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Deadly and Destructive Flooding in Midwest; America's Fuel Crisis; Candidates on the Economy

Aired June 10, 2008 - 11:00   ET


TONY HARRIS, CNN ANCHOR: And good morning, everyone. You're informed with CNN.
I'm Tony Harris.

HEIDI COLLINS, CNN ANCHOR: Hi there, everybody. I'm Heidi Collins.

Developments keep coming into the CNN NEWSROOM this Tuesday, June 10th.

Here's what's on the rundown.

Lakefront property becomes lakebed debris. We'll talk with a Wisconsin man whose home was washed away in a flood.

HARRIS: Tomatoes taken off of store shelves and restaurant menus. Salmonella outbreak to blame. We will tell you what varieties are still safe.

COLLINS: And twins joined at the head now separated. Doctors talk about the successful surgery in the NEWSROOM.

We begin this hour with extreme weather. Swamped and sweltering, the East breaking for more intense heat. The Midwest reeling from deadly and destructive flooding. Meteorologist Rob Marciano tracking it all from the weather center.

But first, want to get more on floods from Terry Sater of our affiliate WISN. He's actually on the phone for from Lake Delton, Wisconsin, where all of these pictures have been coming in from.

So, some of the homeowners in that area have really obviously been hit very hard.

TERRY SATER, REPORTER, WISN: It is surrealistic and heartbreaking at the same time. You can't be nothing but amazed watching the video of these powerful floodwaters washing away these homes, and yet realizing that these are people's dream homes. Years of memories and hard work simply washed away in a matter of seconds.

And this is also the jewel of Wisconsin tourism. Beautiful Lake Delton, surrounded by homes and resorts, simply destroyed in a matter of seconds.

The dam that is supposed to hold back the floodwater, that held, but the floodwaters found their own channel and washed away these homes, washing out a road. There's debris floating down river, also endangering other bridges and things down river.

The governor has declared a state of emergency in three counties in Wisconsin. So this is a widespread damage that has been afflicted by these rains that hit over the weekend into Monday.

COLLINS: Yes. And Terry, I'm not sure how many people you have been able to talk with, but I imagine you have been out there for a while now reporting on all of this. And some of the reports that I read said that people really just didn't believe that this could happen.

SATER: The manmade lake was built in the 1920s. And these homes were literally sitting on one side of the lake which had been there for some 80 years.

No one could have imagined, even emergency officials told us, they thought their concern was the dam. They were out there doing some sandbagging as the water started to come over the top of the dam. And it simply decided it was going to take away this one part of the lake.

This is also where one of the most famous water ski shows in the country is performed, on Lake Delton.


SATER: And right now they are shut down, not knowing what they're going to do. They are going to be able do some kind of show, but it won't involve water skiing.

COLLINS: Yes, that really is famous water show. Familiar with that one. People go there every summer to watch them perform.

We certainly appreciate your time.

Terry Sater of our affiliate there WISN.

And I don't know if we can show this, Tony, but we were just looking at some video that we have been talking about all morning long of the fish. Have you seen this? We just had it up a second ago.

The water has been displaced in so many different areas that the fish are actually swimming in a certain area and getting ready to go down the sewer drain. I'm not sure if we can pull it back up or not, but I've been wondering all morning long kind of what has been happening there.

Huge fish. You can see, I think we have it coming up here in just second. See that? They are all swirling in a small area there.

And if we pull out of it, you can see that there's actually no water anywhere else. And this is the middle of the street. That's the drain right there in the bottom. Fish trying to get away from the suction of that sewer drain. Trying to figure out what's going to happen with them. Just one of the side-effects of all of that's happening here...

HARRIS: Absolutely.

COLLINS: ... near Lake Delton.

Want to take a moment now to talk with someone. We have been looking at some of that terrible video of the home that basically just split in half on the banks of Lake Delton.

Don Kubenik is actually the owner of that home. You can see here where it just splits in half and begins to wash away down that seriously rushing water there. He is actually on the phone with us now from Lake Delton, Wisconsin.

Don, if you can hear us OK, just want to know how you are doing this morning.


COLLINS: Talk to us a little bit about what happened. Where were you when your home was actually washed away like this?

KUBENIK: Well, we were in West Dallas when it happened.

COLLINS: How did you find out?

KUBENIK: Neighbors called us.

HARRIS: Hey, Don, I'm just -- I'm curious, as we watch the picture over and over again -- and I know this has to be devastating for and you your family -- I'm just curious, I'm hoping this is not your primary residence. I'm hoping this is more of a vacation home. Is it?

KUBENIK: Well, it is. It is a home, vacation. But it was pretty much ruined.

HARRIS: Yes. We can certainly see that.

Talk to us about the -- kind of the risk and reward. Obviously, you know that this is always a risk, that something like this can happen when you build that close to the shore. But my goodness, it's good living, isn't it?

KUBENIK: It sure is. Hard to believe.

COLLINS: Don, had you guys ever had any similar flooding like this? We've talked with a couple of people who said, you know, "We have never seen anything like this," never expected that this, in fact, could really happen. Even though they knew the storms were coming and the rain had been coming down, it seems like, from what we have been able to tell from here, that people just never expected it to get this bad. KUBENIK: No, we didn't expect this at all. The reason we built here was because it was dam-controlled. It was a manmade lake, and it comes in from Meer (ph) Lake and then goes out Lake Delton, down into the river, which we never thought this would happen. But we are hearing some real strange rumors this morning about what really went on here, so I'd rather not say at this time. But the facts will come out very quickly of what's really going on.

COLLINS: OK. Well, it sounds like something that we certainly need to check in on. And we will talk to you about, hopefully, off camera or something. We'd be very curious to know what you are referring to on that.

Also wondering, Don, what kind of warning people got. You were not there at the time, but do you know...

KUBENIK: Well, I was not there. I got a warning at 5:00 that it was beginning to build.

They told us that three houses floated down the river, gone. And those are the three off to our right. And they are just gone.

The boats were gone. My boat is gone. I had a brand-new boat. It is totally gone.

My pier is gone. My pier is laying in front of the house right now in the mud, down about 25, 30 feet. It's just hard to believe this could ever happened, a dam-controlled lake.

HARRIS: Don, what's your plan? Is it too early to talk about what your next move is going to be?

KUBENIK: Yes, it's a little early, because we can't get in and get our belongings yet. The garage is intact, it looks like, but the house is in half. And you can see where the truss gave way.

And the house is kind of teetering there. If they get more rain, it could wash right out. I did see a film where the foundation washed right off of the house. I mean, it was just unbelievable that this could happen.

COLLINS: Yes, unbelievable, that's for sure. Lots of times we talk about in situations like this not necessarily when we are talking about a lake, but people trying to get flood insurance. Is that something that was available to you?

KUBENIK: Well, they wouldn't sell it to us. They would not sell it to us. The word is they would not sell it to us.

COLLINS: What do you mean by that?

KUBENIK: They said we were out of the flood plains and we didn't need it. We asked if we could buy it. They said no. So that was the problem, because everything was dam-controlled and it was supposed to be controlled very well. Apparently, it wasn't done very well. COLLINS: Well, as far as this looks, when we continue to see your home over and over again -- and I'm sure you have seen those pictures -- I'm sure it's just devastating every time you see it.

KUBENIK: Yes. You are right.

COLLINS: Well, we obviously we wish you the best. And again, as you said, it's too early to make decisions about possibly rebuilding or trying to find out exactly what went wrong.

KUBENIK: That would be a little early to think about that right now.

COLLINS: Yes, absolutely. Well, again, we wish you the very best of luck. And I know you have a lot of questions to ask, it sounds like. So thank you so much for sharing your story with us.

Don Kubenik on the phone from Lake Delton, Wisconsin, for us this morning.


HARRIS: Your money, your concerns. We're keeping a close eye on new developments squeezing your wallet this morning. Gas prices set yet another record. The national average now more than $4.04 a gallon.

Record prices mean record profits for oil companies. And some Democrats want a slice of that windfall. This hour, the Senate is expected to vote on a new tax against the nation's five largest oil companies. It will also consider rescinding $17 billion in tax breaks.

Less doom and gloom from the top economic policymaker in the United States. Federal Reserve chairman Ben Bernanke says the risk of a substantial downturn in the economy has faded.

Investors are keeping an eye on Wall Street. Will U.S. stocks continue yesterday's rebound? Not so fast here. Down 70 points at the start of the trading day, flat for a while, in positive territory for a while after that. And now we're negative again.

We're following the markets throughout the morning here in the NEWSROOM.

Record oil prices and a new glimmer of hope. Saudi Arabia now says oil prices are unjustifiably high and is calling for a meeting to discuss increased production. So what's it mean?

CNN Senior Business Correspondent Ali Velshi has the answers.


ALI VELSHI, CNN SR. BUSINESS CORRESPONDENT: It was less than a month ago that President Bush arrived in Riyadh, cap in hand, to ask the Saudis to put more oil on the market to help bring prices down. Now, back then he got mostly a no and a comment from the Saudi oil minister that when it comes to oil -- and this is a quote -- "supply and demand are in balance."

Well, something has changed, because on Monday, the Saudis came out and said that today's oil prices are unjustified, and they now want to convene a meeting with what they call consumer nations. I assume America is one of those. And they say that they are ready to meet any increase in demand.

Now, here is the interesting thing. The Saudis say that the current price of oil is not justified by demand, which means something other than demand is causing the run-up that we've seen in oil prices. Something maybe like excessive speculation.

And when we say speculation, we are talking about investors, people who trade in oil but don't use the end product. They just trade in it to make money.

Well, moments after the announcement by the Saudis, I spoke with Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson and I asked him whether speculators are driving this market. Here is what he told me.


HENRY PAULSON, TREASURY SECRETARY: I don't believe financial investors are responsible for any significant degree to this price movement. This is supply/demand. Financial investors are on both sides of the market; they're long and they're short. They don't set trends, they follow the trends.


VELSHI: So, in effect, Paulson is saying that oil prices are high because of supply and demand. The Saudis are saying it's not supply and demand. So maybe they should all meet and work it all out.


HARRIS: Well, Ali is coming back at the top of the hour for "ISSUE #1." Your money, your concerns, coming up at noon, only on CNN.

COLLINS: A sluggish economy, struggling Americans. Last hour, Senator John McCain delivered an economic speech in Washington through frequent disruptions from anti-war hecklers.



UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: ... for small business!

MCCAIN: You know, one of the...


COLLINS: McCain went on to lay out his plan to boost the economy.


MCCAIN: As president, I intend to act quickly and decisively to promote growth and opportunity. I intend to keep the current low income investment tax rate. I intend to keep them, not repeal them.


MCCAIN: I'll pursue tax reform that supports the wage earners and job creators who make this economy run, and help them to succeed in a global economy. Serious reform is needed to help American companies compete in international markets. I propose a reduction in the corporate tax rate from the second highest in the world to one on par with our trading partners.


COLLINS: McCain was speaking at the National Small Business Summit in Washington.

Taking his economic message on the road, Barack Obama talking money and John McCain, as you just saw.

CNN's Jessica Yellin has more.


JESSICA YELLIN, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice over): Barack Obama's economic message could not be any simpler.

SEN. BARACK OBAMA (D-IL), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: It is time to try something new. It is time for a change.

YELLIN: In his first policy speech of the general election, Obama attempted to bind his opponent to George Bush. He mentioned the president 15 times.

OBAMA: Senator McCain wants to turn Bush's policy of too little, too late into policy of even less, even later.

The centerpiece of John McCain's economic plan amounts to a full- throated endorsement of George Bush's policies. We can't afford four more years of skewed priorities that give us nothing but record debt.

YELLIN: McCain's campaign is striking back, hitting where Democrats hurt before.

CARLY FIORINA, MCCAIN CAMPAIGN SENIOR ADVISER: Barack Obama's plan basically is to raise virtually every tax out there. Raising taxes when economies are hurting is the wrong formula.

YELLIN: Or as McCain puts it...

MCCAIN: I will leave it to my opponent to propose returning to the failed big government mandates of the '60s and '70s. YELLIN: The latest CNN poll show 78 percent of Americans believe the economy is in poor shape. So Obama is seizing on that economic anxiety, proposing shore-term solutions, including another round of rebate checks, part of a $50 billion stimulus package.

OBAMA: If the government can bail out investment banks on Wall Street, we can extend a hand to folks who are struggling here on Main Street.

YELLIN: He promises to shut down corporate tax loopholes and accuses McCain of supporting massive tax giveaways to an oil conglomerate.

OBAMA: When we are paying more than $4 a gallon for gas, the man who rails against government spending wants to spend $1.2 billion on a tax break for ExxonMobil. That isn't just irresponsible, it's outrageous.

YELLIN: And he is vowing to enact a middle class tax cut that would help Americans who earn up to $150,000 a year.

OBAMA: We had a president who knows...

YELLIN: The policy details were few. Shaping a message was Obama's goal as he seeks to define himself as McCain's opposite.

OBAMA: This is a choice you will face in November. You can vote for John McCain and see a continuation -- see a conuation of Bush economic policies, but I don't think that's the future we want.

YELLIN (on camera): McCain says he believes the fundamentals of our economy are strong. Well, you can expect Obama to use that against McCain as much as possible. In fact, team Obama believes if this election is a referendum on our economy, then Obama wins.

Jessica Yellin, CNN, Washington.


COLLINS: On the CNN Political Ticker this morning, Obama's VP. Teams (ph) are talking about a lot of names as potential running mates. You can get more on this story by logging on to, your source for all things political.

HARRIS: At a time of skyrocketing gas prices, dad's vehicle runs on pedal power.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is the fun way.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And his idea of fun is driving past the gas station and going "Hi, suckers."


HARRIS: Saving money while losing weight.


HARRIS: So, you pull up to the gas pump, wince at the ever- climbing prices, and you ask yourself a question: Do I have a choice? Well, the answer is yes. And you are about to see some of the alternatives.

Details from report Damany Lewis of CNN affiliate KCRA in Sacramento, California.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Electric start. Keys in ignition.

DAMANY LEWIS, REPORTER, KCRA (voice over): It's the first thing you see inside Lodi Motorssports.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Who wants to keep paying at the pump?

DAMANY: And it's the first thing sold. Forget about fancy motorcycles. We're talking 123-miles-to-the-gallon scooters.

(on camera): Why are these things so popular now?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Been to the pump lately?

DAMANY (voice over): Salesman Thomas Arell (ph) says as fast as they come in they go out.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Put your foot on the break. Just press the button.

DAMANY: That's something Toyota (INAUDIBLE) general manager John Walt (ph) knows all about. Hybrids on his dealership lots are as rare as cheap gas price.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They are selling as they come off the truck or before.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: All right. Shift the gears.

DAMANY: Still looking to sport four wheels and save money on gas? Look no further than Kevin Paglia.

KEVIN PAGLIA, OWNS A FOUR-WHEEL BIKE: I get 30 miles to a cheeseburger.

DAMANY: This four-wheel, four-seat contraption is called the Roadie (ph), and to Paglia it's his gas saving grace.

PAGLIA: This is the fun way.

MICHAEL PAGLIA, KEVIN'S SON: And his idea of fun is driving past the gas station and going, "Hi, suckers." DAMANY: With his son and co-pilot Michael at his side, Paglia says in one month he's driven more than 100 miles, saved more than $100, and oh, yeah, lost 12 pounds. Making the Roadie the new king of the road.

K. PAGLIA: The only places I won't go in is places I don't want to show up sweaty. So I won't go to church, I won't go on dates on it.


HARRIS: OK. But fair warning here. These alternatives are not cheap. That four-wheel bike you just saw goes for about $3,000. The scooters cost $2,000 or more. And the hybrids? Well, plan to shell out more than $20,000.

COLLINS: Yes, you don't want to show up stinky on a bike for a hot date. Probably not a good idea.

Issue #1, though, the struggling economy and record gas prices, are a hot topic today for CNN iReporters. Many of you sharing your pain at the pump and some of your solutions.

Stay-at-home dad Eric Johnson of Punta Gorda, Florida, tells us he has five kids. Number six is due in November. His family drives a Ford Excursion because if they didn't, they would have to take two car cars any time the family wanted to go anywhere.

Elizabeth Peisner of Los Angeles leaves the car she loves in the driveway and uses public transportation instead.

And Matt Cable of Medford, Oregon, promised himself he would start biking to work if gas got over $3 a gallon. So, yes, he's been doing it for three years now.

Got a unique way to cope in this economy? We want to hear it. Share your story at

HARRIS: Raw tomatoes linked to a growing salmonella outbreak. What you need to know before -- well, before lunch.


HARRIS: Let's talk about it, a health alert this morning on that salmonella outbreak. Seventeen states now impacted.

The CDC says 167 people have gotten sick after eating raw tomatoes. And Texas health officials say an elderly cancer patient has died and salmonella is considered a contributing factor.

Our medical correspondent is here, Elizabeth Cohen, to help talk us through all of this. Where do we start here?

ELIZABETH COHEN, CNN MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, you know, we start with the 17 states that you mentioned, because, really, every state in the country is affected, because produce is grown in one place and then shipped...

HARRIS: And shipped everywhere, yes.

COHEN: ... all over the place. So everyone who eats tomatoes needs to know this information about what tomatoes are OK to eat and what are not OK to eat.

HARRIS: Oh great. Great.

COHEN: So let's start with not OK.


COHEN: Let's start with not OK.

There are several different kinds of tomatoes that are not OK to eat. You want to avoid Roma or Red Plum tomatoes. Those are the same thing. And you can see they are sort of these kind of ovally-shaped tomatoes. And also tomatoes that are called Red Round tomatoes, and you can see in the picture there what they look like.

Now, Tony, several people have said to me, "Well, if you just wash them really well is that OK?"



HARRIS: Oh, it's not.



COHEN: Because the salmonella may be inside. The salmonella may have gotten into the tomatoes through the roots...

HARRIS: Oh, I got you.

COHEN: ... in which case washing doesn't do anything.

HARRIS: So let's take a moment here and let's talk about the tomatoes that are safe to eat right now.

COHEN: OK. We actually have them in front of me right here. We brought them in.

All right. These kinds of tomatoes are OK to eat, tomatoes that are sold on the vine, like right here. You see that vine is attached.

HARRIS: Yes. Yes.

COHEN: That's OK.

Or these cherry tomatoes, these little guys right here, the round ones. Those are OK. And also these small oval ones called grape tomatoes. The FDA says those are OK, too.

Now, just to make life exciting...


COHEN: ... the ones at the beginning that I said are not OK, if they come from certain states or certain countries, they are OK. So if you are in the store and you absolutely know where they come from and you have gone to the Internet and you've seen the FDA's safe list...


COHEN: ... which is -- we link to it on, then those are OK. You k now, I think it's safe to say that not a lot of people are going to go to that kind of effort.


COHEN: That you absolutely know where they come from and you double-check on the FDA Web site. So if you are not going to do that kind of thinking, that first group we talked about, just don't eat them.

HARRIS: Help me understand how the tomatoes end up with salmonella contamination to begin with.

COHEN: Right, because usually the salmonella is like chicken, and poultry and animals. What can happen, it's a whole bunch of different ways. For example, let's say you've got a tomato farm next to a farm that has cows. And there's water runoff from the cows to the tomatoes.

HARRIS: I see where you're going here.

COHEN: Right, that's not a good thing. Or you've got in the processing plant, you have salmonella, and it somehow gets into the water that they wash the tomatoes with. So there's a whole bunch of different ways. And the FDA is not saying exactly how this one happened.

HARRIS: We're not talking about canned tomatoes at this point.

COHEN: No, just the fresh stuff.

HARRIS: All right. Elizabeth, thank you.

And to get your daily dose of health news online, logon to our Web site. You will find the latest medical news, a health library and information on diet and fitness. The address for you,

Nature unleashed. Can't beat the heat in the Northeast. Well, parts of the Midwest remain -- can you believe the pictures? Remain waterlogged. What's next for Wisconsin?

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) HARRIS: A call for new sanctions against Iran. That coming from President Bush meeting this morning with his European Union counterparts at a summit in Slovenia.

CNN's Robin Oakley has more from Ljubijana.


ROBIN OAKLEY, CNN CORRESPONDENT (on camera): President Bush's final E.U./U.S. summit has been a largely amicable affair designed to accentuate the positive. And certainly there's been strong agreement between the E.U. and the U.S. in terms of what further action can be taken against Iran.

Javier Solana, the E..U.'s foreign policy chief, is off to Iran at the weekend to offer the country a mix of threats and incentives. The threat, backed up by President Bush, that if Iran does not cooperate with the world community and rein back on ambitions of acquiring nuclear weapons that it will face isolations, a threat the president reiterated.

GEORGE W. BUSH, PRES. OF THE UNITED STATES: Iran with a nuclear weapon would be incredibly dangerous for world peace. And so we have to continue to work together to make it clear, abundantly clear to them, that it is their choice to make. They can either face isolation or they can have better relations with all of us, if they verifiably suspend their enrichment program.

OAKLEY: Iran is being urged to by the summit to cooperate with the International Atomic Energy Agency in full disclosure of any weapons-related activities, and to build the confidence that its nuclear program is for purely peaceful purposes.

There was also an agreement at the summit that the U.N. should send a mission to the Zimbabwe elections to ensure that human rights are respected there and that the abuses and violence going on in the electoral process are discontinued. So strong agreement on those two issues.

On climate change, there is still a difference. The E.U. are strongly committed to cutting back carbon emissions. Mr. Bush made it clear that America, under his leadership, is not ready do that, until China and India and fast developing countries like that are prepared to go down the same path.

There was one note of dissension when Mr. Bush reiterated his demand that Turkey should be admitted as a member of the European union. That's something that the E.U. countries reckon they ought to be able to decide for themselves, and there are strong reservations in Germany and in France, whose leaders Mr. Bush will be meeting during the course of his final tour of Europe.

So there will be some discussion to come on those issues, as indeed on all the major economic questions of rising food prices and rising oil prices, most of which are likely to be deferred for a serious discussion at the G-8 summit next month. Robin Oakley, CNN, Ljubijana, Slovenia.


HARRIS: And next week on the Hill, former White House Press Secretary Scott McClellan will testify in the Valerie Plame Wilson CIA leak case. House members want to know more about claims McClellan makes in his new White House tell-all. In the book, what happened? McClellan says top White House officials lied to him about their hole in the leak of the former CIA operative's identity, and that caused him to mislead the public.

Check out our political ticker for all the latest political news. Just logon to, your source for all things political.

COLLINS: Talk about extreme weather. While the eastern U.S. sizzles, snow is falling in Washington state. Look at this, the weather service says a storm could dump five to 10 inches of new snow in higher elevations of the Cascade Mountains. Gusting winds knocked out power to thousands of homes and businesses.


COLLINS: Look at these pictures, Rob. I think you've seen them once before, but it's pretty wild, all of this stuff that's been happening in Wisconsin. The flooding here, one of the aftereffects. They're not exactly fish out of water, but they're certainly out of their element. Some amazing pictures from our Wisconsin affiliate WISA. You see the fish there swirling, sort of. I think this is very involuntary because of that storm drain, see it there, in the center of the picture. They are being swept into the storm drain by those floodwaters.

We've been trying to find out, to be honest with you, what has happened, if DNR, the Department of Natural Resources, or the Fish and Wildlife can get on out there and do something about that, if they have the time. Obviously, they're very worried about the people and the homes that are being destroyed as well. But seems like a shame to lose all those beautiful fish as well. So we're trying to find out what's going on there. But one of the strange aftereffects of all that flooding in Wisconsin.

HARRIS: More restaurants are pulling tomatoes from the menu. The latest on that health scare, and new numbers from Wall Street, after the break.




HARRIS: More on those pandas straight ahead, pretty stressed out after the quake. We will tell you what workers at one reserve are doing to help their recovery.


COLLINS: A declaration of victory in China this morning. A government official says the largest quake lake is now draining into a manmade spillway. Soldiers cut the trench to relieve the buildup of water caused by landslides. Some of that water is still flowing downstream into one hard-hit town. Most of the people there had already been evacuated. Today's government declaration involves only one lake. There are about 30 of those so-called quake lakes.

HARRIS: Saying goodbye to one of China's national treasures. Workers at the Wolong Panda Reserve holding a funeral this morning for a panda killed in the earthquake. The body discovered yesterday, nearly a month after the park was badly damaged in the quake.

ITN's John Ray takes a look at recovery efforts in the famous reserve.


JOHN RAY, ITN REPORTER (voice-over): China's greatest national symbol has escaped its nation's greatest national disaster, but only just. At the best of times, their laid-back take on life belies a struggle for survival. And in their mountain reserve, this has been the worst of times.

This is how keepers carries baby pandas to safety as the quake struck. Close to the epicenter, all around mountains were collapsing, and rocks came to rest within yards of the precious cubs that are the future of the species.

RAY: Juanyam (ph) He has dedicated his life to saving the panda. Seeing his life's work coming so close to destruction, has been traumatic for all concerned.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Our baby panda get very scared. They stay on the chain (ph). They don't move. They don't eat. Our keeper will be playing together with them.

RAY (on camera): And that makes them feel happier?


RAY (voice-over): So no surprise the Chinese are protective of their pandas. To see them, we need first to disinfect and cover our clothes. The disease is only one of many worries.

(on camera): When you see the devastation around here, it seems remarkable that more of these gentle creatures weren't killed.

(voice-over): But what's worrying scientists now is the unknown fates of the wild population of pandas, some of whose mountain habitats has simply disappeared. There are perhaps only 1,600 alive at this last stronghold, a stronghold conquered by the quake.

(on camera): The earthquake, a human disaster, but also maybe a disaster for the wild pandas? UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes, I think so.

RAY: The damage to the wild population could take years to assess. But here in Wolong, they live on, welcome news for a nation that's lost so much.

John Ray, ITV News, Sichuan China.


HARRIS: You know, there are about 47 pandas still at the Wolong Reserve. Five workers at the park were killed in the quake, and one of the pandas is still missing.

At, we have a special page about the devastation in China, plus links to aid agencies that are organizing help for the region. It is an opportunity for you to impact your world.

COLLINS: Eliminating meat for the environment. But can we see going vegan really reduce your carbon footprint? We'll check the menu.


HARRIS: Look, don't call it a diet.

COLLINS: No. Some Experts say going vegan may the best thing for you and the planet.

CNN's Alina Cho takes a taste.


CHO (voice-over): When Oprah announced her 21-day body cleanse, no caffeine, alcohol or animal products, she wondered --

OPRAH WINFREY, HOST: What is left?

CHO: Apparently, quite a lot. Oprah is a convert saying on her blog, "I never imagined meatless meals could be so satisfying."

CHEF MATTEO, VEGAN CHEF: I think vegan food gets a bad rap definitely.

CHO: Why?

MATTEO: Just because over the years it's been known as bland and, you know, granola and tofu and kind of hippie.

CHO: Brooklyn Chef Matteo is a vegan chef, meaning no dairy, meat or any animal products. But this food is anything but earthy crunchy, like cashew cheese ravioli. The pasta is made from thinly sliced turnips. It has a cheese flavor, but it's actually made from ground nuts.

CHO (on camera): It's so good. CHO (voice-over): But is it really good for the planet?

MATTEO: You can feed more people with a vegetarian-based diet than you can with a standard diet.

CHO: Recent studies say eating a plants-only diet produces far fewer greenhouse gases than an animal-based diet, shrinking one's so- called carbon footprint.

Dr. Gidon Eshel co-authored one study for the University of Chicago.

DR. GIDON ESHEL, BARD COLLEGE: If you only eat plants, your footprint drops by a ton and a half of CO2 per person per year.

CHO: The USDA says the average American eats more than 117 pounds of red meat every year. Eshel says eliminating meat is better for the environment than switching from a Toyota Camry to a Hybrid Prius. That's because producing food from cows creates more carbon monoxide and methane gas.

Eshel compared two dishes with a similar calorie count, a six- ounce steak and a plate of veggie stir fry. He found that production of just one steak creates 24 times the amount of greenhouse gases as the vegan meal.

But if you're still skeptical, how about this? Chef Matteo's chocolate peanut torte with strawberry and vanilla coconut cream.

CHO: Alina Cho, CNN, New York.


COLLINS: Hungry now?

HARRIS: Lunch time.

CNN NEWSROOM continues just one hour from now. "ISSUE #1" is next with Gerri Willis and Ali Velshi.