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Recent Foiled Terror Plot in London Wakeup Call To Travelers About Importance of Safe Travel; Recent Shutdown of Alaska Oilfield Sending Gas Prices Even Higher; Tips on How to Investigate Your Neighbor; Protect Your Home Before Leaving on Vacation

Aired August 12, 2006 - 09:29   ET


BETTY NGUYEN, CNN ANCHOR: "Now in the News," let's get you first to the Middle East.
Israel's assault against Hezbollah in south Lebanon goes on despite a U.N. cease-fire resolution. Israel's military says troops killed more than 40 Hezbollah terrorists in the past 24 hours. Lebanon says one Israeli air strike killed 15 people.

Meanwhile, the Lebanese cabinet is set to vote today on the U.N.- approved resolution. Now, the cabinet includes two members of Hezbollah. The resolution calls for a full cessation of hostilities between Israel and Hezbollah, but a date has to be hammered out. Israel's cabinet is expected to take up the measure tomorrow.

Well, a signal had been sent, "Do your attacks now." We have more details today about the alleged plot to blow up a U.S.-bound plane, or several of them, from the U.K. A security memo reveals the suspects had been given the go-ahead.

And all day Monday, CNN will show you where America is most vulnerable to terrorist attacks. Learn what you can do to stay safe. It's called "Target USA," and it's all day Monday, only on CNN.

In the meantime, three more missing college exchange students from Egypt were arrested last night in Des Moines, Iowa. That means nine of the missing students have been located. The nationwide manhunt was triggered when 11 of them failed to show up at classes in Montana State University. Federal authorities are still looking for the remaining two.

And a wind-driven brush fire near Reno, Nevada, has exploded to cover more than eight miles and is threatening two subdivisions. Take a look.

A fire department spokesman says about 800 homes are in the area. There are at least 65 active large fires burning all across the western U.S.

Your next update is coming up at the top of the hour at 10:00 a.m. Eastern.

But first, OPEN HOUSE with Gerri Willis.

GERRI WILLIS, HOST: A new terror plot raises fears about air travel. We'll tell you how to deal with severe security measures and travel safely.

And a major oil company makes a critical mistake, and you are paying the price at the pump.

And you'll learn how to shore up security at your house, at home.

Good morning, everybody. I'm Gerri Willis, and this is OPEN HOUSE.

Just weeks before the five-year anniversary of the attacks on the World Trade Center, a new terror plot was uncovered. This one involving a plan to use liquid explosives to blow up airplanes flying between London and the United States. It's a grim reminder of the times we live in and a wakeup call to any traveler who has forgotten about the importance of safe travel and increased airline security.

As a traveler, there are many things to keep in mind. Christine Sarkis, contributing editor with is here to help us.

Christine, great to see you.

Thank you. Good to see you, too.

WILLIS: You know, the airports are obviously a mess. What kind of advice can you give travelers?

SARKIS: Well, expect long lines and be patient. And a lot of people are going to have to adjust the way they pack. And I think that's -- that's going to be a big one, because...

WILLIS: Well, let's talk about that. I think that's a big point.

People are really worried about packing. Is it -- you know, from what I read, it sounds like you can barely bring on a carry on. Is it possible to bring anything on, or does it matter what's inside that carry on?

SARKIS: Oh, it absolutely matters what's inside. Typical toiletry kits are going to be things that are now going to need to be checked in. So that's -- you know, items such as suntan lotion, gels, basically that which makes up your toiletry kit is going to need to be checked on.

WILLIS: You know, another big question this week, I think, has been, how flexible are the airlines? Some of them are doing a lot for people who plan to travel today, tomorrow, next week. And others aren't doing so much.

What are you finding?

SARKIS: Well, I think some airlines are certainly more flexible than others. For instance, American Airlines is allowing passengers who booked before August 9th to change their ticketing date and to -- they're also offering some sorts of -- some sorts of refunds or vouchers. WILLIS: OK. So there is some flexibility out there, obviously.

One question about the packing we didn't cover, laptops and iPods. I know people are worried about their electronics. What should they do, Christine?

SARKIS: Well, in the U.S., as of now, it's still all right to bring them on. In the U.K., no, it's not allowed. And I suppose the most important point here is that the more things that you can check on, the faster those lines will go.

WILLIS: Right, exactly. At the end of the day, that's what you want to do. You want to get through those lines quickly.

SARKIS: Exactly.

WILLIS: You know, let's talk about differences between the U.S. -- U.S. and Great Britain. You say there's a pretty big difference in the way that people are handled. Where is it fastest? Where can I expect delays?

SARKIS: I think that for flights to and from the U.K. you can expect disruptions in the next week or two. So, in that case, if you can, postpone your trip for a week or two. You can expect probably a smoother journey.

WILLIS: Wow. So it might make sense at this point to actually delay your travel, if you can.

Let's talk about how long these restrictions might last, because it's completely unclear, the authorities haven't said how long they are going to keep these restrictions in place in terms of what you can take on, how early you need to get to the airport.

You know, given your experience with watching the airlines over time, how long do you think they might have these restrictions in place?

SARKIS: I think that it's possible that we're going to need to expect some permanent tightening of carry-on rules. Now, it's possible that this liquids rule, this new liquids rule, is going to be an indefinite thing.

WILLIS: Is there anything that you would recommend to our viewers today going forward what they should be thinking about as they are hitting that airport?

SARKIS: Find out security line times, adjust accordingly, and start packing differently.

WILLIS: Yes. It's definitely plan ahead.

Christine Sarkis, thank you so much for joining us today.

SARKIS: Thank you very much.

WILLIS: With the threat level raised, we want to review everything you need to know about safe traveling.

First, know the restrictions. Aside from the obvious no-nos, like from firearms and explosive material, you cannot bring the following in on your carry-on luggage: that is liquid, shampoo, beverages, suntan lotion, hair gel and toothpaste into your the checked baggage. You also can't bring lighters or other flammable items, tools over seven inches, box cutters or knives -- probably know that -- that are not plastic, or sporting goods like golf clubs or pool cues.

Now, since December, passengers have been allowed to pack scissors with a cutting edge of four inches or less. You can bring nail files, knitting needles, tweezers and nail clippers. And if you're bringing gifts with you, don't wrap them. Wrapped gifts may need to be opened for inspection. This applies to both carry-on and checked baggage.

Second, dress for security. With increased security it's advised you arrive to the airport at least two hours early. To minimize your wait time, avoid wearing metal in all circumstances. Wear belt-less pants or skirts, skip the jewelry. And if you can, put on your sneakers.

Don't wear boots or shoes with thick soles or heels or metal. Try to put any jackets in your baggage when possible. All jackets must go through the x-ray machine for inspection.

Now, to get through the line even faster, bring plastic baggies with you to hold loose change or watches before going through security. To check on the security checkpoint wait times, go to

And number three, keep your guard up. If you see anything suspicious, let the authorities know. Never touch anything that looks suspicious. And don't use your cell phone within 50 feet of any curious object.

You should have your boarding pass and your I.D. on you at all times. And don't leave your bags unattended, and don't carry anything for another person if you don't know them.

If you have a question about airport security, call the Transportation Security Administration at 1-866-289-9673.

And now another major story, the shutdown of an Alaska oilfield which sent already-high gas prices even higher. The security -- pardon me, the energy secretary says the costs should be shouldered by the industry, not the consumer. But as you and I know, at the end of the day we are the ones paying the price.

Let's go straight to Washington now and Tyson Slocum of Public Citizen.

Tyson, hello there.


You know, I can't believe the story this week. BP, British Petroleum, they have problems with their pipeline, they have had incredible earnings. And now we are paying the price for their problems with their pipeline.

What is wrong with this picture?

SLOCUM: Well, a lot is wrong with it. I mean, first of all, like you point out, BP is responsible for this mishap. And the company, even though they have been recording record earnings, $31 billion in profits since last year, they haven't been reinvesting that money back into preventative maintenance or into safety and security.

WILLIS: Well, who is watching this, Tyson?

SLOCUM: Well, that's -- that's the big issue, is that on these types of matters, the industry is largely self-regulating. And BP is one of the worst track records in the United States. They've got the highest rate of on-the-job fatalities, mainly due to that giant explosion at one of their refineries in Texas last year that killed 15 workers. And their -- their pipelines up in Alaska have a long history of poor maintenance.

And that's really inexcusable. One of the reasons that politicians and the oil companies keep saying that we need to tolerate these high profits is so that the companies can do proper upkeep of their maintenance.

WILLIS: Well, and that's obviously not working. I mean, this begs the question, where are federal regulators? Why aren't they doing something about these pipelines? It seems like there's a public good at stake here.

SLOCUM: Absolutely. Well, Congress is going to need so investigate this matter, and I think what's going to be require is that Congress is going to have to take more authority in overseeing the activities of these pipelines.

Remember, the only reason that BP even discovered this corrosive pipeline is that the United States Department of Transportation ordered the company to do a system-wide evaluation of its pipeline after a big oil spill at a BP facility in March of this year.

Well, Tyson, it gets even more embarrassing. You probably heard the reports this week of a BP whistleblower out there saying that, you know, employees had told the company that there were problems with the pipeline and the company did nothing.

SLOCUM: Yes, absolutely. I mean, the company has a poor track record. You know, they've been spending millions of dollars on these ads trying to convince people that they are a green oil company, but the fact is they should be spending more of that money on preventative maintenance. You know, in the last year, they've spent $22 billion buying back their own stock. And that's in addition to the $31 billion in profit. Clearly, they are not investing enough in preventative maintenance, and this pipeline problem up in Alaska clearly shows that if the industry isn't willing to get the job done, then the federal government is going to have to step up to the plate to protect the environment and consumers.

WILLIS: So, Tyson, when you hear BP's CEO, the guy who heads the company, come out and apologize for the problem, is that enough for you?

SLOCUM: No, apologies aren't going to fix the high prices that consumers are paying. Apologies aren't going to fix a decade-long problem of problems at their facilities.

What's going to fix the problem is action. And what's going to fix the problem is investing more of their record profits back into the system so that Americans can have a safe and reliable energy supply.

WILLIS: Tyson, we'll be watching this. And I'm sure we'll be talking to you again about this very topic.

Thank you so much.

SLOCUM: Yes. It was my pleasure.

WILLIS: Still ahead, much more on security from Tom Davidson.

Plus, suspicious about your next-door neighbor or somebody at work? You'll learn everything you need to know to find out everything you want to know.

Plus, protect your home. What you need to know to keep criminals out, coming up.

But first, your "Tip of the Day."


WILLIS (voice-over): Tired of receiving all those credit card offers in the mail? Opt out. is the only site authorized by the four main credit reporting companies to accept and process these requests. Just keep in mind opting out of credit card offers will also take you off your own credit card company's list. If you want your credit line increased, your rewards program upgraded, or your interest rate lowered, you will have to be the one to get in touch.

Not comfortable completing this process online? Just call 1-888- 5-OPT-OUT.

And that's your "Tip of the Day."


WILLIS: OK. So many of us have that neighbor. You know, the one you're just a little suspicious of who might be up to no good.

Let's bring in Vinny Parco right now of "Court TV's" "Parco P.I."

Vinny's going to tell you how to investigate your neighbor.

You know how to do this, right?

VINNY PARCO, PRIVATE INVESTIGATOR: Well, we do it for a living, yes.

WILLIS: All right. OK. What can I find out? Can I find out if they have been in prison, if they owe taxes, maybe their net worth?

PARCO: Well, net worth would be a little difficult because there are laws prohibiting that, unless you have a judgment against them.


PARCO: But, for example, let's say you have a neighbor and you don't know anything about him. The person is living there for six months or a year. They're very quiet. They might just be quiet people.

WILLIS: But you want to know.

PARCO: But you want to know. There's something strange about them.

You're allowed to look through public records for certain things. For example, look at Board of Elections and see if they're registered voters. That might give you a little indication of their date of birth, their real name.

WILLIS: If I have date of birth, that's like a key to their entire identity, right?

PARCO: Close to. You can motor vehicle records from that.

Some states prohibit that. You have to be careful. Each state is different. But you can get motor vehicle records, find out -- also, with the date of the birth, you can find out if they have a criminal record. Now, this is very important.

WILLIS: How do you do that?

PARCO: You go to the office of court administration within the state that you live. In New York, it's called Office of Court Administration State of New York. That covers the whole state. You pay a fee.

WILLIS: How much? Is it expensive?

PARCO: No, it's not. In New York State it's $52, and it covers the whole state.

You pay a fee, you give them the date of birth, and they will tell you within 48 to 72 hours if this person has a criminal conviction, only. Not if they were arrested. Because, let's face it, some people are arrested but they're innocent. They got arrested by mistake.

WILLIS: Right. Absolutely.

PARCO: What you could also check is court records to see if there are any lawsuits against them or they filed lawsuits. That might give you an indication. They might be very litigious, so you'll be careful that you don't cut the hedge too close to their property.

WILLIS: All right.

PARCO: You don't want to get sued.

WILLIS: But, Vinny, OK, so what if I want to know about their financial situation? I'm concerned that, you know, maybe they don't have enough money to keep the house up or pay their taxes. That's the kind of that situation happens, too.

PARCO: OK. You can check certain things which are public record, a thing called UCC liens. And what they are is a record in the courthouse or the county clerk's office that says that they took a loan or they have an encumbrance on a piece of property or a piece of material.

For example, let's say that you buy a car. That car has a lien on it because you can't sell it unless you pay off the note.

WILLIS: Right, exactly.

PARCO: So, if they claim that they -- that have all this money, that they pay cash for their cars, say, you can say, "Well, I just checked and you've got a lien on that car. So you didn't pay cash."

WILLIS: OK. Maybe you don't want to approach your neighbor with that information.


WILLIS: Because, I mean, part of the double-edged sword of this is that, once you go fishing for information about your neighbor they might find out and they could be angry, right?

PARCO: Well, you don't have to tell them. They're not going to find out. It's not something that they are going to be notified.

WILLIS: All right.

What is suspicious activity, though, in your neighborhood?

PARCO: People coming and going out of the house that shouldn't be there. For example, the family -- the family has a mother or father and two children, and all of a sudden, there are four or five adults coming in all the time.

WILLIS: What about people who might look just a little bit alike? Like, let me give you an example. Our floor manager Pete, he could pass for you. He looks exactly -- Pete, come here.

PARCO: He needs a mustache, but other than that, yes.

WILLIS: I'm telling you guys, if you were wondering around the neighborhood, I would think that -- I wouldn't be able to tell the difference, possibly. So would that be suspicious activity?

I know Pete's not up to suspicious activity, but...

PARCO: You know, you have to take the particular neighborhood and look at the type of neighborhood it is. For example, if it's a gated community that has security, you might not be suspicious. You'd say, "Well, I have gated security. Anybody walking in has to show identification."

WILLIS: Anyway.

PARCO: Stuff like that. But if you live in a regular neighborhood that's not gated and it's just, say, an upper middle class area, you might want to keep an eye on -- for example, I know the gentlemen before was saying about cars parked in the same spot all the time. That's an -- that's an indication maybe there's something suspicious going on.

WILLIS: How? How come?

PARCO: Well, maybe the guy is casing the joint, he's a thief, he's a burglar.

WILLIS: I'm clearly not thinking the right way here, but you're teaching me. And I really appreciate that, Vinny.

Thank you for coming on with us today.

PARCO: My pleasure.

WILLIS: I appreciate it.

You can catch the season two premier of "Parco P.I." Tuesday night at 10:00 p.m. on "Court TV."

Still ahead on OPEN HOUSE, how to spend a weekend finding holes in your home security, and how to fix them.

And mortgage rates dipped yet again this week as the Federal Reserve halted the rise of interest rates for the first time in two years.


WILLIS: Summertime is high time for family vacations and primetime for burglars. You need to protect your home before you leave.

Tom Davidson is the author of "The Complete Idiot's Guide to Home Security," but he is no idiot. He's actually a terrific security advisor.

Tom, let's talk a little bit about preparing your house when you go away. That is the critical time, right?

TOM DAVIDSON, HOME SECURITY SPECIALIST: Yes. Well, actually before you go away. And I suggest a layered approach.

WILLIS: What does that mean?

DAVIDSON: Take security, like you're getting ready for the winter and you put on layers of clothes that keep warm, well, you do the same thing with security. The first layer is what I call target hardening, which is anything you do to prevent or cause delays in your house being broken into, such as deadbolt locks, things of that nature.

WILLIS: I feel like I'm going to police school here. So, target hardening.

So, what do I do? Does that mean my locks are -- I should buy new locks? Or does that mean I have got the windows locked? What does that mean?

DAVIDSON: Well, the first thing you should do is think like an agile, determined burglar. Walk around your house in the daytime, and do it again at night, because things look different when the sun goes down.

Ask yourself, is there places that someone could break into my house with nobody seeing, like a neighbor or a passerby? And if there is, is there anything I can do to help that, like trim back a hedge or put up a dusk to dawn light? Do I live in a two-story house and I have got a ladder laying behind my garage that a burglar could easily use to climb up and get in a second-story window.

WILLIS: You could remove the tools that they can use to help themselves, right?


WILLIS: Now, I think some of this is a little bit less obvious, like, if somebody comes to your door and they want to use your telephone, they say their car is broken down, down the street, do you automatically let them in?

DAVIDSON: No. We're all good people. We want to help people.

And I suggest this, if someone comes to your door and they want to use your phone, don't let them in. There's no need for them to come inside and look around and see what kind of stuff you have there and possibly case your house for a burglary later.

WILLIS: But I -- I don't want to -- maybe they are legitimate. So what do I do?

DAVIDSON: Well, what you do is, ask them for the phone number that they would like called. And offer to make the call for them with them outside.

If they really need help, they will give you the number, you make the call, and you'll help them. And you know what to throw in for good measure? And say, "And I'm going to call the police and have them come by to check on you while you're waiting for your friend to come help you."

WILLIS: And see if they run away, right?

Let's talk about neighbors for just a second, because I think part of security is having a very close neighborhood relationship. Everybody knows everybody, they know when you're on vacation.

Doesn't that make life easier? Isn't that a backup, as well?

DAVIDSON: Oh, yes, relationships is one of those layers for security. Talk about target hardening, putting on the right kind of locks, alarm systems, things like that. But your neighbors and the people that work in your neighborhood, if you can build trust relationships with them, they can be eyes and ears watching out for you, and they can do things for you, like house sitting, if you...

WILLIS: Picking up your -- your newspapers, or whatever, mail if you're not there and you forgot to stop it, yes.

DAVIDSON: Right. Those kinds of things. And if something happens while you're away, they may be detect that. And even though maybe the burglary occurred, by them detecting that early on the police have a better opportunity and maybe will limit the gravity of harm done to you.

WILLIS: Sounds like a great idea.

Tom, thank you for the great advice. I appreciate it.

DAVIDSON: You're welcome.

WILLIS: As always, if you have an idea for a weekend project, send us an e-mail to

We just talked about how to protect your home. Up next, how to protect your identity when you leave home.


WILLIS: Make sure a little time away doesn't translate into someone stealing your identity on vacation. If you're renting a car, don't put the rental agreement with all of your personal information in the glove compartment. It could get into the wrong hands if the car is broken into.

And clean out your wallet before you leave. Remove anything that could compromise your identity like your Social Security card or unnecessary credit cards.

And don't leave your wallet or any other personal documents in your hotel room. Use a hotel safe instead to protect your belongings.

And finally, if you plan on bringing a laptop or a PDA, make sure you password protect your account. Now, this will protect your information from unsecured Wi-Fi spots and pickpockets.

You'll find more information on today's guests and topics on our Web site,

As always, we thank you for spending part of your Saturday with us.

OPEN HOUSE will be back next week right here on CNN. And you can also catch us on Headline News every Saturday and Sunday at 5:30 p.m. Eastern Time.

Don't go anywhere. Your top stories are next on "CNN SATURDAY.".

Have a great weekend.


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