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CNN NEWSROOM

North Korea to Rejoin Talks; More Iraqi Forces Recommended; War Dead Remembered; Tough Race in Tennessee Could Decide Senate; Did BP Know about Unsafe Conditions?; Salmonella Sickens People in Several States

Aired October 31, 2006 - 13:00   ET

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


KYRA PHILLIPS, HOST: Hello, everyone. I'm Kyra Phillips, live at the CNN World Headquarters in Atlanta.
DON LEMON, HOST: I'm Don Lemon.

Senator John Kerry in a battle over words. He's accused of belittling the truth. The GOP is pouncing. What was said, who's firing shots and Kerry's very heated response.

PHILLIPS: What's causing salmonella and an outbreak? Dozens of people sick. Dr. Sanjay Gupta on who's at risk and the warning signs.

LEMON: And one of the deadliest months in Iraq. Who are the 103 people who gave their lives for our country? A special tribute.

You're live in the CNN NEWSROOM.

PHILIPS: Let's talk. That's the word from North Korea, which says it will return to six-party talks. The turnaround comes after seven hours of talks in Beijing between North Korea, U.S., and China.

White House correspondent Ed Henry is live with that -- Ed.

ED HENRY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Kyra, that's right. The president declaring himself today very pleased with this latest development. White House spokesman Tony Snow going a step further, declaring vindication for the president and his strategy for pushing for these six-party talks, amid criticism from Democrats that he should abandon those talks in favor of direct one-on-one talks with North Korea.

The president made his comments at the end of an Oval Office meeting with the secretary of state and his special envoy to Sudan about the humanitarian crisis there, in that region. But then the president himself turned to North Korea.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We'll be sending teams to the region to work with our partners, to make sure that the current United Nations Security Council resolution is enforced. But also to make sure that the talks are effective, that we achieve the results we want, which is a North Korea that abandons their nuclear weapons program and their nuclear weapons.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

HENRY: And there's the rub right there. Obviously, the White House declaring short-term vindication. But in the long term, they're going to have to, obviously, show that these six-party talks are yielding some progress. So far they've yielded very little. That's sparked some of that criticism from Democrats.

This gives the president some breathing room. But as he himself noted, he's going to have to get some progress from those six-party talks down the road, Kyra.

PHILLIPS: Something else, Ed, that's just has come across the wires within the past hour. Angry charges of insulting American troops, a just as angry comeback about insults from political hacks. The other issue roiling the White House today, comments by senator and 2004 presidential candidate John Kerry.

Kerry was speaking to students at a California college yesterday when he talked about the value of education and the risks of what can happen if they don't do well.

Here's the quote. Kerry said, "You know, education, if you make the most of it, you study hard, you do your homework and you make an effort to be smart, you can do well. And if you don't, you get stuck in Iraq."

What does the White House have to say about this, Ed?

HENRY: Well, Senator Kerry is insisting that he was referring to the president there, not to actual U.S. troops in Iraq, when he referred to "getting stuck in Iraq."

But that's not sitting well with Tony Snow. He jumped all over this and said that Senator Kerry owes an apology.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TONY SNOW, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: Extraordinary things happened since September 11, which is a lot of people, America's finest, have willingly agreed to volunteer their services in a mission they know is dangerous, but is also important.

And, you know, Senator Kerry not only owes an apology to those who are serving, but also to the families of those who have given their lives in this. This is an absolute insult.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

HENRY: Now, that sparked Senator Kerry to put out this statement, quote, "I'm not going to be lectured by a stuffed suit White House mouthpiece standing behind a podium, or doughy Rush Limbaugh, who no doubt today will take a break from belittling Michael J. Fox's Parkinson's Disease to start lying about me, just as they have lied about Iraq. It disgusts me that these Republican hawks who have never worn the uniform of our country, lie and distort so blatantly and carelessly about those who have." What's really going on here, besides the back and forth, is Senator Kerry is dying for the opportunity to go head to head with the president again. And that's why he's diving right in here with these -- this counterattack.

But also, I thought it was very interesting. We ask Tony Snow all the time about various comments out there by various senators in both parties. A lot of times, he says, "I don't know anything about that." This time, I saw Tony Snow look down at the podium. He was prepared with the response.

The point is, the White House is dying to jump into a fight with John Kerry on the eve of these midterms. They think it's winning. They think it will rally conservatives against the Democrats to have John Kerry front and center in such a way where they believe he insulted U.S. troops -- Kyra.

PHILLIPS: Ed Henry live from the White House. Thanks, Ed.

HENRY: Thank you.

LEMON: The violence continues in Iraq. There's talk of boosting the number of Iraqis in that country's military and police to help restore order there. Now, what does that mean to U.S. forces serving there?

Our Barbara Starr joins us from the Pentagon, where she's just completed an interview with Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld -- Barbara.

BARBARA STARR, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hello, Don.

Well, let me clarify. The secretary met with a group of Pentagon reporters this morning as he was outside on the steps of the building here. Confirming to reporters that he does expect to act on a recommendation to increase the size of the Iraqi security services. Now about 325,000. It might go up by 30,000 or so, according to a recommendation the secretary's looking at.

Here's what he had to say.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD RUMSFELD, SECRETARY OF DEFENSE: The Iraqi government and General Casey have made their recommendations. And General Dempsey. And that I'm very comfortable with the increases they've proposed. And the accelerations in achievement of some of their targets that they've proposed. And the question -- and I understand that the Iraqi government is.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

STARR: Now, Don, what the secretary also says is while there will be an increase -- that's his expectation -- in the number of Iraqi security forces, that doesn't necessarily mean more U.S. forces, especially combat troops, on the ground in Iraq, unless the situation dictates.

One of the things the secretary did express some concern about, is he said troops might have to stay a bit longer who are working on training the Iraqis in logistics and support issues, because some of that training is lagging behind.

But right now, he says, he will likely act on this recommendation to increase the size of the Iraqi security services -- Don.

LEMON: Not saying more U.S. troops, but not ruling it out?

STARR: That is correct.

LEMON: All right. Barbara Starr, thank you very much for your report.

Checkpoints set up during a search for an American soldier kidnapped in Baghdad are being shut down, but not taken down. Checkpoints along the army canal leading into eastern Baghdad led to angry feelings in Sadr City after a general strike emptied streets.

Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki ordered the checkpoints removed. A U.S. Army spokesman says the checkpoints are being opened, but he emphasized that they are not being dismantled.

PHILLIPS: Several vehicles are on their way to Americans fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan. The military is sending in vehicles with heavier armor on board, trying to limit the damage done from roadside bombs.

The new road warriors have a v-shaped outside designed to disperse the force of a blast from an IED, an improvised explosive device. The Pentagon isn't saying exactly how many of the vehicles, called Buffalos and Cougars, are in the battle zones.

The number is 103 U.S. servicemen and women killed in Iraq this month, making October one of the deadliest months in the war. Of course, the numbers do not really tell the whole story.

CNN's Kareen Wynter has more from California.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

KAREEN WYNTER, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Sergeant Norman Taylor, Blythe, California. Sergeant Lester Barinchini (ph), Bakersfield, California. Corporal Kenny Stanton (ph), Hemet, California. Just some of the faces of American servicemen killed this October, the fourth deadliest month on record for U.S. forces since the start of the Iraq war.

Gloria and Kenny Stanton just buried their son.

KENNY STANTON SR., FATHER OF SOLDIER KILLED IN IRAQ: I've never had such a traumatic thing happen to me. And I don't know how to go on. WYNTER: Twenty-year-old Corporal Kenny Stanton Jr. was a Hemet, California, high school graduate and military police officer who wanted to make his family proud. Gloria Stanton grips her son's dog tags, a small piece, she says, of what's left of him.

GLORIA STANTON, MOTHER OF SOLDIER KILLED IN IRAQ: It's my way of feeling I have him close to my heart. I mean, he's already there. But this is the part of him that he had with him.

WYNTER: Stanton was killed October 13 by a roadside bomb in Baghdad. Days later, still fresh with grief, the town of Hemet buckled under more crushing news.

DR. PHIL PENDLEY, SUPERINTENDENT, HEMET SCHOOL DISTRICT: Well, it's just an incredible run of bad luck.

WYNTER: The death of yet another serviceman, 23-year-old hospital corpsman Charles Sare, killed by enemy fire in western Iraq October 23. District superintendent Dr. Phil Pendley says Sare is the fourth hometown hero to die in combat since the war began.

PENDLEY: You think one happened, so we've paid our dues. But then another one happened and you think, well, it couldn't be us again. And now here we are at four.

WYNTER: Sadness also filled the small desert town of Blythe, California, where 21-year-old Sergeant Norman Taylor, nicknamed "Buddy", was a high school standout and cadet battalion commander eager to serve his country.

1ST SGT. GERALD EDWARDS, U.S. ARMY: He understood that death was there, and that was not an issue. I think that he -- he knew the reality of living and dying.

MICHAEL GILMORE, PRINCIPAL, PALO VERDE VALLEY H.S.: I hugged him before he left and I said, "Keep your head down, Buddy."

He said, "I'm going to try."

And I was thinking of -- that that wasn't enough. Sometimes keeping your head down isn't -- isn't enough in the war.

WYNTER: Unlike their Hemet neighbors who've lost four servicemen, residents here say this community's first war tragedy cuts deep.

(on camera) Since the start of the war in Iraq, more than 280 servicemen from California have been buried in cemeteries like this one all across the state. Each grave, a symbol of a family's grief. And, some say, a reminder of the cruel casualties of war.

GLORIA STANTON: Think of all the pain that all the families are going through, those that have lost their children, because I don't want anybody to feel the same way I do right now.

WYNTER: Kareen Wynter, CNN, Hemet, California. (END VIDEOTAPE)

LEMON: Only one week to go until America votes. And next Tuesday on the national level it's all about control. Which party will be in charge of the Senate? Which will control the House?

Here's a map showing some key Senate races. They include some of the most at-risk Republican seats, ones that could help Democrats take control of at least one house of Congress.

In Tennessee, the Senate race between Republican Bob Corker and Democrat Harold Ford Jr. is attracting a lot of attention. It's key if the Democrat want to control -- want control of the Senate.

CNN's chief national correspondent, John King, is in Nashville.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

JOHN KING, CNN CORRESPONDENT/ANCHOR: The Senate race here in Tennessee has been receiving national attention for a number of reasons: one is a number of negative ads that are quite controversial. Another is that this is a race for the seat now held by the Senate majority leader, Bill Frist, who is not seeking re-election and who many believe will perhaps seek the Republican presidential nomination in 2008.

But the No. 1 reason this race is so important is the Democrats believe they must win this seat if they are to have any hope of picking up the Senate majority come January.

The Democratic candidate is Congressman Harold Ford of the Memphis area. He hopes to become the first African-American in the Senate since reconstruction.

The Republican candidate is bob Corker, the former mayor of Chattanooga. And the Corker campaign is encouraged by the new CNN/Opinion Research Corporation poll out today. Among all voters, it shows a dead heat. But among those who say they are likely to vote one week from today, Mr. Corker has, according to our poll, an eight- point lead, 52 percent to 44 percent.

I spoke to Congressman Ford this morning, however, and he says other pools, including his campaign polls, show a much tighter race. And he continues to voice confidence that he can carry this election one week from today.

With all the negative campaigning. There has also been a debate over the Iraq war, Harold Ford casting Mr. Corker as a stay the course Republican.

Quite significantly, I spoke to Corker last night. And he said if he wins this election and goes to Washington, one message he will bring to the Republican White House is that perhaps it is time to have a new secretary of defense. Mr. Corker joining a number of Republicans questioning whether Donald Rumsfeld should stay on for the final two years of the Bush presidency. Congressman Ford this morning called that a flip-flop. He says it's a sign -- a sign his Republican opponent is worried about the toll the Iraq war might take on the race here in Tennessee. Again, one of those being most closely watched, one week until election day.

John King, CNN, Nashville.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

LEMON: With just a week to go until the midterm elections, stay up to date with the CNN political ticker. The daily service gives you an inside view of the day's political stories. See for yourself: CNN.com/ticker.

PHILLIPS: On the hunt for sickening bacteria. A closer look at a salmonella outbreak.

LEMON: And what you should be on the lookout for. That's ahead in the CNN NEWSROOM.

PHILLIPS: The smoke before the fire. Investigators say BP knew it had safety problems long before a deadly explosion. We'll have details straight from the NEWSROOM.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

PHILLIPS: As you heard at the beginning of the newscast, we were telling you about Senator Kerry and these comments that he made while speaking to the Pasadena City College in California yesterday. That quote you heard him say was about Iraq, and if you know education, if you make the most of it, you study hard you do your homework, you can do well. If you don't, you get stuck in Iraq. It's created a lot of controversy.

We just got the actual tape in from that speech. We want you to be able to hear it for yourself.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. JOHN KERRY (D), MASSACHUSETTS: We're here to talk about education, but I want to say something before. You know, education if you make the most of it, you study hard and you do your homework and you make an effort to be smart, you can do well. If you don't, you get stuck in Iraq.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

PHILLIPS: That created a lot of controversy today. Tony Snow, White House spokesperson, even came out and said that he hopes that Kerry would apologize to American troops.

Kerry then issued this statement, with regard to the criticism of his quote. He says, "If anyone thinks a veteran would criticize the more than 140,000 heroes serving in Iraq and not the president who got us stuck there, they're crazy. This is the classic GOP playbook."

We'll be talking more about this quote with Republicans and Democrats, debating it, later in the next hour.

LEMON: And Kyra, there are some big problems today with BP oil. We're talking about the oil company. Just as the company gets set to go to court in a negligence trial, federal investigators say BP knew about safety issues long before a fatal accident at a Texas plant. The explosion in March of 2005 killed 15 workers.

The Chemical Safety Investigation Board says after the tragedy, BP moved to improve safety globally, but before it was a whole other story.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CAROLYN MERRITT, CHEMICAL SAFETY BOARD CHAIRMAN: What BP experienced was a perfect storm where aging infrastructure, overzealous cost-cutting, inadequate design, and risk blindness, all converged. The result was the worse workplace catastrophe in more than a decade.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

LEMON: BP officials say they're surprised by some of the investigators' findings. Jim Boulden has more on the case.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

JIM BOULDEN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The deadly explosion in Texas killed 15 BP workers last year. What has followed is a litany of problems for the London-based oil giant: a $21 million fine, a congressional investigation, a criminal probe, and an unsettled civil lawsuit.

Now, a preliminary report by the U.S. government's Chemical Safety Board states BP internal memos show top executives knew there were serious safety concerns at the plants. And that cost-cutting played a role in the tragedy.

MERRITT: The CSFB findings describe the drastic effect of corporate cost-cutting at the Texas city refinery, where maintenance and infrastructure deteriorated over time, setting the stage for this disaster.

BOULDEN: BP agrees with part of the report. A BP spokesman admits the explosion was, quote, "a preventable tragedy," though BP says it does not understand some of the comments in the report. Specifically, that budget cuts attributed to the problem.

Eva Rowe last both parents in the accident and is suing BP. The trial starts in Texas next week. Her lawyer recently told CNN what federal investigators have now confirmed.

BRENT COON, LAWYER: This was an accident waiting to happen and it was something that BP was advised was going to happen by outside auditors and by their own personnel. It was going to happen if they didn't make changes, and they didn't. They deliberately ignored the warnings that were coming. BOULDEN: BP has already settled more than 1,000 personal claims stemming from the explosion. It has set aside $1.6 billion for litigation.

JOHN BROWNE, CEO, BP: Every violation is a bad violation. They're all of difference consequence and substance. But nonetheless, they're all defects. All defects need to be repaired. And we're always in the continuous business of repairing those defects and repairing them sustainably.

BOULDEN: BP's own investigators blamed lower-level employees for not following established procedures. The safety board credits BP with making a lot of safety-related moves, while not addressing the specific problems that led to the 2005 explosion.

(on camera) The chemical safety board will issue its final report next year. Then we could learn just how much top BP executives, based here, knew about significant safety concerns, before the deadly fire.

Jim Boulden, CNN, London.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

PHILLIPS: On the hunt for a sickening bacteria. Dr. Sanjay Gupta takes a closer look at a salmonella outbreak.

You're watching CNN, the most trusted name in news.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

PHILLIPS: Well, a dilemma for health officials. What's making so many people sick? Dozens people of in the eastern half of the U.S. have gotten salmonella. But so far, no one's been able to link it to any specific food or place.

Our senior medical correspondent, Dr. Sanjay Gupta, has been checking it out.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

DR. SANJAY GUPTA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Lots of details coming in about salmonella. Most recently, 172 people affected now in 18 different states; 11 people hospitalized. Obviously, a lot of people paying attention to this. We're going to get you a lot of details as they come in.

A couple of quick words, though. Salmonella, also a bacteria, similar to E. Coli, we heard so much about with spinach. Salmonella, generally speaking, is not usually as bad a disease or as bad a contagion as the E. Coli. E. Coli can have some very, very significantly serious forms. With salmonella, you can get quite sick, but usually not as sick as with E. Coli.

Some things to watch out for specifically, it can be transmitted by eating beef that's contaminated with animal products. Also beef, poultry, milk and eggs can all be contaminated sometimes. Here's an important point: contaminated food can smell and look normal. So the average consumer may not know, in fact, that there's a salmonella infection. You need to pay attention to some of the advisories that may come out.

Also, contact with pet reptiles and birds. It does not appear to be the source this time around, but salmonella can also be transmitted that way.

What happens when you actually get an infection with salmonella? Typically, you're going to get -- it's going to be a miserable few days. You're going to have diarrhea, fever, abdominal cramps that can last up to two or three days after the infection.

Also, the elderly, infants and people with impaired immune systems are generally more affected by this.

Here's the good news: the vast majority of people are not going to have anything to worry about whatsoever.

Also if you follow some pretty basic guidelines, you really reduce your chances of getting an infection by the salmonella. Cook everything. Cook your poultry, your ground beef. Cook your eggs, as well, thoroughly. Wash everything. Wash those kitchen surfaces, utensils. Don't mix your raw meat with your produce, obviously. And always wash your hands, as well.

Again, 172 cases, 11 people hospitalized. No one has died of this salmonella outbreak as of yet. We'll certainly keep you posted as details come in, and they will, over the next several hours.

Back to you.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

LEMON: All right, Sanjay, thank you.

Sony is also struggling under the weight of a laptop battery recall and sinking profits. But now it's facing yet another headache. Susan Lisovicz joins us from the New York Stock Exchange with the details on that.

That was the last thing they needed is another incident.

(STOCK REPORT)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

LEMON: Seven days to go until midterms. And the gloves, all those partisan gloves, are coming off. While speaking at Pasadena City College in Pasadena yesterday, former Democratic presidential candidate John Kerry pulled the pin on a verbal grenade.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. JOHN KERRY (D), MASSACHUSETTS: Well, you know, education if you make the most of it, you study hard and you do your homework, and you make an effort to be smart, you can do well. If you don't, you get stuck in Iraq.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

LEMON: Well, Press Secretary Tony Snow was snappy with the White House comeback.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TONY SNOW, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECY.: Some extraordinary things happened since September 11th, which is a lot of people, America's finest, have willingly agreed to volunteer their services, in a mission they know is dangerous but is also important. And, you know, Senator Kerry not only owes an apology to those serving, but also the families of those who have given their lives in this. This is an absolute insult.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

LEMON: But Kerry says he was aiming his comment at the president and not the soldiers. Here's Kerry' response: "If anyone thinks a veteran would criticize the more than 140,000 heroes serving in Iraq and not the president who got us stuck there, they're crazy. This is the classic GOP playbook. I'm sick and tired of these despicable Republican attacks that always seem to come from those who never can be found to serve in war, but love to attack those who did."

Arizona Republican John McCain also jumping into the political fray. He says, "The suggestion that only the least educated Americans would agree to serve in the military and fight in Iraq is an insult to every soldier serving in combat and should deeply offend any American with an ounce of appreciation for what they suffer and risk so that the rest of us can sleep more comfortably at night. Without them, we wouldn't live in a country where people securely possess all their God given rights, including the right to express insensitive, though considered and uninformed remarks".

And our political coverage continues in the next hour of the NEWSROOM. Senator John Kerry, the hot topic today. CNN contributor Pat Bay Buchanan and Democratic strategist Julian Epstein will join us live to talk about Kerry's comments and his stinging comeback to his Republican critics. That's at 2:00 p.m. Eastern, right here in the CNN NEWSROOM.

PHILLIPS: It's another October surprise from North Korea. Earlier this month, a test of some kind of nuclear device. Now word that Pyongyang is willing to come back to the table with the U.S., China and other nations worried about its nuclear ambitions.

Hugh Riminton explains what's going on.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

HUGH RIMINTON, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice over): After seven hours of secret talks, perhaps a breakthrough. CHRISTOPHER HILL, U.S. ASSIST. SEC. OF STATE: Nice to see you all.

RIMINTON: Barely three weeks after North Korea's first nuclear tests, it is returning to six-party talks to discuss getting rid of its nuclear program.

HILL: I don't think the situation is getting any easier for them staying away from these talks.

RIMINTON: It was China late last week that sent a message to U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, would Washington agree to a quiet meeting in Beijing involving the North Koreans? The chief U.S. envoy says the North Koreans made no apology for their October nuclear test, but agreed to return to talks without preconditions. There will be no easing of U.N. sanctions.

HILL: Well, I made very clear that the U.N. Security Council resolution stands, and that this was not a subject of our discussion. They don't like it, but it stands.

RIMINTON (on camera): The only allowance made to the North Koreans, an agreement to discuss Pyongyang's complaints over the seizure of illegal North Korean assets at a bank in Macau. A seizure that enraged Kim Jong-il's regime.

(voice over): North Korea agreed to return to the talks to discuss the deal it struck in September last year to dismantle its nuclear weapons program in return for energy and other incentives. The six-party talks are now set to resume in November or December.

The U.S. envoy praising China's role and declaring this development a validation of the six-party process which ties the United States, Japan and all North Korea's immediate neighbors to the issue. It may also reduce the immediate threat of more North Korean nuclear tests.

HILL: I think it's self-evident that they should not engage in these kinds of provocations.

RIMINTON: But diplomats well used to dealing with North Korea still urge patience.

HILL: I have not broken out the cigars and champagne quite yet, believe me.

RIMINTON: Hugh Riminton, CNN, Beijing.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

PHILLIPS: Did U.N. sanctions drive North Korea back to the bargaining table? Here's a reminder about U.N. resolution 1718 passed earlier this month. The world body demanded North Korea abandon its nuclear weapon program. The resolution placed a ban on military and technology hardware and luxury goods. That's backed by international inspections of cargo going into and out of North Korea. Cleaning up in Southern California. Firefighters get the upper hand on that deadly wildfire. And we hear from the fallen firefighters loved ones. That's ahead in the CNN NEWSROOM.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

LEMON: Forty-thousand-plus acres, 34 homes, and at least four lives.

PHILLIPS: Just some of what that wildfire outside Palm Springs, California, has claimed. After five tough days, firefighters managed to get it under control last night. Now investigators are tallying up the damage, so far estimated at nearly $10 million dollars. And they're still on the hunt for whomever started that fire.

LEMON: And the arsonist in all this faces a host of charges, including murder. Four firefighters were killed battling the flames the first day. Their families, confused about why anyone would deliberately set a fire. Here's what the mother of the youngest fallen fire fighter told CNN's Larry King.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GLORIA AYALA, MOTHER OF KILLED FIREFIGHTER: You know, it's absolutely horrific to even think that anybody would play with matches. My goodness are they children? Are they like little two or three-year-olds? No, they were adults that did this. They were adults that did this that killed four men. Four men.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

LEMON: One firefighter survived when that crew was overtaken by the flames. Pablo Cerda remains in critical condition with burns over 90 percent of his body.

PHILLIPS: In a major policy reversal, NASA now says it will take steps to address troubles with the Hubble Space telescope. After the shuttle Columbia disaster, service missions to the telescope were deemed too risky, so the aging Hubble was set to fade into retirement. Now, though, NASA says it's confident a repair trip can be done safely. It's scheduled a final Hubble mission for 2008. That service call should give the telescope five more years on the job.

LEMON: An embattled southern Mexican city, hundreds of federal troops have ordered to retake it, but the protesters won't budge. They want the governor of Oaxaca state out, accusing him of corruption. Mexico's Congress also urges him to step down to ease tensions.

A look at the chaos from CNN's Casey Wian.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

CASEY WIAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT, (voice over): Mexican federal police moved in to retake violence-plaqued Oaxaca. Since May, the site of protests by teachers and others demanding the ouster of the state government. An American independent journalist was killed while covering the uprising. You can hear the bullet and his screams while his camera rolled. India media photographer Brad Wills was one of three people killed by local police in civilian clothes, according to a Reuters report, that was not confirmed by U.S. or Mexican authorities. Incredibly, the State Department says it's only hoping, not demanding, that Mexico investigate the killing.

SEAN MCCORMACK, STATE DEPARTMENT SPOKESMAN: We would hope that the matter is investigated vigorously to determine who's responsible. And that in the case that there were laws violated, that that person be brought to justice.

WIAN: U.S. Ambassador to Mexico, Tony Garza, released a statement calling Will's death tragic. He also extended an advisory, warning American citizens about the risks of travel to Oaxaca. A similar advisory exists for the border city of Nuevo Laredo, where drug violence is out of control. At least 17 journalists have been killed since 2000 while covering those stories.

LUCIE MORILLON, REPORTERS WITHOUT BORDERS: It's more and more dangerous for journalists to cover any issues related either to drug traffic or to local corruption. And these drug traffickers are politicians who have things to hide, have enlisted how critical it is for them to control the media.

WIAN: In the United States, protesters demonstrated outside Mexican consulates in New York and California demanding President Vicente Fox withdraw his forces from Oaxaca. The Mexican government says they'll stay until order is restored.

Meanwhile, the State Department downplayed concerns the violence will destabilize Mexico while a new leader is about to take office. Spokesman Sean McCormack says Mexico's government has withstood every test since the disputed presidential election in July.

Casey Wian, CNN, Los Angeles.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

LEMON: Rallying the base now, but he once rallied the team. Cheerleader-in-Chief. That's ahead, in the CNN NEWSROOM.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(WEATHER REPORT)

PHILLIPS: Well who's that scary little ghost knocking on your door? Here's a hint. It's Halloween, so we dug into our bag of tricks and pulled out some tidbits about this hugely popular celebration.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They're back. The Headless Horseman and Ichabod Crane have returned to Sleepy Hollow, New York. Young trick or treaters can't miss the 18-foot high steel sculpture of the Horseman and Ichabod, erected just in time for Halloween.

It's just a pumpkin throwaway from the grave of Washington Irving, who wrote the spooky tale in the early 1800s. If you guessed it, Halloween originated in the Hudson Valley, you'll have to spend the night at a cemetery.

Go back some 2000 years in what's now Ireland and the United Kingdom. The Celts celebrated their New Year's Eve on October 31. They believed the ghosts of the dead returned to earth. In the 800s, the pope got involved, declaring November 1st All Saints' Day, which eventually was called All Hallows.

Today, Americans aren't the only ones who dress up in costumes. In much of Latin America, people celebrate All Souls' Day on November 2nd, with candy, flowers, wreaths and graveside picnics. As for the Halloween tradition of pumpkins, people have been carving jack o'lanterns for centuries. The practice also originated in Ireland and the first jack o'lanterns were hollowed out turnips. Of course, what would Halloween be without candy? This ghoulish time of the year ranks first in candy sales. And one of the most popular Halloween treats is candy corn.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

LEMON: Sentenced to life in the big house or sentenced to spend eternity in the big haunted house? Get your goose bumps on, coming up in the CNN NEWSROOM.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

LEMON: The nation's leader, we're talking about the president, rallying his base.

PHILLIPS: It reminded our Jeanne Moos of the president's past as a prep school cheerleader.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

JEANNE MOOS, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Multiple choice, just say yes to the true originator of...

BUSH: Just say no.

NANCY REAGAN: Just say no.

BUSH: Just say no.

MOOS: But just because the correct answer is Nancy Reagan.

REAGAN: What will you do if someone offers you drugs?

CROWD: Just say no!

MOOS: Doesn't mean George Bush can't use it at rallies to tweak Democrats for, in his view, being soft on terrorism. BUSH: When it comes to listening in on the terrorists, what's the Democratic answer? Just say no. When it comes to questioning terrorists what's the Democratic's answer?

CROWD: Just say no.

BUSH: When it comes to trying terrorists what's the Democrats' answer?

CROWD: Just say no.

MOOS: The technique is called call and response and it led up to this punchline.

BUSH: So when the Democrats ask for your vote on November 7th, what's your answer?

CROWD: Just say no.

BUSH: President Bush is once again playing cheerleader. He was head cheerleader at the all-male prep school he attended in Andover, Massachusetts. He never quite excelled as an athlete, but he was a heck of the cheerleader at the all-male school.

And for that, he's paid a price in parody on the Web doing the Iraq cheer.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Give me an I, give me an R, give me 200,000 troops.

MOOS: Mocked by protesters.

CROWD: He says the war on terror will make the world fairer, but we know that he's lying because we see infants dying.

MOOS: There's even a 12-inch action figure of George Bush the cheerleader in a skirt. And he was known to wear one in jest.

(on camera): Go ahead, make fun, but the dean of students at the time reportedly credited George W. with raising school spirit higher than it had ever been, as long as he'd been dean.

(voice-over): One classmate from Andover even compared how George Bush once rallied students with how he rallied the nations with a bullhorn after 9/11. The president's in good company. Both Katie Couric and Meryl Streep were once cheerleaders.

In a political sense, so was Ted Kennedy at the 1988 Democratic convention.

TED KENNEDY: Where was George?

MOOS: Where's George? Well his son is in the White House and pom poms are shaking. But at least the president didn't get tossed, though his party might.

BUSH: Just say no.

MOOS: Jeanne Moos, CNN, New York.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

PHILLIPS: And you can catch more of Jeanne Moos's stories on "THE SIT ROOM," weekdays 4 p.m. Eastern and for the live primetime edition, 7 p.m. Eastern. The next hour of CNN NEWSROOM starts right now.

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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