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Four Swimmers Killed Off New York Coast; 'Last Lecture' Professor Remembered

Aired July 27, 2008 - 07:00   ET


T.J. HOLMES, CO-HOST: From the CNN Center in Atlanta, Georgia, this is CNN SUNDAY MORNING. It is Sunday, July the 27th. Hello to you all. I'm T.J. Holmes.
ALINA CHO, CO-HOST: Good morning, T.J. Good morning, everybody. I'm Alina Cho in for Betty this morning.

Summer fun turns to tragedy this morning. Strong currents killed four swimmers off the coast of New York. Three others were rescued. And three are still missing.

HOLMES: Also this morning, we might have a clue about that. Investigators are looking into that. Of course, you remember this plane had some issues up in the air, that Qantas plane, that big hole right there. Everybody's trying to figure out what caused it. We might have a clue now about what happened here. We'll tell you what investigators think was the cause of that.

CHO: Yes, it has something to do with an oxygen bottle.

And remembering Randy Pausch. The professor who gave his last lecture knowing he was going to die. Millions are remembering him now and learning the lessons from the way he lived his life.

But we begin in New York this morning where a 10-year-old girl is among three people missing. They're victims of strong ocean currents off the coast. That 10-year-old was swimming with her cousin off Coney Island when they were both swept away.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And she was telling them there's two children in there, they didn't pay attention, they just grabbed one and came to shore. And then, they started, "Yes, look, there's the other one." By that time, the little girl's hand, it came up for the last time and she disappeared.


CHO: Those same strong currents are being blamed for four deaths over the past two days. Officials say it's unprecedented. Off duty lifeguards pulled one man out of the water last night, but they could not revive him. Also late yesterday, the search for a missing 23- year-old was called off.

We want it bring in our Reynolds Wolf at the weather center to explain exactly what we're seeing off the New York coast.

This is so unusual, Reynolds. I've lived in New York for more than a decade. I've never heard of these back-to-back situations like this, involving 10 swimmers.

REYNOLDS WOLF, CNN METEOROLOGIST: Well, I think the reason why you're having it with so many people, 10 swimmers, is just because the sheer number of people you have on the beach. I mean, when you have that kind of people and you have these kind of currents, it's just going to add up.

Now, let's talk about these currents for just a moment -- rip currents. We've been seeing quite a few of those from, say, parts of the outer banks of North Carolina, clear up to Long Island. And we've had a high risk of them, at least just over the last couple days.

And one of the reason why is because we have a lot of water from recent storms that been pushing towards the coast. And when you have all that water that piles up along places like the Jersey shore or Long Island, or near Coney Island, then water -- as it goes towards the shore -- has got to come back. It's not going to stay up near the beach. So, sometimes it creates a little bit of a channel between sandbars and that powerful current which is used often by surfers to get deeper into the water so they can catch a couple sets of wave to go in. It's good for surfers, but terrible for swimmers or people who happen to be just not sure of themselves in the water.

The best way to break out of one of these currents is to swim parallel to the shore. If can you swim parallel to the shore, you'll be pushed right back to the current and it will sweep you right back to the beach. So, best thing you can is not panic and watch those lifeguards, they do know what they're doing. Let's send it back to you.

CHO: All right. Good advice.

WOLF: You bet.

CHO: Thank you, Reynolds.

HOLMES: Reynolds, we appreciate you.

We turn now to that. You remember this, that big hole in the side of that Qantas plane. Well, Australian air safety investigators say an exploding oxygen cylinder may have created that huge hole that nearly caused an in-flight disaster. The jet was flying from Hong Kong to Melbourne, Australia when it was forced to make an emergency landing in the Philippines on Friday.

Geof Parry of Seven Network Australia now reports. Officials say an oxygen cylinder is actually missing from that plane now.


GEOF PARRY, SEVEN NEWS AUSTRALIA CORRESPONDENT: Australian investigators examining the hole in the jumbo have made an important discovery.

NEVILLE BLYTH, AUSTRALIAN TRANSPORT & SAFETY BUREAU: There's a number of cylinders in that location. There is one cylinder which is not present. It is not accounted for in that area. In the area where was such a big concern (ph).

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Why it's not there is a mystery.

BLYTH: We're obviously looking for evidence of where that cylinder may have gone, for fragments of fuselage, all these topics (ph) of engineering aspects which you'd expect to be part of the investigation.

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: The Civil Aviation Safety Authority has now ordered Qantas to check every oxygen bottle on all 30 of its 747s.

PETER GIBSON, CIVIL AVIATION SAFETY AUTHORITY: We think it's prudent to put safety first to get inspections done now rather than wait any longer.

PARRY: The investigation may be extended to include the airline's entire fleet.

GIBSON: Some of these bottles may well be in some other Qantas craft, obviously, they'll be look at in due course but because of this accident involving the 747, we'll start there.

PARRY: Passengers on board QF 30 have also questioned the condition of the oxygen masks they were forced to use during their rapid descent.

DAVID SAUNDERS, PASSENGER: The mask was falling away and I was starting to blackout. It sort of sat back up and held the mask and I tried to tighten it again. The more I pulled it, the looser it got.

PARRY: Mr. Saunders says some children turned blue as parents struggled to give them oxygen.

SCOTT ROBINSON, PASSENGER: If you didn't have that oxygen on and you did go over, look, no one's going to be able to help you.

PARRY: The condition of the masks will be checked as part of the overall investigation.

Aviation experts say even though the cause isn't known, it's unlikely 747s will be grounded. There are more than 1,000 of them in service around the world. To take them out of the skies would bring an already troubled industry to its knees.

Geof Parry, Seven News.


HOLMES: Well, this isn't the first time there may have been possible problems with oxygen canisters on the plane. If you remember the 1996 ValuJet crash, well, that flight slammed into the Florida Everglades, killing 110 people that were on board. NTSB concluded that crash was caused by a fire in the cargo hole that was fueled by oxygen-generating canisters which had improperly been handled and labeled.

So, the Australian investigation is just getting under way at this point and no specific calls for the Qantas incident has been established yet.

CHO: A way to start there, 100 days and counting until the election in November. Barack Obama is back home in Chicago this morning after a week long overseas trip. And today, as you know, T.J., he is scheduled to speak at the Unity conference. That's a gathering of journalists.

We were there earlier this week. And your friend and mine, Suzanne Malveaux will be moderating that later today.

HOLMES: Obama actually landed in Chicago late last night. There he is -- after a long trip, a week-long trip overseas.

CHO: Tie's a little loose. He's just tired.

HOLMES: Yes, you know, he is worn out. He made headlines, of course, as we know, meeting with U.S. troops and world leaders on that tour. He also spoke in front of huge crowds, but still, he admits being out of the country may have hurt him a little in the short run at least.


SEN. BARACK OBAMA, (D-IL) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I wouldn't even be surprised that in some polls, that you saw a little bit of a dip as a consequence. We've been out of the country for a week.


HOLMES: John McCain has no public events today. Yesterday, though, he hosted several top Republicans at his remote ranch in Sedona, Arizona. That is not one of the Republicans there you're seeing he is with. That's the Dalai Lama. Well, while at his ranch, he spoke via satellite to a forum presented by the American Association of People With Disabilities.


SEN. JOHN MCCAIN, (R-AZ) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: My work in Congress has been to reach across the aisle and work with Joe Lieberman and Russ Feingold and Ted Kennedy and others on various issues, including the fact that I'm proud of my work on the ADA -- one of the landmark pieces of, not legislation, but fulfillment of our founding fathers' obligations to us. And I will do that as president of the United States. And I believe our first obligation is to care for people who are unable for whatever reason to care for themselves.

(END VIDEO CLIP) HOLMES: And be sure to tune into a special CNN LATE EDITION today. We will hear from both candidates, Wolf Blitzer talks with John McCain, also, you can get Barack Obama speaking live at that Unity conference we just mentioned.

CNN's LATE EDITION comes your way at 11:00 o'clock Eastern Time.

And that Unity conference we've been talking a bit about this weekend, it's a gathering of minority journalists from around the country. That includes the National Association for Black Journalists and Hispanic Journalists, also the Asian American Journalist Association and the Native American Journalists Association. Obama speaks there is at noon; John McCain did decline an invitation to address that forum.

CHO: Looking forward to that.

Avoiding foreclosure, the Senate has given final passage to a bill that will give $300 billion in loans for struggling homeowners. And President Bush has indicated he will sign it.

CNN's Kate Bolduan looks at what the bill means for you.


KATE BOLDUAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): A rare Saturday session for the Senate. A vote on a massive housing bill designed to offer struggling homeowners relief and shore up the nation's mortgage finance system.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Ayes are 72, the nays are 13.

BOLDUAN: The housing bill passed with overwhelming bipartisan support, ending months of debate. Democratic Senator Chris Dodd was a key sponsor of the legislation.

SEN. CHRIS DODD, (D) CONNECTICUT: For Americans out there today with distressed mortgages, worried about their economic future, we hope this legislation will be the first piece of good news in a long time that we can actually respond to the situation and offer them some real hope.

BOLDUAN: So what relief can homeowners expect? The bill includes up to $300 billion in government guaranteed loans to allow homeowners facing foreclosure to refinance to more affordable mortgages. The Congressional Budget Office estimates 400,000 borrowers will get help from the program, but the bill allows for up to 2 million to participate.

The bill offers $15 billion in tax breaks, including a tax credit of up to $7,500 for first time home buyers. And there's $4 billion in grants to help communities fix up foreclosed properties.

The bill also gives the government new authority to prop up the giant mortgage firms Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac if necessary. MARK ZANDI, CHIEF ECONOMIST, MOODY'S ECONOMY.COM: The most important thing is that it forestalls a major crisis. If the bill had not passed, and Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac would be on the precipice of financial crisis would which would be disastrous for many Americans homeowners and prospective home buyers.

BOLDUAN: Some Republicans remain concerned the bill poses too much of a risk to the American taxpayer.

SEN. KAY BAILEY HUTCHISON, (R) TEXAS: The U.S. Senate can and should spend time debating these issues and improving the bill instead of rubber-stamping additions that pose a taxpayer liability of billions and maybe trillions.

BOLDUAN (on camera): Some economists do question the bill's effectiveness, saying it may not do enough to jump-start the troubled housing market. But the bill now heads to the president and the White House says President Bush will sign it into law. That could happen early this week.

Kate Bolduan, CNN, Washington.


HOLMES: All right. Bull fighting, pretty thrilling stuff. Ever been to one, you?

CHO: No.


CHO: I hope never to.


HOLMES: Well, especially I don't want to go to one if something like this is going happen.

CHO: Down like a house of cards. Take a look at that. And imagine the terror feeling your seat suddenly giving way like that.

HOLMES: This was actually in Colombia. Dozens of people were, in fact, hurt. Bull fighters jumped in to action to keep the bull from charging in to those falling spectators. So there was all kinds of issues going on here.

Yes, you saw that -- saw the guy there and trying to keep that bull away about.

CHO: I never understood that, the whole that and running of the bulls. I mean, why get involved? Why put yourself out there?

HOLMES: The thrill, I guess. That's why people jump out of planes with little parachutes.

CHO: Yes. You and I, we're not doing that. HOLMES: It ain't happening.

CHO: Well, CNN gets an earful from viewers after the airing of "Black in America," you know, something that millions have already seen. We've been re-airing this weekend. It's going to air again tonight starting at 8:00 p.m. Eastern Time.

And Josh Levs...

JOSH LEVS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hey, I'm supposed to tell guys about that one but I'm in shock from that video just now. The stands are supposed to be the safe part. Look at that. And, seriously, I'm going a little bit -- I'm going to have nightmares about that. That is some incredible video.


HOLMES: Josh, I'm going to need you to get over it, right?

LEVS: All right. Check out what's behind me. This will move us forward. "Black in America," folks. We're getting a mix of reactions to our special. And it's turned into a debate that we got going online. Some folks appreciative, some let's just say, not so much. And you will have a chance to weigh in.



JON GOODE, SPOKEN WORD POET: They say if you can't play basketball or sing, then it's one of two things. Either work in restaurant kitchen on the corner or work the corner. One is going to get you paying minimum wage and the other see you sentenced the maximum days. See this dilemma as "Black in America" continues.


HOLMES: I love this brother here. That's Jon Goode. He's spoken word poet.

CHO: He's great, isn't he?

HOLMES: Yes, and he's always dressed pretty fly, as well.

CHO: Indeed.

HOLMES: He uses the spoken word to introduce each segment of our landmark "Black in America" documentary.

CHO: Yes, it's so interesting. I was watching some of the replays last night and you were mentioning the way he looks. Friends call him a civil rights leader who likes to listen to rap music. We're going to be talking to Jon in the 9:00 o'clock hour of CNN SUNDAY MORNING. I really look forward to that.

And, of course, you can watch an encore presentation of "Black in America," that's tonight at 8:00 and 10:00 Eastern, only on CNN. Don't miss it.

HOLMES: And of course, this documentary, which you're going to have another opportunity to see, has really provoked an outpouring of reaction -- all kinds of reaction, good, bad, not much, indifferent. People are on one side or the other. This from the black community and others as well.

CHO: Yes, that's right. Josh Levs is here with some of those responses.

I imagine you just can't get through them all, can you, Josh?

LEVS: We can't. We seriously have a team that's work 24/7 taking a look at everything we're getting. We're well over 1,000 now. I don't even know what we're up to because so many more to go through. Some are videos, some photos, some stories.

I want to start off with a video that we received from Corhonda Bolton. Let's look at what she said.


CORHONDA BOLTON, IREPORTER: I want to thank CNN for being a vehicle that has spurred long overdue dialogue that is occurring in beauty shops, barber shops, corporate offices and classrooms. I pray that it brings about a collective movement to address so many of our conditions. Many of the stories that were told I can relate to, some I could not. However, disenfranchisement has always been a part of the black experience in America.


LEVS: Some people are sending us some things that are a little bit more critical. We heard from Traveda Jordan one who said there were some things that disappointed here and that in some ways she felt the special is lacking.


TRAVEDA JORDAN, IREPORTER: Don't just show White America the struggles of black people because they already see black people as negative. Show them how we're impacting America just like their kids are impacting America. Show how single mothers are sending kids to school just like their single mothers are sending kids to school.


LEVS: And we're seeing the same kind of mix from people who sent us photos and their views of the situation, their views of the series that we put on as well. I just picked out a couple of examples here. I'm starting off with one that has the subject line "Whack in America." And this came to us from Sonya Freeman. Let's take a look at this graphic.

She says, "It showed little to none of my experience as a black woman in America. It does nothing to show poor, sick, and uneducated black people without a thorough explanation as to why they are in that situation. "Black in America" failed to explore the factors and comparisons of white privilege in this country and how it has affected the black community."

On the flip side now, let's look at what Eddie Carter said. He wrote us, he said, "I was fascinated and intrigued by your series. Even though my father was not present in my life, my stepfather and uncles were. Now, I'm a father. I may not be perfect at it, but I'm honored to be in the position. I hope the show opens the eyes of others to some of the problems in our society that help perpetuate some of the bleak images and situations depicted."

By the way, I love the picture he sent us. Let's close in on this for a second. It was such a great shot. And, you know, we're getting a lot of beautiful photos, a lot of wonderful videos. You can visit this and take part in the conversation at And while we're on this touch screen here, one more thing I want to show you, we have a special report at, just go to our main page, click "Black in America" at the top are you'll see tons of stories you can go to.

And Alina and T.J., one of the things people are visiting is the reporter blogs, including T.J.'s right here which, as we know, has had close 1,000 comments on it. T.J., use the subject line, "No, I don't play for the 49ers." And there's your picture there. A lot of people weighing in on this, as you know. And a lot of other several other reporters.

And people can send comments, your ideas about anything having to do with our specials on air or online or the experience of being "Black in America." All there at guys.

HOLMES: And it explains the title further there. You, of course, know I don't play for the 49ers, but somebody thought I did at one point.

CHO: It's a really interesting story. You should check it out. Don't just look at T.J.'s picture, actually read the blog.

LEVS: That's why we call it a tease, they know the headline, they go and check it out now.

HOLMES: All right, Josh. We appreciate. We'll check in with you again.

LEVS: Thanks guys.

HOLMES: Well, a synchronized bomb blast rock a city overnight with the death toll actually could have been a lot higher.

CHO: And we're live from New Delhi on exactly what happened.


HOLMES: Like we mentioned yesterday, Alina, gas prices plummeting, OK? Plummeting these days. Yes, they've gone down. CHO: They've gone down.

HOLMES: The average is $3.97 now. That's a big deal.

CHO: Listen, it's a big deal. A year ago, it would seem like a huge jump, but right now, anything under $4, you're right.

HOLMES: Down by a penny. Now, it doesn't seem like much overnight, but still, it's down a dime from a month ago. So, we are going in the right direction again and I'm going to stick with the word plummeting.

All right. Satellite radio users will soon have more choices, thanks to a multi-billion dollar merger of the nation's only two satellite radio operators. The government gave final approval on Friday for Sirius satellite radio to buy out rival XM in a $3.3 billion deal. The merger means more than 18 million subscribers will be able to receive programming from both sources, but you won't have to pay more or buy any new radios. So that is good news.

And, of course, issue number one these days, the economy, and the CNN Money team keeping an eye on everything you need to know about your pocketbook. It's the info you need coming from the mortgage meltdown, the credit crunch, all of that stuff. ISSUE NUMBER ONE, at noon Eastern weekdays, only right here on CNN.

CHO: Catchy music, catchy story coming up, "Yours, Mine, Ours." The honeymoon may be over when couples start combining their finances. But our Christine Romans has some solutions that are Right on Your Money.


CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Mix love and money, and you may have a recipe for disaster.

CARMEM WONG ULRICH, AUTHOR, "GENERATION DEBT": It may seem that we're very alike when we get together and fall in love, but the truth is, a lot of people and individuals are very different when it comes to how they use their money, how they approach their money, and what their priorities are.

ROMANS: To keep the peace, couple should have a plan.

ULRICH: Every couple has a different way of approaching it. But my best advice is -- have a joint account to take care of your household bills and your finances, but also your financial goals that you have for the future. Outside of that, have your own personal account.

ROMANS: But there isn't a "one size fits all" approach.

ULRICH: Crunch the numbers on what you're going to be jointly responsible for. Make sure you go through each of your bills, the both of you.

ROMANS: Even though you're equal partners in your relationship, it doesn't always translate to your finances.

ULRICH: So what you want to do is proportion it out - 80/20, 30/70. Figure out how much each of you make, and then how much you're going to contribute to your household expenses.

ROMANS: Christine Romans, CNN, New York.


HOLMES: All right. We turn to our Reynolds Wolf. We're trying to bring him in for the first time this morning.

Good morning to you, sir. We're talking hot. Yes, look at that -- the heat index.

WOLF: Can you believe that? Anywhere from 100 to 110 degrees Fahrenheit is what it's going it feel like in parts of the central southern plains and parts of the gulf coast. Now, coming up, we're going to let you know how long this is going last. Plus, we're going to be talking about some fires out west.

That's all coming up on CNN SUNDAY MORNING.


HOLMES: Good morning again. Welcome back to the CNN SUNDAY MORNING. I'm T.J. Holmes.

CHO: Good morning. And good morning, everybody. I'm Alina Cho. Thanks for waking up and starting your day with us.

Strong ocean currents are blamed for four drowning death this weekend off the coast of New York. And right now, three people are missing including a 10-year-old girl. The search is on for them. Meanwhile, three others were rescued.

Australian air safety investigators say an exploding oxygen cylinder may have caused a huge hole in that Qantas jumbo jet you may recall that made an emergency landing in the Philippines with that hole there. It nearly caused an in-flight disaster. Qantas has been ordered to quickly inspect every oxygen bottle aboard its fleet of 30 Boeing 747s.

HOLMES: A second wave of terrorist bombings in India has killed at least 49 people, more than 100 were hurt in 17 blasts. Early indication points to Islamic militants.

And CNN's Sarah Sidner is in New Delhi and she says the crude explosives were relatively small and easy to conceal -- but, Sarah, do we have any idea who is responsible? There was some back-and-forth about who might have actually been claiming responsibility here.

SARAH SIDNER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: At this hour, we do know that an e-mail was sent out about five minutes before the blast occurred, warning that there would be some sort of violence in Gujarat. The e- mail read "Revenge of Gujarat," from a group called the Indian Mujahedeen.

What we can tell you, the latest information is now the number of dead has risen sharply after the 17 blasts tore across Gujarat. All but one of them in the state capital of Ahmedabad. 49 people have been confirmed dead. 114 people injured. The Prime Minister here in New Delhi and the home minister met today. They met to try and figure out how to secure the nation. Yesterday marked the second day of deadly bombings here in India.


SIDNER (voice-over): Terror on the streets of Ahmedabad.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through interpreter): I was standing right here when the bombing happened. I was standing close by. When the bomb blast happened, we all ran. Many people were hurt.

SIDNER: This eyewitness said. The blast happened within an hour and a half, several around hospitals. Some of the crudely made bombs still with ball bearings were delivered on bicycles. Meanwhile, police and government officials urged calm,

MAYUR DHAVIR, AHMEDABAD MUNICIPAL COUNCELOR (through interpreter): I want to tell to our people here to maintain peace. This definitely is a terrorist attack. I want the people not to be worried, he says.

SIDNER: Minutes before the blast, an e-mail purportedly from the military group the Indian Mujahideen warned about a possible attack. The Indian Mujahideen is a little known relatively new name in India but they make it clear they are a militant group who want to punish Hindus.

The group is believed to have struck at least once before, in May. It claimed responsibility for a blast in the tourist neighbor town of Jaipur which killed 63 people. Those blasts as well as the ones yesterday in Ahmedabad were carried out in a similar fashion. The blast in Ahmedabad are the second series of bombings in just two days. One person was killed Friday after a string of blasts in Bangalore.


SIDNER: No one has come forward to claim responsibility for the blasts in Bangalore. However, police have said now that they may have a lead into where that e-mail originated, the IP address may have come out of Bombay, possibly there are investigators on the scene there in Bombay trying to figure out more details as to where the warning came from but again 49 people confirmed dead. 114 people are injured at this hour. T.J..

T.J. HOLMES, CNN, ANCHOR: And Sara, we know that police did find some unexploded bombs. How many did they find, and also do they expect that more could be sitting around unexploded somewhere?

SIDNER: That information actually is not yet confirmed by CNN, but we do know that they are on the scene and they have been on the scene all day in Ahmedabad poking around with sticks. We noticed them looking into huge garbage canisters looking for any unexploded explosive devices that may still be lingering in the city.

Obviously there is a lot of concern, people are being asked to stay in their homes and to stay safe. In that manner, the entire nation is actually on high alert as the government tries to figure out what to do next in this investigation. T.J.

HOLMES: All right. Sara Sidner for us in New Delhi with these stories. We appreciate you.

ALINA CHO, CNN ANCHOR: We have more now on that massive oil spill near New Orleans. Traffic is heading through parts of the lower Mississippi River now. The ships were stalled you may recall after Wednesday's collision between a ship and an oil barge spilled more than 400,000 gallons into the river. Take a look at that video there. More oil is leaking out now and what's slowing things down apparently is the cleaning of the ships once they get through the contaminated area. Saturday, three ships were allowed out of the river and into the Gulf of Mexico.

This is a huge area that's affected. We want it get the latest on the cleanup now and for that we're joined on the phone by Coast Guard Chief Petty Officer Steve Carlton. Mr. Carlton, thank you for joining us this morning. And what is the very latest on the cleanup?

STEVE CARLTON, U.S. COAST GUARD: Well, things are progressing with the cleanup and also as you have mentioned, we are getting some ships that are moving up and down the Mississippi River on a very limited basis. Yesterday, we were able to release three ships southbound out of the river. They were decontaminated, allowed to leave. On the northbound side, we had two ships that have been oiled. We put them in the decontamination area, which is done with pressure washers and hot water, and they go in and they hose them all down and then they release them after that to go northbound. Within the zone, we've had approximately 50 transits, things like tugs and barges and that type of thing. So -

CHO: Yes. I want to ask you a little bit more about the decontamination process. I mean, this is really causing even more of a backup. I mean there are hundreds of ships backed up there. How are you determining just which ships you're letting through?

CARLTON: Right now there is a process. We have a group called the Marine Transportation Recovery Unit. It's a lesson that we learned from Hurricane Katrina where we know whenever we have to close down a port that we have to look at how we're going to bring that port back up on line as quickly as possible.

CHO: Right, so how do you do that?

CARLTON: Well, we bring in people from the Coast Guard, we work with people from the industry from the region in that port and we work with them on things like ship operators, terminal operators, ship agents, vessel - CHO: But in terms of which ships you're letting through, it's really based on the importance of the cargo, correct?

CARLTON: Absolutely.

CHO: So how do you determine which ships get through?

CARLTON: That's exactly right. They look at exactly what types of things are on the ships. They look at what needs to be moving through the system. Things like petroleum products, grain, whatever that we need to move, they put it into a priority and move that.

CHO: I'd like to talk a little bit more about the environmental concerns because when you look at these pictures, it really is incredible. I know that the last report I got was that just a couple of days ago, 80 percent to 90 percent oil coverage over 100 miles on day one. Now we see about 20 percent of oil coverage and yet there's still a lot of work to do. So talk about the environmental concerns. From what I'm reading, it's not so much the wild life, but the wetlands downstream that are the biggest concern, right?

CARLTON: Yes, what we've got downstream is we have protected areas with marshes that we're trying to keep the oil from getting down into those marshes. We do over flights every single day and what we're actually seeing is as you mentioned, 20, 30, and in some cases less coverage of oil, where we saw 80, 90 plus, you know, in areas previously. And what we do is we through the natural flow of the river, some of that oil collects up in the bends up against the shore and in some cases we use what we call containment booms to actually draw the oil into close to shore, so we can actually capture it using vacuum trucks and manual labor to actually get in there and collect it.

CHO: Well, it's a good thing you have that equipment to do that. Steve Carlton is with the U.S. Coast Guard. Steve, thank you for that status report.

CARLTON: You're welcome.

HOLMES: We have a breaking story this morning about wildfires that are threatening thousands of homes near Yosemite National Park in California. Reynolds Wolf has a look at that for us. What's happening out there, Reynolds?

REYNOLDS WOLF, CNN METEOROLOGIST: You're right, this is the concern in the area of Yosemite. You know, this is a place that's not only well-known to Americans, but known to people throughout the world. I mean, we're talking El Capitan. We're talking about the Merced River, I mean, just a beautiful thing to see but the fires, not pretty at all. This is a nightmare for many people. In fact, this fire just raging. This is a tremendous fire that has grown from about a thousand acres to around 16,000 acres or 25 square miles between yesterday morning and yesterday evening. And still it's on going.

A fire about zero percent contained at this time. It really affects Mariposa county. There are about 2,000 residents in the communities of Midpines, Greeley Hill, Coulterville, Bear Valley and even Mount Bullion camp. People are being evacuated. An evacuation order is in place for the Mi pines community at this time. And evacuation warnings are also in place for residences in the immediate area of the fire.

You know, here at CNN, we really do quite a bit of work with many kinds of things from hurricanes to fires. We're going to give you the very latest information on that, including some live reports from the field coming up within the next hour or so. Another big thing we cover is the weather of course and right now, we're looking at the chance of some rough weather along parts of the eastern seaboard. Scattered showers this morning across Boston Common southward to places like Bridgeport, even into Hartford. As a make way, a bit farther to the west, we're seeing some scattered showers. This could intensify in parts of Gransport (ph) maybe even to Aberdeen into Iowa later on in the day.

We've got a heat wave to talk about. We're going to mention that coming up later this morning. Let's send it back to you at the news desk. What a horrible fire, what a terrible situation for people out there.

CHO: Almost 200 homes evacuated just around Yosemite. It's just a bad situation and it's getting worse.

WOLF: No question.

CHO: All right, Reynolds. Thank you.

WOLF: Anytime.

HOLMES: We do want to turn now to some controversy about Barack Obama's trip to Israel. You remember these pictures. Again, this is Thursday in Jerusalem. That is him at the at the western wall, the Wailing Wall as it's called but putting in a note. This is what visitors do, they write down prayers and stick the note in the wall. Well, he left it there, but according to reports, a Jewish seminary student pulled that note out. And now an Israeli newspaper has printed that note, his private note, being described as a note between this person or someone and god. Very private note. And the rabbi who is in charge of the wall now has come out and really condemned what the newspaper has done.

CHO: Judaism's holiest sites. I mean these notes are supposed to be private.

HOLMES: Absolutely. And it's condemn what the student did. They said to pull it out there is one thing, but for the newspaper to publish what was actually said. What his prayer said was just inexcusable. We want to know what you think out there. Should the media publish the content of that note? You certainly will not be seeing the content of that note here, but we'd like to know what you think about what happened in this situation.

CHO: A lot of debate about it.

HOLMES: A lot actually.

CHO: In the NEWSROOM even.

HOLMES: We had it out a little bit this morning about this note. But we want to hear what you have to say. Get those into us. We love to hear what you have to say about this stuff.

CHO: Yes. An incredible story really. I mean, you don't hear about that happening very often. If at all.

We want to turn now to the remarkable legacy of a self-professed computer nerd. We're talking of course about Dr. Randy Pausch who has touched so many lives.

HOLMES: Countless people really. In unexpected ways. And they have flooded the CNN website to tell how this man affected them.


HOLMES: Every week we take a closer look at issues of faith and those who inspire us. This week, we didn't have to look too far. Randy Pausch was a regular guy, 47-year-old computer science professor, who was diagnosed with incurable cancer in 2006. Instead of running from the devastating news, he embraced his dreams and challenged others to do the same.


RANDY PAUSCH: So what are we not talking about today? We're not talking about cancer because I've spent a lot of time talking about that. And I'm not really interested. If you have any herbal supplements or remedy, please stay away from me. And we're not going to talk about things that are even more important than achieving your childhood dreams. We're not going to talk about my wife. We're not going to talk about my kids, because I'm good, but I'm not good enough to talk about that without tearing up. So, we're just going to take that off the table. That's much more important. And we're not going to talk about spirituality and religion. Although I will tell you that I have experienced a death bed conversion. I just bought a Macintosh.


HOLMES: Well, his grace inspired millions of people who have watched his lecture, the last lecture as it's been called on youtube. And that book there as well, "The Last Lecture" certainly was a best seller. Well, Randy Pausch's words sparked a spiritual awakening for people around the world and our Josh Levs has been surfing the web checking out the on-line reaction. Certainly a lot. This man again, not really famous, but you know him, but you don't know him kind of a thing. He touched so many people.

JOSH LEVS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: And can I say, this is one thing that amazes me about this and one reason we're talking about him during this "Faces of Faith" segment because we have his story that all these people are weighing in on and writing these spiritual messages, and it got me thinking who could I ever think of in all of history that did not set out to be a public figure who went on to have this kind of impact in his death. That's amazing to me. And what I want to do is start off with this quote I saw in the "Los Angeles Times" obituary that I think summarizes about what we are talking about here.

They wrote this "Some are drawn to valedictories like the one Pausch gave because they offer a spiritual way to grapple with mortality that isn't based in religion." Kind of face him with that sound bite that you just heard from him. Let's look at some of the responses we've bean getting to his death at starting with this from Natasha. "There is no clear logic to living. No written guidelines or pathways to happiness. But Mr. Pausch and his family created their own meaning and viewed it with life and went on the ride however short it may seem.

To Jeff now. Jeff says, "I hope the love and support he's garnered on the internet will enable the passing down of his wisdom for many generations to come and renew the spirit that dreams can and do come true." Our next, we hear from Shriva, who wrote us this, "the day" - oh sorry, this is a "rest in peace Randy, you are a hero with a friend's face."

Now we go to Shriva, "the day I saw Professor Randy Pausch's lecture on youtube," listen to this folks, "it changed my life forever. He taught me to you who live and love, to honor and to respect. He taught me hope, gratitude and kindness." I'm going to toss in one more here. This came to us from Jeremy. "He has been a personal inspiration for me to grab life with two hands and not let go. My relationships with my wife and daughter are better for his influence. Thank you, Professor. We will miss you."

Now, if we come back to this camera for a second, I just want to scroll through and show you, I know you can't see very well, but look. All of these, everything I'm scrolling through right here, these are all separate messages that we got from people and it just keeps going and going and going and going. And we got in the hundreds until I think they finally closed out the comments section. It's amazing how many responses we got on this. And T.J., it goes back to what we were just talking about, that even though he didn't set out to be a spiritual figure in his own way, he became one.

HOLMES: He absolutely did. Amazing really how that took off and hearing his death, the down pouring of sentiment that he touched so many people. Now even more are getting interested in that lecture and his words.

LEVS: Yes and all over the world, too. You know, it's ricocheting in other countries that's translating the last lecture into other languages. It is unbelievable what's going on, the reach that this one guy had that he never set out to have. He didn't try to be a public figure but he became on in that last year of life.

HOLMES: And the internet certainly helps him reach folks all over the world. so we appreciate you looking through, skimming through that stuff and walking us through it this morning. Josh, we'll see you again soon.

LEVS: Thanks.

HOLMES: Alina.

CHO: All right. Thank you. Facing foreclosure, one woman staying put while she fights, but her story makes you ask, who is really at fault? And from West Point to the NFL, one player's dream now put on hold after an about-face by the army.


CHO: Well, the final stage of the Tour de France is underway right now. And for the first time in a while, the race into Paris actually means something. It could be close. Spanish rider Carlos Sastre leads the field but only by a minute. So there is still a chance that someone could steal the champagne on the Champs Elysee.

HOLMES: Lance Armstrong's not in it?

CHO: He's not in it.

HOLMES: OK. I'm not paying attention.

Well, you all may remember this story. A lot of you are paying attention to. Caleb Campbell, this is the West Point football player who was drafted by the Detroit Lions. We talked about it during the NFL's draft in April. The Army told him he could play. Now they say he cannot play. CNN Sport's Larry Smith brought us that story. You kind felt bad for the guy here to hear how this all went down, but explain in the first place why he was being allowed to play.

LARRY SMITH, CNN SPORTS: Well, what happened, let's first go back, you know, as you know, if you go to one of the military schools, West Point or any academy, et cetera, you have to serve a five-year commitment to pay for your schooling in essence. Well, in the 80s, that was changed for certain sports figures, namely, David Robinson, the future NBA most valuable player and Napoleon Couffin who played football. Now, that was changed to a two-year commitment. Now they were changing it to a two-year commitment, but you can serve as like a recruiter while playing football and now they're taking that away.

HOLMES: Taking that away, but why take it away now? Why not change it and say, OK, you got in under that rule, so we'll change it for the next group? Why has the rug been pulled out from under him?

SMITH: Well, a big part is unlike the '80s when it was in peace time, we are right now involved in a conflict overseas and some people just didn't like the fact that this young man and another player, as well, that was going to maybe be able to get by the rules at a time of need like this.

HOLMES: You're telling me that they kind of succumb to PR pressure?

SMITH: Well, I'm not sure if there are people within the Army who didn't like it until now and they've said, well, he can still play football, he just have to wait two years to serve a full-time two-year commitment and then try to opt out to go play football.

HOLMES: There wasn't talk as well, and again I just hate it for this guy because they made some justification like he was doing a lot for the Army and could promote the military by being out there, by being this famous athlete.

SMITH: Right, absolutely. And the thing is they wanted to use it as like a recruiting tool. You know, hey, here's a guy who, you know, can you be all can you be, you know, including football, and you can also play in the Army and now they've taken it away. So, you know, he has said he's disappointed, you know. One reporter said it brought him to tears when he got the news. But he said, hey, you know what, I'm proud to join this team, serve my two years I'll do so happily. We love to see him in the NFL one day because he did have that chance and then had it taken away.

HOLMES: And exactly what is he going to be doing now? What does he have to look forward to in the next couple of years? What will he be doing?

SMITH: That's a good question. I'm not sure where he'll be stationed, what he'll be doing, but he will be serving in active duty in some capacity.

HOLMES: Some capacity. All right. Well, good luck to the young man. We might see him in the NFL one of these days. Kind of hate it for him here.

SMITH: It's a tough pill to swallow the fact that he was given that letter, that release and then taken away.

HOLMES: All right. Larry Smith, always good to have you here with us. And the Olympics coming up for you still? How long will you --

SMITH: Soon. We've got a story next hour we'll tell you, too.

HOLMES: All right. We'll see you soon.


CHO: Larry's got a little vacation first, right? That's why he's leaving so early. All right. Coming up - and he will be playing for the NFL I'm sure.

HOLMES: One of these days.

CHO: He just have to wait a little bit.

All right. Facing foreclosure, one woman staying put while she fights.

HOLMES: Yes. But her story makes you ask, who is really at fault here? (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

CHO: "Issue number one," risky loans. Borrowers taking on more than they can afford and lender some out to make money no matter what.

HOLMES: It's all part of this mortgage mess. And we're going to break this down a bit for you here. There's a whole lot of blame to go around and lots of people are in trouble right now. We are hearing their stories and our Allan Chernoff has one of those stories.


ALLAN CHERNOFF, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Gesille James hasn't paid her mortgage in a year. She received a foreclosure notice in November, but she's fighting to stay in the two-family home. Gesille, a librarian, was earning $50,000 a year when she bought this house 2 1/2 years ago. So she took out two mortgages to finance the entire purchase price of $560,000. Did you think you could afford this house?


CHERNOFF: You never thought you could afford it?

JAMES: Well, the price that was quoted, and I kept getting back, don't worry about it. They'll work with what you have. There's the financing -

CHERNOFF: Who said that?

JAMES: Anthony.

CHERNOFF: Your broker? He said don't worry about the price? That broker is Anthony Brown who has his own real estate company nearby. Obviously she couldn't afford it.


CHERNOFF: So why did you sell the home?

BROWN: No, I don't control her mortgage. You understand. I control the actual sales between her and the developer.

CHERNOFF: Brown claims the developer, Home Master Development Group, arranged Gesille's financing with Alliance Mortgage, which is no longer in business. Home Master says Mr. Brown arranged the financing. Gesille says the same. Did he say you could afford it?

JAMES: He did. He did.


JAMES: He did.

CHERNOFF: Gesille rented one of the two apartments in the house, but even with the income, she still couldn't cover the mortgage payments. You see how much she earns. How could you sell her a home that was so way out of her price range?

BROWN: That's what she - that's from her choice, that was her choice.

CHERNOFF: Well, it was your house to sell it, no?

BROWN: I don't control what a person chooses to do. If they want to get the home they get a home.

CHERNOFF: Alliance Mortgage quickly sold Gesille's loan to Morgan Stanley who told us they have no comment, since the loan has since been sold off to other investors buying mortgage securities. Gesille's lawyer argues she was misled, and therefore has a right to fight foreclosure.

JEFFREY BENJAMIN, ATTORNEY FOR GESILLE JAMES: The goal is to keep the consumer in her home where she should belong. But at a reasonable monthly burden.

CHERNOFF: Gesille admits she bears much of the responsibility. But says she can't imagine what she'll do if she has to leave her home.

JAMES: But I'm fighting it, because I need somewhere to live. I, you know, I have to live somewhere. I can't live in the car.

CHERNOFF: Attorney Jeff Benjamin says he's hopeful of renegotiating Gesille's loan on this home, especially now that banks are being more flexible, since so many of their mortgages have gone bad. Allan Chernoff, CNN, Bronx, New York.


CHO: And the economy is "Issue number one." And the CNN money team working overtime to keep an eye on your pocketbook. The info you need on everything, the mortgage melt down, the credit crunch and so much more. "Issue number one," noon Eastern, weekdays only on CNN.


HOLMES: From the CNN Center, this is CNN SUNDAY MORNING on this July 27t. Hello to you all. I'm T.J. Holmes.

CHO: Good morning. Have you had your coffee?

HOLMES: I don't do coffee. I had the juice and the clip bar.

CHO: Clip bar.


CHO: That bar is waiting. Good morning, everybody. I'm Alina Cho. Betty has the morning off. Thanks so much for being with us today.

A massive wildfire explodes overnight near Yosemite National Park, growing from just 1,000 acres to 16,000. Thousands of homes at risk and more than 100 have already been evacuated.

And summer fun turns to tragedy this morning. Strong currents kill four swimmers off the coast of New York, three others were rescued, and three are still missing.

HOLMES: And we want to turn now and get the very latest on what you have just mentioning there -- that right there. We've got some immediate evacuations around Yosemite National Park to tell you about and these pictures are just incredible.

Wildfire, as Alina mentioned, growing quite quickly. Our Reynolds Wolf was telling us last hour the fire has now burned 23 square miles in just about a day. That has put hundreds of homes in danger and those residents were told to get out.


RICHARD PAYTON, EVACUATED HOMEOWNER: Devastating, totally devastating because from our driveway, you can look right across the ridge on the other side of the road and you can see it coming.


HOLMES: Right now, the fire is at the west entrance to Yosemite, that's near the town of Midpines.

Well, joining us now on the phone is Daniel Berlant of the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection.

Sir, we know it's early out there for you. We appreciate your giving us some time and updating us on what's happening and what is that update? Is this thing continuing to grow and do you have much containment on this fire yet?

DANIEL BERLANT, CALIF. DEPT. OF FORESTRY FIRE PREVENTION (through phone): You know, this fire continues to burn. It's burned over 16,000 acres now. It's really burning in areas that haven't burned in over 100 years. So, the vegetation is extremely dry and a lot of it to burn.

HOLMES: Well, sir, it hasn't burned in 100 years, so you've got fuel and a lot of it.

BERLANT: Exactly.

HOLMES: Well, sir, how do you go about it? Is there containment of any kind at this point or this is just a monster?

BERLANT: No, you know what? This thing is burning in every different direction, it made (ph) a lot of runs yesterday, that's what made it so difficult for us to really get our dozer lines, our containment lines around it. So, unfortunately, the fire is still zero percent contained. We have a lot of firefighters on scene, and as soon as the sun comes up here in California, we're going to really hit it really hard from the air, also.

HOLMES: And tell us, sir, how close is this fire getting to homes and is it continuing to move in the direction of homes?

BERLANT: It is starting to move closer and closer to residential areas. These are very scattered rural areas, but we do have about 2,000 homes that are in the path of the fire. So, that does have us concerned. We're working very closely with the local sheriff's department there to help get residents out of the area.

HOLMES: Are these mandatory evacuations right now?

BERLANT: There are some mandatory evacuations and are some precautionary advisories, letting people know that there is a possibility that the fire is moving in their direction, that they may have to go.

HOLMES: And, sir, you said 2,000 homes possibly being threatened. Have you had any homes or any structures of any kind that have been burned by this fire so far?

BERLANT: You know what? None yet have been reported. Obviously, that's one of our number one goal -- is making sure we get the people out of there and making sure that we go in and protect those structures. But when you see such erratic fire behavior, we have reports of over 100-foot flames, that's a huge challenge for us. But we are doing our best right now and we're making good progress.

HOLMES: And tell us, as well, do you have the firefighters you need, how many do you have, and how many ways and, I assume, you're attacking this thing and trying to from the air, as well?

BERLANT: You know, from our count last night, we had over 900 firefighters on scene and hundreds more en route from across the state. We did use a lot of aircraft yesterday, used military C-130 cargo ships to help drop retardants. So, we have a lot of not only Cal Fire, state fire department resources, but also using military aircraft, also.

HOLMES: And the last thing here, sir, just to wrap -- your firefighters, any injuries to report from them right now? I know you've got a lot out there and this is certainly a dangerous situation for even the best trained guys.

BERLANT: You know, no injuries that have been reported at this point, but when you work in such steep rugged terrain under this extreme condition, we often see injuries. But we do our best to keep the number of injuries as close to zero as possible.

HOLMES: Well, we hope that continues to be the case.

Daniel Berlant, again, spokesman for the California Department of Forestry and Fire Prevention, thank you so much for giving us some time and updating our viewers, and really, the best to you and your firefighters out there. You all stay safe.

Well, is Mother Nature helping at all those firefighters out west? Reynolds Wolf in the severe weather center is taking a look at this for us. CHO: A really bad situation out there.

WOLF: An awful situation. And, you know, one thing that really doesn't help matters much, there's a couple of things, T.J., the conversation you had with the gentleman talking about how you have the elevation, you know, you have the slopes, the thing you have all that vegetation. The fact over -- what did he say -- a century's worth of brush, my goodness, just fuel for these fires.

You know, let's go back to the weather computer very quickly. We're going to zoom in and give you an idea where this location is. We go in, you notice of course I-5 from one corner, you have Modesto, and just to the east of that area, you have, again, this region. It's just been inundated with these fires, and again, just really exploding with these fires spreading from 1,000 acres to now 16,000 acres and still it on goes.

It's kind of like a military operation. You heard him mentioned these dozer lines. What they do is they get bulldozers and actually trying to trace around parts of the fire so they'll be away from additional fuel and then they bombard it with an assault from the air above and, of course, from the ground. So it is going to be a big battle for them. Unfortunately, Mother Nature is not cooperating one bit.

What we're also seeing is a lot of heat in other place, not just the fires, but in parts of the central and southern plains, even along the gulf coast, heat index up to 100 to 110 for parts of Oklahoma, Texas, into Arkansas, even into, say, Tennessee and Louisiana and Mississippi.

Those are your big stories, another busy day. It always seems to happen on the weekends. Let's send it back to you at the news desk.

HOLMES: It always is. And we're glad we have you, Reynolds Wolf. We appreciate you, buddy. See you again here soon.

CHO: Thanks, Reynolds.

We have more now on the danger off the coast of New York where a 10-year-old girl is among three people missing right now. They are victims of strong ocean currents off the coast and those same currents are being blamed for four deaths over the past two days. Officials say that is unprecedented. The missing 10-year-old was swimming with her cousin off Coney Island when both of them were swept away.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: They got one child out, but there were three lifeguards. And my sister yelled at them like seven times before they even like reacted, first of all. And then when they did react, they just took out the little boy and then the little girl was just like her hand and she was gone. She was gone.

(END VIDEO CLIP) CHO: Oh, just an awful situation there. In all, three people were rescued. Off duty lifeguards pulled one man out of the water last night. They were unable to revive him. Also late yesterday, the search for a missing 23-year-old was called off.

HOLMES: Also new this morning, Australian air safety investigators say an exploding oxygen cylinder may have created that huge hole in a Qantas jumbo jet. This was a mess for those passengers on board, nearly caused a disaster. Some passengers question the condition of the oxygen masks they were forced to wear during the emergency landing in the Philippines. Officials say one of the oxygen cylinders is now missing from the plane.


NEVILLE BLYTH, AUSTRALIAN TRANSPORT & SAFETY BUREAU: There's a number of cylinders in that location. There is one cylinder which is not present. It is not accounted for in that area. In the area where was such a big concern (ph).

DAVID SAUNDERS, PASSENGER: The mask was falling away and I was starting to blackout. And I sort of sat back up and held the mask and tried to tighten it again. And the more I pulled it, the looser it got.

SCOTT ROBINSON, PASSENGER: If you didn't have that oxygen on and you did go over, look, to one's going to be able to help you.


HOLMES: The plane was able to land safely, but Qantas has now been ordered to inspect quickly every oxygen bottle aboard its fleet of 30 Boeing 747s.

CHO: One hundred days and counting until Election Day in November.

Barack Obama is back home in Chicago this morning after a week long overseas trip. Obama landed in Chicago late last night, and today, is he scheduled to speak in Chicago at the Unity conference. That is a huge gathering of journalists. It happens once every four years and our own Suzanne Malveaux will be moderating.

John McCain has no public events today. Yesterday, he hosted several top Republicans at his ranch in Sedona, Arizona. McCain's campaign also debuted a new TV ad last night. In it, he criticizes Barack Obama for not visiting wounded soldiers during his stop in Germany.

And be sure to tune in to a special CNN LATE EDITION today, where we're going to hear from both candidates, as you see there on the screen. Wolf Blitzer is going to talk with John McCain, and then Barack Obama live at the Unity journalism conference, a special LATE EDITION is coming your way at 11:00 a.m. Eastern Time.

HOLMES: We're also going to talk more about Barack Obama's trip coming up next hour right here on CNN SUNDAY MORNING. CNN political producer, Sasha Johnson was there for that trip. She'll join us at 9:30 Eastern with a little detail on that overseas tour and the possible effect it could have on the campaign.

Now, something that's getting a lot of attention this morning, a controversy surrounding Barack Obama's stop in Israel. You might remember this picture here at the Wailing Wall, the western wall. And he put a note, you see there, this is what visitors do to this wall, they write a little note, a prayer often times, and they stick that note in the wall. Well, that's exactly what he did.

However, a student reportedly came and took that particular note out of the wall. Then, the content of the note were printed by an Israeli newspaper. Again, this is something that a very holy tradition that's considered a conversation between that person and God and a very private note. Well, it's been published.

The rabbi there who was in-charge of the wall says this is a huge invasion of privacy and we want to know what you think about it. Should the media publish the content of that note? Also, what do you think about the young man, the student taking that note out of the wall?

Send us your response at

Also, our Sasha Johnson who we're going to talk to next hour, she was on that trip, she was there at the moment he put that note on there. We might get some insights from her about (INAUDIBLE).

CHO: Yes, a lot of debate over that. I mean, this is Judaism's holy site, holiest site. Those notes are supposed to go in and stay in there, not supposed to take them out. So, we'll have to see what people think. I'm sure people will weigh in on this.

HOLMES: Yes, probably already are.

CHO: Realizing his Olympic dream, one young athlete ready for Beijing.

HOLMES: Also, getting a big boost from his family.


CHO: Twelve minutes after the hour.

There will be protests in New York and San Francisco today. People outraged at recent comments made by radio talk show host, Michael Savage. He is no stranger to controversy. And they want him fired.

Earlier this month, you may recall, on his radio show, Savage said that some autistic children are simply being brats and that's angered a lot of people. Most of all, parents of autistic children.


CHO (voice-over): Even for a shock jock, it was shocking.


MICHAEL SAVAGE, RADIO TALK SHOW HOST: You know what autism is? I'll tell what you autism is in 99 percent of the cases. It's a brat who hasn't been told to cut the act out.


CHO: Media Matters, a liberal watch dog group, posted conservative radio host, Michael Savage's comments on autism.


SAVAGE: What do you mean they scream and are silent? They don't have a father out to tell them don't act like a moron, you'll get nowhere in life, stop acting like a putz. Straighten up, act like a man, don't sit there crying and screaming, idiot.


CHO: Savage words to the parents of children with autism.

MARTIN SCHWARTZMAN, PARENT OF AUTISTIC CHILD: It's like a punch in the gut. It's heartbreaking. I mean, autism is 24/7. You really-- the whole lives of families change in raising a child with autism.

CHO: Martin Schwartzman's 15-year-old son, Robby (ph), is moderately autistic. When Robby's twin sister heard about Savage's comments...

ALLYSON SCHWARTZMAN, SISTER OF AUTISTIC CHILD: It was really disturbing and was heartbreaking. And it really hurt my feelings because I felt like my brother and every autistic child or adult in the world was being attacked.

CHO: These families won't Savage fired, or at least for advertisers to boycott his "Savage Nation" radio show.

ALEX FILOSA, PARENT OF AUTISTIC CHILD: You know, the comment that I find upsetting is he said fathers are not involved. I'm a very involved father with my daughter. I'm always there for her.

CHO: Comments that may be offensive, but according to constitutional law expert, perfectly legal.

PROF. NATE PERSILY, COLUMBIA UNIV. LAW SCHOOL: The Constitution protects your right to be a jerk sometimes, and this might be one of those cases where jerky speech is protected.

CHO: In a telephone interview on CNN's LARRY KING LIVE, Savage showed no signs of backing down.

SAVAGE: If you heard the entire show, you would have heard me addressing those comments to the misdiagnosed, false diagnosed, and outright racketeers as opposed to the general category of autistic children.

CHO: Some medical experts disagree.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: In my 30 years taking care of children, I haven't seen an over-diagnosis of autism and delays, I've seen an under-diagnosis.


CHO: And you just heard in the piece from Martin Schwartzman, he's a parent of an autistic child, he has twins actually, his son is autistic, he's joining us now from New York.

I know you referred to it as a punch in the gut and heartbreaking. I met you earlier this month, Martin, as you well know, at a protest in New York. Why take part in another protest today? What's your goal?

SCHWARTZMAN: Well, the goal is to increase some awareness about autism and hopefully that we would want the sponsors to support a program like Michael Savage to pull out of that kind of show, to send a message that those types of irresponsible and heartless statements should not be made on the airways, because of the damage that it causes.

CHO: Martin, what is it that you think Michael Savage simply does not understand about autism?

SCHWARTZMAN: Well, first, I think he just tries to be provocative, but, you know, I could not believe how low he could sink to that kind of a level because that kind of statement, being so misleading, is just irresponsible and hurtful. But not only that, it causes damages because we try to promote awareness and acceptance to autism.

I would hate for people to believe that and then just, you know, be disrespectful or yell at children, or not try to accommodate them or accept them in any way.

CHO: Well, in fact, Michael Savage has come back saying that he stands by his comments. In fact, what he meant, he says, is that many children are over-medicated, they're over-diagnosed, but a lot of parents I spoke to, including you, say, "That's not the case." You say that one of the great things about autism awareness is that more children are actually getting diagnosed at an earlier age, isn't that right?

SCHWARTZMAN: Yes, that's absolutely true. Many of these children in the past were written off, many were put into institutions. Some were mislabeled as schizophrenic or other kinds of psychiatric disorders.

There is no cure for autism but we now have certain medications and other interventions that are more helpful, that make these children and adults more productive into society. And if you wanted to have a discussion about overmedication or too many, there's a more appropriate way to do it than the way that it was done.

CHO: And, Martin, one more question because I know that these comments touched you and your family very much, including your daughter, whose twin has autism. And what happened when she heard about what Michael Savage said?

SCHWARTZMAN: Well, when we told it to my daughter and she finally heard the clip, I mean, my daughter's very sensitive of being a twin to her brother. She just broke down in tears and was crying. She took it very personally. She couldn't understand how someone could attack her brother who is probably the sweetest kid, you know, on the planet.

And she felt so bad. And she literally just couldn't understand how someone could say those kinds of things being that they were so untrue.

CHO: Well, we're glad that you came in to our studio in New York to bring some more awareness about autism to our viewers this morning. Martin Schwartzman, good luck out there today and it's great to see you. Thank you for your comment.


CHO: T.J.?

HOLMES: Well, how do you go from being a relative novice in something to a legitimate gold medal contender in just a matter of years? We'll explain how a teenager did just that.


HOLMES: We are getting ready for the Olympics, less than two weeks away now. And when I say we, what I mean is Larry. Larry is the one that gets to go actually. It's a heck of a trip. I got go to Athens in '04 to cover the games there. I was there for a month. So, you've got a heck of an experience coming up and all these stories you'll bring us about these athletes and got another one for us.

SMITH: Yes, this will be a lot of fun. It's my fourth Olympics. As we were talking, just when you heard during the break, I mean, this is just, anytime you get a chance to be a part of this experience, it really is, you know -- I get to do a lot of neat events, as we talked about, but this is really still the cream of the crop.

So, you know, yesterday, we talked about an entire family, the Lopez family, and the Taekwondo. They're all going to the Olympics. Well, this is another family affair, but one that's more after generational variety. Listen to this.


SMITH (voice-over): Taylor Phinney is competing at the Olympics in cycling, not surprising when you consider his mom and dad won cycling medals at the '84 games in Los Angeles. What is surprising? The fact he's become a world class athlete in a sport he picked up just three years ago.

TAYLOR PHINNEY, OLYMPIC CYCLIST: I always played soccer, played games as opposed to racing. So, racing was sort of a scary thing for me. And then, you know, I just got up the courage to do it and I started could be good at it.

DAVIS PHINNEY, TAYLOR'S DAD: When I saw him in his very first race, I was like, "Oh, boy, he's got it."

CONNIE CARPENTER, TAYLOR'S MOM: It's (INAUDIBLE) Taylor eclipsing anything we did, we were just sitting back and enjoying that ride because, I mean, in so many ways, he's so much better than we ever were.

SMITH: Taylor's rise to the ranks is nothing short of stunning. And while he seems to have inherited his mother's skills in the pursuit event, he apparently inherited his competitiveness from his father.

T. PHINNEY: My dad used to get really pissed off when he would lose a race especially when he got sick in France. And I definitely have that genetic ability.

D. PHINNEY: People will say, "Well, geez, it's not all about winning. And it's about enjoying the competition." You know, both Taylor and I would say, well, that's (INAUDIBLE) you know.

SMITH: Competing in the Olympics is rare for an 18-year-old cyclist, but Taylor seems unfazed. A quality he attributes to the years he and his family lived in Italy.

T. PHINNEY: The nerve that came from having to go to an Italian school, and sort of be cool in Italian and be funny in Italian. I was just like a nervous wreck for like three years. And then, I think I just wasted them all and don't have any nerves left now.

SMITH: While Taylor's career began to soar, his dad's health declined. In 2000, David Phinney was diagnosed with Parkinson's disease. Just a few months ago, it was doubtful he'd be able to travel to Beijing. But in April, he had a form of brain surgery called "deep brain stimulation," which improved his condition dramatically.

D. PHINNEY: It literally is like flipping a switch. You know, I had a brain here, a pacemaker battery, and it has a cable that goes up into two probes, two leads, that go down into my skull about this (ph) far. That sounds pretty drastic, but honestly, the result is really something.

T. PHINNEY: Before he couldn't really do maneuvers like this. And then, you know, they just turned this thing on and it's like, I mean, it's insane. You know, modern technology works its miracles. You know, we're thankful for that.

CARPENTER: Our family is a team, and I think that's a big part of how we move through life. You know, that's how we roll, we're a team.

SMITH: Now the team can focus on Taylor adding to the family's Olympic legacy.


SMITH: It's kind of a hip mom, that's how we roll. I like that.



SMITH: And the opening ceremony coming up here a week from Friday, August 8th.

HOLMES: They didn't have a choice for him to be an Olympian with his parents. But -- we were talking about this, I was curious to get your thought in what was going to be the biggest story out of the Olympics, you know, what's going to be the breakout, the big news story, the big whatever, but, you know what -- it might just be that pollution.

SMITH: Yes, I think that it will. I mean, that's the thing, if you have outdoor games that are delayed because of the pollution that will become the big story.

HOLMES: That will be the big story. And, again, they would just have to shift those events to happen as late as possible.

SMITH: Right. They were going to change the schedule, they wouldn't move the closing date, they can't do that, but, you know -- so, it will be interest to go see what happens.

HOLMES: Change (ph) the games in December.

SMITH: Right.


HOLMES: Larry, we appreciate it. Have a good trip, buddy.

SMITH: All right. Thanks.

CHO: Have fun over there. You went to Greece for the Olympics?

HOLMES: I did. I still have the tan.

CHO: That's a boondoggle.

Well, this story, you love this story, don't you? She was dumped before she even got to the altar. And then, well, she decided to head to court. And she got some money. Josh Levs has your thoughts on a bride who was jilted.

HOLMES: And they're my thoughts, too.


HOLMES: All right, Alina, let's do this. We talked about this bride, Rosemary Shell...

CHO: You got to lean forward and getting ready.

HOLMES: OK. Let's do it. There she is, on the left. She was dumped, OK? It happens. It happens. But she sued the guy who wouldn't meet her at the altar.


CHO: A promise is a promise as I said before.

HOLMES: It's not a guarantee, it's not a contract.

CHO: A big no.

HOLMES: OK, go ahead.

CHO: You know I don't really believe that. But, you know, you may recall that this woman, Rosemary Shell is her name, she actually was dumped and then she sued her ex-fiance when she got dumped because she says that she quit her high-paying job to move to be with her fiance to get married.

HOLMES: Give them the kicker. Give them the kicker. Give it to them, go ahead.

CHO: A Georgia jury awarded her $150,000 because of the deep financial hit she had taken. She got the ring, as well. So Josh Levs is here with a little bit of reaction.