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U.K. Terror Threat Downgraded; Mystery of Missing Lake Solved; Muslim-American Professionals Concerned about Backlash from Failed U.K. Terror Plots
Aired July 05, 2007 - 08:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
JOHN ROBERTS, CO-HOST: And emergency crews say the flooding is expected to last for several more days.
And more wet weather warnings across Texas. Heavy rains flooding creeks and rivers there; 148 of the state's 254 counties under either a flash flood watch or warning overnight.
BETTY NGUYEN, CO-HOST: In Utah, an evacuation order has been lifted for a number of small communities about 100 miles east of Salt Lake City. Take a look at these pictures. Firefighters say a huge wildfire burning on public and private land is now 50 percent contained. Nearly 66 square miles have been wiped out because of it, though.
And there are new developments in a story that we've been following all morning long. These are incredible pictures. We are learning now that this massive wildfire in the French Riviera is now under control. It forced the evacuation of hundreds of residents and tourists from that area.
ROBERTS: Rescuers in Mexico are searching for survivors of a landslide. Crews are using heavy machinery to dig through tons of rock and dirt that buried a bus that was carrying at least 40 passengers but as many as 60. So far only one body has been found. That landslide was triggered by extremely heavy rains in area.
NGUYEN: We're also hearing this morning from the man who says he received a warning months before the London terror attacks. The British cleric says he was told by an al Qaeda leader that, quote, "those who cure you are going to kill you." That meeting happened back in April.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CANON ANDREW WHITE, SENIOR BRITISH CLERIC: During the meeting with him, I experienced a long litany of how he was going to kill British and American people. It was really quite terrible. In fact, I said that in my update, "I've seen the devil today."
And it was during that meeting that he said to me, "Those who cure you will kill you."
And I said to him, "I never want to see you again."
(END VIDEO CLIP) NGUYEN: And also this morning the terror threat level in London has been lowered from critical to severe. Now, the British government says they no longer think another attack is imminent.
Senior international correspondent Matthew Chance is following this story. And he joins us now live from London.
Why do you think they lowered this? Any specifics?
MATTHEW CHANCE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, certainly, the authorities here say that when they raised the terror threat level to its highest level of critical, they want people to understand that that really is incredibly serious, and they are expecting an imminent attack. That's the level we were at for the past week or so.
It's now been lowered to the level of severe, which, as you said, that still means that an attack is likely, but the intelligence at the moment, according to the authorities, isn't that an attack is imminent.
Nevertheless, the British authorities or security forces here are warning the public to be especially vigilant for the possibility of more attacks.
NGUYEN: And talk to us a little bit more about this British cleric who says he was told by an al Qaeda leader that "those who cure you will kill you." Why is he coming forth just now with this information?
CHANCE: Well, and I think Canon White spends a great deal of time in Iraq. He has good contacts with the members of the insurgency there. And really, I think he has a lot of conversations where al Qaeda members say certain things to him.
I imagine it only came into sharp focus, the meaning of this -- of this expression that those who cure you will kill you, after the fact of the attempted car bombings in London and the car bombing at Glasgow Airport.
Remember, at least seven of the individuals who have been arrested in connection with those attacks were members of the medical profession. So it's been a very shocking fact, a shocking discovery in this country, to imagine that doctors, foreign-trained doctors, be they as they are, are implicated in a plot to commit mass murder like this, Betty.
NGUYEN: CNN's Matthew Chance joining us live from London this morning.
We want to tell you about something else, as well, though: a derailment on a London subway. We've learned that it is not related to terrorism. That is according to police.
There's new video now, though. The derailment happened on the Central Line, reportedly caused by an obstruction on the tracks. One person was hurt, and about 700 people had to be evacuated from underground.
ROBERTS: Four minutes after the hour and time now to check in on some of the other big stories with our AMERICAN MORNING team of correspondents.
It is going to be dangerously hot in the west today. Triple digit temperatures in the southwest, including the city of Las Vegas, where it's already sizzling, even before the sun comes up.
AMERICAN MORNING's Chris Lawrence is there.
Chris, what are you looking at today?
CHRIS LAWRENCE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, John, an extreme heat warning is in effect. The Strip is literally sizzling. And Las Vegas is approaching record high temperatures.
It's only 5 a.m. in the morning here, and already this thermometer shows 91 degrees. The high today forecast to hit 116. I'll have more coming up later in the show.
ROBERTS: But it's a dry heat, right, Chris? That always makes a difference.
LAWRENCE: That's what they say.
ROBERTS: Chris Lawrence for us there in Las Vegas.
Chad Myers is off today. Rob Marciano live now at the CNN weather center.
What about all this extreme heat? That's an awful lot of red behind you there, Rob.
ROBERTS: Rob, thanks very much.
What happened to a mysterious disappearing lake in Chile? Jacki Schechner's got the answer.
We know that it didn't evaporate, Jacki. What happened to it?
JACKI SCHECHNER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: It sprung a leak, in simple terms.
The case of the disappearing Chilean lake has now been solved, John. A couple of weeks ago, we told you about the lake in the Magallanes region in Patagonia. It had just gone up and disappeared.
Well, scientists now say it sprung a leak, that a water buildup on one side of the lake made a crack. Water drained out through a valley down into the sea.
Experts say it is slowly filling up again, which is good news. But they do think that the disappearing lake is evidence of the effects of global warming -- John.
ROBERTS: Jacki Schechner, amateur hydrologist for us this morning. Jacki, thanks.
SCHECHNER: I do it all.
NGUYEN: Well, former Vice President Al Gore's son, he is out on bail this morning.
He was arrested on suspicion of drug possession after he was busted for speeding in California. And it is the latest in a series of incidents with law enforcement agencies in recent years.
JIM AMORMINO, ORANGE COUNTY SHERIFF'S OFFICE: Once they approached that vehicle, they detected a strong odor of marijuana coming from inside the car.
They searched that vehicle. They found additional marijuana, Valium, Xanax, Vicodin, Soma and Adderall. Adderall is an amphetamine used to treat Attention Deficit Disorder.
NGUYEN (voice-over): Twenty-four-year-old Gore was taken to jail in Santa Ana and later released on $20,000 bail. His older sister, Sarah, came to get him. Their father was in Europe, promoting this weekend's Live Earth concerts.
The younger Gore faces four drug charges and speeding violations. Police say none of the pills in the car was prescribed to him.
Officials say he wasn't charged with DUI, because it was determined he wasn't impaired.
This is not Al Gore III's first run-in with the law. In 2003 he was arrested for marijuana possession and later sentenced to a drug abuse program.
In 2002 he was ticketed for drunk driving. He was not, however, taken into custody.
And in 2000, he was charged with reckless driving which was later dropped, but he was fined for speeding.
NGUYEN: And we do want to note that he will be arraigned on the drug charges within the next 30 days. And you can hear from his father, former Vice President Al Gore, who will be on "LARRY KING LIVE". That is tonight, 9 Eastern.
ROBERTS: The Fourth of July proved to be a dangerous day across America. At least two dozen injuries were reported at various public fireworks displays. Three employees of a Washington, D.C., fireworks show were hurt when unused fireworks exploded after the show was over. One person was airlifted to the hospital with serious burns.
And in Hudson, Florida, a fireworks tent went up in a huge explosion. Police say it was intentional. Look at that. That's not the display. That's the cook-off from those fireworks. One person was charged with arson, setting that fire. A 4-year-old boy suffered minor burns.
And a jaw dropper of an upset at Nathan's Famous July Fourth Contest in Coney Island. The great red, white and blue hope is now the world's hot dog eating champion.
Joey Chestnut unseated Japan's six-time winner, Takeru Kobayashi. Chestnut swallowed a record-setting 66 dogs in 12 minutes. I'm nauseated just thinking of it. Kobayashi inhaled only 63 dogs.
Chestnut is from San Jose, California, the first American winner since 1999.
NGUYEN: I love that energy, John. You could be a ringside announcer for that next year.
ROBERTS: You think?
NGUYEN: You think? Or maybe even enter the contest?
ROBERTS: You should hear me say "goal".
ROBERTS: Maybe I can do the soccer matches.
NGUYEN: All right. Well, we do want to talk about this, because there is a push to reopen Lady Liberty's crown. And that tops your "Quick Hits" right now.
The Statue of Liberty's crown has never been reopened to the public after 9/11, and Congress wants to know why. The National Park Service claims the spiral metal staircase could be a fire hazard.
And a mass citizenship ceremony was held in Disney World. About 1,000 people from 75 countries were sworn in as new U.S. citizens yesterday as part of Independence Day celebrations. They took the oath of citizenship in front of the famous Cinderella castle. Very memorable there.
And since the British car bomb plot, though, western governments are taking a closer look at doctors coming in from other countries. Up next, we're going to talk to a Muslim-American doctor about her greatest concern right now.
NGUYEN: Topping our "Quick Hits" right now, two students in Colorado Springs were arrested before a pep rally, where police thought they were going to carry out an attack on the school. But the students' lawyer says they have no weapons and were just doing research for a paper on school shootings.
A man with a large knife is arrested outside Barack Obama's hotel in Iowa. Police questioned Davit Zakaryan yesterday after Obama's Secret Service detail said they recognized him from a previous campaign stop. He was charged with carrying an illegal weapon after police found the knife in his car.
And the mother of pro wrestler Chris Benoit says the DEA could have stopped his drug use and saved her son and his family. The Drug Enforcement Administration admitted this week that Benoit's name surfaced during a drunk trafficking investigation, but he wasn't charged and his supply wasn't cut off.
ROBERTS: Eight people are in custody in the failed car bombings in London and Glasgow. All belonged to the medical profession. Now Muslim professionals, both in the U.K. and here in the United States, are concerned about their image.
Dr. Asma Mobin-Uddin is a pediatrician. She's also the president of the Ohio chapter of Council on American Islamic Relations. She joins us now live from Columbus, Ohio.
Dr. Mobin-Uddin, thanks very much for being with us. You wrote a commentary that was carried in a lot of newspapers here in the United States. Let me ask you what your thoughts are about this plot that was uncovered in the U.K.?
DR. ASMA MOBIN-UDDIN, PEDIATRICIAN/PRESIDENT, OHIO CHAPTER OF CAIR: Good morning, John.
I actually was shocked to hear about the plot. I was angry. I really felt a sick -- sick feeling inside that physicians, people from my own profession, could be guilty -- suspected of being guilty of such heinous acts. I really couldn't believe it.
And I also felt a sense of betrayal. Because we, as a community, place a lot of trust in physicians. People take an oath that they serve the community. They save lives. And this is what we expect from our physicians.
And to know that they might be guilty of actually plotting to kill people while, possibly during the day, seeing their own patients, just left me with a really sick feeling inside.
ROBERTS: Some terror experts that we've talked to, Dr. Mobin- Uddin, say that it's not particularly surprising that this would happen, that some professionals like doctors would be recruited into terrorism.
Can you even begin to understand how that would happen?
MOBIN-UDDIN: Well, John, physicians are human beings like everybody else. And as human beings, some people go bad. And they might -- you know, they can choose to do bad things, evil things just like other people.
So I think we tend to hold physicians and professionals to a higher standard because of their profession, but it just reminds us that they are human beings.
And it's not the first time that we've seen physicians involved in very bad activities. I remember a few years ago when we saw the reports in the "Lancet" and the "New England Journal of Medicine" about the doctors at Abu Ghraib who were complicit in the torture. Sometimes we hear physicians being accused of sexual abuse of their patients.
So these things happen.
ROBERTS: And let's not forget that Ayman al Zawahiri, bin Laden's No. 2, is Dr. Al-Zawahiri.
What effect do you think this is going to have in the U.K. and here in the United States? Are people going to start looking suspiciously at Muslim doctors?
MOBIN-UDDIN: Well, I don't know. I mean, I hope that people will appreciate that these people are individuals. The suspects acted on their own, and that they really betrayed the values of their faith, Islam, and their profession, medicine, when they acted.
And I hope that people wouldn't generalize. There are many, many professionals, many Muslim doctors that have worked for decades serving the community, serving their patients in the United States and in the U.K. And I hope that that -- all that effort and all that work would not be superceded by the acts of a few suspected criminals during this investigation.
ROBERTS: Doctor, what about your organization? There have been some criticisms that the Council on American-Islamic Relations has ties to radical groups. There are some militants who have found their way into your organization. What are you doing to ensure that CAIR does not become a well of extremism in this country?
MOBIN-UDDIN: John, I reassure you that CAIR, whether locally or nationally, our chapters, is very much a mainstream Muslim organization that does not have ties with terrorism.
And there's a lot of suspicion, a large dragnet that gets cast over the American Muslim community and American Muslim organizations.
So if you go to our web site, at www.CAIR.com, you will find answers to the questions. But I can assure you that, as Muslim- Americans, we want the safety and security, and the best for our nation. And we love our faith and we represent our faith. And we are not extremists.
And there are plenty of instances on the web site that you can see, where CAIR has openly and widely condemned terrorism and never knowingly associated itself with terrorists.
ROBERTS: Well, Dr. Mobin-Uddin, thanks very much for your thoughts. We appreciate you joining us this morning.
MOBIN-UDDIN: Thank you for having me, John.
NGUYEN: I want to talk now about an increase in your cable bill, because that tops your "Quick Hits".
A new rule designed to increase competition will lead to higher prices. Cable companies are required by the FCC to ship new, more expensive set-top boxes, and cable companies plan to pass those costs on to you.
Well, some positive signs on the job front today. According to a new survey by "USA Today" and CareerBuilder.com, only 5 percent of companies plan to cut workers in the next three months. About a third surveyed said they'll add workers, and half expect no change.
It is a Hollywood sex scandal but one that involves the mayor. Yes, the latest on L.A. Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa's admission that he's been having an affair with a local TV reporter. That is up next.
ROBERTS: Twenty-one minutes after the hour. The death of a music icon tops your "Quick Hits".
Bill Pinkney, the last original member of The Drifters, died yesterday in Florida. The Drifters are best known for their hits "Under the Boardwalk" and "Up on the Roof." Pinkney was 81 years old.
The National Guard says new recruiting techniques are paying off. They are paying Guard members $2,000 bonuses if they sign up a recruit. The Guard now has more soldiers than it's had in almost six years.
And some serious fireworks in a beach in Florida. A woman walking her dog near St. Augustine found a live bomb from World War II that had somehow been uncovered. It was too old and unstable to be moved. So police cleared the beach and then blew it up.
NGUYEN: Well, John, it is like a Hollywood sex scandal, only, the mayor is involved.
Yes, Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa admits that his marriage of 20 years is over and that he's been having an affair with a local TV reporter. This is leading to some questions about his ethics.
So let's get to some of that reaction right now. Jacki Schechner joins us live. I can only imagine what people have begun to say, Jacki.
SCHECHNER: Well, you know, not only his ethics, Betty, but also hers, questioning why she didn't fess up to this affair. She was covering the mayor as part of her job with a Spanish television station. You know, "The L.A. Times" opened up comments on its web site to find out what people thought. And there's 81 pages of them. There are some people who say he's human; he made a mistake. But most of them seem to say it's a matter of time. He cheated on his wife; he's going to cheat the city. Others calling him Mayor Greaseball.
So Villaraigosa was an up and coming star in the Democratic Party, probably still is to some extent. But people are really disappointed by his behavior.
This made news as faraway as Australia. A U.S. expat really upset that the -- a leading voice in the Democratic Party, an up-and- comer, is not keeping it buttoned down, if you may.
Over at "L.A. Observed", they're talking about Telemundo. This is the station that that female reporter works for. And they are covering it, also offering the opportunity for people to weigh in and let the management at that station know exactly what they think.
Now, again, I was mentioning, there are some people who say he's just human, leave it alone. It's personal, not politics. But it will be interesting to see, Betty, how this might bubble up into national politics.
We found out just recently that Mayor Villaraigosa actually endorsed Senator Hillary Clinton for president. So there's an interesting sort of segue here to find out if this is going to make a difference at all in the support that she has, especially with the Hispanic vote out in California -- Betty.
NGUYEN: Well, also, the mayor's support, because there's a lot of talk that he's got bigger aspirations than what he's doing right now. So we'll see how it plays out. Thank you, Jacki.
SCHECHNER: No problem.
ROBERTS: Stephanie Elam with us, "Minding Your Business" at 23 minutes after the hour.
Good morning to you, Stephanie.
STEPHANIE ELAM, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Good morning again, John and Betty. \
Well, it seems that people who drive Priuses, they care about the environment, and they really want everyone else to know about that, as well. That's a big issue that we're looking at here today.
Owners say they want to clear -- send a clear message and have an impact on others. And the thing about the Prius, it has never come in any other version. It's always been a hybrid. It's not like the Honda Civic or the Ford Escape, which were normal versions, and then they also made hybrid versions of them.
So that's why this hybrid has seemed to have done better than comparable ones. And so they're saying, "You know what? When I go out to pick a car, I want to get a hybrid that everyone knows is a hybrid, which is the Prius."
Now, according to the "New York Times" and CNW Marketing Research, here are the top reasons why consumers buy a Prius. Fifty- seven percent of Prius customers surveyed in the second quarter of 2007 said, "Hey, I bought a Prius because it makes a statement about who I am." That's up from 34 percent of the first quarter of 2004.
Moving on to higher fuel economy, that was 36 percent of the region in the second quarter of 2007, versus 27 percent in 2004.
But what's really interesting to me about this is that lower emissions actually dropped in 2007 from 25 percent. That was the reason. But it was 36 percent back in the first quarter of 2004.
So it seems that really making a statement is more important to people than really the reasons why people would get a Prius in the first place, which is kind of interesting.
NGUYEN: It's become popular. It's the thing to do now.
ELAM: Right. It's a weird way of keeping up with the Joneses in certain areas. You saw a lot of celebrities doing that. They'll get -- like, big stretch Priuses or stretch hybrids so that they can make their statement and still drive in comfort.
ROBERTS: As we've learned from Al Gore III, they're pretty zippy cars, as well.
ELAM: Yes. For everybody. That seems to be the takeaway. It's like, did you know that a Prius could go 100 miles an hour?
NGUYEN: Yes. And the top speed, you should...
ROBERTS: Sales will go through the roof.
ELAM: A lot of people.
NGUYEN: Yes, I think 105? Is that what you...
ROBERTS: Top speed is 105. He was right there on the hairy (ph) edge.
ELAM: So for people -- for people who don't drive Priuses, though, this is another reason that they're saying that Prius drivers are just pious, and they're just kind of green snobs.
ROBERTS: I can't imagine those tiny little tires going around that fast.
ELAM: You think you'd hear like (HUMS). Yes.
NGUYEN: All right. Thank you, Stephanie.
NGUYEN: Well, one of the top stories on CNN.com tops our "Quick Hits" right now.
A 5-year-old boy in Kingston, North Carolina, grabbed a rabid fox by the neck and then pinned it to the ground. He held it there until his stepfather came and took care of the animal. The boy said he was just trying to protect his little brother.
And one of the most popular stories on our web site. Al Qaeda's second in command says the end of the west is imminent. Ayman al- Zawahiri sits down for an hour and 34-minute fireside chat, if you want to call it, according to the terrorism expert who obtained the tape. Now, he does not mention the recent incidents in the U.K. on that tape.
There are thousands of them living all over Europe. U.S. troops and their families. That's what we're talking about right now. But are they a new target for terrorists? And how vulnerable are they to attack? The story when AMERICAN MORNING returns.
NGUYEN: As we mentioned, it is going to be dangerously hot in the West today. Triple-digit temperatures in the southwest, including Las Vegas, and that is where AMERICAN MORNING's Chris Lawrence is.
It is amazing to see how hot it is getting so quickly this morning. It's already up there, Chris.
CHRIS LAWRENCE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, Betty, it's already in the 90s, and with the sun coming up, that means we've already seen the coolest part of our day. The all-time record here in Las Vegas is 117 degrees. The forecast for today, 116.
LAWRENCE, (voice over): Nevada is sizzling under an extreme heat warning. And temperatures are still soaring.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This heat is oppressive. It will kill you. I mean there's people that die all the time in the heat.
LAWRENCE: Each year, about 175 people nationwide die from heat- related causes.
As hot as it is outside, it's that much worse inside of a car. Which is about the worst place you can leave kids or pets in this kind of heat. As we start our experiment, it's already about 114 degrees inside.
I've only been in the car about 10 minutes and it's already at 125 degrees. I'm sweating and it's definitely a lot harder to breathe.
OK. It's been 15 minutes and it's soaring past 135 degrees in here. I'm sweating from literally every pore in my body and it's unthinkable to think of a little child or a pet in a car for that long.
In this weather, heat exhaustion can quickly become heat stroke.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Once you start getting over 105, you can really start to feel it.
LAWRENCE: Doctors are urging people to stay inside, but that's not an option for a 16-year-old training for a college scholarship.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It's like a bunch of hot air just going in your face. So it makes you breathe harder.
LAWRENCE: Not everyone is exerting themselves. The Palms Casino Resort is used to being one of the hottest spots in Las Vegas. Just not quite so literally. Hundreds of people guzzled water, slapped on the sunscreen and packed the pool in bungalows to cool off any way they could.
Carlie Mullins (ph) compared this heat to her hometown in Charlotte.
CARLIE MULLINS: It's definitely a lot hotter. You can't even step down on the concrete. It's very, very hot.
LAWRENCE: Yes, and it's only going to get hotter.
Right now the city is experimenting with a new alternative to asphalt. In one test case, it was about 131 degrees on black asphalt, 26 degrees cooler on this new natural pave.
I've been watching our thermometer. It dipped slightly. It's at 90.9 degrees, a shade under 91 degrees, and that's pretty much the coolest we're going to see for the rest of the day, because that sun is just coming up now and temperature's really going to start spiking in the next few hours.
NGUYEN: Yes, the sad thing is it sounds like a cold front when it is in the 90s. In Vegas today going to get way up there, 116, 117. All right, stay cool, Chris. Stay inside, if you can. Thank you.
ROBERTS: We're hearing this morning from the man who says he received a warning two months before the failed U.K. terror attacks. The British cleric says he was told by an al Qaeda leader that those who cure you are going to kill you. The meeting happened back in April.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CANON ANDREW WHITE, SENIOR BRITISH CLERIC: During the meeting with him, I experienced a long litany of how he was going to kill British and American people. It was really quite terrible. In fact, I said to him in my update, I've seen the devil today, and it was during that meeting that he said to me those who cure you will kill you. And I said to him, I never want to see you again. (END VIDEO CLIP)
ROBERTS: And also this morning, the terror threat level in London has been lowered from critical to severe. The British government says they no longer think that an attack is imminent.
But the terror attacks in the U.K. fresh on everyone's minds. Some people are asking the surprising question, are American troops in Europe safe from an attack? Thousands of soldiers and their families live overseas, and there are concerns that they may be vulnerable to terrorism.
CNN's Paula Newton has the story.
PAULA NEWTON, CNN CORRESPONDENT: The Glasgow Airport attack brings terror to your doorstep wherever you might live, especially for Americans living in Europe.
Melanie Buckley lives with her husband and family at a U.S. military base in Germany. She says she's not paranoid about living in Europe, but...
MELANIE BUCKLEY, WIFE OF MILITARY OFFICER: Things like this, this vehicle that is a van that could be carrying anything.
NEWTON: Even before Britain's latest teary plot, Buckley gave CNN a guided tour of what she says are security soft spots at U.S. military facilities in Germany.
BUCKLEY: The extremists or the terrorists that would like to make a statement against Americans would, of course, like to get hold of Americans' children and American families.
NEWTON: Lieutenant Colonel Timothy Wulff is the garrison commander in Wiesbaden, in charge of security. His wife and five children all live here.
(on camera): What do you say to those who feel the security just isn't quite what it should be?
LT. COL. TIMOTHY WULFF, GARRISON COMMANDER: We got to tell them the truth, from my perspective, something where there was a credible specific threat directed against the U.S. military and its families.
NEWTON: And we're not at that point yet?
WULFF: No, no.
NEWTON: Many soldiers and their families say they don't want to live in an armed camp in the heart of Europe.
WULFF: Even with some of the increased threat levels that will ebb and flow in this area, honestly, I feel very safe here. NEWTON: Under increasing threats, though, there seems no simple answers to keeping such a highly visible group of Americans safe overseas.
ROBERTS: That was CNN's Paula Newton reporting for us this morning -- Betty.
NGUYEN: Well, people are waiting for their passports and they are growing angry. That's got the State Department going to extremes. So now hundreds of young diplomats and civil servants are being reassigned to process all of those passports, and many of them will be sent to New Orleans.
That's where CNN's Sean Callebs is this morning.
We're seeing hundreds. Exactly how many have flocked down there to spend their summer vacation processing those passports?
ROBERTS: Well, what the State Department's telling us, it's somewhere between 190 and 200. They're not here yet. They just found out, but they could be here within 10 days. That's how quickly the State Department wants to get these employees, these new employees, they basically are people who have been hired the last three years or less, here in New Orleans or in Portsmouth, New Hampshire, to begin processing these passport applications.
There is simply a tremendous backlog because of a law that was -- back in 2004, which kicked in in January. And New Orleans has always been one of the largest processing centers. In fact, it handled about one-fifth of passport applications until Katrina. The office shutdown for five months, and then it moved to a different facility, and it simply hasn't Ramped back up anywhere near what it was. So that is another problem leading to this backlog, Betty.
NGUYEN: Well, let me ask you this, though, you're talking about 150 to 200 people, that's just in the New Orleans area, that they'll be coming there to help process this. But we're looking at some 18 million passports that need to go through the system. Are these folks really going to make that much of a difference?
CALLEBS: Well, they've also -- the State Department hired 2,500 employees to handle these passport applications over the last several years, but the backlog is tremendous. It's anywhere from a half a million to several million depending on whom you listen to.
And the citizens are frustrated, because of the way this law went into effect. Going into Canada, Mexico, the Caribbean or Bermuda, you had to have a valid U.S. passport. But because there was so much complaining, because the backlog was so prevalent, Congress actually put a stay on that. And now until October, all you have to do is show that you have applied for a passport to go to one of those four locations.
But they are hoping -- hoping -- to make a big dent in this. They received 5.4 million applications in the first three months of the year alone.
Now, the State Department is counting on the summer months to be somewhat of a lull and hopefully, Betty, they say they'll catch up then.
NGUYEN: All right, we'll see how that works, Sean. Thank you.
ROBERTS: A Fourth of July fireworks accident in Vienna, Virginia. Something went terribly wrong at a display at an elementary school. Police say fireworks exploded into the crowd. Seven people, including five children, were hurt. One adult was medevaced to the Washington burn center, and one of the five children is listed in serious condition.
ROBERTS: Al Gore III busted with what police say was a virtual medicine cabinet in his car. What did they find and what will it mean for Gore? Elizabeth Cohen is taking a look, coming up next on AMERICAN MORNING.
ROBERTS: 43 minutes after the hour. Hope for childhood asthma tops your quick hits. Scientists in London say they found a genetic risk to asthma risk in kids. Adding to the evidence about the role of genetics in the disease rather than from environmental factors like allergies. The discovery could lead to better treatments for asthma.
It is an expensive carrot on a stick and one not guaranteed to get kids to actually eat the carrot. The government will spend $1 billion this year trying to educate children on the benefits of eating healthy. But a new study shows that most initiatives so far have been outright failures.
And you know that achy light-headed feeling that you sometimes get on a long flight Well, a new study says that those symptoms are actually altitude sickness.
The study conducted by Boeing also found that older people above age 60 were less likely to experience the symptoms and men suffered less than women. Altitude sickness because even though the cabins are pressurized you're still at a higher altitude than people would normally be associated with.
BETTY NGUYEN: Absolutely. And then you just kind of feel off for days sometimes because of it.
Well, Al Gore III, the son of former Vice President Al Gore, was arrested on drug possession charges after deputies busted him for driving 100 miles per hour on the San Diego freeway.
Police say in addition to marijuana, the young Gore had with him the prescription drugs Xanax, Valium, Vicodin, and Adderall.
Now CNN Medical Correspondent Elizabeth Cohen joins us live in Atlanta with much more on this.
And as we look into the history here Elizabeth, what do we know about young Gore's history not only with medicine, but also maybe substance abuse?
ELIZABETH COHEN, CNN MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: Right. This isn't the first time, Betty, that he has had problems in this area. When you go back to 2003, he was busted for marijuana possession. Back in 2002, he was arrested for a DUI.
So this seems to be a problem that has been going on for some time. We do know that he's been in and out of substance abuse programs. Unfortunately, this is a problem that affects many families.
NGUYEN: So how popular are these drugs? I mean, look at the once on the list. You have Vicodin, you've got Xanax, you've got all these ones that we've heard before, sounds like it's growing in popularity with young people.
COHEN: Oh, it certain will is, Betty. Prescription drug abuse is kind of the drug abuse of this generation. Instead of using street drugs, those increases of street drugs haven't been quite as much as you might things, but the increases in prescription drugs have been phenomenal. They are the drug of choice in many ways.
Take a look at this. College students using prescription drugs. The percentage of them using went up 450 percent when you're looking at tranquilizers like Xanax and Valium, both of which Mr. Gore allegedly had in his car.
Up 343 percent for the opioids, that's things like Vicodin, Oxycontin, Percocet. And 93 percent for stimulants like Adderall and Ritalin.
Some experts think that college students see these as somehow safer than street drugs. They come in a bottle, a doctor prescribes them. But these drugs can be deadly when used the wrong way.
NGUYEN: When we look at those drugs, the Valium and the other ones that we mentioned, but something that doesn't come up that much is Adderall. Talk to us about Adderall. Why would he have Adderall?
COHEN: Adderall is huge. It is a huge drug of abuse right now. It's a drug used legitimately for ADHD. Lots of adults and children take it. However, what people have discovered over time is that Adderall can also give you more energy. It allows you to stay up later.
And in addition some young people tell me that at bars it's often mixed with alcohol to increase or enhance the drunk, as one person put it to me. So it's become a very, very common drug to abuse.
Part of the reason is that so many young people have been diagnosed with ADD, that they have the drug. It's right there. It's easy for them to use it themselves or give it to their friends. NGUYEN: And you've got a prescription for it, although in this case, it doesn't appear according to police that he had a prescription for any of the drugs found in his vehicle.
Elizabeth Cohen, thank you.
ROBERTS: It has been great movie weather across a lot of the country, no doubt. That helped the Transformers movie set a record. More on summer movies, next on AMERICAN MORNING.
NGUYEN: Well, in most of the country it's been either really hot or really wet outside, which means it has been great movie weather -- and new records have been set this week, and our Lola Ogunnaike is here to talk to us about the big winner so far. Go ahead, there's been an anticipation. Tell us who it is.
LOLA OGUNNAIKE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Transformers.
NGUYEN: I knew it, I knew it.
OGUNNAIKE: More than meets the eye.
NGUYEN: It has no big stars, that's why I'm so surprised.
OGUNNAIKE: Which is the great thing, there are no big stars, but it doesn't matter at all. Shia Labeouf is the biggest name in this film, maybe Jon Voight. Doesn't matter, it's not about the stars, and quite frankly, it's not even about the plot Betty. It is all about seeing these Autobots and the Decepticons duke it out. And they do duke it out for much of the film.
Michael Bay, who directs, does not disappoint at all. I personally felt like there was too much fighting. It felt like a scrap metal heap by the end of the film. But, boom, ka-boom, lots of testoterone. When Optimous Prime hits the screen, I went to a private screening the other night, the crowd went wild. It felt like every male in the room was reduced to his 13-year-old self and they were screaming.
NGUYEN: Many of us grew up watching it as a cartoon, so you want to see how it plays out with real people on the big screen. Now, something that played out as a cartoon did really well is Ratatouille.
OGUNNAIKE: Ratatouille did well by most standards, but by Pixar standards did not do well actually. It did well, but not as well as it should have done actually.
MGUYEN: Critics like it.
OGUNNAIKE: Critics loved it, it has gotten rave reviews across the board. But if you think about it, you compare it to Cars -- Cars had an opening weekend of $60 million. Finding Nemo, the Incredibles, other Pixar films -- opening weekends of $70 million. This only had an opening weekend of $47 million, so not so well. And it has only grossed a little over $50 million so far since July 2nd.
NGUYEN: But you say you really liked it.
OGUNNAIKE: I really enjoyed it. I'm telling you, you've got to go see it. It is a visual feast. Do not go on an empty stomach, I'm warning you because you'll just going to want to eat.
NGUYEN: From a cartoon, though?
OGUNNAIKE: The food is incredible. The kitchen scenes are amazing. You can smell the shallots, you can see the steam rising off the pots.
NGUYEN: Okay, you are making me hungry. We've got to stop. Thank you so much. A lot of people headed to the movies this weekend, so this is good stuff.
TONY HARRIS: See these stories in the CNN NEWSROOM -- subway derailment in nervous London. Dozens of passengers trapped, no serious injuries.
The UK eases its terror warning after a failed car bomb plot.
Fourth of July tragedy. A mother jumps into a van as it rolls into a pond. She and two children drowned.
Extreme heat, Western temps soar, as high as the 120s today? NEWSROOM, just minutes away, top of the hour on CNN.
ROBERTS: Every day all over the world, there are people working to make life a little bit better for all of us. Often their stories don't get much attention, but each week we're shining the spotlight on folks making a dins. We call them CNN Heroes.
Dorine Kenney is making the daily lives of American troops living in war zones just a little bit better, despite an incredible loss of her own.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Dear Dorine, thank you for the care package you sent the unit.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We don't have much over here and every little thing that you send us makes us very happy.
You say that we are your heroes, but it's people like you that are the real heroes.
DORINE KENNEY, MOTHER OF KILLED AMERICAN SOLDIER: My name is Dorine Kenney and I'm the mother of Specialist Jacob Fletcher who was a paratrooper with the 173rd Airborne Brigade in Iraq.
Whenever I got a little nervous and anxious that he was there, I'd get in my car and go shopping and try to be creative and think of silly things to send him to lift his spirits.
I sent Jacob boxes sometimes twice a week. And I just never stopped sending boxes. I started a foundation in my son's memory. Our focus is to get soldiers, especially the soldiers without family support or support from home, boxes and letters of support.
I feel like I'm fulfilling something that would please my son. All of it is donated. Checks come in if all over the country. I go out and I do the shopping once we collect the money, and the volunteers come and move it over to the American Legion. We set it up on a table. And then we pack boxes of toiletries and food to support our military.
In every box we'll be putting bug spray, Q-tips, toothpaste, peanut butter, and I take requests from them, whatever they want. We want to make sure they're taken care of. The next day a volunteer comes and takes it to the post office and we mail them.
I can make sure that our letters get in there. It's really kept me alive. It's given me focus. It's given me a strong purpose. I don't doubt he's there and I don't doubt that I'll see him again and I'll work hard and do what I can to make the world a better place until I do meet him again.
ROBERTS: And if you'd like to help Dorine Kenney help American troops or nominate your hero for special recognition later this year, you'll find more information on our website at cnn.com/heroes.
NGUYEN: Well, that does it for AMERICAN MORNING.
ROBERTS: Thanks for coming in. We'll see you again tomorrow.
NGUYEN: Bright and early.
ROBERTS: All right. CNN NEWSROOM with Tony Harris and Melissa Long begins right now.
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