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Iran's New Missile Tests; More Time to Consider Troops; Chicago Teen Beaten to Death; Manila Underwater; $35 Billion for Housing

Aired September 28, 2009 - 09:00   ET


HEIDI COLLINS, CNN ANCHOR: A new show of force today from Iran. The country test fires a long-range missile with a range believed to reach Europe.

And move director detained. Roman Polanski is held in Switzerland as the U.S. tries to extradite him on a decades-old rape charge.

And the Obama administration wants $35 billion for local housing. Where's all that money coming from?

Good morning, everybody. I'm Heidi Collins. It is Monday, September 28th and you are in the CNN NEWSROOM.

Of course, a lot to get to on this Monday morning as well. Our crews are in place to bring it all to you now.

Reza Sayah is looking at Iran's barrage of missile launches. Certainly want to tell you about that this morning. Testing is going on by Tehran, of course, of technology, but also of international patience.

And White House correspondent Dan Lothian will be joining us as well. He's got some reaction from the Obama administration on this.

And at the Pentagon, Chris Lawrence this morning is looking at another major pressing issue. The war in Afghanistan and whether more U.S. forces should be sent in.

Meanwhile, Iran flexes its military muscle and raises concerns around the world. Iran says it fired long-range missiles today and shorter range missiles yesterday. The launches come amid rising international tensions.

Iran now admits that it has been secretly build a uranium enrichment facility south of Tehran. The main concern there, that site could be used for nuclear weapons.

CNN's Reza Sayah is following all of these developments. He joins us now from Islamabad, Pakistan.

So, Reza, clearly, Iran seems to be sending a message to Washington with these test firings, especially on the heels of the discovery of this plant we're talking about just three days ago and the meetings at the U.N. REZA SAYAH, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, Heidi. Every time Iran holds these military exercises, test fires these missiles, you can be sure they're sending a message to Washington.

Keep in mind, Iran has long considered the U.S. the big bully of the world and Iranian leaders will tell you one of the pillars of the Islamic Revolution has been to stand up to Washington and they really love doing it by flexing their military might.

And that's what they've been doing for the past 48 hours, test firing a number of missiles, some short-range missiles on Sunday. Then overnight Sunday and on Monday, test firing long-range missiles, perhaps the most advanced conventional ballistic missiles Iran has, the Shahab 3 and the Sajeel 2.

These are missiles with ranges of up to 1,200 kilometers -- 1,200 miles, check that. You can be sure hawks in Washington and Israel are going to point to these missiles and say, they'll able to reach Israel and parts of southeastern Europe, but keep in mind, these test firings were scheduled long before.

Iranian leaders have come out and said they're not in response to the accusations coming from Washington that they now have a secret uranium enrichment facility.

COLLINS: Yes, they could have canceled those test firings, though, as well, after all the events of last week, correct?

SAYAH: They could have, but that's not very characteristic of the Iranian government. They like to show their military might, especially in the face of pressure and accusations coming from Washington and European powers and certainly with the sudden revelation that there's this second uranium enrichment facility, we've seen a deluge of accusations and allegations coming from Washington and European powers.

COLLINS: Let's talk about that plan for just a moment. We do know it's hidden deep inside of a mountain. Has Iran offered any explanation as to why and why the international community knew nothing about it until now?

SAYAH: They have. They've come up with a justification right away. Of course, it's been Washington that says, look, this facility is hidden deep inside a mountain that's an indication that Iran is not being forthcoming. They're having a secret program, but Iranian officials have come out and said we've hidden it inside a mountain because we want to protect it.

There's been lots of threats about possible military action and we don't want this facility destroyed. So look for that. Look for those two positions to emerge when these two sides sit down and talk in Geneva.

These are two sides that don't see eye to eye and you can see this debate is going to be very interesting when they meet in a couple of days in Geneva. COLLINS: Yes, very, very true. All right, Reza Sayah, sure do appreciate that from Islamabad, Pakistan this morning.

But let's take a closer look now at the long range missile Iran has reportedly fired. Iran's state-run media says it has a range of more than 1,200 miles, as you heard from Reza. That means it would be capable of hitting Israel and U.S. bases in the Middle East and parts of Europe.

Experts believe the missile is capable of carrying a warhead. The two days of tests are meant to show Iran is prepared in case of attack.

Washington says it has few choices now in dealing with the defiant Iran. Yesterday on CNN, Defense Secretary Robert Gates said sanctions and tough diplomacy may be the only way to keep Iran from developing nuclear weapons.


ROBERT GATES, U.S. SECRETARY OF DEFENSE: The reality is, there is no military option that does anything more than buy time. The estimates are one to three years or so. And the only way you end up not having a nuclear-capable Iran is for the Iranian government to decide that their security is diminished by having those weapons as opposed to strengthening them.


COLLINS: At the bottom of the hour, we'll get the view from the White House and our correspondent, Dan Lothian, on that.

Defense Secretary Gates is also addressing another foreign policy concern, whether to significantly increase U.S. troop strength in Afghanistan. CNN's Chris Lawrence is joining us now live from the Pentagon with the very latest on that.

So, Chris, obviously, a lot at stake here. And how much time do they really have to figure it all out?

CHRIS LAWRENCE, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Good question. President Obama has already authorized about 21,000 more troops to Afghanistan. Now the U.S. commander is asking for possibly up to 40,000 more.

The key question that's trying to get worked out between the president's national security team is this. Does holding off and waiting these few weeks to review the strategy, does that put the troops in Afghanistan at great risk, or does rushing those new troops in without a good, coherent strategy put all of them at an even greater risk?

It's a question being debated now and the U.S. commander in Afghanistan says things are getting worse.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Are things worse or better than you expected?


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What's worse than you thought?

MCCHRYSTAL: Well, I think that in some areas, the breadth of violence, the geographic spread of violence, places to the north and to the west are a little more than I would have gathered.


LAWRENCE: You know, one of the key dangers for U.S. troops are these roadside bombs, improvised explosive devices. About 3,000 more troops are going to Afghanistan because Secretary Gates said he did not feel there was enough troop there is to protect the U.S. forces from those roadside bombs. That is separate from the request of troops from the U.S. commander.

COLLINS: Yes, understood. I guess another key question in my mind is, if it is 30,000 to 40,000 troops and that formal request comes out, where are they going to come from?

LAWRENCE: They will be a combination of troops sent from the United States, perhaps a brigade that was due to go to Iraq that would instead be redeployed to Afghanistan. One U.S. official here, one senior official told me, basically the problem is, the U.S. may control one town, but the Taliban control the next town over and they use that town to launch attacks with more troops, you would be able to blanket more of an area and reestablish more of a firmer control over some of these areas.

COLLINS: Are there any other options here that the Pentagon is looking at, Chris?

LAWRENCE: There are some halfway measures, some that involve holding back the troops to put more pressure on the Afghan government to say, look, you've got to clean up your own corruption before we go all in. Also, trying to negotiate with some of the more moderate Taliban.

But one senior official told me here, flat out, the problem with that is, the Taliban believe their winning and a lot of Afghan people believe the Taliban are winning, so how do you co-op the Taliban at this point? He said it's going to be tough, because why would you jump ship when you think you're already on the winning side?

COLLINS: All right. Well, the whole thing is obviously very, very tough. Our Pentagon correspondent this morning, Chris Lawrence. Thanks, Chris.

Four people are dead in a suicide car bombing in Pakistan, including a tribal elder, who led an anti-Taliban militia. This happens today in a northwest part of the country. Pakistani authorities say the bomber rammed the elder's car with his. Both were killed along with the elder's three bodyguards.

A flooding nightmare in the Philippines right now. Water is waist high and people are looking for higher ground. Now new fears of more flooding.

ROB MARCIANO, AMS METEOROLOGIST: And well into the first week of fall now. You're going to feel some serious fall weather across the eastern part of the country. That is coming up when the CNN NEWSROOM comes right back.


COLLINS: A warning now. The video you're about to see is extremely graphic. Captured on camera, Chicago teens beating another teenager to death. It happened in broad daylight, not far from Darrion Albert's school.

A whole group of attackers swarming and overwhelming Albert. Some say the honor student was in the wrong place at the wrong time, but the family thinks Albert was specifically targeted.

As Jane Miller from affiliate WGN tells us, police are looking for the suspects and the motive, if there even is one.


CMDR. EDDIE WELCH, CHICAGO POLICE DEPARTMENT: Investigations ongoing right now. We are still conducting interviews. We are still trying to put some pieces together right now.

JANE MILLER, WGN-TV CORRESPONDENT: Chicago police asking for the public's help tonight in identifying the group of people who savagely beat 16-year-old Darrion Albert Thursday in the Roseland neighborhood.

The Fenger High School junior was on his way home from school when a group armed with two-by-fours attacked him near this community center in the 300-block of West 100 and 11th Street.

WELCH: It's still too early to talk about suspects and things of that nature right now.

MILLER: The honor roll student was beaten with wooden planks, punched, and kicked. He later died of his injuries. Classmates of Darrion says dozens watched and did nothing.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I don't understand how 15-, 17-year-old kids, how could you just stand over someone's body and just constantly beat them and stomp them to death.

MILLER: Amateur video captured from the scene has help authorities identify some of the attackers.

DEP. CHIEF JOE PATTERSON, CHICAGO POLICE DEPARTMENT: We've been canvassing the area, reviewing video and evidence and conducting interviews. MILLER: Police aren't saying whether Thursday's attack was gang related. However, family members say the teen was targeted because he refused to join a gang. Today, a makeshift memorial at the scene appeared to have been torched, leaving even more questions as to who had that much hate for Darrion and why.

ROSE BRAXTON, AUNT: To go and burn a memorial after that much tragedy, then that just speaks for itself what kind of people they are.


COLLINS: WGN is reporting four people were questioned last night about the beating. Albert's school is holding a vigil for him this afternoon. Security is beefed up on campus.

Cargo traffic is slowed on the Ohio River this morning because of damage to the Markland Locks. That happened about 65 miles northeast of Louisville, Kentucky. The Army Corps of Engineers will use an underwater sonar device today that locate a locked gate that fell to the bottom of the river.

They don't know when things will be back to normal. And by the way, a lock is a section of canal or river that's closed off by gates that then control the water level in order for boats to go through and raise or lower as they pass through the area. More than 50 million tons of commodities pass through the Markland Lock every year.

Rob Marciano joining us now. A little bit more on that, as well as all this wind in the Midwest. Yes?

MARCIANO: It's going to be windy and it's going to be cooler. So now that we're well into the first full week of fall, Heidi, everybody's going to get a piece of the fall-like weather.


MARCIANO: Heidi, back over to you.

COLLINS: Yes. No question about that. Thank you. Rob, in fact, we do have a correspondent right there in Manila. We are learning at least 140 people are dead at this moment.

Our international correspondent Dan Rivers is joining us now from Manila with the very latest.

Dan, good morning to you.


Well, the good news is the flood waters are receding pretty rapidly, actually. We've been out around the city and the flood waters, we could actually see it going while we were there. But over the last 24 hours, we've seen these incredibly dramatic scenes as people have been swept down these rivers and many houses inundated by the flood water.

As the authorities say that across the whole island of Luzon, where Manila is located, about 450,000 people have been affected. But the death toll is mercifully, relatively small for that figure, as you say, 140 days so far at this time.

COLLINS: Well, we'll continue to watch that story, Dan, as we look at the video this morning. It's just absolutely stunning. Our Dan Rivers reporting on this. We'll stay on top of the story, live from Manila this morning. Dan, thank you.

A new report says the Obama administration wants to set aside $35 billion to help with housing loans. But can Uncle Sam actually afford another big bill?


COLLINS: Looking at our "Top Stories" now.

Iran test fired two long-range missiles today as part of its military show of strength. Iran says the missiles launched today can strike targets more than 1,200 miles away. Today's firings follow a series of short and medium range missile exercises Sunday.

On Friday, Iranian president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, disclosed Iran is building a second uranium enrichment facility.

Only about one of four people charged in terrorism cases are going to trial. That's the finding of a data research group at Syracuse University. The study suggests federal agencies don't agree on who is a terrorist.

It also found people charged with terrorism often go free, because evidence wasn't strong enough to bring them to trial. The Justice Department disagrees with the study's conclusion.

French authorities are looking for what they call a favorable resolution to the case against move director Roman Polanski. Polanski, who lives in France now, was arrested over the weekend in Switzerland on a U.S. warrant.

The 76-year-old director faces extradition on a sexual offense involving a teenage girl in the 1970s. The victim is now 45 and a mother of three. She actually filed papers in court, saying every time this case is brought to the attention of the court, a great focus is made, media attention is not pleasant.

So what do you think? Should Polanski actually be extradited and face a sentence? That's what we were wondering today. Or should the victim's feelings be taken into account here?

You can go ahead and send your comments to my blog. As you know, Here's a quick synopsis of the story and then we'll go ahead and read some of those responses on our air.

We're back in a moment right here in the CNN NEWSROOM. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

COLLINS: "The Wall Street Journal" is reporting the Obama administration is close to committing an additional $35 billion to help the housing market. The money would boost funds to agencies that provide lower cost mortgages to first-time and low-income buyers. But the idea is getting blow-back from critics concerned about massive government spending.

CNN's Christine Romans is joining us now from New York for more on this story.

First off, I wonder where the money is coming from, Christine. And then also, more aid for the struggling housing sector. Some people might wonder, isn't this how we got into it in the first place?

CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN BUSINESS CORRESPONDENT: Well, a couple of things here. First, we're waiting for guidance from the Treasury Department on just what their statement is about this "Wall Street Journal" story, that $35 million more will be made available to these local and state housing finance authorities, who administration fears have not been able to get the financing they need to give -- to give new loans to low and moderate income homeowners.

So idea will be $20 billion for new mortgages and up to $15 billion to help lower borrowing costs. But you're right, it puts the government even further into the housing market in propping up the very fragile housing market. And that will almost certainly raise concerns among some who say even as you're unwinding some historic government interventions in the economy, still trying to find ways to try to put a floor under the housing market.

Where would the money come from? Unclear, according to the "Wall Street Journal," though, it's already been authorized under a 2008 Housing Rescue legislation. So we're still waiting for the Treasury to kind of outline for us exactly what this would look like, but it would be another administration effort to try to shore up the housing market, to try to help these local and state housing finance authorities that have had a hard time, basically, writing new mortgages.

COLLINS: Yes. This is not going to help people who are struggling to pay their mortgages right now, though.

ROMANS: No, this looks like it would be for new homeowners. People who are trying to get into the low and moderate income homeowners. You know these are the kind of loans that, in good times, in normal times, you can get and you can get them for a little bit below the normal market interest rate. Maybe half a percentage point below.

And the idea here is to help home ownership among low and middle income people. Now critics would say, of course, well, trying to push home ownership on low and middle income people with the government help is kind of what got us in this mess in the first place. But many other people will tell you, look, getting a floor under the housing market helps everyone and that seems to be what the goal here is of the administration.

Again, waiting for guidance from the Treasury Department...


ROMANS: ... on this report. So far, it is exclusively in "The Wall Street Journal."

COLLINS: Yes, that's right. OK, very good. Christine Romans, thank you.

ROMANS: You're welcome.

COLLINS: Where you like to shop and what you like to buy. The new things credit card companies may be looking at and why it could mean a big surprise on your bill.


ANNOUNCER: Live in the CNN NEWSROOM, Heidi Collins.

COLLINS: The opening bell, just about to ring on Wall Street. Stocks are poised for a higher start on the first day of what's expected to be an extremely busy week for investors.

Susan Lisovicz at the New York Stock Exchange now with a preview of what the day's action will look like.

Hi there, Susan.

SUSAN LISOVICZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Good morning, Heidi. Well, the market rally finally hit some resistance last week with the Dow ending lower in 4 out of 5 sessions, Heidi. I think it was the hat. I do.

COLLINS: Yes. I totally do.

LISOVICZ: I think it was the Dow 10,000 hat. I'm going to put it away, going to forget about it for a little while.

Trading, meanwhile, expected to be light today due to the Yom Kippur holiday. Still, there are a few multibillion dollar deals to tell you about.

Xerox announcing a cash-and-stock deal to purchase Affiliated Computer Services for $6.5 billion. The deal will give the copier giant an outsourcing company and will triple its service revenue next year.

And as the opening bell rings, meanwhile, Abbott Laboratories striking a deal to acquire the pharmaceutical unit of Belgium firm Solvey for roughly $7 billion. The move gives Abbott a doorway into emerging markets of Eastern Europe and Asia where it has a limited presence.

Let's take a look at the early numbers. Yes, we're seeing some green arrows in the first few seconds of trading. You mentioned the calendar. We do expect reports this week on the housing market, manufacturing, and mood on the consumer. And let's not forget, Friday, the jobs report for the month of September.


LISOVICZ: A loss of $180,000 is expected. That is a big number. It's, obviously, a deficit, but it is much better than what we saw earlier this year -- Heidi.

COLLINS: All right. Susan, we'll be watching. And yes, I'll blame the hat thing on you.


COLLINS: If I can.

LISOVICZ: I'll take it.

COLLINS: Susan, thanks so much.

Iran launches missiles and rattles nerves. Since yesterday morning, Iran says it has test fired missiles of all three ranges. Short, medium, and long. Tehran says its long-range missiles can strike a target nearly 1,200 miles away. That means it would be capable of hitting Israel and U.S. bases in the Middle East and parts of Europe. The two days of tests are meant to show Iran is prepared in case of attack.

Let's get the view now from the White House on this. CNN's Dan Lothian is joining us now.

So, Dan, is the White House commenting yet on what appears to be quite a provocation from Iraq?

DAN LOTHIAN, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: That's right, you know. The White House still not commenting on those tests over the weekend or early this morning, but certainly a lot of concern by this administration about Iran's nuclear ambitions, even as that country shows no apparent signs of backing down.

What you're seeing is tougher talk by the U.S. and some of its key allies like France and Great Britain. President Obama saying that it's time for Iran to come clean on its nuclear program and to step in line with its international obligations.

The hope, obviously, by this administration is that this can all be handled through dialogue, through negotiations with Iran, but clearly, President Obama making it clear that if Iran does not back down, does not listen, that tougher sanctions do remain a possibility. And also, he's not ruling out any military action, Heidi.

COLLINS: Yes, especially the timing on all of this is pretty astounding after what happened at the U.N. last week, the passage of a new resolution regarding, you know, safe, peaceful nuclear energy versus potential, you know, warheads on these nuclear missiles.

LOTHIAN: That's right. And you know...

COLLINS: I just wonder what the next step is here if it's not sanctions. Where does the United States and the international community go?

LOTHIAN: Well, no one -- no one wants to go there just yet. Their hope again, really, is that they can resolve this through a dialogue with Iran and they'll get that opportunity coming up on October 1st. But, you know, the big thing here, the issue is that Iran is saying that they simply want nuclear facilities for peaceful purposes.

The United States, though, points out that if, indeed, that were the case, then why did they keep this second underground nuclear facility a secret? So clearly from the U.S.'s perspective and its allies, there is this belief that they are trying to get their hands on nuclear weapons, to build nuclear weapons, and that all of the rattling that they're doing and talking about how this is simply for peaceful purposes is simply not the case.

COLLINS: All right. Dan Lothian with the perspective from the White House this morning. Thank you, Dan.

As we mentioned, this is a critical week for the Obama administration. How should the United States respond now to Iran? We do want to know what you think. Call the "Hotline to Heidi." The number is on your screen, right there, 1-877-742-5760.

Let us know what you think about this latest action. We'll air some of your responses this week between 9:00 and 11:00 Eastern.

Though a disputed presidential election is still raising questions of President Hamid Karzai's legitimacy, the U.S. and its allies are coming to the incumbent's support.

CNN's Atia Abawi is joining us now from the Afghan capital of Kabul with this story.

So, Atia, what's this next step here? Will the Afghan people be happy about Karzai's so-called win?

ATIA ABAWI, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, when you talk to the Afghan people, whether they voted or the did not vote, when you ask them who they want their next leader to be out of their candidates that they had to choose from, they would have told you President Karzai.

We have to remember that President Karzai is a symbol of freedom to the Afghan people. He came into the place as the Taliban regime fell. So right now what we're hearing from the "New York Times" and the "Washington Post" is that Secretary of State Hillary Clinton as well as NATO foreign ministers met with the Afghan foreign minister in New York on Friday, and they came to the consensus that President Karzai will win, whether it's by these disputed elections that took place on August 20th, in which we don't even have final results yet, or if it's by a runoff election.

This, obviously, will anger his main rival, Dr. Abdullah Abdullah, who has been pointing the finger at President Karzai's campaign, stating that he has stolen the elections and if he does become president in this way, he said -- Dr. Abdullah said that democracy will fail in Afghanistan. Heidi?

COLLINS: The legitimacy of these elections, of course, have been questioned by a lot of people. What is the difference, if any, between the Afghan community and the international community?

ABAWI: Sorry, Heidi, I heard part of that. But the difference between the Afghan community and the international community right now when you talk about these elections, when it's been going on for over a month now, the allegations of fraud, the investigations, the international community has been riveted at the moment because they are afraid.

They're afraid of the Afghan people losing support for the mission in Afghanistan and they're afraid of their own population at home losing support for the mission in Afghanistan, as we've seen from a CNN poll, where over 50 percent of Americans no longer support the war in Afghanistan.

But when you talk to the Afghan people, they're sick and tired of this conversation. They've already been disenchanted by their government. Although, they do -- out of all the candidates would want President Karzai as their president, they don't trust their government at the moment.

There are elements in the government that they say have been stealing money from the Afghan people. Money that has been coming in from the international community. So right now, they don't know who to turn to. And that's why we're seeing more and more support going to certain insurgent groups, whether they be the Taliban or certain war lords throughout the country. Heidi?

COLLINS: All right, Atia Abawi, live from Kabul, Afghanistan, this morning. Thanks, Atia.

Honoring the fallen heroes of September 11th.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Three, two, one.


COLLINS: A Marine lance corporal who has already given so much in Iraq gives more here at home to pay tribute to the firefighters who lost their lives that day.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) COLLINS: Four more years for German chancellor Angela Merkel. She's staying in office after winning this weekend's election. Merkel was taking on Germany's foreign minister. She is expected to form a government that leans center right. President Obama called Merkel yesterday to congratulate her.

He wrote for a president and later "The New York Times." William Safire is dead at the age of 79. Safire once served as a speech writer for President Richard Nixon. Later he became a Pulitzer Prize- winning columnist for "The Times." In 2006, President Bush gave him the Medal of Freedom. Safire suffered from pancreatic cancer.

At least 140 people are dead in the Philippines and today there is fear of even more flooding. Hundreds of thousands of people have fled their homes. Floodwaters have actually been receding after a weekend of downpours, but a tropical depression in the pacific could bring more rain today. The capital of manila was 80 percent under water at one point yesterday.

Rob Marciano joining us now with a little bit more on that and also the weather across the United States, of course.

Hey there, Rob. This thing is huge. That video, unbelievable.

MARCIANO: Yes, and the thing is, when it came across the Philippines, it was just a tropical storm.

COLLINS: Right. I remember.

MARCIANO: And pretty strong tropical storm, but nonetheless, it dumped a huge amount of rain in a short period of time over highly populated Manila.


COLLINS: Yes. Absolutely. All right, Rob, check back later on, thank you.

MARCIANO: You got it.

COLLINS: An important follow-up story now. We've been telling you here on the show about the new GI. Bill that went into effect several months ago? Well, the plan was to offer vets and their families more wide-ranging benefits to their education. The greatest expansion of those benefits, in fact, since World War II.

But we also had to tell you about some pretty major problems the VA is having in getting the cash out to those who applied for it. Tens of thousands of vets are not getting their checks for school. Many of them are having to dip into their own pockets in order to pay.

Here's what one vet and VA advocate had to say on Thursday.


PAUL RIECKOFF, IRAQ AND AFGHANISTAN VETERANS OF AMERICA: Our office is averaging about 1,000 e-mails a week from veterans who are confused, who are concerned, who are stressed out. There's a tremendous amount of confusion in the veterans community right now, and there are a lot of folks who are just stuck waiting.

Even people trying to get through to the VA's hotline that's been set up to field these requests are often stuck waiting for hours. So we need more people on staff, we need to cut through this bureaucracy, we need the president involved.

He stood up in August and celebrated the GI Bill, and he should have, he was a big proponent of that and we're grateful for that, but now we need him involved to cut through this backlog. Our veterans have fought enough, they shouldn't have to fight for the GI Bill payments, too.


COLLINS: OK, so now listen to this. An update from the VA. The Veterans Affairs Department will begin issuing emergency checks for up to $3,000 to Iraq and Afghanistan veterans whose payments under the new GI Bill have been delayed. Those checks will be distributed at VA regional offices beginning Friday.

The VA says it does not know how many the students will request emergency funds, but it has approximately 25,000 claims pending. We, of course, will stay on top of that dispersion as well.

Rain could not prevent thousands of people from taking part in an event to honor 9/11 heroes. Look at this.

Heroes, like the Marine Corps Lance Corporal Matt Bradford participated in the "Tunnel to Towers Run" in New York City yesterday. The race followed the route of a 9/11 firefighter who died.

Lance Corporal Bradford lost both of his legs and eyesight while he was fighting in Iraq. He rode on a special hand cycle with a group of Marines on the Hope for Warriors team. Lance Corporal Bradford says he was glad he could be part of it.


LANCE CPL. MATT BRADFORD, U.S. MARINE CORPS: Just to honor the firefighters that lost their lives and also the ones here and the last couple of years, gotten real close with the firefighters and actually heard their story and, you know, really touched to be here.


COLLINS: Hope for Warriors is a national nonprofit organization which enhances the quality of life for U.S. service members and their families nationwide who have been affected by injuries or death in the line of duty.

Director Roman Polanski may finally return to the U.S. after three decades, but not by his choice. The Oscar winner in custody in Switzerland today for a rape case that dates back to the 1970s. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

COLLINS: Good news for drivers. The price of gasoline continues to drop. The average price fell another 7 cents over the last two weeks to $2.52 a gallon. That is according to the Lundberg Survey. The survey says demand is down for both gas and crude oil due to the recession and unemployment.

It's one thing if you spend more than you're allowed, but what if your credit card limit was slashed just because of where you shop or what you buy?

Personal finance editor Gerri Willis tells us you may be raising red flags without even knowing it.


KEVIN JOHNSON, RUNNING FOR STATE OFFICE: How are you doing? I'm Kevin Johnson.

GERRI WILLIS, CNN PERSONAL FINANCE EDITOR (voice-over): Kevin Johnson is an entrepreneur, candidate for office.

JOHNSON: Running for state representative.

WILLIS: And according to American Express, a credit risk. Coming home from his honeymoon last year, he was shocked to find Amex had cut his credit limit from over $10,000 to just $3,800.

JOHNSON: I've done a very good job of being responsible and making sure that I pay my bills on time.

WILLIS: Even more surprising, one of the four reasons Amex gave for the decision. "Other customers who have used their cards at establishments where you recently shopped have a poor repayment history with American Express."

JOHNSON: I was shocked when I read it, because I didn't know that the companies could actually assess your creditworthiness based on others around you.

WILLIS: With more than 10 percent of credit card customers defaulting on their debt, credit card issuers are trying to weed out the risky ones. How? By looking for changes in the way we shop.

ROBERT MANNING, AUTHOR, CREDIT CARD NATION: You're shopping from a middle or upper tier retail store and suddenly it shows a purchase at a dollar store, some form of downshifting, suddenly shopping at Wal-Mart.

WILLIS: Those red flags can lead to a deeper look at your behavior.

MANNING: And if you suddenly started exhibiting new consumer behavior and then you've made three or four purchases in a row at a local bar. That would raise some flags that maybe there's some depending financial crisis.

WILLIS: For its part, Amex says, "We don't look at and never have looked at where someone shops to make a line reduction. The primary factor is someone's overall debt level, and we also look at payment history with us, credit reports and FICO scores."

Banking industry sources says credit scores are still the most important tool in predicting consumer behavior, but those scores don't reflect sudden life changes, like job loss or divorce.

JEFF SLAWSKY, CREDIT CARD INDUSTRY EXPERT: All they can do is look at the actual volumes and transactions that are coming in, and see changes in that pattern.

WILLIS: For Kevin Johnson, the experience has motivated him to get involved and perhaps change the way banks work.

JOHNSON: No one should be penalized for the actions of others.


COLLINS: And Gerri joining us now live from New York with more on this.

Gerri, I bet a lot of people had no idea this was going on. How closely do the credit card companies really check your purchases?

WILLIS: Well, Heidi, what they're really looking for are changes in patterns of spending, right? So if you're doing something you haven't done, maybe you're spending at places you haven't spent before, maybe you're buying things like booze or marital counseling that you never have before, that's the thing that's going to send up red flags. So it changes in your spending pattern. Heidi?

COLLINS: Is it legal to change credit limits based on spending or spending changes?

WILLIS: Sure. I mean, you know, the credit card companies, they are the ones who are issuing you credit in the first place. If they want to reduce your credit limits, they're allowed to do so. And of course they own the information, right? You're using your credit card in the first place to make these expenditures so they see that coming in.

Bottom line here, people need to be aware of how they're spending their money, how they're paying for things, and be careful, make sure you're not giving away information that you otherwise wouldn't.

COLLINS: Yes. And then remembering that if you don't like what's going on with your credit card company you can always change, yes?

WILLIS: You can get a new credit card. Of course we don't advise closing old cards because that can actually hurt your credit score. Heidi?

COLLINS: All right. Gerri Willis, sure do appreciate it. Our personal finance editor this morning. Thank you, Gerri.

And we do want to know what you think on this. Have credit card companies gone too far? Just go to and leave a comment. Tony's going to have some of those thoughts on the air in the NEWSROOM from 11:00 a.m. until 1:00.

There's an awful lot going on this morning and CNN crews are in place to report all the details. Want to check in with our correspondents now beginning with Christine Romans in New York.

Hi there, Christine.

ROMANS: Hi there, Heidi. How would you like it if you had about $20 extra in your pocket after a week or so? Well, you do, that's because gas prices are down. Compared to last year it's about 20 bucks a tank less you're paying. That's the good news. What's the bad news? I'll have that at the top of the hour.

POPPY HARLOW, CNNMONEY.COM CORRESPONDENT: I'm Poppy Harlow in New York. You know the recession has meant millions of layoffs and for those that have managed to keep a job, many have faced pay cuts and salary freezes and other painful actions. But now, we are starting to see that trend reversed.

Some good news for once, Heidi. We'll have more on what employers are doing coming up in the next hour.

MARCIANO: And I'm Rob Marciano in the CNN severe weather center. If you're -- live along the Gulf Coast, you would have been waiting for some drier, cooler air, that's coming. Plus we'll touch on that typhoon that brought all that flood to the Philippines in the next hour. Heidi?

COLLINS: Yes. No question. All right, thanks, guys. Appreciate that. We are also going to be talking to a Chicago city alderman about the videotape beating death of a teenager there. It is the latest horrifying incident in a year of brutality.


COLLINS: Three decades ago, director Roman Polanski fled the U.S. to avoid prison time for rape. But over the weekend the old warrant finally caught up with him.

Morgan Neill reports now from Switzerland where authorities arrested Polanski on his way to a film festival.


MORGAN NEILL, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): It was meant to be an homage to his life's work but the guest of honor was nowhere to be found.

CHRISTIAN FREI, SWISS FILMMAKER: As a Swiss filmmaker, I feel deeply ashamed because Mr. Polanski was supposed to be honored this evening. We were supposed to speak about his work, his career, and his outstanding film, and now he's arrested in Switzerland.

NEILL: Swiss Police detained the 76-year-old Polanski when he arrived at Zurich Airport Saturday. Authorities say he's being held based on a U.S. arrest warrant pending extradition proceedings.

The warrant was issued in 1978 after Polanski pleaded guilty to committing sexual acts with a 13-year-old girl. The director of "Chinatown" who won an Oscar for 2003's "The Pianist" fled the United States before sentence. He's lived in France ever since.

The victim, Samantha Geimer, now 45 years old, has said she wants to see the case dismissed. Polanski friend, Otto Weisser, said he's got an update from the director's lawyer.

OTTO WEISSER, FRIEND OF ROMAN POLANSKI: This lawyer who is the only person who can speak to him, said he didn't lose his humor. This is already a good thing, you know? He's a strong person.

NEILL: Not everyone was so sympathetic. This man carried a sign saying Polanski's past was catching up to him, and U.S. prosecutors would love to do the same. They say it would be a miscarriage of justice to drop charges against a man they say drugged and raped a 13- year-old child.

(on camera): But that's clearly not the sentiment here at the Zurich Film Festival where other filmmakers have said they're shocked and appalled by the arrest of the man many of them came here to honor.

Morgan Neill, CNN, Zurich.


COLLINS: As Morgan reported, the victim is now 45 and a mother of three. She filed court papers saying, "Every time this case is brought to the attention of the court, great focus is made on me. That attention is not pleasant."

So what do you think about this? Should Polanski be extradited and face his sentence? Or should the victim's feelings be taken into account? You could send your comments to my blog at