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CNN LIVE TODAY

Hurricane Katrina Hits South Florida; President Personally Calls Shiite Leader; Panel Votes To Spare Ellsworth AFB in South Dakota; Winning Online Auction Tips

Aired August 26, 2005 - 10:00   ET

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


DARYN KAGAN, CNN ANCHOR: Let's take a look at what's happening "Now in the News."
Katrina is back at hurricane strength this morning after battering South Florida. More than 1.2 million customers have no power. At least four people were killed in Broward County. The storm is now in the Gulf of Mexico. It could either strengthen and later pose problems for Florida's Panhandle.

It may not be a trend yet but look at this, gas prices have now fallen four straight days. AAA says today's national average is $2.60 a gallon. That's less than a penny drop from Thursday. A year ago, a gallon of regular was $1.88. Ouch!

President Bush is urging Iraqi leaders to resolve their conflicts over the draft constitution. Negotiators are trying again today to reach agreement on the document. Three deadlines have now been missed to get completed. Mr. Bush phoned a Shiite leader earlier this week asking him to seek compromise with the Sunnis.

And the BRAC Commission is voting right now on the fate of U.S. military bases. A live picture from Arlington, Virginia. A short time ago, the panel decided to keep Ellsworth Air Force Base in South Dakota open. A decision is also expected this morning on Canon Air Force Base New Mexico. Later today, the commission takes up the revamping of the Air National Guard.

Good morning. If you haven't noticed, it is Friday. I'm Daryn Kagan at CNN Center in Atlanta.

Hurricane Katrina whipping across South Florida and charging into the Gulf of Mexico. The next stop is likely the Florida Panhandle, the site of so much devastation last year. Let's quickly bring you up to speed. There are four death in Broward County now blamed on the storm. More than a million homes and businesses are without power. And near Miami, the storms winds toppled a freeway overpass under construction. Right now, South Floridians are assessing damages and the casualties. Our National Correspondent Susan Candiotti is in Hollywood, Florida. CNN's Jason Carroll is at the site of what is likely Katrina's biggest blow.

Jason, we're going to go ahead and start with you.

JASON CARROLL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: And, Daryn, it's hard to believe that wind could cause this much damage. But if you take a look, you can see exactly what those gale force winds did late last night. Toppled a freeway overpass here. This covers the 836, which is commonly known as the Dolphin Expressway.

This was under construction because I think some people are hard to believe, well how can even a strong gale force wind topple something as strong as this? Well, apparently what happened is, because it was under construction, one of the beams here was somehow may have been loose. Who knows. That fell, created a domino effect, which toppled the other beams which supported the overpass.

Right now you've got crews that are out here try to do their best to clear it away. Obviously this is closed. This is the eastbound section of the expressway. Westbound is closed as well as a precaution why they try to get it all clear away. Obviously, wind was an issue last night but it was also rain was also a major issue from Hurricane Katrina.

In some parts of Miami-Dade County, 13, up to 15 inches fell, flooding pockets of flooding still an issue. Even this morning the water has not subsided in some parts. Knee high, waist high water in some parts of Miami-Dade County.

What officials are telling people at this point is to stay off the roadways, Daryn, because it's not just water that's an issue in some parts. We saw fallen trees as we headed down here. We also saw downed power lines. They're asking people to stay off the roads even though some people are without power. More than a million people without power in Southern Florida. Stay off the roads so emergency crews can get out here and do the work that needs to be done.

Daryn.

KAGAN: All right, Jason Carroll, thank you.

Now, there were plenty of warnings that went out but a lot of folks in Miami-Dade did not think it was coming their way. They were surprised. With more on that, let's check in on our Susan Candiotti.

SUSAN CANDIOTTI, CNN CORRESPONDENT: And I'll tell you, driving in to the to this location today, Daryn, when it was still pitch dark outside, I can tell you we had a near miss in my car as I was driving in. All of a sudden a tree came up before you knew it. Obviously, there's no power, so there are no street lights on and, therefore, it was really hard to see. But I was able to brake just in the nick of time.

And power outages are a key problem down here as South Floridians been to clear up, although they are making a little bit of progress. About 200,000 customers back online, so now it's just over a million Florida Power and Light customers that are without power. And authorities figure it will take them at least through the rest of the day to go around and assess damage as they are slowly bringing people back online. Naturally they're starting first with police, fire departments, hospitals before they bring the bulk of the other customers back online. Some repairs more easy to do than others. A lot of trees are down. Poles down, lines down and that's going to take a lot of time. And do you know, coincidentally, the same number of customers without power as there were in Hurricane Andrew. Of course, that being a category five storm. No comparison at all in most respects to Hurricane Katrina.

But in other damage, at some regional airports, planes that had been tied down thought they could got through the storm. No such luck. They flipped over. And so there is a lot of clean-up at some of these smaller, regional airports.

And we have those four tragic fatalities to report. Four people who were struck by trees, some of these people who were out in the storm, driving around, and trees fell on their vehicles. Another man who was outside at his house assessing damage when a tree fell on him.

The recovery will take quite some time and, clearly, one of the hardest things people have to deal with right now is being without power.

Daryn.

KAGAN: All right. Susan Candiotti, thank you. Also thanks to our Jason Carroll.

Now, this story is not over. The storm is still on its way somewhere. Where is that? Chad Myers in the weather center with that.

Chad.

(WEATHER REPORT)

KAGAN: Chad, I want to share with you, don't go anywhere because we're getting some new pictures in. This is some of the first pictures we're getting from Broward County. The first pictures of damage and flooding. When you look at this, Chad, what strikes you?

CHAD MYERS: Well, I can't tell exactly where I am here but that looks like that was probably either a houseboat that was moored right there. These all do look like houseboats right along a pier somewhere. And so, clearly, the pumps failed possibly because the power went out. When a pump fails on a boat, more water goes in than comes out, the boat goes down. And if it's a house boat or a regular boat, that really looks like that's what happened there because those are the dock boxes there and their hoses. That looks like a place where all of these little houseboats are all tied up.

There was a lot of wind damage up here north of let's say North Beach. The center of the storm, if eye of the storm from about Hallandale Beach to North Miami Beach, right between those two. And to the north of that area, that's where the heaviest wind was. From Boca right on down to about almost the Hallandale Beach. Winds there are 75 and above. Now, down to the south is where the heaviest rain and the flooding was. But to the north of the eye, that's always the most dangerous side. The wind never really got above about 55 though when you get north of about West Palm Beach. It was much lighter the farther you got to the north.

Daryn.

KAGAN: OK. Now I have some great kind of weather lifestyle related trivia for you. I know you've covered a number of these storms and you've been down there seen people stocking up on supplies. What do you think is the number one supply people stock up on before a big storm like this in South Florida?

MYERS: The number one thing that they should stock up on or that they do stock up on?

KAGAN: No, no, no, not they should, that they do.

MYERS: I was in Panama City for one. The number one thing they stocked up on was beer.

KAGAN: Ah, you're a smart man.

MYERS: The thing you should be stocking up on is ice.

KAGAN: Together? Ice to keep the beer cold?

MYERS: Well, there you go.

KAGAN: Well, thanks for that. So we have this CNN fact check that we put together. Folks at Wal-Mart had a chance to go back and use technology to see what exactly people get when they brace for a hurricane. Here now, the facts.

The number one selling item at Florida Wal-Marts in advance of a hurricane is well, it's beer. A company executive discovered this phenomenon when they started using a new tracking technology last year.

Of course, people also need to stock up on the stuff they really need, bottled water. You're supposed to have a gallon per person per day. Canned goods and manual can openers. Flashlights and old- fashioned non-cordless phones which work without electricity. And another important item you may not have thought of, waterproof containers for important documents.

Wal-Mart's tracking technology also discovered another surprise that apparently turns up on people's shopping list, Strawberry Pop- Tart. Not just any Pop-Tarts mind you, but Strawberry Pop-Tarts. They reportedly sell at seven times their normal rate before a hurricane. Still not nearly as popular, though, as good old-fashioned beer.

Beer and Strawberry Pop-Tarts. Yummy. CNN's looking to enlist some citizen journalists who can share their experiences from the storm. Here are some photos that have been e-mailed to us by Bruce Gilling. As you can see they show boats smashed against power lines and bridge in Miami's Vanesha (ph) Islands.

If you live in an area that's been impacted by Hurricane Katrina, e-mail us your photos and become one of CNN's citizen journalists. You can do that by logging on to cnn.com/stories. Please include your name, location and your phone number.

Let's take a look at other stories making news "Coast to Coast." In California, temperatures expected to hit the triple digits again today, one day after the state faced its first energy crisis in four years. Southern California Edison instituted rolling 30-minute blackouts for about a half million homes and businesses. The failure of a key transmission line, along with the sizzling temperatures, were blamed.

A wild fire has burned at least six home and forced the evacuation of up to 40 family in Southwest Oregon. The fast-moving fire started yesterday afternoon. It's already burned at least 2,000 acres of dense forests. Fire crews are using air tankers and helicopters to dump fire retardant and water.

And in Albuquerque, New Mexico, a Wal-mart customer is credited with saving the life of a female employee. Witnesses say the woman was repeatedly being stabbed by her ex-husband when the customer drew a gun and killed the attacker. The woman is being treated for multiple wounds.

There still is no consensus in Iraq over their delay draft constitution. Now that stalemate has forced President Bush to make a special phone call. So who did he call up and what did he say?

Plus, stay open or shut down. The fate of some Air Force bases still unknown at this hour. Just moments ago, one major base learning what closure and what the closure commission had in store for it.

And later, Lance Armstrong fires back against the doping allegations.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KAGAN: To Iraq now. Negotiations have bogged down yet again on the nation's constitution of framework of democracy deemed essential by Bush administration. In fact, President Bush underlying that level of White House concern by personally calling one of Iraq's most powerful Shiite leaders. CNN's Aneesh Raman is in Baghdad an filed this report just minutes ago.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

ANEESH RAMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Another day, another guessing game as to whether Iraq will see a draft constitution by midnight on Friday. Leaders continue marathon negotiations to try and bridge the divides between the Sunnis, the Shia and the Kurds over wording in this draft document. It comes as the Shias say President Bush made a personal call to Abdul-Aziz Hakim on Wednesday. Hakim heads SCIRI, the religious Shia party in Iraq, the biggest political block in this government, urging the Shia negotiators to stay at the table and find compromise.

Now the Iraqi government say the only deadline it had to meet was on Monday by which a draft document had to be submitted to the national assembly. The new deadlines are more fluid. They are self- imposed to end talks.

The only real logistical deadline they will soon encounter is that this country has to prepare for a referendum by mid October. That means a draft constitution has to be printed in the millions of copies for Iraqi to digest the document. Also an election law has to be debated and passed. That election date, a referendum by October 15th, cannot be changed.

But all sides are aware that if they cannot find consensus, they do run the risk of this constitution being rejected in that referendum. All three sides, the Sunnis, the Shia and the Kurds have the vote to reject this constitution. That would be the worse delay. It would start this entire process again. A new national assembly would be voted in to draft a new constitution for a new referendum.

Aneesh Raman, CNN, Baghdad.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

KAGAN: Just within the last hour, the federal panel overseeing the closures of military bases broke ranks with the Pentagon again. It spared a facility that serves as the second largest employer in the state. CNN Congressional Correspondent Ed Henry is outside the hearing in Arlington, Virginia, to explain.

A big political move here. Hey, Ed. Good morning.

ED HENRY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: That's right. Good morning, Daryn.

Some high, political drama. The most stunning develop yet from this independent base closure commission that has been meeting the last few days and deciding the fate of Air Force, Army, and Navy bases all across the country. They have decided that Ellsworth Air Force Base in South Dakota will live.

That is a major economic boost to the state of South Dakota. It's the second largest employer in the entire state. An economic hit they were expecting of somewhere in the neighborhood of $300 million if this closed down.

It's also a major political boost as well for Republican Senator John Thune. There were a lot of people involved in this, democrats as well as republicans, pushing to make sure this base stayed open. But the person who had the most riding on it was John Thune.

You could see him, to give you a little bit of flavor of what went on in that room as the verdict came down, John Thune was rocking back and forth this his chair waiting for the verdict. He knew he had a lot riding on it. That's because last year John Thune beat Senate Democratic Leader Tom Daschle in part on the idea that Republicans push that if Thune won, President Bush would save this Air Force base.

That's why Thune was stunned back in May when he found out that Ellsworth was actually on the hit list. That forced him to forge an unlikely political alliance with a normal rival, Democratic Senator Tim Johnson, to save this base. An intense lobbying effort in recent days. Here's Senator Thune talking about those unlikely bedfellows.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. JOHN THUNE, R SOUTH DAKOTA: At the end of the day, this was a process that was insulated for politics. The BRAC process, by design, is to be insulated from some of the influences in the political process. Having said that, sure, I would have loved it if somebody stepped in and said, you know, keep Ellsworth off the list. But when it showed up in May 13th, we had a job to do. Everybody pulled together, put the politics aside and said, let's work as hard as we possibly can, put our shoulders to the wheel and do everything we can to make the argument for this base.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

HENRY: The fact that Ellsworth was on the chopping block at all had shot John Thune's political credibility back home in South Dakota so badly that in recent months Thune had stopped raising any campaign money for fellow Republicans. I asked him yesterday whether that was because of his anger at the White House or because of time constraint in this intense lobbying effort. He insisted after a pause that it was because of the time constraints. But I can tell you that a top adviser to Thune acknowledged to me this morning that he has not been a happy camper and given this victory now, this adviser to Thune told me this is the first day of the rest of John Thune's political life.

Daryn.

KAGAN: So that big sound was that huge sigh of relief coming from Arlington, Virginia, and South Dakota.

HENRY: Big time. Big time.

KAGAN: Ed Henry, thank you.

Cutbacks, low pay, increases, decreased benefits, that's the scene that many companies are seeing across the country amid the turmoil. We'll tell you how employers can get their workers to put their best foot forward.

And do you have your eye on a special item? Millions of people might want the same thing. Still to come, tips on how to win that online bidding auction.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) KAGAN: People who love the thrill of an auction can now make their bid with a click of a mouse. But there are ways to increase your chances of winning on eBay and similar online sites. Gerri Willis continues her vacation today but Ellen McGirt of "Money" magazine is with us with today's "Top Five Tips."

Good morning.

ELLEN MCGIRT, "MONEY" MAGAZINE: Good morning. Thanks for having me.

KAGAN: All right. We're going shopping online at one of these auction sites. The first thing you've got to do is do your research.

MCGIRT: Yes, you absolutely have to know what you're bidding on because it's so difficult to tell. By all means, read the seller's description, but continue to do more research from there. If you've got any questions about authenticity or quality, e-mail them and them take it to the market place. You need to figure out what something is actually worth. It can be tough if it's an antique, so shop around and talk to experts. But if it's a retail item, like you're shopping for a gently used pair of Manilo Bionics (ph), go to retailer, brick and mortar store, and you can figure out what it actually sells for and then you know if you're going to get a deal or not.

KAGAN: It's important to be patient.

MCGIRT: Oh, it absolutely is. There's no reason to start bidding early. You can get caught up in the frenzy, end up paying more than you want to for an item or more than you can afford. So you definitely want to wait to bid until close to the auction closes, as long as you can schedule it that way.

KAGAN: And that leads into our next tip, make a limit before you get involved and stick to that limit.

MCGIRT: You've got to know when to fold'em. It's about budget but it's also about value. Not paying too much for an item. So once you know the value, know what you can afford and just be willing to walk away.

KAGAN: How do you beat the buzzer?

MCGIRT: Oh, this is actually technology. Technology is great revenge. It's called sniping. It's the last-minute bid that wins the auction. And it's been frustrating people forever but now there are many programs that let you do it. You can get them on eBay. Auction Century Power Snipe and it will let you put the last minute bid in just microseconds before the auction closes so you get in and you steal the auction.

KAGAN: And finally, if you don't win, don't give up.

MCGIRT: No, don't give up. Call the seller. They may have other items that are similar to this. But even consider e-mailing some of your other bidders or the winning bidder. They may actually be dealer in disguise. If it's something that you absolutely have to have that will complete a collection and you're willing to pay a bit of a mark-up, they may be willing to work with you.

KAGAN: Very good tips. Ellen McGirt from "Money" magazine, thank you.

MCGIRT: Have a good weekend.

KAGAN: I intend to.

Coming up after the break, it's the day after the Hurricane Katrina pummeled Southeast Florida. We'll take a look at the damage and see where the storm is headed next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

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