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Anderson Cooper 360 Degrees

Democrats Blink in Iraq War Funding Battle; New Orleans Unprepared For Hurricane Season?; Gas Price Blame Game

Aired May 22, 2007 - 22:00   ET


ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: Tonight, a dire warning: What happened when Katrina hit could happen again.
We have a new hurricane forecast for the season and a troubling look at how ill-prepared New Orleans still is for even a small hurricane.

Also, a new window into the mixed feelings of Muslims living in this country. They believe in the American dream, but one in four young Muslims can justify suicide bombing under some circumstances.

And who is to blame for the prices we're all paying at the pump. Big oil companies are raking it in, but are they gouging you? We're "Keeping Them Honest."

We begin tonight with a forecast for this year's hurricane season. The government says, get ready for a bad one. The problem is, New Orleans won't be ready in time, not for a Category 3, like Katrina when it came ashore, not even for a Category 2, say some experts.

We will talk about why not in a moment, right after CNN's Susan Roesgen lays out the makings of a rough season ahead.


SUSAN ROESGEN, CNN GULF COAST CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Before satellites and radar, no one could see a hurricane on the horizon or predict how many might be coming. But now the coastal U.S. has come to depend on and dread the yearly hurricane prediction.

CONRAD LAUTENBACHER, ADMINISTRATOR, NATIONAL OCEANIC AND ATMOSPHERIC ADMINISTRATION: We are forecasting 13 to 17 named storms, of which seven to 10 will become hurricanes, and three to five of those hurricane will be in the major category, or Category 3 strength and higher.

ROESGEN: That's an above-average season, part of a cycle forecasters say started back in 1995.

But last year's dire prediction didn't pan out. NOAA initially predicted as many as 10 hurricanes, but there were only five, and no major hurricane hit the U.S. last year. An unexpected El Nino stopped most hurricane development.

But don't be lulled into thinking we will get off easy this year. GERRY BELL, LEAD FORECASTER, NATIONAL OCEANIC AND ATMOSPHERIC ADMINISTRATION: All of the conditions associated with the current active era were still in place last year, as we had expected. Therefore, last year's activity should not be considered an indicator that this active era has ended. There is no indication that this active hurricane era has ended.

ROESGEN: In the end, no matter how many are predicted, one is all it takes to spell disaster.


COOPER: Susan, last year, you know, they said it was going to be a bad season. It wasn't. Why should anyone believe them this time?

ROESGEN: Well, because they say, without an El Nino, which they don't expect again this year, Anderson, they believe that we're in this very active cycle that should last the next 25 to 40 years. And they say, in fact, it could be even worse than they're predicting, because they may get a La Nina, which would make conditions more ripe for hurricane development this season.

COOPER: So, they're saying they would have been right last year, except for the unexpected El Nino?

ROESGEN: Exactly. That came up in late September. And they say that's really what put a damper on things.

They say we should not expect to be so lucky this year. It has -- it has been a very active season for the past few years, actually since 1995. And we can expect more active hurricane seasons ahead.

COOPER: Susan, you live in New Orleans. Are -- are people there optimistic about -- about the levees holding, if the -- the city gets hit?

ROESGEN: Not from the people I have talked to, Anderson, frankly.

We are all aware that the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers continues to work on the levees, continues to work on the giant mechanical pumps that pump the water out of New Orleans.

But many people are very concerned about it. They just aren't sure. And, without a test, without the next big hurricane, a Category 3, as you suggested at the top of your show, without a test like that no one wants, who knows whether they will hold or not.

COOPER: Susan Roesgen, appreciate the reporting.

After Hurricane Katrina hit, the president stood in Jackson Square, promising to rebuild bigger and better. We all remember that. A billion dollars has been spent to rebuild the levees. But how strong are they? Will they hold? Are they, in fact, bigger and better? "Keeping Them Honest" tonight for us, a man who warned government officials about what would happen when a Katrina-like storm hit New Orleans. He wasn't listened to then. Let's see if he's listened to now.

Ivor Van Heerden of the Public Health Research Center at Louisiana State University joins me now.

Ivor, it's good to see you.

In New Orleans, officials say the leave system...



COOPER: ... is stronger now than before Katrina. If a Category 3 hurricane hits, will the city flood?

VAN HEERDEN: If we had a slow-moving Category 3 that passed west of the city, it would totally flood the whole city, both the so-called east bank and the west bank. Everything would go under water. That's the reality of New Orleans.

COOPER: How can that be, I mean, with a billion dollars spent on the levees so far?

VAN HEERDEN: Well, the billion dollars has been to repair the breaches, but it hasn't raised the heights of the levees.

So, overall, the levee heights aren't high enough to stop flooding from a slow-moving 3. And, in addition, there are still many sections of the so-called eyewall that are weak. And they could fail even adjacent to some of the breaches.

COOPER: So, what's got to happen now? I mean, even the people who are working on the levees say, look, this is just the beginning; this is a long journey; it's a marathon; it's not a short sprint.

What needs to be done now?

VAN HEERDEN: Well, I think what New Orleans is suffering from -- you mentioned the billion dollars. Well, we need $5 billion to $7 billion right now to get our levees up to 1-in-100-year protection.

And then we need to really focus on the coastal restoration. That's our ultimate salvation. And that's something we could start right away.

COOPER: You're talking about the creation of barrier islands to try to basically break any kind of surge.

VAN HEERDEN: Yes, the barrier islands trip up the surge, trip up the waves. They act as a speed bump. We could be restoring those tomorrow, just as we build beaches on the East Coast, from New Jersey to Florida. We have sand resources that we could mine to do barrier islands. We could also look at some Dutch solutions, with gates that could be fairly rapidly installed.

COOPER: Is -- is the city ready for a major evacuation? I mean, that's basically their plan now. They're saying, look, there's going to be any shelters, no shelters of last resort. Everyone has just got to get out.

VAN HEERDEN: I think the city is far -- far more ready than it was during Katrina.

Katrina was actually fairly successful. We got 80 percent of the people out of New Orleans. The contraflow worked very well. But now there's been a lot of focus on the elderly, on the disabled, how to get them out. And the hospitals have also looked at flood-proofing their premises to make them far more resilient, should we have another Katrina.

COOPER: Well, let's hope the lessons have been learned, at least in part.

Ivor Van Heerden, always good to talk to you. Thank you very much, Ivor.

Katrina was, by far, the costliest hurricane to hit the U.S. Let's check the "Raw Data."

Damage from Katrina totaled at least $84 billion in Louisiana, Mississippi and Florida. Andrew hit Florida and Louisiana back in '92. It caused $48 billion in damage. Damage from Wilma -- Wilma in Florida in 2005, the same year as Katrina, totaled $21 billion. And Charley, which hit Florida in 2004, is blamed for $16 billion in damage.

Here's another disaster. And, like Katrina, parts of it kind of boggle the mind. Tonight, some 2,000 Palestinians have fled their homes in Lebanon. They were living in a U.N. camp. As surreal as it sounds, they're now refugees from a refugee camp near Tripoli, Lebanon. They fled Today because their home is now a battleground between members of an al Qaeda-inspired militia and the Lebanese army.

The latest from CNN's Nic Robertson in Beirut.


NIC ROBERTSON, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice- over): A tense standoff -- soldiers, police and elite forces crowd outside a bullet-pocked burning apartment building, inside, a militant from Fatah al-Islam, a radical Islamist group with links to al Qaeda.

Running gun, rocket and tank battles erupted on Sunday in Tripoli, Lebanon's second largest city. As the army moved in to arrest Fatah al-Islam gunmen for allegedly robbing a bank, they were quickly overwhelmed by the militants, firing from rooftops and windows.

(on camera): The standoff has been going on all day. And the building at the back here is where one of the militants has been holding out. The army right now are trying to get in. There's a lot of smoke coming from the building.

They say that they think one of the militants may still be in there. They also say that perhaps he's just blown himself up.

(voice-over): When they hear the news, the militant is dead, local residents swarm the streets, praising the army.

Outside the refugee camp, where other members of Fatah al-Islam are holed up, the standoff simmered, sporadic gunfire and explosions, but not as intense as the past two days.

A U.N. convoy used a lull in the fighting to drive in medical and food supplies, only to come under attack by unknown gunmen -- at the sprawling camp, these first pictures since the standoff began showing hundreds of Palestinian refugee, most of them women and children, getting ready to flee.

And, with the easing of clashes, the first Palestinian casualties began arriving at a clinic just outside the camp. This heavily sedated 17-year-old, shot in the back according to doctors, told us conditions in the camp are bad: no water, no electricity, no bread. He said the army were destroying houses.

Doctors here expect dozens more casualties.

DR. AHMAD EL KHEIR, EL KHEIR HOSPITAL: There are so many injured people. And some persons were dead, also. But they couldn't -- they couldn't do anything for them.



EL KHEIR: ... think they come here.

ROBERTSON: Why couldn't they do anything for them?

EL KHEIR: Because there are small medical centers at the camp. There are no hospitals.

ROBERTSON: As night fell, some 2,000 refugees began leaving the camp in a deal agreed to by the army that will see them resettled in another Palestinian refugee camp not far away.

In Beirut, Lebanon's prime minister and Palestinian leaders agreed to work to end the bloodshed. Both condemn the militants, who want to radicalize Palestinians, with the ultimate aim of attacking Israel and U.S. interests in the Middle East.


COOPER: Nic Robertson joins us now live from -- from Beirut.

Nic, how widespread -- or -- or do we know how many fighters, how many militants there are left?

ROBERTSON: It's not clear. There were about 150 to 200 militants in the beginning.

We understand that perhaps 15, maybe 20 or so, according to accounts, have been killed. We did see a van coming out, a morgue van, coming out of the camp late yesterday afternoon. It had a number of militants' bodies in the back, we were told -- not clear how many.

But it does seem, from the intensity of that sporadic fighting, there are still quite a number left inside the camp -- Anderson.

COOPER: Is it known, I mean, how much support they have among these Palestinian refugees, how much support they have?

ROBERTSON: Talking to the refugees coming out that we have talked to, listening to other accounts of people that have talked to them, there seems to be very little support.

We -- when the prime minister, Fouad Siniora, met with Palestinian leaders today, they were very clear. They don't support this group either. There does not appear to be a widespread support for them. In fact, the fact that so many refugees have come out already, and perhaps there are potentially others trying to leave the camp, it means they don't want to be around them, and want to get away from them -- Anderson.

COOPER: And I think there are at least 11 other Palestinian camps throughout Lebanon. Has violence spread to any of those?

ROBERTSON: There's a potential for it. There were demonstrations in some of those camps yesterday, demonstrations, because the Palestinians there are angry at the -- what the army, the Lebanese army, is doing in the refugee camp.

The shelling, they say, has been indiscriminate. We have heard that from other people coming out of the camps. They say more innocent civilians are being killed and injured. That is what is making these other Palestinian refugees angry. The potential in those camps is that -- is that they could turn to some kind of angry action.

It doesn't seem to be at that point. It's not what their leaders are saying. But the tensions are rising because of what they call this indiscriminate shelling by the army. The army denies that, of course -- Anderson.

COOPER: Dangerous days.

Nic Robertson, stay safe in Beirut. Thank you, Nic.

Back home, new polling on the Muslim state of mind here in America -- a Pew Research study out today shows some mixed feelings and some serious cause for concern -- cause for hope, as well. Thirteen percent of American Muslims believe that suicide bombings are sometimes or often justified, 13 percent. And, among those younger than 30, that percentage hits 26 percent. One in four young American Muslims believes suicide bombing can be justified.

Also, only 40 percent surveyed said they believe that Arabs carried out the attacks on 9/11, despite al Qaeda leaders claiming credit for them. Better news when it comes to the American dream: 71 percent of Muslims here in America believe you can get ahead with hard work; 26 percent disagree.

As you might imagine, the numbers right all kinds of questions, and, safe to say, they have stirred up something of a storm. In our next hour, reactions from all sides of a very hot-button issue.

Straight ahead, however, in this hour: new developments in the showdown over Iraq. The Democrats blink. See what they're giving up and what they got in return -- details in "Raw Politics."

Also tonight: these stories


COOPER (voice-over): The Web site lets you know who's a government informant, then, critics say, find out where they live.

RON TENPAS, JUSTICE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL: We ended up having to relocate that witness, we were so concerned about their physical safety., First Amendment freedom or one-stop shopping for thugs bent on retribution?

Plus, all you know is, you're getting hit at the pump. All you want to know is why.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I don't know. It's confusing.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I don't really have a good answer to that.

COOPER: But we do. Whether it's big oil, government regulators, consumer advocates, we're "Keeping Them Honest" -- tonight on 360.



COOPER: An about-face from Democratic congressional leaders tonight -- they dropped a timetable for a U.S. withdrawal from Iraq in a new war spending bill. They faced another veto from President Bush if they kept it in.

Instead, their nearly $100 billion measure will include so-called benchmarks for the Iraqi government to meet. The bill also includes a bump in the federal minimum wage to $7.25 an hour, phased in over more than two years.

Extra money matters, especially when it is part of "Raw Politics" -- more on that from CNN's Candy Crowley.


CANDY CROWLEY, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Anderson, politics sometimes means having to say you're sorry, so it could be sorrowful congressional recess, as Democrats face their anti-war base.

The Dems have backed down, and no longer will insist that a timetable for troop withdrawal be attached to an Iraq spending bill. The president has said he would not accept timetables. And, in the end, Democrats figured, better to explain why they didn't get timetables than why they didn't fund the troops.

John Edwards got a $55,000 speaking fee last year to talk about poverty, which critics say doesn't sit well, especially when you add in those $400 haircuts and a job with a hedge fund, except a lot a people get a lot more money. Rudy Giuliani pulled in $100,000 per speech.

Camp Edwards thinks their guy ought to get props for putting poverty on the national agenda. And, after all, it's not like Edwards, a self-made multimillionaire, took a vow of poverty. He's campaigning about it.

There will be one less Baptist minister at a Baptist gathering in Atlanta featuring former Presidents Carter and Clinton. Reverend Mike Huckabee, also a Republican presidential candidate, says he's not going because Carter dissed President Bush, violating, says Huckabee, the unspoken rule that former presidents don't say bad things about sitting presidents.

It is de rigueur for a candidate to say, his closest political adviser is his wife, but Harvard-educated lawyer Michelle Obama is down to basics. Asked by the Associated Press if she considers herself to be Barack's chief adviser, she replied: "No. I consider myself his wife." She sees her role as making sure people understand who he is.

To review the bidding, McCain helps put together an immigration bill. Romney criticizes it. McCain says Romney ought to get his varmint gun and chase Guatemalans off his front lawn. Trust me. That's an insult.

And, in today's episode:

MITT ROMNEY (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I have respect for Senator McCain. And I guess that just shows that, even when he's wrong, he's amusing.

CROWLEY: Tomorrow: "Your mother wears combat boots."

And that's "Raw Politics" -- Anderson.


(LAUGHTER) COOPER: Those are fighting words, Candy.

If you like "Raw Politics," you're going to love CNN's coverage of the presidential debates. We will be in New Hampshire June 3 for the Democrats. The Republicans are on June 5.

Erica Hill joins us right now with a 360 bulletin -- Erica.

ERICA HILL, HEADLINE NEWS CORRESPONDENT: In Baghdad, at least 25 people were killed, 60 were wounded, when a parked truck exploded in an outdoor market, this as an Iraqi official said 33 unidentified bodies have been found across the city, bringing the total so far this month to 495.

Russia today denying an extradition request by Britain, further eroding relations between the two countries. British prosecutors say they have enough evidence to charge a former KGB bodyguard in the poisoning death of former Russian spy Alexander Litvinenko. Andrei Lugovoy, who lives in Moscow, met with Litvinenko in London the day he was poisoned last November.

And, finally, a suburban nightmare in New Jersey -- a 5-year-old boy attacked by a coyote while playing outside his home in Middletown. He was treated at a hospital for both head and facial wounds. This is Middletown's second coyote attack, Anderson, in just two months.

COOPER: That's terrible.

HILL: It is. It's scary, too.


HILL: I would be worried, as a parent.


HILL: And...


HILL: ... this next one is a little scary, too, The "What Were You Thinking?" of the night. And you will see why.

Conifer High School in Colorado, its latest yearbook setting off a firestorm, because tucked among the typical pages of, you know, football games and clubs, pictures of students smoking pot, drinking, some of them even proudly displaying the minor-in -possession citations they have been issued.

A lot of people shocked about this, especially considering two Conifer students recently died in a car crash. And police do believe drugs played a role there.

The yearbook adviser has apologized for letting all this get through to the publisher. Administrators, though, say too early to tell if she's going to be disciplined. And the principal said the community really needs to get involved here.

COOPER: It's like, what were they thinking? What was the -- the -- the yearbook adviser thinking? What were the kids thinking?

HILL: I know.

On top of it all, there was a kid we had a sound bite from earlier today on our show. He said: You know what? This is just what we do these days. This is life.



HILL: Sure.

COOPER: There you go. What were they thinking?

Erica, thanks.

These kids today, I tell you.

Now here's Kiran Chetry with what is coming up tomorrow on "AMERICAN MORNING."



Tomorrow, on "AMERICAN MORNING": on the front lines of the war on terror. We are going to meet the newest officers coming out of the Coast Guard Academy, graduating more female cadets than ever before. We're going to show you how they're breaking barriers and making history.

That's tomorrow on "AMERICAN MORNING." It begins at 6:00 a.m. Eastern -- Anderson.


COOPER: Thanks, Kiran, bright and early.

Still ahead on 360 tonight: We're paying more for gas than ever before. Who's to blame? We're "Keeping Them Honest."

Plus: government informants or rats? No matter what you call them, they're often the only reason some criminals end up behind bars. Now a Web site is sniffing them out. Is that free speech or a death sentence? You decide -- next.


COOPER: A Web site that lets you know who is a government informant, is it a First Amendment freedom or an easy way for betrayed criminals to get revenge?

You decide -- next on 360.


COOPER: Any cop will tell you that most crimes are solved not with DNA or fingerprints, but with eyewitness testimony, getting people to talk.

Sometimes, the best way to do it is with informants and witnesses willing to cooperate. Their identities, of course, are often unknown to many -- until now, that is.

A man has created a Web site where the faces of informants are revealed, their names exposed to the world.

CNN's Kelli Arena reports.


KELLI ARENA, CNN JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The slur is as old as crime itself.


JAMES CAGNEY, ACTOR: Come out and take it, you dirty, yellow- bellied rat, or I will give it you through the door.


ARENA: And, in some neighborhoods, being tagged a rat, a snitch, or whatever you want to call it could get you into big trouble. That's why the government, which relies on informants to make many cases, is so mad at this guy, Chris Brown...

CHRIS BROWN, WHOSARAT.COM: Nobody likes a tattletale.

ARENA: ... and the Web site he runs, The site claims to be the largest database of police informants.

Brown claims he won't allow the posting of innocent witnesses to crimes, but only accused criminals trying to cut a deal.

BROWN: They're given reduction or complete walks on crimes that they have committed, as well as a virtual license to commit more and more heinous crime.

ARENA: There are names, faces, plea deals, all posted by paid members. Many of those members, Brown says, are relatives of people locked up with the help of informants.

But he admits there's no process to make sure the people featured on the site are actual informants.

Justice Department official Ron Tenpas says, what Brown is doing is incredibly damaging, not just to the justice system, but it's also dangerous to the informants themselves. (on camera): Do you have any evidence of -- of any real threats or harm that has come to somebody as a result of this Web site or others like it?

RON TENPAS, JUSTICE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL: Well, for example, we had one case in which the witness' name was posted on the Web site, and then they essentially woke up one morning to find flyers posted on telephone poles in the neighborhood identifying them as somebody who was helping the government. And we ended up having to relocate that witness.

ARENA: The Justice Department acknowledges, it can't shut the site down. So, it's trying to make it harder for people to get information about informants online.

The judge aiming to settle the dispute says he's trying to balance the right to privacy with the public's right to know.

JUDGE JOHN TUNHEIM, U.S. DISTRICT JUDGE: One option would be to take plea agreements off the electronic case files, and have them still available to anyone, including the news media or any member of the public in the clerk's office, by a paper copy.


ARENA: OK, so, if he's all for openness, why did our Web site administrator ask us to hide his face?

BROWN: I don't need to be harassed because some cop who knows another cop who was involved in an investigation whose snitch doesn't want to talk anymore because of the Web site.

ARENA: A concern he apparently doesn't have about the people he's calling rats.

Kelli Arena, CNN, Washington.


COOPER: As a former federal prosecutor, CNN senior legal analyst Jeffrey Toobin has relied on the testimony of informants.

And we get the feeling this Web site does not sit well with him.

Jeffrey Toobin joins me now.

You know, there's a crisis in this country of people not coming forward and -- and talking about the crimes that they have witnessed to. Web sites like this are a big problem.

JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN SENIOR LEGAL ANALYST: You know, the bigger the case, the more important the case, the more likely it is that you're going to need informants to make the case.

You know, it was my office that prosecuted John Gotti. And the thing that turned that case around was when Sammy Gravano flipped. And, you know, our -- the -- we -- he had 19 murders that he worked off.

In the Oklahoma City bombing case, the reason they were able to make the case against Terry Nichols and Timothy McVeigh is because one of their best friends flipped.

This is a huge tool of law enforcement. And -- and it's a tremendous thing to put at risk with this Web site.

COOPER: That people who -- this guy who runs the Web site says, look, he's just trying to level the playing field. He's just giving defense attorneys a fair shot.

Do you buy that?

TOOBIN: That's totally ridiculous, because, in any criminal case where there's a cooperator used, the defense attorney and the defendant are entitled, by law, to learn who the cooperators are and what sort of deal they were cut. They always get that information.

The only thing this Web site does is put the information out to the public, and -- and just -- and it's a tool to intimidate people out of cooperating in the first place.

COOPER: So, I mean, why not just keep the cooperation agreements confidential?

TOOBIN: Well, you know...


TOOBIN: ... now I have to put on my journalist hat.

You know, this is a very important tool that prosecutors have. We want to know whether prosecutors are using it correctly or not. And plea agreements and pleas are -- are done in open court. And I -- I think, you know, if they were put in secret as a matter of course, I think that would be -- that would be bad because the public has a right to know what goes on in their name, in these criminal courts. So it's a very hard balance to strike.

COOPER: So what is the solution? Is there one?

TOOBIN: You know, I think probably the best solution is to look at it on a case by case reason and see that there really is a reason to suspect someone might be in jeopardy and then seal the agreement.

The judge talked about, well, you can do it on paper but not on the Internet. I mean, the First Amendment doesn't work that way. Either it's public or it's private, or it's sealed.

So I don't see how you could sort of say, well, it's OK to have it in the court file but not on the Internet. And I think this guy has a right to do what he's doing, as pernicious as it is.

COOPER: Interesting. Jeffrey Toobin, appreciate it. Thanks, Jeff. TOOBIN: OK.

COOPER: Coming up, what a lot of drivers are calling highway robbery. Is it, however? We're investigating what's behind the record high price of gasoline. What and who's behind it?


COOPER (voice-over): All you need to know is you're getting hit at the pump. All you want to know is why.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I don't know. It's confusing.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I don't really have a good answer for that.

COOPER: But we do. Whether it's big oil, government regulators, consumer advocates, we're "Keeping Them Honest".

Also, it's called Greenland, but it's covered in ice. See why that ice could be the key to explaining and predicting the effects of global warming on hundreds of millions of people. We'll take you there, ahead on 360.


COOPER: Coming up on the program tonight, congressional crooks getting fat pensions. That's right, congressional crooks. It's a story we've been following now for months. Your representatives in Washington promised to change the law.

CNN's Drew Griffin talked with ranking Democrat, Senator Daniel Akaka of Hawaii back in January.


DREW GRIFFIN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: You support it, and you will support it?


GRIFFIN: But still, I spent two days trying to figure out why nobody supported it last year.

AKAKA: Yes, that's right. I didn't. But this year is different.


COOPER: This year is different. Well, is it really any different? Will lawmakers keep getting big checks? Lawmakers who, by the way, have already broken the law?

We're talking about your tax dollars, and we're "Keeping Them Honest" in the next hour of 360. You want to stay tuned for that.

First, though, a high that no one is celebrating, except perhaps the oil companies. For the 10th straight day, gas prices broke a record, with a nationwide average for a gallon of regular gas hitting $3.20. Tonight, New Jersey is the only state where the average price is under $3.

Prices haven't been this high since 1981, and that's after adjusting for inflation. The question, of course, is why?

CNN's Tom Foreman is "Keeping Them Honest".


TOM FOREMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Americans burned 385 million gallons of gas just today. At current prices, that's a billion and a quarter dollars' worth. But try to find one driver who can tell you why prices have risen so steeply.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I don't know. It's confusing.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I don't really have a good answer for that.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It seems a little outrageous that the prices are that high.

FOREMAN: High crude oil prices alone are not at fault. A year ago, crude was close to the price it is now, and a gallon of gas was under $3. Now it's around $3.20.

ALI VELSHI, CNN CORRESPONDENT: The cost of distribution has remained roughly the same. Taxes have remained roughly the same. So the culprit has got to be refining. We're paying more to refine gas from oil than we've ever paid before.

FOREMAN: Oil industry analysts say some spectacular refinery fires have knocked out a few facilities and, more importantly, ever since hurricanes Katrina and Rita, maintenance crews have been struggling to keep refineries producing. So when the short supply from refineries hit the high demand of spring travelers, this is the result.

Some consumer advocates say the oil companies, with their record profits, should have seen this coming.

BRAD PROCTOR, GASPRICEWATCH.COM: Let's start taking some of those profits and pushing them into the refinery system so that we can be more efficient in terms of what we're able to convert. Because that's their job.

FOREMAN: No new refinery has been built in America in 30 years. The oil companies have always said that's because it's costly, difficult work, and so many communities and politicians don't want the projects in their neighborhoods. The companies could probably overcome that.

PROCTOR: But you know what? There's no incentive for them to do that because, again, the end result would just be cheaper product to the consumer out there. FOREMAN (on camera): All of us as consumers bear some of the blame. We're driving as much as we ever have. And each time gas prices rise, we complain, but we fill up just the same.

(voice-over) And as long as that goes on, consumer advocates say keeping oil companies honest about their responsibility for refinery capacity will be difficult, even way down the road.

Tom Foreman, CNN, Washington.


COOPER: A lot of people making a lot of money.

We want you to help us keep them honest. Share your ideas on our blog at That's

Still ahead on the hour ahead, an explosive discovery near Jerry Falwell's funeral, literally. One of the students from his college was apparently plotting.

Plus our journey to an island covered in ice, ice that is melting fast. We'll take you to Greenland for a chilling look at our planet in peril, next on 360.



AL GORE, FORMER VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATS: If we focus on a different kind of campaign to persuade people in this country and around the world that we have to respond to the climate crisis. It's by far the most dangerous crisis our civilization has ever faced.


COOPER: That, of course, is former vice president, Al Gore, speaking earlier tonight to Larry king. He was talking about global warming, a subject close to his heart and a subject we've been dealing with for some time now. It's part of our series of reports we're calling "Planet in Peril".

We began in the Amazon rainforests of Brazil. Then we headed to Southeast Asia and Thailand, Myanmar, Cambodia. We were in Alaska. Our journey is now in Greenland.

Wildlife biologist Jeff Corwin is already there, and he'll join us live in a moment. But first, why you should care what's happening now in Greenland.


COOPER (voice-over): You're looking at the climate change X- factor, the Greenland ice sheet. It blankets the largest island in the world and holds around 630,000 miles of ice. It's a magnificent place. Rumbling, shifting, always changing. But it's also recently revealed something alarming, it's disappearing.

ERIC RIGNOT, NASA: We estimated in 2005 that the ice sheet was losing about 200 gigatons per year. To put that in perspective -- I always use this comparison -- that the city of Los Angeles uses one gigaton of water per year. So this is enough water to supply 200 cities like Los Angeles every year.

COOPER: The reason that's happening is simple: it's getting warmer, and we're the primary cause. Human activity, like driving cars and burning fossil fuels, is pumping hundreds of tons of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere every day. That excess CO2 traps heat that would otherwise escape into space, and the world gets warmer.

In Greenland, a research camp on the ice sheet we'll visit this week says temperatures are up nine degrees Fahrenheit since 1993.

So Greenland's ice sheet is melting. Why should you care? Try this. If the entire ice sheet were to melt, sea levels would rise by more than 20 feet. You've seen the graphics: parts of Florida gone. Lower Manhattan under water. Southern China and parts of Bangladesh submerged.

Literally hundreds of millions of people would be displaced. Although no one expects that kind of sea level rise to happen overnight or even in the next 100 years, every little inch counts.

Low-lying islands in the South Pacific are already being evacuated.

RIGNOT: I think we should clearly take climate warming seriously and realize that we need to think about this now and not wait for something major happening to these ice sheets in the future, because by that time it will be quite late to reverse the process.


COOPER: Wildlife biologist and Animal Planet host Jeff Corwin is in Greenland. He joins us now.

Jeff, this place where you are, Disco Bay, used to be filled with sea ice every winter. I understand it hasn't frozen over now for at least a decade. What did you see? You went out there today.

JEFF CORWIN, WILDLIFE BIOLOGIST: It's absolutely incredible. It's almost like an otherworldly landscape. You can see behind me, Anderson, we've got this endless horizon of ice. We're in this little village called Luluset (ph) in western Greenland. We're about 250 miles north of the Arctic Circle, and we are in the land of the midnight sun.

And what's famous about Greenland is that, while this is the largest island on the planet at around 840,000 square miles in size, 700,000 miles of it is ice. But that ice is melting.

COOPER: And why -- I mean it's maybe a dumb question, but why should anyone care if Greenland's ice is melting? It's a far away place. Most of us will never ever go there. What impact does it have?

CORWIN: Excellent question. Why should we care? Well, if we followed this fjord up east, it ends at one of the largest glaciers in Greenland, Jakobshavn Isbrae Glacier. It's absolutely gigantic in size. It contains 10 percent of Greenland's ice.

Greenland itself contains 10 percent of our planet's fresh water. And as this glacier continues to melt, it dumps that ice and the water locked within it into the ocean and the surrounding waters in these fjords.

Every day on average, it's losing about 20 million tons of ice. That's incredible. Historically, this glacier was flowing. You know, you look at the ice behind me, it looks rather static. But this is a very dynamic landscape. The ice is constantly ebbing and flowing.

And historically, it was moving about 4.4 miles a year. Today, it's moving at a rapid pace of about 5.6 miles a year as the ice sheet making up Greenland begins to melt.

And if it does melt, the great -- the great tragedy will be a dramatic rise in coastline. We could easily see the coastline over the next century or perhaps a little bit more rise upwards 20 feet plus.

COOPER: Certainly alarming. We'll be talking with Jeff throughout the week. He'll be in Greenland all week.

Jeff, amazing to see. Technology is just an incredible thing. Jeff, good to see you.

Straight ahead, what police say a young man was planning for Jerry Falwell's funeral and the bombs they found in his car.

Plus, a powerful force behind Barack Obama, this woman. Know who she is? Well, we're not talking about campaign finance. Stay tuned.


COOPER: Well, if you don't know who that woman is now, you will shortly. That is Michelle Obama, wife of Barack Obama. We know about her husband, of course. Tonight, we want to tell you more about her. It's part of a new series we're running called "Running Mates", where we'll take a close look at the wives of the presidential candidates.

We begin with the Harvard Law School grad and mother of two who is juggling career, family and the national spotlight.


MICHELLE OBAMA, WIFE OF BARACK OBAMA: My husband, the next president of the United States, Barack Obama.

COOPER (voice-over): She's the woman behind the juggernaut that is Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama: his wife, Michelle. But she's still a bit of a political mystery. Is she the reluctant spouse of a superstar candidate?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Are you ready to be first lady?

M. OBAMA: No comment.

COOPER: Or a political savvy mate, working to find just the right tone to get her husband to the White House.

CHRISTI PARSONS, "CHICAGO TRIBUNE": I think both things are true. I think in the beginning, she -- there were some signs that maybe she wasn't wholly given over to the idea of politics. She objected to the fact that she was spending so much time alone without him and without him to help raise the family. I think she sometimes views his politics as something that sort of intrudes on something that's very important to her, on the family life.

COOPER: Michelle Robinson Obama is a success story in her own right. Born and raised in Chicago's tough south side, she graduated cum laude from Princeton, then Harvard Law School, and joined a prestigious Chicago law firm. That's where she met her future husband. He was a new summer associate at the firm. She was his adviser,

PARSONS: She was a little ensure about the fact -- about them working together. One of her friends told me, though, she thought it would be tacky for the two -- two of the only African-American lawyers working at the firm to be dating.

COOPER: The Obamas still live in Chicago. They both took the path into public service.

Michelle worked as an assistant to Mayor Richard Daley and is now vice president of community affairs for the University of Chicago hospitals. And she's the mother of two daughters, Malia, who's 8, and Natasha, 5.

When the power couple appeared on "Oprah" in October, it was already clear that Barack Obama is a political star. But it was also clear that his wife knows how to keep him grounded.

SEN. BARACK OBAMA (D-IL), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I just introduced this bill on nonproliferation on nuclear weapons that are out there, loose nukes in former Soviet territories. I was working with my Republican colleague, Dick Lugar, to introduce this bill. I was excited about it.

And I called Michelle. I'm saying, "Look, you know, this is going to be a terrific piece of legislation."

She says, "We have ants."

I said, "Ants?"

She said, "Yes, we have ants, and I need ant traps. We have ants in the bathroom and the kitchen. So on your way home, can you pick up some ant traps?" So...

M. OBAMA: We had ants.

B. OBAMA: I'm thinking, you know, is John McCain stopping by Walgreen's to grab ant traps on the way home?

M. OBAMA: If he's not, he should be.

COOPER: Some who've met her describe her as determined, tireless, fearless. Up at 4:30 every morning, in bed by 8:30 at night. And she's clearly on board for her husband's campaign, telling the audience on today's "Good Morning America" just one reason why the Obamas belong in the White House.

M. OBAMA: This is who we are. I've got a loud mouth. I tease my husband. He is incredibly smart. And he is very able to deal with a strong woman, which is one of the reasons why he can be president, because he can deal with me.


COOPER: Michelle Obama. We'll have profiles of other candidate's wives in the weeks ahead.

Coming up, Erica Hill joins us right now with a "360 News and Business Bulletin" -- Erica.

ERICA HILL, HEADLINE NEWS ANCHOR: Anderson, the Reverend Jerry Falwell was laid to rest today, and a student at the college he founded is in jail.

Police say they found a number of makeshift bombs in his car: liquid filled canister with detonators attached. ABC News is reporting the Liberty College freshman was planning to use them to stop protesters from disrupting Falwell's funeral.

That student is now being held without bond on suspicion of bomb making.

In Chicago, a bank stickup leaves one person dead, two others hospitalized. Three masked robbers entered the Savings & Loan this morning, one of them snatching a guard's gun, another vaulting the counter. After a shootout, they got away.

The FBI is offering a $50,000 reward for information leading to their capture.

And women can now take a birth control pill that will stop their monthly periods indefinitely. The FDA approved it today. It is called Lybrel. You take it daily. It goes on sale in July.

And a new airline taking to the skies today, Skybus. If the name doesn't tip you off, here's a clue: the fares would probably turn a Greyhound green with envy. The carrier is offering flights as little as $10 a pop. The catch is, virtually everything other than the seat itself costs extra, Anderson. So really not $10.

COOPER: But still very cheap.

HILL: But still a very cheap fare, yes.

COOPER: Wow. I thought it meant, like, you had to like -- I don't know -- pedal on a treadmill to help the plane get off or something.

HILL: That might be part of it, too. You might have to pay for the pedaling, but you know.

COOPER: Time for "The Shot of the Day". Meet Greg Patilla, the beat booking flute player. The video is a big hit on YouTube. Listen to his version of the theme song from "Inspector Gadget".




COOPER: There you go.

HILL: I love it.

COOPER: Greg is a classically trained flutist who studied with the Cleveland Orchestra. Now he teaches music in New York and plays his flute in the city's subway platform.

HILL: That's fantastic.

COOPER: You ever played the flute?

HILL: I played the flute, actually, in middle school.

COOPER: Really?

HILL: Yes.

COOPER: I mentored with Zamfir, master of the pan flute. I don't like to talk about it.

HILL: I'm in awe. I'm in awe.

COOPER: No. Just kidding.

We want you to send us your "Shot" ideas. If you see some amazing video, tell us about it: We'll put some of your best clips on the air.

Up next on the program, a new study showing one in four young Muslims in America can justify suicide bombing under some circumstances. I said not in the Middle East, but here in America. We'll have the numbers and the Muslim perspective. Plus, hurricane season is coming. If the forecasts are right, it's going to be a bad one. Is New Orleans ready? Will the levees hold? That's next.


COOPER: You're watching the only live newscast on cable TV right now.

Tonight, new insight into what Muslims in America believe about the American dream and darker subjects like suicide bombings. There is good news, bad news and troubling news, and we'll cover it all.

Also, remember the crooked congressmen getting fat, taxpayer- funded pensions? After our first report, lawmakers promised to change the rules, but are they keeping that promise? We're "Keeping them Honest".

Plus, a new hurricane forecast that says in so many ways get ready for a very rough season ahead.