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Controversy Surrounds May Day Protest by Immigrant Activists; Severe Storms Pound North Texas

Aired April 29, 2006 - 14:00   ET


FREDRICKA WHITFIELD, CNN ANCHOR: Now in the news, severe storms pound parts of north Texas, including the Dallas/Fort Worth area. Among the hardest hit areas, the City of Gainesville. The high winds damaged homes and businesses and knocked down trees power lines.
More on that story straight ahead.

In South Asia, at least two deaths and dozens of injuries are reported in Myanmar after a cyclone battered the western part of that country. Earlier, as we see here, the storm lashed parts of India. Winds topped 150 miles an hour.

In Italy, Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi is planning to resign on Tuesday, but he will remain a member of parliament and leader of his party. Romano Prodi defeated Mr. Berlusconi in national elections earlier this month.

A new development in the standoff with Iran over its nuclear program. Iran says it is ready to allow snap inspections again, but only if the issue is removed from the U.N. Security Council. Iran says it wants to deal solely with the U.N.'s nuclear inspection agency.

Terror on tape -- al Qaeda's number two man is out with a new videotaped message. In the message, posted on Islamic Web sites, Ayman el-Zawahiri praises insurgents for their attacks on coalition forces in Iraq.

And welcome to CNN LIVE SATURDAY.

I'm Fredricka Whitfield.

It is April 29th.

Ahead this hour, Rush Limbaugh is making news at the courthouse. Our legal team will argue the latest developments in that case. And teenagers with robots -- we'll hear from the man who brought hundreds of them together in Atlanta this weekend.

But first, our top story.

Parts of Texas still face the threat of severe weather. Right now, hours after a round of brutal storms, high winds and hail left a trail of damage behind after sweeping across north Texas overnight. These scenes show some of the damage at the airport in Gainesville near Dallas. Earlier, an official with the airport told CNN what happened.


MATT QUICK, GAINESVILLE MUNICIPAL AIRPORT: I was able to make it out here to the airport about 30 minutes after it went through. And, of course, we had no power. And I was able to look at some of the hangars. We've got some corporate hangars and some T hangar complexes and several large airplanes on the east side of the airfield and you could tell that there was major damage sustained to the infrastructure and to those aircraft.


WHITFIELD: Along with the high winds and heavy rain, hail stones fell across parts of Texas. This was the scene as the storm swept across the town of Marble Falls. In some areas, hailstones were the size of baseballs.

For the latest on what's happening right now, let's check in with meteorologist Bonnie Schneider in the Weather Center -- hi, again, Bonnie.



WHITFIELD: The fight for Iraq, it takes its toll on U.S. troops. Sixty-eight have died in Iraq this month, the deadliest month so far this year. The military says U.S. combat deaths since the start of the war stand at 1,886, including troops who died from illness or accidents and seven civilians working for the military. That total would then be closer to 2,400.

Calling the war in Iraq illegal, immoral and unethical, anti-war protesters turn out in New York City for a United for Peace and Justice rally. Headliners include Jesse Jackson, Susan Sarandon, Cindy Sheehan and Al Sharpton. Organizers say the marchers also oppose any military action against Iran.

Immigration activists flexing their muscles. Final planning is underway this weekend for boycotts intended to have a deep impact on major U.S. cities from coast to coast. Monday, May Day, is when organizers plan to stage their pro-immigration rallies.

Our Chris Lawrence explains the plan, first seen on CNN's "SITUATION ROOM."


CHRIS LAWRENCE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: (voice over): Organizers say this is what Americans will see Monday -- millions of people staging the largest protests since the civil rights era.

NATIVO LOPEZ, MEXICAN-AMERICAN POLITICAL ASSOCIATION: Immigrants are losing their fear. LAWRENCE: Activists have called for a national boycott.

LOPEZ: They don't go to school. They don't go shopping. They don't go selling.

LAWRENCE: Opponents say it's got one goal -- pressure Congress into legalizing millions of undocumented people.

GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: You know, I'm not a -- I'm not a supporter of boycotts. I am a supporter of comprehensive immigration.

LAWRENCE: Hundreds of small stores and big factories will all shut down.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We will not sell any vegetables or fruits.

LAWRENCE: By itself, L.A.'s 7th Street Market Association distributes food to 3,000 supermarkets, and its closure could put a million dollar dent in the economy.

ANGELICA SALAS, IMMIGRANT RIGHTS ACTIVIST: The boycott is confrontational.

LAWRENCE: Some immigration rights activists say pictures of people walking off the job could backfire in middle America.

SALAS: Who is our audience? Who are we talking to? Who are we seeking to embrace and to be embraced by?

LAWRENCE: The Latino community has been active in the Catholic Church and church leaders continue to support the protests. But this time, they're urging students not to skip class. And school officials warn students they're expected to show up Monday.

JACK O'CONNELL, CALIFORNIA SCHOOL SUPERINTENDENT: I do not intend to grant any waivers as a result of mass protests or students who leave school.

LAWRENCE: Organizers admit the boycott's a big step, but a needed one.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Because we're not convinced, for example, that the representatives in Congress will really listen to the immigrant unless the immigrant imposes his will.

LAWRENCE (on camera): The boycott's biggest impact will be right here in California, where immigrants as a whole make up about one third of the workforce. But organizers say New York, Chicago, Phoenix -- the entire country will feel the effect.

Chris Lawrence, CNN, Los Angeles.


WHITFIELD: President Bush may not support the protesters, but he does support their calls for a guest worker program and a path to citizenship for illegal immigrants.

Let's go live to CNN White House correspondent Elaine Quijano for more on that.

She is part of the best political team on television -- Elaine.

ELAINE QUIJANO, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Good afternoon to you, Fredricka.

President Bush believes that a temporary guest worker program will help take pressure off of the nation's borders. He talked about that yesterday in that question and answer session with reporters and the Rose Garden.

Now, Mr. Bush flatly rejects the idea that a proposal like this amounts to amnesty. That's because, he says, people would still be required to get to the back of the citizenship line. They would not be able to cut in front, he says.

Still, though, he is facing some heated opposition from some members of his own party, some conservative Republicans who vehemently disagree with him.

As for the debate itself, Mr. Bush said he does not support boycotts and he again called on all sides to keep the debate civil.


GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I think it's very important for people, when they do express themselves, they continue to do so in a peaceful way, in a respectful way, respectful of the -- the, you know, how highly charged this debate can become.


QUIJANO: Now, the president also reiterated that he wants to see three things included in a comprehensive piece of legislation dealing with illegal immigration. Those include border security, interior enforcement and, of course, the controversial guest worker program -- Fredricka.

WHITFIELD: And, Elaine, what about on the issue which has become rather controversial in this country, this second version of the national anthem, the national anthem in Spanish? The president had some comments about it yesterday.

QUIJANO: Well, that's exactly right.

The president said that he thinks the national anthem should be sung in English. And he went on to say that he thinks people who come to this country and want to become citizens should learn English.

It was an interesting answer because, of course, this is a president who himself has never shied away from trying to speak Spanish. He is a former Texas governor who grew up in west Texas with Hispanics. So he has a lot of empathy for Hispanic immigrants. But clearly here, in answering that way, he let conservatives know he does see boundaries and he feels this is one of them, by saying that the national anthem should be sung in English -- Fredricka.

WHITFIELD: All right, Elaine Quijano at the White House, thank you.

New information today about how the government uses the controversial Patriot Act. The Justice Department says it sent out more than 9,000 national security letters seeking information on 3,500 U.S. citizens and legal residents. It's the fact of the matter the Bush administration has revealed how often it uses the subpoena known as the national security letter.

The National Security Agency's domestic eavesdropping program is back in the news. The government is asking a federal court to throw out a lawsuit by phone company customers. The customers say AT&T violated their rights by cooperating with the surveillance, conducted without a warrant. Justice Department lawyers say a trial could force the disclosure of national security information.

CNN's Security Watch keeps you up to date on safety. Stay tuned day and night for the most reliable news about your security.

Is it divorce or the demolition derby? We'll tell you what happened straight ahead.

Also, why is Rush Limbaugh smiling in this police mug shot?

And remember when chads were hanging in Florida? Well, we'll have a guest coming up who has found that there are a whole lot of weird and wacky things that happen in the Sunshine State, so much so that he actually has filled a book -- in fact, two books.


WHITFIELD: Stories Across America right now.

Take a look at this. Whoa! An SUV crashing through the lobby of a building in Salt Lake City, running down the man inside. Police say the driver was that man's wife. He suffered an ankle injury and bruises. His wife was booked on suspicion of attempted homicide. The couple is going through an ugly divorce.

A 20-mile stretch of a state road is open again in central Florida. Two brush fires closed it down yesterday. Dozens of firefighters are battling the flames. More than 1,800 acres have burned and at least one house was damaged. The cause of the fires is still under investigation.

In New Orleans, Jazzfest is underway. Both homegrown musical heroes and superstar acts are there for the city's biggest music event since Hurricane Katrina. Thousands of fans are flocking to the two- weekend long extravaganza. No trial, no jail time and no record for Rush Limbaugh. The conservative talk show host was booked on a prescription fraud charge -- prescription drug fraud charge in Florida. But he made a deal that could get him off the hook.

Our Susan Candiotti has details.


SUSAN CANDIOTTI, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Flashing a smile as he posed for a mug shot, Rush Limbaugh negotiated a deal that, in the end, can assure him a clean record.

ROY BLACK, LIMBAUGH'S ATTORNEY: What he does say is that he was addicted to prescription pain medication, which, of course, he admitted back in 2003 when all this began. So he has adamantly said he has not committed a crime.

CANDIOTTI: According to his lawyers, the agreement with the Palm Beach state attorney's office goes like this. Limbaugh pleads not guilty to one count of doctor shopping. He must complete another year-and-a-half of drug treatment. If he does, the charge will be dropped. Finally, the radio host must pay $30,000 to help offset the public cost of the investigation.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I can't believe I'm talking to you.

CANDIOTTI: Rush Limbaugh's nightmare began in the fall of 2003. His former housekeeper sold a blockbuster story to the "National Enquirer." Wilma Cline claims she illegally sold the popular conservative talk show host thousands of prescription painkillers, including Oxycontin and Hydrocodone.


RUSH LIMBAUGH, TALK RADIO SHOW HOST: I really don't know the full scope of what I am dealing with.


CANDIOTTI: A week later, Limbaugh admitted a problem.


LIMBAUGH: I am addicted to prescription pain medication.


CANDIOTTI: With that, Limbaugh left the air for a month of treatment. He blamed unrelenting pain from spinal surgery years earlier. He claimed his former employee tried to blackmail him and said he paid her what he called "extortion money," but was afraid to go to authorities.

Later that year, investigators raided Limbaugh's doctors' offices in Florida and California. In search warrants, prosecutors said Limbaugh was part of an ongoing investigation that began a year earlier and appeared to be doctor shopping for painkillers, going from doctor to doctor to get more pills.

Authorities said pharmacy records showed Limbaugh obtained more than 2,000 pills over a six-month period. Limbaugh claims local prosecutors are unfairly targeting him compared to others in similar predicaments. He says his constitutional right to privacy was violated by the raid.

On the air, he also suggested Democrats were to blame.


LIMBAUGH: The Democrats in this country still cannot defeat me in the arena of political ideas and so now they're trying to do so in the court of public opinion and the legal system.


CANDIOTTI: Prosecutors defended the search warrant.

JAMES MARZ, PROSECUTOR: Has it now been reduced to we have to notice the target of an investigation that we want to look at the evidence if a felony is committed?

CANDIOTTI: Eventually, despite appeals all the way to Florida's Supreme Court, Limbaugh lost his privacy battle to keep his doctors' records out of prosecutors' hands. And after a two-and-a-half year long legal odyssey, the radio talk show host may soon be able to end his doctor shopping scandal.

Susan Candiotti, CNN, Miami.


WHITFIELD: And later on CNN LIVE SATURDAY, our Legal Briefs team takes up the Rush Limbaugh case as only they can.

And it wasn't exactly a scene out of "America's Most Wanted." The Easter bunny arrested in Florida? That's not the only weird news to come out of that state. The author of "Weird Florida II" coming up.

And on this weeks Tips from the Top, we get advice from basketball's great Cheryl Miller, who was honored at this year's women's final four.


CHERYL MILLER, TNT NBA REPORTER: I think the most successful people, number one, are driven; number two, make it look easy; and number three, have such a passion and a focus.

UNIDENTIFIED CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Basketball Hall of Famer Cheryl Miller knows how to score big. She broke nine school records at the University of Southern California. Miller also captured gold for the United States in the 1984 Olympics.

A knee injury took her game off the court and on air as a sports commentator. Miller then headed back to coach at her alma mater, served as head coach for the WNBA's Phoenix Mercury and is now an NBA analyst for TNT, which, like CNN, is a division of Time Warner.

MILLER: I think the best qualities that a leader could possess is if they're willing to take the blame and take the fall. Surround yourself with people who aren't going to tell you what you want to hear, but what you need to hear.



WHITFIELD: Hanging Chad, the Virgin Mary appearing on a cheese sandwich. Well, what do these stories have in common? They all happened in Florida.

"Weird Florida II: In A State of Shock" is a sequel to, you guessed it, "Weird Florida."

The author, Elliot Kleinberg is here with us to talk a little bit more about all the strange stuff that seems to happen in one state. And you have figured out a way to squeeze it all into a book, or at least...


WHITFIELD: ... yes, book number two now.

KLEINBERG: And we're already starting a book three because of the things that happened since the first book went to press. For example, just on Easter Sunday, a 280-pound man dressed as the Easter Bunny slugged a lady at a mall in Fort Myers.


KLEINBERG: He said it was all a misunderstanding, I guess.

WHITFIELD: And that will start off your next book.

So talking about "Weird Florida II," Rush Limbaugh, who is in the news now because of this plea deal, also happens to be a subject in your book.

KLEINBERG: Well, the thing that -- the thing about Rush Limbaugh that made it so wild was that, of course, here was a conservative commentator admitting he was a drug addict and he was being defended by the American Civil Liberties Union. You almost couldn't make it up. And it just got stranger and stranger. And, of course, Limbaugh, having a bully pulpit, was going after the prosecutors, and the prosecutors were going after Limbaugh and the "National Enquirer" got involved, which is also right down there in South Florida.

And then, of course, you know, the "National Enquirer" got attacked by anthrax and a headline that said we've been attacked by anthrax and they were actually telling the truth.




And so it seems like, you know, the common denominators here are, you know, just off the charts.

When you first started noticing, wow, it just seems like a lot of strange things happen, you know, in one place, suddenly you thought, you know what? This would be a great book. There would be great content for a book.

KLEINBERG: Well, in fact, we've been working on this. We did the first one in 1998. And then we started talking about should -- let's put together a second book. So the publisher said well, has anything strange or unusual happened since the first book came out in 1998? I said well, the presidential election of 2000, Elian Gonzalez, the 9/11 hijackings, which is more creepy than funny, but they all lived in South Florida, or at least 14 of 19 of them. The "National Enquirer" attacked by anthrax and Rush Limbaugh.

I mean that all happened in about a three year span. You could -- you couldn't keep up with it, it all went around so fast. It seemed like everybody...

WHITFIELD: And it's been popular and funny, too, even though, you know, you talk about there are some very serious stories that you profile, as well, but strange nonetheless because it's all happening under one roof of Florida.

KLEINBERG: It's a lot of fun-and I'm really not picking on Florida. I love Florida.


KLEINBERG: I'm a Florida native. It's the most fun-place in the world.

I'm a newspaper reporter for the newspaper in West Palm Beach and it's just about the most fun-place in the world to be in the news business. I like the wackiness and the weirdness. It makes it a fun- place.

WHITFIELD: So in book number three, are you already looking ahead that, you know, this can go on forever? This is like, you know, a James Bond series, it just goes on and on and on and on and on.

KLEINBERG: Oh, we said after the first...

WHITFIELD: You don't see an ending.

KLEINBERG: We said after the first one that we could do a 10- volume set and everybody thought we were kidding. WHITFIELD: Well, it's a fun-read. It really is.

Elliott Kleinberg, we're so glad you were able to take the time to stop in with us.

KLEINBERG: Thanks for having me.

WHITFIELD: And "Weird Florida II" is the book you need to get your hands on.

Well, it is possible to sing about U.S. unity in Spanish?

Coming up, the growing fight over the national anthem of the United States.

Also, our favorite attorneys take up the argument over Rush Limbaugh's legal status.

And robots have taken over at the Georgia Dome.

We'll find out what's going on there in a live report.


WHITFIELD: Here is what's making news right now.

Strong storms are slowly making their way out of Texas. Baseball-sized hail and winds gusting up to 100 miles an hour damaged several dozen homes. At least two people were injured.

At least two people are dead after a cyclone pounded western Myanmar today. High waves and winds lashed parts of India earlier. Flooding forced tourists in Myanmar to flee inland. Hundreds of homes are also damaged.

Don't blame big oil for profiting from high gas prices. That's what the president of the American Petroleum Institute says. He says oil companies get back $0.08 for every $1. He adds if the oil companies don't make a reasonable profit, they can't compete against countries like China and India.

Today's "New York Times" reports the former head of the Food and Drug Administration faces a federal investigation. The paper says a grand jury is investigating Lester Crawford for alleged financial improprieties and alleged false statements to Congress. Crawford resigned as FDA commissioner last year.


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