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Operation Arrowhead Ripper; Afghanistan President Angry Words at Coalition Forces; Coalition Aircraft Fire Kills Afghan Children; South Carolina Furniture Store Fire; Woman Branded; Mike Bloomberg Independent, Not Running; Crossing Guard Alleged Child Molestation; North Korea Promises Again

Aired June 23, 2007 - 12:00   ET


BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN NEWS ANCHOR: Thank you so much T.J.and Betty. Straight ahead this hour, we will be taking you to one of the most dangerous places in Iraq, as U.S. troops target an al Qaeda stronghold.
Also, menacing messages from an e-mail hitman. Find out how do avoid this cyber shakedown.






KEILAR: Presidential politics brings us the viral video of the week. The news unfolding live on Saturday, June 23rd. I'm Brianna Keilar in for Fredricka Whitfield and you're in the NEWSROOM

We begin with fierce fighting in Iraq on day five of "Operation Arrowhead Ripper." U.S. soldiers are battling al Qaeda militants in Diyala Province and the military says they're tightening the grip on the insurgent stronghold of Baqubah, north of Baghdad.

Hala Gorani now joins us live from Baghdad -- Hala.


KEILAR: I wanted to ask -- Sorry Hala, go ahead.

Sorry Hala, go ahead.

GORANI: All right, well, here's the latest really, on "Operation Arrowhead Ripper." You mentioned that it is targeting insurgent bases in a province north and east of Baghdad, that is Diyala. And especially focusing on the capital of that Diyala Province, Baqubah, involving 10,000 U.S. troops.

Now, this is taking U.S. troops closer to danger, closer to action on a house-to-house, block-to-block search for these insurgents, as well as factories that manufacture car bombs and IEDs -- IEDs that are the biggest killer of American troops.

Now, the question out there is, did some of these insurgent troops leave the area of Baqubah and Diyala Province in anticipation of the operation? General Odierno told reporters -- he's No. 2 commander of U.S. forces in Iraq -- that that was a possibility. So, that is a big question.

Also, is the insurgency, if it has indeed left some of these areas targeted by U.S. troops, relocating to other areas? So, these are all big questions left up in the air as this operation enters its sixth day -- Brianna.

KEILAR: And Hala, you know, we're hearing that there are some new developments involving Iraq's parliament. What can you tell us about that?

GORANI: Well, parliament has essentially extended its session until the end of July. Now, the reason given for that is to work on draft legislation, work on voting on draft legislation that the U.S. considers essential to political reconciliation in Iraq. One of those laws that the U.S. hopes to see passed is a law to share the revenue of oil in this country. Iraq is a very oil-rich country and all sects are going to want to be able to share the revenues of this very important natural resource. However, no draft laws have been presented, essentially, to parliament. So, whether or not the extension of this session will mean anything with that regard is also an open question -- Brianna.

KEILAR: And we know you'll be keeping an eye on that for us. We really appreciate that. Hala Gorani live, for us, from Baghdad.

And now from Afghanistan's president, angry words aimed at coalition forces. Hamid Karzai is upset over the deaths of civilians caught in the fighting between NATO troops and al Qaeda fighters; among recent incidents, a coalition operation that reportedly killed more than two dozen civilians in a village in southern Afghanistan.


PRES. HAMID KARZAI, AFGHANISTAN: They have to accept our recommendations, which they have not been accepting for the past many years. They have to coordinate with us. They have to strengthen the Afghan National Army further. They have to help us build a police force that is raised from the community, that is in the community. They cannot bring standards from their countries in the West and try to apply it to Afghanistan.


KEILAR: In another deadly incident this week, seven Afghan children were killed when coalition aircraft bombed a building in eastern Afghanistan.

And we've learned more today about Monday's tragic furniture store fire there in Charleston, South Carolina. Investigators have completed their site investigation. And while they still aren't saying what exactly started the fire, they are saying where it began.


KEN CHISHOLM, ATF SPECIAL AGENT IN CHARGE: The local ATF office, SLED, the sheriff's office, the police department, the fire department, will continue the investigation to determine the cause of the fire. Our own scene investigation showed that the area for origin for the fire is the loading dock area.


KEILAR: Many people have said they want to help, and you can help the families of the Charleston firefighters and other causes, as well. You can take this opportunity, right now, to do something about issues that matter to you. Just logon to and with a click you'll get the information that you need. Be part of the solution and you can use the news on CNN to impact your world, just go to

And the South Carolina tragedy highlights the daily dangers that are faced by firefighters. They go to work never knowing for sure that they'll make it home. CNN's John Zarrella reports.


JOHN ZARRELLA, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Nearly every time Fort Lauderdale fire lieutenant, Billy White, heads out one thing is certain. The danger this second generation firefighter faces will likely be greater than what his father had to deal with.

LT. BILLY WHITE, FT LAUDERDALE FIRE-RESCUE: The back of your mind going, you know, I don't know what's in here. I don't know what I'm going to expect. I don't know what I'm going to find.

ZARRELLA: There are many reasons for the increased risk. Firefighters will tell you the South Carolina fire is an example of this.

ASST. CHIEF STEVE MCINERNY, FT LAUDERDALE FIRE-RESCUE: Fires today are inherently more dangerous than ever before because they're burning hotter and faster.

ZARRELLA: The reason, because so many of the products in our businesses and homes are made of plastics and resins, polyurethane and response time is faster than ever. Why?

MCINERNY: Cell phones. Everybody has a cell phone.

ZARRELLA: At the first sign of smoke, someone is dialing 911.

DISPATCHER: You see flames, right?

CALLER: Yeah, somebody's calling right now as well.

DISPATCHER: 911 police and fire.

CALLER: We've got a fire in our backyard.

DISPATCHER: OK, ma'am. Are you outside the house?

CALLER: Yeah, I'm outside the house.


ZARRELLA: The raw facts bear out the danger. From 1996 to 2005, the number of structure fires declined nationwide by more than 65,000, but the number of firefighter fatalities has hovered near or above 100 every year, this despite a wealth of new technologies -- thermal imaging.

MCINERNY: The whites are hotter. The darker colors are a lower temperature.

ZARRELLA: A HAZMAT team arrives at the scene of a ruptured gas line. Vital information about each one, how much air in the tank, which company he or she is with, is continually checked with this monitoring device. If something goes wrong and they are forced to evacuate the scene, each firefighter would get the message loud and clear, "get out!"

(on camera): Now, that's loud. You can't miss that.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Right. They definitely know that we want them out.

ZARRELLA (voice-over): Preaching, teaching, constant training is the only way McInerny says to reduce the risk. Even then, there are no guarantees. Fighting a fire means getting up close. Firefighters call it "putting the wet stuff on the red stuff."

John Zarrella, CNN, Fort Lauderdale, Florida.


KEILAR: A disturbing story now out of Pennsylvania. A school crossing guard charged with more than 1,000 counts of alleged child molestation. Dale Hutchings was arrested Tuesday in Berwick, Pennsylvania. He's charged with molesting seven children under the age of 13. Police say Hutchings allegedly took the children to his home which is within sight of the school.

And a strong weather system packing a tornado and lots of rain pounded parts of Iowa. Four inches of rain have fallen in some areas, closing Highway Six near west liberty until at least tonight. The twister damaged several power lines, trees and roofs, but thankfully so far, no reports of any major injuries.

And now for a closer look at the weather, let's go to Reynolds Wolf there in the CNN Weather Center.

Hi Reynolds.



KEILAR: All right, looks like we want to be on the West coast today, you know, Reynolds?

WOLF: Not a bad choice.

KEILAR: All right, thanks so much for that.

Well, he says he's not running, so why are all eyes on New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg? Well, because he can run for president right out of his personal checking account. A look at the possibilities coming up 20 minutes from now.


SGT. CHUCK TRAPINI, MESA, AZ POLICE: I had been in law enforcement for close to 20 years. I mean, been homicides, AG (ph) assaults, but I've never seen anybody brand another person, especially in the facial area.


KEILAR: This is one of the most horrendous crime stories you will ever hear, a woman branded. That's ahead.

But coming up next, North Korea's nuclear program. What do they have and will they actually shut it down? We're going to hear from the United States' top nuclear negotiator. You're watching the NEWSROOM.


KEILAR: Optimism is the U.S. bud -- pardon me -- buzz word regarding North Korea's nuclear program this hour. U.S. Assistant Secretary of State Christopher Hill speaking to reporters in Tokyo says the north could shut down the reactor at the center of its atomic arms development within weeks. Hill, who just concluded a rare visit to the country, also says North Korea appears ready to return to six- party disarmament talks, but he is also urging a degree of caution.


CHRISTOPHER HILL, ASST. SECY. OF STATE: Transparency is not the name of the game there. They don't like to tell you stuff, so what we do know is they had some kind of explosive device. So we don't know if they've been able to take this 110 pounds -- you know, out of 110 pounds, you can make something like eight, maybe even 10 weapons, depending on your weapon size. So, we don't know if they've been able to marry it up with a missile. They certainly haven't tested that. But the point is, if we can get a hold of the plutonium, then we don't have to worry about plutonium nuclear bombs. UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Right, what about, you mentioned at the beginning here, the uranium enrichment program. That was the flashpoint a few years ago. Now the big question is to whether or not they had a uranium enrichment program at all. Do they?

HILL: Well, I wouldn't go that far, because what we do know is they made a lot of purchases of certain very specialized equipment, such as centrifuges and these specialized aluminum tubes that, by the way, only fit in these kind of centrifuges. So, there was a lot of equipment purchased and that equipment is very much consistent with a highly enriched uranium program.

Now, whether they were able to make it work, whether they were able to actually finalize the thing, it's hard to say. But whatever, we need to know what they did with that stuff. If these centrifuges are sitting in a tunnel somewhere, we've got to have a look at them. So, we need to Getty program and, you know, we've had some preliminary discussions on that, but we're going to need a lot more discussions on it to get absolute clarity on what that was all about.


KEILAR: North Korea, of course, has vowed to shut down its nuclear reactor before and then failed to deliver on that promise. So what's different this time? CNN State Department correspondent Zain Verjee takes a look.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We left a message on Monday.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: That we had to work fast.

ZAIN VERJEE, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): A last-minute invitation from North Korea delivered to U.S. Envoy Chris Hill while he was in the neighborhood trying to jump-start stalled North Korean nuclear talks. President Bush, Secretary Rice and U.S. Allies told him: go for it. So for the first time in five years, a top U.S. official flew to Pyongyang, North Korea's capital.

HILL: We hope that we can make up for some of the time that we lost this spring.

VERJEE: There had been a breakthrough deal earlier this year, but it fell apart over a financial standoff. The U.S. froze $25 million in North Korean funds at a bank in Macao, a bank the U.S. said was involved in counterfeiting. North Korea refused to shut down its nuclear reactor until it got its money back. So, the U.S. gave it back, but still no nuclear shutdown. Now, the U.S. says, no excuses, let's get back to business.

SEAN MCCORMACK, STATE DEPT SPOKESMAN: We are testing the proposition that North Korea has made that strategic decision to abandon its nuclear weapons programs and abandon its nuclear programs. VERJEE: But, one of President Bush's former top advisers on Asia wrote a scathing op-ed column accusing the U.S. of rewarding bad behavior, undermining a policy of isolation he says was working.

"It is therefore perplexing to see the U.S. now take a series of unilateral steps to unravel this policy and reward North Korea for doing...well, nothing."

But Michael O'Hanlon, with the more left-leaning Brookings Institution says, the gesture could pay off.

Michael O'HANLON, BROOKINGS INSTITUTION: If a visit from an assistant secretary of state to Pyongyang can help grease the skids, maybe it helps the North Koreans with a little bit of face.

VERJEE (on camera): Michael O'Hanlon says the key is to make sure that North Korea delivers on its promises and the U.S. doesn't allow North Korea to play the brinksmanship games it's so famous for.

Zain Verjee, CNN, at the State Department.


KEILAR: It's one of the biggest issues facing religion.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE (voice-over): The Anglican Church steeped in history, now bearing the blows of the latest culture wars over gay and lesbian rights.


KEILAR: It's part of our uncovering America series coming up 15 minutes from now.

But next, the mental and physical scars of a woman branded. Details when NEWSROOM continues.


KEILAR: In Arizona, revenge takes a brutal turn. Tess Raffles of our affiliate KTVK has this story.


TESS RAFFLES, KTVK REPORTER (voice-over): This apartment, police call it the site of a brutal crime. Neighbors say they always heard screaming, fighting, even cries for help coming from inside.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I always heard yelling and screaming and, you did this, you did that and leave me alone, and what did I do...

RAFFLES: Police say this is where a 38-year-old woman was kidnapped, beaten and branded with a hot iron. The word "snitch" scorched into her cheek, then blindfolded, driven and dropped in this nearby neighborhood.

TRAPANI: I had been in law enforcement for close to 20 years. I mean, been homicides, AG (ph) assaults, but I've never seen anybody brand another person, especially in the facial area.

RAFFLES: According to police, this is how it happened: This couple looked for their victim for a year. She called police to report him beating her. Her kids were taken away. Last week, these men lured the victim to the apartment probably promising drugs and they called the couple, now accused of enacting the revenge.

TRAPANI: The suspects basically take chunks of her hair off her head, her face is branded with the word "snitch." Apparently they brought a branding iron with the word "snitch" on it and had a propane torch that they used to heat the branding iron up and then they applied to the victim's face.

RAFFLES: Neighbors didn't know anything like that was going on next door, but they're glad it won't happen again.


KEILAR: That report from Tess Raffles of our affiliate KTVK.

And, you know, we all get junk mail, junk e-mail that is, but not like this. What if a new and scary message landed in your inbox: pay now or die? That's ahead in the NEWSROOM.

The church split by homosexuality, not by its presence but by how it should be treated.

And also, New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg staying out of the fray, but still making a political impact.


KEILAR: Now is the time to start thinking about planting your garden. This year, why not get the kids involved? Gerri Willis has more on how you can nurture those little green thumbs in this week's "Modern Living."


GERRI WILLIS, CNN NEWS CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): For Lydia Bastianich it's a family affair. On this day there are four generations planting, picking and sharing a passion for gardening. Even the youngest ones get their hands dirty, which makes a garden not only a great playground, but also a perfect learning ground.


WILLIS (on camera): So Lydia, when you're with the kids in the garden, what kinds of skills do they learn if they're out here?

BASTIANICH: Oh, there's many skills. Coordination, certainly. Planning, you know, sort of lining what will go where, organization. WILLIS (voice-over): Kids also learn how to work as a team.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Like this. You roll your hand on the bottom, and then you pull it up.


BASTIANICH: The garden is a perfect place for children, because they plant something, and they nurture it, and they see results. That plant responds to them.

WILLIS: I'm Gerri Willis and that's this week's "Modern Living."



KEILAR: New York Mayor Mike Bloomberg says he's not running for president, but his decision to leave the Republican Party is fueling quite a lot of speculation. CNN's John King has more.


JOHN KING, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): It was as close as he has come to saying forget about it.

MAYOR MICHAEL BLOOMBERG (I), NEW YORK: I'm not running for president and I'm going to be mayor for the next 925 days...

KING: But some still don't buy it. After all this, was just a day after Michael Bloomberg disclosed switching his voter registration from Republican to unaffiliated, a change interpreted by many as a big step toward an Independent presidential run. Not so, the mayor says.

BLOOMBERG: I've got the greatest job in the world and I'm going to keep doing it.

KING: Yet he won't say absolutely positively no. And he intends to keep up cross-country travels where he's finding high powered encouragement.

GOV. ARNOLD SCHWARZENEGGER, (R-CA): Well, (INAUDIBLE) I think he will make an excellent candidate.

BLOOMBERG: Well, he's a very smart guy and I'm very flattered that he's say it.

KING: Democratic pollster, Stan Greenberg, doesn't think Bloomberg can win, but bets he finds the prospect of being in the presidential debates irresistible.

STAN GREENBERG, DEMOCRATIC POLLSTER: Why not? I mean, first of all there's the real chance of, you know, of running in a year that has the feel of a Perot-like year. You know, he runs against politics, he runs against Washington... KING: Bloomberg is anything but a conventional politics, a billionaire not afraid to bankroll his own campaigns. The one-time Democrat, turned Republican, turned Independent. A balance the budge business man, with liberal views on abortion, gay rights, and gun control. Republican strategist, Scott Reed says the Democrats have the most to worry about.

SCOTT REED, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: If he runs, there will be two liberals in the race versus one Republican. So, unlike the Perot phenomenon that really hurt Republicans, this has a chance to hurt Democrats.

KING: During a subway ride a year ago, Mayor Bloomberg was already testing a national message.

BLOOMBERG: We keep bringing down crime, we improving our school system, we keep providing more services and creating more jobs and more affordable housing and improving our cultural institution...

KING: A constant theme is that both parties are either ducking the big issues, like Social Security reform and climate change, or being unrealistic. He cites immigration as a case in point.

BLOOMBERG: The real world is complex. The real world is not what you see in Congress where they stand up and say, we should deport 12 million people.

KING: while Bloomberg says he's not running, a few close advisers are meticulously researching what it would take.

REED: About how to qualify to get on the ballot, about what the rigors of a national campaign are like, and they're asking all the right questions. Will he go all the way? Nobody knows, but he clearly has made himself a player for the next nine or 10 months.

KING: And being a player suites Bloomberg just fine.

John King, CNN, New York.


KEILAR: Political games and party politics, it's all heating up in the rush to the run in '08. And our Senior Political Analyst Bill Schneider, who's part of the best political team on television, he's joining us now from Washington.

And Bill, Bloomberg says he's not going to run, but then why switch parties?

WILLIAM SCHNEIDER, SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, he says he switched parties -- his statement said, to bring his affiliation into alignment with how he has run and will continue to run the city of New York. And he has run a non-partisan administration. He could hardly help it, New York is about five-to-one Democratic. He won twice as a Republican nominee. He has to govern with Democrats and he has had a bipartisan government, but he wants to present himself as a problem solver and he says the best way to do that these days is not to be a partisan.

KEILAR: All right, so -- but let's just say if he were to throw his hat into the ring. Who's that really going to impact, Giuliani or is it going to be Clinton?

SCHNEIDER: Well, you're assuming those are the nominees, which would make it interesting, because then we would have three nominees from the city of New York, how about that? It would be a subway contest for president. But most people believe what Scott Reed (ph) just told John King, that it would probably hurt the Democrat.

We don't know all of Bloomberg's views, but he tends to be liberal on the social issues, he's a strong advocate of gun control, very widely criticized by gun owners. He tends to be liberal on abortion rights, gay rights, women's rights. Don't know exactly what his views are on Iraq or some of the bigger issues out there, but Democrats are very worried that he would be another fairly liberal voice in this race that could help elect a Republican.

KEILAR: And it makes me wonder, you know, do people really know who Bloomberg is? I mean, I spent a few years living in New York, so I know he's this billionaire mayor who rides the subway to work, but before that, you know, I didn't really know who he was. How many people in America really do know who Mike Bloomberg is and would he have a lot of catch-up to do?

SCHNEIDER: Most people have heard of him but they don't know too much about him. They don't know his views, they don't know his position on the issues. He has the reputation of someone who's done a pretty good job running New York.

And they know one big thing about him, which is that he is very, very, very rich. He is estimated to be worth about $5 billion, so he could just write a check and finance the campaign. Well, that's halfway there.

You also have to have a message or an issue. Not clear what that would be. But the closest we can come is the view that he often criticizes Washington, national politics is dysfunctional, that the country is really in trouble, that the way to get things done is to do things from a non-partisan approach. And if people are really disgusted with the way things are happening in Washington, and with the warfare and the gridlock between Democrats and Republicans, they could look to him as an alternative voice in a way, the way they looked at Ross Perot back in 1992.

KEILAR: Kind of like Bloomberg the outsider, I guess.

But you know, let's make a turn now because I want to ask you about this viral video that has really has ...


KEILAR: I know you know what I'm talking about. This viral video that's gotten so many people talking in the last week. Let me ask you about it after we watch it one more time. (BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE (singing): Just a small town girl living in a lonely world ...


SEN. HILLARY CLINTON, (D-NY) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: They have some great choices. I ordered for the table.

B. CLINTON: No onion rings?

H. CLINTON: I'm looking out for you.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE (singing): Took the midnight train ...

H. CLINTON: Where's Chelsea?

B. CLINTON: Parallel parking.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: (singing): It goes on and on and on ...

B. CLINTON: How's the campaign going?

H. CLINTON: Well, like you always say, focus on the good times.

B. CLINTON: So what's the winning song?

H. CLINTON: You'll see.

B. CLINTON: My money's on Smashmouth. Everybody in America wants to know how it's going to end.

H. CLINTON: Ready?


KEILAR: Fade to black. So, obviously a spoof there on "The Sopranos" finale, but you know, it makes a lot of people wonder kind of what's the point of this? Is this spoof something that helps, does it hurt? What do you think?

SCHNEIDER: It certainly doesn't hurt. I imagine it helped a little bit, it got some people curious, got about a million Web hits. A lot of people who may not be interested in politics were curious about it. They have gotten a few contributions because one of the first things that happens when you're on the Web site is you look at the video and then it asks you to contribute money. So, I think it probably helped a bit.

And remember, notice that Bill Clinton was very prominently featured in there. That's a little bit risky because he's still a very controversial figure. But, his reputation has grown as George Bush's job approval rating has been dropping.

So, at the moment, I think a lot of people say that the Clintons are a good team because they remember that her husband, in their view, did a pretty good job as president.

KEILAR: All right, and we saw Senator Clinton flipping through all of those song choices. Of course, one of the ones that we saw was that Celine Dion song, "You and I," which is obviously the winner, her theme song for her campaign.

What do you make of this, because this is -- you know, not everyone -- some people really like Celine Dion, some people don't. Is it an odd choice to you?

SCHNEIDER: Well, it's a popular choice, Celine Dion is very popular. It's not exactly cutting edge. What's ironic about it, of course, is that it was written as an advertising jingle for an airline, Air Canada. So of course, you've got some grumpy types out there who say, my God, she's outsourced the choice of her campaign song.

But in the end, it's the song that people voted for. It's not -- as I say, not particularly cutting edge in the music world. You and I were meant to fly higher than the clouds, we'll sail across the sky. Sort of vaguely inspiring, but I think no strong or particular message there.

KEILAR: All right, so not cutting edge, maybe a safe choice there.

Thanks so much, our Senior Political Analyst Bill Schneider, part of the best political team on television. Thanks for joining us.

So what would you ask the presidential candidates? Well, here's your chance. CNN is teaming up with YouTube for the next presidential debates. Anderson Cooper hosts this first of its kind event beginning with the Democrats on July 23rd. It's live, it's interactive, and it's on TV and online.

You can learn more about the debates and how to submit your questions at debates.

And are we raising a generation of lazy do-nothings? Well, one presidential candidate says yes, and if you vote for him, he promises to change that. How? Join Rick Sanchez Sunday night as he puts Chris Dodd in the Sunday spotlight.

Gay and lesbian pride being celebrated in many cities across the globe this week. But behind the show, a religious debate over acceptance divides congregations.

In our series, "Uncovering America," CNN's Kara Finstrom with the tale of two churches.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) KARA FINNSTROM, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The Anglican church steeped in history, now bearing the blows of the latest culture war over gay and lesbian rights.

REV. MARK ASMAN, TRINITY EPISCOPAL CHURCH: Gay and lesbian people are full human beings. They should be entitled to all of the sacramental rights.

REV. BRIAN COX, CHRIST THE KING EPISCOPAL CHURCH: We have to find some way to be inclusive of gays and lesbians, but I think that the manner that we're going about it is inconsistent with what the scripture teaches.

FINNSTROM: Father Mark Asman, Father Brian Cox both lead American Episcopal congregations on opposite sides of town with opposite points of view. Decades ago, Father Asman was tortured by his own sexuality.

ASMAN: I did not believe I could be an openly gay priest and felt that I had to deny my sexuality, discipline it. I even tried to heal it. And sadly enough, and I'm embarrassed to say that even at one point, I sought out exorcism.

FINNSTROM: Father Asman says he now accepts his sexuality and openly blesses same sex unions, like that between Corolla Pusoni (ph) and Shawn Carey.

SHAWN CAREY, WORSHIPS AT TRINITY: More and more, we feel comfortable and have a sense of belonging.

FINNSTROM: Pusoni and Carey both grew up in the Catholic church, but wanted to be openly blessed and supported as a couple.

COROLLA PUSONI, WORSHIPS AT TRINITY: For me, it's just the example of Jesus, what his idea and philosophy and treatment of people who were more marginalized in the society of his time.

FINNSTROM: Much of Trinity's congregation is proud of what they see as their church's march towards equality, citing full rights for homosexuals as evidence of progress.

Many at Christ the King church disagree.

COX: The interpretation that some liberal leaders are drawing at this time is inconsistent with how scripture has been interpreted throughout the time of history.

DOROTHEA PHELAN, WORSHIPS AT CHRIST THE KING: I don't wish anything bad for them. I just don't want them to be married with the blessings of the church, and I don't want them as spiritual leaders in my life. Anybody who's read the scriptures in St. Paul and in the Old Testament believe that the Lord feels that the practice is an abomination.

FINNSTROM: The two rectors call themselves friends, friends with differences based on sincerely held, very different interpretations of scripture.

(on camera): But this isn't just a struggle between two churches in the coastal city of Santa Barbara. In the 150 church diocese of Los Angeles, four churches have felt so polarized, that they've completely broken away from the American Episcopal church.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We're an evolutionary church in the sense that we need to grow with the times.

FINNSTROM (voice-over): Bishop John Bruno oversees the L.A. dioceses. He says he's saddened by the loss of the four churches which joined more conservative branches in other countries, essentially ending the dialogue.

LYNN BUNTING, WORSHIPS AT CHRIST THE KING: That I think is the part that gets -- breaks my heart the most is that people leaving over this issue.

FINNSTROM: Kara Finnstrom for CNN, Santa Barbara.


KEILAR: Get more on uncovering America at Our "Special Report" examines the state of gay and lesbian life in the U.S. What do you think is American society more accepting of homosexuality? You can log on to America and let us know.

Well, all top level athletes work very hard. You know, it's what makes them the best. But perhaps none work harder than this man here. His story is ten minutes away.

But coming up next ...


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'm being paid to kill you unless you pay me $30,000. We know who you are. We know how to find you. We know what you look like and we're following you.


KEILAR: Threatened by spam. It's a cyber shakedown.

You're watching CNN.



ERIK TORKELLS, EDITOR, BUDGET TRAVEL: When you're traveling, tipping can be a mine field. And the last thing you want to do is insult someone, whether it's by tipping too much or tipping too little. Customs vary by country, so if you read only one part of a guide book before arriving someplace, make it the section on tipping.

In the U.S., there are some general rules. For bellmen, figure a dollar or two per bag. And don't be afraid to show yourself to the room if you prefer it. Some people think that you don't have to tip housekeepers, but a couple of bucks per day can mean a lot. As for concierges, giving you directions is part of their job, but snagging a theater ticket or restaurant reservation merits at least $20. Tips for taxi drivers should be 15 to 20 percent, or round one dollar for every five dollars a fare. Round up to the nearest buck. No one likes to deal with change.

When in doubt, err on the side of generosity. It's more common to regret undertipping than overtipping.



KEILAR: It's a ticking time bomb in your inbox. Extortion e- mails threaten to kill victims unless they pay up.

CNN's Dan Lothian reports.


DAN LOTHIAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: We all get them, spam e-mails offering everything from a free computer to an incredible mortgage rate. Most of the time, they're more annoying than threatening, but not always.

PETER MCGLOTHIN, E-MAIL SCAM VICTIM: This man says, I'm being paid -- I'm being paid to kill you unless you pay me $30,000. We know who you are, we know how to find you, we know what you look like and we're following you.

LOTHIAN (voice-over): It was a menacing message that Peter McGlothin says he never expected to find in his e-mail inbox.

(on camera): A deadly threat that begins with an apology. I'm very, very sorry for you. It is a pity that this is how your life is going to end. But, I would like to give you some chance to help yourself. The e-mailer describing himself as a hitman also says, my work as I am talking to you now is just to kill you, and I have to do it as I have already been paid for that.

(voice-over): McGlothin then reads that a friend has put out a contract on him, but then the mystery man takes another tack, offering to call off the hit if he pays up. In the meantime, he's warned in this grammatically challenged e-mail by, "As I'm writing to you now, my men are monitoring you and they're telling me everything about you. So I will like to know if you would like to live or die?"

(on camera): Do you totally blow it off and say OK, you know, I'm OK, this is not real, I don't need to worry?

MCGLOTHIN: No, no. Suppose in Virginia all of the students have received this e-mail saying someone is going to kill you in the next few days. You just delete it? LOTHIAN (voice-over): A Boston area legal secretary, McGlothin admits he looked over his shoulder for a few days as he thought about the e-mail's warning to always be home by 7:00 p.m.

MCGLOTHIN: There was one night I was home about 7:00, by 7:15, the doorbell rang. I almost fell on the floor.

LOTHIAN: Spooked, but a false alarm.

(on camera): It said, do not contact the police. Did you follow the orders?


LOTHIAN: Ignoring what was written in the e-mail, McGlothin decided to report the threat, going straight to the FBI.

(voice-over): Where he found out he's not alone. More than 100 complaints have come in from across the country. A cyber shakedown for anywhere from $30,000 to $80,000, threatening death if victims don't pay up.

The FBI started alerting the public about the hitman scam earlier this year.

(on camera): Is the FBI aware at all of anyone actually falling for this, thinking that their life was in danger and sending the money?


LOTHIAN (voice-over): The FBI says tracking suspects is difficult because this is a borderless crime believed to be originating overseas.

BURRELL: They can basically commit these offenses from anywhere in the world.

LOTHIAN: Ultimately, McGlothin never fell for the scheme because, as the FBI points out, the e-mail was generic, nothing specific to him, not even his address. And that, according to federal agents, is an important tip-off.

BURRELL: When you look at that e-mail, is this an e-mail about me? Does this have anything that personally identifies me?

LOTHIAN: Even without sending a dime, McGlothin says he and others like him are victims of a dangerous dot-con.

MCGLOTHIN: Maybe this is the next generation of terror where people come into your homes by e-mail

LOTHIAN (on camera): And terrorize you.

MCGLOTHIN: And terrorize you.

LOTHIAN (voice-over): Just by opening an e-mail.

Dan Lothian, CNN, Boston.


KEILAR: It's a strange whodunit or, more likely, a what done it. A beautiful lake in the Andes Mountains gone. That's right, a missing lake. And we're going to take a look later in the NEWSROOM.

But next, he's being called the world's fastest man on no feet. A double amputee's quest to compete in the Olympics.

You're watching CNN.



A look at today's allergy report, and we've got high traces of ragweed and pollen through much of the central Rockies as well as parts of the Central and Northern Plains, Pacific Northwest and into the Great Lakes.

But, conditions are looking pretty good in the southeast as well as the Southern Plains.



KEILAR: One of the world's fastest runners might fulfill his dream of competing at the Beijing Olympics. So why is that such a big deal? Well, just take a look at this report from ITN's Martin Geisler in South Africa.


MARTIN GEISLER, ITN REPORTER (voice-over): The world of athletics has never seen anything quite like Oscar Pistorius. The fastest man on no legs is giving them a headache.

A double amputee, Oscar runs on carbon fiber blades, and that's the problem. The sports-governing body had ruled that these cheater feet could be an unfair advantage, and they banned him from able- bodied competition. But now, they've amended that decision, and the 21-year-old's dream of competing in next year's Olympics is back on track. Years of grueling training may not be wasted after all.

OSCAR PISTORIUS, DOUBLE AMPUTEE RUNNER: Now that they've cleared it for me, it makes all that worthwhile. So, you can imagine after three-and-a-half seasons' work, you know, that's been cleared, and now we can start playing with the big boys. So I think that's going to be fun.

GEISLER: A birth defect meant Oscar had his legs amputated below the knee before his first birthday. He's never walked on his own two feet, which makes his achievements all the more remarkable.

(on camera): Already this year, Oscar Pistorius has racked up times that would have won him the women's gold at 100, 200 and 400 meters at the last Olympics. He's convinced that with another 12 months' training under his belt, he can put himself right up there amongst the world's fastest men in Beijing.

(voice-over): The sports-governing body is having special tests carried out on these prosthetics, to see if they give the runner extra height, a longer stride or a spring-loaded step. Pistorius is adamant they provide no advantage. If he's right, you should see them and him in China next year.

PISTORIUS: The cons (ph) definitely are a lot more than any of the pros. I mean, if anything, you know, there aren't any pros that we can identify as being better than an able-bodied leg. And there isn't really anything that can -- that can be ultimately (ph) better than a human limb.

GEISLER: Here in South Africa, Pistorius is already big news with big sponsors. The "blade runner" has fame and a small fortune, but none of that will matter if he's denied his dream.

(on camera): Ultimate ambitions?

PISTORIUS: Make a final of an Olympic games one day.

GEISLER (voice-over): And it's that kind of drive that's got him this far in the face of the most incredible adversity.

Martin Geisler, ITV (ph) News, Pretoria.


KEILAR: If you've been to the Andes Mountains in Chile recently, well there's a lake there -- or I should say, there was a lake there and it used to look like this. But not anymore. Ideas about what happened, next in the NEWSROOM.


KEILAR: It's a mystery, for sure. But can anyone solve it? Chile is missing a lake, and it's not a little one either. This is something that will just boggle your mind.

Here's what it looked like as recently as March. It's a five- acre glacial lake in the southern Andes. And now you see it, and now you don't. This is what it looks like now. Basically, it's a 100- foot hole in the ground and nobody seems to know where the lake went.

One theory is that the water disappeared into underground fissures, but some say that seems like a lot to swallow.

Now from the mysterious to the sublime, or just kind of slimy? Let's meet Elwood, and yes, that's drool looking (ph) out of his freaky-looking mouth there on the left, that's drool, not hair. And he's one of the ugliest dogs in the world, and it's not just me saying it.

Elwood actually won the title at this year's Marine Sonoma County Fair (ph). He beat out a bunch of other pretty ugly mugs, or pugs, I should say. And in case you were wondering, Elwood is a Chinese- crested and Chihuahua mix.

And I believe that Chinese-crested dog has -- or dogs of that breed have made appearances before as the winner. We can kind of see why, can't you.

All right, and a look at our top stories in just a moment, after that, "IN THE MONEY" is coming up. Here's a preview.



Coming up on "IN THE MONEY," how our country might change if a successful CEO became president.

Plus, companies you do business with and how they rate in a report on "Green Corporation."

And what the state of online shopping says about where you spend your time and money.

All that and more after a quick check of the headlines.


KEILAR: Checking stories now in the news.

U.S.-led forces on patrol in Iraq's Diyala province, part of a major offensive to drive al Qaeda fighters out of provinces around Baghdad. Officials say dozens of militants have been killed since the operation began five days ago. At least seven American troops were killed today.