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Lebanon Violence; Battle Over War; Mississippi Murders; Smash & Grab; Gerri's Top Tips; Slave To Work?

Aired January 25, 2007 - 10:00   ET


FREDRICKA WHITFIELD, CNN ANCHOR: From high school to war zone. American teenagers growing up fast in Iraq.
TONY HARRIS, CNN ANCHOR: Feel the burn. Sizzling peppers may help melt away those extra pounds. Start work on a hot body today. Thursday, January 25th. You are in the NEWSROOM.

WHITFIELD: Deadly clashes between rival students or are they? In Beirut, Lebanon, battles between those who back the Lebanese government and those who do not. CNN's senior international correspondent, Nic ,Robertson is in Beirut. He joins us live on the phone.

So, Nic, how about if you can clarify for us. Do we really think that these are all students or is a lot of people been roped into this clash of being either in support of or in opposition to the government?

NIC ROBERTSON, CNN CORRESPONDENT: This does seem to be a politically motivated clash. It does seem to involve student groups at the arab university in Beirut. The police and army have been rushed into the situation. They've cordoned off the area.

I'm outside the arab university now. We were hearing quite a lot of gunfire about 10 or 15 minutes ago. That has subsided. The police and army seem to have been able to cordon off the situation. We've seen a number of ambulances coming and going from the university here.

More worryingly for the governments at the moment, on the streets of Beirut tonight, as the sun is beginning to set, there are now groups of men wandering the streets, young men, armed with wooden stick, manning quickly improvised checkpoints. I've been in both Sunni and Hezbollah neighborhoods. The same situation in both neighborhoods. Traffic is off the streets. Young, angry men are roaming and they're setting up checkpoints.

It is, at the moment, a very tense situation in Beirut. People here very worried that the events at the university, according to local media at least, have caused possibly 25 injuries, possibly one death. There's unsubstantiated local media reports at this time. But people very worried that this situation could escalate, not just further out on to the streets in Beirut, but possibly into other parts of Lebanon as well.

COLLINS: And so, Nic, the presence of the government's army or law enforcement, the folks that we are seeing out there, to try to put an end to this, is that helping to kind of stoke the fire?

ROBERTSON: At the moment, it's insuring, in this area at least around the university that I'm able to witness, it's insuring that the violence doesn't spread beyond this. It is not being seen, at the moment, as an inflammatory gesture. Both sides here this week have praised the Lebanese army for not taking sides. Earlier this week, the Hezbollah-led opposition, that called for a national strike, they pretty much shut the country down. Demonstrations across the country. Burning barricades in the streets. More than three people killed. More than 100 injured. But when the Lebanese army, the government army, came in to separate and to -- the violence, to stop the violence, they were praised by both sides for being evenhanded and not being pro or anti-government, pro or anti-Hezbollah.

HARRIS: And, Nic, Tony Harris, with Fred.

And I'm just wondering, as we try to break this down, what we're seeing here and put it into a context that we can all comprehend here, is this not a situation that we're watching unfold where Hezbollah is trying to assert its authority and trying to gain more control of the government apparatus.

ROBERTSON: What Hezbollah has been trying to do, by leaving the cabinet several months ago, by setting up a non-violent protest, essentially encircling the prime minister's house in the center of Beirut by calling the national day of strike earlier this week. What they are trying to do is to bring down the western-backed government of Prime Minister Fouad Siniora. They say they are not getting a fair hearing. They do not have a representative power in that government and, therefore, they are trying to bring it down. That has been their position.


HARRIS: And to what extent is the Siniora government able to fight back?

ROBERTSON: They've been able to fight back so far by not giving in to Hezbollah demands. The still have a cabinet that is large enough to carry out its constitutional duties. And the prime minister, just last night, said that he would continue to do that. That they were not going to be manipulators and pushed around by the violence. That they would stand firm I'm hearing some more gunfire now -- that they would stand firm against this intimidation.

And the government's position and Hezbollah's position, it seems set on bringing both groups into confrontation. And that is what happened earlier in this week. It was calmed by the Lebanese army. And what we're seeing this evening in Beirut seems to be a reigniting of the tensions that killed more than three people earlier in the week.

WHITFIELD: And, so, Nic, what is this doing now to the efforts to try to rebuild after the Israel/Lebanese conflict, try to regain some kind of control over the economy there, particularly in downtown Beirut, how much of a huge setback might this be? ROBERTSON: Well, certainly, it's a message that's going to be heard loud and clear in Paris, where the donor's (ph) conference is going on, that Lebanon is still an incredibly stable place and that any money pledged here in three weeks or three months time may not necessarily get to the project that it's supposed to get to. I was in the south side of Beirut today where over 200 buildings were destroyed in the 34 day war with Israel last summer and many of those buildings are still -- have not been rebuilt. Many, many people are still without homes. They're still angry about it. They're angry with their government, that their government hasn't helped them out. They're very frustrated about the situation.

In the bigger picture, if the country, and this is what the prime minister wants to do, if the country can get more international aid, then they can rebuild. The infrastructure of the country that was destroyed last summer, can rebuild those homes. And the government can put the country back on a better economic footing.

But part of what the opposition, the Hezbollah-led opposition here has been saying is, is that the current government of Fouad Siniora mismanages the country. The deficit here has been growing over the past number of years. It's more than $40 billion now. It's almost twice the GDP of the country. And whatever money the government is able to get in Paris will certainly not wipe away that debt. They are hoping to get some debt reduction in Paris. But all the aid that they can get, all the financial help they can get, will certainly help ameliorate the problems that exist here.

But there are political issues and that's what worries people here. It is the political issues that really need to be solved in Lebanon before the money can make any huge difference.

WHITFIELD: All right, senior international correspondent Nic Robertson, thank you so much, from Beirut.

HARRIS: U.S. and Iraqi troops launch a security crackdown in Baghdad and insurgents strike back with a vengeance. Moments ago an Iraqi interior ministry confirmed a suicide car bomb in central Baghdad killed at least 20 people and wounded 20 others today.

And smoke rising this morning from the heavily fortified green zone. Two mortar shells slammed into an area which houses the U.S. Embassy and other key government buildings. A number of other attacks have erupted across the capital here. A bomb planted on a motorbike exploded in a market. The toll, four dead, 20 wounded. The site is not far from where attacks Monday killed at least 88 people.

Also today, dual roadside bombs exploded in western Baghdad. Two people killed, 10 wounded. The target, a busy commercial area.

The war in Iraq fueling a major battle in Washington. Senators going on the record and against the president over his plan to send more troops. Here's CNN congressional correspondent Dana Bash.


DANA BASH, CNN CORRESPONDENT, (voice over): One senator repeated a question he asked 36 years ago about another unpopular war.

SEN. JOHN KERRY, (D) MASSACHUSETTS: How do you ask a man to be the last to die for a mistake?

BASH: Vietnam veteran John Kerry spoke for many Democrats as the Senate Foreign Relations Committee went on the record with a non- binding resolution opposing the president's decision to send more troops to Iraq.

SEN. CHUCK HAGEL, (R) NEBRASKA: We better be damn sure we know what we're doing, all of us, before we put 22,000 more Americans into that grinder.

BASH: But it was the president's fellow Republicans who delivered the strongest answer to Mr. Bush's State of the Union appeal for patience and support. The answer, no.

HAGEL: We better be as sure as you can be. And I want every one of you, every one of us, 100 senators to look in that camera and you tell your people back home what you think.

BASH: Nebraska's Chuck Hagel was the sole Republican to actually vote for the resolution. But few others spoke out in support of the president.

SEN. JOHN SUNUNU, (R) NEW HAMPSHIRE: I don't think that U.S. troops are best suited to take the lead in dealing with sectarian violence.

BASH: Most Republicans said they voted against the resolution out of fear it will send the wrong signal and, some said, because the White House won't listen anyway.

SEN. RICHARD LUGAR, (R) INDIANA: This vote will force nothing on the president, but will confirm to our friends and allies that we are divided and in disarray.

BASH: Other Republicans did say Mr. Bush deserved one last chance.

SEN. DAVID VITTER, (R) LOUISIANA: I've decided to support the president's plan as a final attempt to stabilize a viable democracy in Iraq.


HARRIS: Our congressional correspondent, Dana Bash, joins us now.

Dana, cut through all of this. We don't support the president, but we're not going to sign on to your resolution. We're going to draft a resolution of our own. Where do things stand?

BASH: You just summed it up pretty well, Tony. Essentially what we're going to do is look towards next week because this will all come to a head on the Senate floor. And basically what you saw in the committee yesterday is really a mostly Democratic-backed resolution rebuking the president.

But there is another one that is being crafted by a Republican with a lot of influence and credibility when it comes to the war, that is Republican Senator John Warner. He, just after that committee vote yesterday, went to the floor, formally offered a measure that's co- sponsored by ten 10 senators. That includes four Republicans. And it essentially says the same thing, that the Senate disagrees with the president's idea to send more troops to Iraq.

So what we are going to see right now over the next week or so is behind the scenes maneuvering to figure out just how many senators are going to vote for that. It could be quite a big bipartisan vote. That's why, on the other side, you do see Republican leaders trying to work with the White House to figure out maybe an alternative resolution to put up on the Senate floor that maybe takes some of the sting out of what we're going to see with that particular vote.

HARRIS: It's the language, right? It's the language.

BASH: It's the language. It is. And -- exactly. And what Senator Warner is done is toned down the language and made it a little bit less confrontational. It doesn't rebuke the president as much, but it still, from the perspective of Senator Warner, sends the same message, that the Senate does not think that the president's idea to send more troops to Iraq is the right way to go.

HARRIS: Our congressional correspondent Dana Bash.

Dana, thank you.

BASH: Thank you.

WHITFIELD: Well, Tony, a civil rights era cold case. Two black teenagers murdered. This morning, a suspect in court charged in connection with their deaths. We expect to hear more about the case next hour from the Justice Department. Right now, CNN's Rusty Dornin brings us up to date.


RUSTY DORNIN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: The case languished for nearly 43 years. You can see some recognition of that in the local papers, "forgotten killings." A picture of one of the victims, Charles Moore. And it was his older brother that is being credited with reopening this investigation into the deaths of Charles Moore and Henry Dee in 1964.

Seventy-one-year-old James Seale, reputedly a former Klu Klux Klansman, was arrested on federal kidnapping charges. Now this was not the first time that Seale was arrested in connection with this case. He and Charles Edwards were arrested in 1964 and charged with kidnapping and murder. According to old FBI papers at the time, the FBI said to Seal, "we know you did it. You know you did it. The Lord knows you did it." Seal replied, "yes, but I won't admit it. You'll have to prove it." The case was handed over to local authorities. They dismissed the charges three months later because they said witnesses would not testify in the case and there just wasn't enough evidence. Local authorities never resumed the case.

In 2000, the FBI looked into it again, but it wasn't until two years ago, when Thomas Moore, the brother of one of the victims, made a personal journey with a reporter from the Jackson Free Press and a documentary film-maker, through his home in Mississippi, talking to people, urging to find the killer of his brother and his friend.

He even had a confrontation with Charles Edwards, one of the suspects at the time. Edwards, according to sources, did give the FBI information which led to the arrest of James Seale.

Rusty Dornin, CNN, Canton, Mississippi.


WHITFIELD: And, of course, we'll have more on this case and the suspect in this case. The Department of Justice is holding a press conference at 11:30 a.m. We'll be carrying that live.

HARRIS: Well, for the vice president, it is off limits.


DICK CHENEY, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I think, frankly, you're out of line with that question.


HARRIS: What Wolf Blitzer asked to get that response, ahead in the NEWSROOM.

WHITFIELD: And a smashing day for at least this pair of jewelry thieves. Expensive tastes at a big box discounter. Hot diamonds next.

HARRIS: And a shiny new truck for a teen who helped police find those two missing boys in Missouri. Details ahead in the NEWSROOM.


HARRIS: All right. Let's mix in all the pictures that we have right now. It has been another violent day in Beirut, Lebanon. Early evening in Beirut at this time. The violence, the latest challenge to the Fouad Siniora government. These pictures of clashes between students at a downtown Beirut university. Reports of at least one person dead, anywhere from 10 to 25 injured. The army, riot police on the streets, taking on rock and stick throwers. It's been a violent day. Plumes of smoke in the air over Beirut. We continue to follow this situation and we will bring you the latest update as soon as we get it here in the NEWSROOM.

WHITFIELD: Still controversial in this country, shot dead by police, outside a New York strip club last November, Sean Bell killed at the age of 23 on the night before he was to be married. Now, Bell's friend, severely wounded in that shooting, is demanding justice. Joseph Guzmam was released from the hospital yesterday and was immediately speaking out.


JOSEPH GUZMAN, NYC SHOOTING SURVIVOR: I'm not anti-police. I don't hate the police. We need the police basically, you know, to make things right. But what they did that night was murder basically.


WHITFIELD: Officers fired more than 50 shots at the unarmed men. They said Bell's car hit an undercover officer then rammed an unmarked police vehicle before the shooting started. Four police officers are on paid leave while the case is still under investigation.

And you can find a lot of stuff at Sam's Club, we all know that. But bling worth more than a quarter of a million dollars? Bet you didn't know that. Well, thieves did. And apparently they found a diamond necklace that they thought was quite the bargain at this discount store. Susan Casper of CNN affiliate WFTS has details.


SUSAN CASPER, CNN CORRESPONDENT, (voice over): Take a good look at these two men. They're wanted by Hillsborough deputies. Investigators released surveillance video of the pair walking into a restroom at the north Delmare (ph) Sam's Club. Moments later they came out wearing slightly different clothing.

Deputies say what happens next may explain why the pair changed. Here you see one of the suspects smash a display jewelry case and the other grab a diamond necklace worth more than $263,000. Seconds after the heist, surveillance cameras still rolling, you can see the thieves run out of the store and an employee not far behind. The deputies say the thieves jumped into separate cars and sped away.

I contacted Sam's Club's corporate office to find out why such an expensive piece of jewelry was sitting in a display case with no one guarding it. In a written statement the company replied, "given this is an active police investigation, I am not going to be able to provide you with much detail about Sam's Club jewelry practices. We do carry an assortment of jewelry items. Occasionally high end items are in club and most commonly online."


HARRIS: OK, I guess.

Boy, cold air temperatures . . .

WHITFIELD: That's the way it is.

HARRIS: Yes, that's the way it is. Colder temperatures moving in across the country right now. It has us a little concerned about our home heating bills.

Gerri Willis, help!

GERRI WILLIS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, we've got some help. We're going to show you how to manage your energy bill like your cell phone minutes, save hundreds of dollars a year. It's next on "Top Tips."


HARRIS: Take a look at these pictures. Live pictures in to us now from Beirut, Lebanon. Nightfall, obviously, in Beirut. But, man, something obviously burning there. Just reflective of what has been another day of violence there.

A week of rising tensions in Beirut as Hezbollah has called not only for a national strike, that was earlier in the week. That shut down all of Beirut for more than 24 hours. But for opposition forces to continue their protests in opposition of the government there, there are reports of one person being killed today in the demonstrations. A clash between rival groups of students at a local university there in downtown Beirut.

Once again, the live pictures there of something ablaze in the background there. We will continue to bring you this mix of pictures, the very latest video into the CNN NEWSROOM as we get it.

WHITFIELD: Also in this country, Wall Street, it's a down day, with the Nasdaq down, kind of rocking between six and seven points, fluctuating in the last couple of minutes. And the Dow down about 19 points right there, bringing it to 12,601.

HARRIS: President Bush focused on energy in his State of the Union Address and we're talking about it today. Specifically what you can do to whittle down that monthly bill. CNN personal finance editor, there she is, Gerri Willis, joining us from New York.

Gerri, great to see you.


HARRIS: And, hey, Gerri, it's getting cold. I mean really cold.


HARRIS: I mean not just cold, just really cold. So we are very mindful now of our energy bill. And give us some tips to sort of manage that a little better right now.

WILLIS: Hey, there is some great new technology out there. They're called time of use meters. Here's how it works. Instead of being billed for the amount of energy you use per month, like you typically are, a time of use meter measures how much energy you used during certain peak and off peak periods. Take a look at this chart. Now remember we're using hypothetical figures here. Your actual charges could vary.

Now if your utility sets peak hours from 10:00 a.m. to 9:00 p.m., for example, any electricity you use during that time will be charged at the higher rate. But if you can wait until after 9:00 p.m. to run that load of laundry, you'll get charged the lower, off peak rate. And you can see there's a big difference in the amount of money that's charged here.

HARRIS: And maybe there you provided us with a bit of a clue as to how we can take full advantage of this.

WILLIS: Pick up the telephone, call your utility company because they're the ones offering these meters. But you'll have to opt into the program in most cases. You just call your utility company, ask them if they make this available and they'll put you on these meters.

HARRIS: Smart meters. I've never heard of that. What's . . .

WILLIS: This is an even different kind of new meter. Even newer technology. It's being tried out in places across the country. Smart meters read how much electricity you're using by the hour.

Now here's an example of how it works. You can tell how much electricity will cost you to use at 6:00 a.m. versus noon, versus 7:00 p.m. So if you decide to wash that load of clothes at 6:00 a.m. instead of noon, you can take advantage of the lower rate. You see how this varies across the day and you can sort of time what you're doing.

HARRIS: So bottom line this for us, Gerri. What is that bottom line for us consumers?

WILLIS: Well, I've got to tell you, you can save hundreds of dollars a year if you think you can use most of your electricity during cheaper periods. But I have to tell you, you've got to be careful. If you use a lot of electricity during peak times using this technology, you could end up spending more since you'll be paying a higher rate for those hours. Before you invest in any one of these programs, evaluate your electricity needs.

HARRIS: That's great advice, Gerri.

Hey, the big "Open House" slated for this weekend. What are you working on?

WILLIS: Hey, we've got some great stuff. We're going to look at the State Farm Insurance case in the Gulf Coast. Plus, do you know you mineral rights? What are they? A really intriguing question. And how to stop those basement floods. Get a dry basement.

HARRIS: There you go.

WILLIS: Everybody wants one. Saturday morning right here, 9:30 a.m., join us for "Open House."

HARRIS: And we dip into the e-mail bag tomorrow? WILLIS: Yes, we've got great questions already. I can't believe the great questions we get here, Tony. It's your viewers.

HARRIS: Hey, it's what we do. It's what we do.

All right, Gerri, great to see you. Have a great day.

WILLIS: You too, Tony, thanks.

WHITFIELD: And what we encourage.


WHITFIELD: Two women, one dream, coming to America for a better life. They say what they found was something far worse than you can ever imagine.

CNN's Thelma Gutierrez reports.


THELMA GUTIERREZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): From New York to Los Angeles, a secret labor force is hard at work in the fields, garment shops, restaurants, even in some homes. We're not just talking about undocumented workers.

DAN STORMER, RUIZ'S ATTORNEY: Slavery is alive and well. Trafficking of slaves is alive and well.

GUTIERREZ: We're talking about modern-day slaves living and working in this country without pay and against their will.

Fifty-year-old Thonglim Kamphiranon is a mother of two from Thailand.

THONGLIM KAMPHIRANON, TRAFFICKING VICTIM: I was a slave to my traffickers.

GUTIERREZ: Nena Ruiz is a mother of three from a small village in the Philippines. Like so many others who live in poverty, they were easy targets for traffickers looking for slave labor.

KAMPHIRANON: My family is poor, right? I want to make money.

GUTIERREZ: Thonglim dreamed of educating her children. When she was offered a job in a Los Angeles restaurant, she jumped at the chance.

It was this woman, Supa Won Virapol (ph), who brought Thonglim to California, taking her passport and forcing her to work 18-hour days, 7 days a week.

She says Supa Won (ph) forced her and seven other Thai women to serve meals on their hands and knees as a sign of submission. If she complained, she was threatened.

KAMPHIRANON: If I run away and tell police, my family will suffer.

GUTIERREZ: After seven years, Thonglim escaped and federal agents began to investigate. Nena Ruiz was a teacher in the Philippines. She thought she was coming to Los Angeles to care for an elderly woman. Instead, she says, she ended up working in the home of then Sony Executive Jud Jackson (ph) and his wife, Beth, whom she was to address as Sir Jud (ph) and Ma'am Beth.

NENA RUIZ, TRAFFICKING VICTIM: I started the work at 5:30, then end at 10:00 at night.

GUTIERREZ: Nena had strict rules to follow, which included the meticulous care of the couple's two dogs.

RUIZ: I had to brush the dog's teeth, clean their ears, and even give them vitamins everyday. But I was forced to sleep on a dog bed.

GUTIERREZ: A dog bed on the floor of this dining room. She says she was charged room and board and claims on several occasions she was hit.

RUIZ: You didn't follow my instructions. I follow my instructions, ma'am. But she just used her closed fist and bump my mouth.

GUTIERREZ: A neighbor finally called police. No criminal charges were filed against the Jacksons, but Attorney Dan Stormer filed a civil lawsuit against them.

STORMER: The Jacksons' own stature was in the community. I mean, this is a man who is vice president of corporate legal affairs for Sony.

The jury found under the laws of this country that she had been held, falsely imprisoned, held as a slave, had their rights violated.

GUTIERREZ: Neither of the Jacksons agreed to be interviewed for this story. Their attorney, Jack Daniels, says his clients never abused Nena.

JACK DANIELS, DEFENSE ATTORNEY: She certainly wasn't an indentured servant. She had free access to leave any time she wanted to. All she had to do was walk out the front gate and turn a knob.

GUTIERREZ: Nena says she couldn't escape, the Jacksons had taken her passport.

The couple has recently been indicted on federal charges of conspiracy to engage in human trafficking. Their criminal attorney would not comment on the indictment.

As for Thonglim, her convicted trafficker served eight years in a federal prison. She's been deported to Thailand.

Thonglim now has a real restaurant job. And her dream of being able to educate her daughter has finally come true. KAMPHIRANON: I love America.

GUTIERREZ: A happy ending most people trafficked into the country will never experience.

Thelma Gutierrez, CNN, Los Angeles.


HARRIS: And good morning again, everyone.

U.S. and Iraqi troops launch a crackdown in Baghdad and insurgents strike back with a vengeance. Moments ago the Iraqi Interior Ministry confirmed A suicide car bomb in central Baghdad killed at least 20 people and wounded 20 others today.

And smoke rising this morning from the heavily fortified green zone. Two mortar shells slammed into the area which houses the U.S. embassy and other key government buildings. A number of other attacks have erupted across the capital.

Here a bomb planted on a motorcycle exploded in a market. The toll, four dead, 20 wounded. The site not far from where attacks Monday killed at least 88 people. Also today, dual roadside bombs exploded in Western Baghdad, two people killed, 10 wounded, the target, a busy commercial area.

WHITFIELD: All right, we continue to watch developments out of Beirut. You're looking at live nighttime pictures right now of the fires right there near the Beirut Arab University. Clashes taking place between presumably students. We are being told by various sources that you've got students who are in opposition of the government, and others who are in support of it, and now they've met head to head, leading to the injuries of at least two dozen people, and possibly the death of one student.

Our senior international correspondent, Nic Robertson, is in Beirut, has been watching the developments there. And so now we've got night fall, Nic. I imagine this is going to be far much more complicated for authorities there to try to get some kind of containment of this violence.

NIC ROBERTSON, CNN SR. INTL. CORRESPONDENT: Well, it's a very volatile situation at the moment. What I'm watching -- and I'm standing about 100 meters away from one of those very big fires -- billowing plumes of black smoke into the dusk sky here. I'm seeing crowds of angry young men, in this case, Sunni, trying to break down the gates into the university. There are soldiers, Lebanese army soldiers, trying to prevent these young men from getting into the university area, from where they were throwing rocks, but at a group of Shia students. The soldiers periodically forced to come out, face the crowd, fire shots into the air, then lower their weapons, and with their hands in the air, appeal for calm.

But it is a very volatile situation. The only way the army has been able to keep the calm is to try to get between the two sides and fire volley after volley of automatic weapon fire into the air to try and calm the situation.

But at the moment, the situation does appear to be controlled, or contained at least, in the university area. But right around the gates of the university, where I am watching right now, it is very volatile. The young here, Sunni young men, are trying to break down those gates to get in and continue the fight that began at the university here a couple of hours ago.

WHITFIELD: And so, Nic, is unapproached by the army there, that they're hoping that the folks firing weapons just might run out of artillery and that's how it ends?

ROBERTSON: What they appear to be doing is appeal to the better senses of the young men here, that it's in no one's interest to continue the violence. The army here is trying to calm the situation. There are a lot of soldiers in reserve, they're a lot of soldiers ringing this whole area, perhaps several square miles.

WHITFIELD: And, Nic, let me just interrupt you for a moment, because we're looking at live pictures. And it looks like a woman who just might be an innocent bystander, who is trying to navigate walking through, while you've people firing weapons back and forth. Tell me about the innocent bystanders, the ordinary folks who've gotten caught in the middle of this just trying to get home.

ROBERTSON: Well, right as I'm watching at the moment, petro- bombs, fire bombs are now being thrown at the army. Innocent bystanders have been warned, indeed encouraged, by both sides, both pro and anti-government sides here, to stay out of the fight, to stay off the streets, and to stay away from out of trouble. But as we're watching here at this location, the troubles don't seem to be escalating at this particular location.

However, elsewhere, outside the security cordon here, as I drove into this area, the streets were deserted, and it does seem most people are heeding the warnings and recognizing how dangerous this situation could be, and are staying well out of the way.

But for the moment, any normal citizen that was to walk up this street and to try to walk through the area that I'm watching right now would be in extreme danger, and Beirut residents very familiar with trying to stay out of that.

WHITFIELD: Yes, except that, you know, a lot of folks who happen to be working downtown today, who felt like they were trapped, that they couldn't find a window of opportunity to get out as this violence erupted, a lot of those folks now deciding, if I don't get out now, I'm really going to be stuck in this violence, which could go on for hours more into the night.

ROBERTSON: Absolutely, it could. And I'm watching more army reinforcements being brought in here, perhaps another 30 or 40 soldiers being brought in to enforce the half dozen or so soldiers that were outside the front of the gates. And I think we're going to find that when the situation does calm down, that there are going to be people who are trapped inside the university, innocent bystanders, people perhaps trapped in the apartment buildings, neighboring university with young children, who are absolutely terrified, who are unable to get out of their houses and get away from this escalating situation. And as soon as it does calm, and as soon as they feel they can safely get away, we'll take advantage of that calm. But right now, anyone caught up in the middle would be hunkered down and staying out of the way of a very volatile situation.

HARRIS: And, boy, Nic, Tony, with Fred, just a quick one for you. You appear to be describing a sectarian fight right now. Who is fighting whom right now?

ROBERTSON: Well, I'm standing in a Sunni neighborhood. It's angry young Sunni men, some with masks over their faces, arguing with the soldiers. They have been throwing rocks at young Shias. That's the best description I can give you at the moment. When the situation does calm and we can get better clarity on what sparked it, we can perhaps see if they were affiliated with political parties. But at the moment, it is an angry young crowd of young men who are not carrying flags of any particular affiliation, they're carrying rocks and wooden sticks.

WHITFIELD: And so, Nic, before we let you go, one more time, is this conflict, or was this conflict, being instigated by Hezbollah's leader?

ROBERTSON: It's not clear. What is very clear is that the national demonstrations called by the Hezbollah-led opposition, called by Hassan Nasrallah earlier this week, led to very inflamed tensions that this country hasn't seen for a long time, sectarian tensions, and that seems to have allowed for whatever sparked the university this evening to really catch fire. But it's not clear if there was a call for violence. What we have heard the leader of Hezbollah, now he says he doesn't want to lead the country into civil war, but his actions are causing some analysts here to wonder if that is a fair and accurate statement.

All right. Senior international correspondent, Nic Robertson, thanks so much, from Beirut. We'll be checking back with you.

HARRIS: For the vice president, it's off limits.


DICK CHENEY, VICE PRES. OF THE UNITED STATES: I think, frankly, you're out of line with that question.


HARRIS: What Wolf Blitzer asked to get that response? In the NEWSROOM.


HARRIS: It is an interview that continues to reverberate -- Vice President Dick Cheney with CNN's Wolf Blitzer. It happened yesterday. They're still talking about it today. (BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

WOLF BLITZER, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Vice President Dick Cheney, hard-pressed to admit any blunders in the war in Iraq, struck a defiant tone. In an exclusive interview with CNN, the vice president says the White House will not budge from its plan to send in more troops, despite a resolution from the Senate Foreign Relations Committee opposing the buildup.

CHENEY: It won't stop us, and it would be, I think, detrimental from the standpoint of the troops.

BLITZER: So you're moving forward no matter what the Congress...

CHENEY: We are moving forward.

BLITZER: The vice president strongly ruled out the nightmare scenario of a Shiite-led government in Iraq eventually turning against the United States.

CHENEY: Wolf, that's not going to happen.

BLITZER: And despite a recent election that shows a loss of confidence among the American people, Mr. Cheney insists the war in Iraq has gone well.

CHENEY: Well, Wolf, if the history books were written by people who have so eager to write off this effort a declared failure, including many of our friends in the media, the situation, obviously, would have been over a long time ago.

Bottom line is that we've had enormous successes, and we'll continue to have enormous successes.

BLITZER: The vice president spared no words for his critics of the war, but he chose his words carefully when asked about a critic from his own party -- John McCain.

CHENEY: John's a good man. He and I have known each other a long time, and we agree on many things and disagree on others.

BLITZER (on camera): He said the other day -- he said, "The president listened too much to the vice president. Of course the president bears the ultimate responsibility, but he was very badly served by both the vice president and most of all the secretary of defense." That was John McCain.


BLITZER: Do you want to react?

CHENEY: Well, I just disagree with him.

BLITZER (voice-over): No tough words for John McCain. But the vice president shot back when asked about his pregnant openly gay daughter, Mary Cheney. (on camera): Some critics, though, are suggesting, for example, a statement from someone representing Focus on the Family, "Mary Cheney's pregnancy raises the question of what's best for children. Just because it's possible to conceive a child outside of the relationship with a married mother and father doesn't mean its' best for the child."

Do you want to respond to that?

CHENEY: No, I don't.

BLITZER: She's obviously a good daughter. I've interviewed her...

CHENEY: I'm delighted I'm about to have a sixth grandchild, Wolf, and obviously I think the world of both of my daughters and all of my grandchildren, and I think, frankly, you're out of line with that question."


WHITFIELD: That fiery interview yesterday. And this taking place in the nation's capital as well, a man falling into the chilly Potomac. Little did he know it was his lucky day.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I kept telling him, stop going under, you're not going to die on me tonight, not tonight.


WHITFIELD: Wow. Bystanders themselves down on their luck saving a man. The daring rescue right here from the NEWSROOM.



HARRIS: And is this a cattle crisis in Colorado after five snowstorms in a row? Yes. Some ranchers are still unable to get feed to their cattle. And more snow is expected this weekend.

Deep snow isn't the only problem. There's also a shortage of hay.


HARRIS: Remember at the hay drops a few weeks ago?

WHITFIELD: Yes, yes. I remember.

HARRIS: State officials estimate that at least 10,000 cattle have died in the storms. And...

WHITFIELD: That's a huge number. HARRIS: Yes.

WHITFIELD: Ten thousand.

HARRIS: And with calving season underway, that number is expected to climb. Colorado Governor Bill Ritter is seeking a federal disaster declaration that would make low interest loans available to ranchers.

A wildfire in California fully surrounded now. Crews trying to put out the fire were confronted by steep terrain and some erratic winds. The blaze has burned about 40 acres near Lo Padres, the national forest in Fillmore. Ventura County fire officials say no homes are threatened. The cause of the fire, under investigation.

WHITFIELD: Well, they were just passing by. Three men become instant rescuers.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: People calling you a hero today, you know.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I seen it on the news. And I guess in their opinion I am. I just did something I hope any other man would do, help to save a life.


WHITFIELD: And that's what makes him so heroic. The right place at the right time. Peril on the Potomac, straight ahead in the NEWSROOM.


HARRIS: How about this? A new truck for an observant Missouri teen. Mitchell Hults said his family are the proud new owners of a Dodge Ram pickup truck. It was a reward for helping police in their search for two missing boys in Missouri, Shawn Hornbeck and Ben Ownby. Hults gave authorities a description of a white pickup truck that eventually led to the arrest of kidnapping suspect Michael Devlin and the safe return of the boys.

Hults will have to hold off a bit on driving his new truck until he turns 16 next month.

WHITFIELD: You've got to be of age. You've got to have a license, not a learner's permit.

Homeless heroes, or should I say heroes who happen to be homeless. Two men who live on the street and a third buddy get credit for a life-saving play. It happened at a marina in the nation's capitol. A man fell into the Potomac River just as the three friends were passing by. Floyd Lipscomb (ph) climbed over a fence and grabbed on to William Slaughter (ph).

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We tried to -- between the two of us, get his -- get me out of the water. And then -- when I finally -- I just said, just hold on to me, because it's not going to make it.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And I kept telling him, "Stop going under. You're not going down on me tonight, not tonight."


WHITFIELD: Wow. And so he didn't.

Slaughter is doing just fine. He's hoping to meet with Lipscomb to thank him personally.

HARRIS: A man most people thought was dead whisked off to jail. A former Mississippi lawman facing charges from 1964. Cold case in the NEWSROOM.

WHITFIELD: Hear that? Bullets again in Beirut. This time it's believed that student protesters in the middle of it all, right there on the streets. New pressure on the U.S. backed Lebanese government.

A developing story, next on CNN in the NEWSROOM.

HARRIS: Pour it on. Dr. Sanjay Gupta with a hot new diet to tell you about. Melting off the pounds in the NEWSROOM.