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CNN Saturday Morning News

Charges in Cruise Ship Accident; Questions About Pet Food Recall; Outrage Over Don Imus's Comments; Suicide Truck Bombing Kills 35 People in Ramadi

Aired April 07, 2007 - 09:00   ET


BETTY NGUYEN, CNN ANCHOR: All right, so, take me out to the ball game. Um, maybe not. Check this out. This snowy scene from Cleveland, and they're not alone in this Easter eve big chill.
T.J. HOLMES, CNN ANCHOR: Also, a dramatic river rescue after four people go over a dam and survive. Two of them were children. Stick around for that video. We're going to show you much more of it.

Also, this.


DON IMUS, MSNBC HOST: Some rough girls from Rutgers. Man, they've got tattoos, and some hard-core hoes. That's some nappy- headed hoes there, I'm going to tell you that.


NGUYEN: What did he say? Did you hear that right? Well now Don Imus is apologizing, but is it too little, too late? It's a talker this morning, we'll be covering it from the CNN Center here in Atlanta. Good morning, everybody, I'm Betty Nguyen.

HOLMES: And hello to you all, I'm T.J. Holmes. This is CNN SATURDAY MORNING. So glad you can be here with us.

Up first, some new info just into us. You remember this scene from that big cruise ship there? Well, charges being filed against the officers of that great cruise ship that sank in the Aegean Sea on Thursday. Net TV is now reporting a Greek prosecutor has brought charges of negligence, breeching international shipping safety regulations and polluting the environment.

And facing the charges now, the ship's captain and five of its officers. This cruise ship struck rocks in a sea field volcano crater and sank off the island of Santorini. 1,600 people had to be evacuated, two of them, a Frenchman and his daughter are still missing.

Now, a number of Americans were aboard that ship, but like we say, 1,600 people were plucked from that water and were able to be evacuated. But two still missing.

But now we've got charges against folks who were supposed to be in charge there, the captain and at least five of the crew. Developing story there. We'll stay on top of it.

NGUYEN: In the meantime, you might want to forget the Easter bonnet and grab the snow boots and gloves. Believe it or not, I know it's April, but get ready for a cold Easter weekend.

HOLMES: Look here, waiting in line for tickets to the annual White House Easter egg roll requires winter survival skills. We should be talking about Easter bunnies, not snowmen. You see kind of a snowman there. People woke up to temperatures this morning in the low 30s this morning and they also woke up to snow flurries.

NGUYEN: Yes, these are pictures from Knoxville, now, Tennessee, where snow fell overnight. Expect temperatures to dip below freezing again tonight and this picture from Atlanta. Well, no snow there.

HOLMES: Looks great.

NGUYEN: But believe it or not, overnight, Hot-lanta, yep, had a few flurries.

HOLMES: Hot-lanta, not right now.

Interesting home opener here to show you for the Cleveland Indians. Now their game with the Seattle Mariners finally postponed. The batters couldn't see through the snow. Hard to see anything, really, through that snow.


HOLMES: Certainly not a 90 mile-per-hour fastball, which is hard to hit, anyway, on the clearest day.

NGUYEN: On a clear day, yes.

HOLMES: Now the plan is to play a double-header today. But unfortunately, for the fans there, more snow in the forecast. Don't know if they're going to get that one in.

NGUYEN: Well I can tell you this, it is cold in much of the nation, so let's check in with Reynolds to see if this is going to hang around throughout the Easter weekend. Reynolds?


NGUYEN: We do want to show you though a big-time rescue near Houston, Texas. Check this video out. Four people in a boat actually dropped 150 feet over a dam on the Colorado River. Two boys, five and seven-years-old, among those who fell. The Coast Guard was able to swoop in for the save. Two of the people did have to be taken to area hospitals. Their conditions unknown this morning. We are going to get more details next hour when we check in with the coast guard, so keep it right here.

HOLMES: Also, need to tell you -- well, look at this scene, this video here of a fire. It's an apartment fire. Dozens of people in Nashville now homeless after a huge fire tore through their complex. Took about two hours for firefighters to knock down all these flames, and by the time it was over, 76 units were damaged or destroyed. Now the fire officials now believe it started with a kitchen fire in a single unit. High winds are blamed for spreading that fire so quickly.

NGUYEN: Well, that's not the only thing on fire. Check this out in New Mexico. You see that train headed straight toward the fire? Well, imagine being a passenger on this high-speed train, suddenly racing into a wall of flames. The train operator chose to keep going, rather than risk stopping right in the middle of that blaze. Passengers, get this, say they could actually feel the intense heat as they ran the fiery gauntlet.

HOLMES: Well, from the train going through fire to some fiery language on a plane. Airline flights often canceled for foul weather, but foul language? This happened in Vegas.

Now, we've all been on a flight from Vegas and got a little hung over, and a little drunk passengers, maybe still. Well, this was actually a pilot. Passengers in first class overheard a Northwest pilot using some pretty raunchy language on a cell phone. When a passenger scolded the pilot for his language, he allegedly let loose even more profanities.


ERICA GENTNER, PASSENGER: We were on the flight, and the first class people said that the pilot was up in the cockpit and he was having a fit, swearing up a storm, telling F-this, F-that, said you know, some of the people in first class had heard, and they said you know, we don't appreciate that. He almost had the people in first class ready to walk off the plane and some of them ended up walking off of the plane.


HOLMES: What in the world was he talking about?

NGUYEN: I have no - and you're about to fly a plane?

HOLMES: About to fly a plane. I don't want my pilot that upset.

NGUYEN: Is that air rage? Would you call that air rage?

HOLMES: Air rage, Betty just coined one for us this morning. Well police were called in, the pilot yanked off that plane. The flight was canceled unfortunately for those passengers. Feds now looking into this, saying they're not going to take action until Northwest announces whether they are going to punish that pilot.

NGUYEN: Well in the meantime, pet owners, many on edge today. So many questions now about what is safe to feed your pets, and on top of all that, there are new concerns about how it all happened. How did melamine get into the food? Was it intentional? CNN's Joe Johns takes a look. (BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

JOE JOHNS, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): When will it end? Del Monte Pet Products announcing it is extending its recall to a variety of treats, snacks, and beef sticks for dogs -- the company called it a precautionary measure -- another day in what could turn out to be the largest pet food recall in history.

And the one thing everyone can agree on is that a chemical called melamine was found in wheat gluten that was used to make the food. The chemical simply isn't supposed to be there, but it appeared at levels of 6 percent or higher, which would be considered a very large amount if this were a random -- in other words, accidental -- contamination.

All of the companies that bought or sold the gluten deny adding melamine, but one theory FDA investigators are exploring is whether the melamine was introduced intentionally into the wheat gluten. Why would somebody do that?

(on camera): One answer is that this whole thing could have been about money, in other words, to make it look like the wheat gluten had higher levels of protein than it actually did, and, therefore, could be sold for more money.

(voice-over): That's right. More protein is considered good. So hypothetically, at least:

DAN WATTS, NEW JERSEY INSTITUTE OF TECHNOLOGY: You're trying to convince your customer that you have higher quality protein than you actually have.

JOHNS: Dan Watts is a chemist with the New Jersey Institute of Technology. He says melamine is rich in nitrogen. Protein is rich in nitrogen. High levels of nitrogen would make wheat gluten appear to have lots of protein. But the chemical wouldn't actually raise the protein levels at all.

So, basically, the theory FDA is investigating is that someone could have been trying to run a scam, with no reason to believe any pets would get sick as a result of it.

WATTS: And not necessarily setting out to do anything that was going to be harmful, perhaps setting out to do something that was a commercial fraud.

JOHNS: Until now, no firm research has ever suggested that melamine could be harmful to dogs and cats. And the government is still not certain whether the chemical itself has actually sickened or killed the pets, or if melamine is actually a so-called marker for some other toxic substance.

The research is spotty, and there's not even a basic clearinghouse to track all the pets sickened or killed. The FDA has turned to one indicator, though, the chain of 600 Banfield pet hospitals across the U.S. plugs information into a database every time an owner shows up with a sick pet. Like the FDA, Banfield says it is starting to see fewer reports, so the worst for pet owners might be over. But the FDA is just beginning to get to the bottom of why pets all over the country got sick or died from eating contaminated food.

Joe Johns, CNN, Washington.


NGUYEN: Do want to let you know that we have posted the entire list of recalled products, including the most recent additions, on our Web site. Check it out at And then look at ticker at the bottom of the screen right now. We are listing all of the affected brands throughout the morning.

HOLMES: All right, well, he said he's sorry, but this time we don't know if that's going to get her done, Betty.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We're talking about girls, college girls, who tried their best to win a championship, and he degrades them by calling them nappy-headed hos.


HOLMES: Yes, we're going to take a closer look at this controversy over Don Imus's outrageous comments.

NGUYEN: Also, what if there's an election and nobody votes, not even the candidates? We're going to tell you where that happened this week.

And this.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: From the light fixtures to the hot water heater, everything is gone, including the kitchen sink.


HOLMES: Literally took everything including the kitchen sink.

NGUYEN: This is a wild story.

HOLMES: Yes, when cleaning house is a crime. That story, a little later on this CNN SATURDAY MORNING.


NGUYEN: Do want to tell you about a deadly explosion and a chlorine gas attack in Iraq. The suicide truck bomber was carrying chlorine gas cylinders and detonated his explosives at a police checkpoint in Ramadi yesterday. That explosion killed at least 35 people and spewed chlorine gas into the air. Forty more were injured. Many of the victims were women and children. The U.S. military says insurgents have used chlorine in several attacks.

HOLMES: Well, a lot of insurgent violence seems so far away for many of us, but it's certainly hitting close to home for actually one of the princes, well, Great Britain's princes. That picture right there is one of the best friends of Prince William. He's mourning the death of a friend in Basra, a really close friend. This was second lieutenant Joanna Yorke Dyer, one of four British soldiers killed Thursday by a roadside bomb. The two had actually trained together and graduated from the same military academy and on the same day. Prince William cannot serve in a war zone because he is second-in-line to the throne. His younger brother, Prince Harry, is expected to be deployed to Iraq in the next few months.

NGUYEN: Back home in Britain, safe and sound, but those 15 freed British troops taken by Iran had plenty to say about their time in captivity. A very different picture than what we saw on Iranian television. But did Iran violate international law? CNN's Brian Todd takes a look.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Again, I deeply apologize for entering your waters.

BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT voice-over): They make claims of interrogation, mind games, overall stark treatment at the hands of their Iranian captors.

LT. FELIX CARMAN, BRITISH ROYAL NAVY: We were blindfolded at all times and kept in isolation from each other.

TODD: An Iranian official we contacted denies the charges, says these British sailors and marines were not held in isolation. But if true, military law experts say Iran may have at least skirted the brink of violating Article 3 of the Geneva Conventions, prohibiting outrages upon personal dignity, humiliating and degrading treatment.

Isolation would violate the Conventions, one expert says, but only if it was for more than a day at a time and if they were deprived of food.

The British say they were fed. On this claim...

CARMAN: We were put up against the wall, hands bound, blindfolded, and people were cocking weapons in the background.

SCOTT SILLIMAN, DUKE UNIVERSITY LAW SCHOOL: If, in fact, the cocking of the weapons was meant to be a threat that unless they talked, they would be killed, then I think that would be a clear violation of Common Article 3. If, in fact, that was just the cocking of weapons, it was not in any way tied or a threat with regard to the questioning, then it might not be a violation.

TODD: Would this have crossed the line?

CARMAN: We were stripped and then dressed in pajamas? TODD: Not a violation if they were just told to change clothes, says an expert, and if it wasn't done to humiliate them.

The British say the only woman among then, Faye Turney, was isolated and tricked right after their capture.

CAPT. CHRISTOPHER AIR, BRITISH ROYAL MARINES: She was told shortly afterward that we had all been returned home and was under the impression for about four days that she was the only one there.

TODD: One expert says even that kind of trickery does not violate the Geneva Conventions. Brian Todd, CNN, Washington.


HOLMES: And coming up a little later in this program, CNN military analyst General James Spider Marks is going to join us to take a closer look at the Iranian tactics. He's also going to discuss what the U.S. military can do to avoid a similar fate. That's coming your way at 10:30 Eastern.

NGUYEN: Well, radio host Don Imus is no stranger to controversy.

HOLMES: Not at all. But this time, did he go too far? Hear this for yourself. You need to stick around and hear what he had to say and also understand why he's apologizing. That story is straight ahead.

NGUYEN: And Rene Syler, from a high-profile firing to the fight for her life. The former CBS "Early Show' anchor is now on top of the world with a new book. She joins us live next hour.

But first.


GERRI WILLIS, CNN ANCHOR: Coming up at 9:30 a.m. Eastern, if you have an adjustable-rate mortgage or are thinking of getting one, do not miss this program. We'll tell you what you need to know.

Plus, everything in your home that could bring its value down.

And buying or leasing a car. You'll learn which is best for you. That's "OPEN HOUSE," the show that saves you money, 9:30 a.m. Eastern right here on CNN.



HOLMES: The CNN Web site, always a popular place. You should check it out yourself, because the top story this morning there is the toddler with an assault rifle. Yes. Shocking video here. Woo! Comes to us from a pawn shop in Louisiana. In it, a man shows a little boy in diapers how to carry, how to load, and in fact how to shoot an AK-47, which the man is calling a chopper in that video. Also, most popular at right now, the 102-year-old golfer who hit a hole-in-one on a 96-yard par 3. Her incredible shot put her in the record books.

Then, we've got this on our web site.

This is really some sad, painful video to watch out of a courtroom in Tennessee. This outburst here, relatives of a murder victim just really lost it there in the courtroom when the killer ended up cutting a deal with prosecutors.

And rounding out the top four most popular this morning, a deadly risk in your kitchen you probably never thought about, stoves that tip over. CNN's Greg Hunter exposes the danger and the easy, easy way you can fix it.

NGUYEN: Well, what if they had an election and nobody came? That strange scenario is playing out in Missouri City. Missouri's third ward, to be exact. Granted, there are only 34 registered voters allowed to vote in last Tuesday's city council election, but no one person made it to the polls. T.J.'s laughing. Can you believe it?

HOLMES: That is sad.

NGUYEN: Not even the unopposed candidate.



JOE SELLE, WARD 3 ALDERMAN: You've got to find some assumer in it. It certainly, you know, just kind of an oversight on my part and a lot of people in town here, I think. You know, we definitely got some things we need to work on as far as getting some people to the polls.


NGUYEN: Uh, you think so, Joe? Well, Joe Selle may want to start with himself. He says he actually forgot about the election. But he still wins since nobody beat him. Ward 3 wasn't the only one with a bad voter turnout. Ward 1 had only two voters. That candidate won, and his wife.

HOLMES: At least two people voted there, he didn't even vote for himself. He doesn't deserve to serve.

NGUYEN: No, he forgot. Well apparently, no one else voted, so I don't know.

OK, some people think Don Imus is racist, sexist and just plain mean.

HOLMES: And once again, the radio show host in a bit of trouble. Imus says he's sorry for what he called players on a women's basketball team. But as CNN's Mary Snow reports, many are saying sorry, Imus, apology not accepted.


MARY SNOW, CNN CORRESPONDENT(voice-over): Don Imus is apologizing for what he calls an insensitive and ill-conceived remark, but some say his apology falls short. It all started after Tuesday's NCAA women's championship game between Tennessee and Rutgers. Take a listen for yourself what Imus said about the Rutgers team during a conversation with sportscaster Sid Rosenberg and the show's executive producer, Bernard McGuirk.

IMUS: That's some rough girls from Rutgers. Man, they got tattoos and some hard-core "hos". That's some "nappy-headed hos" there. I'm going to tell you that now.

SNOW: Imus' comments were met with shock and disgust by the National Association of Black Journalists.

BARBRA CIARA, NATL ASSN. OF BLACK JOURNALISTS: We don't understand that a long-term veteran broadcaster wouldn't think that it would hurt the feelings of student athletes. We're talking about girls, college girls who tried their best to win a championship and he degrades them by calling them "nappy-headed hos".

SNOW: Imus issued an apology saying, quote, "it was completely inappropriate and we can understand why people were offended. Our characterization was thoughtless and stupid and we are sorry."

MSNBC, which simulcast the "Don Imus Show" every morning for three hours, tried to distance itself saying the "Imus Show" is not produced by the network and apologized for quote, "offensive comments." Following Imus' apology, Rutgers and the NCAA issued a joint statement to what they said were the insults directed toward the Rutgers Women Basketball Team, saying it is unconscionable that anyone would use the airways to utter such disregard for the dignity of human beings who have accomplished much and deserve great credit.

But the National Association of Black Journalists is not satisfied, and is calling for a boycott of the "Imus Show" and for Imus to be fired, if he doesn't take more action.

CIARA: Just, you know, saying I'm sorry is not going to do it. He needs to outreach. He needs to reach out to those student athletes. He needs to have a larger statement regarding what he said.

SNOW: The journalist group calls Imus's apology too little, too late, and they cite a history of racial insults on his show. We tried contacting Imus and others on the show when those controversial comments were made, but we were unable to reach them, and we were referred to the public apology that was made. Mary Snow, CNN, New York.


NGUYEN: Well, the ad says everything must go, and you guessed it, everything went. But up next, how one posting on Craigslist helped clean out this home.

HOLMES: Then on "OPEN HOUSE," Gerri Willis takes a closer look at ways to protect yourself if you're in the market for a mortgage.

NGUYEN: And Tiger Woods at the masters. It has been ten years since he wowed the world and changed the championship. We are live from Augusta next hour. CNN SATURDAY MORNING continues in just a moment.


NGUYEN: Well and ad on the Web site said come and get it and they did, but the trouble is the homeowner didn't know anything about it.

HOLMES: Which would be a problem. We're going to get this story now from Tricia-Manning Smith of CNN affiliate KING in Seattle.


TRICIA MANNING-SMITH, KING CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The outside of her home is trashed. The inside is nearly gutted and covered in graffiti. Laurie Raye is devastated.

LAURIE RAYE, VANDALIZED HOMEOWNER: But it hurts. I was attached to this home because it used to be my mom's.

MANNING-SMITH: A phone caller alerted Raye to the destruction. She walked through her garbage-strewn front yard to find her house dismantled.

RAYE: Including the front door. This used to be a very nice vinyl window here.

MANNING-SMITH: From the light fixtures to the hot water heater, everything is gone, including the kitchen sink. Her neighbors later reported seeing strangers hauling stuff away from her home, seemingly looking for salvage material.

RAYE: Because in the ad, it said come and take what you want, everything is free.

MANNING-SMITH: This is the ad, posted on Craigslist last weekend. Please help yourself to anything on the property. An off- duty Tacoma police officer noticed the Craigslist ad last week, inviting people to enter the unlocked house and take whatever they wanted. Later that same officer noticed the ad was flagged and canceled after a reported burglary at the house.

GRETCHEN ELLIS, TACOMA POLICE: It's typical we get a lot of scams off of Craigslist, we've had prostitution things happen. We've had rental scams, fraudulent activity, that type of thing. And in this case, and it appeared the items were just being given away, which they were not.

RAYE: This can happen to anybody, but look what happened to me. MANNING-SMITH: Raye believes the unknown person who posted the ad carries a personal grudge against her. But that person also conned unsuspecting people into taking part.

RAYE: The instigator that published this ad invited the public to come in and vandalize me.


NGUYEN: Do you know how mad I would be? Anyone in that position.

HOLMES: I cannot imagine.

NGUYEN: It's just awful that none of it was checked before these people got there and just thought they had free range.

HOLMES: But the homeowner there actually got in touch with Craigslist, trying to figure out what was going on, and who did this. Well the site couldn't tell her who posted that ad without the subpoena or a search warrant, so to be continued.

NGUYEN: Oh, absolutely. All right, we do want to show you a daring rescue on the Colorado River. We're going to check in with the coast guard, in fact, at the top of the hour. But first, "OPEN HOUSE" with Gerri Willis starts right now.