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CNN Saturday Morning News

Votes Being Counted In Iraq; U.S. Hopes Vote Will Pave Way For Troop Withdrawal; Draft Constitution Largely Opposed By Sunni Arabs; Flooding in New Hampshire and New Jersey; Million More March In Washington; Voting Ends in Iraq on Constitution

Aired October 15, 2005 - 11:00   ET


BETTY NGUYEN, CNN ANCHOR: Unfolding this hour, the votes are being counted at this moment. One hour ago, polls officially closed. Voters are deciding whether they want to approve Iraq's draft constitution or if they don't. It's Saturday, October 15, 2005. From the CNN Center in Atlanta, I'm Betty Nguyen.
TONY HARRIS, CNN ANCHOR: And good morning, everyone. I'm Tony Harris. Thank you for starting your day with us.

Let's get you caught up with other news this hour.

Hundreds of homes have been evacuated in Texarkana, Arkansas, after a Union Pacific train hit a liquid propane gas tank. A police spokesman says fumes from the collision are "definitely poisonous." A Union Pacific spokesman says so far there are no reports of injuries. People in hundreds of homes in the area have been told to evacuate.

Parts of the water logged Northeast are finally getting a break after more than a week of steady rain. Forecasters say a storm system is moving out. Widespread flooding is also beginning to recede but officials warn some minor or even moderate flooding could still occur in some areas.

Relief operations are in high gear in Pakistan as the death toll climbs from the last week's major earthquake. Pakistan's interior minister says at least 38,000 people have died there. Some 62,000 others are injured. Relief workers are using helicopters and other equipment to trying to deliver supplies to the most vulnerable areas.

NGUYEN: The polls have been closed in Iraq for about an hour. And across the country earlier today, people stood in line by the hundreds to vote in a critical referendum. The single question on the ballot was very straightforward, "do you approve the draft constitution of Iraq?". Voters marked either a "yes" or a "no." Now the ballots are printed in Arabic and Kurdish. And if voters approve the constitution, it will then be ratified. Iraq will hold elections for a new four-year parliament by December 15th and a new government will be sworn in by December 31st.

But if voters reject the constitution, the current transitional parliament will be dissolved and elections will be held by December 15th for a new interim parliament. That interim government would have to draft a whole new constitution by October of next year. So that's the framework behind this. Despite, though, scattered violence, Iraqis still turned out in strong numbers for today's crucial vote. Thousands of people, in some cases entire families, headed to 6,000 polling sites all across Iraq to vote on this draft constitution. So let's go now to CNN's international correspondent, Aneesh Raman, in the Iraqi capital of Baghdad. He has been watching these ballots being counted.

The numbers that you're seeing, does it appear that Iraqis have indeed turned out in full force?

ANEESH RAMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, we saw about 50 percent turnout, Betty, at this one polling station. About 50,000 Iraqis of the 100,000 that were registered turned out to vote. There were two ballot boxes. They've already counted one. There was about a three to one margin in favor of the constitution in that first count, 160 to 57.

They're now divvying up the ballots of the second box to the right, to his left, he is handing the "no" votes. And this pile is the "yes" votes. You're seeing a large number of people. You're also seeing this room incredibly dark. The power is out. It is hot, it is muggy, yet this very simple but powerful process is taking place.

These are all observers from various political parties, as well as from international agencies. They will now go through each of these piles. And you'll see on this board they will count the numbers in terms of "yes," "no," inconclusive and ballots that just don't work. They're fraudulent in some case.

You're also seeing below basically absentee ballots. Those are the absentee ballots of soldiers, the Iraqi army soldiers who have been here to help protect this vote. They've been here for some days, some of them from provinces outside of Baghdad.

And I want to quickly just show you, if you can see, there's, of course, a holy Muslim month of Ramadan right now and every day they break fast in a meal that is called iftar just as the sun sets. And these guys are right now outside breaking fast. They are the ones that kept security in place for this vote. There are the ones who are able to keep largely few attacks happening in Baghdad.

Back into the vote. You're seeing them now roll up these ballots. They will put them in groups of 25. They will then count them again. He's signing his name there. They will do an official tally on this the second box at this polling station and then the results will go onward to the election commission.

An incredibly important day for the new Iraq. It will determine whether the political process goes forward or whether it starts anew. That is more important than the constitution itself. For many Iraqis, they didn't have a chance to digest this document. Amendments were made just a few days ago. And even the draft document was only distributed in the past few days throughout Iraq.

So Iraqis really understood they were voting on something bigger than this constitution, as big as that is on its own. They were voting on their country's future and whether they want to see a change in government or whether they want this current government to continue and a permanent government to come into power mid December.

For many of them, Betty, that permanent government is the key to stability, is the key to basic services. Getting the electricity back in rooms like this at hours like this. And that is their hope. Hope always among hope on days like this that the future of Iraq is bright.


NGUYEN: It's a very important day, a very historic day in Iraq as those votes are being counted. Aneesh Raman in Baghdad. We thank you, Aneesh.

HARRIS: As you might expect, the White House is awaiting results of the Iraqi vote on the draft constitution. It is an important day for the Bush administration as it tries to show the American people that going to war with Iraq was the right decision. I'm not sure whether this vote says that but, Dana Bash, at the White House, you can imagine that the president and folks in the White House are liking what they're seeing in these pictures today.

DANA BASH, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Absolutely. Imagery, when it comes to Iraq at this juncture, is everything. And these are the images the White House they're hoping that they will have a similar effect to the images that we saw back in January, those purple fingers. That, at least temporarily, turned around waning public support for Iraq.

And at this point, right now, it is at an all-time low across the board. And so the president is actually at Camp David. You can be sure he is getting updates from his aides on exactly what is going on. But his message, which he actually left in a radio address for this weekend, is that no matter what happens with the constitution, he's trying to make it clear that the idea of Iraqis voting, the idea of them moving towards democracy is what is critical.


GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: By casting their ballots, the Iraqi people deal a severe blow to the terrorists and send a clear message to the world. Iraqis will decide the future of their country through peaceful elections, not violent insurgency.


BASH: Now the White House understands that what Americans want to know more than ever is when American troops are going to come home. And the president actually made mention of that as he does time and time again. Essentially saying that the United States is not going to cut and run.

And what he did was mention a letter that the administration has been touting for the past week, what had been classified, they declassified it, from Osama bin Laden's number two to the head of al Qaeda in Iraq. And he honed in on a part of the letter that suggested that this could be like Vietnam, all they have to do is wait for American troops to come out and that the insurgents, the terrorists, could take over the country. The president honed in on that for a very specific reason, trying to send the message that it could be possible for American troops to come home but is refusing, as he has been, not to give a deadline.


HARRIS: The White House Correspondent Dana Bash for us.

Dana, thank you.

NGUYEN: We want to now get some more insight into what is unfolding in Iraq. Journalist Jane Arraf is a fellow on the Council of Foreign Relations and has been watching the voting in Iraq. She also served for CNN in Iraq for some time. You remember, she was in Baghdad as a bureau reporter covering the Iraq conflict from the front lines and she reported from polling stations at the country's first democratic elections held earlier this year. Well, she joins us now from New York to give us some insight into what is happening.

Jane, I think Aneesh pointed out a very important part of this, and that's education. Do the Iraqis fully understand what is in this constitution? And thus, do they understand what they are voting for?

JANE ARRAF, FELLOW, COUNCIL ON FOREIGN RELATIONS: Betty, most of them don't. What they do understand is that they are able to go out and vote. That after hours of voting, there were very few attacks, fewer than there were in the last elections. And that essentially the process, as a process, went relatively smoothly.

That doesn't mean they know what they're voting for. We found after the last elections, people were thrilled they were voting. But when I'd ask them, who did you vote for, some of them wouldn't actually know. This constitution, this voting is much more complicated. A lot of them haven't seen the document. Those who may have seen it don't fully understand it in a lot of cases.


NGUYEN: Jane, CNN Chief International Correspondent Christiane Amanpour is joining us now and she has some questions for you as well.


CHRISTIANE AMANPOUR, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, my observation was going to be that it's true that perhaps they don't know every last article of the constitution. Of course, they're more than 150 of those. But those who have strong feelings about the constitution know very well the bits that please them and the bits that worry them.

The whole aim of this really has not just been to get the majority Shiites and Kurds on board, they are on board with this constitution. It gives them incredible powers, not only politically but potential, economically as well. But the aim is to get the Sunnis on board. And they know very well what they don't like about the constitution. The whole issue of federalism, which is basically a word or autonomous self rule regions.

The Kurds have it. They've had it since the U.N. set up or rather the United States set up Kurdish protection after the first Gulf War. The Shiites could get it. They would if they do, they have a huge powerful base but also a huge economic base because the majority of the oil is down there in Shiite heartland.

And the Sunnis could get it as well. But if they got self rule, they're worried that they would get nothing with it. Not political power, nor economic power. And that has been a very large source of concern. That and the fact that they don't believe there was enough emphasis on the Arab identity of Iraq in this constitution.

Now, some last minute wordage (ph), some last minute deals have tried to sort of sweeten the bitter pill for the Sunnis and bring them into the process. But from the evidence that we're getting, while many of the Sunnis turned out in much higher numbers than they did back in January of this year, in some areas such as Fallujah, we're told by the mayor who told a CNN colleague down there that most of those who turned out voted "no."

In places like Ramadi where it's insurgency capital there, almost nobody turned out. They were to afraid. The place was like a ghost town. And in other places, the "no" votes may be slightly edging the "yes" votes right now. But, of course, it's too early to tell the full picture.

The key question, according to the U.S. here and everybody monitoring is, whether this referendum will have a sense of popular legitimacy and that can only happen if all the people here, including the minority Sunnis, feel that they're represented and that they are included.


NGUYEN: Jane, Christian brings up a very good point with the Sunnis because in the first vote back in January, many Sunnis set out. This is an opportunity for them to not only have their voice heard, but if they don't like this constitution and they come out in full force and vote it down, they can get in on the beginning because all of it is dissolved and you have to start all over, correct?

ARRAF: That is correct to an extent, Betty. In Fallujah, a couple of months ago, Sunni leaders were telling me, we made a mistake. We're going to come out and get our people to vote this time.

But I think we should not overemphasize what this constitution is to Iraqis. It's an important milestone politically, but this is still not every Iraqi registered to vote going out. There's a lot of apathy out there.

And when you ask Iraqis, what do they care about, they don't really tell you first off the bat it's the constitution. They're still overwhelmed with security concerns. Going to work safely. Getting their children home from school. Getting jobs. And the constitution and these political developments, although we're obsessed with them and politicians are obsessed with them, and they are indeed important, they don't rate first in peoples' minds in Iraq for the most part.

NGUYEN: Jane Arraf, fellow at Council on Foreign Relations.

We appreciate your insight as always. Thank you, Jane.

ARRAF: Thanks, Betty.

NGUYEN: And you want to remember that CNN is your source for the most in-depth Iraq coverage. We will keep you updated throughout the day.

And a little bit later, CNN takes an inside look at what is and isn't working in Iraq. Join us for "The Iraq War: Progress Report II." That's this afternoon at 2:00 Eastern only on CNN.

HARRIS: And turning now to news in the U.S., rain is still causing problems in parts of the Northeast. All of New Hampshire has been a flood watch after overnight rains flooded and closed many roads. And they're still keeping watch in New Jersey where waters appear to be receding after eight days of non-stop rain. For the latest, we go to Jennifer Westhoven in Spring Lake, New Jersey.

Jennifer, good morning.


And first, you can see the first great piece of news for people who live here in Spring Lake, the sun is shining. And after eight days of just clouds and rain, that is a welcomed sight. We've been seeing a lot of the residents come out. They wanted to check out and assess the damage.

Right now I'm standing in what is often just a small pond. It's just flooded right up over its banks. I'm standing here on the street. It's not that high on me but in other parts of town the water is up to your thighs. It's deep.

There's a lot of damage out there. And, of course, that's what we're seeing all across the northeast. In fact, about 11 deaths have been blamed on the flooding, so that's tough.

Also, the acting governor of New Jersey has declared a state of emergency. That's, of course, first step towards getting federal funding the help pay for some of the massive damage that we've been seeing throughout the Northeast.

Something else that we're seeing too. As the residents come out and look at things, they are trading stories. They are talking about things like one person said she saw her Jacuzzi just wash away. We caught up with some of the residents over the past few days and talked to them about the damage.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It's been a rough day. Yes. It's been a rough week. It's Noah's Ark.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I've lived here for about eight years and I have never seen it like this before. People my neighbors have lived here for 30 years and they've never seen it like this.


WESTHOVEN: A lot of people in Spring Lake agree with that. They're happy now that it looks like the waters are starting to go down. Something else to worry about, though. It looks pretty right now, but as you might have seen from my hair, it's pretty windy. There is a lot of concerned about the possibility for trees going down because there are high gusts of wind forecast for today. So that's something to watch out for. But a lot of people looking happy as the waters start to go down.

Back to you.

HARRIS: That's right, Jennifer. What happens and I guess we've learned earlier that the ground is so saturated now, you factor in those winds and those trees can just be blown over. That's the case that folks are looking out for right now, isn't it?

WESTHOVEN: Yes, the roots can get really exposed and weakened because of the water in the ground and so that's why they become more vulnerable to toppling over.

HARRIS: Jennifer Westhoven in Spring Lake, New Jersey.

Jennifer, thank you.

Well, it appears rain isn't the only problem for the waterlogged Northeast. Meteorologist Brad Huffines joins us now for a look at the national forecast.



NGUYEN: Well, 10 years after the Million Man March, can organizers reach out across gender and racial lines to address issues affecting the poor? That's the question.

HARRIS: And the government had an important goal set for today in providing housing for victims of Hurricane Katrina. Did officials meet their goal?


HARRIS: Ten years ago, African-American men from across the U.S. gathered in Washington for the Million Man March. But since then, many people say things have not improve for the black community. And, in many cases, it's become worse. Nation of Islam Leader Louis Farrakhan is again trying to push for change, this time with the Millions More Movement. Kathleen Koch joins us from Washington with more.

Good morning, Kathleen.


What they're talking about here today is rebuilding, renewing and restoring that sense of commitment that was so pervasive here 10 years ago. And what we really wanted to do is throughout the day introduce you to people who both were here 10 years ago for that massive march, one of the largest they say ever on the National Mall here in Washington, and then also people who are first timers.

So here with us is David Pearson and his nephew Hashim Razzak. They're here from Winston Salem, North Carolina. Made a six-hour bus ride up here this morning for this.

David, tell us first of all, what was it like here 10 years ago? Hundreds of thousands of men filling this mall as far as the eye can see. Describe that moment for us.

DAVID PEARSON, FROM NORTH CAROLINA: It was a very beautiful moment. It was a moment that black men in America had a chance to stand up and unify to show that there is unity amongst the black man and harmony and that we do have love for one another.

KOCH: Now, Hashim, tell us, why did you want to come today? I mean, a six-hour bus trip with some 25 members of your family. What brought you here today?

HASHIM RAZZAK, PEARSON'S NEPHEW: The main reason you said, it was so big the last time, 10 years ago, and I was in college in Ohio U playing football and I wasn't able to make it. And I did not want to miss it again because I have a daughter now, she's six years old, and I want to come out here and show her myself, you know what I'm say, myself, my respect, something I can have feel good about. You know, come out here all these thousands of black folk, millions of black folk, part (INAUDIBLE) in the day and I'll be a part of history. It's about being a part of history. That's what it's mainly about.

KOCH: David, do you think that things have changed enough over the last 10 years for the better for not only African-American men but for the community at large?

PEARSON: Well, there have been some improvement, but not enough. There needs to be more done. And it seems I mean, to me, things are not the way they should be. There's not enough equality, you know? We have our justice. And we don't have equality.

KOCH: David, thank you, and Hashim, for sharing your thoughts with us.

And what we're hearing again today is that this is not a march, but this is, indeed, a movement. And today, it's just a beginning.


HARRIS: Kathleen Koch for us.

Kathleen, thank you.

KOCH: You bet.

NGUYEN: Just ahead, an important sign of life for New Orleans. Is the city known for letting the good times roll ready to start partying again?


NGUYEN: Other news across America now. Authorities say a pregnant Pennsylvania woman has identified her next door neighbor as the person who attacked her. Now listen to this. On Wednesday, the expectant mom was hit with a baseball bat and taken to a secluded area where her belly was slashed. A passer by is credited with saving the woman and her baby. The next door neighbor has been jailed without bail and a preliminary hearing is tentatively set for Tuesday.

Can the state of Missouri assist a female inmate in having an abortion? The U.S. Supreme Court has gotten involved in that case. Prison officials are balking at a federal judge's order to transport the woman to a facility to have the procedure done. Justice Clarence Thomas has temporarily blocked that order while the legal issues are reviewed.

And the curfew in the French Quarter has been extended to 2:00 a.m. instead of midnight to accommodate, of course, for that growing night life there. The rest of New Orleans still, though, has a 8:00 p.m. curfew.

And temporary repairs are expected to begin this weekend on the Superdome's storm damaged roof. You see it there. Despite earlier talk about demolishing the arena, the emerging consensus now is that it can be saved.

HARRIS: What impact will today's vote in Iraq have on political fortunes here at home? We'll talk about that after the break.


NGUYEN: The polls are closed in Iraq. Now the waiting begins to find out what voters decided. It is Saturday, October 15th, 2005. Good morning, everybody from the CNN center in Atlanta. I'm Betty Nguyen.

HARRIS: And good morning, everyone. I'm Tony Harris. Thank you for starting your day with us. Headlines now in the news. Romanian officials are confirming that country's first cases of avian flu. The discovery marks the first time the deadly strain is known to have reached Europe and indicates the virus may be spread by migratory birds. In its current form, bird flu does not pass from human to human but officials fear it could mutate and possibly cause a global pandemic.

The number of people killed in Pakistan's earthquake is approaching 40,000 and relief workers say more deaths will come if much needed aid doesn't reach the area soon. Rain, snow and frigid temperatures are delaying efforts to reach many survivors and as the harsh Himalayan winter approaches, officials are desperately seeking tents to house some two million people left homeless by the quake.

The northeastern U.S. hopes the latest forecast is right that the worst of the rain is just about over. Parts of the water soaked area have seen more than a foot of rain since the storms began more than a week ago. Some areas could still see another two to three inches today.

NGUYEN: As mentioned, the polls have now been closed in Iraq for about an hour and a half. Despite scattered violence, millions of Iraqis headed to polling stations across the country today to vote yes or no in a closely watched referendum on a draft constitution. Iraqi security forces and U.S. troops provided heightened security and Iraq's borders were closed during the voting.

Now results from today's referendum are not expected for several days to come, but we want to give you some background now on who's voting in today's constitutional referendum in Iraq, 15.5 million of Iraq's 27 million people are registered to vote.

While Iraq's Shiites largely support the draft constitution, most of Iraq's Sunni Arab minority were expected to vote no on the charter or boycott the vote all together. While Sunnis make up 20 percent of Iraq's population, they are dominant in three of the country's 18 provinces. The constitution will not pass if two thirds of voters in three provinces reject it.

Iraqi Kurds, well they strongly support the charter. There are 25 million Kurds, mostly in Turkey, Syria, Iran and Iraq. Some four million Kurds live in northern Iraq. That is 1/6th of Iraq's population. So it would be impossible to overstate how critical today's Iraqi vote is to the Bush administration. In a matter of speaking, it's also a referendum on the president's Iraq policy.

CNN's senior political analyst Bill Schneider joins us from New York with the insights into how this will play into the U.S. politics here at home. Let's talk about poll numbers, first of all. Do Americans really know, are they in tune with what's happening in Iraq with this vote today?

BILL SCHNEIDER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Many not a great deal. Most Americans say they've heard little or nothing about this election. As you can see, only 21 percent said they've heard a lot about this entire event. That is about half as many as were paying attention back in January when Iraq had an election on January 30th. Americans paid a lot more attention.

They were excited about it. They thought maybe now Iraq will have a stable government that can hold the country together. And maybe now Americans can begin to withdraw, but the news since then got a lot worse and Americans are far less involved in this event.

NGUYEN: Two key points there, stabilization and withdrawal. Let's take them one at a time. Of the people, of the Americans who are familiar with what's happening, know what's going on in Iraq, how do they feel? Do they think it's going to stabilize Iraq, this vote today?

SCHNEIDER: I'd say they're not highly optimistic. Only about 29 percent of Americans think that this constitution will make Iraq more stable. Most Americans see no change or even less stable. This constitution is really a deal. It defines a very weak central government.

It will allow Kurds in the north and Shiites in the south if they wish to form separate mini states so Americans are not optimistic that this will solve Iraq's problems because they have seen increasing violence since the war, the initial phase of the war. The major fighting ended over two years ago.

NGUYEN: OK. So it may not solve Iraq's problems immediately, but for U.S. troops, what does this vote mean for them?

SCHNEIDER: Well, Americans are hopeful that it will create a - hopeful that it will hold the country together, that the security forces will be able to maintain control and that perhaps Americans will be able to withdraw. There was a burst of optimism after the January 30th vote. Going into that vote in January, most Americans had come to believe the war in Iraq was a mistake.

That number dropped rather sharply after the election. But as you can see, it's been climbing. It dropped from 52 to 45 in February. Look at that trend line. It's been climbing steadily with the steadily increasing insurgency, insurgent violence in Iraq, now 59 percent believe that the war in Iraq was a mistake. Americans have become very disillusioned and they are not overly optimistic about this election.

NGUYEN: Bill, here at home, there are a lot of issues on the table. Of course, you got the Katrina aftermath. You have high gas prices. You have this vote in Iraq. Do Americans feel that it's going to do anything, this vote, for the Bush administration? Of course, the Bush administration is looking very closely at this vote.

SCHNEIDER: Yeah. Well, I think Americans are hopeful but they're -- they've learned over the last two and a half years not to let their hopes get too exaggerated. The Iraq situation is not going well. Look, the military released figures just this week showing that the number of violent incidents has steadily grown since April 2003 when the major fighting ended, virtually week by week, some 700 incidents already in October, week by week.

Well, that's very dangerous. And as long as that continues, Americans dare not be too optimistic about the ability of American troops to withdraw. While Americans have become convinced that the war was a mistake, they're also not of the view that we can just walk away from there. They want to see this to a conclusion. NGUYEN: How does this weigh into or does it weigh into the president's approval rating? Will a vote in Iraq today, a vote that as you mentioned, a large amount of Americans aren't really in tune with, will that weigh into his approval rating at all?

SCHNEIDER: It did back in January when that election happened. His approval rating went up because people were optimistic. Now I doubt it. Number one, they've become to put it simply, more cynical about events in Iraq. Number two, there are a lot of other issues that are weighing down President Bush's approval rating. You mentioned Katrina. There are also a whole variety of scandals that have broken out.

We're waiting to hear about the investigation of the CIA leak, their investigations of a Republican lobbyist that have touched the White House, investigations of Republican leaders in the House and Senate. There are gas prices which have gotten a lot of Americans upset, spreading economic pessimism. A whole range of issues are holding down President Bush's approval rating. I don't think this election is going to make a lot of difference.

NGUYEN: CNN political analyst Bill Schneider, we appreciate it as always. Thank you, Bill.

HARRIS: Man. And later today, get an in-depth look at what's working and what's not in the battle for stability in Iraq when CNN presents "The War in Iraq, Progress Report II" at 2:00 and 5:00 Eastern.

NGUYEN: When will the victims of Katrina be able to move out of their temporary shelters and where will they go? We're going to examine that question when we come back.


NGUYEN: The Federal government had hoped to empty temporary hurricane shelters by today, but it looks like it will miss that goal. Some 270,000 people were displaced by hurricane Katrina. FEMA says nearly 16,000 remain in shelters. CNN's Alina Cho reports that finding more permanent housing has been extremely difficult for some evacuees.


ALINA CHO, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Bonnie Vernon has been living on this cot in the Baton Rouge convention center for a month. Now, the city is shutting the shelter down so Vernon and the rest of the hurricane evacuees, all 500 of them have to move again. Where are you going next?

BONNIE VERNON, EVACUEE: I have no idea where I'm going.

CHO: Vernon got an offer to work construction at $20 an hour near New Orleans. But she can't get there because she doesn't have a car. She lost that, along with her home in the storm. VERNON: All I want now is to get my life in order and I don't want to be sent to another shelter. I just want to be able to get me a place somewhere and go to work and that's all I want to do.

CHO: Some evacuees are staying in hotels at FEMA's expense. Vernon will likely end up here in Baker, Louisiana, in a trailer park for evacuees. This one is nearly filled to capacity so the town is getting more trailers. But there won't be enough. Kim Johnson is one of the lucky ones. Air conditioning in here?


CHO: Wow. She moved from the convention center to her very own trailer on Wednesday. What's the best part about it?

JOHNSON: The best part is privacy. That's the best part I can go in there and shut the door.

CHO: On Thursday, Johnson and others got an additional boost when New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin paid them a visit.

MAYOR RAY NAGIN, NEW ORLEANS: You know what? I still see a lot of stress. I still see a lot of strain but I also see a little glimmer of hope.

CHO: Bonnie Vernon isn't so optimistic. She's been waiting for Federal assistance for more than a month.

VERNON: I would like to -- actually get my little bit of money I have coming from FEMA so I can get a car so I can go to work and get my life back together again.

CHO: Alina Cho, CNN, Baker, Louisiana.


HARRIS: Here's the thing. Some evacuees have complained that red tape is delaying their move to more permanent housing. The White House and hurricane relief officials had hoped to get everyone out of temporary shelters by this day, today. Lisa Woodruff White joins us now from Baton Rouge to discuss the housing situation. She is the deputy secretary for the Louisiana Department of Social Services. Lisa, thanks for taking the time to talk to us.


HARRIS: Good morning, Lisa. What is the problem here? First of all, how many Bonnie Vernons do you have in Louisiana's shelters today, right now?

WOODRUFF-WHITE: We have about 8,000 -- I'm sorry 9,000 citizens who are left in general population shelters in Louisiana and another 90 in special needs shelters. We also have about 6500 who are still in shelters in other states.

HARRIS: OK, that 9,000 number, we're talking about individuals and families?

WOODRUFF-WHITE: We are talking about individuals. Yes.

HARRIS: Nine thousand individuals that we're talking about finding some kind of housing for right now. Is that correct?

WOODRUFF-WHITE: That is correct.

HARRIS: So, Lisa, what's the problem? That's a big number if you're talking about individual homes, places for these folks to stay. That's a big number. What is the problem now? It sounds like it might be an inventory problem.

WOODRUFF-WHITE: It is a big number but you have to understand for Louisiana that number is down from about 60,000 in shelters and you're right, it is an inventory problem. You have to realize that many evacuees self evacuated. And for those, they took up a lot of the hotel and the apartment and the vacant homes in this state so the market is really saturated in terms of, you know, availability.

And so, the options like the Renaissance Park are this sort of options that we're working with FEMA on. Progress is evident on those types of projects, but it's just hasn't been quick enough for us to get people out of shelters, but we are continuing to work on it.

HARRIS: So, Lisa, I don't want to have you dumping on folks, but are you frustrated? Did you expect to have more help from FEMA at this point in the process? Has it been about what you expected?

WOODRUFF-WHITE: Well, let me answer it in this way. This has been difficult because they've been lots of -- because of the numbers we have had, I mean just an extraordinary number of people who have had to evacuate. And you know, Louisiana certainly didn't want any citizens the leave the state.

The governor's been very clear about, you know, wanting to get citizens out of shelters as quickly as possible, wanting to get citizens back home. But that just hasn't been possible because of the devastation. I appreciate the efforts of FEMA so far. I appreciate the efforts of other states. They have done an extraordinary job getting citizens out of shelters there and into temporary solutions but you know, none of it is ideal until we can get citizens back home.

HARRIS: And folks would like, we talked about red tape. Folks would like to get their FEMA money, maybe their Red Cross money and in a lot of cases, the folks who aren't getting those dollars are taking those dollars and moving elsewhere. Is that correct?

WOODRUFF-WHITE: I think that part of the solution has been for people who have found their own solutions is that they have been able to use those moneys from FEMA and the Red Cross to move on. I talked to a local car dealer who said he was selling three cars a day before Katrina and now he's selling 10 a day.

So as people are more mobile, they are able to get around, find their own solutions. Get back to New Orleans and realize that there's not much left and it's going to be a very long time before they get back to certain communities. So I think that's helped but, you know, I can't speak to the issues as it relates to any delays associated with that money.

HARRIS: OK, so, 9,000 people. What's the best plan now?

WOODRUFF-WHITE: To find temporary housing solutions for them as soon as possible. Places like Renaissance Village are certainly intended to be temporary solutions for people. We in Louisiana don't want people to have to be in those sorts of situations long term.

I have to tell you that some of the solution for that group of people might be to have to leave this state and go into temporary housing elsewhere. But the governor's been very clear about, you know, in working with FEMA that if we have to send citizens out of state or offer citizens options out of state then we certainly want a reentry plan to get them back to this state to get them back home.

HARRIS: Lisa Woodruff-White, Lisa, thanks for taking the time.

WOODRUFF-WHITE: Oh, you're welcome.

HARRIS: Good talking to you.

NGUYEN: All right, look at this Tony. Check that out. All right? Here comes the question for you. What do race car drivers have in common with astronauts?

HARRIS: Need for speed?

NGUYEN: Maybe. That's a good one and should they be considered athletes? Dr. Sanjay Gupta has some answers straight ahead.


NGUYEN: For elite race car drivers, the need for speed, well, it comes at a price. They compete in a punishing sport that demands both physical and mental endurance. Physical fitness is often a key factor in determining who goes home with that checkered flag. Senior medical correspondent Dr. Sanjay Gupta explains.


RUSTY WALLACE, NASCAR DRIVER: It is very important to be fit, mentally fit, physically fit. These cars take a lot out of you.

DR. SANJAY GUPTA, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): On the straight-aways, Wallace and the other drivers travel almost the length of a football field every second. On the turns, they experience G forces similar to the space shuttle on liftoff. That means drivers are pulled sideways on the corners with the same force as astronauts are pushed down on the shuttle launch. Are race car drivers athletes? A definitive yes says Dr, Steve Olvey who has studied them.

DR. STEPHEN OLVEY, UNIVERSITY OF MIAMI: Absolutely. Race drivers require all the same attributes that more traditional athletes require in their sports. The heart rates that we saw in more fit drivers would be very similar to what you would see in a very fit Olympic long distance swimmer, marathon runner, somebody playing basketball, professional basketball.

GUPTA: NASCAR drivers also need to concentrate with few breaks as they maneuver in traffic at 180 miles per hour or more. Imagine hitting the fast forward button the next time you're on the highway. Jack Stark is team psychologist for Hendrick Motor Sports, one of the top teams in NASCAR.

JACK STARK, SPORTS PSYCHOLOGIST: No other sport that I know of, no other sport demands that kind of attention to detail and focus for four hours.

GUPTA: Drivers need to stay mentally sharp in conditions like a sauna. The car is humid and the temperature inside is routinely over 100 degrees, closer to 170 degrees by the floor boards. That's why he wears a special heel protector and has cool air pumped through the hose in the top of his helmet.

WALLACE: The hardest thing is being dehydrated real, real quick, physically just overheating. Your body starts shutting down. Concentration level starts going away. The most weight I've ever lost in one race was 11 pounds.

GUPTA: Even with all the challenges, the 49-year-old Wallace remains in contention for the NASCAR championship. Dr. Sanjay Gupta, CNN, reporting.


NGUYEN: And you don't want to miss Dr. Sanjay Gupta's special NASCAR "Driven to Extremes." You see it there at the bottom of the screen. That's tomorrow night at 10:00 Eastern.

HARRIS: If you are surfing the web at this morning, what are you clicking on? Veronica de la Cruz from the dot com desk.

VERONICA DE LA CRUZ, CNN.COM: What are you clicking on?

HARRIS: It's all referendum today, all referendum all the time.

DE LA CRUZ: Well, let's have some fun then.

HARRIS: Good answer. Lets.

DE LA CRUZ: OK, well, lots of people are clicking on Bond, blonde Bond. Can you say it?

HARRIS: Blond -- slowly.

DE LA CRUZ: Blond Bond.

HARRIS: I have the James in there, blonde James Bond.

DE LA CRUZ: You're not going to play with me. Tony, let me ask you this. Do you know how to find the video on the web,, great. Well, for those of you out there who don't know, you're going to go out and log onto and look for that green watch box on our main page. Click on browse and search, then select the tab that says most popular or most watched.

One of our most watched stories right now, move over Pierce Brosnan because Daniel Craig will now be wearing -- exactly. Who? Who? What? - will now be wearing that 007 tux. The new blonde Bond has been tapped for the next Bond film "Casino Royale." Needless to say guys, this has left many Bond fans shaken if not stirred and Tony, I can't ask you. Can you ask Betty, what do you think Betty?

NGUYEN: Well, All right, my personal opinion? Here goes. He's not as cute as the other Bond guys I have to be honest.

DE LA CRUZ: I'm a little partial to tall, dark and handsome. Come on. What happened to Pierce? I don't get it.

HARRIS: There's no other Bond other than Sean Connery.

NGUYEN: Roger Moore, Roger Moore.

HARRIS: The definitive Bond Connery. Go to --

NGUYEN: That's going to be a debate that's going to go through the ages. My vote is for Moore.

HARRIS: ... which is part of the reason why you have a new one.

NGUYEN: Keep 'em coming.

DE LA CRUZ: He doesn't have my vote quite yet, but another thing that people are clicking on this morning, have you guys started your Christmas shopping?


DE LA CRUZ: If you haven't --

NGUYEN: Come on. Sorry.

DE LA CRUZ: It's almost November. Here's what to check out for that Christmas list. The new video iPod is coming to town and users can buy videos at Apple's I2 store which is online. They can sit back and watch those videos on this two and a half inch color screen and that really is the question here. Who's going to sit back and watch on 2 1/2 inches?

HARRIS: Small.

DE LA CRUZ: I don't know, but I still want one of those.

NGUYEN: Do you really?

DE LA CRUZ: Why is that?

NGUYEN: Because you have music. You have videos. You can carry it with you.

DE LA CRUZ: Are you a techno-geek?

NGUYEN: Just a geek, just a geek. Not a techno geek. Just a geek.

DE LA CRUZ: And of course, you can find it online at

NGUYEN: All right. Thank you Veronica.

And we do want to thank you for watching this morning. We'll see you back here tomorrow morning beginning at 7:00 Eastern.

HARRIS: Ahead the next hour, meet some of those who are rebuilding New Orleans. You may be surprised who's taking on the job. After a short break, the news continues here on CNN with Fredericka Whitfield.