Return to Transcripts main page

AMERICAN MORNING

Airports Warned: Possible Dry Runs for Attack; Florida Dealing Cards to Inmates to Help Solve Crimes; Peanut Allergies

Aired July 25, 2007 - 06:59   ET

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


(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)
JOHN ROBERTS, CNN ANCHOR (voice over): Security alert. A new warning to the nation's airports about possible dry runs for a terror attack. A phone charger, icepacks and blocks of cheese trigger the concern.

Why those harmless objects are raising eyebrows on this AMERICAN MORNING.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

ROBERTS: An important story to tell you about this morning.

And good morning, welcome back. It's Wednesday, the 25th of July, on this AMERICAN MORNING.

I'm John Roberts.

KIRAN CHETRY, CNN ANCHOR: And I'm Kiran Chetry.

Airport security officers across the country are on alert this morning. The Transportation Security Administration telling workers to be on the lookout for people who may be trying to make these dry runs for a terrorist attack. The government says that some suspicious-looking items packaged to look like bombs have been seized at four airports since last September.

CNN's Keith Oppenheim is live at General Mitchell International. That's in Milwaukee, and that's where one of these suspicious packages was found.

Good morning, Keith.

KEITH OPPENHEIM, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Good morning, Kiran. And TSA officials are very busy behind me at the security line checking tickets here at security.

CNN got hold of a very interesting memo from a government source. It's a TSA memo, and the question is whether or not this memo is really just general information-sharing, kind of routine stuff between law enforcement officials, or is it some indication that bad guys have been planning an attack by checking on security at airports?

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) OPPENHEIM (voice over): The TSA bullet was meant for law enforcement and it had an alarmist tone. It read, "A Surge in recent suspicious incidents at U.S. airports may indicate terrorists are conducting pre-attack security probes and dry runs similar to dress rehearsals."

The memo cited four confiscations at four airports dating back to last fall, and in each case suggesting what was found may have been meant to resemble a bomb.

September 16th, Baltimore. Agents find a checked bag with a block of cheese connected to a cell phone charger.

November 8th, Houston. Inside a passenger's checked bag, a plastic bag with a 9-volt batteries, wires and a block of clay.

June 4th, Milwaukee. A carry-on bag contains a wire coil around an electrical switch, three tubes and two blocks of cheese.

And July 5th, San Diego. A checked bag contains duct tape around two icepacks filled with clay.

The bullet went on to say some of these incidents led the TSA to evacuation terminals, but ultimately the investigation had not linked passengers carrying these items with terrorist organizations. It read, "However, most passengers' explanations for carrying the suspicious items were questionable, and some investigations are still ongoing."

(END VIDEOTAPE)

OPPENHEIM: Kiran, in response to these news reports about this bulletin, TSA officials have been downplaying the idea of imminent danger. First of all, they say that there have been 90 similar unclassified bulletins in the last six months, all part of routine information-sharing to keep front-line law enforcement officials on alert. And about this specific bulletin, officials say that there is no intelligence that indicates a specific or credible threat to the homeland -- Kiran.

CHETRY: Did you get any detail -- it's interesting -- about what the explanations were, I mean, for some of these things like a cell phone battery attached to some wires and a block of cheese? I mean, what would be the justification for many of the people questioned?

OPPENHEIM: You know, not really. I mean, at this point, what we're getting is just sort of the bottom-line information, which is that these people have been questioned. They haven't been linked to criminal organizations.

I mean, it certainly doesn't sound like good things to be taking through security either in a checked bag or in a carry-on, but so far, officially, we have not heard that any of these people have been arrested or that are under direct suspicion for being a terrorist.

CHETRY: Interesting. Keith Oppenheim live for us in Milwaukee.

Thank you.

ROBERTS: And there's more troubling news about the potential for terrorism this morning. The man in charge of preventing an attack in the United States says he sees a growing threat from al Qaeda here.

Air Force general Victor Renuart, the head of the U.S. Northern Command, says he thinks that terror cells are probably either already here, or people are working to create them. He is also calling for two more military units to be trained to respond to a nuclear, chemical or biological attack.

Massachusetts senator John Kerry is blasting President Bush. Kerry says the president is trying to scare Americans about al Qaeda.

The president yesterday said that Al Qaeda in Iraq has strong connections to the al Qaeda run by Osama bin Laden, and leaving Iraq without defeating them would be disastrous for America. Kerry says the president's logic is flawed and he is "putting forth a false rationale for continuing the war."

And in Great Britain, new prime minister Gordon Brown is considering extending the amount of time that a terrorism suspect can be held without being charged. Brown wants to double that period to 56 days. It's just one part of his new counterterrorism plan.

CHETRY: Well, this just in to CNN. A deadly plane crash in Alaska.

The Coast Guard says that a sightseeing plane went down in the mountains shortly after the aircraft sent out a distress signal. The pilot and four passengers were killed. They were touring the area while their cruise ship was docked. They were on the second day of a seven-day roundtrip cruise from Seattle.

Also new this morning, what we have learned from the Walter Reed scandal, if anything. President Bush will soon find out.

The Commission on Troop Care will submit its recommendations to the White House today. The president created the panel after horrid conditions were uncovered at the Walter Reed Army Medical Center. The report will not assign any blame.

And more flooding problems in England this morning, where the water levels have been rising now in Oxford for several hours. Hundreds of homes in the area had to be evacuated overnight after the Thames River broke its banks.

There's also a massive operation under way right now to get drinking water to people cut off because of the flooding. Three hundred fifty thousand people still don't have running water. Emergency crews say it could be at least two weeks to get that water up and running and fully restored. To Thailand now and an overnight race to higher ground. Thousands of people in coastal towns took part in a tsunami evacuation drill. Again, it was just a drill this morning.

Officials testing a new network of warning sirens. The system started coming together after the 2004 tsunami which killed more than 8,000 people in Thailand alone.

ROBERTS: Coming up now to seven minutes after the hour. There are other important stories that we're following for you this morning with our AMERICAN MORNING team of correspondents.

A creative way to deal with cold cases in Florida.

Alina Cho joins us now with the details on that.

What is that all about?

ALINA CHO, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, John, it's really interesting. Who could forget those infamous playing cards of Iraq's most wanted? Well, this new idea was modeled after that one, but with a big twist.

Now, Florida's Department of Law Enforcement and other state agencies have printed decks of playing cards, but they feature photos of missing persons and homicide victims. Now, after a test run in one county, starting this week, those playing cards will be distributed in prisons all over the state. The idea is that prisoners may be the best people to help solve a crime.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BILL MCCOLLUM, FLORIDA ATTORNEY GENERAL: Other criminals tend to talk about their crimes, brag to their fellow inmates at some time or another.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CHO: They're trying to solve 104 cold cases in the state of Florida, and there is evidence that this actually works.

Now, one case dating back to 2004 was cracked after an inmate saw a playing card and remembered that someone he knew confessed to the crime. But it wasn't until he saw the card that he believed that the crime actually occurred. The information eventually led to the arrest of two people involved in that murder.

Now, Florida is the first state to implement those cards. We'll have to see whether it catches on.

And what's interesting, John, though some people might think it's insensitive to solve crimes these ways, we're told that family members are generally on board and they support the idea.

ROBERTS: Bill McCollum has been effective in the past. Perhaps this will be effective as well. Alina Cho, thanks very much.

CHO: You bet.

ROBERTS: Rob Marciano is in the CNN weather center watching the continued flooding in Texas for us this morning.

(WEATHER REPORT)

ROBERTS: There might be some good news this morning for people allergic to peanuts. This could be very big news, and our Elizabeth Cohen is looking into this one.

Good morning, Elizabeth.

ELIZABETH COHEN, CNN MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: Good morning, Elizabeth. Good morning, John, rather. I'm Elizabeth. Sorry.

Even if you don't have a peanut allergy, you probably know someone who does. Three million Americans are allergic to peanuts.

Well, researchers at North Carolina A&T State University say that they have come up with an allergy-free peanut. They say they've figured out a way to take the allergen out.

Now, they haven't tested this in human beings yet, but they did do something interesting. They tested it on the blood of people who are allergic to peanuts, and they said that they saw no allergic reaction.

Now, this is still very, very far away from actually being on your grocery store shelves, if ever. There's a chance, of course, that this might now work out when they do further rounds of testing. But they definitely need to do more testing to make sure that they really do have a completely allergy-free peanut -- John.

ROBERTS: Does it taste the same, or is it sort of like decaffeinated coffee, which never tastes the same as real coffee?

COHEN: No, they say that it does taste the same. They say that you cannot tell the difference between the two.

ROBERTS: Wow. It could be very good news.

Elizabeth Cohen...

COHEN: Thanks.

ROBERTS: ... thanks for the update on that -- Kiran.

CHETRY: Well, things are certainly heating up between Democratic candidates Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama.

On Monday night, the two disagreed over how each would handle countries that the U.S. has tense relationships with if he or she were elected president. That disagreement, which wasn't as evident on stage, spilled over into the post-debate world.

And slate.com chief political correspondent John Dickerson joins me now to talk more about it.

Good to see you again, John.

Now, the controversy springs from the question that one of the YouTube submissions -- submitters asked, which was whether Obama would be willing to meet without precondition with the leaders of Iran, Syria, Venezuela, Cuba and North Korea.

So let's listen to what he said and how Hillary Clinton responded.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. BARACK OBAMA (D-IL), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: One of the first things that I would do in terms of moving a diplomatic effort in the region forward is to send a signal that we need to talk to Iran and Syria because they're going to have responsibilities if Iraq collapses.

SEN. HILLARY RODHAM CLINTON (D-NY), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: It is not that you promise a meeting at that high a level before you know what the intentions are. I don't want to be used for propaganda purposes.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CHETRY: John, why was this the moment, out of a two-plus-hour debate that's been seized upon now in the source of controversy?

JOHN DICKERSON, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, in part, it's the moment because the Clinton campaign is pushing it as the moment. The Obama campaign is pushing their own moment, another time in the debate where Obama referred to Hillary Clinton's Iraq war vote. And the Obama camp is making the case that she didn't show the judgment then. The Clinton campaign is making the case that Obama isn't showing the right kind of judgment now.

This is all about the central question about which of the two of them would be the better commander in chief.

CHETRY: Right. And so when you say it's what Hillary Clinton's camp is pushing, how does this work? Because it really is fascinating, this circulation of memos that takes place to political reporters. And is this how news then bubbles up to the surface?

DICKERSON: Here's how it started. The Obama campaign put out a press release and said, hey, pay attention to this part of the debate in which Obama looked like the commander in chief, and then the Clinton folks responded. They had a conference call in which former secretary of state Madeleine Albright talked to reporters, and the two candidates themselves increased the bickering level by shooting at each other in an interview in Iowa.

And so that's the way it escalated. And now it's sort of the biggest, most volatile spat between the two we've seen so far.

CHETRY: Right. It will be interesting to see who perhaps comes out on top politically, because he was able to also liken her policy of not speaking unconditionally to leaders to the Bush administration's current policy, something, of course, very unpopular with Democrats.

DICKERSON: It is quite unpopular. That's a stretch, to equate it with that, in the same way it's a stretch for the Clinton campaign to pretend that Obama has got an overnight bag and he's ready to go to Tehran.

So, they are both reaching here, which gives you a sense how close the fight is between the two and how much they want to score points and not let the other person score points on this question of which of them can handle this dangerous world we're in.

CHETRY: Yes. Happening early, and it's certainly happening in a very, very interesting way this early in the campaign.

John Dickerson, always great to see you. Thanks.

DICKERSON: Thank you.

ROBERTS: Coming up to 14 minutes after the hour.

Some kiddy criminals top your "Quick Hits" now.

Two boys were caught on camera breaking into a Target store. They used a sledgehammer to get in the front of the building. They then headed right to the video game department using the sledgehammer again to get into the case and take one game.

Police wouldn't say what the game was. The kids, obviously, wanted it, though. They could be as young as 11 years old.

And a spike in the price of metals is triggering a spike in crime. Across the country, more people are ripping gutters off of homes and selling them for their copper. They're also swiping manhole covers, beer kegs and air conditioners. Why? Because they all contain a trace amount of platinum, another metal worth good money these days.

The U.S. and Iran go head to head in rare talks. The topic? The security situation in Iraq. So is diplomacy working?

We're going to take a closer look when AMERICAN MORNING comes back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

CHETRY: Welcome back to AMERICAN MORNING.

A geyser of oil topping your "Quick Hits" now.

Officials in Canada say crews are working on a road near Vancouver that hit the Trans Mountain oil pipeline. And we should take a picture of this bigger so you can just see how it looks.

The oil ran through a neighborhood, prompting some evacuations. It eventually -- and this is bad news -- ran into the sea. They still don't have any good numbers on just how many gallons of oil spilled there.

But, wow, you don't have to know that to know it was quite a mess.

The owners of a refinery in Coffeyville, Kansas, are offering to buy more than 300 homes damaged by flood and oil. A tank at its refinery spilled 71,000 gallons of crude during record flooding that devastated a town last month. The city says the program would speed up recovery efforts and help families get back on track.

And the power is back on now in San Francisco this morning. But yesterday, boy, what a mess after power surges knocked it out to 51,000 homes and businesses in the city. And also south of San Francisco. It also knocked out service to some of the big Web sites, including's Craigslist, SecondLife and Technorati.

ROBERTS: Iran this morning says it is considering more talks with the United States at a level higher than yesterday's meeting between ambassadors. There were several heated exchanges in that meeting in Baghdad, mostly over the U.S. charge that Iran is training and supporting terrorists in Iraq.

Here is U.S. ambassador to Iraq Ryan Crocker.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

AMB. RYAN CROCKER, U.S. AMBASSADOR TO IRAQ: Over the roughly two months since our last meeting, we've actually seen militia-related activity that can be attributed to Iranian support go up and not down.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ROBERTS: So, is there any hope that the Iranians will cooperate on improving security in Iraq? State Department spokesman Sean McCormack joins me now.

Good morning, Sean. Good to see you again.

SEAN MCCORMACK, STATE DEPT. SPOKESMAN: Good morning, John.

ROBERTS: So, do these talks make any headway?

MCCORMACK: Well, as Ryan said, that they were full and frank, which is diplomatic speak for they were pretty tough. We'll see. The proof is going to be on the ground, John.

Ryan, in that little clip you just showed, mentioned that the sectarian violence sponsored by Iran hasn't gotten any better. What we're looking for is a change in their behavior. They say they want strategic stability in Iraq. Now is their opportunity to follow through with actions. ROBERTS: So these charges that Iranian activity is up and not down since the first meeting was met with denials and counter- accusations by the Iranians, calling it lies and propaganda.

What evidence do you have that the activity is actually up?

MCCORMACK: Well, we've actually provided quite a bit of this evidence in public. Our folks on the ground, the military, have provided evidence of rockets, various other technologies that were used in the EFP networks in terms of wiring. We've captured people that were involved in these networks. So they know full well the fact that they are involved in these activities. Now they just need to stop them.

ROBERTS: Sean, could you get them to stop by talking to them? Or do you need to see something a little more robust to get the job done?

MCCORMACK: Well, that's a good point. We're actually operating on a few different levels here, John.

You saw yesterday the diplomatic engagement. That's the part the State Department is doing, trying to talk to them and tell them they have a strategic interesting in seeing a stable Iraq.

We're also addressing this on a military front. Our military every single day is going after these networks, going after these militias, patrolling along the border and intercepting some of the materials, as well as people, who are involved in these networks.

Now, that's a tough job and we don't think we're going to be able to do it fully just with the military. That's why we have this diplomatic effort as well.

ROBERTS: Sean, Senator Joe Lieberman says that there is more than enough evidence there to justify an attack on Iraq. What do you say?

MCCORMACK: Well, John, that is obviously a decision that the president of the United States has to make. And his decision, at this point, is that we are going to try to engage the Iranians diplomatically.

We believe that there is some room to engage diplomatically to try to convince them to change their behavior, as well as engaging them on the ground. We're not just sitting here in talks waiting for something to happen. We are actively engaged on the ground trying to stop this.

ROBERTS: All right. Well, good luck to you. That security committee has been set up. We'll see if that leads anyway.

Sean McCormack, State Department spokesman.

Always good to see you, Sean. It's been a while.

MCCORMACK: Yes, good to see you, John.

ROBERTS: All right. Thanks for coming in.

CHETRY: Well, a top lender says the housing slump is with us until at least 2009, and warns even homeowners with good credit could have trouble making their payments.

Ali Velshi is going to break it all down for us coming up next on AMERICAN MORNING.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

CHETRY: Twenty-four minutes past the hour. Ali Velshi "Minding Your Business" right now.

And it's a scary trend, the housing slump and how it's affecting people with good credit making these payments.

ALI VELSHI, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes. This is what started to set the market off yesterday.

We had this 226-point drop on the Dow, and it started with Countrywide Financial, which is the nation's largest mortgage lender. The CEO saying in a conference call that the housing market is falling, in his words, almost like never before, with the exception of the Great Depression. He says that you're not going to even see a recovery in this housing market -- obviously, depending on where you are in the country -- until 2009.

Now, the CEO of Toll Brothers, another big builder, had earlier said -- I think it was last month -- he said that spring of 2008 you'll start to see a recovery. The CEO of Countrywide says 2009.

Here's the interesting thing. We know about this subprime crisis. We know that people with bad credit have been unable to make their increased payments because their rates are much higher. Twenty percent of people with poor credit are missing their payments in June.

Here is the interesting part. Five percent, more than five percent of people with good credit, not subprime, regular folk with good credit, missed their payments in June. This is a very big trend. That's a big deal.

ROBERTS: What is that a result of?

VELSHI: Well, that means that they had -- they had fixed rate loans that may be converted into adjustable rate mortgages and they couldn't meet those increased payments. Between higher gas prices and other costs, they just couldn't make those payments and they're running late. If people with good credit start losing their homes, it just starts to ripple all the way through the economy.

ROBERTS: And that spooked the market yesterday, too, didn't it? Yes.

VELSHI: That is what spooked the market, that's right. CHETRY: Ali, thanks. We'll see you in a couple of minutes.

In the meantime, "On Our Radar" this morning, coming up, one of the stories you can't miss. I'm sure you haven't missed it, which is Lindsay Lohan.

ROBERTS: Because it seems to happen every day.

CHETRY: You're right. And every week we're talking about celebrities and their bad behavior.

These are two tabloids here in New York showing the mug shot of Lindsay Lohan.

ROBERTS: She looks a lot like Elizabeth Taylor in that photo, doesn't she?

CHETRY: Yes.

ROBERTS: And it looks like she's going the way of Elizabeth Taylor as well.

CHETRY: Certainly a picture she didn't want out there.

Britney Spears, apparently, as well, one of the big magazines saying that she went "berserk" at a photo shoot.

Both of these girls spent time in rehab. Does rehab help?

ROBERTS: It wouldn't seem to have at this point, no.

CHETRY: Right. Well, we're going to be speaking a little later with the founder of one of these rehab facilities about what exactly happens and how you can move on to the road to recovery, especially if you're in the limelight like these girls are.

ROBERTS: I think one of the keys is to stay longer than a day and a half, which they don't seem too inclined to do.

Those stories ahead on AMERICAN MORNING.

Stay with us. We'll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

CHETRY: There's a beautiful shot this morning of right around where we're located, which is Columbus Circle, right in the upper west side of Manhattan.

It's shaping up to be a pretty day.

ROBERTS: It looks like a nice day out there, yes.

CHETRY: About 85. Pretty sunny today.

ROBERTS: Perfect. CHETRY: Not bad for July, huh?

Well, welcome back. It is Wednesday, July 25th. Glad you're with us.

I'm Kiran Chetry.

ROBERTS: And good morning to you.

I'm John Roberts.

We begin this morning with a new security alert at America's airports, concerns that terrorists could be rolling out dry runs for a future attack. In the past 11 months, airport screeners have turned up some unusual objects in luggage, including a block of cheese duct taped to a cell phone charger. Experts say the items could be used to mimic bomb components, and terror group may be trying to find out how hard it would be to get them onto a plane. We talked to the former inspector general of homeland security about that earlier on AMERICAN MORNING.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CLARK KENT ERVIN, FMR. DHS INSPECTOR GENERAL: There have been a number of investigations showing it's sometimes difficult for screeners to spot fully assembled bombs. But obviously it's even harder for them to spot components that, in and of themselves, are innocuous. The fact that there have been so many incidents, the advisory refers to it as a surge. And the fact that al Qaeda has this pattern of testing, doing dry runs, dress rehearsals before attacks, all adds up to a very troubling picture.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ROBERTS: The TSA is downplaying that bulletin, saying it's just one of 90 such advisories sent out this year, and there is no specific threat. But as for the people who had the suspicious items in their luggage, the feds say most of their stories are questionable, and some of them are still being investigated.

CHETRY: Well, Homeland Security has been asking everyone to be vigilant, to keep an eye out for anything suspicious, but one woman is taking it a step further, maybe even taking the fight to the terrorists.

CNN's justice correspondent Kelli Arena joins us now with more on this.

Hi, Kelli.

KELLI ARENA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hi there, Kiran.

You know, this is a very unusual story about a woman who has truly committed herself to the war on terror, at a great personal cost. She says she's lost friends, colleagues look at her strangely, and she barely gets any sleep. (BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

ARENA (voice-over): As her neighbors sleep, Shannen Rossmiller slips into a dark world.

SHANNEN ROSSMILLER: Right now, I have four active undercover identities that I'm using.

ARENA: By day, a Montana mother of three. By night, a stealthy hunter. This former judge uses the Internet to stalk real and potential terrorists by posing as one of them.

ROSSMILLER: Whether they want to go look for jihad and training, whether they want to provide funding, whether they want form a cell, I mean, there are all kinds of different opportunities. Those are the things you pay attention to.

ARENA: She also does it on her own time, and her own dime. When she finds someone she believes is dangerous she alerts the FBI.

Earlier this month, one of those people, Michael Reynolds, was convicted for trying to help blow up U.S. oil installations.

ROSSMILLER: One of my objectives was to find out, OK, he says he has a plan, what are the targets?

ARENA: She also helped send National Guardsman Ryan Anderson to prison for attempted espionage. When she testified in his trial, her cover was blown.

ROSSMILLER: The pressure is immense. The stress is almost unbearable at times.

ARENA: The FBI won't talk about the incident, saying only that it appreciate the information. Rossmiller says that she's helped in more than 200 terrorism cases around the world. It started because she was curious.

ROSSMILLER: It was just the result of, you know, having gone through 9/11, like everyone else, and wanting to have an understanding of why what happened happened.

ARENA: She's been threatened and packs a gun, but says she's not ready to give it up. It can make for anxious days, but the night hunt, she says, is worth it.

ROSSMILLER: I don't think, in fairness, I can say I wish I'd never done this, because I know I've done good.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

ARENA: The types of Web sites that Rossmiller is looking at are growing in number, especially those written in English, and there are a very big concern to counter-terrorism officials, saying that they can play a major role in radicalizing young people -- Kiran.

CHETRY: Yes, it's very true. And as you've said, we've seen more of them crop up.

Getting back to a minute about these potential dry runs.

ARENA: Sure.

CHETRY: There are some of what they found in particular that seemed to be alarming the TSA, even though they are downplaying this story today.

ARENA: That's right. I've spoken to a bunch of counter- terrorism officials, Kiran, since this thing came out, and they talk about things like wires and switches, or pipes and tubes, things that could be used to make an improvised-explosive device, and that is what is most troubling to them, because as you heard before from Clark Kent Ervin, terrorists have done dry runs in the past. They are known to do that. And you know that the airline sector is on a higher level of alert than the rest of the country, and it has been for a long time, so we do know that that is a favored target for terrorists. So all of this put together, you know, troubling.

CHETRY: Kelli Arena live for us in Washington. Troubling to say the least. Very interesting story on that woman, by the way. Thanks.

ROBERTS: More flooding problems in England this morning. Hundreds of homes in oxford had to be evacuated overnight after the Thames River broke through its banks, and there is a massive operation under way right now to get drinking water to people cut off by the floods. The military says it will hand out three million bottles of water per day until the water system is running again; 350,000 people are affected. And emergency crews say it could take at least two weeks to get water service restored.

Alfonso Van Marsh has been following this story for us this week. He joins us this morning from Gloucester, which is the area hit the hardest.

Where are you right now, Alfonso?

ALFONSO VAN MARSH, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, I can say, John, that a river runs through it. I'm in the city center, and where I'm standing, this is actually supposed to be a footpath, a footpath leading down to this bridge area, where you can see, John, a lot of those emergency vehicles ferrying some of the hundreds of volunteers, as well as those from the military services here, trying to help, as you mentioned, the 350,000 people who woke up this morning with no electricity, no water.

The officials trying desperately to try to stop rainwater like this, this flood water from going up. Now they do say that the water has actually peaked, and that the river will start going down.

Public safety officials say that they are very nervous about what could be a potentially toxic combination of human waste, industrial waste and bacteria introduced from livestock. That is a diplomatic way of saying livestock that has died and may be floating through the rivers. In this particular area, some 1,100 sheep gone missing already -- John.

ROBERTS: Alfonso, how long is it expected to be before the water level actually starts to recede there?

VAN MARSH: Well, in this particular part of the country, officials are saying that this particular river, the Severn (ph) River, has peaked, and we should expect the levels to go down eventually, but, again, that is no consolation to those who have clean water. It's one of the cliches in these kind of awful stories -- water, water, everywhere, but none of it good enough to drink.

Back to you, John.

ROBERTS: Alfonso Van Marsh, deep in it in this morning for us there in Gloucester. Alfonso, thanks very much. We'll check in with you a little bit later.

(NEWSBREAK)

CHETRY: China has come under attack for tainted products recently. The country is hoping to improve its image before the world focuses on Beijing in the 2008 Olympics.

Our Sanjay Gupta is there. He's going to be bringing us a special report, coming up.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(NEWSBREAK)

ROBERTS: China has taken some big hits for a string of tainted products. The country is hoping to improve its image in time for the 2008 Olympics.

Our Dr. Sanjay Gupta is in China this week and takes a closer look at what's being done.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

DR. SANJAY GUPTA, CNN CHIEF MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT (on camera): A series of health scares has put Chinese-made products under international scrutiny. And with the 2008 Beijing Olympics rapidly approaching, the Chinese say they want to make their turn on the world stage a healthy one.

(voice-over): Everything from the water supply to hospitals are getting a makeover for the L.A. Games. That's according to the Chinese State News Agency Xinhua. They're building more water- treatment facilities, but advising visitors and athletes to avoid drinking tap water, unless you're in the Olympic Village.

Dengue (ph) fever, yellow fever and other infectious diseases are more common in China, so they're work to go get rid of the pests that carry them, like rats and mosquitoes. Hundreds of tons of meat, fish and veggies will be served during the games, so the government is stepping up food-safety standards that have come under fire recently. And China is boosting its healthcare system, renovating hospitals and adopting the American Heart Association's standard of care.

(on camera): China is planning on hosting close to a million visitors for the '08 Games. The challenge is going to be meeting expectations, keeping everyone healthy and safe.

Dr. Sanjay Gupta, CNN, Beijing.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

CHETRY: Lindsay Lohan is facing jailtime after another DUI arrest.

Here's her mugshot.

What is going on in her life? Coming up we're going to be talking to the head of a rehab center, where the actress spent time earlier this year, to ask the question, what is the point of rehab if many of these high-profile celebrities end up back in trouble again, back using the very drugs and alcohol that got them there in the first place. We're going to have much more on that, ahead on AMERICAN MORNING. 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JAY LENO, "THE TONIGHT SHOW WITH JAY LENO": We had Lindsay Lohan booked on the show tonight, but apparently she was already booked. So Homer stepped in!

Lindsay Lohan was arrested on suspicion of DUI and possession of cocaine. She told the cops she was just researching a role for a movie in which she would play herself.

I guess this is like the second time this year she's been arrested. And of course, under L.A. law, she could do as much as 72 hours in jail!

Is that one of those alcohol monitors?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Well, let's take a look and see what we got here, baby. Yes!

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CHETRY: Really not what you want to be when you're a celebrity, right, a late-night punchline? Well, Lindsay Lohan is back in rehab this morning, a little more than 24 hours after her latest arrest for drunk driving. But given that this will be her third time around, a lot of people are wondering if it will do any good.

My next guest runs the Wonderland Center in Los Angeles. It's where Lindsay checked herself in back in February.

Howard Samuels joins me now. Thanks for being with us this morning. HOWARD SAMUELS, EXEC. DIRECTOR, WONDERLAND CENTER: Absolutely. Thank you.

CHETRY: Can you explain what happens when people go into rehab? Because there has been a lot of criticism about whether it makes any difference at all, since you see these celebrities back out again and right back into their bad behavior after they get out.

SAMUELS: Well, you have to have an understanding that, first of all, celebrities are not an alien race. They are people, just like you and I. And this is a very common trend that happens with addicts, alcoholics, is that they are not usually fixed in a 30-day rehab period of time. It usually takes a period of relapsing, numerous treatment programs, being arrested, hitting an emotional bottom.

Because the only thing that truly gets people sober is pain, emotional pain, which then triggers a willingness to change everything in their life.

CHETRY: Billy Bush, who covers celebrities a lot, and I guess is one himself, was speaking out about some of these facilities. Let's listen to what he said.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BILLY BUSH: Hollywood rehabs have a bad name for a good reason. They're not that good. And you know, Promises has shown itself to have a very poor track record, in my opinion, from what I've seen.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CHETRY: Well, you were a program director at Promises. What's your response to that, saying there is no real good track record?

SAMUELS: Well, I think that is ridiculous, is that Promises is a good program. Wonderland is a good program. This is really a situation of, you can't take one individual's process, because she's in the process of her own recovery and, unfortunately relapse is a part of that process. So you can't take that individual, you know, as the success or failure. You have to take a look at really what these programs do. And I know at Wonderland, we save a lot of people's lives. There are a lot of people that are sober, back at work with their families.

CHETRY: That's wonderful. No, that's absolutely wonderful. What is the success rate for these facilities, though?

SAMUELS: Well, I must say, the first time somebody comes into treatment, whether it's a high-end facility or whether it's not, is usually probably maybe 25, 30 percent. But then after that, after they start to learn and they go through the process, it gets to 50, it gets to 60, it gets to 70 percent. So the statistics are very, very misleading, in that it's not about the first treatment, it's about the process which can take not only months, but can take years.

CHETRY: I understand what you're saying, but you said there are 30-day programs. You said, I believe, in the beginning of this interview that 30 days may not be enough time. Why do they have 30- day programs then? Do they have a mandatory time where people have to really change their lifestyle and habits and get used to living that way for longer than just a month?

SAMUELS: Oh, absolutely. I mean, at Wonderland, our work is to convince the clients to stay longer, and the people who do stay longer usually have a higher rate of success, and the reason they have a higher rate of success is because they're willing to stay longer in order to change their life. You can't tell an individual right off the top, oh, you have to go away for six months. They will never come in.

CHETRY: I understand. You actually have your personal story with us. You were telling our producers that you were caught in a pretty high-profile bust, I believe, at JFK Airport with cocaine and heroin, and your father at the time was running for government of New York. So how did you get over that and get sober and clean?

SAMUELS: Well, you know, I had to go through my process. I had a 15-year battle with heroin and cocaine. I had been locked up for three years of my life in treatment centers. I'm a convicted felon. I've been arrested a few times. And that's not an exception. That's usually the rule to someone getting sober. I'm sober now 22 years. And, you know, it's my experience that where I have a lot of faith, whether it's in this particular case, or it's in other cases that we work with, that people eventually get sober because that is the process of recovery.

SAMUELS: Wow. Howard Samuels, the executive director of Wonderland Center, congratulations to you and thanks for joining us today.

CHETRY: Absolutely.

(NEWSBREAK)

ROBERTS: Levis Jeans is suing the pants off of Polo. Ali Velshi brings us a ringside seat to the big fight and tells us what sparked the whole thing. That's straight ahead on AMERICAN MORNING.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ROBERTS: There's nothing like Christmas in July. They've still got a few months until the busy season. So more than 150 Santas were able to make the annual trip to Copenhagen, Denmark. They've been meeting there for about 40 years. Some made the trip from as far away as Japan, which is a long sleigh ride by anybody's measure.

CHETRY: That's confusing for the kids to see that many Santas. They're all his helpers. The real Santas is at the North Pole.

ROBERTS: Some good-looking Santas in that crowd, though.

CHETRY: How about it? Four minutes until the top of the hour. Ali Velshi is "Minding Your Business." And, boy, what a flap over the flap on the back of jeans.

ALI VELSHI, CNN CORRESPONDENT: I haven't really thought about what is on the back pocket of jeans for about 20 years or something. Remember the days of Calvin's and Jordache and Sergio Valente, we're just naming them all.

OK, Levi's has filed a civil suit in U.S. district court, claiming that its pocket stitching design is being infringed upon by Polo, Ralph Lauren.

Take a look at that. The one on the left is Levi's. It's a trademark design, they say, called RQ-8 (ph). It's two bold lines connecting at a point in the pockets, and they are complaining that Ralph Lauren is using the same design. According to Levi's, "Ralph Lauren has in the past and continues to manufacture, source, market and/or sell clothing that displays stitching designs that are confusing similar to the RQ-8 trademark." Levi's has not served this notice to Polo. They're hoping to come to some sort of an amicable agreement.

Polo, Ralph Lauren has responded by saying, "We have not been served by this complaint. We believe that the designs at issue are clearly distinguished from those of Levi's. I wouldn't have been be able to distinguish them, but I can't distinguish most things. So that's not really -- you know, I eat a lot of fried foods, so I'm not at the height of taste.

CHETRY: I thought you were going to say you eat a lot of fried foods so you're not fitting in jeans.

VELSHI: Yes, that also. I've actually just ordered three new pairs based on the last order, because I did it online. Doesn't fit. The numbers aren't...

CHETRY: Elastic is your friend.

VELSHI: Elastic is definitely my friend.

ROBERTS: Talking about eating things. Do you like peanuts?

VELSHI: I love peanuts. But you can't eat them anywhere, because lots of people are allergic.

CHETRY: But that may change. The reason why, is because, as you said, three-million some people allergic to peanuts, and have severe peanut allergies. In fact, a hundred people a year die from peanut allergies. Well, it looks like they may have a solution. The scientists, they are always coming up with something.

ROBERTS: Help could be right around the corner. A scientist in North Carolina developed a process for making the allergen-free peanut. We'll tell you all about this, and, of course, the all- important thing, does it change the taste? CHETRY: Right. Does your Jif still tastes good. We'll find out.

The next hour of AMERICAN MORNING starts right now.

TO ORDER A VIDEO OF THIS TRANSCRIPT, PLEASE CALL 800-CNN-NEWS OR USE OUR SECURE ONLINE ORDER FORM LOCATED AT www.voxant.com