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Former Colombian Hostages Celebrate Freedom; Zimbabwean Citizens Flee to U.S. Embassy

Aired July 3, 2008 - 15:00   ET

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


DON LEMON, CNN ANCHOR: A day to celebrate for a former Colombian presidential candidate and three Americans. We have more on their rescue from a five-year jungle nightmare.
VERONICA DE LA CRUZ, CNN ANCHOR: Red, whit and definitely blue. Layoffs, salary cuts and sky-high gas prices put a damper on the Fourth of July.

LEMON: And desperate refugees flee to the U.S. Embassy in Zimbabwe. Can America protect them from the wrath of Robert Mugabe?

DE LA CRUZ: Hey there. I'm Veronica De La Cruz live at the CNN world headquarters in Atlanta. Always good to see you.

LEMON: And I'm Don Lemon. You are in the CNN NEWSROOM.

Right off the top, we begin with issue number one, the stress of America's economy and your wallet. It may be Independence Day weekend, but we're hugely dependent on oil. And the record-high oil prices have had a financial domino effect. More cuts are coming to the airline industry, which hemorrhages millions of dollars by the day.

But other sectors aren't immune. West Coast newspaper giant "The Los Angeles Times" announcing cutbacks to people and content, this as the Labor Department's unemployment report shows 62,000 more Americans lost their jobs last month.

Well, let's start with the airline industry. The day after notifying flight attendants 900 of them may be laid off, American has announced more cuts. The airline plans to eliminate 6,800 jobs by the end of the year. That's 8 percent of its entire staff.

And, meantime, AirTran is trying to pare down its payroll, announcing it wants to slash employees' salaries by up to 15 percent. The cuts will be across the board from airport and airline airplane staff to executives. And it will begin next month.

Bad news from "The Los Angeles Times." As we said, the newspaper plans to cut 250 jobs due to rising costs and falling revenues, including 150 in the editorial department. "The Times" will undergo a makeover that will cut the number of pages by 15 percent, eliminating some sections and trimming story lengths. A half-dozen major newspapers announced layoffs last week totaling about 900 jobs.

On the subject of layoffs, the Labor Department has put out its weekly unemployment report -- 62,000 jobs were lost in June. That's just about what analysts expected. In all, 438,000 workers have received pink slips this year, as employers react to the sting of soaring energy costs.

DE LA CRUZ: And those energy costs up again. It is just what you want to hear on this Fourth of July weekend. There is a new record price at the pump, $4.10 a gallon. AAA is saying the national average now standing at $4.10 -- 36 states and the District of Colombia now shelling out $4 or more. And the most expensive gas is in Alaska. It's $4.68 a gallon, Oklahoma, comparatively OK.

Buh-dum-bump. Did you get that? -- $3.88 a gallon, comparatively OK.

Also another record day for a barrel of oil, light sweet crude up one point, rose to just under $146 a barrel. It has slipped a little bit since then. And looking to tend on a positive note now, the Dow Jones industrial average closed up 73 points in a short trading day before the long holiday weekend.

So, if you are looking for relief from $4-a-gallon gas, we may have found it in compressed natural gas and one of America's favorite misers, Clark Howard.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: OK. And then it will show the price. I had no idea I was only paying 2.66.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

DE LA CRUZ: We will have that, plus "TIME" magazine's countdown of reasons why high gas prices could be a good thing.

LEMON: Three American men, hostages back on American soil, Marc Gonsalves, Thomas Howes, and Keith Stansell. They and their families have a lot of catching up to do now that their five-year ordeal in Colombia is over. They were rescued yesterday, dramatically, along with 12 other people held by a leftist militant group, among them, former Colombian Senator and presidential candidate Ingrid Betancourt -- more about her and her emotional family reunion in just a minute.

But, first, let's go live to San Antonio, Texas, where those three American defense contractors are enjoying their first hours back here in the U.S.

And CNN's Brian Todd joins us now from San Antonio.

Brian, we know that they are getting checked out medically. Is there any update on the condition of the former hostages?

BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, that's really the $64,000 question, Don.

And we hope to get a lot of those questions answered within the next hour, when officials here are scheduled to brief about that very thing, their psychological condition, their physical condition. We're hearing a little bit of conflicting information on that. The U.S. ambassador to Colombia has been quoted as saying that the three are in generally good health.

But that same official had said that two out of the three have some parasitic disease. So, we're going to get an update on that within the hour. Things are moving fairly rapidly otherwise here at the Brooke Army Medical Center just behind me.

We were told a short time ago that the families have for the most part arrived here. Conflicting information about whether they are actually reunited with these three men or not.

We were told about an hour ago that they had not yet been reunited. But of course that was an hour ago and things are moving very rapidly here. The physical condition of these three men is really going to be an open question. There was a report that one of them, Marc Gonsalves, had developed hepatitis while in captivity there in the Colombian jungle. That is going to be a key question when we're briefed in about an hour.

But it is a very exciting day here. The families are coming in and we hope to here from some of them as well in the course of these next couple of days -- Don.

LEMON: Brian Todd, thank you.

DE LA CRUZ: We have not heard from any of the freed American hostages yet, like Brian Todd was just telling us. They're still talking to doctors and U.S. officials about their captivity and their rescue. But we have heard from some of their family members, who are jubilant today after the news that they waited five long years to hear.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

AMANDA HOWES, NIECE OF FORMER COLOMBIAN HOSTAGE: I work at WHDH. It's in Boston. We're the local NBC affiliate. And we were in the middle of breaking news. And I had been there all day. And a news alert crossed on the bottom of the screen. And I click on it and it's wonderful news. and it mentioned Bogota, Colombia. The U.S. military had performed a rescue of Ingrid Betancourt, as well as the three U.S. military contractors. And I just -- I literally screamed with enjoyment.

GEORGE GONSALVES, FATHER OF MARC GONSALVES: It's been a roller- coaster ride. But, you know, I don't think I ever gave up hope. There was things along the road that gave me encouragement. And I was certainly always hopeful that this day would happen. And now it's happening. And it seems like a miracle, but it's happening.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

DE LA CRUZ: The three men were captured by the rebel group FARC in 2003 after their plane crashed in the Colombian jungle. Also rescued yesterday, one of the highest-profile hostages held anywhere in the past six years. Ingrid Betancourt was taken by a rebel group while campaigning for president of Colombia in 2002. She told reporters she went from captive to free woman before she knew it.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

INGRID BETANCOURT, FORMER COLOMBIAN PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE (through translator): This morning, when I woke up, the last thing that I imagined was that I was going to be here with you tonight. This is a miracle. I don't know how you can call it any other name. To me, this is a miracle.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

LEMON: Well, you have heard the name of that rebel group that captured Betancourt and the three Americans. But here's a crash course on FARC. The word is an acronym. In Spanish, the group calls itself the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia.

It is the oldest and largest of Colombia's many rebel groups. They are Marxists, about 8,000 strong, fighting against the government for about 40 years. The group began as a sort of peasant army fighting for land reform. But their assassinations and long history of hostage-taking has earned FARC the label terror organization by the United States and the European Union.

You're kidnapped and you're held hostage for years. How would you respond? How could you learn to cope with being away from your loved ones for so long? We will hear from an expert about the psychological responses to captivity. That's straight ahead right here in CNN NEWSROOM.

DE LA CRUZ: An autopsy is being performed today on a 12-year-old Vermont girl. Brooke Bennett disappeared last week. Her body was found yesterday in a freshly dug grave near the home of her uncle, Michael Jacques. He faces federal kidnapping charges.

And authorities say if the autopsy shows Bennett was killed, there could be more charges, with the death penalty possible. Jacques has been in custody since Sunday on charges of sexually assaulting another girl. That girl told the FBI she was forced into a sex ring and Jacques planned to initiate his niece as well.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

WILLIAM SORRELL, VERMONT ATTORNEY GENERAL: There is nothing from this investigation that's been turned up, nor otherwise are federal and state authorities aware of any ongoing efforts to recruit young girls or boys here in Vermont to have sex with adults.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

DE LA CRUZ: Authorities say the investigation is far from over. They have also charged Brooke Bennett's former stepfather with obstructing justice. LEMON: OK. So, Zimbabwe holds an election. Most of the world rejects the outcome. And the longtime president begins another term. But that's not the end of the story.

New pictures here you will only see on CNN from outside the U.S. Embassy in the Zimbabwe capital more than 200 people seeking refuge, afraid of what they say awaits them if they go home.

Many are supporters of the party that called -- or that pulled out of last month's run-off. They say they have been hurt, threatened or seen their homes destroyed because of their politics. The U.S. State Department says it's trying to help as many people as possible.

Could there be a deal in the works between the European Union and Iran? Well, it's over Iran's nuclear program that Tehran insists is for energy and nothing more.

E.U. officials are offering to halt further sanctions against Iran for six weeks in exchange for that country's promise to stop making new equipment used to enrich uranium. It's the first real hint of progress from the E.U. talks with Iran, most of which has produced only frustration.

DE LA CRUZ: A beautiful California tourist spot threatened by a wildfire. Big Sur is all but empty as the flames spread. We have got the latest.

LEMON: Veronica, thousands of Katrina evacuees faced potential health hazards when they moved into FEMA trailers. Now experts think they know one of the main sources of that problem.

LEMON: And, Don, we saw this earlier.

Coming up, we're going to show you these pictures sent by some of our I-Reporters from a deadly attack in Jerusalem -- this baby thrown from a bus by its parents, who thought the vehicle was about to be bombed.

You're watching CNN, the most trusted name in news.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

DE LA CRUZ: You're in the CNN NEWSROOM. I'm Veronica De La Cruz.

You're driving down your street on your way to work and then your van is blown to bits. It happened to a Florida man this morning. We are going to tell you what police say caused this powerful explosion.

LEMON: And I'm Don Lemon. A bright side to the $4 gasoline. We have been counting down "TIME" magazine's top-10 list. We will review the rankings and reveal the top three ahead in the CNN NEWSROOM.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

DE LA CRUZ: Just four months until Election Day, and John McCain shakes up his top campaign staff. What led to the decision? -- ahead in the newsroom.

LEMON: From tourist hot spot to virtual ghost town. Folks have fled Big Sur, California, after a wildfire jumped containment lines. And crews say it could be the end of the month before they get it under control.

Another fire is threatening about 200 homes farther down the coast in Santa Barbara County. The fast-moving Gap fire has burned three square miles.

This hour, Arizona's governor plans to see for herself how bad this fire is. And it's burned within three miles of the historic mining town of Crown King. Firefighters say they're most worried about those erratic winds.

Joining me right now, CNN's Chad Myers over here in the CNN Weather Center.

I'm wondering, is this being fueled by the winds? Are they playing a factor in any of this...

(CROSSTALK)

CHAD MYERS, CNN METEOROLOGIST: No not really. And that's some good news. There's a little bit of an onshore flow. It's not so bad.

But the Big Sure fire, the winds are out of the north. Behind me, though, can you see this? Every dot that you see on that map, that's a fire.

LEMON: Wow.

MYERS: There are even fires when the flooding was happening. These are satellite images that look down at the Earth and they look for hot spots. And those are the shot spots.

Now, let me freak you out a little bit more. Let me take you to Big Sur. Here's where Big Sur should be. Well, here's where it is. But you can't see it. You can't see it all because of all these fires that are going to through here. All the smoke is traveling from the north.

So, the Bay area is still well to the north there. Let's say you had a nice travel plan with the convertible top down on the PCH. Well, I'm thinking . I'm thinking maybe take the I-5. Otherwise, Don, I'm thinking this is going to get better before it gets worse, because we don't have the ridiculous conditions out there. We don't have winds to 45 or 50 miles per hour. But can you imagine being around that, and Northern California not that much better?

LEMON: It's unbelievable. And when you showed us the fires everywhere in the country, who would -- no one thinks that. Like, I never would have thought that you would see that.

MYERS: Yes.

LEMON: Yes.

MYERS: But when you drive even from here to South Florida, every once in a while, you will see a smoke plume come up, smoke plume.

And those are just the lightning-sparked fires. That's what most of this was. There's not a lot of evil going on here. We don't have a lot of investigation for who started this one. Well, Mother Nature started most of them, because we had a thunderstorm day, but it didn't rain enough. It just sparked a lot. And those sparks caused fires. There wasn't enough rain to put those fires out.

LEMON: There you go.

(CROSSTALK)

LEMON: You know it all. Thank you very much, Chad Myers.

MYERS: You got it.

LEMON: Veronica.

DE LA CRUZ: First the floods, now mosquitoes. They're pestering just anybody who dares to go outside in the waterlogged Midwest.

In Iowa, they're swatting at 20 times the normal number of mosquitoes. And people say the pesky insects have started attacking in swarms.

Once thought to be a godsend for Hurricane Katrina victims, hundreds of FEMA-issued trailers turned out to pose health risks.

And government scientists say particleboard may be the problem. They tested chemical emissions from the trailers' walls, floors, ceilings and furniture. And they are recommending other materials be used to build emergency housing.

Three years from now, wounded American veterans will have access to state-of-the-art medical care at the nation's most prominent military hospital. President Bush was on hand this morning as the military broke ground on the new Walter Reed National Military Medical Center in Bethesda, Maryland.

Less than two years ago, revelations of decrepit conditions at Walter Reed led to major reviews by the White House and the Pentagon.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: At this new center, the Americans who fought for our freedom will get the compassion and support they deserve.

This new medical center will be a place of courage. Our wounded warriors show that while the human body is fragile, the human spirit is strong. Anybody who has met the wounded at Walter Reed and Bethesda cannot help be incredibly impressed by the courage and sacrifice of our troops. (END VIDEO CLIP)

DE LA CRUZ: The project will create one main hospital in the Washington area to treat the wounded from all branches of the armed forces. The existing Walter Reed facility in Washington will be closed.

LEMON: All right, you're an American, right, presumed innocent, right? Well, maybe not. Rumblings out of the Justice Department have some civil libertarians howling.

You're watching CNN, the most trusted name in news.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

DE LA CRUZ: So, I bet you're looking forward to the Fourth of July. Aren't we all? Not to rain on anyone's parade, though, got to bear in mind that the last thing you need tomorrow is a trip to the emergency room, maybe over the weekend.

Our Josh Levs joins us now to walk us through a couple of things that you want to keep an eye out for on the 4th.

So, go ahead, Josh. Just rain on our parade.

(CROSSTALK)

JOSH LEVS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Exactly. I'm here to pour cold water on everybody's excitement. But let's hope that that is all people are going to be pouring, because we're going to start off with this story that is really striking a lot of people, not the kind of headline you see every day.

We caught this from the Associated Press. Let's just close in on this screen quickly. It says, "New Jersey officials warn of lamp oil poisonings." And let's a look what they're saying, that they have issued a health alert in New Jersey because some people were sickened when they drank lamp oil.

In fact, they are telling us here that there is a national report from the Illinois Poison Control Center finding 70 cases of torch oil poisonings across two years. Now, why is that happening? This picture next to me should explain why.

A lot of people unfortunately are mistaking lamp oil for apple juice. They have both in their pantry. They are going and grabbing one. They are drinking a little bit. But that's toxic enough to be really disturbing to them. It killed one person, an 84-year-old. A lot of people have been stricken. So, be very careful. Read the labels. Be careful what you pour, obviously, not happening everywhere. But that it's happened at all is a problem.

Now, two more things I want to show you, food safety. A lot of you are doing cookouts this weekend, right? That's pretty exciting. We have been reporting a lot about salmonella. I want to encourage you to go to CNN.com and look at food safety tips. Just type that in, food safety tips. And this will come up.

It talks you through -- whoops -- over here -- it talks you through what to do to prepare all your food this weekend, the careful ways to clean it, the right temperatures to be cooking it at. Make sure to store everything separately, to cook everything separately. It even gives you advice for how to chill the food after it's done, so you can have the leftovers later on.

And, of course, Veronica, the biggest thing to make sure you're safe on July 4 is of course the fireworks. Let's go to the CDC about that. This is the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention saying, look, celebrate safely. Prevent fireworks-related injuries. And what do they say here?

The line for everyone to keep in mind, remember, the safest way to prevent fireworks-related injuries, to leave fireworks display to trained professionals. Don't get carried away on your own. They say each year thousands of people end up in emergency rooms. So, please don't be one of the people.

OK, now you can go ahead and enjoy. I have warned you about everything you need to know. How's that, Veronica?

DE LA CRUZ: All right. So is there anything to look forward to?

LEVS: Well, OK. There is a lot to look forward to. It's fun. People get to enjoy. Most people, except you and I, don't have to work.

And you know what I like? I know people are going to tell me this is weird. If you're at a fireworks display, you take a second and turn around. Look at all these people standing still staring at the sky. That is so cool. It is so cool.

It's like humanity just stopped and staring at the heavens. I love it. Don't miss the fireworks.

DE LA CRUZ: All right.

LEVS: But take a moment to appreciate the human experience.

(CROSSTALK)

DE LA CRUZ: Right. And if you're enjoying them, you can send us an I-Report, right, Josh?

LEVS: Exactly. And we will be showing them throughout the weekend, your I-Reports from the Fourth of July.

Nice segue.

DE LA CRUZ: All right, Josh Levs, it's always good to see you. Thanks, Josh.

LEVS: Thank you. LEMON: Being flooded out by water is bad enough, but what seeped into this Ohio home is just, well, plain old disgusting. We have the stomach-turning story straight ahead.

DE LA CRUZ: John McCain wants to give his presidential campaign an energy boost. We will tell you about the shakeup in the day-to-day operations.

But first wouldn't it be great if workers cleaning up oil spills had a paper towel -- OK, a lot of really big paper towels -- that could soak up oil and leave the water behind? Well, thanks to nanotechnology, researchers at MIT have come up with a towel that can do just that on a much smaller scale, for now.

Here's CNN's Rob Marciano.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

ROB MARCIANO, CNN METEOROLOGIST (voice-over): As we saw after the Exxon Valdez oil spill in 1989, mopping up the mess can take years. But the people who make this paper-like material hope that it could one day make some cleanups a lot easier.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: So, you can see that basically the oil is rising.

MARCIANO: The towel can absorb 20 times its weight in oil. And it's so efficient that the sopped-up oil can be recovered and the towel reused.

Francesco Stellacci and his colleagues at MIT developed the technology by mimicking the properties of a lotus leaf.

FRANCESCO STELLACCI, MIT: When you look at the lotus leaf on a pond, you will notice that it's dry, even though it's just right on top of water.

MARCIANO: The towel is made up of bundles of tiny spaghetti-like nano-wires in a cellulose mixture. It's put into an oven and dried to form a mesh that can trap oil.

STELLACCI: This material would be ideal also in normal commercial touristic boats to clean the small gasoline spills that these boats always have.

MARCIANO: Researchers also see its potential as a water purifier.

STELLACCI: Because it could really suck up all of these contaminants and leave water that is free of these type of contaminants.

MARCIANO: It's not available commercially yet. But they hope to have it ready within the next three years for oily cleanups, both big and small.

Rob Marciano, CNN, Atlanta.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

LEMON: Hello, everyone. I'm Don Lemon live at the CNN world headquarters in Atlanta.

DE LA CRUZ: I'm Veronica De La Cruz. Always good to see you. You're in the CNN NEWSROOM.

All right. It is now 3:30 on the East Coast.

Here are three of the stories that we're working on in the CNN NEWSROOM -- 2,200 U.S. Marines will serve an extra month in Afghanistan. After earlier insisting that the 24th Expeditionary Unit would come home in October, the Pentagon now says they will need to stay until November.

More evacuations along California's Highway 1, as a huge wildfire threatens Big Sur. At least 16 homes have been destroyed and 1,200 more are threatened.

President Bush will be going to the Olympics. There is no announcement on his exact schedule, but press secretary Dana Perino suggested that he hopes to be on hand for the opening ceremony August 8th.

LEMON: Well, leading our "Political Ticker" this afternoon, Democrat Barack Obama takes his campaign to North Dakota. A short time ago he met with veterans in Fargo to talk about health care.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. BARACK OBAMA (D-IL), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: We've learned about deplorable conditions that were discovered in places like Fort Bragg and Walter Reed. We've walked by a veteran whose home is now a cardboard box on a street corner in the richest nation on Earth. Many of us have heard about what it's like to navigate the broken bureaucracy of the V.A., the impossibly long lines or the repeated calls for help that get you nothing more than an answering machine.

It does not have to be this way, not in this country. There are many aspects of the war in Iraq that have gone inalterably wrong. But caring for our veterans is one thing that we can still get right.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

LEMON: On the Republican side, trade and immigration are two big issues for John McCain as he wraps up his three-day trip outside the U.S. The Republican presidential candidate is in Mexico City where he sat down for talks this morning with President Felipe Calderon. Now here we see McCain and his wife touring the city's historic basilica, Our Lady of Guadalupe. McCain arrived in Mexico after a visit to Colombia.

DE LA CRUZ: Four months from tomorrow, polls will open across America as voters pick our next president. Today John McCain's campaign has a new guy in charge. The latest shake up is seen as a move to inject more energy into the campaign and to put a stop to errors.

Here's CNN's Dana Bash.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

DANA BASH, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Just the fact that John McCain traveled to Colombia, in South America, not a battleground or any U.S. state, is exhibit A of growing concern his campaign is off course. Now an urgent shake-up to correct it. Campaign manager Rick Davis, relieved of his day-to-day duties.

Senior adviser Steve Schmidt, a Bush '04 veteran, will take operational control to, as one adviser told CNN, "stop the unforced errors of this campaign." McCain insiders admit severe troubles at headquarters have caused a series of missteps. Here are some big ones.

The company McCain keeps. The candidate tarnished by some associates. The campaign hired, then fired lobbyists who worked for the military junta in Myanmar.

SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R-AZ), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: We will vet everyone very seriously and make sure that it's not a repetition.

BASH: McCain then enacted a new strict anti-lobbyist policy which in turn triggered a staff purge of yet more lobbyists and kept the story going.

JOHN HAGEE, PASTOR: The next president of the United States, John McCain.

BASH: More poor vetting led to endorsements by controversial figures like pastors John Hague and Rod Parsley, which McCain didn't reject until months of bad press.

Another problem? Mixed messages. The "Straight Talk" candidate seemed scattered. Like last month when McCain ran a TV commercial distancing himself from President Bush.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: John McCain stood up to the president and sounded the alarm on global warming five years ago.

BASH: Then he went to Houston, oil country, and sided with the president on the controversial issue much oil drilling offshore, reversing his own position.

MCCAIN: The broad federal moratorium stands in the way of energy exploration and production.

BASH: Not to be left out, the problem with stagecraft. While we saw soaring imagery from the Obama campaign, team McCain seemed visually challenged. Take that now infamous green screen behind McCain's primetime speech the night Obama clinched the Democratic nomination. Not to mention an erratic schedule of news-making policy speeches delivered too late to make newscasts.

CARLY FIORINA, MCCAIN ECONOMIC ADVISER: What I see frankly are pretty understandable growing pains of an organization that skinnied way down for -- to fight a primary and now is building itself back up to fight a general.

MCCAIN: And I will be the Republican nominee for president of the United States.

BASH: But it has been four months since McCain began his general election campaign. He had the luxury of time to beef up as Democrats battled. And many Republican strategists have told CNN for some time, they wondered, what were they waiting for?

(on camera): We're told what many Republicans consider a scattershot political operation will now be centralized as several veterans of President Bush's re-election team are on-board to help fix everything from staging to message.

Also, look for McCain to re-launch next week with a tour of battleground states talking about the economy. So many changes were already under way. And McCain sources admit a big reason they formally announced the shake-up was to send a signal to worried Republicans, we hear you.

Dana Bash, CNN, Washington.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

DE LA CRUZ: And you can check out our political ticker for all the latest campaign news. Logon to cnnpolitics.com, that is your source for all things political.

And be sure to stick around for THE SITUATION, which gets under way at the top of the hour -- Don.

LEMON: All right. A story that drawing some controversy here. Possible new domestic tactics in the war on terror led to new concerns about civil liberties. Now the Justice Department is reported to be considering a set of new guidelines that would allow investigations of Americans based strictly on a set of profiles.

Now according to the Associated Press, such probes could commence in the absence of anything suspicion of wrongdoing. Now triggers could include a person's religion, ethnicity and also travel habits. That has upset the American Civil Liberties Union. Take a listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CAROLINE FREDRICKSON, ACLU WASHINGTON: The Justice Department is going to say that if somebody is an Arab, Arab-American or Muslim- American, or has a grandmother in Germany or any number of characteristics that they can choose which can be solely, from what we understand, based on race or ethnicity or religion, that is clear racial profiling. It's something that President Bush himself has spoken out against. (END VIDEO CLIP)

LEMON: Joining us now by phone is David Rivkin, a former Justice Department official in the current Bush official.

OK. So you heard her. And she said it's a clear violation of civil rights.

DAVID RIVKIN, FMR. DOJ ATTORNEY: Well, the short answer, it's not the case at all. All we're talking about here -- and by the way, we do not know for sure if investigations would be launched purely in the basis of somebody's profile. But even if that's the case, we're not talking about invading anybody's privacy.

We're not talking about searching anybody's premises or engaging in electronic surveillance or invading any of their constitutionally- protected rights. The government can investigate an individual for a whole host of reasons.

Look, the IRS engages in audits of people based upon a bunch of computer programs looking at the ratio of deductions you've take to total income. As long as there is some rational connection between the triggers and the investigation, there is just absolutely no problem.

LEMON: But can't you understand, Mr. Rivkin, the concern for people that their rights may be violated and that they may be profiled just because of their race, because of their religion and their travel habits? It doesn't read well when you look at it.

RIVKIN: Well, a lot of things don't read well, especially if they're presented this way. But the important thing we have to be absolutely clear. What rights are being invaded? Again, as long as you're not being denied any constitutionally protected rights, as long as you're not being denied a security clearance, a government benefit, a right to travel, a right to have privacy in your dwelling, as long as none of it happens, nobody's rights are being violated.

We're talking about a rational decision to deploy investigative assets. Nothing more than that. People are sitting down, talking about, out of myriads of people, who should be investigated. I mean, it's fundamentally no different from what law enforcement does. If you have a bank robbery in some place in New York City, how do you think the detectives are going to proceed with investigating this matter?

We don't be who did it. They're going to look at probably males between a certain age, with people of criminal records. They're not going to look at a 100-year-old grandmother. I mean, it just to me seems idiotic to deny the government an ability to rationally approach difficult issues just because somebody's feelings might get hurt.

LEMON: David Rivkin, former Justice Department official. Thank you for joining us in the CNN NEWSROOM.

RIVKIN: Good to be with you. LEMON: Have a great weekend. And we heard from the ACLU a little bit earlier in the CNN NEWSROOM, and the Department of Justice now responding to that.

Our viewers are also weighing in on this matter. And I want to read a couple of them for you. Here is Kelly. Kelly is not happy. "This quotation by Benjamin Franklin is inscribed on a plaque in the stairwell of the pedestal of the Statue of Liberty: 'They that can give up essential liberty to obtain a little safety, deserve neither liberty nor safety'."

Benjamin isn't convinced that profiling works: "If Timothy McVeigh was a decorated Gulf War veteran and was able to avoid all detection causing the second-most deadliest terror attack on our soil prior to 9/11, how could we target terrorists accurately, saving lives if the ethnic profiling system would have failed us then?"

And Steve thinks the FBI could use some new tools: "The courts have weakened law enforcement's ability to find those who are determined to terrorize the U.S. Profiling will reduce and possibly eliminate the waste time searching those that don't have a history of criminal activity or terrorist activity."

And here's what Sherry says, she says: "I am a 65-year-old woman with eight grandchildren. I am a fifth-generation American and have never so much has had a parking ticket. I am stopped so often by security at the airport, I cannot even count the number of times. I am all for profiling and background checks. If you have nothing to hide, why not? I would love an identity card program as soon as possible."

DE LA CRUZ: All right. This just in to the CNN NEWSROOM. We're learning there is a report due out now on passport snooping. At least 100 passports have been breached belonging to high-profile people. Let's get you now to Zain Verjee. She is standing by at the State Department.

And, Zain, I believe it was just a few months ago that the passports belonging to the presidential candidates, starting with Barack Obama, had been breached. What are we talking about now?

ZAIN VERJEE, CNN STATE DEPARTMENT CORRESPONDENT: That was a big scandal then, and Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice personally called the presidential candidates, including Hillary Clinton at the time, as well as and Senator McCain and Senator Obama, saying, I'm sorry, we're going to have a full investigation here at the State Department.

Well, that investigation has happened. And just looking at a report coming into us from the State Department's inspector general. And basically this report blasts the security of U.S. passport files and says that there is a lot of unauthorized access that goes undetected and unpunished.

Now the report is heavily redacted. So there are a lot of blank spots here. But it reveals that the inspector general says that they did a test that showed that the files of famous people like movie stars, TV personalities, media personalities, musicians and athletes. And it showed that those files were accessed repeatedly.

It wasn't clear whether they were authorized or not. But they were accessed. The report said that there were many weaknesses in controls in the response once a breach had been discovered. It just wasn't good enough. So they're saying and they're recommending much tighter controls on access -- Veronica.

DE LA CRUZ: All right. Zain, and we are looking forward to that briefing that happens, what, at about 3:45 Eastern?

VERJEE: Yes, just in a few minutes.

DE LA CRUZ: All right. Zain Verjee at the State Department, thanks so much.

LEMON: An emotional scene in Jerusalem. A mother and child reunited after a deadly attack on a city street. We'll tell you more about this photo shot by one our iReporters right on the scene.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

DE LA CRUZ: Well, as you can imagine, today is a joyous day for three American families, those who waited five years for the release or rescue of three hostages from rebel captivity in the Colombian jungle. And today those men, all defense contractors, are free. But now what? Earlier we spoke with a psychiatrist who says these former hostages need work, help, and time.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DR. GAIL SALTZ, ASSOCIATE PROFESSOR OF PSYCHIATRY: Overall for the people that have been involved, you would expect them to be struggling with the potential for posttraumatic stress disorder. That while they were in captivity and going forward, they would struggle with depression and feelings of passivity and hopelessness because their freedom was taken away.

And they may, as they move into the real world now, feel a lot of anxiety. They might have nightmares and flashbacks and anxious and sad times. So what's important for the families to remember is not to press them for information. We have found in psychiatry that forcing a debriefing, if you will, of information, is not good for the person involved, but letting them talk at will when they're ready to about their experience, if they want to, and being supportive is very, very helpful.

And of course, if someone is really struggling with high anxiety and depression, seeing a professional that cannot just speak with them about it but consider the possibility of medication for those individual symptoms to help them sleep and to help them reintegrate.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

DE LA CRUZ: We're told the three Americans either are already or will be reunited with their families today. There is a news conference scheduled for next hour from the medical center in San Antonio, where they are being checked out. You can catch that news conference live in "THE SITUATION" that is going to start at the top of the hour -- Don.

LEMON: And we're following that developing story here today in the CNN NEWSROOM as well as this one. This is one just a day -- one day since an horrific scene in Jerusalem. A Palestinian man speeds a bulldozer down a busy road, smashing cars and buses. Israeli police managed to shoot the driver dead, but not before he killed three people with the bulldozer.

Now today look at these amazing pictures of survival. This is a CNN iReport. A mother and her baby, she and her husband were on a bus at that time on the street, right? Well, they thought the bulldozer attack was a suicide bombing. So they threw their baby out of the bus in order to save the child. Well, parents and baby survived with some scratches, of course. And they are all back together today safely. Good news there.

DE LA CRUZ: And this just in to CNN earlier. We were talking to Ed Henry about whether or not President Bush would be visiting Beijing for the Olympics. And now we're learning he will in fact be attending the opening ceremonies. President Bush getting set to head to Beijing for the Olympics on August 8th. Again, this just into us here at the CNN NEWSROOM. As soon as we get more details, we'll go ahead and bring them to you -- Don.

LEMON: In the meantime, the bright side of $4 a gallon. Hmm, well, we've been counting down TIME magazine's top 10 list, we review the rankings and reveal the top three just ahead right here on the CNN NEWSROOM.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

LEMON: Natural gas, it's not just for your home, stove, or your water heater. It can also be a cost effective alternative to $4 gas. That's according to consumer advocate Clark Howard.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

LEMON: So, Clark, we thought that you were the only person who did this, but the Atlanta Police Department, City of Atlanta, already doing it. Now what is this?

CLARK HOWARD, CONSUMER ADVOCATE: This is natural gas in a car. Cars can and have for years been able to run on natural gas. Listen to this, Honda can make 430,000 Civics a year in the United States that will run on natural gas. And natural gas is cheap to buy, cheap to run your car on, and best thing of all, it's domestic supply.

LEMON: All right. But it sounds a little scary. I mean, when she's filling it up, you hear that hissing like the gas in your house like you have a gas leak. People are going to be afraid they're going to blow themselves up.

HOWARD: Well, I can tell you, I don't run very fast...

LEMON: I can smell it.

HOWARD: I know. But I don't run very fast, and I can tell you, if I was worried my car was going to blow up, I wouldn't be here.

LEMON: OK. Show us how to do it. And I'm going to ask you about this. You can put it in now. But let me tell you, let me ask you this, people think like that, you know, they should get a hybrid and hybrids are best and you're going to save, and over time you're going to get your money back. You don't believe that?

HOWARD: Well, hybrids are great. But if you're looking at saving the most money, the hybrid is not it. A very stingy, fuel- efficient, four-cylinder car, traditional car will save you much more money over time than a hybrid.

LEMON: What's this obsession with hybrids? They can't keep them on the lot.

HOWARD: They're cool, they're hip, they're in. Think about it. Why were people buying the huge SUVs for so long. You know, we as Americans are pack animals, and right now, the pack is going to hybrids. But if you're really interested in what I'm in, which is the green, the dollar bill, the hybrid is not the way to get it done.

LEMON: Is this better for the environment?

HOWARD: Well, this is. Because this is the cleanest burning car sold in America.

LEMON: So this is the best idea we've had so far?

HOWARD: Well, not so much in terms of cost. I did something because I care about the environment. And I like the fact that none of this is imported. That I'm using a U.S. domestic supply fuel to power my car.

LEMON: How much are we per gallon? I don't know if you measure it in gallons.

HOWARD: Well, you -- it's Btus, but if you convert it, it's about 50 cents a gallon cheaper right now than gasoline.

LEMON: It is still cheaper.

HOWARD: It is cheaper. And I get to ride in the car pool lane by myself, which I love.

LEMON: All right. So your advice is that you -- we have a bunch of different things. And we should try any of it if it helps.

HOWARD: Exactly. But the most fuel efficient thing to do, and also the most efficient for your wallet, is to not do something crazy like I've done, it's to just buy a four-cylinder gas engine car. Dull, plain, simple, cheap. LEMON: Don't buy into the hybrid hype.

HOWARD: No.

LEMON: Clark Howard, thank you, good information.

HOWARD: Thank you very much.

LEMON: Good information, yes.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

LEMON: That is some good information, Veronica. And you know what we found out right after the interview, he said it was about 50 cents, you're saving 50 cents less than regular gas. Once we finished and he filled up, it was $1.40 less than a gallon of regular. So you saved a lot.

DE LA CRUZ: But how many gas stations -- the natural gas stations exist?

LEMON: There aren't a lot of them out there. But they're trying to get more because a lot of people are converting over to that, to natural gas, and also to other alternative fuels that we have been reporting about here on CNN and all over the media.

DE LA CRUZ: Very interesting.

LEMON: Yes.

DE LA CRUZ: Very interesting. Well, you know, it's hard to believe when you're spending most of your paycheck at the pump. But our corporate cousin TIME magazine says that there might be good things about high gas prices. And this afternoon we've been running through their top 10 list. So let's go ahead, take a look back. Number 10 is less obesity, because people walk more, bike more and eat out less.

Number nine, more beat cops, officers parking their cars and doing bike and foot patrols. Number eight, less traffic on the roads. Number seven, cheaper insurance. Driving fewer miles could cut your rates. Number six, fewer people driving means fewer traffic deaths.

Number five, more frugality. With gas so expensive, drivers are wasting less. Number four, less pollution. Driver cutbacks should reduce vehicle emissions. And that's something that Clark Howard was just talking about as well.

OK. So, now the final three. Number three, four-day workweek. Doesn't that sound good? Lots of places are going that route to save energy and money. Number two, the stall of sprawl. More home buyers are looking to move closer or into town to cut the commutes.

LEMON: That's my favorite.

DE LA CRUZ: OK. So you live in town. LEMON: I hate sprawl, yes.

DE LA CRUZ: Right. And number one, can I get a drum roll, please, Don, are you going to give me the drum roll.

(DRUMROLL ON DESK)

DE LA CRUZ: Thank you, the return of globalized jobs. Higher shipping and import costs are making many companies rethink outsourcing. If you'd like to take a closer look at the list, you can log on to time.com.

LEMON: Also, we're going to tell you, this story Veronica, you're driving down the street on your way to work and then your van is blown to bits. It happened to a Florida man this morning. And we'll tell you what police say caused this powerful explosion.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

LEMON: Developing news when it comes to the president and the Olympics. Ed Henry joins us now from the white house -- Ed.

ED HENRY, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Don, we finally have confirmation from the White House officially. Mr. Bush as well as first lady Laura Bush will be attending the opening ceremonies in Beijing. A statement from the White House, August 8th, 2008, he will be there.

Obviously there has been a lot of controversy, a lot of pressure from human rights groups, for leaders like President Bush to boycott the opening ceremonies because of China's human rights records. Dana Perino, the White House press secretary, just telling me moments ago that basically the president is going to go to support the athletes, and also she said there is no bigger defender of religious freedom, tolerance, as well as human rights around the world than the president.

And he believes it's better to go, to sit down with the Chinese leader and press those issues. But the bottom line, as you know, this president will take a lot of political heat for attending these opening ceremonies -- Don.

LEMON: More on that in just a few minutes in "THE SITUATION ROOM." Thank you, Ed.

DE LA CRUZ: It was a typical commute. A Florida man on his way to work. Then the unexpected happened, his van exploded on a street in Hialeah. Police say the van was filled with gas tanks and welding equipment, and when the man apparently lit a cigarette, well, you saw what happened next. The cigarette ignited gas fumes and the van blew apart. Incredibly, the man suffered only minor injuries. One witness says he thought it was a terrorist attack.

LEMON: Wow. Unbelievable.

DE LA CRUZ: And that unfortunately is going to do it for us. LEMON: Now it's time for "THE SITUATION ROOM" and Suzanne Malveaux.

Take it away, Suzanne.

SUZANNE MALVEAUX, CNN ANCHOR: Well, thank you