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Wilma Already Pounding Cancun and Cozumel; A Great Escape

Aired October 21, 2005 - 08:00   ET


MILES O'BRIEN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wilma the wicked -- already pounding Cancun and Cozumel. Cuba could be next, then Florida. Residents there now jamming the highways up and down the state. Live reports ahead.
Plus this...


MEGAN HALAVAIS, SURVIVED SHARK ATTACK: All of a sudden it just hit me. It was just like so powerful, just like hitting me.


M. O'BRIEN: A great escape. A California surfer describing being attacked by a shark in her own words.

And why is this man smiling? Congressman Tom DeLay mugging for his mug shot. Will he still be smiling when he faces a judge, on this AMERICAN MORNING?

ANNOUNCER: From the CNN broadcast center in New York, this is AMERICAN MORNING with Soledad O'Brien and Miles O'Brien.


M. O'BRIEN: All right.

S. O'BRIEN: Welcome, everybody.

Boy, that young woman, I'm dying to hear more of what she has to say after being attacked by that shark.

M. O'BRIEN: Well, you know, remember yesterday, where you talked to her savior...

S. O'BRIEN: Her friend who saved her and her doctor.

M. O'BRIEN: Who says she's not a hero. The crew got mad at me for asking the hero question, but he is a hero. And, you know, here she went underwater, you know? And then you say well, we might have been too late. And now she's telling the tale. So we will...

S. O'BRIEN: And she looks great considering the kind of treatment she still faces even.

M. O'BRIEN: We won't be watching that one with the volume down. S. O'BRIEN: And we are also watching hurricane Wilma, for sure, pounding, right now, the Yucatan Peninsula. We're going to bring you complete coverage of hurricane Wilma this morning and throughout the morning and throughout the day, because we have reporters standing by in Mexico and in Cuba and in Florida, as well.

Susan Candiotti is in Cancun for us this morning.

She's right in the path of the storm. And Susan has a report from there.


SUSAN CANDIOTTI, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Coming to you from one of many luxury resort hotels that are located along the Gulf of Mexico. We can show you over my shoulder, perhaps you can make out these sandbags, one of many measures that this hotel and others are taking to try to protect their property. A lot of the windows here are boarded up.

Over here they have not taken that measure. However, this very same wall took a serious hit when hurricane Emily blew through in July, so they are prepared for damage here. The area still reeling from hurricane Emily, $96 million of damage from that. Some hotel properties still have not reopened from that, located here and in there in the city of town.

Remember, Cozumel is just about 60 miles south of here and the port there home to many of the cruise ships that a lot of you are familiar with. Obviously, that's been closed. The hotel guests that were staying at this hotel and others were ordered out by authorities within the last 24 to 48 hours, some of them taken to the airport to make some of the final flights before that airport shut down overnight.

Those who could not make it, taken to shelters. A lot of schools doubling as shelters. Some hotels that remain open in town are using their ballrooms where guests can stay that were staying at other hotels. They were given some meager provisions, trying to help out as best they can -- pillows, oranges, towels so they could sleep on the floor. So far they still have power at this hour, as hurricane Wilma gets closer and closer.

Perhaps you can make out a lot of the palm trees behind me bending every which way. The waves are furiously pounding and landfall expected perhaps as early as midday.

Susan Candiotti, CNN, reporting from Cancun, Mexico.


S. O'BRIEN: What happens in Florida is very much going to depend on what happens where Susan is, in Cancun, Mexico.

Jacqui Jeras is at the CNN Center with the latest forecast -- good morning. JACQUI JERAS, CNN METEOROLOGIST: Oh, good morning, Soledad.

Yes, if this thing makes landfall over the Yucatan Peninsula, then that's going to weaken the storm big time, which would be good news for Florida. But still not a 100 percent sure it's going to do that. We think we're going to at least get a good brush by. But if it stays on this continued track, we are expecting landfall maybe near the Cozumel area.

Winds are down just a smidge. The 8:00 advisory Eastern time is just in, and we're at 145 miles per hour. But whether this is a strong four or a weak five doesn't really make all that much difference as it makes landfall.

We just got a report from a buoy which is about 75 miles away from the shore and it is reporting 69 miles per hour sustained winds with 35-foot seas. This is a radar picture about 15 to 20 minutes old out of Cancun. As you can see some of those outer bands just lashing Cozumel. Here's Cancun. So that's just edging into that area at this time.

We are expecting to see heavy rain and damaging winds. Those are the two primary concerns for the Yucatan Peninsula. The grays and the whites indicating 15 to 20 inches of rain in the next 48 hours.

Once it emerges into the Gulf of Mexico, a lot more confidence in where this storm will be going. We're expecting what we call a trough in the upper atmosphere to take this off to the right and take a sharp turn toward Florida. And the timing has changed from this time yesterday morning, if you haven't been watching us since then. It looks like late on Monday now, the best chance for landfall in South Florida -- back to you.

S. O'BRIEN: All right, well, we all continue to watch it.

Jacqui Jeras, thanks.

We're going to watch for changes in the forecast. And, of course, CNN is your hurricane headquarters. You want to tune in here to find out the very latest -- Miles.

M. O'BRIEN: And now let's talk about the mug shot that everybody is talking about this morning.

Thursday afternoon, Tom DeLay was smiling. Good mug shot strategy. We'll talk a little bit about that later.

A few hours from now, he's going to have to grin and bear it once again. The Texas congressman has a date with the judge.

Sean Callebs in Austin, Texas now -- Sean, what's ahead for the now former majority leader?


In just a couple of hours we expert one of the most powerful politicians in the U.S. to make his way here to the Travis County courthouse, where he will hear charges against him, that of conspiracy and money laundering. He will appear before the judge, but DeLay's powerful attorney, Dick DeGuerin, has made it clear that they believe this is all politically motivated, a vendetta against their candidate. And actually, a couple of motions filed yesterday that could end up being quite significant if they are approved. One, DeGuerin wants the trial delayed, moved out of Travis County, really, one of the last Democratic strongholds in the State of Texas. And, secondly, he would like the judge, Bob Perkins, removed from this case. Perkins, a Democrat, has made a number of financial donations over the years to the Democratic Party.

But how about what played out yesterday in the Harris County courthouse? Of course, Dick -- Tom DeLay was, his mug shot was taken. He was fingerprinted. All this happening while most of the media was in nearby Fort Bend County, DeLay quietly slipped into Harris County, had his picture taken.

Without question, though, DeGuerin very upset with this. After the mug shot was taken, he was out in front speaking with the media, waving pictures of the mug shot and images of the fingerprint, saying this was all a vendetta, all politically driven and his client was innocent and would prevail.

Once again, he's to be here in court in just a couple of hours. He's expected to plead not guilty. Miles, the whole procedure should last perhaps 20 minutes or so.

M. O'BRIEN: And, Sean, there's no chance he's going to slip into a different courtroom today, correct?

CALLEBS: Well, there's no chance he's going to slip into a different courtroom. But getting in here, he could duck his way underneath into the parking garage or something like that. Whether there will be this powerful image of the former majority leader walking in.

But how about that mug shot? I guess and all those entities that wanted to see the shot like this. And like this, the way it played out, no numbers on the bottom of the mug shot. That's because Harris County doesn't use that anymore. They've gone to a digital system. So you just see a smiling, beaming Tom DeLay.

As you mentioned, it could look like a yearbook photo, complete with his congressional pin still on the lapel.

M. O'BRIEN: You know, I wonder if that was one of the criteria for choosing that particular location to surrender him, the White House they had the numbers. That would be interesting to find out.

Sean Callebs, thank you very much.

Let's check some other headlines now -- hey, Carol.

CAROL COSTELLO, CNN ANCHOR: Good morning, Miles.

Good morning to all of you.

President Bush is in California today to visit the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library. The president will lay a wreath at Reagan's grave site and open an exhibit that features an Air Force One plane which served Reagan and six other presidents.

On Thursday, President Bush met with Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas. He called on the Palestinian leader to control militants in the region.

The mother accused of throwing her three young boys into San Francisco Bay is set to appear in court this morning. The body of one of the children was found on Thursday. The two other children remain missing.

Earlier, Miles spoke to a San Francisco police chief and asked about the response to the incident by authorities.


CHIEF HEATHER FONG, SAN FRANCISCO POLICE: The caller stated that he had seen an adult female throw two children into San Francisco Bay off of the end of Pier 7 here. And so at that time and very rapidly, police resources, fire resources, as well as Coast Guard resources, responded both to the land side and the water side to try to first recover any of the victims that might be in the Bay and also, secondly, on the land side, to look for the female who had thrown the children in the Bay.


COSTELLO: It was too late, though. All of the children believed to be dead. This is the children's mother, Lashaun Harris. She's been charged with murder and assault. Relatives say she has a history of mental problems, including schizophrenia.

A major win for gun makers. The House passed legislation Thursday giving firearm manufacturers and dealers greater immunity from civil lawsuits. The Senate approved similar legislation back in July. President Bush will sign the bill.

Hundreds of people evacuated because of a weakened dam south of Boston now heading home. Some 2,000 people were urged to leave earlier this week after concerns that the wooden dam would break. Officials have been able to lower water levels and are now easing evacuation orders. Those living closer to the actual dam are still being asked to stay away, though.

And Britain's Prince William could become Army cadet Wills. The prince has passed the entrance exam for the elite military academy Sandhurst, which is the equivalent of our West Point. The announcement coming just this morning. So, hey, isn't that breaking news?

Prince William's younger brother Harry, as you know, is already training at the academy so they're both going to be soldiers. M. O'BRIEN: Well, now isn't that -- doesn't he have a girlfriend, too?

S. O'BRIEN: Yes.

COSTELLO: They both have a girlfriend.

M. O'BRIEN: What's the deal on the girlfriend?

COSTELLO: What's the deal on the girlfriend? She can't get in the academy.

S. O'BRIEN: That's right. She's out.

M. O'BRIEN: Oh, she's out?

S. O'BRIEN: No, in the academy.

M. O'BRIEN: The girlfriend is out?

COSTELLO: The military -- no, no, no, no. She can't get in the military.

M. O'BRIEN: No, but I kind of...

COSTELLO: He was just joking.

S. O'BRIEN: You're trying to do the tough story and he's going for the girlfriend headlines, Carol.

COSTELLO: I know. What is this?

S. O'BRIEN: I'll translate for you.

COSTELLO: What am I, the "National Enquirer?"

S. O'BRIEN: Can I give you -- can I give you a little -- he's going to have like 55 more girlfriends before he finally sits down and marries somebody.

M. O'BRIEN: You know, I read this article, I saw it in the, you know, in the newsstand.

COSTELLO: They were living together.

M. O'BRIEN: I didn't actually read this paper, but I saw something with a woman and they said they had been going out for like several years. And she's met the queen and they're all happy.


M. O'BRIEN: Was that in "People?"

COSTELLO: They were living together through college.

M. O'BRIEN: There you go. COSTELLO: I'm sure platonically.

M. O'BRIEN: I am shocked and appalled.

S. O'BRIEN: How do you get from his military service...

M. O'BRIEN: I'm aghast!

S. O'BRIEN: ... to his relationship? Miles, you brought us there.

M. O'BRIEN: I am so thin on the royal family, that's all I knew was what I, you know, girlfriend.

COSTELLO: That was pretty good, actually.

M. O'BRIEN: That's it.

COSTELLO: But she's still in the picture. He's just going to go to the military academy to...

S. O'BRIEN: Girls can't go is what she was saying.


S. O'BRIEN: What she said is she's out.

M. O'BRIEN: She'll come visit.

COSTELLO: I'm sure she will.

S. O'BRIEN: Thanks, Carol, for walking through that landmine.


S. O'BRIEN: Let's tell you about that story of survival, the shark attack yesterday.

Megan Halavais. How did I pronounce that? Halavais. Sorry about that. She was attacked by a shark -- you remember the story -- while she was surfing in Bodega Bay in California. The shark grabbed her by the leg and then yanked her under. Then she resurfaced on the shark's back. She's 20 years old. Apparently, though, stayed incredibly calm and very focused while all of that happened.

Listen to what she told.


HALAVAIS: All of a sudden it just hit me. It was just like so powerful, just like hitting me. And I thought at first that it was my boyfriend Johnny joking around, because it's just like the last thing that I would have ever expected. And then it -- I felt it hit and I didn't really like, I didn't really feel the bite. It wasn't painful. It wasn't painful at all. And I felt it and I turned my body around and I see just like -- just a huge body and like huge dorsal fin like right there.

And just like realized that like this was a big shark, you know? And just, my first instinct, I don't know why, I just grabbed it and I grabbed it. And it was just trashing. And I remember like the feeling. It felt like slimy. And I was just holding on as hard as I could. And I was shaking.

And then...

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: And then there's a little space that you don't quite remember.

HALAVAIS: I don't quite remember but it pulled me under. But when it pulled me under, it didn't have a grip on me. And it just pulled me from my leash. It pulled me on my board and then the leash snapped and my board came up one way, I came up the other.


S. O'BRIEN: What a remarkable young woman.

M. O'BRIEN: Wow! Wow!

S. O'BRIEN: That's her mom next to her, who's laughing, really, about how...

M. O'BRIEN: Yes.

S. O'BRIEN: ... because she has such memory of the entire attack. She said there was like, you know, two seconds where you don't recall what exactly happened.

M. O'BRIEN: Well, I imagine there's a couple of things here. First of all, you know, time kind of slows down in those events. You can probably remember certain things...

S. O'BRIEN: Well, you can tell if you (UNINTELLIGIBLE)...

M. O'BRIEN: ... in excruciating detail, literally excruciating. Secondly, watch the emotional roller coaster.

S. O'BRIEN: Yes.

M. O'BRIEN: Right in that one minute and 20, from laughing to crying. I mean she clearly is amazed to be alive. And then when you think about what could have happened.

S. O'BRIEN: Severe, severe cuts in her leg, but it looks like she's going to make a full recovery, her doctor told us yesterday, and it looks like she's definitely going to walk again, absolutely. And she's doing well.

M. O'BRIEN: Amazing.

S. O'BRIEN: Yes, it is. M. O'BRIEN: All right, still to come, police arrest a 16-year- old boy in that case we've been telling you about, the homicide of the wife of Attorney Daniel Horowitz. And now everybody's scratching their head and wondering what a motive may have been in all this. We'll talk to a Horowitz family friend next.

S. O'BRIEN: And coming up on Capitol Hill, you can see their testimony. A top FEMA official blasting his former boss, Mike Brown, for the response on Katrina.

M. O'BRIEN: All right, listen up clean freaks. This -- a lot of this anti-bacterial stuff that you use repeatedly may be bad. You might be killing good bacteria. There's good bacteria out there, you know? So we will get an expert to weigh in on this one and try to clean up with the facts.


S. O'BRIEN: A follow-up now to that terrible story we told you about, that vicious killing we reported first on Saturday. A 16-year- old has now been arrested in connection with the killing of Pamela Vitale. Vitale's husband, of course, is the famous criminal attorney, Daniel Horowitz.

Ivan Golde is a co-counsel with and friend of Daniel Horowitz and is back this week talking with us.

Thanks for being with us.


S. O'BRIEN: Are you surprised by this arrest? And, actually, let me stop you and just remind you, the sheriff's department not releasing the 16-year-old's name, and so we will not, also.

Are you surprised, though, by his arrest?

GOLDE: Not surprised at all. I'm from this area, the Bay Area. I've worked on a lot of criminal cases in northern California and the East Bay. The juvenile crime, the juvenile violent crime is out of control. I'm not surprised this was a young kid. I'm not surprised that this kind of crime occurred with a young kid being involved as a defendant. It's a sad, tragic case. It really, really is. It's just -- we're all numb. We're just numb.

S. O'BRIEN: I can imagine. I mean, really, the details are just gruesome. And earlier in the week, you sounded very positive that it was, in fact, another neighbor, Mr. Lynch. And we talked about that.

What's the motive for this 16-year-old, do police believe? Do you know?

GOLDE: Is there a motive? Need there be a motive? It's just a stupid, tragic crime. This was a kid who was using stolen credit cards. He was buying supplies to grow marijuana. Why he had to kill Pamela Vitale, maybe we'll never know. And that's what makes it such a tragic, sad situation. It's just a senseless crime. He did not need to kill Pamela Vitale.

S. O'BRIEN: You've heard some details about the struggle and just how vicious this attack seems to have been. In addition to the fact that it looks like she was hit by a piece of crown molding in the area, in the house itself, also, there was a symbol of some kind, a cross maybe, carved into her back.

GOLDE: Yes. It's got to stop. Where is it going to stop? When are these kids going to stop committing these serious, violent crimes? It's horrendous. As a society, we must do something about this. This hurts. This is painful. A 16-year-old kid has touched so many lives in a serious, tragic, terrible way. It's just got to stop.

S. O'BRIEN: Any connection at all between your friend and co- counsel, Daniel Horowitz, and this kid? I mean besides the fact that he was a neighbor?

GOLDE: No real connection. No real motive. No real reason. That's what I said earlier. He need not have killed Pamela Vitale. This was a kid who just did a terrible, terrible thing and he's hurt a lot of people. But he's going to be brought to justice, I assure you of that.

S. O'BRIEN: He could be tried as an adult. It's unclear at this point if he will be, which is why...

GOLDE: He will be tried as an adult. Trust me on that. The district attorney's office, under Prop 21, will file immediately. This man will -- this kid will never see the light of day again.

S. O'BRIEN: Do you think, and is it believed, that anybody else was involved in this murder?

GOLDE: Look, the Contra Costa County Sheriff's Department is doing an excellent job. They have donated all of their resources to solve this case, and they did it quickly. They're still investigating. It would be inappropriate for me to comment on any further investigation. But they have just done an excellent, excellent job and they're not done yet.

S. O'BRIEN: Ivan Golde, thanks again for talking with us.

GOLDE: Thank you.

S. O'BRIEN: Miles.

M. O'BRIEN: Still to come on the program, anti-bacterial soaps are very popular and a lot of people think it's the way to go to avoid infections and stem the spread of disease. It might be just the opposite, though, because, you know, there's good bacteria out there.

Stay with us for more AMERICAN MORNING.


M. O'BRIEN: OK, those of us who have spent a little bit of time in New Orleans this past month or so spent a lot of time using those anti-bacterial solutions and so forth to try to stay clean.

Well it turns out that overuse of those is not such a good idea. There's an FDA study out which says just that.

Dr. Stephen Peters is with Georgetown University Hospital.

He's in our Washington bureau to walk us through this.

First of all, Doctor, good to have you with us.

Give us the gist of the study.

What is the FDA saying here?

DR. STEPHEN PETERS, GEORGETOWN UNIVERSITY HOSPITAL: Well, apparently they've, the idea has come up now where these agents, these anti-bacterial agents, may, in fact, be inducing the potential of causing resistant organisms to develop in the environment, and on people's bodies, hands and places that they happen to work.

M. O'BRIEN: You know what's interesting? I saw that also one of the concerns is what happens when you rinse this down the sink. It ultimately puts this anti-bacterial stuff all throughout, as you say, our environment.

PETERS: Correct. Exactly. I think this is a very important aspect of this that people are overlooking, and that is that when these components are washed down into the water system, the potential of getting into the food chain is exacerbated a great deal. Mutations could potentially occur. Metabolites are formed and we have to study this in much more greater detail to see what the effect is going to be.

It reminds me, analogous for a number of years ago, when we were putting antibiotics in the food chain of animals that we were feeding. And as you well know now, they've recently been removed from the market, a number of them, because they're stimulating the production of these organisms, these anti-resistant organisms.

M. O'BRIEN: Well, you know, it's very similar to the discussion we have about antibiotics in general. They're wonderful, they're great, they'll knock an infection out of u. But ultimately people develop resistances to these things and ultimately so-called good bacteria, and there is good bacteria out there, is diminished.

PETERS: That's correct. These guys are symbiotic with us and we have to respect them. We need them. We need them from the day that we're born until the day we die, continually stimulating the immune system as a young child when you're first born and helping with the immune system even as you get older. You need constant bombardment of normal bacteria, or flora, as we call it, to continue stimulating our immune systems.

M. O'BRIEN: So bacteria doesn't get enough respect, is that what it is, Doctor?

PETERS: It doesn't get enough respect.

M. O'BRIEN: All right. More respect for bacteria. You heard it here first.

PETERS: More respect.

M. O'BRIEN: I just want to -- I've got to get this in editorially here. The Soap and Detergent Association, a squeaky clean group, says this: "More than 30 years of research has proven that anti-microbial washes reduce or eliminate bacteria and can lead to -- that can lead to skin infections, intestinal illnesses or other commonly transmitted diseases."

What do you say to that, Doctor?

PETERS: Actually, that's -- in certain environments, that's very true. Using these anti-bacterial agents in health care settings such as in hospitals, elderly hostels, homes where people are kept, and even in some home environments where there may be grandparents who are incontinent and there may be young children in the family, those areas where these anti-bacterial agents are applied can, in fact, reduce the potential of infection.

M. O'BRIEN: All right, so give us some tips. What are we to do? Should we avoid these anti-bacterial soaps entirely? What's the best course of action?

PETERS: I think that they should be avoided in the normal household, where there's no potential for problems to develop. And that includes even where there are young, newborn children. Wash thoroughly. Wash very thoroughly. Bathe your child with normal hand soaps and bar soaps and body washes that don't contain these anti- bacterial products.

M. O'BRIEN: Even babies? Babies need bacteria, too?

PETERS: And even babies.

M. O'BRIEN: All right.

PETERS: The first year of life is critical with these children, as they develop their immune system and they're exposed to these organisms. There's no reason to be washing them off their skin and taking them away.

M. O'BRIEN: And the rest of us?

PETERS: And the rest of us the same situation. If we're normal, healthy individuals and we're in the proper environment, we don't need those kinds of agents. We do need them in hospitals. I work in a hospital. I must wash my hands how many times a day? And you have to have those agents to prevent the spread of infection, particularly -- in various settings.

M. O'BRIEN: Thanks very much for your time.

Dr. Stephen Peters, pediatric pathologist with Georgetown University Hospital, and a man with very clean hands, of course.

PETERS: Appreciate it.

Thank you very much.

M. O'BRIEN: Soledad.

S. O'BRIEN: Still to come this morning, a half million Cubans being told to get out of Wilma's way. We'll take a look at some of the obstacles that they face in our live report from Havana, just ahead on AMERICAN MORNING.



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