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CNN SATURDAY MORNING NEWS

White Houses Attend Flu Simulation; Northeast Digs Out from Snow; Passenger Plane Crashes in Nigeria;

Aired December 10, 2005 - 10:00   ET

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


TONY HARRIS, CNN ANCHOR: You know, I was going say, it's the question of the morning, but, Betty, I guess it's the question of the last couple of days. What caused this plane to skid off the runway and what did the pilot know before it crashed? Federal investigators hope to get some answers today as their investigation goes in-depth.
It is Saturday, December 10th, 9:00 a.m. in Chicago, 10:00 a.m. here at the CNN Center in Atlanta. And good morning to the folks joining us in the West. I'm Tony Harris.

BETTY NGUYEN, CNN ANCHOR: And I'm Betty Nguyen. We want to thank you for starting your day with us. "Now in the News." In accepting the Nobel Peace Prize just a few hours ago, the U.N. chief nuclear inspector says the threat of a nuclear nightmare remains strong. Mohamed ElBaradei warned that humanity faces a choice between atomic weapons and survival.

An Egyptian who lived in Saddam Hussein's hometown of Tikrit for 10 years has now been found dead. Mohammed Ibrahim al-Hilali (ph) worked as a contractor for the U.S. military. He was reportedly kidnapped yesterday.

And we are also keeping a close watch on any developments in Iraq. Today is the deadline for an execution of four hostages, including one American being held by insurgents.

In suburban Washington, an interfaith vigil is planned at the church attended by American hostage Tom Fox.

America's peace mom is across the pond today, as they say, at an anti-war conference in London. Cindy Sheehan said her heart goes out to those four humanitarian workers abducted in Iraq. She urged the kidnappers to rise above violence and let them go. Sheehan is taking part in a series of war protests in Britain.

HARRIS: And, Betty, coming up this hour of CNN SATURDAY MORNING, another one of al Qaeda's top-ranking officials is captured, but not by coalition forces. Find out who's lending a hand in the war on terror in Iraq.

In Baton Rouge, Louisiana, DNA testing is under way to identify victims of Hurricane Katrina, but what's taking so long? CNN's Keith Oppenheim has some answers for you. And a matter of life or death hangs on the decision of one man. Will California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger grant clemency for Stanley "Tookie" Williams. We'll look at the last ditch efforts to save Williams' life with just days left before his execution.

NGUYEN: Well, investigators in Chicago are hoping to get some answers themselves today into what caused this week's deadly accident at Midway Airport. But they say it could be an entire year before they know exactly what happened.

They're beginning to interview the pilots, witnesses, crew, and flight attendants this morning. Also today, the Boeing 737 sitting in the middle of that intersection will be hauled to a hangar for inspection. Now as you'll recall, a 6-year-old boy was killed and 13 others injured when the plane slid off the runway during a snowstorm, plowing into a busy intersection.

Investigators are looking at the roles wind and ice may have played in that accident as well as the weight of the air draft and the lack of a buffer zone. CNN's Brian Todd has more.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The Southwest Airlines jet is still sitting in the middle of Central Avenue. Traffic won't run through here again until the plane is moved some time this weekend, after investigators have finished combing through the wreckage.

The plane's flight data recorder and cockpit voice recorder are already being analyzed by the National Transportation Safety Board.

ELLEN ENGLEMAN CONNERS, NATIONAL TRANSPORTATION SAFETY BOARD: There was 32 seconds from touchdown until the aircraft hit the fence. Air traffic control reported runway braking to be fair on most of the runway and poor at the end.

TODD (on camera): Aviation experts say, one key factor in this investigations will be the length of the runway, which here at Midway Airport is only about 6,500 feet, one of the shortest runways in the United States. The facility also has very little overrun protection to stop skidding planes from sliding over the end of the runway.

(voice-over): Passengers say the accident happened so quickly, they were barely aware of what was going on.

MIKE ABATE, PASSENGER ON CRASHED AMERICAN AIRLINES 737: The "oh my God" moment was the big, huge bump. You know, it's at this point you just don't know where you're at. But it was a quick "oh my God." You know, it was one of those things. And then we stopped within probably three to five seconds after that. And then you look out the window and you realize you're in the middle of a city street.

TODD: Only two of the 103 people on the jet were injured, and only slightly. But the jet smashed into two cars. Joshua Woods and his family were in this one on their way to visit relatives. The 6- year-old boy was killed. His two younger brothers and both parents were among those injured on the ground.

The CEO of Southwest Airlines came to Chicago to express the company's condolences.

GARY KELLY, CEO, SOUTHWEST AIRLINES: There are absolutely no words to adequately convey our grief and our sorrow over this tragedy. As a company, our main priority is for the safety and well-being of our customers and our employees. And we will work earnestly to help those in need.

TODD: Southwest Airlines officials say the Boeing 737 was relatively new and the pilot had more than a decade of experience. NTSB officials say it could take a year to complete their investigation.

Brian Todd, CNN, Chicago.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

HARRIS: Have you been wondering, can we handle a possible pandemic? The White House is finding out at this hour. Top government officials are taking part in a simulated exercise. Government planners have been working under a worst case assumption on the number of U.S. infections and deaths. Kathleen Koch joins us live to explain what it is all about.

Kathleen, good morning.

KATHLEEN KOCH, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Good morning, Tony. And top administration officials right now are about halfway through a four- hour simulation. What they're doing is they're planning how the administration would respond if there were a bird flu pandemic here in the United States.

Now again, most top officials in the administration are participating, they include the interior secretary, the homeland security secretary, the attorney general, also the veterans affairs secretary.

Very few details have been released about exactly what they're going to be doing, but basically, they are -- it will be a rehearsal of how every branch of the federal government would react if a pandemic began spreading rapidly across the country.

Fran Townsend, President Bush's homeland security adviser, will come out sometime after the drill is over, sometime afternoon to brief the media on how it went, what seemed to work, what didn't, lessons learned.

It was also just earlier this week on Thursday that the top Republican in the Senate unveiled the Congressional Budget Office's evaluation of the impact a pandemic would have on the United States.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. BILL FRIST (R-TN), MAJORITY LEADER: Thirty percent of the population is assumed infected. That's 90 million Americans. Two million Americans die. The CBO assume that the pandemic would last for three months and 30 percent or about a third of the workforce would become ill and they would miss three weeks of work.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KOCH: Of course, President Bush, the White House, have been very concerned about just the impact that a pandemic would have on the U.S. Last month the president announcing he would ask Congress for $7.1 billion in emergency funding to prepare.

The Bush administration has already begun stockpiling vaccine and taking steps toward accelerating the development of technology that would help pharmaceutical companies speed up their ability to make enough vaccine for each and every American.

Though presidential aides who are helping keeping me informed of the event today say there is no imminent threat of a pandemic. Medical experts both in the United States and worldwide do believe it's a matter of not if, but when, so the White House wants to be ready -- Tony.

HARRIS: OK. And, Kathleen, just another reminder, when are we expecting something kind of press statement on what happened today?

KOCH: Again, some time after 12:00. It's a four-hour exercise, 8:00 a.m. to noon. So we believe some time in the 12:00 hour, or perhaps as late as 1:00. We'll be hearing from Fran Townsend.

HARRIS: Gotcha, OK. Kathleen Koch for us. Kathleen, thank you.

And chief medical correspondent Dr. Sanjay Gupta examines the potential threat of the avian flu in a prime time special. CNN travels to Southeast Asia to explore the origins of bird flu in an hour-long special to air tomorrow at 10:00 p.m. Eastern.

NGUYEN: And news "Across America" now. Officials in Ecuador have released airport surveillance video, look at this, of a man believed to be Rigoberto Alpizar in the Quito Airport. Now he was later fatally shot in Miami by a federal air marshal and authorities say he ran off the plane in Miami shouting that he had a bomb. Alpizar and his wife were returning home from a missionary trip in Ecuador.

In Oakland, California, police have made two more arrests in the vandalism of two liquor stores. Bail for both men was set in excess of $100,000. Store surveillance video shows a group of well-dressed men trashing the liquor displays. They had demanded the store owner stop selling alcohol to African-Americans. Two other suspects have also been arrested in the case.

And Banana Boy is famous in Glens Falls, New York. You can kind of see why. Unfortunately though for him, cops in a neighboring town never heard of him. So when Banana Boy was observed in a fake fight against a man with a knife, the cops swooped in to save the day. And, of course, they were not amused to learn the whole thing was just a put on. Everybody, including the cameraman, was charged with disorderly conduct.

HARRIS: He needs to make some adjustments in that costume, some things.

All right. Still ahead, it's a sign of the times, I guess. You can't even use the word "Christmas" without causing a bit of a stir. Some folks want you to say "holiday" instead. You get your chance to weigh in coming up in just a couple of minutes.

NGUYEN: Plus, he is considered the world's greatest cellist. Just listen to that. So who else to perform at the Nobel Peace Prize ceremonies this morning? We're going to take you there and show you what happened.

(WEATHER REPORT)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

HARRIS: Good morning, everyone. Tracking our top stories, former Croatian General Ante Gotovina is flown to the Netherlands to face trial for war crimes at The Hague. The U.N. accuses Gotovina of masterminding the killing of at least 150 Serbs in 1995.

Today is the deadline set by kidnappers to kill four Western hostages in Iraq. The captors are demanding that U.S. and Iraqi authorities release all their prisoners. Iraq's interior ministry says it has not had any contact with the kidnappers today and has no information on the fate of the hostages.

Will Stanley "Tookie" Williams live or die Tuesday? California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger may make an announcement later today on whether to grant clemency for Williams.

NGUYEN: So here's a question for you. A totally different topic. It is our e-mail of the day. 'Tis the season to be jolly, right? So why all the bah humbug? Across the nation people are weighing in on this issue. Is it "Merry Christmas" or "Happy Holidays"?

CNN's Mary Snow takes a look at what happened at one town's tree- lighting ceremony.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

MARY SNOW, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice over): It looks unassuming enough. A town tree decorated for the holidays. But it has become the latest battle zone in the war between whether it's a Christmas tree or a holiday tree.

On the firing line, North Hampstead Town Supervisor Jon Kaiman, who publicly complained after a priest blessed the tree at an annual lighting ceremony.

JON KAIMAN, NORTH HAMPSTEAD TOWN SUPERVISOR: I went into it thinking it's a -- in this particular ceremony, as just another holiday-type generic ceremony. SNOW: But the community went into a fury saying it was a Christmas ceremony. Kaiman has done a 180 and apologized.

KAIMAN: It's important, I want the community to know that I do apologize for how I handled it and do have a greater appreciation of the depth of this issue and a respect that, you know, Christmas is Christmas.

SNOW: At the Capitol, though, the holiday tree lighting this year was changed to the Christmas tree lighting. Some religious activists are furious that the president and first lady sent out a card with best wishes for a holiday season. While the controversy is not new some, say it's hitting a fever pitch.

WILLIAM DONAHUE, NATIONAL CATHOLIC LEAGUE: This is political correctness run amuck. I mean, quite frankly, whose sensibilities are we protecting?

SNOW: Others say the uproar because stores or public offices are not using the word "Christmas" is getting out of control.

REV. BARRY LYNN, AMERICANS FOR SEP. OF CHURCH STATE: You know, most of us who celebrate Christmas get our spiritual sustenance at this time of year from our church. We don't expect to get it at the department store. We don't expect to get it at city hall.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

NGUYEN: So what do you say? Is it "Merry Christmas or "Happy Holidays"? I know you say one or the another. E-mail us your thoughts at weekends@cnn.com and tell us why it's "Happy Holidays" or instead, "Merry Christmas."

HARRIS: And still ahead, more than three months since Hurricane Katrina and still some of the bodies have not been identified in New Orleans, can that be? We have new information this morning that should bring some relief to families with missing relatives. That story coming up just a bit later.

NGUYEN: Plus, it is as British as the queen herself. When we come back we will tell you why the longtime symbol of London is slowly fading away.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

HARRIS: And you know what, Betty, as if shoveling a foot of snow isn't bad enough, then you've got to factor in just plain bad luck. A New Jersey couple was killed in their bed when an SUV careened off a rain-slicked road and crashed into their home. That's one of five deadly accidents blamed on the storm that dumped a messy mixture of ice, rain, and snow.

In parts of Maryland, the mountains in the western part of the state around Frederick got the most of it, about seven inches of snow reported there. Up to 150,000 customers lost power. About half of them have the lights and the heat back on this morning. So, dig out time, days and days ahead for lots of folks following that foot or more of snow across the Northeast or maybe it's a day of play.

Steve Cooper of our CNN affiliate WHDH is in Boston now and he's joining us live from North Andover, Massachusetts. And you know, most folks when they come on CNN, Betty, they want to give us a distinguished, professional, serious approach to the news.

NGUYEN: Not Steve. Look at this guy.

HARRIS: Oh, no, no, no, no. Not Steve.

STEVE COOPER, WHDH REPORTER: You've got the wrong guy. You've got the wrong guy for that, in fact, before I get going here, Tony...

HARRIS: No, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, Steve.

NGUYEN: We're setting you up, Steve. We're setting you up, hold on.

HARRIS: Hang on to that.

NGUYEN: Yes, hold on to the snowball.

HARRIS: I know where that's going. This was Steve an hour ago, all right? Let's look at this.

NGUYEN: We're going to show you.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

COOPER: Live from North Andover, Massachusetts, Steve Cooper, back to you.

(SLIDES DOWN HILL)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

HARRIS: Well, there you go, Steve.

NGUYEN: As he rolls into traffic.

HARRIS: Well, let's see if he can top that. Good morning, Steve.

NGUYEN: And don't hit us with that, Steve. Here he goes. Here he goes. I dare you, throw it.

COOPER: Well, I feel bad that -- I feel bad.

NGUYEN: Oh, he missed. What kind of arm is that, Steve?

HARRIS: Like we couldn't count on him missing that?

COOPER: I feel bad that you don't get to experience what we're dealing with here today, but, I mean, look at this, mountains and mountains of snow that were left behind yesterday. And this was a weird storm, I mean, we had the snow, the ice, some rain, and would you believe we actually had thunderstorms and lightning in the middle of this whole thing.

I mean, look at some of the roads here, they're still slushy and wet this morning. And this is what people are waking up to. Some people we talked to this morning are just beginning to their whole dig out process. And we say a dig out process, we're talking about, let's see, 15, 16, 17 inches of snow that fell.

And consider this, we were only predicting about 6 to 10 inches, so this was almost double that in some cases. And for those people sort of dreaming of a white Christmas, well, I have to tell you, this has probably made those dreams come true because even with the sun out today I can't imagine that this stuff is going to go away any time soon. I mean, this is the stuff that belongs way up in the mountains of New England, not here just 30 miles north of Boston. But we're going to enjoy it and have some fun

Now let me set you guys up again. That was nothing.

HARRIS: That's what I'm talking about this morning.

NGUYEN: Let the wipeout begin.

COOPER: Tony, this is for you, baby. Live in North Andover, Massachusetts, Steve Cooper. Tony and Betty, back to you guys. I don't know, was the other one better than that one?

HARRIS: Yes, that one was a little better.

NGUYEN: Yes, it was little bit better, yes. You're going to be sore tomorrow. Probably won't be able to get up out of bed. Help him. Somebody help the guy.

HARRIS: Oh, my goodness.

NGUYEN: Yes, watch out for cars, would you? That's a street there.

HARRIS: All right, Steve.

COOPER: The things I do for you guys, it's amazing.

HARRIS: We love it first thing in the morning, thanks, Steve. Have fun.

COOPER: All right.

(WEATHER REPORT)

NGUYEN: Time now for a check of the other stories making news all around the globe this morning.

HARRIS: In Iraq, the fate of four kidnapped Christian peace activists hangs in the balance and time, Betty, may be running out. Shanon Cook has been monitoring that story for us from the international desk.

And, Shanon, good morning to you. Any word yet on those captors?

SHANON COOK, CNN ANCHOR: Good morning, Tony. No word at all, which is creating more tension to the situation which is already obviously so tense. Today was set as the deadline for killing four Christian activists kidnapped in Iraq.

But the kidnappers so far have been silent. Iraq's interior ministry tells the Associated Press that officials haven't been contacted by them. Well, some clerics and scholars across Iraq and people around the world are pleading for the hostages' release.

A group calling itself Swords of Justice Brigade said it would kill the men on Saturday if all Iraqi prisoners are not released from U.S. and Iraqi prisons.

The soothing sounds of cellist Yo-Yo Ma there providing a soundtrack to a ceremony in Oslo, Norway, where the director general of the International Atomic Energy Agency accepted the Nobel Peace Prize for his work to keep the use of atomic power peaceful. Mohamed ElBaradei said he was optimistic the disputes with North Korea and Iran over their nuclear programs would be resolved.

However, contrary to his comment, earlier in today Iran, the head of Iran's atomic energy organization says Iran will enrich uranium and produce nuclear fuel according to the (INAUDIBLE) news agency. The officials say construction of a nuclear plant has begun in Darkhoin and it's expected to take about seven years to build. Western nations have repeatedly expressed concerns that Iran will build nuclear weapons with its uranium enrichment program that Iran says is just for energy.

Now in Montreal, Canada, some last-minute agreements were reached at a United Nations conference aimed at combating global warming. The Kyoto nations agreed to begin talks on extending the pact its expiration in 2012.

The Kyoto protocol, you may remember, requires a reduction in greenhouse gas emissions. The Bush administration has refused to participate in the pact because of concerns that it would damage the economy. However, a broader group of countries that includes the U.S. have agreed to separate talks on long-term measures -- Tony.

HARRIS: You know, Shanon, I'm checking the international wires as I do here in preparation for your segment.

COOK: Oh, good, good for you.

NGUYEN: Yes, right. He does do a lot of research over there.

HARRIS: And what I'm seeing here is, you know the iconic bus, the double-decker. Are they going away?

COOK: They've said good-bye already. London has bid farewell to an icon, a real symbol, the red double-decker buses known as the Routemasters. The buses are recognizable because you can jump on and off of them at this open section at the back of the bus when the bus in moving slowly, of course.

The Routemasters have been in service for about half a century and have carried millions of passengers around London. Everyone loves them, but they're deemed too expensive to run. So they've slowly been phased down since the '80s, and yesterday, the last remaining Routemaster, number 159 it was, made its final trip around London. Kind of sad.

HARRIS: Yes, well, I was going ask you, I mean, we mentioned it's an iconic thing in London. So, I mean, folks ought to be pretty sad about this.

COOK: Yes. These buses loved by tourists and locals alike. And in fact, there have been Web sites dedicated to saving the Routemaster. It didn't work though, unfortunately, although, you know, big fans can take heart, because a handful...

NGUYEN: So what's going to happen? Are we going to see them in museums or something? I mean, they have to keep them some way, somehow.

COOK: Yes, good point. A couple -- a few of them are going to be circulated around London for heritage tours. So you can still say hello to the Routemaster.

HARRIS: Yes, 50 years it says here.

COOK: I know, 50 years.

HARRIS: Yes, July 24th, 1954, wow, 2,700 buses.

(CROSSTALK)

NGUYEN: All right.

HARRIS: Shanon, thank you.

COOK: Thank you.

NGUYEN: Well, when it comes on the war in Iraq, we hear a lot about U.S. and Iraqi troops battling the insurgents, but now it was Iraqi civilians who went on patrol and turned in an al Qaeda leader. We are going to take you live to Baghdad to tell you just what this means for the war on terror.

HARRIS: Plus a decision on the fate of Stanley "Tookie" Williams could come at any moment. Up next, we hear from a man who is taking a hard line against the former gang leader. We'll be right back.

NGUYEN: But first in this morning's money break, we want you to stick a cork in one of the most revered wine cellars. It is history, gone, bye-bye. Hurricane Katrina effectively wiped out, unfortunately, the million dollar collection of dusty vintage bottles in Brennan's Restaurant in New Orleans. A loss of power was the cause. The wine literally cooked in the triple digit heat after the air-conditioning was all knocked out and wine experts say much of it is still drinkable, but probably better used in cooking.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BETTY NGUYEN, CNN ANCHOR, CNN SATURDAY MORNING: We have some breaking news to tell you about. Nigeria media reporting that a passenger jet has crashed in the southern city of Port Harcourt (ph), this in Nigeria. Now CNN confirms the passenger plane is on fire on the tarmac at the Port Harcourt airport. It's unclear how this fire started or whether or not there are any casualties. What we do understand from wire reports is that there are about 102 people onboard. Don't know the extent of the injuries or the casualties involved or exactly what caused this crash. But what we are learning from Nigerian media is that a passenger jet has crashed in the southern city of Port Harcourt. This is in Nigeria and we're going to be on top of this and bring you the latest information as it becomes available to us here at CNN.

In other news, we're going to take you to Iraq where he wasn't captured by police or soldiers. Instead a senior al Qaeda leader known as the butcher was nabbed by a group of Iraqi civilians. CNN's Aneesh Raman joins us now from Baghdad with the latest on the civilians taking part Aneesh, what do you know.

ANEESH RAMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Betty, good morning. It is an encouraging sign no doubt. It happened in the city of Ramadi west of the capital, in an area that still has a strong insurgent presence. There on Friday local civilians who had captured a man named Amir (INAUDIBLE) brought him into U.S. coalition custody. He is a man that was the third most wanted terrorist on the list of the second brigade combat team that patrols that area, a man linked to Abu Musab al Zarqawi and al Qaeda in Iraq, also known as you say as the butcher, responsible allegedly for a number of killings and kidnappings.

So the fact that the people in this community would have called in, alerted that they want this man out of their area, they want have captured and brought him is an encouraging sign. It is hard to overstate Betty the difficulty of the lives of these civilians in areas like Ramadi in the northern part of Babel (ph) province where I was embedded some weeks ago. They are caught literally between the insurgency and between coalition and Iraqi security forces and the dilemma they face every day is that if they turn over information, they could face being killed by the insurgency and the key then to gaining intelligence and to having more situations like this is that the civilians have to feel that there will be a permanent Iraqi security force present and that those Iraqi security forces are efficient enough to provide them security.

Now we are starting to see that slowly take place in areas in Iraq and this clearly is something that the U.S. military and Iraqi security forces would like to see more of. And the Iraqi security forces as much as we talked about their numbers and their efficiency, they have been phenomenal in the game of intelligence, in getting information from the local civilians. They are Iraqis. They are able to decipher what people are telling them, whether it is true, whether it is not. The information that coalition forces get can often be varied. You can get people calling in their neighbors as terrorists just for retribution. So this by far not the rule just yet, but an encouraging sign and something forces here would like to see more of. Betty.

NGUYEN: This is a big capture, the third most wanted man there and captured by civilians. Do you know any more details on exactly how this came about?

RAMAN: Well, we've only been told and we should mention the third most wanted on the list of the group that patrols that area. But we've only been told he was essentially brought to U.S. forces bound. He was a little beaten up according to a U.S. military spokesmen, but other than that no more info on how the civilians did this and it is remarkable when you think of it. Again, Ramadi, similar to other areas of Iraq where these civilians would have to take great risk in order to do this. It is a statement of that community and one that they need more of in terms of Iraqi security forces and coalition forces for this country to truly stabilize. Betty?

NGUYEN: Well, obviously some news there in Iraq today of this capture, a big capture by civilians, not security forces. Of course, Aneesh we're going to be wanting to know more information on exactly how it all played out and if this is going to encourage others to take part in other captures. Aneesh Raman, thank you so much, coming to us out of Baghdad today.

Well, tomorrow 8:00 p.m. Eastern, CNN presents a thousand days in Iraq. The program kicks off a week of special coverage as Iraqi people get ready to elect a permanent government. That takes place on Thursday.

TONY HARRIS, CNN ANCHOR, CNN SATURDAY MORNING: No matter what happens in the case of Stanley "Tookie" Williams, Los Angeles leaders are appealing for calm. One county official says authorities have heard rumblings of possible violence if the former gang leader is denied clemency. A hearing for the co-founder of the notorious street gang the Crips was held this week. And California's governor is expected to announce his decision soon.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GOV. ARNOLD SCHWARZENNEGER (R), CALIFORNIA: When it comes to the decision that is coming up very soon, the Tookie Williams thing, I just have an open mind and the case by case and look at it and then make up your mind. That's really what you do, but it is a very heavy responsibility.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

HARRIS: Lawyers for Tookie Williams and prosecutors met with California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger for about an hour Thursday, his lawyers requesting clemency. Prosecutors maintaining Williams should be executed for killing four people in 1979. Neither has discussed how the meeting went with Schwarzenegger. Williams who's been on death row for 24 years receives much notoriety for writing nine anti-gang books for kids while he's been incarcerated. The books are an attempt he says to deromanticize gangs, crime and prison. The convicted murderer's work brings him worldwide accolades from the anti-death penalty crowd and celebrities including rapper Snoop Dog and Academy Award winner Jamie Fox who played Williams in a movie released in 2004.

Williams supporters are calling on California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger to commute the convicted killer's sentence to life in prison without parole.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JAMIE FOX, ACTOR: After we did the movie, 40,000 letters and e- mails from kids saying that we don't want to join gangs and if you count 40,000 letters on just that one, for that television or movie, imagine how many people it's been from all of the books that he's written that went all over the world.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

HARRIS: Williams has been nominated for five Nobel peace prizes and four Nobel prizes for literature. Little consolation for those against clemency including family members of the four people Williams murdered, a crime he steadfastly denies he committed. The most outspoken, perhaps is the stepmother of Albert Owens, a convenience store clerk killed in 1979.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

LORA OWENS, VICTIM'S STEPMOTHER: I believe Albert deserves justice and for that justice, Tookie Williams was convicted in a court of law and he was given the sentence of death. I believe Albert deserves the justice of that sentence being carried out.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

HARRIS: A feeling echoed by Francis Lester who lost her son Covey (ph) to gang violence 15 years ago.

FRANCIS LESTER, JUSTICE FOR MURDER VICTIMS: He started a very, very violent gang and so gang-related offenses is just wiping out our young folks and I don't know when it's going end and I think we need to make sure that the youth understand they can't continue.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

HARRIS: Williams is scheduled to die by lethal injection December 13th.

OWENS: I will be standing there in the name of Albert and his father watching that execution.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

HARRIS: Wow! Man, passion's high on all sides of this. Joining me now is a man who is saying a resounding no to any possible clemency. Activist Joe Hicks is in Los Angeles this morning and Joe, good to see you.

JOE HICKS, COMMUNITY ADVOCATES INC: Good morning.

HARRIS: Earlier on this program, we heard why Williams' clemency should be granted. Let me have you listen to this from Bruce Gordon, executive director of the NAACP and then let's get your response.

HICKS: Sure.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BRUCE GORDON, PRESIDENT, NAACP: In this particular case, this man, in my opinion, is better off to us, our society, alive than dead. It's -- it's that clear to me. It's that simple.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

HARRIS: All right. You know, Joe, I've spent most of the week in Los Angeles and I saw you on one of the television shows and it's not as though you're standing up cheerleading for Tookie to be put to death, but you do seem to be a bit offended by all of -- I don't know, everything that's going on around this case. Why don't you talk to that and respond to Bruce as well.

HICKS: I'm particularly offended by this kind of stance because this gang has done so much damage to communities not only here in Los Angeles, but all across this country and their affiliates of this are people that want to be Crips all around the world, in fact, so the body count is extremely high. If you talk to people in neighbors that have been devastated by this gang, they will not have a very kind thing to say about Tookie Williams. Yet you have the NAACP at a time when there's a lot of crisis facing black communities, education issues, poverty, how do you gain back some sense of entrepreneurial spirit, the NAACP and its brand new executive director choose to take up the cause of this man who is sitting on the death penalty on death row with no real evidence of any sort. In fact the resounding evidence is that the man has killed four people.

HARRIS: OK, just tell me why you believe that is. I've heard that from you this week, tell me why you believe that is. You have suggested that Bruce Gordon and the NAACP is pandering.

HICKS: Well, you have to really sort of scratch your head and wonder why they've taken such a high profile in this particular case. There are death row inmates all over this country, yet I think here they found a connection that they believe will bring youthful members into the organization. That organization, frankly, everybody knows is viewed as being kind of old and moribund and not having very much to offer younger generations of black folks. So they may feel that there's a need here to try to connect to young people. That's admirable, yet the cause I think is not. Tookie Williams is no role model or no heroic image for any young person, black or otherwise.

HARRIS: Do you stand in favor or opposed to the death penalty in general? HICKS: I'm not an opponent of the death penalty. In fact I used to be. I was a leftist at one point. I was on Mike Farrell's death penalty focus board. So I know the arguments very well. However it's a principled argument. I can understand those who are on principle opposed to the death penalty. I am not any longer, but that's another case, another discussion for another day. We're talking about should this man, is there any reason to grant this particular death row inmate clemency and that's what the governor is struggling with.

HARRIS: And Joe, one final thought here. That is your community, you live there, you work there, you have your family there. Are you concerned that if this does not go Tookie's way, that there could be some violence in and on the streets of Los Angeles?

HICKS: You know, I've heard this and you have the human relations people running around making this claim. Listen, if there's any difficulties, it's going to come from elements around the Crips and some gang elements it will come from some of the ranks of activists. The black community is split almost right down the middle over issues of life or death for this particular death row inmate. So this notion that the boogieman of the 1992 riots, I think it's ridiculous to keep trucking this issue out and saying oh, the black people will get busy here. I think it's really offensive to really view black people that they're not adults, that they can't take information that they may not even always agree with and deal with it in an adult fashion. I think it's frankly an insult to the black community.

HARRIS: Joe Hicks, thanks for your time this morning. We appreciate it.

HICKS: You're welcome.

HARRIS: And still ahead, families in New Orleans have waited for water. They've waited for food and now they're waiting for closure. It has been more than three minutes since hundreds were killed by hurricane Katrina and still some of the bodies have not been identified.

NGUYEN: That's right. Next on CNN SATURDAY MORNING, new information about efforts to bring closure, final closure to some grieving families.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

NGUYEN: As you've heard, they have waited for a lot of things, but now their most painful wait may come to an end. Hundreds of Louisiana families who lost loved ones in hurricane Katrina may finally get some closure. As our Keith Oppenheim reports, DNA testing has begun after a three-month long wait.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

KEITH OPPENHEIM, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): In Baton Rouge, lab technicians are packing bones. The bone fragments in these boxes hold the DNA of hurricane Katrina victims and maybe, the answer to the question that has been pressing since Katrina happened three months ago. Who were these victims?

LOUIS CATALDIE, LOUISIANA MEDICAL EXAMINER: Now the samples are literally in the mail and that's a relief.

OPPENHEIM: The relief comes after weeks of anguish as relatives of victims were waiting for identification of the dead. Susie Eaton lives in West Palm Beach, Florida. Her 79-year-old mother Viola was a resident of New Orleans's ninth ward. Now, this is all that's left of Viola's home.

SUSIE EATON: She has not been officially been dead nor has she officially been alive so I really don't know.

OPPENHEIM: Susie Eaton has been trying to find out if her mother is even in the state morgue. She's been hoping a sample of DNA from the family would make a difference.

EATON: I think there should definitely be a better system and I think they should get the DNA process -- they should get it on the ball.

OPPENHEIM: For weeks it seemed like no one was on the ball. State and Federal officials fought over who would pay for the testing and three months after the hurricane struck, it hadn't begun. Meantime, there were nearly 300 unidentified bodies at the state morgue. Finally a resolution, FEMA agreed to pay. But with the good news, state medical examiner Louis Cataldie cautioned that DNA testing doesn't hold all the answers. It's effective only when there is a sample of the victim or a relative and a match can be made. He says at the state morgue, there are more than 100 cases where officials have no idea who the dead could be.

CATALDIE: These are people who were found on the streets, floating on the streets or people who ultimately were found out in fields after the water had gone down, have no location or have no identifiers. We've got 4,000 people saying they have missing loved ones. So ultimately we can probably get some matches there. They'll definitely be people that we'll never match.

OPPENHEIM: Still, DNA testing could quickly resolve 121 cases.

CATALDIE: I've got two situations in which I had entire families drowned in their homes and if I have one identified, I can subsequently identify the others and make those IDs.

OPPENHEIM: For some devastated families waiting as of today, 100 days for answers, identifying more of Katrina's dead will give them closure and assurance that they can finally say good-bye. Keith Oppenheim, CNN, New Orleans.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

NGUYEN: We're going to shift gears now. Merry what? Is it Christmas or holidays? Which word do you prefer? We live in a time when it's become controversial to use one or the other right. You've heard all the debate.

HARRIS: I'm glad you didn't ask me. Thank you, Betty. Thank you for that. All morning long you have joined in the debate. E- mails, hot! Betty, hot! Your comments coming up next after the break.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

HARRIS: A piece of central park there.

NGUYEN: Look at that. That's beautiful.

HARRIS: Snow in the morning in New York City, Fifth Avenue. If you're doing your shopping, park.

NGUYEN: You can do some damage on Fifth Avenue.

HARRIS: You can do some damage Betty. You more than most can do some damage. How about that. Great-looking day in New York City.

NGUYEN: Beautiful day in New York, cold here in Atlanta. How is it look in the rest of the nation, Brad. We know what it was like in Boston? Mounds and mounds of snow.

BRAD HUFFINES, CNN METEOROLOGIST: Here's the question. A credit card, big credit limit. Someone else is paying for it.

NGUYEN: I like the sound of that.

HUFFINES: You buy a couple of big things or a bunch of small things.

NGUYEN: A couple of big things, let's go for the big stuff.

HUFFINES: Tony?

HARRIS: I just turn it over to Betty.

HUFFINES: There you go.

NGUYEN: And then we're all in trouble, credit card debt.

HUFFINES: Oh, my gosh. That's why I said it's a credit card that somebody else is paying for.

Let me show you what's happening on the jet stream level, why we're seeing this cold air across the nation's midsection. The jet stream, polar jet stream, arctic jet here, subtropical jet stream down to the south and of course the warmer air flows is controlled by this jet stream. The polar jet or the arctic jet controls where the cold air goes and of course, where this cold air is the next few days, this cold air mass slips very slowly to the east. That means that we'll see a large area of light snow from the northern plains through the New England states next few days, no major weather makers, no major storm makers next couple of days.

Then showers across parts of southern California as the warm air is trying to creeping back into the southland and of course that jet stream is a separation between the colder air here and of course, the warmer air to the south and those of us who were in the middle, we're the ones that see the cold and the warm and the cold and the warm and that's why we always blame the weather for being sick. It's not the weather. It's your habits in the weather and the travel cast shows nice weather from the southeast all of the way to the northeast, plenty of sunshine with highs as warm as 82 in south Florida. That's the place to go.

HARRIS: I've got you.

NGUYEN: It's not the weather, OK.

HARRIS: It's what you do with the weather.

NGUYEN: We won't blame the messenger this time.

HUFFINES: For a change, right.

NGUYEN: I know, really. Why start now?

HARRIS: You know the question of the day?

NGUYEN: Yes. A good question has got people on both sides. Here it is, do you say Merry Christmas or happy holidays and why? Well Tom in Toronto says I use the term happy holidays when I'm sure that I'm speaking with someone other than someone of the Christian faith. If I'm speaking with a Christian I specifically wish them a Merry Christmas.

HARRIS: And this from David who writes when someone wishes another either Merry Christmas or happy holidays they are extending true warm feelings of care. To get upset over the semantics is disgusting as the idea itself is pure. Who cares which words one uses to express seasonal cheer? Thank you, David.

NGUYEN: Sherry says happy holidays is what I've used for many years so it would include happy new year. I guess I was ahead of the times, right church but different pew. That is from Sherry and of course, we're going to have another e-mail question for you tomorrow morning so you'll want to stay tuned for that. Good one today.

HARRIS: Hot e-mails, hot! Now, don't everyone answer at once. How many of you have completed your Christmas or holiday shopping?

NGUYEN: I have. Done! I am so excited about that. For those of you who haven't though, I won't gloat. We do have something special for you in the next hour. You got to stick around for that. Here are some ideas, stocking stuffers. Thought about those? Well, that's something I haven't thought about as yet. Well, our gadget guru will be talking about all these goodies. So you think about an iPod? Don't swipe that credit card before you see the segment. That's live next hour.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

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