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Chavez in New York; Venezuela's Edge; Iran and the U.N.; F-14 Final Flights; Philadelphia Explosions Not Related to Terrorism, FBI Says

Aired September 21, 2006 - 13:59   ET


CAROL LIN, CNN ANCHOR: One day after dressing down the United Nations and taking shots at President Bush, the president of Venezuela, well, had a different face on today. Perhaps a more generous one.
Hugo Chavez here visiting a low-income Harlem neighborhood, following up on last year's promise to provide poor New Yorkers heating oil at a discount.

For more reaction to that Chavez news conference this morning, let's go to Fredricka Whitfield with more details -- Fred.


Well, those comments very memorable yesterday at the U.N. And Hugo Chavez trying to make himself memorable once again today, while he's speaking throughout New York.

However, while the Bush administration has tried to be -- tried to be a bit reticent about its comments and taking seriously Hugo Chavez's comments, instead at least one Congress member has been outspoken. Charles Rangel of New York saying these words weren't necessarily appropriate in his back yard.


REP. CHARLES RANGEL (D), NEW YORK: You don't come into my country, you don't come into my congressional district, and you don't condemn my president. If there's any criticism of President Bush, it should be restricted to Americans, whether they voted for him or not. And I just want to make it abundantly clear to Hugo Chavez or any other president, don't come to the United States and think, because we have problems with our president, that any foreigner can come to our country and not think that Americans do not feel offended when you offend our chief of state.


WHITFIELD: Now, Carol, I've been trying to find out what Hugo Chavez's schedule is while he's in the states today, you know, this morning in New York. It's unclear whether he has more speaking engagements later on today. He is trying to gain some support so as to possibly secure that Latin American seat on the U.N. Security Council. While many people are grimacing at the word choice that we heard from president Chavez at the U.N. yesterday, at the same time, remember, there was some, you know, warm applause, some people who were expressing some agreement to what he was saying. So, it's unclear whether any of that will translate into the support that he needs in order to try to get that Latin American seat on the U.N. Security Council -- Carol.

LIN: Interesting way to drum up support here in the United States, by calling the president the devil.

WHITFIELD: He was creative.

LIN: Yes. We've got to find out who's doing his P.R.

All right. Thanks, Fred.

You know Chavez's plan to help the needy in New York reveals Venezuela's primary weapon in world affairs.

Here's CNN's Karl Penhaul.


KARL PENHAUL, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice over): Sky-high world oil prices are bringing Venezuela a bonanza of petrol profits. It exports nearly half its daily output to the United States, but it has so much of the black stuff, it's practically giving away fuel at home.

(on camera): Gas in Venezuela costs an incredible 20 cents a gallon. That means you can fill up your average family sized car for just over $2.

(voice over): Oil is also powering President Hugo Chavez's social revolution. Even Venezuelans what can't afford a car, like telephone engineer Florentino Rojas (ph), are reaping benefits from the energy windfall. He's come to one of hundreds of so-called People's clinics funded by oil revenues.

"Normally doctors are greedy. If you've got money, they can cure you, and if not, then bad luck, you could die," he tells me.

These clinics in some of Venezuela's poorest neighborhoods are staffed by several thousands Cuban medics, part of an oil-for-doctors barter between Cuba and Venezuela.

"Before I would have to go to the clinic and buy medicine, and it would have been more expensive," he says. Rojas (ph) says he would have paid about $75 for a consultation and drugs to treat a throat infection and fever. Today, at this People's clinic, he hasn't paid a penny.

And it's not just treatment for common illnesses that's free, but also specialist consultations and even surgery at a growing number of People's Hospitals. "If we didn't have oil revenues, we wouldn't be able to make the multimillion-dollar investments that this government is making in health," she says.

Look down the busy corridors and wards. Maintenance worker Aladas Palladas (ph) has just given birth to her fourth child. Ten- year-old Luis Viasana (ph) broke his wrist when he tripped over an untied shoelace. And butcher Ali Bukort (ph) is picking up some vitamin supplements. All are free.

Opponents of Chavez's leftist government say free healthcare and some free education programs are a thinly-disguised ploy by the president to buy political support.

"The literacy and health programs are beginning to be seen as political discrimination, corrupt, and a waste of money," he says.

There's not much danger of Venezuela's oil running out. By some estimates, it has the world's largest reserves. And few expect the world price to decline anytime soon.

So President Chavez can probably afford to bankroll everything from free medicine to nearly free gas for a while yet. Certainly beyond the presidential election due in December.

Karl Penhaul, CNN, Caracas.


LIN: Well, maybe U.N. TV is going to be like the Oprah Book Club. If nothing else, Chavez is good for book sales.

In his U.N. speech yesterday, the Venezuelan president waved around a book saying everyone, especially Americans, should read it. It was Noam Chomsky's "Hegemony or Survival: America's Quest for Global Dominance."

Now, before Chavez spoke the book languished at number 160,722 on sales rankings. You know, we checked back a little while ago. The book is ranked now number four.

Go figure.

Where in the world is Osama bin Laden? Well, a simple question with a complicated answer. And what happens if and when he's found?

The two leaders most heavily invested in that debate have very different answers.


WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: I you had good actionable intelligence in Pakistan where they were, would you give the order to kill him or capture him?


BUSH: Absolutely.



PRES. PERVEZ MUSHARRAF, PAKISTAN: We will do it ourselves. We would like to do it ourselves.


LIN: Well, bin Laden and the Taliban relations with Afghanistan, all on the agenda when President Bush and Musharraf sit face to face tomorrow at the White House. So stay tuned.

The United States and President Bush still drawing flak at the United Nations. Name calling, you know, from the Venezuelan president yesterday. And today defiance and a challenge from the president of Iran.

So let's get the latest from CNN Senior United Nations Correspondent Richard Roth.

So, Richard, the Iranian president decided to stick around a little while longer, huh?

RICHARD ROTH, CNN SR. U.N. CORRESPONDENT: Well, he has every right to do so. We don't know if he's on a multi-entry visa, but under the agreement the United States has with the United Nations since its inception, nobody gets barred if they're a head of state coming in to address the United Nations.

The Iranian's president's tune has not changed much since his last appearance at the U.N. a year ago. The Iranian president is well aware there's a bit of a nuclear crisis of diplomacy going on between his country and the International Atomic Energy Agency and the U.N. Security Council.

The Iranian president said, "We believe those negotiations are moving on the right path. Hopefully, others will not disrupt the work. In small ways, perhaps, we think it's a constructive path to take."

Diplomats listened in closely. Some say it's more of an indication that Iran is maybe going to suspend uranium enrichment, as President Bush and others have demanded, in order to win economic incentives. However, the Iranian president only went so far.

The Iranian president says his country on the path to peaceful uses of nuclear energy and how can the U.S. demand Iran to dismantle any type of nuclear work when it has the world's biggest arsenal?

Other remarks not so pleasant. A strong blast at Zionists by the Iranian president. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

PRES. MAHMOUD AHMADINEJAD, IRAN (through translator): These Zionists, I want tell you, are not Jews. That's the biggest deception we've ever faced.

Zionists are Zionists, period. But they are not Jews, they are not Christians, and they are not Muslims.

They are a power group, a power party. And we oppose the oppression and the aggression that any party that seeks pure power, raw power goes after. And we announce and declare loudly that if you support that, you'll be condemned by the rest of the world.


ROTH: The Iranian president says he is not against Jews, he's just against murder and violence. And any question regarding either the Holocaust or Iran and its controversial practices by the president, he really twists it, Carol, and turns it back at other issues or back at the questioner.

LIN: Yes, we've seen that so far.

Richard Roth, thank you very much.

We've got a developing story, so straight to the NEWSROOM right now. Fredricka Whitfield working on something about an explosion.

WHITFIELD: Right, an explosion underground, reportedly, in Philadelphia, right in Center City. And apparently this has led to now the evacuation of several buildings.

It happened just about an hour ago, when somehow, reportedly, an underground cable fault took place when the electric company was trying to attempt switching to a different circuit. We'll try to get more on that as we dig up more information.

Several high-rises, Center Square, Liberty One, Liberty Two have all been evacuated, and there are apparently thousands of people on the street. We're also trying to work -- trying to get some pictures from our affiliates there in Philadelphia to bring you the very latest -- Carol.

LIN: All right. We'll be back on that story. Thanks very much, Fred.

In the meantime, the Tomcat fighters made famous in the movie "Top Gun" are making their final flights. And our Kyra Phillips has the honor of flying along at Oceana Naval Air Station in Virginia Beach, Virginia.

When we last checked in Kyra was suiting up.

Kyra, you ready to strap in? KYRA PHILLIPS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: I'm all suited up and ready to go. And just real quickly, I want to shout out to the crew -- it's all these men right here that got this aircraft, and they have all gotten the F-14 ready for decades. Well, obviously they're all pretty young, but you know what I'm saying.

These are the guys that make it happen. They check the aircraft, they make sure it's good to go so that I can climb in and do it.

Are you ready?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'm all ready. Let's go.

PHILLIPS: All right. Here we go.

Carol, we're going to kind of take you through the process of getting in, strapping in, getting ready. So kind of hang with me here.

I can hear you pretty well to this point, but if I lose you, and if you want to ask me a question at any time, just go for it.

LIN: Yes, Kyra...

PHILLIPS: And this is going to help me.

LIN: Kyra, you actually flew in an F-14 during the Iraq War. So, what, 500 miles per hour? What does that feel like?

PHILLIPS: It's pretty amazing, Carol. I tell you, it's -- well, you go through special training in order to do it. You've got to go through water survival.

You just let me know if we need to -- if you need me to lift or anything like that.


PHILLIPS: This is Fitz Gentry, by the way. He usually sits in the back seat, radio intercept operator. He's getting me strapped in so I can concentrate on talking to you.


PHILLIPS: Pull it up? Yes, got it.

Carol, it's like a two-ton elephant sitting on your body when you pull Gs. And you've got to go through this special training, like I was saying, the water survival. The dunker, it's like a simulated cockpit.

You're submerged in water, you have blacked-out goggles. You've got to be able to egress in case something were to go wrong.

You go through the oxygen chamber, so you learn about hypoxia and passing out, how to recover from that, how to not get to that position. And then -- got it all right?


PHILLIPS: Thank you.

So then -- and then it's the breathing, Carol. The breathing is the key. When you get ready to pull Gs, it's called the hook maneuver, and basically it's, like, you try to hold in your breath, and you want all the blood to go to a certain place so you don't pass out.

So, as Suba (ph) gets ready to pull maneuvers as we go airborne, that's what I'll be doing.

LIN: Kyra, what does he have to do to get you in there?

What does he have to do to get you in there?

PHILLIPS: Well, I'm going to have him tell you.

Why don't you go ahead and tell Carol, Fitz, exactly what you're doing.


We're getting -- we're getting Kyra here all ready to go. I'm just connecting her comm (ph) cord to her oxygen mask, and her oxygen mask down to the upper seat block here which houses all her communication and also the flow of oxygen up to the mask, once it's strapped on her face.

And, of course, also, she was talking about pulling Gs. She's got her good set of Mach 1, mod (ph) zero speed Gs on the G suit. That's plugged into a receptacle here that allows bleed air from the engines to inflate when the aircraft senses Gs. So now we're going to get the upper coat fitting set.

PHILLIPS: And this is basically, Carol, all of these various fittings. If indeed you have to eject, if something goes wrong -- and, of course, the pilot makes that call, Suba (ph) would make that call if it had to happen -- I am so -- I am strapped in a way that if we have to eject -- thanks, Fitz -- you would think it would happen in a very safe way to where there would be in injury to me at all.

The parachute is behind me here in the seat. The seat actually goes with you. And you have to go through the training with regard to that as well. How to operate my chute, if indeed I had to eject. IROC, that's what I keep in my head.

GENTRY: That's right.

PHILLIPS: Remind them what IROC is, Fitz.

GENTRY: Inspect, Release -- oh, you're going to put me on the spot. PHILLIPS: I think he needs to go through his refresher course. Well, Fitz doesn't ever worry about ejecting because he's such a professional, Carol.

But the whole -- you know, the training and the safety checks are just incredible.

All right. We're going to...

GENTRY: If I could just have you lean back just a little bit.

PHILLIPS: You've got it. Yes, you've got it.

GENTRY: Back this way.

PHILLIPS: Now we're checking the tension.

GENTRY: Backpack.

PHILLIPS: And I'm going to actually check the radio here and see if it works. Let me -- check, one, two. Check, one, two. Check, one, two.

All right, we're working on the radio comms now. I'm going to stay on a wireless mic until we get that going.

LIN: Hey, Kyra...

PHILLIPS: And Carol -- yes?

LIN: ... what does the pilot in your position on the F-14 do during a mission? So, if you're on a combat mission, what is that position responsible for?


GENTRY: Just lean forward for me.

PHILLIPS: That's a great question, Carol. Let me just check my tension, Carol. Just a sec.

GENTRY: Good up (ph).



PHILLIPS: Thumbs up. Now, is this ready to go, Fitz?

GENTRY: That will start up now.

PHILLIPS: Yes, let's go ahead and start that up now. Flip it open.

This is the RIO, the radar intercept operator. And that's what Fitz does. Basically, all these radars in here and all these -- let's say you're in a combat situation, Carol, and the pilot says, OK -- let me just take Afghanistan, for example.

We're moving into Tora Bora, there's possibly concern of enemy aircraft. They didn't have to worry about that in Afghanistan, but I'm just giving you an example.

LIN: Right.

PHILLIPS: More surface-to-air missiles. So RIO is back here looking at these radar systems. And also, he's the second set of eyes, second set of ears -- thanks, Fritz -- for the pilot.

So, he gives Suba (ph) a heads up, hey, look, over my right shoulder, I'm seeing six surface-to-air missiles.

I mean, I remember some of the pilots during the war literally telling me when they came back, Carol, it looked like shock and awe because of all the surface-to-air missiles that were coming up. So, the RIO helps keep the pilot alive, the pilot helps keep the RIO alive. And it's all a part of the defense system.

And I wish I could even show you the close-up, you know, of all these radars. It's pretty intense everything they have to learn back here in the back seat.

LIN: So what are you going...

PHILLIPS: So now what we're doing...


GENTRY: ... control the lantern (ph) targeting system.



PHILLIPS: We'll do another check.

GENTRY: We're all good on that.

PHILLIPS: We're all good?


PHILLIPS: All right. And this -- we're all set? We're recording?

GENTRY: Yes. That's all set and recording as well.

PHILLIPS: It's all good to go?

So this is thumbs up for us.

GENTRY: Thumbs up. We'll let Suba (ph) know that you're good to go in the back here. If you want to, key -- key that right foot now.

PHILLIPS: Yes. Check, one, two. Check, one, two.

It sounds good on radio. Check, one, two. Check, one, two.

GENTRY: Suba (ph), you getting that?

PHILLIPS: Carol, can you hear?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes. Take your foot off.

GENTRY: Take your foot off when you get done.

PHILLIPS: 10-4. I can hear you great.

OK. So we checked the radio, the radio's good. Because, Carol, that's how I'm going to talk to you.

Once the jet fires up, it's going to get so loud I'm going to have to let this wireless mic go, and then I'll be talking to you via the communications system through my oxygen mask.

Does that sound good?

LIN: That sounds good. Are you nervous?

GENTRY: Do you need them to come forward a little bit?

PHILLIPS: No, these are perfect. Right up next to it.


PHILLIPS: Carol, I never get nervous.

LIN: I know. You're a rock!


PHILLIPS: That's the two things they always ask me, Fitz, am I going to get sick and am I going to get nervous? You always get nervous when you want something to go off perfectly. And, you know, this is part of history.

It's the F-14, it's being retired. I was able to fly, you know, this aircraft in the Persian Gulf. I was able to watch what these pilots and these RIOs and all the members of the air crew went through.

You know, after September 11th happened, I got a pretty unique insight to what it takes to be a part of the military, specifically naval aviation. And it's this type of aircraft and these type of individuals that responded to what scared all of us on September 11th -- Carol.

LIN: Yes, there were heroics in the sky to be sure.

So, Kyra, how long is this flight going to be? PHILLIPS: We're going to be up for about an hour. So what I'm going to do now, I'm going to go ahead, because I want to concentrate and make sure my oxygen levels are good, get my mask on.

Why don't we go ahead -- hold on, Carol.

Why don't we go ahead and start the power up? Does that sound good?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You got it. We're starting up.

PHILLIPS: Fantastic.

All right, we're going to go ahead and power up, Carol. So it's going to get a little loud.

LIN: All right, Kyra.

PHILLIPS: And the next time you're going to see us is when we get back, and you'll be able to see everything that we did. We're going to show you dogfighting, we're going to show you exactly what these guys went through in all the various wars, specifically Operation Iraqi Freedom and Operation Enduring Freedom, and we'll talk when I get back.

LIN: Take care, girlfriend. Stay safe.

PHILLIPS: All right. Thanks, Carol. Talk to you soon.

LIN: All right. We'll talk to you soon.

All right. Kyra is going to be up in the sky. We're going to be watching as she gets ready to take off. She's going to start taxiing down the runway. It's exciting times as we watch her experience history.

In the meantime, Iraq, growing influence of Al Qaeda in Iraq.


MICHAEL WARE, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice over): Insurgent groups and the U.S. military now say Iraq has become the darkest core of Iraq's insurgency.


LIN: That's CNN's Michael Ware reporting from Baghdad.

You're in the CNN NEWSROOM.


LIN: Straight to the NEWSROOM now. Fredricka Whitfield working details on a developing story -- Fred.

WHITFIELD: Carol, more on the situation in Philadelphia. An underground explosion. Well, some electrical company workers were working near the site of South 15th Street when they heard three loud explosions, and then soon to follow, a smell of gas.

A number of buildings in that area have been evacuated in Center City. Center Square, Liberty One, Liberty Two, and the Grant buildings all have been evacuated. No reports of any injuries, however, but emergency officials are on the scene, trying to figure out exactly what happened and why.

LIN: All right, Fred. We'll check back with you to see what develops there.

In the meantime, Venezuelan leader Hugo Chavez still in New York today after that fiery speech to the United Nations yesterday.

CNN's Christine Romans was at the news conference Chavez just wrapped up in Harlem -- Christine.


A vintage speech by Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez, speaking off the cuff for about an hour and a half, reiterating some of his comments yesterday about the president of the United States being as he called, "the devil," and talking about American imperialism.


PRES. HUGO CHAVEZ, VENEZUELA (through translator): We have the enemy tag on us to justify later anything they want, misleading the American people. We are friends of yours. And you are our friends. Let's not let us be misled or manipulated. We are enemies of imperialism, just as I am sure that you are enemies of imperialism.



ROMANS: He says that George Bush and the United States government are engaged in what he calls barbarism in Iraq. He says Iran has a right to a nuclear program, Bolivia has a right to cultivate cocoa.

He slammed capitalism and says Americans are needlessly wasting energy. He, of course, is one of the top oil producers to the United States. And he says he would not cut off oil supplies unless the United States acted "aggressively" to him or to Iran.

He says that he is not an enemy of America. He's an enemy of this government. He's an enemy of imperialism. And he says that he wants to cut out the capitalist system altogether in this country if he could.

He wants to give heating oil at a discounted price or free to now 18 states -- 100 million gallons he's going to give away this year to 459,000 families. He says he is a friend of the poor in this country. He says that he wants to spread his socialist agenda, his revolution to these shores. And he says the United States should wake up and throw out the beast. Ostensibly, perhaps, he means George Bush -- Carol.

LIN: Christine, who lines up these appearances at these schools? I mean, does he actually have, like, an American-style P.R. agent that, you know, helps him with these lines and lines up the public appearances?

ROMANS: Well, one analyst I talked to yesterday actually told me that he thought that his advisors had written a speech at the U.N. and that Hugo Chavez had written his own speech and given the speech he wanted to. Hugo Chavez today also saying that he gave a disciplined speech to the United Nations, I guess letting any of his critics know that he said what he said and he meant it, and that he's going to stick to it.

This is a real firebrand, Carol. I mean, he's a man who every Sunday speaks on national television in Venezuela and to the Venezuelan people, and he can talk off the cuff for six hours, seven hours with military bands and flags.

So, this one and a half hours off the cuff here to an American audience, it was, I must say, extraordinarily warm and receiving to him here. This is much shorter than he usually does.

LIN: All right. I don't know if we can handle six or seven hours, though.

Christine Romans, good to know that you got the short version. Appreciate it.

Well, things have appeared to calmed down in Hungary, where the main opposition party had canceled plans for a huge anti-government rally this weekend. But the streets are still tense.

Our senior international correspondent, Nic Robertson, joins me now from Budapest.

So, Nic, why the calmer streets?

NIC ROBERTSON, CNN SR. INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, Carol, the opposition party said that they've canceled their rally plans for Saturday, because they say they've received credible and concrete warnings that there could be some kind of terrorist attack, a bomb attack on their rally. I think the reality here is that they are very concerned that they are being -- the opposition is being painted as being the troublemakers here by Prime Ferenc Gyurcsany.

They don't want that. They say they want him out of office. But they don't want to appear to be the troublemakers. But as the nights roll on, each night there's violence on the streets.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) ROBERTSON (voice over): For a third night, the most violent demonstrations Budapest has seen in decades. Volleys of pepper gas were fired as running battles between youths and police erupted along the historic boulevards of his ancient European capital. In one incident, a protester was hit in the head by a pepper gas canister, fired directly at the crowd.

It's a different mood from the previous night. The police are much more in control. They seem to be running the demonstrators off the streets before the demonstrators can take control themselves.

But increasingly, divisions are opening within the ranks of the protesters. Divisions over how to protest. Violently, clashing with police, or peacefully, as thousands were outside parliament.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The majority accept the democratic laws, the democratic behavior and the aversive things are not included in the democratic voice (ph).

ROBERTSON: Among peaceful protesters, concern is violence will undermine their goal to force Prime Minister Ferenc Gyurcsany to quit.

The people in the crowd here are so intent on showing us they oppose violence, they brought us here to see this lady saying, this shows we're not hooligans.

But in the nightly violence against the prime minister's admission of lies and economic reforms, the root of the country's biggest problem is being overshadowed. The budget deficit is dangerously high.

GYORGY JAKSITY, ECONOMIC ANALYST: Hungary will find it more and more difficult and more and more expensive to finance its deficits. And that's a real danger.

ROBERTSON: In a telling assessment of who economists think is best for the country, Hungary's financial markets have not been worried so much by the violence, as demands the prime minister, who leads the economic reforms, step down.

JAKSITY: The markets only became nervous after there was talk about the possible resignation of Mr. Gyurcsany.

ROBERTSON: On the contrary, as the demonstrations continue, Prime Minister Gyurcsany shows no signs of stepping down. He believes the controversy over his leaked admission of lying, which he says was taken out of context, strengthens his hand for economic reform because he challenged his party to face the truth about the country's dire economic situation.

FERNEC GYURCSANY, HUNGARIAN PRIME MINISTER: It's been lately stronger. I have enough support and I have enough commitment to do that.

ROBERTSON: The showdown is far from over. The protesters say they'll continue and the justice minister says he's considering much tougher restrictions on public gatherings.


ROBERTSON: Well, the protesters have been gathering again this afternoon, about a thousand at nightfall about half a mile away from here outside the parliament building. This evening look's as if it's on track for what we've seen over the previous evenings, Carol, a big, peaceful demonstrations. And then we don't know, but if it follows the previous nights, we'll see troublemakers trying to clash with the police again -- Carol.

LIN: Nic, what's your sense of what's going to happen next?

ROBERTSON: I think we're getting into a sort of status quo here. Clearly, the opposition by not -- deciding not to hold their rally at the weekend has taken some of the heat out of the situation, the potential for volatility, but it is the weekend. There would be people who don't have to go to work on Saturday and Sunday. They'll probably swell the ranks of the demonstrators.

As long as there are demonstrators and the police try to control them out on the streets, we'll probably see clashes. That's what the crowds have been trying to do. But the impression is -- is that there is no real focus on the streets.

This isn't building to a crescendo. There are local elections in a week and a half, and the opposition has said, let's hold our rally after those local elections. So it seems the protests may continue, perhaps not as violently as we have seen them recently, but not coming to a crescendo. The local elections will be the next landmark -- Carol.

LIN: Nic Robertson, thank you very much.

Straight to the NEWSROOM now, there have been a series of underground explosions in the Philadelphia area.

Fredricka Whitfield working this story -- Fred.

FREDRICKA WHITFIELD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: And Carol, now it appears, according to city officials as well as officials with the electric company, that it appears as though these three explosions that took place underground in Center City are strictly that, related to the electric company.

It's some kind of problem where it transpired when workers were doing some work underground. And the FBI is confirming it's not a terrorism-related explosion. No law enforcement authorities, according to the mayor's office, are needed in this investigation.

It appears as though it's going to be an investigation that will be carried out by PECO Energy, the Philadelphia energy group there that may have been working on something underground before those explosions took place there in Center City.

Now remember, Carol, that evacuations did still take place. There were no reported injuries, but you can believe that a lot of people were very alarmed to hear the explosions and many of those high-rises were evacuated.

It's unclear exactly when people will be able to go back into their buildings.

LIN: Yes, we're looking at the new video that came into the CNN Center, and the smoke must have really scared a lot of people as they looked down at what's happening down on the ground.

Fred, thank you for those latest details.

Now, Thailand's coup leaders tightened their grip. Just ahead, a crack down on the politics as the ousted prime minister calls for new elections. The latest from Bangkok straight ahead in THE NEWSROOM.

Also, back to Kyra Phillips in the cockpit, ready for takeoff. One of the last F-14 flights before the U.S. military retires the Tomcat. You're going to see her. You're watching CNN, the most trusted name in news.


LIN: All right, we've got a developing story happening in Philadelphia. Fredricka Whitfield working on that, an underground explosion developing there.

WHITFIELD: Right, three explosions heard, right in Center City. It meant the evacuation of a lot of the high-rise buildings. You're looking at live pictures right now of possibly some of the plumes of smoke as a result of those explosions, which the city is now saying is directly related to the electric company doing some work there.

The FBI has ruled out any sort of terrorism tactics here, that this is strictly going to be an investigation that is going to be launched by PECO, the electric service that services much of Philadelphia, provides the power. And you're looking at the right of your screen, just a fraction of the many people who have been forced to evacuate those buildings as a result of those explosions.

At least four high-rise buildings that we know of were evacuated. And I'm sure many of those people were wondering when they're going to get a chance to go back to their places of business or some of those residences there.

But the good news out of all this, Carol, is that emergency officials say there are no reported injuries.

LIN: Good.

WHITFIELD: So we're going to continue to keep a close tab on this.

LIN: Do they know how big that fire is?

WHITFIELD: No. And if they know, they're not telling us. LIN: All right. Thanks very much, Fred.

We're go doing go back to Kyra Phillips, now taxiing in an F-14 at Oceana Naval Air Station in Virginia.

Kyra, can you hear us?

KYRA PHILLIPS, CNN ANCHOR: I sure can, Carol. We're taxiing down, we're going to take off in just a few minutes.

(inaudible) what time do you think we're going to lift? How long?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: About half a mile from the runway, and we'll probably take off in about two minutes.

PHILLIPS: OK. We'll be taking off in two minutes. One hundred and twenty seconds and we're going to make history.

LIN: All right, Kyra. We're going to go back to you when you take off. Stay safe.

PHILLIPS: You got it. See you in about two minutes, OK, watch the live picture.

LIN: Two minutes. We're watching you as we speak. A great picture as Kyra Phillips, the last journalist to fly in an F-14, at Oceanic Naval Air Station. We're going to be back with her and share in her journey there.

All right. We've also been following a scandal at Hewlett Packard for the last couple of weeks. It's cost the chairman her job and now the CEO could be on the hot seat.

Cheryl Casone, live from the New York Stock Exchange to talk about some more potentially damning emails -- Cheryl.

CHERYL CASONE, CNN ANCHOR: Yes, hi Carol. This story has more twists and turns than Kyra's flight today, I believe.

You know, new evidence is showing that Hewlett Packard's CEO may have approved an elaborate sting operation on a reporter. This one's new. The company was trying to plug leaks from its Board of Directors to the media. Published reports say that in order to do that, employees created a fake tipster, who sent bogus info to a reporter to trick her into revealing her sources.

Now emails to and from then-chairman Patricia Dunn show that she played close attention to all of this. Last week Dunn announced she would be stepping down from the position in January. Although she is going to remain on the Board of Directors, she's going to be replaced as chairman by CEO Mark Hurd.

But here's where this is all changing today. According to the "Washington Post", one of the internal company emails indicate that he knew about the tactics that are being used to find the leak and approved them -- Carol.

LIN: Well, Cheryl, is creating a fake tipster to flush out a leak illegal?

CASONE: You know, it depends how any company goes about that, really. Sending someone an email file and then tracking whether it was forwarded, which is what H.P. did, is probably not illegal. But if the company tries to access other information on the reporter's computer, for instance, that would be a violation of federal law by H.P.

And federal and state officials are looking into H.P.'s actions to determine if the company broke any laws. Mark Hurd is going to be holding a briefing for reporters tomorrow. And he is scheduled to testify before a House subcommittee next week, Carol, so it's going to be real interesting to see what he has to say.

LIN: So how has H.P.'s stock been reacting through this whole thing?

CASONE: Up until today, honestly the stock had not been -- pretty stable. But not today at all. It seems this last development has finally convinced investors that H.P. could really be in trouble now. And its shares are falling nearly 5 percent right now. It's the worst-performing stock among the DOW 30, and that's weighing on the market as a whole.

Right now the DOW Industrials are losing at 86 points, and the NASDAQ composite is dropping more than half a percent as well.

All right, Carol, well that is the latest from Wall Street, and we're going to send it back to you in Atlanta.

LIN: You got it. We'll see you later, Cheryl.

Straight to the NEWSROOM now. Fredricka Whitfield with more details on that developing story out of Philadelphia -- Fred.

WHITFIELD: Well, actually, this time a different story. We're looking into getting more information about a possible compromise that "NBC News" is reporting between Senator John McCain and President Bush on the tribunals and the Article 3. The president wants clarification on Article 3 of the Geneva Conventions of just how to treat and interrogate detainees.

And now we're hearing that a GOP aide is saying that it is premature to report this. So, of course, we're going to continue to do a little bit more digging that has already been reported by another network.

We'll be able to bring a little bit more to you on that -- Carol.

LIN: Thanks very much, Fred.

We're going to go back to Kyra Phillips, who is about to take off in an F-14 at the Oceania Naval Air Station. Kyra, can you hear us?

PHILLIPS: I can hear you, Carol.

LIN: OK, the last flight for an F-14, the only journalist to be on board. Kyra, what's going to happen next? Are you about to take off?

PHILLIPS: (INAUDIBLE), give us a status report on what's up.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We are close to takeoff. Are you ready to go?

PHILLIPS: Let's do it. Let's take off. Let's make some history.

LIN: There she goes. We're looking at a live picture.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I need you to do one thing. I need you to turn the transponder on to our altimeter.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The wings are up. The flaps are down. (INAUDIBLE) good. Here comes the power. There's forward stick. Pass. Left, left. Right, right. (INAUDIBLE) Are you ready to go in the back?

PHILLIPS: I'm ready to go.


PHILLIPS: I don't know if you can still hear us, Carol, but you're going to see what's coming down the taxiway.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: All right, (INAUDIBLE) good, air speed's coming up. Eighty knots, 100 knots, steering south. We're at 20 knots, 40 knots. We're going flying!

PHILLIPS: And we're in the air, Carol. We'll see you when we get back.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Wings coming up.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We're up and we're turning. We're going flying.

PHILLIPS: Oh, what a beautiful day!

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: If you look to the right side, you can see Oceania down there. That's where we took off from. Right now, we're climbing to 4,000 feet on our way out from Virginia Beach.

PHILLIPS: I still couldn't find the transponder button.


LIN: All right, Kyra Phillips up in the sky. She's going to be going at about 500 miles per hour in that F-14 tomcat. She's the last journalist to be on this ride-along. What a terrific mission. She's going tell us all about what that trip was like when she lands. Kyra Phillips, up in the sky. She's our top gun.


LIN: Straight to the NEWSROOM now. Fredricka Whitfield has more information on those explosions in Philadelphia -- Fred.

WHITFIELD: That's right. A bit more now on that while they continue to investigate the explosion. Right now, the utility company is saying they believe that an underground electrical cable became overloaded, and then started smoking. And you're seeing right now the smoking still taking place, but what followed was three explosions. It has led to the evacuations of 4,000 people from many of the high- rises there in Center City. All of this taking place around -- between 15th and 16th streets at Chestnut.

And we understand that an entire 25-block area, all the streets have been blocked off. So, no traffic, at least above ground. And the location of these explosions is also near the underground commuter rail station and the subway system. It's unclear how that has affected commuters, but we do know that thousands of people were evacuated from the high-rise buildings.

No reported injuries. That is the good news. And right now, the electrical -- the utility company, PECO, is saying that indeed they believe these explosions were sparked by underground electrical cable problems after becoming overloaded. So, still a lot of work to be done to clear some of the smoke there and give the green light to many of those thousands of people to go back into those buildings -- Carol.

LIN: All right, thanks very much, Fred.

A possible deal in D.C. on detainee abuse legislation. We're going to get more from the White House.

You're watching CNN NEWSROOM.


LIN: Back to the NEWSROOM, Fredricka working on a couple of developing stories -- Fred.

WHITFIELD: All right. Well, we got a few I-Report photos to share with you. All this in relation to Thailand. Or it looks like we're going to come back to those in a moment. Where would you like us to go right now?

LIN: That's right, we want to update...

WHITFIELD: Al right, back to you -- Carol.

LIN: We want to update, also, folks out of -- a story out of Thailand. The constitution revoked and political meetings are now banned. It is fresh off its bloodless coup in Thailand. The military is tightening its grip on the country's power structures and potential sources of defense.

Our Dan Rivers has more now from Bangkok.


DAN RIVERS, CNN CORRESPONDENT (on camera): The leaders of this military coup in Thailand are continuing to consolidate and tighten their power across the country. They have banned any political meetings. They have banned the registering of any new political parties.

They have introduced restrictions on television, on radio and on the Internet, stopping people from criticizing the coup. They've taken over the parliamentary powers, performing new legislation.

They've also arrested four former ministers, loyalists to the now deposed Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra. Those men are beeping held at army installations in and around the capital.

Now, the coup leader himself, General Sonthi, has said he will appoint an interim prime minister within a couple of weeks. But there is a lot of skepticism as to his motives and whether he will keep his word and whether he will hold those elections by next October. The Democrat Party here is calling them -- calling on them to hold elections within six months.

Dan Rivers, CNN, Bangkok.


LIN: Also we're still getting lots of I-Report photos from viewers in Thailand. Fredricka, working on that story. Fred, I know you're very busy today, but apparently some of our viewers were able to send us some of their own reporting from the field.

WHITFIELD: Right, and we're glad about that. So let me give you an idea of the kinds of I-Reports that are coming in.

Let's see this "Guns and Roses." We're receiving a lot of pictures like these, Thai women handing flowers to soldiers from the royal army. This soldier displayed his roses on the gun barrel of his tank right there. We're also seeing photos of people bringing food to the soldiers stationed around Bangkok.

This came to us from John Bates (ph), a teacher in Thailand, with the caption, "Smile, it's a coup." And we're also seeing a number of photos showing children posing with soldiers in tanks. And if you look closely, you can see a yellow ribbon on the barrel of the tank, when you do see it.

And here, a Thai family posing for another photo with a soldier. There's a yellow ribbon tied to the soldier's rifle. If you can look there at the very bottom, near the child.

And you can see more photos and video from Thailand on our Web site, and you can send in an I-Report, and join the world's most powerful news team. Just log on to to find out how -- Carol.

LIN: All right, thanks very much, Fred.

We've got much more straight ahead right here in the NEWSROOM. Stay right there.


LIN: A possible deal in D.C. on detainee abuse legislation. We're going to get more from the White House.

And high drama in New York as the president of Venezuela takes the podium once again, and unleashes a verbal salvo directed at President Bush. That story straight ahead.

You're in the CNN NEWSROOM.