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AMERICAN MORNING

Plunging Polls; President Bush, Nestor Kirchner Hold News Conference; France Riots

Aired November 4, 2005 - 09:01   ET

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


SOLEDAD O'BRIEN, CNN ANCHOR: Anger in the streets as President Bush attends talks in Argentina. Thousands of people protesting. The president's about to speak now, and he's getting some more bad news from home. New polls show his approval ratings are at an all-time low.
We've got a live report just ahead.

Four an eighth night in a row, chaos in the suburbs of Paris. Rioters are setting fires by the dozens. We're live in France this morning.

And two months after Hurricane Katrina, we return to the devastation in Mississippi. One industry there might be poised for a pretty amazing comeback.

We've got their story just ahead 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.

S. O'BRIEN: Good morning. Welcome, everybody.

You saw there a beautiful shot out of New York City this morning. We are also watching things in Mar del Plata, which is in Argentina. You can see an empty podium.

In just a few moments we're expecting to see President Bush and the Argentinean president, Nestor Kirchner. They're going to be coming up -- coming out, rather, and making some remarks. We're monitoring the situation there, and we will see what they have to say and bring that to you in just a little bit.

First, though, let's check in with Miles. He, of course, is reporting for us from Mississippi this morning as we continue a week of split shows between New York and the Gulf region as well.

Good morning again, Miles.

MILES O'BRIEN, CNN ANCHOR: Good morning, Soledad.

Look at the pier, the tattered pier in Pass Christian, Mississippi, as the sunrises, 8:00 in the morning here. And as we pull back, you see that pretty sunset yields a rather grim picture.

I'm standing on the slab of a home. All that's left are the base plates for the studs, a few -- little bit of linoleum, and that's it.

This home -- we just talked a little while ago to the structural engineer who built that fortress which did OK. But this part of the world has been hard hit. We've been spending the whole week at this, the two-month point, getting a status report from people who are still trying to come back from Katrina.

In just a little bit, Soledad, we will check in with a representative of the gaming industry, which is a big deal here in Mississippi -- Soledad.

S. O'BRIEN: Thanks, Miles.

We continue to monitor what's happening in Mar del Plata in Argentina, where the president is having really discussions with not only the president of Argentina, but also Chile as well. They are just getting under way with their remarks. We're going to monitor the situation there and we'll bring some of it to you when we get a chance to do that.

Of course we've also been talking to you about some of the protests in Argentina as well, and there's much more trouble at the White House. The president's approval ratings lower than they've ever been. New poll numbers from "The Washington Post"-ABC News showing 39 percent of the people polled now approve of the way President Bush is handling his job. An AP-Ipsos poll shows actually that number is down to 37 percent. And if you look at a CBS News poll, that number's down to 35 percent.

AMERICAN MORNING's Bob Franken live for us from Washington.

Easy for me to say, Bob, as we monitor what is happening in the double box in Argentina.

Good morning, Bob.

BOB FRANKEN, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: You did all right in the Argentinean stuff.

S. O'BRIEN: Yes, I'm better with the Argentineans, right?

FRANKEN: What's interesting is there is the president down there in South America trying to look presidential, and in "The Washington Post," which is the main poll we're discussing this morning, that result was on page one. The president's trip was on page A16.

So it's not thus far resonated, but the poll certainly is. And you pointed out the disapproval rating. And of course fundamental to that is the question of the president's credibility. And this is a significant number.

As for his honesty, people at the rate of 40 percent answered the question, "Is the president honest and trustworthy?" saying yes. Look at that no figure. Over 58 percent. That is the highest its been since the president was in office. It's the first time, as a matter of fact, that that figure is more than half. And there are a number of reasons for it. The most recent one, of course, being all of the news about the CIA leaks investigation -- Soledad.

S. O'BRIEN: As we continue to monitor what's here, I wonder if with the president being out of town that sort of takes the pressure off the White House, or does it put pressure on the White House, Bob?

FRANKEN: Well, my feeling that that's probably a neutral. The pressure is coming from so many places.

Somebody was talking about the whispers that are starting about Karl Rove, who has been discussed so widely in the CIA leaks investigation, his chief political adviser, whispers that he should resign. They're not really whispers. They're more like loud snarls. And it's interesting to look at that same poll about Karl Rove, who has not been indicted, although he's still under investigation.

The question, "Should Rove resign from the White House?" It's a resounding yes. Fifty-nine percent yes, 30 percent no. By the way, this is a poll that has a plus or minus 3 percent margin of error.

That is a rather large number, again remembering that the one man who has been indicted, Lewis "Scooter" Libby, has not been found guilty of anything yet. And Karl Rove has not been indicted. We should actually point out that the special prosecutor is still trying to decide whether to ask a grand jury to indict -- Soledad.

S. O'BRIEN: Bob Franken at the -- in Washington -- again, in Washington is what I'm trying to say.

Bob, thanks for that update. Let's listen to President Bush. As we mentioned, he's in Argentina at a summit that's focusing mostly on trade. Let's listen to his remarks for just a moment.

GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: ... a basketball team from the state in which I live, but he's also a good ambassador for your country. And people of Argentine heritage have contributed mightily to America. And we're grateful for that.

We had a good discussion about a range of issues, as the president has said. I -- Argentina and the United States have a -- have a lot in common.

S. O'BRIEN: Clearly, we're struggling a little bit with some audio issues, although you can hear what the president's saying as he really just begins some of the remarks that he is making.

He is standing with the Argentinean president, Nestor Kirchner. And again, the focus of this two-day summit is trade. At the same time, though, there is much anti-U.S. sentiment in Latin America. Elaine Quijano has been traveling with the president in Mar del Plata, Argentina, and she joins us now.

Good morning to you, Elaine. ELAINE QUIJANO, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Good morning to you, Soledad.

That's right, and amid that strong anti-U.S. sentiment in Latin America, President Bush earlier today began his morning by trying to stress the positive, really. The president sat down with leaders who do agree with him on free trade; namely, those leaders who signed off on the CAFTA agreement, the Central American Free Trade Agreement.

Now, at the same time, there is one leader, of course, attending the larger event, the Summit of the Americas, who has made no secret of the fact that he disagrees vehemently with President Bush, Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez. He is looking to confront the United States over the issue of free trade. He called the U.S. a capitalist, imperialist model of democracy.

Now, the U.S., for its part, is largely glossing over the issue, insisting that President Bush who is remaining focused on the topics at hand. But polls do show that across Latin America there is widespread anti-U.S. sentiment. And in fact, here in Argentina, thousands of protesters have gathered outside the secure area here at the Summit of the Americas, but they are protesting Mr. Bush's visit.

Nevertheless, U.S. officials insist any protest will not take away from the focus of the discussions here. The official theme of this year's Summit of the Americas, creating jobs to fight poverty and strengthen democratic governance.

Now, we should also mention, Soledad, that at this moment we are waiting to find out whether any of the domestic problems will follow President Bush here in the form of questions by the press corps. We're waiting to find out if in fact the two leaders will take questions.

There had been some issue of whether or not they will take place. On the official schedule they were supposed to take questions. We'll see if in fact they do, and whether or not any of those domestic lingering questions over the CIA leak investigation, for instance, do come up -- Soledad.

S. O'BRIEN: Elaine Quijano is traveling with the president in Mar del Plata, Argentina. And you can see in our double box here, you can see the president making some remarks to those assembled for this two-day summit, really.

The summit focuses on trade. We're going to bring you an update on what happens out of this summit in just a little bit.

First, though, let's turn to France. Police there struggling to keep order as riots erupt for the eighth straight night. Also spreading. The violence reported not only in Paris, but other parts of the country as well.

CNN's Chris Burns on the phone for us. He's just outside of Paris.

Chris, how's it looking now?

CHRIS BURNS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Soledad, a climate of fear that we sense in this neighborhood that we've just been leaving, Clichy- sous-Bois. That is really where the violence began about a week ago when two youths, one Somali origin, the other of Tunisian origin, where -- they died in an electrical power station when they were hiding from the police.

That has sparked rioting across the country, virtually, in the last few days. And we walked around this area and went to a mosque, where the mosque director and the main imam were both too scared to talk on the street, afraid that news would come and start catcalling that they were even talking to the press. There have been journalists attacked here in different areas.

Also, we went to a carpet shop that had been torched. And two doors down was (INAUDIBLE) who was terrified. And she couldn't even sleep at night. She said she was afraid what would happen to her shop. It could be the next one to be torched.

A lot of people are scared here, and they would like to see the government doing more, which they have been, putting 2,000 more police on the streets in these areas outside of Paris, these poor housing project areas. But so far it has not lessened the violence, but it does continue.

A hundred cars were torched last night. There were shots fired at one police car. The violence continues. And...

S. O'BRIEN: Chris Burns is joining us by phone.

Chris, some of the shots you're showing us of this violence quite remarkable, to see, really, firefighters on the scene in Clichy, and clearly not quite getting a handle of the situation there which could potentially spiral out of control.

Chris Burns monitoring that situation for us this morning.

Chris, thanks a lot.

We were showing you just moments ago the president, along with the Argentinean president, making some remarks to those assembled. We should mention that that meeting has just broken up, and I believe no questions were really taken from the audience.

We're going to turn around and see what the president had to say, and the Argentinean president as well. We'll bring that to you in just a little bit.

First, though, other stories making news. Kelly's got that.

KELLY WALLACE, CNN ANCHOR: OK, Soledad. Thanks so much.

And we begin, everyone, in Iraq. A violent start to a major Muslim holiday. At least six Iraqi police officers were killed, 12 others wounded at a checkpoint just outside of Baquba. Police say at least 40 gunmen in three vehicles ambushed the checkpoint with small arms fire.

In Washington now, Supreme Court nominee Samuel Alito will have to wait until 2006 for his vote in the Senate. Alito's confirmation hearings are now set to begin January 9, with a possible vote on January 20. It is a setback for the White House, which wanted a pre- Christmas confirmation.

In Las Vegas, the new catch phrase may soon be "Off with their thumbs." That's the suggestion of the mayor who says he's sick of graffiti artists defacing the city's freeways.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MAYOR OSCAR GOODMAN, LAS VEGAS: These punks, they come along and they deface it. And I'm saying that maybe if you put them on TV and cut off a thumb, that may be the right thing to do.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

WALLACE: Las Vegas mayor Oscar Goodman made the comments on a local television show. He also said whippings or canings should be brought back for kids who get in trouble. But he adds this, that there should be a trial first.

S. O'BRIEN: Trial first, then cut their thumbs off. OK, right.

WALLACE: That's what happening in Las Vegas.

And here's one more story for you. A sure fire way to be the hit of this year's Thanksgiving dinner. Check out this 600-pound pumpkin pie. Chefs say they used 300 pounds of pumpkin filling, more than 600 eggs and a few pounds of spices, and it took more than eight hours to bake. The people at Guinness have yet to certify it as the world's biggest.

And Jacqui, you know, we reported this on "DAYBREAK" earlier. I think the previous biggest pumpkin pie weighing in at just a paltry 468 pounds.

JACQUI JERAS, CNN METEOROLOGIST: Oh, well that's nothing, right?

WALLACE: Right, nothing, not when you're talking about over 600 pounds here.

JERAS: Six hundred eggs? Is that what you said?

WALLACE: That is, yes. Three hundred pounds of pumpkin filling, 600 eggs.

S. O'BRIEN: Why? Why?

JERAS: Why?

S. O'BRIEN: What's the point of a 600-pound pumpkin pie? No one eats it.

WALLACE: It's a record, Soledad. They want to break the record.

S. O'BRIEN: Who cares. I'm sorry, but it's 600 -- 600 eggs?

Nobody's going to eat it. It's going to go to waste.

WALLACE: Maybe they'll be eating pumpkin pie for the next six months and they'll be worrying about their pot bellies.

(LAUGHTER)

JERAS: Exactly. It all comes together.

WALLACE: It all comes together is right.

JERAS: One little sliver on Thanksgiving is all I ever do for pumpkin pie.

(WEATHER REPORT)

S. O'BRIEN: All right, Jacqui. Thanks.

You know what? Here's a question for you. How would you like to be living with 50 of your closest relatives? Might be too much of a good thing, right?

You're going to meet a family, though, today that's doing just that because of Hurricane Katrina. That's just ahead -- Miles.

M. O'BRIEN: Thanks very much, Soledad.

I'm standing on a boardwalk in Pass Christian, Mississippi. I can't believe this boardwalk is still here. I'm told it was built by inmates -- inmates, and they obviously liked being on the beach and put in a few extra nails in or something.

We're going to check in and see how well the casino business is doing. It was obviously hard hit by Katrina. How soon will they be back?

And before we go, a news quiz for you. Our question this morning is, how much in casino taxes did Mississippi lose this September because of Katrina? Is it A, $5.3 million, B, $7.6 million, or C, $8.7 million? The answer coming up after a short break.

Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

M. O'BRIEN: All right. The question we asked before the break, how much in casino taxes did Mississippi lose this September because of Katrina?

Soledad, do you know the answer?

S. O'BRIEN: I don't have the slightest idea, but I'm going go with B, because I feel like I can waffle right in the middle there. What is it?

M. O'BRIEN: C, $8.7 million lost taxes.

S. O'BRIEN: Wow.

M. O'BRIEN: Those are direct gaming taxes.

S. O'BRIEN: Wow.

M. O'BRIEN: Our next guest -- yes, that's a chunk of change. Our next guest will tell us that's actually low-balling the contribution the casinos make.

Beverly Martin is with the Mississippi Casino Operators Association. Let's take a walk down the boardwalk, shall we?

First of all, you said, well, there's just one kind of tax. There's other taxes.

BEVERLY MARTIN, MISSISSIPPI CASINO OPERATORS ASSN.: That's right.

M. O'BRIEN: Because this is big business in Mississippi.

MARTIN: Yes, it is. And actually, that's the direct gaming tax to the state of Mississippi. There's another $4.2 million in taxes that go to the local municipalities, and the county as well.

Then you have ancillary taxes of income taxes by employees, (INAUDIBLE) taxes, taxes on food and beverage, retail taxes. So it's probably closer to about $15 million if you really want to add it all up.

M. O'BRIEN: Right.

MARTIN: Per one month.

M. O'BRIEN: And we're not talking -- you know, we're talking about 50,000 people that are out of work.

What's -- you had some significant legislation planned in the wake of this which allows you to move the casinos from the sea to the land. It was a little quirk in the law here. It was designed because people in parts of Mississippi get concerned about the proliferation of gambling.

Now you can build them on land. How soon, as we look at some of the damage, the tremendous damage caused by these casinos, how soon before they'll be back opening and people will be back to work?

MARTIN: Well, actually, we've got one that will probably be opened by mid-December, followed by another one mid-January, and then May, June. Some will be closed as much as 18 months, but we hope to have at least three or four open by next summer.

M. O'BRIEN: The anti-gaming folks are concerned that you have a beach head, quite literally. And that might mean gambling ends up in every little town in Mississippi.

How do you respond to that?

MARTIN: That's not exactly the case. State law says that the casinos have to be located within 800 feet, but it has to be contiguous to the site that they already have, which is on the shoreline. So only where those sites are already legal or have been approved as legal sites can they move north of Highway 90, or north in shore, onshore.

M. O'BRIEN: Are you concerned about all those employees? You've got 50,000 employees. You're not going to get every last one of them back. They've moved on to other things in some respects. Are you going to be able to fill up those casinos with employees pretty quickly do you think?

MARTIN: Yes. We've got actually 17,000 direct employees, but we also have another 50,000 indirect which are distributors, food vendors, et cetera, et cetera. And we've probably lost -- we've placed probably a tenth of those with sister properties, but at this point Imperial Palace, which is the casino which is due to open in mid-December, had two job fairs, had a very good turnout. But it looks like we're probably going to have a bit of a labor shortage come January.

M. O'BRIEN: Well, because there are very few places for people to live. We're standing in a community that lost 80 percent of their homes.

Have you -- have the casinos thought about some sort of housing situation so they can keep the places going?

MARTIN: Yes, we have. And actually, several of the casino hotels are currently housing some of their displaced employees.

The hotel rooms are not actually rentable, but they're livable. So almost all of our properties have some employees in there.

We're also looking at some modular homes that we can bring in and put in certain areas for temporary housing. But it would be temporary probably for the next three years.

M. O'BRIEN: All right. Good luck getting those trailers. We haven't seen many trailers in the wake of this.

Beverly Martin, thank you very much for joining us.

Beverly Martin is with the Casino Operators Association here in the state of Mississippi -- Soledad.

S. O'BRIEN: Miles, thanks.

Coming up this morning, a very crowded house. You're going to meet a family that took in about 50, 50 relatives after Hurricane Katrina. Believe it or not, they're still getting along. We'll get their "Extra Effort" just in a moment. Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

S. O'BRIEN: A look at now at this week's "Extra Effort." And truly, it is a giant effort.

A Pennsylvania couple opened its home to dozens and dozens and dozens and dozens of their relatives, hurricane evacuees from New Orleans. How in the world are they doing it? AMERICAN MORNING's Alina Cho has our report.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

ALINA CHO, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice over): In the kitchen, in the dining room, in the family room, even the garage, Pat and Tim Edwards' four-bedroom home is packed with people.

(on camera): Do you feel like every nook and cranny is taken?

PAT EDWARDS, TOOK IN 50 RELATIVES: It is. It's jam-packed. It's like sardines in a can.

CHO (voice over): Everywhere you look, someone is cooking, eating, doing the laundry, or lining up for the bathroom.

DEBRA MAJOR, PAT'S COUSIN: Oh, yes, you've got to wait in line for the shower. It's almost like you have to take a number, because just when you think you're about to go in, you go get something and somebody else has already beat you to it. So, hey.

CHO: It is in, in a word, crammed.

(on camera): So the bedrooms are up here?

EDWARDS: Yes.

CHO (voice over): Pat and her husband are playing host to nearly 40 relatives, 50 at one point. All lived in St. Bernard Parish, just outside New Orleans. All of them lost everything in Hurricane Katrina.

(on camera): There must have been a lot of sad times.

EDWARDS: There's been a lot of sad times with them. I'll catch some crying off to the side. It's tough.

CHO (voice over): Pat's relatives are now sleeping in bedrooms, the basement, even a pop-up camper in the driveway.

EDWARDS: We don't have any privacy anymore. That's out. That's gone.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No more love life.

CHO: They laugh, but it hasn't been easy. Tim is recovering from open heart surgery. Pat is taking time off work without pay to take care of the family.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Get off my mama.

CHO: So, two months after Katrina, how is everyone getting along?

EVELYN BROOKS, PAT'S SISTER: A lot of times you'll get into a little argument every now and then. You know, bumping into people.

CHO: That's when Pat calls a family meeting.

EDWARDS: I tell them this isn't no time for you guys to fight amongst each other. You know, you're all in this thing together. You've got a lot to be grateful for, because a lot of people died in that stuff and you didn't.

CHO: Family, Pat says, should stick together. Her son gave an old song new lyrics with a very cramped twist.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (SINGING): Here's a story of a lovely lady, Katrina's victims about 53, all of them had homes of their own, now they're here with mother...

CHO: Alina Cho, CNN, Lancaster, Pennsylvania.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

S. O'BRIEN: Oh, you see how they can laugh, huh? I guess half of it -- I guess 99 percent of it is having a little bit of a sense of humor about the predicament and then just trying to muddle your way through it -- Miles.

M. O'BRIEN: It's the only way to get through. The St. Bernard Bunch, we'll call them. That -- I mean, you've been to St. Bernard so many times. You know what they come from. And this whole experience does remind us all what the priorities are, what really makes us happy.

Our homes mean a lot us to, but the people inside those homes who we're with, that's what it's all about.

S. O'BRIEN: And she certainly brings everybody back around when they start to -- you know, when tempers flair a little. And has a family meeting -- I like that -- and says, a lot of people died. Let's remember that.

M. O'BRIEN: Yes.

S. O'BRIEN: All right, Miles. What's happening from Pass Christian this morning?

M. O'BRIEN: Well, we talked to a structural engineer whose house miraculously survived. Well, not a miracle. He's just a good engineer.

In a minute, we're going to check in with somebody who had a house that was just raked clean by Katrina. He happens to be one of the big executives at the (INAUDIBLE) corporation we've been telling you about. We'll check in with him, see what his plans are for the future and for his company.

Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

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