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Midwesterners Battle Floods; 200-Mile Stretch of Mississippi River Closed to Barges; Man Survives a Nail to the Head; Austrian Girl is Out of Coma After Being Rescued From her Grandfather's Captivity; Jim Johnson Drops From Obama VP Search Team
Aired June 11, 2008 - 14:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
DON LEMON, CNN ANCHOR: Washed away: homes, cars roads. There's too much water, and the sky is darkening again. We're live from the flood zone.
Hello, everyone. I'm Don Lemon, live at the CNN world headquarters in Atlanta.
BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN ANCHOR: And I'm Brianna Keilar.
You're in the CNN NEWSROOM.
Just how bad is the U.S. economy? Just how bad will it get? The Dow Jones Industrial Average is down as we wait for a report being released at this hour that will help answer those questions. It's down 169 points right now.
Now, the Federal Reserve's Beige Book looks at the economy region by region. It's issued prior to Federal Reserve meetings to help guide Fed policies.
Our Susan Lisovicz is looking at the report as we speak. She's going to be joining us shortly with that.
LEMON: And as we wait on that, we want to talk about the rivers. They are rising. The levees, they are stranding lots of people in Iowa.
They're getting out of the way. And the exhausted people of America's flooded Midwest don't need one more drop of rain.
Here's what it looks like from Minnesota, to as far south as Missouri -- the amazing unstoppable power of too much water. The most urgent news this hour, evacuations in Iowa and Indiana. But residents urged to get to higher ground as rivers swell to their tipping point, wiping away bridges and covering exit routes along the way. The most dire forecasts predict the work flooding there in 15 years.
One of the most bizarre scenes in this emergency is a popular tourist spot in Wisconsin. It's a lake, at least until this week. It was a lake.
CNN's Susan Roesgen is in a muddy spot where Lake Delton used to be.
SUSAN ROESGEN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Absolutely, Don. Too much water in some places and not enough of it right here.
This is almost like quicksand, this muddy lake bottom. Normally there would be 12 feet of water here.
That's the water ski jump where the water skiers come. This has been for 55 years now, Don, a big water skiing place, a big place where a big show, Tommy Bartlett's Show -- ion fact, Heidi Collins earlier today said, "I've been to that show a couple of times." Lots of people have.
Three hundred thousand come here, Don, to see a show that, how can they? It's not going to go on this year. Not the water part, anyway.
I'll come up to the stage area and show you what they're planning to do tonight. They're getting ready, they're cleaning up, and they hope to fill the seats here with people who will come to see a comedy act, jugglers, Polynesian dancers, anything.
And when I talked to the president of the company here, I said, "Why don't you put up some big, like, wall, like a fake kind of water scene or something that would make it look better?" He said, "You know, we might" -- Don.
You know, in the Northeast, you've got places like the Hamptons, you k now, and along the Eastern Seaboard there, and of course out West you've got the beaches there. But in the Midwest, the dells and Saugutuck and other areas, they are huge tourist spots. They're going to lose a lot of money without this particular attraction.
ROESGEN: Yes. This whole area, Don, including attractions that don't really involve the lake, adds up to a $1 billion tourist industry. That includes water parks that are on the highway, away from the lake itself.
But the lake here means the marinas, resorts, restaurants, shows like this. So, you know, this is a really tough time.
They are going to refill this lake that gushed out basically when part of the embankment washed away in heavy rains earlier this week. They are going to refill it, but they say it won't happen this season. And so basically this season, they're out of luck.
Susan Roesgen reporting to us from Lake Delton.
We appreciate it, Susan. Thank you.
KEILAR: And that of course is the area we just saw basically houses get sucked into the water there and basically almost go out -- or they did go out into a nearby river, just completely destroyed. People have property. Their property is completely gone. They don't have property anymore, and a lot of them don't have flood insurance because they tell us they couldn't get it if they had wanted it.
So maybe you're moved by what you see, you want to help those who are affected by the flooding. Well, you can at cNN.com. It's called Impact Your World. You just add your name to the growing number of CNN viewers who are grabbing the opportunity to take action. And again, that is at CNN.com/impact.
LEMON: In any town, any city, the murder of two young girls would be a shock. For a rural community where doors often went unlocked, it's almost unimaginable.
Oklahoma authorities still have no suspects in the fatal shootings of the best friends ages 11 and 13 years. But they just announced they now believe there are two killers. Ballistics evidence came back today, and it showed guns of two different calibers were fired at Skyla Whitaker and Taylor Paschal-Placker as they walked on a dirt road on Sunday.
Cops have already warned residents to be on guard.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We do believe it's possibly someone who lives in that area, so we do believe that someone in that area committed these murders and probably has told someone else. And that's why we have this $10,000 reward from OSBI and other money from the community, hoping that that will entice someone to come forward and let OSBI know, or other law enforcement know what happened here. We've got to get this person off the streets before he does it again.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
LEMON: And CNN is now learning the reward's been increased to at least $25,000.
KEILAR: Take a real good look at this face. It has been four months since he barged into a clothing store in Tinley Park, Illinois, and killed five women there. Police have just released this new, more life-like composite. They worked closely with the lone shooting survivor to create this computer image.
The suspect here described as a husky, African-American man, average height, age 25 to 35. And if you do know the guy, you should also know that there is still a $100,000 reward for him.
KEILAR: Back now to our top story. This is one main cause for concern in Iowa today. The Des Moines and Raccoon rivers, they're full to the edges of their banks. Most of the bridges in Des Moines are closed, and people who live inside of the rivers are nervously watching them very closely.
There's a bigger problem up in the direction of the Wisconsin state line, and that's where CNN's Sean Callebs is today -- Sean.
SEAN CALLEBS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hi, Brianna.
We're here in the heart of Des Moines. If you look behind me, you can see the Des Moines River, which carves its way through this city. It is lapping right up against the top of one of the bridges that connects the two sides of this town. And what people here are concerned about, it is not expected the Des Moines River is going to crest for another perhaps another four days.
Saturday, they expect the water could go up at least five feet. There's some question, will the Des Moines River jump over these bridges you see behind me?
This is pretty much the story. We're on broadband right now, so the picture is going to break up just a little bit, but we feel it's important to show you that these bridges here are simply closed down that connect the two sides of the town.
Sandbags, barriers stopping people from driving across. And if you look down further here on the Des Moines River, you can see scores of people have come out to take a look at this flooding, just to see how high the water has gone. And where the river bends, that is an area basically called Second Avenue, and that area, they're very concerned about.
We know the Army Corps of Engineers is watching an upgraded portion of the levee there. They have been sandbagging that low-lying area, trying to prevent any kind of flooding. And a number of this businesses down there, that curve is one of the major concerns in this area.
Also, Brianna, just the fact that what they call the 48-hour cycle. Whatever happens upstream is going to come down here a couple of days later.
It has rained extremely hard here today. And right now we have a bit of a respite, but it is expected to pour again later on this evening. So they're very worried about what that could do.
There is a dam in Johnston, which is about 12 miles from here. And over the past day, they've been releasing water from that, trying to keep the spillway from becoming threatened in that area.
Just a mess in this area. They know it's going to get worse. The big question, how bad?
Everybody thinks back to 1993 in this area. Horrific Midwest flooding back then. They hope it doesn't get that bad, but that's about all they can do, is keep their fingers crossed -- Brianna.
KEILAR: Yes, it is a nerve-racking weight there.
Sean Callebs for us in Des Moines.
Thanks. He was the smartest guy in his class and he was about to get booted out of the country. Well, now a California high school grad gets a reprieve.
LEMON: Also, plug it up, then hit the road. Is this the answer to our fuel woes?
KEILAR: Well, high water in the Midwest, it will affect you no matter where you are watching today. And here is why.
A 200-mile stretch of the flooded Mississippi River is closed today. That means nothing moves -- no barges, no shipping, no fuel, no coal, nothing. And that is going to hurt.
On the phone with us now, Larry Daily. He is the president of Alter Barge Line out of Bettendorf, Iowa.
Larry, thanks so much for being with us.
LARRY DAILY, PRESIDENT, ALTER BARGE LINE: You're welcome.
KEILAR: What is this going to mean for your company?
DAILY: Well, it's going to mean that we'll be shutting down boats and barges that are in that 200-mile area. And right now we're racing to try and get boats and barges out of that area, because it hasn't all closed down immediately. It will be following the floodwaters as they rise going down the river.
KEILAR: But there's an estimate from the Army Corps of Engineers that this is going to be closed for a couple of weeks. What -- let's talk money. How much money is your company going to be losing?
DAILY: Well, that depends on how long it stays closed. We'll start probably losing about $10,000 a day, and if it goes for a week, we'll probably be up to about $30,000 to $40,000 per day.
KEILAR: How many other barge companies are in a similar situation?
DAILY: Well, all of them that operate over here. There's probably 15 to 20 barge lines that do operate on the upper Mississippi, and this will be impacting every one of them.
KEILAR: What's it going to mean for consumers, for other companies who rely on these goods to get to them if they're not going to be able to get them for a couple of weeks? Are there alternate ways to get those things, what have you, the coal, corn? Are they going to be able to get those things in some other way?
DAILY: Well, hopefully they've got products stockpiled that would last them for some time, but if they don't, then they'll have to pay the railroads or the truckers to bring it in. The problem with that is those guys are pretty committed and they plan ahead of time, so it's pretty hard to redirect a product that's meant to go on a barge, because we generally move the larger tonnage and larger size- type things into a truck.
And again, it takes about 70 trucks to fill up one barge. And so the volumes are going to be pretty tremendous.
KEILAR: Yes, it might just be impossible to meet that demand. You can definitely see how that would work.
And Larry, have you seen something like this before? When was the last time?
DAILY: Last month.
KEILAR: Last month. For how long were you closed?
DAILY: We were closed for about two weeks at the end of April, beginning of May, for the same reasons. The high water came up, and it shuts the locks down at a certain level when it starts going over the lock walls.
KEILAR: Does this happen every year?
DAILY: No, this is the first time it's happened since 2001. And then prior to that was 1993.
KEILAR: But this -- if this is to shut for two more weeks, I mean, is this a pretty bad season?
DAILY: Well, if we look at it that we have about nine months of operating -- good operating conditions up here before the winter sets in, so we're going to lose all together a month of that, so that's over 10 percent of our shipping season will be lost to high water.
KEILAR: So you're moving at full speed right now, trying to get as much out on barges as you can?
DAILY: We're moving at full speed, which means about four miles an hour. So it's a bit hard to do, but we're giving it our best shot.
KEILAR: All right. We're going to let you go and let you tend to that, Larry.
Larry Daily, the president of Alter Barge Line in Bettendorf, Iowa.
Thanks for joining us.
DAILY: All right. Thank you very much.
LEMON: Video and documents from al Qaeda you're not supposed to see. But we have it right here in the NEWSROOM. The back story and more in a CNN exclusive -- "Secrets of al Qaeda."
(COMMERCIAL BREAK) LEMON: All right. Listen up, you home repair warriors. George Chandler didn't need a hole in his head, but he got that and a bit more after lodging a two-and-a-half-inch nail right into his skull. His x-rays leave us cringing, and CNN's medical correspondent, Elizabeth Cohen, explains one word, yikes...
ELIZABETH COHEN, CNN MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: Yikes!
LEMON: ... or ouch maybe is the best thing, right?
COHEN: Those are both good words.
I want to show you, because not everyone has seen one, this is a nailgun. I mean, this is pretty heavy duty, and these are the nails that go into it. So can you imagine one of these going in your head? I mean, that's pretty incredible.
And as we saw in those x-rays, it was just amazing. Take a look at this. Here it is.
Yikes. This is about a -- right here -- about a two-and-a-half- inch nail going in. We showed this to an emergency room physician at the University of Chicago. And he said, you know, if you're going to have a two-inch nail go into your head, this is definitely the place to do it, because it managed to not hit anything that was terribly important.
And you know how they took this nail out? They took -- they got at the hospital -- they went to the maintenance department and they got a hammer and used the claw end of the hammer and took it out, believe it or not. And when we asked the doctor at the University of Chicago, he said, "Oh, yes, that's what we do too."
LEMON: They just grab a claw hammer, and I guess that's the quickest and easiest way to get it out?
COHEN: That's right.
LEMON: Oh, my gosh. And I understand, Elizabeth, if it was just like a millimeter, he could have lost some functioning, his speech, and all of those things. But as I'm asking you that, I wonder how common this is, as home repairs keep -- you know, people do it, do it yourself home repairs.
How common are these kind of injuries?
COHEN: You know what? I was so surprised to learn, Don, that this happens quite a bit. It happens to some 40,000 people a year, that nails from nailguns end up in their bodies.
And a couple hundred of those, the nails actually end up in people's heads. Here's some other examples that we have here. So this is not uncommon, and do-it-yourselfers really, really need to be careful.
LEMON: Yes, they do. And I just got an e-mail from a viewer that said, "Elizabeth Cohen with power tools, yikes!"
COHEN: Not loaded. I want to tell you that.
LEMON: I know, you scared me, because you had it pointed right kind of to your head, so it's not loaded. And I hear them going off all the time in my neighborhood when there's, you know, a carpenter on the scene or just a homeowner. I can hear those nailguns.
One more point there. With weekend warriors, what should people do if they become involved in an accident with something like this or another power tool?
COHEN: Well, these folks in Kansas did the right thing. You leave the nail in, because you don't know what it's holding up. So you want to leave it in there. So let's go over some basic first-aid resumes when something goes wrong at home.
First of all, when a sharp object of any kind, nail or otherwise, goes into your body, don't take it out. Leave that to the professionals. It may be doing some good in there.
Also, bleeding. When someone's bleeding, apply pressure. Experts tell us don't wrap a tourniquet around them, just apply pleasure on top of the wound.
Also, if someone suffers a major fall, like, let's say off a ladder from a roof, don't move that person. You could cause some serious damage. Again, call in the professionals. Let them move the person.
LEMON: Oh, boy. OK. I think that's great advice.
Again, these home repair warriors -- and lots of us are them, especially with these big box stores now, right, that sell all of these things. A lot more people, and we can probably expect a lot more injuries like this.
COHEN: Oh, right. Doctors say they're seeing an increase in these kinds of injuries because of the do-it-yourselfers.
LEMON: Oh, all right. Elizabeth Cohen, appreciate it.
KEILAR: A major break at the very last minute. A U.S. senator steps in to help a high school grad, a valedictorian, no less, whose family has been ordered to leave the country.
But first, a new invention by a man who invented the Segway could provide clean water for thirsty nations.
Miles O'Brien shows us the water Slingshot.
(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) MILES O'BRIEN, CNN CHIEF TECHNOLOGY & ENVIRONMENT CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Inventor Dean Kamen took me to the river, dropped a bucket down, and let the grim facts flow. More than a billion people do not have access to decent water.
DEAN KAMEN, INVENTOR: Their choice is drink bad water or die of thirst.
O'BRIEN: The Segway inventor has spent the past decade trying to make that awful choice a thing of the past.
KAMEN: Let's take this water back.
O'BRIEN: Carrying a bucket of Merrimack River water, he segwayed his way to his lab, where he has built an amazing water purifying device he calls Slingshot.
KAMEN: We call this Slingshot because, as you might recall from the old story, there was this little guy, David...
O'BRIEN (on camera): Yes, I heard of him.
KAMEN: ... who had a really big problem. A Goliath of a problem.
O'BRIEN (voice over): Slingshot distills the dirty water, which is the best way to purify it. But distillation normally requires a lot of power. Slingshot recaptures nearly all the heat used in the first place and reuses it. And it needs less juice than a blowdrier.
KAMEN: We have a very realistic solution here.
O'BRIEN: It was delicious, and it can produce enough water for 100 people a day. But getting these $2,000 devices to places where they are needed will take a whole new level of inventiveness.
Miles O'Brien, CNN, Manchester, New Hampshire.
LEMON: You know, a lot of people are saying, man, I wish my company could some way help me with these gas prices, at least getting to work. Well, some companies though are offering incentives for their employees. You might be able to take this idea back to your boss.
CNN's Chris Lawrence takes a look.
CHRIS LAWRENCE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: John and Kyra, gas is so expensive, a lot of people are telling their employers, you've got to help us out here. And this is just one way that some companies are trying to do just that. (voice-over): Every day gas gets closer to $5 a gallon.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's not my fault it's going up.
LAWRENCE: But Risha DeBona (ph) isn't bothered, even when commuting nearly 20 miles to work in her SUV.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I can't imagine spending an additional $500, $400 a month in gas.
LAWRENCE: Spend it?
DeBona gets $500 a month in free gas just for driving around. In exchange, she agreed to wrap her truck in ads, a temporary sticker that turns the SUV into a rolling billboard for the jobing.com, the company she works for.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: They offer you this benefit and right now -- you would be a fool not to take advantage of it.
LAWRENCE: Across the country, commuters are asking their companies for help with high gas prices. Some are giving gas gift cards to workers. Yahoo! organizes carpools, rewards employees who ride bikes to work, and even has an employee transportation coordinator.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: His sole purpose is devoted to helping people find the best way to transport to work.
LAWRENCE: Jobing.com says its employees are scrambling to sign up for the wrap.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We have a waiting list for the first time this year.
LAWRENCE: Joel Cakrol (ph) says eligible employees have to drive a newer vehicle and take a driving safety course.
(on camera): So you get the 500 bucks for the wrap. That includes the gas?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What happens is you get an extra $500 on your paycheck and all of your gas paid for.
LAWRENCE (voice-over): And all means all. Even personal trips are included.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I pay nothing. Yes, it's great. And I figure I earn about $500 plus $400 to $500 in gas, almost $1,000 a month extra, so it's huge. It's huge.
LAWRENCE (on camera): And if gas prices just keep going up like they have been, perks like these could be the deciding factor on whether you keep an employee, or watch her jump ship to another job -- John, Kyra.
KEILAR: Oil prices are making another huge move and gas prices remain at record levels. That is leaving many of us looking for solutions.
Here to help now, CNNMoney.com's Poppy Harlow, who has our energy fix from New York.
POPPY HARLOW, CNNMONEY.COM: Hi, Brianna.
Yes, we're here to help people with the fix. Some solutions out there for you -- right now, oil prices soaring up more than $5 right now from what we saw yesterday, just around $136 a barrel. If that number holds until the market settles in just a few minutes, it will mark the second or third biggest move ever to the upside. The top three have come in just the last week. So a lot of volatility in terms of oil over the past week.
Now, a government report showed earlier today the biggest decline in U.S. crude supplies in 23 years. Meanwhile, gas prices hit a new record high. And the Energy Department says you can expect $4 gas through the rest of this year, and into next year as well.
Many people are getting creative as they search for their energy fix. Some students are signing up for online courses in droves. "The Tennessean Newspaper" says even students who are not very computer savvy are taking the leap. They're trying to avoid those long commutes where they spend a lot of money on gas. The Tennessee Board of Regents says online enrollment has surged 29 percent just this summer.
And if you plan to be in school, studying online could be your energy fix, Brianna.
KEILAR: That sounds like a pretty good idea.
But what about the rest of us who don't go to school --
HARLOW: Of course.
KEILAR: -- who are done with school?
HARLOW: Of course, like me and you.
That's it. There's an energy fix out there to help the rest of us as well. To save a few pennies on gas, that could be eliminating the tariff on imported ethanol. Now, ethanol is a mandatory component in gasoline. While most of our ethanol -- it's produced domestically -- but some of it still comes from other places like Brazil, where they use sugar cane to make ethanol, rather than corn.
Experts say if you eliminate the tariff imposed that is on what we import, say from Brazil, it could mean a savings of about 10 cents per gallon for drivers. Ethanol use is mandated to grow to 36 billion gallons by the year 2022.
So why do we still have this tariff in place?
Some people fear that the U.S. will use more imported ethanol if you take it away. That could hurt some domestic ethanol producers in our country, and it could make our nation less energy independent. But my colleagues here at CNNMoney that we're talking to about this -- every day, they say consumer advocates, energy traders, academics, they all favor getting rid of that tariff.
So, we have more on that story right here our Web site, CNNMoney.com. Check that out if you're interested. And we'll see. Lawmakers are talking about this. You hear John McCain talking a lot about ethanol.
So there's a lot more to this story. Check it out on our site, Brianna.
KEILAR: All right. Thanks, Poppy. We'll see you later.
LEMON: Let's talk about some ways that we can really help you out here. As gas prices go up, more people are looking for cheaper ways to get where they're going. Some are switching to mass transit. That's a great idea. Others are hopping on their bikes. Another great idea, and also gets some exercise in there. And still others are looking at cars that you can plug in.
Well, today and tomorrow, the Brookings Institution and Google.org are talking about it. And joining us from Washington is Kirsten Olsen, the project manager for Google.org's RechargeIt initiative.
OK, so when I say the Brookings Institution, Google.org, you're talking about it. What exactly are you talking about?
KIRSTEN OLSEN, PROJ. MGR., RECHARGEIT: We're talking about the need for the auto manufacturers to step up and start offering these cars to the public. We're talking about Washington's role in bringing plug-ins to the public, and that's what we're really excited about.
LEMON: OK. What kinds of cars are we talking about here? Most of these, I think, are sort of converted hybrids that we're talking about, and not many of them on the road so far.
OLSEN: You're right. There aren't too many on the road right now and you're seeing mostly converted hybrids. In fact, at Google, we have a handful in our demonstration fleet.
But the point of this conference is really to figure out ways that we can accelerate the commercialization of plug-ins and bring them to market quicker.
LEMON: Are they open to it, the auto manufacturers? OLSEN: Absolutely. We've seen commitments from several of the auto manufacturers, and so I think we'll start seeing some of these cars on the road, hopefully by 2010.
LEMON: All right. So Kirsten, listen, how do you tell people -- Kirsten I should call you, sorry.
How do I say, people are going to go -- I've got my regular car, is this really going to work? If it breaks down, how am I going to plug it in on the road? How is this actually going to work? Is it practical?
OLSEN: Well the beauty about plug-in hybrids is that you get about 20 to 40 all-electric range, depending on the battery size. But you always have a safety net in your gasoline tank. So you won't be stranded.
LEMON: OK. So there's some concern, especially with hybrids, about how long it takes to recoup the cost. If you buy a hybrid it could take eight, 10, 15, 20 years to recoup the cost -- because they cost more than regular cars.
So what about this electric car? How long does it take to recoup the cost of this?
OLSEN: It really depends -- from different vehicle models. But the point here is that, as we see gas prices are skyrocketing, and so we need alternatives. Soon enough the battery prices will drop and these cars will be affordable to the mass market.
LEMON: So what you're saying is, you know what, less dependence on fuels, right?
OLSEN: Absolutely. There are so many benefits to these plug- ins, and energy security is certainly one of them.
LEMON: Kirsten Olsen, the project manager for Google.org's RechargeIt initiative.
We appreciate you joining us today.
OLSEN: Thank you very much.
KEILAR: A major break at the very last minute. A U.S. senator steps in to help a high school valedictorian whose family had been ordered to leave the country.
LEMON: We haven't talked politics in a little bit, so let's talk now.
It's time now for our Political Ticker. Looking ahead, to the next president and Iraq. In an exclusive interview, Defense Secretary Robert Gates tells CNN, no matter who ends up in the Oval Office, he's likely to take a sensible approach. John McCain says he wants to continue the U.S. presence in Iraq until political stability is reached.
Barack Obama opposes the war and says he'll being pulling troops out.
Gates says the next president will get the blame if the so-called endgame isn't handled correctly.
KEILAR: John McCain wants to get to know the neighbors. He's planning to visit key U.S. allies in the Western hemisphere next month. Among the stops right now on his itinerary, Canada, Mexico, also Colombia. Earlier this spring, the presumptive Republican nominee visited Europe and also the Middle East and that included a stop in Iraq.
LEMON: A blow to unity for the Democratic Party. Democratic Congressman Dan Boren of Oklahoma says he won't, won't, be endorsing Barack Obama for president. Boren says the presumptive Democratic nominee is the most liberal senator and Boren has to listen to voters in his own district who are much more conservative. But Borne says he will be voting for Obama at the party's national convention.
KEILAR: A high school valedictorian gets a special graduation present. He'll get to avoid a deportation deadline, at least for now, and it is thanks to one U.S. senator.
CNN's Dan Simon has the story.
DAN SIMON, CNN CORRESPONDENT: He graduated from high school yesterday, but Arthur Mkoyan could hardly celebrate. He and his family had been ordered out of the country, forced by the federal government to leave their home in Fresno, California, in just ten days.
ARTHUR MKOYAN, HIGH SCHOOL GRADUATE: It's been hectic. It's been stressful. I've been just thinking about it nonstop. What can I do when they're forcing me out of the country that I've lived in for over 14 years?
SIMON: But a phone call just an hour after receiving his diploma...
ASMIK KARAPETIAN, ARTHUR'S MOTHER: Oh, my God, that's good news.
SIMON: ... may have changed everything.
MKOYAN: I'm just excited. It's -- that's really amazing that they're going to do this, because it's going to stop everything.
SIMON: It is a bill from Senator Dianne Feinstein that would halt the deportation. "This is a family that has deep roots in the community and worked hard," this senator from California said. If it passes, the legislation would overrule the courts, which have consistently said the family must return to Armenia, the country Arthur's parents fled in fear shortly after the breakup of the Soviet Union.
His father, now jailed in an immigration detention center, says he was the victim of politically-motivated attacks. But efforts to obtain political asylum failed.
KARAPETIAN: I don't wish to my enemy to go through where I went through.
SIMON: Arthur's mother says the stress has taken its toll.
(on camera): Arthur is graduating with a grade point average of just over a 4.0, that makes him the valedictorian of his high school class. This fall, he planned to enroll in college and major in chemistry.
GLENN STARKWEATHER, BULLARD HIGH SCHOOL PRINCIPAL: He's very well-respected by the teachers. He's one of those kids that teachers love to have in their classroom because he's inquisitive.
SIMON: Still, the odds are against Arthur and his family. Private bills, like Senator Feinstein's, rarely pass.
The good news? It buys them more time, as they cannot be deported while the bill goes through Congress.
MKOYAN: It's crazy -- because I never thought I'd get this much attention.
SIMON: Call it a graduation present he hopes he can keep.
Dan Simon, CNN, Fresno, California.
LEMON: All right. We have some news just into CNN, and I'm just getting it here off the wire. Jim Johnson, who was tapped by Barack Obama to head his campaign, to head at least his search for a vice presidential running mate, him, along with Caroline Kennedy and I believe Eric Holder were part of that team -- now we're getting news from our political team that the Obama campaign has announced that Jim Johnson will step aside from Obama's VP search.
And this is from the campaign. And I'm reading it as it crosses here. It says Jim did not want to distract in any way from the very important task of gathering information about my vice presidential nominee. So, he has made a decision to step aside, that I accept.
And then it goes on with more from Barack Obama. The best political team on television is working on that. That also has a lot to do with Jim Johnson and his background, his former company, Fannie Mae, and what have you, and things going on behind the scenes with Jim Johnson and the Barack Obama campaign. Again, the best political team on television working on this breaking news. Again, Jim Johnson stepping aside. He will not be helping Barack Obama find a vice presidential running mate.
KEILAR: Video and documents from al Qaeda. You're not supposed to see them, but we have them. And we want to show them to you. The back story and more in a CNN exclusive, secrets of al Qaeda.
LEMON: Just into the CNN NEWSROOM, Jim Johnson, former CEO of Fannie Mae, we've just learned from the Barack Obama campaign that he will no longer be helping the senator and Democratic presidential nominee, will not be helping him find a vice presidential running mate.
He, along with Eric Holder and Caroline Kennedy, were supposed to be part of that team. But we're just getting word from the Barack Obama campaign, Jim Johnson will no longer be a part of that. The best political team on television working that story for you. Updates here in the CNN NEWSROOM.
Meantime, we're working on a couple of other stories for you here in the NEWSROOM.
Rivers are rising in many parts of the Midwest and evacuations are underway in Iowa and Indiana. New storms are moving across the region today.
Police now believe two killers were involved in the murder of two young Oklahoma girls. The girls, ages 13 and 11, they were shot to death while taking a walk on a country road near Wauteka (ph). Two different caliber guns were used, leading police to believe there are two killers in this case.
Remember Austria's monster dad case? Well, a 19-year-old woman, allegedly fathered by her grandfather and held captive in a cellar her entire life, has emerged from her medically-induced coma. Her hospitalization in April, led to the investigation of her grandfather, Josef Fritzl.
KEILAR: Five years into the Iraq war, you've never seen the inner workings of al-Qaeda like you will tonight on "AC 360." This is a story from CNN's Michael Ware. We're going to chat with him in just a second. But first, let's get a sneak peak at his exclusive snapshot.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MICHAEL WARE, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Al-Qaeda gunmen brought this man here to die. Staged for maximum impact, he's to be executed on this busy market street. We don't know why. The al-Qaeda members who recorded this tape offer no explanation. But the anticipation is agonizing, leading to a moment we cannot show you. A punishment for betraying al-Qaeda or for breaking their strict version of Islamic law. Either way, it was public executions like this that would help lead to the unraveling of al-Qaeda in Iraq.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KEILAR: Michael Ware is live in Baghdad, with more on the story that you're only going to see on CNN.
Michael, this is the kind of -- you see these pictures and it makes your heart pound.
WARE: Oh, absolutely. I mean, those moments truly are as we say in the story, agonizing. And now, what you saw in that brief snapshot from inside al-Qaeda in Iraq, is what was happening across much of this country over the past few years.
Now, al-Qaeda in Iraq today is under more pressure than it ever was before. This is a snapshot of al-Qaeda at its peak here in this country. The war in Iraq is now about a competition between Washington and Tehran, for influence. But al-Qaeda is still out there. And in these hard drives, that had thousands upon thousands of documents from al-Qaeda's internal correspondents, hours upon hours of videos, uncut and shot by al-Qaeda. We learned about how al-Qaeda operates today.
It's far more sophisticated, far more bureaucratic, far more organized and far more led by Iraqis than foreigners, despite what the White House says, than many had ever feared before -- Brianna.
KEILAR: Why is it so important that people get this sort of unfiltered look, Michael?
WARE: This gives you a window into not just one of America's enemies here in Iraq, who, like I said, whilst under intense pressure -- because America now has 100,000 former insurgents and former members of al-Qaeda itself, on the U.S. government pay roll. And these men have been conducting an assassination program against al- Qaeda. This is but one of the enemies here in Iraq.
But through the prism of al-Qaeda in Iraq and the way you see that they work, in a sense that the public has never experienced before. Only members of al-Qaeda or members of the intelligence services have ever seen anything like this, you get a window of the broader al-Qaeda. This is how Osama bin Laden's most sophisticated elements of his network operate and we see that best here in Iraq -- Brianna
KEILAR: Michael Ware, In Baghdad. Thank you for the preview.
And you can check out the entirety tonight at 10:00 Eastern. The entirety of this report. CNN unveils what the U.S. military believes to be one of the largest collections of these internal al-Qaeda in Iraq documents ever discovered.
Both the videos and the documents giving fascinating insight into the terror groups inner workings. "AC 360," deciphers what it all means for the future of al-Qaeda in Iraq. And again, that's on "AC 360," tonight at 10 Eastern, right here on CNN. LEMON: Well, it's not easy being green. John McCain overshadowed by this backdrop. We'll find out what everyone's saying about the big green.
LEMON: So, after some recent missteps with scripted speeches, John McCain is returning to more familiar territory today, scrapping a planned teleprompter address in Philadelphia, in favor of a town hall meeting. But critics can't forget his lime green back drop to one recent speech. They're turning the green screen into a mean screen.
Here's CNN's Jeanne Moos.
JEANNE MOOS, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): It was a back drop that left nobody green with envy.
SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R-AZ), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: That's not change we can believe in.
MOOS: Change you can believe in is that that backdrop is being dropped. Never has a color been so maligned, called the Lime Green Monster by the left, and dumb green puke background even by the right. All on a night when McCain's speech was being compared to Obama's.
JON STEWART, HOST, "THE DAILY SHOW": In a room ten times as green.
MOOS: But it was fake pundit Stephen Colbert, who colored the whole debate.
STEPHEN COLBERT, HOST, "THE COLBERT REPORT": Jimmy, let's spice him up. OK. There he is. Let's see what we can do here. Look out, senator! there's a lion right behind you. Get out of there! Ole, ole, ole, ole.
MOOS: And then Colbert invited his fans to go to his web site and make their own alterations.
COLBERT: The footage will be there tomorrow waiting for your imagination.
MOOS: And imagine, they did. Highlighting the age issue by showing McCain with a horse less carriage backdrop, showing him with puppet strings, pulled by President Bush, portrayed as Dr. Evil. Showing McCain with mission accomplished behind him, even the macarena.
Watch your backs, candidates.
(on camera): You practically have to have eyes in the back of your head to run for president these days.
(voice-over): There was nothing balanced about this exercise. One critic showed McCain saying nice things about Hillary with the back drop of the infamous moment when a McCain supporter called her a name that rhymes with witch.
Another back drop featured Stephen Colbert, showering and shampooing with a cup of coffee. How about some guy doing the polka in his undies? A senior McCain adviser says the green screen will not be returning. The campaign realizes it was a horrible visual and look what the senator stood in front of Tuesday.
MCCAIN: I will veto every single beer -- bill.
MOOS: If only they could get him to read teleprompter better. Perhaps the ultimate insult about the white-haired candidate with the green background? It will make you look like the cottage cheese in a lime jello salad.
(on camera): That's not a very nice thing to say.
(voice-over): Jeanne Moos, CNN, New York.