Return to Transcripts main page


Iran Fires off Missiles; Afghanistan: Tough Decisions; Chicago Teen Beaten to Death

Aired September 28, 2009 - 11:00   ET


TONY HARRIS, CNN ANCHOR: And good morning, everyone. It is Monday, September 28th. And here are the faces of the story driving the headlines today in the CNN NEWSROOM.

Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad firing off missiles as a message for the West. The test, just days after disclosure of a secret nuclear site.

Defense Secretary Robert Gates, a dire warning. Leaving Afghanistan early, he says, would have catastrophic consequences.

Credit card customer Kevin Johnson, battling the big banks, credit limits linked to shopping preferences. Are you Tiffany's or Wal-Mart?

Good morning, everyone. I'm Tony Harris. And you are in the CNN NEWSROOM.

Iran flexes its military muscle on the heels of the new concerns about its nuclear program. State-run TV says Iran test-fired two types of long-range missiles today. They are said to be capable of reaching Israel, parts of Europe, and U.S. bases in the Middle East. The test, part of war games meant to show off Iran's defense capabilities.

The response from the White House on that in just a minute.

First, let's fast forward through the day's other big stories.

A vigil today for a Chicago teenager. He died after the vicious attack. This graphic amateur video shows young people swinging 2 x 4s and stomping him. Police say they're questioning four people identified on the video.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I don't understand how 15, 17-year-old kids, how you can just stand over someone's body and just constantly beat them and stomp them to death.


HARRIS: Fenger High School reopened this morning for the first time since the attack. Police, fearing more violence, have increased security. Floodwaters are receding in the Philippines, revealing an awful toll of Tropical Storm Ketsana. At least 140 people are confirmed dead, hundreds of thousands left homeless from the worst flooding in the capital area in more than 40 years.

We will have a live report from Manila later this hour.

Traffic jam on the Ohio River after a major lock broke near Warsaw, Kentucky. Engineers are using sonar equipment today to find the missing gate at bottom of the river. They are calling the situation dire.


GARY BIRGE, LOCKMASTER: This is part of your worst nightmare. I mean, these are the kinds of things you don't want to ever happen.


HARRIS: The tug-of-war over award-winning film director Roman Polanski is escalating. Pole land and France today both urging Switzerland to release the 76-year-old filmmaker.

Polanski was arrested Saturday upon arrival in Zurich for a film festival. He pleaded guilty to having sex with a 13-year-old California girl in 1977, but fled to France before he could be sentenced.

Some of his friends are outraged.


OTTO WEISSER, ROMAN POLANSKI'S FRIEND: This is, for me, a shock, and I'm ashamed that the Swiss are doing such a thing to a brilliant, fantastic genius, with millions and millions of people love his work. He's a brilliant guy and he made a little mistake 32 years ago. What a shame for Switzerland.


HARRIS: All right. Polanski's victim among those calling for the case to be dismissed. Polanski won a best director Academy Award in 2003 for "The Pianist." He also directed "Chinatown" and "Rosemary's Baby."

Iran is already under international pressure to come clean about its nuclear activities following the disclosure that it is building a second uranium enrichment facility.

More on all of this now from international correspondent Reza Saya. He is joining us live from Islamabad, Pakistan.

And Reza, first of all, were these military exercises -- we showed a bit of tape earlier -- were they previously scheduled?

REZA SAYAH, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, they were. And Iranian officials came out today and they said, clearly, that this wasn't a response, this wasn't a statement in response to the accusations coming from Washington. These were military exercises scheduled previously as part of commemorating the 29-year anniversary of the Iran/Iraq War in 1980, but certainly with a backdrop of Iran's controversial nuclear weapon that has emerged. And that sudden revelation last week that Iran has this so-called hidden second uranium enrichment plant, this thing took on a whole new light.

When these missiles were launched, test-fired over the past couple of days, you saw condemnation from European powers, condemnation from Washington. But earlier today, a spokesperson in Iran's Foreign Ministry said this has nothing to do with the nuclear debate.


HASSAN QASHQAVI, IRANIAN FOREIGN MINISTER (through translator): Nothing is sacred. Nothing is kept hidden. All this is done by all countries within their self-defense war games and military preparedness. We always believe that such military exercises pave the way for peace and security in the region, and its deterrent nature means lasting peace and stability and regional cooperation.


SAYAH: Now, despite that statement by the Foreign Ministry that this had nothing to do with the nuclear debate, there is this perception that this was indeed an orchestrated statement on the part of Iran. And indeed, a revolutionary commander came out and made a clear statement that, if, indeed, anyone, the U.S., Israel, strikes, this is an indication that Iran will hit back -- Tony.

HARRIS: Well, Reza, I'm just sort of curious as to how this discovery of this enrichment plant, this secret plant, might impact the Geneva talks later this week.

SAYAH: Well, you know, I think it's changed the dynamics. And this debate, this debate over Iran's nuclear issue, was kind of at a stalemate, and the U.S. didn't have much leverage.

They kept on saying Iran has a secret nuclear program, they're going after nuclear weapons. And Iran's response was repeatedly, look, we're abiding by the IAEA guidelines, international laws, and our nuclear program is for peaceful purposes. But then, last week, you had this sudden revelation that there was this uranium enrichment plant hidden inside the mountain. All of a sudden, you saw momentum change.

It gave life to the argument from Washington that Iran is not completely forthcoming, that they have hidden facilities. And look for this uranium enrichment facility to be a topic of debate when these two sides go into landmark negotiations in Geneva this week.

HARRIS: All right. Reza Sayah for us in Islamabad, Pakistan.

Reza, appreciate it. Thank you. Deciding on a war plan for Afghanistan. President Obama sitting down with his national security team at least five times in the coming weeks.

Officials say any increase in troop numbers would be just one plank of an overall Afghan war strategy. Top U.S. commander General Stanley McChrystal wants more boots on the ground. Defense Secretary Robert Gates denies McChrystal and the president are at odds over a buildup. Gates told CNN setting deadlines on this war would be a mistake.


ROBERT GATES, DEFENSE SECRETARY: Failure in Afghanistan would be a huge setback for the United States. The Taliban and al Qaeda, as far as they're concerned, defeated one superpower. For them to be seen to defeat a second I think would have catastrophic consequences in terms of energizing the extremist movement, al Qaeda recruitment, operations, fund-raising, and so on. I think it would be a huge setback for the United States.


HARRIS: The difficult decisions President Obama faces in Afghanistan one of the big stories we are breaking down today, along with the latest developments on Iran.

White House Correspondent Dan Lothian joining us live.

And Dan, let's start with Afghanistan. It appears the president hasn't committed on sending more troops just yet.

DAN LOTHIAN, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: That's right, he hasn't. Obviously, there's a lot going on behind the scenes. But publicly, what the president will say is that right now, the Afghan strategy is under review, or it's being assessed, a strategic assessment. But clearly, the president not wanting to commit at this point to additional troops, even though, as you pointed out just a few seconds ago, in the McChrystal report there is this case being made for more boots on the ground in Afghanistan.

There are those who believe that perhaps you shouldn't send more troops in, and perhaps even scale down in Afghanistan, focus more on special operations teams to go in after al Qaeda, or strike from miles above with these Predator -- these drones. But again, the president not publicly, at least, if he's made up his mind, he's not publicly saying what that is.

HARRIS: And Dan, is the White House commenting yet on what appears it a provocation from Iran?

LOTHIAN: Not yet, Tony. We've been reaching out to White House officials. And I heard from a senior administration official a short time ago who told me that Robert Gibbs will be answering all the questions, giving the administration's reaction at the upcoming briefing at 1:00 this afternoon. But clearly, there's a lot of concern from this administration that Iran is pushing forward its with nuclear ambitions. And you're hearing tough talk not only the United States, but also key allies like Great Britain and France.

And the president pointing out that Iran has not been sort of stepping in line with its international obligations, and it is time for them to put a stop to their nuclear ambitions. The president, obviously, and the key allies would love for this to be settled through negotiations, through a dialogue, but if that done happen, the president making it very clear that tougher sanctions remain a possibility and that military action is not taken off the table here -- Tony.

HARRIS: Yes. And Dan, one more quick one here.

What are you hearing today about the president visiting Copenhagen later this week?

LOTHIAN: Right. Well, you know, the White House now confirming that the president will be going to Copenhagen, leaving here Thursday night to make the pitch Friday morning for the 2016 summer games to come to Chicago.

You know that the first lady was already making the trip there with a high-wattage delegation, including Oprah Winfrey. Well, now the president making that trip as well. It will be the first time a sitting president has actually gone before the International Olympic Committee to make a pitch.

The U.S. is up against Tokyo, Madrid and Rio, so good competition there. The decision will be made at 12:30 Eastern Time on Friday. So, the president hoping that the power of the White House might be able to sway them.

HARRIS: I'll tell you what, we like Chicago, but we really like Rio.

At the White House, on a particularly windy day...

LOTHIAN: That's right.

HARRIS: ... Dan Lothian for us.

Dan, appreciate it. Thank you.

LOTHIAN: My pleasure.

HARRIS: The deadly streets of Chicago claim another teen victim, a young man who reportedly didn't want to join a gang.

But first, let's take you to Wall Street for a look at the Big Board.

Wow! Boy, the bulls are having their way with things early. The Dow, as you can see, up 127 points. We are following the numbers throughout the morning.

Is it Stephanie in for Susan today?

OK. Susan Lisovicz right here in the CNN NEWSROOM.

We're back in a moment.




HARRIS: Chicago police stepped up security at Fenger High School today. It reopened this morning for the first time since an honor roll student was beaten tonight death in a mob melee. A vigil is planned this afternoon for 16-year-old Derrion Albert.

WGN's Jae Miller looks at the police investigation.


COMMANDER EDDIE WELCH, CHICAGO POLICE: The investigation's ongoing right now. We are still conducting interviews. We are still trying to put some pieces together right now.

JAE MILLER, REPORTER, WGN (voice-over): Chicago police asking for the public's help tonight in identifying the group of people who savagely beat 16-year-old Derrion Albert Thursday in the Roseland neighborhood. The Fenger High School junior was on his way home from school when a group, armed with 2 x 4s, attacked him near this community center in the 300 block of West 111th Street.

WELCH: It's still too early to talk about suspects and things of that nature right now.

MILLER: The honor roll student was beaten with wooden planks, punched and kicked. He later died of his injuries.

Classmates of Derrion say dozens watched and did nothing.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: But I don't understand how 15, 17-year-olds kids, how you can just stand over someone's body and just constantly beat them and stomp them to death.

MILLER: Amateur video captured from the scene has helped authorities identify some of the attackers.

JOE PATTERSON, CHICAGO POLICE: Area two detectives have been canvassing the area, reviewing video and evidence, and conducting interviews.

MILLER: Police aren't saying whether Thursday's attack was gang- related; however, family members say the teen was targeted because he refused to join a gang. Today, a makeshift memorial at the scene appeared to have been torched, leaving even more questions as to whom had that much hate for Derrion and why.

ROSE BRAXTON, DERRION ALBERT'S AUNT: To go and burn a memorial, after such tragedy, then that just speaks for itself of what kind of people they are.


HARRIS: Derrion Albert's mother says her son loved wrestling, basketball, and shopping. She says her son, an honor student, was focusing on a plan for college. The boy's grandfather is heartbroken.


JOSEPH WALKER, VICTIM'S GRANDFATHER: Bible class this Tuesday night, church on Sunday. I had no trouble out of my grandson whatsoever. This thing that happened to him is so horrific, that we just don't know what we're going to do, because we lost a really dear friend in my grandson. He was a blessed child.


HARRIS: CNN's Don Lemon spoke with one of the directors of the group CeaseFire. It is reaching out to Chicago's young people, community leaders, and religious figures to stop street violence.

We will -- this is the wrong tape. We will get the right clip for you in just a moment. The vigil to honor 16-year-old Derrion Albert is set for 2:00 Eastern this afternoon in Chicago.

You go shopping, maybe to a discount store to save some money, and now your credit card cuts your limit? What is going on here.

Your personal finance editor, Gerri Willis, has a special report next. That's next.


HARRIS: So, let's get you caught up on our top stories now.

Iran test-fired two long-range missiles today, according to state-run television. This is in addition to short-range missiles fired over the weekend. The latest warheads are said to be capable of reaching Israel and parts of Europe.

Victory for German Chancellor Angela Merkel. She won her re- election bid yesterday. Merkel says she expects to have a new center- right government in place within weeks. Merkel ran on a pledge of tax relief.

"New York Times" columnist William Safire has died at the age of 79. The Pulitzer Prize winner and former Nixon speechwriter suffered from pancreatic cancer. In 2006, he was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the highest U.S. civilian honor.

You know, we are all used to the idea that credit scores determine our credit worthiness, but that's no longer the whole story. You may be surprised by what else your credit card company looks at.

Gerri Willis found one man who found that lesson the hard way.


KEVIN JOHNSON, CREDIT LIMIT SLASHED: How you doing? I'm Kevin Johnson.

GERRI WILLIS, CNN PERSONAL FINANCE EDITOR (voice-over): Kevin Johnson is an entrepreneur, candidate for office.

JOHNSON: I'm running for state representative.

WILLIS: And according to American Express, a credit risk.

Coming home from his honeymoon last year, he was shocked to find Amex had cut his credit limit from over $10,000 to just $3,800.

JOHNSON: I've done a very good job of being responsible, making sure that I pay my bills on time.

WILLIS: Even more surprising, one of the four reasons Amex gave for the decision: "Other customers who have used their cards at establishments where you recently shopped have a poor repayment history with American Express."

JOHNSON: I was shocked when I read it, because I didn't know that the companies could actually assess your credit worthiness based on others around you.

WILLIS: With more than 10 percent of credit card customers defaulting on their debt, credit card issuers are trying to weed out the risky ones. How? By looking for changes in the way we shop.

ROBERT MANNING, AUTHOR, "CREDIT CARD NATION": You're shopping from a middle or upper-tier retail store and suddenly it shows a purchase at a dollar store, some form of downshifting, suddenly shopping at Wal-Mart.

WILLIS: Those red flags can lead to a deeper look at your behavior.

MANNING: And if you've suddenly started exhibiting new consumer behavior, and then you've made three or four purchases in a row at a local bar, that would raise some flags that maybe there's some impending financial crisis.

WILLIS: For its part, Amex says, "We don't look at and never have looked at where someone shops to make a line reduction. The primary factor is someone's overall debt level. And we also look at payment history with us, credit reports and FICO scores."

Banking industry sources say credit scores are still the most important tool in predicting consumer behavior. But those scores don't reflect sudden life changes like job loss or divorce. JIM SLAWSKY, CREDIT CARD INDUSTRY EXPERT: All they can do is look at the actual volumes and transactions that are coming in and see changes in that pattern.

WILLIS: For Kevin Johnson, the experience has motivated him to get involved and perhaps change the way banks work.

JOHNSON: No one should be penalized for the actions of others.


HARRIS: This is -- you know what? Gerri Willis joining us from New York.

Gerri, I'm just sick of these credit card companies. You know that. This is outrageous.

WILLIS: Well, you know, Tony, OK, think about this logically, though. You know, you're giving them this information. You're using that card to make those purchases that they're making these decisions on. So, at the end of the day, who do you have to blame but yourself for doing it? You've got to pay in cash if you're making some of these purchases.


WILLIS: You've got to think about this ahead of time, suss it out, make sure you're protecting your own identity. And you can do that by using cash, you can do that by making sure that your expenditures and the way you pay that credit card are regular and timely and consistent.

And Tony, you know I've said many, many times right here on your program, you want to minimize the number of cards you have, not too many.

HARRIS: Absolutely.

WILLIS: You want to take care of that debt. Make sure that you are predictable to them, because they don't know if you're going to lose your job or not, right? So, they are looking at any way they can to find out if you're under press, stress. Are you worried you're losing your job? You've got to tell them, you've got to make sure they know that you're going to be a regular payer, you are reliable.

HARRIS: There's no crystal ball here. There's no crystal ball for these credit companies tracking my expenses and expenditures and making predictions.

All right. You got me going here. You got me going, Gerri. Appreciate it. Thank you.

WILLIS: My pleasure, Tony.

HARRIS: Credit card companies. OK, breathe, Tony. So, with credit card companies looking way beyond your credit score, scouring your spending patterns for signs of financial trouble, we want to know, have card companies gone too far?

Just go to and leave us a comment.

We haven't heard from anyone yet defending credit card companies, but here's what some of you are saying.

From Sandra, "They own the rights to the game, make up the rules as they play, and then cheat to win. What a game. It makes you wonder why anyone wants to play with them."

Sandra, amen.

This from John -- "The best way to get around this arrogant behavior by credit card companies is to pay cash at those stores" -- Gerri just mentioned this -- "and for everything else possible. Use credit cards wisely, and pay them off each month."

And we heard from another John, who writes, "People are always worrying about government intrusion. Well, how about industry intrusion? Banks are more far more intrusive than the government and are attempting to control even where you buy. Dump the suckers and use PayPal or some similar financial means of paying with little tracking."

All right. Let's hear from you. Go to and leave a comment. I'm enjoying this way too much.

Looking for ways to save some money? Visit your local gas station. Have you seen the prices lately?


HARRIS: So, look, the recession is driving a lot of people to the poorhouse, but at least you can save money getting there. Gas is cheaper.

Our Christine Romans is in New York. Hey, Christine, look. Before, I was railing on the credit card companies. As you know, I was railing on big oil. And at least today, at least over a stretch of time here, we've got some good news to report on gas prices. Good morning.

CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN BUSINESS CORRESPONDENT: That's one of the best leads I've read in a long time. At least it's cheaper to drive yourself to the poorhouse...

HARRIS: Yes, yes.

ROMANS: ... because -- yes, OK, gas prices down 7 cents in a couple of weeks. The trend is definitely a retreat for gas price. And that's the good news.

The bad news is because it's a recession and rising in joblessness, and frankly, if you're carpooling, and you're taking public transportation, you're not using as much oil. You know, supply is normal. It's the demand part of the equation. People are just using less gas.

$3.56 a gallon is where it was about a year ago, Tony. So, I guess if I put on my math hat, I can tell you that about -- that's more than 20 bucks a tank less you're paying now. And everybody needs it. I mean, you need every penny. Twenty bucks a tank, about. So, that's a little bit of a help here. But it just -- people are living just so close to the edge.

HARRIS: The margins are so tight now.

ROMANS: Yes. I mean, it's one of the reasons why so many people say they have changed the way they're going to spend and save their money forever, because they don't like being this tight. They feel it. I mean, you get a little rise or a fall in gas prices, it makes such a big change to your family budget. That's a...

HARRIS: It feels like a tax.

ROMANS: That's just too tight.

HARRIS: You get an extra nickel, dime here, it feels like an additional tax that you're paying.

ROMANS: Yes. Yes. And I know -- I mean, earlier, last week, I think the Census said that more people are commuting, people are building smaller houses, they're trying to move closer to the city. I mean, there are all things that we're doing to kind of change our life a little bit because of what's happening with the recession.

And a lot of people say it's going to last. Sixty-three percent of people surveyed by Citigroup, another one of your -- part of the banking industry, I know, but surveyed by Citigroup, say that they are going to change forever how they spend and save their money. And that's a lot of people.

HARRIS: And you've been following that. I mean, it seems that since this recession has taken hold and the job losses have escalated, people are making fundamental changes in the way they're living their lives.

ROMANS: It's going to be like my grandparents and the Great Depression. My whole life, I heard my grandparents talk about, you know, this or that or, you know, a fool and his money are soon parted.

HARRIS: Save, save, save, save, save.

ROMANS: Oh, yes, yes, yes. And I think people are really scarred here right now, especially if you've lost a house or you've seen someone in your family lose a house or you've been out of work for more than six months. So, it's not as severe as the Great Depression, but Tony, for a whole generation of people, we never even saw inflation. We never saw anything -- it was a bubble, a credit card bubble for our whole lives. HARRIS: That's right. That's right.

ROMANS: So, things have got to change.

HARRIS: All right. And gas prices are helping, at least in this window that we're in now.

Christine, good to see you. Thank you.

ROMANS: Driving yourself to the poorhouse.

HARRIS: Well...

ROMANS: That was good.

HARRIS: We try.

The final day of the third quarter wraps up on Wednesday. And even the most pessimistic market watches are think the report cards from corporate America could give Wall Street a reason to rally. Boy, we're seeing a nice little run today. Well, I should -- I hope I'm not speaking too soon here.

Susan Lisovicz is on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange with a preview. Susan, good morning.

SUSAN LISOVICZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Good morning, Tony. And you know, corporate earnings are something that we watch very closely, not only because of course they're a very good indicator of the overall economy, but you know, something you and Christine were talking about, how Americans live.

HARRIS: Oh, yes.

LISOVICZ: If a company's making money, more likely to hire, and certainly less likely to fire. Well, we know that corporate America has seen its profits hit from a year ago. First quarter, we saw losses, but you know what? They weren't as great as the Street expected. So, that was a relief.

We saw the second thing happen in the second quarter, partly because the bar was so set low. It like basically like you were expecting a loss, you compare it to yourself, a loss of a dime and it's a nickel. Well, that's better, right? That's better than expected.

HARRIS: Right.

LISOVICZ: And that's kind of why Wall Street rallied. What we're expecting for the third quarter is a loss for S&P 500 companies of 25 percent. So, we'll see if that holds true.

We're going to watch the financial companies pretty closely. Remember, a year ago in the third quarter was when the credit crisis really exploded. We are expecting to see them rebound. Also, we're going to watch consumer products companies because Americans are feeling a little bit better. At least that's what they've been saying. And so, decisions that they've put off, whether it's a washing machine, a new computer, whatever, we're going to see what the state is.

HARRIS: Oh, I see. So...

LISOVICZ: But there's a lot of information in there, Tony, we'll be looking at.

HARRIS: Yes. But it's not just corporate earnings that you're watching. There are some other reports that could actually have an impact on the markets as well.

LISOVICZ: Lots of reports, Tony -- an econorama week. We have all sorts of economic reports. This week alone, I think tomorrow we get consumer confidence...


LISOVICZ: ... we get the final read on the second-quarter GDP, we get personal income, consumer spending. We get four employment reports this week. But let's save the biggest and most important for last. That's on Friday, the government jobs report for the month of September. We are expecting job losses to decline. But again, still negative, a loss of 180,000, that's the consensus number.

That's a whole lot better than what we saw in January, the loss of 600,000 in an economy that should be creating jobs. But at least we are seeing that trend.

What we're not seeing slow down at all is that rally you referred to.


LISOVICZ: Nice bounceback from a tough week last week.


LISOVICZ: Triple-digit gains for the Dow, and Nasdaq up nicely as well, like, about 2 percent, actually, for the Nasdaq.

HARRIS: The Dow, 10,000 a possibility this week. I mean, come on. Oh, I probably jinxed it. Oh, why did I do that?

LISOVICZ: I put that hat on, Tony, and it was all downhill from there.

HARRIS: Why did I do that?

LISOVICZ: (INAUDIBLE) 10,000 hat on. I'm putting it away.

HARRIS: Hey, I'm really interested in the consumer confidence number and consumer spending numbers when those reports... LISOVICZ: Both of them later this week.

HARRIS: Yes, yes. All right, Susan, appreciate it. See you next hour.

LISOVICZ: You're welcome.

HARRIS: Thank you.

And you're following all the reports about swine flu and how you need to wash your hands throughout the day. What happens when you get sick and you don't have days off from work? Read our "SPECIAL REPORT" at

Top military personnel engaged in the high-priority debate, should the U.S. send more troops to Afghanistan?


HARRIS: Well, let's get you caught up on top stories now. Iran test-fired two type of long-range missiles today, according to state- run television. They are said to be capable of reaching Israel and parts of Europe. Iran tested short-range missile systems a day earlier.

Honduras suspends civil liberties. The leader of the interim government took the action after ousted President Manuel Zelaya called for massive demonstrations today. The Honduran president was ousted in a June 28 coup. He's been holed up in the Brazilian embassy since sneaking back into the country a week ago.

We've just learned that President Obama will travel to Copenhagen, Denmark, later this week for the International Olympic Committee meeting on the 2016 summer games. The White House says Mr. Obama will personally push for the games to be held in Chicago.

The Afghan war under review at White House in the coming weeks. The top military commander in Afghanistan, General Stanley McChrystal, is asking for more troops. President Obama wants to review overall strategy before making a decision.


SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R), ARIZONA: I'm very hopeful the president will make the right decision, which is to commit the necessary troops. And again, as much as I respect Secretary Gates, I'm not sure how you make an informed decision if you don't take into consideration the resources that are necessary to exercise one of those options.


HARRIS: Defense Secretary Robert Gates says it would be catastrophic to pull troops out of Afghanistan before the job is done.

Pentagon correspondent Chris Lawrence joining me now. And Chris, what is the current strategy, and how many troops is the commander asking for?

CHRIS LAWRENCE, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Well, from what we're hearing, the official troop request, Tony, gives the president some options, with the high end being about 30,000 to 40,000 troops. Now, will he get them? That's the question.

Those troops were requested to fight the strategy of a counterinsurgency, which is the Obama administration's original strategy. That's about protecting the population, securing large areas of Afghanistan.

But right now, the administration is looking at that strategy and saying, is this even the war we want to be fighting? Secretary Robert Gates now says that a lot of factors have come in to play that may have changed the administration's thinking, especially hearing directly from the U.S. commander in Afghanistan.


ROBERT GATES, U.S. SECRETARY OF DEFENSE: He found a situation in Afghanistan that is more serious than we had thought and that he had thought before going out there. So, we're in the middle of a process of evaluating, really, the decisions the president made in late March to say, have we got the strategy right? And once we are confident we have the strategy right, then we'll address the question of additional resources.


LAWRENCE: Secretary Gates says, if those troops were authorized, they could start to arrive early next year in January. But again, a force that large, you're talking about months and months to get them all deployed.

And the thing about it, Tony, is, he's not just saying, give me these troops. He's saying, you know, really embrace this strategy which really means a lot more risk for U.S. forces. They've got to get off of those, you know, forward operating bases, they've got to get out of those armored vehicles and really mix and take the same risk that the Afghan civilians are taking.

HARRIS: This is a really important discussion that's going on right now.

Chris Lawrence at the Pentagon for us. Chris, appreciate it. Thank you.

LAWRENCE: You're welcome.

HARRIS: Massive flooding in the Philippines causing destruction and death. And now the same storm is eyeing Vietnam.


HARRIS: So the water's going down but the concerns are rising in the Philippines. At least 140 deaths are blamed on the worst flooding in more than 40 years. Look at these pictures. Thousands are homeless.

CNN iReporter Ryan Buaron sent us this video from Makati. Parts of Philippines had as much rain in one day as they got in all of September. The flooding is blamed on a tropical storm.

Take a look at this i-report from Mike Catuira. He sent us these photographs from metro Manila. More than 80 percent of Manila was under water at one point yesterday. The capital area had more than 20 inches of rain in just 12 hours on Saturday. Mike is among the thousands who evacuated.

Authorities expect the number of dead to climb as rescuers reach villages cut off by water and debris. Tens of thousands of Filipinos are in evacuation centers. The government is overwhelmed and reaching out for international help. CNN's Dan Rivers covering the story in Manila.

DAN RIVERS, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: We're in one neighborhood, Marietta Romeo Village, which has been badly hit. The waters are receding rapidly, though. Since we've been here, they've gone down a good foot, actually, so things are improving rapidly at moment.

But there's a lot of damage, a lot of damaged homes here. We've talked to people who said that it was very scary. They had to escape onto their roofs, and at some points, it was two stories deep, the water. And everyone was telling us how quickly it came up as well.

Overall, the death toll, AFP (ph) now reporting at 140. So, it's crept up a bit, but nowhere near the number of people that have been displaced, which is being put at more than 400,000. This flooding covered 80 percent of the capital here at one point, causing total chaos.

But as I say, the situation is improving rapidly. But they're concerned about another tropical depression that's sitting out in the Pacific and is threatening to come this way and deluge this already saturated city.

We're getting a sense that they've gone into pretty much every area. There was one -- a couple of streets that we went down where the roads were blocked by cars that had been abandoned, but basically, we've only seen a small slice, of course. But we've asked one of the generals leading the rescue efforts here.

They seem to have a pretty good grip on it, although residents here have voiced their discontent at the speed of the rescue effort, saying not enough was done over the weekend. But the worst of the weather really came down on Saturday, and those waters just shot up, and those dramatic pictures that came out over the weekend of people being swept down these rivers and clinging to power lines as they tried to escape, those scenes now have largely played out.

We went over several rivers on the way across town. They've all gone right back into within their banks now, and a lot of neighborhoods are really just starting the process of clearing up and assessing the damage. A lot of people here saying they haven't got insurance. So, a lot of that damage will not be covered by insurance.

HARRIS: All right. Let's bring in our Rob Marciano. And Rob, I'm a little confused here. What are we talking about? How are you referring to this system? Is it a tropical depression? Is it a typhoon? What is it, and where is it headed next?

ROB MARCIANO, AMS METEOROLOGIST: Well, first of all, it's a typhoon now. When it went across the Philippines, it was a tropical storm. So, it was a weaker system, at that time.

HARRIS: I see.

MARCIANO: But as you know, with these tropical systems, really a lot of their damage is with the rainfall. And the number one killer -- we've seen again here -- is the inland impacts of hurricanes in the way of flooding just from the rainfall alone.

From also, Tony, is that Manila, the most heavily populated area of the Philippines. So, Philippines pretty wide swath of islands. It gets hit by tropical cyclones all the time. But this one came right over Manila. It sat there. It was moving fairly slowly. And as you mentioned, it got something like 20 inches of rain in just over a 12- hour period.

So, regardless of its strength at the time, the rainfall is what did the damage. Now, it got back out into the open sea here, and it gained intensity. So, now we're looking at winds of 105 miles per hours. It is a typhoon. And remember that a typhoon is the same as a hurricane. It's just the location. It's just west of the International Date Line, or east, depending on your frame of reference.

This thing is going to head towards Vietnam. Here's the official forecast track. Coming on shore as a category one storm or typhoon and then making its way inland. So, not the best scenario for the folks in Vietnam. Hopefully, the rainfall won't be as ferocious as it was there in the Philippines. But we can't -- we certainly can't rule that out.

Just to touch on the Atlantic, we're not looking at anything here in the Atlantic, so it continues to be a quiet storm season, not only for the Atlantic, Tony, but also for all basins worldwide. It's been a very quiet season for a tropical cyclones in general.

Unfortunately for the folks in Manila, they don't really care about that. They're dealing with the aftermath (INAUDIBLE).

HARRIS: When does the -- at least on the calendar at least, the Atlantic hurricane season come to an end?

MARCIANO: End of November. But really right now, usually when you get to mid-October is when you can start to let your guard down. And certainly at least at the moment, we don't see anything percolating.

HARRIS: Got you. All right, Rob. Thank you, sir. MARCIANO: You got it.

HARRIS: If you'd like to get involved with relief efforts, take a look at our "Impact Your World" page at, there you will find links to aid groups in the U.S. and overseas. That's at

Here's what we're working on for the next hour of CNN NEWSROOM. Health care reform, the Senate Finance Committee working on a massive bill. It returns to work tomorrow. What has it done so far, and what does it face? We will get a live report from CNN's deputy political director.

Plus, a small rural Mississippi county with one of the highest rates of unemployment in the nation feeling the hard fight of recession and desperately looking for help.


HARRIS: Terror suspect Najibullah Zazi heads to federal court in New York tomorrow for arraignment. CNN national correspondent Susan Candiotti tracks the suspect's movements over the past several months.


CANDIOTTI (voice-over): Before Najibullah Zazi got a police escort to New York, those who knew him in Colorado said he showed no signs he had terror on his mind.

KARIM ABDULLLAH, AURORA ISLAMIC CENTER: When I saw him, you know, he would come. He was pleasant when he attended here. You know, he never espoused any of his beliefs or ideas or anything. He would just attend (INAUDIBLE), make the prayer and leave.

CANDIOTTI: But for Zazi, according to co-workers, friends and court records, making it in America was a struggle.

RICHARD GROSS, ZAZI'S EMPLOYER: The best adjective to describe him is hardworking. He would work approximately 80 hours per week.

CANDIOTTI: Born in Afghanistan, Zazi's family moved to Pakistan, and then joined his father, who drove a taxi in New York. In the 1990s, Zazi went to a Queens, New York, high school, but dropped out.

He ran a sidewalk coffee cart in Manhattan's financial district. Last March, records show he filed for bankruptcy. He racked up more than $51,000 in credit card debt, citing an $800 monthly income.

Zazi named more than two dozen creditors, including several banks, a department store and other retailers, including Radio Shack. Last August, a month before his arrest, his bankruptcy file was closed, his huge debt left unpaid, yet somehow he managed trips back and forth to Pakistan, where he has a wife and children.

Investigators say Zazi admitted a trip to Pakistan last year that included weapons and explosives training at an al Qaeda camp. When Zazi returned in January, he moved from New York to an apartment outside Denver. Employers say he passed TSA security checks and drove an airport shuttle.

GROSS: Mr. Zazi had indicated that he was receiving harassment from certain airport officials about his beard. There's been some harassment of Middle Easterners at the airport.

CANDIOTTI: Last summer, investigators say Zazi and others bought bomb-making ingredients at beauty supply stores, and his laptop had bomb recipes.

Days before the 9/11 anniversary, court records say he booked a suite like this at a Colorado hotel, where chemical residue was found in a vent above a stove.

On September 9th, authorities say Zazi drove a rental car to New York, intending to carry out an attack, but was tipped off that he was being watched and flew back to Colorado.

He calls the charges a fantasy, ready to do battle in court.

Susan Candiotti, CNN, New York.


HARRIS: And tonight at 10 Eastern on "ANDERSON COOPER 360," a founding member of a radical environmental group turns the tables on some others accused of domestic terrorism. Why he did it, Anderson gets the chilling details in this first-ever interview.

Rain could not prevent thousands of people from taking part in an event to honor 9/11 heroes.


HARRIS: Heroes like Marine Corps Lance Cpl. Matt Bradford participated in the Tunnel to Towers Run in New York yesterday. The race followed the route of a 9/11 firefighter who died. Lance Corporal Bradford lost both his legs and his eyesight while fighting in Iraq. He rode on a special handcycle with a group of Marines on the Hope for Warriors team. Lance Corporal Bradford says he was glad to be part of the event.


LANCE CPL. MATT BRADFORD, U.S. MARINE CORPS: Just to honor the firefighters that lost their lives running through the tunnel, and then also the ones here. And, you know, and the last couple of years gotten real close to the firefighters and actually heard their story, and you know, really touched them to be here.


HARRIS: Hope for Warriors in a national nonprofit organization which enhances the quality of life for U.S. service members and their families nationwide who have been affected by injuries or death in the line of duty.