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Fay's Fury: The Tropical Storm Makes Landfall; When Will Obama Announce his Running Mate?; Former President Musharraf is Gone: What Will the U.S./Pakistan Relationship Become?

Aired August 19, 2008 - 10:00   ET


HEIDI COLLINS, CNN ANCHOR: Good morning, everybody. I'm Heidi Collins. Tony Harris is off today.
You'll stay informed right here on the CNN NEWSROOM. Here's what's on the rundown.

New pictures of Fay's fury. Damage from a possible tornado, the tropical storm rolled ashore in South Florida before dawn.

If he wanted suspense, he's got suspense. Word Barack Obama has all but settled on a running mate. So when is the announcement?

Barbaric. An 85-year-old woman mug in an elevator. Police asking for your help today, Tuesday August 19th. You are in the CNN NEWSROOM.

Fay sweeps ashore weaker than expected but no less dangerous. Just minutes ago we got this video of possible tornado damage in Wellington, Florida. That's in Palm Beach County. Several homes are reported damaged but no injuries at this point. Before dawn this morning, Fay made landfall as a tropical storm in Florida's southwest coasts. Its winds far short of the hurricane strength that had been feared, but it does remain a major concern.

In addition to the threat of tornadoes, Fay could also dump as much as 10 inches of rain on the Florida peninsula. Let's get the very latest on Fay now and where it's headed. CNN meteorologist Reynolds Wolf is in the extreme weather center.

So what's the word here, Reynolds? Where is it headed?

REYNOLDS WOLF, CNN METEOROLOGIST: OK. We're going to show you what's happening now, where it's headed. Then we're show you some cool things on the radar. How about that?


WOLF: Does that work for you? All right. Let's start with this. Heidi, Fay currently about 29 miles from Fort Myers, Florida. That is the center we're talking about. I mean, clearly this thing is hundreds of miles wide crossing the sunshine state, which is not very sunny right now. Winds again as I mentioned at 60, 70, gusts at 60 or rather 70. Wind at 60, sustained. Moving to the north-northeast at nine miles per hour. This thing is crawling, I mean, just barely, barely slow moving storm. And with the storm moving very slowly, there's that possibility of seeing some flooding in parts of Central Florida and North Florida.

The storm expected to veer its way just off the coast beginning Thursday and then possibly making another landfall just north of Jacksonville near Mayport right along the I-10 corridor for the next, let's see Saturday and then onto Sunday, and possibly heavy rain- maker. We're going to switch gears a little bit.

Let me show you the radar. It shows you the structure of the storm system. We're actually going to tilt this back on this level too and show you some of the highest cloud tops going up to 50,000 feet. And you can see, again, it looks pretty impressive here, some of the heavier rainfall you'll notice just north of Fort Myers. This is the western half, your northern quadrant over here. Again, this is just obscure.

If you were to look at this on satellite, a lot of clouds would be running over the top. But this radar image gives you the idea of just the intensity of the rainfall, the yellows you see where it's heaviest. And of course, you can see just how it builds up. The convergence at the surface and divergence aloft. Just a beautiful structure of the storm. Thankfully though it's not going to be much of an issue in terms of wind. The wind will die down. But we still have the threat, remember, of the possibility of some flooding in many locations and we could have some tornadoes spin off. So, we got to be very careful over the next couple of hours.

COLLINS: Yes. Absolutely. And love the computer models there.

Thank you, Reynolds. We'll check back later on. Thanks.

Emergency officials warn south Floridians to stay inside when Fay came ashore. Here's some jaw-dropping video now from one thrill seeker who didn't take Fay's threat seriously enough. A 26-year-old man is in critical condition after a mighty gust of wind slammed him into the beach. The kite boarder was strapped into a harness and he wasn't able to get himself freed before a second gust launched him into the side of a nearby building. Witnesses say the fierce winds may have been kicked up by a waterspout that was forming at the time. We'll stay on top of that.

Just awful weather as well. In the Rio Grande Valley, torrential downpours flooding streets in Roma, Texas. 13 inches of rain, stalled cars and waterlogged homes. A sheriff's department spokesman says about 750 houses flooded, close to 250 people had to leave their homes. Authorities say they're not aware of any injuries this morning. Roma is in Star County along the Texas-Mexico border.

In the next hour, we're going to check in on the situation with an emergency management official in that county.

Searchers back at it again this morning in the Grand Canyon. 11 people still missing after a flash flood. About 270 people rescued Sunday and yesterday after heavy rains overran an earthened dam there. Waters surging to a nearby Indian reservation. Authorities are not sure if the missing people got out ahead of the flood or perhaps were washed away. We'll keep you updated on that story as well. When the weather becomes the news, remember to send us your i- reports. Just go to or type into your cell phone. Of course, please stay safe when doing so.

On the campaign trail, the presidential candidates stumping in southern states today, Republican Senator John McCain looking for votes in Louisiana. He is visiting an offshore oil platform near New Orleans. Later in the day, he will head to Texas. Democrat Barack Obama started his day in Florida, speaking last hour at the Veterans of Foreign Wars Convention in Orlando. Next stop for him, North Carolina where he'll have hold a town hall meeting this evening at the state fair grounds in Raleigh.

And the countdown is on. Word is Barack Obama is close to revealing his VP pick. That announcement could come later this week, maybe even tomorrow. CNN's Josh Levs is on the VP watch.

Hey there, Josh. Good morning.

JOSH LEVS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hey, you know what? Barack Obama planning to use electronic means to let everybody know who he's chosen. We are already using electronic means to let you guys know who the players are. This is his announcement, by the way. If you've managed not to hear about it, people are signing up at his Web site over here, giving them their cell phone numbers. His campaign is going to text his choice to everyone. We right here at, with a crack research team, have put together a list of the top players whom he might choose. And what the pros and cons are.

Let's go to right into the screen. I'm going to start off here with Evan Bayh, tell you a little bit. Major player in this race. He served on the Intel and Armed Services Committee in the Senate. The idea is he could help shore up one of Obama's weak spots, which is this idea of foreign policy experience. Also a prominent Clinton supporter, can help unify the party. On the flip side, there are some liberals who don't like his support for a certain bill that would ban late-term abortions. Also he was a supporter of the war in Iraq. And that you know where Barack Obama largely runs against that.

Let's get to hear someone else getting a lot of attention. Senator Joe Biden just made this big deal trip to Georgia, chair of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee which also could help shore up that foreign policy some people see as a weak spot. Plus scrappy campaigner. He would certainly revel in the attack dog world that many number twos take on in the race. But he's a 36-year Senate veteran, could that be a negative when Obama promises all these change? He's also known to wander off script during an election cycle. That's something they're comfortable with.

I'm going to skip over here now. This one is really interesting. Bill Richardson, just like Biden, had his own race for the presidency did not work out this year. Former U.N. ambassador, again, a big plus that foreign policy experience. And he might help bring Latino voters, plus New Mexico where he's from, governor, a key swing state. But he didn't get far in his own run. He was late to endorse Obama. And I find this question really interesting - would it be too much for some voters, for there to be an African-American and a Latino on this major party ticket? Would that be a little too much history for some people.

And one more person getting a lot of attention especially in recent days, we're going to show you him now. Tim Kaine, there he is with Barack Obama. He is the Virginia governor. And there was a question, could he help Barack Obama, the Democrats, carry Virginia in a Democratic, in a national presidential race for the fist time in more than four decades? Plus he's had success with the GOP-controlled legislature in his state. However, he's been governor less than three years. It certainly doesn't do a lot out there to shore up this idea of experience in general. Now, there's about a dozen people you can take a look at here. it's all up there at And Heidi, next hour we're going to take a look at some of the big players on the GOP side of what we call the veep stakes. Heidi.

COLLINS: All right. The Veep stakes, love it. Thank you, Josh.

LEVS: You got it, Heidi.

COLLINS: I want to get to this story now. Things are flaring up in Afghanistan and Pakistan. A U.S. base under fire in a brazen coordinated attack and a huge loss for the French. Farhad Peikar is a journalist in Kabul. He is on the phone for us now.

So, I understand, Farhad that they are on a heightened state of security here now after these recent violent attacks.

FARHAD PEIKAR, JOURNALIST IN KABUL: Yes. This is the worst -- (INAUDIBLE) so far the Taliban some six years ago and that these attacks for the international forces in Afghanistan this year. What is worst the worst (INAUDIBLE) for the militants. So far the Taliban has been resorting to unconventional warfare like suicide attacks, roadside bombings against the forces. International troops have always repeatedly claim that the militants are no match to their conventional warfare. The fighting ensued -

COLLINS: Farhad, unfortunately, I'm not sure how well you can hear me, but unfortunately we are having a terrible time hearing you. We've got some feedback there. We're going to try to work that out and get back to you as soon as we can.

Farhad Peikar is a journalist there in Kabul on the telephone for us. Sometimes technology doesn't work as well as we'd like it to. We'll check back in with him, again regarding the violence in Afghanistan and Pakistan.

So NATO says it cannot be business as usual with Russia now until the country completely complies with the cease-fire with Georgia. CNN State Department Zain Verjee is live on the phone from Brussels.

Now, Zain, good morning to you. Still a lot of confusion about this cease-fire and exactly what it means.

VOICE OF ZAIN VERJEE, CNN STATE DEPARTMENT CORRESPONDENT: Right. Good morning to you, Heidi. The U.S. here in Brussels really wanted to beat back Russia for its actions and it called this emergency meeting. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice also saying again that there can be no business as usual with the Russians while its troops are in Georgia. But both the United States and Europe really came out in a strong show of support for Georgia. Here's what the secretary had to say here today.


CONDOLEEZZA RICE, U.S. SECRETARY OF STATE: I think the declaration clearly shows that NATO intends to support the territorial integrity, independence and sovereignty of Georgia and to support its democratically-elected government, its democracy, and to deny Russia the strategic objective of undermining that democracy of making Georgia weaker or of threatening Georgia's territorial integrity.


VERJEE: Secretary Rice really worked at this meeting, Heidi, to get the U.S. and Europe on the same page when it comes to dealing with Russia. But the kind of action that was taken here by NATO, essentially they said they were just going to break off regular meetings with Russia until its troops were out of Georgia. That's a pretty low price for the Russians to pay on the punishment poll. Secretary Rice was really looking for tougher action like suspending cooperation entirely with Russia at NATO and the European Union. So she didn't quite get what she wanted -- Heidi.

COLLINS: Well, why is it, Zain, that Europe won't get tougher on Russia? I mean, obviously they have a lot of ties to this country in different areas.

VERJEE: Well, Russia's been pretty well integrated with the help of the Europeans and the international community. And you're right, they have very strong economic and energy ties. I mean, so many European countries really depend heavily on Russia for oil and gas. That's a key relationship they have. Secretary Rice wants them to just cut off that relationship. So they're hesitant to do that.

In addition to that, they do counter terrorism work together, counter narcotics work together. They share peacekeeping responsibilities. So there are many parts of this relationship that makes it more difficult for the Europeans to just switch off, flick off the switch -- Heidi.

COLLINS: Absolutely. All right. We'll be following this story. Appreciate it.

Zain Verjee, our State Department correspondent, live from Brussels this morning.

Pakistan after Pervez Musharraf, the question this morning, will efforts to target militants be compromised by the president's resignation?

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) COLLINS: In New York, police are going after a mugger who is going after the elderly. They need your help today.


COLLINS: Things are flaring up in Afghanistan and Pakistan. A U.S. base under fire in a brazen coordinated attack and a huge loss for the French. We've been able to reconnect Farhad Peikar, he's a journalist in Kabul. He's on the phone with us now.

Farhad, the very latest?

PEIKAR: Hi. Yes, as you said, this was one of the worst casualties for the French troops since their deployment to Afghanistan some six years ago and also the deadliest attack for the international forces in Afghanistan this year. What is worse, the toll comes -- (INAUDIBLE) no match to unconventional warfare like suicide attacks, and roadside bombing against the forces. International troops that has some 70,000 forces in Afghanistan usually claimed that the militants are no match to get a conventional warfare. The fighting ensuing against the French forces started yesterday afternoon and continued throughout the day and defense ministry of France says that they have killed 13 militants and wounded another 14. The attack happened hours -- (INAUDIBLE)

COLLINS: All right. Unfortunately, we thought we had a little bit better connection there with our Farhad Peikar, a journalist in Kabul for us, but unfortunately that is not the case. We'll continue to follow the situation in Afghanistan and Pakistan and all the violence that's taking place there this morning for you in another way.

Meanwhile, Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf now out of office. What does that mean in the fight against Al Qaeda and the Taliban? Here now is CNN's Barbara Starr at the Pentagon.


BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Pakistanis cheered in the streets. Faced with overwhelming opposition, Pervez Musharraf avoided impeachment and stepped down.

PERVEZ MUSHARRAF, FORMER PAKISTANI PRESIDENT (through translator): Now I have decided that I will resign from the post of president.

STARR: The Bush administration had long ago embraced the new government in Pakistan elected earlier this year. Within hours of Musharraf resigning, U.S. officials said they weren't worried about the security of Pakistan's nuclear weapons. But a key priority hasn't changed. Washington wants Pakistan to crack down on Taliban and al Qaeda militants in the tribal region. The Bush administration believes Pakistan's intelligence service still is full of al Qaeda and Taliban loyalists.

ROBERT GRENIER, MANAGING DIRECTOR, KROLL: There's a great deal of frustration on the part of the U.S. government with Pakistan's inability to follow through on what the U.S. sees as a clear commitments.

STARR: As a result, the United States has stepped up missile strikes inside Pakistan. Dozens of militants have been killed. General Ashfaq Kiani, head of the army, now the U.S.'s closest ally in power, just as General Musharraf was after 9/11. Many doubt Pakistan's civilian leaders can challenge al Qaeda.

GRENIER: It remains very much to be seen whether this new democratically elected political leadership remains very much to be seen whether this new democratically elected political leadership is really going to be able to follow through in a sustained and coherent way. They haven't demonstrated an ability to do that.

STARR: Experts caution U.S. pressure could go too far.

RICK BARTON, CTR. FOR STRATEGIC AND INT'L STUDIES: The U.. military has to be extremely cautious. It could actually be setting the torch to the kindling inside the country.

STARR: A recently retired senior U.S. military officer tells CNN, Musharraf behind the scenes always made it clear that if the U.S. had information about Osama Bin Laden's location, he Musharraf would have let U.S. forces into the country to deal with it. Nobody is sure Pakistan's new leaders feel the same way.

Barbara Starr, CNN, the Pentagon.


WOLF: And Tropical Storm Fay continues its march across the sunshine state of Florida, bringing with it some strong winds and heavy rainfall, the threat of flooding. Maybe even a few tornadoes. Coming up, we'll let you know how long the storm's going last and where it's headed, coming up in just a few.

You're watching CNN, your hurricane headquarters.


COLLINS: Take a quick peek at the big board today. Dow Jones industrial average is down about an hour into the trading day, just shy of an hour, down 114 points or so and resting at 11,367. Yesterday by the time the trading day was complete Dow Jones was down 180 points. Of course, we're watching those numbers. Nasdaq down about 23 points as well. And then all of these economic reports that came out, we'll talk about all of it coming up shortly.

As Fay turns up through Florida, residents board down their homes and hope for the best. Personal finance editor Gerri Willis is here with a look at Florida's changing homeowners insurance situation.

So What is the insurance landscape right now in Florida?

GERRI WILLIS, CNN PERSONAL FINANCE EDITOR: Hi there, Heidi. Well, you know, it could be better. There's a state program first of all called Citizens Property Insurance, which is sort of a last stop for folks who can't get private coverage. And currently they're trying to get people off that program because taxpayers are on the hook for losses.

But there are other problems, namely big insurance companies aren't interested in extending coverage in Florida, either State Farm, All-State, Nationwide aren't renewing some policies in high-risk areas. This situation played out over the last couple of years, setting the stage for real problems if there's a devastating storm or a series of storms. Now, strapped homeowners are turning to smaller insurance upstarts for coverage as state officials try to downsize that citizens plan.

COLLINS: Well, what's your advice, then, Gerri, to people out there looking for homeowners insurance in this area?

WILLIS: Well, you should know that Florida recently unveiled a Web site that helps consumers compare insurance rates throughout the state. The Web site is What a mouthful! You'll be able to view a sample of companies and rates for insuring a typical Florida home, list of insurers is sorted from the lowest to the highest costs. It provides a link to the company's info.

You should make sure you feel comfortable with that representative and keep in mind there are advantages seizing an insurance agent who is not part of a big insurance giant. Just think there are fewer people trying to get coverage. This way if there's a disaster you're not waiting for months to get a contractor possibly to make sure a smaller player is legit though, you definitely want to check out their rating at ambest with Web site You can look at their complaint ratio there, and also check out for the company's financial strength. The companies are rated on their ability to pay claims.

COLLINS: All right. Well, do you have any other advice for homeowners here, then?

WILLIS: Flood insurance, flood insurance, flood insurance. You know, hurricane season keeps going until November 30th, so you want to make sure you have flood insurance in. It's not part of your homeowners policy. Even if you're not in Fay's path or you don't live near a body of water, you're at risk of flooding. Don't delay. If you think need coverage, there's a waiting period of 30 days, a full month, until you're actually covered. To gauge your risk of a flood, go to, most policies cost 600 bucks but if you live in a area with less risk of flood, you could be paying a whole lot less.


WILLIS: And of course, if you have any questions, send them to us at

COLLINS: OK. Very good. I don't think most people knew about the 30-day waiting period and all that. WILLIS: Yes. That's not pleasant. You can't do it right now for example and then have coverage for what happened in Florida just this week.

COLLINS: Yes, exactly. All right. Quickly, "Issue number one," coming up today in about an hour and a half.

WILLIS: Noon Eastern. Yes, join us. We're going to take a closer look at the business and marketing machine that is Michael Phelps.

Plus, you know what, we have rules of the road. Tips for carpooling so you do it right and don't annoy your neighbor.

COLLINS: Don't annoy your neighbor. Make sure you're not riding with a creep, too. All right. Gerri Willis. We'll see you. "ISSUE #1." Thank you.

WILLIS: My pleasure.

COLLINS: Defending Fort Sill against accusations from its own ailing troops. Is there a mold problem in some buildings?


COLLINS: Pockets of power outages across southwest Florida and new reports of damage coming in now. This is possible tornado damage in Wellington, Florida. That's in Palm Beach County. Several homes are reported damaged but no injuries. So far tropical storm Fay has fallen short of the fears. The storm's winds topped out at about 60 miles an hour, never approaching hurricane strength but Fay still remains a two-fold threat. In addition to the threat of tornadoes, Fay could also dump as much as ten inches of rain on the sunshine state. CNN's meteorologist Reynolds Wolf is tracking Fay in the extreme weather center. Hi there, Reynolds.

WOLF: Hi there, Heidi. Here's the latest we got on Fay. Fay has winds of 65 miles per hour. Some gusts will be going up to 70. About 29 miles from Fort Myers, Florida, moving north-northeast at nine miles an hour. I mean, this is a slow moving storm.

It is expected to cross the peninsula. And as we get to 2:00 a.m. tomorrow, winds will be at 40. So, it's going to be a tropical storm but barely so. Then it's going to pull back over the warm waters of the Atlantic, not far from say, Flagler Beach (ph), or even St. Augustine. And then come onshore right near Jacksonville and Mayport. And that should be by 2:00 a.m. Friday, with winds of 35. Then, just as a depression moving across part of the I-10 corridor and could be a rain-maker as we get into Saturday and Sunday.

And speaking of being a rain-maker, take a look at this radar imagery that we have for you. GR Level-2 shows you that we've got the heaviest rain bands now moving just to the northern half of rotation. We're going to actually pull back a little bit and give you an idea of not just where we have some of the heavy rainfall, but to show you some of the high cloud tops. And the highest points we have would be the structure of the storm, are up an excess of 50,000 feet. This is a big mover. You've got some of your strongest winds near the center of this.

Some of the heaviest rainfall indicated by say the yellow and even some of the greens that you see with this storm system. Just to give you your vantage point, we kind of have this sort of in reverse. I'm standing on the east side of the storm. South over here. The Gulf would be up here towards the top of the screen. All this is going to be drifting from the southwest to the northeast.

And there's the threat, as you mentioned earlier, with some tornadoes. Usually you do have some tornadoes as these tropical systems come onshore. They can certainly spin up fairly quickly. They're usually rain wrapped, very hard to see from the ground. And they usually don't last that long. They don't last long, they're usually not very strong. Anywhere from the EF-0 to EF-1 variety. But still, if they strike quickly they can cause quite a bit of damage and we certainly need to on the lookout.

Again, that tornado watch in effect for a good part of south and central Florida, through the afternoon.

Heidi, back to you.

COLLINS: All right, Raynolds. Keep us posted. Thank you.

He's picking on old people. Police in New York, asking for the public's help now to catch a mugger. They hope this surveillance video helps track him down.

That's 85-year-old Lillian France, getting off the elevator at her apartment building. Grabbed from behind and choked. She apparently blacks out and falls to the floor. The attacker made off with $900. He also ran off with her cane. This video shows the suspect entering the building and police say the attack is one of a dozen similar incidents since late June, in Brooklyn. If you recognize the man, please do get in touch with New York police. Wow.

Two wars, one military. America's challenge. Senator Barack Obama outlining his policy to vets last hour speaking at the Veterans of Foreign Wars convention in Orlando. You heard it hear live in the NEWSROOM.

Go ahead and take a listen.


SEN. BARACK OBAMA (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I stand before you today at a defining moment in our history. We are in the midst of two wars. The terrorists who attacked us on 9/11 are still at large. Russia has invaded the sovereign nation of Georgia. Iran is pursuing nuclear weapons. The next commander in chief is going to have to exercise the best possible judgment in getting us through these difficult times.

Now yesterday, Senator McCain came before you. He is a man who has served this nation honorably and he correctly stated that one of the chief criteria for the American people in this election is going to be who can exercise the best judgment as commander in chief. Unfortunately, instead of just offering policy answers, he turned to a typical laundry list of political attacks.

He said that I've changed my position on Iraq, when I have not. He said that I am for a path of retreat and failure. And he declared that behind all of these claims and positions by Senator Obama, lies the ambition to be president. Suggesting, as he has many times before, that I put personal ambition before my country. Now, that is John McCain's prerogative. And he can run that kind of campaign and, frankly, that's how political campaigns have been run in recent years.

But I believe the American people are better than that. I believe that this defining moment demands something more of us. If we think that we can secure our country by just talking tough without acting tough and smart, then we will misunderstand this moment and miss its opportunities. If we think that we can use the same partisan politics where we just challenge our opponent's patriotism to win an election, then the American people will lose.

The times are too serious for this kind of politics. The calamity left behind by the last eight years is too great. So, let me begin by offering my judgment about what we've done and where we are and where we need to go.

Six years ago, I stood up at a time when it was politically difficult to oppose going to war in Iraq, and argued that our fist priority had to be finishing the fight against Osama bin Laden and al- Qaeda in Afghanistan. Senator McCain was already turning his sights to Iraq just days after 9/11. And he became a leading supporter of an invasion and occupation of a country that had absolutely nothing to do with the 9/11 attacks.

And that, as despicable as Saddam Hussein was, posed no imminent threat to the American people. Two of the biggest beneficiaries of that decision were al-Qaeda's leadership, which no longer faced the pressure of America's focused attention. And Iran, which has advanced its nuclear program, continued its support for terror and increased its influence in Iraq and the region.


COLLINS: Republican presidential candidate John McCain, looking for votes in Louisiana today. He's visiting an offshore oil rig platform. Yesterday it was McCain's turn to talk to the VFW convention in Florida.

Let's listen to what he's saying.


JOHN MCCAIN (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I suppose from my opponent's vantage point, veterans concerns are just one more issue to be spun, or worked to advantage. This would explain why he also has taken liberties with my position on the GI Bill. In its initial version, the bill failed to address the No. 1 education request that I've heard from career service members and their families. The freedom to transfer their benefits to a spouse or a child. The bill also did nothing to retain the young officer and enlisted leaders who form the backbone of our all-volunteer force.

As a political proposition, it would have been much easier for me to have just signed on to what I considered flawed legislation. But the people of Arizona and all of America expect more from their representatives than that. And instead, I sought a better bill. And I'm proud to say that the result is a law that better serves our military, better serves military families and better serves the interests of our family.

With less than three months to go before the election, a lot of people are still trying to square Senator Obama's varying positions on the surge in Iraq. First he opposed the surge and confidently predicted that it would fail. Then he tried to prevent funding for the troops who carried out the surge.

Not content to merely predict failure in Iraq, my opponent tried to legislate failure. This was back when supporting America's efforts in Iraq entailed serious political risk. It was a clarifying moment. It was a moment when political self-interest and the national interest parted ways. For my part, with so much in the balance, my friends, it was an easy call. As I said at the time -- I would rather lose an election than lose a war.


COLLINS: After Louisiana today, McCain heads to Texas.

Barack Obama is mining for votes in three promising western mountain states, but, can he strike gold?

Here's CNN's senior political analyst Bill Schneider.


WILLIAM SCHNEIDER, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: There's gold in them thar (ph) hills. The Democrats are looking to strike it rich in the mountain states. Three in particular where their prospects look good -- Nevada, New Mexico and Colorado. All battleground states this fall.

BOB LOEVY, COLORADO COLLEGE: Take, for instance, Colorado. It ordinarily runs four percent more Republican than the country in presidential elections. But last time out in 2004, it was only two percent more Republican.

SCHNEIDER: The latest Colorado poll -- John McCain leads Barack Obama by three points, within the margin of error. Why so close? The poll shows a striking generation gap. Colorado voters under 35, are going for Obama by a huge margin -- 22 points. Seniors are going for McCain, by nearly as big a margin -- 17 points. In 2004, young voters outnumbered seniors in Colorado. And Democrats are making a big push to get even more of them to the polls this year, along with Latinos and suburban women, two other groups that have been trending Democratic in Colorado.

What about the economy? Issue number one in Colorado, just like everywhere else. Colorado voters who say the economy and jobs are their top concern, favor Obama, but only by a narrow margin. Obama has yet to establish an undisputed claim on the economic issue.

Meanwhile, McCain has seized the advantage among voters whose top concern is energy and gas prices, a 16-point lead over Obama. Asked to name his most significant policy shift, McCain said --

MCCAIN: Offshore drilling. We've got to drill now and we've got to drill here.

SCHNEIDER: McCain may have struck not gold, but oil in Colorado.

(on camera): Of course, that stand could hurt McCain among coastal voters. Oh, wait. Colorado doesn't have a coast.

Bill Schneider, CNN, Denver.


COLLINS: The American dream realized in Beijing. A son of illegal immigrants strikes gold at the games.


COLLINS: Environmentally friendly and cheap to run. So why don't we have an electric car yet?'s Poppy Harlow has our "Energy Fix" from New York.

Hi there, Poppy.


You're exactly right. It's a big question. Just imagine no more trips to the gas station, filling up your car would be as easy as plugging into a wall socket. It would also be a lot cheaper, too. So says a group that believes electric cars are the future.


DERON LOVAAS, NATURAL RESOURCES DEFENSE COUNCIL: Basically, on an equivalent basis, you would pay $1 for every "gallon" -- quote, unquote -- of energy that you use, as opposed to paying what we're paying right now, which is $4 a gallon at the pump. So, in terms of the math of our budgets and finances, this makes a lot of sense for consumers.


HARLOW: Now, gas prices have been falling, but they're still a long ways from $1 a gallon. And get this, electric cars would also reduce possibly even eliminate tailpipe emissions. It is becoming a reality.

Nissan just unveiled, you see it right there, its first electric vehicle. It is set to hit the market in 2010. Early reports are it has pretty good acceleration. Heidi, that has been a major concern with these electric cars. Also, it's whisper quiet and it's electric.

COLLINS: Wow. All right, well, good.

These electric cars, though, they sound a little bit too good to be true? I mean, it goes fast and it's quiet --

HARLOW: yes.

COLLINS: -- and obviously good for the environment?

HARLOW: And cheaper, right.

In some ways that's very true. Some of these, the batteries -- they still have a limited range so you can't go on those long road trips without recharging the battery. Bigger problem could be the existing electric grid. What happens when all of these cars are on the road? Even electric car advocates do concede your electric bill will go up with the cost of electricity, just like we saw with corn and ethanol. That was a big problem. And even if there are enough of these vehicles out there, the grid -- of course then that will need to be upgraded.

And don't forget, Heidi, a lot of energy comes from coal so that means there's an environmental concern. But advocates do believe these issues can and will be solved if the automakers can work better with the electric industry.


LOVAAS: General Motors is talking with utilities across the country. Ford is doing the same. The other automakers, I'm sure, are going to follow suit. We need to make sure to get the ground rules of this new marriage right so that it works out and doesn't end up on the rocks as the one between the oil companies and the automakers did.


HARLOW: Now last week, we showed you how hydrogen-powered vehicle work. Some pros and cons there. I also recently drove a natural gas vehicle. So, Heidi, it is going to be interesting to see how all of this plays out. You can see those different pieces right on our Web site. But still, it's an option and one that's coming pretty soon.

COLLINS: Absolutely. All right. We look forward to it.

Thanks, Poppy.

HARLOW: You're welcome. COLLINS: The army commanders at Fort Sill, Oklahoma, defending themselves now after reports of untreated mold in barracks for recovering wounded soldiers.

Darrielle Snipes of affiliate KOCO was among reporters getting a tour of those barracks.


COL. ROBERT BRIDGFORD, FORT SILL GARRISON COMMANDER: This thing is sealed behind the wallpaper and of no threat to soldiers. But still, when we see that seal broken we see something behind it, and you pull it back -- we identified it. You may ask, why haven't you fixed it yet?

DARRIELLE SNIPES, KOCO REPORTER: Colonel Robert Bridgford shows the media the rooms where mold was found.

BRIDGFORD: That little metal piece was flat and that's where the water dripped down and created a problem here with the towel (ph), which you can see has already been fixed.

SNIPES: No soldier was living in this room at the time. It is going through renovation.

The mold was found during a July inspection of the Fort Sill Warrior Transition Unit barracks. Soldiers healing from various ailments live here while they go through treatments.

MAJ. GEN. PETER VANGJEL, FORT SILL COMMANDING OFFICER: In both cases, the mold found was as a result of a command directed inspection.

BRIDGFORD: From that point, until 25 July when we did our second inspection, we had already gone through 46 of the 48 rooms out of (ph) 3,705, and had already cleaned the vents in those rooms.

SNIPES: The inspections actually started back in April. That's when mold was found in the kitchen area of two shared rooms. The soldiers living there were moved immediately.

VANGJEL: The rooms involved indicated mold found was common mold, non-hazardous, much like the mold that we find in many of our homes.

SNIPES: Major General Peter Vangjel defends the Army after a report in the "USA Today." It claims the inspections were because of soldier complaints that went unnoticed. In the paper, a soldier says, "When I wake up in the morning, I have crud in my eyes and I have like this slimy phlegm in the back of my throat."

The Major General says there's no way to prove that soldier got sick from the mold. He hasn't gone to the doctor yet.

(END VIDEOTAPE) COLLINS: The commanding general says disciplinary orders are being considered against a captain who ordered soldiers not to talk publicly about the mold.

Bird on a wire? Nope, it's a plane dangling by one wheel. Incredible rescue to show you.


COLLINS: You already know to catch us weekday mornings from 9:00 a.m. until noon Eastern, but did you know you can take us with you anywhere on your iPod? The CNN NEWSROOM podcast is available 24/7 right on your iPod.

More medals for Team USA as the gymnastics competition wraps up in Beijing. Our Larry Smith is live now from the games.

Yes, this was pretty cool, the latest one, Shawn Johnson, I think on the balance beam, right?

LARRY SMITH, CNN SPORTS CORRESPONDENT: You're right. On the women's beam, Shawn Johnson looking for a gold throughout the games, and she finally gets it on the final night of competition. She takes the gold medal. Her best friend and teammate, Nastia Lukin, takes silver. That is her fifth medal of these games, more than anybody else here in these Olympics who is not a swimmer. Michael Phelps and Natalie Coughlin have already beaten that.

Also, in men's gymnastics, on the horizontal bars, Jonathan Horton taking the silver there.

A gold medal in wrestling for Henry Cejudo on the 55-kilogram class. For Cejudo, what a story for him, to come from a rough beginning, a rough childhood, certainly a rags to Olympic riches story.


SMITH (voice-over): He's been called the future of wrestling. But it's memories of his past that drives Henry Cejudo.

HENRY CEJUDO, USA WRESTLER: It was just a journey. That's the way I looked at it. We just -- we kept moving, and I went to, like, 10 elementary schools.

SMITH: We was Henry, his brother, Angel, also a world-class wrestler, and five other siblings. With a father they barely knew in and out of prison, Henry's mother, Nelly, found herself struggling financially and often holding down multiple jobs. Her work ethic didn't go unnoticed.

H. CEJUDO: She was never about excuses. That was one thing about her. There was times where she was sick at work -- she would go to work sick because knowing she had seven kids that she's got to take care of. And just -- that right there just always motivated me. ANGEL CEJUDO, HENRY'S BROTHER: We never saw the negativity on everything that was wrong. We always made the positive side. It was, like I say, it was tough -- seven kids in the household. And actually, sometimes there were more. We had uncles coming from Mexico, cousins, people. It was just -- it was tough, but, I mean, my mom always made it a lot better for us.

SMITH: It was Angel who inspired Henry to begin wrestling in junior high. In the years that followed, Henry won four state championships and two national titles.

A. CEJUDO: When he first started, man, he was an animal. From the beginning, I'm not even going to lie, I'm not going to say he wasn't any good. He was -- right away you knew he was going to be tough because he was the kind of kid that once you got on the mat, it didn't matter what sport it was, he went in there to fight.

H. CEJUDO: I looked at it as people are fighting and they're getting trophies. So I was, like, I want to do that.

TERRY BRANDS, USA WRESTLING COACH: You know, you take that scrappiness where it used to be on the street, you know, throwing haymakers at people you don't know and take it and put it into an organized sport and let him build and materialize and get better from doing it that way, and it's just a natural for him.

SMITH: Some believe a gold medal in Beijing is just the start of a long and successful Olympic career.


SMITH: Well that is if Cejudo decides to keep competing in the Olympics in 2012 in London. He hasn't committed to that yet and some think he might pursue a career in mixed-martial arts.

Now a couple of notes from this evening here, this Tuesday evening in Beijing -- first, the USA women's basketball team and men's baseball team both win to advance to the semi-finals. And just a few moments ago at the Bird's Nest in track and field, Dawn Harper winning gold in the women's 100-meter hurdle. So busy day here in Beijing.

COLLINS: Hey, that was my event. How about that? If I didn't fall on my face every time I didn't three-step.

All right, Larry, appreciate it. Live from Beijing, Larry Smith. Thank you.

Bird on a wire? Well, actually, no. It's a plane dangling by one wheel. Incredible rescue to show you.


COLLINS: Talk about a high wire act. This is in Germany. The pilot and passenger -- OK, probably still a little bit dizzy. The plane was coming in for a landing when it got tangled more than 60 feet in the air. It was up there for more than three hours. Rescuers used a hydraulic cherry picker to get them down after they decided the chopper was just too risky. We actually don't really know how or if they got the plane down -- people, yes. All right, good.

And check out this face-off in a Colorado pasture -- cow versus bear. The two had been nuzzling noses until the bear climbs an apple tree. The cow apparently took offense, seems she has a sweet tooth for apples. The cow's owner says the cow chased the bear off. So there you have it.

You're with CNN. I'm Heidi Collins. Tony Harris is off today.

Developments keep coming into the CNN NEWSROOM on this Tuesday, the 19th of August. Here's what's on the rundown.