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CNN SATURDAY MORNING NEWS

Latest On The Investigation Into The Suicide Bombings In Jordan; Secretary Of State Condoleezza Rice Makes Trip To Iraq; Latest Developments In Iraq; More Pirate Attacks; Higher Gas Prices Mean More Working From Home

Aired November 12, 2005 - 07:00   ET

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


TONY HARRIS, CNN ANCHOR: The U.S. secretary of state, Condoleezza Rice, is overseas this morning. Her focus is the Middle East and she's got a lot on her plate, that's for sure.
From the CNN Center in Atlanta, this is CNN SATURDAY MORNING.

It's 7:00 a.m. on the East Coast and good morning, everyone.

I'm Tony Harris.

BETTY NGUYEN, CNN ANCHOR: And I'm Betty Nguyen.

Thanks so much for being with us today.

We'll have more on the secretary of state's trip in just a moment.

But first, these stories right now in the news.

U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan is in Baghdad this morning, meeting with top Iraqi and U.N. officials there. Earlier, the U.N.'s top official visited two of the three Jordanian hotels, as you recall, that were bombed on Wednesday. Annan called for a comprehensive world effort against terrorism.

Also, a car bomb has exploded in a busy Baghdad market this morning, killing four Iraqi civilians and wounding about 40 others. That blast happened roughly four hours ago in an eastern Baghdad neighborhood. Now, police believe the bomb was in a parked car and then set off by remote control.

There are new developments in the Jordanian hotel bombings. The government now links the attack to al Qaeda in Iraq. The group headed by Jordanian born militant Abu Musab al-Zarqawi. We'll get a live update in just a minute.

And in Thailand, a 1-year-old boy is the country's latest human patient diagnosed with the deadly strain of bird flu. Thai health authorities say the boy is hospitalized and recovering in an intensive care ward. He is Thailand's 21st case of the human bird flu contraction. Thirteen of those patients have died.

HARRIS: A busy, busy hour. Also ahead in this hour of CNN SATURDAY MORNING, substance or charade in the Senate. Big oil executives testify about high gas prices and their huge profits. But did they give any straight answers?

Also, don't you feel sorry for Terrell Owens, Betty? After all, he stands to lose $2.5 million, and even his football jersey isn't that popular.

And you can't be too careful. Dramatic video of a mother and baby trapped in a subway door. Look at this.

NGUYEN: That is amazing. I saw that a little bit earlier.

HARRIS: Man!

NGUYEN: Can you believe that? She hung on for a while, too.

HARRIS: Yes, yes. It shows that some everyday conveniences may not be very family friendly.

NGUYEN: All right, as we reported, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice is expected to visit Jordan during her Middle East trip and we have some new developments to report this morning in the wake of those deadly hotel bombings in Amman.

Let's go live now to CNN's Jonathan Mann in the Jordanian capital -- Jonathan, what's the latest?

JONATHAN MANN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Betty, authorities here have been conducting an exacting investigation, which is what you would have expected in the wake of the worst terror attacks ever to strike this country. They've gone over the scene of the bombings so closely, the three hotels, that, in fact, they have been pulling out carpets to scrape DNA to identify the bombers.

And, in fact, they have identified three Iraqis, we have been told by a high placed security source, have been identified. They say they know that they entered the country three days before the attacks. They say they know the apartment where they stayed in preparation for the attacks. They say they have their passport information, which would tell them biographical details, but also, presumably, where the men had traveled.

Now, I say men because all three have been identified as men. But there has been an intriguing report, a persistent report, which has been unconfirmed, that started with an al Qaeda statement on the Internet, that one of the suicide bombers was accompanied by his wife, who al Qaeda said wanted to follow him into martyrdom.

It's never been clear that there was a woman involved. We are still trying to follow-up that story. But that same highly placed security official told us, basically made an elliptical remark, what kind of man brings along his wife?

And so three Iraqis have been identified, followers of al Qaeda, and still the intriguing and bizarre possibility that, to my knowledge, the world may have witnessed the first husband and wife suicide bombings here in Amman on Wednesday -- Betty.

NGUYEN: Very interesting developments.

Thank you, Jonathan Mann there in the capital, the Jordanian capital -- Tony.

HARRIS: And fresh from a surprise visit to Iraq, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice is pressing on with her Middle East trip and she's now taking aim at Syria's human rights record. Rice's trip is taking her to Iraq, Bahrain, Saudi Arabia and Israel. And she's also expected to make a previously unscheduled stop in Jordan in the wake of this week's terror attacks in Amman.

CNN's Baghdad bureau chief, Kevin Flower, has more on Rice's trip from the Iraqi capital -- and, Kevin, I see U.N. Secretary Kofi Annan has made a surprise visit to Iraq, as well.

KEVIN FLOWER, CNN BAGHDAD BUREAU CHIEF: That's right, Tony.

Just the latest in a series of surprise visits here. Kofi Annan, the U.N. secretary general, arrived this morning. This fresh after discussions in Amman, Jordan with officials there about Wednesday's terror attacks.

Now, as I said, this is one of a series of high profile trips. Earlier in the week, British Foreign Minister Jack Straw was here and Condoleezza Rice's trip, of course, surprise trip yesterday.

Now, all three have been emphasizing the need for the continuation of the political process here in Iraq, pushing Iraqis to get it together, to stay on track before the scheduled December 15th elections.

But while they've been stressing the need for reconciliation here, the remaining problem is the daily drumbeat of violence. Just this morning, again, another car bomb here in Baghdad, this one striking in the mainly Shia neighborhood here, killing four women and wounding 40 others.

Now, the continuation of the violence here just underscores the difficulties in keeping the political process on track. And this will be a topic of discussion for Condoleezza Rice as she meets with leaders in Bahrain today, regional leaders, to talk about efforts to promote democracy in the region -- Tony.

HARRIS: CNN's Kevin Flower for us in Baghdad.

Kevin, thank you.

Another top Bush official is on the move. Attorney General Alberto Gonzales leaves today for a week long trip to Australia and Asia to spotlight the war on terror. He'll meet with top anti- terrorism officials in Australia, Indonesia, Malaysia and China. They're expected to focus on information sharing and joint law enforcement efforts.

NGUYEN: "Stories Across America" now.

In Wisconsin, a man recently freed from jail after serving 18 years on a wrongful rape conviction could now face murder charges. Police say human remains were found on his property and prosecutors believe those remains are that of a 25-year-old missing woman who was last seen with the man two weeks ago. He claims, though, that he's being set up.

Now to Arlington, Texas. Listen to this. A 66-year-old grandmother helps cops catch a fleeing suspect by shooting him in the leg. That's right. Police say they were chasing a man for speeding when he jumped out of his vehicle and broke into Susan Buxton's home. She shot at the intruder, who fled and was caught three hours later by police. Don't mess with that grandma.

Well, interstate motorists traveling south of Seattle should be on the lookout for this -- rock slides. Yes, can you imagine that hitting your car? They have closed parts of Interstate 90 since last Sunday. The highway has partially reopened, but authorities warn of possible traffic jams. There is a makeshift bypass with one land going each way and Washington has seen a series of rock slides this year, one which killed three people.

And caught on tape in Los Angeles, look at this, a fender bender involving Paris Hilton and her boyfriend. Now, the cops are investigating whether officers allowed someone to drive under the influence. When officers later caught up with the car, witnesses say officers allowed that couple to leave, but it is unknown who was behind the wheel and in what condition.

Well, just outside of Charlotte, North Carolina, you want to take a good look, because it's about to change.

HARRIS: Hey, did it happen?

NGUYEN: There it is!

HARRIS: Hey, it happened!

NGUYEN: New video just in. A former industrial plant falls to the ground. Those are always just so interesting to watch, aren't they, Tony?

HARRIS: Well, we always get them on the weekends.

NGUYEN: We sure do.

HARRIS: I mean it doesn't happen during the week, does it?

NGUYEN: No.

HARRIS: Well, they've got to clear the streets and everything else.

NGUYEN: Yes. I mean the streets around this area are going to be blocked off.

HARRIS: Erect a perimeter.

NGUYEN: And you're going to have this dust cloud and this debris for a long time.

HARRIS: Yes, that's true.

NGUYEN: As you see right there, just moments ago crews did push the button to demolish the former Pillowtext building. The plant was built in 1962, Tony. And the North Carolina research campus will be built on the site in the next few years. But it obviously is going to take some time for all that dust to settle.

And this is one interesting thing about it. The building was seven stories high.

HARRIS: Right.

NGUYEN: And it's expected to created debris 15 to 30 feet tall.

HARRIS: Well, these are attractions, you know, spectator attractions. So folks line up early in the morning so that they can watch this.

NGUYEN: So that they can watch it. I'd rather watch it on TV, to tell you the truth.

HARRIS: Yes, exactly.

Well, if your week was more about deadlines than headlines, we're here to help.

Let's look at some of the stories you may have missed this week.

Wednesday, a Texas appeals court cleared the way for the possibility of a new trial for Andrea Yates. You may remember she was convicted in the drowning deaths of three of her five children back in 2001. The court upheld a lower court ruling that threw out the murder convictions because of erroneous testimony.

Thursday, the FDA issued a warning about the Ortho Evra contraceptive patch. New research shows women who use it are being exposed to about 60 percent more estrogen than with the typical birth control pill. That could put them at a higher risk for blood clots.

And on Friday, reports that one of Saddam Hussein's former top lieutenants has died. Izzat Ibrahim al Duri was the most senior member of the former Iraqi regime still at large. He was number six, king of clubs, on the U.S. military's list of most wanted Iraqis. No word on a specific cause of death, but Al Duri had reportedly been in poor health for years.

And tomorrow we will "Fast Forward" to the week ahead and tell you which stories will grab the spotlight. NGUYEN: But right now we do want to hear from u. Did you watch oil industry executives as they testified before Senate panels this week? Well, they defended their record profits saying "it's just business, profits go up and down."

But are you buying what they're selling, especially considering that you've been paying more all year long for gas and other energy products?

Which brings us to our question today. Here it is. What, if anything, did you learn from the oil executives hearing on the Hill this week?

Send us your thoughts, weekends@cnn.com. We'll read your replies threat the morning.

And this music is very interesting.

HARRIS: Well, it's appropriate.

NGUYEN: Yes, it is.

Tell us about it, Tony.

HARRIS: Tower of Power, Tower of Power, "There Is...

(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED SINGER, TOWER OF POWER: There's only so much oil in the ground.

(END AUDIO CLIP)

HARRIS: There's only so much oil in the ground, OK?

NGUYEN: OK.

HARRIS: So, you know, it ties into the e-mail question, so I said why not?

NGUYEN: Right. Hey, we're hip. We are hip on this show.

HARRIS: Yes.

NGUYEN: And Tony's showing you a little bit of what he knows about music.

You know so -- I mean I'm always impressed by how much you know about music.

HARRIS: You know what you led me into there?

NGUYEN: What?

HARRIS: Another song from Tower of Power, "What Is Hip?"

NGUYEN: What is hip? That would be Tony Harris.

HARRIS: Thank you very much.

Still ahead, remember just last week, the cruise ship pirate story we told you about? Well, it looks like they're at it again. A mid-ocean gun battle.

Wow!

Still to come on CNN SATURDAY MORNING.

NGUYEN: Look at that!

HARRIS: Plus -- yes, yes. Pictures and hopefully we'll talk to someone close to the scene in Somalia.

Plus, take a look at this. A baby carriage trapped in a moving subway train's door. How terrifying is that? We'll show you exactly what happened.

NGUYEN: And what does ousted football star Terrell Owens have in common with this weird looking guy? Oh, my, is that Dennis Rodman?

HARRIS: It's Halloween all over again.

NGUYEN: Yes. You have to stick around for this one, folks -- good morning, Bonnie.

BONNIE SCHNEIDER, CNN METEOROLOGIST: Good morning.

That's a little scary, I agree.

(WEATHER REPORT)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TIM ZAGAT: The three most popular attractions in New York City were the American Museum of Natural History, the Bronx Zoo and the Metropolitan Museum of Art. They were selected based on 11,000 surveyors.

The attractions at the American Museum of Natural History are really myriad. Whether you're interested in Indians or wild animals from every continent in the world, they're all there.

The Bronx Zoo has over 4,000 animals of almost every type you can imagine.

The Met is one of the truly great art museums of the world and has over two million pieces in its collection.

They are all institutions that have appeal to pretty much anybody.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

HARRIS: Here's one for you. If dogs can do it, why not cats? Crime fighting felines. That story when we go global.

NGUYEN: That's if you can corral them.

HARRIS: Yes.

Stick around for that one.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

NGUYEN: All right, here's our top stories today.

In Bahrain, Condoleezza Rice speaks out at a meeting of Syrian and other Arab ministers. The secretary of state citizens political repression in Syria and calls for the release of political prisoners there. Rice also is making time on her Mideast tour to make a side step to Jordan. And you recall, suicide bombings at three hotels in Amman killed 57 people on Wednesday.

Now, we want to take you to Thailand, where a 1-year-old boy in Bangkok has been diagnosed with the deadly H5N1 strain of the bird flu virus. He is the 21st human case of bird flu diagnosed in Thailand so far.

HARRIS: We're talking to Bonnie Schneider this morning -- it's a pretty quiet weather map.

NGUYEN: OK...

HARRIS: Maybe some snow out West.

NGUYEN: ... now that you've said it, things are about to change.

HARRIS: Pretty quiet.

NGUYEN: Bonnie, get ready.

HARRIS: Yes, what about it?

SCHNEIDER: It's quiet now, Tony.

NGUYEN: Right.

HARRIS: Right, right.

SCHNEIDER: But you know later during the day, those storms pop up.

(WEATHER REPORT)

HARRIS: 7:18, 7:19 in the morning.

Glad you're with us.

Still to come, the questionable actions of disgruntled football player Terrell Owens have stolen headlines from action on the field and in the process T.O. has hurt his chances of making millions outside of the game. Or has he?

NGUYEN: We'll see if it works in his favor.

Also, remember this one time world class bad boy, speaking of? If John McEnroe can capitalize on a negative image, what about Owens? One of those questions. And look who's going to be tracking it -- what is that in your hand?

RICK HORROW, CNN SPORTS BUSINESS ANALYST: I'll tell u. Just go back. That's a tease. I'll tell you what it is.

NGUYEN: All right. Looking forward to it, I think.

HARRIS: Oh, boy.

NGUYEN: I always get worried when Rick comes up. Rick's going to take us...

HARRIS: It's something out of the laundry.

NGUYEN: Yes -- "Beyond The Game" right after this.

HORROW: I'll tell you what it is.

NGUYEN: All right.

HARRIS: Thanks.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO TAPE)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TERRELL OWENS: To my head coach, Andy Reid, I owe you an apology. You and I were in a tough spot this year.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

HARRIS (voice-over): Football superstar Terrell Owens, now labeled a spoiled, greedy outcast, apologizes to the Philadelphia Eagles for some unflattering comments. But it's way too little way too late to keep him on the team.

T.O. stands to lose at least $2.5 million in bonuses and salary and he has been told his football season is over.

Is one of the game's most gifted players now retail poison to corporate America? That topic this morning as we take you "Beyond The Game."

(END VIDEO TAPE)

HARRIS: Here's the thing, you could use the Terrell Owens story as a textbook example of how to derail a promising career in professional sports. Well, here's the question -- has corporate America, by and large, reached its T.O. tipping point?

Let's bring in CNN business sports analyst Rick Horrow live from West Palm Beach, Florida for more -- Rick, good morning, sir.

What is it that you have in your hand?

What are we doing with this prop here?

HORROW: Yes, you were a little worried about this, weren't you?

HARRIS: Yes. Yes. Exactly.

HORROW: Hey, let me tell you what it is. It is a muzzle. It's the closest thing that I could find to a muzzle. And that's the answer to T.O.'s career.

HARRIS: Got you.

HORROW: By the way, first, you ought to know that all of the trees in western Washington have been cut down this week to make print available for all the stuff about T.O. this week.

HARRIS: Yes.

HORROW: And, the bottom line is he had a $49 million contract, by the way, and he's going to lose maybe $15 million or $20 million at the back end because he didn't use this.

HARRIS: Well, did he have much corporate support? That's the stuff on the field and that's the stuff in his contract.

But did he have much corporate support anyway going into this?

HORROW: Well, you know he didn't have it going in because corporate America loves the NFL, but may not have liked him that much. And as he didn't report to camp this year, he plummeted from a top 10 jersey sale, according to nflshop.com, to nowhere near that. He was seventh going into the beginning of the season.

Then you see Peyton Manning with his DirecTV commercials. He's making $11 million. Tom Brady does this cute commercial with MasterCard. He's at $9 million. Michael Vicks posters and pictures are all over the buildings in downtown Atlanta. Bret Favre is part of the New Orleans relief effort. And then you've got T.O.

By the way, a New Jersey retailer this year has now announced a dispose of Terrell Owens bobble head contest, the most creative way to burn those bobble heads gets a prize. That's where he is now.

HARRIS: All right, hey, you know what? Let's throw that full screen up again, Deirdre, so we can take a look at the top selling NFL jerseys. And you were just mentioning that T.O. is not even in the top 10? His jersey is not even in the top 10?

HORROW: Hey, throw that up there a few times. You ain't going to see it. HARRIS: Right.

HORROW: Because even corporate America doesn't like lack of dependability and selfishness. They may like other features. And if a guy, by the way, catches a number of touchdown passes, that gets you back in the ball game, but not guaranteed.

HARRIS: Ah!

HORROW: By the way, Kobe Bryant, as you may have seen, just announced a new deal with Nike. So if you lead the league in scoring in the NBA for a month or two, they do give you that second chance.

HARRIS: OK, here's the thing, we've seen a number of cases, Rick, where bad boys can turn that image into a lot of dollars.

Do you think that this is remotely possible for T.O.?

HORROW: Yes, listen very carefully, because it's a case study about your career down the road, I would think...

HARRIS: OK.

HORROW: ... by the way. The NFL loves corporate America, vice- versa. It's $2.1 billion in advertising every single year. Rodman, for example, Dennis Rodman...

HARRIS: Dennis Rodman.

HORROW: ... he's the NBA leader in rebounds, for example. John McEnroe, a tennis icon and won Majors.

The point is that corporate America does give you a second chance. But you've got to be aggressive and outspoken, not opinionated and selfish. And corporate America has new deals that are shorter, smaller and easier to terminate. And with Terrell, absent this, he's one of them.

HARRIS: Very quickly, you want to get to your fair ball?

HORROW: Yes, I do. It's the NFL, by the way, a $5 billion business and lest we think it's not surviving and thriving, the largest retail good, by the way, over the Halloween weekend of all was a 44-inch NFL lighted up Halloween stick with the logo of your team.

HARRIS: My goodness.

HORROW: That tells you a little bit about the NFL.

HARRIS: Hey, look, we're out of time.

Muzzle yourself, OK?

HORROW: All right, man, I hear you.

HARRIS: See you next week. NGUYEN: Just for you. I'm going to send this to you, OK, pal?

HARRIS: All right.

Appreciate it.

I've got to tell you something, we are not going to let the Terrell Owens story die, not by a long shot. 9:00 a.m. Eastern I'll chat with Graham Bensinger, the 19-year-old broadcaster who landed the interview that ultimately sort of led to the Eagles' clipping T.O.'s wings. It's an impressive story, backed by an equally impressive career in broadcasting that started when Bensinger was in the eighth grade. And that's in the 9:00 a.m. hour.

NGUYEN: All right, looking forward to that.

But I don't think Rick is going to be muzzling himself any time soon. I just don't think it's going to happen, Tony. But we can always hope.

OK, we are going to talk more about pirates attacking ships in the Indian Ocean. That story is coming up.

Plus, look at this. All right, we're going to put it up. We're putting it up. What you're going to see right there is a mother, her baby and a stroller being dragged by a subway train. It is a remarkable rescue story. That's just ahead.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

NGUYEN: Well, you're probably getting a surprise instead of a shock when you see gas prices this weekend. It's a little good news. But tempers could still flare when oil executives go to Capitol Hill.

We want to welcome you back, everybody, on this Saturday morning.

I'm Betty Nguyen.

HARRIS: And I'm Tony Harris.

That story in a minute.

First, a look at the morning headlines.

Now in the news, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice talks about the difficulty of achieving democracy. She's attending the Forum of the Future in Bahrain. The Forum brings together 36 regional and industrialized countries to promote democracy, development and accountable government in the Middle East.

U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan is in Baghdad today. On his agenda is a meeting with Iraqi Prime Minister Ibrahim al-Jaafari and other members of the Iraqi government. Annan says the United Nations is committed to working with the Iraqi government and hopes the country's new political process will help reconcile the Iraqi society. French rioters find new targets in a 16th consecutive night of civil disobedience. Besides more than 500 vehicles burned overnight, French authorities say a mosque in southern France was hit with two gasoline bombs. No one was hurt. Damage was minimal.

NGUYEN: As we just mentioned, Condoleezza Rice is on a 10-day trip to the Middle East and Asia. And besides a stop in Bahrain today, the secretary of state will also visit Saudi Arabia, Israel, the West Bank and Jordan.

And, as Tom Foreman reports, this high profile trip doesn't hurt her possible future in politics.

(BEGIN VIDEO TAPE)

TOM FOREMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Just in time for Veterans Day, a bright light in the Republican blues -- Condoleezza Rice is stepping out. Well, it's not all that, but the secretary of state was front and center for the White House in her surprise visit to Iraq.

CONDOLEEZZA RICE, SECRETARY OF STATE: I think if we just recognize how important it is that freedom continue to spread, then we will be able to sustain our effort, because we know that nothing of value is ever won without sacrifice.

FOREMAN: The rise of Rice could be good news for President Bush, even as his own support crumbles. A new A.P. poll says almost six in 10 Americans don't think the president is honest. Secretary Rice, however, has largely kept clear of the CIA leak scandal, the hurricane fallout and troubles of the war. So instead of having to defend herself on this visit, she was attacking suspected terrorist leader Abu Musab al-Zarqawi.

RICE: What Zarqawi and his kind are most afraid of is that democrat -- democratic forces will take hold in Iraq.

FOREMAN: In "Time," Rice is among the nation's most ambitious women. In "Glamour," there she is between Paris and Angelina. And in "Newsweek,"" other women are important because they are shown talking to Condi. The result? Fifty-nine percent of Americans have a favorable opinion of Rice. That's higher than the vice president, Dick Cheney; higher than Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld; and much higher than presidential adviser Karl Rove.

Bill Schneider is CNN's political analyst.

WILLIAM SCHNEIDER, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: They like her. They really like her. And, at this point, the president needs anything he can get from anyone with a high approval rating.

FOREMAN (on camera): On the Web, the efforts to make Rice run for president in 2008 are already well underway. They've already picked out an opponent and they've whipped out a snappy theme song.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Condoleezza will lead us, brother. FOREMAN (voice-over): The rumble for Rice is still relatively low. You can barely hear it from this soldier, but it's there.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You're my inspiration.

FOREMAN: "You're my inspiration," she said. And amid the administration's many worries, that's something Secretary Rice and the White House can run with.

Tom Foreman, CNN, Washington.

(END VIDEO TAPE)

NGUYEN: All right, time now to check on more stories making news all around the globe today.

HARRIS: Pirates continue to plague the waters off the coast of Somalia. We want to finger these pirates -- ha, ha, pirates -- but this is...

NGUYEN: This is serious business.

HARRIS: ... serious business.

NGUYEN: Yes.

HARRIS: They have attempted to seize even more ships.

Shanon Cook has more on that from our International Desk this morning -- Shanon.

NGUYEN: Good morning, Shanon.

SHANON COOK, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Thank you, Tony and Betty.

Good morning to you, too.

As you say, more pirate attacks off the coast of Somalia. You may remember last week, we learned that modern day pirates used rocket propelled grenades to attack a vacation cruise liner. Well, we're now being told that there have been four additional pirate attacks on ships in the past week. And the International Maritime Bureau says that there's a mother ship that appears to be sort of at the center of these attacks.

This mother ship launches speedboats that prowl the waters of the Indian Ocean looking for targets. And while most apprehended vessels do manage to escape, the IMB says that seven ships and their crews are now being held captive by pirates.

Now, some shipping companies are calling on the U.N. to address this growing threat. Obviously it's a problem that's just getting worse.

Now, let's go over to the African nation of Liberia, not literally, of course. A 67-year-old grandmother is poised to become Africa's first female president. She is Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf. She's known as the iron lady for her tough stances on political issues. She's a Harvard graduate, by the way, and with nearly 100 percent of the vote counted in Liberia's election, she has a huge lead. It looks like she's going to be elected.

Her main rival, a former soccer star named George Weah, is alleging fraud. His supporters took to the streets of the capital on Friday in angry protests. And today he's demanding a rerun of the election from last week.

Now, Tony, we've all heard that police use canines to fight crime, right?

HARRIS: For years. For years, yes.

COOK: Right. Well, in India at this police station, they're actually using felines to help them with this dangerous...

NGUYEN: I wonder how that works?

COOK: ... with this dangerous situation.

HARRIS: Wow!

COOK: Quite unusual. Cats are guarding the station to keep snakes and other poisonous reptiles away from local police.

NGUYEN: Oh, I see.

COOK: Apparently the station is kind of an old bungalow. It's a little bit run down and it's a haven for snakes, which just sneak in from the surrounding forest.

HARRIS: Well, Shanon, what are we talking about here? are we talking about dangerous snakes? Poisonous snakes? What?

COOK: Well, we are. In fact, it's quite a serious problem because three people have apparently already been killed from being bitten by these reptiles, a police officer, a cleaner and the daughter of a police officer all died from being bitten.

HARRIS: Wow!

COOK: So the police have adopted nine kittens and they're actually training these kittens to go after the snakes and catch them. I didn't know that snakes -- that cats could actually be trained to do that.

HARRIS: Yes.

COOK: But these are obviously some pretty tough kitties.

NGUYEN: Oh, yes.

HARRIS: Yes. It's tough to -- NGUYEN: Crime fighting kitties, apparently. COOK: Crime fighting, indeed. Unarmed, though.

NGUYEN: Yes.

COOK: Unarmed kitties.

HARRIS: Tough to fit them for a flak jacket.

COOK: Tony.

HARRIS: All right. It's early.

Shanon, thank you.

COOK: Thanks, guys.

NGUYEN: All right, there is good news at the gasoline pumps. You might know this already. We're saving enough money at the gas pump, maybe, just maybe, Tony, to buy an extra cup of coffee. And according to the Lindbergh Survey this week, gas prices dropped to an average of $2.45 a gallon.

Now, oil executives are also getting some huge profits this year. ExxonMobil and Shell up 50 percent. That's 5-0, folks. ConocoPhillips up 42 percent.

Now, three oil industry CEOs went before a congressional panel this week to answer questions about high prices and record profits. Senator Barbara Boxer had some tough words for them.

Take a listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. BARBARA BOXER (D-CF), FOREIGN RELATIONS COMMITTEE: Gentlemen, to all of you, I hope I can give you a bit of a reality check. Working people struggle with high gas prices and your sacrifice, gentlemen, appears to be nothing.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

NGUYEN: All right, at that time, the oil executives could not comment, but time was called.

So what happens now?

Let's bring in Roben Farzad from "Business Week."

He's live in New York this morning.

It got a little heated there. And, of course, you know, we're talking about money, people paying big bucks at the oil pump.

ROBEN FARZAD, "BUSINESS WEEK": Right.

NGUYEN: Let's start with what these CEOs had to say. We heard what Boxer had to say.

I want you to take a listen to some of the top CEOs and what they had to say in reaction to it.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED OIL INDUSTRY EXECUTIVE: We do not see this as a windfall.

UNIDENTIFIED OIL INDUSTRY EXECUTIVE: As profits rise, so do our tax payments. Shell's global tax payments are up 55 percent this year, totaling more than $14 billion.

LEE RAYMOND, CEO, EXXON MOBIL CORP.: But when you look at our earnings per dollar of revenue, a true apples to apples comparison, we are in line with the average of all U.S. industry.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

NGUYEN: So the you have it.

My question to you is are oil companies really taking advantage of consumers or are they really just being grilled for doing what they should be doing, and that's making a profit? Because that's what businesses are in business to do, make a profit.

FARZAD: Sure.

Well, Betty, I mean this is really a dog and pony show more than anything else. You have senators and congressmen really looking ahead to the election next year and this -- oil companies and oil executives rank right down there with head lice in terms of popularity.

NGUYEN: Wow!

FARZAD: So they have to be, I mean, let's cut to the chase. They have to be...

NGUYEN: Yes, let's just get real, shall we?

FARZAD: Look, they have to look like they're doing something in a situation where they're really powerless to control the vagaries of international supply and demand dynamics, refinery capacity in the near term. This is not a situation where you can just kind of wave your magic wand from Capitol Hill and make prices at the pump fall.

But you have to look like you're accountable to your constituents, who are sending in faxes and e-mails at a rapid pace.

NGUYEN: So is it all smoke and mirrors? Or is anything truly being done with these hearings?

FARZAD: What's being done is putting the screws to these guys. I mean you have, on one extreme, Senate Democrats and a handful of Republicans proposing a windfall tax. NGUYEN: Right.

FARZAD: If oil prices remain above $40 a barrel, and they're significantly above $40 a barrel now, we're going to them at 50 percent. I just laugh because...

NGUYEN: So taxing a company for making money?

FARZAD: I mean, it's un-American. I'm not going to read a diatribe on that or anything. But it's clearly something that they know will never happen. But the ulterior motive there is to shame them and maybe get them to contribute to this low income home energy assistance program. That's the federal program that helps poor people with their heating bills over the winter. And the Senate, just a short while ago, voted to not increase funding for that. There's not enough money in the coffers and so they want a handout from the oil companies.

NGUYEN: Oh, well, we'll see if that happens.

You know, something that we also have been watching, every time we go to the pump, lately, though, I have to tell you, it looks like those prices are coming down.

So my question to you is, is that one of those short-term things? Because I was reading that possibly by next year, we could see gas up to $5 a gallon?

FARZAD: You never know what will happen. You know, some of this is tied to the actual stuff that comes out of the ground. And OPEC controls much of that. We're competing with China, with India, some emerging markets who are very thirsty.

But we've also had our own problem on the home front in terms of refinery capacity. Hurricanes Rita, some of the other storms -- I mean we saw some of this last year -- really knocked out the refineries. And if you can't distill this stuff, if you can't refine it, then it's useless to you at the pump. And that's where the bottleneck has been. And if we can't get more refineries online and can't churn out more of the high grade unlead, that's where we're in trouble.

NGUYEN: Yes, it seems like the days of $1.50 gas are long gone, because any time it gets around $2.50, $2, we're excited. We're thinking hey, we got a deal out there.

FARZAD: Yes. And I mean that's where there's a dangerous precedent here. OPEC used to worry when oil would breach $30, $40 a barrel. Now, we have -- this economy has actually survived $50, $60, even $70 oil and we've crossed certain taboos. So when prices fall, they're going to say well, the American consumer can handle it, let's cut production, potentially.

NGUYEN: Right.

I hear you. All right, Roben Farzad, "Business Week," thank you.

FARZAD: Thank you, Betty.

NGUYEN: Tony?

HARRIS: We ought to strike up the music is what we ought to do.

NGUYEN: Yes, that oil in the ground music?

HARRIS: There's only so much oil in the ground.

NGUYEN: There's only so much -- here we go.

(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED SINGER, TOWER OF POWER: There's only so much oil in the ground.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

HARRIS: There you go. You've got to be mindful of this.

NGUYEN: Yes.

HARRIS: As we have these discussions this week, from here until whenever...

NGUYEN: Right. It's going to be a long time.

HARRIS: Keep in mind there's only so much oil in the ground.

NGUYEN: This should be the theme song, then.

HARRIS: That's it.

NGUYEN: We'll have to play it every time.

HARRIS: Here's a question. We want to get your thoughts. Our e-mail question this morning. What, if anything, did you learn from the oil executives hearing on the Hill this week?

E-mail us at weekends@cnn.com and we'll read your replies all morning long.

Fabulous song.

Still ahead, approval ratings for President Bush are dismal at best. When we come back, some of your suggestions on what he needs to do to regain your trust, comments you sent to the cnn.com desk.

NGUYEN: Plus, a harrowing experience, hard to imagine. And it is caught on tape. A mother and her child -- this is the wrong video. Those were the pirates that we were showing right there. A totally different story. We're going to tell you about those pirates on the high seas. But a mother and her baby stroller caught in a subway. It's moving, they can't get out. We'll tell you what happened. Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

HARRIS: We are tracking the globe-trotting Condoleezza Rice for you this morning as she travels to the Middle East. She is in Bahrain right now. A live report from the region at the top of the hour.

We'll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

HARRIS: The White House has been facing an array of trouble, from the rising cost of gas to the war in Iraq, and former aide Lewis "Scooter" Libby's indictment.

How can President Bush turn his presidency around?

Veronica De La Cruz of the Dot-Com Desk joins us now with some answers from the folks (UNINTELLIGIBLE)?

VERONICA DE LA CRUZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes. Well, yes, and it's no secret, President Bush is seeing his lowest approval ratings, right?

HARRIS: Yes.

DE LA CRUZ: And it is just one year into his second term. So, we've been asking you to write in with advice on what he can do to turn it around.

And here's what some of you said.

(BEGIN VIDEO TAPE)

DE LA CRUZ: Drew in Illinois says: "Harry Truman provides the best advice with the words 'the buck stops here.' If this administration would take responsibility for its wrongdoings, it would go a long way toward restoring the integrity of our g."

Judith in Pennsylvania thinks the president should clean house and fire Karl Rove.

Martha in Texas believes that pulling our service people out of Iraq would help.

(END VIDEO TAPE)

DE LA CRUZ: And to read more of these responses, you can log onto cnn.com/politics.

But you guys, not everybody was as critical. Some people were really supportive. This guy Matt in Michigan saying: "Mr. President, your policies are right. I simply don't hear them explained well enough or often enough."

So a lot of different responses.

HARRIS: Free advice everywhere from (UNINTELLIGIBLE).

NGUYEN: Yes.

DE LA CRUZ: Yes, exactly.

HARRIS: OK?

Veronica, thanks.

NGUYEN: Sometimes a little too much free advice.

HARRIS: Yes.

NGUYEN: But, all right, thank you, Veronica.

Hey, you'll want to stick around for this next story. Here is the video. Look at it. A frantic rescue of a mother and child being dragged by a moving train and it's all caught on tape, as you see right there. We're going to show you more of these dramatic pictures.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

HARRIS: Before we show you this next story -- well, we'll tell you first, everything takes out OK. But take note -- as you head out to do errands today, the pictures of a mother struggling to free her child's stroller from an automated train doors. A grim warning that many things in this world are not family friendly.

CNN's Sohn Jie-Ae picks up the story in Seoul, South Korea.

(BEGIN VIDEO TAPE)

SOHN JIE-AE, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): It was her wedding anniversary and Lee Chang-hee and her one-and-a-half-year-old son were on their way to meet Lee's husband for lunch. She was in the subway station near her home, which she normally used. A surveillance camera captures what happened next.

While Lee tried to get the baby onto the train, the doors closed, trapping the baby's stroller. The train started moving. Lee desperately fought to free her son. A nearby woman noticed Lee's struggle. Somehow, the two women unbuckle the safety belt that locked the baby into the stroller.

LEE CHANG-HEE, MOTHER (THROUGH TRANSLATOR): I was being dragged. I was afraid my baby would get hurt, so I untied the belt. At the same time, I was being dragged. I tried to get up, but my jacket was caught between the doors.

JIE-AE: Lee managed to toss the baby away from the danger, and a third passenger picked him up. But now Lee could not free herself. CHANG-HEE (THROUGH TRANSLATOR): As I was getting dragged and as the subway was heading toward the dark tunnel, I thought I am going to die.

JIE-AE: Luckily the train stopped, after dragging Lee for about 30 yards. Luckily, the conductor happened to look out and see what was going on.

(on camera): Subway officials say the near tragedy in this station was caused by faulty sensors on the doors and they blame the train conductor for not making sure everyone was safely on board before he left the station.

(voice-over): The crumpled baby stroller is a stark reminder of just how terrible this day could have been. But the baby suffered no injuries and Lee Chang-hee's minor scrapes will heal soon. But her memories of this wedding anniversary will last a long, long time.

Sohn Jie-Ae, CNN, Seoul.

(END VIDEO TAPE)

NGUYEN: That's really scary. I know that especially in airports when you're trying to get on those little trams and get to the baggage claim area, those doors shut like that.

HARRIS: Oh, yes, yes.

NGUYEN: And if you're in the way, you're stuck.

HARRIS: And we asked a question about sensors, whether there are sensors or something on these doors?

NGUYEN: Yes, they said it wasn't working.

HARRIS: It just wasn't working?

NGUYEN: They didn't work properly. Yes. And they blamed the conductor, as well, for not looking and making sure everyone was on board.

HARRIS: Yes. It turned out OK, though.

NGUYEN: Well, that's the good news here.

But, oh, what a frightening situation.

HARRIS: Yes.

NGUYEN: All right, we're going to talk about some weather this morning. Wet and cold on one coast, sunshine for the other, of course.

Meteorologist Bonnie Schneider tells you which one is happening where next. HARRIS: Then, at the top of the hour, a live report on the new rash of pirate attacks -- have you heard about these -- in the Indian Ocean, five more since we broke the story for you last weekend.

We'll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SCHNEIDER: Good morning, everyone.

I'm meteorologist Bonnie Schneider in the CNN Weather Center.

(WEATHER REPORT)

HARRIS: We want to go to our e-mail question of the morning.

NGUYEN: Can we roll down music?

HARRIS: Yes, yes, yes.

(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED SINGER, TOWER OF POWER: There's only so much oil in the ground.

(END AUDIO CLIP)

HARRIS: There's only so much oil in the ground.

NGUYEN: Only so much oil in the ground.

HARRIS: You know what I mean? That's a point. Hearings this week, as you know, on Capitol Hill. What, if anything, did you learn from the oil executives hearings on the Hill this week?

Our first e-mail is from Bruce, who writes: "Funny that Congress would have sitting in front of them the same people that contributed to their campaigns. It was a joke and an insult to the people they represent."

NGUYEN: Well, Johnny from Vero Beach, Florida says: "I thought the execs were treated with kid gloves. What happened to the drilling questions Capitol Hill is so famous for? It sounded more like an internal investigation."

HARRIS: And Betty, this from Jack D. from Virginia, who writes: "I learned two things. Congress is in the pocket of the oil industry. Executives did not even have to testify under oath." I didn't notice that. "I also learned that the Congress failed to ask if these companies' pension funds were funded. Taxpayer bailouts?"

Thank you, all.

Thank you very much for the e-mails.

The question once again, what, if anything, did you learn from the oil executives' hearings on the Hill this week?

Reminded again of the song, Tower of Power, "Only So Much Oil In The Ground."

Think about it as you're driving around downtown today and going about your errands on this Saturday (UNINTELLIGIBLE).

NGUYEN: You may not be driving far if you start thinking about it too hard.

HARRIS: Right.

NGUYEN: All right, the next hour of CNN SATURDAY MORNING begins right now.

Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice attended the Forum of the Future in Bahrain today. Now, the Forum promotes democracy, development and accountable government in the Middle East. At some point during her travels, Rice is expected to visit Jordan.

French officials have banned public gatherings through the weekend. Now, this after police intercepted Internet and mobile phone text messages allegedly suggesting more rioting. Nearly 3,000 officers are on high alert. Last night marked 16 nights of violence in Paris and surrounding areas. Authorities say rioters are upset about unemployment, poverty, and discrimination in working-class suburbs.

Well, it appears Liberia's Iron Lady wins a historic battle for the office of president. It would make her the first woman in African history to do so, with 97 percent of the run-off vote. Sixty-six- year-old Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf defeated her opponent, soccer star George Weah. He is demanding, though, an investigation, claiming the results were rigged.

Welcome, CNN Center. This is CNN SATURDAY MORNING. It is November 12, 8:00 a.m. here at CNN headquarters in Atlanta, 4:00, a very early 4:00 -- Well, actually, this is in the afternoon in Somalia...

HARRIS: In Somalia.

NGUYEN: ... but out on the West Coast, it's an early 5:00 there.

Good morning, everybody watching, I'm Betty Nguyen.

HARRIS: And I'm Tony Harris.

We mentioned Somalia because it's a story we're following.

NGUYEN: It is.

HARRIS: The pirates, at it again. The story we broke last week about the pirates taking on the Seabourn ...

NGUYEN: Right. HARRIS: ... cruise ship "Spirit." Five additional attacks since that happened this week. So we're going to get some more additional information on the attacks going on now in the Indian Ocean, and we'll bring that to you in just a little bit.

NGUYEN: Yes. And we've learned that a lot of those attacks have been happening. I mean, this is nothing...

HARRIS: It's -- that's right.

NGUYEN: ... that's new there, unfortunately.

HARRIS: Thirty-two since March.

NGUYEN: Goodness.

All right, here are some new developments in the terror bombings in Jordan.

Just over an hour ago, Jordan's deputy prime minister confirmed Al Qaeda in Iraq is responsible for blasts at three Amman hotels. Now, high-ranking officials tell CNN reporters in Amman that the three bombings were all Iraqi men, and there is no indication that a woman was among them. Al Qaeda claims, though, four Iraqis, including a husband and wife, carried out the attacks at Amman's Grand Hyatt, Radisson, and Days Inn Hotels.

The death toll from the bombings is now at 57.

Al Qaeda's claim of responsibility has angered many in Jordan, many who once may have been supportive. In Jordan's capital, the bombings sparked furious protests against al Qaeda's Iraqi leader, Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, who was born in Jordan, by the way.

CNN senior international correspondent Nic Robertson traveled to Zarqawi's home town and finds out not everyone is mad at their native son.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

NIC ROBERTSON, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice- over): In Zarqa, the town Abu Musab al-Zarqawi took his name from, the Friday call to prayer draws a crowd. More than three-quarters of a million people live here, most of them poor.

(on camera): This is where Zarqawi used to live, just up the hill around the corner. A lot of his relatives and some of his friends still live in this area, and they come to the mosque they used to pray at to find out what people here have to say about the bombings.

(voice-over): We are allowed in for a few minutes, but are soon asked to leave.

Prayers are so popular, they spill onto the street, and after that, opinions about Zarqawi spill out too. UNIDENTIFIED MALE: If he come in, I'm sure all of these people kill him.

ROBERTSON (on camera): They'd kill him.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes.

ROBERTSON: They hate him so much now.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Because he kill too much, too much, too much people.

ROBERTSON (voice-over): I want to know is what impact this new anger will have.

(on camera): Is Zarqawi going to lose support in Jordan now?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Of course. I hope so.

ROBERTSON (voice-over): But as I hear more, I realize that's not necessarily the case.

"Zarqawi is a good guy," he screams into my face. Everyone is shouting now, telling me what they think.

(on camera): So where are we going?

(voice-over): I'm saved by a friendly pharmacist. He takes me to his house. Ramee's (ph) an English teacher who wants to tell me Zarqawi was not behind the attacks.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I think America exaggerates in speaking about him and make him the responsible for these actions.

ROBERTSON: Next stop in my search for answers, Zarqawi's brother's house. Neighbors outside say the last journalist here had rocks thrown at them.

We wait. Mohammed, my producer, calls on the intercom.

ROBERTSON (on camera): What does she say?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: She said just go, just go.

ROBERTSON: The lady inside the house said, Just go. Abu Musab al-Zarqawi's brother is sleeping, the woman in the house says, and she's told us just to go. So I think maybe, given what happened to journalists last time they came here, maybe that's what we should do.

This is our last stop. This is where Abu Musab al-Zarqawi grew up. I came here four months ago to ask people what they thought. They told me then they supported him.

(voice-over): Little seems to have changed. This religious man declines an on-camera interview, but says he supports Zarqawi. Young men here have a streetwise look and attitudes to match. "Zarqawi wasn't responsible for the attacks," he says. "It was the Americans, or the Israelis."

At the nearby corner store, we find Zarqawi's cousin. He opposes terrorism, he says.

(on camera): Do you believe that it was your cousin who was responsible?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Maybe yes, maybe no. I don't know.

ROBERTSON: You don't know.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I don't know.

ROBERTSON (voice-over): His hometown seems the last to accept his true colors.

Nic Robertson, CNN, Zarqa, Jordan.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

HARRIS: And as we mentioned just a couple of moments ago, we've been following the latest on the band of modern-day pirates we first told you about last Saturday morning. As you'll recall, the cruise liner "Seabourn Spirit" successfully repelled a boarding attempt by two boatloads of well-armed pirates. The attack happened off the Somalia coast.

And since last week, there have been five more reported piracy incidents. This year, there have been 25 pirate sightings on the Horn of Africa. But piracy isn't limited only to Somalia. And now there are reports of an alleged pirate mother ship out there.

Let's get more on the story now. Andrew Mwangura, program coordinator for the Kenyan Seafarers Association, joins us on the phone now from Nairobi.

And Andrew, good morning to you.

ANDREW MWANGURA, PROGRAM COORDINATOR, KENYAN SEAFARERS ASSOCIATION (on phone): Good morning, sir. I'm calling from Mumbasa -- Nairobi, Mumbasa...

HARRIS: Mumbasa?

MWANGURA: ... Mumbasa, Kenya.

HARRIS: OK, thank you for the correction. I appreciate that.

All right, help me understand this. Five ships all attacked this week, including that cruise ship last Saturday. I understand as many as 32 attacks since March. What exactly is going on here?

MWANGURA: We don't know what's going on in this part of the Indian Ocean. But it is very -- it's terrible dangerous to -- for the seafarers and for all mariners crossing this ocean.

HARRIS: Well, Andrew, if you're -- is -- let's say you're the United Nations International Maritime Organization, or you're the U.N. Security Council, and you want to launch a formal protest about what is going on now along the coast, who do you contact in Somalia? I guess I'm asking, who is running the country?

MWANGURA: In Somalia, everyone is for himself. The authorities, official government in Somalia, but is not powerful. There are some pockets of gunmen ruling the Somalia into -- according to their law, and I think this is a jungle law.

HARRIS: Jungle law. All right, Andrew, what do you know about the -- this notion of a mother ship that is supposed to be launching the speedboats that are actually carrying out these attacks? We got a picture of -- a couple of pictures up right now of the speedboats. But what do you know about this mother ship?

MWANGURA: Yes, information we received via Mumbasa, indicates that there is a craft suspected to be a mother ship launch speedboats to attack ships at high sea, has been spotted off the eastern coast of Somalia, and that was the 27th of July, and the fifth of November, and the other day -- the beginning of this week. The craft is said to be with -- it has a deck ...

HARRIS: Has it been identified?

(CROSSTALK)

HARRIS: Do we know its home country? Who owns it?

MWANGURA: No, we don't know who owns it, but it is has been spotted two or three times hovering or drifting and 16 nautical miles from Somali coast.

HARRIS: The pirates that we're seeing in these pictures, they seem to be armed with some pretty heavy weaponry. What kind of arms are we talking about here?

MWANGURA: According to information, they have AK-47s and propelled grenades and some crook weapons, heavy artillery. And they have also, according to a picture, caught a photograph by our friends down there, they also have a weapon which can bring down an airplane.

HARRIS: Wow. In terms of the threat to trade along the coastline there, to commodities like oil, grains, iron ore, this is -- I'm guessing this is a pretty significant threat.

MWANGURA: Yes. It's very dangerous, because what if the attack had chemical (INAUDIBLE)? What would happen to the marine life, and the community, especially the community living in the western Indian Ocean?

HARRIS: Right. Right. And what is the warning to captains?

MWANGURA: We are warning them to stay away, 200 nautical miles from the Somali coast, because these people are coming very -- more powerfully, because they can go over 130 nautical miles away. So it seems that they are being bold and more and more ambitious in the effort to hijacking ships for ransom and loot. They are getting more powerful, more vicious, and bolder day by day.

HARRIS: Wow. Andrew Mwangura, he's the program coordinator for the Kenyan Seafarers Association, joining us from Mumbasa this morning.

Andrew, thank you.

Iraq is a hotbed of violence and diplomatic activity leading up to next month's parliamentary election. U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan made a surprise visit to Baghdad today, and in his meeting with Iraqi leaders, and called for reconciliation ahead of the planned December 15 vote.

Meanwhile, a car bomb exploded outside a busy market in a mostly Shi'ite area of Baghdad. Four women were killed, and 40 people wounded, and northeast of the capital, Iraqi police commandos raided the town of Baqubah. The city's mayor is one of some 360 to be detained. The Islamic Party is condemning the raids and the detentions.

NGUYEN: President Bush is going on the offensive. Polls show Americans increasingly don't trust him, and they don't like the way he's doing his job. Democrats pounced on his apparent weakness and attacked his handling of the war in Iraq. Now the president is firing back.

CNN's Elaine Quijano joins us from the White House. What kind of shots are being fired here, Elaine?

ELAINE QUIJANO, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, strong ones, Betty. Good morning to you.

The president's comments yesterday part of a concerted effort by this White House, really, to answer charges that officials here see as baseless.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

QUIJANO (voice-over): For a Veterans Day crowd of military families in Pennsylvania, President Bush hit back hard against renewed Democratic criticisms that his administration twisted intelligence on weapons of mass destruction in the run-up to the Iraq war.

GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: While it's perfectly legitimate to criticize my decision or the conduct of the war, it is deeply irresponsible to rewrite the history of how that war began.

QUIJANO: The president's pushback is part of a campaign-style strategy senior administration officials outlined earlier this week. It comes in the wake of the Scooter Libby indictment in the CIA leak case, in which the president's top political adviser, Karl Rove, remains under investigation.

Democrats have revived their attacks about how the U.S. went to war.

SEN. EDWARD KENNEDY (D), MASSACHUSETTS: The benefit was always given to this president because of the actions that he took after 9/11. But that, we have found now, historically, was the fact that this administration manipulated and misused intelligence information that rushed us to war.

QUIJANO: The president is also facing falling poll numbers. His overall approval rating continues to hover below 40 percent. And a new Associated Press-Ipsos poll shows 57 percent of people would not describe the president as honest.

STU ROTHENBERG, "ROTHENBERG POLITICAL REPORT": This speech is an important first step, but it's not going turn around public opinion. The president's going to need more speeches, more of a PR offensive. And frankly, he's going need good news. And then he can start to change opinions significantly.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

QUIJANO: Now, top Bush aides acknowledge headlines like the Scooter Libby indictment may have had an effect on the president's poll numbers, but at the same time, officials here believe that those numbers can be restored.

Now, in the coming days, look for the administration to continue with its forceful rebuttal of Democratic criticisms and to enlist the help of Republican allies on Capitol Hill, Betty.

NGUYEN: We'll be watching for that. Thank you, Elaine.

HARRIS: Yes, coming up, we're talking about oil and gas prices and your wallet this morning. If you're interested in working from home as a way to save some money...

NGUYEN: Oh, yes.

HARRIS: ... but your home office isn't exactly corporate ready.

NGUYEN: Oh, that could be a problem.

HARRIS: Well, then check out telecommuting centers.

NGUYEN: Aha!

HARRIS: We'll tell you all about it...

NGUYEN: Yes.

HARRIS: ... in just a couple of minutes here.

NGUYEN: Yes, I like the idea of that. You won't be stuck in traffic like those folks. And next hour, we're take a closer look at why big oil companies rang up record profits this past quarter, while consumers like you and me rang up record gas bills.

Good morning, Bonnie.

BONNIE SCHNEIDER, CNN METEOROLOGIST: Good morning, Betty.

A lot of folks in the Northeast are getting ready for a beautiful weekend. Today, 55 in New York City, but then Sunday and even Monday, up to 64. I know it started off a little chilly this morning, but take a look, things are improving.

Here's a live picture of New York City for you now. It's looking pretty good. We've got some great conditions, temperatures will be rising up from the 30s to about 55 for today. We've got a great forecast for you.

Stay tuned. We'll have your complete check of weather coming up next on CNN SATURDAY MORNING.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

HARRIS: And welcome back, everyone, to CNN SATURDAY MORNING, 8:18 here in the East, 5:18 in the West.

And Bonnie Schneider's upstairs in the CNN Weather Center.

SCHNEIDER: Good morning.

HARRIS: North and west, Bonnie, expecting some snow today.

SCHNEIDER: That's true, yes.

(WEATHER FORECAST)

SCHNEIDER: I hope everybody stays safe and healthy this weekend.

HARRIS: OK, Bonnie, thank you.

SCHNEIDER: Sure.

NGUYEN: Well, this weekend, we are taking a closer look at the price you pay at the pump for gasoline. Remember those skyrocketing prices after Hurricane Katrina? Over $3 a gallon was the norm in some spots, coupled with long lines like that at the pump.

But now, according to the latest Lundberg Survey, the average price for petrol in the U.S. is $2.45 a gallon.

Gas prices, though, heavy rush hour traffic, road rage, whoo! It's enough to make you want to quit your job. But going to work takes on a whole new meaning at telecommuting hubs. Something new? Well, federal telecommuting initiatives are one way to ease dependence on oil and gas. And Gary Nurenberg is live in Washington with the details on this. So Gary, does this mean we can hang around the house all day long and still get our jobs done?

GARY NURENBERG, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Only if you're a well-paid anchor. For the rest ...

NGUYEN: Oh, yes, right. Could you see me with rollers and a mask on? Yes, not too pretty.

NURENBERG: Oh, gosh, I just ate.

NGUYEN: Yes.

(LAUGHTER)

NURENBERG: Good morning.

We are at a gas station just several blocks from the United States Capitol, where several legislators are trying to promote this idea of telecommuting or telework. After housing, transportation costs are the largest item in an average American family's budget, and those numbers came in before those recent gas price hikes.

Americans now take 1.1 billion trips every day, about four for every person in the country. But with the incentives from the federal government, this telecommuting business is taking off, with 40 million Americans doing it in some form last year, as opposed to 8.5 million 10 years ago in 1995. Legislators like telecommuting in part because it cuts dependence on oil-producing states.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. JACK WOLF (R), VIRGINIA: The fact that our economy is based upon some of those countries is very, very dangerous. But also, it would save you, as a consumer who purchases gasoline, a good bit of money. So it's a savings for you as an individual, but equally important, it's good for our country to lower our dependence on foreign oil, particularly from countries that are very dangerous to us.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

NURENBERG: A (INAUDIBLE) woman who is an accountant for the National Institutes of Health, Iris Bowman works at a telecommuting center, which is a suburban office with everything she needs to do her job and cut her travel time.

IRIS BOWMAN, TELECOMMUTER: Aside from reducing stress, spending time with my family, and saving me money, you know, on gas prices, those are the advantages of being able to telecommute.

NURENBERG (on camera): It's really on the rise. That congressman that you saw, Frank Wolf, has begun to impose penalties on federal agencies that don't increase their telecommuting every year. Five million dollars it could cost an agency if it can't prove to Wolf that it's not doing something to make this happen more often.

That's it from here. We'll kind of be following the story throughout the morning, Betty.

NGUYEN: Yes, I like the sound of that. Sounds like a win-win situation. Thank you, Gary. And didn't mean to spoil your breakfast. I think you'll get over it, though, OK.

Well, we are staying on the oil and gas beat next hour. We're going to ask if U.S. energy independence is a real possibility, or just a pipe dream.

Also, we want to know what you think about all of this. Did you watch oil executives testify on the Hill this week? Did you learn anything? E-mail us your thoughts. We are at weekends@cnn.com. And there's only so much oil in the ground, as the song says.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

HARRIS: Ah, we've been talking about oil and gas prices all morning long. We wanted to know what you thought about the oil industry executives' testimony on Capitol Hill this week. They defended their record profits, expected that. Here's the question, though. Did you learn anything from their testimony?

David writes, "What a joke. Hope that Congress does not think we are all fools."

NGUYEN: And Patrick in Texas says, "I learned that the oil execs appear before Congress," and that happens, "gas prices go down. So let's do this once a month," he says. "Oh," yes, "and next time, make sure they're sworn in."

HARRIS: Yes.

NGUYEN: Course, we appreciate all of your thoughts on this. Keep them coming this morning. Did you learn anything from the hearings? Send us your thoughts to weekends@cnn.com, and we'll put it on the air.

HARRIS: Ah, e-mail box on fire.

NGUYEN: Is it on fire?

HARRIS: On fire.

NGUYEN: I hadn't heard just yet.

HARRIS: Yes, yes.

NGUYEN: But I know we got some pretty good responses already.

HARRIS: Next hour, you wouldn't think an interview with a college student would generate national headlines and sideline an NFL star, but you would be wrong. Next hour, we'll talk to Graham Bensinger about Terrell Owens' controversial comments. NGUYEN: And November is diabetes awareness month, so up next on "HOUSE CALL," Dr. Sanjay Gupta takes a closer look at the efforts to control the epidemic.

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