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CNN NEWSROOM

Saudi Intelligence Source Tells CNN Bin Laden Might Be Ill With Water-Borne Disease; French Newspaper Reports Bin Laden Is Already Dead; Saddam Hussein's Second Trial Problematic; New Report Says Wildfires, Floods, Tornadoes, Could Be Warnings About Global Warming; Aaron Neville Interview

Aired September 23, 2006 - 14:00   ET

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


FREDRICKA WHITFIELD, CNN ANCHOR: "Now in the News," is Osama bin Laden dead or alive? That question sparked by a French newspaper report. It says Saudi authorities are trying to confirm reports that bin Laden died of Typhoid Fever in Pakistan last month, but a Saudi source tells CNN there are indications bin Laden has been ill but is still alive.
A report from CNN's Nic Robertson straight ahead.

In Iraq, another round of deadly attacks. A car bombing at a Baghdad gas station just hours ago killed at least 34 people. In a separate incident in the Iraqi capital, an American soldier was killed by a roadside bomb.

The man shown reading a paper may be the new leader of al Qaeda in Iraq. If confirmed, the images would be the first of Abu Ayyoub al-Masri since he succeed Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, who was killed in June. The picture is from an insurgent video released two years ago which purportedly shows al-Masri executing a Turkish hostage.

Tornadoes, hail, floodwaters, all spawned by a powerful storm system that swept through parts of the Midwest and the South last night and into this morning. Damages reported in several states, including Missouri, Illinois and Alabama.

This twister hit Murphysboro, Illinois. No injuries reported there. In Kentucky, five deaths are linked to flooding.

The latest weather and forecast just minutes from now.

This man, John Woodring, is the focus of a search in more than half a dozen states. He's accused of killing his estranged wife who was inside a North Carolina domestic violence shelter trying to find refuge. Police say Woodring forced his way into a shelter where his wife was staying, he shot her to death. And across North Carolina dozens of domestic violence shelters are on high alert after this shooting.

You are in the CNN NEWSROOM this weekend.

I'm Fredricka Whitfield.

The buzz about Osama bin Laden, is he dead? An intelligence report out of Europe suggests he is.

Sign of the times? A Boston landmark may come down.

A devilish deed, indeed. Blame it on the fiery comments from Venezuelan's president.

And the sweet sounds of Aaron Neville. His first CD since Hurricane Katrina. We'll talk to him about his music and his hopes for his hometown of New Orleans in the NEWSROOM.

The question we've been trying to answer all day, is Osama bin Laden dead or alive? A Saudi intelligence source tells CNN bin Laden might be ill with a water-borne disease somewhere in Pakistan. A French newspaper reports he's already dead.

Our own Nic Robertson is tracking down the facts.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

NIC ROBERTSON, CNN SR. INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Now, the French journalist who wrote that report said that he saw a confidential French government document that outlined that Osama bin Laden had died of typhoid in Pakistan on the 23rd of August this year and that Saudi officials, through a usually reliable source, had bee made aware of this on the 4th of September.

Now, the president of France, Jacques Chirac, immediately ordered an investigation into the leaking of this document. He didn't deny that the document exists, but he did say he can't confirm the details that are inside that document.

Now, one Saudi source close to intelligence circles who says he hasn't seen this document but is aware of a discussion going on inside Saudi intelligence at the moment, say that he is aware that Osama bin Laden has been suffering from a water-borne disease for the last several weeks. However, he says that it is not known that Osama bin Laden is dead. Indeed, they believe, Saudi officials believe that Osama bin Laden is still alive.

Now, the report in this French newspaper says that Osama bin Laden died in August, died -- died as a result of typhoid. That is not confirmed by this Saudi source. Indeed, as information keeps coming in, we've heard from Pakistani officials who say they have no knowledge of this. And given that it happened in Pakistan, according to these reports, they would have known, they say. And if they had any information, they say they would have acted on it to try and arrest Osama bin Laden.

U.S. government officials say that they have no information to substantiate this, nothing they say that they would put on President Bush's desk at this time. It does appear certainly that the government officials that are examining this leak that we've heard now from the French, the Pakistanis, the Americans, they cannot confirm the details of this report.

We have to urge caution at this time because there have been -- there has been false reporting on Osama bin Laden's health in the past. It is not known how credible this intelligence source is. And the reporter, it says, usually reliable, but we just don't know. Perhaps Saudi intelligence have -- has the best estimate of that.

But given that this is a very sensitive issue, given that there's been false reporting in the past, one has to treat it with a lot of caution. One also has to look at this in another light as well.

It is not beyond the realms of possibility that intelligence officials would put this sort of information into the public domain to try and goad Osama bin Laden to appear on television. Let's not forget, he hasn't been seen on camera in almost two years now. His released audio messages, the last one was on the 30th of June, but he hasn't been seen on camera.

The French now may have a very good reason for wanting to goad Osama bin Laden out into the open. The last communications by al Qaeda have been that an Algerian jihadi group has now joined up with al Qaeda. And, of course, for the French, there would be very serious implications, because a lot of Algerians live in France, and that could have serious security implications for France.

There could be any number of reasons why this report has surfaced. It's certainly not clear at this stage how credible it may or may not be. Certainly, the preponderance of information we're getting today indicates that it should be treated with a good deal of skepticism.

Nic Robertson, CNN, London.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

WHITFIELD: And with all the skepticism surrounding today's reports of bin Laden's possible illness or death, the U.S. isn't taking anything for granted. The hunt is still on for the al Qaeda leader. And President Bush has admitted to CNN this week that the U.S. would not hesitate to cross into Pakistan to get him.

Our Senior Pentagon Correspondent Jamie McIntyre has more of that.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

JAMIE MCINTYRE, CNN SR. PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): U.S. intelligence generally believes Osama bin Laden is hiding among sympathizers in the tribal areas of Pakistan that border southern Afghanistan, but U.S. commanders say if they knew exactly where they wouldn't wait for Pakistani permission to go after him or for other most wanted terrorists, for that matter.

GEN. JOHN ABIZAID, COMMANDER, U.S. CENTRAL COMMAND: I would tell you that when we get good targeting information, that we will go where we need go to go find them and go get him.

LT. GEN. KARL EIKENBERRY, COMBINED FORCES CMD. AFGHANISTAN: Intent of our commander in chief, President Bush, is very clear to commanders at every level, including my level and down.

MCINTYRE: It wouldn't be the first time the U.S. crossed the line into Pakistan. Back in January, the CIA fired a missile at a compound near the border hoping to kill bin Laden's number two, Ayman Zawahiri. He was not among the dead.

And in 1988, the U.S. sent cruise missiles through Pakistani airspace to try to get bin Laden at an al Qaeda training camp in Afghanistan. The Pakistani government was told only after the missiles were en route.

The rules of engagement are not written in stone.

EIKENBERRY: They allow me the authorities that are needed and the flexibility that's needed to, as we say, take the fight to international terrorism.

MCINTYRE: Take this recent surveillance photograph of a Taliban funeral in Afghanistan. Funerals are usually off limits because of the risk to innocent noncombatants. But if bin Laden had been there, commanders who in this case held their fire might well have ordered an airstrike.

THOMAS DONNELLY, CENTER FOR STRATEGIC INTERNATIONAL STUDIES: I wouldn't imagine there's a lot of -- going to be a lot of teeth gnashing. You know, if you've got Osama in your crosshairs, I'm sure that pretty much any American would be anxious to pull the trigger.

MCINTYRE: The options boil down to two, a cross-border snatch mission by CIA or U.S. military Special Forces, or airstrikes from manned or unmanned planes.

DONNELLY: A perfect universe, I would much rather capture him. He still has huge intelligence value.

MCINTYRE (on camera): One reason the U.S. might want to rely on getting forgiveness rather than permission from Pakistan is the long- held suspicion that too many people in the Pakistani government would be willing to tip al Qaeda off to any U.S. operation.

Jamie McIntyre, CNN, the Pentagon.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

WHITFIELD: And tonight at 10:00 Eastern, an encore presentation, "In the Footsteps of bin Laden." CNN's Christiane Amanpour traces Osama bin Laden's life from childhood in Saudi Arabia to terror mastermind.

As Iraqi Sunnis begin observing the holy month of Ramadan, new violence. A bomb went off in Baghdad's Shiite Sadr City district. At least 34 people died.

Iraqi forces reported the arrest of a terrorist leader, but also today, U.S. officials confirm the deaths of an American soldier in Baghdad and an American contractor in Basra. Meanwhile, a militant Web site appears to be linking the current leader of al Qaeda in Iraq to the execution of a Kurdish hostage. This image is from a militant video that purports to show the execution. A Web site identifies the man highlighted here as Abu Ayyoub al-Masri, who took over al Qaeda operations after the death of Abu Musab al-Zarqawi.

And this grim milestone to report out of Iraq. The Associated President -- count of U.S. military deaths in Iraq and Afghanistan hit 2,974 yesterday. That's more than the number of deaths recorded during the 9/11 attacks here in the United States.

And tonight at 6:00, CNN correspondents discuss the war of words at the U.N., an extended tour of duty for U.S. troops in Iraq, and the Muslim outrage toward the pope. John Roberts hosts "This Week at War" only on CNN.

The legal system in action in Baghdad. The defendant tossed out of court, the lead judge sat. We could only be talking about the developments this week in Saddam's second trial. A live report straight ahead.

And then this...

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'd like to see the biggest American flag that we could put there.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

WHITFIELD: From the home of that famous tea party, there's another rebellion brewing in Boston. Details in 30 minutes.

And then later, Aaron Neville, one of New Orleans' native sons with his signature sound, well, he's got a new CD. We'll share some of the sweet sounds coming up.

Keep it right here. You're in the NEWSROOM.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

WHITFIELD: Now a quarter past the hour. And here's an update on our top story.

A Saudi intelligence source tells CNN Osama bin Laden has a water-borne illness. That account disputes a report in a French newspaper that the terrorist leader has died of typhoid in Pakistan. U.S. intelligence says it cannot confirm either report.

Discover intimate details about al Qaeda's leader -- or his life, rather, tonight at 10:00 Eastern. "CNN PRESENTS, "In the Footsteps of bin Laden."

In the American heartland, severe storms leave a trail of death and destruction. Powerful thunderstorms and tornadoes swept across parts of the Midwest and the South overnight and into this morning. Among the hard-hit areas, south central Missouri, where high winds damaged dozens of homes and a school.

The system also caused some damage in neighboring Illinois. This funnel cloud hit Murphysboro in southern Illinois, but no word of any injuries there. High winds destroyed more than a dozen homes in that state, however.

And in parts of Kentucky, floodwaters are on the rise in Louisville. Heavy rain swamped roads and flooded homes. Reports there are linking at least five deaths to bad weather.

Strong storms rumbled across Indiana as well. High winds knocked out power in that region and heavy rain flooded homes and stranded motorists just like it did in some of those other starts.

Jacqui Jeras, it almost seems like a broken record as this storm just kind of hopscotched all across.

(WEATHER REPORT)

WHITFIELD: Thanks a lot, Jacqui.

Well, let's check the stories you're clicking on this morning, or we should say this afternoon at CNN.com. Here are some of your favorites.

Bill Cosby asking everyone in the U.S. to donate $8. He wants to build a slavery museum. Cosby has put a million dollars of his own money into the project. The figure 8, symbolic of the shackles worn by slaves.

Experts working a crash today in Germany. A high-speed magnetic train slammed into a maintenance vehicle on an elevated track yesterday. Twenty-three people were killed. Human error is suspected.

And bounty hunter Dog Chapman is hoping to stay out of the pound. He's a wanted man in Mexico, where bounty hunting is illegal. Chapman says he'll apologize, pay a fine, forfeit bail, even make a contribution to charity if Mexican prosecutors will drop the case.

The Saddam Hussein trial, it almost goes without saying that it didn't go quite as smoothly this week as some thought it might have. Well, coming up next, Arwa Damon joins us live from Baghdad to take a closer look at all the drama.

And later, a sign of change on the horizon as Bostonians say enough to Venezuela's president, Hugo Chavez.

Keep it right here. You're in the NEWSROOM.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

WHITFIELD: Our hard working legal experts, Avery Friedman and Richard Herman, have the day off, but hopefully somewhere tuning in. Still, we do have a few "Legal Briefs" for you.

Coming up, we'll look at the debate on whether lethal injection is cruel and unusual.

But first, to put it mildly, Saddam Hussein's first trial didn't go so smoothly, and his second trial has many of the same problems.

CNN's Arwa Damon explains.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (SPEAKING ARABIC)/

ARWA DAMON, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Sound familiar?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): Sit down. The court has decided to send the defendant, Saddam Hussein -- to expel defendant Salah Hadi (ph).

Your father was an officer in the security. I challenge you to take him out.

DAMON: Yes, it was another day of the courtroom antics that Saddam Hussein and his defense team are infamous for. This time sparked by the Iraqi government's replacement of Chief Judge Abdullah al-Admiri, already under sharp criticism for being too lenient with the defense.

The final straw, his statement last week to Saddam Hussein.

ABDULLAH AL-ADMIRI, JUDGE, SADDAM HUSSEIN TRIAL (through translator): You are not a dictator, not a dictator.

SADDAM HUSSEIN, FMR. IRAQI PRESIDENT (through translator): At any rate, I thank you. It is the people around a person that makes a dictator.

DAMON: His replacement, his deputy, Mohammed al-Khalifa (ph), who promptly resumed the proceedings with a court-appointed defense team and no Saddam. This is reminiscent of Saddam's first trial, when the original chief judge resigned blaming government interference. He, too, was replaced by a more hard-line jurist.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

WHITFIELD: And now Arwa Damon joins us live from Baghdad with more on this.

And so, Arwa, let me begin with the removal of this chief judge by the Iraqi government. Legitimate?

DAMON: Well, if you look at the law, if you look at the statute of the Iraqi high tribunal under Article 4, the Council of Ministers can recommend that a judge be moved from one court to another. This recommendation then needs to be approved by the presidential council, which is made up of the president and his two vice presidents -- his two deputies.

So, under law, technically this is legal. But it does raise a number of issues.

First and foremost, it lends credence to the defense's argument that there is too much government influence that is happening in this court. The defense time and time again has called this court illegitimate, time and time again has criticized the Iraqi government for too much interference.

And the fact the court might sway, that we are seeing these changes of judges within the court because of government influence, is leading credence to the defense's argument again that it is not -- that it is a biased court, it is biased towards the Iraqi government and, therefore, the results at the end of the day might be a foregone conclusion -- Fredricka.

WHITFIELD: And Arwa, what about Saddam Hussein himself? I mean, we saw in last session that he was ejected from the courtroom. Is the expectation that we're going to see him in his regular spot come Monday?

DAMON: Well, Article 145 of the Iraq procedural law does say that a defendant must appear in court. However, it really is up to the judge's discretion.

If you remember back to the Dujail case, there were a number of instances where the defendants decided to boycott court and they were not forced into the courtroom. So it is the judge's decision.

If the judge decides that the presence of a certain defendant might be too disruptive to the court proceedings, they can then choose. The judge can choose, or rather give the defendant the option of not appearing. So really, whether or not we're going to see Saddam Hussein in court next week remains to be seen.

WHITFIELD: And so, Arwa, what about Iraqis in general? Are they keeping close tabs about what's taking place in court? Are the citizens taking this trial seriously?

DAMON: Well -- and to answer that, I have to go back to the Dujail trial, when Saddam Hussein first appeared in court, when the Dujail trial first started off over a year ago. There was -- everybody's attention was on it, everybody's eyes were on it.

But as the courtroom antics continued, as there were the back and forth between the defendants, as there were the instances of Saddam Hussein yelling at the judge, as we saw, outbursts from Saddam Hussein's half-brother occurring, people began to lose interest. It was sort of the same story repeating itself every day in court, and, most certainly, for the Anfal trial there hasn't been as much attention on that.

Iraqis haven't been paying as much close attention to the Anfal trial as they have to the Dujail trial. Some of them are questioning the court legitimacy themselves, some of them are calling it a kangaroo court. But for the most part, to be completely honest, a lot of Iraqis are a lot more worried about their day-to-day lives than the outcome of these trials right now.

WHITFIELD: Well, that's understood.

Arwa Damon, thanks so much, joining us from Baghdad.

Well, a controversy of a much different sort being watched here in this country all over a famous Boston sign. Why some residents want it to stay.

And Aaron Neville, he goes back to his musical roots. It's his way of reconnecting with the New Orleans he once knew. He joins us in the NEWSROOM.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

WHITFIELD: Half past the hour, here's what's happening right now in the news. Reports are circulating about al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden. A Saudi intelligence source tells CNN that bin Laden may be ill with a water-borne illness. A French newspaper takes it further, reporting that bin Laden has actually died of typhoid. But U.S. officials say they cannot confirm that report.

In Iraq, another round of deadly attacks. The death toll from today's car bombing at a Baghdad gas station has grown to at least 34. In a separate incident in the Iraqi capitol, an American soldier was killed by a roadside bomb.

Six deaths are reported after a series of storms rolled through the nation's mid-section. Heavy rain, tornadoes, floods, all pounding large parts of the Midwest and the south, and forecasters expect more bad weather today.

Well, there is some good news for spinach lovers. Fresh spinach could be back in grocery stores just days from now. Investigators have traced an e. coli outbreak in fresh spinach to California's Salinas Valley. Officials say spinach grown outside that region is safe to eat.

Osama bin Laden's fate is in question at this hour. An unconfirmed French newspaper report, that the terrorist leader has died of typhoid fever in Pakistan, but a Saudi intelligence source tells CNN bin Laden might be ill with a water-borne disease. U.S. officials say they cannot confirm whether the man they've hunted for five years now, at least, is dead or alive. Learn more about this mysterious terrorist leader, tonight at 10:00 Eastern, "CNN PRESENTS: IN THE FOOTSTEPS OF BIN LADEN."

Going global now, in Hungary at least 30,000 demonstrators are protesting right now in the front of the Parliament building. It's the biggest rally so far against the prime minister. Protesters have come out everyday this week, demanding the prime minister's resignation. The demonstrations were sparked by news he lied about the country's economy to win the election. A U.N. team arrived in Lebanon today to start investigating allegations of human rights violations by Israel during the war with Hezbollah. The investigators arrive on the heels of a huge rally in Beirut. The Hezbollah leader told supporters that Hezbollah is stronger than ever.

Hugo Chavez is back in Venezuela, but he's not done bad mouthing President Bush. The Venezuelan president, who called Mr. Bush the devil at the U.N. this week, is now calling on the U.S. president resign. Speaking in Venezuela, Mr. Chavez said Mr. Bush, quote, "should renounce the presidency if he has any dignity", unquote.

Mr. Chavez's fiery comments could also prompt Boston to change the city's landscape and take down a 40-year-old piece of history.

CNN's Dan Lothian explains.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

DAN LOTHIAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The Citgo sign has been a Boston landmark since 1965, towering over the city and historic Fenway Park.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Basically, that's how I know I'm home.

LOTHIAN: But Boston City Council Member Jerry McDermott wants the sign removed.

JERRY MCDERMOTT, BOSTON CITY COUNCIL: I'd like to see the biggest American flag that we could put there.

LOTHIAN: The sign is owned by Citgo, which is a subsidiary of Venezuela's oil company. McDermott, a Democrat, is still hot under the collar after that country's president, Hugo Chavez, blasted President Bush at the United Nations, calling him the devil.

MCDERMOTT: I thought it was disgusting to see a head of state come to our country, on our soil, and basically spit on America and insult our president.

LOTHIAN: The Chavez Citgo sign controversy heated up on talk radio.

(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP FROM WRKO AM RADIO)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Should we change the Citgo sign?

(END AUDIO CLIP)

LOTHIAN: Like Boston's WRKO.

(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP FROM WRKO AM RADIO)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I think that the sign should stay.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I say get rid of the sign. I just feel that way.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What if we just put a -- draped a black cloth over it until there's a newly elected president of Venezuela?

(END AUDIO CLIP)

LOTHIAN: Citgo tried to remove the sign more than 20 years ago, but the city fought to keep it. It has since undergone a $1 million facelift.

In a statement to CNN, a Citgo official said the company is proud of its American heritage, that goes back nearly a century. And he added that the Citgo sign is an important part of that heritage.

(on camera): Chances are the sign will stay put. But the Boston City Council will take up the matter at its next meeting on Wednesday. A public hearing could soon follow.

Dan Lothian, CNN, Boston.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

WHITFIELD: Stunning a lot of folks this morning and into last night even, severe storms and floods across a wide swath of the Midwest and south, are being blamed for at least six deaths now, five of them in Kentucky. Rain forced evacuations in Louisville, and Interstate 64 is close just D east of the city. An apparent tornado was sighted in southern Illinois.

Look at those pictures, where high winds knocked down trees and damaged homes further north. Even the Chicago area suffered power outages. Two tornadoes hit St. James, Missouri, damaging more than one hundred homes, a middle school and a manufacturing plant.

And a new headache for crews fighting a huge, stubborn wildfire in southern California. The hot, dry Santa Ana winds, 45 five mile an hour gusts, are already fanning the flames and wind speeds could reach 70 miles an hour by the end of the weekend. The 183 square mile fire is threatening several communities north of Los Angeles, and has been burning since Labor Day.

Wildfires, floods, tornadoes, could all those be warnings about global warming? A new report says, maybe. Meteorologist Rob Marciano takes a closer look about the changing nature of our planet.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

ROB MARCIANO, CNN METEOROLOGIST (voice-over): September air is welcome relief for the scorched north American landscape, but the damage is done and the numbers are in. January through August, 2006, saw the warmest average temperatures ever recorded, and this summer was the hottest summer since the Dust Bowl, the years in the 1930s, when the central United States was plagued by drought and dust storms.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Excessive heat...

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Punishing heat...

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Sweltering heat...

MARCIANO: In July, an intense heat wave blistered much of the nation, breaking more than 50 all-time highs.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's hot. It's really hot.

MARCIANO: Californians suffered the most. Out of 200 heat- related deaths, 160 were in California. And if it seems like summers have been getting warmer for years now, you're right. Eight of the last ten summers have been warmer than average in the United States. But will the trend continue?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: If you had to place your bets, you would place them on warmer than average temperatures and the likelihood of having record and near record summers will continue to increase.

MARCIANO: Why so hot? You may already know the answer.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We think there's very strong evidence that humans, in fact, are largely attributable as greenhouse gases continue to increase, conditions like this past summer become more frequent and more extreme.

MARCIANO (on camera): If global warming is making summer hotter, what's happening in winter? For a while now, scientists have been concerned about the shrinking glaciers in the arctic, but they've always taken comfort in knowing that sea ice, seawater that freezes in the Arctic regions during the colder months, comes back year after year. But a new NASA study shows that that sea ice is not returning like it once did.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: In the previous 25 years, it flat, but in the last two years, it has declined substantially. This is an very important result, because it ties up with modeling predictions. We should expect the biggest signal of greenhouse warming in the winter periods.

MARCIANO: Which means one of the last pieces to the global warming puzzle may be falling into place. And much of what climate forecasting computers said was going to happen is starting to happen.

Rob Marciano, CNN, Atlanta.

WHITFIELD: Well, straight ahead, Aaron Neville is going back to New Orleans, or more accurately, he's going back to his musical roots. The soul great tells us about his first post-Katrina CD.

Keep it right here, you're in the NEWSROOM.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(MUSIC)

WHITFIELD: Not just born by a river, born by the mighty Mississippi River and now living hundreds of miles from home. Singer Aaron Neville is synonymous with New Orleans, his music providing the funky soundtrack for a way of life that was washed away by Hurricane Katrina. Now, Aaron Neville has a new CD out, "Bring It On Home," and I asked him if he will ever return to his hometown.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

AARON NEVILLE, SINGER: You know, it's possible. You know, I'd like to go back one day. But right now, I'm in Nashville and, you know, I'm cool, you know. I have my memories and I'm going to let New Orleans heal, you know, and keep it in my prayers that everything turns out right for everybody that's there and everybody that's trying to get back, you know?

WHITFIELD: So you do hope one day to make it back?

NEVILLE: Oh, yes, yes. You know.

WHITFIELD: As the title of your CD, "Bring It On Home" says.

NEVILLE: Right.

WHITFIELD: Now, this Monday night the Saints are back in the Dome, fighting against the Atlanta Falcons. How important do you think this is for New Orleans, for the Superdome, to try to help, if in anyway, erase those last images of what took place in the Dome during Katrina?

NEVILLE: I think it's very important. And, like, I just heard that all the games have been sold out so far this year, so that's a good thing. You know, and I was looking everywhere for a Saints cap. You know, I was in New York looking for one and L.A. So I had to go to this place and get one made and I put -- had them write Saints on it.

WHITFIELD: I'm sure you would not have a problem getting a Saints hat. I'm sure they would deliver it if you made the request.

NEVILLE: Well, maybe somebody can hear this and get me one.

WHITFIELD: Well, what are your hopes for New Orleans during this very painful rebuilding process? It isn't easy, it's slowgoing on so many levels. Realistically, what do you think will be able to be recaptured in that city you called home for so long?

NEVILLE: You know, I don't know. I know they're building homes, that Habitat for Humanity is building homes for some of the musicians. You know, and a lot of musicians are stuck around the country in different cities and away from home.

And I hope for the people that's there -- you know, they still have people there that are suffering, that need help, because, like, a lot of them being messed up by the insurance companies and whatever, and a lot of people displaced around the country, you know, after awhile the people get tired of, you know, hey, you've been here too long so you've got to go somewhere. And they don't know what to expect and they lost everything. A lot of people didn't have nothing. So I hope the best for all of them and hope they can get New Orleans the best that it can be.

WHITFIELD: And on your latest CD, "Bring It On Home," the soul classics, is there a particular song that kind of hearkens you back to New Orleans and helps stir up those fond memories of what you had back at home?

NEVILLE: Yes, when I sing "Stand By Me," that's a special one. It's like when I was singing it, I was singing about people in that water back then, you know, last year.

(MUSIC)

NEVILLE: And that's the time when I had a tear in my eye. But quite a few of them on that bring me there and make me think about New Orleans. It's hard, you know.

WHITFIELD: Yes, it's hard for you and it's hard for a lot of people who are missing home. Aaron Neville, thanks so much for your time.

NEVILLE: Thank you.

WHITFIELD: And good luck to you as you and your family try to make your way back home.

NEVILLE: Thanks a lot.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

WHITFIELD: "Stand By Me," a perfect way to describe the heroic actions of the New York City firefighters on September 11 as well. Coming up in 15 minutes, Larry King's special tribute to the fallen heroes of Firehouse 54, remembering the men who ran into the crippled World Trade Center towers as everyone else was running out.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

GERRY WILLIS, CNN ANCHOR (voice-over): If inflation has you worried, there are options around the house to cut costs. Let's start with the yard.

(on camera): Keep a good layer of mulch around your flowers and your shrubs. That way you can keep the moisture in, and the weeds down.

(voice-over): You won't spend your time or pay a gardener to keep your garden weed-free.

Back inside, make sure your toilet was purchased after 1992. While an older toilet can use up to 14 gallons per flush, newer models use only 1.3 gallons per flush. That's extra money you won't be flushing down the drain.

And if you have an older washing machine, replace it with a new, front loading model. They use 40 percent to 60 percent less energy and water. Plus, some utility companies will actually give you a rebate for buying these high-efficiency models up to $100.

Gerri Willis, CNN, New York.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

WHITFIELD: Forty-five minutes past the hour now. Here is what's happening. A Saudi intelligence source tells CNN Osama bin Laden has a water-borne illness. That account differs from a report in a French newspaper that the terrorist leader has died of typhoid. We're following this developing story all day here on CNN.

Deadly attacks in Iraq. A car bombing at a Baghdad gas station today killed at least 34 people. Elsewhere in the capital, an American soldier was killed by roadside bomb.

Severe weather rips across the Midwest and into the south killing five people. High winds, heavy rains and tornadoes have been reported. This is the scene in Louisville, Kentucky, where streets are flooded, prompting a lot of evacuations there.

And police as looking for this man, John Woodring, accused of killing his estranged wife at a North Carolina domestic violence shelter. Police say Woodring forced his way into the shelter, where his estranged wife was staying, and he shot her to death. Across North Carolina, dozens of domestic violence shelters are on high alert after that shooting.

Osama bin Laden dead or alive? That's the question being asked after a French newspaper report. Our correspondents are following this story all day. We'll bring you the very latest developments, as they come into the NEWSROOM.

And is our military spread too thin? We'll take a closer look at U.S. military commitments at 4:00 Eastern.

Keep it right here. You're in the NEWSROOM.

But first, CNN's Daniel Sieberg has news you can use if you're looking to upgrade your DVD system.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

DANIEL SIEBERG, CNN TECHNOLOGY CORRESPONDENT: I know you may have heard of a brewing war in the high-tech world between the next generation of DVD players. And joining us now to talk about them is Brian Cooley, editor-at-large with CNET.

So, Brian identify the two players for us, first of all. BRIAN COOLEY, CNET EDITOR-AT-LARGE: Here they are, Daniel, the first high-definition disc players in the world. Over here we have, in the HD-DVD format, the Toshiba HD A1, and over here in the Blu-ray format, the Samsung BDP 1000. But they both do the same thing, they give you a high resolution movie on the screen.

SIEBERG: So obviously you have to have an HD TV, first of all, in order to see this format?

COOLEY; Absolutely.

SIEBERG: Now what about the price? One's a little more expensive than the other.

COOLEY: Big difference. Five hundred dollars for this initial HD player, $1,000 forced this initial Blu-ray player. Now the Blu-ray player is a little more sophisticated piece, they've chosen to go into a more video file rich product. This one is a little more basic, in its abilities.

But we're not talking about core function, so they both get the job done. One difference is this format, HD-DVD, may not give you the extra features in high definition, just the main movie. Whereas Blu- ray has sufficient capacity to give you everything in high definition on the disc.

SIEBERG: All right. Now what about in terms of the selection of movies? You can't get every movie on both players?

COOLEY: You can barely get anything on either player, a few dozen titles for each. That's all we've got in the near future. We need to see thousands of titles come out before we can decide if this is for real. And we need to see one of these formats win. I would hold off until early '07, when hopefully there'll be some player models, at lower prices, a lot more titles, and maybe, some clarity as to which of these formats is going to win, because a format war dissuades consumers.

SIEBERG: All right. Well, we'll keep our eye on it.

Brian Cooley, editor-at-large with CNET, thanks so much.

COOLEY: You're welcome.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(WEATHER REPORT)

WHITFIELD: Well, here's what you will see later on this afternoon on CNN. Coming up next, CNN presents "Firehouse 54", in the rush to get out, they rushed into danger on 9/11. Larry King pays tribute to these heroes.

In the NEWSROOM at 4:00 Eastern, U.S. troops in Iraq and Afghanistan facing insurgencies that just won't go away. Is a new troop call-up coming? Our Barbara Starr investigates.

And at 5:00 Eastern, in the NEWSROOM, Houston up in arms. A call to residents to arm themselves from Katrina evacuees. We talk to the man behind this plan to stop a crime explosion. A check of the day's headlines coming up next then on "CNN PRESENTS."

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

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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