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War Strategy in Afghanistan; Today's Taliban; U.S. Custody Flight in Japan; Rebounding on Wall Street; In the Eye of the Storm
Aired September 29, 2009 - 09:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
HEIDI COLLINS, CNN ANCHOR: Public option showdown. Members of a key Senate committee could try to add the government plan to a health care proposal.
And custody fight turns bad for a dad. U.S. court backs him, but his bid to snatch his kids lands him in a Japanese jail.
And could this database nightmare happen to you? A job application rejected after a search turns up another person's felony convictions.
Good morning, everybody. I'm Heidi Collins. It's Tuesday, September 29th, and you are in the CNN NEWSROOM.
A whole lot to get to this morning. We are following the newsmakers and the news as it happens for you. First off today, NATO's new boss is going to be meeting with President Obama. Their focus is, obviously, the troubled war in Afghanistan. So, we'll get to that.
Also, that is the scene of a second gathering at the White House this morning. CNN's Suzanne Malveaux is there. She's got a preview of the president's meeting with his national security team.
And Pentagon correspondent Barbara Starr, who you see there is looking behind the insurgency, the Taliban. Can they be defeated? We'll talk about all of it.
But for President Obama, there are no easy answers in Afghanistan, as you can imagine. U.S. commanders there say the war may not actually be winnable if they don't get thousands of more troops.
Let's go ahead and get to CNN's Suzanne Malveaux now with more on this story.
Good morning to you, Suzanne.
SUZANNE MALVEAUX, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Good morning, Heidi. Well, this is a series of meetings that the president is going to have with various individuals today in about two hours or So,, two and a half hours.
He's going to be meeting with the NATO Secretary General Rasmussen, and they're going to be talking about what do the European allies see in terms of troop levels, the kind of commitment that they want to make, and what is this strategy that we're talking about when it comes to Afghanistan?
Is this a strategy that is changing in light of that election that we saw with the Afghan president, Hamid Karzai. A lot of problems over that election. Is Afghanistan a real partner that these NATO allies can work with?
That is one of the things that they're going to be talking about. And Heidi, it really comes at a critical time. We're talking about more than 40 countries that have troops inside of Afghanistan, about 38,000 or so. Some are already planning to either pull out or reduce their troop levels. It's Italy, it's Canada, it's the Netherlands.
So, they're going to sit down and talk about what do we want to happen next. We have heard from General Rasmussen before, who says he believes, like the Obama administration, they should go ahead and train in earnest those Afghan police and military.
MALVEAUX: But what does it mean in terms of resources? We really just don't know at this point. That's one meeting that's happening. Following that, of course, is going to be a meeting with his -- the defense secretary, Robert Gates.
And then tomorrow, Heidi, that's when you're going to have the very big meeting. That's going to be the national security team involving Secretary of State Clinton, national security adviser, the Joint Chiefs, everybody who's going to sit down and talk about Afghanistan and where do they go next.
It is really part of a process, a process, Heidi, that White House officials say will take weeks to figure out what they should do in terms of more troops, less troops, and how limited or expanded this mission is going to be, Heidi.
COLLINS: Yes. Meanwhile, the clock is ticking, too, for soldiers who are there on the ground as we speak.
Suzanne, So, much to talk about in all of this. Certainly in hearing what you're saying from other countries who are pulling troops out or reducing the number of troops who are there, right on the heels of the U.N. and the big statement that the president made in the general assembly, talking about the United States no longer wanting to go things alone.
There is a whole lot of discussion about this particular war right now, even Vice President Joe Biden was in Afghanistan. He comes back with his own assessment. He'll be in these meetings as well, yes?
MALVEAUX: Absolutely. He is a key player in this. And he has come out before and he has had his own ideas about this. We have heard that General McChrystal, Stanley McChrystal, the top guy in Afghanistan, through leaked reports, his own report, saying that he wants an additional, perhaps 40,000 troops inside of Afghanistan to make this original mission... COLLINS: Yes
MALVEAUX: The original strategy work. Vice President Joe Biden is saying, look, let's limit the scope of this mission. Let's go directly after the Taliban in Afghanistan. Let's go after al Qaeda in Pakistan and that means a limited number of U.S. troops. So, perhaps even reducing the footprint, the big footprint inside of Afghanistan. Very different than what we're hearing from some other military officials.
So, there is a divide, there is a deep debate that is going on within this administration over how to move next. He is a key player, he's going to be in all those meetings, Heidi.
COLLINS: Yes, very interesting. You've got the military side of things and the political side of things yet again.
All right, Suzanne Malveaux, covering all of these angles for us. Sure do appreciate it. Suzanne, thanks.
The U.N. cites violence as a top threat to Afghanistan's security now. In fact, today, another grim example of its toll. In Kandahar Province, a civilian bus hits a roadside bomb and explodes. At least 30 civilians are dead, 39 others wounded. Militants are planting more roadside bombs now than ever, but the death toll is far greater among civilians than the U.S. and NATO troops, who are the real targets.
So, here's some key questions about the Afghanistan war. How strong is today's Taliban and how dangerous? And who is bankrolling their insurgency?
CNN Pentagon correspondent Barbara Starr joining us now with some of the answers to these very tough questions.
So,, Barbara, are we actually seeing growth among the Taliban now?
BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Well, by all accounts, yes, Heidi. I mean it was a few years ago. They said there were a few thousand out there. There's still a few thousand, they've killed a fair number. So, clearly the Taliban movement growing faster than the U.S. troop strategy can deal with it.
Who are these guys? That's one of the questions we wanted to look at, as U.S. commanders sit down to debate their strategy, who are they facing on the battlefield? Want to pull the curtain back just a little bit and show you a photograph, a very rare photograph we obtained from the U.S. military of a key new Taliban leader.
Not very well heard of. His name is Mullah Abdullah Zakir. You see him there. He now is said to be the Taliban operations chief in So,uthern Afghanistan across Helmand, Kandahar provinces, that red zone heartland of the insurgency.
Zakir now said to be coordinating and operating a good deal of the insurgency across that area of southern Afghanistan. Amazingly, Heidi, he was once in U.S. custody. He was held at Guantanamo Bay. They didn't realize who he really was, released him. He is now back in that southern region you see, organizing operations.
There are a number of other insurgent leaders the U.S. is trying to go after, more to the east along the Pakistan border of that map. People we don't hear a lot about, but very well-known to U.S. intelligence, Zaraj Haqqani (ph), a man named Haq Matir (ph).
These are war lords, clan leaders that operate along that Pakistan border and what the U.S. deeply worries about now is that there is a renewed Taliban safe haven in Pakistan. Even in General McChrystal's report, he talked about these meetings that take place amongst this council of elders every winter in Pakistan, Taliban who sit down and set their strategy for the coming year, just as the U.S. does. Heidi?
COLLINS: All right, Barbara Starr, stay on top of it for us. Certainly a lot to talk about with the Taliban here. Sure do appreciate that, Barbara Starr, thanks.
A Denver man accused of plotting a terror attack in New York City is scheduled to be in court two hours from now. Authorities say Najibullah Zazi wanted to bomb targets on the anniversary of the September 11th attacks. Officials believe the plot may have been directed at mass transit and say three others may have been involved. Zazi has denied any wrongdoing.
A Tennessee father sits in a jail cell in Japan right now, charged with trying to abduct his own children, while the United States court says the dad has custody of his two children. Christopher Savoy could be sentenced to five years for trying to grab them back from his ex-wife. The fight for the kids played out on the streets of Fukuoka and CNN's Kyung Lah picks up the story from Tokyo.
So, Kyung, good morning to you.
KYUNG LAH, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Good morning, Heidi.
COLLINS: What is the U.S. government actually trying to do right now?
LAH: Well, the U.S. embassy says that they are fully aware of what is happening here with this case. That they have to move very delicately in this particular case. They have sent some people to see him yesterday and today. They've also, furnished him a list of attorneys.
But here's why they have to move so, carefully. Japanese family law is very different from American family law. The divorce rate here is almost in the single digits. When parents divorce, one gets all the rights. The other, essentially, has no rights to the child. So, it's a very different set of rules here.
Also, Japan has not signed on to the Hague treaty. So, as a country, Japan isn't obligated to act in this matter. What this means for Christopher Savoie is that he is sitting in a jail cell this morning. He is accused of kidnapping two children, his own two children, according to Japanese police, even though he is the U.S. So,le custody perSo,n and his ex-wife, a Japanese citizen, is considered the abductor according to U.S. law.
Under Japanese law, he is the one who is considered the criminal. According to the police, he's the one who grabbed his two children, his 8-year-old son, Isaac, his 6-year-old daughter, Rebecca, as they were walking to school with his ex-wife. Savoie, according to the police, then immediately went to the U.S. consulate.
Before he made it, though, to the front door, just steps away from the front door, the local police stopped him and because he was standing on Japanese soil, he was arrested and he is, this morning, in a Japanese jail.
Before all of this happened, Savoie shared his frustration and what is meant for him to be So, far away from his children who've been in Japan all this time with a Tennessee station.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CHRISTOPHER SAVOIE, FATHER: Everywhere I look around, there's a picture. I can't go in his bedroom, because I'm, like, he'll never sleep in his bed again. I just said, I love you, Isaac. I love you, remember that, I love you, I want you back, you should be here, you should be in school, you should be with your daddy. It's hard to have quiet moments because my kids' words haunt me during those quiet times.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
LAH: A very sad story about divorce and international law colliding here. Two very different countries looking at this one case, Heidi, in two very different ways.
COLLINS: Yes. But hang on, Kyung. I mean, was there a crime committed in the beginning when the ex-wife took the children out of the United States, when she did not have custody of them?
LAH: According to the U.S. -- according to the U.S., what she did was she took the children. They had joint custody at that point, but when she didn't return the children to the U.S., that's when her ex-husband became the sole custodian and that's when she became the criminal, according to American law.
According to Japanese law, she's in the right here. She had every right to keep those children on Japanese soil.
COLLINS: Understood. And I know we have to go, but who's got jurisdiction? I mean if the crime was committed in the United States, she's in Japan now, but who is in charge? I mean, who will handle this?
LAH: Right now, we're on Japanese soil, So, Japanese law is the rule of the land here. The U.S. can try to get involved, but, again, this is a very delicate matter.
COLLINS: All right. We'll continue to follow this one, absolutely. We sure do appreciate the reporting. Kyung Lah, thank you.
Stocks rallying after a few days of losses. It could be the start of a winning streak exactly a year after we learned just how far the Dow can fall in one day.
ROB MARCIANO, CNN METEOROLOGIST: And I'm Rob Marciano in the CNN Severe Weather Center. The fall chill is driving South and the fire danger gets critical again today.
Weather is coming up when the CNN NEWSROOM comes right back.
ANNOUNCER: CNN NEWSROOM brought to you by...
COLLINS: Adding a public option or leaving it out to get some kind of health care reform passed. That's one of the questions for the Senate Finance Committee today. Members are considering several amendments to add the public option to a bill offered up by Democrat and Chairman Max Baucus.
Brianna Keilar is there for us. She's going to have a live report coming up from the Hill at the half hour this morning.
Meanwhile, Wall Street had one of its darkest days exactly one year ago. I bet you remember that. But a different story today with stocks on an upswing after last week.
Christine Romans is joining us now live from New York with more on this.
So, I don't know why, but we probably need to be reminded a little bit about what happened one year ago and why.
CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: It was a very ugly and scary time. The Dow fell 777 points at its worst on this very day last year. And Heidi, the reaso,n it did was because you might recall the House, Congress decided not to pass, at least initially, that bank bailout, the TARP.
They said no to TARP in the very beginning and the stock market absolutely collapsed because there was just such great fear about what would happen to the banking system. Think how far we've come since we were talking about whether or not the banking system would be able to survive to today, when we're talking about pretty good revenue for some of these banks.
And the stock market now, Heidi, has rebounded quite dramatically from the lows hit in March. So, a year ago today, the Dow fell dramatically, but it really was pretty ugly all the way until March. And then March, there's when this chart starts. Since then, the stocks have regained some of that lost ground. The S&P is up 57 percent from March. The Dow up 50 percent, the NASDAQ up 68 percent from that low hit in March. So, some of the losses that you've suffered over the past year or So, in the market have been clawed back. A really very different story from a year ago when it was panic.
Now we kind of know all of the hurdles and problems we have in trying to deal with them, Heidi.
COLLINS: OK. Yes, I like this story, this time around a lot better. We're actually hearing, though, that some of these bonuses may return, right? What's up with that?
ROMANS: So, -- that's right. With this recovery, believe it or not, that means a recovery for many bank stocks. It means a recovery for revenues of the big investment banks. JPMorgan, Goldman Sachs, a lot of others. And that means you're looking at a return of the bonus. A rebound in the size of the bonus pool for Wall Street.
We will likely see a bonanza -- bonus bonanza comeback. In 2006, we had record bonuses of $34 billion. We don't know if we will surpass that again this year in 2009, but almost everyone we're talking to were saying, when you just look at the numbers So, far from the big banks, you are likely to see bonuses up sharply this year for the Wall Street firms.
Big bonuses. Last year, it worked out to I think $120,000 on average per Wall Street bonus. This year, it will be far greater than that. Heidi?
COLLINS: So, we're not just talking about executives, big executive bonuses, we're talking about the people who actually work for those bonuses every day, right?
ROMANS: That's right.
COLLINS: I mean, that's their system.
ROMANS: The bonus pool -- this is the way it works. About half of the revenue of a financial services company is turned around and then it is plugged right back into compensation. This is the way it works. In many cases, they have a relatively modest pay structure and bonuses where a lot of people get most of their compensation.
And it is tied to how well the revenue recovers, the revenue grows for a company. And many of these banks, they've seen very, very good rebounds this year.
ROMANS: That means -- and there are fewer people to share the pie, remember, because that they've had a lot of layoffs over the past year and a half. So, that means a bigger bonus pool, fewer people to share it, you'll see the bonuses going up on Wall Street.
COLLINS: Yes. What about today's "Romans' Numeral"? ROMANS: Today's "Romans' Numeral" is 11.4. This is the "Romans' Numeral." And this one I think is fascinating when you're talking about bonuses coming back. We've new census data, Heidi, that shows that the richest in America got a little bit richer when compared with the poorest in America.
That's the income gap between the richest and poorest Americans, 11.4 times. It's widening. It shows you even as Wall Street's coming back, it shows you that this recession has hammered low-income and middle-income, the middle class, more than the top end.
COLLINS: All right. Christine Romans watching all of it for us. Thank you, Christine.
COLLINS: A reminder, the opening bell a few minutes away at the half hour. Live to the New York Stock Exchange when it happens.
Checking our "Top Stories" today. When will Iran let inspectors into its new uranium enrichment plant? The Associated Press says Iran's atomic agency will give a timeline to the U.N.'s nuclear watchdog soon. The U.S. says the plant's construction violates international agreements, but Iran has brushed off that criticism and made a show of force with missile tests over the last few days.
Authorities have charged a fourth suspect in connection with the beating death of a Chicago honor student. The four teens have been charged with first-degree murder and are being held without bail.
Prosecutors say Darrion Albert was an incident bystander caught in the middle of a street fight between two groups of students. An amateur video shot by a witness showed the attack unfolding. Albert was hit with railroad ties. One suspect admitting to jumping on Albert's head when he was down.
A Swiss court says director Roman Polanski has filed a motion requesting to be released from detention. The court says it will make a decision in the coming weeks. A ruling like this is subject to appeal, which could lead to further delays in the case.
Polanski was arrested over the weekend on a three decades' old warrant. The U.S. is seeking extradition on a charge of having sex with a 13-year-old girl.
Severe weather changing lives forever while people in the Philippines struggle to recover. On another coast, another danger.
COLLINS: New storms brewing in the pacific and threatening to complicate relief efforts in the Philippines. At least 240 people are dead. Nearly two million are affected amid the worst flooding in a generation.
Rob Marciano standing by, though, to talk a little bit more about this typhoon. And boy oh, boy, it's headed somewhere else now.
MARCIANO: Yes, well, it's in Vietnam. Actually we were just getting some video in from Vietnam as it made landfall. This is out of (INAUDIBLE). They got about 13 inches of rain in less than 24 hours and this is the result. Not quite as devastating amount of rain as they saw in the Philippines, but certainly nothing to sneeze at here. And well over 30 people dead and thousands of people had to be evacuated in a hurry.
They did know it was coming, but as you can imagine, in that type of country with that sort of deal going on, it's a huge undertaking. Here's where it is right now. Tropical storm, downgraded. Ketsana has been downgraded to a tropical storm. That's good news. It's about 60 miles inland now towards the Cambodian border there. That's the last warning advisory that the joint typhoon warning center is going to send out.
Hey, you want to help out? Go to CNN.com/world, "Impact Your World." You can contribute to devastations like this in the Philippines and in Vietnam. So, go to CNN.com/world to "Impact Your World."
You can also, help out folks here locally or at least in this country and in Georgia from the devastating floods. You can do that there as well.
Those floods are gone. What we're looking at for the main weather story today, cold and somewhat dry air getting down into the eastern third of the country and also, a cold front squeezing out some moisture across the Pacific Northwest. That will ignite critical fire danger across parts of the inner mountain west as well.
That's the latest from here, Heidi, back over to you.
COLLINS: All right, very good, Rob. A lot to cover this morning. Appreciate that.
We have already seen a lot of fireworks over health care reform, as you know. Get ready for more. Democrats are getting ready to go head to head over that option of a public option.
ANNOUNCER: Live in the CNN NEWSROOM, Heidi Collins.
COLLINS: Exactly one year ago, the Dow plummeted almost 800 points. The blue chips would go on to lose nearly 4,000 more points before beginning a dramatic rally that began in early March.
Susan Lisovicz is at the New York Stock Exchange now with a much better picture today as we hear the opening bell.
SUSAN LISOVICZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Good morning, Heidi. What a difference a year makes. The Dow's biggest point drop ever came after the House of Representatives rejected the first draft of the $700 billion financial rescue plan, but things are different now with the economy apparently on the mend. And September, Heidi, will mark the seventh consecutive month of gains for the S&P 500.
Today, we are seeing some initial gains following the Dow's triple digit gains yesterday on the back of some corporate deal making. That's a sign that companies are feeling better about the economy. At the top of the hour, we're expecting to learn Americans are feeling better about the economy as well, when the latest consumer sentiment reading is released.
One reason for the growing optimism, the housing market is healing. S&P and Case-Shiller say home prices in the nation's biggest cities rose nearly two percent from June to July. That is the third straight increase for home prices.
Several companies launching new products in an effort to drive up sales. That is still a difficult task. Starbucks rolling out its via instant coffee drink nationwide and in Canada as it tries to break into the lucrative instant coffee market.
And Dell has unveiled the world's thinnest and lightest laptop. It's less than an inch thick, and it weighs under five pounds. But the Latitude V as it's called carries a hefty price tag, 2,000 bucks. Prices on Wall Street, well, they're not that hefty, but the Dow is moving higher, 9793, inching closer to you know what.
COLLINS: I know! It's like...
LISOVICZ: We won't say it.
We will not speak its name.
COLLINS: Yes. Very good.
All right, you keep that hat under your chair. We'll pull it out a little later on.
Thank you, Susan.
LISOVICZ: You're welcome.
COLLINS: We want to show you some live pictures now of the Senate Finance Committee, where we could see a showdown between Democrats, but not a whole lot going on there right now. But, boy, they're going to be talking health care reform today. In fact, two senators are vowing to push a government-run insurance provision into the bill. You know, the so-called public option.
Our congressional correspondent, Brianna Keilar, is standing by for the action.
This is a day to watch, Brianna, but we already know they're not going to have the votes for this public option, isn't that right? BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN GENERAL ASSIGNMENT CORRESPONDENT: No, but certainly Democrats who want a public option are going to push this, Heidi, and we are going to see one heck of a debate. So here in about a half hour, things are really going to heat up in the hearing room behind me. Really high drama over the issue of the public option.
Finally, we're going to see two Democrat amendments that would add a public option to the Senate finance bill, to Senator Max Baucus' bill, because, remember, it does not have a public option at this point. So we're going to be seeing amendments from Senator Jay Rockefeller of West Virginia, Senator Charles Schumer of New York. And while last week we saw Democrats and Republicans really go at it, Heidi, today it is a house divided. Democrats versus Democrats on the issue of the public option.
You know, Republicans are opposed to this idea of the government- run insurance plan, but so are some Democrats. A lot of Democrats like Chuck Schumer and Jay Rockefeller are for it. And then there are also some Democrats who are just really uncomfortable with it. So we're going to be seeing today exactly where they stand. I think it's going to be a really interesting debate, Heidi.
COLLINS: Yes, but remind us, you mentioned Senator Max Baucus' original bill. That's what we're talking about today, but what makes this bill so unique compared to the other ones before Congress?
KEILAR: Because it doesn't have the public option. And every other bill before Congress does. The three bills in the house and the other bill that came out of the Senate Health Committee, they all have the public option. So this bill has health cooperatives, non-profit health cooperatives to compete with private insurance companies, instead of that government-run insurance option.
Also, it requires individuals to have insurance, an individual mandate. But it doesn't require employers to provide insurance for their employees, Heidi, though it encourages it. And then, finally, there's a tax on those high-end Cadillac plans that would pay for it. So no public option, but really those components that I've just named off, they're really seen as the components that have the best shot at passing the Senate.
COLLINS: OK, understood. All right, we'll check back with you a little later on. Brianna Keilar, thanks for that.
And a reminder that we are going to be talking more about the public option versus the co-ops. Coming up next hour, make sure you join me for that. Richard Kirsch with Health Care for America Now and Michael Kent of the KADO Institute. That will be coming your way 10:00 hour right here in the NEWSROOM.
We've also been comparing the health care available in this country with that of other nations. This morning we zero in on London, Beijing, and New Delhi.
First, now, to England. MAX FOSTER, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: I'm Max Foster in London, where leading British doctors are defending their publicly funded health care system. In an open letter, they've dismissed claims made recently by some American politicians, claims like there are death panels in hospitals here, where they decide which payments receive treatment and which patients don't. Those doctors, in fact, claim the British health system is literally a lifesaver, even for patients with pre-existing health conditions. They say that on average, patients in the British system live longer than they do in the American system.
EMILY CHANG, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: I'm Emily Chang in Beijing where the majority of people don't have health insurance. In a country of 1.3 billion people, that's a problem. Many Chinese say they just try to avoid getting sick or if they do, they resort to traditional Chinese medicine, coming to hospitals like this because it's cheap or turn to spiritual healing. The Chinese government has rolled out a $124 billion plan to make health care universal over the next three years, but critics say it will take much longer than that, if it's even possible in this massive country.
SARA SIDNER, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: I'm Sara Sidner in New Delhi, India. Here, the health care crisis has a lot to do with the huge population and poverty. About a quarter of this country's population, 300 million people, are desperately poor and rely heavily on government hospitals for their treatment, which is free but the hospitals are overcrowded. There are not enough doctors and not enough beds, and the government only spends about a percent and a half on public health care and that, health care experts say, is abysmally low, even in a developing nation.
COLLINS: All right. So there's a look at some of the other health care plans that are out there across the world.
And now to this. When will Iran let inspectors into its new uranium enrichment plant? State-run media says Iran's atomic agency will soon give a time line to the U.N.'s nuclear watchdog group. Well, the U.S. says the plant's construction violates international agreements. But Iran has brushed off that criticism and made a show of force with missile tests over the last few days.
So we asked you, how should the United States respond to Iran at this point? You called in to the hotline to Heidi. Here are some of your responses.
(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)
ANYA LEWIS (via telephone): Hi, my name is Anya Lewis (ph). I'm just calling to make my comment about the Iran issue. My comment is, I don't think we should do anything drastic right now.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE (via telephone): Hi, Heidi. I think Iran could not have made it plainer that they don't care what the world thinks about their missile program and that they'll do whatever they want to do. JIM, CLEVELAND, OHIO (via telephone): Yes, this is Jim from Cleveland, Ohio. We should not put up with this at all. They're showing force and we need to take care of it before it gets out of hand.
(END AUDIO CLIP)
COLLINS: You can still call us. We want to hear what you have to say. The number is on your screen there, 1-877-742-5760. Actually, we had it on your screen back there. We will air your responses all week long on the story of Iran.
Background checks and balances. We'll tell you how to guard your private information and prevent someone else's mistakes from costing you big time.
COLLINS: Checking our top stories now. President Barack Obama meets with his national security team today to consider what to do about the troubled war in Afghanistan. The session comes as U.S. commanders in Afghanistan are calling for thousands more troops, but Republican congressional doubts about the mission are deepening.
Also on the president's agenda, he and the first lady will travel to Copenhagen, Denmark, this week. They'll make a pitch to the international Olympic committee on Thursday. They are hoping the committee awards their hometown of Chicago the 2016 summer Olympic games. It will mark the first time a U.S. president has personally lobbied the international Olympic committee.
Now, you are looking at dramatic video of a British naval helicopter firing on a drug smuggling vessel in waters off the coast of South America. The British Royal Navy seized 5-1/2 tons of cocaine. It launched the operation after one of its helicopters spotted a fishing boat acting suspiciously in an area known for drug trafficking.
In Wyoming, Yellowstone National Park is still open despite a wildfire there. More than 9,000 acres have actually burned. A spokesman for the park says the fire has forced the closing of a main road through the park, but there is no danger for visitors.
Rob Marciano standing by now in the severe weather center to talk a little bit more about this. Boy, I hate this when we see the national parks on fire.
COLLINS: Love it. It's football, people!
All right, Rob, thanks so much. We'll check back later on.
It's your information, but it makes billions of dollars for the data broker business. But what happens when those companies hired to do the background checks are wrong. The answer is unnerving at best. CNN personal finance editor Gerri Willis explains.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: That was all the good stuff.
GERRI WILLIS, CNN PERSONAL FINANCE EDITOR (voice-over): A job offer with good benefits. A dream for this woman's husband that suddenly turned into a nightmare. You know, he did the drug test, and of course, that was fine. And all we needed was the background check, and that was supposed to turn out fine.
WILLIS: But his background check revealed two felony convictions. And like that, the job offer was gone. She wants her identity hidden to avoid further problems for her husband.
And we just were in shock.
WILLIS: In shock because the records belonged to another man with the same name and same birthday as her husband.
How did they put these two together? You know, how could they miss this?
WILLIS: The report came from Choicepoint, one of the Nation's largest commercial data brokers, part of a multi-billion dollar industry that sells your personal information, obtained from public and private records to employers and law enforcement.
Privacy advocate Lily Coney says most people have no clue what's in these databases that can include incorrect or outdated information.
LILLY CONEY, ELECTORNIC PRIVACY INFORMATION CENTER: Let's say it was an arrest that was based on faulty information and it was resolved and there was no trial, no conviction, they still have that original arrest record that may be in the database somewhere that was being passed along -- repeatedly people outside of your knowledge.
SEN. PATRICK LEAHY (D), VERMONT: I think most of us don't know how exposed we are.
WILLIS: Senator Patrick Leahy has introduced legislation to make those databases more accessible and more secure.
LEAHY: I want to know what's in my records and I want to know how to stop misinformation in my records. And today, people cannot do that with surety.
WILLIS: For its part, Choicepoint says that under the fair credit reporting act, "individuals may obtain copies of previously prepared reports about them, as well as public record information used for such reports and correct such information, as appropriate." The company says those corrections typically take two weeks, time this woman says her husband didn't have.
I called the department of Justice and the FBI. WILLIS: And her Congressman, who was able to get Choicepoint to quickly correct the mistake. Her husband got the job, but she's still concerned.
Because this will happen again. If my husband ever has to have a background check or maybe if he ever changes jobs, that record is out there.
COLLINS: Gerri is joining us now from New York with more on this. This is some people's really their worst fear. That their public information is going to get in the wrong hands. How do you make sure it doesn't happen to you?
WILLIS: Well, look, if you're in the job market right now, and millions of Americans are, it makes sense to get your Choicepoint report, which you can order for free at their Web site, Choicepoint.com.
Now it usually takes a couple of weeks to get that report, but when you do, scan it for errors and contact the company if you find errors. While you're at it, contact annualcreditreport.com to get a free copy of your credit report. Not all employers are allowed to look at this credit report, but more and more do, so it's a good idea to check it out.
COLLINS: All right. How often is this happening?
WILLIS: Well, I think it's happening more and more often, especially with big companies that can afford these services, like Fortune 500 companies, and sensitive industries like finance and security. They're really trying to find out more and more about applicants. So if you're a bank teller or security guard, you may get more scrutinized.
COLLINS: All right. CNN's personal finance editor Gerri Willis watching things for us.
Appreciate that, Gerri. Thank you.
WILLIS: My pleasure.
COLLINS: You know how you buy some aps and never use them? Well, this will not be one of those. It's a way of getting your news that the PC world says puts rivals to shame. And only CNN and Apple are offering it. Stick around. We'll show you how it works.
COLLINS: CNN is changing everything about the way you get your news. With the new iPhone app, you can download it right now. It's pretty cool, too. You can get it for a $1.99 at the app store. Live streaming video, the headlines that you care about and special extras, too. Internet correspondent Abbi Tatton is actually live in Washington, and she is actually going to show it how to do it because she's much smarter than me.
Good morning to you, Abbi.
How does this thing work?
ABBI TATTON, CNN INTERNET CORRESPONDENT: Heidi, I'm actually going to show you on this simulator here rather than my own iPhone because you're going to get a much better picture of how this works.
COLLINS: OK, great.
TATTON: It's going to be a slightly different experience because of that, but you can really see what we're bringing to you. All that live video, the latest headlines, the breaking news, all of the things that people expect from CNN now you can carry around in the palm of your hand.
We're starting off in this section here in the headline section divided into world, U.S., politics, whatever takes your fancy. Let me talk you through how you're going to get your stories.
Click on a story that you're interested in right here. This is the political situation in Honduras right now. You're not just going to be able to read that story. Let me take you over here. You can share it with friends. You can save it for later. But what I'm going to do right here is follow the topic. If this is a topic that you are interested in, if you want to keep receiving updates and news about the situation in Honduras you can follow that. And now this personalizes the app for you.
Let me take you now to MyCNN, because that's where you're going to end up. This is going to be the section where you're following different stories as you just see up here. It just pops out. Now you're following the situation in Honduras on this app. It's also all the local news, the weather that you want to get personalized to your location, because it knows where you are.
TATTON: I'm going to talk you through the video section later on in the next hour. But I want to bring you now to iReport. This is something, Heidi, we've now -- that is essential in the coverage -- our connection is just gone. We'll be able to bring that just back in a second.
These are the iReports from our viewers around the world that people are sending in to show us. All different stories coming in. We've used these so often on CNN. These have become really essential to our news coverage. This just got a little bit easier to send in your iReports because right now on this app, it's going to bring up a screen that asks you to send in a picture. You can take a picture right there and send it direct to us at CNN so we can possibly use it on the air. To get it, it's less than $2 -- $1.99. I don't want to sound like a salesman, but this is a really, really cool app.
COLLINS: I don't think it sounds like sales people at all.
TATTON: We are really excited about this, because it has so many features that you're not going to get on other news apps. We really hope that people go to the app store where it's available right now.
COLLINS: Yes. It's very cool.
Abbi, thank you so much.
COLLINS: We needed that tutorial very much.
And we'll talk about the video because that's a very cool feature as well, coming up next hour.
Thank you, Abbi.
COLLINS: I guess you can push the magic wall -- oh there, she went away.
And now we're going to tell you a little bit more about what is going on across the world and across the nation. We have a lot going on this morning, too. Our CNN crews, of course, are in place to bring it to you now.
Let's go ahead and check in with our correspondents. We'll begin with you Brianna Keilar.
Good morning. Health care reform, huh?
KEILAR: That's right. We'll be seeing fireworks, Heidi, today over that controversial government-run insurance plan, that public option. That is set to begin at the top of the hour. We will bring you all of that. Democrats versus Democrats today when things get under way here.
POPPY HARLOW, CNNMONEY.COM: All right. Also coming up in the next hour, it's decision time for the FDIC, the insurance fund that protects the savings of millions of Americans. All of you out there is at a 17-year low. How can that money be replenished? I'll have that, coming up in the next hour.
LISOVICZ: And I'm Susan Lisovicz of the New York Stock Exchange, where stocks are trying to push higher on this. The one-year anniversary of the Dow's biggest point drop ever. A tumultuous year recapped, Heidi, in the next hour.
COLLINS: All right. Thanks so much, ladies. We sure do appreciate that. And we are also going to be talking about propping up the housing market. Another part of the economy to talk about today. Word that the Obama administration could be doling out even more money to certain agencies which focus on first-time and low-income home buyers.
COLLINS: The secret service is investigating who was behind a user-generated Facebook poll that asked, "Should Obama be killed?" Choices were no, maybe, yes and if he cuts my healthcare. Facebook spokesman Barry Schnitt tells us the poll was removed from the site as soon as the company found out about it. He says this, "The application was immediately suspended while the inappropriate content could be removed by the developer." Facebook says it is working with the secret service.
Forty-one million dollars out of the hands of drug dealers into the hand of authorities. Elaine Quijano now takes a look, takes us along for a major drug bust as custom officials let the cartels know just how serious they are.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There it is. Holy (EXPLETIVE DELETED).
ELAINE QUIJANO, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): In the shipping port of Buenaventura, Colombia this month, authorities hit a mother lode of smuggled cash. Wrapped in plastic and hidden inside shipping containers were meticulously labeled blocks of $20 bills...
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Seven hundred thousand.
QUIJANO: ...each block worth $700,000. Officials seized $11.2 million that day alone, and that week in Colombia and Mexico, seized more than $41 million in all.
JOHN MORTON, IMMIGRATION AND CUSTOMS ENFORCEMENT: You're looking at the profits of crime. That's what this is.
QUIJANO: John Morton with US Immigration and Customs Enforcement says the smugglers packed the cash in ammonium sulfate - a sophisticated attempt to disguise it.
Why ammonium sulfate? What's the significance of that?
MORTON: When it is packed in very large containers, it's extremely difficult to probe, it's extremely difficult to x-ray, and so it's a very good means of concealing currency.
QUIJANO: Officials call this one of the largest bulk cash container seizures ever recorded, and credit unprecedented cooperation among the US, Colombia and Mexico. They believe this haul represents a big victory against international organized crime.
MORTON: We were able to not just get the first shipment, we got the second shipment, the third shipment, the fourth shipment, the fifth shipment, and we did it in two countries at the same time.
QUIJANO (on camera): As for arrests, I.C.E. officials say they're still investigating along with the Mexican and Colombian government. And they're not giving details about how they first learned of the cash or what criminal group might be responsible for it.
Elaine Quijano, CNN, Washington.