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CNN Saturday Morning News

Failure in Iraq?; Fire in Oklahoma; Global Warming Impacting Housing Market; Flight of Fancy

Aired April 28, 2007 - 09:00   ET


DR SANJAY GUPTA, CNN MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: Thanks for watching. I'm Dr. Sanjay Gupta. Stay where you are for the latest headlines in the NEWSROOM, which starts right now.
T.J. HOLMES, CNN ANCHOR, CNN SATURDAY MORNING: Hello there from the CNN Center in Atlanta, Georgia. This is CNN SATURDAY MORNING. Hello to you all. I'm T.J. Holmes.

BETTY NGUYEN, CNN CO-ANCHOR, CNN SATURDAY MORNING: Good morning, everybody. I'm Betty Nguyen. We want to thank you for starting your day with us.

HOLMES: We have some new video for us here to show you as a fire in Oklahoma continues to burn out of control. Yes, we've been watching these pictures from overnight and this morning now. We'll have a live report on this straight ahead.

NGUYEN: Also, big questions this morning about the war in Iraq and whether there has been a general failure. We're going to tell you what that means.

HOLMES: Also, location, location, location. It may be more important than ever with the idea of global warming impacting the housing market.

We've got all that, plus this --


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I could have (INAUDIBLE) space, here I come.


NGUYEN: He gave the world new insights into gravity, and now he has defied it. Check this out. We're going to show you Stephen Hawking's flight of fancy.

HOLMES: But we are going to begin with serious allegations aimed at top military leaders. An active duty commander now speaking out, saying problems with the war in Iraq can be traced back 40 years. CNN Pentagon correspondent Barbara Starr has this story.


BARBARA STARR, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice over): It's a damning indictment of the U.S. generals running the Iraq war from an officer currently serving who has done two tours of duty there. In the latest issue of "Armed Forces Journal," a privately owned magazine, Army Lieutenant Colonel Paul Yingling writes, "America's generals have repeated the mistakes of Vietnam in Iraq." He calls it "a crises in American generalship." Yingling says, like the Vietnam years, America's generals throughout the 1990s failed to anticipate the need to train their forces for the type of unconventional war that has emerged in Iraq.

GEN. DAVID PETRAEUS, CMDR. MULTINATIONAL FORCES IN IRAQ: And I don't think anyone would say that there were not mistakes, or that there were not a variety of areas in which we could and should have done better.

STARR: Lieutenant Colonel Yingling, now a deputy commander at the 3rd Armored Cavalry Regiment at Ft. Hood, Texas, says there have never been enough troops and the generals did not provide Congress and the public with an accurate assessment of the conflict in Iraq.

Again, something many say occurred in the Vietnam War. It's rare for an active-duty officer to go public. Retired officers have, however, been speaking out for months. Some say General David Petraeus, the new top commander in Iraq, just won't be able to make a difference.

COL. DOUG MACGREGOR (RET.) U.S. ARMY: The notion that he is going to have any profound impact on this thing, tactically or otherwise, is open to very serious debate.

STARR: Lieutenant Colonel Yingling doesn't name any generals. In fact, he says it's not a problem with individual generals, but rather, a crisis in the military institution.

Barbara Starr, CNN, the Pentagon.


NGUYEN: Well, a brand new look at the rescue of former prisoner of war Jessica Lynch. Take a look at this new Internet video. It shows previously unseen events from her rescue. And you can see Lynch is injured, unable to get up on her own. And she's still a little shaken up as one soldier actually gives her the American flag patch off of his own uniform. This is the way Jessica Lynch described the scene during this week's testimony on Capitol Hill.


JESSICA LYNCH, FORMER POW IN IRAQ: On April 1st, while various units created diversions around Nasiriyah (ph), a group came to the hospital to rescue me. I could hear them speaking in English, but I was still very afraid. Then a soldier came into the room. He tore the American flag from his uniform, and he handed it to me in my hand. And he told me, "we're American soldiers, and we're here to take you home." And I looked out at him, I said, "yes, I'm an American soldier, too."

(END VIDEOTAPE) NGUYEN: Also in that testimony, Lynch pointed out that parts of her story were made up by the military, and she said that her rescuers and fellow soldiers were the real heroes.

HOLMES: Paying for the war in Iraq. President Bush promising to veto the bill passed this week because Democrats included a timetable for troop withdrawals. That's putting Democrats to reach out to Republicans in an effort to create a new veto-proof legislation.

Meanwhile, President Bush has invited both sides to the White House Wednesday to discuss the impasse. The president's veto is expected Tuesday, and that just happens to be the fourth anniversary of his speech aboard the "USS Abraham Lincoln," where he said major combat operations were over.

You can tune in tonight for "This Week at War." CNN correspondents discuss the debate over progress in Iraq and the war of words over funding. Tom Foreman host "This Week at War," that is tonight at 7:00 Eastern.

NGUYEN: Well, an alleged terror plot foiled. The security forces in Saudi Arabia say they have disrupted a plot to attack oil installations and government officials. A huge catch cache of weapons has been confiscated, along with more than $5 million. Officials say 172 militants were detained over a nine-month period. They're suspected members of an al Qaeda cell. Saudi authorities say the arrests resulted from a lengthy investigation.


GEN. MANSOUR AL-TURKI, SAUDI ARABIA INTERIOR MINISTRY (via video): This work has taken several months. And usually, the was based on strong suspicions and through investigation, you start gathering information about those that have been involved in their activities or about their planning, and so on, actually. You get to this information (INAUDIBLE).


NGUYEN: Now, authorities say part of the plan was to fly airplanes into oil facilities.

HOLMES: Former CIA director George Tenet says he's a scapegoat. Blamed, defamed, and hung out to dry for pushing the war in Iraq. Tenet claims a comment he made in 2003, that infamous "slam dunk" on Iraq's purported WMDs, has been taken out of context to wreck his career. He tells "60 Minutes" ahead of a book launch, is the worst thing that has ever happened to him.


GEORGE TENET, FORMER CIA DIRECTOR: I remember picking up the phone and calling Andy Card, who is a terrific human being, and somebody I've always trusted. And I said --

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The president's chief of staff at time. TENET: President's chief of staff. Called Andy, I said, you know, we believe -- I believed that he had weapons of mass destruction. And now what's happened here is, you've gone out and made me look stupid. It's the most despicable thing I've ever heard in my life. Men of honor don't do this.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Men of honor don't do this?

TENET: You don't do this. You don't throw people overboard. You don't give them -- you don't call somebody in. You work your heart up, you show up every day. You're going to throw somebody overboard just because it's a deflection? Is that honorable? It's not honorable to me. OK? That's how I feel. Now, how it happened and who orchestrated it, and what happened, you know, at the end of the day, the only thing you have is trust and honor in this world. That's all you have. All you have is your reputation built on trust and your personal honor. When you don't have that anymore, well, you know, trust was broken.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Between you and the White House?

TENET: You bet. You bet.


HOLMES: White House Counselor Dan Bartlett denies Tenet's description of a rush to war without serious debate, saying the president did "wrestle with those serious questions." And George Tenet is Larry King's guest Monday night at 9:00 Eastern that of course right here on CNN.

NGUYEN: Well all morning we have been following developments at this overnight refinery fire in Oklahoma. Look at the new video coming into CNN. You can just see the flames and the big, black smoke. Reporter Jordan Williams of CNN affiliate KOCO joins us live from Oklahoma. Give us information on exactly how this started and why it's continuing to burn as of right now.

JORDAN WILLIAMS, KOCO: Well, Betty, it all began with a lightning strike around 11:30 yesterday morning. And you can see just how big the fire still is over my shoulder right now. The flames have really been going strong all night long. You can see, also, as we pan up, just how big the plume of smoke this fire is that's producing. There are two storage tanks on fire at this refinery. It's the Wynnewood Refinery, an independent refinery here in south-central Oklahoma. What we're hearing is what was inside those two storage tanks is one is a blend of gasoline and the other has diesel inside. I want to show you more of the video we got overnight. We were able to get up very close to this fire, right along the actual gate of the plant.

And what I can tell you is, as you said, 11:30 yesterday morning this began with a lightning strike, Betty. And the fire, really, they thought they had it contained. They worked all day to pour foam and water on it. But the fire spread around 8:30 last night when the storage tank collapsed. There was an explosion. People heard and felt the force of it for miles here in this small town. We got a lot of phone calls at our station in Oklahoma City, and we rushed back down here and realized just how big this fire was. Some people said they saw flames shooting several hundred feet into the air. But this is a town really centered around this small refinery.

And for them, the people here, this fire is actually not that strange. They felt this kind of thing before. They had a fire here in one of their processing units last year. This plant produced a variety of things from gasoline to diesel, even jet fuel and asphalt for us here in central Oklahoma. We understand the Environmental Protection Agency, the EPA, is on the scene this morning investigating. So far, there have not been any evacuations in this, which is pretty hard to believe. And also no injuries inside the plant or inside this town. And there are quite a few homes up very close to the edge of the plant. As for why it's still burning this morning, we really don't know.

Fires like this are typically very tough to get out. And when you talk about very flammable things like diesel fuel and a blend of gasoline, those are the sort of things that are apparently keeping this fire going. Firefighters have been here throughout the night, but this fire really showing no signs of slowing down.

Reporting in Wynnewood, Oklahoma, I'm Jordan Williams for CNN. Back to you.

NGUYEN: Let me ask you, because we're still watching a big, black plume of smoke. And this place produces some 50,000 barrels of oil a day. Sometimes when it comes to these refinery fires, the only thing to do is let it burn itself out. Have you heard any talk of that? Is that why it's continuing to burn at this hour?

WILLIAMS: You know, we're not really getting much information from the local authorities here. The people who are on scene are actually inside the refinery. We've been working to get more information, but that is certainly a very good guess, based on what we can see and just how large this fire still is this morning. I'd estimate the flames are probably still 50, 60, maybe 70 feet into the air. See you can see them coming up almost to the top of the towers here at the refinery. And really this what we've been watching all night long, we couldn't see the smoke until sunrise, and now you can see just how much it's producing. But again, they are saying it's not toxic. No evacuations at this point here in this town here in south- central Oklahoma.


NGUYEN: All right. We'll keep a watch on it. Jordan Williams of affiliate KOCO. Thank you.

Well, the video is still very hard to watch. Check this out. Remember this video? How could you forget it? An elderly woman mugged and beaten in her apartment building. Now there is an arrest, and we're going bring you those details.

HOLMES: Also, the high cost of getting an education and not getting ripped off in the process on your student loan. Yes, mama told you! Listen to ma.

NGUYEN: Ma's always right.

HOLMES: You better shop around. That story coming up.

NGUYEN: But first, more money-saving trips are straight ahead on "Open House." Gerri Willis has a preview.

GERRI WILLIS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Coming up at 9:30 a.m. Eastern, global warming hits home, and we'll tell you how the climate change could affect your property value.

And what do all those organic labels at the grocery store actually mean? We'll tell you if it pays to buy green. That's "Open House," the show that saves you money, 9:30 a.m. Eastern right here on CNN.



REP. JOSEPH COURTNEY, (D) CONNECTICUT: Going to college now is like buying a house in terms of the cost, and that's really has raised the stakes for everybody.


HOLMES: Just how are American families are getting paid for that education is coming under tighter scrutiny. New York State Attorney General Andrew Cuomo is leading an investigation into the questionable ties between universities and banks providing student loans. The problem here the process by which banks got on those preferred lender lists that are given to students. I asked CNN personal finance director Gerri Willis about the scandal.

WILLIS: Well, T.J., it really comes down to financial aid officers receiving kickbacks and payments from lenders to be highly recommended to colleges for student loans across the country. Now, the investigation launched by New York Attorney General Andrew Cuomo really highlights the cozy relationship between student loan lenders and colleges.

However, in light of this, many colleges have agreed to change the way they recommend lenders to students. Just this week Cuomo announced settlements with schools such as Devry University, Washington University in St. Louis, and Career Education Corporation for their involvement in suspicious student loan practices.

Cuomo has also said he might be considering criminal charges in certain cases involving certain financial aid officers. So this scandal has really reached from the top to the bottom of the industry. .


HOLMES: All right, a scandal here. Sounds like a big one. But for the average college student who has plenty of other things going on in their mind right now, a lot of kids trying to get into school as well, how will this impact just the average, everyday student? What do they need to be paying attention to here?

WILLIS: Depending on the lender some students could receive a refund. But you really need to contact them directly to see if you are eligible. But how many students will get money and what the exact amounts will be are still a mystery, according to the schools. Some students from schools like NYU got back on average about $60 from Citibank with some students, T.J., getting as little as 25 cents.

HOLMES: Ew, that's no good.

WILLIS: You generally won't be getting a check, but the principal amount on your loan should decrease. The schools have about four months to reimburse you. If you have fully paid off your loan, you'll want to contact the school and make sure they have your mailing address. Just some practical points there.

HOLMES: All right. Well, some kids, some families, of course, trying to get into school and trying to finance that schooling coming up in the fall. They hear this now. They might get a little worried. So I guess they should calm down first of all, but what should they do to make sure they get a good deal?

WILLIS: Shop around, shop around, shop around. Look, in a recent survey, 63 percent of those with college debt spent little to no time comparing shopping for student loans. Take a look at the school's preferred lender list. Now these are the lists of lenders that the school steers students towards for their loans. To find out who is on your school's preferred lender list, go online and look under the school's financial aid section. You should be able to view the criteria the lender had to meet in order to get on the list in the first place. Generally, the first lender on a preferred lender list, T.J., gets up to 95 percent of the college's student loan volume. But it's important to note that you can borrow from any lender, not just the college's preferred lenders. That's really important. Colleges are required to certify loans from all education lenders, even if they're not on the list.

HOLMES: Of course, we've got "Open House" coming up this weekend. What have you got?

WILLIS: Well, we're dealing with the housing downturn. You've heard about this. What are the latest housing numbers mean for the spring selling and buying season?

And global warming, how is the crisis affecting where people buy homes?

And understanding organic. We see all the labels in the supermarket, but what do they mean? We're going to tell you. We'll tell you all about it, T.J. we've got a big show coming up at 9:30.

HOLMES: Well, we will see you at 9:30. Gerri Willis, always a pleasure. WILLIS: A pleasure. Thank you, T.J.

NGUYEN: Hope you'll be watching as well. But right now, a brilliant mind escapes the confines of his disabled body.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Professor Hawking reached for the sky and he touched the heavens.

NGUYEN: Stephen Hawking's amazing journey, that is later this hour.

HOLMES: And he's not the only one thinking about the final frontier. Family members and trekies everywhere bid bon voyage to Scotty.


HOLMES: All right, you see this surveillance video, and you remember it, and you probably can't stand watching it much. This is the brutal mugging of a 101-year-old woman in her apartment building. The woman says she's doing just fine now, especially after learning someone has been arrested in this case. And this is the new video we're getting today of the 44-year-old suspect in that case, that's Jack Rhodes. He's accused of robbing and beating that 101-year-old woman, also an 85-year-old woman the same day at the -- that the videotaped attack happened as well.

NGUYEN: Well as usual, many of you are both watching us and surfing the Web this morning.

HOLMES: And the most popular story right now at "In Your Face" as CNN's Carol Costello explains, not by chance that heckling in America has gotten ruder and cruder.

NGUYEN: The second most popular, "Saving Private Lynch." It is the dramatic new video that we've been showing you of Jessica Lynch's rescue. You'll recall the former private was badly injured when U.S. forces found her in Iraq in 2003.

HOLMES: The number three story, "Brad's Not Here, try Angelina's Place." It's the story of an elderly man who somehow has been mistaken for Hollywood golden boy Brad Pitt.

NGUYEN: You don't see the similarity? Come on!

HOLMES: A little bit, a little bit. This is just one little goof on the Internet. That's all it took for this to happen. But check that out.

NGUYEN: And rounding out the top four, "Stop that Bus!" Richard Gere's unauthorized kiss of a Hollywood starlet has put him in hot water with some Indian authorities. Now everyone wants to know what is going to happen next.

HOLMES: To think he could actually be arrested if he goes back.

NGUYEN: For a kiss.

HOLMES: It's serious.

NGUYEN: A kiss is just a kiss, right? Apparently not there.

HOLMES: Should be a better kiss if he's going to be arrested for it. That was just a cheek.

NGUYEN: That's all he got.

Up, up and away. And up next, astrophysicist Stephen Hawking goes on the flight of his life.

HOLMES: And at 9:30, saving money and the environment online. Gerri Willis will tell us how. That's on "Open House."

NGUYEN: And at 10:00, he is the most powerful man in Oregon, and he is living on food stamps. We're going to tell you why as CNN SATURDAY MORNING continues.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Scotty, beam me up.

NGUYEN: Who knew those four words would be so appropriate today? Yes, the late actor James Doohan, best known as Scotty on the original "Star Trek" TV show will head out of this world today. Well, at least, part of him will.

HOLMES: Yeah, if all goes according to planned. His cremated remains are set to blast off today aboard a private rocket in the New Mexico desert.

NGUYEN: That's one way to go.

HOLMES: That's one way. No one knows, of course, if we're alone in the universe, but a new study raises intriguing possibilities.

NGUYEN: A team of European astronomers have discovered a planet that circulates a red dwarf star. This is 120 trillion miles from Earth. Now the surface temperature is estimated between 32 and 104 degrees Fahrenheit, that's a big range. And there may be water also, the central ingredient for life, as we know it. Scientists say it's much too early to conclude that we have extraterrestrial neighbors, although T.J. may tell you a different story.

HOLMES: Well, I did have that experience.

NGUYEN: Right, that out-of-body experience.

HOLMES: Yes, that one time.

NGUYEN: It was the ultimate thrill ride, speaking of experiences. World famous astrophysicist Stephen Hawking escaping the bounds of his wheelchair after years of debilitating illness.

HOLMES: Yeah. Actually escaping gravity itself. CNN's space correspondent Miles O'Brien reports for us.


MILES O'BRIEN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice over): Stephen Hawking was waiting for this not so weighty moment for years. The brilliant astrophysicist and best-selling popularizer of science slipping the bonds of gravity after nearly four decades in a wheelchair.

STEPHEN HAWKING: It was amazing.

O'BRIEN: Hawking suffers from Ameotrophic lateral sclerosis or Lou Garrick's Disease. He is almost totally paralyzed, unable to speak without computerized assistance, but there was no mistaking his enthusiasm as he floated free.

PETER DIAMONDIS, ZERO G CORP: Professor Hawking reached for the sky and he touched the heavens today. And the best thing is, if someone like he can go, all of you can go as well.

O'BRIEN: He got a free ride on a specially rigged 727, flown by a company called Zero G, which offers astronaut-style thrills to anyone willing and able to pay $3500. The plane flies on a wild roller coaster pattern, giving passengers 30-second spurts of weightlessness, which I got a chance to experience a few years ago. Hawking and his doctors were most worried about the steep climb after the free fall, where passengers suddenly get ...