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California Begins Recognizing Same-Sex Marriages; China Flooding Impacts Millions

Aired June 16, 2008 - 15:00   ET


DON LEMON, CNN ANCHOR: And, right at the top, we start this hour of the CNN NEWSROOM with some breaking weather news.
Chad Myers has a tornado warning out there.

Chad, take it away.

CHAD MYERS, CNN METEOROLOGIST: Yes. It has just expired at 3:00, so just literally seconds ago, but I think it could be reissued. This storm is rotating still. And we have had a lot of hail out of New York, Liverpool, New York, penny-sized hail. Susquehanna, Pennsylvania, that's dollar-sized hail.

Even Remsen and Steuben, New York, about quarter-size. Now, if you get ping-pong size, like Colonie, New York, did, you have a storm on top of you that could be potentially spinning. Guilderland, New York, an inch-and-a-half hail. That's hail we usually see back in the middle of the Plains.

Syracuse, there's your storm. It's that little piece there that hangs down to the west of the word SYRA. That SYRA area right there, that's what I'm worried about. That's usually what we call the comma cloud, where we kind of -- the hook echo. We are not really seeing a strong rotation with it right now. But I know that those people out there are still looking at it.

It's the Binghamton National Weather Service. They do a great job there. We will keep you advised if anything else comes up, so far, no reports of a touchdown with this storm, but that tornado warning goes on for about 45 minutes -- Don.

LEMON: Oh, wow. OK, Chad Myers, thank you very much for that.

And, of course, we will have breaking news when it concerns the Midwest flooding coming up with our Chad Myers just in a bit -- Betty.

BETTY NGUYEN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, a desperate search, Don, is under way for this 4-year-old boy from Florida.

An Amber Alert was issued for Colin Nathaniel Custer after his mother told police they both had been kidnapped by the boy's father yesterday. She says she managed to get away near Columbia, South Carolina.

But police say the boy's father, Robert William Custer, is believed to be driving a white Chevy conversion van with a Florida tag and that he may be armed.

In the meantime, though, rising tensions along the Afghanistan- Pakistan border today. Hundreds of Taliban fighters captured a handful of Afghan villages and now Afghanistan threatens to send troops in, as Pakistan warns them not to.

Defense Secretary Robert Gates is urging patience, saying Pakistan needs time to deal with the situation along its border.


ROBERT GATES, SECRETARY OF DEFENSE: There is no question that the area along the Afghan/Pakistan border is a real problem. Al Qaeda is there. The Taliban is there. They are more of a problem in south in Afghanistan than they are in the east, at least have been until fairly recently. And we will just have to watch carefully and see how these agreements with the tribes are going.


NGUYEN: OK. So, joining us by phone now from Kabul is journalist Farhad Peikar.

And, as we talked a little bit earlier, there are somewhere between 400 and 500 Taliban fighters in these villages. What is being done about that? Have you seen any NATO forces or heard that they are on their way?


Yes, NATO forces here in Kabul are now also in (INAUDIBLE) talking about redeployment of the forces and said they will not bring any forces from other parts of the country, but what they will do is that there are more than 2,000 Canadian forces mostly stationed in Kandahar here still.

So, what we are hearing is that they will be redeployed to those villages that were overrun by Taliban militants yesterday or in the (INAUDIBLE) So, there's massive preparations going both on the side of NATO forces and as well as Afghan police and army forces that are being sent, reinforcements to the area trying to push the militants out of those areas -- back to you.

NGUYEN: So, tell us how this happened. Is this as a result of a prison break that took place on Friday?

PEIKAR: Well, it could be several reasons.

Yesterday, President Karzai had threatened that he will follow the militants, the Taliban, inside the Pakistan territory. And he will send forces to the bases of the Taliban or the places where they are centering.

It could be a reaction to that. And as well as late Friday night, some 900 prisoners, including 400 of the Taliban, escaped from the prison following an attack by the Taliban. So, there might be some of those people who have readied themselves to come to this area to stage other threats in those areas, which is very, very close to the center of Kandahar Province, a very (INAUDIBLE) province and city that links the southern part of the country to the central and to the western region of the country.

NGUYEN: And, very quickly, what are villagers doing? Because since these Taliban fighters have entered into their towns, are they remaining there? Are they fleeing? What's the situation with them?

PEIKAR: There's, of course, reports from the chaotic situation happening there. Some of those people who can be already started moving out of those areas.

We have spoken to people that they say that they have already moved their families, their children, women members of their family. Some only men members of the family have remained, so they can look after their houses and also vineyards that they have in those places.

But, of course, there's a lot of worries that it's -- like last year and late last year, there was an operation, had the same big number of Taliban came. And there was a big operation by NATO Afghan forces, and some 100 Talibans were killed in those areas. So, there's a lot of worries among those villagers that they might get caught in the crossfire between the Taliban and especially if there's any airstrike conducted in those areas.

NGUYEN: All right, Farhad Peikar joining us by phone from Kabul today with the latest in Afghanistan, thank you for that -- Don.

LEMON: All right, Betty, we turn now to the flooding. And no one in Iowa can remember floodwaters ever being this high or, for a matter of fact, this devastating.

More than 36,000 people in 26 communities have been forced out of their home. At least six people have died. And while the water is starting to recede in places like Cedar Rapids and Iowa City, many rivers are still days away from cresting. And that means more sandbagging.

President Bush plans to inspect the damage starting on Thursday.

We have some developing news now when it comes to this flooding. We will start now with our Ed Lavandera. He's in Cedar Rapids.

A lot of folks there are wondering when they can go home. And at least in one case, patience seems to be wearing thin, and we have someone who was taken into custody, Ed.

ED LAVANDERA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Right. It happened just a short -- just a few hours ago here in Cedar Rapids, Don.

And, as the floodwaters around us here -- we're just on the southern edge of Cedar Rapids, Iowa -- as the floodwaters are going down, the tempers and the frustrations are definitely on the rise here, a 52-year-old gentleman arrested this morning after assaulting -- Cedar Rapids police say, assaulting a National Guardsman with a deadly weapon, that weapon, the gentleman's vehicle.

According to police here in Cedar Rapids, this man was trying to get into his neighborhood, wanted to see his house, and had driven into this National Guardsman several times. And they say he was arrested shortly.

The Associated Press with amazing photographs of that incident, which happened around 10:00 here Central time, which really kind of speaks to the frustrations that are mounting here in Cedar Rapids, as many people have been told they will not be allowed to go into their homes, even though many neighborhoods are now free of water.

People are trying to get back in to see and start assessing the damage. But because the officials here don't know what kind of conditions homes are in -- in fact, we were told of the story about one gentleman who thought he was walking into a puddle and actually fell into six feet of water, that it's stories like that has really kind of put a halt on allowing people to go back into their homes and see what kind of damage there is. They just don't know what they are going back to.

The damage still hasn't been assessed at this point. And so people -- officials here want to make sure that residents are going back to a safe environment, so they can begin processing what they need to recover and what they need to piece back together.

We ran into another gentleman here a short while ago as well, who talked about what it was like seeing his home in these floodwaters.


DENNIS USHER, CEDAR RAPIDS HOMEOWNER: For me, it's not too bad, I guess. You know, it's probably going to be worse once you get in there and have to clean up.

But I have got family here. I'm living with my son right now out in Fairfax. So, we're covered, you know, for the next foreseeable -- week or two. We will be able to hang out there, and then get into the house once we can get there, see what we have got to do, you know, clear it, clean it out.

I mean, I'm assuming it's going to be months, you know, before we will be able to get everything cleaned out and if we're going to repair it, get a contractor in there to repair it. I guess one thing is just to see how bad it is and is it repairable.


LAVANDERA: And, Don, that's the sense, people here really starting to get a sense of it. This isn't a problem that is going to go away in the next day or two. They are looking at months before all of this is recovered from -- Don.

LEMON: Ed Lavandera with our breaking news concerning the Midwest flooding -- Ed, thank you very much for that reporting. In Iowa City, we have a bit more encouraging news to tell you about. The river crested early and it was a little bit lower than expected. Just how high did the water go? How high did it go?

Allan Chernoff joins us now from the soggy University of Iowa campus for the very latest.

And it looks like it went pretty high there.

What are you holding in your hand, Allan?


This is actually a nice long stick to help me in this very high water, Don. It's up to my waist over here. And just a little bit ways back, we're talking a good eight feet high. And while, yes, it is a beautiful, sunny day and it is beginning to recede, just have a look at the Iowa River, if you can.

About a football field away, you can see the water (AUDIO GAP) very, very rapidly. And you see just how far it has spread across the campus of the University of Iowa here. (AUDIO GAP) are flooded right here on campus. And it certainly has been dramatic, the damage here alone in the millions of dollars. Now add in thousands and thousands of homes around the state, thousands of businesses, roads, bridges, rails.

The estimates of damage from the state, well above $2 billion, which is the amount of damage we had back in 1993 from the last terrific flood. This is serious stuff. And, yes, it is getting a little better.

Let me just show you how we have receded even today. Right here, you see the water line. It had been until here, and this has been the peak over here. You see the debris right over here. So, we have receded back a little more than two feet, so, an improvement.

But I got to tell you, we have got a heck of a lot more than two feet to go to get back to that river -- Don.

LEMON: Well put.

Allan Chernoff reporting for us -- Allan at one point there up waist deep in water and walked right out, of course. Allan, thank you very much for that reporting.

And we're going to check in now with our severe weather experts, Dave Hennen working it in the Weather Center, as well as our Chad Myers over here.

Chad, we have been hearing about this devastation, devastation, devastation. And let's talk about the folks, what's next and what they can expect.

MYERS: I want to talk to Elizabeth Cohen about this, too, because there are a whole list of problems, health problems, that come with going back into houses that have mold, that have dirt, dirty water. Let's face it, that was nothing good in that water.

LEMON: Right.

MYERS: You don't want to touch anything to your mouth after you have touched anything in that water. I mean, you can get sick for weeks doing that stuff.

There's going to be not just, boy, my drywall is wet.

LEMON: Right.

MYERS: You talk about that one guy who actually went right through the floor. He walked back into his house, went right through the bottom of his house, right into his basement, as he fell through the floor, because the floor was actually rotted away in that little bit of water that he had for how long? Was that maybe five, six, seven days?

LEMON: Right.

MYERS: And people are going to have water in their houses for longer than that.

LEMON: Right.

MYERS: What does that spell? What is the electricity going to be like? What is the water going to be like? Are you even going to want to go back to that house or not?

And then a lot of the water is coming down. And that's great. But there are still places downriver where that water still has to come up yet.


MYERS: Those people have a lot of work to do.

LEMON: Absolutely.

OK, our Chad Myers working that for us.

Chad, and, of course, as we have been reporting in this newscast, six people in Iowa alone died in all of this, an electrocution.

MYERS: Yes. I know.

LEMON: We have people...


MYERS: Well, there you go. There's another problem, right?


MYERS: Is your power out?


MYERS: That's the first thing you want to do before you even leave your house, make sure it's off; the gas is off.


LEMON: People who were swept away, car accidents, you name it. So, we're stressing safety today in the CNN NEWSROOM.


MYERS: We had a similar flood in 1993, Don, and 50 people died.

LEMON: Same thing. Chad Myers, appreciate that -- Betty.

NGUYEN: Well, from that to this, Don, a gruesome scene in California, witnesses horrified to find a man viciously beating a toddler.

Officers had to make a very quick decision. And we have those details just ahead.

California, here it comes. Today is the day the state will start recognizing same-sex marriages. We look at the impact this will have on many fronts coming up.


LEMON: This just in to the CNN NEWSROOM. We have to tell you about a deadly mining collapse. It's in Northumberland County, Pennsylvania.

Here's what we know as we take a look at exactly where this is. You can see it right there in the central part of that state, about 60 miles, I'm hearing, northeast of Harrisburg. That's exactly where it is, northeast of Harrisburg.

If you know Lancaster County, you know it's there, Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania, to many, people might know this. So, here is exactly what we're being told happened here.

Police and rescue crews and state mining officials say they are on the scene now of a deadly mine accident in Mount Carmel Township, Northumberland County.

It happened at the UAE Coal Corporation on Harmony Road. And earlier reports -- this is according to early reports, our affiliate there, WBRE -- indicate a collapse with one person trapped and officials confirm there has been one fatality.

As soon as we get more information on this breaking news story, this mine accident which is believed to be deadly, we will bring it to you right here in the CNN NEWSROOM -- Betty.

NGUYEN: Well, in just a matter of hours, their big day will come. When the clocks to 5:01 there, California starts allowing same- sex marriages.

Many county clerks are staying open late to issue marriage licenses to gay couples. Now, this move stems from a ruling last month by state Supreme Court. One backer of same-sex marriage says that's the nature of the issue, legal and personal, but not necessarily biblical.


GAVIN NEWSOM (D), MAYOR OF SAN FRANCISCO: This is about civil marriages. It's about state marriages. It's not about religious marriages.

We're not telling our churches what to believe on abortion or what to believe on stem cell research or what to believe on divorce or, for that matter, birth control. We're not going to tell them what to do on the issue of marriage. Forty-plus percent of marriages in this country are performed in places like this, San Francisco City Hall, in city halls around the United States. They are civil marriages, separation of church and state. We're not telling religious institutions what to do. They can continue to do what they have done.


NGUYEN: Opponents of same-sex marriage, though, still putting up a fight. They are pushing a November ballot initiative that would define marriage in California as the union of a man and a woman.

Well, despite that looming over them, thousands of gay and lesbian couples, they are expected to get hitched in these first days of the week. And weddings, gay or straight, they are big business.

According to the University of California, by 2011, same-sex marriages could generate -- get this -- an extra $64 million in tax revenues for the state's economy. That takes into account 50,000 California couples tying the knot and another 68,000 couples expected to travel from out of state.

Wedding-related industries likely to see a boost as well. More than 2,000 new jobs are expected to be created.

And a little bit later right here in the NEWSROOM, we're going to hear from a strong advocate of same-sex marriage, "Star Trek" actor George Takei. He and his partner will be the first gay couple given a marriage license tomorrow in West Hollywood.

LEMON: Stomping, kicking, hitting -- the attack on the side of a California road was brutal and the target was just a little boy. Horrified witnesses tried to help and called police to the scene. When the man refused orders to stop his attack, an officer fatally shot him.

Now, tragically, the toddler did not survive.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The manner in which the small child was being attacked, you know, punched, kicked, a 1- or 2-year-old that can't defend himself getting this type of abuse and assault. It's just -- you can't even imagine what they saw.


LEMON: The beating was so bad, police said it might take a DNA test to confirm that little boy's identity.

Now, they haven't released the dead man's name or said if the two were related at all.

In federal court today, a Missouri woman accused of an Internet hoax that might have driven a young girl to suicide. Thirteen-year- old Megan Meier hanged herself after receiving cruel messages on MySpace. Police say Meier thought she was chatting with a teen boy. But they say it was really Lori Drew, a parent of one of Meier's classmates.

One message said, "The world would be a better place without you."

Drew has been indicted on conspiracy and computer-hacking-related charges. She has pleaded not guilty.

The case is taking place in Los Angeles, where MySpace is based.

NGUYEN: Well, fleeing the floods -- more than a million leave their homes as China's latest natural disaster sweeps over parts of the country.


LEMON: All right.

This is really some big breaking news when it concerns a political arena. See that guy right there? Al Gore. We were wondering who he was going to endorse. Well, he's saying, according to, that he is going to endorse Senator Barack Obama.

He's going to do it tonight, 8:00 p.m., 8:30 p.m. Eastern. He will appear with the senator on stage to throw his support behind Barack Obama. And, again, this is from

Let's take that Web site, because here's what the Web site is saying. Right at the top, is reporting -- he said: "A few hours from now, I will step on stage in Detroit, Michigan, to announce my support for Senator Barack Obama. From now through Election Day, I intend to do whatever I can to make sure he is elected president of the United States."

And, Betty, of course, you know that everyone has been wondering who Al Gore was going to endorse, because during the time when we weren't sure who their nominee was going to be, it was going to be a huge endorsement. And because of Al Gore's deeds lately when it comes to global warming, when it comes to his television show and all of that, he may be able to add some people into the mix for whoever the candidate might be. But now...

NGUYEN: But some are asking, is this really much of a risk for Gore at all?

LEMON: Right.

NGUYEN: Is he really standing out, because, I mean, Barack Obama is already the Democratic nominee, it appears to be.

LEMON: Right.

And what's interesting about this, he waited for Senator Hillary Clinton to concede, because, as you know, he served with her husband.

And, so, we don't know the exact politics behind this, but one can assume that he was waiting for the right thing to do and do it the proper way.

But, again, we're learning from that Al Gore will endorse Senator Barack Obama tonight, appear with him on stage with him at 8:30 Eastern. We will have it all covered for you throughout the afternoon here in the CNN NEWSROOM, of course, "THE SITUATION ROOM." And then, at that time, Campbell Brown will be on with "ELECTION CENTER."

You don't want to miss that.

NGUYEN: Much more on that.


LEMON: I'm digging that music, Betty. Don't you like it?

Let's talk now about portfolios with personality, investing strategies that reflect your values.

CNN's Christine Romans is "Right on Your Money."


CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): If saving the environment is your passion, or if you simply want your money to match your morals, "Money" magazine's Jason Zweig says, look into socially responsible investing or SRI funds.

JASON ZWEIG, SR. WRITER, "MONEY" An SRI fund invests according to ethical principles, not just trying to do well, but also trying to do good. And the objective is not purely to earn the highest return on your money, but also to return on your morals as well.

ROMANS: But investing with a clear conscience does not necessarily mean taking a big hit to your bottom line.

ZWEIG: You compare SRI funds to conventional mutual funds or the market as a whole, you'll find that they perform just slightly under the average.

ROMANS: Historically, SRI funds have been associated more with Silicon Valley than traditional big money stocks like oil and energy. But Zweig says regardless of your political or social beliefs, there are some SRI options for you. Just remember to do your homework.

ZWEIG: It's a great Web site called, where you will be able to learn about all the funds that are available.

ROMANS: Christine Romans, CNN, New York.


NGUYEN: Well, it's about 30 minutes past the hour. And here are three of the stories that we're working on right here in the CNN NEWSROOM.

An Amber Alert, an urgent search right now for this 4-year-old boy. You see him right there. Police suspect Colin Custer's father kidnapped him and the boy's mother in South Carolina. Well, the mother said she was able to escape.

Six deaths now in Iowa have been linked to the record flooding there. Mississippi River communities in Illinois, well, they are bracing for the worst. President Bush plans to visit the flood- ravaged Midwest on Thursday.

And same-sex couples in California, they are getting ready to say, "I do." Under five hours from now, California officially becomes the second state to make gay marriage legal. Some county workers plan to stay late to accommodate the first-in-line comers.

LEMON: And let's stick with that subject. Remember "Star Trek"? Well, an actor boldly goes where he's never gone before, to city hall to get a marriage license. Why is that a big deal? Well, straight ahead in the NEWSROOM, George Takei, better known as "Mr. Sulu" is counting down the hours to legalize same sex marriage in California. He and his long-time partner will join us, live, right here in the CNN NEWSROOM. There they are. Wave, guys.


LEMON: All right, for many gay couples in California, marriage might have seemed like, I had to do this, a final frontier, a distance hope, but today, in just a few hours, the state will start allowing same sex marriages. "Star Trek" actor, George Takei and his partner, Brad Altman, have been waiting two decades for this. George and Brad join us now from Los Angeles.

Hey, guys, thanks for joining us.

GEORGE TAKEI, ACTOR: Live long and prosper.

LEMON: And of course, George is...

BRAD ALTMAN, PARTNER OF TAKEI: We're beaming. LEMON: Yeah, you are. George was "Mr. Sulu" on "Star Trek. " I have to ask you the same question I would ask a straight couple. Are your excited? Are you nervous about getting married?

TAKEI: Absolutely. We're excited, we're nervous, and we're overenjoyed. Yes, we have some difficulties, you know, shoehorning 200 people into the Democracy Forum, but we have a list of 3,500 names, but you're on that list, Don, so rest assured.

ALTMAN: And the other thing I want to say is that even though the marriage is exciting and we're thrilled to be doing it, we've been a well established and committed couple for more than 21 years and so you might say we've had a terribly long engagement and I am so excited to finally get married to George Takei.

TAKEI: And I am just as excited.

LEMON: I'm sure you've been waiting, Brad, to say that line forever. You put that in your arsenal, did you? I have to be serious, though, people knew you for a long time, George, as "Mr. Sulu" on "Star Trek" and when you were playing "Sulu" I'm sure people did not know, for the most part, that you were gay and it's not something you really talked about. And as you said, you guys have been waiting 23 years for this and many people have been waiting a long time. This has repercussion around the country and some people are concerned that people will be running to California to get married, same sex couples -- there you are right there in "Star Trek. " What do you say to those folks?

TAKEI: We welcome them. You know, California is a welcoming place. And we want to be as inclusive as possible. This is equality. And it's equality not only for Californians, but for everybody that wants to choose to be equal. So, our state is wide-open. And bring your golden money here, as well, to the Golden State.

LEMON: Well, we have heard exactly that it's going to add hundreds of millions of dollars into the California economy, but I do have to ask you, there are people who believe, guys, that marriage should be between a man and a woman and they honestly believe that. What do you say to those people? What you're doing is against absolutely everything they believe in?

TAKEI: Well, this is a democracy. You know, we're all entitled to believe in whatever we believe. But it seems to me those people's belief is based on religion and I respect their right to their religion. But they also need to understand that there are many, many religions, here, in this state. You know, we're Buddhists, there are Hindus, there's people that are of the Jewish faith. There are many, many faiths. And although we respect their right to believe what they want to believe, they don't have the right to impose their own beliefs and values in law that applies to everybody. They don't understand democracy then, because our democracy was founded by people who (INAUDIBLE) religious tyranny. And...

LEMON: I've got to ask you, George and Brad, there is still time, I mean, there's legislation, there are people who want to overturn this. There's still time to overturn it and there's a possibility that you may not be able to get a marriage license or once you do it may be overturned.

ALTMAN: I am confident that -- I'm optimistic our marriage will live long and prosper and I feel our marriage will strengthen the institution of marriage not weaken it because George and I represent the stability, the deep love, in sickness and health all the attributes that make marriage a fundamental value in our culture. George and I represent and we love each other and we're thrilled this week in California, for the first time in our lives, we can marry each other legally and it's a great week for California and for the rest of the nation.

LEMON: Brad Altman, that has such a great way of putting it. We will leave it at that. Thank you Brad Altman, George Takei on joining us today in the CNN NEWSROOM, as I said, which very busy time for and I'm sure you've got lots of events planned and lots of news interviews to do.

TAKEI: Great visiting with you.

ALTMAN: Thanks, Don.

NGUYEN: Both of them are just beaming. You can see it there.

LEMON: Look very happy.

NGUYEN: But the folks in Iowa they are not beaming. In fact, entire neighborhoods, blocks of businesses, even a university, under water. The floodwaters in Iowa have spared little as they move towards the mighty Mississippi and the waters are going down ever so slowly in Cedar Rapids and Iowa City revealing a catastrophe. But, Iowans say they will make it through and start anew.


MAYOR REGINA BAILEY, IOWA CITY, IOWA: There's standing water all over. Mercifully, the sun is shining today, so I think that that has an effect on all of our moods, but getting around this city is difficult. People are still out of their homes. As I understand it, the water will begin to recede, but that will happen so slowly that I think it will be at least a week before we're back to the '93 flood stage.


NGUYEN: Well, you can certainly understand how tempers might be flaring right about now in Iowa. But, police in Cedar Rapids say one homeowner took it way too far. CNN's Josh Levs has the pictures.

This is quite a story, Josh, because a lot of homeowners, they just want to get to their homes, but security says, you know what, it's not safe.

JOSH LEVS, CNN. COM DESK: Right, exactly, and so that's what happens. So today, the people at the checkpoints were saying no you cannot get through. Some were able to get through yesterday, some wanted to get through today and that's when you got a problem. We have a photo that's leading our Web site, right here, at and we have a bigger size of it, there you go. You guys can see right there. Now, Betty, I was speaking with the authorities and I'll tell you what they say happened. They say a man came to a checkpoint in Cedar Rapids, today, and wanted to get through was told he could not get through, got back in that red and white truck and rammed it three times into a state trooper. That's what they're telling us.

So they say he was arrested for assault with a deadly weapon. They're also saying that the trooper was of not injured. But obviously we've got some dramatic pictures. We're trying to reach Ricky Blazek, as well. We've done our best, if he's watching right now, do call us or a representative for him. We do want to hear his side of what happened, there.

There's another big moment of drama today that I want to tell you about and that is that we've that now six deaths are linked to the flood. Let's take a look at a map that we've had put together. Shows you where they are in the state of Iowa. I requested this from our great graphics folks because I want everyone to see how widespread the devastation is.

We've been talking with authorities all day. We have some different deaths all over the state. And look at that, I mean, they are spread out literally in all the corners of the state, right now. One involves a National Guard bus, it was a bus that hit a car. It's not clear exactly what happened there, but as we get the details they're going to for you.

Now, as you know, we also are following i-Reports throughout the day. We got the hard news, we also have the people on the grounds who are taking some really powerful photos that show you what it's like on the ground. And we're going to go over to Daniel McCarthy's photos, right now. I find these pretty stunning because if you look at that NAPA sign right there, you can tell that you're only seeing the very top of the building below it. The whole building upward is flooded.

Let's go through more of his photos, here. Some really stunning images. Look at that. I mean, all the front doors of all these buildings in that area in Cedar Rapids are flooded out. But a moment of slight happiness amid the horror. Look at that. Let's just sit on this for a second, because that picture is one of the most amazing pictures of a rainbow I've ever seen in my life. Hopefully someone will see it who's dealing with the horror right now, how five seconds of a smile brightened up their day slightly.

Before I let you go, there's one more thing I do want to toss at you. We've got great i-Reporters sending us those pictures all day. Let's take a very quick look at some "Associated Press" photos that we've just gotten in now, that show us some of the damage and inside people's homes what they are dealing with right there, if we can jump on those pictures. There you go, and that to me -- right outside a home, pretty incredible that flag is getting drenched.

Now we're going to go to just a couple more pictures and we'll tie up with this. Look at that, again, people boating by a bulldozer, they're canoeing next to a bulldozer. And we've go the last one here, inside a home. There you go. A firefighter reaching someone's home before they can. And that brings us full circle. People are trying to go back and see their homes, that's why, apparently, we have the security incident today. So, Betty and Don, we're going to keep on top of all this throughout the day. We'll keep bringing you all of the latest at

NGUYEN: Yeah, a lot of frustration amid the devastation. Josh, thank you.

LEVS: Thank you so much.

LEMON: As you mentioned, the president is going to start touring that area on Thursday. But, right now, President Bush is wrapping up his farewells to your of Europe, meeting with Britain's prime minister, Gordon Brown, and northern Ireland officials, today. Mr. Bush and the prime minister presented a united front as Brown announced that European Union nations are freezing overseas assets of Iran's largest bank. The move is aimed at discouraging Iran from developing nuclear weapons. Brown also says Britain is sending more troops to Afghanistan.


GORDON BROWN, BRITISH PRIME MINISTER: We have resolved, first of all, as we did some years ago, that it is in the British national interest to confront the Taliban in Afghanistan or Afghanistan would come to us, and so today Britain will announce addition a troops for Afghanistan bringing our numbers in Afghanistan to the highest level.


LEMON: The majority of British troops in Afghanistan are in the southern province of Helmand, as stronghold of Taliban insurgents.

Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice is in Lebanon on an unannounced visit. She's there to support U. S. support for the country's western-backed government. It has been meeting with the Hezbollah-led opposition to try to work out a power sharing agreement. Earlier, Rice visited Jerusalem and the West Bank. She's trying to get Israeli and Palestinian leaders to force a peace agreement. But she warns, Israel's plan to build hundreds of new homes in disputed east Jerusalem is not helpful.


CONDOLEEZZA RICE, SECRETARY OF STATE: I do believe, and the United States, believes that the actions and the announcements that are taking place are, indeed, having a negative effect on the atmosphere of negotiation and that is not what we want. We should be in a position of encouraging confidence not undermining it.


LEMON: Palestinian leader, Mahmoud Abbas, calls the planned Israeli settlement the "greatest obstacle to peace. "

NGUYEN: Well, an American paratrooper injured in Iraq shares an intimate look at the long road home. We have his special story, ahead in the CNN NEWSROOM.


NGUYEN: When a hero was needed, he answered the call and went to war in Iraq. Now, recovering from devastated wounds, he struggles on the home front. But he doesn't want your pity, just your understanding. Here's Pentagon correspondent, Barbara Starr.


BARBARA STARR, CNN NEWS CORRESPONDENT (voice over): Last April, Staff Sergeant Robert Henline's Humvee hit a massive roadside bomb, north of Baghdad.

STAFF SGT ROBERT HENLINE, U. S. ARMY: The vehicle flipped upside down about 15, 20 meters from the blast. I was the sole survivor of the five of us in the vehicle.

STARR: Once the picture of health, the 82nd Airborne paratrooper now struggles all the time. His scull was burned down to the bone. His facial injuries require more surgery and now Henline has to make an almost unfathomable decision. Whether to allow doctors to amputate his badly damaged hand.

HENLINE: It's a faster route to get function out of my arm and get healthy and get moving back in life again.

STARR: But Staff Sergeant Henline is courageously acknowledging a deeper fight, his fight to recover from brain injury and post traumatic stress. Some days are so bad it's hard for the whole family.

HENLINE: They like to go places without me. With them there, I'm on the guard even more. When you go to restaurants, you got to sit in an area where you can see the door, you can see everybody else. You don't want nobody behind you. And I'm never happy or comfortable...

STARR: Henline knows exactly how uncomfortable some people are around him. But if you see Sergeant Henline on the street, he says, please stop and say hello.

HENLINE: That, I like. I'd rather have someone come up to me and just ask me what happened. I think a lot of guys feel that instead of just staring.

STARR: Barbara Starr, CNN, Brooke Army Medical Center, San Antonio, Texas.


LEMON: Let's talk now about fleeing the floods. More than a million leave their homes as China's latest natural disaster sweeps over parts of that country.


LEMON: Another natural disaster is happening right now in southern China. It's some of the worst flooding in decades. Rising waters have forced more than one million people from their homes. Nearly 60 people have died. Nine provinces have been hit hard after days of torrential rains and it's not over yet. No major break in the wet weather is expected for at least 10 days.

NGUYEN: Well, monsoon rains in Myanmar are making it hard to help survivors of last month's cyclone. 77,000 people have already died in the secretive southeast Asian country since the storm hit. Another 55,000, well, they're still missing, while as many as 600,000 need new homes. UNICEF says they are pleased to finally have government permission to deliver humanitarian supplies by helicopter, but making those deliveries means battling strong winds and rain.

And you can help at We have a special page on the devastation in China and the aftermath of the cyclone in Myanmar, plus links to aid agencies organizing help for that region. It's a chance for you to impact your world.

LEMON: And we told you about the big news concerning Al Gore and Barack Obama. It's time now to check in with CNN's Wolf Blitzer.

NGUYEN: Yes, he is standing in THE SITUATION ROOM to tell us what's coming up at the top of the hour.

Hi, Wolf.

WOLF BLITZER, THE SITUATION ROOM: Hi guys, thanks very much. Al Gore, as you've been reporting, will make his first major appearance of the presidential election season and he's doing something on his Web site he's never done before. Stand by for details.

John McCain invokes the so-called "bitter" comment and Barack Obama brings up his name more than a dozen times. Why both candidates are going after each other about your safety and your money. That's coming up, as well.

And hundreds of Taliban fighters break out of a prison, now they are taking control of parts of Afghanistan. These are shocking developments, we'll have the details for your. All that coming up, right here in THE SITUATION ROOM. Back to you.

NGUYEN: All right, looking forward to it. Thank you, Wolf.

LEMON: Closing bell. Wrap up all the action on Wall Street, there's the big board, straight ahead.


NGUYEN: Well, the prices, they are going way up. The way of gas price, of course. So, why are some people paying $15 for a cup of coffee? Well, Don says because they're crazy. But, hey, listen to this. The folks in Vancouver, Washington say that it's not your average cup of Joe. Customers are actually gulping Panama Esmeralda, that's what it's called and it's rare brew that's billed as the world's best coffee. These coffee connoisseurs say it is definitely worth it.


GAYLE ROTHROCK, COFFEE LOVER: This one has, a sort of some tropical fruit things coming through, there are notes of pineapple and a little bit of mango.

MELISSA LAYMAN, COFFEE SHOP OWNER: You spend, you know, a lot of money on a four ounce glass of wine and you're getting an eight ounce cup of coffee, so -- and you can drive legally.


NGUYEN: That stuff better be really, really good, because a half pound will set you back a hundred bucks. Would you buy it, Don? You're shaking your head. There's no way.

If I could fill my gas tank with it, I might give it a shot.

LEMON: I mean, some people can't afford gas, and can't afford to keep their house, and you're paying $15 for a cup of coffee. Sorry coffee people, but, uh-uh.

NGUYEN: The "Closing Bell" is about to ring on Wall Street, speaking of money.

LEMON: Yeah, Stephanie Elam standing by with a final look at the trading day.

Stephanie, I know what you would say.

STEPHANIE ELAM, CNN NEWS CORRESPONDENT: Yeah. No, I don't drink coffee, anyway.

LEMON: The answer is, ah, no.

NGUYEN: I don't either.

ELAM: No, I don't get it. It's not my thing. I'd rather eat. I'm into eating, clearly. Food is better than coffee.

LEMON: You go, girl.

ELAM: Yeah, well, just kind of keep it real, you know. I look like I eat, I think, compared to everybody else. Let's talk a little bit about the markets, here. I can tell you, we had a mixed day all session, oil part of the issue. But actually, oil losing a quarter for the day. So, that helps make the markets mix. The Dow, losing 42 point, 12,265. NASDAQ on the upside by 18 at 2473. Don and Betty, have a good one.

NGUYEN: All right, Stephanie, thank you. So let's go to THE SITUATION ROOM>

LEMON: And Mr. Wolf Blitzer. Take it away, Wolf.