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American Morning

Tour Boat Inquiry; Mississippi Schools Back in Session

Aired October 05, 2005 - 08:30   ET


SOLEDAD O'BRIEN, CNN ANCHOR: Welcome back, everybody. It's shaping up to be a beautiful day here in New York City. You saw those pictures just a moment ago. Half past the hour as well. Miles has the day off again. No, I'm not jealous.
Coming up, more on the tour boat accident where 20 people died. Lots of discussion now about the boat's design. Was it a wave from another boat? Was the crew size too small? Was there just too much weight on board? A former NTSB chairman is going to join us to take a look at some of the changes that might need to be made to improve safety.

First, though, let's get right back to Rob Marciano. He's reporting from Mississippi this morning.

Hey, Rob, good morning.


Five weeks ago, Hurricane Katrina came through this area. I was just down the road in Biloxi as it was ripping through. And the days after that, taking a look at the damage, and I'll tell you what, there's not a whole lot different other than the roads being cleared. Look behind me, we're just off the shoreline. These are established businesses, and then beyond that, Baptist church completely hollowed out, and the steeple with the cross remain.

The challenge has been cleaning up. The good news is that power has been restored 100 percent here in Long Beach, where they are actually homes. Obviously, here, there's nothing to hook power up to, so this has its own challenges for sure.

How about schools? The kids have been out of school for, like, a month, and they're just getting back to school today, or this week. But there have been challenges. Some of the schools are damaged to the point where the kids can't go back to them, so we're going to talk with some students. We're also talk with the superintendent of the schools here a little bit later on -- Soledad.

O'BRIEN: All right, Rob, look forward to that. Thank you.

Other stories making news now. Let's go to those with Carol Costello.

Good morning to you. Big test really. I mean, you got John Roberts kind of second day on the job. CAROL COSTELLO, CNN ANCHOR: I know, but he's doing a good job. They say he is. The other justices say he reminds them of William Rehnquist. He is, you know, making them appear on time, everything is on schedule, so he's doing a good job.

O'BRIEN: Strong start.


Good morning, everyone.

Now in the news, it is a key test of states' rights versus the federal government. It will be put before the Supreme Court today. And of course this is the first major case before new chief justice, John Roberts. At issue, the question of assisted suicides. Oregon is the only state that lets dying patients obtain lethal doses of drugs from their doctors, but the Bush administration claims that is an improper use of medication and violates federal drug laws. We'll be keeping an eye on that this morning.

A bit of a reversal on election rules in Iraq. The national assembly has voted to change the rules for next week's referendum. The parliament scrapped some procedures tat it had put into place last week. Today's reversal comes after pressure by the United Nations. The vote on Iraq's new constitution is set for October 15th.

"New York Times" reporter Judith Miller says she hopes a federal probe into a CIA leak will get some results. Otherwise, she says she'll wonder whether the 85 days she spent in jail were well worth it. In her first interview since being released, Miller's tells CNN's Lou Dobbs she protected her source out of a duty to journalism.


JUDITH MILLER, "NEW YORK TIMES": If I had wanted to evade the law, if I thought that I was better than the law or the law didn't apply to us, I wouldn't have sat there for 85 days to make a political point about principle, and the principle that we journalists have to safeguard the confidentiality of our sources, and it was a rather extreme way to make it, but I felt I had to.


COSTELLO: Miller's confidential source has been identified as Lewis "Scooter" Libby, who is chief of staff for Vice President Dick Cheney.


O'BRIEN: In Upstate New York today, investigators will be conducting tests on a boat identical to the one that capsized on Sunday, killing 20 people on board. Listen as witnesses make frantic calls to 911.

(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP) UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Oh, my God! Oh, my God! I saw a boat, a boat, a boat went over, just at the eastern alley (ph), just outside of Green Harbor!

DISPATCHER: Green Harbor? Can you tell me how many people there are on the boat?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It tipped right over! Oh, a lot of people! They're hanging on to the boat! It went right over! Oh, please, hurry!

DISPATCHER: Green Harbor?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes, Green Harbor, in Lake George, you know, Lake George.

DISPATCHER: Yes, ma'am.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Oh, please send somebody really quick!

DISPATCHER: Yes, ma'am, will do.


O'BRIEN: It's horrible to hear.

The former NTSB chairman Jim Hall joins us from Washington this morning. Thanks for being with us.

JIM HALL, FMR. NTSB CHAIRMAN: Good morning, Soledad.

O'BRIEN: There are changes we know now that were made to the boat, the Ethan Allen. We know that the canopy was changed -- all these changes -- a new engine put on -- that could affect the stability. And yet, because of the law, they didn't have to sort of re-approve the boat; it was grandfathered it in. Why does that law exist? I mean, that seems to be a problem here.

HALL: Well, obviously, the NTSB, as part of its investigation, will look at the stability of the boat, the whole regulatory framework that we have in boating safety in the state of New York.

However, the tragic loss of life in this accident could of been prevented by simply requiring the use of personal flotation devices by the passengers that were aboard, and I certainly hope that this will result in more states now -- we presently have four states requiring the use of personal flotation devices, particularly in commercial operations.

O'BRIEN: OK, another law. Why don't they require? I know there's a requirement for children under 12. But why not a requirement for people who can't swim, or a requirement for people who are coming onboard with a walker? I mean, that doesn't seem to be such a tough decision.

HALL: Well, the Coast Guard has historically had a very loose regulator framework in terms of commercial boating. I have the highest regard for the Coast Guard. They perform many important functions, but recreational boating has not been high on their list, and they have, quite honestly, not gotten the attention and focus from state legislatures in ensuring that there is, again, an adequate safety laws in place in all of the 50 states to protect from a tragedy like this occurring.

O'BRIEN: And the capacity as well, I'm sure, is going to be closely investigated, because the boat was under, or very close to its capacity. But they were operating under old tables that said the average weight of a person would be 140 pounds. I mean, that sounds way off. Why hasn't that changed?

HALL: Well, Soledad, you know, we saw this in the aviation industry, obviously, with the accident down in Charlotte, North Carolina, where we didn't adjust for the changes in weight of the American population. We constantly grandfather in unsafe operations, and while I don't want to speculate on the cause of this particular accident -- the NTSB will do a thorough investigation -- I can tell you historically that has been a tremendous problem in the safety area.

O'BRIEN: They have lots to look at. I know they will take a look at the twin sister boat today. What exactly can they learn from the twin sister?

HALL: Well, obviously, if it is very similar to the boat that sunk, there are simulations that the board can do, both in terms of actual simulations on the water, as well as computers modeling and computer simulations that can be done in the National Transportation Safety Board Laboratories in Washington D.C., that can give them an indication of what could of caused the capsizing of this vessel.

O'BRIEN: Jim Hall is a former NTSB chairman. Thank you.

HALL: Thank you, Soledad.

O'BRIEN: My pleasure.

HALL: Let's get right back to Rob Marciano. He's in Long Beach, in Mississippi this morning.

Hey, Rob. Good morning again.

MARCIANO: Hi, Soledad.

You know, with the FEMA response and the federal government slow to respond to give these folks what they need to rebuild here, there's some normalcy happening. There is some sense that we're getting back to normal. School is back in session, although definitely challenged with a lot of the schools damaged. We're going to get a progress report today.

So joining me this morning, three people, the superintendent of the Long Beach schools, Carrolyn Hamilton. Morgan Ruby is a fifth grader and Lizzie Maloy is a senior. So let's get an update first from the boss. Superintendent, where do we stand? The kids got back in school when, Monday?

CARROLYN HAMILTON, LONG BEACH SCHOOLS SUPT.: We started back in school Monday. Our Harper Elementary School was relocated to Quarles Elementary. They run a split shift and they go in from 12:30 to 5:30. And Quarles students are there from 7:00 to 12:00. And we'll be doing that at least probably three weeks until some modular classrooms come in. Then keep we're all of (INAUDIBLE) together and move them behind the Quarles campus, on the Quarles playground so that they can stay together as a school.

MARCIANO: And about how long before that Harper school is fixed or brought -- maybe some trailers...

HAMILTON: I think it will be -- FEMA's bringing in trailers we hope within three weeks. We hoping to start seeing trailers this week. And then it's going to be about two years before the Harper Caughan campus is rebuilt.

MARCIANO: And let's talk money. I mean, where is the money going to come from to rebuild these schools?

HAMILTON: Combination of insurance and FEMA. So that's what we're hoping.

MARCIANO: No we're bringing kids -- obviously, a lot of these people are displaced. So are we bussing kids in from out of town? Is that a challenge?

HAMILTON: Well, it's different. We have parents who are providing transportation from out of town. And then, if they were our student on August 26th, the board has a policy that they will remain our student for the rest of this year, because families are displaced and it's not anybody's fault. We don't want children to have to change schools on top of everything else they're going through.

MARCIANO: Well, we know you're working hard.

HAMILTON: We are. And a lot of people are working hard, so we appreciate it.

MARCIANO: Good to see the kids are back in school. Well, let's talk to some of the kids. Morgan Ruby, you're a fifth grader. Your school -- I saw your school yesterday, how damaged it is. And now you're sharing a school with somebody else. What's that like?

MORGAN RUBY, LONG BEACH 5TH GRADER: It's like going -- we've been somewhere so long and then it's like you're going to somewhere that you've just never been before.

MARCIANO: You have your -- they split the shift. So you guys actually go in the afternoon and the kids from the regular school are gone. So are you seeing all of your friends or not all of them showing up to school?

RUBY: Most of them are here, but some of them, we don't even know if they're going to come back.

MARCIANO: Really. How old are you now?

RUBY: I'm 10.

MARCIANO: Ten years old. I heard you recently had a birthday?

RUBY: Yes.

MARCIANO: And where was that party held?

RUBY: Northport Yacht Club, which is gone now.

MARCIANO: How does that make you feel?

RUBY: It makes me feel happy that at least I got it before it was destroyed.

MARCIANO: Are you excited to maybe get back to your old school when they get it rebuilt?

RUBY: I'm probably not going back to my old school because I'm going to going to go to middle school.

MARCIANO: Well, good. Moving on up. Which brings us to high school. Lizzie Maloy, you're a senior. I mean, this -- it's your final year, so there's got to be some issues with that.

LIZZIE MALOY, LONG BEACH H.S. SENIOR: It is. Well, you know, it really is the most important year of a high schooler's life. And, you know, you're so excited about all of the different organizations you're in and all the different activities. And we literally feel like we've been kicked in the stomach. You know, we worked so hard on so many different things, like the annual staff and student council, and we're worried about being able to print this $100,000 yearbook. We don't know if we're going to be able to. We should have been worried about picking out our homecoming dress, not whether or not we could afford the dance.

Scholarships and college applications and just everything -- everything is a mess. And we're really going to do the best we can. And we're not complaining and we're not whining, but, you know, I just -- I just wish people could remember how it felt to be 17 and to have all the dreams and hopes and aspirations in the world and just for it all to be demolished, literally.

MARCIANO: I know it's tough, but you got a good head on your shoulder and things are going to get better. Things are going to get better. Lizzie and Morgan, Superintendent Hamilton, thanks very much for joining us. We're glad that the school is back in session, at least in some capacity.

HAMILTON: Thank you. We're glad to have them all back.

MARCIANO: Some good news, school back in session, beginning Monday. They were off for four weeks. I know a lot of kids would think that's a great vacation but, trust me, that's not what the kids wanted here -- Soledad.

O'BRIEN: Oh, that is so tough for the students, especially that young lady. That is tough. All right, Rob, thanks.

Still to come this morning, what's going to be Katrina's long- term impact on Louisiana, speaking politically? Louisiana native CNN's political analyst James Carville joins us live, just ahead.


O'BRIEN: As Louisiana struggles in the aftermath of Katrina and Rita, there could a long-term political impact on the state. Joining us from Washington, Democratic strategist and Louisiana native James Carville.

Hi, James, nice to see you.


O'BRIEN: We're told Louisiana could lose a congressional seat, which I understand would take it from 144 total seats to 143. What would be the most -- the biggest impact of that?

CARVILLE: Well, I mean, hey, the state needs all of the representation it can get in Washington right now, just given the enormous needs and what's happened to it. So, I mean, no state likes to lose a congressional seat. We used to have eight, now we have seven.

I don't know how this is going to work out, because I don't know how they're going to count someone who was from Louisiana who is displaced and going to be somewhere else for a period of time. And there's a lot of questions here that are unanswered and I think we're going to find out it's going to take a little bit longer to sort all of this out.

O'BRIEN: Yes, no question. Because, really, I mean, a lot of it's about how the population moves and does that population move and then come back. Right now, it's obviously moved out.


O'BRIEN: But will it come back? Now, Louisiana is heavily Republican state, but New Orleans is pretty strongly Democratic.


O'BRIEN: So how does that work out, do you think?

CARVILLE: Well, I wouldn't say it was a heavily Republican state. I mean, they've gone with Bush twice. We have a Democratic governor and Democratic senator. But let's say that it has certainly been a Republican state in the last two presidential cycles. I don't know. You know, we talk about -- there was some memo about all of the African-Americans who have left and it will tip the balance of power. I think people sometimes forget that the whites were enormously affected by this storm. St. Bernard Parish, which is 68,000 people, barely exists. And there a lot of good, hard-working people there. I don't know how many of them are going to return.

I do think that they're going to have to make a provision where people who have left that intend to come back are going to be able to vote in Louisiana, because they have a tremendous stake in what happens politically in that state, be it if it's an African-American vote in the city of New Orleans or a white vote in St. Bernard or St. Tamany or Jefferson or somewhere else. So all of this is going to have to be sorted out at some point and it's probably have to be sooner as opposed to later.

O'BRIEN: Not only does it have -- do they have a big stake, some of them are so angry words cannot describe. And they sure want to have a vote and express some of their anger. Curious to know if you think there's a long-term effect that people who are unhappy with the president's response say forget it, I'm going with the Democrats this time. People who thought Governor Blanco did a terrible job say, forget it, I'm going with the Republicans this time. Do you see that happening?

CARVILLE: Well, I mean, I don't think you can see anything happening in politics. You know, the president's not going to be around to run again. They might -- I'm sure they could to take it out on the Republicans. I don't know. Again, a lot of this is -- you know, one of the things that I always remind people, that this is a long-term thing. We are, you know, somewhere still in the first quarter of Louisiana in the aftermath of this.

I mean, my sister, for instance, has still not been able to deal with her house that she lost in Slidell, Louisiana. She's living out of a temporary R.V., if you will, trying to get into an apartment and her husband and my nephew over there trying to clean the house out. How long it's going to take the schools and people like that to get back and to get reinvolved and reengaged, I don't know.

And, you know, most of them right now are trying to reestablish their lives and sorting out the policy consequences at some point. But political consequences are going to be enormous. And what are they going to do about rebuilding the city of New Orleans? What are they going to do about the surrounding parishes, or these donut parishes, as you call them? That's all going to sort itself out.

I think there's a -- one Republican strategist wrote a memo, saying that Charlie Malasa (ph) has done a tremendous job and is going to be an enormously popular congressman down in south Louisiana, you know, claiming, well, he might be able to win because there are going to be fewer African-Americans in Charlie's district. Well, that's ridiculous, and I think people are going to see on an individual basis what kind of job that the public officials are doing. And you know what? People in Louisiana, if it's a Democrat is doing a good job, they'll vote for them again. And if it's a Republican doing a good job, I suspect they will vote them back in, too.

One of the things, you know, that this storm probably blew away in a five or six parish area, is it might have blown away some of the traditional lines of partisanship. You are going to see people going back to an individual public official on the kind of job that they did.

O'BRIEN: People are certainly getting a chance to show what they do by actions in Louisiana and elsewhere these days.

All right, James Carville, nice to see you. Thanks for talking with us.

CARVILLE: Thank you. You bet.

O'BRIEN: Still to come this morning, Andy is "Minding Your Business." Going to find out how money worries could affect your performance at work.

Stay with us.


O'BRIEN: Are financial worries getting you down? Well, you got lots of company. Andy Serwer is "Minding Your Business." And I guess lots of company at the work place, huh? This is a sad report.

ANDY SERWER, "FORTUNE" MAGAZINE: It is. It's not the most uplifting report, but we'll find the silver lining. We've got some news at the end that is a little more uplifting.

A couple of workplace stories here. First of all, I guess it goes without saying that people who are financially distressed don't make the best workers. But this is some startling stuff here -- one in four American workers are now considered to be seriously financially stressed. And 80 percent of those worry about money at work, and that is bad news for employers, because it is hurting their productivity. You think about what's going on, people making phone calls, dodging bill collectors, talking to bill collectors, using the fax machine, then going out and having to get second jobs that interfere with the first job to pay the bills.

Then there are the health problems -- hypertension, weight gain, sleep loss, and you know, we're having this society where we've got all kinds of people with these concerns, and it really is, you know, hurting them at the workplace, I think, that's safe to say.

O'BRIEN: That's terrible. So what's the silver lining?

SERWER: Well, we'll get to the silver lining. We've got some other stuff that's not necessarily so positive.

O'BRIEN: All right.

SERWER: We want to talk about hidden victims of outsourcing, and that's disabled workers. A new study out showing that disabled workers are being seriously affected by outsourcing, and that's because if you think about call centers, Soledad, which has been a place where we've had a lot of outsourcing, it's been a real place where disabled people have worked, blind people, people in wheelchairs. And those people, when those jobs go overseas, are having a really tough time finding new jobs. That's a study by Cornell University.

The only silver lining I can offer you, Soledad, is we're going to have a jobs report that's going to come out on Friday, and it's probably going to show job losses, but those losses were anticipated, because it's about the hurricanes and people losing jobs from that. So I'm really searching for a silver lining.

O'BRIEN: Your good news to me today is anticipated job losses?


O'BRIEN: You're going to have to dig a little deeper.

SERWER: OK, next hour we're going to try to some more positive news.

O'BRIEN: I will send you back to the drawing board. I would appreciate that. I want all positives news.

SERWER: We'll see what we can do.

O'BRIEN: Still to come this morning, former President Bill Clinton visiting hurricane victims this week.

Kelly Wallace is with him. She's got a one-on-one interview with Mr. Clinton. It's ahead on AMERICAN MORNING.


O'BRIEN: CNN has been showing you the stories that have influenced our lives over the past 25 years. And in honor of our anniversary, we are showcasing the top trends facing the future. Today, CNN's Carol Lin takes a look at the latest medical advances in modern prosthetics.


CAROL LIN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): As CNN celebrates its 25th anniversary, editors at "Fortune" magazine compiled to the top trends that are shaping our future. Artificial limbs were once often ill-fitting clumsy and lack aesthetic and functionality. While modern prosthetics are lighter, stronger and more lifelike, breakthroughs in genetic research and medical technology are opening a brave new world for those in need.

DAVID KIRKPATRICK, SR. EDITOR, "FORTUNE" MAGAZINE: So there will be multiple ways to grow new body parts using your own personal chemistry, that can be either surgically attached or perhaps literally grown out of your own body. If they can regrow a limb in a mouse today, it could very be possible even in less than 10 years that we could be regrowing body parts on our own bodies.