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Sex Offender's Release; Russian Invasion; Humanitarian Efforts, News Crews Under Attack; Russia Stirs Cold War Fears; Vigil for Arkansas Dem. Chairman; McCain Ad Fuels Web Debate; Dangling Workers Pulled Off Skyscraper; Donald Trump to Buy Ed McMahon's Mansion; Fairwells Online

Aired August 15, 2008 - 09:00   ET


HEIDI COLLINS, CNN ANCHOR: Good morning, everybody. You are in the CNN NEWSROOM. I'm Heidi Collins. Tony Harris is off today.
See events come into the NEWSROOM live on Friday, August 15th.

Here's what's on the rundown.

A pregnant New York traffic officer run over by a bus. Witnesses say a crowd lifted the vehicle off the woman.

A sex offender described as unrepentant released from prison today and he won't be monitored. An outraged citizen live.

Dodging bullet to get the story in Georgia. Reporters in the line of fire, in the NEWSROOM.

Quickly want to get this information out to you just as it comes into the CNN NEWSROOM here. We're talking about a fire that is happening in San Francisco. You see the pictures there now. New video coming into us from our affiliate there, KGO, in Vallejo, California.

This is apparently -- unfortunately, a retirement community. It was built -- this building -- back in the 1930s, so, obviously, very, very old. The building has been evacuated. But, of course, that is a very difficult procedure given the age of the residents. People were transported from the scene.

We're now looking at live pictures. Obviously, those flames have been extinguished. So that is a very good thing.

All we know at this point is one injury that is -- major and two minor injuries. Apparently, this fire started at 3:00 a.m. local time.

Again, we'll stay on top of the story for you and bring you any developments should they come our way.

Several big stories developing this hour. We want to begin in the tropics where a big disturbance is brewing that could mean big trouble for the U.S. Reynolds Wolf is watching all of it for us and joins us now.

Hey there, Reynolds. What's going on? REYNOLDS WOLF, CNN METEOROLOGIST: Hey, Heidi. You're right, we're watching this area of disturbed weather that is moving right over parts of Puerto Rico. San Juan has been hit especially hard this morning with some heavy rainfall, some strong winds, and some strong surf.

We're also seeing that beginning to move into parts of the Dominican Republic. One thing we're watching, though, is if the center of circulation remains over this warm ocean water, there's a very good chance the storm could strengthen and become something else, possibly a named store as we get into the weekend.

I want you to notice this. This is what we referred to as our spaghetti models. Now you'll notice this big pink line takes it right into the Caribbean. That is not one of the models. That is actually the path of extrapolation and if it were to continue on the present course, it would move right into the Caribbean.

The thing is, it's not expected to move that way. It's expected to actually veer a little bit more to the north and then to the northwest and there's a possibility that remains over land. It could weaken considerably if it hugs the shoreline right near the Dominican Republic and back to Haiti. Well, there's a chance it could continue to strengthen.

Just near this area, separating Haiti and the Dominican Republic, you've got really high elevation. So I would say, without a doubt, you're going to have some heavy rainfall possible, possible mud slides and some flooding there. But then if that storm takes a turn a little bit to the north near Ragged Island into the Bahamas, there is a real danger, real potential for this storm strengthening.

Some of the models, you'll notice, bringing in the South Florida, right near into parts of I-95, into the Keys possibly. There's even a chance the storm could move back into the Gulf of Mexico or right along the eastern sea board.

One thing I want you to remember. Remember a little bit of history, back in 2004, you had Hurricane Charlie that had a bead right into parts of Tampa. But you'll remember, at the last minute, made that quick right-hand turn into Punta Gorda.

The reason why I bring this up is to let you know these storms, again, can really vary in terms of their strength, their speed, their direction. So certainly something to watch very carefully and certainly it's time to be prepared, Heidi. It is hurricane season.


WOLF: This is a really -- really got to stay focused on the tropics and get those hurricane preparedness kits ready.

COLLINS: Good idea.

All right, Reynolds, we know you're watching it. We'll come back to you should we need to. WOLF: You bet, Heidi.

COLLINS: Thanks so much.

WOLF: Absolutely.

COLLINS: Want to get to this story now. A heroic rescue effort in New York. Sadly, though, it was not enough to save the life of a pregnant woman. But her unborn baby did survive. The woman was a New York City police or -- excuse me, traffic officer, was hit by a van, and then run over by a school bus. That's when some everyday heroes took action.

Josh Levs joins us now with more details on this.

Boy, what an absolutely, unbelievable story.

JOSH LEVS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: It's an amazing story, Heidi. And just as you're saying, you know, we're focusing on this today in the NEWSROOM. It's amazing, because, at the same time, we've got the tragedy, but also what could ultimately be an incredible story of survival.

Let me show you what some of the major sites are leading with today. This is our affiliate right here, New York 1. They're leading with this story about the man who was arrested in this situation.

Let me bring you over to the "New York Post." They're saying "30 Men and a Baby." You'll learn why they're saying that in just a moment. Over here we've got the "Daily News" doing the same thing, saying "Tragedy's Child."

Let's pull back a little bit. We're going to show you some of the video from the scene, which I've got in this screen over to my left here. This is in the Bronx area. For those of you who know the area, it's 188th and Webster, right near the campus there of Fordham University.

And it is an incredible story of this traffic cop who was first hit by a van, then a bus came along, ended up on top of her. Someone apparently tried to run to get a jack to lift off the bus. But, well, I'll tell you what, we have an eyewitness who will tell you from here what happened.


GARY BURGESS, PULLS WOMAN FROM UNDER BUS: I seen that somebody was trapped under that bus there. Now we didn't know the person or, you know, at that moment, I didn't know what it was. All we knew that somebody was under there and they was bent like fold -- I could see her feet, but she was underneath and you could see she was like bent over.

So what we did -- there's a garage right here is -- a car garage right here, and the guy went to get his pump jack, but we knew -- somebody was saying it was a lady, it was a lady, so what we did, it was like 30 to 40 of us, we lifted -- actually lifted that bus off of her.


LEVS: It's a five-ton bus that they lifted off of this woman. It's absolutely incredible what they managed to do. Now she died. The latest information I have on the child, 3 pounds, 6 ounces, in critical condition at a hospital there.

We're going to follow that.

And also, let me close in on one more thing here, because we now have information from Michael Bloomberg. He's offering his condolences so her husband and he also says he hopes that the child grows up. He will come to understand his mother gave her life serving the city.

And Heidi, in this situation, the driver has now been arrested on charges of criminally negligent homicide and aggravated unlicensed operation of a motorcycle.

COLLINS: Oh, boy. Oh, boy. Well, I guess if we're going to try and find some good news out of this, it certainly is that little baby who is fighting for his life.

You know, in fact, Josh, we've got Elizabeth Cohen coming up a little bit later on. She's going to talk more about how you save a fetus like that in a situation that is so dire. So we'll talk about that a little bit later on.


COLLINS: Thanks, Josh.

LEVS: Thanks.

COLLINS: Outrage in a Pennsylvania community over a convicted sex offender's released from prison today.

George Feigley served more than 30 years for sex crimes against children. Today he goes free. He won't have to check in with police or wear a tracking device. He won't be on parole and he won't have to register as a sex offender under the provision of Megan's Law.

Authorities say Feigley is the founder of a religious sect that advocates using children for sexual gratification.

Neighbors are petitioning to keep Feigley out of their Harrisburg community. And we're going to be talking with one of those residents who is outraged over this release coming up at the bottom of the hour.

Meanwhile, Detroit's embattled mayor due back in court. Live pictures you see there after a day of legal ping-pong, if you will. A judge will decide whether there's probable cause to try Kwame Kilpatrick on assault charges. That case stems from a confrontation with investigators trying to serve a subpoena.

Kilpatrick was in court yesterday to enter a not guilty plea on perjury charges. During the hearing, a judge told Kilpatrick he could remove his electronic tracking device and attend the Democratic convention. He's a superdelegate. But later in the day another judge ordered the mayor to put the device back on.

So we're following that story for you.

The Russian invasion of Georgia. The guns are mostly silent this morning, but the concerns are certainly growing louder. Last hour, President Bush re-affirmed U.S. support of the Georgian people. He also warned Russia has, quote, "damaged its credibility."

One reason, Russian troops are still blocking the entry into the strategic Georgian city of Gori. That's creating more doubts about Russia's commitment to a cease-fire and pull back. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice is in Georgia with a new cease-fire proposal in hand. It would require Russia to immediately withdrawal its combat troops.

And new official numbers now on the humanitarian crisis in all of this. The United Nations says nearly 120,000 Georgians have been displaced by the fighting.

Let's begin now our Georgia coverage with the new diplomatic efforts that we're talking about. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice is in the Georgia capital this hour with that new proposal in hand that we mentioned.

CNN's Frederik Pleitgen is in Tbilisi now with the very latest on all of it.

Frederik, good morning.

FREDERIK PLEITGEN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: And, Heidi, negotiations between Condoleezza Rice and the Georgian president, Mikheil Saakashvili, seem to be taking a little longer than we have been expecting. We were expecting them to hold a joint press conference more than an hour ago by now.

Now there are some very important sticking points still in that cease- fire proposal, some very painful concessions that the Georgians would have to make to the Russian side. They concern the status of Russian peacekeepers in those breakaway provinces of Southern Ossetia and also of Abkhazia. And they also concern the freedom of movement of those Russian peacekeepers on Georgian territory.

Now you said it, the U.S. is ratcheting up its diplomatic efforts. Now they're finding some very strong words for the Russian side. George -- President Bush just went on TV in a live address.

Let's listen in to what he had to say.


GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The United States and our allies stand with the people of Georgia and the democratically elected government. Georgia's sovereignty and territorial integrity must be respected. Moscow must honor its commitment to withdraw its invading forces from all Georgian territory.


PLEITGEN: Now, Heidi, the interesting thing is we've been talking to people here in the Georgian capital of Tbilisi and they say they're quite disappointed in the way the U.S. has handled the situation up until now. They say they would have liked to have clear words like the ones that President Bush just said a couple of minutes ago. They would have liked those in the early stages of the conflict and not a week into the conflict.

Let me just give you a quick update on the situation in the ground in that strategically important town of Gori. Apparently, the Russian forces are not in the -- in the center of the town anymore. However, they do still control the roads that lead into that town. They're in the military base in that town.

However, Georgian officials tell us, they are in negotiations with the Russians to try to get a transition going in that town -- Heidi.

COLLINS: All right, Frederik Pleitgen, staying on top of the story for us, coming from Tbilisi this morning.

Thank you, Frederik.

Danger in the war zone. News crews on the jobs and under fire. See the complete videotape a little bit later coming up right here in the NEWSROOM.

But first let's get to this. Swimmer Michael Phelps, six for six in gold medals now. Also a huge night for U.S. gymnasts.

Our Larry Smith covering the Beijing games live now.

Larry, we're even more jealous today. Boy, that medal count is just going up and up, isn't it?

LARRY SMITH, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, it really is. And it's fun to watch this now. It's really almost becoming a two-nation race very quickly in the opening days of competition between the host, China, and the United States.

Who is going to have the total overall gold win and who will have the total medals win overall?

Right now China leading the gold, USA leading in total medals. But if Thursday was the day for the Chinese, certainly Friday was the day for Americans to shine.


SMITH (voice over): Nastia Liukin is the "it girl" in gymnastics beating friend and teammate Shawn Johnson for the individual all around gold medal in Beijing. It's the first gold medal for the U.S. gymnast at these games and the first gold silver finish in the event in U.S. history. Another chapter in the historic Beijing story of Michael Phelps. A sixth gold medal and world-record breaking performance, this time beating his closest rival by more than two seconds in the 200-meter individual medley. American Ryan Lochte took the bronze. Phelps will go for his seventh gold Saturday morning in Beijing. That will tie Mark Spitz's hollowed record of seven gold medals from the 1972 games.

Rebecca Soni stole the show earlier in the water cube's pool. Stunning Australian star Leisel Jones to break her world record and win gold in the 200-meter breath stroke.

Talk about making the most of a stroke of luck, Australia's Libby Trickett made the 100-meter freestyle final only when a Chinese swimmer was disqualified. Trickett took silver on Friday, beating the favorite Natalie Coughlin of the U.S. who settled for bronze.

The USA men's basketball team gets ready for an undefeated showdown with Spain after their most impressive win yet. A 92-69 victory over the Greek team that beat them in the world championships two years ago.


SMITH: Now back to Michael Phelps, who you're probably keeping track and we are 12 hours ahead of you on the East Coast. So his run for that, his swim for that 7th gold medal in the 100-meter butterfly will come actually Friday night East Coast time. One night later, Saturday night, on the East Coast, it's the 4x100 meter medley, and he will then go for that record of eight gold medals.

And by the way, one more thing, the track and field competition is under way just behind me now in the last few minutes. The shot put competition has begun. USA trying to get its first medal possibly in that competition. Reese Hoffa and Adam Nelson both going for gold.

Let's go back to you.

COLLINS: All right, Larry, enjoying it. Thanks so much. We'll keep in touch with you.

The campaign downplayed it, but was a mechanical problem aboard Barack Obama's plane really a big deal? You'll hear the pilots in action.


COLLINS: It's Friday, that means it's time to recognize the newsmakers that most shape this week's news.

"Making Their Mark" this week, the Russian forces that rolled into the former Soviet Republic of Georgia. Eight days after the invasion, troops are still there and chilling images of the cold war loom larger than ever.

Emergency landing. When Barack Obama's plane made an unscheduled stop last month, he called it a little glitch, but now FAA tapes show it was a potentially serious situation. Want to go live now to CNN's Jeanne Meserve at Reagan National Airport.

So what do these tapes say here, Jeanne?

JEANNE MESERVE, CNN HOMELAND SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: Well, Heidi, back when this happened on July 7th and the Obama plane had to make this unscheduled landing in St. Louis, both the FAA and Midwest Airlines said that it was not an emergency. But tower tapes first obtained by ABC News tell a very different story.


UNIDENTIFIED PILOT: At this time, we'd like to declare this an emergency. And also have CFR standing by in St. Louis.

UNIDENTIFIED TOWER PERSONNEL: I will show that and would you -- do you have a preference on runways? Would you like runway 3-0 right or runway 3-0 left?

UNIDENTIFIED PILOT: Well which on is the longest?


UNIDENTIFIED PILOT: OK. We'd like 3-0 left. And just for informational purposes, we have Senator Obama onboard this aircraft and his campaign.



MESERVE: And, of course, the plane did land safely. The National Transportation Safety Board is still investigating. But in a preliminary report, they said they found absolutely no sign of tampering with the aircraft. What appeared to cause this was an emergency slide in the tail cone, which deployed in flight.

Now, as for why, we didn't get the straight scoop on what happened here until these tapes were released. A spokeswoman for the FAA says in a breaking news situation often the first information is inaccurate or incomplete, and in this case, there was no clarification, until, of course, these tapes blame public.

Back to you, Heidi.

COLLINS: Wow. All right. Jeanne Meserve from Reagan National Airport this morning -- thank you, Jeanne.

A little boy's face suddenly swells and blisters. He ends up on life support. The culprit may surprise you.

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ANNOUNCER: Covering the angles, uncovering the details, see for yourself in the CNN NEWSROOM.

COLLINS: A potential silent killer. An attack can go undiscovered until it is too late.

CNN chief medical correspondent Dr. Sanjay Gupta is here now.

So, Sanjay, what's going on here? What are we talking about?

DR. SANJAY GUPTA, CNN CHIEF MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, you know, this is the story of the Bowling family who live in Kansas, had no idea how close they were living to potential real danger until one day their 5-year-old son got sick.

Take a look.


GUPTA (voice over): One night last fall, 5-year-old Barron Bowling suddenly woke up feeling a little sick to his stomach.

ELISA BOWLING, BARRON'S MOTHER: I asked him what was wrong, and he said, oh I ate too much dinner. And then by morning, I heard him in the bathroom again. He was still sick. And I said, what's wrong, buddy? You're still sick? I noticed his ear was a little bit puffy and just a little bit of his cheek.

GUPTA: Ear infection, a little cold, common childhood problems. All these things ran through Elisa's head, but she was about to get a surprise.

BOWLING: When we first got to the E.R., it wasn't that bad yet. You know it's just the ear and part of his cheek, and nobody knew what was wrong.

GUPTA: Then Barron started to get worse.

BOWLING: It went from just the ear and underneath the chin to all the way, half way across his face. His eyes swelled closed. There's no answers. I didn't sleep for three days and just sitting by his bedside and, you know, they had him intubated and on life support.

GUPTA: Elisa thought she might lose her child. And then finally it started to all make sense -- blisters on the face, body rash, and a painful area that looked like a bite.

Take a look at this, a brown recluse spider, the culprit.

BOWLING: Just a little tiny spider turned into such a big ordeal, you know. It's amazing.

GUPTA: Amazing indeed. Pound for pound, the brown recluse spider has one of the most toxic venoms known to man. DR. GARY WASSERMAN, TOXICOLOGIST: In the last few years, we've been admitting to the hospital twice as many severe reaction as we've previously seen.

BOWLING: To come to find out you've got tons of them everywhere is just the scariest part.

GUPTA: There is no specific test for the spider bite, but you definitely know it when you see it.

Now almost a year later, the wounds have healed and future plastic surgeries will help to fix his ear, but his mom Elisa won't soon forget about the horror.

BOWLING: It's scary, it really is. After all that they put him through, he wants to be a doctor.


COLLINS: Oh well, that's good. Certainly good for you to hear coming into the medical profession, that little boy.

Sanjay Gupta joining us now.

Boy, frightening to say the least. How common is a reaction like that?

GUPTA: Pretty uncommon. And that's the good news. About 90 to 95 percent of these types of spider bites do not require any kind of medical attention. People may not even know they got bit by a brown recluse.

One of the things about it, it's called a recluse spider because it typically comes out in the dark or at night.

COLLINS: Yes, it hides and it gets you.

GUPTA: So if you see one -- if you're watching this piece and you see one, if you thought you saw one during the day, probably not a brown recluse.

Missouri, Kansas...

COLLINS: Oh yes.

GUPTA: ... that's more where they're located.

COLLINS: OK. Well, that's a good point. How do you avoid, though? I mean everybody wants to avoid getting bit to begin with.

GUPTA: Right. Yes. It's some great pictures they're putting up there.

COLLINS: They're horrendous, aren't they? Have your Cheerios out there on the West Coast.

GUPTA: Wood piles, stone piles, that's where they like to hide out.


GUPTA: In dark places. So wear gloves. In the Midwest, again, they're more common. They can be in a lot of places there. If you take your comforter or your bedding, you put it on the floor, and then put it back on the bed, sometimes they can get in that way. So you just got to be a little bit careful.

But again, during the day if you're seeing spiders, watch this piece, you see spiders, probably not a brown recluse. If you get bit, it's probably not going to lead to this sort of reaction. This is quite an alarming reaction.


GUPTA: But he's doing well now.

COLLINS: Boy, and how would you figure it out? You know? And remember to shake your shoes out before you put them on, right?

GUPTA: Shake your shoes out. That's right. Sounds like the voice of experience. That's right.

COLLINS: Yes. All right, Dr. Sanjay Gupta, thank you.

GUPTA: Thanks, Heidi.

COLLINS: Well, he says that he's angry and unrepentant. A sex offender back on the streets today. A community outraged. One citizen speaking out live right here on CNN.


ANNOUNCER: Live in the CNN NEWSROOM, Heidi Collins.

COLLINS: Good morning, once again, everybody. 9:30 Eastern Time now. I'm Heidi Collins.

A big tropical disturbance is brewing that could mean big trouble for the U.S. in the next few days.

Reynolds Wolf has his eye on it and is here now to tell us a little bit more.

So what's happening there, Reynolds.


HEIDI COLLINS, CNN ANCHOR: All right. Reynolds, thank you.

A man convicted of sex crimes against children walks out of prison today, a free man after 33 years behind bars. George Feigley will not be on parole and he will not have to register as a sex offender. Some residents of Harrisburg, Pennsylvania are outraged.

Annette Antoun is one of them. She's joining us now from Harrisburg this morning.

Annette, thank you for being with us. What's the general reaction in your city to this news?

ANNETTE ANTOUN, OUTRAGED RESIDENT: The general reaction is outrageous. It's true, they're just beginning to realize what's begun going on under their noses for years. It seemed too bizarre to believe up until now.

COLLINS: Well do me a favor and remind people of what happened with George Feigley all those years ago.

ANTOUN: George Feigley had what he called a church school and he had children in it. And the religion is based on sex with children almost, sex with anything or anybody.

COLLINS: This was a cult?

ANTOUN: Yes. I consider it a cult. And he sexually abused the children. And three of them took them to court finally and that's how he was convicted the first time.

COLLINS: Imagine the portion of the story that is perhaps most difficult to hear is the fact that he is not going to have to register as a sex offender under Megan's law. What did you think when you heard that?

ANTOUN: I was -- I was outraged. Frankly I'm not sure that that's sealed in stone or the federal statute. I think it's the Jacob Willaby statute says that if they abuse children, upon release, it doesn't say anything about when the crime was committed. It says upon release they must register. I think the jury's out on this.

COLLINS: Well, we will certainly continue to follow that. Just in case there is some sort of loophole where that will not happen.

ANTOUN: A loophole, but legislators are starting to work on ways to close up the hole if, indeed, there is a definite hole in the law.

COLLINS: All right. Apparently he's going to be living with his wife who has continued to support him through all of these years. Does he still have a lot of followers or supporters from this?

ANTOUN: He has concubines. It is not just his wife for goodness sake. There's all kinds of women and all kinds of things.

COLLINS: Has that been proven?

ANTOUN: Absolutely.

COLLINS: How so?

ANTOUN: Well, there was a trial when they tried to rescue him by going up through the sewer in Western Penitentiary in Pittsburgh, two of them were washed out of the sewer during a flash flood and the names of all of them came into the Washington County courts. COLLINS: He has continued to operate websites from behind bars.

ANTOUN: Right. He directed sexual acts with children over the phone from prison. That's unbelievable.

COLLINS: It is. Have you had an opportunity to speak with any of his victims?

ANTOUN: Yes, I have.

COLLINS: What do they tell you?

ANTOUN: And they're -- they have scars. That they say will never go away. And that they have trouble relating to men, they have trouble relating to women. They have trouble relating to anybody. And they're frightened.

COLLINS: Well, Annette Antoun, we certainly appreciate your information here today. And we are going to stay on top of this story out of Harrisburg, Pennsylvania. Thank you once again.

ANTOUN: I wish you would.

COLLINS: Absolutely, and we did mention that George Feigley will not be covered by Megan's law.

Here's some background now on that law in Pennsylvania. It's aimed at identifying sexually violent offenders who are predators. It is also designed to register sex offenders and violent predators with Pennsylvania state police. It's supposed to notify communities when sexually violent predators move into the neighborhood. We'll stay on top of this story for you.

I want to get to the New York stock exchange now. We are waiting for the opening bell on this Friday. There you have it. Actually this was just a couple of minutes ago. So as we take a look at those numbers right out of the gate this morning. At least there's a positive sign. We'll always be happy about that. We'd like it to be three digits at least, put in your orders, everybody. We'll be watching the numbers, Dow Jones Industrial averages now resting at 11,683. We'll be talking with Susan Lisovicz a little bit later on.

Nine days after Russian forces rolled into the former Soviet Union Republic of Georgia, there are new concerns today and maybe new hope. Here's what we know this morning, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice is in the Georgian capital of Tbilisi. She's delivering a new cease fire proposal. It will require concessions from Georgia, but force a more immediate withdrawal of Russian combat troops. Russia's president says he hopes Georgia will sign it.

Now last hour, President Bush reaffirmed his support to the Georgian people. He also warned Russia has damaged its credibility.

Here's a dramatic reminder now too of the danger facing journalists in the war zone. Yes, those were gun shots you just heard. The targets of that gunfire, Turkish journalists. They were in Georgia and had stopped to pray. Remarkably, they were not hurt. And here's another close call. The target here, a reporter for Georgian state TV. She was apparently nicked by a bullet. Network executives say the shots were fired by civilians who tried to steal the news crews' car. When they saw they were being taped, they opened fire.

More humanitarian aid is on the way to Georgia today. We have a better idea of the vast needs there. And we have a new official number on the humanitarian crisis. The United Nations now estimates more than 118,000 people have been displaced by the fighting. About 30,000 of the refugees fled to Russia from the disputed territory of South Ossetia. It's not yet known how many people have been killed.

Russia's invasion of Georgia, it was the shot heard around the world, just as Moscow intended. How does today's crisis affect tomorrow's balance of power. A closer look from CNN special correspondent, Frank Sesno.


FRANK SESNO, CNN SPECIAL CORRESPONDENT: This is the nightmare that a resurgent Russia waging a hot war could rekindle the cold war, a super power rivalry all over again. The nightmare that when Bush saw Putin's soul, he suffered from wishful thinking or just got it wrong.

PRES. GEORGE BUSH, UNITED STATES: I looked the man in the eye, I found him to be very straightforward and trustworthy.

SESNO: A lot's happened since then. Putin's accused of cracking down on democracy, the press, taking over the energy sector, shutting off the gas in the middle of the winter to pressure his neighbors. But Russia's invasion of Georgia changes the game and shatters any illusion that two men that were side by side at the Olympics a few days ago are playing by the same rules.

If the Russians have decided to rebuild the empire, reassert control over the neighborhood, keep a heavy hand on all the oil and gas that could be pumped from central Asia, all bets may be off.

There were plenty of warning signs, but we were focused on al Qaeda, war in Iraq, and China rising. While we worried about $100 a barrel oil enriching regimes in Iran and Venezuela, it was in Russia where oil mixed with resentment and ambition and memories of faded glory and now this.


COLLINS: Frank also points out the potential consequences are compounded by the energy equation. The region's oil and gas was supposed to be plentiful and stable. Those supplies an alternative to Middle Eastern oil. Pipelines through Georgia completed only three years ago and bypassed Russia's power politics. Those hopes along with a lot of others are now, of course, in peril.

On the road with the presidential candidates, democrat Barack Obama waves aloha. He flies into Chicago today getting back in the game as democrats gear up for their convention in Denver. Republican John McCain spending the day in Colorado meeting with top aids. Both candidates will likely put some time into pruning their list of VP options. We don't know who they are announcing yet, do we? They'll be together tomorrow night at a face and politics forum. You can watch that live right here on CNN coming your way at 8:00 eastern.

Two weeks from now, Barack Obama will likely have accepted his nomination for party president. Before that Hillary Clinton will have a starring role at the democratic convention. Tom Foreman reports.


TOM FOREMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: What to do at the convention with Hillary Clinton and her 18 million supporters has been a burning question for democratic leaders. One they hope will finally fizzle with the decision to put her name in nomination. As a show of unity and in recognition of the historic race she ran and the fact that she was the first woman to compete in all of our nation's primary contests.

Exactly how the democrats will handle the details is not clear, but the role call vote for candidates has been a staple of political conventions since the 60s. And many Clinton supporters want to loudly and publicly state their choice at this convention.

In 1992, Pat Schroeder was the last woman to get votes at a major party convention. She got eight votes. Clinton could expect a lot more. Then political analysts say she could politely decline the support and urge everyone to get behind Obama.

Larry Sabato is at the University of Virginia.

LARRY SABATO, UNIVERSITY OF VIRGINIA: She can make it very high- minded. It's all about letting the peoples' voice be heard, letting the delegates speak. And that will supposedly lead to greater unity. Of course, in the process, she benefits enormously.

FOREMAN: She benefits because it puts the party's stamp of recognition on her accomplishments.

SEN. BARACK OBAMA (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Senator Hillary Clinton has made history in this campaign.

FOREMAN: She benefits because if Obama loses, she is well-positioned to run again in four years. Still, plenty can go wrong. Conventions these days are all about selling the party's candidate to the public. Not celebrating the one they didn't pick. Unlike Bill Clinton and Al Gore, John Kerry was kept from unanimous act acclamation by 42 votes going to Dennis Kucinich, if Obama loses too much attention, too much votes to Hillary Clinton.

MARK PRESTON, CNN POLITICAL EDITOR: That's certainly what the Republican Party would love to see on what a night should be about unification.

FOREMAN: Hillary Clinton vows that will not happen and assures conspiracy fans there will be no last-minute grab for the nomination either. She will take her bow, enjoy the moment, and then hit the trail to get Obama elected.

Tom Foreman, CNN, Washington.


COLLINS: Later this morning, Bill Bennett and Bill Press on the Hillary effect and how the crisis of Georgia will play out in the battle for the presidency. Stick around for that.

The McCain campaign says the ad is in good fun, but democrats say it's sending a dangerous message to evangelical voters.


COLLINS: Remembering a state Democratic Party leader who was gunned down in his office. More than 250 people gathered in front of the Arkansas state capitol for a prayer vigil in honor of Phil Gwatney. He was the chairman of the Arkansas Democratic Party. A man burst into the party headquarters in Little Rock on Wednesday and shot Gwatney. The gunman was later shot by police. Authorities say they found a post-it note with the name Gwatney and a telephone number at the gunman's home. But so far they don't know of any link between Gwatney and his killer.

Politics and religion. Barack Obama hoping to make in roads among evangelical voters who overwhelmingly favor republicans. Take a look at this now. A CNN Opinion Research Corporation poll shows white, born again or evangelical voters favor John McCain over Obama 67 to 24%. Back in 2004, 78% of evangelicals supported President Bush.

Tomorrow night Barack Obama and John McCain will bid for those evangelical voters at a forum hosted by Reverend Rick Warren. Warren is one of the founders of Saddleback Church. Its 23,000 members make it one of the country's largest. Earlier, Warren told CNN's AMERICAN MORNING what he'll look for in the candidates.


REV. RICK WARREN, PRESIDENCY CIVIL FORUM: We're going to look at four different segments. One is a segment on leadership, what is the personal character, competence, experience of each of these guys.

One section will be on what I call stewardship, which is on the role and the responsibility of the presidency, what they believe about the constitution, about the role of America. We're going to look at a section on world view, which is all of those minefield questions that no matter how you answer them, somebody's not going to like it. And then we're going to look at America's role internationally. How we've been a blessed nation and how should we bless others.


COLLINS: You can watch the candidates live at the Presidency Civil Forum here on CNN tomorrow night coming your way 8:00 p.m. Eastern.

Just a joke or playing into fears? A campaign ad is causing a buzz on the internet. CNN's David Mattingly with the story.


DAVID MATTINGLY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: When you listen to this John McCain ad, it might sound like Barack Obama has a messiah complex.

OBAMA: You will experience an epiphany, and you will say to yourself, I have to vote for Barack.

MATTINGLY: The McCain campaign says it's all in good fun.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Behold his mighty hand.

MATTINGLY: Not everyone's laughing. Some democrats say the ad, which appears only on the internet is infused with hidden messages to evangelical Christians, messages that Barack Obama isn't the messiah at all.

STEVEN WALDMAN, CEO, BELIEFNET.COM: It reinforces things they've been hearing around the internet that maybe Barack Obama is in fact, the anti-Christ.

MATTINGLY: The ad's been reviewed 1.2 million times on You Tube. A Google search for Obama and anti-Christ returns an incredible 900,000 hits. One website is completely dedicated to the question is Obama the antichrist? 73% in the site's online polls say either yes or maybe. Could the McCain ad be saying the same thing?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: That in 2008, the world will be blessed. They will call him the one.

MATTINGLY: Critics accused McCain campaign of trying to tab into biblical prophesy to stir evangelical voters, a group McCain has had difficulty reaching.

ERIC SAPP, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: Going back to the classic republican play book of playing to these peoples' fears, trying to, you know, send a message to these folks that you really need to be careful. You need to worry about this guy. He literally could be a cosmic antichrist figure and for a lot of people that may sound strange to believe, but there's a significant part of the American community that will take this stuff very seriously.

MATTINGLY: Democratic faith issues argues Eric Sapp, the McCain ad borrows ideas and imagery from the block buster left behind series. The books weave a tale of a modern day anti-Christ, a young political leader who rises to power with a message of peace and unity and leads a world religion that claims we are god. That sounds a lot like this Obama clip used in the ad.

OBAMA: We are the ones we've been waiting for.

MATTINGLY: The McCain campaign says it's just having some fun with what it calls Obama's tendency to get carried away with audacious statements. But since the release of the ad, Obama antichrist internet traffic is up. Even the authors of the "Left Behind" books felt they had to speak out because they're seeing that question more and more often. Do they think Obama is the antichrist? And each time they say the answer is no way.

JERRY JENKINS, CO-AUTHOR, "LEFT BEHIND": The antichrist will not be somebody who is suspected of being the antichrist by anybody. If half the country thinks that one of the candidates is the antichrist, he's not the antichrist.

MATTINGLY: A spokesman calls the McCain campaign light hearted. One takes it further selling T-shirts and mugs showing the Obama symbol with a pair of horns. We're not sure how the candidate feels about that. We received no reply from the Obama campaign.

David Mattingly, CNN, Atlanta.


COLLINS: Don't forget Barack Obama and John McCain together on the stage for the fist time tomorrow night, mixing religion and politics in a live forum moderated by Pastor Rick Warren. That's live on CNN 8 p.m. Eastern.

Well, it's supposed to be the happiest place on Earth. Snow White and Tinkerbell in trouble with police at Disneyland?


COLLINS: Boy, a nail biting rescue in Indianapolis to show you. Three roofing employees found themselves dangling from a 31-story building after their scaffolding collapsed; safety harnesses the only thing between them and the pavement. Firefighters repelled down the building to save them, but they became concerned when a thunderstorm approached. The winds kicked up and the rescuers started to sway. They stayed focused and pulled all the workers to safety. Good for them.

Here's one Disney show I bet you haven't seen, a real drama that played out outside the gates of Disneyland in southern California. Disney Hotel employees, some dressed as Cinderella, Snow White and Tinkerbell staged a labor protest. They're demanding more money and better health care benefits. 32 protestors were handcuffed and hauled away and charged with misdemeanors. Not exactly a happily ever after ending. But this story isn't over. Negotiations between the workers and Disney are continuing.

It looks like Ed McMahon won't lose his home after all. Donald Trump is saving the Beverly Hills mansion from foreclosure. The developer says he'll buy McMahon's house and lease it back to the 85-year-old entertainer. The home has been on the market for two years listed for $4.6 million most recently. McMahon defaulted on the mortgage. Trump says he was a fan of McMahon during his "Tonight Show" days and helping him would be an honor.

Attend a funeral from almost anywhere?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Whether it's on the golf course, whether it's in a church, whether it's over in a motel in a conference room.

COLLINS: Come on, grieving while golfing?


COLLINS: Don't feel like traveling to that distant relative's funeral? One funeral home wants to bring the service to you sort of. Wes Horrocks of affiliate KIDK reports from Pocatello, Idaho.


WES HORROCKS, KIDK REPORTER: The Downard funeral home started looking into webcasting after own Lance Peck missed his daughter's play.

LANCE PECK, DOWNARD FUNERAL HOME: I thought wouldn't it be nice to have a parent or grandparent who could go to the school and watch their child's play and still see that?

HORROCKS: It's a fairly simple process. Peck just sets up a camera connected to his laptop. From there, he can broadcast a funeral live on the internet. He's already used it a few times.

PECK: Whether it's on the golf course, whether it's in a church, whether it's over in a motel in a conference room.

HORROCKS: To access the broadcast, family members are sent an e-mail with a link to the event by wire website. After they enter a password, they're in. And after each broadcast is shown live, it's stored on the website for 90 days so someone could go back and watch them multiple times.

PECK: And at any time during those 90 days, they could actually request a DVD copy of the event.

HORROCKS: Even though the technology will normally be used for funeral services, the Downard home wants to use it to help people in the community capture other events, too.

PECK: I thought of piano concerts, musical concerts, maybe an athletic event, a birthday or whatnot.


COLLINS: For now, the funeral home is offering its service free of charge.

Good morning once again, everybody. I'm Heidi Collins. Tony Harris is off today. Stay informed all day right here in the CNN NEWSROOM. Here's what's on the run down.

Hit by a van. Run over by a bus. A crowd lifts that bus off a traffic officer hoping to save the pregnant woman.

Barack Obama making waves and heading back. The trails to face John McCain tomorrow. What about those VP choices? Our guests raring to talk politics.