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Interview With Kevin Mitnick; Anniston, AL Prepares for Burning of Nerve Gas; Interview With Man Who Swam the Length of Columbia River

Aired July 5, 2003 - 15:00   ET


SEAN CALLEBS, CNN ANCHOR: Welcome to NEXT@CNN. Some hackers say they're planning to attack Web sites tomorrow. We'll talk to a famous former hacker about whether you should be worried. And would you be worried if the Army were about to burn nerve gas in your town? That is the question people in Anniston, Alabama, are trying to answer.
We'll also talk to a man who just finished a 1,200-mile swim, and find out why he thinks it will help the environment.

But first, it's not much of a holiday weekend for folks in the computer security business. There's a somewhat cryptic challenge on the Internet to break into and deface thousands of Web sites starting just hours from now. A big question, is it a real threat or just a lot of hype? Technology correspondent Daniel Sieberg now joins us live with the details -- Daniel.

DANIEL SIEBERG, CNN TECHNOLOGY CORRESPONDENT: Sean, that's right. That is the big question. Is this a serious threat, or is it just a lot of hype? Internet security experts are sort of split down the middle about the seriousness of this threat, whether it is going to happen or not, and whether it's going to be really serious or not.

The actual Web site that is talking about this contest or this challenge is at At the Web site, it is inviting people around the world to participate in this challenge. They lay out the rules that are involved, the times that are involved, and there are awards that will be given out to the supposed or the crowned winner of this particular challenge or contest. The idea being to deface about 6,000 Web sites in the fastest amount of time. Defacement being sort of graffiti or spray-painting a Web site as opposed to breaking in.

So how serious is this and just what does it all mean? We're going to get some unique perspective now from a former hacker turned security expert, Kevin Mitnick, and he is joining us from Los Angeles. Kevin, thanks for being with us.

KEVIN MITNICK, DEFENSIVE THINKING, INC.: Thank you, Daniel. Great to be interviewed by you again.

SIEBERG: Thank you. All right, well, first of all, off the top, just how serious is this particular challenge to deface these Web sites? Is this something everybody should be concerned about? MITNICK: Well, computer security, everybody should be concerned about, but to me, it seems like it's been overhyped. Usually these type of attacks happen without them being announced. They happen by surprise. And that way they catch people off guard.

SIEBERG: Well, that's the good point. This is sort of unique in the sense that they've put up this Web sites, asking all of these hackers or people on the Internet to participate. Why would they do that when that would just let everybody know that it's time to bring up their defenses on their Web site?

MITNICK: I don't know. You know, it seems like it could be a hoax. It could be that the people behind this Web site wanted to encourage others to try to deface other Web sites. Usually people from foreign countries that cannot be prosecuted by United States officials.

SIEBERG: Now, you, speaking as a former hacker yourself, and now as a security professional, how difficult would it be for authorities to track down the hackers who are behind this contest or this challenge?

MITNICK: Well, it really depends on their sophistication. Sometimes hackers could launder their connections through multiple systems, which makes it extremely difficult, especially if it crosses international boundaries, or unsophisticated hackers, what we call script kiddies, might connect directly from home, and if they successfully compromise a system, they could be tracked relatively easily.

SIEBERG: You mentioned script kiddies, which is a term for sort of low-level hackers or kids that are out there. Defacements are different than hacking or breaking into a site. Talk about the difference between the two.

MITNICK: Well, breaking into a site is trying to circumvent the security, or get access to a system. Defacing a Web site is when a company, a business, a person has a Web page, it's actually breaking through the security of that site and then replacing that page with some sort of nonsense. Something that's degrading, or something that tries to make fun of the security of the site.

SIEBERG: And oftentimes there's a political message involved that's often called hacktivism.

MITNICK: Hacktivism, correct.

SIEBERG: Is there any sign that there's a political motivation behind this at all?

MITNICK: Not that I've seen in the media. And to tell you the truth, it seems like whoever's behind this is relatively unsophisticated, because I'm sure they brought not only the attention of the media, but now attention of law enforcement.

But it's important that people out there, businesses, protect themselves every day. Not just because of the threat here, by patching their systems, by keeping their firewall rules and configuration up to date, and by using strong passwords that can't easily be guessed.

SIEBERG: Now, speaking from your own perspective, just for a second, has your own site -- you run a security consulting company, Defensive Thinking, has your site been defaced at any point?

MITNICK: At one point it was. We actually were using a hosting company in Kentucky, and somebody had hacked through their security and replaced our Web page to make fun of, you know, our company. But unfortunately, we weren't in control, because we were using a Web hosting services, and usually Web hosting companies aren't really that secure, unfortunately.

SIEBERG: So is it just a matter of a wait and see in this case, Kevin, we're just going to have to wait until tomorrow and see what happens and these companies can just try and brace for it and prepare for it?

MITNICK: Like I said, I believe the probability is, you know, 80/20, 80 that it won't happen and 20 that it will. But we all need to be vigilant and protect our systems regardless of the hype about this particular incident today.

SIEBERG: All right. Well, Kevin Mitnick, a former hacker, perhaps one of the best known in the world, and now a security professional for the Internet. Thanks so much for joining us today.

MITNICK: Thank you, Daniel. It was great to be here.

SIEBERG: All right. Well, that's going to do it for me, Sean. And I guess it's just a matter of wait and see in this case. We'll have to see whether it materializes, and again, just how serious it is. Back to you.

CALLEBS: Yes, Daniel, before we completely let this go, let's talk about that for just a second. When do you think people will get the first idea, the first impressions that perhaps, as Kevin just talked about, the 20 percent that maybe it is happening? When do you think people will get an idea that, yes, there does appear to be some kind of coordinated effort to attack various sites?

SIEBERG: Well, they've actually set out times, Sean, for when they would start. It does say 9:00 a.m. tomorrow, and that it would go for about six hours, it looks like. So that's the time when people would start looking to see if these sites have been defaced. There's another site that is actually going to be keeping track of the number of sites that have been defaced. But it's very difficult to tell. A lot of the sites that can be vulnerable are maybe a smaller company or a business which many people may not even go to or notice it's been defaced. So again, they're looking for 6,000, though, to be defaced in this much time. So that's a considerable number, and it's sort of a unique way of doing it with this contest or this challenge.

CALLEBS: Well, Daniel, if they're not holding their breath, I'm certain they're crossing their fingers, right?

SIEBERG: Right. Exactly.

CALLEBS: OK. Thanks very much. Daniel Sieberg.

(UNINTELLIGIBLE), but millions of Americans are racing to put their computers to add their names to the federal do-not call list. When the list takes effect in October, it is expected to bring some peace and quiet to dinner tables across the country. However, as Bill Tucker reports, salespeople and telemarketers have plenty of other tricks up their sleeves.


BILL TUCKER, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Consumers may be soon trading this...

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Hi, this is Celia at the Sports Authority. And I'm calling because as one of our valued customers, you're entitled to receive a special 4th of July coupon for $10 off for any purchase over $20.

TUCKER: ...for this. Or maybe some more of these or maybe some more of this. Whatever form it takes, direct marketing is not going away. Over the last 12 months Americans bought over $100 billion worth of stuff from telemarketers. No business is about to just walk away from that kind of money.

LOUIS MASTRIA, DIRECT MARKETING ASSOCIATION: You'll see some redirection of the marketing budgets of companies who did used to use and continue to use telemarketing as a channel. So you may see more folks, more marketers focusing on getting consumers to call in to 800 numbers or go to Web sites.

TUCKER: That's what's known as opt-in marketing. The consumer chooses the option of being included on a marketing list by calling a number or visiting a Web site. Not all alternatives are so benign. Spam, for example.

The amount of spam has already exploded. Brightmail, an anti- spam software company, reports that in May of this year nearly one half of all e-mail received was spam. That's up from 7 percent just two years ago. But help is coming on the spam front, and with the popularity of a national do not call list could a don't e-mail me list be far behind?

CHIRS HOOFNAGLE, ELECTRONIC PRIVACY INFO CENTER: This Congress will pass spam legislation. And one of the prospects on the table is a national do not e-mail list. A national do not e-mail registry.

TUCKER: Consumers don't have to wait for Congress to get a handle on spam. and are just two Web sites that offer spam control.

(on camera): A backlash against direct marketers could have a positive impact on old-fashioned media. Instead of antagonizing their consumers directly, companies might start buying more advertising.

Bill Tucker, CNN, New York.


CALLEBS: Here's a sign of the times. Laptop computer sales surpassed desktops for the first time in May, this according to NPD Research Group. An increasing desire for computing on the go pushed notebook sales to more than 54 percent of the nearly $500 million worth of computer sales in May alone. That is a significant increase from the 25 percent of the market that laptops claimed back in January of 2000.

And when we come back, we'll take a ride in an F-16. One that's maintaining homeland security in disguise.

And later in the show, the mighty Columbia River is impressive to look at, but why would someone want to swim the entire length of it? Yes, all 1,200-plus miles. We'll put that question to the man who did it.


CALLEBS: Welcome back, everyone. Time to take a quick look at some of the stories making news on our beat this week.

NASA hopes to launch the Mars rover called Opportunity on its trip to the Red Planet tomorrow night. Now, this launch has been delayed several times due to bad weather, a nagging problem with port insulation on the rocket itself, and NASA will make a final decision about Sunday's launch later on today.

A group of space entrepreneurs plans to send a broadcast into the cosmos today from a huge radio dish in the Ukraine. Team encounter collected messages for space from customers who are willing to pay at least $24.95 for this privilege. The greetings will be beamed toward five sunlight stars in the hopes that they will reach intelligent beings somewhere out there.

And the home town of the Wright brothers has started its celebration of the 100th anniversary of the brothers' first flight. Dayton, Ohio, began a 17-day extravaganza on Thursday with a ceremony featuring astronauts Neil Armstrong and John Glenn. President Bush dropped in yesterday. Wilbur and Orville Wright made their historic flight on December 17, 1903. And you can certainly expect more celebrations leading up to this anniversary.

Well, the events of September 11, 2001 changed the lives of just about all Americans. For many National Guard members, it meant taking on missions they never expected. Jeanne Meserve flew on an F-16 to get the story of the pilots who fly combat air patrols.


JEANNE MESERVE, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): They are weapons of war, fighter aircraft armed with missiles, and they're flying somewhere over the U.S. every day.

"KID" N.D. AIR NATIONAL GUARD: Surprising and surreal, I would call it, and I just didn't expect that I would ever be over my own city with a live weapon on an airplane, so.

MESERVE: "Kid," of the North Dakota Air National Guard, has flown about 100 combat air patrols, known as CAPS. He took CNN along in an F-16 to take a look. During the more than 30,000 CAP sorties since 9/11, there have been 396 interceptions of suspicious aircraft. None of them turned out to pose a terrorist threat, but what if one did?

"KID": If it doesn't respond and it's really, truly a threat, then they're going to decide, you know, on the ground that it's not acceptable and, you know, they're going to have us engage a target.

MESERVE: Ninety-five percent of the time, "Kid" says, the flying is boring, boring but critical.

"KID": The consequences of failing at this are large and very visible and deadly. That's the bottom line.

MESERVE: Because the patrols don't allow pilots to practice the difficult tactical maneuvers needed for combat, a recent General Accounting Office report says they could eventually erode military readiness. The CAPS wear out equipment and personnel and they aren't cheap -- $4,000 to $8,000 per hour of flight time, depending on the aircraft. The number of CAPS has been cut back. They now fly irregularly.


MESERVE: When and where is determined at the headquarters for the Continental U.S. NORAD region in Tindall (ph), Florida, based on threat and intelligence information.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We randomly pick cities, critical infrastructure, population centers where we think they're most vulnerable.

MESERVE: Since these patrols were first scrambled on 9/11, there have not been any more attacks. But we will most likely never know if that's because of security measures on the ground or in the air.

Jeanne Meserve, CNN, somewhere over the eastern U.S.


CALLEBS: And when we come back, people in Anniston, Alabama, are taking no chances when the Army starts burning tons of nerve gas there later this month. We'll get an update from a local official.


CALLEBS: As the U.S. military continues to search for weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, it is moving forward with plans to destroy some of its own right here in the United States. This map gives you an idea of where U.S. chemical weapons are stockpiled around the country. And in the Southeast, you'll notice the town of Anniston, Alabama. Twenty-three hundred tons of nerve gas and blister agents are stored there, at the Anniston U.S. Army Depot. The Army is about to crank up a huge incinerator to get rid of all it.

Eli Henderson now joins us. He's the Calhoun County commissioner, someone who's been following this very closely. And this didn't crop up overnight. This is something that has been going on a long time. And when they first talked about destroying this, you didn't support it.

ELI HENDERSON, CALHOUN COUNTY COMMISSIONER: Well, I wanted to destroy it, but we've had a lot of safeguards that weren't in place. What we would like -- at that time we didn't have a 24-hour manning yet or emergency management office there in Jacksonville. We didn't have any equipment to -- the firemen didn't have a hazmat vehicle, they had no equipment, they had no training. The people who were around the U.S. Army depot, we've got the largest group of people at risk, we've got about 70,000 people, Sean, that surround Anniston Army Depot. And every time we'd have a conversation with the FEMA folks and the Army folks, they'd always compare us to Tuella (ph), Utah. I think at Tuella (ph), Utah, there's 450 people who live around the incinerator. Well, we're talking about 70,000 people.

So it was a tough issue, and thank God for Senator Richard Shelby, as I mentioned earlier, and also Governor Bob Riley, who was a congressman at that time.

CALLEBS: Now, you're comfortable with the way things are now.


CALLEBS: But still...

HENDERSON: You're right.

CALLEBS: I mean, schools, things of that nature, you have a lot of issues.

HENDERSON: Most of the issues, in fact, our commission group, a group of us commissioners, we took the last tour through the demil (ph) site last Friday, or last Thursday. And so we're -- I'm much more pleased today than I ever have been. It's terrible that we've got a government that would invent a weapon to kill people, and yet not have any understanding of how they're going to destroy it at some point in time in the future. And that's what's happened. And so it's a heck of a problem.

CALLEBS: Let's talk about how secure the site is. Very secure. And people in the area; now, as I understand it, they are going to have items at their disposal where they could seal the house, and you have something right here. Tell us about that.

HENDERSON: Well, this is a couple of years ago, three years ago, in fact, I had a conversation with Senator Shelby and Senator Stevens and Senator McConnell, and we were figuring out a way to protect the people who live in my district, who live around the Anniston Army Depot. And it was Senator Shelby who suggested that, Eli, he said maybe you might want to do like the Israelis have done.

CALLEBS: Let's pop that out and explain it, what you're talking about.

HENDERSON: And this is what -- this is...

CALLEBS: Well, thank heavens it's easy to get into it. Because you wouldn't want to be...

HENDERSON: And it's really a simple device. And it works. I'm not sure you know, Sean, but I wore one of these -- not one of these, but I (UNINTELLIGIBLE). I worked with a level A uniform for a long period of time at the Anniston Army Depot. As you can hear the battery sounding on this one, the battery comes on as soon as you pull it up out of the case.


HENDERSON: And what you would have to do to put it on...

CALLEBS: We're going to ask you to put it on, if that's all right.

HENDERSON: I knew you'd ask me to put it on. You take it like this. And this portion of it just fits around your neck.


HENDERSON: You take these two hands like this, put it inside like this. Real slow.

CALLEBS: It's pretty secure here.


CALLEBS: OK. We'll let you take it off before we have to -- and these have been handed out to...

HENDERSON: Well, so far we've issued -- we've got 20,000 of them. And what we're going to do -- so far we've issued at this point in time we've issued, I think -- we've issued approximately 12,000.

CALLEBS: You know, this is scary stuff.


CALLEBS: What are some of the concerns that you do have about incinerating nerve gas?

HENDERSON: Well, I don't suppose there's really any foolproof way to incinerate all the nerve gas that we've got. We've got -- there's two types of nerve gas. One, the one that we're really concerned about is the GB; the other one is VX. But the GB is really a real concern in that if it gets off the depot, it could have a deadly impact on the people around the depot.

So what we're trying to do is we're going to burn the GB first. And once we get rid of that, we think that we'll be in pretty good shape. But it will take a little while -- probably two years to get rid of GB. But after the first two years of operation, they say it's going to take about seven to nine years. I hope it takes that long.

CALLEBS: Well, we'll be following. If -- they said they were going to do it before, but you think this time it's really going to happen?

HENDERSON: I think it will happen.

CALLEBS: OK. Eli Henderson, thanks very much.

HENDERSON: Thank you, Sean.

CALLEBS: Good at multitasking, talking to us and putting it back in there at the same time.

HENDERSON: Thank you guys for letting me be here.

CALLEBS: Thank you.

OK, now, back to the weapons hunt in Iraq. The U.S. has not found any weapons of mass destruction, but remember those large truck trailers that the CIA thinks are Iraqi mobile germ labs? Well, elite U.S. Special Forces have seen mockups of the labs years before they were actually discovered, as we hear from CNN senior correspondent Jamie McIntyre.


JAMIE MCINTYRE, CNN SR. PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Elite units of Special Operations Forces called Special Mission Units have been given the primary responsibility for targeting terrorists and preventing the spread of weapons of mass destruction. Years before this trailer, which the CIA believes is a mobile germ warfare plant, was discovered in the aftermath of the war in Iraq, many of those U.S. commandos had already seen something very much like it.

COLIN POWELL, SECRETARY OF STATE: The signature vehicles are gone. The tents are gone.

MCINTYRE: Drawing on the same intelligence the CIA used to produce these artist renderings of the mobile labs presented by Secretary of State Colin Powell to the United Nations in February, the U.S. military, beginning in 2000, constructed mockups to train its counterterrorism troops.

At Ft. Bragg, North Carolina, U.S. commandos, including the secretive Delta Force, practiced on a highly detailed mock lab modeled on the trailer designs, sources say. They learned not only how to identify its distinctive and dangerous hardware, but more importantly, how to safely neutralize it. In an interesting twist, it turns out one of the outside experts who helped make the training realistic was Dr. Steven Hatfill, later identified by the Justice Department as a person of interest in the investigation into letters containing anthrax that killed five people in the United States in late 2001. Hatfill worked for a company called Science Applications International Corporation, which was under contract to the Pentagon and the CIA.

(on camera): Pentagon officials stress while the mock labs appeared very authentic and used some real equipment, they were non- functional and never produced any actual bioagent. And Hatfill has never been charged with anything by the U.S. government, nor has any evidence been produced to link him or the mock labs with the anthrax killings.

Jamie McIntyre, CNN, the Pentagon.


CALLEBS: And coming up in our next half hour, we will talk live with the man who knows the Columbia River in a way no other human does.

We'll also explain why an important dinosaur find lay unnoticed on a shelf for nearly 30 years. First, a quick break and a check of the latest headlines.



CALLEBS: Now, back to NEXT@CNN.

I've been waiting for this story. Over the past 13 months, Christopher Swain, (UNINTELLIGIBLE), swam through sewage, 10-foot waves and at times a toxic soup of pollutants. Just four days ago, he completed his journey, becoming the first person to ever swim the 1,243 miles of the Columbia River. He's brought attention to the beauty, the ecological problems facing the river, and its path through the Pacific Northwest. Christopher Swain, now, joins us from Portland, Oregon.

Christopher, thanks very much. I was told to point out the, a -- from wearing the goggles, it's not that bad.

CHRISTOPHER SWAIN, SWAM THE COLUMBIA RIVER: I have a good goggle tan, you got to admit.

CALLEBS: Good goggle tan. Now, tell me what was the genesis for this? I mean, there are a lot of ways to bring attention to beauty, to concerns. What made you want to swim for 13 months?

SWAIN: Well, I think it comes down to this -- you know, I -- I'm a dad, and I want my kid to be able to play in the mud by the side of the river without having to worry about heavy metals and I'm a swimmer and I want to be able to swim my river and it's a contaminated beauty at this point.

CALLEBS: Now, how did you do this? I mean, you obviously had some people working with you and I understand about every 20 minutes, at least during some parts of the river, you actually had to rinse your mouth out with hydrogen peroxide because of pollutants?

SWAIN: That's right, yeah. I mean it's -- you know, everything about it was a bit interesting, because I was never a competitive swimmer, I'm not a scientist -- you know, I'm not rich, had a family, and then here I'm swimming through this, basically, toxic soup, so everything from gargling with hydrogen peroxide to rinsing off very quickly when I got out of the water, was sort of a -- you know, we did the best we could with it.

CALLEBS: You know, you look like you held up great, I mean -- you know, extraordinarily thin at this point. How was it?

SWAIN: Well, you know, it's interesting. I mean, watching the physiological changes was sort of a kick, -- you know, over the course of the winter swimming through blizzards and stuff, I put on, actually, a well distributed layer of fat, added about another 12 pounds of fat and 10 pound of muscle, in spite of that. I've had six ear infections, three bouts of shoulder inflammations, four bad colds, couple swollen lymph nodes. The physical side -- you know, it's been sort of interesting, but the long-term consequences are really what -- more what I try to talk about to people. It's not so much one dip, as what does it mean to live your whole life working and playing and using in that river.

CALLEBS: Our folks put together an amazing graphic I want to get to in just a moment, but just talk to me about the fact that you don't like labels. As you said, I don't think you want to be labeled as an environmentalist, as somebody who did it for this reason or for that reason. What do you think about that?

SWAIN: Well, you know, it's and interesting thing, I mean, I think if it ends with "ist" it probably is a label and I got asked early on by a drunken logger -- you know, who sort of got in my face up in British Columbia -- you know "Are you a goddamn environmentalist?" And, of course I was afraid, right? Because, he's 6'3" and 280. And, I thought about it for a second, and I think, I'm not going to answer it from the fear (UNINTELLIGIBLE). No, I'm not. And that's part of the problem -- you know, we get so busy labeling each other and we get so entrenched that I think our identities as concerned people get tied up in the fight and one of the things I've learned in this whole process is we're not going to get anywhere is if all we do is dig in and fight each other. We're going to find within ourselves a way to be friends with each other, because people will help their friends and people will help their neighbors and I think a lot of the alienation and isolation we get into, when all we're doing is throwing punches, gets us nowhere. And I guess, I'm sort of results oriented I want this river to get cleaned up, and it's not going to happen.

CALLEBS: I guess people could call that a noble goal. Let's take a look at what I was talking about. We call it "keyhole." You may have seen some of this during the war in Iraq, this is from, this is where you went in, the headwaters up here. Tell us about this area. You actually had to swim north. I presume you were swimming with the current still?

SWAIN: Yeah, that's where there still was current, of course, you know, 13 lakes behind 14 dams, but those first 100 miles I had some current, and it was beautiful blue-green mineral water there at the source in Canal Flats, British Columbia, and some of the nicest chunks of land that we passed through in the whole river, the largest contiguous wetlands left anywhere in North America.

CALLEBS: Now, I want to point out, here, now look right there, you see things change, instead of green, it's much more brown. As I understand it, that's a lot of farming that's gone into that area and that's one of your major concerns.

SWAIN: Yeah, I think we need to be careful, in -- you know, what we do in the land. We forget sometimes, in these watersheds, everything we do on land ends up in the river. And, my sense as a swimmer is when all those pesticides and herbicides and stuff wash back in, it's got a good place to swim anymore, but there's no blame in there either. I think we need to work together and find ways that, yes, you can farm and yes, I can swim, and nobody's harming anybody and I think that doesn't sound that sexy, but that's the kind of conversation we're going to end up having to have as real people with real values and desires if we're going to get anywhere.

CALLEBS: Well, there's so much more we could talk with you about: the Hanford site, -- you know, one of the worst sites in North America. Just an amazing experience, we thank you for coming on, sharing it with us and best of luck to you.

SWAIN: Well, thanks a lot. Take care.


Stay with us, everyone. When we come back, we've heard of boaters littering, but this is way over the top. Actually, you may be surprised to learn that it's good for the ocean environment and we will explain exactly why.


CALLEBS: Hats off to him, right? Well, checking some of the "Next News" headlines for this week. Finally, use for those leftover obsolete subway cars. 50 old New York subway cars were dumped in the ocean off Cape May, New Jersey, on Thursday, to form an artificial reef. Officials expect as many as 200 species of fish to use the reef as habitat. More cars will be dumped off the Jersey shore later this year. Reefs will be from six to 24 nautical miles off shore, at depths of 45 to 70 feet.

A pond has disappeared in ritzy East Hampton area of Long Island. Authorities say someone dug a trench from the pond to the ocean early, Wednesday, and the water drained out, leaving a mess of mud. Some nearby residents are upset because heavy rains have made the pond overflow and flood their basements. The former pond is home to some protected species of birds at this time of year and anyone caught changing its water levels could face fines of $10,000 a day.

Scientists in Chile are still trying to identify this huge, mysterious sea creature that washed up on the beach last week. Now, samples of this animal will be sent to labs in France and the United States, as soon as Monday. Researchers who have examined the creature say it looks like a giant octopus or squid, but it could be a completely new species or perhaps the piece of a whale. They described the texture as similar to jelly.

Wildfire officials in Arizona this week carried out a rescue operation for a rare fish. They are worried that ash and sediment from wildfires will run into mouth and streams as soon as it rains which could wipe out the Gila chub, a fish proposed for listing under the endangered species act. So, 600 fish were captured on Tuesday and they are now making their way to safer waters.

A wild animal park south of Montreal has a new resident who's getting a lot of attention. A one-month-old lion cub is the first male lion cub born at Park Safari in 11 years. Right now, he weighs just eight pounds, but fully grown, he will weigh between 500 and 600 pounds. Once he turns 3, he'll be traded to another zoo, so he can father a family.

Well, have you ever wanted to become a Jedi Knight or go dancing with a Wookie at the local cantina? Well, you may have no earthly idea what I'm talking about, but a new online game can help you achieve such lofty aspirations. It's called "Star Wars Galaxies" and our own junior Jedi, Daniel Sieberg has a look.


SIEBERG (voice-over): Long, long ago in a galaxy far, far away in a galaxy far, far away -- you know actually, wait.

(on camera): It was just last week that Lucas Arts and Sony Online Entertainment released "Star Wars Galaxy," a much anticipated online game that allows you to go into this immersive world and create a character that's part of the Star Wars world. So, the idea behind the game is you start off by creating a character that's much like many of the massive multiplayer online games out there. You go in and create your character, you can choose from a number of different races. You can see what you would be choosing from, here. Perhaps the most recognizable being a Wookie, which you can see here, people may be familiar with Chewbacca from the films. You can change everything about your character from your eyes, to your mouth, your chin, even the freckles on your face. Then you can choose what you want to do with your character. I chose a brawler, but we are going to bring in somebody here, at the moment, who did choose a Wookie, his name is Scott Thomas and he is our resident Wookie or I -- should I say our resident gamer, here with and he is in the game right now. May the force be with us because there have been technical problems and some updates going online with the game. But Scott, where are you right now in the game? SCOTT THOMAS, CNN RESIDENT GAMER: Oh, right now we're on a planet called Tatooine, the planet of Jabba the Hut, actually and I have a hunting partner with me -- with my character, a Wookie, running around in the wilderness, hunting down -- trying to gain experience to further myself in the game.

SIEBERG: OK, that's now -- that's a big part of the game, right? I mean, people might wonder, what's the point? You're wandering around, are there missions that you have to accomplish when you're in the game?

THOMAS: Correct. You can -- you can do rebel or imperial missions to gain ranks and which faction you want to be with, be it -- you know, the Jedi Knights or the Dark Jedi.

SIEBERG: So, you can't play say, Luke Skywalker or Hans Solo.

THOMAS: Correct.

SIEBERG: But, you can -- but it does line up in the way that the game does with the rebel forces in the imperial forces?

THOMAS: Correct, the time frame is -- it's after the Death Star has been destroyed, and this is where you jump into the storyline.

SIEBERG: OK, and you've mentioned that you're a Wookie. Now, you can also learn a bunch of different skills, right and different weapons in the game?

THOMAS: Correct. You can learn different languages, you can -- there's hybrid professions such as cooking or architecture, it really gets very wide in the different things that you -- you're able to do.

SIEBERG: And a big part of the game, Scott, a lot of online games is the ability to chat and interact with all the other characters out there, right? I mean, that's a big part of the game?

THOMAS: There's actual ways to search for people on your planet, anyone looking for a group to interact.

SIEBERG: Or to dance with, as we're seeing right here.

THOMAS: Yeah, you can...

SIEBERG: Get your groove on in a little cantina, there if you feel like it. And -- so, the end result, though, is you can play this game for countless hours, right? I mean, it's not like there's not an end, necessarily to, the game.

THOMAS: No. No, it's -- you can further yourself -- if you wanted to, say, be better at a marksman than, say, hand to hand, can you start all over instead of creating a new character. So, it's really a one-character kind of game.

All right, well, Scott Thomas, I'll let you get back to the game and playing there. And, Darin (ph), it does cost about $50. You can also get a collector's edition for $80 and we should point out that Lucas Arts and Sony Online Entertainment have been a little low key with this release partly because Electronics Arts released the Sims Online, you might remember, and they had some disappointing subscription numbers, so they're really being a little bit cautious with this release, they're hoping to bring in, obviously, the hard- core Star Wars fans. They do say they've had about a half a million subscription -- registered users, so far. So, a lot of people using their light saber.


CALLEBS: OK, and when we come back, an important dinosaur find that almost didn't get found.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE, (voice-over): The same software that makes Spider-man in the movie cling to walls is now helping scientists better understand how prehistoric creatures moved 2,000 years ago. Scientists scanned the Neanderthal hand bones into a computer and using Alias/Wavefront Maya software that turned still images into a 3- D animation showing how flexible Neanderthals were.

WES NIEWOEHNER, CAL. ST. SAN BERNARDINO: So, they could probably produce all the same grips that modern humans could produce and what this kind of simulation allows us to do is to examine the entire hand as a complex rather than examining individual bones.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Watching this animation researchers are now confident Neanderthals were as capable as humans at making tools, even though Neanderthal tools appeared more primitive.

NIEWOEHNER: What this shows, at least for the thumb and first finger, is that they didn't have limitations in their anatomy, so when we talk about explanations for why Neanderthals produced different kinds of tools, it doesn't have to do with their anatomy.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Scientists still can't say why Neanderthal man went extinct, but they can now say with certainty it wasn't because of their hands.


CALLEBS: OK, most dinosaur hunters look for bones, buried in the ground, usually, out in the wilderness, but a paleontologist in South Africa recently found a new species of sauropods in an unlikely location on a shelf. Charlayne Hunter-Gault has more.


CHARLAYNE HUNTER-GAULT, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Well, there's more to this 215 million-year-old sauropods than meets the eye.

ADAM YATES, PALEONTOLOGIST: Well, they were truly huge animals. I mean, a lighter sauropod, the largest known, would be close to 40 meters long, maybe even 50 meters long, and weighing up to 100 tons.

HUNTER-GAULT: And, what's a sauropod besides being the largest terrestrial animal ever?

YATES: This was a very early ancestor of the brontosauruses or thunder lizard.

HUNTER-GAULT: Hence the name...

YATES: Antetonitrus. Antetonitrus means before the thunder.

HUNTER-GAULT: Named by this 31-year-old paleontologist who discovered not the dinosaur, but his bones at the University of the Witwatersrand.

YATES: The original bones, which we have some of them here, were laid out on a shelf down in the collections room. So, I saw all of them at once, you know, looking at the self and -- I mean, it obviously the first impression is, my god, it's a big one.

HUNTER-GAULT: Actually first discovered by this now 81-year-old legendary fossil finder James Kitching. He was so busy unearthing the older reptiles, he and his field researcher, Reagan Lukas Humma (ph) simply set aside the nameless juvenile, today explaining.

JAMES KITCHING, PALEONTOLOGIST: I was never interested in dinosaurs. My -- my -- because I called the dinosaurs, chickens.

HUNTER-GAULT: 28 years later enter Adam Yates, an Australian doctorial student researching at (UNINTELLIGIBLE).

YATES: It's not everyday that you get a chance to name a new dinosaur and I'm extremely grateful to Professor Kitching for finding it. I would love to find my own, of course.

HUNTER-GAULT: And the chances of that are very good, given the vast fossil-filled sediment in South Africa's Karu.

(on camera): A scientist here told me that the story of evolution is like a film with most of the frames missing, the discovery of this massive frame is likely to advance that story. Fueling our imagination and keeping all us Homo sapiens enthralled for all times.

Charlayne Hunter-Gault, CNN, Johannesburg, South Africa.


CALLEBS: Well, the summer Olympics are still a year away, but biology students from around the world are gathering this summer for their Olympiad. Kathleen Koch caught up with a group of aspiring champions getting ready to leave for the games in Minsk, to find out what drives these elite students to compete.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Connecting the two heavy chains are dicelfide (ph) bonds made of amino acids from -- exactly.

KATHLEEN KOCH, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Cellular genetics, pretty complex stuff, unless you're one of 20 finalists vying to be on the first U.S. team to enter the international biology Olympiad, like 15-year-old Kelly Harris of Sacramento.

KELLY HARRIS, OLYMPIAD COMPETITOR: Most of it is sort of review because I've been studying it on my own.

KOCH: On her own, high school senior Maureen Murphy-Ryan of Frederick, Maryland interns at the National Cancer Institute.

MAUREEN MURPHY-RYAN, OLYMPIAD COMPETITOR: I have been working in a biology laboratory studying basically the cell cycles on a specific enzyme that regulates the cell cycle and -- you know, it could possibly be used in cancer treatments.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And, you end up with the header zygote that's intermediate in light.

KOCH: The competition involves days of college, even graduate- level lectures from top professors.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We're encouraged to study at night by ourselves, and I think that we sort of need that to be prepared for the next day.

KOCH: Hours of lab work.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You have some glucose, but it has less than that one does.

KOCH: All child's play for some, like 17-year-old Kay Aull of Fairfax, Virginia. She started reading at age 18 months, got a perfect 1600 on her SATs, she's already won other science competitions and biology is her passion.

KAY AULL: It's so fascinating to see how things grow and move and change and I wouldn't be able to do this if I didn't love it. Because it's 24/7, all the time, 110 percent.

KOCH: Finally, the four winners who scored highest on the final test are announced. A Nobel Lloyd on hand challenging them to crack biology's mystery from the function of genes to the wiring of the nervous system.

MARSHALL NIRENBERG, NATION INSTITUTES OF HEALTH: There problems that any one of you here may be able to solve.

KOCH: Their professors agree.

BILL STUART, U.S. BIOLOGY OLYMPIAD: I guess the bottom line would be, do we have in this room, in this group a future Nobel Prize winner? It wouldn't surprise me at all.

KOCH: Organizers insist the point isn't just competition, but inspiration.

JOANN DIGENNARO, CTR. FOR EXCELLENCE IN ED.: It's how you achieve the excitement of science and get the word out to teachers and students.

KOCH: Kay and the other students head to Belarus this weekend for the international competition, modest to a fault.

AULL: Well, we're all ultimately incompetent. I learned that a long time ago. So, you know, I'm just trying to do the best I can.


KOCH: In Minsk, Belarus, in the former Soviet Union, lasts eight days, so we won't know until next week if this U.S. team is able to bring back the gold. Again, it will be the first U.S. entry in a competition that has been going on for 14 years -- Sean.

CALLEBS: Great story, great story, it does seem like the U.S. is sort of getting in the game a bit late. Why? And, these kids are very special, but what kind of chance do they have against the best minds around the world?

KOCH: Well, Sean, to your first question, putting on a competition like this is very expensive, primarily because of all the lab work involved and it's simply taken until now for the organizers to pull together all the funding, a lot it from biotech and pharmaceutical companies. But, these kids, yes, they are truly amazing; they beat out 4,000 other students nationwide who entered this competition, so everyone says they have a shot, but they certainly are going to be the novices in this contest that other countries have been dominating for more than a decade.

CALLEBS: Great. Kathleen Koch in Washington. Thanks very much, great story.

KOCH: You bet.

CALLEBS: Well, that's all the time we have for today. But "Next" will be back tomorrow at 5:00 Eastern Time, and among the stories we'll be covering then, NASA has been forced to delay the launch of its next Mars rover several times, and now it is in danger of hitting a deadline that would sideline the mission for years. We'll look at the space agency's dilemma. That story and more coming up tomorrow. Hope you'll be watching and thanks for joining us today.

Up Next on CNN, "CNN Presents, the Road to Baghdad." an inside look at the war in Iraq from start to finish. That's a two-hour special starting in just a minute.

Then 6:00 Eastern, "CNN Live Saturday," with an in-depth look at all of today's top stories. First a quick break and then we'll tell you what's happening at this hour.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) CALLEBS: "CNN Presents, the Road to Baghdad" is coming up straight ahead, but first a look at these headlines. At least 14 victims and two suicide bombers are dead following a bomb attack at a rock concert in Russia. Authorities suspect Chechen rebels setting off two explosions outside a stadium near Moscow, today. At least 60 people sought or received treatment for injuries.

Word today, that the United States is mulling a humanitarian role in war-torn Liberia. A U.S. military assessment team could leave for the region as early as tomorrow. Liberian President Charles Taylor says he'll step down once peacekeeping troops are in place. He is due to meet with Nigeria's president tomorrow to discuss an asylum offer.

It was another bloody day in Iraq. A British journalist was shot and killed outside the National Museum in Baghdad. The British foreign office is trying to identify the body. 16 journalists have now died in Iraq since the start of the war back in March.

In tennis, the little sister has done it again. Serena Williams beat older sister Venus for the second straight year in the Wimbledon finals taking the title in three sets. Serena has now won five of the past six major titles. She has also beaten Venus six times in a row.

I'm Sean Callebs, another update at the bottom of the hour. "CNN Presents, the Road to Baghdad," starts right now.


Burning of Nerve Gas; Interview With Man Who Swam the Length of Columbia River>

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