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Firefighters Save Senior Citizens from Burning Residence; Protesters Gather to Meet Olympic Torch in San Francisco; Details Emerging of Alleged Abuse on Polygamist Ranch
Aired April 9, 2008 - 13:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
DON LEMON, CNN ANCHOR: All right. You saw it play out on our air here in the CNN NEWSROOM earlier today. We're talking about fire, senior citizens and height. Really, and no escape, as well. Sounds like a recipe for disaster, right? Well, we'll show you how firefighters climbed right into action.
FREDRICKA WHITFIELD, CNN ANCHOR: Some really desperate moments. Intense moments.
Plus, are you flying American Airlines today? Well, guess what? You may not be. The cancellations keep coming.
LEMON: And turning over a big chunk of the nation, a dangerous mix of extreme weather: floods, rain, hail, twisters. Well, my gosh, that's everything, right?
LEMON: Hello, everyone. I'm Don Lemon, live for you at the CNN World Headquarters in Atlanta. That's about everything.
WHITFIELD: I think so. And I'm Fredricka Whitfield -- sorry, choking -- in for Kyra Phillips.
You're in the CNN NEWSROOM.
LEMON: Are you all right?
We start with a developing story that really caught everyone by surprise here, as we were watching this, and I imagine the folks who live here, as well, by surprise.
We're talking about senior citizens who were trapped by smoke and flames. Then firefighters climbed to their rescue. We've been watching the dramatic video and live pictures from a three-story assisted-living complex. This is outside of Detroit, Michigan. It happened just today, earlier this morning, as a matter of fact. As Tony Harris and Brianna Keilar were on the air, the rescues were going on live.
We were wondering if those people were going to make it off of those ladders safely, Fredricka. A fire trapped some of the residents there on balconies, forcing firefighters to help them down on ladders.
No immediate reports of any injuries right now. And no word on what sparked the flames.
We'll keep following this story in the CNN NEWSROOM. We want to see if that information I just mentioned to you is correct.
Let's go to Ray Riggs. He's the assistant fire chief of the West Bloomfield Fire Department. He is in Michigan. He joins us now.
I said there, Mr. Riggs, that there were no injuries and you still don't know what sparked this. Is that still true?
RAY RIGGS, ASSISTANT FIRE CHIEF, WEST BLOOMFIELD FIRE DEPARTMENT: There are no firefighter injuries. As far as residents are concerned, we had a few that have complained of medical conditions that were probably precipitated by the trauma of this event. But no fire ground injuries.
LEMON: OK. So the firefighters are complaining of possible strain and that sort of things, minor injuries? Is that -- am I correct in that?
RIGGS: Well, we're not having any firefighters complain of any strain at this point. No. It's the residents...
LEMON: The residents. OK.
RIGGS: ... that were evacuated. Yes, the elderly residents, you know, due to the trauma of the situation or experiencing some problems.
LEMON: As we look at this, I mean, this is just amazing just to see what firefighters do every day. I mean, they're up on this ladder, three floors high, rescuing these people, getting them down on ladders.
You were there on the ground -- ground, I understand. Did you hear from any of the residents there about what happened? Their experience? And what possibly caused this?
RIGGS: Well, the call came in for the smell of smoke in the building on the third floor. And our initial arriving crews reported a small fire in a boiler room area. So it would appear that it was a heating unit. That -- you know, that's early on. That hasn't been investigated yet. But that's what the early calls were.
But then the fire got up into some concealed spaces, you know, in the walls and up over the ceilings. And that's where it began to really take off.
LEMON: OK. I imagine since you're a firefighter there and you're the assistant fire chief, you know this building well. Do you know how many people live in this building?
RIGGS: In this area, there were, indeed -- we evacuated 200 or 300.
LEMON: You've evacuated 200 to 300 already? RIGGS: Yes.
LEMON: And -- and I know that's your fire radio going off right there, just so the viewers know.
So 200 to 300. But that's not everyone who lives in this building, right?
RIGGS: I'm sorry?
LEMON: Two to 300 people you've evacuated, but that's not everyone who lives in this complex?
RIGGS: Not everyone who lives in the complex. No. We've evacuated the entire building, but the complex is larger than that.
LEMON: OK. This was a sprawling complex here with a number of buildings. I'm not exactly sure how many. And just to let our viewers know, 20 miles northwest of Detroit.
Have you knocked that fire down now?
RIGGS: Yes. We have the fire contained. We're not calling it under control at this point, but we have it contained to one area so that it's not continuing to spread to other areas of the complex.
LEMON: All right. We -- we appreciate you joining us here in the CNN NEWSROOM. We know that you're very busy on the ground there. And just amazing work from all of the firefighters there. Ray Riggs from the fire department in Bloomfield -- West Bloomfield Township. Thank you, sir.
RIGGS: You're welcome. Thank you.
WHITFIELD: And big problems now affecting a lot of people, particularly if you're flying today.
Eight hundred fifty American Airlines flights are grounded as the company re-inspects wiring on its MD-80 jets. The carrier canceled nearly 500 flights yesterday. Many passengers were still steamed as flight cancellations clog up some of the country's busiest airports.
Our Susan Roesgen is joining us now from one of the busier airports of Chicago.
Well, you know, that's the airport, but you're in the city where one of the busiest airports is. OK, well, how are people, you know, tolerating this?
SUSAN ROESGEN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes. Well, you know, I think I don't want to be at O'Hare at this very moment. We'll probably go out later. Because there are so many people in line, Fredricka.
I just spoke to a friend of mine in town in Chicago for a convention, trying to get back to New Orleans. She called me from the airport. She said that she is so far away from the ticket counter to try to get her canceled flight rearranged to try to get on some other airline, that she thinks it will be literally two hours before she even gets up to the counter.
So she's been calling American Airlines, and she says she just can't get through. It's a busy signal. She says she's there with, you know, thousands of other people.
The MD-80, the plane that we're talking about, is the real workhorse of American Airlines. It makes those short-range, mid-range hops. So we're talking about, especially in the middle part of the country. Dallas, an American hub, Chicago an American hub. Of those, you know, 850 flights that you talked about, that's more than one third of all the daily flights that American operates. So you have an incredible situation here.
You know that some United flights have been canceled for the same sort of wiring inspections issues. Delta flights, as well. Southwest just paid more than $10 million in a civil penalty because they flunked the FAA inspections.
So what has happened here is a sort of an impromptu immediate cancellation, because on Monday the FAA did a spot inspection and checked the wiring of some of the planes and found that they were not up to speed. So American had to cancel them.
WHITFIELD: Wow. So, OK. Well, it looks like we've got to go. But think about this question when you talk to your friend next. Get an idea of what she and others are being told about when they might be able to get out, given these many delays and cancellations.
Susan Roesgen, thanks so much, from Chicago.
Well, the nation's biggest airline is also busy with another set of problems with some of its fleet.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SAM MAYER, PILOT: Our windshield started to cover with ice from the bottom, working its way up. As we were running the emergency procedures, there was a pop. Everyone's ears blew out. We realized that we had lost the pressurization of the aircraft at that time.
WE -- I made a quick P.A., "We're going back to the airport. We'll be on the ground in three or four minutes.
DREW GRIFFIN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: This was an emergency landing.
MAYER: Absolutely. And when I got out of the aircraft and went outside, it was absolutely stunning. The aircraft was literally a popsicle.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WHITFIELD: Wow. Scary stuff there. Well, find out what's causing these worrisome problems for American Airlines in a report from CNN's special investigations unit correspondent, Drew Griffin. LEMON: You know what? I would not want to be flying today anyway, because there is flooding rains; there's hail; there's tornadoes. And you're looking at some nasty storms.
Chad Myers, despite the delays, I don't like flying in bad weather like this.
CHAD MYERS, AMS METEOROLOGIST: Yes. I mean, the delays are what they are because of the planes.
MYERS: But obviously, there are delays because of weather, as well.
We talked about Chicago. We talked about Dallas. Rain showers are coming into Dallas right now. But no real weather delays for Dallas.
I'll pop you over to our flight tracker for just a second to show you the flights coming out of Chicago. There are 129 planes in the air out of ORD, Chicago O'Hare airport. There should be in the neighborhood of about 150 to 160 planes right now. That means you're 30 planes shy of how many planes should be in the air. Now, that's 20 percent, but that's not bad. People are still getting in and out. It's just taking a really long time for some people.
Other people walking right in, your plane is ready to go and you're out the door. So it isn't everywhere, for sure.
Let's take you now -- what's going to go on for today? This is going to be a severe weather day. Oklahoma City was already a severe weather day for you. Wichita Falls had a storm roll right through your area. These red zones here, these are the big storms already. Some of them have been spinning, but we don't have any tornado warnings. No tornado watches right now.
We have hail coming down. But that's it. That's the extent of the severe at this point.
But from now on, all the way to Friday, winter is going to try to come back. And spring is going to say, "Oh, not so fast." And that is where that clash of severe weather will be, all the way through the plains, St. Louis, the bull's-eye tomorrow, and then even to the Ohio valley for Friday. And maybe even here in Atlanta for Friday, as well. We'll keep you advised as the warnings come up -- Don.
LEMON: Oh, boy. That's all I can say. All right.
MYERS: Here we go.
LEMON: Yes, here we go again. All right. Chad Myers, thank you very much. We will check back.
Let's talk now about the Olympic torch. It hits the streets of San Francisco in just under three hours. And this is what awaits it. You see that? Those are crowds. They're protesters. They're fired up. They're out in force.
You're seeing live pictures of just part of the six-mile route the torch will take on its only U.S. appearance. And CNN's Ted Rowlands is there.
Ted are folks rowdy or are they pretty much under control right now?
TED ROWLANDS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Pretty much under control, Don. It's the calm before the potential storm. Right now there are thousands of people out here. As you mentioned, we're still a couple hours away from the beginning of the torch run. We're at the beginning area, the staging area, where there will be a program before the run begins.
And you can see they set the risers up here. There's overwhelmingly pro-Chinese people in this area. This is an invited- only section in San Francisco behind the AT&T ballpark here.
So the real trouble is going to be in the other spots. We've already seen one flare-up. An individual with a Tibetan flag got himself in here, and he was immediately surrounded. People were screaming at him. Wasn't heavy violence. But they were pushing him fairly enthusiastically and until they removed him from this area.
This is going to go on for a six-mile stretch. And San Francisco police and law enforcement are very, very concerned about the potential for problems. The amount of security here is just simply incredible. Trying to secure a six-mile route is virtually impossible completely. They are relying on the help of the federal -- from the federal government and other agencies, is San Francisco. But they're really also relying on people acting accordingly or properly. And protesting, but doing it in a nonviolent way.
This flame has elicited emotions around the world. We saw it in London and in Paris. People looking at it and having one of two separate emotions. These people here feel tremendous pride that China and Beijing is hosting the Olympic Games. And they can't understand the other side of the coin.
On the other side of the coin, those that are offended by China's record of human rights will do everything they can to use this platform, this world stage, to get their opinion out there, too. Their feelings are just as strong. And police are going to be watching how these two groups mingle.
Also, we understand there are some torch bearers that will protest when they have the torch in their hand. Not sure what they'll be doing, whether it will be significance or not. Another thing that is going to be watched very closely here.
Safe to say the world is going to be watching San Francisco for the rest of this day to see how this all works out.
LEMON: Yes. It's going to be very interesting, Ted. And stay out of harm's way there, my friend, because we're going to be relying on you, I have a feeling, a lot throughout the day here.
Ted Rowlands in San Francisco. Thank you, Ted.
Much more coverage to come on the uproar over the Beijing Olympics. First, the big spenders. Our Ali Velshi looks at the backlash big companies could face for sponsoring the summer games.
Plus, protest and the Olympics. Well, they go hand in hand. A special guest joins us to look back on a history of controversy.
And we've heard plenty from anti-China protesters, as well. You'll hear from a pro-China voice right here in the CNN NEWSROOM.
The Olympic torch is a heated issue on the campaign trail, and our Wolf Blitzer on how the presidential candidates are dealing with the uproar over the Beijing games. He will have that story at 6 p.m. Eastern on "THE SITUATION ROOM."
WHITFIELD: Also, Don, new details just into CNN about the investigation into the polygamy ranch where hundreds of women and children have been rescued in Texas. We're live in the NEWSROOM.
WHITFIELD: So just what went on inside this sprawling Texas ranch? We're about to find out more, but what's out there already borders on the unbelievable. Reports of physical beatings, sex abuse, illegal marriages, and all in the name of a polygamist sect.
This man is now wanted by police, in fact. His exact role remains unknown, however. We're expecting more details shortly.
Let's go live to CNN's Ed Lavandera. He's been on the story since the weekend.
And what is the latest, Ed?
ED LAVANDERA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hi, Fredricka.
Well, a couple things going on here today in the town of San Angelo, which is about 40 miles north of the Eldorado compound where all these raids and these searches have continued to go on for almost a week now.
There's a court hearing expected to start here about 2: 00 p.m. Central Time. And as we've seen the momentum gather for this, it's really essentially the first time we're going to have a chance to see, perhaps, some members of this polygamist sect, as well as the attorneys that will be representing them.
A short while ago, one of our colleagues, Mike Watkiss, from our affiliate KTVK, noticed that Seth Jeffs, the brother of Warren Jeffs, who was the leader of this polygamist sect, spotted him here in town, in San Angelo, surrounded by various family members. He threw out several questions to him and was repeatedly told "no comment." But we can get a sense now that some of these people and some of the attorneys that are working with them are preparing here. Essentially, what this hearing is for is to try to quash some of the evidence that has been discovered during this search and these search warrants that have been executed at the ranch over the last five or six days now. So that's what that hearing is about.
But of course, all of the attention really focused on the latest court documents that detail in much greater detail just what kind of allegations of abuse state officials believe is going on inside that compound.
LAVANDERA (voice-over): Child abuse investigators allege in newly released court documents that every child inside the YFZ compound was at risk of physical and sexual abuse. The investigators say a culture of adult men marrying teenage girls, once they reached child-bearing age, is rampant.
MARLEIGH MEISNER, TEXAS CHILD PROTECTIVE SERVICES: We also have a couple of people on ward that are working with us that are really helping us with the therapeutic needs of these children. They're very familiar with the issues that go into the people that live with -- within this compound.
LAVANDERA: Investigators also detail the plight of an unknown 16-year-old girl. The court records say the teenager called a family violence shelter, saying she was being held against her will and wanted to escape. She reported, the court records say, that the adult man she married a year ago would beat and hurt her whenever he got angry, and that if she tried to leave, she would be found and locked up.
But at the end of the phone calls, investigators say the girl began crying, and she said everything she said should be forgotten. Despite removing 416 children from the ranch, child abuse investigators still haven't identified that teenage caller. Since authorities raided the compound last Thursday, the air space above it was closed, but not anymore.
(on-camera): As we fly over the compound here you can see the large temple and the beautiful grounds around it, well manicured. As we come around one side of the temple here you see one part -- one part of the building surrounded by cars over a large portion of authorities that have been searching this 1,600-acre ranch since last Thursday.
The only way to see what is going on inside the polygamist compound is to fly over it. They've never allowed anyone in. In fact, since they started moving in four years ago, every time pilots would fly over, they say that they'd see people scattering for cover, that they didn't want to be seen. Today it's at a standstill.
(END VIDEOTAPE) LAVANDERA: Now, we're really hoping to be able to hear from some of these attorneys representing the sect here today. We have been told by someone close to the leadership of the compound that they do believe -- that they are angered by the way this investigation was handled, saying that they don't understand how the search for one 16- year-old girl can turn into the wholesale round-up of 416 children -- Fredricka.
WHITFIELD: Wow. And what an extraordinary view of that compound. Ed Lavandera, thanks so much.
LEMON: Day two of congressional hearings on the war in Iraq and still no much agreement over where things stand or what the future holds.
Right now the House Armed Services Committee is hearing from the Army's vice chief of staff, General Richard Cody. Earlier, it heard from the top commander in Iraq, General David Petraeus. Democrats pressed him for more troop withdrawals.
Committee -- committee chairman Ike Skelton said it's time for the Iraqis to resume responsibility.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. IKE SKELTON (D-MO), CHAIRMAN, ARMED SERVICES COMMITTEE: What leverage do you have on the Iraqi government to take the training wheels off and to get on with its task? We've been at this now for years. How do you do that?
GEN. DAVID PETRAEUS, COMMANDER, MULTINATIONAL FORCES IN IRAQ: It's not about us twisting their arm, I don't think, to exercise their sovereignty. It is truly about us enabling that and trying to support it as much as we can while keeping as light a hand on the bicycle seat as possible.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
LEMON: General Petraeus is going back before Congress this afternoon, this time before the House Foreign Affairs Committee. We're monitoring the hearing and will bring that you important developments just as they happen. You see they're on a break now. No one is in.
WHITFIELD: Well, it certainly doesn't bode well for the busy travel season ahead. Oil prices surge again, a new record. We'll find out what that could mean to your pocketbook.
LEMON: If you're a diabetic, what can do you to reduce the risk of heart disease? We'll tell you what a new study says.
LEMON: Here that guy goes on TV every day with the bad news about the economy and the high oil prices. And it's another record high for oil. WHITFIELD: Are you that guy?
LEMON: I'm that guy. I'm that guy. Susan Lisovicz has become that lady every day with the bad news about the economy. She's at the New York Stock Exchange.
SUSAN LISOVICZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: I sound like a broken record.
LEMON: A broken record, I know. Replay the tape from yesterday.
LISOVICZ: And we did break -- we did break a record. And you know, we did get one of the major reports of the day. It's been a pretty quiet day is the weekly inventory on oil and gas and distillates and things like that. We saw an unexpected drop in crude supplies. And well, we saw a predictable reaction in the oil trading pits. Oil now up $3.70, trading above $112 for the first time. It's already topped the record intraday high of $111.80 per barrel.
Analysts had been expecting an increase in crude supplies and gasoline supplies fell more than expected. So it's bad news for those hoping for a break at the gas pump, which is where we're also seeing record high prices.
Don't hate me. Don't -- don't shoot the messenger, Don.
LEMON: Don't hate, appreciate, as they say. Well, I don't know if there's anything to appreciate about this. Is there any relief, though, Susan, in sight?
LISOVICZ: Well, you know, we've been saying and a lot of people say that oil is overpriced. There's a lot of speculation that goes on, especially when you see the stock market not doing much, not giving you those kind of returns. You see a lot of professional traders going in there.
Doesn't help when we get that weak report on supplies. But some oil executives say there is hope in the long run. Two energy giants, BP and ConocoPhillips, have announced plans for what could turn out to be a $30-billion natural gas pipeline. Check it out.
The companies plan to spend $600 million to design the so-called Denali Pipeline, which will transport gas from Alaska to the lower 48. The first phase, a 2,000-mile pipeline through Alberta, Canada. The second stage would cover the remaining 1,500 miles to Chicago, which totally dwarfs the Trans-Alaska oil pipeline, which runs from the north slope of Alaska to Valdez, a mere 800 miles.
The natural gas pipeline would carry about six to eight percent of the daily U.S. consumption of natural gas, but it won't start pumping for another ten years. But it is a mammoth product, isn't it, Don?
LEMON: But Susan, haven't we heard about this before? There's been talk about this, right?
LISOVICZ: There's been talk. They've been talking since about 2001.
LISOVICZ: Millions -- tens of millions invested in the valuation. And the project may still require 1,000 permits, 1,000. But BP and Conoco say it's not just a pipe dream and it will happen. Could be a boon, of course, for Alaska's economy, of course, which would also have to sign off on it.
Natural gas considered a cleaner burning fuel. This could eventually lower the price of it here in the U.S.
Soaring oil prices, well, not helping out stocks today. Check it out. Big board right now, the Dow is down 79 points, two-thirds of a percent. The NASDAQ's down one percent.
Coming up, airlines canceling flights, raising fees. Congress wants to know if there will be another summer of pain. We'll tackle that story in the next hour. I know Susan Roesgen was on top of it, and we'll have some other angles for the next hour -- Don.
LEMON: OK, Susan. Can you promise you'll bring us some good news today?
LEMON: Yes, some good news today.
LISOVICZ: Yes, I can promise you that. I will dig it up.
LEMON: All right. Thank you, Susan.
WHITFIELD: All right. The protests over the Beijing Olympics not just targeting the games but the companies that are actually sponsoring them. Will the big spenders in Beijing face a big backlash? Our Ali Velshi will take a look.
WHITFIELD: Well, just over two-and-a-half hours to go before the Olympic torch hits the streets of San Francisco on its only U.S. appearance. And these are live pictures right now of the Golden Gate Bridge. Why? Because already we understand that people are forming right there on the Golden Gate Bridge to oppose the Beijing games, opposing the route of the torch that will be making its way through San Francisco momentarily.
As you see on the left-hand side of the screen, as we zoom in, we're told that the crowd that you see there on the side of the traffic, many of them are Burmese monks who were there in collaboration with so many others throughout San Francisco, all protesting the torch relay route there. It will be a six-mile relay route going through San Francisco. As I said, the only U.S. city in which the torch will be passing through.
Already we have seen very vigorous protests taking place overseas as it relates to the Beijing torch relay. Paris, London, you saw all that over the weekend.
Well, what does this fallout, this kind of sizable protest mean for the Olympic Games? Particularly, the many corporate sponsors that are involved in the Beijing games?
Our Ali Velshi has been doing quite a bit of digging to find out what kind of impact this really does make.
ALI VELSHI, CNN SENIOR BUSINESS CORRESPONDENT: I think the companies that we're talking about are probably doing more digging. They're sitting around thinking, "Wow, being associated with the Olympics is, first of all, very expensive." It's supposed to be...
WHITFIELD: Yes. A huge commitment.
VELSHI: ... such -- and it's supposed to be such a sentimental thing. I mean, the torch and the rings. And the idea that Coca-Cola; General Electric; Lenovo, the computer maker; Samsung; so many other big companies are directly involved with this.
Well, for the moment they have mainly said that they are concerned about the situation on the ground in Tibet, but they feel that the Olympics, generally speaking, helps the host country.
General Electric specifically said the sponsorships allow teams to go participate who would never otherwise participate. Coca-Cola was saying they think the benefit of the Olympics is greater than the take-aways. But, at some point it's not about what they think, it's about what their consumers think and what this might do to their brand.
If people keep seeing these pictures and associate China, Tibet, protests, bad things, Coke, G.E., that's going to be a problem. These are big contracts, right? How do you unwind this kind of deal?
WHITFIELD: Right. And not only for the Olympic games are these corporate sponsors concerned about, but post Olympic games. As you said the connotations that a G.E. or any of these companies would be associated with this protested Olympic games. They are worried about what happens even after the games.
VELSHI: And what their connection is to -- do people associate things that China does that they don't like with the sponsors of these companies? Do people who understand that we are doing more and more business and we are inextricably linked with China, do they think that there is some quid pro quo? These companies are kind of saying, no we support these kind of things all the time. That's how they want to be seen, as supporters of good things that people love. The problem is when good things people love start to become things people are concerned about, does that affect their reputation? For the moment these companies are staying put, because it would be very hard not to. But, I think they are probably hoping things like these protests start to slow down and this issue cools down, because they are going to have to make some decisions.
WHITFIELD: So, I wonder, Ali, if any of these companies will kind of make the concerted effort to say our involvement means that we are helping directly the little guy. They'll try to show some examples so that perhaps they can change the minds out there.
VELSHI: Right. We are helping amateur athletes around the world compete in the Olympics. We're helping teams. That is exactly the message they would like to get out there, the bottom line is how big do these protests go? Do people start saying we are not going to buy these companies' products because we want to pressure them?
That's what I think their hoping doesn't get out of control, but this thing has started to take on a life of its own. If you are corporate America and you're a sponsor of the Olympics, you've got to be having a lot of meetings thinking about it what you're going to do.
WHITFIELD: It's growing and so is the concern, especially among those corporate companies who made this investment. Ali Velshi, thanks so much for keeping an eye on this. Of course, we are going to continue to watch the developments there in San Francisco and the ripple effect. You can see much more of Ali, of course, in the noon hour every day "ISSUE #1."
It's all about the economy, and it's all about your money, your home, your future. Again, that's "ISSUE #1," all week noontime only on CNN.
And of course, as I mentioned, much more on the torch protests. You know the Olympic games have faced all kinds of hurdles throughout history. You are looking at pictures from the '72 Munich games. Remember that? As we look ahead to more protests, we'll also look back at the past full of controversy.
HOLMES: All right, time to tell you what we are working on for you in the CNN NEWSROOM. We have several developing stories happening. A frightening scene at a Michigan assisted living center. A fire this morning at the three-story building forced firefighters to bring residents down on ladders.
Look at that. All residents were evacuated safely. I'm being told that they suffered some minor injuries, minor complaints, smoke inhalation, chest pains, but they think everyone is going to be OK.
A senior al Qaeda official died of natural causes, possibly hepatitis. A U.S. official says Abu Ubaida al-Masri is believed to have helped plan a number of high-profile terror attacks including the 2005 bombings in London. General David Petraeus is back on Capitol Hill today. A short while ago, he hinted that he would resist if the next president tried to stage a quick withdrawal of U.S. troops. Petraeus said he would have a quote, "dialogue" with the president about what the risks would be.
American Airlines today facing some problems. Some pilots say a disaster waiting to happen. We are hearing about possibly more flights being canceled. How does it affect you? What's going on? Special Investigations correspondent Drew Griffin will tell us about that.
HOLMES: OK, as if it wasn't bad enough, it is getting worse. This just into the CNN NEWSROOM. The nation's biggest air carrier, of course facing a second wave of big travel troubles, and it's causing a big mess for travelers. At first today it was 850 flights canceled. Just got a press release from American Airlines, and they are saying now that more, Fredricka, that more than 1,000 American Airlines flights are canceled today, so the carrier can re-inspect wiring on its MD-80 jets.
Of course, the company is apologizing, but still folks are going to be inconvenienced. Some 500 flights were grounded just yesterday. An American spokesman says the move is a technical compliance issue and it is not related to flight safety for air travelers. It means one thing, chaos.
And at some of the country's busiest airports, you heard about Chicago from our Susan Roesgen. Last year American canceled over 300 flights over similar inspections. The FAA raised additional concerns and ordered the new round of inspections.
WHITFIELD: All right, so American Airlines facing serious concerns because of its fleet of MD-80 jets. Well, CNN Special Investigations Unit has been looking into land gearing problems, as well that have led to nearly two dozen flight emergencies since late last year.
Details now from CNN SIU Correspondent, Drew Griffin.
GRIFFIN: American Airlines flight 862 circling Miami, 138 on board, nose landing gear broken. On take-off it just stayed down, the pilot couldn't bring it back up. As controllers in the tower tried to see if it's bent, the pilots dumped fuel. In the end, the gear holds and the MD-80 pilot makes a perfect landing, and one CNN has learned is becoming all too routine at American.
Just between November and February, by the company's own count, 22 planes had nose landing gear that didn't work properly.
MAYER: I raised the landing gear and immediately heard a noise that's not normal. GRIFFIN: It happened to Captain Sam Mayer on a freezing cold day in December. He just took off from Minneapolis and knew he was in trouble.
MAYER: Our windshield started to cover with ice from the bottom working its way up. As we were running the emergency procedures, there was a pop. Everyone's ears blew out. We realized that we had lost the pressurization of the aircraft at that time. We made a quick P.A., we are going back to the airport. We'll be on the ground three or four minutes.
GRIFFIN: This was an emergency landing?
MAYER: Oh, absolutely, and when I got out of the aircraft and went outside, it was absolutely stunning. The aircraft was literally a popsicle.
GRIFFIN: Popsicle, he says, because the malfunctioning nose gear disabled anti-icing system. His wings and tail were freezing over. On the ground, he says, he immediately called American's fleet manager who told him the company was working on the problem.
MAYER: I felt good after that call, and then watched the next month 10 or 11 more. I think that speaks for itself.
GRIFFIN (on-camera): There have now been 23 landing gear incidents with American's MD-80s. And pilots tell us any one of them could have been a potential disaster. But guess what? An American Airlines spokesman says their MD-80s fly an average 1,200 flights a day. Twenty-three malfunctions isn't that many.
(voice-over): American spokesman Tim Wagoner says the company identified three issues, all related to cold weather. He said the manufacturer, Boeing, needs to fix the problem. And he says the pilots are unnecessarily alarming the public because a landing gear that doesn't retract isn't as big a problem as failure to extend. "We have not had failures to extend with the MD-80 landing gear."
The FAA seems unconcerned, as well, telling us it's aware of the problem, but since pilots haven't been instructed what to do, because all the aircraft landed safely, the agency determined that there were no safety concerns. All this leads to a bigger question about safety.
Last week CNN reported the FAA was only now trying to fix a problem dating back to 2004, shattered cockpit windshields on Boeing aircraft. Four major carriers have recently grounded planes because there were gaps found in FAA-required inspections for other problems. An FAA supervisor was demoted because he allowed Southwest Airlines to delay aircraft inspections.
American Captain Todd Wissing, a safety committee member with the Allied Pilots Association, which, by the way, is in contract talks with American, says he fears his airline wants to save money on something that once was sacred -- maintenance.
TODD WISSING, PILOT: I think that if there is an attitude change to where we're just going to do what the FAA minimum is, I think a lot of airlines will probably start to adopt that.
GRIFFIN: And while American tries to figure out what's causing the landing-gear problems and what to do about it, the company has told its MD-80 pilots to review their emergency procedures.
MAYER: That was their solution to the problem, was make sure you are real familiar with what to do and what doesn't work when your nose gear doesn't come up.
GRIFFIN: Boeing did send CNN a statement saying it's committed to safety, but had no comment on the MD-80 landing gear problem.
Drew Griffin, CNN, Atlanta.
LEMON: Well, for Boeing it's not the stuff dreams are made of. The company is putting off delivery of its 787 Dreamliner for a third time. CNN's Richard Quest joins us now live from London.
Richard, a third time. And you actually did a special and travelled on these planes and talked about the release. And now delay, delay, delay.
RICHARD QUEST, CNN CORRESPONDENT: And what we are learning is the plane Boeing rolled out of the (INAUDIBLE) factory last July the 7th, so timed beautifully with 787, what we are learning is that that plane was basically held together with two tin cans and a bit of string.
The reality is that Boeing is having enormous difficulty building this plane from a variety of issues. Some technical. It's built by carbon fiber. It's using state-of-the-art technology. And some because of the new and different way that Boeing is building planes.
Basically what they're doing is they are assembling the plane, they're making the plane in different parts of the world, and then they take the bits and assemble them in the factory pretty much like a Leggo kit. It's all proving much more difficult than the aircraft manufacturer ever expected.
It's a terrible embarrassment for Boeing, which, frankly, has snigerred behind its hands at the problems of Airbus 8380. And now, Don, they've got exactly the same problems themselves.
LEMON: Thank you, Richard Quest for explaining that to us. And by the way, nice plane.
WHITFIELD: All right. Well, the Olympic Games have faced all kinds of hurdles throughout their history. As we look ahead to more protests, we'll also look back at the past full of controversy.
WHITFIELD: All right, protesters are fired up. Security is ramped up. You're looking at live pictures right now out of San Francisco, where the latest protest against China hosting the Summer Olympic Games are now taking place and where the Olympic torch will be making its way through in about a couple of hours from now.
The latest protest adds to a long history of controversy surrounding of the Olympic Games. Let's take a look back with David Wallechinsky, the vice president of the International Society of Olympic Historians.
Good to see you, David.
DAVID WALLECHINSKY, INTL. SOCIETY OF OLYMPIC HISTORIANS: Good to see you.
WHITFIELD: Well, Politics seemingly is really the fabric of the modern-day Olympic Games. We've seen it or statements being made in so many different ways, from Berlin to Moscow, Los Angeles games and now this.
So how have you documented the evolution of the protests or boycotts that have taken place?
WALLECHINSKY: I would say The first thing, the big political incident, which was not protested, was when the 1936 Olympics were held in Berlin and staged by the Nazis. They were given to the city of Berlin before Hitler had taken over, but they stayed there. Although there was quite a the lot of talk about boycotting, it never happened. In terms of protesting, you've never seen protests before on a torch relay. This is really the first time.
WHITFIELD: Yes, you've never seen it take place like this, which means that's why it's kind of, in part, getting a lot of attention, because this is a moving target, and these protesters have been very aggressive. And so I wonder if the statement that these protesters are trying to make has kind of been overshadowed by their act?
WALLECHINSKY: You know, that's the way you cover it. It'll be interesting to see what happens in San Francisco. I think is there a very, you know, strong movement to have nonviolent protests, which is certainly, I think, what most of the causes they support would want.
But I think that, you know, in China, I think they were really blindsided by this. I don't know what they were thinking.
WALLECHINSKY: If you were going to choose one city to bring the torch in the United States to bring it to San Francisco, the home of protesting, I don't think they realized what they were getting into.
WHITFIELD: And so I wonder if there will be a ripple effect? When we look historically the at other protests or boycotts that have taken place, they almost assuredly impacted the athletes directly. Either their country was no longer invited to attend the Games or there was a boycott of the Games all together, so athletes were not in attendance. How about now? WALLECHINSKY: Well, I am hoping there won't be a boycott, because I don't believe that the athletes should be punished. I think they should be allowed to compete.
At the same time, I don't think they should be stopped from expressing themselves. A lot of athletes aren't just athletes; they have a conscience and they're involved in the world and ...
WHITFIELD: But do you worry that there is going to be a domino effect, that there is going to be so much pressure that the world is paying attention now to what these protesters are saying about the human rights violations in China and the Tibet relationship that perhaps there might be some countries that say well, let's rethink whether we should send our athletes?
WALLECHINSKY: I think that's possible, but I think what's more likely is some sort of protest like you had in 1980. We think of 1980 as United States boycotting another 45 countries's boycott.
WHITFIELD: We're talking about Moscow.
WALLECHINSKY: Yes, in Moscow. But there were 16 nations that went to the Moscow Olympics and did their own form of protest there by refusing to have their national flags displayed at the opening ceremony or during medal ceremonies. I would think that would be more appropriate, more likely response.
WHITFIELD: All right, David Wallechinsky, thanks so much, vice president of the International Society of Olympic Historians. Something tells me we'll have you back again because seems like we're just at the beginning stages of this very patterned protests. Thanks so much.
WALLECHINSKY: Thank you.
LEMON: What you can do to protect yourself from heart disease, especially if you're diabetic. Our medical correspondent Elizabeth Cohen joins us in the NEWSROOM.
LEMON: All right, so we all know lower is better when it comes to cholesterol and when it comes to blood pressure, especially if you are diabetic. But how low should you go? How low should you go?
Elizabeth Cohen here today, our medical correspondent with a new study, new guidance and new information to make you a new person really, right?
ELIZABETH COHEN, CNN MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: New information, yes, for Type II diabetics. If this study is adopted, if these guidelines are adopted by doctors across the country, it really could change the way that doctors treat their type 2 diabetic patients.
Let's take a look at what doctors now tell diabetics about their cholesterol. They now say get your LDL, that's the bad cholesterol, at around 100 or lower. But this study says 70 or lower is even better and they have the data to prove it.
Now, let's look at blood pressure. We're talking about the systolic number, which is the top number in a blood pressure reading. They now recommend, doctors say oh, 130, approximately 130. But this study says 115 is even better.
And what do I mean by even better? They found that when type 2 diabetics kept those numbers low, they had less clogging of the arteries. See that yellow stuff on the bottom, that's bad. That's an artery getting clogged up. And some of the folks, when they got those numbers down, they actually reversed -- they actually had less of that yellow in their arteries.
So, this could really be important information for type 2 diabetics.
LEMON: All right, well then, how do you get the numbers down? That's the question. How do you do it?
COHEN: Not always. But they offer ...
LEMON: I like how you were like drugs and I'm like OK.
COHEN: Drugs, yes, I mean, drugs, drugs often work.
LEMON: Legal drugs.
COHEN: Really, legal drugs, that your doctor prescribes, right. Drugs for blood pressure and cholesterol work very well. But some people, they don't need drugs. For some people, they can make just lifestyle changes and they -- those changes can go a long way.
We're talking about changes like keeping your weight down. That's very important. Avoiding high fat foods and exercising at least 30 minutes at least three times a week. And Don, of course it goes without saying, don't smoke, don't smoke. You know, that will aggravate everything.
LEMON: OK, real quickly, real quickly. Then, what's the caveat? Do we have a caveat?
COHEN: There is one caveat which is that if doctors across the country adopt these guidelines, then it's likely that sales of drugs for cholesterol and blood pressure will go up. If those sales go up, the pharmaceutical companies make more money. Some of the authors of the study, they had financial ties to pharmaceutical companies. It doesn't necessarily negate the study, but it is something to keep in mind.
LEMON: Drugs, OK.
COHEN: Drugs, there you go. LEMON: Thank you. Thanks, Elizabeth.
WHITFIELD: All right, let's talk politics. Coming up, Hillary Clinton had the early advantage. But it looks like Barack Obama may be gaining momentum. We'll have a live update from the Election Express on some new Pennsylvania poll numbers.
WHITFIELD: Clipping some wings, American Airlines cancels more than 1,000 flights as the safety problem rears its ugly head.
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