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Rita's Wrath; Cities Across Country Reexamining Evacuation Plans; Energy Crisis; Pennsylvania Parents Take School District To Court Over Intelligent Design;

Aired September 26, 2005 - 18:00   ET


LOU DOBBS, CNN ANCHOR: Good evening, everybody.
Tonight, floodwaters from Hurricane Rita are beginning to recede along a huge stretch of coastline on the Gulf Coast, revealing the full extent of the damage for the first time. We'll have video.

A 15-foot storm surge swept inland, destroying thousands of homes and businesses. Many small communities were simply wiped out. At least seven people are now known to have been killed in the disaster. Five in one apartment building in the city of Beaumont, Texas. Those five were killed by carbon monoxide poisoning from a generator

Tonight, we have reporters all along the devastated coastline. Rob Marciano, in Sulphur, Louisiana, one of the worst-affected communities; Ed Lavandera in Erath in Vermilion Parish, where residents are now returning home to assess the damage; and Mary Snow in New Orleans, where the mayor of that city is again telling some of the residents to return nearly a month after Hurricane Katrina.

We begin with Rob Marciano in Sulphur -- Rob.

ROB MARCIANO, CNN METEOROLOGIST: Lou, today residents tried to sneak back past the barricades to their homes as they trickled in to at least catch a glimpse. They were greeted with searing sunshine today. Temperatures well into the 90s, making it feel all the more miserable for folks who just wanted to see what had been done to their homes.

Today we drove down to northern Cameron Parish, where we were yesterday, to see what the damage was like. And, you know, the floodwaters only receded probably a few inches, at least in this spot. So people who are trying to get back to their homes, they had -- have a high, you know, 4x4 pickup or a boat.

There was some level of hope, though, when the National Guard rolled through with heavy machinery and high-water vehicles. It gave people a little glimmer of hope.

You know, that area down there, the water is so slow to recede. One of the reasons is because it's so flat there. And then there are berms built up from different farming communities. So some neighborhoods and farmland turn into enormous amounts of lakes.

Still, there are towns to the south where we couldn't get to in Creole and Cameron and Holly Beach, in Constance Beach, only visible by either air or by boat. And there are estimates that some of those communities, 70 to 90 percent of the homes there completely wiped out. Possibly displacing up to 10,000 people.

Tonight, we're inland. We're in Sulphur, Louisiana, just to the west of Lake Charles, where the eastern eye wall came roaring through this community. And the damage is widespread.

Infrastructure is torn apart this far inland. Unbelievable to see what a hurricane can do this far inland. But this was a strong one.

Barricades are up along the highways. Still, officials encouraging people not to try to get home, because at this point it's too dangerous and there's not a whole lot to come home to.

The cleanup and the flooding waters to recede, Lou, is taking a long, long time. That's for sure.

Back to you.

DOBBS: Rob, first, any sense of how long it will take for these waters to recede, assuming the skies remain clear?

MARCIANO: Well, there's a sense of encouragement today in that the winds finally laid down. It's very calm today. And one of the reasons that the water stood up high the last couple of days is we had a pretty strong south wind off the water. So because the winds lied down today, I suspect we'll see a little bit more success in that water receding.

And, of course, some will actually evaporate with this heat today. So we'll see some of that.

I did talk to some of the electrical workers, and they did not have optimistic news. It could be weeks, and in some cases months, before power is restored to these communities -- Lou.

DOBBS: Rob, thank you very much. Rob Marciano.

Rescuers in some communities along the Gulf Coast are discovering that many areas are still heavily flooded tonight. Residents returning to inspect the damage and search for friends and relatives. Louisiana towns just east of the Texas border were particularly hard hit by the storm surges and flooding.

Farmers say they've lost thousands of heads of cattle. Thousands of others are stranded by the floodwaters.

One of the worst-affected communities in Louisiana is Erath in Vermilion Parish. Ed Lavandera reports now from Erath -- Ed.

ED LAVANDERA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Lou, well, the difference here from Lake Charles is that this town withstood the damage from the winds and the rains and that sort of thing. If you look around, homes for the most part left intact. The power lines are still up, for the most part. The huge trees didn't suffer any damage. The concern here -- and it's no consolation, nonetheless -- were the floodwaters that actually came in a few hours after the worst of Hurricane Rita had come through this town. This is -- Erath is a town of about 2,500 people or so and is in Vermilion Parish, the heart of what they call Cajun country. And we're on the northern edge of where the floodwaters were.

Over the last day we've seen -- back towards this way is where the Gulf is, and we've seen these waters starting to recede. But there are still many towns that we can't get to, Henry, an intercoastal city along back toward the Gulf Coast that many people are wondering what exactly has happened to those towns. And many of these -- in some places as -- the water got as high as 10 feet, and as we said, it came rushing in rapidly.

Many people that we have spoken with here today, Lou, say they were born and bred here. And they never imagined, even though people talked about one day having experiencing a flood like this, they never actually thought they would see that day come true.


CONNIE MASON, ERATH RESIDENT: My little granddaughter was surprised when -- she kept saying, "But mama, we can go back in the boat. Everything is going to be fine." And when she got there, it was like -- just a sample -- "How are we going to walk? How are we going to get to school?" You tell them, well, there is not going to be any school for right now.


LAVANDERA: Very emotional. Connie Mason, who we spoke with a few hours ago.

And, you know, despite all of this, and the sadness that people are finding as they return home, some people trying to figure out if they will be able to rebuild, or whether they will have to tear the homes down. But, you k now, in the midst of all of this some Cajun humor came out.

We were doing a live report a few hours ago, and a lady came up to me and said, "Be sure to watch out for the alligators and the water moccasins." And it's one of those kinds of things that sounds funny, but then you start thinking about it, Lou, and it kind of messes with you.

DOBBS: Well, Ed, it would more than mess with me. The fact is there are alligators. there are cottonmouth water moccasins. How alert are you staying?

LAVANDERA: Well, actually, much more alert after that warning. And then she also joked and said, "But don't worry about it. I have a pair of alligator boots and a belt."

DOBBS: Well, if you're reassured, then we're all for you there, Ed. All the best of luck. And do stay alert. Ed Lavandera.

Well, as residents of western Louisiana assess the destruction from this hurricane, the city of New Orleans is already telling some of its citizens again to return home. Mayor Ray Nagin says it is time to rebuild his city. But Mayor Nagin faced widespread criticism when he first invited residents to return home before and then changed his mind as Hurricane Rita charged toward the coast.

Mary Snow reports now from New Orleans -- Mary.

MARY SNOW, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Lou, the message to the people of New Orleans, welcome home, enter at your own risk. It's 27 days since Hurricane Katrina hit and devastated this city. Some people are going home for the first time. Some are just trying to salvage what they can. Others are beginning to start over.

Mayor Ray Nagin is allowing residents back into Algiers. This is an area that suffered the least amount of damage on the west bank. And he's also allowing business owners into the French Quarter, the central business district, and the uptown district.

The city does not have a clear number of how many people returned today. But they are saying it appears that more residents than business owners are coming back in.

Now, this is a plan that started last week, and it was put on hold for fear of more flooding. And that is exactly what happened.

Late last week, damage levees gave way, and water poured into the Lower 9th Ward. The Army Corps of Engineers continues to work on getting water out, and they believe they will be able to do that by the end of this week.

What is happening now is the city is monitoring all of this, saying that they are going to see how it goes with these limited areas before the mayor gives the green light to other parts of New Orleans. So this is really a test case to see the timeline for when New Orleans, the rest of it, any way, will start coming back -- Lou.

DOBBS: Mary, thank you very much. Mary Snow reporting.

Obviously the Corps of Engineers, everyone working hard in New Orleans to pump the water out to get those levees shored up and to try to begin the process of clearing up New Orleans to the point that they can begin that rebuilding process.

The failure of New Orleans to evacuate all of its citizens before Hurricane Katrina was a shocking illustration of just how unprepared our cities are for major disasters. Houston, Texas, did a much better job before Hurricane Rita, but even there, there were massive traffic jams and many drivers simply ran out of gas. Now cities all across the country are re-examining their evacuation plans.

Kitty Pilgrim reports.


KITTY PILGRIM, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice over): Snarled traffic and frayed tempers, few casualties, but officials pledge to do better.

MAYOR BILL WHITE, HOUSTON: I think that every single person here is committed to figure out what lessons we could learn on the federal, state, and local plans for our dealing with an extraordinary storm under extraordinary circumstances.

PILGRIM: Houston was a drill that could improve preparedness of other cities. Two things clearly needed to be worked out: backup gas supplies and reversing lanes of traffic, so called contraflow plans. Neither went well.

One reason, traffic lanes are hard to reverse at night when motorists can't see well. It simply can take hours, if not days, to put out orange safety cones to direct traffic.

With Katrina and Rita officials had time. But what happens when a major American city has to be evacuated because of a terrorist attack?

RICHARD FALKENRATH, CNN SECURITY ANALYST: It is simply a fact that today we are not prepared at any level of government to evacuate thousands or hundreds of thousands of people very quickly under conditions of an imminent threat. This is a shared responsibility to get better at conducting very rapid evacuations under very stressful circumstances. More stressful than what we saw over the weekend.

PILGRIM: New York officials are meeting this week to rethink the city's evacuation strategy. Some think it needs massive overhaul.

RICHARD BRODSKY, NEW YORK STATE ASSEMBLY: We don't really have plans in place for hospitals and nursing homes and group homes, special populations. They are relying on the institution's own plans, which in many cases they don't have. So we're not in good shape on that level, on any level. And it's beginning to show.


PILGRIM: Now, President Bush has said he wants to make it easier for the military to have a stronger role in national disasters. He's talked on several occasions about using the military in case of a severe catastrophic event, but that's something that violates current laws. And that would raise major jurisdiction issues in any major American city -- Lou.

DOBBS: Yes, I think there is a -- my guess is that there's a broad comfort level for most Americans with their local and state governments being in charge of these responses whether the familiarity, the reliance upon fire departments, police departments, sheriff offices is ingrained. Federalizing is not always the solution. It sounds like at first blush.

PILGRIM: It's good that the cities are rethinking their plans, though, at this point. DOBBS: Absolutely, especially since it's four years-plus since September 11. It's about time someone did some rethinking.

Kitty Pilgrim. Thank you.

Still ahead here, more on the escalating debate about the military's role in responding to major disasters in this country. I'll be talking with the man who leads the National Guard.

And a drift in Washington. Key government agencies are leaderless and still no answers in the CIA-White House leak scandal. We'll have a special report for you.

Yes, a lot was happening over the past week while we focused on hurricanes.

And a new court battle over whether to add intelligent design to school curriculums. Is it a matter of freedom of speech, freedom of religion, or is it a scientific issue of origins? We'll be examining these very important issues with advocates from opposite sides of this intensifying debate nationwide.

Stay with us.


DOBBS: President Bush, who spent the weekend with emergency response crews in Texas, Colorado and Louisiana, will visit Beaumont and Port Arthur, Texas, two of the hardest-hit areas. Both towns, in fact, devastated by Hurricane Rita.

The president has already made five trips to areas in which damage was extensive. Mr. Bush also said today that he is open to appointing a federal czar to oversee Gulf Coast reconstruction.

President Bush is calling upon all Americans now to conserve gasoline in the wake of these most recent hurricanes. The national average price for a gallon of gasoline shot up six cents between yesterday and today. AAA says a gallon of regular gasoline now costs $2.80 a gallon. That's the national average.

The price spikes, of course, could continue, and, in fact, is expected to. Hurricane Rita shut down almost two-thirds of our nation's daily refining capacity.

Bill Tucker reports.


BILL TUCKER, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice over): Prices at the pump rose nearly 50 cents a gallon after Hurricane Katrina. Analysts say we're unlikely to see such a price explosion following Rita, but analysts and observers alike point out that the two hurricanes have made clear the vulnerability of our energy supply.

GOV. BILL RICHARDSON (D), NEW MEXICO: Too much of our energy supply on refining is concentrated in that Gulf area. We have got to diversify it and move it around.

TUCKER: One half of the country's refining capacity can be found along the Gulf Coast of Texas, Louisiana, and Mississippi. Americans use nine million barrels a day of gasoline. Plants which refine about 2.5 million of those are currently shut down.

Most, if not all of the refineries shut down by Rita, are expected to restart and begin producing within two weeks. But four major plants closed by Katrina are down indefinitely.

GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The storms have shown how fragile the balance is between supply and demand in America. We're also really dependent on the capacity of our country to refine product. And we need more refining capacity.

TUCKER: The president also stressed again the need to conserve energy. It's a message that's been picked up by oil companies. And in a survey by Pew Research, 48 percent of those surveyed agreed, saying it's time for Americans driving SUVs to give them up in favor of cars that get better gas mileage.

With a gallon of unleaded now closer to $3 than $2, some see an opportunity.

BRAD PROCTOR, GASPRICEWATCH.COM: We're a great nation of innovators. And opportunity is starting to make itself available here with these high prices of, you know, $65 a barrel oil. We can be competitive with some alternative fuels out there.


TUCKER: And an opportunity of a different sort is also presenting itself, Lou. The locking gas cap is making a big comeback, with many dealers reporting that they are simply sold out of the item.

DOBBS: Well, I can imagine. And, you know, this idea, I always have sort of a mixed reaction when I hear that people are demanding that others turn in their SUVs, that first reflex that others are the ones who need to respond, when in fact we all need to respond to these higher prices. And it would have been nice if somebody had been responding about 20 years ago and we could have those alternative fuels in place now.

TUCKER: Exactly.

DOBBS: Thank you very much. Bill Tucker.

Georgia's governor is trying to save fuel by declaring snow days for public schools. Today and tomorrow have been declared as such in Georgia. Governor Sonny Perdue says the move will save Georgia 250,000 gallons of diesel fuels for those buses that take the kids to school.

All but three of Georgia's 181 school districts are following the order. And as you might imagine, a lot of parents are not happy with the governor.

Georgia isn't alone in this practice, by the way. Schools in Jackson County, Kentucky, will begin four-day weeks next month. Many schools are also limiting their field trips and re-mapping the bus routes. President Bush today praised Governor Perdue's decision, calling it creative.

Two Utah teenagers also found a unique way to follow the president's call to conserve. They rode to school and back on horseback. The trip, 30 miles each way. However, school officials were somewhat less than receptive to their creative conservation effort. The school officials told the girls that horses are not allowed on public school property. Take that.

We want to know what you think about the idea of suspending education in order to conserve fuel. Our poll tonight asks simply: Do you believe closing schools is the most intelligent way to address the energy crisis facing this country, yes or no? Cast your vote at We'll have the results coming up here later in the broadcast.

Also ahead, concerns tonight that the Bush administration is about to roll back permanently key whistle-blowing protections for federal workers in the aftermath of our twin hurricane disasters.

And the controversy over intelligent design faces its first big test in the federal court system. It is a case that could affect how all American school children are taught the origins of life in the classroom.

That and a great deal more coming right up. Stay with us.


DOBBS: There is mounting concern tonight that the Bush administration is about to take away key whistleblower protections for federal environmental workers. All of this as the Bush administration has eased environmental restrictions in the wake of the nation's two hurricane disasters.

Lisa Sylvester reports.


LISA SYLVESTER, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice over): Hugh Kaufman has blown the whistle on issues ranging from pollution in the Love Canal to contaminated water in the wake of Hurricane Katrina. The EPA veteran is protected by the federal government's whistleblower program. But critics say the Department of Labor is trying to water down those protections. Without them, government employees may be more reluctant to expose waste, fraud and abuse.

HUGH KAUFMAN, WHISTLEBLOWER: Most working level troops at all government agencies, not just EPA, are youngsters who basically don't want to blow their careers in dead end jobs if they commit truth. SYLVESTER: In a case pending before the Labor Department, administrators have asked to explore whether a provision in the law called sovereign immunity applies.

JEFF RUCH, PEER: The sovereign immunity defense is a notion that's taken from English common law that says the king can do no wrong. And what it means in this context is that federal employees can't bring claims or complaints about federal agencies.

SYLVESTER: Public employees for environmental responsibility says 170,000 federal employees working in environmental agencies, including the EPA and the Interior Department, would be impacted if labor officials follow through. The Labor Department administrative review board would not comment because it's an ongoing case.

Sharyn Erickson brought the complaint which involves toxic cleanup sites.

SHARYN ERICKSON, WHISTLEBLOWER: Well, if the general public can't count on accurate information from EPA on are these sites being cleaned up, is there health being protected, you know, their whole health and the health of future generations is at risk.

SYLVESTER: Government watchdog groups second that opinion.

TOM DEVINE, GOVT. ACCOUNTABILITY PROJECT: And there's really no excuse for what the Labor Department is considering in this case, taking away punitive damages when Congress wrote them into the law. It's not the Labor Department's business to write the laws.


SYLVESTER: And we should reiterate that this is something the Labor Department is considering. It's not a done deal.

The Labor Department's administrative review board is asking for the parties to weigh in. Also OSHA, another division in the Department of Labor, filed a brief and sided with Sharyn Erickson, supporting whistleblower protection in four out of six statutes -- Lou.

DOBBS: And once again, these protections under assault. This bears careful watching. And Lisa Sylvester, I'm pleased to say, will be doing so, as always.

Thank you very much.

Coming up next here, paying for hurricanes Katrina and Rita. Members of Congress are now looking for ways to finance the massive recovery on the Gulf Coast. Shall they borrow more money, cut federal spending and other programs? We'll find out what's in store in our special report next.

And then, debating our origins. Pennsylvania families taking on a controversial decision on intelligent design in public schools. I'll be talking with two Americans on opposite sides of this debate. The important issues coming right up here.

Stay with us.


DOBBS: In a moment, the emerging debate in Congress over how the U.S. government should be paying for the cleanup along the Gulf Coast. I'll also be talking with a top general in the U.S. National Guard about the military's role in natural disasters.

But first, here is the very latest on the aftermath of Hurricane Rita.

The death toll from the storm has now risen to seven. Five bodies found in an apartment in Beaumont, Texas, raising that state's death toll to six. One person died in Mississippi.

More than 1.2 million homes and businesses are still tonight without power in the wake of Hurricane Rita.

And the mayor of New Orleans is moving forward with his plans to reopen the city. Residents of the Algiers neighborhood of New Orleans were allowed to return today. That area does have power, water and sewage.

The devastating force of the storm surge that swept through the Gulf Coast over the weekend was caught on videotape by a father and son who decided that they would ride out the hurricane in their home. They went to bed in the town of Ester (ph), Louisiana. The two thinking they had escaped the worst of the hurricane, but as they awakened they found floodwaters pouring into their house.

They saw water crashing through the windows, rising quickly to the ceiling. The two then retreated to the attic as the water level rose.

They were almost trapped inside the attic of their home, but they used a shotgun to blast their way through the roof to safety. The two then swam across a road to a neighbor's boat, where they stayed until a U.S. Coast Guard helicopter could pick them up and rescue them.

Gulf Coast states are asking for hundreds of billions of dollars in federal money to help rebuild after hurricanes Katrina and Rita. Now members of Congress are trying to figure out how to pay for recovery and rebuilding.

Bill Schneider reports.


WILLIAM SCHNEIDER, CNN SR. POLITICAL ANALYST (voice over): Louisiana's congressional delegation is proposing $250 billion in spending and tax breaks for hurricane recovery.

SEN. MARY LANDRIEU (D), LOUISIANA: This is an unprecedented natural disaster and national tragedy. And it's going to take an unprecedented response.

SCHNEIDER: Where's the money going to come from? Some Democrats talk about rolling back tax cuts for the wealthy, but they are the minority. Conservative Republicans see the hurricane crisis as an opportunity to cut spending on other things. Like what?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We propose cutting NASA's New Moon/Mars Initiative...

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: ... for subsidy as it relates to Amtrak.

UNIDNETIFIED MALE: Virtually all of the United Nations budget.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The money that we give to Egypt this year.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The $10 million on the Citrus Cankor Compensation Program (ph).

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I propose that we cut the Corporation for Public Broadcasting.

SCHNEIDER: And One big ticket item conservatives have never been enthusiastic about.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The big dollars are in the prescription drug bill.

SCHNEIDER: That's one of President Bush's signature commitments. Another nonstarter, $24 billions earmarked for local projects in the new highway bill. That helps protect incumbents.

Conservative spending cutters have run smack into opposition from Republican leaders whose interest is to protect the GOP majorities.

REP. TOM DELAY, (R) MAJORITY LEADER: Everybody is looking for offsets but frankly, I doubt that we will be able to find offsets to pay for this.

SCHNEIDER: Unless they come up with a principal to sell the cuts as a package, says the director of the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office.

DOUGLAS HOLTZ-EAKIN, CONGRESSIONAL BUDGET OFFICE: I think the key here is to enunciate a principle for offsets. Should there be a new federal roll or not?

SCHNEIDER: If the government won't raise taxes or make other spending cuts what's the alternative? Borrow.

HOLTZ-EAKIN: How much do you want to pass on to taxpayers? Our children in the future versus take care of now?


SCHNEIDER: But isn't the deficit a big enough principal to motivate serious spending cuts? Actually it's not. The deficit is a tax on future generations. And they are not around to vote yet -- Lou.

DOBBS: As you put it, not around to vote yet. And even those who are voting are seemingly being ignored in Washington. So, it will be more than interesting to see how this resolves itself.

Bill Schneider, thank you.

Singer Barbara Streisand seems to believe she has the authority to weigh in on the controversy over global warming and hurricanes. Reports have it that Streisand in an upcoming interview will declare that we have entered a global warming emergency.

Streisand declares that storms will become more frequent and more intense. More seasoned climatologists such as Max Mayfield, the director of the National Hurricane Center, for example, say our string of serious hurricanes is cyclical and not a product of climate change.

President Bush has suggested that Congress should consider putting the Pentagon in charge of some big disaster relief operations. The president's proposal follows widespread criticism of the federal, state and local response to Hurricane Katrina and one military organization that already knows a great deal about disaster relief is the National Guard. Joining me now, the Guard's top general, Lieutenant General Steven Blum. Good to have you with us.


DOBBS: You have two disasters dealing with. How many troops do you have committed in the Gulf Coast right now?

BLUM: Right now we have about 38,000 that are still down in Louisiana, Texas and Mississippi in the Gulf Coast area.

DOBBS: And how are they doing by your lights?

BLUM: They are doing great, Lou. Their work is just incredible. It will bring tears to your eyes to watch these young men and women respond to save lives and reduce suffering. And as you know, they come from all over the United States, not just the affected areas.

DOBBS: General, as you know, there was a lot of criticism in the aftermath, immediate aftermath of Katrina, the National Guard was exempted from that, frankly. But what is your sense about the level of cooperation following -- leading up to and following Hurricane Rita? How well were you able to work with other state, federal and local agencies and organizations?

BLUM: I think it got better and better each day. You get better with practice. And unfortunately, Lou, we got twice as the amount of practice we wanted in the last month.

DOBBS: Twice the practice, you've also got, of course, tremendous commitments overseas, specifically and predominately in Iraq and then Afghanistan.

BLUM: That's right. DOBBS: This -- how is this weighing on your -- the demands for your command and also the resources of the guard?

BLUM: Well, you know, I told you before, this country should never go to war without calling up the National Guard, because when you call out the guard, you call out America. Works overseas for the overseas war fight. And it's equally important here at home for homeland defense and support the homeland security operations.

DOBBS: General, as you know, proposals, suggestions, that the president wants to put the Pentagon in charge of disaster relief operations, federalize, if you will, the operations, what is your reaction to it? Is it a good idea or bad?

BLUM: Well, I agree with the president of the United States. And I agree with the governors of this great nation. And they have worked out an accord.

You know the president is a former governor. He understand the prerogatives of a governor. And he's extending them all of the resources and all the federal support that this nation can bear, but he still left the governors in charge to governor their states. I think that's probably the reasonable way to do it.

DOBBS: General Blum not only you're an outstanding military man a diplomat without peer. Good to have you with us.

BLUM: Great to be with you, Lou. Thanks.

DOBBS: As tens of thousands of our troops are helping with hurricane relief operations, many of their comrades are fighting insurgents in Iraq. And three of our soldiers today were killed.

Two were killed when a bomb exploded near their vehicle in western Baghdad. One was killed in a bomb attack 50 miles south of the Iraqi capital. 1,918 American troops have now been killed in Iraq since this war began two-and-a-half years ago.

A soldier accused of taking part in prisoner abuse in Iraq was today convicted of six of the seven charges she faced. A military jury in Fort Hood, Texas found Private Lynndie England, guilty of conspiracy, maltreating detainees and committing an indecent act. Prosecutors used graphic photographs of England with prisoners in Abu Ghraib to support their case. England could now be jailed for up to ten years.

In the global war on terror, a Spanish court today sentenced 18 radical Islamist between six and 27 years in prison. The Spanish court handed down the longest sentence to a Syrian born terrorist who received 12 years in prison for being the al Qaeda leader in Spain, 15 years for the conspiracy on the September 11 attacks against this country. Prosecutors say the terrorists helped plan the 9/11 attacks with radical Islamists in Germany.

In Israel, Prime Minister Ariel Sharon tonight won a key vote in his Likud party. Defeat could have led to his resignation. Sharon's narrow victory ends a leadership challenge by his chief rival, former prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu. Netanyahu had called for that vote in protest of Sharon's decision to withdraw from Gaza. Yesterday Sharon called for a tough military response to radical terrorists in Gaza who have been firing rockets.

And next here on this broadcast, capital morase. While many of us are focused on the devastation along the Gulf Coast, our federal government appears to be in somewhat in disarray. Several high profile agencies, in fact, are without leadership. We'll have a special report for you.

In the debate over intelligent design, evolution and creationism, lands one school system in a courthouse, a federal courthouse in Pennsylvania. We'll have a debate of our own next. Stay with us.


DOBBS: As Americans along the Gulf Coast deal heroically with the twin hurricane disasters, critics are saying our national level in Washington has been adrift. From high level agency defections to charges of cronyism and corruption, new questions are being raised about the competency and honesty of many government officials. Christine Romans reports.


CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Just what is going on in Washington? One government professor who worked in the Clinton administration says it's bad management.

ELAINE KAMARCK, KENNEDY SCHOOL OF GOVERNMENT: All of these different things are playing into one dominant story, and one dominant impression in people's minds which is that this president and his White House have lost control of the government and lost control of the events.

ROMANS: At the Food and Drug Administration, Chief Lester Crawford is out. Officially appointed in July, he now says at the age of 67 it is time to step aside. FDA has been fiercely criticized by Senator Chuck Grassley and others for deadly drug safety lapses and for management mishaps.

In fact, the FDA has had a full-time commissioner for only 18 months of the last four-and-a-half years. Before Crawford, was Mark McClellan, brother of the president's spokesman.

And now Crawford's successor plans to keep his job at the National Cancer Institute which lobbies the FDA for drug approvals. An FDA chief has never held two jobs.

Then there's the important Accounting Oversight Board. It will soon be without its chairman William McDonough, broadly seen as a huge loss for business oversight in Washington.

And then at the height of Hurricane Katrina, the resignation of the government's chief procurement officer who was later indicted and arrested in the growing scandal involving lobbyist Jack Abramoff.

David Sefavian (ph) joins Michael Brown of FEMA as the second Bush appointee to resign this month.

Even as the storm brews about unqualified political appointees, a well connected 36-year-old lawyer with no immigration experience was nominated for run Immigration and Customs Enforcement, the country's second largest investigative agency.

Where critics see bad management, supporters point to successes elsewhere, namely the Supreme court.

CLIFFORD MAY, FOUNDATION FOR THE DEFENSE OF DEMOCRACIES: If he's paying more attention to that than he is to the FDA or to FEMA, I understand he should put a lot of attention to all of them, these are all important appointments. But, again, let's not neglect what happened with John Roberts which is usually consequential and by the way a big success for the president.


ROMANS: Nevertheless, critics add to this the ongoing and so far fruitless CIA White House leak case. While Judith Miller sits in jail, the special prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald is still investigating that leak. He's been doing so since December, 2003, about six months longer now than Watergate.

DOBBS: Yes. It's a remarkable period. In speaking of Judge John Roberts, debate beginning today in the Senate. And it does appear that he is assured of confirmation. As Clifford May put it, that certainly is going right for the president.

Christine Romans, thank you.

ROMANS: You're welcome.

DOBBS: Securities and Exchange Commission chairman Christopher Cox said he will not take part in his agency's investigation of Senate majority leader Bill Frist. Cox, a former Republican Congressman says he will recuse himself from the case to avoid any appearance of conflict of interest.

Senator Frist is being investigated by both the SEC and the Justice Department for selling his entire stake in the medical care hospital firm HCA just before an earnings warning that sent HCA shares down sharply.

Frist's family founded HCA in the 1960s. His brother is the company's chairman emeritus. But Frist said he had no inside information about the company's finances before ordering his trustees to sell the stock. He said he ordered his blind trust to sell his remaining stake to eliminate any appearance of conflict of interest.

Still ahead here, Arizona border officials say they are making progress in the fight against illegal aliens. Others, however, beg to differ and question the definition of success. We'll have a special report for you coming up on what some are calling positive developments in our broken border crisis.

And intelligent design versus evolution. We'll debate a federal case that could affect how children all across this country are taught the origins of life in our public schools. That's next. Stay with us.


DOBBS: The U.S. Border Patrol declared it is making progress in its efforts to cut the flow of illegal aliens into this country from Mexico. But significantly, border patrol officials only use the word progress, certainly not success, in describing its operations. Casey Wian has the report.


CASEY WIAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): More than 1 million illegal aliens, that's how many the border patrol says it caught along the southwest border in the past year, more than a million illegal aliens caught virtually the same number as last year, yet the border patrol calls that progress.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We're moving in the right direction.

WIAN: So are the illegal aliens still streaming across the southern border at the same rate as a year ago. And just like last year, more than half of those illegal aliens crossed from Mexico into Arizona.

18 months ago, Customs and Border Protection began what it called a full court press to slow entry into Arizona. There, at least, it can validly claim progress. Putting surveillance planes in the air and hundreds of additional boots on the ground, launching deportation flights deep into Mexico and quickly deporting tens of thousands of nonMexican illegal aliens to their home countries. The result, a 13 percent decline in illegal alien captures in Arizona.

ROBERT BONNER, CUSTOMS & BORDER PROTECTION: That's a significant drop. It's not victory, but it's a significant drop in the apprehensions. And it also means that there has been a decline in the illegal entries in Arizona.

WIAN: Bonner admits many illegal aliens have found new places to cross in neighboring New Mexico, but that's more than offset by the larger decline in illegal crossings in Arizona.

The border patrol has added only 458 agents nationwide this year, less than a quarter of the 2,000 authorized by Congress. To some, that doesn't sound like a commitment to success in securing the border.

T.J. BONNER, NATIONAL BORDER PATROL COUNCIL: What you're seeing here is an administration that is unwilling to add more border patrol agents, simply shuffling resources around much like a puppy dog chasing its tail. And it's not going to work. WIAN: The border patrol union leader says to truly secure our southern border he needs double the border patrol's current manpower, about 9,000 more agents and strict enforcement of laws against employing illegal aliens. Customs and Border Protection, while claiming progress, disclosed another alarming statistic, saying 7 percent of the illegal aliens caught have criminal records.


WIAN: Border patrol agents generally estimate they catch about one in every four illegal border crossers. That means as many as a quarter of a million convicted criminals are entering the United States across our southern border each year -- Lou.

DOBBS: And that is certainly alarming. And it is interesting that number of 3 million illegal aliens entering the country remaining constant over at least the past two years and the focus in Washington remains let's say blurry at best.

WIAN: And perhaps, even more alarming, in Arizona alone, just during one six-month period this year, 1200 of those criminals that were caught were convicted of violent crimes in the past, Lou.

DOBBS: Casey, thank you very much. Casey Wian.

It seems our broken borders are also a problem in other countries, as well. A Greek newspaper reporting the Greek government is now considering a proposal that would allow it to use a network of satellites to monitor its borders. Greek authorities catching hundreds of illegal aliens each year trying to cross its borders.

The highly controversial issue of intelligent design, the focus of a new trial in Pennsylvania today. 11 parents are challenging the Dover Area School District's decision to add intelligent design to the curriculum. The families are arguing that the new curriculum edition violates separation of church and state. But the school district says the case is about free inquiry in education.

Joining me now with two very different views on this issue from Harrisburg, Pennsylvania Eugenie Scott, she's the executive director of the National Center for Science, Education and fighting intelligent design in the classroom along with the ACLU.

And from San Diego, Frank Sherwin, he's from the institute of Creation Research and co-author of "The Human Body and Intelligent Design," supporting teaching the theory to students. Thank you both for being there.

Let me start, if I may, with you, Eugenie. The idea that intelligent design in this case it's going to be a brief mention. It's not as if a curriculum has been designed around it, but just introducing the concept to the students of evolution. What's the problem with that?

EUGENIE SCOTT, DIR. NATIONAL CENTER FOR SCIENCE EDUCATION: The problem is that intelligent design has been judged by the scientific and the educational communities to not be science and not be appropriate for teaching in the high school science classroom. Why should we clutter up the science classroom with nonscientific ideas?

Similarly, it is an introduction of a religious view as science into the public school classroom. And why should we be violating the separation of church and state suggested by the first amendment?

DOBBS: Frank, Eugenie's concerns are certainly rational, it seems. What's the problem? Why is it necessary, in your judgment, for intelligent design to be injected into the classroom?

FRANK SHERWIN, INSTITUTE FOR CREATION RESEARCH: Well, Lou, I would maintain there's plenty of religion right now in American public schools that teach that in the young people have come from lower forms of life, ultimately from bacteria. Now, as a scientist via real problem with that. And I think it's a breath of intellectual fresh air to allow the students to understand that there is a significant part of the scientific and educational population that are not convinced that we came from bacteria.

As a matter of fact, I have to quote from Charles Darwin when he said in 1859, a fair result can be only obtained by balancing the facts and arguments on both sides of each question. So certainly we would agree with that. We are not advocating any kind of religious indoctrination, we are simply trying to show the students there's a significant group out there that believe we have been intelligently designed.

DOBBS: Well, let me ask you both this question. And we can go before going to the issues of freedom of speech, freedom of religion and separation of church and state, let me ask you both, in your judgment, scientifically, Eugenie, and you, if you will, Frank, what is the origin of life? How would you answer that question in one sentence? Frank?

SHERWIN: Well, obviously, with the complexity of life, and I have had quite a few classes in regard to the complexity of organic life as we know it, is horribly complex, Lou. There's absolutely no way naturalistic way explain the spontaneous origination of organic life from inorganic nonlife.

Now, even non...

DOBBS: Now, that tells me what it isn't, Frank. I'm asking you in your judgment in one sentence is the origin of life?

SHERWIN: OK. With the origin of life we belief a creator is behind an origin of life.

DOBBS: Eugenie, your thought?

SCOTT: In other words...

DOBBS: Your thoughts?

SCOTT: What Frank just said was -- Frank's position is God did it. Whether God did it or not, the issue that we're talking here is what do you teach in science class? And in science, you teach science.

DOBBS: No, Eugenie. What we're talking about -- No, Eugenie, excuse me -- I'm asking you is, what is the origin of life in your judgment?

SCOTT: The origin of life is as yet unsolved problem in science. We do not have agreement among scientists for a natural origin of life. However, you just heard Frank say that this unsolvable problem.

The problem with intelligent design is that it says when you have a difficult problem like origin of life, or the bacteria flagellum, or the blood clotting cascade, you should just throw up your hands and say this unsolvable. We have to say God did it. And that's not the way you teach science.

DOBBS: Is that true, Frank?

SHERWIN: Lou, I never said that. Not once in the organization I represent ever threw up our hands and say it's unsolvable. Certainly, we like to think the creators thoughts after him.

DOBBS: Forgive, I thought that's exactly what you did say, Frank. I'm sorry I thought you did say it was unsolvable.

SHERWIN: No. No. I didn't say that...

SCOTT: You did say it was unsolvable.

SHERWIN: I said we like to enjoy the investigation of the living world. When it comes to the origin of life, I said then we said, yes, life only comes from life. We believe the creator created it.

However, that's a far different issue than blood clotting cascade, the flegellum and such that Eugenie just mentioned. We love to study that.

SCOTT: Actually, I agree. I agree.

In fact, there's a big difference between what we study in evolution and the issues like the origin of life.

DOBBS: Let me ask you both.

SCOTT: And we're much more confident about evolution.

DOBBS: Is your basic objection, Eugenie -- and in court, is it the idea that we are injecting religion in the guise of intelligent design into the public school curriculum?

SCOTT: That is the major problem, yes.

Because what intelligent design says is that there exists incredibly complicated things out there in nature that by their nature are incapable of being he explained by a natural cause. Therefore, they are off the table. God did it. That's a religious view.

Although they tend to be fairly coy about who the intelligent agent is but everybody knows it is God.

SHERWIN: What we're saying simply is that life is so complex, it shows an irreducible complexity that points to a creator.

Eugenie, you're wrong, we're not saying that we advocate that God did it. We are simply leaving that up to the student.

Now, if you think this is creationism through the back door of American public schools, then evolutionary naturalism as it is presently being taught in American taxpayer paid public school is bringing atheism in through the front door.

SCOTT: Well, intelligent design is bringing religion in through the back door. And as a matter of fact, I probably have talked to more teachers than you have teachers are not...

DOBBS: Eugenie Scott, Frank Sherwin, I have got to say thank you very much. We are out of time. The case will be resolved in federal court, it appears, at least unless it is insoluble. The case has begun. And we will be following it closely as I know both of you will in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, in the federal courtroom. Thank you very much.

SHERWIN: Thank you, Lou.

DOBBS: A reminder now to vote in our poll tonight, he question on an entirely different matter, do you believe closing schools is the most intelligent way to address the energy crisis facing this country? Yes or no? Please cast your vote at We'll have the results coming up in just a few minutes.

The Senate has begun debating the confirmation of Judge John Roberts to become this country's 17th chief justice of the Supreme Court. Republicans hailed Roberts, saying he is qualified, impartial and the brightest of the bright. Two thirds of the Senate announced their support for Roberts before this debate even began. A vote is planned for this week.

Also administration sources telling CNN, President Bush could announce his next Supreme Court choice to succeed Justice Sandra Day O'Connor as early as this Friday.

Still ahead, the results of our poll and a preview of what is coming up tomorrow. Please stay with us.


DOBBS: Now the results of our poll. 93 percent of you say you don't believe closing schools is the most intelligent way to address the energy crisis facing this country as the state of Georgia did and some schools in Kentucky.

As of tonight, Judy Miller, "The New York Times" reporter has been in prison for 82 days for protecting her confidential sources in the White House CIA leak case. The investigation of that leak began more than two years ago.

Thanks for being with us tonight. Please join us here tomorrow. Out of gas: should the United States move some of its refineries away from the Gulf Coast? Arizona, the proposed site of a new refinery. We'll have that special report. Please join us for that and a great deal more tomorrow.

For all of us here, thanks for being with us. Good night from New York. "ANDERSON COOPER 360" starts right now -- Anderson.


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