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Afghan President Praises Obama's New War Plan; Alaskan Volcano Mt. Redoubt Has Erupted; Military Sends Help as Uncertainty Floods Fargo; Twister Touches Down Near I-95 in North Carolina; Interview With T.I.

Aired March 28, 2009 - 06:00   ET


T.J. HOLMES, CNN ANCHOR: Good morning, everybody. From the CNN Center, on this Saturday morning, 6:00 a.m. here on the East Coast, 3:00 a.m. out there in San Diego, California, hey there. I'm T.J.


HOLMES: Good morning to you.

NGUYEN: You should be awake with a cup that large. I mean...

HOLMES: Nothing in it but water. It's not coffee, folks. You're OK.

NGUYEN: Just water. OK.

Well, good morning, everybody. I'm Betty Nguyen. Thanks so much for starting your day with us.

You know, the big story today is, of course, the weather. From the far north down to the Deep South, want you to take a look at this. It is not the sight that you want to see when you're driving down...


NGUYEN: ...the interstate. A tornado touching, Interstate 95 in North Carolina. Look how big that thing is.

Well, you're also going to hear from a man who says his wife was tossed in the air by that twister.

HOLMES: Now we're seeing some of those cars. Why are they going that direction?

NGUYEN: Yes, toward it. They should be going the other way.

HOLMES: All right. Yes. But some nasty weather to talk about this morning.

Also, a situation finally comes to a head. T.I., the rapper, one of the biggest stars on the planet, he is going to prison. He found out yesterday his sentence. I sat down with him, one of his last interviews before the sentencing date. You will hear from him about being a role model and being a changed man. NGUYEN: And this is the outrage story of the week: a police officer stops a family at a Dallas hospital while they were trying to visit their dying mother. That officer refuses to let the driver go inside. His mother-in-law dies while the cop is issuing a traffic ticket.

HOLMES: But first, we want to bring you this that we got new overnight: America's new plan for fighting extremism in Afghanistan. You know the president talked about just yesterday.

Well, the president of Afghanistan, he is giving it the thumbs- up. Hamid Karzai, just a couple of hours ago, giving a press conference. He -- talking about that plan -- Obama, as you may know, plans to send in more troops on top of the 17,000 he already approved, saying he's going to send another 4,000.

Also wants more civilians in Afghanistan to help with that rebuilding effort. Karzai welcomes this renewed focus on his country.


HAMID KARZAI, PRESIDENT OF AFGHANISTAN: This is what -- this is better than we were expecting, as a matter of fact. And we back it, and we go for it to a full implementation.


NGUYEN: Well, back here at home, people around Fargo, North Dakota, are bracing for some record flooding today. Hundreds have already evacuated areas along the Red River.

The military sent in 15 helicopters and support personnel and thousands of people helped sandbag dikes around the city this week. Now, we will have a live report from Fargo in just a minute.

HOLMES: Also, 77 people dead, more than 100 missing after a dam burst opened near Indonesia's capital. Officials say days of torrential rains filled a lake bordering a residential area of Jakarta. When that dam on the lake filled, a wall of water destroyed hundreds of homes.

Survivors there -- listen to what they're calling it -- "a suburban tsunami."


Well, Alaska's Mount Redoubt erupted four times Friday, shooting volcanic ash more than nine miles into the sky. Alaska Airlines has been limiting flights to and from Anchorage -- look at some of that. The volcanic ash, even in small amounts, can damage plans and car engines. And it almost looks like snow on the ground.

Well, two mud floes produced by the volcano are moving toward an oil terminal where more than 6 million gallons of oil is stored. The Coast Guard says the oil is safe where it is right now. HOLMES: All right. Let's turn now to this mess they've got on their hands in North Dakota. Emergency crews there never seen the Red River so high around Fargo. Hundreds of people have already gotten out of there ahead of this expected record flooding. More people are probably going to be fleeing as well.

NGUYEN: Yes, and everybody is just hoping the levees and dikes will hold up. Well, we're going to check in with our Susan Roesgen in just a few minutes. She is live in Fargo.

But in the meantime, President Obama is monitoring the weather situation in the Midwest this morning. In his radio address, just released minutes ago, he says he is continuing his support for the people of Minnesota, North Dakota and South Dakota.

Fargo's mayor says the president called him to make sure the city is prepared. And you're going to hear the president's remarks next hour.

In the meantime, let's get you back to this: Fargo Mayor Dennis Walaker obviously has a busy morning ahead of him. But he is going to take a minute to update us on the flood response. That is live at 8:30 Eastern this morning.

HOLMES: All right. Other weather -- a lot of weather going on.

Take a look: dark cloud over Interstate 95. This is near Hope Mills, North Carolina. We're going to get this picture up for you. That -- we just saw a moment ago -- this video here. Incredible. And again, amazing that people are driving towards the tornado. Folks, turn around.

The interstate was closed for about an hour in one county because of accidents and debris on the road.

Twisters reported elsewhere as well. One was near Fayetteville. It injured one woman. Her husband -- listen to him now describe it.


KEVIN KINGSBURY, STORM SURVIVOR: I went to the front door, and I busted it open. And when I busted it open, I saw it -- her flying in the air, and it set her down in the field. And luckily -- because where you see that stick sticking up, that box in front landed; she landed, and then that stick landed right next to her.


NGUYEN: The woman's husband says her injuries are not life threatening.

But we do want to take you to the Texas Panhandle right now. Take a listen to this.




NGUYEN: Those howling winds, they were blowing up to 50 miles an hour.

HOLMES: Yes. Often times, snow is coming down. You can see that snow. It is blowing sideways. Several highways in the Panhandle closed until later this morning.

Also, deep in the heart of Texas, Betty...

NGUYEN: Mm-hmm.

HOLMES: blizzard but damaging winds and hail was the issue. This is -- what is this? -- Cleveland, about 45 miles north of Houston. No serious injuries to report, but as you can see, it is a mess.

NGUYEN: Man, the weather outside has been awfully rough as of later, and -- and we have more severe weather to tell you about today in the Southeast.

Meteorologist Karen Maginnis is tracking all of us for us.

Karen, what do you have in story?

KAREN MAGINNIS, CNN METEOROLOGIST: Well, I think can we do the entire 24-hour day-part with nothing but weather. We've got essentially three big stories.

Our first one this morning is the severe weather in the Deep South, and I have the very latest information. We just received this from the National Weather Service, that there is a tornado warning in effect right now right around Andalusia (ph), Alabama. That's in the south-central portion of the state near Escambia County, also in Covington County. It goes until about four or five more minutes, but it is indicated on Doppler radar, moving towards the east at 50 miles an hour.

Now this area is encompassed by a tornado watch that goes until later on this afternoon. And we'll expect the activity to continue not just through this morning, not through the afternoon -- but this is a system that is so wound up so tightly and it's got so much energy with it -- take a look at where we're looking at that lightning. And that is just about in the vicinity and Andalusia, that I was telling you about, where there is a tornado warning. That means that it's either Doppler-radar indicated, or perhaps indicated by the public.

Now when we come back, towards the bottom of the hour, in just about 25 or 30 minutes, we'll bring you an update on what's happening with our other big story, that has been the big story for the past week or so, and that is the severe flooding across the Dakotas.

But don't forget, Betty and T.J., we also have a major snow storm and blizzard conditions in the central U.S. So we'll keep you updated on that.

Back to you.

HOLMES: My goodness, you're right. All three of those -- three major stories happening today. We appreciate -- appreciate you being here this weekend, keeping an eye on things. We'll talk to you here soon.

NGUYEN: All right.

And we do want to get the latest now on a very active Alaskan volcano, that being Mount Redoubt we talked about just a little bit earlier. Well, again, four eruptions just yesterday. An ash cloud 65,000 feet in the sky, 12 miles high. That just gives you some perspective.

Well, joining us now by phone is Tom Murray, the scientist in charge at the Alaska Volcano Observatory.

Let me ask you this: we've seen -- what? -- four eruptions yesterday. Is this just the beginning of what we could see to -- to come in the coming days?

TOM MURRAY, ALASKA VOLCANO OBSERVATORY: Well, actually there -- there were five yesterday. We snuck -- we snuck one in at the -- at a -- at 11:20 last night.


MURRAY: Yes, there's nothing to believe -- no reason to believe that this is going to get really soon. It could -- it does have to quit at some point, so -- we're not sure how much longer it's going to go right now with this -- with his level of explosive activity.

NGUYEN: Well, let me ask you this: do you think the eruptions are going to get larger as time goes on?

MURRAY: I would estimate that the answer to that is now, that they're probably not -- they've been pretty consistent here for the -- in the 30,000 up to 50,000, occasionally a little higher than that. So I don't think we're going to get anything much larger than what we're currently seeing.

NGUYEN: And what about the people who live in the ash plain, as -- as we'll call it here? Because that ash has really fallen in many areas, sometimes even looking like it snow it was so thick.

MURRAY: So far, we haven't heard too much -- too many problems with people. You got to remember, a lot of the -- the places where -- where it finally hits the populated areas are quite a ways from the volcano, so you get things like just a -- sort of a trace or a dusting.

Here in Anchorage, for instance, you could -- the way I noted it yesterday morning as I go out and I rub on the top of my car that was outside, and then you could sort of feel that the ash had fallen overnight.

NGUYEN: And what about an oil terminal where there are some 6 million gallons of oil stored? We understand the Coast Guard says it's OK for now.

Any indication that that could be a threat?

MURRAY: The large (ph) do pose a hazard to the oil terminal, but the -- the Coast Guard and the Alaska DEC are -- are in -- in charge of that, so I'm assuming they're taking care of that.

NGUYEN: All right. Tom Murray, watching it very closely. We do appreciate your time and insight today. Thank you.


NGUYEN: Well, you know, some folks in Fargo, there are protected from rising waters by an invisible flood wall. What is that? Well, we're going to take a look at it, and -- and find out exactly what that is doing to help the folks as they're waiting, bracing themself for this record flooding.

HOLMES: Yes. Lord knows, they need the help. Reynolds was talking about that last weekend, and they had time to prepare for it.

NGUYEN: Right.

HOLMES: It was amazing to know that a flood was coming like that. See if they can now hold on right about now.

NGUYEN: Yes they can.

HOLMES: Also -- well, his resume includes Grammy awards and also countless arrests, actually. T.I., one of the biggest music stars on the planet, is going to prison.

I talked to him about taking responsibility. Take a listen:


HOLMES: Now what can you say to people to -- to let them know that, OK, he's learned his lesson.

T.I., RAPPER: I can't say any words to make you -- to convince you, you know, that I have changed, that I have learned a lesson. That comes with time.


HOLMES: Well, a judge, at least, gave him the benefit of the doubt. We'll talk to you about -- tell you about an extraordinary plea deal that kept him out of jail a year after he was pleading guilty to weapons charge.

My sit-down with the rap star, coming up.





NGUYEN: Give you a fact now about Fargo, North Dakota: Fargo's last major flood was in 1997, when the Red River crested at 39.57 feet.

We are, of course, keeping a very close eye on the floodwaters there, and we're going to get a live report in just minutes.





NGUYEN: Just live your life.


NGUYEN: There's new meaning to that these days...


NGUYEN: ...for rapper T.I. He will spend a year and a day in prison on a federal weapons violation.

HOLMES: Yes, this star sentenced yesterday. He had pled guilty to buying machine guns and silences. Got busted in a sting operation; that happened back in 2007. He apologized yesterday for disappointing people who see him as a role model.


T.I.: Apologies to my family, to the young -- the young men, young women that I mentor. And I just will hope everyone can learn from my situation, and I hope that I can keep one -- at least one, if not a million or more, from going down a similar path as mine.


HOLMES: All right. In addition -- now -- well, in that plea deal -- there were a lot of things in there. But also in his sentencing yesterday, had to pay at least $100,000 in fines and whatnot.

Also a part of that plea, he has to spend some more time in home confinement. He's done much of that -- or most of that already. Also, he has to serve 1,500 -- to 1,500 hours of community service. He's done at least 1,000 so far. Now, I sat down with T.I. in one of his last interviews before his sentencing date yesterday. We talked about a lot of things, also his influence as a role model, which he certainly thinks he is. And also, whether or not he today is a changed man.



HOLMES (voice-over): This is Clifford Harris as a free man. Better known as rapper T.I., he's been at the top of the music world for years now. His sixth album, "Paper Trail," was one of the top- selling albums of 2008, and his fourth straight album to go platinum.

He picked up his most recent Grammy award in February, and he's also on Forbes' list of highest-paid hip-hop stars.

So what's next for T.I.?


(on camera): How many times have you been arrested?


HOLMES: Do you have a good count?

T.I.: You know what? I -- I don't have a -- a -- an actual...


T.I.: ...factual number.


T.I.: So I won't -- you know, I won't give -- I won't just throw speculative ...


T.I.: know, speculative numbers out.

HOLMES: I will throw one out there...

T.I.: OK.

HOLMES: ...that I read, that somebody decided to do a count.

T.I.: OK.

HOLMES: And they said 32. Would you -- would you argue with that too much one way or another?

T.I.: I -- I cannot confirm nor deny.

(LAUGHTER) HOLMES: All right. But it's been more than once or twice.

(voice-over): But his latest arrest, in 2007, threatened to end his career and put him in jail for up to 30 years. He was busted in his hometown of Atlanta trying to buy machine guns and silencers hours before he was set to perform at the BET Awards.

(on camera): Are you ever going to feel a sense of safety that you don't feel like you need to protect yourself or carry a gun?

T.I.: I've made it through some very extreme circumstances, and I didn't always have firearms to protect me. And I'm still here. So if I was supposed to be gone, I'd have been gone then.

HOLMES: So you're telling me you've come to a place of peace, and that paranoia has subsided...

T.I.: Absolutely.

HOLMES: ...and that you don't feel the need for it anymore.

T.I.: Absolutely.

HOLMES: To be carrying guns?

T.I.: Absolutely.

HOLMES (voice-over): He pleaded guilty to weapons charges in March of last year. His plea deal allowed him to delay his jail sentence for 12 months. But he's been far from a free man.


HOLMES (on camera): That you?

T.I.: Yes.


T.I.: I'm actually doing an interview with CNN. As soon as I'm finished, I'll change the battery.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Good deal. My name is Monica (INAUDIBLE)

HOLMES (voice-over): Our conversation was interrupted by his ankle monitor, telling him he had five minutes to change the battery.

Also part of his plea deal: a thousand hours of community service. Much of that community service: talking to kids around the country about his success and failures.

(on camera): A lot of young people you know, of course, idolize you, look up to you in a lot of ways.

Should they? Do -- is it -- should they look up to you? T.I.: You shouldn't take the things that I've gone through and the negative parts of my life and, you know, and -- and admire me for that, you know? If anything, admire me for how I've accepted responsibility for the part I played in placing myself in these situations, and what I've done to recover from it.

HOLMES: What assurance can you give that over time, once you get out of jail, you can prove to people that you have changed, and this is totally different?

T.I.: Well...

HOLMES: But right now what can you see to people to -- to let them know that, OK, he's learned his lesson.

T.I.: I can't say any words to make you -- to convince you, you know, that I have changed, that I have learned a lesson. That comes with time.


HOLMES: It comes with time, and he has some time now to think about a lot of stuff. He'll be in prison; he's going to be reporting on May 19, one of those voluntarily surrender deals. So he's still not prison just yet; he's still a free man.

But the plea deal....


HOLMES: ...was extraordinary. Now..

NGUYEN: Because he faced -- what? -- 30 years?

HOLMES: Looking at 30 years, and now it's down to one. A lot of people have really scrutinized and criticized the judge, also the prosecutors, thinking, "Hey, this is some superstar. They let him off easy."

Well, the judge yesterday said in court that this was an experiment. Sure enough he knew he was putting his own name on the line. But an experiment: instead of just throwing another young man -- throwing him in jail, throwing him in prison -- can we get some good of this young man, to set an example?

So what he did, 1,000 hours. You know, he -- he -- he brings the kids in just by being a star; they love his music.

NGUYEN: Right.

HOLMES: But then he stars talking; he has their attention. And he can talk to them about what he's done wrong and get a positive message out. And they think the experiment worked.

NGUYEN: We'll see. A year and a day.

HOLMES: A year and a day.

NGUYEN: But it may not even last that long, correct?

HOLMES: It -- it might now. And a lot of people, are like, 'What? A year and a day? Why is that -- that doesn't make sense.'

NGUYEN: Right.

HOLMES: Well, according to -- to law, if you get more than a year in jail, is -- is what they're saying, if you get more than a year -- sentenced more than a year, then you're eligible for time off for good behavior.

NGUYEN: So that's what they're hoping for.

HOLMES: So what's that they're saying. If he would have gotten a 364-day sentence, he wasn't eligible for time off for good behavior.


HOLMES: But it's a year and a day, so he could -- good behavior, still get some of that time chopped off.

NGUYEN: Gotcha.

HOLMES: There you go. All right.

NGUYEN: Well, we will be watching, no doubt. Good stuff there though, T.J. Really good stuff.

OK, so, you know, they were racing to the hospital -- listen to this story -- trying to reach a loved one...


NGUYEN: ...before she died. And then came the sirens. And now, the outrage.

HOLMES: Yes. We want to talk you about this story, and want your feedback. We want -- we're going to -- actually trying to solicit some -- some of your opinion out there...

NGUYEN: Right.

HOLMES: ...about that particular story. A lot of you all will know what we're talking about, this particular story. Get into a little more, but by all means, we're on Twitter; we're on Facebook. Send us your responses to that, and we will be talking about it more here in a second.

Also, North Dakota we'll be talking about a lot, and trying to salvage what they can. A live update from Fargo as the evacuations are under way.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) NGUYEN: All right, folks. We are getting a whole lot of iReports from our viewers on the flood threat. These pictures are from Kyle Martin (ph) in Bismarck, North Dakota. He was one of the volunteers filling sandbags at the civic center this week to stop potential flooding from the swollen Missouri River.

Well, Kyle says, to see everyone working together, volunteers, soldiers, side by side, was truly an awesome site. He says everyone is doing their part to keep the city above water.

HOLMES: Yes, emergency crews, everybody is pitching in out there. But nobody has ever seen the Red River so high around Fargo. Hundreds of people already got out of there ahead of the expected record flooding.

NGUYEN: Yes, and everybody is hoping the levees and dikes in the city will hold up.

Our Susan Roesgen is live in Fargo. She joins us now.

Susan, tell us where you are and what's going on at this hour.

SUSAN ROESGEN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Actually, Betty and T.J., I'm in a Fargo neighborhood. And what they're doing here, if you can see behind me -- behind my shoulders there, they're actually using a forklift to dig up more mud. They are building one of those secondary dikes.

Now the good news is, that's more protection for the homeowners in this neighborhood. The bad news is, that means that there is always a possibility that the main line of defense, the sandbags in this area, might not hold if the water goes over 42 feet. It's already 22 feet above flood level, way higher than it's ever been.

But right now, they're shoring up this secondary dike, this contingency dike. You can't see it in the dark, but I won't bother telling you, except that it's off of my right soldier -- shoulder. And it is an earth-and-mud levee. It's about six feet tall or so.

And the bad news about this is that, what that means is the homes that are right between the primary levee and the secondary levee, if the water overtops the first, and the mud levee stops the second, that means any homes right in the middle -- and it looks like just one long row of homes, they'd be in no man's land. They would get some water.

But again, they are expecting here to have this crest sometime today at 42 feet. As high as that sounds, that's actually good news. There were afraid it might go up to 43 feet. They believe, in fact, that the Red River may already be cresting in this area. So Fargo and Moorhead, Minnesota, residents are just sort of watching, waiting, hoping, praying, while guys like this behind are going to keep working straight there -- T.J. and Betty.

HOLMES: Well, Susie, you say watching, waiting, hoping, praying -- how many are leaving? ROESGEN: Well, you know, some of the most vulnerable residents, as you might imagine, T.J., some nursing-home residents that were in a more vulnerable area. They evacuated one of the hospitals in Fargo.

We have heard that perhaps as many as one-third of the people in Moorhead, which is just across the river from Fargo, have evacuated, not really because they're -- there's any immediate concern of imminent danger. But it's always a smart move to get the nursing-home residents out first, some hospital patients out first. And in specific neighborhoods where the water did rise too high, and where they have been some breaches in -- in manmade levees where things did not hold, those neighborhoods have evacuated as well.

The rest of the folks in this Fargo-Moorhead area are just kind of staying put right now, T.J.

HOLMES: All right. Susie Roesgen for us there in Fargo. Susie, we appreciate you. We'll be checking in with you again.

NGUYEN: In the meantime, want you to take a look at this incredible video out of North Carolina. A twister -- look at that thing -- touches down. But that's not the only area seeing severe weather.

HOLMES: Also, we'll be checking in with our Reynolds Wolf -- there he is. We sent him out to do some work for us, and he gets put to work in other ways, as always. He's helping out in the flood zone.


REYNOLDS WOLF, CNN METEOROLOGIST: The people in the area, certainly taking this serious. They've been putting up sandbags, building dams, dikes. We met one family who is doing just that.



NGUYEN: Well, good morning and welcome back, everybody. I'm Betty Nguyen.

HOLMES: And I'm T.J. Holmes. Glad you could be here with us on this Saturday. We'll continue our reporting from the flood zone in North Dakota. But first, got a few other headlines here for you.

Look at this. What do you do -- you see this on the interstate -- would you be driving that direction, toward that...


HOLMES: ...big, ugly, scary cloud? Well, you can see in the video, some people area. Well, we know about at least two tornadoes that touched down late yesterday afternoon. This was in North Carolina.

One male -- man in Fayetteville says his wife was actually thrown from their mobile home.

NGUYEN: Goodness.

HOLMES: She was hurt; her injuries, however, not described as life-threatening.

NGUYEN: Well, it's not over, because tornado warnings are in place in southwest Oklahoma today. A nasty storm left several hundred people without power there. People in the northwest part of the state are under blizzard warnings. The Associated Press says bad weather was the cause for two traffic deaths in the region. The governor declared a state of emergency in 50 counties.

HOLMES: Also, happiest place on Earth? Uh-uh. Disney laying people off. It has laid off a large number of employees over the past three weeks. Sources inside the company say salaried worked at Disney World in Florida getting hit the hardest. The Disney vice president says the company is reorganizing but won't say exactly how many people have been let go.

NGUYEN: We want to get you straight to the devastating flooding, potential for more in North Dakota. The Pentagon has sent 15 helicopters and their crews to the Red River area to assist in the evacuations and emergency situations. Now, hundreds have been evacuate -more -- evacuated, I should say -- more could be evacuated as water threatens to overwhelm all those sandbag dikes.

The Red River is expected to crest tomorrow. As of late last night though, the river was 41 feet high. That is almost 22 feet above flood stage. Our intrepid Reynolds Wolf, well he is always looking for an adventure, always looking to help out.

HOLMES: To help out as well. He's in Fargo covering this historic flooding and pitching in a bit as well.


WOLF: I'm coming to you from Fargo, North Dakota, standing in the Red River where waters continue to rise. Yesterday records were broken that lasted over 100 years, of 40.1 feet. The forecast has the river actually topping out at 42 feet through the weekend. Some forecasts bring it up to about 43, as we get into early next week.

Now, the people in the area certainly taking this serious. They've been putting up sandbags, building dams, dikes. We met one family who was doing just that.

HEIDI FISHER, FARGO RESIDENT: Yep, I have your cell phone. I'm going to load the car. We're going to head out.

WOLF (voice over): It's the first time the Fisher family has evacuated their house in the 14 years they've called it home.

(On camera): So you were here during the flood of '97?

H. FISHER: Yes. WOLF: How does that compare to what you're seeing here?

H. FISHER: It was -it hardly lapped against the bags. And when the dike broke it just came in front of the street and we were OK.

WOLF: This time forecasters bring the river even higher. And that prediction is enough to make Heidi get out of town.

H. FISHER: The kids, and the cat, and I are going to go join other family members, about an hour east of here.

WOLF: Her husband Skip is staying put, watching the dam out back and manning the pump.

SKIP FISHER, FARGO RESIDENT: I'm staying until they cut my power. If they cut my electricity off then I don't have heat, so ...

WOLF: Now the Fisher's home sits at 42 feet and as the waters rise this sandbags go down. They hope to stack them high enough to hold back the record crest of the river.

S. FISHER: We're probably at least 43 and a half in back there. So we're feeling a little more at ease with it.

WOLF: And he's also feeling lucky. Having friends help with the heavy lifting, some that he's known for years, and some for only a few minutes.

S. FISHER: Well, the people who are here have been so great. It's just -- can't say enough.

WOLF: It's that camaraderie, the can-do Midwest spirit, that keeps him standing tall as the waters rise.

S. FISHER: As the mayor said, go down swinging. That's what I'm trying.

WOLF: Very realistic approach.

S. FISHER: Yeah, I mean, if it happens, you know, then we deal with it then. Clean it up and move on.

WOLF (on camera): Now, there are a couple of levees in the area that are of concern. The National Guard is going to check each of those locations at least twice an hour just to make sure everything is in tip-top shape. That's the story.

Reynolds wolf, CNN, Fargo, North Dakota.


HOLMES: And our Reynolds Wolf will be joining us live coming up at 9:00, here on CNN SATURDAY MORNING.

Meanwhile, you're hearing all these numbers about cresting and this high and record this, and 41 foot. OK, here we go. The river's about at 41 feet now. They can deal with that; 42 feet would be bad, 43 feet, maybe they might not be able to deal with it. But the governor, at least, of North Dakota says, that the town should be OK if those dikes hold. And, again, the river does not rise above that 43 feet.


GOV. JOHN HOEVEN, NORTH DAKOTA: There flood protection is built to about 43 feet. The other thing, of course, is sustaining the flood protection over time. This isn't a one-day crest. This goes on for a number of days. That's why we're working very hard not only to build a flood protection but monitor it carefully and make sure we continue to maintain it.


HOLMES: Coming up at 8:30 Eastern we'll get an update on the situation there from the Fargo mayor, Dennis Walaker.

NGUYEN: All right. So what can people in Fargo expect today? Meteorologist Karen Maginnis has been watching it very closely for us.

What have you found out so far, Karen?

MAGINNIS: We are looking at the river. It looks like the crest that they were anticipating at 42, possibly 43 feet will not occur until Sunday overnight, into Monday. They keep delaying it just a little bit.

The weather is cold. That actually helps them. As long as it's not raining, there's not additional snow melt, we're looking at kind of a more stable situation.

Take a look at these river gauges, right along the Red River. The Red River flows north into Canada. Now, I looked at a lot of these rain gauges. As you can see, they're in the purple. Purple means that there is major flooding. So already we have broken a record at Fargo. The Red River was yesterday at a 112-year-old record there.

Now, here is Fargo. Moorhead, both of these cities effected. There you can see one of the gauge along the Red River. Right now it's at 40.87 feet. We're anticipating it could go to 42. It's possible it could go to 43. But, in fact, these very cold temperatures and the temperature in Fargo today is not expected to get above about 21 degrees. Outside it's about 11 degrees right now.

It may be difficult to kind of interpret this. This is essentially the rain gauge, or the river gauge. You see just how fast that river rose. And then we go to Saturday. Here's where it is right now, 40.82 is what their last report was. Then it looks like a slow rise as we go towards Sunday into Monday. Maxing out, cresting at 42 feet. So that 43-foot crest that they were anticipating looks like -- they're hedging their bets a little bit, watching it with the cold temperatures and just how slowly that has continued to rise. So, that is actually good news. But considering all the effort and energy and all the aches and pains associated with trying to keep this river back, maybe it has paid off. They've put in permanent levees since 1997. It was completed about two years ago, but 95,000 people in Fargo, about 35,000 people in Moorhead. That's a lot of people could be potentially effected. Back to you.

NGUYEN: All right. Thank you, Karen. Thank you, appreciate that.

HOLMES: All right. The president, somebody calling the president a bum? I guess it's OK, it was him calling himself a bum.

NGUYEN: But still.

HOLMES: But still what in the world is he talking about? We're going to get a live report from D.C. on president bum, coming up. Stay with us.


HOLMES: Oh, they are already thinking about the next election. Yes, Democrats turning their eyes towards the midterm elections. This week the president is helping the Democrats kick start their efforts to refill that war chest of theirs. At a fundraiser the president talked about rolling with the punches in Washington.


BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I know that in Washington sometimes it's easy to get caught up in the day-to-day cable chatter and be distracted by the petty and trivial and everybody is keeping score. Are they up, are they down. One day I'm a genius, one day I'm a bum, you know.



HOLMES: All right. Speaking of that day-to-day cable chatter, let's get some day-to-day cable chatter now from our CNN Political Editor Sasha Johnson, joins us now from Washington.

So what is the bum in chief trying to get at here with this calling himself a genius, calling himself a bum, what is that?

SASHA JOHNSON, CNN SR. POLITICAL EDITOR: Well, he's really trying to tell his base and the country that people can't judge his presidency on a day-to-day basis because it changes so much. Everybody has got an opinion. You know, the media's covering his White House as if it's still the campaign. People are really paying attention to it as if it's still the campaign. And governing is a lot slower than that.

So what the point that he was making there, and the point that he made in that press conference earlier this week, is that his presidency is like an ocean liner, it's not a speed boat. People need to calm down, take a breath. The economy is in really tough shape. The first test will really come in 2010 when the Democrats are up again, you know, in those midterm elections and the Republicans, too. But people need to step back and look at the big picture and judge his full body of work. And they can't sort of pay attention to the up and down shenanigans of Washington.

HOLMES: The shenanigans.


HOLMES: But the way he's going about this now, and getting that message out that, hey, you need to judge me over the long term. You know, everybody sees him as being this charismatic guy, and he sometimes makes fun of himself. This is not new that we're seeing from him. This is the Obama we know, isn't it?

JOHNSON: It is. Especially if you remember that long campaign, that long primary campaign with now Secretary Hillary Clinton.

HOLMES: How could we forget?

JOHNSON: When they were going back and forth and his supporters were getting anxious. You know, you're not getting out there, you need to fight back. We're down in the polls. And he would say, you know, I don't get too high, I don't get too low. Everybody needs to calm down. And you know, there was a lot of griping, there was a lot of detractors and distractions then. But he and his campaign kept steady and ultimately they won. They're hopefully that strategy proves true now.

HOLMES: And last thing here, quickly, you mentioned that press conference we saw this week. Were they happy with how it went? Did they get the message out that they wanted to get out? How was that received?

JOHNSON: The message that they wanted to get out was pretty much the last thing that he said, which was -- he got a question about Middle East peace and he turned around and answered, let's judge my presidency by the entire body of work. Everybody needs to calm down. That was the message they wanted to get across. It took an hour but ultimately that's the last thing he left people with. So, Rahm Emanuel was happy.

HOLMES: He was very happy. All right, Sasha Johnson, for us this morning. We'll see you again, here, in a little while?


HOLMES: So, we will see you shortly.


HOLMES: First, the president outlined his plan for Afghanistan. That is exactly what Sasha will be talking about when we have her back next hour. NGUYEN: All right. Well, you know, a tornado just tears through Alabama, leaving homeowners frightened.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You know how they say it sounds like a freight train? It sounds worse than a freight train.


NGUYEN: That's how they described the sound. So, what did they do to survive?


NGUYEN: OK, should they stay or should they go? That is a big decision most people out in Morehead, Minnesota had to make as the Red River continues to trigger massive flooding.

HOLMES: Yes, crested expected to rise another foot tomorrow. People certainly worried. Jeffrey DeMars from our affiliate KARE in Minnesota, with the story for us there.


JEFFREY DEMARS, KARE REPORTER (voice over): Hope and pray.

TOM TOULOUSE, MOORHEAD RESIDENT: Pray is all you can do. You know? And hope, and you're a wreck, is what you are.

DEMARS: In his 55 years of living next to the Red River , Tom Toulouse has never seen the river rise this fast or this high. He's never had to rely on volunteers. He's never had to sandbag, and he's never had to evacuate.

TOULOUSE: My wife's already leaving. She just -- she's just leaving right now. But we're going to sandbag up her up at my place, too. Because I'm just a little bit nervous. I don't know how much more it's supposed to come up.

DEMARS: Police have walked neighborhoods while they still can, and told people to leave in Moor head, in all of Minnesota, that's all they can do. By law, no one can be forced to leave their home.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'm going to hold out and fight it. It ain't going to take us.

DEMARS: So, with the Red River in their backyards and at their front doorsteps, they do what they can to keep up the fight.

TOULOUSE: This is monster. You know, I mean, we've never ever sandbagged on this side of the street.

DEMARS: So far, most homes have been able to dodge the hits from the Red. They have battled back and only a handful of homes in this Moorhead neighborhood have flooded. For the most part, the dikes are holding here. But the crest, which is expected to rise another foot or two, is expected tomorrow.

TOULOUSE: They told us we had an option, we could either leave or we could stay.

DEMARS: They do what they can now, knowing today may be the last day they will be able to.

In Moorhead, Jeffrey DeMars KARE 11 news.


NGUYEN: All right. So thunderstorms in the South spawned at least one tornado in Alabama. You have to take a look at this thing. That twister touched down in Mobile last night, uprooting some trees. We also have some more video to show you about overturned mobile home and damage in other places.

HOLMES: Officials there did say that several people have been injured.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: They say it sounds like a train? It sounds worst than a freight train.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We jumped in the tub. My dad was telling us everything was going to be fine.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What did you think was happening?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I thought it was just really windy out, because it's happened before. I have woken up to it, but this time the house -- the whole house is moving.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We were all in it. We all got out.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: That's a good thing.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: That's a good thing.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I am so thankful that everybody just got out with it alive. Because that is something that -- well, look at the trailers. You know, they could have been killed.


NGUYEN: Absolutely. Heavy rain and strong winds and a possible twister also damaged homes in southern Louisiana.

HOLMES: A lot of weather news popping this morning and some breaking stuff. You've got some warnings and people need to be listening here, Karen.

MAGINNIS: We do. I'm afraid this is going to be the way it is throughout the morning hours. You need to stay in tune with what's happening weather-wise. All across the Southeast we've had a number of watches.

This is the area we're watching right now. This line is the border between Florida. This is Alabama. There's a town here called Sampson. You can see there is an embedded super cell right there. That's where we have the tornado warning that goes until 6:30 local time. That is Central Daylight Time.

They're saying possible tornado indicated by Doppler radar, at least at this point. But it looks very impressive on our radar imagery. That is Coffee County, Alabama. Also, in northwestern Geneva County, that is this particular cell. But take a look at all the lightning associated with some of these thunderstorms racing through central Alabama.

But all across the Southeast, Betty and T.J., it looks like we're going to have a ferocious afternoon. But on top of that, we are going to keep you updated on what's happening along the Red River in Fargo, also in Moorhead, Minnesota. Back to you.

NGUYEN: Thank you. We do appreciate it.

HOLMES: Like Karen said there, we're going to keep an eye on what's happening there in North Dakota. Our Susan Roesgen is there live keeping us updated on what's happening.

Give us a quick look.

ROESGEN: Well, the president has called in the cavalry here. We'll tell you what's coming here in Fargo, North Dakota. And can the force of human nature beat the force of Mother Nature? That's coming up.

NGUYEN: Plus this outraged story, a Dallas officer pulls over a driver as he speeds to the hospital to say good-bye to a dying relative. Take a listen.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: My mother is dying!



UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I can screw you over, I would rather not to do that. Your attitude will dictate everything that happens. Right now, your attitude sucks.


NGUYEN: We're going to show you how this ended.


NGUYEN: All right. You ready for this story, today, because it will have you talking. A husband and wife get the call from the hospital that her mother is dying. When they say, now come because you need to say good-bye before she's gone. But that final moment didn't turn out the way the family expected.

HOLMES: When they were stopped by a police officer, you see the officer there, Robert Powell is the name.

Now, our Ed Lavandera lets you know how this whole thing played out.


ED LAVANDERA, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice over): This is Police Officer Robert Powell's view chasing down an SUV that he just saw slowly pass through a red light. The car has flashing hazard lights turned on and inside is NFL running back Ryan Moats, who's racing to the hospital to see his dying mother-in-law.

When Moats pulls into a parking space, police say, Powell draws his gun and the confrontation quickly gets heated.

ROBERT POWELL, POLICE OFFICER: Get in there. Get in there. Let me see your hands. Get in there.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Excuse me, excuse me, she's dying!

POWELL: Put your hands on the car.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: My mom is dying! I'm ...

POWELL: Do you understand?

RYAN MOATS, NFL FOOTBALL PLAYER: She's dying right now!

LAVANDERA: From the officer's dashboard video camera you can hear Moats trying to explain the urgency of the moment. His wife and another relative ignore the officer and go inside. The officer asks for Moats' insurance and says he's being ticketed for running a red light.

POWELL: I need your insurance.

MOATS: I don't know, I don't have insurance.

POWELL: You don't have insurance.

MOATS: Give me a ticket, or whatever.

POWELL: I can. Listen, if I can't verify you have insurance ...

MOATS: My mother-in-law is dying!

POWELL: Listen to me.

MOATS: Right now! POWELL: Listen.

MOATS: You're wasting my time.

POWELL: If I can't verify you have insurance, I'm going to tow the car. You either find it or I'm going to tow the car.

MOATS: Check the insurance.

POWELL: Stop talking.

MOATS: Check the insurance.

POWELL: You can either sit in there and cooperate, or I can take you to jail.

MOATS: What did you ask for? You asked for insurance, there's my registration.

POWELL: Shut your mouth. Shut your mouth.

MOATS: There I go.

POWELL: Shut your mouth.

MOATS: Yeah.

POWELL: You can cooperate and settle down, or I can just take you to jail for running a red light.

MOATS: Go ahead.

POWELL: Is what that what you want me to do?

MOATS: Whatever, go ahead!

POWELL: I can screw you over. I would rather not do that.

MOATS: Yeah.

POWELL: Your attitude will dictate everything that happens.


POWELL: And right now, your attitude sucks.

MOATS: Yes, sir.


POWELL: I turned my red and blues on as you were going over the bridge. This is where you stopped.

MOATS: You think I'm going to stop when my wife's mother is dying.

POWELL: You were required to stop. What you're doing does not matter.

MOATS: OK, yes, sir.

LAVANDERA: Dallas Police Chief David Kunkle ripped his officer's handling of the situation. Powell has been put on paid leave until an internal investigation is complete. He could be fired.

CHIEF DAVID KUNKLE, DALLAS POLICE: I want to issue a personal apology and also apology on behalf of the Dallas Police Department to the family of Jonetta Collinsworth. I'm embarrassed and disappointed by the behavior of one of our police officers, Officer Robert Powell.

LAVANDERA: And listen as another police officer and even a hospital nurse try to help get Moats inside.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Hey, that's the nurse. She said that the mom is dying right now. She wants to know if she can get him up there before she dies.

POWELL: All right. I'm almost done.


LAVANDERA: After almost 15 minutes Ryan Moats finally is allowed to walk away. Not in time to say good-bye to his mother-in-law. She died as Officer Powell finished writing the ticket.

(On camera): After all of that, the ticket has been dismissed. Dallas police leaders say that in their initial conversations with Officer Powell, that he insists he did everything right, and acted appropriately.

Ed Lavandera, CNN, Dallas.


NGUYEN: After all that, his ticket was dismissed, but he did not get there in time to see his dying relative.

HOLMES: That's a horrible. I mean, what do you do? I'm we're getting -- ah, this is one of those talkers, as you say, and everybody wondering, well, did the officer really do -- in a lot of ways he followed the book. I mean, you pull -- I mean, an officer pulls somebody over, they don't know what's going on in that car and somebody gets out upset. And, sure, you wish maybe he would have stopped and listened, but ...

NGUYEN: But they had their flashing lights on, they had their hazard lights on. They're rushing to a hospital.


NGUYEN: I mean, it's not like they were going to just some random place, they were trying to get inside. He was explaining that his mother was dying. I understand the officer has to do his job ...


NGUYEN: ... but at the same time, maybe if the situation was a little calmer, things would have been a little different. But can you blame him? I mean, he only has minutes to see his relative.

But we are getting a lot of comments on our Facebook Web site, Twitter, also at

This one on my Facebook site from Lisa says, "Another example of the misuse of power and abuse by an authority figure exhibiting complete disregard for human life."

And then Jeff (ph) says, "Absolute power corrupts absolutely. The attitude taken by those in uniform reminds me of a parent that beats their child," wow, "and then says that it's their right because they are the parent."

Well, a lot of really serious responses from people who are watching them. But as we said, it's an outrage story.

You may see the other side of it. Send us your comments. We want to know what you think about it.

HOLMES: Yes, keep those coming in. We'll keep sharing them.

But, meanwhile, the next hour of CNN SATURDAY MORNING starts right now.


HOLMES: All right. Hey there, everybody. It is Saturday morning. It's 7:00 here on the east coast, here in Atlanta, Georgia, where we are. It is 4:00 out in Seattle.

Good morning to you all. I'm T.J. Holmes.

NGUYEN: Yes. Good morning, everybody. And thank you for starting your day with us.

All right. Let's get right to it because there has been some praise overnight from the president of Afghanistan for President Obama's plan to send more U.S. troops to the region.


UNIDENTIFIED CROWD: Five, four, three, two, one!



HOLMES: Yes, countdown to a blackout. This is happening this morning. We'll be talking about it. It will happen later on this evening.

But a lot of the planet is going to be going dark. It happened last year with the world's first Earth Hour. Countdown is on for tonight's second dimming of the lights to draw attention to the need to curb the climate change.

U.S. ambassador of Earth Hour, the actor, Ed Norton, he will be joining us live this morning.

Also, a lot of weather to tell you about. Let's see, the top left video there, those are Fargo residents. They're filling up sandbags. The city's mayor says as long as that Red River does not rise above 43 feet, they should be alright. The river now at 41 feet, is still rising.

Also, Mt. Redoubt, in the upper right of your screen there. That's in Alaska. The volcano erupted five times Friday, covering nearby communities with ash.

All right. Let's go to the lower left of your screen there. A lot of stuff are going on your screen right now. Lower left now, a blizzard is forcing some highways in the Texas Panhandle to close.

In the lower right, tornado damage near Fayetteville, North Carolina.

We'll be getting into all of these stories in more details coming up.

NGUYEN: All right. Let's start with this, though. Fargo, North Dakota, continues the 10 round bout with the Red River. CNN iReporters are sending us of their views of this historic flooding.

Kevin Johnston photographed Rose Creek yesterday. Look at this. He drove from Minneapolis to help. He says he found the small Virgin Mary duct-taped to the deck of one of the homes in danger of flooding.

We want to check in now with our Susan Roesgen in Fargo.

Susan, give us an update as to what the situation is like right now.

ROESGEN: Well, as you can probably see from looking at your video here, but looking at the screen, it is freezing in Fargo. And that's actually good news. It's about 11 degrees here this morning, Betty.

That is good news, they say, because the icing of the river seems to have slowed the rise of it. They do believe that the cresting of the Red River may have already begun. Very close now to 41 feet. As you mentioned, Betty, 42, 43, that could be a little too much.

Right now, what they're doing behind me is what they've been doing all night in this particular neighborhood. The Red River is, let's say about a good 200 yards away from me to my right. Behind me, over my left shoulder, they are actually scooping up dirt to build a secondary, sort of a mud dike. It's about six feet tall. It's just to the right of me. So, they've got a primary sandbag dike -- it's hard to speak when it's 11 degrees this morning. They've got a sandbag dike along the Red River. Again, about 200 yards away from here.

And then just beyond the row of homes in this river view neighborhood, where everyone wants to live, with the beautiful view of the Red River, those homes are in jeopardy because the secondary dike is on the other side of them. If water should overtop the first, it would flood those homes in the middle. Nobody wants to see that happen, but they're building the secondary dike just in case.

And also, Betty, I talked about President Obama calling the mayor of Fargo here and the cavalry he sent in. That's about 1,700 more National Guard troops, 15 helicopters in case they need them. And they say now that they're going to use those National Guard troops as part of 58 different two-man teams who are going to go every two hours, every two hours inspecting 12 miles of dikes to see if there are any holes or any cracks or any places where things need to be patched up.

They're also asking people who are living in the neighborhood to call us if you see some water seeping through, don't wait, call us. So, they think they're going to be OK here. Everybody is hoping they will be OK. As one person put it, Betty, we've done all we can. Now, it's simply a matter of divine intervention.

NGUYEN: And we've already seen plenty of them, have already sent many prayers, to really get a little help in keeping the waters away as best possible.

Thank you so much for that, Susan.

You know, neighbors have been helping neighbors building dikes, shoveling, and evacuating, trying to protect their homes from water, all in hopes that they can outlast the rising river.


JON HOVERSON, FARGO RESIDENT: If this thing cooperates and stops at 41, 41 1/2, the fact that we've moved everything up to 43 around the whole city, I feel like we're going to win.


NGUYEN: That was Fargo resident John Hoverson. He is talking about the expected crest of the Red River, at 41 feet. That is 22 feet above flood stage and more than a foot over the previous record high.

HOLMES: The president is keeping an eye on what's happening in some of that flooding this weekend. Fargo's mayor says the president called him to make sure the city is prepared. And this week, the president signed declarations to get help moving into the area.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) OBAMA: I'll continue to monitor the situation carefully. We will do what must be done to help in concert with state and local agencies and non-profit organizations and volunteers who are doing so much to aid the response effort. For moments like these, we are reminded of the power of nature to disrupt lives and endanger communities, but we're also reminded of the power of individuals to make a difference.


HOLMES: The president, FEMA and the Department of Homeland Security are on top of the federal response.

I'm going to head over to Karen Maginnis, who's in the weather center, keeping an eye on things today.

You're talking about that flooding, but you got some other stuff, some immediate, some tornado warnings even out there. What's going on?

MAGINNIS: Yes. Right around the border between Florida and Alabama, we're looking at a little super-cell there that has triggered some identification from the National Weather Service locally there near Andalusia, also near Sampson, Alabama. That's in the southeast, south-central portion of the state.

These are the tornadoes that touched down in the panhandle yesterday morning. Let's zip up towards North Carolina. We see some of the areas that were affected by severe weather yesterday afternoon into the overnight hours, one of those being Lumberton, North Carolina. Most of what we've seen is property damage, downed trees and downed power lines. We don't have any reports of any injuries.

But let's show you kind of what the big picture is. An area of low pressure is situated way back here, across the central plains. But a frontal system is sweeping out ahead of it, tapping that warm, moist and unstable air. And as a consequence, these thunderstorms are rumbling across extreme southern Alabama and into the panhandle of Texas until noon today under a tornado watch. We could see some localized warnings issued. As I told you about, going into 6:30, right along the border between Florida and Alabama with this particular cell.

But, T.J., so many weather headlines. And I'll be back in just about 25 minutes with more on the flooding. Back to you.

HOLMES: All right. Karen, we appreciate you. We'll talk to you here in just a second.

NGUYEN: And this just in, the mayor of Fargo has scheduled a news conference for 9:00 a.m. Eastern. We have a crew in route. And we'll monitor his comments and bring you the latest as soon as we get them.

HOLMES: Well, they are watching and waiting for that river to crest. It could be a pretty helpless feeling for people living in Fargo, North Dakota, this morning. Again, our live coverage continues.


UNIDENTIFIED CROWD: Five, four, three, two, one!



NGUYEN: Plus, millions around the world will be sitting in the dark tonight. The blackout is designed to make a difference. We have it right here. Stay with us.


HOLMES: All right. The president just yesterday is outlining a new plan, a new strategy for winning the war in Afghanistan which by many accounts, and certainly the president as well, is getting worse there.

Let's bring back in, CNN political producer, Sasha Johnson, joining us to talk about this.

Hello to you again. Let's roll -- I'm going to listen here right quickly to the president, to what he was saying about his plan. We'll talk about it on the other side.


OBAMA: Going forward, we will not blindly stay the course. Instead, we will set clear metrics to measure progress and hold ourselves accountable. We'll consistently assess our efforts to train Afghan security forces and our progress in combating insurgents. We will measure the growth of Afghanistan's economy and its illicit narcotics production. And we will review whether we are using the right tools and tactics to make progress towards accomplishing our goals.


HOLMES: All right, Sasha. It seems like every plan or everything he has to -- he has out there, every idea, he needs to sell it in some way. Is this no different, the Afghan plan? Does he need to sell this one? How is he selling it? Who is he selling it to?

JOHNSON: Well, he's selling it to the world. He's selling it to the United States. He's selling it to Congress because he's asking for a lot more money and troops for Afghanistan. And he's asking for a ton of money for Pakistan.

One way he's selling it is he's making clear that lessons have been learned from Iraq. If you listen to that speech yesterday, you heard him sort of refer to that a couple of times, both overtly and then a little more subtly.

He's also bringing Pakistan into the fold and saying that not only do we need to focus on Afghanistan but Pakistan needs to be a part of that because that's where a lot of al Qaeda leaders are hiding out. He's also saying that he has a clear goal to dismantle al Qaeda, and that the goal is not to dictate Afghanistan's future, the goal is not to occupy Afghanistan. So, he's doing that to try to quell fears that perhaps we wind out in a quagmire.

I mean, Afghanistan is notorious for things like that if you look at the history of Afghanistan, how many nations have gotten tangled up there. So, that's how he's trying to sell the plan, by saying that he's got a plan. It has a clear goal and there's an exit strategy, possibly.

HOLMES: Well, it seems that nothing he does or everything he does, it seems at least -- there seems to be a lot of good will, at least, in coming in to all of this.


HOLMES: And pretty good approval numbers as well and all this political capital. Well, I don't know if he's running out yet, but it seems like everything has some type of political risk. Is there a risk here for him as well with this strategy?

JOHNSON: Absolutely. I mean, by coming out yesterday and calling for more troops and money and proposing a plan for Afghanistan, for all intent and purposes, this is Barack Obama's war and that's been talked about a lot this week. So, he owns it, much to the chagrin of his liberal base. They don't actually like that very much.

He also has to make sure that Europe and NATO allies are on board with the mission that to defeat al Qaeda, and that they're going to rally around him with -- you know, with his plan to make sure that the U.S. doesn't own this on their own. And so, that's a huge problem for him also.

As I said, other -- you know, look at Russia, they got caught in Afghanistan and they were there for a long time and that turned out to be a mess. Also, look at the money. He's asking for $1.5 billion a year to help Pakistan over the next five years. Given the nation's economy, that could be tough to pull that money out of Congress. And if he can't do that, he's arguing that the security of Afghanistan and Pakistan could be in jeopardy.

So, there are a lot of risks here, especially if this goes on for a long time.

HOLMES: Yes, and certainly, speaking in quite dire terms about ...

JOHNSON: Absolutely.

HOLMES: ... what's at stake there in Afghanistan.

Sasha Johnson, as always, we appreciate you. Good to see you this morning. JOHNSON: Sure. Good to see you.

HOLMES: And the Republicans, they are sounding alarm over the president's budget. New Hampshire Senator Judd Gregg, you remember, he was once the commerce secretary designate for the president. He says the proposal will bankrupt the country. He gives his objections in a weekly Republican address. Senator Gregg, of course, like I said, was once Obama's pick to be commerce secretary and then he backed out over differences with the administration's policies.

NGUYEN: Well, sandbags are no guarantee that flood waters won't roll in destroying everything in the way. But, there is some new technology that could help, and it's invisible. That's coming up in the 8:00 o'clock hour.


NGUYEN: Well, good morning and welcome back. We do have some breaking news in the weather department. Karen Maginnis joins us now.

Take it away, Karen.

MAGINNIS: All right. You may remember back in March of 2007, Enterprise, Alabama, they had eight fatalities, teenagers at a high school. Well, right now, we're looking at a tornado warning which does encompass an area right around Enterprise. It includes this city of Enterprise.

This is in southeastern Coffee County. It is this particular cell right here, looking very impressive on our radar imagery, but I just wanted you to be aware of that because, historically, Enterprise, Alabama, has been one of those areas that has seen severe weather. But we'll keep you updated on that. That tornado warning, by the way, goes until 7:00 o'clock Central Daylight Time.

Back to you.

HOLMES: We do appreciate you. We'll be checking in with you again soon.

And we also have been checking in with Karen and others about -- and our folks live there in Fargo, about the situation there with the flooding.

Well, the mayor of Fargo has now scheduled a news conference for 9:00 o'clock Eastern Time. We have a crew that's on the ground there. We'll be monitoring his comments and bring them to you as soon as we can.

NGUYEN: Well, the countdown is on. Take a listen.


UNIDENTIFIED CROWD: Five, four, three, two, one!


NGUYEN: No, it's not New Year's, we know that. But this scene is expected to play out all across the globe tonight as millions are expected to take part in Earth Hour. At 8:30 tonight, no matter where you are, conservationists are asking you to turn off your light, your computer, anything electric that you absolutely do not need. And the goal is to send a message about global warming.

Joining me now from Times Square this morning: Carter Roberts, president and CEO of the organization that started Earth Hour, the World Wildlife Fund. And the U.S. ambassador for Earth Hour 2009, familiar face right there, actor Ed Norton.

Hello, gentlemen. Good morning. Can you hear me? I know we've had some audio problems.


NGUYEN: Good morning. Let me start with you, Carter. Some 2,700 cities, 80 countries around the world, are going dark for Earth Hour tonight. What kind of a difference is this going to make?

ROBERTS: Well, we think we're going to have 100 million people around the world basically sending a message that climate change is real and we need to take action now. And the world is watching to see what America is going to do, because if America acts in climate change, the world will follow.

NGUYEN: And, Edward, let me ask you this. What inspired you to become the U.S. ambassador for Earth Hour?

EDWARD NORTON, ACTOR/EARTH HOUR AMBASSADOR: Well, I think it's difficult to dispute that the issue of climate change is going to be the issue of this era. I think in 100 or 1,000 years, when people look back and define the legacy of this era, it's going to be how we responded to this revelation that we were altering the natural systems of the planet in a way that we couldn't sustain our civilization.

And I think -- as such, I think that for my generation, we've come to feel that this is our cause. That this is -- this is a cause that we need to embrace and take on as our own. And I think, when I look at what they were doing with Earth Hour, they'll, of course, you know, nobody is suggesting that turning out the lights is going to save the planet or that even conservation will stop the adding of carbons to our atmosphere.

NGUYEN: Yes, I mean, that's a really good point because a lot of critics say, hey, guys, this is just a publicity stunt. It's one hour of one day.

So, what's the long-term effect? Shouldn't you be focusing on solving this problem in the long-term?

NORTON: Well, but I think solving problems has a lot to do with gathering a sense of political will. The truth is that this is a problem that won't be solved except on the level of meaningful national legislation, capping carbon emissions, and meaningful international agreements capping carbon emissions. And the only way to get those things to happen is to get political leadership to pay attention.

I mean, if you look at the history of the United States, if you look at the civil rights movement, you know, the march on Selma is not a solution in itself, but it's a -- it's a call to unity, a call to action in a way. And I think sometimes symbolic acts of unity send that message.

So, I think we look at Earth Hour as a global act of unity, a global act to demonstrate how many people all around the world care about this issue and get our leaders to focus on this issue as things like the conference in Copenhagen approach, because we want each of our national leaderships to take really meaningful steps, to make meaningful agreements and commitment to back Copenhagen.

NGUYEN: And, Carter, let me ask you this. As we've been talking about. It is very symbolic. But after Earth Hour, after this one hour passes tonight and people do go back to their normal lives, what can they do to maintain or sustain a life that is lot more eco- friendly, shall we say?

ROBERTS: Well, if you go to, you can find all kinds of action and steps and support that we provide for people to use. And we're asking people to essentially, turn off the lights, get together with your friends and family, and commit to do specific things, like reduce your energy efficiency throughout the rest of the year, press the business that you work for to change the way they use energy in the course of their everyday lives. And last but not least is to press our congressmen and senators to act on climate change, to cap emissions, and put a price on carbon.

NGUYEN: And, Edward, you have spoken to the House Committee on Climate Change. You are also working to create eco-friendly housing development. What personally, though, are you doing in your everyday life that is changing the way that you respond to those who say, you know, going green is the way we save the planet?

NORTON: Well, I think a point you made in there is a good one. A lot of people, I think, don't realize, we think about our automobiles and our planes and -- but the built environment, the way we use energy in our homes and in the buildings that we work in account for over 40 percent of all greenhouse gas emissions. So, even though sometimes people scoff at it when people talk about conserving the way you use energy at home, it is actually very meaningful, the way that we build and operate our homes is a very meaningful -- has a very meaningful impact on how much electricity we produce through coal-fired power.

And so, energy efficient appliances, going through your appliances and seeing what's energy efficient, what's not.

NGUYEN: The car you drive, you have a Prius, right? NORTON: I do. Yes. I actually -- I live in New York. You know, one of the most energy efficient things you can do is living in a city like New York ...


NORTON: ... which people, you know, look at Times Square around me, you wouldn't think about it, but actually, living in New York City and taking public transportation is one of the better ways to have a ...

NGUYEN: Or just walking. I mean, it's cheap, isn't it? The best way to get around, if you can.

All right. Carter Roberts, Edward Norton, we thank you both so much for your time tonight.

And, of course, a lot of people out there will be supporting Earth Hour tonight. I know, T.J., that Time Warner Center in New York will be dimming the lights ...


NGUYEN: ... at least turning off a lot of them. We'll wait and see. I don't know. Maybe the White House will get on the action.

HOLMES: Oh, yes.

NGUYEN: The Capitol building, we'll see if they'll go dark tonight.

HOLMES: I wonder how the weather is going to hold up for it because it kind of foggy ...


HOLMES: ... here in Atlanta at least.

NGUYEN: Right.

HOLMES: I know there's an event here. But I know last year, we went to the event, you couldn't really see. It was kind of foggy as well. You can't tell the lights were out.

NGUYEN: Hey, but some of them were, and that's really the point there, and we're all going to try to do our part.

HOLMES: All right. Well, stay with us, folks. We're going to talk about putting dads to work, starting their own business.


HOLMES: You know, some things in a recession you just got to have them no matter what. You have a baby, babies do need diapers. Also, parents would love to have more time as well.

Here now, Melissa Long with a company that's taking care of both and how we got started.


MELISSA LONG, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): For Marc Lore and Vinit Bharara decided to start a diaper business, they knew they would get some ribbing.

VINIT BHARARA, CO-FOUNDER & COO, DIAPERS.COM: Definitely not the most masculine job.

LONG: They also knew they worked well together. Best buds since elementary school. Marc and Vinit had been in business before with an online sports trading card company.

BHARARA: We balance each other really quite well. Coaching is differently but almost always after many hours of the day come to consensus.

LONG: When Marc's wife Carolyn had a second baby six years ago, the friends decided there was a need for a diaper delivery service.

MARC LORE, CO-FOUNDER & CEO, DIAPERS.COM: My wife had a very challenging, running to the store to keep up with buying the diapers and the baby necessities. And we thought, there's got to be a better way.

LONG: And in 2005, was born, offering competitive prices on diapers, wipes and formula ship straight to the customer.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Thank you for calling

LORE: Of course, margins in the first year were 4 percent. Most people probably would have kind of written it off at that point. But we were always thinking ahead.

BHARARA: We didn't know whether we were going to be successful or not. We had an instinct.

LONG: The Web site now offers all baby products and sales topped $89 million last year.

LORE: My advice to somebody starting a business is actually quite simple -- it's to jump in, take the risk, work through the challenges as they present themselves.


HOLMES: All right. Of course, Betty and I will be back at the top of the hour.

But, meantime, "HOUSE CALL" with Dr. Sanjay Gupta starts right now.