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CNN NEWSROOM

Iran Flexing Military Muscle; Canada's Oil Boomtown; Bidding Reopened: Controversial Tanker Contract

Aired July 9, 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: Right off the top, let's talk Iran flexing its military muscle, test-firing long-range and medium-range missiles and warning the U.S. and Israel not to even consider attacking Iranian nuclear sites.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GEN. HOSSEIN SALAMI, REVOLUTIONARY GUARDS COMMANDER (through translator): We want to tell the world that those who conduct their foreign policy by using the language of threats against Iran have to know that our finger is always on the trigger and we have hundreds, even thousands of missiles, ready to be fired against predetermined targets. We will chase the enemies on the ground and in the sky, and we are able to react strongly to enemy threats in the shortest possible time.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

LEMON: The U.S. reaction tough and quick. First the State Department.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

WILLIAM BURNS, UNDER SECRETARY FOR POLITICAL FAIRS: To be sure, the Iranian regime is a potent regional adversary, tactically cunning and opportunistic, and good at asymmetric conflict. But it is not 10 feet tall. It often substitutes assertiveness and self-aggrandizing pronouncements for promoting power, promoting the illusion of Iran as a real counterweight to the United States.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

LEMON: And Defense Secretary Robert Gates says today's tests prove the Bush administration's point.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ROBERT GATES, DEFENSE SECRETARY: Well, I think this certainly addresses the doubts raised by the Russians that the Iranians won't have a longer-range ballistic missile for 10 to 20 years. The fact is they've just tested a missile that has a pretty extended range.

So, my view, in the first instance, is we've been saying, as we've talked about missile defense in Europe, that there is a real threat. And it seems to me that the test this morning underscores that. QUESTION: And your sense on the rhetoric back and forth? I mean, are we any closer to a military confrontation with Iran?

GATES: No, I don't think so.

QUESTION: I'm just following up on Jonathan's question. But does this test, which comes on the heels of the Israeli exercise, suggest to you that the temperature is rising to a significant degree in that region, and particularly noting that the U.S. Navy has indeed moved one of its ships into the area? Are you sensing a rise in temperature?

GATES: No. No. I think what we're seeing is a lot of signaling going on.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

LEMON: Israel now in range of those missiles.

And for Israeli reaction to the Iranian missile tests, CNN's Ben Weedman joins us now live in Jerusalem.

As I said, Israel now in range of those missiles that were test- fired, Ben.

BEN WEDEMAN, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, Don, actually, the Shahab 3, which this was an improved version of, has been around since 2004. So this is not really big news that they fired this thing today. It has a range of 2,000 kilometers, about 1,200 miles.

And just to keep it all in perspective and possibly stop from hyperventilating, let me point out that the two lead Israelis news programs that are broadcast at 8:00 p.m. here, neither of them actually led with stories about the Iranian missile test. One focused on a disgraced former president of Israel who left office in a sex scandal, and the other broadcast focused on the financial investigation into potential financial cooperation by the Israeli prime minister.

Of course it is big news, the Iranian missile test. In fact, we heard from a spokesman from the prime minister's office saying that Israel is concerned. But this is an international problem.

And though Israel is certainly the closest of Iran's enemies, that this is a problem that the entire world needs to deal with. Not something that Israel stands alone at -- Don?

LEMON: CNN's Ben Wedeman in Jerusalem.

Thank you, Ben.

KYRA PHILLIPS, CNN ANCHOR: On the political front, John McCain and Barack Obama are calling the Iranian missile test a dangerous situation, but they differ on how they would handle the threat from Iran. Obama favors direct diplomacy with Tehran. McCain wants to work with European and regional allies. Well, the Arizona senator had this to say at a campaign stop just this morning in Pennsylvania...

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R-AZ), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: It's my understanding that this missile test was conducted by the Iranian Revolutionary Guard. This is the same organization that I voted to condemn as a terrorist organization when an amendment was on the floor of the United States Senate. Senator Obama refused to vote, called it provocative. Called it a provocative step. And the fact is, this is a terrorist organization and should have been branded as such.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

PHILLIPS: In a statement, Obama says, "Iran now poses the greatest strategic challenge to the United States in the region in a generation. And as president, I will do everything in my power to eliminate that threat. And that must begin with direct, aggressive and sustained diplomacy."

Now, here's a closer look at the long-range missile reportedly fired this morning by Iran. It's a new version of the Shahab, which means meteor or shooting star in the Iranian language of Farsi. And it can carry a one-ton conventional warhead. The missile is believed to have been updated with Russian and Chinese help.

LEMON: Homes burnt to the ground, a city in danger. A fast- moving fire has residents on the run in Paradise, California.

About 14,000 people, more than half the town, have been ordered to evacuate. Forty homes already have burned, 4,000 more are threatened.

And despite the best every efforts of firefighters, rubble and ash are all that's left of around two dozen homes in Big Sur. Now, that fire is now 27 percent contained. Some residents are being allowed back in, if only to check on their property.

Farther south, firefighters gained more ground in the Gap fire near Goleta. Two hundred and fifty homes, though, are still in the fire's path.

(WEATHER REPORT)

PHILLIPS: Now to issue #1, the nation's economy and your money. Gas prices seem to have hit a small speed bump this week. For the third day in a row, AAA puts the national average at $4.11.

Why the stall? Well, analysts say that stockpiles have risen because people are buying less gas.

As for oil, things have been pretty mixed. After a pretty good drop yesterday, crude saw gains after Iran tested -- or did those -- tested those missiles, rather. And since then it's been pretty choppy.

Well, America's thirst for oil has it looking for new sources in unconventional places, shall we say. One of them is the so-called oil sands just north of the border in Canada's Alberta Province.

Our Ali Velshi found one little town that's now booming and servicing one industry, big oil.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

ALI VELSHI, CNN SR. BUSINESS CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): This once sleepy little town in northern Alberta, Canada, is surrounded by forests, pristine lakes, with lots of mosquitoes.

(on camera): You don't seem nearly as bothered by the bugs as my people are. Hey, there's one on you right there.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Probably not. Oh, no, that's friendly little critters.

VELSHI: Friendly little critters until they bite you.

(voice-over): But what sets this place apart is what's beneath it. Fort McMurray, Canada, population growing fast toward 100,000. It's the rapidly beating heart of the oil sands, the largest known oil deposit in the world. It is a bona fide boomtown.

It has a major highway with traffic jams that would shame a city ten times its size. These people are all headed for work in the oil sands, 24/7, and almost everyone works the maximum allowed overtime. It's tough work, long hours, but for really good pay.

JESSE BRETHER, OIL WORKER: You can say all the bad things you want about this town. The traffic is terrible. You know, pollution. It stinks.

You know what? For $50 an hour, I'll deal with it. I'll deal with being stuck in traffic for an hour. I can take it. I'm making over $100,000 a year and I'm 22 years old.

VELSHI: His story is typical. And with so many workers it's hard to find a place to live. The median price for a single family home is just under $700,000, roughly the same as San Francisco. Just buying a little piece of land and dropping a mobile home on it will set you back half a million bucks. Although plenty of people are doing it.

So what do you do with it?

Robert Cree was the chief of a local band of native Canadians whose people once thrived on the abundance of natural resources here -- hunting, fishing, trapping.

ROBERT CREE, GREGOIRE LAKE RESERVE RESIDENT: There's so much development happening. There's a shortage of housing. There's the medical, the health situation is right to the brink.

VELSHI: Problems have followed this boomtown. Drugs are readily available. And drinking, lots of drinking. But to the opportunities outweigh the problems? BRETHER: I come here and every teacher that ever told me -- or you don't do good in school, you're never going to make it. I'm making triple what they make.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

PHILLIPS: All right. Now, we want to point out, you've been covering all angles of this story.

VELSHI: Right.

PHILLIPS: But you've been receiving a lot of hate mail because environmentalists are saying, OK...

VELSHI: You're not covering the environmental damage.

PHILLIPS: Right.

VELSHI: And in fact, it's such an important part of the story, that I'm going to be covering it in a separate story tomorrow. That was the intention all along. I maybe didn't signal that.

So, for those of you who are saying that I'm only giving the good side of this story, you know, there's another side to it and I will bring you that.

PHILLIPS: And people were pretty nasty in e-mail. My goodness.

VELSHI: Well, there's a sense that, you know, when you're talking about all this energy, there's a lot of money in it to a lot of people. And there's some sense that we may be focusing too much on that. But really, we went there to say that the thirst for energy is so great, that it's caused -- it's grown this boomtown in northern Canada.

PHILLIPS: But -- and what we saw in northern Canada, we were talking about the same thing is happening in Midland, Texas.

VELSHI: Yes, Midland, Texas, which is the headquarters for the drilling in west Texas, just normal land drilling. That's another place that's going through a boon.

Anywhere in the world which is a service center for oil is seeing this kind of example. This is just exaggerated because Fort McMurray is such an out-of-the-way, far-up place. And it's got all these problems. But it can happen anywhere.

PHILLIPS: Now, environmentalists are correct that this does harm the environment in many ways.

VELSHI: Absolutely.

PHILLIPS: However, how do you find that happy medium? Because look at what is happening to our economy...

VELSHI: Right. PHILLIPS: ... look at oil prices. Look at how dependent we are on other countries.

VELSHI: Right.

PHILLIPS: So we've got to do something.

VELSHI: And it takes energy to make energy, so it can be very wasteful and it can be very dirty. We still get more than half our electricity in this country from coal. It's also dirty.

I mean, it's cleaner than it's been in the past, but this is a challenge. As we want more and more energy, we have to look further and deeper, and transport it further and do more things to it, and all of that pollutes the environment as well.

So, look, it is a real balance. And that's why...

PHILLIPS: It's dirty business.

VELSHI: ... a lot of people are saying we need to get off of as much oil as we are to save money, but some of it we've got to do just to save the environment.

PHILLIPS: Right. All right. Ali Velshi, look forward to tomorrow.

VELSHI: OK.

PHILLIPS: Thanks so much.

VELSHI: Good to see you.

PHILLIPS: All right. Well, the economy is issue #1. We're going to bring you all the latest financial news weekdays at noon Eastern. As you know, Ali Velshi hosts "ISSUE #1." And we talk about the mortgage meltdown, the credit crunch, and obviously the energy hunt, like Ali Velshi is doing for us.

"ISSUE #1" at noon Eastern, Monday through Friday.

LEMON: Well, time for a do-over. That's the billion-dollar bottom line in a big announcement today at the Pentagon.

And CNN's Barbara Starr joins us with the latest in the battle over bids for new Air Force tanker planes.

Tell us about that, Barbara.

BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Well, you know, here at the Pentagon, topping the list of news today, again, just like Ali was talking about, business, economy and money. The Pentagon, Defense Secretary Robert Gates announcing a short time ago that the military will be told to rebid a multibillion-dollar contract one more time for a new Air Force tanker aircraft, one of those gas stations in the sky, if you will, that refuels fighter aircraft as they fly around the world.

This has been one of the most controversial business efforts by the Air Force, a multibillion-dollar contract that eventually could be worth $100 billion. It was awarded to a Northrop Grumman team that included the European aerospace giant Airbus.

That led to the competitor Boeing filing a major protest. It all got debated for sometime by the government. And now today, Secretary Gates says, let's try it again, let's rebid this whole thing.

Listen to what the secretary had to say.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GATES: My hope would be that when we reach the end of this process, we will have a solution. We will be able to award a contract and get moving with the contract. We -- there are few programs, particularly long-term procurement programs in the Department of Defense, that are more time critical than this tanker.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

STARR: And this tanker is very important, because the one that they are using now is decades old. And the military feels there is a desperate need for a new refueling aircraft. But they can't seem to get past square one. This is the third time the Pentagon has tried to get itself a new aircraft -- Don.

LEMON: Barbara Starr.

Thank you very much, Barbara -- Kyra.

PHILLIPS: A gun battle erupted outside the U.S. Consulate in Istanbul, Turkey, today. At least six people were killed, including three police officers and three attackers. The Turkish government and the U.S. ambassador to Turkey called the act an of terrorism. No one has claimed responsibility.

And a deadly attack in Sudan's Darfur region today. The U.N. says that dozens of gunmen in SUVs ambushed U.N. and African Union peacekeepers, killing at least seven people and wounding another 22. A U.N. spokeswoman denounced the attacks as outrageous and unjustified.

It's the latest in a series of attacks since the joint U.N./African Union force took over peacekeeping duties in Darfur in December. The Darfur conflict has claimed up to 300,000 lives and uprooted 2.5 million people since 2003.

LEMON: The primary season's over and the general election campaign is moving full steam ahead. That means we're seeing some shifts in what the candidates are saying about some major issues. Critics call it flip-flopping.

We'll check in with our senior political analyst, Gloria Borger. PHILLIPS: And in Afghanistan, mere moments can make the difference between life and death. We'll follow some coalition troops as they disarm a bomb that could have blown them to bits.

LEMON: And in your driveway one moment, gone the next. We'll give you the rundown on the most stolen cars in America.

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

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

LEMON: All right. So we've been hearing this a lot -- flip- flopping, flip-flopping, on some big issues. Barack Obama and John McCain are both accused of doing that since they shifted from primary season to their general election battle.

CNN's senior political analyst, Gloria Borger, joins us now from Washington.

And Gloria, today's vote in the Senate on the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, or FISA, as we call it, is a good example of shifting by Senator Barack Obama. What's going on here?

GLORIA BORGER, CNN SR. POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, he opposed the bill, and now there is a compromise version before the Senate. And he says that he will vote for the compromise.

And I think what you're seeing here is Obama moving to the center, because obviously Democrats have always had a problem on the national security front, with voters believing they're not tough enough on national security, particularly going up against John McCain. Nancy Pelosi, the speaker of the House, I might also add, is also supporting this compromise. So he says he's in pretty good company, that he likes the compromise and he hasn't changed his mind. But it's pretty clear that he's moving to the center.

LEMON: All right. Well, the so-called change on FISA, John McCain had something to say about Barack Obama. Let's listen, Gloria.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MCCAIN: Senator Obama and I are still in strong disagreement on the issue of immunity for the telecommunications corporations. He was opposed to FISA in the past, and opposed to that. And now he is supporting it. Not the first change in position.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

LEMON: All right. So McCain is not missing a chance to point out the change. But aren't both candidates doing a little shifting on these issues?

BORGER: Sure. Sure.

For example, McCain did not support offshore drilling. He now supports offshore drilling. In April, he said he couldn't support a balanced budget until, say, the end of his second term. Now he's saying he's going to have a balanced budget by the end of his first term. So -- and that is because a lot of conservatives in his party really believe in fiscal discipline. And he is appealing to them for that.

I think this kind of a shifting is something we always see when you head into a general election, except I think Obama has to be very careful here, because McCain is making this a campaign about character. And if he can say this happens over and over and over again with Obama, he's going to say you can't trust him and you don't really know who he is or what he stands for.

LEMON: All right. Well, so, if they are listening to you and what you're -- if that's accurate then, are we going to see more of this, you know, come -- getting closer to Election Day? Or do you think they'll say, you know what, stop it right now, let's hold firm?

BORGER: I think what they're going to do is they're going to sort of get all their policy positions out there. And then you're going to see a general election that's not so much about ideological issues, but more about non-ideological issues.

LEMON: OK.

BORGER: More about leadership, who you can trust. Those are important things in a president.

LEMON: Appreciate it, Gloria Borger.

BORGER: Sure.

LEMON: Kyra.

PHILLIPS: Leading our Political Ticker, a focus on two battleground states. Republican candidate John McCain is campaigning today in Pennsylvania and Ohio. And he's talking about jobs and the economy.

This morning, McCain toured a research and development complex in South Park, Pennsylvania. He's scheduled to hold a town hall in Portsmouth, Ohio, at the top of the next hour.

We will have live coverage once that begins.

Now, Nancy Pelosi is calling on President Bush to tap into the nation's Strategic Oil Reserve to drive down gas prices. The Democratic House speaker says that the soaring prices are pushing the economy toward recession. The party's presidential candidate, Barack Obama, is against that move. Recently, President Bush reluctantly agreed to halt shipments of about 70,000 barrels of oil a day into the reserve after Congress directed him to do so.

Now, John Edwards says if Barack Obama asked him to be his running mate, he would seriously consider it. It's been widely reported that the former North Carolina senator is on Obama's short list of possible running mates. Edwards dropped out of the Democratic race earlier this year. He was John Kerry's vice presidential choice, as you may remember, four years ago.

Check out our "Political Ticker" for all the latest campaign news. Just logon to CNNPOlitics.com, your source for all things political.

LEMON: Flooded for a month. What's going on in Wisconsin?

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BUSINESS REPORT)

PHILLIPS: Thanks, Susan.

Hello, 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.

It's time now to tell you some of the stories we're working on for you today right here in the CNN NEWSROOM.

Iran's military exercise and warning heard around the world today. Iran test fired multiple missiles capable of hitting Israel and claimed its finger is always on the trigger. Iran's latest move comes as global concerns grow over its disputed nuclear program.

A controversial $35 billion Air Force contract finds for turbulence on Capitol Hill. Defense Secretary Robert Gates says the Pentagon will reopen the bidding after government accountants said the original bidding process was flawed.

Getting driven out of paradise. An out of control wildfire prompts evacuation orders for thousands of residents in Butte County, California. Hundreds of homes are in the line of fire.

PHILLIPS: Iranian missile tests and warnings to the U.S. and Israel. Reaction from the State Department, the White House and the campaign trail straight ahead.

You're live in the CNN NEWSROOM.

And feeling the heat? You heard her yesterday, riding along is an official with California's Forestry Division, checked out the raging Butte County fire.

KOVR reporter Courtney Dempsey joins us right here in the NEWSROOM.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

PHILLIPS: Well, reporting on a story is one thing. Getting too close is another. But that's just what KOVR reporter, Courtney Dempsey, and her photographer, Shockey Moore (ph), did when they hitched a ride with a California forestry official right into the Butte County fires. Courtney is just back from the fire, safe and sound, thank goodness, at her station in Sacramento.

OK, Courtney, what were you thinking?

COURTNEY DEMPSEY, KOVR REPORTER: That's exactly what my mother said. What were you thinking?

PHILLIPS: It's exactly what all of our moms would say, right?

DEMPSEY: Exactly. Exactly.

And to be completely honest, I wasn't really thinking about it when the idea happened. The information officer, Mike Moller (ph) from Cal Fire, came up to us and just said, hey, you guys want to go in? And we were like, OK. Then it dawned on us, go in, when you say in, you mean into the fire?

And we found out firsthand -- these flames are incredible. It's just amazing to see how much control fire has over Mother Nature -- and the winds that were whipping through that tunnel. It just felt like being in a dark red tunnel with black smoke swirling around. There was ash blowing. We didn't know which direction the wind was going to be whipping next. It was incredible.

The flames were reaching up and touching the side of the car. Truthfully, I had a minor panic attack. At one point I felt like, oh God, I'm claustrophobic. The first thing I wanted to do was roll down the window, but obviously that's not a good idea.

So you just have to keep in mind, you're with the fire official, he knows where he's taking you. Just be calm, you'll be out of there in a minute. We have great video.

PHILLIPS: So what was the point of the fire -- or the California Forestry official wanting to go in there? Was it to assess? And how did he know it was going to be OK?

DEMPSEY: Well, he actually just spoke to a crew that had just come out and they just kind of told him, OK, if you go up -- right to the base of the fire, not that it's "safe," but it's a little less hazardous in that very first section. So he said, if they want to get some flames real quick, get them in there and then get them right back out. You should get some pretty good flames; and we did. We got some really good flames.

PHILLIPS: And by getting inside like that and getting really up close and personal, which is very rare when we have to cover stories like this, because it's so dangerous and you can't tell what a fire is going to do, it just sort of has a mind of its own, besides good pictures, what did you learn?

DEMPSEY: Well, really we learned what it's like for those firefighters when they are fighting something like this. You don't think of it in the sense that they are completely surrounded by flames and anything can fall of them. Trees can fall down, the wind that is whipping through can knock them over. The wind is really strong in that area.

So it's incredible to think what kind of conditions these firefighters are going in to save property of the people that live in that area. And really what was amazing to me also, was as we were standing on the side of the road before we even went up to see these flames, convoys of fire trucks were coming up from all different parts of California, from northern California, the Bay Area, southern California, and they were all honking at these evacuees, waving to them, kind of telling them -- we know that you guys -- your home and property are in jeopardy, but we're going to up there, we're going to do our best to keep your stuff safe so that you have something to come back to.

It's amazing how spirited the firefighters are. And they're fatigued, they're tired, they're hungry, they're thirsty, they're obviously hot and completely uncomfortable breathing in that thick smoke and heavy air. And it's just amazing to see how determined these firefighters are.

PHILLIPS: Well you definitely feel it when you see your pictures.

KOVR reporter, Courtney Dempsey, sure appreciate you joining us.

DEMPSEY: Not a problem. Thanks for having me.

PHILLIPS: Great job. You bet.

LEMON: Typical summertime weather in the southeast, hot and muggy with thunderstorms here and there. A few of them, though, destructive. In the Charlotte and Raleigh, North Carolina areas, around 2,000 people are still without electricity after last night's storms. At one time, nearly, get this, 30,000 had no power.

And after the rains and the floods, FEMA was called to help mop up the Midwest. But 30 days later, families in Spring Green, Wisconsin, are still waiting. Thirty homes are still flooded, barely accessible, yet to be inspected. One homeowner called Spring Green Wisconsin's forgotten city.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JAMES BLAU, SPRING GREEN, WISCONSIN: It's very frustrating because you think they would want to help people out. Isn't that what a disaster is, to help people? They don't seem to care. They don't have to go in water. I don't know what to do. If they have don't buy us out, we'll have to come back. And then if we take everything out, we'd have to move it back in.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

LEMON: FEMA inspectors were scheduled to look at some of the homes yesterday, but they couldn't get to Spring Green because of bad weather. No word on when they'll try again.

PHILLIPS: First, a dramatic rescue of hostages held by Colombian rebels, now the rebels say they want to talk peace. We're going to find out why.

LEMON: And together again on the campaign trail. But are Hillary Clinton supporters buying all the unity talk?

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

JOSH LEVS, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): This bright green electric motorcycle is the bright idea of a team of teens from St. Thomas Academy in Mendota Heights, Minnesota. Aspiring engineers assigned a real life challenge: design and build a fuel efficient vehicle.

MARK WESTLAKE, SAINT THOMAS ACADEMY: They work six days a week for 12 months building this.

LEVS: We met up with the teens in New York City as they took their bike on tour.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It can go 40, 50 miles uncharged.

LEVS: Charging time, three hours. Top speed, 60 miles per hour. And that colorful steel shell is actually a safety feature.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It has a roll cage that goes right up and over the driver and in the back to protect him in the event of an accident.

LEVS: But don't look for this bike at your local dealer. It's part of an MIT program to inspire young inventors. The team's teacher will be the only one commuting with this creation.

WESTLAKE: The next step in this project is a solar charging station so that when the motorcycle comes to work with me in the morning, I'll just plug it in. By the end of the day it would be fully recharged.

LEVS: And eventually, the bike's parts will be cannibalized for some future student's bright idea.

UNIDENTIFIED GROUP: Go cadets.

LEVS: Josh Levs, CNN.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

LEMON: Corporate America is getting hit with the same problems the rest of us are battling -- soaring oil and gas prices. So many companies are cutting back. Poppy Harlow from the CNNMoney.com has the latest on the Energy Fix for us.

Hey, Poppy Harlow. I came up there the other day; I was in the newsroom...

POPPY HARLOW, CNNMONEY.COM: You came on my vacation.

LEMON: ... and you weren't there. I was at the energy fix desk just sad.

HARLOW: Were you taking trying to take my job, Don?

LEMON: Oh come on. I could never -- I could never fill those pumps.

HARLOW: Don't do that.

All right. I think you're going to like this story. It's very interesting. Call it potato power. Arvida (ph), remember that company in their neat commercials? It is going green. The company is actually working on a plan to convert potato peels into biofuel, enough to heat 4,000 homes, believe it or not.

Its parent company, Heinz, may not have 57 ways to save the environment, but it does have quite a few. The ketchup maker plans to reduce its greenhouse gas emission by 20 percent over the next seven years by recycling a lot more, using more renewable energy and using more direct delivery routes. Now, Heinz is also going to reduce its packaging by 15 percent, and, on top of that, mandate that 15 percent of all the energy used comes from renewable sources, Don, like solar and biomass.

Pretty cool?

LEMON: Is that an effort to save the environment or to save the bottom line, Poppy K?

HARLOW: Of course you've got to ask it, Don L.

For corporate America, it's a little bit of both of them. Cutting energy use is no longer a luxury for these companies, it's a necessity. Really big companies like Chevron, Google and eBay, they are all making similar moves. Telecom giant Verizon is actually telling all of its suppliers they have to make their equipment 20 percent more energy efficient starting next year. That's because, Don, Verizon says what it pays in terms of energy bills every year is now in the hundreds of millions of dollars.

LEMON: What does that mean for the rest of us then?

HARLOW: Yes, but -- you've got to think about, is it good for the company, is it good for me?

It's generally good for you as well, because they'll likely pass down that cost savings to you. It's also good for shareholders. Many of the products they are using, like solar power, could also become more affordable for the rest of us, especially when you compare it to the rising cost of more traditional energy sources. So, good all- around -- corporate America doing some good, saving some money and saving us some money, hopefully, at the same time -- Don. LEMON: All right. So listen, I was in New York and crying because I was in at the energy fix desk. So I'm at Bean, you know that coffee place -- 6th Avenue -- and I'm going for a little --

HARLOW: I don't take coffee breaks, but I've heard of it.

LEMON: And guess what I saw?

HARLOW: What?

LEMON: Take a look at this. Do we have the picture?

We don't have the picture?

There it is.

(LAUGHTER)

LEMON: So I had a cup of coffee and I had to have one of these. What do you think?

HARLOW: I love it. I got that -- you sent that to me on Monday when I was trying to enjoy my vacation at home in Minnesota, and I was cracking up laughing. And I'm now glad that everybody else can see just how connected we are from New York to Atlanta.

LEMON: It's a lemon poppy treat.

All right, Poppy Harlow, thank you.

HARLOW: Don, thanks. Bye.

PHILLIPS: Well an accused drug courier allegedly sent cookies to as many as a dozen police departments in north Texas. Trying to kiss up to the cops? Well, not really. Police say the 18-year-old had laced the cookies with drugs. Police became suspicious when one of the cookies smelled like marijuana. The suspect denies that he spiked the cookies, but says that one of his friends may have been smoking a little pot when he was baking.

Still to come in the NEWSROOM, Iran's stunning missile test. What can the U.S. do about it, if anything? The reaction keeps pouring in.

LEMON: And confronting old issues in a new way. Today's "Black in America" segment checks out African-Americans activists online.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

LEMON: OK, this is part of our black in America series. Everyone knows the names Jesse Jackson, you've heard of him. Al Sharpton and of course, Martin Luther King Jr. But, there is a new group of unseen black leaders making their impact and they're doing it online.

Now, I take a look at these activists as part of our black in America series. Take a look.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

(voice-over): James Rucker did not always plan to be an activist.

JAMES RUCKER, CO-FOUNDER, COLOROFCHANGE.ORG: My plan was to work until I was 30 doing the money-making thing in the software industry and then go do the good work.

LEMON: This former Grassroots director at moveon.org, co-founded Color of Change, after Hurricane Katrina.

RUCKER: I knew that this was a moment that was pretty serious. Not just for -- I mean, for all Americans, it was. But for black Americans, in particular.

LEMON: Since Katrina, the site has grown from 500 users in 2005, to more than 400,000 today. It has been a force behind getting aid to victims of the hurricane. Putting pressure on super delegates to vote like their districts and spread the word about the Jena Six.

RUCKER: In Jena, what we were successful in doing was helping the story, which was basically being buried, see the light of day. Black folks you know, across the board learn about what was happening in Jena, started telling their friends and family. 15 to 30,000 people landed in this small town of Jena, Louisiana.

LEMON: Dubbed Civil Rights 2.0. and Afrosphere, web sites like What About Our Daughters and Jack and Jill Politics and Pam's House Blend, are using the Internet for a new kind of activism.

KAI WRIGHT, INCOMING EDITOR, JOURNALISM PROJECT: The new black activism is I believe, more independent. It's not sitting around waiting for a large national organization to lead it.

LEMON: These new black activists acknowledge the battles they fight now are different from earlier civil rights struggles.

RUCKER: It's not like people getting hosed down you know, by firemen or dogs are being sicked on them. Rather, we have things like black men being incarcerating at an alarming rate.

LEMON: And so is the way these new activists confront old issues.

RUCKER: With online organizing, the whole idea is, you don't need 50 people to carry this stuff off.

LEMON: Rather than march, they type.

RUCKER: Our goal is to make it so that when someone engages, their actions translate into results.

LEMON: Instead of meeting in basements, they meet online.

RUCKER: We're providing a vehicle for everyday people to identify with things that resonate with them.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

LEMON: CNN's special, "Black in America." Our programming kicks off two weeks from today. "The Black Woman and Family" premieres July 23rd at 9:00 Eastern. And "The Black Man" premieres the 24th, also at 9:00 Eastern.

PHILLIPS: Flames on the move and people on the run. We're going to take you to the fiery front lines as California burns.

LEMON: But first. Civilians caught up in the war in Afghanistan. And too often the damage is due to the U.S. military actions.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

PHILLIPS: Billions paying the price of war. It's happening right now in Afghanistan.

CNN's Nic Robertson, with a look at how the U.S. military helps in the recovery effort.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

NIC ROBERTSON, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Late afternoon. A British patrol sets off. The searing heat finally edging below 50 degrees Celsius, 120 Fahrenheit. Their route, venturing into what was until recently Taliban territory, in southern Afghanistan's Hellman's Province.

CAPT. ROSS BOYD, BRITISH ARMY: Up until three months ago, this was really the established front line of enemy troops.

ROBERTSON: Captain Ross Boyd has about 40 soldiers under his command.

BOYD: (INAUDIBLE) Do you have eyes on kilo 2-0 alpha on spot red six, over?

ROBERTSON: On this patrol, his instincts more than intelligence about the Taliban, can save his troops lives.

BOYD: The fact that there's a farmer with his herd of sheep across just there is a good indicator that actually the ground to the south of us just now, is not mined.

ROBERTSON: But, he takes no chances. Sends a soldier with a metal detector to the front.

(on camera): We're now into the fields the Taliban used to control. Progress is slow because there's a soldier from the Royal Engineers leading the way with a metal detector. Every time he finds something, we have to stop.

(voice-over): We pass unexploded Taliban rockets. It took British and American troops more than a month of fierce fighting to drive the Taliban from here. Commanders save the area is stable but not secure. Then the sound of the metal detector alarm. Captain Boyd clears the soil with his bayonet.

BOYD: Go on then. Just give us another going, mate.

ROBERTSON: He's not sure. Calls for the detector again.

BOYD: Just over my shoulder.

2-2 alpha, roger confirmed. Definite, definite pressure plate. I've got a plastic bag wrapped with black electrical tape -- over.

ROBERTSON: It's right where all the soldiers would have to walk.

BOYD: Can we get everybody back to the corner of that last crossing point.

ROBERTSON: As we take cover, Captain Boyd calls for an explosives team. Relives his life and death decisions.

BOYD: Sure enough, we checked it and we got another ping. And as soon as I scraped that top bit off, I heard it was like scraping an empty cardboard box. And you know, that's not much.

ROBERTSON: He laughs. But only days ago, a similar bomb was safely detonated just feet away. More than 10 discovered in the past month. It's almost dark as the explosives team arrive. They confirm a massive chain of bombs. Unseen, Boyd is shaken.

BOYD: If he'd gone on and stepped on something, I'd never have forgiven myself.

ROBERTSON: With a controlled explosion, another dangerous day is over.

Nic Robertson, CNN, The Snakes Head, (INAUDIBLE), Afghanistan.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

PHILLIPS: Testing missiles, testing the world's patience. Iran's finger on the trigger.

LEMON: Plus, millions of dollars in supplies meant for Katrina victims. So why are they still empty handed? CNN investigates.

PHILLIPS: And an old tablet sparks a raging new debate and it goes to the heart of Christianity.

Hello, everyone. I'm Kyra Phillips live in New York.

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

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