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Mounting Frustration With Iraq's Lagging Government; Texas House Race; Panama Canal Vote; The Iraq Factor; Taking the Fear Out of Death; The Soul Factory

Aired October 22, 2006 - 16:59   ET


FREDRICKA WHITFIELD, CNN ANCHOR: Hello. I'm Fredricka Whitfield at the CNN headquarters in Atlanta.
You're in the NEWSROOM.

As the body count mounts, so does talk of timetables in Iraq. But the White House says time out.

A huge battle is brewing on some of America's great lakes. Why are machine guns being fired?

And from holistic healing to the hereafter, Dr. Deepak Chopra speaks out about something that just might surprise you.

Gunmen open fire on buses carrying Iraqi police recruits today. At least 13 recruits were killed in the ambush near Baquba. Dozens more were kidnapped.

Much more on this in a live report in three minutes.

Insurgents in Baghdad are handing out false hotline phone numbers to try to catch would-be informers. Iraq's Defense Ministry is warning people about the trap.

Several top Republicans are urging the Bush administration to hold one-on-one walk talks with North Korea on its nuclear program. Pyongyang has sought direct talks for years, but Washington backs six- nation talks with North Korea and its neighbors.

Jury selection begins tomorrow in New Jersey in the trial of two men accused of starting a deadly fire at Seton Hall University. Three students died when the blaze engulfed a freshman dorm back in 2000.

And another snag in Madonna's quest to adopt an African boy. The 1-year-old's father now says Malawi officials misled him into thinking it would be a temporary arrangement instead of a formal adoption.

First this hour, mounting frustration with Iraq's lagging government. There are growing indications of U.S. displeasure with Iraqi prime minister Nouri al-Maliki and reports today of a possible effort to light a fire under the U.S.-backed Iraqi leadership.

We'll start at the White House with CNN's Elaine Quijano.

ELAINE QUIJANO, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, Fredricka, the White House is disputing this "New York Times" story published today saying that the United States is preparing to hand the Iraqi government a timetable to curb the violence in that country.


QUIJANO (voice over): It's been part of President Bush's Iraq mantra for months.

GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: You can't win a war if you have an artificial timetable for withdraw.

Many advocating an artificial timetable for withdrawing our troops are sincere, but I believe they're sincerely wrong.

QUIJANO: But "The New York Times," citing senior U.S. officials, reports that the Bush administration is drafting a timetable for the Iraqi government to address sectarian divisions and take on more of the country's security responsibilities. A White House spokeswoman said, "The story is not accurate," adding that "The administration is constantly developing new tactics to achieve its goal," and that4 the administration has been "coordinating with the Iraqis for months on a series of measures they can take to assume more control of their country."

With the violence in Iraq showing no signs of letting up and Republicans in Congress nervous about their re-election prospects in just over two weeks, the debate over what to do next in Iraq has intensified. Against that backdrop, the pressure for the White House to change course has come from both Democrats and Republicans.

SEN. ARLEN SPECTER (R), PENNSYLVANIA: I don't believe that a shift intactics ought to wait until after the election. There are too many casualties there. If we have a better course we ought to adopt it sooner rather than later.

SEN. JACK REED (D), RHODE ISLAND: The strategy of the administration has failed. The strategy of clear, build and hold has not worked. It's been clear, build and wait. And while we've waited without the resources to rebuild the Iraqi economy, the insurgents have snuck back in, the sectarian militias have snuck -- snuck back in.

QUIJANO: One analyst suggests that with Democrats on the offensive over Iraq, the administration may be trying to throw vulnerable Republicans a political lifeline.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This new announcement of sorts gives Republican candidates an ability to say they're for change without undercutting their own administration. Is politics a part of this? It always is.


QUIJANO: Still, a senior Bush aide tonight insists that "The New York Times" story is "overwritten," arguing that the administration has been working with the Iraqi government for months on a series of benchmarks and milestones. The official also rejects any suggestion that the administration has somehow signed off on a plan to penalize the Iraqi government, a plan that would correspond with the reduction in U.S. troops there -- Fredricka.

WHITFIELD: Elaine Quijano at the White House.

Thanks so much.

All of this on a day of a brazen ambush north of Baghdad. Gunmen assaulted busloads of Iraqi police recruits headed home for holiday. Dozens were killed, wounded or kidnapped.

Joining us live from Baghdad, CNN's Arwa Damon.

ARWA DAMON, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Fredricka, this is what we have been able to piece together in terms what may have happened in this coordinated ambush. Three -- two to three busloads of Iraqi police recruits were traveling from Baquba to Baghdad. This is and has been in the past a very dangerous route.

According to security officials in Diyala Province, a roadside bomb exploded, hitting one of their buses. This was followed by an unknown number of gunmen opening fire on the bus.

At least 13 Iraqi police recruits were killed. At least another 24 wounded. Dozens more are now missing, feared being kidnapped.

Now, when Iraqi police responded to the scene, they say that as they were approaching the scene of the attack to recover the dead, another bomb exploded. What they found was that at least 15 bombs had been placed around the bodies that had to be diffused before they were able to evacuate the dead.

We are also hearing that some of the wounded were evacuated to a hospital in Sadr City. That is the northern Shia suburb of Baghdad. The hospital there confirming that they did receive 12 bodies and another 27 wounded, but a very brazen and coordinated attack happening earlier today -- Fredricka.

WHITFIELD: And so, Arwa, with all of this, how is it that Iraqis get by on a day-to-day basis?

DAMON: Well, Fredricka, really getting by here is more best defined in terms of trying to manage your fear. Iraqis are constantly living in just an increased state of fear and anxiety.

Every single time they leave their homes, every single time they say good-bye to their families, they know that it could be their last. In the streets of Baghdad they face anything from car bombs, to targeted assassinations, to drive-by shootings.

The violence that we saw today, for example, a suicide bomber detonating his vest in a crowded marketplace. Timing the attack so that he hits this marketplace at the time when it would be at its busiest. In that attack, 60 Iraqis were killed, another 20 wounded. And this follows attacks that happened earlier today. Again, one of them targeting a market, the other one exploding in front of a bakery.

And if you remember last night's attacks in the southern city of Mahmoudiya, again in a marketplace, and again at its busiest time. Five motorcycles rigged with explosives detonating in that area.

This is meant to be the shopping season here. It's the end, nearing the end of the holy month of Ramadan. It is meant to be a time of celebration and festivities.

The biggest Muslim holiday is coming up, the holiday of Rayid (ph). But really no one here is celebrating. People are going to be spending this holiday indoors, where really they only have relative security -- Fredricka.

WHITFIELD: Arwa Damon in Baghdad.

Thanks so much.

The White House says it must have been lost in translation or perhaps taken out of context? Whatever the explanation, here's the State Department's Alberto Fernandez with a blunt assessment of U.S. failures in Iraq in an interview with Arab network Al-Jazeera.


ALBERTO FERNANDEZ, U.S. DIPLOMAT (through translator): History will decide what role the U.S. played, and god willing we tried to do our best in Iraq. But I think there is a big possibility for extreme criticism and because undoubtedly there was arrogance and stupidity from the United States in Iran.


WHITFIELD: U.S. State Department spokesman Sean McCormack says he talked to Fernandez about the remark. And according to McCormack, "Fernandez says he has been misquoted. I asked if he thought it was lost in translation and he said, 'That's my take.'"

There is much more on that story, plus comprehensive coverage of the war in Iraq on our award-winning Web site,

In other news "Across America," remembering the victims of a deadly terrorist attack. A ceremony was held at Arlington National Cemetery today and honored the 242 Americans killed in the 1983 bombing of the U.S. Marine barracks in Beirut.

A train carrying flammable liquid derailed today in Arkansas. It's unclear what type of liquid was involved, but police weren't taking any chances. So dozens of residents were ordered to evacuate. They have now been allowed to return to their homes.

Important recall information. Ballard's Farm Sausage is recalling its egg salad sold in 17 states. The company says the salad may be infected with listeria, a bacteria that can cause deadly infections in young children and in the elderly. It can also cause miscarriages and stillbirths in pregnant women. In Denver, a bizarre missing person's case solved. A man who had amnesia for over a month has been identified.

A woman in Washington State says he is her fiance, 40-year-old Jeffrey Ingram (ph). She says Ingram (ph) left town for Canada last month and then vanished completely.

So, will he or won't he? What Senator Barack Obama is saying now about running for president.

BOB FRANKEN, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: I'm Bob Franken in Texas, site of a congressional race where the voters have to vote twice in different ways.

WHITFIELD: And it's not your old school Sunday school. How some Christian groups are reaching out in imaginative new ways.

It's all ahead right here in the NEWSROOM.


WHITFIELD: Well, now to politics.

Illinois senator Barack Obama said again today he's not ruling out a run for the White House in 2008. Obama says he has thought about it but will take some time after the November elections to give a run for the presidency the kind of seriousness it deserves.


SEN. BARACK OBAMA (D), ILLINOIS: I think the speculation is more than I would have anticipated. Right now my focus is on the election that's three weeks away. And that's what I'm spending my time doing, is campaigning on behalf of other candidates. I'll have time to think about it after November 7th.


WHITFIELD: And November 7th is exactly what some folks in Texas are thinking about. Former House majority leader Tom DeLay used to have such a lock on power that he was called "The Hammer". But an ethics scandal forced him from office, and now Democrats are hoping to nail down a win in his Texas House seat.

CNN's Bob Franken is live in Sugarland, Texas, just outside of Houston, with the very latest.

And Bob, who are the players? We know that Tom DeLay isn't supposed to be one of the players, but as long as his name remains on the ballot he still kind of is.

FRANKEN: Well, and as a matter of fact, he is still popular enough in this area that he, despite visible campaigning for the Republican who was named to succeed him, a Houston city councilwoman, Shelley Sekula-Gibbs -- she's a physician, a dermatologist, a city councilwoman, as I said, now running for Congress to -- twice, actually. She is running to go to the next term of Congress.

She's not on the ballot there. She is a write-in candidate. She was not able to get on in time because of the legalities.

However, they also called a special election for September 7th. She is on the ballot. And it's a confused mess.

The Democratic, Nick Lampson, in this district probably would not have had much of a chance. The polls show that if both names were on the ballot she would have won handily. But they're not, so it is very confused.

And as you said, Tom DeLay is still a factor here. He has been seen out campaigning lately.

WHITFIELD: All right. And so, Bob, you mentioned Tom DeLay, still very popular. So you have to wonder, how might he be helping in this campaign?

FRANKEN: Well there was -- there have been some Republican heavyweights who have been around in this area. Of course, the Republican Party nationally has been having its share of problems. But in this area, as GOP-oriented as it is, it is still a good thing for Vice President Cheney to come to something a couple of weeks ago in the Houston area for all the Republican members of Congress. Tom DeLay was there.

The Republican Party would expect to win handily here except that you have this incredibly complicated situation that would seem to favor the Democrats.

WHITFIELD: So he doesn't seem embarrassed or anything? He seems like he's still holding his head high even though he is facing those indictments?

FRANKEN: Well, Tom DeLay believes that those indictments are political in nature. He says that repeatedly. He says that he is going to fight them, that he believes that he was railroaded.

Of course that was the charge that was leveled against DeLay. Hardball politics. He didn't get that nickname "The Hammer" for being somebody who played gently.

WHITFIELD: All right. Bob Franken, in Sugarland Texas.

Thanks so much.

Well, the old saying goes that in hard times people vote with their wallets. That should beep good news for the White House, which says economic times are good. But many middle class voters disagree, at least for their families.

Here is CNN Senior Political Analyst Bill Schneider.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) WILLIAM SCHNEIDER, CNN SR. POLITICAL ANALYST (voice over): Many Americans feel like the man who is about to drown crossing a stream that on the average is three feet deep. On the average the economy is doing well.

BUSH: The budget numbers are proof that pro-growth economic policies work.

SCHNEIDER: But not for people who feel themselves slipping underwater.

MARIO CUOMO, FMR. NEW YORK GOVERNOR: The people who are really doing well in the country now are the very wealthy people not the working middle class. That's slipping.

SCHNEIDER: In a new CNN poll conducted by the Opinion Research Corporation, a majority of Americans say the American dream has become the impossible dream for most people. Those with no college degree have lost faith in the American dream.

College graduates still believe, but only about 30 percent of Americans have finished college. There's a lot of middle class frustration out there, and it's focused on Washington. Even Republicans are running against Washington.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I know what you're feeling. Washington has no clue what's going on in your life.

SCHNEIDER: About three-quarters of the public sees Congress as out of touch with average Americans, about the same as in 1994, the last time voters overthrew the majority in Congress.

But it's not just Congress. Nearly 80 percent of Americans feel big business has too much influence over the Bush administration. Democrats are nearly unanimous in that sentiment.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: In Washington, we have a White House that has rolled over for the oil companies.

SCHNEIDER: As it happens, most Republicans also feel that way, a rare instance of bipartisan agreement.

(on camera): What's driving anti-Washington sentiment? Not just scandals, but also the view that the people we send to Washington are not doing their jobs. They're not solving problems like energy, healthcare, illegal immigration and wages, and Iraq.

Bill Schneider, CNN, Kansas City.


WHITFIELD: And CNN's Bill Schneider and Bob Franken are part of the best political team on television. And remember, for up-to-the- minute coverage on the midterm elections, log on to at any time.

Let's check in now with Bonnie Schneider in the weather center.


WHITFIELD: Well, is the U.S. government broken? Later, find out what Americans are saying about their government.

But first...

HARRIS WHITBECK, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Fredricka, I am in Panama, where voters today have been deciding on whether to approve the proposed expansion of the Panama Canal.

I will tell you more about that when CNN's NEWSROOM continues after this break.


WHITFIELD: Voters in Panama went to the polls today in a referendum on widening the Panama Canal. Local politicians say the move will bring in economic windfall to Panama.

But will it really? And will it help U.S. consumers at all?

CNN's Harris Whitbeck is live from Panama City with more.

WHITBECK: Fredricka, the polls closed about 20 minutes ago, and official results will be known in a couple of hours. But according to opinion polls that were released late last night, everything seems to indicate that the proposed expansion of the Panama Canal was in fact approved today.

Today's referendum came after about six months of at times intense debate about the future of the Panama Canal.


WHITBECK (voice over): Alberto Aleman has lost his voice in the last few days. Recently, the administrator of the Panama Canal has done a lot of talking, attempting to convince his fellow Panamanians to vote "yes" in a referendum on a proposal to widen the 92-year-old canal.

ALBERTO ALEMAN, PANAMA CANAL ADMINISTRATOR: To maximize our most important asset -- that is our geological position to the country. And we will do that by expanding the canal, because we have a problem with capacity. But not only capacity, but also what the restrictions economically (ph) poses today to the maritime industry because of the set of the locks.

WHITBECK: The proposed expansion would cost over $5 billion and would cut a third set of locks in the canal to allow for bigger cargo ships and faster transits between the Pacific and Atlantic oceans, modernizing what was once considered the engineering marvel of the world.

(on camera): The canal will reach its maximum operating levels in about three years. Proponents of the expansion program say unless it is put into place...

(voice over): ... the canal won't be able to accommodate the next generation of larger ships.

Canal administrators say the cost of widening it will be passed along to its users by hikes in transit fees, but opponents to the proposal say they believe Panamanians will end up footing the bill.

"They say they will borrow $2 billion to expand the canal," says this man. "Who is going to pay for that debt?"

Regardless of the question surrounding the proposal, the Sunday referendum is for many Panamanians a moment of pride. This is the first time in the canal's nearly 100-year history that Panamanians who took over control in 1999, and not the Americans who built it, will decide its future.

At the same time, Panamanians know that the government of Nicaragua is considering building an $18 billion canal that would compete with the one through Panama.


WHITBECK: The possibility of that increased competition from Nicaragua and the possibility that the canal might become obsolete unless it's widened weighed apparently heavily on the minds of voters today -- Fredricka.

WHITFIELD: Harris Whitbeck.

Thanks so much from Panama City.

More news around the world now. Iran's Foreign Ministry says Iran will respond if the U.N. Security Council imposes sanctions over its disputed nuclear program. The Security Council is expected to debate a draft resolution this week.

And tensions are high in Gaza between rival factions of the Palestinian government. Fatah-linked security officers closed stores, blocked roads and burned tires. They're demanding overdue salaries from the Hamas-led government.

And thieves helped uncover a 4,000-year-old tomb site in Egypt. They were digging there a few months ago but drew police attention and were arrested. The tomb honors three dentists, two of Egypt's pharaohs. Archaeologists say it shows the ancient Egyptians were concerned about taking good care of their teeth.

The issue of Iraq looms over the upcoming midterm elections. Will voters support staying the course?

And later, author Deepak Chopra addresses an issue many people are so afraid to talk about.

And it looks more like a concert than Sunday morning at church, but the message just might be the same. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

WHITFIELD: Half past the hour and here are the headlines.

Key Republican senators are calling for the Bush administration to set a timetable for greater Iraqi autonomy.

And the top Democrat on the Armed Services Committee is calling for a withdrawal of U.S. troops. In Baquba, Iraq, gunmen ambushed two busloads of Iraqi police recruits, prompting an hours-long gun battle between the Iraqi army and insurgents. Casualty reports range from 13 to 15 dead, and as many as 25 wounded. The Iraqi army was able to free as many as 25 of the kidnapped recruits, but dozens more were still reportedly taken.

Obama in '08? Illinois senator Barack Obama says he'll give a possible bid for the presidency greater thought after next month's elections.

A train accident in rural Arkansas prompts evacuations and derailed Sunday morning church services in the small town of Gerden (ph). Four train cars jumped the tracks this morning. Residents were evacuated over concerns the cars were carrying flammable liquids. No injuries were reported.

A new insurgent tactic comes to light in the fight for Iraq. The nation's defense ministry says a militia group known to wear Iraqi army uniforms while carrying out attacks is now distributing phony hotline cards to civilians in the hopes of ferreting out government informants. Iraqi soldiers found a cache of the fake hotline cards in southwest Baghdad.

We have heard a lot about the so-called Foley factor and its possible impact on the GOP come Election Day, but what about the Iraq factor and its influence at the ballot box?

As CNN's Brian Todd reports, it's already chipping away at the Republican base.


BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The president famously quoted as saying he won't leave Iraq even if the only ones still with him are his wife and dog. Is he getting closer to that tiny constituency?

Listen to key members of his own party.

SEN. CHUCK HAGEL (R), NEBRASKA: We are going to have to find a new strategy. The American people are not going to continue to support, sustain a policy that puts American troops in the middle of a civil war.

SEN. JOHN WARNER (R), ARMED SERVICES CHAIRMAN: In two or three months, if this thing hasn't come to fruition, and if this level of violence is not under control and this government able to function, I think it's the responsibility of our government internally to determine, is there a change of course that we should take?

TODD: Even Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison, a loyal Republican from the president's own state, says it's time to think about partitioning Iraq. And in the latest CNN poll, a third of Republicans say they oppose the war, the highest percentage since the conflict began.

Analysts say many Republicans who had taken a wait-and-see approach are at the end of that rope now with the violence spiking. They say the Iraq war is by far the number one issue in this midterm election and GOP candidates are feeling the backlash on the campaign trail.

Even the insurgents could be playing into this equation.

CALDWELL: We also realize that there is a midterm election that's taking place in the United States and that the extremist elements understand the power of the media.

TODD: Does it all mean a full-scale party revolt against the president's course in Iraq?

STUART ROTHENBERG, ROTHENBERG POLITICAL REPORT: I would not say not yet amassed defection. Growing doubt, growing concerns. After the election, if the Republicans take the hit that many of us think they will, then I think we'll start to see those massive defections.

TODD (on camera): That period after the midterm elections is also when the Iraq Study Group, a bipartisan panel led by former secretary of state James Baker, is due to present its report on what needs to be done in Iraq. If Baker's team recommends a completely new course, analysts say, the GOP defections could accelerate.

Brian Todd, CNN, Washington.


WHITFIELD: And all the latest information on Iraq is at your fingertips online. Just go to

CNN is the most trusted name in news.

And now to Afghanistan, where Taliban leader Mullah Mohammed Omar is reportedly making dire predictions to U.S. and international troops. The message attributed to the elusive Muslim cleric coincides with the end of the holy month of Ramadan. In his communique Omar urged NATO troops to leave Afghanistan while warning of a surprising level of violence in the months ahead.

Here at home, growing disenchantment with the U.S. government. Take a look at this CNN poll of Americans this week. More than three quarters of those surveyed say our government is broken. But not all is lost in the minds of respondents. Most believe it can be fixed.

So why do some have such sour sentiment?

CNN Joe Johns counts the ways. (BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

JOE JOHNS, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice over): Number 10: All pay, no work. Every member of the House of Representatives makes at least $165,000 a year. So far, they've spent only 94 days in session. That's almost $1,800 a day.

Nice work if you can get it.

Nine: What illegal immigrants? Wasn't immigration reform supposed to be about the most important issue this year? And what did they do about it? They voted to build a fence.

Eight: What are you wearing? The skanky way Florida Republican Mark Foley is reported to have talked to former congressional pages in electronic messages and when he got caught like a real profiling courage he announced he was gay, abused as a teenager by an unnamed priest, checked into alcohol rehab and left his colleagues to sort out the mess.


Seven: Oh say can you thieve? Duke Cunningham the former fighter jock turned jail bird once seemed like a poster child for patriotism until it turned out the California Republican was on the take and getting paid with just about everything, but the stars and stripes.

Six: The booze made me do it. The congressional pilgrimage is to rehab that featured some household names this year including Foley, Ohio Republican Bob Ney and Rhode Island Democrat Patrick Kennedy. People wished them well but were left wondering if rehab wasn't just an easy way out.

Five: Addicted to pork. The Congress is going to face it, it's addicted to pork. Bridges to nowhere, a museum to honor the folks responsible for the New Orleans levees that failed. Emergency money for non-emergencies and at the end, a record deficit.

Four: The "Macaca" moment. Senator George Allen of Virginia called a guy of Indian descent who was shadowing him Macaca and then claimed he didn't know what it meant. Well, it means monkey.

Three: Throwing in the towel. Texas Republican Tom DeLay, he was the House majority leader and got indicted in Texas in a case that was far from watertight, denied wrongdoing and then up and quit. What's up with that? The Capitol's tough guys, "The Hammer," gave up before fighting it out in court.

Two: Frostbite. The case of the cold, hard cash. The feds said they videotaped Louisiana Democrat Bill Jefferson accepting $100,000 and then found 90 grand in his freezer and they're investigating several allegedly shady deals. He hasn't been charged with anything and says he hasn't done anything wrong.

And the winner is number one on the list of dubious accomplishments of the 109th Congress. Jack Abramoff and Bob Ney, the corrupt couple, the lobbyist and the mayor of Capitol Hill, united by guilty pleas, things of value exchanged for official acts, plus a passion for golf, meals, tickets to sporting events and power. Jack is out of the lobbying game, but Ney is still a congressman and still cashing paychecks until his colleagues throw him out.

At $1,800 a day, who can blame him?

A typical fedora to old Jack, Bob and a session that many would sooner forget.


WHITFIELD: And that was Joe Johns reporting.

Don't miss CNN's Jack Cafferty and his prime-time special, "Broken Government". It airs tonight at 8:00 Eastern, 5:00 p.m. Pacific.


DEEPAK CHOPRA, "LIFE AFTER DEATH": My father said, "I had great innings (ph), and is now it's over." And that was more or less his last words.


WHITFIELD: Perhaps you are fearing what's next. Next, I will speak with Deepak Chopra about events that changed lives and inspired his new book.

And what's this? Machine guns at the lake? Find out where the shooting is taking place and what is being done about it.


WHITFIELD: Taking the fear out of death. Is it possible? That's one of the main goals of a new book by Deepak Chopra. It's called "Life After Death: The Burden of Proof".

Earlier I talked with Dr. Chopra and asked him what inspired him.


CHOPRA: The inspiration is to help patients that I used to see as very desperate and anxious and angry, in denial, frustrated, helpless, resigned to this catastrophe that we call death, and they feel there is nothing after death and they're so scared about it, the inspiration was to help them and to also show that there are examples of people who have come to terms with this part of themselves that is timeless, that doesn't die. And if we can have that experience right now we don't have to worry about death.

Death -- ultimately, death is the ultimate fear, but it's also the fear of all other fears. Because what is fear? It's always about loss, it's about abandonment, it's about stepping into the unknown, it's about relinquishing the known. How about if we knew the unknown now so we don't have to fear it? Because it's a field of immense creativity and possibilities.

WHITFIELD: So it's very complicated, and it really does take some convincing, though, because as you said, a lot of the patients that you encountered were fearful of death. Think about the things that they will lose, the pain that they might endure.

Your father exemplifies the kind of peaceful passing that you write about, that he died in a meditative state, and that's something that you want to try to convey to people through your book.

CHOPRA: Yes, that you can die peacefully and with happiness and with fulfillment. My father said, "I had great innings (ph), and now it's over." And that was more or less his last words. And he closed his eyes and he was gone. And...

WHITFIELD: So is this spirituality? Is it religion? And also cultural?

CHOPRA: It is -- well, it is definitely cultural. But now we are all becoming a mixed culture anyway.

It is spirituality in that any one can access it. Is it religious? Well, every religious tradition talks about these experiences.

You know, every religious tradition has -- is actually founded on the basis of hereafter. Now we have scientific evidence that our consciousness outlives the death of the molecules through which it expresses itself.

So I am not my body. I am manifesting through my body. I am not even my mind. Me, the real me, is a consciousness, is a spirit that is having a human incarnation for the time being.

WHITFIELD: Wow. So it doesn't just begin nor end in "Life After Death," your book, but people can also hear from you and hear about other folks who are visiting to talk to you on your satellite radio.

How is that going?

CHOPRA: It's going very well. Sirius...

WHITFIELD: It sounds exciting.

CHOPRA: Yes. It's going very well. I do the show every week from 10:00 to 1:00 on Saturdays on Sirius Satellite Radio, yes.

WHITFIELD: Well, fantastic. And if people want to continue to talk more about "Life After Death," they can on your blog,

Did I get that right?

CHOPRA: Yes. I post regularly and I answer people's questions. So they can come to, yes.

WHITFIELD: Well, so fascinating. And great to meet you.

CHOPRA: Thank you. My pleasure.

WHITFIELD: All right. Deepak Chopra.

CHOPRA: Thank you.

WHITFIELD: And the book is "Life After Death".


WHITFIELD: So popular. He's got huge fans out there. Everyone loves him.

CAROL LIN, CNN ANCHOR: He's a great guy.

WHITFIELD: Yes, he is.

LIN: Fun to interview. And really just -- you know, he exudes a real spirituality.

WHITFIELD: Yes, a real calmness.

Carol Lin here...

LIN: Yes.

WHITFIELD: ... with a take on what is ahead in the NEWSROOM.

LIN: That's right.

Well, coming up at 6:00, I'm going to be talking with our very own political director, Mark Preston (ph), about the polls that are coming out and how Americans feel about broken government. That's something you have been covering this hour.

But I also want to ask him about whether the recent violence in Iraq is going to turn it for the Democrats. He's got some pretty distinct opinions. And also, if there are any surprises in the polls that he's seeing about broken government and how Americans feel.

Actually, Americans seem more optimistic than I expected.


LIN: Yes.

WHITFIELD: All right.

LIN: Also, at 10:00, boy, the nasty ads that coming out of these congressional races.

WHITFIELD: Oh, it's getting ugly. LIN: We've already seen -- yes -- the whole situation with Harold Ford in Tennessee and his opponent. So we're going to be talking a little bit more about these ads showing some of them and whether they work. You know, whether they can backfire.

I mean, in Tennessee, Ford's competitor, his opponent is even asking the Republican National Committee to pull this ad. And it will not.

WHITFIELD: Right. The Republicans are saying, we're standing by it.

LIN: Yes.

WHITFIELD: All right. We'll be watching.

Thanks a lot, Carol.

LIN: All right. Thanks, Fred.

WHITFIELD: In our CNN "Security Watch," patrolling the northern border. It used to be that our border with Canada was the longest undefended frontier in the entire world. Well, not so since 9/11.

But as CNN's Jeanne Meserve reports, some people on both sides of border say the U.S. has gone too far.


JEANNE MESERVE, HOMELAND SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: A battle rages on the Great Lakes. Not with machine guns, but about them. For more than 200 years, the Coast Guard has conducted gunnery exercises on water. After 9/11, it put machine guns on some of its small boats to help with homeland security. Hitting a target in this environment requires a lot of practice.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We have compensate for the boat going up and also the swells in front of you at your target.

MESERVE: So the Coast Guard wants 34 permanent live fire training zones on the Great Lakes. Each would be closed to boaters about ten hours a year while the Coast Guard shoots. But it has created such a ruckus the Coast Guard has had to cease firing.

Even in the lakeside community of Grand Haven, Michigan, known as Coast Guard City, USA, the zones are controversial. A public meeting on the issue drew more than 100 people.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'm a salmon fisherman and I troll out there. And I'm out there all summer long and I really don't want to get hit with a stray bullet.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (INAUDIBLE) is firing weapons at position...

MESERVE: The Coast Guard notifies boaters by radio wherever it trains. It stops firing if any vessel strays too close. But then, there is spent ammunition. A study commissioned by the Coast Guard says it will not hurt the environment. But not everyone buys that.

JAMES CLIFT, MICHIGAN ENVIRONMENTAL COUNCIL: If you add up all the rounds -- and it's hundreds of thousands of rounds a year -- that adds up to 7,000 pounds of lead into the environment, where all of Michigan businesses put together discharge about 4,000 pounds of lead into our waterways.

MESERVE: However, the very loudest objections to the permanent firing zones come from the other side of the lakes -- Canada -- whose government is concerned about the environment and safety.

Mike Bradley, mayor of Sarnia, Ontario, says permanent training zones are part of an unjustified militarization of the U.S./Canada border.

MAYOR MIKE BRADLEY, SARNIA, ONTARIO: I think it really shows a contempt for what was at one point the longest unattended border in the world. We no longer are.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We can all sit around and pine for days gone by, but that's not going to defend American citizens from a threat.

MESERVE: The Coast Guard says bridges essential to U.S.-Canadian trade, power plants and other structures all need protection.

(on camera): The Coast Guard will not resume live fire exercises until the public's concerns have been heard and considered. But the suspension is having an impact.

REAR ADM. JOHN E. CROWLEY, JR., U.S. COAST GUARD: Today, we have Coast Guardsmen who are not fully prepared for all risks, all threats, all hazards, to be ready all the time.

MESERVE: Because they haven't been allowed to do this?

CROWLEY: They are not certified and trained today.

MESERVE (voice-over): The Coast Guard says the live fire exercises are a matter of national security. But for some citizens here, where there has never been a terrorist attack, that seems a distant concern.

Jeanne Meserve, CNN, Grand Haven, Michigan.


WHITFIELD: And stay tuned day and night for the most reliable news about your security.

They call it the Soul Factory. Sounds like it, looks like it. Find out why so many faithful are coming through the doors.

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



DERON CLOUD, FOUNDER, PASTOR: That's why men don't come to church. I don't want to come to church and do this.


WHITFIELD: Well, imagine a church service, folks in their Sunday best, a soul-stirring message delivered to a loyal congregation. Well, part of that picture is right.

Our Tony Harris goes inside the Soul Factory.


D. CLOUD: You are now walking into the soul factory.

TONY HARRIS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: It's not the traditional place of worship. The sanctuary is a theater setting. The pulpit, a stage, where life's issues are dealt with by melding biblical principles and the arts.

Deron Cloud, founder and pastor of the Soul Factory, called it the "unchurch".

CLOUD: I think the Soul Factory is the place where people can come and be themselves and not become controlled by a religious system that wants them to conform to the traditions that are really not working.

We die life, we groove life. One, two, three! Yeah!

HARRIS: Cloud and his wife Jill opened the first Soul Factory more than a decade ago in the Washington, D.C., area. The two began writing, producing and performing onstage using real-life situations as their script.

JILL CLOUD, CO-FOUNDER, SOUL FACTORY: So are you going to talk my -- your part and my part?

D. CLOUD: You said your mind wasn't going to do it.

HARRIS: They were overwhelmed by the response. And it was then they realized the need to establish a place where people could experience god while learning, as they put it, how to deal with being human from the inside out.

J. CLOUD: We realized that our productions definitely sort of brought in a social truth. And I think that people really want the truth. Social truth, meaning people wanted to hear things the way they lived it.

HARRIS: Then came the Soul Factory.

D. CLOUD: So that you understand, the Soul Factory theater, Christ has let us make disciples. Well, we just took that same scripture and we said, we are the factory, and we actually make souls. We actually remanufacture souls, or we get used to remanufactured souls.

HARRIS: There's no such thing as a typical church service at the Soul Factory.

D. CLOUD: This past service, I put on clown makeup to talk about how many preachers are turned into clowns in order to get the offering. And so I had on wigs and the whole nine yards trying to show they'll do whatever they can to get that money because they've got to pay them bills.

HARRIS: And it's not unusual for Deron to fire up the Batmobile for a drive. He owns one of the original Batmobiles from the '60s. He even compares him to the Caped Crusader.

D. CLOUD: Batman was the first superhero that didn't have superhero powers. But he still fought for justice. And all I do is fight for injustice, and fight for the freedom of people, meaning their mindsets, so that they can be free and live out their destiny.

HARRIS: The Soul Factory isn't bound by walls. Members get together and hit the streets.

D. CLOUD: We literally take our budget -- I would say about 40 percent of our budget, maybe 45 percent of our budget goes to outreach to help people.

HARRIS: They give out groceries, pay for gas, they've even stormed laundromats where they've doled out quarters for folks to wash their clothes.

D. CLOUD: If anything, what I would hope would be that the Soul Factory would be a place that could re-ignite their passion to want to be spiritual. To reignite their passion to believe that you can come to church and wear your nose ring, your earring, or your tattoo. God is still going to love you. He's still going to be with you.

HARRIS: Tony Harris, CNN, Atlanta.


WHITFIELD: Still much more ahead on CNN.

The FBI has a new tool for tracking down online predators. Find out how effective it's been.

I'm Fredricka Whitfield.

Carol Lin with more of the CNN NEWSROOM right after this.


LIN: You're in the NEWSROOM. I'm Carol Lin.

And straight ahead in this hour, are we counting down the days until U.S. troops can come home? A timetable for the Iraqi government could be on the table. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: On behalf of Al, his actual name is Jeff Alan Ingram (ph).


LIN: He lost his identity, but now it's found. How a man suffering with amnesia reconnected with his family.



UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I met Harold at the Playboy party.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I'd love to pay higher managed (ph) taxes.


LIN: The gloves have come off. They're getting down and dirty in the race for the Senate in Tennessee.