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Public Health Insurance Fight; Public Option Defined; Preparing to Vote Amid Violence in Iraq; Inside a Health Co-Op; Some of Britain's "X-Files" Released; Soldiers Battle Psychological Difficulties at Home; Longtime Journalist Bob Novak Dies

Aired August 18, 2009 - 11:00   ET


DREW GRIFFIN, CNN ANCHOR: How you doing? It's Tuesday, August 18th. Here are the top stories in the CNN NEWSROOM.

Bill could bust in on Bermuda vacations. Forecasters say that hurricane there could be a major storm, and soon.

The left pushing back on the public option? Maybe. Calling it a must in any health care bill.

If you're confused about the public option, we're going to clear that up, all the lingo.

And this...


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The truth, really, is in these files. Whatever the truth is.


GRIFFIN: The truth. Britain's X-files on line now. UFO sightings, they go off the charts in Britain during the 1990s.

Good morning, everybody. I am Drew Griffin, in for Tony Harris today. And you are in the CNN NEWSROOM.

Well, the suggestion that President Obama is abandoning a public health insurance option is overblown. That's the word today from the White House in one of the most contentious issues in this make-or- break month for health care reform.

White House Correspondent Suzanne Malveaux is following that ever- moving story, and Senior Medical Correspondent Elizabeth Cohen is going to explain that public option, what it all means.

But we're going to begin with you, Suzanne, because this is all about politics.

You know, I just have to ask you -- take a step back and say, where does President Obama stand on this public option at this moment? Is he willing to drop a public plan for a health care bill?

SUZANNE MALVEAUX, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, Drew, if you listen to White House officials very closely, they're saying that -- they're not saying that the public option is the only option, that it is a make-or-break situation. They're saying it's the best option.

We heard when John King, "STATE OF THE UNION," the host of "STATE OF THE UNION," asked the health and human services secretary, Kathleen Sebelius, about this, she said it wasn't essential. The two things she said, she's convinced at the end of the day, the plan is going to have choice and competition, but she says it's not an essential element to have this public option.

We have just heard from her, once again, the secretary, and I want you to take a listen very closely to how she is describing the public option today.


KATHLEEN SEBELIUS, HEALTH AND HUMAN SERVICES SECRETARY: All I can tell you is that Sunday must have been a very slow news day, because here's the bottom line: absolutely nothing has changed. We continue to support the public options that will help lower costs, give American consumers more choice, and keep private insurers honest.

If people have other ideas about how to accomplish these goals, we'll look at those, too. But the public option is a very good way to do this.


MALVEAUX: Drew, if you listen closely to what she's saying, she's saying that the president prefers the public option, but she doesn't really address the controversy. She doesn't address what was stated on Sunday, which is that it's not an essential element, they don't have to have the public option in order to have health care reform.

She simply repeats what we've heard before, saying that the president would prefer this, but she doesn't say it's a make-or-break situation. That is still a question that is up in the air, that is still what has to be worked out with members of Congress, and that is what is concerning so many people. If you believe that the public option is essential to health care reform, this White House is not weighing in on that, according to her statement. She's saying this is what we prefer.

On Sunday, she said not an essential element. So, you can see where the confusion is here. They obviously just want to let people know that there are a lot of ideas that are on the table, and so far they're listening to all of them -- Drew.

GRIFFIN: Well, talk about confusing, Suzanne. You know, there's a big public debate going on, and now it looks like the secretary, the health secretary, is debating herself from day to day. She seems to be contradicting exactly what she said yesterday.

MALVEAUX: Well, she's certainly not addressing the situation. She's not addressing what everyone is asking about, because people want to know, is it a make-or-break situation? Is it essential? Is it not essential.

On Sunday, she certainly seemed to suggest that it wasn't essential, that you had to have competition, you had to have lower health care prices. Those were the essential elements, not the public option.

Today, she is not saying one way or the other whether or not it is essential. She is saying this is the president's preference, this is what he would like. She's not addressing whether or not it's a make- or-break deal.

GRIFFIN: Suzanne, we've just got to write it down and try to follow this all on some moving map.

Thanks a lot for that.


GRIFFIN: Appreciate it.

Well, the public option, right? Supporters say it is essential to health care reform. Opponents say it will drive private insurers out of business.

What is it?

Senior Medical Correspondent Elizabeth Cohen explains in a new segment called "Health Care Right Now."

And Elizabeth, what is this going to look like, the public option?

ELIZABETH COHEN, CNN SR. MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, Drew, right now what we're thinking about is how some people love the public option, others hate. Really, I think, people don't necessarily understand it on either side. So, let's look at what a public option is.

Here we go. Here is sort of the essential elements.

A public option is something the government pays for and that the government administers. It's similar, really, in some ways to Medicare. We're all familiar with Medicare for people age 65 and over. In some ways this would be, I guess you could say, Medicare for the rest of us -- Drew.

GRIFFIN: So, I mean, government pays for it, government runs it. It's government health care.

COHEN: Right, in the same way that Medicare is government health care. That's absolutely right. But I want to point out one thing.

At the same time that I say the government pays for it, take a look at this. This is important.

People will pay premiums. And so, what's going to happen is that the premiums will be 10 percent to 20 percent less than private insurance.

Whoops. That's not what I wanted. That's a global issue. Anyhow, the premiums will be about 10 percent to 20 percent less than they would be for private insurance. So, the concern is that employers are going to say, wow, 10 percent to 20 percent less? I'm going to go for that. And they will get rid of their private insurance and go for the government insurance. But the way the bills are written, a lot of employers couldn't do that because the bills say, if you're a big employer, you can't participate, at least not in the beginning.

GRIFFIN: I'm asking you out of turn, but how are the rates going to be lower than private insurance? Isn't it a fact that they would have to be subsidized by other taxpayers who are paying for health insurance?

COHEN: Well, sure. I mean, once the government is paying for something it can be -- the premiums can be lower because the government is spending all this money on it. And also, if you talk to folks who support this plan, they would say that we're going to do such a great job with this plan at keeping costs low and delivery efficient and good health care in an efficient way, that that's going to keep the costs down, too. They say, look, private health insurance companies waste a lot of money, we're not going to waste money.

GRIFFIN: All right. One more question before you go. I have private health insurance. How does the public option affect me?

COHEN: You know what? For many people the public option is not going to affect them at all. And here's what I mean.

You and I, for example, work for a big company. Our company wouldn't be allowed to participate in the public option, at least not in the beginning. So, it really wouldn't affect us.

Now, if you work for a smaller company, it is a possibility that your employer is going to say, wow, 10 percent to 20 percent lower premiums? I'm right there, let's do it. And you may end up getting switched to the government option, and not by your own choice.

GRIFFIN: OK. Elizabeth, thanks a lot. We really do appreciate that.

Now, we are doing all we can here in this NEWSROOM to cut through the rhetoric and the rumors. You get an e-mail today from somebody who says, oh, I don't know, what are they talking about lately? You're going to go blind before you get eye care.

Well, if you get anything like that and you want to check out what is the real truth, you can go to our Web site, which is health care -- CNN Health Care, and check it out and see if the facts represent what is actually coming through your e-mail.

We also want to hear what you think. You can send your comments and questions to the blog at We're going to ask the experts to answer your specific questions and share them on air in the NEWSROOM.

And the question today that we want you to answer is: Do you fear a big government takeover? Does the prospect of doing nothing scare you even more?

Most people agree something has to be done. Why don't you tell us what you think needs to be done?

As I said, again, there is our health care page, You want to wade through all the mess out there, all the noise, just go to that one Web site. It's going to answer your questions.

Other news now.

Militants stepping up pre-election attacks in Afghanistan. They launched a rocket strike today, damaging the presidential palace in Kabul.

Plus, they killed at least 16 people in other attacks. The deadliest incident, this suicide car bombing in the capital targeting a coalition military convoy. Afghan officials tell CNN seven civilians were killed, 53 injured in this attack. NATO assessing casualties it sustained in that blast as well.

Outside the capital, two U.S. troops killed when their convoy struck a roadside bomb. These increased attacks are part of a Taliban plan to disrupt Thursday's elections. NATO says it's suspending operations on the day of that vote.

We're going live to CNN's Atia Abawi in the Afghan capital.

Atia, NATO and American forces have stepped up their effort this summer to secure the elections. Has any of that helped?

ATIA ABAWI, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Drew, it has helped. We have to remember that for nearly seven years, Afghanistan was known as the forgotten war, and they did flood in the summer. We saw thousands of U.S. Marines, thousands of coalition forces flooding into the country trying to secure areas so the Afghan people can go out and vote. And they have secured some areas.

There will be Afghans going to vote in areas we didn't expect them to just a few months ago. And the campaign alone is something to look at.

We just went to a campaign rally for Dr. Abdullah, an opposition candidate here at Kabul Stadium. Ten years ago, that same stadium was used as a Taliban execution ground. This time it was used for democracy in a political campaign.

Let's take a look.


ABAWI (voice-over): To much of the world, it may seem like a rock concert. Here in Afghanistan, it's democracy in action: men, women and children flocking to Kabul Stadium all waiting for their VIP, presidential candidate Dr. Abdullah Abdullah.

It was a sea of blue, the color of the campaign, with supporters wearing Abdullah T-shirts, hats and waving their flags. Abdullah is a rising superstar in the Afghan political scene, and the main challenger for current president Hamid Karzai, a man he used to work for as foreign minister.

Nilaam and Mitra (ph) are too young to vote but still have dreams of Abdullah as president. "We want him to be of service to our country," Nilaam tells me. "First, to take the fighting out of Afghanistan. Secondly, to start a new base for girls' education, move it forward."

"In many villages, girls can't go to school. They're not even allowed to leave the household. We want him to bring this freedom to those girls."

Abdullah cemented his name in Afghan history as the voice of resistance against the Taliban, standing side by side with the Northern Alliance war hero Ahmed Shomasoud (ph), who was killed by al Qaeda just two days before September 11th.

(on camera): A crowd of thousands have showed up to show their support for Dr. Abdullah -- men, women and children. The crowd has gotten a bit out of hand, ripping down fences and a stand for journalists. Dozens of journalists fell to the ground as Dr. Abdullah was speaking.

(voice-over): The candidate making sure the journalists were OK before pressing ahead.

Abdullah captivated his supporters with promises to fight corruption and help the people of Afghanistan rise again. In at least this crowd, including this former fighter against the Soviets, thinks he's got what it takes.

BABRAK BABARKHALE, ABDULLAH SUPPORTER: We want to support Dr. Abdullah to be our future president to take all Afghans from this corruption and from this weak government.

ABAWI (on camera): You think Dr. Abdullah can do that?

BABARKHALE: Inshallah (ph).

ABAWI (voice-over): This could be the face of the next Afghan president. If not, his influence is not going away anytime soon.


ABAWI: That crowd of thousands, that enthusiasm, was amazing to witness, but make no mistake, security is still an issue, and it will affect whether Afghans head to the polls two days from now -- Drew.

GRIFFIN: Atia, thank you very much.

Well, there's been a double blow to Pakistan's Taliban organization. Two of its top figures have been arrested. Officials describe one as the right-hand man to the group's leader.

The suspect was injured in a drone attack -- this is near Pakistan's border with Afghanistan -- captured, and then brought to Islam bad for treatment. The other man is a well-known spokesman for the militant group. He was captured in the tribal border region.

Now, the Federal Reserve making it easier for banks to get money, so why aren't the banks making it easy for you?


GRIFFIN: Just into us here in the NEWSROOM, you know Michael Jackson hasn't been buried yet, but now we're getting word from Los Angeles that his burial will be Saturday, August 29th. It will take place at the Glendale Forest Lawn Memorial Park in Glendale.

And according to Ken Sunshine, that would be Michael Jackson's 51st birthday, or would have been his 51st birthday. The spokesman says it's going to be a private ceremony, limited to just family and close friends.

Yes, it is gathering out there somewhere, the massive Hurricane Bill, about 300 miles across right now and strengthening over the Atlantic.


GRIFFIN: Well, here's something you don't see every day -- a judge on trial. The life or death decision she did not make, and it led to a man's execution.


GRIFFIN: It costs banks next to nothing to borrow from each other these days. So why are credit card interest rates soaring?

The consumer group Pew Safe Credit Cards Project surveyed 400 card issuers and this is what they found -- the median lowest rate jump from 9.99 percent to 11.99 percent just in the first half of 2009. Now, at the same time, Pew says bank profit on credit card debt soared 46 percent.

That leads us to our blog question. Have your credit card interest rates gone up? How much, and do you think your bank is taking advantage of you?

Have your say. Go to and share your opinion with us.

Well, the feds call this one one of the largest cases of identity theft yet, a Miami man charged with stealing more than 130 million credit card numbers. Prosecutors say he hacked into networks used by the 7-Eleven convenience store chains, Hannaford Brothers -- that's a regional supermarket chain -- and Heartland, a payment processor.

He's 28 years old, Albert Gonzales (ph). He's already in jail awaiting trial in two states, accused of stealing 40 million credit card numbers in another theft ring.

In Texas, a judge could testify today at her ethics trial. Listen to this. She's accused of watching the clock and closing her court to a late death penalty appeal.

James Munez reports. He's with CNN affiliate KENS in San Antonio.


JAMES MUNOZ, KENS-TV CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Judge Sharon Keller was first elected to the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals in 1994. Today, she is at the center of a rare hearing to gather facts. A commission will review the findings to determine whether or not Judge Keller responded appropriately to attorneys who tried to file a last- minute stay of execution.

On September 25, 2007, Michael Richard was to be executed at 6:00 p.m. He was convicted in the 1986 sexual assault and shooting death of Marguerite Dixon. That morning, the U.S. Supreme Court agreed to review legal injection practices. Attorneys for Richard wanted to request a stay of execution, but were told the clerk's office closed at 5:00 p.m. Richard was executed at 8:20.

SCOTT COBB, TEXAS MORATORIUM NETWORK: The U.S. Supreme Court was not able to, based on their own rules, to issue a stay, even though they issued a stay on the next person whose court case came to them, and the one after that. And there were no more executions for another seven months.

MUNOZ: The case has energized groups against the death penalty. Inside the courtroom, the only goal is to hold Judge Keller accountable if, in fact, she failed to uphold death penalty policies in Texas.

(on camera): A commission will review the findings from this hearing. They could issue a public censure, dismiss the case, or recommend the judge be removed.

In Texas, James Munoz for CNN.


GRIFFIN: Now, what was the judge's explanation? She's earned the nickname "Killer Keller." She is quoted as saying at the time that this happened, "I think the question ought to be, why didn't they file something on time? They had all day."

Talking about the lawyers there.

Well, we've heard a lot about health care co-ops, but what exactly are they and how do they work? Can you really tell a difference in care? The patients of one of those co-op clinics says, nope.


GRIFFIN: Well, the housing recession remains in full swing. I didn't need to tell you that. A new report shows fewer homes were built last month. But as bad as that sounds, Susan Lisovicz dug a little deeper.

And Susan, you found a sign of hope. Is that right? SUSAN LISOVICZ, CNN BUSINESS CORRESPONDENT: I did, Drew. And, you know, I'm happy to say that we can find signs of hope these days.

Housing starts, Drew, overall, fell one percent last month. Wall Street was expecting an increase. But if you do dig a little deeper, you'll see that the reason why is because of a big drop in apartment building, which is considered a volatile category.

The core of the housing market, of course, is single family residences, and they rose more than 1.5 percent last month. And, in fact, now for five straight months, they have been rising, which a lot of folks say is a sign of stabilization in the housing market.

We're also happy to say -- seeing some stabilization on Wall Street. Stocks rebounding after that nasty fall we saw yesterday. The Dow, the Nasdaq, S&P 500, Drew, each up at least half a percent, but, of course, we have a ways to go for the losses we saw yesterday -- Drew.

GRIFFIN: Yes. And the housing stocks, they're still in the tank, right?

LISOVICZ: Well, I looked at housing stocks in particular today, and we are seeing sort of a mixed bag. But there's no question they have come back, along with the rest of the market, when we started to see signs of improvement, those green shoots that we've been talking about. But you know, you also have to say that if you look year after -- year over year, there's no question that we have a lot of ground to make up.

Ground was broken, Drew, on 581,000 units last month. That's a big number. But compare it to a year ago, 900,000 units, and several years ago when we had the housing boom, 2 million units. I think you can make the case there was just too much building going on.

And that's really one of the big problems, Drew, is you have to work down the inventory. But there are a number of people saying with these reports that you're seeing the bottom of the housing market, which is, obviously, welcome news. And in fact, yesterday, we got a report on builder confidence, and it was the highest level in a year. So, I'll leave it on that.

GRIFFIN: I can't imagine anybody' building homes today. I really can't with all the inventory still out there.

LISOVICZ: It's a very good point. But companies exist to do just that.

GRIFFIN: All right. Susan, thanks...

LISOVICZ: You're welcome.

GRIFFIN: ... for the sign of hope. Digging deep there on Wall Street there today. Thanks so much.

LISOVICZ: You're welcome. GRIFFIN: Well, a conservative Blue Dog Democrat sides with town hall critics of the current health reform bills. Florida Congressman Allen Boyd holding another town hall today.

National political correspondent Jessica Yellin has more on the congressman's position.


REP. ALLEN BOYD (D), FLORIDA: Hey! How are you all?

JESSICA YELLIN, CNN NATIONAL POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT (voice- over): Here's one way to defuse town hall rage: Side with the critics on something.

BOYD: I cannot support this bill in the version it's in now. We can do better. We can make it better.

YELLIN: So, Blue Dog Allen Boyd is opposed to the health care bills moving through the House. He says as they stand right now, the bills don't do enough to control costs. So much for Democratic unity. Perhaps sensing weakness, the Republican Party is now up with this ad.

ANNOUNCER: The dangerous experiment President Obama and the Democrats in Congress want just can't be the right answer. The question is what Congressman Allen Boyd will do.

YELLIN: And some of his constituents are wondering the same.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: If we let Pelosi and people like that direct us, we are doomed.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The Congress that we've got today reminds me of a jackass running in the Kentucky Derby.

YELLIN: And many are convinced illegal immigrants will be covered.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: They have not stripped illegal aliens from some of the health care bills.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Why did we invite 15 million illegal invaders who broke federal law into our health care system?

BOYD: We're not going to do that, sir. Let's just put that to rest. We're not going to do that.

YELLIN: Despite resistance, Boyd says he's committed to passing something.

BOYD: We've got to reform the current system.

YELLIN: He prefers a co-op or exchange to a public option.

BOYD: Exchange is something that would work and work well, and allow them to keep their own health care coverage, if they like it.

YELLIN: Otherwise, he's holding his cards close to his vest.

BOYD: Until we see what the Senate does and what might come to the House floor. And then I'll stick to that.

YELLIN (on camera): Boyd plans to hold nine more of these town halls before the end of recess. He says he thinks they're a good way to make sure everyone's working off the same set of facts.

Jessica Yellin, CNN, Washington.


GRIFFIN: You know, for anything you want to know about health care and the debate and the reforms that could or couldn't affect your family, you really want to go to this Web site, You'll find the latest from those town hall meetings, fact checks, iReports and other health care news. You know, you want to check out some rumor -- is it or is it not in the bill? Is it or is it not being proposed? There's where you go, That's got the actual facts.

We've been talking a lot about health care cooperatives as an alternative to the public insurance option. All-platform journalist Chris Welch has an inside look at one co-op that's just outside Minneapolis.


CHRIS WELCH, CNN ALL-PLATFORM JOURNALIST: In terms of brick and mortar, this clinic may look just like any other. HealthPartners has been in business for more than half a century, but they are not your typical company. Now, sure, on the outside it doesn't exactly scream "co-op" at you, but its members say they pride themselves on being run by the people for the people. And that, they add, is the secret to keeping costs down and membership up.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: HealthPartners (INAUDIBLE). This is Mary. How may I help you?

WELCH (voice-over): HealthPartners serves more than a million people in Minnesota and Wisconsin. Some members, even if they've been with Health Partners for decades, don't even know they're with a co- op.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I watch a lot of it on television. Now there's a lot of talking about co-ops. But I didn't realize this was a co-op.

WELCH: You might say that co-ops fly under the health care radar. There aren't that many, and they don't have the lobbying power of other players.

(on camera): How do you describe what a health care co-op is to people who have no idea, never heard of it before? MARY BRAINERD, CEO, HEALTHPARTNERS CLINIC: Well, I'd describe it as an organization that is governed by its membership, by its customers, and that is not-for-profit in nature, and that's focused on solving health care problems for its membership.

WELCH (voice-over): For example, it saved millions by switching to generic drugs, and it cut tobacco use among its members by double the Minnesota state average. That's all because doctors help patients to quit. HealthPartners were a pioneer of electronic record. Its administrative are half those of the average private insurer.

DARLA ANDREWS, HEALTHPARTNERS CLINIC PATIENT: My doctor can get easy access to everything, and even when I go outside, everything comes through the computer. It's all digital.

MARY RITCHIE, HEALTHPARTNERS CLINIC: And they like that because, oh, yes, you know, I can go to another clinic another day and, oh, yes, you got my information, instead of having to go through all that work of trying to get it and access it and forms to be filled out and things like that.

WELCH: And as a co-op, they don't have shareholders worried about the bottom line every quarter. And the members here elect the board.

ANDREWS: I like the small community feel of here. It's more personal attention.

WELCH: It does help that Minnesota has laws that favor co-ops, but CEO Mary Brainerd says it's affordability that drives success.

BRAINERD: Making sure that health care is affordable is a very big deal to a cooperative. Having low administrative costs, there's no value to our membership in having high administrative fees.

WELCH (on camera): Why do you think that is? What -- there must be some type of drawback.

BRAINERD: The environment hasn't been very supportive of co-ops. A much hotter deal to be a publicly traded, for-profit health plan or health care company. That's where all the action is. I see a lot of potential for co-ops going forward. I think the discussion that's going on right now is really positive for the co-op model.

WELCH (voice-over): Co-ops may not have the industry clout of the big companies, but here at this clinic, they think their time is coming.



UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes, thanks, you, too.

WELCH: Chris Welch, CNN, Inver Grove Heights, Minnesota.


GRIFFIN: Well, California estimate it spent more than $60 million already fighting wildfires in just the last few weeks, and this isn't even the peak season. Last check, about a dozen fires were burning in California. Firefighters reporting gains against two of the larger ones. They're in the northern part of the state. The nearly 7,000-acres fire in the Santa Cruz Mountains is 65 percent contained, and in the Sierra Nevada foothills, authorities are letting most families return home there. That fire, by the way, has burned about 3,200 acres.

Hundreds of documented UFO sightings. The British government released its X-files. How convincing is the evidence?


GRIFFIN: That's right. Hurricane season under way with Jacqui at the huge, beautiful weather -- this is like the magic wall.


GIRFIN: I want to show you -- when I first got in this business, this is -- we used to hand these out. Little hurricane tracking maps, and the weather guy -- it was always a guy, right? -- gave out coordinates, and the kids at home would just track where the hurricane -- that is so outdated, I'm just going to toss this out.

JERAS: It is -- though it works, right? It still works.

GRIFFIN: You want to look at Bill?

JERAS: The technology that has changed is just tremendous. And this is really going to help us to present hurricane season and storms to you with up-to-the-minute technology, up-to-the-minute, you know, information.

Yes, Bill. So, we'll start out with this, and this is what we call our new hand tracker.

GRIFFIN: Do you know how cool that is, what she just did?


GRIFFIN: It's just amazing.

JERAS: Yes, that and in and of itself is exciting, isn't it?

GRIFFIN: Right, right, right. So, here's Bill.

JERAS: You excite very easily, by the way.

Yes, here's Bill. And so, this is an automatically updating system. So, any time we get any information, if there's an update on the status of the strength of the intensity of Bill, you're going to see that automatically plot up here. So, there's your coordinates. Shows you where it's moving, shows you how strong the storm is. So, that's going to happen instantaneously, OK?

The satellite picture is still the same. Now, we have the ability not to have to hold that old, clunky clicker any more. So, we can advance now just by pushing the play button. So, that will get to our next storm.

GRIFFIN: The tracking map.

JERAS: You can see the track of Bill, and it shows you the intensity. We can also telestrate (ph) on here now, by the way, which help you a better idea of what we're talking about so I don't have to say look here, look there. And you can write, hi, Drew. Put your name on there. There you go, hi, Bill. And just as easily, you can erase it, just like that.

One of the other really exciting things that we can do with this is that we can put on real-time weather information, what we call these true viewers here. So, as I punch this up, you can see we can select wind, the "feels like" temperature like the heat index or the regular temperature. So, I'll hit one of those, and I'm going to select wind, and it's going to bring the wind conditions, what they're doing, what direction they're coming from, anywhere in the United States.

And I can also move my map over. So, let's say we're in the middle of the storm, in the middle of a hurricane, right, and you're out in the field, Drew, as sometimes you are, and say, well, you know what, I'm covering a fire today, and I want to know what it's like, what are the conditions over there in that fire. So, I can hit "pan," and I can pan this thing over to California. I can zoom in, I can center it, whatever I want, and then we can check out the conditions exactly where you are, pull on these true viewers again.

We've been watching the fire danger. So, there's Los Angeles, Glendale, calm, seven miles per hour, San Diego, the winds are coming in from the west-northwest and that kind of thing. Something else we can do which is of great interest is that we can draw a distancer on here. And this is really helpful, as we only get updates every couple of hours, for example, from the hurricane center.

I can put a tracker on here and find out how many miles it might be away from the coastline or from the shore or from where you are out in the field. So, the technology has really changed a lot. We can do all of this stuff kind of on the fly, so to speak. And we're the only station that has this kind of technology. So, it's fun stuff.

GRIFFIN: Can we do some news? Oh, look at me. Hi! We've got to erase that. I want to go back to the hurricane.

JERAS: OK. See if it will go back to the beginning. I'm not sure if I can get back to Bill because I don't think I put my show in a play forever. But this we can pull up. Yes, go ahead. Touch the top. There you go.

GRIFFIN: Whoa. Look at that.

JERAS: It's fun, isn't it?

GRIFFIN: This -- whoa, hey. Pull back, Drew. All right, this thing...

JERAS: So, this is what's left of Ana.

GRIFFIN: Yes. But that's kind of dangerous, isn't it? When it comes out in here?

JERAS: That's what we're worried about, yes. Ana's no longer a storm, but it's a cluster of thunderstorms. And it gets into the eastern Gulf, it does have the potential to regenerate, and we could be looking at tropical storm Ana again or possibly even Hurricane Ana, basically.

GRIFFIN: Jacqui, thanks a lot for the show.

JERAS: Sure.

GRIFFIN: Great to have you. We'll be back with Jacqui later on. We'll be back with you in just a minute. Take care.


GRIFFIN: One of our big stories on right now very interesting to any UFO enthusiasts. The British government has just released 15 years' worth of data on sightings in Britain of UFOs or something that somebody thought was UFOs.

Here's CNN's Zain Verjee.

ZAIN VERJEE, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Flying saucers, intelligent life and alien abductions may not be in Downing Street's briefings, but the latest release of UFO files have Britain buzzing.

(voice-over): A spaceship load of stories documenting close encounters and mysterious incidents. The UK National Archives has released another batch of the government's X-files, thousands of pages listing more than 800 UFO sightings reported between 1993 and 1996.

1996 was the bumper alien year -- 609 sightings, up fivefold from the year before. 1996 was also the year the TV show "X Files" was at its peak. That same year, Will Smith battled aliens in "Independence Day." Coincidence? The report's grabbing headlines.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Aliens exist. I can't prove that they don't exist, so, therefore, they probably do.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I think the government has got enough problems already without having to worry about aliens or UFOs.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I don't believe they exist.

VERJEE (on camera): If you look up in the sky and see anything strange, you can report it at the British Ministry of Defense Web site. This person saw a formation of 18 lights. They appeared like a flock of helicopters with lights on. Look at this entry: a flying saucer with lights on it. It changed from a saucer shape to a star shape and then just disappeared.

(voice-over): A Ministry of Defense spokeswoman tells CNN it looks at reports only to see if UK airspace may have been compromised by hostile or unauthorized military activity. The new files also reveal that a U.S. spy plane called Aurora could be behind a slew of reported sightings in 1993. One official briefing note says there were "unusual UFO sightings over Britain that match some of the reported characteristics of the so-called Aurora."

The 14 new files debunk some other incidents, but they also show some sightings are just plain strange and unexplained.

DAVID CLARKE, UFO HISTORIAN: Something's going on. I don't know what the answer is. But the truth really is in these files, whatever the truth is.

VERJEE (on camera): The UK Ministry of Defense and the National Archives are releasing these files over a period of three years. So, we'll hear more about bright lights in the night sky.


GRIFFIN: Well, that UFO over Minnesota just might be Brett Favre. Apparently, according to the Associated Press, the retired quarterback, then playing again, then retired again, is now heading to Minnesota to meet with the Vikings. The coach there, Brad Childress, telling the AP in an e-mail that the veteran quarterback was traveling up to Mississippi (sic) to meet with the team.

Now, does that mean he's going to sign? This is what the coach said. "In a perfect world." That's a quote, according to the AP. He's a longtime star in Green Bay, of course. He came out of retirement last season to play for the Jets. Retired again. So, we'll keep you posted on whether or not that guy is going to be a quarterback once again in the NFL.

Well, moving on now. Credit card outrage. The rising interest rates and the new laws that will soon help you fight back. Well, that's some of what we're working on for you in the next hour.

We're also going to have the latest on the housing market, specifically foreclosures, and find out where some homes are selling in less than 90 minutes.

And a portrait of the uninsured. We're going to meet a woman who is painting a mural of her husband. She says he died because he couldn't afford some potentially lifesaving medical care.


GRIFFIN: It's a first-of-its-kind training course for U.S. soldiers. "The New York Times" reporting this, that the Army will soon require all active-duty soldiers, reservists and National Guardsmen to undergo intensive training in emotional resiliency. The course is slated to start in October, and it's designed to help improve combat performance, ward off mental health problems like depression and post-traumatic stress disorder and suicide. Family members of sol -- soldiers, excuse me, will also be allowed to participate in the training.

If you want to know why that kind of training is needed, well, after serving in Iraq and Afghanistan, many of our soldiers are coming back with problems. Chief medical correspondent Dr. Sanjay Gupta has more on this.



MATTHEW BROWN, IRAQ WAR VETERAN: There's blood everywhere.


BROWN: A little difficult to talk about sometimes.

DR. SANJAY GUPTA, CNN CHIEF MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): It's been a tough transition from Fallujah back to small-town America for Marine veteran Matthew Brown.

BROWN: I'm constantly on alert looking around. Is that McDonald's bag on the side of the road a bomb or just a bag? Is someone trying to get me? It's just different paranoia factors that wear on you after a while.

GUPTA: Just 24 years old, he joins the one in five Iraq war veterans returning from combat with post-traumatic stress disorder, PTSD.

BROWN: People knew I wasn't right in the head anymore, I wasn't the same person. And then I couldn't explain to them that there's no way I can be the same person after the things I've done and seen and has happened to me.

GUPTA: His escape, abusing prescription painkillers and alcohol. At his worst, Brown says he was drinking a fifth of liquor a day.

BROWN: The pain is always there. The pain will never go away. But I was using way more than I was prescribed to and then drinking on top of it. I was just, I guess, indirectly just trying to end it, end the pain for a brief moment or forever.

GUPTA: Brown is not alone. Alcohol is easily accessible and expensive and quickly becoming the drug of choice for veterans of the Iraq and Afghanistan conflict. In fact, a study published last year in the "Journal of the American Medical Association" found combat soldiers under the age of 30 were nearly seven times more likely to binge-drink.

TOM TARANTINO, IRAQ AND AFGHANISTAN VETERANS OF AMERICA: Nobody comes home from war unchanged. So, it's going to take some time to come back into normal society to deal with the sort of media onslaught that we have in this country, the sort of sensory overload, and that the support systems that we have set up from the military in the V.A. are stressed to capacity that veterans are falling through the cracks.

GUPTA: Groups like Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America are pressing Congress to devote more resources to the psychological injuries of this war. They also launched a free online community for veterans, like Brown, to get help.

BROWN: Really, the only people that understand PTSD are the people that have it.

Life is still a constant battle with PTSD. But it's a lot better now, I try to live for the people who can. I'm trying to live up to what the people that died could have been.

GUPTA: Dr. Sanjay Gupta, CNN, Loysville, Pennsylvania.


GRIFFIN: Some sad breaking news to report here in the CNN NEWSROOM. One of our colleagues, Robert Novak, has died. He was a longtime host of CNN's "CROSSFIRE." He was struggling with brain cancer, born in 1931.

CNN's Tom Foreman takes a look back at Bob's career.


TOM FOREMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Bob Novak was in high school when he got his first reporting job. He worked his way through several Midwest newspapers and eventually landed in Washington, D.C., where his dogged pursuit of leads and rapidly expanding list of contacts led to an early break from a competitor, Rowland Evans.

BOB NOVAK, JOURNALIST: It was a news column, six days a week. He couldn't do it himself. He told them. They told him to get a partner. I was then 31 years old. And that was the birth of the Evans/Novak column.

FOREMAN: Rowland Raleigh Evans and Robert Novak wrote "Inside Report" for 30 years, on everything from Watergate to Iran-Contra. The pair earned respect and fear from official Washington.

TED TURNER, CREATOR, CNN: We should be on the air at 6:00 as predicted.

FOREMAN: So, in 1980, when Ted Turner had this idea for a 24- hour news network, Evans and Novak were there, reporting. Solid, old- fashioned reporting was the core of all of his programs. And there were many.


FOREMAN: He was at the conventions, digging up stories...

NOVAK: I've been told by the Reagan people that both Ronald Reagan and Gerald Ford will come to the hall tonight.

FOREMAN: ... confronting the powerful...

GEORGE W. BUSH, FMR. PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: It was a litany of questions.

NOVAK: Yes, but that was one of them.

BUSH: I understand, but it was one of three or four, and I had about 30 seconds to answer. So give me -- the answer is I want to keep the platform the same.

FOREMAN: ... and taking no prisoners on the political battlefield.

NOVAK: Why did you laugh over the death of an American service member...

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Oh, don't be a demagogue. I did not laugh.

NOVAK: Tell me why you did.



NOVAK: On the tape you laughed.

FOREMAN: But those who worked with him give a very different picture of the off-screen Bob Novak.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He was a really warmhearted guy, a neat guy, who cared a lot about the people that worked with him, cared a lot about the people who worked for him. And if you were a friend of Bob Novak's, you couldn't have a better friend.

FOREMAN: In 2005, Bob Novak left the channel he'd helped to build.

NOVAK: I want to thank CNN for making this network available to me for 25 years. Never censored me once, ever.

FOREMAN: Bob Novak was a man who fiercely enjoyed life. His nickname, "The Prince of Darkness," was not invented by his enemies, but by his friends, of which there were many. They knew that his pessimism about politicians never clouded an unbounded optimism about his country and his profession.

Tom Foreman, CNN, Washington.


GRIFFIN: Bob Novak was 78 years old. He died at home.

CNN was his home. We'll have coverage later on through the day remembering this journalist as we remember the career and the good man he was.

Bob Novak, dead today at the age of 78.