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Space Shuttle Concerns; A Push to Lift Restrictions on Internet Betting in the U.S.; DUI Accidents on the Rise; President Bush Met With Pope Benedict XVI; Paris Hilton Back in Jail

Aired June 9, 2007 - 10:00   ET


T.J. HOLMES, ANCHOR, CNN NEWSROOM: From the CNN Center in Atlanta, Georgia, you're taking a peak at the CNN NEWSROOM. That is where you are. That is where we are right now on this Saturday, the 9th of June, 10 a.m. here in the East, 7 a.m. out West.
Hello to you all. I'm T.J. Holmes.

BETTY NGUYEN, ANCHOR, CNN NEWSROOM: Well, good morning, T.J. And good morning, everybody. I'm Betty Nguyen. We want to thank you for starting your day with us.

Coming up this hour, space shuttle concerns. Take a look - a tear in part of the shuttle's heat protection system. It happened during liftoff, and we are going to get the latest when we talk live with CNN's space correspondent, Miles O'Brien.

HOLMES: Plus, a push to lift restrictions on Internet betting here in the U.S. You'll hear from both sides the ongoing debate right here, and you'll hear it live.

NGUYEN: Also, a story almost lost in all the talk about Paris Hilton's jail time. DUI accidents caused by young people are on the rise, and we take a look at the numbers.

HOLMES: But first, we want to take a look at this. You're looking at a press conference happening right now in Italy. President Bush on his post-G8 swing through Europe, right now in Italy.

He had a visit with the pontiff, Pope Benedict XVI. He had that meeting earlier today. Right now having a press conference, talking to reporters there in Italy, along with the prime minister there of Italy, Romano Prodi.

We are monitoring this press conference. If we hear anything that jumps out, we'll certainly bring you some of that sound. But the president still on his, I think up to an eight-nation swing through Europe that he's had since he headed over for the G8 summit, which was in the middle of this week.

So, we're keeping an eye on that and monitoring that, and we'll bring you any news that pops out.

NGUYEN: Well, now we want to get you to the shuttle mission. NASA managers tracking a few problems after another successful launch.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And liftoff of space shuttle Atlantis, to assemble the framework for the science laboratories of tomorrow.


NGUYEN: Always an impressive sight. Don't you just love watching that take off?

Well, the space shuttle Atlantis lifted off from Kennedy Space Center Friday. Reviewing the tape, NASA noticed two problems.

See there in the bottom left-hand side of your screen? A tear in part of the shuttle's heat shield system and a couple of pieces of foam that came off during the launch. You're looking at the foam coming off right there in the bottom left.

That falling foam - well, not considered serious.


WAYNE HALE, SHUTTLE PROGRAM MANAGER, NASA: I spent a few minutes with the imagery team, reviewing the images after launch. And the preliminary word is we lost no foam off that tank prior to solid rocket motor separation. In fact, no foam lost, at least in the preliminary report, in the area of aerodynamic interest.

We did see some things come off late, as we have come to expect, from all our tanks. So, the tank performed in a magnificent way, despite having several thousand repairs done on it.


NGUYEN: This space shuttle crew plans to spend part of the day trying to get a better look at that tear in one of the shuttle's heat protection blankets.

CNN's space correspondent, Miles O'Brien, is near the Kennedy Space Center in Cocoa Beach, Florida. He joins us by phone.

Miles, we're going to put up that picture so you can walk us through how important this tear is, especially when it comes to re- entry.

MILES O'BRIEN, CNN SPACE CORRESPONDENT, COCOA BEACH, FLORIDA (by phone): Well, it certainly has NASA's attention. But I would put it in the moderate level of concern, Betty.

Take a look at that picture. It is a triangular-shaped gap, I'll say for now. It could either be bunching or tearing. It's unclear right now.

And it's about 3.5 inches long on its longest - the longest leg of that triangle, if you will. Unclear what might have caused that imperfection in that piece of blanket. But the issue here to consider is that, on a space shuttle, there are basically three general categories of tiles. There are those black tiles, which are the most heat-resistant, where the shuttle experiences the most heat, upwards of 2,000, 3,000 degrees.

There are white tiles where, on re-entry, they experience this sort of medium heat. And then there are thermal blankets like this, made of silica and woven glass, where the space shuttle experiences much less - more moderate amounts of heat.

And so, just by implication, the fact that this is covered in blanket, this part of the orbiter, indicates it doesn't experience a lot of heat there.

What we're looking at is a place right near the tail, on the left-hand side of the tail, on sort of a bump up there that is called the orbital maneuvering system.

And in past launches, in past missions, they have lost numerous tiles on those orbital maneuvering systems. This goes back to the early days of the shuttle program. The tiles fell off and the shuttle orbiters safely returned to earth.

Subsequent to losing all of those tiles, they ended up replacing many of those tiles with these thermal blankets.

So, during today's mission management team meeting, which will occur this afternoon, I'm sure this will be right at the top of their agenda. And we'll get an indication from them as to how far they want to go with this.

I'm sure what they will do is run a lot of engineering analysis to see what kind of heat they experience there, what that gap - how deep it is - whether there's actually exposure to the shuttle's skin, which is made of aluminum, and then make a decision as to if the crew can or should do anything - Betty.

NGUYEN: And just quickly, Miles, is there a fix for this in space, should they need to go that route?

O'BRIEN: Well, there isn't a blanket tool kit, per se. But there's a lot of things on the shuttle that they might be able to use and improvise, in order to try to fill that gap, if they feel that need to be done.

NGUYEN: All right. CNN's Miles O'Brien, our space correspondent, our resident space expert, as we like to call him. Miles, we thank you, as always.

O'BRIEN: You're welcome, Betty.

HOLMES: And Paris Hilton waking up in jail again this morning. This comes a day after the sheriff released the hotel heiress into home confinement.

The judge sent her back to lock-up to serve the rest of her sentence for violating probation on a reckless driving case. Now Hilton is undergoing physical and psychiatric testing.

Has justice been served? We talked about it a bit earlier with former U.S. attorney, Kendall Coffey.


KENDALL COFFEY, FORMER U.S. ATTORNEY: I would never ignore a judge's order. And what was so unusual, almost very bizarre about this case, is that, once she's in, and it's supposed to be prison time, the medical reason used, Betty, was completely off the wall.

Let's face it. Prisoners are always depressed and stressed when they're in there. But to get out on a medical excuse, it's usually something gravely ill threatening your very survival.

It isn't trying to cry your way out of jail. And I think that's what sat so badly with so many people.


HOLMES: And still ahead, the mug shot - a look at other celebrities arrested for driving under the influence. Stay tuned for that, coming up in about 35 minutes.

And we want to hear from you this morning on this story. Does Paris Hilton deserve to be back in jail? Let us know what you think about her celebrity status and how it played into all this. E-mail us at

NGUYEN: Well, a prison escape in Montana may be causing anxiety for talk show host David Letterman. One of the two escapees, Kelly Frank - you see him here - was once accused of plotting to kidnap Letterman's son. So far, no comment from Letterman about the escape.

Frank was serving a 10-year sentence for other charges, and among them, overcharging Letterman for a painting job. Prosecutors dropped the kidnap-related charges as part of a plea deal.

Corrections officials say Frank and inmate William Willcutt escaped while working on a prison ranch yesterday. Willcutt was serving time for burglary.

HOLMES: Tens of thousands were left homeless in an earthquake in China this week. Up next, a poignant look at the devastation as the victims try to get on with their lives.

NGUYEN: And a little bit later, the fight to lift restrictions on Internet gambling. Both sides of the issue in a debate. That is coming up right here in the CNN NEWSROOM.

HOLMES: And also, I want to let you know we're keeping an eye on a press conference going on right now in Italy with Romano Prodi you're seeing there, who is the Italian prime minister. And to his right is the U.S. president, President Bush, answering questions there. The president, of course, still on his European swing after going to the G8 summit in Germany. We are keeping an eye on this live press conference. We are monitoring that. We'll bring you some details from it later. Stay here.


HOLMES: Earlier this week, a 6.4 earthquake struck southwestern China. At least two people were killed and hundreds were hurt, many more left homeless. The Associated Press and Reuters sent these images of the destruction, as the Chinese government rushed in with help.


NGUYEN: Here are some stories across America for you today. In Texas, four people in custody charged with plotting to kill a Montgomery County sheriff's deputy. Police say the four planned to use an electronic tracking device and an improvised explosive to kill that deputy. They think the motive was retaliation. The deputy has previously arrested those suspects.

Now to Iowa. A woman accused of trying to trade her son to pay off a wedding dress is back in the court system. Marcy Gant withdrew her guilty plea to child endangerment charges yesterday. The judge rejected a deal that recommended probation. She faces up to 10 years if convicted.

And in New Hampshire, a babysitter is charged with reckless conduct after a toddler got into her epilepsy medication. Police say the sitter fell asleep while watching an 18-month-old and a 6-month- old baby. The toddler got into the bottle of pills, swallowed some and now is in serious condition.

Let's take you to Las Vegas. Police say a cheerleading coach has been arrested in an undercover prostitution sting. They say Esperanza Brooks - you see her here - was nabbed after agreeing to deliver three prostitutes and drugs to undercover detectives. Brooks coached cheerleading at a prep school founded by tennis star, Andre Agassi. But she was not on the faculty - T.J.

HOLMES: Well, young, professional and rich. Those are three words that could describe New York dentist, Dr. Trey Wilson, but those words don't define him. That's because he takes his practice on the road to help Kenya's poor, providing dental care to them.

And that is what makes Dr. Trey Wilson a CNN Hero.


DR. TREY WILSON, NEW YORK DENTIST: Every single one of us has that capacity to be of service to others. And I just did something about it.

I'm Trey Wilson. I live in New York City. And I provide free dental care and dental education to Kenyans. Dental care in Kenya is virtually non-existent. When I arrived in Kenya, routinely I saw in my clinic 4-year-olds with 20 teeth that needed to be extracted.

I bring a team of dentists and volunteers who provide dental care in two clinics that we have established, in Kitale, which is the fifth-largest city in Kenya.

When we arrive in the morning, there are already 400 or 500 people assembled, ready to be seen.

My organization gives patients the opportunity to have their teeth fixed. We provide dental education and we hand out toothbrushes to people.

There was a woman who waited seven hours to see me, because, she said, "I like my smile, and I won't have anything to smile about if they pull my front tooth."

I think that it would be a good idea to try to save that tooth.

She was so happy that her beauty - I mean, her beauty really came out.

Give me a hug. All right.

My life would have been a Monday-through-Friday, Madison Avenue dentist, getting in my car and driving out to the country and gardening all weekend. But I had a revelation that, with just a little bit of effort, I can make a huge impact.

All of us are far more resourceful than we ever think we are. And we have much more to give than we think that we have.


HOLMES: Do you know someone who's doing exceptional things, someone you'd like to nominate as a hero? You can find out more at

NGUYEN: Great work there.

Well, next in the NEWSROOM, there is about $12 billion spent on Internet gambling worldwide every year. But a new bill keeps U.S. players from sticking their hands in the pot. When we come back, the fight to have those restrictions lifted.

Plus, a change at the top of the military. Is it another political casualty of the Iraq war? That story next in the CNN NEWSROOM.


NGUYEN: Gas price politics coming up in 10 minutes. Big oil and its influence on Capitol Hill.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Is she handcuffed?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes, she was cuffed.


HOLMES: Paris Hilton waking up this morning in a California jail. Is this justice served or undue punishment? You are going to be allowed to weigh in right here. I'm sure you might have been talking about it already, but we're going to have some e-mails for you right here, let folks ...

NGUYEN: There's a lot of talk about that story.

HOLMES: ... sound off, if you will.

Welcome back to you all. I'm T.J. Holmes.

NGUYEN: Yes. Good morning, everybody. I'm Betty Nguyen. It is 10:30 a.m. in Washington, 6:30 p.m. in Baghdad.

So, let's start with Iraq, an attack on a U.S.-run detention facility there. It happened at Camp Bucca in southern Iraq. The U.S. military says a rocket or mortar was fired on the detention facility, killing at least six detainees and wounding 50.

Attacks on U.S.-run detention camps are rare. No American casualties were reported.

Well, military maneuvers among top brass at the Pentagon. Defense Secretary Robert Gates says he won't nominate General Peter Pace for another term as Joint Chiefs chairman. Pace's career as a political - or could become a political casualty of this Iraq war.

Pentagon correspondent, Barbara Starr, explains.


BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT, THE PENTAGON (voice- over): In the face of overwhelming public opposition to the Iraq war, Defense Secretary Robert Gates made clear he's not willing to take the heat from Congress, so he's recommending to President Bush that General Peter Pace not be re-nominated as chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, the senior military adviser to the president.

ROBERT GATES, SECRETARY OF DEFENSE: The focus of his confirmation process would have been on the past rather than the future. And further, that there was the very real prospect the process would be quite contentious.

STARR: For the last two weeks, both Democratic and Republican senators warned Gates, a confirmation hearing would turn into a referendum on the conduct of the war.

GATES: I wish that that were not the case. I wish it were not necessary to make a decision like this. But I think it's a realistic appraisal of where we are.

STARR: Pace gave no hint of what was in the works, just a day before the secretary's announcement.

GEN. PETER PACE, CHAIRMAN, JOINT CHIEFS OF STAFF: But I will serve the nation as long as the nation wants me to serve.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes, sir. Has there been any decision?

PACE: You're asking the wrong guy.

STARR: Military and congressional sources say it's unclear if Pace would have been confirmed. But the political debate about the war and the rising death rate for U.S. troops now casts a long shadow.

Even the general nominated to be President Bush's Iraq adviser had a grim outlook this week.

LT. GEN. DOUGLAS LUTE, PRESIDENTIAL ADVISER NOMINEE: Where are we today? Not where any of us would like. Especially in Iraq, progress has been too little and too slow.

STARR: Admiral Michael Mullen will be nominated now as the next chairman of the Joint Chiefs, and take office just as the military's assessment of the war is expected.

STARR (on camera): In addition to the war, sources say General Pace was facing two significant problems with Congress - his recent statements that he believes homosexual behavior is immoral, and a letter he wrote to the judge in the Scooter Libby case attesting to Mr. Libby's character.

Barbara Starr, CNN, the Pentagon.


HOLMES: President Bush is in Italy this morning, a meeting with Pope Benedict XVI highlighting the latest stop on the president's post-G8 swing through Europe. Also, meeting with Italy's president and a G8 follow-up with the prime minister.

CNN White House correspondent, Suzanne Malveaux, joins us once again live from Rome.

Hello, again, Suzanne.


We just saw President Bush meeting with Prime Minister Prodi, wrapping up their discussions here, both of them really stressing the common ground that they have when it comes to this missile defense shield program that's been talked about and their standoff, essentially, with Russia, as well as taking on terrorism and other issues of importance, particularly talking about the need for Iran to remain nuclear-free. What was interesting, however, about the press conference really was when the president started talking about his conversation that he had with the pope earlier. The two of them - it's the first time that they've met. It was a very warm greeting publicly. You can see the two of them.

But it was very interesting, because the pope had some very sharp words to say about what they call their worries, their concerns about what's happening in Iraq.


GEORGE W. BUSH, U.S. PRESIDENT: He did express deep concern about the Christians inside Iraq, that he was concerned that the society that was evolving would not tolerate the Christian religion, and I assured him we're working hard to make sure that people lived up to the constitution, that modern constitution voted on by the people that would honor people from different walks of life and different attitudes.


MALVEAUX: T.J., that's the main concern the pope has, the Vatican put out a statement saying essentially it was worrying situation in Iraq and critical conditions being experienced by Christian communities.

Clearly it's the sectarian violence they feel that the Christians, a very small minority there. However, being targeted by these extremists so that is something that both of them talked about, very interested in that subject. President Bush also tried to emphasize some of the positive things talking about the aid to Africa as well as working on combating HIV and malaria and poverty as well.

HOLMES: Suzanne, it's certainly been a long and at times interesting trip. When is he wrapping up? Is he pretty much done? What's next for the president?

MALVEAUX: Next is Albania, so he'll be home in a couple of days, T.J.

HOLMES: All right. We will see you all when you get home. Suzanne Malveaux, thank you so much.

NGUYEN: Well, another topic here, gas prices hovering around $3 a gallon most of the year. Questions about what Congress is going to do to fix it. Some answers for you in the NEWSROOM.

HOLMES: And then a little later, are we missing the message here in the Paris Hilton story? A look at celebrities and DUI accidents still ahead. Also, got an online debate coming up for you. Online gambling. Some say the U.S. should allow it and regulate it. Others say it should still be banned. We have got both sides of the issue coming up in a live debate. Stick around.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) NGUYEN: All right. Let's talk big oil and political influence. Higher prices at the pump, Capitol Hill, getting the message, but is it from Main Street or corporate headquarters? CNN's Bill Tucker reports.


BILL TUCKER, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): As sure as gas prices rise, voters get angry and members of congress gather. Hearings are convened, testimony taken, and nothing gets done. Skeptics point to the money that big oil spends lobbying Congress.

TYSON SLOCUM, PUBLIC CITIZEN: The oil industry still has influence even though historically the oil industry's been fairly partisan, 80 percent of their contributions since 2001 have gone to Republicans, and I think that the oil industry is probably giving more money over the last couple of months to Democrats than it historically has.

TUCKER: Since 1990 big oil has spent more than $200 million on Congress. It's money well spent. Since June of 1997, the price of a gallon of gas has risen from about $1.26 a gallon to $3.20 per gallon at the beginning of June. That's an increase of 154 percent, dwarfing the nominal wage growth during that time of only 39 percent.

GEOFF SUNDSTROM, AMERICAN AUTOMOBLE ASSOCIATION: People are angry when they see these prices go up. They're concerned about their ability to pay now for the fuel as well as in the future.

TUCKER: Which is why they call their members of Congress, prompting hearings and good speeches about the impact on working Americans and on oil company profits.

REP. ELIJAH CUMMINGS, (D) MD: The people sitting in this room may not but a lot of Americans are pinching pennies and a lot of those pennies are falling into those billions upon billions of dollars that these companies are making.

TUCKER: The bill is in the Senate now and President Bush promises a veto should it pass. Calling it a form of price control. Bill Tucker, CNN, New York.


HOLMES: Congress was not loving last year when it passed a bill effectively banning online gambling in the U.S., but Congressman Barney Frank wants to deal the betting industry a new hand. Frank says the ban is too harsh and that legitimate businesses ought to have a stake in an estimated $12 billion annual pot worldwide.

Well, here is an example of some of the online wagering going on right now. Odds are two to one that Tony Soprano will get killed off in Sunday's series ender on HBO. And then there's the other side of this story.

Greg Hogan Jr. has become the poster child really, if you will, for online gambling gone amuck. Eighteen months ago faced with a huge online gambling debt police say this Lehigh University student robbed a bank to get the money. Logan is part of the 18 to 24-year-old age group experts say is at greatest risk of gambling addiction.

Hogan is now serving a prison sentence for robbing that bank. His father, Greg Hogan Sr., joins us now live from Kansas City, Missouri. Also with us from Las Vegas is the president of the Poker Players' Alliance, Michael Bolcerek.

Both are here to talk about whether the ban on online gambling should be lifted. First, let's explain what the current ban includes. The bill bans the use of credit cards, electronic funds, checks, and other financial instruments in Internet gambling transactions so if you can't pay for it online that effectively ends online gambling in the U.S. Exempt from these rules are horse racing and lotteries.

Of course that does ban it essentially but we all know there are certain ways of people getting around it with different types of services out there. Mr. Bolcerek I will start with you, and Mr. Hogan, I know how you feel about it and I know you think gambling online is dangerous.

Mr. Bolcerek, do you agree, though, that, yes, online gambling can be dangerous and cause problems for a lot of folks and can be addictive?

MICHAEL BOLCEREK, POKER PLAYERS' ALLIANCE: Absolutely. We are concerned about addiction to Internet gambling and gambling in general. Three to four percent of Americans have a problem with gambling. There is no doubt about it.

What is the best way to approach that? We think through licensing and regulation. That's the right way to go. Prohibition -- Keith White with National Council of Problem Gambling said the prohibition that passed will do nothing or is unlikely they will help any of the problem gamblers out there.

What Congressman Frank offers is an ability to create licensed regulated Internet gaming with safeguards.

HOLMES: Mr. Hogan, do you understand that logic at all to say, hey, if you open it up and you actually regulate it, you put some rules in place to have more eyes on it, it's under federal regulation, then you can help more people out because it's not just a free-for-all out there, at least there are rules? Do you see some sense in that?

REV. GREG. HOGAN SR., FATHER OF GAMBLING ADDICT: Good morning, T.J. Yes. I understand the logic behind that, and what we're talking about here is I believe in our culture we have set up a precedent that a person has to physically appear somewhere to be able to gamble. And that puts a lot of safeguards that online gambling cannot.

The person has to physically appear at a casino. They have a physical limit that they cannot be in there so long without actually passing out. My son was gambling up to 12 to 14 hours online at a time and in his dorm room and it just kept on going and going and going.

HOLMES: So sir, do you not trust those safeguards will work? If they can give some guarantees or the best they can, give guarantees that, hey, we'll make sure people are of age, we'll make sure that once you lose so much money you can't place anymore bets, some of those things could cut down. Do you not trust that those rules are going to work?

HOGAN: I do not trust the technology. Two weeks ago I had a $4,000 charge on my credit card for a computer I did not order. All of us have had those experiences so how can we say that I'm sitting in a place here in Kansas City and that somehow the Internet can verify that I am here.

The testimony was given before Congress this week that one man took his computer from Baltimore -- I'm sorry, from Boston to Washington and the computer showed that he was in four different cities and none of them was the two he was in.

HOLMES: Well, Mr. Bolcerek, do you think the rules, those laws, can work? I mean, people have all kinds of ways of getting around technology and the rules are going to end up being broken if you open it up like this no matter how much you try to promise that, hey, we can regulate this thing.

BOLCEREK: We do. We think the technology has progressed to a stage where it can be done. We know there's a company called Quova (ph) that provides location information with regard to where -- and Pricewaterhousecooper said 99.9 percent of the time they can determine where exactly you are.

There are age verifications in place that are being used by the largest poker operators in the world. It's being licensed and regulated in the United Kingdom and in Spain, in South Africa.

HOLMES: Sir, why not just leave it how it is and just enforce the law that we have and get tighter? Why can't we just leave the ban in place? That's not hurting anybody. Some people out there, sure, are still trying to do it and trying to get around it. But if we just continue to enforce it and keep the ban in place, isn't that the best way to go?

BOLCEREK: Well, there are 96 percent of people who can gamble responsibly. I think they should have some voice in this discussion. That's the first point. The second point is that it will go somewhere. Problem gamblers are not going to be helped by this. If you actually create a licensed regulated environment, you can enforce your restrictions. You can educate those members on how to spot problems that they might have in gambling and get it treated.

HOLMES: And Mr. Hogan, do you think any kind of regulation would have helped your son and please give us the update on your son. Will he end up -- I think it was 10 years. Will he have to serve all that? How is he doing now?

HOGAN: Well, thank you for asking about my son. Gregory's prison sentence was 22 months to 10 years and in Pennsylvania a good portion, 90 percent of the inmates get out with the minimum sentence so that's what we're anticipating happening and he is -- we sent him to a gambling rehab center right after his arrest and he is on the road to recovery so thank you for asking.

About the issue of the regulation, I am not advocating that we outlaw any kind of gamble that has not been illegal in this country since 1961. The Federal Wire Act of '61 is what really outlaws Internet gambling. And I just personally feel that part of the safeguards of gambling is having to show up somewhere and gamble personally. And that is a big step.

If my son had to get in a car, he could not have walked into the casinos in Atlantic City because he was under 21. They would not have let him in.

HOLMES: And of course you know, I wish we could have gotten into this more, but the question out there personal responsibility as well. I know it makes it easy for a lot of people to argue, you know, you have a responsibility, you have a choice to make those decisions but the argument on the other side is, hey, you put it in a face like that, you're kind of teasing them and taunting them and not everybody is strong enough to deal with it.

So gentlemen, Gregory Hogan, sir, thank you for your time and sharing your story. Certainly a painful time for you and your family with your son. And also Mr. Michael Bolcerek, we appreciate your time. I know it's a heated issue, a passionate issue for both sides. And we appreciate both of you sharing your views this morning.

BOLCEREK: Thank you, T.J.

HOGAN: Thank you. I appreciate talking with you.

NGUYEN: That was a good discussion.

Here is another heated issue. All that fuss about whether or not Paris Hilton should or should not serve her sentence.

HOLMES: Is that the real issue? Is that really what we should be talking about?

NGUYEN: Well, we're talking about it. Up next some eye popping numbers about DUI accidents and youngsters. Now that's the issue. People heavily influenced by celebrities. The story next in the CNN NEWSROOM.



UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Are you all right?


HOLMES: We hope, we hope Tony is going to be all right. The question is going to be answered once and for all tomorrow on HBO. America will find out if Tony Soprano survives the season finale of the TV mob series coming up here with us 9:00 Eastern on CNN SUNDAY MORNING. We'll look at the powerful impact the show has had on pop culture.

NGUYEN: Well, from television to real life, the rich and the famous. When they get into trouble, it sparks public interest but some recent arrests are also triggering outrage. CNN's Carol Costello reports the Paris Hilton saga puts the spotlight on the perils of drinking and driving.


CAROL COSTELLO, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): It is a celebrity driven circus, one that's caused angst for news organizations with some poking fun at Paris Hilton's saga.


COSTELLO: And others like NBC's Brian Williams who blogged, "She won't make the broadcast tonight."

But for Mothers Against Drunk Driving, Paris Hilton's saga should make the news. Her face should be plastered on every newspaper across the country because her crime is more than Hollywood driven gossip. It highlights the most prolific violent crime in our country, drunk driving.

GLYNN BIRCH, MADD NATIONAL PRESIDENT: The deaths should be going down.

COSTELLO: But they've been going up. Deaths caused by drunk drivers are at an all-time high since 1992. Nearly 18,000 nationwide killed in 2006 alone. And who is most at fault? According to the government, people 20 to 29 years old. The very group, says MADD, influenced by celebrity behavior.

Consider this -- we did a quick check and found in just the last year and a half at least 16 celebrities were arrested for DUI. Hard to understand when all of them can afford limousines to drive them around. But like all who get behind the wheel allegedly drunk ...

BIRCH: They know what they're doing. It's just no one thinks it's ever going to happen to them.

COSTELLO: There are jurisdictions trying to break people of that mindset. In Long Island, New York, the prosecutor Kathleen Rice considers drunk drivers criminals. Her change in attitude came after this horrific crash captured by a dashboard camera.

A drunk driving the wrong way on the highway slammed into a limousine carrying the Flynns. Their little girl, Katie, was decapitated. Prosecutor Rice charged the drunk driver with murder. He was convicted.

(on camera): Hilton's original sentence was 36 months probation, a $1,500 fine, and alcohol education. MADD says that's a pretty normal sentence and not nearly enough for a first-time offender. Carol Costello, CNN, New York.


HOLMES: And we've been asking for your opinion on this story all morning. Here is some of what you had to say.

First, "As the widow of a great man killed by a drunken driver, I am horrified by the antics of Miss Hilton and her inability to take seriously the fact that she was endangering herself and many others by driving under the influence of alcohol. Her cavalier attitude and obvious lack of parental discipline is appalling and should not be tolerated by society or the criminal justice system.

NGUYEN: Lewis writes, "Paris Hilton may have received a stiffer sentence than the average person, but she is not average. She and all the other Hollywood misfits should be held to a higher standard because they should set the example for the younger generation and not be immune from wrongdoings."

HOLMES: And this we got from Tim. "I believe your coverage of the situation is way too biased in her favor. Almost 18,000 people are killed each year by drunken drivers and a majority of those drivers are between 20 and 29 years of age. Just like poor, pampered, Paris. Boo-hoo."

And we get the sarcasm.

NGUYEN: Larry says, "Paris Hilton should be released and all charges dropped. This farce must come to an end. The judge should face some sanction for excessive stupidity in giving her a huge sentence just because she is a celebrity. All should be equal in the eyes of the law."

HOLMES: All right, Larry.

And, "At this point my friends and I are watching the Paris saga like one would watch Comedy Central. The spectacle, not Paris anymore, it's the media. DUI and court injustices happen every single day."

That's from April in Ft. Lauderdale. Thank you all.

NGUYEN: Yes, thank you. And we got hundreds upon hundreds of e- mails. A lot of people talking about this story and of course we'll be following it.

So keeping your kids safe this summer at the pool. Coming up in just three minutes, tools that you can buy today to protect your children.

HOLMES: And I know you have pondered this before. Why penguins' feet don't freeze.

NGUYEN: That's a good question. HOLMES: Or why your skin wrinkles after you've been in the water. We'll talk live with the author of a new fascinating book. For answers to those questions and other quirky life mysteries.


HOLMES: Well, we knew this had to happen eventually. Pimp my scooter. Elderly people in electric scooters showing everyone who has the baddest and the fattest in the hood.

NGUYEN: In the hood. That really looks like the hood there. Well about 50 seniors battle it out for bragging rights in a park this week in Tel Aviv, Israel. They tore up the turf in five heats at speeds approaching a blistering, are you ready, 10 miles per hour.

HOLMES: Slow down, people. Slow down. That's what we have to look forward to, Betty. Yes.

NGUYEN: The days are coming, aren't they? Do some living before that.

HOLMES: Truly one of the most important stories this week you probably did not hear about, wireless electricity accomplished by, who else? Those smart guys at MIT. They are going to be seen in this video we hope to show you an amazing contraption that lights up a 60 watt bulb seven feet away and pretty sure that is not a bulb and that is not the right story.

NGUYEN: Here is what it does and here is what all that means that the end of power cords and outlets and even batteries no more because, in other words one day the devices like cell phones, laptops and iPods will not need to be recharged because they'll draw power from out of thin air.

HOLMES: So the folks at MIT, good work.

NGUYEN: We'll turn green in the meantime. That's OK. We'll have wireless power.

Well, why do Cheerios always stick to the side of the bowl? Have you ever noticed that? And "Why Don't Penguins' Feet Freeze?" Have you ever asked that question? Maybe you haven't but it's interesting now that you think about it, right? Well we have got the answer to these and many more quirky questions with the author of a new book. That's coming up at 11:00 a.m.

HOLMES: Then coming up at noon Eastern, new information on that strange case out of Connecticut. A 15-year-old girl who disappeared a year ago found this week in a small locked, hidden room of a house. We talk to a reporter who is covering the case about a new twist in that investigation.

Time for us to take a look at what's coming up Monday on AMERICAN MORNING and see some of the top stories from the previous week. Kiran Chetry in New York, good morning to you, ma'am. KIRAN CHETRY, CNN HOST: Hi, T.J., always great to see you. Well, coming up Monday, we'll be picking up where the debates this week left off taking a look at the candidates and one of the big issues, the war on terror. Who is best to lead that fight?

This week we also showed you the land fight going on in Shanksville, Pennsylvania. Families say this is sacred ground. This is where passengers brought down United Flight 93 before it could fly into a building in Washington, D.C. They say the landowner is demanding millions to sell it.

We heard from the families and we also talked exclusively with the landowner on AMERICAN MORNING.


MIKE SVONAVEC, FLIGHT 93 CRASH SITE LANDOWNER: The way the process works is it doesn't matter what I demand or what I estimate for the property. The Park Service is required under their rules to evaluate the property, develop a value and that's what they're allowed to present to me.

CHETRY: What do you have to say for what he's saying right now which is that he's not making any demands on your organization or the park service?

ED ROOT, PRESIDENT, FAMILIES OF FLIGHT 93: Well, what he said in the technical sense is true as far as the process goes. But the Park Service has already made one offer to him previously which he rejected and the family organization has made what we consider to be a more than fair offer for his property and he rejected that, also. He wouldn't even really talk to us about it.


HOLMES: So what happens now?

CHETRY: Well, the families are saying this memorial can't be built until they solve this land dispute, until they get it settled. So we will keep you posted on that.

HOLMES: And we will tune in for it. Also, of course, it's that time of year. We saw consumer reporter Greg Hunter's piece on keeping kids safe around the pool for the summer.

We got a pretty good response to that we could imagine. Everybody's hopping into pools right now.

CHETRY: That's right. A lot of people were glad to see this. Greg talked to a family who had to deal with the unimaginable loss of their little girl Lexie (ph). She fell into a pool and drowned last summer.

Well, now her parents have actually started a charity. They want to help other families avoid this same tragedy. They are handing out special alarms that sends out a piercing sound to let you know if a child falls into a pool. Let's take a look at what Greg found.


GREG HUNTER, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Here is how they work. When a weight of 15 pounds or more falls into the pool, like this doll, a sensor triggers a high-pitched sound.

Other safety measures to consider, an automatic cover and a fence around the pool with a self latching gate.

And even an alarm on the back door signaling that a child has gone outside. But parents still must keep a sharp eye out and remember drowning can happen quickly.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Drowning is a silent act. Parents often think that they're going to hear screaming or splashing or cries for help but that's not actually true.



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