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Palestinians Ready For Elections

Aired January 8, 2005 - 09:00   ET


TONY HARRIS, CNN ANCHOR: And good morning from the CNN center in Atlanta. This is CNN SATURDAY MORNING, the eighth day of January. I'm Tony Harris.
BETTY NGUYEN, CNN ANCHOR: I'm Betty Nguyen. Thanks so much for joining us. If you're waking up on the West Coast, it's 6:00 a.m., bright and early.

We'll start off with what's happening now in the news.

The U.S. Navy says at least one sailor was critically injured when a fast-attack nuclear submarine ran aground while underwater. The U.S.S. "San Francisco" was about 350 miles from its base in Guam when it happened. The nuclear sub apparently was not damaged, and is now returning to port.

In the Middle East, Palestinians are preparing to go to the polls tomorrow to replace the late Yasser Arafat. Former president Jimmy Carter is among the international observers on hand to monitor that election. (UNINTELLIGIBLE) Israel has promised not to conduct military operations during the voting, as long as the situation is not exploited by militants.

And in South Carolina, environmental cleanup crews are working to stop a chlorine leak from a wrecked railroad car. That accident happened when one train hit another that was on a parallel track. Eight people are confirmed dead and hundreds more sickened by toxic chlorine vapors. At least one worker at a nearby textile plant is missing.

HARRIS: And here's what we've got coming up this hour.

A dramatic jump in the tsunami death toll. We'll talk live with a Navy doctor working frantically with others to save who they can.

And it's the last day of campaigning in the Mideast as Palestinians prepare to head to the polls to vote for a new leader. We'll take you live to Ramallah to talk to a Palestinian lawmaker.

And say it ain't so. One of Hollywood's hottest supercouples is no more. What happened between Brad Pitt and Jennifer Aniston? "People" magazine broke the story overnight. And you'll hear from one of the editors later this hour.

NGUYEN: Here are the latest developments this morning. In the tsunami disaster and emergency relief efforts, Florida Governor Jeb Bush has given President Bush a preliminary briefing on the desperate situation in South Asia. The president sent his brother along with Secretary of State Colin Powell to get a firsthand look at the crisis. Powell is due to brief the president on Monday.

The United Nations is stepping up to the challenge with an ambitious plan to help feed some 2 million tsunami victims over the next six months. The U.N.'s World Food Program expects it will cost about $180 million.

U.N. officials also now report substantial progress in getting aid to tsunami victims. The head of the U.N.'s Humanitarian Emergency Branch says relief should reach every affected area in Sri Lanka this weekend.

Well, almost two weeks since it happened, we are still getting new video of the tsunami disaster. This is among the most dramatic yet, shot from the balcony of a Thailand resort. It shows just how suddenly, how quickly, and how ruthlessly the tsunami engulfed everything in its path.

What this video also shows is something not seen before. The water suddenly reverses course exactly 45 seconds after crashing ashore. The giant wave abruptly halts and surges just as violently back into the sea. This was the precise moment when tens of thousands of people lost their lives, as the tsunami dragged them under and drowned them.

Our correspondents are deployed across the stricken region, and we will have the latest new developments throughout the day, only on CNN.

Well, the top priorities in the tsunami relief campaign have been food, water, shelter, and medical relief. Now aid workers and military personnel are trying to get hospitals up and running, so those injured in this catastrophe have a chance for survival.

More now from CNN's Mike Chinoy in hard-hit Banda Aceh, Indonesia.


MIKE CHINOY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: And Banda Aceh has had two functioning hospitals, one civilian and one military. They've been so overwhelmed, they've had to turn patients away. And that's why this hospital, Zano Abudeen (ph) Hospital, has become a focus of activity.

This hospital was badly hit by the tsunami. The water was really a river of sludge about as high as my waist. And even now, nearly two weeks afterwards, they're still having to clean up sludge that inundated the entire ground floor of the hospital. Those are Indonesian troops over there shoveling this dark-gray-black muck that is coating the floors of all of the rooms. It destroyed equipment. Clearly, anybody who was a patient on the ground floor here wouldn't have had a chance. The Indonesians have also been pulling out beds, cupboards, equipment. There are big piles of antibiotics and syringes coated in mud, trying to clean this place up. It's an international effort. There are Chinese experts here, Germans, Pakistanis, U.S. Navy Seabees were in surveying the hospital the past couple of days and beginning the cleanup process.

And the Australians have arrived, and they've set up a tent field operating theater that will begin operating tomorrow. They will be able to do almost all kinds of major surgery.

There still are some patients in the upper floors of this hospital, but the hospital has not been able to function the way it used to, obviously. And so getting it back in operation is considered by the aid workers here to be a very important step in terms of meeting medical needs of a still hard-pressed people.


NGUYEN: And that was CNN's Mike Chinoy reporting from Banda Aceh. Tony?

HARRIS: On the front lines, with the ships and soldiers fighting to save the survivors, is a diverse mix of aid organizations. With the death toll still rising along with estimates of what it will take to rebuild, one group working fast and furious towards relief is CARE.

Gail Neudorf is deputy director of emergency relief for CARE-USA. She spoke with us earlier about the daunting tasks ahead.


GAIL NEUDORF, CARE-USA: Aid starts coming in. We can start to organize it better as well. We know what is going to be coming, we know what expectations are, we know where we're going to get the money from, which is very helpful.

But also, the communities are really stepping up to this. They are finding their ways to cope as well. So it's now a combination effort. They're over the first shocks. They now are looking after their own needs in many ways as much as they can as well, which is a really great effort on their behalf.


HARRIS: Besides the progress, Neudorf says, some people isolated in places like Indonesia are still struggling.

For an in-depth look at the plight of the youngest tsunami victims, watch our special tonight on CNN Presents, Saving the Children, with Christiane Amanpour and Anderson Cooper. It airs at 8:00 p.m. Eastern.

Now, the big story here at home this weekend, powerful winter storms, too much of a good thing, is burying ski resorts in northern California, and further south. The issue is flooding. Take a look at these pictures. Now, now, Betty, what do we have here? We've got -- let's see, we've got...

NGUYEN: Top right, we have San Francisco, then Seattle in the top left.

HARRIS: Well, where's Los Angeles?

NGUYEN: I don't think Los Angeles is on this one.

HARRIS: Yes, yes, top left is Los Angeles.

NGUYEN: Oh, is that Los Angeles? OK.

HARRIS: Top right is San Francisco. Bottom left, that is Seattle, and...

NGUYEN: And then we have Chicago.

HARRIS: And there you go with...

NGUYEN: Boston.

HARRIS: ... Boston. You can just see...

NGUYEN: They keep switching here.


NGUYEN: Look at the snow in Boston. We'll be tested on this a little bit later.

But, you know what? Rob Marciano is being tested as well. He's out in the weather...

HARRIS: Boy, is he ever.

NGUYEN: ... in the elements.

Hey, there, Rob.

ROB MARCIANO, CNN METEOROLOGIST: You know, I love you guys, but, you know, describing weather over video maybe not be your forte there.


HARRIS: ... it was the geography that was throwing us.

MARCIANO: I'm sorry. I'm getting a little edgy here...


NGUYEN: Yes, just a little bit.

MARCIANO: ... because I've been up all night, and I'm freezing, and you guys looking all warm and cozy in that studio.

HARRIS: It's fog, it's so early. MARCIANO: Hey, we're live at Lake Tahoe.


MARCIANO: We always like to look at the silver lining.

HARRIS: Very good.

NGUYEN: Absolutely. And for those who are stuck there, hey, you might as well ski it out.

HARRIS: You're not going anywhere.

NGUYEN: All right. Thank you, Rob.


MARCIANO: No, we'll, I'll be here for the next couple hours. Sean Calebs through the night. So keep tuning in.

NGUYEN: All right, thanks, Rob.

HARRIS: OK, well, thanks.

Well, of course, we'll have much more on all the weather developments across the nation when Orelon Sidney joins us in just a couple of minutes.

NGUYEN: Now to our security watch. We want to update you on the week's major developments in the war on terror every Saturday morning.

Monday, Homeland Security officials said foreign visitors at 50 of the busiest U.S. land and border crossings in 10 states are now being fingerprinted. It is part of the government's new biometric screening system, which scans photos of a visitor's face and index finger. Now, the images are then matched with several criminal databases maintained by the government.

Tuesday, opening statements in the trial of a British businessman accused of hatching a plan to bring 200 shoulder-fired missiles into the U.S. A prosecutor said the man told the informant posing as a terrorist that the weapons could be used to shoot down airplanes. The defense attorney says his client was a victim of entrapment.

And Thursday, the Department of Homeland Security released its new national response plan. The massive document details how various government departments and nongovernmental agencies will work together on a coordinated response to national emergencies.

You want to stay tuned to CNN day and night for the most reliable news about your security.


HARRIS: Well, there are some who believe the tragedy in Asia offers the most-maligned Arab community a chance to step forward with humanitarian aid and help change its battered image. We'll hear reaction from an expert on the Middle East a bit later on CNN SATURDAY MORNING.

NGUYEN: Plus, the last day of campaigning before a historic election that many think could pave the way to peace between Israelis and Palestinians.


HARRIS: Welcome back, everyone, to CNN SATURDAY MORNING. I'm Tony Harris.

Checking our top stories now, California braces for another round of winter storms. A storm yesterday dumped heavy snow in the California mountains and soaking rains in other areas. An avalanche advisory is issued for portions of the eastern Sierra Nevada.

Three people are killed in a nightclub shooting in Chicago overnight. Police say at least five others were wounded. A manhunt is under way for the gunman.

And say it ain't so. One of Hollywood's most famous couples, Brad Pitts and Jennifer Aniston, go their separate ways. In a joint statement released yesterday, the couple says they are formally separating, but remain friends. "People" magazine broke the story on the Brad and Jen split. Coming up, we'll hear from the editors on just what went wrong for Hollywood's golden couple.

NGUYEN: Well, the tsunami disaster has washed across religious and ethnic lines, affecting people of various faiths and races. U.S. officials hope the aftermath offers a chance to heal rifts, especially with the Arab-Muslim community.

Here's what Secretary of State Colin Powell had to say as he talked about U.S. relief efforts on a tour of Southeast Asia.


COLIN POWELL, SECRETARY OF STATE: We'd be doing it regardless of religion. But I think it does give, for the Muslim world and the rest of the world, an opportunity to see American generosity, American values in action, where we care about the dignity of every individual and the worth of every individual, and our need to respond to the needs of every individual, of whatever faith.


NGUYEN: This disaster lead to a turning point for the Arab community?

Joining us now from Washington is Mideast expert Mamoun Fandy. He is a columnist for a pan-Arab daily newspaper, and he's also a senior fellow with the Baker Institute.

Good morning to you, and thanks for joining us.


NGUYEN: Well, we want to see how this relief effort is playing out in the Arab world. I want to read to you a quote from the Arab Gate Web site, where it says, "This is a chance for Arabs to show that they are an integral part of this world. This is their chance to show their humanity, and that they are still connected to others, that they can give generously regardless of race, ethnicity, and religion, giving just because it is the right thing to do."

Now, I understand you just got back from Egypt. Is this sentiment something that's being felt all across the Arab world?

FANDY: Well, I mean, the sentiment is being felt. Unfortunately, you know, (UNINTELLIGIBLE) the effort has been very shameful as far as the Arab states are concerned at the beginning of the disaster. Saudi Arabia offered only $10 million at the beginning. Later on, it tripled that. Kuwait, a rich state, also offered $10 million.

But only yesterday, a telethon in Saudi Arabia produced something like around $50 million generated from the people themselves.

But I think still the problem's still there, that people in the Arab world still give on the basis of ethnicity, on the basis of denomination and religion.

I think it is indeed a chance for the Arab world to be part of the international effort. And, also, it's also a chance for the integration of Arab charities into global charities through the U.N. and other efforts, instead of being funneled to terrorism and irregular efforts.

NGUYEN: Let's talk a little bit more about that criticism that the Arab world is not donating as much to the relief efforts as some think they should.

Lebanon's "Daily Star" publication writes, "Long-established images of white-robed sheiks sailing their luxury (UNINTELLIGIBLE) yachts in seas of oil and using $100 bills to light their Havana cigars will only be reinforced in the face of collective miserliness in the hour of human need, especially in the petroleum-rich Gulf states, if they do not dig a bit deeper into their pockets.

Now, as we talked about this criticism, the reaction to that, are we going to be seeing more money come from these Arab worlds?

FANDY: I think there is more money coming in, especially because the international community started making that very same point, that's shaming the Arab world into giving. And indeed, the telethon in Saudi Arabia yesterday that produced $50 million, the tripling of the efforts of Saudi Arabia, a rich state, to $30 million and probably will increase to some more, will generate that.

I think it is -- the point is well taken, and, but it requires a lot of effort on the part of the global community to make this point over and over again, and convince the Arab world to move from their parochial sense of charity to a more global that transcends our religion and ethnic groups.

NGUYEN: All right, Mamoun Fandy, senior fellow at the Baker Institute, we thank you for your insight today.

FANDY: Thank you, Betty.


HARRIS: Tomorrow's election in the Middle East could signal a new course of history for the Palestinian people.

NGUYEN: Next on CNN SATURDAY, Palestinian lawmaker Hanan Ashrawi talks about the election process and hopes for peace.

We will be right back.


HARRIS: Palestinians are getting ready for historic elections tomorrow. Seven candidates are running for president of the Palestinian Authority to replace veteran leader Yasser Arafat. He died in November. The outcome could have significant implications on the Middle East peace process.

Here to talk about it is Hanan Ashrawi, a member of the Palestinian legislative council.

Hanan Ashrawi, good to see you. Thanks for taking time to talk to us this morning.

HANAN ASHRAWI, PALESTINIAN LEGISLATIVE COUNCIL: Thank you, Tony. Thank you for inviting me.

HARRIS: Well, I have to tell you that we're so excited, many of us here in the West, about the prospects for this election tomorrow. But give us a bit of a reality check, if you would. Give us a sense of the mood on the ground in the Palestinian authorities and in East Jerusalem. Are people there excited about the election tomorrow?

ASHRAWI: Yes, I think, on the whole, the Palestinian people are excited about the elections. So far, the campaign has gone very smoothly, very professionally, very efficiently, and very peacefully.

And we have seven candidates, and people are determined, in principle, to show their commitment to a vibrant democracy, to a pluralistic, inclusive system of government. And therefore you find them extremely excited.

But at the same time, people are realistic about the impediments and obstacles, because we do know that we are still under occupation, (UNINTELLIGIBLE) Israeli incursions and assassinations, and Jerusalem in particular is under a multiple siege, the siege of the wall that is built around it, the siege of the settlements, the siege of the military checkpoints, as well as the psychological siege.

So we will see fewer people participating in Jerusalem, because they also have fewer polling stations, and so on.

So the difficulties are still in place, and we are a unique case in history, a people under military occupation, fully determined to exercise their democratic rights, and to show the world that their will is free, even though their conditions are very far from being free.

HARRIS: Well, Hanan, let me, you were talking about polling places, and let me just read this sort of latest development that I'm sure you're aware of. Israel may reconsider its pledge to keep troops out of Palestinian cities during the election. What do you make of this development?

ASHRAWI: Well, so far, the Israeli army has been -- has felt perfectly free to carry out incursions, to walk in and out of cities. They made the verbal pledge that for 72 hours they will stay outside the center of towns. But that doesn't mean they're not surrounding all the towns. Doesn't mean we don't have checkpoints. And it doesn't mean that they won't come in at any time they see fit.

And it's under this sort of threat of military presence that the Palestinians are still carrying out the elections process, and are determined to succeed.

We hope that the Israelis will not introduce any more obstacles, and we know that this is an abnormal reality in terms of the occupation itself.

But as I said, the Palestinians want to ensure that the rest of the world understand how deep, how strong is the Palestinian commitment to a democratic process that works, and also to electing representative and accountable leadership that can steer a course of democracy and peacemaking simultaneously.

HARRIS: Hanan Ashrawi, we know this is a very busy time for you and all of the Palestinian people, but we appreciate you taking the time to talk to us this morning. Thank you.

And tune in to CNN for live coverage of the Palestinian election beginning tomorrow morning at 7:00 a.m. Eastern.

NGUYEN: Right now, this morning, we want to get you caught up on the weather outside, because it is a-changing out there.

Here's Orelon Sidney with an update. Good morning, Orelon.



SIDNEY: We'll take a look at the forecast, I promise to get into tomorrow's forecast in the next half-hour, Betty.


NGUYEN: All right, we're going to hold you to that, Orelon. SIDNEY: OK.

NGUYEN: Thank you. OK.

Well, are you waking up to a snowy, stormy morning? If so, we'd not only like to hear from you, we'd like to see what you're seeing out there. You've had it bad this week in the Midwest, Northeast, and now the West. E-mail us your snowstorm pictures at We will show you some of those pictures sent in a little later this hour.

HARRIS: This year's inaugural ceremonies could top $40 million and last for several days. We've been manned with the task of pulling it all together next, in The Novak Zone.

NGUYEN: Plus, the sports world reaches out to the victims of the earthquake and the tsunamis in Asia. We'll tell you about that.


NGUYEN: Well, good morning, and welcome back on this Saturday morning. I'm Betty Nguyen.

HARRIS: And I'm Tony Harris. Let's get you caught up on overnight developments.

Here's what's happening now in the news.

The tsunami death toll is now above 155,000, and it may rise considerably. That fear comes after Indonesia revised its number of missing 10-fold to 77,000. The U.N. has launched a massive food relief effort. The goal is to feed up to 2 million tsunami survivors for six months.

Israel may reconsider its pledge to keep troops out of Palestinian cities during the election. That word follows an Israeli report of an off-duty soldier killed by a Palestinian gunman. Nearly 2 million Palestinians are expected to go to the polls tomorrow to elect a new leader.

Chlorine gas continues to leak at the scene of a train accident in Graniteville, South Carolina. A freight train carrying the toxic chemical hit another train early Thursday. The collision sent a plume of gas into the air, killing eight people and sending 240 others to the hospital. At least one person is still missing.

A member of the Kennedy political family has died. Rosemary Kennedy was 86. Kennedy was born mentally retarded and had been institutionalized since 1941. A family statement described Rosemary as "a powerful source of the Kennedys' commitment to help all persons with disabilities.

NGUYEN: Well, pretty soon you will be hearing hail to the newly reelected chief. In 12 days, President George W. Bush will be inaugurated. You probably know what the ceremony looks like, but how is it all planned? Our Bob Novak found out, and he gives us the details in today's Novak Zone. (BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)




UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Congratulations.


ROBERT NOVAK, HOST: Welcome to The Novak Zone. We're at the headquarters of the Presidential Inaugural Committee in Washington, D.C., talking to the committee's executive director, Greg Jenkins.

Mr. Jenkins, you've just come from the White House, where you will ahead of advance. What does the executive director of the Inaugural Committee do?

GREG JENKINS, EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR, PRESIDENTIAL INAUGURAL COMMITTEE: My job is to work with about 450, 500 folks to put together the 24 or -- 23, 24 events of the inaugural week, which is a four-day span of events.

NOVAK: What's the difference, Mr. Jenkins, between the first and the second inauguration of a two-term president, do you think?

JENKINS: Well, for this president, it's a few more days to actually put together the inaugural than we had the last time. The last time, we had 32 days to work on the inaugural and put that all together.

But, no, more seriously, this is a -- we're in a time of war. We're in the post-9/11 environment. It's a more sober time, a more serious time, and it's a time for the president to take advantage of this moment of national unity and celebration to pay special tribute to those who serve, in particular, armed forces, first responders, that sort of thing. So we...

NOVAK: Is that the theme of this inaugural?

JENKINS: Indeed. Honoring service, celebrating freedom and honoring service is the theme of the inaugural.

NOVAK: Does the 9/11 -- you mentioned 9/11. Does that create special problems on security and planning your events?

JENKINS: No more so than we've gotten used to dealing in the last couple of years since 9/11 with regard to the president.

You know, I would obviously refer questions of a specific nature like that to the Secret Service. But I was in the advance office from the last couple of years, and, you know, we're operating in a different environment as far as that's concerned. And the campaigns obviously, I think -- it was the first time a general election campaign had to be conducted in that atmosphere as well. So little bit different.

NOVAK: Will the inaugural parade have a military cast to it because of this?

JENKINS: Not a military cast to it per se. But the Armed Forces Inaugural Committee, which is sort of the DOD adjunct to the Presidential Inaugural Committee, and they're co-located with us here in this building, one of the things they're tasked for the military district of Washington is the ceremonial functions surrounding the inaugural.

The parade is one of those things, and the military is in charge of essentially making that parade run. It's a huge, enormous logistical challenge. And there are several military components to the parade, honoring the different services of the military. And we are hopeful that by parade time, we'll have representatives from all 50 states at the parade.

NOVAK: Do you expect protesters? And what are you going to do about them?

JENKINS: It's a free country. And typically, protesters show up at large events. And it's -- people are free to come and express their First Amendment rights. And, you know, we have every expectation that there will be some folks who will be protesting.

NOVAK: Mr. Jenkins, if I was watching this show someplace this morning and I said, Man, I think I'd like to go to the Washington for the inauguration, get a seat in a bleacher somewhere and watch the parade, maybe watch the inaugural events, is it too late for something like that? Or can you still get tickets?

JENKINS: Absolutely. As always, with any inaugural, the demand far outstrips the supply of available seats for all the different events. That said, we do have opportunities for folks to be able to come and participate in any number of inaugural events. The swearing in, for example, there are plenty of walkup spaces on the National Mall, and, of course, the parade itself, there are several access points that folks with or without tickets can walk up to and stand on the sidewalk and watch the parade go by.

NOVAK: All that is free.

JENKINS: Yes, sir.

NOVAK: And not so free are the inaugural balls. How much does inaugural ball cost? How do you get the ticket? And what kind of people go to inaugural balls?

JENKINS: Tickets are -- invitations for tickets are mailed out to thousands of people around the country who have been supporters of the president, have worked for the president, worked on the campaign, worked to help him get elected and reelected, different coalition groups, folks all over the country.

Tickets are $150 a person. The cost, actually, of the events for the inaugural are -- we're able to keep the cost relatively low and within reach of most folks, due to the generosity of an awful lot of people who help underwrite the cost of the inaugural.

But we have on our Web site, which is, a place where folks can go on and express interest in receiving tickets.

NOVAK: Mr. Jenkins, you have a little different twist sometime. A commander in chief's ball, tell me about that.

JENKINS: Yes, indeed. The president made it clear that he wanted to pay special tribute in a special way to those armed forces men and women who put their lives on the line every day, with particular emphasis on the war on terror. We have, through the Department of Defense, reached out to lower-ranking soldiers, sailors, and airmen who have served or are about to serve in Noble Eagle, Afghanistan, Iraq, and other parts of the war on terror.

And we are bringing them to a very special ball. It'll be the last ball of the evening that the president will go to. It will be a small affair, about 2,000 servicemen. And they will be in their fancy dress uniforms with their dates or husbands or wives, and the president and vice president will be there. And we suspect that President 41 might do a drop-by as well.

NOVAK: And now the big question for Greg Jenkins, executive director of the Presidential Inaugural Committee.

Mr. Jenkins, how different is this inauguration from normal inaugurations being held in wartime?

JENKINS: The difference, I would say, Bob, between this inauguration and inaugurations past is that we are in a time of war. Men and women have their lives on the line every day, defending those very principles of liberty and democracy that we as a nation get together every four years to celebrate with an inauguration and swearing-in of a new president and vice president.

In celebration of these ideals and liberty and democracy and things for which America stands, the president is going to be paying special tribute to the service men and women who do this very thing every day of their lives.

NOVAK: Greg Jenkins, executive director of the Presidential Inaugural Committee, thank you very much.

JENKINS: Thank you.

NOVAK: And thank you for being in The Novak Zone.


HARRIS: In our look at news across America now, more than 40 years after three civil rights workers were ambushed and killed on the back roads of Mississippi, a reputed Klansman is indicted for the crimes. Seventy-nine-year-old Ray Killen faces three counts of murder. He maintains he's innocent. The murders inspired the 1988 movie "Mississippi Burning."

In Tennessee, he told grieving family members he cremated the bodies of their loved ones. But when officials found 334 corpses laying around and decaying, Ray Brent Marsh (ph) admitted he had not. Now a judge has sentenced him to 12 years in prison. In his horrible hoax, Marsh even gave family members urns of cement dust and debris, saying they were the remains of their dead loved ones.

Attention, Hollywood tourists. You'll now have the 2,274 stars to view. Comedian Soupy Sales is the latest to be honored on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. The 79-year-old, seated in a wheelchair, said he was humbled by the honor.

NGUYEN: Well, if you've had a tough time keeping up with the news this week, that is what we are here for. It is time to rewind for a look at some of the top stories.

Tuesday, the White House said it plans to reform Social Security, and that may include revamping the way benefits are calculated. The idea would be to use inflation rates instead of workers' wages to figure out benefits. But that could mean lower benefits for future retirees. The White House stressed that no final decision has been made.

Wednesday, some potential lifesaving findings in the world of heart disease. Researchers said aside from measuring cholesterol, people should also look at something called the C-reactive protein, or CRP, as it's known. CRP is linked to a type of inflammation that can cause heart disease. Now, the good news is, the same type of drugs used to reduce the type of cholesterol that can lead to those heart problems also lowers CRP levels.

And Thursday, President Bush continued to lobby lawmakers to cap what he calls junk lawsuits. The White House has long said unchecked jury awards in class-action lawsuits put a huge cost on businesses, and sometimes forces innocent ones to go under.

Also on Thursday, members of the Senate Judiciary Committee pulled no punches during a confirmation hearing for attorney general nominee Alberto Gonzales. Some of the toughest questions centered around his role in creating the administration's policies on treating terrorist suspects and other detainees.

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

HARRIS: Hard to imagine a hotter couple in Hollywood than Brad Pitt and Jennifer Aniston.

NGUYEN: Well, Tony, it looks like things have cooled off a bit. What happened to Brad and Jen? Right here on CNN SATURDAY MORNING, next.


NGUYEN: Well, good morning, everyone. Checking our top stories right now, international relief workers in Indonesia are trying to get a damaged hospital up and running. It's desperately needed to help those injured in the quake and tsunamis.

Meanwhile, the health ministry raises the number of missing in Indonesia to 77,000.

Palestinians head to the polls tomorrow to elect a new leader of the Palestinian Authority. The winner will replace Yasser Arafat, who died in November.

Now, back in the U.S., Chicago police are searching for a gunman who opened fire at a nightclub, killing three people and wounding at least five others.

HARRIS: Pro athletes and teams are doing their part for tsunami relief. A number of NBA stars, like Kobe Bryant and Tracy McGrady, are taking part in a $1,000-a-point donation. The money will go to UNICEF. The NBA players' union has pledged a half-million dollars, and the league will match that gift. Major league baseball and its players' union is also donating a million dollars. And the team with the highest payroll, the New York Yankees, is putting up a million dollars as well.

NGUYEN: All right, tabloid reports seem to have gotten it right this time. Hollywood ueber-couple Brad Pitt and Jennifer Aniston are separating. In a statement, the two said, while their separation is not the result of any tabloid speculation, they, quote, "remain committed and caring friends, with great love and admiration for each other."

"People" magazine broke the story after reporting that the couple spent a romantic vacation together over the New Year's holiday.


J.D. HEYMAN, "PEOPLE" MAGAZINE: It's important to say that there really weren't any signs. You know, there was a lot of speculation, as there are about a lot of glamorous and beautiful people, when they're working, when they're not together. People like to talk, and the rumor mill gets started up.

But, you know, there wasn't really any, you know, evidence. People who are close to them, or from them, themselves, that they were having problems.


NGUYEN: Now, just so that we are clear, the statement made no mention of divorce. All right, ladies?


NGUYEN: No mention of divorce.


Good morning, Boston. More snow heading your way. No surprise there, I guess. Orelon Sidney has your Boston forecast in just a few minutes when CNN SATURDAY MORNING returns.


HARRIS: And let's send you to Washington, D.C., now, to Kathleen Hays, for a preview of "ON THE STORY." Hi, Kathleen.


Well, we're "ON THE STORY" from here in Washington, Atlanta, and on to Southern Asia. Atika Shubert is "ON THE STORY" of Banda Aceh, Indonesia, and Paula Hancocks is in Sri Lanka, with both correspondents telling what stories and images grab their attention. I'll be talking about how charitable contributions are pouring in from corporate America. Barbara Starr has the military side of the aid equation, and Elizabeth Cohen talks about the enormous health risk still threatening the survival of millions of people.

That's all "ON THE STORY," all coming up.

Tony and Betty, back to you.

HARRIS: Kathleen, see you at the top of the hour.

NGUYEN: All right, let's talk about weather this morning. Guess who is gracing us with her presence today?

HARRIS: Who is that?

NGUYEN: Orelon Sidney.

HARRIS: Good morning, Orelon.

NGUYEN: Good morning, Orelon.

SIDNEY: You guys are buttering me up for something. I don't know what it is. Ride home, maybe.

HARRIS: There you go.


SIDNEY: Something's going on. But take a look at what's happening this morning.


SIDNEY: And I know somebody that's right about here in Lake Tahoe. That would be our own Rob Marciano, who's out in the snow this morning, who has been up, I guess, for the past 36 hours, trying to get there, just to give us this report this morning. How is it going out there, Rob? MARCIANO: Still snowing along about as hard as it was snowing last night and blowing at about as hard as it was blowing last night. About a foot or so on the ground since it started. It's snowing at about an inch per hour at least. Snow continues to pile up.

This is the road that kind of rings the lake. We're at about 6,000 feet, and this road goes all the way around the lake. And they're doing a great job of keeping it clear. This area right here, they, you know, they had 10 feet of snow about a week and a half ago. They're so good, they don't not only plow the streets, but they actually physically take the snow and move it out of here.

So this is just from this storm alone.

Twenty degrees out right now with the windchill temperatures feeling more like 10. And as long as you keep your back to the wind, Orelon, it doesn't feel too bad. But once you go into that way, it gets a little bit more painful. But this is really light stuff, Orelon, really fluffy. It's beautiful, but it's causing headaches as far as traffic goes and avalanche issues also. So we'll...


MARCIANO: ... continue to live, report live from Tahoe for the next couple of days.

SIDNEY: Now, Rob, I've got to ask you...

MARCIANO: What's going on for tomorrow?

SIDNEY: ... they say...

MARCIANO: Do we...


MARCIANO: ... get a break tomorrow?

SIDNEY: Well, they pulled back...


SIDNEY: ... just a minute ago. And I thought, were you up to your knees in snow?

MARCIANO: Oh, easily, easily up to my knees. Are you kidding me? And this is just -- you know, you go across the road, and when the sun comes up, you'll be able to see that. The bank's at 10 feet.

SIDNEY: Oh, my goodness.

MARCIANO: So if I were to stay here for the next couple days, I might drown in snow. But I'm not that dumb...


MARCIANO: ... so I'll move around a little bit.

SIDNEY: Please move when it starts to snow more heavily. Thanks a lot for your report this morning. I'll take a look at what's going to happen tomorrow, in fact, Rob, that you just asked.


SIDNEY: We'll certainly see how that pans out as the snow ends on Tuesday.

HARRIS: Crazy...

SIDNEY: Betty, Tony?

HARRIS: ... crazy, crazy.



HARRIS: The world is upside down.


SIDNEY: ... weather.


SIDNEY: Crazy weather we have.

NGUYEN: Thank you, Orelon.

SIDNEY: You're welcome.

NGUYEN: Well, we want to give you some pictures of all this weather across the nation that's been happening out and about all around different places. This is a replica of the...


NGUYEN: ... Twin Towers that Anthony in Long Island, New York, sent to us.

HARRIS: And I like this next one, frozen wheat.

NGUYEN: Oh, that's a pretty one.

HARRIS: OK? In Kansas, like frozen miniwheat is what that is.

NGUYEN: And we have a...


NGUYEN: ... girl and a dog. The girl's name is Casey, the dog's name is Nemo, having a little fun there in Lake Tahoe.

HARRIS: Thank you much for those pictures. And send them. We'll be showing you more of those pictures tomorrow.

NGUYEN: Well, "ON THE STORY" is next. But first, CNN is celebrating its 25th anniversary on the air.

HARRIS: We leave you now with a look at one of the more memorable figures from 1992, a glimpse at the rise of H. Ross Perot.



ROSS PEROT: Thank you so much.

When I go to Washington...


ANNOUNCER: H. Ross Perot, a Texas billionaire with an eye on the bottom line, a nose for shaking up politics, and an ear for a catchy phrase.


PEROT: I don't mean subsidize business. I don't mean burp them and diaper them. But, I mean, let's stop breaking their legs first thing every morning.


ANNOUNCER: Perot appeared on CNN's "LARRY KING LIVE" in 1992 and announced he would run for president if the people wanted him.


PEROT: I will not run as either a Democrat or Republican, because I will not sell out to anybody but to the American people.


ANNOUNCER: Millions of Americans responded by signing petitions to get him on the ballot.





PEROT: Thank you very much.


ANNOUNCER: Perot became the candidate and leader of the Reform Party. Using $57 million of his own money, Perot captured 19 percent of the popular vote in the '92 election.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Do you swear to tell the truth...


ANNOUNCER: Nearly a decade after his last run for president in 1996, Perot champions the cause of veterans and POWs, something he's worked on since the Vietnam War.


PEROT: We need to be sure we can protect our men and treat our men in future wars.


ANNOUNCER: Perot turns 75 this year, and recently received the Eisenhower Award in honor of his work with veterans.



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