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The Situation Room

President Bush's Poll Numbers Inch Up; Wilma Leaves Millions in the Dark; 2,000 U.S. Troops Now Killed in Iraq War; McDonald's Opens the Curtain on Ingredients

Aired October 25, 2005 - 15:00   ET


WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: I'm Wolf Blitzer. And you're in THE SITUATION ROOM, where new pictures and information are arriving all the time.
Happening now, coping with Hurricane Wilma's aftermath.

In South Florida, right now, millions of people are in the dark. And many of them need food and water.

Meanwhile, Wilma is causing wicked weather in the Northeast, fueling a powerful nor'easter that is causing heavy rain, winds and flooding.

It's 3:00 p.m. here in Washington, where President Bush has a new poll position. A just-released survey shows his approval numbers have slightly inched up. But a majority of Americans still disapprove of the way Mr. Bush is doing his job.

And it's 10:00 p.m. in Baghdad, where a grim new statistic creates a disheartening milestone: 2,000 American troops now dead in the war.

I'm Wolf Blitzer. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

We begin with the havoc wrought by Hurricane Wilma. In South Florida, six people are dead. Some six million people are without power. And $6 to $10 billion is one post-Wilma damage estimate. Wilma is now out in the Atlantic, but the weather outside is frightful across the Northeast. A powerful nor'easter is beefing up its muscle with energy from Wilma.

We have three reports. Our Dan Lothian is in Chatham, Massachusetts. CNN severe weather expert Chad Myers is at our CNN Hurricane Headquarters.

But we begin with our senior correspondent, Allan Chernoff. He's joining us from Sunny Isles, Florida. It looks sunny. It looks nice. But, if you look a little bit behind you, Allan, it looks bad.

ALLAN CHERNOFF, CNN SENIOR CORRESPONDENT: No question about that. Behind me, you're seeing a marina that was absolutely decimated by the hurricane, but also decimated the power system here in Florida. A lot of people might be wondering, well, why don't they just turn the switch back on? Well, what happened was, a lot of substations were damaged. And even here, we have an example for you. The transmission lines, which are the top lines, very high, those lines are just fine. They come right from some of the substations out. They are the long-distance lines. But the lower lines, the local distribution lines, right here, you can see that the hurricane just yanked them out. And in fact, one line which normally carries 7,600 volts of electricity is headed right down the sidewalk and into a huge puddle that has been created by a flood coming out of that damaged marina.

So a very precarious situation, Wolf, particularly since there are more than 300 boats -- boats in there. And they have got batteries. They have got leaking gas. So this is potentially a very dangerous situation here. Now, Florida Power and Light has 6,000 workers out. They are working 16-hour days trying to get the power back on. And the governor says they are doing everything they can to get the job done quickly.


GOV. JEB BUSH (R), FLORIDA: Life without power is very frustrating. Thankfully, a cold front came at the time shortly after the -- the storms -- the storm came, which makes it a little more livable without power. But power makes the world go 'round. Without power, small businesses go out of business and people lose their jobs.

Without power, it's difficult to -- to get the schools open. So, there's real challenges.


CHERNOFF: That cold front is perhaps the only blessing that hurricane did bring, because, last night, it was very pleasant, quite cool, and, this morning, also, very cool. That's very good because, of course, there are lots of elderly people in this area. And at least for now, they can get along without air conditioning.


BLITZER: All right, Allan Chernoff, thank you very much. Allan Chernoff reporting from Sunny Isles in Florida.

I want to show you these live pictures we are getting in from Cocoa, Florida, right now. You see some of the flooding that has developed in Cocoa. That's along the eastern part of the state, sort of toward the central part of the state -- emergency workers still working there, no indication when power is going to be restored -- some estimates, could be days in some parts of South Florida, other estimates, as many as two, three, maybe even four weeks down the road.

We will continue to watch these live pictures coming in from Cocoa, Florida. Meanwhile, relief efforts also continuing in Fort Lauderdale.

CNN's Sophia -- Sophia Choi is there with the latest. Sophia, they say this is the worst storm to hit Fort Lauderdale, what, in 50 or 60 years?

SOPHIA CHOI, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Yes, in 50 years, at least, since Hurricane King.

Let me show you, Wolf, what is going on right now. Behind me, you see, basically, the education building for Broward County. And you can see, just from the sheer force of the winds, that a lot of the windows have been blown right off. You can see right into office buildings here. And because of debris still falling from this building and others, police and the sheriff's department has basically blocked off this entire intersection.

One of the big concerns right now is driving. It's really a nasty situation out there, because, as you can see behind me, lights are simply out all over the place, with no power in 98 percent of the places here in Broward County.

Another big concern, water. People are being told they have to boil their water. Many areas don't have running water at all. So, they don't have toilets that work. It's kind of getting to be a nasty situation.


BLITZER: Sophia, any indication in the Fort Lauderdale-Broward area when power might be restored?

CHOI: They are saying it could be up to four weeks in this area. With 98 percent of Broward County out of power, you can imagine, it's going to take them a while to get things running again.

But I talked with the sheriff of Broward County just a little while ago. And he said, really, we need water back up and running before we can actually start the cleanup efforts.

And I also talked with the attorney general's office. And they spoke with me about the elderly population here. They have been going around. There's about eight people going around the state, checking on elderly people at various homes. And they say, so far, they haven't heard of anything disastrous happening. They checked on these people prior to the storm. And they are going back now, checking on them afterwards. And nothing terrible so far, but, because communication is so bad around here, they really don't know for sure.


BLITZER: All right, Sophia Choi on the scene for us in Fort Lauderdale. Thanks, Sophia, very much.

There are some really powerful images, almost amazing images, of Wilma's power. Check this out, an airplane blown into another -- these pictures from Miami-Dade County's Opa Locka Airport. Look at this. A large commercial jetliner poked its nose through the fuselage of another jet, leaving a gaping hole.

Air traffic in and out of Florida, the southern part, major airports there, Miami, Fort Lauderdale, Palm -- West Palm Beach, all seriously affected by Wilma.

Meanwhile, in Cancun, Mexico, tens of thousands of weary tourists, many of them Americans, are trying desperately to get out. They have been stranded there by Hurricane Wilma for five days now. Tourists are trying to board buses and airplanes. Many are complaining of disorganization in the evacuation process.

We will have more on that situation coming up.

Back here in the United States, meanwhile, a powerful nor'easter, fueled by Hurricane Wilma, is sending down heavy rains and winds. It has knocked out power to thousands and caused winds up to 70 miles per hour.

CNN's Dan Lothian is in Chatham, Massachusetts.The situation there looks very serious, Dan, almost like a winter situation -- situation, the way you're dressed.

DAN LOTHIAN, CNN BOSTON BUREAU CHIEF: Yes, it is. I mean it's unusual, because, typically, when you're covering something like a hurricane, you have a lot of wind, you have a lot of rain, but you don't have to worry about the cold weather. Well, now you have the wind, the rain, and the cold temperatures here.

And this storm, which started early this morning, is relentless. It's just not letting up. And now officials are focusing forward the next few hours to about 6:45 high tide, especially along the coastal area, some concern that, with all this rain falling, with a surge of some three to three-and-a-half feet, that you may have not excessive flooding, but some moderate flooding in the coastal area. So, they have issued a flood warning in the coastal areas and also in the western part of this state, where we saw a -- a lot of flash flooding over the last couple of weeks, which brings up another point. This area, New England, has just been hit by so much rain over the last couple of weeks that doesn't really require a whole lot of rain now in order to cause some problems.

Now, the other issue continues to be the wind, which is blowing sideways, clocked -- not far away from here, at the harbormaster's office, he clocked it at over 60 miles per hour, the gusty winds at over 60 miles per hour -- steady winds at about 30 or so miles per hour. So, still -- still a very tough situation here on the ground.

We are told -- the last report that we heard, more than 40,000 residents and businesses left without power. Still trying to confirm that number. But certainly, power crews have a long night ahead.


BLITZER: All right, Dan Lothian reporting for us from Massachusetts. Dan, thank you.

Let's get the latest forecast now on Wilma and the weather in the Northeast.

Our severe weather expert, Chad Myers, is at the CNN Weather Center in Atlanta with that. Chad, what's the latest?

CHAD MYERS, CNN METEOROLOGIST: Wolf, really, Wilma itself -- and I -- I know the folks up in Boston kind of -- they want to be able to -- to claim something -- yes, we're getting hit by Wilma.

But Wilma has been way offshore all day. And only a very small piece of Wilma was ever gulped into this nor'easter. This nor'easter that you're feeling in New York and Boston, in Albany, and in Vermont, it would have been there one way or the other. But about 10 percent of the energy, 10 percent of the moisture from what was left of Wilma kind of got dumped in this storm overnight.

You can see some of that energy right through there, some of those brighter colors. And that's the energy, the extra little wind. Maybe the winds that were going to be 40 are now 45. The winds that would have been 30 are now 35. But look at this large cloud shield with snow in the cloud shield as well, Wolf.

There is snow in West Virginia. There's snow through the Alleghenies and on up through the Green and White Mountains of Vermont and New Hampshire, even western Maine seeing some snow.

Two separate storms, they never combined to that movie that we call "The Perfect Storm." That just didn't happen with this storm. But very windy conditions. In fact, I have the latest winds out of Martha's Vineyard, 39 -- out of Hyannis, 28 the gusts -- and, even Nantucket, gusts of 30. I just checked. Boston, you are 46. Your winds are 31. That makes a wind-chill factor, if you're dry, of 35. If you're wet, you're cold.

BLITZER: Very quickly...

MYERS: Wolf.

BLITZER: ... Chad, what would have happened if all of those weather situations would have combined into that so-called perfect storm, Tropical Storm Alpha, Wilma and that low front coming in from the -- from the mainland?

MYERS: Wolf, the winds would have approached 75 or 85 miles per hour. And if it was -- if it would have been closer, if the storm -- if Wilma would have been closer, the winds could have been 100.

BLITZER: Amazing. All right. We have got to be grateful for little things like that.

MYERS: Right.

BLITZER: Fortunately, that perfect storm did not develop.

Coming up, political storm over at the White House. Who will take the fall if indictments are handed down? We will take a closer look.

Plus, 2,000 American troops dead in Iraq and a new draft constitution approved. Our Nic Robertson has the sacrifice and the success from Baghdad. A little bit later, stranded tourists -- thousands of Americans trapped in Cancun, after Hurricane Wilma tore through the area. We have the story.

Stay with us.


BLITZER: Jack Cafferty is off this week. For those of you who -- who miss him -- and a lot of you do, he's off this week, well-deserved time off for Jack Cafferty.

Zain Verjee is filling in on AMERICAN MORNING this week.

Andrea Koppel, though, is with us from the CNN Center in Atlanta. She has got a closer look at other stories making news. Hi, Andrea. Good to have you here in THE SITUATION ROOM.

ANDREA KOPPEL, CNN STATE DEPARTMENT CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, thanks very much. It's nice to be here.

The head of the United Nations team investigating the assassination of a former prime minister of Lebanon says he wants more cooperation from Syria. The chief investigator, Detlev Mehlis, spoke to the U.N. Security Council earlier today. And his preliminary report, which was released late last week, links Syria to the assassination. Syria denies the charge.

The investigator says his team repeatedly was threatened as it looked into the killings.

For the second time in a week, an outbreak of bird flu is reported in China. This time, 2,100 geese were ill. And a quarter of them died. That's according to a United Nations official. China has not reported any cases of bird flu being transmitted to humans.

Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice was among those pausing today to remember Rosa Parks.


CONDOLEEZZA RICE, SECRETARY OF STATE: And Mrs. Parks, who was 92 years old and lived a life that was long and inspirational well beyond that single act, I think for all of us, her inspiration will -- will live on. And I just wanted to acknowledge that.


KOPPEL: Parks died Monday. Nearly half a century ago, in Montgomery, Alabama, Parks refused to give up her seat on a bus to a white man. That act of defiance helped inspire the civil rights movement.

Now, one of the most influential figures in pro football is dead. That's Wellington Mara, the longtime owner of the New York Giants. And he was 89. In the early '60s, Mara and his brother Jack agreed to share television revenue with teams in smaller cities, helping the National Football League to thrive. Well, Mara was elected to the Football Hall of Fame in 1997.


BLITZER: Andrea Koppel, thank you very much. We will back with you later. Andrea Koppel, at the CNN Center.

All new this hour, the American people weighing in on the CIA leak probe and other subjects President Bush would rather not talk about. We have a new poll that shows a majority of Americans still disapprove of the way Mr. Bush is doing his job. But his approval rating has gone up slightly to 42 percent, from an all-time low of 39 percent a week ago.

And look at this. More than half of those surveyed say they would vote against Mr. Bush and for the Democratic candidate if the president were up for reelection this year.

And, on the CIA leak, more than a third polled say they believe a -- Bush administration officials did something illegal. More than a third say they did something unethical. And just 10 percent say they did nothing wrong.

The special prosecutor in the CIA leak investigation is expected to announce his findings and possibly indictments later this week, perhaps as early as tomorrow.

Today, speculation is focused once again on the vice president of the United States, Dick Cheney. The "New York Times" reports Cheney's chief of staff, Lewis Scooter Libby, first learned about CIA operative Valerie Plame from the vice president himself weeks before her identity became public. The "Times" quotes lawyers close to the case as saying notes from that conversation between Libby and Cheney appear to differ from what Libby reportedly told the grand jury.

Only moments ago, the president was in the Oval Office with the president of Kurdistan in Northern Iraq. And he was peppered with a question about when -- listen very closely. He was asked this question: What did the vice president know and when did he know it? And he declined to respond.

Listen to this.


QUESTION: What did the vice president know and when did he know it?



G. BUSH: Thank you very much.

(END VIDEO CLIP) BLITZER: We want to talk a little bit more about that CIA leak probe that could -- could -- result in indictments of top Bush administration officials.

My next guest very familiar with high-level investigators of White House officials. Robert Ray was the independent counsel in the Whitewater investigation of former President and Mrs. Clinton. Robert Ray is joining us from New York.

Bob, thanks very much for joining us.

ROBERT RAY, FORMER INDEPENDENT COUNSEL: You're quite welcome. Nice to be with you, Wolf.

BLITZER: Take us inside the special prosecutor's operation right now. The grand jury is scheduled to wrap up on Friday. They convene tomorrow. What's going on?

RAY: Certainly, you would wish to avoid any last-minute difficulties. So, the speculation seems to be -- and would be consistent with my own experience -- that you would do everything that you could to try to see if this thing could be brought to closure, obviously before the expiration of the grand jury, and ideally tomorrow.

BLITZER: Ideally. But -- but, right now, he still has to go before that grand jury, presumably tomorrow, and get them to approve whatever he wants -- what he wants them to do, if they are going to issue indictments.

RAY: Obviously, we don't know whether or not that decision has been made. It would not be a decision of the grand jury unless Mr. Fitzgerald chooses to proceed forward. But, if he intends to issue indictments, he would have to have that submitted to the grand jury for its consideration and for a vote by the grand jurors before an indictment would issue.

BLITZER: And that, presumably, might -- might even come as early as tomorrow.

I want to read to you from a letter that he posted on this brand new Web site he opened up only last Friday, a letter clarifying his investigation, a letter to Patrick Fitzgerald from the acting attorney general at that time, James Comey. "It includes the authority to investigate and prosecute violations of any federal criminal laws related to underlying alleged unauthorized disclosure" -- but listen to this -- "as well as federal crimes committed in the course of and with the intent to interfere with your investigation, such as perjury, obstruction of justice, destruction of evidence and intimidation of witnesses".

A lot of people suspect he may go after the so-called cover-up, as opposed to the underlying alleged crime.

RAY: Well, Wolf, we have known since Watergate -- if it hasn't been clear in -- in recent memory, it's certainly clear now -- that these investigations of high-profile figures often get to basic questions of not the crime, but the cover-up. Not suggesting that that's what took place here, but there are serious allegations that have been raised that are obviously being addressed by Mr. Fitzgerald and presumably the grand as well.

The mandate that Mr. Fitzgerald has is not unusual. It was the mandate typical during independent counsel days, about which I am -- I am familiar, which include not only investigation of what would be termed any underlying crimes, but also efforts to impair or impede the investigation, including obstruction of justice, false statements, and/or perjury.

BLITZER: Kay Bailey Hutchison, the Republican senator from Texas, was on "Meet the Press" on Sunday. She said: "I think we're seeing grand juries and U.S. attorneys and district attorneys that go for technicalities, sort of a gotcha mentality in this country."

Is perjury, lying before a grand jury, a -- quote -- "technicality"?

RAY: No. I mean, there's no such thing as a technical perjury.

Obviously, perjury and false statements or obstruction of justice are difficult crimes to prove. And Mr. Fitzgerald, I'm certain, will not proceed unless he believes that he can persuade a jury, unanimously, beyond a reasonable doubt, of knowingly false testimony or willful efforts to mislead his investigation.

It -- while it's not desirable to prosecute false statements or -- or obstruction charges in a vacuum, without some underlying crime, understand that a duly constitute -- constituted investigation depends on being able to get the benefit of accurate information that is not false, in order to arrive at an appropriate conclusion. And I don't think anybody would argue that serious damage is done to the integrity of an investigation by efforts intentionally to mislead it.

BLITZER: Robert Ray, a former independent counsel. Bob, thanks very much for joining us.

RAY: Quite welcome, Wolf. Enjoyed it.

BLITZER: Thank...

RAY: Thank you.

BLITZER: Thank you.

Still to come here in THE SITUATION ROOM, a shocking sight in South Florida, lines of cars waiting -- waiting -- for supplies. We will take you there when we come back.

And McDonald's bares all. We will find out what is really in that so-called special sauce.

And a little bit later, thousands of American tourists still trapped in Cancun by Hurricane Wilma. Is help on the way any time soon? We're asking some tough questions.

Stay with us.


BLITZER: Welcome back. You're back in THE SITUATION ROOM.

Ever wondered what is so special about that special sauce used on McDonald's Big Mac? Now you can find out.

Our Ali -- Ali Velshi has the "Bottom Line." You have got a lot of props there, too, Ali.

ALI VELSHI, CNN ANCHOR: Yes. This is a -- this is a perfect example for me -- McDonald's coming out with something that they're describing as opening the doors.

There's this push on McDonald's' part and a lot of other fast- food places, after sort of being blamed and held responsible for part of the obesity epidemic in this country, to associate quality with their food and sort of downplay the fat.

Now, part of that is an announcement by McDonald's of a few different components. One is -- and you can see this on the wall -- they are going to come out with an icon system for fat and sodium and carbohydrates and calories. And that's going to go on the packaging of all their food.

The other thing that they have got is, on the -- on their Web site -- and they -- those are the little icons. You will see that on the wrapper of the Big Mac or whatever you're ordering. The other thing, that you will be able to go online and figure out the -- the -- the actual nutritional value of what is it you have ordered.

Now, I have recruited Jacki in for this one. Jacki Schechner is going to give you the nutritional value of what I have ordered.


VELSHI: This is the old-fashioned...

SCHECHNER: Let's go ahead and look through this.

VELSHI: Hey, Jacki. The old-fashioned McDonald's meal. I have got a Big Mac.

SCHECHNER: I have got that in.

VELSHI: A -- a medium fry.

SCHECHNER: I got that in, too. See, I'm psychic. I knew that is what you would want.

VELSHI: And -- yes, you knew that was what I was going to get.

(LAUGHTER) VELSHI: And -- and a -- a -- a medium Coke. All right. So...

SCHECHNER: All right.

VELSHI: ... you can now figure out exactly...

SCHECHNER: Let's take a look at that online.

VELSHI: ... what that is.

SCHECHNER: All right. Let's add that item. See, this is really cool. It's just...


VELSHI: Just add it in. You can just list all those things and it comes out with....


SCHECHNER: There you go.

VELSHI: What have I got?

SCHECHNER: All right. You talking with your mouth full?


SCHECHNER: Hey, look, calories, you got 1,120 calories for your total meal right there, total fat, 47 grams. And then you want to look at your -- what, your carbohydrates?

VELSHI: Carbs, yes.

SCHECHNER: How about 151 carbohydrates? That's for lunch alone.

VELSHI: All right. So, we're looking at a lot of -- a lot of stuff there.

Now, McDonald's is saying that -- that you can also get their healthier meals. So, here I have got the salad. This is the grilled chicken cobb with the cobb dressing...

SCHECHNER: I got that one...


VELSHI: ... and a Diet Coke. What I have saved here? Am I -- am I doing better?

SCHECHNER: Let's take a look at this one. You have got the Diet Coke.

See, I have got the salad and the dressing. Having, trouble finding the diet, all the way at the bottom here.

VELSHI: Diet Coke has got nothing in it.

SCHECHNER: It has got nothing in it. So, let's just calculate it anyway.

VELSHI: Nope, no calories, no sodium.

SCHECHNER: All right.


SCHECHNER: Not a problem. It's 410 calories, if you get the nutritional info, if that will pop up. Yes, -- well, 400 and then 410, if you have got your Diet Coke in there. You have got 20 grams of fat, Ali. And you have got 21 carbohydrates.

VELSHI: So, you see?

SCHECHNER: Much better.

VELSHI: That's the argument. They are sitting there, saying they are giving you tools to be able to make better selections on what you're eating. It's up to you whether you want to make those better selections or not, Wolf. I think, when I run into McDonald's, I'm still more likely to grab the Big Mac and the fries than I am the salad. I don't know about you.

BLITZER: Ali, what is the special sauce? We waited. We are anxiously...


BLITZER: ... waiting.

VELSHI: Unbelievable. You don't want to know what is in that special sauce.

BLITZER: I want to -- I want to know what -- that special sauce on the Big Macs.

VELSHI: Things that I don't know the name of, potassium sorbate, hydrolyzed proteins, calcium, disodium, all sorts of crazy stuff. They have got pickles and soybean and corn syrup as well in there.

BLITZER: The french fries are great, I got to tell you. I love those McDonald's french fries.

SCHECHNER: It's the salt, Wolf.

BLITZER: It's the...


VELSHI: Can I do more reports like this?


BLITZER: All right, guys. Thanks very much.


BLITZER: I want to go to some live pictures we're getting in right now from Davie, Florida. That's in Broward County in -- near Fort Lauderdale.

Look at this. These are long lines. What are they waiting for? They're waiting for supplies, people without power, without water, if you will. In Davie, Florida, people are waiting to get some supplies from emergency personnel on the scene -- long lines.

Our helicopter reporter from our affiliates WSVN, WPLG spoke about this only a few moments ago.

Listen to this.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Greg, we went hunting for good news and unfortunately, we haven't had much success. We're at 16001 West State Road 84 here, up at Markham Park. This is a park that's just west of I-75 and just north of State Road 84. Again, a very orderly line of people, both in their cars and on foot as they make their way into the park, where they were told they could get ice and water.

The unbelievable portion of this thing is that the ice has not yet arrived here, either. And we want to show you that the traffic -- we're going to swing this camera all the way around now. Now we're a good three- quarters of a mile west of the I-75 corridor there. Take a look at that traffic. This goes all the way back. The last time we checked, it was all the way back to 134th Street. Now it goes even farther back. I guess it's probably back there near Nob Hill, through the jet vapor of the exhaust of our helicopter. That's just one of the two roads that are leading people out here to the promise land.

The other one is the road that takes you into the east side of Weston here, Weston Road. And take a look at the traffic here. Again, we actually have people that were pulled off the side of the road here and are walking and making their way into the park here for the ice.

Now, of course, the people in Dade County, have a similar problem, but the one up here in Broward is exacerbated by the fact that they've got a boil water order for great portion of the metropolitan Broward County area, including Weston and all these other areas up here where they rely on electrical pumps to move their water through the system.

And when these pumps fail because of any problems, including lack of electricity to power them, they have to put in a boil water order. So now you need electricity or some type of a device to boil the water to be able to make it drinkable, and if you don't have electricity to heat it or gas to heat it, then you're -- the problem gets compounded.

Now, you get out on the road in your car and you start to burn fuel to get out here and you find yourself stuck in traffic. And not only vehicular traffic but pedestrian traffic here just north of the state road 84 as we said before, west of I-75.

These people, we understand, have been out here for a number of hours as our other reporters are reporting from around Dade and Broward County, and they are waiting out here for a truck, several trucks full of ice and water so they can start the deliveries.

So what we're seeing are examples of the logistics and the problems with logistics of getting the materials out to the people. And as the mayor up there of north Miami indicated, that maybe it might be a better idea in the future if they ...


BLITZER: All right. We're going to break away from this. Only moments ago the helicopter reporter from our affiliates WSVN, WPLG showing an amazing sight in Broward County -- that's in South Florida, Ft. Lauderdale, Hollywood -- all of these areas, most of these areas without power and that means there's no water, as well.

All those people, all the long lines of cars, they are waiting for water and ice because the situation down there is as bad as it has become. Millions of people in South Florida, Miami-Dade, Broward, Palm Beach County suffering, no electricity, no power, and a lot of them no water. As well they've got to boil water in order to drink it. We're going to have more on this story coming up.

Just ahead, the state of Iraq's road to democracy. The final results are out on the country's constitutional referendum. But there are also grim statistics of U.S. troops dead from the war.

And how might you spend your 92nd birthday? Instead of jumping for joy, this woman jumped from a plane. Yes, a 92-year-old woman parachuted, jumped from a plane. Look at this. We're going to tell you all about it.

Stay with us.


BLITZER: On Iraq's complex road to democracy, there's been some success, but not without huge sacrifice. Today, two stories, highlighting that point. On a day that Iraq's draft constitution overwhelmingly passes, there's also word that the number of U.S. troops killed in the war has just reached 2,000.

CNN's senior international correspondent, Nic Robertson, has more now. He's joining us now from Baghdad. Nic.

NIC ROBERTSON, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, Iraq has voted overwhelmingly in favor of the new constitution. Seventy-eight percent of the vote went to pass the referendum. All those who voted no, almost entirely Sunnis -- a clear indication of the sectarian divide that runs through politics here.

But now the new constitution has passed the next political step. Parliamentary elections are the 15th of December. That will put a parliament in place here that will be in place for the next five years. The political gamble, having got the Sunnis to come out of the polls by a last-minute political deal, even though they voted no, that they'll stay engaged for the next stage of voting here on December 15th.

It's not clear if that gamble will pay off. The backlash, if there has been one, has come from the insurgency, an increase in the attacks here in Baghdad. And for the first time, in a long time, attacks in the very quiet northern part of Iraq, the Kurdish part there. Suleymania in the north, no attacks there for a long time, three car bombs today, eight people killed, 15 wounded there, Wolf.

BLITZER: Nic, is there anything special going on with the U.S. troops now that 2,000 American troops have died since March of 2003 when the U.S. and its allies launched the war?

ROBERTSON: It's not a statistic of a figure that's being marked in any major way. Certainly it's a figure that everyone I've talked with recently has said that they're aware is going to come along.

The mission carries on. The jobs carry on. The individual losses within units is something that the units deal with at the time. It certainly causes a lot of pain, but the emphasis is placed on catching the insurgents who are responsible for those killings, and making sure that the insurgents can't strike again.

And that's the message I've had talking with U.S. military commanders over the last couple of weeks here -- that if anyone's killed, it's get on, catch them or kill them, those responsible.


BLITZER: Nic Robertson, reporting from Baghdad. Nic, thanks very much.

And here in Washington, D.C., on Capitol Hill, the floor of the U.S. Senate, momentarily they will be marking the 2,000th fatality among U.S. troops in Iraq with a moment of silence. We'll monitor that on Capitol Hill.

As we've been reporting, thousands of tourists, many of them Americans, trapped in Cancun, Mexico, desperately trying to get out. They've been stranded there by Hurricane Wilma for five days.

Judith Bryan is the information officer for the U.S. Embassy in Mexico. She's joining us on the phone now from Cancun. How bad is the situation there, Judith?

JUDITH BRYAN, INFORMATION OFFICER, U.S. EMBASSY IN MEXICO: Well, it's not as bad as it might have been. I think the Mexican government did a tremendous job in setting up shelters and helping people get to them before the storm. And the storm was the worst in history. It -- there -- it was really, really bad. And there were no American casualties. There were no American deaths. There were very few Mexican deaths. And I think, you know, we need to give them credit for having done that. The storm actually stayed over the area much longer than anybody had predicted, dumping rain. And, you know, at the same time, everybody was using up what resources they did have.

Right now, what we have, a lot of people have been able to leave. We organized with the Mexican government busloads of tourists yesterday to go to Merida, where they are waiting to get out. But at least they have electricity and food and water.

And a bunch more are still here, and they are...

BLITZER: When you say a bunch more, Judith, how many Americans are still stuck there?

BRYAN: It's hard to say. I think before the hurricane we were estimating that there were 10,000 American tourists here. I would estimate that maybe 3,000 or 4,000 haven't been able to get out. It's hard to say, because we only got part of them out. A bunch of them, resourceful as Americans are, have gotten out on their own.

BLITZER: All right, Judith. We'll check back with you. Judith Bryan is an information officer at the U.S. Embassy in Mexico. She's on the scene in Cancun, where there still are a few thousand Americans stranded there, in less than desirable circumstances. We'll continue to watch that story.

Up next, it's been one year since Porter Goss took over at the CIA. How's his year been? Our David Ensor will tell you. It's been a very tough year for everyone. We'll tell you why.

Stay with us.


BLITZER: Welcome back. One year ago, Congressman Porter Goss was named to head the Central Intelligence Agency. It's been a troubled tenure.

Here with more on Goss' first year, our national security correspondent David Ensor. David, what's going on?

DAVID ENSOR, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, this has been a year of change at the CIA under Porter Goss. And the question, of course, is whether it's changed for the better or not.


ENSOR (voice-over): After one year as director, Porter Goss finds himself under attack; critics both inside and out of the CIA.

REP. JANE HARMAN (D-CA), INTELLIGENCE COMMITTEE: I'm concerned, after a year, at what I see as low morale, a lot of confusion by the workforce about where he's heading.

MICHAEL SCHEUR, FORMER CIA ANALYST: I think Mr. Goss has to be judged as not a very successful individual at the moment. ENSOR: Present and former intelligence officials tell CNN dozens of senior agency officials have quit in the past year, some of them angered by what one called political firing and disrespectful talk from Goss's aides, brought over from his days on Capitol Hill. The former Hill aides are called the "Gosslings" by some unhappy CIA officials, who distrust all but one of them.

SCHEUR: But the rest of them appear to be hacks, basically protecting the White House' view of foreign policy.

ENSOR: Supporters of Director Goss see things quite differently.

SEN. SAXBY CHAMBLISS (R-GA), SELECT COMMITTEE ON INTELLIGENCE: Porter was asked to go in and kind of get this agency back on track and put America where it needs to be, and that is, at the forefront of doing the very best job of gathering, analyzing, and disseminating intelligence. And he's done that.

ENSOR (on camera): So how would you describe morale now at the CIA?

JENNIFER DYKE, CIA SPOKESPERSON: You know what? I think that morale is very good, and especially where it counts. When you go out into the field and you see the people that are on the front lines, that are doing that critical work, their morale is high.


ENSOR: Members of the former 9/11 Commission say that generally they believe Mr. Goss is moving the CIA in the right direction, but even those who support him say it's been a bumpy year.


BLITZER: The "New York Times," in the front page -- their lead story today -- saying that the former CIA director, George Tenet, actually told the vice president, Dick Cheney, about the wife of Ambassador Joe Wilson, Valerie Plame Wilson, and that Cheney, in turn, told Scooter Libby, his chief of staff, about that. What are you hearing?

ENSOR: Well, there is some confusion about that story over in the former CIA circles, because people don't remember that conversation. That said, they do feel that it may have taken place. And they feel that what the story underscores is political problems for Scooter Libby, I mean even legal problems, possibly.

BLITZER: David Ensor, thanks very much. We'll try to move on with that story a little bit.

Jeff Greenfield is our senior analyst. He's joining us from New York. Jeff, what do you make of this latest twist in the CIA leak investigation, the "New York Times" story?

JEFF GREENFIELD, CNN SR. ANALYST: Well, assuming it's true, the only people whose eyebrows didn't go up at it were people who had Botox injections, because on two counts, it raises a couple of interesting questions.

One is, in September of 2003, the vice president said on "Meet the Press" that he just didn't know Joseph Wilson, he didn't know who he was, he really had no involvement, he didn't know anything. This story, if true, suggests that that's not right. And what it does underscore is the longstanding icy relationship between the vice president's office and the CIA, with Cheney's office seeing the CIA as unwilling to commit on intelligence and not willing to support the administration's policy.

The second thing it does is the stories that have been circulating about Scooter Libby and Karl Rove strongly suggest that they first learned about Joe Wilson's wife from the media, from journalists telling them. If this Cheney story is true, that certainly puts a very different cast on that explanation.

Beyond that, into the kind of speculation that the blog world is in today about resignations and what does it mean, I think we're -- you know, until Mr. Fitzgerald lets us know what, if anything, he's going to do, we should remember the old adage, those who know don't say and those who say don't know.


BLITZER: I know you don't like to offer predictions. You know, but it is very curious, that icy relationship that you and so many others talk about that existed between the CIA and the vice president's office. Jeff, you remember who originally started this whole investigation, this special counsel investigation? It was the CIA asking the Justice Department to look into this leak to Bob Novak. And that's fueling all sorts of conspiratorial theories, shall we say?

GREENFIELD: Yes, well, I think the base I think about is that when the original allegation, that the identity of a not official cover CIA agent -- which at one time Valerie Plame was -- that outing clearly made CIA folks ballistic, because if that had happened to an clandestine agent, then you're talking about actually putting somebody's safety in jeopardy. The story now has evolved into a somewhat different area, because she was back in the United States.

But look, this goes back to the -- this goes back to the '80s, it goes back to the first Bush administration, when Secretary of Defense Dick Cheney had his differences with the CIA. And there's a longstanding dispute between different elements of the government about the CIA versus the more hawkish folks in the Defense Department and now in the White House Iraq group. Clearly, this is the underlying story behind a lot of this, but the specifics, let's wait and see.

BLITZER: All right, Jeff, hold on a second.

David Ensor, our national security correspondent, is still here. I know you've been looking into this question. The CIA -- does the CIA believe that there was damage done to U.S. national security as a result of Valerie Plame Wilson's name being leaked?

ENSOR: I'm told that in the day that it was leaked, there was a quick look done, as there would routinely be at whether there was damage. Officials simply won't go into the details. But I did speak to one official who said yes, there was damage. This woman had a long career and she was posing as someone else and all those people who saw her now know she wasn't the person they thought that they were dealing with. So there was damage.

BLITZER: Thought they were dealing with an energy consultant and she was really a CIA spy.

ENSOR: Exactly.

BLITZER: David Ensor, Jeff Greenfield, both of you, thank you very much. I suspect we're going to have busy days tomorrow, maybe Thursday, Friday. Who knows, but we'll be here for you.

Up next, remembering Rosa Parks. How one woman's decision to stay seated on an Alabama bus changed America and its politics and the country forever.

And smooth sailing for this Australian grandmother, who celebrated her 92nd birthday with what else? A skydive. Ninety-two years old and she's parachuting.


BLITZER: CNN's Andrea Koppel is joining us from the CNN Center in Atlanta right now with a closer look at other stories making news. Hi, Andrea.

KOPPEL: Hi again, Wolf. The U.S. Army's only remaining MASH unit is going to be treating earthquake victims in Pakistani-controlled Kashmir. The military's mobile hospital arrived in the mountains yesterday, but it took the 40-vehicle convoy 27 hours to drive the 150-mile route from Islamabad. Once the unit is up and running, surgeons say they're going to be able to perform 20 major operations a day.

To Turkey now, where a court has fined 20 people for using the letters Q and W. They were fined about $75 each under a law that bans the use of characters not in the Turkish alphabet. The letters appeared on placards at a Kurdish New Year celebration last year. Turkey, as you know, has been under pressure by the European Union for its policies towards its Kurdish minority.

Now to a story I know you love, Wolf. They call her an extreme granny. She's a 92-year-old Australian woman who celebrated her birthday by skydiving. Eileen Byrd (ph) jumped, despite worries from family and friends. Can't you just imagine? Look at her landing there.

Byrd, who has beaten cancer and is still eight years shy, believe it or not, of the world record for the oldest skydiver. When she landed, she said she enjoyed the dive but was glad it was over. Now, Wolf, I know you're a lot younger than Miss Byrd, but would you ever jump for your birthday?

BLITZER: No, not now, not 90, I'm looking forward to your doing that, Andrea, on your 92nd birthday.

KOPPEL: Well, God willing, I will.

BLITZER: Thanks very much.

Coming up, we'll have the closing bell. Markets are about to close in New York. Ali Velshi standing by with that then.

What's the latest on the CIA leak investigation? We have new information coming into CNN on that. We'll share it about you right after this.


BLITZER: It's almost time for the markets to close and the closing bell. Let's check in with our Ali Velshi in New York for more on that, and more. What's that, Ali?

VELSHI: We're not taking the caloric count content of this. This is my bottle of crude oil which I like to keep around on days when oil is volatile because just today, a barrel of crude, as you can see behind, $62.44. That's a jump of $2.12. There's some concerns about heating oil stockpiles, there are concerns about what kind of winter we're going to have.

Natural gas, again, on the run. And through all of this, Wolf, it's not all bad news for some people.

If you are an investor in oil companies, we're in earnings season. This is the first group of earnings since the hurricanes. Now those are three of the big earnings that we're going to see this week.

We've already seen British Petroleum. We're looking at BP with after-tax earnings of $4.41 billion in July, August and September, up 16 percent. You can see on the end of that chart, oil prices have come down and oil price earnings have also come down, but we are expecting oil earnings from the top five companies in the world in the next few days. And we are looking at one quarter's worth of earnings -- three months worth of earnings -- in the $25 billion dollar range. Obviously, if you stretch that out, it's $100 billion a year in oil earnings.

This of course, the high price of oil, has affected consumer confidence, and we have seen yet another month of consumers saying that that has affected them adversely. And the market has tempered itself.


BLITZER: Thanks, Ali. It's 4:00 p.m. here in Washington, and you're in THE SITUATION ROOM where new pictures and information from around the world are arriving all the time.