Return to Transcripts main page

CNN Newsroom

President Bush, Dems Spar Over Energy; 5.4 Magnitude Quake Rattles Los Angeles; Attacking Obama's 'Celebrity'; Rep. Barney Frank's Marijuana Bill

Aired July 30, 2008 - 14:00   ET


DON LEMON, CNN ANCHOR: OK, pump more oil or put more rules on the market? As times grows short for lawmakers to try to bring down energy costs, the pressure only gets higher.
KYRA PHILLIPS, CNN ANCHOR: Marijuana may not be a burning priority, but one lawmaker thinks it's high time to get the federal government off the backs of small-time users.

LEMON: And earthquakes can drive some folks to drink, but experts say we should see yesterday's jolt in California as a learning opportunity. So we'll review those lessons for you in the CNN NEWSROOM.

Hello, everyone. I'm Don Lemon, live here at the CNN world headquarters in Atlanta.

PHILLIPS: And I'm Kyra Phillips in New York.

You're live in the CNN NEWSROOM.

Everybody wants action on energy prices, but President Bush and Congress are still fighting over what action to take. President Bush today stepped up the pressure on Democrats, demanding yet again they give way on offshore oil drilling.


GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: One of our citizens who drives to work or runs a small business is feeling the squeeze of rising prices at the pump. And they expect their elected leaders in Washington to take some common sense action. To reduce the pressure on prices, we need to increase the supply of oil, especially here at home.


PHILLIPS: Democrats blame speculators for high gas and oil prices.

CNN's Kathleen Koch has more now from Washington.

Hi, Kathleen.

KATHLEEN KOCH, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, Kyra, what you saw there was the president coming out, as he has day after day, last week and this week, pointing the finger squarely at the Democratically-controlled Congress for these high energy prices. The president has long contended that the issue really comes down to supply and demand. And he says the best way to increase supply is to, first of all, do more offshore drilling here at home, start drilling in Alaska's Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, open up some public lands out in the West for oil shale development.

Now, the president also wants to streamline regulations so that we can build more oil refineries in the United States. He points out we haven't built one since the early '70s.

But then Democrats come back at him and say, look, those are old ideas. You can't drill your way out of this situation.

Democrats are more in favor -- as you pointed out, Kyra, they're looking at regulation, cracking down on speculation in the oil futures market. Democrats believe that that may be responsible for up to 25 percent of the hike that we've seen in fuel prices.

They also want to do things like invest more money in alternative energy sources: wind, solar, ethanol, things like that. And then, also, let some oil out of the Strategic Petroleum Reserve.

Right now, there are bills, energy bills in the Senate, in the House, but their log-jammed, they're stalemated, not going anywhere. And the President, as you heard, he came out this morning saying, pass something, take a vote on at least my ideas, give it an up-or-down vote before you go off for your August recess.

But Kyra, not looking like that's not going to happen.

PHILLIPS: All right. Kathleen Koch, live from the White House.

Kathleen, thanks.

KOCH: You bet.

PHILLIPS: And a new CNN/Opinion Research Corporation poll show Americans overwhelming support offshore oil drilling. Sixty-nine percent say they are in favor of drilling for oil in U.S. coastal waters, and they're almost evenly split on whether offshore drilling would bring gas prices down anytime soon. Fifty-one percent say yes, 49 percent say no.

A stroke of a pen, and help may be on the way for thousands of troubled homeowners. This morning, President Bush signed a compromised rescue plan into law. It provides a safety net for mortgage giants Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, and throws a lifeline to many homeowners at risk of foreclosure. Some 400,000 homeowners could benefit, but the law doesn't take effect until October 1st.

And the Federal Reserve is taking steps of its own. It's extending a program that lets Wall Street firms draw emergency loans to overcome credit problems. The program was supposed to expire in mid-September. It's been extended through January.

So, how is the market doing right now? Let's take a look at the Big Board.

Dow Industrials up 36 points. Our Susan Lisovicz, live in about 15 minutes with a market update and analysis for us.

LEMON: Let's talk about the weather now and the wildfires. One is tearing through the steep, dry canyon near Yosemite National Park. It is still barely 20 percent contained.

Almost 4,000 firefighters are on the front lines. Four thousand homes are still threatened, 25 others have burned. Shelters are open across Mariposa County, and Yosemite, well, it's also open despite all the smoke and ash.


LEMON: We want to talk now -- also in California, Chad, people in southern California, they are still on edge 24 hours after a powerful earthquake. It happened just about this time yesterday as we were on the air live here in the CNN NEWSROOM.

The 5.4 magnitude quake was centered in Chino Hills. There you see some of the surveillance video there. And it was felt all the way to San Diego. And the aftershocks, well, they continue.

Let's go to CNN's Kara Finnstrom now, with the experts at the California Institute of Technology. She is there in Pasadena.

What is the latest from there, Kara?

KARA FINNSTROM, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, they're continuing to track all those aftershocks, about 90 that have been recorded since that quake yesterday.

We'll give you a look at the actual quake. This gives you an idea of the tools that they have here. No longer that old roll of paper and the needle. They actually do it on it computers, and here's the normal -- what's the word for that?


FINNSTROM: Ground motion. There we go -- yesterday.

And here's where the quake hit. And you can really see the difference in that.

Joining us live -- let's bring you in officially now -- is Dr. Thomas Heaton. He's one of the seismologists here.

We want to show some video while we talk of Judge Judy yesterday, the taping of that. And you can see, you know, the reaction of people right when that earthquake hit.

Let's take a look at that.


JUDGE JUDY, TELEVISION HOST: Your bank card somehow, and he got your pin number somehow.


FINNSTROM: And as we continue to look at this, talk to us about the force of this quake yesterday, a 5.4.

HEATON: Well, so this is a moderate-sized earthquake. And suddenly, the world goes from a very stable place into a place that's shaking.

And I think you can see in the video that, first, they felt the primary wave. And they could barely perceive it. People looked up and they were a little surprised.

They heard it, trying to understand what was going on. And then the sheer wave came in and was actually shaking the ground.

In this case, they were pretty far from not that big an earthquake. So the ground actually probably shook about this much, maybe, back and forth like that. And people were able to -- they were surprised they were able to stand up and walk out of the room.

If it had been a large earthquake, the ground might have moved several feet over the wall and back in a second or so. People would have been thrown to the ground, and it wouldn't have been possible to actually stand during such shaking. So they were experiencing a surprising earthquake, but not a violent one.

FINNSTROM: And everyone here has said they hope this is a warning for southern Californians who may have grown a little complacent because we haven't had a quake in a while, a good-sized quake.

Why is that? And what is the warning that you hope to get across?

HEATON: Well, of course we are in earthquake country. And earthquakes come in all kinds of shapes and sizes.

Little earthquakes are happening every day without people being aware of them. Those really large earthquakes are so much larger and different than our normal run of the mill things. And we still try to understand what a large earthquake might look like and how to prepare for it.

This is just reminding people, we live in earthquake country. We need to be vigilant and do the things that we can to be ready to respond to these things, and to build our buildings so that they'll survive the earthquake in the first place.

FINNSTROM: And an indication of the fact that that message is getting across. There has been a run on all the Web sites where folks go to find out what materials they should have at home and the emergency plans they should make in the event of the big one.

Back to you. LEMON: Ah, yes. OK. Kara Finnstrom, we appreciate it. Thank you very much.

Kara was talking about that seismograph. I've been talking to our weather expert here, Chad Myers.

You had the information on the screen yesterday, those graphs.


LEMON: It's called a seismograph. And it's -- you remember that kachoo (ph)?

MYERS: Yes, it used to be the needle that would go back and forth.


MYERS: But I just went on to I love this Web site. It said it was possibly invented in AD 136 by a man in China named Choko.

LEMON: Choko.

MYERS: I don't know if that's true or not, but...

LEMON: Why isn't it called a "chokograph" then?

MYERS: ... it's been around for 2,000 years.

LEMON: All right. All right.

Chad Myers, a font of information for us.

Kyra, back to you in New York.

PHILLIPS: All right. Well, stranded by a storm, Ruidoso works to repair the only way in or out. Buildings, bridges, they're working on it all -- here in the CNN NEWSROOM.

And the buzz is building as the Democrats and the Republicans get closer to their national conventions. Who will John McCain and Barack Obama pick as their running mates?

We're going to take a look at some of those believed to be on the short list.


LEMON: OK. So it's the economy that is dominating the race for the White House. Democratic candidate Barack Obama is stumping right now in the tossup state of Missouri. On his schedule today, two town halls meetings and a barbecue.

Obama spoke this morning in Springfield, comparing John McCain to President Bush. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. BARACK OBAMA (D-IL), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: So we've got a choice in this election. We can either choose a new direction, or we can keep on doing the same things that we've been doing. We can keep on doing the same things we've been doing.

Now, my opponent, John McCain, thinks that we're basically on the right track. He does. You know, he said that our economy has made great progress in the last eight years. He has embraced the Bush economic policies and promises to continue them.


LEMON: John McCain is in another tossup state, Colorado. He met earlier with workers at a company that rents and sells construction equipment. A key part of his speech, the nation's energy problems.


SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R-AZ), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: We need to develop new alternative energies like wind, solar, tide and biofuels. We also need to develop more existing energies like nuclear power and clean coal. And we need to stop sending $700 billion a year to countries that don't like us very much. Some of that money ends up in the hands of terrorist organizations.


And we ought to start drilling for more oil at home, including offshore. We ought to start drilling. Senator Obama opposes that.


PHILLIPS: Well, it's the political season's biggest guessing game: Who will John McCain and Barack Obama pick as running mates? Here's what we can tell you about some of the names believed to be on those short lists that we keep hearing about.

On the Republican short, Florida Governor Charlie Crist; Minnesota Governor Tim Pawlenty; former Ohio congressman Rob Portman; and former Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney. Now, on the Democratic side, Senators Joe Biden of Delaware; Evan Bayh of Indiana; and Hillary Clinton of New York. Also Governor Tim Kaine of Virginia.

And you want to know more about the leading VP contenders? Well, CNN's political unit and have assembled a primer with pros and cons of each. And if you're curious where readers rank the possible candidates, check out "The Political Market." It's all at

LEMON: All right. Some new information into the CNN NEWSROOM. It involves an ad from the McCain camp attacking Barack Obama.

Our political editor, Mr. Mark Preston, joins us now from Washington to talk about this ad. And it is pretty strong against the celebrity factor. It's about the celebrity factor of Barack Obama.

Hey, do you want to talk first, or do you want to look at the ad and then talk about it, Mark?

MARK PRESTON, CNN POLITICAL EDITOR: Well, let me just open by saying, Don, that it was just about time that we would see two very famous celebrities be inserted into the race, two infamous celebrities to some. Of course, that would be Britney Spears and Paris Hilton. And I think that our viewers would probably just want to take a look at the ad.

LEMON: All right, Mark. Let's look at it.


NARRATOR: He's the biggest celebrity in the world.

CROWD: Obama! Obama!

NARRATOR: But is he ready to lead? With gas prices soaring, Barack Obama says no to offshore drilling and says he'll raise taxes on electricity. Higher taxes, more foreign oil, that's the real Barack Obama.

MCCAIN (voice-over): I'm John McCain, and I approved this message.


LEMON: OK. So you saw it. I have been listening to political analysts and pundits saying that John McCain needed to step up his act and get stronger and come out and basically attack Barack Obama because he was just sort of sitting back and not doing it.

So what do you think of this ad? Is this all part of that strategy?

PRESTON: It is, Don. And in fact, John McCain has already started doing so.

We've seen an ad being run in the 11 battleground states that he is focusing on right now on offshore drilling and on gas. And today, we are seeing this ad right now.

What I'm hearing from the McCain campaign is that they were just becoming so frustrated, that they finally realized that they're running against a celebrity, somebody who was over in Germany just a week ago, where 200,000 people show up to hear him speak. But what they're trying to point out is they're trying to show that, at least in their estimation, that while he is a celebrity, he doesn't have the chops to be commander in chief. And they're really trying to tie Barack Obama to this celebrity status.

LEMON: Well, and I've seen -- even Republican strategists say -- as I get my glasses out -- even the Republican strategists say that last week, when Barack Obama was in Europe, it was a perfect occasion for John McCain to come out and take some strong stances against Barack Obama because he was basically off the scene. But it didn't get much attention. And they say he's just sort of, I don't know, a wet noodle when it came to that last week. Even Republican strategists are saying that.

PRESTON: Yes, but what happened, Don, is that it was very difficult for John McCain to break through the media cycle. There was so much focus on Barack Obama's trip over to Iraq and Afghanistan, throughout the Middle East and on to Europe.

But what John McCain did do, and he was very forceful, is to try to call into question Barack Obama's chops again to be commander in chief, and also really was trying to hammer home a point that, at least in John McCain's estimation, that Barack Obama's opposition to the Iraq war and his opposition to the surge was political and it wasn't a reality.

LEMON: Yes. And now that Barack Obama went over, and in some way -- I'm not sure if conceded is the right word, but go with me on that, that the surge, that safety was better in Iraq. Some are saying that John McCain didn't strike while the iron was hot on that particular point as well.

PRESTON: Yes. But again, it was very hard, I think, for John McCain last week to break through all the coverage.

LEMON: All the coverage.

PRESTON: You know, and we had all three major networks head overseas to do their newscasts. So I think it was difficult for McCain.

LEMON: All right. Stand by. Let me read this.

The reason I was getting my glasses here is because I just got a statement from the Obama campaign, Mark. And he says, "On a day when major news organizations across the country are taking Senator McCain to task for his steady stream of false negative attacks, his campaign has launched yet another, or as some might say, 'Oops, he did it again.'"

Again, that's from an Obama campaign spokesperson.

OK, so again, this ad that we're looking at here, that we just saw, this is only just the beginning, and probably this is zero on a scale of one to 10.

PRESTON: I think it's just the beginning. And look, we are within the 100-day window at this point. This campaign is going to get nastier and nastier, not only between the two candidates, but expect 527 independent groups to start running even nastier ads against Barack Obama and against John McCain.

LEMON: Ah, so stay tuned. That's the two words we can say.

All right. Our political editor, Mark Preston. We always appreciate it.

And join him on the weekends, "PRESTON ON POLITICS." Always good to see him there as well.

Thank you, sir.

PRESTON: Thanks, Don.


PHILLIPS: Well, Delta's got a brand new bag fee. You'll either want to pack lightly or carry on some heavy-duty cash.



LEMON: All right. Time now to tell you about some of the stories we're working on for you today right here in the CNN NEWSROOM.

Long overdue reform or just reefer madness? New legislation before Congress would decriminalize possession of small amounts of marijuana. We'll talk with its sponsor, Congressman Barney Frank.

The veepstakes. Democrat Barack Obama and Republican John McCain both appear to be closer to selecting vice presidential running mates. We could hear announcements soon.

And is this a preview of coming attractions? Experts say the 5.4 magnitude earthquake in Los Angeles is just a sample of what could happen when the "big one strikes."

Well, it is known as the Sea to Sky Highway near Vancouver, British Colombia. Today, it is a very rocky road.

A big chunk of cliffs slid right onto the highway, Highway 99. And it could take a couple of days before crews are able to dig and blast through that. Highway 99 connects Vancouver and Whistler, the popular ski area. A huge construction project is under way on the ground, but authorities say no work was going on near the slide.

PHILLIPS: Well, soggy and stranded near Ruidoso. About 70 residents were left without a way to go to and from town after floodwaters washed away roads and bridges.

Workers are now building a temporary bridge. FEMA teams are on their way to help and assess the damage. Nine inches of rain have fallen there since Friday, half an inch last night.

Chad Myers, a lot of rain in some places and not enough in others? Rio Ruidoso getting it right there.

MYERS: Yes, that was still what was kind of left of Dolly. That's really a far inland effect of what came in very close to Brownsville, Texas. It drove itself up the Rio Grande and kind of parked itself over southern New Mexico.

Some lightning strikes today. A little bit of wind damage to some trees in Kentucky already today. But this will not be a big severe weather day, not expecting any tornadoes. We may get a couple of watches out there, maybe even a couple of severe thunderstorm warnings. Rain through Indianapolis and now back into Cincinnati. Rain from Buffalo down to east of Pittsburgh -- that looks like about Somerset there, maybe toward Seven Springs. A little bit farther to the south expecting rain in Knoxville, Huntsville.

Couple of showers around Atlanta right now. Airports are doing OK. Some of them are 15 to 30 minutes delayed. If we do get a thunderstorm, around Atlanta that always just really just boots Atlanta for about an hour because they have to sit there and fly around and wait for the thunderstorm to go away from the airport. But we are seeing the pop-up of showers now from Gainesville to Jacksonville across a lot of central Florida.

It is going to be kind of a wet day across all of Missouri. It hasn't really started yet. The showers typically start around 3:00 or 4:00. This is just summer-type weather here, all the way from the Rio Grande right on up toward the northeast and then the afternoon showers and storms across parts of Florida. And then the only real area -- and this is kind of the progression of where the jet stream goes -- the only real area of severe weather will be way up north. That's because the jet stream is here now in the summer. It may even get a little bit farther into Canada later on. But the reason why it's down here in the south in March -- that's where the jet stream is in March, April and even parts of May -- Kyra.

PHILLIPS: All right. We'll keep tracking it. Thanks, Chad.

MYERS: You're welcomed.

LEMON: OK. If you've been to Europe and even Canada, you've seen people smoking pot on the streets, in coffee shops. Nobody says a word. They don't go to jail for it. The question now is: Is it time to decriminalize marijuana possession?

Some people certainly think so, and a bill before Congress would eliminate federal criminal penalties for possessing up to 100 grams of pot -- 100 grams of pot. It also would decriminalize the nonprofit transfer of up to an ounce of marijuana. But it would not affect state laws.

Congressman Barney Frank, the sponsor, joined us in the CNN NEWSROOM from Capitol Hill. Take a listen.


LEMON: So Congressman Frank, you introduced this legislation. And today, you had a press conference. What did you announce in this press conference? What did you talk about?

REP. BARNEY FRANK (D), MASSACHUSETTS: It was the announcement of a bill that I filed, along with Ron Paul, who was, of course, the Republican candidate for president, and several of my other colleagues, Democrats, to say that the federal government should no longer treat, as a criminal offense, the personal use or possession of personal use of marijuana. With all that the federal government has to deal with, terrorism, other serious issues of federal crime, counterfeiting, et cetera, to think that federal officials, law enforcement officials, would be worrying about someone smoking marijuana is ludicrous.

And I really also want to address this notion that you must be encouraging it. No, it's a very repressive notion that says that governments should divide the activities of human beings into two categories -- those things that we make criminal and those things that we are in encouraging. In a free society, a large degree of human activity is none of the government's business. We should make criminal what's going to hurt other people and other than that we should leave it to people to make their own choices.

LEMON: And here is the interesting thing because some people are going to say, you know what? This is a slippery slope if you follow what Amsterdam, what Europe is doing, the lax penalties you have in Canada -- that it's a slippery slope. But the World Health Organization took a survey just at the beginning of this month and it found that even with our harsh laws with marijuana, the number of people using marijuana or having tried it in the United States, 42.4 percent, higher than anywhere else in the world.

Are we behind the rest of the world, Congressman?

FRANK: Well, I don't know. I don't totally want to compare us to others. I want us to do what's right for ourselves.

I do think that hypocrisy is bad public policy. I know very few people who really think that if an adult smokes marijuana, he or she should be treated as a criminal. Now there are people who think it's a bad idea. There are people who think smoking and drinking are bad ideas. But we have learned that prohibiting these individual choices does more harm than good.

I think what you're seeing is people see this disparity between the way they believe and act, to a great extent, and the way the law is. And they know that's not a good thing. I want there to be respect for law, I don't want the law to be treated as something silly.

LEMON: OK. I want to get through a couple points and we have a very short time left. You have said you think this would be bad for the medical industry, and I think kind of jokingly, because medical marijuana would be allowed if this is passed in all states. And you said you're going to have a lot of people saying they're sick.

FRANK: Oh, yes. There are 12 states that allow the use of marijuana for medical purposes. But the Bush administration has gone in and prosecuted people because the federal law has overridden the state law and -- for a state. And in most of these states, 11 of the states, there were referenda. The people voted to allow the medical use of marijuana. But the federal government comes in and says, yes, but if you follow your state law and you give medical marijuana -- marijuana for medical purposes, we're going to arrest you.

LEMON: OK. I've got 10 seconds left here. So what's your response? Are you finding people -- your colleagues -- are open to your idea, or no?

FRANK: A lot of them say it's a good idea and they're glad that I'm doing it instead of them.

LEMON: Yes. And you did this, I have to say, you introduced this when you were in the state legislature.

FRANK: I did.

LEMON: But now you feel more comfortable.

FRANK: I think this is one where the voters are ahead of the politicians.

LEMON: OK. Congressman Barney Frank, we always appreciate your time. As soon as you hear something, will you please come back? I know we kept you waiting for a little bit, but would you please come back. We appreciate having you.

FRANK: Thank you.


LEMON: Congressman Barney Frank just moments ago, right here in the CNN NEWSROOM. A very interesting conversation, could have gone on a lot longer with him.

Earlier, we asked your thoughts on Frank's bill. You won't believe the responses we got. We asked for your e-mails. Our Josh Levs is going to share them with you in just a little bit.

PHILLIPS: Indicted Senator Ted Stevens will face a judge tomorrow in his corruption case. Arraignment is scheduled for federal district court in Washington. And for now, the powerful Alaska Republican is back at work on Capitol Hill insisting he did nothing wrong.

Stevens is accused of lying on financial disclosure forms about work done on his home and gifts that he accepted from a major oil contractor. Authorities say that the take added up to more than $250,000. The 84-year-old Stevens, the longest-serving Republican in the Senate by the way, already was facing a tough re-election fight in November.

Stevens isn't the only Alaska politician accused of corruption. Take a listen.


JOE JOHNS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Grainy videotape of a bribe going down in a hotel is remote Juno, Alaska. You are watching undercover video of an FBI sting on some Alaska state legislatures, nicknamed, the Corrupt Bastards Club. Pulling the strings here is a powerful Alaska oilman, Bill Allen. At the time, he was CEO of VECO, an oil field (ph) services company. Allen was willing to pay to get some legislation that would favor his company.

In his hotel suite, powerful Alaska politicians were taking their seats one by one, often sharing a drink and promising to do what it takes to make the oilman happy.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'll get 'er (ph) done.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I know you'll do it. I'm serious about it.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I don't care. I'll get 'er done.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I know. I know it.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'll sell my soul to the devil.

JOHNS: Seven players in Alaska business and politics have been convicted in the federal corruption investigation. But the biggest fish of all in the VECO case, Senator Ted Stevens. Eight years ago, in 2000, Stevens did a big renovation on this place, his home near Anchorage. It's in disrepair now but we're told years ago, Stevens put in a new basement, lifted the whole structure up and added a new first floor. By some estimates, it doubled the value of the house.

Remember this guy, Bill Allen? Well, prosecutors say he's cooperating with them now and those prosecutors say Allen's company basically paid for the labor and some nice extras. Total value, more than a quarter million dollars.

MATTHEW FRIEDRICH, ACTING ASSISTANT ATTORNEY GENERAL: VECO contractors and employees performed a significant portion of these renovations. For example, VECO and its employees and contractors are alleged to have provided architectural designs for the renovation, assisted in lifting up the residence and installing a new first floor, installed electrical, plumbing, framing, heating and flooring materials.

JOHNS: You get the picture.

Stevens has long argued he did nothing wrong.

VOICE OF SEN. TED STEVENS (R), ALASKA: I will tell you, we paid every bill that was given to us. Every bill that was presented to us has been paid, personally, with our own money. And that's all there is to it.

JOHNS: This is arguably the lowest point in a monumental career. Stevens is one of a handful of politicians who literally built Alaska, thanks in large part to billions of dollars of federal earmarks, including money for those infamous wildly expensive bridges to nowhere that launched a nation-wide debate over how Congress doles out millions in pet projects.

STEVE ELLIS, TAXPAYERS FOR COMMON SENSE: We're starting to see the end of this go-go era of earmarking in that every round of indictments, and hopefully convictions in some cases, really creates greater pressure, the public creates greater demand that there needs to be more accountability and transparency. And they are even sicker (INAUDIBLE) the system.

JOHNS: In some ways, Alaska has become the poster child of public corruption, regardless of what happens to Senator Ted Stevens. But all of the indictments in this case have sent a message -- that no matter how far you are from Washington, or how powerful, the feds are always watching.

Joe Johns, CNN, Washington.




ROB MARCIANO, CNN CORRESPONDENT: This 1960s building used to be a bank. Now, it's the headquarters for Ideas, an electrical engineering and lighting design company in San Jose, California. It's nickname, z-squared, and for a good reason.

DAVID KANEDA, IDEAS: It says z-squared is net zero energy, zero carbon emission. And as far as we know, this is the first building (ph) of its type.

MARCIANO: David Kaneda and his team redesigned the building to run efficiently on its own, with high-tech windows that darken to block the heat and glare to well positioned skylights.

KANEDA: As you can see, we've got plenty of light in this space and all the lights are turned out.

MARCIANO: And how does a large space keep cool in the summer? Well instead of an air-conditioning unit, a system of pipes under the floor with warm or cool water running through them, depending on the season, maintain comfortable temperatures in summer and winter.

MARK FISHER, IDEAS: There is a two-inch concrete slab over the top of the pipes that acts as thermal mass to radiate the heat or the cooling into the space.

MARCIANO: Solar panels on a flat roof produce energy to power the building, with any leftover electricity redistributed to other users.

KANEDA: If the building doesn't use all the power, then it just goes back on onto the street and spins the meter backward.

MARCIANO: All that's left of the old bank is the original vault door, an unintended symbol of the money saved in creating an environmentally friendly and high efficiency building.

Rob Marciano, CNN. (END VIDEOTAPE)


LEMON: Some American Airlines passengers will be pretty cranky today when they arrive at their destination but their bags don't arrive at their destination. It's been a very big day, a big baggage mess, at JFK Airport in New York. And there you see her, Mary Snow joins us now live.

And I imagine some pretty upset passengers, Mary, because this caused some delays and confusion as well, didn't it?

MARY SNOW, CNN CORRESPONDENT: It certainly is, Don. It's continuing to do so. A lot of headaches as luggage continues to pile up here on American Airlines flights out of JFK.

What happened was there was a computer glitch, according to American Airlines, around 4:00 a.m. this morning with the conveyor belt system. They said they have partially fixed it, but it is still not working properly. So what's been happening is that these bags of luggage have been piling up. American Airlines saying now about 10 to 20 percent of bags are getting on the flights.

So passengers are being given a choice. They can either go ahead without their bags and they'll be shipped to them at a later date, or get on a later flight.

We spoke with passenger Norman Robinson. He is on his way to Bermuda. He decided to forfeit his earlier flight and stay with his bags, but he's clearly frustrated.


NORMAN ROBINSON, AMERICAN AIRLINES PASSENGER: I'm frustrated, because I was concerned about whether or not the bags were going to disappear. That's why I took my -- I didn't put my bags in there. I'm not going to -- because all the people right now, I'm suer, are frustrated, because they don't their stuff.


SNOW: Now American Airlines says it is bringing together people from all over the company, including the sales department. They are manually going through this luggage now, sorting it out and -- as it is loaded now on flights. But obviously, this is also causing delays. American says flights out of JFK at this point are running on average about an hour behind. And they say that they have don't know when this problem is going to be fixed. A spokesman for American here at JFK says there is a reasonable chance if passengers get to the airport several hours before their flight their luggage may get on. But they are guaranteeing nothing -- Don.

LEMON: All right. Thank you very much. Mary Snow at JFK Airport. Appreciate it. PHILLIPS: Delta is making more changes that will cost you. Like its rivals, Delta is struggling with sky-high fuel prices. So as of tomorrow, it's raising baggage charges on new domestic bookings. Your first checked bag is still free, but your second will cost double -- 50 bucks, up from 25. A third checked bag will cost you $125. You overheard for overweight and oversized luggage also going up, same for specialty stuff such as surf boards and skis.

Well an airliner landed in Atlanta today with a dead body in a lavatory. A Delta Airlines spokesperson says that it appears that one of the passengers, a 61-year-old woman, passed away in the restroom somewhere between Los Angeles and Atlanta. The flight crew found the body and authorities met the plane at the gate. No word yet on what caused that death.

LEMON: Massachusetts state police issue an Amber Alert for four children abducted in Lynn, Massachusetts. We are just getting this information into the CNN NEWSROOM. This is according to the "Associated Press." They're looking for three children, children ranging in age from 11 months to 3-years-old. And they are also looking for their 26-year-old mother.

Police there held a press conference just a short time ago. Now here's what they say. The reason that they're doing that -- that's the suspect. Let me tell you his name is --

That's the mother? OK. Sorry about that. This is just coming in.

This is the mother, Louana Eveillard -- E-V-E-I-L-L-A-R-D -- however you pronounce that -- 26-year-old Louana Eveillard. They're looking for her and they believe she has a stab wound in her hand because her husband stabbed her then abducted her and the children as well. Also in this, I'm just learning, it's four children taking with their mother from a home where a woman in that home was fatally stabbed

So again, Lynn, Massachusetts, Amber Alert. Four children taken with their mother from a home. And a woman in that home found fatally stabbed. Again, the children change in range from 11-months-old to 3- years-old. They are looking for the husband, Rodlyn Petitbois -- Rodlyn Petitbois, 25-years-old. Looking for him, have no idea where he is.

This happened in Lynn, Massachusetts, about 15 miles north of Boston. Police there held a press conference just a short time ago. We are looking at that press conference. As soon as we get information out of that, we'll bring it to you right here in the CNN NEWSROOM. Those pictures, WHDH in Boston. All of this according to the "Associated Press."

OK. Well this week, the big oil companies are once again reporting huge and often record profits. But where is all that money going? Any way we can get our hands on some of it? That would be great, wouldn't it? '

Well,'s Poppy Harlow has our "Energy Fix." She joins us from New York.

Hi, Poppy. So how do we get our hands on some of that money that the oil companies are making? Is it possible?

POPPY HARLOW, CNNMONEY.COM: Yes, that would be great right?. Wrap your hands around this number, Don. It would be great. I don't know how possible it is. But we'll get to that in one second.

Big oil companies expected to rake in $35 billion just in the first three months of this year. The question: Where is all that money going? A lot of different places, including, of course, the wallets of the oil executives. But a much greater amount of that $35 billion is going back to shareholders. So possibly to you.

Last year, about half of the available cash from the five biggest oil companies -- that went back to the shareholders in the form of stock buybacks and dividends. Compare that to just 30 percent back in 2000 and just 1 percent in 1993. That benefits a lot of mutual funds, a lot of 401(k) accounts. So very possibly, you and I.

But for the second day in a row, our "Energy Fix" is about if you can't beat them, you should join them. The question though: Where isn't the money going? Don, it's not going to more oil exploration, not right there. Spending is virtually flat there over the past 10 years or so -- Don.

LEMON: OK. So, Poppy, with all of the profit, have the oil stocks risen at all this year?

HARLOW: That's exactly what you would think. ExxonMobil is reporting tomorrow, expecting a record profit there. That's the world's largest oil company. But surprisingly, most of their stocks have not risen this year. The price of oil has certainly been on the rise. That has not translated into higher stock values for Exxon for example.

Oil up 27 percent this year. It was up a whole lot more than that just two weeks ago when we saw those record oil prices. Exxon's stock though, Don, that is down about 14 percent even though it's expected to report another record profit tomorrow. And one reason is Exxon, just like a lot of other people out there, has to buy oil on the open market. They refine that into gasoline. That means their costs are up.

Now here's a bit of good news. Your costs aren't lately when it comes to the gasoline stations, perhaps that is because of another energy fix. You see it there -- they are holding hands, Prayer at the Pump. This group in Ohio, I love this story, prayed for lower gas prices at the end of June. Since then, gas prices are down eight cents or 2 percent. Not much, Don, but it's something, right?

LEMON: It's down. They prayed for it. Can you e-mail me that group? I need some help as well.

HARLOW: OK. I will.

LEMON: Thank you, Poppy.

PHILLIPS: Well, it seemed like a good idea if not a little ambitious -- recycling a light pole. We're going to tell you why a guy trying to earn some bucks doesn't understand what the fuss is all about.


ELIO VALERA, SUSPECT: Hey, if I'm doing this to recycle, everybody else should do it. They should have done it three months ago.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You're saying it's been on the floor for a while?

VALERA: Two, three months. Why didn't they pick it up?



LEMON: Earlier, we asked you about a bill before Congress that would eliminate federal penalties for the possession of small amounts of marijuana. We asked for your e-mails. Our Josh Levs has been looking at your responses and he is here to tell us what you think. And I have just from everyone in the newsroom going, are you kidding me? Really? Wow. The responses overwhelming in one way.

JOSH LEVS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Overwhelming in one way. People saying that they should drop federal penalties. That's all -- overwhelmingly.

In fact, I want to tell you -- we first asked this question at like 11:50 this morning, something like that. We checked the e-mail at like 12:02 and we already had hundreds. So we've still been going through those.

LEMON: Are you kidding me?

LEVS: And we barely have that much time.

So let's just take a look at some of the examples.

I'm going to start off with a neutral one. This is interesting. Scott says: "I don't care about this issue right now. Tell our officials to table it until they fix real American issues."

But then we'll get into the real representative things here: "What a great tax opportunity for taxing the production, sale and purchase of marijuana and taking it out of organized crime's hands. Let's fix our roads and bridges on marijuana tax funds. They don't want federal penalties."

One more: "With the known damages caused by hard drugs, such as cocaine, meth, et cetera, it only seems logical to focus our federal resources on those drugs know to damage society. Marijuana is not one of those drugs."

So that's what a lot of people were saying. Tell us what you think. You can go to right now. You can't miss it. There's a big page asking you to weigh in right there. We'll keep taking a look.

LEMON: And on and on -- yes, send us your e-mails. We're very interested. We may have to continue this later.

CNN NEWSROOM continues. More news, right after this.