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Prime Suspect in Anthrax Case Commits Suicide; Obama's Town Hall Meeting is Interrupted by Protesters; John McCain to Speak in Orlando

Aired August 1, 2008 - 10:00   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


HEIDI COLLINS, CNN ANCHOR: Good morning, everybody. I'm Heidi Collins.
TONY HARRIS, CNN ANCHOR: And I'm Tony Harris, stay informed all day on the CNN NEWSROOM. Here's what's on the rundown. The 2001 Anthrax attacked poisoned letters killed five people. The FBI closing in on the suspect, but he apparently commits suicide.

COLLINS: FEMA supplies for Katrina's homeless given away. A CNN investigation gets attention on Capitol Hill. This hour, angry lawmakers.

HARRIS: Boy and a vicious gator rips a boy's arm clean off. His rescuers are telling the chilling story today, Friday, August 1st. You're in the CNN NEWSROOM.

COLLINS: Suicide confirmed in the death of a scientist and a suspect in the deadly 2001 Anthrax mailings case. His death comes as the Justice Department considered filing charges against him and was reportedly likely to seek the death penalty. We want to go live now to CNN Justice correspondent Kelli Arena standing by in Washington with all the details. Kelli, good morning to you.

KELLI ARENA, CNN JUSTICE DEPARTMENT CORRESPONDENT: Good morning, Heidi. I've spoken to three people with knowledge of this investigation who tell me that after seven years the Anthrax case could soon be closed that there is no longer a threat that a man named Bruce Ivins was going to be charged, but he committed suicide when he found out and it is very likely that he would have been facing the death penalty.

And neither the FBI or the Department of Justice will comment and here's why. There are grand jury secrecy laws that have to be dealt with, documents have to be unsealed, victims of those Anthrax attacks and their families, those who died - the families of those who died need to be briefed. Members of Congress who were targeted need to be briefed. Now, this all takes time and we probably won't know the full extent of this story for a few days.

So who was Bruce Ivins? Well, he was a government Anthrax researcher who worked for more than three decades at the Army's biodefense research lab at Fort Dietrich, Maryland. Sources tell us that the FBI traced the Anthrax that was used in the attacks back to that lab. We are also told by sources that Ivins was one of the scientists who was questioned very early on in this process and he was actually one of the many scientists to have done some work to help out the FBI with its investigation. CNN spoke to Ivins' brother earlier today. Here's what he had to say.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JOHN ROBERTS, CNN, ANCHOR: Did you know that he was a suspect in the Anthrax attacks?

VOICE OF TOM IVINS, BROTHER OF ANTHRAX SUSPECT: I was questioned by the Feds a year and a half ago. They say they were doing some investigation.

ROBERTS: Right. What kind of questions did they ask you?

IVINS: Very confidential.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ARENA: Investigators were pretty convinced that whoever the Anthrax killer was, that that person had to have a scientific background because the Anthrax was what they called weapons grade and very hard to make, Heidi.

COLLINS: Yes. A lot of people, I think, had thought that this case had gone cold. This is going to be seen though as a major breakthrough, isn't it?

ARENA: Absolutely. The government issued 6,000 grand jury subpoenas. They conducted more than 9,000 interviews. They pursued, you know, 50,000 leads. Unfortunately, not one arrest was made and so a lot of people thought, you know, that was it, but the investigation did continue at full force.

COLLINS: Yes. And then you have to wonder what the relationship to Stephen Hatfill was. Obviously, people have to remember him. All of the video that we showed of him walking around. There it is.

ARENA: Right. He was someone.

COLLINS: Who the government declared he was a person of interest several years ago. Did they both work at Fort Dietrich?

ARENA: Right. Ironically enough, you know, they did work at the same facility. Hatfill, of course, as you said was identified as a person of interest. He sued the government. He just recently reached a multi-million dollar settlement with the government and so that, at least, puts an end to that chapter.

COLLINS: Yes. All right, Kelli, a lot to still continue to follow here, obviously. Kelli Arena, our Justice correspondent from Washington today. Thanks, Kelli.

HARRIS: Well, you know, Justice officials may have been zeroing in on Bruce Ivins recently, but early in the Anthrax investigation as Kelli and Heidi were just talking about, they were pointing a finger at another former researcher, Stephen Hatfill. CNN Homeland Security correspondent Jeanne Meserve reports on what the government is now doing to make amends.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

JEANNE MESERVE, CNN HOMELAND SECURITY CORRESPONDENT (voice- over): Steven Hatfill will be getting $2.8 million from the Justice Department as well as an annuity of $150,000. This settles his lawsuit against the U.S. government. Hatfill, a former government scientist at the Army's Infectious Diseases Laboratory in Fort Dietrich, Maryland, was named by the Justice Department as a person of interest in the 2001 Anthrax mail attacks which killed five people, but Hatfill was never charged, and he sued saying his constitutional right had been trampled and his life destroyed.

STEVEN HATFILL, FORMER GOVERNMENT SCIENTIST: I am not the Anthrax killer. I know nothing about the Anthrax attacks. I had absolutely nothing to do with this terrible crime. My life is being destroyed by arrogant government bureaucrats who are peddling groundless innuendo and half information.

MESERVE: In a statement, Hatfill's lawyers say "our government failed us by leaking gossip, speculation and misinformation to a handful of credulous reporters," and they criticize journalists for "putting aside their professional skepticism and shoveling the leaked information all too willingly into publication." The Justice Department, in a statement, admits no wrongdoing.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

MESERVE: The Anthrax investigation is one of the largest and most complex investigations in history, but as of today, the case remains unsolved. Jeanne Meserve, CNN, Washington.

HARRIS: And this just in to CNN, the first of August and said to report NATO-led soldiers killed in eastern Afghanistan on Friday. The number, five. That according to military officials were soldiers and a civilian died in a bombing in Kunar province and another soldier died in a neighboring province. NATO's international security assistance force is reporting. So as we start August, another indication of the violence in Afghanistan. Five NATO-led soldiers are killed in eastern Afghanistan and we will continue to follow the story.

COLLINS: Your money, it is "Issue number one" here at CNN and this morning several headlines on the health of the economy. The nation's jobless rate hits its highest level in four years. This morning we learn that July unemployment rate hit 5.7 percent. More job losses than expected, it was up from 5.5 percent.

And more bad news for General Motors. Today it reported losses widened to $15.5 billion in the second quarter of this year. That was much more than expected and the third worse loss ever for the car maker.

The national average price of gas has dropped more than a penny this morning. According to AAA, today's price about $3.90 a gallon. Oil prices are on the upswing again today. You may remember they shot up about $4 a barrel on Wednesday and then retreated some yesterday.

Go ahead and check out big board now. See how Wall Street is going. The Dow Jones industrial average is down about 72 points or so resting at 11306. We'll take a look at the Nasdaq and it should be coming your way in the lower right hand side of your screen there. It looks like it is down about 38 points.

Another airline adding a new charge to offset near record fuel prices. Northwest Airlines, domestic passengers could see an extra $80, add on to their round trip ticket, the surcharge will apply to about 7,000 routes. Northwest says it's simply matching its competitor's surcharges in those markets. The increases take effect January 10th.

HARRIS: What do you say we spend a couple of minutes with Rob Marciano in the Severe Weather Center. Boy, Rob, we're tracking record heat and here we are in the first day of August, what in Colorado and Texas as well?

ROB MARCIANO, CNN, METEOROLOGIST: Everybody else. So, I can't remove it one me. There it is. Hi, guys.

HARRIS: Good morning.

MARCIANO: Temperatures are going to be in spots over 100 degrees in a lot of spots. As a matter of fact, you will hard pressed to find temps that will be below 90 in many cases. For instance, say in Denver it could break a hundred. Vegas, Phoenix, that's old news. But Salt Lake will be up in over 100. Dallas over a 100. 90 in New York, that will feel like a cold snap, 87 degrees expected in Chicago today and Lavapalooza is happening tomorrow.

I had this loaded in. I try to take it out and just wouldn't go. That's the Atlantic which is relatively quiet which is what we like to see. Also quiet across parts of the central plains and inner mountain west but it's the lack of sunshine and that strong August 1st sun with lack of cloud cover and strong August first sun is going to allow this area to bake and bake significantly. There will be some showers. Dallas actually saw a couple of showers pop up, but generally speaking it's going to be downright hot and it's been unseasonably warm there so far.

I think we have a live shot of Dallas. Check it out. They average about six days in July that are over 100. So far this month we've seen - or in the last 14 days, we've seen 13 days that have been up over 100 and we expect to see that again today. There were a couple of showers around DFW, but have since gone away. 78 in New York right now, 80 degrees in Philadelphia, 84 degrees in Dallas. Denver, as we mentioned earlier, that's going to be one of the spots that will see record-breaking heat today. Temperatures will be up and over 100 in that spot. Excessive heat warnings for Kansas City and also for parts of Denver. Speaking of records, yesterday was their 19th day in a row where they saw 90 plus.

COLLINS: Ow.

MARCIANO: Exactly. Is a good way to describe it. Find your nearest pool. I'd like to say, if you live in Denver go to the beach.

HARRIS: Yes.

MARCIANO: Not exactly a day trip.

HARRIS: Yes.

COLLINS: That's a land-locked state, isn't it?

MARCIANO: Exactly.

COLLINS: Yes.

MARCIANO: Find your nearest stream.

COLLINS: All right. Thank you, Rob. We'll check back a little later on.

MARCIANO: Sounds good.

COLLINS: It is a day of prayers, songs, silence and remembering in Minnesota. Residents are marking one year since the bridge collapsed in Minneapolis, one of the worst infrastructure failures in U.S. history. It was rush hour, 6:05 in the afternoon when the interstate 35 West Bridge buckled and fell into the Mississippi River. 13 people were killed, 145 others were injured. Today there will be an interfaith memorial service, a moment of silence and bells tolling. The bridge's replacement is expected to be finished in less than a year.

HARRIS: General Motors sputters, stalls, what was that a moment ago? Yes.

COLLINS: I can redo that.

HARRIS: Yes, huge losses.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

COLLINS: We want to get some new out to you quickly. Just in here to the CNN's NEWSROOM regarding the 2005 London subway bombings where 52 people were killed. I'm sure you remember the story, very, very scary times there. We are learning that the jury in the trial of the three British Muslims who were alleged to have aided in this attack have actually. The jury has been able to reach a verdict.

So we're not quite sure what will happen next as far as possibly re-trying those men but we are talking about three British Moslems by the names of Wahid Ali (ph), Sadir Salim (ph), and Mohammed Shakil (ph). They had all denied the charges. So we'll stay on top of that before we let you if anything else comes of it.

HARRIS: "Issue number one." The nation's economy while some companies are enjoying the best of times, others are merely hoping to survive some of the worst. Let's begin with the bad. CNN's Allan Chernoff has the morning's grim numbers from General Motors and you know how this goes, Allan, how grim are the numbers?

ALLAN CHERNOFF, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Let's run this one by you, $15.5 billion in losses for General Motors during the latest quarter. Just awful. People, of course, losing their jobs, gas prices soaring, people moving away from those gas-guzzlers. Sales at GM were down 20 percent during that period. The flip side of all of this, of course, oil prices up, well, profits as well for the oil companies. Chevron earning $6 billion during the second quarter, this coming after Exxon Mobil yesterday reported a record profit for any corporation. It's not all that pleasing to people feeling pain at the pump.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

CHERNOFF (voice-over): In the four minutes it took Deborah Perette to get her tank filled up, Exxon Mobil earned $357,000, a rate that generated a gusher of profit. $11.7 billion during the second quarter.

DEBRA PERETTE, DRIVER: It's sickening to see that they make so much money and we suffer for it. They should take less of a profit and help the little people out.

CHERNOFF: A new CNN opinion poll finds more than two-thirds of Americans believe U.S. oil companies like Exxon Mobil are a major cause of higher gas prices, followed by foreign oil producers as well as energy speculators.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I believe a lot of the oil companies because do I think they're gouging the American people.

CHERNOFF: Barack Obama called Exxon Mobil's profit outrageous.

SEN. BARACK OBAMA (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: No United States corporation has ever, in American history, made that much of a profit in a quarter. It never happened before, but while bigger oil is making record profits, you're paying record prices.

CHERNOFF: John McCain responded with a call to find more oil.

SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: We must begin immediately in drilling offshore so we can get some of the oil that's off our own coast.

CHERNOFF: Exxon Mobil says that is an answer to high oil prices. Congressional democrats say a better answer is to stop giving oil companies tax subsidies.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And big oil, despite all its riches has not delivered anything to anyone, but itself. It is the most selfish group of companies that I've ever seen.

CHERNOFF: But for investors expecting even more profit, Exxon Mobil didn't deliver enough. The stock fell nearly five percent on the news.

(END VIDEOTAPE) CHERNOFF: Wow, tough crowd on Wall Street. You know, Exxon Mobil's stock is down 15 percent during the past couple of months. Tony, very hard to satisfy those investors on Wall Street.

HARRIS: That's for sure. All right. Allan Chernoff for us this morning. Allan, we appreciate it. Thank you, sir.

COLLINS: Quickly, we want to take you to St. Petersburg, Florida now, where we have a town hall meeting being held by Senator Barack Obama.

SEN. BARACK OBAMA (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: We have 460,000 new jobs since beginning this year. This follows yesterday's news that wages and benefits fell further behind in inflation than at any time over the last 25 years. Meanwhile, I don't need to tell you gas prices are soaring out of control. Food prices are soaring. If you're lucky enough to have health care, your co-pays, your deductibles, your premiums just keep on going up and up, but 47 million people don't have health insurance. College is becoming less affordable and we've seen more home foreclosures than at any time since the great depression.

Back in the 1990s, your incomes grew by an average of $6,000, and over the last several years with George Bush in office, they've actually fallen $1,000. So the first thing I want to do, Florida, is just ask you a very simple question. Do you think that you are better off? Now than you were four years ago or eight years ago? And if you don't think you're better off, do you think you can afford another four years of the same failed economic policies that we've had under George W. Bush?

Can't afford it. Now, for so many families, these anxieties are getting worse, not better. I woke up, looked at your newspaper this morning that said that Florida was in recession for the first time in 16 years. The first time in 16 years that the economy in Florida shrank instead of grew. People are starting to lose faith, not only in their own prospects, but in their ability to pass on a better life to their children and to their grandchildren. They feel as if the American dream is slowly slipping away.

The idea that if you work hard, you can pass on a better life. The idea that's behind this country, the idea that you can make it if you try. People feel like that is slipping away. A lot of people are trying, but they're having a tough time making it. Part of this has to do with changes in the economy and I don't think any of us can deny that the economy is different now. It is globalized technology and communications revolutions mean that jobs can go to anywhere where there's an internet.

So some of these jobs, some of the economy was going to change no matter who was in office. We've got to recognize that. Children in St. Petersburg are now competing not just against kids in California or Indiana. They're going to be competing against children in Beijing and Bangalore and that means we're going have to work smarter. We're going to have to educate our children more effectively in order to compete in this international economy. But what we also have to remember is that some of the problems in our economy don't just have to do with the business cycle, don't just have to do with the revolution in communications. They have to do with very specific failures in Washington and on Wall Street. They're due to irresponsible decisions that were made by our leaders.

In recent years we've learned that basic truth that you can't have a thriving Wall Street if you don't have a thriving Main Street and we've had somebody in office who doesn't seem to care what's going on on Main Street.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

COLLINS: Senator Barack Obama holding a town hall meeting there in St. Petersburg, Florida. Just as a reminder, we want to let you than Senator John McCain will be coming up next hour and he's going to be talking in Orlando. We will bring that to you as well.

HARRIS: We want to take you to Wisconsin here in just a moment, we're going to let you hear sound from a news conference that is still ongoing, but this particular sound bite will get at the heart of the matter. We've been telling you about this man in the investigation, a horrible shooting there, a man wearing camouflage clothing carrying an assault rifle, walking out of the woods and gunning down four people who had gathered at a river to go swimming. Here is the sounds from one of the officials leading the investigation.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CHIEF DEP. JERRY SAUVE, MARINETTE CO., SHERIFF'S DEPT.: Chief Jerry Sauve with the Marinette Sheriff's Department. At about ten minutes to nine Central time our office was notified and I was notified that the suspect has been taken into custody. He is described as wearing camo clothes. He was armed with a rifle and we believe we have the suspect we've been looking for all night.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

HARRIS: And once again, the suspect in custody. The investigation, obviously, continues. A pretty impressive law enforcement response to this horrible shooting. More than 100 law enforcement officers and at least ten agencies involved in the search, and again, police have a suspect in custody. The suspect matching the description of the gunman they were looking for. We will continue to follow this story and bring you the very latest.

Your money, your questions, Gerri Willis has the answers. She's ready to sift through your e-mails. That is next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

HARRIS: OK. Let me pull a couple of elements together here for you this morning. 26 minutes after the hour. As you can see, the Dow down 90 as we take a look at the big board, the New York Stock Exchange. I don't know if we've actually entered into triple-digit losses yet. Oh, boy, let me not say that. I'm not encouraging that, that's for sure. We want like to update in the week on. The Nasdaq down better than 30 at this point. Maybe the down morning so far driven by jobless claims. The jobless rate rising to a four-year high of 5.7 percent. We're going to get a market check in just a couple of minutes with Susan Lisovicz for you.

Recession-proof jobs and real estate options. You have questions in this tough economy and CNN personal finance editor Gerri Willis is answering your e-mails.

GERRI WILLIS, CNN PERSONAL FINANCE EDITOR: Well, it's Friday so it's time to answer your questions. This first one comes from Vikki Florida. Vikki asks "what jobs or industries are more recession-proof than others?" Well, in reality, Vikki, no job is recession proof, but there are industries that fair better than others when economy is suffering. Security jobs from transportation security to computer security specialists are an example.

One recent report estimates that the government will need to fill 83,000 security jobs in the next two years, health care, another fast- growing area. Physical therapists, home health aides and medical assistants are all in demand, plus employers are upping the perks including tuition and re-location reimbursement and increased time off. And finally education is a good area. 2.8 million new teachers are going to be needed over the next eight years. That's according to estimates.

COLLINS: Our next question comes from Aaron, he writes. I own a property in Florida that is not selling like I wanted to, my question is about the deed in lieu option. Does it show up as a foreclosure on my credit? If not, how it will affect my credit. A deed in lieu is just as devastating to your credit score as a foreclosure. It will show up in our score as a deed in lieu of foreclosure.

Some of you also write and ask how a loan modification affects your credit score. Well, your credit score doesn't really reflect the terms of your loan so as long as you've been current with your payments a loan mod won't have any impact. However, the sad fact is that most lenders won't even do a loan modification unless you've already missed payment and it's up to the lender to re report late payments or delinquencies.

And finally a question from Tiffany, she wants to know "in order to get price, when is the best time for me to book a flight for my Christmas vacation? With the current economy, I'm worried that the price will go down instead of up by the end of the summer." Well, you are right to be concerned, Tiffany. There have been 24 airfare hikes since the beginning of January and we're likely to see more hikes by the end of the year. Airlines are also cutting 10 to 15 percent of their domestic flights.

Normally it would be a bit early to shop for holiday travel, but this year it is a smart move. If you see a good price, lock it in and keep track of your flight and make sure the airline doesn't cancel it later on. Of course, if you have a question, send it to us at toptips@cnn.com. We love hearing from you. HARRIS: Still to come, running for state office, but can this war vet do it from a battle zone? I will talk to a candidate called to active duty.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

HARRIS: Just past the half hour. Welcome back, everyone to the CNN NEWSROOM. I'm Tony Harris.

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

Well, it's bad enough that gas is as expensive as it is. Even worse, some people aren't even getting what they paid for.

Felicia Taylor has our Energy Fix now from New York, this morning

Hi there, Felicia.

FELICIA TAYLOR, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hey, Heidi.

You're not going believe this story. At a time when people are literally struggling to make ends meet and gas prices are of course, soaring. It seems one company has been cheating customers.

The attorney general of Texas has filed suit against the owner of Sunmart gas stations in Texas. He claims nearly 1,000 of their pumps were miscalibrated in the company's favor, and on purpose. In other words, customers were allegedly paying for a gallon but indeed, getting far less. The attorney general says he's going for the financial death penalty.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GREGG ABBOTT, TEXAS ATTORNEY GENERAL: I will be surprised if the number of violations is less than 1,000. So you can kind of do the math of what this could cost Sunmart buying petroleum wholesale if you multiply 1,000 times $20,000, it could be a very stiff penalty.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

TAYLOR: And if they do get the full amount in damages, the penalties could be in excess of $20 million. A very costly fine for a pretty small company -- Heidi

COLLINS: Yes. Any chance, Felicia, this was an accident on the part of the company?

TAYLOR: I wish that was the case.

But investigators so far say absolutely not. They say all of the miscalibrations they found were in the company's favor, no coincidence there, right? And that Sunmart went to great lengths to actually deceive investigators.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) TODD STAPLES, AGRICULTURE COMMISSIONER, TEXAS: ... some station that the stations were out of fuel. We instructed the station owners to give us access to those tanks and we discovered that there were fuel in those tanks. And so we conducted that inspection process in spite of those efforts to what appears to me, to cover up these egregious violations that were occurring.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

TAYLOR: Investigators aren't yet saying how far off the calibrations were. Petroleum Wholesale, the parent company of Sunmart, is so far denying the allegations. It says its concerned that some of the testing methods don't comply with protocol and that it has and will continue to cooperate with this investigation -- Heidi.

COLLINS: Well, you know, you have to wonder when you look at stuff like this, how can you find out if you're getting cheated yourself?

TAYLOR: Yes. Exactly. I mean, that's got to be on every consumer's mind and it really is hard to know. That's, of course, the problem. But here's what you don't know.

In many states the pumps are allowed to be just ever so slightly off. In Texas, that amounts to about 2 cents a gallon. But, we do have an Energy Fix for you. Know the size of your gas tank. If something seems wrong, do complain to your state authorities. In this case it was customer complaints that did bring about the investigation and hopefully there will be some resolution.

But do tell us your stories. Send us your photos and videos and ideas to ireport.com/energyfix. Heidi, back to you.

COLLINS: All right. Great. Thanks so much.

CNN's Felicia Taylor.

HARRIS: Lawmakers on Capitol Hill conserving energy, their own. They're about to begin a month-long vacation but they've done nothing on the energy issues that have drained your wallet, zapped the nation's economy.

CNN's Brianna Keilar is on Capitol Hill for us.

Brianna, good morning.

BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Tony, I'm standing here on the Senate side of the Capitol building. And take a look behind me. This is the parking lot, a couple of cars here, probably for senators. But otherwise, I think a tumbleweed might go flying by here, behind me.

The Senate finished up votes last night, dealing with some housekeeping issues, today. But mostly a lot of senators took off last night for their home districts. And this really pales in comparison to what you can see on the House side of the Capitol building. If we can look at some live pictures that we're bringing in from over there. You can see a whole lot of cars. These are basically the escape vehicles for August recess. You remember that last day of school? Well, that's pretty much what it's like here on Capitol Hill, especially for the House of Representatives.

It appears at this point that Congress is going to be leaving for a five week-long recess without having come to any agreement on how to deal with those high gas prices. The sticking point of course, still, the offshore oil drilling. Republicans saying they want to open up protected lands, lift a conventional ban on offshore oil drilling. And Democrats saying that's not going lower gas prices and that oil companies should just drill on leases that they already on.

So at this point, both sides vowing that they're going to keep the pressure on each other during the recess and continue to make this an issue. But they're leaving without any energy legislation, Tony.

HARRIS: Brianna, I love the way you put it. The escape vehicles warming up on the House side. I love it.

All right. Brianna Keilar on Capitol Hill, for us.

Brianna, thank you.

COLLINS: An incident to share with you in St. Petersburg, Florida, where we've been showing you Senator Barack Obama is at the podium there, holding a town hall meeting. He's talking about the economy, many different aspects of it. Apparently there were some protesters that stood up and tried to take some of his time.

Let's listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. BARACK OBAMA (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: ... hold on a second. What's happening here? Hold on, a second.

That's all right. That's all right.

Listen, excuse me!

Hey! Hold on a second.

CROWD: Yes, he can! Yes, he can! Yes, he can! Yes, he can! Yes, he can! Yes, he can! Yes, he can! Yes, he can! Yes, he can! Yes, he can! Yes, he can!

OBAMA: Hold on! Hold on, everybody!

Excuse me, young man, this is going to be a question and answer session. So, you can ask a question later.

Let me make my statement. Why don't you all sit down.

(APPLAUSE) OBAMA: Sit down. You'll have a chance to ask your questions. But you don't want to disrupt the whole meeting. Just be courteous, that's all. All you got to do is be courteous, that's all.

Come on. Just be courteous and you'll have a chance to make your statement. Just relax. That's all. Just relax. You'll have a chance.

All right. Where was I and what was I talking about?

(END VIDEO CLIP)

COLLINS: Well, there you have it. A little incident there that happened a few moment ago, St. Petersburg, Florida.

Back to the live right now, with Senator Barack Obama is taking some questions. And that will be happening shortly.

We're going to go ahead and listen in now to what's happening at this very moment.

(JOINED IN PROGRESS)

OBAMA: They want solutions that are going to help them pay gas at the pump. Solutions help them stay in their homes. Solutions to make sure everybody's got a job. In the end, that's all Americans are looking for.

They are -- you are self-reliant, you are independent people. You're not looking for a handout from government. But all you are hoping for is that if you're able and willing to work, you can find a job that pays a living wage.

(APPLAUSE)

That if you work hard enough you can get a home you call your own. That you're not bankrupt if you get sick. That you can send your child to a good school and make sure they can go to college, even if you're not wealthy. That you can retire with some dignity and some respect.

That's what you should expect. That's why I'm running for president. And if you're willing to stand with me and work with me and vote for me, we're not just going to win Florida, we're going win this election. We're going to change the country and we're going to change the world.

Thank you, everybody. God bless you.

COLLINS: Senator Barack Obama in St. Petersburg, Florida, wrapping up his -- the start anyway, of his town hall meeting. I believe he'll be taking some questions now, as he stated to the protesters that we saw moments ago, new video that had come in here to CNN.

In case you didn't get to see it, the banner that they held up did say, "What about the black community, Obama?." And he told them that they would have their chance and that they would be able to ask their questions, but to just remain courteous.

So there you have it, happening it right now in St. Petersburg, Florida. Of course, we will keep our eye on this as we are also going to keep our eye on Senator John McCain. His speech coming up from Orlando, next hour.

HARRIS: I want to hear the question now.

As part of our commitment to help you make an informed choice on election day, we're playing more of what the presidential candidates are saying in their own words.

Here's John McCain on two major campaign issues, taxes and energy.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Senator Obama says he'll only raise taxes on the rich. But in the Senate, he voted for tax hikes that would have impacted those making just $32,000 a year. He's proposed tax increases on income taxes, capitol gains taxes, dividends taxes, pretty much anything you can tax, he wants to tax more. My friends, on Social Security, he wants to raise Social Security taxes.

My position, and I am opposed to raising taxes, including Social Security taxes. Have no doubt about my opposition.

(APPLAUSE)

You know, and that's a debate we should have openly in good faith. I hope I can convince Senator Obama that it's not a good idea to raise taxes on American families who are hurting today. And we all know they're hurting today. Raising taxes in a bad economy is about the worst thing, the worst thing you could do. Because that would kill more jobs than we are already losing. We're already losing too many.

I'm going keep current tax rates low and not -- and cut others and not because I want to make the rich richer. But because it keeps jobs in America and it creates new ones.

(APPLAUSE)

Senator Obama says that he wants energy independence. But he's opposed to new drilling at home. He's opposed to nuclear power. He's opposed to an innovation prize for electric cars. My friends, we must begin immediately in drilling offshore so we can get some of the oil that's off our own coasts. We have to begin that drilling and Senator Obama opposes it.

(APPLAUSE)

He said that the high cost of gasoline doesn't bother him, only that it rose too quickly. Yesterday, he suggested we put air in our tires to save on gas. My friends, let's do that. But do you think that's enough to break our dependence on Middle Eastern oil? I don't think so.

So I believe that every energy source needs to be part of the solution. We need to develop new alternative energies like wind, solar, tide, biofuels. But we need to develop more existing energies like nuclear power and clean coal. Nuclear power is safe. Clean coal technology is vital.

(APPLAUSE)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

HARRIS: John McCain in his own words. We will hear from him live at 11 a.m. in Orlando.

COLLINS: And quickly we just want to remind you if you want to catch some of the live speeches that are happening, Senator Barack Obama, for instance, in St. Petersburg, Florida. You can always go to CNN.com/live. I've been listening and right now he's talking about hurricane insurance from one of the questions that was taken. And that was the first one so far.

So we'll be monitoring that, of course, as well.

Emergency supplies meant for victims of Hurricane Katrina. So why didn't they get them? FEMA admitting mistakes.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

HARRIS: Well, I love this story. An Iraq war veteran running for state office and now being called to active duty again.

Republican Mike Hahn joining us from Madison, Wisconsin.

Mike, good to talk to you. Thanks for your time this morning.

MIKE HAHN, WIS. STATE ASSEMBLY CANDIDATE: Well, thanks for having me on, Tony.

HARRIS: Well, got to ask you. Did you know at the time you decided to make this run, that you could possibly be called back to active duty?

HAHN: I knew there was a possibility. I had completed my service in the National Guard in October of last year and I'm currently on inactive ready reserve. And I knew there was an outside chance this could happen.

But, you know, the issues that we're facing in Beloit, in Jamesville and Clinton, where I'm hoping to represent, they're far too important to put off addressing.

HARRIS: Well, isn't it also true that you ran unopposed in the primary. On some level did you feel that there needed to be some kind of Republican standard bearer you, to take on the Democrats? You didn't want to give the seat over to the Democrat in essentially a walkover, did you?

HAHN: Well, I don't like it when there's unopposed races anyway.

But I -- it's really not about the fact of being a Republican standard bearer or anything like that. Quite honestly, it's that our district is ready for change. It needs change. We have very important and pressing issues when it comes to the economy and jobs. GM just announced that they're going to close -- or announced a couple of months ago that they'll close the Jamesville GM plant where they make Tahoes and Suburbans.

You know, the current assemblyman hasn't talked about the economy at all, hasn't introduced anything about the economy.

(CROSSTALK)

HARRIS: Let's take a moment to talk about him.

You're running against a two-term state representative, Democrat Chuck Benedict. I mean, he's pretty impressive, you're impressive. He's a doctor, Dartmouth grad, a Duke Medical School graduate.

Honestly, what are your chances of winning?

HAHN: I think my chances are pretty good.

I've been going door to door working hard, talking to people in the district. And the basic message that I have is that we need somebody who is going fight hard to bring good jobs, not only to the state of Wisconsin, but especially to the state line area. We need someone who's going to address the fact that we have run away wasteful spending in the state capital.

HARRIS: Yes.

HAHN: We are -- we're one of the most highly taxed states in the country. And when you add all that up together, we need someone who's going to address those issues.

My opponent, while, yes, he does have an impressive resume, his only issue the last four years has been introducing universal health care in the state of Wisconsin.

HARRIS: Well, I have to ask you very quickly --

(CROSSTALK)

HARRIS: Mike, before I lose you, I got to ask you quickly.

Best case scenario, you do win. How do you plan to serve? How do you do that?

HAHN: Well, there is precedent for this.

Our current -- the current assembly judiciary committee chairman is serving overseas in Iraq right now as well as -- and three other state assemblymen have done this, too.

Where should I win, my office will be open to handle all constituent services and things like that. I'll be able to be in touch with e-mail and phones and I'll still be advocating for the people of this district.

HARRIS: Well, Mike, good luck. And the idea here is to be really positive. When I win, it's not -- yes. You will win.

Good to talk to you, Mike. Thanks for your time this morning.

HAHN: Thank you very much, Tony.

COLLINS: An army researcher and suspect in the anthrax attacks dies.

Our justice correspondent is digging for details now. We'll talk with her live, in a moment.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

HARRIS: Let's get another check of the big board, New York Stock Exchange right now. And as you can see, the DOW is done 56 points. It's been hovering in this range through most of the morning. The NASDAQ is also down about 22 points. S&P. So, all the broad market industries are down, the S&P down seven.

A market check next hour with Susan Lisovicz for you, right here in the NEWSROOM.

(WEATHER REPORT)

HARRIS: Just a couple of minutes ago, as you recall, we took you to a town hall meeting that Barack Obama is holding in St. Petersburg, Florida. It was interrupted by people holding up a sign saying, what about black America, Obama.

What the disturbance was all about, the question and answer session that followed with those hecklers. We will give you a complete update and then set the record straight on this story. John McCain also coming up next hour in Orlando, after a break.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

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