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CNN Live Today

Four Days Before Vote on New Constitution, Insurgents Ramping Up Attacks; Conspiracy Theories in New Orleans; Interview with Spike Lee

Aired October 11, 2005 - 11:30   ET


DARYN KAGAN, CNN ANCHOR: Let's take a look at what's happening now in the news. U.S. helicopters are ferrying blankets and plastic sheeting to the South Asian quake zone. Five million people have been left homeless, and many are living outdoors in cold weather and rain. Authorities say the quake has killed at least 20,000 people in Pakistan, but officials say the death toll could be as high as 41,000.
Just this hour, CNN's Kelli Arena confirming the threat against the New York subway system was a hoax. The city added extra security because of the specificity of the alleged threat. Now sources say the informant has admitted he made up the whole thing.

"New York Times" reporter Judith Miller is expected to talk with CIA leak investigators today. Miller testified to a grand jury on September 30th. She spent much of the summer in jail for refusing to reveal her source regarding the disclosure of a CIA operative's identity.

Personal papers suggest close ties between Supreme Court choice Harriet Miers and President Bush. The Texas State Archives released the document. The associated press details several birthday notes Miers and the president exchanged while she ran the Texas Lottery Commission. One from Ms. Miers read, "Dear Governor GWB, you are the best governor ever." Another said, "The governor's daughters have cool parents."

We go to Iraq. Four days before a vote on the new constitution and insurgents are ramping up their attacks today.

CNN correspondent Aneesh Raman is in Baghdad. He has details on the latest flurry of bombs.


Four suicide car bombs striking Iraq today after a few days of relative calm, the deadliest incident in the northwestern town of Talafar near the Syrian border, a suicide bomber detonating at a marketplace there. At least 30 are confirmed dead, upwards of 45 others are wounded. Not far from Talafar, Daryn, is the city of Mosul. There two suicide car bombs detonated today, at least one Iraqi civilian was killed. Here in the capital city in the western part of Baghdad, a Sunni-dominated neighborhood called Amiriyah (ph) a suicide car bomber detonating along a convoy of Iraqi army vehicles. At least four people, according to Iraqi police, were killed in that incident. A number of others wounded. Plumes of smoke rose from the scene as ambulances and other emergency vehicles rushed to aid those that were injured.

It comes, as you say, just four days ahead of Iraq's constitutional referendum. And these attacks, it's worth noting, happened in Sunni-dominated areas. The big question has not just been whether Sunnis would sign up to vote, which they've done -- some 15.5 million Iraqis registered -- but whether they would show up on election day. It's why the U.S. military has had a number, Daryn, of ongoing investigations in the western Al Anbar province to curb the insurgency, to curb the flow of weapons, but also to create a safe environment for Sunnis to go to the polls in their provinces. So that will be the number we look for on Saturday, not just how many Iraqis show up, but how many Sunnis.

And also in terms of this referendum, Daryn, it is an incredibly divisive document. The issue of federalism is something the Sunnis do not want mentioned in this document. They are going to be calling out to vote this document down. If they are not able to do so, if by all expectations it passes by a slim majority, that could, many fear, further alienate the Sunnis from this political process. And bringing them in, of course, Daryn, is seen as key to bringing stability to Iraq -- Daryn.

KAGAN: Aneesh, remember the last time around with the last elections, didn't they keep the polling places secret until just the last second as a matter of security?

RAMAN: If you'll recall in January, immense security. It was on virtual lockdown throughout the country, and we're seeing something similar now. We know where the polling stations will be, at least some of them. Some 6,000 election centers set up throughout the country. But in the days preceding and the day of, no cars will be allowed to travel. A number of checkpoints have been set up in and around those polling station, but we are hearing from residents in some parts of Iraq that the polling station is simply too far for them to walk. And if they cannot drive, they cannot vote. So the number of polling stations is something we've been pushing election officials on and are awaiting further clarify in terms of how close they are to Iraqis that want to vote -- Daryn.

KAGAN: Aneesh Raman, live from Baghdad. Aneesh, thank you.

Let's go ahead and take a look at other stories making news overseas this morning. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice is in Kyrgyzstan today. She met with U.S. troops based in the former Soviet Republic. Rice just might extend her trip to include a visit to the South Asian earthquake zone.

A deal in hand, now the details. Angela Merkel's aides are meeting with opposition leaders in Germany today. They hope to cobble a coalition to govern Germany by mid-November. Once the players are named, the roles established, Merkel will succeed Gerhard Schroeder as chancellor.

And in Guatemala, helicopters are bringing food and other supplies to mudslide survivors. Guatemala is asking the U.N. for cash, saying its emergency fund is tapped out. Several U.S. military choppers are taking part in the aid drop. Authorities fear the mudslides from Hurricane Stan's rains killed more than 1,000 villagers.

In the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, we've been asking to you e-mail us with your thoughts about whether to rebuild New Orleans. Here now are some of the latest responses.

Susan Randolph of Cookeville, Tennessee says, "No. Man needs to respect God's plan. He made the land to be a buffer between the land and the ocean. Let nature reclaim the swamp, and relocate the residents to a safer area.

But Joseph Inyang of Houston says, "Yes, New Orleans should be rebuilt. I can't believe this is even a question. Why would we spend billions of dollars rebuilding Iraq and have to question ourselves about rebuilding a major American city."

To share your thoughts and read the latest on the relief efforts -- on the relief efforts or electronically thumb through our galleries of images, visit our special Web site,

Believe it or not, some victims of Hurricane Katrina think man is more to blame than nature. After flooding there destroyed countless homes and lives, coming up, the whispers floating around New Orleans.

Also, Spike Lee stops by for a visit. We'll talk about his new biography and a lot more. We're back after a quick break.


KAGAN: Urban legends sometimes evolve in the aftermath of disasters like Hurricane Katrina. And a conspiracy theory about the flooding in a New Orleans neighborhood is proving hard for some to dismiss, despite a lack of evidence.

Details now from national correspondent Gary Tuchman.


GARY TUCHMAN, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The Lower Ninth Ward is no longer underwater, but nobody's under the illusion things are getting back to normal. The absence of water makes the complete destruction of this New Orleans neighborhood more evident. The people who lived here aren't even allowed to visit.

ISAAC RAY, HURRICANE KATRINA EVACUEE: We need other people to help us. We just can't do it by ourselves, we don't have the resources. Help.

TUCHMAN: Isaac Ray is in a shelter in Baton Rouge, still packed with people who lost their homes in the Lower Ninth Ward. They all know levee failure caused the flooding of their neighborhood, but the angering frustration they feel has made the atmosphere ripe for talk of conspiracies.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I feel that that levee didn't break by itself.

TUCHMAN (on camera): What do you think happened?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I believe they let the water in. That's what I believe. To keep everybody out the Ninth Ward.

TUCHMAN (voice-over): Flooding the Ninth Ward in order to protect other neighborhoods? It's an extremely common belief among many in this shelter. The fact that other neighborhoods were flooded doesn't diminish the array of vehement conspiracy theories about the levee break.

TUCHMAN (on camera): Why would they want the levee to break?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Poor black people. That's all. Just poor black people they want to get rid of.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I think they blew it up. I think they bombed it up, I think they blew it up with explosives.

TUCHMAN (voice-over): And while there's no evidence to support any of these theories, they go on.


TUCHMAN (on camera): Sabotage by who?


TUCHMAN: Which enemies are those?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The ones who bombed New York.

TUCHMAN: Al Qaeda?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I don't know his name.

TUCHMAN (voice-over): And the theories are shared by some who don't live anywhere near the Ninth Ward.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I think that there are probably people in power who are not above doing that.

TUCHMAN: The conspiracy talks saddens New Orleans political leaders and experts, who nevertheless see how past racial relations in this city foster such thinking.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I think it's a combination of, historically, certain groups of people not feeling like they've had a voice in determining their fates.

TUCHMAN: The conspiracy issue was taken up in the October 3rd "New Yorker," in an article written by magazine editor David Remnick.

DAVID REMNICK, EDITOR, "THE NEW YORKER": Any natural disaster I've been involved in, as a reporter, whether it's an earthquake, you know, Armenia, the chernobyl nuclear accident and other situations, always have attached to it some sense that not everything was by chance or by act of God.

TUCHMAN (on camera): The mayor of New Orleans is an African- American, but that fact doesn't get in the way of the conspiracy theorists, who say things like the mayor didn't know about the plot or didn't care about it or was powerless to stop it. All accusations that would never fly in a court of law, but are very prevalent in this court of public opinion.

(voice-over): The Lower Ninth Ward was destroyed August 29th, and with it, the trust of many of its residents.

Gary Tuchman, CNN, New Orleans.


KAGAN: And now our visit with Spike Lee. His movies are as pointed as hi name. Twenty years -- yes it's been 20 years -- after his breakout film "She's Got to Have It," life -- Lee's life fills the pages of a new authorized biography. It's called "Spike Lee: That's My Story and I'm Sticking To It." It was written by London-based journalist Kaleem Aftab.

Producer, director and Knicks fan, Spike Lee joining me from New York City. Spike, good morning. Good to have you here with us.

SPIKE LEE, MOVIEMAKER: Glad to be here. How you doing?

KAGAN: I'm doing good. Let me just ask you one hurricane- related story. Because in your work, you've never shied away, of course, of racial, of social issues. Do you think there's a movie to be made about that story of what's happened along the Gulf Coast?

LEE: Yes, I'm about to do a documentary for HBO. It's called "When the Levee Broke." And we hope to -- I mean, like your great story you just had. You know, there's a great film, "Chinatown." Remember the film "Chinatown" with Jack Nicholson...

KAGAN: Yes, I do, yes.

LEE: ... and John Houston? Where they flooded...

KAGAN: The L.A. basin.

LEE: The thing -- the L.A. Basin. So the -- it's the same thing in "Chinatown." I know Robert Towne wrote the screenplay, but I believe that, you know, it's not too far-fetched to think that, look, we got a bunch of poor black people here. We got to save these other neighborhoods. What we got to do, dump this in this ward, boom. I believe it.

KAGAN: Well, let me just ask. So you believe the idea that this flooding took place on purpose?

LEE: Hey, I don't put anything -- have you heard of the Tuskeegee experiment? I don't put anything past the United States government.

KAGAN: And so and HBO's going to have you do a documentary and you're going to try to prove that?

LEE: Well, no, no, no, no, no.

KAGAN: Just look at the idea?

LEE: I'm doing a documentary about New Orleans. It's called "When the Levee Broke."

KAGAN: "When the Levee Broke." OK.

LEE: But it's not -- that's not the sole thing. Wait a minute. Let's get it...

KAGAN: OK. Let's just be clear about that.

LEE: Yes, let's be very clear.

KAGAN: Well, I just have to check with you. Because you -- like you said, that's your story and you're sticking to it.

LEE: Yes. And I think that it's a shame what happened and I don't care how many times Mr. Bush goes to the Gulf or spends a night in a hotel, there's still a lot of grief. And, you know, I don't find it too far-fetched that they try to displace all the black people out of New Orleans.

KAGAN: And then in this documentary, are you going to look not just at the federal government, but at the leaders that have been running New Orleans and the state government, as well?

LEE: Look, I'm not -- we're -- I'm going to do what a good documentary filmmaker does, go and tell a story. So we're not -- we don't have an agenda. But I think there's a definite story there and it's -- I think it all fits in part with American history. But what about the book, though?

KAGAN: Yes, let's talk -- there's great stories. You know, we had this conversation. They said, do you want to talk to Spike about the hurricane? I said, I could talk to Spike for an hour just about his book. There are so many great stories in there.

LEE: We can talk about the Yankee game last night, also.

KAGAN: Oh, I don't think you want to talk about that.

LEE: No, not really.

KAGAN: OK. By the way, happy anniversary. Twenty years since "She's Gotta Have It." I was reading, you made it $175,000. It went onto make $8 million at the box office. If you went to Hollywood today and tried to make that movie, how would that story play out? LEE: Well, it would be very different. Because I was -- you know, everything's about luck and timing. Because if you do a film about an African-American woman who's having several lovers at the same time, we were lucky because this is before anybody knew anything about AIDS. Now I'd be branded a...

KAGAN: It's a different time.

LEE: ... you know, an unmoral -- different time. So everything is timing. I'll be branded unresponsible filmmaker.

KAGAN: You would be called an irresponsible filmmaker if you tried to do that.

LEE: Right.

KAGAN: Lots of interesting nuggets. Because you do go through each individual film that you've made and give behind-the-scenes, really frank explanations of how the film was made, who was cast and problems you might have had with certain actors. Interesting nugget from "Jungle Fever." You thought Halle Berry was too beautiful to play the role that was her breakout role.

LEE: Yes.

KAGAN: That's a good problem to have, I guess.

LEE: Yes. It was Halle Berry's first film, and you know, in this role, she had to play Vivian, a three dollar crackhead. And you know, Halle's beautiful, and a lot of women don't want to look what, you know, what a crackhead looks like.

KAGAN: You're not thinking Halle Berry. So you put a green light on her?

LEE: But she said -- well, that's one of the things we did visually. But it was her conviction that I want to play this character, and I'm not worried how I look in real life, I want to look like this character, so it was great.

But the thing I like about this book, it's not just my voice. We've interviewed hundreds of people who are part of this 20-year journey, and everybody has a chance to get in there own shot, if you might say. So it's not all pro. There are a lot of things people have problems with. We give people voices to get their say in, too.

KAGAN: It's not a puff piece. You clearly didn't call these people and say, you better say nice things.

LEE: No, not at all.

KAGAN: Because their is all different versions of working with you.

I think one the sweetest thing in the book is the note to your sons at the very end. And I thought it was interesting that you say, except for one of your movies, your sons haven't seen your movies, and you look forward to the day they can do that.

LEE: Yes, I have a daughter named Satchel, who's 10, and my son is Jackson, who's 8. And they've only seen one of my films, which was "Crooklyn," and I'm looking forward to the day where we can sit down and just have a marathon one weekend so they can see all the films when they become of age.

KAGAN: At appropriate age, because they're...

LEE: Appropriate age.

KAGAN: That would have to come to see a Spike Lee movie.

LEE: They've got a while for that, though.

KAGAN: OK, and finally, I have to talk to you about your New York Knicks. New coach, Larry Brown. Are you enthused about the season?

LEE: I am. I'm very enthused.

KAGAN: Oh, Spike.

LEE: (INAUDIBLE) So I'm more for the Yankees now. It's basketball season.

KAGAN: If you're enthused about your Knicks, I'm a little concerned. But we'll leave that conversation for another day.

LEE: OK, thank you very much for having me.

KAGAN: It was great to have you.

Once again, the book is called "Spike Lee: That's My Story and I'm Sticking to It." We look forward to that. When you make the documentary for HBO, will you come back?

LEE: Well, you guys, Time-Warner, HBO, it's all connected.

KAGAN: I know. It will make us like coworkers. So you have to stop by. It sounds like it's going to be a big (INAUDIBLE). Thank you.

LEE: A taxi ride away.

KAGAN: OK, Spike Lee. Thanks, Spike.

All right, we are going to move on to weather, your Tuesday weather forecast and more of CNN LIVE TODAY after a quick break.



KAGAN: Much more on the Asian earthquake ahead, including, did you know that there are 700,000 Pakistani-Americans living here? Many of them trying to help people back home. We'll get to that in the next hour.