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Assisted Dying Case; New Orleans Layoffs; Fort Bragg Arrests
Aired October 5, 2005 - 09:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
SOLEDAD O'BRIEN, CNN ANCHOR: A developing story this hour as another tropical storm springs to life off the coast of Florida. Tammy is heading for immediate landfall. It could bring rain for days. A complete forecast is just ahead.
Desperate times, desperate measures in New Orleans. The city now laying off 3,000 employees. The mayor says he's got no choice.
And piecing together a profile of Harriet Miers. The Supreme Court nominee with no track record back on Capitol Hill, trying to build support on this AMERICAN MORNING.
Good morning. Welcome back, everybody. Miles has the day off.
Ahead this morning, former President Bill Clinton on his first tour of the Gulf region since Hurricane Katrina hit. AMERICAN MORNING's Kelly Wallace is traveling with the former president. She was the only reporter with him for parts of his tour on Tuesday. She'll tell us what Mr. Clinton heard from survivors in Baton Rouge and New Orleans who he sat down with, and also a look at what he's going to be doing today in Alabama and Mississippi.
Mississippi, of course, is where Rob Marciano is today. He's reporting from Long Beach, five weeks after Katrina hit.
Some say the government help, Rob, has been pretty slow to come there. Good morning.
ROB MARCIANO, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hi, Soledad.
Yes, we've heard that from a number of city officials. Others don't want to hammer them too bad. But there's -- you know, one thing for sure is that they're frustrated with the bureaucracy, the forms they have to fill out, and the money not getting here. And they're worried about honestly going bankrupt.
Most of what they've done is they've cleared the roads of the debris. But you can see debris still piled up on either side of the road.
We're looking north. And the Gulf of Mexico well down to our south.
We have been doing a tour of the Gulf of Mexico, three states in three days. The first day was in Port Arthur, Texas, when the western eye wall of Hurricane Rita came ashore. Then we moved over the Sabine River into Calcasieu Parish, Lake Charles, Louisiana, where the eastern eye wall of that storm came through. Two hundred and forty miles to the east, over the Atchafalaya swamp, over the Mississippi River, and into southwestern Mississippi we are.
We're at Long Beach, Mississippi, was hit by Hurricane Katrina five weeks ago. And they've been slow to pick up the pieces.
Power is back on where there are still homes. Obviously not here. School is back in session. That's good news. But the money isn't flowing nearly fast enough for the residents here.
And the hits just keep on coming. We've got another tropical storm east, off the coastline of Florida. Chad Myers in the CNN weather center has the latest on that.
CHAD MYERS, CNN METEOROLOGIST: Hi. Good morning, Rob.
O'BRIEN: All right, Chad. Thanks.
MYERS: You're welcome.
O'BRIEN: Let's get right to the headlines. Carol has those.
Good morning again.
CAROL COSTELLO, CNN ANCHOR: Good morning, Soledad.
Good morning to all of you.
"Now in the News," President Bush is calling on Congress to give him the power to use the U.S. military in case of emergencies, such as a potential outbreak of the avian flu. The president says the U.S. could be asked to help with a variety of actions, such as enforcing a quarantine.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: One option is the use of a military that's able to plan and move. And so that's why I put it on the table. I think it's an important debate for Congress to have.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COSTELLO: The Department of Health and Human Services is rushing to complete its first comprehensive plan for coping with a possible flu pandemic. It could be released this week.
Iraqi lawmakers making some last-minute changes ahead of the vote on the new constitution. The National Assembly has voted to change the rules for next week's referendum. The parliament scrapped some procedures that it had put into place last week. Today's reversal comes after pressure by the United Nations. The vote on the constitution is set for October 15.
And a commuter headache for New Yorkers after a massive tanker explosion. Police believe a fuel truck overturned and hit a retaining wall in the Bronx on Tuesday, and then, as you can see, it burst into flames.
The three-alarm fire destroyed some parked cars and then spread to nearby buildings. The driver was killed, and at least one other person was injured.
And finally, today is the day for Michelle Wie. The teen golfer is officially announcing that she is turning pro just a couple of days shy of her 16th birthday. She's also grabbing some multimillion- dollar endorsements said to be the biggest ever for a female golfer.
She has deals with Sony that I guess it's worth, what, about $10 million a year?
O'BRIEN: She's not quite 16. She's 15.
COSTELLO: And she already has a $10 million endorsement, and she hasn't won a tournament yet.
O'BRIEN: Don't you just feel like...
COSTELLO: As a professional.
O'BRIEN: Well, right -- you should have taken up golf a long time ago?
COSTELLO: I just feel inadequate.
O'BRIEN: Inadequate and poor. Thanks, Carol.
A controversial case on the agenda for the high court today, Oregon's assisted dying law.
Kathleen Koch live for us at the U.S. Supreme Court.
Kathleen, good morning to you. This is, of course, the first case that the chief justice is going to hear officially ensconced in his role. What are the facts behind this case?
KATHLEEN KOCH, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, obviously this is a very controversial case. And what it looks at, Soledad, is not so much whether or not assisted suicide is right or wrong, but whether or not the federal Controlled Substances Act, which is aimed at stopping the abuse of drugs, whether or not that can be applied to stop doctors from giving a lethal dose of medication to a terminally ill patient.
Now, that practice has been acceptable by law in the state of Oregon since 1997. Some 208 patients taking advantage of that to end their lives, terminally ill patients.
The federal government is challenging that in the Supreme Court today. But those on -- advocates on both sides are very, very passionate. Those supporting the law -- the law saying that what they believe is that this is something that the terminally ill truly do need; whereas, opponents say it's something that devalues the lives of the disabled and threatens doctors with incarceration.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CHARLENE ANDREWS, TERMINALLY ILL CANCER PATIENT: It's our choice when we know there's no way the law can be misused. We are terminal. And we know when we just have a few weeks left.
CAROL CLEIGH, GROUP "NOT DEAD YET": If you want to commit suicide, you really should have the honor and the dignity to do it yourself and not take the doctors with you and harm the health care system that the rest of us all depend upon.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KOCH: Small groups of protesters on both sides of the issue have already begun to gather here on the steps of the Supreme Court. And Soledad, lines are quite long as people are queuing up to get into hear the oral arguments that begin at 10:00 a.m.
O'BRIEN: Sure to be closely followed. All right. Kathleen Koch for us at the Supreme Court. Thanks.
Investigators are going to conduct tests today on a boat identical to the tour boat that capsized on Sunday at Lake George. They're trying to figure out what exactly caused that deadly accident. Twenty people were killed, and former NTSB chairman Jim Hall says a simple rule change could have made all the difference.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JIM HALL, FMR. NTSB CHAIRMAN: The tragic loss of life in this accident could have been prevented by simply requiring the use of personal flotation devices by the passengers that were aboard. And I certainly hope that this will result in more states now. We presently have four states requiring the use of personal flotation devices, particularly in commercial operations.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O'BRIEN: New York law does not require adults to wear personal flotation devices.
Still to come this morning, former President Bill Clinton gets a firsthand look at Katrina's aftermath. Kelly Wallace goes with him. We're going to hear Mr. Clinton's thoughts on the disaster.
Plus, more on the decision in New Orleans to lay off thousands of city workers. Should the federal government step in to help? A closer look at that ahead on AMERICAN MORNING.
O'BRIEN: The cost of Hurricane Katrina is forcing New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin to lay off as many as 3,000 city employees. That's nearly half of the municipal workforce.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MAYOR RAY NAGIN (D), NEW ORLEANS: After weeks of working to secure these funds to make payroll, the city of New Orleans today announces it has been forced to lay off up to 3,000 classified and unclassified city workers as a result of the financial constraints in the wake of Hurricane Katrina.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O'BRIEN: What will it mean to the massive rebuilding effort? Former New Orleans Mayor Sydney Barthelemey joins us from CNN Center in Atlanta.
It's nice to see you. Thanks for talking with us.
SYDNEY BARTHELEMEY, FMR. NEW ORLEANS MAYOR: Hi, Soledad.
O'BRIEN: What do you think? What do you make of this layoff of 3,000 -- half the workforce?
BARTHELEMEY: Well, I think it's going to be very, very tough to rebuild the city without the support of the city employees who are vital to building a city and making the city work. I think this is a time, really, for extraordinary leadership. I believe the federal government and the state government must step up to the plate and help the city of New Orleans, and all of the Gulf Coast area that's been hit by this extraordinary hurricane.
O'BRIEN: What are the options here that mayor, Mayor Nagin, has? I mean, if you say, OK, layoffs is a bad idea, what can you do?
BARTHELEMEY: Well, I think that -- again, I think it requires the federal government to help. They are permitting security to loans. The city could get some banks to help out. But the federal government would need to underwrite the loans. I think that's a possibility.
I believe that they could help the city with a deferral of layoffs, but to permit the employees to do other kinds of jobs there. There's millions of dollars being spent in the city to clean up the city, cut trees, move trash. City employees could do that.
There are many, many things, I think, that they could do to help the city employees, because you're going to need them to rebuild the city.
O'BRIEN: When you look, actually, though, at the contracts that have been -- that have already been agreed upon and the rebuilding efforts, the three states that were hit hardest by Hurricane Katrina are only getting -- I think they're getting less than 10 percent. Companies in those states are getting less than 10 percent of those contracts. So the money, really, to a large degree, looks like it immediately, at least, is not going to the people who probably need it the most. BARTHELEMEY: Again, Soledad, I think that's an indication that it's business as usual. This is extraordinary times. The hurricane was an extraordinary hurricane. The tidal wave was extraordinary. And it requires extraordinary leadership on the part of the federal government, the state government, and local government.
We can't do things as we have always done in this kind of situation. We have to look at what happened in the past, particularly during the Great Depression. We had a president who stepped up and took the leadership and created the WPA and other things like that. That's the kind of leadership we need at this time.
O'BRIEN: All right. Well, let's talk about leadership, then. FEMA, for example, I think they've given -- what is it, $202 million to New Orleans? But it looks like that money can't go for pay, it can go for overtime.
BARTHELEMEY: Well, again, I don't understand. If you're going to give the money to the city, then you have to give them the discretion to use the money to help pay for the expenses.
You can't put requirements and restrictions on the use of the money. That doesn't make any sense. Who are you going to pay overtime to now when you don't have the city employees?
O'BRIEN: How about -- how about Governor Blanco? I mean people have said, indicated that the state actually has a decent amount of money that they could use to rescue the city. Why not that?
BARTHELEMEY: Well, I think, I heard Sheriff Stephenson from St. Bernard say that. And I think he's got a very good point.
Again, it's going to require doing something different. You can't just do what you did before and expect it to solve the problem. This is extraordinary times.
O'BRIEN: Do you think people won't come back to New Orleans if there's nobody in the city to kind of make the rebuilding, or stay in their jobs and make the rebuilding work?
BARTHELEMEY: I think it's going to be tough. New Orleans, the people who are looking -- who are living away, really, looking at what's happening in the city, and they're saying, you know, what's happening down there? And when they hear that the city employees, whom most of us know are very, very important people in our everyday lives, are not going to be there to help and assist, you know, it sends mixed signals.
We really need to do something different. We can't do the same thing we've been doing and expect a different result.
O'BRIEN: Sydney Barthelemey is the former mayor of New Orleans.
Thanks for talking with us.
BARTHELEMEY: You're welcome. O'BRIEN: Let's get right back to Rob Marciano. He's reporting from Mississippi today, and really dealing with a lot of the same issues there as they're dealing with in New Orleans today.
MARCIANO: Absolutely. Debris still lying around. In New Orleans, they have the compounded problem of having hazardous debris they need to get -- to get out of there.
We've been doing our own little tour of the Gulf of Mexico coastline, people ravaged by Hurricane Rita and Katrina. Well, more important people than us doing the same thing. Bill Clinton has been touring the area, and CNN's Kelly Wallace tagged along.
We'll have that coming up next on AMERICAN MORNING.
O'BRIEN: We're getting this just in to CNN this morning. Arrests reported today at Fort Bragg in North Carolina. Three people who taught foreign languages at the Joint Special Operations Command Center there picked up on immigration charges.
Barbara Starr has more for us from the Pentagon.
Barbara, good morning. Who are these folks?
BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Well, Soledad, this story now just unfolding. But the U.S. attorney and the Department of Homeland Security now announcing, indeed, they have arrested two Indonesian nationals and a man from Senegal who were working as foreign language instructors, apparently, at the Joint Special Operations Command at Fort Bragg, North Carolina.
Now, this is remarkable, because the Joint Special Operations Command is one of the most classified areas in the United States military. It is the part of special operations that is in the deep, dark, secret world, if you will. They don't even like to admit that they exist.
But apparently, these three men, according to a complaint filed by the U.S. attorney, gained employment there through a contractor that was teaching foreign language to these special forces groups. Two of the Indonesian nationals were already, apparently, in deportation proceedings, according to the documents filed in the court.
They apparently, or it is alleged, that they showed false documentation papers to gain employment at this Army facility. And what is of great concern to officials is whether or not any of these three people learned the identities, of course, of any of the military special operations troops that they were teaching foreign languages to.
The Department of Homeland Security regularly, of course, does conduct these types of sweeps. They have made arrests in the past at military facilities. But it's never, to the best of their knowledge, been the case that they have found people of such questionable background working in such a classified military area -- Soledad.
O'BRIEN: So, a couple questions for you, Barbara. And I know we're just getting this news in, so I'm not sure you can answer this.
They were in the process of being deported from the United States when they got hired to work teaching a language? And how long do we know that they were actually inside this top secret installment?
STARR: Well, as to the length of how long they had been there, that is something I'm going to tell you we're still working on trying to find out. But, indeed, according to the Department of Homeland Security, according to the papers apparently filed by the U.S. attorney in North Carolina, it is alleged that the two Indonesian nationals were already placed in what they call deportation proceedings. That they apparently showed false documents to the contractor who hired them to go work at this military facility to teach foreign language to military special operations troops.
The third man, the man from Senegal, now is expected to be placed in these deportation proceedings. So far, special operations folks are saying that none of these three men had any access to classified information, but what is not certain yet by all accounts is, again, whether they learn the identities of any of the military personal that they might have come in contact with, military special operations who would not want their identifies known to outsiders -- Soledad.
O'BRIEN: I'm sure there will be lots of investigation about how something like that could happen, especially at a top secret installation. I mean, the whole point is to protect that secrecy.
All right, Barbara. Thanks.
O'BRIEN: We'll get more from you from the Pentagon a little bit later.
Let's get right back out to Rob Marciano now. He is in Mississippi, continuing his three-day tour today.
MARCIANO: Hi, Soledad.
You know, we're not the only one making a status check of the Gulf Coast states who were hit by Rita and Katrina. Former President Bill Clinton also doing the same thing. And less than two hours from now he's going to be up the road to the east by two miles in Gulfport to check on that area.
Yesterday he was in New Orleans. This morning, Kelly Wallace is live for us to share that story.
KELLY WALLACE, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Hi, Rob.
Yes, not too long from now he'll be not too far from you. First, though, Rob, he's going to check in, in a neighborhood outside of New Orleans with some workers who are preparing meals for the relief effort. Then again on to Mississippi, rounding up his tour in Alabama.
This has all been designed as a "fact-finding mission." But it's also been a trip that has given Mr. Clinton plenty of opportunities to do what many say he does best.
WALLACE (voice-over): A former consoler-in-chief consoling once again.
WILLIAM JEFFERSON CLINTON, FMR. PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I'm really sorry for what you've been through, and I'm honored to be here.
WALLACE: In his first visit to Louisiana since Hurricane Katrina, former President Clinton huddled first with some of its victims.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: What was the difference? Why we couldn't get the attention and the help that Texas got, when a whole -- I mean, from the east bank to the west bank was destroyed?
WALLACE: For two hours in Baton Rouge, Mr. Clinton listened to their stories and complaints about a lack of housing and still no money from FEMA.
CLINTON: I try not to forget that what someone like me or former President Bush can do is not just raise money and spend it, but also just to be available to listen. A lot of these people have lost everything.
WALLACE: He said he came to figure out how best to spend the nearly $100 million he raised for Katrina relief with former President Bush, who visits the region next week.
CLINTON: I wish we could of come together, but as I said, I had to come this week, and President Bush couldn't come until next week, and that is on my 30th wedding anniversary, and I want to spend that day with Hillary.
WALLACE (on camera): That would be problematic at home?
CLINTON: Yes, as much as I'm devoted to this task, I think I need to be home.
WALLACE (voice-over): We traveled along with the former president as he choppered from Baton Rouge to New Orleans, and as he toured one of the hardest-hit areas, the lower ninth ward. (on camera): On a personal note, what was it like for you? We drove with you through the Lower Ninth Ward. As someone who loves this city, what was that like?
CLINTON: Well, it was very emotional because I mean, you know, this is the first city I ever visited. My family's I guess only out- of-state vacation my family ever took when I was a boy was here and the Gulfport and Biloxi. Ironically, we went to New Orleans, Gulfport and Biloxi when I was 15. So I've loved this place all my life.
WALLACE (voice-over): And the place he loved gave him a New Orleans welcome. Along the way, he steered clear of criticizing the Bush administration's response to Katrina and how he thinks the president should roll back tax cuts for the wealthy to help pay for rebuilding the Gulf Coast.
(on camera): You have a relationship with former President Bush. Do you ever say to him, here is what I think the president should do? And why not?
CLINTON: No way. He knows what I think. But I've talked to the president about this. I have a good relationship with him, but I don't -- you know, I'm past the point in my life when I'm just always mad at people I disagree with. That's just not -- I just disagree.
WALLACE (voice-over): He says his focus is mainly on what he and former President Bush can do to help New Orleans rebuild.
CLINTON: It's been a great city for a very long time, and I expect it to be a great city for a very long time after I leave this Earth, and I hope I can do a little help.
WALLACE: And last night in our interview, the former president said when he came to his hotel and he saw the neon lights and signs of life inside the French Quarter, he told himself, "I know it's going to work."
So, Rob, he said he's going to leave Louisiana and head your way with a glimmer of hope.
MARCIANO: Well, that's good to hear. Folks here could certainly use that.
They're frustrated with the lack of response from the federal government. And we'll look forward to Bill Clinton showing up here in about two hours from now.
Well, you know, some people rode out the storm of Hurricane Katrina about five weeks ago. And imagine what the Gulf of Mexico looked like then. Look at what it looks like now. I mean, it's just paradise.
It is so beautiful. So calm. So serene, the crystal clear blue waters of the Gulf. But imagine that water coming up 30 feet, swallowing an entire community.
We'll talk with the people that rode it out. They have pictures of what that day looked like coming up on AMERICAN MORNING.
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