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CNN SUNDAY MORNING

Wildfires Rage in California; Did O.J. Commit Armed Robbery?

Aired September 16, 2007 - 07:00   ET

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


BETTY NGUYEN, CNN ANCHOR: Well, good morning, everybody, from the CNN Center here in Atlanta. This is CNN SUNDAY MORNING. It is September 16th. Hi, everybody. I'm Betty Nguyen.
T.J. HOLMES, CNN ANCHOR: And I'm T.J. Holmes. It is 7:00 a.m. here at the coast and 4:00 a.m. out on the California coast. Take a look at what is happening out in California, wild fires. Right now, fires are raging in San Bernadine Valley right now, forcing thousands of people from their homes.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

(UNIDENTIFIED MALE): It's just like a home invasion. They came in quick, they came in fast and people moved into where they should be.

(UNIDENTIFIED MALE): And O.J. was there?

(UNIDENTIFIED MALE): And the last person coming in was O.J. yelling.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

NGUYEN: All right. So what happened in a Las Vegas hotel with O.J. Simpson gets more confusing. One businessman who claimed that there was an armed robbery now says he just wants to forget the whole thing.

HOLMES: Plus, what is inside this book? It has White House officials firing back. The former head of the Fed has a lot to say about President Bush spending money and sticking to principals.

We are going to start this morning with breaking news. We're getting word about a plane crash in Thailand. This is according to the Associated Press, an Orient Thai Airways jet has crashed while attempting to land in Phuket. The Phuket airport is in southern Thailand, AP here is quoting local television reports.

According to those reports, the Thai airport official says the plane broke in two as it tried to land. Not clear yet whether any passengers were injured or killed. And right now don't know how many people might have been on board that plane. The Thai official quoted as saying visibility was poor as the pilot tried to land. We are going to continue to monitor this story as we get more information on it. We will certainly pass it along to you. NGUYEN: Also happening right now, an out-of-control wildfire in southern California is chasing thousands of people from their home. That fire, near big Bear Lake has been running and gunning all day. Since it was spot on Friday, the blaze has scorched about 18,000 acres. A state of emergency is now in effect for San Bernardino County.

And many people living near Big Bear Lake have been sending in their I-reports of this mess. These images were taken by Karyn Messler and you can see the heavy smoke rising all along the ridge line.

HOLMES: This is of another fire during the Memorial Day holiday forced them from their home. Please send your photos or video us to us at CNN.com/ireport.

NGUYEN: We want to talk to Reynolds now to see if the weather is going to be cooperating at all as they try to get a handle on that blaze.

REYNOLDS WOLF, CNN METEOROLOGIST: Absolutely not. This is not a time of year when you have rainfall in southern California. Especially southern California, that's usually just during the winter months, January or February. That is their raining season, but they really have the deck stacked against them in this situation. They have a lot of dry brush up there near Big Bear, they have got fuel that's been sitting there for the last 50 to 75 years, all that brush, and they have all this wind that's kicking up through the mountain passes, and that spreads those flames even more, drying that vegetation dryer than it is and you have the one compounding one after another.

Another big issue is this thing is really striking the areas that are really inaccessible to many vehicles. They certainly have their work cut out for them. If we can, let's take GR-1704. I'm going to switch in with Google Earth so our friends here at home can get an idea what they're up against. Let's zoom in and show you Big Bear Lake. As we do so, that will give you an idea just how remote this is compared to say other spots. Take a look at what they're facing. When you have winds that come sweeping up and down these mountain passes, that air really compresses, it begins to heat up, that really fans those flames out there.

Plus not a lot of roads out there in this part of the world, so that will be difficult for them, as well. As I mentioned, not a drop of rain in the forecast. What we can anticipate is that area of low pressure, it will continue to bring in a lot of this wind and the flames will be just going. I think it's about 5 percent contained as it stands. With all the crews there working as hard as they can, they're going to chip away as best they can at this fire over the next couple of hours and next couple of days. It will be a while before they get this under control. That is the latest, we're going to have more coming up in your forecast, plus we are going to talk about the tropics. That is moments away.

NGUYEN: OK. Thank you Reynolds.

HOLMES: At least 17 people are dead this morning after a bus crash in western Mexico. Some of them may be American tourists. As many as 14 other people were injured. A local official says the bus fell more than 700 feet into a ravine after the driver lost control. The bus was carrying passengers from Puerto Vallarta to Guatemala. A spokesman for the bus company told the Associated Press that approximately half the passengers had arrived aboard a flight from Phoenix. That flight was suppose to land in Guatemala and was rerouted because of a fire at the airport.

NGUYEN: The driver of a produce truck is in critical condition this morning after this fiery wreck on the Canadian side of the bridge. Two Canadian customs officer pulled the driver out of that fire. Officials say the truck was going too fast in a cars only lane when it flipped over.

HOLMES: Check out all that's left of a medical clinic in Philadelphia, Mississippi. Authorities there say the destruction was caused by a natural gas explosion. Nine people were injured, but none of those injuries appear to be serious. Witnesses say they were told a contractor hit the gas line. The blast shattered windows in nearby businesses and caused one roof to collapse.

NGUYEN: We want to get you back to the fires in California because another fire broke out yesterday in San Diego County near the historic mining camps. Joining us by phone with the latest on the wild fires is Melody Lardner; she is with the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection. We appreciate you getting up awfully early to talk to us. Give us the latest on how big this fire is.

MELODY LARDNER, CALI. DEPT. OF FORESTRY & FIRE PROTECTION (via telephone): I have information on the Butler fire in the San Bernardino Mountains. This fire is just under 14,000 acres and 5 percent containment burning in San Bernardino Mountains northwest of Big Bear Lake.

NGUYEN: How many homes are in the path of this fire?

LARDNER: We have approximately 600 homes evacuated at this time.

NGUYEN: Is that voluntary or is it mandatory at this point?

LARDNER: Some of those are voluntary and some are mandatory.

NGUYEN: The last I was reading, the count was about 1,000 firefighters working on this. What do you have?

LARDNER: We have over 1,000 firefighters assigned to this fire.

NGUYEN: Any injuries to report this morning?

LARDNER: We have one fire fighter injury at this point. A minor injury to a firefighter who stepped in a pothole which is where the stump has burns out under ground and the ground caves in. A mine injury to that firefighter.

NGUYEN: Governor Schwarzenegger has declared a state of emergency and I want to know from you what kind of resources does that open up and provide those trying to fight this fire?

LARDNER: I don't have complete information on that, but it does allow additional state resources.

NGUYEN: And today do you expect any kind of help by winds not blowing the fire into other areas where it the continue to burn more precious land?

LARDNER: We expect high fire activity during the day because the humidity's have been very low in the area and the winds do pick up during the day.

NGUYEN: So what's been the biggest challenge? Have you been able to create fire lines and other things to try and stop this?

LARDNER: Well, the fire exploded rapidly during the day yesterday. And so that has been a challenge. The vegetation is extremely dry in this area, and that's another challenge.

NGUYEN: Any idea at this point how this fire started?

LARDNER: No. The cause is still under investigation.

NGUYEN: So what is going to be done today? What are crews going out today to try to do to stop this fire?

LARDNER: Well, they will continue to establish fire line and they will continue to do structure protection in the communities and as soon as it's daylight, they will put the aircraft back up into the air on this fire as winds allow.

NGUYEN: Do you have any idea of how soon you may get additional containment on this fire?

LARDNER: No. I don't have any estimate of full containment on this fire at this time.

NGUYEN: Yeah. You have a big task on your hands, a fire that is burning out of control in many areas, several thousand acres already charred. We appreciate your time with us this morning, getting up early to talk about the situation there. Melody Lardner, she is with the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection. Thank you, Melody.

NGUYEN: On to another subject now. When Allen Greenspan spoke the nation's financial markets move. Now, the former Federal Reserve chairman is critical of President Bush and many Republicans. He also has praise for former President Bill Clinton. In a new book scheduled to be released tomorrow, Greenspan is critical of the war in Iraq and he writes that he believes the war was started for oil.

Now, in another passage, Greenspan praises former Presidents Richard Nixon and Bill Clinton writing, quote, "I would say that he, Nixon and Bill Clinton, were by far the smartest presidents I have worked with. Greenspan also argues that President Bush should have vetoed some of the Republican Congresses spending bills that resulted in annual deficits as high as $400 billion dollars. And he writes, "I made no secret of my view that President Bush ought to reject a few bills. It would send a message to Congress that it did not have a carte blanche on spending. But the answer I received from senior White House officials was that the president didn't want to challenge house speaker Dennis Hastert. He thinks he can control him better by not antagonizing him."

HOLMES: The White House is down playing that criticism. A white house spokesman told CNN within the president's top line numbers on non-partial security appropriations bills, they had veto threats used to good affect to keep the spending within the president anticipates numbers. Because Congress worked with us, vetoes were not necessary. Fratto went on to say the administrations economic policy has been right on target.

NGUYEN: Well a new front runner has emerged for the soon to be vacant attorney general post. Michael Mukasey, two sources familiar with the search tell CNN the former federal judge President Bush's likely choice. Mukasey was nominated to the bench by President Reagan. And he presided over many chair related cases while on a federal bench assigned to Manhattan. The announcement of the new attorney general nominee could come as early as this week. Today is Alberto Gonzalez's last day.

HOLMES: We're still getting information on that Thailand plane crash. We'll get that to you in just a few minutes.

Also, this story you asked is s a razor thin line between race and judicial fair play in Jena, Louisiana.

NGUYEN: Up next we're going to take a closer look to the community reaction to the conviction of one of the young men being tossed out.

And this -

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

(UNIDENTIFIED MALE): You're dealing with your tongue, your pallet.

(UNIDENTIFIED MALE): Which were your more worried about, your career or your life?

(UNIDENTIFIED MALE): Career, easily. Like I said before, I never thought I was going to die.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

HOLMES: And he runs one of the hottest restaurants in the country. Now he's fighting to save one of his most valuable assets, his ability to taste. We'll tell you about this iron will chef's battle with cancer.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

(UNIDENTIFIED MALE): Fire in the hole!

(END VIDEO CLIP)

NGUYEN: Going, going, not gone. We're going to tell you about an implosion that didn't quite turn out the way it was supposed to. Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MELISSA BELL, MYCHAL BELL'S MOTHER: You have a long time to sit back and think about what you want out of life and that it can be taken away from him.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

NGUYEN: That was the mother of Mychal Bell, one of the so called Jena six. Bell's conviction in a racial charged Louisiana case was thrown out and tomorrow his attorneys will try to get him out of jail. Bell is one of six black teenagers charged in the beating of a white student in a high school there in Jena. An appeals court Friday threw out Bell's conviction for second degree battery. The court ruled that he should not have been tried as an adult. That ruling drew mixed reaction from Jena residents.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

(UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE): If they hadn't blown it so much out of proportions, it would have been settled a long time ago.

(UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE): I think juvenile sentencing would be best for him. But he is a repeat offender and I don't like that. He's had violent acts before.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

NGUYEN: This case has attracted national attention and split the town along racial lines. A major civil rights protest is planned for this Thursday in Jena. Organizers say it will go on as scheduled.

Martin Luther King II and Bernice King will be among those marching in Jena this week. Our Suzanne Malveaux will talk with them tonight at 10:00 Eastern in our "Sunday Spotlight."

In the meantime, getting a payoff for good behavior. That is the way it should be right?

HOLMES: You would be broke.

NGUYEN: Stop it. But that is the idea for some families in New York.

HOLMES: Some say it's the best way to lift people out of poverty. Others say it's the worst welfare program ever. Here is CNN's Jim Acosta. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JIM ACOSTA, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice over): Get a library card, $50. Graduate from high school, $400. Get that annual physical, $200. Just a few of the everyday tasks that can earn cold, hard cash as part of a New York City Social Program aimed at rewarding low income families for good behavior. Just do the right thing and --

CHERYL NICKS, "OPPORTUNITY NYC" RESIDENT: Blessings, small blessings for us underprivileged families.

ACOSTA: How so?

NICKS: How so? Because I'm getting paid for things that I already do as part of any regimen, part of my family living.

ACOSTA: One of the programs for Cheryl Nicks can make thousands of dollars if her sons can pass their school's assessment exams.

URI NICKS, CHERYL'S SON: My mom is struggling check to check. We were always good. This helps out more.

ACOSTA: The anti-poverty initiative called "Opportunity NYC" comes at no cost to taxpayers. The city's billionaire Mayor Michael Bloomberg and a few private foundations have pumped $27 million into the program.

MAYOR MICHAEL BLOOMBERG, NEW YORK: We have set an ambitious agenda for reducing poverty in New York City and it's going to take all of us working together to achieve it.

ACOSTA: Critics of this program want to know, where does it all end? What are next, paying people to eat their vegetables?

HEATHER MACDONALD, MANHATTAN INSTITUTE: I think this could be the most destructive welfare program ever devised. You are creating the expectation in people that they should take moral actions only when they get paid.

ACOSTA: As New York's public school chancellor discovered "Opportunity NYC" has opened up opportunities for late night comedians.

JOEL KLEIN, NYC PUBLIC SCHOOL CHANCELLOR: A fourth grader can make $250; a seventh grader can make $500.

(UNIDENTIFIED MALE): A seventh grader with five large?

KLEIN: You've got to do well.

(UNIDENTIFIED MALE): Absolutely. Let me ask you something, is this only limited to students? Because I bet I could ace some of those fourth grade exams.

ACOSTA: Kid all you want, says Cheryl Nicks, who is counting on the program to help her train for a new job. NICKS: We should get our first check around Christmas time. It will help a lot.

ACOSTA: Before they can say, show me the money; they'll have to show the results first.

Jim Acosta, CNN, New York.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

HOLMES: We do want to let you know we are all over this story come to us out of Thailand where apparently according to the Associated Press an Orient Thai airplane has crashed and according to some reports it broke in two while attempted to land in Phuket. Local television reports are quoting some local officials that believe that there are many people who are dead, some reports saying as many as 60. Those reports coming from local television reports via the Associated Press to us.

But we are continuing to follow this story. Our people there, you're seeing some of our best and brighter right there at our international desk who are making calls right now trying to get as much information as we can about this jet, where it was going, where it was coming from and how many people might have been on board. We are continuing to follow this story and we can assure you that as we get that information, we will pass it along to you.

NGUYEN: In the meantime, there is much more to come on this CNN SUNDAY MORNING. Stick around for that.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

NGUYEN: The message is loud and clear. Thousands of anti-war protesters marched from the White House to the capital demanding an end to the Iraq war.

HOLMES: And scores were arrested after a clash with police. CNN's Kathleen Koch was there.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

KATHLEEN KOCH, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice over): Anti-war protesters scrambling over barricades on the west front of the U.S. capitol. Politics dragging some away, pepper spraying others. More than 150 were arrested. An angry end to what had been a peaceful day of protests. Prominent activists from Ralph Nader to Cindy Sheehan rallying the crowd.

CINDY SHEEHAN, ANTI WAR PROTESTER: It's time for us to show Congress that they need to represent we the people, not the corporations!

KOCH: Protesters felt it was important to air their concerns in Washington this weekend to counter this week's testimony before Congress by the U.S. Commander in Iraq General David Petraeus, the U.S. Ambassador Ryan Crocker as well as the Administration's progress report on Iraq.

ALEX ROSEN, ANTI-WAR PROTESTER: Absolutely, because we just seem to be hearing the same message over and over. It's like deja vu all over again.

KOCH: Calvin Smith came from Florida.

CALVIN SMITH, ANTI-WAR PROTESTER: It's like the majority of the people want to end the war, but our leaders aren't listening to us.

KOCH: Just 13 blocks away a smaller group of nearly 1,000 demonstrators tried to make their message heard.

CHRIS HILL, GATHERING OF EAGLES: Today I want you to raise your voices so loud that not only do those people hear it, but our brave warriors in Iraq and Afghanistan hear it and they know we have their backs.

KOCH: Some like retired army Col. Harry Riley are so livid about the moveon.org ad this week. Criticizing General Petraeus.

COL. HARRY RILEY, U.S. ARMY (RET): It doesn't matter what political party it is. Everyone should absolutely call it what it is, it's guess graceful.

KOCH: Besides arrests, protesters lying on the ground to mark the nearly 4,000 U.S. troops killed in Iraq. Marchers seemed unfazed Congress was not in session and the president at Camp David.

(UNIDENTIFIED MALE): We'll keep coming out here and protesting and protesting until we do see some changes.

KOCH: Kathleen Koch, CNN, Washington.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

NGUYEN: Well we are following that plane crash in Thailand; a number of deaths are being reported. We have more information that is coming into CNN. As soon as we get that, we, of course, will share that with you. That is also ahead.

HOLMES: We'll be talking about taboo topics in a Muslim society.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

(UNIDENTIFIED MALE): At the age of 17, I became aware that so many Muslims here were experiencing drugs, mental health issues, and relationship problems with their families. Even common social problems for the Muslim community, they are very much no-go areas.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

HOLMES: What this young man is doing to bridge the cap for Muslim teens in Britain that is straight ahead on CNN SUNDAY MORNING.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) NGUYEN: Being Muslim in a western society is not always easy. Similar perhaps to being split between two worlds. Our CNN hero this morning is a British man whose mission and challenge is to help Muslims be Muslims.

MOHAMMED MAMDANI: Many Muslims they are leading double lives. They have to behave in a particular way within the Muslim community. There is a conflict between trying to be all British as well as being all Muslim at the same time. At the age of 17, I became more aware of the fact that so many of my Muslim peers were experiencing relationships issues with their families, drugs, mental health issues. These are common problems for the Muslim community they are very much no-go areas.

I felt I had to take responsibility for the situation. My father installed telephone lines in my bedroom. It would ring at all times of the day, sometimes in the middle of the night. The Muslim hot line obviously became my life. We take thousands of calls related to depression, self-harm, suicidal feelings.

(UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE): We're completely confidential.

(UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE): We're sensitive to their faith and their culture. At the same time (inaudible). It helps, just having a Muslim on the other end of the line helping to understand and relate to these issues.

(UNIDENTIFIED MALE): Yesterday, the people of London suffered a terrible heart break together.

MAMDANI: After the London bombings, I decided to set up a new project which aimed to deal with young people face to face. My new project is like a youth organization, it's a very friendly environment, and it is a very brotherly environment. It teaches them the skills to reconnect with their Muslim identity while learning to integrate better into British society.

I wouldn't say the work that I do is necessarily heroic. It's just something that is new in society. My aim is to help young Muslims just be themselves.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

NGUYEN: You can go to CNN.com/heroes to check out how 9/11 and other terrorists attacks have shamed Mohammed Mamdani's work.

Now there you can also nominate a hero of your own.

HOLMES: Folks, we are still gathering information on that crash of an Orient-Thai Airline jet in Thailand. Several deaths have been reported. We'll have more on that coming up in just a moment.

Plus, a piece of sports history sold.

NGUYEN: Find out how much Barry Bonds' record breaking homerun ball fetched on the auction block. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

(UNIDENTIFIED MALE): There's collectors out there that may pay up to $10,000 for an O.J. suit.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE): Dealing with O.J. Simpson memorabilia and dealing with his ups and downs of sports stars in trouble, that's just minutes away.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

HOLMES: Again, folks, continuing to follow this breaking news out of Thailand, word of a plane crash in southern Thailand. This is according to the Associated Press, an Orient-Thai Airways jet has crashed while attempting to land at Phuket airport.

The AP is quoting multiple television reports, and this right now, according to those reports, a Thai Air transport official says the plane broke in two as it tried to land. He says it's not clear if any passengers are injured or killed. That is from an earlier report. We are getting some updated wire reports from the AP quoting some officials there who have talked to a local television crews that are saying as many as 60 are dead in this plane crash.

Still, these are preliminary reports; all this according to the Associated Press right now. Also, officials saying there was poor visibility and a heavy rain storm that was going on at the time of this plane crash.

We are continuing to follow this story. We'll bring you any updates as they come in to us.

NGUYEN: In other news, a new twist in the strange story about O.J. Simpson, that alleged armed robbery case in a Las Vegas hotel casino. I know you've heard of it by now. Well, Simpson tells CNN that one of the alleged victims in the case, Alfred Beardsley called him and Beardsley claims he was robbed by Simpson and his associate. Beardsley has confirmed talking to Simpson saying that the former NFL star apologized for the incident in the room there. And according to Simpson, both men agree that the alleged rip off was blown out of proportion by the media.

Well, try to get to the bottom of that.

HOLMES: Yes, can you keep up with this thing? Well, police are trying to keep up. They continue sort out exactly what happened in that hotel room and whether a crime was even committed at all.

NGUYEN: In the meantime, O.J. Simpson sports memorabilia isn't what it used to be, and CNN's Thelma Gutierrez reports.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

THELMA GUTIERREZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice over): In a tiny Las Vegas strip mall, Rick Nara wheels and deals in the high stakes world of sports memorabilia.

RICK NARA, CO-OWNER, PLAYBALL: United scored with Randy Johnson?

GUTIERREZ: He's a 20-year veteran who has done big business with the biggest names in sports. Mickey Mantle, Joe Theisman, Gale Sayers. Nara has also done business with one of the most notorious, O.J. Simpson.

NARA: That was the day that he came in here, too, that we had it signed. This poster, $150. A signed photo, $50. His football jersey, $300.

(on camera): Here in Rick's shop, this football with O.J. autograph on it runs about $150. But back in the day, prior to O.J.'s legal troubles, Rick could get about twice as much.

NARA: There's collectors out there that want to gain a worn suit by O.J., at the trial. They might pay up to at least $10,000.

GUTIERREZ: But O.J. memorabilia is a sore subject for his Rita, Ricks' wife and business partner.

(On camera): You didn't want to make money from it?

RITA NARA, MEMORABILIA DEALER: Oh, absolutely not! And I don't want to pay him a penny. I made him promise me that he would not have him again, have him come in the shop again.

GUTIERREZ (voice over): But Nara cringes every time a star falls from grace because it affects his bottom line.

NARA: It's like the stock market. You're there, and then you're down. I his rookie card, at one time, was a 1970 rookie card from Topps' and I know it went from $300 to $30.

GUTIERREZ: And O.J. wasn't his only hit.

MARTY RODICK, SPORTS RADIO HOST: We're talking about Kobe Bryant, Mike Tyson, Pete Rose, Michael Vick and O.J. Simpson. And, you know, each and every one of these guys were at the top of their game.

GUTIERREZ: Nara says with time, even tainted memorabilia can regain its value. Thelma Gutierrez, CNN, Las Vegas, Nevada.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

HOLMES: Apparently the market is still pretty hot for Barry Bonds. The ball that broke the all-time home run record sold yesterday for $750,000. That's up 50 percent higher than experts had predicted. Home run number 756 was caught by 21-year-old Matt Murphy, of New York. The ball's new owner has not been identified.

NGUYEN: So if you think folks spend a lot of money for sports memorabilia, that kind of stuff, peanuts compared to what the government can fork over for a meatball, of all things.

HOLMES: Yes, you've got to hear this, a meatball. Expensive meatballs.

JOSHUA LEVS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: You know, I was just thinking, like instead of the $750,000 spent on baseball --

NGUYEN: OK?

LEVS: You could have like a really nice dinner at the Justice Department.

(LAUGHTER)

LEVS: Here's what's going on. There is a new audit at the Justice Department. Their own inspector general that came out with this report, our own Terry Friedman (ph) in Washington reported about this audit. And it shows how much money was spent on food at the department's events last year.

Some of the big examples? Nearly $5 per meatball and $4.55 for one can of soda. Which I don't get. How do you spend $4.55 for one can of soda?

You can see the audit there. It is up at the USDOJ.gov, it shows the expenditures that in some cases went beyond the per diem rate that's allowed. There's also a link to that, if you look at the CNN.com story that really breaks it down. And you can see what the lunch tabs were in some cases. Just go over there and click on it.

So, what we did at the Dot.Com Desk this morning, we went piecing through some of the blogs. As you can imagine, some of the blogs are loving this. They are feasting on it.

Take a look at this one, to begin with, from "The Detroit News", that is DETNews.com, it has the headline, "Raise Taxes, Meatballs Are Expensive". Here's another one. This is another one, this is Dig.com and it was submitted by some one who calling himself, Expat001. "Your tax dollars hard at work fighting the terrorists. You know Al Qaeda hates meatballs."

All right, at CollegeConfidential, this is a blog that is about college admissions. How to pay for college, financial aid. It has this posting, it says, "Fiscal conservatives buy $4 meatballs." Technically, it's actually closer to $5. It's like $4.77.

All right, finally, this one, guys from "The Wall Street Journal" blog. They pointed out that embattled Attorney General Alberto Gonzales wasn't getting so much as a brown bag reception on his last day, the same day it came out how much incredibly much money was being spent on these conferences.

Now at the bottom of that blog, there's a guy who posted, Peter Foley; he wrote this comment about the story. He said, "Hey, that's pennies compared to the millions wasted every day by the TSA checking dirty underwear at airports. Worried about the billions being wasted and then move on down to the petty crimes."

All right, to be fair to the Justice Department, I want to say this audit did include some ideas. It said that they should be more careful, implement some steps to make sure this thing doesn't happen. And the DOJ, guys, says it totally agrees. So, the hope is, in the future, you won't see this. Even, still, it is one example of a lot money that's spent.

NGUYEN: And, 4 bucks for a meatball?

LEVS: Yeah, $4.77, per meatball, and --

(CROSS TALK)

NGUYEN: These had better be some large meatballs.

LEVS: They weren't and they weren't even like some spectacular meat, either. I was looking into that.

HOLMES: I'm sure they were good.

LEVS: Well, they were OK.

HOLMES: I'm sure they were good.

NGUYEN: And then about 5 bucks for a Coke?

LEVS: Well, you tell me what does a $5 meatball taste like?

HOLMES: It's delicious, actually.

LEVS: He's the meat connoisseur.

NGUYEN: What about a $5 Coke, though?

LEVS: Yeah, it's still a Coke. Like a Coke is a Coke. Where does that money go? We've got to start like, piecing through that and figure out where the mark up comes.

HOLMES: Probably some Jack Daniels in there, as well.

(LAUGHTER)

NGUYEN: Maybe that's where the money went.

HOLMES: That's what it was.

LEVS: Maybe they're having more fun than we thought.

HOLMES: All right, Josh, thanks.

LEVS: Thanks, guys.

HOLMES: Well, a terrible twist of irony to tell you about. An acclaimed chef, his career depends on his sense of taste. Now he's at risk of losing that. We'll have his story.

NGUYEN: Also ahead, going home. Presidential Candidate Fred Thompson, gets a warm welcome in his hometown. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

HOLMES: Obama has Oprah. How do you fight that? With a little magic. It was quite a magic night for Democratic presidential hopeful Hillary Clinton. You're "Trail Mix", coming up in 30 seconds.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

NGUYEN: All right, check it out, Hillary Clinton stepping onto the turf of a fellow Democrat seeking the White House. Senator Clinton spent much of the weekend in Southern California courting both African-American voters and celebrities, of course. Both groups have strongly supported Barack Obama, her main challenger for the party's nomination. And Clinton's host was Magic Johnson, who opened his home for that fund-raiser.

HOLMES: In the meantime, a leading Republican returns to his roots. Fred Thompson in his hometown of Lawrenceburg, Tennessee; his first event in the state since announcing his presidency -- his presidential candidacy, I should say. Not quite president yet.

NGUYEN: Not there yet.

HOLMES: Sorry about that, Mr. Thompson.

Well, polls show Thompson shares the GOP lead with former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani. The presidential campaigns and the endurance race to November '08, we'll hear from the best political team on television. A closer look less than two hours from now, on CNN SUNDAY MORNING.

NGUYEN: An 11-day-old baby abducted from her mother in Detroit has been found in South Carolina. Police say a 16-year-old girl who is suspected of kidnapping the infant, and the baby, were found at a hotel in South Carolina yesterday. They had been missing since Thursday. The baby was unharmed, but was taken to the hospital for observation. Police say the teenage girl will be returned to Detroit to face possible charges.

HOLMES: Funny man Steve Harvey gets serious about his faith.

NGUYEN: He is in the spotlight in this morning's "Faces of Faith" segment. You don't want to miss it.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

HOLMES: Well, Steve Harvey, you know him as a standup comic, you know him as an actor, you know him as a whole lot of things. He is a guy that will absolutely have you cracking up. This morning, we're going to introduce you to a different Steve Harvey, a man of faith.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

HOLMES (voice over): If you know Steve Harvey, then you know he's funny. And so does he. He's even funnier when you're up close and personal with him. No stage, no auditorium, here, no screaming fans, just me, Steve and a few passersby.

STEVE HARVEY, COMEDIAN: I'm sitting up here. Oh, look at that!

HOLMES: But there is another side of Steve Harvey, or maybe we should say the inside of Steve Harvey that his listeners hear every morning on "The Steve Harvey Morning Show".

HARVEY: When I first negotiated the deal, I made it perfectly clear that the first 12 minutes belong to me, because I have a commitment, a promise that I made to God, that if he let me make it, I would tell everybody how I got there.

HOLMES: And he kept that promise. Every morning at the top of his show like clockwork, Harvey pops an inspirational vitamin for himself and his listeners. We asked if we could record his 12-minute devotional. The answer, no. Harvey says to do so compromises the sincerity of the experience. And what his devotional means to his listeners is his first priority and here's why.

HARVEY: The average person, man, is really looking for an answer, and really looking to solutions to a lot of problems. And I think it's a breath of fresh air that they can turn into a secular radio station and get that.

HOLMES: With his television, film and comedic career, also being a full-time husband and father, it's a wonder he has time for much else. But he is traveling across the country, mentoring and encouraging teens to not be afraid to dream.

HARVEY: I dreamed about being on television. I dreamed about this. It was a dream of mine. That's what kept me in school. And a lot of times your friends and your peers drop out, when they don't have that dream.

HOLMES: Steve Harvey, the motivational speaker? It's possible.

HARVEY: I think where I'm headed is more of a motivational speaker. You know? I think I have some great information that a lot of people have shared with me over the years, man, that if I shared it with some young men, it could help them develop.

HOLMES: I asked Harvey if he's considering retiring from comedy.

HARVEY: I can't retire from comedy because it is what I do. I'll probably stop touring as a standup comedian sometime around 70.

This probably sounds corny to some people, but I ain't really in charge of what I'm doing right now. It's more what God wants to do with me, you know?

(END VIDEOTAPE)

HOLMES: That is a different side of him that most folks don't get to see unless you hear the show, and know that first 12 minutes.

NGUYEN: Yeah.

HOLMES: He is, of course, a funny dude who has some serious things on his mind. Talked about the young people and says it's not just -- you can't just blame the young kids for being stupid. It's our fault, adults, and young black men -- black men, like him, like me, we all need to set a better example for these young men out there. So he's taking that very seriously.

NGUYEN: And he attributes his success to his faith?

HOLMES: Yes, 100 percent to his faith. He says, if you are that stupid to think that you are where you are because of you?

NGUYEN: Because of your own devices?

HOLMES: Yeah.

NGUYEN: You'd better think again.

HOLMES: You'd better think again. It was fun hanging out with him. He's a great guy.

NGUYEN: I bet he had you cracking up.

HOLMES: He did.

NGUYEN: You're still laughing about it.

HOLMES: We had some serious stuff we had to talk about, but yet, the guy's hilarious.

Stay here, folks. You know how we do it here on CNN on the weekend mornings. You know we love it and we know you love it right here. Implosions are us. Here is a quick look.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Fire in the hole!

HOLMES: You hear the explosion, here, but you don't quite see the implosion.

NGUYEN: You see the damage, though.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

HOLMES: Yeah, there were problems with this one here. We'll tell you what happened -- or actually didn't really happen, in this implosion. We'll have that for you.

Also, this:

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Everybody had a Corvette or a truck that's all cherried out, but nobody's got a bat mobile. (END VIDEO CLIP)

NGUYEN: Holy bat hobby! Is that what I'm supposed to say here?

(LAUGHTER)

How would you like to take this baby for a ride? Well, we have that story, straight ahead.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

HOLMES: We want to return to our breaking news story we're getting out of Thailand, where we understand a jet has crashed in southern Thailand at the Phuket airport. Varying reports right now; a lot of it coming to us from the Associated Press saying there are believed to be many who are dead. Quoting a police official, who is giving those quotes to a local news station there.

Apparently this plane went down in heavy rain, low visibility while trying to land at the Phuket airport.

We have on line with us, William Harding, who lives nearby that airport.

William, I hope you can hear me. This is T.J. Holmes in Atlanta, with CNN. And we are trying to get as much information as we can. What can you tell us about what you heard, what you saw, also about the conditions there right now?

WILLIAM HARDING, WITNESSED CRASHED JET: Hi. Yeah, I can hear you. It's a little broken up.

We slipped in and landed just before the plane that crashed. I can tell you that was a rough landing. I've never been through anything like that. But upon entering the airport, one way you can take an access that goes up to the runways and out on the runway, the jet was crashed, and up into a hill that's beside the runway. It looked basically intact. The wing still attached to the fuselage. The tail was down. But the inside of the plane was totally ablaze. And after a couple minutes, there was an explosion that kind of (AUDIO GAP) the plane.

HOLMES: William, how close are you? Where are you right now in relation to the airport?

HARDING: Now, I'm about three minutes away, so -- the crash was maybe an hour ago, hour and a half ago. And we were right there right after it happened.

HOLMES: What is the weather like, or what was the weather like around that time? You said about an hour ago. What was the weather like in that area?

HARDING: It was real bad, gusting winds and real rainy. It was the roughest landing I've ever been through. We landed, I think, about five minutes before the plane crashed, the same airline we were flying on, I understand.

HOLMES: And William Harding, I'm trying to get an understanding. I know we were just getting hooked up with you and linked up with you. Am I understanding, you say you were a passenger?

HARDING: I was a passenger on the flight that landed just before the flight that crashed.

HOLMES: Just before this one. OK.

HARDING: I saw the crash from the road that runs adjacent to the runway.

HOLMES: OK. Could you tell, as this plane was trying to land, did it appear to be having issues? Did it appear to be on fire, or having any kind of issues like that, or just took a bad landing and that's when the problem started?

HARDING: You know, what it looked like to me was that it actually landed and then crashed, maybe skidded off the runway. What we saw -- inside the plane was totally on fire. And after about five minutes of this burning inside, there was a small explosion that blew out kind of the top of the plane.

HOLMES: Sir, how big of a jet can you describe this as? Was it a smaller plane? Was this certainly a larger jet that was capable of carrying a whole lot of people?

HARDING: Yeah. It's a whole -- it's a big, commercial Boeing, you know? I think it's -- probably the same kind of plane that we were on. I think it's capable of carrying, you know, maybe -- what do they carry, 150 people? The thing is, on our flight, there were only maybe 30 passengers total. It was only about the first third of the plane had anybody in it, and the whole rest of it was empty. Hopefully that's the case with this one, also.

HOLMES: Sir, we had reports that this plane possibly broke in two. Did you see anything like that?

HARDING: No. I heard that, but I didn't see that. What I saw was kind of a whole plane that looked like it had -- looked like it had wrecked. One disheartening thing was that we didn't see any people, you know, milling about like they had just been -- kind of gotten off of the plane? You know what I mean? We saw a lot of rescue workers, but we didn't see any -- we didn't see anybody that looked like they might have just scrambled off the plane, or anything like that.

And I think, you know, at that time, it had just happened. I think we would have seen that. So -- I don't -- hopefully they had already gotten all the people off and on to a bus somewhere or something like that. But we didn't see anything like that. All we saw were rescue workers.

HOLMES: Sir, did you see this plane? We're trying to give our viewers and we're trying to get ourselves the best picture of what was happening with that plane, but was that plane, would you describe it as fully engulfed in flames, or just a part of it was on fire?

HARDING: No. The whole inside of the plane was aflame. You know, it was -- I've never seen anything like that. Of course, you know, normally you don't. But the whole of the plane was on fire -- inside. It wasn't like the whole maybe was on fire or whatever. I don't know what burns when a plane catches on fire. But the whole inside of the plane was on fire.

HOLMES: Did it appear, at all, that it had lost landing gear, or how exactly it crashed? Did it run into anything? Could you tell anything like that about it?

HARDING: You know, I couldn't really -- you know, it was kind of, you know, smashed up against the hill a little bit, but it looked whole. And, you know, it didn't look like anything disintegrated when it maybe smashed into the ground. The best guess I have is that it landed, and then kind of skidded off the runway, or something like that.

And I don't know anything about the landing gear or whatever. But the plane kind of was whole. It didn't look like it slammed into the ground at a high rate of speed.

NGUYEN: William, this is Betty Nguyen in Atlanta with T.J. I was just recently in Phuket and I understand this is a very small airport. I've traveled there myself. But when you look at planes coming there, you have to imagine, or at least assume that most of the passengers there are tourists, correct?

HARDING: That's right. I mean, I think usually it's anywhere from 10 to 15 percent of the passengers, maybe 20 percent are Thai and all the rest are mainly Western tourists. And that was the case on our flight, which landed just before this plane that crashed. About 90 percent of the people are European or American. (UNINTELLIGIBLE)

NGUYEN: What are you hearing from local reports there? You being on the ground. Are they saying any numbers as to those who may have been killed or injured? Because just preliminary reports that we're getting from the wires is that possibly 60 are dead.

HARDING: Yeah. I don't -- I can't -- even if I was listening to the Thai guy talking, I wouldn't know what they were saying, and I don't know. I can't say anything about that. I don't have any -- you know, I've heard -- the first thing I heard was that eight people were hurt, which seems to imply that maybe all the rest got off, and weren't hurt. And I was hopeful. Although that didn't seem likely, so no, I don't have any information about any kind of information coming out here locally.

NGUYEN: What you did see is that the inside of this plane was on fire after it crashed into a hillside there. Now, you landed on the flight right before the plane that crashed. Are you a resident there, or are you also a tourist there in Thailand?

HARDING: (UNINTELLIGIBLE) from here, but we're down here in Phuket as tourists. You know, right now in Bangkok there are two different airports. Our flight left the new airport at 2 o'clock and the flight that crashed, I understand, left the airport at about 2:30. Our flight had been delayed.

And, as I was saying before, I mean, my producer, Adam and I, as we were landing, we were both kind of like, I've never been through a landing like that before. He had a real hard time lining it up. We had to circle the airport once. When we got off the plane -- it's the kind of plane where you walk down the stairs to a bus, and the bus takes you to the terminal. I mean, the wind was almost strong enough to blow you over on that little walk away. (AUDIO GAP) And really raining hard and the visibility was real, you know, short.

HOLMES: All right. William Harding, stand by with us here. Don't go anywhere. We're going to continue to talk to you. Here at the top of the hour, 8:00 here on the east coast. We do want our viewers to know what we are following and what is happening.

A jet has crashed at the Phuket Airport in southern Thailand. According to the Associated Press and varying reports out there, it could be as many as 60 dead. Apparently there was a rain storm and visibility was low at the time that this plane went down. We have been talking on the phone to William Harding a passenger on a plane that arrived before this plane that did crash. He is describing a scene for us of a plane that was engulfed in flames. Actually, his description was that that plane seemed to be on fire from the inside. That's the description we're getting.

This is the first eyewitness of the accounts that we are getting, other reports we are getting from the Associated Press. Again, quoting officials there on the ground telling local television news crews that in fact there could be as many as 60 dead, as many as 100 or so on board.

NGUYEN: Yes, here is what we know about that plane in particular, it is an Orient-Thai Airways jet that crashed this morning and is engulfed in flames as we heard from our witness William Harding on the ground. What we know about the passengers so far, according to reports coming into CNN is that 123 passengers were on board, five crew members. It's not known as to an official death toll at this point, but a local Thai television is reporting that some 60 people are dead as a result of this crash.

Now, what we understand is that T.J. had just noted that the weather conditions were extremely rough upon landing and that is supported by William Harding who is a witness to what occurred. He was on a flight that landed just before the plane that crashed. William, let me ask you to get your account. As you came in, how bad was the weather on the ground there in Phuket?

HARDING: As I said, is walking from the stairs to the plane to the bus, it was so strong it almost knocked you out. So it was very windy, very rainy, and foggy. And just bad.

NGUYEN: Were you surprised at all that the pilot even attempted to land in that type of weather? HARDING: I don't know. Not -- maybe not really. Now that this has happened, I guess I might think about that, but at the time, it was just a real rough landing. In fact, you know, the approach was weird, you know, kind of accelerate, decelerate, climb, and my producer, Adam and I, were talking about it as we were landing, that it was the roughest landing that either one of us had ever gone through.

NGUYEN: We do want to welcome in, as well, our CNN international viewers and all of our viewers, many of you just waking up to the news this morning of an airline crash in Phuket at the airport there. We have on the phone with us William Harding whose plane arrived just before this plane that crashed. Again, William appreciate you sticking with us, but describe to our viewers again as you have just a short time ago. What you saw, you had just landed. And tell us what you saw on the plane coming in after you; just describe that scene for us again.

HARDING: Well, you know, we landed, we got our bags and we exited the parking lot, the airport. And one exit, the road runs parallel to the runways. And out on the runway was billowing smoke coming from the plane that had crashed. It kind of -- it really looked intact, you know, like it had landed and skidded off the runway and there it was kind of lying up against the hill. And inside the plane was all aflame, you know, it was eerie looking. It was definitely in fire inside the plane and after a couple of minutes, there was an explosion, a small one that kind of ripped through the fuselage.

But the wings were there. You know, the tail was just kind of knocked over. It didn't really look like it had crashed in the air or broken up or anything. I was guessing it had landed and skidded off runway into the hill.

HOLMES: William, could you see any people on that plane attempting to get out, to be bussed out in any kind of ways, any of the doors, any of the emergency doors, anything like that coming open and any attempt by anybody to get out of that plane?

HARDING: You know, what I hope is that a before we got around there, maybe they got people off the plane. We didn't see anybody scrambling off the plane. We didn't see anybody around the plane that looked like maybe they had just gotten off the plane. There was a bus or two from the airlines that had sped out there and maybe people had got off the plane, they were on those buses and we didn't see them. What we saw were rescue workers out there and they were spraying the plane down with foam.

Our driver, we were talking about, none of us saw anybody around the plane that looked like maybe they had gotten out of the plane, you know? The people that we saw looked like firemen and other rescue workers.

NGUYEN: William we're looking at video now from IHA, some local video coming into CNN. It shows rescue workers on the scene of that crash. People trying to get some of the passengers off. We have not heard of any survivors of an official death toll at this point. But were you able to see the rescue workers tending to any of the passengers on the plane?

HARDING: I didn't see anything like that. I didn't see any rescue workers actually working with people. They were back in the distance and spraying the plane with foam. They were trying to put the fire out, basically. If anybody had gotten off that plane, they would have been in those buses, I guess. I mean, I hope that some people got off. I -- my guess is that -- I didn't see anything like that.

NGUYEN: How fiery was this crash? Because you had said that you saw it land intact, but then it hit an embankment, which is pretty much what we're seeing here in this video. It does looks like there's a small hill nearby where it must have skidded off the runway. Was the plane on fire as it was headed that way or did you see it after it had already hit the embankment?

HARDING: Yeah. I don't want to imply I saw the plane land. I didn't. I never saw the plane in motion. I just saw the aftermath. My guess was that it landed and skidded up and smashed into that hill. And the exterior of the plane just kind of looked like the plane. But you could clearly see what the whole inside of the plane was absolutely engulfed in flames, on fire.

NGUYEN: All right. William Harding, an eyewitness on the ground there in Phuket whose plane arrived just before the jet that had crashed. We are seeing video of that and as William described earlier, not only was this devastating for the plane that as you see there has crashed, but also his landing was very difficult because of the weather there. William, we appreciate you spending time with us today and helping us understand what you saw as a witness there on the ground. Thank you very much.

HOLMES: And we will continue to follow the breaking news story now. Our Josh Levs has been doing some digging on this online, as well, getting more information about this jet liner, about this company that owns this jet liner. This information immediately goes to the Web oftentimes when breaking news happens. Josh, what have you been finding out?

LEVS: Absolutely. A lot of people are concerned. This is a resort area where this plane was going. A lot of people are concerned about loved ones or friends who could have been going to that area. What we have first are some photos that we can show you from injured people. We're told that these are the first photos from the Associated Press in which injured people who got off the plane are being treated at a nearby hospital.

Now, the number of injured is very important here. What we're being told is that about 20 people are confirmed having gotten off the plane and being injured. In a case like this, as awful as it is, injury is a good piece of news. What we want to hear is that people are getting off the plane alive. And that brings me to what has just come through, guys. This is from the government of Thailand. This is the first official word that we have right now from the Thai government. This is a Thai national news agency. They are now announcing that this plane did crash. It was operated by Thai Budget Carrier one to go. They're saying rescue workers carried at least 20 injured people to both public and private hospitals.

Then this government report goes on to say, and I'm quoting here, the plane's passenger list including 123 persons plus five crew, many of whom are feared dead. Now, this is just the aftermath right now. This is the beginning of the aftermath. We don't know what's going on in there. We don't know the conditions of every one. I'm not going to tell you its concrete. But we have the Thai government telling us, 123 passengers, plus five crew, many of them feared dead. At least 20 people injured and brought to hospitals in the area.

There is one more thing I want to clear up for you guys. You've been hearing us talk today about two different airlines in the original aftermath of this. You've heard us talk about One Two Go Airlines and you've heard us talk about Orient-Thai Airways. There's a reason you were hearing both. If you're checking your loved ones flight arrangements, you want to know which it was. We are told by the government that this would have been a One-Two-Go Airlines. The reason this happened, is that we are told according to Bangkok hosts planes in both of these airlines; both Orient Thai and One-Two-Go used the same flight identifier. So is someone is looking at the jet, they see the OG on the side of the plane, the flight identifier. Right now according to the injury report we have from the National Thai News Agency, it was, in fact, a One-Two-Go.

They're saying it skidded off the runway at the Phuket National Airport during a landing attempt and it was amid heavy rain and strong cross winds. They're saying local time it happened in that area about 4:00 p.m. And for those of you who want as many specifics as possible. This aircraft had been identified as an MD-82 model. It broke into two sections. It broke in half before bursting into flame in the wings and the rear section of the broken aircraft. Does that mean it spread to the front? We don't know and we really can't tell from the pictures. You're seeing a photo here of a plane, not the plane, but a plane from the airway. We were able to pull up on line where the Web site talks about the types of planes this airline has. Guys, those are the details we have right now. We're going to follow everything we get from the government, everything the airlines say, as well. We will come in all morning with all the detail we've got.

Betty, T.J. back to you.

NGUYEN: All right. Josh we appreciate that. Again One-Two-Go Airways is the plane that crashed; it is an MD-82. To reiterate one more time, as people are waking up and getting this news, especially as this is a resort area and there may be many American, European people from around the world on that flight, there were 123 passengers, 5 crew members and according to the Thai government, many of those are feared dead. But what we know is that some 20 have been able to make it to local hospitals and they are only described as injured at this point.

HOLMES: And Josh before we let you go, I want to make sure I have this right about the plane splitting in two and what it was actually caused by. Can you get that point for me one more time?

LEVS: Yes. Let me give you what the government is saying. What they're saying happened here is that it broke into two sections before bursting into flame in the wings and the rear section of the broken aircraft. What we are hearing, the wings had flames. Remember, they're saying the plane broke in two. That back half of that plane. Either way, the whole plane crashed. You even have the front half crashing. Did that fire spread throughout the entire plane or was it only in the rear half before crashing? Basically what they're saying here, it was in the rear half and it was in the wings. What they're not saying is how it began.

Obviously a lot of investigators will be pouring on to the scene there trying to piece together everything they can. Right now the focus is on getting people out of there, piecing through the wreckage and finding people alive. As you pointed out and as I said, official words from the Thai government saying that many of the 128 people on board are feared dead here.

HOLMES: All right. Josh, thank you for, again, hitting that point for us one more time. It may be a very important point. Maybe a lot of people were able to survive this because of the way it broke in two and the where the fire started. Thank you very much.

NGUYEN: And we also want to let you know as well that the Federal Aviation Administration and the National Transportation Safety Board are deploying people to this crash to help in that investigation. Again, this happening in Phuket, Thailand, a resort town, a place that many travelers want to visit for vacations and whatnot. A lot of people around the world watching today are very concerned as they may relatives on that flight. It's a One-Two-Go Airways flight, which is owned and operated by parent company Orient- Thai Airways. Again 123 passengers on board, 5 crew members and according to the Thai government a press release from that government saying, quote, many of whom are feared dead. We want to reiterate that 20 people are described as injured at this point.

HOLMES: This appears to be a new photograph we are getting here, one of the first from this angle. You can make out part of that plane in there and it looks mangled and broken up as officials there try to work on that plane. This is one of the first pictures we are getting with this type of advantage point of this plane crash, described as an MD-82 model, skidded off the runway at about 4:00 Local Time. This is not the actual plane, but a picture of this particular model, again, One-Two-Go Airlines is what it is called.

But that is a picture of this MD-82, the kind of plane that crashed, not the actual plane; I want to be clear on that. Going back to that other picture we are just getting, the new vantage point we are seeing, this is one of the first we are seeing of exactly what it looks like on the ground. Details are coming into us fast and furious about this plane crash that happened in Thailand. Stay tuned we will keep you updated on it.

NGUYEN: We'll be back with much more, including this, other news; wildfires are raging in San Bernardino County right now. Forcing thousands of people from their homes. We are going to have those details, straight ahead.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

NGUYEN: Breaking news out of Phuket, Thailand where a plane has crashed today on the runway. That plane is a One-Two-Go Airways, MD-82 model. We're going to try and give you a shot of that to give you an idea of the plane looks like. What we're going to show you is the aftermath. We have learned from officials there on the ground that not only did this plane crash, but it broke into two pieces, at least two pieces, which is evident here and caught on fire. There were 123 passengers on board, five crew members and according to that government press release, many of whom were on board are feared dead.

Here is the good news, if there is any in any of this, is that 20 people have been described as injured. They are at local hospitals at this hour. As we continue to find a final number on the death toll in this accident, what we know is that this plane was coming in to Phuket around 4:00 local time, the weather was extremely bad there, there were high wind gusts, it was raining and so that could have led to the crash.

Here is a look at that airplane. It's a One-Two-Go Airways flight, parent company is Orient-Thai Airlines. And a lot of people watching are very interested, obviously not only because of the fact that this plane crashed and that there could be many dozens dead, but this Phuket area is a resort town and there could be possibly people from around the world on that flight.

As we're watching this, obviously, a lot of concern there. As soon as we get more information on it, we will bring it straight to you.

HOLMES: Meanwhile, also, happening right now, right here in the U.S., an out-of-control wildfire in southern California chasing thousands of people from their homes. Fire officials say the fire near Big Bear Lake has been running and gunning all day, those are the words used to describe it. Since it was spotted Friday, this fire has scorched about 18,000 acres. A state of emergency is in effect for San Bernardino County. Last hour Betty here spoke with a fire official about how crews are attacking this fire.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

LARDNER (via telephone): Well, the fire exploded rapidly during the day yesterday. And so that has been a challenge. The vegetation is extremely dry in this area, and that's another challenge.

NGUYEN: Any idea at this point how this fire started?

LARDNER: No. The cause is still under investigation.

NGUYEN: So what is going to be done today? What are crews going out today to try to do to stop this fire?

LARDNER: Well, they will continue to establish fire line and they will continue to do structure protection in the communities and as soon as it's daylight, they will put the aircraft back up into the air on this fire as winds allow. (END VIDEO CLIP)

NGUYEN: Lets check in now with Reynolds Wolf at the CNN Weather Center to see if they are going to get any by way of the weather outside.

WOLF: Unfortunately, no in parts of the desert southwest as well as the west coast. This is really a dry time of year for them. Especially in southern California. You don't see the heavy rainfall move into the California coast until you get into January, into February even into March. Right now it's as dry as can be and very windy. I'm going to step out of the way. We're going to allow you guys to get better view at home, we are going to zoom into a couple of locations, namely towards Big Bear to give you an idea where this fire is taking place and to give you an idea of the topography that these firefighters are having to experience to get in and battle the blaze.

Big Bear Lake is just to the east of the Los Angeles area, a beautiful location. Take a look at the terrain. Not too many roads that lead up to where the fire is occurring. They have to rely on just a few methods of getting up there and, of course, aircraft dropping flame retardant and also some water. Certainly, it's going to be just days and days of them chipping away, bit by bit, at this tremendous fire. There is plenty of tender up there, a lot of brush and trees that continue to dry and cause this fire, which is almost like a storm on ground to continue to feed off itself and intensify.

Something else that we're seeing is the upper level winds that have been very strong. We have been seeing this area of low pressure that's been bringing all this wind off the coast. It's pushing through those mountain passes and that will be a big issue and help fan the flames even more.

As a side note, talking about Phuket, the situation there, obviously it is not what you see behind me, where we've been dealing with the rough conditions concerning the crash of the airlines; the climate there is very similar to what you have in Florida. You have daytime heating; you have the sea breeze, strong showers and thunderstorms. This crash took place around 4:00 local time in Phuket, a very similar to what you see in Florida. Not unusual to have the heavy rainfall.

Let's send it back to you at the news desk.

NGUYEN: As we were speaking with the eye witness there on the ground Williams Harding, he said even his landing, he was on the plane right before the one that crashed, was very rough due to the weather outside.

WOLF: No surprise.

NGUYEN: I image that has something to do with the crash. Of course, we'll stay on top of that, as well, as we understand that 20 people are injured that that crash, 123 passengers on board. It's not known at this hour how many have been killed in that crash there in Phuket, but we will stay on top of it and bring you the latest.

HOLMES: Let's take a quick break here folks, stay here.

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NGUYEN: We have new pictures coming in dealing with that plane crash in Phuket, Thailand. Here are those pictures in from the Associated Press. As you can see, they are obviously moving passengers off of that plane. Look at the wreckage, T.J. This was a One-Two-Go airplane. It had broken in half. My goodness, looking at this video coming in, it looks like it broke into several pieces there, obviously on fire as you could see moments ago that they were still dousing it with water. Again, 123 passengers on board, 5 crew members. According to the Thai government, many on that plane are feared dead at this hour.

HOLMES: These are fresh pictures coming in to us. This is on tape. Some of these we're watching with you for the very first time. In fact, as Betty mentioned, we have an eyewitness report about the plane and also Thai government officials talking about this plane and how it busted up and broke into a couple of pieces. That appears to be the rear of the plane there. We've heard from our Josh Levs who is getting that report from the Thai government that the plane, in fact, did break into a couple of pieces.

It appears that a fire started at the rear and also in the wing, but not sure exactly where that fire spread and that might have, because of the fire being in certain areas that had possibly broken off, that might have left room for people who have gotten off. Here are the freshest pictures we are seeing and newest angles we are seeing. Some 20 people have been taken to the Thai hospital. So certainly good news to hear that there are some survivors. But certainly varying reports out there about many, many people feared dead.

These are some of the newest pictures. You can see a mangled mess. Pieces are spread all over the place. You can get an idea of the weather conditions. That is a big part of this. It appears from the eyewitness and from our Reynolds a moment ago about rain coming down pretty heavy. Visibility was horrible at the time this plane went down at 4:00 local time.

NGUYEN: Not just rain, but wind gusts were being reported at an airport, not only from our eye witness but Reynolds was speaking about just moments ago as well. But look at the remnants of what is left of this plane. Again, we were told that at first that it may have landed intact, but then the government said that it had broken into two pieces. When we get closer video of this accident, you can see that there are pieces of the plane all across that runway and the field surrounding it. As we get more information, obviously, we'll bring it to you. In the meantime, stay with CNN for the latest on this breaking news.

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