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A Ricin Scare At The University Of Texas, Austin; Al Qaeda Claims Responsibility For Attempted Suicide Car Bombings At Saudi Oil Facility; Gulf Coast Celebrates Mardi Gras While Recovering; Keeping Teenagers Safe From Online Sexual Predators; Wrong Way Driver

Aired February 25, 2006 - 11:00   ET


TONY HARRIS, CNN ANCHOR: And good morning, everyone.
Now in the news, a ricin scare at the University of Texas-Austin.

School officials say a substance found in a dorm has tested positive for the potentially deadly poison.

A student found the powder in a roll of quarters. She and another student are being treated for exposure to the toxin.

We will have more on the coming up.

Al Qaeda is claiming responsibility for attempted suicide car bombings at an oil facility in Saudi Arabia. The terror group made the claim on an Arabic language Web site. It describes yesterday's attack as part of a bigger plan to stop the so-called crusaders from stealing the wealth and oil from Muslims.

In Bangladesh, a desperate search for survivors is underway in the rubble of a six story building that collapsed today. At least 18 people are confirmed dead and 50 more are seriously injected. Authorities say some 300 people may be trapped.

Mardi Gras returns to the streets of hurricane ravaged New Orleans. The crowds are smaller, but they're determined to bring the celebrations back to the city some six months after the storm.

We will take you live to the starting line of the parades in about five minutes.

And Sheryl Crow is recovering from breast cancer surgery. Her publicist says the Grammy winning singer underwent the procedure in Los Angeles on Wednesday and her prognosis for a full recovery is excellent. The 44-year-old has postponed the start of her next month's scheduled North American tour.

February 25th, everyone, 2006.

Just a reminder.

Good morning.

From the CNN Center in Atlanta, I'm Tony Harris.

BETTY NGUYEN, CNN ANCHOR: And good morning, everybody.

I'm Betty Nguyen.

At this hour on CNN SATURDAY MORNING, a poison scare at the University of Texas at Austin. It prompts an FBI probe and keeps several students under observation.

Are parts of the Gulf Coast devastated by Hurricane Katrina ready to let the Mardi Gras good times roll? Well, we're going to take you live to New Orleans and Biloxi to find out.

And experts say sexual predators are lurking online, trying to hook up with children in chat rooms and via instant messages. How can you protect your child?

That and much, much more ahead this hour.

HARRIS: But to our top story.

Ricin, a potentially deadly poison, found in a dorm room at the University of Texas in Austin. The area is now sealed off as authorities investigate.

School officials say a student found the substance in a roll of quarters on Thursday and preliminary tests showed it is, indeed, the powerful poison. Authorities say only two students are being treated for exposure to the toxin.


ALDOLFO VALADEZ, AUSTIN HEALTH & HUMAN SERVICES: What we've determined is that the exposure seemed to be limited to a few individuals and given the environmental conditions, that it's humid and whatnot, powder appeared to be grainy or clumpy. And so the exposure risk, we feel, is low.


HARRIS: Well, authorities were quick to say there are no reports of students showing symptoms of exposure to ricin, but most of us don't know very much about the poison or its symptoms.

CNN medical correspondent Elizabeth Cohen has some answers.

ELIZABETH COHEN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Ricin is a naturally occurring toxin and just a tiny amount can kill an adult, just 500 micrograms. That's the amount that can fit on the head of a pin.

Now, let's talk a little bit about where ricin comes from. I mentioned that it's naturally occurring. It actually comes from castor beans. But you wouldn't get it just from handling castor beans. You intentionally have to do something to the bean in order to produce ricin. It's poisonous if inhaled, ingested or injected and there is no known antidote.

Now, there are lots of different symptoms. If inhaled, some of these symptoms include chest tightness, difficulty breathing, fever, cough, nausea, heavy sweating, low blood pressure and respiratory failure.

Now, some of these symptoms, such as fever and nausea, would occur just four to eight hours after exposure.

Now, if it's ingested, the symptoms are a little bit different -- vomiting, bloody diarrhea, dehydration and low blood pressure.

Now, some of these symptoms -- all of these symptoms, in fact, sound very scary. And when you look at the pictures of people in these moon suits coming in to clean up the dormitory and some of these efforts, things look really scary.

So let's talk for a minute about why this might not be as horrible as it sounds.

They're basing all of this on preliminary test results that show that ricin is there. Those preliminary tests can be wrong. What they really want to do is take a couple of days to do what's really considered the gold standard of testing, which is actually to look at the very DNA of this particular substance and see if, in fact, it is ricin.

Now, if those come out positive, it's a very different story.

But right now there are lots of questions still awaiting answers about this possible ricin scare.

HARRIS: A toxicologist will join us later with more on the effects of ricin.

And, as always, stay tuned to CNN day and night for the most reliable news about your security.

NGUYEN: This just in to CNN.

Two more arrests in connection with what is believed to be the largest cash robbery in British history. A 55-year-old man and a 33- year-old man were arrested in the Maidstone area.

Here's what we know. On Wednesday, thieves made off with at least $44 million and possibly as much as $88 million. Three people remain on bail. And, again, two people arrested today.

But here is how it happened.

The robbers, according to reports that we have into CNN, the robbers first abducted the depot manager at this bank and his wife and their 9-year-old son, releasing them only after the manager let them into the facility. So that's how they got their hands on this money, which is believed to be to the largest cash robbery in British history.

But the latest news here, two more arrests have been made in connection with that robbery. We're going to stay on top of it and bring you more as we get it.

We want to turn now to the ominous signs in the fight for Iraq.

More sectarian violence today fueling fears of a civil war. The bloodshed comes despite a curfew in Baghdad and surrounding areas, as authorities try to keep a lid on attacks sparked by this week's bombing of a Shiite mosque.

At least 30 people have been killed today in separate incidents across the country. They include this car bombing that killed five people near Karbala, as well as the shooting deaths of two police officers during the funeral procession for a reporter killed while trying to cover Wednesday's mosque bombing.

HARRIS: Just ahead, we'll check the weather outlook for this weekend's Mardi Gras festivities.

NGUYEN: A little rain today, you can see, on the streets there down in New Orleans. But it's not stopping the partygoers.

Plus, we'll have much more on the man who wrote the book about this celebration.


NGUYEN: We'll take you to the source. And we're going to ask him how New Orleans is adjusting to the changed circumstances this year.

Stay with us.


NGUYEN: Well, many areas of the Gulf Coast are focused on recovery six months after Katrina, but they're also taking time to celebrate Mardi Gras. And that includes Biloxi, Mississippi.

Kathleen Koch joins us now what's the latest from there, where there is still so much to be done, yet the celebrations go on.

They must go on -- Kathleen.


And, in particular, this celebration, this is the Biloxi's Children's Parade. And this is all just for the kids. Children from elementary up to high school are participating.

It's important for them to have a chance to have a little fun. It's been a really tough time, obviously, for everyone on the Gulf Coast. But for the children, it's been particularly difficult to understand.

I have with me now some members of the Hankins (ph) family, who lost quite a lot in the storm. Sherry (ph), tell us about why it's important to celebrate Mardi Gras.

SHERRY HANKINS: It's important for the kids. You know, they're the ones who suffered the most and, you know, everybody lost something. It doesn't matter who you are or what you are, everybody lost something. And the children who lost their homes and, you know, it's devastating for them.

And this is a way of bringing a normalcy back to them, I mean for them to have fun and throw the beads and walk the parade. And we do this every year.

KOCH: Sherry, though, when you look around Biloxi, you look around the town you love, the town where you live and you see what it looks like nearly six months after the hurricane, what are your thoughts?

Have you come far enough yet?

HANKINS: We've not come far enough. It's still very, very sad. There are still a lot of people that are homeless. We're hoping that things are going to be a whole better by the end of this year. And it's probably going to take a couple more years for everything to return to a real normalcy.

But I really believe that they've done a lot of good. I mean we've had so many people from the entire United States to help us get back to a normalcy. And it's wonderful.

KOCH: All right, sherry, I don't want you to miss the parade.

Thanks a lot.

Thanks for talking with us.

And here come the beads. Here come the revelers. And this just gives you a flavor of the amazing optimism that prevails here and how important Mardi Gras really is for these people.

Again, they have been spending the last six months gutting their homes, shoveling mud, hanging drywall, trying to put their lives back together.

And so this is just -- just so, well, uplifting for everyone, just a chance to smile, to have fun, to get together with the community and pretend for just maybe a few hours that things are normal again -- Betty.

NGUYEN: And it's nice to see them smile again, and Mardi Gras, to see it go through the streets there.

But, you know, as we could hear in her voice, it's an emotional one and one that will not be forgotten any time soon.

Kathleen Koch, thank you. HARRIS: All right, so here's what we need to do. We need to cook up some...

NGUYEN: Good weather.

HARRIS: ... for Kathleen and Susan Roesgen -- we need to cook up some good Mardi Gras weather, like a fine gumbo.


Well, what's with the rain?

HARRIS: Well, you know.

NGUYEN: What is going on there -- Bonnie.

Tell me it's headed out.


NGUYEN: We want to get into some top stories for you now.

Lethal poison found at the University of Texas at Austin, Texas. Officials say powder was found by a student and that that powder is ricin. No one has been exposed to the substance that has shown any symptoms so far.

Ricin is a deadly chemical which has been used in biological weapons.

Now, another wave of violence in Iraq to tell you about.

There have been several incidents. In one, five people killed and 31 others wounded in an explosion in Karbala, south of Baghdad. Police say a bomb was planted inside a parked car along a busy road. A suspect has been detained.

HARRIS: Just ahead, what is it about Mardi Gras that draws people from around the world?

NGUYEN: The fun! The festivities!

HARRIS: But is there more? We know it's a big time celebration, even this year, when so many Katrina victims still have it pretty rough.


And another story, the danger of ricin -- just what is this potentially deadly substance and how worried about it should you be?

We have the facts.

Stay with us for that.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) UNIDENTIFIED CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Although we face a dilemma in this music video, the Grammy winning St. Louis rapper has no problem with success. In addition to selling multi platinum records, Nelly holds partial ownership of the Charlotte Bobcats. And he's developed his own entertainment and recording label, an energy drink, a men's clothing line and Apple Bottoms, an urban women's denim collection.

NELLY, RAP ARTIST & ENTREPRENEUR: You want to be able to explore all facets of what you've been able to bring to the table. You want to be able to grow so far, learn more about whatever it is you're trying to get into before you get into it.

UNIDENTIFIED CORRESPONDENT: Nelly also gives back in the form of two non-profit organizations. 4 Sho 4 Kids, whose mission is to improve the quality of life for children born with developmental disabilities and children born addicted to drugs, and Jes Us 4 Jackie, a national bone marrow registry in honor of his sister, Jacqueline Donahue, who recently lost her battle with leukemia.

NELLY: The best definition of success would probably be to be in a situation where you're able to help others.




HARRIS: We are talking about -- that was a little zydeco, I think.

A Mardi Gras to remember today.

Right now, let's explore more of New Orleans' rich Mardi Gras history and culture.

And to talk about it -- wow! -- and to get your party on, we want to join into the festivities Arthur Hardy, publisher of "The Mardi Gras Guide."

He joins us from New Orleans.

Good to see you, Arthur.


HARRIS: Hang on a second.

HARDY: ... let me tell you.

HARRIS: Yes, that's good.

Let me put on my beads here, as we do this.

All right, now, Arthur, I'm going to admit something to you here. I just don't know what exactly is Mardi Gras.

Now, I know I should know what the definition is, but I don't.

So explain it to folks who, like me, aren't quite sure what the term Mardi Gras even means.

HARDY: Well, it's French for Fat Tuesday.

But what it really means, nobody knows. It's a spirit. It's a celebration.

HARRIS: That's a...

HARDY: It's a time we all come together and have a good time.

HARRIS: All right, so, Arthur, give us a sense of -- well, thank you for that.

Give us a sense of what the atmosphere is in and around New Orleans right now, where you are, as a matter of fact.

HARDY: I think it's tremendous. I really do. The crowds have gotten bigger. Families that haven't seen each other in a long time have come back together to celebration and trade Katrina war stories. You know, we've really needed this celebration. We need something to cheer about and kind of mark the end of the Katrina funk and get our lives back to, you know, almost normal.

HARRIS: All right, hang on a second, Arthur.

I'm being handed more beads here.

HARDY: All right.

HARRIS: More beads as we go along here.

Give us a sense of what the hotel situation is like there. If folks are still thinking about, you know, maybe last minute, maybe I can get down there for Fat Tuesday, give us a sense of...

HARDY: Yes...

HARRIS: ... whether or not they can find space.

HARDY: I'd be surprised. I certainly wouldn't come unless you have a place to stay, maybe at a friend's house. The hotels are pretty well booked up, as they normally would be.

Now, this year we had fewer hotel rooms available, fewer flights into New Orleans. But we've got a lot of day trippers coming in, displaced New Orleaneans that are coming back to get a little taste of Mardi Gras.

HARRIS: Security -- more of an issue this year or, I don't know, less of an issue?

HARDY: Less of an issue.

We have about the same number of police, a shortened parade route and fewer people here. So I think this is going to be a remarkably safe Mardi Gras.

And, in general, they are safe. They are family oriented. The parades are.

HARRIS: Right.

HARDY: Some of the foolishness that happens right where I am, on Bourbon Street...

HARRIS: Right.

HARDY: ... is tourists taking off their clothes for tourists.

HARRIS: My good -- yes, right, right, right.

Two million copies, Arthur, you've sold of your guide?

HARDY: Well, that's over a long period of time, over 30 years.


HARDY: But we've been doing it for a while and we're actually sold out this year. I don't have any more magazines. And that's a first for us. So I can't -- I'm not sure why. I just think people just want something to remember this, such an important celebration, the 150th anniversary of the first parade in New Orleans...


HARDY: ... and our comeback from Katrina.

HARRIS: Hey, give us some of the great takeaways from your book, from your guide.

HARDY: Well, we try to profile -- we don't try, we do profile each of the 50 parades in the metro area.

HARRIS: Fifty parades?

HARDY: We have a history of Mardi Gras.

Fifty -- now, 28 in New Orleans proper, but 50 in our metro area. And our metro area is very tight.

Metairie, which has like 18 parades, is probably two-and-a-half miles from Bourbon Street, but it's considered the suburbs.

So, anyway, the magazine covers all of that and a lot of stories of the movers and shakers and the history of Mardi Gras.

And this year we put on our cover "Carnival" -- which is Mardi Gras -- "Conquers Katrina." And that's so true. You know, we didn't have to do this celebration. The city could cancel it. But it doesn't make it happen, the citizens do. And I'm sure glad, not just as a businessman, but as a New Orleaneans, that we decided to choose to celebration.

HARRIS: Well, but I have to ask you, is there much of a sentiment among folks there who think, you know, it wasn't a good idea to do this right now?

HARDY: No, not really.

Early on there was some debate about that. But what this does is fuel the recovery. It funds the recovery. Mardi Gras doesn't cost the city money, it makes money for the city, almost a five to one return on the city's investment, which is just police and sanitation overtime. The citizens pay for the parades.

If we cancel this, it would be like saying the city is closed for business. And we're not. You know, we're back on our feet. It's still a tale of two cities.


HARDY: We're not -- this isn't the Chamber of Commerce talking. There's a lot of devastation. But the good news is that we can do our signature event.

HARRIS: Does it ever -- does it ever get old for you?

HARDY: I thought it would. I'm almost 60 years old. You know, I thought at some point this would become just a business. But it hasn't. It is a passion. And when I see those parades rolling, I become a kid again. And that's what Mardi Gras does. It makes everybody a little boy or a girl again. And it's a whole lot of fun.

HARRIS: Why don't you have beads?

I'm going to be -- I just got more beads now.

Why don't you have beads yet? What's...

HARDY: You know, I -- yes.

I should have and normally I wouldn't be in a suit at Mardi Gras. I did it just for you.

HARRIS: Right.

NGUYEN: He's going to tell you ...


HARRIS: That was good.

You don't have a guide handy, do you, that you can hold up for us?

I'd like to see it.

HARDY: Believe it or not, I don't.

HARRIS: You don't?

HARDY: What kind of businessman am I?

HARRIS: Right.

HARDY: Our family is going to kill me.

NGUYEN: No beads and no guide.

HARRIS: Arthur, it was good to see you.

Enjoy this year's celebration.

My goodness.

HARDY: Well, I will. But I'm sorry I don't have something to sell.

HARRIS: Well, you know what?

You live, you learn, right?

All right, Arthur...

HARDY: That's it.

But I do have a Web -- I do have a Web site,

HARRIS: Beautiful.

HARDY: Check us out there.

HARRIS: Arthur, enjoy the celebration this year.

We know it'll be special.

HARDY: Thank you.

Happy Mardi Gras.

HARRIS: And to you.

HARDY: Have a good morning.

HARRIS: Thank you, sir.

NGUYEN: Now in the news, the FBI is investigating a powder found in a dormitory at the University of Texas at Austin. Preliminary tests show that the powder to be ricin, a powerful poison used as a biological agent. Now, the county's medical director says no one who may have been exposed has shown any symptoms. That is the good news. Well, violence does continue in Iraq. That's the bad news. Despite a curfew in four provinces, a car bombing in Karbala claims at least five lives and leaves more than 30 other people wounded. Eighteen other deaths are reported across the country and police say they have found 11 bodies in Baghdad.

Two men have been arrested in connection with what is believed to be the largest cash robbery in British history. Thieves made off Wednesday with at least $44 million from a security depot. Three other people questioned in the probe have been released on bail.

And Venezuela plans to suspend Caracas bound flights of Delta Airlines and Continental Airlines starting next Wednesday. At least half of American Airlines' flights would also be cut. This comes after the U.S. refused to lift restrictions placed on Venezuelan carriers in 1995 because of safety concerns.

HARRIS: A near miss in the Saudi oil fields. Find out why a foiled attack is raising a lot of concerns.

NGUYEN: And tragedy in the workplace. We'll have the latest on this deadly building collapse.


NGUYEN: Health experts say exposure was low, but concerns are high after the powerful poison ricin was found at a University of Texas at Austin dormitory. Now most of us know ricin can be used as a biological weapon. But there's so much more we don't know about the toxin. So we turned to Dr. Robert Geller, a toxicologist at Emory University School of Medicine right here in Atlanta. He joins us by phone. Doctor, we appreciate your time today.


NGUYEN: Good morning. Tell us how ricin is formed. You have to make it, right? It's not something that someone can just come in contact with. It has to be made.

GELLER: Ricin has to be made from castor beans and castor beans are grown in a lot of the warm climate countries but they're used widely and are widely available.

NGUYEN: Talk to us now about the dangers of ricin. This is deadly.

GELLER: Ricin is a very deadly poison. It's pure, but it's important to remember also that it's very difficult to get ricin into a person's body.

NGUYEN: OK, so just because these students may have come in contact with them, for example, on their hands, that doesn't necessarily mean that it has become deadly to them because it hasn't penetrated the body, correct?

GELLER: That's correct. Ricin has to be either inhaled or come in contact with your eyes or it has to be ingested.

NGUYEN: What are the chances of inhaling particles from this ricin that they found on their hands?

GELLER: Well, if somebody could make ricin into very, very small particles, the kind of particles we think about for example from auto exhaust and air pollution, not the kind of particles you make when you grind your coffee.

NGUYEN: So very, very small.

GELLER: Very, very small particles. Then they float in the air and it's possible to inhale them. In the setting that's being described, of course, we don't have any knowledge of particle size. So it is hard to answer how likely it is.

NGUYEN: So far there have been no reports that any of the students who may have come in contact with this have the symptoms, but let's go through those symptoms. What are they?

GELLER: Usually the early symptoms affect the digestive symptom. So you get nausea, you get vomiting, you get abdominal pain. Later symptoms include trouble breathing and in severe cases, obviously this can be a fatal poison.

NGUYEN: How soon will you see the symptoms? Is this something that you're going to know immediately or does it take some time for them to arise?

GELLER: Symptoms are usually delayed about eight hours after exposure maybe delayed a bit longer than that, but have generally been seen within 36 hours in patients in who it may develop.

NGUYEN: OK. So from what we understand, this was discovered on Thursday. So by this time, if they did come in contact with this form of ricin, something that could have penetrated the skin or the body in some way, they would have seen some symptoms by now?

GELLER: Well, that depends on when the ricin was completely removed from the air. If ricin had become airborne and the particles are still circulating on Friday, it's possible that you might have another 12 hours to worry, but I think it's most unlikely.

NGUYEN: All right. And I think it's important to note here about the preliminary tests. Just because the preliminary tests say that it is ricin doesn't necessarily mean that the final results will say it's ricin, correct?

GELLER: That's correct. It's very important to understand that a preliminary test is exactly that. It's a faster test designed to err on the side of caution. Everyone would prefer to be safer rather than sorry later, but many of the preliminary tests ultimately come back negative.

NGUYEN: You definitely want to err on the side of caution when you're talking about ricin, something that is deadly and there is no antidote. Dr. Geller, we appreciate your time and insight. Thank you.

GELLER: Thank you very much.

HARRIS: Al Qaeda is claiming responsibility for yesterday's attack on Saudi Arabia's huge oil facility. The suicide bombers failed in their mission to disrupt output but they succeeded in exposing the vulnerability of this vital industry and it could affect the prices you pay for gas. CNN's senior international correspondent Nic Robertson explains.


NIC ROBERTSON, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): It didn't turn out to be the nightmare scenario, but al Qaeda's attack on the Abiqaiq oil processing terminal was the first direct attack on a Saudi oil facility, one that processes two-thirds of the country's petroleum exports.

ADRIAN BINKS, PETROLEUM ANALYST: If they'd gone to the right place, they could have done very significant damage and badly affected Saudi oil production.

ROBERTSON: At least two explosive-packed cars cleared the outer ring of the plant's defenses, possibly disguised as company vehicles. But before the attackers could go further, the Saudis say, they were confronted by special forces troop that guard every major petroleum facility. Their vehicles said to be packed with explosives for a suicide attack exploded a mile and a half from the main gate.

NAWAF OBAID, SAUDI INTL SECURITY CONSULTANT: This is a complete vindication of what the Saudi security forces and authorities have been saying over the last three years, that if you're going to attack the Saudi oil industry, the main facility, they're so well protected that the would-be attackers would not come close to the main facility.

ROBERTSON: When we visited what could be another prime target, the Saudi oil refinery and port of Rastinora (ph) 18 months ago, we saw some of the security arrangements in place: multiple checkpoints, double fencing, some of the 5,000 police that patrol along with the army, refineries spread out over vast amounts of open ground. But despite the defenses, one analyst worries that the billions the Saudis say they're spending upgrading security might not stop the next attack.

BINKS: Attacking this very important facility is going to make the oil markets extremely nervous.

ROBERTSON: The attack didn't succeed and the oil kept flowing, but oil prices still jumped more than $2 a barrel, the biggest increase in months. With al Qaeda's leaders still calling for attacks on Saudi oil, the nightmare scenario remains a frightening possibility.

Nic Robertson, CNN, Belgrade, Serbia.

(END VIDEOTAPE) HARRIS: And militants fighting for a share of Nigeria's oil wealth are stepping up their tactics. They took American hostage Macon Hawkins into the middle of a river to show him off to journalists. Hawkins and two other Americans are among nine foreign workers captured in Nigeria a week ago. He appealed to the UN and President Bush to help secure his release as kidnappers brandishing automatic rifles, rocket-propelled grenades and machine guns made their demand for international intervention.

NGUYEN: The death toll from a collapsed building in Bangladesh stands at 18 right now and authorities say more than 300 people may still be trapped beneath the rubble of the six-story structure that you see right there. Most of the missing are women who were working in a garment factory located in that building. Now the army is leading the rescue effort.

HARRIS: Well, 11:37 Eastern time this morning. Do you know where your children are online? We'll tell you how to find out what exactly it is they're up to. That's next. CNN SATURDAY MORNING rolls on.


NGUYEN: Well, several girls in one Connecticut town claim to have been sexually assaulted by men who they say contacted them online pretending to be teenagers. Police are checking into that and other alleged reports of Internet predators. How common is the problem and how can you protect your child? Teen educator and psychologist Sari Locker is in New York with some answers for us, looking forward to these answers. Sari, good morning. Thanks for being with us.

SARI LOCKER, TEEN EDUCATOR, PSYCHOLOGIST: Good morning. Thanks for having me here this morning.

NGUYEN: First up, let's tackle the Web sites where you can put out your own personal page. How dangerous is it for children? They think it's fun.

LOCKER: I think they're dangerous, but I also think it's just a horrible thing. No teenager and no child ever needs to have a personal web page. These Web sites like, it's essentially like the child or teenager is just putting all their personal information up there, almost like they just want everyone to know where they live. They say exactly what school they go to.

They say their first names and they put up often very sexy looking pictures of themselves and they're children who are doing it. If you go to the site, one of the big problems with these so-called social networking sites is that they have a search function. So you can put something in the site like the word "16" press enter and you come up with web pages of 16-year-olds where it says the school they go to and the city and state where they live. It's terrible.

NGUYEN: ... can do just a search and find whatever they want coming up with pictures, addresses, where they go to school, all that information just like that, that easy? LOCKER: Yes and it's despicable. They can put in the name of the middle school down the block and come up with first names and pictures and e-mail addresses of these children. The fact is I don't like saying this on television because I'm always afraid that the bad people are listening. So bad people, plug up your ears. But seriously, it is something that all parents need to know about. If your child has a personal web page, you must make sure that they get it down. Do not allow this anymore.

NGUYEN: Sari, knowledge is power and that's what we're doing here. When we talk about Web sites and these personal web pages, is instant messaging just as disturbing?

LOCKER: To me it is. On America Online, a lot of children create very sexy sounding screen names and I'm always shocked. But when I see these, I see things like hot teen 13. It is a real child screen name or sexy girl. And the parents don't seem to know about this.

One of the problems with America Online is, again, there's a membership directory where you can search by city, state, age, anything and come up with screen names, e-mail addresses of children and teenagers and there are a lot of kids out there who feel flattered when they hear that bling of the instant message and a stranger is contacting them.

You mentioned the news story about the seven girls in Middletown, Connecticut who were sexually assaulted by someone they met on a Web site. I used to go to summer camp coincidentally right down the street from that town.

And one day when I was about 11 years old, a camp friend and I wandered beyond the gates of the camp, started walking down the street, just to go for a nice walk. And a man pulled up his car alongside us and started driving very slowly and talking to us. My friend and I, we knew well enough as children to not talk to him. And in fact we ran the other way back to camp and told the counselor.

NGUYEN: But if someone approaches a child online, I mean just put it in that scenario, they don't know. They think it's just some friend or someone out there their age trying to contact them and that's not the case.

LOCKER: That's my point with that story, exactly that, that children and teens today need to treat it the exact same way when a stranger contacts them online. They must log off, run the other way, tell their parent and they're not doing it because they think it's fun.

NGUYEN: All right, but here's the problem. We know all about the dangers now that we've spoken with you and you've been able to say word for word where they are, how predators can get to children. What do you do about it? What can parents do about it, because a lot of parents are not familiar with the Internet. They don't know a lot about computers. So they're kind of in the dark. LOCKER: First thing they need to do, as I mentioned, make sure that the screen names of your children do not have their real name, their age, anything sexy, anything that's related to a youth-oriented celebrity or a location and you need to control that. The next thing you need to do is make sure that they are not going on these social networking sites. Limit their instant messaging and limit their e- mail and don't let them go into chats.

Now the third point is you need to know if you are a parent how to use the Internet. You need to understand your computer. You might need to do some checking up on your child also. So what you need to know how to go on to, if you have America Online, go on there and block the buddy list so they can't be doing instant messaging with strangers. You also need to know how to look up the temporary Internet files on your computer to see if your teen or child has been going onto sites.

NGUYEN: So you can follow where they've been. You can actually see where your child has been.

LOCKER: Exactly.

NGUYEN: All right. So when is it appropriate for a child, very quickly, to have a web page and to start doing instant messaging and all of that because a lot of kids are getting on board with this.

LOCKER: They say that they want to so much and they beg their parents. Until I'm shown a site that's different, I will continue to say no teen ever needs to. So give your teen an alternative. Tell them to keep a written diary like we did in the old days or tell them to get a part-time after school job so they're doing something with their time other than sitting on the computer. Please, try to make a difference with your teenager.

NGUYEN: Sari Locker with these strict rules, but you know what, it could really make a difference in the lives of children out there, keep them out of danger, author, educator, as well as psychologist, thank you.

LOCKER: Thank you.

HARRIS: Good stuff.

NGUYEN: Yes. Frightening.

HARRIS: In our top stories right now, a ricin scare at the University of Texas at Austin. School officials say initial tests confirm a substance found in a dorm is the potentially deadly poison. So far no one who may have been exposed has shown any symptoms.

New Orleans is celebrating Mardi Gras. This is the last big weekend of the annual carnival season before fat Tuesday next week. Businesses are hoping the event will provide a much need boost for the local economy.

And Grammy award winning singer Sheryl Crow has undergone surgery for breast cancer. Her publicist says the operation was minimally invasive and her outlook is excellent. Crow will receive radiation treatments.

NGUYEN: I want to check out the weather today. A lot of people wanting to get outside and enjoy the weekend. It's Mardi Gras weekend. Things are kind of wet and wild in certain places out there.


NGUYEN: I don't even want to think about that. OK, Bonnie, thanks.

HARRIS: Spring break, well, it's going to be here before you know it.

NGUYEN: But the weather doesn't feel like it.

When you think about spring break destinations, those sunny beach areas. You don't really think of pictures like this, do you? No. This year MTV and United Way want spring breakers to head to the Gulf coast and help out with the rebuilding efforts. We're going to bring you that story, that's tomorrow 7:00 a.m. Eastern.

HARRIS: Our favorite time of the day for a couple of reasons.

NGUYEN: For many reasons.

HARRIS: Most importantly...

FREDRICKA WHITFIELD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Bye, bye. I know. That's what it's about.

NGUYEN: Come on, Fred.

HARRIS: We get to say hello to Fred.

WHITFIELD: Hello. All right, well, coming up in the noon Eastern hour, of course, Mardi Gras in full swing. We're going to talk to the CEO of the New Orleans visitors bureau conventions to find out does it meet expectations so far in terms of tourism, economy, et cetera.

And of course we'll have more on the ricin scare at the University of Texas Austin, very serious business. We'll also talk to a doctor to explain to us exactly what is ricin? What does it do to the body when we are exposed to it? How serious is this, all that ahead in a few minutes.

NGUYEN: A lot going on, Fred. So good to see you.

WHITFIELD: Good to see you, too.

HARRIS: Just ahead -- take a look at this. Check this out. How about it?


HARRIS: We got a cute animal story for you. It is one of the most popular stories at this morning.

NGUYEN: I can see why.

HARRIS: Details coming up.


HARRIS: Let me see what I have here, Veronica. We've got a birthday bash and a baby orangutan.


HARRIS: What would you expect?

NGUYEN: With you, Tony ...

HARRIS: I do this for a living.

NGUYEN: Sometimes we wonder though Tony.

DE LA CRUZ: And you know what? Both of those stories, obviously making the list of what's popular at Before we begin, we're going to get to the birthday last. I've actually brought you the birthday lyrics because you bombed so badly.

HARRIS: Did I botch that up earlier?

DE LA CRUZ: You sit there and you practice and Betty and I are going to talk about this orangutan story. OK, meet Acara. She's the cutest little thing, the newest addition to the Hogle Zoo in Utah. There she is right there. Her mother, Eve had an emergency c-section and didn't recognize her after birth. So zookeepers did everything they could to reacquaint the two of them.

NGUYEN: Look at them. So sweet.

DE LA CRUZ: Look at them. They even smeared peanut butter on the walls around Acara to try to pique the mom's interest. Now, although it has been months, the two finally are inseparable. And a side note, Acara means event (ph) in Malaysia and you guys know for the record that it is an orangutan and not orangutang. I can't believe Tony got that one right.

HARRIS: I do this for a living. Thank you.

DE LA CRUZ: All right, guys. Here is the birthday song and it's time for Tony to sing happy birthday to Goldie.

HARRIS: Love her. Happy birthday to Goldie, happy birthday to you, most beloved.

DE LA CRUZ: All right. That wasn't bad. Goldie Hawn is turning the big 6-0. For her 60th birthday... NGUYEN: Look at her.

DE LA CRUZ: I know, it's unbelievable. Her family took her to Tahiti. They got her a tattoo, which is why she has her foot up on the desk.


DE LA CRUZ: She got a tattoo of a heart and in this tell all with CNN's Larry King, she talks about her relationship with actor Kurt Russell. The two were never married, though they've been together for 22 years.

NGUYEN: Happy birthday, Goldie.

DE LA CRUZ: Absolutely amazing. And you know what, you saved yourself, Tony because I actually -- earlier we tried to give you the dunce cap and we didn't have one. So I brought you an honorary dunce cap.

HARRIS: That was a good movie.


NGUYEN: We don't know anybody who can mess up the happy birthday song, except for Tony.

HARRIS: Veronica, it's not my size.

NGUYEN: He needs an extra large. All right, enough of this, enough of this. We got more to tell you about.

We all have had bad driving moments. I know I have. You don't even want to know about all those that us combined have had. But can you imagine driving, a mistake that lasted 14 miles, driving the wrong way, 14 miles. Jeanne Moos takes us down that road.


JEANNE MOOS, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): There's a right way and a wrong way to drive on an interstate. This is the wrong way. You're looking at the dashboard camera on the police car that eventually stopped the wrong-way roadster. No wonder 911 got flooded with 70 calls.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes. There's a car going the wrong way on I- 40.

MOOS: The wrong way, like salmon swimming upstream. Like the poodle who survived a romp on a New York Expressway. Like Gene Hackman chasing bad guys in "The French Connection." But a cop behind the wheel this wasn't.

MARGARET RILEY: I got on the wrong side, and I kept going on. I don't know how I did that. I have no idea. MOOS: For 14 miles she did it. 80-year-old Margaret Riley drove her 1984 Crown Victoria the wrong way in the fast lane near Raleigh, North Carolina.

RILEY: Busy, busy, busy. They was blowing the horn.

MOOS: Margaret says she didn't realize she was going the wrong way until a deputy's car met her head-on. She did manage to back up on to the shoulder.

RILEY: And I said, well, I am so sorry. I said, I've got a doctor's appointment and I'm running late and I'm sorry.

MOOS: They didn't give her a ticket, but her driver's license is being reevaluated. How did other drivers evaluate things?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There's a, oh, I believe she's probably senile, got Alzheimer's disease. She's driving the completely wrong way on the highway.

RILEY: I know I'm 80 years old. But I know I'm not crazy yet.

MOOS: At least she remembered to put on her turn signal. Jeanne Moos, CNN.


NGUYEN: Oh my goodness, I'm sure that blinker is still going.

HARRIS: Here's the problem. You've given me this hat. It's all dusty. It's got ricin all over it. What is this? It's nasty. I'm not putting that on.

NGUYEN: You sang the happy birthday song.

HARRIS: I don't know what's on that thing.

DE LA CRUZ: We have the camera all cued for your tight shot.

NGUYEN: All right. We'll argue about this later. Fredricka Whitfield is up next right after this short break. Have a great day, everybody.

HARRIS: Look at that thing.

NGUYEN: Would you stop already?

HARRIS: Put that on my head?



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