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Fourth of July Weekend; American Hostages Back from Colombia; The New Face of Homelessness; Party With a Purpose: The Essence Music Festival

Aired July 5, 2008 - 07:00   ET


T.J. HOLMES, CNN ANCHOR: From the CNN Center in Atlanta, Georgia, this is CNN SATURDAY MORNING, July the 5th. Good morning to you all. I'm T.J. Holmes.
VERONICA DE LA CRUZ, CNN ANCHOR: Good morning to you. I'm Veronica De La Cruz. Betty Nguyen is on assignment.

This morning, we hope that you're relaxing on this Fourth of July holiday weekend. That you got to see some of those fireworks? Did you see any of them?

HOLMES: I didn't see anything quite that nice. That's (ph) a little something in my neighborhood.

DE LA CRUZ: I heard them. They woke me up.

HOLMES: Yes, but you had a great view last night.

DE LA CRUZ: I had a gorgeous view. My hotel room is overlooking Centennial Olympic Park. It was a wonderful experience, though I would have preferred to be sleeping.

HOLMES: All right. You had a great view.

We'll be showing you some more of these fireworks. Also, if you're driving around in a van that's full of gas tanks, what's the last thing you would like probably to do?

DE LA CRUZ: Light a cigarette, is that what you're supposed to do?

HOLMES: It's probably common sense for many of you but we will tell you what that guy did that resulted in that explosion right there. You want to stick around for the story.

DE LA CRUZ: Yes, I'm not going to give it away. All right. T.J., did you know that July is cell phone courtesy month? Did you hear about this?

HOLMES: I found out this one.

DE LA CRUZ: And who told you?

HOLMES: The guy who's going to be bringing us the report, Josh Levs -- yes. DE LA CRUZ: Right, Josh Levs. Well, we're going to tell you what he has over here, what some people have been saying. And that's the reason for this month.

HOLMES: All right. That's some interesting stuff. He's got a lot of responses from people. And also, I don't know how much you enjoy your job, after you hear what these folks do for a living, you probably won't complain too much -- picking up dog crap, if you will.


HOLMES: Yes. They got rich doing it, apparently, according to them. And they're (ph) millionaires, they say now, because they decided to pick up dog poo. We'll talk to them.

DE LA CRUZ: You know, you couldn't pay me enough money to do that.

HOLMES: You could pay me. I would resign from CNN if you pay me enough to pick -- I'll pick up whatever you want me to pick up. But we'll be talking to that couple who started that business a little later this morning.

But, we do want to start with this story. It's really intrigued a lot of people. A story you've heard, no doubt by now, about those 15 hostages who were rescued from the jungles of Colombia. Now, you can see how this thing went down. You can also see the three American contractors who were among the freed hostages, a picture here.

DE LA CRUZ: Yes, this photo was taken shortly, T.J., after the men arrived at Fort Sam Houston in San Antonio, Texas. Marc Gonsalves, Thomas Howes, and Keith Stansell are at the Army base to undergo medical evaluations.

HOLMES: Now, the three rescued American hostages issued a statement saying they are fine. And that's pretty incredible considering what they went through. They were captives for more than five years.

CNN's Karl Penhaul is in Bogota with the dramatic video of the intense rescue operation.


KARL PENHAUL, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): FARC rebels toting assault rifles mount watch in a drug plantation in eastern Colombia. The time on the video says 1:22 p.m. Fifteen 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 that 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 the question of this FARC commander known as Cesar. Cesar seems relaxed but declines to answer.

Like other hostages, American Keith Stansell is handcuffed and ready for the flight; 1:27, Stansell utters the word gringos for Americans and shows the plastic cuffs to the man he thinks is a bona fide cameraman.

Lieutenant Raimundo Malagon held hostage for 10 years, seemed 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 yard 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. Alas, a 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 describe 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 SOS signal to the Americans if the mission hit problems.

After about reports that a large ransom had been paid to win the hostages' release, the defense minister was adamant. "All that information is absolutely false, there is 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 this 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.


DE LA CRUZ: And tonight, a CNN special presentation. HBO documentary looks at Ingrid Betancourt's kidnapping and her family's six-year struggle to free her. HBO's "The Kidnapping of Ingrid Betancourt," you can see it on CNN tonight at 8:00 Eastern.

And coming up in the next hour, the 9:00 o'clock hour actually, we're going to be speaking to the creator of that documentary. Again, that's in the 9:00 a.m. Eastern hour -- T.J.

HOLMES: A long-time senator, Jesse Helms of North Carolina has died. And Helms was a controversial figure in American politics, revered by fellow Republicans, reviled by Democrats. For 30 years, he helped shape the direction of the Republican Party as well as U.S. foreign policy.

Our Ed Henry spoke to former Senate majority leader, Bob Dole, about Helms' legacy.


BOB DOLE, FORMER U.S. SENATOR: He was a good, decent human being. I didn't agree with him on civil rights position, but the little things that Jesse did, if you were to ask the pages who do they like best of all the Republican senators, who was the nicest to them, it would be Jesse Helms every year. He had sit there and visit with them, talk about their parents, where they're from. Take them down and have ice cream.

ED HENRY, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: He was a courtly Southern gentleman as you say, but now on civil rights, you did disagree with him. That was in one of, at least one of the Senate races against Harvey Gantt, an African-American Democrat. He ran an ad called "Hands," that was about affirmative action, a basically black hands taking a 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: You know, Jesse had black staff members so, I mean, I never could quite figure it out. I mean, Jesse felt very strongly about foreign policy, national security, abortion, same-sex marriage was an issue then. But to say was Jesse Helms a racist -- I never spotted that in him. I think I can name a few.

But -- and that was not a good race when that ad ran. That was not a good ad. But I'm not sure that was a Jesse Helms I knew. Let's put it that way.


HOLMES: Helms retired in 2001. Later, his Jesse Helms Center helped raise in awareness for the fight against AIDS in Africa. That's an issue he originally fought in the Senate. Jesse Helms was 86 years old.

DE LA CRUZ: All right. So, just in case you didn't get to see any fireworks last night, we have a feast for the eyes for you right now. You've got to see the nation's biggest Fourth of July fireworks spectacular.

HOLMES: And where else but New York City. This is happening over the East River there. It was sponsored by the world's biggest department store, Macy's and it was synchronized to music by the New York Pops. It was believed more than three million (ph) people actually watched this big event live.

DE LA CRUZ: Beautiful.

HOLMES: Well, another fireworks display that wasn't planned. Take a look here at the white van and there she goes. Yes. What happened here? Well, police say the driver was carrying gas tanks as well as welding equipment.

The key there being, the gas tanks when he decided he needed a hit of a cigarette. He lit a cigarette, folks, in the vehicle where he was carrying gas tanks. This is one of those things where a mama would say common sense would tell a fool this is not something you do. He was only slightly hurt. No other injuries reported.

Well, this is just ridiculous. I know you all have been here before and seen this. Maybe people at work, maybe people just walking past in the hallways doing things, trying to do something. Somebody is yakking away on a cell phone.

DE LA CRUZ: Yes, I've got to go, mom. All right. I love you, too. OK, bye.

HOLMES: We're trying to make a point here.

DE LA CRUZ: What were you saying, T.J.? I'm sorry.

HOLMES: Oh, nothing. I'm just saying, Josh Levs...

DE LA CRUZ: I was on the phone.

HOLMES: I'm tired of this kind of mess.

DE LA CRUZ: But my mom says hello to you, Josh, and you, too, T.J.

JOSH LEVS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: I'm glad your mom's up this early. You know what's even worse?

DE LA CRUZ: She watches all the time. She lives in Las Vegas and she wakes up at that hour, to watch us.

LEVS: That's right. She lives in Las Vegas.

DE LA CRUZ: She does, but she says hello. But what were you guys saying about cell phone use? I missed it.

LEVS: OK. You know what's even worse than that is the "Bluetooth people" who always walk around, and you don't know if they're talking to you or if they're just talking to someone. And you actually have to stare them in the eye and wait for them to indicate if they're saying it to you and, oh, man.

All right. So, coming up, I'm going to show you where not to use your cell phone this month. There is something going on just this month, guys.

HOLMES: All right, just this month. We go back to being rude about it (ph) after this month.

LEVS: Well, for a start.

HOLMES: All right. Josh, we'll see you here in just a second. And, Reynolds Wolf as well, never one to be rude on a cell phone.

DE LA CRUZ: Never.

REYNOLDS WOLF, CNN METEOROLOGIST: Actually, I can't make mine work. I mean, my cat can use this cell phone better than I can. I mean, I know you're supposed to press the numbers and hold it to your ear and some voices speak to you, that kind of thing.

Hey, we're going to be talking to you about your forecast. We've got, again, some interesting weather up in the coast. We know it's a holiday weekend and many of you can be heading to the shore, the Jersey shore. Right now, we've got some scattered showers up there on much of the eastern seaboard. I'll let you know how you weekend forecast. We're going to fan out (ph), that's moments away.


HOLMES: All right. The cell phone issue -- a lot of you have it; it's a big pet peeve for a lot of folks, where you, you know, whatever it may be -- people just won't stop yakking on that phone, no regard for the people around you.

DE LA CRUZ: I put mine down.

HOLMES: We appreciate it.

DE LA CRUZ: I put mine down. I apologize, mom, you can't call me while I'm on the air. But, you know, OK, it's 4:00 in the morning where she lives. She just wanted to say hello to everybody here on CNN SATURDAY MORNING, and she wants to know if you guys like egg rolls because she's at home cooking right now.

HOLMES: E-mail would have been fine.

DE LA CRUZ: Well, we know that one, enough is enough. You've got to put the cell phone down. Josh Levs is actually talking about cell phone etiquette. That was a faux pas, right?

LEVS: A little bit. Who's the worst of us, who do you think is the worst of us?

DE LA CRUZ: I would say Don Lemon, for sure.

LEVS: OK, of us here, who's the worst?

DE LA CRUZ: All of us here, that would probably be me.

LEVS: Once in a while, I'll be texting someone around the building and I'll like physically crash into someone which is pretty bad.

DE LA CRUZ: All the time in the streets of New York.

LEVS: Look at that face, it's like, I know you do it.


LEVS: OK, no. Let me talk. So, here's the thing. So, there are some people who are hoping that this month will be different.


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

JOHN DECOSTER, "COURTEOUS" CELL USER: That just happened. 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: Sprint etiquette spokeswoman, Jacqueline Whitmore declared a "National Cell Phone Courtesy Month" because it was time to drill 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 some people the rules.

BROOKE BUECHLER, "COURTEOUS" CELL USER: It's all kind of common sense you would think.

LEVS: She was put to the test.

BUECHLER: I don't know answer if I know that I'm doing something.

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

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

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

GALLOWAY: They're here, you know, always, 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?

MOHAMMAD GHAZI, "COURTEOUS" CELL USER: I think you should start with a day like a no smoking day, something like that.

LEVS: An annual cell phone courtesy day would be better (ph).

GHAZI: There you go.


LEVS: All right. So, obviously, that's hoping the best, that's just the beginning. They want it to catch on eventually and it becomes a week and then a month. And who knows? Maybe, we all change our behavior a little bit. That's the theory anyway.

So, what I have here, along with this special month, is this quiz that they've created, OK? So, I want to ask my colleagues here. I think Veronica kind of already knows the answers. So, she might be able to cheat a little bit. And there she is on her phone, look at this, people.

DE LA CRUZ: No, I have to send this text message.

LEVS: Of course, she does. She has to send this one text.

DE LA CRUZ: Wait, let me just hit send.

LEVS: I'll just go to the first question, all right? This the first question, the etiquette people who put together this month: if your phone rings in a meeting, just what they think the answer is, don't worry because your phone is on silent, take the call or step out because you already alerted colleagues you might get a call.

DE LA CRUZ: Step out because you've already told your colleagues.

LEVS: That's what I thought. But we're wrong there. They're saying -- well, how did you know?

HOLMES: Because I have good cell phone etiquette.

LEVS: Well, I guess you drove (ph) yourself on that, OK. He doesn't even bring his up on the set, did you?

OK, they're saying the meeting is at a set time, so, you know, you shouldn't be accepting or having a call.

HOLMES: You should not.

LEVS: Go to next one, though, it's a little more relaxing (ph). Well, now they're saying if you're out with friends and your phone rings, what do you do? Apologize and go to voice mail, step out because you told friends you make an important call, or just take the call right there. What do you think they're saying there? DE LA CRUZ: You step out because you told your friends.

LEVS: Exactly. They're saying there, it's more relaxed, you're at dinner, you can do what you've got to do. And you guys have walkie-talkies? You guys have that at the walkie-talkie system?


LEVS: OK. I didn't think so either, but apparently, a lot of people do. But this applies to calls, too.

Let's go to the last question here. They're saying if you were in the grocery store and your co-worker calls you or walkie-talkies you, do you take it, do you say you'll call back from the car, you talk in speaker phone in the grocery store, or do you talk in the grocery store but turn the speaker phone off?

HOLMES: You should get a real phone and man up. You shouldn't be talking on a walkie-talkie anyway. We're adults, people.

WOLF: I'm with you, man.

HOLMES: Thank you.

WOLF: Where does this come from?

DE LA CRUZ: I see Reynolds doing this all the time, talking on the walkie-talkie.

WOLF: Where does this month come from? What's next, national sock puppet month? I mean, this is absurd. I mean, come on.

HOLMES: Thank you, Reynolds.

WOLF: Is it weather time?

HOLMES: I hope so.


LEVS: It's pretty obvious that we all need the basics.

DE LA CRUZ: I think you're right. I forget all the time. I'm constantly on the phone. It's attached to my hand.


WOLF: The phone's ringing.

DE LA CRUZ: Reynolds.

WOLF: All right. Let's go right to the forecast.

DE LA CRUZ: Setting a bad example.

WOLF: Good gosh almighty. I am going to take this and watch this, turning this off. There goes the cell phone.


WOLF: Let's go right to your forecast.

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

WOLF: It's all good.

DE LA CRUZ: I'd just heard it smash.

WOLF: That's what insurance is for.

LEVS: (INAUDIBLE) and this phone goes off.

WOLF: That's what I'm talking about. Let's go. Again, America, national sock puppet month coming up next time. But nice and yarn for them out (ph), it looks fantastic.

Let's show you what we have right now. It is, it looks like a stormy day for parts of the northeast. You could see some scattered showers in spots like Boston and New York. You could see some raindrops there, too. In Baltimore, not too bad for the nation's capital for now, in D.C. and Baltimore across Chesapeake Bay, you may see some raindrops.

In places like Boston this morning -- cloudy skies. Rain is going to move through but it's only stick around, I'd say, for about an hour or two, then cloudy skies and maybe more storms in the afternoon. For Charlottesville, we're seeing some raindrops. Richmond, you're clear for the time being.

And back in Tennessee, it looks you're going to see the raindrops on and off for parts of the I-75 corridor back to I-42, in Knoxville, New England Stadium, might see some raindrops into the Smoky Mountains. That's going to be your story.

Coming up, we've got a lot of stories also talk to about in terms of the weather, including a big storm in the Atlantic; we're talking about Tropical Storm Bertha. That's moments away, holding our calls, back to you guys.

HOLMES: Reynolds, who called? I'm curious, seriously.

WOLF: I have no idea. I'm going to find out very, very soon.

HOLMES: We'll talk to you here shortly, buddy. All right.

Well, a lot of secrets out there. A lot of people have ideas about how to get rich. Well, one way you could do it is do the nasty work that nobody else wants to do.

DE LA CRUZ: Yes, you know, the old saying, "It's a dirty job but somebody's got to do it."

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) DE LA CRUZ: Employers making cuts. This week, the government released numbers for June: 62,000 jobs lost. It is the sixth straight month that's happened. Unemployment though is holding steady at 5.5 percent. The number of people collecting unemployment has risen to 404,000 just last week.

All right. If you are looking for a career change, you might want to consider this. Are you ready? Dog poo.

HOLMES: Yes, she's not kidding. This is serious stuff and can be a serious money maker. Scooper services, if you will, can be a goldmine for anybody willing to pick up poo. Jacob and Susan D'Aniello are willing it pick up poo and they are actually -- they actually make Doodycalls. Again, that's Doodycalls, people. They have taken sure up and everyone hates do, and turned it into a multimillion dollar business.

And there they are. Jacob and Susan, thank you all so much for being with us this morning. Of all the things, you were looking for something else to do, how did dog poo come to mind? Either one of you take it.

JACOB D'ANIELLO, CO-OWNER, DOODYCALLS: I'll tell you what, T.J., good morning. Thank you for having us on. I was really in the car on the way to my two-hour commute into Washington, D.C., thinking of a business that Susan and I could start together. And it just made sense, 40 percent of households have dogs and no one likes picking up what they leave behind.

Whenever you can find something to do or 40 percent of the population doesn't want to do and nobody is doing it for them, it's a great business opportunity. And once it really hit us, there's just no going back. It just made sense.

HOLMES: Made sense. But, again, there are a lot of ideas that come to you. How did this one come to you? Did you hear something? I mean, how does just dog poo come up?

DE LA CRUZ: I want to imagine that both of you are dog owners. Just how many dogs do you have?

SUSAN D'ANIELLO, CO-OWNER, DOODYCALLS: We both grew up with dogs. So, we were definitely used to, you know, cleaning up after them. And I actually worked in the emergency room as a nurse so I wasn't very squeamish. So, we had no problem going out together on our weekends and cleaning up after dogs.

J. D'ANIELLO: And just look back to those things that you didn't look doing when you were young, chances are, people still don't like doing them. And if you can them for somebody, there's a great business in it.

HOLMES: All right. And you've been able to expand. You all started out picking up the poo yourselves but you hadn't pick up poo in quite some time. I don't know, on a call, if you will, you don't have to anymore. You have expanded in a major way. J. D'ANIELLO: Yes, we have a fairly large business. We're in 40 territories nationwide at this point. Full buildup (ph) is about 275 franchises with expected system revenues of over $60 million a year. This is really just an absolutely tremendous opportunity. And our focus right now is creating systems to help our franchise owners make more money, more quickly and enjoy their lives.

WOLF: Hey, guys, just a brief question. I'm Reynolds Wolf, I'm the weather guy. My wife and I have two daughters, two months and two years. Do you guys handle humans? Humans, maybe about this big?

S. D'ANIELLO: We have our own five-months-old. So, we're already doing that.

WOLF: This is a great opportunity to expand the business is what I'm talking about. I mean, this is a good opportunity for you.

DE LA CRUZ: But, you know, earlier, I was telling T.J., you couldn't pay me enough money to do this. And I understand, you've expanded your business. You started all these franchises. How much do you pay your employees?

J. D'ANIELLO: I mean, the guys who work for our business make, you know, they're making an excess of $15 an hour and we provide them with health benefits. It's a nice job. I mean, you work outside independently. It's very clean. They get to know the dogs. And it's actually, it's a lot of fun. It's a nice job.

DE LA CRUZ: And how much is it going to cost me if I want to go ahead and hire you guys?

S. D'ANIELLO: On average, it's about $15 a week for one dog. So, it's very affordable.

DE LA CRUZ: I've always wanted to get a dog. This has always stopped me from doing so. So what -- they are the solution.

HOLMES: And again, and you all know, I mean, a tough economic times. This people will often do away with some of the little luxuries or some things they have don't have to pay for. Maybe they could start doing it on their own. Have you seen a downturn in business at all and people starting to pick their own dog poo?

S. D'ANIELLO: No. We really actually just seen growth, honestly. I think, like we said, it's an affordable luxury. So, in times when people maybe can't afford to go on vacation or do some of the things they used to do, this is an affordable way to sort of pamper themselves.

HOLMES: All right. This is an interesting story. I know we kind of made light of it and it just fun to say poo on a Saturday morning on live national TV, but, you know, really, congratulations on all your success.

And again, keep expanding, and maybe we can all use your services down the road and, maybe, again, like Reynolds said, you can expand and start picking up baby poo as well. I have to get poo in there one more time.

Guys, thank you so much. Good to see you this morning.

DE LA CRUZ: Have a great weekend.

S. D'ANIELLO: You, too.

J. D'ANIELLO: Thank you.

HOLMES: All right. I will stop saying that word now.

DE LA CRUZ: Thank you.

HOLMES: Meanwhile, on Monday, looking ahead now, CNN NEWSROOM, throughout the day. Tune in there to see how you can be recession- proof, recession proof your life. We'll have recommendations from our team of experts. A look at energy alternatives and pointers on how to make the most of what you've got.

We also want to hear from you now about how you stretch your dollars. You can send your responses to and click on "Beating the Recession." Did you get all that? That's, click on "Beating the Recession." We'll take a look at your responses all day on Monday. Again, that's at 9:00 a.m. Eastern.

DE LA CRUZ: All right. Crowds will be packing the New Orleans Convention Center this weekend for a cultural festival.

HOLMES: That's a huge fun festival. Well, for some people, the return to the convention center brings back memories of some very difficult times.


DE LA CRUZ: And a very good morning to you. Welcome back. I'm Veronica De La Cruz, in today for Betty Nguyen.

HOLMES: And hello to you all. I'm T.J. Holmes.

We will turn to New Orleans where a pretty big event is happening though this weekend. It's known as the party with the purpose. It's the Essence Music Festival going on this holiday weekend.

DE LA CRUZ: That's right, you went last year.

HOLMES: I was there and it is a hell of a party.

DE LA CRUZ: A big party, right?

HOLMES: It is.

DE LA CRUZ: But they're doing two things. It's entertaining and they're also raising very conscious issues.

HOLMES: A lot of things going on. DE LA CRUZ: There's a lot going on. And you know, this is the second year back in the city since hurricane Katrina. And this year, CNN's Fredricka Whitfield, she is there and she's visiting one site that holds memories to know more of that disaster.


FREDRICKA WHITFIELD, CNN ANCHOR (voice-over): Raymond Cooper would rather not ever come here again.


RAYMOND C. COOPER, KATRINA SURVIVOR: Because it's too much memories here and stuff. You know, too much, still looking at all the different people who lost their lives here.

WHITFIELD: For four days, he and the crush of thousands of New Orleanians withered while waiting for help here. Now, cleaned up and back in the business of hosting conventions and meetings, the convention center shows no signs of the nightmare that unfolded here.

COOPER: We wished that, you know, the convention center would have some pictures or something like that.

WHITFIELD: The nightmare he lived is still vivid -- and he thinks it's important no one ever forgets. His was a role we'll never forget.

COOPER: After I saw where help wasn't going to come, and I felt, hey, I've got to do something to help, you know, myself as well as the people that I had with me.

WHITFIELD: Are you comfortable with going inside here?

COOPER: Yes. Come on. I'll show you where I slept at. It wasn't really boiling hot. It was just a stand-still type heat. We slept right up in here.

WHITFIELD (on camera): So, when you decide to walk up these stairs, at this point, you were just kind of bored and just moving around? You didn't expect to actually find anything because you weren't looking for anything, right?

COOPER: It was that and just being nosey, like, I've never been up here anyway. I walked around here.

WHITFIELD: When you passed these pay phones. Those red phones on that wall. They're not working.

Then --

COOPER: Here it is here. The phone was sitting right here where the glass is at. I just opened the door and went on in and pressed the button.

WHITFIELD: It worked. He calls his old extension at his former employer, CNN in Atlanta, ending up on air live along with then FEMA Director Michael Brown.

COOPER: You got two old ladies that just had died. People are dragging the bodies into little corners.

WHITFIELD: What were you thinking, like this can't be happening?

COOPER: It was like, I've got to say, it was a blessing.

WHITFIELD: Soon after, help finally arrived. Today, Raymond Cooper counts his blessings and sees this convention center as both a symbol of all that went wrong and the potential for a city's recovery.

COOPER: It's just the beginning. You have to start somewhere.


HOLMES: And our Fredricka Whitfield, she's joining us live with more from the Essence Music Festival, that's coming up in our next half hour. She'll have special guests throughout the day, right here on CNN.

DE LA CRUZ: And just like you were saying, entertainment with a conscience, right?


DE LA CRUZ: All right. Well, the only person to have survived a midair helicopter collision in Arizona last week has died. The accident happened Sunday in Flagstaff. Two air-evac choppers carrying patients collided about a half mile from a hospital in a wooded area. Six others were killed in the incident. The latest victim, a registered nurse, he died yesterday. The cause of the collision is being investigated.

On Independence Day, remembering the victims of September 11th.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I think a lot of people have forgotten. You know, it happened a few years ago and people have moved on with their lives. But it's something we need to remember every day.


DE LA CRUZ: In Grapevine, Texas, hundreds gathered to dedicate a memorial to the 33 pilots and flight attendants who died the day we can never forget. Event organizers say the memorial should remind us of the heroic crew members who helped stop the hijackers and alerted authorities

HOLMES: Now, high winds making things a bit tough for firefighters in southern California. They're battling a fire in Santa Barbara County, this is near Goleta.

DE LA CRUZ: The winds there hit 40 miles per hour, really whipping up the flames. And so far, the fire has charred 10 square miles, but fire officials say it is moving quickly. Evacuations have been ordered.


BARBIE KRABACHER, GOLETA RESIDENT: Our pets are ready to go. You know, we know where they all are. And so, we'll put those in the one car. The other car is already packed up.

So, in the car we have our photo albums, a box of pictures, more pictures, our computer, part of our computer, important papers.


DE LA CRUZ: Part the challenge for firefighters is the rocky terrain. The fire is less than five percent contained, T.J.

HOLMES: And another look here at what the people out there are dealing with. That's iReport picture sent to us by Mark Compton of Ventura, California. They showed just how close the flames are coming to homes in Santa Barbara County. One of seven counties right now where we have seen evacuations ordered.

If you have pictures, you have video, please, go ahead, share with us. Go to and send us your iReport, please. We appreciate all of the help you can give us in reporting these stories. But don't take any unnecessary chances with your own safety to get us those iReports.

DE LA CRUZ: And Reynolds Wolf is in the CNN weather center. He has been tracking the fires but also tracking a storm, Tropical Storm Bertha, right, Reynolds?

WOLF: Yes, hard to believe. We've already have, we're already on B. We start with A, obviously, this is B, this Bertha. We're going to show you the latest on Bertha coming up. Bertha is one of the strongest storms on the planet, providing plenty rain in the Atlantic.

But we're seeing plenty of rain this time along much of the eastern seaboard including Boston back into Providence. Long Island is seeing scattered showers this morning. South, we go into Virginia and into parts of Maryland, from Washington, D.C. south to Charlottesville, we're seeing a few embedded storms and then back into Tennessee, some rainmakers, too. They should stick around for a good part of the day. Perhaps even showers in Atlanta as well, certainly needed here it in the southeast.

Again, more on Bertha. Here she is, sweeping just to west of the Cape Verde Islands. And the latest path we have for the National Hurricane Center brings this storm due west into Sunday. And into Tuesday, strengthening with winds around 70 miles per hour. By Thursday, the latest path brings it north of Santo Domingo in Puerto and the (INAUDIBLE) Islands.

But keep in mind this path is really subject to change. These storms don't move on a linear path, they tend to wobble quite a bit. And this may change quite a bit as we make our way until our next forecast which comes in a few hours. And one after that into the afternoon and into the evening. A lot can happen between now and Thursday, and, of course, by next weekend, and we'll watch it for you very carefully.

Let's send it back to you at the news desk.

DE LA CRUZ: Reynolds, first of all, I'd just want to say thank you, because yesterday, Reynolds and Don had a kind of barbecue. They're both out there on the deck, grilling hot dogs and hamburgers. Some of the best barbecue I've ever had. So, thank you.

HOLMES: And Reynolds cooked it?

DE LA CRUZ: It was really good.

WOLF: We do it again. (INAUDIBLE), man. It was just burned completely crisp. She's being so nice, man. It was hideous.

DE LA CRUZ: You know what? I ate one of the hot dogs. And Don told me that you dropped them on the floor -- after I ate it. Is it true?

WOLF: Yes. It's true. It was right there in front of the glory of everyone. It landed right there on the deck and rolled around and got all kinds of little stuff on it.

DE LA CRUZ: Wonderful. Yes, I consumed it.

HOLMES: Well, speaking of hot dogs, we've got a new top dog. The top dog eater. Look at this mess here.

Find out how sick he is today and just how many hot dogs it took to win that coveted mustard belt.

DE LA CRUZ: That's coming up.



CPL. MAXIMILLIAN RAMIREZ, U.S. MARINE CORPS: My name is Corporal Ramirez serving in (INAUDIBLE) Iraq. I want to say hi to my family, friends. Everybody back home in San Diego, California. What it means to serve during in the Fourth of July is to let Americans know that our customs, courtesies, and traditions follow us wherever we go.


HOLMES: Just one of several of those we'll be bringing you from troops serving abroad on this Fourth of July weekend. And, of course, U.S. troops in Iraq and Afghanistan actually got a taste of home for the holiday.

No, Domino's did not open up in Baghdad. This is a slice of deep dish pizza that was flown in from Chicago. It's the good stuff. It took 3,000 pizzas to feed the troops. All of it made possible by a retired Air Force sergeant and his son.

DE LA CRUZ: That's great. And coming up in a 10:00 hour, we're actually be talking to those guys who called for delivery. It's something to look forward to there.

HOLMES: Yes, a nice story.

DE LA CRUZ: So, this being the Fourth of July weekend, we've been receiving tons of iReports on patriotism.

HOLMES: Yes, and our Josh Levs has been sifting through them all. He has some he wants to share with us now. Good morning to you again, sir.

LEVS: Yes, good morning to you guys. You know, usually people send us iReports. Once in a while, we take iReport on the road and bring it to people. So, yesterday, we set it up an iReport kiosk at the National Mall. Let's take a look at one thing we got here.


LATYSHA PIGATT, NEWPORT NEWS, VIRGINIA: Hey, boys, (INAUDIBLE) someone who's not American anything about the U.S., what would it be?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I would show them the (INAUDIBLE) in D.C.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I would tell them the White House is here with our president.

PIGATT: Oh, really? I could (INAUDIBLE) many hours, I definitely start here in D.C. showing (INAUDIBLE).


LEVS: So, there's a major event coming around. It's really interesting. Keep an eye out for an iReport kiosk. You'll never know if it's going to be there. One of our reports out right now is about patriotism. I encourage you to go to and see some of what we have here. But what I also want to do with the little time we have right here, is show you a compilation now of some of the videos that are contributing to the story.


MARSHALL PICCININI, EDINBORO, PENN.: This is Teacher (ph) Piccinni and the (INAUDIBLE) from Pennsylvania. And patriotism is just simply a love of our country.

SCOTT VERSTEEG, WASHINGTON: I just hope that we do more around the world to better our image and hopefully change the way people think about us.

ERIC JOE ESCAMILLA, MCALLEN, TEXAS: If I could show one non- American the great think about America, is that everyone here is very friendly. We're very patriotic. And we are helpful. And as you can see in Washington, D.C., this is a major area for tourism. UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We're in the (INAUDIBLE) communities from the Rio Grande Valley. And patriotism to us is our freedom.


LEVS: All right. Now, obviously, not everybody could be at the National Mall yesterday. It's not too late to submit your iReports. Just go to You can see one right here next to me. I'll be sharing it with you later this morning as well as several other photos and videos that we've received from people and guys all talking about this topic: what patriotism means to them.

DE LA CRUZ: All right, Josh, fitting for Fourth of July, we do appreciate it.

HOLMES: Josh, thank you.

And sibling rivalry to talk about on center court. A major finale this morning, starring -- who else -- but the Williams sisters.

DE LA CRUZ: And our buddy, Rick Horrow. He is champing at the bit to tell us all about it.

HOLMES: Do you think we can go to commercial without you saying anything?



DE LA CRUZ: Fireworks lit up the sky over the nation's capital to mark the July 4th Holiday. What a sight. The display followed the concert last night on the west lawn of the capital. And a parade was held earlier yesterday along Constitution Avenue. Isn't that gorgeous?

HOLMES: It is. Such a nice fireworks display. The other one in New York was good as well. And then we have fireworks to report and he also got to have hot dogs.

DE LA CRUZ: Hot dogs, yes.

HOLMES: Most cooked out (ph) 64 hot dogs would feed the whole group. But 64 just fed one dude at the hot dog eating contest on Coney Island. Check out part of this showdown.


ANNOUNCER: Ten, nine, eight, seven, six, five, four, three, two, one. Put down your hot dog.


DE LA CRUZ: Doesn't just it turn your stomach watching that, doesn't it? You know, this hot dog eating contest ended in a tie -- a tie between American Joey Chestnut and Japan's Takeru Kobayashi. Chestnut, however, won in a five-dog sudden death overtime.


JOEY CHESTNUT, HOT DOG EATING CHAMPION: I've been pushed by the audience. The only way I could do it is if they pushed me hard enough. I love you, guys, New York. I love you, New York.


HOLMES: What is wrong with this kid? He is actually from San Jose, California. And we covered him when I was working out there and he has, his apartment was full of trophies. He's won all kinds of contests, he ate and he gets paid.

DE LA CRUZ: Are there all hot dog eating contests?

HOLMES: I don't know. They have anything from spinach, asparagus, they have hamburgers, they have chicken wings, all kinds of hot dogs, all kind of eating contests.

WOLF: You know what's freaky about this though, if you've ever seen these guys, these guys area actually ripped. I mean, Kobayashi looks to have a shirt (ph) and he's got a total wash board. You wouldn't expect that from a guy who eats like that.

HOLMES: You know, he does that once a year. Maybe that's the trick.

DE LA CRUZ: You know, Reynolds, earlier I thank you for cooking that great barbecue, you're actually off the hook because I found out that -- remember, I told you I ate the bad hot dog, that were actually thrown out. So, you're cool.

WOLF: Very, very cool. You know what I love to see, what I would love to this event, is to one of these guys reach behind and grab the microphone from this guy and eat it or even this straw hat. You know how we're screaming the whole time yesterday, that's the little microphone for. You don't have to scream with the microphone.

DE LA CRUZ: All right, got to go, Reynolds. Thanks.

HOLMES: We're going to check out with you again shortly.

But we want to check in right now with our guy, sports business analyst, Rick Horrow right now. We've got a lot of stuff we're talking (ph) about in the sports world right now, including the sisters, Venus and Serena; they're going to be facing off at Wimbledon in the finals.

Good morning to you, sir. We'll start though with something else, the big event. Kind of an old American sport here, NASCAR racing. It goes with an All American weekend. NASCAR is struggling a bit right now -- down times in the economy, down times for NASCAR.

HORROW: Well, down times with $4.50 gas prices, right? So, we obviously understand why. At least people are going about 10 percent less but more people are watching on TV. That's why sponsors like LifeLock, who's made a major commitment in Kansas City, in Michigan, in Chicago and other sponsors, Tom's, Sharpy, are entering the full.

Tonight is a big race in Daytona, mid-point of the season and NASCAR has mixed results. So, OK, you've got to figure out how to get more people there and you've got to make sure that people stay watching on TV.

HOLMES: What do they prefer? Do they prefer -- which one, I think we talked about this before, they'd rather have the eyeballs on the TVs or they have the butts in the seats?

HORROW: They'd rather have both, obviously. And with a six hour average drive time, and people stay a couple of days, gas prices are the key to the future of this deal.

HOLMES: All right. Let's turn to Wimbledon now. Certainly for American audience or the American tennis fans or just casual fans of tennis, this has to be good for American tennis. The men couldn't get it done, the American men, but you have the sister-to-sister final in Wimbledon.

HORROW: And sixth and seventh seed, but we all understand that they play when they want to play, right? And so, they made, you know, Serena only made $300,000 in prize money this year because she's ready for her big deal. They're out of the fortune 50 this year for endorsements for the first time. It doesn't matter.

They're playing each other. Serena's won the last five. The younger sister beating the older sister, the older is upset. We're going to see what happens in the next couple hours. But it's great for American tennis. And I think everybody around the world wants to see that as opposed to the interchangeable grunting Eastern Europeans.

HOLMES: And also, last thing here on this two, have they been carrying not just women's tennis into this country but just American tennis? I mean, this is the story. Again, on the men's side, you have Andy Roddick, and everybody had such promise for, but, you know, he hasn't really come to win the majors.

HORROW: Well, yes. And it's, you know, hurry up and wait for them. We've got to make sure that the men come in the future. And by the way, the Nadal, I've got my sleeveless shirt, I'm ready to go and play. I was vetoed by the producers. So, you know, what is worse, Reynolds hot dogs falling on the floor and eating it after that or the sight of me in a sleeveless shirt?

HOLMES: The sight of you and the shirt. It was vetoed, I mean, it was a unanimous vote, don't do it today. Just kidding.

Last thing here, on the hot dog eating contest -- you know what, what's going on? This is some competitive stuff. Should we consider these guys as athletes?

HORROW: Yes, of course, we do. And yes, they're ripped. And you said they're ripped. And, by the way, not only a two million people watch what you're seeing yesterday on television, and not only that, they had eat rounds of eat-offs to get to where they were.

And now, like any true sports, it's expanding. They have a strawberry short cake division and rib division. And internationally, you have China, and Japan, and Britain, and Greece and other places, even Turkey. Can you imagine Turkey watching the hot dog eating contest?

HOLMES: Athletes, Rick, athletes.

HORROW: Hey, NASCAR athletes. You know, athlete, you know, you, athlete -- maybe, that's an athlete.

HOLMES: You know, (INAUDIBLE) eating contest. I'm all over it. Rick...

HORROW: Yes, and a wine drinking contest.

HOLMES: Oh, out (ph) the winner there. Rick, always good to see you. Thanks for not wearing that cut-off shirt.

HORROW: Yes, next week.

HOLMES: We'll see you, buddy.

DE LA CRUZ: We escaped unscathed. Thank goodness.

All right, coming up, a tough economic time is changing the face of homelessness. Families low on funds but not on hope.



LANCE CPL. HARVEY TOEBBE, U.S. MARINE CORPS: I'm Lance Corporal Toebbe from Liberty, Kentucky. I'd like to say hi to all my family and friends back home, and also to my wonderful girlfriend, Demi (ph). I love you, baby. I'll be home soon.

What it means to be a marine on the Fourth of July, out here in (INAUDIBLE), Iraq is for the fact that I'm serving my country, very proud, and I hope my kids can look up to me and be very proud of what I've done out here.


DE LA CRUZ: And we are going to be taking a look at those videos throughout the morning.

Well, freed Colombian hostage, Ingrid Betancourt undergoes a medical check-up today after receiving a hero's welcome in France.

HOLMES: The event gives her dual Colombian and French citizenship during her emotional homecoming. She thanked the French people for their support during her long ordeal as a hostage.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) INGRID BETANCOURT, FREED HOSTAGE (through translator): I have been dreaming for seven years for this moment. I'm so happy that I'm here today, and that is why I'm in fact, here today, to say thank you, to say how much I love you, to say how much you are part of my life, to say how much I owe you.

I cried a lot during all this time of pain when I was a hostage and all the things that were done to me. These are tears of joy. In the jungle, I was accompanied with other people who were suffering just as much as me, probably more, because I was lucky enough to have you. They, however, felt that nobody cared about them.

And it's just all of France that is moved by the way that you have returned, your inner strength, your dignity, your smile. You made a little space, a little time to work for me, to work for my release, to include me in your daily lives, to make me a part of your families, to have suffered along with me, to have carried on hoping with me, to have accompanied me in all these terrible moments of anxiety.

Oh, my God, I cannot tell you how much I love you.



HOLMES: Hello, everyone. From the CNN center in Atlanta, Georgia, this is CNN SATURDAY MORNING. I'm T.J. Holmes.

DE LA CRUZ: And I'm Veronica de la Cruz in this morning for Betty Nguyen who is on assignment.

We have new video this morning to share with you of the Colombian hostage release. We're live in San Antonio. We're actually going to be speaking with our Susan Roesgen. She is on the ground there hoping to speak with the hostages now that they're home.

HOLMES: A heck of a story that a lot of people have been keeping an eye on this week. Also something else you won't believe. Take a look at the white van coming into view and there she blows. We'll explain what happened here and why you shouldn't smoke around gas tanks.

DE LA CRUZ: Definitely a lesson in what not to do.

Also, issue No. 1: living on the edge and falling through the cracks, trying to make it in a tough economy. We're going to be taking a look at the new face of homelessness.

HOLMES: All right. Also, again, back to this story that's really intrigued a lot this week, a lot of people. Of course you know a lot happens over a five-year period. So that certainly means that three American hostages missed out on a lot. They're free now, so they have a lot of catching up to do.

DE LA CRUZ: That's right. Those men now back on U.S. soil. Take a look. We're going to be sharing a photo as they arrived at an army base in San Antonio, Texas, for medical evaluations. That's the photo right there. Susan Roesgen, she's there in San Antonio right now. She's uncovering this story from the beginning.

Susan, five years, definitely a long, long time. We're sure these folks are happy to be home.

SUSAN ROESGEN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Oh, you better believe it, Veronica. They are happy to be home. Five years is such a long time. When you think about it five years ago, Barack Obama was a junior state senator in Illinois. There was no YouTube, no Facebook, Hurricane Katrina had never happened. And a gallon of gasoline back in February of 2003 when these men were taken hostage was $1.49.

So, a lot has changed in this country politically, socially in so many ways and these men have basically been in a time warp for 5 1/2 years, almost 5 1/2 years. And the rest of the country, much of us just sort of went on, almost forgot about these men when they were just swallowed up by the jungle.


ROESGEN (voice-over): As their small plane lost power over the Colombian jungle, American Keith Stansell made the mayday call for help.

KEITH STANSELL: Mutt zero one is declaring mayday. We have lost engine.

ROESGEN: Those were Stansell's last words as a free man. His captors made this video released a few months later.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I heard gun shots in the (INAUDIBLE) on the ground. They were shooting into the air.

ROESGEN: This is exclusive CNN video obtained from the Colombian recovery team. Near the plane wreckage, a Colombian intelligence officer and the American pilot Tom Janus (ph) were found shot to death. Keith Stansell and two other Americans, Thomas Howes and Marc Gonsalves, civilian workers for a defense contractor on the U.S. surveillance mission, were taken hostage.

The rebels are leftist guerrilla fighters who've been trying for 40 years to overthrow Colombia's government. They are believed to have more than 700 hostages right now hidden away in makeshift camps like this one. Hostages who've escaped described being chained at the neck, kept in the most primitive and cruel conditions.

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON (through translator): These chains were placed under lock and key. They put them on at 6:00 p.m. We had to sleep in them. There were months when we had to wear them for 24 hours.

ROESGEN: Although the world knew what was happening, the tough U.S. policy of not negotiating with terrorists meant the three Americans seemed to have little chance of ever getting out. And only rarely were they able to record messages for their families back home.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I love you too and I want you to know that I am being strong.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (INAUDIBLE). When I feel like sometimes not going on I think in my mind about my 11-year-old son.

ROESGEN: Imagine that you're a son or daughter, wife or parent and these images are all you've seen. The hostages had even less to keep them going. After an amazing rescue by the Colombian government, the Americans are home. What we can tell them about what they've missed these last five years and what they can tell us about what they've endured should be an incredible story.


ROESGEN: Now, this morning here we understand that at Brooke Army medical center these guys are going to continue to go through what the army calls a reintegration process. Basically, Veronica, the first check is to make sure they're OK physically. We understand that Mark Gonsalves, one of the three hostages, former hostages, may have hepatitis, although the Army has not confirmed that yet.

So, the Army's got to make sure they're OK physically and then they will be certain to have debriefings by the military, where were they, what can they tell them, what sort of intelligence can they tell the military about where they were held hostage. And then they'll have some psychological evaluations to make sure that they're ready to go back, these modern-day Rip Van Winkle's go back into society and rejoin their families -- Veronica?

DE LA CRUZ: I know that they are looking forward to doing that for sure. Susan Roesgen, we're going to be checking back with you throughout the morning. We appreciate that report.

You know, shortly after their rescue, the three American contractors were whisked out of Colombia on board a U.S. cargo jet. The pilot was Captain Heidi Bucheit. She offered one of the men some chocolate chip cookies.


VOICE OF CAPT. HEIDI BUCHEIT, USAF: You will not believe this but we two days ago we were laying on the jungle floor just talking about if we were hopeful (INAUDIBLE). He said that he really wanted home made chocolate chip cookies.


DE LA CRUZ: Tonight, a CNN special presentation, an HBO documentary looks at Ingrid Betancourt's kidnapping and her family's six-year struggle to free her. HBO's "The Kidnapping of Ingrid Betancourt," you can find it right here only on CNN tonight at 8:00 Eastern.

HOLMES: There's a little presidential politics in this country now this holiday weekend. John McCain enjoying some private time with his family in Arizona. Barack Obama meanwhile speaking by satellite to the National Education Association this morning.

DE LA CRUZ: That's right. Obama is in Butte, Montana where he attended a July fourth parade and picnic. He also celebrated his oldest daughter's 10th birthday.

HOLMES: Happy birthday there.

And as we celebrate the nation's freedom this weekend, do you ever wonder what would the founding fathers think about the state of this country now, 232 years after the declaration of independence?

CNN deputy political director and friend of ours here on CNN SATURDAY MORNING, Paul Steinhauser live (INAUDIBLE) Washington with the results of a curious, interesting new poll here. Good morning to you, sir.

PAUL STEINHAUSER, CNN DEPUTY POLITICAL DIRECTOR: Good morning to you. T.J., that was a good question. In fact it was so good, we asked it. What would they think all these years later?

And here's the results and they're pretty interesting. Take a look at these brand new CNN and Opinion Research Corporation numbers. Only 29 percent of Americans think the founding fathers, those who signed the declaration of independence would be pleased. Sixty nine percent, almost seven in 10 Americans say they would not be pleased with what's going on in the country today. That number on pleased is much lower than it was just a few years ago.

And T.J., what these numbers really tell me is that Americans aren't so happy right now. They got an unpopular war, an unpopular president and very tough economic times. They're not happy with the way the country is going and they think that if the founding fathers came back they would not be happy either, T.J..

HOLMES: And you know that was going to be my question there. Isn't this kind of reflective of some of the polls we have seen? When we ask people, other polls we've seen, when you ask them, is the country going in the right direction, the answer you usually get is, like we have seen in this poll here, not really.

STEINHAUSER: Exactly, really much in line with a lot of those questions exactly.

HOLMES: Paul Steinhauser, we appreciate it, again, some interesting numbers. Do you have any, maybe some more numbers, anything else we can glean from this poll we've seen?

STEINHAUSER: There was another poll out there yesterday that we put out as well about Hillary Clinton and her supporters, but also the Iraq war as well. Let's talk about the Iraq war, if you got those numbers, I'll give you whatever numbers you want. We asked Americans what they think about the Iraq war. I look at this. The next president, what should he do? One in three, only one in three, about one-third say keep the troops. Sixty four percent say remove the troops.

T.J., that's really interesting because there was a whole controversy over the last couple days with Barack Obama right there in Montana over what he said. It was two days ago where he told reporters he could maybe refine, refine his plan to remove troops out of Iraq after meeting with the generals and commanders on the ground in Iraq. He's going to go over to Iraq sometime later this summer. That really sparked a controversy and he had to come back later today and clear it all up, T.J..

HOLMES: All right and we will never probably never see another presidential campaign where the term flip-flopper is not used. Paul Steinhauser, always appreciate checking in with you in the morning. We'll talk to you again soon.


HOLMES: Hope you can stay with CNN even when you're online. Log on to keep up with the best political team, period. The address, or rather that's, again

DE LA CRUZ: Well, it's being billed as a party with a purpose. The Essence music festival under way in New Orleans this holiday weekend and I do believe that what we have seen of Fredricka Whitfield, she's there. She's there.

Good morning, friend.

FREDRICKA WHITFIELD, CNN ANCHOR: I'm here by my lonesome, me and the crew of course, a little quiet right now. How are you guys doing?

DE LA CRUZ: We're doing well.

WHITFIELD: I've got to share because I learned this yesterday. (SPEAKING FOREIGN LANGUAGE).

DE LA CRUZ: Tres bien. That's very good, very impressive.

WHITFIELD: I enjoyed it. I liked it. I was very impressed. You spoke a little French.

Well, look, it's empty here right now. But you know what, it was a booming start to this Essence music festival on the Fourth of July yesterday. No wonder why a lot of folks are sleeping in this morning, obviously a little quiet right now.

You know what, staycation, schmacation T.J. and Veronica. Upwards of 200,000 people have descended upon this still crippled city of New Orleans to take in the festival. Yes obviously, it's the Essence music festival. So people are here to take in the music, the headliners last night, Rihanna and Kanye West.

Today, tonight, it's Patti Labelle, and what she calls her reignition. She's reuniting with Labelle, the trio after many, many years instead of a reunion and she's a big headliner tonight. As well as Jill Scott is in town and Mary J. Blige, a whole lot of folks. But before you take in all the entertainment in the evening, perhaps you come here to the cool setting of the convention center and you take in the art such as you see right here, a lot of visual art. You run into friends, lots of reunions. I've seen all kinds of hugging. People haven't seen each other in a long time.

On a serious note, they also come here for some powerful dialogue, the likes of Bill Cosby, Dr. Alvin Poussant, Dr.Julianne Malveaux all here heading up important discussions.

Yesterday, I caught up with the editor-in-chief Angela Burt- Murray with "Essence" magazine, as well as the president of communications, Michelle Ebanks and they talked about why this entire music festival is really all encompassing.


ANGELA BURT-MURRAY, ESSENCE MAGAZINE: It's all about listening to the audience and African-Americans are in constant contact with "Essence" magazine to let them know what are the issues that are of the core of the community.

So, we knew when we were putting together this year's festival that we had to focus on the issues that the audience cares about, the state of the black family, the economy, like you said, also, HIV/AIDS in our community which is devastating black women in particular and also taking a look at the election, obviously. It's important that this audience that is incredibly engaged in this election talk about the issues.


WHITFIELD: And to help us delve into those very topics at 4:30 Eastern time today on CNN, we'll have a live special 30-minute broadcast from here. Dr. Julianne Malveaux will be joining us to help lead this kind of dialogue.

Also, I'll be talking with actor Hale Harper and broadcaster Ed Gordon. He'll be talking about men and their children and Keisha Knight Pulliam, you guys remember her, Rudy, the "Bill Cosby Show."


WHITIFIELD: OK, I'll be talking with her as well. Tune in all day.

DE LA CRUZ: We're going to be watching.

WHITFIELD: Don't move the dial.

HOLMES: We'll see you soon.

WHITFIELD: And before that of course, too.

HOLMES: Fredricka, we look forward to it. We'll be checking in with you again this morning. We'll talk to you soon. DE LA CRUZ: See you then, Fred.

And our Dr. Sanjay Gupta has also been in New Orleans recently. Just last weekend, he and dozens of volunteers built a playground for one neighborhood. There he is, Sanjay. You can see him at the bottom of the hour for "HOUSE CALL" right here on CNN.

HOLMES: This is one of those things that maybe you shouldn't even have to be taught. If you're driving around in a vehicle filled with highly-flammable gas.

DE LA CRUZ: What did you say, a vehicle with what?

HOLMES: Gas, gasoline. The last thing you probably would want to do is light up a smoke.

DE LA CRUZ: Because something bad can happen, right? Reynolds Wolf, what was this driver thinking?

WOLF: I don't know. It's frightening to see, that whole weird flammable thing, maybe there's something to it. Maybe you shouldn't be smoking a cigarette when you have gas inside your van. Just saying.

DE LA CRUZ: And we're talking about gas containers. He had dozens of gas containers. He was driving around with them, lights a cigarette and kaboom.

WOLF: Goodness gracious, not a smart thing to see. He had what minor abrasions or something? I think he walked away from this.

DE LA CRUZ: yes, he did. He made it out alive. He's lucky.


HOLMES: Well, the war in Iraq weighs heavily on many throughout the year, but certainly on the Fourth of July weekend.

DE LA CRUZ: And we've been asking for your iReports and you have been responding. Josh Levs, he joins us now to highlight a couple of them. Hey Josh.

LEVS: Hey there.

We had two things going on, obviously the buildup to July Fourth and also really the presidential election very well in swing now and I want to show you all something that we just premiered recently, this new section of our iReport.

Take a look at this. This is, just go there; it's tough to miss, Iraq and the next president. Now these words are tiny in your screen so I made them huge so you can see the key. If you or a loved one have previously served or are currently serving in the military in Iraq, please share your story and tell us what you want the next president to know. I guess it's no shock, guys, we've been hearing from people really quickly including this one right here. Let's go to this first quote we have. This is from Richard Robinson, who himself is in the military. He's done two deployments in Iraq.

He writes us this, he says, "with Iran and Syria happy to supply the insurgency, there is really no way we can accomplish this mission quickly without a willingness to take some kind of action, diplomatic or otherwise. The otherwise action is definitely out of the question. Leaving is a bad idea," he says but staying in Iraq is a lot worse. This is someone who was in the military through 2006.

Now, let's look at one we got on the other side, this same area, This one's from Kevin Garofalo. He says, "if we don't follow through with our actions we will have accomplished nothing. We can't just back out because suddenly the war has become inconvenient. There are people over there counting on us. "

Now obviously, it's no shock we're having this debate on the You can join in on But before I bring it back to T.J. and Veronica, I want to show you something else that I find very interesting.

A lot of people using this space not to have the general debate over should this war exist but some other angles. We heard over here, I'm going to just show you one picture right here. We heard from one soldier who's currently serving. I'll tell you more about him later on. He talks about the fact that he's meeting all these people from cultures all over the world, people he didn't know.

We'll show you pictures. We'll tell you their stories and we will let you know what it is that soldiers and their loved ones feel the president doesn't know that he, whichever he it's going to be, needs to know before he takes office guys.

HOLMES: That'll be an interesting take, looking forward to hearing that. Josh, thank you so much.

DE LA CRUZ: So let's check in with Reynolds Wolf and find out what he was doing for the Fourth of July weekend or what he did last night. Because, you know, I was woken up by the loud booms of the fireworks. I think Reynolds was actually out barbecuing and enjoying them right.


DE LA CRUZ: Lillith fair?

WOLF: I remember, '90s, college years, good times.

HOLMES: All right Reynolds, enjoying weather this morning, aren't we? We'll continue on here and talk about a lot of folks who are working hard but still not quite making it.

DE LA CRUZ: Tough economy. More and more families are falling through the cracks. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

DE LA CRUZ: You know, we all have an image of the homeless. For many of us it's skid row or a soup kitchen line or even someone sleeping in the park. But these tough economic times are changing that image.

Let me introduce you now to the new face of America's homeless.


DE LA CRUZ (voice-over): Caledra Mack has worked hard to support herself and her little girl putting in long hours at a movie rental store but still not making much. The single mom was also going to school, trying to build a better life. To cut expenses she shared an apartment with another young mother, but then her roommate got sick and Mack found she couldn't make ends meet.

CALEDRA MACK, HOMELESS: We were OK for a while, but the rent got too much.

DE LA CRUZ: So today, Mack and her baby are homeless. They live at the Genesis shelter which provides housing and food for homeless families. Executive Director Brenita Jackson-McCord says some families live so close to the edge of homelessness that just one extra expense can cause them to lose their home.

BRENITA JACKSON-MCCORD, EXEC DIR., GENESIS SHELTER: If you already are on the fringe -- when we say living paycheck to paycheck, I'm not talking about there's some discretionary income. I mean, there is just enough to pay the rent, the utilities and buy food. I mean, dollar to dollar.

DE LA CRUZ: It's estimated that families with children are one of the fastest-growing segments of the homeless population. Dr. Jackye Brown, executive director of the Atlanta children's shelter says it reflects the often unrecognized face of homelessness.

DR. JACKYE BROWN, ATLANTA CHILDREN'S SHELTER: When you hear the word homelessness, it automatically conjures up the image of a skid row type, the person who's begging on the street corner and panhandling and sleeping in abandoned buildings. But the families that we serve are actually the invisible homeless.

DE LA CRUZ: The National Coalition for the Homeless says at least 41 percent of those unable to afford a roof over their heads are families and many of the parents work. With the rising costs of food and other necessities, an affordable home is simply out of reach.

Among those who do manage to get back on their feet, experts say many remain vulnerable. Two years ago, Billie Walker, another young mother, was homeless. Today, even though she's earned a degree and has a steady job, she worries about rising prices and fears she could face homelessness again.

BILLIE WALKER, FORMERLY HOMELESS: I'm learning to minimize, save and cut back. Anything I don't need I don't buy.

DE LA CRUZ: As for Mack, she's trying to work her way out of homelessness.

MACK: I want my daughter never to have to go through the things that I go through in my life. I want her to have everything she might need, well everything that she needs, but even things that she just might want.


DE LA CRUZ: T.J., a lot of these numbers are staggering. The statistics are staggering. I believe the National Coalition for Homelessness says 61 percent of local and state coalitions have seen a rise in homelessness. And like you just say in the piece, 41 percent of homeless are families.

HOLMES: Are families and so many working homeless out there as well. It's just tough times for a lot of people. We have to keep an eye on this.

DE LA CRUZ: Gas today, $4.10 a gallon. This time last year it was $2.89. You know?

HOLMES: Just that alone.

DE LA CRUZ: People living paycheck to paycheck, it's horrible.

HOLMES: It is horrible. Again, we continue to keep an eye on those things and issues like that with our "ISSUE #1," certainly keeping an eye on the economy here at CNN. Stick with us for that.

We've been talking this morning about all the fireworks we are seeing over the Fourth of July.

DE LA CRUZ: You mean the ones that woke me up last night.

HOLMES: No. You had a good view. You should embrace that.

But the fireworks we're talking about this time just at the watermelon stand. People looking to spice up their love life might want an extra big slice.


HOLMES: All right, Fourth of July weekend, take a look here or no. He was not carrying fireworks. He was carrying gasoline in that vehicle.

DE LA CRUZ: Another type of firework, I guess.

HOLMES: Yes. Well, when you add fire to gas, the guy was driving around carrying gasoline tanks and welding equipment.

DE LA CRUZ: We should also note that he was smoking a cigarette. He was smoking a cigarette! How could you do that? HOLMES: Only slightly hurt, though.

DE LA CRUZ: He was able to escape, he made it out alive so unbelievable there.

HOLMES: Lucky man.

DE LA CRUZ: I do want to mention, T.J., no other injuries reported here, so.

HOLMES: That's good.

This next story here, a lot of watermelon being consumed, you know, for the holiday weekend.

DE LA CRUZ: Of course.

HOLMES: And maybe more so than usual.


HOLMES: Because researchers in Texas, they say that eating watermelon can have the same effect as ...

DE LA CRUZ: As what?

HOLMES: ...Viagra.

DE LA CRUZ: What? What did you just say?

HOLMES: Uh-huh, little blue pill, big green melon.

DE LA CRUZ: Oh my goodness.

HOLMES: Same difference is what they're saying.

DE LA CRUZ: But here's the thing: most of the chemical that causes that affect is found in the rind. So, T.J., just in case you see more people than usual chomping down on the rind at the holiday cookout, there you go, there's your anwer.

I believe that you said you actually had one chilling in the freezer, in the fridge right now.

HOLMES: I keep watermelon, I don't eat the rind, but, yes, it's the holiday weekend, you got to have watermelon in the freezer.

DE LA CRUZ: Got to have your watermelon.

HOLMES: All right, well, Dr. Sanjay Gupta's coming up next. He's going to have more on that playground he helped put together in New Orleans. And we'll be back at the top of the hour.