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CNN NEWSROOM

Controversial Concert; 4th Sex Lawsuit Filed against Pastor; Community Helps War Hero's Family; Drug Take-Back Day; Sarah Shourd Savors Freedom; Controversy Surrounding Planned Islamic Center; Stumping for Votes; Israeli Actors Threaten to Boycott Cultural Center in West Bank Settlement

Aired September 25, 2010 - 11:00   ET

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


(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

DREW GRIFFIN, CNN ANCHOR: Good morning, Saturday September 25. I'm Drew Griffin in for T.J. Holmes.

Sex abuse allegations mounting against the megachurch Pastor Eddie Long; he prepares to publicly address the scandal from the pulpit tomorrow morning. We'll have a live report just minutes away.

The planned Islamic center and mosque near Ground Zero, a source of contention even among the people who are behind it. We're going to tell you what's fueling the in-fighting now.

And paying tribute to the first African-American Medal of Honor Award winner with words and with deeds.

First though, we'll look at the top stories this morning. The Obama Administration citing a national security to keep the case against a militant cleric out of the courts. Anwar Al-Awlaki is the name. He has been linked to Al Qaeda terrorist and he is now on the CIA and military hit list to be captured or killed.

Al-Awlaki's father is suing to prevent the U.S. from going after him. Why? He's a U.S. citizen. The government officials want that lawsuit dismissed saying it requires the U.S. to disclose highly classified information.

The FBI searching homes and offices in Minneapolis and Chicago, all part of what it calls the material support of terrorism. One activist says he and others were served subpoenas to testify before a grand jury. No one has been arrested.

American Astronaut Tracy Dyson and two cosmonauts safely back on earth. They spent almost six months on the International Space Station. The Soyuz spacecraft landed in Kazakhstan this morning. The return delayed a day after an undocking glitch.

Critics say a Christian outreach concert scheduled tonight for soldiers and families in Ft. Bragg, North Carolina, crosses the line. General David Petraeus has said many times he is worried that the Muslim overseas believes the U.S. military represents the Christian faith. He's called it sensitive and says the perception alone could put the lives of U.S. troops in danger. He's talking about people who insult Islam for calling it an evil and wicked religion.

So what's the controversy? Just this: the event at Ft. Bragg is being held by Evangelist Billy Graham and his son Franklin, and Franklin Graham is the one who has said Islam is evil and wicked. Well given his record, how will this play out in the Muslim world? Will it be a problem for our commanders overseas?

Here is a special report by Pentagon correspondent Chris Lawrence.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

CHRIS LAWRENCE, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The Christian concert is called "Rock the Fort". And it's living up to its name.

The Billy Graham Evangelistic Association is bringing Christian rock bands and worship to Ft. Bragg and some say crossing a line.

MIKEY WEINSTEIN, MILITARY RELIGIOUS FREEDOM FOUNDATION: The express purpose of this event is to evangelize and spread the gospel to all those who are lost. Soldiers are being given pieces of paper with seven blank names on it to bring seven more people so they all come to Christ.

LAWRENCE: Ft. Bragg advertised the concert on its Web site. And Mikey Weinstein says more than 100 soldiers there have complained to his group Military Religious Freedom sending e-mails like, "Please help us MRFF. This is wrong."

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Here in a few minutes I'm going to give you a chance to make a decision. It's your choice.

LAWRENCE: "Rock the Fort" has been to several other bases including recruit training at Ft. Jackson.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And we pray that not only do they become soldiers here in boot camp but we pray that they will come into God's Army in the sense of giving their life over to Jesus Christ.

LAWRENCE: Critics say that's a dangerous message for the military to bring rate into basic training.

WEINSTEIN: We're not supposed to be using the U.S. Army to develop, engender and you know and new soldiers for Christ.

COL. DAVID HILLIS, FT. BRAGGS CHAPLAIN: Our goal is again not to proselytize anyone from either their particular faith that they're a part of. And our goal is not to -- to coerce anyone.

LAWRENCE: Ft. Bragg's Chaplain says the event on his base is open to the public. No one has to come. Except the thousands of soldiers and their families who are excited to do so. HILLIS: Really, it's up to the individual. And people, like any message or any faith, can choose to accept or reject. We're offering an invitation, but that invitation is only voluntary and of the free choice of that particular individual.

LAWRENCE: The Chaplain wrote to North Carolina churches on Ft. Bragg letterhead promoting the event. And Billy Graham's Web site states right up front "The Rock the Fort outreach is designed to channel new believers into your church."

Americans United for Separation of Church and State wrote the Secretary of the Army urging him to stop the military's endorsement of the event. They argue proselytizing is prohibited and the Army is breaking the law by endorsing religion. The chaplain says the base is merely a host for anyone who wants to come.

(on camera): The chaplain also told me that sharing the faith is part of the Christian tradition and he's not only obligated but happy to provide the same kind of support to other faiths on base if they wanted to put on a similar event.

Critics say when it comes to religion, all the Army is supposed to do is officiate religious events and provide a place for soldiers to worship. And these concerts go way beyond that.

Chris Lawrence, CNN, the Pentagon.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

GRIFFIN: Now to a story developing this weekend in the sex scandal involving prominent Atlanta Pastor Eddie Long. It is getting larger. A fourth man has now filed a suit against Long claiming the megachurch leader coerced him into a sexual relationship, lavished expensive gifts on him using church money.

CNN's Martin Savage joins us now with more on the allegations and Long's plans this weekend to address them finally.

MARTIN SAVIDGE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Right -- and good to see you, again, by the way, Drew.

All eyes are going to be focused on the Pope but no question of the New Birth Missionary Baptist Church here in Atlanta tomorrow morning because at 8:00 and 11:00, it is going to be the first time that they should -- Eddie Long is going to speak out to his congregation, a huge congregation, 25,000 people or more.

Talking about the allegations that have now been brought against him and in anticipation of that event, a lot of rumors have been flying. And so there has been a little bit of damage control that's been done.

Art Franklin who is with the church and who has been the spokesperson for Bishop Eddie Long issued a statement yesterday saying, "The rumor that Bishop Long is stepping down on Sunday is absolutely false. Bishop Eddie Long" and -- or rather "is and will continue to be the senior pastor of the New Birth Missionary Baptist Church."

That rumor started spreading on the Internet yesterday. And then yesterday came the fourth lawsuit it was brought by a 22-year-old, Spencer LeGrande. He's actually from Charlotte, North Carolina. He attended a satellite parish there.

And he said that he met Long in 2005, that eventually he was invited by the pastor to go on overseas trips with him. It was then that a year's long sexual relationship began. And like these previous lawsuits, he says that he was lavished with money, he was lavished with travel, he got to meet celebrities, he got to meet political leaders. And all of this was sort of inducing him to go along with the sexual relationship, of course, with his religious leader.

GRIFFIN: And we said it is expanding for two reasons. One, there's another lawsuit. But this lawsuit goes beyond Eddie Long. It involves other church members, other church administration.

SAVIDGE: Right. As -- as these lawsuits have come out in number -- now four -- we've also learned greater detail of the allegations that have been made, and more names from the New Birth organization are being brought in here.

And clearly what is being done is that B.J. Bernstein who is the attorney that represents the plaintiffs in this case is insinuating that, all right, Bishop Long is the man who is believed to have had the sexual relationship here in the allegations, the other members of the church leadership helped to facilitate it.

In other words, they help to provide the transportation, they provided the housing. And above all, they provided the money that allowed for all of this to happen. Thereby, that's why they're starting to be named in these suits.

GRIFFIN: Bishop Long gets his say in his way tomorrow. What are we to expect is going to happen?

SAVIDGE: Well, you know, that's -- that's the real question here. There are a number of scenarios, some people say, that -- if it's true, he could possibly come out and make the admission. It's expected, as his attorneys have done all along, to defiantly say that none of this is true, that we must pray for all the parties involved here.

But we really won't know until tomorrow morning which is why not only the congregation is going to be there but you can expect a huge showing for the media. We'll be there as well.

GRIFFIN: All right. Martin Savidge with the very latest on these expanding lawsuits expanding crisis for Eddie Long and his ministry. Thanks so much.

Well, a decorated World War II Vet is buried with some of the country's greatest heroes and his family in Idaho gets an outpouring of community support. What's going on at their home will remind you of an extreme makeover. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

GRIFFIN: Reynolds Wolf joins us with the national forecast for this Saturday.

REYNOLDS WOLF, CNN METEOROLOGIST: Yes.

GRIFFIN: A lot of people are hoping to get out and watch football and play football.

WOLF: Or maybe even work. You know if you happen to be say in the nation's capital and you might want to get on top of -- you know, let's say, clean up the capitol itself, you want great weather.

GRIFFIN: You do.

WOLF: And you know what today here's what we've got.

GRIFFIN: Look at this.

WOLF: Can you see them? I don't know it's kind of hard for me to see.

GRIFFIN: There it is.

WOLF: Yes it's a little bit of a better shot. For our viewers across America, you see a team of people up there with their rappelling equipment trying to rappel some of the dirt off the capital. Infer your own jokes, if you will.

All right, what we're seeing in D.C., conditions are pretty good there. In New York and Boston pretty nice but then when you get back into the southeast, we're seeing a lot of greens, a lot of yellows, and some blues popping up on the radar. That indicates some fairly heavy precipitation in a few places.

Certainly not the magnitude what we've seen in Wisconsin over the past couple of days but still pretty heavy stuff. This is all on the move. Same story with this back in the corn-belt with scattered showers you see back in that part of the world.

Then what we're going to be seeing with all this rainfall, much of it will be driving off to the east and the southeast and as it makes its way in those directions it's going bring something with it. And not only so much needed rainfall in places like Alabama and Georgia, but right behind it some cooler, drier air, which may take you a day or so to get locked in place.

But if you happen to be say in Nashville or Birmingham, Alabama, a very nice day for you. And certainly cooler than what we've had over the past couple of weeks. In places like Atlanta, you might have a few scattered clouds building into the afternoon and overnight some showers. But that's later on.

Today it will be a mixed of sun and clouds, the high of 90 degrees and 79 in Denver, 100 at Las Vegas. Plenty of sunshine in the Valley of the Sun in Phoenix with 105.

For the L.A. basin, it's going to be a warm day, 91 degrees. Same deal over in Palisbury (ph) back over to San Francisco, 81 degrees, 76 is out by the Space Needle in Seattle and 59 by Target Field in Minneapolis. It should be a beautiful day there, certainly compared over the heavy rain you've had over the past couple of days. Boston 86 degrees and 90 again back in Washington, D.C.

As we wrap things up, here's what we've got. A couple of things we're watching in the tropics. We've got Lisa. There she is, hurricane driving to the north. She should die out over the next couple of days. No threat to the land. Unfortunately tropical storm Matthew is a threat to land.

In fact, as it stalls out over the Yucatan Peninsula, it might be a heavy rainmaker bringing some flooding conditions possibly to parts of Mexico, Guatemala and perhaps even Belize before all is said and done.

That is a quick snapshot on your forecast. Drew, let's send it back to you.

GRIFFIN: Thanks Reynolds.

A highly decorated war hero has been buried at Arlington national cemetery, Vernon Baker, the first African-American Medal of Honor winner. When word got out that his family couldn't afford to go to the burial, their Idaho community rallied around and raised money to send them to the special ceremony near Washington, D.C. Now extra donations are transforming their home.

Tania Dall from our affiliate KXLY has the report.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

TANIA DALL, REPORTER, KXLY: This week Heidi Baker's yard looks more like a construction zone. Donated materials at ready and crews are hard at work.

JAY HILL, SMALLS CONSTRUCTION: She was really excited. She was hoping she could be here to watch it.

DALL: Up until a few months ago Heidi shared this Idaho home with her husband Vernon Baker. It's where the 90-year-old passed away. Known for his heroism during World War II, Baker led a platoon and successfully crippled a German stronghold.

(INAUDIBLE) the racial discrimination would mean a 52-year-wait before being awarded the Medal of Honor. After her husband's death in July, word got out that Heidi couldn't afford to fly to Arlington Cemetery for his burial.

The community rallied and raised money to send the family to the funeral. Extra money is being used to fix up Baker's house now.

HILL: It was ready to fall in. And the roofing had a lot of snow load on it and all the roofs or nails were pulled. So it had quite a few leaks.

DALL: The American legion of (INAUDIBLE) says Smalls Construction is working on a new roof, sky lights, two decks and a wood shed to store ten cords of donated wood for the winner.

While Heidi lays her husband to rest nearly 2,485 miles away, old friends and new ones want her to return to a transformed home just in time for winter.

HILL: It would be a good surprise for what she expects.

DALL: Smalls Construction hopes to have most of the project complete by this Sunday when Heidi comes back from Washington, D.C.

Reporting from Benewah County, Idaho, Tania Dall, KXLY 4 HD News.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

GRIFFIN: Good story. Thanks Tanya.

Freed hiker Sarah Shourd has a private conversation with Iran's president. She also talks to CNN recounting her months of confinement.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

GRIFFIN: Across the country today, the government collecting drugs, prescription medications. People are turning out to turn them in. Josh is back to tell us all about it. Josh --

JOSH LEVS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes.

GRIFFIN: -- what is this all about?

LEVS: More than 3,000 sites are doing this today. This is actually something really important and really helpful. A lot of you probably do have some expired medications inside your home and the typical way they get rid of them can cause real problems.

Putting them in the trash can make them available to people to grab them and that's the last thing you want. And people who try flushing them, it actually can end up entering the water supply. We've reported on this before.

So the drug enforcement agency -- administration -- which is part of the Department of Justice is organizing this big event today. Here's what one of the officials told us.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

RODNEY BENSON, SPECIAL AGENT, DEA ATLANTA FIELD DIVISION: One word. We're trying to take away a source of abuse, because that's where a lot of teens are getting those prescription medicines that they're abusing, from the home medicine cabinet. We want to take that source away.

And then number two is we want to raise the awareness as well.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

LEVS: So this is going on today between 10:00 a.m. and 2:00 p.m. in sites all over the country. And I was just learning a little bit more about how prevalent this problem is. Officials are saying even with all the war on drugs and all the efforts, they've been seeing abuse especially among teens and young adults of prescription drugs increase at an alarming rate.

The DEA said one out of ten high school seniors today is abusing prescription painkillers, so a big problem. This is why there are events going on everywhere. I want to help you now see on my screen, how to find a location near you.

So check it out. We have a story at cnn.com that talks you through this. You'll see it here but this is the web page for the event itself. It's called National Take Back day -- the short version here -- National Take Back Initiative.

What this web page does is gets you over to a section where you can search based on where you live. So you just type in your zip code or you type in city and state where you live. I randomly typed in Eugene, Oregon and we ended up getting an example right here. It tells you where you can go in Eugene, Oregon. And it will give you a map to get straight there.

Hopefully this will help you as well. We've got a lot more details for you other here on cnn.com. And our story that's covering this problem in general and talks to you about what it is that's happening in this country with prescription drugs.

Also, all the links I just showed -- I know they go by the eye real fast, I'll put them up on my Facebook and Twitter pages, I'm at JoshLevsCNN. Hopefully if you have any of these medications that you want to get rid of, you'll find one of these locations before 2:00 today and you will take advantage of that opportunity.

By the way, if you do miss this, then the story will also talk you through what you can do with these drugs. And, Drew, I'll tell you. It's an advice that I had never heard about, about chopping them up and mixing them with something very undesirable like used kitty litter and putting that in the bag and then putting that in the trash.

So you're a little better off if you can make it to one of those locations today.

GRIFFIN: All right Josh. Interesting.

LEVS: Yes.

GRIFFIN: Thanks.

LEVS: You got it.

GRIFFIN: Top stories now. The FBI isn't saying what it was looked for when agents searched homes and an office in Minneapolis in Chicago. But the agency says the raids were part of a terrorism investigation.

Political and antiwar activists say they were the targets, and they called the raids harassment. No arrests were made but activists say they were served subpoenas to appear before a grand jury.

Police in New Jersey are looking for a gunman who wounded five people at an off-campus party. Students from Seaton Hall University were at that party. No word yet on whether the victims or the suspects are students.

There's been a break for Lindsay Lohan. The actress is out of jail on a $300,000 bond after one judge reversed another's ruling. The first judge ordered Lohan to remain in jail until a hearing late next month, I guess. Lohan was in court for a parole violation hearing after reportedly testing positive for controlled substance abuse.

Freed hiker Sarah Shourd is also savoring freedom today but she wants her friends still jailed in Iran to be released and soon. With that in mind, Shourd was given a chance yesterday to speak with Iran's president.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SARAH SHOURD, FREED HIKER: I just wanted to thank President Ahmadinejad for this gesture of allowing my mother and I to meet with him and for the mothers of Shane and Josh to meet with his envoy.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

GRIFFIN: Shourd also spoke with CNN's Mary Snow recounting her 400 plus days of confinement.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

MARY SNOW, CNN CORRESPONDENT (on camera): Here we are in Central Park. You are a free woman. Does this feel surreal to you?

SHOURD: Yes, that's a good word. I mean I still feel numb. It feels like a big disappointment. Of course, freedom is everything I dreamed it would be, but it's -- the most important part is taken out of it not to have my fiancee and my friend Josh here with me.

SNOW (voice-over): Sarah Shourd's fiancee, Shane Bauer, and their friend Josh Fattal remain in Iran's Evin prison, accused by Iran of spying. Sarah had been living with Shane in Syria when Josh came to visit them. Their lives changed on July 31st, 2009, when they went hiking in the Kurdistan region of Iraq. Sarah says they didn't know they were close to the border with Iran.

SHOURD: No. If we had any idea, we would have stayed far, far away. We would never have risked our safety. We weren't there to take any risks whatsoever. We were there to enjoy at the green mountains so Northern Iraq was kind of an obvious choice. I had a couple friends of mine from Damascus that already made this trip, Westerners, and had absolutely no problem. People go there from all over the world.

SNOW (on camera): You were hiking for a few hours. What happened?

SHOURD: We were hiking on a small trail, and there was no indication of a border. There wasn't a sign. There wasn't a flag or a fence. And all of a sudden we saw some soldiers, and we, of course, assumed they were Iraqi soldiers, and when we found out they were Iranian soldiers, we were baffled, mystified, and confused and they took us, you know.

SNOW (voice-over): Taken to Iran's notorious Evin Prison where Sarah was put into solitaire confinement. She says she was blindfolded even to go to the bathroom.

SHOURD: In the beginning I would scream and cry a lot. Sometimes I'd bang on the walls, but eventually you realize that that resistance is futile, like no one listens, no one cares. I mean Shane and Josh were the thing that kept me going.

SNOW: Eventually Sarah, Shane, and Josh were allowed to spend up to an hour together each day. The two men share a cell.

(on camera): How small is the space?

SHOURD: It's about ten feet by five feet. It's the same space that I had but there's two of them. The space they exercise on, it's like about the size of a towel.

SNOW (voice-over): It's those images that keeps Sarah fighting to gain the release of Shane and Josh, a mission she now shares with their families, including Alex Fattal, Josh's brother. He now considers Sarah a sister.

ALEX FATTAL, JOSH FATTAL'S BROTHER: It's bittersweet. It's great to see Sarah, it's great to hold her hand and feel a little bit more connected to Josh, but I really want to give Josh a hug and get out on the basketball court with them, with Shane -- all three families.

It's gone on for way, way, way too long.

SNOW: Mary Snow, CNN, New York.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

GRIFFIN: A planned Islamic center and mosque near Ground Zero string up conflict even among the people who are spearheading the project. That story right after this.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

GRIFFIN: The controversy surrounding the planned Islamic center and mosque near Ground Zero isn't just about its location. There's plenty of debate now and disagreement about how the developer is raising funds and who is going be welcomed there.

CNN's senior correspondent, Allan Chernoff, has that report.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

ALLAN CHERNOFF, CNN SR. CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Veterans of real estate development in New York say there is so much conflict surrounding the planned Islamic community center near Ground Zero, that developer Sharif El-Gamal has his work cut out for him raising funds.

GEORGE ARTZ, COMMUNICATIONS AND REAL ESTATE ADVISER: Extraordinarily amateurish. Just extraordinary. They really didn't have an idea of what they were doing.

CHERNOFF: Asra Nomani is co-founder of a women's organization called Muslims for Peace. She says her group Muslim was approached by developer El-Gamal, asking to use the nonprofit status of her organization to raise funds for his project called Park 51, which was still seeking its own nonprofit status.

ASRA NOMANI, MUSLIMS FOR PEACE: One of the developers in the project, Sharif El-Gamal, wanted to use the 501(c)3 status of Muslims for Peace to raise funds for this Islamic center. I thought that was just maybe a little bit inappropriate.

CHERNOFF: Nomani says El-Gamal raised just a few thousand dollars. Today, the donation link on the Park 51 Web site is inactive.

A spokesperson for Park 51 says the nonprofit fund-raising effort has yet to be launched, but El-Gamal has asked worshippers for donations at prayer services being held at the existing building.

Already, the developer is at odds with one of his major investors, Hisham Elzanaty, who tells CNN he has a controlling interest in the project and might sell off his portion for a profit. He would not speak on camera, but his attorney did.

WOLODYMYR STAROSOLSKY, ATTORNEY FOR HISHAM ELZANATY: Well, he does have the majority control, and according to the agreements, he is the person who is going to decide how that -- who's going to make decisions with respect to this property.

CHERNOFF: El-Gamal says that's dead wrong, claiming he has control. Meanwhile, El-Gamal, and Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf, the religious visionary of the project, are presenting different concepts to the public.

Imam Feisal refers to the project as Cordoba House after his nonprofit group, the Cordoba Institute, but the developer calls the project Park 51, saying Cordoba House is the mosque within the larger center.

And while the developer has described a community center open to all, but a prayer space just for Muslims, the imam told CNN something different.

FEISAL ABDUL RAUF, IMAM: There is a prayer space for Christians and for Jews.

CHERNOFF: There has even been conflict within the Muslim community. Islamic leaders who complained they'd never been consulted last week peppered El-Gamal with questions as to whether Park 51 would be only for elite wealthy Muslims.

MAHOI BRAY, MAS FREEDOM: None of our organizations is capable or is putting money into this.

CHERNOFF: Money is now the critical issue.

RAUF: We have not raised any money for it yet.

CHERNOFF: While seeking funding from banks and private individuals, El Gamal is determined to carry the project through.

SHARIF EL-GAMAL, CEO, SOHO PROPERTIES: We have the building, and we're doing it there, God willing.

CHERNOFF (on camera): If El-Gamal is unable to raise funds domestically, he may have to turn to sources in the Islamic community overseas, and that is yet another controversial issue surrounding this project. Soho Properties released a statement to CNN saying there are now plans for an interfaith prayer space at the community center.

Allen Chernoff, CNN, New York.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

GRIFFIN: Well, the midterm elections just around the corner, and the Grand Ole Party is making Americans a promise. We're going to look at the Republican agenda and take you live to Concord, New Hampshire. A former Republican presidential candidate in the spotlight again.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

GRIFFIN: Reynolds Wolf checking the weather all across the globe, but most specifically the country.

(WEATHER REPORT)

GRIFFIN: Our top stories now.

A party in Los Angeles has turned violent. Police say at least a dozen people were shot at a house in the city of Los Angeles this morning. One person, we're hearing, is dead. More to follow later in this news day.

More legal trouble for prominent Atlanta area Pastor Eddie Long. He now faces a fourth lawsuit. Four young men claiming Long coerced them into sexual relationships. Bishop Long planning to speak about the allegations tomorrow during church services. A federal judge ordering the reinstatement of an Air Force nurse after she was discharged from the military for being openly gay. Major Margaret Witt was dismissed under the "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" policy back in 2007. A judge says Witt's discharge violates the Constitution.

Making political headlines, Republicans are out with their "Pledge to America." They promise to cut taxes, downsize government, repeal President Obama's health care reform plan if they regain control of the House. Some specifics: weekly votes on spending cuts, slicing the congressional budget, putting a hiring freeze on non- security federal workers, and voting on every regulation that costs more than $100 million to implement.

Democrats say the Republican agenda is nothing new. Well, midterm elections six weeks away, and on the campaign trail some members of Congress are keeping their own parties at arm's length.

Our political producer Peter Hamby joins us from Washington.

Peter, you've seen that first hand.

PETER HAMBY, CNN PRODUCER: That's right. I just got back from a week in Wisconsin, where there's a tough Senate race for Democrats.

Russ Feingold, three-term senator, is losing by six points among Republican voters to Republican Ron Johnson, according to a CNN poll we've had out this week. Feingold -- Obama has been in the state. Feingold did not appear with him.

Feingold is trying to position himself as an Independent. He's broken with his party. That does not -- it's a tough road ahead for him, because Johnson is out there as a fresh face, he's a businessman who's saying, you know, I will create jobs. And he's running against President Obama in a climate where President Obama's approval rating this week, according to CNN, is at 42 percent.

It's an easy sell for Republicans right now and a hard one for Russ Feingold in Wisconsin.

GRIFFIN: And that Wisconsin race, the poll numbers there, kind of a surprise to me. Is it a surprise to the Democratic Party as well? Are they somewhat panicking up there?

HAMBY: Well, you know, for Republicans to take back the Senate, they need this seat. And the poll numbers almost kind of snuck up on Democrats.

It was a tough primary for Republicans. No one several months ago thought Russ Feingold was in serious trouble, but, again, this is a state that Republicans need, a traditionally not blue state seat, because, you know, this state has an independent streak, traditionally progressive. But, for example, Russ Feingold, in 2004, won the state by 11 points, when John Kerry, running against Bush, only won it by one point. So, it has an independent streak, but there are seats like California, Washington State, Wisconsin, states that many months ago Democrats thought they could have held onto, that are now trending the Republicans' way.

GRIFFIN: Yes. One that's not trending their way is, of course, Delaware, and that is a seat that the Republicans kind of were counting on. But the nomination, I should say, of the Tea Party candidate has swung that back to the Democrat corner, correct?

HAMBY: It's close. I mean -- yes. Chris Coons, the Democrat nominee, is still winning that race. And there are establishment Republicans who are worried about that seat, because if they wanted to regain control of the Senate, they were counting on Mike Castle, the establishment candidate, to win that nomination.

However, you are seeing Republicans steering money to that race, helping Christine O'Donnell put up TV ads. Christine O'Donnell is avoiding the media in ways that she wasn't used to. So, you know, it's a stretch for Republicans to think they can pick up Delaware, but Republicans are not giving up on that seat, especially in what's shaping up to be a way of election.

GRIFFIN: All right. Let's talk about the next election, Concord, New Hampshire. Mitt Romney is going to be addressing the state through a Republican convention. We have a live picture. We're actually hoping he's going to speak at any moment.

But is this the presidential campaign now getting under way for 2012?

HAMBY: Yes. The presidential campaign for us political geeks in Washington has been under way since last year. New Hampshire is a huge state for Mitt Romney if and when he does decide to run for president.

He lost Iowa last time. He lost New Hampshire last time. He lost South Carolina. Those are crucial early nominating states.

And again, he's got problems in Iowa if he decides to run again among social conservatives, problems in South Carolina. New Hampshire is his beachhead. He needs to win this state if he runs for president in 2012, that primary.

He has property in New Hampshire. He's given tens of thousands of dollars to candidates up and down the ballot in New Hampshire. So this is a state he needs to win. And today's speech gives him a chance to remind activists and consultants and donors in that state just the kind of candidate that he is.

GRIFFIN: Yes. I don't want to get to far ahead of the game, but is he the same candidate he was in 2008? Does he still have the same problems that he had then?

HAMBY: I think what you're going to see in 2012 with Mitt Romney, he's been through the gauntlet in 2008. You can say he's been vetted. People know, you know, he had issues on the right. People thought he was a flip-flopper.

If this next election is about the economy, Mitt Romney is going to be a serious candidate. You'd have to consider him a front-runner for the nomination.

So -- but we're also seeing that he is sort of positioning himself a little bit more as a casual guy than he was the last time. He came off as a little stiff. You've seen him so far this midterm cycle show up to fund-raisers in a pickup truck, a la Scott Brown. So, you could see a slightly different packaging of Mitt Romney this time around, but the economy, if it remains the focus, he's going to definitely hit that hard on the campaign trail.

GRIFFIN: All right. Peter Hamby from Washington.

Thanks for joining us.

The next political debate in an hour. And, of course, for the latest political news, you know where to go, CNNPolitics.com, 24/7, right there.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

GRIFFIN: Well, welcome back.

The NEWSROOM continues at the top of the hour with this beautiful lady right next to me --

FREDRICKA WHITFIELD, CNN ANCHOR: Hi.

GRIFFIN: -- Fredricka Whitfield.

WHITFIELD: Hey, Drew.

GRIFFIN: You're here all afternoon.

WHITFIELD: Drew in the house.

GRIFFIN: Setting up to be a busy day --

WHITFIELD: Yes. Oh, my goodness.

GRIFFIN: -- busy weekend with this Eddie Long story, which is --

WHITFIELD: That's right. We're going to expand on that even further.

We know now what, four folks who have come out, who are standing behind similar allegations. Our Marty Savidge is on the story. I know he's been with you all morning long.

GRIFFIN: Right.

WHITFIELD: He's going to take it to the next step -- what happens tomorrow, when Bishop Eddie Long takes to the pulpit? What might he be saying? And what might he be staying away from? And we're also going to have our regular legal guys here.

GRIFFIN: I love those guys, by the way.

WHITFIELD: Don't you love them?

GRIFFIN: Yes, they go back and forth. What are they talking about?

WHITFIELD: They're so smart. A lot of things, including Lindsay Lohan. And of course we know -- here we go again.

GRIFFIN: Oh. A train wreck.

WHITFIELD: Back in court, back in jail, but then back out of jail. We're going to talk about what's next for her and whether she's looking at some serious jail time, 30 days or more, after that probation violation.

And then, of course, you know, a phenomenon I guess a lot of people are partaking in, taking pictures of themselves nude.

I know you've got teenagers.

GRIFFIN: And I preach this --

WHITFIELD: What kind of discussions do you have about that?

GRIFFIN: You have to just say no. You know what happens? Is these kids -- I'm not saying my kids do this, because they don't. As far as I know, right? But they take pictures and they want to send a gift to their friends or something, or their boyfriend or their girlfriend, or whatever.

WHITFIELD: Yes. And that's where you potentially cross the line.

GRIFFIN: They have no idea -- well, you cross the line and you expose that to the world of the Web.

WHITFIELD: Right. And you could potentially face criminal charges.

So there's a case of a young girl in Pennsylvania. She takes nude pictures of herself. The school confiscates the cell phone because she was texting. No texting policy.

So we're going to explain in our legal segment why she ended up with a $30,000 settlement.

GRIFFIN: Oh really?

WHITFIELD: Oh really.

GRIFFIN: Wow.

WHITFIELD: Very, very interesting stuff.

Also, 2:00 Eastern Time you want to be with us, because everyone wants to know how to save money. Right? There are some very basic things you can do at home to save money.

When you wash your dishes, do you rinse or do you just put them in there dirty?

GRIFFIN: In the dishwasher?

WHITFIELD: Yes.

GRIFFIN: Dirty.

WHITFIELD: OK. Well, then, you are saving money. Check one --

GRIFFIN: Whew. I get in trouble for that at home.

WHITFIELD: -- of the list of seven, yes.

GRIFFIN: I'm saving money.

WHITFIELD: I know. It's something --

GRIFFIN: I do get in trouble.

WHITFIELD: -- that I'm, like, oh, yuck. Do you want to have the food floating around in there?

But we're going to have seven great tips on how you can save money. And that whole dishwashing technique is one of them.

Also, 3:00 Eastern Time, somebody knows somebody who's been taking Avandia for their diabetes. Well, now that there are restrictions in the U.S., completely banned in Europe, what do you do if you're that patient? What are your alternatives? What kind of conversation do you have with your doctor about making sure you get the same kind of treatment perhaps in another form?

Yes.

4:00 Eastern Time, we're going to the movies, which is something we always love to do.

GRIFFIN: Are there any good movies out there?

WHITFIELD: Lots of good movies, including -- well, do you want to put your money on "Wall Street"? Do you think that's going to be a good one, Michael Douglas?

GRIFFIN: Do you know what? I never got into the first one.

WHITFIELD: You're kidding? "Greed is good"? Really?

GRIFFIN: Yes, I didn't. So maybe I should go and take a look at the second one. WHITFIELD: Yes, I think you should take a look at the second one. That's my recommendation, even though I haven't seen it. But we're going to have a movie critic who's with us.

GRIFFIN: All right. Getting a lot of play.

WHITFIELD: I have a feeling he's giving a thumbs-up on that.

GRIFFIN: Oh, really? OK.

WHITFIELD: So, a lot straight ahead.

GRIFFIN: All right. Plus the constant badger of breaking news all afternoon, Fred.

(LAUGHTER)

WHITFIELD: Anything can happen.

GRIFFIN: You bet, and it often does.

WHITFIELD: But we like it like that, yes.

GRIFFIN: All right. Fredricka Whitfield, thanks.

WHITFIELD: Good to see you, Drew.

GRIFFIN: Well, politicians not the only ones getting involved in Mideast peace. Actors are threatening to boycott a cultural center in the West Bank settlement. That's interesting, and that's next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

GRIFFIN: Expect another war if Mideast peace talks fail. That dire warning was from Jordan's King Abdullah during an interview on "The Daily Show" with Jon Stewart. Abdullah says if the issue of settlement building in the West Bank is not resolved, the latest push for peace is likely to collapse.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

KING ABDULLAH II, JORDAN: The discussions that we had in Washington started out better than any of us could have expected. Both sides have made a lot of ground.

And if the issue of settlements is still on the table on the 30th, then everybody walks away. And if they do, how are we going to be able to get people back to the table? And I don't see that happening in the near future. So, if we fail on the 30th, expect another war by the end of the year.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

GRIFFIN: The issue of Israeli settlements in the West Bank not just jeopardizing Israeli-Palestinian peace talks. Recently, a group of Israeli actors banded together, pledging not to perform in theaters that are based in West Bank settlement. The move comes just a couple of months before a new cultural center in Ariel settlement is unveiled.

Paula Hancocks reports on the drama boycott.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

PAULA HANCOCKS, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The building is not finished yet, but it's already sparking international controversy. The new cultural center in the Israeli settlement of Ariel in the West Bank is being boycotted by dozens of Israeli actors and workers.

ODED KOTLER, BOYCOTTING ACTOR: I don't want to be in occupied territories. I don't want to work there. I don't want to be there.

I don't agree with it. It's been 40-something years. Enough is enough. So this is my very tiny, little gesture to make my opinion clear and open.

HANCOCKS: One hundred and fifty American actors, writers and directors have added their names to the petition, including Cynthia Nixon from "Sex and the City" and award-winning playwright Tony Kushner.

Residents of Ariel, one of the largest settlements in the West Bank, are surprised. Settlements are considered illegal under international law, but in Israel there is a consensus that Ariel, among other larger settlement blocs, would officially become part of Israel if a peace deal is reached with the Palestinians.

AVI ZIMMERMAN, EXEC. DIRECTOR, ARIEL DEVELOPMENT: We have only benefited from free publicity and a wonderful opportunity for so many more artists and performers to stand with us and to make this simple statement that the people of Ariel are people, too, and they deserve everything that any other Israeli deserves as well.

HANCOCKS (on camera): This culture center is just two months away from being finished. Opening night here will be November 8th.

And those in charge of the theater are very keen to emphasize there are still plenty of people who want to be involved. They tell me that 200 groups or individuals have asked to perform here.

(voice-over): Political reaction has been strong. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu threatening to withdraw funding for any Israeli theaters that give work to artists involved in the boycott. And right-wing politicians and activists even heckled a play by a director who was part of the boycott.

But those supporting the boycott say it is a legitimate weapon.

GIDEON LEVY, "HAARETZ": Let's remember Israelis boycotting Hamas, Israelis putting a siege on Gaza. What is it if not a boycott? Israel is calling the world to put sanctions on Iran. What is it if not a boycott? HANCOCKS: But Ariel developers insist the show must and will go on.

Paula Hancocks, CNN, in the Ariel settlement in the West Bank.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

GRIFFIN: CNN NEWSROOM goes on now with Fredricka Whitfield.

Hi, Fred.

WHITFIELD: All right, Drew. Thanks so much. You have a great day.

GRIFFIN: Thanks.

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