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Colombian Hostage Rescue; Forecasting the G-8 Summit; Rebuilding Continues After Katrina

Aired July 5, 2008 - 11:00   ET


VERONICA DE LA CRUZ, CNN ANCHOR: And a very good morning to you. You are in the CNN NEWSROOM. The news unfolding live on this Saturday, the fifth day of July. I'm Veronica de la Cruz.
T.J. HOLMES, CNN ANCHOR: Hello to you all. I'm T.J. Holmes. Take a look at these smiles here. Wouldn't you be smiling like this, too, if you just realized you had been freed after years in captivity? We have the rescue, the operation and, yes, that magical moment right there. You don't want to miss it.

DE LA CRUZ: And believe it or not, it is cell phone courtesy month. It is. So, hey, you, you in the car, put the cell phone down and listen.

HOLMES: And one more thing to show you here. Look at that. Mangled mess. Looks pretty serious. But, you know, the guy survived it. But how did this van blow up in the first place? You will not believe what he did. All that coming up. You're in the CNN NEWSROOM.

We'll start with the three Americans rescued from a Colombian jungle this week. Well they know say they're in good health and words alone can't express their thrill and excitement. The U.S. army has released a statement by the former hostages now along with this photo of the men. They were among 15 people handed over to Colombian military intelligence agents, posing as aid workers. The Colombian government is showing off dramatic video of that rescue as well. CNN's Karl Penhaul has the update.


KARL PENHAUL, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): FARC rebels holding assault rifles mount watch in a drug plantation in eastern Colombia. The time on the video says 1:22 p.m. 15 of the rebels' most valuable hostages wait nearby. Including former presidential candidate, Ingrid Betancourt, and three American defense contractors. The rebels believe a helicopter that has just landed is a humanitarian mission to ferry their captives to another guerilla camp. They have no idea this is the final phase of a daring operation by Colombian military intelligence months in the planning.

It's now 1:24 according to the video. One military intelligence officer posing as a cameraman asks a question of this FARC commander known as Cesar. Cesar seems relaxed, but declines to answer. Like the other hostages, American Keith Stansell is handcuffed, ready for the flight. 1:27, Stansell utters the word, gringos, or Americans, and shows the plastic cuffs to the man he thinks is a bonified cameraman.

Lieutenant Raymundo Malagon(ph) held hostage for 10 years seems agitated. I'm Lieutenant Malagon of the glorious Colombian army and I've been held in chains for 10 years, he says. A minute later, the hostages walk the final yards to the waiting chopper. The audio is cut as we see Ingrid Betancourt preparing to board. She looks haggard after more than six years as a hostage. A last shot of the guerilla captors, and minutes later, this. Pure joy. Betancourt is in tears. The hostages have just been told they are free.

At a press conference to show the dramatic video, military commanders described how secret agents were trained for weeks in acting techniques to pull off their role as aid workers. They flew into the rebel camp unarmed. Not a single shot was fired. It was 100 percent Colombian operation. No foreigners took part in the planning or the execution, he says. But he conceded a U.S. surveillance plane watched over the operation and said the rescue helicopter was equipped with a device to send an S.O.S. signal to the Americans if the mission hit problems. After a report that a large ransom had been paid to win the hostages' release, the defense minister was adamant.

All of that information is absolutely false, there's no truth in that. I can say we've not paid a single cent. But even if it did cost us $20 million to get these hostages back, it would have been cheap, he says. The Colombian government acknowledges it does pay FARC informants and deserters. A source close to military intelligence with knowledge of the operation tells CNN the army was able to persuade three senior FARC couriers to switch sides. One of them gave bogus orders to rebel commanders to hand over the hostages.

(On camera): The full details of such secretive military operations are rarely revealed, but the key fact, 15 long-suffering hostages are now home free. Karl Penhaul, CNN, Bogota.


HOLMES: And a CNN special presentation tonight. An HBO documentary looking at Ingrid Betancourt's kidnapping and her family's six year struggle to free her. HBO's "The Kidnapping of Ingrid Betancourt" on CNN tonight, 8:00 eastern.

DE LA CRUZ: The three Americans who were rescued were flown to Lacklin Air Force Base in San Antonio, Texas. CNN's Susan Roesgen is there and she joins us now with the latest. I believe, Susan, that these three men have issued a statement. It's just come out. What does it say?

SUSAN ROESGEN, CNN GULF COAST CORRESPONDENT: Well, it says several things. Thanking a lot of people. And it talks about their desire to have time to reunite with their families. We've got this statement here. Here's part of it. Can just read it to you this morning. It says, "We want to offer our heart-felt thanks to the government and armed forces of Colombia. The operation they conducted to rescue us was one for the history books. Something we will never forget for the rest of our lives. We understand that a lot of people are eager to see and hear from us and they will. But right now, more than anything, we just want to be with our loved ones. We ask that the media respect our privacy as we reunite with our families."

Now these three hostages, Keith Stansell, Tom Howes and Marc Gonsalves were kidnapped and they were in custody of the FARC rebels for five years, four months Veronica. So they have a lot of adjustment to do. Here at Brooke Army Medical Center, they're going to be evaluated psychologically, emotionally, and they're going to be debriefed by the military. The military wants to try to find out as much as it can about the logistics and actions of the Colombian rebels, whatever the former hostages can tell the military about that. Veronica?

DE LA CRUZ: Five years is such a long time. Things have definitely changed. Susan, do you have any insight as to whether or not they had contact with the outside world? Did you know whether or not their families knew if they were alive?

ROESGEN: Actually, we do know that the families did know that they were alive. The Colombian rebels from time to time allowed aid workers and even Colombian journalists into some of those camps where the men were moved around and hidden in the jungle and let some of that video get out of them and they gave some heart-felt messages to their families on those videos periodically through the years. And at the same time Veronica, there are more than 700 hostages right now who are being held by Colombian rebels. There are a number of Colombian radio stations who do absolutely nothing all day long but broadcast messages from the families of those hostages to the hostages and in fact, we know from Keith Stansell's family that his family in Florida was able to get some messages on one of those radio stations that he could hear. So both sides were aware that, you know, that the families knew that the men were alive. The men knew that their families had not forgotten them. But just little bits throughout the years. Most of what was happening of course in this country, they had no idea of what was going on and they really had no hope, no way of knowing that they would ever be freed because the U.S. policy is against negotiating with terrorists. So they are so grateful, thankful to be out.

DE LA CRUZ: I'm sure they are. Susan, you bring up such an interesting point. Only 15 hostages freed. There are still hundreds left in the jungles of Colombia. Susan live for us in San Antonio, Texas. Susan Roesgen, thank you so much.

HOLMES: Well, 5 percent containment. That is not very good. Wildfires still going out in California. Not a lot of relief in sight. After consuming 107 square miles and 20 homes, the Big Sur fire is still just 5 percent contained despite cooler temperatures and light winds. The flames continue to creep towards the ocean and the homes, vacation retreats and businesses along the scenic highway one are in danger.


KIRK GAFILL, RESTAURANT OWNER: This is the most dramatic fire, most impactful fire, largest scale, most threatening in every respect that we've ever experienced I think in the entire community. RUDY EVENSON, FIRE INFORMATION OFFICE: 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.


HOLMES: More than 335 wildfires are still burning in California, including a big fire in Santa Barbara County that's forced the evacuation of some 5,000 homes.


DE LA CRUZ: President Bush leaves for the group of 8 summit in Japan next hour. His last G-8. His last hoorah on the world stage. White House correspondent Elaine Quijano now with a preview.


ELAINE QUIJANO, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Sky high oil and gas prices. Food shortages in the developing world. And the threat of global warming. President Bush and the other leaders of the group of eight industrialized nations will face major challenges when they meet in Japan. Most urgent, the slumping global economy.

DAVID GERGEN, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: What's essential in this summit for George W. Bush is to make sure the world economy does not spin downward.

QUIJANO: Yet the president isn't raising expectations about what he and the G-8 can actually do on that front besides preventing the U.S. from walling itself off financially from the rest of the world.

BUSH: One thing we need to make clear of when I'm with our partners, is that we're not going to become protectionists. We believe in free trade and open markets.

QUIJANO: And on oil prices, the president says there's no way he or anyone can provide immediate relief.

BUSH: It took us a while to get into the energy situation we're in. It's going to take us a while to get out of it.

QUIJANO: Former Bush administration official Michael Greene says the G-8 isn't meant to come up with quick solutions anyway.

MICHAEL GREEN, CTR. FOR STRATEGIC AND INTL. STUDIES: This is not a meeting of heads of state that leads to a treaty. It's really kind of a public opinion shaping and trying to get people to agree that issues are important.

QUIJANO: So can we expect more than the photo ops and hand shake promises of the past? President Bush hopes so. His last G-8 summit is a last chance to ensure countries make good on their commitments.

BUSH: G-8 countries have made pledges to help developing nations, address challenges from health care to education to corruption. Now we need to show the world that the G-8 can be accountable for its promises and deliver results.

QUIJANO (on camera): Yet even as he presses other nations to write checks to back up their pledges, President Bush is having trouble convincing U.S. lawmakers to do the same. Congress hasn't yet provided the money to continue the president's emergency plan for AIDS relief, a program that provides HIV drugs for more than 1.5 million people around the world. Elaine Quijano, CNN, the White House.


HOLMES: Take a look at the video here. It's been a while since I've taken my driver's test, but I vaguely remember something about driving and smoking while you're carrying gas tanks.


DE LA CRUZ: Well, unexpected fireworks cause a big bang in South Florida.

HOLMES: We have that big bang to show you in a second. But we'll start backwards here and we'll show you the results of that big bang. A welder's van blown to smithereens when he lit a cigarette. The worker had tanks of gas and oxygen in the van. Usually a place you don't want to light a cigarette. Shattered windows in businesses that were close by, sent one of the van's doors shooting like a missile into a schoolyard actually.


LUIS SIMON, HIALEAH, FLORIDA FIRE DEPT.: It takes a tremendous force to cause that type of damage.


DE LA CRUZ: And as we promised, here is the explosion captured by a security camera. Oh, boom. Drivers following the van skid to the side of the road to avoid the explosion. And remarkably, T.J., the van's driver, he's alive today. He's expected to survive. Nobody else was hurt in this incident. So that's the good news.

HOLMES: That's some good news.


And then we have some traditional fireworks that we want to share with you. Patriotic explosions lighting up the night sky across the USA. A star spangled celebration for July 4th. The nation's 232nd birthday.

HOLMES: Well, this July Fourth weekend, our CNN hero, someone you nominated, is a man working to get less fortunate children living in rural areas to the doctor. 22 to 25 million American children under the age of 18 lack access to comprehensive continuous health care, but not if you're in Alabama and not if Russell Jackson has anything to do with it.


RUSSEL JACKSON: There's a lot of folks that are going without in this country. I found that people of all races were suffering from poverty. In the rural areas, there are no cabs. There are no buses. Millions of children that have no access to medical care when they need to reach it. I made the decision that I was going to leave my job as a firefighter and I was going to start driving kids to the doctor full-time. I'm Russell Jackson, and I make sure that thousands of Alabama's rural children get to the doctor. How is everybody doing this morning? All right. Are you all ready to head into the doctor? The volume of phone calls in the first year was beyond anything that I had expected. Families saw our vehicles and would call and say, who are y'all? What do you do? And they would sometimes cry or they'd just shout with joy, you know, hallelujah.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Without it, we would be lost and always depending on a ride.

JACKSON: When I started the program, it was just myself in my little Chevy blazer and I drove up and met that first young man with that million-dollar smile. Look at you, how big you've gotten. Golly. How are you, mom?


JACKSON: How are you, sweetie?


JACKSON: Good to see y'all. He'd never talked, he'd never walked. That's awesome, buddy. I saw so many lives changed, so many determined children and parents who wanted to beat the odds. To know that they've beat it all because of a simple ride, how many other kids around the country aren't experiencing the same success stories?


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: July is the last month to nominate someone you know as a CNN hero for 2008. Go to

HOLMES: And your nominated hero could be seen right here on CNN and even further honored at an all-star tribute on Thanksgiving night.

DE LA CRUZ: New information emerges about where interrogators at Guantanamo may have picked up some of their techniques.


DE LA CRUZ: Now we have this just into the CNN NEWSROOM. Some new video to show you here. This is a raging wildfire in California's Santa Barbara County. This is Goleta. And these fires have forced thousands of people to evacuate their homes. Some 5,000 residents forced out of their homes this July 4th weekend. Just getting this video in. We're learning now that, you know, the winds fanning the flames, the winds going as high as 50 miles per hour. Again, 5,000 people forced out of their homes. Wanted to share this video just into the NEWSROOM. Again, this is a wildfire burning in Goleta, California. As of right now, I believe it's only 5 percent contained. Reynolds Wolf is in the CNN weather center. We're going to get another update on what the weather is looking like in this area. That's coming up. T.J.?

HOLMES: We turn now to more about that salmonella investigation, it's now heading to the border. Beginning Monday, the FDA will halt imports of some popular Mexican foods into the United States. There's a list there. The bulb onions, cilantro, scallions, jalapeno and serano peppers, all on the list. Investigators are still looking for the cause of the salmonella outbreak that has sickened more than 900 people and caused tomato farmers to lose millions.

DE LA CRUZ: President Bush has always insisted his administration did not torture terror suspects, but a paper trail suggests otherwise. Here's CNN's Brian Todd in Washington.


BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Taking a playbook from America's old enemies to interrogate America's new ones. Critics call newly-released documents once used by trainers at Guantanamo Bay shocking and outrageous. The documents from more than five years ago show the trainers when going over how to question terror suspects referred to a chart listing methods like semi starvation and sleep deprivation. That chart is an almost exact copy of one in a 1950s study by the U.S. military of techniques used by the Chinese communists in the Korean War to grill American prisoners. CNN obtained the new chart from the senate armed services committee. Its chairman spoke about the discovery in a recent hearing.

SEN. CARL LEVIN, (D) ARMED SERVICES CHAIRMAN: If we use those same techniques offensively against detainees, it says to the world that they have America's stamp of approval. That puts our troops at greater risk of being abused if they're captured. It also weakens our moral authority.

TODD: In a recent report, FBI agents said they observed a detainee at Guantanamo being deprived of food and water at least once. And witnessed sleep deprivation several times. Congress has since banned the military from using those techniques. But there are also questions on how effective they were at Guantanamo before the 2005 ban. The 1950s study says when the Chinese used things like sleep deprivation on Americans in Korea, it was to extract false confessions or propaganda. A special program was set up right after Korea to train American soldiers how to resist that kind of interrogation. We asked a former instructor in that program about those methods.

MALCOLM NANCE, FORMER MILITARY INSTRUCTOR: You're going to get them to talk, but you're not going to get anything that's going to be useful or worthwhile. What you're going to get after a while though is you're going to get an entire body of captives who have figured out all of your techniques.

TODD: We called the pentagon about these newly released documents. A spokesman said quote, "I can't speculate on previous decisions that may have been made prior to current D.O.D. policy on interrogations. I can tell you that current D.O.D. policy is clear. We treat all detainees humanely."

(On camera): Separately the CIA is still authorized by President Bush to use so-called alternative interrogation methods. CIA director, Michael Hayden, said at one time they used waterboarding on high value detainees. He says they no longer use that tactic. Brian Todd, CNN, Washington.


HOLMES: Exactly what are black voters saying about the race for president?

DE LA CRUZ: Well you know Fredricka Whitfield, she is in New Orleans and she's talking to those at the Essence Music Festival about what issues are important to them.


VERONICA DE LA CRUZ, CNN ANCHOR: It is 11:30 eastern. Here is what's happening right now around the world. The Colombian government has released dramatic new video of this week's hostage rescue. Officials say the recovery of 15 hostages held by FARC rebels was 100 percent Columbian operation.

And California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger plans to visit a command center today to get a closer look at the fight against that state's raging wildfires. The Big Sur fire is only 5 percent contained and it continues to inch towards homes and businesses along highway 1.

T.J. HOLMES, CNN ANCHOR: Barack Obama says he'll fix what he calls the broken promises of no child left behind. The democratic presidential candidate addressed the National Education Association this morning. He spoke via satellite from Butte, Montana where he had been campaigning. Following a visit to Latin America earlier this week, Republican John McCain, he's spending time with his family at his Arizona ranch this weekend.

DE LA CRUZ: Day two of the Essence Festival in New Orleans. It's expected to attract 200,000 people over the course of the weekend. This being an election year, there is plenty of talk about politics. CNN's Fredricka Whitfield joins us now live. Hey there, Fred.

FREDRICKA WHITFIELD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hello to you. Yes, lots of talk about politics among other discussions taking place here. And that's in between all of the concerts that take place in the evening. So yes, during the democratic primary season, Barack Obama garnered most of the support from African-American voters. But historically, African-Americans haven't always leaned democrat.


WHITFIELD (voice-over): Well before Barack Obama became the presumptive democratic nominee for president, black Americans were solidly in the blue column. Polls showed that 9 out of 10 blacks vote democrat.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I just think it's more representative of the working-class people.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The reason I choose to vote democrat is because they open their arms to my ethnicity.

WHITFIELD: Before the 1960s redefined American politics, it was the republicans who were identified with some of those same things. The party of Abraham Lincoln and abolitionist Frederick Douglass embraced blacks as equals while democrats especially in the south supported segregation.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Also keep in mind that most former slave owners had been members of the Democratic Party. And so the Democratic Party in the south was maligned as the party of the slave master as well.

WHITFIELD: So what changed? An upheaval in the Democratic Party after the Second World War recast political allegiances.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: That started in large part because in 1948, Harry Truman added civil rights to the Democratic Party platform and as you know, Strom Thurman and the Dixie (INAUDIBLE) actually revolted from the party, thus beginning, even though it really doesn't happen until the 1960's, the exit of southern democrats from the democratic coalition to the Republican Party.

WHITFIELD: Today, just 10 percent of blacks say they plan to vote republican. In the minority, Ken Blackwell, formerly Ohio's secretary of state.

KEN BLACKWELL: The reason I've been a republican is because this is the party that believes in freedom. It believes in economic growth. It believes in the individual capacity to make a difference in his or her life. And it -- it's individuals that actually are working in concert to change the course of history. I don't believe in big government. I don't believe in monopolies. I believe in the power of the private sector.

WHITFIELD: The economy, gas prices, the credit crunch, unemployment, all high on voters' minds this election season.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There (INAUDIBLE) a voice. And they know the struggle that a lot of middle-income level and lower-income people are going through. So with this war, with the Katrina situation, with gas prices, food prices.

WHITFIELD: Ken Blackwell now with the Conservative Family Research Council thinks the republican solutions could appeal to African-Americans.

BLACKWELL: It would be a missed opportunity if one candidate or the other wouldn't show up and would begin to take the African- American vote for granted. Or in the case of a republican, in this case John McCain, just to write off the African-American vote. McCain is proving that he's not going to take that direction. He, in fact, is showing up. He is basically willing to, you know, stand before African-American voters and say, I care. This is what I believe.

WHITFIELD: Is this the year or the beginning of a period where there may be a new tide change?

Emory University's Audrey Gillespie says that although Senator John McCain has an uphill struggle against Barack Obama, he's not turning his back on African-Americans.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The fact that he's made overtures in the African-American community, in the heart of the traditional black belt, in the American south, that doesn't necessarily mean that that will accrue votes for him, but it will accrue a certain amount of respect.


WHITFIELD: And because there are so many interesting and very engaging panels that are taking place, whether it's about politics, the economy, etcetera here at the Essence Music Festival, we decided to gather our own political panel right here. I've got with me Jackie O'Neal, Asia Brown and Robert Martin. Good to see all of you. Let's talk about the issues that you want these two candidates to talk about and to address. Miss O'Neal, you first.

JACKIE O'NEAL, FESTIVAL ATTENDEE: Yes, good morning. I am a democrat, and I am a Barack Obama supporter. The issues that I would like to have addressed are that of parenting. We focus a lot on our youth in that they are in gangs and the problems with our youth, but we need to focus more on interventions with parenting so that that will take care of a lot of the problems at an earlier age with our youth.

WHITFIELD: And Miss Brown, what are you most interested in? What is going to bring you to the polls come November?

ASIA BROWN, FESTIVAL ATTENDEE: Right now my son's father is actually in Iraq and I want him home. So I'm looking for America to become a more diplomatic society. You know, just less, you know, war. Basically I want my son's father to come home. I'm just looking for a way out of Iraq.

WHITFIELD: And Mr. Martin, you're now living in Texas. You are a New Orleanean, you haven't made your way back post Katrina. Is there anything that these candidates could address or is there anything that the federal government could do to help bring your life back to the whole it once was in New Orleans?

ROBERT MARTIN, FESTIVAL ATTENDEE: Well, they could do a better job of responding to what happened with Katrina. But, you know, on a national scale, with the economy and the war in Iraq, you know, I think we need to go in a different direction. We need -- we need a change from what we had in the past. WHITFIELD: How important do you suppose this election season is? Is this one of the most paramount elections that you've ever witnessed in your lifetime?

MARTIN: Oh, I think so. I mean, just the mere fact of the candidates that you have running for office, I think it's really probably the most important election in my lifetime.

WHITFIELD: It's history-making whether you look at age with John McCain or whether you look at race with Barack Obama. This is, indeed, a historic election. I think everybody is galvanized about it. People are talking about this election season here and everywhere across the country. T.T. and Veronica?

HOLMES: All right. Everybody is talking and they will be doing a lot of talking there at the festival this weekend. Fredricka we appreciate you.

DE LA CRUZ: I'm wondering if she's had a chance to check out any of the music.

HOLMES: She's working, all right?

DE LA CRUZ: I know you did when you went last year.

HOLMES: I did. That's why I didn't get to go back. I didn't work enough apparently.

DE LA CRUZ: Oh, it's like that, I get it.

HOLMES: Viewers out there, you are watching, you need to answer this question and answer it honestly. What do you do really when you're at dinner with someone and your cell phone rings?

DE LA CRUZ: Well you know, I'm just going to have to answer that. That cell phone probably belonged to me, so you just, you forgive me and then you move on. Coming up, Josh Levs has some cell phone etiquette tips. He's going to share those in just a minute.


DE LA CRUZ: Well, you know, cell phone behavior has become a top pet peeve. You know exactly what I mean here. Folks yammering on their cell phones without regard for the people around them and I think mine is ringing right now. All right. I'm going to turn it off. I'm sorry.

HOLMES: Josh has been with us on this thing this morning. Talking about pet peeves and proper etiquette when it comes to cell phones.

JOSHUA LEVS: Yeah. Some people really care about this. Some people get worked up about this.

DE LA CRUZ: Yeah, they do.

LEVS: Some people -- I actually left mine back at the desk just now.

DE LA CRUZ: Good for you. I just turned mine off.

LEVS: Why talk about it now? Because someone is trying to create cell phone courtesy month.


LEVS (voice-over): You often hear safety rules about how not to use your cell phone. What about etiquette rules for restaurants, for other places?

JOHN DECOSTER, COURTEOUS CELL USER: I was in the bathroom and some guy in the next urinal was taking a call.

LEVS: This guy suffers on the subway.

GREG GALLOWAY, COURTEOUS CELL USER: Just the other day this lady was talking to her doctor about some ailment she had and how it was flaring back up.

LEVS: Etiquette spokeswoman Jacqueline Whitmore declared a national cell phone courtesy month because it was time to drill in some basics. She says even her masseuse once took a call.

JACQUELINE WHITMORE, FOUNDER, CELL PHONE COURTESY MONTH: This went on for five minutes while she was massaging my one shoulder with her one hand.

LEVS: Rules for the annual event include keep calls private, avoid cell yell, and let some calls go to voice mail. We showed people the rules.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It's all kind of common sense, you would think.

LEVS: She was put to the test.

BROOKE BUECHLER, COURTEOUS CELL USER: I don't answer it if I know that I'm doing something.

LEVS: It's ringing right now, isn't it?

BUECHLER: It is. I just ignored it because I'm doing something.

LEVS: Courtesy months' founder says most people do the right thing like this guy who lowered his phone before ordering. But plenty don't.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They're here. They never look at you and they're always right here.

LEVS: With more than 250 million wireless subscribers in the U.S., do people think courtesy month will catch on?

MOHAMAD GHAZI, COURTEOUS CELL USER: I think maybe you should start with a day like a no-smoking day. Something like that.

LEVS: An annual national cell phone courtesy day would be good?

GHAZI: There you go.


LEVS: As part of this in promoting this, they put together this thing that they're calling a quiz for the day. An etiquette quiz for your cell phone. Let's take a look at this first example here. I'll ask my colleagues here to weigh in. I know you guys have seen this one. I think you remember this one now. So if your phone rings in a meeting, what are you supposed to do? Not worry because your phone's on silent, you take the call or you step out because you've already alerted colleagues?

DE LA CRUZ: T.J. takes the call.

HOLMES: I have wonderful etiquette.

DE LA CRUZ: I've seen you do that before.


DE LA CRUZ: Was it Reynolds that took the call? It was one of you.

LEVS: Yeah, that was -- the answer is supposed to be "a." You're not taking that call. Let's go to the second one and then we're going to watch a really fun thing here. Let's look at this other test. If you're out with friends, it's a little different, if you're out to dinner and the phone rings. Then they say "b." Then they say you told friends it would happen so it's ok to answer. But as a rule in a meeting, you don't want to take a call. However a call did come earlier in the show today when we were talking about this. When as you said our own Reynolds Wolf -- he had the audacity to dismiss this idea of a cell phone courtesy month. Let's take a look at what happened.


REYNOLDS WOLF: Where does this month come from? What's next? National sock puppet month. Good gosh almighty. I'm going to take this, watch this, turning this off. There goes the cell phone.


LEVS: Let's go right to your forecast.

DE LA CRUZ: You're going to have to buy a new one.


LEVS: It was not planned. It really was not planned. Whoa, Reynolds.

WOLF: At CNN we have a little bit of power. Power to name that in the month of August it will be national sock puppet month.

LEVS: Are you declaring that?

DE LA CRUZ: Oh, my goodness.

LEVS: You can vouch that that was not a stunt you set up earlier. You actually got a call.

WOLF: I actually got a phone call. I'm going to go ahead and just lay it out. It was from our truck operator, Michael Humphrey.

LEVS: Hey, you're the one with the cell phone on with the ringer on. Remember, we are the ones that have to take responsibility.

WOLF: Very true. I'm not saying anything. Neither is the sock puppet.

DE LA CRUZ: This courtesy month should really be a courtesy year. You should think about this 365 days of the year, it shouldn't just be one month.

LEVS: Exactly. Their theory is if we talked about it for a month, they get people like us talking about it, it catches on.

HOLMES: All right.

DE LA CRUZ: And that video is on the internet, just in case you want to watch it again.

LEVS: Yeah, Send it to your friends.

DE LA CRUZ: Thanks, Josh.

HOLMES: Oh boy. This is what happens when Betty leaves. Josh loses his mind. We have lost it around here. We'll move on.

We'll talk about a story we've been keeping an eye on here at CNN. What does it exactly take to get FEMA supplies to the victims of hurricane Katrina?

DE LA CRUZ: Our special investigations unit is trying to find out what's still going wrong.


DE LA CRUZ: Groups helping thousands of Katrina victims still rebuilding their lives in Mississippi are outraged that tens of millions of dollars of stockpiled supplies meant for storm victims didn't make it to the needy. Instead they were given to state and federal agencies.

HOLMES: Special investigations unit correspondent Abbie Boudreau discovered Mississippi actually took some of the supplies but never got them to the people who still need them.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: This is bigger than what we think. This is gigantic.

ABBIE BOUDREAU, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Complete disbelief.

GLENDA PERRYMAN, UNITED HEARTS COMMUNITY ACTION: We work so hard to help people in our community. When the government is holding stuff back that we can use to give to people that don't have.

BOUDREAU: We assembled leaders of eight Mississippi non-profits still doing all they can to help Katrina victims nearly three years after the storm.

CASS WOODS, COASTAL WOMEN FOR CHANGE: You know, you would have to be living under a rock not to know that there's still a need.

BOUDREAU: Each expressed outrage about what CNN's investigation uncovered. None of them knew that FEMA had stored these supplies for the last two years. And they all say the need for those items is still there.

SHARON HANSHAW, COASTAL WOMEN FOR CHANGE: Even more now than right after the storm. It's scary to know that there are supplies that are being harbored and people in need right now as we speak today.

BOUDREAU: Instead of the supplies going to Katrina victims, FEMA declared them surplus and in February gave them all away to federal agencies and 16 states. Louisiana's surplus agency agencies said, no thanks to FEMA's offer because it said it hadn't been notified there was still a need. It wasn't until U.S. Senator Mary Landrieu learned of CNN's investigation that she was able to retrieve some supplies for victims in New Orleans. And what do you think when you are watching all of these items coming off of this truck.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I think I'm going to get a new pot set.

BOUDREAU: But no one is celebrating in Mississippi.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We didn't think it was going to be this way.

BOUDREAU: Howard and Gloria Griffith's home was swept away by the storm. They've been living in this FEMA trailer ever since. These are pictures of brand new household items that FEMA had stockpiled in warehouses for the last two years that were meant for you guys, meant for hurricane Katrina victims.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I've never seen none of it.

BOUDREAU: Struggling to make it, the Griffiths say they still need the basics.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Cleaning supplies and stuff like that.

BOUDREAU: Cleaning supplies, kitchen supplies.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Very expensive.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Bath towels, wash clothes.

BOUDREAU: Both have full-time jobs and they've spent every penny they've earned to rebuild but now they say they're broke and there's little chance they'll be finishing their home anytime soon. That's the reality for many Katrina survivors on the coast. But when Mississippi had a chance to help people, like the Griffiths rebuild their lives, just listen to what happened. Unlike Louisiana, Mississippi surplus agency told FEMA, it wanted the supplies. But it didn't hand them to groups helping Katrina victims.

Instead it gave dinnerware sets, pillowcases, men's underwear and coffeemakers to state prisons. Other agencies like the department of wildlife became the proud owners of more coffeemakers, cleaning supplies and other items. And the state even kept plastic buckets for itself. State officials did not return our repeated calls and refused our interview request to try to find out how this could have happened.

But we did talk to a spokesperson for Mississippi's surplus agency. Kym Wiggins, who told us, "There may be a need, but we were not notified that there was a great need for this particular property."

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: These families don't have anything or very little of what they need to have.

BOUDREAU: Bill Stallworth is the director of a non-profit group that helps re house Katrina victims. He's also a Biloxi city councilman. He says he cannot believe so many state and federal officials are this out of touch.

BILL STALLWORTH, HOPE COORDINATION CENTER: And when I hear people stand up and just beat their chest, we've got everything under control, that's when I just want to walk up and slap them upside the head and say you know, get a grip. Get a life.

BOUDREAU: Stallworth and other community group leaders maintain if they had only known about these items, they would have begged for them.

STALLWORTH: When somebody comes up and says, oh, well, you know, they've -- we've got it all together. Everybody's taken care of. Hey, have you been down? Have you looked? Have you seen?

BOUDREAU: Abbie Boudreau, CNN, Biloxi, Mississippi.


HOLMES: All right, so exactly why didn't these community leaders get any supplies? It turns out they aren't registered with the state's surplus agency and most of them say they never even knew it existed. But now they are getting signed up. DE LA CRUZ: A FEMA official tells CNN the agency is launching an internal investigation to find out why these supplies were never used and to make sure, T.J. that this never happens again.

HOLMES: That's the key. Hopefully it will never happen again, but thanks to our Abbie Boudreau there doing some good work. The NEWSROOM at the top of the hour and you usually see Fredricka Whitfield right about now but she's in New Orleans.

DE LA CRUZ: Hello Richard Lui, before you get started, turn off your cell phone.

RICHARD LUI, CNN ANCHOR: Ok, my cell phone's gone and I saw what you guys were doing earlier, going over the shoulder. It's pretty hard to top, my friend.

DE LA CRUZ: We're practicing cell phone etiquette. So before you start your show, just a word to the wise, turn it off.

LUI: Why not just leave it at your desk?

DE LA CRUZ: But you know what, we have three up here? You know?

LUI: You guys are very well connected.

HOLMES: We are. What do you guys got going on, Abbie?

LUI: Abbie Boudreau's report there, really highlights one question, that's about whether the people still need help in Louisiana and who they are? Well as you were saying, Fredricka has been reporting live this week from New Orleans, coming up, she'll be talking to lieutenant governor of Louisiana, we'll find out how people really are doing there.

And then, tryst in the house. In the office, is vetting hundreds of thousands to pay off his girlfriend, who are we talking about? Peter Cook, Christie Brinkley, that legal court case still going on in our legal segment today. How much farther will that judge let this go guys. We have a lot going on at 12:00.

DE LA CRUZ: You know you always feel sorry for the kids in this case. You know when it becomes public like that.

LUI: That will be one of the questions, how far will this judge let it go despite what is happening?

DE LA CRUZ: We're looking forward to that then Richard.

HOLMES: We will see you at the top of the hour.

LUI: Thanks guys.

DE LA CRUZ: Thank you.

HOLMES: Good to see you.

Another subject -- topic that's come up here, when you fly the flag does it matter if that flag was made in China?


DE LA CRUZ: All right, if you are flying the flag this Fourth of July weekend, make sure that you check the label.

HOLMES: Yeah you might actually be surprised, some even outraged, to find out where old glory was made. The census bureau says the U.S. imported over $4 million worth of flags from China last year. Veterans groups and some in congress want to change that now.

DE LA CRUZ: Under one bill the federal government could only buy flags made in the USA. Another bill would ban the sale of foreign- made American flags.

HOLMES: Well that wraps it up for you and I right about now.

DE LA CRUZ: Unfortunately, but we'll be back tomorrow.

HOLMES: We're back tomorrow morning 7:00 a.m. sharp but right now it's time for us to hand it over to the NEWSROOM with Richard Lui sitting in today for Fredricka who of course is in New Orleans.

DE LA CRUZ: Hey Richard.

LUI: Hey guys, thanks for that. We have a lot coming up in the NEWSROOM at 12:00. Stay with us right here. We'll be continuing in just a little bit.

Ok, at this hour, we're looking at the weather. Coming out of the -- at least the latest out of Bertha and what we're concerned about there is of course the issue about what is happening in the tropics. We go straight to Reynolds Wolf on that. Hey Reynolds.