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CNN Saturday Morning News

Chinese Evacuated Due to Fears of a Massive Flood Caused by Earthquake; Search for Survivors Continues in China; President Bush in Egypt Trying to Get Saudis to Boost Oil Production

Aired May 17, 2008 - 09:00   ET


T.J. HOLMES, CNN ANCHOR: New developments this morning in China. Fears of a massive flood, of all things, sparked by that deadly earthquake, now triggered a stampede. 30,000 people racing to higher ground.
From the CNN Center in Atlanta, Georgia, good morning to you all. I'm T.J. Holmes.

ALINA CHO, CNN ANCHOR: Good morning to you. Good morning, everybody. I'm Alina Cho. Betty has the weekend off.

Also this hour, college students graduating deep in debt. We'll give you some tips on how to keep your loan payments down and your credit clean.

HOLMES: But first, more terrifying moments in China. Officials say two lakes near Beichian could burst at any time and flood that entire city.

CHO: The government has ordered mandatory evacuations for tens of thousands of people, and all search and rescue efforts right now have been called off.

Earlier, I spoke with our Eunice Yoon. She described the scene as chaotic.


EUNICE YOON, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: We were seeing thousands of refugees who were making a very harrowing journey to get out of that region. They were crossing over landscapes -- landslides, rather. They are scrambling over some very dangerous, unstable mountain passes.

They were carrying their parents. Some people were carrying the injured, as well as babies. They don't dare -- they're walking along these paths with very little food, very little water. They are wearing very flimsy shoes, jumping from one slippery rock to another slippery rock, just because they told us that there really isn't anything left for them in their villages.


CHO: The devastation caused by Monday's powerful earthquake is just shocking. Almost 29,000 people killed. That is the latest official count, but the death toll could climb upwards to 50,000. Nearly 200,000 others are injured.

We want to turn now to John Vause, but first, a warning, some of the images you're about to see are disturbing.


JOHN VAUSE, CNN BEIJING CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): This is what's left after a magnitude 7.9 earthquake rumbled through a city of more than 20,000. When the side of the mountain came crashing down, a tidal wave of earth swept everything before it. The pile of wreckage is massive.

Survivors make the slow and dangerous climb to the top. Once there, they call out the names of the missing, hoping they'll answer back but rarely do. This young man's mother has died. She was buried alive when the buildings collapsed.

One of the highest peaks in the city of Beichuan is the top of all this dirt, concrete, and steel. This pile of rubble is probably about five stories tall. It's even higher over there, just beyond the destroyed cell phone tower. And just over here is another building, which appears to have completely toppled over at right angles.

Cars and trucks were picked up and dumped on top. On the other side of this mountain city, giant boulders came crashing down, smashing buildings from their foundations, flattening cars, and people. How close must this person have come to almost making it out alive, killed in the doorway of an apartment building.

Geofin Ying (ph) and her brother are looking for her husband. "This is his photo," she said. Along with a few personal possessions, that's all they find. There are still survivors, but rescue crews are facing fatigue, and the body bags are being left on the sidewalk. More than 100 in this street alone. The longer this rescue operation continues, the less likely the chances of anyone being found alive.

VAUSE (on-camera): In fact, here in Beichuan city, there is so much damage, so much destruction, that it's unlikely that all the bodies will ever be found, turning this valley into a mass grave.

The Chinese government must soon decide what to do with cities like Beichuan, and more importantly to now, what to do with millions of people who are now homeless.

John Vause, CNN, Beichuan, China.


HOLMES: Also, keeping an eye on the situation, the tragedy in Myanmar. Aid groups say that the death toll there could rise from an estimated 128,000, unless supplies reach the cyclone survivors. A French ship with 5,000 tons of food is now off the coast awaiting permission to dock.

CHO: Myanmar's military junta has come under international criticism and pressure for its slow response to the cyclone and for banning outside relief workers from helping distribute that badly needed aid. Today's government tour of three relief camps was described by a U.S. enjoy as a "show."

And we know that you may want to help in the wake of this disaster, and you can. Go to We have a special page on the devastation in Myanmar, it's complete with links to aid agencies offering help for the region, and it's a chance for you to impact your world.

HOLMES: We will turn now to weather and our Bonnie Schneider in for our Reynolds Wolf this weekend. Bonnie and Myanmar, water caused all these problems in first place, and now we're talking about rain in the forecast there again.

BONNIE SCHNEIDER, CNN METEOROLOGIST: That's right, absolutely, T.J. and Alina.

We're looking for more rain for Myanmar, and this is just really the beginning of what we call the monsoon season. Monsoon means a reversal of wind, and this time of year, the winds come directly from the southwest across the Bay of Bengal, right into the Myanmar region.

Here's the Irrawady Delta. This is where we saw the worst damage from Nargis, and you can see more rain is sweeping into this region right now. How much? Well, we could see at times nine to ten inches of rain dumping on this area, and now that we're in that season, it will repeat itself.

I want to take you to China, because just in the past day, we have had some very strong aftershocks after the largest earthquake occurred on Monday. As you can see by this key highlighted in yellow, over the past week, earthquakes, and the orange ones are the aftershocks that were experienced yesterday, a 5.5 and also a 5.1, not far, about 100 kilometers from Chengdu, one of the cities that saw the worst damage.

So these aftershocks are still happening in the region. We can't rule out any more occurring in the Sichuan province of China. At least the weather will clear out for that region. We'll get some better weather there.

Hot temperatures as we come back to the United States, all in the inland areas of western regions of California. I think we'll be seeing some of the hottest weather in and around Monterey county. Temperatures there should climb into the 90s. And not just there but up towards Washington state we'll see conditions that are 20 to 25 degrees above normal in terms of temperatures.

So, hot weather for the west and rainy and cool for the northeast. Back to you.

CHO: Oh, my parents live in Washington state, Bonnie, so they'll be able to play golf today. Good.

SCHNEIDER: Yes. CHO: Bonnie, thank you. We'll check back with you later.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi is in Baghdad this hour. A U.S. embassy spokeswoman says Pelosi arrived in the Iraqi capital today for talks with Iraqi and U.S. officials. Pelosi had been an outspoken critic of President Bush's Iraq policies. Her visit comes just two days after the House defeated a $160 billion Iraq spending bill -- T.J.

HOLMES: All right, Alina, thank you.

I'm back over here at the International Desk, certainly always a busy place with many major international stories to keep an eye on these days. Editors and producers here are working those, of course, including Myanmar, of course, including what's happening in China.

Also, another major international story being covered right now is the President's visit to the Mideast. He's over there, certainly, hoping to get some Mideast peace to punctuate his presidency, but also on his mind right now, oil production and trying to get some possible relief for U.S. motorists.

Our Aneesh Raman is covering the talks that the President has been having there in Sharm El Sheik, Egypt. He joins us now live.

Aneesh, good to see you, and of course, good to see you, but a lot of people wanted something good to hear, to see if the President was successful at all in possibly getting the Saudis to boost oil production. What's the update there?

ANEESH RAMAN, CNN MIDDLE EAST CORRESPONDENT: Yes, hey, good morning to you, T.J.

In short, he wasn't. Here's how it played out in terms of news yesterday into today. The President met for the second time this year in Riyadh with the Saudi king before arriving in Sharm El Sheik, Egypt.

In that conversation, the President pushed the American desire, of course, to see a bump up in production of oil to deflate the cost. The Saudi king said, essentially, they're not going to raise output unless their customers demand it. The supply-demand is just not there for them to increase the supply. We then found out that the Saudis a week ago had decided to increase production by about 300,000 barrels a day.

Now, no one suspects that will be enough for Americans to feel it at the pump, but President Bush today, after meeting with the Afghan president, did elaborate on what the Saudi king told him and his thoughts on oil prices.


GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I said very plainly, I said, you've got to be concerned about the effects of high oil prices on some of the biggest customers in the world. And not only that, of course, high energy prices is going to cause countries like mine to accelerate our move toward alternative energy.

And as the minister said yesterday, that Saudi Arabia this year has increased the number of barrels of oil per day by about 300,000 a day, and they're increasing refining capacity. Which is not enough. It's something, but it doesn't solve our problem.


RAMAN: The oil prices, though, taking a back seat, T.J., today, to President Bush's aim to have a defined Palestinian state by the end of his term. Towards that end, he met today with the Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak, integral in Mideast peace in terms of talking about -- to, with the Palestinians, and then later today he'll meet with the Palestinian president -- T.J.

HOLMES: All right. And Aneesh, we know that you know that area and you know it well. How is the President's visit being received right now, and also about these talks, we see talks and rounds and rounds of talks before and out of those talks we often don't see anything actionable. Any reason to believe we're going to see something different and something more come out of these talks he's having with Arab leaders?

RAMAN: Yes, it's a great question. Few reasons, for a couple of obvious statements of fact, right now there is so many intractable problems between the Israelis and the Palestinians. You've got domestic political difficulties for the Israeli Prime Minister, for the Palestinian president. President Bush's days are dwindling in office, so few see any real chance of peace by the end of his term, T.J.

HOLMES: Well, you know, a lot of people are probably disheartened to hear that, but unfortunately a lot of people are used to hearing that answer as well though.

Aneesh Raman for us at Sharm El Sheik. Aneesh, we appreciate you -- Alina.

CHO: All right, T.J. Thanks.

President Bush's Middle East trip is resonating back home, most specifically on the campaign trail. And it's leading to a war of words between Barack Obama and John McCain with the White House caught in the middle.

CNN's deputy political director Paul Steinhauser is with the "Election Express" in Frankfurt, Kentucky this morning.

Hey, Paul, good to see you, it's the site of the next primary. We should mention all this back and forth makes your head spin. So, what do you make of it?

PAUL STEINHAUSER, CNN DEPUTY POLITICAL DIRECTOR: Yes, this all started on Thursday when the President was in front of the Israeli parliament, Knesset, the Parliament and he did what some consider a veiled criticism of Barack Obama and other Democrats. He was critical of those who would talk to Iran and other regimes who are hostile to the U.S. and he compared those people to those who appeased Hitler prior to World War II, and that really touched off a firestorm, which we've seen between Barack Obama and John McCain the last two days. Both candidates trading charges, both saying the other is taken out of context.

Here's a little bit of what has been said.


SEN. BARACK OBAMA (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Well, I want to be perfectly clear with George Bush and John McCain and with the people of South Dakota. If George Bush and John McCain want to have a debate about protecting the United States of America, that is a debate that I am happy to have any time, any place, and that is a debate that I will win, because George Bush and John McCain have a lot to answer for.

SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: It would be a wonderful thing if we lived in a world where we don't have enemies, but that's not the world we live in. And until Senator Obama understands that reality, the American people have every reason to doubt whether he has the strength, judgment, and determination to keep us safe.


STEINHAUSER: You know, the Democratic primaries still go on for another 2 1/2 weeks, and Barack Obama, while he's the front-runner, hasn't locked it up. But this battle between Obama, McCain, and George Bush the last couple days, really seems like one of the first real fights of the general election. Barack Obama is in Oregon today, polls there have him up big time -- Alina.

CHO: Paul, one candidate who is noticeably absent in that exchange, as you well know, is Hillary Clinton. She's sort of been knocked out of the spotlight because of all this. What is she doing today?

STEINHAUSER: Exactly. She's right here in Kentucky today. We're with the "Election Express" right behind me on the campus of Kentucky State University. Hillary Clinton spends the weekend right here in Kentucky, campaigning throughout the weekend. We talked about Obama being favored in Oregon. Polls here have Hillary Clinton up by double digits. Oregon and Kentucky they both vote on Tuesday, Alina.

CHO: All right. I'm reading your e-mail here. It says after the election, the transition in the first 100 days, you're out of here. You've got a long way to go, buddy. You got a long way to go. And you're doing a great job covering it. All right, deputy political director Paul Steinhauser. Paul, thanks.

And be sure to tune in on Tuesday to the best political team on TV as we bring you the primary results. Live coverage begins at 7:00 p.m. Eastern from the CNN "ELECTION CENTER." We get things started bright and early on that day, 6:00 a.m. Eastern at my regular home, AMERICAN MORNING.

HOLMES: We will see you there. And of course, what else does everybody love to see? They love to see an air show.

High-flying thrills expected today. The joint service air show kicks off this morning at Andrews Air Force base in Maryland. This is a live picture of the Air Force right now. Flying routines, all the planes here are going to get off the ground in about two hours, starting around 11:00 Eastern. Hopefully, we'll show you live pictures of that as well.

CHO: Have you seen the Blue Angels?

HOLMES: I have seen them on a couple occasions.

CHO: Really something to see, huh?

HOLMES: Amazing. Seen them a couple times out in California.

CHO: The precision with which they fly is incredible, isn't it?

HOLMES: Eerie precision.

CHO: Yes.

HOLMES: They are certainly good. They certainly are. They'll be in the skies as well this weekend. They start performing around 3:00 Eastern. But again, when they get going, we hope to maybe show you some live pictures later on this morning. But show you a live picture there. At least the festivities are starting to get under way.

CHO: We look forward to that.

What began as fun ends in horror in northern California. Still ahead, a thrill ride collapses at a popular county fair.

ROBERTS: And a little later, after a shocking death and unimaginable crime.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: She would have expected me to go through what I had to go through to try to get these back for the boys.


HOLMES: A husband's fight to get wedding rings stolen after his wife and the mother of his children was killed in a traffic accident.



UNIDENTIFIED MALE: All I heard was a bigger clunk and dust were just flying everyone. And then I'm like whoa, what happened? UNIDENTIFIED MALE: All the swings were just laying there and people were kneeling on the ground crying and stuff. People walking away crying. Kind of nerve-racking, actually.


CHO: It all happened east of San Francisco. A spinning carnival ride collapses, injuring at least 24 people, 3 of them seriously. The incident happened at the Calaveras County Fair.

HOLMES: The annual event draws thousands of people to the fairgrounds. No word on what caused this ride to collapse.

CHO: And another accident to tell you about, this one involving a double-decker trolley. It crashed outside of Los Angeles mall last night. Officials believe there was some sort of brake problem. The trolley ran into some large planter pots but never derailed. Two passengers were taken to the hospital with minor injuries. Five children were treated at the scene.

HOLMES: Police in Milwaukee still searching for a masked man who beat a city bus driver. The apparently unprovoked attack was all caught on tape and you're about to see it here. The driver tried to fend off this attack before swerving into a tree. Police are asking the public for help in finding that masked man.

CHO: Lawyers for polygamist leader Warren Jeffs want an Arizona judge to drop the incest charges against him. Jeffs appeared in court yesterday. He's charged as an accomplice in four counts of incest and sexual misconduct. Jeffs was sentenced to prison in Utah last year for being an accomplice to rape. He arranged the marriage of a 14- year-old girl to her 19-year-old cousin.

HOLMES: An Atlanta man had just lost his wife to a car accident. The mother of his one and four-year-old sons, only to find out after all that, that his wife's cherished wedding rings had been taken off of her hand while she lay dead in the hospital.

Alan Armstrong has finally gotten his wife's wedding and engagement rings back, got them this week. His wife died in an automobile accident. The rings went missing at the hospital where she was taken. A social worker has now been charged with theft by taking them.


ALAN ARMSTRONG, WIDOWER: He's actually the only guy that I interacted with from the hospital staff when I was there, and I saw him. I spent about 15 minutes with my wife, and then came out of that and asked him very pointedly, I was like, I've got to get the rings. What's going on? And he told me, oh, well, we don't do that. There's absolutely no way you can get the rings today.

HOLMES: Did something there not sit right? Did you get a weird kind of vibe or feeling from that social worker? ARMSTRONG: You know, I don't know. It's such a confusing, emotional time, buts I have a friend of mine with me who verified this. I pushed him three or four times saying I have to get this property. And he basically invented a protocol that doesn't exist.


HOLMES: Armstrong plans to give the rings to his sons one day. Again, they are 1 and 4 years old. We have this statement now from the hospital, Grady Hospital. This was provided to our affiliate WSB. It says -- "we are pleased that the rings have been recovered and returned to Mr. Armstrong. We stand by our actions and take all matters related to the loss of property seriously."

Again, we saw Mr. Alan Armstrong there live in the studio here with us a little earlier, and he said he had to push and fight for the hospital to really help him out in this regard, but still glad the rings got back to him.

CHO: Took about a week and a half. And as you pointed out during the interview, so lucky that somebody didn't buy those rings at the pawn shop.

HOLMES: Then, who knows.

CHO: Who knows what would have happened.

HOLMES: Just too bad that he had to deal with that, but good to have a happy ending, at least, in some regard, if you can call it that.

CHO: Yes, and brave of him to come in and talk to us about it.

Student loan debt, thousands of college students are drowning in it.

HOLMES: What you need to know if you're a graduating senior.


HOLMES: Well, for lots of parents, a burden is about to be lifted. Their children will be finally graduating from college. For some of those upcoming graduates, they're just getting a burden. Those student loan bills will be coming soon and coming due. Personal finance editor Gerri Willis has advice on coping with college debt.

GERRI WILLIS, CNN PERSONAL FINANCE EDITOR: Hi there, T.J. Graduation time is here, and for many, that means time to start paying off those student loans. The key is to start paying off your loans as soon as possible. You don't want them hanging over your head.

Now, if you do get behind on your payments, it could affect your credit ratings down the road, which will leave you paying more for a mortgage or a car loan. And consider consolidating your loans in order to pay them off more easily. If your loans are with more than one lender, you're required to consolidate with that lender, but if you have loans with more than one lender, you have more options.

For more information on how to consolidate, check out the Federal Direct Consolidation Information Center at

Coming up on "OPEN HOUSE," the story of the harsh reality of homelessness, how to get on your feet financially as a new graduate, and why some Americans are delaying retirement.

That's "OPEN HOUSE" at 9:30 a.m. Eastern -- T.J.

HOLMES: Gerri, thank you. And Gerri is part of our money team that has you covered on all issues affecting your wallet. You can join us for a special report called "ISSUE #1," the economy, all nest week, noon Eastern, only right here on CNN.

CHO: Well, students paid to study.

HOLMES: That did not happen in my day. Our Josh Levs has more on a story we told you about a little earlier this year. Good morning.

JOSH LEVS, CNN CORRESPONDENT; Good morning. They got cash just for showing up to be tutored. Is this a good idea? Your chance to weigh in is coming up right here, CNN SATURDAY MORNING.


HOLMES: All right, you may remember a few months ago we reported on a controversial initiative here in Georgia to actually pay students to attend academic tutoring.

CHO: Yes, not tied to grades, you're just paid for showing up! That trial program just ended and Josh Levs is here with us with a preliminary report card. Don't mind the pun there. What's up?

LEVS: I like it. A lot of people are taking the back route on what this thing is all about. A lot of people were really surprised, wanted to know how it went. And then celebration this week. So, we went over there. It was a 15-week program at a school here, just near Atlanta. They're calling it an experiment. It was a private foundation that paid $8 an hour, four hours a week for students to show up for tutoring in math and science.


JAILYN BROWN, STUDENT: My grades before were like Math and Science were low 40, 50, and now I'm up to Bs and As, and I have an A in math and like a B in science.


LEVS: A lot of kids are saying that their grades jumped. So would that make this a good idea? One teacher said to us, look, you know, times have changed. Parents are busier, society is more materialistic. This is at least an effort to do something. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DAVID MACKEY, BEAR CREEK MIDDLE SCHOOL: We're looking for alternative measures to try to say the children, to try to invest in the children, just try to give them that extra edge.


LEVS: But some people are saying schools should never make money the incentive to learn. Alfie Kohn wrote a book called "Punished by Reward" and he says it could actually make us less interested in learning when they're not paid.


ALFIE KOHN, AUTHOR "PUNISHED BY REWARDS": Rewards aren't just ineffective, they're counter productive and we've seen this over and over again.


LEVS: All right, and some others say hey, it's not fair to the kids who are already working hard. So, what we're doing now, putting this question to you.

Should schools offer students money to show up for tutoring? Write us your thoughts, Remember, keep your responses thoughtful, respectful, and brief. And we're going to share some of them here, guys, because we know people want to weigh in on this right here,

HOLMES: I love where you put that in there, keep them thoughtful and respectful.

LEVS: You know, I don't like reading the angry ones. I don't take the angry ones for air. Some people like it, I don't like it.

CHO: Keep it clean.

LEVS: Yes, keep it respectful and thoughtful, you know.

CHO: All right, Josh.

LEVS: Don't scream in e-mail form.

CHO: Thank you.


HOLMES: Josh, thank you.

CHO: An emotional graduation day on the campus of Northern Illinois University just three months after the tragic shooting there. The parents of three students killed at the school in February will be on hand to get their honorary degrees. Two other students will also be honored at the graduation ceremonies. A gunman, you'll recall, killed five people and wounded 16 others at the university in early February.

HOLMES: Also, we will turn to movies and taking Cannes by storm, the French coastal town turned into "The Kingdom of the Crystal Skull." Well, how is the new "Indiana Jones" film being received? We will take you there next hour.

CHO: Our Brooke Anderson is there. Cannes is just two weeks of debauchery, I hear.

HOLMES: We got to get over there.

CHO: I hope to get over there (ph). Yes, we got to get over there.

All right, thanks, everybody for joining us. We'll be back in 30 minutes. But first, "OPEN HOUSE" with Gerri Willis begins right now.