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Seeing Orange in Orange County; Coretta Scott King Being Laid to Rest Today

Aired February 7, 2006 - 08:00   ET


I'm Miles O'Brien.

ZAIN VERJEE, CNN ANCHOR: And I'm Zain Verjee in for Soledad.

O'BRIEN: Seeing orange in Orange County. Two hundred homes evacuated near L.A. as a wildfire spreads by high winds. We're live with the latest.

Coretta Scott King being laid to rest today. Four American presidents among the thousands expected to attend in Atlanta. We'll have that live on her funeral.

And Mardi Gras -- it could be a big, fat medical nightmare in New Orleans. We'll ask the city's top doc.

VERJEE: More violence in the wake of controversial cartoons. Protesters spread nearly around the world. We've got a live look ahead.

And a surprise from Cuban leader Fidel Castro. It's all part of his so-called billboard battle with the United States. We're going to explain ahead on this AMERICAN MORNING.

O'BRIEN: And we begin with growing fire danger in Southern California this morning. Wildfires moving closer to homes and schools. Thousands already evacuated.

Let's get right to CNN's Kareen Wynter, who is right in the midst of it, in Orange, California -- Kareen, what can you tell us?


They continue to fight fire with fire here in Orange County, the more than 700 fire personnel on the scene. The big challenge remains -- and you've been seeing all morning just the dramatic pictures, all the flames shooting into the air. While that fire is located in a remote area, a mountainous area, it's too dark to do aerial drops right now. But what crews have been doing all morning -- in fact, they worked throughout the night -- is to control burns.

They're actually burning some back fires just to try to get things under control.

Miles, you also had a chance to speak with a public information officer, Captain Stephen Miller, last hour. He gave you an idea of where things stand right now.

He says they're cautiously optimistic.


CAPT. STEPHEN MILLER, ORANGE COUNTY FIRE AUTHORITY: Right now, the weather is in our favor. We've been taking advantage of that through the evening and we'll continue to do so until it starts to warm up a little bit here. Weather predictions are that the winds will carry on in through Wednesday, and that's going to be our biggest enemy, if they do kick up again.


WYNTER: And another thing, that wind will -- another factor that'll play here is in evacuations, whether or not to increase that number from currently 2,000 -- Miles.

O'BRIEN: Thank you very much.

CNN's Kareen Wynter in Orange, California.

Let's check in with Chad Myers at the Weather Center -- Chad, we were talking about those Santa Ana winds. There's really nothing in the forecast that would lead you to believe they're going to abate today.


A little bit...




MYERS: Sorry about that.


MYERS: I was good for a long time.

A little bit better today, but worse again tomorrow. As the cold air kind of wraps in, high pressure pushes down the mountains and then heats up. And then it gets right down into the Pacific Ocean.

As it compresses, as the air goes downhill, it actually speeds up in the canyons. It dries out the air and it dries out, basically, all the vegetation.

Right now we're seeing wind speeds in Bakersfield at 23, Riverside at 14, Chula Vista 15 miles per hour. These are morning winds. When the winds start to pick up this afternoon, they're going to be 30 and 35. Tomorrow they could be 35 and 40, all because high pressure and low pressure get a little too close together and the winds blow down the slope, down the shore.

And as the winds blow in, the air sinks. It compresses, warms up, dries out and makes more fire. That's what they don't need out there -- Miles.

O'BRIEN: All right, thank you very much, Chad.

MYERS: You're welcome.

O'BRIEN: Zane.

VERJEE: Chad, hot water and lemon. That's my...

MYERS: Hot water and lemon?

VERJEE: Hot water and lemon. I strongly suggest that.

O'BRIEN: With a little whiskey.

MYERS: (UNINTELLIGIBLE) this morning. I don't know what it is.


MYERS: I could do that.

VERJEE: Thanks, Chad.

MYERS: All right.

VERJEE: Look after yourself.

Let's check in with the headlines and Kelly Wallace -- Kelly.


And good morning, everyone.

More protesters to tell you about across the Muslim community.

In Afghanistan today, rioters clashing with peacekeepers and at least one person were killed. The demonstrations are over cartoons depicting caricatures of the Prophet Muhammad.

Haiti is holding its first presidential election in almost six years amid very tight security. Polls have been open now for just about two hours. And it looks like long lines so far, despite the looming threat of violence. Voters will be choosing a successor for Jean-Bertrand Aristide, the president who was ousted two years ago. There are 33 candidates to choose from.

The debate over the domestic spying program far from over. U.S. Attorney General Alberto Gonzales could be called to testify again. On Monday, he went before lawmakers and defended the program, calling it an early warning system.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) ALBERTO GONZALES, U.S. ATTORNEY GENERAL: The terror surveillance program is necessary. It is lawful. And it respects the civil liberties that we all cherish.


WALLACE: But Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Arlen Specter says he's not convinced and there are expected to be more hearings on the issue.

And it is eviction day for thousands of Katrina evacuees. They'll now have to pay their own way and leave the hotels they've been staying in at FEMA's expense unless they've been given an extension. FEMA says it has spent $529 million on hotel lodging for evacuees.

A quick check of the headlines -- back to Miles and Zane.

VERJEE: Thanks, Kelly.

Some 10,000 mourners will pay their respects to the first lady of the civil rights movement. Today's service for Coretta Scott King will be held in suburban Atlanta at a church she frequently attended toward the end of her life and where her daughter is a minister.

We're joined now by CNN's Tony Harris -- Tony, good morning.

What's ahead today?

TONY HARRIS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Zane, good morning to you.

As you mentioned, we are just outside the 10,000-seat, $50 million complex, New Birth Missionary Baptist Church, where a public viewing is underway right now. It started about 6:30 this morning and will go until 8:00 -- or until 9:30 Eastern time this morning. Another opportunity for people to pay their respects to Coretta Scott King, the woman widely considered the first lady, as you mentioned, of the civil rights movement.

Yesterday, in a moving memorial service at the New Ebenezer Baptist Church, Oprah Winfrey spoke and she talked about her place in the dream that was shared by Coretta Scott King and her husband.


OPRAH WINFREY, TALK SHOW HOST: I live inside the dream. I understand that. And Mrs. King also understood that. She -- she recognized that my generation and those to come carry the weight and the fulfillment of his legacy.


HARRIS: And as you mentioned, President Bush and three former presidents will be here for the funeral. Stevie Wonder, Bee Bee and Cece Winans and Michael Bolton will perform. And after the funeral this afternoon, shortly after 3:00 p.m. or thereafter, Mrs. King's body will be placed in a temporary mausoleum, very near her husband's tomb at the King Center.

And Zane -- back to you.

VERJEE: Why did the family choose this church? What's the significant?

HARRIS: Well, in terms of the funeral today, it's significant because, as I mentioned, it's a 10,000-seat church. It's probably one of only a handful of churches in Georgia, certainly, that could accommodate the crowd that is expected to attend the funeral today. And, also, it is a church that the King family started to visit and attend a few years ago after the bishop, T.D. -- the bishop, Eddie Long, spoke at a King Day service event. And, also, as you mentioned, Bernice King, Coretta Scott King's youngest daughter, is a pastor here.

VERJEE: Tony Harris reporting.

Thanks, Tony.

HARRIS: Sure thing.

VERJEE: Coming up a little later in the show, we're going to talk to poet Maya Angelou about her memories from her close personal friendship with Coretta Scott King.

And CNN will bring you special live coverage of the funeral beginning at 12:00 p.m. Eastern.

O'BRIEN: I look forward to hearing from her. She's a wonderful woman.

Coming up, buying a new house?

VERJEE: Well, you're going to have to hang onto your wallet. There are lots of hidden closing costs.

O'BRIEN: We'll show you how to avoid getting over charged by those otherwise rather reputable real estate mortgage brokers.

VERJEE: Also, our special health series for folks in their 30s, 40s and 50s. Today, we're going to take a look at the tests every man should get when he goes to the doctor.

O'BRIEN: Hmmm. Sounds painful.

Plus, it will be a bittersweet Mardi Gras in New Orleans. The question is will it be safe? A lot of concerns there are not enough hospital beds to handle all the revelers.

That's next on AMERICAN MORNING.


O'BRIEN: Well, stealing a line from Simon & Garfunkel, if they don't mind, they say it's all happening at the zoo. Hundreds of people turning up for a free medical clinic at the Audubon Zoo in New Orleans, right across from the elephants and the bears. You can get your teeth cleaned and a parvo shot simultaneously.

So how many showed up?

The staff of 400 volunteers had to turn some patients away, so many showed up. They'll get another chance. The zoo-based clinic will be open right through the weekend. It's a telling scene there in New Orleans and it tells you a little bit about the state of health care right now.

All this with Mardi Gras just a matter of weeks away. It's the first Mardi Gras A.K. after Katrina. And with only one adult hospital open -- and it's not a level one trauma facility -- there are a lot of concerns being raised about whether the city is really capable of handling all the revelers that are associated with Mardi Gras. And, granted, it won't be as big as previous Mardi Gras, but nevertheless, can the city handle it and what should people who decide to visit the city do or anticipate should they get sick or injured?

Joining us live is Dr. Kevin Stephens.

He is the director of the city's Health Department.

Dr. Stephens, welcome to the program.

You don't have a lot of capacity.

How concerned are you?


How are you doing?

We are very concerned. You're right, we don't have the capacity we had in the previous years. However, we are working very hard to stand up, to make sure that we have a capacity to handle the surge that we anticipate for this Mardi Gras season.

O'BRIEN: All right, so we've got -- you've got 273 beds at the Toro facility, which is an adult facility; 125 at the children's hospital. Those are already at capacity, right?

STEPHENS: Well, pretty much.

But you have to understand that we have a greatest New Orleans network. Inside the greater New Orleans area, we have several hospitals, namely, I could just tick them off -- East Jefferson, West Jefferson, Arlington Medical (ph), there's Kenner Regional...

O'BRIEN: All right, yes, well, I think the total is about 1,750 beds by one count.

STEPHENS: Yes, sure. Sure.

O'BRIEN: But the compares to in excess of 5,000 beds prior to Katrina. That is the concern here. And let's -- the very nature of Mardi Gras is a kind of event which leads to people needing medical care. That's just the truth, right?

So what can be done about that? Can you ramp up? Can you provide more care?

STEPHENS: Yes. Well, we have a couple of hospitals where -- one, mainly, Tulane Medical Center -- that's coming up on board starting February the 14th, which is prior to Mardi Gras. But, you know, the most important thing here is, number one, most of the injuries and most of the visits we will see during this Mardi Gras period, they all are preventable. So that's why we're trying to get the message out to all of the visitors and the citizens here, you know, be very careful.

A lot of people do drink and they over drink and they drive and they have accidents. And so what we are telling people is, number one, you know, take extra caution when you come to the city. Don't drink too much. I mean have a good time, enjoy the parades, go and do the sightseeing and all the things that are just wonderful and fantastic about New Orleans. But really, please take extra care to make sure that you don't over indulge and don't drink too much and don't engage in risky behaviors.

O'BRIEN: Dr. Stephens, I do appreciate your admonitions and I don't want to, you know, make light of them in any way. But it is Mardi Gras. It's all about indulgence. They call it Fat Tuesday. It's the last day before Lent. It's all about imbibing. That's what it's all about.

So when you offer those kinds of cautionary warnings to people coming to Mardi Gras, do you really think that will stand you in good stead?

STEPHENS: Well, I mean, you know, what we have to do is we have to give people advice. This is not the normal, regular season. This is not the regular, normal Mardi Gras. In light of that, we all have to take into consideration the special circumstances that have happened there, just as you said, A.K. after Katrina.

And after Katrina, we just have to be a little bit more careful. We have to be more mindful and we have to really pay attention to what we're doing, because this is not the normal New Orleans that we had pre-K.

O'BRIEN: Exactly. And pre-K. A.K. a very good point. And maybe, maybe that's a pretty good argument for not having a Mardi Gras this year.

Would you have been one of the people who said, you know, this is not a good idea this year?

STEPHENS: No. In fact, you know, a couple of things. Number one, the medical community, for instance, we all have gotten together and we are meeting every week. We have a fairly detailed plan that we working on to make sure that we have the capacity.

Number two, it's very important for people to get some sense of normalcy. You know, one of the biggest problems we are facing now is Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder. And one of the things that we have to do is get people back together. With Mardi Gras, you have Mardi Gras cruise, you have the parades, live update have the floats. People begin -- they are beginning to get back to this normalcy sense so that they can -- we can avoid some of the Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder that is very prevalent. We can get people back in their communities.

O'BRIEN: That's a great point, and I think the emotional injection that this provides is a great thing.

But wouldn't it be awful if, at the end of the day, we learned of deaths that would have been otherwise preventable under normal circumstances?

What will you say in the wake of something like that?

STEPHENS: Well, what you can -- what we're doing is exactly what you're doing right now. I mean what we have to do is educate the public and tell the visitors and the citizens, like, look, this is not the normal Mardi Gras. This is A.K. This is after Katrina. And we all have to take a little extra caution that we would not have done normally, pre-K. because we know that the health care system is, indeed, taxed.

And so we have to be careful, I mean -- and I think the main thing we have to do is what you've done right now, which is saying and telling people and getting the message out that, look, don't over indulge. Be very careful. Don't over drink. Don't do things -- don't engage in risky behaviors, because the system is certainly very stretched.

And so we want to get the word out and get the message out right now so that people can be aware. And I think that's what we need to do.

O'BRIEN: Dr. Kevin Stephens, who is director of the New Orleans Health Department.

We wish you well as you try to get that message out in advance of this Mardi Gras A.K. -- Zane.

STEPHENS: Thank you very much.

O'BRIEN: You're welcome.

VERJEE: Coming up, what tests should men ask for when they go to the doctor?

We're going to take a look in our special health series for people in their 30s, 40s and 50s. And later, important tips if you're in the market for a new house. We're going to tell you how to make sure you aren't caught off guard by hidden closing costs.

Stay with us on AMERICAN MORNING.


VERJEE: Our bodies go through a lot of changes in our 30s, 40s and 50s. This week, we're looking at just what each decade can mean for your health.

Today, Dr. Sanjay Gupta has some tips for men. Just what kind of medical tests should you be getting if you're 30, 40 or 50 -- Sanjay, you're always in good shape. You eat healthy, you workout, you know.


VERJEE: You know, what's the secret?

GUPTA: What's the secret? Well, let me tell you, I mean, the first secret, I think, for a lot of guys listening out there is actually just making the appointment to go see your doctor. Too many men just simply don't do this.

And we want to go through the specifics of what you do when you get to the doctor's offices.

Here's what we found.


GUPTA (voice-over): You'd be hard-pressed to find a more fit 49- year-old. Peter Moore is the executive editor of "Men's Health" magazine. He exercises three or four times a week, everything from basketball to skiing.

PETER MOORE, 49 -YEAR-OLD: Doctors were applauding me. You know, they would look at my weight, my cholesterol numbers, you know, what I was eating, my exercise plan.

GUPTA: But two years ago, Peter had a rude awakening. Extreme chest pains brought him to the doctor, who found 99 percent blockage in a major artery. If gone untreated, he could have died.

Peter had an angioplasty and is back in good health. But how could somebody so fit have major coronary heart disease and have it go undetected.

MOORE: If I had had a nuclear stress test, it's hard to know how we could have caught that. We all need to have, you know, a high level of awareness of this.

GUPTA: Men see doctors 28 percent less often than women and many don't know what to ask.

First off, they should get to know their numbers.

DR. CHRISTOPHER KELLY, NYU SCHOOL OF MEDICINE: The 30s are a decade in order to get baseline measurements of your overall state of health -- your blood pressure, your weight, knowing your cholesterol, your complete blood count, urinalysis and glucose are all vital tests to be getting, and also a baseline EKG is recommended.

GUPTA: Electrocardiograms for your heart and an easy self- testicular exam.

KELLY: The most common cancer for men in their 30s is testis cancer. Particularly in their 40s, we start seeing more diseases pop up.

GUPTA: So me should visit their doctors annually and ask about risks associated with family history and disease. Stress tests, cholesterol lowering drugs or daily aspirin may be in order. African- American men and other high risk males should consider prostate cancer screenings, the PSA blood test and the infamous digital rectal exam. Detected early, prostate cancer can be cured.

KELLY: In their 50s, a patient should be aware that they need a colonoscopy. They should also be aware that they need prostate cancer screening.

GUPTA: Fifty-somethings need the same diagnostic tests as their younger counterparts, but now colorectal and prostate cancers are a greater concern. For guys like Peter Moore, early tests and early detection could be a lifesaver.


GUPTA: And, you know, Zane, it's interesting, just getting guys to their doctors, again, is such an important theme that we learned as we were researching this series. In 1920, women lived, on average, a year longer than men. Fast forward 80 plus years and men usually die six years before women. So it hasn't been so good. They need to go see their doctors, especially men -- Zane.


Sanjay, a quick question.

What disease should men be most concerned about that you think that they should pay attention to?

GUPTA: Well, heart disease has to be the number one, for sure. And that -- incidentally, that's for men and for women. That's an important point, Zane. We'll talk about that more later.

But heart disease, about 28 percent of men, especially as they're getting into some of the ages that we're talking about, need to start getting their numbers checked, whether it's a simple blood pressure, getting your cholesterol and taking medications, possibly, if necessary, as well. That can be a real life saver and lead to a much longer productive life -- Zane. VERJEE: Dr. Sanjay Gupta, thanks a lot.

GUPTA: Thank you.

VERJEE: In our series tomorrow, Elizabeth Cohen is going to take a look at age and metabolism. Just how much exercise do we need at each age and what happens to our metabolism and calorie needs through the years? Find out tomorrow here on AMERICAN MORNING -- Miles.

O'BRIEN: Coming up on the program, the day's top stories, including some big news out of Detroit. Another car maker may be ready to cut some jobs.

And later, Fidel Castro's surprise for America. The Cuban president unveils his answer to the U.S. consulate's ticker. The ticker war in Cuba ahead on AMERICAN MORNING.


O'BRIEN: You can get the latest news every morning by watching us or in your e-mail, as well, or both. Do that by signing up for AMERICAN MORNING quick news at, because you can never have too much information.

VERJEE: And also to come, the 10 worst places to close a house.

O'BRIEN: Yes, you'd be surprised.

VERJEE: Those hidden closing costs.

O'BRIEN: You'd be surprised.

VERJEE: You know, you've got to hate...

O'BRIEN: Do you know which one it is? Do you know what the top of the list is?

VERJEE: I don't. I'm waiting with great anticipation. But, you know, all I can say is whatever you do, put it in writing first.

O'BRIEN: It's probably the biggest financial transaction of your life and there are people out there who just want to rob you while you're doing it. So we're going to give you some tips on how you can navigate your way through a house closing without getting fleeced.

Stay with us for more AMERICAN MORNING.


ANNOUNCER: You're watching AMERICAN MORNING with Soledad O'Brien and Miles O'Brien.

O'BRIEN: Good morning.

We're glad you're with us on this AMERICAN MORNING.

VERJEE: We are, indeed.

I'm Zain Verjee in for Soledad.

And you are?

O'BRIEN: I think I'm Miles O'Brien. And I'm in for me.

VERJEE: We are going to have a live report from Copenhagen. Matthew Chance will be joining us with more on the cartoon controversy. The protesters have been spreading around the world, particularly in Afghanistan.

O'BRIEN: Yes. And I saw a kind of an ominous note that in Iran they're proposing a cartoon contest, the subject being the Holocaust, of all things. So you get a sense of where this thing is heading. It seems as if there's got to be a way to relieve some pressure on and come up with a way -- a face-saving so that these protesters can end.

In any case, before we get to that, let's go to Kelly Wallace, who joins us now in with newsroom -- hello, Kelly.

WALLACE: Hello, Miles.

And good morning, everyone.

A guilty verdict in a closely watched terror trial in Britain. A jury has found radical Muslim cleric Abu Hamza al-Mazri guilty on several charges, including inciting murder. The announcement coming just in the past 15 minutes. Al-Mazri also faces terror-related charges here in the United States.

To Iraq now. Tightened security after a double bombing at a center Baghdad marketplace. The explosions coming just minutes apart. At least three people were killed. Some 20 others are wounded.

Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld will be on Capitol Hill next hour defending the Pentagon budget. The proposed figure, more than $439 billion, and that's a 7 percent increase over last year. The Senate Armed Services Committee wants to know how that money is going to be used. Lawmakers could also ask if the Pentagon is ready to face Iran, if need be, in the future.

A final farewell today for Coretta Scott King. Thousands expected to attend today's funeral. Among them, President Bush and three former U.S. presidents. The King's youngest daughter will deliver the eulogy. Bernice King was five years old when her father, Martin Luther King, Jr. was assassinated back in 1968. Photographs show her lying in her mother's lap during his funeral.


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