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Obama Talks with Top Leaders in Iraq; Terrorism Trial: Al Qaeda Suspect Trial at Gitmo; Zimbabwe Power-Sharing Talks

Aired July 21, 2008 - 11:00   ET


TONY HARRIS, CNN ANCHOR: And good morning again, everyone. You're informed with CNN.
I'm Tony Harris.

HEIDI COLLINS, CNN ANCHOR: Hi there, everybody. I'm Heidi Collins.

Developments keep coming into the CNN NEWSROOM on this Monday, July 21st. Here's what's on the rundown.

The killing of two girls on a country road. This hour, authorities release 911 tapes and talking about tracking a killer.

HARRIS: Surf's up in Cancun. Concern high elsewhere on the Gulf of Mexico. Tropical Storm Dolly may turn into a hurricane.

COLLINS: And praising, plus prodding. Barack Obama tells Iraqi leaders the good they've done and what they still must do -- in the NEWSROOM.

HARRIS: And at the top this hour, more details coming this morning in the shooting deaths of two young Oklahoma girls. The victims, one 13, the other 11 years old, were found along a gravel road last month.

A police news conference is coming up shortly. They're expected to release the 911 call made by one of the girl's relatives. No arrests have been made.

COLLINS: And this just into the CNN NEWSROOM now. New developments out of the African nation of Zimbabwe. The president of the embattled nation has agreed to talks with the opposition leader on forming a new power-sharing government.

The men signed the agreement today in their first face-to-face meeting in a decade. The apparent breakthrough comes after months of violence that reportedly left thousands of people injured and tens of thousands homeless.

We'll have a live update in just a few minutes coming your way.

Meanwhile, a trio of storms to talk about. One, a possible threat to land.

Tropical Storm Dolly now moving over Mexico's Yucatan Peninsula. It's headed into the Gulf of Mexico and could become a hurricane by tomorrow. It's on track to make landfall later this week near the Texas/Mexico border.

Tropical Storm Cristobal threatened the North Carolina coast yesterday, but then turned away from land. Storm warnings for the Carolina coast were lifted last night. And Hurricane Fausto in the Pacific, about 400 miles off Mexico. Not a threat to land.


COLLINS: Happening right now in Iraq, presidential candidate Barack Obama meeting with the country's president and top leaders. He is part of a congressional delegation, but he's getting a lot of attention on this trip, of course, as a potential president.

Our Morgan Neill is in Baghdad, and Jessica Yellin is on the story from Washington this morning.

Morgan, let's begin with you.

MORGAN NEILL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Heidi, that's right, Senator Barack Obama has met with Iraq's prime minister, Nuri al-Maliki, as well as military commanders from the United States, Britain and Iraq. He's also planning, we're told, to have dinner this evening with the top U.S. commander in Iraq, General David Petraeus, and U.S. Ambassador Ryan Crocker. But throughout his visit, one issue has been ever-present.


NEILL (voice-over): Barack Obama comes to Iraq fresh off a pledge to end the war.

SEN. BARACK OBAMA (D-IL), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I want Iraqis to take responsibility for their own future and to reach the political accommodation necessary for long-term stability. That is victory. That is success.

That's what best -- that is what is best for Iraq. That is what is best for America. And that's why I will end this war as president.

NEILL: But Iraq's government says pulling out too quickly could be a grave mistake.

ALI AL-DABBAGH, IRAQI GOVERNMENT SPOKESMAN: Iraq should not be left alone. Iraq (INAUDIBLE) on behalf of all the region and all the international community. So this is very risky to have an premature steps which affect the security of the United States and Europe and all the region. That is coming to (ph) the White House, not as this reality, and then accordingly to (ph) decide.

NEILL (on camera): Is that a message to Barack Obama?

AL-DABBAGH: I think so, yes.

NEILL (voice over): Obama's rival, Republican nominee John McCain, says he opposes a timetable for withdrawal. But that worries many in Iraq as well, where the specter of an indefinite U.S. presence brought talks on a long-term security agreement to a standstill.

We went to Iraq's parliament to gauge the views of members on to the two U.S. presidential candidates. None wanted to discuss the candidates by name, but they were happy to talk over their positions.

"We want Iraq to become a stable, peaceful country, without the presence of any coalition or any foreign forces," said this member of the main Shiite alliance. Others echoed the government position: any withdrawal must be carefully planned in consultation with Iraq.

AL-DABBAGH: Any position (ph) they try to take to prove the Americans (INAUDIBLE) must be fully in understanding with the Iraqi government.

NEILL: So the next president will have to deal with a country that both wants and fears the withdrawal of U.S. troops.

Levels of violence are at their lowest since 2004, but the top U.S. commander in Iraq, General David Petraeus, consistently warns that security gains are both fragile and reversible. And the next U.S. president will have to deal with an increasingly assertive Iraqi government, one that's been praised for offensives in Maysan Province, Basra and Sadr City.


NEILL: And U.S. officials say that's exactly what they've been working toward, is an Iraqi government that is more assertive, more capable. But what it also means is that the next U.S. president, whether it's Senator Barack Obama or Senator John McCain, will be dealing with an Iraqi government that is more independent, more oriented towards its own priorities and goals, and thinking more about its only political realities -- Heidi.

COLLINS: All right. CNN's Morgan Neill, live from Baghdad this morning.

Thanks so much, Morgan.

HARRIS: Well, he's not in charge, but he wants to be. Barack Obama tacking about what he'll do in Iraq and Afghanistan if he wins the White House.

How's that playing in Washington? Jessica Yellin is there.

Jessica, good morning. How is this trip -- I know it's a politically-important trip, but how is it playing out?

JESSICA YELLIN, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, so far so good for Barack Obama, Tony. Even before he landed in Iraq, to build on what Morgan said, the prime minister of Iraq voiced support for Obama's plan to withdraw troops from that country within 16 months. Now, that is certainly a good welcome for Obama, even though the prime minister subsequently said his statement was misinterpreted, that he supports conditions that the time frame for withdrawal is conditions- based. Still, he got the message out that Obama's plans in general sync with the vision that Iraqi leaders have for their own country.

Now, from a purely political perspective, that's good for Obama. He also today needs to leave these meetings this day with all sides saying they essentially found him open, that he was listening. And he wants to make as little news as possible, Tony. He just doesn't want to leave this country having misspoken the way we saw John McCain do when he was overseas not so long ago.

There is little chance of Obama being caught off guard, at least today, because he's being followed only by a military camera. No independent American press is traveling with him on this leg of the trip -- Tony.

HARRIS: So, Jessica, just maybe a quick twofer here. What's the McCain campaign saying about the trip? And I know there's some controversy over the way that this trip is being covered. What can you tell us about that?

YELLIN: Well, two points. First of all, the McCain camp is firing back hard against Obama's points. They say that, "Obama has been universally wrong on Iraq." That's a quote.

One of McCain's top foreign policy advisers says if it weren't for the surge, which Obama opposed and McCain supported, Obama wouldn't even be able to take this trip to Iraq because it would be too dangerous. And their message is any withdrawal must be conditions-based. They say they're glad Obama is there, but they hope that he doesn't, in their words, "stubbornly adhere" to his time frame.

Now, as you know, General Petraeus, who Obama's going to meet with later, has opposed any fixed time frame for withdrawal. He wants it to be conditions-based. So there will have to be a careful dance between the two men when they meet later on today.


YELLIN: And on that press coverage, yes, there's some bitterness or, you know, resentment in Obama --in McCain land that Obama is getting just so much coverage.

HARRIS: It is a lot.

All right. Jessica Yellin for us in Washington.

Jessica, thank you.

Barack Obama's Republican challenger says he is happy his opponent is in Iraq. John McCain, talking about it this morning, says the trip will give Obama a chance to assess the so-called troop surge.


SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R-AZ), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I'm glad that Senator Obama is going to get a chance to sit down with General David Petraeus and understand what the surge was all about, why it succeeded, and why we are winning the war. And that is because we carried out a strategy which has succeeded, and Senator Obama rallied against, voted against, and used his opposition to the surge as a way of gaining the nomination of his party. I hope he will have a chance to admit that he badly misjudged the situation and he was wrong when he said that the surge wouldn't work.


COLLINS: Detainee on trial. A first-of-its-kind proceeding at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. The man suspected of being Osama bin Laden's driver is the center of attention.

CNN's Jamie McIntyre is joining us now live from the Pentagon this morning.

Good morning to you, Jamie.

Why has it taken so long since September 11th to hold this first military tribunal?

JAMIE MCINTYRE, CNN SR. PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Well, you know, because there's been so much controversy about how they're done. In fact, this case involving Salim Hamdan, a Yemeni, is one of the cases that went to the Supreme Court, forced the Bush administration to back to Congress to rewrite this military commission's law, and now, finally, a case is actually going to be tried under that military commission process, and Hamdan is the first defendant.

COLLINS: Well, tell us a little bit more if you can about Hamdan. People may not remember, you know, how he's tied into this whole entire picture.

MCINTYRE: Well, you know, he was stopped in a roadblock in Afghanistan back in November of 2001. The U.S. military says that he had two surface-to-air missiles in his car. He was suspected of being Osama bin Laden's personal driver and bodyguard. And so he was arrested.

Now, his lawyers say simply that he was just a driver working for a paycheck, a low-level guy who was just driving someone around. And that's basically their defense.

COLLINS: Well, so what happens then if he's acquitted?

MCINTYRE: Well, you know, the interesting thing here is, first of all, his lawyers are not very optimistic because they think the rules of this military commission just don't favor the defendants in this case. But if he were to convince the commission...

COLLINS: Unfortunately, for some reason, it looks like we have lost Jamie McIntyre, giving us the very latest on these first proceedings at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, the detainee trial. So we will continue to follow that story, as you would imagine, here on CNN. Meanwhile, today's trial foremost on the mind of Attorney General Michael Mukasey. He is speaking at the American Enterprise Institute in Washington this morning. A live picture for you there.

Mukasey is expected to push Congress for a better definition of rules for detainee trials like the one going on, as we mentioned, at Guantanamo Bay. There are now about 200 detainees still being held in Cuba.

HARRIS: And as we told you at the top of the hour, Zimbabwe's president, Robert Mugabe, and opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai have signed an agreement that paves the way for power-sharing talks in that nation.

Let's get to Johannesburg, South Africa, now. And our Nkepile Mabuse joins us.

And Nkepile, I have to ask you, how did this agreement come about? I wasn't aware that the two sides were even in discussions.

NKEPILE MABUSE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, the two sides, Tony, have been in discussions for many, many years. That's why people here in Southern Africa and in Zimbabwe are very, very skeptical.

Today, history unfold in Zimbabwe just a few minutes ago. Robert Mugabe and opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai signing a memorandum of understanding, permitting themselves to negotiating a political settlement that may actually pave the way for the resolution of the crisis in that country.

Of course, Robert Mugabe was his usual self. He said this is an African settlement, and that Zimbabweans must do the work and that there should not be any influence from America or Europe, and that if the MDC, he was implying, was influenced in the past by the U.S. or by Britain, that those ties should be cut and this should be a Zimbabwean deal for Zimbabweans. Not looking very happy, Robert Mugabe, because, really, he has been pushed to the negotiation table.

HARRIS: Well, Nkepile, maybe you can expand on that a little bit. It seems like there has been all kinds of international pressure on Robert Mugabe to come to some kind of an agreement here. Is it fair to say that the international pressure might be chiefly responsible for the deal that we're talking about today?

MABUSE: Definitely. There was pressure on Robert Mugabe, and there was also pressure on President Mbeki of South Africa, who was the mediator in those talks that have been ongoing, as I said, for many, many years.

A lot of leaders have started to lose hope and respect for President Mbeki because it did not seem like he was producing any results. Even Robert Mugabe referred to this, and he said, you know, President Mbeki has been criticized, but today, you know, you have managed to help us to get to sign this deal. So definitely a lot of pressure on both Mbeki and Robert Mugabe to reach this point.

HARRIS: And any timetable for the talks?

MABUSE: Well, according to the draft memorandum that they signed, they've given themselves two weeks to thresh out issues such as a framework of a new government, the constitution. They need to speak about the dire economic situation today at their reserve bank in Zimbabwe, (INAUDIBLE), a $100 billion note, which is equivalent to just less than one U.S. dollar. It just gives you an indication...


MABUSE: ... of how bad the economic situation is with rampant inflation estimated at over 2.2 million percent.


MABUSE: So there's a lot of pressure for these leaders to find a resolution.

HARRIS: So much work to do.

Nkepile Mabuse for us in Johannesburg, South Africa.

Good to see you. Thank you.

COLLINS: New developments in a disturbing case out of Pennsylvania. Police say they know who killed a pregnant woman and cut open her uterus.


COLLINS: We have some breaking news to get to out of suburban St. Louis now. A grim update on this morning's shooting of emergency crews.

As we reported earlier, a gunman opened fire as they responded to a vehicle fire. It happened around dawn this morning. Well, CNN affiliate KSDK says the mayor of Maplewood, Missouri, now says a firefighter died from his wounds.

Two police officers who were shot are expected to survive. No word yet on the gunman. He was believed to have been inside a burning home across the street.

So we're going to give you more details, of course, just as soon as we get them.

For now, a quick break.


COLLINS: Sibling rivalry in the womb. New research shows sharing a womb with her twin brothers makes a girl more masculine.

Come on.

Medical Correspondent Elizabeth Cohen is here now to tell us a little bit more about this.

All right. So nature or nurture?

ELIZABETH COHEN, CNN MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: Some people will say nature, some people will say nurture. But the folks who say nature say that hanging around in very cramped quarters for, say, 10 months has an affect on a girl.


COHEN (voice-over): Does hanging around for roughly 10 months inside the womb next to a twin have an impact? New research suggests the answer is yes.

KELLY KLUMP, PSYCHOLOGIST/RESEARCHER: We found that if you are a female twin and you are in the womb with a male twin, you are what we would call masculinized.

COHEN: Denice Lator and her twin brother Matt don't necessarily buy Kelly Klump's argument, but a study they are participating in suggests girls with twin brothers are in fact different from other girls.

KLUMP: Females from opposite sex pairs tend to be more aggressive, for example, than females who are not opposite sex twins. They tend to be more sensation-seeking.

COHEN: In other words, say researchers, more like a typical boy. The Lators admit that Denice does possess some traditionally masculine qualities.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Matt, how would you describe your sister?

MATT LATOR, TWIN: Definitely assertive.

COHEN: But the twins don't think it's because she was exposed to testosterone in the womb.

DENICE LATOR, TWIN: I personally believe that it's nurture because of the way we were raised and how close we were growing up.

KLUMP: What about that one?

COHEN: But Klump says the differences do start in the womb, that girls with twin brothers have bigger teeth like men, that they have brain development like men, that even their fingers are shaped more like men's.

KLUMP: But it's really time that we take a look at both sides of the equation, because both sides matter.

COHEN: Whatever the answer, research on boy/girl twins is helping scientists understand how twins share and shape each other's characteristics.

(END VIDEOTAPE) COHEN: This research is not just about twins, it's really trying to figure out some of the built-in differences between men's brains and women's brains.

COLLINS: Well, obviously women's brains are much, much larger. I mean, we know that.

COHEN: And better.


COHEN: Right. That's clear, right.

COLLINS: Obviously. But we do want to know what researchers are really planning on doing with this information.

COHEN: Right, because it's kind of interesting. But you do kind of wonder, gee, how are they going to put this to use?


COHEN: So I'm going to give you an example. Researchers have found that when a girl has a twin brother, she's much less likely to get an eating disorder, compared to girls who don't have twin brothers. So, if they can figure out what makes her less likely to get an eating disorder, maybe they can help other girls not get eating disorders.

COLLINS: Well, yes. That would be great.

COHEN: So that would be one way, one sort of route that they can go down with this information.

COLLINS: See, this male dominance thing, it starts early. Really early, doesn't it?

COHEN: Really early. That's what a lot of researchers say, very early on.

COLLINS: OK. Thanks, Elizabeth. Appreciate it.

COHEN: Thanks.

COLLINS: To get your "Daily Dose" of health news online, you can always log onto our Web site. You'll find the latest medical news, a health library, and information on diet and fitness. That address:

HARRIS: Always trying to get something going there, aren't you, Heidi?

The big spoon. That's Heidi Collins stirring it up.

Hi. We have a show to do here.

Candidate confers on the war, on site. We are following Barack Obama's visit to Iraq.


HARRIS: And good morning again, everyone. Welcome back to the CNN NEWSROOM.

I'm Tony Harris.

COLLINS: Hi there, everybody. I'm Heidi Collins.

More details coming this morning in the shooting deaths of two young Oklahoma girls. The victims, one 13 and the other 11, were found, as I'm sure you remember, along a gravel road last month.

The police news conference is coming up shortly. You see the microphones set up there. They are expected to release the 911 call made by one of the girl's relatives. No arrests have yet been made.

HARRIS: Barack Obama in Iraq. He is getting the lowdown this morning from top Iraqi officials. This is new video of the senator's meeting with Iraqi president, Jalal Talabani.

Earlier, Obama met with Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki. Obama praised al-Maliki's leadership, but said the government needs to do more. Obama is on a trip to Iraq, Afghanistan and elsewhere with a congressional delegation. He visited troops in Kuwait on Friday and he had breakfast in a mess hall in Afghanistan Sunday. Obama will also visit Jordan, Israel, the West Bank, and make stops in Europe as well.

COLLINS: The money and the message. John McCain's focus this morning in Maine. He's meeting with the president's father today in Kennebunkport. Besides talking with George H.W. Bush, McCain's got a couple of private receptions. He'll also go to a picnic at the Marine Military Museum.

Last night, there was time for a little R and R at the ball game. The senator hung out with former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani at the Yankees Game. Giuliani says he's just trying to get his long-time friend elected and that he is not worrying about speculation that he could be McCain's pick for running mate.

Check out our Political Ticker for all of the latest news. Just log on to our site, your source for all things political.

HARRIS: And new developments in the death of a pregnant woman whose uterus was cut open. Police have charged another woman, Andrea Curry-Demus, with criminal homicide, kidnapping and unlawful restraint. They say she is the same person who showed up at a hospital with a baby that was not hers.

Our Jim Acosta has that story.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) JIM ACOSTA, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Using dental records, the Allegheny County medical examiner's office identified the body of 18-year-old Kia Johnson. Police say the pregnant woman was found inside the suburban Pittsburgh apartment building with her arms and legs bound, her mouth gagged. Investigators believed she was drug before her baby was cut out of her womb.

KARL WILLIAMS, MEDICAL EXAMINER: Her abdomen had been opened with a sharp weapon. The uterus had been opened. The uterus appeared to be what we say is grabbed (ph), meaning that there had been a baby there.

ACOTSA: Police say the apartment where Johnson's body was found belonged to 38-year-old Andrea Curry-Demus. Investigators believe the two may have known each other.

CHARLES MOFFATT, SUPT. ALLEGHENY COUNTY POLICE: We have information that they met one another. How far it goes back, we don't know at this time. We do have evidence that there was contact between the two of them.

ACOSTA: Last week, authorities say Curry-Demus took a baby to a Pittsburgh hospital and claimed it was her's. Then she said she bought the infant from a local woman. Curry-Demus told reporters after her arrest, "I didn't do nothing."

That stunning news put a renewed focus on the whereabouts of Kia Johnson, who had recently gone missing. Before Johnson's body was been identified, relatives were beginning to worry.

SHAKEEA WASHINGTON, VICTIM'S SISTER: We don't know where she's at. She's pregnant. It's not like her. She's been gone for three days. It's not like her just to be missing. She would have called somebody. She does not not go home.

ACOSTA: According to the Pittsburgh "Tribune-Review," Curry- Demus suffered two miscarriages at ages 12 and 21. In 1990 she was accused in an alleged plot to steal a woman's baby. And in a separate incident, of kidnapping an infant from a hospital. She was sent to prison after pleading guilty to various charges from both incidents.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Why did she do this? Why did she do this? Why?

ACOSTA: Flash forward to this year. Friends and relatives say Curry-Demus had told them she was pregnant and went so far as to attend a baby shower.

STEPHANIE EPPS, SUSPECT'S SISTER-IN-LAW: She would never let you touch her stomach, lift her stomach. And pregnant women do things like that. They are happy because they are pregnant. But she would never do none of that. She wouldn't let me do it at all. And she just kept a distance from me.

ACOSTA (on camera): Authorities say that the baby boy Andrea Curry-Demus brought to the hospital is doing fine. Curry-Demus is scheduled to appear in court later this week.

Jim Acosta, CNN, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.


COLLINS: A Baghdad neighborhood rocked by a car bomb. One Iraqi civilian was killed in the Sunday night attack, four others were wounded.

In northern Iraq, U.S. forces killed two men both believed to be members of al Qaeda in Iraq. Another suspected terrorist was captured. Police say one of the men killed was the 16-year-old son of a local government official.

HARRIS: Nuclear talks with Iran going nowhere. That's the reaction according of Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, saying Iran's chief nuclear negotiator didn't take weekend talks with the European Union seriously. For the first time, a U.S. diplomat was at the table.

Before those talks broke up, Rice told CNN's Wolf Blitzer that time is running out.


CONDOLEEZZA RICE, SECRETARY OF STATE: The world is sending Iran a message on both tracks. First of all, there are consequences for continuing to defy the will of the international community: continued economic isolation, continued isolation that is leading to an ever worsening economic situation in Iran. And on the other hand, a pathway out: suspend and negotiate.


HARRIS: Rice says Iran has two weeks to respond to nuclear proposals put forth at that meeting.

COLLINS: Right now, Navy and Coast Guard teams are searching for the crew of a B-52 that crashed today in the Pacific Ocean off Guam. The plane went down about 30 miles northeast of the island. A military spokesman says they've located an oil slick but so far no wreckage. The Air Force bomber and its six-member crew are based at Barksdale Air Force Base in Louisiana.

HARRIS: A summer Sunday outing and an air show upstaged by a surprise appearance. Take a look at this. This Northwest Airlines 757 had to interrupt yesterday's air show at Dayton International Airport in Ohio. An engine computer had failed on the Tampa to Detroit flight and that forced the unscheduled stop. The plane, as you can see, landed safely to applause from the crowd. And then the air show started back up again.

COLLINS: Gotham's most wanted. You can find them on the web if you're willing to pay.


HEATH LEDGER, ACTOR, "THE DARK KNIGHT": Now there is a Batman (ph).


HARRIS: Man, oh man -- boy, a record setting opening weekend for "The Dark Knight." What's happening with our stock price at Time Warner? Warner Brothers -- key component. Batman, whoo.

COLLINS: Very unethical.

HARRIS: You think?

Come on. Took in a whopping $155 million over the weekend. That shatters the previous record set by "Spider-Man 3" in 2007. Moviegoers are raving about the performance of the late Heath Ledger. He plays a deeply disturbed Joker. On opening night, tickets for "The Dark Knight" were so hard to come by, some people decided to turn to the web.

Veronica De La Cruz joins us now with details.

This makes sense to me, you would go to the Web sites of the movie theaters' right, and buy the tickets? That's what happened here, correct?

VERONICA DE LA CRUZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well here's what happened. These tickets are still so hard to come by, people are still turning to the web. And what I mean by this, Tony, is they were going to Web sites like craigslist and eBay --

HARRIS: Oh, come on.

DE LA CRUZ: Yes, they were. Because what happened was, they were so hard to come by opening night they sold out. So people -- they went to the web, sometimes paying more than five times the cost of a normal ticket.

And we are looking at craigslist right now, Tony. It looks like people are still clamoring to find tickets -- IMAX tickets, and that is because director Chris Nolan shot this film with an IMAX camera. A lot of people have been wanting to see this film in an IMAX theater. And the film, Tony, is showing on about 4,300 screens with only a little more than 90 of them being IMAX, so there you go. Hard to come by.

HARRIS: So folks are really using eBay to purchase these tickets?

DE LA CRUZ: They are using craigslist and they're using eBay. And a spokesperson for eBay said that they don't recall, Tony, ever auctioning movie tickets on the site. So it might actually be a first. And they've also seen a surge when it comes to memorabilia regarding Batman. Right now, Tony, you do a search, there are about 23,000 items up for grabs. Right now you can find items like "The Dark Knight" Joker figurines, which are at about -- a little more than $100 apiece. We are actually looking at this autographed Heath Ledger poster. This is going for about -- a little more than $1,800. And, Tony, you can buy four copies of Batman comics owned by the creators of Batman -- circa 1940 -- some of the very originals. And also "The Dark Knight," that is circa 1986. And those comic books are going for the low, low, low price of $155,000.

Tony Harris, do I hear 155,001?

HARRIS: Going once -- gone.

DE LA CRUZ: To Tony Harris?

HARRIS: No way, no how.

DE LA CRUZ: Did you just bid? Did you just the comic books?

HARRIS: No, no, no, no, no.

DE LA CRUZ: That wasn't you?

HARRIS: No way, no how. No way.

I tell you what, it's a heck of a film. It is a big movie-going experience, no doubt about that. And when we say deeply disturbed, this performance by Heath Ledger, we really mean deeply disturbed. If you haven't gone to see it, it's worth it as an experience. It is.

DE LA CRUZ: Yes, and we're hearing a lot of Oscar buzz, for sure.

HARRIS: Good to see you, Veronica. Thank you.

DE LA CRUZ: Good to see you.

COLLINS: Your money is issue No. 1 for you and for us. We're watching Wall Street to see if investors are bouncing back from Friday's volatile session. Live look not at the big board shows us to negative right now. Last time I looked we were up about exactly the same, so down 42 points is the Dow Jones Industrial average (p).

Looking ahead at private business groups -- out last hour with this forecast of future economic activity, the conference boards index of leading economic indicators fell (ph) one tenth of a percent in June, as expected.

Some good news trickles out of the gas pump, though. AAA reports that the national average price for gasoline at about $4.07 a gallon this morning. That's a one-day drop of eight-tenths of a cent, the fourth consecutive decline. Oil is leaning higher today after last week's steep slide of about $18 a barrel.

President Bush's top money man expects more tough times ahead for the economy and he's not the only one. Susan Lisovicz is at the New York Stock Exchange with details on what Henry Paulson and other economists had to say.

Hi there, Susan.


Yes, there's a whole lot of talking going on. Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson sought to allay fears about the banking system, especially after the collapse of IndyMac. But when it comes to the economy, the Treasury Secretary says it's going to take months to work through this period because of housing.


HENRY PAULSON, TREASURY SECRETARY: Right now we're going through a tough period. There's no doubt about it. But the stimulus plan is making a difference. We're focusing very much on housing because, as I said before, that's going to be a big key here -- is the sooner we can get the biggest part of this housing correction over and housing prices begin to stabilize, buyers come back to the market.


LISOVICZ: Paulson also says high energy prices are going to prolong the slow down. Still, he maintains that the long-term fundamentals of the economy are strong -- Heidi.

COLLINS: Yes, and we heard him mention the stimulus checks. A lot of people think they should be giving the economy a boost, but isn't it really that people are sort of hanging on to these checks instead of spending them on stuff?

LISOVICZ: Well we did see some short-term boosts in retailers, especially Wal-Mart for instance. But it is a short-term boost. I think we would have to agree.

Paulson is optimistic about the affects of the stimulus checks, but some in Congress are pushing for another stimulus package and it's no wonder. A new survey shows 45 percent of economists believe the U.S. won't log any growth or we'll clock in at a feeble 1 percent pace for the second half of this year. The second quarter GDP readings will be released next week. So we'll be eager to see that.

Meanwhile, on Wall Street, not seeing much growth there either. The Dow Industrials -- well it looked like it was going to be a four- day positive momentum. Right now, modestly lower 35 points. Nasdaq is down 5 points, or nearly .25 percent -- Heidi.

COLLINS: All right. CNN's Susan Lisovicz.

Thank you, Susan.

LISOVICZ: Your welcome.

COLLINS: The economy, it is issue No. 1 and we're going to bring you all of the latest financial news, weekdays at noon Eastern. It's information you need on the mortgage meltdown, the credit crunch and more. "ISSUE #1," noon Eastern.

HARRIS: How about this -- no charge for the world's most famous wardrobe malfunction. Remember Janet Jackson's exposed breast during the 2004 Super Bowl halftime show? Yes, that Timberlake fellow had something to do with that, right? CBS got fined $550,000 by the FCC for indecency, but just minutes ago a federal appeals court tossed out that fine saying that the FCC overstepped its bounds.

COLLINS: The 9/11 attacks were planned there, now the terrorist threat is on the rise again along the Afghanistan-Pakistan border.


COLLINS: Breaking news in the disappearance of Madeleine McCann. Just minutes ago, we learned Portugal's attorney general has ordered police to halt their investigation.

As you may remember, the British toddler vanished during a family vacation in Portugal last year. Police had named the girl's parents as formal suspects along with a local man. All have denied involvement and today's announcement means there is no evidence against the three. The case will remain on hold unless new evidence surfaces.

HARRIS: Growing concerns at the Pentagon. The chairman of the Joint Chiefs says Islamic extremists along the Afghanistan-Pakistan border are increasing the pressure on Western troops.

Here's CNN's Elaine Quijano.


ELAINE QUIJANO, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): In the region where terrorists planned the 9/11 attacks, the threat is gathering again and the Pentagon's top military officer worries that threat, growing steadily along the Pakistan-Afghanistan border, could emerge stronger than before.

ADM. MIKE MULLEN, JOINT CHIEFS CHAIRMAN: The -- joining a syndication (ph) of various extremists and terrorist groups which provides for a much more intense threat, internal to Pakistan, as well as the ability to flow greater freedom to flow forces across that porous border.

QUIJANO: Already in Afghanistan, the Taliban have stepped up the fighting with deadly results for American troops. A week ago in the remote eastern province of Kunar, nine American troops were killed by insurgents firing machine guns, mortars and rocket-propelled grenades. Chairman of the Joint Chiefs, Admiral Mike Mullen acknowledged violence is up. But he stopped short of saying the U.S. was losing the fight.

MULLEN: I would say the progress is mixed there, but I am not concerned at all at this point, that we're losing in Afghanistan. QUIJANO: For the presidential candidates, whose campaigns have differed sharply on Iraq, both men agree on the need for more help in Afghanistan.

OBAMA: I believe U.S. troop levels need to increase and I've -- for at least a year now, have called for two additional brigades, perhaps three.

MCCAIN: Our enemies are on the offensive. And it's precisely the success of the surge in Iraq that shows us the way to victory over the Taliban.

QUIJANO: Complicating the picture, Pakistan, where extremists continue to find sanctuary.

(on camera): U.S. officials say Pakistan's government is working to reign in the terrorists, but say more needs to be done. A point the candidates agree on as well.

Elaine Quijano, CNN, Washington.


COLLINS: Deadly explosions aboard a pair of city buses in southwestern China, this morning. Two people are dead, as many as 14 other people injured. The blast in coming can -- they came about an hour apart and public security officials say it was a deliberate attack. Police have clamped down on traffic in and out of the area as part of the ongoing investigation.

HARRIS: We want to give you an update on the wildfires in California. Boy, it has taken awhile. But, firefighters are getting the upper hand. This wildfire burning in the hills near Los Angeles. So far it's destroyed only a few acres and is currently no threat to homes. Lightning strikes last month sparked several wildfires in California. Since June 20th, almost 2,100 fires were reported. But that number has now dwindled to less than, ready, 35. Fire officials say, most fires are nearly 100 percent contained.

COLLINS: Attaining the American dream. Is that an easy proposition? Part of a landmark CNN documentary airing this week, "Black in America."


COLLINS: A trio of storms, one a possible threat to land. Tropical storm Dolly, now moving over Mexico's Yucatan Peninsula. It's headed into the Gulf of Mexico and could become a hurricane by tomorrow.

A short while ago a hurricane watch was issued for the Texas coast from Brownsville to Port O'Connor. Dolly is on track to make land fall later this week near the Texas-Mexico border. Tropical storm Cristobal threatened the North Carolina coast yesterday, but then turned away from land. Storm warnings for the Carolina coast were lifted last night. And hurricane Fausto in the Pacific, about 400 miles off Mexico, not a threat to land.

HARRIS: Wednesday, CNN presents "Black in America." A four-hour documentary examining the success and struggles of black America. 40 years after the assassination of Martin Luther King Jr.

CNN's special correspondent Soledad O'Brien has more.


SOLEDAD O'BRIEN, CNN SPECIAL CORRESPONDENT: Anthony and Lavonn (ph) Smith are living the American Dream. They have a loving family and a bond that's lasted more than 25 years.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The day we were married from our first child, I worked, you know. We worship together, we eat together.

O'BRIEN: And together they own a successful construction company. Smith-Mobley is one of a million black-owned businesses across the country. Over the last decade black businesses have increased 45 percent. And that's a success story that Bennett College President Julianne Malveaux says is ignored by the mainstream media.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: And part of the range of our story is the guy who gets up in the morning and goes to work and he's never been arrested. Most black people have not been arrested. Most black people are not poor. Most black people do not engage in pathology.

O'BRIEN: On Sunday mornings, you will find the Smith family here, at the Fifth Ward Church of Christ, where many of the families are headed by only one parent, people like Ira Johnson. Ira attends service with her five teenaged children, including her niece, whom she adopted as a toddler. And while the Johnson and the Smith families are separated by just one pew, their lives are worlds apart.

(on camera): How horrid has it been to be a single mom?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Sometimes I'm like I need a break, I need a breather. I need to walk away from that situation, put everything in perspective and say, OK, what next?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Every conventional wisdom that we have seen has been proven to be false. Nothing has held up.

O'BRIEN (voice-over): On his daily radio talk show, Roland Martin discusses issues important in black America. Issues like single parent families.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Looking at all the numbers, looking at everything, it will show you that when you are operating from a stable two-parent household, children are more likely to be educated, more likely to go to college, more likely not to be in jail, more likely not to get pregnant, more likely not to do drugs.

O'BRIEN: In the mid-1960s, 25 percent of all black children were born to unwed mothers. An alarming statistic. But consider this -- today that's jumped to nearly 70 percent. UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It's doing everything by myself, income. It's my income. If I don't make it, guess what? We don't have it.

O'BRIEN: But Ira's carefully orchestrated juggling act is about to come crashing down.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Hello, Mrs. Johnson? How are you doing? I'm Warren (ph), I'm the the new manager.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: How are you doing?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Ma'am, we have November rent that needs to get paid.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I have got to give you a three-day, ma'am.


HARRIS: Examining what it's like to be black in America. CNN's Soledad O'Brien has more and an unparalleled television event Wednesday and Thursday nights 9:00 Eastern.

COLLINS: Quickly want to show you these pictures that we were just getting in. Coming to us from the department of Defense, we see General David Petraeus there, alongside Senator Barack Obama. As you know, he is in Iraq. Today, you see them flying overhead as General Petraeus describes what they're seeing from above Baghdad. And just wanted to share those pictures with you. Well taken and we appreciate them coming in. Came from the U.S. Army.

Meanwhile, CNN NEWSROOM continues one hour from now.

HARRIS: "ISSUE #1" with Gerri Willis and T.J. Holmes, starts right now.