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CNN Live Today
Arrests Made In Alabama Church Fires; Gunmen Abduct Dozens Of Workers In Baghdad; Anger After The Storm In New Orleans; Summer Camp Tips; War Wounded
Aired March 08, 2006 - 10:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
SOLEDAD O'BRIEN, CNN ANCHOR: We're out of time. Let's get right to Daryn at the CNN Center.
Hey, Daryn, good morning.
DARYN KAGAN, CNN ANCHOR: Good morning to both of you. We're wasting no time. Two developing stories to get to right away.
There are arrests in those church fires in Alabama. Also in Baghdad, word that gunmen have seized as many as 50 employees of a private security firm.
Let's get right to our domestic top story, and that's the breaking news, just minutes ago, we're learning of a major development in those serial arson attacks on several Alabama church. Sources telling CNN that two people right now are under arrest. A third suspect is being sought. For the latest, let's bring in our Justice Department Producer Terry Frieden who was on the phone.
Terry, what do we know about these arrests?
TERRY FRIEDEN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Good morning, Daryn.
Well, we know that one of the arrest occurred in Birmingham, the second was somewhere in Alabama, I'm not quite sure yet. But two sources are telling us that these two suspects will be brought into federal court in Birmingham later this morning and will appear before a U.S. magistrate for a first judicial appearance.
The third suspect that they are still looking for is someone who they have identified. They know who they're looking for, they just haven't found that individual yet.
They're being quite tight-lipped about the details. They're kind of -- it sounds like there's a tussle going on over when and where and how this announcement actually is going to be made, whether it will be in Washington or whether it will be in Birmingham and who all will be participating. And also, Daryn, there's a question about who actually will prosecute, even though the ATF made the arrest and the individuals are in federal custody, there's some question that needs to be thrashed out about whether state or federal officials will prosecute these people.
KAGAN: Terry, I know at a certain point officials said they believed that the individual or the people who were doing this had a message that they were trying to get out and they set up an e-mail address, they put up a special post office box hoping that the person or people would contact them. Do you know if that led to a break in the case or if there was any other type of break?
FRIEDEN: From what little I've been able to glean, it does not sound like that would be the reason that the arrests were made. The investigation has been quite intensive for some time. Obviously, they are still looking for the third person and so it would appear that there was probably some other reason that led to the break in the case but we just don't know yet what that was.
KAGAN: And when they appear in federal court, do we know what the charges will be?
FRIEDEN: We don't. And, in fact, I'm told that its probably not even been decided. I think what will probably happen at this first appearance is that there will be some temporary charge that will be made that will indicate that they -- at least give the federal authorities a chance to keep them in custody until they figure out exactly what charges are going to be lodged and whether or not they will stay in ATF custody or marshall's custody or they'll actually be turned over to Alabama authorities at some point.
KAGAN: We will be watching it. Terry Frieden, our Justice Department producer. Thank you for the latest on that and those serial arsonists in Alabama.
Also this news just in to CNN. Gunmen have abducted dozens of workers at a private security firm in Baghdad. For that let's go right to CNN's Aneesh Raman who is in the capital with the latest on the story.
ANEESH RAMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Daryn, good morning.
The incident took place about five hours ago. We're told 25 gunmen, dressed as Iraqi police commandos, and I should stress at the moment it's unclear whether they were in fact Iraqi security personnel or were people who were just merely using the uniforms, they stormed a private Iraqi security firm office in the southeastern part of the capital. For about two hours they went in, they rounded up the employees, they have taken some 50 employees from that Iraqi private security firm to another location, three guards at the firm were able to essentially escape. They arrived, we're told, in 10 vehicles, the 25 gunmen who again were dressed as Iraq police commandos.
We do not know much more than that, specifically whether or not this is, in fact, perhaps an operation being conducted by the Iraqi interior minister. They have cautioned against security firms that are here, or whether it, in fact, is, as we've seen many times before, insurgents dressed as Iraqi police commandos, using vehicles that they make out to seem as official, arriving at this situation. And now, as far as we know, some 50 employees of that Iraqi private security firm are in the hand of these men who have essentially stormed the office about five hours ago. Daryn.
KAGAN: Other acts of gruesome violence, including an awful discovery inside of a minivan. What can you tell us about that in western Baghdad?
RAMAN: Yes, late yesterday Iraqi police tell us they found 18 bodies in a minivan in the western part of the capital. All of them were men. All of them were strangled to death, their arms bound behind their back. They have not verified the identities, but we seen an increasing number of discoveries such as these. And this morning alone, Daryn, Iraqi police say they have found four more bodies and three separate discoveries part, they say, of the sectarian strive that has gripped Iraq.
KAGAN: Aneesh Raman. A lot of news coming out of Baghdad today. Aneesh, thank you.
And now on to Katrina. Right now in New Orleans, President Bush tours the hurricane zone. This is his 10th visit since Katrina roared ashore. He's being greeted by not only lingering concern, but also some newly stoked fears. Two groups of independent experts are raising disturbing questions about the repairs to the levees. The main concern, of course, whether residents will be safe if a hurricane hits the area this year. Meanwhile, Katrina's death toll quietly creeps up with the discovery of two more bodies in the ninth ward. The state medical examiner says as many as 400 bodies likely remains scattered throughout the city.
What kind of reaction does President Bush face with his visit to the Gulf Coast. Our White House Correspondent Suzanne Malveaux is traveling with the president, and then we have our Gulf Coast Correspondent Susan Roesgen will have the local view. Also, we'll talk with a local newsman for his thoughts on the pulse of the community.
First, Suzanne, to you.
SUZANNE MALVEAUX, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Daryn, President Bush, Air Force One touching down just moments ago. He's in the ninth ward and that is where he is going to be speaking before a levee breach, one of those breaks, of course, that was devastating for New Orleans. The president is going to be making remarks highlighting two things.
First and foremost, the federal government's promise essentially to rebuild, completely rebuild that levee system, 350 miles of levee, about 169 damaged from Katrina, before the next hurricane season starts. And we're talking about less than 100 days away. The president is also going to be talking about the need to remove debris from private property. It's been a big problem for a lot of residents who just can't get rid of that garbage that's sitting on their property. President Bush addressing both of those things. And this really comes amid controversy. Just a couple days ago, experts from independent teams essentially accused the Army Corps of Engineers of doing this all on the cheep. Saying there were substandard materials that they were using to rebuild the levees, the flood walls, that type of thing. Well we heard from one of those engineer, a top engineer from the government, who was essentially saying that he does not believe that is true. He is taking issue with those reports, saying that they are doing the best they can.
Well, Daryn, that was sound or was supposed to be sound from Lieutenant General Karl Stroke (ph). Really in a preemptive move he addressed the media. This happened on Monday when he basically took issue with those reports saying that they were using materials from Mississippi because they didn't have the proper materials from Louisiana, but they feel that these are going to be sound structures, they'll be ready in place by June first.
But there are a couple of things that he did acknowledge. First and foremost, that this does not mean necessarily that the residents of the ninth ward will be able to come back to their homes or even come back to that area. That it's still going to take another year before they really assess what kind of situation they've got on the ground and also this only protects at category three, weak category three hurricane, nothing more, not a four or a five and that is certainly something that residents will have to consider.
KAGAN: Suzanne Malveaux traveling with the president in New Orleans.
Also in New Orleans, our Susan Roesgen, who we have the benefit of having someone who has lived in New Orleans for a number of years as well.
Susan, when the president comes to town like this, what's the local reaction? Are people impressed? Do they care? Do they appreciate the visit? Or do they just want to see results?
SUSAN ROESGEN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Certainly, Daryn, I think people here do appreciate the visit. They appreciate any national attention. We realize that it's been more than six months now since the hurricane and certainly, as Suzanne just pointed out, there is so much left to be done. So certainly we're very glad hear in this city. I hear it from a lot of folks that we're very glad that the president is here, glad to see members of Congress come last week.
But there are really two issues going on here now. Suzanne pointed to the homeowners fear, Daryn, about will the levees be repaired sufficiently? Will they be repaired in time for the next hurricane season?
There's also the question for business owners. All right, my home is OK. Maybe I do believe that my levee that's in my neighborhood will be repaired in time, but do I have a business to go to? We reported earlier this week on the Institute for Southern Studies recent Mardi Gras Katrina Index had some good statistics on businesses and economic indicators. About 60 percent of the small businesses in New Orleans, more than half of the small businesses in New Orleans were wiped out by the hurricane. About half of the local work force has been displaced by the hurricane.
I talked to one small business owner. She makes pralines. That's the local candy that's so popular here in New Orleans. She was waiting for a $250,000 small business administration loan, Daryn. She got the loan, but she says the money comes in such small increments that she can barely make it from month to month. So these are some of the other concerns, not just the restoration of the levees, but also how do we rebuild the New Orleans economy.
KAGAN: Oh, we're looking at video of the pralines. Looking good, even at this hour of the morning.
You know, we hear so much criticism of the federal government, but, Susan, clearly there's a lot of frustration with local government as well. Give us an idea of the mayor's race and the huge field of candidates.
ROESGEN: There is a huge field of candidates. Certainly some of them don't have any chance of making it into a runoff. I think the pollsters and the local feelings from folks on the street, that there are really three top candidates. Certainly the incumbent mayor, Mayor Ray Nagin, but also Lieutenant Governor Mitch Landrieu and former Audubon Zoo, actually runs the Audubon Institute, runs the Audubon Zoo, Ron Forman. These are probably the three top candidates right now.
And people are very interested in this race, Daryn. The election is going to be on April 22nd. There will probably be a runoff. And people really want to see some good changes in the year ahead. The mayor has taken a lot of criticism for the way he handled things after the hurricane and a lot of people are here saying we want to see a change. So it will be very interesting to see what the outcome of that will be. And also in the weeks leading up to it, how the poll shifts and how public perception shifts.
KAGAN: Will people who left New Orleans be able to vote in that election by absentee?
ROESGEN: That's the hope. The secretary in state's office up in Baton Rouge is working on that, getting the names of evacuees from FEMA and the addresses so that they will be allowed to vote absentee. And actually that's why we believe Mayor Nagin has been traveling quite a bit. He was in Houston earlier this week speaking to evacuees there because he's going to try to get that vote that has been displaced.
KAGAN: And he's been here in Atlanta quite a few times as well. Susan Roesgen, thank you.
Let's get more on what the people of New Orleans are saying and welcome in Dave Cohen. He is the news director at WWL radio. A legendary radio station there in New Orleans. He's with us. He's calling into us on the phone.
Dave, good morning.
DAVE COHEN, WWL RADIO NEWS DIRECTOR: Good morning, Daryn.
KAGAN: What is the number one thing when people call in to your show, to your program, to your radio station that they are talking about?
COHEN: Well, they're two things still. It is housing and it is the levees. And that's the two things President Bush is addressing during his visit here today. Right now Marine One has taken off from here. In Jefferson Parish, where the airport is, they're doing an aerial tour of the region, flying over the region. Last time he was here, he didn't take a look at any of the hurricane damage. So he took some criticism for that. This time the president, along with the mayor and the governor, are taking a brief aerial tour.
And then he's going to get on the ground at one of the sites where they're repairing the levees and talk to the folks doing the work, fixing the levees. There he'll make his public comments about the need to make sure that the money going through Congress right now, more than a billion dollars for armoring the levees in the years going forward to make them even stronger and 4.2 billion for housing here in Louisiana.
KAGAN: Dave, we've been hearing a lot this week also about these late body searches, especially through the lower ninth ward. What are people saying about that? Is there frustration that it's taken this long? Or is there also frustration that it's taken this long to get through this so that they can get on with the construction and reconstruction and move some of those houses out of the way?
COHEN: Yes, you know, they found bodies this week in the ninth ward, as well one, a mummified body in an attic in Lake View, which is one of the very well off areas here where someone had retreated into their attic to get away from the flood waters. In the ninth ward, the most recent body was found in a pile of rubble in a back yard.
So there are still -- the coroner estimates there may be another 300 bodies still yet to be found because so many of these areas in the ninth ward in Lake View have really not been touched much since the hurricane. And demolition finally started this week of houses in the middle of streets. You know there was a lawsuit, a federal decree that kept the city from even demolishing houses sitting in the middle of streets. And so they finally cleared all the hurdles for that and are starting to knock those down so they can get the recovery going. And they are bringing cadaver dogs with them throughout these areas as they get into them and looking for to make sure they find any more remains.
KAGAN: I think your city is an such an interesting window of time. You've made it through your first Mardi Gras past Katrina and then your pre-hurricane season. When people call in to the station, how does the conversation go about the future of the city and the makeup and what New Orleans is meant to be?
COHEN: Still so many unknowns. A lot of people, though, were so happy to have Mardi Gras as a reminder of the vast culture and the richness and the heritage of New Orleans. The 150th Mardi Gras. There were people who were against it, who said we shouldn't be partying now. But a lot of our listeners seemed very happy that Mardi Gras went on to reminder them of what New Orleans can be again and it reinvigorated and re-inspired a lot of people.
But so many unknowns with all these billions of dollars still tied up in Congress that haven't come here yet. Not a dollar has gone yet from the federal government to buy anybody out whose home was completely demolished or help them raise their home so it's above the flood plain, built on stilts, or just repair their home. You know, other than the initial FEMA money, we're waiting on these billions to come down so that the state can administer a much larger program for housing.
And they still look at levees with skepticism. You know, two reports out this week that substandard materials were being used to rebuild the levees, the president wanting some answers first hand about that today. The U.S. Army Corp of Engineers saying that the levees are not being built poorly, again, that they will be better than they were before Katrina. But there's still a lot of indecision on people's parts. Still a lot of unknowns. Still a lot of fears, but a lot of pride in the city and I think more hope now than there was say two months ago.
KAGAN: Well, as we do time and time again, wish those in New Orleans well. They're staying there and fighting the good fight to put the city back together. David Cohen with WWL, thank you.
COHEN: Thank you.
KAGAN: Well, as we've been talking, President Bush will speak in New Orleans in just a couple of minutes. CNN will carry those comments live. And then later today, the president visits Gulfport, Mississippi, to look at recovery efforts there. Also CNN planning coverage of that stop.
We're going to take a quick break. I'm back in just a moment.
KAGAN: A developing story we're watching here at CNN. There appears to be a break in the case of the multiple arson church fires in Alabama. Two people have been arrested, another one is being sought in connection with those Alabama church fires. The two that are in custody should be making their first federal court appearance in Birmingham, Alabama, in about 40 minutes. We also expect a news conference from authorities at 3:00 p.m. Eastern from Tuscaloosa, Alabama. You will see that live here on CNN.
Well, we're going to lighten things up a little bit, talk about summer camps, like getting away from it all. Wouldn't that be nice. They are like summer vacation spots. That's what summer camps are. But if you don't book now you might lose out on the most popular camps for your kids. So how do you figure that out? What are the best camps? Our Personal Finance Editor Gerri Willis is here with today's "Top Five Tips."
GERRI WILLIS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Good to see you, Daryn.
We've got lots of great ideas for finding the best summer camp, but you better get with it. Guess what? Most of these camps are already booking and booking quickly. The best ones, the traditional camps, are pretty much full by the end of March. You've got to get on it by mid-April to make sure you get in on the action.
KAGAN: These numbers are staggering. I'm looking, 5,000 day camps, 7,000 sleep away camps. How do you pick which one's best for your kid?
WILLIS: You know, there are dance camps, there are rock 'n roll camps, there are band camps. You name it, you can find it. A couple of ideas, though, if you want to sort through some of these. There's a website to go to that you'll definitely want to check out, campparents.org. This is a great website. They accredit the camps and you can find what might be best in your area for your child.
KAGAN: Other numbers that are eye popping, how much camp can cost.
WILLIS: Oh, holy cow. A month of private camp can cost you $3,500. Now if you go with the Y or something a little more routine, it may be $350. But let me tell you, you may want to reach for the campership. That's like a scholarship, but only for campers. And it's not as tough to get as a scholarship. You can also just negotiate a better deal, particularly if you have more than one child going to the camp. You know, as for a group rates if you have a lot of kids going to the same camp. You can always negotiate. Keep that in mind.
KAGAN: There are also some statistics you might want to look at that might help you pick a good camp.
WILLIS: Yes, check this out. This is really interesting. To make sure that you've got the absolute best camp possible, you want to take a look at the director. The average director should stay on board for at least five years to make sure that you've got a great camp. And remember, in only five states across the country do they require that these camps make criminal background checks.
And I don't know if you remember this or not, Daryn, but back in 2004 there was a very highly watched case in Massachusetts where a camp counselor turned out to be a child pornographer. So you want to pay attention to that.
Two other things to check out. Less than 50 percent of campers return to that camp. Not a good sign. And you want the counselors to be former campers. They love it so much they've got to come back. KAGAN: Ah, very good.
Now all the best intentions, things can still go wrong, like kids getting homesick. I understand that only to well. That was a big problem for me.
WILLIS: Aw, well Daryn was homesick.
KAGAN: Yes, made my parents come pick me up. But that's a different story.
WILLIS: Well, and for mom and dad it's like, oh my goodness, can we get our money back if that happens, right? About 95 percent of campers get homesick at least once. You want to make sure that when you're arranging this thing in the first place you look closely at the paperwork and make sure there's an out for you. At least you can negotiate some of your money back if junior decides they'd rather spend the summer in front of the television set than on the horse ranch.
KAGAN: Yes, I wrote the letter home in felt tip ink. I held the letter under my chin and I let the tears splash and the ink run.
WILLIS: Oh my goodness.
KAGAN: Drama. Drama.
WILLIS: You've come so much further from there.
KAGAN: They came and got me. Yes, isn't it nice to know I've had some personal growth since age 10.
Gerri, thank you.
WILLIS: You're welcome.
KAGAN: It's good to see you.
Let's go ahead and check the market. Do we have a market? I'll give them to you anyway. The markets have been open -- there we go -- about 52 minutes. Seems kind of flat. That's how it's been this time of day. Let's see, the Dow is down nine points and the Nasdaq, kind of flat, it is down four points. We'll check in on Wall Street in a little bit. Right now a break. Come back after this.
KAGAN: President Bush and Mrs. Bush visiting New Orleans on the Gulf Coast today. The president expected to speak in New Orleans any minute now. When he does, you'll see those comments live here on CNN. It's the president's 10th visit to the region since Katrina and his sixth to New Orleans. While we wait for the president to speak, let's move on to other news right now.
We also have news on the Alabama fires, the arson fires. Apparently there's been a break in the case. Two people in custody, expected to make an appearance in federal court in Birmingham, Alabama, in about a half hour. A third person being sought still in connection with that case.
Roughly 17,000 Americans have been wounded in the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Many troops come home with life changing injuries. Here now is CNN's Kelly Wallace. This is part one of her look at war wounded.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Bring it up and hold it. Hold it. Hold it. Hold it. Hold it. Hold it. Hold it. Hold it. Down.
KELLY WALLACE, CNN CORRESPONDENT, (voice over): There is a lot that 24-year-old Christian Bagge wants to do.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Attack that cone. Attack that cone. Come on. Push. Push. Push. Push. Shuffle. Shuffle. Keep going. Keep going. Keep going.
STAFF SGT. CHRISTIAN BAGGE, U.S. ARMY: I want to run. I want to swim. I want to mountain bike. The biggest goal of all is just to do what I did before.
WALLACE: What he did before the attack in Iraq, before the Humvee he was driving was blown apart by a roadside bomb . . .
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Arms in. Hips to ears. Hips to ears. There you go.
WALLACE: And his life forever changed.
BAGGE: I told one of the guys, tie my wedding ring around my wrist, and they did, and that was the last image I had in my mind was my wedding ring being tied around my wrist and then I woke up in Germany with my amputated legs.
WALLACE: Before going off to war, Christian's passions including playing drums in a Christian rock band and a gal named Melissa. The two were good friends in high school who fell in love about a week before he left for Iraq. They married while he was on leave just three months before he became a double amputee.
MELISSA BAGGE, CHRISTIAN'S WIFE: There have been times when I thought it was -- how am I going to do it. But there's always someone there.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Dig in. Last cone. Dig in. Dig in.
WALLACE: And always someone who knows just what they are going through. The Brook Army Medical Center in San Antonio is home to one of only two U.S. army amputee care centers in the country.
BAGGE: It's kind of like a brotherhood in there. We're all rooting for each other and pushing each other to do the best that they can.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Push, pull.
WALLACE: The pushing comes not just from peers, but from a team of physical therapists.
CAPT. JUSTIN LAFERRIER, U.S. ARMY: Some people come in and they say, wow, I would have never thought that I would be able to do that again and they need to be pushed to be shown that it is possible.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Good. Oh, you look good.
WALLACE: Also available to amputees like Christian, state-of- the-art technology to create custom-made legs for any activity they choose. Christian's immediate goal, to run with President Bush. When the president visited the center on New Year's Day, Christian asked if they could jog together some time. He says Mr. Bush said yes.
BAGGE: He said that I would be an inspiration to other people and I think he's right, you know, hopefully, and then I can be an inspiration.
WALLACE: His positive outlook doesn't mean there haven't been really hard times. In the beginning, he was angry and depressed, and every day there are reminders of what life used to be like.
BAGGE: It takes me longer to shower, it take me longer to get my legs on, get dressed. Putting pants on is a 20-minute process and I hate it.
WALLACE: But Christian and Melissa are adjusting, even thriving, gearing up for their second wedding ceremony this weekend, this one for family and friends, since they eloped the first time.
BAGGE: You learn a lot about true love and being away from your family. You learn the important things in life.
WALLACE: Charting a new life with new limbs and new friends who know what it's like to walk in their shoes.
Kelly Wallace, CNN.
KAGAN: The survival rate for U.S. troops is higher than it's ever been. Better trained medics could be the reason.
Coming up next hour, we'll take you to the only Army medic school in the country where the focus there is on the fight to save lives.
(NEWSBREAK) And we're standing by. President Bush is in New Orleans today expected to speak. Actually, we were expecting about 10 minutes ago. But when the president does speak, we'll be listening in. His sixth visit to New Orleans, his 10th to the Gulf Coast. That's straight ahead.
KAGAN: Going back to our developing story in Alabama, officials, federal officials, say they have two people in custody in connection with that string of 10 arson fires that hurt or destroyed 10 churches in Alabama since the beginning of the year. Those people are supposed to appear in federal court at the top of the hour. We expect to talk with one of the pastors whose church was destroyed in that string of arson fires in just a little bit.
Meanwhile, let's go to New Orleans.
All right, we're going to go for a take three here. OK, we're going to talk about your security. There are new concerns about President Bush's ability to push through the ports deal. Members of the president's own party are setting up for a possible confrontation with the president. Today a House panel is expected to add legislation to a key spending bill. That amendment would effectively block a Dubai firm from taking over management of six U.S. ports. A full Senate vote on the entire legislation isn't expected until next week. President Bush has threatened to use his first ever veto if Congress tries to block or delay that deal.
Other security news, the Patriot Act renewal heads to the White House after a close call in the House. Lawmakers approved the measure by just two votes, more than the required two-thirds majority. The legislation renews 16 expiring provisions from the original Patriot Act. President Bush accepted new provisions that give people targeted in terror probes stronger civil liberties protection. The president is expected to sign the measure before the current extension expires on Friday.
We encourage you to keep watching CNN day and night for the most reliable news about your security.
OK, let's get back to the story out of Alabama. As I was saying, a break, an apparent break in the investigation into a string of arson fires at 10 churches across Alabama. One of those churches that was destroyed was the Piney Grove Church. And the pastor there, Randy White, is with me on the phone right now.
Pastor, good morning.
PASTOR RANDY WRIGHT, PINEY GROVE CHURCH: Yes, ma'am. And it was the Beaverton Freewill Baptist Church that was destroyed, and our church just hosted them for one Sunday.
KAGAN: OK, so it was not your church that was destroyed. You hosted the church that was destroyed. But clearly, this was a church in your community? WRIGHT: Yes, ma'am. We're three miles apart.
KAGAN: And so obviously you've had great concerns for the string of arsons, because so many churches across Alabama have been hit.
WRIGHT: Yes, ma'am. I think there were 10 within just a week or so, so all the churches have been very, very concerned over the last few weeks.
KAGAN: So this potential break, or what looks like is a break, must come as a great relief to your church and to your community.
WRIGHT: It is, and it's something that all the churches have been praying for. And we -- if this is actually the truth, we are rejoicing.
KAGAN: How has your congregation been dealing with this stress and this threat out there.
WRIGHT: Well, it's amazing, that the church communities have come together and rallied behind each other. And we have been praying. We prayed on a regular basis, for those responsible, that they would be caught. We've been praying for them.
KAGAN: Is it too soon to go to a place of forgiveness?
WRIGHT: No. Absolutely not. For a child of God, that is -- we have been forgiven, so therefore we can freely forgive.
KAGAN: And at the same time, had to be on alert to protect your own buildings and congregation.
WRIGHT: Yes. In northwest Alabama, there are many, many rural churches, and so all of us have been very concerned.
KAGAN: I know as this was happening, was developing, people say, well, how could you not see somebody coming or somebody around. But it was explained to me a lot of these churches, as you say -- there are a number of churches in this part of Alabama -- that you're kind of set back off the road. The same thing that makes it a good sanctuary might make it difficult to see people who might be coming to do harm.
WRIGHT: Well, exactly. And many of the churches don't have any structures, or dwelling or houses near them, so they're very, very isolated.
KAGAN: And so you're clearly getting word these two people have been arrested. Is word also spreading around through the congregation and the community.
WRIGHT: Yes. And I understand they are to be arraigned in just a few moments in Birmingham, perhaps. So word is just now getting out in northwest Alabama.
KAGAN: I'm sure that will come as a great relief. They are still looking for a third person. Paster Wright, thank you...
WRIGHT: Thank you so very much.
KAGAN: ... for your time today.
And Pastor Randy Wright did have that right, with Piney Grove Church, that the two people who are in custody are expected to appear in federal court in about 20 minutes. There is a live picture from Birmingham. It'll be 10:00 a.m. local time when that takes place. Also we're expecting a news conference at 3:00 p.m. Eastern out of Tuscaloosa with the latest on this break in the case. You'll see that live right here on CNN.
We are gathering new information about President Bush's visit to New Orleans, some announcements that he plans to make. We'll bring that to you right after the break with our Suzanne Malveaux, who is traveling with the president.
KAGAN: President Bush will speak this morning. He is in New Orleans. We understand he is going to be appearing in front of one off the broken levees, as the race is on to repair those levees before the onset of the next hurricane season. Also, he expects to make some news in that speech.
With a preview of that, our Suzanne Malveaux is with us. She is traveling with the president today.
Suzanne, good morning.
SUZANNE MALVEAUX, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Good morning, Daryn. Well, I just spoke with Don Powell. He is really the president's point man when it comes to Hurricane Katrina recovery and rebuilding. I spoke with him by phone. He's been traveling with this president aboard Air Force One. He just off a chopper and landed. The president, of course in the Ninth War. He is part of that entourage as they visit that damaged area.
He tells us that the president is going to be officially announcing this housing proposal, an initiative that they came up through the Housing and Urban Development, also, Louisiana state officials, Louisiana Recovery Authority and the White House. It is $4.2 billion and essentially what it does, it gives up to $150,000 for those who lost their homes to Hurricane Katrina. That is minus any payments or money they got from FEMA or from the insurance company.
But they think this is a very good deal. Don Powell saying that they all discussed this aboard Air Force One with the president. The president said that he is going to be pushing this forward to Congress. It's a $4.2 billion dollar plan, part of a $20 billion supplemental that of course Congress has yet to approve. But this is something that they said they believed Louisiana officials, New Orleans officials and the White House can all get their heads around this. They believe that it is a good plan, a solid plan, to help those who have lost their homes in New Orleans and Louisiana to get back on their feet. Again, up to $150,000 per homeowner for those devastated regions. This is something President Bush will be talking about in his remarks very shortly -- Daryn.
KAGAN: Suzanne, meanwhile, we just keep hearing about all the billions and billions of dollars that the federal government plans to shell out. And then when we hear from people on the ground, they said they haven't gotten the money that they need. How do they explain the red tape?
MALVEAUX: Well, absolutely. That is something that President Bush is going to be addressing. But we heard just yesterday from Texas governor Rick Perry, saying that he did not get the kind of money that the federal government promised him to help him with the damaged area in his state. There are many governors who are very frustrated with that.
Two things we expect the president to talk about, of course, this housing initiative, officially announcing this. But also that frustration that they are not getting funds fast enough, they are not getting their trash removed fast enough, and that also there is a big problem, a big concern, with the levees. And the federal government, again, promising -- promising here in less than 100 days, that they're going to have that levee system up and running.
Of course, there's still some independent experts who are looking at this and quite concerned, saying look, long-term picture, we don't know what the levee system -- really, the status is going to look like. the federal government acknowledging, too, they're not going to know until about a year later or so -- Daryn.
KAGAN: Suzanne Malveaux, live from New Orleans. We are still standing by when the president speaks. You'll see it live here on CNN. Suzanne, thank you.
KAGAN: We're about 10 minutes -- 10, 15 minutes away from when we expect these two suspects in the string of arson fires in Alabama, church fires, to make their appearance in federal court in Birmingham. We are getting some information about the suspects and the third person that they're looking for. We'll bring that to you just ahead.
Right now, a quick break.
KAGAN: About 10 minutes from now, we expect two men to appear in federal court in Birmingham, Alabama in connection with a string of church arson fires in early and mid-February.
Our Rusty Dornin is on the phone, and she makes her way to Alabama and has more information about the suspect. RUSTY DORNIN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Daryn, from what we understand, Russell Debusk and Ben Moeseley were arrested in connection with those 10 Alabama church fires. They are also seeking a third suspect, Matthew Lee Cloyd. From what we understand, the two men that are arrested were college students in Birmingham -- Daryn.
KAGAN: I see that ATF made the arrests. Any idea, Rusty, about what the break in the case that led to these men?
DORNIN: Very few details coming out right now, Daryn. They're being very close-lipped and saying we're (INAUDIBLE) more information at that news conference at 3:00 this afternoon, which will be with all of the agencies that were involved, ATF, FBI, also the local fire marshals office and of course the local police agencies. So they're being very tight-lipped about it now.
KAGAN: All right, Rusty Dornin on her way to Alabama. We'll look for more information. Once again, that first court appearance should happen in five or 10 minutes in Birmingham, and that as Rusty mentioned, there's that news conference, 3:00 p.m. Eastern in Tuscaloosa, Alabama. You'll see that live here on CNN.
KAGAN: The Missouri Valley Conference is now barring certain cheerleading stunts during basketball games. Well, they're doing that at least for the time being.
The reason? This stunt. Remember this? Ow! That cheerleader from Southern Illinois University fell 15 feet off the pyramid. This is what made her famous: They strapped her on the board, she's still going strong with the school fight song. Even being wheeled off court didn't keep her spirit down. But that packed arena of 14,000 went silent when she hit the floor.
The cheerleader is from Palooka (ph). She is Kristi Yamaoka. She suffered a concussion and a cracked neck vertebrae.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
KRISTI YAMAOKA, SO. ILL. UNIV. CHEERLEADER: I was supposed to flip forward off of the stunt, and I didn't make it quite all the way up to get my balance, and so I was probably not going to be able to roll forward, so that's basically when I knew that it wasn't going to work as well as I'd planned.
I don't how many times I hit that stunt perfectly, and no one really cares until you hit the ground. So you know, I just want everyone to know that usually our stunts hit, and you know, although there is some danger to cheerleading, that's a risk that cheerleaders are willing to take, because we love doing it.
The dangers of cheerleading are obvious, and we just need to make sure that there's enough spots all over to catch girls and make sure that everything is going to be safe as possible. I've had phone calls like you wouldn't even believe, from friends I haven't talked to in years, and they've been calling all my family members and even a lot of my friends to check on me, make sure I'm OK, and just basically give me their support. And it's been absolutely amazing.
I was aware that I was doing it. But every time we hear that fight song, and they play it over and over at all the games, you know, our coach has us dance, because it helps keep the crowd going and gets everyone motivated to support SIU. So as soon as I heard it, I figured the rest of my squad was doing the fight song, and I'm still part of the squad, so I had to do my thing.
I'm hoping that I'll be out of this neck brace in time to try out again, and hopefully, you know, make the squad and be able to cheer again for the Sollucis (ph) next year.
KAGAN: Oh, yes, go team. You go, Kristi. She's expected to make a full recovery. The Missouri Valley Conference will decide in May whether to make those cheerleading restrictions permanent.
Well, you could call it blog therapy. Ahead, we're going to meet a doctor battling cancer. He shares his experience with an online community made up of people going through the same thing, as the second hour of CNN LIVE TODAY begins after a quick break.
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