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89 Officers Charged in FBI Sting; Massive Project's Uncertain Future; Deadly Flood of Toxic Sludge; Torture Concerns Shakes Terror Trial; Attorney General versus Wrestling Mogul; Hiding Numbers About Oil Disaster?; First Lady "Most Powerful Woman"; Houston Ship Channel Reopens

Aired October 6, 2010 - 18:00   ET



Happening now, hundreds of FBI agents descend on Puerto Rico arresting dozens of police officers in the biggest corruption case the agency has ever undertaken. A result of a massive undercover sting. We have details.

A river of death and an environmental catastrophe. Tons of toxic sludge inundate three small towns. We're now learning the cleanup could take more than a year.

And a second grader expelled for bringing a toy gun to school. Critics say it's the result of a tolerance gone out of control.

We want to welcome our viewers in the United States and around the world. I'm Wolf Blitzer, you're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

It's the largest case of its kind in FBI history. A hundred, thirty- three people, including 89 law enforcement officers are being charged in a massive crackdown on police corruption in Puerto Rico. It's the result of a two-year undercover investigation of police allegedly protecting drug dealers in exchange for cash.

Our homeland security correspondent Jeanne Meserve is joining us now. She has more.

Jeanne, what do we know about this extraordinary case?

JEANNE MESERVE, CNN HOMELAND SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, it is unprecedented. The largest case of police corruption in the history of the FBI. Taking 129 suspects into custody this morning was a major undertaking.

Seven hundred and 50 FBI agents were flown in from all across the United States bringing to about 1,000 the number involved in the takedown. Puerto Rican police participated, too, and there were no tip-offs to those arrested.

Those arrested included national and local police officers, correctional officers, National Guard and Army soldiers, as well as civilians.


SHAWN HENRY, FBI EXECUTIVE ASST. DIRECTOR: In the end it doesn't matter if the corruption is national or local. It doesn't matter if it's one police officer or 100 police officers. There is no level of acceptable corruption in the United States of America. The violation of trust is the same, and the American people won't stand for it.


MESERVE: As this map shows that the arrests were not concentrated in any one location, but were spread across the island. Four individuals, by the way, remain at large.

Because of its location, Puerto Rico is a major drug tran-shipment point, but Justice Department officials say that the individuals arrested today were not part of a cartel. They didn't even all know one another. Rather officials characterize them as police officers who wanted to make a fast buck and needed the money.

The defendants face a variety of drug charges which carry penalties ranging from 10 years to life in prison -- Wolf.

BLITZER: What a story. All right. Thanks very much, Jeanne, for that.

The fate of a massive public works project is now very much up the air, in the hands of a popular governor wielding a very sharp budget axe.

CNN's Brian Todd is joining us now from New Jersey. He's in Newark with more on this tunnel.

What do we know about this, Brian?

BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, this proposed tunnel would double the number of commuter trains carrying passengers between New Jersey and New York. Its backers say it would really help the economies in both places, but New Jersey's governor says building the tunnel could bankrupt his state.


TODD (voice-over): It's one of the most ambitious transportation projects in U.S. history. A tunnel under the Hudson River that would link northern New Jersey and Manhattan, expected to create 6,000 jobs and take 22,000 cars off of the road.

And New Jersey's Republican Governor Chris Christie, according to sources close to the project, may soon pull the plug on it.

GOV. CHRIS CHRISTIE (R), NEW JERSEY: And New Jersey is broke.

TODD: The total price tag for the project, an anticipated $8.7 billion, but it could run over budget by several billion more. Christie says that his state would be on the hook for the cost overruns and it simply can't afford that. I caught up with Governor Christie in Newark.

(On camera): Have you made a decision about the project?

CHRISTIE: I have not made a decision on the project and if and when a time comes when I make a decision -- or when the time comes, rather, I make a decision on the project, I can assure you you'll have a respond to that statement.

TODD (voice-over): Christie claims he hasn't had a chance to review cost estimates yet.

(On camera): If the governor decides to halt this project, $600 million that has already been spent on it would not be reimbursed.

(Voice-over): Chris Christie is a rising star in Republican politics and is known for cutting costs, but the Obama administration also has an investment in this as part of the stimulus.

A spokesman for the Federal Transit Administration tells CNN they're working with the governor to refine estimated costs of the tunnel, and those conversations are ongoing.

Tom Wright from a local city planning think tank has spent years trying to get this tunnel built.

(On camera): If he steps away from it, if he halts this indefinitely, what does it do to transportation infrastructure in this area?

TOM WRIGHT, REGIONAL PLAN ASSOCIATION: It puts -- what it does is it puts a hard cap on the economic growth of the state of New Jersey. The Hudson River is the single biggest bottleneck for the entire Boston to Washington northeast corridor. It's where the trains traveling on the northeast corridor back up.


TODD: Wright points out that this is one of the best-planned, best- funded transportation projects in the country. He is worried that if this is pulled other states may follow suit and nix key projects that the Obama administration is pushing in its commitment to upgrade transportation.

Governor Christie wouldn't respond directly to Wright's criticism, but he kept pounding the point he was elected to stop spending money his state doesn't have -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Brian Todd in Newark, New Jersey for us. Thank you.

The U.S. is formally apologizing to Pakistan for the death of at least two border guards last week. Coalition aircraft from neighboring Afghanistan mistakenly fired on the guard's outposts after engaging suspected insurgents in the area.

Pakistan responded by closing the main supply route for NATO forces into Afghanistan. The Pentagon says it's making progress in efforts to try to get it reopened.

Meanwhile, yet another convoy carrying fuel to NATO forces was attacked today in a supply route in Pakistan. Officials say the trucks were parked on the side of the road where more than two dozen gunmen and three cars opened fire with machine guns, rockets and gas bombs.

At least 17 oil tankers erupted in flames and one person was killed. It's the sixth attack in a week on convoys carrying supplies to U.S. and NATO forces in Afghanistan.

A deadly environmental disaster is unfolding right now. Toxic sludge, toxic sludge from a broken reservoir is covering more than 15 square miles after it inundated three towns and killed at least four people. It's happening in Western Hungary.

Our senior international correspondent Nic Robertson is on the scene for us. Let's go to Nic right now.

Nic, what are you seeing?

NIC ROBERTSON, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, you see those headlights behind me there. They are headlights on a dump truck. Half an hour ago, that dump truck was lifting up big mounds of plaster mixed with chemicals and dropping them in in the river just behind me right here.

You can't see it. It's dark right now. They're working 24 hours -- 24 hours a day here. It's just waiting the truck -- it's just waiting for more chemical and plaster mix to happen.

The sludge came through this area and if we pan the camera down -- just bear with me, Wolf, for your viewing -- with your viewers, just bear with me, as we pan the camera down, you can see that red sludge at the side of the road here.

That sludge covers everything that you can see in this area. And I've taken a walk around here and you can see the force of this sludge as it went through the area knocking trees down. And it is thick by the sides of the road.

The only reason this road is clear is because trucks are coming through spraying water on the road -- Wolf.

BLITZER: How effective, Nic, has the government's response to this disaster been?

ROBERTSON: Well, they've got this equipment out. They declared this a national -- an emergency in the three regions around here, so they're working at it hard. There's an investigation under way in to what caused all this sludge to break through.

But when you look at the speed of the river that flows through here, and the fact that the dump truck isn't able to dump more chemicals and plaster in right now because there isn't any more here for it to dump in, you recognize that there is a human physical limitation to what they can do.

And this little river behind me, this is one of those that feeds into the Danube, about 40 miles away. So as fast as they can put the chemicals in here, that's what's going to stop it spreading to all the other countries downstream from Hungary. So while they're not working, it's not effective -- Wolf.

BLITZER: What a disaster in Hungary. All right, Nic, thanks very much.

Concern about torture is shaking up the first ever trial of a Guantanamo detainee to be held in a U.S. civilian court. And it's happening right now in New York City.

CNN's Deborah Feyerick is joining us. She has details -- Deb.

DEBORAH FEYERICK, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, what happens inside this federal courthouse is being watched very closely by members of the Obama administration. They're arguing that federal court is the right place to try enemy combatants held at Guantanamo Bay. However, others are arguing military tribunals are still the way to go.


FEYERICK (voice-over): Surrounded by his team of lawyers, Ahmed Ghailani looked relax surveying a packed courtroom.

In what could be an important ruling for the former Guantanamo detainee and potentially set a standard for all other enemy combatant cases to follow, the judge said U.S. prosecutors cannot call a key witness. Someone who would have alleged that he sold Ghailani bomb components used in the attack on the U.S. embassy in Tanzania.

Ghailani's lawyer praised the judge's ruling.

PETER QUIJANO, GHAILANI'S ATTORNEY: The Constitution is the rock upon which our nation rests. We could not agree more with the courts. This case will be tried upon lawful evidence. Not torture.

FEYERICK: The alleged torture refers to Ghailani's time before Guantanamo when he was in CIA custody. Prosecutors say they're staying away from information learned during so-called enforced interrogation. The exception, one witness they say U.S. agents would have likely found anyway.

The judge said FBI and CIA agents had not provided sufficient evidence to prove that. A fundamental reason many believe these cases should be heard in a military tribunal.

DAVID KELLEY, FORMER U.S. ATTORNEY: It takes in fact the context that we are in fact at war using the laws of armed conflict and allows us to introduce evidence that is gathered on the battlefield.

FEYERICK: Judge Lewis Caplan's ruling is important because it may limit evidence the government could try to use against other Guantanamo detainees, like 9/11 mastermind Khalid Sheikh Mohammed who also claimed have been tortured repeatedly while in CIA custody.

The Obama administration is watching the Ghailani trial closely as a test run for other cases and is considering whether to appeal the ruling.

ERIC HOLDER, ATTORNEY GENERAL: We're talking about one ruling in one case by one judge that we will look at and decide how we want to react to it. I think that the true test is ultimately how are these cases resolved.

FEYERICK: David Kelley who supervised the first embassy bombings case in 2001 says even without it the case is strong.

KELLEY: The government has an awful lot of proof without having to get into anything about that.

FEYERICK (on camera): In making his ruling the judge referenced the Constitution saying, quote, "We must follow it not only when it is convenient, when fear and danger beckon in a different direction. The judge saying even if Ghailani is found not guilty, it is likely he'll be held in the capacity of an enemy combatant much like a prisoner of war indefinitely -- Wolf.

BLITZER: All right. Deborah Feyerick, thanks very much. Deb is in New York.

The U.S. Supreme Court is back in session here in Washington, D.C. and dealing with a very controversial case.

Let's go to Jack. He's got the "Cafferty File." Jack.

JACK CAFFERTY, CNN ANCHOR: The court is going to decide a case that involves a disgusting behavior of protesting at funerals. The case focuses on a Baptist church, if that's what you want to call this bunch, out in Kansas whose anti-gay protests have targeted the funerals of soldiers who died in Iraq and Afghanistan.

The church claims the soldier's deaths are God's revenge for the U.S. tolerating homosexuality. Members of this church have traveled around the country. They show up at funerals and shout at grieving family members.

They also display signs with messages like "Thank God for dead soldiers." "God blew up the troops" and "AIDS cures fags."

The Snyder family of one of the dead soldiers sued the church in 2007 after protests at their son's funeral, claiming invasion of privacy and the intentional infliction of emotional distress. A jury agreed and awarded them more than $10 million. That amount was then cut in half by a judge and then overturned by an appeals court.

The judge has said although the church's message was offensive the speech was protected.

The soldier's father Albert Snyder said his son was not gay and the protesters shouldn't have been at his funeral, calling their actions inhuman. The attorneys general of 48 of the 50 states and the District of Columbia, and a bipartisan group of 40 senators, support the Snyders, so does common sense.

The church -- if that is what you want the call it -- insists it has the right to protest at funerals. It's backed by the First Amendment and media groups that denounce the church's message but defend their free speech rights. The Supreme Court decision is not expected to be made for some months.

Here is the question, should people be barred from protesting at funerals? Here is the answer, you betcha. Go to, and post a comment on my blog -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Jack Cafferty, thanks very much.

Some candidates will breathe a sigh of relief, others should be breaking into a cold sweat right now. We have brand new poll numbers just out of some of the hottest races in the United States less than four weeks before Election Day.

Also, Glenn Beck is certainly one of the most popular and influential conservatives in the United States right now, but the author of a brand new book about Glenn Beck says he is dangerous for America. The author is here to explain.

And did the White House try to hide worst-case scenarios of the Gulf oil disaster from the American public? We are digging right now into some very serious allegations.


BLITZER: We are now less than four weeks away from the election that could shake up Congress and the political landscape. And we have brand-new poll numbers out on some of the most heated and closely watched races in the country.

Take a look at these results from our latest CNN/"TIME" Opinion Research Corporation poll of likely, likely voters.

In Nevada, the Senate majority leader Harry Reid is locked in a tight battle with the Tea Party-backed Republican candidate Sharron Angle. In a three-way race, Angle gets 42 percent right now, Reid gets 40 percent.

That's a statistical tie, but in a potential spoiler a Tea Party- affiliated independent Scott Ashjian gets 7 percent, while a 10 percent say they'll vote for none of them. An actual option on the Nevada ballot.

In New York, the governor's race, Democrat Andrew Cuomo right now in our new poll has a 14-point lead over the Tea Party-backed Republican Carl Paladino.

And in Connecticut in the Senate race, a 13-point lead for the Democratic Attorney General Richard Blumenthal over the Tea Party- backed Republican Linda McMahon. She's the former CEO of World Wrestling Entertainment.

Our national political correspondent Jessica Yellin is joining us now from Waterbury, Connecticut, with more on this Senate race.

Jessica, you had a chance to speak to these candidates today. How did that go?

JESSICA YELLIN, CNN NATIONAL POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, both of the candidates as you see that Blumenthal has pulled out a healthy lead, but they are trying to stay focus on the message that each of them says they are the one who's best able to create jobs and each asserts they're a person of strong character, but they are on the defensive over separate issues.

For Linda McMahon who is the chief executive of World Wrestling Entertainment, she has been answering some confusing -- some questions about confusion over what she meant when she talked about possible openness to changes in the minimum wage during a press conference last week. She is now asserting she absolutely would never consider reducing the minimum wage. She would be open to talking about when and whether it should be increased.

There is another issue that has been on -- up for discussion here, Wolf. Health care reform. She has hit hard on President Obama's health care law, saying it doesn't do enough to reduce costs. But at World Wrestling, Wolf, her own wrestlers are employed as independent contractors. That means the company does not pay for their general comprehensive health insurance, only pays when they're injured in the ring.

This could pass the costs not only to the employees but potentially on to taxpayers, so I asked her about this.


YELLIN: Senator, would you like to see all businesses adopt this process of hiring employees as independent contractors and letting them get their own health care?


YELLIN: Why not?

MCMAHON: Well, because WWE is a corporation. I think there is a clear difference. I mean WWE performers live all over the country. You know, they travel to the events where they're going, they work about three days a week. They're very well compensated, you know, for what they do.


YELLIN: And Wolf, the attorney general, the Democrat in this race, Richard Blumenthal, he continues to answer questions about claims he has made, statements he has made that has suggested that he served in Vietnam when in fact he was in the Marine Reserve Corps here in the United States. Never deployed in Vietnam. That is the subject of a new ad by his opponent Linda McMahon.

I asked him when he made these statements did he mean to mislead his audience. Here's what he said.


RICHARD BLUMENTHAL (D), U.S. SENATE CANDIDATE: Nothing new in the ad and nothing new about Linda McMahon's attack campaign against me.

I'm proud of my military record. I'm proud of having served in the United States Marine Corps Reserves on a small number of occasions out of hundreds that I described my military record, I inaccurately described it. And I regret it.

It was unintentional. I take full responsibility for it. And I apologized particularly to the veterans.


YELLIN: And Wolf, you can expect more barbs and fireworks to fly between these two candidates when they face off in another debate tomorrow night -- Wolf.

BLITZER: All right. We'll watch closely together with you, Jessica. Thanks very much.

And he still has a 13-point lead in this brand new poll that we have just released in Connecticut.

Promises of security changes at U.S. nuclear power plants after a former plant employee, get this, turned up in Yemen as an al Qaeda suspect.

And more party protocol problems over at the White House, this time no gate crashers got in but guests of honor were kept out.

Stay with us here in THE SITUATION ROOM.


BLITZER: No gate crashers this time over at the White House, but VIP guests were kept out of a White House dinner.

Kate Bolduan has got that and other top stories here in THE SITUATION ROOM.

What happened, Kate?

KATE BOLDUAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: They just can't get it right, Wolf.

The White House is apologizing for another embarrassing party snafu. This time instead of letting uninvited party guests in, like at last year's state dinner, invited guests were kept out. And they were the guests of honor.

It happened last night at a very big White House diplomatic reception. As many as 30 ambassadors were delayed at the gate because their IDs didn't match the names on the checklist. Some left rather than wait for the mistakes to be cleared up.

Another big security story but much more serious. Security procedures are about to be tightened at nuclear power plants across the U.S. after a former employee turned up as an al Qaeda suspect in Yemen.

The suspect, Sharif Mobley, worked at several northeastern plants. A report by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission's inspector general says Mobley expressed extremist views that should have raised red flags. The report recommends several security changes including improving employee trainings to detect possible terrorist intent.

And in Texas, the governor Rick Perry says he wants to talk with Mexico's president about the search for an American reportedly killed by pirates along the Texas-Mexico border.

The victim's wife says that gunmen on boats shot her husband, David Hartley, in the head as they were jet skiing on the American side of Falcon Lake.

The Mexican government says authorities are intensifying their search for Hartley using helicopters and boats.

A very sad story, Wolf.

BLITZER: Very sad indeed. All right, thanks very much, Kate, for that.

Is it zero tolerance simply run amuck? You're about to meet a boy who is expelled from second grade for accidentally bringing a toy gun to school. That story coming up.

Also, allegations the White House tried to hide worst-case scenarios of the Gulf oil disaster almost from day one from the American public.

And Glenn Beck. He's the author of a -- he's -- the author of a brand-new book about Glenn Beck, I should say, calls him powerful and dangerous. Dana Milbank is here to explain why.


BLITZER: A surprising new report indicates the White House might have withheld information about just how bad the oil spill disaster was going to be in the early days after the explosion of the Deepwater Horizon.

While the government was telling us 1,000 to 5,000 barrels a day were leaking out, it turns out BP had already told officials the number could be as high as 100,000 barrels. CNNs David Mattingly has been covering the oil spill from the beginning. He's joining us now with more. What else is in this report, David?

DAVID MATTINGLY, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, all throughout this disaster, there have been two major questions about how much oil was spilling out of that well? What did the government responders really know about the magnitude of this mess and when did they know it? Well, today, a staff paper submitted to the national commission investigating the BP spill sheds some light on this and asks a new question, why wasn't the public told sooner?

The report recounts a dramatic strategy session in the NOAA war room in Seattle in late April. That's when someone wrote on a dry erase board in black and white that they could be dealing with a potential leak of not 1,000 to 5,000 barrels a day, but of 64,000 to 110,000 barrels a day. According to the staff paper, NOAA wanted to go public with that worst case scenario, even approached the White House Office of Management and Budget for permission.

But, here's what the reports, NOAA requested approval to do so from the White House's office of Management and Budget, staff was told that the office denied NOAA's request. The paper says that was a bad idea because if NOAA had put those numbers out there, the public would have had more confidence in what they were doing. Remember, there were independent scientists at the time already putting out higher numbers that seemed to be odds with what the government had been telling us.

The report says that lack of information may have contributed to public skepticism about whether the government appreciated the size of the deepwater horizon spill, and which truly bringing all of its resources to bear. News about how much oil was actually leaking didn't come out until more than a week later -- Wolf.

BLITZER: David, all along, the White House was promising transparency, and what are they saying about this new report?

MATTINGLY: Well, we did get a statement today from the acting to director of the Office of Management and Budget and the NOAA administrator, and here's what they had to say that "Senior government officials were clear with the public what the worst case flow rate could be in early May. Secretary Salazar and Admiral Thad Allen told the American people that the worst case scenario could be more than 100,000 barrels a day. In addition, BP reported in 2009 that a blowout of the Deep Water Horizon could yield 162,000 barrels of oil a day."

And it goes on to say, "As directed by the president, the response was based on science even when that pitted the government against BP or state and local officials, and the government says the response pushed BP every step of the way." Now, Wolf, we tried to get a hold of former Admiral Thad Allen about this.

We were not successful. If you remember that late April and early May period was a critical time in the oil response, and that when Allen publicly stopped talking completely about the 1,000 barrel a day figure and said they were responding to a worst case scenario and not exactly telling us what that worst case scenario could be.

BLITZER: Yes, it looks like BP had a worst case scenario almost from the very, very beginning that we didn't know about. Thanks very much, David Mattingly, for that report.

The conservative commentator, Glenn Beck, is the subject of a hard- hitting brand new book. It's called "Tears of a Clown: Glenn Beck and the Tea Bagging of America." Joining us now is Dana Milbank. He's the author of the book. He's a columnist for the "Washington Post." Thanks very much, Dana, for coming in.


BLITZER: What makes a Glenn Beck different from other conservative radio and television talk show hosts?

MILBANK: Well, a couple of things, one thing is he's the guy who's actually arranging tea party rallies, who's had this big event on the mall. He sees himself as more of a movement leader than an actual of an entertainer or a broadcaster, but I think his success is also that he's willing to take things much further in terms of bringing conspiracies that have existed on the web and bringing them into the mainstream.

Even Bill O'Reilly who's his fellow host at Fox News had said Glenn, you take things five steps further than I do. You know, he'll say at one point, he can't debunk the notion that FEMA, the U.S. government is operating concentration camps in Wyoming. So, that's the sort of thing you don't hear typically, and I think he's really caught on with it by making the fringe mainstream.

BLITZER: Well, you say he's dangerous to America. Why do you say that?

MILBANK: Well, it's in the rhetoric, you know. You'll hear him talk about poisoning Nancy Pelosi, hitting Charlie Rangel with a shovel, killing Michael Moore, constant talk about Nazis, civil war, secession, bullets in the brain. Now, of course, he will also say, you know, look, I don't believe in violence, but at the same time, he says to his listeners, his viewers, I want you to listen to what I'm saying in between the sentences.

And unfortunately, what's happening is you do have some people out there saying, well, he's motivating us to violence and revolution and you've actually had some incidents where people have been inspired to do just that.

BLITZER: Now, has he changed because -- as you know, a few years ago, he worked here at our sister network, HLN. He was on my show a lot during the time he worked at HLN, and he came across as a conservative, very strong opinion, but he certainly didn't come across as the way you portray him here.

MILBANK: No, there's been an evolution, you know. I'm very interested -- just before he left CNN, he actually went on and spoke about how the problem with tarp, the bank bailout, that it wasn't nearly big enough, and of course, now, it's become, you know, he's raised on debt (ph) to oppose it.

There's been really an interesting transformation. You know, a dozen, fifteen years ago, he had a ponytail, supported abortion rights, and then gradually took reached this level of conservatism and definitely took it up a notch when he got to Fox News, and that's when he became as phenomena.

BLITZER: Is it your conclusion he's doing this -- why? Because some have suggested he's making a lot of money out of all of this. I have no idea how much money he's making, but I assume it's well into the millions.

MILBANK: Well, it might even be more than you're making, Wolf. $32 million was --

BLITZER: A little bit --

MILBANK: Was with all of his businesses.

BLITZER: $32 million --

MILBANK: $32 million annually according to 'Forbes" magazine. Now only about --

BLITZER: How did you get up to $32 million?

MILBANK: Only about $2.5 million is from Fox News. A lot of it is from his book publishing, that's the bulk of it, radio. He's got this web thing. He started Glenn Beck University online. He's got a new online publication called "The Blaze." The man is an extraordinary entertainer, and he's really been able to brand himself like nobody else in America has.

BLITZER: So, you're saying in the last year he made $32 million?

MILBANK: According to "Forbes" magazine, and that seems to be sort of annual figure.

BLITZER: The book is entitled "Tears of a Clown." The author is Dana Milbank of the "Washington Post." Thanks very much for coming in.

MILBANK: Thank you, Wolf.

BLITZER: A little boy expelled after violating his school's zero policy on weapons. His weapon, a plastic, yes, plastic toy gun.


BLITZER: A Florida boy is being kept out of school for violating a zero tolerance policy against weapons, but the weapon he brought at school was a toy. And the boy was just in second grade. CNN's John Zarrella is covering the story.



JOHN ZARRELLA, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Samuel Burgos loves baseball.

Are you going to pitch tomorrow? Now, are you pretty good?

SAMUEL BURGOS: Well, I play all positions.

ZARRELLA: All positions. Wow.

With his mom at his side, Sam studies hard, too.

SAMUEL BURGOS: The goose came into the world --

ZARRELLA: What Sam doesn't do is go to school. He hasn't for nearly a year since last November when as a 7-year-old, second grader at Pembroke Pines charter, Sam Burgos was expelled.

KAREN BURGOS, MOTHER: I'm strong right now, but I cry everyday.

MAGDIEL BURGOS, FATHER: And I'm telling the story, because this cannot happen to any child ever again in America. This is not acceptable.

ZARRELLA: What happened? Sam brought a gun to school in his book bag, not a real gun, this plastic toy gun that shoots pellets. Sam said he didn't know it was in, there the day before he'd been playing war with it in the backyard.

Did you tell any of your friends that you had it there?


ZARRELLA: Just one. But you never took it out?

SAMUEL BURGOS: I didn't take it out, no.

ZARRELLA: After the gun was discovered, the evidence proceed shows it was classified as a quote "clear spring-loaded toy," but within days, the Broward County school system began expulsion proceedings.

ZARRELLA (on-camera): Because Sam's gun fired a projectile, it was determined to be a class A weapon, like a real gun or a BB gun which calls for a one-year expulsion. Sam's parents were told he could attend this alternative school with troubled kids of all ages.

MAGDIEL BURGOS: I cannot, as a concerned parent, send my child to a correctional school at 7 years old who committed a mistake.

ZARRELLA (voice-over): So, Sam has been home. In a statement, the school board told CNN quote, "a hearing officer ruled in favor of the school board of Broward County to uphold the recommendation of expulsion," end quote. All states have some form of zero tolerance. Was this taken too far?

KATHY CHRISTIE, EDUCATION COMMISSION OF THE STATES: It just seems a long time to penalize a young man like that and a long time to take him out of that educational experience.

ZARRELLA (on-camera): There will be a final hearing in a couple of weeks. Now, if the school board doesn't remove the expulsion designation, it will remain on Sam's record for any school to see. ALFREDA COWARD, FAMILY ATTORNEY: They'll know that he was expelled from school for having a class A weapon, and the number one item on that is firearm. So, when people here class A, they hear firearm.

ZARRELLA (voice-over): A mistake Sam could carry all the way from grade school to college.


ZARRELLA (on-camera): Now, Sam's expulsion will be up the end of November, but there's a wrinkle here. The expulsion clock is not supposed to start ticking until the final expulsion order has signed. It's never been signed and probably won't be until that hearing in a couple of weeks which means that Sam could, although it's not likely, he could spend another year out of school -- Wolf.

BLITZER: I'm sure there must be a huge uproar down there John, isn't there?

ZARRELLA: You know, surprisingly, there's been a lot written and a lot said about this case, but surprisingly, not a lot of uproar.

BLITZER: Really?


BLITZER: All right. John, thanks very much. We'll follow the story and see what happens to Sam.

We all know her name very well, and now "Forbes" magazine has just named her the most powerful woman in the world. We're going to tell you who she is.

Plus, amid stubborn high unemployment, one company is poised to hire 50,000 workers right now.


BLITZER: The Secretary of State Hillary Clinton is smacking down talk of a possible job switch with the vice president, Joe Biden. Secretary Clinton says she has absolutely no interest in the position. Listen to what she said at the "Fortune" magazine, most powerful women summit.


HILLARY CLINTON, SECRETARY OF STATE: I think the vice president is doing a wonderful job. He's a great friend of mine. We work together closely. He's an expert on foreign policy, chaired the, you know, Foreign Relations Committee in the Senate for years, and we have a great relationship.

And I have absolutely no interest and no reason for doing anything other than just dismissing these stories and moving on, because there's just no -- we have no time. We have so much to do. And I think both of us are very happy doing what we're doing. (END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: The first lady of the United States got a new title today. Kate Bolduan is here with that and other top stories -- Kate.

KATE BOLDUAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Intriguing, huh? Yes, "Forbes" magazine has just named First Lady Michelle Obama the world's most powerful woman. Kraft CEO, Irene Rosenfeld came in second, with Oprah Winfrey coming in third. "Forbes" says this year's list was based less on wealth and position, and more on creative influence and entrepreneurship which may explain why the queen of England landed in the 41st spot.

Traffic is now moving again along the Houston Ship Channel, a gateway to one of the busiest ports in the U.S. The channel was closed Sunday after a towing vessel pushed three barges into a high voltage electric tower. Crews had to cut and reel in the power lines which were shut off for maintenance at the time of the accident. The channel reopened this morning, and investigation into the accident of what happened is under way.

UPS is getting ready to hire 50,000 seasonal employees. The company says it needs more driver, helpers, package sorters, and other workers to keep up with an expected jump in business over the holidays. The hiring process is scheduled to begin this month.

UPS says a significant number of temporary employees will be offered permanent position after the holidays, and you can be sure, Wolf, the retailers are also hoping for that jump in business this holiday season.

BLITZER: I can only image how many hundreds of thousands of people will apply for that 50,000 jobs.

BOLDUAN: Right. I know.

BLITZER: Good for UPS. Thanks very much for that.

Should people be barred from protesting at military funerals? Jack Cafferty is standing by with your e-mail.

And two kermits, a viral video and the plight of the homeless. CNNs Jeane Moos taking a most unusual look.


BLITZER: Let's check back with Jack for the "Cafferty File" -- Jack.

JACK CAFFERTY, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: The question this hour is, should people be barred from protesting at funerals? The Supreme Court is going to try and figure this out.

David writes from Oregon, well, of course, Jack, it is free speech, but that doesn't mean they can run their stupid, cruel protest right there. Let's say, no closer than a hundred miles. Patrick in Westminster, Maryland, absolutely yes. Not only is Al Snyder, a personal friend of mine, but I knew Matt from birth, and my wife taught Matt confirmation at St. John Catholic Church. The Snyders are a very spiritual people, unlike what they were confronted with. What Al and his family and friends experienced on the day Of matt's funeral was anti-American, anti-church, and by any measure, including the first amendment, a violation of the Snyder's civil and moral rights.

Gene writes from Kansas, I'm born and raised in Kansas. That church only 30 miles away from me frightens me more than any tornado could. You can see a tornado coming. You can go down in your basement and protect yourself. But the Phelps family is a blight, like bind weed in a wheat field. You know that even if you pull it up by the roots, it will come back, and you can spray poison on it and keep it under control this year, but next year, you got to spray it again.

Annie writes, I do believe people should be barred from protesting at funerals, regardless whether it's military or civilian. Their families deserve to bury their loved ones in peace. The person that had a hand in my father's death died not long afterwards. I would never dreamed violating his family's grieving by screaming of sanities or saying thank God, He's dead. There's a time to voice your opinion, and it's not at someone's funeral.

Gale in Texas writes, there's a difference between free speech and hate speech. This is a perfect example of hate speech. And it's beyond comprehension that it's been allowed to continue destroying families at their loved one's funerals. Cowards hide behind the constitution, which they probably know nothing about. These people are very, very crazy and very, very sick. I am totally ashamed.

Joe in Maryland writes, I hate to say it, but as much as I hate the scum that protest at military funerals, the right to free speech has to stand unhindered.

And Mick writes in Connecticut, why not handle it the way they did all the protest during the Bush years, provide a designated free-speech zone five miles away.

If you want to read more on this, we got a lot of mail, go find it on my blog -- Wolf.

BLITZER: See you around (ph). Jack, thanks very much.

Getting all croaked up over a video gone viral. Plenty of people are. We're going to tell you why.


BLITZER: Kermit puppets are striking a chord online and shedding light on a serious problem in a most unusual way. Here's CNNs Jeanne Moos.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) JEANNE MOOS, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): What do two kermits have to do with homelessness? You are looking at Kermit David Bowie and Kermit Freddie Mercury, performing their song "Under Pressure" in front of a homeless sign.

(SINGING) Turned away from it all like a blind man.

MOOS: And they were just warming up.

(SINGING) Why -- love, love, love, love

MOOS: Practically overnight, the passionate puppeteer became known as the homeless man, and his video got more than half a million views.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: People worrying about whether I was homeless or not.

MOOS (on-camera): Some were suspicious wondering, where was the homeless guy's cup for change.

(SINGING) Can't we give ourselves one more chance

MOOS (voice-over): Turns out the homeless sign was borrowed from a real homeless man, the setting in the background as well. And puppeteer, Sky Soleil made it clear that he's not actually homeless.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This isn't about me. This is about the men, women, and children on our streets who don't have bright, green puppets on their hands. To people who aren't always as easy to see.

MOOS: It took Sky and filmmaker, Brian Maris, only three takes on a Saturday morning in Long Beach, California, to make the video. Bowie and Freddie Mercury never actually performed "Under Pressure" in concert together, but YouTubers have made a "mash-up" duet.

(SINGING) Pressure, pressure, pressure, pressure.

MOOS: Sky says the song suits the economic hard times and the video links to help the homeless websites.

(SINGING) Why can't we give love, give love, give love, give love, give love --

MOOS: There is on the ground passion and quiet humor.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: My secret favorite shot is when Kermit coughs.


MOOS: Turns out, Freddie Mercury's kermit, screen right, opened his mouth when he wasn't supposed to, so they covered the mistake by having him clear his throat. Sky says he loses himself in his puppets. He says he forgets --

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: That they're cloth.

(SINGING) And love dares you to change our way of caring.

MOOS: These frogs don't croak.

(SINGING) Under pressure.

MOOS: Jeanne Moos, CNN

(SINGING) Pressure

MOOS: New York.


BLITZER: Thanks, Jeanne. That's all the time we have. I'm Wolf Blitzer in the SITUATION ROOM. "JOHN KING, USA" starts right now.