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Deadly Tornado; Choosing Leaders; Gates On The Hill; Kidnapped In Iraq; Suing Rumsfeld; Gerri's Top Tips

Aired November 17, 2006 - 10:00   ET


HEIDI COLLINS, CNN ANCHOR: Good morning, everybody. I'm Heidi Collins.
TONY HARRIS, CNN ANCHOR: I'm Tony Harris. Spend a second hour in the NEWSROOM this morning and stay informed. Here's what's on the rundown.

House Republicans choose their new leader. He is Ohio Congressman John Boehner. And he's facing a tough job in the new Congress.

COLLINS: High water. The storm system that ripped North Carolina with tornadoes, now soaking the Mid Atlantic.

HARRIS: Gaming frenzy. PS3 hits store shelves with a consumer- driven big bang. And our tech expert takes one for a test drive, this Friday, November 17th, in the NEWSROOM.

A white knuckle ride. Motorists in Binghamton, New York, struggling to drive over roads, absolutely inundated by floodwaters, the result of heavy rains that moved up the eastern seaboard yesterday. Hundreds of people had to be rescued from their homes and cars.

Outside Washington, a very similar and frightening scene. Terrified motorists were trapped in washed out roads and hundreds of homes were flooded.

COLLINS: Shattered lives and homes in splinters now. Residents of Riegelwood, North Carolina, trying to come to grips with nature's fury this morning. The pictures just unbelievable. A powerful tornado left eight people dead, dozens more injured. Some 100 people are now homeless this morning. Our Rick Sanchez is there.

And, Rick, we've been hearing that there was no warning system and yet our Chad Myers is explaining to us that this state of North Carolina gets something like 16 to 18 tornadoes there every year.

RICK SANCHEZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, and I guess, you know, it depends on how you classify touchdowns, warnings, sightings. You know, tornadoes are interesting in terms of what their ferocity might be. Because you have a tornado, it doesn't necessarily mean it necessarily affects the area. It also depends on just how strong it is on the scale.

We do know this, though, Heidi. This was very strong as tornadoes go, at least in the immediate area that we have seen throughout the course of the last 24 hours and the effect it had on this one mobile home park in particular.

The people there essentially were, in many cases, still in their homes. Maybe some still sleeping. It was 6:29 in the morning when the Weather Service actually put out a warning. But it didn't touch down until 6:44, so there's a 15-minute period that I suppose they could have been told or could have heard a siren had there been one.

But we were told here -- I was told directly yesterday by the sheriff when I was having the conversation with him that they don't have a siren system, so they depend on people learning by having their radios on or their TVs on to try and listen to it. Although, I've got to tell you, moments ago we heard a siren going off here, so we don't know now if possibly they're trying to install one or testing one, interestingly enough.

COLLINS: Boy, yes, we would sure love to hear the follow-up on that if, in fact, something like this is going to change that as a whole.

I know you've been talking to a lot of people, Rick, in the town there. Do any of them talk of something like this happening before? I mean we've been hearing it's just -- they're shocked.

SANCHEZ: No, that's interesting because you mentioned a little while ago that they do have a lot of tornadoes in this area, or at least in this state. What they really experience a lot in this part of the state, because we're in a coastal area, is hurricanes. So their preparedness is more in tune with getting ready for hurricanes than it is for tornadoes. They are definitely calling this the worst natural disaster they've ever had in the history of this particular county we're in here, which is Columbus County. So that's what they're saying.

They also have a bit of a problem in terms of emergency management, in that the person who's in charge of emergency management here was let go not long ago. Hasn't been replaced. And as a result, the sheriff has been in charge of the emergency management system. You know, obviously something he's not used to dealing with and he's been dealing with us as a result ever since, too, Heidi. So that might be something they have to overcome as well

COLLINS: Yes, I bet. Lots of challenges there now. All right, Rick Sanchez, thank you for that.

Meanwhile, a new position for House Republicans, the minority in the upcoming Congress. Now they've chosen the leaders who will guide them. Congressional correspondent Andrea Koppel following developments on Capitol Hill.

Andrea, it's the same people. We got John Boehner and Roy Blunt.

ANDREA KOPPEL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, I think the headline here, Heidi, is that the old guard won. John Boehner, who is the current majority leader, has now been elected by a vote of 168-27 to be his party's next minority leader, beating out Mike Pence of Indiana. And we just learned moments ago that Roy Blunt, who is currently serving as his party's vote-counting whip, the number three post in the Republican hierarchy, has been re-elected. We don't have the tally yet, but he defeated Arizona's John Shadegg.

The common denominator between Mike Pence and Shadegg is that they are both considered, at least pitched themselves, as new faces in their party. And they're also both very conservative. In fact, Shadegg had served and Pence serves right now as chairman of the most conservative caucus in the House of Representatives, the Republican Study Group. And they really had made the pitch that it was time for a change and, clearly, both of them lost.


COLLINS: Well, it's fascinating. We were just talking a few minutes ago with a former U.S. congressman, Bob Barr, who said this will obviously tell the American people all they need to know about putting new faces forward on the Republican side. And then we have this start for the Democrats with Nancy Pelosi backing someone who did not win for majority leader elect. What do you think American people are saying right now, even before we head into January?

KOPPEL: Well, certainly the rank and file Republican members here are saying that John Boehner has only been in the job for 10 months, even though he had served in previous leadership positions in the House. And they feel that he really was a consensus builder. That he was someone who reached out to them and listened to them and they like the job he's done.

Roy Blunt is someone who served two terms as his party's whip. And even though the party lost its power base, obviously, they lost the control of the House of Representatives, they feel that Roy Blunt is someone who's going to get them back into the majority and that has been the mantra, Heidi. They're in the minority now, but they're looking to '08 and they want to be back in the majority.

COLLINS: Yes, that certainly seems to be the story. All right, Andrea Koppel, thanks so much.

HARRIS: The man picked to take charge of the Pentagon heads to Capitol Hill today. What's ahead for Robert Gates? Let's bring in our Pentagon correspondent Barbara Starr.

And, Barbara, and I suppose Mr. Gates will find some time to visit with Senator John Warner.

BARBARA STARR, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Good morning to you, Tony.

That's right. Bob Gates does head to Capitol Hill at midday today. He will start out by meeting with the Republican leadership and, of course, the Republicans still in control of Congress, at least until January. He will start by meeting with them. And then he will meet with the Senate Armed Services Committee that has now scheduled his confirmation hearing for December 5th. Meeting with Senator Warner, who is currently still the chairman of that committee. We haven't seen anything really of Mr. Gates since that announcement at the White House several days ago when he, of course, appeared with President Bush and now outgoing Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld. There will -- it is expected that Mr. Gates will get a very friendly reception on Capitol Hill. There may well be some tough questions, though, when that confirmation hearing comes. How much will he want to get pinned down on the question of Iraq or will he say he's still reviewing all of that?

Very tentative word, Tony, is that sometime next week Mr. Gates will finally have a face-to-face meeting with Defense Secretary Rumsfeld, as well as General Peter Pace, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. Still very tentative, but the word's out there that next week they will have their first meeting and that may provide additional insights as to what Mr. Gates' thinking is about Iraq.


HARRIS: So, Barbara, I'm wondering if there's anything you can help us with from the Pentagon on the story we've been reporting all morning long, coalition forces described as aggressively searching for the five security contractors, four of them Americans. Anything coming from your sources at the Pentagon?

STARR: Well, they are watching this very carefully because, of course, one of the things here is this is an indicator of just how unsettled the situation is in Iraq. If contractors, private industry, can't move through the country, the economy suffers, of course, and people just don't want to be there. And the route for U.S. troops out of Iraq is that mantra that Iraqis can take care of their own security and this is just another reminder that that is really not possible yet. By all indications, as you say, Tony, U.S. and coalition forces now in southern Iraq very aggressively looking for those contractors, including the four Americans that are missing.

HARRIS: Pentagon correspondent Barbara Starr for us.

Barbara, thank you.

Let's give you more information -- Oh, I'm sorry, Heidi.

COLLINS: That's all right. We want to get a little bit more, in fact, from what Barbara Starr was telling us from the Pentagon by going directly to Baghdad. We have Arwa Damon standing by to talk about this desperate search that's going on for these four Americans.

Arwa, what is the very latest now? What do we know today?

ARWA DAMON, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Heidi, first off we have another separate incident to tell you about that happened in the same vicinity of the kidnapping. What happened there, according to the British military, this is in an area that is about 20 kilometers southeast of Basra, was that there were clashes at about noon today between a private security company and the Iraqi security forces. British troops responded to that and medivaced a British security contractor to a field hospital. This is just a day after that kidnapping that you were referring to which also happened in the vicinity of Basra. What we know of that kidnapping is that four U.S. contractors, one Austrian contractor, were taken hostage. One of those Americans has been identified as Minnesotan Paul Ruben.

Now according to Crescent Security Group, which is the company that employed the five, they were traveling in a convoy from Kuwait to Tillil (ph) Air Base in southern Iraq when they came upon, according to a military source, a fake checkpoint. The local militia there was masquerading as Iraqi police. The five were kidnapped, along with a number of their drivers. The drivers, who were all of south Asian origin, were released and there are right now very intense military operations taking place to try to rescue these victims.


COLLINS: Boy, Arwa, we have been hearing before about these fake checkpoints, but maybe today is the day to give us a better sense of how often soldiers and security contractors come across these types of things and how elaborate they might be.

DAMON: Well, Heidi, just to give you an example. It's not just fake checkpoints, it's not just armed groups setting up checkpoints masquerading as Iraqi police forces. If we look back to just Tuesday of this week where we had the mass kidnapping at Iraq's ministry of higher education, that, too, according to all of the reports that we have received, was also carried out by armed gunmen who were masquerading as Iraqi police forces. This is one of the main and many challenges that faces the Iraqi government and the Iraqi police at this point. How are they supposed to build up trust between the Iraqi people and build up the Iraqi police force if we have these ongoing incidents where armed gunmen are masquerading as Iraqi police.


COLLINS: You also heard so much about how easy it is to get ahold of those uniforms as well from the markets there. So it's all coming together for sure. Not the way anyone would like it, I don't think.

Arwa Damon live from Baghdad, thank you.

HARRIS: It is the game, we understand, so the kids say, to get, to have, this holiday season.

COLLINS: Oh, yes.

HARRIS: But here's the thing. Getting your hands on one could cost you in more ways than one. Look at this. The fights, angry words, even gunshots, Heidi.

COLLINS: Crazy. I know.

HARRIS: PS3 mania gone wild. That story coming up in the NEWSROOM. DANIEL SIEBERG, CNN CORRESPONDENT: I'm technology correspondent Daniel Sieberg.

All this hype and hysteria over video games. What is it all about? We're talking about Sony's PlayStation 3 and the Nintendo Wii. We're going to have to talk about it a little bit later because right now I need to get back to playing some games. CNN NEWSROOM will continue after a short break.


COLLINS: He went to a war zone to make a movie, but he became the key player in a real life prison drama. Now this filmmaker is suing Donald Rumsfeld. CNN's Randi Kaye explains.


RANDI KAYE, CNN CORRESPONDENT, (voice over): Cyrus Kar is an Iranian-American who went to Iraq last year to film a historical documentary. It had nothing to do with the war. But just days after arriving, his trip took a stunning turn. Kar landed at the notorious Abu Ghraib Prison where he says U.S. troops called him the American terrorist.

CYRUS KAR, FILMMAKER ARRESTED IN IRAQ: I could hear them in what must have been their standard mantra, which was, you f-ing terrorist. You're here to kill Americans. You f-ing terrorist.

KAYE: So how did this Los Angeles filmmaker, who's lived in the U.S. since Kindergarten, this Navy veteran, end up a suspected terrorist? Kar says his taxi, driven by an Iraqi, was stopped at a checkpoint. The car's trunk was search and Kar, his camera man and driver were arrested for plotting to build roadside bombs.

KAR: They found three dozen washing machine times.

KAYE: Did you know those were in there?

KAR: No.

KAYE: Did you know what they were being used for?

KAR: No.

KAYE: Washing machine timers are widely used by insurgents to trigger IEDs on roadsides. In time, Kar says his taxi driver would admit the timers were his. But when Kar was handed over to U.S. forces, he says his hands and feet were bound and he was left to bake for hours in a cage in 120 degree heat. He remembers a hood over his head nearly suffocated him.

Did you think you were going to die there at that point?

KAR: I remember I kept telling myself, stay awake. You won't die today. Stay awake. KAYE: Kar says he showed U.S. troops his passport and his veterans card but they still took him to Abu Ghraib. After Abu Ghraib, Kar says he was thrown into solitary confinement for two months, at the same prison as Saddam Hussein. If Kar's story is true, why would the U.S. treat one of its own citizens this way?

MARK ROSENBAUM, CYRUS KAR'S ATTORNEY: Saddam Hussein received more due process than Cyrus Kar did.

KAYE: The ACLU's Mark Rosenbaum represents Kar in a lawsuit against Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld and other high-ranking military officials. They say Rumsfeld's replacement will also be added to the suit. The lawsuit claims the U.S. government deprived Cyrus Kar of his constitutional rights and violated the Geneva Convention.

ROSENBAUM: Of holding people in communicado in the hell holes of places like Abu Ghraib, that's not acceptable. And it's Constitution 101.

KAYE: A spokesman for coalition forces says Kar was treated fairly and humanely, consistent with the standards set by the Geneva Convention. But Rosenbaum says Kar passed a lie detector test. And, after all, the taxi driver did admit the washing machine timers were his. Still, he says, Kar was refused a lawyer.

While Cyrus Kar was being interrogated in Iraq, he had no idea he was also being investigated back here at home. In a midnight raid, FBI agents turned his Los Angeles apartment upside down. They confiscated two computers, credit card statements, phone records and airline tickets, none of it provided any evidence to warrant keeping him in Iraq.

Also, Kar says he was held for 55 days, 53 in solitary confinement. In fact, 49 days passed before he even had a hearing. Why did it take so long to free an innocent American?

Does a lawsuit like this, though, really have any legs? I mean you think about suing Don Rumsfeld, General Casey. Do you really think you're going to get somewhere?

ROSENBAUM: The government is saying that what they did was perfectly lawful. And so I think this lawsuit is the only chance that citizens like Cyrus have in restoring what the basic principles are.

KAYE: Secretary Rumsfeld and the other defendants have filed motions to dismiss the case. The Department of Justice argues, "the length of the plaintiff's detention was well in keeping with the exigencies of ongoing hostilities in Iraq and the needs to ascertain fully and accurately his true status." It adds, "once the tribunal had assessed the plaintiff's case, military personnel took only six days to review the decision and make arrangements to release the plaintiff."

A hearing to determine if Kar's lawsuit will go forward is set for January. At some point, while you were there, did you say to yourself, maybe I shouldn't have come to Iraq in the height of war to shoot this documentary about some Persian leader that's been gone 2,500 years?

KAR: You know, I think a lot of people might find me crazy for this, but, no, I never regretted my decision.

KAYE: Cyrus Kar's documentary would have been about a great Persian conqueror, a ruler considered by many to be the father of human rights. The irony, was not lost on Cyrus Kar.

Randi Kaye, CNN, Los Angeles.


HARRIS: Well, it is Friday. A time when we normally dive into the e-mail bag with Gerri Willis. But, Gerri, we'll get to that in a moment. There is some business news that you need to report on housing starts because it just can't wait.

GERRI WILLIS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: That's right, Tony, good to see you.

More evidence that the housing market continues to struggle. Housing starts in October plunged to their lowest level in six years. That's the bad news. The good news is, we'll be answering your e- mails next on "Top Tips."

SIEBERG: I'm technology correspondent Daniel Sieberg.

Sony's PlayStation 3 launches today in the United States. Nintendo's Wii on Sunday. Tons of hype, hysteria, fights in lines. Reported shootings. What are your chances for getting ahold of one of these consoles for the holiday season? We'll tell you about that in just a minute in the CNN NEWSROOM where we've got a couple of them.


COLLINS: Checking the big board for you now. It is almost 10:30 in the morning. The market's been open for an hour. And there you have it, down 15 for the Dow Jones. Still resting at 12,290 at this point. A pretty darn good number there.

The Nasdaq, though, also down about nine. The big story we're talking about today, business wise, is this new home construction, lowest level in six years reported for the month of October. So we'll be following that and the implications it might have.

HARRIS: Credit scores, student loans and home buying. CNN personal finance editor Gerri Willis tackling those topics this morning. She joins us from New York City with viewer e-mail.

Good morning. Good to see you, Gerri.

WILLIS: That's right. Good to see you, Tony. We're covering a lot of things today. HARRIS: All right. Now it's a busy show this morning, a lot of stuff going on. Want to dive right into the e-mail bag?

WILLIS: Right.

HARRIS: All right. Let's do that.

The first question for Gerri, "where can I find an inclusive list of items (do's & don'ts), that affect my FICO score?"

WILLIS: Well, this is a great question from Anita. It's a credit score and it's critical to your financial life. Go to, click on learn at the top of the page and then scroll down to how to improve your score. Now there you can get tips on what you should and shouldn't do to boost your score. Like when to open or close credit card accounts. And, of course, Tony, this is the critical score for consumers, that number, very important.

HARRIS: All right. This question from Jacqueline. "Could you give me some tips," Gerri, "on how to pay off Sallie Mae loans quickly?"

WILLIS: Well, the good news here is that Jacqueline is going to pay off some of these loans, college loans, and there's no prepayment penalty with student loans. So if you've got some extra cash, it's worth your while to put some toward those monthly payments. But here's the devil in the details. Make sure that you include a letter with your prepayment stating that you want the extra money to go to principal and not just toward next month's loan payment because then you're going to be paying a whole lot of interest. General rule of thumb here is to pay off the loans that have the highest interest rate and then try to pay off your private student loans before your federal loans because they're more expensive.

HARRIS: Smart, smart, smart.

All right, this one from a first-time home buyer who writes, "I am in the market and looking to buy a house. Can you share your thoughts," Gerri Willis, "on using 401(k)/IRA resources toward home buying?"

WILLIS: I don't love that idea. I've got to tell you, look, you don't want to touch your retirement. There are three good reasons. First, you'll be robbing yourself of your retirement nest egg. Second, when you repay that loan, you'll be paying it back with after- tax dollars. And, finally, if you lose your job, you're going to have to repay that money back in full or you will be paying a 10 percent penalty plus taxes on what you take out if you're younger than 59 « years old. So it's not a good idea to withdraw from your Roth IRA either. That's because you can take out your contribution up to 10,000. But remember, you're limited to putting in $4,000 annually, so you're always going to be playing catch-up.

HARRIS: Yes, that's good advice.

All right. In my hand here the last e-mail in the e-mail bag. WILLIS: OK, carmack, give it to me.

HARRIS: Here we go.

This is from Wesley who says, "when I donate to places like the Salvation Army they don't have a value amount. So how do I use this for my taxes," Gerri?

WILLIS: I think Wesley's talking about not giving money but giving other kinds of donations. You need to get a receipt. And if you don't, it's within your right to ask for one. Of course, your donation -- and this is according to the IRS -- has to be in usable condition. Consider how much you paid for the items in the first place and then account for wear and tear.

And, of course, Tony, you know your viewers have the smartest questions.

HARRIS: Absolutely.

WILLIS: And we love hearing from them. Send us your questions to We answer them here every Friday and we love to hear from you.

HARRIS: Hey, Gerri, one more time, would you remind everyone of the housing starts numbers that you just told us about just a couple of minutes ago.

WILLIS: Yes, they are down. Down dramatically. Housing starts in October plunged to their lowest level in six years, down 15 percent. Not good news for people out there. And a signal really that a recovery in the housing market could be a while coming.


HARRIS: All right, Gerri, good to see you. Have a great weekend.

WILLIS: Good to see you. Thank you.

ANNOUNCER: Live in the CNN NEWSROOM, Heidi Collins and Tony Harris.

HARRIS: From virtual violence, to the real deal. The frenzy over PlayStation 3 gets physical. Take a look. The game console went on sale at midnight with long lines, short supplies, and, as you can see here, quick tempers. In Wisconsin, about 50 people at a Wal-Mart scrambled to get one of 10 available consoles. A 19-year-old ran into a pole trying to get one. Just trying to beat out the other gamers. Much more serious stuff to talk about in Connecticut. Police say two men tried to rob people in line. One person resisted and was shot. No word on his condition this morning. In Palmdale, California, a super Wal-Mart was shut down, closed after some PS3 hopefuls got a bit too rowdy.

COLLINS; Minor melees, mega bucks, some of them not so minor as we just heard. Is the PS3 worth all that? We're plugging in, playing, and checking out the competition, too. Here's technology correspondent Daniel Sieberg. Boy, Daniel, I can't believe the hype and the excitement about this thing.

DANIEL SIEBERG, CNN TECHNOLOGY CORRESPONDENT: Yes, we all have to just take a deep breath here.

COLLINS: I agree.

SIEBERG: We're talking about video games. Let's take a moment to remember that. But the long lines were anticipated. There is a huge demand for Sony's Playstation 3 going on sale today and a limited supply. Very tough to get a hold of this before the holiday season. Nintendo's Wii goes on sale on Sunday, but some folks have been lined up for days, just trying to get a good position in line, knowing there's a pretty slim chance they can get their hands on one of these.

We are talking about Sony's Playstation 3. And helping us to demonstrate all of that right now is Scott Steinberg, he is from Embassy Multimedia Consulting, also a video game reviewer, here in our makeshift videogame laboratory. We are doing some research here in the CNN NEWSROOM.

The Sony Playstation 3, very powerful graphically, and got some impressive parts of it as well with this next generation DVD player, the Blu-Ray player. But what is the possibility that anybody out there is going to get one of these as a holiday gift?

SCOTT STEINBERG, VIDEO GAME REVIEWER: Well, unfortunately -- as the holiday gift, unfortunately, not fairly good. The question is whether you had somebody waiting out in line for the last 24, 48 hours, if you were able to pre-order one, or if you're actually crazy enough to buy one for two or $3,000 on Ebay.

SIEBERG: Right, so slim to none unless you've really been on your game in a sense to get ahold of one of these. Now talk a little bit about the Playstation 3 in terms of the backwards compatibility, that might sort of go over people's heads, but it means you can play all of your old Playstation and Playstation 2 games as well, but some of them have a glitch.

STEINBERG: Yes, well about 100 to 200 of them actually have had problems running, but it's perfectly normal for a console launch. It will be fixed via a software update. People will be able to download it for free. It won't take but about 20 minutes and they are working on it, but the nice part is that you do have access to this huge back catalog of games as well as fantastic next generation games like "Resistance, Fall of Man" and Genji, Days of the Blade."

SIEBERG: All right. Let's give people a breakdown of the Sony Playstation 3 and Nintendo's Wii. I think we've got a graphic that sort of illustrates the differences between the two. There are two versions of the Sony Playstation 3. There is a $500 dollar and a $600 dollar version, one has got a little bit more memory. They both have this motion sensitive control. We will get to the Wii one in a second because it's even more motion sensitive. Some better graphics on the PS3 than the Wii. You got the Blu- Ray, sort of the next generation DVD player on the PS3, not on the Wii. This back catalog of games for both. You know, that's important, that you don't want to have to throw out all your old games even if you're going to go ahead and buy a new system.

So, let's move on to Nintendo's Wii. This has got the Wii remote, which looks like a little miniature remote.

STEINBERG: TV remote control.

SIEBERG: A TV remote control, but it packs a lot in here because it's basically being used, in this case with tennis game, as a tennis racket.

STEINBERG: Yes, it's got full 360 degree motion sensing capabilities so you just move your arm naturally, swing it like a racket to produce the same results.

SIEBERG: Can you try not to hit the net like I just did there?

STEINBERG: We'll see. I didn't say I was any good.

SIEBERG: Trash talk not included. The thing with the Wii though is it's really aimed more for kids, for families, it's a lower price.

STEINBERG; Certainly more accessible. Yes, you can buy one, you can find one a lot easier this holiday season, at $250, it's $50 cheaper than its next closest competitor, the XBox 360. And you do get this fun motion sensing capabilities. Plus, a huge catalog of games and you can download even more online.

SIEBERG: You're right, I think they even have some games from Sega. I mean they go back quite a ways. Zelda games and Mario as well.

STEINBERG: Games from Sega, you can pull from Super Nintendo, Turbografixs, even the original Nintendo entertainment system.

SIEBERG: It has a very unique spelling to it as well, W-I-I, sort of a unique concept from Nintendo, but that's the choice basically, Heidi, at this point. You either go after the Playstation 3, which is very hard to get a hold of. Nintendo's Wii, also the XBox 360, we should point out is available right now as well. It's competing right now with this next generation of consoles. So, there's some choice. You can also get a Sony Playstation 2, which is is alot easier to get these days or a Nintendo Gamecube, but not as cool right now.

COLLINS: Whatever happened to Monopoly?

SIEBERG: Monopoly?

COLLINS: I'm so out of it, I know.

SIEBERG: You can play that on your consoles or on your computer. COLLINS: I know, I know. Daniel, what's coming up on Ebay? I can only imagine what's flying around on that thing.

SIEBERG: Well, what's happening with Ebay is that's part of what's causing all of these fights and hysteria and possibly even the shootings. What's happening is people are getting a hold of a Sony Playstation 3 and putting it up for sale on Ebay for a much, much higher price, hundreds if not thousands of dollars more than that $500 or $600 dollar retail price. So it's becoming ultra-competitive to get a hold of one. I think there's about 400,000 units available right now, at the launch time. They will try to release, I believe, another half a million or so, Scott?

STEINBERG: They're claiming a million by year end. Unfortunately, analysts predict they may have shipped as few as 150,000 to 200,000 this year. So, if you are waiting in line ...

SIEBERG: Be prepared to wait in line for a lot longer.

COLLINS: People selling their stocks to wait in line for thousands of dollars even.

SIEBERG: Look, you know hard-core gamers out there, it's about every five or six years we get this kind of behavior. People getting out there and trying to get this stuff. I'm actually a big PC gamer so we're sometimes a little bit mystified by all the console stuff.

COLLINS; OK, all right. Point taken very well. All right, Daniel Sieberg.

SIEBERG: We are going back to playing here if you don't mind.

COLLINS: OK, yes. Go get it.

HARRIS: Let's take you to -- let's take you to North Carolina now, and show you new video into CNN at this moment. And this video brought to us, the aerial view of some of the devastation in Columbus County, North Carolina. You recall that the town of Riegelwood absolutely devastated.

Look at the pictures in your shot right now. A fierce tornado, killed at least eight people in that small riverside town, 12 others still hospitalized, including four children. Heidi, look at this -- I mean, this is just devastating. It is what we've heard. The pictures bearing out the descriptions that we've heard from so many officials on the ground there.

This tornado that tore through this area causing just a wide swath of destruction about a mile long, half mile wide. We've heard stories of a mobile home park just being vaporized -- was one word used to describe it. Disintegrated was another term used. Some of them just sort of ripped off the foundation. And this might be -- no, I won't say that. But we know that the governor of North Carolina, Mike Easley, is going to be taking an aerial tour of the damage in North Carolina a bit later this morning and we're expecting to get those pictures in as well. But, Chad Myers, as you look at the damage here, can you get a sense of the strength, the possible strength of a tornado that ripped through this area?

CHAD MYERS, CNN METEOROLOGIST: The part that you can't get a handle on is if you look at the damage to a mobile home.


MYERS: There is no such thing as an F scale for a mobile home because they come apart so easily, especially the older ones. Now, that is a stick-built house, with even brick on the outside. That we can get a feel for. When you knock the shingles off and maybe lose a couple slabs of something off the top or off the sides, then you get an F-1 or F-2. But, when you lose a roof, of a stick-built home, you're talking F-2 or greater.

When you knock this building right off of a foundation, you are talking about an F-3 or bigger. And then if you can't even find the foundation, you can't find anything except the foundation you are talking about an F-5. So some of this damage I'm seeing is certainly F-3 damage without a doubt.

I did look at what the weather service was saying out of Wilmington, they looked at it yesterday, they are going back today to confirm what they've seen. They said it's a strong tornado for sure which means they believe it's at least an F-3. They are going back probably to see if they have to upgrade it to a four or a five.

Remember now, we are getting to a new F scale as well, so we will have to explain that to you as we get into our new storm season. They are changing the F scale from zero to five to a completely different numbered situation. Hopefully it will be easier to understand, but those that actually understood the old system are going to be confused for awhile.


MYERS: But there's a reporter getting set for a live shot right there. So, it does look like they're allowing people back into the area, whereas yesterday they were keeping everyone out. You know, the worst thing to do is walk around. There's so much stuff to step on.

HARRIS: Look at that field of debris.


HARRIS: We're describing it as, what, a mile long, a half mile wide? You're getting a real good view of it right now.

MYERS: Well, I imagine it was more than a mile long. There's just nothing to hit for awhile after the -- after it went through this big, high tension power line unit to the north of where we are here, there's really not much more to hit for awhile. I did pull up Google Earth and I can show you what we're looking at here, this is Holly Tree Lane. Eventually goes right on over -- there's 87, Highway 87, North Carolina 87. This is Google Earth now. This is not a live picture. This is what it looked like before the damage. The storm came across Holly Tree. Notice, what I want you to notice, if you can just see them, all of these buildings are long and skinny. Those are mobile homes. If they're 12 feet wide, 60 feet long, that's a mobile home. To maybe call this a mobile home park may be a stretch but it's an area where there are mobile homes parked here, two little roads and this ends up all the way out to the old state road.

Then this tornado came right across, eventually over this lake. If we can go back to the video, eventually, I have been watching as we go here. Eventually, the video does take us back over the lake. Actually picked up all of this stuff and it dumped it right in the lake itself. This is the lake, you can see right there on the Google Earth, a pretty amazing shot there of -- you know, there's just no way to describe what will happen to a home when a wind of 150 or 200 does it. You really -- an aerial view doesn't do it justice. An aerial view gives you an idea of the breadth, the width and the length. But when you get on the ground and put your feet on this, it's just devastating. I was watching and listening to your interview with the lady that did lose her home. And in fact, we had a couple of e-mails saying I have an empty room, you're welcome to use it, make sure she gets this e-mail. So, Tomeka Jenkins.

HARRIS: All right, Tomeka Jenkins. All right, we will work on that. You send those to me, and we'll get to work on that.

Chad, thank you. Thank you.

Once again, these new pictures coming to us from our affiliate WRAL, the view in Columbus County, North Carolina.

COLLINS: Two powerful Washington women sharing history, but perhaps not the view. Why political ladder-climbing may not work out for both of them, coming up in the NEWSROOM.

And there's a reason many Iraqi troops aren't hanging around for the fight. A U.S. military trainer will help us understand. We're going to be talking with him shortly, in the NEWSROOM.


HARRIS: North Carolina's governor, Mike Easley, is going to get this view, what you're seeing now of all of the damage in Columbus County, North Carolina. He is taking an aerial tour of the county and of all the damage and devastation to North Carolina because of this line of storms, in particular, the tornado that touched down yesterday, doing so much damage to Riegelwood, North Carolina. Twelve people still hospitalized, at least 8 people killed in that tiny town of Riegelwood. Take a look at these pictures provided to us from our affiliate WRAL there.

As Chad mentioned, it just gives you a sense of the breadth of the damage, but even with this, this is just a snapshot of all of the damage that is there on the ground and people's lives just sort of torn apart and their possessions just thrown all over the place. You can see it here, just a wide field of damage. We will continue to bring you the latest video as we get it here in the NEWSROOM.

COLLINS: Iraq and Vietnam comparisons. Taboo in the Bush White House, but today in the Vietnamese capital, President Bush made the parallel himself.

CNN White House correspondent Elaine Quijano in is Hanoi traveling with the president.


ELAINE QUIJANO, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Within hours of arriving in Hanoi to attend an Annual Economic Summit of Pacific Rim Nations, President Bush made clear he prefers to look ahead.

GEORGE W. BUSH, PRES. OF THE UNITED STATES: Vietnam is, you know, is an exciting place. It's a place with an enormous future.

QUIJANO: Yet he knows the symbolism of his visit here is rooted in the past and present conflict.

BUSH: I thought a lot about what it was like, what my impressions of Vietnam were growing up. And, you know, and here I am in this country today. And it's -- I guess my answer is very hopeful.

QUIJANO (voice-over): After launch with Australia's prime minister, he raised the issue that will ultimately define his presidency, Iraq. When asked if Vietnam held lessons for the debate on Iraq, he answered yes.

BUSH: One lesson is, is that we tend to want there to be instant success in the world, and the task in Iraq will take awhile. We'll succeed unless we quit.

QUIJANO: Quitting Vietnam still haunts the United States. And though the White House rejects comparisons, how to proceed in Iraq could haunt the U.S. for years to come.

Elaine Quijano, CNN, with the president in Hanoi.



HARRIS: And still to come, the journey from serious study began with a single chuckle.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I was a very serious physician practicing medicine in India. I never laughed so much, because I don't have a great sense of humor.


HARRIS: Now this doctor's discovery has people laughing around the world, the story next in the NEWSROOM. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

COLLINS: Want to show you some of these new pictures coming in now. This is North Carolina, Columbus County. We were covering this for you yesterday. We have crews on the scene to show us firsthand, walking through this area that you are not going to believe. We know at least eight people killed and 20 hurt. The area, once again, Riegelwood, North Carolina. Very small community, just extensive damage there. We know the governor of North Carolina is going to be doing some damage surveillance today, and we will find out what he's going to say a little bit later on. We expect some type of news conference from him. Lots of people without power as well and many without homes. Our Rick Sanchez is going to walk us through this damage coming up in just a few minutes, here in the NEWSROOM.

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