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States of Emergency: Oregon and Washington Swamped; Iran Still Dangerous?

Aired December 4, 2007 - 14:00   ET


GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Iran was dangerous. Iran is dangerous. And Iran will be dangerous if they have the knowledge necessary to make a nuclear weapon.


DON LEMON, CNN ANCHOR: The watchword at the White House is "danger," but the keyword for U.S. intelligence is "if."

KYRA PHILLIPS, CNN ANCHOR: Iran sees vindication in the new and revised intelligence report. The White House still sees a threat to world peace. We're going to get the view from the Pentagon this hour.

Hello, everyone. I'm Kyra Phillips at the CNN world headquarters in Atlanta.

LEMON: And I'm Don Lemon.

You're in the CNN NEWSROOM.

PHILLIPS: Back-to-back storms devastate the Pacific Northwest. Roads, homes, businesses all under water. Two states under states of emergency.


PHILLIPS: Now I want to actually get to the phone lines. I'm being told Chris Sullivan, he's a reporter for News Talk 710, KIRO Radio. He's actually in Chehalis, Washington.

Chris, can you hear me OK?


PHILLIPS: So tell me exactly where you are and describe to me what you're seeing.

SULLIVAN: Well, I'm right -- I'm about as close as can you get to I-5 where the closure is, where it's about under nine or 10 feet of water. That's the main, of course, as you know, the main freeway through the entire state of Washington.

It's stopping about 54,000 cars today and who knows how many trucks carrying all the -- you know, the holiday presents here and there and all the commerce that needs to go through. It's stuck, and we don't know when the freeway is going to reopen. As I said, it's under 10 feet of water in spots near me here in Chehalis.

PHILLIPS: So what do you know about the efforts to get people out of there, you know, the rescue? What's happening to just tend to the people and make things a little easier right now for them?

SULLIVAN: Well, a lot of people are kind of doing it on their own right now. We had a very dramatic helicopter rescue yesterday from people's homes. Two homes were actually rushed down the Chehalis River. They were knocked from their foundations.

People were rescued by helicopter. We've had people today being rescued by boats in their neighborhoods. It's really neighbor helping neighbor right now.

I mean, this is a small community, a very small community, and the resources are overwhelmed. The local fire departments, local police departments, the National Guard is here. So right now it's really neighbor helping neighbor with -- if somebody has got a canoe, they are lending it to whoever needs it to get a loved one out or get someone's pets out. And right now it's really localized because this has moved from right around the freeway and really spilled over into the communities of Centralia and Chehalis.

PHILLIPS: Now, I'm looking at that. For example, the Wal-Mart you see just totally under water and the some of these other businesses. Are those just getting flooded out? And I can imagine the economic impact on goods and services there.

SULLIVAN: Well, and that's the intersection I'm telling you, where I-5 goes under there, near the Wal-Mart, the Home Depot you probably see in that general vicinity. That's where we're at 10 feet of water. And the question is, even when the water recedes, will they be able to get all of the water out of that particular spot?

That is a notorious lowland area, and that may take a while to open up even after the water gets away from the rest of I-5 in a day or so. And so they really have no ETA at this point as to when the freeway is going to reopen.

Right now we have got more than a 300-mile detour for big rigs that takes them through the snow-laden cascades down through central Washington on a two-lane highway until you can reach I-80, 84, down in the Portland area. So it's just -- the economic impact from this thing is going to be brutal.

PHILLIPS: Stay with me, Chris. I'm going to bring in Chad Myers, our meteorologist.

Chad, anything you want to ask Chris while I've got him on the line?

CHAD MYERS, CNN METEOROLOGIST: You know, Chris, this is really kind of a farming area. Am I wrong about this? This is really a dairy area, very fertile valley. And this river has flooded a lot in the past, but not with this many people being involved, right? This is a record flood.

SULLIVAN: Yes, it is. If we go back to 1996, when we had the very, very quick thaw in February, where we had a ton of snow but it was just a quick turnaround thaw that just sent everything coming down the rivers, here it was the rainfall.

Yes, we're in pretty close to record territory. And I think the difference that you're seeing between now and maybe in years past is some of that pasture land that you talk about which is still a very vital part of this community has been developed a bit.

MYERS: Right.

SULLIVAN: I mean, 10 years ago that Wal-Mart wasn't there, that Home Depot wasn't there. And there are some people today already claiming that perhaps maybe we shouldn't have build those on such -- or built them up a little bit, because now the water has no war to go in that pasture land that used to soak it up. Now it's going into the neighborhoods and going into I-5.

And that's for another discussion another day, but that's what people are already talking about, is perhaps that development and loss of some of that pastoral land is really maybe part of the equation here that people weren't thinking about.

PHILLIPS: All right.

Chris Sullivan there with KIRO Radio.

Chris, thanks so much for calling in.

Chad Myers in the weather center, tracking all this for us.

We're going to actually talk to Chehalis' fire chief coming up in just a little bit. We're going to monitor these lives pictures out of these flood-ravaged areas as the rescues are taking place and just neighbors helping neighbors trying to get out of there, get to safety, get their things and try and recover from this.

LEMON: And absolutely, we want to solicit your I-Reports, because if you're seeing flooding or anything like this, any weather happening, we are asking you to send it to us right here in the CNN NEWSROOM. We can get you on television, get your pictures or reports and your story out there for everyone to give them some information to find out what's going on.

Will the U.S. change its hard-line stance on Iran in light of a new intelligence report? Not likely, according to President Bush.

The latest national intelligence estimate says Tehran halted its nuclear weapons program years ago, but in a news conference today the president says Iran was dangerous -- was dangerous, is dangerous, and will be dangerous if it learns how to build a nuke.


BUSH: I view this report as a warning signal that, had the program -- they halted the program. And the reason why it's a warning signal is that they could restart it.

I still feel strongly that Iran is a danger. Nothing has changed in this NIE that says, OK, why don't we just stop worrying about it? Quite the contrary. I think the NIE makes it clear that Iran needs to be taken seriously as a threat to peace. My opinion hasn't changed.


LEMON: Mr. Bush also took the opportunity once again to scold the Democratic-controlled Congress, warning lawmakers against wasteful spending and demanding they pass an Iraq funding bill before the holiday break. He also says the economy is strong but hurt by the housing crisis. And he suggested that mortgage lenders who make a "lousy loan" won't be bailed out.

The president praised Venezuelans for voting down a measure that would have let Hugo Chavez run for president forever, and he says he told President Vladimir Putin the U.S. is concerned about allegations of voting fraud in Russia after Putin's party won a crushing victory in parliamentary elections.

Let's get back to Iran now, which dominated the president's news conference. The latest intelligence estimate is a stunning turnaround.

Let's go straight to the Pentagon and CNN's Barbara Starr.

Hi, Barbara.

BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Well, Don, it really is a stunning turnaround, because just two years ago, in 2005, the U.S. intelligence community was saying very firmly it believed Iran was on a track for a nuclear weapons program. Now two years later, not so fast. They abandoned it back in 2003.

So, a lot of questions not yet being answered about what led the intelligence community to really change its mind. There have been some hints.

One of the hints being said is this tour of the Natanz enrichment plan that the Iranians were working on, this tour back in 2005, by all accounts, the intelligence community scoured every frame of that video looking at all of it and came to the conclusion that what they were seeing in these pictures led them to believe this was not a facility capable of moving towards highly enriched uranium, the fuel that would be needed for a nuclear bomb.

Now, also, no one is confirming it yet, but sources are telling CNN that there is a lot of talk about the possibility there was, in fact, an Iranian defector. You know, back several months ago there were a number of published reports in the news media that an Iranian general, a man named Ali Resa Asgari, 63 years old, a general in the Revolutionary Guard, had defected from Iran, moved with his family to Turkey, and that the U.S. intelligence was debriefing him about what he knew about Iran's weapons program.

A lot of news reports about that a couple of months ago, then it all went silent. Some sources saying it may be that there was a defector that came to the U.S. with the information that played a large role in making the intelligence community change its mind -- Don.

LEMON: CNN's Barbara Starr.

Thank you, Barbara.

PHILLIPS: Talk about adding insult to injury, this teenager was bullied on the Internet and then killed herself. Should someone be held responsible? There's no law. Her family asks why.

Winter weather rolling in from the Pacific and pounding the U.S. hard. We're going to find out how people in the Northwest are dealing with the assault.

LEMON: And want to pack the house for a campaign event? Just add this person. Recognize her? Oh, Oprah.

You're in the CNN NEWSROOM.


LEMON: Severe weather is a big story today in the CNN NEWSROOM. There's our Chad Myers. He is on top of it.

Before we get to Chad, we're going to jump in right here and talk to Kevin Curfman He's with the Chehalis, Washington, Fire Department. As a matter of fact, he is the captain there.

As we're looking at these shots just rolling across the landscape there, which was as of a couple days ago dry ground and is now under water, Kevin Curfman joins us now.

Thank you for joining us today, sir.


LEMON: Tell us the very latest there and what you're experiencing.

CURFMAN: Well, we've had some pretty record-setting events here the last few days. We've been primarily focused on life rescue, people that either are in danger from the flooding, other life hazard, or else medical emergencies. And that's been the priority for the jet sleds (ph). The boats have been brought in by some volunteers to help us with the rescues, as well as the helicopters that we've had.

LEMON: And it's been really tough with the rescue effort there, because we saw people -- I mean, you know, Mr. Curfman, trying to get out of this flooding on air mattresses, and to get to safety there. That seems pretty unusual, a pretty drastic step.

Do you know -- can you tell us about that and also about injuries or deaths in your area?

CURFMAN: I haven't -- didn't hear that specific incident on the air mattress, but the thing that caught a lot of people by surprise is this water came up very, very fast this time. And people that are familiar with the area, used to flooding in the area, kind of expect it to be a certain way, but this really took us all by surprise.

It's also about five feet higher than any flood we've seen in the past. So between the two, it took a lot of people by surprise.

Regarding death, I'm not aware of any confirmed death in our immediate area. I know there have -- a couple of reports of missing persons, and hopefully those will turn out to be at a shelter somewhere or something.

Injuries, pretty much everything has been minor that I'm aware of. But there's a lot of other rescue operations going on around the area.

LEMON: Yes. We certainly hope they will turn up in a shelter, but I'm glad you mentioned those water levels there because we want to get to our Chad Myers. He wants to weigh in on that -- Chad.

MYERS: Captain, what's the most dangerous thing facing people there now? What are you the most concerned about?

CURFMAN: For the systems right now, the waters are starting to recede, and so unless they are actually in the water somewhere, we are in relatively good shape to -- you know, for safety there. Our biggest concern right now is the rescuers out in some very swift water trying to get people out of homes and all where they have been trapped.

And as far as the civilians, we're probably in pretty good shape as far as safety if they stay put and don't try to wade out through the waters. Where, if they are starting to get out in the swift water, they can easily get taken down the river.

MYERS: The amount of rise, the swiftness of the rise of the river, caught a lot of people by surprise, as you said. We have a graphic, actually, of it.

This river went from 50 feet, which is the normal, basically, all the way up to 75 feet, right here from about Chehalis right up to Centralia.

And let's get right to that gauge, Dave, so I can put it on the air.

This is a normal level, about 50 feet. That's where -- that's just an elevation of it. But then all of a sudden, in less than 48 hours, it went all the way to 75 feet.

Now, this is flood stage here. You guys are 10 feet over major flood. And at record levels, am I right?

CURFMAN: That's correct. Flood stage is 65 feet at that Melm (ph) Street gauge there. We have had it to around 70 in the '96 flood.


CURFMAN: And I heard it was going to hit right around 74. And this is the first time I heard the actual reading. So 75 feet apparently is where it did end up. And that's been a lot more water than we've ever experienced before.


LEMON: All right.

Yes. And just want to -- real quick, you said, Mr. Curfman, that so far you're hoping that the missing people that you haven't heard from, they will show up in a shelter. Do you have any idea of how many, real quick?

CURFMAN: I'm aware of -- I think it was two that -- when I worked in the emergency operations center yesterday, there were two that came in. And again, those are people who don't know where somebody is, so they call us and say they are missing. Now, that could mean anything. So hopefully they just moved out to a friend's place or are in a shelter.

LEMON: OK. And real quick, that bridge, I don't know -- were you able to see the air here on CNN? We're looking at a bridge that has -- it looks like tons of debris and wood on top of it. Do you know where exactly that bridge is?

CURFMAN: No, I don't. I am not where I can see the TV at this moment.

LEMON: Oh, yes.

CURFMAN: But I know pretty much any bridge around here though has had water exceed the -- come up higher than the bottom of the bridge and debris. And I have heard of some bridges that have gone out. Specifically, I'm not sure which ones locally here outside of the city of Chehalis. But I know there's going to be severe structural damage to a lot of the bridges.


Kevin Curfman, thank you very much. And I know you've got a lot of work to do, so we're going to let you get back to that.

And Chad Myers, also, in the severe weather center, thank you very much.

We also want to offer out to our viewers if you are experiencing this and have some pictures and video you want to send us, send us an I-Report. Go to, or just go to CNN and click on the "I-Report" logo -- Kyra.


LEMON: Megan Meier seduced and dumped online. But it wasn't a teenage boy who did it. It was a bogus MySpace page set up by a grownup neighbor. Now she's dead, and her parents, they certainly want justice.

Her mother speaks to CNN.


LEMON: It's 2:31 here in the East. Here are the stories we're working for you here in the CNN NEWSROOM. A huge cleanup ahead in Oregon and Washington State; back-to-back storms spawned hurricane force winds and drenching rains leaving major flooding.

Coast Guard and Air Force crews are searching Alaska right now. They're looking for an ambulance helicopter missing since last night with four people on board, including a patient.

President Bush not changing his hard line stance on Iran despite a new U.S. intelligence report that says Tehran halted its nuclear weapons program. At a news conference the president said Iran is still a threat and could still restart its program.

KYRA PHILLIPS, CNN ANCHOR, NEWSROOM: President Bush has a warning for taxpayers. Your refund checks may be a little late. Stephanie Elam at New York Stock Exchange to tell us why it's happening.

What's up with that, Steph?

STEPHANIE ELAM, CNN FINANCIAL CORRESPONDENT: Yeah, Kyra. I mean this is one of those things we've been talking about for some time. It's this little nasty thing called the alternative minimum tax. It was originally passed in 1969 as a way to ensure that rich people, you know, pay their taxes. But it was never adjusted for inflation and what was a large income at that time, well, these days it's a lot more modest.

As a result millions of middle-class workers could end up paying a much bigger tax bill, in fact a lot of people are. Congress and the president have been pointing fingers at each other over the issue. Take a listen to this.


GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Congress doesn't act millions of Americans will be hit with an unexpected tax bill. And even if Congress does act by the end of the year this action could delay the delivery of about $75 billion dollars worth of tax refund checks.

(END VIDEO CLIP) ELAM: Yeah, like nobody wants to hear that at all, of course. And the reason for the delay is the IRS needs about 10 weeks to program its computers with the new tax law in order to get the checks out in a timely fashion -- Kyra.

PHILLIPS: Well, did the president say whether any progress has been made on the plan to freeze the interest rates? So-- well for some homeowners, you know, they're at the risk of losing their home.

ELAM: Right--or course, and it's obviously gonna really impact people what happens here. And he did make some reference to this. The president says he doesn't want to use taxpayer money to bail out lenders. Instead he says Treasury Secretary Paulson is working on the plan to freeze rates but it's not an easy thing to do.


BUSH: Secretary Paulson is working with a more complex industry than we've had in the past. And that's why it's taken a while, Ed, because not only do you have the lender, you now have a whole service industry that has arisen that'll hopefully help people stay in their homes. That's their job. But you've also got people all around the world who now own U.S. mortgages.


ELAM: As for the economy as a whole, the president says the fundamentals are good, but he says the housing woes could provide what he calls headwinds.

Now speaking of those head winds stocks are feeling some of them as well. J.P. Morgan warns that earnings of four big security firms could be hurt even more by the credit crunch.

Let's go ahead and take a look at those numbers. Dow Industrials off 50 points, 13,264. Nasdaq losing more than half a percent at the time, at 2621.

Now coming up, how much do your Christmas lights add to your electricity bill? A lot of people don't know the answer. But I'll tell you how to cut those costs and help the environment in the next hour of the NEWSROOM.

I don't know, Don and Kyra, I think I might put up some holiday lights tonight.

PHILLIPS: I was gonna say you -- just, this weekend, this is going to be the weekend.

ELAM: Yeah, it -- I'm feeling the spirit. It got cold here finally in New York, I'm ready.

PHILLIPS: Get your lights up, get your tree and start celebrating the holiday.

LEMON: I'm cheap, a wreath and a Christmas tree, that's all. ELAM: I just do lights. I don't even do the tree anymore here. I do it in California, my brother's house, we have the tree there.

PHILLIPS: We'll send you a little Charlie Brown Christmas tree.

ELAM: Ah, I like that tree. I'll love him.

PHILLIPS: Thanks, Steph.

ELAM: All right

LEMON: Hey, we're going to talk about this, roads under water. Hundreds of people stranded. It is a massive mop up in the Northwest. Watch for the very latest here in the NEWSROOM.


PHILLIPS: Not getting much better in the State of Washington, also the state of Oregon. Particularly, in Washington, though, the Chehalis area, rescues taking place, number of rescues via the U.S. Coast Guard. And you can see how the rain and the winds have forced down trees, knocked out electricity, and caused this widespread flooding. These pictures coming to us from KING television one of our affiliates out of Seattle.

On the phone with us Coast Guard Petty Officer 3rd Class Tara Molle. She's been obviously monitoring the Coast Guard's efforts there in the state of Washington.

Tara, why don't we start with the Coast Guard helicopters, I understand they hoisted about 130 people to safety. Has that number risen?

TARA MOLLE, PETTY OFFICER, COAST GUARD: The Coast Guard has actually been working with the Navy, Air Force, King County and Air National Guard. And through the evening and through this morning we've been able to hoist about 131 people. And all of those people were taken to a soccer field at a local high school in Chehalis, Washington.

PHILLIPS: What else is going on besides the Coast Guard efforts to hoist people out of those flooded homes and flooded areas? How else is the Coast Guard getting involved in these efforts?

MOLLE: The Coast Guard is doing their very best, you know, to try and centralize, you know, who's ever needing to be rescued. Chehalis had an immense amount of people who were needing to be hoisted to safety. And so we've been focusing on that through last night and this morning.

We're going to be continuing to work with state and federal partners to assist the communities affected by the flood. And we're helping with the evacuations and (INAUDIBLE) response. And we're ready to provide any requested additional assistance.

PHILLIPS: And Tara, we've also been reading about a number of sewage treatment plants that have been overwhelmed causing a lot of raw sewage to be released out into Puget Sound, and other areas. Is there a health concern? Is there a health threat at this point that the Coast Guard is sort of, prepping for and talking about at this time?

MOLLE: I actually do not have any information on that this time. I'm sure that, that will probably come to light soon, but I don't have any to speak on.

PHILLIPS: Now what about the repair efforts? The bridges, homes, businesses? Is the Coast Guard getting involved in that at all?

MOLLE: Unfortunately, I don't have that information either. All I have is the rescue efforts from last night and from this morning. We've also had around 10 aircraft who have come from as far south as San Diego in the efforts for these people.

PHILLIPS: Well, it's timely. We saw it during Katrina, and obviously the Coast Guard knows what it's doing when it comes to those rescues.

All right, Tara Molle. OK, hold on -- Tara, just a second. I'm going to bring in Chad Myers, our meteorologist. He's got some questions for you. Chad.

MOLLE: Sure.

CHAD MYERS, CNN METEOROLOGIST: Petty officer, leading up to this rain event there was a significant wind event. And we heard about swells in the ocean, 45 to 50 feet. I mean, waves 45 to 50 feet. Did any vessels get in trouble? Were there rescues out there?

MOLLE: There were some vessels that were affected, but no one was harmed. I do know that, you know, all of our rescue efforts have been focused in Chehalis right now. But I haven't heard anything as far as water sites yet. That doesn't mean that it hasn't happened. I just haven't received any word on that.

MYERS: I just saw 55-foot swells out there, and you had to think that any vessel that's not three times that long was going to have a very, very tough time. I knew you guys would be very, very busy.

MOLLE: Well, we encourage anyone that is out on the water to, you know, don their PFDs in case of an emergency. And hopefully they have all of their equipment on board, and we just hope that, you know, if there's anyone out there right now, that if they need assistance we'll should -- we will try our best to come to their rescue.

MYERS: But no, EPIRBs whatever they're called, going off that you know of it?

MOLLE: We had one but it turned out to be nothing. So we did check on that, but I haven't received any word yet.

MYERS: OK, very good.

PHILLIPS: All right, PFD is that some type of floating device?

MOLLE: That stands for personal flotation device, that's a life jacket.

PHILLIPS: OK. Gotcha. Yeah, OK, really layman's terms, life jacket.

MOLLE: I'm sorry I should


PHILLIPS: That's all right. That's why I'm here, trying to weed -- weed through the acronyms. All right Coast Guard Petty Officer 3rd Class Tara Molle.

Appreciate it, Tara.

MOLLE: Thank you so much. Have a wonderful day.

PHILLIPS: All right.

Chad, what do you think, are we up to date on the conditions right now?

MYERS: I think we're in pretty good shape.

The EPIRB, I think that's the letters, that's one of the things that's on the life jacket, that if it goes in the water the water makes the connection and that connection sends a signal to the satellite. And then the satellite says, hey, I'm in the water you gotta come get me.

So that's one of the things, you should always have one of those on the ship no matter where you are out on the ocean. I had one on Lake Erie. And that's only about 10 miles to land in any one direction, Kyra.

But we're seeing the wind die down we're seeing the rain taper off. Yes, it's still showery but it isn't the deluge we had two days ago. Some spots over 13 inches of rain in 48 hours. So it's getting better from here. There's another very large storm in the making for Friday into Saturday. But that'll be Southern California again, a place that had two to three inches of rain a couple of days ago. Could be some more mudslides for the weekend we'll keep you up to date on that.

Always want to keep looking ahead. Even though, this is now, but that will be then and we want to make sure people know about that. That's coming over the weekend.

PHILLIPS: All right, Chad, appreciate it. Don --

LEMON: The story itself was an outrage. An internet hoax leading to a young girl's suicide. Now for many the outrage is doubled with prosecutors decision not to charge anybody with that crime. We'll have that story right after the break. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

LEMON: The political ticker begins with a giant thud. The sound of support falling out from under Rudy Giuliani and Hillary Clinton. A new "USA Today"/Gallup poll suggest both candidates have lost ground nationally over the past month. Giuliani's numbers among Republicans fell by 9 percentage points, but he still has a 9-point lead over Mike Huckabee, who has moved into second place.

Clinton lost 11 percentage points among Democrats, but she still has a 15-point lead over Barack Obama.

Oh, the power of Oprah. As you may know, she's backing Barack Obama. And on Sunday she will speak at a rally in Columbia, South Carolina. And get this, the Obama campaign says all the free tickets are gone. The venue holds 18,000 people.

And speaking of talk show hosts and presidential wannabes; Republican Ron Paul today joined the gabfest on "The View."


JOY BEHAR, CO-HOST, THE VIEW: Now you probably are not going to win and you know, that right?


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Why would you say that?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Because it's very hard because front- runners all over the place.

PAUL: You want the pro war people to win?

BEHAR: No! I don't! I don't. That's why I like you. My question is there any other person running that you would vote for if you were not running yourself?

PAUL: It would be difficult. As long as they --

BEHAR: Off the top of your head, who is it going to be?

PAUL: You mean in the Republican primary?

BEHAR: Both, both.

PAUL: Right now, if they come around and endorsing my anti-war views and pro free markets and sound money, yeah, would I consider it, but I don't have anybody now that I can vote for.

BEHAR: No, but --


LEMON: Leave it to Joy Behar. OK, Paul finished fifth among Iowa Republicans in a recent poll for "The Des Moines Register" but the Texas congressman reports his campaign should raise more than $12 million dollars this quarter.

And if you want the most up-to-the-minute political news available anywhere is your one-stop shop. Today's top story: President Bush says the clock is ticking on Congress., the Internet's premiere destination for political news.


Superstar Brad Pitt gets personal with CNN about his latest passion, life with Angelina, and his most rewarding job ever, being a dad. I'll have all that and more when the NEWSROOM continues.


PHILLIPS: International superstar Brad Pitt doesn't grant one- on-one interviews very often so when he does you can assume the cause is very dear to his heart. "Showbiz Tonight's" A.J. Hammer joins me now with the latest.

Hey, A.J.

HAMMER: Hey, there Kyra.

Here's a good guy. I gotta say I really like what Brad Pitt is doing. And he sat down with CNN's Larry King to talk about the organization he's created to help rebuild homes in New Orleans. The project is called "Make It Right". And with it Pitt plans to revive the Lower Ninth Ward which, of course, was one of the worst hit by Hurricane Katrina.

The actor owns a home in the city, with his partner Angelina Jolie, and says they're going to start with 150 environmentally friendly homes, but will continue raising funds and hopes to build thousands more, and we wish them well this that effort.

The organization is using bright pink tents to attract attention to the cause and they are working with an international team of 13 architectural firms on plans for the single-family homes which will be elevated to avoid damage from future storms. A lot of people have been wondering about that.

Pitt, himself, along with billionaire Stephen Bing have agreed to match $5 million dollars each out of their own pockets towards the effort, which will certainly go a long way, Kyra. Considering that these homes are cost an estimated $150,000 dollars apiece. Good work going on here.

PHILLIPS: We were talking about this in the meeting. I hope I'm not throwing you for a loop but the fact that they're all pin, everyone was bringing up the John Mellencamp song, "Little Pink Houses." Is there a connection here? Do we know?

HAMMER: Yeah, well, I watched Larry's entire interview. So I have a sense of what they talked about and he talked a little bit about the attention-grabbing pink. That didn't come up, not to say that that may not have been part of the inspiration, but good for you guys, for making that connection there.

PHILLIPS: OK, I was reaching. Yeah, we were reaching. And I'm sure Pitt wasn't able to sneak out of that interview without Larry asking at least a few personal questions as well. Did he talk about his life in New Orleans with Angelina and the kids?

HAMMER: Yeah, we're talking about Larry King here. Of course, the talked about some other things. And actually Brad Pitt was quite candid about a whole lot. I want you to listen to what he said about first meeting Angelina Jolie and about their growing family.


LARRY KING, CNN ANCHOR, LARRY KING LIVE: When you're getting emotionally involved with someone you are working with?

BRAD PITT, ACTOR, MAKE IT RIGHT PROGRAM: That came after, Larry, that came after. But she is a woman of strong opinion and very specific beliefs and a great voice. I respect it, a great intelligence.

KING: You fight a lot?

PITT: No, not really. Challenge each other a lot, have good fun with that.

KING: And how do you like being a father? The hardest job in the world?

PITT: The hardest job in the world, the most rewarding job in the world. There's something to -- you know, we'll put long days in here. We're up here as soon as the sun comes up, and to go home and have dinner with your kids, and have to discipline one of them who is out of line and still have the energy for that is -- I can't explain the fulfillment of that, but it is everything.


HAMMER: Well, the first of Pitt's Make It Right homes is scheduled to be completed in May of next year. And you can catch all of Larry's in-depth interview with Brad Pitt tomorrow night on "Larry King Live" at 9:00 p.m.

Moving to some other entertainment news, the new Nicole Kidman fantasy film called "The Golden Compass" isn't in theaters until Friday. Already it is at the center of a brewing controversy. Conservative organizations, including Focus on the Family and the Catholic League have taken aim at the movie. They're calling for a boycott of the film and the book it's based on.

The groups are concerned the film promotes atheism and will attract more readers to author Philip Pullman's, which they say contains a number of anti-Christian themes. The spokesman for New Line Cinema, which is the studio behind the film, defends the move saying, quote, " 'The Golden Compass' " is an exciting, entertaining fantasy adventure that we believe audiences will enjoy. The film is neither anti-Christian nor anti-religion. The critically acclaimed award-winning novel on which the film is based has been praised by countless clergy and religious scholars including Archbishop of Canterbury for its deep spirituality and exploration of important theological issues."

I think both sides have spoken.

Coming up tonight on "Showbiz Tonight," Jennifer Love Hewitt's startling attack on Hollywood's obsession of being too skinny. Are women being unfairly scrutinized? The body image controversy tonight on TV's most provocative entertainment news show at 11 p.m. Eastern and Pacific, on CNN Headline News. We'll see you then.

PHILLIPS: A.J. Hammer, great to see you.

HAMMER: You too, Kyra.

LEMON: Roads under water, hundreds of people stranded. It is a massive mop up in the Northwest. Watch for the very latest right here in the CNN NEWSROOM.