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Lake Tahoe Wildfires; Immigration Battle; Hunting Dangerous Immigrants; Bye, Bye Blair; Iraq: The Endgame; Deadly Game?; Your money, Their Wallets; Planet in Peril

Aired June 26, 2007 - 23:00   ET


ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: Breaking news. One of the country's top vacation spots under siege by fire. Nearly 300 homes have been destroyed, 1,000 more in jeopardy.
A wildfire in California near Lake Tahoe that might have been closer to being under control by now except for the wind. Now it's a very real threat to an awful lot of people and their property.

Kara Finnstrom is live with the latest. She's in Meyers, California.

Kara, what's going on?

KARA FINNSTROM, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, that wind is a threat and the fear is that we'll be seeing much more of this. A whole community is completely destroyed, homes burned to the ground.

Right now in some South Lake Tahoe neighborhoods, there are still some mandatory evacuations underway.

What happened today is the wind shifted and this wildfire jumped over the fire lines that firefighters had cut around it and started spreading into some new neighborhoods.

Now at least for the most part, initially were isolated hot spots. Firefighters were still hoping they could get this under control and that no other homes would be burned. But we did get some pictures of flames coming within yards of some of these newly evacuated homes.

Tonight, we're just kind of watching and waiting to see if whether these firefighters can get this wildfire back under control.

COOPER: Give us a sense of just the scope of this. When did this fire begin? What has sort of been the history of it over the last couple of days?

FINNSTROM: Well, it started on Sunday. And it really picked up real quickly after that.

The house that you see behind me here, this was the house of a firefighter. He's a retired firefighter. He knows how fires work and he had information about the fires that was burning, but it got here so fast, he was out here trying to protect his home with hoses, and he actually just had to flee and leave his home.

So it came and it has spread so quickly that even people who are trained in firefighting, it's taken them by surprise.

COOPER: Kara Finnstrom, appreciate it, from the scene.


COOPER: Now tonight, immigration. The Senate was supposed to begin debate on a set of amendments that might -- might allow the full immigration bill to pass. Instead, they got stuck today on procedures.

Then, late this evening they said they'll actually start talking in earnest tomorrow.

We'll tonight, we're keeping them honest, showing you what has and hasn't been done on the border while politicians have been talking.

We begin with the reality on the border, versus the rhetoric in Washington.


COOPER (voice-over): When it comes to immigration reform, you're guaranteed two things from Washington: promises and plenty of hot air.

The White House sticks to its talking points.

GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The first thing that we have got to recognize in the country is that the system isn't working. The immigration system needs reform. The status quo is unacceptable.

COOPER: But Congress may be no better. They're like a hamster on a wheel, running in place, going nowhere fast.

IRA MEHLMAN, FEDERATION FOR AMERICAN IMMIGRATION REFORM: I think the American public, in general, is frustrated by the lack of any enforcement of our immigration laws over the last 20 years. The American public has been repeatedly promised that administration after administration would get serious about enforcing our immigration laws. They have done nothing. They have allowed the problem to fester.

COOPER: Fester is a strong word. But look at the facts on where the immigration battle stands tonight.

"Keeping Them Honest," let's start at the border. Last October, the president signed a bill authorizing the construction of a 700-mile fence along the U.S.-Mexican border. Under this new bill, the barrier would be just 370 miles. But just 88 miles have actually been built.

And, speaking of fences, the so-called virtual fence gets a lot of buzz these days. The problem is, it's not working. Known as Project 28, it's a multibillion-dollar investment that is still plagued by technical bugs. It was supposed to launch on June 13, but didn't. There's no word when it will go online.

LOU DOBBS, HOST, "LOU DOBBS TONIGHT": If our borders are secure, if we are enforcing existing U.S. law, there is no illegal immigration problem. Next question, why have they got been secured? Why are we not enforcing our laws?

COOPER: Then there are the border agents. The bill includes $4 billion for enforcement measures, including 18,000 patrol agents. Progress is being made. The number now stands at roughly 13,600, but is it working?

The government says there were nearly 300,000 arrests of illegal immigrants in the last nine months. That's down 10 percent from the previous year. No one knows if that's because fewer people are attempting to cross or more are slipping through.

And, once they're here, is law enforcement cracking down on employers who hire them? Well, the number of criminal convictions of employers has jumped significantly in the past year. But many critics wonder if it's just window dressing.

One offered this unflattering comparison to the immigration mess.

MEHLMAN: This has all the planning and foresight of the war in Iraq, which was: We will go in there. We will get rid of Saddam. And then we will all figure it out later on.

This is exactly the same kind of plan.

COOPER: That's tough talk, but this is a tough issue, and it can get confusing. Just ask the president.

BUSH: You have heard it, too, about how this is amnesty. Amnesty means that you have got to pay, you know, a price for having been here illegally. And this bill does that.


COOPER: Well, the White House later issued a clarification on what the president said, saying that the president misspoke, calling what he said this morning the exact opposite of what he meant.

One other late breaking item to tell you about, Republicans in the House, which still has to take up the issue, voted tonight to condemn the Senate deal being worked out.

In the meantime, of course, the battle on the border goes on, sometimes involving violent fugitives.

More on that from CNN's Gary Tuchman.


GARY TUCHMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The argument about what to do with illegal immigrants is heated, but it's less complicated when it deals with people like Laura Garrido (ph) Hernandez.

At border fence between California and Tijuana, Mexico, the 20- year-old woman is being handed over by U.S. agents to Mexican agents. As Hernandez crosses the fence, she might be saying goodbye to U.S. soil forever.

JIM HAYES JR., DIRECTOR, LOS ANGELES FIELD OFFICE, IMMIGRATION AND CUSTOMS ENFORCEMENT: She's wanted by Mexican law enforcement authorities for questioning of her involvement in the brutal rape, mutilation and murder of a 10-year-old girl.

TUCHMAN: Among the millions of undocumented immigrants in the United States, the great majority come here for work, but Laura Hernandez and others are accused of being dangerous criminals, trying to escape justice in their home countries.

HAYES: We're talking about people that have been accused of murder, rape, theft, burglary, narcotics trafficking, narcotics possession.

TUCHMAN: So, the people with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, known as ICE, have ramped up a program to send alleged violent criminals back home.

Wearing bulletproof vests, ICE and other federal agents conduct an early-morning raid east of Los Angeles.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Federal police. Open the door.

TUCHMAN: The moments are tense, as nobody answers. Agents are looking for this man, Almarez Reveles Gonzalo (ph). The Mexican government has charged him with murdering his 74-year-old uncle.

Agents hear noise at the back door and are let in by the suspect's wife.


TUCHMAN: The murder suspect was asleep.

DERRICK TAYLOR, SUPERVISORY DEPORTATION OFFICER, IMMIGRATION AND CUSTOMS ENFORCEMENT: It was an infant, I guess maybe less than a year old, in bed with him.

TUCHMAN: Within minutes, Gonzalo gives himself up, but U.S. agents only tell him this is an immigration arrest. They say it's up to Mexican authorities to inform him about the murder charge once he's sent back.

We are told, if we wanted to witness the raid, we can't tell him about the murder charge either.

Gonzalo says, I don't know. Honestly, that's the truth. He's brought to an ICE office, where the process of kicking him out of the country begins right away. It's the same journey taken by other high-profile suspects. Odilon Carlos-Marquez (ph), charged with murdering a Mexican state police officer. Alfredo Galiana (ph), an alleged killer, kidnapper and bank robber who escaped from a Mexican prison more than two decades ago. And then there's Moidin Ahmed (ph), accused of participating in a 1975 coup in Bangladesh that led to the assassination of Bangladesh's prime minister.

ICE doesn't know how many illegal immigrants there are in this country who have been accused of violent crimes in their home countries.

But the agency does say there are more than 632,000 illegals in the U.S. who are accused of committing some type of crime while they have been here and are sought as fugitives.

(on camera): Gonzalo is given a choice by ICE agents: Go to jail in California, or we will send you back here to Mexico. Because agents in the U.S. have not told Gonzalo he will be charged with murder, this sounds like the better choice, coming here, because he assumes he will be free. But he will assume wrong.

(voice-over): Just hours after the raid, Gonzalo is brought to the border fence and handed over to the Mexican authorities. His identity is verified. And he will be put on a plane and flown to the state of Zacatecas, where he allegedly shot his uncle.

But the Mexicans hadn't yet told him he's being charged with murder. However, now that we're no longer in the U.S., we mention it.


(on camera): Did you kill your uncle?




TUCHMAN: (SPEAKING SPANISH) You don't kill your uncle?


TUCHMAN (voice-over): Gonzalo will now tell it to a judge in Mexico -- his attempt at a new life in the U.S. foiled.

Gary Tuchman, CNN, Tijuana, Mexico.


COOPER: Well, another story tonight that we've been covering. It is already Wednesday in Britain and Tony Blair is just hours away from stepping down as prime minister. He'll face British legislators one last time in a question and answer session in parliament and then he'll head over to Buckingham Palace to hand in his resignation to Queen Elizabeth. Gordon Brown will then take his place.

We can't know, of course, what is going through Blair's mind right now, but it seems safe to say this is not the way he would have preferred things to end.

More on that from CNN's Christiane Amanpour.


CHRISTIANE AMANPOUR, CNN CHIEF INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice over): His unwavering loyalty to President George W. Bush is what caused his collapse at home.

TONY BLAIR, OUTGOING BRITISH PRIME MINISTER: I decided we should stand shoulder to shoulder with our oldest ally.

AMANPOUR: After 10 years as the prime minister of Great Britain, in the end, Tony Blair's legacy may come down to this -- his decision to stand by the United States and its war in Iraq.

BLAIR: A new dawn has broken, has it not?

AMANPOUR: The Blair era began with such promise. When after 18 years of Margaret Thatcher and John Major, he won back 10 Downing Street from the conservative Torre (ph) Party.

At 43, he was the youngest British prime minister in nearly 200 years. And with his landslide victory, came new labor, a new optimism and a new image for cool Britannia.

BLAIR: This is our historic opportunity. If we blow this opportunity, we blow our place in history.

AMANPOUR: Blair quickly forged a fast friendship with then-U.S. President Bill Clinton. They had much in common. Moderate in their politics, charismatic speakers, both had made their parties electable and both were committed to changing the world.

Together, they worked hard to hammer out a peace agreement for Northern Ireland, the first real chance of peace after 30 years of bloody fighting between Catholics and Protestants.

A year later, they both turned to Kosovo, sending U.S. and British jets to lead a successful NATO campaign, to bomb Serb forces intent on eliminating the country's majority Muslim population.

Blair's humanitarian interventions made him even more popular at home. In 2000, he sent British troops to Sierra Leone, stabilizing that small nation after one of Africa's most vicious civil wars.

And along with live-aid concerts, alerting the world to Africa's desperate poverty, Tony Blair pushed the subject to the top of the G8 international summit agenda.

BLAIR: There's a strong moral reason, because there are thousands of children dying every day from preventable diseases. There are millions of people who have died in circumstances that were preventable in Africa over the past few years through conflict, through famine, through disease.

AMANPOUR: But it was something of a surprise when Tony Blair became an even better friend to Bill Clinton's successor, George W. Bush, a friendship that grew even stronger after the horror of September 11th.

(on camera): Yesterday the president of the United States said, we are at war, war has been declared on us. Are you prepared to say that war has been declared and that there is a state of war?

BLAIR: Yes, whatever the technical or legal issues about a declaration of war, the fact is we are at war with terrorism. The hard part starts when we actually take the action.

AMANPOUR (voice-over): The hard part actually started later when President Bush expanded the war on terror from Afghanistan into Iraq with the hunt for weapons of mass destruction. And still, Prime Minister Blair continued to back Bush.

BLAIR: The evidence that Saddam has developed these types of weapons is there over 12 years.

AMANPOUR: But those weapons were not there. Four years on, the war and the bloodshed continue. And Blair, who did win three elections, had to step down because of a friendship that cost him dearly. It cost him his job, his credibility, the support of the people who swept him into office 10 years ago. A fact that was clearly not lost on the prime minister as he prepared to say goodbye.

BLAIR: I give my thanks to you, the British people, for the times that I've succeeded, and my apologies to you for the times I've fallen short.

AMANPOUR (on camera): Tony Blair leaves office to take up a new role as special envoy to the Middle East peace process, but what's certain is that his legacy as a leader will forever be marred by an unpopular war and the sense here that he gave away Britain's support, but got nothing back in return.

Christiane Amanpour, CNN, London.


COOPER: Well, as Christiane said, Tony Blair's next job is already lined up. State Department officials and diplomats said today he'll become a special envoy for the Mid East quartet, working on economic and political reform for Palestinians.

Iraq, of course, is going to continue to be a problem for the region. And that's where we turn now.

Tony Blair was the only major ally the U.S. had in Iraq. So hat now?

CNN's Michael Ware joins me from Baghdad.

Michael, how important a role are British troops playing in Iraq?

MICHAEL WARE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, politically, they were the major ally, they were the face of what was supposed to be the international mandate supporting the U.S. mission here in Iraq. And in those political terms, I mean, the international community, the international public, their mandate for this U.S. war hangs by a thread anyway. So the loss of that major British presence will have a political impact.

Militarily, the British troops have had to take control of southern Iraq. Well, from the beginning, that was mission impossible, Anderson. They were never going to be any more than a holding action.

And indeed, we've seen in the southern capital of Basra, the oil rich port city, British forces have all but been driven from that city by militia forces in Iranian backed political factions. Indeed, we saw the international crisis group describe their recent withdrawal as ignominious defeat in the eyes of the militias.

So militarily, it really doesn't help make America's impossible mission any that much more impossible anyway.

COOPER: Let's talk about America's mission. The White House emphasized today U.S. forces taking part in the so-called surge have only recently arrived and that they say it's too early for any judgments.

And we've seen in the last couple weeks the White House and their emissaries backing -- or backtracking from that September evaluation date.

On the ground, the troops you talk with, the commanders you travel with, do they think the strategy is working so far?

WARE: Well, in their words, and in all honesty, it is too early to tell. I mean, however the White House has been trying to sell this to the American people, here on the ground it's been nothing but pragmatism.

From the commander of this war, U.S. General David Petraeus, down to field commanders, they've all said this is going to take time.

This surge is not a miracle solution. It was merely meant to be a wedge against the backslide into violence and into political factionalism that we've been seeing.

Now will it be that wedge against that backslide? In most -- in all reality, probably not. It's just stemming what's already a rolling tide.

And let's be aware, while America is surging with its 30,000 troops, Iranian backed forces are surging in their violence and al Qaeda is surging in its violence. Both of these parties, all of these players, are looking to skew the figures that will be used in September to judge the surge -- Anderson.

COOPER: And in terms of sectarian killings, do those continue to rise?

WARE: Oh, absolutely. We've had hundreds and hundreds die this month alone. And that's purely in terms of tortured and executed bodies found on the streets of Iraq. That does not include those dying in even more hundreds as a result of car bombings, as a result of al Qaeda attacks, as a result of other kinds of sectarian violence. So no, it's not getting any better -- Anderson.

COOPER: Michael Ware, bleak words to stand on. But Michael, thank you.

As support for President Bush has fallen, so has Blair's. Here's the raw data.

In the wake of 9/11, Bush had an approval rating of nearly 90 percent. It's fallen steadily since then. It's now hovering at an all-time low of about 32 percent or less, depending on who's doing the polling.

The downward slide is virtually identical for Tony Blair. He leaves office with about a 32 percent approval rating.

Straight ahead tonight, a story that has everyone asking why. What moved a pro wrestler to kill his wife, his child and then himself? There's also another bigger question that may be related, what is it drugs, steroids, a lifestyle that makes pro wrestling so much deadlier out of the arena than other sports? We'll take a look.


COOPER (voice-over): It's all a show, except for the dying.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Ruling it as a double homicide suicide.

COOPER: Pro wrestlers dying young, heart attacks, suicide. What's going on? We'll investigate.

His office was in a castle and he ran it like a king.

PABLO EISENBERG, GEORGETOWN UNIVERSITY CENTER ON NON-PROFITS: He was disrespectful in the fact that he had a public trust.

COOPER: The public's trust and the public's money -- your money. See what the former head of the Smithsonian -- your Smithsonian -- allegedly did with your tax dollars. We're keeping them honest.



COOPER (on camera): You know, we generally don't to sports stories here at 360, and that's why when we first heard yesterday about a pro wrestler and his family found dead, we decided we wouldn't cover it.

Then we started digging and learned the details of what happened, how the former wrestling champion Chris Benoit reportedly strangled his wife, smothered his 7-year-old son and then hanged himself.

We also learned that police found drugs and steroids in the home.

There was more. We also uncovered a brutal reality of wrestling and how this tragedy is really just the latest in a series of tragedies and deaths to shake the profession.

That's when we decided this was a story we couldn't possibly ignore.

CNN's David Mattingly has details.


DAVID MATTINGLY, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Before the 40- year-old pro wrestler Chris Benoit murdered his family and took his own life, he was at the top of a profession where stars seem to die young.

A 2004 investigation by "USA Today" determined that professional wrestlers are 20 times more likely to die before age 45 than professional football players.

At least 27 active or retired pro wrestlers have reportedly died just since 1995. Two were suicides. Five died from heart disease, and four from drug use.

BRIAN CHRISTOPHER, PROFESSIONAL WRESTLER: Me being a wrestler, I think if you make it to 45, you're doing pretty good.

MATTINGLY: The pro wrestler known as Brian Christopher is the son of wrestling legend Jerry Lawler. He says 11 of his wrestling friends have died. Most, he suspects, were victims of a punishing lifestyle.

CHRISTOPHER: Well, in wrestling, there is no off-season. It's constant go, always go, go, go, wrestle, you know, and be prepared to lace up your boots and wrestle the next night. I don't care if you've got a cracked rib and a broken finger. You know, you better be able to walk down that aisle and perform the next night.

MATTINGLY: In his biography on the World Wrestling Entertainment Web site, Benoit was reported as saying: wrestling has consumed my life, and it defines a lot of who I am as a person.

Benoit was once arrested in Georgia for DUI. He had no other criminal record.

(on camera): But Georgia authorities say they found a lot of prescription medication in the Benoit home, including anabolic steroids. Tests to determine what drugs, if any, were in Benoit's body will take weeks. (voice-over): Nicknamed the Rabid Wolverine and the Canadian Crippler, Chris Benoit starred on a stage steeped in drama and violence. But what authorities found in his home proved to be more tragic and brutal than anything inside the ring.

David Mattingly, CNN, New York.


COOPER: As you just heard, pro wrestler Brian Christopher says he knew several wrestlers who died in recent years, most, he says, from a punishing lifestyle.

Brian joins me now.

Brian, thanks for being with us.

You knew Chris Benoit for 15 years. What kind of guy was he in the ring and out?

CHRISTOPHER: Well, what kind of guy he was, he was very intense. You know, when you said -- I heard that you said wrestling had consumed his life. That was -- one of the things about Chris was, he was always thinking about wrestling. He was thinking about his opponent that night.

You know, when you were talking to him in the locker room, he's the type of guy that would drop and start doing 25 pushups. You know, he -- wrestling had consumed his life. And I think it was a little bit to do with his size. He was really, really concerned about his size. He wanted to always -- you know, he wasn't the tallest of individuals. So, he would always want to bulk up and be the size of guy that could compete in the main event type of matches. And...

COOPER: Well, police say they found steroids and other -- a lot of prescription drugs in his home. Do you think that drug use, that desire to bulk up, had anything to do with his death, or did it affect his lifestyle?

CHRISTOPHER: Well, also, now, I can also say you need to check those bottles and see the expiration date, you know, because recently, they have cracked down -- I can personally tell you that they have cracked down on steroid use, drug use, you know, of all types.

Last time I went to an event -- I'm not currently under contract with any major wrestling organization right now. But last time I went to an event, you know, a lot of wrestlers came running up to me and said, oh, man, you know, we get -- we get random drug testing, you know, worse than you hear about baseball and football players nowadays.

COOPER: There is, though, a -- a constant need to -- to keep size. I mean, whether it's Chris Benoit, or -- I mean, the people who really succeed, I mean, some of the sizes of these guys, they're enormous. I mean, how -- whether it's in the past or now, how prevalent do you think steroid use has been?

CHRISTOPHER: In the past? Well, I have been wrestling 19 years. And I grew up -- grew up in wrestling. So, I have seen just about everything.

You know, this is the only job I have ever had. And steroid use, I would say -- when you say in the past, I would say maybe 12 years ago, 10 years ago, it was -- it was pretty bad. But, you know, the -- the drug policies were a little different now.

Now, with -- with all the steroid talk in baseball, and things like that, most of them have -- have cracked down on it. And now it's -- I was pulled off to the side and also told, it's not about the size anymore. You know, they're not -- they're -- they're making sure that most of the wrestlers live a good lifestyle and stay away from steroids and things like that.

COOPER: It is stunning. You know, this "USA Today" article was saying that 20 -- that pro wrestlers are 20 percent more likely to die before the age of 45 than pro football players.

What is the lifestyle like? I mean, how difficult is it...


CHRISTOPHER: It's a tough...


COOPER: ... just dealing with the pain?

CHRISTOPHER: It's an unbelievable lifestyle. It takes a very unique individual to become a professional wrestler.

But those articles that you're reading, also, I couldn't tell you how many of those wrestlers were retired. You know, I heard you run the little piece of me saying, if you live to be 45 in the wrestling business, you're doing good.

What I meant was, if you're -- if you live to be 45 years old and still competing in wrestling, you're doing very good, you know? You know, wrestling....


COOPER: But you have lost 11 -- you said you lost 11 friends from wrestling that you know about. That's a lot for, you know, people under the age of 45, for young people.

CHRISTOPHER: That is a lot, but I have a lot of friends.

I say that all -- all wrestlers in general are my friend, because we -- we view wrestling -- once you get to a certain point, as a family relationship with everything. So, you know, I have known a lot of wrestlers, but some -- like, Owen Hart, you know, his death was certainly not anything to do with drugs or steroids. Now, I know that...

COOPER: A lot of -- a lot of the folks who have died have died from heart disease or an enlarged heart, which is certainly uncommon for someone young.

We're out of time, but, Brian, I appreciate you being on, Brian Christopher, talking about Chris Benoit.

Thanks so much, Brian.


If there is a dark side to pro wrestling, there is also a lot of dollars, a lot of dollars to the sport. Here's the raw data.

Fiscal year 2006, that's through April, the WWE reported revenues of $400 million. Their audience is massive. An estimated 20 million per week watch professional wrestling on TV and in sports arenas, a massive audience, indeed.

Now, here's Kiran Chetry with what's coming up on -- tomorrow on "AMERICAN MORNING."


KIRAN CHETRY, CO-HOST, "AMERICAN MORNING": Some familiar old friends are making a comeback, Anderson. Rambo, Indiana Jones, and "Die Hard" Detective John McClane are back on the big screen. Action heroes never die in the movies, but can actors in their 60s really pull it off?

We are going to find out tomorrow on "AMERICAN MORNING," beginning at 6:00 a.m. Eastern -- Anderson, back to you.


COOPER: Kiran, thanks.

Up next, a new poll that shows how Americans really feel about the war in Iraq, and it is not pretty.

Also ahead, what was she thinking? Call me crazy, but I don't think strutting out of prison is really the best way to start rebuilding that image. Yes.


(MUSIC: "Everybody Wants to Rule the World")

COOPER: Not exactly a subtle message from Carolyn from D.C. She thinks "Everybody Wants to Rule the World" by Tears for Fears would be the perfect theme for 360's political coverage this year.

We continue to get a lot of submissions -- all right, enough with the Tears for Fears, please. We want more before narrowing the field down to the final three. So just logon to and give us your idea for a song.

As for tonight the Republican's pro-choice candidate tries to woo Pat Robertson. The question is, is he courting trouble?

CNN's Tom Foreman has the meeting and more in "Raw Politics."


TOM FOREMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Anderson, there is one thing that Democrats fear the most from Republican Rudy Giuliani. And that is that he will cozy up to conservatives while somehow keeping a hold of his moderate base. But that is precisely what he's trying to do.

(voice-over): At Pat Robertson's Regent University, Giuliani, who supports abortion rights, met with thousands of conservatives who do not. So his message? Hey, this election can't be just about that.

RUDY GIULIANI (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: And if this is a one issue election, it's about remaining on offense against terrorists.

FOREMAN: The "Raw Politics" betting line? If enough conservatives buy that argument to give him the nomination, and he can hold moderate voters on social issues, Giuliani could have a strong hand in the general election.

Watch for the Democrats to start shuffling their own cards, if this works.

Dealing from the bottom. We've got the latest CNN poll on how the war is being handled, and the numbers are all bad. Sixty-seven percent oppose the war; 54 percent say it's not morally justified. About as many say it's getting worse.

And what is 32 percent? That's the approval rating for President Bush these days. Only Carter, Nixon, Truman and the first President Bush saw lower numbers.

Looking for big numbers, Democrat Hillary Clinton wining and dining with some big money types, including uber-wealthy Warren Buffett. We'll see if he picks up the tab or kicks in for her campaign.

And the land that time forgot., a big liberal advocacy group, jumping all over a top Democrat. MoveOn has a new radio spot that says Michigan Congressman John Dingell, the head of the Energy Committee, is a dinosaur, Dingellsaurus, for blocking efforts to combat global warming.

(on camera): The press person for the Energy Committee says, to the contrary, Mr. Dingell is working to help the environment and MoveOn has simply got its facts wrong -- Anderson.

(END VIDEOTAPE) COOPER: That's "Raw Politics." Tom, thanks.

Starting next month, presidential candidates are going to have to answer your questions at the CNN/YouTube debates. The Democrats face off July 23; Republicans debate September 17. You can learn more about the debates and how to submit your questions at Be creative.

We're continuing to follow breaking developments on the massive wildfire threatening property and people near Lake Tahoe. We'll go back to the fire lines shortly.

Also ahead, these stories.


COOPER (voice-over): His office was in a castle, and he ran it like a king.

PABLO EISENBERG, GEORGETOWN UNIVERSITY, CENTER ON NON-PROFITS: He was disrespectful of the fact that we had a public trust.

COOPER: The public's trust and the public's money -- your money. See what the former head of the Smithsonian -- your Smithsonian -- allegedly did with your tax dollars. We're keeping them honest.

Plus, something you've never seen before. No one has. A newly discovered species, in a "Planet in Peril." See it first on 360.



COOPER: There is breaking news in Northern California tonight where fierce wildfires jumped a fire line. It's now threatening more buildings -- 1,000 buildings in all.

The Angora fire has been burning now for two days south of Lake Tahoe. It's already destroyed more than 2,700 acres, at least 275 homes and other buildings.

Firefighters had the blaze was 40 percent contained. Then things took a turn for the worse a short time ago.

Joining me again from Meyers, California, is Kara Finnstrom.

Kara, what happened?

FINNSTROM: Well, the winds picked up.

Right now we're coming to you from one of the neighborhoods which has been hit hardest. And the fear is that we're going to see more of this, more of these gutted cars and more of these gutted homes. Just complete devastation in this neighborhood.

What happened this afternoon was those winds shifted, and they picked up strength. They started blowing in a new direction. And right now, there are some mandatory evacuations under way in South Lake Tahoe neighborhoods.

Crews going door to door, knocking on doors, asking families to leave and those families scurrying to gather up what they can and get out of town as quickly as possible.

The winds have been very volatile, shifting. Firefighters saying it's just really hard to predict what will happen next with this blaze.

But to give you an idea, back here live, of the intensity of this fire, you can see this car here, this shell of a van. Take a look at this. This is actually metal that just melted off the front of this van, and then just kind of pooled up and dropped on the floor.

So extremely intense, hot flames that they've been dealing with here.

COOPER: Unbelievable. Kara, appreciate the reporting. Kara Finnstrom reporting from the fire line.

On the "Keeping Them Honest" beat now, we've come across some pretty brazen stories. This one is right up there with them, with the best of them.

The Smithsonian Institution has been called the keeper of America's treasure -- our treasures. Its 18 museums are filled with gems of art, science and culture.

Then, of course, there's the National Zoo with its famous giant pandas.

But now the keeper of all that treasure is engulfed in a giant scandal that may have cost taxpayers millions of dollars. In a Senate hearing room today, the focus was on one man's greed and watchdogs asleep on the job.

Here's CNN's Joe Johns, "Keeping Them Honest".


JOE JOHNS, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The vast Smithsonian institution has a billion-dollar budget and you, the taxpayers, pay most of it. And evidence is mounting that this guy, Lawrence Small, who ran all of it from a castle-like Smithsonian building, was actually operating like a king.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He came out of Wall Street, if you keep that in mind, and they live this kind of life up there, you know, limousines all the time, going first class.

JOHNS: Not to mention, private jets, lavish parties, and a salary that far exceeded the compensation of people who held the job before him. Small started out seven years ago making $536,000. By the time he resigned, he was up to $915,000, including perks, according to a new report examining his royal treatment.

(on camera): One of the perks Small got for taking the job was a six-figure housing allowance, allowing him to use this house, his personal residence, for official Smithsonian hospitality.

In the year 2000, that housing allowance started out at about $150,000 a year. By 2007, it was up to almost $200,000.

(voice-over): The report said Small rarely used his house for entertaining, that the allowance was actually a way to increase his pay.

Why such a big salary? His bosses, the Smithsonian board, thought with Small's street connections, he'd be a fundraising superstar, but that report said with Small, private fundraising actually went down, not up.

All of the controversy comes down to money, not only what the Smithsonian paid him, but from what he earned elsewhere at the same time.

Small also earned almost $643,000 in cash, $3.5 million in stock, and another $1.8 million in stock options, by serving on two corporate boards.

So how could Small do all of this while ruling the Smithsonian kingdom? By taking time off, of course -- 64 days of leave to work for the boards, and that's apparently in addition to the 10 weeks of vacation he took almost every year he worked at the castle.

PABLO EISENBERG, GEORGETOWN UNIVERSITY CENTER ON NON-PROFITS: He was disrespectful of the fact that he had a public trust. I think he tried to be greedy and get every penny he could, serving on two outside corporation boards, not spending sufficient time at the Smithsonian.

JOHNS: But, like any good story about royalty, there's a twist. It appears all of Small's actions were allowable under the deal he had with his bosses, the Smithsonian's board of regents. And as it happens, one of them was on Capitol Hill today, trying to explain how they let this happen.

There's been a lot of talk about the board in the past being asleep at the switch.


JOHNS: But I haven't heard the response.

SANT: Oh, we -- I think we said we were. You know, we agreed, you know, when we saw the evidence that some of the thing we'd missed, we just said yes, that's an appropriate title. We are, nonetheless, feel like it's our responsibility to change that. JOHNS: Lawrence Small didn't return our calls. He did say in his resignation letter that accusations about his compensation were baseless, and he suggested he was leaving because of Congressional meddling at Smithsonian.

But "Keeping Them Honest," that kingdom where America's treasures are kept is now taking a long, hard look at who gets the crown next time.

Joe Johns, CNN, Washington.


COOPER: Got to give that guy credit for at least admitting, you know what? Yes, we were asleep at the switch. You don't hear that very often.

Up next on 360, Wildlife Biologist Jeff Corwin on the other side of the world with an amazing discovery that really none of us expected.


COOPER: In our "Planet in Peril" series, we have something pretty cool for you tonight. It comes at a price, however. It is from Madagascar.

Wildlife Biologist Jeff Corwin and our team have been on the island for a few days now. They're showing us how the ecosystem and the animals in one of the most breathtaking and rarest places on earth are literally vanishing before our eyes.

In giving us the disturbing facts from Madagascar, we came across what may be a new species. If so, tonight, you'll be among the very first to see it.

Here's Jeff's report.


JEFF CORWIN, WILDLIFE BIOLOGIST (voice-over): This stretch of habitat belongs to the Adrafiomina (ph) Forest, and it's quickly disappearing.

It really is a state of urgency, isn't it, with a place like this?

RUSS MITTERMEIER, PRESIDENT, CONSERVATION INTERNATIONAL: Absolutely. You have logging activity going on here. You let that continue, within five or 10 years this forest will look like a lot of the devastated areas that we've flown over the past couple of days.

CORWIN: The scientists working here are in hopes they can provide the scientific evidence, the proof to why this forest should be protected. One of the best ways to do that, through a rapid assessment program, or RAP. MITTERMEIER: Well, the whole idea of RAP is to show that this is not just a wasteland, but it is, in fact, one of the richest and most diverse systems on our planet.

CORWIN: The objective of a RAP survey like this is to bring together a wide range of scientists who can quickly assess the biological diversity of the area.

MITTERMEIER: If we don't get the information quickly, we're going to lose the opportunity to set aside these areas while they still exist.

CORWIN: And it is by no means easy. These scientists live and work in the field around the clock for two to four weeks at a time, attempting to gather data.

Trekking through this dense foliage in the heat, going up steep hills, just gives you a bit of a sense of the everyday challenges these biologists face as they go into the field to do their job, to census the wildlife that lives here.

Now despite what you may think, it is not easy catching a gecko.

OK. I'm feeling better, because he's even managed to escape from Bertram's experienced digits.

I see him. I see him.

Eventually, after lots of effort, I was able to get face-to-face with this very unique lizard.

Look at this gorgeous, gorgeous lizard. I mean, he is as emerald and as green as the foliage which basically swallows him up. You can see how an animal like this would be so hard to spot.

And it was our lucky day.

On this piece of timber, on this old tree, we found three distinct species of gecko.

But one of these geckos in particular is incredibly special.

We have this tiny little gecko. This specimen is no more than an inch in length. Its color, rather drab, but it is spectacular in that it's a mystery. We don't know who it is. We don't even know what the genus is.

But there's a very real possibility that this could be completely novel, something totally new.

It will be a number of months before other taxonomic scientists can confirm that this lizard is a new species. But just the mere possibility? Well, it is a biologist's dream. Such discoveries of new life like this are rare in other places in the world, but here in Madagascar, they are an everyday possibility.

Jeff Corwin, Adrafiomina (ph), Madagascar.


COOPER: Amazing discovery.

Up next on 360, she was a victim of human trafficking and now she is dedicating her life to saving other victims. We'll introduce you to this CNN hero.


COOPER: There are people all around us everyday who are doing extraordinary things to make our world better. And all this year we're bringing you some of their stories. We're calling these people CNN heroes.

Tonight, we take to you Washington, D.C., where one woman is on call 24/7 to help victims of human trafficking here in America.

Tina Frundt is tonight's CNN hero.



TINA FRUNDT, CNN HERO: Men, women and children are being sold each day for somebody else's profit.

I think when we hear about trafficking, we automatically think about what goes on overseas. However, our own children in the U.S. are being forced out everyday at 9 years old, 10 years old, 11 years old and 12 years old.


Today, there are an estimated 200,000 - 300,000 children immediately at risk for sexual exploitation in the United States.

Exploited children are defined as victims of human trafficking.


"KITTY," AGE 17: They beat you, they make you go out there, make you stay out all night. They really don't care. You could be 9 years old and you could work for them.

"ANGELA," AGE 21: People are raped and beaten into submission to do it. You can be killed and, you know, it wouldn't really make a difference to other people because other people would think of you as just a prostitute.

FRUNDT: My name is Tina Frundt. I'm a survivor of child trafficking within the United States at the age 14.

In my situation, I was a child and a grown adult who was in his 20s started paying attention to me, telling me how beautiful I was, picking me up from middle school. I found out that he was actually a pimp by going with him to another state.

Some of the things I went through, was manipulation, the violence and the abuse.

I went through it, so that's why I think I'm so dedicated to helping others.

And I'm the director of Outreach for Polaris Project and I fight to end human trafficking.

I don't want what happened to me happen to somebody else.

What we do is offer services to women and children who want to get out.

Basically, our outreach program started 2-1/2 years ago. We go out to the street and hand out information. We actually go into the courtroom and do outreach. We take clients of all ages. Our youngest client has been 9. The oldest so far has been 40.


Tina and the Polaris Project have helped an estimated 500 trafficking victims through outreach and services.


We get the number, have them call any time, even if it's just to talk. Our lines are open 24 hours a day.

I think in this job you have to love what you do and have a passion for it because it's not a job to me, it's my life. And I couldn't imagine doing anything else.


COOPER: If you would like to learn more about Tina Frundt's organization, you can go to That's where you can also nominate your hero for special recognition later this year.

Some of your e-mails about tonight's stories, after the break.


COOPER: All right, time to check the 360 blog, get your thoughts on our story earlier this hour by Gary Tuchman. A look at how U.S. agents from Immigration and Customs Enforcement, or ICE, tracked down an illegal immigrant accused of murder in Mexico.

In reference to the 12 million illegals in the U.S., B. Clark in Decatur, Illinois, says, "OK, that leaves 11,999,999 to go and then we can start over."

Annie in Birmingham, Alabama, writes, "We're letting in criminals, terrorists, and others who will break the law to get in but we drag our heels on the ones that take the time and trouble to go through the legal process. Something is backwards here."

While Mark in Sacramento, California, says, "Good-bye! Good riddance! Good job ICE!! Soooo glad to hear 'good news' stories like this one!"

Well, we welcome your comments. To weigh in, logon to

For our international viewers, "CNN TODAY" is next.

Here in America, "LARRY KING" is coming up.


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