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Wildfires Race Across Parts of the West; Victims of Accident Leave Film Legacy

Aired July 18, 2004 - 08:00   ET


DREW GRIFFIN, CNN ANCHOR: Hello again from the CNN Center in Atlanta this is CNN SUNDAY MORNING. July 18. I'm Drew Griffin.
BETTY NGUYEN, CNN ANCHOR: I'm Betty Nguyen. Thanks so much for being with us this morning.

Ahead this hour, the latest on the wildfires racing across parts of the West, with residents ready to flee on a moment's notice. And the strange case of American Charles Jenkins, who disappeared into North Korea nearly 40 years ago. The U.S. may try to prosecute him for desertion.

And a little later, the victims of a horrific accident at a farmer's market left behind a film legacy. Now you'll be able to see it. First here's what's happening now in the news.

GRIFFIN: U.S. planes struck a house in Fallujah, Iraq, overnight. A spokesman for Iraqi Prime Minister Ayad Allawi, said the Iraqi leader did approve this attack. The Iraq health minister says 14 people were killed in fighting in the city. It's not known how many were victims of the air strike.

Manila will pull the rest of its 30 or so troops out of Iraq tomorrow. They were to stay until next month, but the Philippines government has been under pressure to withdraw its forces in a bid to save the life of a Filipino hostage being held by militants.

Another 27 wanted militants surrendered in Saudi Arabia. Saudi officials say the leniency offer exempts terror suspects from the death penalty, but not from civil suits from by their victims' families. The month-long amnesty offer is set to expire this week.

And a rocket lighting up the sky over French Guyana. The launch puts the world's largest commercial telecommunications satellite into orbit. Owned by Canada's Telesat, it will provide high-speed Internet access and digital telecommunications across North America.

Keeping you informed, this is CNN, the most trusted name in news.

NGUYEN: Up first this hour, wildfires are raging across 10 Western states, coloring the skies and painting a pallet of devastating destruction. In California's San Canyon area, the color is gray as thick plumes of smoke make their way upwards.

Hundreds of residents are forced to flee ahead of a fast-burning fire that scorched 2,000 acres so far. In the state's Riverside County, orange flames amid fields of greens as firefighters there battle a blaze that threatens nearly 700 homes. About 2,000 people have already been evacuated.

In Carson City in Nevada, investigators are digging for clues into what started a blaze that began on Wednesday and raged out of control for two days. At least 15 homes and 25 other buildings have been destroyed.

For more on the fires burning in Nevada we turn to now to Ted Rowlands, who is in Carson City.


TED ROWLANDS, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice over): Despite having the upper hand, firefighters say they're still very concerned about the possibility of the fire coming back to threaten more homes.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No, we're not letting our guard down. This fire could come right back out of this canyon again and sweep right through, burn what it's already burned.

ROWLANDS: Crews spent the day checking wind speeds and hosing down areas around structures. And 16 homes have been burned to the ground in what many firefighters say is one of the worst fires in the state's history.

DAWN ANDONE, FIRE INFORMATION OFFICER: This is one of the nastiest that we've had in many, many years, especially with the homes burning. That's kind of a new experience for us in this area.

ROWLANDS: People who live in the threatened areas have been allowed back, many of them came home to see that fire had come within just a few feet of their homes. Firefighters say they got a major break when the wind shifted late Friday and they are confident that they will have this fire fully contained by early next week.

Ted Rowlands, CNN, Carson City, Nevada.



GRIFFIN: We're following a story in Tokyo. Accused U.S. Army deserter Charles Jenkins and his family have now arrived in Japan from Indonesia. In Tokyo, Jenkins risks being arrested by American authorities for defecting from the U.S. Army back in 1965.

On the videophone, from Tokyo, is Atika Shubert.

Atika, what can you tell us about this developing story?

ATIKA SHUBERT, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: That's right. Jenkins is now at a Tokyo hospital undergoing medical treatment.

He stepped off the plane at Tokyo's Narita (ph) Airport looking very frail and tired, walking with difficulty, needing a cane and supported by his Japanese wife, Hitomi Soga.

There's no sign yet that he will be brought into custody. In fact, U.S. ambassador to Japan, Howard Baker, told reporters Friday that although the U.S. would request to bring him into custody, actually implementation of that could be postponed given Jenkins' poor health.

So for now, he remains now at the hospital, but the U.S. insists he will have to face charges for deserting his military post 40 years ago.

GRIFFIN: Atika Shubert, live in Tokyo, Japan. Thank you so much for that report -- Betty.

NGUYEN: Turning now to the race for the White House. Vice President Dick Cheney is taking a day off the campaign trail today, spending time in his home state of Wyoming. Yesterday, Cheney rallied the Republican faithful in Minneapolis saying the fall election will present a choice between hope and negativism.

And the man who wants Cheney's job will also be in his home state today traveling to North Carolina after a swing through Florida. Yesterday John Edwards wrapped up a fund-raising swing through Southern California, where he argued that the Bush administration spends too much time trying to satisfy the rich and not enough time on the needs of the poor.

Well, there is much more political news on "INSIDE POLITICS SUNDAY." Among the guests, author Molly Ivins, talking about her book "Who Let The Dogs In?" "INSIDE POLITICS SUNDAY" with Kelly Wallace begins at 10:00 Eastern.

GRIFFIN: We move to the war on terror, where shutting down terrorist training camps has seemingly only had a limited effect. Al Qaeda's visible activities now appear to be on the Internet. Web sites affiliated with terror groups are found the Internet to be an effective outlet. They also provide anti-terror experts with a window on their activities.


BEN VENZKE, CEO, INTELCENTER: The Web sites are actually an important vehicle for us to get a better understanding of what the terrorists are thinking, what kinds of targets are they going after, much beyond us trying to guess what targets they are looking at, at one point in time or another.


GRIFFIN: In just a couple of days the 9/11 Commission is going to release its final report on what went wrong. We'd like your views on what could go right. Will the release of this report, and what's in it, help prevent any future terror attacks? You can e-mail your opinion to us at

Three days of talks aimed at ending the humanitarian crisis in Sudan have come to a halt without resolution. The talks by two rebel groups and the government were trying to mediate an end to the violence in the Darfur region. Monita Rajpal has a closer look at the international pressure on the troubled region in Western Sudan.


MONITA RAJPAL, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice over): The Sudanese government is under growing international pressure to end the crisis in Darfur, a region where more than a million refugees have fled in the face attacks by an Arab militia, the Janjaweed.

It is the biggest humanitarian crisis in the world. This week the World Health Organization said hundreds of thousands could die of disease unless aid agencies got immediate access. Human rights groups accuse the government in Khartoum of supporting the Janjaweed. The U.S. and others have warned Sudan that they will seek United Nations sanctions unless it reins in the militia group.

GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I call upon the government of Sudan to stop the Janjaweed violence. I call on all parties of the conflict to respect the cease-fire, to respect human rights, and to allow for the free movement of humanitarian workers and aid.

RAJPAL: But some members of the U.S. Congress say threats are not enough. The time to intervene is now. U.S. Congressman Charles Rangel was arrested this week while demonstrating in front of the Sudanese embassy in Washington.

REP. CHARLES RANGEL (D), NEW YORK: What is happening is sinful. It's mean. It's criminal. It's hateful. And if we just tolerate it that blood -- that blood -- is on our hands if we do nothing.

RAJPAL: The African Union is trying to take the lead. It plans to send some 300 troops to patrol refugee camps and border areas, in addition to 120 unarmed monitors already on the ground, but the task is enormous. Darfur is the size of Kenya.

Preparing to join a national government, the leader of the southern rebels, the SPLA, has joined the chorus demanding action in Darfur.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We're, obviously, will not allow that government to fight its own citizens in Darfur. There must be a fair and just political settlement in Darfur.

RAJPAL: The government says it is trying to subdue the Janjaweed militia, but its assurances ring hallow with the world beyond, and as the rainy season begins time is running out for the refugees.

Monita Rajpal, CNN, Atlanta.


NGUYEN: A balloon ride in Baltimore was supposed to be fun, but 20 people ended up stranded for more than hour. The helium-filled ride is an attraction at the Port Discovery Children's Museum near Baltimore's Inner Harbor. It became stuck high above the city by yesterday's high winds. After workers finally reeled it back in, four people were taken to the hospital with minor injuries.

A Florida man is facing charges after allegedly hitting his girlfriend with, of all things, a pet alligator during a fight. The woman told police she was hit with the three-foot gator the couple kept in the bathtub of their mobile home in Port Orange, Florida. That is near Daytona. The animal has been turned over to wild life authorities.

And a woman in Texas will not face obscenity charges for selling sex toys. A judge in suburban Dallas dismissed the case against Joanne Webb, a fifth grade teacher. She was hosting parties that sold adult products in private homes. Webb was arrested after two police officers posed as a couple buying those products.

Hundreds gathered in Alexandria, Virginia, yesterday to salute the military. The USO weekend is a tribute to the organization that helped the country get through the World War II years and still serves troops today. Along with these historical harmonies, tributes included boogie-woogie and swing concerts.

Well, he made the phrase "Do the Right Thing" a part of American pop culture. It was a special tribute to one of Hollywood's brightest stars last night. Spike Lee honored, and we'll have it here on CNN SUNDAY MORNING.

Plus, with 8,000 people dying from AIDS every day, calls grow louder for world intervention. That's the subject of "House Call" with Dr. Sanjay Gupta, at 8:30 Eastern.



UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Who is your favorite basketball player?


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Your favorite movie star?



NGUYEN: This was the film that made director Spike Lee a household name. "Do The Right Thing" debuted in 1989. Lee had modest success with earlier films like, "She's Gotta Have It" and "School Daze," but it was "Do The Right Thing" that convinced major studios to back his projects.

And you know Spike Lee is an innovative film director, and his peers at the 8th Annual American Black Festival, in Miami, made it official, handing him the Innovator Award. The five-day event is dedicated to strengthening the independent African-American film community and promoting cultural diversity in film making. The festival is presented by Time Warner, CNN's parent company.

Actress Rosario Dawson was on hand to pick up her Rising Star Award. She's appeared in such films as "Shattered Glass," "Men In Black II" and "Sidewalks of New York". She talked about what it means to win such an award and to be in such distinguished company.


ROSARIO DAWSON, ACTRESS: Well, I mean specifically -- specifically being here on the same day as Spike is getting an achievement award for everything that he's ever done to contribute to the film industry, but especially to the black film industry. And what has been helpful to my career, but also as an inspiration to so many other filmmakers out there who aren't necessarily able to go to Hollywood and get the money to do the passionate projects they want to make, and who have just done it on their own.


NGUYEN: And be sure to watch CNN for an interview with Spike Lee. That is at 10:00 p.m. Eastern on CNN tonight.

GRIFFIN: There was no big Hollywood premiere for a movie that made its debut last night. But for family and friends of the filmmakers, the one-time showing of this flick, that was years in the making, was bittersweet. In California, Donna Tetreault tells us why.


DONNA TETREAULT, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): In this silent black and white film, a ballerina learns about life. But for some, the movie has a deeper meaning.

FRANCESCO MAZZINI, KEVIN & DIANA MCCARTHY'S FRIEND: Five or six days before Kevin finally finished the movie, the editing, which took him years, literally, like almost seven years. So it's like, OK, we have to celebrate. Some of the family is here, so let's do it.

TETREAULT: A celebration after seven years, "The Rouge Shoes," Kevin and Diana McCarthy's labor of love was complete. But a runaway car at the Santa Monica Farmer's Market changed the path of their lives.

MAZZINI: In our world, knowing Kevin and Diana so well, it makes totally sense that they went together in this strange, strange, strange way.

They stayed with me in Rome and with my family. And it was, you know, Kevin and Diana. It was like one name. It was unity. Kevin and Diana.

TETREAULT: Diana was one of the first to be hit. George Russell Weller is charged with vehicular manslaughter. Kevin, almost a block away, was one of the last. The couple didn't have the chance to see their dream playing to an audience, but Francesco Mazzini, star of the film, made their dream a reality. MAZZINI: It's looking down and saying wow, finally, you know, a real movie theater.

TETREAULT: A year and one day after the tragedy, "The Rouge Shoes" hit the screen. And according to Mazzini, that is what his friends had always hoped for.

MAZZINI: In this whole tragedy, I'm really thankful that this -- that he finished it. It's like the universe was like, OK, you've done what you were supposed to do.

TETREAULT: Mazzini says Saturday's screening was the one and only time the film will be shown. Proceeds going to Kevin's alma mater, the New York Film Academy.

Donna Tetreault for CNN, Santa Monica.


NGUYEN: It sometimes takes adversity to bring people together. Flood waters have opened up the hearts of thousands this weekend. We'll tell you where coming up.

GRIFFIN: And at 9:00 Eastern Time, a pharmaceutical company is cutting prices. Find out who's going to benefit and why on CNN SUNDAY MORNING, that is at 9:00.


NGUYEN: Olympic sprinter Marion Jones won't be defending her gold medal in the 200 meters. At yesterday's track and field trials in Sacramento, she abruptly took herself out of the qualifying event.


MARION JONES, DEFENDING OLYMPIC CHAMPION: My reasoning for pulling out the 200 today is simply because of fatigue. There is no other reason. There are no other excuses. After running my rounds yesterday, I was simply tired, exhausted. It happens. It happened to me.


NGUYEN: But her long jump on Thursday landed her on the team and qualifies her for the relay races.

GRIFFIN: In southern New Jersey, nearly 1,000 volunteers poured into Medford Lakes in the wake of last week's devastating flood. Flooding from what was called 1,000-year storm washed out bridges, breached dams and ruined homes. Burlington and Camden Counties have been declared federal disaster areas.

NGUYEN: Not good for the folks there.

(WEATHER FORECAST) NGUYEN: Now to our top stories. Another 27 wanted militants surrender in Saudi Arabia. Saudi authorities say the leniency offer exempts terror suspects from the death penalty, but not from civil suits by their victims' families. The month-long amnesty offer expires this week.

A rocket lights up the sky over French Guyana. The launch puts the world's largest commercial telecommunication satellite into orbit. Owned by Canada's Telesat, it will provide high-speed Internet access and digital telecommunications across North America.

GRIFFIN: Our e-mail question this morning was: "Will the 9/11 Commission report help prevent any feature terror attacks?"

Our well-educated audience has weighed in on this and we get this from Phil in Jefferson City, Missouri.

"While this process has been very cathartic and was intended to allow the public to review the events surrounding 9/11, we must be cognizant that adding yet another layer of bureaucracy to an already huge government will prove ineffective. This report should be out of bounds for the 2004 election season and kept in realm of healing America's scars from the September 11 attacks."

NGUYEN: Well, this viewer weighs in, saying, "As long as terrorists are aware we have increased our resources to find and destroy their efforts, we are safer. Our efforts cannot totally protect ourselves from these cowardly guerrilla type attacks, but we can certainly make it more difficult for them to try."

Of course, we invite you to continue sending in your responses to our e-mail question of the day, send that to

GRIFFIN: Treatment for AIDS has improved dramatically over the years but that has not stopped the spread of AIDS. And 8,000 people die from AIDS every day.

Dr. Sanjay Gupta's "House Call" zeroes in on the spread of AIDS, next here on CNN. At 9:00 Eastern, we take you live to Baghdad where an overnight U.S. air strike has killed more than a dozen people. Also, at 9, the plan to withdraw U.S. troops from Iraq. A "Baghdad Report Card" on CNN SUNDAY MORNING.


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