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Iraqi Deputy Prime Minister Hospitalized After Assassination Attempt; Fifteen British Marines Seized by Iran's Navy in Persian Gulf; War Money

Aired March 23, 2007 - 09:00   ET


TONY HARRIS, CNN ANCHOR: And good morning, everyone. You are in the CNN NEWSROOM.
I'm Tony Harris.

HEIDI COLLINS, CNN ANCHOR: And good morning to you.

I'm Heidi Collins.

Watch events come in to the NEWSROOM live.

Here's what's on the rundown for March 23rd. And it is Friday.

One of Iraq's deputy prime ministers apparently targeted by a suicide bomber at his Baghdad compound.

In Washington, a critical vote set on Iraq.

HARRIS: Britain says Iran has seized 15 British Marines from this ship while on patrol in the Persian Gulf. London demanding the immediate release of their military personnel.

COLLINS: Police now call it murder. A coach found strangled inside his Caribbean hotel room. Searching for a suspect in the NEWSROOM.

HARRIS: And at the top this morning, an assassination attempt in Iraq. One of the country's deputy prime ministers survives a deadly suicide bombing. Right now, he is hospitalized at a U.S. facility.

Let's get you straight to Baghdad and CNN's Kyra Phillips.

Kyra, good morning to you.

What is the condition of the deputy prime minister right now, and what do we know about the attack itself?


And that's -- that's what this -- that's the big question, actually, I should say right now. We don't know if he's going to survive this surgery or not. We're getting conflicting reports from various sources.

We've been told that he was taken right to the Green Zone, he's in the middle of surgery in a military hospital there. But Tony, look at the devastation here at the compound.

Already, we're getting reports that there are nine people that have been killed, 15 wounded. This blast was massive. You can see the destruction. You can see -- I'll be frank -- the body parts and what happened inside this compound. So, the fact that the deputy prime minister could possibly still be alive will be an amazing situation considering the devastation that was around him.

This is what we can tell you. A suicide bomber made his way through the armed compound into the deputy prime minister's facility here.

How did that happen? Well, they're saying they think it's an inside job. They think this assassination attempt happened within his own inner circle. That's the only way this suicide bomber could have gotten this close and into that compound considering all the guns, all the checkpoint, all the security.

And looking at the devastation, this is what causes it. That suicide bomber had a vest on with the plastic explosives, and then these ball bearings, Tony, this is what causes the devastation.

This is actually from the vest of that suicide bomber. Thousands of these little ball bearings explode from the vest, and that is how these people lost their lives and how this devastation happened, because of that force and the shock wave that is sent through an area.

It's powerful. You can hear it. I mean, pretty much, if you were here in central Baghdad, you could hear these explosions.

Now, how exactly did that suicide bomber make it in? There are a number of secure checkpoints that you have to go through. And therein lies the problem, security. You don't know who the good guys are, who the bad guys are, and who exactly is working for you or against you.

This is something that happens every single day -- Tony.

HARRIS: Wow. Kyra, was there also a car bombing associated that followed shortly after this suicide bombing attack? And was anyone injured in the car bombing?

PHILLIPS: It happened simultaneously. Within, I would say, probably under eight minutes.

You had the suicide bomber, and then you had the car bomb go off. We believe that that car bomb was also inside the compound. That car made it into the compound, so it looked like it was a pretty precise attack.

And, you know, this deputy prime minister, he's a Sunni, and in his district of Zorba (ph), right now, there's tremendous conflict. There's a huge battle going on among the Sunnis and al Qaeda.

So, why was he targeted? Well, obviously, he's working for the Iraqi government. There's a number of assassination attempts that have happened and also have been successful against members of the Iraqi government.

So, this could be someone within his own party that thinks he's a traitor, it could be somebody from the outside. You just can't confirm details like that when you deal this type of violence every day.

HARRIS: CNN's Kyra Phillips for us in Baghdad.

Kyra, thank you.

COLLINS: An international incident this hour in the Persian Gulf. Britain saying 15 of its Marines have been seized by Iran's Navy.

Our Jamie McIntyre is following the story from the Pentagon.

Jamie, what do we know about what's happened here?

JAMIE MCINTYRE, CNN SR. PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Well, we know that there's no U.S. military involvement, but a U.S. military official who's been monitoring the developments in the northern Persian Gulf gives CNN these details of the incident. The ship involved is the British Royal Navy ship the HMS Cornwall, which just recently took up station in the northern Persian Gulf conducting routine maritime operations.

It dispatched a team of Royal Marines on two smaller boats called rig boats, for rigid-hull inflatable boats, to inspect a vessel that was believed to be suspected of smuggling automobiles. After completing that inspection, the Marines were about to leave when six vessels, we're told, from the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Naval Corps, not the regular Iranian Navy, showed up and insisted that the Marines were in Iranian territorial waters.

The British government insists that its sailors and Marines were, in fact, in Iraqi territorial waters. This is right near the border between Iraq and Iran, near the Shatt-al-Arab waterway, an area where there have been a lot of disputes in the past.

The long and short of it was the Iranian authorities, the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Naval Corps, took the 15 British Royal Marines and their two boats into custody, and took them to Iran. Obviously, the British government very upset about this. They issued the following statement: "We are urgently pursuing this matter with Iranian authorities at the highest level. The British government is demanding the immediate and safe return of our people and equipment."

At this point, the U.S. government doesn't have a direct role, but it's monitoring with great interest, obviously, because Britain is part of the U.S. coalition that's conducting those maritime operations in the Gulf.

COLLINS: Right. And obviously, Jamie, as we try to figure out what happened here, I mean, this is a place where British patrol is not unusual. They're in this area because of the waterway being used as sort of a smuggling route. But has this type of incident ever happened before?

MCINTYRE: Well, you know, there's been -- over this the years there have been a lot of incidents between Iraq and Iran.


MCINTYRE: In fact, at one point just last year, Iran detained some Iraqi sailors, again, in a dispute over the border. And back in 2004, Iran briefly seized three small British naval vessels. In both cases, the people were eventually released, but, again, not after -- not until after some tense moments and some negotiation and some posturing back and forth.

COLLINS: I bet. All right.

CNN's Jamie McIntyre from the Pentagon for us on this one.

Jamie, thank you.

HARRIS: Bombs, bullets and bucks -- they are the weapons of war in both Iraq and Afghanistan, and also in Congress. This hour, House Democrats push their first binding challenge to the fighting in Iraq. The bill provides more funding, but also demand that combat troops come home by September of next year.

CNN Congressional Correspondent Andrea Koppel has the latest from Capitol Hill.


ANDREA KOPPEL, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice over): The biggest resistance isn't coming from the other side, from Republicans who are mostly united in opposition. But rather, from a handful of undecided Democrats, including freshman Keith Ellison of Minnesota, Indiana's Brad Ellsworth, and Georgia's Hank Johnson. In fact, Republicans accuse Democratic leaders of adding billions in sweeteners to the bill's already steep price tag in hopes of buying some votes.

REP. DAVID DREIER (R), CALIFORNIA: It enjoyed such limited support on the other side of the aisle, that it had to be laden with unrelated -- unrelated pork in order to win enough votes to have any hope of passing.

KOPPEL: That said, the list has grown shorter. In the last day or so, anti-war Democrat James McGovern of Massachusetts, who had been on the fence, said he now supports it.

REP. JAMES MCGOVERN (D), MASSACHUSETTS: I've come to the conclusion that defeating the supplemental bill before us today would send a message to George Bush and Dick Cheney that they will continue to have a free pass from this Congress to do whatever the hell they want to do.

KOPPEL: And McGovern is not the only one who has just come onboard.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Congressman Cumming's office?

KOPPEL: Maryland's Elijah Cummings, another anti-war Democrat in his seventh term who sits on the Armed Services Committee, says he's been getting mixed signals from his constituents. Some urging him to support the bill, others lobbying against it. Now Cummings says he's decided to vote yes and insists Democratic leaders didn't twist his arm.

REP. ELIJAH CUMMINGS (D), MARYLAND: And I've also come to the conclusion that I do not have the right to remain silent on this war. And a vote against the supplemental would cause us to have what I would call a strip-down bill, and there would be no voice saying, Mr. Bush, please stop this war immediately.


HARRIS: Our congressional correspondent, Andrea Koppel, joins us now.

Andrea, good morning.

KOPPEL: Good morning.

HARRIS: This bill sets a deadline for U.S. troops to leave Iraq, and yet no widespread support, I think we can hear there from Elijah Cummings, from anti-war Democrats.

How come?

KOPPEL: It does seem counterintuitive, Tony. Here you've got people like Elijah Cummings and others who have been against the war from the beginning, and this bill for the first time sets that deadline that they've wanted. Why wouldn't they support it?

Well, although Elijah Cummings has changed his mind, people like Maxine Waters and Lynn Woolsey haven't. And the reason is twofold.

One, because they want to get out now. They don't want to even wait until the deadline that's in this bill which says the end of August.

And the other reason is that the vehicle for this language is actually a supplemental war spending bill which adds over $100 billion to help fund the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. And they're saying, we don't support this war, we didn't support it, why would we vote to give it more money?

So, what you have, Tony, in effect, is you're going to have in a few minutes just off the House floor where I'm standing right now, you're going to have a vote in which you have the left wing of the Democratic Party, many members of it, basically voting alongside Republicans to oppose this bill.

HARRIS: Amazing. Congressional Correspondent Andrea Koppel for us this morning.

Andrea, thank you.

Here's a question for you. What do Iraq and spinach have in common? It is a question only Congress can answer. We are checking the details of an emergency spending bill straight ahead in the NEWSROOM.

COLLINS: Want to go ahead and get you to some sound that we've gotten in from the commander of the CTF-150. That's the maritime task force of this HMS Cornwall. We've been telling you about the story where 15 British Marines on patrol in the Persian Gulf were actually seized today by the Iranian Navy.

Again, this is commander Nick Lambert. Want to go ahead and listen to his thoughts on the situation.


NICK LAMBERT, CTF-150 COMMANDER: Well, my immediate concern, obviously, is my people. I've got 15 sailors and Marines who have been arrested by the Iranians, and my immediate concern is that they are -- their safety and their safe return to me is ensured. And I can insure all of the families who are listening out there that everything is being done to the highest level of the U.K. government, and, indeed, in the coalition structure that we're working under to ensure that safe return as soon as possible.


COLLINS: There is some debate over whether or not these sailors actually crossed into Iranian territory or not, and that could be at the heart of this matter. Again, this has happened before, as we learned from Jamie McIntyre at the Pentagon, a couple of years ago in 2004, where eight members of the British military were also seized in Iranian waters.




HARRIS: The Iraq war, money with strings attached. The House debate is under way on a bill designed to force an end to the Iraq war. The Democrats' bill provides $124 billion in funding, but it requires combat troops leave Iraq by September of '08. A vote is expected today.

Let's check with a key Republican and presidential candidate. Duncan Hunter joins us from Capitol Hill.

Congressman, good to see you.


HARRIS: How are you going to vote? HUNTER: I'm voting no. And everybody, Democrat and Republican, should vote no on this bill. And there's a very strong reason to do that.

This bill requires something we've never required of our forces since we were a nation, and that is that no unit can be sent into Iraq even as reinforcements without waiting for 15 days after notification to Congress. And that could mean you could have a life-and-death situation in Iraq where you have to send in reinforcements, where you have to send in specialties like bomb squads or IED teams to go in and protect our troops. And for the first time in our nation's history, you have to wait, you have to send notice to my committee, wait for 15 days.

Two weeks can be a lifetime for our soldiers in the field.


HUNTER: This is a bad piece of legislation.

HARRIS: Hey, Congressman, aren't all those teams on the ground now in Iraq?

HUNTER: No, they're not. You obviously have American teams that are developing new capabilities against things like the chlorine gas bombs that have been going off in Anbar Province. You have lots of new things that crop up on the battlefield, and you have to send in new specialties all the time.

And beyond that, you might just need reinforcements. You might have a -- have a part of the country that's being overrun. You might need to send in Special Operations quickly.

The idea that our combat teams now are going to wait for a two- week notification to Congress before they can move in and assist their buddies on the battlefield has never happened in the history of this nation. I don't know why the Appropriations Committee put this thing in. Everybody should vote no.

HARRIS: Do you honestly believe that a request to send in special teams to respond to an emergency on the ground would be denied?

HUNTER: Here's the law. The law says they cannot go in under the law -- this is page 72 of this bill -- until 15 days have expired. It's a notice and wait requirement. The first time we've ever done it in the history of the country. Bad news for the U.S. military.

HARRIS: OK. Let's listen to House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer this morning with Miles O'Brien talking about some of the language in this legislation.


REP. STENY HOYER (D), MAJORITY LEADER: This is not tomorrow or overnight. If the president's going to succeed, as he says his new program's going to succeed, he is given the time frame in which to do that. This bill gives him all of the resources he asked to do that. This bill does not in any way impede General Petraeus or any of his commanders, or any people on the ground from exercising that strategy or tactic they believe is necessary and appropriate to accomplish their objectives.


HARRIS: And Congressman, you just flat out disagree with that.

HUNTER: Well, line six, page 72 of the bill says you have to wait 15 days before reinforcements can be sent in. They have to send a notice to my committee, the Armed Services Committee, and to the Defense Appropriations Subcommittee. That the law.


HUNTER: So, Mr. Hoyer may be saying good things that sound good. The law says something else.

HARRIS: Are you going to offer up an amendment today to strip that kind of language out?

HUNTER: I have offered an amendment to the Rules Committee to strip all this language out. At this point it's been rejected.

HARRIS: OK. What do you think, will the bill pass?

HUNTER: You know, I think it's close, and I haven't -- obviously, the Democrats would not be bringing the bill to the floor unless they were confident. I think it's going to be a tragedy if it does pass.

HARRIS: So, if it passes, are we back to the kind of arguments going back and forth where Democrats don't care about national security, Democrats don't care about soldiers on the ground, certainly not to the extent that Republicans care about national security and our troops?

HUNTER: Listen, I don't question the motives of my colleagues. I think people have come to this building, vote in the interest of what they think is the interest of the United States.

What I do question is bad legislation that ends up endangering troops on the ground. This is a bad piece of legislation.

The other thing it does is, it doesn't add something that the military asked for. They asked for these new ambush vehicles that have the v-shaped bottoms that will protect our people against mines on the roads, and that's one thing that they rejected. They couldn't find the $2 billion extra for those vehicles. They did find money for shrimp and spinach.

So, there's a lot of things you can aknack this bill, but this piece of language that says you have to wait for two weeks before you can send in reinforcements is deadly to troops, potentially. HARRIS: Yes. You are referring to some of the sweeteners in the deal, millions, for example, to make spinach farmers whole again after last year's E. coli episode.


HARRIS: I recall at least some of those farmers are located in your home state of California. There's money in here for Katrina recovery.

Are you unwilling to attach strings to the president's war strategy even if it helps people in your home state, people in Louisiana, real people in trouble, maybe get some help getting out of trouble?

HUNTER: Absolutely. The spinach farmers -- and I think I have got some in my district -- and the shrimp fishermen, I would simply say this: All those people have young men and women in uniform in the two war fighting theaters in Iraq and Afghanistan. This bill is bad for people in uniform, and I would tell that to any farmer. I'd much rather take that spinach money and put it in these vehicles that can deflect roadside bombs.

HARRIS: California Congressman and Republican presidential candidate Duncan Hunter.

Thanks for your time this morning.

HUNTER: Thank you. See you.

COLLINS: It sailed the seas for decades and served in war. Now this historic U.S. warship is taking a bow. Emotional sendoff in the NEWSROOM.

MORGAN NEILL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Next up, a (INAUDIBLE) story in Jamaica turns into a genuine international whodunit.


HARRIS: And good morning again, everyone.

An assassination attempt in Iran to tell you about. One of the country's deputy prime ministers, Salam Zubaie, injured in a suicide bombing. He is now hospitalized at a U.S. facility in the Green Zone.

An Iraqi official says six people were killed and 15 others wounded in the blast. According to security officials and witnesses, the suicide bomber detonated his explosives vest inside the prime minister's compound. And a few minutes later, a car bomb exploded outside the building's perimeter.

Zubaie is one of two Iraqi deputy prime ministers. He is a Sunni.

COLLINS: It was a shocker for sports fans around the world, the death of Bob Woolmer. Today, another jolt. Police say the legendary cricket coach was murdered.

CNN's Morgan Neill is in Kingston, Jamaica.


NEILL (voice over): Five days after the mysterious death of Pakistan coach Bob Woolmer in Jamaica, police walked to the table and dropped this bomb on the cricket world.

KARL ANGELL, JAMAICAN POLICE SPOKESMAN: Our policy report states that Mr. Woolmer's death was due to asphyxia as a result of manual strangulation. In these circumstances, the matter of Mr. Woolmer's death is of intrigue to the Jamaican police as a case of murder.

NEILL: Police say they found no signs of robbery or forced entry, puzzling considering the nature of the crime. Deputy police commissioner Mark Shield was asked what it would have taken to commit the murder.

MARK SHIELD, DEPUTY POLICE COMMISSIONER: It would take some force, because Bob was a large man, and therefore it would have taken some significant force in which to subdue him and cause strangulation.

NEILL: Woolmer was found dead in his hotel room Sunday morning, the day after his team suffered a shocking loss to prohibitive underdog Ireland, in the first round of the World Cup. The chief of the international cricket counsel was asked if match fixing could have been the motive for the killing.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We have a problem with corruption.

NEILL: With huge money at stake, match fixing has plagued cricket in recent years. Authorities aren't singling out match fixing as a motive in Woolmer's death but they're not ruling it out either.

Bob Woolmer has made a stamp on cricket since the mid 1970s, when he played for the English team. After his playing days he quickly established himself as a coach, first with the South African team, then with Pakistan.


COLLINS: Morgan Neil joining us now live. Morgan, tell us what the police are doing now, what's the next step in this investigation?

NEILL: Well, Heidi, police say they've got several lines of inquiry but no suspects. Among the things that they're doing, they seized all the closed-circuit television records kept at the hotel in hopes of seeing something that could help them out in their investigation.

They're also working through a list of people that Woolmer could have had contact with near the time of this crime, going through what is a long list because -- considering the cricket World Cup was taking place in the same hotel, you have players that were in the World Cup, you have many members of the media, so a lot of people going in and out. That's a very long list.

And also they've given out phone numbers for anyone to call who may have some sort of information about motive to the crime or any other information that could help them resolve this crime -- Heidi.

COLLINS: I also know police have been asked about match fixing in this investigation. What do you know about that?

NEILL: Well, that's one of the first questions that police were asked once it was announced that this was being treated as a murder case and over the past few decades, there have been numerous scandals involving match fixing, and that is players throwing matches for huge amounts of money.

Several -- players from several cricketing nations have been banned for life. Others involved in this game, as non-players, have been jailed on this, Heidi.

COLLINS: Morgan Neill, reporting for us from Kingston, Jamaica, today. Morgan, thank you.

HARRIS: Let's get you to the NEWSROOM now. T.J. Holmes is following a developing story out of Chicago. What do you have for us, T.J.?

T.J. HOLMES, CNN ANCHOR: Check out this picture, Tony. This is a strange sight here. You see the top right of the screen there. And this is --

HARRIS: Oh, yes.

HOLMES: But that is a fire truck that is on its side here in Chicago. This is in the Chicago's south side in the Inglewood district, but that is a fire truck on its side involved in an accident.

Now, a big old fire truck, what in the world could knock it on its side like that, what happened? Well, look to the left of your screen: a school bus apparently is what it ran into. Yes, a collision some kind of way between a fire truck and a school bus.

Now, good thing here, know what you're thinking here, kids on the bus -- no, there were not kids on the bus, according to local affiliates. The school bus was empty, just the driver on that bus. However, there were a couple of firefighters, maybe as many as three on the fire truck, and we understand they do have some kind of injuries but don't know the severity of those injuries.

And also not sure here if the fire truck was heading to the scene, if they had the siren on and they were heading to some other scene for some emergency when this accident happened. We do not know. But certainly as you know, traffic is always pretty much a mess often times in big cities and certainly in a city like Chicago.

So several streets happen to be closed down right now causing quite a mess and quite a backup. But don't exactly know what happened and what was happening at the time, but the fire truck apparently clipped the school bus, knocked out a utility pole, and flipped on its side and there it rests.

But the good news here is that it doesn't appear that the injuries to the firefighters are too severe at this time and also that the school bus was empty, which is certainly good news. But certainly something you do not see every day, Tony, and something that can make a fire truck get on its side like that.

HARRIS: It can't help your commute, too.

HOLMES: Yes, it will. So we're going to keep an eye on this, try to get an update on the condition of those firefighters, Tony.

HARRIS: That would be great. All right, T.J., thanks.

COLLINS: Fighting cancer, forging ahead. John and Elizabeth Edwards back on the presidential campaign trail today. Determination in the NEWSROOM.

HARRIS: A merchant opens for business and makes a shocking discovery. The body of a young man. The story here, we'll tell you in the NEWSROOM.


COLLINS: There you go, the opening bell on a Friday. Like you hear the end of that, look at all those people clapping because it's Friday. No, maybe not.

Well, we are looking at the number now for you, opening up slightly, eight points or so. The DOW Jones industrial average sitting at 12,469. The NASDAQ up about two-and-a-half or so. They didn't change a whole lot, stocks anyway, because of the data that was released on the housing outlook. You may remember us talking about that a little bit yesterday.

Also, this interesting story coming out of Iran and Britain about Iran capturing 15 British sailors in the waterway there. So apparently, investors are feeling a little cautious because of that news, which is interesting. We'll get more on all of this for you coming up a little bit later.

HARRIS: You wonder how investors process any little thing and factor it into their calculations. What are you working on there? Where is he?


HARRIS: Hi. Good to see you, Doctor.

MARCIANO: Just getting the latest.

HARRIS: The latest, yes, sure.

MARCIANO: I should, like a Pavlovian (ph) dog, know that the sound of thunder and lightning and get to the map.


COLLINS: Battling cancer on the campaign trail. John and Elizabeth Edwards heading for a fundraising stop in California today. They're forging ahead with his presidential bid after revealing her cancer has returned.

CNN's Mary Snow reports on the couple's determination to move forward.


MARY SNOW, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): John and Elizabeth Edwards decided they wanted everyone to hear it from them -- the cancer that Elizabeth Edwards battled came back.

FORMER SENATOR JOHN EDWARDS, PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: It's no longer curable. It is completely treatable.

SNOW: Unlike in 2004, when Elizabeth Edwards was diagnosed with breast cancer, this time the malignancy was found in her bone. The Edwards say they are optimistic and will press on with the presidential campaign. And Elizabeth says she's ready.

ELIZABETH EDWARDS, JOHN EDWARDS' WIFE: One of the reasons to do a press conference as opposed to a press release is that you can see, I mean, I don't look sickly. I don't feel sickly. And, you know, I'm as ready as any -- any person can be for that.

SNOW: It is a battle they faced before, when Elizabeth Edwards was diagnosed with breast cancer in the final days of her husband and Senator John Kerry's 2004 presidential campaign.

Since then, Edwards has said his wife's health was a factor in his decision whether or not to run for president. But he says the doctors told him the campaign won't affect cancer treatments.

J. EDWARDS: Let me be absolutely clear -- any time, any place that I need to be with Elizabeth, I will be there, period.

SNOW: The couple held a press conference near the site where they were married 30 years ago this summer. And as they left to continue with the campaign, Elizabeth's doctor gave a more detailed diagnosis.

DR. LISA CAREY, ELIZABETH EDWARDS' DOCTOR: Her cancer looks like it's primarily in the bone. There may be some other sites, but they're very small and not as clear.

SNOW: And the exact treatment hasn't yet been decided.

(on camera): But the Edwards aren't waiting to get back to campaigning. Both John and Elizabeth Edwards are scheduled to attend a Hollywood fundraiser on Friday.

Mary Snow, CNN, Chapel Hills, North Carolina.


HARRIS: Luring people in a lurid way.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We put a couple people who use the phrase bait and switch. I don't think we're doing that.


HARRIS: What do you think? Is this selling sex in church? The story ahead in the NEWSROOM.


HARRIS: Packing the pews for sermons, an easy job when you're preaching about sex.

CNN's Ted Rowlands looks at the R-rated message at one Florida church.


TED ROWLANDS, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Sex gets people's attention...


ROWLANDS: ... which this billboard in Florida certainly did.

MATT KELLER, PASTOR, NEXT LEVEL CHURCH: We were going for a shock-and-awe factor. And we certainly got that.

ROWLANDS: The shock was that billboard, which some people thought was vulgar, came from a church...

M. KELLER: Part three of this series we're calling "My Great Sex Life."

ROWLANDS: ... part of a marketing campaign promoting a series of sermons on sex.

M. KELLER: ... God created sex, that God is for sex.

ROWLANDS: Thirty-one-year-old pastor Matt Keller runs the nondenominational Next Level Church in Fort Myers. Before this service, a warning to parents was posted that the material may not be suitable for children.

M. KELLER: So, the question is not, am I going to have sexual desire in my life? The question, what am I going to do about it?

ROWLANDS: Keller's message, while delivered with a hip conversational, passionate style, is pretty much by the book. He preaches that sex is for single people to avoid and married men and women to enjoy.

His wife, Sarah, was at his side for this service about sex in marriage.

SARAH KELLER, NEXT LEVEL CHURCH: And I think that culture wants us to buy into that lie that sex is a duty, especially once you get into marriage. It's just kind of like, I guess he needs it, so here I am.

M. KELLER: God created sex. Why not at least tell people what he has to say about it?

ROWLANDS: Keller says, since starting the sex series, church membership has grown about 30 percent. And it's a growing trend, especially among evangelicals.

Kurt Fredrickson is the director of pastoral ministry at the Fuller Theological Seminary in California.

KURT FREDRICKSON, DIRECTOR OF PASTORAL MINISTRY, FULLER THEOLOGICAL SEMINARY: To hit those issues head on in a church context, I think, is really helpful.

ROWLANDS: Church members we talked to say they like the idea of bringing an issue like sex out in the open in church.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I think, in today's society, it's not talked about enough.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We will be looking forward to, you know, hearing some -- you know, some things and how to open up our communication and improve our -- our sex life.

ROWLANDS: But not everyone is thrilled. Because of complaints, Keller says the billboard company refused to allow the sex slogan for a second month. So, now it's just the church's name.

FREDRICKSON: My issue was that the billboard had this sense of luridness and deception. It was trying to draw people someplace. And, when they got drawn to a church, I think people would feel cheated or duped.

M. KELLER: We have heard a couple of people who have used the phrase bait and switch. I don't think we're doing that. It's not about us trying to grow our church. It's not about us trying to build this big thing. It's about us building people. We're in the people- building business.

ROWLANDS: Randy Newton (ph) says the billboard campaign caught his attention. And now he says he's hooked.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's really in your face. And it's a for- real topic. You know, everybody -- everybody deals with it. And for it to actually happen in the church, and for the pastor to actually step up and say, hey, this is what we're going to say about it as a church, is a really bold statement. M. KELLER: God has given us the ability to have a great sex life in our marriages.

ROWLANDS: Everyone agrees that sex sells, but Matt Keller thinks he can use it to fill people's hearts, while also filling his seats.

Ted Rowlands, CNN, Fort Myers, Florida.


COLLINS: It sailed the sea for decades, and served in war. Now this historic U.S. warship is taking a bow. The emotional sendoff in the NEWSROOM.


COLLINS: History on the high seas unfolding right now in Jacksonville, Florida. The aircraft carrier USS John F. Kennedy is being decommissioned this morning. The ceremony set to begin next hour. The JFK carrier, known as Big John, has served for almost 40 years. You'll see a live shot there now. It's important operations for both Iraq wars and the campaign in Afghanistan.

The warship will be towed to Philadelphia, where it will be placed on inactive status. But one of the turrets, the cabin designed by Jacqueline Kennedy, will be removed and displayed in a Navy museum.

HARRIS: A suicide bomber targets one of Iraq's deputy prime ministers. We'll take you live to Baghdad, straight ahead in the NEWSROOM.

COLLINS: Getting the story first, but getting it wrong. Big scoop backfires. We're minding the media in the NEWSROOM.


COLLINS: You already know to catch us on weekday mornings from 9:00 a.m. until noon Eastern, but that's not all. You can take us with you anywhere you go on your iPod. The CNN NEWSROOM podcast available 24/7, right on your iPod.

HARRIS: He was a U.S. treasury secretary. Now he is giving new life to some of our nation's most blighted and poverty-stricken areas.

CNN's Ali Velshi with a look at Robin Rubin and his life after work.


ALI VELSHI, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The Bronx, Southeast Washington D.C., the Mississippi Delta, all stark images of poverty and a sharp contrast to the life of a former U.S. treasury secretary. But Robert Rubin made one trip to the Bronx that completely changed his perspective.

ROBERT RUBIN, FMR. TREASURY SECY.: I was astounded, because what I saw in the South Bronx, which in a sense was the arch-symbol of urban decay at one time, was block after block after block after block after block of renovated housing. There was a beginning of new business activity. There was the creation of a real community. And so, I said, well, how did this happen? And that's when I heard about LISC.

VELSHI: LISC is the Local Initiative Support Corporation. It's a nonprofit organization that helps community groups fund projects to redevelop rundown neighborhoods.

RUBIN: I left Treasury in July of 1999, and Michael Rubinteer (ph) of LISC came to me and said, our chairman is going to step down; we'd like you to be chairman. And that was the first thing that I did. And the reason I did it was I think that these problems of the inner cities and of the distressed rural areas are a critical issue for our country. Socially, morally, but also very much economically.

VELSHI: Rubin is still active in the for-profit world. He's a senior adviser for financial giant Citigroup, and he sit on a few corporate boards, but he says working with LISC is what really drives him.

RUBIN: I think the best way to get a sense of how important LISC is, is to go on a little tour of project sites, and it really is interesting, because what you see very often with the pictures, and what it looked like before, and then of course we'll see what it looks like after, you've got a sense of really how great these accomplishments have been.

Ali Velshi, CNN, New York.