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Firefighters Battle Big Sur Blaze; Combat Medical Team Working Hard Despite Holiday; Bob Dole Shares Memories of Jesse Helms

Aired July 4, 2008 - 13:00   ET

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


DON LEMON, CNN ANCHOR: She was a presidential candidate, then a hostage, but first and foremost, a mother whose children grew up while she was away. A very personal conversation with Ingrid Betancourt, her own words in English, talking to CNN.
VERONICA DE LA CRUZ, CNN ANCHOR: Fire workers not fireworks in Big Sur, California. The round-the-clock effort to save paradise from flames.

LEMON: And paying the price for freedom. Thousands of miles from home, July 4, 2008, in Iraq.

DE LA CRUZ: Hello to you, I'm Veronica De La Cruz, live at the CNN World Headquarters in Atlanta.

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

Well, you know this holiday is off to a terrifying start for thousands of people in California. About 1,700 families were forced out of their homes early this morning as flames raced through the Santa Inez Mountains. Evacuations were ordered for several communities near Goleta in Santa Barbara County. Also closed off, 31 miles of the Pacific Coast Highway normally packed with tourists.

The only out-of-towners there today are the firefighters. They're trying to save the ocean-side town of Big Sur. And they've been at it for about two straight weeks now.

Our Dan Simon is with them.

Dan, how are they doing?

DAN SIMON, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hey, Don.

Fire crews all morning long have been trying to keep an eye on this situation behind me. This is a canyon, and we've been seeing some flare-ups here. When you have a fire that's been burning this long, you're going to have times where things are really dangerous and times where things are a bit quiet.

Fortunately right now, we're in one of those quiet modes, but as you can see, there are some firefighters along the road here watching to see what this fire does. They want to keep this fire from crossing over Highway 1 here and getting into some residential areas, basically standing by. Don, as you mentioned, it is the Fourth of July weekend, and it is very quiet here. Normally, this place would be bustling with tourists, but obviously this area under a mandatory evacuation order.

In terms of what the fire did last night, it did jump one fire line but stayed out of residential areas. Let's listen now to what one firefighter had to say.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

RUDY EVENSON, FIREFIGHTER: The terrain makes it such that there are few opportunities for us to construct line. There just aren't that many flat places out here. So in that area, the next opportunity past this line is quite a ways farther south, which means that, if the fire does go over that line in a big way, the next place that we can build line will add a large number of acres to the fire.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SIMON: Really tough times here for everybody, this area under a mandatory evacuation order. And those who are really suffering: the merchants and the businesses, who would just be flooded with tourists this weekend, Don.

LEMON: All right. Thank you very much for that. Dan Simon reporting to us live. We're going to continue on with this story now.

It is shaping up to be a long, weary, fire season. Reynolds Wolf in the severe weather center.

And I'm sure these people are at their wit's end, Reynolds.

REYNOLDS WOLF, CNN METEOROLOGIST: Don, yes, this is a Mediterranean (ph) south climate. Not unusual to get these fires out on the West Coast. But still, certainly doesn't make it easy for the homeowners in that part of the world, the business people, say in Big Sur. This is when they make all of their money from the tourist dollars. And with the operation shut down in Big Sur, it is going to be a rough time for them.

Firefighters are going to have their work cut out for them, not only here but potentially in parts of the west. In fact, through the Great Basin, you can see a lot of the map actually shaded in red and even some pink. These indicate areas where we have red flag warnings and fire weather watches.

But the humidity's very low. We have wind that is fairly strong at times so if any fires are set in this area, they're going to spread very, very quickly. So it's going to be a tremendous problem we're seeing out to the west. Out in the Atlantic, we're dealing with something entirely different, talking about a tropical storm. We're going to talk about that coming up.

But first, take a look at this live image, compliments of KCAL. This is just near Ventura, just north. Not too far from Highway 101. You can see the San Gabriel Mountains, part of the coastal range. It is going to be a tinderbox, Don.

Back to you.

LEMON: Beautiful terrain, unfortunately, under siege, though, today. Thank you very much for that, Reynolds Wolf -- Veronica.

DE LA CRUZ: Now this is an all-star welcome. The president of France and his supermodel first lady greeting Ingrid Betancourt, just off the plane near Paris this morning. Betancourt, a dual French citizen, has endured a whirlwind last couple of days that took her from six-year hostage in Colombia to free woman.

Betancourt spoke to CNN in English for the first time about her experience.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Any regrets?

INGRID BETANCOURT, FORMER FARC HOSTAGE: Any regrets? No, many hopes.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: And where are those hopes for the future?

BETANCOURT: Well, I have the hope of -- I'm a dreamer. So I hope of a better world. But that means many things to me.

For example, being with my children. I want to have the opportunity to see them live. I want to see how they love. They are adults now. They have love relationships with persons that I haven't met yet. So I want to discover that life of them. And I want to be active in being beside them.

But there is another side, which is fighting for the ones that are still in the jungles in Colombia. We need to have them out. We need to cry very loud to the world that what happens in Colombia must stop. And we have to put all the pressure on the FARC so they that understand that there is not another issue than just to give the freedom to all of those persons that are kidnapped by them.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

DE LA CRUZ: "The Kidnapping of Ingrid Betancourt," a fascinating HBO documentary. We're going to be showing it tomorrow morning right here on CNN. It happened at 8 p.m. Eastern. It covers her abduction and her family's long, desperate struggle to get her back.

LEMON: And also the three Americans also rescued from captivity in Colombia, medical doctors and psychiatrists say the three men are in good physical condition. But this view, their arrival in the U.S. is the only time we've seen them since late Wednesday.

Five years ago, a documentary team filmed the Americans shortly after their kidnapping. And here's a short clip from that film.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I 100 percent miss my family. I have...

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Just wait for me, baby. Joey, I love you guys. I love you much. And I'm just waiting to come home.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'm kind of a hard ass. I apologize. (INAUDIBLE)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

LEMON: Well, that clip was shot in a Colombian prison camp back in 2003. The three Americans, Marc Gonsalves, Thomas Howes, and Keith Stansell, are still being checked out in the military hospital in San Antonio, Texas.

And CNN's Susan Roesgen is in San Antonio. She's meeting today with the family of Keith Stansell. And we hope to hook up with her and hear what she's learned from Stansell's family very soon.

DE LA CRUZ: Well, this Fourth of July, President Bush paid tribute to one of the nation's Founding Fathers. The president traveled to Monticello, home of Thomas Jefferson, author of the Declaration of Independence. As Mr. Bush looked on, 76 new Americans took the oath of U.S. citizenship.

And how is this for awesome? Fireworks over Mt. Rushmore on the evening before the holiday. The rockets' red glare illuminating the faces of presidents Washington, Jefferson, Lincoln and Theodore Roosevelt.

Things were going well in Chicago until these fireworks were over. That's when the shooting started. Hundreds of thousands of people were leaving the city's lakefront when shots rang out. One young man died; three were wounded. Police are calling the incident gang-related.

LEMON: For the troops in Iraq, the Fourth of July is just another day at work. But as our Frederik Pleitgen found out, it helps reinforce the faith of an Army medical team.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

FREDERIK PLEITGEN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The night before Independence Day, in an American combat support hospital near Tikrit, Captain Ricky Kue and a team of doctors and nurses are working to stabilize an Iraqi soldier who was severely injured trying to stop a suicide bomber from blowing up an Iraqi hospital.

CAPTAIN RICKY KUE, U.S. ARMY: He's essentially sustained injuries where he lost both of his eyes traumatically. Injuries to his left upper extremities, left leg. Ended up getting both of those extremities amputated. Both of his eyes removed because of the trauma.

PLEITGEN: They'll get very little sleep on this Fourth of July, but the soldiers say this Iraqi man reminds them of what they're fighting for.

KUE: Every day's Independence Day feeling when you're here, you know, getting to do what I get to do. It's that feeling of being able to practice what we get to celebrate every Fourth of July.

PLEITGEN: Medevac helicopters regularly land at the 345th Combat Support Hospital, but soldiers say things have slowed down recently, and the wards are practically empty. Even so, on Independence Day, many at the hospital see their mission in sharper focus.

LT. COL. WALTER BEHNERT, U.S. ARMY: There are days like Memorial Day, Fourth of July that are reflective on why we're here and sort of -- kind of bolsters our pride in our country. So we do celebrate that in our own -- as I said, in our own way.

PLEITGEN: Still, they say, even with the lull in casualties, they know they can't afford to let their guard down. On quiet days, they organize blood donation drives in case they ever run short. And on the eve of Independence Day, we can see why.

Fred Pleitgen, CNN, Contingency Operating Base Spiker, Iraq.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

LEMON: And of course, we appreciate all that they do. Thank you very much.

And there's still plenty more ahead this Independence Day, including the sorry state of our national monuments in Washington. And what's a Fourth of July without a hot dog or two, or how about 60?

DE LA CRUZ: Sixty.

LEMON: The whole newsroom lit up when we were watching this. We'll show you the annual eat-a-thon from New York. You don't want to miss that.

DE LA CRUZ: Well, for Barack Obama this Fourth of July, some red, white, and blue moments in what's normally a red state. Just minutes from now, the Democratic presidential candidate speaks at a family picnic in Butte, Montana. He was in the city's holiday parade a short time ago.

Montana, by tradition, is a Republican stronghold, but a recent poll shows Obama with a five-point lead there. Four years ago, President Bush won Montana by 20 percentage points.

And Republican candidate John McCain is spending this Independence Day with his family at their Arizona ranch. McCain is back home from his three-day visit to Colombia and Mexico. Next week, he hits the road for a weeklong swing through some key battleground states, where he will focus on the economy.

LEMON: Conservatives are mourning the death of an icon. Former Senator Jesse Helms has died at the age of 86. He had been sick for several years. The cause of death was not released. Helms was a North Carolina Republican. He retired five years ago after a 30-year career on Capitol Hill.

A White House spokesman says, quote, "America lost a great public servant and true patriot today."

The Republican firebrand was a polarizing figure during his five terms in the Senate. While conservatives defended Helms, some critics called him a narrow-minded bigot. Among other things, Senator Helms fought against the extension of the Voting Rights Act. He opposed a national holiday honoring Reverend Martin Luther King Jr. And he was a staunch opponent of gay and abortion rights.

Coming up, reaction to Helms's death from former senator, Bob Dole, and his wife.

DE LA CRUZ: Syria troops take up positions along the border with Iraq. An exclusive report from CNN's Cal Perry. He's embedded with some of the Syrian soldiers.

LEMON: Laissez bon temps roulez. The good times are rolling again. New Orleans celebrates its rebirth. Our Fredricka Whitfield is lucky enough to be there, and she'll join us live from the Essence Music Festival.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

LEMON: You know, there was no middle ground with Jesse Helms. A conservative icon who died today at the age of 86 is being remembered for the controversial stands he took while serving five terms in the U.S. Senate.

Former Republican senator and presidential candidate Bob Dole served with Helms on the Hill, and he is in Washington now with our Ed Henry.

Ed, what did you learn from him? He's right there with you, right?

ED HENRY, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: That's right. He's live. Good afternoon, Don, on this Fourth of July.

I have the distinct honor sitting down with a true American hero, Bob Dole. The former Senate Republican leader served his country so honorably in World War II.

BOB DOLE, FORMER SENATOR: I've got my tie on, too, with the flag.

HENRY: He's got the flag tie on. But obviously, this is also a sad day for you, lost a friend in Jesse Helms. Talk about him as a conservative icon.

DOLE: Well, he was a conservative icon. And one that could be -- would probably tell you if he was still alive would be Ronald Reagan, because in 1976, in that election, Reagan versus Ford in the primary, Reagan wasn't doing very well. And Jesse pulled North Carolina out of the fire for him. And then the race went all the way to Kansas City and it wasn't decided until the middle of the night.

And so, Jesse kind of was the -- was the anchor in that Reagan effort. So when Ford lost and Carter won and then Reagan -- but Jesse was a man of strong convictions. As I said earlier, if there was a liberal meeting going on and somebody announced that Jesse Helms was coming, the place would have cleared out in 20 seconds.

But, you know -- but he was a good, decent human being. I didn't agree with him on some of these civil rights positions, but the little things that Jesse did. If you would ask the pages who do they like best of all of the Republican senators, who was the nicest to them? It would be Jesse Helms every year. He would sit there and visit with them, talk about their parents, where they're from, take them down and have ice cream.

HENRY: He was a courtly southern gentleman, as you say. But on civil rights, you did disagree with him. That was in one -- at least one of the Senate races against Robert Gantt, an African-American Democrat. He ran an ad called "Hands" that was about affirmative action and basically, black hands taking the job away from white hands.

Now we have poised an African-American nominee, Barack Obama, poised to be the first time an African-American nominee. Race has become an issue once again. Talk about his legacy on race, Jesse Helms.

DOLE: Jesse had black staff members. So I mean, I never could quite figure it out. Jesse was -- felt very strongly about foreign policy, national security, abortion. Same-sex marriage wasn't an issue then.

But to say Jesse -- was Jesse Helms a racist? I never spotted that in him. I think I could name a few. But -- and that was not a good race when that ad -- that was not a good ad. But I'm not sure that was a Jesse Helms I knew. Let's put it that way.

HENRY: Now, late in his Senate career, I also remember he did reach across the aisle somewhat. He was working with the secretary of state, Madeleine Albright.

DOLE: Joe Biden. Yes.

HENRY: And worked on issues like fighting poverty, AIDS in Africa, things like that. I mean, people know him for those rigid conservative principle principles, and he did have those. But talk about how he did reach across the aisle, at least sometimes.

DOLE: I'll tell one thing that most people don't care about, unless they eat, and that's agriculture. He was chairman of the ag committee. And my farmers in Kansas say thanks to Jesse, and so can farmers across the country, because, again, they treated it as a non- partisan committee. It wasn't Democratic versus Republican; Jesse was just the chairman. And that's just one of them. Foreign policy he worked a lot on U.N. reform. He worked with Senator Biden. And with their work, they got our contribution down from 25 percent to 22 percent. We pay 22 now, and Russia pays 3. It's still too high.

But Jesse got along with Madeleine Albright. They worked together. He got along with the U.N. leaders.

HENRY: I remember as Senate leader, you always talked, it was like herding cats, trying to deal with all these different personalities. You had Ted Kennedy on the left, Jesse Helms on the right. What was it like trying to be the leader of the Senate with an out-sized personality like Jesse Helms, trying to deal with him?

DOLE: One thing about Jesse, he'd always let you know in advance. He'd say, "Bob, you know, I know you want to do this today. But it's not going to happen." Now, Senator Metzenbaum used to tell me that, too, on the day (ph). Another great guy we've lost.

HENRY: Yes.

DOLE: But yes, when Jesse was up front, I can remember times when I'd say, "Jesse, we can't hold this nomination anymore. This man has a family, or this woman has a family. They've given up their business. They're waiting to go to some country."

And he said, "Well, if it's really important to you and the administration, OK."

So you could generally work things out. But if this -- if he believed in it, and you were going a different direction, good-bye.

HENRY: Quite an interesting man. Happy Fourth of July to you, Senator Dole. Thank you for your service to our country.

And Don, you heard it right there: "It's not going to happen today." The words of Jesse Helms to the Senate leader, Bob Dole, back in the day. They did not call him Senator No for nothing, Don.

LEMON: Yes, and Ed, you know Bob Dole's wife succeeded Jesse Helms in the Senate in North Carolina.

HENRY: Absolutely.

LEMON: And thank you very much for that, and please extend our thanks again to the senator there.

And I want to tell you Elizabeth Dole, who is also a presidential candidate in 2000. She released a statement today, saying, "Bob and I are deeply saddened to learn of the passing of our longtime friend, Senator Jesse Helms. We extend our sympathies to his precious wife, Dot, and their family."

And then it goes to say, which is interesting, I think -- she says, "In succeeding Jesse to represent North Carolina in the United States Senate, I knew I could never replace him, but I continued to strive each day to provide the dedicated constituent service he provided the people of our state for 30 years. As my father would say, Jesse was indeed a watchdog for North Carolina and for the nation."

All right. Senator from North Carolina, Elizabeth Dole, and former presidential candidate.

And I also want to say here that next hour Jesse Helms and race, we're going to talk about that. We'll hear from a professor who wrote the book "Righteous Warrior: Jesse Helms and the Rise of Modern Conservatism" -- Veronica.

DE LA CRUZ: Now, would the nation neglect its own heritage? Say it ain't so this Fourth of July. We're going to take a look at some national monuments that are in a state of disrepair.

LEMON: It is one of the few contests where having a tapeworm could be an asset. Wolfing down the dogs for fun, profit, and tradition. Just hold that video up. Everyone loves it.

DE LA CRUZ: No. No, it's hurting my stomach from watching that.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

DE LA CRUZ: Celebrating the rebirth of the Big Easy. It is all about the music and black culture as the Essence Music Festival gets underway in New Orleans. And our very own Fredricka Whitfield is there. She's enjoying every moment she can.

Looking good, Fred. Looking good.

LEMON: You look good today. Woo-woo!

FREDRICKA WHITFIELD, CNN ANCHOR: Good to see you all.

Well, I wish you were here among the 200,000...

LEMON: Me, too.

WHITFIELD: ... that have flooded New Orleans this 14th annual festival. So I'll eat for you. I'll enjoy all the music for you, and I'll talk a little bit for you, too.

Here in the convention center, which you know was, for a long time, the symbol of all that went wrong during Katrina here in New Orleans, well, it's back in business. Meetings, conventions taking place. It's hosting the 14th annual Essence Music Festival. And you can here the music. It's the namesake of this festival, but you know what? It's about more than that. It's about empowerment. There are seminars. There are panels. There are discussions taking place here.

Oh, and there are a lot of stars. And speaking of stars, we've got one of our own, CNN's Soledad O'Brien, who is here, who's helping to launch our "Black in America" series. And voila, here she is.

How are you? SOLEDAD O'BRIEN, CNN ANCHOR: This is fun, huh?

WHITFIELD: It really is lot of fun. And, you know, about "Black in America," your series, and what you are all unveiling in parts of this festival, it's huge. And you've gotten already a great response.

O'BRIEN: Yes, we're very excited about it. We've done rollouts and sort of small snippets of the documentary in certain places. But the full documentary is playing on the 23rd and 24th. And it's been great to reach out and get people's feedback on at least the little pieces of it.

And also, we do round tables and panels, will do one here, co- production events tomorrow morning, as well, that will air on CNN. We'll tape some of it. It's been wonderful, and it's been great to run around the country, you know, telling the story of black Americans. It really hasn't been done in a big way. So we're excited so people can see it.

WHITFIELD: You know, what's so fascinating about this festival, people think, naturally, music concerts, entertainment, but they're talking about some hard-hitting issues here, just as your series is. They're talking about the economy, job security, family structure.

What are some of the signature segments that you're unveiling during this festival as part of your project?

O'BRIEN: What's really interesting are the same things you see polling in the election, are the exact same things that black people want to talk about. The economy, the war, joblessness, gas prices, all those issues are very important.

And then for the black community, the issues of family, seeing the number of single parents has been a big change since the '60s. We'll talk a little bit about that.

Education reform, because there are so many kids or black and brown, and really correlated with poverty, as you well know, for not getting a good education. And they have to figure out how do you motivate -- how do you motivate those kids to stay in school? The numbers are declining for boys across the board. But for black boys, even more, it's shocking.

We talk about healthcare, the disparity for black people and white -- when you compare them to white people. And what they get in healthcare is high. So you know, it continues. You know, we'll examine all of that.

WHITFIELD: And we're going to be listening and watching. And there's a huge thirst and hunger for all of those topics and answers for it. We'll be looking for it in Soledad's special, "Black in America."

And of course, you know, she talks about the gas crisis. Well, you know what, you guys? You'd think because of vacations everyone across the country is enjoying vacations, because the gas price is high, air fare. Well, not here. Most of them are from all over: 200,000 people from all states. It has not deterred them from coming here for entertainment, as well as the empowerment that we've been speaking of.

Back to you, all.

DE LA CRUZ: A lot of important issues being discussed there, as well. And nice to see you, Fredricka. We're going to be checking back with you in a bit. And in the next hour, the mayor of New Orleans, Ray Nagin, will be our special guest here in the NEWSROOM.

And also a bit later on, the Essence editor-in-chief, Angela Murray, she joins us from the festival. And there is more tomorrow, as well, when Fredricka brings you a special report on the New Orleans resurrection. Plus the Essence Festival also becomes a backdrop for politics, the black vote and the presidential election.

Join us for Fredricka's special report, live from the New Orleans Essence Festival. That's Saturday afternoon, 4:00 p.m. Eastern right here on CNN.

LEMON: Should be very interesting.

And this is interesting, as well. A major development in a massive copyright infringement case between Viacom and Google. Stephanie Elam is in New York with a look at how the case can affect almost any of us who use the Internet.

Hi, Stephanie. How are you doing today?

STEPHANIE ELAM, CNN BUSINESS CORRESPONDENT: I wish I was in New Orleans.

LEMON: I know.

ELAM: My sister's there. I want to be with my sister. This was our tradition. But alas, I'm with you. But I'm happy to see you guys.

LEMON: All right.

ELAM: So we have a story here about a little bit that could affect pretty much anyone here. A federal judge this week ordered Google to turn over users' records to Viacom. And these records show which users watched which videos on YouTube. So just about everything we're talking about here.

Viacom is suing YouTube for illegally posting content that the entertainment company owns, including "The Daily Show," "The Colbert Report" and MTV, which airs music videos that are a YouTube staple. The company wants to know exactly how much was watched and by how many viewers.

But caught up in the legal battle are concerns about internet privacy. Think about it the viewing habits of tens of millions of people could be exposed on this story. So the judge required Google to turn over the user names of every person who watched a clip on YouTube, which, is everyone I know, I think.

LEMON: Yeah, who hasn't this day in age?

ELAM: Right, exactly.

LEMON: I've got to ask you this. Because you know sometimes we're on "The Daily Show" and we like sit there at night and watch it and cringe.

ELAM: You are.

LEMON: But what if like a friend or something posts something on, you know, on YouTube from "The Daily Show," should they be worried about a lawsuit now?

ELAM: OK, well, first of all, think about the numbers here. There are just way too many users for them to go after all of them. The numbers would be staggering. "The New York Times" actually estimates that 82 million people watched over 4 billion clips on YouTube, but that was just in April alone.

Some experts say pretty much every internet user has visited YouTube, so it's hard to imagine Viacom going after specific users. Where exactly would they start? There's no way I could see that they could do that. In any addition, Viacom's top lawyer says the company won't use the information to prosecute individuals, the information would be limited to the suit against Google.

Both companies say they want to work out a compromise to protect our anonymity. Of course, I should tell you that the financial markets are closed today for the Independence Day holiday. Probably couldn't come at a better time since this was a down week for the major averages. The Dow right now down close to 15 percent so far this year.

LEMON: Oh boy.

ELAM: Yeah, I know.

LEMON: All right. There's still time, we can meet each other in New Orleans.

ELAM: Yes, we can still do it. I'm going to call my sister and be like, (INAUDIBLE). I'm sure she does. Alas, it's probably a little late. So, I'll just have to get the report back.

LEMON: Are we going to see you again throughout the day?

ELAM: I think we have one more time to chat.

LEMON: Ok, see you in a bit. Thank you Stephanie.

ELAM: See you, thanks.

DE LA CRUZ: Just hours after he fatally shot two burglary suspects, police interviewed Texas homeowner Joe Horn. We'll tell you what he told investigators in a case that's captivated America.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

LEMON: Time now to tell you some of the stories we're working on for you today here in the CNN NEWSROOM. A major wildfire creeps closer to Big Sur. It's one of hundreds of fires raging across California. Thousands of homes are in danger.

A hero's welcome in France for freed former hostage Ingrid Betancourt. A big hug from a French president. A huge one at that. Nicholas Sarkozy, followed by a party of presidential power.

President Bush looks own as 76 immigrants take the oath of citizenship at the estate of Thomas Jefferson. Independence Day events are in full swing from sea to shining sea.

DE LA CRUZ: U.S. military commanders in Iraq have been complaining for years about foreign insurgents coming in from Syria. Now the Syrians say they're taking steps to secure their border with Iraq. CNN's Cal Perry has been embedded with the Syrian army and he joins us now with an exclusive report.

So Cal, tell me, what measures is Syria taking there at the border and just how (INAUDIBLE) is this border really?

CAL PERRY, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, the border is over 300 miles long, it took us about four hours to helicopter out there. And really when you look at the landscape, you can tell what the Syrian army is up against. It's all desert out there. Nothing but a sea of sand.

And what they've done is they've moved the earth. They've literally created a sand berm, it's a division of sand between Iraq and Syria. Without that division of sand it would be impossible to tell where Syria ends and where Iraq begins.

Now, commanders on the ground yesterday telling us that they feel like they're doing a great job with securing this border. But they say they're doing everything within their means. They say they don't have all the equipment that they need to fully secure the border. They mainly want night vision equipment. Now night vision equipment is not available to the Syrian army because there is a U.S. embargo on the Syrian military. They're not allowed to get that equipment.

The Americans for their part say that's because they can't simply trust the Syrian army. They're worried that the Syrian army will hand that over to terrorist groups like Hezbollah or Hamas. Syria is still listed as a state sponsor of terror by the U.S. State Department.

The other thing that we found was absolutely fascinating, Veronica, was they told us that the Americans are constantly breaching Syrian air space, five to six times per month and as early as last week, American war planes, fighter jets, and helicopters have been breaching Syrian air space. The commanders say this is very frustrating but they can't do anything about it because they don't even have a line of communication open with the U.S. military, something they hope to happen in the future -- Veronica?

DE LA CRUZ: Well, it sounds like there is a lot of confusion taking place. But let me ask you about the measures that the Syrian army is putting into place. Is there any evidence so far that these measures have been effective when it comes to controlling the traffic?

PERRY: You know, we don't have access to the people they say that they've detained or the weapons that they say they've stopped from crossing into Iraq. The only thing that we really have to go on are the U.S. military comments.

Now just a few years ago, the U.S. military was really hitting Syria hard saying they're simply not doing enough to secure the border. Recently the U.S. military has said they're doing a much, much better job. But certainly this is a very vital border not only for the future of Iraq but I think it's pivotal between the U.S. and Syrian future relations -- Veronica?

DE LA CRUZ: Cal Perry with that exclusive report, Cal thank you so much.

Well, this Fourth of July, part of our national heritage is in a state of disrepair. Our Jeanne Meserve has been live this morning from the National Mall. She's in Washington and joins us now with that story -- Jeanne?

JEANNE MESERVE, CNN HOMELAND SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: Veronica, first let me show what is clearly the big hit this afternoon. It's this cooling station that the D.C. fire department has set up. It's hooked up to a fire hydrant, sends down a mist of water. The kids are loving it. The adults are loving it, they're going through over and over again. Trying to get a little relief. It's not exceptionally hot down here, but it's getting a little uncomfortable probably in the mid-80s or so.

There's still a parade going on down on Constitution Avenue, but the crowds are starting to move up into the mall area now. If you look up here by the monument, you can see the people who have staked out the prime spots under the trees here. They're getting the shade and a little later they'll be able to look up and see the fireworks with the Washington Monument in the foreground.

I've got to tell you Veronica, there's a lot of debate in this city about where the very best place is to watch the fireworks, but that is clearly one of them and the people there come from all over the country, all over the world. I met people from Minnesota, from Norway, from Germany, from Sweden, from Australia, all here to celebrate with us for the nation's birthday.

Back to you.

DE LA CRUZ: And you know, it's only 1:30 in the afternoon, Jeanne and there's already a lot of foot traffic there behind you. I wanted to ask you this. How difficult is it really to keep those monuments in good repair? MESERVE: Well, they expect total today to get about half a million people down here to the mall. 25 million visit every year and that's more than Yosemite, the Grand Canyon and Yellowstone all mixed together. Very heavy traffic here and it does create some issues with maintenance.

If you look over here by the food tent, I don't know if you can make it out, but there's bare soil over there. It looks very unkempt. A lot of people say this is not what the nation's front yard should look like. They also actually talk about this food cafe. This is one of the few places down here on the mall to get something to eat. It's a little bit ratty. Folks say we should be doing something better than this.

And then, of course, it's the wear and tear on the monuments themselves. The sea wall over by the Jefferson Memorial needs to be replaced. That's a multi million dollar project. In fact they say there's about $258 million of deferred maintenance that needs to be done down here on the mall. Do you know what the total annual budget for the mall is? $31 million, that includes everything.

So they're trying to raise some money from the private sector to take care of it, but some people say it looks pretty ratty right now and we really ought to move and do something about it.

DE LA CRUZ: All right, Jeanne Meserve there in the nation's capitol. Jeanne, it's nice to see you. Thanks so much -- Don?

LEMON: Reynolds is helping me out here. Reynolds has the veggie side. You guys can stay in. You helped to set it all up. I've got some burgers here but I don't know if I'm doing a good job.

WOLF: Looks like they're burning.

The burning is done.

You want this one toasted?

LEMON: You know what, we're cooking dogs out here and burgers. This guy in the contest, do you remember his name?

WOLF: I don't remember his name but he's going to be a legend.

LEMON: Nathan Hamburger or something like that --

WOLF: What better way to celebrate the nation's birthday than eating as many (INAUDIBLE) than the way he did? Horrifying for some.

LEMON: What was it 60 or 68? I'm not sure but Allan Chernoff joins us now from Coney Island to tell us about it. Wish we could hear you Allan but you know what, we want to hear about this contest.

ALLAN CHERNOFF, CNN SENIOR CORRESPONDENT: Don, I can tell you this is a great day for America, a great day for the most extreme of extreme sports. And that, of course, is competitive eating. The mustard yellow belt once again will remain on American soil for the next year after Joey Chestnut of California for the second year in a row defeated (INAUDIBLE) Kobayashi of Japan. Chestnut had to go to a dog off to win. After 10 minutes of regulation, both leading contenders had eaten 59 hot dogs and buns.

You're looking at 18,000 calories right here, 5.9 hot dogs and buns per minute. After that 10 minutes, each contestant got five hot dogs. Who could eat them faster, Joey Chestnut pulled it off. An astounding feat. And I think we can now officially say that the Kobayashi era has come to an end. Kobayashi trained, he fasted, even died his hair mustard ketchup yellow and red. It was not enough, Joey Chestnut pulled it off.

As for the eating fans here, the thousands who came here to Coney Island to witness the event confronting a lousy economy as we all are, tumbling stock prices, soaring foreclosure rates, soaring gasoline prices, at least, at least America's eating fans have Joey Chestnut to look up to. Don, Reynolds?

LEMON: All right, thanks, Allan.

We've got burgers and we've got dogs out here and Reynolds burned his bun.

WOLF: Dude, you want ketchup on yours?

LEMON: Back to you, Veronica.

DE LA CRUZ: Oh, boy, Reynolds burned his bun. Wow, I think they're having way too much fun out there.

Here's what's coming up next. An estimated 2 million children are infected with HIV, a potentially deadly inheritance. Ahead we'll preview this weekend's worldwide broadcast of our Dr. Sanjay Gupta's special "The Survival Project," one child at a time.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

DE LA CRUZ: For children in many parts of the world, poverty, violence, disease, and disaster dim their prospects for a happy and healthy life. CNN will air a one-hour special Sunday night focusing on the fundamental issues threatening them. One in particular is the transmission of HIV.

CNN chief medical correspondent Dr. Sanjay Gupta gives us a preview.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

DR. SANJAY GUPTA, CNN CHIEF MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): In Peru, at least 1,500 children live with HIV/AIDS. As I will show you, UNICEF hopes to drive that number down starting with new mothers.

(On camera): What you're witnessing here is very, very important. What they're doing is doing a rapid test trying to figure out if he is in fact HIV positive. She just had this baby a couple of hours ago. If in fact this test comes back in 30 minutes as being positive, that means this baby should not be breast-fed and should only be formula fed for the next six months.

(Voice-over): The first priority to diagnose and treat as early as possible. What now happens here, every woman coming into any maternal child health clinic is tested for HIV. No questions asked, no exceptions. For her, it's good news. She tests negative.

(On camera): It doesn't mean that some of the stories still aren't very heart breaking. For example, this little 7 month old boy was abandoned here after his mother tested positive for HIV. We don't even know if the boy has HIV or not, but no state orphanage will take him for the next 18 months. So for the time being he's sort of stuck.

FLORENCE BAUER, UNICEF PERU: The impact of UNICEF is, every child is diagnosed. The ones who are HIV positive the right steps can be taken.

GUPTA (voice-over): The right steps in Peru? Stopping an epidemic before it ever begins.

Dr. Sanjay Gupta, CNN, Lima, Peru.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

DE LA CRUZ: The survival project, one child at a time airs Sunday night at 8:00 p.m. Eastern right here on CNN. The one-hour special will also be simulcast on CNN International. Make sure to check out this special section on our Web site as well dedicated to this initiative. There you can find out what you can do to impact your world for the better.

LEMON: Well, you've heard the 911 tapes of America's new vigilante, now new video is out of that. Texan Joe Horn walks you through the scene and explains what was going through his mind when he shot and killed two men.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

LEMON: America's latest vigilante explains his actions that sparked a nationwide controversy. This is a police interview of Joe Horn. He is a Texas man who shot and killed two burglary suspects he says were robbing his neighbor's home. On Monday a Texas grand jury decided not to indict him but the case still fires debate over the use of deadly force.

The story now from Kevin Quinn of CNN affiliate KTRK.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

KEVIN QUINN, KTRK REPORTER (voice-over): On the day of the shootings last November --

JOE HORN, KILLED BURGLARS: I looked back out this window. When I saw them leaving -- but I don't know what direction they're going.

QUINN: Joe Horn walked police through the moments leading up to his decision to pull the trigger on the two men who he suspected of burglarizing his neighbor's home.

HORN: I wasn't expecting to see nobody, OK? So I immediately -- I went up like this. And I had my shotgun on them, OK? And I said, stop. Don't move. I think I said, I've called the police.

QUINN: Horn had called 911. He says he went outside only to get the dispatcher a better description of the suspects or an idea where they were headed. He says he had no idea he'd exit his front door to find the men just feet away. He says they were right here near this tree in his front yard. That one of the men made a move toward him.

HORN: One of them jumped and I shot him.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: OK.

HORN: There was two of them, officer. There was only one of me. I'm not physically, ain't no way I could have handled them. I shot them. I'm not denying that.

QUINN: Diego Ortiz and Hernando Torres were killed. During a sit-down interview at the police station that same day and in a subsequent interview a month later, Horn said he opened fire only because he feared for his life. A terror he says he's never felt before.

HORN: You heard the term maybe petrified with fear where you can't do anything? I would describe it as something like that. But then also in my mind, it's like, if they attack me, I'm not going to make it. I know I'm not going to make it.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

LEMON: That was Kevin Quinn from KTRK TV in Houston reporting. The two men Horn killed were determined to be Colombian nationals in the U.S. illegally.

DE LA CRUZ: Celebrating the music and the culture. The spotlight is on New Orleans this holiday weekend. The mayor joins us just minutes from now.

But first, the penny debate. Should it stay or should it go? CNN's Josh Rubin gets voters to give us their two cents in this week's election express yourself.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

JOSH RUBIN, CNN ELECTION EXPRESS PRODUCER (on camera): They say a penny saved is a penny earned. But in today's economy it actually costs more to make one of these than it's worth. So we're asking you, is it time for the penny to go?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The penny has been totally devalued. You can buy nothing for a penny, get rid of it. It will never come back again.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Well then what would you do with all the 19.99-cent items that we have? The 99 cents.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You never use them. I mean, do we? No one ever uses them. It's just only annoying when you have them in your wallet. Heavy and annoying.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I use the penny to symbolize the beginning of the country. It's the beginning of the dollar. They should use it as a second coin in their life. Without the penny to symbolize that, what else would it be?

RUBIN: You don't think you could do it with a nickel?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: No. It's the penny that started it all.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I think everybody has that big jar of pennies at home that just kind of sits there doing nothing. So let's get rid of them. Put all that money back in the economy.

RUBIN: But pennies are lucky. You find a penny on the street.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Everybody can keep one then as a souvenir. As a memory of a long time ago.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

DE LA CRUZ: Loved and hated, revered and reviled. Former Senator Jesse Helms, a champion of conservatives and a scourge of liberals is dead on the Fourth of July. What's his legacy?

LEMON: And we're going to talk about the essence of New Orleans as the Crescent City hosts its second post Katrina Essence festival. There are questions about its future. Is the big easy coming back? We are going to ask the man in charge, the Mayor Ray Nagin.

DE LA CRUZ: Taylor Hicks talks about his capital fourth concert tonight. Looking forward to that.

LEMON: Oh absolutely, an American Idol right here in the CNN NEWSROOM. Hello everyone, I'm Don Lemon, live here at the CNN world headquarters in Atlanta.

DE LA CRUZ: And I'm Veronica de la Cruz, always good to see you.