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Republican Senator Arrested in Airport Restroom Sting; Community Cleanup in Ohio; President Bush's Shrinking Circle

Aired August 28, 2007 - 14:00   ET


KYRA PHILLIPS, CNN ANCHOR: Hello, everyone. I'm Kyra Phillips, at the CNN world headquarters in Atlanta.
Don Lemon is off.

And you're live in the CNN NEWSROOM.

He has a conservative record. Now he has a criminal one. Idaho Republican senator Larry Craig denies lewd behavior in an airport bathroom in June. But Craig did plea guilty to a misdemeanor, a plea that could come back to haunt him.

CNN Congressional Correspondent Jessica Yellin has the latest.


JESSICA YELLIN, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: A government watchdog group has now filed a complaint with the Senate Ethics Committee against Larry Craig. They're asking them to look into whether the senator may have broken Senate rules by pleading guilty to this disorderly conduct charge.

In a plea agreement obtained by CNN, Larry Craig says, "I am pleading guilty because I engaged in conduct which I knew or should have known tended to arouse alarm or resentment of others, which was physical in nature."

Now, it all stems from an incident that took place in June of this year at a Minneapolis airport. A law enforcement officer was investigating possible sexual activity in a men's room there, and according to the police report, he was in a bathroom stall next to Senator Larry Craig.

He claims that the senator tapped his foot several times and ran his hand under the bottom of a bathroom stall, and the officer says this is a clear sign that someone's interested in engaging in lewd activity. According to that arrest report, the officer then indicated that the senator was under arrest.

When he was taken into a separate room, the report shows that the senator took out a business card showing he was a U.S. senator and he said, "What do you think of that?" It was two months later that Senator Craig pled guilty to this disorderly conduct charge. He paid more than $500 in fines and had a 10-day sentence that has been stayed. In a statement released from Craig's office, he says, "At the time of this incident, I complained to the police that they were misconstruing my actions. I was not involved in any inappropriate conduct. In hindsight, I should not have pled guilty."

We understand that Senator Craig is currently on vacation with his family, his wife and three children.


PHILLIPS: Well, some background now on Larry Craig.

Idaho's senior senator is married with three grown children, as Jessica Yellin just said. He has a conservative voting record, including support for a constitutional ban on same-sex marriage.

Last fall, Craig's office denied an Internet blogger's claim that the senator is gay, dismissing the speculation as completely ridiculous.

In 1982, Craig denied he was under scrutiny in a federal investigation that focused on allegations that lawmakers had sexual relationships with Capitol Hill pages. Craig was never implicated.

Busted in the bathroom? Maybe it caught an Idaho senator by surprise, but public restrooms are a popular venue for making gay sex arrests.

We're going to talk about it with an Atlanta cop who's done the stings. That's later in the NEWSROOM.

Calmer winds in Idaho are giving firefighters a bit of a break today, but what they really need is rain. About 40,000 acres have burned near some of the state's most popular tourist spots. And the uncertainty over where the flames are headed next has forced the town of Ketchum to cancel its Wagon Day celebration. It's been held around Labor Day for the past 48 years.

Flooded-out folks in the Buckeye State can start applying for federal aid. President Bush has declared northern Ohio a major disaster area. For some there, it may take months, if not years, to recover. So everyone is pitching in hard-hit Findlay.

Reporter Lisa Geiten (ph) with WTVG has that.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE (voice over): Findlay mayor Tony Iriti hasn't spent much time in the office since floodwaters covered his city.

(on camera): As the mayor, you're probably used to cleaning up messes, but this is something new.

MAYOR TONY IRITI, FINDLAY, OHIO: It is. This is -- this is not the kind of mess I'm used to cleaning up. UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE (voice over): There is so much to clean up that the mayor spent the day driving a dump truck and picking up debris.

IRITI: And rather than pulling off a crew to go out and do some of these outlying areas, my service director and I, we have a dump truck over there. And we're going out into those outlying areas and picking up the things that we can pick up together so that we don't take anything away from the areas that are being hard hit.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: A steady stream of trucks have been hauling trash in and out of the community park all day. Some people even hauled in their own damaged goods.

CHUCK WEBER, FINDLAY, OHIO, RESIDENT: Unloading the basement. Got flooded out, and tearing out the drywall and the carpet and stereos and all that junk, and loading it up and hauling it in here. At least they've got a place for me to dump it.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Across town, Central Middle School is a mess. Several feet of water flooded classrooms and administration offices. Damage estimates stand at about a million dollars.

IRITI: Once you get it cleaned out, you still have the problem with mold spores and all of the other things that go along with it, and that's not something that you want to put your kids into.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: But amongst the debris and despair, there are signs of hope. Rossilli's restaurant on Main Street is open for business, while many other nearby stores won't be open for weeks.

MEG ROSSILLI, ROSILLI'S RESTAURANT: Every day that goes by since the disaster, as I drive around town and look around neighborhoods in downtown, I realize how lucky we are.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: And Rossilli says people need to be patient with city leaders who are working to find long-term solutions to the ongoing flooding problems here in Findlay.

ROSSILLI: I think that people need to really stop before they start criticizing too harshly, because it's just -- no one expected it and it's devastating for everyone.


PHILLIPS: Well, kids in Findlay are getting a bit of a break, an extra week of summer vacation. The start of school has been postponed until September 10th, and that's to give the city more time to clean up.

So, who's getting a chance to dry out, Chad Myers?

CHAD MYERS, CNN METEOROLOGIST: You know what? I had a big flood in my basement, and there's nothing heavier than that. That carpet padding, that gets full of water. Oh, man, that's just a mess, Kyra.


PHILLIPS: Thanks so much, Chad.

You were talking about Idaho. We've been mentioning it obviously throughout the newscast.

About 40,000 acres have burned near some of the state's most popular tourist spots, specifically in Ketchum, where they are fighting flames.

On the phone with us right now, Carol Brown, public information officer with the U.S. Forest Service.

Can you kind of tell us what the latest is with regard to the conditions and how firefighters are doing, Carol?


Right now, the fire -- the Castle Rock fire is 42,000 acres in size. It's about 44 percent contained. But that means a whole lot of that fire line is still not contained.

This last weekend, we had huge winds, a big weather event that really pushed our lines. But yesterday and today we've got much calmer weather. We're making good progress.

PHILLIPS: And is this the only fire right now that you're concentrating on, the Castle Rock fire, or are there other fires that have sparked up in other areas?

BROWN: There are about -- throughout Idaho about 19 fires. We're concentrating on this area. And fortunately, we only have the Castle Rock right now, but we're very vigilant for any new fires that may pop up.

PHILLIPS: Well, I know a lot of the locals are pretty disappointed about the festival, the Labor Day festival. I think it's called Wagon Days, right? You've had too to cancel that?

BROWN: It was -- yes, Wagon Days has a long tradition for the last 48 years. It was scheduled for this weekend, but, you know, we bring in about 15,000 people to the area, and it's a non-motorized parade with about 50 horses, even. The last thing we needed was to have that on our Main Street and then all the fire traffic, and then of course the safety of them.

PHILLIPS: Well, ad what about evacuations and homes that have been affected? Can you give us an update on that?

BROWN: Certainly. We have put in several evacuations as the fire has progressed, and we've been able to modify them.

We evacuated about 500 homes. Some of them were mandatory evacuations where we had to clear people out. Some of them were advisory. We put people on notice that they may be evacuated. And some are voluntary evacuations. And I actually just got corrected. It's more like 1,000 homes that were evacuated.

PHILLIPS: Carol Brown with the U.S. Forest Service.

We'll monitor everything happening there in Idaho. Appreciate your time.

BROWN: Thank you.

PHILLIPS: Well, they say it's lonely at the top. For President Bush, it's getting even lonelier.

Alberto Gonzales, the latest member of the president's Lone Star posse to bail out.

CNN's John King joins us live from Washington with more on the president's shrinking circle.

We've been talking about all the hits this administration has been taking, John.


Think back to the beginning of the second term. Everyone said how remarkable it was the president came out of his reelection win with all this political capital, and how remarkable it was that he had such a solid, steady inner circle made up mostly of his friends from when he was Texas governor. Fast forward to now, the president's political capital is long gone, and by day, it seems, he's losing his old Texas friends.


KING (voice-over): For the second time in two weeks, a good-bye that hit home.

GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: In the long course of our work together this trusted adviser became a close friend.

KING: Alberto Gonzales is stepping down. Like Karl Rove, he has been at this president's side dating back to his days as Texas governor; and like Rove, he had become a political pinata for an administration whose days are numbered.

BRUCE BUCHANAN, UNIVERSITY OF TEXAS: Well, it's a time when, you know, the train is almost past your station.

KING: Seventeen months left, and lame duck is a term that makes him bristle. But Mr. Bush is a president defined by an unpopular war and lacks the political muscle to sell his big-ticket domestic priorities.

BUSH: With enough good sense and good will, you and I can fix Medicare and Medicare -- Medicaid and save Social Security. KING: Those State of the Union ideas went nowhere, and Mr. Bush also failed to make his 2001 tax cuts permanent or pass major immigration reforms.

Now the departures of old friends magnify this president's increasingly lonely place.

His approval ratings are in the dumps. Republican candidates barely mention him as they compete for control of the party, and the opposition Democrats run the Congress.

NEIL NEWHOUSE, GOP POLLSTER: The one saving grace, is the only group that's rated lower than the president right now is Congress. That doesn't bode well for Democrats in Congress, truthfully, but, you know, their numbers are even lower than the president's.

KING: Even most Republicans are dubious, but those close to Mr. Bush see a small window of opportunity, and to that end a house cleaning makes sense.

Say good-bye to political liabilities, even if it stings a bit, and move quickly to change the subject. For the president, that means fresh pressure on the Democrats to give his Iraq strategy more time.

BUSH: I congratulate Iraq's leaders on the agreement reached yesterday in Baghdad.

KING: Voicing confidence that Iraq's brawling political factions might finally find a path to reconciliation is a huge gamble yet trademark Bush.

BUCHANAN: His hair is grayer, his wrinkles are deeper but he still smiles. He still sustains the impression of being at peace with himself and confident in the decisions he's made.

KING: Trademark, too, were the departures of Rove and then Gonzales after months of defiant White House promises they would not bow to pressure from Democrats.

BUCHANAN: At least a couple of occasions he has stuck by people longer than it was in his interest to do, thinking of Secretary Rumsfeld and, to a degree, Attorney General Gonzales, and yet that's been his modus operandi and he's going to stick to it.

KING: His way, even as the job gets increasingly lonely.


PHILLIPS: John, let's talk about those being mentioned to replace Alberto Gonzales.

KING: Well, Kyra, the first thing we should say is that the White House understands this is an urgent vacancy and they say they want to fill it within a matter of days, possibly this week, by next week, we are told from our sources. Who will get the job? A great deal of speculation here in Washington. The White House is being very cautious. Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff's name came up early yesterday. By the end of the day, though, that one seemed to be at least on the outer edges of the possibilities, mainly because of protests from people on Capitol Hill, both Democrats and Republicans.

You see Larry Thompson's picture there. He was the number two at the Justice Department early in the Bush administration. Incredibly highly regarded in both parties. He has a big job though out in the corporate sector.

He has said in the past that he does not want to come back into the administration. If the president wants him, it would take arm- twisting directly from the president.

Ted Olson, you might remember him. His wife tragically perished on 9/11. She was aboard one of those flights.

He is a well-known conservative lawyer, has held various jobs in the Justice Department. He is very highly regarded in terms of his ability to run the department and to know the law.

He is viewed a bit as a partisan conservative. Democrats would certainly poke him a little bit if he were the nominee.

And George Terwilliger you see in the end of your screen, on the far right. Served in the last Bush administration, a well-known conservative Republican lawyer, but not known as outwardly, overly partisan. So, he would also likely get a more civil reception from the Democrats on Capitol Hill.

Kyra, make no mistake about it, no matter who it is, the Democrats want to ask about the current state of the Justice Department under Alberto Gonzales, and depending on who it is, we could have quite a partisan dustup.

PHILLIPS: John King, thanks for joining us from Washington today.

KING: Thank you.

PHILLIPS: Straight ahead, there's no place like home. After Hurricane Katrina, former waterfront residents in Bay St. Louis say it's no place for a home.

Plus, a case of murder in Vermont leads to an all-out brawl in a courtroom. Why were emotions running so high?

And lock up the Limoncello. Danny DeVito is headed back to "The View".

You're watching CNN, the most trusted name in news.


PHILLIPS: 2:18 Eastern Time. Here are three of the stories we're working on in the CNN NEWSROOM.

A longtime senator snared (ph) in a restroom sex sting, now facing ethics complaints. Idaho Republican Larry Craig denies he acted lewdly in a Minneapolis airport men's room in June, where an undercover cop had arrested him. A government watchdog group is asking the Senate Ethics Committee to investigate.

A former NASA astronaut falling back on the insanity defense. Court papers say that Lisa Nowak will plead insanity to charges that she assaulted a romantic rival at a Florida airport. Her lawyers say that Nowak has suffered depression and obsessive-compulsive disorder.

Lieutenant Colonel Steven Jordan facing sentencing this afternoon in the Abu Ghraib prison case. Jordan was the only officer among the dozen defendants in the prisoner mistreatment scandal. Today he was acquitted of failing to control his soldiers but convicted of disobeying orders not to talk about the investigation.

New Orleans will get a lot of press this week for Katrina's two- year anniversary, but it's not the only area still recovering. The storm brutalized parts of Mississippi's Gulf Coast.

CNN's Kathleen Koch joins us now with an update from her hometown of Bay St. Louis.

Kathleen, have you seen any progress?

KATHLEEN KOCH, CNN CORRESPONDENT: I have, Kyra. And some of it is just here to my right.

This is the historic Hancock Bank building. It has finally just reopened. But signs of hope like this are really few and far between.

This town has really struggled over the last couple of years. You know, we don't have levees here. We're not below sea level. But still, we were hit by the brunt of Katrina, the 143-mile-an-hour sustained winds, 30-plus-foot storm surge.

So, it's no wonder that there are homes, businesses like this one behind me that still look like they did the day after Katrina struck. And it's very painful for those like me who know what this town used to be.


KOCH (voice-over): Before Hurricane Katrina, the Bay St. Louis waterfront was prime real estate lined with gracious homes and thriving businesses.

Two years later, the one business that finally just reopened on the waterfront couldn't afford full insurance.

JOHN BAXTER, HANCOCK BANK: You have to take some chances sometimes to start the rebuilding process.

KOCH: Battles with insurance companies have left many homeowners without the money to rebuild. Those who have scraped the cash are building small houses high on pylons and crossing their fingers.

Some, like my high school classmate, Diane Bourgeois, can't bear the risk. Her gutted home had to be bulldozed.

(on camera): But you personally won't ever rebuild here?

DIANE BOURGEOIS, HOMEOWNER: I don't think I can. No.

KOCH: Why not?

BOURGEOIS: Well, just -- just the, I don't know, the memories. But it will just never be the same. It's...

KOCH: You can't risk it all again?

BOURGEOIS: Can't risk it all again.

KOCH (voice-over): She's traded in her idyllic life near the water for an apartment over a barn 15 miles inland. Businesses are moving inland, too. The popular waterfront restaurant, Trapanis, reduced to rubble by Katrina, is in temporary quarters two miles away until a new road and sea wall can be built.

TONY TRAPANI, RESTAURANT OWNER: You know, we miss being on the water. We miss the activities of everybody having like a beachfront type atmosphere where we walk out and look at the water.

KOCH: Business inland is improving since two lanes of the destroyed bridge connecting the town to the rest of the Gulf Coast have reopened. And tax revenues are beginning to get close to pre- Katrina levels.

But a third of residents haven't returned. There's little rental property and no public housing has been rebuilt or repaired. Even the mayor still lives in a trailer.

MAYOR EDDIE FAVRE, BAY ST. LOUIS, MISSISSIPPI: Without the people, we don't have a town. We don't have a city, we don't have a place apart.


KOCH: Now, "place apart" is the town's motto. But the determined residents here are pulling together, really try so hard to rebuild, but they're tired. They're exhausted, body and soul.

And the mayor himself predicts it will be a good seven years after Katrina before things are back to normal here -- Kyra.

PHILLIPS: Well, we met one of your schoolmates there, but what about memories of your family, other friends? Emotionally, other people living there in the area, how are they holding up?

KOCH: They're holding up, but it's just everything is taking so long. We're seeing rates of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder go up, people considering suicide going up. It is so difficult. I have dear friends who finally just moved out of their FEMA trailer last week and into their home.

And why has it taken long? Two years. And they're some of the lucky ones with resources to rebuild, with contacts.

They could find a contractor, they could find someone to do the work. They had some insurance. But there's still just a lot of frustration, and, Kyra, the belief that the rest of the country has forgotten and thinks things are better here, when they certainly aren't.

PHILLIPS: Well, you sure haven't. And you've done great reporting from your hometown there in Bay St. Louis.

Kathleen Koch, thanks so much.

KOCH: Thank you.

PHILLIPS: And tomorrow, we're going to hear from the man known as the "Ragin' Cajun".

Army Lieutenant General Russel Honore, he's credited with kicking the rescue efforts into high gear after the disaster. We're going to hear how the Louisiana native feels about recovery efforts now.

That's tomorrow right here in the NEWSROOM, right here on CNN.

An airport bathroom sex sting nets a conservative GOP senator. We're going to have the latest on the arrest of Idaho Republican Larry Craig and how it might affect Mitt Romney's presidential campaign.


PHILLIPS: Well, Yahoo! is defending itself over private information it gave to the Chinese government.

Susan Lisovicz at the New York Stock Exchange with the details on this.


PHILLIPS: Straight ahead, inside the underground world of dogfighting. Even kids are involved, as young as grade school.

We're going to have the details straight ahead from the NEWSROOM.


PHILLIPS: Hello everyone, I'm Kyra Phillips live at the CNN world headquarters in Atlanta.

An "A" list actor goes to an L.A. hospital. The Hollywood grapevine goes into overdrive. We'll have more on the mystery surrounding Owen Wilson.

You're live in the CNN NEWSROOM.

First this half hour, an airport restroom sex sting. A conservative U.S. senator stung. Idaho Republican Larry Craig denies allegations of lewd conduct in a Minneapolis airport in June. An undercover cop arrested Craig, who later pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor, disorderly conduct. The officer says Craig repeatedly looked through the crack in the stall where the officer was sitting and also made gestures common to people who want to engage in public bathroom sex.

Craig now says he regrets his guilty plea which he entered without a lawyer. He has left Mitt Romney's GOP presidential campaign where he was serving as a senate liaison. Now a government watchdog group has filed an ethics complaint against Craig, asking the Senate to investigate him. .

In the next hour, busted in the bathroom, maybe it caught the Idaho senator by surprise but public restrooms are a popular venue for making gay sex arrests. We're going to talk about it with an Atlanta cop later in the NEWSROOM.

Get out! That's what Iraqi authorities are telling hundreds of thousands of Shiite pilgrims in the holy city of Karbala. An interior ministry officials tells CNN violence over the past 24 hours has killed up to 50 people and wounded nearly 250 more. An Iraqi official says security forces and criminals are doing the fighting, but another blames Shiite militias. The city is now under curfew.

Michael Vick has more than three months to wonder how long he'll spend in prison. The Atlanta Falcons franchise player made it official yesterday entering a guilty plea to a federal dogfighting charge and then apologizing to fans. Sentencing is set for December 10th, and Vick could get as much as five years. Most observers expect less.

Meantime, Vick remains on indefinite suspension by the National Football League. Michael Vick said nothing about how he took up dogfighting in the first place, but as you're about to see, it can start pretty young -- grade school young.

Here's CNN's Drew Griffin.


DREW GRIFFIN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): What you are watching is a family vacation like none you have ever seen.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This was filmed approximately an hour or so prior to the fight in a hotel room. The person filming it is the dogfighter's wife.

GRIFFIN: He's getting himself and his family prepared for the big event that brought them from Richmond, Virginia, to Columbus, Ohio. The big event is secret, a championship dog fight. The stakes, high.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Each fighter put up $5,000, winner take all. GRIFFIN: They also know the loser may be left with a dog that may never recover. In all, 40 people have come to watch, which in Ohio, is a felony.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There are actual business people who will frequent these, street people and everyone in between. One of the fighters brought his grandkids.

GRIFFIN: All will be arrested when the raid begins, but right now oblivious to the police gathering outside, the ring is the only attraction. This undercover detective who does not want his face shown has been on 40 raids in the last five years.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is a largely underground, clandestine activity. People may hear about a dogfight but they don't think, well, it happens in my community.

GEOFFREY SHANK, U.S. MARSHAL SERVICE: We encountered what we later found out was 13 caged pitbulls. And one of the interview -- people we were interviewing claimed to be called "trainer". We put two and two together, realized he was a quote, unquote, dog trainer, we called the local Chicago police department. They were fully aware of who this guy was, told us they had been looking for him for a couple of years.

GRIFFIN: Felons, gang bangers, drug pushers, all have been linked to dogfighting. In Chicago's public schools, the problem is so extensive school programs are being developed to try to tell children dogfighting is not OK.

DR. GENE MUELLER, CHICAGO ANTI-CRUELTY SOCIETY: The earliest surveys that we did showed about one in five grammar school children in Chicago were actively participating in dogfighting.

GRIFFIN: Dr. Gene Mueller, the head of Chicago's anti-cruelty society, says inner city dogfights have become entertainment and the dog owners have become, in many cases, role models.

MUELLER: Kids are certainly involved, felons, gang members. So, we have these felons there who are fighting these dogs for entertainment or for gambling. Somebody has to protect the money, so there are weapons there and, hey, it's an entertainment event, so we better have some drugs there.

GRIFFIN: This pitbull dropped off for adoption may have a chance. It has not been used for fighting. But authorities have little choice when it comes to dogs trained and raised for sport. Usually vicious, they must be put to death.

Drew Griffin, CNN, Chicago.


PHILLIPS: Straight ahead, a Greek tragedy. Dozens of fires burning across large parts of the country. The latest from the CNN NEWSROOM. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

PHILLIPS: It was an F-4, one level below the worst possible tornado that ripped apart a North Dakota town. One person was killed Sunday in Northwood, 18 others were injured. Experts with the National Weather Service say the nearly mile wide tornado had winds of up to 170 miles an hour. The governor has issued an emergency declaration, and the National Guard has moved in to help with the cleanup, so have students from a nearby community college.

Better weather is helping firefighters from around Europe as they battle dozens of raging wildfires in Greece. More on that fight now from ITN's Zoe Conway.


ZOE CONWAY, ITN: It seems as if Greece is waging a war. That fighting force is from around the world. The enemy, not just the fires but the fire starters. There are reports of Greek soldiers patrolling the suburbs trying to catch the arsonists and have anti- terrorist squads questioning some of the people arrested so far on suspicious of arson.

The Russians tried to come to the rescue of guerillas (ph) today, but their plane loaded with water arrived too late to this village. The fire now too close. The villages have lost their battle, their garden hose is no use in the face of such an inferno. The fire service arrived to tell them it was time to go. This news can't be welcome here.

Residents with the school are having to leave. And this was the scene at Grillos a short while later. This abandoned house in the village of Artimita illustrates the dilemma many people have faced. These toys once belonged to four children who perished along with their mother on Friday night. She had thought it would be safer for them to get away from the house, but they died huddled together in her car in this pile-up of vehicles that had been trying to escape the flames. A neighbor of the family said, nothing would have happened to them if she'd stayed behind, didn't get injured.

So, should arsonists be carrying all the blame? A former government adviser says successive Greek governments are guilty, too, for weakening the forest service and taking away its fire prevention role.


PHILLIPS: Calmer winds in Idaho are giving firefighters a bit of a break today back here in the U.S., but rain is what they really need. About 40,000 acres have burned near some of the state's most popular tourist spots. The uncertainty over where the flames are headed next has forced the town of Ketchum to cancel its wagon day celebration. It's been held around Labor Day for the past 48 years.

(WEATHER REPORT) PHILLIPS: A major bridge is open again between Tennessee and Arkansas. Safety concerns forced closure of the Interstate 40 bridge in Memphis. Engineers acted yesterday after discovering a support pier had settled several inches. The bridge was closed for about nine hours while crews checked for structural weakness.

Straight ahead, is it the home of the cheese steak or home of the cheese head? Not even close. The state with the unwanted distinction the nation's fattest.

A.J. HAMMER: I'm A.J. Hammer in New York. Owen Wilson is still in the hospital. We will tell you why he's there, coming up next in the NEWSROOM.


PHILLIPS: Hollywood star Owen Wilson is still in the hospital, but what exactly happened to him is still a bit of a mystery. "SHOWBIZ TONIGHT's" A.J. Hammer here to give us the latest on this story. A.J., do we know what happened to him?

HAMMER: Well according to multiple reports, Kyra, Owen Wilson did try to commit suicide on Sunday as many have speculated. CNN has confirmed that when the ambulance was called to Wilson's home, it was responding to an attempted suicide. Now, that is according to a police log of emergency calls. The log, of course, only notes the reason given by whoever it is that called 911. It's not something that really offers a lot of insight into exactly what happened. It's just a phone call that was made.

This still would be the first official indication confirming all the tabloid's speculation that's been going on, that Wilson did, in fact, try to kill himself. There has still not been any official statement from the hospital or from the family, for that matter, about exactly what happened. And Wilson's publicist isn't making any statements to the press at this time other than to request some privacy for the hospitalized star.

Now of course, work is probably the last thing on Owen Wilson's mind right now, but he's been extremely busy. Two movies in production and another set to release in September. His involvement in those projects, Kyra, certainly up in the air at this time, but we, of course, wish him a speedy recovery for whatever he's doing.

PHILLIPS: Yeah, he's a talented actor. You know it's a shame when your personal life has to become everybody's business, you know. Well is there anything new on the car accident involving Hulk Hogan's son?

HAMMER: Yeah, well we told you yesterday that 17-year-old Nick Bollea, also known as Nick Hogan, was involved in a high speed crash on Sunday. Bollea apparently has a history of ignoring the speed limit. A driving record for the teen shows four speeding tickets in one year.

CNN has confirmed that Bollea has been caught twice driving more than 100 miles an hour in a 70-mile-an-hour zone and once driving 57 on a 30-mile-per-hour road. He is definitely lucky to be alive. This was a horrific crash. He is recovering at home right now.

Now the passenger who was in the car at the time, a friend of his named John Graziano, is still in the hospital. As of last night, Kyra, we know that John is still in critical condition and everybody is by his bedside hoping he gets well very soon as well.

PHILLIPS: OK, has to be something on a positive note, something less serious, something in the entertainment world?

HAMMER: Yes, let's lighten the load, shall we?


HAMMER: Let's talk about one of my favorite comedians, one of my favorite guys, truly a stand-up comedian and person, Danny DeVito. He is going to be the first guest on the new season of "The View." Now you may remember this little appearance last November. Danny DeVito appeared on the show after a long night of partying and too many shots of lemon cello with George Clooney as Danny eventually went on to explain it.

In this appearance he appeared to be a little sloshed. The episode was, to put it mildly, a memorable one, proving that he is definitely a smart businessman. Last April, DeVito unveiled Danny DeVito's premium lemon cello. I haven't sampled his brand yet. If you've never had the Italian liquor, it's exactly what it sounds like, Kyra, it's a strong mix of lemon and alcohol. We don't know how his private brand is doing.

PHILLIPS: I have sampled it. I must say I have sampled it in Italy and my dear producer Jen Marnowski has brought me some from Italy as well.

HAMMER: But not the Danny DeVito brand.

PHILLIPS: Not the Danny DeVito brand, and I also had it in moderation. Then again, if you're hanging out with George Clooney, why would you want to drink too much Lemon Cello? You'd want to remember every moment of that, wouldn't you?

HAMMER: Well, they're good buds, they go back a ways. I'm actually going to see George Clooney at the Toronto film festival next week. So I'll have to ask him about that.

PHILLIPS: Please do, give him my best.

HAMMER: I shall.

PHILLIPS: Maybe he can get some of the lemon cello from Danny DeVito for both of us.

HAMMER: Maybe at a discount. By the way, Danny DeVito when he is on "The View," on September 4th, another reason to tune in that day to "The View," it's going to be the first day with the new moderator Whoopi Goldberg on the show. So it's twice as much for the price of one tune-in, I guess.

Let me tell you what's coming up tonight on "SHOWBIZ TONIGHT." The Owen Wilson mystery is deepening now. What really went wrong in his life? And the question is, can he get things back together? Do not believe the tabloids.

"SHOWBIZ TONIGHT" has the facts. TV's most provocative entertainment news show is "SHOWBIZ TONIGHT" and we'll look forward to you joining us. Perhaps with a little sip of lemon cello at 11:00 p.m. Eastern and Pacific on Headline Prime.

PHILLIPS: I'm going to pull it out of the freezer. I'll be watching you tonight. Thanks A.J.

HAMMER: You got it Kyra.

PHILLIPS: Well another recall of Chinese-made products because of lead paint concerns. Jo-Ann's Fabric and Craft stores is voluntarily recalling 6,000 Robbie Ducky Kid's watering cans. Say that six times real fast. The watering can has lead paint on the beak or spout. So each has a sticker on the bottom indicating it's part of the Robbie Ducky Garden Collection. Now if you have one, please return it to any Joann's store for a refund or call Joan's at 1-888- 739-4120, extension 7 for more information.

America's waistline is big and getting bigger. According to a new study, Mississippi is the first state ever where more than 30 percent of adults are considered obese. The south's enduring love affair with fried foods is blamed for the dubious record. Alabama, West Virginia, well, they're just behind with obesity rates of more than 29 percent.

In all, 31 states showed an increase in obesity rates last year. Not one showed reductions. Even Colorado, which ranks as the nation's leanest state, had an obesity rate of more than 17 percent. Health experts, including our own Dr. Sanjay Gupta, say the issue affects everyone.


DR. SANJAY GUPTA, CHIEF MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: Mississippi, which we just mentioned, also is number one for heart disease in adults and its number two for diabetes in adults as well. We talked about epidemics. I just put a little bit of perspective for you. You have about 19 states that have about a quarter of their citizens that are now obese. So, 25 percent of the citizens in 19 states are obese. In the early 90 percent, you had no state that had obesity rates that high.


PHILLIPS: Well, to see where your state ranks and how obesity rates have changed in the past decade, check out our interactive map at

A Cuban father fighting to take his daughter back home, the custody battle playing out in a Florida courtroom, conjuring up images of the Elian Gonzalez case. We'll have more straight ahead in the CNN NEWSROOM.


PHILLIPS: A Cuban child at the center of a custody fight in Florida, a Cuban father fighting to bring the child back home. You've heard it before, this time it's a little girl who's been in the U.S. with her mom and brother since 2005.

CNN's Susan Candiotti has her story.


SUSAN CANDIOTTI, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over); It's hard not to draw comparisons to Elian Gonzalez, when one of the main players in this latest custody battle is the man seen here tossing a baseball to then 6-year-old Elian. Former Miami sports agent Joe Cubas and his wife are foster parents to a little Cuban girl, who at the request of a judge, the media has agreed not to identify.

Unlike Elian, the girl's Cuban father didn't object when his daughter moved with her mother and 13-year-old half brother to Miami in 2005. But soon after arriving, the mother attempted suicide and the state of Florida judged her unfit to be a parent. The mother lost custody of both children. Ever since, the girl's father, a farmer in Cuba, has been fighting to take his daughter home and won a visa, just as Elian's father did, to wage his battle in person.

"I am her father and adore my daughter very much," says Rafael Izquierdo. He adds, "I'm a father whose proven his love for his daughter. Of course I believe that children belong with their parents."

CANDIOTTI: While foster parents to the girl, Cubas and his wife already have adopted the girl's half brother. They argue the children should not be split.

JOE CUBAS, FOSTER PARENT: I don't believe this is a matter of where their better life could be provided. More important issue is these two children have been together their entire lives.

CANDIOTTI: Cubas won fame for helping Cuban baseball players to defect, including major league pitchers Orlando and Livan Hernandez. The little girl's father says politics and fame aren't the issue. Bloodlines are. Anonymous American donors are paying for the father's trip here. By the way, the mother says she thinks the children ought to return to Cuba, and she says she wants to go home too, because she's disenchanted with life here.