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Mosque at Ground Zero?; NAACP Versus Tea Party; Deport Abuse Victims?

Aired July 14, 2010 - 20:00   ET


JOHN KING, CNN ANCHOR: Have a great night, Pete. We got to go. Campbell Brown starts right now.

ANNOUNCER: CNN primetime begins right now.

CAMPBELL BROWN, CNN ANCHOR: Hi, everybody. We got a developing story tonight that has stirred up a lot of controversy. It is the proposal to build a mosque just steps away from what was once New York's World Trade Center. Critics are outraged. They say it doesn't belong there. And now, there are questions about who is paying the $100 million bill. We're going to talk about that.

And also tonight, day 86 of the disaster in the Gulf. Critically important test of the new cap does appear to be under way tonight. We have a live report from the Gulf with the very latest on that.

And then later, another installment in the Palin family soap opera. Bristol Palin and her on again, off again fiance, Levi Johnston, are on again. So, is it happily ever after or is there more to the story? We'll talk about that as well tonight.

A lot to get to but our number one story is that very controversial proposal to build a mosque and community center just blocks from ground zero. And by blocks, I mean literally two. You can see it here. The mosque would be built just a couple of minutes walk from the construction site that was once the World Trade center which is why so many people are so upset. And Deborah Feyerick was at the meeting last night of New York's Landmark Preservation Commission when things got pretty heated.


DANIA DARWISH, MOSQUE ADVOCATE: My family died that day!

DEBORAH FEYERICK, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): It was a meeting filled with pain, sorrow, and outright anger. Many came to say no to building a mosque near ground zero.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Have we forgotten what happened at 9/11?

FEYERICK: Others like Dania Darwish who lost an aunt and two friends on 9/11 came to say it's the right thing to do.

DARWISH: And all you people here yelling at me don't even know. And maybe if a mosque were built, then you guys would know what Islam was about.

FEYERICK: For three hours, tempers flared on both sides.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: This is a very carefully planned effort on the part of radical Islamists.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's called Islamophobia, pure and simple.

FEYERICK: New York City's Landmark Preservation Commission took it all in as it considers the fate of this 19th century building, two blocks from ground zero. It designated the landmark the original building will remain. If not, American-Muslim groups will tear it down and move ahead with plans to build an interfaith community center and mosque.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I do feel that it would be a terrible mistake to destroy a 154-year-old building in order to build a monument to terrorism.

FEYERICK: The meeting wasn't pretty as emotions boiled over.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Then I'm ashamed to be an American today.

FEYERICK: Repika Flori (ph), a Muslim-American, reminded the crowd, people from many countries and religions died on 9/11.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Anyone has a doubt, this is my American passport.

FEYERICK: Rosalyn Talen (ph) heckled for opposing the mosque spoke on behalf of her brother, a firefighter who gave his life saving those in the towers.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I'm not racist. Thank you!

FEYERICK: Some were suspicious of Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf, whose initiative is behind the project with one gubernatorial candidate even calling for an investigation into the $100 million center's funding.

RICK LAZIO, (R) NY GUBENAORIAL CANDIDATE: And I would ask again in the context of this decision that you give people a time to have these questions answered.

FEYERICK: New York's mayor, Michael Bloomberg, rejects that.

MAYOR MICHAEL BLOOMBERG, NEW YORK: Government should never, never be in the business of telling people how they should pray or where they can pray.

FEYERICK: Imam Faisal was out of the country and unavailable for comment, but a spokeswoman said the center would counter extremism by giving moderate Muslims a voice.


BROWN: And Deb Feyerick is joining us right now with more on this. And Deb, I want to ask you about the funding issue. Gubernatorial candidate, Republican gubernatorial candidate, Rick Lazio, did raise that as we saw in your piece, but why is this an issue? What is driving it?

FEYERICK (on-camera): It's a big issue because, right now, the Imam has not opened his books. He's been asked to do so, but so far, those requests have been ignored. Also, although, the developer has said everything is going to be transparent, unfortunately, what's happening is there's even sort of a move to even change what it's being called. It's no longer a mosque and cultural center. Now, it's being called park 51. So there's sort of -- there's a way of this being pushed through.

But for somebody like Lazio, he's simply concerned that funding is going to come from countries that have a history of sort of funding places where there is more radical learning taking place and that's the big concern. And so, they want the books to be opened. And if the developers promising transparency, that's all that they're asking for.

BROWN: Also political issue. No doubt as well.

FEYERICK: Exactly. Everything's negotiated down there.

BROWN: Deb Feyerick, appreciate it. Deb, thanks very much. And I want to bring in right now, Dr. Zudhi Jasser who is founder and president of the American Islamic Form for Democracy, and he says the proposed mosque is offensive. Also joining us right now is Reza Aslan who's the Daily Beast columnist and the author of "How to Win a Cosmic War: God, Globalization, and the End of the War on Terror." And he believes that Muslims have every right to build this mosque.

Welcome to both of you. Dr. Jasser, let me start with you, Republican congressman, Peter King, told the associated press, and here's a quote, that "it is a house of worship but we are at war with al Qaeda. I think the 9/11 families have a right to know where the funding comes from. I think there are significant questions." I know you share his concerns. Explain why.

DR. ZUDHI JASSER, AMERICAN ISLAMIC FORUM FOR DEMOCRACY: Yes, I'll tell you, my family, I was born in the U.S. They escaped Syria, and I've been a part of building a number of mosques, and some were contentious even in the 1970s during the Iranian hostage crisis. We stood behind the religious freedom to build them. This is not about religious freedom. This mosque is about changing the narrative of what happened at 9/11 and about understanding that we're not just fighting terror, which is an act of violence, but actually an ideology that feeds into that, that has a slippery slope.

And that there are foreign agents, I mean, no different than the Alavi Foundation that was shut down and seized. Mosques were seized across the country because those were fronts for the Iranian government. And I think, similarly, there has to be concerns in today's climate where you have the Times Square bomber, you have Nidal Hasan, you have a number of influences from abroad and domestic threat in security, and to change ground zero to make it a place of cultural exchange and really not the beginning of a war of idea, is really what it should be.

I mean, as a Muslim, I'm offended because it should be a place to start a counterterrorism center and Muslim anti-al Qaeda center, a new type of domestic war of ideas, but not just a swimming pool, an auditorium and cultural center. I think it sends the wrong message as you saw on the emotions at last night's hearing.

BROWN: So, just to be clear, because I think your words are pretty strong is you're suggesting this is a national security threat.

JASSER: I really believe so. When you have -- this Imam Rauf was quoted a couple months ago in Sarkar Osalt (ph) which is an Arabic newspaper funded by the Saudis. He said that he would be looking for donors and Muslim and Arab countries all over the world. Well, I'm sorry. It is a threat. If the Saudi- Wahhabis and oil barons feel that they want to invest in mosques in the west, and we see that Imam is like Awlaki who in 2001 appeared to moderate and now is a jihadist, we have to recognize that the ideas follow the money.

And these are not going to be mosques that are going to be at the front of the war of ideas to protect women's rights, to defend against blasphemy laws that exist in those countries and countries that don't allow churches to be built or any non-Muslim places of worship, which I think is really what we need to do.

BROWN: Reza, what do you think?

REZA ASLAN, DAILY BEAST COLUMNIST: I'm speechless. I have no idea how to respond to that statement. By implying without any kind of evidence whatsoever that the funding for this, which by the way is not a mosque, it's a 13-story Islamic cultural center, very much like the Jewish cultural centers that exist all over this country from New York to San Francisco. By implying that somehow its funding is coming from overseas, and so, therefore, it necessarily involves extremism and extremist ideology is absurd and offensive.

Listen, there's a fundamental fact that has to be understood here, is that if you're implying that, you know, every mosque in the United States that receives funding from outside sources has to open up its books, fine, I accept that. If you're saying that every single religious organization, whether it's a Catholic Church or a Jewish temple has to open up its books and talk about where it receives its funding, what foreign sources give it funding, fine, I'm OK with that. But you're referring to this one particular mosque, an Islamic center and museum that's not at ground zero, that's a few blocks away from ground zero, and I would actually like to know from the good doctor how many blocks is enough? Is five blocks OK? Is seven blocks, will that be OK? Would you not have a problem with that?

BROWN: But let me -- but before --

ASLAN: All of this is just coming from a place of utter Islamophobia. It's shocking.

BROWN: Hold on, Reza, but I do -- they're also feeding into this, whether it's fair or unfair, if the Imam who's involved in this project, who's heading it up, who's drawing a lot of attention for things he has said in the past. A statement to CBS of "60 minutes" that the United States policies were an accessory to the crime that happened, talking about 9/11, in the most direct sense --

ASLAN: Campbell, I'd say about 90 percent of the people in the state department would agree with that statement.

BROWN: So, I'm not saying you're wrong about that, I'm just saying that he has become sort of a, you know, a lightning rod in regard to this. And I guess, does, in a sense, his involvement with the project taint it by association? Is that part of the problem here?

ASLAN: No, that's not part of the problem at all. As a matter of fact, Imam Faisal Rauf has been repeatedly cited by government's sources in the United States as one of America's most pluralistic peace promoting religious leaders in the country. It's not about Imam Rauf. Imam Rauf is just simply a reason to focus on it. It's about people like Rick Lazio who is trying to stir up fear mongering intention as a way of, you know, buttressing his war chest as he's about to run for governor.

I'm not saying that there aren't sensitivities involved here. There are obviously sensitivities involved her. But these kinds of terms -- even the very term "mosque at ground zero" is a -- it's a false term. This is not -- this is neither a mosque nor is it at ground zero.

BROWN: All right. Go ahead, Dr. Jasser.

JASSER: Yes, I'm sorry, Reza, but I think you're in denial. I mean, the bottom line is that this isn't a black and white binary thing, either you're extremist or you're a wonderful peaceful Muslim (ph). There is a continuum there that many Muslims that speak for our community are in denial about which is called political Islam where you have somebody like the Imam Rauf who is nonviolent, has never condoned terror, but has spoken and said that Sharia is like the declaration of independence which is just a bunch of nonsense where you have Sharia used in countries where he's trying to solicit funds to oppress women, to kill Christians, to kill non-Muslims --

ASLAN: Which countries are those? Name those countries.

JASSER: Iran, Saudi Arabia --

ASLAN: Is Egypt -- he's receiving funds from Iran, is that what you just said?

JASSER: And I let you finish so let me--

BROWN: OK, guys. Come on. Everybody can make their point. Reza, I mean, if I'm wrong, nobody knows where the funds are coming from, right?

ASLAN: I guarantee you it's not from Iran. That would be against the treasury department's laws. But go ahead. JASSER: But Saudi Arabia I think is also very concerning. As Qatar, where his foundation has had some work with, which is the home of the Muslim brotherhood globally. The next thing you mentioned, two, three blocks. I think that's a bit of a non-sequitur because they are -- it's about their intent or (INAUDIBLE) as you know. Their intent is to basically build it near ground zero as an edifice to change the narrative. That's why this makes a difference. If they had built humble (ph) mosques like most of us Muslims have and domestic money, it wouldn't be that big deal.

BROWN: Very quickly, Reza. Do you want to make a final point? We're almost out of time here.

ASLAN: (INAUDIBLE) this was an attack by Islam against a Christian nation, then yes, you're absolutely right, that's exactly the point of this. And that's exactly how it should be. Theirs is not really for debate. The constitution allows Muslims to build a mosque wherever they want to. And so, this idea that somehow this isn't about Islam, it's about, you know, cultural sensitivities. Frankly, I just don't buy it.

JASSER: Then you don't get the narrative because the narrative is about being American. It's not about being Muslim or Christian or Jewish. It's about being American.

ASLAN: And this is an American-Muslim center. Just like the Jewish cultural center near it.

BROWN: To both of you, many thanks. Dr. Zudhi Jasser and Reza Aslan. Appreciate your time tonight, gentlemen. Thank you.

JASSER: Thank you.

ASLAN: Thanks, Campbell.

BROWN: When we come back, some breaking news out of the Gulf. BP has just sent out a tweet saying that critical testing is getting under way right now. Will this be the beginning of the end of this spill nightmare? We're going to go live to New Orleans right after the break.


BROWN: Our number one national story tonight of course is oil. The first part of BP's so-called integrity test does appear to be under way tonight. This is the test that can tell us if this latest cap will finally work.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They're going to shut down the valves. Shut down the oil coming out of the top of this cap. And then, they're going to check pressures, test pressures, all night long.

ADM. THAD ALLEN (RET.), NATIONAL INCIDENT COMMANDER: Here's how we intend to do the well integrity test. UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Admiral Allen says the test will be conducted in stages, closing each of the five outlets in six-hour intervals and taking pressure readings along the way.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: A high pressure reading of 8,000 pound percent square inch means the well is in good shape, but a low reading means oil is still coming out somewhere below.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Meantime, halted during this testing process is the digging of that relief well, the permanent solution, which is now so close, just four feet from the side of the troubled well, another 150 feet down to go.


BROWN: And now, we want to go straight to Ed Lavandera who is in New Orleans with the very latest on this. As I understand it, Ed, only preps for the tests are just now getting under way, right? Tell us what we know.

ED LAVANDERA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: That appears to be the case. We've kind of been going back and forth with BP this afternoon about exactly the wording on all of this, but it seems like we should probably just stick with the preps for this test are under way. Although, we know that the integrity testing will begin tonight. That's what Thad Allen told us a couple of hours ago. But as you mentioned, this is a crucial moment. As they begin trying to figure out if this containment cap system is going to work the way they hope it does.

They will be measuring these pressure readings over the course of the next 48 hours in 6-hour increment (ph) to get a sense of whether or not this will work. High pressure's good. Low pressure is bad in this situation and that's been kind of the nutshell of it here, Campbell. But Thad Allen says getting to this point was a very difficult process and involved a lot of scientists with a lot of different opinions as to how to move forward.

BROWN: And Ed, update us on the --


ALLEN: -- Created around the country. I have my own perceptions of how we like to move forward on this. But I think in the interest of the American people, safety of the environment and safety of this project moving forward, it was advisable to take a 24-hour break, make sure we were getting this absolutely right. Understood the best way to deal with the unknown quantity, which was the condition of the wellbore and the casings moving forward and now we're prepared to do that.


LAVANDERA: And Campbell, just to be clear, this isn't the ultimate solution here. Those relief wells will do the ultimate work of killing off this well, but this is so significant because in the almost three months that this has been going off, if this does work in the ideal situation, it would be the first time in almost three months that we would essentially see the end of oil flow into the Gulf of Mexico.

BROWN: And again, Ed, if you can just update us on the status of the relief wells where we think we are in terms of the schedule.

LAVANDERA: Right. We know that -- right now, actually, interestingly enough, while this testing is going on, the work on that first relief well has stopped. So, they can focus on this. So, that will be temporarily suspended. They do say they're on track for that relief well to get to its point by the end of July. After that, it will take several days, if not a couple more weeks, to get all of the machinery and pipes necessary, to make it all work, and to get the kill mud pumped in there. So, we're still looking early August to mid-August by the time that is done.

BROWN: All right. Ed Lavandera for us tonight. Ed, thank you very much.

When we come back, could battered women be treated as criminals? That is the growing fear among some victims of domestic abuse in Arizona. Thanks to the new immigration law.

And up next, the controversial grows over the NAACP's charge at the tea party movement is a welcome home for racists, and we're going to tell you why the battle is headed for history.


BROWN: Our number one political story, the NAACP versus the tea party. Today, Republican National Committee chairman, Michael Steele weighed in, blasting the civil rights organization for saying the tea party harbors racists. Steele said, enough with the name-calling. This is a battle that does show no signs of settling down. Take a listen.

BENJAMIN TODD JEALOUS, PRESIDENT, NAACP: When you see a party who gets up there and says, we aren't the racists, but then there are people making racist statements in the ranks, people out there with racist signs, people spitting on congressman, you better stand up quickly, and say no more of this.

MARK SKODA, MEMPHIS TEA PARTY: I would suggest to you that while there are fringe elements in all movements, that the folks that are leading these major organizations who are making a difference by getting the vote out, getting people elected, clearly have stated, unequivocally, that there is no room for this kind of derogatory speech. Indeed, no room for racism.

ROLAND MARTIN, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: What the NAACP voted on was to call upon the tea party to remove racist elements. They did not call the entire tea party racist. They didn't call all tea party folks bigots.

MARK WILLIAMS, TEA PARTY EXPRESS SPOKESPERSON: NAACP's a bunch of old dusty relics trying to be relevant in the 21st century (ph) --

MARTIN: Not true.

WILLIAMS: I would just like to know, you know, the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, when they're going to grow up and join the 21st century and realize that this country has to move forward. We're in serious danger. All of our rights are at risk, not just blacks.

MARTIN: Actually, they're doing that.


BROWN: The NAACP plans a march on Washington on October 2nd.

Tomorrow, the battle over Arizona's controversial new immigration law heads to the courtroom. A federal judge in Phoenix will hear motions in one of the firs lawsuits arguing that SB 10-70 should not become law. It's an argument you likely have not heard, making the case that the new law could unintentionally put the lives of victims of domestic violence even further at risk. Tonight, one victim tells CNN's Thelma Gutierrez why she's so worried.


THELMA GUTIERREZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Behind tall steel gates in a secret location in Tucson, Arizona, we met a woman we'll call Stella. For four years, Stella lived in fear, fear of a husband who beat her and fear of police who could save her. Stella is undocumented. She agreed to meet with us at Emerge, a women's shelter, to talk about Arizona's tough new immigration law and how she says it will affect women like herself.

(SPEAKING FOREIGN LANGUAGE) you feel that they will not call the police?


GUTIERREZ: Stella says, the beatings she endured were brutal.

STELLA: (SPEAKING FOREIGN LANGUAGE). He used to hit me, kick me. He'd pull my hair. He'd throw things at me.

GUTIERREZ: She says she should have called police, but that could have led to something she feared even more than the beatings, deportation, and being separated from her son who's American.

Out of all the domestic violence calls you get, how many of those calls come from undocumented women?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: A big percentage of those come from undocumented women.

GUTIERREZ: Critics say, under the new law, Nogales police detective, Mark Beal, who specializes in domestic abuse cases would be mandated to investigate the victim's immigration status if he had any reason to suspect she was undocumented. If he didn't, he could be sued by a private citizen.

DET. MARK BEAL, NOGALES, ARIZONA POLICE: I've been here for 16 years, and we've never done it. We've never asked --

GUTIERREZ (on-camera): The legal status has never been part of it?

BEAL: Never been part of it.

GUTIERREZ: It's really disturbing to look at these photographs.

GUTIERREZ (voice-over): Under the new law, critics say if the victim couldn't prove she was in Arizona legally, she could be arrested and charged with a misdemeanor. If she was convicted, she'd be sentenced to a minimum 20 days before being handed over to immigration officials. But Detective Beal says victims of violence can be protected under special visa which allows them to remain in the U.S. while their case is being investigated and adjudicated, but it's not a free pass to stay in the country. He also says victims are protected under the violence against women's act known as VAWA.

BEAL: As far as VAWA which is a federal law which will supersede any state law, no, we're not supposed to -- we can't ask whether, you know, their immigration status.

GUTIERREZ: Supporters of the law argue SB-1070 does not authorize investigations into the immigration status of victims, but it doesn't do anything to prevent such investigations either. Shelter director, Sarah Jones, says, there's a lot of distrust, and the fear is already spreading.

SARAH JONES, EMERGE! CTR. AGAINST DOMESTIC ABUSE: Our greatest fear is that they're not going to make that call, and they're not going to leave an abusive home.

GUTIERREZ: And you've already started to see that?

JONES: We've already started to see that.

GUTIERREZ: As for Stella, she got help through the shelter and finally left her husband. But she told me that she worries about all the other women and children who will suffer in silence.

Thelma Gutierrez, CNN, Tucson, Arizona.


BROWN: Coming up next, teenagers whose lives were finally starting to turn around now face another blow. Hundreds of them could lose the closest thing they have to a home. We're going to tell you about the vital support that is about to be cut off.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) BROWN: Tonight, we want to introduce you to a group of teenagers whose already troubled lives could soon be torn apart. They had been rescued from horrific often abusive conditions in the New York City area, and some are placed in group homes run by agencies like MercyFirst, allowing them to avoid more institutional type settings. Advocates call it a crucial step in helping them to succeed. But now, seven out of nine MercyFirst homes are about to close because of the budget ax. And take a look now what's at stake.


ELIZABETH MCCARTHY, MERCYFIRST: I think the most important thing we provide for teenagers who come here is the stability. Many of them have led very chaotic lives up until now, and it's really giving them a chance to be in a place where they're not going to be rejected. My name is Elizabeth McCarthy, and I'm the chief operating officer of MercyFirst. I oversee all the programs here. The adolescents who come here have usually been through either physical or sexual abuse or severe neglect. They don't really even see that they're going to grow to adulthood.

MARK MURDAUGH ELFE, GROUP HOME RESIDENT: I was put in care when I was 9 years old. It was tough of me because I was placed in different homes. I was bounced around. But before that, it was just me and my little brother. It wasn't -- nobody else, like, my parents would be home every now and then, but nobody else, it was just us two.

IRENE BROWN, GROUP HOME RESIDENT: It was just like my mother had like seven kids and it was like too much for her to handle. And I was in the street like every day. Just getting into trouble. Get locked up. Stuff like that.

SERGIO QUINONES, GROUP HOME RESIDENT: I've been in foster care since I was 7 1/2 years old. I got kicked out of my foster home for being in a gang and, you know, doing whatever I want to do, because I just had so much hate in my heart.

CHRISTOPHER SMITH, GROUP HOME RESIDENT: Me and my family were struggling a lot. My mom wasn't, you know, my mom wasn't -- you know, she was the best mom she could be, you know. And she tried her hardest to take care of us, but we all knew that, you know, we need some help.

ELIZABETH MCCARTHY, MERCYFIRST: We need group homes because a lot of children who are placed in foster care, they really don't feel ready to open up to a new group of people who are saying, you know, we're your new family.

QUINONES: It's a nice fairy tale to tell a kid that every kid needs a house but the truth is, it's just not right. You know, some kids are just not prepared to go into a foster home. That's why group homes, they give you that step. You know, it's just a stepping stone.

BROWN: I'm writing this letter with fear and pain in my heart because I was told that some group homes are being closed due to financial problems with the city. MCCARTHY: A group of the residents of our group homes wrote letters to the commissioner of children's services for New York City.

SMITH: At least I know in a group home I will have the support and my basic needs will be met.

LAKEYA LAWSON, GROUP HOME RESIDENT: My group home has helped me out a lot. Overall making me a better person to return to the real world.

MCCARTHY: Unfortunately, what they wound up doing was only contracting for a very small number of group homes. So they cut about over 400 beds. But I think it's a real gap in the system to not have group homes of this middle level of care. For a lot of kids, this is the step in between that they really need.



MCCARTHY: Our hope is that we can get a kid some sort of education. We want them to have connections to a family, whether it's an adoption or returning to a family member or someone they can go to on Thanksgiving. Someone they can call when something really good or really bad happens in their life.

LAWSON: My life is really good right now. I'm getting my own place. I'm taking my GED. I'm going to be a medical assistant.

ELFE: The group home made a tremendous difference. They pushed me in order to do my homework. Everybody told me that I was smarter than that, I can do better. Now, I'm adopted. I'm going to college. I started my summer courses. I start school in the fall.

QUINONES: The group home just taught me patience. Taught me, you know, how to just conduct myself like a man. The staff there, they're just -- they're great. You know, they know what we've been through.

SMITH: It's a good, you know, a good feeling. You know, it's a good label to have on me as the first, you know, one of the first kids to graduate from high school out of my family, so it's, like, I'm loving it right now. I like it.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Good girl. Look at that girl go.

MCCARTHY: When they first come to us, sometimes they'll talk about really not seeing any future. Turning that around through a therapeutic relationship is one of the really important things that happens here.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: How has that make you feel?


MCCARTHY: If we have a kid who can look forward to something happening positively in their life, that's a major achievement. They've had every reason to not think that they're going to have a happy life. So the fact that now they can think that that's a possibility is really incredible.


CAMPBELL BROWN, CNN ANCHOR: And those budget cuts are slated to take effect early next year. If nothing changes, more than 400 teens in the New York City area alone are going to be forced out of this really nurturing environment, these group homes like MercyFirst and into much larger institutions. We'll be following this story.

Still ahead, Bristol Palin seems ready to forgive and forget, but will Sarah Palin abandon her family feud with Levi Johnston? The fallout from today's big wedding announcement is coming up.


BROWN: Coming up, a surprise engagement announcement and the lukewarm response from the bride to be's famous mom. But first, Joe Johns is here with a look at some of the other stories we're following tonight.

Hey, Joe.

JOE JOHNS, CNN SENIOR CORRESPONDENT: Hey, Campbell. It's been a deadly 48 hours for U.S. troops fighting in Afghanistan. Eight Americans killed over the past two days. The coalition is fighting a relentless Taliban insurgency in southern Afghanistan. So far this month, 34 Americans have been killed. Sixty Americans killed in June. The bloodiest month for U.S. troops in nearly nine years of fighting in Afghanistan.

Tonight, the man who tried to set off a bomb in Times Square is heard in a new videotape describing the New York incident as a revenge attack. Al Arabiya TV played what it said was a recording of Pakistani-American Faisal Shahzad. In it, Shahzad says democracy will be defeated as communism was. Shahzad pleaded guilty, of course, to the Times Square bombing attempt. The authenticity of that tape could not be immediately be verified.

Former Vice President Dick Cheney is recuperating tonight from another round of heart surgery. We learned today that doctors implanted a pump last week to help Cheney's blood circulation. The 69-year-old former vice president has been dealing with heart disease for most of his adult life. Cheney had five heart attacks dating back to 1978 when he was 37 years old.

And so what really came first, the chicken or the egg? Scientists in Britain who have been studying eggshells say they've cracked the case, no pun intended. They say the egg cannot be produced without the protein in the chicken's ovaries. The protein found in eggshells. So their conclusion, the chicken came first. Now, we have to ask, what came first, the wind or the wave? Maybe they can crack that case too.

BROWN: All right, Joe. I'm glad at least one has been settled. Joe Johns for us tonight. Thank you.

Coming up, America's love/hate relationship with food and the fight against obesity. We're going to talk to a man who knows all about it. He used to eat for a living.

And a Palin family surprise. Bristol Palin and Levi Johnston are back in the national spotlight. We'll see if it's for better or for worse.


BROWN: A bombshell today from the Palin family. Bristol Palin and Levi Johnston are engaged again. They broke the big news on the cover of "US Weekly."

Who can forget the custody fights, child support battles and, of course, that "Playgirl" spread? And sure enough, the former vice presidential candidate tweeted a terse response just a few hours ago. Here's part of it. Quote, "Bristol believes in redemption and forgiveness to a degree most of us struggle to put in practice in our daily lives."

Kate Bolduan has the latest developments on a family drama playing out in the national spotlight.


KATE BOLDUAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): A picture worth a thousand words. More likely it has many at a loss for words. Posing with their 18-month-old son Tripp, the on again, off again Bristol Palin and Levi Johnston are back with a big surprise.

"We got engaged two weeks ago," "US Weekly" magazine quotes 19- year-old Bristol Palin as saying. Johnston tells the magazine, "I really thought we were over." "It felt right, even though we don't have the approval of our parents," says the daughter of former vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin. The couple reconnected a few months ago but it's been a very rocky road to get here.

Is your head spinning yet? Thrust into the national spotlight amid the 2008 presidential campaign, the teenage couple broke off their first engagement shortly after the birth of their son.

BRISTOL PALIN, SARAH PALIN'S DAUGHTER: Don't let a teenage pregnancy take away your freedom.

BOLDUAN: Bristol became a spokeswoman for teen abstinence. Johnston embarked on a media blitz, most memorably posing for "Playgirl." It very quickly unraveled into a nasty feud. Johnston attacking Sarah Palin, accusing the family values candidate of poor parenting.

LEVI JOHNSTON, ENGAGED TO BRISTOL PALIN: Sarah was never home. Todd was always out doing his thing, some machine or what not. You know, so there was very minimal parenting in that house and you know, Bristol did what she had to do. BOLDUAN: Johnston also accused Palin of joking about her son Trig who has Down syndrome.

JOHNSTON: She's like, where's my retarded baby, all this? And it's just wasn't right.

BOLDUAN: The former Alaska governor fired back saying Johnston was only trying to lengthen his 15 minutes of fame.

SARAH PALIN (R), FORMER ALASKA GOVERNOR: I hear he goes by the name Ricky Hollywood now. So if that's the case, we don't want to mess up this gig he's got going, kind of this aspiring -- aspiring porn -- some of the things that he's doing.

BOLDUAN: The fight even made it to court. Bristol and Levi battling over custody of their son. A judge eventually ordering Johnston to pay thousands of dollars in back child support. Then, out of nowhere, an about-face in the war of words. In a statement to "People" magazine, Johnston apologized last week for saying, quote, "things about the Palins that were not completely true." So, will this saga impact Sarah Palin's political future?

PAUL STEINHAUSER, CNN DEPUTY POLITICAL DIRECTOR: Family values are very important with many of Sarah Palin's followers. So, if the marriage helped Sarah Palin put her own house in order, it could help her politically if she decides to make a bid for the Republican presidential nomination.

BOLDUAN: That is if Bristol and Levi stay together.

(on camera): Supposedly, this all came as a surprise to the mother of the bride. The Palin family issuing a statement saying, "As parents, we obviously want what is best for our children, but Bristol is ultimately in charge of determining what is best for her and her beautiful son. Bristol believes in redemption and forgiveness to a degree most of us struggle to put in practice in our daily lives."

Coming from one of America's best known politicians, some might call that a lukewarm endorsement.

Kate Bolduan, CNN, Washington.


BROWN: What to make of all of this, after all the infighting and finger pointing? We're going to sort it out with Amy Argetsinger, "The Washington Post"/Reliable Source columnist. I talked to her just a short time ago.


BROWN: Amy Argetsinger with us now. Amy, welcome to you. Let's start at the top. First of all, Bristol says her mother didn't know about this engagement until now. What do you make of that?

AMY ARGETSINGER, WASHINGTON POST/RELIABLE SOURCE: That's the most extraordinary thing about this whole announcement. And a lot of people found that very hard to believe. It's -- and people were looking for a lot of conspiracy theories to explain this that oh, she really did know.

I don't know that she did. "US" magazine insists that Sarah Palin was not looped in on this, that they conducted this interview at a private home in Anchorage, very much under the radar. And that this was really Bristol's own announcement and that she wanted to do this this way. That she basically wanted to tell her mother through her words in this magazine story.

BROWN: OK. So any truth to the rumors do you think that this might be part of a reality TV show in the works?

ARGETSINGER: Well, we don't really know. Levi was a couple months ago shopping the idea of himself in a reality TV show. And certainly this announcement has put them back on the national radar.

I wonder about that though. I almost tend to think that Levi single, solo, on the hunt, makes for a more interesting reality show than Levi with a wife and kid in Anchorage or Wasilla. I could be wrong about that, though. I don't know. I think reality TV is tough on relationships if that's the path they're going. I would hope that's not the case.

BROWN: A little more than a year ago, I think it was in May, Bristol told "People" magazine, and this is a quote, I'm thankful we didn't get married because if it wasn't going to work now, it wasn't going to work in five years." What do you think changed? Why do you think they're doing this now?

ARGETSINGER: Well, listen, we all knew couples like this in high school, in college, who were on, off, ran hot, ran cold, got back together. This isn't the strangest thing I've heard of in teenage America. The big difference here is that they're living their lives on a national stage with access to the national media to broadcast the latest changes in their life. I will say that as unlikely as it seems after a year or a year and a half of incredible bitterness between the two of them, in some ways, it makes sense that these two people would gravitate back towards each other, not just because they have a child but, let's face it, they're teenagers. They're probably kind of lonely. They probably both want to have someone in their life, but at this point, their lives have both been so distorted and changed by fame, who else is she going to be able to relate to? Who else is he going to be able to relate to? Except another teenager from Wasilla who's had their life transformed by the glare of the spotlight? In a way, it seems like it almost makes sense that they would have something to bond over that way. I'm not saying it's a basis for a strong relationship going ahead, but --

BROWN: Right.

ARGETSINGER: -- you can see why these two people would be drawn back together.

BROWN: Yes. That's a fair point. We heard in the piece a moment ago, there's been a lot of bad blood between Levi and Sarah Palin. So how did they move beyond that? You think we're going to see any sort of public reconciliation?

ARGETSINGER: That's an interesting thing. As an arm chair psychologist, I would probably suggest that these fences should be mended in private. I don't know though. I mean, once you're a family whose life has been so exposed in the world, in the media, is it possible to resist that impulse or urge to answer these questions publicly, to put these things out there?

Last week, we saw Levi Johnston seemingly out of nowhere issuing an apology to the Palin family for various comments he had made, which suggested that there is at least some kind of public mending that someone felt was necessary here.

BROWN: Right. Well, we will see what happens here. Amy Argetsinger, great to have you here. Really appreciate your time, Amy, thanks.

ARGETSINGER: Thank you. Thank you.

BROWN: "LARRY KING LIVE" starts in a few minutes. Larry, what do you have tonight?

LARRY KING, HOST, "LARRY KING LIVE": Great cast there. Sarah Palin, the mother-in-law story, the daughter is marrying Levi. We're going to get into that. And the billboard also that's pictured President Obama between images of Hitler and Lenin, hard to believe. Some tea party activists behind it are taking it on the chin from the NAACP. And we're going to break in on the latest news from the gulf too. All that, right ahead.

Back to you, Campbell.

BROWN: All right, Larry, thanks.

Up next, what happens when a compulsive eater becomes the restaurant critic for "The New York Times"? It sounds like a recipe for disaster, but it wasn't. Trade secrets from Frank Bruni coming up.


BROWN: Obesity, it is a national epidemic. And doctors warn it's only getting worse, especially among American children. First Lady Michelle Obama is leading a campaign to teach kids to eat better, and Frank Bruni understands the challenge. He was an overweight little boy once. Always throughout his life dealing with eating disorders. And then he was "The New York Times" food critic. He ate a lot in that job and wrote a book about it called "Born Round." I talked with him about our complex relationship with food and fat a little earlier.


BROWN: Frank Bruni, welcome. Good to see you.


BROWN: So talk to me about childhood obesity a little bit because this is such a huge issue in this country right now to the point where the first lady has made it her signature issue.

BRUNI: Absolutely.

BROWN: And you write about being an overweight kid. I mean, talk about what we're doing right. Talk about what we're doing wrong.

BRUNI: The thing we're doing most wrong and the first lady is addressing this, is we're surrounding kids with junk food, you know. And if you don't give kids better options, they're not going to eat better food. What I think we're doing wrong in an even bigger way, and I don't think the first lady's campaign can quite get it, we're making kids very anxious about what they consume. And it's really, really a fine line between making them conscious, heedful eaters and making them totally, totally anxious about everything they put in their mouths because in that direction lies a lot of food craziness.

BROWN: So why are we doing that? Or how are we doing that? Just by the information we're sort of spewing?

BRUNI: I think a lot of it is by example. I mean, people always say, like, how do you teach kids to eat better? And if you lay down a lot of firm rules, don't have this, don't have that, I think you're going to have kids wondering, why can't I have that, I really like that. The kids I think who eat the most healthy are kids in households where they see parents doing that. You know, in every other area of life, we talk about children modeling the behavior of parents. We forget that when it comes to food. So if mom and dad are pigging out and then going on bad diets, if mom and dad are eating big bowls of ice cream for dessert, well, you know, here's the (INAUDIBLE).

BROWN: Right.

BRUNI: Believe or not, kids are going to do the same thing.

BROWN: And you write about this also. And you have this very funny and I think touching description of your mom and how her fixation on fad diets and how you'd sometimes do it with her.

BRUNI: Right. The fact that I spent a lifetime of fad dieting is no secret when you look at I had this great wonderful --

BROWN: She was your role model.

BRUNI: You know, hilarious poignant relationship with my mother, which even given this one bad side of it I would never trade that relationship for anything. But she was someone whose approach to weight maintenance was fad diet after fad diet. And I definitely saw that. I did it with her and it became a lifelong kind of tragic comedy. BROWN: So as a society, do you think since that time, when your mother was doing it, have we gotten better about it?

BRUNI: I don't -- it's amazing. I don't think we've gotten better at all. You know, we maybe don't have the Beverly Hills diet anymore or the popcorn diet which she went on, or the grapefruit diet which she went on, but now it's cleanses. How many different cleanse companies are telling people if you just do liquids for four days in a row, that will be the solution? We keep on coming up with magic bullets that really don't work with these sort of like secret formulas that are ridiculous. And we don't let people hear that the only way to kind of have a healthy relationship with food is to practice moderation day in, day out, forever more.

BROWN: Now, for 5 1/2 years, you were the restaurant critic for "The New York Times." And yet during that time, you never got overweight. You really -- certainly not compared to a time --

BRUNI: Right.

BROWN: And I knew you during that whole time.

BRUNI: Right.

BROWN: You were never gaining weight during the time when you're a restaurant critic were --

BRUNI: But you knew me also long before then when I was up to 280 pounds.

BROWN: So, how did you do it? Because occasionally in that job, you would sometimes go out to dinner two times a night.

BRUNI: There were times I did three times a night. I mean, that wasn't the norm. But the way I did it was --

BROWN: Especially given your food issues --

BRUNI: Right.

BROWN: Because you're coming at it with a whole host of emotional issues that a lot of people might not be.

BRUNI: Right. Right.

I was stuck -- and this is a kind of a metaphor for our whole country. I was stuck in a feast/famine approach, in a kind of binge/purge approach. It's going to be really great tomorrow, so I let myself overeat today. I think a lot of Americans do that.

As a restaurant critic, I knew I had to eat a certain amount every day. So I never got in that kind of embrace/avoid pattern with food.

BROWN: Right.

BRUNI: I didn't panic about the deprivation to come. I just sort of ate steadily but not everything on my plate.

BROWN: So your -- your food world has changed because you left your job as restaurant critic at the "Times." It's been what, about a -- over a year, right?


BROWN: So has your approach to food changed, given that you're not doing it every night? Sometimes multiple times a night?

BRUNI: Yes. I know I'm not eating 12-course meals, $300 a person as often --

BROWN: And do you miss it?

BRUNI: I miss it a little bit, but it's really kind of nice to be able to walk into a restaurant if you want a cheeseburger, to get the cheeseburger and nothing else --

BROWN: Right.

BRUNI: -- and to not feel like you're doing a disservice to your readers. I get to call the shots much more in my eating, and that's been interesting because it's more like the old days and I have to be super, super careful not to fall into old patterns.

BROWN: Well, it is a great book, "Born Round. It's great to have you back. And good to see you, Frank Bruni.

BRUNI: Thank you. Nice to see you, Campbell.


BROWN: "LARRY KING LIVE" starts in just a few minutes. But coming up next, tonight's "Punch Line."


JAY LENO, HOST, "THE TONIGHT SHOW WITH JAY LENO": Cleveland Cavaliers owner, Dan Gilbert, has been fined $100,000 by the NBA for a letter in which he trashes LeBron James. Fortunately, he should have no problem paying the fine with all the money he made off LeBron James.


BROWN: Finally, tonight's "Punch Line." The best of late night coming your way right now.


JAY LENO, HOST, "THE TONIGHT SHOW WITH JAY LENO": A lot of people continue to be very upset by the fact that we can't get Osama bin Laden. Osama bin Laden? We can't even get Roman Polanski.

JIMMY FALLON, HOST, "LATE NIGHT WITH JIMMY FALLON": Last night, BP successfully installed a new tighter fitting containment cap on the Gulf Coast oil leak. Finally. It turns out this whole time they were just too embarrassed to ask for the smaller sized one at the drugstore.

CRAIG FERGUSON, HOST, "THE LATE LATE SHOW WITH CRAIG FERGUSON: It could catch up to 90 percent of the disgusting filth that's spewing out of there. And if it works, they're going to try the same thing on Mel Gibson's mouth.

DAVID LETTERMAN, HOST, "LATE SHOW WITH DAVID LETTERMAN": The owner of the Cavaliers went crazy and he was fined $100,000 for his angry rant against LeBron James. And Mel Gibson said, you call that a rant, hey, I got something. Wait a minute.


BROWN: That's it for us. "LARRY KING" starts right now. Have a good one.