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CNN Saturday Morning News

Franken Answers Questions; Katrina's Second Strike; Pro-Bush Rallies in Crawford

Aired August 27, 2005 - 10:00   ET


BETTY NGUYEN, CNN ANCHOR: I want to get you caught up now on what's happening in the news. Folks in Mississippi and Louisiana are preparing for the worse from Hurricane Katrina.
That storm is headed for the Gulf Coast after batters southeastern Florida. At least seven deaths have been blamed on the storm. Look at this video. It is gaining strength and is expected to make landfall Monday afternoon, after all that flooding in Florida.

Nearly 1,000 detainees at Iraq's Abu Ghraib prison have been released this week. The prisoners, they were let go at the request of the Iraqi government. A spokesman says each of the detainees released have made a pledge to be good citizens of a Democratic Iraq.

Crawford, Texas, now: It is bracing for visitors; thousands of them. Dualing protesters plan to converge on the president's small hometown today. A rally supporting the president is planned as counter-protests to the anti-war mom who's been camped-out at the Crawford ranch this month.

It is Saturday, August 27th, 2005. Good morning, everybody, from the CNN Center in Atlanta. I'm Betty Nguyen.

And good morning, everyone. I'm Tony Harris. Thank you for starting your day with us. Ahead this hour, two governors agree that a bulldozer is the best solution for one lawless town.

And we take your questions and pose them to our own Bob Franken. Get ready to talk to CNN.

Also, have you heard about the latest book to stir up a fantasy phenomenon? We'll tell you which novel has Harry Potter on the run.

Well, as you can see by the models there, CNN is your hurricane headquarters. I want to give you the latest where Katrina is, where it was, and where it is going.

Well, Katrina is now churning across the Gulf Coast of Mexico. It has grown into a category three storm; packing top winds of 115 miles an hour. Forecasters warn it could grow into a category four storm before hitting land for a second time on the northern Gulf Coast.

Now, Katrina made its first landfall in Southern Florida on Thursday. Take a look at this. It came ashore as a category one hurricane and is now blamed for at least seven deaths in that state. In Miami, Katrina flooded miles of streets and damaged homes.

Meanwhile, in Ft. Lauderdale, workers are scrambling to clean up the streets which Katrina turned into a muddy mess. The hurricane lashed the Florida Keys with heavy rain -- you can hear it there in the video -- causing severe flooding. More than a million customers are still without power this morning in Florida.

I want to give you a live look now of New Orleans. All seems clear, but they are waiting and bracing for the possible hit from Katrina. The hurricane is heading for the Louisiana-Mississippi coast, where it is expected to make a second landfall on Monday.

Now, people in both states are waking up to states of emergency. Coastal evacuations could start today.

HARRIS: All right, quickly now let's get the latest on where Katrina is right now, where she might be headed. Let's go up stairs to the CNN Weather center now with Bonnie Schneider -- Bonnie?

BONNIE SCHNEIDER, CNN METEOROLOGIST: Tony, I wanted to show you some of the latest computer models. We have a dozen models that kind of compile together and this is the projection we have for Katrina. I know it looks like a lot of different colored streamers, but the main thing to note is where you see the lines closest together, that's what we call when the models are in most agreement with each other.

And that means that this is really where the cone of uncertainty comes from, of where the Katrina is likely to make its second landfall strike. That will occur, it looks like sometime on Monday. So, as you can see, states like Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama and even the panhandle of Florida are under the gun right now for a second landfall from Katrina.

Here's the storm: Category three maximum winds, 115 miles per hour. The storm, overnight and throughout the course of this morning, has grown not only in intensity,but also in size.

We're seeing hurricane-force winds extend outward from the storm center 40 miles; 130 miles we can go as far out as that and see tropical-storm force winds. And since it's likely to intensify over the next 24 to 48 hours as it comes in contact with these really warm waters over Gulf of Mexico, it's my opinion and I think the National Hurricane Center's as well, this storm will also expand.

So, that means that even on Sunday, we're talking about category four strength and then landfall possibly on Monday. Having said that, folks in this region, this part of the country, anywhere in Central Gulf Coast, will probably start feeling the effects of this hurricane well before landfall, because of its size and because of its strength.

Katrina is a powerful hurricane right now; only likely to get stronger. I'll keep you up to date with the latest information. We're waiting on this 11:00 advisory that may change the course of the track. So, we're going to watch this closely -- Betty, Tony?

HARRIS: OK. Bonnie, thank you. Well, Katrina has already left its mark on southeast Florida: Seven people are dead and more than a million homes and businesses without power. As CNN's David Mattingly reports, it's a soggy mess as residents clean up the mud and muck from their homes.


DAVID MATTINGLY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Eric Garcia's house used to sit at the end of a cul-de-sac that now looks more like a neighborhood lake. His family was inside as waters a foot deep poured through their new southwest Miami-Dade County home.

MARLENE DECESPEDES, HOMEOWNER: The kids were all on top of the bed, because we weren't sure the electricity was still on, so we didn't want anyone to get electrocuted. And they were just sitting on their beds crying.

MATTINGLY: They first tried to stop the flood with towels and comforters, but no luck. Hurricane Katrina dumped 15 inches of rain. Too much water, too quickly, to keep the house dry.

By morning, they were among thousands either stranded by flooded streets or struggling with the sudden damage to cars and property. Being insured gives them some confidence they can recover, but there's a lot of heart-breaking work ahead.

(on camera): Like so many South Floridians, the family here hunkered down when Katrina came ashore, confident that their house could easily weather a category one storm. What they hadn't counted on were the flood waters and as far as they're concerned, the waters can't go away quickly enough.

(voice-over): Water still bubbles up from under the newly-laid hardwood floors. They had just moved in a week ago and belongings were still in bundles on the floor. New appliances were still in boxes in the kitchen. Everything now is either soaked or ruined.

DECESPEDES: Well, we didn't lose any lives. The children were safe. We were safe. So, these things can be purchased again.

ERIC GARCIA, HOMEOWNER: Yes. All of this is material. You can't replace a human life. So --

MATTINGLY: Garcia and his family waited patiently for renovations to be completed before they moved in. Now, they will look for other accommodations while they wait for repairs that could take months.


HARRIS: These pictures just in to CNN this morning of the National Guard providing water and ice to flood victim in Miami. Trucks loaded with 15,000 liters of water arrived from West Palm Beach.

ANNOUNCER: CNN, your hurricane headquarters. NGUYEN: Besides Hurricane Katrina, we do have other news to tell you about today. There is still no deal yet on changes to Iraq's constitution, but tomorrow could be a crucial day.

The head of parliament said the majority Shiites and Kurds agreed to compromised proposals offered by minority Sunni Arabs, but one Sunni negotiator says the changes don't go far enough and they've made a counter- proposal.

Thousands of Sunnis protested the deadlock over the constitution yesterday. The biggest dispute is over autonomy. The Shiites and Kurds say they'll present the constitution to parliament tomorrow despite Sunni objections.

Well, it looks like Iraq is dragging President Bush down in the polls. A Harris poll finds only 40 percent of Americans have a favorable view of how the president is handling his job.

Fifty-eight percent have an unfavorable opinion. And similarly, a Gallup poll taken this week shows Mr. Bush's approval rating at just 40 percent. That's an all-time low in Gallup polling. Now, it's down from 45 percent in a poll taken just a couple weeks ago.

Meanwhile, things are really heating up near the president's ranch in Crawford, Texas. Several pro-Bush supporters plan to rally there this afternoon. They're aiming to counter the three-week anti- war vigil led by Cindy Sheehan, whose son was killed in Iraq last year.

Today's counter-rally is shaping up as the largest yet. So, we want to go straight to Crawford and CNN White House Correspondent Suzanne Malveaux for the latest there. Suzanne, it's going to be a heated day.

SUZANNE MALVEAUX, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well Betty, of course, all eyes are on Crawford, Texas, just to see what unfolds. Those demonstrators that are expected both the pro-Iraq war, anti-Iraq war demonstrators.

We will see if there is actually a showdown. We know that the Casey Camp -- that is the camp that Casey Sheehan started, the mother who lost her son in the Iraq war. She's been camped outside the Bush ranch since the beginning of his working vacation, asking to see the president again.

They have changed their strategy. That strategy has evolved over the last week or so. She now appears with other mother who have lost their children, Gold-Star Families for Peace, they call themselves. And, of course, they're making the case that this is much bigger than one woman's cause; that this is something that many military families should rally behind her on.

Now, of course, there is another camp. That is the camp, the pro-Bush camp. This group is called You Don't Speak for Me, Cindy. At least that is one of the groups that is converging here. They have been caravaning across the country from California to Arizona to Texas. They are expected to arrive here in Crawford this afternoon. They are going to be holding a counter-demonstration.

Very interesting what is happening here; almost a competition between these military families, if you will. President Bush has spoken out saying most of the military families that he speaks to, he talks with, support the Iraq war.

Now the Sheehan camp, their organization has now extended, kind of in a preemptive move, extended a invite to those counter- demonstrators, saying they would like to meet with them privately this evening. They even offered an e-mail saying that they're willing to pick them up, provide shuttle service from their camp to shuttle them to their own camp. So, we'll see how all of that unfolds later in the day -- Betty?

NGUYEN: We will be watching. CNN's Suzanne Malveaux in Crawford, Texas, thank you.

Well, it has been a busy week at the White House and in Crawford, Texas. And you're getting a chance to talk to CNN about it. Our national correspondent, Bob Franken, answers your e-mail questions this hour. You still have time to send us your thoughts. That's at WEEKENDS@CNN.COM.

HARRIS: Boarding up a border town: That's what U.S. and Mexican officials agreed to do. New Mexico's governor and regional Mexican governor agreed to bulldoze the town and to shut it down. The town is , Las Chepas, is considered a haven for drug trafficking and illegal immigration.

Larry Behrens, of our affiliate KOAT, takes us across the border.


LARRY BEHRENS, KOAT CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The town of Las Chepas lives on one side, James Johnson and his family live on the other.

JAMES JOHNSON, BORDER RESIDENT: We're not here to start a war. We're not here to have multiple controversy.

BEHRENS: In a nut shell, what you're seeing is the problem. A truck full of people carrying backpacks and cartons of water, standard tools for an anticipated trip across the border. They are dropped off in Las Chepas.

BILL RICHARDSON (D), NEW MEXICO: What buildings, what staging areas might be torn down.

beanbag: The governor of one side met with the governor of the other to talk about many things including Las CHERNOFF:. And Johnson says they aren't the only ones talking.

JOHNSON: We're almost taking the blame in Mexico for this Las Chepas bulldozing.

BEHRENS (on camera): When the Governor Richardson made the announcement that he was requesting that the town of Chepas, right here across the border, be bulldozed, it made headlines everywhere. But the people who live here on the United States side directly across from the town, say everyone needs to know it wasn't their idea. 7 JOHNSON: It is definitely a Santa Fe decision and it was made by people who basically at the end of the day can go home. And we have to live here and we have to be neighborly.

BEHRENS (voice-over): The people who make those decisions made another one.

RICHARDSON: We want to protect the Johnsons and I believe our additional law enforcement will help them.

BEHRENS: Both governors pledged an increase in law enforcement for the area and those who live here will home everyone will be more neighborly no matter which side you're on.

At the border, Larry Behrens, KOAT Action 7 News.


HARRIS: And ahead this morning, they were outed on national television.


RANDY VORICK, LA HABRA, CALIFORNIA: We've heard the word terrorist from I don't know how many cars. They just drive by and scream, "Terrorist," and then they just keep driving.


HARRIS: One minor detail: They're not terrorists. Find out how this California couple became targets of terror themselves.

NGUYEN: Plus, Harry Potter is so yesterday. What's the number- one book out now? We'll tell you. And introduce you to its very young author. That's later.

And a live picture now of New Orleans. I believe you will see the Superdome. There it is. A piece of the Superdome in this shot. Good morning, New Orleans. We'll check in with Bonnie Schneider to find out if you are in fact, in the path of Hurricane Katrina. We'll do that when we come back with more of CNN SATURDAY MORNING.


HARRIS: And here is a check of our top stories in case you're just joining us on this CNN SATURDAY MORNING: Hurricane Katrina is heading for the northern Gulf Coast and it's getting stronger.

The category three storm could turn into a category four before hitting land. That's expected to happen Monday, somewhere along the Mississippi-Louisiana Coast. They were arrested and released and now they're back behind bars. Police have rearrested two brothers in the Natalee Holloway case. They suspect the two acted with other people in raping and killing the Alabama teen who has been missing for three months now.

And finally, California's attorney general gets heated up. He wants fast food and other companies to warn consumers that French fries and potato chips have a chemical that may cause cancer. Scientists, however, have not proven a cancer connection.

NGUYEN: Well, the idea that terrorists may be living among us is a powerful one and it can cause a great deal of anxiety. That may be one reason why a Los Angeles area home was misidentified on national television as a terrorist hideout. CNN's Peter Viles picks up the story.


PETER VILES, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Now, we're not going to tell you address, but it's an ordinary suburban house east of Los Angeles, except that it's under a police watch because it was briefly and wrongly identified on national television as the home of a terrorist. A mistaken report that became a nightmare for the innocent family who lives here.

VORICK: Just people driving by and honking and then they'll shout obscenities at us. We've heard the word terrorists from I don't know how many cars. They just drive by and scream, "terrorists," and then they just keep driving.

RONNEL VORICK, WIFE: We don't sleep well every night. Every sound, we're up. We're looking around. It's just -- you know, I go to work. I can't think. I can't concentrate. I'm calling my oldest, because she's usually home during the day, every half hour.

VILES: One night, someone spraypainted this on the front of the home. The family of five has been living in fear.

R. VORICK: I just can't imagine anyone doing that to someone else's house, being that close to my front door. I mean, they might as well have done it inside my house. It'd have had the same effect.

VILES: The mistaken report came August 2nd on the Fox News Channel. A guest contributor, John Loftus, reported he believes a California man is linked to a known terrorist organization. And then he gave the man's home address.

JOHN LOFTUS, FOX GUEST: And he lives at [ bleep ].

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: All right, now -- to be fair to him we haven't contacted him at the moment.

VILES: The man Loftus was referring to does not even live at this house. It's not clear if he ever did. In addition, he's not been accused of illegal activity. In a statement Fox said, quote, "John Loftus has been reprimanded for his careless error, and we sincerly apologize to the family."

Loftus, in a telephone interview, told CNN quote, "I got it wrong and I'm just heartsick about it. I apologize profusely to the family." Loftus said Fox has terminated his contract to appear as a contributor.

R. VORICK: I never understood the power of the media until this incident happened. You know, how much one phrase or one little address could affect, you know, so many people.

VILES: The Voricks were happy on this street and in this house, now they're wondering whether it's safe to stay.

Peter Viles for CNN, La Habra, California.


HARRIS: And some stories across America this morning: A week long search for a Grammy-winning record producer is over. Christian Julian Irwin wasn't far from his southern California home. He was actually spotted sitting in a creek naked, washing his jeans. Irwin disappeared last Sunday after claiming that people with dogs were chasing him. He was hospitalized for observation.

As many as 15 people, young kids and adults alike, were the target of a swarm of bees in Silver Spring, Maryland. The elementary kids were outside on recess when the bees attacked. They were treated at the scene for multiple bee stings.

In suburban Dallas, it was firemen to the rescue after two unlucky ducks fell through the grate of a storm drain. Luckily for them, two ladies who regularly feed the ducks were there to call for help.

And in Hopkins, South Carolina, maybe Yvonne Millner has too much time on her hands. You decide. Yvonne, as you can see, has painted her car herself with nail polish. We can report 112 bottles so far and she's not finished yet.

NGUYEN: That's a lot of nail polish and a lot of time.

OK. Speaking of polishing, the Iraqis, they have a lot of it to do. That is if they want their constitution ready in time. We go global to see some of the challenges they face. That is next.

And a little bit later.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I was in the passenger side until we got to the gas station and then I jumped in the back and just had him.


NGUYEN: A mom to be was forced to give up all the comforts of a maternity ward for the backseat of a Chevy Malibu. Well tell you how it went down.

HARRIS: I think we know how it went down. First, a "CNN Extra." several community in Kansas and Nebraska are trying to boost local economies by offering up free land.

Over the last two years, places like Ellsworth, Kansas, have already given parcels to 18 families in Ellsworth. Applicants must qualify for a mortgage, agree to build a home of at least 1,000 square feet and move in within two years.

We'll be right back.


NGUYEN: CNN is your hurricane headquarters and we are watching Hurricane Katrina, now a category three hurricane, which is headed for the Louisiana-Mississippi Coast. We have on the phone with us right now, Kathleen Blanco, who is the governor of Louisiana. And we want to welcome you to the show. First thing I want to ask you is: What are you advising residents to do as they watch and wait?

KATHLEEN BLANCO (D), LOUISIANA: Well, we are very concerned about the fact that it appears that Louisiana will probably take the brunt of this hurricane. We are recommending that people in the low- lying areas begin evacuation plans and actually start moving out of the lowest-lying areas of our state.

We are concerned about their personal safety. Life is sacred to us and we believe that people should be smart and take -- make all precautions. We've been in touch with governor Haley Barbour of Mississippi.

They're standing by the help. His people are in some jeopardy as well. We are coordinating this entire effort and I believe that our people will listen. They're hurricane-smart. And we'll protect as many people as possible.

NGUYEN: Governor, you say you're advising people to take precautions here and evacuate, but I did not hear in there a mandatory evacuation. Will that come.

BLANCO: That is not going to come right away. We're going to evaluate the effect of the voluntary evacuation and we have a couple of days now. You know, all of today and during most of the day tomorrow. And mandatory evacuations will eventually be called, I think, for low-lying areas, but right now, we're asking people to voluntarily evacuate.

NGUYEN: And I know New Orleans is of major concern, especially with it being below sea level. How long does it take to evacuate that area?

BLANCO: Well, this whole process can take several hours, but we have a coordinated plan between all of our parishes. And I think that if we follow the plan, that it will be sensible. We will put a lot of traffic on the highways, but as that occurs, we will call for contraflow much later in the day. We're going to evaluate everything as we go along but will respond to what is actually happening.

NGUYEN: OK. You mentioned contraflow, which is basically making the highways head in directions out of the path of the storm. All the highways will go in one direction. When do you think that will happen?

BLANCO: That won't happen until much later today. We believe that our coordinated efforts will suffice or for most of today.

NGUYEN: OK. And as we wait and brace for Katrina, does this bring memories back to the last major storm that hit the Louisiana area?

BLANCO: Well, Louisiana has had a lot of hits by a lot of storms through the years.

NGUYEN: What about Camille? Does this bring back memories of Camille?

BLANCO: Well, Camille was a devastating hurricane. And we don't want to relive hurricanes like that. But, you know, we don't have a choice in dealing with -- you know, whether or not to deal with it.

We'll pray that it weakens to some extent and oftentimes that does happen, especially once it hits our land areas. I need to point out that's -- we've lost a lot of coastal areas through the years. Some because of hurricanes, some because of other elements. And we are asking the nation to help us to restore America's wetland.

NGUYEN: And as folks begin this evacuation process, are you seeing that on the roadways? Have you been able to look outside and see if people are taking these precautions ahead of time?

BLANCO: There are some families that are already preparing to exit. I guess the good thing is that today is Saturday and a lot of families can move a little more easily.

They're not at work and not at school. So, we are seeing that some families are already packing up and just moving their -- moving themselves out of harm's way. We recommend that. But as for a mandatory evacuation, you know, that will come much, much later. If it is indeed necessary.

NGUYEN: And we are speaking now with Kathleen Blanco, the governor of Louisiana, as she talks about preparations. Governor, we appreciate your time and your information today -- Tony?

NGUYEN: Well, his approval ratings are at the lowest point of his presidency. So, can Mr. Bush do anything to win back support? CNN Correspondent Bob Franken answers your questions. That's next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) NGUYEN: Time now for you to talk to CNN and there's plenty on the table. Tony's writing down some questions himself.

HARRIS: Do we have Bob Franken this week?

NGUYEN: We do have Bob Franken with us to talk about all of these different issues, from demonstrations in Crawford to the Iraq constitution. Tony, you're up.

HARRIS: It only matters if we have Bob Franken. Do we have Bob Franken this week.

NGUYEN: We have Bob.

HARRIS: There he is. Good morning, Bob.


NGUYEN: In the hot seat.

HARRIS: Great questions. The inbox is loaded with great questions from our viewers, the smartest viewers to be found watching television. OK, first question comes from Lester Johnson. He's from Michigan and he writes, President Bush, poll numbers are falling. How low could the numbers go to force Mr. Bush to change some of his policies and do you think President Bush should be worried about these numbers. What do you think Bob?

FRANKEN: Well, certainly he should be worried about the numbers. These numbers have fallen quite low. The approval ratings about his performance in office, they've fallen to a point where other presidents have suffered politically. The lack of support, of course, is extremely important when it comes to maintaining the policies in Iraq.

Now, the president says that never mind the polls. He's going to go forward. But members of his administration are very concerned that as in the past, they found that dwindling public support can undermine the national resolve that is necessary to provide the support for that and can also demoralize the troops that are over there. So it is a very difficult problem for the president, one he is addressing and one, of course, with the demonstrations and the Cindy Sheehan encampment and all that out there has been dramatized during this August.

HARRIS: Hey, Bob, is there a sense that the administration needs a win, something that is an unqualified win? I guess the thought is that this constitution getting that hammered out might be it, but it's been such a long, drawn-out process I don't know if that sort of counts in the win column. But is there a sense of needing one?

FRANKEN: Well, I suppose so. But I think that we all think in terms of home runs if I can use a sports metaphor and nobody who is involved in Iraq would say that there are any home runs. Perhaps some singles, that type of thing, to really torture us. But it's a very gradual process that's part of the problem the administration has. Of course, his critics say the other big problem is that it's the wrong policy.

NGUYEN: Hey Bob, this next question gets back to the anti-war demonstrations and Cindy Sheehan. Jeff from Queens, New York says I hear that Mrs. Sheehan and the protesters who support her now have a huge expensive tent, 24 hour catering and available massage services. Who's paying for all of this?

FRANKEN: Supporters are paying for that. There are certain political organizations, being the one that is best known, that are fairly well funded and they're supporting this because the opponents of the president realize that Cindy Sheehan and that encampment have become a very potent, a very potent symbol of the dissatisfaction on their side with the president's policies.

It should also be pointed out that now the president's supporters are rallying and as we're about to see, they're going to be in larger and larger counter demonstrations also at the ranch. What this has become is a battle of symbols, a symbol of resolve on the support of the administration and a symbol of the nation's dissatisfaction and concern over the war in Iraq in the group that is fronted by Cindy Sheehan.

HARRIS: OK, Bob. Chuck from Riceville, Tennessee writes, "I am 48 years old and I have never seen this country more divided. Does the White House or the president even acknowledge this problem?" What do you think?

FRANKEN: First of all, I suspect that he's having a memory lapse. He's old enough to have been around during Vietnam and certainly the country was exceedingly divided then. He was around during Watergate, during all the upheaval over civil rights. So the country is divided. The country has been divided of course historically, most notably with the civil war. So this is a country that has weathered a lot of ferment and those who are the optimists say that sometimes that dissatisfaction, all those troubles makes the country stronger.

HARRIS: Hey, Bob, let me ask you just a follow-up on the whole Iraq discussion we've had so far this morning. You know, the plan seems to have been we're going to go in, we're going to make this place a haven of democracy, show the Middle East that there can be a thriving democracy. And we're going to point to the elections.

We're going to have the elections and then we're going to write this constitution and then the folks are going to vote for their own legitimate government. And that has seemed to be the plan from A to Z. Is there in face of the kind of difficulty that we see here, a plan B?

FRANKEN: Well, plan B would be to succeed with plan A, I suppose. And plan A is always a work in progress. There are a lot of people including now people who are in the administration who are involved in the planning who say that they didn't really anticipate the kinds of problems that they encountered in Iraq. Others say that they really should have, if they had been more thorough that Iraq with its different culture, with its stratification, that it might have been something that could have been better anticipated. NGUYEN: Bob, this next question comes from J. Whitt in Alabama. He says base closings seems to be the biggest political football ever. Is this not true?

FRANKEN: It's the biggest political football this week I suppose. First of all, how would you like to have a commission that's initials spell BRAC?

HARRIS: Right.

FRANKEN: The Base Reauthorization -- whatever it's called. In any case, what it is, it's the one that decides what the package of base closings is going to be. And it's really been quite a heated panel. The Pentagon has not gotten all that it's wanted by any stretch of the imagination. And I know you're going to ask me about the most notable one, which is the one is South Dakota. Yes, so ask.

HARRIS: OK. Here's the thing: You get the recommendations and then all of the communities that are affected by this get an opportunity to make their case. And John Thune, the new senator out of South Dakota who defeated Tom Daschle, he pretty much put his reputation and his seat on the line, saying that he was going to get that decision on Ellsworth reversed and it seems to have happened.

NGUYEN: It did.

FRANKEN: Right and you have to wonder, and I frankly can't really say that I have the answer to this, you have to wonder just how much political impact he was able to use to get this reversed. He is after all a freshman senator, but he is somebody of importance to the White House. So we don't know. But now he can at least breathe a sigh of relief because he was quite embarrassed when the air base was going to be shut down.

NGUYEN: You can breathe a sigh of relief because you are out of the hot seat now. We are out of time, but we thank you and of course, we're going to have you back to answer all these questions. Thanks, Bob.

HARRIS: Good stuff Bob, thank you.

Let's get a check now on hurricane Katrina. Bonnie Schneider is standing by in the CNN weather center. Bonnie, good morning.

BONNIE SCHNEIDER, CNN METEOROLOGIST: Good morning. Here's what we're looking at, the latest information for hurricane Katrina. You'll find right now the storm still has maximum winds at 115 miles per hour. But what is just in is the track that changed just a little bit. Let's take a look at the latest information and we'll show you that right now the track still has the storm making landfall somewhere in the vicinity of Louisiana and Mississippi, but it comes in as a strong category four. Originally we were saying the winds will be up to 140 miles per hour. Now it looks like the latest projection, the winds are climbing all the way up to 145 miles per hour.

Incidentally, another new piece of information is a hurricane watch has been posted for Mississippi across through Louisiana. This is pretty early to put a hurricane watch in effect already even days away from a landfall. But the National Hurricane Center in Miami is anticipating landfall somewhere in this vicinity. So hurricane watch means that we will see conditions that will anticipate for a hurricane landfall in advance of it. So watch means be prepared. This is likely to occur. A warning of course means that it's eminent. Right now it's the hurricane watch that's posted. Coming up, we'll a complete check of Katrina once more.

HARRIS: Thanks Bonnie.


Time now to check out some of the other stories making news around the world.

NGUYEN: Still no agreement on a constitution for Iraq, but talking does go on. And the U.S. suffers more casualties in Afghanistan. For those details let's go to Anand Naidoo at the CNN international desk. Good morning.

ANAND NAIDOO, CNN CORRESPONDENT. Hey, thanks and good morning from me. That's right, still no agreement on a constitution for Iraq. The Sunni delegates are considering fresh proposals on Federalism and (INAUDIBLE) today. Tomorrow will be a crucial day. Those proposals are actually compromised proposals which have been put forward by the Shia and Kurdish delegates. They involve Federalism and (INAUDIBLE). The Sunnis are concerned about the manner in which Iraq will be ruled in the future, whether it will be devolved (ph) rule, rather than centralized rule and they are concerned about that at the moment.

One of the Sunni negotiators is saying that he dislikes the proposals that are being put forward. The Sunnis are of course meeting today to consider themselves those proposals and they will come up with their response to them. They're hoping, the Sunnis and Shias, are hoping that they will get the Sunnis on board by tomorrow when the delegates will meet again to decide on whether the constitution goes forward.

Now here's a crucial point. This is what actually makes tomorrow very important. And that is the Shias and the Kurdish have decided that if the Sunnis get on board or even if they don't get on board tomorrow, they will go ahead with that constitution. They will actually bypass the Sunnis. It's unclear what will happen then. But they will bypass the Sunnis and go straight to the electorate for a referendum which is scheduled to be held on October 15. That's the latest that's happening over there. So the Sunnis are considering proposals that are being put forward by the Shias and the Kurds on (INAUDIBLE). That's what happens to Saddam Hussein's old party and the people who were it and the issue of federalism. They will make their response known to the Shias and the Kurds.

Now, one other issue that I've got to tell you about, and that is in Afghanistan, a U.S. soldier has been killed there; four others have been injured. This taking place south of Kabul, the capital, Kabul. One of the soldiers that was injured is in a critical condition. The other is reported to be stable. The other two who were injured are now back on duty. This happened when their vehicle they were traveling in a vehicle south of Kabul and that vehicle was bombed. That is what I have for you right now. Let's send it back to Tony and Betty.

HARRIS: Anand, thank you.

NGUYEN: Well, changing gears now. He is just 21 years old and he's already finished his second book. Straight ahead, the author who's giving Harry Potter a run for his money.


VALERIE MORRIS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: If you put off shopping for back to school gear, your procrastination may literally pay off. A number of states now offer no sales tax on back to school item items such as clothing, supplies and some electronics. But don't bust your budget spending more than you usually would just to save a few tax dollars. And don't put your purchases on a credit card if you don't plan to pay it off immediately as interest charges could negate any initial sales tax savings. I'm Valerie Morris with this week's money break.



HARRIS: Hi, good morning. For those of you just joining us, here are some of our top stories this morning. Hurricane Katrina is getting bigger and stronger as it heads across the Gulf of Mexico. You heard that just a moment ago from CNN meteorologist Bonnie Schneider. It is now a category three storm. Some evacuations could be in later today for people in Louisiana and Mississippi.

Two police officers in Bristol Borough, Pennsylvania, are in critical condition. Both officers were hit by a minivan during a routine traffic stop.

The morning-after pill is going to stay off store shelves a while longer. Federal regulators put off their decision on whether the emergency contraceptive pill should be sold without a prescription.

NGUYEN: Well, if you're a fan of boy wizard Harry Potter, you may want to check out the latest novels to stir up your imagination. "Eldest" is the book, the second book actually in a trilogy of a knight who is finding his way in the world. And the author is not much older than just a teenager than himself.


NGUYEN: Christopher, this is your second novel in this inheritance trilogy called "The Eldest" or actually just "Eldest." Now, you've already been a best-seller. This has knocked Harry Potter off the number one spot at That in itself must feel magical. CHRISTOPHER PAOLINI, AUTHOR: It's amazing. I never expected this to happen. I just tried to write a story that I would enjoy reading myself. And I'm incredibly grateful that so many people around the world have enjoyed it as well.

NGUYEN: Yes, so many people around the world. This thing has sold a lot of books and here's the deal. Because a lot of children really love these books, because it's magical. You've got this character called Eragon. Tell me how you came up with this because you're only 21 years old, a very young 21 and you started this first book when you were just 15, right?

PAOLINI: That's right. I graduated from high school at 15 since I was home-schooled my entire life. And I didn't have a lot of things to do at the time since I live in a very isolated part of Montana. So I had to find a way to entertain myself. And the way I found that was by writing, especially since I really enjoyed reading a lot of epic fantasy at the time. Still do, as a matter of fact.

NGUYEN: So did this just pop in your head or, I mean, do you just have that vivid of an imagination? How do children out there come up with things like this?

PAOLINI: Well, I was specifically inspired by a book called "Jeremy Thatcher, Dragon Hatcher" by Bruce Coville, which has a wonderful concept of a young boy in this world finding a stone that ends up hatching a dragon. I loved that idea so much of a young boy finding a dragon egg that I asked myself three questions. I said, what land would a dragon come from? Who would find the dragon egg out in the middle of nowhere, and since dragon eggs can't be that common, who else would be looking for a dragon?

NGUYEN: I haven't found a dragon egg to date, so, Yes, you're right, not very common. OK, so tell me about Eragon in the second book. How does his character transform or evolve, should we say? What can readers expect?

PAOLINI: Well, if readers enjoyed the first book, they can expect more of the same duals and dragons and battles and villains and romance that I wrote about in the first book. The second book obviously continues Eragon's journey through his land. And his training continues. And since the inheritance trilogy is a coming of age story, Eragon begins having to deal with some more mature issues and some more -- some greater responsibilities. I really think the second novel expands on the world and the character is a lot more and hopefully readers will enjoy it even more.

NGUYEN: Yes, talk about expansion here because you created, I want to say, what, three languages for this book? One being the dwarf language, OK. So let's put you to the test. Speak to me in dwarf, I guess you would call it.

PAOLINI. OK, a sentence in dwarfish. (SPEAKING DWARF)

NGUYEN: OK, don't call me that again, all right? I won't stand for that. What did you just say then? PAOLINI: Oh, it's a line from the second book where one dwarf was challenging another about insulting Eragon. For the exact translation, people should read the book. But there's a reason that dwarfs sound so hoarse. It's a very meaty language that you can really sink your teeth into.

NGUYEN: Not only are these best-selling books, but you've got a movie in the works, don't you?

PAOLINI: That's right. Even as we speak, Fox 2000 is filming the Eragon movie in Budapest, Hungary.


PAOLINI: And they've cast some top notch actors in the lead roles, everyone from John Malkovich to Jeremy Irons, to Robert Carlyle and in the role of Eragon, they cast a young 17-year-old man from Britain and his name is Ed Splears (ph). So it's going to be very interesting to see how it turns out.


NGUYEN: All right. Now Paolini says he will start writing the final installment of the trilogy as soon as he's finished with his current book tour, of course. The movie "Eragon" is due out next year.

All right. This just in to CNN. We told you a little bit earlier with Bonnie Schneider about this hurricane watch. We want to give you an update on exactly where the watch is in effect. We're talking about Morgan City, Louisiana. That is about 60 miles south of Baton Rouge, along the Louisiana coast. Now this watch runs from Morgan City through Pearl River, which divides Louisiana and Mississippi. So folks in that area are a part of this hurricane watch. As we've been mentioning, hurricane Katrina is now a category three storm, which is expected to strengthen before it hits the Louisiana-Mississippi shoreline. So you definitely want to stay tuned to CNN, your hurricane headquarters.

HARRIS: And up next on CNN SATURDAY MORNING, gas is the last thing one Iowa mom to be needed, but it turns out this gas station made a pretty good makeshift maternity ward. We'll explain.


NGUYEN: We want you give you another update on hurricane Katrina which is churning right now and she's expected to be a powerful category four storm when she comes ashore. Right now she's in the Gulf of Mexico as a category three storm. But we have learned more about this hurricane watch, which is in effect in Louisiana. It runs from Morgan City, Louisiana, which is 60 miles south of Baton Rouge, all of the way to the Pearl River, which divides Louisiana and Mississippi. So if you're in that area, you are in a hurricane watch. We're going to continue to monitor Katrina as she does come ashore.

Now for a lighter note on our hurricane Katrina coverage, there is a baby boom in southeast Florida. Nearly 30 expectant mothers are in four Broward County hospitals. When hurricane Katrina was coming ashore, four girls and three boys were being delivered. Of those seven newborns, no one is named Katrina.

HARRIS: I can top that.


HARRIS: One baby couldn't wait to see his mom. Making her stop along the way to the hospital, reporter Jeff Greenwood from CNN affiliate KCCI has his story.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: A lady had a baby in our parking lot. Wonder what she'll name it.

JEFF GREENWOOD, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Joshua, his name is Joshua Romitti. The 8 pound 11 ounce newborn seems quiet and easy going now, but just a few hours earlier he was cantankerous. Joshua's dad Barry was out of town, so Joshua's mom Yvonne left home in Madvid (ph) for the hospital with her mother-in-law about 45 minutes away from Iowa Methodist Medical Center in downtown Des Moines. But about halfway there, Joshua decided it was time. Along highway 141 in Grimes, mom gave up a full service birth at the hospital for a self service birth at this B.P.-Amoco gas station.

YVONNE ROMITTI, JOSHUA'S MOTHER: I was in the passenger side until we got to the gas station. Then I jumped in the back and just had him.

GREENWOOD: She had him just as help arrived from the Grimes fire department.

CHRIS DANIELSON, GRIMES ASST. FIRE CHIEF: She says, I'm having this baby and you guys better be ready. So it was pretty much, it was game time right away.

ROMITTI: I said my next push, he's coming out.

DANIELSON: She made me fully aware that she was having it now and I didn't argue with her.

ROMITTI: The paramedic guy caught him just in time.

DANIELSON: She says, do you get paid for this? And I said not as much as a doctor.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I went out there and a little baby screaming, putting him in the ambulance. It was cute.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's a miracle every time you have a kid, no matter where it's at.

ROMITTI: I'm shocked as probably everybody, how fast he came out.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Well, every kid has a story, but this one will be better than most.


HARRIS: That's good. That's good. Just enough time to say thank you for watching this morning. We'll see you back here tomorrow morning beginning at 7:00 a.m. Eastern.

NGUYEN: ON THE STORY is next. Have a great day.


NGUYEN: From the CNN Center in Atlanta, I'm Betty Nguyen. "THE TURNAROUND" with Ali Velshi begins in just 60 second, but first, here's a check of the headlines right now in the news.

Hurricane Katrina is picking up steam as it churns through the Gulf of Mexico. Forecasters say Katrina could reach Category 4 intensity with winds topping 130 miles an hour before making its predicted second landfall near New Orleans on Monday. Now, the governor of Louisiana is calling for voluntary evacuations from low- lying areas all along the coast.

Iraqi lawmakers are struggling to reach a compromise on the nation's much delayed draft constitution. Right now Sunni Arab lawmakers are considering the latest Shiite-Kurdish compromise proposal on a prickly subject, the existence of autonomous regions and deBaathification. Shiite and Kurdish officials hope to reach an agreement with the Sunnis by tomorrow.

There is a little more breathing room at Baghdad's Abu Ghraib Prison. That is because the Iraqi government sought the release of nearly 1,000 detainees this week. Coalition officials say the freed prisoners were not convicted of violent crimes. They've renounced violence and they pledged to be good citizens of Democratic Iraq.

Well, the panel charged with deciding on the first round of military base closings has wrapped up its review. By September 8, the panel must send its final report to President Bush who can accept it, reject it, or send it back for revision. Congress will also have to -- or have -- they'll also get a chance to veto the plan altogether. So we'll be watching for that. More news coming up in 30 minutes; "THE TURNAROUND" with Ali Velshi begins right now.