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CNN NEWSROOM

Family Seeks Anonymity for Teen in Foley Scandal; Foley Scandal Raises Workplace Questions; School Threat

Aired October 6, 2006 - 10:59   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


HEIDI COLLINS, CNN ANCHOR: And good morning once again, everyone.
From the Atlanta NEWSROOM I'm Heidi Collins.

TONY HARRIS, CNN ANCHOR: And hello to you. I'm Tony Harris.

Spend a second hour in the NEWSROOM this morning and stay informed.

A noxious fire, half a town on the run from a chemical cloud. The developing situation in North Carolina.

COLLINS: The speaker has spoken. He's sorry, but he is staying. Next in the Capitol page scandal, subpoenas.

HARRIS: Gas is down, stocks are up. A month and a day until Election Day, President Bush wants to remind you about the economy this Friday, October 6th.

You're in the NEWSROOM.

And let's update you now on the breaking news. A small plane has gone down in Stockbridge, Georgia. That's south and a bit east of Atlanta, killing three of the four people on board. And we're learning that a 5-year-old child was on board as well, and that child has been airlifted to a local hospital. Authorities there in Henry County, Georgia, receiving word of this crash about 9:45 a.m. this morning.

COLLINS: Yes. This is obviously a private plane here, which means general aviation airfields are usually used. Probably the pilot was either taking off or landing at nearby Berry Hill Airport, so it would not have been trying to get to Atlanta Hartsfield-Jackson Airport.

HARRIS: That's right.

COLLINS: So we will try to find out more information about this and bring it to you. Right now the situation obviously not very good there.

HARRIS: New developments in that chemical plant fire in North Carolina. The overnight blaze sent a cloud of noxious gases into the air over Apex, near Raleigh, but state officials say preliminary air quality tests have found nothing "alarming". As many as 17,000 people An apex remain on the move.

No deaths have been reported. But at least 10 police officers have been treated for nausea and breathing problems. Nine other people are being treated for respiratory complications.

The blaze comes a half-year after the chemical disposal company was cited for six safety violations, but the mayor of Apex says two inspections late last month revealed no violations.

COLLINS: And another fire to tell you about, too. This one at an historic church in downtown Memphis, Tennessee. Firefighters say the century-old First United Methodist Church is totally gutted. Three other buildings a couple of blocks away also burned.

It is believed they were ignited by embers from the church. One of the buildings is the Lincoln American Tower, once the city's tallest skyscraper.

HARRIS: And if you're on the scene in either Apex or Memphis and have always wanted to say, "I report for CNN," you can send us your video or photos from the fires and you can tell your story. Just go to cnn.com/ireport.

COLLINS: The latest page-turner in the Mark Foley scandal. Now we're hearing from the family of the teenager who first reported e- mails from the ousted congressman. E-mails the former page described as "sick".

CNN's Sean Callebs is in the teenager's hometown of Monroe, Louisiana.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

SEAN CALLEBS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: We've known for some time that the young man at the center of this controversy was a 16-year-old page from Monroe, Louisiana, sponsored by Congressman Alexander. The family has been quiet throughout the week but now is breaking their silence, issuing a prepared statement. I want to get right to that.

The family says, "As a young man with integrity who had the courage to question the intention of the e-mails, we respect and honor our son as a hero. Despise his courageous actions he is becoming a victim due to the harassment by some of the media. Please honor our request that we be left alone. There is nothing more that we can contribute to this ongoing matter."

"He is not" -- and "not" is bold -- "the story, and we feel this intense media scrutiny could endanger our son and our family. We have no intention of discussing this any further."

I want to be very clear about this. The young man we're talking about received e-mails from Foley. Things like, "What do you want for your birthday? When is your birthday? And "Would you send me a picture of yourself?"

He did not receive the more lurid instant messages that Foley apparently sent from an AOL account. The family said had they known about those IMs, which happened a year earlier, the family said they may have handled this differently. But what they asked of Congressman Alexander was to keep the name private, to not turn this it into a media frenzy. The family hopes that this ends the focus on their son, but clearly the focus on this story continues.

Sean Callebs, CNN, in Monroe, Louisiana.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

The Foley scandal, it is rippling from Capitol Hill to the corporate world now.

HARRIS: Well, consider the allegations. A person in power making unwanted advances on a relatively powerless underling, a recipe for disaster in any work environment.

CNN's Dan Lothian takes a closer look.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

DAN LOTHIAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice over): It can happen in the tall towers of corporate America or in a small business just off Main Street, someone in a position of power like representative Mark Foley, caught in a steamy scandal involving a lower level staffer, and colleagues in the know are hesitant to address the problem or expose it.

DEBORAH KOLB, SIMMONS SCHOOL OF MGMT.: Often people who may be important in the organization in lots of ways, maybe they're rainmakers, really have an important account, they get a pass. They know that those kinds of things happen. It's also because of great performers. You don't want to lose them.

LOTHIAN: Deborah Kolb, a professor at the Simmons School of Management in Boston, says to make matters worse, sometimes news of a problem doesn't get to the very top because executives in the corners office are insulated.

KOLB: Sometimes that leader can be sending a message that says -- I've often heard this -- no news is good news.

LOTHIAN: The victim of the inappropriate behavior often lacks power and is afraid to speak up.

KOLB: They feel when they raise those issues there are going to be negative consequences. And guess what? There are negative consequences. People miss out on promotions, they find themselves stuck.

LOTHIAN (on camera): This happens even though most companies have policies that spell out workplace conduct, what will and will not be tolerated. But experts say what's on paper isn't always what's practiced.

(voice over): Consultant Natalie Camper is often called in to educate employees after inappropriate behavior gets way out of hand.

NATALIE CAMPER, CAMPER GROUP: And it keeps happening because many people never read the policy and procedures, for one thing. And it keeps happening because we live in a sexually saturated society.

LOTHIAN: And she says some employees don't check their personal baggage at the front door

CAMPER: When you walk in the door, that level of freedom is gone. The workplace is simply not a social club.

LOTHIAN: But when someone steps over the line, what should be done?

KOLB: People need to know what the policy is and there need to be consequences.

LOTHIAN: As for the victim?

KOLB: Is there a trusted person, somebody they trust who is a little bit higher up in the hierarchy who also has the ear of the person who's maybe the problem? And an ally can talk to that person.

LOTHIAN: Ultimately, leaving the desk or office for a trip to human resources may be the best recourse, potentially saving everyone involved and the company a lot of grief.

Dan Lothian, CNN, Boston.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

HARRIS: And still to come, jobs, the markets, your money. We'll put them in perspective as we wait to hear President Bush's take on the economy coming up in minutes in the NEWSROOM.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

VERONICA DE LA CRUZ, CNN ANCHOR: CNN.com is your campaign headquarters online this year. You can log on to our special report, "America Votes 2006," for more.

Find out how top stories like the Mark Foley scandal or key issues like the war in Iraq will affect the races. And click on this map for a state-by-state look at what's at stake in the race for House, Senate and governor.

Get on the campaign trail with CNN correspondents by jumping on the "Election Express". This will give you a behind-the-scenes look at the campaign trail.

Check the polls. A recent CNN poll conducted by Opinion Research shows that 53 percent of registered voters are likely to vote Democratic for those running for Congress this November.

And stay connected with the CNN "Political Ticker". Read the ticker every morning online or sign up to get it in your inbox. How are you voting this November? Weigh in with your thoughts and read what others have to say. It is all online at cnn.com/americavotes.

For the .com/desk, I'm Veronica de la Cruz.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

COLLINS: It's the economy. President Bush is hoping money matters will matter to voters. He's putting popular issues front and center in a speech this hour. We will listen in.

But first, a quick snapshot. We are watching Wall Street.

(STOCK MARKET REPORT)

HARRIS: So the president's scheduled to speak in a couple of minutes. And after the president's speech we will talk about it with CNN's personal finance editor, Gerri Willis.

What will the president say to you about your personal economy if you're living on minimum wage? Well, many families say their pay is just not enough. They want Congress to act.

CNN's Lisa Sylvester has that story.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

LISA SYLVESTER, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Angel Bridgwater is a minimum wage earner. The single mother of three says it's difficult covering basic expenses.

ANGEL BRIDGWATER, MINIMUM WAGE EARNER: Trying to pay rent, lights, gas, water, telephone and things like clothes they need for the school year is very hard.

SYLVESTER: In Missouri, where Angel lives, the minimum wage is $5.15 an hour. That translates to only $10,712 a year, well below the poverty line. Congress has not raised the federal wage for low income workers in ten years, even though lawmakers have voted to give themselves nine pay raises during that time.

JULIE SMITH, ACORN VOLUNTEER: We, the people, decided that if our elected representatives in Congress and our state legislators won't do what we want and need them to do, we will do it ourselves.

SYLVESTER: This November, there are ballot initiatives in Arizona, Ohio, Colorado, Missouri, Nevada and Montana, where voters will get to decide whether to increase the state minimum wage to as much as $6.85 an hour. Twenty two states and the District of Columbia have already raised the threshold. Business groups have resisted the measures, arguing a minimum wage hike will hurt small companies. But the AFL-CIO says evidence has shown raising wages increases productivity and lowers employee turnover rates.

THEA LEE, AFL-CIO: There's very little evidence that increasing the minimum wage does hurt small businesses and the last time we increased the federal minimum wage, in 1996 and '97, in fact, there was very little negative measured impact on small businesses or on businesses at all.

SYLVESTER: Angel Bridgwater hopes the minimum wage is raised. In the meantime, to break the poverty cycle, she's taking classes to be a medical assistant.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

HARRIS: Well, according to a Pew Research study, 83 percent of Americans favor raising the minimum wage. Despite the overwhelming support, Congress did not act on the issue before leaving town. The Republican leadership attached a proposal to repeal the estate tax to the minimum wage bill. Democrats found that unacceptable and the measure was defeated.

The president again in just a few minutes to speak on the economy from the main FedEx facility. That's in northeast Washington, D.C. The president there first for a roundtable on job growth, and the president will make remarks. That's coming up shortly right here on CNN.

COLLINS: Another funeral in Amish country this morning. Twelve- year-old Anna Mae Stoltzfus is being buried. She is the last of the five girls killed in Monday's schoolhouse shooting. Funerals for the other little girls were yesterday.

Authorities have protected the privacy of the Amish community by closing roads and restricting airspace during the funerals. Police say gunman Charles Roberts shot 10 girls in this Pennsylvania schoolhouse before killing himself.

We are told the five girls wounded in the attack remain hospitalized. The coroner says one of the little girls had earlier been taken home to die but she was brought back to the hospital after showing signs of hope. So we'll watch that one for you, of course.

HARRIS: A bomb threat in a small town, and no device found, but a sense of innocence lost. That's for sure.

CNN's Jeanne Meserve has that story.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

JEANNE MESERVE, CNN HOMELAND SECURITY CORRESPONDENT (voice over): Explosive detection dogs sniffed through every public and private school in Culpeper County, Virginia, Thursday. They found nothing. But the search continues for the person who made bomb threats against the schools.

SHERIFF LEE HART, CULPEPER COUNTY, VIRGINIA: We want to bring this person to justice. We want to prosecute. We take this serious.

MESERVE (on camera): Late Wednesday night a man called the sheriff's department more than once talking about bombs and schools. Because he did not name a specific school, county officials decided to close them all.

(voice over): Culpeper, about 75 miles outside Washington, D.C., is the kind of place people go to escape crime and violence. But officials insisted they had not overreacted.

HART: If I were to use the attitude it can't happen here I'd be fooling myself.

MESERVE: Why? Because it's happened so many other places just in the last couple of weeks. School shootings in Colorado, Wisconsin, and most recently in an Amish schoolhouse in Pennsylvania. Culpeper officials said those tragedies were a factor in their deliberations but not a decisive one.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Without the knowledge of the recent events of this past week, I think the decision would have still been the same to close schools.

MESERVE: At the Frost Cafe (ph) downtown, Christi King (ph) said the rash of shootings and now the bomb threat had her considering whether to home school her three boys.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I worry that they think that everything is going to be scary or that there's danger everywhere. Of course, they have to be aware of it, but I don't want the fear to consume them in their day-to-day life.

MESERVE: The county sheriff believes the schools here are safe but acknowledges there are no guarantees. And even though nothing violent happened here, there was only a threat, some people are feeling a little less secure, a little less innocent.

Jeanne Meserve, CNN, Culpeper, Virginia.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

COLLINS: Want to take you to some new video now. This fire that we have been telling you about in Memphis, it took place at the First United Methodist Church. It's a very historic building.

This fire erupted about 2:30 in the morning. It apparently spread to several other buildings around it. Four buildings in all have been affected now.

Just wanted to give you these pictures. It is amazing, the size of those flames and how quickly they were burning.

We are also learning from the fire chief there in Memphis that there is apparently no suspicion that the -- that arson may have been a suspect in all of this. And once again, affecting four downtown buildings. And boy, you can see why, because those flames are just raging, aren't they?

HARRIS: Wow.

Still to come, just another reminder -- President Bush will have something to say about the economy this morning.

COLLINS: You can watch that live right here on CNN, just as soon as it starts.

You are in the NEWSROOM.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

HARRIS: And want to show you these pictures again of this dramatic fire. Look at these pictures, downtown Memphis, Tennessee, going up in flames there before your eyes.

A century-old church, the First United Methodist Church there, totally gutted. A couple of buildings maybe a block or so away also burned, possibly ignited by the embers from the church.

The roof of the church caved in. The steeple gone. Some of the walls obviously crumbled.

The reverend of the church, Martha Wagley (ph), said that this was a seven-day-a-week church with a food pantry, other ministries to the people in downtown Memphis. So just a horrible story.

Apparently, some of the members of the church were out early this morning just hugging one another, trying to bring comfort as they watched their beloved church just go up in flames. We'll continue to follow the story and maybe get some information as to the cause of that fire.

COLLINS: Foley fallout. From the White House to the water cooler, just about everybody is talking about it. The question is, will personal outrage translate into losses for the GOP?

Our Bill Schneider checks the political pulse of some of the Republican base.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

WILLIAM SCHNEIDER, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST (voice-over): Republicans are afraid their base could abandon them, just as it did in the Watergate midterm of 1974.

PAUL WEYRICH, CHAIRMAN AND CEO, FREE CONGRESS RESEARCH AND EDUCATION FOUNDATION: Reagan's pollster, Dick Wirthlin, coined the term the embarrassed Republican vote. And he mentioned that because the Democrats won this huge landslide in 1974. Only, the vote for them was the same as it was four years earlier, in 1970 -- the difference being the extraordinary drop-off of Republicans.

SCHNEIDER: This year, conservatives are not just embarrassed. Many of them are angry over government spending, and a big new prescription drug program, and the failure to win a decisive victory in Iraq.

RICHARD VIGUERIE, CHAIRMAN, AMERICAN TARGET ADVERTISING: It is certainly appears to be like the final nail in the coffin. For six years, the conservatives have gotten basically lip service from this administration. They've been used and abused.

SCHNEIDER: Republicans are totally dependent on the conservative vote. Here is why.

CNN's polls show liberals voting solidly Democratic. Republicans have lost the middle. Moderates favor Democrats by nearly 2-1. More than 60 percent of conservatives still plan to vote Republican, but nearly a third of them say they will support the Democrat.

And, if conservatives are embarrassed by the congressional scandals, a lot of them could stay home, just as they did after Watergate.

The White House hopes they will put the scandal aside.

TONY SNOW, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: Come Election Day, the question is whether people are going to be voting on the basis of disgusting IMs between a grown man and a young man, or something that's probably more important to everybody, which is safety, security and prosperity.

SCHNEIDER: Don't know yet, but experts say a lot of new races could be in play that were not in play a week ago.

STUART ROTHENBERG, "THE ROTHENBERG POLITICAL REPORT": And I think the biggest question is, could there be a whole set of seats that we haven't been looking at that, because the focus is on Republicans and missteps and misdeeds, suddenly come into play in the next few weeks? And I think -- I think it's likely that there are races that, right now, we can't even identify.

SCHNEIDER (on camera): That rumbling noise you hear may be the political landscape shifting. And those people running for cover, they are Republicans.

Bill Schneider, CNN, Washington.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

COLLINS: Well, it may be Friday, but the CNN NEWSROOM doesn't take the weekend off.

HARRIS: Betty Nguyen and T.J. Holmes are here with a look at what's ahead on "CNN SATURDAY".

BETTY NGUYEN, CNN ANCHOR: This weekend we're going to be talking about the power of forgiveness.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: They have forgiven the shooter, and sometimes that re-forgiveness could occur on a daily basis as you're tempted to be angry. But they really do feel a forgiveness for him.

(END VIDEO CLIP) T.J. HOLMES, CNN ANCHOR: As an Amish community copes with loss they could teach all of us an important lesson. Learning to forgive, that's in our "Faces of Faith".

NGUYEN: Plus, early detection, it is the best way to prevent breast cancer. But mammograms may not spot a new deadly form of the disease. We'll show you the symptoms to watch out for.

HOLMES: Plus, it's a big, big boat for a former president. The USS George Herbert Walker Bush, a brand new Navy warship, will be christened tomorrow. And we'll take you live to the story.

NGUYEN: You bet.

All that, plus the top stories, in-depth coverage, and any breaking news starting at 7:00 a.m. Eastern right here on "CNN SATURDAY and SUNDAY MORNING".

HARRIS: And still ahead in the NEWSROOM, a chemical fire. Thousands evacuate. The latest from North Carolina straight ahead.

COLLINS: The crisis in Darfur -- collecting food for Sudan's refugees isn't the problem, but delivering it is.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JEFF KOINANGE, CNN AFRICA CORRESPONDENT (voice over): Abubaka Badid (ph) feels like a sitting duck every time he makes deliveries along Darfur's dangerous highways. He says he's been hijacked more than a dozen times and knows who the bandits are.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

COLLINS: CNN's Jeff Koinange reports from Darfur. You are not going to want to miss this. It's next in the NEWSROOM.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

HARRIS: And let's get to President Bush now speaking on the economy from the main FedEx facility in northeast Washington, D.C.

(JOINED IN PROGRESS)

GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: ... creators, people who had an innovative idea, followed up on their idea and have now built healthy little businesses that are growing and employing people.

I don't necessarily want to speak for the secretary, but I will tell you that it does my spirits good to be able to talk to risk- takers and dreamers and doers. And one of the jobs of government is to make sure the entrepreneurial spirit is strong by creating an environment that encourages entrepreneurship, which means low taxes; less regulation; a rational spending at the government level; opening markets overseas so that, you know, the entrepreneur can trade but is treated fairly; and making sure that foreign countries don't steal products. That's called intellectual property rights.

It's to -- it's to really say to, you know, the good folks in America that government will help you as opposed to impede your ability to expand your company. And the entrepreneurial spirit is strong in America. Our economy is strong.

I say that because today we got more good news. The national unemployment rate is down to 4.6 percent. We have added 6.6 million new jobs since August of 2003. The wages are going up, energy prices are falling, which means people are going to have more money in their pocket to save, invest or spend and the fundamental question is how do we make sure we sustain the economic growth? And one way to do so is to make the tax cuts we pass permanent.

One sure way to hurt this economy is to take money out of the pockets of consumers or small business owners and send it to Washington D.C.

And so I'm pleased with the economic progress we're making. Secretary of the treasury and I will continue to work as hard as we can to encourage entrepreneurship and small business growth, and, again, I want to thank again the people of FedEx. This is a great example of what's possible in America.

A fellow I knew long years ago named Fred Smith had a dream about how to better distribute mail and product, and he and a lot of other great folks built this into a great company. I want to thank the folks for letting us come by to say hello.

HARRIS: There you have it, President Bush making comments on the economy. The president accentuating the positive there, unemployment going down a tick.

Now, the president is saying that 6.6 million new jobs have been added since August of '03. Gas prices are down. That's clear to everyone, and the president urging Congress to make the tax cuts permanent.

Here to talk about these numbers and what they mean for your wallet, CNN personal finance editor Gerri Willis. And, Gerri...

GERRI WILLIS, CNN PERSONAL FINANCE EDITOR: Hey there, Tony.

HARRIS: Good morning.

Gerri, give us a sense, the president ticked off what he sees as the accomplishments of this economy. But give us the other side of the coin, please, what problems are still ahead for the economy?

WILLIS: Well, Tony, you know, the president says the glass is half full. He loves talking about the economy, but there are several causes for concern including today's jobs report. Now the president points to the jobless rate at 4.6 percent as the good news headline, but economists and traders today are focused on the number of jobs created, which showed that job creation not only fell month to month, but was below market expectations, and we had stocks trading off as a result.

Now, manufacturing and retail sectors were showing the biggest weakness. Job creation is just one issue. As you say, there's many. Housing, I got to tell you, Tony, is another big concern for consumers. Just this week the federal reserve chairman said the housing market was in a "substantial correction," his words. I've never heard him -- never heard the federal reserve say anything quite like that.

Plus, while gas prices have fallen, as the president noted, analysts say we may have seen the lows already. Add it all up and you can see there are worries for consumers out there, and it could be that the economy is at a tipping point.

HARRIS: So, Gerri, what, the other side of the coin, what, economically, can the president claim some real credit for?

WILLIS: Well, I think that's a great question. What can the president claim credit for? I got to say, he talks about tax cuts, which have been important, but certainly the Federal Reserve may be more important in guiding the economy over the long term.

I mean, you have to look at what chairman -- former Chairman Greenspan had to do, Ben Bernanke now. It's critical what the federal reserve does, and I got to tell you, another important thing that people don't think about, it's consumer spending, and it's kept this economy going. Consumer spending responsible for 70 percent of economic growth, GDP.

I'm telling you, if you want to know who to thank turn to the person in the pod next to you, and say thank you.

HARRIS: Will do. OK, Gerri, good to see you. Have a great weekend.

WILLIS: Great to see you.

HARRIS: All right. We're going to take a quick break. When we come back, we will more information on that plant fire, that chemical plant fire, in Apex, North Carolina. That is coming up shortly. We're anticipating a news conference later this hour.

Stay with CNN, the most trusted name in news.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

COLLINS: We want to go straight over to Fredricka Whitfield to give us the very latest update on a situation in Florida where a school is locked down, Fred?

FREDRICKA WHITFIELD, CNN ANCHOR: That's right. In a week now, it seems where school security is certainly paramount on everyone's minds because of so much that has happened across the country, now the focus is on central Florida, sort of North Central Florida. Here in Citrun (ph), Florida, where this high school, North Marion High School and Middle School is on lockdown because officials received word that a student called in saying that a white male student with black hair, that's all they knew, had planned to go to the school to harm his ex- girlfriend, and so what now has resulted is the SWAT team had converged on this high school. Not only is the school on lockdown, but the SWAT team and other officials are helping to carry out this search for this person fitting this description.

So what are they doing? They're patting down every white male student with black hair looking for any clues to offer some credence to this threat. So far no weapons have been found. And as a precaution, no one is being allowed to come on campus or exit. The lockdown is under way involving this middle school and high school, where about 1,500 students attend this pair of schools off highway 329. And of course, when we get any more information about what's taking place in Marion County. It is called North Marion High School and North Marion Middle School. We'll be able to bring that to you -- Heidi or Tony.

COLLINS: All right, Fred, thanks so much for that. We'll check back with you should anything else develop.

But, boy, if you're keeping track, this is about the fifth school incident we've had the past week and a half or so, so we definitely are going to stay on top of this, and bring the very latest to the viewers, just as soon as we can. Thanks, Fred.

HARRIS: And we want to bring you new developments in that chemical plant fire in North Carolina. The overnight blaze sent a cloud of noxious gasses into the air, over Apex, near Raleigh. But state officials say preliminary air quality tests have found nothing, quote, "alarming." As many as 17,000 people in Apex were asked to evacuate.

At least ten police officers have been treated for nausea and breathing problems. Nine other people are being treated for respiratory complications. The blaze comes a half year after the chemical disposal company was cited for six safety violations. But the mayor of Apex says two inspections late last month revealed no violations.

All right, we want to go ahead and get to Rob Marciano now with the very latest.

We had talked last time, Rob, a little about that fire in North Carolina because of the air quality issues and the way that the wind blows and all of that. We just heard Tony say, once again, we're still hearing the same about the air quality. The preliminary tests are showing not too much of an issue, as far as being toxic and hurting people in the area. Seventeen thousand people evacuated from this area?

ROB MARCIANO, CNN METEOROLOGIST: Well, you know, it's a pretty populated town. And over 30,000 people in the town of Apex, which is just to the southwest of Raleigh, Durham, right here -- the fire where the chemical plant is or where the facility is south and east of that. So earlier this morning, the winds were easterly, so it was heading towards a populated area. Ironically, the same storm that we were worried about changing winds and strengthening winds brought rain.

COLLINS: We love that.

MARCIANO: Because, I mean, I can't remember all of my atmospheric chemistry, but I know that rain is typically good for knocking down pollutants and chemicals out of the atmosphere. And that's probably why they're giving it, for the most part, a good sign of there not being a lot of toxins in the area.

COLLINS: Excellent. And that's not the only rain that the country is seeing.

MARCIANO: No, no, I'll let you -- move you over to the weather map and show you the radar scope. The rainfall has been across the southeast for the most part. It is moving up a little bit towards the northeast, and with that -- well, here's -- for one thing, what's happening right around Raleigh. They got hit with a pretty strong thunderstorm earlier with thunder and lightning while the fire was going on. But like I said, that did help wring things come out of the atmosphere just a little bit.

(WEATHER REPORT)

COLLINS: We want to go back to the situation in North Carolina once again with the hazardous fire that is going on there. Seventeen thousand people evacuated now from an area called Apex, just outside of Raleigh, Durham.

We are bringing in an atmospheric scientist to discuss a little bit about what we can expect and what the fallout will be from this humongous blaze that you can there, a plume of some sort of chemicals.

So I want to talk with Dr. Viney Aneja. She (sic) is with North Carolina State University, so right there in the area.

Dr. Aneja tell us a little about what these people in the area could be dealing with in the form of toxicity?

DR. VINEY ANEJA, ATMOSPHERIC SCIENTIST, NCSU: The fire has released -- the fire that took place is at a chemical-based -- chemical storage facility, and perhaps also contains some other hazardous waste. And so when this fire started, it released a lot of chemical constituents into the atmosphere. And once in the atmosphere, these pollutants can then transform into other toxic substances and maybe transported downwind of somewhere the fire has -- is taking place. And subsequently deposit to the surface of the Earth.

Well, there is some good news here, and let me first talk about the good news. The good news is, one, the rain that is occurring, which started about 6:37 in the morning here in Raleigh, North Carolina, and heavy at times. And second, the direction of the wind. Both of those are good news, insofar as the rain will scrub the atmosphere, which is to say it will dissolve the pollutants and bring them to the surface of the Earth rather quickly, thereby preventing the exposure to the larger population. The second question -- the second good news is that the direction of the wind. And the wind is moving more towards the south.

COLLINS: Right.

ANEJA: Which is to say Cary and Raleigh, which is due north of Apex, the wind is moving in the opposite direction, thereby preventing the exposure of this toxic fumes to a larger sector of the population. So there is, indeed, some good news here.

COLLINS: Right.

ANEJA: The bad news is, we have had a really a terrible, terrible humongous fire like you just indicated, which has released a lot of chemical constituents in the atmosphere.

Now, another issue that we need to be acutely aware about -- aware of -- is that emergency responders are people who are talking about this issue, only seem to be focusing only on chlorine as a chemical constituent. We do not know, at least at this stage, if there may be other more harmful toxic substances that got incinerated. And we need to watch that very carefully.

COLLINS: All right, Dr. Aneja, we certainly appreciate your time here today. Atmospheric scientist from the North Carolina State University area. We have been hearing quite a bit about that, sir, as far as the winds and the rain, and certainly we are watching the folks as responders. It brings back, you know, some memories and some thoughts about the same type of situation. Different, obviously, hazards, but from the 9/11...

HARRIS: Exactly.

COLLINS: Those who were responding there. So got to find out what the stuff is before they know exactly how to respond.

HARRIS: Yes, yes. And gaining access seems to be a real issue right now.

Just want to remind you that we're anticipating a news conference in just a couple of minutes, actually, from the secretary of the Department of Crime Control and Public Safety. His name is Brian Beady (ph). He will be joined by Apex officials to give us an update on the situation. That should be happening in the next couple of minutes. We'll of course, bring that to you.

We want to tell you about another fire.

COLLINS: Yes.

HARRIS: This one at an historic church in downtown Memphis, Tennessee. Have you seen these pictures? Firefighters say the century-old First United Methodist Church totally gutted. Three other buildings a couple of blocks also burned. It is believed they were ignited by embers by the church. One of the buildings is the Lincoln American Tower, one of the city's tallest skyscrapers. COLLINS: Our I-reporters have been busy this morning, working that fire in Memphis, Tennessee, for us.

First a look what I-reporter Charles Downs sent us from Scottsdale, Arizona. This is a before picture of the First United Methodist Church. Historical church, as we've mentioned. Downs told CNN he took this photo while on a recent business trip to Memphis. Just beautiful. It's really sad to see that now.

And then I-reporter Ian Jones looked out his condo window around 4:30 this morning. He saw smoke and flames all across the park, just hundreds of feet away, and captured this image. You don't see the burning church, but you can see a couple of buildings that caught fire next to them. Johns said that burning building was being renovated for condos. Millions of dollars, in fact, being spent on that. And the building on the left is the Lincoln American Tower we were just telling you about.

You can also see more video and photos like these on our Web site or, send in our own i-Report and join the world's most powerful newsteam. Just log on to CNN.com and find out how. We appreciate those reports.

HARRIS: And coming up in just a moment, we'll get you to that news conference out of Apex, North Carolina, and we will also check the markets. What a week it's been so far. Market's a little down today, a little profit-taking. You'd expect that kind of activity after the run-up recently. The market is down 26 points, as you can see.

We're back in a moment.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

COLLINS: "YOUR WORLD TODAY" is coming up next, and actually we are looking at North Carolina now. We are waiting for a news conference that is coming our way, that humongous fire in Apex, just a few miles from Raleigh, North Carolina, pretty toxic it looked to us, and still waiting to find out what type of chemicals are burning in the sky. We just talked with an atmospheric scientist who says that the rain and wind certainly helped a lot to wash that type of chemical away, even though we don't know exactly what it is yet, but do know that HAZMAT crews are on the scene and trying to be very, very careful with what they're dealing with there; 17,000 people evacuated, so we're going to find out the very latest.

HARRIS: A town of 34,000, you got 17,000 who have to leave -- it's quite a situation. yes.

COLLINS: You bet.

HARRIS: But as you mentioned, "YOUR WORLD TODAY" coming up at the top of the hour.

Jim Clancy is here with a preview.

Good morning, Jim.

JIM CLANCY, CNN ANCHOR: Good morning to you, Tony and Heidi.

We'll be following this story of the former British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw. Some contentious remarks. He's upset a lot of Muslims in his country, saying that Muslims, women especially, that wear head scarves divide themselves from the larger communities they live in. Plus, we're going to give you an in-depth look at a Canadian man who the U.S. sent to Syria. It's called Rendition. Critics charge it's nothing more than outsourcing torture when is comes to al Qaeda suspects. But now Everybody agrees this guy had nothing to do with al Qaeda. They're sorry. So is he. He was tortured and jailed for a year. We'll also talk about this case with a former CIA agent who helped set up the Rendition program and has strong opinions on what you have to do to get al Qaeda suspects to talk to save lives. That's coming up later this hour.

COLLINS: Thanks so much, Jim.

And once again, we're standing by waiting for that news conference from Apex, North Carolina, where we will get the latest information on the situation there. As Heidi mentioned, 17,000 residents there in that community evacuated out of there, still trying to get a handle. Actually it is beginning right now. Let's take you to the news conference live.

(JOINED IN PROGRESS)

MYR. KEITH WEATHERLY, APEX, NORTH CAROLINA: ... particularly the state. The federal government, through EPA and others, certainly the county government and our local municipalities have been extraordinary. Frankly, I think it's probably unprecedented in our experience in this area, the cooperation that we've received from our partner agencies to bring about hopefully a very successful resolution to this unfortunate situation. The cooperation from all levels, police, fire, rescue, the HAZMAT folks, Raleigh obviously contributed the technical expertise of their HAZMAT people, who are on site right now, have been extraordinary and we are very grateful for that level of cooperation, and we're glad that the Congressman and Secretary Beatty (ph) could be here, so we can express that to them, and we're pleased that they're assessing the situation. Let me give you an update exactly what's happened. The HAZMAT team has been on site, has left the site, restaging.

Their initial findings are that the initial building that housed the facility has collapsed, but the fire is -- there is still a fire on the premises. They're going to bring in some video equipment to assess the exact location of the fire, and the best way to attack the fire to put it out, and that's undergoing right now. So that next phase of this operation is under way now with the HAZMAT people.

A couple of other comments, I think, that the -- we've had some inquiries, frankly, from the local veterinarians about people -- homeowners that had to leave their pets at home and what to do. Our own police dog in the town of Apex did experience the same symptoms when exposed to the chlorine gas that our officers did, and so we would advise folks as they return back to their homes whenever the all-clear is signaled, and that's not yet. Hopefully that will be soon, but we want to ensure that the fire is contained before we do that.

But as far as the questions about the pets is, make sure their symptoms of nausea and potential bleeding are cared for by a veterinarian.

Mr. Radford, what else were we -- there were several things we were going to mention today. That's it, right?

COLLINS: Hearing now from the mayor of Apex, North Carolina on that humongous toxic fire there. HAZMAT crews are out of the building. They are reassessing. The building has collapsed. It's still burning, so they're trying to get back inside to figure out exactly where the fire is; 17,000 people still out of their homes and not allowed back in yet, so that is the end of that story as we see it here now.

HARRIS: We'll take a quick break and come right back. You're in the NEWSROOM. You're watching CNN, the most trusted name in news.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

COLLINS: That is all from us on this Friday. Have a great weekend, everybody. CNN NEWSROOM continues just an hour from now.

"YOUR WORLD TODAY" is next with news happening across the globe and here at home.

HARRIS: I'm Tony Harris.

COLLINS: And I'm Heidi Collins. See y'all on Monday.

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