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Army's Sad Statistic: Military Suicides on Steady Rise; Surviving the Quake: Impressions in the Aftermath; Meters for the Homeless

Aired May 29, 2008 - 14:00   ET


BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN ANCHOR: A helicopter crash on a hospital roof. Explosion and fire, clouds of black smoke, but this will go down as a nasty accident, thankfully not a tragedy. We're going to tell you why.
T.J. HOLMES, CNN ANCHOR: Also, military deaths on the battlefield are one thing, but military suicides can sometimes be a shock. And some of the numbers we're seeing right now are a bit shocking.

Our Jamie McIntyre has the story from the Pentagon this hour.

Hello to you all. I'm T.J. Holmes at CNN World Headquarters in Atlanta, Georgia.

KEILAR: And I'm Brianna Keilar.

You're in the CNN NEWSROOM.

HOLMES: Take a look at this here. This was the scene just a few hours ago. This smoke filling the sky in Grand Rapids, Michigan, after a helicopter crashed trying to take off from the roof of a hospital there.

Now, the pilot and the passenger were hurt, but not badly hurt. The crash started a fire on the hospital roof.

Look at this picture we have now from one of our iReporters on the scene. It shows us just a different vantage point of the smoke and of that hospital. Patients did have to be evacuated from several floors of the hospital as a precaution. However, we have been told now that they are back in their rooms, but again, no one killed in this accident.

And the pilot was actually practicing some maneuvers for landing and taking off from the roof of that hospital, an experienced pilot, we understand, but got caught up in some wires possibly with the rotor blades. But everyone OK, and it sounds like things are getting back to normal at the hospital. Patients going back in.


HOLMES: One hundred and eight U.S. Army soldiers died in 2007. Not from war, not from accident, not from illness. They killed themselves. And that number is high, possibly the highest ever, and the trend is actually going up. The Pentagon is talking about military suicide today.

We want to bring in our senior Pentagon correspondent there, Jamie McIntyre.

Jamie, this is -- you know, it's one thing. You expect a certain number of military deaths when it comes to war, but you don't like to hear about them like this.

JAMIE MCINTYRE, CNN SR. PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Well, these numbers released by the U.S. Army today show the number of U.S. soldiers, active duty soldiers, committing suicide has hit an all-time high. In fact, the updated number, we're told, 115 soldiers took their own lives last year, and the number of suicide attempts is skyrocketing as well. The reason, says the Army, is as complicated and as simple as the war itself. .


MCINTYRE (voice-over): The Army believes the explanation for the dramatic jump in suicides is the stress of war. Not so much on the soldiers, but on love and marriage.

LT. COL. RAN DOLINGER, U.S. ARMY CHAPLAIN: The real central issue is relationships. Relationships, relationships, relationships.

MCINTYRE: Army Chief Chaplain Ran Dolinger has seen it firsthand. A "Dear John" e-mail or phone call can be the trigger.

DOLINGER: One of the guy who just went through a suicide class got a phone call right afterwards. He walked right through the unit, he went into an armored personnel carrier, and he shot himself.

MCINTYRE: So, the war breaks up families, causes PTSD, and those things lead to more suicides. Both the raw numbers and the suicide rates are steadily climbing. The rate for 2007, 18.8 per 100,000 soldiers, is the highest since the military started keeping records. And suicide attempts, according to the Army figures, are skyrocketing from 375 back in 2002, to more than 2,100 last year.

And no longer is the typical victim a young male.

COL. ELSPETH RITCHIE, CHIEF ARMY PSYCHIATRIST: Now we are seeing more women call killing themselves, and we're also seeing older soldiers killing themselves.

MCINTYRE: The Army says more than half of the suicides are among troops who are never deployed or who have been home from the war zones for more than a year. And officials say the biggest problem is that victims don't seek help.

RITCHIE: The really tough area here is stigma. We know that soldiers don't want to go seek care. They're tough. They're strong. They don't want to go see a behavioral health care provider.

(END VIDEOTAPE) MCINTYRE: And T.J., in the past, when the Army could show that suicide rates were rising, they could still always point to the fact that the military rate was significantly lower than suicides in the civilian world. But that is no longer the case. While technically the rate is slightly below the civilian rate for an adjusted population, it's so close that it's statistically insignificant -- T.J.

HOLMES: All right. Jamie McIntyre. An important story, something that certainly needs to be looked into for these soldiers.

Jamie, we appreciate you.

And the Pentagon holds a news conference on the suicide report a little later today. We'll update on you on any news that's coming from that. But we're not finished with this tragic topic just yet.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They knew what was going on, and they failed him.


HOLMES: They're talking about the U.S. military system, the one their son was part of before he killed himself.

CNN's Randi Kaye had an in-depth report on one family's grief, loss and anger. That is just ahead.

KEILAR: When it came to inviting Iraq, says former White House spokesman Scott McClellan, President Bush went with his gut, not necessarily with the evidence. Kicking off a media tour to sell his new book, McClellan says the president decided soon after 9/11 to make an example of Saddam Hussein.

After that, McClellan says, came the campaign to justify a war. He appeared this morning on NBC's "Today Show."


SCOTT MCCLELLAN, FMR. WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: You get caught up in trying to sell this war to the American people. Paul Wolfowitz went and said publicly that the rationale that we all agreed on that would be the best selling point for this war was the weapons of mass destruction, and obviously the connection to Iraq. And much of that information was based in what could be substantiated.

But at the same time, as we accelerated the buildup to the war, the information that we were talking about became a little more certain than it was. The caveats were dropped, intelligence -- you know, contradictory intelligence was ignored.


KEILAR: McClellan says that Vice President Cheney "has not served the president well," and Condoleezza Rice, McClellan says, in her role as national security adviser, was too accommodating of strong personalities on the foreign policy team. Well, some of McClellan's former colleagues said he never spoke up at the time, and they wonder why he didn't just quick if he wasn't on board.

For instance, former White House counselor Dan Bartlett notes McClellan was deputy press secretary when the war in Iraq was being contemplated, and thus, wouldn't know what the president did or did not consider. At a conference in Iraq today in Sweden, Condoleezza Rice, now secretary of state, said this...


CONDOLEEZZA RICE, SECRETARY OF STATE: I'm not going to comment on a book that I haven't read. But I will say that the concerns about weapons of mass destruction in Saddam Hussein's Iraq were the fundamental reasons for tens -- for dozens of resolutions within the Security Council from the time that Saddam Hussein was expelled from Kuwait in 1991, up until 2003.


KEILAR: Tomorrow, Scott McClellan speaks out about his book, why he decided to publish now, and what the White House is saying about him. That is Friday at 6:00 p.m. Eastern in "THE SITUATION ROOM" with Wolf Blitzer.

HOLMES: We have some new pictures now from a mountain village in the heart of China's earthquake zone. The buildings either collapsed from the quake itself or were hammered by landslides that came afterward.

It's those landslides that have Chinese authorities most concerned today. Many of them blocked rivers and streams that now threaten to flood valleys in lower-lying areas. The government also has raised the official death toll, which now stands at 68,500.

Well, CNN's Hugh Riminton has been covering the quake and its aftermath. Here now, his impressions of the desperate situation.


HUGH RIMINTON, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Now, reporters see stories everywhere. We can't help it. It's just in our DNA. And stories, of course, as everyone knows, depend on characters.

And as we've been reporting this story, the character that presses itself in on us, that is unavoidable, that's everywhere, is the earth itself. What was the force that didn't just make buildings fall down, but that shattered them, that brought them down to their elemental level of bricks and dust, that caused so much destruction so that the very hillsides seemed to be in the act of reshaping themselves, vast mountainsides collapsing down into valleys, landslides going off all the time?

Perhaps the most compelling experience that proved that to me was lying in a tent at night trying to sleep in one of these mountain villages when these aftershocks were coming through, and not only feeling the ground jolt and shake underneath us, but also hearing a sound that I've never heard before. My ear was to the ground, and it was like these massive, deep moans that were coming as the shock waves were coming through the earth, something I have never experienced before anywhere, and something I'll never forget.

Now, plainly, this was someone's bedroom. And one of the inescapable aspects of a disaster is loss. There has been so much of it in this tragedy.

The thing which brought it home to me I think probably more than anything, the saddest thing, was seeing the children from Bechuan Middle School playing, playing ball, walking around with their friends, and recognizing that fewer than half of the number, fewer than half of the children who went to school that day, lived out that day. And when you look at those children's faces, apparently normal on the outside, but then starting to tell you stories, telling about how they saw their classmates trapped in the rubble, about how they would try and scramble down to them, how they managed to get water to their trapped classmates, only over time to watch them die inside the rubble, those are children who have seen things which they will never, ever be able to expunge from their memories, and some of those children themselves lost both parents in the same disaster.

That -- that is loss.

The other absolutely indelible impression that has come out of all this has been the resilience of the Chinese people, the way in which, again and again, we've seen people who have lost so much working so hard, putting aside their immediate grief to retrieve stuff from the rubble, to help themselves everywhere they can. These survivors are true survivors.

They've had outside help, but they've done so much to help themselves. And I think if there is another lasting impression, it is that, the stoicism and the courage of the people of China in this earthquake zone.

Hugh Riminton, CNN, in Sichuan Province in China.


KEILAR: A world thirsty for oil. With growing demand in China, India and other countries, Americans are really feeling the squeeze, and it is likely to get worse. We'll find out more from our energy desk.

HOLMES: Speaking of squeeze, I don't know if they'll be squeezing the Charmin up in space anytime soon. They're going to have a heck of a plumbing bill up there.

The toilet on the International Space Station goes on the blink. We'll tell you what's being done, or what can be done, or if they're just holding it until...


HOLMES: Well, if you've been to any major metropolitan city in the U.S., especially the downtown, perhaps you've been asked this question -- "Hey, Mister, you got a dollar?" Well, San Francisco wants to put a stop that that. It wants panhandlers off the streets, and they're doing this by trying to use converted parking meters.

CNN's Dan Simon explains.


DAN SIMON, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): San Franciscans list panhandling as their top complaint. More so than violent crime.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They are very disturbing. And sometimes I try to ignore them.

SIMON: Its new solution, parking meters. Instead of giving your change to a beggar, the city wants you to put it in a so-called homeless meter. Ten of them will soon be spread out.

DARIUSH KAYHAN, HOMELESS POLICY DIRECTOR: We're convinced that giving to panhandlers on the street, while seemingly helpful and it feels good, is not helping.

SIMON: Not helping because the city claims most of the money goes towards booze and drugs.

(on camera): The change collected from the meters would go to charities to help the homeless. The project is expected to bring in just a few thousand dollars a year. The city says it's not about money, but to educate the public about the problems of giving money directly to the homeless.

(voice-over): The goal, of course, is to reduce the number of panhandlers, and the theory goes, the less money people give, the fewer panhandlers will be out on the streets.

KAYHAN: We'll put these out there and we'll take a look to see if panhandling is decreasing. If it is, we'll keep them up and possibly expand the program. If it's not working, we have no problem pulling them down.

SIMON: Baltimore and Portland are some of the cities that have homeless meters. Denver says panhandling there has plummeted by more than 90 percent. But many in San Francisco remain skeptical, including this homeless man.

DENNIS, HOMELESS: You think some panhandler is going to be dissuaded by an orange parking meter. I don't think so.

SIMON: And some homeless advocates even find the program offensive.

SISTER BERNIE GALVIN, RELIGIOUS WITNESS WITH HOMELESS PEOPLE: The biggest problem is to insult the dignity of poor people by saying, all of you out there will misuse this money.

SIMON: The meters will be in place this summer. The city has come up with a slogan -- "Be part of change, don't give change."

Dan Simon, CNN, San Francisco.


KEILAR: One quarter of the world's proven oil reserves are in Saudi Arabia. But these days, the Saudis are using more of that oil themselves. How that affects you in our "Energy Fix" report.


HOLMES: All right. We know he's a fairly young guy, he's pretty thin, appears to be pretty fit. And now we know that Barack Obama is pretty healthy.

The Democratic presidential front-runner released a statement from his doctor today saying he is, in fact, in excellent shape. The statement says Obama's diet, weight, blood pressure, his cholesterol, all of those at healthy levels. It also adds that Obama, who has smoked at times, is using Nicorette gum the try to kick the habit.

We'll turn to Florida now. And what do you do, lock them out, let them vote, or maybe do something in between? The Democratic delegates from Florida and Michigan have been a bit of a problem for the party ever since those states jumped the line with their primaries. We may get some answers when the DNC Rules Committee holds weekend meetings in Washington.

Meanwhile, Florida Democrats are speaking out. Our Susan Candiotti is listening to them from Miami.

I can only imagine what some of those Democrats are saying.


Yes, a group of Florida Democrats is speaking out, held a news conference today in Miami's Liberty City. This is a delegation of black ministers. And they got together and they said, in the our opinion, this is what we think the Democratic National Committee should do when it meets on Saturday in Washington to try to work out some sort of a compromise.

Yes, there are all kinds of possibilities out there. But according to this one particular group of ministers, they said to them, it's clear, you have to split things 50/50 to be fair about it.

According to these people, neither Senator Clinton nor Obama should get the upper hand here, because both of these people knew that going into this Florida primary, that Florida was going to be stripped of the delegates. Why? Because the DNC said at the time if you're going to jump the gun and go early, we're going to strip you of your delegates. And both of these candidates -- in fact, all of the Democratic candidates at the time -- signed a pledge acknowledging that the DNC would be able to do this.

Well, now this group of ministers is telling us that they think that the best way to handle this is for both candidates to take the moral high ground, do the right thing and split it 50/50.


FREDERICA WILSON (D), FLORIDA STATE SENATE: We're asking them to rule half of the delegates for Florida because we feel, if you divide it in half, it will be just, it will be equal, and it will be fair.


CANDIOTTI: Now, whether Senators Clinton and Obama will go along with this is still in question, although we are getting indications from Senator Obama's camp that this would be fair to him.

Not surprisingly, Senator Clinton disagrees with that, because she beat Obama here by almost two to one. Of course, Obama's people are saying, well, neither candidate campaigned down here. She had more name recognition at that time back in January. And they're convinced that he would have done much better had the primary taken place later on and if both candidates had a chance to make their way down to Florida and campaign down here.

But both groups seem to agree that the key thing here is uniting the Democrats in the end, once a nominee is chosen, if they are to do well in November.

Back to you, T.J.

HOLMES: All right. And this weekend, the meeting, DNC Rules Committee. We'll see how that comes out as well.

Susan Candiotti for us in Miami.

Thank you so much.



KEILAR: Hi there, I'm Brianna Keilar in for Kyra Phillips live at the CNN World Headquarters in Atlanta.

HOLMES: And hello, everyone. I'm T.J. Holmes sitting in today for Don Lemon.

You're in the CNN NEWSROOM.

Now CNN's "Energy Fix." Today we look at what is behind those rising gas prices. It is not just limited oil supplies; it is also growing demand.'s Poppy Harlow joining us from the energy desk in New York.

What's going on here, Poppy? POPPY HARLOW, CNNMONEY.COM: Hey there, Brianna.

You're right. It's a lot about demand. We know that OPEC and those other major producers of oil are near their output capacity. So that means there is likely not going to be a lot more oil to hit the market any time soon. That's why rising demand is such a big issue.

The problem is not so much here in the United States, the slowing economy and the soaring price of energy has limited that growth here, but not so much overseas. Now we've reported on rising demand for oil from China and India as their economies continue to boom. And now, the biggest producers of oil are also becoming big, big consumers of it as well.

The "Wall Street Journal" reports today the top producers of oil in the Middle East -- we're talking Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Iran, Kuwait, Iraq and Qatar -- are all significantly boosting their internal usage of oil and natural gas. That leaves a lot less for the rest of us -- Brianna.

KEILAR: Is this really something new? Why should we be paying attention to this?

HARLOW: Obviously -- of course this didn't happen overnight.

But it really has developed pretty quickly. And unlike the growth that we're seeing in China and India, it comes as a bit of a surprise. The "Journal" says that since 2004, the Saudis have increased their domestic consumption by 23 percent. And the Energy Department says those six Mid East producers that I named are using, get this, an additional 318,000 barrels of oil every day.

Now, that means that there's a lot less available to us. And even though their production has remained about the same, or gone up, their exports, what they give us and the rest of the world in terms of oil, has fallen by about 2.5 percent. That's what happened last year -- Brianna.

KEILAR: So bottom line, Poppy -- the question is what does it mean for us? I'm guessing that it's not a good thing.

HARLOW: Yes, it's definitely not a good thing, especially if you have a car, you live in one of those more rural areas we were just talking about that you have to drive a lot. Tighter supplies are most certainly going to mean higher prices at the pump, higher oil.

We're looking at oil futures (ph) today. Crude futures (ph) have fallen sharply, down about -- around $127 a barrel. But that's not far off from that record high that we saw last week. But this is what's critical here. That price is more than double what we saw just a year ago. A growing number of analysts say we really have not seen anything yet.

Goldman Sachs recently forecast crude could climb to $200 a barrel by next year -- Brianna.

KEILAR: $200 a barrel -- that is the opposite of music to my ears, Poppy.

OK -- we'll be checking in with you a little later. Thanks so much.

HOLMES: Well, a signal problem, a communication failure or human error. Federal safety inspectors say they're not ruling anything out in the crash of two commuter trains outside Boston -- the wreck during the height of rush hour yesterday, killed the operator of one train. More than a dozen people were hurt.

But those on the scene today said it could have been a whole lot worse.


KATHRYN HIGGINS, NTSB: I'm always surprised and relieved that there aren't more casualties in these accidents. It's a good thing. People, as I understand it, were able to walk away. Fortunately, because the train was two stops away from the end of the line, there were fewer passengers than there would have been if the accident happened sooner. So I think that probably explains why there were fewer injuries than there might otherwise have been.


HOLMES: Investigators say it could be more than a year now before their final report on the accident is ready.

KEILAR: Doubling down, you know, it's popular for Blackjack players, but not for Arizona's Art Hanson. The veteran pilot had to make not one, but two emergency landings yesterday on Interstate 17. This is outside Phoenix. His second flight attempt lasted all of five minutes with the engine trouble forcing him down again on the highway.

Now luckily no one was injured and there was no third time is a charm. Hanson just called a tow truck.

HOLMES: Leading our Political Ticker today, Barack Obama's call to battle. The Democratic frontrunner says the general election battle will start after Tuesday's final two primaries in Montana and South Dakota. Obama says he believes he will be the nominee after Tuesday.

And right now, according to our estimates, he needs 48 delegates to clinch the nomination. Eighty-six delegates are at stake in the final three primaries. And almost 200 superdelegates still undeclared.

KEILAR: Nancy Pelosi says she won't let the fight over Florida and Michigan delegates drag on much longer. Hillary Clinton has said that she's prepared to take the fight to the party's August convention. But the house speaker tells the "San Francisco Chronicle," she'll step in to keep that from happening. Pelosi says for party unity, the nomination race must be resolved by the end of the month. HOLMES: One of Hillary Clinton's biggest backers, Pennsylvania governor Ed Rendell, says it's likely she will not be the nominee. But he still thinks she'd do better than Obama in the swing states. Rendell tells Bloomberg Television he's a realist and it's most likely superdelegates will give Obama the votes he needs.

KEILAR: Going West in search of political support. John McCain and Barack Obama both have their eyes on potential voters in fertile battleground states.

Here is CNN's Mary Snow, part of the best political team on TV.


SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R-AZ), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: It's wonderful to be here in Nevada, Nevada, Nevada.

MARY SNOW, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Senator John McCain of Arizona making his case in neighboring Nevada.

MCCAIN: Nevada is a Western state. I am a Western senator.

SNOW: In three days, McCain has taken his message to Nevada, New Mexico and Colorado, crisscrossing paths with Democratic senator Barack Obama in three traditionally Republican states that are a key battleground.

SEN. BARACK OBAMA (D-IL), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: We're going to fight as hard as we can in these states. We want to send a message now that we're going to go after them and I expect to win them.

SNOW: Democrats see an opening in the West after tight contests in the past two presidential races, particularly in 2004. "Denver Post" political reporter, Karen Crummy, says even though the states only have 19 electoral votes combined, they can make a difference.

KAREN CRUMMY, "DENVER POST," POLITICAL REPORTER: If John Kerry in 2004 had won Colorado, Nevada and New Mexico, he would have won.

SNOW: Democrats lost New Mexico in 2004, but won it in 2000. Colorado and Nevada stayed red, but the races were tight. Democrats have made gains in recent years in state elections, and McCain is fighting to make sure the trend doesn't translate into a national election.

MCCAIN: I understand our issues of Native Americans, of land, of water, of public lands, of dynamic growth and how we handle those challenges.

SNOW: Global warming is another issue he stresses, along with his support of illegal immigration reform, an issue the campaign hopes will resonate with Independents and conservative Democrats. McCain has also been reaching out to the growing Hispanic population in the West.

(on camera): But the issue overshadowing everything is the economy, particularly here in Nevada. It has the highest foreclosure rate in the country. Senator Obama made that the focus of his visit here on Tuesday, this as he tries to paint Senator McCain as being weak on the economy.

Mary Snow, CNN, Reno, Nevada.


HOLMES: Gay and lesbian couples have found a reason to celebrate on both coasts. California now has set the date for issuing same-sex marriage licenses -- that is June 17. The state Supreme Court has until the 16th to grant a stay of its decision legalizing gay marriage.

KEILAR: The state of New York is set to recognize same-sex marriages legally performed in other states and countries. New York's governor is telling state agencies that to do otherwise would violate the state's human rights law. Gay rights advocates have fought for marriage recognition, in part, so that couples can share the benefits of insurance, taxes and adoption.

HOLMES: Ellen DeGeneres -- she is teasing guests about her upcoming wedding. Could the Bush ranch be a possible wedding site?

KEILAR: A little bit "Bonnie and Clyde," a little but "CSI." We're checking out the brand new crime museum in Washington.


KEILAR: Here's a story that may make you feel a little better about your landlord. Police in Prescott, Arizona say this guy trolled for sex online by offering free housing. They say 54-year-old Ronald Larson placed an ad on craigslist offering free rent to a fun, attractive woman willing to partake in, "adult fun."

Now Larson allegedly wanted sex one to three times a week. He is now facing a count of soliciting prostitution.

HOLMES: All right. Well, most of us think we're good guys or good gals, but we're still so fascinated by the bad guys. The National Museum of Crime and Punishment just opened in Washington. It's an interactive look at what it's like to be a criminal and also what it's like to catch one.

CNN's Jeanne Meserve has a sneak peek.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Good afternoon, this is about a gang (ph).

JEANNE MESERVE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: America reveres and reviles its robbers. The movie "Bonnie and Clyde" burnished the legend of that criminal couple. Now a museum does, too.

JANINE VACCARELLO, NATL. MUSEUM OF CRIME & PUNISHMENT: This is the Bonnie and Clyde car from the Warren Beatty, Fay Dunaway movie. MESERVE: But this new museum is also about cops and the consequences of crime.

VACCARELLO: The first thing that we want people to come away with is to know that crime does not pay.

MESERVE: But this is definitely not Sunday School. Shoulder a rifle and engage in a wild West shoot out. Take a police car on a high speed chase in a simulator just like those used for police training.

There are also efforts to prevent real crime. Admission includes getting your children fingerprinted. Many of the splashy exhibits let visitors see how crimes are solved.

VACCARELLO: I'll just touch back here, and you can see how the infrared technology works. On the wall when I remove my hand, you can still see --

MESERVE (on camera): Oh, wow. Leaves that heat mark.

(voice-over): And visit a mockup of a forensic crime lab, corpse and all, to learn the finer points of doing an autopsy.

As for punishment, there is an electric chair in the which 125 people died, even a lethal injection machine, though the museum points out that it doesn't have a position on capital punishment. And for those who escape the death penalty, there is a cell offering a different kind of escape.

(on camera): Admission -- almost $18, a jolt to Washingtonians who are used to the free Smithsonian museum. But officials here say, tourists expect to pay for their entertainment, even if it comes with some educational value.

Jeanne Meserve, CNN, Washington.


KEILAR: Houston, we have a problem with the plumbing, the plumbing that goes to the restroom.

Our space correspondent, Miles O'Brien, has the latest on this.


HOLMES: All right. Of course plumbing problems can be a pain no matter where you are. But can you imagine being a long way away from the hardware store when you have some plumbing problems. Like -- not on Earth? The toilet is on the fritz at the international space station.

Our Miles O'Brien in New York.

Miles, so, are they sending up a plumber on the next shuttle mission? MILES O'BRIEN, CNN SPACE CORRESPONDENT: Yes, I guess you could say, certainly heavily qualified, overqualified plumbers.

Maybe they -- what do you do when you're in orbit? You go to the not-so-close-to-home Home Depot?

HOLMES: Oh wow.

O'BRIEN: You get a flapper? I don't know.

HOLMES: How long did you work on that one?

O'BRIEN: It just came right there.

HOLMES: All right. What is the problem here?

O'BRIEN: Let's roll some tape. Let me show you what this device is all about. (INAUDIBLE) it's going to cost you $19 million to replace it.

That's Sunny Williams (ph). She's not up there anymore.

And -- OK, T.J., that's for number one.


O'BRIEN: OK. A little bit of suction. I think we can all figure out how that works. One size fits all.

HOLMES: All right then.

O'BRIEN: Now, down here to the right, number -- what are the two? I can't get a two. It's number two. In any case, the number two function -- just fine. The number one function involves a certain kind of pump to create that suction. As a matter of fact, let me show you that pump because a new replacement part while we were sleeping was making its way from Moscow to Orlando, down the bee-line expressway, now it's inside the shuttle. There it is. It weighs all of 35 pounds. And that is the source of the trouble. It's a little more complicated than going to get a flapper.

HOLMES: OK, let's make sure we got this right. The number one is broken or the number two is broken?

O'BRIEN: Just number one.

HOLMES: Just the number one. All right.

O'BRIEN: And what happens is, what that pump does, T.J., it actually separates the gas, the air, from the liquid because when you want to create this vacuum, you don't want the liquid to go into the van which creates the vacuum. So that's what this fancy machine does. So, on this -- you know, this is something you think they'd have a spare. As a matter of fact, they had two spares on board, and they swapped them all in and it didn't work.


O'BRIEN: And they think they were from the same lot. They were manufactured at the same time, so there might be a defect. So this new one they brought in is from a different manufacturer's lot. And so up it will go on the space shuttle Discovery, which sits on the launch pad right now.

HOLMES: Miles, what are they doing in the meantime?

O'BRIEN: Well, they've got work-arounds, so to speak.

HOLMES: Now, what does that mean?

O'BRIEN: Well, they have -- first of all, they were able to rig up the toilet to operate in a partially functional way. What it doesn't do -- matter of fact, take a look in here. Let's go to this still here for just a moment. Every time you use this over here, there's a little wash, water and sulfuric acid wash which goes into the cone to clear it out. They have to do that manually now. That's the only difference.


O'BRIEN: And so they're fine. They do have other backups. They have baggies and astronaut diapers, and all kinds of those things along those lines.

HOLMES: So it's not getting messy up there just yet?

O'BRIEN: No. They can go a long time. But nevertheless, it's always nice to have a working toilet.

HOLMES: A working toilet.

All right, and when are they -- and they have pretty good confidence that the part that's being sent up, this one will work?

O'BRIEN: They've tested it and they've retested it. But you know, until it gets latched in there, they can't say for certain it's going to work.

But in any case, it launches Saturday. The space shuttle will be there on Monday. I can assure you this will be the number one priority.

HOLMES: And are you serious? It's going to cost millions of dollars to get this done?

O'BRIEN: Well, actually they're going to add a second toilet next spring to the space station because they're going to have six people up there, six. And that second toilet...

HOLMES: Guys and girls, men's and women's?

O'BRIEN: The second toilet is $19 million. The U.S. paid the Russians $19 million for it. HOLMES: Wow. Gold plated.

KEILAR: I'm adding a new toilet into my home and it's not costing nearly that much, Miles.

HOLMES: It's not.

O'BRIEN: I would hope not, I would hope not. Even if you get one of those reduced flush bottles, those fancy ones or whatever, with the bidet. Still, less.

HOLMES: Oh, Miles. We sure -- we can put a man on the moon, but we can't get the toilet to work. Isn't that something?

O'BRIEN: I think we've proven that, yes.

HOLMES: Miles O'Brien, we appreciate it.

This is a story that's fascinated everybody. Interesting stuff. But they do have a serious issue to get worked out up there.

But, we appreciate it.

KEILAR: Well, Ellen DeGeneres, teasing guests about her upcoming wedding. Is the Bush ranch a possible wedding site?


KEILAR: Talk show host Ellen DeGeneres, has been talking up plans for her same-sex wedding with some big-time guests on her show.

CNN's Jeanne Moos, reports.


JEANNE MOOS, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): In case you couldn't tell from all the hand holding and cozy body language.


MOOS: But the body language is slightly more awkward when Ellen DeGeneres, has not so gay marriage friendly guests on her show and ever since this announcement:

DEGENERES: I'm announcing, I'm getting married.

MOOS: With her spouse-to-be, Portia de Rossi, clapping in the audience, ever since Ellen has been tweaking certain guests about her upcoming wedding. Most recently Laura Bush, and her just married daughter Jenna, married at the Bush ranch.

DEGENERES: So the ranch was a great place to get married. It looked like nobody could fly over and get pictures and bother you, really.


DEGENERES: Yes, so can we borrow it for our wedding? Can we get the ranch?

HAGER: Sure, sure you can.

DEGENERES: OK, great. I appreciate it.

MOOS: Not Laura Bush, nodding silently.

Just the week before it was John McCain's turn.

DEGENERES: When we come back I will be discussing with you California overturning the ban on gay marriage --

MCCAIN: I can hardly wait.


MOOS: When they did return...

DEGENERES: We are all the same people, all of us. You're no different I am, our love is the same.

MOOS: But same-sex marriage was too much for Senator McCain, though he did say...

MCCAIN: I, along with many, many others who wish you every happiness.

DEGENERES: Thank you. So you'll walk me down the aisle. Is that what you said?

MOOS: And speaking of saying don't to gays saying I do, check out this Republican congressional candidate's attack ad that's causing laughing attacks.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: In San Francisco, Nancy Pelosi's throwing a party for Kay Barnes. A rich California fundraiser celebrating Barnes' San Francisco style values, yes to same-sex marriage, yes to abortion.


MOOS: All that gay dancing earned this Missouri congressional ad the title worst campaign ad of the year, from the liberal, "New Republic." Many couldn't believe it was a real ad. Saying it seemed more like a Saturday Night Live spoof.

(on camera): Like the Village People, on a bad hair day.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes to same-sex marriage, yes to abortion --

MOOS (voice-over): Yes to mullets from the '70s. The attack ad provoked a counter attack ad...

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Sam Grave's negative campaign. It's sad.

MOOS: ... or at least cheesy. There will be nothing cheesy about the Ellen-Portia wedding. We've taken the liberty of preparing the invitations. Ellen will be given away by the Republican candidate for president, at a ceremony held on the Bush ranch, unless we hear any objection

HAGER: Sure.

Jeanne Moos, CNN, New York.


HOLMES: Supply and demand, the falling dollar. Investor speculations, when it comes to the surging price of oil and gas.

We've heard all the explanations.

KEILAR: Or have we? It turns out the Feds have been quietly investigating another possibility. It's an outrage, and our Ali Velshi, is on the case.

Hi, there. I'm Brianna Keilar, at CNN Center in Atlanta.

HOLMES: And hello everyone, I'm T.J. Holmes.

And you are in the CNN NEWSROOM.