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THE SITUATION ROOM
Dozens Killed in NATO Airstrike; Homicide Probe in California Fire; Cheating Goes Global; Uproar Over President's School Speech
Aired September 4, 2009 - 17:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
SUZANNE MALVEAUX, CNN ANCHOR: Wolf Blitzer is off.
I'm Suzanne Malveaux.
And you're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
A NATO airstrike catches Taliban fighters out in the open. Dozens of people are killed, but it later turns out the death toll includes both insurgents and innocent villagers.
The allies are apologizing, but how much damage has been done to the Afghanistan war effort?
Let's go live to CNN Pentagon correspondent, Barbara Starr, to tell us what happened here -- Barbara?
BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Well, Suzanne, we now know that August was the worst month for U.S. troops in the war in Afghanistan -- the worst month ever. But this incident once again shows us that it is Afghan civilians who are continuing to pay a very heavy price.
STARR: (voice-over): At least 90 people, militants and civilians, were killed when NATO warplanes bombed these hijacked fuel trucks in Northern Afghanistan. Once more, Afghan citizens are burying their dead and NATO is apologizing for what may be another mistaken and controversial attack on civilians.
ANDERS FOGH RASMUSSEN, NATO SECRETARY GENERAL: The Afghan people should know that we are deeply committed to protecting them and that we will fully and immediately investigate this incident.
STARR: The hijacked trucks became stuck trying to cross a river, according to local officials. NATO called in an airstrike, believing there were no civilians near the trucks. But it's not clear why NATO didn't realize locals had rushed to the area to grab some of the fuel.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: How many in a platoon?
STARR: This attack comes at a sensitive time. The top commander, General Stanley McChrystal, curbed airstrikes to avoid civilian casualties, which had become a major flashpoint with Afghans. It's part of the effort to reshape the war, with the message that troops are there to keep people safe. GORDON BROWN, BRITISH PRIME MINISTER: Giving Afghans security matters more to them than anything else we or their government can offer. And General McChrystal has said the measure will be the number of Afghans shielded from violence, not the numbers of enemy killed.
STARR: Experts warn the safety of civilians will become even more important if the U.S. sends more troops to Afghanistan.
STEPHEN BIDDLE, COUNCIL ON FOREIGN RELATIONS: If they overuse force, if they overuse violence and they create too much damage to property and human life among innocent civilians in the area, then the civilians are going to be sufficiently disaffected that they won't provide the information that we need about who the Taliban is and where they are, even if they feel safe doing so.
(END VIDEO TAPE)
STARR: Now, NATO officials originally thought there were no civilians in the immediate area when the airstrike was called in. Clearly, that was wrong. And no one has yet explained why those trucks became such an urgent military target for airstrikes -- Suzanne.
MALVEAUX: Thank you.
Barbara Starr at the Pentagon.
Firefighters are making progress today against the massive wildfire that has scorched some 226 square miles of Southern California. Authorities have determined the fire was deliberately set and now homicide detectives are involved.
Let's go live to CNN's Brian Todd.
He's in Tujunga Canyon, California -- hey, Brian.
BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hi, Suzanne. You're right, they have determined that arson is the cause. Investigators not giving many indications of why they believe that is -- not many indications yet. We hope to get more of those later. And with this firefight being fought on so many different fronts, it is not as if the firefighters needed any more indications of just how serious this is. But just a few moments ago, they got one.
TODD: (voice-over): The remains of a fallen firefighter are driven past his saluting colleagues. His death and that of another firefighter mean the biggest wildfire in Los Angeles County history is now a homicide case. That's because investigators are now calling this arson. The incident commander adds another phrase.
CHIEF MIKE DIETRICH, INCIDENT COMMANDER: Any act of arson in the wild lands is domestic terrorism. That's my personal opinion. I believe that other folks have said that, because it affects communities, citizens, firefighters, law enforcement officers. And what else could it be?
TODD: This could be ground zero -- Mile Marker 29 on the Angeles Crest Highway in the Angeles National Forest -- roped off with red flags carefully placed. Veteran investigators tell us it's likely they believe this is the point of origin. Officials here are not commenting on a "Los Angeles Times" report that incendiary material was found here. The source for that information didn't specify what material that is.
Tom Fee, a former Pomona fire chief who has investigated thousands of wildfires all over the U.S. says it could be a change of things.
TOM FEE, WILDFIRE INVESTIGATOR: Probably they either found the match that was left there, the lighter that was left there, the incendiary device that was left there, the road flare that was used to start this fire.
TODD: Fee takes us through the CSI of wildfire investigations. Clues, he says, are everywhere.
FEE: Paper on the ground like this also becomes good indicators.
TODD: These, he says, are indicators of the direction the fire burned in at the point of origin.
An investigator on scene elaborates.
RITA WEARS, U.S. FOREST SERVICE: Indicators can be things such as burned rocks. It can be soil that's been damaged.
TODD: Fee says while these clues reveal the direction, arson is revealed by anything from something on the ground to a confession.
But another key question...
(on camera): In a territory that is the size of a major city, burned acreage for as far as the eye can see -- not only finding that point of origin, but determining that it's arson really fairly quickly, in a matter of days, how do they get to that point in just a few days?
FEE: Well, each fire is a little bit different. But the things that we use are early on aerial photographs, sometimes satellite photographs, witness statements. The firefighters that first arrived, they will know what the area involved was at the time they arrived.
(END VIDEO TAPE)
TODD: With those methods, he says, they can narrow down the point of origin to an acre or less -- maybe even a manmade object, like this burned out bottle or something else like it -- and comb through the scene with everything from sifters to dogs that are smelling for flammable material. And then, of course, Suzanne, they look for witnesses. MALVEAUX: All right. Brian Todd.
Thank you very much, Brian.
Jack Cafferty is in New York with The Cafferty File -- hey, Jack, what are you following?
CAFFERTY: Suzanne, New York Congressman Charlie Rangel played the race card in the health care debate. Rangel says racial bias and prejudice against President Obama because he's an African-American are behind the opposition to health care reform.
Here's a quote: "Some Americans have not gotten over the fact that Obama is president of the United States. They go to sleep wondering, how did this happen?"
It's a cheap shot and it's probably about the last thing President Obama needs in the already heated debate over health care reform. And it's even more of a cheap shot coming from Charlie Rangel, considering the fact that the chairman of the powerful House Ways and Means Committee is under investigation for several ethics violations. Mr. Rangel was forced to file amended financial reports to the House Ethics Committee after it was discovered that he apparently forgot to report millions of dollars in assets and income.
Just another hack politician who when the going gets tough resorts to race politics.
"The Washington Post" is calling on Rangel to resign his committee chairmanship. I'm not sure he's going to go anywhere, though, anymore than Governor Mark Sanford of South Carolina or Larry Craig of Idaho or any of a growing number of so-called public servants who use their elected office as a way of avoiding the rules the rest of us live by.
For his part, Rangel says it's not fair for him to comment until the Ethics Committee wraps up its investigation.
Fair enough. But in the meantime, he should just go away.
Here's the question -- is Congressman Charlie Rangel -- up to his ears in ethics investigations -- out of line saying race is at the center of the health care debate?
Go to CNN.com/caffertyfile and you can post a comment on my blog -- Suzanne.
MALVEAUX: Thank you, Jack.
CAFFERTY: Well, was there a deal?
The son of Libya's Colonel Gadhafi talks about Britain's release of the Lockerbie bomber -- a CNN exclusive.
Plus, man overboard -- we've got dramatic new pictures, as a passenger falls off of one cruise ship and is rescued by another. And are students more tempted to cheat now because the Internet makes it easier?
As cheating goes global, I'll speak with CNN's newest contributor.
MALVEAUX: All kinds of jobs are outsourced overseas these days, but apparently now even the writing of college essays.
Our Carol Costello -- she tells us about a new way of good old- fashioned cheating.
CAROL COSTELLO, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Suzanne, I wondered how many of nation's college students were cheating and who was helping them do it.
Here's a hint -- millions of America's students are outsourcing their brains.
COSTELLO: (voice-over): Look at the word -- cheater. It's awful. But educators say many students would rather cheat than fail.
This young woman, who asked us not to use her name or university, was a cheater.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: And a lot of students, they feel very stressed and pressured. And they kind of get cornered. And they trap themselves or they -- they mentally trap themselves and they feel like they have no other way out, so then they cheat.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Identify the underlying ethical...
COSTELLO: The University of California San Diego actually has a mandatory seminar for students who cheat. Six hundred took part this year. It used to be American students would pay Americans to cheat for them. Today, often unbeknownst to the American cheater, he or she is going online to outsource their brains to places as far away as Pakistan and India.
PROF. TRICIA BETRAM-GALLENT, UNIVERSITY OF CALIFORNIA, SAN DIEGO: Of course that's contributing to -- to making America and other societies dumber, quote, unquote, because they're not learning how to do the work themselves and how to communicate.
COSTELLO: One man from the Philippines who did not want to be identified says he's written dozens of term papers for American students.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's unethical. But, you know, I come from a Third World country. It's good pay. The temptation is really big.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: How much did they pay you? UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I got as much as $15 a page. It was a topic on the state of the U.S. economy in 1950.
COSTELLO: (on camera): So I'm on this site called Best Essays. And they say right on the site: "We work hard to provide academic excellence."
(voice-over): And it says it's provided students with original papers since 1997. So, I request a three page paper on Jason Blair, the former reporter who was fired after making up stories for "The New York Times." The total cost for a three page paper...
(on camera): It's going to cost me $80.97.
(voice-over): Best Essay is not the only so-called Internet paper mill. There are literally hundreds of them online. It becomes such a problem, more than a dozen states have made such services illegal, yet they thrive.
(on camera): What these companies are doing isn't legal here, yet they survive.
Why do you think that is?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Because they are not based in the United States. They're based in Ukraine. They try to make it appear that the company is based in the U.S. But, no, it's not. They're only making it appear so that the students will sign up and place their orders.
VICTOR GUEVARA, HERNDON, VIRGINIA HOMEOWNER: We have absolutely no connection to this company.
COSTELLO: Victor Guevara lives in this house in Virginia. For years, his address was listed as the home of EssayWriters.net -- a site that recruits writers to write term papers. Virginia authorities tell us Guevara and his house have nothing to do with the site.
GUEVARA: I still receive mail for them -- credit card statements or invoices from people who have written for them and gotten ripped off. I have one here from Kenya.
COSTELLO: Virginia authorities tell us there is little they can do, since these paper mill sites can be headquartered in places like the Ukraine or anywhere in the world.
So as long as that word cheater continues to be OK with so many students, Internet paper mills will continue to thrive and American brains will continue to get dumber.
(END VIDEO TAPE)
COSTELLO: I did receive my completed essay from Best Essay. And when we asked them about their product, they told us it was meant to be reference material, not a paper to be turned into a professor. But that's what it looked like to me -- three pages complete with references -- Suzanne.
MALVEAUX: Thank you, Carol.
Are students more tempted to cheat now because the Internet makes it easier?
Joining me, our newest CNN contributor, editor and author, Dr. Steve Perry.
Thank you so much for joining us here in THE SITUATION ROOM.
In your experience as an educator, what have you seen?
Is it more likely now that students are cheating because it's easier, through the Internet and other means?
PERRY: It's com -- it's extremely easy. Students can lift entire sections of essays or the essay itself. But what it requires is that the teachers are more creative in the assignments that they create. They can't simply use what they used before.
When a teacher is not responsible to the -- to the needs of the children, children may find themselves lazy.
But on the other side of it, I find it most with some of the most talented children. They get to a point where the expectations of them to be successful are so profound, that they don't ever want to ever fail. They don't want to disappoint -- they don't want to be seen as a kid who is not good in school.
So they'll go the extra mile and they will cheat. And what's even worse about it, if they spent the same amount of time they did lifting someone else's paper, they probably would have written a good paper.
MALVEAUX: Secretary of Education Arne Duncan, he has come out with a number of possible recommendations to improve the education of -- of American students. And he talks about the fact that perhaps there should be year round school -- that students should be in the whole year.
Do you think that that's a good idea -- a good solution, to keep classes in school longer?
PERRY: The research is very clear. The school that we've started that sends 100 percent of its graduates on to four years colleges is a year round school. When you can get the teachers unions out of the way and you can begin having a dialogue about what the research and what practice shows us, what you will find is that the overwhelming majority of Americans, in fact, want year round school.
What they want is access to -- to class that continues, because the rest of the economy goes year round. Imagine, if you will, hairdressers and mechanics taking the year off -- the summer off, or physicians taking the summer off. The only people who are taking the summers are off educators. And that's unfortunate because the preparation for a year round, full contact economy doesn't take place.
MALVEAUX: What do you think of the whole controversy, the president addressing school kids next Tuesday, that some parents think that this is indoctrinating their children?
PERRY: I don't know what's controversial about having the president of the United States available to the children. Every single book that they have that's in history that has to deal with the United States government deals with a president.
I think that what has to happen is we have to begin to put in place the context in which these comments are coming from. I don't necessarily have to support the president's opinion, but I have to know that in school, we have to have both discourse and, in some cases, discord, in order to have a -- an educated electorate. It was Benjamin Franklin who said that an educated electorate is, in fact, key to a full democracy.
How can we have an educated electorate when we don't allow children to see their president in the middle of the day -- as a matter of fact, at 12:00, which is during lunch?
MALVEAUX: All right. Dr. Steve Perry, thank you so much.
And welcome to CNN as a contributor.
PERRY: Thank you, Suzanne.
MALVEAUX: Thank you.
Shark sightings at a popular vacation spot -- officials are urging beachgoers to be extra vigilant. We're going to bring you that.
Plus, a college football game ends with a punch -- what made the star running back snap?
Stay with us.
You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
MALVEAUX: Deborah Feyerick is monitoring the stories that are coming into THE SITUATION ROOM right now -- hey, Deb, what are you following?
FEYERICK: Hey, there, Suzanne.
Well, first, a bleak jobs report out today. The unemployment rate hit 9.7 percent last month, as companies cut 216,000 jobs. The number of jobs lost since the recession began at the end of 2007 is now closing in on 7.5 million, with unemployment at the highest rate since June of 1983.
However, as the White House notes, the pace of cuts is easing. Nearly three quarters of a million jobs were lost in January alone.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JOSEPH BIDEN, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Less bad is not good. That's not how President Obama and I measure success. We're not going to be satisfied, any more than the governor is or anyone else is, until we start adding, not losing, thousands of jobs per month. But one of the tools to get us to that point is the Recovery Act.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
FEYERICK: Now, the Obama administration is warning that unemployment could still hit 10 percent.
And sharp warnings for Cape Cod -- people planning to visit the beach this holiday weekend are being urged to be extra vigilant. The reason -- several large sharks have been seen swimming offshore near a seal habitat. Shark attacks are rare, but officials say they certainly don't want to take any chances.
And emotions get the best of a college football player. Watch as Oregon running back LeGarette Blount throws a post-game punch after the final whistle right across the jaw of Boise State's Byron Hout, who apparently heckled Blount after Boise won last night's game. Teammates had to restrain him. Oregon University called the behavior "reprehensible" and has suspended the player for a year -- Suzanne.
MALVEAUX: All right. Thank you, Deb.
Well, President Obama will give a speech to school kids.
Is there anything wrong with that?
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He might be introducing some of his agenda, which, as a conservative parent, I -- I don't agree with.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MALVEAUX: Why some critics are up in arms about the presidential address.
Plus, paying bribes is second nature in Baghdad -- we have got the undercover surveillance pictures.
Will the next Iraq War be fought against corruption?
And did Libya and Britain make a deal for the release of the Lockerbie bomber?
We've got an exclusive interview with the son of Libya's Colonel Gadhafi.
MALVEAUX: You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
Happening now, a news organization is slammed after publishing a photo of a Marine's final moments of life -- what the Marine's family and the Pentagon have to say.
Two huge radio towers toppled -- are environmental extremists responsible and how was the attack carried out?
And a group of cargo pilots raise a stink over their work conditions. You won't believe what they have to do and when they have to go.
I'm Suzanne Malveaux.
And you're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
President Obama plans a nationwide speech to students next week. He will urge them to study hard.
So why are some conservative critics and parents so upset?
Our CNN White House correspondent, Dan Lothian -- he's been looking into this -- and, Dan, give us a sense of what is behind all of this anger.
DAN LOTHIAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Suzanne, you know, this really started when talk radio started fanning the flames and it took off like wildfire. Now, some parents are angry and school districts are caught in the middle.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, COURTESY KHOU)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Education matters.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
LOTHIAN (voice-over): Past presidents have spoken to schoolchildren before, but it was the homework that the Obama administration gave to students ahead of a back to school address that sparked a revolt.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: That he might be introducing some of his agenda, which, as a conservative parent, I -- I don't agree with.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: My rights as a parent are being circumvented so that this president can speak to my children.
LOTHIAN: The Department of Education had suggested that students be assigned to "write letters to themselves about what they can do to help the president." He, in turn, plans to encourage them to stay in school.
But some conservatives say Mr. Obama is pushing propaganda on schoolchildren. Jim Greer, the head of Florida's Republican Party, even accused the president of turning to kids to spread his liberal line.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP FROM "CAMPBELL BROWN")
JIM GREER, CHAIRMAN, REPUBLICAN PARTY OF FLORIDA: I think the president has enough to do focusing on the economy and finding jobs for Americans than writing lesson plans out of the Oval Office.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
LOTHIAN: School officials across the country scrambled to address the problem. The Salt Lake City district advised teachers to notify parents if they planned on airing the address in class and allow students to opt out. Similar moves in states like Colorado, Florida, Minnesota, Kentucky and Virginia.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: So will I send my child?
I don't know. Right now, I would say no, I'll keep him home.
LOTHIAN: Reacting to the uproar, White House Spokesman Robert Gibbs said: "I think we've reached a little bit of the silly season, when the president of the United States can't tell kids in school to study hard and stay in school."
Some people agree, seeing the address as inspiring, not political.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I think any time that someone talks about education and kids staying in school, there's no other motivation for that.
(END VIDEO TAPE)
LOTHIAN: The administration did acknowledge some confusion, so they tweaked the lesson plan. Now, rather than letters from these kids on -- on what they could do to help the president, they're now being asked to write about their education goals and how they can achieve them. And to further to allay fears, the White House plans to release the president's speech online on Monday so that parents can read it -- Suzanne.
MALVEAUX: OK. Thank you, Dan.
Well, the White House writes it off as "silly season," but do critics of the president's back to school address -- do they have a point?
Well, joining me, CNN political contributor and Democratic strategist, James Carville, along with Republican strategist, Tony Blankley.
I want to just ask, what -- what is the problem here?
TONY BLANKLEY, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: Well, look, I think, this is an -- an example of another unforced error by the White House staff. And as your setup said, it was when they asked them -- the kids -- to start talking about, you know, how much they admired him or were inspired by him.
Here's the thing, every president has image vulnerabilities, whether they're fair or unfair. I worked for Reagan. People thought he didn't know the facts and didn't bother to read stuff. So we were always careful not to play into that. Obama has certain images that were set up last year, Hillary talking about it on "Saturday Night Live," whether it's valid or not, you would -- a smart white house staff would avoid those kinds of problems. By playing into those fears and those characterizations they turn what would have been a nice little positive event into the president into a meddling negative event for him.
CARVILLE: Well, first of all, the stuff -- the lesson plan was hard work, responsibility and do your homework or something like that. It wasn't anything political, but, look, there's a lot of stupid people in this country and a lot of people believe anything they are told and that's something we have to live with. I was watching television on CNBC. You actually had a work ask a guy if he liked Medicare so much why aren't you and he said I'm 44 years old and she didn't understand that so it's just something we've got to deal with, but the president's thing was going to talk about like study hard. He's a guy whose mother got up at 4:30 and read to him and it's going to be completely innocuous but you just have to deal with it. There's nothing you can do about stupidity. You just have to live with it.
BLANKLEY: Stupidity is all the way around.
BLANKLEY: I think the white house spokesman doubled down on stupid when he they be said that all these Americans are upset using the word silly season. You know, that's just not shrewd on the part of the white house staff. They should have simply said we didn't communicate effectively. We're sorry. This is all the president plans to do. Instead they insult a good percentage of the American public. Why do you do it?
MALVEAUX: Do you think that's arrogance on their part?
BLANKLEY: It's not smart. I don't know what motivates them but it's clearly not the smart play for them. They are trying to make the president look better with as many Americans as possible, not worse.
MALVEAUX: Should there be a certain level of the president of the United States, the office, the post, just have to somebody go and address schoolchildren? BLANKLEY: Presidents get as much respect as they gain. You know, that's the political reality. People -- the public is going to react any way they want whether it's to Bush or anybody else.
MALVEAUX: Do you think that he hasn't gained respect? James, why are you laughing?
CARVILLE: Well, look, you've got Bertha is out there. You're going to -- people that are willing to just believe anything that they are told, and I -- the idea that the president of the United States who is sort of a testament, like him or not as to what education can do for somebody is going to like talk to your kids. If somebody is uncomfortable with it, check your kid out of school and check in with your local mental health professional
BLANKLEY: Let me compare -- let me compare this, James, to Bill Clinton. You know, you were Bill Clinton's guy. I don't remember him ever insulting any part of American population. He always found something positive to say, whether they were people in the Appalachians or people in the inner city. He always was positive about them. That was smart play.
MALVEAUX: Okay. I want to turn -- James.
CARVILLE: I agree.
MALVEAUX: Trying to wrap up here.
MALVEAUX: We're going to change the topic here on health care. The debate, obviously the president is going to be addressing the joint session of congress and he's going to be talking to the American people. His demeanor, how important is it that he relates to folks and that he conveys that. I want you to see this is from Peggy Noonan, Republican in "Wall Street Journal" op-ed this morning who talks about at the eulogy of Ted Kennedy. She says that in general she says, He is cold like someone who is contained not because he's disciplined and successfully restrains his emotions but because there's not that much to restrain." James, you know, people have said before, his aides say, he doesn't get too hot, he doesn't get too cold what. About his demeanor in the health care debate?
CARVILLE: First of all, would I beg to point out that your demeanor at a speech on health care is going to be considerably different than your demeanor when you delivering a eulogy at a funeral, you know. One of the things that a good speaker has to do is he has to understand the difference between the two. I thought that the president's speech was as Senator Kennedy's funeral -- I thought he could have like talked more about, you know, how Senator Kennedy would have proceed ahead but they wanted to deliver something tasteful and I understand that and I think most people thought it was a tasteful eulogy. He's got an entirely different mission come Wednesday night and if he delivered the same kind of speech Wednesday negotiate as he did at Senator Kennedy's funeral it's not going to be very good but you've got to distinguish between the two events and I suspects he's an excellent speaker and I suspect he'll do fine.
MALVEAUX: One of the things that Noonan points out, he's consistent, same logic tone and modulation, always has the same stance, no humor or humility in it and goes on to say. Tony, what does the president need to do to convey that he is empathetic with people?
BLANKLEY: Look, Peggy is gifted with lyricism and emotive capacity, but most Bush that most of us don't have. I disagree with her on this. A president needs -- all he needs to do is convince the public that he believes what he's saying and Obama professorial and cool, he's a former professor. He ought to be himself. Nixon didn't convince people when he was being, you know, charming. He convinced people when he sounded like he was smart and ruthless because that was the authentic Nixon so I don't think he needs to change his demeanor to fit a moment. I mean, he's obviously -- he just needs to be himself and if that's a cool manner, I don't think there's any problem with that. I think Peggy is kind of getting very interpretive
MALVEAUX: James, you want to give the last word here?
CARVILLE: Well, yeah, I do. I think Peggy Noonan is very -- she's obviously a great presidential speech writers ever but we might be suffering from what people call paralysis ave analysis here. The truth of the matter is the president is not a guy that goes out and delivers stem winders but I'm not sure people want that. He's got to in his own way, and he kind of a cool customer and that image that he projects, he's got to tell people what it is he wants to do and has to convey some belief and passion in it and I think he can do that.
MALVEAUX: James and Tony, thank you very much for joining us.
President Obama will address congress and the nation on the health care reform plan on Wednesday night, and can you see the live coverage right here on CNN with the best political team beginning Wednesday at 8:00 p.m. eastern.
Well, a new battle in Iraq.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'm standing outside one of the ministry of interior buildings in Baghdad, and everyone we've spoken to coming and going from here has said they are regularly asked to pay bribes to public officials.
MALVEAUX: Iraq's integrity ministry tries to change a culture of corruption. He's one of the few that can be trusted to lead the fight.
Drama on the high seas. Video and eyewitness accounts as a man overboard is rescued. And a teenager wrestles a gun from another teen. All this happening on a school bus.
Stay with us. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
(COMMERCIAL BREAK) MALVEAUX: Man overboard and caught on tape. We are getting video and eyewitness accounts of a dramatic cruise ship rescue off of Florida. Our Internet reporter Abbi Tatton has the very latest.
And Abbi, tell us about this story.
ABBI TATTON, CNN INTERNET REPORTER: This is a Disney cruise ship to the rescue. In the early hours of yesterday morning, take a look at this video from passengers on the Disney Wonder. You can hear, you can listen to it, can you hear the clapping and cheering as this man was hoisted to safety by passengers by the crew there, but the person rescued, that was not a passenger on this cruise ship. Carnival Cruise Lines says the 34-year-old on one of their cruise ships was seen jumping from one of their ship's balconies 90 minutes earlier and was treading water for all that time. Passengers had gathered on the Disney Wonder with the cameras trained out to sea. They were gathered in silence because the crew had told them to please be quiet while we listen out for this guy in the water so we can pinpoint where he was, the passengers saying they could hear him screaming to be rescued from the water, even though the Carnival Cruise Line said that he had jump. He has been taken to an area hospital.
MALVEAUX: Do we know how often this kind of thing happens?
TATTON: There's no official number but this is a website that tracks it called cruisejunkie.com. This is a Canadian professor Ross Klein that tracks anything that goes wrong on cruise lines out there. He tracks 17 instances of persons overboard this year along lone worldwide and eight of them on carnival cruise ships. We asked carnival how often is happens and they didn't have an immediate number to confirm that number.
MALVEAUX: Thank you, Abbi.
Well, Kaleb Eulls, was a sleep on a school bus when another student rose up out of her seat on a school bus and pulled a gun. A young Mississippi football player today is being hailed as a hero for tackling her while she aimed the gun at him and other students. He managed to wrestle the weapon from her hands while students on the bus evacuated.
KALEB EULLS, TACKLED GIRL WITH GUN ON BUS: As I tried to catch her attention and get everybody safe and off the bus and I just tried to focus directly on me pointing the gun at me so I -- everyone would know she's not pointing it at anyone else besides me, and -- and in a split second she looked off the bus or flinched or blinked and I just knew that was my only chance and I just went at her.
MALVEAUX: The 14-year-old girl was arrested and is now in custody as a juvenile.
An Iraqi transport official has been arrested on charges of taking a $100,000 bribe from a company doing work at Baghdad's airport, but as Phil Black reports it's just one of thousands of cases of alleged corruption being investigated by the country's integrity commission. (BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)
PHIL BLACK, CNN CORRESPONDENT: This video was shot using a hidden camera operated by an Iraqi agent. The target of the sting is the man in the blue shirt who says he could provide a real Iraqi passport in any name for $2,500. 20 days later the exchange is made and it's all caught an camera. Within moments agents move on the passport dealer weapons drawn. The image has been blurred to protect their identities. The man was later convicted and sentenced to ten years jail. These undercover agents say the first war in the new Iraq was against terrorism. The second war will be against corruption.
So how bad is Iraq's corruption problem? Well, a recent report by an international monitoring group found almost half the people it surveyed here had said they paid bribes in the previous 12 months. I'm standing outside one of the ministry of interior buildings in Baghdad and everyone we've spoken to coming and going from here has says they are regularly asked to pay bribes to public officials.
The employee inside said he will only finish my id for an extra $40, this man says. You can't even talk to the janitor in a government office unless you're paying a bribe. Judge Rahim leads Iraq's fight against government corruption. He tells me his office is kept busiest by the interior ministry, but it is currently investigating 8,000 allegations of corruption against people through all departments and all levels of government.
And the country's most recent high-profile case, the trade minister was forced from office and you a rested. He has not been charged but is being investigated for allegedly skimming millions from the country's food ration program. Nine other officials in his department are also accused of involvement including his two brothers and his media spokesman Mohamed Hanoun seen here in a video posted on YouTube. In it he's seen in the company of dancing girls and drinking alcohol.
Many Iraqis have seen it. Many feel angry about it. I've seen the video that shows this morally corrupt behavior this man says. They are taking money from the ministry. This is how they spend it. Judge Rahim believes corruption is part of Iraq's culture stretching back long before Saddam Hussein's regime, but he believes it can be beaten, slowly. That's why he set up the undercover special operations units. Do you believe it is dangerous work?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Very dangerous work.
BLACK: We can't identify this man. He leads the special operations unit. He says he does the job because he dreams of a different Iraq and because in today's Iraq he believes he's among the few who can be trusted to fight corruption without indulging in it.
Phil Black, CNN, Baghdad.
MALVEAUX: Well, he brought the Lockerbie bomber back from a British prison to a hero's welcome. Did Libya and Britain make a deal? An exclusive interview with the son of Libya's Colonel Ghadafi. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
MALVEAUX: Time now to check back in with Jack Cafferty. Hey, Jack.
JACK CAFFERTY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Suzanne, is Congressman Charlie Rangel who's up to his ears in a ethics investigations out of line saying that race is the health care debate?
Pugas in Arizona, "Rangel is one of the one the biggest frauds in the government. It is time to show him the door. We do not need his big mouth blabbing about this race issue. He has hung his hat on that BS for as long as I can remember. Send him home to clean up his own financial mess maybe while in prison diverting attention away from his shady dealings is not going to work."
Suane in McComb, Mississippi, "Jack, you know he's right. That's the bottom line; race is the whole thing feeding the Birthers, the Tea Partiers, the don't speak at my schools and those gun toters who claim their second amendment rights have been infringed upon. Man, the whole thing is that they just can't stand to say that a black man is the commander in chief."
Penny in Muleshoe, Texas, that's a real town, "Charlie Rangel is in the game for Charlie Rangel, period. What Rangel failed to mention in his speech about President Obama is that Obama is half white too. Look at Obama's birth certificate Charlie, you'll see that. What he achieves as a half black man he also achieves as a half white man. Mr. Rangel. Everybody knows Obama's race and where he came from and we don't need the likes of Charlie Rangel trying to redefine that for us. Obama will stand on his own merits. Unfortunately Charlie Rangel cannot."
Tim in Hot Springs, Arkansas says, "Of course he is. The issue isn't race. It's color. Unfortunately for Rangel's cause, the color isn't black or white but green. It's always about green."
Timothy in Texas, "Charlie Rangel is a talking, walking example of why term limits on congress need to be put in place. Seems like the longer you stay in Washington the more delusional and out of touch with reality you become."
And Arnold writes, "When I hear the words I want my country back in the town meetings, I wonder back from what? Back from a black man?"
If you didn't see your e-mail here, go to my blog, CNN.com/Caffertyfile. We got a lot of mail on this question. You might enjoy reading some of those.
MALVEAUX: Very strong opinions. OK. Thank you Jack.
Well, U.S. embassy guards in Afghanistan caught in compromising photos. Now out of a job and out of the country. Where will the ax fall next?
And ecoterrorists go to extremes in Washington State what's behind the attack? You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
MALVEAUX: North Korea says it is closer to gaining a new means of making more nuclear weapons. Pyongyang announced that it is the final stage of enriching uranium which can be used as a bomb making material. Now the announcement also says that spent fuel rods from a nuclear reactor are being reprocessed into weapons grade plutonium. Now the north quit talks on the dismantling of security talks last April after testing a long range rocket.
Did Britain and Libya make a deal to free the convicted bomber of Pan Am flight 103. Our CNN senior international correspondent Nic Robertson spoke exclusively with the man who brought him home to a hero's week. The son of Gadhafi, Libya's leader. Nic joins us live from Libya.
NIC ROBERTSON, SR. INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Suzanne, Gadhafi had talked about this issue to print media, not to television, he didn't want to get into details because he didn't want to dig it all up again, but more controversy surrounding what the Libyan government has done and began by asking him was there a deal?
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ROBERTSON: Was there a deal between you and the British government on the release of Mr. Megrahi?
SAIF GADHAFI, MOAMMAR GADHAFI'S SON: The decision was the decision from London. And was made on an actual grounds.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ROBERTSON: But as the interview went on, I was able to put to him more points that have been released by the British government and he admitted that Libya had been putting economic pressure on the British government to allow Megrahi to be released. The caveat of course in all of this is that Mr. Megrahi was released for medical reasons, for compassionate reasons, but there is no doubt in his mind that the Libyan government has lumped together a prisoner transfer agreement, oil deals, military cooperation, economic cooperation, all to get Mr. Megrahi back.
MALVEAUX: Is this kind of horse trading among nations normal? Is this common?
ROBERTSON: That was the point that he made with us. He said, look, when there were the six Bulgarian nurses convicted of using aids infected needless with young Libyan children, Libya faced economic sanctions from across Europe until those six nurses were released. He said this is normal international negotiations like this and nobody should be surprised. His point was, everyone's tried it against us, so what's wrong with us doing it? MALVEAUX: Did he mention at all the upcoming trip of his father who's going to be traveling to the United States very shortly?
ROBERTSON: Well, about the controversy whether he'll be staying in a house or a hotel, he said it's very important to his father that he speak at the U.N., he's never been there before. It's very important in his 40-year leadership career.
MALVEAUX: Happening now, the party is over for the U.S. contractors in Afghanistan. The company is paying a price.
Plus domestic terrorists on the attack out west. Two radio towers topple. Environmental extremist groups claim responsibility and session it is protecting us all.
And the president's adviser on green jobs has us seeing red. He's been linked to a 9/11 conspiracy theory. Is the white house ready to cut him loose?
I'm Susan Malveaux with breaking news, politics and extraordinary reports from around the world. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.