Return to Transcripts main page

CNN Newsroom

President Obama in New York; Terrorism Investigation Expands; Global Search for Affordable Care

Aired September 22, 2009 - 10:00   ET



BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Too many years mankind has been slow to respond or even recognize the magnitude of the climate threat. It is true of my own country as well. We recognize that. But this is a new day. It is a new era. And I'm proud to say that the United States has done more to promote clean energy and reduce carbon pollution in the last eight months than at any other time in our history.


HEIDI COLLINS, CNN ANCHOR: That was President Obama, of course, speaking at the United Nations climate change summit just a short time ago. You saw it live right here on CNN. But that was just the start of a busy day for the president. Back on the agenda, Middle East peace.

(INAUDIBLE) White House correspondent Suzanne Malveaux reports it's just the first part of the president's diplomatic push.


SUZANNE MALVEAUX, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): President Barack Obama will be tested by friends and foes alike. The delicate dance of diplomacy involves engaging some and ignoring others. His first face to face meetings will be with Israel's Benjamin Netanyahu and Palestine's Mahmoud Abbas, signaling his administration's priority to jump start Middle East peace.

JON ALTERMAN, CRT. FOR STRATEGIC AND INTL. STUDIES: Under those circumstance, he is not going to get a grand gesture from the Israeli side. He is not going to get a grand gesture from the Palestinian side. The president's goal is to show that he cares and he's working on it and trying to move it forward.

MALVEAUX: But forward momentum on the specifics regarding Palestinian security or Israeli settlements are unlikely. President Obama also wants to move forward on tougher economic sanctions against Iran if it continues to pursue its nuclear ambitions. That's why sitting down with those most resistant to the sanctions, the leaders of Russia and China.

ALTERMAN: The president has to speak to the leaderships and get a sense for how willing they are to sanction Iran, what they might want in return and what their real assessment of the Iranian threat is.

MALVEAUX: Iran's leader Mahmoud Ahmadinejad will also be attending the international summit. The White House say if Mr. Obama has no intention of engaging him. He's one of several the president will try to avoid.

I think he's going to want to avoid President Ahmadinejad who lives in his own sense of reality. He's going to want to avoid President Chavez. I don't think that the president should give away a handshake or a meeting with President Ghadafi.


COLLINS: Suzanne Malveaux is joining us now live from New York. Oh, yes, there are a lot of nuances here that are going to be very interesting for the president to handle. What are we going to see?

MALVEAUX: Well, this meeting that President Obama is going to be meeting with the Chinese leader Hu Jintao, coming out of that meeting is going to be very important. What does Hu Jintao says to Obama when it comes to their own greenhouse gas emissions. We know that China is the number one polluter in the world, only the second would be the United States. And the problem that President Bush had with trying to sign onto the Kyoto treaty was two-fold.

Essentially, he thought it would lose and cut American jobs, cost American jobs, but also that Congress wanted to see China do something here and take responsibility for its own role in polluting the world. That is what President Obama is going to look to for the president Hu to actually reaffirm that they are going to take an active role in this. Because what's happening in Congress, you've got on the House side, they passed energy legislation but yet to pass it on the Senate side.

Lawmakers are looking for some sort of reassurance from China that they are going to take an much more active role in all of this before the U.S. signs on any kind of environmental climate control agreement. The hope is, Heidi, at the end of all this in December in Copenhagen where the president had acknowledged is that all these leaders will come together and sign onto some sort of climate control agreement that would replace the Kyoto treaty that is expiring in 2012.

COLLINS: Understood. All right. A lot going on and obviously in New York today. We sure do appreciate it. Suzanne Malveaux, thank you.

I want to get directly now to this breaking news that we've been telling you about a little while ago. Our Deborah Feyerick is on the phone. She has been following this story of a wide ranging terrorism investigation that is on going. Two center points. Denver and New York.

And, Deb, we understand now that there are at least a dozen more people that investigators are looking at? DEBORAH FEYERICK, CNN CORRESPONDENT: That's exactly right. And we don't know exactly what their involvement is or is not but again this is an investigation that stretches from Colorado to New York to Pakistan. Two men yesterday charged with lying to authorities about their role in the alleged terror plot. One man who was found video of Grand Central Station on his computer terminal along with handwritten notes on how to make and detonate a bomb. Another man also being detained today, an imam from New York. He is charged with tipping off one of the Denver men.

Authorities started this investigation back over the September 11th weekend. It ended in raids at a Manhattan apartment, I'm sorry, in a Queens apartment. And so right now, they are really tracking this down exactly how these 12 may have been involved and whether they were going to carry out some sort of an attack against a transportation system.

New York, of course, being a likely target. Law enforcement officials saying (ph) it could be any train, any subway station in the country but right now members of the joint terrorism task force really trying to determine why these men may have had contact both with the Denver man and the imam in Queens. That's what they're looking at now. They're trying to track down and get any kind of evidence as they can as to where this plot may have been going. Heidi.

COLLINS: Yes, exactly. Because obviously, Deb, as we have been following this story for several days, that was the question. Will there be more people involved and how wide ranging is it because sometimes you have to go in early and you want to make sure that no one gets hurt when you are these federal agencies.

Is there any indication as to why these people are being looked at specifically just the contact with the three that are in custody?

FEYERICK: No. Right now it appears that whatever reason is that they did have contacts with the men that were being surveilled by law enforcement. So, again, we don't know the extent of what the involvement was. We're tracking that down right now.

COLLINS: All right. Very good. Deb, let us know if we need to come back to you. We sure do appreciate it.

ANNOUNCER: You're watching CNN, your severe weather headquarters.

COLLINS: In the Atlanta area, the misery is rising with the floodwaters. At least six people have died in widespread flooding and a state of emergency has not been declared in 17 Georgia counties. Forecasters are warning that more rain is on the way. In just a moment we're going to check in with one suburb that is reeling from the floods.

But first, we want to get some images from across the region for you. A number of roads and even interstates are shut down this morning. Crews will not be able to assess the damage until floodwaters recede a bit. For countless homeowners, the losses are all too apparent. Families have been chased from their homes. Entire neighborhoods are under water as you can see there.

Some residents who suffered devastating losses at home may now find their jobs in jeopardy as well as businesses are really struggling to reopen in many places.

Our CNN meteorologists are teaming up for live coverage on this developing story. Rob Marciano is in one community just ravaged by this historic flood and Jacqui Jeras is looking ahead to a pretty sobering forecast. I want to begin with Rob though in Austell, Georgia. Rob, what are you seeing now?

ROB MARCIANO, AMS METEOROLOGIST: Well, the water is slowly receding. That's good news, I guess here, Heidi. But the bad news is what it is leaving behind, which is just a big old mess. At this point -- at one point when the water was the highest, likely last night, the water was up and over my head. So it has come down quite a bit. But it also tells you just how high the water was in this community.

There is a small creek just that way that, you know, usually runs at about a foot or two. And the river gauge before it lost its ability to gauge, I don't know what happened to it, but at its highest was 14 feet. So it may have gone higher than that. To give you an idea there. So 30 to 40 homes in this subdivision alone have been flooded out. And we're not just talking about, you know, basement flooding.

Go around this corner and it's up well into the eves of the second story. A number of cars did not make it out. I talked to one gentleman who was just driving his kids to school at around 6:30 in the morning. It was dark out and he was coming right down this road, turned the corner and boom, he hit the water without even knowing it and he couldn't -- the car stalled. So he had to get his kids and get them out of the car before they drown.

And as you know, that's the biggest killer in floods and flash flooding when people especially driving through unknown depths. That's the number one weather-related killer. Still hundreds of roads as you've been reporting blocked in many cases including here in Cobb County. There's still a 100 to 150 roads still blocked and a couple of interstates as well.

The good news is that it has stopped raining, at least, for now. I'm sure Jacqui Jeras will cover this. There's still a threat for seeing more rain. This is really amazing to me to see this much rainfall in this amount of time in a nontropical system. This wasn't a tropical storm. It's not a hurricane. It's just plain old rainstorm. And obviously it had a tremendous amount of moisture.

I would say certainly the drought is over but this stuff when they get in here to clean this mess up, there's oil and there's all sorts of garbage and mud to say the least. And these people don't have flood insurance for the most part. This isn't officially a flood plain, Heidi. So this was shocking on many levels and this is not the only community that has endured this type of flooding next (INAUDIBLE) just a very tranquil creek. COLLINS: NO. It sure not. In fact, both Jacqui Jeras and I live in Cobb County and everybody wanting to know whether or not there is more rain on the way. Rob, thank you for that.

And Jacqui, unfortunately, I know the answer to that question. We've been talking with you all morning as well. Rob thought us something yesterday too about this training effect. Very interesting that we're not talking about tropical region here. I mean, it's Atlanta. It was just one hit after another though, right?

JACQUI JERAS, AMS METEOROLOGIST: Yes, you know what, I put a map together to help explain it. Unfortunately it's a couple in to get through before I get there. So hold onto that thought for just a minute there, Heidi. You know, rain has been falling north of the metro area and some of these areas are also flooded. By the way, this is not going to amount to much. Maybe a quarter of an inch. A half an inch at the absolute most.

But there has been some development off to the west. And we've got a new weather maker coming in and it's going to be sending little impulses. There you can see the showers and thundershowers in the lower Mississippi River Valley and that will be the focus of the heavy wet weather today but we are going to be seeing these isolated storms popping up throughout the region.

Now, as we look into the next five to seven days plus, we've got an upper level disturbance. This is cut off from the main jet stream. So when that happens, there's nothing to push this thing out there. It just sits there and it just spins and it's going to bring these little upper level disturbances across the southeast. So think of them as a little hiccup in the atmosphere. You know, we've got so much moisture just lingering in the southeast, just waiting for that wash cloth to be wrung out, right. So this is going to be that squeeze as it pulls in, to pull out some of this moisture.

Now, what happened? Why did we get so much rain in the ATL? Well, you know, Rob mentioned it wasn't a tropical system but it almost could have been. It actually started out as an area of low pressure down here in the Gulf of Mexico. And if it sat there a little bit longer, it could have become a tropical storm. However, it never did. It made its way onshore and moved into northeast Texas.

This is the time line starting Thursday. And it moved really, really slowly. The whole time it did that it just kept pumping moisture over and over across the southeast. This is the picture from late Sunday into early Monday when we had that big blossom and that, you know, 10 inches to a foot of rain in the area and then it finally moved on down to the north and east and pulled out of here and then it made the way for our next upper low here to sit and spin and bring those little disturbances.

So an unusual event. We call it a cutoff low when it gets cut from the main system. So our air mass is still stagnant, Heidi. We're waiting for something big to blow through here before we can clear out the atmosphere.

COLLINS: Yes, boy. That's for sure. Everybody waiting on that. Jacqui Jeras, thanks so much. We'll check back later on.


COLLINS: Former presidential candidate John Edwards - he now faces whispers of deepening sex scandal. Can his political career survive new allegations from a former staffer?


COLLINS: New numbers out from the U.S. Census Bureau paint sort of a picture, if you will, of what life was like in 2008. So people putting off getting married, buying houses, some pretty interesting information in all this. They actually sat in traffic longer but also started carpooling more.

Our question to you now, how did the recession change your life in the last year? Just go ahead and go to my blog, and post comments there. We'll share some of them with you in just a little while.


COLLINS: Gang members are the target of a massive raid overnight in Los Angeles. Several report say as many as 1,200 heavily armed police and federal agents swarmed an area of north Los Angeles, just east of Hollywood. They were there looking for members of the notorious Avenues Gang. "The Los Angeles Times" reports officers were serving warrants in connection to drug crimes and unsolved murders. The DEA, ATF and immigrations and custom agents took part in those raids.

Right now health care reform may be taking shape in the Senate. The Finance Committee is finally considering a bill but there are some complications even from the bill's own author.

Congressional correspondent Brianna Keilar is live on Capitol Hill now. So, Brianna, there are obviously some significant changes coming today to Max Baucus' bill. What exactly are we talking about here?

BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, even before, Heidi, these members of the Senate Finance Committee behind me start going through this bill line by line and making their changes, Senator Max Baucus trying to assuage the concerns of some democrats and also a key Republican. There you see here right now, Senator Olympia Snowe from Maine.

There is this concern among these folks on this committee that you're essentially with this bill insisting, mandating that individual Americans buy insurance and then really not making it affordable enough for some low-income and middle-class Americans. So you can imagine that would be quite a predicament. And that is the concern of these folks.

So, Senator Max Baucus, we learned here, in a little while, a later today, he is expected to announce changes, Heidi, that essentially would increase subsidies. Government subsidies to low income and middle class Americans and also to reduce the penalty that some folks would pay if they choose not to get health care insurance because remember a family of four under this plan would have to pay $3,800 if they didn't get health insurance. We expect that to be reduced dramatically, Heidi.

COLLINS: Yes, OK. So we're watching all of that closely. Over the course of the week though, senators from both sides, I imagine are going to work really hard, I hope to try to make the bill more to everybody's liking because one word we haven't heard in all of this is bipartisan.

KEILAR: Yes and there are Democrats and Republicans who are trying to make substantial changes to this. 564 amendments. That's a whole lot. That's what this committee is going to be trying to get through this week. Let's take a look at a few of those. One from Senator Jay Rockefeller of West Virginia, a Democrat, who really wants that government run insurance option, that public option which is not in this draft bill before the Senate Finance Committee.

He's going to propose an amendment to add that government run insurance plan. Then Senator Ron Wyden of Oregon is proposing an amendment to basically force employers to help cover employees. Right now, there are monetary incentives but it's not a flat out requirement in this bill.

And then taking a look at a Republican amendment from Senator John Ensign goes to show you republicans trying to force Democrats to take tough votes here. This amendment would be to say that every time the word fee appears in this bill they want to replace it instead with the word tax. Republicans have been saying all morning in the opening statement, Heidi, that some of these fees that are being imposed on device makers and others in the health care industry, they say are going to trickle down to regular Americans and they're concerned in this economy that will be a burden on Americans.

COLLINS: All right. Well, we know you're watching it closely. Live pictures there of all of what's going on in the Senate Finance Committee. Sure do appreciate it. Brianna Keilar, thank you.

KEILAR: Thanks, Heidi.

COLLINS: Maybe your doctor says you need that expensive medicine or procedure. How about a doctor in France or Japan or India? When it comes to health care we got the ultimate comparison shopper.


COLLINS: Instead of sir, yes, sir, it's ma'am, yes, ma'am, now at a South Carolina school. This is rough even by Army standards. Command Sergeant Major Theresa King who we spoke to quite a while ago here in the CNN NEWSROOM in July -- we learned that she would be taking charge today at Ft. Jackson's School for Drill Sergeants. She is in fact the first woman to ever take over a command like this. King is a 28-year military veteran. Five years after an Oregon teen disappeared, her mother says she's grateful to know her fate. The Associated Press says investigators found the remains of the 19-year-old Brooke Wilburger (ph) on the Oregon Coast range. Officials say her killer gave up the location in a plea deal to avoid the death penalty. Joel Courtney admitted kidnapping, raping and killing Wilburger in 2004. The same year he attacked another woman in New Mexico.

The FCC plans to go to trial against Bank of America. The agency has accused the firm of failing to disclose to shareholders, it had authorized Merrill Lynch to pay up to $5.8 billion in bonuses to its employees last year. Those bonuses were paid out even though the investment bank lost more than $27 billion. Bank of America says it will vigorously defend itself. We're going to take a quick break here in the CNN NEWSROOM. We'll be back in just a moment


COLLINS: A 10-country odyssey that all began with a bum shoulder. T.R. Reid traveled the world to find help with an old injury and some answers to America's sky high health care costs. You can read about it in his book -- you see it there "The Healing of America, a global quest for better cheaper and fairer health care." T.R. Reid is joining us now, live from Denver. Good morning to you. Thanks for being with us.

This is a day where we are hearing more from the Senate Finance Committee regarding the latest bill on health care reform, Max Baucus' bill as they try to reshape that. It's interesting to talk to you today. Before we get to the highlights of your journey, give us a quick summary of where you lived and also about this chronic shoulder problem. It happened in the Navy, right?

T.R. REID, AUTHOR "THE HEALING OF AMERICA": Yes. I hurt my shoulder in the Navy and 30 years later I went around the world to try to answer this question, how come all of the other industrialized democracies, countries like us, manage to provide health care for everybody of high quality and they spend half as much as we do? How do they do that? And since I was doing that reporting, I figured I would take my bum shoulder around and take it to the doctor and see what happened.

COLLINS: So, I mean, you are talking about them providing better health care. There's a lot of actual, you know, descent about that in other countries. A lot of people say, well they wait a lot longer than we wait for appointments here or they don't get to choose their own doctors and they don't have as much control over their personal health care in other countries. Did you find any of that or no?

REID: Yes, in Canada, the waiting lines are pretty long. If you have a non-emergency. If you're sick in Canada, they treat you right away and for free. Many other countries on standard measures have shorter waiting times to see a doctor, for elective surgery, to see a specialist, than the United States does. And lots of countries have more choice. In mean, in France, Germany, Japan, you go to any doctor, any lab, any chiropractor, any traditional healer and insurance has to pay the bill. There's no in network. And insurance can't deny claims. The people have more choice and often wait less in those countries.

COLLINS: In fact, like you said, two that really stood out were Canada and Great Britain. What do they do for your shoulder specifically in Great Britain?

REID: In Great Britain that's a good system. They cover everybody. They spend has as much as we do. But they're in the steep upper lip (ph). They said to me, hey, you're living your life. You're doing okay. Go home and live with your sore shoulder. They weren't going fix my shoulder.

Some other countries would and in Canada they said you need to see an orthopedic surgeon. That will take ten months just to get an appointment because it wasn't an emergency problem. And that's what they do in Canada.

COLLINS: So I imagine with all...

REID: But some other countries saw me right away.

COLLINS: Yes, with all of your travels and checking out the system with your personal injury, there would be things that you would take from other countries and things that you would not regarding our potential health care reform here in the United States?

REID: Yes. There's a lot we can learn. We don't have to borrow some country's whole model. But the most important thing is they all made the commitment to cover everybody and therefore even in Canada with their waiting lines, nobody dies for failure to see a doctor.

If you're sick, they treat you. In America, according to the National Academy of Sciences, 22,000 of our fellow citizens die every year of treatable diseases because they can't see a doctor. No other country lets that happen because they all made the commitment to cover everybody and if you decide to do that, then you can find a mechanism to get there.

COLLINS: All right. T.R. Reid, we sure do appreciate your time today. Also, I should mention longtime correspondent with "The Washington Post" and also NPR. Thank you so much. The book "The Health of America, A Global Quest for Better Cheaper and Fairer Health Care." Thank you.

REID: Thanks, Heidi.

COLLINS: The recession it just isn't hitting your bank account hard as you probably know. It's affecting virtually all of the important areas of your life now. If you think that's overdramatic, wait until you hear some new census information.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) COLLINS: Where we live, how we spend our time, whether we're single or married. The Census Department does more than count heads and is coming out with surprising numbers this week. CNN's Christine Romans is joining us live from New York to talk more about this data. There's some interesting findings in here, Christine.

CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN BUSINESS CORRESPONDENT: It's true. It's a gold mine of information. It's a survey, really. It's 3 million households, and they ask about 40 different topics. We get to really look at what's happening at life in America, and this is for 2008, the first full year of the recession.

What it found, really, is that that American dream, Heidi, became the American recession. The foreign-born population dropped to 38 million people. Heidi, that's the first drop since at least the 1970s. Think of that.

For the first time since the 1970s, there were fewer immigrants in this country. Home ownership declined. Marriages were delayed. Just about 31.2 percent of people said they had never been married; putting it off, many demographers say, because they were trying to get the financial situation stabilized. Maybe they can't afford to get married.

Household income also falling. Moving less, maybe marrying later, we're commuting a little longer, there's a lot of different ways the recession is playing out in American life from top to bottom.

COLLINS: Yes. It also has some info about where to find the fattest paychecks. People certainly want to know where that is.

ROMANS: That's right. There's a big difference between, say, Maryland and Mississippi. Let's look at where the biggest paychecks are.

The top earning states: Maryland, $70,545. New Jersey, Connecticut, Alaska, Hawaii. These have been pretty steady, these top earning states. And they're pretty spread out, too. You can see that.

Then let's look at the lowest earning states. Mississippi, West Virginia, Arkansas, Kentucky, Alabama and Mississippi is about $3,790 per household. A big difference in your paycheck, depending on where you live. We know that, Heidi, in many states now, you see -- 14 states, actually -- above 10 percent unemployment. Things have really been kind of tricky depending on where you live in the last year.

COLLINS: No question. Cost of living difference in a lot of these places, being a person who's been paying property tax in New Jersey. I can attest to that.

What about "Romans' Numeral?" Let's talk about that today.

ROMANS: This has to do with -- aww -- the daily grind. 25.5 minutes. The Census Bureau can even drill down and calculate the average time you spend commuting to work. It actually ticked up to 25.5 minutes a day.

And why did it move higher, Heidi? It moved higher because people are carpooling, so it is taking longer to get to work. They are using public transportation. So that means driving the car to the car park and waiting for the train or bus. So, it's taking a little bit longer there. And in case you wonder, early risers out there, according to the Census Bureau, one out of eight of us leaves for work before 6:00 a.m.

COLLINS: Uh-huh!

ROMANS: We're hardworking in this country. We want to keep that job. One in eight leave the work before 6:00 a.m. I know you do.

COLLINS: Yes. And you do, too.

All right. We sure do appreciate that, Christine Romans. Interesting stuff. Thank you.

In fact, we sort of carried this further because on our blog today, we asked how the recession changed your life in 2008. We want to get to some of those responses right now. Let's head over to the Heidi Mac, and you can see a little bit of the story here. Impact of the recession and some of the information that Christine Romans was just sharing with us.

From Paul, he says, "The recession has affected both of our businesses, but it has made the commute more enjoyable by decreasing the rush-hour traffic." OK.

And then this one also from James in New York City, says, "My fiance and I have been blessed so far. We both have very secure jobs. Mine in hospitality, hers in medical advertising. We are marrying in October and going to Puerto Rico in December. We are nearly untouched by the national hemorrhaging, knock on wood."

All right. Once again, you can go to and post your thoughts there.

Meanwhile, the House is expected to pass a bill today extending jobless benefits for some of the millions of Americans out of work. That means an additional 13 weeks of benefits for people who live in states where the unemployment rate is over 8.5 percent. Twenty-seven states are in that category.

Well, he's taken on General Motors, the National Rifle Association and the health care industry. And now in his latest movie, Michael Moore is attacking capitalism itself. The controversial filmmaker came to the scene of the crime, and that's where Susan Lisovicz caught up with him. Hi there, Susan.

SUSAN LISOVICZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hi, Heidi. Well, Michael Moore wanted to meet at a sculpture called The Charging Bull, using that backdrop to make his charge that the U.S. financial system is broken and cannot be fixed.


MICHAEL MOORE, DOCUMENTARY FILMMAKER: It got broke a long time ago. And, like a lot of things, if you don't fix it right away, then it gets to a point where you can't repair it. Thirty years ago, when Ronald Reagan was elected, and they came up with this concept of trickle-down economics and go-go capitalism, where anybody can do anything they want, well, it started to fall apart then. That's when we really first started to see the huge unemployment losses.


LISOVICZ: The growing disparity between rich and poor, the struggles of the middle class and decline of organized labor are all evidence, according to Moore, that capitalism failed.

But capitalism has been good to him. Moore acknowledge he makes a good living as a filmmaker...


LISOVICZ: ... and his cut, Heidi, depends on how many people see it. "Capitalism, A Love Story," is partly produced by Moore's own company, Dog Eat Dog Films, but also distributed, marketed and produced by three companies that have ties to Wall Street.

Overture Films is owned by a unit of Liberty Media, which trades at the NASDAQ. Paramount Vantage is owned by Viacom, which trades here at the NYSE. And the Weinstein Company's investors include Goldman Sachs, which is a memorable target of the movie, Heidi. I've seen the movie. I'll leave it at that.

COLLINS: OK. I love it. Susan Lisovicz, we sure do appreciate that. We're watching those numbers today, hopefully hovering closer, by week's end to that 10,000 mark we like so much. Because I still want the hat.

LISOVICZ: I got the hat. Working on one for you.

COLLINS: Very good. Susan, thank you.

In fact, filmmaker Michael Moore joins Wolf Blitzer today to talk about his upcoming movie, "Capitalism: A Love Story." You can see him on THE SITUATION ROOM at 4:00 Eastern.

Lives lost, power out, entire neighborhoods under water. Days of rain take a toll on the Southeast, especially Georgia.


COLLINS: Checking our top stories now. Honduran police used tear gas in his first supporters (ph) of ousted president Jose Manuel Zelaya. The attack happened today outside of the Brazilian embassy where Zelaya has taken refuge now since returning to Honduras Monday. In an interview with CNN Espanol, Zelaya says government has placed sharpshooters near the embassy and is directing loud noise at the compound to drive people there crazy. President Obama in the middle of a busy day in New York. Earlier, he spoke at the United Nations Global Climate Summit. Happening now, meeting with Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu and after that, Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas. He'll meet with the leaders together after that. In the afternoon, talks with China's president, Hu Jintao. The president attends the opening of the annual Clinton Global Initiative meeting. That will happen tonight.

There could be an interim senator for Edward Kennedy's seat by the end of this week. The Massachusetts state senate begins debate next hour on a bill allowing the governor to name an interim replacement. Final votes could come tomorrow before the bill goes to the Governor Deval Patrick's desk for expected signing. The appointee would serve until a special election in January.

The Justice Department opening an investigation into ACORN. The community group faced conservative critics, especially after the release of this hidden camera video showing a couple posing as a prostitute and pimp, getting advice from ACORN employees on how to skirt the law. An internal watchdog for the Justice Department wants to know if the agency ever gave money to ACORN.

Twenty inches of rain since Friday, and nearly the entire state of Georgia remains under a flash flood watch. An emergency situation in the Southeast.



UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Water that I seen -- I've been living here all my life.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I don't think it's really set in that this is real. This is -- we're flooded out. We don't have a home.


COLLINS: All across Georgia, people are in the same state of shock. The torrential rains of the past few days have killed at least seven people. Countless roads are washed out. Entire neighborhoods are under water. The governor, Sonny Perdue, just announced -- asked President Obama to declare a state of emergency in the state of Georgia.

Jacqui Jeras is with us now looking further into all of this. I know you have been watching it closely of course. The state can't really take much more.


JERAS: So, happy fall, Heidi. I see you broke out the orange today.

COLLINS: Yes. I definitely did. Trying to keep things on a positive note weather-wise definitely. All right, Jacqui. Thanks so much. We know you're on top of it today. We appreciate that.

World leaders gather in New York to discuss the changing climate, but it may be the political atmosphere that's changing as well.


COLLINS: Less than an hour ago, President Obama addressed a summit of world leaders at the United Nations. Their focus is climate change, but his very presence may show the political atmosphere is changing as well. We'll get a closer look from CNN senior U.N. correspondent Richard Roth.


RICHARD ROTH, CNN SENIOR U.N. CORRESPONDENT (on camera): The biggest gathering of world leaders coming to the U.N. to focus on climate change. United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon hopes the session will provide momentum for negotiators seeking a new climate change treaty agreement in Copenhagen by the end of the year. The secretary general knows full well the dangers of what's happening in the environment. He personally visited the Arctic Circle a few weeks ago.

BAN KI-MOON, SECRETARY-GENERAL OF U.N.: I could see the glaciers melting. It was sort of a frightening experience for me. The consequences reach far beyond the North Pole. Billions of people will be affected from this generation forward. The aim of tomorrow's summit meeting is for leaders to mobilize. Political momentum that can accelerate pace of negotiations and help strengthen the ambition, what is on our floor (ph).

ROTH (voice-over): The ongoing problem, though, with climate change negotiations is that developed nations like the U.S. and China are reluctant to slash their greenhouse gas emission rates in comparison with what the European Union and some developing countries want to do. U.N. climate change officials note progress or promises from China or India to major emitting countries. The former British prime minister Tony Blair, who is involved in trying to forge a climate change agreement on the outskirts of this meeting, hopes that the negotiators can focus on the dilemma.

TONY BLAIR, FMR. BRITISH PRIME MINISTER: There is a will. I think also there is a way, and the task of the leaders in the next few weeks and months is to show people that the world came together in 2009, that it came together in pursuit of a cause that is morally right, but also for our economy, long-term is the only way of providing sustainable development.

ROTH (on camera): The United States says though there will be no negotiations here at the U.N., what is different is that President Obama will represent the United States. President Bush declined to appear at a similar climate change event last year.

Richard Roth, CNN, the United Nations.

(END VIDEOTAPE) COLLINS: With world leaders gathering in New York to address climate change, America's global warming policy is under the international microscope. Will there be a climate change bill this year? Stephanie Elam has our "Energy Fix" now from New York. Hi there, Stephanie.

STEPHANIE ELAM, CNN BUSINESS CORRESPONDENT: Hi there, Heidi. Yes. The House passed a climate bill in June but whether it will become law this year is really an open question. The Senate could unveil the version of the bill next week.

But here's the catch. Majority leader Harry Reid has hinted that health care could push this debate into next year. Like the House version, the Senate plan will likely include a cap and trade proposal aimed at reducing greenhouse gas emissions. Under cap and trade, companies can only emit a certain amount of pollution. If they exceed the limit, they have to buy a permit. But the idea is controversial. Opponents say it will raise electric bills of companies pass their higher costs onto the likes of you and me, Heidi.

COLLINS: Yes. Why do environmentalists say a bill needs to pass this year specifically?

ELAM: It's all about Copenhagen, which is in December. That's when nearly 200 countries, including the United States, will try to hammer out a global climate change pact. But even if President Obama signs a bill here, there's no guarantee there will be a global agreement.


OBAMA: As we head toward Copenhagen, there should be no illusions that the hardest part of our journey is in front of us. We seek sweeping but necessary change in the midst of a global recession where every nation's the immediate priority is reviving the economy and putting their people back to work. So, all of us will face doubts and difficulties in our own capitals as we try to reach a lasting solution to the climate challenge.


ELAM: Now, environmentalists say passing a climate bill at home could show China and other developing nations that the United States is serious about cutting emissions, but no doubt this will not be a quick change at all.

COLLINS: No. Probably not. Stephanie Elam, sure do appreciate it with our "Energy Fix" today.

President Obama moves on to economic problems later this week. That's when he'll be in Pittsburgh to chair the G-20 summit. It gets underway on Thursday. The president is expected to push a plan to change the way the United States and other countries manage their debt. The G-20 nations represent 85 percent of the world's economy. They last met in London in April. Former presidential candidate John Edwards. He now faces whispers of a deepening sex scandal. Can his political career survive new allegations from a former staffer?


COLLINS: A two-year sentence for former New York Giants wide receiver Plaxico Burress. That sentence on a gun charge came down just a few moments ago. He shot himself in a leg in a nightclub in New York last year. That led to his release by the Giants. Burress says he hopes to play again when he's out of prison.

Former presidential candidate John Edwards may be facing damning new allegations. They involve the extramarital affair he's already admitted to and new claims that could spell the end of his political career. We get a closer look from CNN national correspondent Jessica Yellin.


JESSICA YELLIN, CNN NATIONAL POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Remember when John Edwards admitted to having an affair with Rielle Hunter? He did a mea culpa on "ABC News."

JOHN EDWARDS, FORMER PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: In 2006, two years ago, I made a very serious mistake, a mistake that I am responsible for and no one else.

YELLIN: But now he's getting front page "New York Times" treatment. The paper cites a book proposal from former Edward's staffer Andrew Young alleging that Edwards may have not have told the full truth when asked if he fathered the mistress' new infant here, again, on "Nightline."

EDWARDS: I know it's not possible that this child could be mine because of the timing of events. So I know it's not possible.

YELLIN: Whoops. The article alleges he's likely the dad. Another ugly charge -- that Edwards promised his mistress a wedding after Mrs. Edwards, who has cancer, passes.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I think the wife's forgiveness is very important.

YELLIN: Culture watchers say if the allegations are true, Edwards could redeem himself if he follows the accepted script.

LEONARD STEINHORN, AMERICAN UNIVERSITY COMMUNICATIONS PROFESSOR: He has to apologize, he has to repent. That's this Calvinist framework our society works under when crisis hit.

YELLIN: That worked for Louisiana Senator David Vitter, who's seeking reelection after a prostitute scandal, and for Nevada senator John Ensign, who's still in office after an affair with a staffer/friend's wife. Another model, there's Newt Gingrich, who had an affair while impeaching a president for the same, or the former president himself. Both men moved on only after enduring public punishment.

But then why do other politicians fail to win forgiveness, like South Carolina Governor Mark Sanford, who has apologized endlessly?

GOV. MARK SANFORD, (R) SOUTH CAROLINA: I want to apologize to good friends.

YELLIN: Or New York's Eliot Spitzer, who had to leave office, and John Edwards, who has all but disappeared from the public stage?

STEINHORN: There's an unseemly factor to what they did that sort of disgusts people, that makes people think that there's something fundamentally wrong with them. And I think that's why they may never recover fully the way, let's say, Bill Clinton did.

YELLIN (on camera): Representatives for both John and Elizabeth Edwards declined CNN's requests for an interview, and John Edwards' spokeswoman also says the former candidate does not plan to issue a statement responding to "The New York Times" article.

Jessica Yellin, CNN, Washington.


COLLINS: I'm Heidi Collins. CNN NEWSROOM continues with Tony Harris.