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Six U.N. Workers Died in Afghanistan; 90 People Killed in Peshawar Blast; Future of Afghanistan; Some Looking Online To Fight H1N1 Flu

Aired October 28, 2009 - 10:00   ET


HEIDI COLLINS, CNN ANCHOR: Here are some of the other stories we're watching right now.

Sentencing gets under way in about an hour for a man convicted of helping al Qaeda. Alleged al Qaeda member Ali Almari (ph) pled guilty to one count of supporting a foreign terror organization. Prosecutors are asking for a 15-year sentence. He's already been in custody for five years.

The main artery in and out of San Francisco is closed right now. It's more trouble for the Bay Bridge. Debris fell off in an area where crews had made emergency repairs last month. The bridge is closed indefinitely while authorities assess the danger.

The United Nations expected to vote today condemning the U.S. Economic embargo on Cuba. It's the 18th year for the vote. Just last month President Obama signed an order extending the embargo for another year but the administration has also loosened some travel restrictions to Cuba.

Two deadly attacks topping the news this morning. One in Afghanistan. The other in Pakistan. In Afghanistan's capital, militants stormed the house filmed with United Nations workers. The U.N. is promising to step up security. In Pakistan, the death toll is climbing from a massive car bombing in a crowded marketplace. As many as 90 people are dead. Many of the victims are women. Beginning with the Afghanistan. six U.N. workers are dead including one American.

CNN pentagon correspondent Chris Lawrence has more now on today's attack.


CHRIS LAWRENCE, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Just before dawn militants storm a compound in the middle of Kabul. Armed with machine guns and suicide vests, they attack a private guest house where United Nations workers were sleeping.

(on camera): We were sound asleep when we started hearing -- well, we started hearing that. Now there's black smoke rising about, man, no more than about two blocks away. You can look down there, you can see a lot of the Afghan police, U.N. vehicles that have been pulling up.

(voice-over): Afghan police surrounded the compound. Security forces tried to drive the militants out.

(on camera): This is the result of what we were hearing all morning. Bullet holes all through this gate. Shell casings just littering the ground. That was all part of the cross fire coming from the compound where the militants attacked.

(voice-over): Militants and Afghan security forces were killed. The U.N. says the initial attack killed at least six members of its staff.

ADRIAN EDWARDS, U.N. SPOKESMAN: This is a totally senseless thing that's happened here. It's an outrage and it's a tragedy.

LAWRENCE (voice-over): President Hamid Karzai, the European Union and the U.S. Embassy in Kabul all condemns the militant's raid. "Attacking civilian workers will not lessen our determination to support the Afghan people and their election process." The Taliban had claimed responsibility for affiliate (ph) earlier treat to disrupt next week's presidential run-off election.

HAMID KARZAI, PRESIDENT OF AFGHANISTAN: We'll have to adjust our security in light of this, but this is a very serious incident.


COLLINS: And Chris Lawrence is joining us live from Kabul, Afghanistan, with more on this. So, Chris, the election is about ten days away now. What sort of effect will this attack have?

LAWRENCE: Yes, the Taliban proved by penetrating a relatively secure area in Central Kabul that they have reached far beyond just the southern and eastern parts of Afghanistan. I did a story just a few days ago where we were talking to Afghan voters about how safe they felt. The Taliban threat had just come out then and a lot of voters here in Kabul told me that is going to have a big effect out there in the provinces but it won't effect me here. We're in the central part of the city. We don't feel that the Taliban is a threat. It will remain to be seen how much this changes the minds of some of those people.

COLLINS: Yes, certainly. And then you have to wonder too, about the plans for the U.S. military and Afghan security forces as they get ready for the election.

LAWRENCE: That's right. Already some changes are under way. President Hamid Karzai just today ordered the Afghan police and army to step up and increase security around all of the international organizations in the city. I was also speaking with one of the province governors just last night. He said he'd learned from the mistakes of the first time, he said security was okay right near the polling stations but the militants were bombing his area from far away. This time he said he's going to ask for NATO forces to increase a little bit more around that perimeter further back from the polling stations. Heidi.

COLLINS: All right. Our Pentagon correspondent is there on the scene. Chris Lawrence, thank you.

And we want to let you know coming up in about ten minutes, we'll going to talk with an outspoken suspended member of the Afghan parliament. We'll discuss her perspective of the situation there and how the upcoming run-off election could change Afghanistan's future.

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton beginning a visit to Pakistan and at broadening U.S./Pakistani relations beyond the terror war about the militant today in the often targeted city, Peshawar to president and his Islamabad news conference.


HILLARY CLINTON, SECRETARY OF STATE: If the people behind these attacks were so sure of their beliefs, let them join the political process. Let them come forward to the people of Pakistan this democracy, and make their case that they don't want girls to go to school, that they want women to be kept back. That they believe that they have all of the answers and the rest of us who are people of faith have none.


COLLINS: At least 90 people, most of them women, dead in the marketplace explosion and fire in Peshawar. CNN's Reza Sayah has been following this story for us all morning long, he joins us live now from Islamabad. Reza, good morning.

REZA SAYAH, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Good morning, Heidi. The timing of this blast is remarkable. On the day U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton arrives here in Pakistan to reach out to the Pakistani people, she gets a very dramatic look at the severe security crisis this country is facing. This was an awful blast, the deadliest blast this year in Pakistan.

Ninety people killed according to a senior government official, and more than 200 injured when a remote-control car bomb exploded at a very busy market in Peshawar, the capital of the northwest frontier province. This car bomb packed with nearly 400 pounds of explosives according to officials. The aftermath was awful. Chaos. Destruction. Lot of people distraught. Video showed one man breaking down in tears. Others are carrying victims away from the debris. Here's how witnesses describe the scene.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I ducked quickly, and when I looked it up was complete darkness. I couldn't see anyone. The cars and the van were lying upside down.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What kind of security alert is this? It was an explosive packed card. Look. It has left a ten foot crater. Look at the mosque. It ceases to exist anymore. For god's sake, do something.

(END VIDEO CLIP) SAYAH: There you see some of the frustration on the part of the Pakistanis. Tonight in Peshawar, the main hospital overwhelmed because of all the victims that are being brought in. The hospital calling for people to donate blood because they don't want to run short. Heidi.

COLLINS: Understood. In fact, Peshawar, let's say at least, five attacks that I can count. This one, talk a little bit about why in particular this city is getting hit so hard?

SAYAH: Well, Peshawar is in a very volatile region. It's the gateway to the volatile and very dangerous tribal region right near the Afghan border. This is where the Taliban and al Qaeda widely believed to have established bases. So, it's assessable to the militant and also important to the government and anyone who wants to get to Afghanistan or this tribal region often times they have to go through this place so it's been an easy target for the Taliban. We've seen a number of attacks earlier this month, a suicide attack killed more than 50 people. That was the deadliest attack ever in Peshawar. Of course, that is until today. Heidi.

COLLINS: Yes, absolutely, all right. Reza Sayah, thank you so much, staying on top of the story for us. Appreciate it.

The debate over health care reform now. The divisions grow deeper. Senator Joe Lieberman says he won't support the democrat's proposal for a government run public option and the former democrat says he'll block it from reaching a vote in the senate.


SENATOR JOE LIEBERMAN (I), CONNECTICUT: It's still a government run health insurance plan that puts the federal taxpayer on the line and I don't want to do that at this point in our nation's history. If at the end it's not what I think is good for our country and most people living in our country, then I'll vote against culture, I'll joined the filibuster and I'll try to stop the bill from passing.

SENATOR HARRY REID (D-NV), MAJORITY LEADER: I have the greatest confidence in Joe Lieberman's ability as a legislator, and he'll work with us when this gets on the floor and I'm sure he'll have some interesting things to do in the way of amendments but Joe Lieberman is the least of Harry Reid's problems.


COLLINS: The Nevada Democrat has to muster 60 votes to avoid a republican filibuster. Even moderate members though of his own party are refusing to commit to the public option. And Senator Olympia Snowe, the law republican who have support the earlier reform proposal says she will not support the public option.

Witness the power of nature. The driver of this truck said fierce wind knocked him right off the road. Police in Sacramento, California, say the big rig went through a guard rail and down a ditch. The driver will be OK. Good news there. Rob Marciano joining us now to talk little bit about this storm and the others that are out there. Hey, good morning again, Rob.

ROB MARCIANO, AMS METEOROLOGIST: Good morning, Heidi. This storm, very strong for this time of year. Late October feels more like an early December storm and all sorts of stuff with this. You mentioned the wind. We have video of what the wind did as far as kicking up dust. We not only had traffic problems as far as tractor- trailers being blown over but just the visibility across parts of central and southern California and this scene also replicated across parts of Arizona. So, big deal there.

And I think we'll see similar today although the winds are a little bit less strong with this particular system. Now, things are getting into the Rockies and with that we've got some snow. And some of this snow already we've seen anywhere from six to ten inches fall. We could see another two to three feet fall in the higher elevations. Even Denver proper could see a foot. This is one of these upslope conditions where you get the east winds and the east winds ride off the eastern slopes of the Front Range and that's where we get the heaviest snow. East of the continental divide or along it you could see two to three feet of snow there.

All right. This system by the way tomorrow gets a little farther to the east and there will be heavier rain across already soggy eastern Texas and Louisiana, Arkansas. Check out some of this soggy conditions.

Milton, Florida, actually 3.62. Pensacola, 3.4. When you remember, this time yesterday we were under a tornado watch for this area. Obviously a lot of rain as well over two inches in southern parts of Georgia or central parts of Georgia. All right. We'll trying to get to the northeast, big game happening tonight. But we have some rain at least right now. So, LaGuardia an hour and 25 minute delays at the moment. Two hours in Philly. An hour and 45 in White Plains. We'll watch this storm. It's a dozy out there. It's coming down pretty good there. Getting dumped on more like December as opposed to October. A little trick.

COLLINS: The upslope conditions make good for downhill skiing, yes?

MARCIANO: I like the way you said that.

COLLINS: Yes, do you now how long it took me to think of that? All right.


COLLINS: Rob, I'll take that, thanks.

(MARCIANO: Thank you.

COLLINS: We're waiting -- yes, still waiting for NASA's new rocket to blast off. The space agency hasn't had much luck so far as you know. We watched it all day yesterday. Weather problems have been the delay. NASA calls the area is 1-X the world largest rocket, plan to use this type of aircraft to replace the aging Shuttle fleet. The latest launch time about 20 minutes from now. That would put it at 10:30 Eastern of course we'll be keeping our eye on the launch pad.

The government bailouts, your money kept a lot of companies afloat, as you know. We'll tell you who is asking for a third helping of taxpayer dollars.


COLLINS: Turning out to the government bailouts, it looks like more of your money may be headed to GMAC. The auto and mortgage lender is in talks with the treasury department for a third round of federal aid. It will become the first company to receive a third bailout. The government has already funneled $12.5 billion into the company and holds a 35 percent stake in it.

Millions of jobless Americans will want to hear this story. Lawmakers may extend your unemployment benefits. The senate now considering a 14-week extension for most Americans who are out of work. Those in the 27 states with the highest unemployment rates could get an additional six weeks of help. A final vote is not likely until next week. We'll stay on top of that one for you.

Meanwhile, widespread fraud derailed the August presidential election in Afghanistan. In 10 days, Afghans will again go to the polls to try again. It's a result that's being closely watched by the international community, especially those with troops acting as part of the international security force there.

Malalai Joya is the author of "A Woman Among Warlords." She is joining us now. She's also a member of the Afghan parliament who was actually suspended for speaking out. Joining us from New York this morning. Thanks for being with us. Tell us what happened. How did you get suspended from parliament?

MALALAI JOYA, AUTHOR: Because of telling the truth as most of these warlords, drug lords criminal after 9/11 tragedy, they are replaced with Taliban with the mask of democracy. They come in power. And more than 80 percent member of parliament are war lords, drug lords, criminals. As I exposed their crimes, I said the truth. I never compromise with them and I was woman and that's why I was expelled from parliament which was quite an illegal act. Despite international condemnation, they do not allow me to be back to the parliament. And only this is enough to know about democracy and terror in Afghanistan.

COLLINS: What sort of support do you get from the people of Afghanistan? You mention one of the reasons that you were suspended is because you are female. That's what the book is about. Again, the name of that book "A Woman Among Warlords." Do you get a lot of support? Do people want you there representing them?

JOYA: Yes, people support me because I said the truth. The first causality is the truth because most of my people are against occupation. Now we are squashed between two powerful enemies. From the sky, occupation forces bombing and killing innocent civilians under the name of Taliban. Most of them are women are children. On the ground Taliban and these warlords, these fascist people, continue to commit crimes against my people. So that's why now my people day by day stand up against occupation and what I'm saying that I'm against occupation and we are struggling for democracy for woman rights, human rights and that's why people support us.

And the reason that I'm alive today despite all of these risks that I have quite a normal life changing safe house to safe house and many assassination attempts against me. But because of a strong support of these people that I am alive today.

COLLINS: Again, occupation would certainly be your word. A lot of people would take great issue with you calling the U.S. presence in Afghanistan in your country an occupation. So I guess I'm wondering, when you look at the problems of your country by way of moving forward and by way of defending the Afghan people on your own, what are some of the ideas that the people of Afghanistan talk about? It's been a very difficult road to hoe.

JOYA: You know, as I said we're squashed between two powerful enemies. To fight against one enemy is much easier instead of two. If these occupations force us to leave Afghanistan and their government to stop all these warlords and also Taliban, my people, their message to Mr. Obama is that a friendly honest for my people first of all to stop the warlords support Democratic minded people of my country. End this occupation which is on innocent civilians. At least put criminal Bush to the international criminal court for the war crimes that he committed and apologize to my people.

COLLINS: Are the Afghan security forces able to defend the Afghan civilians?

JOYA: You know, if they let us a little bit in peace then we know what to do at our destiny. By presence of thousands of troops in Afghanistan, there are millions of Afghans that suffer from injustice, insecurity, corruption, joblessness, et cetera, thereby the resistance of people increasing. And this is a big hope. If they do not leave Afghanistan, as no nation can donate liberation to another nation. And they are not honest for my people, supporting the enemies of my people.

The passage of time they will face more resistance of my people. You see, even in Kabul, there is no security and there are today also many civilians and foreign troops that have been caught. Even U.N. office has been attacked. So as long as these foreign troops are in Afghanistan, the civil war will be while these troops are under their own policy.

COLLINS: Of course the Taliban did -- of course the Taliban claiming responsibility for that attack at the U.N. that you mentioned. Certainly a lot of issues to continue to be working on. Malalai Joya, we sure do appreciate your time today. Thank you.

Swine flu vaccine scams are just a mouse click away. And the FDA says watch out.


COLLINS: Time to check some of the top stories we're watching this morning. The FAA has revoked the licenses now of two pilots who admitted they lost track of time while flying from San Diego to Minneapolis. They said they were on their laptops when they missed the airport in Minneapolis by about 150 miles. The FAA said they were being extremely reckless and endangered theirs passengers. The men have 10 days to appeal that decision.

Drivers in California's Bay Area are facing a nightmare of a commute this morning. The Bay Bridge closed indefinitely. Authorities had to shut it down last night after a rod snapped. It was installed last month during emergency repairs. The Bay Area Transit System plans to run extra trains to accommodate those people who normally drive into San Francisco.

Next hour, a Chicago man accused of helping plot terrorist attacks is due in court. He's accused of helping plan attacks on the offices of a Danish newspaper. The paper sparked protests in 2005 by printing cartoons depicting the prophet Mohammed. A judge is expected to set bail at the hearing today.

With H1N1 flu vaccine still in limited supply, some people are turning to the internet for remedies. But the Food and Drug Administration says don't do it. Here now CNN's Kitty Pilgrim.


KITTY PILGRIM, CNN CORRESPONDENT: People have been lining up all across the country in the hope of getting a swine flu vaccine. As of today, 22.4 million doses are available in the United States out of the potentially 250 million that may be needed for the pandemic. Today, the CDC admitted that the situation is less than ideal.

DR. THOMAS FRIEDEN, CDC: I think all of us are frustrated that we don't have more vaccine now. When the season is over, it will be a good time to look back and think of what could have been done differently or better.

PILGRIM: For the immediate future, people are trying to come up with a plan of their own. The new strain is particularly risky to young children and pregnant women. The FDA is warning people about turning to the Internet to purchase swine flu remedies. Many are fake, some even dangerous. The FDA has put out a warning list of 140 products listed along with brand name and Web site address, everything from air purifiers to pills and potions.

Ionic Silver asks, could Ionic Silver help fill the gap between now and when H1N1 vaccines are available? The customer service Web site was not functioning for questions about their product. Simple Clinics says protect yourself now from the swine flu with products for adults and children. But the FDA tells LOU DOBBS TONIGHT, it's an unauthorized product. Simple Clinics say they take 24 hours to respond to inquiries by e-mail only.

Liquid Tamiflu, which the FDA says is one of the few legal and effective treatments for swine flu is in critical short supply, especially the liquid for infants. The FDA is warning Internet sales of Tamiflu may contain bogus products that have no effect in reducing symptoms. Kitty Pilgrim, CNN.


COLLINS: Well as you know, we always love hearing your opinion in the CNN NEWSROOM. In fact, today we have a topic on our blog that you really probably want to be writing about, I hope. What do you think about flying sick? You know, when you're feeling like you're getting sick or maybe you have already been to the doctor, you know you are officially sick.

Would you still get on an airplane if you had to do some travel, some business travel or vacation? In fact, 51 percent of air travelers say they would rather fly with the flu than pay that $150 change fee. That's according to So we thought it was interesting. What do you think? You can go to, let us know. We'll bring up some of your responses a little bit later on in the show. A little bit more on the story right there as well.

Taunted and bullied to death. A change in the hate crimes law may not have stopped a gay teenager's suicide, but it could have stopped his attackers.


ANNOUNCER: Live in the CNN NEWSROOM, Heidi Collins.

COLLINS: U.S. troops online for a big raise. President Obama is scheduled to sign the 2010 defense spending bill this afternoon. It calls for a 3.4 percent increase in military pay. That's more than the rate of inflation. The bill also increases funding for armored vehicles that may be safer and roadside bomb attacks.

Four hours from now, President Obama will sign a measure making it a federal crime to assault someone because of sexual orientation or gender identity. For one family who will be at the White House, it marks a milestone, though sadly, one reached too late for them. Here's CNN's Ed Henry.


ED HENRY, SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): It's been 12 years since the pain of young artist Jimmy Wheeler's suicide, though family snapshots still bring joy to his mother Susan and sister Elizabeth.

SUSAN WHEELER, MOTHER OF JIMMY WHEELER: There's Jimmy right there. Jimmy always had a tremendous blond head of hair.

HENRY: In middle school Jimmy told his family he was gay and dyed his blond hair orange red, Ronald McDonald orange red.

WHEELER: We all got pretty much a big kick out of it actually. We all laughed and enjoyed it because it made him happy and it was part of his flair.

HENRY: But many of Jimmy's classmates in conservative central Pennsylvania did not appreciate his flair or sexual orientation so they taunted and bullied him.

ELIZABETH WHEELER, SISTER OF JIMMY WHEELER: He was peed on in the locker room at high school in gym class by football players and, no, he didn't tell anybody in our family. We found out when it was read in his poetry and it breaks my heart. It does. It's horrible that people can be that cruel.

HENRY: It only got worse in high school when he came out in an emotional poem, "Jim in Bold," later the title of a documentary about his life and death.

JIMMY WHEELER: Thank you Mohammed for publishing my profile, for printing Jim, Jim in Bold.

WHEELER: He had the guts and the courage to come out with Jim in Bold and proclaim to the world I'm a gay person from central Pennsylvania. I'm proud of who I am. I want you to respect me.

HENRY: The Wheelers will be at the White House Wednesday when President Obama signs legislation extending federal hate crimes law to cover crimes motivated by a person's sexual orientation. The law would not have prevented Jimmy Wheeler's suicide, but it may have been a deterrent for the attacks that led to his death.

WHEELER: I feel like this is a triumph for not just members of the gay community but for us as a civilization. It shows that we value all life.


COLLINS: Ed Henry joining us live from the White House. Good morning to you. As you noted, this must please the gay rights community but still more on their agenda to accomplish. Where do things stand right now with "don't ask, don't tell"?

HENRY: You're right. That's a big issue. Overturning the military ban that prevents homosexuals from serving openly in the military. That's something that a lot in the gay rights community are still pressuring this president and saying, look, you got to get this done.

There's really no timetable for that. The White House has been saying, look, the Pentagon is studying it. People in the gay rights community have said we heard that before. And they believe that at a time of war -- two wars going on, obviously, right now in Iraq and Afghanistan -- that it is ridiculous to kick people out of the U.S. military right now because of their sexual orientation.

And so, what I think is going on here is that there's a lot of pressure on this White House and when I spoke to Susan Wheeler she told me, look, I understand people want the president to do more, but this kind of bold change will take a long time. She believes that sort of expanding the hate crimes law is an important step forward. It's going to take more time to get the rest of the agenda done. Heidi.

COLLINS: All right. We'll be following it. Ed Henry from the White House this morning. Thank you, Ed.

We thought things were looking up for housing. At least a little bit. After all, existing home sales went up last week, and yesterday we learned home prices are stabilizing a bit. But today, the housing market gets hit on two fronts.

Susan Lisovicz on the floor of the New York stock Exchange now with details on new home sales and foreclosures. That's the catch, right, Susan?

SUSAN LISOVICZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes. Neither of these reports are good, Heidi.

Let's start with the freshest report, and that's on new home sales. They fell in September by more than 3.5 percent. Everybody was expecting the sixth straight monthly rise. Remember that contracts signed in September don't always close by the end of November, and that's when that popular first-time home buyer tax credit expires. Which is raising new concerns about what will happen to the housing market if it's not extended. So, that's one report.

The other report is on foreclosures. And what we're seeing is new hot spots there. Check out the biggest increase in fourclosures year-over-year in the third quarter. Places like Boise, Idaho; Provo, Utah; Salt Lake City; Chico, California; Reno, Nevada. We've basically seen them all double.

Why is that? Well, high unemployment in those locations and Chico, California, nearly 13 percent. That's above the state and national average. And another concern is that not only jobless, but also we're expecting a whole new wave of adjustable-rate mortgages to reset. They will reset higher. Heidi?

COLLINS: What about the usual suspects, though? Las Vegas? Any signs of stabilization there?

LISOVICZ: Well, Las Vegas still has the dubious distinction of being number one. It saw foreclosures rise 53 percent in the third quarter. Basically ne in 20 homes foreclosed there.

But other locations have been epicenters of speculation, like places in Florida. Cape Coral, Florida. On the West Coast, Merced, California (ph), Stockton, California, Modesto. We've seen the rate of foreclosure slow.

One of the reasons why is because these properties are being snapped up. Where we see a lot of activity in the housing market, Heidi, is on the low end, and a lot of them are distressed sales. So, it's easing there but still a tough situation, and not such a good situation on the market today, either. Those two reports didn't exactly add a lot of confidence. Dow is down just (INAUDIBLE) now, 16 points. NASDAQ is off 17. Heidi?

COLLINS: OK. We'll keep watching. Susan, thank you.

LISOVICZ: You're welcome.

COLLINS: Millions of Americans dream about starting their own businesses, but in these tough times, financing hard to come by. How do you do it?'s Poppy Harlow tracked down an important resource.


POPPY HARLOW, CNNMONEY.COM (voice-over): You know one of these people, but all four are critical in the success for small business. First, President Obama.


BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: This administration will stand behind small business. You are our highest priority because we're confident that when you are succeeding, America succeeds.


HARLOW: No one disputes that fact. More than half of working Americans are employed by or own a small business. Which brings us to Mike Tracy.

MIKE TRACY, SMALL BUSINESS OWNER: It was always my dream to own my own business. I just wanted to work for myself.

HARLOW: While working at Lehman Brothers in 2004, Mike Tracy decided he wanted to open a bar and lounge in New York City. He went to a local, small business development center for help, and he was teamed up with a business counselor.

TRACY: Without their assistance, this would not have been possible for me on my own as far as the financing, capital.

HARLOW: And that brings us to Greg Calander, who left his job on Wall Street years ago to counsel small business owners.

GREG CALLENDER, BUSINESS CONSULTANT: In Mike's case, I guess my primary concern is whether or not the deal made sense. So, it really began with the due diligence process, and Mike and I, we ran through the financials trying to get to the reality behind some of the numbers and trying to translate it into something that a bank would do.

CALLENDER: There's help like this at 900 government-run small business centers across the country. Karen Mills is the head of the Small Business Administration.

KAREN MILLS, HEAD, SMALL BUSINESS ADMINISTRATION: We think we have a small business development center within 45 minutes to an hour of most small businesses. We want to provide the capital, the counseling, the other tools that a business might need to get started or maybe grow to that next level.

HARLOW: Lending through the Small Business Administration has increased since the Recovery Act was passed. Twelve billion dollars has been doled out over the past six months. But its loans only make up a small percent of total small business lending.

CALLENDER: We're seeing a whole lot different type of client right now. We see clients struggling to survive. People are coming to us, saying "I know credit environment is tight. What can I do? What can I do?" And unfortunately, we don't have a whole lot of good answers for them right now.


COLLINS: Poppy Harlow joining us from New York. It's tough, especially if you're trying to get a loan from a bank in order to start your small business.

HARLOW: It's incredibly hard. Part of T.A.R.P. was to get these banks lending again, and the administration, I think, as well as a lot of individuals trying to start these businesses or keep them afloat are frustrated with the fact that lending is down.

Small business lending through that administration, that is up. But as we said in the piece, it's only a small part of the equation. What you see here is the Treasury reports that show from April to August of this year, Heidi, that lending at the 22 U.S. banks that got the most T.A.R.P. money, it fell by $8 billion. Sounds like a lot of money, and it is. That's just a three percent decline, but it's still a cause for concern. A lot of people concerned about that.

That said, the head of the Small Business Administration, Karen Mills, told us it's a good time to start a business if you can get the money because if you've laid off, now may be the time to put that plan together. Historically, what you've seen is a lot of great companies -- look at IBM, for example -- starting in the midst of a recession. But it's still a great concern that lending from these T.A.R.P. banks is down, according to latest numbers that we have. That's very frustrating to a lot of folks.

COLLINS: Yes. They've been waiting a long time, too, it seems like. All right. Poppy Harlow, Appreciate that. Thanks.

A rude awakening for a Nevada couple. A car comes smashing into their house while they slept.


COLLINS: More arrests today in what police are calling a gang rape of a 15-year-old girl outside a homecoming dance this past weekend. Police in Richmond, California say five suspects, two adults and three juveniles, are now in custody. Police say there may be more arrests. They believe as many as ten people took part while another ten people stood by and watched. An Iranian lawmaker tells the Associated Press Iran will have an answer by tomorrow on a draft proposal designed to curb its nuclear activities. The deal calls for low-enriched uranium be produced in Iran and be sent to other countries for further enrichment. Iran could then use it in medical research, and it would reduce the amount of raw material Iran has to build nuclear weapons.

Six United Nations staff members are dead in an attack in Afghanistan. Taliban militants have -- hit their private guest house in Kabul this morning. At least one American is among the dead. Nine other people were hurt at the scene. The death toll could rise as the U.N. accounts for all of its people. This attack comes ten days ahead of a presidential runoff. The Taliban have threatened to disrupt that election.

This morning's topic on the blog, flying sick. In fact, a new poll showing 51 percent of air travelers would actually rather fly with the flu than pay the $150 change fee in order to get a later flight the next day if they were maybe feeling better or maybe even a couple days later.

Here's what some of you think about this as you wrote into us.

First from Robert. "That really goes to show what people are really about. Me, me, me. People should be charged that $150 fee for spreading their diseases."

Next from T.J. "I've considered changing a flight if I could do it at no cost. But I'm not paying $150 to change my flight just because I'm sick. No way, no how."

From Lisa: "Whether you are talking flu or any other communicable, contagious malady, it is the height of irresponsibility and selfishness to inflict this on other passengers. What if someone, high-risk, caught your illness, then died as a result? Pay the change fee. End of story."

And finally from David. "Heck yes, I would still fly! It's never just 150 bucks. They're always the cost difference in the ticket. Such a's the only place where you buy something and can't return it or exchange it."

So, if you want to weigh in, obviously, a lot of opinions out there on this one. Would you fly sick or would you actually pay the change fee and the possible fare fee -- fare change, that is -- if you were sick in. You can go to and we'll take more of your responses.

Meanwhile, a Nevada couple is thanking their lucky stars this morning they're alive and well after a car smashed into their home in the town of Sparks while they slept. Here's Caroline Wright (ph) of affiliate KOLO.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) CAROLYN WRIGHT (ph), KOLO-TV CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Kristin Palmer and Trent Wood have been dating two years. They say this adorable cottage they found on Craigslist was part of a new chapter in their lives together. Then the unthinkable happened

KRISTIN PALMER, CAR SMASHED THROUGH HER HOME: I thought there was an earthquake and the roof was on us because it was just so heavy. Part of the wall, I think, was in my face. Once I got that out of the way, I could kind of see there were car parts...

TRENT WOOD, CAR SMASHED THROUGH HIS HOME: I went to bed, and about an hour-and-a-half later, I had a car in my face. The emotions was unreal.

WRIGHT: Kristen and Trent say the car smashed through the front of their home into the office and then through another wall where it landed on their bed. But not without nearly knocking the more-than- 70-year-old home off its foundation. It took about 45 minutes for firefighters to get them out although somehow the pair survived.

WOOD: I want to congratulate the firefighters and the paramedics.

PALMER: It's okay.

WRIGHT: Kristen, a track star at UNR, has a deep muffler burn on her right calf and a few small burns on her face. But other than that, she's fine.

PALMER: They did a CAT scan and everything, and I don't have any broken bones. I'm guessing the bed saved us.

WRIGHT: Trent described the feeling under the car like being sardines shoved into a tiny space. He says if it had landed even a millimeter to the right or left, they both could have been killed.

WOOD: I don't even know what to think, like really. I'm just in awe.

WRIGHT: After all they've been through, Trent and Kristin were already joking with friends as they moved their things out of the soon-to-be-demolished building. While the crash destroyed both their computers containing all of their college schoolwork, not to mention all of their possessions, already they seem to be moving forward.

WOOD: Throw whatever you've got and get out. I don't care, you know? Our lives are more important than that.

PALMER: We've just got to start from scratch and look at the positive side of it.


COLLINS: Boy. The couple is staying with friends and family until they can find a new home. The Sparks community has set up a fund in order to help them. Rob Marciano standing by in the Severe Weather Center as we talk more and more about this snowstorm hitting Colorado.

ROB MARCIANO, AMS METEOROLOGIST: Yes. They're getting it pretty good. They got it in Utah. Getting it in Wyoming, getting it in Colorado. Check out this shot of Boulder. Boy, that is some town. And when it's like this, that just gets you licking your chops. KUSA, thanks for that shot. We'll talk Boulder snow. We'll talk dust on the West Coast and trying to launch that rocket on the East Coast when Weather comes right back.


COLLINS: Want to get back to Rob Marciano now, who is loving the snow in Colorado. Beautiful shot.

MARCIANO: Yes. Let's check that out again.

COLLINS: Let's look at it again for a long time.

MARCIANO: You know, because Boulder is a beautiful town to begin with. It kind of has that whole old Western thing going on with the main street and the Rockies on the western side of town. You get snow coming down, and that's Norman Rockwell at its finest.


MARCIANO: The other weather issue affecting a big event in Florida -- trying to get this rocket, cool rocket, to launch from Cape Canaveral today. We're having the same problems we had yesterday. I think they got 20 percent chance of a no-go at this point. That's better than we thought earlier this morning, Heidi. That launch will probably happen at 11:00. A live shot. There it is. The Ares 1-X. First of three test missions before we send that sucker up in officially 2015.

All right. That's the latest from here. Back over to you, Heidi.

COLLINS: All right. We're waiting. And watching. I think it's four test missions. This will be the first of four, I think. Three left. Not sure though. We hope it goes up.

MARCIANO: Yes. I just want to see the first one.

COLLINS: All right, Rob. Thank you.

COLLINS: Rap fans. do you feel like you could get a B.A. in Jay-Z.? Or maybe a Ph.D in Run-DMC? We'll take you to a college offering diplomas for studying hip-hop.


COLLINS: Audiences lining up for a glimpse of Michael Jackson's final days. The movie "This Is It" opens this theaters everywhere today. But packed audiences got an early premiere in select theaters. The documentary shows Jackson rehearsing for some July concerts. He died in June before he could complete his comeback.

A lot of professors wouldn't like you listening to music while you study, but it's actually a requirement for a program at one Minnesota college. CNN's Chris Welch explains.


CHRIS WELCH, CNN ALL-PLATFORM JOURNALIST (voice-over): This isn't a rapper's open mic night, and this is not a New York night club. We're in St. Paul, Minnesota, in the classrooms at McNally Smith College of Music. And these students are part of the nation's very first accredited diploma program for hip-hop.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: These are basic moves we're just touching on now.

WELCH: And these students are part of the nation's very first accredited diploma program for hip-hop.

HARRY CHALMIERS, PRESIDENT, MCNALLY SMITH COLLEGE OF MUSIC: We can study its impact on society, on people's lives. Where does this music come from? When it's angry, what are people trying to say?

WELCH: Austen Huls is one of 14 students in the inaugural class. After high school, Hulls began at community college. But he dropped out because it wasn't his passion. Making it as a drummer is his heart's desire.

AUSTEN HULS, HIP-HOP STUDENT: I get chills every time I talk about it! I dunno, just being on stage, man. If I were to do it for a job, it wouldn't feel like work, and I could be having fun making my own money.

WELCH: When Hulls discovered this, he gave school a second look.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Keep doing it over and over.

WELCH: The program is three semesters long and combines both hands-on techniques and textbook learning. Class topics include rap history, the music business and composition. Here, student Mike Johnson is performing what he's written.

MIKE JOHNSON, HIP-HOP STUDENT: Music is a drug and it pumps through my blood.

WELCH: In his eight years since high school, Johnson had numerous run-ins with the law. But he says ultimately, it was jail that cleared his head.

JOHNSON: I knew what I wanted to do. As soon as I got out , I started making music.

WELCH: The industry knows this man by his professional name: Freddy Fresh. But it's Mr. Fresh to these students. He's an internationally known DJ and now, after Top 40 hits in the UK, Fresh is part of the hip-hop faculty. FREDDY FRESH, DJ TURNED TEACHER: I was never fortunate enough to have anybody show me. I kind of stumbled into everything on my own and learned everything the hard way, and trial and error. And to see a student that has a lot of passion and has a little bit of natural ability, and to see the satisfaction that the student receives from that...

Take and let a sound effect ride through the song...

MIKE JOHNSON, HIP-HOP STUDENT: When I came here, I couldn't tell you what a quarter note was, I couldn't tell you what a sixteenth note was. And now I can tell you those things. So, I can tell you I'm learning!

WELCH: In St. Paul Minnesota, Chris Welch, CNN.


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