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California Death Row Inmate Gets Temporary Stay of Execution; Women of the Storm Working to Rebuild New Orleans; President Bush Responds to Port Security Controversy
Aired February 21, 2006 - 15:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
TONY HARRIS, CNN ANCHOR: And topping our "Security Watch" this hour, is the U.S. diving in to something dangerous? That's the question looming over a controversial deal the Bush administration approved.
It gives an Arab-based company control over six major U.S. ports. But Democrats and Republicans alike are saying, not so fast. They want more scrutiny.
Now, the company involved in the port deal calls the United Arab Emirates home, but the Gulf nation has also been called a lot more. Some say it's an ally in the war on terror. Others say it is an enemy.
CNN's justice correspondent, Kelli Arena, looks at the UAE's recent and checkered past
KELLI ARENA, CNN JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The hijacker who steered a United Airlines flight into the World Trade Center's south tower, Marwan al-Shehhi, was one of two 9/11 hijackers born in the United Arab Emirates.
In fact, most of the hijackers traveled to the United States through the UAE to carry out their deadly plan. The FBI has said the money for 9/11 was transferred to the hijackers primarily through the UAE's banking system. Even after the attacks, the U.S. Treasury Department complained about a lack of cooperation in trying to track Osama bin Laden's bank accounts.
REP. PETER KING (R), NEW YORK: The United Arab Emirates, they're one of only three countries in the world that, prior to September 11, recognized the Taliban. In the days after 9/11, they were not overly supportive, as we were trying to track down terrorists' financial transactions.
What's more, U.S. officials have said the UAE was an important transfer point for shipments of smuggled nuclear components sent to Iran, North Korea and Libya by the Pakistani scientist A.Q. Khan.
Nonetheless, the Bush administration calls the UAE an ally in the war on terror. And counterterrorism officials say it is cooperating more, and consistently, since 9/11. JOHN MCLAUGHLIN, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY ADVISER: It's rare to find a country that has been cooperative in -- in three different arenas, the pursuit of terrorism, the pursuit of their money, and helpful also on proliferation of weapons.
ARENA: In 2002, it was the UAE who caught and extradited al Qaeda's leader in the Gulf, described as the mastermind of the attack on the USS Cole.
And it is working with the United States to prevent the diversion of sensitive U.S. technology through its shipment hubs.
(on camera): Counterterrorism officials say, relatively speaking, the UAE has a realistic understanding of the terrorism problem and has made a commitment to help deal with it, much more so, they say, than its neighbors in the region.
Kelli Arena, CNN, Washington.
BETTY NGUYEN, CNN ANCHOR: President Bush says it was all just a mix-mixup.
The president visited the National Renewable Energy Laboratory in Golden, Colorado, and told the workers their work is important and it's appreciated, this despite the fact that 32 workers were laid off there two weeks ago. Those workers were reinstated over the weekend, just before the president's scheduled visit today.
President Bush has been advocating more energy research. And critics are suggesting that the reinstatements were little more than political damage control.
CNN White House correspondent Suzanne Malveaux is standing by.
What do they say at the White House about all of this, Suzanne?
SUZANNE MALVEAUX, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, Betty, of course, this is something that the president hoped to promote to get a lot of attention, basically increasing funding for these new energy technologies, this research.
Instead, the sidebar story really became the main story. That is the fact that some 32 workers, a couple weeks ago, at this particular laboratory that he's highlighting today, all lost their jobs. They said that it was a $28 million shortfall in the budget, of course.
And, then, over the weekend, it was the secretary of energy, Sam Bodman, who managed to get it together, at least some $5 million, to reinstate their jobs. And, so, they were all, you know, sitting there with the president.
Clearly, this not what the administration or -- or the White House had wanted.
I had a chance to talk to the secretary about how all of this unfolded. And, essentially, he said that they made a mistake.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SAMUEL BODMAN, ENERGY SECRETARY: I made the judgment, ultimately, that we would take funds and put it in there, so that we could rehire those people, and that, in effect, we made an error.
And, so we -- one of the...
BODMAN: One of the things we have -- I have learned -- is, if you make a mistake, you step in and try to fix it. And, so, we have -- we have tried to fix it. And, then, we will -- we're now working, and we're going to be working with Congress.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MALVEAUX: So, what -- what he is talking about is that he made a decision, essentially, to put some of those other funds for energy projects, national energy projects. It meant that there was going to be a cut on that -- in that lab, and that those workers were going to lose their jobs.
There are some people, of course, who are suspicious of all of this, saying that this was simply a publicity stunt. The only reason why the secretary did this in the first place, they feel, is because the president came to visit, that it would be an embarrassment.
He also said -- he addressed that point, asking him. And he said, that was not the case, but he certainly understood that -- if employees were upset and frustrated, and that they would only, in time, be able to tell if the administration was truly sincere -- Betty.
NGUYEN: It is all very interesting.
CNN's Suzanne Malveaux at the White House -- thank you, Suzanne.
Well, there are new poll numbers on how Americans view President Bush, energy independence, and other issues.
Joining us now from Princeton, New Jersey, Gallup's editor in chief, Frank Newport.
Hi to you, Frank.
I want to ask you this, though. Does the public consider the president a credible advocate for energy reform?
FRANK NEWPORT, EDITOR IN CHIEF, GALLUP POLL: Well, he doesn't do very well when we asked Americans, Betty.
Job approval rating, the classic job approval on handling energy policy, his latest overall rating, 39. Last time we asked about his energy rating, it was 30. So, it was quite a bit lower than that. So, no, I wouldn't say he has great credence on that element at the moment, even though he has, of course, a background in the energy industry.
A couple of interesting points here: Americans are all in favor of alternative energy, when we have asked about it, solar and wind and all of that. Yes, say the American public, but, at the moment -- and this is interesting -- energy has kind of moved down the list of priorities for Americans.
Every month, we here at Gallup say, what's the biggest financial problem facing your personal family? And energy was the number-one issue last October, and last September, and last August, particularly after Hurricane Katrina. But now it's health care costs and other more mundane problems -- energy, not quite as salient to the average American as it has been, say last fall -- Betty.
Well, as you know, Frank, primary elections are just a few weeks away in some states. And Democrats are hoping the Abramoff controversy will win them some votes. So, is there a realistic chance Democrats could win control of Congress this fall?
NEWPORT: Well, that's the $64,000 question -- now maybe $64 million question. Everybody wants to know that.
We do know that the Democrats are ahead now in our generic ballot. Who would you vote for in your congressional district? All 435 of them, of course, up for reelection next November -- seven-point margin, not a huge margin, suggests the Democrats have an edge, maybe not as much of an edge as they're going to need. We will see what happens.
Both parties, however -- and this is probably the more important point I would like to make, Betty -- Americans are kind of negative on both parties at the moment.
"Does the Republican Party have a clear plan for solving our problems?" Look on the left there. Only 26 percent of Americans say yes. Asked about the Democratic Party's plan, a little lower, 23 percent -- so, Americans kind of negative on Congress and both parties at the moment.
NGUYEN: Yes. Those -- those aren't good numbers there.
Well, Gallup also conducts an annual poll on which countries Americans like the most and which they just simply don't like. So, what does this year's results show?
NEWPORT: Well, this is fascinating. We do it every February.
We just read a list of countries to Americans and say, "Do you have a favorable or unfavorable impression when you hear the name of that country?"
Here's the top five. These are the five that show up at the top of the list, Israel, a couple of erstwhile enemies of the United States, Germany and Japan, from World War II, now at the top of the list. Then come a couple of English-speaking countries, Great Britain and Canada at the top of the list.
What's at the bottom? These are the countries with the lowest favorable ratings. When Americans hear these countries, they don't think very positive thoughts: Libya, Cuba and Iraq, Palestinian Authority, North Korea, and, then, at the bottom of the list, not surprisingly, Betty, it's Iran.
NGUYEN: Mmm-hmm. Frank Newport, as always, very interesting. We thank you for your time -- Tony.
HARRIS: Nonchalant, not the reaction you would expect from a man who hears his execution is delayed, but that's how a spokesman at San Quentin state prison described Michael Morales when he got that news.
Morales was scheduled to die by a series of three injections last night for the rape and murder of a 17-year-old girl 25 years ago. But two anesthesiologists who were on hand to help minimize Morales' pain walked out, saying it wasn't medically ethical to participate.
Prison officials have now revised the method. They will use just one shot to give Morales a lethal overdose of the sedative sodium pentathol. His execution is rescheduled for tonight.
The execution delay story calls for a closer look at capital punishment, and, specifically, lethal injection. Here are the facts.
HARRIS (voice-over): The United States was the first nation to use lethal injection as a form of capital punishment in 1982.
Today, of the 38 states that have a death penalty, 34 use lethal injection as the primary method of execution. Electrocution is still the only method used in Nebraska. And firing squads can still be used in Oklahoma, Idaho and Utah.
Death by lethal injection is believed by many to be most humane form of execution available. The process involves the intravenous injection of up to three chemicals. The first is the anesthetic, a barbiturate known as sodium thiopental, or pentathol. It used as an anesthetic in general surgery as well. However, the dosage can be as much as 50 times stronger for an execution.
The second drug administered to the inmate is the muscle relaxant pancuronium bromide. Again, the dosage is much higher than in general surgery. And the injection typically paralyzes the lungs and stops breathing.
These first two injections are lethal. But some states employ a third injection as well. The last is the toxic agent potassium chloride, which is also used in some types of cardiac surgery. Potassium chloride causes immediate cardiac arrest.
NGUYEN: Up next on LIVE FROM, the Tower of London rushes to guard its precious ravens from the threat of bird flu. Is the very future of London at stake? We're perched on the edge of our seats. Aren't you?
HARRIS: Well, New Orleans kicked off its 150th Mardi Gras over the weekend, but, with the city still picking up the pieces from Hurricane Katrina, it's a scaled-back celebration.
Several parades were held Saturday and Sunday. But the rest of the festivals and all of the festivities are on hold until Thursday.
HARRIS (voice-over): In a normal year, Mardi Gras brings more than one million revelers to the streets of New Orleans and $1 billion to the area economy.
This is not a normal year. Six months after Hurricane Katrina, New Orleans is still a devastated city. While the French Quarter is back in business, large parts of the rest of New Orleans look like a war zone. And two-thirds of the pre-Katrina population is still living somewhere else.
After the storm, some people said New Orleans should forget about Mardi Gras this year.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: (INAUDIBLE) Good luck. Ace up.
HARRIS: But, perhaps drawing inspiration from its gambling casinos, New Orleans decided to take a chance.
RAY NAGIN (D), MAYOR OF NEW ORLEANS: That we are here today to announce the start of the Mardi Gras season.
(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)
HARRIS: It placed its bests on a smaller celebration, downsized from the usual 12 or so days.
But some say even the pared-down celebrations may be too much, too soon. There's still not much travel to New Orleans. And the number of planes landing at Louis Armstrong International Airport is only about half of what it was before the storm.
As of early this month, only 22,000 of the area's 38,000 hotel and motel rooms were usable. And thousands of those rooms were still being occupied by evacuees and disaster workers.
About one-third of the restaurants have reopened, but many are having trouble finding staff. Medical emergencies can spike during Mardi Gras, but the city has only two working full-service emergency rooms. So, why not wait until next year?
Well, it's more than just tradition. Many city leaders see this year's celebration as a vote of confidence in the future, not to mention a desperately need cash infusion.
REP. WILLIAM JEFFERSON (D), LOUISIANA: There are folks who feel that it's an indication that the city is -- is -- is coming back, and that we are getting back to some sense of normalcy.
STEPHEN PERRY, PRESIDENT AND CEO, NEW ORLEANS CONVENTION AND VISITORS BUREAU: It's about our economics, because it sets us back on the path to economic revitalization.
HARRIS: While no one is expecting the usual $1 billion economic boost, the New Orleans Convention and Visitors Bureau is predicting a $400 hundred million benefit. At least, that's the hope.
So, what's it going to be, Fat Tuesday or lean Tuesday? For the city of New Orleans, the future may ride on that answer.
HARRIS: New Orleans' Mardi Gras celebrations resume Thursday. Then, they will go straight through until Fat Tuesday, one week from today.
NGUYEN: Yes, it is.
Well, you have seen it on TV. You certainly have seen it right here on CNN, but a group of women called Women of the Storm say, these images don't reveal the enormity of the disaster in New Orleans. So, they extended personal invitations to lawmakers to visit the city, all expenses paid, to see it for themselves.
Beverly Church is a member of the Women of the Storm in New Orleans.
We appreciate you being with us.
And with me here in Atlanta is U.S. Congressman Lynn Westmoreland. He is one of the lawmakers who accepted their invitation.
And I want to appreciate you for being with us as well, Congressman.
REP. LYNN WESTMORELAND (R), GEORGIA: Well, thanks.
NGUYEN: Beverly, I want to start with you, because these are all-expenses-paid trips down to the devastation zone. Why is it needed?
BEVERLY CHURCH, WOMEN OF THE STORM: It's so needed, because people honestly can't begin to understand the scope of the mile-after- mile devastation, until they have seen it firsthand. And when the congressmen came down, we were so excited that Representative Westmoreland and Garrett and their families came down, because they even, I think, felt the impact.
But I'm going to let him tell you. They -- we took them on flyovers of the wetlands. And we took them on a bus tour through many of the devastated areas. So, we're hoping it will make a difference when they go back home.
NGUYEN: And you also took them to the Lower Ninth Ward.
And I think the thing that's striking, yes, we have all seen it on television, but only a small percentage of lawmakers has -- have actually been down there to see it with their own eyes. Is that true?
CHURCH: That's true.
And that's what we are trying to do. The Women of the Storm is totally dedicated to bringing as many -- all of the congressmen, senators, and House members who have not been here. And senator -- the -- Hastert and Pelosi are bringing a group of 100 on March 2 through the 4th.
CHURCH: And we think that will make a huge amount of difference.
But it wasn't just the Lower Nine. We took them to Lakeview, Gentilly, many of the areas. It -- it did not have a -- any way that it was discriminating. It was families that had many, many millions of dollars worth of houses, and those who had relatively poor ones, but it was an -- a tour of the entire city.
NGUYEN: Just a raw look at the reality there.
NGUYEN: ... accepted this invitation to go down there and see it for yourself. One, why? And, two, what did you see on the ground that you haven't seen on television?
WESTMORELAND: Well, number one, I was invited.
And I think it makes a difference when somebody goes, being invited, than they do trying to get a good photo-op for their local newspaper. The other thing was is that I wanted to see it firsthand. I wanted to see the devastation. I wanted to see where the money was being spent.
NGUYEN: And, so, in looking at it, because -- speaking of money, back in September, there was this $52 billion bill in aid that was going to go out there. You voted against that.
Now that you have seen the situation on the ground, does that change your perspective? Because there were some concerns for you back then about corruption, where was this money going, how was it going to be used.
WESTMORELAND: Well, I think I made the right vote, in the simple fact that we had appropriated $10 billion the week before, and 52 billion additional dollars when we got a breakdown that was 13 line items, and saw that they were trying to purchase 300,000 mobile homes.
The -- the -- the condition in New Orleans was changing every day. And, so, I said, why don't we appropriate another $10 billion, come back and look at the situation, and do another $10 billion every week, or every 10 days, or how often we need it do it? But let's just don't do -- let's don't jump out there and do something, when this thing is changing all the time.
NGUYEN: Did it make a huge difference for you to be there, for you to see it? And what surprised you the most?
WESTMORELAND: Well, I -- it -- it was kind of a -- a shock to see the -- the total devastation, especially where those breaches were at in -- in the levees, just an unbelievable thing to see people's clothes hanging out of trees, and, you know, cars turned upside-down.
But the Women of the Storm made a big difference for me, because it really put some real-life faces with the situation, and not just politicians. And I think these ladies, I think that group of 130 women, are going to make a difference in what goes on down there, because, not only are they lobbying us to come see it ourselves, but I think they're going to hold the locals' feet to the fire, and make sure that their community gets put back together right, and make sure that the money goes to the people who can really use it.
NGUYEN: Well, they sure are taking action.
NGUYEN: Beverly, I want to talk to you about this, because you guys have spearheaded this. Women of the Storm has made such a huge difference in getting the awareness out there by putting people on the ground, people who can make a difference.
What are you hoping to accomplish by all this? What do you want to see happen?
CHURCH: We want to see every single member of the House and Senate in the New Orleans, so they can see it firsthand.
And I want to tell you that this whole thing started with Anne Milling, who is our founder. And she decided that if we got a total cross-section, nonpolitical members of the community to go up to Washington to issue the invitation firsthand, with our blue-top umbrellas, which I know you have seen...
NGUYEN: I know. I saw it.
CHURCH: ... representing the devastation of the city. But we also thought that, if we could bring them down and let them meet with not just us, but community leaders, and the people from the Bring Back New Orleans Commission, and the people from the Louisiana Recovery Authority, not just the face of our politicians, but the face of real people -- those businessmen have spent hours and hours in working on education, infrastructure, the health care system.
We have a plan. It is out there. It is going -- under discussion right now. And, very shortly, we will have a united plan that everyone can look to and say, we are coming back in this area of the country, South Louisiana...
NGUYEN: And you have invited...
CHURCH: ... New Orleans.
NGUYEN: ... so many people to come and help you with that.
You mentioned all the lawmakers that are coming down shortly. I want to ask you one last thing, Congressman.
Now that you have seen it, what are you going to do about it?
WESTMORELAND: Well, I'm going to go back and find out where the money is at, because what I found...
CHURCH: Thank you.
WESTMORELAND: ... from talking to people that Beverly...
WESTMORELAND: ... was talking about is that the money is not getting down there.
I mean, we have -- we have appropriated about $90 billion. And I don't see that the homeowners are getting it to be able to prepare to put their houses back.
I talked to General Downer. He went on the trip with us, and just talking about some of the funding about the -- the National Guard and some of the civil defense workers, the firefighters, the police officers, and the way that FEMA is making them spend that money. We have got a problem there.
And I'm going back -- and, trust me -- I'm going to find out where the money has gone and how it has been spent, and see if we can't get it down there quicker to let that rebuilding start.
NGUYEN: And, you know, Women...
CHURCH: Thank you.
NGUYEN: ... of the Storm is going to be all over that, right, Beverly?
CHURCH: We're going to be all over it.
CHURCH: ... he knows. He has met us.
NGUYEN: Good deal.
CHURCH: He knows what we're going to do.
NGUYEN: Well, best of luck to you both.
CHURCH: Thank you so much.
WESTMORELAND: Well, thank you.
NGUYEN: Apparently, there's so much...
CHURCH: Thank you.
NGUYEN: ... that needs to be done.
And, obviously, there are some good people working to make it happen.
NGUYEN: Thank you, Congressman.
WESTMORELAND: Thank you.
CHURCH: Thank you so much.
NGUYEN: Also want to tell you about some other things that are happening today, the weather outside.
Jacqui Jeras, our meteorologist here, I understand it's causing some delays when it comes to travel. Not so good.
JACQUI JERAS, CNN METEOROLOGIST: Yes, not looking great.
Any time When you get those low ceilings, it really takes the planes a little of time to fly into the airports, because you have got to line them up and space them out a little bit more than you do during those clear conditions.
And you can see, we have got a little bit of rain going on across parts of the South and into the Southeast. But everybody is pretty much socked in, in the low clouds here. And that is what is starting to cause some of this trouble.
We also have some problems into the Northeast. We have a little system dropping through here. But it's not really the snowfall that's the problem. It's the winds. They have been gusting, at times, up to 20-plus miles per hour. And you can see the stained -- sustained winds -- are well into the teens.
Let's show you some of the delays that we have at this time, around a half-an-hour to an hour out of Newark, also in to La Guardia, looking for delays to continue through the afternoon and evening hours, though the winds should be dying down then,, say, by mid- evening. We will watch for improvements there.
Delays out of Dallas, 15 to 30 minutes, because of the low clouds, and some light drizzle there -- and, in Atlanta, Hartsfield- Jackson Airport, we got a few breaks. A little bit of sunshine actually peeked on out -- so, those delays becoming a little bit more minimized, but we are expecting that rain to be pulling back on in later on today.
We also have some travel trouble into the western islands of Hawaii. Take a look at some of this rain, which has been pulling in here, very heavy at times. There are some flash flood watches and warnings which have been put into effect for Oahu, Kauai, and Molokai -- and very concerned about the threat of maybe some landslides or mudslides into the higher elevations here.
Heavy rain in the forecast will continue through Wednesday, and then more showery activity is going to be expected there in the rest of the week.
And if you're looking for any breaks here in the Southeast, unfortunately, you're not going it get much of a break either, our frontal boundary basically stalled out here. We will continue to see disturbances through much of the rest of the week, looking very cloudy and very wet -- Betty.
NGUYEN: That is disturbing.
NGUYEN: All right, Jacqui. Talk to you soon.
Well, ahead on LIVE FROM, help a grown man get dressed -- we're serious here, folks. Really. Jeanne Moos has today's crazy Internet story. You're not going to believe this -- that and much more coming up.
NGUYEN: Do you know what you're wearing to work tomorrow? Do you have it all planned out? Well, one guy doesn't has no clue. He hasn't a clue.
As Jeanne Moos shows us, he is waiting for people on the Internet, of all places, to make the choices for him.
JEANNE MOOS, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice over): Imagine telling a guy exactly what to wear, from striped shirt and jeans, to gym shorts and T-shirt, to flowered swimsuit and sunglasses. Want him in a cowboy hat? Just click.
KEVIN MCCORMICK, WWW.DRESSKEVIN.COM: I kind of like it.
MOOS: Dress him from head to toe.
(on-camera): I mean they pick your socks?
MCCORMICK: Yes. Yes. And I'm wearing the socks that -- that they picked, the black socks.
MOOS (voice over): All you have to do is go to www.DressKevin.com.
(on-camera): You're like a Ken doll to them.
MCCORMICK: I really -- yes, a lot of people have said that, actually. Like, I'm the real-life Ken doll.
MOOS (voice over): Every day, Kevin McCormick asks what he should wear the next day. You pick from photos he has taken of practically every item in his closet.
MCCORMICK: This always gets picked. And I have no idea why.
MOOS: Kevin wears labels like Banana Republic, not Prada.
(on-camera): You're not a fashion plate.
MCCORMICK: No, not at all. No...
MCCORMICK: ... in fact, the opposite.
MOOS (voice over): Kevin is an I.T. manager at an investment company, and his boss had no idea his outfits were put together by popular demand.
MCCORMICK: I was that guy who couldn't dress himself. This was the day where I had to tell him.
MCCORMICK: When I wore the Hawaiian shirt to work...
MOOS (on camera): Uh-huh.
MCCORMICK: ... my boss was like, what are you wearing? MOOS (voice-over): Whichever items get the most votes, he wears. Web site visitors even chose what he wore for his CNN interview. Aside from a few votes for flip-flops, the result was conservative.
(on camera): Striped shirt, black pants, simple black belt.
(voice-over): Kevin is photographed in every outfit selected. Then he posts it on his web site.
(on-camera): Look at your microphone.
MCCORMICK: Oh, that's great.
MOOS: A new accessory.
(voice over): And, sure enough, there it is. Kevin says his audience is almost all female, either 13-year-olds who want to dress their boyfriends or 45-year-olds who want to dress their sons. His sock shots generate comments like nice legs. His cowboy hat got, did it come with a lasso. After viewing the Web site, opening Kevin's closet feels like visiting a shrine.
(on camera): Let's get to the shoes. Hazardous duty, this job.
(voice-over): His readers suggested he need some Pumas. He bought a pair and they rocketed to number one in shoes.
MCCORMICK: A lot of people asked me why I don't put my underwear on the site.
MOOS (on camera): Why don't you?
MCCORMICK: It's my underwear!
MOOS (voice-over): He may not know how to dress. But he knows to draw the line on line by leaving his drawers in the drawer.
MCCORMICK: There it is.
MOOS: Jeanne Moos, CNN, Hoboken, New Jersey.
HARRIS: No one is asking about his underwear. Kevin isn't the only one updating his wardrobe. New retail numbers show a lot of men are getting a new sense of style.
HARRIS: This news just into CNN. Let's bring in CNN White House correspondent Suzanne Malveaux, who has information about the president's reaction to the U.S. ports controversy. Suzanne. MALVEAUX: We're getting a full report from Air Force One, the reporters, a small gaggle of reporters with the president, he went to the back of the plane essentially taking questions for about 20 minutes or so.
We were told he was very animated and punctuated in his statement, coming out very strongly here saying that in the port deal, he would veto any legislation to hold up this deal and warned that the United States was sending mixed signals by going after a company from the Middle East when they said nothing when a British country was in charge.
He goes on to say that it is the lawmakers, members of Congress, that have to step up and say why a Middle Eastern company is held to a different standard. He also took issue with a reporter's questions aboard the plane saying what is the politics of all this, saying this not a political issue.
Clearly, Tony, we've all been waiting to see what the president was going to do, how he was going to come out on this issue. He has spoken very strongly aboard Air Force One, essentially saying he would veto any legislation to put that deal on hold. He is under a lot of pressure from Republicans as well as Democratic lawmakers to do just that, to explain in greater detail about why it is that this Dubai- based company is not a threat to national security. Tony.
HARRIS: So, Suzanne, in reality the president stands in direct opposition to many members of his own party?
MALVEAUX: Well, he is standing in direct opposition to Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist and others who believe that at the very least, the Homeland Security Department should be more forthcoming, provide classified briefings or documents to simply explain why they made this decision.
The White House feels it has done an adequate job in essentially deferring to this panel that you have, the 12 federal agencies that have come out very strongly today. We heard from representatives from the Treasury, from Justice, talking about this very issue, saying look, they've taken a look at this company, they don't believe it's a threat to national security, that should be good enough. This is not something that came to the president. It didn't rise to that level, but he has spoken out against it now.
HARRIS: OK. CNN White House Correspondent Suzanne Malveaux for us. Suzanne, thank you. Betty.
NGUYEN: We want to get more on this story with CNN's congressional correspondent Ed Henry, who is in our D.C. bureau. Ed, looks like the president may have a fight on his hands because both Democrats and Republicans really are taking issue with this.
ED HENRY, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: That's right. In fact, even as the president is now declaring that he wants this port deal to go through and he would veto any legislation Congress passes to try to block the deal, CNN has also just learned that the Speaker of the House, Dennis Hastert, a key Republican ally of the president of course, has just fired off a letter to the president saying he should halt the port deal.
He's saying he should also, quote, "conduct a more thorough review of the matter before it goes forward." Hastert also warning that he might introduce legislation if the president does not follow through on that.
This letter almost directly mirrors, as Suzanne Malveaux was just reporting, what Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist sent to the president earlier today, a prepared statement, not a letter, but just a prepared statement telling the president and complaining there had been very little Congressional consultation in this whole process. Also complaining about the potential security ramifications of having this Dubai company take over the operations of U.S. ports.
Senator Frist had also basically said it's time to halt this deal, otherwise he would introduce legislation. This is coming after rank and file Republicans up and down the East Coast of the United States, in all these port cities from New York to Florida, today and in recent days calling for the deal to be halted.
Finally, a Republican Senator, Susan Collins, today, chair of the Homeland Security Committee, she is saying she'll introduce a resolution of disapproval of this whole port deal. That's another problem and headache for this White House. Finally, Senator Chuck Grassley, a key Republican, Chairman of the Senate Finance Committee, also just in the last hour put out a statement blasting this entire deal.
So you see the president digging in, but Republicans on Capitol Hill really pushing back hard. This a tremendous political headache for the White House, Betty.
NGUYEN: Besides the veto, the president said, it's now up to lawmakers to prove why a Middle Eastern company should be held at a different standard. What are they saying about that?
HENRY: Lawmakers in both parties have been asked about that and whether or not this is essentially racism, whether or not basically an Arab company is being targeted.
I can tell you the question was asked at a press conference today with Democratic Senator Chuck Schumer, Republican Peter King, two lawmakers from New York who are coming together on a bipartisan basis saying they'll introduce emergency legislation. They said it's just nonsense, it has nothing to do with the fact that it's an Arab company.
I mean, of course, many people have pointed out that a British company has already been controlling the operation at these U.S. ports and we didn't hear any criticism of that. The difference, these lawmakers claim, is the fact that it's actually the United Arab Emirates government that is running the Dubai company.
So it's not just a foreign company, it's a foreign government. And that's where they're saying there's a difference, and that's where we've seen Senator Clinton, Senator Menendez from New Jersey also introducing legislation, not just to halt this one deal, but to say from here on out no foreign government should be controlling these ports, Betty.
NGUYEN: Sounds like the battle's just begun. Congressional correspondent Ed Henry, we thank you, Ed.
HENRY: Thank you.
HARRIS: Tunneling into the United States sounds very much like an illegal activity, but it's not. Senator Dianne Feinstein wants to change that. The California Democrat says she will introduce a bill that would punish anyone who builds or finances a tunnel into the United States. Feinstein today toured a California warehouse that hid the opening of the longest tunnel ever found across the U.S.-Mexican border. Authorities discovered it last month along with two tons of marijuana.
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SEN. DIANNE FEINSTEN (D), CALIFORNIA: This a very real problem. Think of everything that can be smuggled underground that could do this nation and our people great harm. And think of the fact that there is no federal law in place that makes it illegal, punishable by a criminal offense with a strong prison sentence if you allow your property to be used this way negligently or if you build or aid or are complicit in the building of this tunnel.
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HARRIS: Feinstein said tunnels are a serious issue for the entire country, not just California. The news keeps coming and we'll keep bringing it to you, including an update on the winter Olympic games from Torino. More LIVE FROM right after this.
HARRIS: So silly, but good. He couldn't keep a lid on his private phone calls to Camilla, but Prince Charles is taking another run at privacy. This time, the heir to the British throne is suing a London newspaper for printing excerpts from his journals which contain unflattering remarks about China, including a reference to Chinese diplomats as "appalling old wax works."
The prince says his personal diaries were copied by a former staff member and given to the paper. His lawyer Hugh Tomlinson told the court, "We say it is absolutely vital to the position of the claimant and anyone else in his position that this sort of document cannot be published willy nilly by the press."
The prince wants all of the copied material back including a journal he entitled "The Handover of Hong Kong" or "The Great Chinese Takeaway."
NGUYEN: Willy nilly, eh? HARRIS: Yes.
NGUYEN: All right well speaking of those across the pond, it has a gruesome history, a very bloody death. But these days, the Tower of London's staff is focused on keeping six residents alive. ITN reporter Paul Larsmon on the campaign to save the Ravens until bird flu is never more.
PAUL LARSMON, ITN REPORTER (voice-over): Banged up in the tower with no prospect of imminent release, a humiliating turn of events for the Ravens whose ancestors have strutted their stuff around the Tower of London for centuries. Normally Brandwen (ph), Hugen (ph), Loonen (ph), Guillen (ph), Four (ph) and young Baldrich (ph) are free to frolic among the tourists. Now to protect them from bird flu, they've been confined to specially built aviaries in among the tower. But the Raven master who looks after their every need has taken pains to make them as comfortable as possible.
DERRICK COYLE, YEOMAN RAVEN MASTER: The first day they were a little bit iffy, they were a bit stressed. I noticed that because though weren't feeding too well. But the following morning when I went in, Thor (ph), the one that talks, said hello to me, so I knew they were OK. And as I fed them, they were eager to take the meat from me and start feeding themselves. So, I know they're OK now.
LARSMON (on camera): I'm sorry, did you say Thor (ph), the one that talks to you?
COYLE: Yes, he's a good talker. He'll say good morning, hello, come on then. When I feed him, I'll say that's for you and very, very occasionally, he'll say that's for me.
LARSMON: In Raven or in English?
COYLE: Same language as me, sounds like me as well.
LARSMON (voice-over): Legend has it that the tower and the monarchy will fall if the Ravens depart. So perhaps caution about their care is understandable.
(on camera): The tower authorities know they could be accused of panic measures especially bird flu hasn't even arrived here yet, but they say, "Imagine if it did and one of the Ravens caught it and then one by one his feathered friends succumbed." Nevermind the fall of the monarchy, it could even cause a run on the pound.
(voice-over): But doesn't hiding the Ravens away send out the wrong message?
COYLE: If I didn't lock the birds up and the bird flu did come and the Ravens went, I'd either be damned or not damned, one of the two.
LARSMON (voice-over): Tell me, are you protecting the Ravens or are you protecting the realm?
COYLE: I suppose it's a bit of both really, isn't it?
LARSMON: The Ravens will stay in captivity until the bird flu threat is over. As with some of the tower's human prisoners in times past, it could be a long stretch. Paul Larsmon, London, today.
HARRIS: Grace on ice, Kimmie Meissner of the U.S. skated to a personal best score today at the start of the ladies figure skating competition. She was in the lead with a couple of other dozen skaters to follow including her teammates Sasha Cohen and Emily Hughes. U.S. athletes grabbed three medals on the day. Sandra Roback (ph) and Valerie Fleming (ph) found silver success on the bobsled track while speed skaters Shawnie Davis (ph) and Chad Hedrick settled for silver and bronze in the 1,500. They and everyone else were swept away by Italy's own Enrico Fabrice (ph). You remember him, he had won bronze in the 5,000 meters.
NGUYEN: Well, you'd think marathon runners are pretty fast, right? Check this out. They have nothing on these two. Coming up next on LIVE FROM, a Texas marathon that turns into a madhouse.
NGUYEN: Some animal adventures for you today. It was called free scale marathon, but it turned out to be more like a free for all instead. Take a look at this. Two dazed deer dashed into a group of runners in a marathon in Austin, Texas. One of the animals actually hit a participant, knocking him down. But the runner got back up and finished the race. No word yet on how the deer placed.
HARRIS: Ouch, ouch.
Time now to check in CNN's Wolf Blitzer. He is standing by in "THE SITUATION ROOM" to tell us what's coming up at the top of the hour. Hello, Wolf.
WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Hi, Tony, thanks very much.
Coming up, a major showdown now in the works over port security. Only moments ago, President Bush said he would veto an attempt by the U.S. Congress to try to block an Arab-owned company from operating six U.S. ports. He's going against leaders in both parties. Right now, we're all over this story.
Plus, lethal injection with a twist. A Death Row inmate set to be executed just hours from now will get a new cocktail of drugs. Will this change forever the death penalty here in the United States? We're live at San Quentin.
Also, if you're on welfare and not willing to work, you're not necessarily wanted back in New Orleans. City leaders taking a tough stance in the Big Easy.
And at 7:00 Eastern tonight, Bill Mahr live and plugged. We're putting him in the hot seat here in "THE SITUATION ROOM."
All that coming up -- Tony.
HARRIS: OK, Wolf, thank you. And up next, that closing bell. But first a sneak preview of our video of the day. The news keeps coming and we'll keep bringing it to you. Ah, he's the dancing machine. Larry King. More LIVE FROM next.
HARRIS: Oh this is good. He is the king of talk TV, but he couldn't talk his way out of trying to cha-cha on his show last night. So turn up your televisions and prepare yourself, folks, for CNN's "Dancing King."
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LARRY KING, CNN ANCHOR: You're just running around.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I know. That's so good.
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HARRIS: Good fun, good fun. He got -- well, I guess he's got the beat. Well, we'll see what Larry tries next. My suggestion, the robot, Betty.
NGUYEN: Could you see him doing the robot? I can't even do the robot. How does that go? OK, anyway, that man, Larry King, smooth operator. He's got some moves.
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