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Tracking Tropical Storm Bonnie; Milwaukee Airport Shut Down Due to Flooding

Aired July 23, 2010 - 09:58   ET


KYRA PHILLIPS, CNN ANCHOR: Trending now, he's the new Old Spice man. And Isaiah Mustafa has become an Internet sensation. Mustafa is selling body wash, but since his commercial was posted on YouTube, millions of people have turned to it to see the buff new star.

But is Mr. Mustafa helping Old Spice maker actually sell its products? Josh Levs looking into that.

Josh, what do you think? Are people just checking out his abs or are they really wanting to buy the body wash?

JOSH LEVS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, you know, given how many times people are watching those videos over and over and over again and still don't know the exactly name of the product, I'm pretty sure it's the former there.

I don't think they're obsessed with seeing the product over and over. But this (INAUDIBLE) is really interesting because as you know, it's a huge viral sensation ever since the first video. We have the first commercial here which premiered at the Super Bowl when this all began.

And what's interesting to me is we really don't know in America yet whether viral videos sell products. I started looking into this, and there are all these reports online saying believe it or not, sales are down of that product.

So I started looking into this and this is where it gets interesting. It turns out that the reports of sales demise are actually premature if not straight out false.

Let me talk to you about what is going on with the sales of the product. I got numbers for you here. I know you'd rather watch him but I have to do my job then we'll get back to him.

All right. Here are the basics here. There are all these reports saying that that product that he is showing has gone down by 7 percent. That's because there's one agency out there, I won't name names but a news agency, that looked at how much that product was selling a year ago and how much that product was selling a year ago, how much that product is selling on one date recently, compared those two things in one sort of a narrow form and found a slight drop in that.

Well, what the folks at Old Spice are pointing to for Proctor and Gamble are the Nielsen data which actually do show something quite different. They're showing this. That in general these Old Spice body washes, the various kinds of them that are out there, have actually gone up substantially.

Feature lines up 55 percent in 3 months. It's up 107 percent in the past month. I looked at those Nielsen data. It's true. So we are seeing when it comes to Old Spice body wash in general, more people are buying it.

Now, you know what? You can go ahead and get back to a little bit of the commercial. Here's the thing. What we don't know yet, still - we're in the same situation. We don't know long term whether viral videos sell product. Every one, every company out there is taking a look at this because everyone wants something similar, right?

Everyone wants their ads to become viral videos because that's free. Everybody sending it to everybody else. We don't know long term whether we will see a boost in sales that makes up for the cost of all the ads, all the cost of being in the Super Bowl and what happens six months down the road, a year down the road. We do know that right now, this future line in general is a little bit up.

OK. We got to go. So there you go. That's the basic idea we know for now when it comes to Old Spice sales. I got the numbers for you, more information posted on Facebook and Twitter. (INAUDIBLE) do it yourself, under joshlevscnn. Go ahead and hey, let us know what you think.

And Kyra, I will tell you this, when I posted about this ad before, no one yet has written me that they're buying it. And people keep saying even with these ads, they still think of Old Spice as being their grandfather.

PHILLIPS: I was just going to say. You know, I don't know if I could handle Old Spice again. We were just going through the female perfumes, remember Charlie, Gloria Vanderbilt, Jean Nate, wondering if maybe the Charlie model will come back, you know -

LEVS: I remember my older sister with (INAUDIBLE)

PHILLIPS: The new Shelley Hack. Remember Jean Nate too. I don't remember who did those but they splashed it all over her.

LEVS: Now I want to go watch the old ads from when we were kids, in the '80s when they used to play those. That's what Jean Nate was. I remember that ad. That was a great one.

PHILLIPS: Oh, boy. All right. That will be the next phenomenon on the internet. Thanks, Josh.

All right. We're following a developing story for you right now and it could affect air travelers. Powerful thunderstorms have pounded the area, and floodwaters actually shot down the Milwaukee Airport. Apparently rising waters began creeping across runways last night and forced the decision to shut down all of the flights. The airport is still closed this morning. Reynolds Wolf is tracking that for us.

And a call from the White House, President Obama telling Shirley Sherrod that her unfortunate situation may present an opportunity to continue helping people. The former Agriculture Department employee was forced to resign from her job based on an out of context video clip.

New York Congressman Charlie Rangel is accused of breaking the ethics rules, according to a House investigative panel and now the 80- year-old Democrat is facing a public hearing by the House ethics committee. We don't know any specifics about the allegations just yet. Details will come next week though. Rangel says bring it on. He says he's glad he's finally getting a chance to respond.

All right. Let's talk about tropical storm Bonnie now, just hours away from south Florida, but the greater danger lies just beyond in the area of the Gulf oil spill. Now, on this 95th day of the disaster, the storm presents a double threat. It actually may push the oil into new areas and delay the efforts to shut down the leak permanently.

CNN meteorologist Rob Marciano spent much of the last three months in the gulf. He's joining us from Gulf Shores, Alabama. So, Rob, what's the latest on the evacuations?

ROB MARCIANO, AMS METEOROLOGIST: Well, they pulled the trigger last night, and basically they're going to get personnel and all vessels out of there as soon as possible and the biggest coup d'grace, I supposed is that they're moving the drill ship that is drilling the relief well, and that takes several days just to unplug it and get it out of harm's way and then another couple of days just to get it back there.

So we've got a huge delay in the deadlines to actually kill the well as planned. So that's problem number one. You got 60 vessels, a couple thousand personnel they want to get out of there. A tropical storm onshore versus out here in the gulf is a whole another thing. Huge waves out there. Very, very dangerous conditions.

They are evacuating all those people and keeping the well capped and it's going to go unmonitored until the storm is passed. So a little bit of risk there but they're confident that it should remain in place.

And then the other issue is the amount of oil that's going to come on shore. We just don't know what's going to happen there, but the track of this is not good, and Reynolds will talk more about that in that the right front quadrant which we're in here, as in Mississippi, may very well get another push of some of that oil.

PHILLIPS: All right. Rob, go ahead and tell us more about that. He just gave you the perfect segue, Reynolds.

REYNOLDS WOLF, AMS METEOROLOGIST: Absolutely. what we're seeing with the storm is right now, it's pretty weak. The question is where is it going to go? Before we got where it is going, let's talk about where it is right now. It's just right off Miami, in fact about 82 miles from Miami itself. The strongest winds we recorded at least onshore near Pompano Beach had been 28 miles per hour although we have stronger sustained winds at 40, gusting to 50 miles per hour.

OK. We got a handle on where it is? The thing is where is it going next? Well, let's minimize this, and get this one out of the way and let's take this one and show you what we expect, at least, from the National Hurricane Center. The latest forecast brings it across Florida, right through the Florida Straits, right near Key West (INAUDIBLE) late Saturday afternoon and then by Sunday if it follows this path and if it holds true, expected to remain a tropical storm as we get into Saturday and this Sunday with winds of 50 and gusts up to 65 miles per hour.

Keep in mind though, it is encountering apparently not some land but also encountering some very strong shear. So there is a chance the storm may weaken considerably, and could even be a depression, possibly by the next report. Very quickly something else to talk about.

We were talking about the airport in Milwaukee, closed. The reason why, because of the heavy rainfall. In fact, they had over seven inches of rain that fell in a 2 1/2 hour period. And if you look all the way (INAUDIBLE) in Waterloo and even in Ames, Iowa, heavy rains are going to continue to march this way to the east, and as it does so, it's going to fall over places that are already saturated, spots that have poor drainage.

You're going to see the water begin to pile up, in some places water may get up to several feet in depth. So certainly be careful especially along parts of I-90, back into Milwaukee southward into Racine even in Mulkegan (ph). That is the latest on the forecast. Busy weather day. Let's send it back to you, Kyra.

PHILLIPS: All right. Thanks, Reynolds.

At the bottom of the hour, we are expecting an update also from the government's point man on the crisis. Admiral Thad Allen scheduled for a briefing at 10:30 a.m. Eastern. We will carry that out live right here on CNN.

Two quick stories about money. Millions of jobless Americans should start getting checks next week. That's when they go out. President Obama has signed the fresh bill extending unemployment benefits.

And remember when some big banks in trouble gave out about $2 billion in bonuses for some execs. About the time that the financial system was about to collapse is when that happened. A full report is expected today and says most of those bonuses were not even deserved.

All right. Now, let's talk about big fat salaries, probably big fat salaries that weren't deserved either. We first told you about this story last week. Now it looks like some city officials in Bell, California, will have to find another source of riches. Here's the quick back story. Then, we'll update you.

Bell, California, is one of the poorest cities in Los Angeles County, median income about $40,000 a year, but city manager Robert Rizzo was making close to $800,000 a year. That is more than the president of the United States. And his assistant, get this, nearly $380,000 a year and Bell's police chief, Randy Adams, $457,000 a year. That's more than the police chief of Los Angeles. People were furious, and they protested, and our affiliate, KTLA, caught up with the mayor to see how he justified these salaries.


MAYOR OSCAR HERNANDEZ, BELL, CALIFORNIA: If you want a good service, I think you deserve to get a good money, don't you?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You don't have a lot of money comes into this city. When you compare what's coming into Los Angeles, that city manager doesn't make that much money. How do you justify $800,000 in a city this small and this poor?

HERNANDEZ: The only thing I say this community, they're receiving a good service. They deserve to have the best service.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They can get the best service for a lot less than $800,000 a year.

HERNANDEZ: Well, you have to have good employees to do that.


PHILLIPS: Well, like I said, the three fattest cats will have to find another source of riches. Last night, all three of them resigned and none will get severance packages. Let's bring in Kirk Hawkins. He is our affiliate reporter with KCBS and he joins us live from Bell City Hall. So Kirk, do the resignations come as a surprise and why didn't they just take pay cuts?

KIRK HAWKINS, REPORTER, KCBS: Well, Kyra, it doesn't come as a surprise because we first learned about all of these on Monday morning and very quickly as you know, this happened early Friday morning. The city was just outraged to say the least every city meeting that they had here was packed with people that are just irate.

As you mentioned, there is 37,000 people in this city, about on average, they make $30,000 a year. The city also has an unemployment rate of 16 percent and just yesterday literally, just across the street we covered, basically a line for a soup kitchen. People can't even afford to put food on their tables yet just across the street. The city managers making $800,000 a year. So you can imagine the outrage in terms of pay cuts, they really haven't responded to our calls. We've made many calls to multiple people involved in the salary scandal. They haven't returned our phone calls but what we can say is maybe it was the invasion of privacy in some cases.

We learned that the city manager in this city didn't even live here. He actually lived in Huntington Beach in an exclusive beach front mansion. He lives in a $1 million horse ranch outside of Seattle, and then just last night we learned that he got arrested for suspicion of DUI. So it could be the public intrigue and all of these interest that maybe allowed him to drop that. There was so much outrage that it didn't seem like there was anything that he could do.

PHILLIPS: Oh, my gosh, Kirk, we should have led with that. We had no idea that he's living a big, million-dollar home on the beach. That just makes this even more outrageous. So do we even know how these salaries got so high, especially in a small city like Bell, where, like we mentioned, the median income is $40,000 and you got a lot of people out of work. They just want to have an hourly paying job.

HAWKINS: That's right. They just want an $8 an hour job in some cases. That's what some of the people we talked to yesterday are just trying to track down. Well, back in 2005, there was a special election. Less than 400 people voted, and the ballot measure basically changed the city from what's called a general law city to a charter city, and that basically gave the city council power to give themselves raises and also to give the city manager these raises.

So as you can tell, things changed dramatically over time as that money factor just got incredibly out of control. I should also point out that public records laws here in California are fairly restrictive. In Florida, you have these things that are called sunshine laws that basically allow access to all sorts of public documents.

Here in California, it's not as easy. And there was a lot of obstruction and we've been talking to activists who have been looking into this for at least the past year and a half and despite that had no luck, only up until very recently. So it's very difficult to find out exactly where this began, but it all began with that elections. So I think the moral of the story is just to try to be as active in civic government as you possibly can.

PHILLIPS: It's just outrageous and what an abuse of power. So Kirk, final question, do we have any idea who's going to lead Bell from here? I mean, if they resigned, who's running Bell, California right now?

HAWKINS: Well, they do have those five city council members, and four of them, I should also point out, make roughly $100,000 a year, but there are interim people that have been put in place to take over and the resignations don't really take effect until the end of August and the end of September, respectively, depending on each of the people involved.

But I should also point out that these people also get this high figure pensions. Some of them, over $600,000 in one case for the city manager. So these people will be leaving - they won't have their jobs but they still are going to be paid huge amounts and huge salaries until their deaths.

PHILLIPS: That's ridiculous. I mean something has to - I know many lawmakers are getting involved now to try to do something about this. Before we let you go, Kirk, are you going to stay on this story? We would like - I'm going to ask you right now if you'll come back and continue to update us if you are going to stay on this story and investigate this story because we don't want to lose sight of the abuse of power.

HAWKINS: Absolutely. Kyra, we'll be here later. You know, you are an alumnus of this station as well. So we have to give you a shout out. But of course, we will stay on top of the story throughout the day and bring you all of the latest developments in this and it's just incredibly outrageous in many ways.

PHILLIPS: Yes, everyone in the control room in my ears says we want to see the million dollar beach house. All right, Kirk, we'll wait for the update. Kirk Hawkins from KCBS. Great reporting. Look forward to talking to you again. Appreciate it.

So how do you close a $70 million budget gap? Well, just ask the mayor of Newark?


I'm telling you that we're going to stop spending everything - from printer paper to toilet paper, stop washing windows, anything that we need to do to keep the fiscal integrity of our city strong and solid.


PHILLIPS: Isn't that amazing. You hear about Bell, California, and their leaders making $800,000 a year, and then you hear about this budget crunch so bad, the mayor wants to wipe out free toilet paper.


PHILLIPS: Incredible pictures coming in from Milwaukee, Wisconsin right now, where the city has received eight inches of rain overnight. Check out this sinkhole. This is actually at the corner of Oakland and North Avenue in Milwaukee. We're told it's a 20-foot sinkhole. A Cadillac Escalade, we're told actually fell into this hole as it was coming down the street.

The airport has also been closed because of flooding. We heard reports of the runway actually being in trouble because of the high waters. The city is now trying to deal with picking up all of the debris and handling issues like this as that extreme weather is just pounding that area right now. We're going to keep you posted.

Well, times are tough, belts are tightening, and budgets are getting slashed across the country. Sure, drastic times call for drastic measures, but some cuts are in a class of their own. Take Tracy, California, calling 911 for a medical emergency. That's going to cost you if you don't sign up for a pre-paid plan. Dialing for help will actually set you back 300 bucks. Or how about Maywood?

Protests like this one commonplace after officials fired every city employee and outsourced the work. City hall workers, crossing guards, you name it, all of their jobs axed.

And in Utah, one lawmakers offered to put 12th grade on the chopping block. The plan didn't go through, but talk about extreme measures. Now, at Newark, the mayor says that he wants to stop spending city money on toilet paper among other things. Mary Snow asks if this is really the best way to wipe out a budget shortfall.



MARY SNOW, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): A glimmer of hope in a struggling city, a clothing store opening, but for the rest of Newark, New Jersey, the picture is grim. Mayor Cory Booker plans to slash spending everywhere.

(on camera): One thing that caught our attention you said you were even cutting back on toilet paper. Are you really serious about that?

MAYOR CORY BOOKER, NEWARK, NEW JERSEY: I'm telling you that we're going to stop spending from printer paper to toilet paper, stop washing windows, anything that we need to do to keep the fiscal integrity of our city strong and solid. Everybody is watching us from bond holders to local residents who are worried about their fourth quarter tax bill.

And so I would much rather go without some of these things than have my taxpayers in the city of Newark, my home owners and my renters face yet another cost of living increase that they just can't take right now.

SNOW (voice-over): Besides the prospect of having to bring in their own paper and toilet paper to work, non-uniformed city workers could be cut to a four-day work week. More than 300 firemen and policemen stand to lose their jobs in a city where the unemployment rate is 15 percent.

All city pools are slated to shut down next month. Booker says the cuts are necessary. He had hoped to raise revenue by converting the city's water system into a municipal utility authority, a new agency that could sell municipal bonds.

But Newark City council rejected that idea and accuses Booker of using scare tactics.

RAS BARAKA, NEWARK CITY COUNCIL: I mean, that is the most ridiculous thing I ever heard of. You know, you are not going to buy toilet paper. You're not going to do these kinds of things. These are extreme kind of things to force the council to participate or vote for municipal utilities authority that we think is bad public policy.

BOOKER: This is not scare tactics. This a fact of life right now.

SNOW: Booker is predicting the next couple of years will be the most difficult Newark has seen in a long time.

BOOKER: So have so much faith in our people. We're not only going to survive this but we're going to come out and find ways to thrive at greater and greater levels.

SNOW: Mary Snow, CNN, Newark, New Jersey.


PHILLIPS: All right. Let's check on what's going on in other parts across the country. First stop, Elko County, Nevada, a camper captured these images of a helicopter that went down in the mountains. The pilot and three others aboard all managed to walk away from the crash.

As the chopper was plunging to the ground, the pilot somehow barreled through a crowded campground without injuring anyone.

And a drunk driving stop in Middleburg Heights, Ohio but it wasn't police who made the call. It was an NFL player. Sean Rogers of the Cleveland Browns saw the car weaving and called police. He followed the car until the driver decided to park it in the fast lane. Rogers turned his flashers on and then directed cops to the location. That driver, by the way, charged with DUI.

Just outside Sacramento, California, police say a homeless man was hired to clean up this bar that had gone out of business. Boy, did he clean it up. Police say he broke into the bar, stuck an open sign in the window and started slinging drinks for dozens of customers.


DET. JIM HUDSON, PLACER COUNTY, CALIFORNIA SHERIFF'S DEPT.: This has got to be one of the strangest cases I've worked.

PEGGY PASLAZZI, PENRYN RESIDENT: It is a wild story, right under everybody's nose.

HUDSON: I got to hand it to him on the creativity, you know, but he gets an F on staying above the law.


PHILLIPS: Well, the suspect now faces burglary charges and selling alcohol without a license.

A little boy with a debilitating disease gets free help from his local hospital. Now he's using his love of golf to give back and help other sick children.


PHILLIPS: Let's check our top stories. Tropical storm Bonnie just hours away from Florida but forecasters say it won't pack to much of a punch. The storm is expected to head into the gulf of Mexico making landfall this weekend, somewhere west of New Orleans but this could mean a big setback for response to the oil disaster.

It's day 95, and the government has ordered ships in that area to return to shore. BP has also suspended work on digging the relief well. That means efforts to permanently seal the leak could be pushed back by 10 days or more.

A call from the White House. President Obama telling Shirley Sherrod her unfortunate situation may present an opportunity to continue helping people. The former Agriculture Department employee was forced to resign from her job based on an out of context video clip.

A gut check for stressed out parents who slip medicine to their cranky kids. Pediatricians behind a new study calls it abuse.


PHILLIPS: Stressed out parents often jokes about slipping some cold medicine into their rambunctious kids to get them to calm down, but the author of a new study in the "Journal of Pediatrics" likens that practice to child abuse. He points to the National Poison Data System which lists nearly 1,500 cases of children being drugged with over-the-counter prescription and street drugs between 2000 and 2008. 18 of those children have died but behavioral experts say that the ethical boundaries in less extreme cases can be hazy.

New guidelines aimed to give expectant mothers more wiggle room in choosing their delivery options. The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologist now says that most women who have had C-sections in the past can safely go through labor with their next baby. Many doctors and insurers operate under the once a cesarean, always a cesarean mentality. Based largely on fears of medical risks and lawsuits. The new guidelines are a step toward reversing that thinking.

Most women cut off caffeine once they find out they are pregnant. But now a new study says a little Joe isn't too bad. Research finds drinking moderate amounts of caffeine probably won't increase the risks of a miscarriage or premature birth. Moderate in this case is considered a 12-ounce cup of coffee. Research was reviewed by the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists as well.

A little girl had enough of the bullies at school, so she had to tell someone about it. That someone was the guy at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, and, guess what, he wrote back about her fight against mean kids. It doesn't stop there.


PHILLIPS: It's day 95 of the gulf oil disaster and we're waiting an update from the government's point man on the crisis. Admiral Thad Allen scheduled to begin his briefing at any moment. We'll go back to New Orleans as soon as he begins speaking.

All right. Let's get the latest on the storm and where it might be headed. For that, of course, we go to Reynolds Wolf. Reynolds. WOLF: Well, it might be heading, could be the Gulf of Mexico. In fact, if you look over here on this map, here's what we have of it, the latest status. We got winds of 40 miles per hour, sustained gusting to 50. It is moving right into parts of Florida as we speak but it may be headed for the Gulf of Mexico and possibly right through the oil slick.

As we make our way through the forecast this Saturday morning, Saturday afternoon and even into Sunday, winds are expected to fluctuate around 40 to 50 miles per hour with gusts that might be stronger. The storm could pull a little bit more to the northeast, maybe towards Panama City Pensacola. Perhaps farther to the west into Texas. There is a lot of uncertainty between now and later on.

What I can tell you is with this storm, though, is for the time being, it is bringing heavy rain in south Florida, possible flooding there, but we're definitely flooding from the system unrelated to Bonnie. This is from a frontal boundary well to the north of Milwaukee, bringing heavy rainfall in Milwaukee. Over seven inches of rain in about two-and-a-half hours.

Do you want to see what that can do? It can create sink holes so deep it can actually bring in an Escalade. That is a Cadillac Escalade. The bottom of a sinkhole due to some - the heavy, heavy rainfall we have had there. As we come right back to the weather computer, you're going to notice we see more rain developing farther out west of Milwaukee. So, from I-90 back to Platville, even over to Waterloo, Iowa. And other parts of lake Michigan. So, a very rainy day. Huge mess, and possibly a bigger mess in the Gulf in days to come.

We'll watch it for you carefully. Kyra, let's send it back over to you.

PHILLIPS: OK, great. Thanks, Reynolds.

WOLF: You bet.

PHILLIPS: Kids can be so cruel ,and these days, bullies are taking that abuse to whole new level. Forget stealing your lunch money. The stakes are much higher now with cell phones, social networking sites and blogs. Bullies can not only target kids but harass them to the point of death. It's heart wrenching having to cover stories across our country where our kids have taken their own lives because of bullies.

But this morning, stories of kids who are being proactive and fighting back. Kids like Dalton Reynolds of Florida. This fifth- grader started an anti-bullying club, showing her classmates how to stand up for themselves.

And in this middle school in Texas, a Web site called Talk About It. Kids reporting bullies anonymously, not having to worry about the whole payback thing.

And then there are even extreme cases like this. An 11-year-old girl fighting bullies with a vengeance. Bully her, and this is what she'll threaten to do to you.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I'm happy with my life, okay. And if you can't, like, realize that and stop hating, then you know what? I will pop a glock in your mouth --


PHILLIPS: OK. That's pretty violent and a bit disturbing, someone that this Zeone Stokes (ph) sure wouldn't do. This bully victim took a more peaceful approach. She just wrote to the president of the United States. And guess what? She heard back.

She joins us now and with her dad, Rodney. She's actually got the letter. Rodney and Zeone, good to see you.



PHILLIPS: So, Zeone, tell me what you said to the president. What did you write in your letter to him?

Z. STOKES: Well, first, I would like to thank God, and second, I would like to thank him for writing me back. And what I said in the letter was about how kids was getting bullied, and how I was getting bullied at my school.

PHILLIPS: Did you tell the president how you were being bullied?

Z. STOKES: Yes, and I told him how other kids was being bullied.

PHILLIPS: So, tell me what the kids were doing to you?

Z. STOKES: They would torment me. They would take my lunch and call me names and talk about my family members.

PHILLIPS: Ugh! And how many kids were bullying you?

Z. STOKES: Well, since I go to summer camp and they still talk about my clothes that I wear and how I look -- it was about mostly three or five.

PHILLIPS: Wow, and they would steal your lunch money? Would they steal your lunch, too, when your mom would make your lunch?

Z. STOKES: Yes, they would steal my sandwich, my fruit cup, my hot Cheetos. Mostly all my lunch.

PHILLIPS: Oh, my gosh, your Hot Cheetos. Well, I tell you what, we are going to send you a case of Hot Cheetos, Zeone. I can promise you that. On a serious note --


PHILLIPS: You're excited about that now, huh?



PHILLIPS: OK, good I'm glad I made you smile.

But let me ask you this. A lot of kids get violent. We even saw this one 11-year-old who threatens violence on the internet. Why did you take a more peaceful approach instead of socking them in the nose or punching them in the stomach?

Z. STOKES: Well, for one, my mom -- well, for one, my mom made --taught me violence never solves the problem. And, two, at my school, we're not supposed to hit no other child, and I didn't want to do that because I'm not a violent person as other kids.

PHILLIPS: Good for you, Zeone.

So, you wrote the president a letter. Go ahead and read me the response you received from the president. Read me the letter.

Z. STOKES: Dear Student, thank you for your letter. I have heard from many students about the challenges they face, and I am glad that you wrote to share your story. Your letter demonstrates a desire to change the culture of your classroom as well as your community. My administrator is working hard to give schools the resources they need, but I also encourage you to speak with peers, teachers and family members who can confront the bullying when it happens.

Bullying whether in person or in (INAUDIBLE) over race, gender, physical features or personal reference is never okay. All of us must recognize that our shared experiences and our unique differences are what make this nation so special. You deserve a safe and enjoyable classroom, and together we will strive to make this a reality. Thank you again for writing.

Sincerely, Barack Obama.

PHILLIPS: Oh, Zeone, when you opened up that letter, how did you react?

Z. STOKES: Well, I was excited, and I was happy. And I wanted to cry, but me and my mom was in public, so I kept it to myself.


PHILLIPS: Rodney, you must be so proud of your daughter. Did she do this all by herself or did she get any help?

R. STOKES: She did it all by herself, and I am very proud of her.

PHILLIPS: You should be proud of her, as we are as well. So, Zeone, I've got a question. Now that it's out there, you've been on CNN, the world knows that the president wrote you a personal letter, are those bullies still bullying you?

Z. STOKES: No, actually they were trying to be my friend because I was on news channels. They are not saying sorry, but they're just really trying to be my friend.

PHILLIPS: Well, you know why? Because you proved to them why not being violent and bullying is not the right thing to do. You'll get the attention of the president of the United States.

Zeone, we are so proud of you and so impressed for what you did. You stay strong because you're a true leader, and you're not a coward like those bullies are. You are a strong young woman. What's your goal, by the way? Have you thought about what you want to do when you graduate college?

Z. STOKES: Yes, I'm becoming a writer or the president of United States. And I'm going to start an organization called No Kids Should Be Bullied and I'm having a fundraiser.

PHILLIPS: Okay. So you started the anti-bullying club at school already, right?

Z. STOKES: Well, actually, yes.

PHILLIPS: Outstanding. It's going to start there, and next you'll be the president of United States. I love those goals. And Zeone, we will all vote for you, I promise.

Z. STOKES: Thank you.

PHILLIPS: Thanks for being with us. Rodney thank you so much, and, of course, a shout out to mom Zina, who are is so incredible for teaching you nonviolence. Fabulous parents, fabulous young girl. She's got the letter.

I know you have to start talking about the weather, but Reynolds, I know you want to weigh in. You were smiling, too. How do you make a transition from that? What a remarkable young lady.

WOLF: Amazing. Amazing young lady. Gosh, her parents have to be very proud.

Something amazing but not quite as happy, some of the rough stuff we're seeing in parts of Milwaukee. Seven inches of rainfall in less than two hours has turned the airport into a port. Take a look at it. No one is landing there or taking offer until the water recedes. And right now, they are piling up -- more rain possible up through the evening. And that's only one of the big weather stories we're covering today.

We've got more coming up. You're watching the NEWSROOM right here on CNN.


PHILLIPS: Top stories now. Tropical storm Bonnie hours away from Florida, but forecasters say it won't pack too much of a punch. The storm is expected to head into the Gulf of Mexico, making landfall this weekend somewhere west of New Orleans.

This could be a big setback for response to the oil disaster. It's Day 95, and the government has ordered ships in that area to return to shore. BP has also suspended work on digging the relief well, so efforts to permanently seal the leak could be pushed back by ten days or more.

And millions of Americans should start getting checks next week. That's when they go out. President Obama has signed the fresh bill extending unemployment benefits.

For one 11-year-old Texas boy, the game of golf is more than this favorite sport. It's actually changed his life and motivated him to help others. We spotlight him this morning in our "Making Their Mark" report. Here's Maureen Cane of our affiliate station KXII.


MAUREEN CANE, KXII-TV CORRESPONDENT (on camera): When you look at Colin Ashlook -


CANE: -- you might see an 11-year-old with a great swing. What you might not see is a kid who survived a debilitating disease.

When Colin was 8, he noticed something was wrong with his right hip.

ASHLOCK: And I was telling my mom and dad, my hip hurts, my hip hurts really bad.

CANE: Colin was diagnosed with a leg parthesis (ph), apainful condition in which blood flow is cut off to the hip, causing the joint to deteriorate. So, he and his family made the trip from Sherman to Dallas where doctors at Scottish Rite (ph) Hospital performed surgery, placing pins and plates in his femur and hip.

(on camera): It's hard to believe three years ago, Colin could barely walk. But thanks to the game a golf, he regained motion and learned valuable lessons.

ASHLOCK: I never give up. Because I know that God and everybody is on my side and they're helping me out.

CANE (voice-over): And now, he's giving back to some of those people through the game he loves so much. Colin set out to raise $5,000 for sponsorships for the hospital's Kids Swing the Kinney (ph) golf tournament

ASHLOCK: I'm trying to raise the most amount of money so I can pay back what they gave to me. CANE: It's a gift the nonprofit hospital appreciates, and one they say sets an example for the entire community.

MELINDA WENK, TEXAS SCOTTISH RITE HOSPITAL FOR CHILDREN: It's been a joy to meet Colin and his family. Colin is wise beyond his years and it's neat a young man who's wanting to do so much that's helped him with medical treatment.

CANE: In March, Colin had another surgery. This one to removed hardware removed from his leg. Now, just four months later, he is back on the green. He'll keep going back to Scottish Rite hospital. Not because he needs to, but he wants to help other kids get better just as he did.

ASHLOCK: I went in there, and it didn't cost my family anything to get me taken care of, and the Dr. Rachin (ph) and with the blessings and the help of God, I'm would -- I'm able to walk today.


PHILLIPS: Well, if you'd like to help the nonprofit hospital or get more information, just log onto www.kidsswing.org.

Once again, those live pictures out of Milwaukee, Wisconsin. This is the airport that has been actually flooded, and it shut down the airport. We also had live pictures of a 20-foot sinkhole that a Cadillac Escalade actually drove into. Trying to confirm the condition of the driver of that car.

But take a look at this. You can see why operations have been shut down. It's flooded the runway and where the planes are parked. Apparently the baggage area, too, has received flooding. So, our Reynolds wolf is tracking the thunderstorms, the severe weather conditions there in Milwaukee, Wisconsin.

Now, this is the live picture of the sink hole where that Cadillac Escalade is, and we got the word that driver is okay. That's good news. But can you imagine driving into that? Sure can't, but that's just a very grim reality of what's happening there in Milwaukee, Wisconsin right now.

Quick break. More on the other side.



PHILLIPS: Remember the ultimate fake? Yes, we all do, too.

We're talking a lot about fakes this morning. What better way to get into it than a little Fab and Rob, the singers who didn't sing and gave back their Grammy? You got to wonder how long Milli Vanilli could have pulled it off if the darned tape hadn't skipped? Now, to be fair, they were great lip syncers when the machine was working.

Milli Vanilli might have been the dynamic duo of dupe, but they're not alone. There was the journalist who won a Pulitzer Prize for her story about a child heroin addict. Remember that? Gripping, compelling and about as real as Heidi Montag's body.

Then there was Jayson Blair, formerly of "The New York Times." The stories he didn't plagarize, he just made them up. And James Fry's book "A Million Little Pieces," was sold as a autobiography. Oprah was a big fan, but it turns out his memoir was a million little pieces of fiction.

Now, the latest fake, and it's a doozy. A teacher faking a brain tumor so she could get off work. Blue flu down wild. Police in Middleton, Pennsylvania say Leslie Hernitchie (ph) claimed to have the inoperable tumor and that she needed time off for chemo. They say she used it as an excuse to take other, random days off, too. Who is going to question someone way brain tumor and a doctor's note, right?

Well, the detective said she might have milked this tumor for -- get this -- up to 16 years. People got suspicious when she didn't show any symptoms, and when the doctor denied any knowledge of her diagnosis. Talk about a shock. We're talking about a woman who had been in the classroom for 25 years and get this, was nominated three times as Teacher of the Year.


RICHARD WEINSTEIN, SCHOOL DISTRICT SUPERINTENDENT (via phone): Everyone is very surprised by all of this.

DET. ROBERT APPLEBY, LOWER SWATARA, PA. POLICE: I think sometimes people get involved in something that gets bigger than they expected it to, and they have trouble getting back out of it.


PHILLIPS: What he said is it just got out of her control. And it just gets worse. Her colleagues felt so badly for her that they pooled her money and sent her and her family to Disney World. Police say she didn't tell her family and the brain tumor story to them. She is charged with 12 counts of felony forgery. She is free on bond, goes to court next month. Shame on you, Leslie.

That brings us to today's blog. What are stories that you might have used to skip out of work?

One writer writes in that "I once called out with the excuse that my 50-gallon fish tank broke in my apartment and had flooded everything, including the floor under me. I didn't even have a fish tank."

Another person writes, "My excuse, once that I accidentally locked my kids inside the house."

And finally -- you'll notice they are all anonymous. This person says, "The dog swallowed my keys and I have to wait for them to, you know, go through him."

Yes. We are all pretty grossed out by that one. Thanks for sharing!

Remember, we always want to hear from you. Just log on to cnn.com/kyra, share your comments.

Blogger Andrew Breitbart has no apologies for Shirley Sherrod. But our Jeanne Moos definitely weighs in on never having to say you're sorry.


PHILLIPS: Real quickly, these live pictures from our CNN affiliate WPXI. What appears to be an explosion that has taken place in Indiana township, Pennsylvania. We're told two people have been killed. Not sure if firefighters were working a fire when either a gas line or gas well exploded along this road or whether they're just responding to that explosion. We're working that story for you right now.


Time now for Home and Away, our daily tribute to our fallen heroes in Iraq and Afghanistan. And we're going to tell you how you can be a part of it in just a minute.

But right now, we want to lift up Captain Brian Matthew Bunting of Potomac, Maryland, a member of New York Army's National Guard's 27th infantry brigade combat team. Bunting's wife, Nikki ,submitted this message that Bunting actually recorded for her when at the first arrived in Afghanistan. Let's take a listen.


CAPT. BRIAN BUNTING, ARMY NATIONAL GUARD, KILLED IN COMBAT: Hey, I want to acceptyou this message to say hello and let you know I'm doing fine. This is my little room back here in Kandahar. I've got to move some things around. (INAUDIBLE) Shuffling people around who are staying here longer. I'll get it in ship shape and put plenty of pictures of you all on the walls. I just wanted to send this message and tell you I love you (INAUDIBLE) think about you all of the time.


PHILLIPS: Oh, that West Point grad was one of four soldiers killed when a roadside bomb detonated near his vehicle in Kandahar, Afghanistan, on February 24th, 2009. The couple had been trying to have another child. Well, his wife Nikki found out she was pregnant just four days after he was killed. Captain Brian Matthew Bunting was 29 years old.

We want to hear more your stories about such sacrifice. Go to our Web site, cnn.com/homeandaway and put your service member's name in in the upper right-hand search field, pull up the profile and add your memories. Put in pictures, too. We'll add them to our Hall of Heroes.



PHILLIPS: Well, looks like Andrew Breitbart is taking on Tom Petty's theme song and not backing down. Not apologizing, even, for posting an edited video that got Shirley Sherrod fired. Heck, everyone else is sorry.

Here's CNN's Jeanne Moos.


JEANNE MOOS, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): She's become omnipresent. Practically a human microphone.


MOOS: A few days ago, we never heard of her, and now we're on a first name basis.

ALI VELSHI, CNN ANCHOR: And shortly, we will try to talk to Shirley.


DENNIS MILLER, RADIO TALK SHOW HOST: I'm not sure whether to list Shirley under collateral damage or friendly fire.

MOOS: Some of us didn't know how to pronounce her last name.

BILL O'REILLY, FOX NEWS HOST: Who is Shirley Sherrod. Sherrod or Sherrod - whatever --

MOOS: Almost overnight, she went from villain to heroine.

WHOOPI GOLDBERG, CO-HOST, "THE VIEW": Please welcome Shirley Sherrod.

MOOS: Applauded on "The View"and patted on the back. But above all else, she's been showered with apologies.

TOM VILSACK, SECRETARY OF DEPT. OF AGRICULTURE: And I ask for Shirley's forgiveness -

MOOS: From the secretary of agriculture, from the NAACP, and even from Fox News host Bill O'Reilly. First he asked for her head --

O'REILLY: When Ms. Sherrod must resign immediately.

MOOS: 48 hours later.

O'REILLY: So, I owe Miss Sherrod an apology for not doing my homework.

MOOS: Next on the apology parade, the White House spokesman. UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Apparently she's watching this briefing, Shirley Sherrod, on CNN right now. Is there anything you want to say to her?

ROBERT GIBBS, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: On behalf of the administration I offer our apologies.

MOOS: But there was still the apogee of apologies.

MEREDITH VIEIRA, "THE TODAY SHOW": First of all, do you think that you deserve a phone call from President Obama?


MOOS: But first you have to pick up the phone.

SHERROD: He said he tried to get me a couple of times last night.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Maybe that's what that unknown number is.

SHERROD: I've been answering it because I've been getting these crank calls.

MOOS: But instead of the president getting cranky when she finally called him back --

GIBBS: He expressed his apologies.

MOOS: Leaving one to go from --

SHERROD: The gentleman who started this, and I can't think of his name.

VIEIRA: Andrew Breitbart.


MOOS: Or, as MSNBC's Keith Olbermann put it --

KEITH OLBERMANN, MSNBC: The scum that is this assassin Breitbart.

GLENN BECK, RADIO TALK SHOW HOST: Tell me about this Breitbart.

JOY BEHAR, "THE VIEW": And where is the apology from Andrew Breitbart? Where's the words coming from --

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: He's unapologetic.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's sort of ugly and contemptible, and if he had any decency he'd apologize to Shirley Sherrod.

MOOS: But being Breitbart means never having to say you're sorry. ANDREW BREITBART, CONSERVATIVE BLOGGER: This was never about Shirley Sherrod.

MOOS: Shirley may be getting friendly rubs on "The View," but what's his name is rubbing her the wrong way.

SHERROD: And I can't think of his name, Breit --


SHERROD: Andrew -- yes.

MOOS: Jeanne Moos, CNN, New York.


KYRA PHILLIPS, CNN ANCHOR: That does it for us. Have a great weekend.

Fred, we sure remember the name. We've been talking about it all week.

FREDRICKA WHITFIELD, CNN ANCHOR: Yes. I think it's emblazoned by now in everyone's memory.

All right. Thanks so much, Kyra. Have a great day.

PHILLIPS: You bet. You, too.

WHITFIELD: All right.

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