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Biden in Baghdad; New York Terror Threat; Top Al Qaeda Operative Killed

Aired September 15, 2009 - 10:00   ET


HEIDI COLLINS, CNN ANCHOR: Are we going to hear that on Wall Street, guys, or no?

MALVEAUX: I don't think we are.

COLLINS: No, we are not. All right.

MALVEAUX: That was part of the message. Let me tell you about his second stop actually.

COLLINS: Yes, let's do that.

MALVEAUX: He's going to Pittsburgh.

COLLINS: All right.

MALVEAUX: Right, right. And this is a very important stop as well because this is labor, big labor. This is a group of folks that do support his health care reform plan. They are trying to work with him to make this work. This is something that's going to be a friendly audience and obviously he is trying to push forward to say you're going to benefit, many Americans are going to benefit from this.

And so those are two very important stops that he's making essentially to push forward that health care reform and as well as try to convince the American people, yes, they get it. Unemployment is high. But they do believe that things are beginning to turn, Heidi.

COLLINS: They're all happening as his vice president is in Iraq this morning. All right. Suzanne Malveaux, sure do appreciate that in front of the White House today.

Fed chairman Ben Bernanke speaking at Washington's Brookings Institute this hour. He's giving the keynote address at a conference called "A Year in Turmoil." Expect Bernanke to reflect on the financial crisis and the desperate measures the government took in order to deal with it.

On Capitol hill, a major development looms in the health care debate. A bipartisan group of senators says a compromise bill could be unveiled tomorrow. Right now House Speaker Nancy Pelosi is taking part in a round table discussion of why she says reform is needed. She is joined by other Democrats who support an overhaul.

The health care debate has also stirred deep passions on Capitol Hill as we saw last week as the president addressed a joint session of Congress. Today that congressman, Republican Joe Wilson of South Carolina, could face a formal scolding. CNN's congressional correspondent Brianna Keilar has details.


BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Congressman Joe Wilson on the House floor Monday.

REP. JOE WILSON (R), SOUTH CAROLINA: Mr. Speaker, during the August recess I was honored to host the largest congressional town halls in the history of South Carolina.

KEILAR: It wasn't what democrats wanted to hear. They want Wilson to apologize for shouting "you lie" as President Obama addressed Congress last week.

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The reforms I'm proposing would not apply to those who are here illegally.

WILSON: You lie!

OBAMA: It's not true.

KEILAR: Wilson said Sunday he's done saying sorry.

WILSON: I called immediately. I did apologize. But I believe one apology is sufficient.

KEILAR: Now Democratic leaders want to slap him on the wrist. One leadership aide saying "Failure to respond would mean consent for that kind of conduct. In the absence of an apology, the House must act to admonish his behavior."

The typically reserved southerner has become a hero of sorts to those who oppose the Democrats' health care plan. A campaign aide says Wilson has raked in at least $1 million dollars for his re- election. Cameras caught him signing the infamous photo of his outburst and tea party protesters cheered him on.

WILLIAM GREENE, RIGHTMARCH.COM: I thank god for Congressman Wilson that had the courage to say you lie!

KEILAR: Fellow Republicans are circulating a letter in support of Wilson and defending him on the House floor.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: So I stand with Joe Wilson. Let's get on with the business of this House. Let's start running this country instead of doing cheap political points.


COLLINS: And Brianna Keilar joining us now from Capitol Hill this morning. So Brianna, what exactly is a resolution of disapproval? What could happen if they decide to, you know, carry this through with Representative Wilson? KEILAR: Heidi, you call this a public slap on the wrist. I think that's a really good description of this. Because the House of Representatives has at its disposal really a menu of disciplinary actions going all the way up to expulsion and this vote on a resolution of disapproval doesn't even really fall into that menu. That menu really is for more serious offenses than yelling out on the House floor.

So this is democrats basically going on the record and in public being able to say we do not approve of this. And really, it's no more than that, Heidi.

COLLINS: OK. Very good. We're following this one all the way through. Brianna Keilar, sure do appreciate it.

Also I just to let you know Vice President Joe Biden is in Iraq this morning. He landed in Baghdad just about 90 minutes ago. This is actually some video of Biden's last stop in Iraq. He was there to spend July 4th with the troops. Biden is expected to meet with U.S. commanders and troops again this time. He'll also talk with Iraqi government leaders. As we said, this is Biden's second trip to Iraq since President Obama made him administration's point man on the country.

Support is at an all-time low for the war in Afghanistan. A new CNN Opinion Research Corporation poll released this morning says 39 percent of Americans approve of the war. That's a big drop from the 50 percent support in May. May was the last time supporters outweighed those who opposed the war. 58 percent now say they oppose the U.S. war in Afghanistan. This is our first poll on the war since August finished as the deadliest year for U.S. troops there.

We also would like to poll the Heidi show viewers directly asking you what you think about many different topics. Today, do you support the war in Afghanistan? Why or why not? Just go to our blog, and you're your thoughts there. We'll share some of them with you a little bit later on.

Joint Chiefs chairman Admiral Mike Mullen is talking about Afghanistan on Capitol Hill this morning. You're looking at some live pictures from the Senate Armed Services Committee. Of course, Senator John McCain now conducting some questioning there of the admiral. It is Mullen's renomination hearing as the president's top military adviser. He became Joint Chiefs chairman in 2007 under President Bush.

Mullen said this morning that the U.S. is now the best counter- insurgency force in the world and says he supports the classic counter-insurgency effort in Afghanistan. That he says more U.S. troops are probably needed in order to accomplish the objective. We'll keep our eye on that one for you.

An early morning terror raid in New York. Neighbors were shocked when federal agents swarmed in to search several buildings in Queens. CNN's Deborah Feyerick is live now in New York with more on this. All right. So, Deb, what happened here? DEBORAH FEYERICK, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Heidi, it appears that federal agents were tracking a man who had traveled from the midwest to New York City as part of what sources call an investigation into potential terrorism. Now, dozens of heavily armed FBI agents from the joint terrorism task force executed search warrants at two known locations in Flushings, Queens, hours before the president arrived in Manhattan.

Eyewitnesses were stunned by the manpower. They described machine guns, riot gear, bulletproof vests. There was no indication of specific plot against the president, sources say. And no bomb making materials were found. FBI agents did confiscate a few boxes and several people were questioned and released, including a New York City taxi who appeared badly shaken by the ordeal saying he works hard seven days a week. Sources say authorities reacted out of extreme caution.


SEN. CHARLES SCHUMER (D), NEW YORK: There were some rumors that a terrorist act was imminent. That is not true. Second, there was some speculation that the raids were related to President Obama's visit to New York because they occurred at the same time. That is not true.


FEYERICK: Now, here's where it gets a little bit cloudy. Two sources later contradicted Senator Schumer saying that concerns of the president's New York visit did play a role and, of course, Al Qaeda central and homegrown terrorists remain a big concern, especially here in New York City. You know the saying an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure and perhaps that could be applied in this case. Heidi -

COLLINS: Yes. OK. Understood. Deb Feyerick following that story for us this morning. Thank you, Deb.

The nation's terror alert system could change. "Associated Press" reporting now a task force is expected to recommend reducing alerts from five down to three colors or threat levels. The review also determined the government needs to be more transparent about its reason for raising or lowering the level. The bipartisan task force reports its findings to the Obama administration.

It's been a week since she disappeared. Two days since her body was found. Are the clues starting to add up now in the killing of a Yale student?


COLLINS: We want to get this news out to you now. You're looking at Coral Gables, Florida. Because we are understanding, according to our affiliate in the area that police have actually locked down the high school there that you're looking at - this is Coral Gables High School, after a student was stabbed to death. All we know and of course you can see it for yourself as you look at these live pictures is that the police have surrounded the school and of course are looking into what happened here. But apparently it all took place in the court yard area of the school. Once again, Coral Gables High School. So again, we are trying to get more information as you would imagine. And apparently there is also a suspect in custody. So we will keep our eye on that. And I'll let you know just soon as we get more information in there. Coral Gables, Florida, this morning.

Definitely not random. That is how police are describing the killing of Yale student Annie Le. And as we wait to hear more from the medical examiner today, our Tom Foreman looks at the clues investigators have so far.


TOM FOREMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Days ago a 24- year-old graduate student walked into this medical research building and into a mystery. More than 70 security cameras are around that facility. One caught this image of Annie Le going in but she never came back out. She disappeared less than a week before her wedding and for days there was speculation about a possible runaway bride or even a kidnapping.

(on camera): On Sunday the day she was to be married, police found her body stuffed inside a space inside a wall in the basement of this building. A few floors below where they found some of her things. The very building where she was last seen. People who know this building say to get into that area you have to have a security pass leading to tremendous speculation that this might be an inside job.

(voice-over): The building remains sealed off as police continue to search it and investigators say bloody clothing was found hidden inside ceiling tiles. They have also scoured a waste facility that takes trash from the labs here at Yale. Police freely admit that they have a lot of evidence but beyond that they're not saying much. Listen.

ASST. CHIEF PETER REICHARD, NEW HAVEN, CONNECTICUT POLICE: We're not releasing any information at this time because we have an ongoing homicide case so we can't tell you what we have, where we found anything or what it is.

FOREMAN (on camera): Others who knew Annie Le say she often worked late in this building two up here on the second floor. They say she was always friendly, always said hello and was often alone. Many times at midnight, they say, she could come down those steps, go across this deserted plaza and get on to one of these shuttle buses which take people across campus and out into the neighborhoods nearby where many of them live.

(voice-over): As the campus holds a vigil for Annie Le, many people admit they are nervous. Security has been increased and police say they do not believe it was "a random killing" but the fact remains a young woman was murdered inside a Yale Building surrounded by security cameras and locked doors and a week later police have yet to make an arrest.

Tom Foreman, CNN, New Haven, Connecticut.


COLLINS: Remembering Annie Le on the campus where she died. Hundreds of people gathered at Yale last night for a candlelight vigil. Not everyone who came out knew Annie personally but all are affected by her death.


CHRIS DOOLEY, YALE STUDENT: It's been a great sense of being a family. I think when we lose someone like we lost her. You know, we feel it and the community feels it. That's why we're here.

VITORIA PEREZ, YALE STUDENT: Today during one of my classes, my teacher was, like, for five minutes, we just called our parents. Hey, I'm OK. I love you kind of thing. So I think it was important just to really refocus on what's important in life.

MICHAEL MAGDZIK, YALE STUDENT: I definitely think about friends and family and just how fleeting life can be, you know and how we have to really appreciate every moment and just show love. Show support for each other.


COLLINS: Le's roommate spoke at last night's vigil. She called her death completely senseless.

Lots of rain in the south and Rob Marciano is with us now to talk a little bit more about that and what else to expect across the country. Hey there, Rob.

ROB MARCIANO, AMS METEOROLOGIST: Hi, Heidi. Very slow moving system. We talked about flooding yesterday. Dramatic pictures actually, not only just yesterday but over the weekend, much of eastern and northern Dallas and northern Texas seeing quite a bit of this rain from this area of low pressure which doesn't want to move all that quickly.

So because of that we have a threat for seeing more flooding rain today and notably it will be more east of Texas area. So that's good news. Bad news for folks who live in Arkansas, northern Louisiana. This is where the rotation is going to kind of just sit and spin. So it's centered right there. You can kind of see it's not really moving that quickly to the east. So as long as we have that kind of action going on, flood watches are in effect not only today but through tomorrow for this general area and this forecast showing we could see another 2 to four inches in some of those individual cells especially across parts of southern Arkansas.

The rain shield will be pushing east into parts of Georgia, Tennessee and western parts of the Carolinas. And the other thing to note is though what's going on across parts of the northeast. It will be a nice day today but cooler air is going to be starting to filter in and you'll see notable changes after 81-degree high temperature today in New York. That's toasty for this time of year. 87 degrees expected in D.C.. As far as what you can expect tomorrow, 66 degrees.

COLLINS: You can do that? You can tell us what to expect tomorrow?

MARCIANO: Yes, I'll give it a shot there. Settle down. Or I'll ship you right back to New York. 59 degrees in Boston. 73 degrees, that's tomorrow, in D.C.. A little West Coast love, 82 degrees in Los Angeles. Boy, parts of California yesterday especially inland parts and central and northern California saw a record breaking rain.

I mean, only 0.01 inch in spots but it gives you an idea that we're not quite in the rainy season just yet. But we are in the rainy season, of course, or at least we had a lot of rain in parts of Texas yesterday. This is just 24-hour totals. Monroe, Louisiana, four inches. So notice that we're now starting to spread the love as far as rain goes. Texas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Florida, and Alabama instead of all of it being just in Texas.

That's what we like to do, Heidi, is spread love here in the CNN NEWSROOM.

COLLINS: Yes, of course.

MARCIANO: It's actually nice to have you back. We're not shipping you back to New York.

COLLINS: Well, thank you. That's so nice of you.

MARCIANO: Let me speak. OK.

COLLINS: OK. I know you hate it when I interrupt you but they leave my mic open so I can't help myself.

All right. Rob, we'll check back later. Thanks.

MARCIANO: I'll see you later.

CAVUTO: A new study about cell phones will have your ears ringing. We have new info on what cell phone companies might not be telling you.


COLLINS: Time now for a check of our top stories this morning. A new law enforcement report says there's no evidence that an Ohio father threatened to kill his teenage daughter for changing faiths. There's also no evidence of abuse. The 17-year-old ran away to Florida because she says she feared for her life after converting to Christianity. Her parents are Muslim. A California judge could decide later this month whether to send her back home to Ohio. COLLINS: After years of hunting for a top Al Qaeda operative, American forces think they finally caught up with him, in Somalia. The man is believed to be -forgive me. It is believed that U.S. special forces killed him in a daylight raid yesterday. Troops took the body away for identification. He is wanted for attacks including bombings at two U.S. embassies in Africa in 1998.

The infamous shoe thrower set free. The Iraqi journalist who tossed his shoes at then President Bush walked out of prison earlier this morning. He offered no apologies after his release. Instead saying he saw his chance and didn't miss it. He also says he was beaten and tortured during his nine months in prison.

Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius is talking H1N1 flu prevention on Capitol Hill today. She's testifying in front of the House Energy and Commerce Committee right now. Sebelius is discussing what health officials expect to see during flu season and steps being taken to protect against the H1N1 flu.

Well, first it was Serena Williams melting down at the U.S. Open and now it's Roger Federer has who has a problem with the officiating. What set him off and what he said on the court?


COLLINS: We hear every day about how people say they can't live without their smart phones but my phone is very smart, by the way, but some people are now saying it could put your health at risk. CNN's Brian Todd has information now on a new report linking cell phone use to brain cancer.


BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Ellie Marks thinks it may be too late to save her husband, but she's determined to tell his story in Washington. Alan Marks has brain cancer and Ellie says his doctors pin it on one device.

(on camera): About how much did Alan use his cell phone?

ELLIE MARKS, HUSBAND HAS BRAIN CANCER: Alan used his cell phone a lot. It was glued to his ear. He's in the real estate industry. He used it probably about average about 22 hours a month.

TODD (voice-over): Marks concedes this was in the 1990s, when cell phones were bigger and emitted more radiation, but she's also concerned about current cell phones and so-called PDAs, personal digital assistants. And she's not alone. A new report from the Environmental Working Group warns of radiation risks and has a top 10 list.

Motorola has five models on it, Blackberry has two.

(on camera): This is a Blackberry bold, one of the top 10 emitters of radiation on your list. What is wrong with phones like this, basically, according to your study? RICHARD WILES, ENVIRONMENTAL WORKING GROUP: Those phones emit high levels of radiation that have been associated with increases in brain cancer in the most recent studies that looked at people who have used cell phones for more than 10 years.

TODD (voice-over): The Environmental Working Group says it didn't test the phones itself, instead, used existing data. And it admits the science is not definitive. To clarify, the study says these phones emit higher levels of radiation, but does not assert the phones themselves increase the risk of cancer.

Contacted by CNN, Motorola issued a statement saying radiation levels in it's products "are within safe exposure limits." A representative for the Blackberry manufacturer did not respond to our calls and e-mails.

The Wireless Trade Association cites FDA and American Cancer Society studies showing no adverse health effects from wireless phones. A researcher from the National Institutes of Health, who studied the risks, said some data concerns him, but when pressed -

(on camera): Taken as a whole, with the studies that we're talking about and the ones that you've done, are these devices really emitting radiation levels that are concerning or unsafe?

JOHN BUCHER, NATIONAL TOXICOLOGY PROGRAM, NIH: Right now, I cannot answer that question. We just don't have the data to answer that question yet.

TODD (voice-over): But the Environmental Working Group also has an issue with the safety standards put out by the government. It says the standards set by the Federal Communications Commission are based on 1992 recommendations and are very outdated.

(on camera): Contacted by CNN, the FCC said it has always relied on the advice of government health agencies for its safety standards and so far, it says, no agency has recommended that those standards on wireless devices be changed.

Brian Todd, CNN Washington.


COLLINS: Embarrassing videos, allegations of voter fraud. Well, now it seems ACORN is paying for it after the Senate takes action.


COLLINS: A slash in federal funding for community organizers, ACORN. The Senate voted to cut the group off partway last night. The vote was 83-7 on the amendment from a Republican senator. It keeps ACORN from getting millions from the transportation and housing bill but it could get funding from other federal sources. Now on Friday the U.S. Census Bureau ended its deal with ACORN to work with the 2010 census. ACORN has made headlines in recent months, as you know after allegations of voter fraud in the last election and some embarrassing videos coming to light in the last few weeks. Abbi Boudreau from our "Special Investigations Unit" is tells us how ACORN is taking action to rehab its image.


ABBI BOUDREAU, CNN SPECIAL INVESTIGATIONS UNIT (voice-over): The three videos show ACORN workers apparently offering help and advice to a couple posing as a pimp and a prostitute. ACORN spokesman calls it a right wing setup.

SCOTT LEVENSON, ACORN SPOKESMAN: It's a sham is what it is. It's an orchestrated sham. It's journalism by Borat that they're attempting to create news rather than report the news and in doing so in a deceiving not genuine way. And trying to trick people who are trying to help people.

BOUDREAU: So far, ACORN has fired four of the workers from the videos and has started a nationwide review of its local offices. Yet it questions the motivation of the filmmakers and it suggests the tapes were doctored, though it has not produced any evidence to back that claim.

LEVENSON: We've been demanding the raw footage, the unedited tape, the undoctored tape to really try and figure out what was really going on.

BOUDREAU: In the latest undercover video from Brooklyn, New York, filmmaker James O'Keefe and his colleague, Hannah Giles, walk into an ACORN office looking for help setting up a fictitious brothel, using underage girls trafficked in from El Salvador. Rather than call the police, a staff member advises the couple to hide their illicit income in a tin can.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You get a tin and bury it down in there. And you put the money right in there and cover it and put it and you tell a single soul but yourself where it is.

HANNAH GILES, BROKE STORY ABOUT ACORN: I -- a tin? I put the money in a tin?

UNIDIENTIFIED FEMALE: A tin, and put it in there and cover it with grass and put the grass over it.

BOUDREAU: In an earlier video, D.C. workers advised the pimp about how to get his money and protect his good name after he tells them he intends to run for Congress some day.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: What you're going to have to do is say that you're getting a gift from somebody.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: OK? But the money got to go in the bank. BOUDREAU: And Baltimore weighed in on how to hide the fact that the brothel was going to be staffed by young girls brought in illegally from El Salvador.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: And when the girls come, they're really not going to be employees because you're not going to issue them W-2s (INAUDIBLE). They're under 16. You don't worry about that.

But on the other form of the return, you can use them as a dependent. You can use them as a dependent because they live in your house. Especially if they're under 16.

BOUDREAU: We tried to contact all of the workers in the three cities without success.


BOUDREAU: Now, Heidi, we have made calls into the FBI since we're now talking not only about two states and the District, but also about international sex trafficking. We also have a call into the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, which authorizes ACORN staff to give housing advice about whether it intends to investigate these incidents. Of course, we haven't heard back from them yet. We're still waiting to hear back.

COLLINS: Has there been sort of a call to action by Congress? Will it go that far?

BOUDREAU: We did talk to Republican Congressman Steve King about this. He's calling for a full congressional and Justice Department investigation. His big question to me is, why didn't these people pick up the phone and call the police when they talk about trafficking in underage El Salvador girls? And that didn't happen in these cases. I think that's one of the main things. He says, is this systemic? Is this now a pattern? That's what he wants investigated.

COLLINS: Yes. All right. We'll stay on top of that. Sure do appreciate it. Abbie Boudreau, thank you.

And the president wants a new agency he says will protect you from bad financial practices, but some members of Congress are pushing back against that idea. We'll break it down for you in just a moment.


COLLINS: A new development to report on that gruesome attack on Milwaukee's mayor. Twenty-year-old Anthony Peters, the man accused of hitting the mayor with a tire iron, has entered an insanity plea. His lawyer says he has a long history of mental health issues. Mayor Tom Barrett suffered head, mouth and hand injuries but is now recovering. Barrett had tried to intervene in a tussle between Peters and the grandmother of Peters' child.

Hispanic Americans begin a month-long celebration of their heritage and culture today. National Hispanic Heritage Month. It recognizes the contributions of Hispanic Americans to the United States. And don't forget to tune into the CNN special, "LATINO IN AMERICA," airing next month on CNN.

A former president gets the same treatment the current president received at a school district in Texas. The North Texas School District that refused to show President Obama's speech canceled a field trip for students to meet former President George W. Bush. The school's superintendent says the local media attention over the issue has become a major distraction.

The Cash for Clunkers program helping to drive up retail sales for August. Numbers just in from the Commerce Department. Total retail sales jumped 2.7 percent. Compare that to July's revised decline of of two-tenths of a percent. Auto sales alone went up nearly 12 percent.

Now at this time last year, Lehman Brothers failed, and bailout became an every day word on Wall Street. Citigroup received one of the biggest bailouts -- that was $45 billion. But now we are hearing that taxpayers may get some of it back.

Susan Lisovicz on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange with details. Good morning to you, Susan. This will be something that everybody could be excited about, huh?

SUSAN LISOVICZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Right. Not only get the money back but make a profit on that. How's that for a headline one year after Lehman?

COLLINS: I like it.

LISOVICZ: Things happen -- I like it, too -- things happen very quickly on Wall Street. We have seen that happen over the past year. Reports say that Citigroup approached the Treasury Department about reducing its 35 percent stake in the company.

How would that happen? By a stock sale. Could happen quickly. Could happen later this fall. And the headline is that we all could make money on it. Nearly $10 billion. Why is that? The government got those shares at a much lower price. Not that Citigroup shares are like Berkshire Hathaway -- nothing like that. They're still under $4.50 a share. But that's better than, say, $3.50 a share.

Right now, Citigroup shares are under pressure, down about five percent. Rest of the market not doing a whole lot. Right now a little -- negative but not much, though. It's sort of staying close to the flat line. Heidi.

COLLINS: Yes. So, you mentioned this is happening quickly. Is Citigroup actually healthy enough to repay us? I mean, we're talked about stock price already, but still.

LISOVICZ: Very good question. There is still dead weight. I mean, toxic assets. Tens of billions of them still on the books for Citigroup. Also, growing loan defaults.

But, even having said that, Citigroup made money the last two quarters, and, you know, things have changed. The U.S. government is not considered the banker of last resort anymore. There is a sense that Citigroup could borrow money from other entities. Why would Citi want to do that? First of all, it'd want to lose the sigma of being a ward of the state, but more importantly, it does wants the government out of its board room. It wants to be able to do what it wants to do.

Dick Parsons, when I interviewed him a few months ago -- the chairman of Citi, said the thing he objects to most of all is not being able to pay his people what he thinks they're worth. It's like the New York Yankees. Good people, you lose talent, and some of those -- I hear you.

On Wall Street, it's the thinking that the most precious resource leaves the building every day at the end of the day. And so that's why Citi, just like the others, J.P. Morgan, Goldman, were in such a hurry to repay the government -- to be able to do what they want to do.

COLLINS: All right. Very good. We sure do appreciate that. Of course, we will be checking back with you throughout the day here as always. So, Susan, thank you so much for that.

LISOVICZ: You're welcome.

COLLINS: The president is in Ohio to talk next hour about the economic recovery, but some of his efforts to help consumers weather the financial storm -- slow going. Alison Costic has our "Breakdown" now from New York. Good morning to you, Alison.

ALISON COSTIC, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Good morning, Heidi. You remember back in June, the president proposed creating a consumer financial protection agency. What it would do is to regulate mortgages, credit cards and other financial products and have the power to ban anything deemed deceptive.

But so far, not much has happened and there's been a lot of pushback, both from the financial industry and from some members of Congress. The House could vote on a bill later this month, which is also when the Senate could release its version of the bill as well. But the health care debate could wind up pushing all of this into next year.

COLLINS: Yes. Yes. A lot of people say this is a no-brainer. Why does there seem to be so much opposition to consumer financial products agency?

COSTIC: The industry is worried it could stifle innovation and financial products and make credit less available to consumers. Some lawmakers also think the government may be overreaching here, and others say you can increase consumer protection by stepping up oversight at existing agencies rather than creating a whole new bureaucracy. Heidi.

COLLINS: Yes. What about the administration's efforts to keep homeowners in their homes? I mean, the people that are having a hard time doing that. How's it going? COSTIC: Exactly, Heidi. The pace is picking up but it's been a slow start. Since the president's foreclosure prevention plan began taking applications in April, only 12 percent of eligible borrowers have had their loans modified, and that's about 360,000 homeowners. Four million is the ultimate goal the administration is working to improve the program by streamlining applications and developing online tools that let people check the status of their request.

But it says loan servicers need to ramp up staffing and improve training to they can go ahead and reach out to more borrowers. Heidi, you know, of course, we'll be watching for more progress on this.

COLLINS: Yes. Certainly. Very slow going. All right. Alison, thank you.


COLLINS: He was just 17 when he answered the call to fight for his country, and he's one of many remembered today for his bravery. We'll take you to a convention for American heroes.


COLLINS: Joint Chiefs Chairman and admiral Mike Mullen is on Capitol Hill today talking about the mission in Afghanistan. Senator Lindsey Graham there questioning him. Live pictures from the Senate Armed Services Committee. Mullen says he favors a classic counterinsurgency campaign there that would definitely require more U.S. troops on the ground. There you see him. He also said the U.S. has not had the necessary commitment in the country for several years now.


ADMIRAL MIKE MULLEN, JOINT CHEIFS OF STAFF: We very badly underresourced Afghanistan for the better part of four or five years. I've spoken about a culture of poverty there that's been interpreted to focus on the poverty level in the country. This isn't what I meant. And certainly, that's a problem.

But we have a culture of poverty there amongst us in terms of being underresourced, an economy of force (ph), for this extensive period of time to get to a point where we didn't have the where with all to create a program like that.

Not that we didn't think it would be needed. And the totality of that underresourcing is something we're just coming to grips with. It's not as simple as trainers or not as simple as combat troops. It is are you committed as Afghan people look at it, are you committed as the packs (ph) look at it?

This is a regional area that is the epicenter of terrorism and they want -- everytime I go, and I'm sure it happens to you as well. When you're in Afghanistan or in Pakistan, the question that is on their lips is are you staying or are you going?


COLLINS: Admiral Mike Mullen there. Pentagon correspondent, excuse me, Barbara Starr joining us now to talk about this now.

Barbara, we were going to talk about something entirely different, but now that we've heard some of the sound that's going on right now in front of the Senate Finance Committee (sic) there, boy. Words like under underresourcing, just now coming to grips with it, we haven't had enough troops in four years -- some of those words certainly open up your eyes to the situation in Afghanistan once again.

BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: You know, Heidi, it does seem extraordinary. The latest polls show continuing declining public support for the war in Afghanistan. Democrats and Republicans on the Hill, lining up day by day expressing their skepticism about sending more U.S. troops into combat.

This now is President Obama's war of concern. This is now the top priority for the president: what to do about Afghanistan, how many more troops to send? And it seems a little bit ironic. We are standing at Soldier Field in here in Chicago today for an extraordinary meeting of veterans of past wars. Medal of Honor recipients. The nation's highest award for honor and valor in combat, serving above and beyond the call of duty.

Many of the men here today -- 50 or so living recipients of the Medal of Honor are men who risked their lives in war, in combat to save their fellow troops. We want you to meet one very special man, John Finn.


(voice-over): On this windswept hillside just north of San Diego, California, one man's lifetime of treasures.

JOHN FINN, OLDEST LIVING MEDAL OF HONOR RECIPIENT: I feel all right. I have never been much of a sickly guy. In fact, the only time I ever went to the hospital was after December 7th.

STARR: December 7th, 1941. The day Pearl Harbor was attacked by Japan. John Finn was there, serving in the Navy he loved. John enlisted as soon as he turned 17. The year, 1926.

We'll do the math for you. John Finn just turned 100. He lives here on what he calls his ranch, recalling in detail the day that still lives in infamy.

FINN: The morning of the attack, see, the Japs got there early. And they rudely awakened us, and they kicked the living hell out of us and burned us all up. And then left, see. They didn't hang around there. That Jap admiral knew his business. He went there to do one thing and he did it.

STARR: John was an ordnance specialist. Within minutes, he was manning a machine gun, a one-man counterattack. FINN: There were Japanese fighter plane pilots. I can remember seeing some cases where I could see their faces.

STARR: John suffered multiple wounds to his hand, arm, head and foot, but he refused to leave.

FINN: Medical help comes later. If you're busy shooting a machine gun or a rifle or a pistol or doing anything, you can't worry about getting medical attention. My job was right there, and it was -- all I had to do was wait. And at some point during that attack, there would come an opportunity for me to actually shoot at a Japanese plane.

STARR: For his actions that day, John Finn received the Medal of Honor. The nation's highest military recognition. His citation details how after being ordered to get first aid, he returned to the fight. Obviously suffering much pain and moving with great difficulty, he returned to the squadron area and actively supervised the rearming of returning planes.

But the nation's oldest living Medal of Honor recipient, recently assisted by the young president of the United States, bristles at the notion he was a hero.

FINN: No. That damn hero stuff is a bunch of crap, I guess. It is one thing that I think any man that is in that -- going to be in the position, you got to understand that there's all kinds of heroes but they never get a chance to be in the hero's position.


STARR: If he's feeling okay, which we suspect he is, John Finn will be here later today, along with 50 other recipients of the Medal of Honor. Men from World War II, the Korean War and Vietnam.

But Heidi, here's what is so interesting. There are no living Medal of Honor recipients of the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. The medals that have been awarded have been posthumous. They are working on one, they tell us, for someone who is living. But that is a big controversy here. Why are there no living for Medal of Honor recipients for today's wars?

COLLINS: Yes. It's a very good point. I have met a lot of Medal of Honor recipients family members, but it's true. You don't get to meet them. Boy, oh boy, John Finn there, "this damn hero stuff is a bunch of crap stuff, I guess." That's the quote I'll take away from today. They always seem to feel that way.

We appreciate all of the men and women and their service defending the country. Barbara Starr, thank you so much.

On the blog this morning, we're talking a little bit more this morning about the war in Afghanistan. We asked you whether or not you support it because of this new poll that's out that shows some of the American support for the war lower than it's been in the past. We'll get to some of your responses here now. is the blog site here.

This person says, "Yes, I support the war. Until Bin Laden has been brought to justice." That one from Sue.

And then this one says, "I support the war effort, though I doubt our ability to be successful there. The reason for a lack of public support is largely due to a lack of information from the White House for why we're there. Afghanistan is far more important than Iraq ever was."

And last one for you this morning. "No, I do not support the war. Let's take the money and use it here in our own country."

So, once again, always appreciate your thoughts. That question today about whether or not you support the war in Afghanistan. Thank you for responding, everybody.

More bad language at the U.S. Open. This time the 'S' bomb is dropped. You might be surprised at who let it fly.


COLLINS: All right. So, Rob is on set with me for this next story. We've been talking about the U.S. Open. I was there for the quarterfinals and women's final on Saturday. It's exciting. Except there's been a lot of stuff going on. First, we had Serena and the outburst and then Roger Federer said a few things, too, so I want to make sure that we...

MARCIANO: You weren't there for this ...

COLLINS: I missed both of them. Yes. It was the day after Serena's outburst because I was at the women's final. Of course, she wasn't in that. And I was at the men's quarterfinal, which is the day before the Federer one. But let's go ahead and show everybody. Listen to what Roger Federer said last night. This is after his opponent Juan Martin del Potro made a late challenge. Take a look.


ANNOUNCER: ... considering a challenge, it's too late now.

ROGER FEDERER: No, no, no.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Shouldn't be allowed that much time.

FEDERER: Come on! I wasn't allowed to challenge like that for two seconds. The guy takes like 10. Every time. You can't allow that stuff to happen.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The review reveals it was out.

FEDERER: Do you have any rules in there? Don't tell me to be quiet, OK. When I want to talk, I'll talk. I don't give a (EXPLETIVE DELETED), all right?


MARCIANO: Oh, no, he didn't! I was watching that last night, and they quickly went to commercial break. Federer ended up losing the match. Huge upset, and obviously, a little bit frustrated there. This coming just days after Serena Williams had her little meltdown, which also wasn't too nice. Listen to this.




MARCIANO: I don't know what she was saying, but it didn't look nice. She did apologize.

COLLINS: I know what she was saying.


MARCIANO: I'm playing dumb. She apologized in some way, right? Sort of, kind of, in a way.

COLLINS: Do we have that? Are we going to play?


COLLINS: Yes, we have her at the press conference and everything, too, making a couple different apologies. I'm not sure if she apologized to the line judge herself.

Nonetheless, a lot of drama at the U.S. Open. Certainly, Kim Clijsters winning the whole thing a year half after having a baby and taking all that time off. And the mommy wins.

MARCIANO: Clearly, you should have been there for the finals because they wouldn't say these things if you were in their presence.

COLLINS: That's right. That's right.

MARCIANO: They would have felt pressure to behave. Nice to have you back.

COLLINS: OK. Thank you, Rob.

Thanks for watching. I'm Heidi Collins in for Rob Marciano. CNN NEWSROOM continues with Tony Harris.