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Russia's Georgia Invasion: Diplomatic Efforts Under Way; Michael Phelps' Gold Rush; Sour Note at China's Opening Ceremonies

Aired August 12, 2008 - 11:00   ET


TONY HARRIS, CNN ANCHOR: And good morning again, everyone. You're informed with CNN.
I'm Tony Harris.

HEIDI COLLINS, CNN ANCHOR: Hi there, everybody. I'm Heidi Collins.

Developments keep coming into the CNN NEWSROOM on this Tuesday, August 12th. Here's what's on the rundown.

Russia says it halted attacks in Georgia today. Georgia says otherwise. A morning of fast-moving developments to tell you about.

HARRIS: A new DNA technique makes him a free man today. Eighteen years behind bars for a rape he did not commit.

COLLINS: China's drive for Olympic perfection leads to a lip- synching scandal. A little girl heard but not seen -- in the NEWSROOM.

Just moments ago, a possible breakthrough on the Russian military action against Georgia, its former Soviet republic. As you may remember, Russia attacked last week after Georgia tried to rein in its breakaway province, South Ossetia. It had tried to split from Georgia and align with Russia.

French president Nicolas Sarkozy says he and his Russian counterpart have endorsed a peace deal. Both Russian and Georgian troops would withdraw to their initial positions in Georgia. The United Nations and NATO have also called meetings today.

Russia stirred international concerns by launching attacks deep into Georgia, a U.S. ally. The push went beyond provinces that have close ties to Russia.

HARRIS: Now, just minutes ago, the White House postponed its briefing on the crisis in Georgia. What's up here? Let's get the latest on the diplomatic front. Zain Verjee, as you know, is our State Department correspondent.

And Zain, I know you have been asking all of the questions, so what is State saying to you?

ZAIN VERJEE, CNN STATE DEPARTMENT CORRESPONDENT: What the State Department is saying is that the U.S. has seen earlier reports about the Russian halt to attack, but they're telling us the situation on the ground is still a little confusing. And they're not able to verify it.

The priority today, though, Tony, at the State Department is for Secretary of State Rice to get on the phone and speak to world leaders, like in Britain, France and Germany, and find that diplomatic solution. She sent a mid-level envoy to Georgia.

The U.S. is calling for, as it has this whole time, for Russia's troops to get out. President Bush called the invasion unacceptable. He also warned Russia not to escalate the violence by attacking any targets in the capital, Tbilisi. Russia appears to have backed down a little, maybe in response to that. Adding, too, the president said, that Russia's invasion has really damaged its standing in the world and could damage relations with the U.S., too -- Tony.

HARRIS: What is it that the United States can really do to get Russia to do what it wants it to do? That's behave.

VERJEE: Well, in truth, the U.S. really can't do much. They don't have a lot of leverage over Russia.

I mean, they're not going to get anywhere at the U.N. Security Council because Russia has got veto power there and it can stop U.S. efforts to condemn it or take any kind of action. The U.S. is also saying it's not going to send troops to fight Russia at all. It ruled that out early on. And the U.S. also needs help from Russia in dealing with Iran.

What the U.S. is hoping is that international pressure on Russia will work. But the truth is that Russia is pretty much doing whatever it wants and telling the U.S. that, we're the powerhouse in the region.

And I just got off the phone, Tony, with one expert that gave me the view that the U.S. can't do much except plead and beg with Russia just to stop it. What they're doing also is hoping that the Europeans who are taking the lead in much of this can really lean on Russia, because Europe really depends on Russian oil and Russian gas. So anything that the Europeans do to cut that off would hurt the Russians, so they have a little leverage.

HARRIS: Let's hope they have another card to play other than pleading and begging. That's a pretty weak hand.

State Department Correspondent Zain Verjee for us this morning.

Zain, thank you.

COLLINS: Now we want to give you a better look at the map and the troop movements that we've been talking about. Our Josh Levs is in the news room now with more to help us understand all of that.

Hi there, Josh.

JOSH LEVS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, hi, Heidi. Absolutely, we want to trace you through this. It is a confusing story. Fortunately, we have a helpful map that's right behind me. Let's close in on this.

First of all, I want to show you some basics. This right here is Georgia. Russia up here. And this right here, South Ossetia. Now, we have heard from Georgia this morning that there's been more attacks despite what Russia has been saying.

I'm going to switch now to a slightly more confusing map. Just follow me here.

This is from a ReliefWeb. Here's what I'm doing. This is South Ossetia. There is a big red line along here.

They are saying that four major sites along this red line, Kashuri (ph), Agara, Gori and Kaspi, were all bombed today by Russia. We don't have independent confirmation. We don't know that.

Let's go back to the simpler map. I'll tell you why that's so significant.

What we've been seeing throughout this crisis and throughout what's been going on there has been Russia entering some parts outside of South Ossetia and outside of Abkhazia, which were the two breakaway regions. Georgia was arguing that Russia was trying to break apart the route to Tbilisi.

If indeed Russia has done these bombs today, it's possibly that they are hitting major sites along that route. But again, we don't know if that's what's happening.

Let me also focus on this for a second, something we've been hearing from Russia today and from Georgia that's very important, is this call by Russia for a demilitarized zone around South Ossetia, around this whole area. There have been peacekeepers from Georgia and Russia inside South Ossetia for years and years, dating back to the early '90s.

Russia is now saying it does not want any Georgian troops to come back. So the big question right now as we look at international bodies, whether it's NATO or the U.N., is who will be peacekeeping forces in that area? Will there be Georgian troops in there, will there be Russian troops, will there be other troops?

Who will patrol that area? Who will take military responsibility for peacekeeping in that area? If Russia gets its way, Georgia cannot have troops in there, and that's a big interplay to focus on right now. Who will patrol that area and try to keep peace in South Ossetia -- Heidi?

COLLINS: Yes. And a lot of people may not realize why this particular territory is so important to the United States and Europe.

LEVS: It is, yes. I'm glad you said that, actually. I think we have a graphic we can go to that lists some of the major reasons why the United States especially and parts of the West care so much about this.

The biggest reason, even before oil, is nobody wants instability in that region. The last thing any part of the world needs right now is another unstable region. To have destabilization would be a big problem.

Also, there's a key oil transit line. Georgia is a key U.S. ally. And Georgia wants to expand NATO eastward. The United States wants that, Russia doesn't.

All reasons it matters to a lot to the United Sates and to a lot of the west -- Heidi.

COLLINS: All right. Josh Levs for us at the international desk.

Thank you, Josh.

LEVS: Thanks a lot.

HARRIS: Well, inside Georgia, massive rallies showing support for the Democratic government.

CNN's Frederik Pleitgen is in the capital city of Tbilisi, and he joins us via broadband.

And Frederik, a couple of things here. President Medvedev last hour in his news conference with French President Sarkozy talked about territorial integrity, seemingly suggesting that it is not about lines on a map but the will of the people. You saw a pretty strong indication of the will of Georgians in that rally today.

FREDERIK PLEITGEN, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes. That was a very interesting statement, because it seemed very important to the French side of those two negotiating partners that territorial integrity would be a very important point in the negotiations to a possible cease-fire.

The Russian president then, of course, saying that he said it's not about lines on a map, as you said, but the will of the people. He says that the bulk of the people in those two breakaway provinces of Southern Ossetia and also of Abkhazia are Russians and want to be part of the Russian federation.

Today, many Georgians came here to the Georgian capital of Tbilisi to demonstrate in favor of their government. And what was said in the speeches at that massive demonstration with about 50,000 people here in the center of town is that they believe that Abkhazia and Southern Ossetia are very much an integral part of this nation of Georgia.

And one thing that the Georgian government has been stressing a lot, they say that they feel that the Russians are the aggressor in this, and that the Russians very violated Georgian territorial integrity. Let's listen in to a very strong statement that the Georgian president, Mikheil Saakashvili, gave earlier.


PRES. MIKHEIL SAAKASHVILI, GEORGIA: I think the policy (ph) is very clear, to demonstrate to the world they couldn't care less about world reaction, to continue to cripple the country. They clearly articulate their regime change objective.

This is not about presidency of Georgia or something. This is about killing the freedom and the independence of this country, and scaring all the others around us.

Well, I think our message to them is, no matter what they do, no matter how much they bomb us, no matter how they want to cripple us and undermine us, we are not going to give up our freedom. And Georgia will never surrender.


PLEITGEN: Now, of course, the Russians have a very different take on the situation, Tony. They say it was the Georgians that started this conflict by shelling Tskhinvali, which is the capital of that breakaway province of Southern Ossetia.

And let me just brief you on the latest of the situation, what we're hearing on the ground from the battle zone. The Georgians are saying that even after the statement of Russian President Medvedev, that the Russians have ceased their operations. They say that villages in Georgia are still being bombed by Russian warplanes, and they say that some of their troops had to evacuate from one region because they were under attack -- Tony.

HARRIS: That's a terrific wrap on the situation.

Frederik Pleitgen for us in Georgia, in the capital of Tbilisi.

Frederik, appreciate it. Thank you.


COLLINS: On to this story now. Not good enough. A little girl kicked off the Olympic stage because she just wasn't pretty enough.


COLLINS: Now to Beijing and Michael Phelps' gold rush. Three gold medals already around his neck, and he's just a few hours away now from swimming for a couple more.

CNN's Larry Smith is live in Beijing.

Hey there, Larry.


Yes, it's evening time here. And Wednesday morning Beijing time, he'll be back in the pool. But it has been pretty much -- you want to say pedestrian effort for Michael Phelps? I mean, three times in the pool, with a gold medal at stake, three gold medals, three world records. The latest coming in the 200- meter freestyle, when Phelps outdistanced the rest. He was almost two seconds ahead of the silver medalist in this as, again, he wins his third gold medals of these games.

He will return Wednesday morning, Beijing time -- that's Tuesday night on the East Coast -- for two shots at medals, one in the 200- meter butterfly and the other in the 4x200-meter freestyle relay.

Now, you know, unlike the other great superstars of his generation, Michael Phelps only gets to display his greatness once every four years. But you could argue that he is about to eclipse all the rest.


SMITH (voice-over): He is much like the element he works in: calm, cool, and clear about what he is attempting to do.

MICHAEL PHELPS, OLYMPIC SWIMMER: I want to do things that no one else in the sport has ever done.

SMITH: Michael Phelps has already done lots of thing, and he's just 23.

NATALIE COUGHLIN, WON GOLD MEDAL: Not even realizing what an incredible athlete he is. Like, obviously he's amazing, and he breaks all these world records. But I think being a part of that, we almost take it for granted.

BOB BOWMAN, PHELP'S COACH: It will remain to be seen where history ultimately places him, but clearly today I think he's the best swimmer we've seen.

SMITH: Bowman began coaching Phelps as an 11-year-old who had trouble focusing. But none finding trouble.

BOWMAN: It's a little bit counterintuitive, because even though he was so rambunctious as a young swimmer, when he raced he was very focused.

PHELPS: I always had, you know, dreams of being an Olympian, being a world record holder, being a professional athlete, being a gold medalist. And I had to focus on those goals to achieve them. I knew that.

SMITH: Swimming nearly four miles per workout in often twice- daily practices with hardly a day off will focus you. Although, it is just that kind of intense work that may have cost Phelps much of his childhood.

PHELPS: I would never trade going to the Olympic games and standing on the top of the medal podium, or, you know, being able to turn professional, or, you know, travel all over the world. I would never turn any of it in. So, to me, it was worth it to give it up. SMITH: Phelps has the opportunity to break the Olympics' most hallowed record and eclipse Mark Spitz's seven gold medals in the 1972 games.

PHELPS: There are a lot of things that people haven't done. And I want to change the sport and be the first person to do new things.


SMITH: And before you think that Michael Phelps will stop here in Beijing if he gets the record eight gold medals in a single Olympics, think again. He'll be only 27 years old in 2012, when he says he will swim for more medals in London.

Let's go back to you.

COLLINS: Yes. And boy, somebody else setting a precedent there, 41-year-old Dara Torres. Can't wait to see more of her as well.

Larry Smith, thank you, live from Beijing.

HARRIS: So move over Milli Vanilli. You remember Milli Vanilli?

The Olympic opening ceremonies were supposed to be China's coming out party. Now some of the facts coming out about that party are making China look frankly a little silly.

Here's CNN's John Vause.


JOHN VAUSE, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The defining moment for modern China: a national celebration, and one little girl, Yang Peiyi, was heard but not seen, apparently because of her appearance and stage presence. Games organizers confirm to CNN during the opening ceremony, Yang's voice was used by another little girl.

Lin Miaoke was mouthing the words to "Ode to the Motherland" as China's flag entered the stadium. The opening ceremony's musical director explained why on Beijing radio.

"The reason was for the national interest," he says. "The child on camera should be flawless in image, internal feelings and expression." "Lin Miaoke, "he went on to say, "is excellent in those aspects." The decision, he says, went as high as the polit bureau.

"We had to do it. We had seen through several inspections -- they're all very strict -- when we rehearsed at the spot, there were spectators from various division, especially leaders from the polit bureau who gave the opinion, it must change," he says.

Few here realize that Lin was lip-synching. "Tiny singer wins heart of nation," is the headline in Tuesday's "China Daily." "Lin Miaoke might only be 9 years old, but she is already well on her way to becoming a star thanks to her heartwarming performance," the article gushes, without mentioning she never sang a note. But as word gets out on the Internet, some Chinese bloggers are outraged.

"If you're not good looking, no matter how well you see, you'll not be on stage" "Do you know you're twisting a whole generation?" read one comment. "If foreigners found out, they'd think we can't even find a girl who is good at both," read another.

(on camera): As for 7-year-old Yang Peiyi, she reportedly says that she's just honored to have had a role in the open ceremony in the first place, even though few here realized just how big her part really was.

John Vause, CNN, Beijing.


COLLINS: Oh, that's a shame.

Got milk? Well, it may be a key to a long and healthy life. Intriguing new findings about Vitamin D.


HARRIS: Well, Detroit Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick getting a bit of a break this morning. A judge says Kilpatrick did not violate conditions of his bond by visiting his sister. The sister is a possible witness for the prosecution in an assault case that is pending against the mayor. Last week, the same judge sent Kilpatrick to jail for a night after saying he violated his bond in another case.

COLLINS: Have scientists stumbled across a possible secret to living longer in the vitamin aisle or at the beach?

Medical Correspondent Elizabeth Cohen is here now to talk more about this.

OK. So Vitamin D?

ELIZABETH COHEN, CNN MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: Vitamin D. Some people are calling it the wonder vitamin.

There have been several studies that show that it can help you in all sorts of ways. This study is the first to look at how long people live. They found that folks who didn't get much Vitamin D, they died sooner, they didn't live as long as people who did get lots of Vitamin D.

COLLINS: OK. Well, how do you know if you are getting enough? I mean, what's the daily required amount? I don't even know.

COHEN: You know how you really know? You go to the doctor and you ask for a simple blood test.


COHEN: A lot of us are Vitamin D deficient. All you have to do is take a blood test to find out.

COLLINS: And how do you go about getting lots of Vitamin D?

COHEN: Food is a good way to do it. There's lots of it in food. You don't have to worry that you're going to get too much.

For example, yes, we have a lovely list here: fortified milk, salmon and tuna, great places to get Vitamin D. Fortified cereal or fortified juice, all of those have lots of Vitamin D in them.

COLLINS: OK. So what if you don't maybe like any of those things or can't -- a lot of people lactose-intolerant. So can you just take the Vitamin D capsules and be OK?

COHEN: You can take supplements, but there is a chance that you can take too much. So you want to be careful. You want to talk to your doctor, you want to figure out the right dosage for your age, for your size, all of that.

COLLINS: OK. And what about the sun? To me, this is the most fascinating part of it.

COHEN: It is. You have to be exposed to the sun in order to get lots and lots of Vitamin D. So when people are Vitamin D deficient, it's often because they're not in the sun enough.


COLLINS: So here's what you want to do, and this is tricky because you also don't want to get skin cancer. The NIH says for five to 30 minutes between 10:00 a.m. and 3:00 p.m., at least twice a week -- so you're going out at least twice a week for five to 30 minutes, during those hours -- bare some skin, show your legs, show your arms. You can put sunscreen on your face if you don't want wrinkles.

And do not use sunscreen. So we're talking five to 30 minutes a couple of times a week in the middle of the day. Walk out -- like this would be no good.


COHEN: You know, walk out in short sleeves.

COLLINS: OK. But five to 30 minutes, I mean, that seems like a huge disparity. I mean, I could definitely get burnt in, you know, just about 20 minutes between those hours because those are the peak sun hours, right?

COHEN: Exactly. And the reason why we give that range is because some people need five, some need 30, depending upon your age, depending upon the color of your skin. There are lots of variables.


COHEN: Now, I want to tell you about something we're doing later this week. COLLINS: OK. Please.

COHEN: This is very exciting.

We're doing an "Empowered Patient" on horrible things that happen to you when you travel abroad. You get sick, something goes wrong, your insurance doesn't work. And we are looking for people's traveling abroad, getting sick horror stories or success stories.

E-mail us at

I heard from one woman who had to get a root canal at 2:00 in the morning in Guatemala. So all sorts of things that people have to do.

COLLINS: Oh, that's bad.

COHEN: Right, all sort of things. And we want to help you stay healthy abroad. So send us an e-mail.

COLLINS: You know, I think my mom is probably already typing. She'll tell you about her French experience.

COHEN: I want to hear about it.

COLLINS: Yes. She'll be e-mailing.

COHEN: Tell your mom to e-mail me.

COLLINS: OK. Elizabeth, thank you.

HARRIS: Russia and Georgia come to blows. Continuing coverage of the crisis all day on CNN.


HARRIS: Bottom of the hour. Welcome back, everyone to the CNN NEWSROOM.

I'm Tony Harris.

COLLINS: Hi, everybody. I'm Heidi Collins.

We want to get you some more information on the story that we told you a little while ago in Easton, Massachusetts. It's about 30 minutes away from Boston. We have now learned the plane crash that we've been telling you about and here's pictures now, some new video unfortunately, from the scene.

Three people have been confirmed dead. This is according to some of our local affiliates there and also from associated press. After this plane, which was a cessna-type plane, single engine plane, crashed into the parking lot of a grocery store there. Apparently, and bear with me as I just read some of this new information coming in -- a spokesman for the FAA said that the three were on board the single engine plane, went down at this grocery store about 10:15 this morning. So, it was en route to Boston. Didn't really have any more information on where the plane was going to or what they were doing. It sounds to me though like it was a single engine cessna, that it was just a pleasure flight possibly. So, once again, we are on top of that story for you. Multiple fire engines and crew on the scene there. The plane just completely engulfed in flames as you can see from this wreckage and all the charred aircraft remains there.

We're going to keep our eye on this one for you. But again, three people are dead in that plane crash, Easton, Massachusetts.

HARRIS: And breaking news this morning. A possible deal to halt Russia's military action against Georgia, its former soviet republic.

As you may remember, Russia attacked last week after Georgia tried to reign in its breakaway province. South Ossetia had tried to split from Georgia and align with Russia. French President Sarkozy is in Moscow, serving as the head of the European Union. He says he and Russian President Dimitry Medvedev have endorsed a peace plan. Both Russian and Georgian troops would withdraw to their initial positions in Georgia and both sides would interfere with humanitarian aid.

The number of civilian casualties and refugees, we just don't know at this time. You know, we've heard a lot about the diplomats and what they're doing right now. But what about the people stuck in the middle, forced to flee the fighting?

Josh Levs is over at our international desk with more on the human toll.

And Josh, we heard about an hour ago from Barbara Starr at the Pentagon, that the first U.S. military humanitarian flight to Georgia is scheduled for Thursday.

LEVS: Thursday. Yes. And that's one of the many -- U.S. is one of the many countries and also many agencies are out there right now, sending a lot of humanitarian aid into that region.

And there's a lot of people in a lot of need. One of the most frustrating things about reporting on this is that we really don't know the casualty numbers right now. We're not sure how many wounded, we're not sure how many killed. We've heard different claims from different sides. Russia says about 2,000 people killed in South Ossetia, alone. Georgians say actually it's hundreds of thousands who were killed by Russia. We just don't know how many hundreds, how many thousands.

We're also hearing about a lot of refugees. They could be in the tens of thousands. Let's look at the screen behind me. I want to show you some things here. First of all, speaking of the human toll, these are some photos we have up at right now. Really moving. This is a woman showing her home in Gori, after there was a bomb there. And let's show this, one of most moving photos we've seen all day. A husband comforts his wife in Gori, just outside that breakaway province of South Ossetia. This is the human toll. We're seeing more and more images of this coming in. Now, one of the few hard figures I actually have for you is right here. This is from the U.N. Let's focus in on these words:

"The latest figures from Russian officials are indicating that about 30,000 people went into North Ossetia from South Ossetia."

So, Russians officials saying at least 30,000 refugees. Then Georgian officials are saying, there are also thousands that went in other directions. So it could be more than 30,000. If you're interested in some of the agencies that are taking some actions, let me show you. World Food Program; they're providing food to thousands who've been displaced. They're reaching out. That's

I also want to show you this one. This is the IOCC; Internatational Orthodox Christian Charities. Doing a lot of work there, again, moving images. Humanitarian need deepens as conflict in the caucuses affects thousands.

Well, Tony, we're keeping a close eye on this. We're looking into how many people are affected, where they're going to, how many internally displaced people in addition to refugees. And at we'll keep updating that so people can know how to impact your world and help out.

HARRIS: And I know you know this. Tbilisi and Atlanta are sister cities. And I'm getting some e-mails suggesting that there might be a humanitarian effort launched from Atlanta, soon. And we'll try to track that down, as well.

All right. Josh, appreciate it. Thank you, sir.

LEVS: Thanks.

COLLINS: Covering diplomatic developments, CNN European political editor Robin Oakley; he's joining us to talk a little bit more about this.

Robin, this is obviously a dicey situation diplomatically.

ROBIN OAKLEY, CNN EUROPEAN POLITICAL EDITOR: Well, it is dicey diplomatically.

And at the press conference between Nicholas Sarkozy the French President representing the 27 countries of the European Union because he's in the chair of that group at the moment. And Mr. Medvedev, the Russian president.

Nicolas Sarkozy was saying that definitely the Russians were going to come out of Georgia. But he presented the whole thing very much as work in progress at the moment.


PRES. NICOLAS SARKOZY, FRANCE (through translator): We have not achieved peace yet. But, we have achieved a provisional ceasefire of hostilities which I think we all have to honestly admit is important piece of progress. But we still have a lot of work to do.


OAKLEY: Now, Mr. Sarkozy said that the sovereignty of Georgia had to be guaranteed. That when Mr. Medvedev was asked about that, he said, well, sovereignty was a very complicated matter. So, there's an awful lot of that talking still to go on, Heidi.


And Robin, how much power really does the European Union have in a situation like this?

OAKLEY: Not a great deal of power. Partly because it's divided about how tough it should be on Russia, partly because the European Union countries depend on Russia for 40 percent of their energy supplies. Partly because they want Russia's cooperation in what they see as a much bigger issue. And that's the nuclear program in Iran.

So, it's a pretty limited kind of leverage that the European Union countries have got. But five of the countries -- well, four E.U. countries plus Ukraine -- Poland, Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia -- their heads of government are heading to Georgia to show solidarity with Mr. Saakashvili in the current situation.

The big question is whether they need to get together all 27 E.U. heads of government to agree on a complete program that the 27 of them can endorse in terms of tackling Russia in the future, Heidi.

COLLINS: Yes. And 27 -- that's an awfully big number to get everyone to agree, certainly, in this situation.

Robin Oakey, sure do appreciate it. CNN European political editor.

Thank you.

Getting out of the war zone. Frightening few days for some American missionaries in the Republic of Georgia. Most of the church group returned home to Houston, last night. Their flight home was delayed, though, by the Russian bombing at the airport in the Georgian capital of Tbilisi.


KELSEY POLOVINA, AMERICAN MISSIONARY: It was definitely a new experience for me. The cultures -- I mean, you just fall in love with these people. And I think towards the end we all just kind of felt heartbroken that they were going through this.


COLLINS: Not all of the members of that group came home. Four of them were aboard a U.S. embassy convoy taking them from Tbilisi, to neighboring Armenia.

HARRIS: On the road and checking out what's on voters' minds.

Our Tom Foreman on the CNN Election Express as it makes its way to Denver for the Democratic National Convention.

There he is, Tom, joining us from Ohio.

Let's see, Tom. Last time we spoke with you, you were just leaving Youngstown. Where are you now?

TOM FOREMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, we're close to Cleveland. As you know, Cleveland rocks.

We're having a good time (AUDIO GAP) here, talking to folks along the way. All I have to tell you, we won't look at all (AUDIO GAP) that are happening overseas. Both of the candidates have to be thinking about that Hillary Clinton (AUDIO GAP) ad. The one about who do you want answering the phone at 3:00 in the morning when there's an international incident?

Because both of them seem to be playing it kind of safe here. And to do that, what they're having to do is echo what really has been the overall U.S. policy toward Georgia and toward Russia. That in some ways plays into the doubts that some voters have about Obama. We talked to a (AUDIO GAP) woman last night who really said that she's not sure this whole idea of big change can actually work.

Listen to what she said.


` UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: ... be honest and real. But I don't think any candidate who is saying that they're going to make -- change this entire country -- I mean, no one candidate can say, hey, we're going to change the entire country. We're going to flip-flop it back from what it is now to something better. I don't think that's going to happen. I don't buy into that.


FOREMAN: Now, the problem with that kind of voter with McCain, too though. Because that young woman said she's very conservative and she's not convinced that McCain is conservative enough for her.

That's been the worry all along, there will be people that Obama can't get because they just don't quite believe in him. And people McCain can't get because, for example, they're conservative voters who just don't really believe he's conservative enough and they might stay home.

Ultimately, that young woman said she might go with a write-in vote. But, as you look out the front of our bus here right now, you can see the Election Express burning toward Denver and the beautiful mountains around here near Cleveland. And traffic moving along smartly. You know that this tie is lined with many, many of millions of people between here and Denver, who all have their individual question about this election, Tony. And I'm telling you (AUDIO GAP) those undecided voters. People like that young woman who are still wrestling with this. As long as this election has gone one, but haven't yet made up their minds because they haven't been sold yet.

HARRIS: If you get an opportunity for lunch there, grab yourself some pierogis there in Cleveland. It's one of the great places in the country to grab yourself some pierogis.

Tom Foreman --

FOREMAN: Oh! Can't go wrong with those.

HARRIS: There you go. On the CNN Election Express.

Good to see you Tom, thanks.

FOREMAN: I'll throw some in the mail to you, Tony.

HARRIS: There you go!


HARRIS: Thanks, Tom.

COLLINS: They wouldn't taste so good after being mailed, I don't think.

So, can tiny bacteria make a difference in U.S. dependency on foreign oil? Well, we're going to check out a fuel alternative after this.


HARRIS: Off shore oil drilling. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, apparently warming now to the idea. On CNN's "LARRY KING LIVE" last night, Pelosi said, she could be open to a vote on off shore drilling if, pretty big if here -- it's part of a bigger energy package. Pelosi says she wants to include a major investment in renewable resources at a release of oil from the government's strategic reserves.


REP. NANCY PELOSI (D), HOUSE SPEAKER: If you make a decision only to go with the off shore drilling, you're increasing our dependence on fossil fuels and you will never free yourself of that addiction unless you invest in the renewable energy resources that are good for the environment, cheaper for the consumer and will reverse global warming.

And the consumer is our first response -- the American taxpayer owns this oil off shore, by the way. And I want to make this final point -- this oil is owned by the American taxpayers. The oil companies drill, we give them money to drill there. But, we get very little in return. So I think as we have this debate, which is a very healthy one to have and I welcome it --


HARRIS: Pelosi says she hopes Congress will pass a comprehensive energy plan before its session is out in December.

You know, it works in a test tube, but can it fill your tank?

CNN's Miles O'Brien reports on a fuel alternative using microbes.


MILES O'BRIEN, CNN CHIEF TECHNOLOGY AND ENVIRONMENT CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): It's like an oil field on a microscope slide. These tiny bacteria are making diesel fuel. No drilling required.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What are we seeing here? This is fuel here?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: These are the E. coli cells and if converted to sugar, it secreted out the oil.

O'BRIEN: Stephen Del Cardayre is the lead researcher with a company called LS9 that is harnessing a harmless strain of E. coli to make fuel. All you have to is feed the bacteria.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Doesn't have to be like corn or --

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You can use corn, you can use sugar cane, whichever work. Wheat straw will work.

O'BRIEN: In short, they aren't picky eater. They eat sugar, digest and then expel petroleum waste. Del Cardayre and his team have genetically engineered these tiny oil makers to create diesel because it's the easiest fuel to make. But E. coli could make other fuels as well.

What is the catch?

STEPHEN DEL CARDAYRE, LS9, INC.: No catch. We've genetically engineered E. coli to make fuel that can be used in existing infrastructure.

O'BRIEN: And that is a key point. LS9's E. coli diesel can be mixed in with traditional fossil fuels.

Ethanol is so corrosive it cannot be sent through existing pipelines. But can an army of microbes really make a difference? Bob McCormick is a government expert on biofuels.

ROBERT MCCORMICK, NATL. RENEWABLE ENERGY LAB: If you've got something that you can make work in a test tube, that's good. But you've got to be able to make it work on a very large scale to have an impact on our petroleum imports.

O'BRIEN: At LS9, they are ramping up as fast as they can, separating oil and water. They hope to be making millions of gallons a week in the next few years.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Is it possible to say we could grow our way out of our dependence on oil?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I doubt we're going to completely eliminate our dependence on oil. But we'll certainly be able to wean ourselves of complete dependence.

O'BRIEN: That is, once they get the bugs out.

Miles O'Brien, CNN, south San Francisco, California.


HARRIS: And from microbes to biofuels, Veronica de la Cruz joins us now with a special report called American Road Trip.

Veronica, good morning.

VERONICA DE LA CRUZ: Hey, good morning to you.

You know, the bottom line when it comes to the rising cost of gas is that people have been looking for ways to save money this summer. So, has launched this special report. It's called American Road Trip. And one of highlights of that report is Cody's Big Biofuel Adventure.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I definitely think that if you want to use biodiesel in particular or any other biofuel you can do it. It does take a lot of planning. I would suggest mapping out exactly where you're going ahead of time, calling those stations, making sure they're open, make sure you know what times they're open and what kind of currency they accept. Some places only accept cash.


DE LA CRUZ: So what exactly happened here?

Well, one of our producers Cody McCloy (ph) hit the road with another producer in a biofuel vehicle. You're looking at it right here. And their goal was to drive across the country in two weeks. What did they find? Biodiesel, which is chemically modified vegetable oil, is not readily available in many spots. They definitely ran into a couple problems there. But it still could be a good alternative for the future.

Now, of course, there are other alternative energy sources out there. We're looking at an explainer online. It breaks down the pros and cons between ethanol, biodeisel, propane and natural gas. So, you can read all about Cody's biofuel adventure.

We want to know, would you use biofuel in your vehicle? That's our quick vote right now. Yes; no; is it too much of a hassle or, maybe, depending on price and availability? Again, you can read more online about all of these alternative energy sources at And you can weigh in with your choice on the quick vote. And a lot of people right now, Tony, are saying that they are interested in finding out more about biodiesel.

HARRIS: Yes. Yes. I think a lot of folks would be interested. It feels like a bit of a hassle right now, but, who's to say in another five years or so?

DE LA CRUZ: But, 42 percent, there are only 16 percent who said that it would be too much of a hassle.

HARRIS: All right, Veronica. Appreciate it. Thank you.

COLLINS: Quickly want to get back to this plane crash that we've been telling you about. Some live pictures now, pretty disturbing pictures, in fact, coming out of our affiliate there in Boston, Massachusetts.

We're talking about Easton, Massachusetts, to be specific, which is about 30 minutes from Boston. Where a plane crashed into -- you can see it now from the wide shot there -- a parking lot of a grocery store. We have learned more about what we believe to have been the mission, if you will, of this plane. Which was, according to the FAA an angel flight. I had mentioned before, because of the type of aircraft, a private plane that perhaps it was a pleasure flight.

But we are now learning more. That it was an angel flight. And just in case you're not familiar, that's a wonderful organization where all of the pilots are volunteers and they are involved in medical flights. Sometimes blood and organ flights and other times life-saving medical trips that will help people get the procedures that they need.

So once again, three dead in this plane crash there in the parking lot of a grocery store -- Easton, Massachusetts. We'll continue to follow that one as well.

Now, on to the business side of things, today. A four-day workweek. Well, Chrysler says it could be the key to saving money. Susan Lisovicz is at the New York Stock Exchange with details.

Susan, I understand that you've already proposed this to CNN as another way to save money, and they're going for it, right?

SUSAN LISOVICZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Management doesn't buy it, but Chrysler does.

Chrysler wants to institute a four-day workweek at a dozen plants. The idea is for employees to work four 10-hour days instead of five eight-hour days. Chrysler will soon begin talks with the United Auto Workers Union regarding the proposed change. The automaker says it's in the beginning stages of introducing the plan, but it wants to try it out in plants in Michigan, Ohio, Wisconsin, and Delaware -- Heidi.

COLLINS: Chrysler still has to pay workers for 40 hours, though. So how much of a savings is it really?

LISOVICZ: Well, Chrysler says the savings will be significant and it'll come primarily from reducing energy costs because the automaker would be able to shut down parts of its factories for three full days. Chrysler is touting the idea as a cost savings for workers too, by reducing their commuting expenses. One analyst says a four- day workweek, however, could be an early sign that Chrysler's trying to shut down those plants for good.


LISOVICZ: Heidi, back to you.

COLLINS: All right. We know you're watching the numbers closely.

Thank you, Susan.

LISOVICZ: You're welcome.

HARRIS: A celebration long time coming. A man cleared by DNA evidence walks out after 18 years in prison.


HARRIS: Tough to make any sense of this next story. A toddler starved to death because he wouldn't say amen after meals. That's what Baltimore police say happened. And now that 2-year-old boy's mom is facing first-degree murder charges.

But the grandmother says her daughter isn't responsible. She says her daughter was just following orders from a group she thinks is a cult. Three other members of the group called "One Mind Ministries" are also facing murder charges in the child's death. A fifth man is charged, but isn't in custody just yet. The remains of the small child were found in April inside a suitcase. DNA tests are still being done.

COLLINS: A new DNA technique makes him a free man today. Eighteen years behind bars for a rape he did not commit.


COLLINS: New DNA technology clears a convicted rapist after 18 years in prison.

Maria Durant of affiliate WSYX reports.


MARIA DURANT, WSYX REPORTER: Surrounded by family, that's how Robert McClendon spent his first night of freedom.

ROBERT MCCLENDON, RELEASED FROM PRISON: Kind of hard to say what you're going to do after you've been gone for so long. I think it's more important to focus on what you're not going to do, such as negative things like that. DURANT: The 52-year-old released from prison shortly after 5:00 Monday evening. He had spent 18 years behind bars, convicted of raping and kidnapping a 10-year-old girl back in 1990. But with the help of the Ohio Innocence Project, a group of law students from the University of Cincinnati, they convinced the court to grant a DNA test. The test showed McClendon did not commit the crime.

Courtney Cunningham (ph) helped with the case.

COURTNEY CUNNINGHAM, OHIO INNOCENCE PROJECT: It feels absolutely amazing. Just coming onto the project at first -- it was one of the main reasons I came to the University of Cincinnati.

DURANT: McClendon calls the students his dream team, people who believed in his innocence. It's what inspired him to write this poem, "Hello Truth." His family wore the saying on their T-shirts.

MCCLENDON: The words just came out. I thought they were appropriate. Dealing with truth -- I believe the truth will outlive a lie, I believe that truth is powerful than a lie and I believe that if you believe in something and you fight for it long enough, that the truth will always come back to bless you.


COLLINS: Wow, what a story there.

CNN NEWSROOM continues one hour from now.

HARRIS: "ISSUE #1" starts right now.