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Giving Thanks in Florida; Baghdad Market Bombing; Bird Flu Fears; Insurance Adjusters Descended on Tornado Zone in Florida; What's Really Behind Violence in Iraq?; Nuclear Tour in Iran; Super Bowl Sunday

Aired February 4, 2007 - 16:59   ET


FREDRICKA WHITFIELD, CNN ANCHOR: I'm Fredricka Whitfield at the CNN headquarters in Atlanta.
You are in the NEWSROOM.

Help arriving today for Florida storm victims. Blankets, food, and water are being delivered by the Florida National Guard. FEMA said today it is sending trailers for people who lost their homes.

Also today, the National Weather Service confirms that the storms that struck early Friday produced at least three tornadoes. The weather service says the 20 people who died in the storms including 14 killed in a deadly two minutes.

This hour we'll hear from CNN's Susan Roesgen on the Sunday after the storms; Rob Marciano on tornado detectives; Susan Candiotti on the rush to file insurance claims; and CNN's Rusty Dornin on helping hands, those good Samaritans going door to door.

But first, let's check in with Jacqui Jeras in the weather center.


WHITFIELD: This Sunday was very somber for many people in central Florida. Sunday's services today at the flattened Lady Lake Church of God took place outdoors. It was quite different than usual.

More now from CNN's Susan Roesgen.



SUSAN ROESGEN, CNN GULF COAST CORRESPONDENT (voice over): As the choir praised the rock of Christ, Pastor Larry Lynn stood in the rubble of his church, the first service here since Friday's tornado.

PASTOR LARRY LYNN, CHURCH OF GOD: We look not at the things that are seen, but we look at the things that are not seen. The things that are seen are temporal, are temporary, but the things that are not seen are eternal.

ROSENTHAL: In the past, Lady Lake Church of God had been a storm shelter built to withstand 150-mile-an-hour winds. Now the faithful see a deeper meaning in its destruction.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We don't need the building to have church. You know?


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We've got Jesus. When we've got Jesus, we don't need the building.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Amen. We just proved it.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I felt compelled to come back and just support the church -- that this is where I got saved, right here.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We just have to thank the lord that we made it through. And we will pick up from this. And we will go on.

ROSENTHAL: Out of respect for the 20 people killed by the tornado, Florida Governor Charlie Crist joined the congregation and canceled his trip to the Super Bowl.

GOV. CHARLIE CRIST (R), FLORIDA: That's why we'll be here and we'll worship today for them. They are in a better place.

ROSENTHAL: Pastor Lynn says the church will be rebuilt, even though he says it's not the physical building that makes a church, it's the people.

Susan Roesgen, CNN, Lady Lake, Florida.


WHITFIELD: Meteorologists say that three tornadoes hit Florida. They know this after studying the damage.

CNN meteorologist's Rob Marciano has more on what investigators look for -- Rob.

ROB MARCIANO, CNN METEOROLOGIST: Fredricka, there is a team of investigators, crime scene investigators, if you will. They are really meteorologists that kind of specialize in forensic work after the storm goes through.

They come in, they look at the damage. They are from local and national weather services offices, and they're also from -- from out in the Midwest and the Plains, where they get tornadoes this size seemingly every day during the months of April and May.

So, earlier today we went out with one of these investigators to look at the damage and to kind of make sense of what really looks to the untrained eye to be very chaotic and disorganized. But to Jim LaDue, the National Weather Service storm investigator that we went with, he sees something else.

Take a look at what -- or some of the things he looks at.


JIM LADUE, NOAA METEOROLOGIST: That chain-link fence and all this stuff here came from about 300 feet away. On the other side there's -- there's a chain-link fence here, and you can see the strength of the wind actually not only wrapped the chain-link fence around, but also pulled it. You can literally see that it's been stretched, and that is a sign of a very strong tornado.


MARCIANO: They look at chain-link fences, they look at the telephone poles, they look at street lights, they look at homes, they look at brick homes, mobile homes, industrial buildings to assess just how strong those winds were. He thinks it was an F-3 tornado.

On a scale of zero to five, that makes the winds 150, 160-plus miles per hour. And you have see the damage that can do.

Also, some of the things we saw off the road where the storm was the strongest are things that were literally impaled into homes, 2 x 4s that that just were -- flew through the air like missiles and impaled the homes. To a lesser extent, this happened to this palm tree.

You can see this piece of particle board at point was attached to a coffee cable and is lodged into this -- into his palm tree. Just shoved in there, just unimaginable force when this storm came through early Friday morning.

Signs like that very prevalent up in the Lake Mack area. This -- that storm -- that tornado came off the lake. And because of that, Jim thinks that that made the storm even stronger.


MARCIANO: It basically didn't have anything in its way until it hit -- hit that neighborhood.

You mentioned there were three tornadoes. They likely came out of the same super cell thunderstorm, kind of developing, coming down, diminishing, and coming back down. But the swathe is almost from coast to coast -- Fredricka.

WHITFIELD: Wow. It is remarkable. Thanks so much, Rob.

MARCIANO: You bet.

WHITFIELD: And in about 15 minutes from now, hundreds of tornado victims now homeless and now looking for their insurance companies for hope. Can they count on them? The answer just moments away.

And now to Iraq, where attackers caused havoc across Baghdad for another day. Thirty-six Iraqis died. Among them, four police officer, killed when a roadside bomb exploded near their patrol. Mortar fire also proved deadly with several Sunni neighborhoods targeted.

Iraqis are still reeling from that horrific bomb blast at a market this weekend. More now from CNN's Arwa Damon.


ARWA DAMON, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice over): "What did we do?" this man asks, standing amid the rubble of the deadliest single bombing since the start of the war. It's a question many are asking.

Innocent victims shopping when a suicide bomber drove a truck packed with one ton of explosives into a crowded marketplace. Entire building facades gone. The emotional devastation clear in the survivors' voices. "They are all gone, they are all gone," she says, breaking down into tears.

A day after Saturday's blast, frantic efforts to rescue anyone who might still be alive. But workers found only more bodies.

Families rummaged through the rubble trying to salvage whatever personal belongings remained. Shop owners tried to save their livelihood as body parts and chunks of flesh were collected, scenes too gruesome to show. "They brought his body with no head!" this woman wails.

The sounds of war never far away. Reminders that this could happen again at any time. Deep frustration, some directing their anger at the government.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): Al-Maliki says there will be a new security plan. Where is the security plan? Yeah, right, there will be a security plan.

DAMON: This street once again packed, not with wall-to-wall shoppers, but with those trying to find hair remains.

(on camera): The magnitude of the Sadria (ph) bombing is shocking. Many are viewing it as yet another attack against Baghdad's Shia population, intending only to further escalate the already spiraling sectarian violence.

Arwa Damon, CNN, Baghdad.


WHITFIELD: New information now from the military about four U.S. helicopters lost in Iraq in the past two weeks. Today, we learned all four choppers were apparently shot down and that the threat to U.S. aircraft is prompting some changes.


MAJ. GEN. WILLIAM CALDWELL, SPOKESMAN, MULTINATIONAL FORCE, IRAQ: There has been an ongoing effort ever since we have been here to target our helicopters. Obviously, based on what we have seen, we are already making adjustments in our tactics and techniques and procedures as to how we employ our helicopters in support of Iraqi security forces and coalition forces, and are making those appropriate changes. (END VIDEO CLIP)

WHITFIELD: Helicopters shot down, the number of casualties in yesterday's market bombing in Baghdad making us all pause. Coming up at the bottom of the hour, we'll talk to Vali Nasr from the Council on Foreign Relations. His view on what's behind the heightening violence in Iraq.

And new concerns about the spread of bird flu. Can European officials stop the outbreak and the panic?

And check this out. Another celebrity mug shot today. You'll want to stick around to find out why this movie heartthrob was in jail.

And the fans are pouring in to Dolphin Stadium. We're headed live to the Super Bowl in Miami.



WHITFIELD: A massive bird slaughter in Great Britain is almost complete. Health officials there are trying to contain an outbreak of a deadly strain of bird flu and calm the public fears.

More now from CNN's Paula Hancocks.


PAULA HANCOCKS, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice over): Officials are hoping they have successfully contained Britain's first outbreak of the deadly H5N1 strain of bird flu in domestic or commercial poultry, but it's too early for them to be sure. They have to wait 21 days before giving the all-clear.

The grueling task of destroying up to 160,000 turkeys -- every last bird gassed, then brought here to be incinerated. Authorities still aren't sure how the birds got infected.

CLIFFORD WARWICK, DIRECTOR, BIOVETERINARY GROUP: It could have gotten in on the soles of somebody's feet who perhaps visited a foreign country where bird flu is common, or it could have come in on the clothes of somebody who visited a parrot show in the north of the country. It could also have come in feces and viral particles on a wild bird that happened to have nested near an air vent of the facility and simply got sucked in.

HANCOCKS : Experts believe the main risk of spreading the disease comes from wild birds infecting domestic poultry.

JILL KORWIN, SUFFOLK COUNTY COUNCIL: There's no movement (ph) of birds. The only thing you need to is actually bring your birds indoors. The bottom line is, you need to isolate them from any potential contact with wild birds, because, you know, at this stage, that's the risk of spreading disease, through wild birds. HANCOCKS: Officials are at pains to reassure the public the risk to humans at this point is very low, but the government says it is preparing itself.

PATRICIA HEWITT, U.K. HEALTH SECRETARY: We're preparing very, very seriously and thoroughly for the possibility of a pandemic flu. In fact, just last week we were taking part in the biggest planning exercises ever been on pandemic flu. So we are preparing for it, and the NHS is part of those preparations. It's a very remote risk, but if it did happen it could be very serious, indeed.

HANCOCKS: So far, 164 people have died after contracting the disease in Asia and the Middle East, where bird flu has been by far the most widespread. The majority of those infected were in close proximity to infected poultry.

Last month, thousands of birds were slaughtered in Hungary after an outbreak among geese on a farm. And a year ago, hundreds of turkeys died after the H5N1 strain was detected at a farm in east France.

(on camera): Turkeys here began falling ill on Tuesday. By Thursday, the government's environment department had been informed and the area had been cordoned off.

Now, some British Media is questioning why that took two days. But officials insist that as soon as they diagnosed the disease their reaction was swift. There had been plans in place for such an outbreak for some time, as it was widely assumed that it was always a matter of when and not if the disease came to Britain. .

Paula Hancocks, CNN, Paulton (ph), England.


SUSAN CANDIOTTI, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: I'm Susan Candiotti in Lady Lake, Florida. FEMA inspectors are on the ground. Will housing trailers be arriving soon? And what about claim checks?

I'll have a live report coming up.



LYNN: I'd like everybody to take a deep breath and let everybody that hath breath praise the lord in this house today.


WHITFIELD: The sounds of hope and praise in Lake County, Florida. Emotional parishioners attended worship services this morning in the rubble of their church. The Lady Lake Church of God is one of hundreds of buildings destroyed by Friday's tornadoes. Florida's governor, Charlie Crist, joined the faithful, paying tribute to the survivors. The pastor says the church will rebuild.

Insurance adjusters have descended on the tornado zone assessing the damage. Are the claim checks flowing?

Our Susan Candiotti is in hard-hit Lake County, Florida -- Susan.

CANDIOTTI: Well, along with those inspectors for private insurance companies, FEMA is also on the ground. They are processing claims, and their field office is in place.

They have taken 80 phone calls so far. People can also apply for help online. And the next step is for FEMA inspectors to go from house to house to make sure that people qualify for federal relief assistance. If, for example, people have private insurance, of course they cannot be paid twice for the same repair.

Now, as for the homeless, FEMA says because the state of Florida tells them there is enough temporary housing here -- for example, hotels and apartments -- that for now, there are no immediate plans to bring in trailers to the state of Florida. In other words, people will be issued a check if they need help and they can choose where they want to go to live temporarily.


JESSE MUNOZ, FEMA: Some of those checks may start coming in as early as, say, Tuesday, because the contractors that we have that do the housing inspections already started seeing their first -- doing their first inspections yesterday. All right? So that is going on throughout the day, and they'll continue doing their work until all the houses that need to be inspected by registration are completed.


CANDIOTTI: Of course, there is a long road ahead because of all the work that clearly needs to be done here. People who do qualify for FEMA repairs on their homes, well, the maximum per household is $28,200 this fiscal year -- Fredricka.

WHITFIELD: All right, Susan.

I wonder, what changed since yesterday, when FEMA director Paulison said that trailers were on the way and likely to arrive yesterday, by the end of yesterday, and now they are saying there's enough other housing, trailers won't be need at all throughout the state among those four counties hit?

CANDIOTTI: From what I understand, I think they are talking about trailers are in the area if they need to be moved in here. In other words, there is a staging area in Orlando where, for example, they have ice, water, and meals ready to eat. But I went back and forth with the officials today about this and they insist that for now, no trailers are coming in.

WHITFIELD: All right. That there are enough apartments and hotels and other measures to accommodate so many displaced families, that's good to hear.

Susan Candiotti, thanks so much. And coming up in about 15 minutes from now, Rusty Dornin interviews a young man who is grieving the loss of his grandmother and his home. His powerful story coming up about 15 minutes from now.


CALDWELL: There has been an ongoing effort ever since we have been here to target our helicopters.


WHITFIELD: Confirmation from top U.S. brass in Iraq. Who is really behind increased violence in Iraq?

That's next in the NEWSROOM.

And there's our Rick Sanchez, working along with his team there, getting ready for all the other things coming up in the NEWSROOM.



WHITFIELD: The fight for Iraq may require new tactics from American airmen supporting troops on the ground. Today U.S. commanders acknowledge that four American choppers that crashed in the last two weeks were apparently shot down by enemy fire.


CALDWELL: The investigation of each of those is ongoing, but it does appear that they were all the result of some kind of anti-Iraqi ground fire that did bring those helicopters down.


WHITFIELD: Four helicopters shot down, escalating violence in Baghdad. What's really behind the violence taking place?

Let's talk with Vali Nasr, our Middle East expert with the Council on Foreign Relations.

Good to see you.


WHITFIELD: Do you see that there is a changing tide in the type of violence that we are seeing?

NASR: Well, what we have been witnessing in the past 10 days is a surge of insurgent attacks. The kind of attacks that for a while we hadn't seen -- suicide bombings, attacks on markets, on civilians, on mosques, and the like. And also directly on U.S. troops at a pace and intensity that we have not seen for a while.

WHITFIELD: And you called it insurgent attacks, as opposed to another psychology, which has been sectarian violence. Why do you believe this is more so insurgent attacks?

NASR: Well, these were tactics and was a conflict that, in fact, was saw in Iraq as early as 2003. It was the kinds of attacks that we're seeing in Baghdad today, and particularly yesterday, that actually provoked the sectarian violence in February of 2006. And then for most of the past year, we were focused on trying to contain that sectarian violence, and we're now seeing that the insurgency that we confronted very early on in Iraq is back with a vengeance, and we have to control and contain that, in addition to dealing with the sectarian violence.

WHITFIELD: And therein lies the big problem -- how do you contain, how do you control it? Just talking about the market bomb blast that took place yesterday, we're talking about victims who were Sunni, Shiite and Kurd. It goes across the board.

So, if the label is being placed on some of this violence that it may be sectarian, is that exactly the objective that many of these insurgents have?

NASR: Well, the insurgents from the very beginning had two objectives. One was for the United States and the Iraqi government to fail, and for Iraq to break down into chaos. And the second one was to provoke the Shias into sectarian violence.

So some of these attacks are going to be directed at Americans, some are going to be directed at creating chaos and mayhem in Iraq, and some are going to be directed at Shia specifically. And I think to the extent to which the United States would like to bring stability to Iraq, it will have to deal with this particularly vicious force.

WHITFIELD: Do you see any direct correlation between the stepped-up violence that we're seeing just within the past couple of months and this continued urging by U.S. authorities for the Iraqi government to be able to take better control of its country and security?

NASR: Well, to some extent, yes. The insurgency has clearly paced up its attack in advance of new U.S. troop deployments and a new strategy for Iraq. But it's very evident that even before the U.S. troops have arrived, that the Iraqi government would be very hard pressed to deal with both the sectarian issue in Baghdad and to deal with the kind of ferocious attacks that we are seeing at the same time.

I mean, in many ways, the United States military has not been able to deal with those -- these two problems at the same time. The Iraqi government will have even a more difficult time.

WHITFIELD: So it sounds like you're saying, trying to take control is an unrealistic goal. So, given that, then, what could possibly be next there?

Could it get any worse than this?

NASR: It certainly can. In fact, during this month, most of the Shia militias and that of Muqtada al-Sadr have announced that because we are in a holy month for the Shias, they're not going to retaliate. Once this month is over, in about two weeks' time, we may see a much greater degree of Shia retaliation to the kind of attacks that have been inflicted in the past month. And in addition, when the U.S. troops were being deployed to Iraq, the suggestion was that the bulk of them would be deployed in Baghdad to deal with the sectarian issue. But now it looks like we may have to give more attention to the source of the attacks that we are seeing in these marketplaces and on civilians.

WHITFIELD: Vali Nasr, Middle East expert with the Council on Foreign Relations.

Thanks so much for your time this Sunday.

NASR: Thank you.

WHITFIELD: And tomorrow President Bush is expected to send his hefty budget proposal to Congress. And despite the $70 billion already approved for this year, he's seeking $100 billion more for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

On top of that, he wants an additional $145 billion for 2008. Lawmakers have promised close scrutiny of the new spending plan. .

Defiance from Iran today. Iran's top nuclear official said his country has no plans to suspend uranium enrichment, as demanded by a United Nations resolution. Western powers fear Iran plans to use its nuclear program to produce atomic bombs, a charge Iran denies.

In Iran, an invitation to journalists and diplomats to tour a uranium conversion facility. One of them was CNN's chief international correspondent, Christiane Amanpour.


CHRISTIANE AMANPOUR, CNN CHIEF INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: The Iranian government has invited hundreds of journalists, as well as six ambassadors from the so-called nonaligned movement. They are ambassadors from Malaysia, Egypt, Sudan, Bolivia, Cuba. Slovenia -- countries which are not in the Security Council, and there are no Western countries represented here.

Nonetheless, the Iranian government is saying that this is a transparency visit designed to show the world what it claims to be its peaceful nuclear program.

ALI ASHGAR SOLTANIEH, CHIEF IRANIAN DELEGATE, IAEA: As you noticed, the whole system is a closed system. It means the import is calculated by IAEA. Every gram of (INAUDIBLE) checked inside when input is measured, and outside it could be measured. Therefore, they can have accountancy very easily.

They agreed to put two additional cameras so that we are sure that these capsules are not moved during this process when the inspectors are not here. Four hundred fifty tons of UF6 have been produced here. And everything is under the IAEA. AMANPOUR: This uranium conversion facility at Esfahan is not the current showpiece in Iran's nuclear program. That's at Natanz, about an hour away from here, where Iran has already conducted some experimental uranium enrichment.

The Iranian officials have been saying that sometime in the next 10 days, while they are celebrating the anniversary of the Islamic revolution, they may have a major new announcement on their nuclear program. Some have speculated that they may announce a 3,000- centrifuge cascade which could dramatically increase their ability to enrich uranium, move the experimental enrichment of uranium up to a more industrial scale.

Iran, however, says that it has not started that. It also insists that IAEA surveillance cameras remain at Natanz.

Christiane Amanpour, CNN, at the uranium conversion facility in Esfahan.



RUSTY DORNIN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: I'm Rusty Dornin in Lady Lake, Florida, where, what do you do after you lost a loved one in this, this is all you have left? We talk to one family struggling to recover coming up next.


WHITFIELD: Disbelief in central Florida, where tornado victims are struggling to pick up the pieces of their shattered lives.

CNN's Rusty Dornin is hearing heart-wrenching stories from the hard- hit town of Lady Lake -- Rusty.

DORNIN: Fredricka, when you talk about picking up the pieces, how do you pick up the pieces here? This is all that is left of the Gantner family nursery from the tornado that ripped through Lady Lake this last Friday. This is an incredible story of loss and of a family -- very close family with a family business.

The grandparents lived here in the house, a mobile home. It was about 200 feet away.

Now, the grandson, Roger Gantner, who we're going to speak with in just a moment, he received a call from his cousin telling him he couldn't find his grandparents. Roger came that -- you said you couldn't see a thing when you got here, right?

ROGER GANTNER JR., TORNADO SURVIVOR: No, I couldn't. I -- as soon as I pulled into the driveway, there was me and one officer who had come around the corner. There was no one here. You couldn't see this far in front of you.

We had come rushing through with out flashlights and I found my -- we found my grandfather here on this bed, no mattress. He was -- had a door on top of him, with some lacerations on him and stuff like that. And it was just -- it was bad.

DORNIN: Eighty-nine years old, right?

GANTNER He's 88, yes, ma'am.

DORNIN: And he's -- but he's in the hospital right now, is that right?


DORNIN: But your grandmother?

GANTNER: No, she's not here. We found her back -- she was back in that area.

DORNIN: And they would have been married, what, 60 years this June?

GANTNER: Sixty years. Yes, ma'am.

DORNIN: Incredible story, I know. And brought your father here, Roger Gantner Sr., and Laura, his wife.

You had a business here for 23 years, right, a nursery business?

Yes, ma'am.

DORNIN: What are the officials telling you now about what you can claim from all this?

ROGER GANTNER, SR., TORNADO SURVIVOR: It seems like they -- they don't really want to help. You know, I was -- I was -- I was trying to take care of my mom and dad for when they retired, bring them down to Florida.

They lived in Tennessee. And I always told them I'd take care of them. I moved them into my home on the nursery, and I moved to Sorrento, Florida. And now since I own another home...

LAURA GANTNER, TORNADO SURVIVOR: They're saying they won't do anything. The Small Business Association said we might be able to get some loans, but that there's nothing they can do for us.

DORNIN: And the reason why is because it was not your -- your primary residence and you're the property owner?


ROGER GANTNER, SR.: And, you know, when -- they give us loans, but when you've got bills already and they give you loans, and you don't have a job, you don't have nothing left, nothing -- I mean, it's hard to get by. You know?

DORNIN: It's an incredible story. The Gantner family here at their nursery. It's 23 years -- they had 50,000 plants. This spring they were getting ready, of course, to have sales and ship all over the country. Now, really, they have nothing here.

So, another incredibly tragic story from Florida as a result of these tornadoes -- Fredricka.

WHITFIELD: So, Rusty, I know the losses are still very fresh, but for the Gantners, what do they plan to do next? I mean, where can they stay? Where do they go at least temporarily until there's some real resolution to their case?

DORNIN: Right.

She's asking, what can you do until there's something resolved here? What do you plan to do next?

I know that the rest of the relatives have been coming, helping you clean up. I mean, what are you guys going to do?

ROGER GANTNER, SR.: I've got so many friends. And I don't know what I'm going to do. I'm in a daze.

And I've got so many people that love us to death and called us from all over, everywhere. And I appreciate everything -- prayers and everything these people have said to us.

And we'll get back somehow or other.

L. DORNIN: We really can't make a decision until we take care of nana.

ROGER GANTNER, SR.: I've got my mom to take care of.

DORNIN: And what I understand is, too, that your father just found out that your mother died, and that he is now anxious -- he wants to get out of the hospital.

ROGER GANTNER, SR.: Absolutely. And I told him we'd take the journey up there and bury my mom.

DORNIN: Thank you so much for joining us.

ROGER GANTNER, SR.: Thank you.

L. GANTNER: Thank you.

DORNIN: An incredible story.

Fredricka, this is just one, as you know, of many stories in this area. The amount of destruction is incredible.

WHITFIELD: It really is heartbreaking. Well, we wish the best for the Gantners and everyone else who is in this same situation there across four counties in central Florida. Rusty Dornin, thanks so much.

Let's check in now with Jacqui Jeras in the weather center.



WHITFIELD: Sunny south Florida? Well, not at this hour, and not at Dolphin stadium, host of Super Bowl XVI.

Our Larry Smith is there. No longer umbrella in hand, but I understand it is raining.

So, what's that mean for the advantage for which team?

LARRY SMITH, CNN SPORTS CORRESPONDENT: Well, I think the advantage, you'd have to say, would go to the Bears because they do play outdoors. The Colts would say, hey, wait a minute, it's football. I mean, that's not the problem at all.

But the weather, it is still sprinkling. Our producer, Adam Anshel (ph), being very gracious to hold the umbrella while I talk to you here just for a moment, as we're just a few minutes away from the big game.

WHITFIELD: OK. And so what folks are having to deal with is not only the weather, but it also mean's a little security. It's not so easy getting into the Dolphin Stadium anymore, is it?

SMITH: Well, you know, any event after 9/11 has changed. I mean, everything has changed. And certainly for the better.

It's something that you understand when you come in. We in the media, we go through it all the time. And so certainly it's -- that's not gunfire, by the way. It's one of the pyrotechnics here as they are getting ready for the game.

Really have not heard of any issues of security. Everything seemed to go very smoothly when the gates opened at around 1:45 Eastern Time today. Everyone now inside in their seats, dried off their seats when they sat down (INAUDIBLE). And they're ready for the game.

WHITFIELD: Right, no problem there. Shoot, they're just glad to be ticket holders.

But meantime, things are a little different for a lot of those ticket holders this go-around. Like what?

SMITH: Well, for the ticket holders here, I'm not quite sure what you mean exactly, but, I mean, in terms of the price, the money has been unbelievable. I've heard of seats, even two pairs of -- a pair of seats in the upper level, going for $10,000.

WHITFIELD: Wow. SMITH: You know, I can't even -- I can't even imagine that. I mean, it's really gotten crazy. Parking, $120 to park. And some of that wasn't even -- even parking even close by. You park across the street and have a shuttle bus bring you over here to the stadium.

WHITFIELD: Oh my gosh.

SMITH: So definitely, you know, dig into your reserves if you want to come to the game. It's much cheaper to watch it at home.

WHITFIELD: Yes. Well, maybe the better question, is there something different about these ticket holders?

SMITH: I'm still not quite sure what you mean.

WHITFIELD: OK. I'll just shoot my producer later.


WHITFIELD: Well, meantime, let's just -- let's talk about some of the sentimental favorites, if we could.

SMITH: OK. The ticket holders are made of plastic, they are clear. And they look very nice on your mantle at home. You can say look, "Look, I went to the Super Bowl."

How's that?

WHITFIELD: All right. Well, that sounds pretty good.

SMITH: Here's the thing, though. Yes. Let's -- we do have to say this, though, what a social significance this moment is going to be in about 30 minutes from now.

The first time we've had two NFL teams in the Super Bowl, each with African-American head coaches. Now, it has been 32 years since the NBA had two black head coaches meet in the finals, 39 years since the NBA had an African-American man as a head coach for an NBA champion. That was Bill Russell, the Boston Celtics.

So, again, this is a moment that's monumental in many social ways.

WHITFIELD: All right.

Larry smith, well, enjoy the game. We'll be checking in on your reports throughout the evening. And thanks for being a sport, my friend.

SMITH: I will find out about those ticket holders I'll get back to you.

WHITFIELD: Yes, you and me both. I will fill you in next time.

Thanks a lot, Larry.

SMITH: Thanks. That sounds good. All right. All right. WHITFIELD: All right. How about the president of the United States planning to unveil his Iraq budget tomorrow? But Republicans have already revolted.


And at 8:00 Eastern, the town that fought back on a special CNN SIU. Kathleen Koch goes back to her Mississippi home to see what's happened since Hurricane Katrina.

I'm Fredricka Whitfield.

Coming up, a quick look at today's top stories, then Lou Dobbs.


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