Return to Transcripts main page

American Morning

Burning Up; Crisis in the Middle East; Heating Up

Aired August 03, 2006 - 06:00   ET


SOLEDAD O'BRIEN, CNN ANCHOR: Morning. Welcome, everybody. It is Thursday, August 3. I'm Soledad O'Brien.
RICK SANCHEZ, CNN ANCHOR: And I'm Rick Sanchez in for Miles O'Brien.

And here is what's happening this morning.

O'BRIEN: Israeli bombs are falling on Beirut's southern suburbs again today. Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert says he will not stop the war against Hezbollah until an international force is in place. The U.N. may not have details of a peacekeeping force worked out, though, until next week.

SANCHEZ: Also, U.S. Marines who served in Iraq could face criminal charges in the Haditha case. Pentagon investigators say evidence backs the claim that 24 civilians were killed deliberately. The Marine commander will ultimately decide what action is taken.

Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld has changed his mind and will testify about Iraq this morning at 9:30 Eastern. Members of the Senate Armed Services Committee were outraged when Secretary Rumsfeld first said he was simply too busy to appear at the hearing.

Cuba today is insisting that Fidel Castro is -- quote -- "very alive and very alert" -- stop quote. The speaker of Cuba's Parliament says he talked with Castro for half an hour yesterday. Neither Fidel, nor his brother, Raul Castro who is running Cuba, have been seen since the leader's health crisis actually began.

O'BRIEN: Tropical Storm Chris less threatening this morning. Some good news there. Its winds are slowing. The National Weather Service believes it is less likely to become a hurricane.

And heat warnings are up for Massachusetts to South Carolina today. It's a third day of extreme heat in the northeast. And the heat is being blamed for nearly 200 deaths nationwide.

That brings us right to Chad at the CNN Center. He's got a look at the forecast.

And a brutal forecast it was and is going to be, right?

CHAD MYERS, CNN METEOROLOGIST: Yes. Yes, for one more day. This is the last day. And even today is not quite as intense as yesterday, but don't let your guard down.


O'BRIEN: All right, Chad, thanks for the update.

And you heard it there, no relief from the heat today. Temperatures along the East Coast soared over 100 degrees for the third day. Get this, the overnight low was in the mid-80s. That's toasty. Seven thousand people without power in the New York area right now.

Let's get right to CNN's Allan Chernoff sweating it out for us once again.

Good morning to you.


Three days in a row, how much misery can we take on the East Coast, especially people who have to work outdoors in jobs such as construction? But it's not just the people who are suffering, it's the infrastructure as well.


CHERNOFF (voice-over): A power system on fire, literally. Record electricity transmission and near record heat has been frying New York City power lines both underground and above.

ROCCO DIRICCO, QUEENS RESIDENT: The whole thing. The whole wire, from that pole to pole, lit up in flames.

CHERNOFF: At least one utility worker was overcome by heat Wednesday. Two others were hospitalized for smoke inhalation. By mid afternoon, about 4,000 of ConEdison's customers were without power just two weeks after tens of thousands of New Yorkers had suffered a nine-day blackout.

New York's mayor begged for conservation.

MAYOR MICHAEL BLOOMBERG, NEW YORK: If we want to keep the power going, we're all just going to have to conserve. I've done it in my house. Please, I cannot stress it enough, do it in yours.

CHERNOFF: In Stanford, Connecticut, a power transformer failed, forcing stores and the University of Connecticut campus to shut down. In Boston, the heat threatened tracks on the city's transit system, forcing some trains to travel at only 10 miles an hour. In New Jersey, more than 2,000 residents were left without power.

Throughout the northeast, businesses and government offices tried to conserve power. Morgan Stanley darkened its Times Square ticker tape and NYU Medical Center used its own generator to ease the power load. New Yorkers conserve their own energy, especially seniors who flocked to air conditioned community centers.

FRANCIS GAUNTT, SENIOR CITIZEN: I'll just relax. I'll cool off you know for about an hour and then I'll be fine. CHERNOFF: There was no cooling off on subway platforms, virtual heating plates cooking commuters waiting for a train.

DWYON HUNTER, COMMUTER: I'm burning up. It's ridiculously hot here.

RICHARD SADOWSKI, COMMUTER: It's my first day on a new job and I have to wear a new suit on the hottest day of the year, how is that?


CHERNOFF: His boss probably looked the same. Hopefully neither of them will be wearing a tie today -- Soledad.

O'BRIEN: Yes, let's hope so.

Allan Chernoff, thanks. Thanks, Allan, for sticking it out in the hot weather. Appreciate that -- Rick.

SANCHEZ: Now we're going to take you to the Middle East where Israel has resumed its bombing campaign in southern Lebanon. Meanwhile, more than two dozen Katyusha rockets have been launched since -- at Israel this morning.

Our reporters are standing by in the region with the very latest on the information that is coming in. Matthew Chance is following the story for us in northern Israel, while Anthony Mills is live in Beirut right now.

Anthony, we begin with you. Good morning.


The relative calm that had prevailed in the capital here over the last few days was shattered last night with a series of explosions resounding again across the city, the southern suburbs. The Hezbollah stronghold part of the city again the target, as they have been throughout this more than three-week-old campaign, and serious damage inflicted on that part of the city.

Strikes elsewhere as well. To the east of Beirut in the Bekaa Valley and also to the north where a bridge was reportedly hit, severing yet another road linking the capital northwards and on to Syria.

All of this set against a growing fuel crisis in which we're seeing ever longer lines at gas stations, as well as ever dwindling supplies and limits being set on the amount that people can fill up on.

And also questions about when exactly two ships that are actually off the coast of Lebanon with fuel oil and diesel, when they will actually be able to dock here. Because although they have the green light from Israel, there are questions about insurance, something that the Lebanese government, I'm told by an assistant to Lebanon's Minister for Public Works and Transport, Mohammed Safadi, is something, I'm told by his assistant, the Lebanese government has to cover. So problems on that front as well -- Rick.

SANCHEZ: Thank you so much.

And now let's go to the other side of the conflict and Matthew Chance who is following that. He's in northern Israel.

Matthew, what's going on where you are?

MATTHEW CHANCE, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, Rick, still a lot of fierce fighting under way across the border in southern Lebanon between Israeli soldiers and Hezbollah fighters. Thousands of soldiers have been deployed across that border over the past several days as Israel expands its military operations in southern Lebanon.

The current phase of the military plan that they're working to at the moment, according to military officials that I've spoken to, is that they are trying to clear an area about a mile deep into southern Lebanon to clear it of Hezbollah fighters and of the infrastructure that they use. By that I mean tunnels and fortresses and bunkers that they have built up over the past six years since Israel left its occupation of southern Lebanon.

So once they have done that, the intention, we're told, is for Israel to hold on to that broad strip of land running across the Israeli-Lebanese border and to hold that land until such time as a multinational force can be decided upon and actually deployed on the ground there to take over responsibility for policing that area from the Israelis. So it could mean Israeli boots on the ground in southern Lebanon for many weeks to come, even if a multinational force is agreed very soon -- Rick.

SANCHEZ: Weeks, right, at this point, not days, like was being inferred earlier in the week?

CHANCE: Well I mean when we're talking about days, we're talking about the possibility of a cease-fire being brokered that would be acceptable to both sides. But part of that cease-fire, according to the Israelis, their position is -- would be a development, a deployment of a multinational force.

Now, you know as well as I do that that multinational force is going to be a long time in the making and even longer to actually get it on the ground and up and running to take over from the Israelis -- Rick.

SANCHEZ: Right. That's right. And the French are saying they're not going to allow the multinational force to go in until there's a cease-fire and the Israelis are out because they don't want to get caught in the middle of things. So it really is getting even more complicated.

Matthew Chance, we do thank you for bringing us that report.

Meanwhile, the Israeli military is saying that it has investigated an attack on the building in Qana and defends the airstrike. The military said intelligence indicated the building was being used by Hezbollah and said that it would not have been destroyed if they knew civilians were there. The airstrike early Sunday leveled a four-story building. A London-based group, Human Rights Watch, says 28 people were killed and 13 remain missing. Many of the dead and the missing are women and children -- Soledad.

O'BRIEN: Happening in America this morning.

Mel Gibson's arrest may do more than just damage his reputation, the entertainment Web site,, it's a corporate cousin of ours, has released to CNN videotape of Gibson shot on a cell phone at the Moon Shadows restaurant (ph) the night of his arrest. The actor/director has now been charged with a misdemeanor count of driving under the influence. He also faces a charge of driving with an open container. If he's convicted, Gibson could spend up to six months in jail.

The San Francisco Bay area a little on edge this morning, a moderate earthquake struck there about three miles west of Glen Ellen in Sonoma County last night. The magnitude 4.4 quake didn't do any serious damage and there were no reports of any injuries.

At least a dozen people were injured, though, most of them firefighters, in a house explosion that happened in upstate New York. Take a look at these pictures. Several departments were fighting a fire in the home outside of Syracuse when it just blew up. One firefighter remains in serious condition today. It's still unclear what caused the fire or what caused the explosion, too.

Police in Illinois believe a gas leak is to blame for a deadly house explosion south of Springfield. A woman and her 9-year-old grandson were killed when the home went up in flames. Two others were seriously burned. Debris from the explosion was found a block away.

And just when you think you've seen it all on eBay, a Florida couple is selling the rights to choose the name of their daughter. All right, that's ridiculous. The Sullivans are going through a rough financial patch, they say. They're looking for creative ways to make ends meet.


HEIDI SULLIVAN, EXPECTANT MOTHER: I was the one who kind of jokingly suggested it. And then it was like, hey, well you know, why not?

CRAIG SULLIVAN, EXPECTANT FATHER: And we've had a lot of you know you're exploiting your children, you know you get ready for therapy.

H. SULLIVAN: If it buys me a year with my girls, I'm all for it.


O'BRIEN: The starting bid is $14,500. So far, no takers.

Would you pay $14,500 to name somebody else's child?

SANCHEZ: No, but I'm officially getting a Rottweiler this afternoon. And I want anybody out there who wants to send me enough money, you can name him whatever you want.

O'BRIEN: Very enterprising of you.

SANCHEZ: Thought I'd pick right up on that.

O'BRIEN: There you go. There you go.

SANCHEZ: Still to come, have you had enough of the heat yet? Tough to answer, right?

O'BRIEN: Hot enough for you.

SANCHEZ: Open your refrigerator door. No, just kidding, don't do that. More triple-digit temperatures are expected today and some warn this heat wave is just the beginning. Find out why.

O'BRIEN: And does this look good right about now. Yes, that is snow. We're going to tell you where you can find some right after this short break.

SANCHEZ: Also, Congressman John Murtha, he's known for being outspoken when it comes to Iraq. Well now some of his comments could land him in court. We're going to explain that to you.

O'BRIEN: Carrie Lee has got business headlines for us this morning.

Good morning.


Ford Motor Company now saying the loss is nearly double what they reported a few weeks ago because of high pension costs. And Starbucks' July sales a little weaker than expected because in part the lines were so long to buy frozen drinks. They're trying to work out a system of it. We'll have that coming up on AMERICAN MORNING.


O'BRIEN: Happening this morning.

Israeli bombs falling on Beirut and other parts of Lebanon today. Israeli forces are trying to deal a decisive blow to Hezbollah while an international force is being negotiated.

Official word from Cuba is that Fidel Castro is -- quote -- "very alive, very alert." Neither he, nor his brother, Raul, have been seen since Castro underwent surgery on Monday. Raul Castro is temporarily in command of Cuba.

And at least one more day of oppressive heat for the East Coast. Heat advisories and warnings are in effect from Maine to Oklahoma. The triple-digit temperatures should trail off this evening, says Chad. Some experts are warning, though, the heat wave is just the beginning of what's to come.

Rob Marciano has more on that this morning.


ROB MARCIANO, CNN METEOROLOGIST (voice-over): If it feels hotter than ever, it is.

DENNIS FELTGEN, NATL. OCEANIC AND ATMOSPHERIC ADMIN.: It has been excessively hot in many states across the country. In fact, there hasn't been a single state this summer that hasn't been affected one way or another with the heat.

MARCIANO: Probably didn't need an expert to tell you that. But you may not know the first seven months of 2006 have been the hottest on record ever. That's right, the hottest ever.

This unusually intense heat wave started in California last week where at least 160 people died. Then it moved through the Midwest. Overburdened air conditioners left thousands without power. And finally, it hit the northeast.

At 10:00 a.m., it was already 97 in Nashua, New Hampshire. In Boston, where the mercury climbed to 98, city pools were kept open late. Further south, the fish died in an overheated New Jersey lake. And in New York City, they dimmed the lights on the Empire State Building to send a message, use less electricity. But in nearby Queens, the power still went out.

And if you thought this was just one bad summer, you're wrong.

DR. JAMES HANSEN, DIR., GODDARD INSTITUTE/NASA: We're in for more than a couple of hot seasons. It's going to continue, on the average, to get warmer.

MARCIANO: James Hansen has been studying climate change for 30 years. He says global warming is at least partly to blame for the high temperatures.

HANSEN: The climate dice are now loaded because of the greenhouse gases that humans have added to the atmosphere.

MARCIANO (on camera): And don't forget the temperature is measured in the shade. Combine it with the humidity and the heat index, or what it feels like, can be 10 to 20 degrees higher.

(voice-over): There's at least one more day of scorching temperatures before things finally start to cool off on Friday.

Rob Marciano, CNN, Atlanta.


O'BRIEN: More with Chad at the CNN Center. Good morning to you, -- Chad.

MYERS: Good morning, Soledad.

Always one week or a half a week every summer turns out to be like this and we end up talking about it for days and days or maybe months on end.


SANCHEZ: Still, it could re-strengthen, though, correct?

MYERS: It could, but it does look now, though, like the track takes it into Cuba rather than the Florida Straits or into Miami. Miami is still in the cone. But even if it's a 45-miles-per-hour storm, if it hits Miami, that's really very little damage, if any.

SANCHEZ: Yes, compared to what we're used to those of us who were left out there.

MYERS: Absolutely.

SANCHEZ: Thanks a lot, -- Chad.

MYERS: You're welcome.

SANCHEZ: While most Americans are either struggling through this heat wave or just trying to escape one, it's a very different story down below the equator. As a matter of fact, look at these pictures. See that, that's snow, folks. It actually snowed in South Africa yesterday. In fact, South Africans are facing their harshest winter in years. It is the first time that snow has fallen in the area in at least eight years. Isn't that amazing?

O'BRIEN: It looks so good right about now from where we are sitting for sure.

SANCHEZ: Yes, it does. Like a Popsicle.

O'BRIEN: It sure does.

Still to come this morning, we'll tell you how Elvis Presley's precious teddy bear got all shook up by a crazy hound dog. That story is just ahead.

And later, if you've noticed that your morning orange juice is costing you more and more and more, we'll tell you if you're getting squeezed.

That's all ahead on AMERICAN MORNING. We're back in just a moment.


O'BRIEN: Some of the most popular stories right now on A Marine sergeant connected to the killings of several civilians in the Iraqi town of Haditha is suing Pennsylvania Congressman John Murtha for defamation. The sergeant says that Congressman Murtha spread malicious lies about him.

In the Caribbean, Tropical Storm Chris loses some steam, its winds dropping to about 45 miles an hour. Chris is now not expected to become a hurricane.

And in L.A., Mel Gibson has been charged with driving under the influence. Police stopped him, you'll remember, on Friday on the Pacific Coast Highway. If he is convicted, he could face up to six months in jail.

SANCHEZ: The Ford Motor Company hit by a double whammy, a higher-than-expected second quarter loss, plus, also some not-so-good news about the luxury division.

Carrie Lee has your business headlines. She's joining us now.

Luxury division, that must mean their fancy cars?

LEE: Their Jaguars, their other high-end units. Well, they expect that division to now lose money, and there's talk that they might be selling that. There are reports stating just that. And this comes as Ford now says that second quarter numbers losses are going to be about double what they reported a few weeks ago, in part because of higher, unexpected pension costs. Also, Ford says, as I said, the luxury division will not be profitable this year. And so that is the latest there at the auto giant.

Meanwhile, yesterday, a quick recap on stocks, the Dow up about 74 points. Some good news, some buying on positive profit reports. Our own parent company, Time Warner, did report a profit versus a loss a year ago. Also Procter & Gamble, the consumer products giant, saw some solid numbers.

Futures, though, pointing to a bit of a weak start for stocks this Thursday morning. Pretty much everyone on Wall Street waiting for the big July jobs report and that comes tomorrow.

Finally, Starbucks losing about 9 percent in the early market trading here. Company saw sales for July up 4 percent, stores at least open at least one year. Hot weather, though, actually a big problem for them, a lot of people lining up in the stores to buy frozen drinks. Well they take longer to make than say your typical expresso or latte, and so...


O'BRIEN: They slow down the rest of us who just want a decaf with a little milk. It's a little frustrating.

LEE: Exactly.

SANCHEZ: And get out of my way. LEE: Exactly.

O'BRIEN: Exactly.

LEE: You just want to get in there and get your drink. It's not the people -- it's not that they don't have the customers, they are just having some problems dealing with them. So they need to maybe work out some kinks. Maybe...

O'BRIEN: How about a separate line?

LEE: Maybe pre-make some of those drinks.

O'BRIEN: What a good idea.

SANCHEZ: I think that's what they do...

O'BRIEN: A separate line for those people. Preorder.

SANCHEZ: Or call in.

O'BRIEN: Call in.

SANCHEZ: Get on the Internet, please.

O'BRIEN: Fax in.

LEE: I don't know, I don't go to Starbucks, I'm too cheap, so.


SANCHEZ: They do charge a lot it seems.

LEE: Yes.

O'BRIEN: You're saving yourself a lot of money.

SANCHEZ: Thanks, -- Carrie.


O'BRIEN: We're going to take a look at the morning's top stories just ahead. Israel resumes airstrikes in Beirut. We'll have the latest from there. Also take a look at some of those efforts to get the humanitarian aid into Lebanon. It's very, very tough.

Then take a look at this, a mess. This is the aftermath of tornadoes that ripped through a rural community. We'll tell you what happened just after this short break. You're watching AMERICAN MORNING.


O'BRIEN: Welcome back.

Happening this morning. Relief from the heat is expected tonight. That means, though, a third day of oppressive high temperatures in the northeast. Only scattered power outages are reported so far today.

Israeli bombs are falling on Beirut's southern suburbs again today. And Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert says he will not stop the war against Hezbollah until an international force is in place. The U.N. is trying to work out details of a peacekeeping force.

Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld has changed his mind, he is going to testify about Iraq this morning at 9:30 a.m. Eastern Time. Members of the Senate Armed Services Committee were outraged when Secretary Rumsfeld first said he was too busy to appear at the hearing.

Welcome back, everybody. I'm Soledad O'Brien.

SANCHEZ: And I'm Rick Sanchez filling in for Miles O'Brien.

Had to leave you yesterday, but good to be back with you today.

O'BRIEN: Thank you. It's nice to have you all week. We appreciate it.

Let's get right to what's happening in the Middle East. Israeli warplanes once again pounding the southern suburbs of Beirut. That as more than two dozen Hezbollah rockets land in