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More Flooding Coverage; Balloon Accident in Canada

Aired August 25, 2007 - 11:00   ET


ALINA CHO, CNN ANCHOR: There's a lot more about Ana Dodson and her organization on our Web site,, where you can also nominate a hero of your own.
Winners, by the way, will be honored right here during a live global broadcast on December 6, hosted by our very own Anderson Cooper.

T.J. HOLMES, CNN ANCHOR: It is Saturday, August the 25th, and you're in the CNN NEWSROOM.

Hello, to you all.

I'm T.J. Holmes.

ALINA CHO, HOST: Glad you're with us this Saturday morning.

I'm Alina Cho, in for Betty, who is on assignment.

Straight ahead this hour, fire in the sky -- a ride in a hot air balloon goes horribly wrong and it's all caught on camera.

HOLMES: Also, a massive fire sweeps through one of the world's most beautiful tourist destinations. Now dozens are dead. More are fleeing the flames.

CHO: And from fires to floods -- much of the Midwest remains underwater this morning, hundreds of homes flooded, thousands without power and more storms in the forecast.

HOLMES: But first, that hot air balloon becoming a ball of fire, falling from the sky and slamming into an R.V. park in British Columbia.

Police are saying as many as 11 people are injured. Two others are missing. Witnesses report seeing screaming passengers jumping to the ground as the balloon fell hundreds of feet.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It was very bad. There were just parts engulfed in flames and it started coming down quickly.

QUESTION: And you saw someone?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: And then, yes, we saw something either jump or fall, something come, in turn, off the flame. UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: And it was heading right for us and we didn't know whether to start running or what. So we just stood there and stared. But we were prepared to run, because it was coming in low over the trees right at the edge of the golf course.


HOLMES: And Nigel Vonas had his video camera rolling when the balloon caught fire. He shot some of those amazing pictures of that crash.

He joins us now on the phone from Vancouver, British Columbia.

Nigel, thank you for being with us.

Tell us, did you see or hear any kind of explosion or anything before this all started happening?

I mean how did it get to that ball of fire in the first place?

NIGEL VONAS, EYEWITNESS: You know, there's absolutely no sound that I could hear of. I just happened to look up. I was waiting in the incredibly long border lineup and happened to look up and saw the basket of the balloon partially engulfed and what looked like some sort of struggle going on on board.

I reached down, I picked up my camera right away. Of course, I happened to have beside me. And by the time it went back up, it was just totally engulfed in flames.

HOLMES: You said some kind of struggle it looked like on board.

What do you mean by that?

VONAS: Yes, what it looked to me was that something or somebody was trying to deal with the flames, it looked like. And, of course, I looked down right away to get my camera. And by the time I looked back up, it was just absolutely engulfed.

HOLMES: How high up was this balloon before it -- before all of this happened?

VONAS: You know,

I'm hearing all the other stories that are saying that, you know, people were jumping out at about 20 feet. But it just, you know, reviewing the video that I shot, it had to have been a lot higher than that. We're talking a hundred feet, at least. It looks more like a couple hundred feet.

HOLMES: Do you have any idea how many people were actually in that basket?

VONAS: No idea. I mean, you know, it looked to me, when I first started looking at it, when it was really high up, there was, I thought, one or two. HOLMES: One or two.

VONAS: And now, you know, I'm hearing 11 to 13 on board, which is, you know, incredible.

HOLMES: Did you actually see with your own eye anybody jumping out of there?

VONAS: No, I didn't.

HOLMES: All right.

What did you think when you looked up and you saw this happening?

What ran through your mind?

Was it just absolute horror?

VONAS: It was a mix of a few feelings, knowing that, you know, in my mind, I was thinking somebody is dying right now, right this minute, you know, right near me, which is, you know, a rather scary thought.

So you have feelings of excitement of seeing something you've never seen before. But you have, also, morbid feeling that there is -- there's death going on right now and you don't know to what magnitude that death is occurring.

HOLMES: Did you -- were you able to make your way over to the site of the crash, where it actually went down?

It actually hit some, I think, some mobile homes -- an R.V. Park, rather.

Did you make your way over to that scene?

VONAS: No, I didn't. You know, when you're looking up like that, you have no bearing as to where it is, you know, at your level. So I had no idea where to go. I know it's a pretty rural area out there. So, you know, I didn't know whether it landed.

What I did see was the smoke billowing from, you know, I guess the rural area, the forestry. There was, you know, it started a fire and see now I'm learning that it wasn't a trailer park.

But you could actually see from where I was this smoke just billowing right away after it landed.

HOLMES: All right, well Nigel Vonas, a horrible scene you had to witness, but we thank you for being on the scene and sharing these pictures with us and our viewers to give us an absolute glimpse and taking us to the scene there and what was happening there in front of you.

VONAS: You're welcome.

HOLMES: Nigel Vonas with those great pictures for us.

Thank you so much.

VONAS: Have a great morning.

HOLMES: Thank you.

VONAS: Thank you.

CHO: Incredible pictures.

Another story we're watching very closely this morning, fire investigators on the case in Greece. They're trying to determine if arson is behind deadly forest fires sweeping the southern part of the country.

The fires have killed at least 41 people and destroyed numerous homes. Fire crews are battling the blazes by air and on the ground. Several European nations are offering assistance. Athens' beleaguered government has pledged about $1.5 million in aid.

We're going to have a live report from Greece later in this hour.

In the U.S., Midwesterners are assessing the damage of a week of storms. The governor of Illinois has issued a disaster declaration covering four Chicago area counties after a sudden, savaged storm downed trees and flooded streets and homes. More than a 100,000 Northern Illinois power customers are still without service this morning.

And in Northwest Ohio, there are fears more storms will prevent floodwaters from receding. Hundreds of Ottawa, Ohio residents still unable to return to their homes.

HOLMES: Also, there are fears of new flooding in Illinois. Rain that fell in Wisconsin earlier this week working its way downstream, raising Illinois river levels. The Fox River is nearing a 50-year high.

CNN's Jim Acosta is in Antioch, Illinois and outfitted for just such a thing, a 50-year high in flooding there.

Jim's been on the scene for us all morning.

Good morning to you again there -- Jim.


And, yes, big worries about flooding here in these areas around Chicago or in Lake County -- Antioch, Illinois, to be specific. And residents have been spending the last couple of days concerned about this river behind me. This is the Fox River. And it is absolutely swollen over its banks and is hitting some of those record highs, as you mentioned.

One good piece of information we can pass along to viewers in this area this morning is that from what we understand from talking to local emergency management officials, this river hit its crest at about 3:00 in the morning. And according to those officials, this river is now starting to recede and that is good news.

Part of the reason why is they're starting to open up -- or they have fully opened up the locks along the Fox River, on the other side of the Chain-O-Lakes. We're north of the Chain-O-Lakes. And then as you go down river on the Fox River, you hit the Chain-O-Lakes.

As these floodwaters are going down here, the Chain-O-Lakes are going up just slightly, so people in those parts should be concerned about flooding in their communities.

But all of this -- and I don't know if you can tell behind me, but the sun is out -- all of this is expected to improve over the next 24 to 48 hours. And one of the reasons why that is good news, all you have to do is look across the river behind me. I mean this river is basically on the doorsteps of these mobile homes behind me. And many of these mobile homes are at risk of becoming houseboats and just floating down this river.

Luckily, that did not happen. And what residents have been doing over the last 24 to 48 hours in this community, they've basically have been piling up sandbags -- this wall of sandbags is stretching down, yes, what is known as Riverside Drive here in Antioch. And they've got these water pumps going almost 24 hours a day, trying to keep that water away from the doorsteps of these single family homes here on the other side of the river.

So, some good news and some bad news. If you live in the Fox River, north of the Chain-O-Lakes, your water should be going down.

If you're in the Chain-O-Lakes area, your water should be going up. But officials say all of that river water is now flushing itself out of the area, as these floodwaters are now starting to recede -- T.J.

HOLMES: At least some good news to report there.

Jim Acosta for us this Antioch, Illinois.

Thanks so much, Jim.

CHO: Still a really bad situation for the Midwest residents.

Bonnie Schneider watching all of the weather for us in the Weather Center -- hey, Bonnie, good morning.

SCHNEIDER: Good morning, Alina and T.J.


HOLMES: And we've got another celebrity to tell you about here and a controversy involving dogs.

This time it's DMX, the rapper and actor. Authorities in Arizona have removed several dogs from the rapper's home.

CNN's Kara Finnstrom is on this story for us there in Arizona.

Good morning, again, to you -- Kara.


Well, we understand that sheriff's deputies had been investigating about two weeks here leading up to Friday's raid.

This is the home of DMX right behind us here. You can see on the gate far back there, you can see "beware of dogs."

Sheriff's deputies tell us when they did conduct that raid, they found 12 dogs on the premises that were a mix of pit bull and English mastiff.

They say that those dogs appear to have been poorly fed and were dehydrated, so they actually took them into custody.

They also found three dogs that had been buried -- the bodies of three dogs -- on this property. They say at least one of those dogs had been burned. And, they say, they found some drug paraphernalia, some drugs and some weapons.

So what does all this mean for their investigation?

Here's what sheriff had to say.


JOE ARPAIO, MARICOPA COUNTY SHERIFF'S DEPARTMENT: We're in a preliminary stage of investigating possible several different types of violations here. But right now, we have the animal cruelty investigation and we're going to develop and see what other violations that he may have been involved in, especially with all these weapons that we found in the house.


FINNSTROM: And the sheriff made it clear that at this point, it's not clear whether any charges will be levied against DMX.

He has been away in New York and his attorney says he was very disturbed to find out that his dogs weren't being properly taken care of by the caretaker, who he left in charge.

Back to you -- T.J.

HOLMES: All right, Kara Finnstrom for us on the scene there in Arizona.

Thank you so much.

And that raid she just told us about on the heels of developments in Michael Vick's dogfighting case. The NFL star has admitted to operating and funding a dogfighting ring, but denies placing bets or taking any of the winnings. He also admits being involved in the killing of six to eight dogs.

After the admission, the NFL suspended the Atlanta Falcons' quarterback indefinitely without pay and corporate sponsor Nike has terminated its contract with him.

Vick's plea will be heard Monday morning in federal court in Richmond, Virginia. And later this hour, we're going to be talking to "Washington Post" reporter Mark Maske about what led to Vick's downfall.

CHO: A lot of people weighing in on that.

HOLMES: Oh, yes.

CHO: Coming up, frightened voices from the scene of a tragedy.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: 911, do you have an emergency or can you hold?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes, I need everything you got. The whole bridge over the river fell down. There's cars all over the place!


CHO: Newly released 911 tapes from the Minneapolis bridge collapse, ahead THE NEWSROOM.

HOLMES: Also, you may not believe where this giant Hindu temple has been built. A look at some of the world's fastest growing religions. That's coming up in our Reality Check.


CHO: This just in to CNN.

Authorities in India are reporting two explosions in the southern city of Hyderabad.

We have new video coming in from the scene right now. At least nine people are dead, more injured. Reuters is reporting at least 20 people have been killed.

The two blasts happened just minutes apart. No word yet on what caused them. We are working this story very closely. We're going to bring you more information as soon as we get it in.

HOLMES: Meanwhile, those frantic calls for help when a Minneapolis bridge collapsed three weeks ago.

Now authorities have released tapes of those 911 calls.

Boyd Huppert of CNN affiliate KARE reports. (BEGIN VIDEO TAPE)


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The bridge collapsed.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: In downtown Minneapolis.

People are all over the place.

BOYD HUPPERT, KARE CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Dust in the air and panic in the voices as the first 911 callers labor to describe for operators what they'd seen and where.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What bridge is this?


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Please help me.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I need a location.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: What's the cross street, ma'am?

HUPPERT: The bridge's name doesn't come easily, but callers know it's bad.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Bring everything you've got. The whole bridge over the river fell down. There's cars all over the place.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I want to say 35W, over the Mississippi. Down by the U. (INAUDIBLE).

What road is that?

What road?

There's hundreds of cars down the river. Send everything you got.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: OK, sir. We're getting them started, OK?

HUPPERT: Then calls started arriving from people on the bridge. This one from a 24-year-old.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'm on the bridge that collapsed and I'm in my car. There's people out here. They've got the door open but I'm not moving because my back is in a lot of pain right now.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes, I was on the bridge that just collapsed.


Are you hurt?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'm in the middle -- I'm not bad. I'm in the middle of the river, though.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You're in the middle of the river?

Are you in a car?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes, no. I'm out of the car.


Are you floating in the river, then?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No. I'm on like a little island part in the middle. There's a lot of people here, too, and I think there could be people trapped in cars is what I'm really worried about.

HUPPERT: By now, operators know what those at the bridge know -- a disaster is unfolding at the other end of the line.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Minneapolis 911.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: They need watercraft in the river. There are cars are sinking and people are in their cars.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We know, ma'am. Everyone's on the way.



HOLMES: Well, 13 people died in the bridge collapse and about 100 more were hurt. The cause of that collapse still under investigation.

CHO: Coming up, one of the NFL's most visible stars has been suspended indefinitely.

HOLMES: And just ahead, I'll speak with a man who's talked to Michael Vick's father and grandfather about the football star's legal woes.


HOLMES: Well, a lot of defensive linemen couldn't do it, but the NFL sure could.

Quarterback Michael Vick has gotten sacked by the NFL. He's been suspended without pay for his admitted involvement in a dogfighting conspiracy. Vick is scheduled to formally enter that guilty plea in federal court on Monday.

CNN's Drew Griffin has the details.


DREW GRIFFIN, CNN INVESTIGATIVE CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Michael Vick, who months ago was throwing for touchdowns as the star quarterback for the Atlanta Falcons, now has thrown himself before the mercy of a federal court, admitting in court papers to dog fighting.


GRIFFIN: The one count plea, to be entered by Vick in Richmond, Virginia Monday, charges Vick with conspiracy -- a charge that could bring as much as a five year prison term.

Responding to a possible plea deal earlier this week, one of Vick's defense attorneys indicated the agile quarterback couldn't run from his past.

DANIEL MEACHUM, MICHAEL VICK'S ATTORNEY: He's accepting responsibilities for those charges. And he's trying to put the pieces of his life back together and asks that you pray for him and forgive him for any wrongdoings that he may have involved in.

GRIFFIN: Three co-defendants have already pleaded guilty. And all three gave graphic details about how Michael Vick's Virginia property was the headquarters of Bad Newz Kennels, that dogs were raised there to fight, that Vick not only financed the operation, but took part in gambling, and that Michael Vick personally killed under-performing dogs by drowning and electrocution.


GRIFFIN: In his plea agreement today, Vick's lawyers appeared to be trying to minimize the damage, specifically saying while Vick financed the operation, even put up money for purses, he did not bet on the dogs. He did admit, however, to agreeing to the killing of six to eight dogs that did not perform well in so-called testing sessions. The dogs were killed by various methods, including hanging and drowning.

And, the summary states, Vick agrees and stipulates that these dogs all died as a result of the collective efforts of his co- defendants Purnell Peace, Quanis Phillips and himself, Vick.

Neither Vick nor the prosecution had anything to say about the plea deal beyond the court filings.

Once the plea is entered in court Monday, a federal judge will decide whether to accept it and then set a sentencing date.

A source familiar with details of the case says prosecutors will ask the judge to send the star quarterback to prison for no less than 18 months.

Drew Griffin, CNN, Atlanta.


HOLMES: Well, Michael Vick had it all. He had the fame, he had the fortune. Of course, the fame came from being the star of the Atlanta Falcons and also that force and 10-year, $130 million contract.

Now, the career could be over as he faces a possible prison sentence over dogfighting.

So what went wrong here?

For some of the answers "The Washington Post's" Mark Maske talked with Vick's family, friends and teammates.

He joins us now to tell us what he found out.

Thank you for being here.

Does something stand out to you, for people who maybe do not know his background and just maybe think, right, this guy had it all.

Why in the world did he just all of a sudden start dogfighting?

What stood out to you as maybe this is not something that just happened overnight for him?

MARK MASKE, "WASHINGTON POST": You know -- T.J., most of us probably will never understand the motivations that went into this, how a guy who had so much -- so much God given ability, so much fame and fortune that came from that God given ability, what would lead him to this.

And when I spoke to his family members and especially to his father, Michael Boddie, who I spoke to on numerous occasions, probably 10 to 15 phone conversations and then finally one this past week, where he talked at length of the dogfighting.

He traces it back all the way to Michael Vick's childhood, you know, growing up in a rough, poor neighborhood in Newport News, Virginia, where the kids would go out and they would sic dogs on cats over in the nearby lumber yard.

That was what the father called his fascination with animals, that they would sit and watch "National Geographic" and you would watch the animals in the wild fight, and that somehow that translated into an interest in dogfighting that the father says probably came about in college.

HOLMES: So to his dad, did this almost make sense, that his son, as an adult, would be into something like this, since he was into it as a kid?

It just naturally happens?

MASKE: You know, when I spoke to the father, he -- yes. I don't know that it made quite sense, but buddy, he traced it in a way that it wasn't as shocking as it might be otherwise.

Now, he says that the involvement in dogfighting probably came when Michael Vick was in college. That's what he thinks. He's not sure of it. But he knows, at least according to him, that around 2000 or 2001, certainly Michael Vick was involved in it, because he says that he cleaned out the family garage in Newport News for three dogfights to be staged there.

So that's how he kind of traces the progression of it.

HOLMES: Also, talking to some of the friends and family members, did Michael Vick go wrong in surrounding himself with the wrong crowd?

He didn't get away from some of the riffraff, if you will, that he came up with?

MASKE: You know, certainly, that's what all the people around him, the people who know him, the people who still care about him, that's the story they would tell.

His grandfather, James Boddie, I spent time with him. And, you know, he says what was he doing hanging around with these low lifes, as he termed it to me at one point.

The question is and the question we probably don't know the -- we definitely don't know the answer to now and probably never know the answer to is who was dragging whom?

You know, were these friends dragging Michael Vick into it or was he the ringleader and dragging the friends?

HOLMES: And his family members don't have any insight into that, who was dragging who here?

MASKE: Well, Michael Boddie, the father, who is not an apologist for his son in any way, shape or form says my son didn't need to be dragged. You know, he was the guy leading this. He was in charge. He was the money man. Nothing happened without him giving his OK. So that's his version of it.

Now, certainly there are conversations with the father and his credibility that we can talk about, but that's his version of.

HOLMES: Yes. I'll wrap up with that, because he doesn't have a close relationship. He's estranged from his father, essentially.

So what sense did you get from his father, talking to him?

How was he -- was he talking as a father who was kind of down and, you know, like his son let him down?

How was he speaking?

Or as a father that had some venom to spew at a son he hadn't a good relationship for quite some time? MASKE: You know, T.J., it's hard to know exactly what. There are obviously these issues with the father. You mentioned he's estranged. They don't speak. He speaks to his son through his son's assistant. He admitted to past problems -- the father did -- with alcohol and with drugs. He admitted that he asked his son for $700,000 two weeks before he spoke to me and got word back, through Michael Vick's mother, that Michael Vick's attorney believed he was trying to extort money through the family.

So people have to decide for themselves what his credibility is.

To me, obviously there are issues with his personal credibility.


MASKE: But the story he tells, it does kind of fit into this whole bigger picture.

HOLMES: Yes, and it is a story we are not getting pretty much anywhere else, but we're getting it from "The Washington Post's" Mark Maske, who talked to Vick's dad, talked to Vick's grandfather and other friends, family and teammates for this article.

Thank you so much for sharing some of your thoughts and your insights with us this morning.

MASKE: Thank you, T.J.

HOLMES: Good to see you, Mark.

MASKE: Thank you for having me.

HOLMES: All right -- Alina.


Just ahead, we're going to get a live update on those deadly fires in Greece.

Stay with us.


CHO: Welcome back.

Now, a recap of some of today's top stories. Authorities in India are on the scene of two explosions in the southern city of Hyderabad. At least nine people are dead. At least 10 injured. One of the explosions happened at about 8:00 p.m. local time in a popular spot for families in the Indian city. Still no word on what caused the explosions. Hyderabad and the city of Delhi are on high alert at this time.

As many as 11 people are hurt and two missing after a hot air balloon caught fire and crashed in British Columbia in Canada. It plunged into a campground, causing at least three R.V.s to catch fire. There's no word yet on the cause of that accident.

And a state of emergency has been declared in Greece, where forest fires have killed more than 40 people. One blaze is burning on the fringes of Athens. This is the worst summer on record for forest fires in Greece -- T.J.?

HOLMES: Yes, Greece going up in flames right now. Wildfires sweeping the southern region, killing dozens of people and arson is suspected.

Journalist Anthee Carassave joins us by phone.

And, Anthee, for our viewers, just give them an idea of just how big and just how bad these fires are right now.

ANTHEE CARASSAVE, JOURNALIST: Well, they are razing, literally, the southern part of the Peloponnese Peninsula, which is in Southern Greece.

The death toll is climbing and Greece, it seems, is at the mercy of nature. Officially, authorities are counting 44 people killed in these ferocious flames in the last 24 hours. Unofficially, we are hearing reports of up 50 charred bodies being pulled out by emergency crews in these flame hit regions, primarily in the Peloponnesus Peninsula south of Athens.

Now, most of these fires are still blazing. Emergency services say they are overstretched and Greece is expecting urgent assistance from the E.U., from its European Union counterparts.

HOLMES: And, also, arson is suspected here.

Why is arson suspected, explain to our viewers, and is there any of any idea of a motive, why somebody would do this?

CARASSAVE: Well the prime minister, just moments ago, appeared and made a nationally televised statement. He declared, in fact, the entire country in a state of emergency, announced a string of measures to assist victims and, in fact, most importantly, suggested that this was the result of -- these blazes were orchestrated and the result, possibly, of arsonists and extremists.

He said, "So many fires," and I quote, "sparked simultaneously in so many places with no coincidence."


HOLMES: All right, Anthee Carassave for us on the phone, reporting from Athens.

And the update, according to Anthee there, is that 44 is the official number of dead now from these fires in Greece.

Anthee, thank you once again.

CHO: And where there's news, there's a CNN I-Reporter. Twelve- year-old Matt Veilleux sent in this photo of the smoke from the fires from a balcony in Athens. His family has been in Athens for about three years now. They're originally from Florida.

His dad says they've been watching planes try to put out the fires. You know, they're fighting the fires from the air and on the ground.

Also, you, too, can be an I-Reporter. Just go to and click on I-Report.

HOLMES: All right, we're going to head back to our Bonnie Schneider, always covering the weather for us here in the U.S. and what's happening -- and a lot is happening -- but also keeping an eye on the weather conditions over on Greece...


HOLMES: ...which are really causing problems with these fires.

SCHNEIDER: That's right.

A lot of different things happening in Greece right now.

I want to show you where some of the fires are burning. And you saw that I-Report from the Athens. It's not a surprise that you can see the smoke from there because one of the fires is burning about 85 miles north of where Athens is located. Another one is burning to the south in this region here, the southern peninsula.

And the winds are coming in from the northeast blowing down the mountain, kind of heating up the region.

Let's take a look at our Google Earth animation that kind of zooms into the area. Temperatures for this region have really been incredible. The past few days, we've seen numbers 40 degrees Celsius. That's about 100 degrees plus.

This is a look at some of the famous sites in Athens -- the Parthenon, the Acropolis. You can see this on our Google Earth image. And as this zooms out, you'll see another area where we have a fire burning, but it's still, as I said, about 85 miles one to the south and west, and another to the north and east.

So not only do we have these hot temperatures, but we have the warm, dry winds. They're not coming from the south. If they were, they'd have a Mediterranean influence. They're coming from the north and east. And they're coming down slope, down the mountain, and especially down here through this region, we're getting that down slope and that's causing, really, the winds to compress to this area, and that's where we're seeing so much in the terms of heat and conditions that are ripe for fires burning around Greece right flow.

So that's pretty much what we're looking at in this region -- T.J.?

HOLMES: All right, Bonnie Schneider keeping an eye on things all over the place for us this morning.

Bonnie, thank you so much.

Well, it is now time for us to see what people are watching online.

And Veronica de la Cruz joins us now with what's been capturing your attention at -- Veronica, you have our attention.


You know, it's been absolutely amazing, T.J., the reaction that we have received to two stories this week.

One of them, obviously, Michael Vick. Also, the other, this little 5-year-old boy in Iraq. Youssif is the 5-year-old boy who was attacked outside his home in January and set on fire for reasons no one can fathom. Millions of people flocked to to read Youssif's story and wanted to help.

So has put up a link for people to make donations to help Youssif, who will soon come to the U.S. for treatment. Simply go to All you have to do is click on the Children's Burn Foundation and that's going to bring up a donation form.

Also, T.J., e-mails keep pouring in from viewers on the Michael Vick dogfighting case.

This first one from Jarrod Brown, who writes: "The fact that Vick is being misused by the media so much is an outrage. No one recognizes the numerous charities Vick has done work for in the past. For the rest of his life, he will be tainted with this charge and it is a sad situation."

Trish Price says: "My opinion is that Vick should be barred from the NFL for life. The NFL should pass rules about any form of violence against others -- children, spouses or partners, as well as animals."

Finally this e-mail which says: "Some of you go to the woods, kill animals, deer, etc. for the sport, bleeding them dead. This is wrong. And so is Michael Vick's action. However, two wrongs do not make one right. Most of you are only jealous of the high profile that Vick has and the salary that he generates for himself. Get a life."

And that was from J.M. There in Columbus, Georgia.

Don't forget you, too, can weigh in with your thoughts. Just send us an e-mail to

And, T.J., like I just said, we have been flooded -- our inboxes have been flooded with these e-mails.

HOLMES: Yes. And I would imagine you had to toss out some of them.

DE LA CRUZ: Yes. HOLMES: It was probably a little hard for you. The e-mail (INAUDIBLE).

DE LA CRUZ: I couldn't really read on air.



HOLMES: even though J.M. let his feelings be known there at the end.

DE LA CRUZ: That was about as far as we could go.

HOLMES: All right.

DE LA CRUZ: Just to let you know.

HOLMES: We appreciate you bringing us that one.

Veronica, thank you so much, ma'am.

CHO: People not holding back on that story.

HOLMES: Not at all on that story.

CHO: All right.

Stay with us, because just ahead, the changing face of religion around the world.

HOLMES: And many others have a new religion this weekend. They're putting their faith in lottery tickets. Find out what's at stake if you have the one that will score you $$300 million.

Stick around.

CHO: Wow!


GERRI WILLIS, PERSONAL FINANCE EDITOR: Commercial household cleaners may leave your bathtub and countertop sparkling, but watch out for indoor air pollution. The Environmental Protection Agency found the levels of a dozen common pollutants to be up to five times higher inside homes than outside.

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CHO: Welcome back, everyone.

"God's Warriors" -- this week CNN took an unprecedented look at how religion shapes our world. Every day we hear about international tensions and violence involving religious groups.

So we were wondering just how big a force are they?

Well, some surprising numbers are out.

CNN's Josh Levs of here with a Reality Check for us -- hey, Josh, good morning.

JOSHUA LEVS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Good to have you here with us.

CHO: Thank you.

Nice to be here.

LEVS: Very cool.

And you know what we were actually just looking at just now?

We were seeing some pictures there of a brand new Hindu temple. That's opening this weekend in the United States, actually near CNN headquarters. It's in Georgia, Liburn, Georgia, just outside of Atlanta. A really astounding Hindu temple from the Swaminarayan sect. These are new pictures from it.

People in 160 countries are watching the opening of this. And this obviously comes on the week that we have been talking about God's warriors. And it just got me thinking a lot about the power of religion in this world.

And here's a case in which there's a huge fact at the core of it.

And that is how big are these?

What's the actual size out there?

There's a lot of suggestions, a lot of implications about the size and power of different religious groups.

We decided to take a look at what those actually are.

So here now is what we are calling the world's religious breakdown.


(BEGIN VIDEO TAPE) LEVS (voice-over): In recent years, the size of one major religious group has been getting a lot of attention.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There are well over a billion Muslims in the world.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Almost a billion-and-a-half Muslims.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There's 1.2 billion Muslims.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: 1.6 billion Muslims in the world.

LEVS: There are only estimates. The population is spread across the world, including some countries where it's especially tough to get solid, up to date numbers.

But we do know the biggest religions stack up numbers wise.

The world's total population is at 6.6 billion. According to the "World Book" put out by the CIA. Thirty-three percent -- one third of humanity -- identifies as Christian. That's well over two billion people.

The Muslim population is second biggest, at more than a billion. Then Hindus, at about 900 million; Buddhists at about 400 million; Sikhs at about 26 million; and Jews at about 15 million.

This chart shows how big a chunk of the world's population each of those groups takes up. About 13 percent of people follow other religions, 2 percent are atheists and 12 percent are not affiliated with any group.

Figures on religion come with an important caveat. Parts of the world don't have religious freedom. For example, Saudi Arabia reports that 100 percent of its population is Muslim. The U.S. State Department notes that Saudi law requires that all citizens be Muslims.


LEVS: And Islam is actually one of the faster growing religions in the world. That's because it's growing at a rate faster than the rate of the world's overall population.

There's a reason for that. It's mostly, Alina, it's really because in Muslim nations, people are having a lot of babies. The birth -- the growth of populations in those nations is growing, therefore more kids born and raised in the Muslim faith.

CHO: Well, that makes perfect sense.

LEVS: Yes.

CHO: All right, so you've looked at the world breakdown in terms of religion.

What about in the U.S.? LEVS: Right. Yes. I brought that, too.

Let's take a look at that, because it's pretty different, as you would assume. It's quite different.

If you look specifically at the United States, this country is three quarters Christian. And within that, it's about -- overall half the people in the U.S. identify as Protestant; about a quarter Roman Catholic; 2 percent Mormons. Then Jews and Muslims only about 1 percent each of the United States. "Other" is 10 percent, which means there's no other group in this country that reaches 1 percent. If you're really interested in the numbers, I'll tell you. The approximate numbers of Hindus in America, about half 1 percent, about 1.5 million. And then you've got one in 10 Americans who say they don't identify with any religion at all. That includes atheists and agnostics and people who just don't identify with a group out there.

That's about one in 10.

So there you go.

CHO: I was surprised the Jewish population just 1 percent in America.

LEVS: Well, people that live in cities think otherwise.

CHO: That's right.

LEVS: Yes. It depends on your experience.

CHO: Like New York.

LEVS: Oh, yes. Well, like New York, it's a lot more than 1 percent.

CHO: Sure.

LEVS: And major cities -- Washington, like that.

But then when you look at the whole population, more than $300 million people...

CHO: Of course.

LEVS: ...that's what it comes out to.

CHO: Bring in the Bible Belt, too, and that's a different story.

LEVS: Perfect. Exactly. Yes.

CHO: All right, Josh Levs, thank you for that Reality Check.

LEVS: You've got it.


CHO: All right.

And tonight, a special encore presentation of "God's Warriors". That's at 9:00 Eastern time. Christiane Amanpour will take you to the front lines where religion and politics collide. "God's Warriors" -- that's tonight, and tomorrow night, by the way, at 9:00 Eastern, only on CNN.

HOLMES: Where your money and your dreams collide -- a $$300 million money Powerball drawing tonight. We'll tell you what you can buy with your winnings, when CNN SATURDAY MORNING continues.


CHO: Let's talk big money now.

HOLMES: Yikes!

CHO: How about Mega Millions?

HOLMES: All right.

CHO: No one won the top prize from last night's $206 million Mega Millions lottery drawing.

So guess what?

Tuesday's jackpot could reach 250 million bucks.

HOLMES: You might want to check the tickets, though, because there are a dozen second prize tickets that are out there and each of those worth $250,000. So still some winners out there.

CHO: That's right.

and if that's not enough, the other big lottery game, that's Powerball.


CHO: and that's worth at least $$300 million.

HOLMES: Yes. The Powerball lottery played in 29 state, the U.S. Virgin Islands and the nation's capital, which is where our Gary Nurenberg is -- please tell me you're still holding onto our tickets for us.

GARY NURENBERG, CNN CORRESPONDENT: I've got your two in my pocket with your names on them.

CHO: Good.

HOLMES: Thank you.

NURENBERG: This thing was so busy. A couple of days ago, before it got really busy, they were selling in D.C., more than 600 tickets a minute. Everyone here today thinks they're going to be a winner.

Sir, before you go away, let me talk to you.

You've got a Redskins shirt on.


NURENBERG: You obviously don't know what it means to be a winner.

What make you think you can win tonight?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The fact that we're inside the beltway and not outside of it.

NURENBERG: Good luck.


NURENBERG: we want to give you an idea of what you can buy with $300 million if you actually win.

So we'll move back here to point it out for you. With $300 million, if you win this thing, you could buy 1,395 Ferraris, five Gulf stream G-500 jets, 1,644 four-year Harvard degrees, and you could give $1,851 bonuses to every one of the 162,000 U.S. troops in Iraq, but that's only if you won.

The real winners here today may be the governments in 29 states, the Virgin Islands and the District of Columbia that sponsor Powerball. They get paid whether or not you win.

What happens to the money?

We asked the director of the D.C. Lottery.


JEANETTE MICHAEL, EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR, D.C. LOTTERY: Each day has a different beneficiary. Here in the District of Columbia it goes to the general fund. But in many other states, it goes for education and in other states for the elderly and the environment. So it depends on the state.


NURENBERG: John Updike once wrote that: "Dreams come true. Without that possibility, nature would not incite us to have them."

So on that optimistic note, you two, I've got your ticket in my pocket. We'll check the numbers tonight. And if viewers don't see you tomorrow morning, they'll know that you won.

HOLMES: OK, and we...

CHO: Can we talk about the Ferraris a minute? I mean 1,400 Ferraris -- you know, my dad's got a birthday coming up. So, you know...

HOLMES: Oh, wow!

CHO: I'll give one to him.

HOLMES: And Gary, please tell us...


CHO: Who cares about the Harvard degrees?

HOLMES: And did you write our names on the tickets in ink or in pencil?

CHO: It doesn't matter as long as he sends it to us.

NURENBERG: Well, here, I'll show you.


CHO: He claims the prize.

NURENBERG: You know, it's not in my pocket.

HOLMES: It needed to be in ink.

NURENBERG: I wrote them in ink, T.J.

HOLMES: OK, good.

CHO: All right.

Will you FedEx those to us, Gary?


CHO: All right.

HOLMES: Gary, appreciate you this morning, sir.

CHO: Thanks.

And THE NEWSROOM continues at top of the hour with Fredricka Whitfield, who does not have a ticket.


I know. Well, I'm going to be talking to Gary in the noon hour.

CHO: That's right.

HOLMES: Oh, are you?

CHO: Let's give him a call. WHITFIELD: So I'm going to slip him a couple of bucks, too, and maybe he will pick me up a ticket.

Good to see you, Alina, in person.

CHO: Hey, good to see you.

WHITFIELD: It's been with while.

CHO: Yes, it has.

WHITFIELD: All right, well, we've got a few things...


WHITFIELD: Oh. OK, yes, hi, T.J.

Well, we talk all the time.



CHO: She sees you all the time.

WHITFIELD: I love him, you know?

HOLMES: You know, my ego needs (INAUDIBLE).

WHITFIELD: Dismissing you?


WHITFIELD: I'm sorry. It was a hello to both of you and then it was a hey, Alina.

CHO: All right.

WHITFIELD: OK, anyway, back to the noon hour. You guys are talking about the lottery.

What do you do with all those winnings?

So, of course, folks, I always think I'm going to buy stuff. Well, we're going to have an expert who says you know what?

Those winnings sometimes bring a lot of unwelcome guests. You know what I mean.

HOLMES: Oh, yes.

WHITFIELD: So she's going to give us some guidance on what you really need to do when you think about winning money and what do you do with it besides counting the cash.

HOLMES: Second cousins coming out of the woodwork, right? WHITFIELD: Exactly.

CHO: That's right.

WHITFIELD: And, you know, you guys talked about that balloon.


WHITFIELD: Oh my gosh, this is horrible, this inferno there in British Columbia. We've got more details on the investigation as to how this happened and how the people are, those of whom were on that balloon. What a scary ride.

CHO: Oh yes.

WHITFIELD: All of that straight ahead.

And both of you, have a great day.

HOLMES: Yes. It's too late for that.

CHO: We will, Fred.

WHITFIELD: T.J., especially.

HOLMES: Yes. Thank you, Fredericka.

WHITFIELD: All right, Alina, bye.


HOLMES: All right, well, up next, we've one hacker's effort to break the iPhone monopoly.

Stick around.


WILLIS (voice-over): Make sure your vacation is a relaxing one. Get organized. Write packing lists for yourself and your family members. Be sure to save these lists to your computer so you can refer to them for future trips.

Shop ahead of time, so you won't end up paying big bucks at tourist traps for items that you forgot to pack.

Speaking of forgetting, be sure to make color copies of your passport and ticket information to avoid mishaps at the airport or just save them in your e-mail so that they can be accessed from anywhere in the world. And sketch out an itinerary before you leave. Planning ahead will help you fit in all of your sightseeing, beach going and restaurant hopping.

And, most important, head to to check the weather before you pack.

(on camera): I'm Gerri Willis and that's your Tip of the Day.

For more ideas, strategies and tips to save you money and protect your home, watch "OPEN HOUSE," today at 9:30 aamm Eastern right here on CNN.



HOLMES: All right, this is a huge story. A teenaged hacker apparently has unlocked the iPhone.

CHO: Yes, tecchies, listen up.


CHO: The secret is out about the most hyped phone ever.

Listen to this story. Seventeen-year-old George Hotz from New Jersey says he has unleashed Apple's iPhone from AT&T Wireless. He's now using the phone on the T Mobile Network.

Now, this is important. It's key because the hack could allow iPhones to be used on overseas networks.

Right now, the phones are only sold in the U.S.

The teen has posted his hack on his blog, unfortunately, so users can modify their phones themselves. But he says he hopes people won't use to it make money.

We shall see.

HOLMES: Always a 17-year-old somewhere sitting up figuring all that stuff out.

CHO: That's right.

HOLMES: Well, Fredricka Whitfield -- it's time for her to take over this thing here and continue with THE NEWSROOM.

CHO: Hello.

WHITFIELD: All right.

And just my little last footnote on that story -- it's always about money. So somebody is making some money off of that.

CHO: That's right.

HOLMES: Somebody will.

WHITFIELD: Whether it's kids being inventive.

HOLMES: Somebody will.

CHO: They will.

WHITFIELD: All right, T.J. and Alina, have a great day.

HOLMES: See you.

CHO: You, too.