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Hurricane Jeanne is Ready to Strike Florida

Aired September 25, 2004 - 07:00   ET


DREW GRIFFIN, CNN ANCHOR: Well, good morning.
Another hurricane weekend on our hands. BETTY NGUYEN, CNN ANCHOR: Yes.

GRIFFIN: From the CNN Center in Atlanta, this is CNN SATURDAY MORNING, the 25th day of September.

7:00 a.m. in the East, 4:00 a.m. way out West.

Good morning to you.

I'm Drew Griffin.

NGUYEN: And I'm Betty Nguyen.

Thanks so much for being with us this morning.

Let's talk about hurricanes now. Lining up for gas in West Palm Beach, getting ready to run from Jeanne. For residents of Florida, hurricane Jeanne is number four this season. It'll rake the northwestern Bahamas today, then head for the east coast of Florida. Estimated arrival, early tomorrow morning.

Now, evacuation orders are in effect for 800,000 Floridians. We'll take you live to West Palm Beach in just a few minutes.

Meanwhile, at least seven Iraqis have been killed in fighting near the Iraqi city of Fallujah. Four U.S. Marines are also dead. The military says they died in separate incidents on Friday. The battle included what the Americans called a precision air strike on a house in Fallujah.

A memorial service will be held this afternoon for Jack Hensley, one of two American construction workers kidnapped in Iraq and beheaded by their kidnappers. That service will be at a church in Atlanta suburb of Marietta. A candlelight vigil was held Thursday night in the town square.

And fire races through a house on Chicago's West Side, killing four children. A fire department spokesman says there may be something suspicious about that fire last night and arson investigators are at the scene.

GRIFFIN: Here's what's coming up for you this hour.

Anxiety, frustration, folks are just mad in Florida, wondering how many hurricanes their state can take. Jeanne barreling straight toward the Sunshine State and could hit as early as tomorrow morning. And there's some worry that some Floridians may have no idea what's happening outside their doors. We'll tell you about that and Rob will have the forecast for you, the latest, coming up in a live report, as well, from Florida. That's just minutes away.

In Iraq, will the country be secure enough for January elections? Kidnapping a terrible new trend. We'll pose these tough questions with no easy answers to our military analyst.

And magic and majesty, an awesome adventure. The oohs and aahs in this book are being compared to Harry Potter. You'll meet the author of the acclaimed book "Children of the Lamp."

NGUYEN: It's deja vu, and not the good kind. Florida's east coast is bracing for hurricane Jeanne and what will be the fourth such storm to slam into the state in the past five weeks. Governor Jeb Bush has declared a state of emergency for Atlantic Coast counties in the possible path of the hurricane, as well as those likely to absorb the flood of evacuees.

The Florida governor has scheduled a news conference for 9:00 a.m. Eastern and CNN will carry that live.

Meanwhile, Jeanne was not even considered a threat to the U.S. when it washed over Haiti as a tropical storm last weekend. At least 1,200 people have died in the flooding there and desperate shortages of food and water have triggered violent outbreaks at relief sites.

GRIFFIN: Rob Marciano was covering hurricane Ivan just last week.

And, Rob, we're covering another hurricane this week.

ROB MARCIANO, CNN METEOROLOGIST: It's unbelievable isn't it, guys? And for the folks in Florida, it's definitely something that they don't want to deal with. The sooner this hurricane season gets over, the sooner the better, certainly, for the folks in Florida and for just about everybody, as well.

This thing, it's looking a lot like Frances was several weeks ago, heading through the Bahamas, although it's moving a little bit faster. It has a similar wind field in that it's a pretty wide space of tropical storm force winds, out now to about 200 miles. So it has increased in strength overnight. And the winds have come up to 105 miles an hour. We get them over 110 and it becomes a major hurricane.

So that is actually the forecast and we're hoping that doesn't pan out. But it looks like right now it's getting a little bit better organized, moving to the west at about 14 miles an hour, and that is toward the Florida coastline.

These are the latest numbers out of the National Hurricane Center. It is 240 miles off the Florida coastline, heading just that way. Westerly movement at 14 miles an hour. So, that should bring the eye of this thing into the Florida area some time after midnight tonight. And certainly the outer rain bands and some of the more intense squalls will be ahead of that. So later on this afternoon, really, later on this evening is when we'll start to feel the effects of hurricane Jeanne -- 105 mile an hour winds. And obviously, as you can imagine, there are hurricane warnings out for just that area, Florida City up to St. Augustine and still the northwestern Bahamas.

And the track of this thing, guys, brings it to a similar spot where hurricane Frances came just, you know, this time about three weeks ago, I believe, as a major hurricane. And then just look at that track. I mean it's going to affect a lot of folks, it looks like, not only in Florida, but southern Georgia and the Carolinas, as well.

We'll take you through it for the next couple of days, it seems like.

From the CNN Weather Center, back to you guys in the city.

NGUYEN: Yes, strap yourself in.

Hey, Rob, I just have a quick question for you.


NGUYEN: Yesterday, we talked about just skirting around Florida. Now, is it really going to make landfall in Florida?

MARCIANO: It looks like now they've increased the track a little bit more westerly. And you can see it looks, I mean it just goes right into Florida. The center of it rolls right up the center part, including Orlando. So that's the forecast now.

NGUYEN: Not what they want to hear.

MARCIANO: Yes, it's not what they want to hear, for sure.

NGUYEN: All right, thank you, Rob.

Appreciate that.


GRIFFIN: Well, across Florida's hurricane scarred landscape, one of the busiest places both before and after the storms has been those neighborhood Home Depot stores. There's even more urgency right now.

CNN national correspondent Susan Candiotti at a Home Depot in West Palm Beach.

This is becoming very routine down there -- Susan.

SUSAN CANDIOTTI, CNN CORRESPONDENT: That's true, Drew, with nerves already frayed from three other hurricane hits. In the words of the "Palm Beach Post,": "Jeanne is now closing in." And yesterday's headline also appropriate, which said, "Oh, No, Not Again." And, indeed, within the hour, more than a dozen shelters will be opening here in Palm Beach County. A mandatory evacuation order goes into effect at that time, ordering people out of low lying areas and also people who live in mobile homes.

As you said, I'm here at the Home Depot, where, as you can see, people are making last minute buys, especially plywood. Unfortunately, they are out of generators. That's what a lot of people want, I am told.

The plywood you see being loaded up right here belongs to a man who just told me he's been living here for 43 years and this is the first time, the first time in all that time?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The first time I've ever boarded up. I've always just let 'em blow.

CANDIOTTI: Why this time?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Well, I don't know. I'm just scared of this one, I guess. Maybe I'm getting old.

CANDIOTTI: Well, hopefully the preparations will be worth it. It won't be necessary and it'll go on by.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I've never had any damage. Never had any damage. But I boarded up for the last hurricane and I when I took the shutters down, I broke a window. So...

CANDIOTTI: Well, better to be prepared, I think you would agree?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes, you're right.

CANDIOTTI: Good luck to you, sir.

In any case, we can also tell you there are a number of other concerns in this county, as well. One of them is the concern over gasoline supplies. We have noticed long lines since yesterday and again this morning. We have found that a number of gas stations have been closed. Those that are open, again, people cueing up, sometimes into the street, waiting to top off their tanks, which is always a good idea.

Another worry? Debris left over from hurricane Frances, from just a few weeks ago. Emergency crews not able to pick all of it up. Of course, anything left on the side of the street could become dangerous flying projectiles if lying there.

Of course, Florida Governor Jeb Bush is asking residents here to hang tough.


GOV. JEB BUSH (R), FLORIDA: So, we are preparing. We're recovering and we're providing relief all the while, as residents begin the hard work to, in each one of these phases, in some cases preparing for the storm while they're recovering from another. This is a time for us to band together as a state and show the rest of the world what Florida is made of.


CANDIOTTI: Now, of course, he's also compared this, as you might have heard, to "Ground Hog Day," Florida Governor Jeb Bush. That's a comedy where the main character, Bill Murray, repeats the same day again and again and again. Obviously that's what a lot of people feel like they're going through this time around.

Drew -- back to you.

GRIFFIN: Susan, that movie had a happy ending. I'm not sure about this one.


Of course...

CANDIOTTI: Exactly. Everyone here, naturally they hope there's a happy ending this time. But I don't know the way things are looking.


Thanks, Susan.

And, of course, you can expect complete coverage of hurricane Jeanne's movements all day long here on CNN. We'll have live reports from affected areas and our team of meteorologists remain on hand to keep you up to date on these. And we're also expecting some news conferences from Florida, as well, this morning -- Betty.

NGUYEN: Now to the fight for Iraq. U.S. military officials have confirmed that four Marines have died in fighting in the Al Anbar Province of Iraq. That's the area encompassing Fallujah, which is a hotbed of insurgency. There are few details on yesterday's death other than to say that the victims belonged to the 1st Marine Expeditionary Force and died in three separate incidents.

Now, earlier today, the U.S. military launched what it calls a precision air strike. The target is described as a known terrorist meeting site linked to mastermind Abu Musab al-Zarqawi. Hospital officials in Fallujah say the overnight fighting has killed at least seven people and injured a dozen more. A baby was pulled from the rubble of one of the homes, but it's not clear whether that home was hit in the U.S. air strike.

The insurgents' grip on Fallujah and the surge in violence there raises concerns about the upcoming January elections.

CNN's Brent Sadler joins us now from Baghdad to talk about this -- good morning to you.

BRENT SADLER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Good morning. NGUYEN: Brent, we see this continuing news of U.S. military strikes that we just talked about directed against Fallujah.

What's being done to stop the insurgent activity in that city?

SADLER: Well, the efforts are concentrated on Fallujah primarily because that is where there is this headquarters of Abu Musab al- Zarqawi, that top terror suspect that the United States has been after for many months now. Artillery, tank activity around Fallujah and also an air strike, trying to not only get Zarqawi himself, but also his support network, targeting safe houses, weapons stores and so forth.

And getting Zarqawi does remain a top priority as far as crushing the insurgents is concerned.

But even if they were to get him, admits a senior U.S. military official I spoke to earlier today, that would not, they believe, put an end to the attacks. Zarqawi is a figurehead but he is just one man in a very complex and emboldened insurgency, particularly over this past couple of weeks, where more than 300 people have been killed in suicide bombings, assassinations, which continue, and clashes, particularly not only around Fallujah, but also in Sadr City, a suburb of Baghdad where the firebrand cleric Muqtada al-Sadr still has his militia, the Al Mahdi Army, operating.

So there is a continued pressure to get Zarqawi, to try and reduce the insurgency. But as this country moves to elections in four months time, U.S. commanders expect that they will have to be involved very much in a difficult fight to stabilize as much of the country as they possibly can ahead of those January elections -- Betty.

NGUYEN: Yes, let's talk about that. I mean realistically, Iraqi Prime Minister Ayad Allawi told the world last week that these elections will take place in Iraq on schedule.

But how feasible is that looking at the situation right now?

SADLER: Well, Mr. Allawi said in Washington that if elections were to be held now, they could go ahead in some 15 out of 18 provinces in Iraq. Many Iraqis, of course, skeptical, very skeptical of that assertion. But it is an assertion that has backup from some of the top members of the U.S. administration, not least Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld and also Armitage from the State Department. Both of them quarreling over how much of the country might well be able to take elections.

But if you listen to what the senior U.S. military official told me in a briefing a short time ago, as things stand now, even in the hotbed of violence in places like Ba'qubah, that's claimed to be about 70 percent under control. Samara, another difficult area, and Ramadi, about 50-50. Fallujah, a hundred percent still a no go area.

So there will be a fight, expected to be a bloody fight, between now and January. How much of the country can go through the electoral process, that's still the big question and, of course, unanswered. NGUYEN: Absolutely.

All right, CNN's Brent Sadler in Baghdad this morning for us.

Thank you so much.

GRIFFIN: One of Washington's closest allies in the war on terror says the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq has made the world more dangerous. Pakistan's president, Pervez Musharraf, had this to say in an interview with our Paula Zahn.


PAULA ZAHN, HOST: Was it a mistake to have gone to war with Iraq?

PRES. PERVEZ MUSHARRAF, PAKISTAN: Well, now I would say that it has ended up bringing more trouble to the world. This arouses certain sentiments of the Muslim world. And then the responses that we are seeing are now explosive, you know, remote controlled bombs and suicide bombings. This phenomenon is extremely dangerous.


GRIFFIN: President Musharraf also cautioned, though, that a hurried U.S. pullout would leave Iraq and some of the region unstable. He also said he believes al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden is alive.

NGUYEN: Some key issues concerning Iraq. Are the Iraqis and the U.S., are they training using their skills to fight for the insurgencies? And what about security for the January elections?

Tough questions we'll put to CNN military analyst, Retired Brigadier General David Grange. He joins us live in the next hour of CNN SATURDAY MORNING.

GRIFFIN: That brings us to a military question we have for you. Would more troops solve the problems in Iraq? It is our e-mail Question of the Morning and you can send your answers to Always like to hear what's on your mind and read them throughout the morning program here.

NGUYEN: Well, in case you missed some of the week's top stories, let's Rewind some of the key events.

On Tuesday, President Bush went before the United Nations General Assembly. His appearance came just days after U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan suggested the U.S.-led war in Iraq was illegal. Mr. Bush insisted the war has not been a mistake and vowed that the U.S. will not back down in the face of escalating violence.

Throughout the week, presidential challenger John Kerry had launched a more sharpened attack on President Bush's policies and what he calls "wrong choices." The Democrat accuses the Bush administration of mishandling the war in Iraq and in doing so making the war on terror even more difficult. And at the beginning of the week, kidnappers killed two American hostages. The group beheaded Eugene Jack Armstrong on Monday and Jack Hensley on Tuesday. Videos of both killings were displayed on an Islamic Web site.

And in Washington, the work week ended with a new beginning. President Bush took part in the swearing in of his nominee to head the CIA. Porter Goss served eight terms in Congress and was once a CIA operative.

Tomorrow, we'll "Fast Forward" to the week ahead and tell you which stories will grab the spotlight.

GRIFFIN: People living in Florida certainly have good reason to be concerned about hurricane Jeanne.

NGUYEN: No doubt.

We want to give you a live picture from Daytona Beach, Florida.

Check it out.

The state's entire east coast is bracing for the worst. Meteorologist Rob Marciano will be tracking the storm when we come back.


NGUYEN: If you're just joining us, Florida prepares for hurricane Jeanne. The storm is rolling onto the Bahamas, still bruised from hurricane Frances three weeks ago. Jeanne is expected to become a category three by the time it reaches Florida. That's tomorrow morning.

Now in Iraq, fighting near Fallujah has killed four U.S. Marines. American military sources say a precision air strike targeted a known terrorist meeting site in the city. At least seven Iraqis have been reported killed.

And in Chicago, arson investigators this morning are on the scene of the house fire that killed four young people. A fire official says the blaze is suspicious and that no parents appeared to be home at the time.

GRIFFIN: Meteorologist Rob Marciano has the very latest on Jeanne, tracking in the Weather Center -- Rob.

NGUYEN: Here we go again, Rob.

MARCIANO: Yes, indeed.

Here's the latest shot from the Florida radar. You're starting to see now the outer bands already approaching the coastline. This familiar swirl and the colors indicating rainfall now getting closer to Fort Lauderdale or Miami, certainly West Palm Beach and then northward into Daytona, as well. We have a live shot for you from Daytona. Nothing but clouds there right now, but the winds are gusting. Northeasterly winds 21 miles an hour. WKMG is our affiliate. And you can see that camera is shaking in the breeze. You might get a slice of sunshine in between rain bands, but generally speaking, the weather will start to go downhill as the day progresses.

All right, back to the maps we go. Daytona certainly under the gun as far as one of the areas that will be affected by this thing. It is taking a similar track that hurricane Frances took, although it's moving a little bit faster. That's good news in that it won't bring nearly as much rainfall and flood potential as hurricane Frances did, because it's moving a little bit quicker. But it likely will come in a little bit stronger than hurricane Frances did. So that's the bad news as far as the wind is concerned.

Definitely increased in strength overnight. We had winds to -- we have winds to 105 miles an hour, almost a major hurricane. If we get over 100, and it's a category three.

Westerly movement of 14. That has increased a little bit. So we're bringing it in now some time after midnight as far as the eye is concerned and then, you know, as far as the outer rain bands are concerned, they're going to be rolling in later on this afternoon and through this evening.

Here is the official forecast track out of the National Hurricane Center. Notice it goes to a category three before it makes landfall after midnight tonight, somewhere between, oh, say West Palm Beach and Melbourne. And then slicing right up the central part of Florida.

So we mentioned this earlier in the broadcast, Drew and Betty, we were hoping that it would take maybe a turn to the north and maybe just scoot the coastline. It has picked up steam. It is still heading directly toward Florida. And at this hour through the rest of today, we are pretty confident that it will make a pretty solid strike later on tonight and overnight tomorrow.

That's the latest from the Weather Center.

NGUYEN: Oh, that's what not what they want to hear, Rob.


GRIFFIN: Boy, that central Florida area just can't get a break.

Rob, I have one question to ask.


GRIFFIN: And I know it's probably silly. But they all seem to be striking in the middle of the night.

MARCIANO: You know what? We were talking about -- when I was doing Ivan, it, in years past, the worst ones seemed to come during the middle of the night. Hurricane Andrew came during the middle of the night. Ivan came enduring this night. And this one looks like...

NGUYEN: Any reason?

MARCIANO: No. Except that maybe Mother Nature is upset that we give it so much television coverage and she doesn't want us to show the pictures. I mean I don't have any other explanation.

NGUYEN: Goodness.


GRIFFIN: All right, thanks, Rob.

We'll continue to follow this with you.


NGUYEN: Absolutely.

And you can expect comprehensive daylong coverage of hurricane Jeanne as she charges through the Bahamas.

But up next, a great white spotted in Cape Cod? Check it out. Details on CNN SATURDAY MORNING.


GRIFFIN: Two time Oscar nominee Julian Moore returns to the silver screen this week.

Take a look.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Children, go on.






UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: No! No! Do you have children?


GRIFFIN: Wow, the suspense thriller "The Forgotten," it's a story about a woman grieving over the death of her child only to be told she has no children. Moore's character meets another character that's in the same position.


UNIDENTIFIED PEOPLE: Yes, you can do it. Go, go, go, go, go!




GRIFFIN: It looks a little chillier. Also out this week, politics in the air, the comedy "First Daughter" stars Michael Keaton as president, Katie Holmes as the 18-year-old college freshman child of the most powerful man in the world. She falls in love with a fellow student, James Blucas, only to find out he is an undercover Secret Service agent. Even in the movies some things are too good to be true. I feel like I gave away the whole plot there.

The critically acclaimed flick "The Last Shot" is debuting, with Matthew Broderick playing a down on his luck movie director hired by what he thinks is a big time movie director, played by Alec Baldwin. Baldwin actually an FBI agent on a case.

And that's what's at the movies this week.

NGUYEN: Well, this is not fiction. Marine biologists are excited about a great white shark circling in shallow waters near Cape Cod, Massachusetts. Take a look at it. They got close enough to attach an electronic monitoring device to the 15-foot critter. Fifteen feet! Once they figure out how to get it back into the ocean, marine biologists will then track the great white's movements and learn more about the species.

GRIFFIN: Maybe that shark is running away from hurricane Jeanne, as well. They're taking no chances in Florida. The mantra in Florida as the state braces for yet another unwelcome visit from a hurricane.

We're going to take you there live.

NGUYEN: Plus, new concerns the U.S. military is training some people in Iraq who will turn against armed forces. General David Grange is straight ahead with the answers.


HOLLY FIRFER, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): A study published in the "Journal of the American Medical Association" found that being obese is a bigger risk factor than being inactive when it comes to women contracting Type 2 Diabetes. The study, which looked at nearly 38,000 women, found that obese women were nine to 14 times more likely to develop Type 2 Diabetes than those in the normal weight range. Researchers said if women really want to reduce their diabetes risk, it's imperative they keep their weight down.

Holly Firfer, CNN, Atlanta.


NGUYEN: We are just minutes away from an update from the National Hurricane Center on the latest dealing with Jeanne. Florida bracing for yet another hurricane, the fourth in just five weeks.

Welcome back.

I'm Betty Nguyen at the CNN Center.

GRIFFIN: I'm Drew Griffin.

That story in just a minute.

But first, what's happening in the news.

Floridians, cleaning up from three previous hurricanes, now have Jeanne coming right at them. Right now, Abaco Island in the Bahamas is directly in Jeanne's path. Hurricane watchers believe Jeanne will become a category three by the time it reaches Florida's east coast, as early as tomorrow morning, very early tomorrow morning.

In Baghdad, at least five Iraqi National Guard troops killed this morning in a grenade attack on their van. Four others wounded in this attack. Authorities say the attackers escaped.

Here at home in suburban Atlanta, a memorial service this afternoon for this man, Jack Hensley, the civil engineer kidnapped and killed in Iraq this week. The service begins at 2:00 p.m. Eastern at Hensley's church. That's in Marietta, Georgia.

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

NGUYEN: Jeanne is preparing to beat up on the northwestern Bahama Islands then head for Florida. There are already lines very long for gasoline and some 800,000 people are under orders to evacuate. Right now, she is a category two hurricane and gaining strength. And in about a few minutes, we're going to get an update on hurricane Jeanne. That comes out at, what, 7:45 -- Rob.

MARCIANO: It depends. But officially it's supposed to be out by 8:00. Sometimes we get them a little bit sooner, sometimes a little bit later. But what they typically do, these intermediate advisories, they'll just update the position. Rarely do they update the winds either way. But they'll definitely update the position and the speed of this thing. And they'll be having the hurricane hunter aircraft fly and in out of this thing until it reaches the shore. And then once it does that, there's way too much turbulence for that.

So it's still offshore. And as you mentioned, the northwestern Bahamas in the path of this thing. It has increased in intensity overnight. And just look at this, how the colors around it, the higher cloud tops, yellows, the oranges become a little bit more solid, become a little bit more organized over the last 12 hours. And that indicates some strengthening. The wind field has expanded, as well. We have hurricane winds to 75 miles out of the center and now tropical storm force winds are out to over 200 miles from the center of this thing. So it is a big storm and it's increasing in strength, as well. Winds at 105, moving to the west at 14. It is 240 miles offshore and with that sort of movement, it will bring the eye of it onshore probably some time around midnight or shortly thereafter. Certainly the effects of it during the evening as this thing begins to make its landfall.

Notice, guys, we've kind of nudged everything to the west. It looks like the center is going to pass right over central and northern Florida over the next 24 hours. Not the news they were hearing, but I guess they're prepared. They've been prepared for the last month and a half. So one more time, it looks like -- back to you guys.

NGUYEN: They've been through this drill over and over again.


NGUYEN: Thank you.

GRIFFIN: Yes. In fact, Jeanne will be the fourth hurricane to hit Florida this season, a record for the state. And once again, there's a run on plywood and duct tape.

Susan Candiotti is at a home improvement store in West Palm Beach, which at this point has become a home protection store -- Susan.

CANDIOTTI: That's true. And they're only going to be open here for another couple of hours, presumably so that employees here can go home and prepare their homes, as well.

At this hour, in Palm Beach County, a mandatory evacuation order goes into effect for those living in flood prone areas and in mobile homes, for example. And it's the same story in at least eight counties up and down the Florida coast, where a hurricane warning is in effect.

Here at this Home Depot, they've been open since 6:00 this morning.

And David Brautman (ph) is one of the customers there loading up plywood for his home.

Now for Frances, you didn't board up.


CANDIOTTI: And why this time? BRAUTMAN: Because after living through Frances, I figured if it/'s that bad, if this time is supposed to be worse, a four to five, I'd board up.

CANDIOTTI: You must be exhausted, as are a lot of other Florida residents. When you heard that Jeanne was heading this way, what did you think? BRAUTMAN: At first I didn't think it was going to be much of a hurricane because it was heading north. And then I realized this morning when I saw the news that it was going to hit us and hit us hard.

CANDIOTTI: What is this doing to you emotionally, you and your family? BRAUTMAN: Well, I didn't have power for 11 days at the house. So I hope we'll have power that long this time.

CANDIOTTI: What is your expectation for the storm preparations and how much good it will do? BRAUTMAN: The house fared good the last time. It didn't have much damage to the neighborhood. So hopefully this time it'll be the same thing. Just (UNINTELLIGIBLE) right at the storm.

CANDIOTTI: David Brautman, good luck to you and your family.

You know, he was talking about power loss here. Ninety percent of the people who lived in Palm Beach County during hurricane Frances lost power. And I am told by the power company and emergency management officials that it was only last week when everyone had their power restored. Can you imagine what might happen again this time?

Back to you -- Drew.

GRIFFIN: Susan, it's hard to believe, but it is happening.

And, of course, you can expect complete coverage of hurricane Jeanne's movements all day long right here on CNN, well into the night, as well. We're going to have live reports from affected areas with our team of meteorologists, who will remain on hand to keep you informed as this storm heads toward Florida yet again.

NGUYEN: Now the latest on the fight for Iraq. A senior government official tells CNN of an extraordinary meeting between a U.S. delegation and Syrian President Bashar Assad. The Americans presented evidence of Syrian's aiding militants who then cross the border to strike deadly violence on Iraq.

Now, the meeting was held two weeks ago today on the third anniversary of the 9/11 attacks. President Bush has warned Syria before about its failure to police its borders. But analysts say that delivering the message to President Assad himself underlines the seriousness of Washington's charges.

Meanwhile, four U.S. Marines killed. An all night battle in Fallujah, a new assassination, suicide bombings, hostage takings, hostage killings and now American trained Iraqis may be joining the insurgents.

What's the reality on the ground in the war zone?

Well, our military analyst is Retired Army General David Grange. And he's here to join us with some insight.

Good morning to you.


NGUYEN: Well, let's talk about that on the ground.

Is the reality, in fact, U.S. forces training Iraqis who then turn and fight for the insurgency?

GRANGE: Well, you're always going to have a few that are going to be traitors. I mean even in our own military, as we've seen in the fight in Iraq, there's been some. So it's going to happen. A vetting process, who's going to remain a good guy and who can turn against you, is a tough process, because what do you use to vet someone? Word of mouth? Records? It's very difficult in a new army.

So, yes, there'll be a few. But the majority, I think, are going to fight for their own country.

NGUYEN: So besides vetting, how do you prevent this?

GRANGE: Well, you watch. I mean you watch. You have standards in place. The leadership is key. You just keep a watchful eye. You can't prevent it a 100 percent.

NGUYEN: We want to talk about the hot spots in Iraq. And in regard to elections, I want to take a listen to Donald Rumsfeld's sound bite that we heard earlier this week.

Let's listen.


DONALD RUMSFELD, SECRETARY OF DEFENSE: Let's say you tried to have an election and you could have it in three quarters or four fifths of the country, but in some places you couldn't, because the violence was too great. Well, that's -- so be it. Nothing's perfect in life. So you have an election that's not quite perfect.


NGUYEN: All right, elections not perfect, but they are set for January.

How do you help control the violence in those hot spots? What do you do?

GRANGE: Well, you know, the elections are tough. And, you know, if we look at it, we kind of forget Afghanistan a little bit. And if we look at Afghanistan right now, the process is in place and ongoing. Not everybody is going to have a chance to vote there. But the majority are going to be able to vote.

The key thing is securing the polling stations, making sure that they're not attacked, which means point, what they call point security. The movement of ballots from one point to another for counting, who's going to provide the transportation and who/'s going to secure it? And then, again, the people having the freedom to vote. Are they intimidated? Are they controlled? Are they not allowed to get to polling booths?

So it is a massive security issue and it's going to require a lot of security, whether it be U.S., Iraqi or other coalition forces providing it.

NGUYEN: And aside from security in these elections, let's talk about the hostages. Some 180 people in total have been taken hostage in Iraq.

Has this become an industry? And what do you do to fight it? Because you're not supposed to break the cardinal rule of negotiating with hostage takers.

GRANGE: Well, because some have negotiated, it's become a tactic of choice. And it's an easy tactic. It's just criminal activity, crime. You just grab someone in a country of millions and millions of people, it's hard to protect every citizen. We would have the same problem here if that was going on in this country.

So it's something you have to just hunt down and kill those that would do it, to get to their leadership, decapitate them. You cannot let this go on as a tactic of choice, which it is right now. But you just have to keep the pressure on them.

NGUYEN: All right, General David Grange, our military analyst, thank you so much for that insight.

GRANGE: Thank you.

NGUYEN: More questions for the general later this morning. Those include how to improve the security situation in Iraq, when will it be safe to bring U.S. troops home. Brigadier General David Grange back live here on CNN SATURDAY MORNING at 9:00 a.m. Eastern.

And that brings us to our e-mail Question of the Day.

Would more troops solve the problems in Iraq?

Send your answers to and we will read those on the air throughout CNN SATURDAY MORNING.

Well, our eyes stay focused on hurricane Jeanne.

GRIFFIN: Yes, coverage continues on CNN SATURDAY MORNING.

Plus, it's homework time for the president. Time to prepare for the first debate.

CNN SATURDAY MORNING will be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) NGUYEN: With the first presidential debate just days away, the candidates hit the books, briefing books.

That's just ahead.

GRIFFIN: Then at 8:00 Eastern, he says it's his right to pierce his eyes, lips and anything else. Not so, says his new school. The battle over body piercing on our docket in Legal Briefs, 8:00 a.m. Eastern.


GRIFFIN: Let's get to the headlines.

Bracing for Jeanne -- mandatory evacuations go into effect this morning in at least eight Florida counties as the hurricane approaches. The evacuations for low lying areas, barrier islands and mobile homes.

Fresh fighting in and around the Iraqi city of Fallujah. At least four U.S. Marines and seven Iraqis are dead there. A U.S. air strike targeted a suspected terrorist meeting site.

Back home, remembering an American hostage killed in Iraq. A memorial service this afternoon for Jack Hensley in Atlanta.

Also, expect live coverage of hurricane Jeanne's movements all day long here on CNN. We'll take you back to Florida and our team of meteorologists will be tracking Jeanne from here all day long, until Jeanne makes landfall.

NGUYEN: President Bush is cramming this weekend. He's spending a few days at his ranch in Crawford, Texas preparing for the first debate of the presidential campaign. That happens next week. Mr. Bush's first practice session is tonight with New Hampshire Senator Judd Gregg playing the part of John Kerry.

Meanwhile, the Democratic challenger is also cramming for the debate. John Kerry will spend several days practicing with aides at a Wisconsin golf resort. Kerry wrapped up a week of campaigning, continuing to hammer President Bush on Iraq. The Massachusetts senator says the war has hurt the broader fight against terrorism.

Both men will square off for 90 minutes on Thursday. The topics? Foreign policy and homeland security.

CNN's coverage of the first presidential debate starts at 9:00 p.m. Eastern time live from Coral Gables, Florida.

GRIFFIN: It's meant to be the biggest book since the Harry Potter series. Here it is.

NGUYEN: There it is!

GRIFFIN: Meet the author of the "Children of the Lamp" live here on CNN SATURDAY MORNING. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

GRIFFIN: New information on hurricane Jeanne just in. It's a category two. We've been saying it's a category three. Now it's a category two, a bit of good news as Florida braces for the arrival of Jeanne. And we can see clouds and sun down in Florida at the same time.

Well, some are calling it the next best thing since Harry Potter's books. The new children's work goes on sale this month, designed to get children excited by reading. It's called "Children of the Lamp" and it's written by P.B. Kerr, who you may know from his adult thrillers.

Kerr stops by this Saturday to talk about his book.

Thanks for joining us.

P.B. KERR, AUTHOR: My pleasure.

GRIFFIN: Why did you write this children's book? You're an established adult author. Why would you go back and write children's books?

KERR: Well, going back? No, not go back. Go forward. No, I was, you're right. I was writing a thriller at the time and it seemed to me that my own son wasn't reading very much. So I kind of put my own living on hold for a while, because I thought I ought to address the problem of his lack of reading.

So I thought if I wrote him a book specifically for him, that he -- it would actually sort of get him in the reading bug, which -- so that's exactly what I did.

GRIFFIN: And this book is a bit of a thriller. Tell us about it.

KERR: It is a thriller. It's great fun. And actually that was the thing, I had such fun writing it. It was like being a kid again myself. And I, when I wrote it, I had no expectation at all that it would ever be published, because it seemed to me everyone writing a book for children these days was a celebrity.

I mean, you know, who would be surprised if Saddam Hussein turns out to have written a children's book?

So when I wrote this, I had absolutely no expectation that anyone would want to publish it. And I mentioned it to my agent in Los Angeles and he said oh, I'd love to read it. And I thought he was being polite, you know, and I sent it off to him. And about three or four weeks later, he rang me up and said well, DreamWorks want to buy the film rights. And I was astonished, you know?

So what had started out as a very kind of private family book, with me just sort of having fun for the benefit of my own son, turned out to be a, you know, a big book. GRIFFIN: We talk about Harry Potter, and it's kind of like the benchmark of children's books these days. But children's books are getting much more sophisticated, longer, you know, "Feif Lord," (ph) some of these other books that have come out, they're really becoming a major part of the book industry.

KERR: Well, I think people have suddenly woken up to the fact that A, children are probably not reading enough and are writing books for them specifically and not writing down to them. Children are much more intelligent than we think.

I mean I've been on tour this week in the United States speaking to a lot of children. I've been really impressed by the children I've spoken to. I've been really impressed by the amount of reading they're actually doing. I'm really encouraged. I think that there are programs in place between book shops and schools that I think are enormously innovative and clever.

So if there are more books around for children, I think that's a good idea. And I'm very happy to be part of that.

GRIFFIN: Yes, and I think that's the key, being a father myself. You know, for a while there weren't a lot of new, good children's books coming out. I kept throwing the classics at my kids and they weren't into that.

KERR: That's right. I mean I remember, I gave my son the books I had read when I was a boy and actually when I was a boy they were pretty old. So, you know, he just looked at them and sort of thought, oh, no way am I going to read this. This is like something, you know, from the last century.

And quite often they were.

GRIFFIN: Well, listen, thanks for joining us.

KERR: It was my pleasure.

GRIFFIN: Just on the movie, who's going to be Uncle Nimrod?

KERR: Well, Uncle Nimrod wears the red suit, so I think I might sort of -- I might try for the part, actually.

GRIFFIN: Very good.

Thanks for joining us.

Good luck with the book and the movie and everything else, sir.

KERR: Thank you.

A pleasure.

GRIFFIN: It's called "Children of the Lamp," P.B. Kerr. If your kids are into reading, it looks like a pretty good read.

NGUYEN: Uncle Nimrod. I think I would figure that.

GRIFFIN: Yes, it's got some good characters in there.

NGUYEN: Well, building strength near the Bahamas, an update on mean Jeanne, which is a category two hurricane. That's coming up.

GRIFFIN: And it's burning and burning and burning in Texas. The tale of the long lasting light bulb.


GRIFFIN: OK, the latest hurricane update is out. And I misspoke a bit. I said it was a category three. Now down to a two. But it's just a two, it was a two, it is a two and we were expecting to go with the three...

NGUYEN: A category three, right.

GRIFFIN: But it didn't, right -- Rob.

MARCIANO: All these numbers.

GRIFFIN: I had that right.

MARCIANO: So easy and there's been so many hospitals, Drew, I don't blame you one bit. But darned close enough. And you're right, it is forecast to become a category three. They seldom bump these up very often or knock them down during the intermediate advisory, which has just come out. And it is still a category two.

But you can see the colors here getting brighter and brighter and brighter and more organized as it begins to reach the northwestern Bahamas there.

So it has strengthened overnight by about five or 10 miles an hour in intensity and it's grown. The expanse of the wind field, hurricane force winds now over 70 miles out from the center. And tropical storm force winds over 200 miles out from the center.

These are the latest numbers out of the National Hurricane Center as of, well, just a couple of minutes ago. Moving west at 14. That hasn't changed. Winds sustained at 105. That hasn't changed. Its position, of course, has changed. It's 190 miles off the Florida coastline. And with that movement, that would bring the eye somewhere along the coastline, figure between West Palm Beach and Melbourne again, probably around midnight or shortly thereafter. And certainly the outer rain bands getting there beforehand.

So hurricane warnings are up, meaning in the red zone hurricane conditions are expected within the next 24 hours, likely in some of these areas in the next 12 to 18 hours. And then you go from the northern Florida all the way down to south Florida, as well. (WEATHER REPORT)

MARCIANO: All right, that's the latest from here.

We'll talk to you guys in a few minutes.

NGUYEN: All right, continue to follow that.

Thank you, Rob.


NGUYEN: Today's "Wows of the Week" takes us to Fort Worth, Texas, my old hometown. It's also home to the light bulb that will not die. This 40-watt bulb has been shining nonstop since it was screwed in exactly 96 years ago in a Fort Worth opera house. It now lights up its own exhibit at the local historical society and even has its own power supply.

GRIFFIN: Not exactly Siegfried & Roy here, but still impressive. These are house cats. The trainer says anyone can teach cats to do tricks. Just think and act like a cat.

NGUYEN: Well, be grateful your TV doesn't transmit odor, because this flower smells like road kill. The botanical garden in California where this specimen is about to bloom expects a lot of visitors to come and take a whiff.

GRIFFIN: And don't even think about playing chopsticks on this one of a kind piano. Only Chopin would do that. Because this is the only known piano in the world that was actually signed by that famous composer. About to go on the market, but no one knows how much it might be wroth.

NGUYEN: And we want to get to your e-mails of the day.

The question, would more troops solve the problems in Iraq?

We've got a couple responses this morning.

Tamie from Memphis writes: "Being a veteran and the spouse of a soldier, I believe that strengthening in force will help the situation. There's a lot of ground to cover in Iraq and that forces there now are not enough to handle it."

Ric in Louisiana: "Not at all. When will people admit that this war is just like Vietnam? The only difference, it's not being fought in the jungles, it's being fought in the cities and in the desert sands. Bring the troops home. Let the Iraqis battle it out amongst themselves."

What do you think?

Keep writing.

Are there enough troops? Do we need more troops? Would more troops solve the problems in Iraq?

Our e-mail is


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