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Deadly Baghdad Blasts; Taliban Threaten Afghan Voters; Obama Holds Fundraisers for Democrats
Aired October 25, 2009 - 18:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
DON LEMON, CNN ANCHOR: This hour, at least 132 people dead from the worst bombing attack in Iraq in years right on the heels of a visit from the U.S. ambassador. Tonight, the president's response.
More than 1,000 people driven from their homes by chemical explosions and toxic clouds, and the fire is still roaring in San Juan. A live update.
The tea party express keeps on rolling. Today, California; next week, cross-country -- protesting big government and health care.
Speaking of health care, are you in favor of a public option? If you say no, you're showing your age. We'll explore the health care reform generation gap.
Roaming the streets of a big city with no memory of who she is. Tonight, police say they know her identity -- thanks to a CNN viewer.
A rock slide is causing major problems for drivers on one interstate; an aging rock star collapses on stage; and the president plays golf with a woman. We'll tell you why this is a headline.
Hello, everyone. I'm Don Lemon, live at the CNN world headquarters in Atlanta.
It is the kind of massive deadly attack that kills hundreds of people in an instant and can cripple an entire nation's political future. At least 132 people died today in Baghdad when twin car bombs exploded near three government buildings. More than 500 people were injured.
LEMON: Well, the devastation covers a wide area not far from the heavily-guarded Green Zone or international zone that houses the U.S. embassy.
CNN's Mohammed Jamjoom is at the scene for us.
MOHAMMED JAMJOOM, CNN CORRESPONDENT: We're here in the heart of Baghdad where two suicide car bombs exploded earlier this morning, targeting government buildings. Right behind me, you see the ministry of justice. The explosion went off at 10:30 a.m. this morning local time. And damage also in that attack right across from the ministry of justice is the ministry of municipalities. Now, the scene around us is one of devastation. People are milling around. We've seen people going screaming, crying at the arms of their loved ones. We've seen people picking up body parts.
This attack happened at the time when it was very, very busy in central Baghdad today and you have the most amount of people and, really, this is something that maximized the amount of casualties that took place today. Now, the second explosion happened just a minute after the first explosion. It happened a few hundred meters down the road at the Baghdad governor offices.
Now, we're seeing around us here today every type of security apparatus. We're seeing -- we're seeing Iraqi security forces, Iraqi army, Iraqi police, firemen and ambulances. We're also seeing a lot of U.S. troops. They're here to assess the situation and find out more about what happened.
Mohammed Jamjoom, CNN, Baghdad.
LEMON: All right, Mohammed.
Well, the attacks have raised new questions about the Iraqi government's ability to secure the country ahead of national elections scheduled for January. Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki has visited the scene of the attacks to see the damage firsthand. He vowed to punish what he called enemies of the Iraqi people who, in his words, are trying to derail the political process.
President Obama is condemning the Baghdad attacks and promising U.S. support for Iraq and its people.
Our Elaine Quijano is standing by with more from the White House -- Elaine?
ELAINE QUIJANO, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Don, this afternoon, President Obama spoke by phone with both Iraq's president, as well as Iraq's prime minister. Mr. Obama expressed his condolences and reiterated that the United States is committed to standing with the Iraqi people.
Now, in a written statement, President Obama said that "these attempts to derail Iraq's progress are no match for the courage and resilience of the Iraqi people, and their determination to build strong institutions. The United States will stand with Iraq's people and government as a close friend and partner as Iraqis prepare for elections early next year."
Now, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton also issued a similar statement. She called the bombings despicable terrorist attacks and said they would not undermine the progress that Iraq has made toward stability. She also said that those responsible for these bombings must be brought to justice in accordance with Iraqi law -- Don?
LEMON: All right. Elaine Quijano at the White House -- Elaine, thank you very much.
Cast a presidential ballot, risk losing a finger -- the Taliban is threatening voters with less than two weeks until the runoff election in Afghanistan. Widespread fraud in the first round led the inspectors to call for the redo.
But -- as our Chris Lawrence reports -- violence threats could discourage the democratic process.
CHRIS LAWRENCE, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Afghanistan's presidential candidates have a total of just 12 days to campaign, but neither plans to leave Kabul.
ABDUL GHANI WAFA, AFGHAN VOTER (through translator): Because 40 percent of Afghanistan is under the Taliban government, it's evident that they won't be able to launch their campaign in all of the country.
LAWRENCE: Taliban leaders have threatened violence against any Afghan caught voting for President Karzai or Dr. Abdullah, quote, "The mujahideen are fully prepared to disrupt this process. Anyone who participates will be responsible for their own losses."
SAYED RAHMAN NEYEZAI, KABUL RESIDENT (through translator): The Taliban warning won't affect us because in the center of the country we can go to the polling stations. But this time will have negative impact out in the provinces.
LAWRENCE: During the first election in August, the Taliban cut off some voter's ink-stained fingers, a symbol that they had voted -- an intimidation kept turnout below 10 percent in some areas.
(on camera): As Afghan voters get ready to head to the polls again, the other big decision is backing the United States -- where President Obama is deciding whether to send more American troops to add to the roughly 65,000 already here.
(voice-over): After being briefed by General Stanley McChrystal here in Afghanistan, one senator says the U.S. commander needs tens of thousands more troops, not a fraction of that number.
SEN. GEORGE LEMIEUX (R), ARMED SERVICES COMMITTEE: General McChrystal makes a very persuasive case. The worst thing, I would think to me, is to settle somewhere in between. We've -- the president said we are not going to take our troops out, and I think that's a good thing. But if we need more troops, we have to make sure that we have enough troops to get the job done.
LAWRENCE (on camera): Military officials tell us the Taliban will have less time to plan attacks on the runoff, and securing this election is now the highest priority for U.S. and NATO troops.
Chris Lawrence, CNN, Kabul.
LEMON: Karzai versus Abdullah -- the candidates say they are ready for round two of voting in spite of huge security and logistical challenges. Both the incumbent and the challenger tell CNN that escalating violence is reason enough for the rematch.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, FAREED ZAKARIA GPS)
PRES. HAMID KARZAI, AFGHANISTAN: I feel Afghanistan was entering that period again. I felt as if Afghans were pitted one against the other. And for that reason and for the reason of safety and security of the Afghan people and, as I mentioned earlier, cementing democratic traditions in Afghanistan, I went to agree to a second round, which I believe is good for Afghanistan, which will eventually be good for all of us.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, CNN'S STATE OF THE UNION)
DR. ABDULLAH ABDULLAH, AFGHAN PRESIDENITAL CANDIDATE: We should have been in a position eight years down the road not to call for more troops, but for lesser troops. We are not there. Why? Because of the failures of the current administration in Afghanistan. Any success for the U.S. strategy in Afghanistan will depend on the credibility of your partner, on the legitimacy of your partner.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
LEMON: Dr. Abdullah says if he loses the race on November 7th, he has no interest in joining the government of old boss. He once served as President Karzai's foreign minister.
In Iran, U.N. inspectors have been begun their mission to try to uncover any secrets at the long-hidden nuclear fuel lab. They entered the bunker-like factory today, taking environmental samples to check for the presence of nuclear materials. The existence of the uranium enrichment plant stunned the international community last month, but Iran says it's just trying to produce energy for the public.
A holy city torn by riots in the shadow of a shrine.
LEMON: In Jerusalem, masked Palestinian protesters hurled rocks at Israeli police, injuring more than two dozen. Officers in riot gear fought back, sending about 200 of the demonstrators running for cover in a religious compound. They were holed up inside a mosque for about five hours before 18 of them were arrested. Tonight, Jerusalem remains on edge because history shows violent flare-ups can quickly evolve into long-standing conflicts.
On the road and making their voices heard -- the tea party express, trip two is bringing its anti-big government message to a community near you. We're live along the journey. Burning now for the third day, firefighters are still trying to control the flames after that massive explosion at a gasoline storage facility in Puerto Rico. We're live from the tropical paradise that's now facing a health hazard.
We want to know what's on your mind. Here's how you do it. Any of the social networking sites you see right there.
LEMON: There's no law against driving a private vehicle if you don't speak English, but this woman was one of nearly 40 people in Dallas, Texas, issued traffic tickets on that charge over the past several years. We first told you this story last night on CNN. Even as police acknowledged it was a mistake, many of you shared the daughter's outrage.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, WFAA, THURSDAY)
BRENDA MONDRAGON, MOTHER GIVEN TICKET FOR NOT SPEAKING ENGLISH: At first, I thought it was a joke, I said, I can't believe it. I actually laughed. I was like, oh, my God, mom, I've never seen this before. We moved from California two years ago, so I was like, well, maybe it's a law here.
SGT. WARREN MITCHELL, DALLAS POLICE: We regret this happening. And although we believe it was a sincere mistake, we're just -- there's no excuse for it.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
LEMON: Traffic citations for not speaking English carried $204 fines. Police say any outstanding tickets will be dropped. People who already paid the fines will be reimbursed.
They're calling it the Tea Party Express II: Countdown to Judgment Day. The rolling caravan of anti-big government activists is back on the road for a second nationwide bus tour.
CNN all-platform journalist Patrick Oppmann is on the road with the tea party activists in California.
Patrick, I understand you're on I-5, somewhere between San Diego and L.A. How's the traffic holding up?
PATRICK OPPMANN, CNN ALL-PLATFORM JOURNALIST (via telephone): That's right, Don, we're actually in traffic right now and going from their first rally which was held in San Diego, as you said, on to their next one today which will be in Los Angeles.
And they had a pretty enthusiastic reaction to this first rally in San Diego. A lot of people there with some signs made famous at previous tea parties, calling the Obama presidency a socialist government and really getting it front and center that they are not happy with this government and they want to take on the Obama administration (AUDIO BREAK) to health care and also play a role in the upcoming congressional elections.
LEMON: Patrick, how many people are we talking about here that actually attend the event and then go with the bus in the caravan?
OPPMANN: Right now, the caravan, it's a collection of vehicles, the people who run this operation, a couple of media people, the bands to perform. We had a couple hundred guys on motorcycles actually following us for the better part of the trip.
And in San Diego, there were hundreds of people. It was a bright sunny day. It was a beautiful backdrop. And there were, you know, perhaps as close to -- or more than 1,000 people there, many with signs, many -- people who freely said that they were both afraid and very angry at the way the direction this country's going in.
LEMON: Hey, let's listen -- let's listen to some of those people right now, at least one person, Patrick.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We need to get back to the days when we were responsible and we assumed the responsibility of ourselves and our families, and the government is not a part of my daily life. I am -- I really resent the government taking up so much of my time that I'm down here having to protest right now.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
LEMON: So, Patrick, the rally in L.A., is it today or tomorrow?
OPPMANN: This evening, it's going to be in little less than an hour, about 45 minutes if we get there on time. We're in some of that famous California traffic right now, Don.
LEMON: Yes, on I-5. Patrick Oppmann, our CNN all-platform journalist traveling with the Tea Party Express II: Countdown to Judgment Day -- thank you, Patrick.
Tea party activists aren't the only ones looking ahead to future elections. President Obama is raising huge amounts of campaign cash for Democratic candidates who support his agenda. And he's hitting the trail again tomorrow for events in Jacksonville and Miami.
We get more now from CNN's Dan Lothian.
DAN LOTHIAN, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: President Obama in Cambridge, Massachusetts, pushing his clean energy policy...
BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The Recovery Act provides the largest single boost in scientific research in history.
LOTHIAN: It's the appetizer in a day of big fundraising meals. First, a reception for friend and Massachusetts governor, Deval Patrick. Then, off to a Connecticut dinner to raise cash for Senator Chris Dodd.
KEVIN MADDEN, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: He's trying to help the people that are helping him up on Capitol Hill. Secondly, the president is the one that's drawing all the star power right now. He is the fundraiser-in-chief as much as he is the commander-in-chief.
LOTHIAN: Even as he debates the way forward in Afghanistan and fights for health care reform, Mr. Obama has been doing a flurry of fundraisers all across the country. Since taking office, more than 20 events -- compared to just six during former President Bush's entire first year. However, that's also when 9/11 happened.
Mr. Obama is a presidential ATM machine fighting for his party's future, so far, helping to raise more than $25 million.
STU ROTHENBERG, ROTHENBERG POLITICAL REPORT: The Democrats are aware of significant vulnerabilities in next year's midterm elections. They want things to go well now. There's a special in New York and governor elections in Virginia and New Jersey, that they don't want to start a ball rolling against them.
LOTHIAN: But some warn there's a danger to the administration's ambitious fundraising effort.
MADDEN: When you're engaged in this type of travel and you're engaged in nonstop fundraising, what happened is, the White House begins to start -- begins to look very hyper-partisan, hyper-political, and that can then hurt the Obama brand.
LOTHIAN: But White House spokesman Robert Gibbs suggested, this level of fundraising is necessary because of the president's strict contribution rules.
ROBERT GIBBS, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: This president doesn't accept money from PACs, doesn't -- or doesn't accept money from PACs or lobbyists and doesn't allow lobbyists to give at fundraisers that he's at as well.
LOTHIAN (on camera): A spokesman for Governor Patrick says the events raised $600,000. Now, the stepped-up fund-raising effort doesn't end now, President Obama will appear at events in Florida and Virginia early next week.
Dan Lothian, CNN, Boston.
LEMON: Drunk at the wheel with children in the car. One New York woman is accused of doing just that. And if that doesn't make you pay attention, wait until you hear about the guessing game she played with her kids along the way.
Do you know this teenager? She is a Jane Doe found wondering in Times Square. One CNN viewer says she knows her identity and she may have helped reunite her with her family. And a beautiful day for a picnic. But why are all these people doing it on one of the most famous bridges in the world? We're going to tell you.
LEMON: You have to see this next video that we're going to show you. An overnight rock slide has shut down interstate traffic in a big way in western North Carolina. Look at that.
State officials say they expect a section of Interstate 40 near the Tennessee line will be closed for several weeks. Troopers say some of the fallen rocks are the size of a house. Can you imagine?
Well, one motorist was slightly hurt in the 2:00 a.m. incident. The mountain highway is vulnerable to rock slides, especially after wet weather.
Wow. Slightly injured. So, glad no one was killed in that. Very easily could have been killed, Jacqui.
JACQUI JERAS, CNN METEOROLOGIST: Oh, yes.
LEMON: Look at those -- I mean, that is amazing.
LEMON: Huge boulders, the size of a house, huh?
JERAS: Yes. You know, they've had a lot of rain in the last month or so in the western Carolina. You know, all the flooding that we had in Atlanta...
JERAS: ... we focused on that a lot. This area had a lot of flooding, too. And, you know -- so that can kind of loosen up the rock material. Not to mention this time of the years, our temperatures get real warm during the day...
JERAS: ... and they'll freeze at night. So, you get a lot of expanding and contracting of the rocks.
LEMON: And we drive through these, you know, all the time. And I often look up, I'm sure going, wow, look at that. I wonder if that's going to stay up, and you never know just how...
JERAS: It happened.
LEMON: Yes, how close...
JERAS: Tough to predict, too.
LEMON: ... the danger. Yes, absolutely. JERAS: Absolutely, yes.
LEMON: What you got going on, Jacqui Jeras?
JERAS: Well, hey, speaking of some wet weather -- I've got some other video I want to show you. Last night, the rain, man, it came down across parts of the northeast and caused quite a bit of flooding.
This is from Philadelphia. We had some heavy rain, about an inch and a half in the Philly area. Several roadways were flooded. And some downed trees. Beautiful weather in the northeast today. But Philly, look out for Tuesday, as we will have more rain in the forecast.
We also have some rain that's been going on across New Brunswick. Yes, the Canadian Maritimes, this is from our iReporter Ray Richard from Monckton. He said heavy rain flooded the streets and washed away at least one road that you saw there. St. John's itself had about 4 1/2 inches of rainfall and thousands of people were without power. And that happened last night and early this morning.
Now, we'll show you the latest radar picture. And there you can see, things look good in the northeast. And here's the remnant of that front. So, everything off shore now. So, the U.S. and the Canadian Maritimes looking a lot better here for today.
So, we're starting to focus now on the nation's midsection, and we've had some heavy rain in parts of Canada, as well as into Missouri, but where we're going to be watching as we head into tonight is some of these showers and thunderstorms that are starting to develop from the Gulf of Mexico and make their way into Texas. That moisture is starting to move into the region now. and this is coming in advance of a cold front.
Then, as you know, Texas has already been very, very saturated with heavy rainfall. So, we have flood watches which are already in effect here. And we could see maybe even two to four inches of rain.
So, this is really going to get started we think late tonight, continue throughout much of the day on your Monday. And here, a computer model forecasts showing nearly two inches in Dallas, about an inch and a half in Corpus Christi. Houston, you're not under the flood watch yet, but you might exceed those guidelines.
So, we're going to have to watch this area very closely late in the day tomorrow, too. And look at that over towards Lake Charles. So, some real heavy rain pushing back in.
Now, out west, you had a great start to the weekend but not finishing so great today. We got a storm system moving in here and bringing rain into the valleys. Now, the snow levels are going to be dropping down for tomorrow. So winter storm watches have been posted. And we could see four to 12 inches in the Cascades and the Olympics.
And we're talking about snow coming down into the passes now. Yes, that's right. Seattle, it's getting to be that time of year, right, when we get into this winter-type pattern and things become more active so rain is in the forecast throughout almost the next five days. So, unfortunately, we're getting that seasonal change in the Pacific Northwest, Don?
LEMON: Remember that song we used to sing in grade school, "Rain, rain, go away, come back another day"?
JERAS: Come again another day.
LEMON: So, listen, you know, famous bridges, San Francisco Bay Bridge...
JERAS: Oh, yes.
LEMON: ... Brooklyn Bridge, "Bridge over the River Quay," well, maybe that's not one. So...
JERAS: How many can you say in 10 seconds? Go.
LEMON: Do you like the Sydney Harbour Bridge?
LEMON: It's amazing, right? I want you to look at this. It's usually jammed with cars, Jacqui. But take a look at this.
What do you guess they're doing there, huh?
JERAS: It looks like a lovely picnic.
LEMON: It is. That's a cute baby, by the way. Yes. You know, they jammed. They had blankets and picnic baskets. And there was real grass that was laid across eight lanes.
LEMON: It was a one-day festival, Jacqui. Six thousand people -- 6,000 people. They've noshed on top of the city's most famous bridge and probably one of the most famous if not the most famous bridge in the world.
JERAS: How gorgeous! What a view, huh?
LEMON: One million dollars to do this.
JERAS: Yes. Why did they have to put the grass on there and spend their money? Just asking.
LEMON: Well, I don't know -- maybe they were raising awareness for something. Who knows?
JERAS: I wonder they're thinking recycle it? LEMON: They're trying to make it an annual event. And one man was so inspired by the view that he popped the big question to his girlfriend. Guess what?
JERAS: Very memorable. She said yes, right?
LEMON: No, she said yes. Can you imagine? I always see .like those morning shows when people pop the question on national television. I go -- oh!
JERAS: Don't say no.
LEMON: Don't say no.
JERAS: Or just say yes today and then tomorrow you can change your mind.
JERAS: All right.
LEMON: All right, Jacqui, you got some work to do there, so get busy. We'll see you soon.
LEMON: Thank you.
Burning now for the third day, firefighters still trying to control the flames after that massive explosion at a gasoline storage facility in Puerto Rico. We're live from the tropical paradise that's now facing a health hazard.
And the daunting wait for a chance at good health. The long lines many of you are finding while trying to get the H1N1 vaccine.
LEMON: OK, H1N1. Remember, the president declared a state of emergency yesterday? It's also known as the swine flu and it's now widespread in 46 states. It's already infected millions of people in the U.S. and killed about 1,000.
DON LEMON, CNN NEWS ANCHOR: OK, H1N1. Remember, the president declared a state of emergency yesterday? It's also known as the swine flu. It's now widespread, in 46 states. It's already infected millions of people in the U.S. and killed about 1,000. That's why the president on Friday declared a national emergency over the emerging pandemic. The declaration is necessary to remove red tape and other bureaucratic obstacles so public health officials can respond more rapidly to outbreaks. Lawmakers of both parties today promised all necessary resources to the White House to deal with the urgent health issue.
As of Friday, the CDC says there were more than 16 million doses of the H1N1 vaccine available across the country.
IReporter, M.D. Chachee, sent us this video of hundreds of people in line -- lining up for swine flu shots of that swine flu shot. That was yesterday in Farmington, Michigan. It looks daunting. About 10,000 shots were available at the sight, so everyone in line was able to get one. People did have to wait about three hours in the cold and rain to get their vaccine.
There is a new wave of optimism among Senate Democrats for health care reform. Party leaders say they're closing in on 60 votes. The magic number to push forward. And, they say, they can make it happen with some form of the controversial public option. Last week, some voted against party leaders, pointing to a rising price tag, the same argument that has been coming from the GOP.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. CLAIRE MCCASKILL, (D), MISSOURI: I don't think that the vote last week should be any signal to America that we have lost the will to move forward and fix the ridiculously difficult and expensive health care dilemma we face in this country.
SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL, (R), MINORITY LEADER: Wholly aside from the debate over whether the government gets into the insurance business, the core of the proposal is a bill that the American public clearly does not like.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
LEMON: All right. So the public option, suddenly resuscitated here. So let's take this debate away from Washington for a bit and find out who's really on board with this plan.
Andrew Rubin is the vice president at New York University at Langone Medical Center.
Thank you for joining us. Good to see you.
You paint a picture -- you can paint a picture of the typical public option supporter here, but you're saying -- what I found interesting is you're saying there's a generation gap between this public option, who wants it and who doesn't want it.
ANDREW RUBIN, NEW YORK UNIVERISTY, LANGONE MEDICAL CENTER: It's important to understand, nobody really understands yet what -- how the public option is going to work. The entire framework for health care reform, how people view it, is generational. No question about that. And the public option would fall into the same category. Clearly, senior citizens are not going to want to see anything changed in their medical -- Medicare benefits. And that's -- they're a big voting bloc.
LEMON: You said -- one effort you said, those 65 and older, they're against the plan primarily because they believe it will be funded via cuts in Medicare, similar to overall reform issue. Talk about that.
RUBIN: Absolutely. Again, Medicare beneficiaries like what they have and what they're hearing in the news media, what they're reading out in the newspapers are, to fund health care, we're going to have to cut Medicare costs. Nobody really exactly knows what that means yet. You hear cuts in Medicare. Senior citizens hear cuts in Medicare benefits. They're going to be nervous about their own plan.
It's very interesting to point out, a recent "ABC News" poll, "Washington Post" poll, came out and said they're softening. The reason the seniors are softening is because they're restricting who would be eligible to participate in a public option.
LEMON: Let's talk about those a little younger, 45 to 65 or anyone uninsured. They want the public plan because they're terrified of the current system and realize there could be big trouble should they lose their job, get sick or have a pre-existing conditions.
RUBIN: Absolutely. These are people who are working today, or are unemployed today. If they are working today, they may be losing their jobs in the near future. They know, when they lose their jobs, they'll lose health care benefits. I talked to these people frequently on my radio show. These people want to make sure there's a system in place that protects them, to make sure they don't lose their benefits in they lose their jobs.
LEMON: Even younger people, younger Americans who are working, they don't want higher taxes, but they recognize reform is needed. Overwhelmingly, it is younger folks who are on board with a public option here?
RUBIN: You know, it's hard to say what the younger people really want. I've talked to a lot of younger people about health care reform and they recognize we have to do something. They're also just starting out in their careers and they don't have a lot of money to spend. and they don't want to pay more in taxes. They're not exactly sure what they want yet. They know they want to have health care. They want to have the option to be able to enroll in health care. I'm not sure they've yet formed a strong opinion on a public option or not. We'll have to see what a public option exactly works like.
LEMON: Correct me if I'm wrong. You believe we should do something and fix it and start working along the way. We have to get something done soon. You said Medicare is going to go bankrupt and it's got to be done.
RUBIN: Absolutely. We have to get health care reform going. I've said all along I think there are going to be a lot of mistakes made along the way. There will be plenty of opportunity to fix those mistakes once we pass some legislation because nothing is going to be perfect in this.
LEMON: Once we pass, when do you think, something will be passed soon? If so, what does it look like, when? RUBIN: I'm optimistic. I have to be honest. I really didn't think a public option was going to be in the equation. I now see a public option in the equation. I see it in the context of states making the decision and limited enrollment to those who can't get health insurance through the private insurers.
LEMON: All right, Andrew Rubin, vice president of New York's University at Rubin, Langone Medical Center.
It's very interesting. I notice just from going to tea parties and just doing informal, unscientific polling, and it seems like what you say makes sense. Younger people were more for the public option and older people don't. Glad you put it in context for us.
RUBIN: Glad to be here.
Let's turn now to news happening in Puerto Rico. We told you about -- look at that plume of smoke. That's just the beginning of it. Firefighters trying to put down that massive blaze at a fuel depot. They expect to have the fire contained any moment. There are at least 1,000 evacuees hoping that is indeed the case.
We'll check in now with Rafael Romo, our Latin affairs editor. He is live with the very latest.
What are firefighters doing? Are they making any progress, Rafael?
RAFAEL ROMO, CNN NEWS LATIN AMERICAN AFFAIRS EDITOR: Don, I can tell you right now, the Puerto Rican fire department has told us the fire has been extinguished but the bad news is some flames may still be smoldering, which leads to the danger of, at some point, still catching fire. (INAUDIBLE).
LEMON: Rafael? Rafael, we're having a little bit of trouble hearing you. So we're going to come back to you. I think you need to get the mic a little bit closer.
We'll come back to Rafael for the latest that's happening in San Juan, Puerto Rico, that chemical blaze, that blaze still being fueled by chemicals.
Meantime, a developing story out of Florida. A man accused of profiting in a very big way from Bernie Madoff's investment scheming found dead.
In New York, drunk at the wheel with children in the car. One woman accused of doing just that. If that doesn't make you pay attention, wait until you hear about the guessing game she played with the kids along the way.
LEMON: Let's get back now to San Juan, Puerto Rico, and Rafael Romo our Latin American affairs editor. He's joining us live with the latest.
How are firefighters doing there, making any progress?
ROMO: Don, the Puerto Rico fire department is telling us the fire has been extinguished. I can tell you right now that some of the tanks are still smoldering some of the firefighters tell us. But there's always a fire -- the danger that they can catch fire again and that's the reason why they're going to remain here for the rest of the night and make sure that the tanks don't catch fire again.
Now, I can tell you that today, for the first time since the explosion happened on Friday, they gave us access. And we were able to witness first hand the extent of the damage. Out of 47 tanks, 17 were completely destroyed by the flames and the original explosion. Agents with the FBI and the ATF are assisting local police here in the investigation. And they say the most important thing right now is to determine whether this explosion was an act of sabotage or whether it was just a plain accident.
Let's hear what they had to say.
UNIDENTIFIED FBI AGENT: We don't know if it's a crime scene. We don't know if it's an accident. So we're not making any determinations at this point until our experts do their work, do their analysis, and then provide input to us as to whether they feel happened here.
ROMO: And, Don, altogether, there are about 30 agents here with expertise in explosives and arson assisting the Puerto Rico fire department.
LEMON: What are they saying about -- there are people Rafael obviously concerned about health issues. Anyone in the government talking about the environmental and health situation there?
ROMO: I had an opportunity to talk to Puerto Rico's governor, Luis Fortuno, this afternoon and he's telling me that the main priority of his government right now is to make sure that there are no long-term consequences when it comes to the pollution of the air and the water. He told us this as he was visiting a shelter today. This is what he had to say.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ROMO: Some people are telling us this could be the biggest environmental disaster in the history of Puerto Rico. Do you agree with that statement?
LUIS FORTUNO, GOVERNOR OF PUERTO RICO: Well, we have to complete our assessment in that sense. I believe in -- we were very concerned with nearby rivers and certainly the bay. There is no indication that there's any significant damages to the area. However, EPA and the local environmental quality will continue to monitor this until we are done.
(END VIDEO CLIP) ROMO: Still about 600 people in shelters tonight. Many are being sent to their homes, now that the smoke is no longer an issue, Don.
LEMON: Was there a reunion -- I'm hearing there was a reunion today.
ROMO: There was, in fact, a very special reunion. I'm glad you mentioned it. There was an 8-year-old girl who was evacuated from her home right after the explosion on Friday. In the commotion, she couldn't find her dog, and they thought the dog was lost. And today, Governor Fortuno brought the dog to the girl. Apparently, some rescue workers found the dog. The little girl was very emotional when she saw the dog, again. And so it's a happy story in the middle of all this chaos.
ROMO: And they are now happily reunited. I understand they're going home tonight, Don.
LEMON: Yes, indeed, we're glad, you know, we hope people are OK, but you buried the lead, Rafael. That last part was really good. Everyone -- you should hear the newsroom going "ah" when they saw the pictures.
Rafael Romo in San Juan. He'll be updating us tonight. Thank you so much, Rafael.
The man accused of being the biggest beneficiary of Bernie Madoff's investment scheme has been found dead in his Palm Beach Florida swimming pool. The man was found today by his wife and rushed to a hospital where he was pronounced dead. Police say they are investigating, which is standard in any suspected drowning. Jeffery Pickhour claimed to have lost money in Madoff's phony investments, but he's been accused of making billions in Madoff's ponzi scheme. Lawyers for Madoff Investors say Pickhour should have recognized his clients were riddled with obvious fraud.
The young Jane Doe found wondering two weeks ago in Times Square, well, now has a true identity. Police say they have put a name with this face. She's an 18-year-old from Washington State who apparently can't remember who she is or where she is from. But officers say a CNN viewer in Maryland identified the young woman, whose name has not been released. And now her parents are heading from Washington State to Manhattan to be reunited with their daughter. We'll update you as we get information.
Would you let your child ride in a vehicle if the driver had been drinking? Well, of course, not. But it's astounding how many parents drive impaired and take their kids along for what could be the last ride of their lives. One expert calls it a form of child abuse.
Here's CNN's Susan Candiotti.
SUSAN CANDIOTTI, CNN NEWS CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): When kids are passengers in a car...
UNIDENTIFIED CHILD: She was going a little fast, so it was kind of scary.
CANDIOTTI: It can be especially scary if the driver had too much to drink. These two girls are among six who survived a crash at the hands of an accused drunk mom. A seventh child, 11-year-old Leandra Rosado, was thrown out of the car and died. Driver, Carman Juartis, who investigators figure was going 68 miles an hour in a 50-mile-per- hour zone, is indicted for manslaughter. She's in custody, will be arraigned next month, and could not be reached for comment.
Mothers Against Drunk Driving says its bad enough adults are driving drunk. What's worse is taking kids along with them.
LAURA DEAN-MOONEY, PRESIDENT, MADD: People need to realize children don't have a choice. They're doing a form of child abuse if they drive drunk with children in their car.
CANDIOTTI: Perhaps equally as horrific is what New York prosecutors say Juartis say put seven children through.
ROBERT MORGENTHAU, MANHATTAN DISTRICT ATTORNEY: Juartis repeatedly engaged in a guessing game with the children, asking them to raise their hands if they thought they would make it home without crashing.
UNIDENTIFIED CHILD: She just asked, oh, if we're scared or not. If you are raise your hand. You're not scared? Wait till we get on the highway. She pulled the wheel over to the right, like -- that's when we end up to the thing and we hit the one tree.
UNIDENTIFIED CHILD; All I remember the car just going side to side to side to side. And, like, Leandra, before that, Leandra is just looking at me.
CANDIOTTI: Before the kids got in the car, prosecutors say the father of Juartis' son tried to stop her. He pulled out her toddler but no one else. One of the girls, who remained in the car, is none other than Carmen Juartis' own daughter.
BRITTANY GONZALEZ, SURVIVOR: I'm not going to blame it on my mom because there were a lot of people who could have stopped her.
DEAN-MOONEY: It's heartbreaking children have to plead for someone to not drive drunk.
CANDIOTTI: Also heartbreaking to hear young victims bravely offer others advice.
GONZALEZ: Never, ever get in a car with a drunk person. I don't care if that's your mother, anything. It's for your health and your safety.
CANDIOTTI: Advice that came too late for Leandra Rosado, whose father will fight for tougher penalties. LENNY ROSADO, VICTIM'S FATHER: You've got all these kid's lives that, you know you might take, and you've got to think about getting out the car.
CANDIOTTI: So kids don't have to make that choice.
Susan Candiotti, CNN, New York.
LEMON: So for children living on the brink of poverty, sometimes becoming part of a gang looks like the ticket out. But we're going to introduce you to a "CNN Hero" who is breaking that perception and the bonds of poverty in the process.
LEMON: Now, one of CNN's top-ten heroes for 2009. His name is Efren Pinaflorida. He grew up in poverty and saw firsthand for ruining the lives of -- probably running as well -- thousands of teenagers in the Philippines. Now his company is offering an alternative by training teens to teach children in the slums and help them stay out of gangs.
Efren Pinaflorida is joining us now from the Philippines.
Hey, good to talk to you. How are you?
EFREN PINAFLORIDA, CNN HERO: Hey, I'm very fine.
LEMON: Congratulations. Were you excited? I'm sure, when you found out you were one of the top-ten heroes.
PINAFLORIDA: So what are you going to do with now that you've gotten this far. I know you've been working to help the children in the slums. Does this make things easier for you? Are you able to help more people? Are you able to get more money because of this?
PINAFLORIDA: Yes. A lot of opportunities opened because of this opportunity.
LEMON: What's changed for you and your organization and what you do since you became a hero?
PINTAFLORIDA: A lot of people are become aware right now, and we're gaining their support, and everybody is going to do what's need to.
LEMON: We know you've been having some really horrific natural disasters there, to put it bluntly, on the typhoon. I understand, am I correct, that you were helping out with that?
PINAFLORIDA: Yes, actually, but what we did was we converted -- we converted to gather relief goods to all the villages. (INAUDIBLE).
LEMON: You talked about the push cart, and we're seeing pictures now. You take -- explain to the viewer what you do. You take this push cart, and you take it through the streets. Explain to us what happened?
PINAFLORIDA: We converted it, and to collect our relief goods, and then we put everything into the push cart person, and then after that, we pack everything and then we give it to the victims.
LEMON: You take whatever is on there and give it to the victims?
LEMON: Listen, we're so happy for you, and we wish you the best when it comes to, you know, whether or not you are the hero of the year. Real quickly, what are your plans for the future?
PINAFLORIDA: Actually, we're planning to do -- we're in the process of expanding, and everything that we will get from this one, it will be used for the children that we are teaching and more kids that we are going to reach out.
LEMON: All right. I'm sorry. Go ahead. Finish your thought.
LEMON: You're done?
LEMON: Was that the end of your thought?
OK, we're very proud of you. Congratulations, Efren.
LEMON: You're a remarkable young man.
LEMON: So Efren will be a part of this, and this is our big heroes push. You don't want to miss this. You can go to our web site, right, and vote for the hero that inspires you the most. We're going to talk to all ten of these guys, these heroes, men and women, in the coming weeks. The voting closes for hero of the year, so they will all be honored at an all-star tribute hosted by Anderson Cooper on CNN. That's Thanksgiving night. You'll see Efren Pinaflorida and a bunch of other folks there.
Rock singer Morrissey is recovering today after can collapsing during a show last night near London. Morrissey, who goes by his last name, had just taken the stage and sang one song when he collapsed. The statement on his website says he is in stable condition and is resting. No further details have been made public about why he collapsed. The 50-year-old singer came to promise during the 1980s as a front man for the hugely influential new wave band The Smiths. Morrissey collapsing. We'll update on that story as well.
Andrew Lloyd Webber has been diagnosed in the early stages of prostate cancer. A spokeswoman says the award-winning composer and producer of more than a dozen musicals hopes to be back at work before the end of the year. He has been working on a sequel to his "Phantom of the Opera" titled "Love Never Dies." It is due out in February. Best of luck to him.
A monumental push to find a cure for breast cancer. Why the pyramids are going pink this weekend, and taking a flying leap to help beat cancer. This guy helped us raise an unbelievable amount of money for the beat-cancer challenge.
LEMON: Plenty of pink set against a dramatic backdrop this weekend, the Egyptian Pyramids. Breast cancer survivors and their supporters raced in Egypt, the first international fundraiser of its kind in the Middle East. More than 7,000 people showed up. Wow. Traditionally, breast cancer has been a taboo topic in Egypt, but the races is seen as evidence that the attitude is beginning to change. Good stuff there.
Remember our beat cancer challenge? One guy took it very seriously, jumping out of an airplane after losing a bet, wearing a penguin beat- cancer T-shirt. All to raise awareness for cancer.
That is it for us this hour. This guy jumped out of a plane. I thought we were going to have an interview with him. Maybe, we'll show is to you later on.