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CNN Saturday Morning News

Five Killed In Kentucky Mine Explosion; Voters Head to the Polls in New Orleans; Oliver Thomas Interview; Chiquita Simms Interview; Iraq Establishes New Cabinet; "Da Vinci Code Reaction"

Aired May 20, 2006 - 10:00   ET


TONY HARRIS, CNN ANCHOR: With the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina as the backdrop, voters in New Orleans go to the polls this morning to decide between the mayor they have or a candidate promising to lead the troubled city in a new direction.
The winner of this historic election will govern over a landscape that is littered with flood-ravaged homes, FEMA trailers, empty schools and abandoned, mud-covered cars. Wow, that's a mess.

Good morning, everyone, from the CNN center in Atlanta, I'm Tony Harris. It is the 20th day of May.

BETTY NGUYEN, CNN ANCHOR: It is decision day down in New Orleans.

HARRIS: It is.

NGUYEN: And I'm Betty Nguyen. We're going to take you live to New Orleans in just a few minutes.

Plus, displaced voters in Houston and here in Atlanta will join us to talk about this election.

But we get started with a quick look at some other stories making news right now.

Breaking news of another deadly coal mine explosion, this time in Kentucky. CNN confirms at least three people were killed following an explosion just after midnight at the Darby Mine near the town of Holmes Mill. A maintenance crew was on duty at the time. Ahead, a former mine official will join us to talk about an update on this explosion.

Now to Iraq. Today, Iraq took the next step toward a full- fledged democracy. After months of a contentious stalemate, the Iraqi parliament just hours ago officially approved a new, permanent government. We have a live report from Baghdad, just ahead.

Well, the violence continues to undermine Iraq's political progress. Look at these pictures. A mob in Basra stoned and torched a British military vehicle -- you see it there on fire -- after it was disabled by a roadside bomb. Two British soldiers were wounded.

And in Baghdad, an explosion in a Shiite neighborhood killed at least 19 people, wounded nearly 60 others. Now to Gaza City. The head of the Palestinian Intelligence Agency was seriously wounded today in what some believe may have been an assassination attempt. Palestinian sources say the intelligence chief and his bodyguards were in an elevator when it was ripped apart by an explosion. One bodyguard was killed.

HARRIS: In thoroughbred racing, all eyes will be on this horse today, as he tries to make history at the Preakness Stakes in Baltimore. The big question is whether Kentucky Derby winner Barbaro can capture the second jewel of the Triple Crown. We will know in about eight hours.

And you don't need much faith to believe "The Da Vinci Code" will make a lot of money at the box office this weekend. In just a few minutes, we'll speak to a Jesuit priest who has seen the controversial movie and has a few things to say about it.

Now to the breaking news out of Harlan County, Kentucky, where a coal mine explosion has killed at least three people. Bruce Dial is the former head of the Federal Mine Safety and Health Administration. He joins us by phone with the latest.

And, Bruce, good to talk to you. Thanks for your time this morning.


HARRIS: First, I have to ask you, here are the facts -- a deadly explosion, three dead we've been able to confirm, two missing. I have to ask you, what are you ruling in? We don't have a lot of the answers to a lot of the questions, but maybe you can help guide us with some of the questions that you have this morning?

DIAL: Well, there were some new regulations being passed in the state of Kentucky. I don't know exactly when they went into effect, but they should have provided more rescuers, self rescuers, for the miners.

This was a maintenance shift that wasn't a production shift, so there were few people in there. My understanding, that there are five dead now at this point. If it was an explosion, it probably started with a methane explosion and then the coal dust in the mine was -- caught on fire, and that causes a bigger explosion.

HARRIS: Got you. And you're right, Bruce. We can confirm now that five people have been killed in that explosion. The person who was able to walk out, I would imagine, is going to be able to provide some invaluable information?

DIAL: Oh, very much so. The one person who was able to walk out, would be able to give them some information on what was happening before and what happened after the explosion and where it occurred.

HARRIS: Bruce, let me ask you, is mine work typically 24 hours?

DIAL: Very much so. They usually have three shifts. The third shift is usually a maintenance shift to catch up on all the maintenance, and the other two are production.

HARRIS: Bruce, let me ask you, in your days when you were heading up the Federal Mine Safety and Health Administration, did you have cause to cite that particular mine, that Darby Mine, that operation and the owners of that mine operation in Kentucky?

DIAL: No. I wasn't the head of Mine Safety and Health Administration, I was an inspector and an instructor at the National Mine Academy, but no, I never cited this particular mine, but I have cited many others.

HARRIS: And let's talk about the fixes that were supposed to be, and we understand are going to be, put in place in the aftermath of the Sago disaster, where 12 miners were killed, and these fixes had to do with emergency air supplies and sealing off mines through areas in which the explosive methane gas has accumulated. Do we know whether or not those fixes are being implemented?

DIAL: Well, I know that the many mines are putting extra one- hour self rescuers in the mine, so a person carries one on their body and then when the accident occurs, then they use that one and they can use that one to get to others that's being stored throughout the mine or get out of the mine itself.

This one, the explosion, we haven't heard whether this was in an abandoned area, and there were seals between the two mines, or if it happened within the working mine itself.

HARRIS: OK. Bruce, we're going to give you an opportunity to find out more information about this particular explosion. As you correctly mentioned, five now confirmed dead in this mine explosion. This is in the city of Holmes Mill in Harlan County, Kentucky. Bruce, thanks for your time. We appreciate it.

DIAL: OK, thank you.

NGUYEN: All right, here it is. Will they keep the incumbent or look to the lieutenant governor? Voters are casting ballots in the runoff race for mayor of New Orleans. The outcome will determine who oversees the city's comeback from Hurricane Katrina.

Now, polls opened just about three hours ago. The race between mayor Ray Nagin and Lieutenant Governor Mitch Landrieu is considered just too close to call. So, let's get more on what's at stake in the election and how the voting is going so far this morning.

CNN's Sean Callebs joins us live from a voting super-site, as they call it, at the University of New Orleans. Sean, we've been watching, and people have been flowing in and out casting their vote.

SEAN CALLEBS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Oh, without question. By the time the polls opened today at 6:00 a.m., about three hours ago, there were maybe 10, 15 people waiting in line. Since then, it has been just people coming in non-stop.

And really, as much as they're coming here to vote, of course, to decide who is going to lead the city, it also somewhat turns into a social affair. We talked to some people from Baton Rouge who haven't been back that much. They're coming back to work on a home. They've seen about a half dozen people they haven't seen since the hurricane.

Just look down this way here, and these folks in the purple shirts are volunteers from the secretary of state's office. Basically, what they are doing, as people come up, they are asking, are you having any questions about the polling place? Do you think you're at the right site? Any kind of information that any -- that people may have.

There's also a handful of media here grabbing people, and I actually saw a couple exit pollers. This gentleman down here in a white T-shirt and sunglasses is one from Tulane University. I saw him approach a couple people trying to get their views on the election, but they politely declined.

A lot of people did come into this somewhat undecided at this point, and it's because these two candidates are very similar on the issues. However, the real question comes down to leadership.

Who is going to guide this city as it gets the billions, as federal tax dollars begin to flow in? How will they rebuild? How will the levees hold up? What will hurricane season be like?

So many questions. A very critical time for this city. Indeed, this area, this region, entire country watching to see what is going to happen here -- Betty.

NGUYEN: Yes, a lot of people coming there to cast their ballots. People driving from long-distances to make sure that their vote counts. Let me ask you, all this information coming in, this important vote that's taking place today, polling monitors are in place to make sure it goes smoothly. Tell me about their role.

CALLEBS: Well, yes, the federal election monitors are down here. Basically, they're just going to make sure that no one is intimidated, everything goes very lawfully, because there are concerns that this election could be challenged.

We know a number of civil rights leaders have filed legal challenges. They haven't gone anywhere, up until now. But the big concern, so many people were displaced, so many hundreds of thousands left the area, and the concern is so many people of color are being -- could be denied access to the Democratic process.

So far, the state says that's simply not the case, and we talked with Mitch Landrieu yesterday. He says everybody in the country knows about this election, so for someone to say they don't know about it, didn't know how to vote, they're just not trying hard enough. At least that's what they're saying. But it is complex, it's difficult, but it is moving forward.

NGUYEN: Well, there are people, indeed, trying, because you talked to some earlier who drove quite a distance to get there. People are being bussed in from Atlanta, so we'll be watching and see how this vote shakes out. Thank you, Sean.

You'll want to stay with CNN for complete coverage of the New Orleans mayors race and what it means for the city's future. We will have live updates and interviews throughout the day and we're going to have the final election results as they come in. So you don't want to miss it. Stay tuned to CNN.

Ahead, we'll talk with New Orleans city councilman Oliver Thomas.

HARRIS: Oh boy, yes.

NGUYEN: He shoots straight, he tells it like it is, and he's going to weigh in on the mayor's race and the efforts to rebuild New Orleans. That's coming up in just a few minutes.

Well, there are mixed reviews so far to last night's opening of "The Da Vinci Code." Critics really didn't like it so much, but we're going to hear from some movie-goers who saw the movie, including a priest, who will weigh in on the anti-Catholic themes.

HARRIS: And you, you saw it.

NGUYEN: I saw it. Not too bad.

HARRIS: And next, voters in New Orleans, Houston, and here in Atlanta, live to talk about perhaps one of the most important elections in the Crescent City's history.

Rob Marciano, good morning, sir.


VERONICA DE LA CRUZ, CNN ANCHOR: Hello, Rob. It's so good to see you. Surprise, surprise, surprise! Rob, what are users clicking on at I've got the countdown of the 10 most popular stories. That is coming up in less than 60 seconds. Stay close.


DE LA CRUZ: Well, good morning to you. What are people clicking on at We're taking a look in our dot-com countdown, starting with this article on "The Da Vinci Code." It is making number 10 on that list. "Bucking the Backlash" -- even though the film is decorated with big celebrities and so far has a big audience, will the bad reviews and bad publicity be bad, bad, bad for the movies and its chances of making big bucks at the box office? The article at

And number nine, a blast in Gaza leaves the Palestinian intelligence chief seriously wounded. A bodyguard was killed. At least nine people injured. Security officials call it an assassination attempt.

Number eight, at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, military leaders say terror detainees attacked U.S. military guards. It happened after guards were lured into a room by a detainee, pretending to be hanging himself. Six detainees then attacked the guards.

And number seven, Senator John McCain was booed and heckled as he delivered a commencement speech at a school in New York. Some students said they didn't want McCain to use their graduation as a platform to run for president in 2008.

And we will have numbers six, five and four when CNN SATURDAY MORNING returns. I'm Veronica de la Cruz for the dot-com desk.


HARRIS: Well, voting is underway in New Orleans, and the stakes couldn't be higher. It's a local election, but there's lots of national attention. We're covering the New Orleans vote from all of the angles.

Joining us this morning, City Councilman Oliver Thomas, and displaced resident Chiquita Simms will join us shortly. Let's begin with Oliver Thomas. Oliver, good to talk to you.

OLIVER THOMAS, NEW ORLEANS CITY COUNCIL: Hey, Tony, how are you doing there?

HARRIS: I'm great. We're counting on you to give it to us straight this morning. I have to ask you, first of all, talk to us about these two candidates. I'm not going to ask you -- at least not yet -- who you favor in this election, but talk to us about these candidates. They seem to have very few differences among them.

THOMAS: Well, let me tell you, it was one of the most agreeable campaigns in the history of politics. One of the things people talked about was how respectful and nice and everybody thought the other did a good job, they just thought they should stay where they are and continue doing the good job.

Nagin thought that Landrieu should remain lieutenant governor and Landrieu thought that Nagin should go back to Cox Cable so he could be the mayor. So it's been real interesting.

One of the things that really amazed me was that, you know, I really think he did a good job on this, and the other guy would say yes, but you did a good job on this. Well, why, you know -- I couldn't understand that.

HARRIS: But you know what, Oliver? You know what?


HARRIS: If you've got two candidates who don't disagree on much, you certainly don't need one. So which one, then, in your opinion, is best positioned to move the city forward? Let's get right to it.

THOMAS: Well, let me be real profound. If more people vote for Landrieu, he's going to win. And if more people vote for Nagin, then I guarantee that Nagin will win. But right now, Tony, we don't know.


THOMAS: This is the toughest election to poll. No one knows what the differential is going to be in turnout. No one knows if those white voters who -- or conservative voters who voted for Forman and Couhig, how many of them are going to swing to Nagin, how many of them will go to Landrieu. Or if -- you know, you're hearing a lot of people say well, we don't like either candidate. So they may not vote at all.

But the other thing I've seen, though, is that the absentee and a percentage of African-Americans is mirroring what happened in the primary. So that's a good sign for Nagin. But if Landrieu can pick up a few of them and have those white voters that went with the other conservative candidates come with him, then I think he wins a close election, but we'll find out at 8:01.

HARRIS: Oliver, what do you think, in terms of the direction of the city? How important is this election? How important is it, regardless of who wins?

THOMAS: Look, this election is -- take a turn from "Mary Poppins," super-dupercalifragilisticexpialidocious. That's how important this election is. You know, we have to really make sure that the world continues to be behind us. We need to make sure that Washington continues to respect us and infuses cash into this area.

We need to make sure the developers and people -- prospective business people all over the world want to come here and help us rebuild. But we have an opportunity to make New Orleans a much better place than it ever was, but we're going to have -- we're going to need the type of coalition-building leadership that gives us the opportunity to do that.

HARRIS: Here's what I'm curious to know, just trying to put as fine a point on this as I can.

THOMAS: Got you.

HARRIS: If Ray Nagin wins, after sort of, you know, having much of the business community abandon him, if he wins again, what does that say about the possibility for real rebuilding in the city with the help of the business community on board as a partner?

THOMAS: Well, look, look, Tony, the one thing we know about business people, right, if it makes dollars, it makes sense.


THOMAS: So you know, they can talk about it -- look, I hear people say that every election. I heard people say that if President Bush leaves, we're moving out of America. If Bill Clinton doesn't get impeached, we're going to leave America. Well, guess what? They all stayed because it made sense for them to stay.

People say that every election. If Nagin wins, we're going to leave. Look, the people who want to leave are going to leave anyway. But anyone that looks at the opportunities in this community and especially the ability to make money, guess what they're going to do? Not only are they not going to leave, they're going to double their investment.

HARRIS: And you can work with both of these guys. Is that what I hear you saying?

THOMAS: Hey, look, I'm willing to hitch up the wagon to either/or, but the one thing that I do know, we can not survive if we're going to be divided, and we have to have better communication and cooperation than we have ever had before. So whoever is elected, I hope they're smart enough to get rid of that me-ism and I-ism and work on we-ism.

HARRIS: Yes, Oliver Thomas, we appreciate your time. We will certainly be watching this.

THOMAS: Any time, Tony.

HARRIS: Yes, thanks, Oliver. When we come back, we'll talk to one of the displaced residents of New Orleans with a keen eye on this election. Chiquita Simms joins us right after a break. You're watching CNN SATURDAY MORNING.


HARRIS: Continuing to follow the vote in New Orleans, Election Day in New Orleans as the citizens there try -- and elsewhere around the country -- decide on who will lead the city into the future, whether it is the incumbent mayor or the lieutenant governor.

Chiquita Simms has been great with her time and great to CNN over these troubling months. Chiquita, good to see you again.

CHIQUITA SIMMS: Good to see you.

HARRIS: Living in Atlanta, living in the -- where were you living in New Orleans?

SIMMS: I was living uptown.

HARRIS: Uptown New Orleans.


HARRIS: Totally devastated, totally wiped out.

SIMMS: Correct.

HARRIS: I've got to ask you what your sense is of this election and what you think realistically will come of this?

SIMMS: We'll have a new mayor tomorrow morning, that's for sure.

HARRIS: New mayor -- are you saying that you believe it will be Mitch Landrieu? SIMM: I am not saying that. I know we will have a mayor, something will be different about New Orleans. We'll have leadership in effect tomorrow morning. It's a very important day for New Orleanians today.

HARRIS: Now, help me get at that. Everybody says that. We've been saying it all morning, but what does it mean? If it's Ray Nagin, if it's Mitch Landrieu, the dollars are going to flow into the city, what difference can either of these men really make in terms of guiding the future of the city?

SIMMS: I think that -- I've been very critical of Ray Nagin over the course of his four years, everybody knows that.


SIMMS: I'm a business owner. I do public relations, I do events in New Orleans. So it is very important for me that we get that city back and running, that we get our tourism dollars back and that we become again what the world knows us to be.

So I'm very interested to get New Orleans back into business. Ray Nagin has not been as -- I think with the black community, the black business community, wanted or expected from him.

HARRIS: And what was that?

SIMMS: Just fairness, open opportunity. He came in strong with a lot of convictions, and he really caused a big divide for himself.

HARRIS: So even as you sit here now and you're about to fly back to New Orleans to cast a vote, cheers, that's wonderful that you're doing that.

SIMMS: Thank you.

HARRIS: Even as you sit here now, you're concerned -- you really are saying to me that you believe that Mitch Landrieu might be the better choice for New Orleans right now?

SIMMS: I am not saying that.

HARRIS: You really are saying that.

SIMMS: I am not saying that. I clearly am not. I want you to understand that I am not saying that. I want to be very vocal about that. I know both candidates. I've worked with them. I've worked with a lot of candidates. I've helped elect a lot of people that are in office right now in New Orleans.

I just believe that Mayor Nagin has made a lot of mistakes, you know, and a lot of leaders have, over the courses of our current president, slavery was a mistake. There were leaders at that time, the civil rights movement. A lot of those things, there were mistakes there. Right now, what our city needs is to get behind our current leader, and pull together, pool our resources, and get things done for New Orleans. Mitch Landrieu and a lot of his family members -- he is a career politician, his family has been in office for forever. Probably as a little girl, his father was mayor of the city, his sister is in Congress. He's got a sister that's a civil judge.

He's had political offices. He's now lieutenant governor. He has a lot of power. He has always had a lot of power to help and get behind our leader and get the job done for New Orleans. To me, it seems to be that a lot of people want a new title.

We had 23 candidates. We've never had that before. The reflection of the city -- our leadership shows a reflection of the city. We need to get together and just like Oliver Thomas said -- I'm one of his biggest fans -- let's leave the I-ism and me-ism alone.

Let's get behind this guy, let's get on the president, let's get on the federal government, and let's get what we need. In four years, let's make a new decision, if possible.

HARRIS: That's strong. Chiquita, I'm going to leave -- why aren't you running?

SIMMS: I don't want -- politics is not my forte. I will put my resources behind anyone, my professional expertise, but I don't want to run for political office. I don't know why somebody would want that job.

HARRIS: Chiquita Simms, living in Atlanta now, do you hope to go back to the city?

SIMMS: I do hope to go back to the city. I can tell you first- hand, just being a businesswoman, just being a mother, a single parent that, I don't want to take my son or myself through any unnecessary challenges. It is very difficult to live in New Orleans.

I frequent the city, I've supported Jazz Fest, I've gone back there for several events. I have not supported Mardi Gras. I just want my son to go to a safe city. It is not safe there.

The crime rate is horrible, the schools are not in effect. I want some normalcy in my life right now, and until my leaders can guarantee me some of that -- they can't guarantee me that in August we won't flood again.

HARRIS: That's strong. Chiquita, thanks for your time. And you're about to board a bird and head on back to New Orleans and cast your vote.

SIMMS: And I'll be at somebody's political party tonight.

HARRIS: OK, Chiquita Simms. Good to talk to you.

SIMMS: Nice to talk to you.

HARRIS: Betty.

NGUYEN: Well, another milestone in the move toward in Iraqi independence this morning. We're going to take you live to Baghdad next on CNN SATURDAY MORNING.



UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The left under the light historically. The left was female, the right was male.


NGUYEN: Plus, a priest who saw the movie "The Da Vinci Code." Find out his thoughts on monks in the film who kill, and the Vatican who tries to cover it all up.

That's live right here on CNN SATURDAY MORNING.

And take a look at this. This is a live look at the air show there at Andrews Air Force base in Maryland. The Golden Knights and the Blue Angels -- the Blue Angels are what you're seeing there flying -- putting on quite a show for the folks out there today.

Just a quick little side note, the Blue Angels are scheduled to fly nearly 68 air shows in 35 locations across the U.S. during this 2006 season, and it's quite a show that they put on, giving you a little glimpse this morning as we go to break. Stay with us.


NGUYEN: Now in the news, there has been another coal mine tragedy. Five miners were killed in an explosion at a coal mine in eastern Kentucky. Here's a map of the area. Mine safety officials say one miner was able to get out alive. The blast, though, happened overnight while a maintenance shift was on duty. You'll want to stay with CNN for continuing coverage of this explosion.

Polls in New Orleans have been open about three-and-a-half hours, and voters must decide whether to re-elect Mayor Ray Nagin or boot him out of office in favor of Lieutenant Governor Mitch Landrieu. The winner will lead New Orleans' massive reconstruction after hurricane Katrina. Evacuees are being bussed from as far away as Houston and Atlanta to take part in today's vote.

HARRIS: In Gaza, a bomb exploded, and an elevator at the Palestinian intelligence headquarters. The intelligence chief was among nine people wounded. His bodyguard was killed. Some are calling it an assassination attempt by a rival Palestinian faction.

Kentucky Derby winner Barbaro tries for two out of three. Barbaro is favored to win in the Preakness stakes this evening. It's the second jewel of horse racing's triple crown.

NGUYEN: Fierce attacks and deadly bombings. Just look at this, as Iraq puts together a new government. These pictures from Basra show crowds attacking a British vehicle after a blast that wounded two British soldiers. Bombings across Iraq today left dozens dead and wounded. Now, this latest violence comes as Iraq's parliament OKs a new national unity government.

Iraq's incoming prime minister is promising a timetable to put Iraqis in charge of the country's security and end the U.S. mission. Now all of Iraq's religious, sectarian and ethnic groups are represented in the cabinet approved today. Ryan Chilcote is in Baghdad with more on what this means for the future of Iraq and a lot of Americans want to know what does this mean for the future of the U.S. presence there. Hi, Ryan.

RYAN CHILCOTE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Betty, a really historic day. The Iraqi prime minister appearing before the country's parliament, unveiling his cabinet, Iraq's first full-term, permanent government to be announced since the fall of Saddam Hussein. He then read out the names of all of the candidates for the government's 37 ministries, all of them approved by the parliament, really a day of accord in a lot of senses.

It was, however, in some ways not a day without problems. Two of the ministries, the interior ministry, and the defense ministry, still don't have permanent directors, if you will. The prime minister basically admitting today that he was unable to find consensus among Iraq's politicians as to who should run those ministries.

So he's appointed temporary leaders to run them until the country's politicians can do that. He hopes over the next week. In fact, the prime minister himself has made himself into the country's acting interior ministry, acting interior minister, which means that he will have control of the police. He has appointed a Sunni official to be the head of the Iraqi military, to head up the defense ministry.

But it was really today a day of hope and I had an opportunity to speak with one Shiite politician, a man who was jailed under Saddam Hussein who has been called to be the country's oil minister, about what it's like to be a member of this government and whether he could really have ever imagined this possible, being a member of a fully democratic government in Iraq. Here's what he had to say.


HUSAYN AL-SHAHRASTANI, IRAQI OIL MINISTER: I spent more than 11 years in solitary confinement at Abu Ghraib prison and in those days, no, I was not expecting that one day I'll be called upon by my people to serve as minister of oil, but I have sacrificed along with many other Iraqis, and I'm committed to help these people to remedy all the injustices that has been inflicted on them, and I think the oil ministry is perhaps a key sector that a lot of Iraqi illnesses could be cured.


CHILCOTE: And one of the big illnesses, of course, that the Iraqi government will have to solve in this country is the illness or problem of violence, a reminder of that again this morning. A roadside bomb going off in the Iraqi capital, despite the fact that we really had unprecedented security throughout Baghdad today. This roadside bomb going off in a Shiite neighborhood, known as Sadr City, killing at least 19 Iraqi civilians, wounding more than three times that number.

It will most definitely be seen as a sectarian attack. There weren't any military installations, any police patrols, anything like that around. It just really underscores the fact that violence has to be at the top of the agenda for this new government in Iraq, and in particular, stemming the sectarian strife that has really rocked this country since February. Those things have to be right at the top of the agenda and they have to be addressed very quickly to keep the Iraqi people's confidence going in this government.

NGUYEN: Yes, no doubt. Security is a main concern. Ryan Chilcote in Baghdad, thank you for that, Ryan -- Tony.

HARRIS: Still ahead, the movie was panned by critics, who listens to critics, right?


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It was a great, great movie. The critics are crazy.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It was what it was. I didn't think it was -- it didn't blow me away, but it was pretty good.


NGUYEN: Yes. I mean, the critics were a little harsh, I thought. I saw the movie.

HARRIS: Betty, you're backtracking! It's unbelievable how you're backtracking.

NGUYEN: I didn't go in with any expectations because they booed it, so, is it movie-goers' turn? Well, it is now, to review "The Da Vinci Code." What do you think? Well, one of those who went to see the movie is a priest and he joins us live next on CNN SATURDAY MORNING to talk about what he thought of the movie. Forget those critics! We're going to talk to a priest.

HARRIS: But first, our year-long look into the future this morning. We focus on some amazing developments that could change the way we think about our work spaces. Here's CNN's Miles O'Brien.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: At 5:00 I'm ready to run out the door screaming.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The working environment's probably not very efficient.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Some work spaces can be sort of cramped.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I have a cubical. They tend to have less privacy.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Phone calls, we're like hurdles.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Future office might have more technology.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Lighting actually plays a huge key into an office space.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You just want to be more relaxed.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You're there most of your day. It really matters.

MILES O'BRIEN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: A noisy newsroom, glaring studio lights, a guy in a tie yammering over your shoulder. If you had the chance, you probably could come up with some pet peeves about your work space as well. So if life in your cube seems as grim as a Dilbert cartoon, we have some new ideas for you to consider.

When if comes to office space, steel case (ph) designer James Ludwig is thinking out of the cube. He's trying some new shapes and sizes in office design.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's about bringing architecture, furniture and technology together in new ways to make their people more effective.

O'BRIEN: For noise control, how about a real life cone of silence, a la "Get Smart?"

"GET SMART," ABC: Something's wrong with the code of silence!

O'BRIEN: Step into the cell cell.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Industrial felt is a sound-absorbent material and the ambient lighting is created by LED, which also brightens when the space is occupied.

O'BRIEN: Need to collaborate with a co-worker? Have a seat in the digital yurt. Its hard outer shell reflects outside noise. The felt-lined walls inside keep conversations private.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: When two people come together, decisions are made more quickly. They tend to be smarter. They tend to have deeper impact. Innovation flows more quickly through a network.



DE LA CRUZ: Hey there. I'm Veronica de la Cruz at the dot-com desk. We continue now with our countdown of the most popular stories on We head to China for number six, and this question -- why did the chicken cross the ocean twice? A new government rule will soon allow American chicken meat to be shipped to China, processed, and then shipped back. Is it a bird-brained idea? You can read more on line at

A new congressional report is saying some regulations are making it tough for U.S. air marshals to do their jobs. Among the problems, a strict dress code that the report says actually draws attention to the marshals, who are supposed to be undercover, and that's number five.

To number four now, who is the informant spurring the search for Jimmy Hoffa? The Associated Press reports he is an ailing 75-year-old prison inmate who recently passed a polygraph test in the probe. You can get the details at We will have the top three stories in our countdown when CNN SATURDAY MORNING returns.


HARRIS: And good morning to our friends that are joining us from Denver, Colorado, Los Angeles, California. Good morning to you. Dramatic, new pictures in this morning from a plane crash in Washington State. Have you seen these pictures?

The plane went down in the waters of Puget Sound yesterday. You can see it submerged under the water. Both people on board managed to make it to shore. One was towed to safety by a kayaker. The other apparently swam. The FAA will study the plane once it is pulled from the water.

And updating our top stories now. No word yet on what caused a deadly coal mine explosion in eastern Kentucky early today. The news broke just within the last couple of hours. Safety officials say five miners were killed in the blast at the mine in Harlan County, Kentucky. One person was able to get out alive.

Political fortunes and a city's future being decided in New Orleans today. Voters are casting ballots in the runoff race for mayor. Incumbent Mayor Ray Nagin is up against Lieutenant Governor Mitch Landrieu. Stay with CNN for updates and election results all weekend long.

Critics panned it, now some Christians are protesting "The Da Vinci Code." Still, industry watchers say the movie could make $75 million during its opening this weekend.

NGUYEN: Well, despite initial negative reaction at the Cannes film festival, some home grown critics had this to say about "The Da Vinci Code."


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's fiction, and I don't think fiction's ever going to rock my faith. UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I feel it was very objectively presented and it was just a wonderful adventure story really in the end. You know, kept you on the edge of your seat, very interesting.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It was a great, great movie. The critics are crazy.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It was what it was. I didn't think -- it didn't blow me away, but it was pretty good.

"THE DA VINCI CODE" COURTESY COLUMBIA PICTURES: The great fresco, by Leonardo Da Vinci.


NGUYEN: While some critics say the movie is just blasphemous, let's ask somebody who's actually seen "The Da Vinci Code." Father James Martin is a Jesuit priest and associate editor of "American" magazine. He's also the author of "My Life with the Saints." Father Martin joins us from New York. Thanks for being with us today.


NGUYEN: All right, father, you've seen it. What do you think?

MARTIN: Well, as a movie-goer, I found it really tedious and really long. As a priest, I found it really anti-Catholic, so you know, not a good combination in my book.

NGUYEN: All right, but did you feel it was blasphemous I mean or did you feel that it was just a murder mystery based on a fiction novel?

MARTIN: Well, it's based on a novel, obviously, but you know, it crams all the anti-Catholic stereotypes it can into the movie. You have the evil Opus Dei monk. You have the conniving bishop. You have people murdering, the Vatican covering things up and basically perpetrating this lie. The only way it could have been any more anti- Catholic is if they would have slapped a subtitle saying "the Catholic church is evil" throughout the whole movie.

NGUYEN: Father.

MARTIN: So it was pretty over the top. But as a movie-goer, it was just long and it had like five different endings. So I was kind of bored by the end.

NGUYEN: But don't you think, you just said it yourself, it was pretty over the top. Don't you think that just dispels all the worry that this is going to change people's vision of Christianity. It's going to make them really believe that Jesus was married to Mary Magdalene and they had children?

MARTIN: Well, the problem is that Dan Brown and his admirers have been presenting him and his book as if it is fact. He says it's based on this historical research and at least a lot of people I talked to, like that women that was just quoted says it's objective and this is based on research. So I think they're trying to play fast and loose. They're trying to have it both ways. They're saying it's based on research, but it's all just fiction. So I think it will end up confusing some people, unfortunately.

NGUYEN: Director Ron Howard basically says, look, if you don't like the story, don't go see it, and author Dan Brown, in fact, he's starting to come out and speak about it. Take a listen to what he had to say.


DAN BROWN, AUTHOR, "THE DA VINCI CODE": A very wise British priest noted recently in the press, Christian theology has survived the writings of Galileo and the writings of Darwin. Surely it will survive the writings of some novelist from New Hampshire.


NGUYEN: There you go. It kind of makes sense. What do you think? What's your response to that?

MARTIN: That's a pretty thin response to bigotry. It's like saying hey look, I'm going to open up a restaurant that doesn't serve blacks or Jews and if you don't like it, don't come. I don't think you can just say here's this bigoted novel, this novel filled with prejudice and if you don't like it, tough. I mean, I think people should have the guts to stand up and say either, I don't believe in the Catholic Church, or I do, but to sort of hide behind this veil of fiction I think is really bologna.

NGUYEN: But Father, at the same time, you just said it was over the top, and honestly, I've seen the movie. I went to see it yesterday just like you did, and it didn't change my view of Christianity. I thought it was just a movie. So don't you think that by seeing this movie, people are going to realize, yes, it's just a movie, it's a novel of fiction. It's not reality?

MARTIN: It's kind of like the Oliver Stone movie "JFK." I mean the stuff is so sort of artfully presented that a lot of people are going to leave the movie theater and say hey, that's the way it was. They leave JFK and they say well, I guess that's the way the assassination went. They leave "The Da Vinci Code" and they say well, I bet a lot of that's true because it's based on fact, which is what I've heard Dan Brown say over and over again.

So I mean if you're dealing with people who knew a lot about church history, great, but a lot of people don't. And in this vacuum comes this sort of like what I call a theological equivalent of junk food. So you know, it's kind of unfortunate. A lot of educated people I know really are taking this stuff seriously, unfortunately.

NGUYEN: I think the fortunate thing out of all of this is, don't you think, that at least it's getting people to talk, getting people to research Christianity and its roots? MARTIN: Well, you would hope so, but then you see the books that people are turning to. You look at the "New York Times" best seller list and it's a lot of books like "The Jesus Papers" and "Holy Blood, Holy Grail." So I think they're going from one bit of junk food to another bit of junk food. It's not like they're looking at really serious stuff.

You know, they're not going to go out and buy another book of church history. They're going to buy another Dan Brown novel. That seems to be more of the case, unfortunately. I mean, if people did do more research on church history, that would be great, but I don't think that's happening.

NGUYEN: And very quickly, you've had a little fun with this yesterday. You were leaving awfully quickly. You stumbled across a reporter and what did you say?

MARTIN: Well, I said that I had to rush home because like all priests and monks, I have to go assassinate somebody, I mean ...

NGUYEN: Goodness, father! You can't talk like that. I'm praying for you, OK?

MARTI: Thank you. I'm praying for you, too.

NGUYEN: All right, thank you for your time today. We appreciate it.

MARTIN: You're welcome.


HARRIS: Well, if you accidentally stumble while holding your eight-month-old child, it will probably go unnoticed, right? But, if you're Britney Spears, forget about it! It becomes one of the most popular stories on the Internet. Find out what else is on the list, next on CNN SATURDAY MORNING.


HARRIS: Hey, Betty, take a look at this. Buses rolling into New Orleans.

NGUYEN: Voters ready to cast those ballots.

HARRIS: That's right, from Atlanta.


HARRIS: OK, arriving just moments ago. Maybe in just a moment we'll see some folks actually getting off. That's about an eight-hour trip, 8 1/2 hour trip, 300, 400 miles to New Orleans, to that polling place there. Same thing happened for the primary about a month ago.

Ebenezer Baptist Church here in Atlanta organized that first caravan, the freedom caravan is what they called it, about a month ago for the primary. I'm assuming the same thing is happening this time around, can't say for sure, that these buses are attached to the Ebenezer effort this time around, but again, folks getting off the bus.

These are displaced folks who left New Orleans after Katrina, came to Atlanta and are exercising their civic responsibility and going back and voting for the next mayor of New Orleans. Want to show you these pictures just into CNN.

DE LA CRUZ: OK, like we promised you, our dot-com countdown continues with the top three stories at Number three, Saddam's pimped ride might be in U.S. custody. Federal agents seized the -- check this out -- heavily modified, armor-plated, bullet- proofed Mercedes-Benz from an Army reservist who says the car likely belonged to Saddam.

To South Carolina now for number two. A 75-year-old captain of a chartered fishing boat remains missing after the boat capsized. The man stayed in the water with a struggling passenger for hours before apparently, suffering a heart attack and disappearing below the surface.

All right, number one -- drum roll, please. oops, she did it again, and again, and again! Britney and her baby blunders are once again topping the tabloids. Spears was pictured in a paper with her baby, Sean Preston in one hand and a drink in the other.

Shortly after, she stumbled, nearly dropping her baby. Earlier this week the paparazzi caught driving with her baby in her convertible, the baby seat turned forward. Then of course there was the case of the baby slipping out of the nanny's arms and then you probably remember when - remember those pictures of Britney driving with the baby in her lap? By the way, she is pregnant again.

HARRIS: Well, there's no manual for this!

DE LA CRUZ: I say get that baby some protective gear. Maybe like a crash helmet or something.

NGUYEN: How about put down the drink and just hold the baby?

HARRIS: You can find all these stories at

DE LA CRUZ: Slash most popular.

HARRIS: Thanks Veronica. Putting the "E" in evangelism, as in email, text messages on your phone?

NGUYEN: It's all high-tech these days and it's the newest way to reach out and touch someone who doesn't have time to make it to church. We have details on this new program. That's coming up in 20 minutes.