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CNN NEWSROOM

Internal Fighting Hits Lebanese Refugee Camp; New Mexico Governor to Run for President; Jimmy Carter Clashes with White House Over Foreign Policy; Fighting Breaks Out in Lebanese Refugee Camp

Aired May 21, 2007 - 13:00   ET

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


KYRA PHILLIPS, CO-HOST: Explosions, smoke, automatic gunfire, at a refugee camp in northern Lebanon. It's a battleground. It's breaking news right now. We're watching it unfold.
Hello, everyone. I'm Kyra Phillips, live at the CNN world headquarters in Atlanta.

DON LEMON, CO-HOST: And I'm Don Lemon. You're in the CNN NEWSROOM.

The worst internal fighting as Lebanese troops take on Islamic militants suspected of ties with al Qaeda. Dozens are dead in the Palestinian refugee camp, and the toll is sure to rise.

CNN bureau chief Brent Sadler is in New York right now but keeping a close eye on Tripoli -- Brent.

BRENT SADLER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Thanks, Don.

This is a powerful offensive that's being led by the Lebanese army, using tanks, artillery and snipers, focused on a refugee camp housing some 40,000 Palestinians not far from Lebanon's second largest city, Tripoli.

What's happening inside that camp is that the Lebanese army is trying to defeat, to wipe out militant -- extremist militants associated with al Qaeda-type ideology to basically defeat this group that's being accused by the Lebanese authorities of planting bombs in civilian buses earlier this year back in January.

And what we're seeing is the Fatah mainstream Palestinian group inside the camp basically staying out of the fighting while the army takes on these militants that have a stronghold close to the sea, the Mediterranean Sea that runs parallel with the camp.

Now the way this battle is being waged means that civilians, tens of thousands of them, are indeed caught in the crossfire. These camps are teaming with people, particularly young children, and really there's nowhere to hide. And it's expected that this offensive will continue until this group, called Fatah al-Islam, is defeated inside that camp -- Don.

LEMON: Now Brent, is this simply an antiterrorism move by the Lebanese government, or is there a bigger picture? What's -- what's involved here? SADLER: Well, this group, Fatah al-Islam, is led by Shakir al- Absi, who was sentenced to death in Jordan for the assassination some five years ago of a U.S. diplomat, Thomas Foley.

Also sentenced for that assassination was the former al Qaeda leader in Iraq, Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, who was killed by U.S. forces. That gives you some idea of the makeup and ideology of this group that is now still resisting inside this camp, with perhaps only 200 or 300 armed militants, using rocket-propelled grenades, also small rockets, artillery pieces like mortar rounds and machine guns.

They are able to continue a resistance inside that camp because they are fighting on their own turf. The Lebanese army is attacking them from a distance.

But the bigger picture to all this, really, Don, is that this week in New York, one of the reasons I'm here and not on my home turf of Beirut, is that a Chapter 7 United National Security Council resolution is being considered to force through an international tribunal to try suspects, some allegedly involved with Syria, in the 2005 assassination of former Lebanese prime minister Rafik Hariri.

There was an overnight bomb in Lebanon in a Christian area of the city. And these images showed that Lebanon's military is not only taking on terrorist militants; it's also battling with an attempt to stabilize the country through a Chapter 7 resolution to bring about this international tribunal.

Many layers of this story. But certainly once again more blood is expected to be spilled in Lebanon during these crucial days ahead -- Don.

LEMON: CNN's Beirut bureau chief, Brent Sadler, thank you. And we're going to continue to follow this developing story as night falls there in Lebanon. You're looking at live pictures. We're going to stay on top of this reporting -- Kyra.

PHILLIPS: And news is breaking in this country this hour all over the place. The hard part is starting for an immigration overhaul that's beaten the odds just to reach the Senate floor. Debate is starting as we speak.

And a Mexican-American governor and former ambassador is telling us something we already know. Bill Richardson will announce that he's running for the Democratic nomination for president. We're going to take that live as soon as it happens.

And just a few minutes ago we broke in to tell you about the successful emergency landing out of Florida. Take a look at these pictures.

A small plane was actually preparing to make an emergency landing in Tampa, Florida. Pictures coming to us from our affiliate, WFTS. And you can see the front landing gear, the nose of the plane there, you can see the wheel about 40, 45 degrees still in. It hadn't locked completely. But the pilot was able to bring the plane down, slow it down just enough as the nose hit.

He and his student and the student's dog were on board. All safe and sound. So it's good news to report out of Florida today.

LEMON: Definitely is good news.

And U.S. military still scrambling to leave no comrade behind. Troops south of Baghdad are searching for three missing U.S. soldiers as if they are still alive. More than a week after attackers kidnapped them and killed four other U.S. soldiers.

CNN Pentagon correspondent Barbara Starr has been talking to the commander leading the search. And she joins us now with more information -- Barbara.

BARBARA STARR, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Don, we spoke earlier this morning to Colonel Michael Kershaw. He is the commander of the 2nd Brigade of the 10th Mountain Division, the unit the men belong to.

And the comrades who are searching for them, they are continuing to look every minute of every day as if, indeed, these men are still alive. They are hoping to find them.

The search has been spreading over the last couple of days about a 200-square-mile area. They are looking in canals. They are looking in fields. Every place they can think of.

Colonel Kershaw spoke to us a little while ago.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MAJ. GEN. RICK LYNCH, U.S. ARMY: The soldiers, we believe, were drug from the attack area, transloaded and moved from the immediate incident site. We are searching, you know, areas both close in and far out along what we believe or what we would call routes of egress: trails, roads, cross river, places we believe soldiers could have been moved who an enemy wanted to egress from the target area.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

STARR: So Don, one of the things that's going on, obviously, is they're spreading out a bit further. What they are trying to do is calculate if, indeed, these soldiers were taken away alive by truck or by some sort of vehicle, as they think they might have been. How far could their attackers have gotten with them before they might have been stopped last weekend by road blocks? How far outside the immediate attack site should they be looking?

Ten days into it now, once again what the colonel is saying and what all of the military commanders are saying, they are working under the assumption these men are alive. That is what they must do so they leave no comrade behind -- Don.

LEMON: CNN's Barbara Starr. Thank you, Barbara.

PHILLIPS: Reforming immigration. The very idea has sparked huge demonstrations across the U.S. Today it's fuelling a formal debate on the Senate floor. Live pictures there.

And at issue is a fragile bipartisan compromise forged last week, a sweeping measure already under siege from bipartisan critics. Supporters say the bill offers a fair but tough path toward legal status for millions of people. Opponents call it amnesty.

Here's how the bill breaks down. It offers temporary legal status to most of the estimated 12 million illegal immigrants in the U.S., by allowing them to seek a so-called Z-visa.

The bill also provides an eventual path toward permanent residency, a process that could take years and involve thousands of dollars in fines and fees.

Now, before starting that path, heads of illegal immigration households -- or yes -- would have to go back to their home countries. They're guaranteed a return to the U.S.

The bill also toughens border security and cracks down on employers who continue to hire illegal immigrants.

LEMON: A refugee camp explodes near Tripoli, Lebanon. Lebanese troops are on one side, on the other Islamic militants suspected of al Qaeda ties. The latest on a fierce fight ahead in the CNN NEWSROOM.

PHILLIPS: Tempering harsh words. A former president clarifies his criticism of the current president and tells exactly where he does feel relevant.

LEMON: Plus, birth control that does more than prevent pregnancy. Should women intentionally stop their periods? We'll have a medical report on that.

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

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

LEMON: All right. Live pictures now from Los Angeles, California. You're looking at the first lady of the state of New Mexico. That's Governor Bill Richardson's wife. That's Barbara Richardson. Today, he's expected to officially announce that he's going to throw his hat into the ring for president.

He made an unofficial announcement on a news program back in January, saying that he had intentions and that he was going to start an exploratory committee. But today is the day that he is expected to officially announce.

His wife is speaking now. As soon as he gets to the podium, we're going to bring it to you live.

PHILLIPS: Jimmy Carter, no fan of the Bush administration, not afraid to say so. The former president told an Arkansas paper the Bush administration is the worst in history and its impact around the world. The White House fired back calling Carter irrelevant. And in New Orleans today the former president tried to clarify his remark. Our Susan Roesgen is near New Orleans with the latest now.

Susan, what did you find out?

SUSAN ROESGEN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, what I found out is that President Carter can swing a hammer and hit President Bush where it hurts sometimes, Kyra.

You know, since he left office 26 years ago, President Carter has traveled the world, building houses for Habitat for Humanity like the one behind me, helping poor people and staying on the world stage.

PHILLIPS: Susan, we'll get back to you. I apologize. We've got to get straight now to Bill Richardson. As we just mentioned, his wife is at the podium introducing him. He's the New Mexico governor and the latest one to throw his hat in the ring for the presidency. Let's listen in.

GOV. BILL RICHARDSON (D-NM), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Thank you. Thank you very much. (speaking Spanish) to so many that have been here today, especially three remarkable women who just spoke before you.

Gloria Molina, thank you so much for your strength and your leadership over so many years. Linda Lynch (ph), you exemplify the best of this country. Not just your own advocacy for human rights, but the way you stood behind the ideals of this country and your husband.

To the first lady of New Mexico, Barbara Richardson, my partner, you truly, in standing with me, show that together we can change this country.

And I notice another woman on stage, and I'm going to ask a question. The lieutenant governor of New Mexico is here. I'm wondering who's minding the store in New Mexico today? Well, we do have a line of succession.

I want to thank all of you for joining us here today. It means so much to me to announce my candidacy in California, the state that I was born and where I'm going to win this primary here in this state.

It is here where we will make history again, perhaps in this room as Gloria mentioned. When my hero in politics, John Fitzgerald Kennedy accepted his nomination in 1960. (speaking Spanish)

The United States faces huge challenges, both here and abroad. And I'm running for president because this nation needs a leader with a proven track record, an ability to bring people together, to tackle our problems here at home and abroad. I am that person, not because I say so, but because of what I've done.

LEMON: All right. You're listening to New Mexico Governor Bill Richardson, the man now who wants to be president, talking about his experience. And when he announced this earlier that he was forming an exploratory committee, he says, "I'm running for president of the United States because I can bring together a country that is divided and partisan," touting his experience as governor, he says, and also as U.N. ambassador, secretary of energy and as a congressman.

Making his announcement there in English, as well as Spanish. But officially, Governor Bill Richardson of New Mexico has thrown his hat into the ring to become the next president.

PHILLIPS: All right. We want to get back to Susan Roesgen in New Orleans, where former President Jimmy Carter is working on a Habitat for Humanity project.

And Susan, you were able to get there. Obviously, we'll talk about that project. But what's in the news today, Jimmy Carter calling the Bush administration the worst in history, the White House firing back, saying, "Look, Jimmy Carter is irrelevant."

How did he respond today?

ROESGEN: Well, you know, I asked President Carter directly. I said, "Did you say that the Bush administration was the worst in history on foreign policy?"

And he said, "No, I didn't say that." And I pressed him about it, and he said, "Well, if I did say it, I didn't mean to say it."

So certainly today, Kyra, President Carter is clarifying his comments.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JIMMY CARTER, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNTIED STATES: If you look at the exchange, it was a comparison between Nixon's foreign policy and President Bush's foreign policy. And I did compare favorably to it what Nixon did in international affairs. There's no question about that. But I should have been more -- I should have avoided the question, been more careful.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ROESGEN: Now, President Carter also agreed with the White House. He said, "You know, I'm not relevant in politics." This, of course, in spite of the fact that he is a statesman on the world stage. He said, "I'm not relevant in politics, but I am relevant," he said, "when it comes to driving nails."

So certainly, Kyra, I think he got more publicity from being here and from these comments today for Habitat for Humanity house building than he would normally get because of those comments over the weekend.

PHILLIPS: You've had a chance to talk to folks there. What are people saying about Carter's relevancy and this issue that's come up in these comments?

ROESGEN: You know, they say there's no question about former President Carter's relevancy.

He is building, in fact, today -- this would be the 1,000th home here in St. Bernard parish, where most people still do not have a roof over their heads nearly two years after Hurricane Katrina.

So they certainly think he's a fantastic person and someone who's really helping this community. And in fact, he announced today that he and his wife, Rosalynn, will be back next year. They're going to make this their project, because they still believe so much will still need to be done even this time next year after the damage from Hurricane Katrina.

PHILLIPS: And am I hearing a little zydeco music in the background there, Susan? Typical of a New Orleans celebration?

ROESGEN: Hey, you know, if we don't party, we cry. What can I say, Kyra?

PHILLIPS: Isn't that the truth. I love that city. Thanks, Susan.

Well, we want to know what you think. What's your reaction to President Carter's comments? E-mail us. The address is CNNNewsroom@CNN.com. We'll read some of your responses throughout the afternoon.

LEMON: The no period pill. New birth control offers women a new option. But is it safe? We'll check it out in the CNN NEWSROOM.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

LEMON: On CNN today, you're looking at live pictures. We're following breaking news out of northern Lebanon. Fresh fighting breaks out between Lebanese troops and Islamic militants at a Palestinian refugee camp. It's the worst internal fighting there, Kyra, in Lebanon, that they have seen in years.

PHILLIPS: Those are live pictures of what's going on there right now. But earlier today look at the fierce fighting that was taking place as the smoke rose from that refugee camp. Let's listen just for a minute.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

(GUNFIRE)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

PHILLIPS: Now, these clashes have been the latest blow to a country that's just recovering from a war, a war that we covered with Israel last summer, as you remember, for months.

And it's still in the grip of a political crisis between the western-backed government of Siniora -- Fouad Siniora. And also the Hezbollah-led opposition has -- being a prominent part in that government. Lebanese -- actually, there in Lebanon there are several refugee camps that are home to almost a half a million Palestinians, who fled the 1948 war after the creation of Israel. And this is something that we see continuously from time to time.

But today, what we saw and the reason why we've been covering this in such an intense manner, it is the worst internal fighting that Lebanon has seen in years, even worse than we covered that war last summer.

We'll continue to follow all developments out of that country today.

LEMON: As awful as gas prices are, they had never topped the lofty levels seen during the 1981 energy crisis, after adjusted for inflation. Well, that was until now.

Susan Lisovicz at the New York Stock Exchange with all the details on the breaking of the 26-year-old record.

You know what? We would sit around, Susan, and ask, you know, they're really high, but if adjusted for inflation, are they as high as we think they are? And I think answer to that is yes.

SUSAN LISOVICZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes. I mean, that's the story, Don, is that a lot of folks over the last year, whether you're talking to folks from the Petroleum Institute or oil analysts, saying, you know, it was actually worse during the energy crisis in the late '70s and early '80s.

Well, you can't really make that claim any more. 1981's record price of $1.35 works out to be $3.15 a gallon in current prices. We're now above that, according to the latest Lundberg Survey, which comes out every two weeks.

AAA, which reports gas prices on a daily basis, says the national average for self-serve regular gasoline has soared to nearly $3.20 a gallon. That's the ninth straight daily record, and it's up nearly 35 cents from just one month ago.

That means if you pump 15 gallons for each fill-up, it will cost you $48. I don't even want to begin to think what that Cadillac will set you back, Don.

LEMON: Not much, because it's parked, baby.

LISOVICZ: It's parked for sometime.

LEMON: Not going anywhere. Yes. It's a little crazy.

So there are any signs -- are there any signs that drivers are going to get a break, hopefully soon? The prices will go down? I know it's coming up on driving season now.

LISOVICZ: Well, and that's the big reason why the answer in the short-term is no. It's a supply and demand business. And one of the reasons why is the fact that we are going into this peak summer driving season.

Consumers say they're not planning to cut back on driving, which we've been talking about how consumers are cutting back elsewhere, but they're not cutting back on driving. Not yet.

A record number of Americans are expected to hit the road over the upcoming Memorial Day weekend. That's when summer driving season officially starts.

AAA forecasts prices will stay high over the summer, approaching $3.25 a gallon over the next two months. Oil, by the way, is up $1 in New York, trading at about $66 a barrel.

(STOCK REPORT)

LISOVICZ: So a nice day on Wall Street.

Coming up a great time to be a news junky but a lousy time to be in the newspaper business. I'll have details of a big round of layoffs at a Bay City favorite.

Don, back to you.

LEMON: A lot of newspapers are taking a hit lately, Susan. Look forward to that. Thank you.

LISOVICZ: You're welcome.

PHILLIPS: A glittering resume but trailing in the polls. Bill Richardson makes it official today. A closer look at the Democratic presidential candidate, straight ahead from the NEWSROOM.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KYRA PHILLIPS, CNN ANCHOR, NEWSROOM: Welcome everyone. I'm Kyra Pillips live from CNN world headquarters in Atlanta.

DON LEMON, CNN ANCHOR, NEWSROOM: And I'm Don Lemon. Fierce fighting erupts in Lebanon. What's behind today's battle and why is the Lebanese government especially concerned about this? You're live in the CNN NEWSROOM.

Let's get you live now. You can see the sun is going down there in Tripoli. That's where that fighting has been going on in a refugee camp since yesterday. This has been the worst fighting as we've said, in years. The government is concerned about this, especially with the possible ties to al Qaeda here. These are those pictures earlier in the day that were taken, live pictures broadcast here on CNN. You can see the smoke billowing there from that refugee camp, at least 40,000 people are -- or up to 40,000 people, I should say, live in this refugee camp, a lot of people in one place. So, the government is especially concerned about that. We're going to continue to follow this developing story even as night falls and settles in on Tripoli. Let's talk about this more.

Battles like the one in Tripoli would be a crisis for any government of course, anywhere, but Lebanon's government headed by a U.S. ally has been under serious stress and also some strain for more than two years now. Here's CNN's Josh Levs.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

JOSH LEVS, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): February 14, 2005, 23 people killed in a Beirut bombing including the feared target, former Prime Minister Rafik (ph) Hariri, a top critic of Syria's military presence in Lebanon. Hundreds of thousands of Lebanese call for the ouster of the Syrian army whose troops had originally come as peacekeepers during Lebanon's civil war years earlier. Under increasing pressure, Syria pulls out. A preliminary United Nations investigation later that year finds evidence indicating Syrian involvement. Syria denies it.

Summer 2006, Israel's war with the Shiite militant group Hezbollah in south Lebanon leaves Lebanese factions jockeying for power. Hezbollah members pull out of the cabinet. Hariri's son accuses Hezbollah and its supporters in Syria of trying to block an investigation.

SAAD HARIRI, OPPOSITION LEADER: They tried to create a little bit of uncertainty in Lebanon.

LEVS: Hezbollah and Syria deny such an effort.

IBRAHIM MOUSSAWI, HEZBOLLAH: I can accuse you of anything but you have to bring (INAUDIBLE) about the authenticity, the validity of your accusations.

IMAD MOUSTAPHA, SYRIAN AMBASSADOR TO U.S.: We do not interfere in the purely Lebanese domestic issues.

LEVS: The government is in crisis and reaches no agreement about a tribunal for the assassination. This month Lebanese Prime Minister Fuad Saniora, a U.S. ally, asks the UN to set up an international tribunal. The U.S., along with France and Britain create a draft resolution to do so.

SEAN McCORMACK, STATE DEPT. SPOKESMAN: We believe that it is important to move forward with the tribunal.

LEVS: Hezbollah insists it does not oppose the idea of a tribunal but the group warns that an international agency like the UN should not interfere. Now, this. Lebanese forces battle Islamic militants linked to al Qaeda. Lebanon insists the militants get orders from Syria, but Syria has repeatedly denied fomenting violence there. The fighting takes place amid an uncertain future for Lebanon. If the current government ultimately loses power, it means Washington loses a key ally at a time the United States needs leverage in the Middle East. Josh Levs, CNN, Atlanta.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

GOV. BILL RICHARDSON (D) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I'm running for president because this nation needs a leader with a proven track record, an ability to bring people together, to tackle our problems here at home and abroad.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

PHILLIPS: We've known for months that New Mexico's governor is running for the White House but minutes ago, Bill Richardson made it official, touting his experience in everything from state politics to international relations. Our senior political correspondent Candy Crowley takes a closer look at what Richardson has to offer.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

GOV. BILL RICHARDSON (D) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Hi, guys, sorry we're late, we got stuck in the snow. I actually helped push, look.

CANDY CROWLEY, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): It is March in Iowa, Bill Richardson's first trip here. He embraces the obvious.

RICHARDSON: Do I have thousands of advisors? No, I got one. I try to fire him every day. He's back there not even listening.

CROWLEY: This is not your rock star campaign.

RICHARDSON: I was called inelegant recently, maybe that's adequate.

CROWLEY: I'd love to know the definition of inelegant. How did you take that?

RICHARDSON: Well, I think, I think the way I dress maybe, I'm always battling with my weight.

CROWLEY: The average Joe patina masks what is arguably perhaps indisputably the best resume in the race, congressman for 14 years, ambassador to the UN, secretary of energy, governor, diplomatic trouble shooter in North Korea, Sudan, Iraq, helping negotiate the release of hostages.

RICHARDSON: I've actually done some of these things that everybody talks about. I've engaged in cease-fires with bad guys, I've released American prisoners, American servicemen.

CROWLEY: He's an Energizer bunny-type known more for pragmatism than vision, a problem fixer with an aggressive style.

LESLIE LINTHICUM, ALBUQUERQUE JOURNAL: He's been dinged for his, sort of his demeanor, which is kind of like king Bill. Sometimes he kind of acts like, you know, the ruler of New Mexico.

CROWLEY: He was re-elected with 69 percent of the vote. Richardson is the son of a Mexican mother and American father, as Latinos are a growing voice in American politics. A New Mexican at a time his party is making in roads in the interior west, but it's a struggle to find national limelight, though he believes time and resume are on his side.

RICHARDSON: Keep an eye on me and keep your (INAUDIBLE) I'm going to be around a lot.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

PHILLIPS: Candy Crowley has been keeping her eye on him, talking with him quite a bit. He's got the resume, Candy. What about the cash?

CROWLEY: Well, he does have, I mean, if you take out the top three candidates in the Democratic race, Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama, John Edwards, and you look at the second tier as we call them, he raised a fair amount of money. By that I mean single digits but the $7 million range. They have said all along we will remain competitive and as you heard him there running a shoe string campaign keeping the costs down.

PHILLIPS: You found him to be very interesting, we were talking about this earlier. And did he describe himself this way or did you describe him as a normal flawed person.

CROWLEY: He described himself that way. He says I'm an imperfect candidate. He says all the time I don't have my schtick together. He is just one of --

PHILLIPS: None of us do.

CROWLEY: Exactly and that's really the point, Kyra. He thinks that the country is ready for an imperfect candidate. Saying look, they don't want these packaged people that never make a mistake. I'm going to make mistakes. And he thinks people can relate to that.

PHILLIPS: What was his diet quote that you remember?

CROWLEY: He was talking about you know, dieting and he's always dieting and he's been on one for a while now, it's a liquid diet he said you know, I've been successful and I'm just miserable in my success.

PHILLIPS: On the other hand he said he dressed up for you.

CROWLEY: Yes he did.

PHILLIPS: So he tried to improve his image.

CROWLEY: Exactly.

PHILLIPS: Candy Crowley, thanks so much.

Two presidential hopefuls who trail in the national polls have something to brag about in Iowa. On the Republican side, Mitt Romney is tops among likely caucus participants in a new poll by the "Des Moines Register." Romney has a 12-point lead over John McCain eight months before the caucus, which traditionally kick off the nominating process. Among Democrats John Edwards is the first choice of 29 percent of those who say they definitely or probably will attend the caucuses. Barack Obama edged out Hillary Clinton for second place. Bill Richardson, who today officially joins the race, was fourth. LEMON: And speaking of presidents, so this one is a former one and also the current president, former President Jimmy Carter speaking to an Arkansas newspaper saying, making some not so nice remarks about the Bush administration. President Bush is at his ranch in Crawford, Texas today. He's meeting with the NATO secretary general Jaap de hoop Scheffer. He's meeting with him today. But he also commented on the former president's remarks. Let's take a listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: You know, I get criticized a lot from different quarters and that's just part of what happens when you're president. And I will continue to make decisions that I think are necessary to protect the American people from harm. I will continue to make decisions based upon certain principles, one of which is my strong belief in the universality of freedom. We're at war with an enemy that is relentless and determined and it's essential that the decisions I make protect the American people as best as we can.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

LEMON: Well, the president responding to Jimmy Carter's remarks saying that the Bush administration was the worst in history and he made those comments to an Arkansas newspaper. Of course we want to know what you think. What's your reaction to President Carter's comments? E-mail us. The e-mail address is cnnnewsroom@cnn.com. And of course, we will read some your responses throughout the afternoon right here in the NEWSROOM.

PHILLIPS: Straight ahead, the no period pill? New birth control offers women a new option. Is it safe? We'll check it out in the NEWSROOM.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

LEMON: A warning for you now about a popular drug used to treat Type I diabetes. Researchers say the drug Avandia may increase the risk of heart attack. A study by the Cleveland Clinic found the drug increased a risk of heart attack by 43 percent and increased the risk of death from heart problems by 64 percent. More than 6 million people worldwide have taken that drug.

PHILLIPS: It's being called the first of its kind, a new birth control pill that could stop a woman's menstrual cycle indefinitely. The FDA is expected to announce approval for Lybrel tomorrow. Analysts are predicting a tremendous demand but some people are concerned. CNN medical correspondent Elizabeth Cohen is here to break it all down. Is it healthy to stop something that's a natural process?

ELIZABETH COHEN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: That is the concern many people have because women stay on these pills for years and years. So, is it OK to stop a natural process for years and years. What are the long term effects? When it comes to long-term effects, no one's quite sure because no one has been on this pill long term. Let me tell a bit about what this pill is. It's called Lybrel. It's a combination of very low doses of two hormones that have been used in birth control pills for decades. The difference here if you use the pill you know you go on hormones for three months, then you take a week off, for three weeks rather, take a week off, go on hormones for three weeks, take a week off.

On this there is no rest. You're on hormones all of the time. And so the concerns, which one of which Kyra and I were just talking about, is what are the long term effects? Another concern is actually kind of interesting which is that when a woman doesn't get her period, it can be a warning sign of a health problem or a warning sign that she's pregnant. If you're on the pill and you're not getting your period, if you are one of the very few women who gets pregnant on this pill, you wouldn't necessarily know it because you're not getting your period anyway and if you were having a health problem you wouldn't know. That's another concern that people have thought of.

PHILLIPS: Does it stop every woman's period that tries this?

COHEN: It doesn't. That's a really important point. This pill is marketed as a pill that will get rid of your periods for as long as you take it. However, the studies they found that about 40 percent of women who had been taking the pill for six months were still bleeding. For some women who take this pill and in six months they are still bleeding, they have to wonder should I stay on this pill or not? Is it worth the money because this will be more expensive than older pills.

PHILLIPS: SO you start taking it and does it immediately stop or you know, does it take a while for your body to get used to it?

COHEN: It takes a while and that certainly is another marketing issue. It doesn't happen immediately. If you're on this pill for a month or two or three or four and you're still getting your period, again, are women going to say gee, is it worth it to shell out the extra money, maybe I should just go on one of the older pills.

PHILLIPS: Interesting, all right, Elizabeth Cohen, appreciate it.

LEMON: We're getting some new pictures in we want to get to you live. This is from the fighting in Lebanon. I believe it's the first shots we've seen on the ground. This is tape -- this is a fresh mortar attacks and it's also I'm going to let you listen a little bit. I'm going to speak sporadically here. These are new pictures that are just in from Tripoli, one of the refugee camps that was a scene of some bombing this morning. So this is all just coming in so forgive me here for going a little bit slowly. But this is live pictures from nighttime.

There was some video we had here of some Red Cross vehicles that we didn't get to see in that, but this is the first nighttime video. Of course this camp, which came under fire today, about 40,000 people in this camp. And this is, we're told by one of our correspondents and our folks who are on the ground that this is some of the most densely populated camps or places in the world. There are 12 camps in Lebanon and recruiters, they believe, from al Qaeda have been going into these camps, moving in, for years trying to take advantage of the resentment in these camps and trying to recruit folks. So we wanted to get you that new video, that fresh video of mortar attacks happening there. We're going to continue to follow this if we get any more attacks. Take a look at this. Again, fresh video, mortar attacks happening in Tripoli. As soon as we get more information we'll bring it to you right here in the CNN NEWSROOM.

PHILLIPS: Straight ahead, a child's struggle to live ends in a Texas hospital but a life and death legal fight may go on. Straight ahead in the CNN NEWSROOM.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

PHILLIPS: Emilio Gonzalez was just a toddler fighting for his life. A Texas hospital said it was time to remove life support. His mother said no. Emilio died this weekend, but the legal fight over who decides life and death may go on. Our report from Matt Flener with affiliate KXAN out of Austin, Texas.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

JERRY WARD, GONZALEZ FAMILY LAWYER: He was a fighter.

MATT FLENER, KXAN CORRESPONDENT: Emilio Gonzalez was a 19-month- old who battled for every single month of his life.

WARD: Doctors have been saying his death was imminent for months. And yet he fought.

FLENER: It was a family trait as his mother fought doctors who tried to take him off a ventilator. Doctors said Emilio was in severe pain and they should not treat him any longer.

MICHAEL REGIER, HOSPITAL ATTORNEY: To have to continue to do that under the circumstances is really very contrary to everything that they have been trained to do.

FLENER: Yet Emilio died on his own, cutting short a long legal battle between his mom and the hospital to keep the child alive.

WARD: He left on God's terms. He left on the terms that Catarina (ph) felt were best for her son, which is to die when his body could no longer live.

FLENER: Family and friends are now making funeral arrangements for Emilio while the hospital tries to comfort a mom it fought so hard in court.

REGIER: All we can do is the best that we can do and to try to treat her like we would any other family, any other mother who's lost a child.

FLENER: A child that fought so hard while others fought around him.

REGIER: There will be a sense of relief that Emilio's not suffering. WARD: At least he did die when God took him and not because his tube was pulled.

FLENER: The family lawyer says Emilio's mother will review whether to keep her lawsuit to change the law here in Texas. It's a law that says the hospital must give 10 days notice to the family before ending a patient's life. Reporting from Austin, Texas, Matt Flener, CNN.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

LEMON: At last report, those two wayward whales in California appear to be in a holding pattern amid a full scale effort to get them back to sea. Yesterday the mother whale and her calf got going in the right direction down the Sacramento River. They were nearly halfway to San Francisco this morning when they came upon a bridge and apparently lost their bearings. Coast Guard vessels and fishing boats are trying to prod them back toward the Pacific. We're expecting a Coast Guard news conference, an update at the top of the hour and we'll bring that to you when it happens in the CNN NEWSROOM.

PHILLIPS: Major progress in a manger fire fight, the wild fire burning around Lake City, Florida is about 90 percent contained. The flames for the most part are out. Many of those who fled their homes have gone back but they haven't unpacked completely in case the fire flares up again. Rob Marciano, still bone dry there and up here, I guess. Any relief in sight?

ROB MARCIANO, CNN METEOROLOGIST: Not in the near term, potentially in the long term. Right now we're dealing with the red flag warning up for the same areas that have seen the red flag warnings, meaning low humidity and gusty winds for the past really several weeks. So that continues today, might be re-issued tomorrow. Rain in Florida all of this down across the south, as a matter of fact, southern parts of Florida have seen too much rain and in some areas have seen some flooding but that's tapering off. You see the radar not showing a whole lot as we look towards the north.

Well, which areas are going to see some relief as we head toward the longer term? The forecast from NOAA, from May to August, as far as the drought monitor is concerned, we do expect to see some sort of improvement, not complete relief but improvement across the southeast and that includes Florida. Typically we start to get the pop-up afternoon thunderstorms that are typical for summer and also we head into the hurricane season. It can dump a whole lot of rain. So even though they bring damaging winds, rainfall would be very much welcomed there.

Also, some monsoon flow (ph) expected for parts of Arizona, may be some improvement but where the drought will continue or potentially amplify itself would be across so Cal and in through the inter mountain west. So those are two areas that could potentially see some really bad fires as we head through the next several months. The weather map for tomorrow shows guess what, dry air across the southeast again. This guy, a big blue H been in control. That's what's created the great weather but bad news as far as drought was concerned there and then tomorrow, with the slow-moving system heading into the plains we'll see some severe weather across the typical areas for this time of year, but pretty slow mover. It might even bring some heavy rain to areas that have already seen heavy rain, especially across the upper Mississippi and the mid Missouri River valleys so could see flooding aggravation there once again. So longer term Kyra, even though we think of hurricane season as a bad thing, hopefully it will bring some of that much-needed rain into the areas that need it, especially across northern Florida.

PHILLIPS: All right, Rob Marciano, thanks so much.

LEMON: Gas prices on an uphill slope again which has a lot of folks wondering is a hybrid worth the money? We're going to tell you. That story straight ahead in the CNN NEWSROOM.

PHILLIPS: And those wayward whales have made some encouraging moves toward safety. Let's hope they didn't blow. We'll bring you the latest coordinates, life update straight ahead in the NEWSROOM.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

LEMON: Gas prices keep going up and up and up just as fast as those drums. We heard it before. Gas prices at an all-time high, but now it is serious. We're talking all time even after adjusting for inflation. AAA calculates the average price of self-serve regular is now $3.19 a gallon. In today's dollars, the peak price from the energy crunch a quarter century ago, would be $3.15. Just a month ago, the nationwide average was $2.86. A year ago, it was $2.89.

Soaring gas prices may have you thinking hybrid. But out of the 250 million cars and trucks on the road, only 200,000 run on gas and electricity. Why? Well, Csaba Csere, editor in chief of "Car & Driver" magazine explained on CNN's "American Morning."

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CSABA CSERE, EDITOR IN CHIEF, CAR AND DRIVER: It isn't strictly a function of them catching on. Hybrids are fairly new technology and the manufacturers can only build so many of them. That's one thing. The other thing is that hybrids have now been on the market for about six years and the demand for them increases when gas prices goes up and when gas prices pull back a little bit, the demand sort of really slows down. So until the manufacturers are convinced that gas prices are going to be high forever, they're not going to gear up to build millions of hybrids.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

LEMON: However, AAA is warning that more record prices

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