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Deadly Tsunami Hits Samoa and American Samoa; What's Next for War Strategy in Afghanistan?; No on the Public Option; Jailed for Taking His Kids; More Time in School; Comparing School Hours Around the World

Aired September 30, 2009 - 09:00   ET


HEIDI COLLINS, CNN ANCHOR: New this morning. U.S. troop drawdown in Iraq. Top commander briefing Congress. We have the first details.

In a time of terror, they gather intelligence but do fusion centers cross the privacy line?

And President Obama wants longer school days and school years for your kids. Is this really the answer for our children to compete on the world stage?

Good morning, everybody. I'm Heidi Collins. It is Wednesday, September 30th, and you are in the CNN NEWSROOM.

An awful lot going on this morning as you would imagine. We want to take to you two massive earthquakes that are rumbling through the South Pacific, at least the aftereffects of them.

This morning more than 100 people are dead and millions more are on edge. Our meteorologist Jacqui Jeras is going to be looking at yesterday's earthquake and the deadly tsunami that it sent crashing into American Samoa. We'll talk about that this morning. Victims need help badly and a huge rescue effort is now under way.

And Suzanne Malveaux is following the president. He orders help for American Samoa and has a busy morning of his own back here in the United States.

Here's what we know at this hour. This morning's earthquake that rocked western Indonesia had a preliminary magnitude of 7.6. We're waiting to hear confirmation about damage.

Meanwhile, the death toll from yesterday's earthquake is becoming all too clear. At least 111 are confirmed dead in Tonga, Samoa and the neighboring U.S. territory, American Samoa. The death toll, as you would imagine, is expected to climb.

The magnitude of yesterday's earthquake, 8.0. It generated three separate tsunami waves. The wall of water surged inland as much as a mile. Tsunami advisories were posted long much of the pacific and life guards cleared beaches from Hawaii to California. No noticeable surges have been reported.

Throughout the morning we've been hearing from people across the South Pacific. The reports are grim.


RUSSELL HUNTER, "SAMOA OBSERVER" NEWSPAPER (via telephone): It's total devastation. The whole villages just no longer exist. It's nighttime here and we can -- we estimate something like 2,000 people are out in the open tonight. In terms of power and running water in the main center up here where I am, fortunately the services are intact. But out in the rural areas they are in very serious condition. They do need help.


COLLINS: And help is on the way. We just got these pictures in from Sacramento, California. U.S. Coast Guard crews loaded a cargo plane with emergency supplies and communications equipment. The crew will first fly to Hawaii and then on to American Samoa.

We are keeping a close eye on the South Pacific and the disaster unfolding there. In fact, let's go ahead and check in now with CNN meteorologist Jacqui Jeras.

Boy, Jacqui, it seems like obviously this is the last thing people in the area needed, a second earthquake.

JACQUI JERAS, AMS METEOROLOGIST: Yes. But the good news is that the tsunami watch has been canceled. And there's been no noticeable tsunamis that have occurred. So, that's some good news.

The quake that happened today was much deeper, in fact it was about 54 miles deep. And to compare that to yesterday's quake which was 7.4 miles deep. So huge difference.

You know there are two types of earthquakes that occur and we talk about those plate tectonics, right? All those plates that are moving then shifting across the earth. If they just slip side by side, no big deal in terms of wave action.

But if it goes like this, if we get one piece that moves up or moves down like this where two plates will come together, if that crust of the earth lifts up, that in turn pushes the water up and creates these huge swells or these big waves.

And this is a big column of water. You know this is from the surface to the sea floor, as opposed to your regular wave action that's just kind of on the surface of the water. And there you can see how it propagates out and can literally travel thousands of miles in just a couple of hours.

The speed of tsunami waves can move as much as 500 to 600 miles per hour. That's as fast as a jetliner. Heidi?

COLLINS: All right, Jacqui, we'll check in with you a little bit later on and keep our eye on everything that's happening, of course, in that region. Thank you, Jacqui. And later this hour we're also going to check in with CNN iReporters for the view from within the disaster. Our Josh Levs is sifting through those reports right now and is going to show some of the best of them.

More troops. Is the war winnable? We're talking about the war in Afghanistan. The fight that's becoming increasingly unpopular in the United States. Well, today President Obama meets with his top advisers to reassess.

CNN White House correspondent Suzanne Malveaux is monitoring all of that. So who is going to be at this particular meeting, Suzanne?

SUZANNE MALVEAUX, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, Heidi, President Obama is bringing his A-team together. This is to discuss, debate, even perhaps completely revamp the U.S. strategy of the war in Afghanistan.

We've got some heavy hitters. We're going to be watching all of them. They have various opinions, sitting at the same table. Now at the table is going to be the vice president, Secretary of State Clinton, Defense Gates, the chair of the Joint Chiefs, Admiral Mullen, top commander in Afghanistan, General McChrystal -- we've heard a lot about him -- the national security adviser, U.S. Ambassador Rice.

All of them there. The focus clearly is going to be on defining the mission going forward in Afghanistan. How does the United States go after al Qaeda and the Taliban at the same time, working with a handicap Afghanistan government essentially?

And yesterday we heard the president emerge from his meeting with NATO secretary-general to articulate what he believes is the U.S. goal.


BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: This is not an American battle. This is a NATO mission as well and we are working actively and diligently to consult with NATO at every step of the way. And I'm very grateful for the leadership that Secretary-General Rasmussen has shown in committing NATO to a full partnership in this process.


MALVEAUX: Now, Heidi, this is the first of a series of meetings that are going to take place in the weeks to come before the president makes that critical decision whether or not to deploy more U.S. troops. We're told it's going to be a three-hour meeting in the situation room. There's also going to be a chance for generals overseas to participate through secure video teleconference, Heidi.

COLLINS: All right. Very good. Suzanne, let us know what comes of that, of course. Appreciate it.

Meanwhile, the U.S. will withdraw another 4,000 troops from Iraq next month. That's what the top commander in Iraq is expected to say when he testifies before a House panel coming up next hour.

According to a statement obtained by CNN, General Ray Odierno says violent attacks have declined 85 percent over the past two years and the U.S. is on track to end its combat mission in Iraq by September of next year.

No bail for the Afghan immigrant suspected of plotting a bomb attack in New York. Najibullah Zazi pleaded not guilty to a terrorism conspiracy charge yesterday in Brooklyn Federal Court.

Authorities say Zazi plotted to make bombs from household chemicals including beauty supply products that he bought in Colorado. He was arrested about 10 days ago. The indictment alleges Zazi was helped by three accomplices. Authorities won't say who they are or where they are.


J. MICHAEL DOWLING, NAJIBULLAH ZAZI'S ATTORNEY: The government will have to produce someone else. They don't necessarily have to indict him but they better come up with someone else or the conspiracy charge fails.


COLLINS: New York Police commissioner says the plot has been broken up and there is nothing to fear from Zazi's alleged accomplices.

An American dad with custody rights learns a tough lesson about another country's divorce laws. He is in jail after trying to take back his kids.


COLLINS: A big blow to the prospect of a public option for health care. The committee negotiating the bill in the Senate has voted it down. But Jim Acosta tells us why public option supporters aren't done yet.




UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Mr. Rockefeller, aye. Mr. Conrad? Mr. Conrad. No.

JIM ACOSTA, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): This time the no's came from Democrats who joined Republicans to defeat the public option keeping it out of the Senate Finance Committee's crucial version of health care reform. The committee's chairman argued there is no way the option could beat a filibuster in the Senate.

SEN. MAX BAUCUS (D), FINANCE COMMITTEE CHAIRMAN: No one has been able to show me how we can count up to 60 votes with the public option in the bill. And thus I'm restrained to vote against the amendment.

ACOSTA: Two amendments that would give the uninsured the option of joining a government-run health care plan pitted Democrat against Democrat. Public option support Jay Rockefeller cited data from the non-partisan Congressional Budget Office that says the provision would save the government $50 billion. A bill without the option he argued gives the insurance industry a pass.

ROCKEFELLER: Who comes first, the insurance companies or the American people?

BAUCUS: We all agree on the goal is to hold health insurance feet to the fire.

ACOSTA: Republicans also got into the mix with Iowa's Charles Grassley tangling with public option proponent, Chuck Schumer, over the prospects of government health care.

SEN. CHUCK GRASSLEY (R), IOWA: If you want competition, you don't want the government running everything. The government is not a fair competitor. It's not even a competitor.

SEN. CHARLES SCHUMER (D), NEW YORK: So you don't want Medicare?

GRASSLEY: It's a predator.

SEN. ORRIN HATCH (R), UTAH: And I can tell you it would be a disaster. And what's worse the American people will lose a lot of control over their own health care needs.

ACOSTA: Just before watching his amendment go down to defeat, Rockefeller signaled the fight would go on.

ROCKEFELLER: The public option is on the march.



ACOSTA: Then, little more than an hour later, Schumer's public option amendment also lost. But the New York senator was also defiant.

SCHUMER: Today the odds went up that there will be a public option in the bill.

ACOSTA: Liberal health care reform supports say it was exactly the showdown they wanted.

(on camera): You wanted this debate. Right?

RICHARD KIRSCH, HEALTH CARE FOR AMERICA NOW: We definitely wanted this debate. We didn't want our champions in the Senate to shirk from this. We wanted to lay the sights out very clearly, make it clear that there was a stark choice here, between those who want to continue to leave us at the mercy of the private health insurance industry without any competition and those who say we need a choice.


COLLINS: Jim Acosta joining us now live from Washington. So Jim, I'm surprised a little at Chuck Schumer.


COLLINS: What -- this wasn't a huge surprise. We knew before going in yesterday that there weren't going to be enough votes. But it could still come up in the Senate, right? I mean they...

ACOSTA: That's right.

COLLINS: Could still be more discussion anyway.

ACOSTA: That's right. And you know, there is another public option in a bill pending before the Senate. And that came out of Ted Kennedy's old committee, the health committee. Tom Harkin who's in charge of that. He thinks, you know, that bill with the public option that's come out of that committee could actually get more than 50 votes on the Senate floor when it comes down to a vote.

And where all of this boils down to is whether or not Democrats in the end would join Republicans in some sort of filibuster. One of these few centrist Democrats who voted against the public option yesterday. But if you look at that vote yesterday, and this is why some public option supporters are embolden by this, yes, the Rockefeller amendment lost 15-8 but the Schumer amendment lost 13-10.

One of those votes against it from Max Baucus. He actually wrote a white paper in favor of the public option a year ago, and so if you switch his vote it's 12-11, so it's a much closer vote than perhaps a lot of people think.

COLLINS: Yes, but his name is on the bill, right? So if he thinks that it's not going to pass does he still want his name on that bill?

ACOSTA: Well, that's a good question. A lot of this comes down to what Harry Reid, the Senate majority leader, does with all of this. He's going to have to merge these bills and it could be merged with the health committee bill and have a public option in it.

So a lot of this is riding on what Harry Reid does and President Obama, who is going to Copenhagen in -- you know, his aides have said well he has a phone on Air Force One. A lot of this could be discussed over the coming days.

And of course a lot of people are looking to what Olympia Snowe is doing. She may put up an amendment for one of those so-called triggers that could bring a public option downward.

Harry Reid told his constituents in Nevada last week he thinks that's a doggone good idea, quoting Harry Reid.

COLLINS: Doggone. Doggone it. All right.

ACOSTA: Spoken like a true Nevadan. Yes.


COLLINS: All right. Jim Acosta, the good thing is we'll get to talk with you even more about this.

ACOSTA: That's right.

COLLINS: I'm sure for many, many weeks to come.

ACOSTA: I think so.

COLLINS: Thank you.

A Tennessee father is still sitting in a Japanese jail cell this morning accused of trying to kidnap his own kids. Christopher Savoie who has custody rights came to Japan to reclaim his two children from his ex-wife. But he's found out the hard way Japanese and U.S. laws differ greatly on divorce.

CNN's Kyung Lah is joining us now with more on this.

So, Kyung, we have new information now this morning that he could possibly be in jail even longer than expected.

KYUNG LAH, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Longer than expected, in part, Heidi, because what we have here is a judge who has decided late today, Japan time, to extend the jail stay. So we know that Savoie is going to be in Japanese custody a minimum of 10 days additional.

Meanwhile, these two governments are continuing to look at this case in two very different ways. They are trying to figure out who is the abductor here and exactly where these children belong.


LAH (voice-over): Just a few steps away. That's how close American Christopher Savoie and his children were to the front gate of the U.S. consulate in Fukuoka, Japan.

"He was screaming, 'let us in,'" says this woman. But Savoie never made it inside. Shannon Higgins traveling with Savoie could only watch as Japanese police arrested his friend in front of his two children, 8-year-old Isaac and 6-year-old Rebecca.

SHANNON HIGGINS, CHRISTOPHER SAVOIE'S FRIEND: Gut wrenching. I -- to see the kids in the situation that they were. To see how things unfolded and it just makes me have to ask, you know, was there any other option?

CHRISTOPHER SAVOIE, FATHER: I said they're what? They're what? They're in Japan?

LAH: From his Tennessee home before he came to Japan Savoie described his frustration that his ex-wife Noriko abducted the children to her home country. A U.S. court awarded Savoie sole custody but under Japanese law Noriko is the only recognized guardian.

So, Christopher Savoie now sits in this jail facing up to five years behind bars for kidnapping.

STEVE CHRISTIE, INTERNATIONAL ASSOCIATION FOR PARENT-CHILD REUNION: It's a nightmare. It's a living nightmare that you can't escape.

LAH: Four years ago American Steve Christi's son was abducted. Christi said there are upwards of 100 American parents who've had children abducted by Japanese ex-spouses.

CHRISTIE: The fundamental thing that really needs to change is Japan needs to change its family law and recognize joint custody.

LAH: The U.S. embassy says it is working to win Savoie's release. As far as Isaac and Rebecca, they have been returned to their Japanese mother.

HIGGINS: In the end, it comes down to the kids that they are trapped in between two countries, two legal systems, two parents, two cultures.


LAH: As if the case wasn't complicated enough, the police here in (INAUDIBLE) City tell us that the two children have Japanese passports so, Heidi, in the words of the police officer we spoke with, they consider them to be Japanese.

COLLINS: Wow. It's just an incredible case. A lot of twists and turns, obviously. We will stay updated on it with you, Kyung Lah. Thanks so much.

More school. Dirty words to some kids and parents, too. But President Obama says kids aren't spending enough time in school and he wants to change that.


COLLINS: Checking some of our "Top Stories" now.

Iran's nuclear negotiator is on his way to Geneva, Switzerland to state his country's case. He meets tomorrow with representatives from the five permanent United Nation Security Sill members including the United States.

Last week Iran revealed it was building another site to enrich uranium. Today the head of the U.N. nuclear watchdog agency said Iran skirted the law by keeping that news a secret.

If you own a Toyota or Lexus for safety's sake take the floor mat from the driver's side. Toyota is recalling those mats in four million cars. It is the largest recall ever. The company warns the mats might interfere with the gas pedal to cause it to stick. Toyota models on the list include some Avalon, Camries, Priuses, Tacomas and several Lexus models.

President Obama, the king of Spain and the president of Brazil all traveling to Copenhagen, Denmark this week to woo the International Olympic Council. The IOC is meeting to decide which nation should host the 2016 Summer Games. Chicago, Madrid, Rio de Janeiro and Tokyo are the four finalists.

More "Top Stories" coming your way in 20 minutes.

A Denver man is still behind bars in New York charged in an alleged terror plot. But prosecutor says it was, quote, "international in scope." A look at Najibullah Zazi's day in court.


COLLINS: Parents, kids and teachers, listen up. President Obama says students aren't spending enough time in school. He wants longer school days and longer school years because he thinks that will help American students compete better with those in other countries.

Education Secretary Arnie Duncan is touring the country encouraging local districts and states to support the idea. He says students who thrive are in class longer.


ARNIE DUNCAN, EDUCATION SECRETARY: Guess what? They're in school nine hour as day. They are in school on the weekends and they're in school over the summer. And -- this is not a new idea.


COLLINS: We're going to talk more about this next hour. Joining our discussion a principal who is in favor of year-round school and a guest who supports the traditional school calendar.

We do want to hear from you on this, too. Tell us what you think about it. Do you actually believe that students will benefit from a longer school day or a full year of school?

You can leave a comment on my blog, You'll see a little bit of the story right there and then go ahead and post your thoughts. We will bring some of them to you throughout the morning right here on the CNN NEWSROOM.

What about students in other countries? How long do they go to school and what's expected of them? This morning we are going to be focusing on the cities of Hong Kong, Beijing and Kabul.

First to China.


EUNICE YOON, CNN CORRESPONDENT: I'm Eunice Yoon in Hong Kong. Compared to American students, students in Hong Kong spend more days but fewer hours in school.

On average, they are here about five and a half hours a day. But that doesn't mean that education isn't highly valued here. Parents spend hundreds if not thousands of dollars every month to put their kids in private tutorial schools, so after regular school is over most of these kids head off to private classes where they study everything from English to Chinese to math and science for an additional four hours.

EMILY CHANG, CNN CORRESPONDENT: I'm Emily Chang in a public school in Beijing. The school day here is slightly longer than in the U.S. and summer is only a month and a half. And in China the education system is entirely focused on tests.

Test scores in junior high determine what high school you go to. Test scores in high school determine what college you go to. So students are trained very early on to be good test takers, some taking finals as early as first grade.

Parents often complain it stifles creativity so those who can afford it but kids in English or music lessons, science and math camp. But in poor rural areas students don't have as many choices. There is a lack of educational materials and qualified teachers, one teacher may teach multiple grades or hundreds of student at a time.

ATIA ABAWI, CNN CORRESPONDENT: I'm Atia Abawi in Kabul, Afghanistan where there are approximately six million children going to school since the fall of the Taliban in 2001, but unfortunately there are not enough teachers let alone qualified teachers, so some schools like this one divide the children into three shifts where on average they have three to five hours of classroom time a day.

And because of the harsh winter and summer climate, they usually have four months off every year. But still these children in the country, because of the war on poverty, they can't go to school, choosing own safety and providing for their families over their schooling.


COLLINS: A review shows most students around the world go to class six to eight hours as day. How much homework, of course, depends on the grade level.

The earth moves, the ocean surges and a death toll grows. We'll have the view from within the disaster zone on the South Pacific earthquakes.


COLLINS: It is the last day of the month and the last day of the quarter for that matter. For a look back at how our 401(k) has fared, let's go to Susan Lisovicz now at the New York Stock Exchange as we just hear that opening bell.

Susan, how does the day look for trading too? SUSAN LISOVICZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Today looks good, the quarter looks fantastic, Heidi.


LISOVICZ: Over the past three months, the three major averages have gained 15 percent. And most analysts say the U.S. economy grew this quarter and that this could be the turning point between recession and recovery.

A new reading on Gross Domestic Product shows that in the second quarter, the economy shrank at a pace of less than one percent, which is a big improvement from earlier this year.

But there's still trouble spots -- jobs of course. More than 250,000 jobs were lost in August, payroll processing for may pieces; that's the lowest number in more than a year, it expects employment to keep declining for at least few more months.

And there are fears that another lender -- another big lender could go bankrupt. "The Wall Street Journal" says CIT Group is preparing an offer that would reduce its debt and hand control over to bond holders but that would wipe out common stockholders so CIT shares right now are down 40 percent.

If the commercial lender can't work out a deal it would file for Chapter 11 and it would be the fifth biggest bankruptcy in U.S. history. It's not just CIT; the International Monetary Fund is warning that global bank losses from this financial crisis could near $3.5 trillion.

Financial stability has improved but the recovery is going to be slow. The improving GDP number is certainly improving sentiment here on Wall Street; the DOW industrials right now up 20 points on this final day of September.

Remember, September the lousiest month for stocks historically.


LISOVICZ: Heidi, this is the best quarter for the blue chips since 1998. NASDAQ composite; S&P 500 also higher the first minute of trading -- Heidi.

COLLINS: OK, very good. I like the way you talk. Susan Lisovicz, thank you. We'll check back later.

LISOVICZ: I'll keep trying to talk that talk.

COLLINS: OK, very, very good.

We are following the devastation from two massive earthquakes in the South Pacific. The first one yesterday unleashed a deadly tsunami. The second one earlier this morning triggered widespread concern.

Joining us by phone right now is Dr. Charles McCreery, he's the director of NOAA's Pacific Tsunami Warning Center.

Doctor, if you can hear me ok, tell us what the situation is right now. We understand that the latest tsunami warning has been canceled. Is that accurate?

DR. CHARLES MCCREERY, DIRECTOR, NOAA PACIFIC TSUNAMI WARNING CENTER (via telephone): Yes, that's true. We had a tsunami watch issued for Indonesia, Thailand, India and Malaysia, following that large earthquake. But it looks like only a small tsunami was generated and it's not any further threat. So that has now been downgraded and canceled.

COLLINS: Yes, that's some very good news obviously as we look at these pictures that are coming in from our iReporters; just unbelievable devastation looking specifically at American Samoa.

I wonder what are the concerns? And right now, we are very aware that relief and aid and shelter for these people is probably number one. But as we speak to you about what could be coming next, are there concerns?

MCCREERY: Well, there is always a concern about aftershocks in the region. The tsunami waves from the event yesterday of course have come and gone for Samoa so that's no longer an issue there. But there are certainly going to be aftershocks that can frighten people from the shaking.

And if we had a large enough aftershock it could generate more tsunami waves. So we're on the lookout for that.

COLLINS: Understood. And then when we're looking again at this video, we see some of these structures that are either just completely annihilated or are compromised from the earlier earthquakes and tsunami, I imagine that even those aftershocks are a serious concern as well.

Dr. Charles McCreery, we certainly appreciate that. He's the Director of NOAA Pacific Tsunami Warning Center. Thanks so much.

I want to go over to Jacqui Jeras now in our Severe Weather Center. Boy, there is a lot to talk about. Why some of these earthquakes trigger tsunamis and why others don't?

JACQUI JERAS, AMS METEOROLOGIST: Yes, well, it has to do with the type of quake that it is. There are two types that happen, Heidi. And you know where the plates come together, they can slip side by side, when that happens, you know, that can cause damage but it's not going to create a tsunami.

It's when the plate, one goes over the other, one goes underneath the other and that causes the lift in, it displaces the water and pushes it up and that's why tsunamis do occur.

Now remember plate tectonics, remember this from like what fourth grade, fifth grade, geography something like that.

COLLINS: I actually do.

JERAS: Yes. Well, this is the Australian plate here. And we put this on Google earth to kind of give you a better idea where it works. Where the Australian plate and the Pacific plate come together that's where yesterday's earthquake and tsunami was generated.

And here you can see the big circle there, that was the big quake that happened and then here all these little aftershocks that the doctor was talking about. None of which have been strong enough to generate an additional tsunami. But as he said that's something he'll be watching and something we'll be watching in the upcoming days. By the way 59 percent of all tsunamis that occur happen in the Pacific basin.

Now, the one that happened today, the very minor tsunami that didn't really impact anything or anybody, the earthquake was about 7.6 in magnitude. And it's in an area that we call the Java trench, so it's in this deep area of the ocean floor and it's exactly that, it's a trench so it goes down like this. And the plates come together in this area as well.

So it's a very active plate for earthquakes to occur. And just right up here off Sumatra, that's where the 2004 quake and very devastating tsunami that happened there.

Here is another map that we want to show that you kind of gives you an idea of how many and how often earthquakes and tsunamis have, since 1900 all the little dots that you see here, those are all earthquakes and all of the squares that you see here, these are tsunamis that have been generated.

So you can see how this area is just littered with really hundreds of them since 1900 -- Heidi.

COLLINS: All right, wow. Jacqui thanks so much for the background and all of that. I sure do appreciate it.

We also want to give you a sense of just how close Samoa is to Hawaii and other parts of the Pacific.

Our Josh Levs is here with that. Good morning to you Josh.

JOSH LEVS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Good morning to you Heidi.

We're getting some amazing images from there. What we want to do is put it in context for us, for when how do you understand where we're talking about and as you were saying, how close to some of these other major population centers.

Let's go right to this Google Earth image. I want to start off with the U.S. I would like to do that, put it in context for our viewers here. Now, when -- this is the way you are used to looking at the world you couldn't even see Samoa because it's a tiny dot. But now you can. You've got the Samoan islands, including American Samoa there. One of the places people were concerned about yesterday when we heard about this was Australia. So we're going to zoom that way and we're going to be able to see from American Samoa over to west how far it is to Australia. And what we'll find here is that it's about 2,700 miles from Sydney.

So, it's a pretty big distance. But still as Jacqui knows and as she's been reporting when you're talking about something like a tsunami the concern is there that it can go really far. It's also about equally far from Hawaii over on the other side there.

So we'll zoom up to Hawaii and we'll see its about 2,600 miles from there. So we're talking about a little dot on earth in the Pacific that's basically smack dab in the middle between Australia and Hawaii if you were to draw that line. You find 2,600 miles or so each way.

So Heidi, when we hear these kinds of concerns, as somebody keep in mind obviously the lives that are right there on those islands but also the bigger population centers in the region, something a lot of people get concerned about.

COLLINS: Yes and we're getting a lot of iReports too from inside Samoa.

LEVS: Yes.

COLLINS: What do those looks like?

LEVS: Yes, you know what? Sometimes a still shot can tell you even more than video. Let's zoom in here and let me show you what we've got over here, a lot of coverage at These are some of the most dramatic pictures we have coming in to i-Report.

This comes to us from Alden Tagarino (ph) and you can just see destruction along here, boats that have been washed up on the land, turned over buildings that have been destroyed. You can get a sense of just how powerful this has been for that area.

We're also getting videos. Let's go to one of these over here. This came from to us from Lance Felatoga (ph) who is showing us he did a walk-through here and he's showing us some of these areas that have just been completely devastated and destroyed. And he's someone where we'll be talking to later today who has been in the position before of trying to rescue people in the middle of storms. And he talks about the kinds of destruction that he has seen here. This, and a lot more Heidi, coming to us right now all at

COLLINS: All right very good, Josh Levs. I sure do appreciate that, thanks.

LEVS: Thanks.

COLLINS: Law enforcement agencies collecting and sharing personal data but are they getting too much information on people not suspected of crimes. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

COLLINS: We begin our top stories on Capitol Hill now. The Senate Finance Committee back at it as we speak trying to come up with a compromise health care proposal. Two amendments to add a public option failed to pass the panel yesterday but the committee still faces other controversial measures.

Amendments expected to be introduced include one that would ban federal funding for abortion and another making it harder for illegal immigrants to get insurance.

In the Philippines, people are beginning a massive clean up after a typhoon ravaged the country. Nearly 250 people are dead; more than a half million others forced from their homes. Several U.N. agencies and nations have pledged aid. U.S. Marine and Air Force personnel are joining in the relief work.

Actor John Travolta yet to take the stand this week in the Bahamas, but his lawyer did testify yesterday in the case of a paramedic there. The defendant drove Travolta's 16-year-old son Jett to the hospital the day he died in January. He is accused of conspiring to extort $25 million from the actor. Travolta's lawyer says the man wanted to exchange the money for papers he thought would embarrass the actor.

One of the groups involved in the arrest and investigation of terror suspect Najibullah Zazi in Denver was a local fusion center there. What is a fusion center? Gerri Willis explains and tells us why some critics say they have overstepped their mission.


KEN KRAYESKE, ACTIVIST: I drop the bike...

GERRI WILLIS, CNN CORREPSONDENT: It was the morning of Connecticut Governor Jodi Rell's inaugural parade.

KRAYESKE: ... pulled out my camera, and I just shoot Governor Rell about 23 shots.

WILLIS: Moments later, Ken Krayeske was stopped by Hartford police officers, handcuffed, arrested and jailed.

KRAYESKE: I said what did I do? They said you shouldn't have been making those threats.

WILLIS: Local police have been on the look out for him after state police gave out a security bulletin with his photo on it. Officials wouldn't comment pending a civil lawsuit. The court documents reveal state police were alarmed by Krayeske's blog posts. "Who is going to protest the inaugural ball with me?" And, "No need to make nice."

KRAYESKE: Why do I have to be nice to a political figure simply because she won an election? WILLIS: Police began digging for information, mining public and commercial data bases. They learned Krayeske had been a Green Party campaign director, had protested the gubernatorial debate and had once been convicted for civil disobedience. He had no history of violence.

Law Professor Danielle Citron says police aren't supposed to gather information on citizens who are suspected of a crime.

DANIELLE CITRON, PRIVACY EXPERT: We're interested in someone because they are an advocate for a Green Party candidate and we think they are suspicious because they want to get other people to protest someone's ideas but not because they think there is a true threat to their lives. I think that's just troubling.

WILLIS: Today, law enforcement collects and shares more information than ever. And much of it goes on at state intelligence centers called fusion centers.

Fusion centers were started after 9/11 to help federal, state and law enforcement connect the dots and stop a terrorist attack. The Department of Homeland Security says they are a critical tool in keeping the nation safe.

JANET NAPOLITANO, U.S. HOMELAND SECURITY SECRETARY: In a typical fusion center an FBI agent might be sitting next to a state highway patrol officer. They don't merely share space. They share data bases and techniques.

WILLIS: But what's going into those data bases has critics worried. The ACLU says there's evidence that some fusion centers have targeted Muslim groups and peace activists for surveillance.

MIKE GERMAN, ACLU: Collecting the information about people that has no relevance to whether or not they are breaking the law.


WILLIS: The director of New Jersey's Fusion Center says law enforcement works hard to balance national security with individual privacy.

KELLY: We in law enforcement and certainly in fusion centers are very attuned to the bill of rights. We're not in the business of investigating first amendment -- or constitutionally-protected rights.

WILLIS: But Ken Krayeske thinks that police in his town crossed the line.

KRAYESKE: The police did not determine the difference between who was dangerous and who was merely expressing protected constitutional -- their constitutionally protected viewpoints.


COLLINS: Gerri Willis is joining me to talk a little bit more about this. How many of these fusion centers are actually out there?

WILLIS: Heidi, there are 72 fusion centers around the country and while there are no strict federal oversight there are guidelines in place that fusion centers are supposed to adhere to.

COLLINS: Sounds like maybe they don't all adhere to those guidelines? Is that what you're saying?

WILLIS: Look. Even if you're not a political activist it's advisable to watch what you say and what you do online. If you're on social networking sites make sure to set your privacy settings. It's not just law enforcement really that you have to worry about. Employers are also increasingly searching the Web for information on job candidates -- Heidi.

COLLINS: All right. Gerri Willis, sure do appreciate that. Thank you.

I did not know what a fusion center was.

Eating out less, paying down credit cards; many Americans changed how they spend money when the recession hit. Now that some say it's ending, will those thrifty habits actually go away too?


COLLINS: A terror suspect says he's innocent. A judge rules he stays in jail.

CNN's Deborah Feyerick with a look now at what was said and not said in an Afghan immigrant's court appearance in New York.


DEBORAH FEYERICK, CNN CORREPONDENT: Twenty-four-year-old terror suspect Najibullah Zazi, his hands and feet unshackled appeared relaxed at his arraignment in federal court. And through his lawyer he pleaded not guilty to charges he conspired to use weapons of mass destruction.

Zazi who is being held as a flight risk is accused of buying hydrogen peroxide and other industrial strength chemicals with the intention to build bombs like those used to target London's subways and buses in 2005.

Zazi was arrested in Denver ten days ago. Federal authorities alleged that when he traveled to Pakistan last year he received detailed bomb making instructions at an al Qaeda camp. Zazi maintains he went to Pakistan to see his wife.

J. MICHAEL DOWLING, NAJIBULLAH ZAZI'S ATTORNEY: What I've seen so far is that Mr. Zazi traveled to Pakistan, which is not illegal. That Mr. Zazi purchased certain products that contain chemicals that allegedly could be used to make a bomb. Those acts were not illegal.

FEYERICK: Zazi stayed for one night in this building in the Queens area of New York where federal investigators later found several backpacks. Backpacks were used in the mass transit attacks in London and Madrid. But two men living in the apartment Najiz Khan (ph) and his uncle say the backpacks have been given away free by a store and they planned to send them to relatives in Pakistan.

Investigators believe Zazi was preparing to act. Several days before driving to New York on September 9th, Zazi checked into a Denver hotel room and allegedly tried to heat bomb making components. As he did so, Zazi repeatedly tried contacting an unknown individual saying he needed answers urgently on the right mix of ingredients.

DOWLING: The government will have to produce someone else. They don't necessarily have to indict them but they better come up with someone else or the conspiracy charges fails.

FEYERICK: Prosecutors say much of the evidence is classified and so defense lawyers and court personnel will have to be screened to obtain security clearances.

Because of translation issues and the international nature of this alleged plot and what prosecutors are calling voluminous discovery, the judge designated the case complex waiving speedy trial deadlines. U.S. marshals did section off a row seating for Zazi's family in the courtroom but no one showed.

Deborah Feyerick, CNN, New York.


COLLINS: We do have an awful lot going on this morning. CNN crews are in place to bring it to you.

Let's check in first with Jacqui Jeras, there's the earthquakes and tsunamis in the South Pacific Jacqui.

JERAS: Yes. A lot of people want to know why yesterday's earthquake created a tsunami and today's didn't. We're going to talk about what it takes to make the ocean move, coming up with your forecast.

POPPY HARLOW, CNNMONEY.COM: You asked, he answered. What Warren Buffett, the world's most famous investor has to say on everything from China to the Fed. Your answers coming up in the next hour.

ELIZABETH COHEN, CNN MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: I'm Elizabeth Cohen in Atlanta. Ladies, listen up. The weight you gain at the age of 18 can affect your health when you're 70. I'll have that at the top of the hour.

COLLINS: Thanks so much, everybody.

Also, more time for reading, writing and arithmetic. Is a longer school day a good idea? Students will probably say no; some of the parents, too. We'll tell you what everyone says in just a moment.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) COLLINS: A lot of people had to come up with thrifty habits over the past year and now that some people are saying the recession is over; will everyone go back to spending the way they did before?

Let's bring in Christine Romans to talk a little bit more about this.

Christine, we know the market is doing okay. That's a leading indicator. It takes a while, right, for people to actually feel it in their hearts and in their pocketbooks.

CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN BUSINESS CORRESPONDENT: And even when they will feel it in their hearts and their pocketbooks, Heidi, survey after survey say we're a new consumer. We have changed. The great recession has changed us like the Great Depression changed our grandparents and our great grandparents. And that's a new fiscal conservatism as consumer reports put it.

It's likely to endure even after the recession is over and the recovery begins. Consumer Reports surveyed more than a thousand people and again this is in line with other surveys that we've seen. And they found that 71 percent of people are buying only absolute essentials; 61 percent are eating out less; 58 percent spending less on vacations; and 53 percent putting less on a credit card.

Part of the reason is, frankly, the credit card companies and the banks are reeling in your credit. You might not be able to borrow money to do these things that have been a hallmark of the middle class existence anymore so people don't have the money, can't borrow the money to do some of these things and some people who do have the money, they're scarred. They're worried. They want to do things like pay down their debt, like build up their cash cushion.

And when Consumer Reports ask people what they would do with $10,000 tax free; what would you do with that money? 66 percent said they would pay down debt or they would save. I posed the same question and a bunch of other questions in a little quiz I put at

I quizzed people about this and 90 percent said they would save down -- save money or pay down debt if they had $10,000 tax free. We know that people have been so kind of burned that they are in the near term -- at least right now they're saying -- that they have changed for good, either because they're smart and they want to be as "Consumer Reports" called it, "intelligent thrifty" or because they simply can't borrow the money to do it anymore and to do the spending beyond their means anymore -- Heidi.

COLLINS: So, then looking at those opinions, is it obvious that people are not putting their money into the markets then either? They're saving and hanging onto it. They're not looking at sort of these positive ticks in the market and saying maybe I'll put some in there now and see if I can ...

ROMANS: Well, it's interesting because I asked people on this poll; I put this poll out online too. And I asked people, you know, would you invest in a Roth IRA or a traditional IRA. And the majority said yes, they would put money to work.

If you're in a position where you don't have to pay down debt, there are people who are trying to invest in the future with their money instead of spend it on a trip or instead of spend it on name brand items. There's just this new kind of -- they call it fiscal conservatism -- a new fiscal conservatism that Consumer Reports calls it.

Some people would just say it's the way it always was but we lost sight of it for a very long time. Every time you opened up your mailbox remember how many credit card offers you got in there? It was so easy to spend more money than you. It's not easy to spend more money than you have anymore and you're seeing that reflected in the bye-bye big spending of American consumers.

COLLINS: Very much so. All right. Christine Romans, thank you. I'm going to take your quiz, too.


COLLINS: Thanks.


TASATOLO TAUGI, STUDENT, AMERICAN SAMOA COMMUNITY COLLEGE: It's really happening, and everyone is panicking. Because we did drills before and I guess we follow and when the real thing happened, we each forgot about the drills.

The roads are blocked. It is cut into half. Some of the parts of the roads are in the ocean. Some cars are in the ocean, too, the houses, people. Everyone were doing -- they just want to go up the mountains, the hills. Even the cars on the road, some of the cars are just parked in front of the school and start walking up.


COLLINS: Two massive earthquakes rumble through the South Pacific. The death toll is climbing and expected to go even higher.

First, I want to give you a glimpse from Indonesia. This morning's powerful quake sent people running out of buildings. At least 13 people are confirmed dead.