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Flight to India Grounded for Security Concerns; Videotape Shows Kidnapped Journalists; Hurricane Survivor Shares Concerns with President; Police Work to Connect Suspect to JonBenet Ramsey Murder

Aired August 23, 2006 - 13:00   ET


KYRA PHILLIPS, HOST: Hello, everyone, I'm Kyra Phillips at the CNN world headquarters in Atlanta.
Message from captivity. Proof that they're alive. What do the kidnapped journalists say, and what do the captors demand?

From New Orleans to Washington, a traveling symbol to the White House. Did this Katrina survivor get anywhere with the president?

And cutting ties. From boffo to bust, why is Paramount really parting ways with Tom Cruise?

LIVE FROM starts right now.

A diverted plane and 12 arrests after passengers create security concerns. Straight to the newsroom now. Carol Lin working our developing story out of the Netherlands -- Carol.

CAROL LIN, CNN ANCHOR: Kyra, confirmed -- CNN has confirmed that these two people have been arrested. Originally we were reporting that they had been detained. No more details, though, on what exactly suspiciously they were doing on board that flight to Mumbai, India.

You know, the flight originated out of Minneapolis, St. Paul, yesterday. Reports of them acting suspiciously on board. They had been detained. Now officially arrested.

Air marshals on board that flight, Kyra. So passengers, 149 of them on board, followed directions, according to the captain, who told them there was an event happening. This plane, which had taken off from Amsterdam just 30 minutes before, turned around, landed, 12 people arrested.

Kyra, we're going to be watching the story throughout the program.

PHILLIPS: Appreciate it. Thank you, Carol.

Hope and concern out of Gaza. Video released just hours ago shows two FOX journalists kidnapped last week. We also know for the first time who claims to be holding them and what the kidnappers -- kidnappers want.

CNN's Chris Lawrence is following the developments from Jerusalem. Chris, what is -- what's latest information?

CHRIS LAWRENCE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Kyra, the kidnappers themselves don't actually appear in this video, but they did release a separate written statement in Arabic. Translated, it partially reads, "We will release your prisoners if you release Muslim prisoners in American jails."


LAWRENCE (voice-over): Held captive for 10 days, journalists Steve Centanni and Olaf Wiig appeared on this videotape pleading for their freedom.

OLAF WIIG, FOX NEWS PHOTOJOURNALIST: If you can apply any political pressure, local government here in Gaza, in the West Bank.

LAWRENCE: Sitting on the floor mat with no militants in sight, FOX News reporter Steve Centanni said they're being treated well.

STEVE CENTANNI, FOX NEWS CORRESPONDENT: We get lots of water, food every day, access to the bathroom, shower, clean clothes.

LAWRENCE: Their families have made public pleas for their release.

ANITA MCNAUGHT, WIFE OF OLAF WIIG: I know the people of Gaza are good people. And you will bring my husband home to me.

LAWRENCE: Photographer Olaf Wiig spoke directly to his family.

WIIG: Please don't worry. I'll do all the worrying for us.

LAWRENCE: Over the past two years, at least 26 foreigners have been kidnapped from Gaza, nine of them from the media. Hostages have usually been released within hours. But this kidnapping and threats of more to come caused some media to pull out of the area.

(on camera) For now, we don't go across the checkpoint. Palestinian security sources tell us an unnamed militant group has threatened to kidnap any foreign journalists caught in Gaza. The latest threat specifically targets those with U.S. or British passports.

(voice-over) A previously unknown militant group called the Holy Jihad Brigade claimed responsibility for this kidnapping and demanded the U.S. release Muslim prisoners from its jails within the next three days.

CENTANNI: ... ask you to do anything you can to try to help us get out of here.


LAWRENCE: Translating more from the leaflet are released by the Holy Jihad Brigades it goes on to read, if you fulfill our condition, then we will, too. But if you don't, then you could wait and we will also, we will do, too.

But it does not say specifically what they would do if their conditions are not met -- Kyra.

PHILLIPS: Meanwhile, do you know what the condition -- the conditions are of these two at this hour, Chris?

LAWRENCE: Well, just going by that video, we do not have a specific time when that video was recorded. But just going from what the two journalists said, that they were being treated fairly well, that they looked healthy, that there was no one -- if you compare that to some of the videos that have come out of Iraq in the past few years, that there was no immediate threat being made to them at that point.

But, again, we have to say that we don't know exactly when that video was made. So we can't determine their exact condition at this exact hour.

PHILLIPS: Chris Lawrence, thanks.

Well, a plain spoken guy had coffee and a chat with the president today. No, not Ed Henry, though he's a plainspoken guy, too. Ed's our White House correspondent. He's going to tell us, though, what exactly happened.

Do you think Rockey would have ever imagined that he would have been face-to-face with the president?

ED HENRY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: No. I mean, Hollywood couldn't have scripted this any better, a gritty guy named Rockey slugging it out, trying to realize his dream and getting that dream realized against all odds. Wait, actually, I think Hollywood did script that.

In fact, Rockey Vaccarella, not Rockey Balboa, came out to the cameras here at the White House, and told reporters at one point, sent a shout-out to his wife, "Hey, yo, Carolyn, we did it."

It did sound like a movie, a happy ending for Rockey. He's even making a movie himself chronicling his trip. He basically took a FEMA-style trailer down from New Orleans, up here to Washington, trying to get this meeting with the president.

What he says he wanted to do is basically highlight the problems that still exist down there. But he's also traveling to praise President Bush in the help that the federal government has already given. And that may help explain why the White House initially told us the president's schedule was full yesterday -- as it was, and he was traveling in Minnesota. He couldn't have dinner with Rockey. They did find time this morning for them to meet in the Oval Office and then come out to the South Lawn. Take a listen.


GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Rockey lost everything. He lost -- he and his family had every possession they had wiped out. And it's the time to remember that people suffered. And it's a time to recommit ourselves to helping them.

ROCKEY VACCARELLA, HURRICANE KATRINA SURVIVOR: I just don't want the government and President Bush to forget about us. And I just wish the president could have another term in Washington...

BUSH: Wait a minute.

R. VACCARELLA: ... you know? I wish he had another four year, man.


HENRY: So four more years, a refrain -- a refrain the president hasn't been hearing lately in part because of the war in Iraq, but also that unpopularity, the slide he's had, starting, really, with Hurricane Katrina a year ago, the slow response.

I asked Rockey, though, about the fact that he lost his job and his home. But he has his praise for the president. Others down in New Orleans don't have that same praise. And he basically said he thinks it's because he sees the glass half full, Kyra.

PHILLIPS: And Ed, we're just getting these new poll numbers in. I mean, while we see Rockey praising the president, obviously, a Katrina victim that lost everything, like you said, 56 percent of the people still think the federal government is not doing enough. And we're going to really hammer home on what people are still wanting from the government coming up a little later in this half hour.

But, Ed, meanwhile, the president -- I'm assuming he's getting ready to mark the first anniversary of Katrina. It will be interesting to see what he says and what he does.

HENRY: Absolutely. I mean, there's a challenge for the president in those poll numbers. A lot of people obviously still feeling like he has not done enough. And perhaps the White House could have been concerned about another Cindy Sheehan kind of issue, a public relations problem, if they had not met with Rockey. They obviously dealt with this one.

And I think, as well there are a lot of people concerned they still haven't gotten that help. What we're going to see the president do next week is go down to New Orleans and Mississippi himself.

We just found out today, as well, in a few days the president is going to sign a proclamation declaring that next Tuesday will be a day of national remembrance. He wants to recognize those who lost their lives but also the heroes who helped more loss of life down in New Orleans, Mississippi, et cetera, Kyra.

PHILLIPS: Ed Henry, at the White House, thanks, Ed.

HENRY: Thank you.

PHILLIPS: Now, the man of the hour himself, live, Rockey Vaccarella on the White House lawn, not far from our Ed Henry there -- actually, no, you're back at the bureau. How was the meeting? Did you ever think it could happen?

R. VACCARELLA: Yes, I do. You know, like the gentleman just said, always look at the glass half full and not half empty. I'm an optimistic type person. The president's a people person. Of course, the president's plate is loaded down with things. You've just seen the journalists being kidnapped and stuff.

So the odds was against me that I would get there and meet with the president. But, you know what? We still packed up and we said, we're going to the White House. And we're going to make enough -- enough positive noise and take the high road and meet with the president.

PHILLIPS: So why did you do it?

R. VACCARELLA: Well, I did it because -- for one, I wanted to thank the president for giving thousands of people, like myself, a roof over our heads.

You got to realize, when Hurricane Katrina came through, she came through and she took a lot of homes away. People could be sleeping on streets right now.

People are giving our president a hard time on the response time and all of that. But, you know, he can't just snap his fingers and make it happen. So he sent thousands and thousands of trailers down there that we're living in. We kind of set our mind that we're on an extended camping trip. I have air conditioning. I have running water. I can take a shower while we do the rebuilding that needs to be done.

PHILLIPS: But at the same time, a lot of people, Rockey, in New Orleans are taking a much different approach to what you're saying and saying, "Look, you know, where is the money? I mean, there is still billions of dollars yet to be distributed. And where's our money? Why aren't we getting it? Why am I still living in a trailer a year later?"

I mean, a lot of people are in a different position -- or at least a different mindset than you. What about those folks?

R. VACCARELLA: You know what? That was one of the conversations the president and I had. Where is the money? And the president is confident that he wanted the money to go down to the local people, the local politicians, and have them do more of the funding. I think he signed off on a bill of a billion dollars. There was a national record on how much money he's already taken down south to help rebuild the area.

So yes, that was a concern of mine. And that was a concern I addressed -- I addressed with the president. And the president had just appointed Chairman Powell to oversee the financial distribution of the money that's going to go down to help actually rebuild it. And they said that this week we should start seeing a lot more things happening from the federal government. PHILLIPS: Rockey, what's your house like now? Are you still getting federal funds? Are you getting money from the local government or the state government? And how much longer until your house is up and running?

R. VACCARELLA: No, ma'am, I'm not. I got -- after the storm came through, I think I got a check for $2,000 four weeks after the storm that FEMA gave us to put us back on our feet and got -- you know, gave us an apartment to rent. And then I got another $2,300 and that was it.

And then we got our insurance money. And that was one of the main things the president and I addressed, was the insurance and the mortgages. I felt like the mortgage companies -- you know what, they got paid.

You know, if -- let's work at some easy numbers, for example. If somebody had $100,000 mortgage and they only had $80,000 of insurance, well, they owe the mortgage company $20,000. I don't think that's fair. And the president agreed with me on that. And that's one thing he's going to address.

Some people are upside down. Myself in particular, I had enough in flood insurance to rebuild. But you know what? I'm out of a job now because Hurricane Katrina washed away -- all of corporate America down that way, kind of pulled out. It's been a year later and we don't even have a McDonald's in our area.

PHILLIPS: Well, Rockey, I know that you ran for office in the past in St. Bernard Parish. It sounds like you should be doing that now. If you've got this energy and this type of direction, and you have a way of getting things done. You made it to Washington; you got in front of the president. Why not start doing something right there in your community and making decisions for you and the people?

R. VACCARELLA: Well, you know, I went through some tragedy. And I'm not scared to talk about it. I lost a 19-year-old son, Rockey Jr. I have another son, Luke Vaccarella. He's my youngest.

And I did run for council office, and I lost by minimal votes of 43. But that's all right.

I -- I had a plan of my own. You know, we always said down south we were going to get the big one, we were going to get the big one. Well, we got the big one. But unfortunately, we wasn't prepared.

I actually went around with a camera. Steve Scaffidi (ph) and I got together. We were making this documentary. You can go to our web site, And over 150 school buses were under water. Over 28, I think, police cars just in one area was under water. That's me on the roof right there in the middle of the storm.

You know what? If I was in charge, what I would have done was, hey, let's take all of our school buses, our transit buses, and move them up north. Let's take boats and move them up north. So when the hurricane passes through, we can get down here very quick and react and we don't have to wait four or five days for the federal government to come down and bail us out.

PHILLIPS: Rockey, I want you to stay with me. We've got a little something for you here.


PHILLIPS: Rockey and his family made their home in St. Bernard Parish before Katrina, as we've been talking about. And they live there today in a FEMA trailer parked right there on their front lawn. Our Gulf Coast correspondent, Susan Roesgen is actually in Rockey's neighborhood.

Susan, I understand you've some time to spend with the family there, as I have had the chance to talk to Rockey.

SUSAN ROESGEN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: I have, indeed, Kyra. You know, we did some checking. The square footage of the White House is 55,000 square feet. The square footage of an average FEMA trailer is 265 square feet. So President Bush would learn a lot if he were to have had dinner with Rockey on the White House lawn there.

This is his wife, Carolyn, his son, Luke, who was rescued with him off the roof of their house.

Carolyn, what would you like the president to know about life in a FEMA trailer?

CAROLYN VACCARELLA, HURRICANE KATRINA SURVIVOR: That it's not so bad. It's OK. You know, you manage.

ROESGEN: You have one bed in the back for you and Rockey?


ROESGEN: And this...

C. VACCARELLA: And this opens up into a bed for our son Luke.

ROESGEN: And you have one bathroom.

C. VACCARELLA: One bathroom.

ROESGEN: And it's a good thing you have a Chihuahua and not a St. Bernard.

C. VACCARELLA: Yes. And not a St. Bernard. You're right.

ROESGEN: What do you think of your president -- your husband today actually talking to the president of the White House? I think he kind of hijacked the president at one point, too.

C. VACCARELLA: He's the man. He's the man. I think this is wonderful. I am so proud of my husband right now. Very, very proud.

R. VACCARELLA: Hey, honey.

ROESGEN: Did you really think you would be able to meet the president?

C. VACCARELLA: Yes, I did.

ROESGEN: He's talking to you right now.

You know, I have talked to some of your neighbors here.

Kyra, I've got to tell you, some of the neighbors in this area say that fewer than half of them have come back.

Why did you decide to come back when you know so many of your friends and neighbors aren't coming back? Why rebuild?

C. VACCARELLA: This is home. This is home. This is where my heart is. And I wanted to come home, even though I knew we would be -- we would be living in this little trailer. But as long as I had my washer and dryer running in that house, I was OK.

ROESGEN: What if somebody some place else in the country says, why would you come back? It's dangerous. The levees could fail again or you could have another huge storm surge and wipe you out again.

C. VACCARELLA: Well, this is home, again. This is where I want to be. And if we're threatened with another hurricane, we'll just pack up, load up, and we're going to evacuate. And Rockey and Luke are coming this time. No ifs, ands or buts about it.

ROESGEN: Kyra, I have to tell you that Carolyn evacuated to Panama City. She said she begged her husband and her son to leave with her. They didn't.

You didn't know where they were for a while.

But this is what you see, Kyra, you see some people who say this is it, I'm moving out, I'm not going to stay, and you see others who have waited for a FEMA trailer, have found one and are actually rebuilding -- Kyra.

PHILLIPS: Well, Susan, Carolyn and Luke, stay with us.

Rockey, I know you're patched in. You heard this whole conversation. Why didn't you listen to your wife when she begged you not to leave?

R. VACCARELLA: Well, you know, I rode my bike -- I was born and raised right there for 41 years. I rode my bike on that levee. I fished off the levee. I thought the levee was the Great Wall of China. And you know what? We were under the impression that, as long as we were inside the levee protection system, that we were going to safe.

Now, the hurricane came through with some powerful winds. It didn't knock down our homes. Our homes are built very sturdy. What happened was the levee broke, somehow, and I have my own opinion about that. And the water actually came in and filled it up with 20 feet. So, you know, we don't live by -- "if it could, if it should, if it would." You know, that is our home. When we want to go on vacation, we're ready to come back home, we go back to St. Bernard.

We could get hit with another hurricane this year, you're right. But you know what? We might not get hit in that area ever again. So we're born and raised right there. We're not going anywhere.

PHILLIPS: Carolyn -- Carolyn, your husband's strong-headed. Do you ever get into it with him? Do you ever disagree with him?

C. VACCARELLA: Yes, we do. And I disagree a lot with him. Yes.

PHILLIPS: Well, what do you think about what he's doing and what he had to say...

C. VACCARELLA: It -- this is great. It is wonderful. And I'm very, very proud of him.

PHILLIPS: And, Susan, you have lived in this city for years. You've never wanted to leave this city, even during Katrina. When you sit down with families like Rockey and Carolyn and Luke, do you think this is the norm? Or is this a unique family?

ROESGEN: I think it's more or less the norm -- something just fell off the wall, Kyra. It was like the lighter, the butane lighter for the little small stove.

PHILLIPS: Yes, Rockey, see, I don't think these FEMA trailers are everything you've been -- they're cracked up to be now, Rockey.

ROESGEN: A back up system (ph).

PHILLIPS: I'm sorry, Susan. Go ahead.

ROESGEN: I admire Carolyn; I admire Rockey. I live in a house that was in the 20 percent of New Orleans that did not flood. So I don't know what it would be like for me personally to wake up every day in unfamiliar surroundings, not with the things that I was used to. I don't know what it would be like to see my house under 12 feet of water. So I admire people like this.

And if there's anybody that's going to repopulate this area, it's the people like Carolyn and Rockey and their son, Luke, because other folks don't have the heart for it anymore. And that's sad to see, but I'm afraid it's reality here, Kyra.

PHILLIPS: Carolyn, it does come down to the strength of all of you as a family and the passion you have for this city and not wanting to go, right?

C. VACCARELLA: That's correct.

PHILLIPS: So how do you keep it? How do you keep that alive, considering the circumstances? It's amazing that you sit in the trailer and say, "Look, this is what we've been handed. It's all right."

C. VACCARELLA: Well, this is it. This is what -- this is what we do. You know, my -- you know, I work for the St. Bernard Parish School Board. I'm a 4-year-old pre-K assistant there. And, you know, that was part of the reason why I wanted to come back. I wanted to be back here. When I heard that St. Bernard was opening up the schools, I'm like, I have to go home. I need to come home. This is where I need to be. This is where I want to be. This is home.

PHILLIPS: Rockey, I understand you've got -- yes, go ahead, Susie.

ROESGEN: I was going to say, Kyra, I think we should never forget that a lot of people who want to come home can't come home. You have two businesspeople. Rockey has the restaurant business here in St. Bernard Parish. Carolyn, again, working for the St. Bernard Parish School Board. People who had the means to come home are home.

Many people simply didn't have the money at all. New Orleans is a very poor city. And a lot of people in New Orleans itself won't possibly ever be able to come home, because they just don't have any way to make it happen.

PHILLIPS: That's a point well made, Rockey. And did you talk with the president about that? I mean, it is very much a divided city economically. We saw what happened when Katrina hit, and we're seeing who's able to survive in New Orleans now and who can't come back, just like Susan said.

R. VACCARELLA: Well, that was the thing I addressed with the president. And, you know, my main focus was, you know, Mr. Bush, I wish that the money that's allocated down south to rebuild our area and rebuild the neighborhoods where people can come back, that was totally devastated, that the money actually gets into the people's hands.

And that's what I say, again, him and Chairman Powell, and they're going to be looking at all the money going down south with a fine-tooth comb. And they're going to be scrutinizing it. I think this is going to be going down in history as the government watching money so close.

PHILLIPS: As we wrap it up, Rockey, you want to tell your wife and son what you're bringing back from the White House?

R. VACCARELLA: Hey, honey, I got you a bookmarker and some pens and, Luke, I got you some ties and stuff. I got my granddaughter, Alex, great stuff. I've met with Condoleezza Rice, President Bush...


R. VACCARELLA: And it was really a great thing. But I like to say to that little guy I see sitting next to my wife right there, he's nice and quiet, he ain't saying nothing. I was there to protect him and he became the protector of me. He went out the window, grabbed me by the arm and pulled me on the roof. So I thank him for saving my life.

PHILLIPS: Well, Rockey, he's not saying anything because he isn't mic'ed up. Unfortunately, we were short of mics. But believe me, I know your son would speak up if he could, and I know he's a complete hero for what he did for your family.

Rockey, Carolyn, Luke, Susan, all of you, thank you all so much. What a wonderful segment.

R. VACCARELLA: Hey, thank you.

PHILLIPS: Appreciate it.

C. VACCARELLA: Thank you so much.

PHILLIPS: Well, if you want to share a story like Rockey's or tell us your own experiences dealing with Katrina, just go to and send an iReport. CNN would love to see your videos, your photos and just hear your stories. So send it to us via computer at or on your cell phone. Punch Your iReport is your chance to hear what you have witnessed.

Next up, Colorado. We're going to go live to Boulder where the arrival of John Mark Karr is a much anticipated event. You're watching LIVE FROM.


PHILLIPS: Claims and counterclaims but still no proof that John Mark Karr was anywhere on December 25, 1996. Karr allegedly says he hid in JonBenet Ramsey's all Christmas night. The family says no way. But so far, they haven't come up with proof that he was with them.

Our Ed Lavandera is in Boulder, Colorado, where investigators are still waiting their turn to ask the questions.

Hey, Ed.


Well, John Karr remains in a Los Angeles jail. Boulder authorities have 10 days to pick him up because of that extradition hearing that he decided to waive extradition. There's a 10-day window there that authorities here in Colorado have to go pick him up.

So we understand from a source in Los Angeles, who tells us that it is unlikely that John Karr will be moved today. So perhaps Boulder authorities here still in the planning process of how to get him back from California. So we're still waiting on word.

But Kyra, it will not be with the same kind of hoopla that we have seen in this story since last Thursday. The sheriff here in Boulder saying that the only time he will acknowledge that John Karr has arrived here in Boulder is after he has been booked and his mug shot has been taken at the jail we're standing in front of today -- Kyra. PHILLIPS: Ed, so when are we going to know whether there is a DNA link or not?

LAVANDERA: It seems like that could take some time. There were, you know, various reports that there was a DNA sample taken from John Karr in Thailand last week. His attorneys have -- represented him in Los Angeles yesterday, said they don't know anything about that.

And we've contacted various labs here in Denver, in the Colorado area that would do this kind of DNA testing, and they tell us that they have not been contacted by Boulder authorities to do any of this DNA lab testing. So it's hard to gauge just how far along that part of the investigation has moved -- has moved forward.

PHILLIPS: You know, there's been a lot of investigating into the Karr family, the Ramsey family, was there a connection. Some of the information coming forward to us is that John Ramsey had a big Internet company before moving to Boulder. Have you heard anything from your sources or investigators if Nate or Michael, John Mark Karr's brothers, worked for that company?

LAVANDERA: I haven't heard anything about that. We -- obviously, that's one of the things we're looking into. And it's not even exactly clear whether the Ramseys had ever even come in contact or even seen John Mark Karr.

Of course, that's another one of those things that investigators are still trying to piece through. And that's putting him here in Boulder in December of 1996.

PHILLIPS: Ed Lavandera, appreciate it.

Straight ahead, journalists kidnapped in Gaza seen in captivity for the very first time. We're live from Jerusalem and the Pentagon.


CENTANNI: ... being held prisoner here. We're in fairly good condition.



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