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Foley Fallout; Al-Masri: Dead Or Alive?; School Threat; No Child Left Behind; Prescriptions From Canada

Aired October 05, 2006 - 10:00   ET


TONY HARRIS, CNN ANCHOR: Good morning from the NEWSROOM. I'm Tony Harris.
FREDRICKA WHITFIELD, CNN ANCHOR: And I'm Fredricka Whitfield, in today for Heidi Collins.

HARRIS: And watch events unfold live in the NEWSROOM on this Thursday, the 5th day of October.

WHITFIELD: Sorting dirty laundry. Behind closed doors this hour, the House Ethics Committee discusses a disgraced congressman and his lurid e-mails.

HARRIS: Three school shootings in less than a week's time. Now one lawmaker calls for teachers to -- listen to this -- carry guns.

WHITFIELD: Sounds pretty outrageous.

And the new leader of al Qaeda in Iraq. Is he dead already? The DNA will tell us. You're in the NEWSROOM.

On Capitol Hill and behind closed doors, the House Ethics Committee meets this hour to discuss the Mark Foley e-mail scandal. At issue, how to launch a credible investigation, especially in light of questions about the Republican leadership. CNN congressional correspondent Dana Bash explains.


DANA BASH, CNN CORRESPONDENT, (voice over): A top House Republican aide says he warned the House speaker's chief of staff more than two years ago that Mark Foley was having inappropriate contact with pages, well before GOP leaders say they knew about it. The aide making this new claim is Kirk Fordham, who was then Mark Foley's chief of staff. Fordham's attorney tells CNN, Fordham told the speaker's top aide, Scott Palmer, that he was worried about Foley's conduct with pages. The attorney would not give specifics of the conversation.

In a statement Fordham says, "even prior to the existence of the Foley e-mail exchanges, I had more than one conversation with senior staff at the highest levels of the House of Representatives asking them to intervene when I was informed of Mr. Foley's inappropriate behavior."

If true, this would contradict a time line the speaker's office released over the weekend, saying it only found out about Foley's conduct at the end of 2005, after a former page complained he got an e-mail from Foley asking for a picture. But the speaker's chief of staff flatly denies that Fordham had warned him about Foley's conduct, saying, "what Kirk Fordham said did not happen."

Fordham dropped this political bomb hours after he resigned as chief of staff to New York Congressman Tom Reynolds. The new charge put the speaker back on the defensive as senior GOP lawmakers continued to distance themselves from him. The number three Republican, Congressman Roy Blunt, seemed to take a shot at Hastert, telling reporters back home in Missouri he would have handled the Foley matter differently had he known about it.

"You have to be curious, you have to ask all the questions you can think of," Blunt said.


WHITFIELD: And now congressional correspondent Dana Bash joins us live from The Hill. And, Dana, we know that Kirk Fordham is now about to be questioned for the FBI, for one, while at the same time the speaker is responding to some of these allegations.

BASH: That's right.

Well, to Kirk Fordham specific allegations, as you heard, the speaker's chief of staff says that they are simply not true. But more broadly, in terms of the political response, Fredricka, the speaker told "The Chicago Tribune" last night that he is not going to resign. He is certainly trying to dig in and he's trying to sort of turn this around by trying to essentially throw some red meat to the Republican base who they're very angry at him and the Republican leaders here for the way they've handled this. But what he's trying to say is, look, if you allow this to happen, for me to go down, based on this scandal, then he'll say -- he says that Democrats will get what they want. They'll be able to potentially sweep the House.

And the other thing that he's trying to do is really step up the charges, Fredricka, that he's been making over the past several days, that Democrats, he says, his political opponents, are behind the timing of all of this. He gave specifics. He even told "The Chicago Tribune" that he thinks that George Soros is funding some of his opponents and even said that allies of Bill Clinton have admitted on other networks that they have known about this for some time and held it because they wanted to make a bigger splash close to the election. But we don't have anything substantial to back up the speaker's claims at this point.


WHITFIELD: All right, Dana Bash on The Hill. Thanks so much.

At 1:30 p.m. Eastern, CNN will cover live the press conference that the House Ethics Committee, after their behind the closed door meeting, is to hold a press conference. We'll be carrying that live.

HARRIS: And, of course, Dana Bash is part of the best political team on television.

Some former congressional pages coming forward now, talking about the Mark Foley they knew. CNN's Brian Todd reports.


BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT, (voice over): Tyson Vivian (ph) says when he was a page in 1996 and 1997, Congressman Mark Foley didn't speak to him. But Vivian says shortly after he left Capitol Hill, the congressman initiated contact with instant messages. Vivian says he was 17 at the time. A minor.

TYSON VIVIAN, FORMER CONGRESSIONAL PAGE: The conversation turned sexual almost immediately.

TODD: It went on for years, according to Vivian. E-mails, brief phone conversations, instant messages.

VIVIAN: We're probably talking upwards of 40 to 50 instant message conversations that took place over that entire period. Some of them sexual in nature. The majority of them sexual in nature, some of them not.

TODD: Vivian tells CNN, on one occasion, after his tenure as a page when he was about 19, he returned to Washington and was invited to Foley's house. He says he brought another former page with him to make sure things didn't get out of hand.

VIVIAN: He and I went together to Congressman Foley's brownstone on Capitol Hill a few blocks away from the Capitol. He ordered pizza for us. He offered us beer. We were minors at the time. We both declined.

TODD: The other former page who went with Vivian that night, Josh Abrons, tells CNN he doesn't recall alcohol being present. Vivian and Abrons both say nothing inappropriate happened. But Abrons also says Foley had exchanged instant messages with him after he left the page program but while he was still a minor. Abrons says he initiated contact with Foley, but only to talk about politics. He says Foley did talk politics, and . . .

JOSH ABRONS, FORMER CONGRESSIONAL PAGE: He did make explicit references. He talked about anatomy -- his own and other people's. He did enjoy talking about sex frequently. And asking questions, making statements. And he did ask if I was attracted to him physically or if I would ever be interested in him in the future.

TODD: Neither Abrons nor Vivian could provide copies of their alleged communications with Foley from that time. Vivian showed us correspondence he said he had with Foley when Vivian was in his mid- 20s. Abrons and Vivian say they made it clear they were not interested in physical relationships with Foley. But why didn't they report this contact to authorities?

ABRONS: For a 17-year-old to receive instant messages from a member of Congress is quite something. And you do not want to burn that bridge with a member of Congress.

TODD: We tried to reach Mark Foley's attorney, David Roth, for reaction to Vivian's and Abrons' accounts. He did not return our calls. Tyson Vivian tells us he is a liberal Democrat. Josh Abrons says he's been both Republican and Democrat and now considers himself independent.

Brian Todd, CNN, Washington.


HARRIS: Once again, the House Ethics Committee meeting right now behind closed doors and we expect to hear from members of that committee at about 1:30 p.m. Eastern Time right here in the NEWSROOM.

In the war zone now. An Iraqi government official says Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice is visiting Baghdad right now. The visit had not been announced. Rice was last in Iraq in April in two separate trips. She's expected to meet with Iraqi government officials. Rice is on a tour of the Middle East. She has already visited Israel, the Palestinian territories, Egypt and Saudi Arabia.

WHITFIELD: The new boss of al Qaeda in Iraq, dead or alive? Iraqi and U.S. military officials discount reports the terrorist has been killed in a raid. CNN's Arwa Damon keeping watch on all of this from Baghdad.

So, Arwa, at what point and how will we know for certain?

ARWA DAMON, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Fredricka, it does appear right now that it was not Ayyub al-Masri who was killed in that raid. The report initially came out on al-Arabiya television and then was picked up by some wire agencies. However, the U.S. military did say that they launched a raid against a suspected hideout where they believed al-Masri might be located.

He said initially after the raid, which killed several suspected terrorists, they had some hope that al-Masri might be among them. However, he said that that was highly unlikely. A couple hours after that statement was made, a spokesman for the Iraqi government said that initial DNA tests indicate that it was not al-Masri.


WHITFIELD: All right, Arwa, meantime, a lot of other things kind of on the agenda there. Besides the violence taking place there constantly in and around Baghdad, you recently returned from being embed with an army first infantry division. Tell us what happened.

DAMON: That's right, Fredricka. This division, a battalion from this division, operates in eastern Baghdad. And they operate in an incredibly volatile environment. It has been, until now, we are only five days into October, an incredibly deadly month for U.S. troops.

Across the country, 19 U.S. troops have lost their lives. Of that 19, nine of them soldiers that operate in Baghdad. And those nine were killed in incidents that involved small arms fire in the area that the first infantry division is operating. And they are constantly coming under small arms fire attack. Sometimes it is just pot shots. Sometimes it is deadly, well-placed sniper rounds.

The thing that is so challenging for these troops when they're out there is that, for the most part, the streets appear deceptively calm. Children come running out, waving, wanting to shake hands with the shoulders. Adults, at times, are wary, but are fairly friendly. They come forward. They too speak with the military.

But this atmosphere changes in an instant when that single shot is fired. And it's a very challenging environment for these soldiers to be coping in. And when you ask them how they are able to do that, they do say that it is very difficult, especially since this particular unit has suffered a number of casualties. They say that each time they leave the base, it's essentially like rolling the dice and yet they still continue to do so every day.


WHITFIELD: And so is the sense from the people there when they see these infantry men or anyone else that these military soldiers are the magnet for violence or that they help deter it, at least temporarily while they're there?

DAMON: It really depends, Fredricka. It depends on where you are and who you're speaking with. An opinion is very diverse here. More and more Iraqis, though, are viewing the U.S. presence here as one that is increasing the level of violence.

However, there was one particular incident in which one of the platoons of the battalion that I was with did come under fire. It wounded a soldier. He is going to recover.

However, in that incident, while the U.S. troops were clearing the area, I spoke with some of the Iraqi residents there. And one old woman said to me, she said, you know, they're human, too. We don't like seeing this happen to them.

But then again, other people are also saying that it is the presence of U.S. troops that is causing them to come under fire, which, in return, does result, at times, in some civilian casualties.


WHITFIELD: Arwa Damon in Baghdad. Thanks so much for that update.


HARRIS: Funerals and forgiveness in Pennsylvania's Amish country today. Four of the five girls killed in Monday's schoolhouse shooting are being buried today. Last night, mourners in Lancaster County asked forgiveness of the gunman. Charles Roberts also killed himself. Police say Roberts revealed he was tormented by memories of molesting two relatives 20 years ago. Last night, police told our Larry King there's no evidence that ever happened.


COL. JEFFREY MILLER, PENNSYLVANIA STATE POLICE: We don't know if they were too young to recall or if this never happened or perhaps it was something less than perhaps would have been like a sexual assault type of situation and perhaps it stayed with him but they don't have any recollection of it.


HARRIS: We should note that a fifth victim of the school shooting will be buried tomorrow. Five other school girls remain hospitalized this morning. Three are said to be improving. That's a note of good news.

Class is canceled. A community on edge. The threat in Virginia. A live report next in the NEWSROOM.

WHITFIELD: Fighting school violence. Are more guns the answer?


STATE REP. FRANK LASEE, (R) WISCONSIN: If we have teachers in and other school people who are willing, able and well trained, I think it would increase safety.


WHITFIELD: The one lawmaker's controversial idea. We'll explore it in the NEWSROOM.

HARRIS: And a source of hope, comfort and inspiration. The Ground Zero cross has a new home and a permanent place in history. You're watching CNN, the most trusted name in news.


HARRIS: How about this? No school today. Officials closing all Culpeper County, Virginia, schools after receiving what they described as a telephoned threat. CNN's Jeanne Meserve joins us from Virginia now with details.

Jeanne, good morning.


The Culpeper County sheriff, Lee Hart (ph), says that a phone call was received shortly before midnight by his department. He described it as a lengthy conversation. It made a bomb threat and talked about schools generally but no school specifically. According to a school official, law enforcement got together with representatives of both the public and private schools in this county at about 4:30 this morning and a decision was made to shut all the schools. That means eight public schools, which have more than 7,000 students, as well as seven private schools here, while this investigation continues.

The ATF, the Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms, has brought in canine detection teams, as well as explosive experts and investigators. They're assisting the FBI. The county sheriff, state police, local police and others, going through a methodical search of each one of the schools in this area.

As they are cleared, they are going to be reopened, but only to essential personnel. Officials are unequivocal about the fact that there will not be any classes here in Culpeper County today. As to how long the schools will be shut, they just can't say. They say that all depends on how long it takes to search the schools and that will depend on whether or not they find any devices as they go through.

Back to you, Tony.

HARRIS: OK. CNN's Jeanne Meserve for us. Jeanne, thank you.

WHITFIELD: And still speaking of schools, President Bush is giving his "No Child Left Behind Act" an A and he wants it renewed. He'll outline why in a speech today in the nation's capitol. That's at 11:00 a.m. Eastern. We'll bring it to you live right here from the NEWSROOM.

Pass or fail, here are the facts on No Child Left Behind.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: President Bush signed his far-reaching No Child Left Behind education reform bill four years ago. Almost before the ink had dried, the new law came under a barrage of criticism and it's still under attack, from states, school districts and the president's own party.

In short, the act requires that all students be proficient in math and reading by the year 2014. Schools failing to show yearly progress risk penalties that include cutting federal funding, firing teachers and administrators, and extending the school year. Supporters argue these requirements are necessary to improve education in America.

Nearly 50 million students are enrolled in the nation's public schools. After the first four years of school, federal officials say most performed below proficiency in both reading and math. They say minority and disadvantaged students are most at risk of failing.

Of those who make it through high school and graduate, few have learned the math and science skills needed to compete in today's economy. The Bush administration insists No Child Left Behind is turning things around. Many state and local officials hotly disagree and have mounted legal challenges and are opting out.

Because of a quirk in the law, the Associated Press reports that schools with federal government approval aren't counting the test scores of nearly 2 million students. The majority of whom are minorities. But Education Secretary Margaret Spellings was surprised at the number of uncounted students and vowed to plug the testing loophole.


WHITFIELD: Fighting firepower with firepower. One state lawmaker says other countries keep kids safe by letting teachers carry guns. Well, could it work here? We explore all of that in the NEWSROOM.

HARRIS: The U.S. government giving up the fight, no longer seizing your mail order prescriptions from Canada.

Gerri, there's got to be a catch somewhere in all of this.

GERRI WILLIS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: No catch here, Tony. It's all good. This is the glass half full week for "Top Tips." Saving money on drugs just got a whole lot easier. We'll tell you all about it next on "Top Tips."


HARRIS: Boy, what a week so far on Wall Street. Intraday day highs, end of day highs. What's happening today? A little hangover. The big board there. The Dow down 12 points inside the first hour of the trading day. And the Nasdaq, well, flat. We will check all the numbers with Cheryl Casone a little later in the hour.

WHITFIELD: Well, cheaper prescriptions may be as close as your mailbox. The Department of Homeland Security says it will no longer seize cheaper medicines shipped from Canada. But before you go online, some advice now in Gerri's "Top Tips." CNN personal finance editor, Gerri Willis, is in New York this morning.

Good to see you, Gerri.

WILLIS: Hey, good to see you, Fred.

Yes, this is a very, very big topic, I think, for people out there who are afraid of -- or tired of paying high prices for drugs. You've got to know this. The Department of Homeland Security will not -- will not be seizing drugs across the border from Canada beginning Monday, although it is still illegal to import prescription drugs. It's just that now customs officials will likely turn a blind eye to the practice.


WHITFIELD: So there are things to know. But, for starters, you need to count your change as well.

WILLIS: Well, here's some good news. Prescription drugs from Canada, because of the laws there, are generally cheaper than the U.S., 30 to 40 percent. For example, take this. A tablet of Lipitor in the U.S. goes for about $3.94. In Canada, the price is about $2.20. Big savings there. And a recent report from Consumer Reports found that Canadian pharmacies saved consumers between $72 and $226 per prescription. That's according to their latest studies. So a big savings in the offering for people who have to pay a lot for prescription drugs.

WHITFIELD: So I can tell a lot of people are really intrigued right now but they want to know, how do you get started?

WILLIS: Well, you want to compare prices of drugs, U.S.- Canadian, by going to Now this site evaluates online pharmacies from Canada and the U.S. websites. You can also do your own Internet search for Canadian pharmacies, obviously, but make sure they're part of the Canadian International Pharmacy Association, that's CIPA. This means the pharmacy has a valid Canadian license and must keep your personal information private. Remember, there are lots of risks here. Go to

WHITFIELD: So, in other words, there are a lot of bogus sites out there, you want to look out for them as well. Avoid them.

WILLIS: Yes, you have to be vigilant. You have to stay away. It can be tough to figure out which ones are good and which ones are bad. So when searching for legitimate pharmacies here's what you should keep in mind.

First of all, don't trust pharmacies that sell only life-style drugs like Viagra or opiates. The pharmacy should ask you for your doctor's prescription. And, of course, make sure there is an address and phone number for the pharmacy.

But at the end of the day, this is very good news for people. Of course, Fred, a lot of people have already been getting Canadian drugs even with the help of state governments, but now I think it will become more widespread.

WHITFIELD: All right. This weekend, the doors are open at "Open House." What's on tap?

WILLIS: Right. 9:30 a.m. Saturday, join us on "Open House." We're going to talk about how to take advantage of low interest rates right now. The news in the housing market has been bad. We're going to show you where the opportunity lies. And, Fred, you're going to love this. You know Val Kilmer, Batman?


WILLIS: Well, we're going to his tree house. He has a huge tree house.

WHITFIELD: Love that!

WILLIS: Yes. And it's fabulous. We'll show you all about that. And he has a few choice words to say about tree houses and going green. It's all going to be on "Open House."

WHITFIELD: Yes, and tree houses are not just for the kids anymore.

WILLIS: No, not at all.

WHITFIELD: Lots of big kids out there who want to play house in their back yard.

WILLIS: You got it.

WHITFIELD: All right. Thanks a lot, Gerri. See you this weekend.

WILLIS: You're welcome. Thank you.


HARRIS: A place for my big screen TV.

Who knew what and when did they know it? The timeline in the Mark Foley scandal and why it's so important. That story straight ahead in the NEWSROOM.

WHITFIELD: A major military maneuver. NATO now calling the shots across Afghanistan. Live to the Pentagon straight ahead in the NEWSROOM.


HARRIS: Once again, want to show you a picture outside of the doors of the ethics committee. Members are meeting right now to discuss the entire Foley matter. We're expecting to hear from members -- perhaps the ranking member and the chair of that committee -- at 1:30 this afternoon.

Also, just within the last couple of moments, we've received a new statement from the speaker of the House, Dennis Hastert, announcing a page program tip line number.

Here's a bit of a statement from the speaker. It reads, "As the speaker, I take responsibility for everything in the building. The buck stops here. The safety and security of the students and the page program is imperative. That is why I have directed the clerk of the House to establish a hotline for reporting any information concerning pages or the page program."

See if we can get the number for you. It is 866-348-0481. So this is a page program tip line for any additional information in this case. So, once again, the number once against is 866-348-0481.

WHITFIELD: Now all of this is about the Capitol Hill e-mail scandal. The burning question still, who knew about Mark Foley's computer messages and when? It may be critical for the House speaker, who is fighting for his job.

CNN congressional correspondent Andrea Koppel traces the timeline.


ANDREA KOPPEL, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): November 2005, a 16-year-old page from Louisiana contacts staff members in the office of Louisiana Republican Rodney Alexander and tells them about questionable e-mails he's received from Congressman Mark Foley.

Alexander's staff then contacts aides in House Speaker Dennis Hastert's office, who refer the matter to the house clerk. It's at this time Republican Congressman John Shimkus, the chairman of the page board, also gets involved. Together, Shimkus and the House clerk meet with Foley and warn him to immediately cease any communication with the young man. No other action is taken. And Hastert's office says his aides never told the speaker or anyone else in their office about the e-mails.

Fast forward to the spring of this year. That's when Congressman Alexander says he told New York Congressman Tom Reynolds about the Foley e-mails.

REP. THOMAS REYNOLDS (R), NEW YORK: I reported the incident. Sometimes I think, you know, as we look at -- what's a good citizen do? I mean, we have been taught that if you see a circumstance that isn't right, take it to your supervisor.

KOPPEL: Reynolds heads up the House Congressional Election Committee, and says he passed this information on to House Speaker Dennis Hastert. But Hastert told CNN this week he doesn't remember the conversation.

REP. DENNIS HASTERT (R), HOUSE SPEAKER: You know, I don't recall Reynolds talking to me about that. If he did, he brought it in with a whole stack of things. And I think if he would have had that discussion, he would have said it was also resolved, because my understanding now that it was resolved at that point. The family had gotten what it wanted to get.

KOPPEL: It isn't until last Friday that Foley abruptly resigns over news reports he'd exchanged sexually explicit instant messages with other teenage pages, dating back to 2003. The very next day, House Republican leaders issue a joint statement, calling Foley's communications with the pages "an obscene breach of trust," and recommending the House page board conduct a full review.

On Sunday, Democratic leaders in both the House and Senate are suggesting a GOP election year coverup. Later that same day, Speaker Hastert's office releases letters he's written to Attorney General Alberto Gonzales and Florida's governor, Jeb Bush, asking them to conduct an investigation to determine if Foley's actions violated federal or state law.

On Monday, Hastert and Congressman Shimkus tell reporters no one in the Republican leadership had seen the more sexually explicit instant messages until last week.

HASTERT: Congressman Foley duped a lot of people.

KOPPEL: By Tuesday morning, an editorial in a conservative newspaper calls for Hastert to resign his speakership at once.

(on camera): Then Wednesday, Congressman Reynolds' chief of staff suddenly resigns, accusing Democrats of making him a political issue in his boss' race. Kirk Fordham had earlier been chief of staff to now disgraced former Congressman Mark Foley, and in a parting shot at House Republican leaders, alleges that he tried to warn top House leaders about Foley before 2005.

Andrea Koppel, CNN, Capitol Hill.


HARRIS: Spotlight on education. President Bush is pushing his No Child Left Behind Act today. It's up for renewal next year. He says it's working, but critics give the plan a failing grade.

White House correspondent Suzanne Malveaux is here with a preview of the president's speech next hour.

Suzanne, good morning.

SUZANNE MALVEAUX, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, good morning, Tony. President Bush, as you said, of course, is back from that three-day campaign swing. The focus today is education, education, education. He went to the Department of Education, where he met with the secretary, Margaret Spellings. Also heading to an elementary school, Woodridge Elementary and Middle School. It's a public charter school here in Washington, D.C.

He is trying to push his signature legislation, the No Child Left Behind Act, which is up for renewal next year, and essentially trying to use this program to argue that raising standards and testing children is actually working. But there are many Democrats, as well as educators, who say the administration really hasn't provided the federal dollars to make this kind of program work.

Now, it was just two days ago that President Bush visited his namesake, the George W. Bush Elementary School in Stockton, California. That is where he also expressed his concern and his condolences about these school shootings that have been taking place just over the last weeks or so in Pennsylvania, Colorado, as well as Wisconsin. He noted that he is making school safety a priority, putting it on his agenda for next week.

President Bush last night at a fundraiser.


GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: This next week, I have asked Attorney General Al Gonzales and Secretary of Education Margaret Spellings to convene a meeting of leading experts and officials to determine how the federal government can help state and local folks deal with these shootings and the tragedies. Look, we wanted to make it certain around the country that the school house is a safe place for children to learn.


MALVEAUX: And, Tony, of course, this comes at a tragic day, really a day of much concern for an entire county in Virginia. A bomb scare, essentially, shutting down that county. Many students staying home. Should also let you know, as well, this elementary middle school is one of the few schools in D.C. where they saw that aggressive testing where they actually -- the students did better. But it is really the exception here.

If you look at the statistics, 118 out of 146 of the traditional public schools in the Washington, D.C. area actually failed that test, and 30 of the 34 campuses overseen by the public charter school system also failed to pass that test. So, there is still a lot of work that is left -- Tony.

HARRIS: Yes, a lot of criticism of the act. The president will have his say at 11:00 a.m. Eastern time. And, of course, we will bring it to you here at CNN. Suzanne, appreciate it. Thank you.

And after the president's speech we will speak to a critic of the No Child Left Behind program. Wait until you hear what William Mathis has to say. That's next hour.

WHITFIELD: Change of command. NATO says it's now in charge of security duties across all of Afghanistan, including 12,000 U.S. troops in the east. That power was transferred today during a ceremony in Kabul.

CNN Pentagon correspondent Barbara Starr has more.


BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): With violence growing, commanders warn a pure military victory in Afghanistan is not in the cards. This as NATO takes over day-to-day fighting during one of the toughest periods since the U.S. overthrew the Taliban five years ago. In the southern and eastern sectors, where fighting is heaviest, British, Canadian and 12,000 U.S. forces now will operate under a NATO flag. Attacks are on the rise in part because fighters are more freely crossing into Afghanistan.

LAWRENCE KORB, SR. FELLOW, COUNCIL ON FOREIGN RELATIONS: There's no doubt about the fact that this agreement between Pakistan and basically the people on its border has allowed the Taliban and al Qaeda sanctuary.

STARR: And now NATO's top commander warns that 20,000 NATO forces and another 20,000 U.S. troops won't defeat the Taliban.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Afghanistan will not be resolved by military means.

STARR: Military commanders have long said reconstruction is vital. But questions are emerging about whether even that part of the strategy can change the dynamics on the ground.

SEN. BILL FRIST (R), MAJORITY LEADER: The Taliban is on the rise, and we do need to capture the hearts and the minds of the Afghan people. A lot of them are just farmers by day, but when the Taliban sticks arms in their hands, they say, well, I guess I'm Taliban. STARR: Frist and others are calling for more effort to bring Taliban elements into the fold of the Afghan government, in hopes of stemming the fighting.

But commanders say there is one overwhelming problem -- the money from the opium crop.

GEN. JAMES JONES, NATO SUPREME ALLIED CMDR.: It allows the opposition to build the IEDs that kill and wound innocent civilians and wound and kill soldiers of the alliance.


WHITFIELD: Barbara Starr joining us now live from the Pentagon. So, Barbara, the Taliban, is that enemy No. 1? And are we talking about a group of people, or a movement that is certainly multiplying there?

STARR: Well, by all accounts it is, Fredricka. I think five years ago when the U.S. first went into Afghanistan, they thought they would route out the Taliban and they would be gone. But certainly in the south, and the east especially, they are back. And One of the reasons military commanders say is there hasn't been a lot of the Afghan security structure in those areas. Afghan army, Afghan police troops generally have been very thin on the ground there, and it has allowed Taliban to come in and appeal to the people in those regions, and that's why they hope reconstruction will be the ultimate answer -- jobs, roads, electricity, clean water, the kinds of economic progress that people in these very small towns and remote villages will look to that will make them reject the Taliban when they come to town.

WHITFIELD: So, the objective here, NATO will be fighting against any resistors, providing security, and be responsible for reconstruction efforts?

STARR: Well, certainly to if a sill at this time reconstruction, to try to get more aid from the international community. General Jones, who you saw in that piece, the top NATO commander, has been very adamant, as have other commanders, that not only getting rid of the opium crop, which is financing much of the Taliban movement, but bringing in more reconstruction money. An awful lot of Afghans feel they have been forgotten in the wake of the war in Iraq, in the wake of the world community focusing on that so much, and they feel that they really need to get more reconstruction aid into that country. Some commanders have said to us if they had their choice, for example, between an extra brigade of troops and money to build roads, they would pick building those roads.

WHITFIELD: All right, Barbara Starr, thanks so much, from the Pentagon.

HARRIS: And still ahead, fighting firepower with firepower. One state law maker -- have you heard this? -- said other countries keep kids safe by letting teachers carry guns. The question is, could it work here? We'll explore that in the NEWSROOM.


WHITFIELD: Fighting school violence with guns? What do you think? It's a controversial idea in a state reeling from a deadly school shooting.

Sean Ryan of CNN affiliate WKOW reports from Madison, Wisconsin.


STATE REP. FRANK LASEE, (R) WISCONSIN: These things happen. Unfortunately, for some reason, some people do things like this.

SEAN RYAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT, (voice over): State Representative Frank Lasee says the recent school shootings are reason enough for school administrators to have guns.

LASEE: If we have teachers and other school people who are willing, able and well trained, I think it would increase safety.

RYAN: He says principals, teachers, even janitors should have the option of carrying a gun. But others are not convinced.

STATE REP. SPENCER BLACK, (D) WISCONSIN: Every so often a truly bad idea comes along from legislators and this is one of them.

RYAN: Democratic Representative Spencer Black, a former school teacher himself, is vehemently against the proposed legislation.

BLACK: In a situation like that, a kid who's bent on violence, if he think the principal is armed, is going to shoot first and ask questions later.

RYAN: As for here in the Madison school district, the idea just wouldn't fly.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Everything that is done by the school has to have the support of our community. I don't believe that our community would support the district turning the schools into garrisons, or military bases.

BLACK: As terrible as the school shootings are, this is not the answer. This would be likely to increase violence in the schools, not decrease it.

LASEE: It isn't the silver bullet to solve all our problems, but I believe it is part of the mix of what we should be allowing our schools to do in order to protect our children.


WHITFIELD: So Wisconsin State Representative Frank Lasee joins me now on the phone. Representative Lasee, thanks for being with us.


WHITFIELD: So we've heard of all kinds of proposals about trying to make schools safer from putting phones in the classrooms, locking the school doors, putting in place some sort of crisis plans. Why, in your calculation, is arming teachers or other administrators the best remedy here?

LASEE: Well, this is another remedy. This is another piece in the puzzle. It's not the silver bullet that will solve all our problems, but it is something that will work. It's working in other countries. Israel and Thailand have done this, and it's had success there. And I believe that well trained people who are willing and able to defend themselves and defend our kids will help put a stop to these violent crimes.

WHITFIELD: So, wait a minute, you said you believe that this would help solve problems. How? How are you so sure, just because it is being used in places like Israel and Indonesia, as you've mentioned?

LASEE: Well, any time you have someone bent on doing harm or creating a disturbance, if they don't know what classroom and what teacher or around what hall someone is going to confront them with a weapon, that's equal to their firepower, it makes them nervous, think twice and puts a stop to it. Or if they start shooting, and they -- they're able to return fire. That is important in order to protect our children. I don't want -- in cases where they kill any children are a tragedy, but multiple murders, and we are seeing that now, too, this would put a stop, at least when they return fire, it engages the enemy, so to speak.

WHITFIELD: And when you say arming all those willing and able among the administrators, school teachers, et cetera, does this mean that you're proposing a plan that would be voluntary, those teachers who want to pack could? This would not necessarily be a requirement for all teachers in all classrooms to pack?

LASEE: No, this is strictly voluntary. Any of the teachers and administrators or custodians that wanted to do this, were able to do this, went through the certification process and the training, a psychological background test, would be able to do this.

WHITFIELD: So what kind of training would you propose? The training to not only just use it, but to know when to use it, know when not to use an arm.

LASEE: That's exactly right. I would leave that up to the experts in that area, and I'm certain there are plenty of experts who they would design coursework that would train people so this would be safe. It's a specialized environment with a lot of people in a small area, and therefore you would need specialized training to go with it.

WHITFIELD: So are you in agreement that this is likely a longshot? And if so, then what is the real objective here for making such a proposal which is not likely to fly in that community?

LASEE: Well, major issues and major changes in the way people think and the laws we have don't happen overnight in our country. It takes years for it to change, that's -- so be it. I'm raising it now, and I hope that we don't have further of these type of incidents. But as we have more of them, if we do, I think that some people will start to change their mind and see the wisdom of this proposal.

WHITFIELD: Why are you so convinced that this is the kind of proposal that would not increase violence but, in your view, it would decrease it?

LASEE: I trust the common sense of our people in our schools and the people of the Midwest, particularly, in Wisconsin. And I trust people to do the right thing and to do things safely or not to do it at all. And I believe that by having a weapon to confront someone with a weapon, intent on doing harm, that's so much better than being unarmed against someone who has a gun who wants to shoot people or do other bad things.

WHITFIELD: All right. Wisconsin Representative Frank Lasee, we will continue to follow and see where your proposal goes. Thanks so much for your time.

LASEE: Thank you, and have a great day.

HARRIS: And to business news now, the best known stock gauge in the world had another record-breaking day on Wednesday, so can the bullish momentum continue? Cheryl Casone is at the New York Stock Exchange with all the numbers.

Cheryl, good morning.


Well, stocks right now actually a little lower, to tell you the truth. They are following that big rally yesterday. The blue chips ending the session, 11,850. That was their highest close ever. And they also hit a new all time intraday high.

But today, a new day, investors playing it safe as they wait for tomorrow's September Jobs Report. One source for pressure for stocks, oil prices jumping by about a dollar, moving back above $60 a barrel.

This coming in response to reports that OPEC plans to cut oil output by a million barrels a day. It would be the cartel's first cut in more than two years, actually.

Checking the latest numbers, let's go ahead and look at them. The Dow Industrials trading down, 15 points right now. The Nasdaq Composite is up just slightly right now -- Tony.

HARRIS: There's all this talk about the Dow, but you've got some new developments in a scandal involving one of its components.

CASONE: Yes, H.P., which was performing pretty well last week, if you will recall. H.P., that spying scandal now a criminal case. California's attorney general late yesterday filing criminal charges against former H.P. Chairwoman Patricia Dunn, its former chief ethics officer and three others in connection with the company's investigation into board room leaks. The complaint alleges that Dunn knew private investigators obtained phone records of H.P. board members and journalists through false pretenses, using the tactic we all know now as pretexting. Each of the four charges carries a penalty of up to three years in prison, a fine of up to $10,000. No charges, though, filed against H.P. chief Mark Hurd. Tony, he escaped this one.

HARRIS: So far.

CASONE: So far.

HARRIS: All right, Cheryl. See you next hour.

Fred, we're talking hail here, dime size, golf ball size, does it really matter? This stuff is going to hurt you no matter how big it is.

WHITFIELD: That's right. So, watch out. All hail breaks loose in Ohio. More of these incredible weather pictures straight ahead.

You are watching CNN, the most trusted name in news.



HARRIS: President Bush wants to renew his signature education law. He'll talk about it at the top of the hour, right here, live in the NEWSROOM.

After that, we will talk with a school superintendent who calls No Child Left Behind a guaranteed failure. All that and more straight ahead in the NEWSROOM.