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Deadly Flooding in Manila; Iran Tests Missiles, Launcher; Roman Polanski Sex Charge

Aired September 27, 2009 - 16:00   ET


FREDRICKA WHITFIELD, CNN ANCHOR: Men, women and children, wading through waist-deep water. A month's worth of rain falls on the Philippines in just 12 hours deadly consequences.

The long arm of the law, 31 years after he fled the U.S. to avoid sentencing on a sex charge, movie director Roman Polanski is arrested in Switzerland. And America's newest TV star, our national parks. We'll talk with the film-maker, Ken Burns, about his latest documentary.

Hello, everyone. I'm Fredericka Whitfield. You're in the CNN NEWSROOM. Devastation in the capital of the Philippines and across the country today. Most of Manila is under water after a tropical storm. At least 75 people are dead but more are missing so that figure is expected to climb. Earlier, I spoke with journalist Steve Lunt in Manila.


WHITFIELD: This is a result of a tropical storm. Were people caught off guard or is it simply that no one expected this kind of rainfall to come with this sort of tropical storm?

VOICE OF STEVE LUNT, JOURNALIST: Well, I think they were expecting a heavy rainfall with the onset of the tropical storm. The amount of rain that fell in just a few hours has taken a number of people by surprise and it's presented a challenge to the authorities dealing with it, the amount of rains has been overwhelming, the drainage system with the blockage in the system, which has meant water has risen 20 feet in some places. That's obviously meant roads have been flooded and shanties just been washed away. Cars have been overturned and they've been down a major street of Manila.

WHITFIELD: We're talking about 300,000 people that have been displaced. Where do you put 300,000 people?

LUNT: That's right. Many have been rendered homeless. There's over 100 evacuation centers started using schools and churches. There's almost 450,000 victims who are in need of shelter so far. The numbers continue to rise. Because many people have been forced to leave their home as the waters have risen and not drained away so quickly because the city's drainage system is simply being overwhelmed.

WHITFIELD: So is it true some people died as a result of a wall collapsing? Is it the case there have been buildings that have simply been compromised or collapsed all together from this rainfall? LUNT: Yes. That's right. The streets have been flooded, as I say, and deaths in some areas up to 20 feet. Because of this storm, 80 percent of the city's area, and the region have been flooded and has compromised the stability and the security of a number of buildings. Many of these buildings are makeshift and built informal residential areas, such as towns. Those were washed away very easily because they just didn't have the foundations that enabled them to resist the forces of the waters as they were rising.

WHITFIELD: And so are you joining us from the 20 percent of manila that is not under water?

LUNT: That's right. I'm luckily in one of the dry areas. The rain has actually stopped at the moment where some of the floodwater drain away. I'm very close to the Pasig River, the main river the flows through the city and noticed that it busted banks at certain points along its course as it flows out but flooding from the river has subsided.

So the river is more normal now and the streets around me have been drained of all that floodwater. But in other parts of the lower lying areas of the region, they still have a lot of water and it's still very deep.

WHITFIELD: Steve Lunt, thank you so much. Be safe.


WHITFIELD: Some extraordinary images coming out of the Philippines there. We've had some flooding in this country but nothing on that scale. Meteorologist Jacqui Jeras joining us now.

JACQUI JERAS, AMS METEOROLOGIST: Amazing, this is the equivalent of what a tropical storm is, Fredricka. It was a nine-hour deluge that took place there, bringing about a foot of rainfall. And here, you can see the storm itself, its name is Katsana. It's over the South China Sea right now. It's moving towards Vietnam and it's likely making landfall there as the equivalent of a category one storm, with winds around 85 miles per hour. And this will be happening, we think on Tuesday.

You can see the rain showers moving over those areas. Here's Manila and there's the Philippines. You can see it is starting to dry out and most of that rain is moving offshore. Of course, it's going to take a while to get rid of all that, as it's a flash flood event.

We want to show you some video here from some of our I-reporters. These pictures here. This is from Ryan Buaron, from Manila. There you can see cars submerged, people trying to get through the water and get to safety in that area as well. And then we also have some pictures from our other I-reporter. There you can see, that was Ryan Buaron, from John Peres from the Philippines as well. So very devastating situation.

Back here at home, we got a very strong system moving that's going to be moving across the upper midwest. Severe thunderstorms will be a threat today. We're very concerned about strong gusty winds across the Great Lakes and much cooler temperatures on the way. We'll talk a little bit more about the storm systems when I see you again. Fredricka.

WHITFIELD: OK. Look forward to that. Thanks so much, Jacqui.

All right. Something else is taking place right here in this country, one of the busiest waterways in America is blocked at this hour. The Army Corps of Engineer says that has been a catastrophic break at a lock along the Ohio River. Locks help regulate river levels, allowing boats and barges to get around dams. So the lock that has been damage is near Warsaw, Kentucky between Louisville and Cincinnati.

River traffic will be shut down until repairs can be made. Boats and barges carry almost 150 million tons of cargo along the river every year. So joining us by phone, Tom Hornback of the Army Corps of Engineers. Thanks so much for being with us. So help us understand. What does it mean that this catastrophic lock break has taken place. What potentially could happen now?

VOICE OF TODD HORNBACK, U.S. ARMY CORPS OF ENGINEERS: Actually we've a minor gate where the leads of the gate have been damaged. We're about to close our 1,200 foot lock chamber and it also means that our 600-foot lock chamber is going through some general maintenance of that lock chamber (INAUDIBLE).

So that shuts down the river, just like having a highway, you would be stopping traffic going through that section. That's what we've done to the river right now. We are looking at means of seeing what has happened with that miter gate and how we might repair that.

WHITFIELD: So before I get to how you repair something like this, this generally means that it slows down or stops all together the kind of commerce traffic taking place there on the Ohio River. But if you're not on one of the barges or if you're not transporting goods, what might this mean for you if you live in the area where these lock breaks have taken place?

HORNBACK: Unless there is someone who is actually operating a pleasure craft, that it should not affect the community. We're looking at - typically have 25 million tons move through the (INAUDIBLE) Dam and that means a lot of the traffic, five barges in queue right now waiting to go through this and we're seeing that will increase as time goes on while we're working to get those repairs made.

WHITFIELD: All right. You underscored 55 million tons of commodities going through this Ohio River, this area. So now, help me understand, how do you tackle a repair of a break on this lock?

HORNBACK: Well, the repair station will be working with those gates and we will be bringing in engineers to look at what has happened and what we can do to repair that. We will be bringing in equipment. We have emergency operations plans in place to replace gates damaged and then we're looking at just to see what's the best fix for this situation is. WHITFIELD: OK. And we just have an image of a website that showed this particular portion of the river, where this lock break actually took place. We're seeing what could be, I guess, a bridge, overpass, and then the slips where the barges generally go in and the locks are on each end, right?

HORNBACK: Yes. The locks, the lock chambers, we have a 1,200-foot lock chamber, which would allow five barges deep and three barges wide, plus its towed to enter in and traditional lock up or down the river and then we have a 600 lock chamber which is smaller but would still allow lockage through traditionally. But because that was under repair, we had to close that off though.

But those barges move in and out of the closed and it's like a water elevator, you're matching either the upper end or lower end of the river to keep navigation open and running and that's what we do (INAUDIBLE).

WHITFIELD: Got you. OK. Todd Hornback, thanks so much. I think we're out of time about now. Appreciate your time. I understand that you'll be checking back with us or we'll be checking with you momentarily to see how the repair efforts get under way. Appreciate it.

HORNBACK: Yes. Thank you very much.

WHITFIELD: Todd Hornback from the Army Corps of Engineers.

Another defiant gesture from Iran today. Iran said it test fired two types of short range missiles and tried out a new multiple missile launcher for the first time that's sure to deepen tension from Iran's nuclear program.

CNN's Elaine Quijano reports.


ELAINE QUIJANO, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Iran's missile test comes just days after the U.S., France and Britain called out Iran for building a secret nuclear site.

SEN. CHRISTOPHER DODD (R), MISSOURI: Today's action in firing the missiles is really a poke in the eye to those who think that diplomatic efforts and agreements and inspections are going to change the way that Iran is going.

QUIJANO: But on CNN's state of the union with John King, defense secretary Robert Gates said he believes there's still room for diplomacy.

ROBERT GATES, DEFENSE SECRETARY: To see if we can leverage publicizing this additional illegal facility and activity, to leverage the Iranians to begin to make some concessions.

QUIJANO: And the U.S. wants those concessions within weeks according to Obama administration officials. It include giving international inspectors unfettered access to the newly revealed nuclear site, providing access to the people who helped build the facility and providing a timeline of the site's construction.

HILLARY CLINTON, STATE SECRETARY: Words are not enough. They're going to have to come and demonstrate clearly to the international community what they're up to.

QUIJANO: What Iran is up to the U.S. has long believed is trying to develop nuclear weapons. And these dramatic new satellite images obtained by CNN could help explain why.

Outside the city of Qom, eight months ago what appears to be the beginnings of construction, including tunnels into the hill side and now in that area a building and those same tunnels appeared to be covered up. While it's not clear whether this is the new newly revealed nuclear site, law makers fear the worst if Iran develops a nuclear weapon.

SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM (R), SOUTH CAROLINA: If they're successful, the Suni Arab states in the region would want a nuclear weapon. Israel becomes much at risk and we're walking down the road to Armageddon.

QUIJANO: Ahead of key nuclear talks Thursday, the Obama administration believes it has the upper hand.

GATES: The Iranians are in a very bad spot now because of this deception in terms of all of the great powers and there obviously is the opportunity for severe additional sanctions.


QUIJANO: And that possibility raises the stakes considerably for a critical meeting coming up Thursday in Geneva. That is when Iranian diplomats will sit down with officials from the United States as well as the other permanent members of the U.N. security council plus Germany to discuss Iran's nuclear program. Fredricka.

WHITFIELD: Elaine, what's interesting here, Secretary Gates talked about sanctions but what kind?

QUIJANO: Yes. You know, it's interesting to note that Secretary Clinton used the word leaky to describe past U.N. sanctions, obviously referring to the fact that they have not always been as effective as they were hoping they could be. Secretary Gates said look, we still think that there are areas that can be effectively targeted here.

For instance, sanctions against Iran's banking system, banking sector. Also sanctions when it comes to technology and other equipment when it comes to Iran's oil and gas industry. Secretary Gates really feels that by imposing those additional sanctions on what he believes is already a very severely squeezed Iranian economy, that in fact, perhaps that can be enough pressure for Iran to change its behavior.

WHITFIELD: All right. Elaine Quijano, at the White House. Thank you. It has been a deadly weekend for international forces in Afghanistan. Six soldiers have died, including two Americans, one from a road side bomb and another from an insurgent attack. Three French troops and one British soldier also died this weekend.

Terrorism suspect Najibullah Zazi is headed to court this week. He was flown back to New York after his arrest in Denver. Zazi is accused of planning to attack the city with weapons of mass destruction, say federal investigators. His arraignment is scheduled for Tuesday at 11:00 a.m. Eastern. Prosecutors say he receives Al Qaeda weapons and explosives training. He is charged with plotting to make bombs with household chemicals.

An acclaimed filmmaker is behind bars in Switzerland at this hour. Oscar-winning director Roman Polanski faces extradition to the U.S. on decades old sex charges. We talked to an L.A. criminal defense lawyer with a long list of celebrity clients coming up.


WHITFIELD: His words, both inspired and exasperated generations. Former Nixon White House speechwriter William Safire has died. The Pulitzer Prize winning columnist spent more than 30 years writing for the "New York Times." He penned more than a dozen books. Safire had a love affair with language and love to trace the origins of phrases like "under the bus" and "the proof is in the pudding." Safire was battling cancer at a hospice in Maryland. He was 79.

Film maker Roman Polanski has been arrested on a 1970s sex charge. Swiss police picked him up when he tried to attend the Zurich Film Festival. Now, he faces possible extradition to the United States. Criminal defense attorney Steve Cron has represented a lot of celebrities in high profile cases and he joins us now from Los Angeles.

All right. Good to see you.


WHITFIELD: This is really interesting because Roman Polanski pleaded guilty to this crime of sex with a 13-year-old in the '70s. How has he escaped extradition all these years while he has been living in France.

CRON: Well, Fredericka, there's a long story here. At first plush, when you hear about somebody having sex with a minor, most of us would say throw him away and lose the key. What happened was he had an agreement with his lawyer and with the district attorney and the judge. Unbeknownst to him, the judge was getting information from another DA, who had nothing to do with the case, and this was being done in private.

And that didn't come to light until just a year or two ago, when there was a documentary that showed that this other DA was giving information to the judge unbeknownst to the parties.

WHITFIELD: So interesting.

CRON: Now, Polanski left the country when it was clear that he was not going to get the sentenced that he had been promised by the judge. Things were changing and he panicked and he left. Now, he's been in France living comfortably for 30 years, doing movie work and traveling around. But within the last 10 years, we had an extradition treaty with Switzerland, which now makes them obligated to extradite somebody back to the United States.

WHITFIELD: OK. So that brings us now to - he's heading to Zurich for the film festival. He is to be honored there. Apparently the U.S. has been working with Switzerland, perhaps anticipating this honor, this film festival appearance and thereby now we have this arrest?

CRON: Yes. I don't think he was expecting to be honored by the golden handcuffs. I'm sure that took him by surprise. Now, he has got to make a choice, he and his lawyer. Are they going to fight extradition and argue he was treated improperly, shouldn't be extradited back to the United States or are they going to waive extradition, bring him back here.

And finally after all these years, litigate whether the sentence was fair, whether the guilty plea was fair, whether the whole thing should be thrown out. And there are some indications that the judge who was going to hear the case, wasn't happy with the proceedings that took place 30 years ago.

WHITFIELD: My goodness, so what would be the time frame now that Switzerland or the U.S. would work out some sort of extradition, if it comes to that and what would be the timetable of now finding his way back in court to perhaps face that old potential sentence or would this case start all over again?

CRON: Well, as far as the time frame, it's going to depend whether they fight extradition or not. If they fight it, then there will be a hearing and proceedings in Switzerland. If not, then the United States has 30 days to come and get him. That means sending some marshals to Switzerland and escorting him back to the United States. When they get back here, they're going to be seeking to throw out the entire conviction saying that Polanski was given promises by the judge and by the D.A. on the case, promises weren't kept there was malfeasance by the judge in that he was getting stretched for information -

WHITFIELD: Are we talking double jeopardy now? I mean, he -

CRON: No, we're not.


CRON: He's pled guilty but he's never served his time. So he has to either serve the time or what's going to happen is there's going to be a hearing on whether he was denied due process, and we're not just talking about whether a child molester goes free, we're talking about whether we had a level playing field, whether the judge was getting information improperly, using tactics by the DA who wasn't in court, unknown to anybody else, and that's not the type of system that we have here. Everything should be out on the table, fair for everybody to take a look at and evaluate.

WHITFIELD: Steve Cron. Thanks so much. I'm sure at 76, Roman Polanski probably felt like this was all behind him by now. Steve Cron.

CRON: I'm sure he did.

WHITFIELD: Thanks so much. I'm sure we'll be talking again.

CRON: My pleasure.

WHITFIELD: All right. So why - here's the question we've been asking all weekend long. Why are women apparently less happy than men, or are they? We asked the experts.


WHITFIELD: A look at our top stories right now.

More than 80 percent of Manila is under water today. Take a look at the images. A tropical storm dumped more than a month's worth of rain on the Philippines in just 12 hours, causing the worst flooding there in 40 years. At least 75 people are dead, hundreds of thousands are out of their homes.

Iran says it conducted tests of short range missiles and a new multiple missile launcher today. It released these pictures right here. The announcement comes just two days after the world learned Iran is building a second uranium enrichment plant. U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates says the plant is likely intended for military purposes. We'll be talking more about Iran and upcoming meetings involving the U.S. this week later on in this hour.

And police are investigating how and why a California man sneaked into a grizzly bear exhibit in the San Francisco Zoo. Zoo staff fired warning shots to get the bears in their dens. They rescued the man without trouble. He did not appear to be injured.

A new survey suggests that today's women are not as happy as they were decades ago. We discussed that with experts earlier this weekend. And in case you missed it, here's part of the discussion.


BETSEY STEVENSON, WHARTON SCHOOL, UNIV. OF PENNSYLVANIA: The data doesn't actually point to one single answer. What we see is all women have become less happy. Women who choose to stay home have become less happy over the last 35 years. Women who are happily married with kids have become less happy. Women single with kids are less happy and women with no kids have become less happy. All of these groups have become less happy relative to men, whether old women, young women, none of these point to one specific answer like trying to balance kids and a job. WHITFIELD: OK. So this makes it very very complicated then Marcus. If there's no common thread we're talking about men and women who have very different lives, we're not talking about a common denominator experience that is bringing happiness or robbing one of happiness, how in the world do we tackle this? How do we make sense of this kind of information?

MARCUS BUCKINGHAM, "HUFFINGTON POST": Well, the only way we did it was to go back to what Suzan was saying. We said let's go study the women that are becoming more satisfied and more fulfilled over the last 40 years. Let's go study those who have bucked that trend, and we actually asked five questions to find the people to go study.

We asked, how often do you have a chance to do things you really like to do? We asked how often do you feel positive anticipation about your day? How often do you get so involved in what you're doing during your day, you loose track of time? How often do you feel invigorated at the end of a long busy day? And then an overall question which was simply how often do you feel an emotional high from your life?

SUZAN COLON, CONTRIBUTING EDITOR, "O" MAGAZINE: I think that one of the problems that I know that I have, and many of my friends have is the idea of have to. I have to do this, I have to do that, I must get this done. And there's not anything, you know, incorporated that people really like to do. One of the tips that we have in "O's" dream big book, where we have an entire section on happiness, because that's how important this is to our readers, is just, you know, as little an hour or day or maybe even less, I don't know, incorporate into your day something that you enjoy doing.

We all have all these very long to do lists that don't include anything that has to do with enjoyment. Why is that? A lot of people would say the time crunch. Well, I have to get this done or that done. Is every single thing necessary? Can we not just take a little time for ourselves to do something that we enjoy? It can make a huge difference.


WHITFIELD: All right. So now, you're wondering who were the people we just heard from. Pretty extraordinary group there. Betsy Stevenson, author of "The Paradox of Female Happiness" there and then we heard from Marcus Buckingham who is a best selling author, "New York Times" best selling author, "Find Your Strongest Life," is one of his books and Suzan Colon, who is a contributing editor for "O" Magazine.

So September is ovarian cancer awareness month. And the first ladies of several states are joining forces to give women a better shot at beating the disease. Elizabeth Cohen shares their story.


ELIZABETH COHEN, CNN SENIOR MEDICAL CORRESPONDET (voice-over): Carla Markell knows she can make a difference. As first lady of Delaware, Markell, a breast cancer survivor is using her office to highlight another deadly disease, ovarian cancer.

CARLA MARKELL, FIRST LADY OF DELAWARE: One of the most important things we can do is alert people what the signs and symptoms are so they have a better chance of discovering it early.

COHEN: According to the National Cancer Institute, more than 21,000 American women will be diagnosed with ovarian cancer this year while more than 14,000 women will die from the disease. That's why Markell along with other first ladies around the country are trying to raise the nation's awareness about ovarian cancer.

Jo Hathcock was diagnosed with ovarian cancer six years ago and is shocked that a lot of women don't recognize the seriousness of the illness.

JOSEPHINE HATCHCOCK, OVARIAN CANCER PATIENT: The symptoms are so subtle. You have to really know what they are.

COHEN: And that's not always easy.

Dr. James Larson, a Delaware gynecologist says the most common symptoms can be easily confused with more benign health concerns.

DR. JAMES LARSON, OBSTETRICIAN/GYNECOLOGIST: People can have abdominal bloating or abdominal discomfort or pelvic pain or they can get full easier.

COHEN: Other symptoms can include loss of appetite, bloating, lower back pain and an urgency to urinate. The Markells hope to raise money for ovarian cancer research. Delaware Governor Jack Marcel recently signed legislation that would allow the states residents to voluntarily donate to a state ovarian cancer fund on their tax forms. His wife says it's a step Delaware is making to help women conquer this silent killer.

Elizabeth Cohen, CNN, Atlanta.


WHITFIELD: Well they are national treasures that belong to every American. Take a look. Is that not beautiful? Well Ken Burns, he tells us all about his new series on national parks, and it is all taking place on the night of its debut.


WHITFIELD: Now a closer look at one of our top stories. Iran says it tested short range missiles today and a new multiple missile launching system. This comes just two days after the world found out that Iran is building a new uranium enrichment missile plant. Western leaders say Iran is trying to develop nuclear weapons. Jim Walsh is an international security analyst at MIT and he is joining us from Boston, good to see you.

JIM WALSH, INTERNATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST, MIT: Good to see you again Fredricka. WHITFIELD: So Jim what do you suppose Iran is saying about this testing just days before it's supposed to meet with the U.S., Germany and other nations in Geneva?

WALSH: Well I think the missile tests are not as big a deal as the second enrichment plant. Iran has had a series of missile tests. These are short range missiles that just sort of goes on in the background. But clearly, the second enrichment plant will be the topic of the day when the parties sit down and meet on October 1st.

Here in the U.S., there's a big debate what it means. We have Secretary Gates and others on CNN and elsewhere talking about these revolutions and calling for sanctions as well suggesting that this is sort of evidence that Iran wants to build nuclear weapons. Both those propositions are a little iffy.

WHITFIELD: Well before I even ask you about what sanctions would do, because they've been tried out before and a little ineffective. Let's talk about the U.S. and the tone that the U.S. is taking saying you know what we want to make sure that inspectors have access to this new enrichment facility right away. Why should Iran? Why should the knees of Iran be shaking because the U.S. says we want to make sure inspectors have access immediately, within weeks in fact was the language?

WALSH: Well, I think first of all, Iran has agreed to that. I think its good idea. Now, this facility, according to Iran's statements, is going be brought under the supervision of the International Atomic Energy Agency, safeguards will apply, which means the IAEA now has the right go in there to monitor it. If they shut the centrifuges on, it is important to remember this is not a functioning plant yet, the centrifuges are not running. But they are going to go in and they are going to find what's going on and all the design information. If Iran shuts it on, that will all be under the watchful eye of the International Atomic Energy Agency. I think those are all positive developments.

WHITFIELD: Well you know I spoke with the Iranian ambassador to the IAEA, yesterday and he said yes of course our doors are open, come on in, inspectors, no problem. However, when the U.S. says we want to go forward and take advantage of every diplomatic route possible at the same time you have Secretary Gates you even have Secretary Clinton who said you know what we want to place these demands to make sure that Iran is cooperative here on exposing to inspectors this kind of plant, that sounds like it's going beyond diplomacy, isn't it, that kind of tone?

WALSH: I think what they're doing is trying to set the stage for these upcoming negotiations. Iran has no choice but to allow those inspectors onto that plant. They have officially notified now, late as that may be, they have officially notified the agency that there is this facility. They are bound by their safe guard obligations. They have no choice legally but to be allowed into that facility to look at it if they were to say, no, and block that that would be yet another violation that would further probably strengthen the hand of the United States or others who may want to take action against Iran. WHITFIELD: Quickly, in a word or two, high hopes or low hopes about this meeting between Iran and the U.S. and other nations particularly since the U.S. has not met with Iran in 30 years?

WALSH: Yes, I would say let's keep low expectations. I think there's been a tendency to sort of pre-judge it and say nothing will come of it lets write it off right away. I think that is also a mistake. We have to wait and see, it is only going to take a week before it happens. Let's wait and see. We may get some progress here. In the past under similar circumstance in 2003, with Libya, that has led to progress. Let's wait.

WHITFIELD: All right. Jim Walsh, thanks so much, appreciate it from Boston today.

WALSH: Thank you, Fredericka.

WHITFIELD: After issuing a strong response to Iran's secret nuclear facility last week, President Obama's focus is now back on his most pressing domestic issue, health care reform. At the Congressional Black Caucus Foundation dinner last night in Washington, Mr. Obama again vowed to get a health care reform bill passed this year and he also spoke about the economic crisis emphasizing that it was already under way when he took office.


BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE U.S: We are by no means the first generation of Americans to be tested but tested we have been. Most recently, we've been tested by an economic crises unlike any that we've seen since the "great depression." Now, I have to say that some folks seem to have forgotten just how bad things were when I took office. [Applause] They seem to be exercising some selective memory.


WHITFIELD: Here now is a look at the president's schedule for this week. Monday, he attends meetings at the White House. On Tuesday, the president will meet with the NATO secretary general at the White House and then Wednesday, Mr. Obama has more meetings scheduled at the White House, and then Thursday, he'll attend a fund-raiser for the Democratic Governor's Association in Washington. And Friday, pretty full week, the president will attend more meetings at the White House.

Well, they belong to you, me, and every citizen of the United States. I'm talking about the national parks. Award winning film-maker, Ken Burns, is debuting his series tonight on PBS. There he is, from a national treasure of Washington D.C. we can't wait to talk to Ken Burns about this incredible documentary. As you know what, I guess we get to talk right now. I thought we were going a break. Good, Ken.


WHITFIELD: I can't wait to see this. You travel across the country. You give us a view of these national treasures that we really, many of us have never seen before. Why did you decide it was time to reintroduce Americans to national parks?

BURNS: The first thing is it's not a travel log; it is not a nature film per se, though they are beautiful images of nature. What we did is we traveled from the Gates of the Arctic in northern Alaska to the dry tore tu gas (ph) of the Florida Keys from the Hawaii volcano's where they are still making new land everyday to Acadia (ph) where the first rays of sunlight hit our beautiful Republic and all the places in between to tell the story of the ideas and individuals behind this uniquely American invention.

It is our story. For the first time in human history, land was set aside for everybody, not for kings or noblemen. That's the story we want to tell, and is not just the story of top down famous white guys, like Theodore Roosevelt and John Mirra (ph). Though they are central to our film, but it's a story that's black-and-white and brown and male and female and naturally occurring diversity about how these parts got created, and it is a drama unlike almost anything we have ever done. Because every time someone wanted to save a place, there was somebody else who wanted to build a dam, someone else who wanted to cut down the trees, someone else who wanted to mine the canyon for some minerals. So it makes for interesting story telling.

WHITFIELD: Wow, it's so extraordinary, I guess you learned a lot too. The historian that you are, I know you know all things about this country and culture and beyond. I wonder what you felt like you learned while filming this. You returned to a number of these parks at different seasons, different times of day in order to really capture the most of these beautiful places.

BURNS: Well you know the biggest thing was how surprisingly diverse this story was, how beautiful these places were. But each of these parks performs a kind of open heart surgery. You find out that it isn't just staring down at the edge of the Grand Canyon, and realizing that the Colorado River exposes rock that is 1.7 billion years old, half the age of the planet. It matters very much, Fredericka, who you're standing next to, whose hand you're holding on the edge of the Grand Canyon, because Americans fall in love with their parks and people fall in love with their parks, and they go generation after generation.

Our mission right now is to just wake people up to how they got there and most of us take them for granted and to remind them that they do own them. If you own something, you ought to go visit your property now and then and make sure it's being taken care of. If it's not, yell loud at the maintenance company that is the Congress and then put it in your will for your posterity. And that is one pretty nice bargain.

WHITFIELD: Oh my god, that's incredible. I could talk to you forever here. But I am being told we're out of time now. I had so many more questions. But you know I am wondering very quickly before you go. How you are able to how you find beauty in things like the cracked soil, the ice on that limb of the tree that we saw just a second ago. You're kind of reintroducing us to beauty.

BURNS: Well you know it's interesting. In the very beginning, people felt that the national parks brought them closer to god. The original impulse wasn't conservation, it was just that Europe was belittling us because we didn't have cathedrals, we said, yes, we do, there are cathedrals in nature. You can look at all of god's handy work if you will, look at these beautiful moments in nature and realize how lucky we are that for the first time in history, we had the foresight to save them. And for me as a filmmaker and for those of us who work on it as cinematographers, it was just a kid in a candy shop to be able to go in and film these places from Death Valley to the Glaciers.

WHITFIELD: Fantastic. Ken Burns thanks very much. I'll be watching the full series and trying to determine my next vacation spot. I want to see America.

BURNS: We'll see you out there.

WHITFIELD: All right. Thanks so much, Ken Burns, appreciate it, from Washington.

All right. Let's talk about nature's fury, creating challenging and dangerous situations today. We'll bring you the latest on the devastating floods taking place in the Philippines.


WHITFIELD: Dozens of people are dead in the Philippines. After torrential rains unleashed devastating flooding, hundreds of thousands of people have been displaced from their homes. Many survivors are being rescued from rooftops by army helicopters. The government has declared a state of calamity, its version of a state of emergency.

One of America's busiest waterways is blocked at this hour. The Army Corps of Engineers says there has been what it called a catastrophic break at a lock along the Ohio River, the lock helped regulate river levels allowing boats and barges to get around the dams.

Pulitzer Prize winning columnist and former Nixon White House speechwriter, William Safire has died. Safire has suffered from pancreatic cancer and died today at a hospice in Maryland. Safire spent more than three decades writing op-ed's and columns for the "New York Times" and the "Paper's" Magazine. He was 79.

Healthcare reform, most Americans say it is needed. But who will pick up the bill. We will tell you why some people worry that it could be your kids and maybe your grandkids.


WHITFIELD: Critics of health care reform argue that cost is simply too high. They say young people will end up shouldering an enormous bill for decades to come. How realistic is that assessment? Our Carol Costello looks into it.


CAROL COSTELLO, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice over): It's certainly a valid concern.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You're taking our kids' future and driving it right into the toilet.

COSTELLO: It is a figure that is incomprehensible for most Americans. Take a look at the national debt clock in Manhattan it reads more than $11 trillion. Just saying. If health care reform passes, will our kids pay through the nose?

MICHAEL TANNER, LIBERTARIAN CATO INSTITUTE: That's something I think we haven't talked an enough about.

COSTELLO: Someone like Michael Tanner, of the Libertarian CATO Institute believes young adults are likely to bear the brunt of reform's cost.

TANNER: Certainly those young people who don't have insurance today are going to be required to go out and buy insurance. Some of them of course will receive subsidies but those who don't are going to have to pay something that they're not paying today.

COSTELLO: Right now, about 10 million young Americans ages 19 to 26 don't have health insurance. Janice Martin is one of them.

JANICE MARTIN: I'm looking for private insurance right now. I can afford some insurance. I'm not broke, have income but right now, costs are out of control.

COSTELLO: Last week at the University of Maryland, thousands of students showed up to hear the president talk about reform.

BARACK OBAMA, PRES. OF THE U.S: Health care is about more than the details of a policy, it's about what kind of country you want to be.

COSTELLO: Mr. Obama's words resonated despite the fact many here will be saddled with college debt and the prospect of a terrible job market. A Washington post "ABC News" poll shows 58 percent of young adults favor health care reform.

UNIDENTIFED FEMALE: More than any other age group they believe that this is a right. It's embarrassing that we in the United States are the only Democracy that doesn't have universal health care coverage for its citizens.

COSTELLO: Under the latest Senate proposal tax experts say a barebones catastrophic policy for young people could cost as much as $200 per month. The president has promised he won't sign any reform that adds to the deficit. Critics say that just means higher taxes on something. Martin is willing to listen, though, despite concerns that such ideas will bankrupt his future.

MARTIN: I'm just happy that for any chance to have a more serious discourse about it than what we hear from these town halls.


WHITFIELD: All right. Heading into the new workweek means you need to know what the weather is doing, too, meteorologist, Jacqui Jeras is with us now. More severe stuff on the way? JACQUI JERAS, CNN METEOROLOGIST: Well some severe weather, we are going to have a lot of windy conditions too. But one of the things to keep in mind as you get back out and about and traveling, keep in mind there, are a lot of road hazards, especially in the southeast in some of these flooding areas. Look at these pictures. Guess what happened here? The car wasn't just driving along and just fell into a sinkhole, the road collapsed. What happened is the blockade got moved and a car drove up there and fell in because they didn't see it. Make sure that you're real cautious and you are aware of your surroundings. Nobody was hurt seriously, by the way.

Cold front has swept through across the east, great news here, so looking for much better conditions. Stormy weather today is going to be across the upper Midwest and Great Lakes region. We do have severe thunderstorms, possible that will include you in Milwaukee, Chicago and down towards the Indianapolis area. This is all part of a big upper level system. We have a strong area of low pressure. This is going to be impacting two-thirds of the country. We see very strong winds come back behind it, could be gust as strong as 60 miles per hour. So we're worried about power outages and we could see some waves on the Great Lakes, Lake Michigan for example, 10 to 18 feet.

WHITFIELD: Oh, my gosh! That's huge. Thank you, Jacqui.

Get ready for a grand celebration. But there's also a serious message behind this party.


WHITFIELD: One of the biggest gatherings for Hispanic Americans is Fiesta Georgia, held in Conyers, Georgia. Thousands gather to party reflect on their culture and express hope for the future. Take a look.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I think that the Latino community has gained a big presence, is very visible in this society.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What we're expecting in 2010, to try to get representation, try to get Latinos to be counted during the census, be representative. So their communities can get what it is they need during the next decade.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The recession has affected the Latino community just because with the slowdown, especially in the real estate market and housing market, there are a lot fewer jobs.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Health care reform is important for Hispanic families. The problem with Hispanic family is that we work a lot. Sometimes we forget that we've got our health to take care of.

RALPH HERRERA: Obama used in his campaign, yes, you can or yes, we can. That's actually a Spanish saying. We have a minority president in the country and now Sotomayor will be a very good example for Hispanic youth. UNIDENTIFED FEMALE: I am a woman and proud that a woman could achieve this and that she represents us in this country full of opportunity for all Hispanics.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Sotomayor's nomination for us Latinos is huge. It means that we're finally here.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The Hispanic heritage is that people understand what we are about, and we're a rich culture. We've got a lot to offer to this country. The 16th of September is kind of like the Mexican Fourth of July, their Independence Day. They come out in droves, as you can see to celebrate.

UNIDENTIFED FEMALE: This is marvelous to see all these people out in the weather. I am ready to sing to them. My music is an evolution of traditional Mexican music, one of many. Mine is very danceable. I jump around on stage, i love to dance. It's fusion of various rhythms. I spent all my life in this music.

TRANSLATOR: We secelebrate with parties and families and make special foods. The important thing is celebrate with family and be with family.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: This is a great time to come together and celebrate what the Latino culture is in the United States of America.


WHITFIELD: CNN's "LATINO IN AMERICA," how the nation's fastest growing minority population is reshaping politics, business, schools, churches and neighborhoods, "LATINO IN AMERICA" airs October 21st and 22nd right here on CNN.

Thanks for joining us. "FAREED ZAKARIA GPS" starts right now.