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Texas Flooding; Race & Education; Supreme Court Decision; Racial Diversity In Schools; Summertime Safety

Aired June 28, 2007 - 10:00   ET


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: And so now I think they are feeling what we've been going through the past year.

HEIDI COLLINS, CNN ANCHOR: Three other people face capital murder charges in the case.

Good morning, everybody. I'm Heidi Collins.

TONY HARRIS, CNN ANCHOR: And I'm Tony Harris. You'll stay informed all day in the CNN NEWSROOM. Here's what's on the rundown.

Decision time and it's right now. The Supreme Court speaks on racial diversity in schools and capital punishment for the mentally ill.

COLLINS: Senate showdown. A vote this hour determines whether big changes in immigration law move ahead or get tabled.

HARRIS: He is back on the ground, but his head's still in the clouds. High-flying pilot Barrington Irving live on Thursday, June 28th. You are in the CNN NEWSROOM.

And unfolding this hour, diversity versus discrimination. The Supreme Court convenes this hour to hand down decisions. One of the major ones we are expecting is on affirmative action. CNN's Brian Todd is at the court and he will be joining us shortly. At issues is what role affirmative action should play in assigning students to competitive spots in elementary and secondary schools. We will be joined by Brian Todd shortly.

COLLINS: Also want to get this out to you regarding something that happened today in Washington. The White House is sort of moving toward a constitutional showdown with Congress. They have asserted executive privilege now and rejected lawmakers' demands for documents that could possibly shed light on the firings of those federal prosecutors. We've been talking about this for months. President Bush's attorney told Congress the White House would not turn over subpoenaed documents for former presidential counsel Harriet Miers and former political director Sarah Taylor. So, once again, exerting executive privilege from the White House today regarding the cases of federal prosecutors. More on that just as soon as we get it.

HARRIS: In Iraq, 20 bodies decapitated, found just outside Baghdad today. Iraqi and coalition forces of investigating. Meanwhile, carnage inside the capital. At least 22 people killed in a car bombing at a bus station. Plus, a car bombing at a filling station and mortar attacks at a marketplace. Another six people dead.

HARRIS: To Capitol Hill now where later this hour a make or break vote is expected. The Senate debating an overhaul of immigration laws. Critics say the measure falls short on border security. They say it gives amnesty to those who enter the U.S. illegally. President Bush has teamed up with Democrats supporting the bill. If they can't get 60 votes today, the measure will likely be shelved until 2009. By then, a new president and Congress will be in power.

Here's how the public weighs in. A CNN/Opinion Research Corporation poll finds 30 percent of American favor the bill. Almost half oppose it. And 19 percent say they don't know enough about it to have an opinion.

COLLINS: In Texas, helicopter evacuations, National Guard troops dispatched. Flooding causing serious problems again in central Texas and more rain is falling on the region today. Meteorologist Reynolds Wolf is in Marble Falls, Texas, for us this morning.

And, Reynolds, I understand there is a search going on for two missing people right now?

REYNOLDS WOLF, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Unfortunately, that's the case. You're absolutely right.

One of the positive aspects about this whole flooding situation is that there weren't any major injuries, there weren't any fatalities. But now we're starting to wonder if that might change.

Not here in Marble Falls, but rather a bit farther to the east of us, in Williamson Country, there are two people that are missing. Police say that they found a vehicle on the side of the river. It's empty. And it looks like it was pushed along in the flood waters. So the search is on for those two missing people and families are, as you can imagine, right now heartbroken and hoping for the very best.

So that is what's happening over Williamson County. But what's happening here in Marble Falls, the situation continues to prove. The water, as I mentioned, has gone down considerably. But by just watching over at the trees and looking over at me, you can tell the wind has picked up.

And take a look over my shoulder, Heidi. We've got even more rain that's on the way coming in from the west. And we have the potential, again, of anywhere from say two to three, maybe even as much as four inches of rainfall. But with the river lowering, because the great work of the Lower Colorado River Authority. They've been releasing a lot of the water out of this river, which has really made the situation much better and helped drop this level.

If you're curious as to what 18 inches of rain in nine hours can do, take a look at this video. We've got some video for you from all across central Texas. Not just here in Marble Falls. But back over to Williamson County. Places like Onion Creek, back over to Williamson Creek. It was just a deluge, just an absolute mess in many places. There were boats, homes, (INAUDIBLE) and people were actually evacuated off of roofs of buildings by helicopter.

We even had some issues right here in Marble Falls with not only structures and with boats and trailers being pushed around, and even dumpster for that matter, we're dealing with problems this morning in terms of water. People here in Marble Falls don't have any drinking water at this time. All the water is off. And how frustrating is that. You have 18 inches of water falling from the skis above, but in the ground below, you can't drink anything.

Now again, here is the river. It doesn't look all that bad at this point because, as I mentioned, the water has dropped considerably. Look across the river and you can see a boat that's actually been picked up but the flood waters. Now the flood waters have receded. However, they now have a ban on the river. No boats allowed because of all the debris that is floating right behind me.

That's the latest we have from Marble Falls. We'll have more coming up throughout the day. Let's send it back to you in Atlanta.

COLLINS: All right. Very good. Reynolds Wolf live from Marble Falls, Texas.

Reynolds, thanks.

HARRIS: And again, we are waiting for a key affirmative action decision from the Supreme Court. Brian Todd is just outside the court building in Washington, D.C.

And, Brian, good to see you.

What is at issue in this diversity/affirmative action case?

BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Tony, in a nutshell, it's really whether race can be used as a factor in determining who gets a competitive spot in a public school system. Two school systems policies are really in question here, in Seattle and in Louisville, Kentucky. Both of them use race as one determining factor, as a key determining factor in who gets a spot in a public school system, in a magnet school system where, you know, in many cases the spots are very competitive.

In many cases, there aren't enough spots for the number of applicants. And to tipple the balance, to make the decision there, they use race as a factor in Seattle and in Louisville. The court expected to rule really any second now on whether those two policies are constitutional or not.

You know, these cases are really as much about the politics of race in this country as they are about the legality of the race because of the new conservative makeup of the court. It is a more conserve court than it was a year ago. And certainly more conservative than it was three years ago when the court made another ruling on affirmative action, ruling that race can be one factor in deciding college admissions.

This really has a more pervasive effect because this has to do with public schools, K-12, throughout the United States. What happens really just moments from now could have an effect on how just really hundreds of public school systems determine who gets those competitive spots.


HARRIS: Yes, absolutely. And, Brian, I know you'll be there to help us sort through the court's decision.

CNN's Brian Todd for us in Washington.

Brian, thank you.

TODD: Thank you.

COLLINS: In California, gaining ground. Firefighters say that massive fire near Lake Tahoe is now 55 percent contained, but blustery winds could blow in later today. As many as 200 homes are in ruins. More than 3,000 people were forced to evacuate, most of them still out of their homes. Investigators say human activity likely the cause of the fire and it will be days before it's completely under control.

HARRIS: What do you say we get another check of weather now?


HARRIS: Chad Myers in the Weather Center.

COLLINS: Yes, the winds sounding pretty nasty, Chad.


COLLINS: Oh, the trials and tribulations of a celebrity's social lite. Paris Hilton speaks out on the three weeks she spent in a Los Angeles jail. Last night she talked to CNN's Larry King in her first TV interview since freedom.


LARRY KING, "LARRY KING LIVE": Think you got a raw deal? Do you?

PARIS HILTON, HEIRESS/REALITY TV STAR: Yes, I do. But, I don't know, even though I hated it, I'm glad it happened in a way because it's really changed my life forever and I feel stronger than ever. And, I don't know, I just feel like . . .

KING: So bad turned to good?

HILTON: Yes. Yes, I feel like this is a blessing in disguise.

I've definitely matured and grown a lot from this experience. So, I just -- don't know. I just want to be -- I'm 26 years old. I'm an adult and I have to just grow up and I have to be a more responsible role model.


COLLINS: Hilton says she feels bad for other inmates who walk out of jail but have no support system to help keep them out of the trouble in the future. She says she'd like to set up a kind of, "transitional home."

So if you missed any of Paris Hilton's interview, you can see it again tomorrow night as part of a "Larry King Live" special event. At 7:00 Eastern, you can catch Paul, Ringo, Yoko Ono and Olivia Harrison with Larry for the year anniversary of the Beatles "Love." And then at 8:00, it's a second date with Paris Hilton. Then at 9:00 Eastern, Michael Moore will take your calls and e-mails live. It's a "Larry King Live" special event tomorrow night starting at 7:00 Eastern only on CNN.

HARRIS: Images of war. Is the U.S. winning the battles in Iraq but losing the war?

COLLINS: He's come back down to earth and he's headed to the NEWSROOM. Our live interview with the young pilot, Barrington Irving. Find out about his around the world adventure.

HARRIS: Going once, going twice, sold. The auction barn is busy as Georgia cattle farmers cut their losses. Distressed by droughts.

COLLINS: We have just learned that -- before we tell you about Bill Cosby here, we have another scodus (ph) ruling, Supreme Court ruling, that has come in just a few moments ago. We want to get straight out to Brian Todd with this.

TODD: That's right, Heidi. A pretty controversial death penalty case, as so many of them are these days. This one has to do with the possible execution of someone who was ruled mentally incompetent.

Just moments ago, the court ruled five to four in favor of the inmate in question in Texas who was to be executed shortly. They ruled in favor of him, essentially declaring that he cannot be executed because he was ruled mentally incompetent. This particular inmate has been considered mentally incompetent during his capital trial.

He was incarcerated for a long period of time. He was hospitalized. He was diagnosed with schizophrenia. During his trial, he represented himself. He tried to subpoena Jesus Christ and John F. Kennedy. Really exhibiting a lot of extreme behavior there.

This court just ruled in his favor. Essentially ruling that he cannot be executed because of his mental incompetence. That ruling was five to four. And Justice Anthony Kennedy, as he has so often recently, was the swing vote there.

COLLINS: All right. CNN's Brian Todd giving us the latest vote. Five to four in favor of the inmate for this death penalty issue that has been before us for a while. I guess this is the fourth case from Texas this term. So interesting ruling there.

Brian, thanks so much for that. We'll check back with you later about some of the other rulings that are expected today.

Meanwhile, comedian/concerned citizen, Bill Cosby, his fight for non-violence.


HARRIS: And once again we are awaiting a key affirmative action decision from the Supreme Court. Brian Todd is just outside the court building in Washington.

And, Brian, I know that we are still awaiting that decision from the court on this diversity/affirmative action case. But if you would, revisit the decision from the court -- the ruling just moments ago, on this controversial death penalty case.

TODD: A very controversial case, Tony.

This had to do with the mental competent of a death row inmate from Texas who was to be executed shortly. His name is Scott Panetti. The court just moments ago ruling in his favor, overturning a lower court ruling that he was mentally competent to be executed. The court just now ruling against that, essentially in Panetti's favor, saying he is not mentally competent to be executed. A very highly charged case.

Scott Panetti, convicted of killing his mother and father-in-law in Texas. He was judged competent by the lower courts, as I mentioned. And during his 1995 capital murder trial, he exhibited a lot of delusions. He wore a purple cowboys suit. He tried to subpoena John F. Kennedy and Jesus Christ.

The court issue was whether he fully realized why he was being executed. According to his attorneys, Panetti believed he was to be executed because he was preaching God's will. But the lower courts disagreed with that, found that he was mentally competent. That he had maybe more of a cognizance of why he was to be executed. But just moments ago, by another razor-thin vote, five to four, the court rejected that, saying that this inmate, Scott Panetti, not mentally competent, doesn't fully understand why he is to be executed. So, at least for the moment, Scott Panetti gets a reprieve.

HARRIS: Yes. OK. And, Brian, I am just getting word that the Supreme Court has issued a ruling in the affirmative action case. I don't know if you have that information there.

TODD: We know that it's a five to four ruling.


TODD: Just getting some information now on that in both cases.

HARRIS: Well, let's sort of talk through it and maybe you can get some additional information and I can get it as well and we can work through this together.

TODD: Sure.

HARRIS: Again, at issue here was what role affirmative action -- and you did a great job of setting this up -- should play in assigning students to competitive spots in elementary and secondary schools. Correct?

TODD: That's right. Two particular school systems in question, Louisville, Kentucky, Seattle, Washington, both use race as a determining factor when a spot in so-called magnet schools, public schools where parents want to send their kids, are essentially filled up and they only have a couple of spots left and they have to use a certain factor to determine it (ph). Both those schools use race as a factor. And we're told that there is a five to four ruling, getting more information on exactly how the court ruled. Should be able to bring that to you in just moments.

HARRIS: Great. Well, Brian, while you do that, let's get more background on this case. Here's CNN's Gary Nurenberg.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Seth, you guys awake?

GARY NURENBERG, CNN CORRESPONDENT, (voice over): Seven-year-old Seth Deboys (ph) wakes up in his mostly white Louisville neighborhood and spends about an hour and a half on buses to go to a very good school in a mostly black Louisville neighborhood.

HOWARD BRIM (ph): I gets up at 5:00.

NURENBERG: Sixteen-year-old Howard Brim wakes up in his mostly black Louisville neighborhood and spends about an hour and a half on buses to go to a very good school in a mostly white Louisville neighborhood.

BRIM: Some things are worth the sacrifice. I mean, Ballard (ph) High School has a much higher education standard than my home school.

NURENBERG: Thought long trips get Howard and Seth to the good schools their parents chose for them. But in order to maintain Louisville's goals of school of black population of at least 15 percent, but no more than 50 percent, other students have to be turned away because of their race.

DEBRA STALLWORTH (ph), PARENT: I'm asking for equity here. I'm asking for fairness here.

NURENBERG: Debra Stallworth is among the parents, black and white, suing to end the plan.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's about actual discrimination that white kids who want to go to their neighborhood schools, that are better- performing schools, are denied entrance into that school solely because of their color. NURENBERG: The Supreme Court ruled three years ago racial quotas are unconstitutional, but said at the college level race could be one factor in admission decisions. As with so much of what it does, the court will be balancing competing interests.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There's going to be judgment calls about which kinds of programs use race to much versus those that use it in a satisfactory way to achieve a goal that a majority of the court has said is a compelling state goal, which is the idea of diversity in schools.

NURENBERG: Bussing fights plagued Louisville and other school districts in the '70s. And the question has lingered, what role can race place when deciding where kids can go to school? The court has now tried to provide some clarity.

Gary Nurenberg, CNN, Washington.


HARRIS: And let's get back out to Brian Todd now.

And, Brian, I know, I can see you here, you're working through the ruling from the court. It is in. It is five to four. And my understanding is, in this affirmative action decision, the court has ruled in favor of the parents here.

TODD: That's correct. The parents that sued the school systems in both school districts have won here. The Supreme Court has essentially ruled against the two school systems, Louisville, Kentucky, and Seattle, Washington, and their policies of using race as a factor to determine who gets a competitive spot at a public magnet school. This Supreme Court, just moments ago, has essentially said that those two policies are unconstitutional.

The chief justice, John Roberts, writing the majority opinion, saying here, let's see, the school districts in these cases have not carried the heavy burden of demonstrating that we should allow, once again, the standard that was established in Brown versus Board of Education, where school children were told where they could and could not go to school based on the color of their skin.

We're going to get more of the specific of the opinion. But a very close five to four ruling by the Supreme Court justice, John Roberts, the chief justice writing the opinion. These two school systems have had their policies now stricken down of using race as a factor to determine essentially who gets the most competitive spots in these public schools. And again, it is really that when they used race was when all the spots were filled up by -- after, you know, first come/first served and they had only a couple of spots left.


TODD: That's when they used this. It wasn't a pervasive policy. But in one school district, Louisville, they did have a policy where African-American children could comprise no less than 15 percent of the school population and no more than 50 percent of the school population. Now the actual policy in Louisville of using race to determine how do you get to that balance, that's what's been stricken down here, Tony.

HARRIS: Oh, this is big. Yes, this is absolutely big. And Brian Todd, you're covering it for us there at the court. And we know our senior legal analyst, Jeffrey Toobin, will be joining us again shortly.

Brian, thank you.

TODD: Sure, Tony.

COLLINS: Want to get you to an interesting event that is happening in Washington right outside the Jefferson Memorial. Look at that. A beautiful American Bald Eagle. We understand the secretary of interior, Dirk Kempthorne, is speaking right now on the status of this beautiful bird on the endangered species list. Let's listen for a moment, see what we can pick up.

DIRK KEMPTHORNE, SECRETARY OF INTERIOR: Who also joins us today, has traveled the country since 1993 educating Americans about this magnificent species.

COLLINS: All right. So there you have it. That beautiful bird, the American Bald Eagle, has been removed now from the endangered species list. It's nice to have that national treasure not be on a list like that. Kind of like a most wanted list.

HARRIS: Right.

COLLINS: Aren't they just beautiful? Gorgeous, gorgeous birds. Right now we are understanding also that it will still be protected by the Migratory Bird Act. Sort of a treaty, if you will. So people always aware of those birds and how special they are to this country.

But again, today, Secretary of the Interior Kempthorne signing that bill there to say that no longer will the bird be on the endangered species list. We want to listen in more. We don't. But it was beautiful to see the bird -- look at the Boy Scouts behind there, everything outside the Jefferson Memorial today. Good news there.

Meanwhile, on guard at the borders. In Washington, on edge. A crucial vote this morning on an immigration overhaul.


How to keep your teens and your toddlers safe this summer. "Top Tips" is next in the NEWSROOM.


COLLINS: A quick check of the big board. The Dow Jones Industrial averages down about 16 points at 13,412. The Nasdaq is up five. We're going to hear our business stories up in here in about 10 minutes or so.

HARRIS: School's out for summer. Hey, that's the title of a pretty good song back in the day, as I recall. For many kids, that means pools, playgrounds and possibly danger. Gerri Willis, our personal finance expert, has some summer tips.

Gerri, great to see you.

WILLIS: Hey, good to see you, Tony.

HARRIS: Boy, it is -- well, it is a real concern for parents. My kids are off to one of the lakes here in Georgia today.

WILLIS: Oh, good.

HARRIS: Yes. Yes. I mean, what are the things that we need to keep in mind. Things that we can do to help keep our kids safe here?

WILLIS: Well, you know, they run into the most trouble when they're away from their parents and you want to stay connected. Now with teenagers, that means monitoring their driving. And just this week, Safeco Insurance launched a new product called teen-surance. Listen to this. For $15 a month, a GPS device is installed in the car and then parents can go online to find the exact location of the vehicle. Get that.

Mom and dad can also receive realtime notification via phone or computer if the teen drives after a certain hour, speeds, or goes outside a designated area. Now your teen may not be too excited about all this, but consider car crashes are the leading cause of death among teens. And the younger you are, the more likely you are to be in an accident.

And for younger kids, you can stay connected with a phone built specifically for them. The Firefly, LG's Migo and Disney Mobile all allow parents to restrict the numbers called. The Disney phone even lets parents limit phone use to certain times, so you know who your kid's talking to. Makes you feel a little better.

HARRIS: Yes. Yes. We actually worked on that. We tried that Firefly thing. That's pretty good.

WILLIS: Oh, good.

HARRIS: Pretty good.

How about the younger kids. They'll be spending a lot of time this summer at the pools, on their bikes. Are there some things we can do to enhance their safety?

WILLIS: Absolutely. Well, both of those can be dangerous. Kids can drown in just an inch or two of water. So, look, even the kiddie pool isn't safe. If you have a pool, make sure it's fenced in and has a self-closing latch that is higher than the child's reach. You may also want to consider a pool alarm. They start at about $150, but can detect if anything over 15 pounds falls into the water. And they make a really loud sound. Always as good, but the number one rule for water safety is, never leave a child unattended, even to make lunch or go get a phone call.

When it comes to bikes, there's nothing better than a helmet. Seventy-five percent of bike-related injuries could have been prevented with one. So strap the helmet on nice and tight. Make sure it's worn level, not tipped forward or backwards. And for the bike itself, it has to fit the child. So take time with them when you shop. Here's the rule of thumb. When the child is sitting on the seat and has his hands on the handlebars, his feet should be flat on the ground.


HARRIS: Oh, good. Good. Good. Good.

Hey, you know, I love this last bit of advice here, is to keep the kids involved, right? Keep them busy.

WILLIS: Yes. That would be a big key. Kids will stay out of trouble and stay safe if they're with adults. So get them involved. Check your local YMCA, rec center or theater for summer programs. Most libraries also have special events. And you can always send them away to camp as well, which is what I think you might have done.

HARRIS: Yes, a time or two, yes. Absolutely.

WILLIS: Bottom line, you know, Tony, kids will be kids. You can't protect them from everything, but precautions don't hurt.

And if you have any questions or tips you want to share with us, e-mail us at We love to answer those questions.

HARRIS: Well, before I let you go, Gerri, you've got to tell us about the big "Open House" show this weekend.

WILLIS: Well, we're talking about foreclosure scams and how to watch out for those. How to buy the best grills. It's that time of year. And whether that new iPhone, what do you think, is it worth the money, Tony?

HARRIS: Yes. No. Not in my household.

WILLIS: There's so much you can do with that money.

HARRIS: But although, I did drop my phone today shattered into a million pieces. What to do? I guess I'll have to go get an iPhone tomorrow.

WILLIS: IPhone. Get in line.

Here in New York, interns are saying that, hey, I'll go stand in line for you for $150 to get your iPhone.

HARRIS: And that's a scam.

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

WILLIS: Good to see you.

COLLINS: They did the say thing with the Wii, remember?

HARRIS: Yes. And the PlayStation.

COLLINS: All of it.

Flying into the record books. I'll talk live to a 23-year-old who isn't iPoding or doing the Wii or PlayStation. He's flying planes. And he just may be the youngest person to fly solo around the globe, and also the first person of African descent to do it. His amazing story ahead in the CNN NEWSROOM.


HARRIS: Just past the half hour. Welcome back, everyone, to the CNN NEWSROOM. I'm Tony Harris.

COLLINS: And good morning to you. I'm Heidi Collins.

We have had a couple of Supreme Court rulings that have come down today. We were anticipating these. I want to get straight out to our Brian Todd with more information on them.

We've heard about affirmative action and the death penalty rulings. Let's start with affirmative action -- 5-4 in favor of the parents, Brian. Give us a little bit of background on how this all began.

BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, it began when a couple of sets of parents in Louisville, Kentucky and in Seattle, Washington essentially felt that their children had been discriminating against in trying to get into certain public schools in those two school systems.

Interestingly enough, the parents who sued the school systems in both these cases were both black and white sets of parents, all on the same side, suing the school systems, essentially saying that they use race too much as a factor in determining who gets into the public school systems. The court has just sided with them.

They have tossed out the public school plans in Seattle, Washington and in Louisville, Kentucky, that uses race as a determining factor in who gets into those public school systems, those magnet schools, where parents want to send their children. The ruling here 5-4, and the chief justice, John Roberts, has written the majority opinion.

Here's just a sampling of what he wrote, quote: "For schools that never segregated on the basis of race, such as Seattle, or that have removed the vestiges of past segregation, such as Jefferson County, and that's Louisville, Kentucky, the way to achieve a system of determining admission to the public schools on a non-racial base -- that's a quote in the rulings Brown versus Board of Education -- "is to stop assigning students on a racial basis."

The chief justice went on in that opinion to say the way to stop discrimination on the basis of race is stop discriminating on the basis of rates. Very clear opinion here by the chief justice, but again, the ruling razor thin, 5-4, Justice Roberts there writing the opinion.

Interestingly enough, also, Heidi, with these 5-4 rulings, two of them, one no death penalty, one on affirmative action, that brings to, I believe, now 22 the number of 5-4 rulings of the court this term. That's quite a lot.

COLLINS: Yes, it seems to be 5-4, 5-4 everywhere we look. Quickly I want to ask you before we move on to death penalty, about affirmative action, so is this saying now that will we continue to see children driving, like we saw in the piece we ran a moment ago, an hour and a half, taking several different buses to get to better schools that are not in their geographic location? Or will this will be done mostly by geographic lines now?

TODD: Well, some of that will certainly still continue, and then students will still travel, in some cases, long distances to get to a magnet school that they're parents want them to go, if they've been admitted.

The question here is, when the spots are either full or just about full, how do you tip the balance? How do you decide who gets in? And in both of these cases, in Seattle and in Louisville, they used race as a determining factor. That's what the court is ruling is unconstitutional here. In those instances, where the competitive spots are just about filled, you can't decide who gets in and out on the basis of race. You have to use other criteria. People on both sides of this issue, including members of the Bush administration, wanted the court to clarify it. The court just did, saying that's unconstitutional. You've got to use other criteria.

Now, again, they clarified it, but again, razor-thin margin, 5-4.

COLLINS: Yes, exactly. It's a fascinating one, certainly. Now the next one, death penalty, 5-4, again, ruling in favor of inmate Scott Panetti. This was a case of an incident actually that happened in 1992, ruling that basically people who have been deemed mentally incompetent cannot be executed?

TODD: That's right. And mr. Panetti was ruled mentally incompetent during his capital trial in 1995, and exhibited a lot of bizarre behavior in that trial. He represented himself. He wore a purple cowboy suit to his trial. He tried to subpoena Jesus Christ and John F. Kennedy. The lower courts had ruled him mentally competent. The Supreme Court just overturned that, saying he's not mentally competent. He at least, for the moment, gets a reprieve, but again, Heidi, it's a very kind of shady area in all these cases, whether an inmate is really mentally competent or not, very hard to determine in many cases. The courts have struggled with it. It appears They're still struggling with it. COLLINS: Yes, it does. OK, 5-4 in favor of the inmate on the death penalty, and 5-4 in favor of the parents in Louisville and Seattle school districts in the affirmative action ruling. Thanks so much, Brian Todd. Great job out there.

TODD: Thank you, Heidi.

HARRIS: And gaining ground, firefighters say that massive fire near Lake Tahoe is now 55 percent contained, but blustery winds could blow in later this afternoon.

Our Dan Simon joins us from South Lake Tahoe, California, and, boy, it is so -- even with what has been going on out there, it is still such a beautiful area, isn't it?

DAN SIMON, CNN CORRESPONDENT: It's absolutely gorgeous, and it is gorgeous today. Sunny skies, and, Tony, right now absolutely no wind. That is a very good sign.

Let me explain where we are. We are in the South Lake Tahoe. Behind me, you can see some of the charred areas. And actually out on the distance there, maybe about a mile or two away, you can see the smoke. And that's what the fire crews are really keeping an eye on. You see, if the winds kick up, there's a concern that embers from that particular area, where you see the smoke, could cross over Highway 89, which is just in front of me, and then go into a subdivision known as Emerald Bay.

In that area there are as many as 750 homes, so if the winds pick up, there is obviously a major concern for that particular area, but be that as it may, there is a growing sense that things are getting a lot better.

As you mentioned, we're talking about a fire that is now 55 percent contained. Yesterday they did not lose a single structure. And the winds, at least right now, are cooperating.

Meanwhile, Tony, in terms of the cause, investigators have concluded that it was manmade, there were no lightning storms. They don't think it was intentionally set. Right now they're looking at either a camp fire or possibly a lit cigarette that ignited this blaze, but they may never actually find out what ultimately caused it -- Tony.

HARRIS: And the reality is it didn't take much, that area has been so dry. Dan Simon for us this morning. Dan, appreciate it. Thank you.

COLLINS: We are getting information this morning about a search for two people possibly missing in the Central Texas floods. That word from police in Williamson County. Days of torrential downpours are taking a toll on the entire region. Marble Falls got about a foot and a half of rain in just one day. The mayor says it is the worst he's ever seen. Dozens of people across central Texas have been rescued. The national guard sending troops and vehicles to the region, but more rain fell overnight, and it is still coming down today.

HARRIS: Right now in Washington a make-or-break vote on an immigration overhaul.

CNN's congressional correspondent Andrea Koppel is on Capitol Hill with us now. And, Andrea, give us a sense of what you're hearing. I know you've been canvassing those halls, and the vote is coming up shortly, isn't it?

KOPPEL: It is, Tony.

In the next few minutes, this really is do or die for immigration reform, at least for this Congress. And those on both sides of the aisle say it's really too close to call which way it's going to go. This is a procedural vote that needs 60 votes in order to pass, and if it does, a final vote on immigration reform would take place either tomorrow or on Saturday.

Now, leading up to this morning's vote, you had supporters and opponents of immigration reform who've really been giving some passionate defense of their positions on the floor.


SEN. JIM DEMINT, (R-SC): This immigration bill has become a war between the American people and their government. The issue now transcends anything related to immigration. It's a crisis of confidence, between what the American people believe our government is and should be, and what it is to them now and what they perceive it to be.

SEN. EDWARD KENNEDY, (D-MA): We've listened to those voices of fear that say, absolutely not. We're going to take the status quo and every person that votes know -- is going to know that this situation is going to get worse and worse and worse.


KOPPEL: Again, this procedural vote is supposed to happen in the next few minutes. If it passes, you would then move on to debate on still remaining 20 or so amendments that have to be debated before a final vote on immigration would take place later tomorrow. But again, Tony, this is do or die within the -- in the next few minutes if they do not get the 60 votes needed to move forward -- Tony.

HARRIS: So give us the civics lesson here. So, the cloture voted -- am I correct in this -- the cloture vote happens shortly, and that is to end the debate that we're seeing right now, and then the discussion moves to a discussion, a debate on the amendment. Is that correct?

KOPPEL: Yes, it's -- it is awfully confusing, and there's lots of parliamentary maneuvering ...

HARRIS: Yes. KOPPEL: ...that takes place, but you're absolutely right, this is what's known as a cloture vote, it is a vote to cut off debate and then they will move towards a remaining 30 hours of debate on the amendments that have as yet to be discussed, and then on the bill itself. So, this is one procedural hurdle that they have to clear in order to move forward to a final vote, Tony.

HARRIS: Right.

Our Congressional Correspondent Andrea Koppel for us this morning. Andrea, thank you.

COLLINS: Young lives tragically cut short. Five girls just graduated from high school, dead in a fiery car crash, while their friends look on in horror.

STEPHANIE ELAM, CNN CORRESPONDENT: I'm Stephanie Elam at the New York Stock Exchange. The power struggle between DOW Jones and Rupert Murdoch heats up. I'll let you know who's muscle is mightier.

You're watching CNN, the most trusted name in news.


COLLINS: It has been a story we've been following closely. Media mogul Rupert Murdoch's plans to buy DOW Jones and it's flagship newspaper, "The Wall Street Journal."

Stephanie Elam is at the New York Stock Exchange with details of the latest power struggle.

Hi there Stephanie, any end in sight?


HARRIS: Hey look, it's coming tomorrow. Apple's new thingmahoochie.


ANNOUNCER: There's never been an iPod that can do this.


HARRIS: Well, you know, it does about everything but the dishes. The iPhone rings for those in line. This story coming up for you in the NEWSROOM.


HARRIS: So you know we're podcasting for you later this afternoon so that it is available to you when you want it on demand. All you have to do is go to, download the CNN daily podcast, and you can take us with you wherever you go, throughout the day, any day of the week. Again, available to you 24/7. Just download it today on your iPod. COLLINS: Mission accomplished, Barrington Irving says he is now the first person of African descent and the youngest person to ever fly solo around the globe. He's just back from a 27,000-mile flight that took him across Europe, the Middle East, Asia, the Africa -- all right, excuse me -- the Pacific and the Atlantic. I don't even know where you were.

Barrington Irving is joining me now from Miami this morning.

Wow, Barrington, congratulations to you first and foremost. Tell me how it feels to have this accomplishment under your belt.

BARRINGTON IRVING, SOLO PILOT: Thank you so much. I'm just grateful that I had the opportunity to live my dream and impact so many youth across a nation and internationally. This has truly been a blessed moment for me.

COLLINS: Well, tell me a little bit more about that. I know that you were doing this for other kids. You came from a tough background, you really didn't feel like you had much by the way of a future until aviation came into your life, and I see you shaking hands there in the video we're showing, with the -- Captain Gary Robinson (ph), who I know is a terrific mentor to you. Talk about that a little bit.

IRVING: Yes, Captain Gary Robinson played a vital role in my involvement in aviation. He introduced me to aviation about two months before I turned 16 years of age, and walked up to me and said, hey, son, have you ever thought of becoming a pilot? And -- even though at the time, I didn't think I was smart enough or capable of becoming a pilot. Just started to speak with him and work with him, and next thing you know, here I am today. He really stuck by my side throughout this whole adventure.

COLLINS: You didn't think you were smart enough?

IRVING: No, I didn't.

COLLINS: Do you think there are other kids out there who feel the same way? What are you trying to tell them, what are you trying to show them?

IRVING: I'm showing there are other students that are also intimidated by the aviation industry, but what they have to realize is, look, this industry has multiple career opportunities. Right now, the average age of an engineer is 54-years-old within aviation. There's a huge demand in so many fields. And they have the opportunity to capitalize.

And -- the same way I was able to keep my dreams within the aviation industry, is the same way that they too can also achieve their dream within aviation. So, they just have to be persistent and just focus and work hard with others to make that possible.

COLLINS: Hey, you're talking to a commercial pilot's wife, you don't even have to tell me at all, but I do want to know how you, in particular, go around the country, because I'm assuming that you will be doing that even more than you already have in the past now that you have achieved this wonderful accomplishment, to talk to kids directly about how they go about doing something like this?

IRVING: Well, it's -- you know, it's a team effort, and Experience Aviation, our whole mission is to address the shortage, but we work with various sponsors, for example, Mining Executive Aviation, Continental Motors, Universal Weather, Microsoft, Avadine (ph), all of these various industry sponsors with multiple careers available. We work together with them to provide some (ph) educational information when I speak at various schools and organizations.

So, we want to not only inform kids, but also equip kids with the necessary knowledge and resources so they too will be able to pursue their goals.

COLLINS: Is that why you named the plane Inspiration?

IRVING: That's right, Inspiration. You know, I did this project not to -- to be a hero, I did it to be an inspiration to other kids. And that's my whole purpose and focus, to inspire other students to do much greater than what I've done. Who knows, maybe I've inspired the next person that will be the first to land on Mars.

COLLINS: Hey, yes, who knows, that's true.

I can't imagine the feeling of emotion when you landed and Captain Robinson was there. What did that feel like?

IRVING: Honestly, it was the weirdest feeling, you know, because it was just so overwhelming to see all of the students and the parents and fans that came out, but as soon as I landed, it was as if my body immediately knew it was over with, and I just felt so tired and weak, you know.

COLLINS: Yes, I can -- we're watching you climb out of the cockpit now, I see you shaking your legs a little bit. It was an incredibly long journey, six weeks. I know you ran into all kinds of issues with weather and otherwise, but really sort of headlines the whole idea of being persistent.

IRVING: Yes -- it's really -- you know, there were times where I was very frustrated and disappointed with what was going on with the weather, you know, sand storms, monsoons, snow storms, icy conditions, all these various weather scenarios I had to watch and Inspiration, which is a Columbia 400, you know, we just basically tackled the skies.

But, I had the opportunity in some places to go on the Web site, and check the blogs. And so many students and parents were just writing to encourage me, and that really meant a lot, and that really pushed me forward.

COLLINS: Yes, we're looking at the video that I believe you probably took with your own camera with camels and so forth. So, not only did you get to fly around the world, you got to ride on a camel, too. Hey, who'd have thought that would have happened.

Quickly, what's next for you, Barrington?

IRVING: Well, what's next for me is to continue educating students. I have a learning center here within Miami. And my whole purpose is to continue to grow the learning center within the state of Florida and nationwide and also continue on speaking tours to reach out to students and let them too know that hey, you can achieve your dreams in aviation.

COLLINS: Well, congratulations to you, an excellent role model you are. Barrington Irving, thanks so much for your time.

IRVING: Thank you.

HARRIS: I'm beaming from ear to ear here -- wow.

Still to come in the NEWSROOM, here comes the rain, again. New flash flood warnings pop up for central Texas. We're watching the developments right here in the NEWSROOM.

COLLINS: Car bombing carnage, a bus station in Baghdad reduced to rubble.