Return to Transcripts main page

CNN NEWSROOM

More Than 700 People Arrested Over Mortgage Fraud; George Bush Awards Presidential Medals of Freedom; Swollen Mississippi River Surging Downstream This Morning

Aired June 19, 2008 - 09:00   ET

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


HEIDI COLLINS, CNN ANCHOR: What a start, John Roberts.
TONY HARRIS, CNN ANCHOR: John Roberts. OK.

Good morning, everyone. You are in the CNN NEWSROOM. I'm Tony Harris.

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

You'll see events come into the NEWSROOM live on this Thursday morning, June 19th.

Here is what's on the rundown.

Levee breaks. Water rushes. The swollen Mississippi River pours into farmlands. Residents ordered to evacuate.

HARRIS: Mystery afoot in western Canada. A sixth human foot has now washed ashore.

COLLINS: And out for the year. Tiger Woods faces season-ending knee surgery. Our Dr. Sanjay Gupta talks about his road to recovery, in the NEWSROOM.

HARRIS: Life along the Mississippi River. The floodwaters and the disaster deepen. Earlier this morning, water rushed over a levee in Winfield, Missouri. The breach massive, 150 feet, the size of a small river. Flood waters are swallowing farmland and raising toward a secondary levee.

Boy, that is of real concern. Sandbagging efforts are under way. People to the east are being ordered out of the low-lying areas. More than 20 levees have been swamped along the Mississippi River. More are at risk as the surging river heads south and each day more communities brace for levels to crest.

Among the filthy polluted waters pigs swept from their farms yesterday -- a tough decision for safety officials. They say they had no choice but to kill about a dozen pigs. Oh boy, that one is rooting around on a levee. The fears the pigs would weaken the levee and put the town at risk.

President Bush will tour the flooded areas later today, but for downstream communities bracing for rising waters, all efforts are now focused on shoring up the levees. CNN's Ed Lavandera is in Hannibal, Missouri, the hometown of author Mark Twain.

Ed, good morning.

ED LAVANDERA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Good morning, Tony. Well, you know, Mark Twain used to say that the Mississippi River will always have its own way and no engineering skills can persuade it to do otherwise. So that saying -- the famous Mark Twain -- being put to the test here today as it's man -- versus man-made creation here, the levee, versus the Mississippi River.

And this is what everyone here in town is watching closely. As you can see, as we've seen repeatedly along the Mississippi River the last few days. This has been fortified with sandbags, the levee has been lifted up another three feet or so to wait for these floodwaters to continue rising.

Just to the left of this levee floodwaters have already taken over part of the town. There are a few homes just on the south edge of the town. They're being threatened by this rush from the Mississippi River. So it's anticipated to crest here within around Friday or so.

So -- but it's interesting as other levee breaches have happened along the Mississippi River, the pressure here has gone down a little bit. In fact, the water had gone down yesterday, but officials here are saying, you know, don't let that fool you as the water continues to move downstream.

They will monitoring it and they're expecting it to go up at least another two feet or so. So we'll see if that is indeed the way it plays out. But, you know, tense moments.

As we were driving down here to Hannibal yesterday, we stopped in a few towns along the way and you've seen people who have been bagging -- sandbagging for several days now that are pretty much done with their work, have done everything they can do and now they say the real tense part begins just sitting there and watching a very slow process play out.

And they're worried that the work they have been doing isn't enough.

HARRIS: All right. Ed Lavandera for us.

We're looking at these pictures from Winfield which is north of St. Louis. And exactly is that south of your location?

LAVANDERA: Right. It is south of where we are.

HARRIS: OK.

LAVANDERA: About, I think, 30 miles or so.

HARRIS: Boy, just dramatic pictures.

All right, Ed, good to see you. Thank you. COLLINS: Farms and fields under water. The economic impacts of the flood will reach far beyond the Midwest.

Allan Chernoff is live for us this morning from Oakville, Iowa with more on that part of the story. And boy, look at those rushing waters you're standing right in the middle of, Allan.

ALLAN CHERNOFF, CNN CORRESPONDENT: That's right, Heidi. Let me give you a sense. I'm going to bend down here and I can tell you the current right here is quite strong. I'm really pushing against the water just to stay up.

And you can see behind me everything here, actually everything here was dry. I'm standing right now on a gravel road and behind me had been miles and miles of farmland. Corn, soy bean, all of that lost.

Let me move over here to give you a sense of what -- excuse me -- of what the water has done. Have a look over here. This is just one very small example. A mail box knocked down, just ripped out by the flooding water. Now the water actually has come down.

All of this is a result of a levee which broke along the Iowa River. It broke Saturday night. So this has been many days since then.

Let me show you a little bit more of the damage. The water just lifted up the ground over here. Look at all that. The grass just boom, just flopped right over.

The Ball State University has an economist who estimates the infrastructure damage will be about $160 million. That's based upon the damage that the state incurred in Iowa during the 1993 floods. I think that's a very conservative estimate.

In terms of the corn, the soy beans, the state farm board is saying the losses could be 3.3 million acres, more than $3 billion.

Now what does that mean to us? Well, of course it means less corn out there. We're certainly going to be paying much more. The prices have been soaring, but it's not just corn, of course. So many products -- corn chips and corn sweetener in sodas, energy drinks -- just so many things. Soy bean, of course, the other very big product.

And when think of soy, maybe we think of (INAUDIBLE) or we think of soy milk. Well, how about this? Plenty of soy in a Snickers bar.

COLLINS: Yes.

CHERNOFF: The consequences are going to be felt throughout the grocery shelf. There are just so many products made from corn and soy beans -- Heidi?

COLLINS: Yes, and you know, I don't think people really have thought about it that way, at least not yet, Allan. And yesterday we should follow-up with you quickly because you were able to get into us here some pretty incredible video when you were riding in the boat. And we saw a picture that a lot of people have been questioning us about. Quite a few pictures of these pigs. It's a very big business in Iowa as well. The pig industry, pork we're talking about obviously. A little bit later on we're going to talk with one of the families that has a very large farm in that area that has pigs.

Do you know the latest on what's happened with that situation? We're looking at the video now, Allan.

CHERNOFF: Yes. The hogs have been -- the majority of them have been rescued. In fact, there are a few hog farms -- there's one out there. It's right by the sun. So it may be a little tough for the camera person. (INAUDIBLE), see if we have a look at that. But there is a hog barn right over there.

Hogs were evacuated. They got most of them out. And we're talking about thousands and thousands. In fact, one farmer told me yesterday that he had evacuated 20,000 head of hog.

COLLINS: Wow.

CHERNOFF: Tragically, of course, a few of them were left behind. Some, as we showed you yesterday, stuck on top of the roof of the barns. Others actually floating in the water.

You also mentioned earlier that there have been some hogs who have been actually on top of levees, eating the plastic of the sandbags and the officers here have had to shoot those hogs just to protect those levees because they are absolutely essential.

But the fact is, with less corn out there, the price of corn has risen. That means the cost of feeding hogs and cattle...

COLLINS: Sure.

CHERNOFF: ... is rising dramatically. What's likely to happen here is that farmers are going to slaughter a good amount of their livestock. Prices for livestock actually may go down a little bit because there will be so much supply. But in about 9, 10, 12 months, prices should be dramatically higher as a result of all these. The cost of feeding them is way up.

COLLINS: Wow. All right, Allan, thanks for the update on that. As I said, we're going to be speaking with one of the hog farmers coming up in a little while. But just another example of the devastation for the people who make a living doing...

HARRIS: That's right.

COLLINS: ... agriculture, obviously.

Allan Chernoff for us, some great stuff. Appreciate that.

And Rob Marciano also has some great stuff. We've been going to the weather department on and off here trying to get a better sense as this water continues to move obviously. It moves south. So what's in store for people who are south of, say, Oakville where Allan Chernoff was.

(WEATHER REPORT)

COLLINS: All right, Rob, we'll check back a little bit later on, of course.

MARCIANO: Sounds good.

COLLINS: Thank you.

Meanwhile, today's visit by President Bush, his first to the Midwest since heavy rains set rivers over their banks.

Ed Henry, live now from the White House with a preview of the president's trip.

Good morning to you, Ed.

ED HENRY, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, good morning, Heidi.

The president is going to be, obviously, getting an up-close looks at the horrific devastation from the flooding. He's going to get a briefing from local and state officials in Cedar Rapids. He's also going to be aboard Marine 1 getting an aerial tour of both Cedar Rapids and Iowa City.

When the flooding first hit, of course, the president was on his European farewell tour. Obviously, image is everything in politics. The White House being very careful. They don't want this to become another Hurricane Katrina where the president receives criticism for seeming out of touch.

Since he was overseas when this first hit, he did call the Iowa governor while he was overseas. He did get briefings from staff. And as soon as he returned to Washington late on Monday night, the president started talking to staff, got another big briefing Tuesday morning.

So they're clearly trying to show he's on top of this situation and that the federal government has learned lessons from Hurricane Katrina and he's responding.

Let me give you a couple of quick examples of what the government has done. For example, the government -- the federal government has already provided two million leaders of fresh drinking water. Obviously, that's a priority for people there on the ground.

But also two other big priorities moving forward that the president will have to be dealing with, housing and making sure people who have lost their homes had some temporary shelter, but also figuring out long-term, what happened with their homes, how did they rebuild, how did they get back in their homes.

And secondly, as you heard Allan Chernoff talking about, just how much devastation to American farmland has there been and what will that do to the already sky-rocketing food price all across the country -- Heidi.

COLLINS: Boy, it is so scary. It's going to be quite some time before we see the full impact of this as usual when we see these types of disasters happened.

Ed, appreciate that.

HENRY: Thank you.

COLLINS: Also want to chat with you quickly. Before he goes to Iowa, he's going to be attending an awarding, obviously, the Medal of Freedom.

Who are some of the people -- that's going to be having, I guess, about 15 minutes or so.

HENRY: That's right.

COLLINS: Who are some of those people that are being honored?

HENRY: Well, here at the White House -- and this is the nation's highest civilian honor that the president gives out, created by President Kennedy back in the '60s.

You will recall some of the honorees -- posthumously, you're going to see former congressman, Tom Lantos, a Democrat, a holocaust survivor known for battling and pushing for human rights around the world, Donna Shalala, a former Democratic Cabinet secretary. You see some bipartisanship there.

But also, Dr. Tony Fauci, really on the leading edge of battling AIDS around the world. He's a familiar face on CNN. And also Retired General Peter Pace stepped down in the last year as the Joint Chiefs chairman. He will also be honored.

And one of the interesting subtext is that the president has received criticisms in the past for giving out this award to a lot of architects of the Iraq war like George Tenet, Paul Bremer and others.

Now General Pace was also involved in Iraq policy will be getting this award. The White House says, look, someone like General Pace is someone who, while there were mistakes made in the Iraq war, he was somebody also who's had long, long service to the country, honored service to the country, and that's why the president is giving him a medal today -- Heidi.

COLLINS: Well, understood. All right. CNN's Ed Henry outside the White House for us this morning.

Thank you, Ed.

HENRY: Thank you.

HARRIS: Major news from Barack Obama's campaign this morning. Obama saying he will not take public financing for his campaign. Senior political correspondent Candy Crowley is here to explain why this is such a big deal, and according to the statement from John McCain's people, it is a broken promise of staggering dimensions, so, Candy, explain.

CANDY CROWLEY, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Absolutely.

Well, look, I mean, there's a number of reasons this is important. First, this is a law that has been in effect since the 1970s. It was sort of a post Watergate reform. No presidential nominee in a general election has ever gone outside the public financing system to finance his campaign. So it makes history.

On a political level, consider that during the primary season, Barack Obama raised over $272 million and John McCain raised under $99 million. So need we say more? You know how...

HARRIS: Yes.

CROWLEY: ... money talks in politics. And then just the advantage in terms of the rhetoric, McCain had said that he would take public financing if his opponent would. Barack Obama, before he became a phenom on the trail, had certainly indicated that he would take it if his opponent did.

He has been backing off of that for a while. McCain has already hit him on that backing and now that Obama has completely cut the cord here, McCain, as you say, has already come out. A spokesman saying, you know, he made a promise that more and more we see the words don't mean anything.

HARRIS: Yes.

CROWLEY: So there is that kind of issue out there now. And also the whole claim to the reformer title. Obviously, McCain is trying to claim that mantle saying we've got to get the money out of the system. This gives him sort of the advantage, as they see it, over Barack Obama.

I will tell you that Obama's argument is, listen, my whole campaign has been funded largely by these small donations from people, under $100, and what better form of campaign finance reform than that. But you'll see it'd be a battle.

HARRIS: And not by the kind of institutional groups that are viewed as part of the problem in campaigns and in politics in general.

But I'm just sort of curious. Boy, if you're Barack Obama and you understand you're trying to win this, I wonder how easily you can give up what is clearly a huge advantage. We've talked throughout the primary season about how it is money that fuels these campaigns and if you are a fundraising machine that is unprecedented in our political lifetime, boy...

CROWLEY: How can you pass it out?

HARRIS: ... you got to think long and hard about giving up that advantage.

CROWLEY: Absolutely. And obviously, he couldn't pass up that advantage.

HARRIS: Yes.

CROWLEY: And he opts out. I mean if you -- just a quick thing, if you take public financing, what you agree to is a spending limit. That is, if I take matching federal funds from the treasury -- you know, in your IRS form, you can check off that, do you want to contribute to that.

HARRIS: That's right.

CROWLEY: So if you take those federal taxpayer funds, you then agree to limit your campaign spending in the general campaign to somewhere in the mid-$80 million range.

HARRIS: That's right. That's right.

CROWLEY: So $80 million versus whatever Barack Obama can raise, and we've already seen him raise $272 in the primary.

HARRIS: Right.

CROWLEY: You know, it's a huge, huge advantage when you can raise this kind of money.

HARRIS: Candy Crowley -- good to see you, Candy. Thank you.

COLLINS: Tiger Woods hangs it up for the season. He's undergo surgery on the bum knee. Dr. Sanjay Gupta takes a look, coming up next in the NEWSROOM.

ANNOUNCER: "Weather Update" brought to you by...

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ANNOUNCER: You're watching CNN NEWSROOM on CNN, the most trusted name in news.

COLLINS: Some more information to share with you this morning in case you may have missed it over night. There has been another levee breach in all of this Midwest flooding that we've been telling you about for days now, specifically about 50 miles north of St. Louis just to put you geographically where this has happened.

So we want to get the very latest from that area to find out what's going on with everyone who lives or perhaps used to live there.

Andy Binder is with Lincoln County, Missouri emergency operations and he joins us by phone now.

Andy, could you tell us a little bit about the evacuations? I guess more people are obviously having to leave their home. COL. ANDY BINDER, LINCOLN CO., MO. EMERG. OPERATIONS CMD.: Good morning, Heidi. That's correct. We are just currently asking for voluntary evacuations. There isn't any mandatory evacuation right now as we speak.

The majority of the homes are behind a secondary levee that we are currently bolstering and fortifying using the Army National Guard and Air National Guard in Missouri. So we're still asking for voluntary evacuations in this area.

As of last night we had about 150-foot wide breach in a levee just east of Winfield. This morning, looking at the area photography, it looks like that breach has widened to about 300 feet.

COLLINS: Goodness. So it's doubled in size?

BINDER: It's doubled in size. And water is just filling into the county right now.

From what I've seen, from our aerial photographs, that water is slowly approaching our secondary levees. So today is going to be critical that we bolster them and fortify them and keep the water out from our cities.

COLLINS: Yes, absolutely. Is that even a possibility?

BINDER: Yes. It's a possibility. It did in 1993. The difference between 1993 and now is that, you know, we have been working on this levee for four days now. So our engineering spec show that if we do it right, it will hold the water.

COLLINS: Wow. OK. You say if we do it right. What exactly does that mean? Can you elaborate a little bit?

BINDER: Well, you're talking about numbers. So I mean, numbers lie sometimes. And according to our numbers, if we build our wall to specs, we can hold back the water. But I mean, there's no telling, I mean, we're talking about Mother Nature here...

COLLINS: Yes.

BINDER: ... and she's very powerful.

COLLINS: Yes, boy, we have certainly seen evidence of that. And we're looking at the area right now exactly where the breach occurred and your description is perfect. It is just pouring, rushing into the town. 35,000 acres have already flooded. And we're looking at potentially much more than that.

BINDER: Well, I wanted to also to point out that those 35,000 acres is the impacted area for water over topping the levees, not a breach.

COLLINS: OK.

BINDER: So the numbers from the Army Corps of Engineers haven't come out yet for the breach. But I would say that the acreage total would probably be around 50,000 acres impacted due to the breach that we're seeing now.

There's a second breach to the north and, of course, those numbers will probably double.

COLLINS: Even higher. Boy, it's certainly not what we want to see, but what we appreciate your perspective, obviously, as someone who is there and handling these emergency operations.

Andy Binder, thanks so much and best of luck to you.

BINDER: Thank you, Heidi. You guys have a great day.

COLLINS: Thanks.

HARRIS: Tiger Woods's bum knee. Dr. Sanjay Gupta takes a look at the surgery next in the NEWSROOM.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

HARRIS: Pretty dramatic pictures now as we take you to San Francisco. You're looking at firefighters doing the best they can to get control of a warehouse fire in an industrial area of San Francisco

This building that is burning houses a cabinet company on Apparel Way. I'm not familiar with the Apparel Way, but you may be. This is near the intersection of Interstate 280 and Highway 101.

The fires you can still see burning here, a lot of smoke surrounding it right now. This is a better view of it actually. We understand that firefighters had to actually back away from this for a while because of an explosion.

No reports of injuries at this time, but we are going to keep an eye on this -- this can be tricky -- and get you an update on the situation in San Francisco.

Tiger Woods, done for the season sidelined by knee surgery after a dramatic and painful win at the U.S. Open this week.

Woods announced he will undergo an operation to repair a ruptured anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee. It's pretty common. There are about 200,000 ACL surgeries each year usually in people between the ages of 16 and 30. About 100,000 reconstructions are performed annually.

CNN's chief medical correspondent Dr. Sanjay Gupta is here to explain.

Sanjay, common procedure.

DR. SANJAY GUPTA, CNN CHIEF MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: You're one of 200,000.

HARRIS: I absolutely am one of the 200,000. I had it about six, seven years ago because of basketball.

GUPTA: Right. HARRIS: Why I'm still playing at this advanced age is beyond me, but that's a topic for another segment. If you would, describe this procedure. Pretty common.

GUPTA: Yes, it's a common procedure, although it's uncommon in golfers, as you may know.

HARRIS: Absolutely. Yes, good point.

GUPTA: In fact, you mentioned basketball. Basketball, football, skiers.

HARRIS: Yes.

GUPTA: I mean you have these injuries where the foot often gets planted.

HARRIS: That's it.

GUPTA: The knee up here twisting in some sort of fashion that, you know, causes a tear of this anterior cruciate ligament. He actually had this tear a year ago, as you know, Tony, so he has been playing with this for sometime.

HARRIS: And winning, hello?

GUPTA: And winning. Remarkable. He is one-of-a-kind. But take a look at some of what happens during the operation here. This is fascinating. If you take a look, actually, go down and zoom in on the knee, what you're looking at front there is patella.

Take away that bad ligament and actually introduce a drill and drill a hole in the top of the bone, above the knee, and a hole below the knee as well. You see the hole there. And they take the ligament from the kneecap itself and tunnel that particular ligament right through the knee.

That stabilizes the knee. It's exactly what he wants to have done. Operation takes anywhere between 30 minutes and an hour. But that's essentially what you have done. Sometimes they take that ligament from a cadaver, sometimes they take it from your own knee.

HARRIS: Well, I have to ask you. What was the surgery that he had two months ago, because now we're wondering why he needed this additional surgery?

GUPTA: Yes, it's interesting. What he had two months ago was trying to remove some of the damaged cartilage behind --

HARRIS: Just to clean it out of that.

GUPTA: Clean it out, if you will. It's arthroscopic, meaning they just do it with some small probes, put it behind the knee, remove some of that cartilage. What's interesting here and then you talked about this on his Web site is that he rehabs like crazy.

HARRIS: Yes.

GUPTA: He played in this tournament, as you know, Tony. And it was that rehab more than anything else that caused this stress fractures in his leg. And that's what's probably causing him the pain. You saw those grimaces as he was swinging and hitting that ball. He sort of reached down, touches the left knee. It's all stress fractures that probably causes --

HARRIS: OK. So not so much the tear in the ACL, but the tibia and the stress fractures there led to all this wincing that we watched over the weekend and Monday.

GUPTA: Most likely.

HARRIS: OK.

GUPTA: And you know, he has been informed as, you know, as we said since last year.

HARRIS: Right.

GUPTA: He has been able to play with that.

HARRIS: What do you think? Any change in his game? We talk about a swing speed of anywhere from 125 to 134 miles per hour. Do you suspect that he will have to make some modifications in his swing when he comes back?

GUPTA: It's so hard to say. I mean, he is such a remarkable guy. And you know, they have studies on this sort of thing. And they'll say that 82 percent to 95 percent of athletes return to their previous level of play. We're talking about Tiger Woods here.

HARRIS: Right.

GUPTA: He is a different sort of athlete. And when he injures his left knee, it's because an incredible torque he puts on the left leg.

HARRIS: Right. Right.

GUPTA: That's his trademark. And whether or not he's going to be able to get to that level, his doctor say absolutely he will be 100 percent. It could take six months to 12 months even, but he'll get there. It's what they say.

HARRIS: All right. Big deal for Tiger Woods in this knee injury.

GUPTA: We will miss him.

HARRIS: Yes, we're going to miss him.

(CROSSTALK)

HARRIS: We get our Sundays back.

Sanjay, thanks. GUPTA: Thank you.

HEIDI COLLINS, CNN ANCHOR: I'm still watching. The other golfers out there, darn it.

Picked by the president. I want to share this with you today because it will be a very special ceremony honored for their service. We'll tell you who is being awarded Presidential Medals of Freedom.

Also, the opening bell happened just a couple of minutes ago, I believe. Obviously, we are watching these numbers, too, every single day. Some of you every single minute if you are like my father. We're going to be talking with Stephanie Elam a little bit later on.

I'm sure talking a little bit about oil prices. Gas prices have gone down for the third day, but what does that really mean when we are talking about driving. Are people driving more or less? You might be surprise there. We will be back in just a moment right here, CNN NEWSROOM.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

COLLINS: Quickly, we want to get this information out to you as we are just getting it in here to CNN now regarding mortgage fraud and hundreds of arrests.

Bear with me as I read some of it to you. More than 700 people in fact have been arrested over mortgage fraud. This is an investigation that's been going on since March 1st by the FBI and the Justice Department. To give you an idea of the amount of money we were talking about, losses in these cases total about $1 billion.

So, of course, we are going to be continuing to follow this story. But once again, 700 people arrested in an investigation that's been going on since the beginning of March. Mortgage fraud losses at about $1 billion.

HARRIS: And just another reminder, we will bring you live coverage as President Bush honors the Medal of Freedom recipients. You are going to meet some amazing Americans here shortly. The ceremony is set to begin in just minutes. We will bring it to you right here in the CNN NEWSROOM.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

COLLINS: The swollen Mississippi River surging downstream this morning. Flooding more towns and cities in its path. In Winfield, Missouri, a breach set waters racing toward a secondary levee. Officials ordered evacuations for residents east of the town.

The Army Corp of Engineer says water may overflow another four or five levees in the St. Louis area today. Across the Midwest, flooding has swamped farms and fields. The Federal Emergency Management Agency said two dozen people have been killed in the flooding and 148 have been injured. HARRIS: One of the cities in the path of the flood of East St. Louis, Illinois, and there is concern the levee's protecting the city may not hold. More on the threat from Drew Griffin of our Special Investigations Unit.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

DREW GRIFFIN, CNN SPECIAL INVESTIGATIONS UNIT CORRESPONDENT (voice- over): On the Illinois side of the great river, East St. Louis is sitting precariously in the path of a potential disaster. And all that protects it and its residents from the floodwaters of the Mississippi are four levees that no one can guarantee will hold.

TIMOTHY KUSKY, SAINT LOUIS UNIVERSITY: These ones have already been determined by the Army Corp of Engineers, by FEMA to be structurally deficient and in danger of failing at heights of about 40 feet.

GRIFFIN: And I see all hotels, I see a casino, I see all of downtown East St. Louis. We are not talking about acres and acres of flooded corn here.

KUSKY: No, we are talking about 155,000 people who live here. We're talking about 50,000 jobs. We're talking about oil refinery. We're talking about major businesses, we're talking about major developments in this part of the country.

GRIFFIN: Tim Kusky, professor of National Scientist of Saint Louis University is one of the foremost experts on what causes levees to fail. He outlined in a book, exactly, how New Orleans levees would fail two years before it happened.

Now he is concerned what happened in New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina could happen here. The immediate fear is subterranean cracks, leaks in this earth and dams that will expand as the pressure from the rising floodwaters continues. It's called seepage.

Enough seepage can create the kind of blowout that could erode the levee from the bottom up. It won't stop on our tour, the professor pointed out it's already happened.

(on camera): This is water that comes underneath the levee.

KUSKY: This is water coming from underneath the levee.

GRIFFIN: And this is a sign of a particular failure in a levee.

KUSKY: It's a sign of under seepage and the under seepage is the first stage of dangerous conditions that can lead to levee failure. It has to get a lot worse than this. But this is the first stage. And this is a warning sign.

ROBERT BETTS, CITY MANAGER, EAST ST. LOUIS, ILLINOIS: This is serious. This is serious business here. And this great Mississippi doesn't play and it's showing you that today as we stand here now, we see the water seeping underneath our feet. GRIFFIN: East St. Louis city manager Robert Betts is now reviewing the city's evacuation plan. He says he will have inspectors monitoring for more leaks until the immediate danger passes. But this is not a new problem. Last August, the Army Corp of Engineers concluded the levees that are supposed to protect the metro East St. Louis are at risk of failure due to structural deficiencies.

The Army Corp has offered to help with three counties in the area tried to fix the problems, but says it will take time and more than $100 million. The river is expected to crest here sometime, Monday.

Drew Griffin, CNN, St. Louis, Illinois.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

COLLINS: Well, I guess we're going to have to wait and see on that one. We certainly hope it doesn't make it all the way here. Rob Marciano has been watching all of the flooding and this idea of seepage.

When you talk about St. Louis and the possibility of East St. Louis really getting hit hard by this -- that is not farmland.

ROB MARCIANO, CNN METEOROLOGIST: Yes.

COLLINS: You heard through his report we're talking about hotels, casinos, building, all kinds of it.

MARCIANO: Yes. You know, that's just one way that these levees can fail. The seepage or -- it's also called piping. Check out how this actually can happen. Graphically speaking, that water gets underneath and it actually forms tunnels. It forms like pipes that will take the water from the main river, drive it underneath the levee itself, filled this water up and that weakens everything. And then, boom, there you go. You've got your levee failure.

So, of course, the other way to do it is for this is to get wiped out. There's a tree on top of here. A vegetation -- that gets wiped out. That's gone. And then just over topping which seems to be the most popular method and with that, you've got problems as well.

Let's go back to the weather graphics and we'll show you Google Earth on what can happen to these river gauges when you see -- when this breaches happen, because it actually relieves some of the action here. We'll pop up this river gauge and show you that every time the river went up, and then, boom, drastic decrease went up. Boom! Drastic decrease.

That's when a breach or over topping happened and you get that sudden release of pressure at that particular river gauge. So then that makes the forecast of the river a little bit difficult. You see this forecast still was before this particular breach has it going up and then dropping down.

So river forecasting not an exact science and this certainly -- this is just one more variable when you talk about these breaches that happen that release pressure unfortunately into farmland and/or where people live that you have to adjust downstream.

All right. These white areas where the breaches have happened -- Canton, expected to crest tonight, but because we've had this breach that's kind of creates a bit of a variable there. So Quincy, Friday. Tomorrow, Hannibal, same deal. Clarksville, Saturday.

And then on Monday for St. Louis expecting moderate flooding forecast for St. Louis that should keep it below record or major flooding. Not like back in 1993, but as Drew Griffin pointed out, you don't really need to go over top of those levees to get the damager there.

All right, rainfall none today expected. Maybe a little bit tomorrow. And through Dallas, we're getting (INAUDIBLE) especially south of the Dallas Fort Worth Metroplex, driving southeast at about 30 miles an hours. This have produced some gusty winds and have the potential of throwing down some 60 miles an hour as with some penny and nickel- sized hail. And we have this severe thunderstorm watch that's in effect for noon local time, although this cluster looks like it's weakening just here, it heads towards WACO.

Tony and Heidi, back over to you.

HARRIS: All right. Rob, appreciate it. Thank you.

MARCIANO: You got it.

COLLINS: Thanks, Rob. We want to get directly to the president now in the East Room. He is presiding over the ceremony for the Medal of Freedom. He's come to the podium there to begin his remarks. Let's go ahead and listen in to him deliver the nation's highest civil award.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: For a time, young Ben Carson was headed down that same path. Yet through his reliance on faith and family, he turned his life into a sharply different direction. Today Dr. Carson is one of the world's leading neurosurgeons.

He is renowned for his successful efforts to separate conjoined twins and his expertise in controlling brain seizures. He has worked to be a motivating influence on young people. He and his wife Candy have started an organization that offers college scholarships to students across America. The child of Detroit who once saw a grim future became a scholar, a healer, and a leader.

Ben would be the first to tell you that his remarkable story would not be possible without the support of a woman who raised him and is at his side today. Some moms are simply forces of nature who never take no for an answer.

(LAUGHTER)

I understand.

(LAUGHTER)

Ben Carson's mom had a life filled with challenges. She was married at the age of 13, and ultimately was left to raise her two sons alone. She made their education a high priority. Every week the boys would have to check out library books and write reports on them. She would hand them back with check marks, as though she had reviewed them -- never letting on that she couldn't read them.

Even in the toughest times, she always encouraged her children's dreams. She never allowed them to see themselves as victims. She never, ever gave up. We're so thrilled you're here. Sonya Carson, welcome to the White House.

(APPLAUSE)

Ben has said that one of his role models is Booker T. Washington, who inspired millions and who was one of the first African-American leaders ever to visit this house as a guest of a President. He walked on this very floor a little more than a century ago.

Today, Ben Carson follows in his footsteps in more ways than one. He's lived true to the words that was once uttered by this great man: "Character, not circumstances, makes the man." Ben, you demonstrate that character every day -- through the life you lead, the care you provide, and the family that you put at the center of your life.

Murray, B.J., and Rhoeyce, I know how proud your dad is of each of you. I'm delighted that you have a chance to see how proud our nation is of him. For his skills as a surgeon, high moral standards, and dedication to helping others, I am proud to bestow the Presidential Medal of Freedom on Dr. Benjamin S. Carson, Sr.

(APPLAUSE)

The bestowing part will take place a little later, Ben.

(LAUGHTER)

Three decades ago, a mysterious and terrifying plague began to take the lives of people across the world. Before this malady even had a name, it had a fierce opponent in Dr. Anthony Fauci. As the Director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases for more than 23 years, Tony Fauci has led the fight against HIV and AIDS.

He was also a leading architect and champion of the Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief, which over the past five years has reached millions of people -- preventing HIV infections in infants and easing suffering and bringing dying communities back to life.

The man who would lead the fight against this dreaded disease came from an Italian American family in Brooklyn. Even as a boy, Tony was distinguished by his courage. In a neighborhood full of Brooklyn Dodgers fans

(LAUGHTER)

He rooted for the Yankees.

(LAUGHTER)

Tony earned a full scholarship to Regis High School, a Jesuit school in Manhattan. And he still quotes what he learned from Jesuit teaching, "Precision of thought, economy of expression." And now you know why he never ran for public office.

(LAUGHTER)

Those who know Tony do admit one flaw -- sometimes he forgets to stop working. He regularly puts in 80-hour weeks. And from time to time, he's even found notes on his windshield left by coworkers that say things like, "Go home. You're making me feel guilty."

(Laughter)

A friend once commented that Tony was so obsessed with work that his wife must be a pretty patient woman. The truth of the matter is, she's very busy herself. Christine Grady is a renowned bioethicist. And together they raised three talented daughters -- Jennifer, Meghan, and Allison. And I hope each of you know that for all Tony has accomplished, he considers you to be one of his -- not one of his -- his most important achievement. Your love and support have strengthened him as he works to save lives across the world.

For his determined and aggressive efforts to help others live longer and healthier lives, I'm proud to award the Presidential Medal of Freedom to Dr. Anthony S. Fauci.

(APPLAUSE)

When Tom Lantos was 16 years old, Nazi troops occupied his hometown of Budapest. During that bitter occupation, young Tom was active in the resistance. He twice was sent to a Nazi labor camp, both times he escaped. Tom and his wife Annette survived the Holocaust. Others in their family did not.

Their experiences amid Nazi terror shaped the rest of their lives. After they left Hungary and made California their home, Tom put his name on the ballot for a seat in the House of Representatives, and became the only survivor of the Holocaust ever elected to Congress.

One of his early acts was to establish the Congressional Human Rights Council. Annette served as the Caucus's director. Tom earned the respect from both sides of the aisle, and he rose to become the Chairman of the Foreign Affairs Committee. One colleague put it this way -- Tom was at the forefront of virtually every human rights battle over nearly three decades in the Congress.

On Capitol Hill, Tom displayed the energy and enthusiasm of people half his age. When he was in his seventies, he said that he was at the midpoint of his Congressional career.

(LAUGHTER) When he was diagnosed with a fatal form of cancer, he responded with typical grace. As he announced his decision to retire from the job he loved, his words were not of despair, but of gratitude for a nation that had given him so much.

Only in America, he said, could a penniless survivor of the Holocaust receive an education, raise a family, and have the privilege of serving in the Congress. That dying servant of the people then said this, "I will never be able to express fully my profoundly felt gratitude to this great country."

America is equally grateful to Tom Lantos. We miss his powerful voice and his strong Hungarian accent. We miss his generosity of spirit. And we miss his vigorous defense of human rights and his powerful witness for the cause of human freedom.

For a lifetime of leadership, for his commitment to liberty, and for his devoted service to his adopted nation, I am proud to award the Presidential Medal of Freedom, posthumously, to Tom Lantos, and proud that his loving wife Annette will receive the award on behalf of his family.

(APPLAUSE)

One of my great privileges as the President has been to meet so many outstanding Americans who volunteer to serve our nation in uniform. I've been inspired by their valor, selflessness, and complete integrity. I found all those qualities in abundance in General Peter Pace.

As Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Pete Pace was a skilled and trusted advisor in a time of war. He helped transform our military into a more efficient and effective force in America's defense.

General Pace experienced the blessings America offers at an early age. He was born in Brooklyn to an Italian immigrant father who sometimes worked two or three jobs at a time to make ends meet. He was raised by a mom who instilled in him the sustaining power of faith. Together his parents raised four children who each went on to great achievements in their chosen fields. That childhood gave young Pete Pace an early glimpse of what he would later call "the incredible benefits that our nation bestows on those who come to our shores."

Pete Pace attended the Naval Academy, and as a young Marine soon found his way to Vietnam. The age of 22, he took command of a platoon engaged in heavy fighting against the enemy during the Tet offensive. Pete quickly won the respect and the trust of his unit and formed a bond with all those who served with him. That bond only strengthened throughout his military career.

He was the first Marine to serve as Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. And he performed his duties with a keen intellect, a sharp wit, and a passionate devotion to our country. He won the admiration of all who knew him. And that includes a soldier in Afghanistan who came up to General Pace last year during his farewell visit to that country, and said simply, "Sir, thanks for your service. We'll take it from here."

On his final day in uniform, General Pace took a quiet journey to the Vietnam Veterans' Memorial. He searched the names engraved in the sleek granite, and then found a spot where he placed his four stars that had adorned his uniform. Along with those stars he attached notes addressed to the men who died under his first command some four decades ago.

The notes said, "These are yours -- not mine. With love and respect, your platoon leader, Pete Pace." General Pace ended his military career the same way that he began it -- with love for his country and devotion to his fellow Marines.

For his selfless service to his country, and for always putting the interests of our men and women in uniform first, I am proud to award the Presidential Medal of Freedom to General Pete Pace.

(APPLAUSE)

When Donna Shalala was 10 years old, a tornado struck her -- struck her house and her neighborhood near Cleveland. Her parents searched throughout the house for young Donna, but couldn't find her anywhere. She was finally spotted down the road, standing in the middle of the road directing traffic.

(LAUGHTER)

Even at a young age, she was ready to take charge.

(LAUGHTER)

Donna was always an enthusiastic participant in life. She once played on the girls' softball team coached by George Steinbrenner.

(LAUGHTER)

She also joined the Peace Corps and was stationed in the Middle East. I really wonder which one of those two experiences was more challenging.

(LAUGHTER)

In 1993, President Clinton nominated Donna as the nation's Secretary of Health and Human Services. She served for a full two terms -- longer than any other person who held that position. During her tenure, she developed a reputation for fairness, and a willingness to hear both sides of an issue.

Former Republican governor who worked closely with Donna called her "cooperative" and "pragmatic."