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CNN Saturday Morning News

NATO Helicopter Crashes in Afghanistan; East Coast Still Feeling the Affects of Tropical Storm Ernesto; 16 Men Arrested in London as Terror Suspects

Aired September 02, 2006 - 08:00   ET


RANDI KAYE, CNN ANCHOR: Now in the news, we are keeping a very close watch on Ernesto. Flash flood watches and warnings are in effect in several states. Hundreds of thousands remain without power this morning and crews right now are out trying to assess the damage. In a minute we'll get a live update from CNN's Rob Marciano.
Hurricane John is losing steam but remains a category 2 storm. It slammed into Mexico's Baja peninsula this morning. It spared the more popular resort town of Cabo San Lucas. Forecasters expect the hurricane to head out to sea and miss the western U.S.

RICK SANCHEZ, CNN ANCHOR: Scotland Yard confirms they've arrested 14 men suspected of training and recruiting for terror attacks. Investigators say the arrests aren't linked to the alleged plot by a group of British Muslims to blow up U.S.-bound airliners using liquid explosives.

The first group of Italian troops are in Lebanon. About 800 Italian peacekeeping troops were sent to the port city of Tyre just to help support the U.N. interim force in Lebanon. They are not in the region to fight but are permitted to defend themselves and any nearby civilians if they happen to be in danger.

KAYE: Pittsburgh Mayor Bob O'Connor has died. He passed away Friday night at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center. A family spokesperson says it was a rare form of central nervous system lymphoma. O'Connor was 61 years old.

We run down the top stories every 15 minutes here on CNN SATURDAY MORNING with in-depth coverage all morning long. Your next check of the headlines is coming up at 8:15 eastern.

SANCHEZ: A tale of bloggers. A so-called secret senator's move and a bill left in limbo. What does it have to do with you, the internet and your tax dollars?

KAYE: From the CNN Center, this is CNN SATURDAY MORNING, it is September 2, 8:00 a.m. right here at CNN headquarters in Atlanta. 5:00 a.m. in Cabo San Lucas, Mexico. Good morning I'm Randi Kaye in for Betty Nguyen.

SANCHEZ: And I'm Rick Sanchez. Thanks so much for being with us.

Well Ernesto is indeed turning a long holiday weekend into one big flooding mess for some folks. At least six people are dead. Hundreds of thousands are without power and crews are out this morning trying to gauge just how bad the damage is. Virginia took one of the hardest hits. CNN meteorologist Rob Marciano has been following the story along the coastline and he's joining us now live to fill us in on what he's seen and experienced. Good morning Rob.

ROB MARCIANO, CNN METEOROLOGIST: Good morning Rick. And the big story here in Virginia the rainfall. A tremendous amount from tropical storm Ernesto or at least what was Ernesto. Upwards of 10 and 11 inches falling in a 24 hour period here in Tidewater in the Hampton Roads area of eastern Virginia. An area very close to sea level, right next to the Chesapeake Bay. Behind me is one of the many tributaries, one of the many tributaries that flow into the Chesapeake. You couple all those rivers trying to dump all that rain back into the Chesapeake and into the Atlantic Ocean and then have a tide forcing up against it. At one point here in (INAUDIBLE) we were looking at three and four feet of water above normal, so knee and waist deep high yesterday. The good news with this area is that once the wind shifts, once the rain stops, and once the tide goes back out, a lot of that water recedes fairly quickly. Unlike New Orleans where it's kind of trapped in that bowl. So that's one piece of good news here.

The piece of bad news was that with all the saturated ground we had a couple of storms earlier in the week and then all that rain didn't take much wind to knock down trees. That took out power lines but also caused a couple of fatalities up in Gloucester County, just up the road, trees falling down on one home and two people were killed from that. Power outages across the board, over 200,000 at one point. Once the winds died down and crews were allowed to go back out and fix those power lines. And now that number is well below 100,000. So the lights slowly coming back on here. But the big story obviously the rainfall. The last time they had flooding like this was back in 2003 when hurricane Isabel came right up the Chesapeake. Folks who live in D.C. and Baltimore remember that one.

Well here in Pocausen(ph) they had a tremendous amount of water from that storm. And we talked to a couple that lost their home in Isabel. Spent two years in a FEMA trailer while they rebuilt a new home, just recently moved into it and happy to say that that new home, because it's higher and more fortified, survived what was Ernesto. Tremendous amount of rain here Rick, in Virginia, that's the bigger story now. And I suppose some of that rain now heading into parts of Pennsylvania. So even though this storm did not become a hurricane at least at landfall, Virginians know that rainfall from these tropical systems can do quite a bit of damage. And a big time flood here in eastern Virginia for the past two days, that's for sure. But most of the water now heading back out to sea. Rick?

SANCHEZ: Rob Marciano out among them. We thank you so much Rob. Randi, over to you.


SANCHEZ: Here's a big security watch story we've been following this morning. Scotland Yard has confirmed that they've arrested 14 men suspected of training and recruiting for possible terror attacks. Let's go straight to London where CNN's Robin Oakley is standing by with the latest. And once again Rob, and I think when people see the story, the first thing that comes to mind is what terror attack? Is there anything specifically that police can put their fingers on?

ROBIN OAKLEY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Not this time, Rick, about a specific terrorist attack. The raids last night which kept the police and security authorities pretty busy picked up 12 men in a Chinese restaurant, The Bridge to Chinatown in south London. Two more men picked up in greater Manchester in the north. But this we're told is in connection with recruitment and training for terrorist operations. It's the back room pool as it were of terrorism rather than in relation to a specific plot. And police are not saying that there is any link between this and the alleged plot to blow up airliners en route from Britain to the United States which was disclosed on August 10 or indeed the London subway bombings which killed 52 in July last year, Rick.

SANCHEZ: This has really been a process since the attacks where officers, pardon me, the foiled attack I should say, where they really concentrated their efforts in certain parts of London. Is that right Robin, where they've been looking for these types of individuals? That have been there, I imagine, for a long time before.

OAKLEY: Well, indeed. What they're worried about now is the greater threat from terrorists who have lived all their lives in Britain. Who are second or third generation immigrants to Britain particularly from Pakistan. Those are the kind of people who are being targeted at the moment. And they're looking into the wider group of people who might support terrorist operations, sympathize with terrorist operations, but are not specifically involved with plots. These are people who might help with travel arrangements or with finance or simply with covering the traces of others, Rick.

SANCHEZ: Does certainly sound preemptive. Robin Oakley we thank you so much, bringing us that report. And stay tuned to CNN day and night for the most reliable news about your security.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The key thing about this piece of legislation is the public will be ale to know who gets contracts and for how much and be able to hold lawmakers accountable.


SANCHEZ: So that legislation that she is referring to, who is stopping it from becoming law? And why? Still ahead, unmasking the senator who had bloggers in an uproar.

KAYE: But first here is Dr. Sanjay Gupta with a preview of today's "HOUSE CALL".

DR. SANJAY GUPTA, CNN SR. MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: Thanks guys. One year ago all eyes were on the gulf coast and the devastation after hurricane Katrina. I witnessed firsthand how Charity Hospital was desperately trying to keep its patients alive without power and without running water. Today that hospital is closed. And this morning we're taking a closer look at how the healthcare system in the Crescent City is limping along. That's all coming up on "House Call" at 8:30.



CAROL COSTELLO, CNN CORRESPONDENT: How do you make exercise a lasting part of your life? "Consumer Reports on Health" surveyed nearly 22,000 people who were committed to exercise and uncovered some of their secrets for success. Tip one, put fun back into your exercise. Play a sport like basketball, tennis or squash.

NATASHA RICHARDSON, PERSONAL TRAINER: Find an activity that's fun for you. You know if walking on the treadmill is boring then go outside, walk at the park.

COSTELLO: Tip number two, define your motivation for exercising. Is it to lose weight, socialize with friends or to reduce stress? Make your reason positive and personal. Tip number three, make it convenient. You're more likely to work out if you live or work near a health club or park. Tip number four, have a variety of options. If you always swim, add weights to your routine. When the weather turns cold outside, exercise indoors. Tip number five, dangle a carrot. Reward yourself.

RICHARDSON: When you did everything you're supposed to do you know can get that reward. It could be a new CD, it could be a new pair of shoes.

COSTELLO: Ooh, or a relaxing massage. Carol Costello, CNN.



SANCHEZ: Now in the news, people along the east coast are waking up to a wet and soggy mess and they can blame Ernesto for it. The storm caused major flooding and forced evacuations. Ernesto is blamed for at least six deaths in Virginia, North Carolina and Florida.

KAYE: In Britain authorities say anti-terror sweeps have netted more than a dozen suspects in London and Manchester. Scotland Yard says 14 of the men were arrested after months of surveillance. An official statement said the men were arrested on suspicion of "commission, preparation or instigation of acts of terrorism."

U.N. Chief Kofi Annan is in Tehran. Topping the agenda is Iran's refusal two days ago to give up uranium enrichment. The secretary-general is also seeking assurances that Iran will not try to rearm Hezbollah in Lebanon.

SANCHEZ: The situation over that disputed election in Mexico is getting even more serious. Mexican President Vicente Fox was forced to abandon his last state of the nation address yesterday. Shortly before his scheduled speech, lawmakers, some of them, seized control of the stage. They were protesting July's disputed presidential election in which their candidate Andres Obrador lost by a narrow margin. Fox later delivered his televised address.

We run down the top stories every 15 minutes right here on CNN SATURDAY MORNING, with in-depth coverage all morning long as you might expect. Your next check of the headlines is coming up at 8:30 eastern.

KAYE: How would you like to be able to track how congress spends your tax dollars using the convenience of the internet. A bill to set that up was on the fast track until one senator slammed on the brakes. It created a firestorm in the blogosphere. Andrea Koppel looked into this for "SITUATION ROOM."


ANDREA KOPPEL, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): This political whodunit captivated bloggers for days and brought together an unusual alliance on both sides of the aisle. One liberal blogger noted the bill seemed to be speeding on its way to full senate passage when in the dark of the night an unknown senator placed a secret hold on the bill. Another conservative leaning blogger asked, "Who is the secret holder? We want to know, and we want your help finding out." Finally after days of speculation, the mystery was solved. The spokesman for Senator Ted Stevens confirming to CNN it was the seven term Alaska republican explaining that Senator Stevens, "has a series of concerns and questions about the bill and he wants a cost benefit analysis to make sure it doesn't create an unnecessary layer of bureaucracy and not meet its purpose." But Stevens' office disputes bloggers claims that it was a secret. Saying when Stevens placed the hold before the August recess, he notified Senator Coburn and his staff and identified several questions we had with the bill. The bill, which would require the government to create a Google like search engine to track all government spending, was introduced by Oklahoma republican Senator Tom Coburn and Illinois democrat Barack Obama earlier this year. And if it passes congressional watchdog groups say it would bring much needed transparency.

ELLEN MILLER, SUNLIGHT FOUNDATION: The key thing about this piece of legislation is the public will be able to know who gets contracts and for how much and be able to hold a lawmakers accountable and hold corporations accountable for their execution of their activities.

KOPPEL (on camera): A spokesman for one of the bill's chief sponsors republican Senator Tom Coburn told CNN Senator Stevens sits on the committee where this bill was considered and never raised any objections because he skipped the hearings. His specific concerns were addressed at the hearings he skipped and his office has yet to meet with us to discuss his concerns despite repeated requests. While the mystery may have been solved, the controversy over the legislation clearly is not. Andrea Koppel, CNN, Washington.


KAYE: And you can catch Andrea Koppel's report every weekday on "THE SITUATION ROOM" which begins at 4:00 eastern.

SANCHEZ: You know as we watch that story that Andrea just brought us, we can't help but think of all the questions that it raises. Shouldn't our government be transparent? Is that what that bill is trying to do? Why didn't the senator come forward? What's really behind this? Up next, we're going to talk to an insider and try to get an answer to those questions.

KAYE: And in just about 10 minutes the difference a year doesn't make. "HOUSE CALL" shows you how New Orleans is rebuilding its Katrina ravaged hospitals.


SANCHEZ: It is amazing the impact that the world of blogs can have. Example, a senator puts a bill on hold and the political blogging world goes into overdrive. Let's get some insight into a controversy over Senator Ted Stevens and whether what he did was really that unusual after all. I'm joined by the co-author of the broken branch how congress is failing America and what can be done about it. Norm Ornstein is in Philadelphia. Mr. Ornstein thanks so much for joining us. So we're not too inside baseball on this, let's bring our viewers up to date first on what this bill was all about. What was it trying to achieve?

NORM ORNSTEIN, AMERICAN ENTERPRISE INST.: This bill was really trying to get some serious transparency where now we have these ear marks that have dominated our politics, where individual members of congress are pinpointing where money will go. Much of it not necessary for spending and a lot of it tied to local or other special interests.

SANCHEZ: So transparency, that's a good thing. Citizens need transparency. I want to know where my money is going to. I want to know who is doing what in Washington. Why would Senator Stevens vote this down or hold it back.

ORNSTEIN: Well Senator Stevens is one of the kings of the ear marks. And of course the bridge to nowhere, remember the famous bridge to nowhere.

SANCHEZ: We most certainly do, absolutely.

ORNSTEIN: He was a champion of that. Doesn't hurt him at all back in Alaska by the way. But the idea that people would be poking into the kinds of things that he's doing for Alaska or other places is something he doesn't particularly like.

SANCHEZ: By the way, did he really block this secretly? He says it wasn't a secret.

ORNSTEIN: What we know is these holds have been practices used for many, many years in theory you're supposed to know the person who puts a hold on. In most cases it's very hard to find that information and certainly while we were going through a major public airing of who is behind this, we didn't exactly have anybody jumping forward and saying, I'm the author of it. It took a while and indeed it took Senator Coburn kind of tripping up and mentioning it. The norms of the senate say leave it alone. Let them do it quietly.

SANCHEZ: It's interesting that you raise this point about ear marking. So what you're saying is somebody will try and pass a bill, presumably a good bill. Let's give more money to children who are hungry, fine. But along with that bill will come a series of ear marks from different senators each one asking for something totally different that has nothing to do with starving children or hungry children, correct, and they will insert it into that bill.

ORNSTEIN: What happens is especially on spending bills but also on transportation bills or many others, every individual wants to get things in that they want. Now usually they are things that their constituents want. They are not necessarily bad. But they are often not vetted through a normal process where we decide what the priorities are. And in some cases they are very insidious. In other cases it's an absurd use of taxpayers' money. It may benefit a handful of people back home but it's not good for the nation. This has gotten out of control and now we're seeing some efforts to bring it back under control, often through transparency. A lot of people who like this process don't want to see it changed.

SANCHEZ: That is good stuff. We appreciate it. Really helping -- simplifying I should say something that's real complicated too often for people and it involves our money doesn't it, Mr. Ornstein?

ORNSTEIN: Sure does.

SANCHEZ: Thanks so much. Randi, over to you.

KAYE: Thank you Rick. A check of the morning's top stories just three minutes away.

SANCHEZ: Coming up in our next hour of CNN SATURDAY MORNING, how you can clean your plate and still lose weight.

KAYE: I like the sound of that but first. Dr. Sanjay Gupta takes you to New Orleans in HOUSE CALL. Is the Crescent City's healthcare system still in critical condition one year after hurricane Katrina?


KAYE: Now in the news while you slept Ernesto was downgraded. No longer a tropical depression but still dangerous. This morning it's a big wet storm dumping a whole lot of water along the east coast. At least six deaths are blamed in Ernesto. Power is out for hundreds of thousands of people and flooding remains a very big threat.


KAYE: In Britain authorities say anti-terror sweeps have netted 16 suspects. Two of them were picked up in Manchester. And in London, Scotland Yard says 14 men were arrested after months of surveillance. An official statement said the men were arrested on suspicion of quote, "commission, preparation or instigation of acts of terrorism."