Return to Transcripts main page


Holocaust Museum Shooting Suspect to be Charged; Obama Pushing His Health Care Reform Ideas in Green Bay Today; Flu Fears Close Hong Kong Schools; Foreclosures Down Six Percent in May From April; Wells Fargo Accused of Reverse Redlining; Car Speeding From Crime Kills 4; Obama Proposes His Government-Run Health Plan to Green Bay Residents; Port-A-Potty Business Stays Afloat; Iranian Presidential Election Heating Up With Less Than a Day to Go

Aired June 11, 2009 - 12:09   ET


TONY HARRIS, CNN ANCHOR: OK, there you have it, the news conference concluding just outside of the Holocaust Museum, the site of yesterday's deadly shooting.

A lot of information to go through there.

We learned that James von Brunn will be charged. He will be charged with the murder of special officer, security guard, Stephen Johns. D.C. Metropolitan Police Chief Cathy Lanier telling us that law enforcement has conducted hundreds of interviews. Von Brunn to be charged with murder and at least one felony firearms charge.

As for the investigation, the FBI looking at this as a possible hate crime and conducting extensive interviews. Once again, the FBI says the investigation is at its earliest stages, and no information to suggest at this point that von Brunn had help in planning and carrying out the attack.

Relative interviews going on. The FBI tracking cell phone and computer activity. The FBI wants a 36-hour timeline on this man. Who did he talk to? What Web sites did he visit?

And then a piece of information we didn't know before this news conference. Let me play it for you.

Here is Chief Cathy Lanier describing the moments just before the shooting.


LANIER: Mr. von Brunn approached and parked his -- double-parked his vehicle in front of the museum and approached the 14th Street entrance. As he approached the 14th Street entrance, as was said earlier, Special Police Officer Johns was kind enough to open the door to allow him to enter.

As he entered, he raised the rifle, opened fire, striking Special Police Officer Johns and then engaging with other special police officers in the museum, who, by all accounts, stopped him from entering that museum and injuring anybody else.


HARRIS: Boy. So security guard Stephen Johns actually opening the door, doing his job, for the man charged now, or at least will be charged very shortly, with killing him.

We will continue to update you on this investigation with the latest information as we get it.

He has been called, as you probably heard, a gentle giant. Now people around the world are remembering the security guard killed in yesterday's shooting with tributes online.

If you would, send us your thoughts about Officer Stephen Johns. Or how about this? Any memories, if you knew him.

Just go to our blog,, and leave us a comment. Josh Levs will be tracking your posts and your tributes, and he will share some of them later this hour, right here in the NEWSROOM.

Health care road trip. President Obama takes his push for health care reform out of Washington, to Wisconsin. He holds a town hall meeting next hour in Green Bay.

Our White House Correspondent Dan Lothian is there traveling with the president.

And Dan, why is the president taking his message on health care to Green Bay?

DAN LOTHIAN, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, first of all, a couple of reasons.

I was talking to an administration official who told me he wanted to come here to an area that has really been able to show some progress in keeping costs down and still keeping health services up. And so that's what Green Bay has been able to do. The president does want to highlight that.

But in addition, he wants to obviously get outside of Washington and listen to what the public has to say about health care issues, some of the problems that they're facing with the high costs of health care. And so that's why he is holding this town hall meeting. It's kind of the first push by the White House as they try to get health care reform done very quickly.

The president saying that the system is broken and it needs to be fixed now. The president will be highlighting a 35-year-old woman who has terminal breast cancer. She is a mother of two kids, and she will talk about the struggles of her family and of potentially losing their home and trying to afford all the high costs of the hospital bills they have been paying for her illness.

So, that's the reason the president will be here. Again, trying to get the public's input in the health care debate -- Tony.

HARRIS: OK. Dan Lothian for us. And Dan, the speech, the town hall, scheduled to begin at 1:10 Eastern Time? Is that correct?

LOTHIAN: That's correct, Tony.

HARRIS: All right. Dan Lothian for us.

And of course we will have the town hall right here for you in the CNN NEWSROOM.

The World Health Organization today raised the alert level for the H1N1 virus commonly called swine flu. The U.N. health agency says the flu is now considered a global pandemic.

The alert level is at level 6. That is the absolute highest. That doesn't mean it's any more dangerous or deadly. It means the disease has spread to more countries.

The health agency says there are more than 27,000 confirmed cases in 74 countries, 141 deaths have been linked to the flu outbreak. The CDC reports 27 deaths in the United States.

Swine flu fears keeping some students in Hong Kong out of class. Authorities took the action after an outbreak of the flu.

Here's CNN's Pauline Chiou.


PAULINE CHIOU, CNN CORRESPONDENT: I'm Pauline Chiou in Hong Kong, where all the kindergartens and primary schools are closed for the next two weeks. That's because 12 students from this school, the St. Paul's Convent School, have been confirmed to have the H1N1 flu virus.

Now, normally in Hong Kong, the school year ends in the middle of July, so this is just a temporary closure.

Let's go to the front entrance of the school. The gates are down, and you can even see signs that the school put up prior to today advising students how to prevent the spread of the H1N1 virus.

It says things like, "Let's resist the virulent flu together. Cover the nose when sneezing and cover the mouth when coughing."

Now, all of this comes just about a month after a hotel in Hong Kong had been quarantined after a tourist who had checked into that hotel was later found to have the H1N1 virus. And once again, the city is saying they don't want to take any chances.


HARRIS: CNN's Pauline Chiou for us.

And New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin is no longer quarantined over swine flu fears. Nagin had been detained in China for three days. He was released yesterday. Chinese authorities quarantined the mayor because a passenger on his flight was suspected of having swine flu. Nagin showed no signs of the illness.

We are breaking down the president's health care proposals. Who would be covered, and how much would it cost?


HARRIS: Just a short time ago, officials wrapped up a news conference on yesterday's Holocaust Museum shooting in Washington. Security officer Stephen Johns, who was killed in the attack, being remembered as a hero.

The alleged gunman described as a white supremacist. He faces murder and other charges.

Live now to our Kate Bolduan outside the Holocaust Museum.

And most striking in all of that, in watching that news conference, Kate, was learning from Chief Lanier that Johns actually opened the door for the man who will be charged with killing him.

KATE BOLDUAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: You absolutely hit the nail on the head, Tony. That was something that really -- we learned so much in this press conference, but that is something that really struck.

You heard people kind of gasp a little bit when that was said, the fact that they say that -- the D.C. police chief says that Stephen Johns actually opened the door for James von Brunn to let him enter the museum. And as they say, almost immediately upon that door opening, he lifted the rifle and opened fire.

The information that we got is he got off at least one round before the other security guards returned fire. And of course we know he was hit and is -- the latest is that he remains in critical condition over at George Washington University Hospital, the nearest trauma center to this.

And of course we should point out what we just learned is that they have officially charged Von Brunn with murder, as well as discharging a firearm in a federal facility. Almost equally important to note is that they are -- they're pursuing, they're looking into additional charges of civil rights and hate crimes.

So, that is a very serious charge. As they say, they're very early into the investigation. But that is something that they're also working on as they continue this investigation, Tony. They talk about all that they've been doing in the less than 24 hours.

HARRIS: That's right.

BOLDUAN: They say dozens and dozens of interviews have been conducted locally, as well as across the country, of search warrants on his car, as well as his home. And now we've also learned from officials here on the ground that there is surveillance video of the incident that happened. That's part of the affidavit that was submitted in U.S. District Court. But we're also told that surveillance video is not going to be released at this time.

HARRIS: Yes. All right, Kate. Stay with me here as we work through a couple of other details.

BOLDUAN: Of course.

HARRIS: You were at the news conference and I was listening to it. I just want to make sure I have a lot of this information correct here.

The FBI is trying to establish a 36-hour timeline on this man?


HARRIS: Von Brunn?

BOLDUAN: Yes. That's exactly what they say. They're right now working on establishing a detailed 36-hour timeline of every -- his whereabouts...


HARRIS: Tracking cell phone activity, computer activity.

BOLDUAN: Exactly.

HARRIS: Who he talked to, what Web sites he visited. Is that correct?

BOLDUAN: Exactly. And that's all part of it.

And one thing that we heard over and over again is they are appealing to the public, saying we need your help. We are -- we're acting now. We need your help. If you've come in contact, if you have information, to help us out and give us information. They say they are working on establishing this 36-hour timeline.

I think we have a sound bite, Tony, from the assistant director in charge of the FBI's Washington field office.

HARRIS: OK, great.

BOLDUAN: Why don't we take a listen to that?



JOSEPH PERSICHINI, ASSISTANT DIRECTOR IN CHARGE, FBI WASHINGTON OFFICE: As Chief Lanier stated, this is a joint investigation with the Metropolitan Police Department and we are pursuing dual charging purposes. One as a homicide and the other as civil rights and hate crimes. We know what Mr. von Brunn did yesterday at the Holocaust Museum. Now it's our responsibility to determine why he did it.

(END VIDEO CLIP) BOLDUAN: That is a big question, and something that has been burning in the minds of everyone that has heard of this event, here and across the country.

An important thing to point out as well, Tony, they stressed over and over again that they do not have any information that Von Brunn had any accomplices or coconspirators in this. They really do believe he was a lone gunman and acting alone in this incident, but that, you know -- but he still was able to pull this off, which is quite scary.


Kate Bolduan, just outside of the Holocaust Museum in Washington, D.C., the site of the news conference that just wrapped up a short time ago.

Kate, appreciate it. Thank you.

BOLDUAN: Thank you.

HARRIS: The family of the slain officer invited members of the media to speak with his son, and Josh Levs joins us with that -- Josh.

JOSH LEVS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Eleven years old, Tony, 11-year- old boy. Our affiliate WUSA was one of the media that got a chance to speak with this boy who is standing alongside his stepfather. Let's just take a look.


STEPHEN JOHNS, JR., VICTIM'S SON: To me, he was a pretty great guy. And he was always there for me when I was, like, down or sad or all that.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Had the right words, the right touch to pick you up?

JOHNS: Uh-huh. Then, like, when I had heard about what happened, I was just sad, mad at the guy that shot him.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Your dad being there may have saved a lot of lives.



LEVS: It's heartbreaking, as you were just saying, Tony. It's heartbreaking and it's difficult to watch.

I want to correct myself of what I said before, that he was actually accompanied by the stepfather of Stephen Johns, who was killed. And we are hearing from various family members how loved this man, how wonderful this man was.

And, you know, at the core of everything we're talking about right now, that's the central tragedy right there, the loss of this 39-year-old man who has been described as this gentle giant, who so many people loved. And he was apparently was a fixture.

If you went into the museum, you saw him. Everyone who worked there -- we spoke to an employee earlier who said he was a wonderful guy who communicated so much with so many people, but was ready to be tough when it was time for it. And obviously here was a hero.

HARRIS: Well, and I know a lot of people are reaching out to us through the blog.

LEVS: Yes, they're all over it. Let's zoom in. I'll show you some things people are saying at Let's check this out.

J.D. wrote, "This was a horrible act committed by a despicable human being. However, the heroic acts of Stephen Johns, which saved countless lives, are potentially symbolic of the eventual defeat of hate in America."

Sally: "Security guard Johns died performing a mitzvah, which is a Jewish word for good deed. This hero saved countless lives. All of good will should mourn his death."

Let's get to Rob. "Mr. Johns died doing his job. He is a hero. God bless the family he leaves behind. May God's love lift them up as they grieve."

And Tony, we've got discussions going on at Facebook. Here's one from (INAUDIBLE). "My thoughts and prayers go to Officer Johns' family, colleagues and friends. God created humanity good, but many choose to do evil."

And we can end with this over here, Twitter. "Seeing that interview with the security guard's son brought tears to my eyes. All you hate mongers got what you wanted."

The conversation is going to keep going throughout this hour and throughout the day. Let's show the graphic here.

We invite you to weigh in. You've got the blog, There's my page,

These are really online discussions where you get a chance to share your thoughts and post your own memorials to this man whose act of heroism most likely saved a lot of lives there.

HARRIS: And just -- it takes your breath away to think that this is a man who opened the door for the man who is charged with gunning him down. He did his job. He opened the door for an 88-year-old man to enter the museum, and now it's that very man who was charged with killing him.

LEVS: You know, I'll just say quickly we had someone on the air earlier who worked with him who said next time you go into a building and you have a guard at the front, just think about how grateful you can be for that person ready to put his life on the line.

HARRIS: Thanks, Josh.

LEVS: Thanks.

HARRIS: Still to come in the NEWSROOM, the latest foreclosure numbers are out. Are there any signs of a turnaround?


HARRIS: You know, we may not be seeing a recovery for the housing market yet, but are there signs of stabilization?

Personal Finance Editor Gerri Willis has the latest details.

Gerri, what are you seeing out there? First of all, good to see you.


Yes. Well, there are some interesting numbers in this.

The number of foreclosures decreased, down, down six percent in May. I know you're not used to hearing that. That's compared to a month earlier. That's according to an industry report by RealtyTrac.

Now, that's some cause for optimism, but keep in mind they compared it with last year at this time. Foreclosures are still up 18 percent.

And as we've been seeing, the states with the highest foreclosure numbers are Nevada, with one in every 66 households receiving a foreclosure notice; California, the second highest state, despite a four percent decrease in foreclosure activity from the previous month; and in Florida, one in 148 houses received a foreclosure notice. On that list, Arizona, Michigan, Georgia, Colorado.

So we're seeing little glimmers, but still waiting for the big turnaround.

HARRIS: Any other glimmers out there?

WILLIS: Well, you should take a look at housing sales, not prices. I know everybody obsesses over prices, but sales provides some interesting glimmers.

They reveal that states in the biggest foreclosure trouble are now showing strong rebounds in sales year over year. In Florida, sales are up 25 percent. In Arizona, sales are up 50 percent. These are quarterly numbers. In California, sales are up 81 percent, Tony. And this is a triple-digit growth in sales for Nevada.

None of this is to say that the housing catastrophe is over. Deals are being done for bargain-basement prices.

HARRIS: Got you.

WILLIS: What's more, another wave of foreclosure is expected to start maybe later this year. Still, sales have to rebound before prices can go up.

HARRIS: Yes, it's true.

What advice do you have, Gerri, for people who worry they have missed the bottom of the real estate market?

WILLIS: Well, you know, as we talk about all the time, Tony, bottom line, real estate is local. Nobody can predict where the market is going, so you want to do your research.

If you're looking at an area to buy, then you want to make sure that prices have been stable there for a few months. If prices are still declining in that area, you might want to just wait until it settles out.

Check out days on market. That's the amount of time it takes somebody to sell their home. If that prospect, days on market, are decreasing, sales are picking up. You know?

So look to the Web for info. Two Web sites, and city- You'll also want to get in touch with a realtor in the area who has reputable and has a lot of experience in the local market.

HARRIS: OK, Gerri. Before we let you go, give us a bit of a preview of your weekend show, "YOUR BOTTOM LINE," please.

WILLIS: Yes, 9:30 a.m. Saturday, right on CNN.

Health care once again front and center on Capitol Hill, what industry reform means for your wallet.

And I have a special treat for you, Tony.


WILLIS: You know, there's a lot of talk about financial oversight.


WILLIS: Particularly for consumer products. We have Elizabeth Warren on the show talking about what needs to be done to protect us to get the right kind of financial products.

So join us Saturday.

HARRIS: Well, you know, I'm a big fan of hers. And when you talk to her, tell her we want to see her in our hours here real soon. All right?

WILLIS: Oh yes.

HARRIS: We want to talk credit cards with her.

WILLIS: I'm sure she wants to talk to you.

HARRIS: Yes. That's nice of you, Gerri. Have a great day. Thanks.

WILLIS: You, too.

HARRIS: Hey, do we still have the pictures of the president arriving in Green Bay?

Here we go. All right. Let's take them full.

The president arriving just a short time ago on the ground in Green Bay, Wisconsin, at the Austin Straubel International Airport.

From here, the president heads to Green Bay Southwest High School for the town hall meeting on health care scheduled to begin at 1:10 Eastern Time. And of course we'll have it for you right here in the CNN NEWSROOM.


HARRIS: Town hall meeting on health care scheduled to begin at 1:10 Eastern Time. Of course, we'll have it for you right here in the CNN NEWSROOM.

It is called reverse redlining. Banks target blacks and other minorities for risky subprime mortgage loans. The result? Widespread foreclosures. CNN's Carol Costello reports on how one major bank's practices dashed dreams in Baltimore.


CAROL COSTELLO, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Take a look. This is exactly the kind of community the city of Baltimore alleges Wells Fargo targeted and in part destroyed.

STEPHEN FAISON, BALTIMORE HOMEOWNER: This house ain't nothing but a rat hotel. You know, that's all it is, nothing but a rat hotel.

COSTELLO: Stephen Faison, like many who live here, works two jobs to pay the bills. Many in his neighborhood were hungry to own a home and did, until the city claims high-risk Wells Fargo mortgages forced many of them into foreclosure. For Faison, their broken dreams are now his nightmare.

FAISON: Don't nobody even live here. So I don't know where this stuff could have came from.

COSTELLO: Baltimore says Wells Fargo ought to pay for this blight because it violated the Federal Fair Housing Act by targeting minorities for discriminatory subprime loans. It's now filed a lawsuit.

MAYOR SHEILA DIXON, BALTIMORE: We do hope to get a monetary amount from this lawsuit so that we can take those communities that have been devastated as a result of these foreclosures to stabilize those neighborhoods.

COSTELLO: It's a tough case to prove, though, but recently Baltimore got some help from two former Wells Fargo loan officers. One of them, Beth Jacobson, agreed to talk with us.

COSTELLO (on camera): Is there any doubt in your mind that Wells Fargo was preying on the black community?

BETH JACOBSON, FORMER WELLS FARGO EMPLOYEE: No. It was how to make more money. And if they felt they could make more money targeting the black community and put all their efforts to advertising within the black community, I don't have any doubt that Wells Fargo would do that.

COSTELLO (voice-over): Jacobson, who says she once made upwards of $700,000 a year in commissions and salary, says most of her subprime, high-risk customers, were black by design.

JACOBSON: And Wells Fargo set up a whole platform called emerging markets that was geared to the African-American. All their literature had pictures of African-Americans on that.

COSTELLO: And according to one of Jacobson's colleagues, who may also testify on Baltimore's behalf, Wells Fargo even had software designed to print out flyers to persons speaking the language of African-American.

Another part of the strategy, Jacobson claims, was to target black churches. Loan officers were urged to convince pastors to allow them to offer charity donations to congregants who bought subprime loans.

JACOBSON: By going to the churches, it was like they were then legitimate because the pastor, the minister, would invite Wells Fargo in and it was sort of like he gave his blessing.

COSTELLO: None of these actions was necessarily wrong, except critics charge that many of those who were induced to sign subprime mortgages didn't qualify or were misled or lied to about the terms.

JACOBSON: Forty to 50 percent of those people that were put into a subprime loan could have gone into an FHA loan and qualified.

COSTELLO: The allegations come as no surprise to those who live with the aftermath. Stephen Faison, who sees the blight of foreclosed homes every day, just wants someone, anyone, to pay.


HARRIS: Boy, oh boy. "American Morning's" Carol Costello joining us live from Washington.

And, Carol, I've got to tell you, it looks like you've got it pretty cold here. But we all know there are a couple of sides to every story.

COSTELLO: That's right.

HARRIS: So what is Wells Fargo saying about all this?

COSTELLO: Definitely two sides to every story. Wells Fargo says this. It says the city of Baltimore's lawsuit absolutely lacks merit. It goes on to say, "we have worked extremely hard to make homeownership possible for more African-American borrowers and we have done so fairly and responsibly. We absolutely do not tolerate team members treating our customers disrespectfully or who violate our lending policies. Wells Fargo's lending practices did not cause foreclosures, impacting its (Baltimore's) housing market."

That's Wells Fargo's side of the story. And if you read between the lines, Tony, you know, Wells Fargo wanted African-American customers, and they wanted to enable them to be able to own homes. They say they did that fairly, however.

HARRIS: And you know what? We've both spent a number of years in Baltimore, and we both have driven down a lot of those streets with a lot of those homes that you featured in that report. And whatever happens, one thing's for sure, something needs to be done about the blight in a city that we both love.

COSTELLO: I know. I still live there. I moved back to Baltimore.

HARRIS: You did?

COSTELLO: And I know exactly what you're saying. The city says it doesn't have the millions of dollars it needs to take care of all these vacant properties, along with everything else that is wrong in the city.

HARRIS: You moved back. And, as you know, it's my home. All right, Carol, good to see you. Come see us any time.


HARRIS: Still to come in the NEWSROOM, a police chase in Philadelphia ends with the deaths of four innocent bystanders. How did it happen? I'll ask the police commissioner.


HARRIS: Well, this is a pretty horrible story. Police say a car speeding from a crime scene jumped a curb and hit a crowd of people, killing three children and a woman. The woman was the mother of at least one of the dead children. The crash happened last night in north Philadelphia. Police say it started with two men stealing a motorcycle at gunpoint. One suspect took off on the motorcycle. The other in a car.

Let's get the rest of the story here. Joining us now, Philadelphia Police Commissioner Charles Ramsey. Commissioner, thanks for your time.

Sort this out for me. The reporting in one of your local papers this morning suggested that this was the crash at the end of a police chase. Clear that up for us.

CHARLES RAMSEY, PHILADELPHIA POLICE COMMISSIONER: Well, certainly we have more facts available to us now, including the tapes from 911. There was a traffic officer who was making -- taking a report when a citizen approached him and told him that a robbery had just occurred. Apparently two individuals in a silver Pontiac at gunpoint took a motorcycle from an individual. And then proceeded to flee the scene. One on the motorcycle, one in the car.

The officer saw the car. The -- after the citizen pointed them out. He followed the car. He's working by himself. And from the tapes, he's clearly stopping at traffic signals and so forth. He's waiting until he gets assistance to help him take this individual into custody.

At some point, when the vehicle is stopped in traffic, he does try to make a felony stop. Once he does that, this individual takes off, strikes another vehicle. He loses sight of them around Third Street here in Philadelphia. And a short time later, he comes across the accident scene where four people now died as a result of the crash. Three on the scene, three children, ages one, six, and seven, and the mother of one of those children, a 22-year-old, died this morning.

HARRIS: Boy. OK. So you're not describing a chase there.

RAMSEY: No, it turned out it wasn't.


RAMSEY: Of course, on the night that it took place, nobody knows exactly what took place. There are a lot of assumptions that are made. But now that we've got more information out, although we were trying to make a felony stop . . .


RAMSEY: The officer was stuck in traffic. He didn't get an opportunity to even pursue him.

HARRIS: Well, maybe we can sort of set the record straight for folks watching around the country, but particularly folks in your community of Philadelphia. Is there -- what is your policy when it comes to police pursuits?

RAMSEY: Well, we don't have a no-pursuit policy, but we do have a restricted pursuit policy. And by that I mean that the need to apprehend the individual has to outweigh the risk inherent in the pursuit itself. In other words, it needs to be a very, very serious crime, normally a felony, where the pursuit is justified. But even then we have controls where a supervisor has to monitor and constantly re-evaluate whether or not the speeds are getting excessive, the flow of traffic, number of pedestrians and the like so that we don't unnecessarily put others at risk.

HARRIS: OK. The description in the newspaper, we've got a bit of it here, is of a high-speed crash that was so violent that the Pontiac in question here was totaled and ended up wedged between a rowhouse and a utility pole. I don't know if you had an opportunity to visit the scene.

RAMSEY: Yes, I was there.

HARRIS: Expand on that. What did you see?

RAMSEY: Well, it was definitely a high-speed crash. This individual struck the people going at a minimum 55 miles an hour. We suspect a lot higher than that. He literally cut a tree in half, then hit the one-year-old was in a stroller. The other individuals were on the front porch of their own homes. He struck with such force that it knocked the concrete steps loose, wedged the vehicle between two cars. He was apprehended after he was thrown from the vehicle. Still had a gun in his pocket. The second individual who stole the motorcycle was also apprehended at a different location and several guns were recovered from him. Both of these people have very extensive criminal histories and it's just unfortunate that they were even on the street.

HARRIS: Sounds like your officer did the right thing here.

RAMSEY: Yes, we don't see anything that would indicate otherwise. But it's a tragedy nonetheless.


RAMSEY: And we certainly mourn the loss of four people.

HARRIS: This is a horrible story.

Commissioner Ramsey, we appreciate your time. Thanks.

RAMSEY: Thank you.

HARRIS: A powerful doctors lobby says it doesn't like part of the president's health care proposal. I'll find out why from our senior medical correspondent Elizabeth Cohen. She's next.


HARRIS: OK. On Capitol Hill, lawmakers are wrestling over what to do about health care reform. We have a live picture? OK. Democrats have outlined their plans just moments ago. Republicans held a news conference blasting those plans. The House Republican leader accuses Democrats and the president of trying to rush legislation through Congress.


REP. JOHN BOEHNER, (R) MINORITY LEADER: Washington cannot afford to repeat the same mistakes made on the stimulus, the omnibus, the budget and the bailouts. Middle-class Americans and small businesses have too much at stake when it comes to their health care. The Democrats' emerging bill raises taxes, it rations care and puts bureaucrats, instead of doctors and patients, in charge of medical decisions. It amounts to a government takeover of health care.


HARRIS: OK. As we mentioned, President Obama holds a town hall meeting next hour on health care reform, but the nation's largest doctors organization raising real concerns about one idea backed by the president. Senior medical correspondent Elizabeth Cohen here to help us sort through this.

Elizabeth, what was that moment? How long ago? You remember we were talking about it early in the week when we had the hospitals, we had the doctors, we had the insurance companies all in the room with the president and they were locked arm in arm and they were singing together.


HARRIS: It was that kumbaya. We can all get along.

COHEN: That's right.

HARRIS: And since that time, it's all fallen apart.

COHEN: It has fallen apart, yes. To some extent, it really has fallen apart. Here, let's -- we'll show you what it was like. It was like this. Everyone was standing together. We're going to work on it. It's going to be good.

HARRIS: We're going to work on cause, efficiencies, electronic record keeping.

COHEN: It's going be great. Take care of all Americans.

HARRIS: We're going to do this -- we can do this.

COHEN: Together.

HARRIS: And now the AMA . . .

COHEN: Kissing, hugging, yes, now . . .

HARRIS: ... is saying, hang on, wait a minute.

COHEN: Yes, wait a minute. Let me read you exactly what they say.


COHEN: OK. What the American Medical Association says is "The AMA does not believe that creating a public health insurance option is the best way to expand health insurance coverage and lower costs." So in other words what they're saying is this public health insurance option, which President Obama really wants to see happen, they don't think that's a good idea. Now a public health insurance option would basically be the government saying, here's a government- run health insurance that anyone could get. And guess who also doesn't like this?


COHEN: You're going to be shocked.


COHEN: The private insurance companies don't like it. They also think that this is a bad idea.

HARRIS: OK. So we have really hit the moment, haven't we, when we're not just talking about efficiencies where everybody can agree. Really, the easy stuff has been talked about. "Oh, we can work with you, Mr. President and this administration on cutting costs. We can work on electronic record keeping. We can streamline." Now we've really hit the bump in the road that we have to hurdle.

COHEN: Right. And the reason why is that it's very easy to agree that we need to insure the millions who are not insured. It's very easy to agree that medicine these days is very inefficient and bureaucratic. Everybody agrees to that. What they don't agree is what to do about it. So Obama wants this public health care option. But the Republicans want to do it differently. And just today, just within the past hour, they had this press conference and they said we want to do things like help you keep your insurance if you happen to change jobs. They want to do things like increase the amount of tax- free medical savings accounts. We want to help small business owners offer health insurance to their employees, because a lot of small business owners can't afford to do that. So it's how it gets done that's the big difference.

HARRIS: How it gets done. All right. And so the AMA, we know what they're in opposition of, but now at some point we need to hear what the AMA really thinks is the way forward and the course forward, right?

COHEN: Yes, it will be interesting to see.

HARRIS: We may get some indications on that next week. The president is speaking to the AMA I believe in Chicago. And, of course, we'll have those comments as well as the comments from the president at the town hall meeting, 1:10 p.m. Eastern Time.

Elizabeth, as always, thanks for the help.

COHEN: Thanks.

HARRIS: And once again we are following -- we've been looking at the scene for a bit now. We wanted to bring it to you now out of Louisville, Kentucky. Firefighters on the scene of an explosion at a local business. Don't know much more than that. We know that firefighters, rescue -- well, we can't say rescue operation at this point. Well, we know that firefighters are on the scene. That this scene is being worked on now by first responders. WAVE, our affiliate, giving us these pictures right now.

Again, this is an explosion at a business and we understand there are some injuries. We don't know the extent at this point. We will try to get some more information. But just wanted to bring you the picture and the information that we have at this time.

We're back in a moment. You're in the CNN NEWSROOM.


HARRIS: You know, with the ongoing recession pushing profits in the toilet, one Florida port-a-potty company is relying on its austere business practices to stay afloat. Well, this is all wrong. CNN's John Zarrella reports in our "Money & Main Street" series.


JOHN ZARRELLA, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Swinging high in the air, a clean port-a-potty is a construction workers' best friend, especially when you work up in the nosebleed section. This is Orlando's new events center. It will seat close to 20,000 when it opens next year. But right now, the only seats that John Sharp Jr. (ph) is concerned about are the ones in the 42 portable toilets he's placed on this job site for its 400 workers.

JOHN SHARP JR., COMFORT HOUSE: How's that chemical working? Did you like it?

ZARRELLA: With construction bottoming out, Sharp's company, Comfort House, is part of the ripple effect. Ninety-five percent of his port-a-potties were on construction sites and business isn't flowing like it used to. Profit margins are thinner. So he's had to lay off about a third of his workers. A sea of toilets in his storage area sit unrented. But, he says, it's not a sign of desperation.

JOHN SHARP, JR.: We're not in a position where we feel the need that we have to liquidate anything because we own what we have.

ZARRELLA: And that's part of the business plan, he says, that's helped his family survive and ward off the recession and the bottom feeders who see their port-a-potties sitting and thinking he's desperate to be bought out.

JOHN SHARP JR.: Had we spent outside our means, had we grown and leveraged everything, financed everything, we'd be in a really tough situation. Good business model, store money, saving money when you make money, keeping things simple.

ZARRELLA: This is the fourth recession for Comfort House. John Sharp Sr. has learned plenty from the first three.

JOHN SHARP SR., COMFORT HOUSE: My boat is a 12-foot john boat I use for duck hunting. And that's my yacht. and that's pretty much the extent of my extravagance. So we kind of live by that motto. The money that's made in the company kind of stays in the company.

ZARRELLA: And as long as those toilets stay rented, Sharp says, they all smell like money.

John Zarrella, CNN, Orlando.


HARRIS: Oh, man. If you need more advice on how to cope through this tough economy, watch more of our series, "Money & Main Street," CNN tonight, 8:00 p.m. Eastern Time.


HARRIS: Voters in Iran head to the polls Friday to choose a president. This week, Iranians took to the street in unprecedented campaign rallies. CNN chief international correspondent Christiane Amanpour set the scene with me yesterday.


CHRISTIANE AMANPOUR, CNN CORRESPONDENT (on the phone): This is actually incredible. We've been out all day now and we are in total traffic gridlock. We've been walking up town and down town and we have witnessed huge rallies this afternoon, mostly for the opposition candidate Mir Hossein Mousavi. A river of green -- that's his campaign color -- as people, tens of thousands, march from one end of the city to the next to get to so-called freedom square, wearing their green head scarfs, bandanas, flags and posters.

People who are old enough to have known the revolution 30 years ago that ushered in the Islamic republic and to have marched then say that they have never seen anything like it since. Many of the young people we're talking to say they just want freedom, democracy, a change. They want better opportunities. And they want better relations with the world, including the United States.


HARRIS: We will have complete coverage for you as Iranians go to the polls tomorrow.

We are pushing forward now with the next hour of CNN NEWSROOM with Kyra Phillips.