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CNN Sunday Morning

Suicide Bombing Killed 29 in Iran; Charges in Balloon Case; McChrystal Afghanistan Strategy Requires 40,000 More Troops

Aired October 18, 2009 - 08:00   ET


BETTY NGUYEN, CNN ANCHOR: Hello, everybody. From the CNN Center, this is CNN SUNDAY MORNING, October 18th. Kind of chilly out there for many of you. Good morning, though. I'm Betty Nguyen.

ROB MARCIANO, CNN ANCHOR: It is a chilly morning, especially of the eastern half of the country, middle of October feels like the middle of December for some folks. I'm Rob Marciano, in today for T.J. Holmes. It's 8:00 here in Atlanta; 6:00 a.m. in Fort Collins, Colorado, where there have been some fast-moving developments in that whole balloon fiasco.

NGUYEN: Yes. You know, everyone first thought that a 6-year-old boy was trapped inside of that balloon and then there were the rumblings that it might have been an elaborate hoax. Well, now, authorities say they do expect to file charges. We're going to have a live report, coming up.

MARCIANO: We're also following two big weather stories. A category five hurricane, 180-mile-an-hour winds -- huge.

Plus, check this out on the right side of your screen. October snow in parts of Jersey?

NGUYEN: Really?

MARCIANO: A nor'easter hammering them right now.

NGUYEN: My goodness, snow already.

OK. Let's get to this little bit of news for you. It's important, too.

A suicide bomber targets Iran's elite Revolutionary Guard, killing five top commanders and at least 24 other people. That attack happened in the southern eastern city of Sarbaz. CNN producer Shirzad Bozorgmehr is monitoring the situation from the capital in Tehran and he joins me by phone.

And, Shirzad, what are you hearing about this attack?

SHIRZAD BOZORGMEHR, CNN PRODUCER (via telephone): Well, you just said that the latest figure has gone up to 29 killed. It was up to 20 a couple of hours ago. So, the numbers are going up. We do know that these five top commanders were killed, maybe more.

NGUYEN: Shirzad, let me ask you this real quickly. You said 29, I said 24. Is it 29 now?

BOZORGMEHR: Yes, according to National Security Council statements, there are 29 people dead. We don't know exactly how many of them were Revolutionary Guards, but at least five of them were. That we know for a fact.

The details are too sketchy. We're waiting for -- there's so many news agencies and so many other agencies involved in gathering information and finding out what's going on that it's difficult to get a centralized united version of the whole thing.

NGUYEN: How crippling is it, Shirzad, for the Revolutionary Guard to have one of its elite, top commanders killed by this attack?

BOZORGMEHR: Well, it is damaging, but I wouldn't call it crippling, because the Revolutionary Guard, as you know, number about 250,000. They've got many, many commanders and these -- although they were very important people, but they're not at the stage that...

NGUYEN: OK. Got you.


NGUYEN: Hey. One more quick thing I want to ask you before we need to let you go. When it comes to claims of responsibility, what are you hearing on that front and what is -- or what are Iran officials -- Iranian officials are saying about that?

BOZORGMEHR: Iranian officials have said the incident -- the parliament speaker has blamed the United States and its actions for the incident. Did not say directly and exactly what. Some people are saying that the British were involved, but nobody has claimed responsibility as of yet.

NGUYEN: OK. So, Iranian officials, again, are saying that the U.S. was responsible for this attack. That's key information there, claiming that the U.S. was involved by Iranian officials.

Shirzad, thank you for that.

And do want to let our viewers know that at this point, we have not heard any reaction from the White House as to this claim -- Rob?

MARCIANO: Betty, we're also following new developments on that runaway balloon scare out of Colorado. Six-year-old Falcon Heene was originally believed to be trapped in that helium balloon. He was later found safe at home. But now, authorities say they expect to file criminal charges.

CNN's Jim Spellman is outside the sheriff's department in Fort Collins, Colorado. Jim, what can you tell us about the search of the home that happened yesterday?

JIM SPELLMAN, CNN ALL PLATFORM CORRESPONDENT: Well, last night, just a couple hours after the sheriff said that they expected to file charges, indeed, sheriff's deputies were seen searching the Heene's house, coming and going. No word on whether they took any kind of evidence away or even what kind of evidence they were looking for. But, you know, it all has to be put in this context of what they could even possibly charge them with.

The sheriff said yesterday that the most they could charge them with was a level three misdemeanor, which is a very minor thing. An example of a level three misdemeanor is filing a false police -- a false, you know, police report. The sheriff here, though, is searching -- is checking with federal authorities to see if there might be some other way to charge people here.

You know, what we've heard from police here and search and rescue people is, you know, they're glad to go and look and try to find anybody they can, but if this is really, if, indeed, there are charges filed and they believe that this -- that this was some sort of hoax or something like that, they really feel that people have been put in risk. You know, people are -- there's helicopters flying, there's officers all over trying to chase this stuff, and they just really don't want that sort of thing to happen, Rob.

MARCIANO: It certainly is frustrating for rescue teams to get a false alarm. They put their lives at risk. And there's also added manpower and expense there.

You know, Jim, the Heenes have been denying this thing all along as far as it being a hoax. Any word on that denial changing at this hour?

SPELLMAN: Sure. Well, they're still sticking to their guns saying that this is absolutely not a hoax. That's what we heard from them yesterday. We haven't heard from them yet this morning. So, it's only 6:00 in the morning here. We'll see if they have anything to say here today.

One o'clock Eastern Time, we expect a presser here -- a press conference here at the sheriff's department. So, hopefully, that will add some insight and some clarity as to what's been going on here in Fort Collins, Rob.

MARCIANO: Well, we'll be covering that press conference live, again, as you mentioned, 1:00 Eastern Time.

Jim Spellman on the ground for us in Fort Collins -- thanks, Jim.

NGUYEN: Well, 3,500 U.S. soldiers won't be heading to Iraq in January as planned. The Pentagon says security there is getting better and cancelled the combat team's deployment. Now, there currently are about 119,000 U.S. troops in Iraq. Under a signed agreement, all U.S. forces must be out of the country by August of next year.

MARCIANO: But as fewer forces head to Iraq, the president wants to now decide whether to send more troops to Afghanistan. We're expecting to hear something on that within weeks. And the BBC is reporting the administration has told British officials it plans to announce a "substantial increase," quote/unquote. How many more troops? Well, the number 40,000 seems to be getting kicked around.

Here's our Chris Lawrence.


CHRIS LAWRENCE, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): One hundred thousand American and allied troops are already fighting in Afghanistan. To understand why it's believed General Stanley McChrystal wants 40,000 more, you need to look at a map the way military strategists see it.

KIMBERLY KAGAN, ADVISER TO GEN. STANLEY MCCHRYSTAL: What 40,000 does is fill in the gaps around Kandahar, around Khost, in Helmand Province. It does not, however, cover the entire country.

LAWRENCE: Kimberly Kagan is an adviser to McChrystal. She says it's the minimum number to root out the Taliban and identify and protect potential Afghan partners. But the military's old counterinsurgency ratio dictates it'd take well over half a million troops to secure Afghanistan's 33 million people.

(on camera): But General McChrystal is not applying this ratio to all of Afghanistan. He feels certain part of the countries are peaceful enough, like the north, or just not as important, like the west, that they don't need the same number of counterinsurgency fighters as these areas do.

KAGAN: And that's what gets him from a figure of hundreds of thousands of troops down to a figure such as 40,000 or 60,000 troops.

LAWRENCE (voice-over): Kagan says McChrystal would use those troops to turn the tide, so the Taliban doesn't control every other town. She says 10,000 or even 20,000 troops just aren't enough.

KAGAN: It's not as though we can simply plug half as many holes with half as many troops and somehow seize the initiative from the enemy. On the contrary, half as many troops will probably leave us pinned down as we are.

LAWRENCE: The problem is, roughly 25 million Afghans live in thousands of small, rural villages, scattered all over an area the size of Texas. Up to 80 percent of the population could still be out of reach for coalition troops.

(on camera): So when 30,000 American troops surged into Baghdad, that's where one out of every four Iraqis lived. Even if you take the top 30 most populated areas of Afghanistan, you still only account for 20 percent of the population. That's how rural and spread out it is.

Chris Lawrence, CNN, Washington.


MARCIANO: You know, we've been running that animation, Reynolds, but we probably should have the hurricane headquarters animation. That thing back there between big noggins (ph), is a big old storm.

REYNOLDS WOLF, CNN METEOROLOGIST: Yes, I know. I mean, it's got everything but devils horns on it for Halloween.

MARCIANO: A hundred and eighty-mile-an-hour winds, I mean, when I first came, you mentioned that. That's got to be a mistake. I mean, that's just unreal, especially for the eastern Pacific, we've seen typhoons...


WOLF: Absolutely.

MARCIANO: But this has been the strongest one.

WOLF: Yes, I mean, it's really hard to believe. I mean, it's the strongest one they've had since, I guess, 1997. And as you know, it's very hard for these storms to really maintain that kind of power. And this storm, like many others, expected to weaken a little bit, fluctuating power the next couple of hours. And by the time it threatens land, it should be a different beast altogether, which is a great news.

In fact, let's take a look at that beast. We got a great shot for you. Let's take that for you. You see it there high above.

On the left-hand side of the screen, it's just spinning like a giant saw blade. That eye, fairly well-defined. The outflow shows a great deal of precipitation out there, too. It is just a big mess.

And the question is: where is this big mess, this huge storm going? Well, we've got a few answers for you, a few ideas. The latest path we have from the National Hurricane Center, their forecast shows the storm going a bit more towards the west than northwest, and then curving back towards the Baja of California -- not the state of California, but Baja, California, and just going to the southern half of the peninsula, possibly as a category one hurricane or at a minimum hurricane or maybe even a tropical storm.

So, there are many things that can happen, we're going to watch for you very carefully.

Something else we've been watching has been some of the wintry weather in parts of the northeast. Let's not just talk about it, let's show you some of the video that we've got for you.

We've had some snow there, heavy rain in a few places. And even this outdoor area where they're selling pumpkins and some nice stalks of corn and even some fire word, you see the snow coming down. Thankfully, it wasn't too particularly heavy and we can participate that snowfall begin to ease off later today on parts of the Jersey shore, where temperatures right now are well above the freezing point.

In fact, take a look at this. We've got a shot here that shows just a loop of that nor'easter. A lot of rainfall and temperatures well above the freezing point, from Long Island, New York, and as far as south, say, Georgetown and just the southeast of Philadelphia.

But on the back half of the system, we've got that overrunning moisture. But at that surface, temperatures are right near the freezing point, especially just south of Buffalo, over near Sunbury, it's a little bit warmer and with that, you're having more of slush and a lot of that snowfall actually is melting by the time it hits the earth's surface.

Here's the engine that makes it all work -- this area of low pressure that's going to be your nor'easter, cold air funneling in behind it. High pressure is off to your west.

So, beautiful conditions for the Central and Southern Plains. Dallas, a perfect day for you today. Out towards the west, Four Corners, nice and warm for you. Scattered showers possible across parts of the Pacific Northwest.

With high temperatures for the day going up to, say, 60 degrees in spots like, say, Seattle, and back over to San Francisco, 78 degrees in Denver, 59 in Memphis, 69 in Tampa, and Miami -- as we wrap things up -- 74 degrees.

That is a wrap on your forecast. Let's send it back to you at the news desk.

NGUYEN: All right. Thank you, Reynolds.

WOLF: You bet.

NGUYEN: Supermodel and super role model. You got to check out this trailblazer, because she's leaving a lasting impression far beyond the pages of fashion magazine.

MARCIANO: Yes. It's all part of our "Latino in America" commitment. Josh Levs has a preview.

JOSH LEVS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes. We've also got surprising facts about how the Latino experience is changing and how it's changing America. We're going to have that, plus a Hollywood actor on dealing with Latino stigmas.



AMERICA FERRERA, ACTRESS: I'm America Ferrera. Don't miss "Latino in America" on CNN.


MARCIANO: Ola, Buenas Diaz.

NGUYEN: Yes. Latinos in America, a minority population, but one that is expected to nearly triple by 2050.

MARCIANO: And this week, CNN takes an in-depth look at how Latinos will likely change this country and how the country has changed them in return. As part of our special, Soledad O'Brien shows us what the first Latina supermodel is doing to honor her roots.


SOLEDAD O'BRIEN, CNN SPECIAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Patricia Velazquez has come a long way. Possibly the most recognizable Latina supermodel in 1990s, she helped raise the profile of Latinas in America.

PATRICIA VELASQUEZ, FOUNDER, WAYUU TAYA FOUNDATION: The fact that I was the first Latino supermodel, I was able to raise the self- esteem of a lot of girls.

O'BRIEN: She never forgot where she came from.

VELASQUEZ: I mom is Wayuu Indians and we were very close to the Wayuu people

O'BRIEN: The Wayuu Taya are indigenous people, some 300,000 who live in the dangerous border region between Colombia and Venezuela -- a long way from the runways of New York and Milan.

The children live without schools or running water, until Patricia came back.

VELASQUEZ: I got together in New York with some of my friends and we said, you know, let's put an event together. And we were able to raise some really good money. We put a water pump in a village that had no water, then 2,800 people had water for $6,000 and we got really excited.

O'BRIEN: Patricia, along with a host of famous friends, raised more money, and expanded her project. She created the Wayuu Taya Foundation and then built the Roof Center in Mara, a building where volunteers worked to meet many needs.

VELASQUEZ: We wanted to create one place that identifies the Wayuu Taya Foundation. We said, let's have a place where the kids can come, they get two meals a day, they get education when -- you know, since they're 2 years old.

And then just let it keep growing.

O'BRIEN: As more donations came in, the center grew. They started reaching out to the Wayuu women, helping them craft and then sell their famous handbags.

VELASQUEZ: It takes a woman 20 days to make a bag and they're called Susu. And every Saturday when they turn in their bags, they have to have a course on something, family planning, hygiene, nutrition. If they don't get the course, they don't get paid.

O'BRIEN: So, the women have an incentive to return and continue learning. VELASQUEZ: The Wayuu Taya Foundation is starting to work on its own. And really, really, really the time when we completely achieve full sustainability of the foundation and it doesn't really need me only to be the sustainability of the foundation, then that's the time I'm going to say, "OK, we made it."

O'BRIEN: The results she's seen give her hope.

VELASQUEZ: The statistics say that one kid was dying a day. Now, the statistics don't say that anymore.

But the most important thing is what it has done for our community. They have lost their hope and now, they have their hope back.

O'BRIEN: Hope for others from one of their own.


MARCIANO: And we are just three days away from "Latino in America," a comprehensive look at how Latinos are changing America. CNN's two-night event takes place Wednesday and Thursday nights at 9:00 p.m. Eastern Time. It will also be simulcast in Spanish on CNN in Espanol.

NGUYEN: Well, has set up a special section for "Latino in America." It's packed with stories and lots of surprises. Our Josh Levs is here to help us navigate through this.


LEVS: Hey. I love when someone comes up with a new way of storytelling online. I hadn't seen anything like this before.

NGUYEN: Oh, it's fabulous.

LEVS: It's really, of course, it's interesting. But zoom way in. What happens is, Garcia is now one of the top 10 last names in America.


LEVS: So, all these are Garcias. And they're calling it "Meet the Garcias," and you can click on any one of them and learn some of their stories. There's video for all of them.

What I did here is I called up a couple. I'm going to play you little clips of sounds, because I think these are two in which you might want to weigh in yourself. Maybe a little bit controversial, just very interesting.

First, we're going to hear from Isabel Garcia, who works with immigrants.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: How does it make you feel to see this border fence?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It's a scar in my heart. It really is. It represents our immigration policies.


LEVS: And she goes on to talk a lot about immigration. We'll talk more about that in a moment.

This one here is Jesse Garcia, who's an actor you've seen on TV. You've seen him in lots of movies. He talks a little bit about the stigmas for Latinos when they get roles in Hollywood. Let's listen to that.


JESSE GARCIA, ACTOR: There's going to be stigmas with every movie that you do. This is -- someone is going to find something wrong or something controversial at everything you do. Some people aren't going to like that the movie's violent. Some people aren't going to like it has a lot to do with gangs.

But it's, you know, it's entertainment. And people -- we're doing this for entertainment reasons, and I think -- for me, when I do something like this, I like to counteract it like with something, like, be part of a charity or be part and do something for the community.


LEVS: And we'll pause there.

I'm going to show you in a minute how you can weigh in on that and learn a lot more about that.

Also, I want you to see this, because this is fascinating. What they've done is they've created a map that shows not just where Latinos are in America, but how things have changed all the way back to 1980.

Let's zoom back in. Look at this. Click on any decade, right, all the way back to 1980, and then click on any state, and you can see the population. Obviously, Betty, your native Texas, one of the most heavily Latino areas in the United States, right here, 36.5 percent.

So, you can see where Latinos are in America. And anything you want to weigh in on -- including what you just saw -- is right there at the main page, under community. Just click right there and you can send your thoughts. Share your stories, guys.

NGUYEN: Lots of ways to interact. OK.

LEVS: Yes, it's great.

NGUYEN: Thank you.

LEVS: Thank you.

MARCIANO: Well, up next, another check of the morning's top stories, including word now, this morning, that authorities may take action -- criminal action against the family accused of faking a balloon incident that caused a media sensation, or allegedly faking a balloon incident.

NGUYEN: Yes. And we're going to check in with John King as well and he's going to talk to one of D.C.'s most powerful men.

Stay with us.


MARCIANO: Here are some of the other top stories we're working for you this morning.

New developments in the case of that runaway balloon scare. Colorado investigators searched the family's home and the sheriff makes this announcement.


SHERIFF JIM ALDEREN, LARIMER COUNTY, COLORADO: We've had investigators here, as well as at the house. We're in the process of drafting and completing drafting and obtaining some search warrants. And we do anticipate, at some point in the future, there will be some criminal charges filed with regards to this incident.


MARCIANO: Authorities are looking into whether Thursday's 911 call was a hoax. The 6-year-old who was believed to be taken off with that balloon was later found safe at home.

NGUYEN: Well, John King and "STATE OF THE UNION" coming up at the top of the hour. And the man himself, John King, joins us now live.

John, you've got a lot on the program today, including tackling the issue of U.S. troop levels in Afghanistan. Any word on what's going to be happening with that?

JOHN KING, HOST, "STATE OF THE UNION": It's a defining question for the president, Betty and Rob, good morning to you.

And the White House had said the president hoped to make that decision, whether to send 10,000, maybe as many as 40,000 or more U.S. troops to Afghanistan by the end of the month or early November.

Now, though, there's some pressure on the president to slow that decision down. His conservative critics have said, "What are you waiting for?" General McChrystal says he needs the troops, issued the orders, Mr. President.

But as you know, President Karzai has a contested election. There was fraud in the election. The international community is saying, "You probably need to have a runoff because of that fraud." And so far, President Karzai has been resisting those calls.

So -- we also spoke for the program to Senator John Kerry. He's the chairman of the foreign relations committee. He is on the ground in Afghanistan, and what he told us was very interesting. He said, there's no way President Obama can decide whether to send thousands of more U.S. troops and put them into harm's way until we know who the president is in Afghanistan.


SEN. JOHN KERRY (D), MASSACHUSETTS: It would be entirely irresponsible for the president of the United States to commit more troops to this country when we don't even have an election finished and know who the president is, and what kind of government we're working with. And when our own, you know, commanding general tells us that a critical component of achieving our mission here is, in fact, good governance and we're living with a government that we know has to change and provide it, how can the president responsibly say, "Oh, they asked for more, sure, here they are"?


KING: An interesting conversation with Senator Kerry. You'll want to watch all of it. He lays out -- whether you agree or disagree with him -- he lays out in a very comprehensive fashion, the different questions he says the president and the Congress need to answer before the president makes that big decision, whether to send more and more troops.

MARCIANO: You know, John King, no stranger to big interviews. But on the docket for "STATE OF THE UNION" today, White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel -- nice get, John. How long have you known him and what kind of things are you going to ask?

KING: Seventeen years ago, I met Rahm Emanuel. He was then in Chicago. He was in the private sector. He was fund-raiser for a guy called Governor Bill Clinton of Arkansas at that point.

Rahm Emanuel helped raise money for the Clinton campaign. He worked as a strategist in the Clinton campaign, then came into the Clinton house.

Remember, he went on to be a congressman and he's an interesting guy. He was on a path to potentially one day be the speaker of the House. But he left that job in Congress to be the president's chief of staff. He is in the thick of the decision about Afghanistan. He's in those closed door negotiations right now, trying to get a health care reform bill through the Congress.

You pick an issue and you can be sure Rahm Emanuel is involved in the deliberations at the White House. He's an interesting guy. He has more energy than just about anybody in town. And, guess what, in Washington, he has more power than just about anybody in town...

NGUYEN: Yes, I was going to say...

KING: ... give or take, three or four people.

NGUYEN: Doesn't "The New York Times" call him, what, the second most powerful man in the U.S.?

KING: Yes. And "GQ" last week called him the post powerful man in Washington not named Obama or Biden.


KING: That's a lot of burden for him to carry as well. He will say, "I'm just staff," but he's got a lot of power.

NGUYEN: All right, John King -- well, you do, too. We're going to...

KING: I don't know about that.

NGUYEN: ... turn over this whole network over to you at the top of the hour. That's some power there. John King with "STATE OF THE UNION," coming up at 9:00 a.m. Eastern.

John, thank you for that and we'll be seeing you very shortly.

Well, a boy dreamed of changing the world. And now, he has made it a reality.

MARCIANO: Yes, that's for sure. He faces a story that's full of faith and the power of persistence. So, stay with us for that.


NGUYEN: Well, good morning, everybody. From the CNN World Headquarters right here in Atlanta, I'm Betty Nguyen.

MARCIANO: And I'm Rob Marciano, in today for T.J. Holmes.

NGUYEN: All right, let's get to this. Quite a story here, Rob.

MARCIANOR: Yes, it's a 12-year-old boy from Toronto. He wants to inspire a million other kids around the world.

NGUYEN: Yes, the little boy has been working on humanitarian causes since he was 4 years old. Can you believe it? Well, his book, "Making Change: Tips from an Underage Achiever" is all about inspiring others. And in his spare time Bilaal Rajan teams with UNICEF to help children a world away.

Our very own T.J. Holmes has more on that in this morning's "Faces of Faith."


T.J. HOLMES, CNN CORRESPONDENT: This 12-year-old from Toronto is on a mission. BILAAL RAJAN, ACTIVIST: My goal is to inspire a million people over the next three years to make a difference in the world.

HOLMES: To help poor children across the world. Bilaal Rajan has been working on humanitarian causes since he was four. His father says he was inspired to a call of service in 2001 after seeing newspaper photos of bodies buried under rubble following in an earthquake in India, his family's home country.

AMAN RAJAN, FATHER: And so we said, ok what would you want to do and he was eating Clementine at that time and he said ok, I'm going to go to sell this. We had a box of Clementines in the fridge and we took those out. And he started making a poster, "Help -- please help" and away he went.

HOLMES: In April, he went barefoot for international volunteer week to raise awareness of the millions of children living without shoes worldwide.

B. RAJAN: It's as long as there are problems in the world, whether it be through poverty, through children's rights, a lack of education and really any crisis facing the world, I'd be glad to help.

HOLMES: Raising nearly $5 million for causes around the world from children living with AIDS to tsunami victims, he's now UNICEF's youngest ambassador and since, he has traveled to more than 20 countries teaching kids the value of volunteering.

NIGEL FISHER, PRESIDENT, UNICEF CANADA: I think he is a much more powerful advocate than somebody like me. I'm an old guy. I can talk to young people, I've been around the world, I tell them stories and they'd be interested.

But when they see someone their own age who's already engaged, already making a difference, I think it really poses a question in a youngster, an 11-year-old old, a 12-year-old, and saying, wow, I can do something too.

And that's -- that's the motivation which I think is so important.

HOLMES: In his book, "Making Change: Tips from an Underage Overachiever," Bilaal outlines ways for children to become activist, spreading the message of equality and fairness.

FISHER: It's a great practical how-to for young people and his message is you don't have to wait until you're older, you're powerful, you're richer that you can act right now.

HOLMES: Inspired by other activists like Harry Belafonte, Desmond Tutu, and the Aga Khan, a leader of his Ismaila Muslim Faith and also Mahatma Gandhi. He recently met with another of his heroes, Nelson Mandela.

B. RAJAN: It was a great, great day. It started off with a bang and I was able to meet Nelson Mandela, who is an amazing man. We really had a lengthy discussion, about half an hour, about really the world itself and what inspires him, what keeps him going and really how I can be a better philanthropist.

HOLMES: Bilaal's belief that young people can become the great leaders of tomorrow pushes him to help others. His goal is to encourage children to find their passion and take action.

And although he spends a lot of time traveling the globe and tackling serious issues, he still makes time to just be a kid.

B. RAJAN: I do hangout, I really do all of the things that 12- year-olds do. Just the difference between me and others really is and has been that I take action.

When do we take action?


B. RAJAN: As one person, I know I can make a difference, but as a group of people, we can definitely change the world.

T.J. Holmes, CNN, Atlanta.


NGUYEN: Wow, that kid is -- I mean, just -- he's only 12 years old.


NGUYEN: Just imagine when he becomes a full-fledged adult.

MARCIANO: Yes, every time I see one of these stories of these kids doing remarkable things, I feel like a bigger and bigger loser.

NGUYEN: Yes, you've got to get out there and save the world, my friend.

MARCIANO: Yes, my goodness that kid has -- matured beyond his years and obviously he has a good heart.

NGUYEN: And he's well rounded. Because he says, you know what? I still do things that 12-year-olds do too. And that's good.

All right, well, you know the big stories from the students' perspective. That's coming up in our "Extra Credit" report.

MARCIANO: And an update on the balloon drama that could land a Colorado family in very hot water.


NGUYEN: All right. Time for a little "Extra Credit" with Carl Azuz; one of our favorite segments around here.


NGUYEN: And today, yes, sure. So students, you know, I wonder, the balloon boy story, was that something that students really wanted to talk about this week?

AZUZ: Oh, they'll be talking about it.


AZUZ: We -- a lot of times we'll engage students on our blog, and saying, what did you think about this? How did you respond to it?

NGUYEN: Right.

AZUZ: So that's -- that's one of the things we'll hear from them particularly on our Facebook site as well as the blog.

NGUYEN: All right, you've got a question for us? You've got a quiz for us.

AZUZ: I do. Well we're wrapping up Hispanic heritage month...


AZUZ: So we gave students a little background information, talked about how it started. The month actually starts on September 15th, because that's when many Latin America nations celebrate their independence.

And we wanted to engage them. We brought them festivals, we brought them all kinds of information. We brought them this trivia question you're about to hear right now.


AZUZ: What cabinet position does Hilda Solis hold? Ok, is it Secretary of Agriculture, Secretary of Energy, Labor, or Transportation?

NGUYEN: Agriculture.

MARCIANO: Well, that's "Extra Credit" for kids; that means adults can't play at this game. We don't want to steal their thunder.

AZUZ: Oh, nicely you're getting out of it, ok, you're guess on Agriculture, it's actually labor. So maybe Robs...

MARCIANO: That was my guess...

AZUZ: No, now you've got it, you've got to play it down, play it down.

But it is Secretary of Labor and what's cool is like she is the first person in her family to graduate college. She is our first Latina Labor Secretary. And in addition to that, this is somebody whose counselor once told her mother that Hilda Solis was not college material. So you can see that, she came -- she overcame...

NGUYEN: Oh yes.

AZUZ: ...a lot to triumph.

NGUYEN: What else is coming up on the student news?

AZUZ: Well, we've -- I mean, you name it. What you guys cover, we cover. And as I said, we were wrapping up Hispanic Heritage Month and we brought them a learning activity. And I thought this was really cool.

I want to tell you guys about this.

One of the learning activities we did at, these are ways for teachers to have students research a particular topic, to really get involved in something.

And this time around I thought it was cool, because we asked students to interview Hispanic-Americans in their communities and ask them this question. What would you like other Americans to know about what it means to be Hispanic in America today?

And I thought that was -- you know, a lot of times in this segment I'm bragging about how insightful students are and I think part of that insight might come from activities like this.

MARCIANO: That's a simple question, but it would give you answers that I wouldn't expect.

NGUYEN: Yes, too.

AZUZ: And we get answers you wouldn't expect from students all the time at our Web site. So we thought that was really cool, particularly leading into CNN's "Latino in America" coverage this week.

MARCIANO: That's right.

NGUYEN: Very, very good. All right, anything else coming up?

AZUZ: You name it, we'll have it.

NGUYEN: Ok, "Extra Credit," student news with Carl Azuz, always something very exciting. I love how they break it down for kids. I mean, there's so much news that when you break it down in terms that they can understand, it's just really makes...


AZUZ: Terms that I can understand.

NGUYEN: Yes, that too. AZUZ: Yes, and makes everything work out.

NGUYEN: All right, Carl thank you.

MARCIANO: Thanks Carl.

AZUZ: Thank you both.

MARCIANO: Well, are you still trying to figure out whether or not you want to get the swine flu vaccine?

NGUYEN: Yes, for one group, it's not an option, it is a requirement. And that has triggered a lawsuit.


NGUYEN: Well, New York is the only state in the country that requires health care workers to get flu shots.

MARCIANO: Yes, it's actually the state law; one that nurses are ready and willing to fight. This week, they'll find out if they have a shot in court.

Here's CNN's Susan Candiotti.


SUSAN CANDIOTTI, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: At a hospital in upstate New York, nurse Sue Field was told, get flu shots or else.

SUE FIELD, REGISTERED NURSE: If we did not comply with this mandate of receiving the H1N1 vaccine and the seasonal flu vaccine, that we would be terminated from our employment.

CANDIOTTI: New York is the only state forcing hospital health care workers to get vaccinated, even private doctors who make hospital rounds.

DR. RICHARD DAINES, NEW YORK HEALTH COMMISSION: When patients go to a hospital, they ought to have that expectation that the hospital and the workers have done everything they can to make it safe for them.

CANDIOTTI: Nurse Field is suing, arguing New York is overreaching. She's not against vaccines in general, but says hospital nurses already take extraordinary precautions to guard against viruses and still others say they aren't convinced the vaccine has been fully tested.

And then there's this argument.

FIELD: I have an issue with the government mandating me to get these vaccines and telling me that if I don't comply, then I don't have a job.

CANDIOTTI: New York State Nurses Association is backing her up, saying, quote, "The state emergency regulation is unwarranted in the absence of a declared emergency." Her attorney points to the Centers for Disease Control and President Obama. Neither is calling for mandatory hospital vaccinations.

PATRICIA FINN, ATTORNEY: If President Obama recommends a voluntarily swine flu injection, I really don't see where the commissioner of health has the authority to mandate this particular group. It's arbitrary and capricious, we believe.

CANDIOTTI: But New York's health boss says his state may be leading the way to a national policy.

DAINES: We do things at a state or local level, prove that they're safe and effective and practical and then they're adopted nationally.

CANDIOTTI: Nurse Field says not so fast.

FIELD: Seasonal flu and H1N1 this year, what will the government then have the right to say they want to inject us with next year?

CANDIOTTI: Others including New York's Civil Liberties Union are also suing over the mandatory shots, arguing they violate a constitutional right of health care workers to control their own bodies.

Susan Candiotti, CNN, New York.


NGUYEN: All right. I want to talk about a story that has a lot of people responding to our Facebook and Twitter pages this morning.

There's a new dress code at Morehouse College and it's the appropriate attire policy which requires that students do not wear saggy pants or pajamas in public. No women's clothing or high heels. I want to remind you that Morehouse is an all male college and it also says things like no do-rags, no grills, those things that you put on your teeth; nothing like that that they deem inappropriate for class.

MARCIANO: Well, you know, there's nothing like a set of grills and some heels to spark up a man's appearance. So this is all going to go away. The rule breakers will face suspension. And as far as the cross-dressing thing is concerned, they say it's targeted basically at five offenders, five openly gay people that are dressing as women and that wouldn't necessarily raise eyebrows anywhere else, but in an all-male college.

NGUYEN: Well -- and you know this is a college with a deep history, Martin Luther King Jr., and a lot of people feel that especially within the officials there at the college, they feel that if you're going to come to class, you need to be dressed appropriately.

You've been weighing in on this. Let me take you to my Facebook page, where Cory says, "I wore pajama pants to class almost every day, 8:00 a.m. class, when I was in college and I turned out to be just fine."

But then Michael says, "Is clothing a form of free speech? If it is, I would direct you to the foundation of individual rights and education."

So apparently people are really not happy about this dress code.

But others say, you know, "Look, I graduated from an all-male high school with similar rules. It prepared me for the corporate world." This is on my Twitter site. So you've got differing opinions on this.

MARCIANO: And I think it comes down to, as well, is it a private institution, they can -- like a private club, you can kind of make up your own rules. My Twitter account, Kerry Parish says, "They have a right to ask their students to dress well."

Again, if it's a private school, dress well, at least in the classroom. I can see if you're hanging out in the dorm or going out on a Friday night, you can wear your heels if you want.

NGUYEN: Yes. If you're going to close -- many places will have a dress code, no doubt.

Thanks for your input this weekend. Of course, we'll have more questions for you and more ways for you to weigh in next weekend.

And meantime though, up next, mothers going the distance to save their children held captive in Iran.

MARCIANO: Will it be enough to end a two and a half month ordeal.


MARCIANO: Welcome back.

A reporter from "Newsweek" magazine who was imprisoned in Iran is now home with his family. An Iranian News Agency reports Maziar Bahari was released from a Tehran prison on nearly $300,000 bail. He'd been in jail there for four months. Bahari is facing serious charges. He's one of about 100 people accused of plotting to topple Iran's clerical leaders after the disputed presidential elections back there in June.

NGUYEN: Well, there's still no word on the three American hikers also imprisoned in Iran. They've been held without any contact with their families since July. Fed up and frustrated, their mothers have had enough.

CNN's Mary Snow tells us how they're taking matters into their own hands.


MARY SNOW, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Inside this New York hotel room these mothers are on a mission. They are doing everything they can to win the release of their three children being held in Iran. And that includes gathering some 2,500 petitions from friends, family, and strangers.

NORA SHOURD, MOTHER OF DETAINED HIKER: We're keeping you in our prayers. We got a lot of prayers. A lot of people are praying for these kids.

SNOW: those kids are Sarah Shourd, her boyfriend Shane Bauer and their friend, Josh Fattal. The three went on a hiking vacation in northern Iraq when reports say they accidentally crossed an unmarked border into Iran. The three have been held there since July 31st and have not had any contact with their families.

And it's that image of the hikers that the mothers attached to several boxes of petitions that they prepared to deliver to the Iranian mission here in New York. They didn't want cameras to go with them to the mission, but they met with us after making the delivery.

(on camera): How did it go? What happened?

SHOURD: We delivered the petitions to the Iranian mission and they accepted the petitions. We think it went well and we're encouraged that they accepted them.

We think the petitions are extremely important, because they have such positive messages from all our supporters around the country and around the world.

SNOW (voice-over): And they're staying positive, hoping the messages will ultimately reach Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

Back in September, he told CNN's Larry King, the hikers illegally entered the country, but said he wasn't happy they were in prison. These mothers say they found some of his words encouraging.

LAURA FATTAL, MOTHER OF DETAINED HIKER: President Ahmadinejad is a father and I think he can easily imagine how difficult it is for the families of the hikers. And we very much see this as a humanitarian issue, unrelated to anything else.

SNOW (on camera): You had some diplomats -- Swiss diplomats who were able to visit with them. Tell me what they told you about that.

CINDY HICKEY, MOTHER OF DETAINED HIKER: That the children were in good health, or the young adults are in good health -- they're always our children. And they were able to give them a hug, which for me, personally, you know, as soon as I heard that, I felt that. You know, I thought, I hope they feel us through that hug. They offered them chocolate and just let them know that we were doing everything we possibly can and that to me, hopefully, offered them more hope.

SNOW (voice-over): these mothers look to one another and now wear bracelets with three stones, marking the birthstones of each of their children.

Mary Snow, CNN, New York.


NGUYEN: So much stimulus money, so little to show for it.

MARCIANO: That's right. California's dream of recession relief may have to wait a little while.


MARCIANO: $800,000 for only eight jobs. How about that? Well, it's how your stimulus dollars are being spent in California. That will get you mad.

And critics of the Obama plan can be heard from the West to the East Coast on this one.

Here's CNN's Casey Wian.


CASEY WIAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: The Army Corps of Engineers is using federal stimulus money to remove graffiti from the Los Angeles river channel including one of the largest tags in the United States.

The $800,000 project has created eight jobs. President Obama trumpeted the job creation prospects of the Recovery Act during a Democratic Party fund-raiser in San Francisco Thursday night.

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: If it hadn't been for that recovery act here in California and all across America, if it weren't for the recovery act, we'd be in a much deeper hole. And that is a fact.

WIAN: California companies have been awarded more than $1 billion in federal economic stimulus contracts. But according to the federal government's own data, so far they've created or saved just 2,240 jobs. That works out to nearly $500,000 per job.

But that figure will improve, because many of the companies have not hired all of their workers and some projects are not yet under way. Some of the money hasn't even been spent.

Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger is aggressively pushing for more federal funds; his most recent appeal for green energy jobs.

GOV. ARNOLD SCHWARZENEGGER (R), CALIFORNIA: It is these 40 companies that are in the pipeline that are ready to go. They will be also eligible for federal money, billions and billions of dollars of federal money.

WIAN: Including grants and loans through various federal agencies, California is set to receive about $28 billion. No one knows how many jobs that will create. REP. JOHN BOEHNER (R), OHIO: America families and small businesses are struggling. They've seen this economic stimulus package passed, but they're asking the question, where are the jobs?

WIAN: They're coming, says the White House, adding, quote, "It's too soon to draw any global conclusions from this partial and preliminary data."

It's also too soon to draw any conclusions from a bit of good news out of California Friday. The state's unemployment rate actually declined slightly last month by a tenth of a percent. It's still among the highest in the nation at 12.2 percent. And in the past year, California has lost nearly 750,000 jobs.

Casey Wian, CNN, Los Angeles.


NGUYEN: John King and "STATE OF THE UNION" is coming up at the top of the hour.

And I do want to thank you, Rob, for coming in today; filling in for T.J.

MARCIANO: It's my pleasure and honor. We had a great time. It's always informative and entertaining on my end as well.

NGUYEN: And we pay him to say that, folks.

We've got much more news coming to right now. Listen to this.

Criminal charges expected in that runaway balloon scare. Police searched the Colorado home of the Heenes yesterday and the family claimed their giant weather balloon got lose on Thursday.

At first, there were fears that their young son was actually inside of that balloon, but he was later found hiding safely at home. Authorities are looking into whether this was a hoax. The Heenes swear it wasn't.

We'll continue to follow that story for you.

Also this: a suicide bomber targets Iran's elite revolutionary guard, killing five top commanders and at least 24 other people. That attack happened at a conference of Sunni and Shia groups in the southeastern city of Sarbaz. The head of Iran's parliament blames the U.S. for the attack. No comment yet from Washington.

Hurricane Rick -- oh, my goodness, check this out -- a monster of a storm, category 5. It has winds of 180 miles per hour in the eastern North Pacific Ocean. That makes it the second strongest hurricane ever in that part of the world.

But forecasters expect it to lose steam as it heads for Baja, California, and then mainland Mexico, a little bit later in the week. And a showdown could be looming between the Reverend Al Sharpton and Rush Limbaugh. Sharpton is threatening to sue the conservative talk show host unless he apologizes for remarks he made in a "Wall Street Journal" op-ed piece. And in the article, Limbaugh wrote that Sharpton played a leading role in two New York race riots back in the '90s. Sharpton says those allegations are false.

"STATE OF THE UNION" with John King starts now.