Return to Transcripts main page
CNN SUNDAY MORNING
Wildfires Rage in the West; Tourist Attraction Stuck in Sky High Above Baltimore
Aired July 18, 2004 - 07:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
BETTY NGUYEN, CNN ANCHOR: Well, good morning from the CNN Center in Atlanta. This is CNN SUNDAY MORNING. It is July 18. Welcome, I'm Betty Nguyen.
DREW GRIFFIN, CNN ANCHOR: And I'm Drew Griffin. Thanks for being with us on this Sunday morning. Here's what we have for you this hour.
In the line of fire, ferocious flames gaining ground in 10 Western states this morning. Just ahead, we're going to tell you what fire crews are doing to beat back blazes.
And there's this in Baltimore. A wild ride in the sky. What should have been a fun day became something quite different. We're going to bring you details of how this all ended up.
And you might not believe who's writing for "TIME". We're going to introduce you to the magazine's newest political correspondent. No kidding.
But first, here's what's happening now in the news.
NGUYEN: Charles Jenkins arrived in Tokyo today for a medical treatment. There he is in this video. Jenkins is a former U.S. Army Sergeant accused of defecting to North Korea some 39 years ago. The State Department says Jenkins is seen as a deserter. He's charged with serious offenses. And the U.S. will seek custody of him.
The U.S. military launched air strikes overnight on a house in the volatile city of Fallujah. The Associated Press reports at least 10 people in that house were killed. No details just yet, but U.S. planes have attacked suspected safe houses of terror mastermind Abu Musab al-Zarqawi in the past. We will have a live report from Iraq in about 30 minutes.
Philippine troops pack up to move out. Those still in Iraq will leave tomorrow, driving in convoy to Kuwait for a flight to Manila. The small contingent is leaving a month earlier than scheduled in response to kidnappers threats to kill a Filipino hostage.
And the world's biggest commercial telecommunications satellite has been boosted into orbit by a rocket launched from French Guyana. The six ton satellite is owned by Telesat of Canada. And it'll ensure high speed Internet access in a large section of North America. Keeping you informed, this is CNN, the most trusted name in news. GRIFFIN: Our top story this hour, the devastating wildfires racing across parts of the West. This blaze is in Riverside County, 90 miles east of Los Angeles. It's forced about 2,000 people from their homes. An evacuation center is set up at a local high school.
A fire department official says the fire broke out Saturday, scorched more than 3,000 acres just by late last night. It's just one of dozens of fires burning in California this week. And officials say nearly 38,000 acres have now burned there.
Next door in Nevada, some firefighters are being sent home after crews gained the upper hand on a wind driven fire that briefly threatened the governor's mansion.
CNN's Ted Rowlands has that story from Carson City.
ROWLANDS (voice-over): Firefighters say the needed break came late Friday, when the wind changed in their favor, enabling ground crews and air crops to beat down the flames.
16 homes have burned to the ground. Dozens of others had flames come to within feet, but were saved by firefighters. Those working the fires say air tankers, which are capable of dropping more than 2,000 gallons of water or retardant played a key role in fighting this blaze.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: And they dumped a lot of retardant. And if we didn't have the tankers get up there and be able to do that, it would have been really tough.
ROWLANDS: Thirty-three tanker planes in the western region were effectively grounded earlier this year, including these at an airfield in Mindon (ph), Nevada, which ironically, is just 10 miles from Carson City.
LEONARD PARKER, TANKER OPERATOR: And the airplanes are ready to go. The crews are in place.
ROWLANDS: Leonard Parker and a handful of other small tanker operators had their contracts with the U.S. Forest Service canceled without warning or explanation. The Forest Service will not comment on why, but many think the decision to cancel was a reaction to a pair of 2002 tanker crashes blamed on structural failures in aging aircraft.
Parker, who says he's upset with that decision, says his planes are safe and ready to fly.
PARKER: We feel in good faith to the public that we have to stay ready to go. And that's what we're doing.
ROWLANDS: Before the tankers can go back to fighting fires, the Forest Service must inspect each plane, a time consuming process. Just six of the planes are back flying. Nevada Governor Kenny Guinn says he's like to see them, if they pass inspection, in the air as soon as possible.
KENNY GUINN, GOVERNOR, NEVADA: Yes, I would hope that with what we're facing the rest of this summer in the West, that they will move with dispatch to look at those that have not been approved.
ROWLANDS: Firefighters say the tanker used were enough for this fire. The concern, they say, is that if multiple fires break out, every tanker available will be needed.
(on camera): They have started sending some of the 1900 firefighters here in Carson City home. It is expected they will have full containment of this fire by the end of the weekend.
Ted Rowlands, CNN, Carson City, Nevada.
GRIFFIN: Since Ted filed that report overnight, there has been a revision in the prediction of when they're going to get this fire under control. Carson City folks say now it should be contained by Tuesday, as long as the weather works in their favor. The fire was 85 percent contained late last night.
And here's a look at what's going on in the West. The National Interagency Fire Center says active large fires, large fires now being reported in Arizona, California, Colorado, Idaho, Montana, Nevada, Oregon, Utah, Washington state and Wyoming -- Betty?
NGUYEN: A national intelligence czar to oversee all of the agencies? Big news at the CIA, the FBI, the NSA and the Pentagon. A source says the 9/11 Commission will make the recommendation in its final report, which is expected on Thursday. It would be a cabinet level position that would essentially create a national director of intelligence. The commission will reportedly say the U.S. was ill prepared for 9/11 because of turf and budget battles with the intelligence function spread too widely across the government. The White House says President Bush has been open to the idea of intelligence reform.
And we'd like your views on the findings of the September 11th commission. Our morning e-mail this morning is will the 9/11 Commission report help prevent any future terrorist attacks? You can message us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Well, they have lost their training camps in Afghanistan, but the new turf for terrorists appears to be the Internet. Sean Callebs reports there are now thousands of terrorist sites on the worldwide web, some of them offering detailed how to instructions.
SEAN CALLEBS, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Al Qaeda terror training is moving from the battlefield, to the Internet.
GABRIEL WEIMANN, U.S. INSTITUTE OF PEACE: They can use it to communicate, to recruit, to raise funds, to negotiate. CALLEBS: The U.S. led war on terror has shut down many terrorist camps. These days, through the online magazine "Al-Battar" or "The Sword," al Qaeda is using the web to spread fear and promote jihad. "Al-Battar" looks like a slick, well produced web magazine, colorful, featuring a table of contents, an op-ed page, and a letters to the editor page.
JOSH DEVON, SITE INSTITUTE: It's not a manual that you would probably read at the CIA or something. It's in layman's terms. And it's meant for the average person who wants to get involved in this, to start doing what al Qaeda wants them to do.
CALLEBS: Published twice a month, each issue of "Al-Battar" focuses on one topic, such as cleaning and care of weapons, assassinations, targets inside cities, and in this case, kidnapping.
Al Qaeda watchers point out the rash of kidnappings in Iraq and Saudi Arabia flourished after the magazine articles came out.
WEIMANN: It's a detailed description who should be chosen as a target, where should it -- the action be held, how should that hostage be kept, about negotiation, informing the media.
CALLEBS: Using the web to promote terror is not a new idea. But al Qaeda watchers say seven years ago, they monitored 12 terrorist Web sites. Today, that number has swelled to more than 4,000.
Experts say there is no way to shut down the sites. The same analysts say it may sound odd, but the U.S. doesn't want to silence all the sites, because they do provide analysts with important so- called "chatter."
WEIMANN: Actually, there's a lot to learn from there. And for intelligence purposes, one of the motives will be to keep it alive and get as much as you can, and learn from them.
CALLEBS (on camera): "Al-Battar" claims to be published by al Qaeda's military arm in the Arabian peninsula. As much as anything, the online magazine is aimed at Muslim youth. A computer screen replacing the battlefield. And analysts say "Al-Battar's" message of basic terror training is capable of reaching millions.
Sean Callebs, CNN, Washington.
GRIFFIN: Other stories this morning. 20 people on a balloon ride in Baltimore got a bit more than they were hoping for. The helium filled ride became stuck high above that city by high winds. Part of the attractions of the downtown Port Discovery Children's Museum. It took workers an hour and a half to retract the cable attached to the balloon and reel it back to earth.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Once we went up, and immediately we got up, it was whipping around. And one lady was like I want to go down now. We've got kids, let's go down, let's go down. Get us down. Get us down. Get us down. And then we're up there. And the man was telling us that they couldn't get us down because the whip was so far, that if we -- they brought us down, they were afraid that what happened was going to happen that the balloon was going to hit into the building.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
GRIFFIN: Four people on the ride were taken to the hospital. Fortunately, just minor injuries there.
A man on the FBI's 10 most wanted list in custody, thanks to "AMERICA'S MOST WANTED". Agents say a tip from that show helped them nab Michael Alfonso in Veracruz, Mexico. Alfonso's accused of killing two former girlfriends in Wheaton, Illinois -- one at a fast food restaurant, the other at a park.
And a Florida man facing charges after allegedly hitting his girlfriend with a pet alligator during a fight. This is the man here. The woman told police she was hit with a three foot gator that the couple kept in the bath tub of their mobile home in Fort Orange, Florida near Daytona. The animal has been turned over to wildlife authorities.
NGUYEN: A gator used as a weapon of all things. Kind of crazy. All right, well, the U.S. women's Olympic track team is taking shape, but what role will defending gold medalist Marion Jones play? We'll tell you.
GRIFFIN: Also, we'll be getting a view from the floor of the Democratic Convention. And this view is slightly shorter than what you may be used to. And the nights in Havana may be too hot to play Las Vegas, but it has more to do with Washington. We'll explain that just ahead.
NGUYEN: Well, good morning. "TIME" magazine is poised for the upcoming Democratic Convention in Boston, just eight days from now. And like past conventions, they'll be coverage from correspondents of all ages. In fact, two 12-year olds will be part of the prestigious "TIME" magazine team. They are reporters Avery Stone and Lily Wasserman near the convention site. And they are waiting for this political show to begin.
Good morning to you, both.
LILY WASSERMAN, "TIME FOR KIDS": Good morning.
AVERY STONE, "TIME FOR KIDS: Good morning.
NGUYEN: Well, let's start with you, Miss Lilly. This was some tough competition, just becoming a reporter for "TIME" magazine Kids. What did you have to do?
WASSERMAN: Last -- in April 2003, we -- I wrote an article about the Boston Walk for Hunger. You can write an article about anything you wanted. 845 people entered. They picked 30 finalists. And from there, you had to break a video about yourself and do a report about the First Lady, Laura Bush. From there, they picked 16 kid reporters for "TIME" for Kids.
NGUYEN: And you guys are at least two of them -- Avery, so far, what are you doing to prepare for this big assignment?
AVERY STONE, "TIME FOR KIDS": Well, I've been constantly watching and reading the news really to the conventions, so I can keep up and not miss a newsbeat when I go there. So that's pretty much all I've been doing to prepare.
NGUYEN: Smart little girl. OK, you guys are just 12-years old. Lily, tell me, why are you even interested in politics at this age?
WASSERMAN: Well, I just think it's really interesting to see how it all works. And just -- you really, that's how I rely everything is the way it is if you keep up with politics.
NGUYEN: Avery, what are you hoping to learn from this?
STONE: Well, I'm hoping to learn everything that I can. I mean, I just want to know completely everything about politics. I've been interested since I was little. I just love the flow of like the fast moving pace of the convention. And I was at the New Hampshire primary as well. I loved that a lot. And I just want to learn about the candidates and about just everything that has to do with politics.
NGUYEN: But do you think other kids your age and younger are interested just like you are in all of this?
STONE: It depends. I think my friends are definitely interested in politics. I think any -- many kids are interested in politics. Some aren't, so are. It just depends on who you are.
NGUYEN: I know that when I was your age, I was interested in playing outside with my friends. So Lilly, talk to me about your interest. How did you get started in this?
WASSERMAN: Well, in -- to be interested in politics?
WASSERMAN: Well, I think that ever since I was little, my parents, they're very involved in politics. In 2000, I went to New Hampshire to campaign. And I just had a really fun time, I mean, met a lot of new people. And I just learned a lot.
And I just think you can learn so much about a wide variety of things from...
NGUYEN: Absolutely. And as you prepare for this convention, what are you hoping to ask John Kerry or John Edwards?
WASSERMAN: I'd probably like to ask them about testing and schools, because I think that really, really affects kids now. It just -- it takes a large part of their school time and -- to prepare and take the tests.
And I just think that that really, really matters to them.
NGUYEN: Avery, what do you want to know from the candidates?
STONE: I would ask them absolutely anything, but I am particularly interested in asking either Kerry or Edwards about the war in Iraq and if they were elected, how would they change what's going on in Iraq.
NGUYEN: And I know that you're really focusing on this convention. But as you're getting started in this, it seems like a little job training early on. If you could interview anyone that you wanted to, Avery, who would it be?
STONE: I would love to interview one of the speakers at the convention, Jimmy Carter. I would love to interview him.
NGUYEN: Former President Jimmy Carter. OK, Lily, what about you?
WASSERMAN: For me, it would probably just be John Kerry and John Edwards, because they're probably the most important people there and...
NGUYEN: Not just the convention. I'm talking anybody. I mean, Justin Timberlake, any of those guys come to mind when you're thinking of anyone -- anyone in the world that you could interview?
WASSERMAN: I don't know, that's a hard question. I think probably either Hillary or Bill Clinton.
NGUYEN: Oh, very good. What about you, Avery?
STONE: Oh, that's a hard one. I would -- that's so many people. I would...
NGUYEN: See, that's part of our job. You have to ask those hard questions. So you're getting a look at it first hand.
STONE: Oh, I would love to interview any author. One of my favorite authors is Julianne Peters. I would love to interview her.
NGUYEN: Very studious girls. All right, so both of you, do you want to become journalists in the future?
STONE: Well, it's hard to know. I mean, I'm only 12-years old. But right now, I would love to make journalism a part of what I do when I get older, because "TIME" for Kids has made it such a wonderful experience for me.
STONE: So I'd love to see it. WASSERMAN: I think that it's probably something that I would like to pursue, because I -- just as for "TIME" for Kids, I've learned so much about a lot of things and have gotten to meet a bunch of new people and learn -- I just got to learn so much about so many different subjects. And I think that that's definitely something that I'd like to do as I get older.
NGUYEN: That's good to hear. And I will just tell you it is a fun job. Best of luck to you both. Thanks for joining us this morning.
STONE: Thank you.
WASSERMAN: Thank you.
NGUYEN: Thank you very much, Drew?
GRIFFIN: I think I've seen the future bosses at CNN. More politics ahead. Later this hour, we're going to check the campaign pulse with someone who's got a few years over Avery and Lily, just a few. Andrea Seabrook from NPR is going to join us in the next half hour of CNN SUNDAY MORNING.
And up next, find out why the Department of Homeland Security is stomping on these dancers dreams of Vegas.
GRIFFIN: Wishing Clearwater Beach, Florida a good morning. Your weekend forecast, Rob Marciano's working on it. He's going to be up in just about a minute.
First a look at the headlines. Welcome back to you. I'm Drew Griffin. The U.S. military has launched a round of airstrikes in Fallujah, Iraq. Local hospital officials say 10 people killed there. U.S. bombs have targeted several safe houses that have been used by militants in that city.
The final report of the 9/11 Commission will reportedly include a recommendation to create a cabinet level post to oversee all intelligence, at least that's the word from a source close to the panel. The final report will be released on Thursday.
Wildfires in southern California are forcing even more people from their homes. Two new fires added yesterday to the dozens burning in the West.
NGUYEN: Well, it's got intense intrigue and nail biting suspense of a Broadway play. A theatrical performance from Cuba features enough plot twists and ironic terms to keep everyone guessing. And that's all before it even makes it to the stage.
Here's Lucia Newman in Havana.
LUCIA NEWMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): It's called "Havana Nights." A Cuban musical review formed five years ago by a German Entrepreneur. It's the flavor of Cuban culture. And it was booked to perform in Las Vegas starting July 31, presented by none other than Siegfried and Roy.
But from the start, politics got in the way. First, Washington refused to give them visas in line with new restrictions barring most Cuban artists entry into the U.S. Then came the kicker. Their own government told them not to appeal.
Unwilling to take no for an answer, they went to the U.S. consulate anyway, even though they knew they might not get a decision for weeks or months.
DAVID ALVAREZ, DANCER: (through translator) There's an old saying that there's no harm in trying. So what's wrong with that?
NEWMAN: They found out a few days later when Cuban Culture Ministry officials turned up at rehearsal and told them they no longer answer to the company's German founder and president.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: (through translator) They say the Cuban artist union is now in charge.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: (through translator) We're like their hostages. We're kept isolated.
NEWMAN: Their local manager accused of inciting the group's active defiance was sacked.
ARIEL MACHADO: (through translator) It was easy for them to find a scapegoat.
NEWMAN: No explanation to the press, or to the representative of "Havana Nights" owner, whom officials barred from the meeting.
VANESSA BARRETT, HAVANA NIGHTS PRODUCER: We will not give up. That's all I'd like to say.
NEWMAN: Cuban officials accuse the artists of defiance by applying for U.S. visas, which they claim will be rejected until the political climate in Washington changes.
Angry and confused, many of the artists say they don't understand politics, only what they thought was their right to exercise their free will.
Friday, the Stardust Hotel Web site was still selling $50 tickets. They at least still think "Havana Nights" will make it to Las Vegas by July 31st.
Lucia Newman, CNN, Havana.
(END VIDEOTAPE) GRIFFIN: From dreams of Vegas to dreams of Athens shattered. Marion Jones. We're going to tell you what happened to hear at the Olympic trials. That's coming up.
NGUYEN: And a tearful reunion in California, where the few and the proud meet their children for the first time.
NGUYEN: The U.S. military unleashes new air strikes in Fallujah, Iraq. We'll have more on that. Welcome back. I'm Betty Nguyen at CNN Global Headquarters here in Atlanta.
GRIFFIN: And I'm Drew Griffin. We'll have a live report from Iraq just a minute away or so. But first, our top stories.
In Japan, Charles Jenkins and family have arrived in Tokyo from Indonesia. He is risking arrest by going to Japan. Jenkins, now 64- years old, is accused of deserting the U.S. military way back in 1965 and defecting to North Korea. He is in Tokyo for medical treatment for abdominal trouble.
California dotted with wild fires. Two big fires near L.A. have chased thousands of people from their homes. One blaze, this one in Riverside County, has grown to more than 3,000 acres in just one day. Another in northern Los Angeles County has burned 16,000 acres.
In Saudi Arabia, another 27 wanted militants surrendered to authorities in Riyadh. Saudi authorities say the leniency offer exempts terror suspects from the death penalty, but not from civil suits by the victims' families. A month long amnesty offer is said to expire this week.
And in South Africa, a birthday. Tributes pouring in as Nelson Mandela celebrates his birthday with family and close friends. The man credited with saving South Africa from a race war turns 86 years old today.
Keeping you informed, this is CNN, the most trusted name in news.
NGUYEN: Explosions rocked the trip wire city of Fallujah as U.S. aircraft attack. Officials report a heavy toll and angry crowds gather at the scene of the airstrike. This is another attempt to take out a terrorist mastermind, or is it?
Michael Holmes has our report live from Baghdad with the latest on this. Are they getting any closer to catching Abu Musab al- Zarqawi?
MICHAEL HOLMES, CNN CORRESPONDENT: No sign as yet, Betty. But it would appear that this is probably another attempt to either kill him or flush him out, as it were.
We hear that bombs were dropped. There were at least two loud explosions reported by locals to us overnight about 2:00 a.m. local time in Fallujah, which is about 50 miles west of Baghdad. What happened, according to health ministry spokesmen, is that we have 14 bodies so far taken to hospitals in the area. The number of wounded (UNINTELLIGIBLE).
You know, it was very hard to get information earlier on. The U.S. trying to make it look very much like the Iraqis are in on everything, and telling them to supply the information. The defense minister spokesman, however, said when we asked him about it, the defense minister "doesn't have a clue."
Well, since then, we found out that the prime minister, the interim prime minister, Iyad Allawi did give his blessing to this raid. It's the latest in a series of airstrikes in Fallujah, trying to target Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, who as you know, is blamed for many of the large scale attacks around Iraq, most recently yesterday in attempted assassination on the justice minister right here in Baghdad, as Zarqawi claimed responsibility for.
One other thing to report to you, too. The remaining members of the Philippines contingent here. It was never a big one, only 50 soldiers, will be pulling out of Iraq. They will leave. They're handing over their duties to Polish troops on Monday. That, of course, linked in with that 46-year old father of eight being held hostage by militants here, who say that the Philippines troops must leave before they'll release their men -- Betty?
NGUYEN: Quickly, what about this former Iraqi leader who led the defense? Understand he was arrested overnight?
HOLMES: Yes. (UNINTELLIGIBLE) Hassan, he's a former major general of the special republican guard. He was the man that was in charge of those who were defending Baghdad. And as you will recall, it wasn't all that well defended.
Well, as they've been looking for him for some time now, we're told by U.S. officials that he was arrested in Tikrit on the 16th of July, a couple of days ago now. We're only just hearing about it. He's been taken away for questioning. He is a cousin of Saddam Hussein and been a wanted man for a little while now -- Betty?
NGUYEN: Michael Holmes in Baghdad. Thank you. Drew?
GRIFFIN: Back from Fallujah, Marines of the 1st Battalion 5th Marine Regiment got a wild welcome home at Camp Pendleton, California. Casey Wian was there for this week's edition of our series, "heroes."
CASEY WIAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): In the hot sun, they wait for husbands, fathers, and sons returning from Iraq.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: He's Corporal Jeff Starr (ph). He was promoted on the battlefield.
WIAN: They've been waiting since December when Camp Pendleton's 1st Battalion 5th Marine Regiment deployed to Fallujah, Iraq's post- war hotspot. 10-day-old Sean Tate Jr. has never been seen by his father. Rachel and Sean Sr. married just before he left.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We got married, two weeks later I found out I was pregnant one week later he left, now he's coming back.
WIAN: The wait stretches into its sixth hour. Then in the distance, families hear them coming.
The Marine Corps says this battalion was involved in some of the most intense firefights in around Fallujah.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Company dismissed!
WIAN: Amy Springer struggles for several agonizing minutes to find her husband, Lance Corporal Brett Springer. They, too, were married just before deployment and never had time for a honeymoon. Finally, the wait's over.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Undescribable.
WIAN: Some relatives literally jumped for joy, others simply smiled. Another young mother, another marine seeing his son for the first time.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It was hard.
WIAN: How'd she do, you think?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: She did good.
WIAN: And how did you do?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I held up.
WIAN: As did the entire battalion. Many of these Marines were on their second tour of duty in Iraq.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We went into it differently. Kind of got into a little situation with Fallujah. But did our job.
WIAN (on camera): While these families celebrate the return of their marines, several others remain in mourning. At least ten members of this battalion were killed while on duty in Iraq. Casey Wian, CNN, Camp Pendleton, California.
GRIFFIN: We bring you these hero stories every week on CNN SUNDAY MORNING.
NGUYEN: Love those stories. Well, U.S. Army Sergeant Charles Robert Jenkins arrives in Tokyo for medical treatment. Next hour, we'll have a live report on the serious charges he faces for allegedly deserting his unit some 39 years ago. Then at 8:30, it's HOUSECALL WITH DR. SANJAY GUPTA. This weekend, Dr. Gupta reports from Bangkok on how new AIDS treatments are not getting to those who need them most. And in the last hour of CNN SUNDAY MORNING, three weeks after the turnover in Iraq, is the country any more secure? But first, debate same sex marriage and the presidents daughters on the campaign trail. Andrew Seabrook joins us with the political headlines of the week.
NGUYEN: We want to hear from you this morning. With the 9/11 Commission report expected this Thursday, do you think it will help prevent future terror attacks? You can e-mail us at email@example.com. We'll be reading your replies throughout the program. So send them soon.
GRIFFIN: Well, a spirited debate. Campaigning in the family spirit, saying yes and no in the spirit of politics. All three converged last week in this year's presidential race. Congress debated same sex marriage, the president's twin daughters joined the campaign trek, and attendance at the NAACP convention became a hot button issue.
With the story behind these stories, National Public Radio Congressional reporter Andrea Seabrook in Washington, but who was in cheese country with the president this week in Wisconsin, Andrea, talking to a state where the president really is trying to win and get those swing states to swing his way.
ANDREA SEABROOK, NPR CONGRESSIONAL REPORTER: That's true. He only lost it by get this, .2 -- .2 percent, excuse me, two-tenths of a percent. This is the third closest swing state of the 2000 elections. So it's a place that you'll see both campaigns trucking through a lot this season.
GRIFFIN: You were in Wisconsin with him. It surprised me from some of the rhetoric coming out of his speeches that it doesn't seem like he was going after the moderate swing voters. More trying to strengthen his base, his conservative base?
SEABROOK: Yes. You know, when it comes down to trying to get just the swing voters, this is a -- you know, you want to go for your base, strengthen that up, because you don't want to lose a single person when they go to the polls.
And you know, it helps to have this sort of rallied excited atmosphere from your base, to come in later and try and get those swing voters excited as well. And so it's really -- you know, a search for trying to strengthen that base, and at the same time, get a few -- you know, you only need -- when it's only .2 percentage points, then you only need a few more people to actually win.
GRIFFIN: Two issues this week became very exciting. And then suddenly went away, I think. The gay marriage ban came and went with a vote in the Senate. And the NAACP convention, who showed up, who didn't show up. Both were very hot and seemed to just kind of dissipate later in the week.
Are these likely to be issues in this campaign?
SEABROOK: Yes, I think they are. I think that, especially the gay marriage debate is one that especially Republicans will keep bringing up. And you know, the Democrats charge that this is just a ploy to drive a wedge between the electorate, try and you know, get people, you know, get those swing voters that we were just talking about.
At the same time, you know, and you know there is some -- it looks like there's some truth to that because of the fact that not -- the Senate is not going to vote for this. The president's own vice president and his family is not behind this idea of a constitutional amendment.
But then again, you know, the Democrats, while you know, gaining some traction on this idea that it's just a political ploy, you know, what do they really stand for? They're forced to actually into this sort of ambiguous position of sort of being against gay marriage, but not going so far as a constitutional amendment. It's not a great issue for them.
On the flip side, the NAACP question, which is that President Bush turned down an invitation to speak at their convention, doesn't play well for him. It opens the door wide for John Kerry, who can then come in and say, you know, and as he did say to the NAACP, President Bush is dividing America among racial lines, is dividing them along class lines.
And this is something that really hurts the president at a time when he's trying to fight off an image of, you know, of trying to line the pockets of his corporate friends. You know, so you know, these two issues play in really different ways.
I think you'll see these ideas behind them coming up over and over again.
GRIFFIN: Real quickly, I want to ask you about the Bush daughters, who've decide to enter the race. And Maureen Dowd's column in "The New York Times" this morning, which says maybe Theresa Heinz should get out of the race.
SEABROOK: That's an interesting idea. You know, I was on the campaign trail with President Bush this week. And he was joined by Barbara Bush, one of the twins. And you know, it was really, it was a nice touch to have her there. Although she did not say much, she was just thanked by her father in every single stump speech that he gave.
I think it's probably a response to the fact that, you know, John Kerry has been campaigning with his wife and talking a lot about his wife. And you know, we'll see more of this, especially now that it's come down to the crunch months.
GRIFFIN: Are the girls received well on the campaign?
SEABROOK: They are. Though as I said, from what I can tell, they haven't been saying a whole lot. I think there's a big article coming out in "Vogue" magazine with a full spread of them in ball gowns and as you're seeing. And you know, it's an interesting article. It says that they're sort of excited about getting on the campaign trail and working with their father. But at the same time, neither of them seems to have set their sights on actual politicking just yet.
GRIFFIN: Andrea Seabrook, thanks for joining us. Andrea will be joining the Kerry-Edwards campaign this week. We'll look for her comments later on. Thank you, Andrea. Betty?
NGUYEN: We want to profile the week ahead. A hearing is tentatively scheduled for tomorrow for Alfonso Rodriguez, Jr. He is charged in the death of North Dakota student Drew Sjodin. On Tuesday, is -- that's the day the main Olympic Stadium is due to be complete in Athens. Will it be? Well, the Summer Games begin on August 13. And there is a worry many Olympic venues will not be completed.
Plus, the key witness against Martha Stewart will be sentenced on Friday. Douglas Faneuil will learn his fate for the same judge who sentenced Stewart.
A lot more to tell you about, including that. Sprinter Marion Jones won't defend her gold medals in Athens or will she? We'll explain how she might yet compete in an event she did not even qualify for.
NGUYEN: In the Olympic track and field trials in Sacramento, sprinter Marion Jones abruptly eliminated herself from yesterday's 200 meter qualification event.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MARION JONES, OLYMPIC GOLD MEDALIST: My reasoning for pulling out of the 200 today is simply because of fatigue. There's no other reason. There are no other excuses. After running my rounds yesterday, I was simply tired, exhausted.
It happens. It happened to me. It hasn't happened in the past, but it happened. I woke up this morning and I was tired. And I have always told myself and the people whom I surround myself with that if I cannot give 100 percent out on the track at any given time, then I won't go out there.
And so, I did not want to take up a lane from a young athlete who perhaps, you know, this could be their only chance at Olympic trials.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
NGUYEN: Jones secured a place on the women's team with this long jump on Thursday. But as of right now, she will not be defending her gold medals in the 100 meter and 200 meter races.
But that could change. Arbitration is set for tomorrow on a drug allegation that could remove Tory Edwards from the team. If so, Gale Deavers would get the lane for the 100 meters, but Deavers could choose to forego the 100 meters to focus on the hurdles. And that puts Jones back in the race.
Lesson a month before the 2004 games, there's news this morning about the 2000 Olympics. Now according to the Associated Press, the International Association of Athletic Federations, which is meeting in Italy, has ruled the U.S. men's team should be stripped of its gold medal in the 1600 meter relay in Sydney. Team member Jerome Young was cleared of steroid use by U.S. track officials back in 1999, but the case was reopened last fall after the U.S. Olympic Committee did confirm that Young did test positive for a banned substance a year before winning the gold.
GRIFFIN: In the Tour de France, American Lance Armstrong continues to muscle his way to the Pyrenees. As expected, the five time defending champ took yesterday's 13th stage, a brutal 205 kilometer power ride through those mountains. In the process, Armstrong erased most of a five minute deficit to rise to second place. He's now just 22 seconds behind the yellow jersey worn by France's Thomas Voeckler, going into today's 200 kilometer 14th stage. The race ends next Sunday in Paris after 20 stages.
The specialized bikes Armstrong rides in the Tour de France are made by Trek in Waterloo, Wisconsin. Keith Oppenheim went there to see what gives these costly two wheelers the competitive edge.
KEITH OPPENHEIM, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Eric Lynn rides 30 miles to get to the office.
ERIC LYNN, TREK, INDUSTRIAL DESIGNER: I'm working on colors and graphics for a variety of brands here at Trek.
OPPENHEIM: As he works, results from the Tour de France stream in on the web. Lance Armstrong is clearly Eric Lynn's hero.
LYNN: He's a great guy.
LYNN: Yes, he really is.
LYNN: And what an inspiration.
OPPENHEIM: On the road, Lynn explained he's a believer that Lance Armstrong will do what no one else has done before, win the Tour six times.
Is that just optimism that comes in a cornfield or is it real? LYNN: I think it's real. He's shown that he knows what it takes to be there at the end.
OPPENHEIM: Trek says the bikes Armstrong rides are designed with him in mind. But anyone can buy them in stores.
(on camera): This is the frame of one of them. And this dimple in the construction makes it more aerodynamic, good for flat courses. And down below, we have the other Armstrong bikes, which is less aerodynamic, but super lightweight, critical for the mountain stages.
(voice-over): For employees, any frame from the upper end Madone line could go to the champion.
JOHN RILEY, TREK PRODUCT MANAGER: We really don't know. They might be building Lance's Tour de France winning bike.
OPPENHEIM: The attachment to Armstrong is intense here. Roxanne Fairbird created a graphic display of the Tour. She remembers a big day three years ago.
ROXANNE FAIRBIRD, TREK EMPLOYEE: I met Lance Armstrong.
FAIRBIRD: Here. And in fact, I finagled to get my picture taken with him.
OPPENHEIM: For Eric Lynn, the roads of Wisconsin are far from France. But as he rides, he hopes Armstrong's successes are not yet a thing of the past.
LYNN: We all know that we're so lucky to be a part of it right now. And I hope it keeps on coming for a long, long time.
Keith Oppenheim, CNN, Waterloo, Wisconsin.
TO ORDER A VIDEO OF THIS TRANSCRIPT, PLEASE CALL 800-CNN-NEWS OR USE OUR SECURE ONLINE ORDER FORM LOCATED AT www.fdch.com