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Feds Carry Out Raid in New York; "Gang of Six" Plan Due Tomorrow; Biden in Baghdad; GOP Rallies Around Wilson; Protecting Consumers; Racist Images at the Tea Party; Attack in Baghdad Green Zone; Yale Student Murdered; Touring Wall Street's Crisis; Baghdad Green Zone Under Fire
Aired September 15, 2009 - 12:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
TONY HARRIS, CNN ANCHOR: All right. Time for your midday reset. I'm Tony Harris, in the CNN NEWSROOM. It is noon in Ohio and Pennsylvania, where President Obama is addressing big labor today.
It is noon in Washington, where key senators struggled to write a health care reform bill acceptable to both Democrats and Republicans.
It is high noon in New York where a terror task force is planning its next move after a raid on an apartment building turns up no explosives, no arrests.
Let's get started.
President Obama on the road, talking the economy and health care. He spoke just last hour at a GM plant in Ohio that is rehiring. Thanks in part to the Cash for Clunkers Program. The president cautions a long way to go before the economic recovery is in full swing. But he says his administration's efforts are beginning to take hold.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Now, even though you're proving that American automakers are getting back in the game, I think everybody understands our economic troubles are far from over. I don't want to -- I don't want to over promise here. We still got a lot of work to do.
We got in a deep hole over the course of years. It's going to take some years to get back out of this hole. We have a lot of work to do, not just to get this community moving again and this economy moving again, but we've got to build a stronger foundation for economic growth into the future.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS: All right. Don't miss President Obama taking questions from CNN's John King on "STATE OF THE UNION," Sunday morning, 9:00 Eastern, that's 6:00 Pacific, right here on CNN.
A compromise health care bill is expected to be unveiled tomorrow. Senate Finance Committee Chairman, Max Baucus, is one of the so-called Gang of Six senators working on the plan. Baucus said the goal is to reduce costs. We will bring you a live report from Capitol Hill in just a couple of minutes here.
While, some say senators hold the key to reform with the compromise bill, some House Democratic leaders are still pushing for public option. Speaker, Nancy Pelosi, this morning.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
NANCY PELOSI (D), HOUSE SPEAKER: We also have a moral responsibility to pass health insurance reform, and we will do so this year. It is a moral imperative. It's a health issue. It is an economic issue.
I believe that we can do so best by increasing competition. And by increasing competition, we will, again, improve quality, lower cost, expand coverage and maintain choice. I believe that a public option is the best way to do that.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS: House Republicans call it piling on, but House Democratic leaders are moving ahead with a vote today to rebuke Congressman Joe Wilson. The south Carolina Republican shouted out "you lie" during President Obama's speech to Congress last week. Wilson has apologized to the president, but House leaders want an apology as well. Wilson says that is not going to happen.
We are learning more about the raids on Three New York City apartments as part of an ongoing terrorism investigation. New York representative, Peter King, says agents were searching for a suspected al Qaeda associate, who visited the city over the weekend and then left. No arrests were made, and a search for explosives material didn't pan out.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. CHARLES SCHUMER (D), NEW YORK: The FBI, obviously, keeps tabs and eyes on potential problems, and I would characterize the raids as preventive.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS: Meanwhile, counterterrorism officials are warning police departments around the country to be on the lookout for materials that could be used to make explosives.
Color coding the nation's terror level, a task force system, needs to be changed and is recommending fewer colors. Right now, there are five. Red is the highest, indicating a severe terror threat and green is the lowest. The country hasn't been at level orange since 2006, and it's never been below yellow since the system was started after the September 11th attacks. The task force and former Homeland Security secretary, Michael Chertoff, think the lower levels are unlikely to be reached anytime soon, so they're recommending only using three -- red, orange, and yellow.
Now, for more on our top health care story. It is down to the wire in the make-or-break debate. A long-awaited bipartisan bill from the Senate so called Gang of Six is expected tomorrow.
Live now to CNN's senior congressional correspondent, Dana Bash, on Capitol Hill.
And, Dana, where do things stand now?
DANA BASH, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Where things stand right now is that we are going to have what may be the final meeting this afternoon, later this afternoon, with that so-called Gang of six. Three Republicans, three Democrats, who have been working for months on this -- the potential for a bipartisan health care plan.
Now, the man who is in charge of that key committee, the Senate Finance Chairman, Max Baucus, we caught up with him just a little while ago in the hallway and he is trying to sound incredibly optimistic and confident about the fact that he believes it is possible that they are within reach of a bipartisan plan.
Listen to what he said.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. MAX BAUCUS (D), MONTANA: They're not deal breakers. This is -- I've said many times, most of the provisions we discuss are generally agreed to. Discussions are around, you know, how do they work, how the I's are dotted and the T's crossed, et cetera. There are no deal breakers here. It's a question, really, of political will.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BASH: Question of political will. That certainly is an interesting statement.
BASH: But one that we've heard from many other Democrats, particularly at the White House and inside the Democratic leadership about the fact that one of the reasons why they have been so pessimistic about these Republicans really signing on is because they know there is intense pressure from Republican leaders not to do that.
And what you just heard Max Baucus do there is try to frame this as something that he has been working on very hard, which is true. All of them have in terms of trying to find that common ground. But the reality is, Tony, we know from talking to Republican sources and aides to these three senators that there are some pretty controversial outstanding issues they're trying to work on.
For example, this afternoon, one of the things that they're going to be doing is talking by conference call about how to do this -- this Medicare -- Medicaid, rather, expansion...
BASH: ...to make sure that the federal government foots the bill, not just the states were doing that.
HARRIS: I've got a couple of questions here. Let's start with this one.
Are you hearing from Democrats on this whole issue of affordability?
BASH: Yes. And this is one of the most interesting things that we have heard in the past 24 hours or so, from the broader set of Democrats who sit on this very important Senate Finance Committee. And this is what they are grappling with. One of the toughest things, they say, that they are dealing because what's the ultimate goal here?
It is, of course, to expand insurance for more Americans, and also to make sure that that insurance is actually affordable. But when you do that, that means it's going to cost the federal government more money especially to subsidize that insurance for people who can't afford it.
I talked to Senator Bill Nelson of Florida. He sits on this committee, and he really summed up the problem on the issue that these Democrats and all the senators are having with that issue.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. BILL NELSON (D), FLORIDA: If you don't give them enough, they simply cannot afford the health insurance that you want them to do, because they're uninsured now. But to give them an adequate amount is an exceptionally costly item. And so that is what I think is holding the balance of this whole delicate health care reform bill right now, teetering on the brink.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BASH: Teetering on the brink. And that certainly is where things stand with this incredibly critical committee. And, again, we should remind our viewers the reason why the work of this committee is so important and so critical is because it has that mix of conservatives...
BASH: ... both on the Democratic side and moderates on the Republican side that really could be, and expected to be, somewhat of a template which, that could ultimately be the health care plan that could go to the president.
HARRIS: I got to ask you one more here.
HARRIS: You mentioned in your report the pressure that the Republican members of this Gang of Six are under right now.
Can you -- what is the pressure here? Is it to squash what is being worked on now, but is likely to be passed out even if the Republicans aren't on board, or to continue fighting for more Republican ideas to what is being worked on now, understanding that something is going to be passed out?
BASH: That's a great question.
Look, the reality is that we have heard that Republican leadership in the Senate and the House, they've made it abundantly clear that there's virtually nothing that these negotiators can do that would make the Republican leaders sign on to this.
So I think and I know really, I'm talking to many of these Republicans, what they are looking for in terms of trying to counter the pressure they're getting from Republicans is something that may be unattainable, and that is, assurances that once they negotiate this delicate negotiation that they're doing, will ultimately be what the bill is. Will ultimately see the light of day, that's number one. And number two, something that they negotiate will ultimately draw in more Republicans than just, say, one or two or three.
They want to have -- this is something that Senator Charles Grassley of Iowa has said many times. He wants to have a really good number of Republicans before he can sign on to this. That is something that will be incredibly, incredibly difficult in this climate. And the question is whether or not he feels comfortable enough with the hours -- hundreds of hours he's spent on negotiating this.
HARRIS: That's right.
BASH: Or whether or not he says things that politically he at least needs a few more Republicans that maybe hard to get before he can officially sign on.
HARRIS: That is -- that is great analysis.
All right, our senior congressional correspondent, Dana Bash, for us.
Dana, appreciate it. Thank you.
BASH: Thank you.
HARRIS: The hunt for those behind a possible terror plot. We'll get more on the investigation that led to yesterday's raids in New York.
HARRIS: Boy, we have had some spirited discussions in our morning meeting preparing for this show on this very question.
How big a role, if any, does race play in the anger being expressed about President Obama's reform efforts?
The man behind the Tea Party Express addresses that question next in the NEWSROOM. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)
HARRIS: A CNN security alert now.
More questions than answers today about a possible terrorism- related raid in New York City. So far, no arrests and no weapons. But officials say the threat is real.
Deborah Feyerick is following the investigation for us in New York.
And, Deb, what are you learning about this investigation?
DEBORAH FEYERICK, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Tony, we can tell you that this raid certainly got the attention of a lot of residents in the Queens, New York, neighborhood. Many who were observing Ramadan and were -- were awoken late at night with banging on doors as FBI agents raided one particular apartment.
Now, it does appear that FBI agents were tracking a man under surveillance for possible terror links. He had traveled from the Midwest to New York City. Now, he was not found in any of the apartments that were searched. However, dozens of heavily armed FBI agents from the joint terrorism task force executed search warrants at two known locations in Flushing, Queens, hours before President Obama arrived in Manhattan to give this speech on Wall Street. And eyewitnesses really say they were simply stunned by all the people who showed up.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
KAHN, WITNESS: When my friend dropped us off, they had like close to about 30 SUVs and impalas, double-parked on the avenue, on 41st Avenue. We saw one FBI suit. We saw two FBIs. So we came in the building. And then we saw, like, 30 camouflage, FBI, machine guns, riot gear, everything, and then we went back outside, because we didn't know what was going on. So, it was safer to stay outside than inside.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
FEYERICK: Now, there was no indication of a specific plot against the president, sources say. And no bomb-making materials were found, although that is one of the things that we're told was listed in the search warrant. FBI agents did confiscate a few boxes, and several people were questioned, but shortly released. One of them, a New York City taxi driver who appeared badly shaken by this whole ordeal, saying he really works hard seven days a week. Now sources say authorities reacted out of extreme caution.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SCHUMER: There were some rumors that the terrorist act was imminent. That is not true. Second, there was some speculation that the raids were related to President Obama's visit to New York, because they occurred at the same time. That is not true.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
FEYERICK: Now, two sources later contradicted Senator Schumer saying, yes, it was the president's visit that did play a role. And, of course, everyone is concerned about al Qaeda central, home-grown terrorism especially here in the city. So, right now, all of this as to why it happened, when it happened.
What's interesting is that usually many agencies will take credit for a successful raid. And right now all the attention from every agency we've spoken to is being directed squarely on the New York FBI.
So, Tony, that's where we stand.
HARRIS: OK, Deb, appreciate it so much.
And let's go to the two shot here, because Drew Griffin is here from our investigations unit.
And, Drew, we're going to tee it up just a little bit.
You have been working on this story, pretty hard over the last few days.
DREW GRIFFIN, CNN SPECIAL INVESTIGATIONS UNIT CORRESPONDENT: Right. Deb has been out there. A lot of people had been working on this story, trying to get to the bottom of this.
HARRIS: And you developed some new information on this story. We're going to take a quick break, and we will come back, and we will talk to you about what you're learning about this investigation.
You're in the CNN NEWSROOM.
We're back in a moment.
HARRIS: We want to get you the very latest information now on the investigation of a possible terrorism-related raid in New York City.
Drew Griffin is here. And as I mentioned ahead of the break, you've been spending a lot of time on this investigation.
What are you learning, Drew?
GRIFFIN: What we are learning, Tony, is the target was a terror cell composed of Afghan nationals. They all attended or circulated at a New York-area mosque. Now a source with direct knowledge of the investigation is telling CNN that the joint terrorism task force raided several locations, and they were searching for explosive devices or components intended to be used at targets in the New York area. The source says none were found. Now, it's believed publicity and the searches themselves may have spooked those in the cell, or those connected to the cell. The source adding, Tony, that this is the first time anyone can recall that Afghan nationals would be involved in a plot to attack the U.S.
HARRIS: This is very interesting. And I know you continue to work your sources on this story.
Drew, appreciate it. Thanks for that update.
GRIFFIN: You bet.
Let's get you caught up with other top stories today.
Vice President Joe Biden is in Iraq. He is meeting with the country's leaders and with U.S. troops on an unannounced visit. It is Biden's third trip to the war-torn country, and it comes less than a year from when the U.S. plans to withdraw all combat troops from Iraq.
The Iraqi journalist who threw his shoes at former President Bush said he fears for his life. He was released from prison today after serving nine months. During that time he says he was beaten by Iraqi security forces, and now worries U.S. Intelligence agents want to kill him.
Somalia says a senior al Qaeda figure has been killed in a U.S. strike south of Mogadishu. He is identified as Saleh Ali Saleh Nabhan. U.S. officials say Special Forces attacked Nabhan's car from a helicopter. Nabhan, a Kenyan, has been linked to U.S. embassy bombings in east Africa.
Another check of our top stories in 20 minutes.
Republican lawmakers are circling the wagons right now, calling attempts to censure Congressman Joe Wilson a petty distraction and accusing Democrats of piling on.
Our congressional correspondent, Brianna Keilar, is on Capitol Hill.
And, Brianna, what is the latest on this story?
BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN GENERAL ASSIGNMENT CORRESPONDENT: Tony, we're expecting a vote on a resolution of disapproval for Congressman Wilson heckling President Obama on Wednesday night. We're expecting that sometime later this afternoon. We don't know the exact time. And this is one of the things that right now Democrats are talking about in a caucus meeting where all of the Democrats in the House have gotten together to talk during their regular weekly meeting.
Republicans are saying that this is just Democrats trying to score political points. They are planning on raising questions when there is some debate ahead of this vote, questions about why is Congress wasting time on a vote like this when they should be talking about health care. And Democrats charge back, Tony, that health care is on the top of their minds, but they don't want to let a precedent stand that it's OK on the House floor for a member of Congress to shout at the president.
HARRIS: Yes. And, Brianna, this idea of a rebuke, a censure, how serious is it, really?
KEILAR: This is -- it's essentially a public slap on the wrist. The House of Representatives has at its disposal really a menu of options for disciplining members of the House. Among them, expulsion, censure, reprimand, things like fines, as well as other actions.
Now, none of these are what is being discussed today. This is a resolution of disapproval. It's what we call in Hill Parlance here, it's a form of what we call on Hill Parlance, Tony, a privilege resolution. This is where any member of the House can kind of bring up an issue they have for discussion on the floor, a privilege resolution, and it takes a different shape sometimes.
For, instance, you may recall somewhat recently here in the last couple of months, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, Republicans brought up a privilege resolution to do with her saying -- her charge that the CIA had lied to her about the interrogation, the enhanced interrogation techniques of terrorist suspects. That actually did not succeed.
It sometimes has to do with a beef that one member has with another, as that case with Speaker Pelosi. But in the past, House Speaker, Nancy Pelosi, when President Bush was president, had a privilege resolution that she raised on the issue of Iraq. So, you can see, it's not totally uncommon.
KEILAR: And it tends to take different forms. And in this -- in this case it's a vote on a resolution of disapproval of someone's behavior.
HARRIS: Going to get called out of it.
Brianna Keilar on Capitol Hill for us.
Brianna, appreciate it. Thank you.
The outrageous signs, posters and rhetoric are raising the question -- what role does race playing in the protests against the president?
HARRIS: CNNMoney.com. We love the Web site. We love the people who do the work there. Boy, they are really, really good.
And if you want the latest financial news, if you want expert analysis, that's the place to go -- CNNMoney.com.
Let's get you to the New York Stock Exchange, just about three hours into the trading day. Let's take a look at where we are with stocks. As you can see, stocks are up. A little buying. A little trading. A little buying going on right now. Positive territory, up 17 points. The NASDAQ -- oh, Joe, I forgot, NASDAQ is up five. We're following the numbers with Susan Lisovicz all day.
You know what, let's spend a little time with Susan right now.
You know, it's been called the worst recession since the 1930s, but lately we've been getting some upbeat signs on the economy. And now, even the fed chief himself is growing a little more optimistic. There she is.
Susan is joining us from the New York Stock Exchange with more on what Ben Bernanke is saying.
Comments earlier this morning, Susan, at the Brookings Institute.
What did he have to say?
LISOVICZ: Well, he basically says what a lot of economists have been saying, which is that the recession may be over. You know, keep in mind that Federal Reserve chairmen are typically very cautious in these kinds of assessments, but Ben Bernanke gave his most positive assessment yet on the current state of the economy.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BEN BERNANKE, FEDERAL RESERVE CHAIRMAN: If we do, in fact, see moderate growth, but not growth much more than the underlying potential growth rate, then, unfortunately, unemployment will be slow -- slow to come down. It will come down, but it may take some time. Obviously, that's a very serious concern, and that's one reason why, even though, from a technical perspective, the recession is very likely over at this point. It's still going to feel like a very weak economy for some time.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
LISOVICZ: And that view, Tony, was echoed by another Federal Reserve official today, who said she expects economic recovery to be tepid and slow, but, remember, the "R" word we're talking about is "recovery."
LISOVICZ: Not recession. We've had four consecutive quarters in which the U.S. any shrank. Many economists expect the economy to start growing this quarter.
Why is that? Well, we've seen improvements in housing, manufacturing, corporate profit, and finally some consumer spending. But just one caveat. Ben Bernanke is a smart man. He is an influential man. But he is not the official arbiter in declaring the end of recession. That belongs to the National Bureau of Economic Research which typically makes these kinds of pronouncements months after we're out of it.
LISOVICZ: It's basically usually an after -- it's a no-news event because it's --
LISOVICZ: We know, we know it to be over.
HARRIS: Hey, Susan, when did that same body that you just mentioned, declared the official start of it?
Was it December of...
LISOVICZ: December '07 was when...
HARRIS: December '07.
LISOVICZ: ...the NBER said the recession began. But, again, that came well into '08, as I recall.
HARRIS: Yes. Yes, we felt it a lot longer than that.
LISOVICZ: Oh, it came a year later. My trusty producer tells me that the National Bureau of Economic Research made the declaration that the U.S. economy was in recession one year later.
HARRIS: One year later?
LISOVICZ: Uh-huh, yes.
HARRIS: Geez. OK, Susan, appreciate it. Thank you.
LISOVICZ: Kind of slow.
HARRIS: Kind of slow.
LISOVICZ: Very, very cautious those academics.
HARRIS: Yes. But good news from Ben Bernanke.
HARRIS: Things are turning around. Thank you, Susan. Appreciate it.
LISOVICZ: You're welcome. HARRIS: Consumers cracked open their wallets a bit in August. Retail sales surged almost 3 percent last month. That is the biggest monthly increase since January 2006. Auto sales helped fuel the gains. They jumped 10.5 percent, largely due to the Cash for Clunkers rebate. The inflation shot up in August fueled by rising energy costs. The Producer Price Index rose 1.7 percent. A lot of numbers here. But little worries about inflation. Wholesale prices for the year have actually fallen.
Even though Ben Bernanke says the recession is likely over, a lot of Americans are still feeling the pain to be sure. And some of the administration's efforts to help consumers are slow going. Alison Kostic is at our "Breakdown" desk in New York.
Alison, good to see you.
ALISON KOSTIC, CNN CORRESPONDENT: And good to see you, Tony.
You know, if you remember back in June, the president proposed creating a consumer financial protection agency. And what it would essentially do is regulate mortgages, credit cards and other financial products and have the power to ban anything deemed deceptive. But so far, not much has really happened. And there's been a lot of push back, both from the financial industry and from some members of Congress.
Now, the House could vote on a bill later this month, which is also when the Senate could release its version of the bill as well. But the health care debate could wind up pushing all of this into next year.
HARRIS: Well, Alison, a lot of people say this is essentially a no-brainer. So why is there so much opposition to a consumer financial products protection agency?
KOSTIC: Yes, well the industry, Tony, is worried that it could stifle innovation in financial products and make credit less available to consumers. Some lawmakers also think the government may be overreaching. And others say you can increase consumer protection by just stepping up oversight at existing agencies, rather than creating a whole new bureaucracy.
HARRIS: OK. So, what about the administration's efforts to keep troubled borrowers in their homes? How are those efforts going?
KOSTIC: The pace is picking up, but it's been a slow start to say the least. Since the president's Foreclosure Prevention Plan began taking applications in April, only 12 percent of eligible borrowers have had their loans modified. And that's about 360,000 homeowners. Four million is the ultimate goal.
And the administration is working to improve the program by streamlining applications and developing online tools that let people check the status of their requests, but it says loan servicers really need to ramp up staffing and improve training, exactly. So, you know, they can reach out to more borrowers.
And, Tony, we're going to go ahead and watch for progress and we'll get back to you on the latest.
HARRIS: Alison, appreciate it. Thank you.
HARRIS: Looking for your to your questions about the economy? E- mail us your questions at email@example.com or you can tweet us at kyracnn in our 2:00 Eastern hour. Chief economic adviser to Vice President Joe Biden, Jared Bernstein, will answer your questions right here in the CNN NEWSROOM.
The health care debate is stirring intense anger and protests to be sure, sparking a disturbing question, are some of the protesters turning to race-baiting. CNN's Elaine Quijano takes a look.
ELAINE QUIJANO, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Within the larger Tea Party movement that's gained steam across the country, a small, but passionate, minority is also voicing what some see as racist rhetoric, including this doctored image circulating on the Internet and even some protesters' signs, like this one in Brighton, Michigan, portraying President Obama as a witch doctor. We took to the streets of Washington to get reaction.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I think it's disrespectful to the office of the president to portray him in this manner. It's race -- it's racist.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: This is appalling.
QUIJANO: Just how prevalent were the protesters carrying racially charged messages? Difficult to quantify. CNN all-platform journalist Jim Spellman spent weeks covering the Tea Party demonstrators as a whole.
JIM SPELLMAN, ALL PLATFORM JOURNALIST: Only a handful of people seemed to outwardly have racial issues with the president. But the more you talked to people, you could sense that it was part of a larger distrust.
QUIJANO: For their part, Tea Party leaders disavow any racist views.
MARK WILLIAMS, TEA PARTY ORGANIZER: I saw very little overt racism or anger. And those were on the fringes and were marginalized.
QUIJANO: They want attention focused on the role and reach of government into people's lives, but say that controversial protesters have the right to speak their mind. WILLIAMS: Part of America is that there are people who are bigoted. And, you know, you're never going to convince them not to be. You don't have to embrace them, but, in this country, you can't shut them up either.
QUIJANO: "Chicago Tribune" columnist Clarence Page sees the Obama presidency as a chance for some to lash out.
CLARENCE PAGE, "CHICAGO TRIBUNE": People are not just mad at Obama, they're mad at Jesse Jackson, they're mad at Reverend Wright, they're mad at Al Sharpton, they're mad at people who have nothing to do with Obama except they all happen to be black.
QUIJANO: Page says the vehemently racial resistance that's emerged is another sign any notion of a post-racial society after Barack Obama's election was wishful thinking.
PAGE: It's only the beginning of the process that we are able to live with leadership that may not look like us, may not come from the same background as us, but is still part of this great, diverse society.
QUIJANO (on camera): Mark Williams, the Tea Party organizer we talked to, notes, there's been some inflammatory rhetoric and statements at events like anti-war protests in the past, burning flags and hanging effigies, he says. He's point? That like other grassroots movements, the Tea Party protesters are a cross-section of America.
Elaine Quijano, CNN, Washington.
HARRIS: That Tea Party organizer, Mark Williams, calls President Obama a racist-in-chief and a welfare thug among other things. In an interview with our Anderson Cooper, they begin by talking about an op- ed piece from columnist Maureen Dowd. Have a listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ANDERSON COOPER, CNN HOST: She said that some people, and I quote, "some people just can't believe a black man is president and will never accept it." There is -- increasingly you hear from some liberals, some Democrats, particularly African-American Democrats in Congress, who say that they believe there is an undercurrent of racism in some of the criticism of the president, in some of the vitriol that is being expressed. When you hear that, its got to probably anger you. What do you -- how do you respond to Maureen Dowd to those concerns (ph)?
MARK WILLIAMS, TEA PARTY ORGANIZER: Well, I dismiss extremists of all colors, especially Maureen Dowd. I saw exactly three of those witch doctor signs in 35 cities, 16 states, over 16 days. And as for the people around the fringes of this, they're no more apart of the mainstream America than are the hippies who wear nipple clips and feather boas in San Francisco streets during so-called peace demonstrations.
You saw working-class Americans in the streets, many of whom there with their families. And as we saw across the country, we were traveling Fourth of July celebration in the Tea Party express. People had picnics. Their kids were out. It was a celebration of America and our rights. We weren't protesting anything. We were celebrating this country and vowing to protect its Constitution.
COOPER: But, Mark -- I mean, Mark, what you're saying makes sense to me here. And I'm hearing what you say. But then I read on your blog, you say -- you call the president an Indonesia Muslim turned welfare thug and a racist-in-chief.
COOPER: I mean is that the kind of . . .
WILLIAMS: That's the way he's behaving. I mean, I mean, if he cares to be -- if he cares to be the president of the whole country . . .
COOPER: Do you believe he's Indonesian? Do you believe he's a Muslim? Do you really believe he's a welfare thug?
WILLIAMS: He's certainly acting like it.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You think he's a racist-in-chief?
WILLIAMS: I think this president . . .
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Racist-in-chief? Is that what you call him, a racist-in-chief?
WILLIAMS: Until he embraces the whole country . . .
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's unbelievable.
WILLIAMS: What else can I -- what else can I conclude?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS: Those words from Tea Party organizer Mark Williams.
The latest in the murder of a Yale graduate student. Police questioned several people in the search for a killer.
HARRIS: We're just getting this in. According to the Associated Press, four mortars have landed near the U.S. embassy in Iraq, in Baghdad. That is in the heavily guarded, protected green zone. Again, four mortars have landed. That according to the Associated Press. As you know, the vice president is -- OK. We're going to talk to our Cal Perry in just a couple of minutes.
As you know, the vice president, Joe Biden, is in Iraq right now. He is meeting with political leaders. He is also meeting with U.S. military, with troops. This was an unannounced visit. His third trip to the country. And we're just getting information now that four mortars have landed in the protected green zone in Baghdad very near the U.S. embassy. We will continue to follow developments in the story. And we will talk to our Cal Perry in just a couple of moments.
Another one of our top stories -- we do have Cal right now. And is Cal on the phone or is he with us from the -- OK. Let's get to Cal Perry, live with us from our bureau in Baghdad.
Cal, what do you know about this?
CAL PERRY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, it was just literally about 10 minutes ago we heard four separate explosions. The interior ministry is confirming indirect fire. Indirect fire can mean either mortars. It can mean rockets. They are saying that they landed in the international zone.
Unclear where in the international zone at this point. We have some sources telling us near to a hotel in the green zone. It's not clear right now how close this could have been possibly to the U.S. embassy. There are agency reports that these rounds did land near the U.S. embassy.
Obviously, Joe Biden's visit here is being widely reported on local media. Not surprising that the insurgency would take the opportunity to try to lob some rounds into that -- into that green zone.
HARRIS: Yes. And we don't know the exact whereabouts of the vice president. And even if we did know, we wouldn't mention it here.
Cal, if you get any more developments, any more news on this, just let us know. Appreciate it.
Cal Perry in Baghdad for us.
HARRIS: Police in New Haven, Connecticut, are questioning several people about the death of Yale student Annie Le. But they say they do not anticipate an arrest today. CNN's Mary Snow reports the killing has left the Yale campus in shock.
NATALIE POWERS, ROOMMATE OF ANNIE LE: She was always kind, generous, honest. Oh, caring and the list just keeps going.
MARY SNOW, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Natalie Powers speaking out for the first time about her roommate Annie Le. Yale students held a vigil just hours after authorities confirmed their worst fears. The body found Sunday, lodged inside a basement wall at a Yale research facility, was Le, a 24-year-old Ph.D. student who stood at 4'11" and weighed 90 pounds. POWERS: And she was tougher than you'd think by just looking at her. That this horrible tragedy happened at all is incomprehensible. But that it happened to her, I think, is infinitely more so.
SNOW: As one professor put it, there's the sense there's a murderer among us, and Yale's president tried to assure students.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We're doing all that we can to ensure your security across the campus.
SNOW: The president of Yale said, there were a limited number of people in the basement that day, and they were known to authorities. To get inside the building, students tell us I.D.s like these need to be swiped.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Obviously this person probably had access to the building. So it makes you very wary of people that you're around and work with.
SNOW: But Annie Le herself wrote an article for a university magazine in February on how not to become a crime statistic in New Haven. Adding to the anxiety on campus, Yale officials say the building where Le's body was found is a newer one and had top-notch security.
More than 70 cameras were trained on the building and its surroundings. Officials also say they have images of her as she walked several blocks from another building to the lab where she was killed. But a Yale official says there were no cameras in the area where her body was found, and that has shaken some fellow graduate students.
YAN HUA, YALE RESEARCH SCIENTIST: I think most of us work very hard here. We work here (ph) at night, and also the weekends also. So there are not too many people around.
HARRIS: All right, CNN's Mary Snow joining me live now from New Haven, Connecticut.
And, Mary, are we expecting to learn anything else today?
SNOW: Well, Tony, one big question that remains unanswered is, how was Annie Le murdered. And the medical examiner is expected to answer that. It's releasing the cause of death later this afternoon.
HARRIS: OK. Mary Snow for us.
Mary, appreciate it. Thank you.
Actor Patrick Swayze dies after a long battle with cancer. Your memories from my blog next.
(COMMERCIAL BREAK) HARRIS: Want to bring you the very latest on a breaking news story we're following for you right here in the CNN NEWSROOM. CNN has learned that four mortar shells were fired into the international zone in Baghdad, also known as the green zone, that very protected area of Baghdad. This coming as the vice president, Joe Biden, is in country. He is visiting Baghdad right now.
No immediate word of any casualties or damage to the green zone or in any other areas of the capital. Warning sirens sounded in this zone, as you would expect. This is the home to government offices, the U.S. and British embassies, the parliament also located in the international zone, also known as the green zone. The vice president is in country right now on a mission to show that the White House is still very much committed to the effort in Iraq.
Again, no injuries reported at this point. We will continue to follow developments on this story and bring you the very latest as we get it here in the CNN NEWSROOM.
Quickly, let's get you to Chad Myers now. A pretty busy day so far for Chad in the severe weather center.
Good to see you, Chad.
HARRIS: I got to tell you, tributes to Patrick Swayze coming in. "Dirty Dancing" co-star, Baby, Jennifer Grey, calls him a combination of raw masculinity and amazing grace. We asked for your thoughts on his death at our NEWSROOM blog. Here are a few of your comments.
From Carrie. "I loved Patrick in "To Wong Foo, Thanks for Everything, Julie Newmar." It always makes me smile. He had a line about always remembering to moisturize. I think of that every time I put on my face lotion."
And this from Judy who writes, "Patrick Swayze has had many memorable roles, but I can't help think of his 'SNL' 'Chippendales' skit with Chris Farley. Hilarious!"
And Beary Fun, OK, writes, "I finally got to see 'Dirty Dancing' for the first time. It is as good as all of his movies. It is a sad day. He will be missed."
And this from -- this is good. This from Dana in Washington. Hmm, Dana in Washington. I wonder who this might be? "My favorite was teaching Jennifer Grey the 'lift' in the water and balance on the fallen tree." Thank you, Dana, from Washington.
"Dirty Dancing" was Swayze's breakout film in 1987. And it went on to become a huge box office success. The song "I've Had the Time of My Life" won an Academy Award, a Grammy, a Golden Globe. Swayze continued working after his diagnosis with pancreatic cancer. Look at this. Look at Cynthia Rhodes and Patrick Swayze. In his final project, it was a series called "The Beast" for the A&E cable network. Patrick Swayze was 57 years old. We are back in a moment.
HARRIS: New York City has a lot of unusual walking tours for tourists. Now the Big Apple has a new one for you to check out. The Wall Street Financial Crisis Tour. CNN's Maggie Lake checks it out for us.
MAGGIE LAKE, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Plunging stocks, panicked traders, the banking system in peril. One year after the worst of the financial crisis, who would choose to relive those awful times again?
ANDREW LUAN, TOUR FOUNDER: Welcome to Wall Street. The heart of American capitalism.
LAKE: More people than one might imagine. This is the Wall Street Experience Financial Crisis Tour. The brainchild of former Deutsche Bank trader Andrew Luan, who lost his job in the financial crisis.
LUAN: I think there's a need for understanding Wall Street, demystifying Wall Street.
LAKE (on camera): There are hundreds of walking tours around New York City. Even down here in Wall Street, what Andrew and his team try to do is use this historical setting as a way to try to walk people step by step what happened during the financial crisis.
TOM COMERFORD, TOUR GUIDE: Have you ever heard of the term toxic assets? That's what these CDOs were. And they were responsible for bringing down these large financial institutions. Now, I'm going to show you a toxic asset. And you can even touch it if you want, but be careful.
LAKE (voice-over): The Wall Street experience passes by AIG, the New York Fed, and it takes in a little history at Federal Hall, where tourists learn that this financial crisis was far from the first.
COMERFORD: That is the House of Morgan. JP Morgan was the most powerful financier in modern times. He was said to be more powerful than the U.S. government because twice in 1893 and again in 1907, he bailed out the U.S. government when we were having a similar crisis to today.
LAKE: Despite the storied past, today's financial crisis is foremost on the minds of people taking the tour.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: A lot of people must have missed the walk (ph), actually, and the question is why, actually.
LAKE (on camera): And they were getting paid a lot of money at the time. UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes, right, much more than I will ever do.
LAKE (voice-over): Andrew Luan welcomes the tough questions, but his tour avoids placing overall blame on Wall Street.
LUAN: It was more a systematic failure, where each -- instead of individual, each group was maximizing their return. I think very few people forecast the extent of the fallout. The overall banking the street (ph), financial services industry was rocked.
LAKE: Rocked hard, Luan says, but on the rebound.
LUAN: People will find a way to reinvent themselves. I'm actually surprised at how fast it's coming back.
LAKE: One thing he's not surprised at, people's ongoing fascination with the inner workings of Wall Street in good times and bad.
HARRIS: It is go time. We are pushing forward now with the next hour of CNN NEWSROOM with Kyra Phillips!