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Can Obama Flip Any Red States?; Iraqis Demand Timetable for Withdrawal; Former Hostages Speak Out; The Smoky Weather in California is Putting a Damper on Moods; Are Parents of Tweens in the Dark About Their Children's Relationships?

Aired July 8, 2008 - 13:00   ET


KYRA PHILLIPS, CNN ANCHOR: John McCain, Barack Obama, both saying yes, we can. Both seeking the lion's share of the Latino votes.
DON LEMON, CNN ANCHOR: Plus more turbulence for the nation's airlines. The cost of fuel that's costing jobs.

PHILLIPS: And dating at age 11? If you're the parent of a pre- teen, a new study will make your head spin.

Everyone, I'm Kyra Phillips, live in New York.

LEMON: And I'm Don Lemon, live here at the CNN world headquarters in Atlanta. You are in the CNN NEWSROOM.

PHILLIPS: John McCain and Barack Obama go toe-to-toe over the top issue in the race for the White House. The economy front and center again today for both men. Obama spoke at a town hall this morning in suburban Atlanta. And just a short time ago McCain addressed a Latino group in Washington.

Well, Latinos are the nation's biggest minority group, and their votes could be critical in the battle for the Oval Office. McCain addressed the League of the United Latin American citizens, one of the nation's biggest Hispanic organizations. And in his speech, seen live here on CNN, the Republican candidate talked about creating jobs by using an American resource: coal.


SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R-AZ), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Clean coal technology will create jobs in some of America's most economically disadvantaged areas. Our coal reserves are larger than Saudi Arabia's supply of oil. Clean coal demonstration projects alone will employ over 30,000 Americans. My proposal...


PHILLIPS: Now, Obama will speak to a group a little bit later today. We'll follow that and bring it to you live.

And at his town hall this morning in Powder Springs, Georgia, Obama talked about pocketbook issues. Among other things, he vowed to reform bankruptcy laws to help financially-strapped military families and homeowners.

Then, a shift to the Iraq war and some tough words from the Democratic candidate as he compared his plans for Iraq as to those of John McCain.


SEN. BARACK OBAMA (D-IL), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: When I hear John McCain saying we can't surrender, we can't wave the white flag. Nobody's talking about surrender; we're talking about common sense. We cannot be there forever. We can't be there for 50 years. We can't afford it. Our military families can't bear that burden. We've got to get more troops in Afghanistan.

I am going to bring this to an end. So don't be confused. I will bring the Iraq war to a close when I'm president of the United States of America.


PHILLIPS: Well, Georgia is one of those red states Obama hopes to turn blue come November. Four years ago Georgia was part of the Republican tie that helped President Bush beat back a strong challenge from Democrat John Kerry. But take a look at our CNN electoral map right now.

The gold states are toss-ups, with the pink leaning Republican and the light blue leaning Democrats. Obama has made strong inroads in Georgia and several other red states, as well, and he's hoping to flip them this time around.

Our senior political analyst, Mr. Bill Schneider, joins us now. He's in Washington.

Well, does Obama really stand a chance in traditionally Republican states like Georgia? He seems to be spending time and more money than McCain here.

BILL SCHNEIDER, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Money he's got, and money he is certainly spending. Take a look at the spending that both campaigns have done so far from April to June.

In Georgia -- this is just in Georgia -- Obama has spent over $200,000 in ad spending. McCain, not one cent so far in Georgia. Maybe he's assuming the state is locked up. I don't think so.

I think what Obama knows is that a bad economy under a Republican president creates opportunities for Democrats everywhere. We checked with the Obama campaign and found that just since June 8, since the primaries ended, he's traveled to an awful lot of red states. Some of them are Bush states that are now battlegrounds by common consensus: Virginia, Missouri, Florida, Colorado.

But some of them, like Georgia, Montana, North Dakota, and North Carolina, are not supposed to be battleground states. They're supposed to be pretty deep red states. Yet, there's Obama in Georgia and spending money there.

LEMON: yes. And you said, Bill, Georgia -- I've heard you say this before -- Georgia is unique in this presidential election. Why do you say that?

SCHNEIDER: Well, a couple of things happening in Georgia. One, of course, it's a state with a lot of African-American voters. They're registering in large numbers. They could come out in huge numbers to vote for Obama. And that could make the state -- help make the state more competitive.

Also, Bob Barr, he's a third- or, if you want, fourth-party candidate, if you count Ralph Nader as the third party. Bob Barr is from Georgia.

LEMON: Right.

SCHNEIDER: And if he gets votes anywhere, he's like to get them from Georgia. And most of his votes are likely to come at the expense of John McCain.

So if you've got Barr taking votes from the Republicans and you've got a heavy African-American votes for the Democrats, Georgia could be in play.

LEMON: OK. We've talked about the Democrats. What about John McCain now? What's his strategy against Obama's red-state push?

SCHNEIDER: He goes to the red states and he says two things: one, "I'm a conservative." Two, "I'm not Bush." There are a lot of conservatives who aren't happy with Bush.

And one of the ways he's been saying that is on the issue of spending. He's making a big promise to cut spending, to balance the budget. That's one thing that a lot of Republicans and conservatives are very angry about. They see Bush as having fallen under the sway of big-government conservatives. That sounds like a contradiction in terms, and they don't like it.

So McCain is saying, "I am a conservative, but very different from President Bush."

LEMON: All right. Our senior political analyst, Mr. Bill Schneider. Much appreciated, sir.


LEMON: And much more to come in our political ticker. CNN put John McCain on the spot. He says he never -- never pushed through a congressional earmark for his state. We'll put that to the test.

PHILLIPS: Now, to issue No. 1, the nation's economy and your money. Hundreds more airline jobs are scheduled to depart as the industry struggles with fuel costs.

The latest cutbacks announced by United, Frontier, and AirTran. Both United and Frontier's moves will affect Denver-based employees. And UAL is laying off 50 customer service reps and 100 ramp workers starting this week. Frontier's 456 layoffs will start September 1, Labor Day. One hundred and fifty-five pilots are losing their jobs.

And at AirTran, nearly 500 employees are going: 180 pilots and 300 flight attendants.

Now a little later, some airline news that's a little lighter. Southwest generally gets sky-high ratings, but its latest distinction, definitely not its greatest.

Back to business now.

Gas prices are not down, but they aren't up either. AAA says the national average for a gallon of regular is $4.11, same as yesterday, way different from a year ago. Do you believe that we were paying just $2.96 last July?

All right. Let's check and see how the markets are doing right now. Dow Industrials, it looks like they are up 59 points. Better time now -- better numbers this time today than yesterday.

Now get your energy fix ahead in the NEWSROOM. Next hour, we're going to take a look at an oil man's plan to win us off of the crude stuff. Plus, one town in Canada that would hate to see it happen. Our own Ali Velshi will tell us why.

Now, the economy, "ISSUE #1." We're going to bring you the latest financial news. We do it every day at noon Eastern. It's info you need on the mortgage meltdown, the credit crunch, and so much more concerning your finances. "ISSUE #1," 1 Eastern [SIC], Monday through Friday.

LEMON: All right. Let's talk some weather now. It is a big factor on both coasts today. Hurricane Bertha is still moving towards a possible brush with Bermuda, but it's lost some steam. That's good news. Chad Myers is tracking it, as well.

The excessive heat out west, that's going to make for some miserable fire-fighting conditions in California, where more than 300 fires are still out of control. We'll check in with Chad Myers in just a little bit.

The hot, dry winds already are spreading the flames and forcing more evacuations. Nearly 10,000 acres have burned outside one city in Concow, about 90 miles north of Sacramento. At least 300 families have fled as fire -- as fire crews try to save about 2,000 homes there.

Some people living in the Big Sur area will get to go home today. Mandatory evacuations for some, some of that area, were lifted, but fire officials stress, this doesn't mean the fire is under control. One hundred and twenty-five square miles have burned there. That's about the size of Philadelphia or Atlanta.

South, in Santa Barbara County, other firefighters are making progress. The so-called Gap fire near the city of Goleta is now 50 percent contained. "Hot shot" crews from Arizona and New Mexico are lending a hand there, and more evacuees are getting to go home.

Let's go to our Chad Myers now. I mentioned we were going to check in with him about maybe some possible relief for these people, and it doesn't look like it's in the forecast, Chad.

CHAD MYERS, CNN METEOROLOGIST: At least not today, no. It's a red flag warning. Very hot, very humid.

But some really amazing new video. You kind of saw a glimpse of it a little bit.


MYERS: But KOVR, they went out with a fire official, and they literally drove through the fire to see what it looked like. And the pictures are stunning, Don. They really are. As they were driving through fire on both sides of the roadway, you couldn't see anything except fire the entire time. It is just hot out west, temperatures over 110 degrees for Sacramento today. We have a new fire. It's a Butte County fire. It's Northern California.

We're not talking about Big Sur. We're not talking about the Goleta fire. We're talking about an area up here farther to the north, Northern California, even farther north than the Bay Area here. And that's where all of this fire activity has started for today and probably will continue.

Las Vegas today, 111; Phoenix, 112. Look at Sacramento for the next three days. Just amazing numbers here. Numbers you can't -- you really don't want to see anywhere when you're talking about trying to put a fire out. Not that hot makes more fire. It can if it's dry. But hot just makes it very intense for the firefighters to try to work this fire.

And when have you heard of a hurricane that's making everybody happy? Well, that is Bertha. Bertha's not going to hit anything, making some waves. I talked to the Ron John Surf Shop down in Coco Beach, and the surfers are just waiting for the waves. Right now they're only one to two feet. I just checked there, their tower camera, surf cam there, on the pier, but the waves are coming Thursday night into Friday. And I'm telling you what. There's going to be some good waves all along the East Coast. And a couple of surf competitions going on here, even up into Topsail Beach. Going to be some good surfing going on this weekend.

And that's what a good hurricane will do for you. That video will be coming up next hour, Don.

LEMON: All right. It's good. It's just a good surf. What do you call it, a fish hurricane? Not even a fish hurricane?

MYERS: No. There's not even fish out that far. Plankton.

LEMON: All right. We'll check back. We appreciate it, Chad Myers.

MYERS: All right.

LEMON: Thank you very much.

You heard Chad talk about the fires there, all that smoke from all those fires, nearly 1,800 in two weeks, taking a toll on more than firefighters and evacuees. We're going to talk about that a little bit later on in the NEWSROOM -- Kyra.

PHILLIPS: Well, new findings today in a horrific and deadly bus crash last year in Atlanta. This is the aftermath right here. Five baseball players, you may remember, from Ohio's Bluffton University were killed, along with the driver and his wife.

Now the National Transportation Safety Board blames confusing highway signs, poor safety features in the bus, and driver error. Those are especially tragic findings for the victims' families.


JOHN BETTS, FATHER OF CRASH VICTIM: These lives that were lost absolutely was preventable. That's the most frustrating piece for any of the family members, is that this was preventable. Not the accident; accidents will occur. HOV lanes can be corrected. My son cannot be brought back.


PHILLIPS: Well, investigators showed this animation they believe recreates the accident. They say the driver crashed into a barrier on an elevated exit ramp, apparently thinking that he was getting into an HOV lane. The bus then plunged into the highway below.

LEMON: A battle is brewing between the U.S. and Iraq. We'll go live to Baghdad to find out what Iraqi leaders are demanding before they sign onto any security deal.

PHILLIPS: A Colorado teen has quite a survival story to talk about. We're going to tell you how he ended up with a metal spike in his head.

LEMON: I'm going to ask a very personal question: is your young teenager having sex? That's a question that many parents might want to ask after they hear about a new survey. We'll tell you about what it is.

You're watching CNN, the most trusted name in news.


LEMON: You're in the NEWSROOM. I'm Don Lemon.

Want to be a dad? Well, don't wait too long. Fellows, the biological clock also ticks for you.


LEMON: Earthquakes are rocking opposite ends of the globe. A strong quake with a magnitude of six hit off the coast of Japan's southern island of Okinawa. It happened more than 1,000 miles from where the G8 summit is taking place. No reports of any injuries or damage.

Today's other quake, also with a magnitude of 6, struck southern Peru. The wall of a building collapsed and rocks fell onto some roads, obstructing traffic. But no reports of any injuries there, as well.

PHILLIPS: A troop convoy hit a roadside bomb near Baghdad today, killing one U.S. soldier and wounding five others. The soldier is the first American to die in combat this month.

The military also says that a roadside bomb killed four contractors and injured eight others near the northern city of Mosul. Didn't say whether the contractors were foreigners or Iraqi.

Well, the battle between the Bush administration and the Iraqi government over the future of U.S. troops is heating up once again. Iraqis insisting on a timetable for withdrawal before it accepts any security deal with the U.S. So far President Bush is balking on that idea.

CNN's Frederik Pleitgen joins us now from Baghdad with the latest.

Hey, Fred.


Well, basically, what all the people here in Baghdad are asking is, is the Iraqi government really serious about being adamant about a time line for U.S. forces to get out of this country? And if so, how soon would that be?

It's no secret that, so far, the negotiations between the Iraqi government and Washington over an agreement that would keep U.S. forces here beyond the end of this year are not going good at all. The Iraqi prime minister, Nuri al-Maliki, is under a lot of pressure within his own government, especially within the Shiite factions in the Iraqi parliament, to get tough on the U.S. government about this.

There's still a lot of issues, a lot of very fundamental issues that these two sides are very much at odds at. Can America, or should American forces be able to conduct operations here in Iraq without telling the Iraqi government? And also, should they be able to detain Iraqi citizens? On both of those issues, there's a very clear "no" from the Iraqi prime minister's office.

So right now this is a very delicate situation, and the negotiations are not going very good. And certainly, these statements by the Iraqi government probably won't make the situation a hell of a lot easier, Kyra.

PHILLIPS: Fred, you and I have been in Iraq at the same time, and we've talk about this issue of a timetable. And you and I both have been able to talk to Iraqi civilians, Iraqi politicians. I even had a chance to spend time with Iraqi soldiers, all of them saying, look, if the U.S. leaves, we are in big trouble. There's corruption in the police force. There's issues with the military. They simply are not ready to secure that country.

So are Iraqis to this day still telling you, Fred, "You know what? We don't even want to talk about a timetable. We still need the U.S. presence"?

PLEITGEN: Absolutely. That's what a lot of them are saying. That's even in light of the fact that the security situation here on the ground no doubt has gotten a lot better than it was a year ago when the two of us were here. You're seeing less attacks on the ground. You're seeing less attacks on U.S. forces, less attacks on the Iraqi police, and also on Iraqi civilians.

But nevertheless, what the Iraqis here are saying, and even what a lot of people in the Iraqi security forces are saying, is that this is a still an unacceptable level of violence that's going on in this country. And even though the Iraqi security forces have made a lot of gains towards the security, they're not really fit to keep the peace in this country long-term, if the United States army is not in this country at least for a certain period of time, Kyra.

PHILLIPS: All right, Fred Pleitgen there, live from Baghdad. Appreciate that so much.

And as Fred was just giving us a brief there from on the ground in Baghdad, we're getting this statement directly from the State Department. Actually, the spokesperson there, Gonzalo Gallegos, saying that "The U.S. government and the government of Iraq are in agreement that we, the U.S. government, we want to withdraw. We will withdraw. However, that decision will be conditions-based.

"Ambassador Crocker has said before, we are looking at conditions, not calendars here. We are making progress and are committed to departing as evidenced by the fact that we have transferred over half of the country's provinces to provincial Iraqi control. And we are planning on bringing the fifth and final surge brigade at the end of the month, if things go according to plan."

So, actually, nothing new there. That was the plan, to bring back that final brigade at the end of this month. The fourth brigade was brought back about six weeks ago.

Also, once again, Crocker, also General David Petraeus, the head of the troops there in the region, they have both talked about conditions, not calendars. And of course, that is so hard to judge where the war is going right now when it remains so controversial -- controversial, rather, and unpopular among the American people.

So we will follow this and any developments. But at this point, no further commitment to a timetable. Something that we've seen year in and year out for about the past five years -- Don.

LEMON: All right, Kyra.

Happy to be home. The three Americans, the hostages rescued last week, are speaking out for the first time. And they have some tough words for their former captors.

And one month to go until the Beijing Summer Olympic Games. Here's a question: will China be ready? A report from Beijing coming up.


LEMON: Well, those Americans held hostage in Colombia are now talking about their five-year ordeal. And they've got a message for their former captors.

CNN's Ed Lavandera has the story.


ED LAVANDERA, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Thomas Howes, Marc Gonsalves and Keith Stansell, forever bonded by their hostage ordeal, and their first words gave you the sense of the despair they endured.

THOMAS HOWES, FORMER HOSTAGE: Almost 5 1/2 years ago we fell off the edge of the earth. My companions helped me cope with difficult conditions.

MARC GONSALVES, FORMER HOSTAGE: There was a time that, when I slept, I would dream that I was free. That time was only a few days ago. I feel so good to be free here now with all of you.

KEITH STANSELL, FORMER HOSTAGE: To my country -- [TAPPING AMERICAN FLAG BACKDROP] this doesn't run -- who never forgot me, never, it is my privilege to stand here before you with my family. They are these people here, the reason that I'm alive.

LAVANDERA: With their families standing next to them, the former hostages made brief statements, answered no questions, and thanked the Colombian soldiers who orchestrated their rescue. And asked people to remember that there are others, just like them.

HOWES: We're doing well, but we cannot forget those who we left behind in captivity.

GONSALVES: Right now, right now, they're wearing chains around their necks. They're going to get up early tomorrow morning. They're going to put a heavy backpack on their backs, and they're going to be forced to march with that chain on their neck while a guerrilla with an automatic weapon is holding the other end of his chain like a dog.

LAVANDERA: Marc Gonsalves spoke the longest and issued a blistering critique of the Colombian rebels who held them captive.

GONSALVES: I want to send a message to the FARC. FARC, you guys are terrorists. You deny that you are. You say with words that you're not terrorists, but your words don't have any value. Don't tell us that you're not terrorists; show us that you're not terrorists. Let those other hostages come home.

LAVANDERA: Gonsalves says he's grateful that he no longer has to dream of coming home. But that reminded Keith Stansell, who wants to go home to Florida, of one problem of being free.

STANSELL: And to Governor Crist of the great state of Florida, sir, I don't have a driver's license. How am I going to get home?

LAVANDERA (on camera): There's no word yet on when these three men will leave the Brook Army Medical Center in San Antonio. Their doctors continue to say that they have not found any significant medical problems and that they appear to still be in very good health.

Ed Lavandera, CNN, Dallas.


PHILLIPS: Well, Wall Street is once again plagued by credit concerns, even though the chairman of the Federal Reserve is trying to ease some of those worries.

Susan Lisovicz in the New York Stock Exchange with the details and, of course, an update on the wild day for oil prices.

But let's talk about these credit concerns. Easing them?

SUSAN LISOVICZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, you know, there's a lot of nervousness right now, Kyra. We're about a week away from when we start hearing from big banks, and the concern is that you'll see billions and billions more write-down. So today the Central Bank may help out troubled Wall Street firms once again.

Ben Bernanke said this morning the Central Bank is considering giving Wall Street firms more time to draw emergency loans directly from the Fed. Remember, the Fed became a lender of last resort in March when it kept Bear Stearns from collapsing. Usually, the Fed only lends directly to commercial banks.

That and a sharp drop in oil prices is giving the markets a lift at this moment. Oil is down nearly $5. As the dollar strengthens, that adds to yesterday's $4 drop in crude. And what you're seeing is a modest rally.

Right now the Dow Industrials are up 30 points or about a quarter of a percent. The NASDAQ, meanwhile, is up 10 points or half a percent -- Kyra.

PHILLIPS: All right. But we get two days of a pullback in oil. Right? So crude prices are still way too high.

LISOVICZ: There's no question about it. I mean, you know, traders are saying, "Tell me when oil is down $50, and then you'll start to see some changes in the economy." But even legendary oil man T. Boone Pickens is talking about oil, how expensive it is. And today, he laid out the Pickens Plan. The goal is to reduce our dependence on foreign oil. He says the U.S. is now importing 70 percent of its oil, compared to 40 percent in 1990, and that is leading to one huge energy bill.


T. BOONE PICKENS, FOUNDER, BP CAPITAL: We are exporting dollars, 700 billion a year for the purchase of foreign oil. That's what I'm after. I've got to reduce that or we're going to break the country.


LISOVICZ: To reduce oil demand, Pickens says we need to invest in wind energy and switch from oil to natural gas to power our cars. Pickens himself is already building one massive wind farm in Texas. All told, he says his plan will cut oil demand by one-third over the next two years and probably make a bundle of dough, in the meantime.

Coming up in the next hour, more tough news for American workers. Thousands of job cuts announced today. Kyra, I'll have that story in the next hour.

PHILLIPS: I'm just thinking about T. Boone Pickens. We've all had the chance to interview him, and he is quite a character.

LISOVICZ: He is quite a character. And, you know -- you know, it is really, you know, an incredible number when you think that 70 percent of our oil is now imported. And so he's going to capitalize on it.

PHILLIPS: Yes. Well, today he talked to our Ali Velshi. We're going to hear some of that, probably in about half an hour or so.


PHILLIPS: Thanks, Susan.

LISOVICZ: You're welcome.

LEMON: I just like saying T. Boone Pickens. What a great name.

All the flames, Kyra, all the smoke, they're blocking out the sun in California. And that has a lot of folks there feeling blue.

And also who's a friend? Who's the enemy? American troops can never be sure when it comes to fighting a resurgent Taliban in Afghanistan. We'll tell you about the Taliban's lethal tactics straight ahead in the CNN NEWSROOM.


PHILLIPS: A man accused of shoplifting tangles with security while hanging on to his kid. And it's caught on tape. You'll want to see how this one turns out. Ahead in the CNN NEWSROOM. Hello, everyone, I'm Kyra Phillips live in New York.

LEMON: And I'm Don Lemon live here in the CNN world headquarters in Atlanta. You are in the CNN NEWSROOM.

And it's time to tell you about a couple of stories we're working on for you today, right here in the CNN NEWSROOM.

It is the last thing California needs, more flames. A new fire in northern California is threatening about 2,000 homes and thousands more evacuations.

Now, the high cost of fuel costing hundreds more airline jobs. United, Frontier and Airtran are all announcing new layoffs. Customer service reps, ramp workers, flight attendants, and pilots all affected by this.

Barack Obama and John McCain, both courting the largest minority group today. Obama speaks at the Washington Convention, one of the biggest Latino organizations just a few hours from now. And McCain spoke to the group earlier today -- Kyra.

PHILLIPS: Well, topping our political ticker. It's been a repeated claim of John McCain's campaign, that in his whole political career, he's never pushed through a single congressional earmark for a state.

Well, CNN's John Roberts did some digging and puts the presumed GOP presidential nominee on the spot.


JOHN ROBERTS, CNN ANCHOR: Senator, on this issue of earmarks that you talk about frequently. You reiterated yesterday, that you have never taken an earmark.


ROBERTS: I wonder if -- could you clarify something. Back in 1992, you were trying to get $5 million for a waste water treatment plant in Nogales. And you tried to get it through Congress. They wouldn't put it through Congress. So you sent a letter to then President George H.W. Bush, where you said quote, "I would like to request that EPA either reprogram $5 million out of existing funds or earmark the amount from an appropriate account to meet the waste water treatment needs at the Nogales Plant.

Was that an earmark?

MCCAIN: Of course not. It was a request to have it put it in the president's budget. And that's a very legitimate question so that the administration will ask for it. The definition of an earmark is a program that's put in and money for it. Money put in an unauthorized fashion in the middle of the night. So no, it's not that and it's not the same.


PHILLIPS: Well, McCain says his Democratic rival has a much different record. He accuses Senator Barack Obama of seeking quote, "millions upon millions of dollars in earmarks." Meantime, Obama laid out part of his economic plan in a rally outside of Atlanta, today. He proposed overhauling bankruptcy laws and accused McCain of neglecting American families.


SEN. BARACK OBAMA (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: While John McCain is an honorable man and I respect and admire his service to our country. The fact is, when it comes to strengthening the safety net for hardworking families, John McCain's been part of the problem, not part of the solution. Like George Bush, Senator McCain does not believe the government has a real role to play in protecting Americans from unscrupulous lending practices.


PHILLIPS: Now you can check out our political ticker for all the latest campaign news. Just log on to, your source for all things political.

LEMON: Two nations, two causes for concern. Iran and Zimbabwe are topping the agenda at the Group of 8 Summit in Japan. The leaders of the G8 nations expressed quote, "grave concern about alleged election-related violence and fraud in Zimbabwe." They're also expressing quote, "serious concern over Iran's disputed nuclear program." Plus, they want to establish a global goal, cutting greenhouse gas emissions in half by 2050.

PHILLIPS: U.S. and NATO troops in Afghanistan are getting more air power support. The U.S. aircraft carrier Abraham Lincoln, has moved from the Persian Gulf into the Gulf of Oman. Its planes can now fly missions over Afghanistan where Taliban attacks have been on the rise. That move also reflects how fast the violence is going down in Iraq.

Well, the Taliban rooted by American troops in Afghanistan seven years ago. Now they're back using tactics borrowed from insurgents in Iraq and U.S. forces.

Our senior international correspondent, Nic Robertson, reports.


MARINE LT. BRIAN CAGE, U.S. MARINES: Go ahead. And take us in so you can show us the damages and we'll fill this slip out for him.

NIC ROBERTSON, CNN SR. INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Marine Lieutenant Brian Cage spends a lot of time talking to Afghan. A big change from when he first arrived two months ago.

CAGE: I'm fighting every day. In fire fights every day. ROBERTSON: In Afghanistan's southern Hellman Province, Cage's experiences mirror those of coalition troops in other parts of the country. Move in, fight the Taliban, win local support.

CAGE: One of the big projects we're trying to work on here in the upcoming week, is that we're going to try and get the school back open.

ROBERTSON: But in the battle for popularity, Cage is not alone. The Taliban also compete with their own IO, Information Operations Campaign.

CAGE: The ones that weren't killed went to Pakistan. There's been some reports of them kind of starting to trickle back in and trying to do their own kind of IO thing, asking how people are and how their families are.

ROBERTSON: For Cage and his commanders, the Taliban tactic of taking sanctuary in Pakistan's lawless border region and returning when fighting is over, is a growing frustration. Another frustration, the Taliban's ability to hide in the local population. On this coalition video release, two Taliban suspects dress in female burrkas (ph), walk with women and children. So, while troops battle for hearts and is minds, Taliban fighters are still there.

CAGE: They're observing us. They are amongst the populous still. But they're not as -- they're not active right now. We've been looking for weak spots, opportunities. Lay IED's. Conduct possible ambushes in the area.

ROBERTSON: Recently, those opportunities have been coming with lethal regularity. 46 coalition troops killed here in June, more than during any other month since the U.S.-led invasion began in 2001. According to commanders, it's coalition not Taliban tactics that's causing the surge in deaths.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We are doing operations in areas that we never used to be before. In other words, we're bringing the fight to the enemy.

ROBERTSON: But taking the fight to the Taliban isn't just increasing coalition casualties. It's boosting Taliban recruiting. Because the coalition troops are outsiders. And for some, that makes them the enemy.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There's no typical Taliban. We group them in many tiers. There are some which are ideology-based, some are just local tribal-based and everybody who is a foreigner, is an enemy.

ROBERTSON: Which makes Lieutenant Cage's hearts and minds patrol so critical. Changing perception, foreigners need not be the enemy.

(on camera): As tough as it was for the Marines to drive the Taliban out of this area, experiences of other troops in Afghanistan who've shown that this may be the hardest battle to win. Keeping the local support and keeping the Taliban out. Nic Robertson, CNN, (INAUDIBLE), Afghanistan.


COLLINS: Dating, sex abuse, and they're only 11? Think you know what your pre-teen is up to these days? A new survey says, what you don't know, just might shock you.

PHILLIPS: Fertility and the fellas. Find out what scientists are saying about the male biological clock. That tick-tock sound isn't just for women, boys.


PHILLIPS: Well, he had a nasty headache. And after a couple of trips to the hospital, he found out why.

CHRIS CLEAR, HAD METAL PIN IN BRAIN: The blunt part of the pin actually hit me first. And it hit me right next to the nose and came back and traveled all the way to the back of my head. And it ended up back here. It stopped by hitting the back of my skull.

PHILLIPS: We're going to tell you what caused the accident ahead in the CNN NEWSROOM.

LEMON: Well, the hits keep coming for folks out west. Combine smog, choking smoke and climbing temperatures. And it is a triple whammy for folks in California.

Reporter Debra Hoffman, with Sacramento affiliate KXTV, looks at the toll it's all taking.


DEBRA HOFFMAN, KXTV REPORTER (voice-over): Folks are usually fighting over outdoor seating at Newcastle Produce and Deli.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We normally have lots of people sitting outside enjoying the weather in the summer. But, not this year. Not this week, at least. Or the last two weeks.

HOFFMAN: Day after day of choking smoke is not just clouding people's air ways, but their mental outlook.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I think it makes people depressed. It does me.

HOFFMAN: In fact, many people say the brown air has them feeling blue.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It's heavy on everybody. You just kind of, you wake up and you don't see blue sky. And you're not as happy that it's summer time. You're feeling like it's 100 degrees out and smoky. It's double whammy.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Well, someone who doesn't have breathing problems or allergy problems, you still have -- it gets in your eyes. It's the first thing you smell when you wake up in the morning. You know it's -- you try to cool off the house at night and you can't because the smoke just keeps coming.

HOFFMAN: The experts say the smoky skies can put some people in a funk and make a lot of us more irritable.

DEBRA MOORE, PSYCHOLOGIST: We've got the perfect storm. We've got the weather. So yes, just like the fog in the winter, we kind of look at it and go, yuck, it's not what I'd like. It's not very pretty, it's not very energizing. But then, we've also got -- most of us, even a little level of we don't physically quite feel as energetic.

HOFFMAN: Dr. Debra Moore says, we have to fight the urge to let the conditions control our emotions.

MOORE: It's minor. We have to be careful that we don't just automatically start getting irritable. It's not a big deal unless we let it become a big deal.

HOFFMAN: The best thing to do is to realize the smoky skies will clear and in the meantime, make due.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I just look for other things to do that are more indoors.


LEMON: Debra Hoffman, from KXTV, for us.

The expert's advice: Realize you can't clear the air overnight, so focus on things you can change and wait for the skies to clear.

PHILLIPS: Tweens. They're kids hovering around the ages of 11 and 14. And may be on the brink of danger. And if you're a parent of a tween, listen to this. A new survey says that you might be in the dark about what your kids are up to. It says that dating relationships now begin as early as age 11. That's right, 11. The survey is from the group, Teenage Research Unlimited and the National Teen Dating Abuse Helpline.

It also says that sex is now considered part of a normal relationship for many 11 to 14-year-olds. Also, a growing number of tweens in these relationships are reporting significant levels of abuse. Experts say parents need to get involved and get involved right now.


LOGAN LEVKOFF, SEXUALITY EDUCATOR: Parents need to say, you know what? This is why I don't want you dating. They have to have an ongoing dialogue with their kids about what dating entails. The fact is, it's a very ambiguous term. Kids don't know what it means. But it's often glamorized everywhere they go. And the technology doesn't help because they're connected with people all the time and they feel like just because they can, means they should.


PHILLIPS: Well, experts are calling for dating and violence education in schools across the U.S.

And a troubling medical trend for pint-sized athletes. Doctors say that adult injuries like stress fractures, torn ligaments, blown- out knees and elbows, are becoming all too common with kids. More than 3 1/2 million children under 14 get treated for sports-related injuries every year. Health experts worry about the long-term consequences for little joints which could include early arthritis. Now, doctors say that certain types of sports injuries can cause permanent damage, even affect a child's growth.

LEMON: Men can have children at any age. We hear it all the time. But think again. Men apparently have a biological clock too and it ticks. Several studies have shown that the DNA damage in sperm increases dramatically after a man turns 35. Now there's growing evidence that raises questions about whether older men are fathering children with abnormalities. And a new French study of 12,000 couples found that miscarriage rates increase for fathers in their mid-30s. Researchers say the message for men is simple. Don't assume you can father a healthy child wherever you want.

PHILLIPS: Hundreds more layoffs and scorers of fewer flights, the airlines are hurting and you're feeling the pinch. What else should travelers expect? An industry expert ahead in the CNN NEWSROOM.


LEMON: Well, we've been hearing about all of these new names being made up during this election season. One is "Obamaicans." We heard that word a lot during the primary season. Now we're hearing about "Obamaicons." Like neocons, you know what I'm talking about? Who are they?

Well, joining me from Washington, Carolyn Lochhead, The "San Francisco Chronicle's" Washington correspondent. Thank you of course for joining us.

All right, really. What is an Obamaicon? Is this really true? Or is this media-driven? Is this true of what's actually happening on the ground?

CAROLYN LOCHHEAD, "SAN FRANCISCO CHRONICLE": No, if anything, I think the media's overlooked it. There's a great deal of discontent in the Republican party and among the intellectual, the conservative intellectual elite that has powered the Republican Party since Ronald Reagan.

LEMON: How much of an affect, though? And you say the intellectual conservative elite. I mean, is that enough to make a real shift?

LOCHHEAD: Well, it's enough...

LEMON: And who are these people?

LOCHHEAD: It might not yet turn up in the voting booth. But, what it does is it reflects a lot of conservative discontent with the Republican Party, with the Bush administration and with John McCain.

LEMON: OK. Now, are we talking names? Are we not talking you know, like Rush Limbaugh or...


LEMON: What names -- are we talking big conservative Republican names?

LOCHHEAD: Not yet, but they're out there. There are more the -- more obscure people. But, people like Milton Friedman's son David, who is endorsing Obama.


LOCHHEAD: Former economist for the Chamber of Commerce, Larry Hunter, endorsing Obama.

LEMON: OK. We talked earlier with our political analyst, Bill Schneider, who talked about red states turning blue. One of them is Georgia. And just in the crowd, just today in Georgia, a woman spoke out and I guess you could consider her -- a man, I should say. Consider him an Obamaican. This is just a short time ago.

Take a listen. I want to talk to you about it.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Senator, I'm a reformed Republican.

SEN. BARACK OBAMA (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: All right, go ahead. You've got to biggest cheer of the day.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'll take a cabinet post.

OBAMA: There you go.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I worked for Bobby Kennedy forty years ago, sir. And what you have done this year has restored that faith.


LEMON: It's a lot of things that we're hearing even in our own personal lives about people who may be -- you know, who are really just struck by Obama, Republican or Democrat.

You saw the response there. You were smiling, I saw you, during that. Why so? I guess you know, this is one person.

LOCHHEAD: Right, but Obama is reaching out and sometimes in very subtle ways using the language of free markets or various ways reaches out to conservatives in a -- with a very subtle message.


LOCHHEAD: And two things have upset a lot of conservatives.

LEMON: Yes, people are saying he's moving to the middle now.

LOCHHEAD: Well, and also there are very -- more conservatives and Republicans are upset about the Iraq war than is generally acknowledged. And also, the Bush administration spent $1 trillion over the last eight years.

LEMON: OK, all right. Carolyn Lochhead, we appreciate it. Obamacons, obamacons. Remember that. We'll see if it makes a difference come election day. We appreciate it, thank you very much.

LOCHHEAD: You're welcome.

LEMON: Make sure you check out our political ticker for all the latest campaign news. Just log on to, your source, of course, for all things politics -- Kyra.

PHILLIPS: Well, 100 percent and not on time record. Which flight is the tarmac's tardiest? Just like the airline, we're going to make you wait.


PHILLIPS: Well, petty crime is not something we often report on, especially not shoplifting. But the surveillance video of a suspected shoplifter confronted by Wal-Mart security in Bazetta, Ohio, would make any parent wince. The man keeps his hold on the toddler even as he falls to the floor. Police say the 28-year-old Justin Black, showed no regard for his child as he tried to flee. And another man who was with Black, began fighting with store security. Well, Black was arrested on theft and child endangerment charges.

LEMON: All right, so listen to this. Southwest Airlines has topped yet another industry list. This time, without even trying. Despite their rep for good service, Southwest 2709 from Houston to San Diego, is the most chronically delayed flight in the country. It was late -- get this, 100 percent of the time in May, the most recent data available. That was back in May.

Now next worse, Northwest -- I hear you laughing Kyra -- 851 from Detroit to Anchorage, Alaska. Third, a much shorter haul route, Skywest 2718 between Muskegon and Flint, Michigan. Then, it's American flight 1555, from New York's congested JFK down to, guess what? Miami. American actually had the most chronically late flights overall. They took the fifth, seventh, and eighth spots, as well. Ninth, well it is Frontier flight 677, Orlando to Denver. And number ten, Expressjet, 1290, flying the crowded northeast corridor.

What do you think? Would you take any of those?

PHILLIPS: I think -- well I'm just sitting next to Ali Velshi, now. We're chit-chatting about all of these delayed flights. I guess it's more time for cocktails and pizza in the airport. That's what I say.

LEMON: You remember I told you about I never check anything, right?


LEMON: So, I had to a shoot. I had to bring a whole bunch of stuff. Look at that. Baggage lost, baggage information. I had to check it.

PHILLIPS: And you lost it?

LEMON: The first time I've checked since I -- the only time I check is if I go overseas.

PHILLIPS: Well, that's why you have to stop checking like, you know, eight pairs of shoes, Don, for one day.

LEMON: All right, Kyra. Tell Ali, help, help, help. We need an energy fix today and an airline fix, as well.

The next hour of the CNN NEWSROOM starts right now.