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ANDERSON COOPER 360 DEGREES

U.S. Troops Heading Home From Iraq?; U.S. Senate Debates Flag Burning Amendment; Nagin's Plan to Rebuild New Orleans

Aired June 26, 2006 - 22:00   ET

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


ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: Good evening again, everyone.
The war in Iraq got nastier today, and so did the war in Washington.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

ANNOUNCER: Two plans for cutting troops in Iraq, the Democrats' and the president's commander in Iraq, they're almost identical. So, why is only one of them being called cut and run? We will check the facts.

A burning question -- are we missing something here? Just about nobody burns a flag anymore, yet lawmakers still want to change the Constitution to stop it.

He's got billions of your dollars to rebuild New Orleans, but what about a plan, or, critics say, even a clue. We're "Keeping Them Honest."

And the greatest giveaway ever -- what Warren Buffett's billions could buy.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

ANNOUNCER: Across the country and around the world, this is ANDERSON COOPER 360.

Tonight, live from the all new CNN New Orleans bureau, here's Anderson Cooper.

COOPER: And welcome back.

We are in the CNN New Orleans bureau, a signal of our commitment to this story and to this city, to continue telling the ongoing struggle that this city and the entire Mississippi Gulf Coast still is dealing with. It's a different side of New Orleans, perhaps, than you're used to seeing.

Behind me, the city lights are on here in downtown New Orleans. It seems, almost from this vantage point, to be a city like any other. But, of course, it is not like any other. The view could be any downtown anywhere across the country, but there is so much that makes this city different now. And we will be talking about that in the hour ahead. But we begin with a war and politics, over there and here at home -- all the angles tonight on another deadly day in Iraq. There's a lot to talk about, offers of amnesty being answered with bloodshed, two bombings, one in Baquba, the other in Hillah. At least 38 -- 38 Iraqis were killed there.

Also, the political firestorm over a reported plan to bring several thousand troops home and tens of thousands more next year, all this, critics say, in time to give Republicans a boost at the polls. And what are the political factors in play for Democrats and Republicans this summer? Can Democrats find a voice? Can Republicans get buy on staying the course?

First, the pullout plan reported over the weekend and hotly debated today.

Here's CNN's Suzanne Malveaux.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

SUZANNE MALVEAUX, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Democrats charge that a plan under consideration by the U.S. commander in Iraq, General George Casey, to possibly pull out as many as 10,000 U.S. troops as early as the fall, is politically motivated.

SEN. HARRY REID (D-NV), MINORITY LEADER: We don't need a September or October surprise, with the president and Republicans proclaiming victory and announcing troop redeployment just in time for the midterm elections.

MALVEAUX: The president categorically refuted the charge.

GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: In terms of our troop presence there, that decision will be made by General Casey, as well as the sovereign government of Iraq, based upon conditions on the ground.

MALVEAUX: But Democrats are fuming over not one, but two bills that were shot down by Republicans last week which called for a timetable for U.S. troop withdrawal. Republicans painted the Democrats' proposal as a move to cut and run.

Both sides, nervous about the midterm elections, are trying to gain the upper hand in the Iraq debate, with Democrats now arguing their proposals are in line with the Pentagon's, and that it's Republican lawmakers who are out of step.

REID: It's clear that congressional Republicans stand alone in opposition to troop redeployments, apart from the American people.

MALVEAUX: But a look at the substance of both Democratic plans show the bill offered by Senators Jack Reed and Carl Levin, which calls for phased redeployment of troops by the end of 2006, is similar to General Casey's reported plan, which aims at pulling out two combat brigades by the end of the year.

But the White House says the Democratic plan was not sound.

TONY SNOW, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: What Senator Levin did not mention is conditions on the ground. What Senator Levin wanted to do was to get out.

MALVEAUX: The other Democratic proposal by Senators John Kerry and Russ Feingold is substantially different than the Pentagon's. It called for pulling out all U.S. troops by the summer of 2007. The Pentagon reportedly wants to phase out tens of thousand of troops by the end of next year, but it does not have a hard deadline for complete withdrawal.

STUART ROTHENBERG, "THE ROTHENBERG POLITICAL REPORT": The kind of withdrawals that we are talking about are really minimal. And the president probably can argue, reasonably, that circumstances on the ground are driving the decisions.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

MALVEAUX: Now, political analysts say what may be just as important as withdrawing troops is really what does happen on the ground in Iraq, whether there are more bombings or kidnappings or beheadings, that pulling out some 10,000 troops by the end of this year may not be enough to improve the administration's standing when it comes to Iraq -- Anderson.

COOPER: Suzanne, stick around.

And if, as you report, this all hinges on what's happening on the ground, the picture so far remains pretty grim, with perhaps a few rays of hope here and there. One is a plan to pardon certain members of the insurgency. The problems are amnesty for question -- amnesty for whom? Will it get anywhere, and could it work? And could people who killed Americans be granted amnesty?

Reporting from Baghdad, CNN's Nic Robertson.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

NIC ROBERTSON, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice- over): In trying to unite Iraqis, the country's prime minister, Nouri al-Maliki, has to step very carefully. Al-Maliki wants to reduce insurgent attacks, and thinks dialogue and amnesty can make that happen.

Al-Maliki has to win over the Sunni Arab minority, which is the base of support for most of the insurgency. But al-Maliki appears to be ruling out those insurgents.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): Pardons for detainees who are proven to have not been involved in any criminal acts, terrorist activities, war crimes, or crimes against humanity.

ROBERTSON: The careful description of the amnesty appears intentional, designed to avoid angering the U.S. government, which has made very clear what kind of Iraqi prisoner it wants to see set free. UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What I have excluded is the irreconcilables, those who want the old regime back, and those who are al Qaeda terrorist supporters.

ROBERTSON: That language seems to indicate the U.S. might accept the release of some insurgent prisoners who have attacked American soldiers because they believed U.S. troops are occupiers, but haven't been convicted of terrorism or other violent crimes. That's important, because Prime Minister Maliki wants unity. He needs the Sunnis to support his new Shia-led government.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): Those who wish to request pardons should condemn violence and promise to support the elected national government, and to abide by the law.

ROBERTSON: That may be the basis for a compromise on the amnesty question, the release of insurgents who renounce violence and promise to support the Iraqi government.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Assuming they accept the principles of this new Iraq, lay down their arms, reconcile, and that they -- as this initiative calls for, there can be dialogue with them, bringing them into the political process. And -- and we support that.

ROBERTSON: There's been talk of amnesty before, and it's not the first time the Iraqi government has released prisoners to build support.

This month, the government has already released more than 2,000 prisoners, many of whom reportedly were jailed for relatively minor offenses.

(on camera): It appears that, whatever ambiguity exists in this offer of an amnesty, Iraq's new prime minister is intent on pulling as many people as possible in line with his new government.

Nic Robertson, CNN, Baghdad.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

COOPER: Well, granting amnesty to prisoners represents just a small fraction of the insurgency. Here's the "Raw Data."

And while it's hard to pin down the exact count, "The Times of London" reports there are approximately 200,000 insurgents and supporters in Iraq. Now, that means the insurgency outnumbers U.S. troops by an estimated 70,000. Out of that 200,000, it's believed some 40,000 insurgents are hard-core fighters, including guerrillas, as well as volunteers, who supply logistics and money, as well as terrorists.

Here at home, a constitutional amendment to ban desecration of the American flag is perhaps a single senator's vote away from going to the states for ratification. Now, if it happens, Americans will have to decide whether protecting a symbol of the country is actually worth changing the legal bedrock of the country, all to make a crime out of something that even supporters of the amendment say happens, on average, fewer than a dozen times a year.

The story now from CNN's Dana Bash.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, AD)

MADONNA, SINGER: ... people is in our reach.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

DANA BASH, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Madonna wrapped in the flag.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, AD)

MADONNA AND UNIDENTIFIED MALES: Speak your mind. There's nothing to it. Vote.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BASH: To some, this 1990 MTV ad was patriotic, trying to get young people to vote. To others, she was desecrating America's most sacred symbol.

The election-year flag debate will not settle those arguments. The constitutional amendment before the Senate simply says, the Congress shall have power to prohibit the physical desecration of the flag of the United States.

SEN. ORRIN HATCH (R), UTAH: The amendment doesn't ban anything. It does not amend the First Amendment. It does not prohibit speech. What it does is simple. It restores the power of the people's representatives to protect the flag from acts of physical desecration. That's it.

BASH: GOP lawmakers have been pushing to amend the Constitution since 1989, hoping to overcome Supreme Court rulings that laws banning flag desecration violate the first amendment.

SEN. JOHN WARNER (R), VIRGINIA: Choose some other form of expression of their freedom of speech, but do not trample or desecrate Old Glory.

BASH: A healthy majority of Americans, 56 percent, do favor a constitutional amendment making flag burning illegal. That support has flipped considerably since 1990, when it was 69 percent.

There is no reliable data showing just how big a national problem flag desecration is. The main lobbying group pushing flag laws cites 50 flag-related crimes in the last five years.

Civil liberties advocates say most are prosecuted under basic vandalism laws.

TERRI SCHROEDER, SENIOR LOBBYIST, AMERICAN CIVIL LIBERTIES UNION: This is a solution in search of a problem. And it is -- it is playing politics with the Constitution, with the potential dramatic effect on limiting people's First Amendment rights.

BASH: Democrats call this debate now, some four months before Election Day, evidence of Republicans' misplaced priorities and, like last month's Senate debate on gay marriage, a standard GOP ploy to throw red meat to their base.

SEN. PATRICK LEAHY (D), VERMONT: Regrettably, the Senate leadership is returning again and again to using constitutional amendments as election-year rallying cries to excite the passion of voters. That's wrong.

BASH: Republicans brush off that criticism, but do hope this could help galvanize some voters in key states, especially veterans.

HATCH: All states have pretty heavy veterans populations. And they're not going to forget it this time. They know that we are very close to this.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

COOPER: So, Dana, if it passes Congress, what happens next?

BASH: Well, if it passes -- and, again, that is still a big if -- Republicans say they are probably one vote away, but that's going to be a tough one to get.

If it does pass, it goes to the states. Thirty-eight states are going to have to approve this in order to ratify the amendment. And, you know, on both sides, they do actually agree, Anderson. If that actually gets to that point, that process would have -- make this debate so vigorous, a debate over the First Amendment, it would be something that really this country has not seen perhaps in its history.

COOPER: Well, we will see if it passes.

Let's bring back in Suzanne Malveaux and bring in CNN's John Roberts, part of the best political team on television.

Guys, thanks very much for joining us again.

Dana, could the flag burning issue have real political consequences in the midterm elections, or -- or, even, is there any concern among Democrats or Republicans that some people in the country are just going to say, what are you guys doing debating this; and this happens every year in an election; it seems like an obvious ploy?

BASH: Well, you know, no Republican I have talked to will tell -- will tell me that they think that there is any single-issue voter out there that's going to run to the polls and vote for or against Republicans just because of this issue, no question about that.

But some Republican strategists say they do think that this could help some of the most endangered Senate Republicans, senator -- a senator from Pennsylvania, from Ohio, from Montana, where they are in races where they need every single vote they can get. And those states do have big veteran populations, especially older veterans, who may actually be looking at this issue and say, well, this could determine my vote.

COOPER: Well, it's certainly offensive to a lot of people.

John, Democrats say that George Casey's reported plan for Iraq closely resembles resolutions that they proposed last week. You have Senator Kerry saying that the Casey plan looks an awful lot like what the Republicans spent the last week attacking as basically cut and run. Any merit to that argument?

JOHN ROBERTS, CNN SENIOR NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, it certainly doesn't look like John Kerry's plan, which was to have all troops out of Iraq by July 1 of 2007.

But here's the difference. And this is the way the White House will tell it, we are dealing with situation on the ground when -- when we're talking about troop withdrawals. The Democrats, on the other hand, want to set a timetable. So, that's -- that's where they parse this argument, is to say, we're going to let our generals on the ground make the decision on when troops can come out based on conditions on the ground, whereas the Democrats want to write it down on a piece of paper and say, it's got to happen by a date certain.

And that really is the only difference between the two plans.

COOPER: Well, so, Suzanne, you have Democratic Senator Harry Reid saying that Republicans stand now alone in opposition to the troop redeployment. How are Republicans planning on deflecting that charge? Or, frankly, are they not too worried about it? Do they just keep repeating cut and run?

MALVEAUX: Well, here's the thing.

If you take the Pentagon and the White House's words at face value, they say this is not political when it comes to making these decisions, pulling out troops. But, Anderson, one thing that is undeniably political is the White House and Republicans' decision here not to tie themselves to any numbers when it comes to troops or any deadlines.

They think that that is really a losing strategy, and, quite frankly, a political trap, because you go and you say, here's our goal. Here's what we're going to do by this time. If things get worse, they have no place to go. So, they're going to keep that intentionally vague.

COOPER: Hey, John, is it -- is it an accurate criticism that Republicans are making of Democrats that they're saying, look, you guys are proposing these withdrawals, but you're not talking at all about success or strategies for success; you're talking just about getting out and kind of, you know, damn everything else?

J. ROBERTS: Yes, you know, one -- one Democratic senator -- sorry, one -- one Democratic congresswoman said last week, in response to a question that -- that I asked her, that -- she said the strategy should be to cut and win.

And there isn't many people -- there aren't many people on the Democratic side of the aisle who -- who can figure out what that means. In fact, one Democratic strategist said what's most troubling about a statement like that is that it sounds like somebody actually thought it up, that it wasn't just an off-the-cuff statement, and the there's -- there's definitely a problem that the Democrats have here, is that they're not offering up what looks like a -- a plan to -- to turn the country over to the Iraqis.

At least President Bush gets the opportunity to say, as the Iraqi government, as the defense forces stand up, American troops can stand down. The Democrats so far -- and this is only just a political observation -- are saying, we want to start troop withdrawals, not based on any particular progress in Iraq. So, I think that's a problem for them.

COOPER: And, actually, John, I think it was you who was saying to me last week that a lot of the Democrats, in defending their plan and talking about their plan, sounded like they were on the defensive.

They began by describing what their plan isn't, that it's not cut and run, that it's not an early withdrawal. And -- and I think your point last week was, you know, if you're already on the defensive, you're -- you're describing it in a negative, and -- and you have already lost.

J. ROBERTS: Yes, and particularly if you start off your -- your -- your debate on the -- on the floor of either the Senate or House, whatever it might be, by saying, this is not cut and run, you know, instantly, you have accepted that the Republicans have tagged you with something that's pretty effective.

COOPER: That's interesting.

John Roberts, Dana Bash, Suzanne Malveaux, thank you.

If you heard a ka-ching sound, or maybe a ka-ching, ka-ching, you may have been hearing today a multibillionaire giving away most of his fortune. Warren Buffett has decided that Bill Gates is just the man he can trust with his money to help others around the world. They are combining their cash for -- get this -- a total of $66 billion. We are going to look at what that money can buy. And it can buy an awful lot.

Plus: New Orleans suddenly cash-rich with your tax dollars. But does Mayor Ray Nagin know how to spend it? Does he have a plan? Tonight, "Keeping Them Honest."

Also, Andrea Yates, remember her? Well, she's back on trial. Five years ago, she drowned her five children. Will the jury agree with an insanity defense?

Those stories and more when 360 continues. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

WARREN BUFFETT, CHAIRMAN, BERKSHIRE HATHAWAY: I think that -- that Bill and Melinda and also the people involved in the other four foundations will do a far better job, in terms of maximizing the good that comes out of that money, than what would happen if it were dropped into the federal treasury.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

COOPER: Well, that's Warren Buffett explaining why he's making a huge donation to the only man in the world actually richer than he is. Of course, that man is Bill Gates, estimated net worth, $50 billion. Buffett trails with a paltry $44 billion.

One thing Warren Buffett really admires is -- is how well the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation has actually been giving away its money. So, Mr. Buffett is giving his money, or the bulk of his fortune, I say, to the Gates Foundation. Experts estimate that the foundation will then have a $66 billion endowment, which is just incredible.

The question is, how much -- exactly what does that money buy, and how much?

CNN's Tom Foreman takes a look.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

TOM FOREMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): One of the fastest cars on the planet is this Lamborghini -- base price, $175,000. You could buy one for every driver in Warren Buffett's hometown of Omaha with the $66 billion he and Bill Gates are giving to charity. It's money that could have gone to the families of the two richest men in America, but, instead, it's going to the world.

BUFFETT: It isn't in keeping with my view of how the world should operate to create huge amounts of dynastic wealth.

FOREMAN: The Gates Foundation says much of the money will likely be spent to fight disease, AIDS, tuberculosis, malaria.

BILL GATES, FOUNDER, MICROSOFT: Global health is one of the two big causes the foundation goes after. Education, broadly defined, including scholarships and libraries in the United States, is the second.

FOREMAN: As one dollar bill, 66 billion could wrap around the Earth more than 250 times. So, if education is your goal, you could easily buy a laptop computer for every school child in the country.

Don't want the kids to have all the fun? Well, you could buy an iPod nano for every American citizen. And what a job it could create. If you were working for just the interest on $66 billion, at a modest 3 percent, you would pull in $5 million a day. For $66 billion, everyone who lost retirement funds in the Enron scandal could be repaid. Every levee in New Orleans could be repaired, the city largely rebuilt.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Ignition sequence start. Six...

FOREMAN: Sixty-six billion would cover most of the cost of returning to the moon.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Beautiful. Just beautiful.

FOREMAN: Or you could weave a rope of bills to climb there. And you could brag about it by buying up every commercial in the Super Bowl for the next four-and-a-half centuries.

(on camera): That's the problem. Sixty-six billion dollars is just a breathtaking amount of money, 10 times as much as the budgets for United Way and the Red Cross combined.

(voice-over): But what that money can do is also incomprehensible, because it can and likely will bring food, shelter, medicine, and hope to millions around the globe.

Tom Foreman, CNN, Washington.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

COOPER: It is a remarkable gift.

There's a chance for you to get into the spirit of giving. Warren Buffett will have lunch with up to eight people, but you have got to make the winning bid on eBay. Last we looked, the bidding was more than half-a-million dollars. Of course, you could get it all back if Buffett offers some of his legendary stock tips, perhaps.

Proceeds benefit the Glide Foundation, a San Francisco nonprofit that helps the poor, the hungry, as well as the homeless.

Here in New Orleans, some people are asking if Mayor Ray Nagin's plan for rebuilding is on track, if there is a plan. We're "Keeping Them Honest" tonight, coming up.

But, first Thomas Roberts from Headline News joins with us some of the other stories we're following tonight -- Thomas.

THOMAS ROBERTS, HEADLINE NEWS CORRESPONDENT: Hi, Anderson.

A possible threat closed a port in Southern California today, at least for a few hours. Authorities investigated a suspicious message in the cargo hold of a ship at the Port of Hueneme. That's in Ventura County. About 20 people were evacuated from the ship, which was filled with bananas from Guatemala.

Palestinian militants have demanded the release of all women and children in Israeli jails, in return for information about a kidnapped Israeli soldier. Corporal Gilad Shalit was seized in a Sunday-morning raid. A Hamas spokesman has told CNN that it is among the militant groups holding the soldier.

Heavy rain has closed several federal buildings in Washington, D.C., including the Justice Department. Impassable roads and rail delays created real problems for commuters, and officials said people should avoid the downtown area. The storm dropped more than seven inches of rain in 24 hours.

And fans of the "Harry Potter" books may want to cover their ears for this one. Go ahead. Cover them up. J.K. Rowling has dropped a hint about how the seventh and final book will end. She's told the BBC that she will kill off two characters. However, she did not say which ones -- Anderson, back to you.

COOPER: Uh-oh. It's going to keep people guessing.

(LAUGHTER)

COOPER: Thomas, thanks.

It is June 26, 26 days into Mayor Ray Nagin's plan for rebuilding New Orleans. Coming up, he won a second chance to steer his city into better times, but what has really changed since he launched this 100- day plan? We're "Keeping Them Honest" tonight.

Plus, another reality check on the streets of New Orleans -- a wave of murders has some people in the Big Easy heading to the nearest gun store -- next on this special edition of 360, live from New Orleans.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

COOPER: So, the mayor of New Orleans says he has a plan to rebuild the city. So, how's that plan working so far? Tonight, we're "Keeping Them Honest" -- next on 360, live from New Orleans.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

COOPER: And, as we told you, we are broadcasting tonight live from -- from New Orleans, part of our continuing effort to keep this story alive and keep reminding the country of what continues to happen here every day.

Just hours after winning reelection last month, Mayor Ray Nagin said the city of New Orleans was ready to take off, certainly, nice words to hear, but what has happened since then? Words alone don't put lives back on track, and they don't put houses back together again.

Tonight, 10 months after Katrina and 26 days into the mayor's plan for rebuilding New Orleans, we're "Keeping Them Honest."

CNN's Randi Kaye.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

MICHAEL REED, RESIDENT OF NEW ORLEANS, LOUISIANA: You can see we have to put it in one sheet at a time.

RANDI KAYE, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Michael Reed is braving New Orleans' summer heat and rebuilding his mother's home in the Lower Ninth Ward.

REED: We have to be self-sufficient. We can't wait on these people to do anything for us. We realize that the only thing that's going to get done is if we do it ourselves.

KAYE: Like many here, Michael is fed up with waiting for government help.

(on camera): What do you think about the mayor's new 100-day plan?

REED: Well, you know, I'm kind of disappointed that I don't see anything that's actually happening right now.

KAYE (voice-over): After his reelection, New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin made a promise. Within 100 days, he would have a plan for rebuilding, reducing crime, improving health care, and cleaning up trash. It's now day 26.

ROB COUHIG, 100 DAY INITIATIVE PLAN COMMITTEE: This is not a magic wand 100 days. It is to lay the predicate for the next three years.

KAYE: Rob Couhig heads the 100-day Committee.

What can I tell the people of New Orleans has changed since before the 100-day plan was in place?

COUHIG: I think a couple of things. First, we're approaching things differently than was approached in the first term.

KAYE: What has changed, though?

COUHIG: When you say what has changed, we now have a focus on criminal justice. We do have National Guard troops. We do have state troopers out. But here's what else has changed. The politics and the working with people has changed.

KAYE: Remember, Katrina struck 10 months ago. So do people still living in FEMA trailers really care how politicians get along, or do they want to know how billions of dollars in federal aid heading to New Orleans is going to be spent and when?

Do you have a concrete plan in place yet for what that money will be used for?

COUHIG: I think we have most of the elements in place.

KAYE: But no matter how many times we asked neither Rob Couhig or the mayor's office could explain where that money will be spent. Mayor Nagin declined to be interviewed for this story, but Monday afternoon announced progress. MAYOR RAY NAGIN, NEW ORLEANS: I don't know where this came from but there seems to be this incredible perception that we have done no planning.

KAYE: 26 days into it the National Guard is fighting crime. A pothole program is under way, and volunteers are standing by to rebuild abandoned homes. Starting Monday, four times as many trash collectors will be on the street. But the city councilman Oliver Thomas says more should have been done by now, especially in terms of housing.

OLIVER THOMAS, NEW ORLEANS COUNCILMAN: If there are leaders who believe that certain communities are not viable, say that. Don't let these communities and these people waste their time talking about rebuilding and coming back home. That would be extremely unfair.

KAYE: Unfair to people like Michael Reed, who says he's heard it all from politicians, over and over again.

MICHAEL REED, NEW ORLEANS RESIDENT: That's what politicians do. You know, they threw out a 100-day plan, and then when that 100's over they throw out another 100-day plan, you know. So I guess we'll be like that for three or four years, you know, with these 100-day plans. I guess by the time he gets out of office the next mayor will throw a 100-day plan at us.

(END OF VIDEOTAPE)

COOPER: Well, he can laugh about it. I guess that's all you can do at some point. Day 26 of this 100-day plan. What's the progress report?

KAYE: It depends on who you ask. Everybody has their own view of progress, Anderson. But in speaking with the mayor's team, they promised that within these first 100 days they will restore 100% of all the stoplights and all the stop signs, so it's easier to get around here. You know, getting around is very difficult without all that. Is that progress? Not to the people who have been living in these FEMA trailers all these months. But in speaking with the head of the 100-day committee he says look, its day 26, don't criticize us just yet. Come back here on day 100, if the streets aren't clean, if we haven't made enough progress, criticize us then. So we will do that and we'll hold them to it.

COOPER: The big picture problem, though, seems to be what gets rebuilt and what doesn't and it doesn't seem like there is an answer to that. Is the lower ninth ward going to be rebuilt? What parts are going to be rebuilt? And people don't know where to donate money because they don't know where to put the money.

KAYE: And a lot of these neighborhoods are making their own plans for rebuilding and they could very well be told in a few months, oh wait a minute, your neighborhood is one of the ones that isn't going to be rebuilt. These people need some answers. They've waited a long time. COOPER: Well, the wait continues. Thanks very much, Randi. Appreciate it. Here's the number that has a lot of people in New Orleans worried. 54 murders so far this year. Crime is making a comeback, at least the homicide rate is making a comeback in the big easy. Not everyone is waiting for the police to protect them. We'll show you how some citizens are trying to take matters in their own hands.

Also tonight two mothers who said they heard voices telling them to kill their children. One was declared insane, the other was convicted of murder. Why the difference? And will the outcome be different for Andrea Yates this time around in court? That's coming up next on 360.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

COOPER: Welcome back. You're looking at a live picture of downtown New Orleans, heading toward the French Quarter over there. It looks like city life has kind of returned to normal from this vantage point, of course. Of course not everything is normal here. In New Orleans tonight there is actually a curfew in effect for anyone under the age of 17. The city reinstated the curfew on Friday, less than a week after five teenagers died in a bloody gang-style shooting.

Crime is making a major comeback in New Orleans, or at least I should say the murder rate is. 54 murders so far this year. And that is a lot for a city with only 220-some thousand people. A city that no longer feels safe to many. Take a look.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

COOPER: Angel Johnson had never fired a gun until today. But with New Orleans' murder rate soaring, this mother of three no longer feels safe.

ANGEL JOHNSON, GUN OWNER: I have it for my safety because I work like 12 hours a day, I get up at 4:30 in the morning, don't make it home until like 8:00 at night. So it's just for my protection. I looked at a whole lot of them, and I wasn't getting a good feel of it. When I looked at it, I saw it, I picked it up and I was like yeah this is me right here. So it's just like a pair of shoes.

COOPER: At The Shooter's Club, a retail gun store and firing range in nearby Metairie, business is brisk.

MICHAEL MAYER, OWNER, THE SHOOTER'S CLUB: We're seeing more just regular people instead of a sportsman-like customer. They're coming in here looking for basic protection. And it's more of the family- oriented crowd. Most of them say that they thought they would never, ever want a gun or buy a gun or use a gun, and of course now they're forced sort of to buy a gun for protection. And that's a means to protect themselves and their family now.

COOPER: Police say the jump in the murder rate is disturbing but with school out and the temperatures rising it hasn't come as a complete surprise. New Orleans' growing murder rate burst into national headlines two weekends ago, when on this spot in a Central City neighborhood in New Orleans in the predawn hours on a Sunday morning, shots rang out. Five young men were killed here. Police believe the killings were drug-related. So far, though, they've made no arrests.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: 1131 Marengo.

COOPER: Assistant New Orleans Police Chief Anthony Canatella took us through one of the most crime-ridden neighborhoods, Central City.

ANTHONY CANATELLA, ASST. NEW ORLEANS POLICE CHIEF: The hurricane flushed all of our drug dealers out, most of them went west toward Houston, Dallas, San Antonio. They're starting to come back now when they found out that the jails in Houston and Dallas aren't letting them out.

COOPER: These drug dealers could come back but they're competing for a smaller base of client.

CANATELLA: I think so, yes. What we were seeing immediately after the hurricane, it appeared to us that the criminals weren't coming back. I thought for sure -- I was sure praying hard that it was true. But they're back.

COOPER: Criminals are back, and now so is the National Guard. They begun patrolling ruined neighborhoods, freeing up New Orleans' police to focus on known problem areas, where drug dealers fight for turf. As for citizens arming themselves, Chief Canatella doesn't think it's a good idea.

CANATELLA: That's a natural reaction when people start fearing crime and some people arm themselves. Citizens pull guns and think they can threaten people into submission. And that's when shootings occur.

COOPER: Angel Johnson says she isn't taking any chances.

JOHNSON: It was a feeling that's not describable. You know. I mean, for a first-time shooter. It was really unbelievable.

COOPER: Unbelievable, but does she actually feel safer?

JOHNSON: Not just yet. Not just yet. When I start hitting a 10 then I'll feel --

(END OF VIDEOTAPE)

COOPER: Right now of course it is really just the murder rate which has gone up here. Other crimes are about -- actually at a very low level for a city in this size. We'll continue to watch what happens in the weeks ahead.

Coming up, tainted testimony and the retrial of Andrea Yates. Yes, the retrial. You remember she killed her children, drowning them in a bathtub. Well, tonight the famous forensic expert who helped put her away could lead to her possible acquittal. We'll explain why coming up.

Also, more on the Washington, D.C. washout. Heavy rains deluged the capital, causing mayhem for commuters, closing several federal buildings. We'll have the latest when 360 continues.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

COOPER: We have some breaking news to report tonight out of Missouri. These reports are just coming in. Reports of a building collapse in the town of Clinton. That is just about 80 miles to the southeast of Kansas City. According to the "Associated Press" reports are a search is under way for two, possibly three people believed to be trapped inside. The building houses an elks club and a clothing store. We're going to have more on this as it comes in. As we say, we have no pictures yet at this point to show you but over the next hour and a half or so we likely will.

Coming up now, the murder trial of Andrea Yates, it began in Houston today. And it comes nearly five years to the day after she drowned her five children in a bathtub. No one disputes what Yates did. At issue again is her state of mind. The defense says that Yates was insane. She thought she had the sign of the devil, 666, carved into her head. Prosecutors contend the fact that Yates called 911, said she needed a police officer, and confessed proves that she was sane. What's interesting is the expert witness who helped convict her is the same man who led to her retrial. CNN's Ed Lavandera explains why.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

ED LAVANDERA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Art Dietz has made a lucrative career of studying some of the craziest people on earth. He's a forensic psychiatrist, often hired by prosecutors as a medical expert witness. When Park Dietz talks, juries listen.

PROFESSOR GERALD TREECE, SOUTH TEXAS COLLEGE OF LAW: Park Dietz is a very powerful witness, and he is a professional witness.

LAVANDERA: But his testimony in two Texas cases involving mothers who killed their children has baffled legal experts. In Andrea Yates's case he determined the suburban Houston mother was not legally insane at the time she drowned her five children.

ANDREA YATES: I killed them --

LAVANDERA: She was sentenced to life in prison. A few years later Dietz testified that Deanna Laney, who killed two of her children by beating them with stones, was legally insane. She was spared prison and sent to a mental hospital.

DEANNA LANEY: I feel like I obeyed God, and I believe that there will be good out of this.

LAVANDERA: The Yates and Laney cases are eerily similar. Both women are devoutly religious. They home-schooled their children. And both called 911 to report the killings. Dietz was the only medical expert in the Yates case who ruled she was not insane. Almost a dozen other experts testified she was insane. Park Dietz refused our request for an interview. But he has said he reached differing conclusions because Laney and Yates were responding to different voices. Laney said God told her to kill her children. Yates said that Satan was threatening her children, so she killed them to send them to heaven.

But Yates also said she knew she'd be punished, and to Dietz that meant she knew right from wrong. Knowing right from wrong is what often determines whether someone can be found guilty for their crimes or held legally insane. But other experts say Dietz's testimony was wrong because Yates clearly was insane.

JIM COHEN, FORDHAM UNIVERSITY LAW SCHOOL: The underlying disease is that you're hearing voices, you're hearing command hallucinations, and you act on those hallucinations because you're psychotic. So it shouldn't have made any difference whether a farmer told her or whether Satan told her or whether God told her.

LAVANDERA: It's also because of Park Dietz that Andrea Yates is on trial again. He wrongly testified that Yates was influenced by a "Law & Order" television show that featured a woman who got away with drowning her children by claiming she was insane. In the first trial prosecutors used that to their advantage.

JOE OWMBY, PROSECUTOR: She watches "Law & Order" regularly. She sees this program. There is a way out. She tells that to Dr. Dietz.

LAVANDERA: But that episode never existed. Dietz said he misspoke. And an appeals court threw out the conviction. Park Dietz is expected to testify again in the second trial. But the prosecution has hired another medical expert just in case the star witness falters again. Ed Lavandera, CNN, Houston.

(END OF VIDEOTAPE)

COOPER: Well, the star witness and the mother who killed her children, Dr. Park Dietz is convinced Andrea Yates knew what she was doing, but the defense is prepared to prove that she was insane. Jeffrey Toobin stops by to give us his opinion on how the legal case will end up. That's next.

Coming up also, he's a manager in the minors, but there's nothing minor about his temper. The shot of the day. Look what happened when he totally lost it on the field when 360 continues.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

COOPER: And more on our breaking story tonight out of Clinton, Missouri, that's just about 80 miles to the southeast of Kansas City. We don't have any pictures yet. We have heard there's a building collapse. Reports are a search is under way for two, possibly three people believed to be trapped inside. The building, we are told, houses an elks club and a clothing store. About 50 or 60 people were actually inside the building when it began to collapse. Diane Hannah was an eyewitness. She joins us now on the phone. Diane, what can you tell us? What are you seeing?

DIANE HANNAH, EYEWITNESS: I can barely hear you. But I believe you asked me what I can see. I'm looking --

COOPER: That's correct.

HANNAH: -- at a three-story building that the top has pretty much come off of. It collapsed three stories down into the first story. I understand there's still several men inside. There is a hook and ladder truck out front. They are positioning it up over the third story. And there was a couple of firemen that crawled up there trying to make the rescue.

COOPER: Diane, where are you positioned right now?

HANNAH: I am just across the street in front of the building. I'm probably 200 feet from the building.

COOPER: And about how many emergency personnel would you say are on the scene right now?

HANNAH: How many?

COOPER: Yes.

HANNAH: Over 100. There's probably 30 ambulances parked here on our town square. They're from all different communities. And there are several fire departments here. A lot of fire personnel. And they keep moving us back. We're standing on the courthouse lawn. The police keep moving us back because they need the space to work.

COOPER: Have you seen anyone coming out of the building, a person who might have been in there? We are told that there were dozens of people inside the building when it collapsed.

HANNAH: There was about -- I believe about 60 people inside. A number of them walked out. There -- like I said, I think there is 7 to 12 people still inside. Some of them have called out on their cell phones. But two or three have not been heard from, and we're just not sure about that.

COOPER: How do you know the information that several people have called out on their cell phone from inside the building? How do you know that?

HANNAH: Well, I talked to a person who -- there was one man in there, he could call out with his cell phone, and he had five people there with him. He called his wife.

COOPER: And this building, is it true it's an elks club? What else is inside the building?

HANNAH: I'm sorry. Repeat that, please?

COOPER: The building. What is it used for?

HANNAH: The two upper floors are the elks club. The lower floor is a men's wear store. It's retail.

COOPER: And just to repeat again, you said it is the top floor which seems to have collapsed on the second floor?

HANNAH: No. The top two have come down into the first floor.

COOPER: So right now there's only basically a one-level structure?

HANNAH: Well, you can see the inside, and they're laying on the floor. The two top stories inside are laying down in the store on the first floor. The facade is about half torn off.

COOPER: Diane Hannah, we appreciate you -- Diane, I appreciate you joining us and telling us what you are seeing with your own eyes right now in Clinton, Missouri. We'll try to check back in with you. We're also obviously trying to get some camera crews out there, and as soon as we have some video we will bring that to you and bring you up to date on the latest on those rescue operations.

A number of people, we do not know the exact number. Apparently, according to this one eyewitness, also an earlier report from the "Associated Press" which said up to two or three people were still inside, so we don't have an exact number, but we will try to get concrete information and get it to you when we have it.

Thomas Roberts from "HEADLINE NEWS" right now has some of the business stories we're following tonight. Thomas?

THOMAS ROBERTS, CNN ANCHOR: Hi, Anderson. Stocks rose on Wall Street today. The Dow gaining 56 points. The NASDAQ climbing 12. And the S&P added 6 points. The upswing comes after several big merger deals in the health care, mining, and steel industries. This even as investors remain very cautious ahead of the Federal Reserve's decision on interest rates later this week.

Also helping boost stocks, new home sales climbed 4.6 percent last month instead of falling as analysts had predicted. And the median price of a new home dropped to $235,000. That's down more than 4 percent from April.

And big relief at General Motors. About 35,000 hourly workers are taking buyouts or early retirement offers. That's 5,000 more than the carmaker expected. The cuts are part of GM's plan to slash production to match sales. Anderson, back to you.

COOPER: Thomas, thanks very much. Back to the war in a moment. Coming up, the battle over getting out. Plans reportedly from the president's top commander in Iraq. Critics say those plans look an awful lot like one of the democratic proposals. We'll check the facts.

Plus hospitals now letting families into the E.R. even during life or death moments. Would you want to be there if it were your loved one inside that E.R.? And also tonight, see how a local farmer plans on getting his animals through the next big storm. 170,000 alligators. Let's just say it is a little tougher than herding cats. From gator country, New Orleans, Louisiana, you're watching 360.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

COOPER: Good evening again from New Orleans tonight. Breaking news, a building collapse, first pictures from the scene in Missouri and a plan for pulling troops out of Iraq stirs up a political firestorm. Not a democratic plan, it is reportedly from the president's own top commander in Iraq.

TO ORDER A VIDEO OF THIS TRANSCRIPT, PLEASE CALL 800-CNN-NEWS OR USE OUR SECURE ONLINE ORDER FORM LOCATED AT www.fdch.com

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