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CNN Saturday Morning News

President Bush Meets with Pope Benedict XVI; Celebrity Justice; "Atlantis" Shuttle Damaged

Aired June 09, 2007 - 09:00   ET


T.J. HOLMES, CNN ANCHOR, CNN SATURDAY MORNING: Hello there everybody. From the CNN Center in Atlanta, Georgia, I'm T.J. Holmes, and this is CNN SATURDAY MORNING.
BETTY NGUYEN, CNN CO-ANCHOR, CNN SATURDAY MORNING: Yes, good morning everybody. I'm Betty Nguyen. We want to thank you for starting your day with us.

Well it is a first at the Vatican. Yes, President Bush has his first meeting with the new pope. We're going to take you live to Rome.

Plus is Paris Hilton in jail because she is just too famous? We're going to look at celebrity justice in America.

HOLMES: From those tears to a tear in part of the shuttles heat protection system. It was discovered just after last night's liftoff. We will get into that.

Meanwhile, President Bush taking in some of the sights in Rome this morning. Not the coliseum or the Sistine Chapel, instead the presidential palace and a meeting with the pope. It's all part of his post-G8 European swing. CNN White House correspondent Suzanne Malveaux live in for us this morning. Hello to you Suzanne.

SUZANNE MALVEAUX, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Good morning, T.J. At this very moment, President Bush is meeting with Italy's Prime Minister Romano Prodi, and there's a lot of attention, actually, on what kind of relationship it is. Both of these men have known each other for a while, as Prodi was the head of the European Union even before President Bush went here to Europe in an interview. He was fondly recalling a time when a two of them had a bike/jog along the beach when the Summit was held in the United States.

But the big question here is really about policy, whether or not his policy is any different than the former Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi. He was a very good friend of the president and a big-time supporter of the Iraq war. Since Prodi has taken over, the Italian troops essentially have left, and there is some frustration as well over Afghanistan and NATO forces. The Italian forces are there in Afghanistan, but the United States, as well as other members, want them to be positioned in a place where they could take on the Taliban and share some of the risk. So those are just some of the policy issues, T.J. that these two leaders are dealing with.

HOLMES: All right. While he's dealing with policy there, he also got to hang out with the pontiff. The president meeting with the pope. How did that meeting go?

MALVEAUX: Well, it was great because I actually got a chance to come along. The president met with the pope for the first time, he was greeted by the Swiss Guard in the Vatican courtyard, and then they met together in the private library for a chat. They exchanged gifts as well. The pope gave president a drawing of St. Peter's Basilica as well as a Vatican medal and some coins. And then President Bush gave the pope; it looked like kind of a staff, a walking stick that was carved with the Ten Commandments that had been done by essentially a gift by a homeless man from Texas, so very interesting, the exchange of gifts.

Now, what is most troubling for this pope, however, is Iraq. They said they talked about a lot of things, but the statement coming from the Vatican is that, in their words, it is a worrying situation in Iraq, and the critical conditions being experienced by Christian communities, Christians inside of Iraq that are being targeted, that are essentially abandoning their churches because of the sectarian violence there. That is something that's very serious that the two leaders discussed.


HOLMES: Well, Suzanne got to go along for the meeting with the pope. Thank you so much. Coming to us from a windy Rome. Peace be with you, Suzanne. Thank you so much.

MALVEAUX: I guess that's appropriate. Peace be with you.

HOLMES: It is. Thank you so much, Suzanne.

Meanwhile, we'll turn to a story here that might have David Letterman a little anxious. A prison escape in Montana causing a bit of anxiety possibly. One of the two escapees, Kelly Frank, once accused of plotting to kidnap David Letterman's son. So far, no comment from Letterman about the escape. Frank was serving a ten-year sentence for other charges, among them overcharging Letterman for a painting job. Prosecutors dropped the kidnap related charges as part of a plea deal. Corrections officials say Frank and an inmate William Willcutt escaped while working on a prison ranch yesterday. Willcutt was serving time for burglary.

NGUYEN: Paris Hilton well she is going to be waking up in jail this morning, assuming she got any sleep at all. A judge ordered Hilton back to jail to serve out the rest of her sentence for a reckless driving parole violation. He apparently thought the sheriff was wrong in releasing Hilton to home confinement, but was justice served here? CNN's Randi Kaye looks at how other celebrities have been treated.


PARIS HILTON: And I hope that I'm an example to other young people when they make decisions.

RANDI KAYE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Privileged and pampered. Paris Hilton has been given a bitter taste of how the other half lives, forced to follow a judge's order to come to court, handcuffed, made to serve out her sentence in jail instead of her 2,700 square foot west Hollywood mansion. It's not the treatment that celubutante is used to, especially not in L.A. Justice may have been hard on Hilton, but that's certainly not the norm.

Model Naomi Campbell mopped floors and cleaned toilets at a garbage depot after she assaulted her housekeeper. Mel Gibson was placed on three years probation and mandatory rehab for driving drunk. Halle Berry paid a fine and performed community service for leaving the scene of an accident. Snoop Dogg got a suspended sentence and 800 hours of community service for gun and drug possession. Boy George swept New York's streets for five days for filing a false police report. And then there was O.J.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We, the jury, in the above-entitled action find the defendant, Orenthal James Simpson not guilty of the crime of murder.

KAYE: Acquitted of killing his ex-wife Nicole and her friend Ron Goldman. And M.J., acquitted of child molestation charges, both found not guilty by juries. Two controversial cases that left many Americans believing the rich and famous are the favored ones.

REV. AL SHARPTON, CIVIL RIGHTS ACTIVIST: I'm convinced that, if Paris Hilton was the daughter of a white worker in West Virginia, in the coal mines, or a black millionaire rapper, she would not have gotten treated like this. There's class, race issues here.

KAYE: Is Paris paying the price for all the celebs who have seemingly skated through the justice system? There are those who would say yes.

HARVEY LEVIN, TMZ.COM: There's no sense you can make of that kind of a ruling. It's just so out of whack with reality. And she ended up serving about what anybody would serve because the sheriff would have sprung anybody free.

KATE: If that has you feeling Paris' pain, take heart. The heiress will reportedly spend the weekend in the jail's medical facility, and her lawyers are still on the case, trying their best to get their client released. And so the saga continues.

Randi Kaye, CNN, New York.


NGUYEN: Yes, it does. And if you haven't had enough, coming up next, the mug shots. A look at what other Hollywood celebrities arrested for driving under the influence looked like at the time. You want to stay tuned for that in our 10:00 Eastern hour.

We do want to hear from you this morning. Does Paris Hilton deserve to be back in jail? Let us know if you think her celebrity status has helped her or hurt her. You can e-mail us at I will tell you the e-mails are coming in by the hundreds. People are fired up over this. So we can't wait to tell you what some people are saying this morning.

In other news, NASA says overall the shuttle launch was a success.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Five, four, three, two, one. And liftoff of space shuttle "Atlantis" to assemble the framework for the science laboratories of tomorrow.


NGUYEN: Always a fantastic sight. The shuttle is orbiting right now on its way to the International Space Station. But what about the debris? Some foam seen falling off of the shuttle during the launch. See that right there? Well NASA says it's really no big deal.

WAYNE HALE, SHUTTLE PROGRAM MANAGER: It looked like a typical small piece of foam that we have been losing off the area near the bracketry of the external lines that run outside the tank. It was at the very end or just past the aerodynamically sensitive time, and that is something we have come to understand and expect.

NGUYEN: OK. So falling foam may not be an issue, but NASA is concerned about a tear in the shuttle's thermal blanket. CNN space correspondent Miles O'Brien is near the Kennedy Space Center this morning in Cocoa Beach, Florida, and he joins us by phone. How important is this tear, especially when it comes to reentry, Miles?

MILES O'BRIEN, CNN SPACE CORRESPONDENT: Well Betty, the fact that it is this particular part of the shuttle is covered by thermal blanket implies that it doesn't experience a great deal of heating relatively speaking. Basically, you have three layers of protection. You have the black tiles, which are the most hot, the white tiles, which are medium hot, and these thermal blankets, which are not so hot. That tear you're looking at right now, which is about 3 1/2 inches on the longest access of that triangle, is up on the rear for lack of a better turn, the orbital maneuvering system on the left side just behind the tail. Because it's covered with blankets that means it doesn't get a lot of heat when the shuttle returns to Earth.

The question is what -- how much concern will there be about this particular size? There will be a lot of engineering analysis to indicate what kind of heat is experienced there and how much exposure there might be to the shuttle's aluminum skin. And depending how that pans out, what can the crew do about it to potentially repair it? No one I talked to is aware of any sort of repair kit for these thermal blankets, which are made of woven glass and silica, kind of like a quilt. But there are all kinds of potential fixes that could be on the shuttle. That the crew could potentially use to fill that gap.

Very early in the game right now, as you look at that spectacular launch yesterday, which is an otherwise flawless launch. It was a beautiful weather picture at the Kennedy Space Center. This shuttle mission delayed by that hailstorm back in February. This tear, I predict, we'll be talking about it for the duration of this mission and how mission management team responds to it will be something we'll be following very closely, Betty.

NGUYEN: Well hopefully, we can get this picture back up of the tear in question here of that thermal blanket. There it is. How big is that tear? Do you know, Miles?

O'BRIEN: Right about 3 1/2 inches on the longest length of that triangle. So it's not -- you know, if you take your thumb to your forefinger, you'd have a sense of how big that tear is. If that were in -- let's just say, if that were in the leading edge wing of the orbiter, if there was a hole that size that would be extremely critical. That would be something that you -- where the heat is highest. It's in excess of 3,000 degrees during reentry, and that would be something that would be potentially catastrophic.

But up here, on top of the shuttle, as it comes down, it kind of comes down, you know, belly first more or less. This area doesn't get so hot. And so the question will be -- and the temperature they try to look for, the they try to keep the orbiter's skin less than 350 degrees, the aluminum skin. They'll be running the analysis and see what kind of temperatures they can anticipate over the course of reentry and make a decision whether they need to make a repair.

NGUYEN: We know you'll be watching closely as will we. Miles O'Brien, our resident space expert. Thanks, Miles.

O'BRIEN: You're welcome, Betty.

HOLMES: Well his critics call him dollar, dollar bill, y'all. We're talking about Dollar Bill Jefferson. He calls himself a scapegoat, an innocent man. The indictment of the Louisiana congressman coming up on CNN SATURDAY MORNING.

BONNIE SCHNEIDER, CNN METEOROLOGIST: I'm meteorologist Bonnie Schneider. It's 77 degrees in Virginia Beach with light winds out of the northwest. But that was not the picture yesterday. Take a look at these lightning strikes hitting the beach hard. Wow, what a dangerous storm that was. What about your forecast for today and the rest of the weekend? I'll have the complete look at weather coming up next on CNN SATURDAY MORNING.


HOLMES: I have got to get -- wherever that is, I want to go. We're not talking Florida. Forget about Hawaii.

NGUYEN: Really?

HOLMES: The best beach in America, Betty, is in North Carolina. Would you believe?

NGUYEN: I would not have thought North Carolina.

HOLMES: And that is coming from a guy whose name is Dr. Beach. He has a top ten list. He does this thing. And Ocracoke life guarded beach on North Carolina's Outer Banks beat all the competition. Dr. Beach has been ranking U.S. beaches for the past 17 years. One rule, no beach can be number one twice.

NGUYEN: So you better go this year because this is the only year it will be number one.

HOLMES: It's going to fall off for sure. Ocracoke, that's where you need to go.

NGUYEN: So how's the weather in Ocracoke? We have no idea. Bonnie Schneider might.

Hey there Bonnie.

SCHNEIDER: Hi, Betty and T.J.

Here's some other beach weather for you if you're trying to head out to the east end of Long Island. You have got some strong storms from north fork to south fork in the Hamptons. And also right here on the Connecticut coastline that rain is coming into areas like Newport in Rhode Island and working its way toward Boston as well in Massachusetts.

To the north, we see rain stretching all the way into the mountains of New Hampshire and Vermont. Down south, another great beach, South Beach in Miami is also facing a little bit of rain, on and off rain throughout the Florida Keys. You can see a little batch of moisture here across areas to the south and east. And this moisture will work its way onshore. We'll watch out for some heavy rain later today in south Florida. A lot of moisture coming up from the Gulf of Mexico.

This cold front, this is the same storm maker that brought all the severe weather to Minnesota and Wisconsin earlier in the week. Now high pressure is built in, and we're going to see fair conditions. Much more dry conditions and favorable conditions across that area. But looking in advance of the front, we do have a lot of moisture coming into areas of New England making for cloudy kind of balmy weather. Yesterday, though, it was stormy. Check out this video in Virginia Beach, Virginia, of the flashes of lightning. What a violent thunderstorm working its way through Virginia Beach. That is not the type of weather you want to be on the beach for sure. Glad it happened at night when more people were inside instead of outside.

Today the weather in New England area, we're not looking at the violent strikes of lightning or the severe weather, but we are looking at an onshore flow. Cloudy, cool, a lot of rain up towards the north. I showed you that rain in New England. Expect that for today as well in the forecast. Hot temperatures across the southern tier of the United States. We'll look for a high of 90 in Memphis. Watch out for fire danger over parts of Arizona and New Mexico. Hot dry conditions in places like Las Vegas, a high of 97. And look at this, Chicago, Detroit, Toronto all look terrific. Much drier. You will feel the difference when you step outside this morning.

Betty, T.J..

NGUYEN: You'll feel it in Phoenix today it's going to be 100 already. Thank you, Bonnie.

HOLMES: Thank you.

NGUYEN: Well the silence is broken. We now hear comments from William Jefferson's version of why he had money stashed in his freezer.


REP. WILLIAM JEFFERSON, (D) LOUISIANA: Ninety thousand dollars was the FBI's money. The FBI gave it to me as part of its plan.


HOLMES: Yes. He said he got it from the FBI. That story next on CNN SATURDAY MORNING.

GERRI WILLIS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Coming up at 9:30 a.m. Eastern, do you know how energy efficient your home is? We'll show you how to find out and how to save money this summer. Then how to turn a small nest egg into a family fortune and fix those ugly cracks in your driveway on your own. That's "Open House," the show that saves you money, 9:30 a.m. Eastern right here on CNN.


NGUYEN: In Iraq, an attack on a U.S.-run detention facility. It happened at Camp Bucca in southern Iraq. The U.S. military says a rocket or mortar was fired on that detention facility killing at least six detainees and wounding 50. No Americans causalities were reported.

Not guilty. That is the plea from Louisiana Congressman William Jefferson, hit this week with a sixteen-count federal indictment blamed for a series of international bribery schemes. CNN's Tom Foreman takes a look.


TOM FOREMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice over): His accusers call him William "Dollar Bill" Jefferson. He calls himself an innocent man.

REP. WILLIAM JEFFERSON, (D) LOUISIANA: I am absolutely innocent of the charges that have been leveled against me, and we're going to fight -- I'm going to fight my heart out to clear my name.

FOREMAN: The embattled Louisiana congressman was arraigned in Federal Court on charges of racketeering, soliciting bribes, wire fraud, and money laundering. He says he didn't do it.

JEFFERSON: Did I make a mistake in judgment along the way? Yes, I did. But I deeply regret. But did I sell my office or conduct official acts for money? Absolutely not.

FOREMAN: Prosecutors say they videotaped Jefferson accepting a $100,000 bribe and then found 90,000 of it wrapped up in his freezer. It's a complicated story involving possible involvement in a West African bribery scheme. Jefferson's version --

JEFFERSON: The $90,000 was the FBI's money. The FBI gave it to me as part of its plan, part of their plan, that I would give it to the Nigerian vice president. But I did not do that.

FOREMAN: The court says Jefferson can travel to his district in Louisiana but must have other trips approved. They took his passport. His supporters on the hill are digging in.

JOSEPHINE HEARN, THEPOLITICO.COM: Nobody really wants to come out in front of the cameras and say, I really believe in this guy, but he definitely has friends in Congress who believe that there is still a possibility that the charges are spurious, that he will be cleared of all of them.

FOREMAN: The House Ethics Committee has launched a fast track investigation and could recommend expulsion. Jefferson will certainly fight it.

JEFFERSON: My family and I have determined that I will not sacrifice my honor or cave to political pressure and that we will sell every stick of furniture in our home and anything else we own that we may possess to clear our names and to see that justice is done.

FOREMAN: At least until his trial next year, Jefferson will continue collecting his $165,000 annual salary from you, the taxpayers. And even if he is convicted and sent to prison, he is still eligible to collect his congressional pension. Proposed legislation to change that has stalled.

Tom Foreman, CNN, Washington.


HOLMES: Some stories across America for you now. In Las Vegas, police say a cheerleading coach has been arrested in an undercover prostitution sting. They say Esperanza Brooks was nabbed after agreeing to deliver three prostitutes and drugs to undercover detectives. Brooks coached cheerleading at a prep school that was founded by tennis star Andre Agassi. He was, however, not on the faculty at that school.

We will turn to Iowa. Another strange one here for you, a woman accused of trying to trade her son to pay off a wedding dress. She's back in the court system. We are not making these stories up. Seriously. Marcy Gant withdrew her guilty plea to child endangerment charges yesterday. The judge rejected a deal that recommended probation. She faces now up to ten years if convicted.

Finally in New Hampshire, a baby sitter is charged with reckless conduct after a toddler got into her epilepsy medication. Police say the sitter fell asleep while watching an 18-month-old and a 6-month- old. The toddler got into the bottle of pills, swallowed some, and is now in serious condition.

NGUYEN: Well coming up at the top of the hour, we are headed live to the Vatican for the president's first ever meeting with the new pope.

HOLMES: Also coming up, your chance to comment on the Paris Hilton story. You know you got something to say. Do you think Paris Hilton's celebrity status has helped or hurt her case? Or whatever you might want to go off about. Your e-mail answer is coming up next.


HOLMES: Well, it's -- yeah, enjoy that moment, sir. It took 78 years, but Rudy Navares finally got his business degree. Navares was easily the oldest among the graduating class Friday at the University of Washington Tacoma. He's not sure yet what he's going to do with that degree, but getting it was a lifelong dream of his. He retired from the navy in 1999, and he has not seen a classroom since he was in the ninth grade.

NGUYEN: He's got the earring on, got the hair.

HOLMES: Got the ponytail.


HOLMES: Seventy-eight years old.

NGUYEN: He didn't even look it. I didn't think so.

HOLMES: Not at all.

NGUYEN: Well congratulations to him.

All morning long, we've been asking you this. Does Paris Hilton deserve to be back in jail? Here's what you say. We knew they were coming.

First up James. "She's a grown woman who repeatedly broke the law and she should be punished just like everybody else. The sheriff should be put in a jail cell along with her." Thanks, James.

HOLMES: Also another one here. "I think the media is giving this case unnecessary coverage. This has thereby unnecessarily exposed the young lady involved."

NGUYEN: And Audrey. Oh, Audrey. She says, "The girl who is famous for absolutely nothing should absolutely go to jail! This will make a good version for her simple life reality show. She has flaunted her privileges long enough and it is time for her to face life in the real world."

HOLMES: Another here. "Paris is a spoiled little brat who has gone too long without any punishment. Her picture says a thousand words. One of them is being, "Discipline."

NGUYEN: And this from Tom, "Dunno which is more "criminal" Paris or the media coverage."

And we got one more for you. Well, "Paris should return to the county jail. I don't think that they understand everyone cries their first time in the slammer. Paris needs to grow up and be a woman. You do the crime you do the time. Now that's hot."