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Sex Sting Nets U.S. Senator; Wildfires Rage in Idaho

Aired August 28, 2007 - 15:00   ET


KYRA PHILLIPS, CNN ANCHOR: A misdemeanor arrest, a guilty plea, a fine and probation, case closed? Politically, a much tougher judgment could await the senator caught in the sex sting who swears he did nothing wrong.
Hello, everyone. I'm Kyra Phillips at the CNN Center in Atlanta. Don Lemon is off. You're live in the CNN NEWSROOM.

Well, 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 plead 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 are 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: Now some background on Larry Craig. Idaho's senior senator is married with three grown children. 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. It focused on allegations that lawmakers had sexual relationships with Capitol Hill pages. Craig was never implicated.

Well, if you would like to read the full arrest report, you can just go to You can see all the details of the arrest and the complaint as they were filed. You can see it now at

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 are going to talk about it with an Atlanta cop who conducts those stings later in the NEWSROOM.

So how is Alberto Gonzales spending his last weeks as attorney general? A day after he dropped his resignation bombshell, Gonzales is in New Orleans where he gave a short speech at the city's new Family Justice Center. Gonzales didn't shed light on his resignation, but he did say that New Orleans was a highlight of his tenure at Justice.


ALBERTO GONZALES, ATTORNEY GENERAL: I am extremely proud, particularly on the day after I have announced that I am going to be stepping down, to be here in this city, because I think one of the best stories for the Department of Justice is the effort that we have seen here in this community, working with state and local officials.


PHILLIPS: Well, the center will help domestic violence and sex assault victims. Gonzales' last day as attorney general is September 17.

Solicitor General Paul Clement will fill Gonzales' shoes until the president picks a successor. Mr. Bush hasn't named names, not publicly anyway, but there's plenty of speculation.

These are some of the names being bandied about: Homeland Security Chief Michael Chertoff, former Deputy Attorney General Larry Thompson, now working for Pepsico, Ted Olson -- he's the former solicitor general -- and George Terwilliger, a deputy attorney general under the first President Bush.

Well, forget about driving to work. The owner of this car woke up to find a couple of holes through it. That's just part of the damage from the latest storms to hit Minnesota, with high winds, heavy rain, hail-size golf balls. Tens of thousands of people don't have electricity. And more storms are in the forecast.

From the air and on the ground, more than 1,400 firefighters are battling wildfires in Idaho, each one burning ever closer to popular tourist spots.

CNN's Rob Marciano is on the fire lines in the town of Ketchum.


ROB MARCIANO, CNN METEOROLOGIST: There's the lodge that on Sunday came extremely close to burning to the ground. The flames came within 100 feet of it, but firefighters managed to battle back those flames.

The path of the fire, you can see the charred landscape on that saddle there. Now the active fire, just down this ridge, look at that smoke billowing up. Flames tossing 15, 20 feet in the air. You can feel the wind. And that's what firefighters are worried about.

If this wind shifts -- and they think it might do that -- and it gets over this ridge, then we have got a whole 'nother round of problems, including not only ski resort structures but the town of Ketchum at risk.

Something else we saw up on the mountain, snow guns, typically used to make snow during the wintertime, here at Sun Valley, threatened by this wildfire, they are using those snow guns to wet down the terrain and wet down structures. So far, so good on that front.

But, still, over 40,000 acres have burned with this fire. Here back at base camp now that the sun is coming up, the day shift is getting their assignment, getting geared up for another day on the fire line.

Rob Marciano, CNN, Ketchum, Idaho.



PHILLIPS: Well, an immigration probe leads to a huge bust at an Ohio poultry plant. Agents raided the Koch Foods processing plant in Fairfield, right near Cincinnati. More than 100 workers were arrested. That raid is part of a two-year investigation into hiring at Chicago-based Koch Foods.

Now, according to its Web site, the company supplies fresh and frozen chicken to a global market. Drag-racing, drifting, and dying. Car crashes are the number one cause of death for American teens. We are going to take a look at some of the dangerous and deadly driving -- straight ahead from the CNN NEWSROOM.

And take a little piece of Italy, run it past Las Vegas, drop into Macau. Next in the NEWSROOM, placing a $2.5 billion bet.


PHILLIPS: Three eleven Eastern time right now. Here are some of the stories that we're working on in the CNN NEWSROOM.

A government watchdog group has filed an ethics complaint against Idaho Republican Senator Larry Craig, seen right here in this mug shot. Craig is denying that he acted in a lewd manner in a Minneapolis airport restroom in June when an undercover cop had arrested him. He pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor, disorderly conduct, but now says he regrets that plea.

Wildfires raging right now in Idaho, some threatening popular tourist spots. Firefighters used snow-making machines to shoot water at one major blaze. More than 1,000 homes have now been evacuated.

And more time on his hands. An Ohio police officer accused of killing his pregnant girlfriend has waived his right to a speed trial, which was due to start next month. We're still waiting a new trial for Bobby Cutts.

Well, a longtime senator and staunch conservative arrested in an airport restroom sex sting. Idaho Republican Larry Craig denies that he acted in a lewd manner in a Minneapolis airport men's room. This happened just after news surfaced of Craig's June arrest by an undercover cop. Craig later pleaded guilty without a lawyer to misdemeanor disorderly conduct, but says he regrets the plea.

The allegations have prompted him to stop working on fellow Republican Mitt Romney's presidential campaign. Now, Craig is a prominent name, but he's certainly not the first person arrested in these types of stings, stings conducted by people like my next guest.

Major Darryl Tolleson is with the Atlanta police.

And you actually work within the bureau right there in the airport, right?


PHILLIPS: OK. So, first of all, when you saw this story and you heard about this sting, it didn't surprise you, did it? This is something you have to deal with on a regular basis.

TOLLESON: Absolutely.

We started a sting detail back in January of this year. And so far year to date, we have arrested 45 people in sting operations at the airport.

PHILLIPS: Forty-five people in a year?

TOLLESON: Really in the first eight months. And 40 of those came in the first five months. It has obviously tapered off since our enforcement efforts. We are seeing that really begin to decline at the Atlanta Airport, but we did have an issue with it there beginning of the year.

PHILLIPS: OK. So, let's talk why. First of all, why an airport restroom?

TOLLESON: Well, we -- it's just speculation, but we think because a restroom does provide some element of privacy. But, at the same time, it still is in a public place.

There's a lot of concern with people meeting one another over the Internet, concern with being robbed if you should meet them out from a public place, concern with being assaulted, maybe even murdered.

So, the bathroom or a big airport restroom does provide an element of privacy. At the same time, they are comforted in knowing that they still are in a public place.

PHILLIPS: When did you know that -- or at least the Atlanta Police Department know that there was a problem and you had to create some type of unit to conduct these stings? Because 40-plus individuals in eight months, that is a lot.

TOLLESON: It is. Kyra, actually, we found out by accident this was taking place. We started out on a detail that was to catch luggage thieves. And what a luggage thief will do many times is take their luggage into the restroom and kind of go through it and see if it's a good find for them.

So, we were going into the restrooms looking for people going through baggage. And once our undercover officers went in there, we discovered that other things were taking place in the restroom.


TOLLESON: But it completely caught us off guard. So, we had to begin a -- we started dealing with it and I think so far we have done a pretty good job at it.

PHILLIPS: Absolutely.

And tell me about the type of people that you arrested. I mean, give -- can you tell me -- well, first of all, let me ask you, have you arrested anyone that is well known like a politician or someone of famous stature?

TOLLESON: No, I wouldn't say that. But we have arrested certainly some high-profile people. It ranged from CEOs, bank presidents...

PHILLIPS: Oh, my gosh.

TOLLESON: ... professors, college professors. So, it really runs the gamut as far as who we actually apprehend and who has been involved in this in the past.

PHILLIPS: Are they gay? Are all of them gay?

TOLLESON: I can't say. I can only tell you that a good majority of these men do have families. And that's been a little bit shocking to us. You would think that it would be more of a gay issue. But overwhelmingly more and more we're seeing that these are people with families.


With regard to the signals, this is what we have been talking a lot about with regard to the Craig case, that he was giving off signals to this undercover police officer, tapping, reaching his hand under. Are there typical signals to sort of try and feel out somebody that's in the restroom?

TOLLESON: There are.

And we -- I don't know if we really want to give that away, because that's a technique our officers use.


TOLLESON: But certainly there are certain indicators that someone is trying to entice you into a sexual act. And I think we all can imagine sort of what that might be.

And our officers have been solicited. Now, we do monitor the Web sites as well from Atlanta, and we try to meet up with folks who are trying to meet other people in the airport. And that's really another avenue that has helped us reduce some of the activity, is that we do monitor Web sites.

And now if you go to certain Web sites, they're posting, "Do not do this in Atlanta." And that's good for us. And I think more and more airports will begin to get on board with this. And, if they're having issues, I think that at least they're beginning to address it now. But the Web site -- make no mistake -- the Web site has been very beneficial for us. And so we will -- we will continue to do that. And I think we will continue to see the numbers drop.

PHILLIPS: Final question, just to kind of take it to a different part of where this may lead to. I mean, are you worried about pedophilia? Are you worried about older men and younger kids? Or is this pretty much an adult-on-adult crime that's...


TOLLESON: Yes, we have found that it's really just -- it's usually two consenting adults that are involved. We obviously are concerned about the other, though. And that's one reason we wanted to make sure we addressed this appropriately and really be heavy-handed about it. And there's just no room in our public restrooms for this kind of activity to take place, because, one, if you and are flying with our kids, we want to be able to send them into the restroom and feel confident and feel safe that they are going to be OK.


TOLLESON: And certainly we don't want them to witness some of the things that can go on inside the public restrooms. So, for that reason alone, we're going to continue to do what we're doing in Atlanta. And I think I think we will continue to see the results.

PHILLIPS: Major Darryl Tolleson with the Atlanta Police Department, sure appreciate it. Thank you.

TOLLESON: You're welcome.

PHILLIPS: Well, we're going to take a look at the Big Board real quickly, the stock market down right now more than 180 points. Susan Lisovicz live from the New York Stock Exchange in just a minute.

Also, stocks may be down, but the Bonds market is hot, hot, hot, the market for Barry Bonds' record-breaking baseball, that is -- straight ahead in the NEWSROOM, an auction for seriously wealthy sports fans only, unless you win the lottery.



PHILLIPS: World champs, the little league team from Georgia brings home the trophy and sets off some major league celebrations. That's right. The team from Warner Robins, Georgia, beat a Japanese team on Sunday to win the Little League World Series. It's the second straight win for a team from Georgia, the third in a row for the U.S. The player who hit the key home run will appear on "David Letterman" tonight.

Well, from the baseball park to the auction block. Going on sale today, the home run balls that Barry Bonds hit to tie and break Hank Aaron's record. The record-breaking ball, number 756, was caught on August 7 in San Francisco by this man, Matt Murphy, who happens to be a Mets' fan, by the way.

And, as you can see, he needed a bit of a police escort. An online auction by Sotheby's and its partner starts this afternoon and runs through September 15. They expect the price for the ball 756 to reach $500,000.

Well, take a little bit piece of Italy, run it past Las Vegas, drop into Macau. Next in the NEWSROOM, placing a $2.5 billion bet.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) PHILLIPS: Viva Macau? Well, an American billionaire opened one of the world's biggest casinos today, but it's not in Las Vegas. To place a bet at the new Venetian, you will have to go all the way to China.


EUNICE YOON, CNN INTERNATIONAL ASIA BUSINESS EDITOR (voice-over): The world's biggest hotel has opened its doors in the world's most populated nation. Tens of thousands of people in the Chinese enclave of Macau fought their way into the Venetian complex, a resort Las Vegas owner Sheldon Adelson believes will help turn this city into Asia's Las Vegas.

His company boasts the $2.4 billion complex has 3,000 rooms, 350 retail shops, and a stadium that seats 15,000. Why build something so huge?

SHELDON ADELSON, CHAIRMAN, LAS VEGAS SANDS: Why not? Why do mountain climbers climb big mountains?

YOON: What Adelson is really doing is making a massive bet on China.

(on camera): The casino here is the largest in the world, larger than three soccer fields. Adelson is confident that he could fill all these tables with China's increasingly wealthy 1.3 billion people.

(voice-over): He's done it before. In 2004, Adelson unveiled the Sands Casino, a few years after Macau, once a Portuguese colony, returned to China and later opened its tightly controlled casino industry to foreign investors. The move sparked a boom in the industry, which now takes in more gambling revenues than the Las Vegas Strip.

ROB HART, MORGAN STANLEY: In Macau, typically, you have day- trippers which come in from Guangdong Province or come in from Hong Kong. They gamble like crazy for a few hours and then they go home again.

YOON: But the Venetian, with its Las Vegas-style shows and trademark gondolas, aims to keep visitors here for longer.

ADELSON: In Las Vegas, everybody was very casino-centric. Today, you will find that far fewer than 50 percent of every visitor to Las Vegas stops in a casino.

YOON: He's not the only one anteing up. Rival Steve Wynn opened a hotel here last year. U.S. gaming giant MGM has a resort in the works, too. Macau is the only place in China where casinos are legal. But some analysts worry business could suffer if China changes its gambling policies or if local labor feels threatened.

JOSE COUTINHO, MACAU LABOR ACTIVIST: I have no doubts that conflicts will arise.

YOON: Others fear the tourist won't appear. Yet Adelson remains confident, if he builds it, the people will come.

Eunice Yoon, CNN, Macau.


PHILLIPS: Straight ahead: gay sex allegations against a longtime Republican senator. How will that affect his career and the GOP's chances in the 2008 elections? We will have that straight ahead from the NEWSROOM.


PHILLIPS: Hello, everyone. I'm Kyra Phillips, live at the CNN world headquarters in Atlanta. Don Lemon is off. You're live in the CNN NEWSROOM.

Airport restroom sex scene, a conservative U.S. senator stung. This is the mug shot now of Idaho republican Larry Craig who denies allegations of lewd conduct in a Minneapolis airport in June. We now know that Senator Craig plans to address the state of Idaho at 4:30 eastern time. You're going to see it live right here on CNN. An undercover cop arrested Craig who later pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor disorderly conduct. The officer said that Craig repeatedly looked through the crack of the stall where the officer was sitting and also made gestures common to people who want to engage in public bathroom sex. Craig says he regrets his guilty plea, which he entered without a lawyer. He left Mitt Romney's GOP presidential campaign where he was serving as a senate liaison. Back home in his state of Idaho, reaction is mixed.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I can't speak for all of Idaho, but I think that a general consensus might be that the people will be forgiving because he's done such a wonderful job up to this point.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The biggest thing that tees me off is the hypocrisy and what they ought to say in my opinion is, for instance, they might say when they're running for office, I'm homosexual, heterosexual, if that makes a difference, vote for me or don't vote for me.


PHILLIPS: A government watchdog group has filed a complaint against Craig with the Senate Ethics Committee. If you'd like to read the full arrest report, go to, you can see the full details of the arrest and complaint as they were filed, right now on

A member of the NBA Houston Rockets is charged with stabbing a man during the neck during a nightclub melee in New York. Rockets' point guard Rafer Alston is charged with second-degree assault. Alston was also busted in Houston earlier this month after a confrontation with a parking attendant.

To say the last two years have been unkind in New Orleans would be a gross understatement. You will hear many stories on the second anniversary of Hurricane Katrina and how far the city has or hasn't come. CNN's Sean Callebs reports on how the city are still feeling the effects of the past.


SEAN CALLEBS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: 13-year-old Delexis Rhodes knows firsthand the enormous struggle facing New Orleans' education system. Delexis spent two long years bouncing from city to city, school to school. Now the eighth grader is back where she wants to be at MLK Elementary in the lower ninth ward.

DELEXIS RHODES, STUDENT: The school is just so much fun. And it teaches you a lot. You learn so much and at the same time you have and you get to express yourself.

CALLEBS: But almost 50 New Orleans schools remain closed. About a third of all students in New Orleans are living without their parents. Delexis is staying with her aunt. To make matters worse, school-aged children are routinely the victims of violent crime.

RHODES: I stay around the street where a lot of, like, the drug dealers and stuff like that hang out. And you don't walk down that way to my friend's house by myself.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: So we're going to be about college. We're going to be about high expectations.

New school superintendent is considered a turnaround hotshot, credited with improving educational programs in Chicago and Philadelphia. Why did you want this job?

DR. PAUL VALLAS, SUPERINTENDENT: Me? I love public service and I think this is the ultimate public service challenge.

CALLEBS: He's facing enormous obstacles here, such as the dismal graduation rate.

VALLAS: It may be as low as the high 20s or low 30s.

CALLEBS: Only 1 in 3 at best finish high school. But Vallas says the hurricane has created a unique opportunity.

VALLAS: And that is to literally build a school district from scratch. Because the hurricane literally wiped out the school district.

CALLEBS: Vallas has been able to hire hundreds of new teachers and in a city where so many kids have suffered unimaginable hardship and loss, he is providing something else, hope.

VALLAS: I see myself in school, focused. At the same time having -- having a fun life.

CALLEBS: This elementary school in the lower ninth ward is one bright spot amid a world of decay. Despite the wealth of problems with this school district, the administration hopes to make an immediate impact on the dismal graduation rate, and that could have a positive effect on another of the city's glaring problems, crime. The new superintendent says history shows that a majority of people who commit murders are high school dropouts.

Sean Callebs, CNN, New Orleans. (END VIDEOTAPE)

PHILLIPS: So can the new school hotshot, as Sean called him, help change the New Orleans school system? More on schools two years after Katrina, tonight at 10:00 Eastern on "AC 360." Join Soledad O'Brien live in New Orleans right here on CNN.

Tomorrow we're going to hear from the man known as the Raging Cajun. Army Lieutenant General Russell Honore is 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 in the NEWSROOM right here on CNN.

While Noriega won't be going home to Panama anytime soon, a Florida judge has cleared the way for the former dictator to be extradited to France where he's been convicted of money laundering. But Noriega plans to keep fighting saying that he wants to be near his family even though it means facing accusations of killing his political rivals. The U.S. captured Noriega in 1989 and convicted him on drug running. He is slated to begin his prison term in Florida September 29th after serving more than 17 years.

And we are expecting a live news conference from Boise, Idaho, 4:00 Eastern time. Actually, a statement, I'm being told. Senator Larry Craig as you know arrested for allegedly engaging in lewd conduct in a restroom at the Minneapolis Airport. Now, we are being told we are expecting a statement about the situation, 4:30 Eastern time from his state of Boise, Idaho.

Florida cops called the crash spectacular. But it's not the first time Hulk Hogan's son has gotten into trouble behind the wheel. A closer look at his driving record, next in the CNN NEWSROOM.


PHILLIPS: Today's CNN hero, a man making the lives of injured American troops just a little bit better. Bob Kunkel is using lessons from his own struggle to help them.

How did this start?


BOB KUNKEL: The new injured have no idea how dramatic their lives have been impacted. And I have experience in that area. And I knew I had to do something. I was with the main infantry division. The knee joint was blown out. So, they took the bottom part and welded it to the top. I did not cope well. You name it, self- destructive behavior, I did it, times ten. Now I view all that experiences as training for what I'm doing now. My name is Bob Kunkel. I have the privilege and honor of being allowed to interact with the new injured at Walter Reed Army Medical Center. I function as a friend. I teach jujitsu so that the injured person can become empowered in protecting themselves. He went that way, so you step here.

There's a connection. They've been in combat, I've been in combat. They're laughing, they know. My purpose is to steer someone to make better choices in life. If you're injured, you're still the same person.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: For me, I feel fortunate to have met somebody like Bob. You know, someone that can kind of understand the disability, but that can also teach me the skill that I can pass on to other people.

KUNKEL: Bring my hands back together. It's like a friend. I've taken soldiers out for coffee, out for a drive, and dinner.


KUNKEL: And you can just see people relaxing. It's my way of showing my true appreciation for their sacrifice.


PHILLIPS: Well, Bob Kunkel continues to help injured troops any way he can. This week he begins another service, paying for Niagara Falls getaways for amputees and their spouses. He does it all on his own dime.

If you'd like to learn more about Bob or his program, long onto and there you can also nominate a hero of your own. You only have until September 30th to do so. Selected winners will be honored during a special live broadcast in December.

Well, get out, that's what Iraqi authorities are telling hundreds of thousands of Shiite pilgrims in the holy city of Karbala. An interior ministry official tells CNN violence over the past 24 hours has killed up to 50 people and wounded nearly 250 more. An Iraqi official blames Shiite militias there. And there are reports the factional fighting has spilled into Baghdad where one militia group has torched the offices of another. Shiite Muslim cleric Muqtada al Sadr reportedly has told his followers to settle down and not attack rival's offices.

A suicide bomb has killed three U.S. troops serving with NATO in Afghanistan. That's according to the U.S. military. It happened today in Gardez. NATO says the bomber self-detonated while the troops were working on a bridge project. Six other NATO troops were hurt. 430 troops have died since "Operation Enduring Freedom" began in October of 2001.

New hope today that 19 South Koreans captured by the Taliban may make it home alive. South Korean negotiators reached a deal with the militants to release the Christian aid workers. But when the hostages will be free is uncertain. Under the agreement, South Korea will pull its troops and missionary workers out of Afghanistan. The aid workers were seized in mid-July. Two male hostages were executed. Two women were released.

Drag racing, drifting and dying. Car crashes are the number one cause of death for American teens. We're going to look at some dangerous and deadly driving straight ahead in the NEWSROOM.


PHILLIPS: Hulk Hogan's son is out of the hospital but he may be in trouble with the law. When it comes to driving, it won't be the first time. Police in Clearwater, Florida, are still investigating the crash that injured 17-year-old Nick Bollea and a passenger. Police say that Bollea was speeding when he crashed his Toyota Supra into a palm tree on Sunday night. CNN has learned that Bollea has been slapped with four speeding tickets in four different Florida counties over the past year, one for going 115 in a 70-mile-an-hour zone. No charges have been filed yet in the weekend crash. The passenger, 22-year-old John Graziano, remains in critical condition.

Teens behind the wheel, all too often a dangerous, even often deadly combination. Here's CNN's Greg Hunter.


GREG HUNTER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Car crashes are the leading cause of death for American teens. More than 5,000 deaths a year are caused by those drivers. Experts say the reasons are broad, from driving fast, street racing, to texting, using cell phones. And a relatively new phenomenon called ghost riding where drivers and passengers get out of their car and begin surfing on the roof, hood, or trunk.

CAPT. GLENN REVELL, SAN DIEGO CO., SHERIFF'S DEPT.: To leave a vehicle completely uncontrolled and to just trust it to nature, if you will, and the forces of nature and physics is taken foolish to new heights.

HUNTER: 25-year-old Vip Patel said he started ghost riding for the adrenaline rush and posted it on My Space.

VIP PATEL, GHOST RIDER: A thrill just doing it, you know, and taking the risk.

HUNTER: Racing is a also a problem. One-third of all deaths from teenage accidents are caused by speeding.

This past weekend, a California teen was sentenced to two years in county jail for street racing. Police say she caused an accident last year that killed the prince and princess of the island nation of Tonga.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It don't matter if you win by --

HUNTER: The need for speed is not new. It's been glorified in Hollywood films like "The Fast and the Furious." and it's all over the Internet with personal postings of drag racing cars, motorcycles, weaving in and out of traffic and speeding. Like the case of Hulk Hogan's son, who police say was traveling at a high rate of speed that left his passenger critically injured.

Parents may be getting help nationwide to watch their kids better through a company called Drive Cam. Right now they have an experimental program that takes video inside and outside the car. And if your child drives erratically, a video clip gets sent to your computer almost immediately. Right now, that program is only in about three states in America. The company hopes to have it in many more states by next year.

Greg Hunter, CNN, Queens, New York.


PHILLIPS: An arraignment goes wrong in a Vermont courtroom. Two families square off after a murder suspect is ordered held without bail. Michael Christmas is accused of shooting his former brother-in- law in front of the victim's three children. The courtroom melee began when the victim's girlfriend began screaming at Christmas. Then came the pushing and shoving. Sheriff's deputies broke it up. No further charges were filed.

The internet company EarthLink says it will lay off about half its workforce, some 900 employees, and shutter offices in four cities. The Atlanta-based company has been losing revenue as cable and phone companies have gotten into the Internet business.

Time now to check in with CNN's Wolf Blitzer. He's standing by in "THE SITUATION ROOM" to tell us what's coming up at the top of the hour.

Hi, Wolf.

WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Hi, Kyra. Thanks very much.

We're going to hear from Senator Larry Craig now for the first time it was revealed he was busted in an airport bathroom. He's holding a news conference, if you will, it's going to be a statement he's making to the people of Idaho. We're going to be bringing that to you live here in "THE SITUATION ROOM." That's coming up in the next hour.

Also, two years after Hurricane Katrina, a new poll shows most Americans don't think New Orleans will ever fully recover. I'll talk about that with the former FEMA director, Michael Brown, and get his take on the future of the gulf coast.

Also, Iran's leader says America is losing its grip in Iraq and he's offering to step in to fill the void. We're going to have reaction from Baghdad, from Washington and beyond.

All that, Kyra, coming up right here in "THE SITUATION ROOM."

PHILLIPS: All right, Wolf, thanks.

While flying the heavenly skies, the Vatican puts its faith in a charter service for pilgrims.

Closing Dow in a wrap of action on Wall Street also straight ahead. Dow Jones Industrial is down more than 200 points, almost at 300. Susan Lisovicz joins us live at the closing bell.


PHILLIPS: With a wing and a prayer. Make that two wings and many prayers. The Vatican is giving its blessing to an air charter service for religious pilgrims. CNN's Jennifer Eccleston reports.


JENNIFER ECCLESTON, CNN CORRESPONDENT: For young Catholics, the pilgrimage is one of the most exhilarating aspects of their religion.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It's very interesting to live an experience, a religious experience with the people that are searching for it together with me.

ECCLESTON: A spiritual and social experience that's taken them and countless other Catholics to holy sites in Italy and beyond. Today, it's France, a first for the girls, and a first for their faith.

REV. CESARE ATUIRE, VATICAN PILGRIMS' OFFICE: We've seen a greater increase in the number of people who want to leave on pilgrimage. And the fact is, we do not have, at least in Italy, companies, that could respond to this particular demand. And for that matter, we had to give an answer. And this is the answer.

ECCLESTON: Pilgrim-only flights to some of the world's major Christian sites, including the shrine of the Virgin Mary in Lourdes, France, the inaugural destination. Created by the Vatican and designed especially for the passenger on a pilgrimage in mind. How so? Well, alongside serving your in-flight refreshments, the on-board staff is trained to listen.

ATUIRE: The people leaving on a pilgrimage are leaving because it's a very important moment in their life. And sometimes they just need to talk to somebody.

ECCLESTON: On the seat's headrests, a reminder of the journey's mission. A passenger from the bible, "I'm searching for your face, Lord."

ATUIRE: Everybody in life are all looking for the face of God.

ECCLESTON: There's no duty-free trolley, nor can you watch Hollywood's latest blockbuster. Instead says the father, there's other materials to help put passengers in the proper frame of mind.

While the Vatican has officially endorsed these flights, the city-state will not, however, be investing in its own fleet of jets. They come thanks to a deal with Italian charter airline Mistral whose blue and yellow colors coincidentally match the Vatican's. Mistral will carry pilgrims by day and Italy's post by night when these seats are replaced by mail. That's the airline's regular function and it helps keep ticket prices down, at least 10 percent less than commercial airlines. An added incentive for pilgrims on tight purse strings, like these pilgrims. But for them this experience is priceless, at 35,000 feet.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: My soul says, yes, we will be nearer to God, I think, together.

ECCLESTON: Between heaven and earth, faithfully flying the flock, one shrine at a time.

Jennifer Eccleston, CNN, Rome.


PHILLIPS: Closing bell about to ring on Wall Street. Susan Lisovicz is standing by with a final look at the trading day. I don't know, I don't think I would worry about anything ever going wrong if I flew that airline.

SUSAN LISOVICZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes. Yes, you'd be flying with the higher authority, so to speak, Kyra.

PHILLIPS: There you go. Highly blessed.

LISOVICZ: Well, you are. You are that. You know what, the bulls aren't blessed today, Kyra. You know, before we talk about the closing bell, let's talk about the opening bell. Because, Kyra, as many of our viewers know is a terrific golfer and the world's number one golfer rang the opening bell, Tiger Woods, to promote Deutsche Bank's championship this holiday weekend. It's got a $7 million purse. Some other big golfers like Phil Mickelson and Ernie Els are going to compete against Tiger, who is the defending champ. But you know what, the market, as my producer pointed out, is well below par. The bulls and Tiger seem to have left the building shortly afterwards.

We've got a big sell off. It's one of the worst, Kyra, of the month. There's a few reasons why. Merrill Lynch downgraded three big financial stocks, and they are really getting hit. As is the whole sector. For instance, Lehman Brothers is down 6 percent. Citi and Bear Stearns each down about 3.5 percent. It's continuing concerns about the credit market, exposure to bad debt.

In fact, there were reports denied by Barkley's, an overseas- based bank, that it was overexposed to the debt market as well. Barkley's denied it.

Consumer confidence had a big drop. Even though it came in as expected, Kyra, it's the biggest one-month drop since the aftermath of hurricanes Katrina and Rita.

Why are consumers not feeling good? Maybe the price of their homes and the inability to get mortgages. The Standard and Poor's housing price index showed that the top 20 metro areas had a year- over-year decline of 3.5 percent. It's the biggest scene in 20 years of the survey.

It all plays out to a nasty sell off, accelerated in the final hour of trading. One trader said it, you don't want to catch a falling knife. So that's when things typically get bad. 29 of the Dow 30 stocks are lower. And there are six declining stocks here at the NYSE for every one on the rise. So just a nasty sell off.

Thankfully a lot of people are on vacation this week so the volume's kind of light. That's about the only good thing I can say. The market's going to end on a very bad note. There's applause perhaps just to see an end to this day.

Kyra, I'll see you tomorrow.

PHILLIPS: All right. Thanks, Susan. Now we want to take it to "THE SITUATION ROOM" and Wolf Blitzer.