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CNN SATURDAY MORNING NEWS

Arafat Reject's Prime Minister's Resignation; White House Upset Over Phillipines Decision to Withdraw Troops

Aired July 17, 2004 - 09:00   ET

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


DREW GRIFFIN, CNN ANCHOR: Good morning. This is CNN SATURDAY MORNING. I'm Drew Griffin.
BETTY NGUYEN, CNN ANCHOR: And I'm Betty Nguyen. Good morning. If you're just waking up on the West Coast, it is 6:00 a.m., still early, but we appreciate you joining us.

Here's what we've got cooking up for you. A lot's going on in the news.

It could have been better, but Martha Stewart says she's glad it's not worse. But will the domestic goddess be feathering a new nest in prison soon? We'll have more on that.

Plus, Beantown is putting a tight lid on the pot ahead of the Democratic National Convention. We'll tell you why some security measures have people crying foul in Boston.

And a day at Lake Erie turns vicious after waves pound an Ohio man against a concrete pier.

All of that ahead.

But first, here's what's happening at this hour.

GRIFFIN: It has been a chaotic day in Gaza, a state of emergency in effect. The Palestinian prime minister tried to resign. Yasser Arafat says he will not accept the resignation. Arafat has consolidated security services, a key demand of Gaza kidnappers, who have now released all of their captives. One of those released, the Palestinian police chief, was later fired by Arafat. That all has to do with security in the towns in Gaza.

Car bomb explosions killed at least six Iraqis, injuring dozens of others this morning in and near Baghdad, one bomb targeting the convoy of Iraq's minister of justice, killing four of his bodyguards. A suicide bomber detonated his car near an Iraqi national guard base. That killed two Iraqi national guardsmen.

In the U.S., the Waterfall wildfire is still burning outside Carson City, Nevada. But the wind has shifted, blowing the fire away from the state capital of Nevada. The fire destroyed at least 14 homes. Firefighters have now declared this fire 50 percent contained. Our top story this hour, fast-moving political developments in the Mideast. Palestinian Authority president Yasser Arafat says he will make some reforms, especially to security, this after the prime minister offered to resign, calling the situation catastrophic. But Arafat refused to accept the resignation.

Alessio Vinci is in Jerusalem with the fallout on all of this -- Alessio.

ALESSIO VINCI, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hello, Drew.

Well, in offering his resignations, Prime Minister Ahmed Qureia told Chairman Arafat the situation in Gaza was catastrophic and out of control. And Chairman Arafat, in listening to the prime minister, rejected his demands to step down, offering instead a plan to overhaul the security services of the Palestinian Authority, and primarily, by consolidating them into three main branches, a demand also long made by the international community.

And we understand that the prime minister is now meeting in an emergency session of his cabinet, considering Arafat's response as well as what happened in the last 24 hours in Gaza, where Palestinian militants, in three separate, unrelated incidents, took hostages, both Palestinian officials as well as Westerners.

We begin with hostage takers. Among them, four French nationals and one aid worker working for a company trying to restore electricity in the Hanunis (ph) refugee camp in Gaza. The four were taken to the Red Crescent office in Gaza. They were released after a brief standoff with the police, with kidnappers basically demanding reforms within the Palestinian Authority and an end to corruption.

And we understand that they were -- they released the hostages after they were promised to be able to put those demands directly to Mr. Arafat himself.

In a separate incident, the chief of the Gaza police was also kidnapped and briefly held hostage by a Palestinian gunman. He was also released later on, after the Palestinian Authority told us that Arafat had agreed to investigate him and to replace him. And indeed, in that whole security overhaul, Mr. Arafat did indeed appoint a new Gaza chief of police.

All this underscores the tremendous pressure Mr. Arafat is under at this time to reform the Palestinian Authority, and especially the security services. Mr. Arafat was criticized earlier this week by the U.N. envoy to this region, saying that he was not doing enough to reform the Palestinian Authority, and especially the security services. And the Terivo Larsen (ph), that envoy, also warning that the Palestinian Authority at this time was facing total collapse and was in great distress.

Meanwhile, Mr. Arafat says it is very difficult to introduce any kind of reform while there is Israeli occupation of those territories in Gaza and the West Bank.

Back to you.

GRIFFIN: Alessio, thank you very much for that report from Jerusalem this morning.

Betty?

NGUYEN: Turning now to the trial and tribulation of Martha Stewart here in the United States. The domestic diva is defiant, determined to appeal the punishment for her role in a stock scandal. Yesterday a New York judge sentenced her to five months in prison, five months of home detention, and fined her $30,000 for lying about a stock sale. Now the queen of clean says she is washing her hands of certain unnamed individuals.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, "20/20," ABC)

MARTHA STEWART: There are certain people that I wish I had never met.

BARBARA WALTERS, ABC NEWS: You want to name any names?

STEWART: No, I'm not naming any names. But you can guess who they are.

And of course you're angry. I have lost my job. I have lost my position in my company. I am no longer the chairman and CEO of Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia...

WALTERS: Which you created.

STEWART: ... (UNINTELLIGIBLE) -- a great company. You know. So that makes me both angry and sad.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

NGUYEN: And from Main Street to Wall Street, Stewart's fans and financiers are minding her business for any signs of stress to Martha Stewart Omnimedia.

Here is Susan Lisovicz with the latest.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

STEWART: Perhaps all of you out there can continue to show your support by subscribing to our magazine, by buying our products, by encouraging our advertisers to come back in full force to our magazines.

SUSAN LISOVICZ, CNN FINANCIAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Martha Stewart was a media star long before she became a convicted felon. And her first words to the media outside the courthouse were a desperate sales pitch for the company she founded.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: So is Martha Stewart living? Definitely. She got a light sentence, if that's the worst of it. And I think the worst of her troubles are offer. LISOVICZ: But Martha Stewart Omnimedia has a lot of financial housekeeping to do. Ad pages in "Martha Stewart Living" plummeted more than 40 percent the first half of this year, compared to the same period a year ago. Advertisers are notoriously sensitive to a celebrity's public image. A magazine can't exist without ad support.

And her TV show, which was the springboard for the magazine, is on hiatus. But Martha merchandise is more resilient, although the company will be getting smaller royalty payments from Kmart under a new contract.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I think the prospects are very strong. I've spoken with the CEOs of partners such as Sherwin-Williams and Scott's. And we, of course, we know the data on Kmart is very strong.

LISOVICZ: And some Kmart shoppers echoed that.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I think her jail sentence has nothing to do with the products that are on sale. I think those are two separate issues.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I think her products are very quality and absolutely would continue to buy them.

LISOVICZ: But perhaps the most dramatic sign of support came from Wall Street, where Martha Stewart Omnimedia shares soared 37 percent and was the biggest percentage gainer of the day at the New York Stock Exchange.

(on camera): The company said in a statement that after 26 months of uncertainty, it views the sentencing as an important step toward closure. MSO also says it continues to manage for the long term with an emphasis on preserving assets.

Susan Lisovicz, CNN, New York.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

GRIFFIN: And in about 30 minutes, we're going to head to one of Martha Stewart's hometowns for local reaction to that sentencing.

And we are asking you all morning long, do you think justice was served here? If not, what sentence would you give Martha Stewart? You can e-mail your thoughts to wam@cnn.com. A lot of the replies so far have been very colorful.

NGUYEN: Very colorful indeed.

Shifting gears now, firefighters in Nevada get some major assistance from the wind. It died down somewhat and shifted direction, moving away from the state capital of Carson City. The Waterfall wildfire is still considered volatile, but officials say the situation is considerably better now than it was some 24 hours ago.

We talked by phone this morning with Dawn Andone, the Nevada fire information officer, and here's what she had to say. DAWN ANDONE, NEVADA FIRE INFORMATION OFFICER (on phone): It's much better than it has been. We have it up to 50 percent contained at this point. And the winds have cooperated with us during the evening. They've stayed calm.

NGUYEN: The Waterfall wildfire destroyed 14 homes and injured five people, none of them seriously.

GRIFFIN: Three suspects have been arrested in New Haven, Connecticut, after a series of random shootings. Five people hurt in those shootings, two juveniles also being sought in the case. Police suspect the group is responsible for a number of car thefts in the area.

In Salt Lake City, Utah, firemen worked through the night to keep this six-alarm blaze from reaching a nearby warehouse that was full of fireworks. The fire did damaged a warehouse owned by a paperboard and packaging company. No injuries to report there.

Former Senate candidate Jack Ryan says he's flabbergasted Illinois Republicans haven't found someone to replace him yet, but he insists he will not consider going back into that Senate race. Ryan dropped out of the race three weeks ago after details of his divorce became public. Former Bears coach Mike Ditka also passed on running for that seat.

NGUYEN: Vice President Dick Cheney spent the night in Minnesota's Twin Cities. He'll appear two hours from now at a Bush- Cheney rally at the Minneapolis Convention Center. During a campaign stop yesterday in Lansing, Michigan, Cheney was joined on stage by Republican Senator John McCain. That was to dispel rumors President Bush might dump Cheney from the 2004 ticket and choose McCain or even someone else.

The Democrat who wants Cheney's job paid an unannounced visit to the West Los Angeles farmers' market. Senator John Edwards spent some time shaking hands amid the tomatoes and rutabagas. Later Edwards spoke at a Latino voter dinner sponsored by a voters' registration project.

GRIFFIN: Edwards is from North Carolina, and the latest presidential survey there is the Research 2000 poll. North Carolinian voters prefer President Bush by 5 percentage points, 49 percent to 44 percent over John Kerry, with 7 percent undecided.

Those voters were asked if they're more likely or less likely to vote for John Kerry because Edwards is now on the ticket. Twenty-five percent are more likely, 13 percent are less likely. Fifty-two percent say the Edwards candidacy has no effect right now. The survey was taken between July 10 and the 14.

NGUYEN: Boston's dilemma. Why a plan to secure the city for the upcoming Democratic convention has the ACLU crying foul. Both sides of the story still ahead.

GRIFFIN: Plus, how this man was saved from waves so powerful even his rescue boat had to be turned away. That's ahead when CNN SATURDAY MORNING returns.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ROB MARCIANO, CNN METEOROLOGIST: Good morning. I'm Rob Marciano on the CNN Weather Center. You might have outdoor plans on this Saturday. If you're heading into the Ohio River Valley or in the Southeast, some showers and storms. But Denver, Colorado, at least right now, is quiet. You could get clipped a little bit later on.

We have a live picture out of Denver, 61 degrees. There is some fog. KUSA is our affiliate out that way. But the fog should lift, and we should get up into partly cloudy conditions and a high of about, oh, somewhere in the mid-80s. Enjoy it, Mile High City.

We'll be right back. Weather still to come. CNN SATURDAY MORNING continues in a moment.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

GRIFFIN: It was a busy week in the war on terror. Some of the highlights, concern and confusion from the White House as the Philippines decided to agree to terrorist demands for Manila to withdraw its troops from Iraq this week. Militants had been holding a Filipino truck driver and had threatened to kill him unless 50 troops were withdrawn.

The Philippines doesn't have a significant presence in Iraq, but the Bush administration said the decision to withdraw those troops sends the wrong signal to terrorists.

A German official said this week the country wants to deport two terror suspects that were involved in the September 11 attacks. Judges in the cases against Munir Moltusadek (ph) and Abdel Gani Muzawi (ph) determined there was a lack of evidence to convict them. However, both defendants will be retried before any decision on whether deportation hearings will begin.

Attorney General John Ashcroft defended the PATRIOT Act this week as a law enforcement tool. He called it critical to protecting the nation from terrorist and other attacks. Ashcroft is urging Congress not to let that act expire next year.

NGUYEN: Well, everything from checking the manhole covers to random vehicle inspections is under way in Boston right now. It's being called some of the tightest security ever at the Democratic National Convention, and it starts in just nine days, on July 26. You can expect round-the-clock video surveillance and increased security at hotels, airports, and train stations.

Despite the tight security, though, many are feeling insecure, claiming the stepped-up searches will strip away people's civil liberties. One contentious issue, a proposed plan by the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority to search the bags of subway riders during the convention. The MBTA will reportedly stop riders at random to ask questions. Now, the ACLU is raising several questions of its own about the legality and legitimacy of these planned searches. In a statement, the ACLU says, "We are sure that there are answers to many of these questions. The problem, of course, is that they have not been disclosed to the public. The result has been widespread anxiety on the part -- or of the part of the MBTA riders."

Now, the subway security plan has sparked some heated protests. To one side of the debate now, we have Michael Mulhern. He is the general manager of MBTA, the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority, and he joins us now live from Boston.

Good morning.

MICHAEL MULHERN, GENERAL MANAGER, MBTA: Good morning.

NGUYEN: Why the decision to conduct random bag searches?

MULHERN: We believe we have a -- first off, I want to clarify. They're not searches at all. They're quick inspections. In most cases it will be performed by police offices with (UNINTELLIGIBLE) electronic scanning device, an explosive detection canine, or, in some instances, we'll ask passengers to open their bags for a quick visual inspection.

NGUYEN: OK, so what exactly are you looking for in these -- you don't want to call them searches, but inspections?

MULHERN: Well, we're looking for explosive devices. And we will be inspecting on a random basis passengers who are carrying on belongings onto MBTA vehicles. And we think with the backdrop of the Democratic National Convention, which is the first political convention post-9/11, with the experience in Madrid, which was clearly designed to disrupt the democratic process, we have a compelling reason to take extraordinary actions here in Boston in the coming weeks.

NGUYEN: Just explosive devices, or are we talking about pocket knives and things of that sort?

MULHERN: The focus clearly is on explosive devices.

NGUYEN: Are people having to show their identification in any of these searches or random checks?

MULHERN: If they are asked to step aside by a police officer from some additional questioning, based on some of the information that police officer has observed during the inspection, they may be asked for identification. That would be standard police procedure.

NGUYEN: How do you choose who to inspect? For example, the ACLU has raised many concerns, and part of that is the concern over the possibility of racial profiling. How are you guarding against that?

MULHERN: Betty, first off, there will be no profiling. The procedure is designed to be strictly on a random basis. And I might want to point out that the MBTA Police Department reached out very early to a number of civil rights groups here in Boston, including the ACL, to explain the procedure and get their input, or, in some cases, their advice on how we might carry it out.

NGUYEN: And as you're doing these inspections, is there a possibility that someone could see an inspection going on and just go down to the other end of the rail line where an inspection is not going on and hop on the train?

MULHERN: There's always, of course, a -- Well, first off, if somebody is -- anybody passing through a certain checkpoint refusing to allow their parcel to be inspected, they will not be allowed to ride the MBTA system, and they'll be asked to leave the premises. It's our intention to fully deploy a number of units. And we're getting tremendous cooperation from local, state, and federal officials to assist us in this effort.

And we're quite confident that we will have an effective procedure in place. Keep in mind that, based on all the information we get from terrorist experts and the advice we get from top law enforcement officials, the key aspect in fighting terrorism very often is disrupting patterns, disrupting folks that might be in the planning stages of an attack.

NGUYEN: Michael Mulhern, we thank you for your time and your insight.

MULHERN: You're very welcome.

NGUYEN: And of course, we want to go to the other side of the subway security debate, and we turn now to Carol Rose, executive director of the ACLU of Massachusetts.

Thanks for being with us this morning.

CAROL ROSE, EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR, MASSACHUSETTS ACLU: (UNINTELLIGIBLE), nice to be here.

NGUYEN: Well, you've heard what he has said. What do you think? I mean, what is wrong with these inspections in your eye?

ROSE: Right. Well, we share the concern that we want to have real security during the convention and after. The problem with this plan is that it's really a pretend security plan. We know that terrorists aren't going to be deterred by plan. When you have a million people riding the T every day, and maybe 14, even if it's 16 teams doing these kinds of inspections, there's simply no way that they're going to be able to stop a terrorist who's determined to get through the rail system.

But more importantly, we think that it's a diversion of resources away from effective security measures. Why not have sweeps of the, bomb sweeps of the stations, bomb sweeps of the trains, things that actually would be more comprehensive in their coverage? That's what the security experts are telling us would provide more security. What we have here is a system where the police are being turned effectively into bureaucrats, not being allowed to do their jobs, which is to actually exercise their discretion. There's no way (UNINTELLIGIBLE)...

NGUYEN: But don't you think it's a bit valid for them to inspect folks who are coming on, because they could be bringing these devices onto to the train?

ROSE: But there's no way they could do 100 percent coverage. It's just simply not feasible, especially in...

NGUYEN: But isn't something better than nothing?

ROSE: No, I think something would be -- that would be better would be to do sweeps of the train stations, sweeps of the trains. Nobody's suggesting that we don't want to have bomb crews or having checks in the trains. What we don't want is turning our police officers -- and they don't want to be turned into bureaucrats who randomly inspect people.

And it simply can't be random. People don't line up single file to get on the train, especially not when we have a on trolley system or open train platforms in the suburbs. It's just too simple to beat the system. It won't provide deterrence, it won't provide security. What it will is divert a lot of our law enforcement resources away from things that could actually provide real security, rather than pretend security that threatens to violate civil liberties.

NGUYEN: And along with the security, expecting a lot of delays through this, aren't you?

ROSE: Well, absolutely. And when you think, for example, going to the airport, you arrive two hours early. Are people going to get to the train two hours early every morning and then leave work two hours early every evening? It simply isn't a workable plan, and it's not going to provide real security. The security experts don't like it. The MBTA police unit does not like it. The passengers don't like it.

It's not real security. The American people deserve real security and also to have their civil liberties respected.

NGUYEN: All right, Carol Rose, we thank you for your time today.

ROSE: Thank you.

NGUYEN: Drew?

GRIFFIN: Betty, take a look at this. A rescue on Lake Erie. How one man escaped without injury after nearly drowning under a pier. We'll tell you about this story of survival when CNN SATURDAY MORNING returns.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

GRIFFIN: Here's our top stories this half hour.

Political upheaval in the Mideast. Palestinian Prime Minister Ahmed Qorei is holding an emergency meeting with his cabinet. They're talking about Yasser Arafat's offer to reform the Palestinian Authority, especially the security services there. Earlier, Qorei offered his resignation, citing catastrophic situation in Gaza. Mr. Arafat rejected his call for a resignation there.

Car bomb explosions killed at least six Iraqis and injured dozens of others in and around Baghdad, one of the bombs targeting the convoy of Iraq's minister of justice. He escaped, but four of his bodyguards were killed.

And in southern California, crews are trying to gain the upper hand on a wind-driven wildfire. Hundreds of residents in Lake Hughes in northern Los Angeles County have been forced to leave homes. A fire has charred at least 15,000 acres. Three homes were destroyed.

NGUYEN: And from fire to water. A dip in Lake Erie might seem like a good idea on a hot summer day, but not when the waves are six to eight feet high. Even rescue divers had a tough time reaching Matt Baker, who got trapped under a pier.

Scott McFarland of affiliate WIO has the dramatic rescue that almost wasn't.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

SCOTT MCFARLAND, REPORTER, WIO-TV (voice-over): The waves are rough and ruthless. They trapped a 28-year-old man beneath a small wooden pier. They exhausted the team of divers who tried to pull that man to safety. That is firefighter Mike Rowe (ph), knocked out by the force of the water.

Took 15 minutes to pry this drowning man loose. Firefighter Larry Heczo finally emerged with the Avon Lake man, who by then had lost all energy and his swimsuit.

LARRY HECZKO, FIREFIGHTER: He was very scared. He was afraid, he was afraid that he might have been injured. But from the conditions of the water and the condition that he was in, he didn't look to be trapped or entrapped other than from fear.

MCFARLAND: As the pair emerged, they smashed helplessly into the side of the pier. Heczo says he was exhausted too, but had help from the dozen or so firefighters by his side.

HECZO: All's I had to do was and all's I had to think of was to hold onto my, my, my victim.

NANCY MCALISTER, WITNESS: Those divers were unbelievable, how they got him out of there, and how he could hold on, that they kept him alive.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: All the guys, it was tremendous. It was (UNINTELLIGIBLE), it was overwhelming. MCFARLAND: Hard to believe this man wasn't more seriously injured, and hard to believe he thought it would be safe to swim in water this rough.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

NGUYEN: Guess he learned the hard way. Well, Baker is OK. He was treated for cuts and given antibiotics for the lake water that he swallowed, and I can imagine he swallowed quite a bit. Wow.

GRIFFIN: You know, as an ocean snob, I didn't realize the waves got that high on Lake Erie.

MARCIANO: Well, they don't call them the Great Lakes for nothing. They're big, they're big. The Lake Erie, one of the more shallow ones. So it gets pretty warm. Temperatures right now about 70 degrees. So it's nice weather.

NGUYEN: Time to take a dip...

MARCIANO: Time to take a dip.

NGUYEN: ... just but not in that area.

MARCIANO: Just exactly, certainly not with the waves that rough.

Let's go to Denver, Colorado, where there's, you know, you may, if you live there, and maybe you're from a place where there is an ocean, you might feel landlocked, but you have that beautiful mountain range just to your west to keep things looking good.

You're not seeing it, though, this morning. Quarter (UNINTELLIGIBLE) mile visibility, 61 degree temperatures, and obviously some fog and low ceilings. But that ceiling will lift, and we'll see some sunshine, but a threat for thunderstorms in the forecast.

Here are your weather headlines for this morning. We have thunderstorms that will be rolling across the Appalachian mountain chain, and we also have thunderstorms across the monsoon in the West Coast. And Northeast beaches, if you are heading, it's summertime, looking pretty good.

We start you off. Here's the monsoon. We started to get moisture in from the Gulf of Mexico as the circulation starts to change this time of year. And this is an area when, when Phoenix, we talk about the dry heat. Well, this time of year it's typically not that dry. You're actually feeling humidity, and it's fairly miserable.

You get the thunderstorms that pop up, more so in the afternoon. The Sierra (UNINTELLIGIBLE) -- Sierra Nevada mountain range also seeing the thunderstorms expected this afternoon. That one fire in Carson City, Nevada, just to the east of Lake Tahoe, will probably see a couple of thunderstorms in and around that particular fire. All right. Here's Lake Erie. Storm moving to the east, and it'll bring rain from Cleveland to Erie, and eventually into Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, dropping south towards parts of West Virginia. And then some serious thunderstorms rolling to the north of Louisiana into the panhandle of Florida. This area will become fairly active as we go on throughout the day today.

So much of the Southeast will see on and off showers and storms from time to time. Daytime highs like this, 73 in Chicago, looking good, 84 in New York City, rain expected across the Northeast tomorrow, but today looks to be pretty nice. Stay out of Lake Erie today. There's a storm brewing through.

NGUYEN: Yes, you don't want to end up like that guy.

MARCIANO: No, tomorrow's a better day for it.

NGUYEN: Not at all.

GRIFFIN: Speaking of water, you two, talk about securing the coast with both upcoming political conventions in port cities. Is the U.S. Coast Guard up to the challenge? Our Robert Novak puts that question to U.S. Coast Guard Commandant Admiral Tom Collins in The Novak Zone. That is coming up.

Plus, this morning's headlines, when CNN SATURDAY MORNING returns.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

GRIFFIN: Martha Stewart's five-month sentence, we're going to go to one of her hometowns to see what they're saying on the street about that and about her.

And welcome back. I'm Drew Griffin.

NGUYEN: And I'm Betty Nguyen. That story coming up.

But first, we want to take a look at the headlines now.

A car bomb blast kills at least six Iraqis and injures dozens of others in and around Baghdad. One device targeted the convoy of Iraq's minister of justice, killing what are thought to be four of his bodyguards.

Also, a U.S. soldier died in Iraq after his convoy was struck by a roadside bomb in northern Iraq. Another soldier was hurt.

Palestinian Authority President Yasser Arafat says he'll make reforms to his leadership, including the security services. Palestinian Prime Minister Ahmed Qorei is holding an emergency meeting with his cabinet to talk about the offer. Now, earlier, Qorei offered his resignation, citing the catastrophic situation in Gaza. But Mr. Arafat rejected that resignation.

A search continues in California's Joshua Tree National Park for a missing 17-year-old boy. You see him there. A park ranger says Eric Sears is an experienced hiker, but it's believed he doesn't have much food or water with him. A friend reported Sears missing on Thursday.

GRIFFIN: Both major party national conventions are being held this year in key port cities, Boston and New York. And that means the U.S. Coast Guard will have its hands full with inspections and extra vigilance. How will the smallest branch of the U.S. military handle this challenge?

CNN's Robert Novak asked that question and the Coast Guard commandant answers it in this week's edition of The Novak Zone.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

ROBERT NOVAK, HOST: Welcome to The Novak Zone.

We're aboard the U.S. Coast Guard cutter "Cochito" on the Anacostia River in Washington, D.C. Our guest is the 22nd commandant of the U.S. Coast Guard, Admiral Thomas Collins.

Admiral, what is the mission of the Coast Guard?

ADM. THOMAS COLLINS, COMMANDANT, U.S. COAST GUARD: It's broad. We do everything wet that's not in the Department of Defense, really, everything from ice breaking in the Antarctic to assisting boaters in distress.

The major focus is three major mission areas, maritime safety, maritime security and defense, and environmental -- maritime environmental protection.

NOVAK: How has your mission changed, or have your duties changed, since the 9/11 and particularly the war in Iraq?

COLLINS: I think the security mission has become front and center for us. Not that it's a new mission. We've had that since we were formed in 1790. But it's sort of been taken off the back burner, put on the front burner, and the flames turned up.

NOVAK: Now, are you functioning on port security that a lot of members of Congress are worried about, about terrorists, bombs coming in through container ships?

COLLINS: Absolutely. The -- we worked right after -- immediate aftermath of '01 to work in international forums and then domestically with Congress to build a new security regime for the maritime.

And what I mean by that is standards for security for both vessels and ports. We also have domestic legislation, the Maritime Transportation Security Act, that provided a similar mandate for domestic regulations, and we've promulgated those. Both those regimes, the international regime and the domestic regime, went into effect 1 July of this year. And we're busily enforcing it.

NOVAK: How many ships do you have? COLLINS: Overall, we have about 235 vessels in the Coast Guard.

NOVAK: And aircraft, you have your own aircraft?

COLLINS: Two hundred and eleven aircraft and 1,500 small boats.

NOVAK: That's bigger than most navies, isn't it?

COLLINS: It is. We're a fairly substantial force. We also work very, very closely with that force with the United States Navy to augment them in certain cases in the national interest.

NOVAK: Now, we're aboard the "Cochito," the cutter "Cochito." Tell us about this. It is a beautiful little ship.

COLLINS: It's one of our newer vessels. We have -- presently have 54 of those that are located around the country.

NOVAK: But this is stationed in Little Creek, Virginia.

COLLINS: Little Creek, Virginia. Crew of 10, 92 ton, 87 feet. And its missions are law enforcement, escort of vessels in and out, bringing border teams out at sea, enforcing laws on the waters, and also providing search and rescue for distressed boaters on the water.

NOVAK: You have a force 35,000 men and women in the Coast Guard, is that right?

COLLINS: It's now -- thanks to the support of President Bush, Congress, and secretary Ridge, we're now a uniformed force of about -- uniformed members, active duty military members, at about 40,000...

NOVAK: Is that enough, or are you stretched too thin, or...

COLLINS: Well, we're -- I think we've grown, we've grown since 9/11, I think properly so, grown about 2,000 people a year. And we're still evaluating how much growth is in our future.

NOVAK: Admiral Collins, you mentioned that you're not in the Defense Department, since you were formed by Alexander Hamilton. You've been a lot of places. You're in the Treasury under the Navy in time of war, then you're when the Transportation Department, now you're with Homeland Security Department. What difference has it made for you being under homeland security?

COLLINS: Well, I think it was the right move, because we are -- we bring military competence and law enforcement competence to an organization that needed that gap filled, and for the maritime component of the transportation system. And it puts us together with other law enforcement agencies in one department.

NOVAK: Admiral, a few years ago in Hawaii, I was aboard one of your cutters, and they were really involved in getting drugs. And I understand you have now broken the record this year, with 70 tons of cocaine seized?

COLLINS: Right.

NOVAK: Is that a major part of your duties now, the drug, antidrug business?

COLLINS: Clearly is. It has been for a time. And we're -- we want to interdict anything illegal coming by sea, whether that's people, drugs, weapons, or so forth. And we've been very, very successful in the counterdrug mission, working with -- through the interagency process, working with the United States Navy and other great partners to interdict over 70 tons this year.

NOVAK: I used to do some deep-sea fishing, and we relied on the Coast Guard to keep us safe. Is that still a function, helping pleasure boats?

COLLINS: I would say anything where a life is at stake or there's risk of injury to any (UNINTELLIGIBLE) -- any citizen in the United States, it's priority number one. And in search and rescue, it remains right up there, along with homeland security, as the things we have to do right.

NOVAK: Admiral, the secretary of defense, Donald Rumsfeld, says that the Coast Guard will not be involved -- said that a couple of years ago, will not be involved in future wars. What does that mean for your mission?

COLLINS: We're still written into combatant commanders operation plans overseas. They will request certain capabilities and competencies as they request through the joint staff. You know, in each instance, we'll evaluate whether we're a good fit at that time. So I think we're going to do it on a case-by-case basis. We are still over there. We have...

NOVAK: In Iraq.

COLLINS: ... we have four vessels over there that are working side by side with the Navy, protecting the offshore oil platforms, two more going over. Be a total of six. So as we speak, two more are going over, and we have a port security unit of 100 people that are also providing waterfront protection for facilities in Bahrain and other places.

So we're there in niche areas.

NOVAK: And now the big question for the commandant of the United States Coast Guard, Admiral Thomas Collins.

Admiral Collins, the Republican and Democratic National Conventions this year are held in port cities, New York and Boston. A lot of people worried about the security danger. Does the Coast Guard have a role in security in those -- protecting the delegates to those conventions?

COLLINS: Sure. I mean, both venues are heavy waterside components to those venues. And so we're going to be active on the waterside, working collaboratively with the Secret Service that has the lead for those events, and the local police and other authorities to provide a true team effort. There's been preparation work going on for months now to ensure that it's the right security for those events in that venue. And I think you can count on a very, very robust Coast Guard presence in both of those ports.

NOVAK: Admiral Collins, thank you very much.

And thank you for being in The Novak Zone.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

NGUYEN: Martha Stewart gets her sentence. So what does her adopted hometown think about it? We're going live to Westport, Connecticut.

Plus, we will have your e-mails when CNN SATURDAY MORNING returns.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

NGUYEN: You may not have been able to keep up with all the news this week, and that's why we're here. Time to rewind.

An official inquiry into British intelligence before the war in Iraq found some sources seriously flawed. Still, though, the head of the investigation said there was no evidence of deliberate distortion or what Lord Butler called culpable negligence.

Iraq is getting into the intelligence game post-Saddam Hussein. The Iraqi prime minister announced the creation of a new intelligence service to uproot the insurgency. Attacks have been continuing on a regular basis since the coalition transferred power to the new Iraqi government at the end of June. Interim Prime Minister Iyad Allawi said the general security directorate will annihilate the terrorist groups.

And AIDS was in the spotlight of healthcare professionals from around the world in Bangkok this week. The 15th International AIDS Conference ended Friday with South African President Nelson Mandela calling for renewed commitment on behalf of countries to fund the fight against AIDS. An estimated 38 million are infected with aids around the world.

And tomorrow, we will fast-forward to the week ahead and tell you which stories will grab the spotlight.

GRIFFIN: Martha Stewart grabbed all the spotlight this week, and one of her homes is in the Connecticut town of Westport, a well-heeled community. It's not used to a lot of attention from the media, but Stewart's legal woes have, of course, changed that.

Deborah Feyerick is in Westport from -- with local reaction on what people think about her sentencing and this whole trials and tribulations of Martha Stewart. Good morning, Deborah.

DEBORAH FEYERICK, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Good morning, Drew. Well, love or hate Martha Stewart, people here in her hometown of Westport, Connecticut, can't stop talking about the sentence, five months in prison, five months house arrest with Stewart free pending her appeal.

With me right now, Cristin Marandino, who is executive editor of "Westport" magazine.

Do you feel people that people are circling the wagons around Martha Stewart at this point in Westport?

CRISTIN MARANDINO, EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR, "WESTPORT" MAGAZINE: I don't necessarily think that they're circling the wagons around Martha. I think they're circling the wagons around Westport. I think people are protective of our town. And some of the publicity that the town has gotten because of Martha is not -- hasn't been cast in some of the best light. So I think it's more about the town of Westport than it is Martha.

FEYERICK: Now, what are people saying about this sentence? Some that we've spoke to say it's too light, that she got off easy. Others say that because of the kind of crime, that is lying to investigators during the course of the investigation, that she really just got too much time. She's not Kozlowski or Bernie Ebbers. How do you -- (UNINTELLIGIBLE)...

MARANDINO: I see it exactly as that. It depends on who you talk to. I think some people feel, You know what? They might hate her, but what did she do in comparison to what we've seen going on in corporate America over these past few years? It, really in light of what the other things that we've seen, what she did was relatively minimal. And I think, again, even if people hate her, there is some sympathy for that.

FEYERICK: What do you think about Martha Stewart? Back about a year ago, May of 2003, you guys put out a magazine with her on the cover. How did it do, and why do you think it did that?

MARANDINO: It flew off the newsstands. It literally was one of our best-selling covers ever. And I believe it's because even if people hate her, they're still curious about her, and it's that love to hate, and it's voyeurism, and they still want to read it.

FEYERICK: Do people really identify her here with Westport? Do people kind of say, Oh, she's our neighbor, that kind of thing?

MARANDINO: She's not our native son, she's not Paul Newman, she's not Joanne Woodward, she's not Christopher Plummer. She doesn't -- those people come out and really support the town and do such a tremendous amount for the town. Martha really doesn't and hasn't. And it's actually been somewhat of a tenuous relationship with her over the past few years.

FEYERICK: All right, Cristin Marandino of "Westport" magazine, thank you very much.

MARANDINO: (UNINTELLIGIBLE).

FEYERICK: So right now, that's the buzz on the street here. Big street fair going on. And, of course, we're likely to have a lot more reaction, Drew.

GRIFFIN: Deborah, very interesting comments. Thank you for that.

You know, we've been asking people all along for their comments and e-mail questions on what they think a proper sentence would have been.

NGUYEN: And we're getting a lot of responses.

Agnes from Apache Junction, Arizona, says, "It should be community service, not jail time. That costs the taxpayer more money than it's worth."

GRIFFIN: We have this response, saying, "Her sentence from me would be community service, teaching people how to cook, since so many Americans are so used to microwaved food, we just don't know how to cook."

NGUYEN: And David Williams from Florida writes, "I think what Martha did was more stupid than criminal. I'd give her" -- get this, Drew -- "a month of sitting on a stool all day facing into a corner and wearing a dunce cap."

Of course, everyone's got their opinion, and we invited you to share yours with us today, and we appreciate all those e-mails.

Stewart will give her first and only live post sentencing interview on "LARRY KING LIVE." That is Monday night. During the hour, she will even take your calls. You don't want to miss it. That is Monday at 9:00 p.m. Eastern, right here on CNN.

And we'll be back with today's top stories, plus your forecast, when CNN SATURDAY MORNING returns.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

NGUYEN: Good morning, Portland. Looks like a beautiful day there. This is a live picture from our affiliate KGW. The sky is all clear, and Rob is here with your complete forecast. That's coming up.

But first, an update on the top stories at this hour.

There's a crisis in the Palestinian government. Prime Minister Ahmed Qorei offered his resignation during an emergency session of the Palestinian cabinet. Authority President Yasser Arafat refused to accept it.

In Iraq, at least six Iraqis are dead and dozens more wounded in two car bomb attacks in the Baghdad area. One of the blasts hit the justice minister's convoy, killing four of his guards. Another exploded near an Iraqi national guard base, killing two Iraqi guardsmen. A U.S. soldier was also killed after his convoy was struck by a roadside bomb in northern Iraq. Another soldier was hurt.

And in Nevada, firefighters are finally getting some help from the wind. It's blowing the destructive Waterfall wildfire away from the outskirts of Carson City, where at least 14 homes have burned to the ground.

GRIFFIN: We're just a few minutes away from CNN's award-winning program "ON THE STORY." And Kathleen Hays is in Washington to host the show this morning. Good morning, Kathleen.

KATHLEEN HAYS, "ON THE STORY": Hi, there, Drew. Well, we're "ON THE STORY" from here in Washington to Baghdad. Deborah Feyerick and I talk about Martha Stewart, her sentence, and her future. Dana Bash, Elaine Quijano on the political beat, talk about values, the questions about Cheney on the ticket, what we will see on the way to Boston next week. All coming up, all "ON THE STORY."

Drew and Betty, back to you.

GRIFFIN: Sounds good. We'll see you in six minutes.

Betty?

NGUYEN: Well, Rob Marciano is on the weather story for us this morning. How's it looking, Rob?

MARCIANO: Pretty nice in spots, Betty. Hello, Drew.

Current temperatures across the U.S., a little bit warmer on the East Coast, because the sun's had a little bit more work to do, 76 degrees in New York, 77 in D.C. Both of those cities should pretty much be dry today. Seventy-three in Salt Lake City, and we're just waking up on the West Coast. Good morning, West Coasters, if you are getting up with us this morning. Should be a good-looking day for you.

Might see a shower in Boston. But New York, Philly, D.C., looking good today. You will see rainfall tomorrow. Across the Southeast today, there'll be hit-and-miss thunderstorms, more hit than miss, I think, as a little system rolls through. Detroit will see some showers and storms, at least in the morning, then drying out in the afternoon. Chicago, though, and Minneapolis looking pretty good across the western Great Lakes.

Dallas and Houston will be up in the upper 90s, near 100 degrees. L.A. 79, San Francisco 72, Seattle 84. That's kind of warm. Portland, Oregon, might get to 90 degrees.

We have a live shot for you. Monroe City, KGW is our affiliate. We're looking from downtown to the northeast across the Fremont Bridge. And there's the Willamette River. There are prettier views of the Rose City, but nonetheless, this is the one we have for you. A little haze on the lower levels and a little bit of blue sky in the upper levels, setting the stage for a toasty day.

There will be some showers and storms that roll across the Cascades, maybe through the (UNINTELLIGIBLE) Mountains. There are a couple of fires, one in the Warm Springs area to the east of Portland, and there are two wildfires in the state of Washington.

We go down to the South, Carson City, just to the east of Lake Tahoe. That's the one we've really been talking about, near a very, pretty populated area. And right now it's looking at pretty quiet conditions. But monsoon showers and storms, I think, will fire up as we go through the day.

Here's that little system that's rolling across the Great Lakes, why Detroit might see some lingering showers. Cleveland, Erie to Pittsburgh will see some showers and storms rolling across the Appalachians throughout the day today. And some strong storms diving south across Louisiana and through maybe Mobile and the panhandle of Florida, and then much of the Southeast will see showers and storms pop up throughout the day today.

The upper Midwest looking really nice, Northeast not too shabby, the West Coast looking good as well.

Betty and Drew, that's the latest. Back to you.

GRIFFIN: So Rob, you had the water temperatures on earlier, and the Southeast really warm. It's bringing those sharks into shore, apparently.

MARCIANO: Yes, (UNINTELLIGIBLE), you know, temperatures in the 80s, I guess the sharks enjoy that too. Be careful.

NGUYEN: Yes, stay out of the water there. OK, thanks, Rob.

MARCIANO: (UNINTELLIGIBLE).

NGUYEN: Well, up next on CNN, it's "ON THE STORY," highlighting the week's biggest events. Then at 11:00 Eastern, "PEOPLE IN THE NEWS," profiling Martha Stewart, of course, the morning after she was sentenced. Plus, Laci Peterson, her husband is now on trial for her murder. Then at high noon in the East, "CNN LIVE SATURDAY" with the latest news and interviews with Michael Isikoff of "Newsweek." The magazine has new revelations about the terror attacks of September 11.

And that is going to do it for us here on CNN SATURDAY MORNING.

GRIFFIN: That's right. We want to remind you one more time about Martha Stewart granting a live interview with Larry King. That happens 9:00 p.m. Eastern time, 6:00 p.m. Pacific, on Monday. Her first and only live interview. And you will be able to call in and ask questions.

Thanks for joining us on this Saturday morning. Have a good morning.

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