hell yeah! You couldn't tell? I want some more. Don't sleep!" The Detroit Free Press uncovered the text messages.

M.L. ELRICK, DETROIT FREE PRESS: You don't have to get more than two or three pages into it before you realize you're reading something that nobody who wrote one of these messages thought any other living person would read.

COSTELLO: The Wayne County prosecutor is now opening an investigation into the messages.

KYM WORTHY, WAYNE COUNTY PROSECUTOR: We will not be rushed by anyone or anything. We will only be influenced by the evidence and the facts that develop and nothing, I mean nothing else.

COSTELLO: The "Free Press" obtained the text messages while investigating the aftermath of a $6.5 million judgment against Mayor Kilpatrick and the cash-strapped city of Detroit. A jury found in favor of Detroit's deputy police chief and another officer who claimed they were unfairly dismissed. They had been investigating claims by two former bodyguards of the mayor that he used his security detail to hide the affair. The mayor denied it and the affair in sworn testimony and was angry when the jury ruled against him.

MAYOR KWAME KILPATRICK, DETROIT: I believe the verdict obviously is incredibly wrong and doesn't reconcile at all in my mind with the facts that were presented in this case.

COSTELLO: But one of the text exchanges in September of 2002 reads like this -- Kilpatrick, "They were right outside the door" -- they, the mayor's bodyguards, "had to have heard everything." Beatty: "So we are officially busted" laughing out loud. Kilpatrick: LOL LOL, damn that. Never busted. Busted is what you see! Laughing out loud." As for what Mayor Kilpatrick is saying now, he issued this statement, "These 6-year-old text messages reflect a very difficult period in my life. It is profoundly embarrassing. My wife and I worked our way through these intensely personal issues years ago."

(On camera): As for the alleged mistress, Ms. Beatty, she says she will not resign, she will remain on the job. Carol Costello, CNN, Washington.

(END OF VIDEOTAPE)

NGUYEN: No doubt, this is a story we will continue following.

HOLMES: And like we said, not to give you tips out there folks, but if he had done this, they had done this on personal devices, they would have gone away, wouldn't have been saved. But because they were on official city blackberries, pagers, those have to be stored, government rules, they're saved. NGUYEN: Company property. Keep that in mind next time you text.

HOLMES: That's your tip for the day all you cheaters out there. The NEWSROOM continues now. Fredricka, get us out of here please.

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