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Temperatures in Las Vegas Near 120 Degrees; Pool Drain Horror; Iran Launches English-Language News Network
Aired July 05, 2007 - 15:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
KYRA PHILLIPS, CNN ANCHOR: Hello, everyone. I'm Kyra Phillips at the CNN Center in Atlanta.
DON LEMON, CNN ANCHOR: And I'm Don Lemon.
Want to strike it rich in Vegas? Forget the casinos. Open up a lemonade stand.
LEMON: It's 107 degrees there now, heading for 117, and maybe a record.
PHILLIPS: Not everything that happens in Vegas stay in Vegas. The West is sweltering -- sweltering all the way to Canada.
You're live in the CNN NEWSROOM.
LEMON: Boy, it is boiling hot from Las Vegas to Phoenix and even to the L.A. Basin. Temperatures are soaring well into the triple digits. It's sapping energy from people and utilities alike. Rain is out there, just not where it's needed.
We have got it all for you right here in the CNN NEWSROOM.
Taking a look now at the current temperatures in Phoenix and Las Vegas, 111 degrees and 116 degrees. That is hot.
How long will it stay that right?
Reynolds Wolf is the man with the information.
REYNOLDS WOLF, CNN METEOROLOGIST: It looks...
LEMON: Reynolds, that's pretty toasty.
WOLF: Oh, no question about it.
You know how people say it's OK because it's a dry heat?
WOLF: Guys, hot is hot.
(LAUGHTER) WOLF: I mean, when you get over the triple digits, I mean, it's unbearable. And that's what it is for Las Vegas, over to Palm Springs, and especially in Phoenix.
You are going to notice this big red-shaded area that we have in parts of the desert Southwest. That's your heat warning, plain and simple. And a couple of rules to follow. If you have got water and you have got to outside, drink water. Better yet, don't go outside at all until it's later at night, or save your outdoor hours earlier in the morning, when it's cooler.
Let's talk about some of those temperatures that we have in these three main locations and every point in between -- for Las Vegas, today's forecast, about 116, today's record high, about 116. But the all-time record is 117. We may surpass that point by later this afternoon.
For Phoenix, there are the numbers for you, today's forecast, about 115 -- all-time record a bit warmer, up to 122, probably not to going to break that mark. And, in Palm Springs, look at the record high there, up to 123. We should stay below that mark as well.
But, still, the heat is going to be unbearable, not only for people, but for pets. If you happen to have any pets, and they're in the backyard, make sure they have got plenty of shade, plenty of water. Like you, they can succumb to the heat. And you don't want that to happen.
An, by all means, again, this is something you don't want to pay attention to just today, but, for tomorrow, and, no doubt, later in the summer, we are going to be dealing with this problem, no question -- back to you.
LEMON: Yes. I saw those folks by the pool in Vegas. And that's exactly where I would be.
WOLF: Life is tough, isn't it, out there?
LEMON: It is, when you have got 116-degree temperatures.
WOLF: No question.
LEMON: OK. Thank you.
PHILLIPS: Simply saturated -- it's going to take weeks for parts of Kansas, Oklahoma, and Texas to dry out. Lakes and reservoirs are filled to the brim. Rivers, well out of their banks, are slowly going down. But thousands of people are still in shelters, their homes lost to the floodwaters. But here's one bright spot. Much of that oil that spilled around Coffeyville, Kansas, has dissipated. There are no signs that the oil made it into the lake that provides drinking water for Tulsa, Oklahoma. That's good news. And Dallas and points -- well, Dallas and points south are still getting soaked, and the search continues for a 6-year-old boy that was swept away by river currents yesterday near Freeport.
Now, back and forth, past security, and through the checkpoints, hundreds of thousands of July 4 celebrators in Washington, D.C., endured long lines, the threat of severe weather, and a brief evacuation, all for this, a fireworks spectacular, the finale to an evening of patriotism and pageantry on the National Mall.
And, in Utah, firefighters, with help from the National Guard troops, are getting the upper hand on a huge wildfire, so much so that an evacuation order was lifted for a number of communities east of Salt Lake City. The fire, burning on public and private land, is about 50 percent contained right now.
LEMON: A developing story happening in Tacoma, Washington -- a 12-year-old-girl is -- police are looking for her. It's an Amber Alert for Zina Linnik. She's 12 years old, blonde hair. She's 4'10'' tall, and she weighs 80 pounds. So, you see her picture there on the screen.
I am going to give you an idea of what she was wearing the last time they saw her, a pink T-shirt, pink, orange, yellow capri pants, and red flip-flop sandals. Her hair was in a ponytail, probably looking much like it looks in that picture there.
Police are looking for an older gray van with the license plate that contains the numbers 1677. Now, police say she went missing about 9:45 on Wednesday night from an alley near her family's home. A witness said he heard screams, looked out of the window, and then saw a man, an Asian male, get into an older gray van and drive away.
So, if you have any information about that van or about Zina Linnik, call police.
We will continue to update this story throughout the afternoon and here in the CNN NEWSROOM.
PHILLIPS: Well, appeal, check. Presidential commutation, check. Fine, big check.
And here it is, Scooter Libby's debt to society, a big chunk of it anyway, paid in full to the U.S. District Court in Washington, $250,000, plus a special assessment of 400 bucks, as punishment for perjury and obstruction of justice in the CIA leak investigation. The check was drawn on Monday, the same day President Bush throughout Libby's 30-month prison term, calling it severe.
It's still unclear whether Dick Cheney's former chief of staff will have to serve probation or do community service, both of which were also part of his sentence. LEMON: Well, the threat level may be lower, but the terror investigation in Britain is still going full throttle. Here's what we know right now.
Police in Scotland are going through a rented House near the Glasgow Airport. They believe at least two suspects from the London and Glasgow car bomb incidents lived there and possibly made bombs there. The nationalities of the eight suspects in custody is also of high interest -- of high interest. Investigators are trying to link two suspects from India and six from the Middle East, and figure out how they came into contact with one another.
Yesterday, British authorities downgraded the terror threat level one step to severe. They no longer feel attacks are imminent. But high security measures remain in place throughout the U.K.
Police are working the possibility that the bungled bombings in London and Glasgow were foretold. An Anglican priest who regularly meets with extremists in Iraq say a man who claimed to be an al Qaeda leader told him British people were going to die and told him how.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ANDREW WHITE, ANGLICAN PRIEST: During the meeting with him, I experienced an ongoing litany of how he was going to kill British and American people. It was really quite terrible. In fact, I said that day in my update, I have seen the devil today, and it was during that meeting that he said to me, those who cure you will kill you.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
LEMON: Well, the "cure you and kill you" statement interested investigators, since all of their suspects so far are health care workers.
PHILLIPS: So far, we know very little about the eight people in custody, only what police have released, until now.
One of the suspect's former friends is speaking out, and revealing a little about what makes him tick.
CNN's Matthew Chance spoke to him.
MATTHEW CHANCE, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice- over): He was wrestled from the burning wreckage of the car bomb that slammed into Glasgow Airport last week.
Now, one of Bilal Abdulla's close friends is speaking out about the Iraqi-trained doctor suspected of plotting mass murder.
SHIRAZ MAHER, FORMER FRIEND OF BILAL ABDULLA: I knew Bilal Abdulla quite well when I was at Cambridge studying for a postgraduate degree. I got to know him over the course of the year pretty well. CHANCE: Shiraz Maher is a former member of the radical Islamic group Hizb ut-Tahrir. He now renounces fundamentalism, but says he remembers Bilal Abdulla as a hard-liner, especially over Iraq.
MAHER: He resented quite deeply the presence of American and British troops on what he considered to be Muslim land. He was supportive of the insurgency in Iraq, and also supportive, actually -- and it's very unusual -- of the sectarian conflict. And he supported the -- the Sunni attacks against the Shias, and believed that the Shias should be killed, which was something very, very different.
And I remember him telling me at one point, a very good friend of his, if not his best friend, at university in Baghdad was killed by a Shia militia gang. And he described in quite some detail that this guy hadn't just been killed in sort of a swift way, but actually been tortured, beaten quite brutally, and shot several times repeatedly. And, so, for him it was a very raw and a very real issue.
CHANCE (on camera): Did he strike you at any point as the kind of person that might want to translate those political views into an attack on the United Kingdom?
MAHER: Well, the kinds of views that Bilal was espousing, although extreme, weren't so distinctly different to the kind of rhetoric and anger we have seen from radical Muslims before. So, there wasn't anything overtly obvious about him that made you think -- or stand up and take notice any, that he was -- or to set off an alarm bell, for example, that he would be the kind of person to go off and do this kind of thing in reality.
CHANCE (voice-over): But the reality could have been horrific. Although he's not officially been named as one of those detained, British police are linking Dr. Abdulla, who worked at a hospital outside Glasgow, to the two failed car bombs packed with nails in London last week.
(on camera): This is a man who was very educated. He was a doctor, obviously, is a doctor, middle-class, presumably came from a relatively affluent background. What is it that drives middle-class, respectable, establishment people, essentially, to commit acts of terrorism, in your experience?
MAHER: Well, when you look at the profile of pretty much all the people involved in terrorist activity in Britain, they seem to have come from this relatively affluent, upwardly mobile, middle-class, or certainly emerging Muslim middle-class kind of background. The same is true of Shahzad Tanweer and Mohammad Sidique Khan from 7/7, and Omar Sharif and Asif Hanif, the two British suicide bombers in Israel.
CHANCE (voice-over): Maher says that, after 9/11, radical Islam in Britain went underground.
MAHER: I think the reality of that multifaceted. But the main reason is, mosques in this country after 9/11, their response to the problem of growing polarization and growing radical debate was, although well-intentioned, they just shut down all discussion of politics within the mosques, and they said, right. We're not going to give anybody a platform. We're not going to discuss this issue at all in any way.
And what that's really caused is a subculture which is breeding now way from the mosques. And that subculture is entirely undetected.
CHANCE: Undetected and potentially deadly.
Matthew Chance, CNN, London.
LEMON: It's an accident that is too gruesome for many adults to discuss. But the victim, just 6 years old, doesn't agree.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SCOTT TAYLOR, FATHER OF ABIGAIL TAYLOR: "I should be on the news."
And she said, "Why, honey?"
And she said, "Because I -- we need to tell people what happened to me, so that none of this happens -- so this doesn't happen to anybody else."
(END VIDEO CLIP)
LEMON: A swimming pool nightmare and what every parent should know -- straight ahead in the CNN NEWSROOM.
PHILLIPS: On with the sunscreen, off with pretty much everything else -- the Western U.S. sweating out a heat wave, Vegas gambling on a record high today.
LEMON: In one corner, a rabid fox, in the other, a 5-year-old with astonishing moxie. Guess who won? That story straight ahead in the NEWSROOM as well.
LEMON: Fourteen past the hour. Here are three of the stories we're working on for you in the CNN NEWSROOM.
Police in Tacoma, Washington, have issued an Amber Alert. They say 12-year-old (r)MD-BO¯Zina Linnik was apparently abducted last night. She and her captor may be in an older gray van with a partial license plate number 1677.
A major heat wave in the West -- 100-degree temperatures are predicted as far north as Washington State and Idaho. And Las Vegas expects to reach a sizzling 116.
Former Vice President Gore says his son's arrest is a private matter; 24-year-old Al Gore III is accused of possessing marijuana and prescription drugs. He's been released on bond. And the family says he's getting treatment.
PHILLIPS: The Reverend Al Sharpton and other civil rights leader held a rally outside Atlanta today, demanding freedom for Genarlow Wilson.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CROWD: Free Genarlow! Free Genarlow! Free Genarlow!
(END VIDEO CLIP)
PHILLIPS: Wilson, now 21, is serving a 10-year prison term for aggravated child molestation. He was 17 years old when he had consensual oral sex with a 15-year-old girl.
Critics say the sentence is too harsh. And Sharpton says Wilson's cause is a national one.
LEMON: Parents, grandparents, caregivers, anyone who is going to be around a child this summer, listen up. This next story is hard to even think about, but it's important for you to know about. It's one more danger facing kids in pools.
We get the details now from reporter Scott Seroka of CNN affiliate KARE in Minneapolis.
SCOTT TAYLOR, FATHER OF ABIGAIL TAYLOR: She said, "Mommy, am I going to be on the news?"
SCOTT SEROKA, KARE REPORTER (voice-over): Six-year-old Abigail Taylor survived a pool accident. And she told her mom she wants to be on the news.
TAYLOR: "I should be on the news."
And she said, "Why, honey?"
And she said, "Because I -- we need to tell people what happened to me, so that none of this happens -- so this doesn't happen to anybody else."
SEROKA: Abigail was stuck on a powerful force, a pool drain at the kiddie pool at the Minneapolis Golf Club. The drain created a suction on Abby's (ph) bottom. Doctors say it pulled her small intestines out of her body through her bottom.
TAYLOR: It's a medical miracle that she even survived.
SEROKA: Somehow, Abby pulled herself off that drain. She took two steps and collapsed. Doctors spent hours in the operating room before they came out.
TAYLOR: And I immediately fell to my knees, because my initial reaction was that she hadn't survived. SEROKA: But she did survive. Life without her small intestine will be difficult.
TAYLOR: Basically be on an I.V. That's how she will receive all of the nutrients. Due to the fact that her small intestines are gone, she can't process food.
SEROKA: At this point, lawyers begin to ask the question, why? How did this happen?
TAYLOR: There was a problem with the -- the cover.
SEROKA: The Taylors' lawyer believes a missing drain cover may be to blame.
TAYLOR: It was loose. It had come loose. It had been replaced. There were screws missing.
SEROKA: The club's manager says, to the best of his knowledge, there wasn't anything wrong with the pool.
Scott Taylor was amazed to hear this has happened before at different pools -- Scott's goal and Abby's goal, to make sure it doesn't happen again. They want parents and pool owners to be aware of this potential deadly possibility.
TAYLOR: Whatever happens from this point forward, the fact that she's still with us is amazing. I don't know any other way to say that.
LEMON: Abigail Taylor will stay in the hospital for at least a couple more weeks.
PHILLIPS: Iran takes on CNN and the BBC by launching a 24-hour English-language news network based in Tehran -- details straight ahead from the NEWSROOM.
LEMON: Look at that. He looks like such a nice little guy, right? Don't be fooled. A rabid fox proved no match for this 5-year- old boy in North Carolina.
The fox showed up at a family cookout, and little Rayshun McDowell grabbed it by the neck and fought it off, protecting six other children as the fox, bit, kicked and clawed.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
RAYSHUN MCDOWELL, 5 YEARS OLD: He snuck up on my leg. Then he bit me. I pushed him down. He got back up. Then he scratched me.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
PHILLIPS: Go, Rayshun.
LEMON: I know.
His stepfather says he was able to kill the fox, or the stepfather was able to kill the fox. Rayshun didn't kill it. But test results confirm the fox did have rabies. And Rayshun is now being treated for it.
So, we wish him well.
PHILLIPS: Yes, a tough kid.
Well, there's a new gadget out there called the iPhone. Maybe you have heard of it. It turns out another phone you probably haven't heard of could save you a bundle of money.
Stephanie Elam is at the New York Stock Exchange with the details.
All right, tell us about the newest gadget.
STEPHANIE ELAM, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hi, Kyra.
Well, it's all about timing. In this case, this was a little bit of bad timing here, it seems. Just as all the iPhone hype was hitting fever pitch, T-Mobile announced a new offering that could save customers hundreds, depending on, if you talk a lot, even thousands of dollars.
Here's how it works. Pay $10 a month, on top of a regular T- Mobile voice plan, and you get a special phone. Walking and walking around town, it eats up minutes just like any other phone. But you walk into a Wi-Fi hot spot, like -- you know, like a Starbucks or many airport terminals, and your calls are free. It's kind of cool.
The phone switches automatically to the Internet, and then back to the T-Mobile network when you walk out of range.
PHILLIPS: All right. Well, that's great if you spend all the time in Starbucks, but what about when you're just sitting at home?
ELAM: Yes, I guess most people aren't living at Starbucks.
Well, T-Mobile also gives you a wireless router for home connected to your high-speed modem, and you have got a wireless network at your home. And all of your home phone calls are then free as well.
Now, turning to the stock market, not a lot of action today, but what did you expect? Wednesday was a holiday here on Wall Street. And many traders are taking the rest of the week off as well -- right now, the Dow Jones industrials on the downside with 20 points, 13556. The Nasdaq is up seven points, the S&P 500 off just one point at this time. I will be back in 30 minutes. We will wrap up the day on Wall Street -- and, until then, back to you, Kyra and Don.
PHILLIPS: All right, thanks, Steph. See you in a little bit.
LEMON: A 24-hour news network beamed around the world in English produced in Tehran.
CNN State Department correspondent Zain Verjee tunes in the latest weapon in the international media war.
ZAIN VERJEE, CNN STATE DEPARTMENT CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): In three, two, one.
This is Press TV, the latest horse in a crowded race for viewers. It wants to compete with CNN and the BBC.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Coming to you live from the Iranian capital.
VERJEE: Twenty-four hours a day in English on satellite and online -- according to its Web site, the goal is to break the global media stranglehold of Western outlets and show what Press TV says is the other side of the story.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Innocent Iraqis are increasingly the victims of U.S. raids.
VERJEE: The Iranian government is bankrolling the news network.
Amid great fanfare, President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad launched the channel, saying, "Today, media is the number-one tool for world dominance."
Some see it as a ploy by Iran to grab a megaphone.
STEPHEN HESS, BROOKINGS INSTITUTION: As a propaganda tool, yes, of course, that's why most of these countries suddenly spend an incredible amount of money.
VERJEE: Press TV says it has correspondents around the world, including three in the United States. One of them is based in Washington.
MIKE KELLERMAN, PRESS TV REPORTER: Mike Kellerman, Press TV, Washington.
VERJEE: The channel takes off as Iran comes under international pressure over its controversial nuclear program and faces new sanctions. A State Department spokesman issued a statement to CNN saying, "It is doubtful if viewers around the world are interested in Iranian propaganda," adding, "We hope the regime in Iran guarantees freedom of the press within Iran."
Media analysts say, sure, it's interesting to hear directly from other countries, like Iran, but Americans won't tune in.
HESS: Of course, the history of government-sponsored stations is that, it's so boring; it's so predictable.
VERJEE (on camera): A Press TV producer based in New York says, their channel is not about propaganda, adding, they are all journalists, just aiming to be fair.
Zain Verjee, CNN, Washington.
PHILLIPS: Wildfire on the French Riviera, hundreds of campers and tourists evacuated -- must-see pictures straight ahead.
PHILLIPS: Hello, everyone. I'm Kyra Phillips, live at the CNN world headquarters in Atlanta.
LEMON: And I'm Don Lemon.
If you can't stand the heat, stay indoors.
PHILLIPS: Dangerous temps in the Southwest -- we have got details in the CNN Severe Weather Center. You're live in the CNN NEWSROOM.
LEMON: This just in to the CNN NEWSROOM: another Republican breaking ranks with the president's strategy on the war in Iraq and the so-called, what the administration calls the surge, this time -- and this is just in -- Republican Pete Domenici announcing today that he wants the war strategy to take a new turn.
Here's exactly what he said today at a news conference in Albuquerque.
He says: "I want a new strategy for Iraq. I continue to completely support the men and women in the American armed forces. They have not failed us." But, again, he's saying he wants a new strategy in Iraq. "I'm willing to continue our -- I'm not unwilling to continue our current strategy."
Obviously, this will be a big topic today in "THE SITUATION ROOM" with Wolf Blitzer, or Suzanne Malveaux, whoever is at the helm there -- but, again, Republican Pete Domenici breaking ranks with the Republican administration over the war strategy -- details to come.
PHILLIPS: Water, whether you're on it, in it, or drinking it, you need to keep it cool -- or have it, rather, to keep cool, especially if you live in the Southwest. It's downright blistering right now. Triple-digit temperatures from Las Vegas to Phoenix. I had a chance to talk with Phoenix Mayor Phil Gordon last hour, about how the city is trying to handle the heat.
(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) MAYOR PHIL GORDON, PHOENIX, ARIZONA: We actually have a community public service campaign to continue, and I've done that now, I think, about seven times over the last two weeks, to make sure that we ask everyone to check on their loved ones, both the seniors that are living alone, and also the children that, again, as I emphasize, play outside, go swimming all the time, but don't, on their own, drink enough water to make sure that the parents check on their children and on the seniors, to make sure they have enough water, hydration.
PHILLIPS: What about those without AC? I mean, you would hope that in a place like Phoenix, Arizona, everyone has got the capability to get AC, but not everybody can afford it. Do you have any kind of program or outreach to those that need to get somewhere cool?
GORDON: Absolutely. We have -- the city of Phoenix actually funds what we call an overflow shelter for families and women and mothers and single parents. And then there's a community campus, a county/city campus for the single homeless males to make sure that any of them that want to come in out of the heat during the day or stay there 24 hours a day are available.
We actually spend tens of millions of dollars a year, every year, for decades on that. And then also our police officers and firefighters actually carry water and proactively know the areas where a lot of individuals, homeless, camp out, to make sure that they're getting sufficient water.
PHILLIPS: (INAUDIBLE) precautions are being taken across that region, California has opened a number of cooling centers, 17 of them state operated.
LEMON: In Utah, firefighters with help from National Guard troops are getting the upper hand on a huge wildfire. So much so an evacuation order is lifted for a number of communities east of Salt Lake City. The fire burning on public and private land is about 50 percent contained.
A major fire is finally under control in the south of France. This was the scene on the French Riviera. The blaze ripped through 2,500 acres of brush and trees near a resort town. One home was destroyed and campsites were cleared. About 700 firefighters worked through the night. The fire supposedly started yesterday in a car.
PHILLIPS: Well, we have just learned a third child has died after an accident yesterday at a park in Bridgeport, Connecticut. This video shows the family van being pulled out of a pond. A 39- year-old mother had stepped out to talk to someone when the vehicle started to roll. She ran after it and died with her 2-year-old son and another toddler. Today, the lone survivor, a 6-year-old boy, also passed away.
LEMON: He was busted, booked, bailed out and is already back in rehab. It has been a very busy 24 hours for Al Gore III, police say they stopped the former vice president's son, who is 24, driving 100 miles an hour on the San Diego Freeway. They also say they found pot and several prescription drugs in Gore's car. Here is a mugshot. And it's not Gore's first. Three years ago he entered a drug treatment program as part of plea agreement, that followed an arrest in 2003 for possession of marijuana. California police say they found that and more yesterday in Gore's car.
Here's CNN's Betty Nguyen.
JIM AMORMINO, ORANGE COUNTY SHERIFF'S OFFICE: Once they approached that vehicle, they detected a strong odor of marijuana coming from inside the car. They searched that vehicle. They found additional marijuana, Valium, Xanax, Vicodin, Soma and Adderall. Adderall is an amphetamine used to treat Attention Deficit Disorder.
BETTY NGUYEN, CNN ANCHOR (voice-over): Twenty-four-year-old Gore was taken to jail in Santa Ana and later released on $20,000 bail. His older sister, Sarah, came to get him. Their father was in Europe, promoting this weekend's Live Earth concerts.
The younger Gore faces four drug charges and speeding violations. Police say none of the pills in the car was prescribed to him. Officials say he wasn't charged with DUI, because it was determined he wasn't impaired.
This is not Al Gore III's first run-in with the law. In 2003 he was arrested for marijuana possession and later sentenced to a drug abuse program. In 2002 he was ticketed for drunk driving. He was not, however, taken into custody.
And in 2000, he was charged with reckless driving which was later dropped, but he was fined for speeding.
Betty Nguyen, CNN, New York.
PHILLIPS: Now Gore's father says he's glad his son is safe and getting treatment. The former vice president was on NBC this morning promoting this weekend's Live Earth concert. He had this response when asked about his son.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
AL GORE, FMR. VICE PRESIDENT: We're dealing with it as a private family matter, Meredith. And we love him very much. And we're glad that he's safe and that he's getting treatment. And we're going to leave it as a private matter.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
PHILLIPS: And we could learn more tonight from young Gore's father. Former Vice President Al Gore is Larry King's guest, 9:00 Eastern, 6:00 Pacific right here on CNN.
LEMON: For months now we've been warning you about the backlog in processing U.S. passport applications. A backlog that has disrupted summer travel plans for thousands of Americans. The State Department is taking new steps to reduce that backlog.
And CNN's Sean Callebs is in New Orleans.
SEAN CALLEBS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: New Orleans is rolling out the welcome mat. A couple of hundred employees of the U.S. State Department are being told they must work here at a passport processing office in New Orleans or one in Portsmouth, New Hampshire. The reason? There's a huge backlog of citizens waiting for their passports.
You see, back in 2004, the U.S. approved a law that said by 2007, all U.S. citizens must have a valid passport if they were going to travel to Canada, Mexico, the Caribbean or Bermuda. So, so many people applied to meet these new regulations, the State Department is simply overwhelmed.
To give you an example, last year the U.S. approved about 12 million passports. Already this year, in July, the U.S. has approved 10.3 million and could approve as many as 18 million.
A couple of hundred employees doesn't sound like a lot, but in the last several years, the State Department has hired 2,500 new workers to cope with this expected onslaught of passport applications. And they hope, they hope the summer months will slow down and they will be able to catch up.
Sean Callebs, CNN, in New Orleans.
PHILLIPS: Well, we've heard a lot over the past few months about illegal immigrants. But there's also something going on with legal immigrants. More and more wannabe citizens. More than 115,000 applied for U.S. citizenship in May compared with about 65,000 in December. Some were trying to beat an increase in application fees. Others say they were unnerved by the uproar over immigration reform.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: ... renounce and abjure...
CROWD: ... renounce and abjure...
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: ... all allegiance and fidelity...
CROWD: ... all allegiance and fidelity...
(END VIDEO CLIP) PHILLIPS: About 1,000 immigrants took the oath of U.S. citizenship at a star-studded Fourth of July ceremony at Walt Disney World in Florida. Gloria Estefan sang the National Anthem. And Lee Greenwood closed with "God Bless America." Appropriately for a dream come true, the ceremony took place in front of Cinderella's Castle.
Now despite all the controversy over immigration, a move is afoot to get more foreigners to come to the U.S. for a visit. The Senate Commerce Committee has endorsed a bill that would set up a public/private corporation to promote U.S. tourism. Travel here dropped a lot in the post-9/11 security blitz. Though it's booming abroad. Analysts say European newspapers are full of negative stories about customs delays at U.S. airports.
LEMON: Family ties fail when finances come first. Ahead in NEWSROOM, mothers sent packing who live below the poverty line in India. We're back in a moment.
PHILLIPS: So what makes someone a hero? All this year CNN is answering that question by introducing you to some incredible people who are making a difference in the communities where they live. Today we want you to meet a woman who does all that she can to bring a little home to American troops living in war zones overseas.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Dear Dorine, thank you for the care package you sent the unit.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We don't have much over here and every little thing that you send us makes us very happy.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You say that we are your heroes, but it's people like you that are the real heroes.
DORINE KENNEY, "COMMUNITY CRUSADER": My name is Dorine Kenney and I'm the mother of Specialist Jacob Fletcher, who was a paratrooper with the 173rd Airborne Brigade in Iraq.
Whenever I got a little nervous and anxious that he was there, I'd get in my car and go shopping and try to be creative and think of silly things to send him to lift his spirits.
I sent Jacob boxes sometimes twice a week. And I just never stopped sending boxes. I started a foundation in my son's memory. Our focus is to get soldiers, especially the soldiers without family support or support from home, boxes and letters of support.
I feel like I'm fulfilling something that would please my son. All of it is donated. Checks come in if all over the country. I go out and I do the shopping once we collect the money, and the volunteers come and move it over to the American Legion. We set it up on a table. And then we pack boxes of toiletries and food to support our military. In every box we'll be putting bug spray, Q-tips, toothpaste, peanut butter, and I take requests from them, whatever they want. We want to make sure they're taken care of. The next day a volunteer comes and takes it to the post office and we mail them.
I can make sure that our letters get in there. It has really kept me alive. It has given me focus. It has given me a strong purpose. I don't doubt he's there and I don't doubt that I'll see him again and I'll work hard and do what I can to make the world a better place until I do meet him again.
PHILLIPS: Well, if you'd like to help Dorine Kenney send goods to American troops or nominate your hero for special recognition later this year, you'll find more information on your Web site at cnn.com/heroes.
LEMON: He was the real thing. Bill Pinkney, the last of The Drifters, remembered, when CNN NEWSROOM continues.
LEMON: Shunned, forgotten, homeless, when a Hindu woman in India loses her husband, she often loses much more. CNN's Arwa Damon reports on the plight of millions of Indian widows and on some people who are trying to help.
ARWA DAMON, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Promita Das was widowed when she was 15, and instantly ostracized by those she thought loved her. Stripped of all respect. Among many of India's Hindus, even a widow's shadow is considered bad luck.
"My neighbors, my friends, no one helps me. No one loved me," she says. "I survived on my own, cleaning people's houses." Das is now 85 years old, but literally decades after her rejection, she found acceptance here, at refuge called Amar Bari, which translates into "my home," opened seven years ago by the Guild of Service which helps destitute women and children.
By tradition widows must shave their heads and wear white, but many at Amar Bari reject traditions that have rejected them. Hindu widows are shunned, not for religious reasons but because of tradition and as a financial drain on their family. They cannot remarry. They must not wear jewelry. Within these walls, they begin to regain the dignity society snatched away from them.
But comfort is hard to find. Inside her tiny dark room, Rana Mukurchi (ph) wants to sing for us. The lyrics, about a lost traveler and wasted days. A mirror of her life. "Look, God is watching," she says, showing us her shrine to Gopal (ph), god of love and devotion. Love she lost 35 years ago. She came here to die. It's no accident that Amar Bari is in the city of Vrindavan. Hindus have long believed that people who die here are freed from the cycle of life and death. Perhaps death in this holy city will save these widows from being condemned to such a life again. But there are only about 120 widows in the sanctuary of Amar Bari.
It's estimated there are some 15,000 on the streets of Vrindavan. We find the most destitute in the side streets, easily recognizable in white or by the pain etched in their faces. Reduced to begging in front of temples for a few coins or scraps of food, all they own, the clothes they wear, and the gauze clutched tightly in their hands.
"Does it feel good? Now I have to loiter just for a bite to eat," Radha Rani Biswas says, close to tears. "My son said to me, you've grown old. Who is going to feed you? Go away. What do I do? My pain has no limit."
Her pain is felt by many of India's estimated 40 million widows, forgotten by society. Banished to the shadows.
Arwa Damon, CNN, Vrindavan, India.
LEMON: And to learn more about the desperate plight of that many widows -- that many widows face in India, go to cnn.com/world and click on the Asia section.
PHILLIPS: Well, the last remaining member of the original Drifters has died. The body of singer Bill Pinkney a was found yesterday in a hotel room in Daytona Beach, Florida. Police say the death is not considered suspicious. Pinkney was scheduled to perform during Fourth of July festivities, he was 81 years old.
Triple digits means danger and we've been tracking the heat wave throughout the Southwest all day. CNN's Kara Finnstrom shows us how people are trying to beat the heat.
KARA FINNSTROM, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Baking cities across the West, blasting record high after record high.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Drink a lot of water, Gatorade and wear a hat.
FINNSTROM: In Los Angeles, sweaty construction workers know the heat's dangers. Many now not only taking precautions, but also limiting time in the midday sun.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Forecast for the Las Vegas Valley: excessive heat warning. Highs around 116.
FINNSTROM: Those highs predicted today for Las Vegas, where the record is 117, and now even poolside drink guzzling is getting uncomfortable.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Once you start getting over 105, you can really start to feel it.
FINNSTROM: Nationwide, about 175 people die from heat-related causes every year. This week the heat especially dangerous in Utah, magnifying the risk for firefighters already battling a broiling wildfire. Firefighters across the West are worried not only about the scorching heat, but also the parched earth. At one key water source, Arizona's Lake Powell, the water level is nearly 90 feet below normal levels. Also on alert today? Operators of California's power grid.
GREG FISHMAN, CALIFORNIA POWER GRID: We are going to see some very high demand on the energy system throughout the state today because of this heat wave.
FINNSTROM: They expect usage to near record levels and want Californians to conserve.
(on camera): Even if you're planning to keep cool in a pool like this one, forecasters say this kind of heat can quickly become overwhelming. So, they're urging everyone to wear light-colored clothing, drink lots of water, and limit the time in the sun.
Kara Finnstrom for CNN, Los Angeles.
LEMON: The closing bell and a wrap of all the action on Wall Street, straight ahead.
And we interrupt this program to take you to the outer limits of your imagination. Set your phasers on stun, and meet us back in the NEWSROOM for a trip to Roswell, New Mexico.
PHILLIPS: Everything is swell in Roswell, New Mexico, this weekend, where all eye are on the skies and not for leftover fireworks. Today marks the beginning of the annual Roswell UFO Festival, but this year the close encounter crowd gathers to mark a special celebration. It's the 60th anniversary of the alleged crash landing of two flying saucers in Area 51.
Of course, there's a costumes parade on tap, official crash site tours, an alien autopsy exhibit, and don't forget the UFO Festival Foam and Black Light Dance. Believers and skeptics alike are welcome.
LEMON: Or just a good reason to dress in costume, right?
PHILLIPS: Come on, you don't believe in UFOs?
LEMON: I know a lot of them.
LEMON: I know a lot of aliens. PHILLIPS: Buzzing around this NEWSROOM right now. But that's a whole 'nother story.
LEMON: Absolutely. We'll tell you that story a little bit later on. Well, you can pass the Tums but not much else, thank you. One day after the big hot dog eating contest at New York's Coney Island, the winner still hasn't eaten. Joey "Jaws" Chestnut says he is going to give his body plenty of time to recover before he tries to digest anything else. Chestnut consumed a world record 66 hot dogs and buns in 12 minutes. Does he think anybody will ever break that record? Well, he says he can imagine somebody eating 70 dogs, but he doesn't think the human body can go much further than that. Just a little bit in my mouth.
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LEMON: Time now to turn it over to Suzanne Malveaux and "THE SITUATION ROOM." Hi, Suzanne.
SUZANNE MALVEAUX, CNN ANCHOR: Guys.
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