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CNN NEWSROOM

Comments Cause USDA Official Her Job; Tracking Oil by Air and Sea; Lindsay Lohan Heads to Jail to Begin Serving Sentence; Anti- Mosque Ad Controversy; Rebuilding After the Storm; What's Hot'; The Help Desk

Aired July 20, 2010 - 11:58   ET

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


TONY HARRIS, CNN ANCHOR: Hello, everyone, I'm Tony Harris. Top of the hour in the CNN NEWSROOM, where anything can happen. Here are some of the people behind today's top stories.

Racial controversy. The former USDA official at the center of it speaks out about it.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SHIRLEY SHERROD, FORMER USDA OFFICIAL: In fact, they harassed me as I was driving back to the state office from West Point, Georgia, yesterday. I had at least three calls telling me the White House wanted me to resign.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

HARRIS: Ground Zero mosque plans to build just blocks away from a site of the 9/11 attacks stirs strong emotions.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

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

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What happened that day is not Islam. What happened that day is terrorism.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

HARRIS: You are online right now. We are, too.

Josh Levs is following the top stories trending on the internet -- Josh.

JOSH LEVS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Tony, a man was arrested at an airport with 18 monkeys hidden beneath his clothes. No joke, 18 monkeys. Details at CNN.com.

Plus, your day could become part of a major Hollywood documentary. Just put a video on YouTube. I'm going to have the details this hour.

HARRIS: 18 monkeys?

LEVS: 18 monkeys, in his clothes.

HARRIS: Come on, man, you can't be making stuff up.

All right. Let's get started with our lead story. An Agriculture Department official who resigned over remarks about a white farmer tells her side of the story. Shirley Sherrod said she was pressured to resign after videotape of her comments surfaced on conservative media.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SHERROD: I was struggling with the fact that so many black people had lost their farmland, and here I was faced with having to help a white a person save their land.

So, I didn't give him the full force of what I could do. I did enough, so that when he -- I assumed the Department of Agriculture had sent him to me. Either that, or the Georgia Department of Agriculture. And he needed to go back and report that I did try to help him.

So, I took him to a white lawyer that had attended some of the training that we had provided because Chapter 12 bankruptcy had just been enacted for the family farmer. So I figured if I take him to one of them, that his own kind would take care of him. (END VIDEO CLIP)

HARRIS: Last hour, I talked live with Shirley Sherrod and the wife of the white farmer. She says she Sherrod not discriminate, and actually helped save their farm. I also asked Sherrod about her resignation.

Here is a portion of the interview.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

SHERROD: I know I didn't discriminate, and I made it very clear to the staff there at USDA that it wouldn't be tolerated during my tenure.

HARRIS: So why are you out?

SHERROD: I said it over and over again.

HARRIS: Why are you out?

SHERROD: Pardon?

HARRIS: Why are you out?

SHERROD: Why am I out? They asked me to resign. And, in fact, they harassed me as I was driving back to the state office from West Point, Georgia, yesterday. I had at least three calls telling me the White House wanted me to resign.

HARRIS: So the pressure came from the White House? SHERROD: And the last one asked me to pull over to the side of the road and do it.

HARRIS: Are you willing to name names?

SHERROD: And that's exactly what I did.

HARRIS: Are you willing to name names?

SHERROD: Pardon?

HARRIS: Are you willing to name names?

SHERROD: Oh, I can tell you, that was Cheryl Cook, the deputy undersecretary. She called me and said -- because she called me, and I said, "Cheryl, I've got a three and a half hour ride to get into Athens." She called me a second time, "Where are you now?" I said, "I'm just going through Atlanta."

She called me again and I said, "I'm at least 45 minutes to an hour from Athens." She said, "Well, Shirley, they want you to pull over to the side of the road and do it because you're going to be on Glenn Beck tonight."

HARRIS: Wow. So the administration pressured you out?

SHERROD: Yes.

HARRIS: How do you feel about that?

SHERROD: I don't feel good about it, because I know I didn't do anything wrong. And I know during my time at USDA, I gave it all I had.

I worked when I didn't feel like it. I pushed the staff to get out there in places they had not been into before.

Like I said, the nine counties I targeted, I asked them shortly after getting there, "Tell me what rural development has been doing in these areas." And when they did that, there were zeroes in a lot of places. And I knew this was an area where we needed to target. We needed to get the programs out into some of these areas that need it, just like some other areas that had gotten the funding over and over again.

HARRIS: So I want to be really specific here -- and I apologize. I just have to do it.

So, you get, one, two, three calls from Ms. Cook, and at the point that you have the conversation, that it is made clear to you that you need to go, how does that conversation go?

SHERROD: Yes.

HARRIS: What is said to you? SHERROD: The very first one -- I guess there were like four calls, because the very first one was before I got in my car to go to Athens. She said I was being put on administrative leave. The next call, after I sat waiting and waiting because she told me she would call me right back, the next call said that they're going to have to ask me to resign.

HARRIS: Do you feel as though you had an opportunity to state your side of the story?

SHERROD: No, I didn't. The administration, they were not interested in hearing the truth. No one wanted to hear the truth.

HARRIS: The NAACP released a statement late last night saying in part, "We are appalled by her actions." That is an opportunity to explain what happened 24 years ago.

Do you feel as though you got that opportunity, even in a phone call with the NAACP?

SHERROD: No, I didn't. The NAACP has not tried to contact me one time, and they are the reason why this happened. They got into a fight with the Tea Party, and all of this came out as a result of that.

HARRIS: Your reaction --

SHERROD: I would have appreciated -- when you look at my history of civil rights, I would have appreciated having the NAACP at least contact me, and Roland Martin, too, contact me to try to get the truth about what happened.

HARRIS: The reaction to your reaction to essentially being condemned by the NAACP?

SHERROD: That hurts, because if you look at my history, that's what I'm saying. I've done more to advance the causes of civil rights in this area than some of them who are sitting in those positions now with the NAACP.

They need to learn something about me. They need to know about my work. They need to know what I've contributed through the years.

HARRIS: What was the point of the story you were telling to the NAACP in March? What was the point?

SHERROD: The point was to get them to understand we need to look beyond race, to look at working together. I've said to audiences here, not just that one -- and, in fact, I spoke at a housing conference in a county just south of here, and I said, "Look, we need to get beyond the Civil War."

I tell them there are good things about history from the white side, good things about history and culture from the black side. People love to come into this part of the state to see that. I tell them, we need to make the most of it, and if we work together, we can do that.

HARRIS: Do you believe as a principle -- do you believe black people in power can make or have the ability -- can make race-based discriminatory decisions?

SHERROD: I'm sure that can happen. I can tell you I didn't do it.

HARRIS: OK. That was my follow-up.

SHERROD: And you could go to any of the communities that I worked with, and if the staff were free to tell you, you could talk to any of the people I've worked with since I've been at USDA, and they can tell you what my record is.

HARRIS: Shirley, stay right there. I have someone who wants to speak to this whole controversy. Her name is Eloise Spooner. She is -- wow -- Roger Spooner's wife, widow at this point.

SHERROD: Yes.

HARRIS: Widow at this point.

SHERROD: Yes.

HARRIS: Eloise, thanks for taking the time to talk to me.

ELOISE SPOONER, ROGER SPOONER'S WIFE: OK.

HARRIS: What do you think of this whole controversy? First of all, what do you think of Shirley?

SPOONER: She's a good friend.

HARRIS: Describe your relationship with her through the years.

SPOONER: She helped us save our farm.

HARRIS: How did she do that?

SPOONER: By getting in there and doing all she could do to help us.

HARRIS: What did your husband think -- your late husband, think of Shirley?

SPOONER: He's not dead. He's very much alive.

HARRIS: Really?

SPOONER: Yes, he is. He's 87 and he's on inn his Peterbilt truck this morning.

HARRIS: Then I apologize for that. I got incorrect information from one of the newspapers writing on this. I apologize for that.

SPOONER: OK. It's all right.

HARRIS: Is he aware of the controversy swirling around?

SPOONER: Yes, sir. Our son, he came up this morning and says, "Mama, turn on the TV to CNN." And he said, "It's about your friend Shirley Sherrod."

And I said, "What?" And we listened and I said, "Great days, that ain't right. They have not treated her right, because she's the one that I give credit to helping us save our farm."

HARRIS: Let's see. Some of the story here is that you met in the '80s, it was a bad time. It was a bad time in the family's life at the time.

Tell me why you were in trouble with the farm.

SPOONER: Well, we had a lot of dry weather, and we had to run the irrigation a lot. And when you make a good crop, you wouldn't get a good price. And just a number of things together caused it.

HARRIS: Do you remember your first interaction with Shirley?

SPOONER: Yes. At first I looked into -- it was the "Market Bulletin" from Atlanta that we get. We've gotten it for years and years and years. And it said if you were having trouble and you're about to lose your farm, to get with them. And I said, "By George, I'm going to try that."

So I did, and he told us to go see a lawyer. And he said, "Well, you all might as well just go ahead and do what Diane (ph) said to do." And I was so mad when we came home.

So, anyway, a few weeks later, the guy from Atlanta, the "Market Bulletin," he said, "What happened over in Karo (ph)?" I said, "Exactly nothing. He didn't help us at all." He said, "Well, I'm going to get you with somebody that will help you, I think."

And that's when he told us to call Shirley. And we did, and we started right then.

She said, "There's two lawyers, there's a black lawyer and there's a white lawyer, and one -- the black lawyer is in Albany and the white lawyer is in (INAUDIBLE), and you choose the one you want." So I said, "Well, he's in Albany, he's in closer, so maybe we'll just try him, the black one."

And we went to him for months and months and months and paid him some money which was hard to scrape up, and he finally got with the lawyer in Donaldsonville that I had talked to, and he called and told me -- the lawyer in Albany called and told me that he could not handle us anymore, that he had this client that he had had for 10 years, and he was going to have to spend a lot of time on that. He couldn't help us.

HARRIS: Hey, Eloise, a couple of quick questions here about this relationship.

SPOONER: OK.

HARRIS: I'm just trying to establish this relationship.

Explain to me -- I have got a line here that says that you guys picked a bunch of tomatoes?

SPOONER: Yes. One year, after things kind of settled down, I had a really pretty garden that year, and we were going up to Albany for some reason. So I told Roger I was going to pick Shirley some tomatoes, and I did, and we carried them by to her and had a good visit.

HARRIS: You know, what do you think of the statement that's on the tape? You know, it's undeniable, it is there, where Shirley essentially says, "So I didn't give him the full force of what I could do."

SPOONER: Well, she gave enough that it helped us save our farm.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

HARRIS: CNN is reaching out to the administration for its response, as well as the NAACP.

Sherrod's story has a lot of people talking about race, power, politics. I want to hear from you. We always ask for you to participate in the program.

Send us your comments to CNN.com/Tony. I'll be reading them a little later this hour.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

HARRIS: When the EU welcomes a new country it's news, right? When EU countries start a bidding war to bring an octopus out of retirement, it is a "Random Moment," to be sure.

Russian bookies just made an offer Germany cannot refuse. Well, maybe they can. One hundred thousand euros for the oracle in the tank, the octopus that famously predicted World Cup winners.

A few days ago, the Germans rejected another offer from a zoo in Madrid. Everybody wants a piece of Paul -- or is it Paulo. Italy staked its own claim a few days after the World Cup.

You don't need a backbone to stick it to the competition, but eight legs and a psychic brain can buy you a pension plan and a "Random Moment."

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

HARRIS: Tracking oil by air and sea. Day 92 of the disaster in the Gulf, and we are giving you an exclusive look at the tag-team effort by a U.S. Navy blimp and skimmers in the water. CNN's Rob Marciano is on board a ship that is coordinating the response by the skimmers. And CNN's Amber Lyon is aboard the blimp high above the Gulf.

And let's start with Amber, who joins us on the phone here.

And Amber, if you would, give us a sense of what you have been able to see from that blimp.

AMBER LYON, CNN CORRESPONDENT: All right. Well, Tony, right now we are circling around the vessel that Rob Marciano is riding on. And he is on the command vessel that is commanding all these simmers. So what we're doing up here at about 500 feet above the Gulf of Mexico is looking out for any oil slicks, damaged booms, or injured wildlife.

Now, fortunately, we haven't seen any of those yet so far. I think the biggest thing that has surprised our crew is that we are seeing people swimming off the beaches of the Gulf of Mexico, and there is a warning, warning them not to enter the water.

And in addition to that, I'm looking over at this beautiful white sand beach that is virtually free of tourists. And in addition to that, we're also seeing some BP employees taking tractors across the sand, just skimming up any possible tar balls or anything like that.

But above all, Tony, it's been a pretty event-free day from up here. The blimp itself just kind of glides over the water, and that's why the Coast Guard is saying it's their newest tool in the toolbox in this oil spill cleanup, because it can fly at low altitude, and these spotters on the blimp have a clear view to the sea to see what's going on -- Tony.

HARRIS: OK. Amber, appreciate it. Thank you.

Terrific view from Rob's vantage point of the blimp. Last hour, we had the vantage point from inside that blimp.

Let's get to Rob right now.

And Rob, is the idea here that the blimp then can better direct skimmer vessels like yours to where the problems are?

ROB MARCIANO, CNN METEOROLOGIST: Absolutely. You know, I spent some time on a larger Coast Guard skimming cutter, and just to try to find the oil from their high post is very, very difficult. So, to have that advantage, to be just 500, 700 or 1,000 feet above the surface of the water, to get that much more of an angle and outpost to look from, is a huge, huge advantage.

So we're on the command vessel, as Amber noted. It's about a 60- foot vessel, Ice Lady, as it's called, and usually a touring vessel to catch fish, red snapper. But it's one of the Vessels of Opportunity.

It is commanding the other Vessels of Opportunity that are involved in this skimming operation. About 10 that we're in charge. There are other sectors around the Gulf that are doing the same thing, and a lot of the information fed in by that airship up there. There were two much smaller Vessels of Opportunity that were working in tandem to corral a little bit of sheen of oil, and that is about the extent of the amount of skimming that we have done -- or been in control of thus far today.

But we are just -- we're less than a mile off the beach, Tony. You can be sure that another sector of the Gulf of Mexico, certainly closer to the wellhead site, that it's a little bit more active.

We are handcuffed just a little bit in order to bring you these pictures live. We can't venture too far from the shoreline, so that's a little bit frustrating. But we did this just to give you an idea of the concentrated and organized effort that goes on just to skim some oil, because there are so many blotches of it and patches of it, you literally need an army, and then a hierarchy of chain of command in order to get this job done, because it is so vast across the Gulf of Mexico.

But it's certainly yet another eye-opening experience for me to see this side of the operation, too.

HARRIS: It is terrific. What a vantage point. Rob, appreciate it.

And our thanks to Amber Lyon, as well. Good tag-team effort going on right now to get that oil, the sheen, whatever they can find, cleaned up.

Still to come, Lindsay Lohan heads to jail to begin serving a 90- day sentence.

We are live in Los Angeles.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

HARRIS: Day 92 of the oil crisis in the Gulf. Tests continue on BP's ruptured oil well. Scientists now weighing a new option for permanently sealing it, using what's called static kill that would involve pumping mud into the well.

Women being banned from wearing Islamic face covering veils at universities in Syria. The garment is becoming increasingly popular in the predominantly Muslim country. It is a worrying trend for the secular regime.

President Obama is meeting right now with British Prime Minister David Cameron. It his first visit to the White House. They are expected to discuss Afghanistan, the controversy over BP's oil disaster, and the global financial crisis.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

HARRIS: All right. Any minute now, we expect a vote on the -- well, from the Senate Judiciary Committee, set to vote any minute now on the nomination of Elena Kagan to be the next associate justice to the U.S. Supreme Court, to pass that nomination out of committee just ahead of the full Senate vote.

There you see the ranking member of that committee, Jeff Sessions. He seems pretty fired up here.

Let's have a bit of a listen here.

(JOINED IN PROGRESS)

SEN. JEFF SESSIONS (R), ALABAMA: You can limit how much money they can give, but you can't keep them from speaking. This is a serious issue. So there's this view.

The other view is, it's quite prominent in the -- many of the great law schools, and by some judges, is that a judge should be activist. This should be celebrated.

HARRIS: OK. This was to give you a taste of that. The vote to happen any time now. And, again, this would be to pass the nomination out of the Senate Judiciary Committee and set the stage for a full Senate vote on the nomination of Elena Kagan to be the next associate justice of the U.S. Supreme Court.

Former Illinois governor Rod Blagojevich could soon be telling his story to a federal jury in Chicago. He faces a slew of charges. Among them, trying to sell the Senate seat formerly held by President Obama.

Word is Blagojevich my might take the stand today. Listen to what Lynn Sweet with "The Chicago Sun-Times" and "Politics Daily" told me last hour.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

LYNN SWEET, "THE CHICAGO SUN-TIMES": It's been a sensational sideshow for all these months. But now, and even today, if he takes the stand today, finally he has his own fate in his hands.

This is not a make believe show where the ending doesn't matter. He faces substantial prison time.

For the first time, he will be questioned in a systematic way to find out his version of events. Up until then, you never had these wiretaps of his -- in these scheming conversations.

There are also, by the way, charges of extortion and other shakedowns that he was engaged in. Those charges haven't been as sensational. He hasn't really been asked in a very disciplined way what happened. What's your version of events?

Right now, those charges, I think from just the wiretaps that have been played for jurors, the prosecution has a stronger case. He has to be very careful in his answers. Being flip and funny is fine for, you know -- fine for the sideshow, but now he has to make clear, he did nothing wrong.

(END VIDEO CLIP) HARRIS: OK. Today marks the 25th day of the trial. Blagojevich's brother is expected to finish up his testimony.

Lindsay Lohan heads to jail to begin serving a 90-day sentence.

CNN Entertainment Correspondent Kareen Wynter is right outside the court with the very latest.

And Kareen, has Lindsay Lohan left the courtroom? Is she on her way to jail?

KAREEN WYNTER, CNN ENTERTAINMENT CORRESPONDENT: We believe she is en route to that facility, that jail in Lynwood. But something interesting that we learned from a pool producer, Tony. The legal proceedings inside have wrapped up for the morning, ,but we're told that Lindsay Lohan's attorney, Shawn Chapman Holley, as well as the prosecutor in this case, they are actually in the judge's chambers talking right now.

What that exactly entails we don't know right now. Maybe this is a matter of the formalities when someone is remanded into custody.

But speaking of that, let's listen to the judge this morning addressing Lindsay Lohan, who arrived, by the way, late for court. Listen to what she had to say.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JUDGE MARSHA REVEL, L.A. COUNTY SUPERIOR COURT: So, at this time, she will be remanded to serve her sentence, and the court is going to order that there be no house arrest, no electronic monitoring, no work release, and no work furlough. The defendant is now remanded to custody to serve the 90-day jail sentence.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

WYNTER: And, Tony, one thing that was really interesting, the point that the judge raised, is that she has no control over how much time Lindsay Lohan actually serves here. Sure, she has been sentenced to 90 days in jail, but, look, the likelihood of that happening, it's not.

You know, she is going to serve a fraction of that. We're talking perhaps around 25 percent here. So Lindsay Lohan may end up spending perhaps 20, 22 days in jail.

That has to do with the overcrowding population facing L.A. jails here, L.A. County jails. And also, she'll probably get credit for good behavior.

But, Tony, before she left the courtroom, her dad, Michael Lohan, who was in court, you know, reached out, basically, to Lindsay Lohan, saying, "We love you, Lindsay." Lindsay did not acknowledge him. They have a very, very turbulent, rocky relationship right now.

Michael Lohan, through his attorney, did address the media after this. And they basically said that they're disappointed.

They were hoping that Lindsay Lohan would only have to serve rehab here instead of jail time. Not the case. She is headed to Lynwood facility. By the way, she is no stranger to that facility. Back in 2007, she served 84 minutes there in a jail cell on, you guessed it, another DUI offense -- Tony.

HARRIS: I know that that culture out there, one of the things that a lot of the photographers are looking for is that shot, and you know the shot I'm talking about, of her in handcuffs.

WYNTER: Yes, I do.

HARRIS: What was the ruling -- remind us of the ruling from the judge that essentially, you know, made that shot unavailable to the cameras in the court and to the photographers.

WYNTER: She did. And right after she laid out those orders, all the cameras went black. But our producer inside told us that there were four deputies surrounding Lohan, that she was handcuffed and very quickly let out.

There were also photographers, Tony, stationed on the other side of this courthouse. This is the entrance. And they were hoping to get that so-called "money shot," which is what we call it in our business, back there. And the sheriff deputies told them to get out. So, it's unclear whether or not there will be a photo of Lindsay Lohan in handcuffs.

HARRIS: OK, Kareen. Appreciate it. Thank you so much.

CNN tonight, a "LARRY KING LIVE" exclusive. On the day his daughter reports to jail, Lindsay Lohan's father, Michael, on why he wants Lindsay's attorney to appeal her sentence and what she can expect on the inside.

That's "LARRY KING LIVE," tonight at 9:00 Eastern.

Just getting word that the vote is complete on the nomination of Elena Kagan, that it has been passed out of the committee, the Senate Judiciary Committee, with a 13-6 vote. Only Republican to vote for the nominee, Lindsay Graham. So that sets the stage for a full Senate vote for the confirmation of Elena Kagan to be the next associate justice of the U.S. Supreme Court.

CNN speaks to the man behind an inflammatory ad opposing plans to build an Islamic center near 9/11's Ground Zero.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ALLAN CHERNOFF, CNN SENIOR CORRESPONDENT: People establishing this facility, you think they're celebrating the murder of 3,000 people?

SCOTT WHEELER, AD CREATOR: I think so.

CHERNOFF: How are they celebrating?

WHEELER: Well, by erecting a mosque to their martyrs.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

HARRIS: Religious intolerance or common sense? We dig further into the mosque controversy.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

HARRIS: Come on, come on, come this way. Come on. Cnnmoney.com, your choice, right, for financial news. And there's the lead story there, "Goldman pay and perks cut to $272,581." Probably million. I don't know. But there it is. Your choice of financial news, cnnmoney.com. We are three hours into the trading day, just past. We are still in negative territory. Down 86 points. At last check, the Nasdaq was off by 17.

Plans to build an Islamic community center and mosque two blocks from 9/11's Ground Zero are still really up in the air right now. A group that opposes the center has produced an ad that some say is inflammatory and in bad taste. CNN's senior correspondent, Allen Chernoff, spoke with the man behind the message.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

ALLAN CHERNOFF, CNN SENIOR CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): NBC and CBS turned down this ad opposing a mosque near Ground Zero.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE, ADVERTISEMENT: And to celebrate that murder of 3,000 Americans, they want to build a monstrous 13-story mosque at Ground Zero.

CHERNOFF: Those are the words of ad producer Scott Wheeler.

SCOTT WHEELER, AD CREATOR: We know that in the past Muslims have established mosques at locations where they want to declare dominion.

CHERNOFF: Wheeler, who served a year-and-a-half in the Army, runs a small political action committee, the Republican National Trust Pact. It has no ties to the Republican Party and no full-time staff. When he learned about plans to build an Islamic community center that would include a mosque two blocks north of Ground Zero, he says he had to send a warning, the mosque would be a victory for the terrorists.

CHERNOFF (on camera): The people establishing this facility, you think they're celebrating the murder of 3,000 people?

WHEELER: I think so.

CHERNOFF: How are they celebrating?

WHEELER: Well, by erecting a mosque to their martyrs, which they have traditionally done all over the world.

CHERNOFF (voice-over): Those martyrs, claims Wheeler, are the 19 hijackers of the 9/11 planes.

WHEELER: You can also look at how many Muslims see mosques. They see them as military barracks.

CHERNOFF (on camera): Do you think this will be a military barrack?

WHEELER: Well, they call the faithful their soldiers.

CHERNOFF: The fact is, this building has been functioning as a prayer space since last fall. For the Friday mid-day prayer, the most important for Muslims, this place is packed with more than 400 worshippers.

CHERNOFF (voice-over): Those congregants, just a handful come on most days, say Wheeler's claims are outrageous.

ZAED RAMADAN, CONGREGANT: It's tremendously offensive as a Muslim New Yorker and an American that anyone would make the attempt to associate myself, who's a proud American, whose family served as first responders.

CHERNOFF: The property developer and the Imam waiting for approval from New York's landmarks commission to erect a new building here say their intent is to provide a community center that can improve relations with non Muslims. But Scott Wheeler, who is using the ad controversy to try to raise funds for his pact, maintenance there is a connection to the 2001 attack.

CHERNOFF (on camera): Can you show us any proof that the people behind this community center have ties to al Qaeda?

WHEELER: I think there's been proof in the media already. Well, not to al Qaeda. Why do you keep asking me about al Qaeda. I said we don't know. I said we can establish --

CHERNOFF: Well, aren't they -- well, weren't they the ones behind 9/11?

Scott Wheeler may not have any evidence that al Qaeda or its backers are supporting the community center and mosque near Ground Zero, but he does have support. A recent Quinnipiac poll found 52 percent of New Yorkers oppose building a mosque near Ground Zero.

Allan Chernoff, CNN, New York.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

HARRIS: The question that has really more than half of New Yorkers so angry is why build the Islamic center near Ground Zero?

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DEBORAH FEYERICK, CNN CORRESPONDENT: For those who are so still sensitive and so raw to this, their question, their overriding question is, why here? Why so close? It's two blocks. But it was close enough that landing gear ended up on the roof. Why?

(END VIDEO CLIP)

HARRIS: CNN's Deborah Feyerick gets answers from the project's developer. We will bring you that story in this hour tomorrow.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

HARRIS: Checking top stories right now.

Elaina Kagan's nomination to the U.S. Supreme Court now goes to the full Senate. The Judiciary Committee approved it just moments ago. The vote 13-6. Senator Lindsay Graham of South Carolina the only Republican on the committee voting for it.

West Virginia's governor makes it official. Joe Manchin announced this morning he is running for the Senate seat held by late Robert Byrd. The long-time senator died last month. Governor Manchin has appointed Attorney Carte Goodwin to temporarily fill that seat.

And actress Lindsay Lohan is on her way to jail. She reported to court last hour. She begins serving time for violating probation. Lohan has been sentenced to 90 days in jail, another 90 in a rehab program for substance abuse.

Before the oil, there was Katrina. Rebuilding businesses along the Mississippi waterfront.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

HARRIS: In Bay St. Louis, Mississippi, almost every business and homeowner was slammed by Hurricane Katrina, and that started a big move inland. It seemed no one wanted to risk rebuilding on the water only to get battered again, until now. Tom Foreman is in Bay St. Louis, where one family is bucking the trend.

Oh, share this family's story with us, Tom. Good to see you, sir.

TOM FOREMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Good to see you, Tony.

Yes, you know, it really has been hard for people to get down to the beach proper. A lot of people have tried, but there have been insurance issues and there has been this sheer question of, do I want to be that close to the water? But, as you know, when people come to a beach area, the first thing they ask tourist people is, where do I find a good restaurant? And the answer has to be, to some degree, on the water, because that's what people are counting for and people are finding a way to make that work. Take a look.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

FOREMAN (voice-over): The Trapani (ph) family restaurant has great cooks, loyal customers. The owners, Jo Lynn and Tony are dedicated, hard-working.

TONY TRAPANI (ph): These crab cakes right here have no bread in them whatsoever.

FOREMAN: But situated far from the water, they lack one thing -- location, location, location.

T. TRAPANI: This place needs to be on the beach. This whole area is all about boating and water and fishing and everything. Now we're doing OK, but we can't stay here forever. We have to move back to that beach in order to help the community out.

FOREMAN: Fr a dozen years, the Trapani's place was right on the water front, and they had lots of company.

FOREMAN (on camera): This whole area out here was filled with businesses?

JO LYNN TRAPANI: Right.

T. TRAPANI: Yes, businesses. And all of this was businesses. And that was a coffee shop.

FOREMAN (voice-over): Plenty of restaurants have opened since Katrina. There are now more on this coast than before the storm. But they are building inland, not on the water, and especially not now with the danger of oily tides in the mix. So the Hospitality and Restaurant Association is offering classes for aspiring restaurateurs, helping with business plans, running special promotions to attract customers, all because they know they need businesses on the beach to build up their part of the Gulf.

RICHARD CHENOWETH, MS HOSPITALITY & RESTAURANT ASSN.: It's just like having a wheel with all the gears in it. You know, you have the little sprocket (ph) that's going around. And if one of those goes, then you start slipping like this, and, you know, it kind of goes down.

FOREMAN (on camera): You need them all?

CHENOWETH: We need them all.

FOREMAN (voice-over): The Trapanis have made up their minds. Soon they will break ground, rebuilding right back where Katrina took them down, and where the oil still threatens.

FOREMAN (on camera): Why is it so important for you to be back here again?

J. TRAPANI: We always knew that this is a big puzzle -- piece of the puzzle that we can replace to bring back this community.

T. TRAPANI: We are determined to rebuild this thing.

FOREMAN (voice-over): Because they are convinced, if they build it, not only customers but other businesses will come too.

(END VIDEOTAPE) FOREMAN: So, Tony, they have some real challenges here. They know that. Convincing not only the businesses to come back to the beach, but the people as well, and make them believe that it's really a place to come to. But it is, I'll tell you this, look at this. Called for a sandwich just a couple of minutes ago. Baninio's (ph) over here. Bingo, right there. You wish you had this. This is good stuff.

HARRIS: You better believe it.

Hey, Tom, how badly has this BP oil catastrophe hurt the restaurant folks there and their plans for taking back the beaches?

FOREMAN: Yes, well, you know something, Tony, it has hurt and it's hurt in two ways. One, many, many, many of the restaurateurs down here who specialize in seafood are very frustrated that they can't get the Gulf seafood that they want. Most of them have gone to some kind of secondary supplier. They'll go to an offshore person. Somebody else. They'll get some kind -- something to replace it. And their plan, all of them say, is to simply say as soon as they can get the Gulf seafood again, which is just spectacular food if you've ever had it --

HARRIS: Oh, yes.

FOREMAN: That they're going back to that as soon as they can.

But the second thing they're trying to get out, literally, is reflected by things like a sandwich like this. They want people to know that they are in business here, they're still serving great food and the Gulf food that they serve is as good as it ever was, as safe as it ever was, and that's all they'll serve. They want to get that message out because they know that that is critical to building up this area again, in the wake of Katrina and in the wake of the recession, and in the wake of the oil spill here. So, Tony, I've got a sandwich to eat. I don't know what you're doing, but I'm working.

HARRIS: Yu know what -- I will tell you what. If the Tripanis will get word out and scream it loud and long that they are serving crab cakes with no bread, no meal, no fillers, I guarantee you, as a Baltimore boy, they will have customers lined up! And I'm done.

Enjoy that sandwich.

FOREMAN: Yes, (INAUDIBLE), isn't it.

HARRIS: Yes, sir. Enjoy the sandwich, Tom, good to see you.

FOREMAN: Yes. Yes.

HARRIS: So what did you do with your life today? Don't tell me. Put it on YouTube and you could go to Hollywood. We'll explain.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

HARRIS: Come on in, the water's fine. Come on in. Josh Levs now. What's trending online right now, doctor? Yes, yes, yes. JOSH LEVS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hi, everybody. OK, yes, see there's a camera.

HARRIS: That was clever. That was clever.

LEVS: We can do it. Yes, it was fun.

HARRIS: OK.

LEVS: OK. So you and I talked about the UFO in China.

HARRIS: Yes.

LEVS: We were talking about this. We have better pictures of it. Take this. So, you know, what happened was, it was originally seen over this airport called Hangzhou and it was in the capital of Zhejiang Province and people have been talking about this. It's all over the web. It's been posted on all these sites.

HARRIS: Yes.

LEVS: So now we are getting a little bit of information, maybe. There's a weapons analyst from MIT who says the video is most likely a Chinese missile launch that has been photo shopped. I've been following state run media Shinwa (ph) and they say that there's still an investigation, they just don't know.

Two more stories to bang through with you.

HARRIS: Sure.

LEVS: Are you a big fan of e-books? You into e-books?

HARRIS: I'm more and more. More and more.

LEVS: OK. Well, they -- they're outselling now big time. They're outselling regular books. We have some stats here. Amazon is saying for every 100 hard-cover books it's sold over the past month, it sold 180 e-books.

HARRIS: So a real threat to Borders and the like?

LEVS: Well, not if they climb on the bandwagon, which they all are. They're all doing the same thing, you know. Interesting stats.

And quickly I'm going to mention this to everyone. I've been following this. Your life could be part of a major film documentary.

HARRIS: I like this.

LEVS: We have some video for this, too. YouTube is doing this thing called life in a day. This Saturday, the 24th, everyone in the world is invited to send in a YouTube video showing your life that day.

HARRIS: I love this. LEVS: Ridley Scott (ph) and Kevin McDonnell (ph) are going to go through it. Ridley Scott -- actually, Kevin McDonnell is going to piece through it. Ridley Scott's the producer behind it. And we're going to create a major documentary out of the best ones, which will premier appear on Sundance in January.

HARRIS: I love it. And Ridley is the guy behind "Gladiator," right.

LEVS: "Gladiator" is one of his (INAUDIBLE). Yes.

HARRIS: Yes, yes, yes, yes. That is a terrific project.

Josh, we were so -- great to see you, man. Thank you.

And we'll be back in a moment. You're in the CNN NEWSROOM.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

POPPY HARLOW, CNNMONEY.COM: All right, time now for "Help Desk," where we get you answers to your financial questions. Joining me this hour, Donna Rosato, a senior writer with "Money," and Ryan Mack, president of Optimum Capital Management.

Thanks for being here, guys.

DONNA ROSATO, SENIOR WRITER, "MONEY": Good to be here.

HARLOW: First question to you, Ryan. This comes from B. B wrote in, "do you think it's a good idea to sign into a 401(k) program at age 44 for the amount of $300 a month?" What do you think?

RYAN MACK, PRESIDENT, OPTIMUM CAPITAL MANAGEMENT: Easy answer is, absolutely. Better late than later. You know, at the end of the day, we have to make sure that when you do fill out the information, you're in the right investment strategy. A lot of individuals, you're 44 years old, it's probably the first time in your life you're really thinking about retirement. So just make sure you select some investments that reflect your risk tolerance, as well as the market conditions that you're going into.

HARLOW: Any benefit from the tax (ph) right there.

MACK: Absolutely.

HARLOW: All right. And, Donna, Jason wrote this question in. "If a child or a teen who is not 18 receives a credit card in the mail and decides to sign it and use it, are they responsible for the payments?" I feel like this is a desperate parent writing in and their kid might have done this.

ROSATO: Yes. Well, first of all, a minor who's under 18 is not allowed to have -- enter into a legal contract, like a credit card. So if they signed up for it, it's probably something fraudulent and you might want to consult a lawyer for it, if they're actually using it.

HARLOW: OK.

ROSATO: The only way someone under 18 can get a credit card is if a parent cosigns it or there's another -- a guardian who makes them an authorized user. And since the new credit card law was passed last year and took effect this year, anyone under 21 is not allowed to get a credit card without a cosigner or proof of payment.

HARLOW: Right. Right.

ROSATO: So really look at what -- it could be this desperate parent. Most credit card companies are not going to send that. You will not be able to use that card unless you have -- you are 18 or over.

HARLOW: All right. And you wouldn't be responsible for it?

ROSATO: Only the primary card holder is responsible for the payment.

HARLOW: And they have to be at least 18.

ROSATO: That's right.

HARLOW: All right, Donna, Ryan, thank you guys, appreciate it.

"The Help Desk," all about getting you answers. Send us an e-mail to cnnhelpdesk@cnn.com or log online to cnn.com/helpdesk to see more of our financial solutions. You can also pick up the latest issue of "Money" magazine. It is on newsstands now.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

HARRIS: So I asked you earlier what you thought about Shirley Sherrod's resignation. She is the USDA official whose remarks on race cost her her job. Your comments are literally pouring in. Thank you for that.

Michael Armstrong Senior says, "no one deserves to be punished for something she said 24 years ago. Reinstate her position and apologize."

Seth says, "based on the farmer's wife, there is no way the USDA can get themselves out of the corner they are in right now. I think they owe Sherrod more than her job back."

" I thought I was really busy this morning, but when I saw you begin your interview with Miss Sherrod, I just stopped. The farmer's wife did Miss Sherrod great credit. And even if she does not regain her job as USDA head in Georgia because of your interview, she has been vindicated."

Thank you.

And if you would -- thanks for your comments. And if you would, keep them coming. We want you involved on this topic. At some point, we will get to a really honest discussion about race in this country and maybe you guys will lead the way. Send us your thoughts to cnn.com/tony.

CNN NEWSROOM continues right now with the man, Ali Velshi.

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