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Your World Today

Building Collapses in Turkey; Russia; Soldier Prince; Famous Wheelchair-Bound Astrophysicist to Feel 0G

Aired April 26, 2007 - 12:00   ET


COLLEEN MCEDWARDS, CNN INTERNATIONAL ANCHOR: A multi-story apartment building collapses in Istanbul. A tragedy made even worse by the fact its happened before.
JIM CLANCY, CNN INTERNATIONAL ANCHOR: Why is Russian president Vladimir Putin using his last state of the nation address to complain about a U.S. missile defense system, and why is Europe objecting to his objections?

MCEDWARDS: U.S. troops in Iraq may get their marching orders from Capitol Hill, although a presidential veto of any timetable for a withdrawal is a more likely tactic.

CLANCY: And the British government now says Prince Harry may not be sent to Iraq after all. The young soldier prince not at all happy about that.

MCEDWARDS: It is 7:00 p.m. in Istanbul, high noon on Capitol Hill.

Hello and welcome too our report broadcast around the globe.

I'm Colleen McEdwards.

CLANCY: I'm Jim Clancy.

From Moscow to Mumbai, Istanbul to Beijing, wherever you are watching, this is YOUR WORLD TODAY.

Well, we are going to begin our report this hour, once again, in Istanbul, Turkey. That's where an eight-story building has just been flattened to the ground.

MCEDWARDS: Yes, that's right. There are no reports of injuries at this time, but news services are reporting that many ambulances and emergency vehicles are being sent to the site of the collapse.

Video from our sister network, CNN Turk, shows you the scene right there. I mean, this is extensive damage. There are reports that it was six stories, reports that there were eight stories, as well.

CLANCY: Now, emergency workers, you can see them there. This is video that's come in to us. Really neighbors out there, some of them digging with their bare hands. They believe that there are people still trapped in that rubble, although a lot of them got out of the building.

MCEDWARDS: Yes, that's true. There was a warning, apparently, according to our reporter who is in the city there.

There was some excavation work, some construction work going on next door. People heard cracks in the building, and many people got out, but we also see reports that some people may have decided to go back in.

CLANCY: All right.

We're going to keep you updated on this developing story, no doubt about that. And to get more details to you right away, Andrew Finkel joins us on the line from Istanbul.

Andrew, take us back to the beginning of all of this. Just give us an idea, what happened and why?

ANDREW FINKEL, JOURNALIST: Well, this building -- it was exactly an hour ago that this building appeared to collapse. And why it collapsed, it seems, is that they were trying to tear down the building next door. There were excavations going on next door.

Residents heard cracks. There was a great deal of panic. People, it seems, were evacuated from the building. But some people may have actually gone back in.

Now, the building seems to have just collapsed like a deck of cards. The first on the scene were neighbors trying to dig away at the concrete. They were joined by the fire brigade. There's a fleet of ambulances on standby.

The mayor of Istanbul has just said that he -- they know of two people at least who they believe are still trapped under the rubble. We've heard reports that perhaps there's children, cries from underneath.

At the moment, no one has actually been rescued, and, indeed, no one -- there have been no bodies discovered, either. So, we are still in a state of darkness, really -- Jim.

CLANCY: Now, as we look at this videotape that's coming in it, it would appear there's no heavy equipment yet on the scene. It's only been, as you noted, an hour.

FINKEL: Well, that's right. And often, very often in these cases, heavy equipment is the last thing you want, because when you sort of move one of these great big blocks, it causes a certain amount of shifting, and anyone who might still be alive under there wouldn't last. So, it is actually something that has to be done with bare hands.

Sadly, Turkey has a great deal of experience in this. There was a terrible earthquake here in 1999, and they may have perfected it, as it were, the technique of searching for people trapped under the rubble. There are some very knowledgeable and professional people who do this sort of thing. At the moment, it appears to be volunteers on the scene.

And, of course, there have been these sorts of accidents before. I can't remember the exact date, but there was a building in a neighborhood not all that far from here which just collapsed and killed two people for -- just because of shoddy construction.

CLANCY: Do we have any idea exactly how many people may be inside, how many got out?

FINKEL: Well, not yet. It's obviously quite a big building, and the fact that they appear -- people seem to appear to have had some warning means that a lot of people have gotten out. However, there are a real fleet of ambulances. There are about 17 ambulances on standby, which obviously anticipating the worst. We know of two people, we believe, who are trapped under there, according to an announcement by the mayor on tel3evision.

CLANCY: Andrew Finkel on the line with us there, keeping us abreast of the latest details coming out of Istanbul, Turkey, where this multi-story building has been flattened to the ground.

We'll keep you updated on this story.

Andrew, thank you.

FINKEL: A pleasure.

MCEDWARDS: Thanks, Jim.

We've actually got more for you now. We have reached a reporter on the scene for the first time, the first time we have really been able to get to the scene of what's happened.

Marat Utku (ph) is on the scene for us and joins us now.

Marat (ph), describe what you see.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes, there is a big rush here. All the ambulances, all the fire brigades, trucks, are trying to come here. But let me say, this is the rush hour in Istanbul. So it's really very hard for them to come here.

These are really very narrow streets, and it is really very crowded, because this is a very small neighborhood, very narrow roads. And the fire brigade is really having a hard time to come along here. But now the policemen came, the ambulances came, the fire brigades just came, and they are trying to (INAUDIBLE) rescue here in the rubble.

I don't know exactly how many people are trapped now under the rubble, but they are trying to hear the voices of the people who are supposed to live -- here living under the rubble. And now a lot of rescue work is still going on here.

MCEDWARDS: All right. Marat Utku (ph), our first reporter on the scene there, describing some difficulty, if I understood him correctly, with emergency crews getting in there because of the narrow streets, and because of the chaos around the scene.

Turkish rescue officials are experienced at this kind of thing because of the infrastructure problems with buildings in Istanbul, and also because of the number of earthquakes that happen there. What they are trying to do now is get as many rescue officials in so that they can literally use their hands and their ears to try to find people who may be buried underneath that rubble.

CLANCY: All right. We will continue to follow this, but for now, we're going to shift gears a little bit.

MCEDWARDS: Yes, that's right.

We want to turn to Washington now from this breaking news, because you know about the showdown that's brewing over the funding of the war in Iraq. It has reached the floor of the U.S. Senate.

CLANCY: On Wednesday, the House, of course, narrowly passed that funding bill that sets a timetable for U.S. troop withdrawals from Iraq.

You are looking at a live picture here.

MCEDWARDS: U.S. President Bush told the Senate to quickly pass this bill, essentially, so he can go ahead and veto it, as he says he will. Mr. Bush says Congress should not tell military officials how to do their job. But the Democrats say they are listening to the American people, and the call that they say they heard for change.

CLANCY: Now, a just-released survey shows most Americans do support a troop withdrawal from Iraq, a deadline of some kind. A poll conducted by NBC News and "The Wall Street Journal" found 56 percent of those questioned favor the recent Democratic measure, while 37 percent are opposed.

Now, the same poll found 66 percent of Americans say the country is on the wrong track. Just 22 percent think it is moving in the right direction. The survey conducted over this past weekend, it has a margin of error of 3.1 percent.

MCEDWARDS: And in the meantime, the top U.S. commander in Iraq is making the rounds on Capitol Hill. Lieutenant General David Petraeus is arguing against setting a deadline for a withdrawal. And just a short while ago, he spoke to reporters about the military surge that is under way in Baghdad.


LT. GEN. DAVID PETRAEUS, COMMANDER IN IRAQ: We are still in the relatively early stages of our new effort, about two months into it, with three of five Army surge brigades and two additional Marine battalions on the ground, and the remainder of the combat forces scheduled to be operating in their areas by mid-June.

Baghdad is the main effort, and we continue to establish joint security stations and combat outposts in the city and in the belts around it. The presence of coalition and Iraqi forces and increased operational tempo, especially in areas where until recently we had no sustained presence, have begun to produce results.

Most significantly, Iraqi and coalition forces have helped to bring about a substantial reduction in the rate of sectarian murders each month from January until now in Baghdad, a reduction of about two-thirds. There have also been increases in weapons caches seized and the number of actionable tips received. In the Ramadi area, for example, U.S. and Iraqi forces have found nearly as many caches in the first four months of this year as they found in all of last year.

Beyond this, we are seeing we are seeing a revival of markets, renewed commerce, the return of some displaced families, and the slow resumption of services. Though I want to be very clear that there is vastly more work to be done across the board and in many areas, and I again note that we are really just getting started with the new effort.


CLANCY: General David Petraeus there, talking on Capitol Hill.

Now, this debate on the Senate floor is continuing. Senator Trent Lott is up there right now speaking.

And, you know, when you look at this, with everything that's happened here, one thing comes across very clearly, and that is that this guy, General David Petraeus, is really gaining a lot of respect in the eyes of everyone because of his straight talking on this issue. And he may -- he may sway some minds.

MCEDWARDS: Well, and his expertise in dealing with insurgents, as well. But, you know, Petraeus said things could get worse before they get better. He said that in his news conference today, and I'm sure that's not a message a lot of lawmakers want to hear.

CLANCY: All right.

Another major story that has been developing and really involves international diplomacy on a broad scale...

MCEDWARDS: Yes, let's move to that now, to Russia.

Russia's president, Vladimir Putin, threatening to pull out of a decades-old arms treaty with the West. Mr. Putin's remarks were in his state of the nation speech. And they come as NATO plans a missile defense shield for central and eastern Europe, a move that Russia is vehemently opposing, doesn't want any part of this at all.

Matthew Chance joins us now live from Moscow with more on this -- Matthew.


Well, that's right, this latest dispute, this latest threat by Vladimir Putin, threatens to escalate the diplomatic standoff between Russia and NATO over the U.S. plan to deploy missile defenses in eastern Europe, to the west of Russia's borders. The Kremlin has said that it's very concerned about that, they could be destabilizing for security in the region. But Washington says these anti-missile defenses are aimed not at Russia's vast nuclear deterrent, but on the possibility of rogue missiles being fired in the future from countries like Iran or perhaps even from North Korea.

Nevertheless, this is something that is really straining relations between the two countries. Vladimir Putin threatening to look at the possibility of freezing implementation of the -- of an important security treaty in Europe that limits the amounts of armed forces to be deployed on both sides of what was NATO and the Warsaw Pact countries. Russia saying that if an agreement is not done with NATO officials in the U.S., and they're talking about today in Norway, then they will look at freezing their commitments underneath that crucial treaty -- Colleen.

MCEDWARDS: It was interesting to listen to Vladimir Putin today, Matthew. There's always been speculation that he might try to stay in power longer, even though he's constitutionally barred from doing so.

Did he put that speculation to rest?

CHANCE: Well, I think to some extent he did, yes. I mean, you're right, there has been a lot of speculation that Vladimir Putin may attempt to change the constitution of Russia to allow him to stand for and to continue a third term as the Russian president. What we got today, Colleen, is perhaps the clearest statement yet that that will not happen.


VLADIMIR PUTIN, RUSSIAN PRESIDENT (through translator): In 2008, my term of office expires, and the next address to the federal assembly will be presented by already another head of state.


CHANCE: Well, of course there is still a year to run in Vladimir Putin's presidency, though. And so it's still far from too late for him to change his mind -- Colleen.

MCEDWARDS: All right. Matthew Chance for us in Moscow.

Matthew, thanks very much.

CLANCY: All right. We're going to take a short break here. But still ahead, that soldier prince.

MCEDWARDS: Yes, he wants to serve on the frontlines in Iraq, but will Britain's Prince Harry attract more danger to himself and to those he's serving with? CLANCY: Plus, in the land of the Kama Sutra, a harmless peck on the cheek? Well, maybe. Maybe not. Anyway, Richard Gere is in hot water over this one. Some in India say the star of "An Officer and a Gentleman" behaved in no gentle fashion.

MCEDWARDS: Also, a look at the stock market for you the day after. Check that out. Can the Dow build on that number?

Stay with us.


MCEDWARDS: Welcome back to CNN International and YOUR WORLD TODAY. I'm Colleen McEdwards.

CLANCY: I'm Jim Clancy. And we are covering the news that the world wants to know this day.

One of the stories that we've been following very closely is this one.

We have got some new pictures in now to show you. This is Istanbul, Turkey, where a multi-story building, six or eight stories, suddenly collapsed.

There was some construction, demolition work going on in an adjacent building. And that -- the cracks appeared in this. Some of the people there got out, but there are believed to be at least two people who are trapped inside.

You see some of the emotional responses of the people that believe their loved ones are trapped inside that building. There is nothing left of the building except the rubble that is on the ground.

MCEDWARDS: And we'll keep you up to date on this developing story as we get more details.

For now, though, we want to turn something quite different. He wants to be an ordinary soldier, and he wants to serve in Iraq with his regiment. You probably know who we are talking about.

CLANCY: Yes. And he's no ordinary soldier.


CLANCY: There are fears Prince Harry could actually be targeted by insurgents and that his mere presence there would put his fellow troops, the people serving alongside him, in a lot more danger.

MCEDWARDS: That's right. The British military says his deployment is now under review.

Cal Perry has more now on this debate.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) CAL PERRY, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice over): He's wanted to be a soldier his entire life. Prince Harry expected to deploy to Iraq within weeks. He's trained hard and made it clear, he wants to serve on the frontlines.

PRINCE HARRY: If they said no, you can't go frontline, then I wouldn't -- I wouldn't drag my sorry ass through Sandhurst, and I wouldn't -- I wouldn't be where I am now. Because the last thing I want to do is have my soldiers sent away to Iraq, or wherever, like that, and for me to be held back home, twiddling my thumbs, thinking, well, what about David, what about Derek (ph)?

PERRY: But today, British newspaper and television news thrust the war in Iraq back to the front pages because the prince may not be going after all.

It is widely reported a last-minute review is now under way by army chiefs about sending Harry. The big question, does the high- profile soldier prince attract more danger to himself and those he serves with? The media in Britain has widely reported fears that Harry could be tracked and targeted by insurgents in Iraq.

(on camera): It's this pomp and ceremony that the Prince wants to leave behind, instead leading his men on to the battlefield of Iraq as an ordinary soldier. But all that could be put on hold if certain army chiefs have their way. And if that happens, reports say Harry could quit the army all together.

(voice over): The timing is without surprise. Just last week, two British soldiers were killed in the same type combat vehicle that Harry is slated to serve in.

The debate over the merit of the war in Iraq is largely over in Britain. Front pages react to news of Harry, not events. Often, apathy and Iraq fatigue keep the daily papers and television news from vigorously covering what many here seem to feel is an ill-conceived conflict.

Today, one newspaper, "The Independent," even highlighted that by characterizing one soldier's death as "largely unnoticed".

But the story of Harry potentially being held from combat duty has not been lost on the British public, with many throwing their support behind the soldier prince.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes, because he's trained for it, and, you know, if it's not good enough for one young soldier, why is it good enough for all our other soldiers?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Whether or not he goes to war is down to him.

PERRY: Not everyone agrees. Former U.K. defense secretary Michael Portillo says Harry's duty lies elsewhere.

MICHAEL PORTILLO, FMR. U.K. DEFENSE SECRETARY: I'm sure he's as brave as any fellow officer, any of the soldiers that he leads. He wants to do is duty. But my argument would be that in this case, because he's third in line to the throne, he has a higher duty than leading men in battle. And his duty is to stay alive.

PERRY: As three more bodies of British soldiers arrive in the U.K. Thursday from Iraq, the concern among some is that holding the prince back from combat service would be a P.R. victory for insurgents. But perhaps far less of one than if anything should happen to the man third in line to the British throne.

Cal Perry, CNN, London.


CLANCY: Well, there's much more to come right here on YOUR WORLD TODAY.

MCEDWARDS: U.S. lawmakers vote on a timetable for bringing troops home from Iraq. We are going to talk to a Republican who supported the measure, despite the veto threat from President Bush.

CLANCY: Plus, evidence Israeli soldiers are breaking both international law and the law of their own land.




CLANCY: Let's get perspective now from a U.S. lawmaker that cast his vote last night on the bill that set as timetable for troop withdrawal. House Republican chief -- deputy whip, I believe is the right term, Eric Cantor, joins us now from Washington. He represents the state of Virginia.

Thank you for being with us, Congressman.

You're watching as things play out here. Do we all understand what is happening?

ERIC CANTOR, U.S. HOUSE REPUBLICAN: Well, look, I mean, I think the vote that occurred last night, it was expected. It was a bill that really would have had the effect of tying the hands of the general's on the ground. It is something that President Bush has said he absolutely will not accept, and I'm hoping that we can dispense with the politics very quickly, and get the bill to the president. He'll veto it, the house will likely sustain the veto, and then maybe we can get down to work, set the politics aside and do what's best for the troops in the field.

Would it be better for the troops in the field if there was some kind of a checks and balances on the Iraqis themselves to bring up their security forces, to take the U.S. military's place?

Well, there's no question that we have great expectations for what the Iraqi government needs to do, and the president has insisted that the Iraqis stand up now, that we are there in a supportive role, and that what success and victory will mean is that government itself will be able to protect and secure its citizens.

But what you have, and what took place on the floor yesterday of the House was a situation where, unfortunately, we are tying the hands of the generals who are there in the field, and, frankly, we are going to harm our troops if we don't get this dispensed with as quickly as possible.

CLANCY: Well, you know, it is a lot of politics, with, you know, people on both sides of the aisle, calling each other names, saying that, you know, you're surrendering, no, you're going ahead blindly. But to really support the troops in the field, don't you need some kind of a checks and balances that really looks at the progress that is being made. When you talk about the security forces in Iraq, they're charged with carrying out some of the sectarian violence.

CANTOR: Well, there's no question that Congress plays a role, and has the power of the purse here to help fund the war. But let's remember. We should not have 535 commanders in chief, nor should we expect to have 535 members of the House and Senate know what the situation is on the ground. In fact, General Petraeus came and met with the House Republicans and Democrats yesterday, unfortunately, the speaker didn't find time in her schedule to meet with General Petraeus.

But what we heard from him was that, you know, the surge is in place. We are not even halfway through that, and our troops need to know that the funds and the support that they expect from Congress will be there.

CLANCY: Well, let me -- are you having any kind of discussion at all with your Democratic colleagues there, in the House, about what is the best way forward, how can you make some improvements, how you can do your job, or is the Republican side just saying the right thing to do is just back the president on anything?

CANTOR: No, it's not just backing the president, it's backing the commanders on the ground. Again, I think it is it is misplaced to expect that the members of Congress can fill the role of a general in the field.

What we're talking about is Congress having the power of the purse, and the right for oversight in terms of how money is being spent. We were briefed yesterday by General Petraeus, we were briefed by others, and there's no question that what they said was they need a funding bill which does not tie the hands of the generals in the field. They are about executing on their mission, and when -- you know, I come from the old school. I believe when it comes to things beyond our shores, we ought to unite as Americans behind our military, and insist that that we maintain the support from that effort, so that they can be victorious and come home.

CLANCY: All right. Chief deputy whip, Republican from Virginia, Eric Cantor, I want to thank you very much for being here with us, Mr. Congressman. CANTOR: Thank you. Thank you.

Well, using civilians as so-called human shields in conflict is banned under international law.

But there's evidence that Israeli soldiers have been doing just that, even though it is also banned under Israeli law.

Ben Wedeman has the story.


BEN WEDEMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Israeli soldiers walk behind Sam Amira (ph) in a house-to-house search in the West Bank city of Nablus. This video, shot in February by the Associated Press during a major Israeli incursion, strongly suggests the soldiers were using the 24-year-old Palestinian as a human shield.

Retracing the steps, he recalls being gripped by fear. "I felt anything could happen," he says, that they would shoot or kill me.

"I was screaming and crying, God help me, recalls his mother, Hannan. "I didn't know what was happening. I was terrified."

The Israeli army declined to grant CNN an interview. But in a written statement, said it has ordered an official investigation into the incident.

In 2005, the Israeli Supreme Court explicitly banned the use of human shields, following multiple complaints from Palestinians in the occupied West Bank. But the practice still occurs often enough to raise serious concerns among Israeli human rights groups.

JESSICA MONTELL, B'TSELEM, ISRAELI HUMAN RIGHTS ORG.: There is some miscommunication between the level of the army that sets policy, and the level of the soldier who is actually carrying out orders. Somewhere along the way, the message gets lost that these procedures are prohibited, both by Israeli law and by international law.

WEDEMAN: Also under investigation is the case of 11-year-old Jihan Da'adoush, who during the same Israeli operation, says she was forced to walk in front of soldiers through the dark alleys of Navous's (ph) old city.

"They shouted at me and were pointing their guns at me," she recalls. "I was really scared."

And recently, a peace activist shot this video south of Navolous (ph), in which it appears soldiers made two young men stand in front of their vehicle to prevent it from being stoned.

(on camera): The officer of the unit involved in this incident has been relieved of his command, and an investigation is now under way. But all these cases indicate a simple fact. That laws and rules made in courtrooms and army offices may be bent or broken in the field. Ben Wedeman, CNN, on the West Bank.


MCEDWARDS: Well, he is an accomplished astrophysicist who has not let his disability slow him down.

CLANCY: Coming up right here on YOUR WORLD TODAY, one man who is poised to rocket into the history books with a heavenly space mission. We'll have all the details, straight ahead.


MCEDWARDS: Welcome back. You're watching YOUR WORLD TODAY on CNN International.

CLANCY: We are seen live in more than 200 countries and territories all across the globe.

Going to take you to Turkey right now, show you, this is some of the video that we have seen coming in. A multi-story building collapsed, the cause, suspected to be demolition work that was going on on an adjacent building.

Residents here, this started to happen almost two hours ago. Residents heard cracking in the building, and many of them got out. But some residents were believed to have gone back in.

Now, in just the past few minutes, we have a couple of reports. One, that a little girl who was injured has been taken out. Also, they have reached a man who is trapped and said to be in good condition. That report has not yet been confirmed. But that's what authorities are telling the news media that is on the scene right now. We're going to continue to follow the story.

No idea how many people may have been trapped in there. But right now, it would look like two, one has been gotten out, and another one has at least been located.

MCEDWARDS: And now, to another story that really has just developed in the last little while. Imagine an entire country, essentially, in the dark. That's what's happening in Colombia right now. Emergency officials there are battling a blackout that they say is essentially paralyzed the whole country. Traffic is snarled, chaos in the cities, as well. Stock market apparently closed down, of course.

Colombia is in the middle of a long war against leftist guerrillas. And they have done things like bombed oil pipelines, they targeted electrical installations in the past. Government doesn't think that's the case this time. They are saying that this huge blackout has been caused by something technical this time around.

CLANCY: It is a dream come true for a world renowned astrophysicist. Stephen Hawking spent his whole life doing ground breaking work on black holes and the origins of the universe. He's written some fantastic books. Well, he may be bound to a wheelchair because of a debilitating disease, but today, he is going to float free in a zero gravity flight.

Space Correspondent Miles O'Brien joins us to explain a little bit more, and you know, Stephen Hawking, amazing guy.

MILES O'BRIEN, SPACE CORRESPONDENT: He is. It's such an amazing mind: cosmologist, astrophysicist. One of the greatest minds on this planet, best selling author, to boot. But of course, imprisoned by ALS, Lou Gehrig's disease for all these years, and he's about to realize a dream he's had for quite some time.

And will experience gravity, something he's thought an awful lot about, in an entirely different way. Flying on a civilian airplane, the 0G aircraft, where civilians can purchase a ticket to experience what astronauts have experienced in training all these years, here off the Kennedy Space Center. That flight will be taking off very shortly.

And assuming all goes well, the doctors give it the go ahead, and he's said -- Professor Hawking feels good about it, will experience several 25 second bursts of weightlessness, 0G as they call it.

Now, they did a trial run yesterday. An eighth grader, who happens to be a big fan of Stephen Hawking, a science standout, who also happens to have about the same stature and weight as Professor Hawking, got up there, and they tested out their theory of using spotters to make sure that Professor Hawking lands safely on the padded floor of that aircraft.

This morning, Professor Hawking was all smiles and kept pressing everybody in the 0G Corporation to make sure they do as many of these roller coaster rides as possible. We talked Professor Hawking last night about how excited he is about the flight.


STEPHEN HAWKING, PHYSICIST: I am very excited. I have been wheelchair bound for almost four decades, and the chance to float free in 0G will be wonderful.


O'BRIEN: I had an opportunity to fly on this 0G aircraft a couple of years ago, Jim, and I should tell you, the big concern, because people with ALS, who are, in his case, almost completely paralyzed, respiratory concerns are a big issue, particularly when you're experiencing more than the gravity we're feeling right now which is what happens when you start climbing up, when you sort of get to the valley of that roller coaster ride.

So, what they're going to do, first of all, they've got him rigged up with all kinds of medical sensors to test the oxygen in his blood, his blood pressure as well as an EKG, and they will flatten out the bottom parts. So it's not quite as severe when they hit the map there so to speak. There'll be two doctors, two nurses on board, and then spotters all around him to make sure that he is comfortable and has a good flight.

And there is a serious side of this, Jim. He says, one of the reasons he's doing this is he fears for the future of our planet, and he believes human beings have got to think about space for the survival of the human species in the long run, and he wants to bring this all to our attention -- Jim.

CLANCY: Miles O'Brien, fascinating story. It will be interesting to hear what Stephen Hawking has to say when he gets back down. All right, Miles O'Brien there, thank you so much.

MCEDWARDS: That was great.

CLANCY: It really was.


CLANCY: Now an Indian court issued an arrest warrant for U.S. actor Richard Gere.

MCEDWARDS: Yes, this is quite a story. Check out these pictures, and you'll see why. There it is. The kiss, and there's a dip after. But you may or may not see that. The attorney who filed the case says that Gere violated Indian obscenity laws earlier this month when he did this, kissing Bollywood actress Shilpa Shetty, and I think it took two to do this tango, because there are some reports on the Internet there is an arrest warrant out for her as well.

CLANCY: You know, it's quite the case. He was having fun, obviously, thought it was entertainment. A lot of people not amused. The two -- this was an AIDS awareness event in New Delhi, and Gere put his arms around her. She's the girl from "Big Brother" in London, you know, the famous case on that.

MCEDWARDS: Controversy surrounds her.

You know, a lot of the Bollywood actors and actresses are under pressure, you know, to not violate laws and to remain culturally correct. But I think the first kiss has just been allowed in a Bollywood movie. So, the sign of a door opening a crack, a little bit.

CLANCY: You know, Gere isn't there, I don't know. He may appeal his lower court arrest warrant; he may take it up to a higher court and see if he can't get this thing quashed.

But you know, there's the kiss; there's the controversy.

MCEDWARDS: Look, he's being gallant here. Look at this.

CLANCY: He was just having fun.

MCEDWARDS: Not going to affect him, unless he comes back in the country. But he does a lot of aid work in the country. Does a lot of charity work, so, hopefully they can sort it out.

CLANCY: I hope so.

We have to take a short break. Still ahead on YOUR WORLD TODAY, it may be America's national pastime.

MCEDWARDS: Cubans, though, love their baseball with a passion. We'll go to the national championship in just a moment.


CLANCY: All right, well, from President Fidel Castro, right on down, all the way to the bottom, Cubans, to a man, are in love with baseball.

MCEDWARDS: That's true. And on the world stage, Cuba has dominated. You know, it's won gold at three of the last four Olympic Games.

CLANCY: They can play the game; they don't just love it.

This time of year is all about the island's national championship.

Morgan Neil is there. He grabbed a seat at game five.


MORGAN NEIL, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Tonight, in Havana, Cuba's problems seem far away. The lights are on, the kids are up late, and the players have taken the field. In this baseball-obsessed island, it's the biggest series of them all. In blue, the defending champions, Indo Diablos (ph), the best team from the country's biggest city. In red, Santiagos (ph), the challenger from the island's far eastern edge.

(on camera): If you look around the stadium, it's a sea of blue, thousands and thousands of fans for the home team.

But here behind first base, you see the team colors are different, the music's different, even the accent is different. These are fans of the visiting team.

(voice-over): Early on, it's a subtle pitcher's duel. But these fans know the game, and they roar with every strike. At times the stadium feels like any other -- the same sounds, the same ups, and downs.

But here, the celebrities are uniquely Cuban, like three-time Olympic boxing champ Felix Savon. Here, you won't find corporate sponsors, but government slogans.

And there are other twists. Instead of the seventh-inning stretch, it's the sixth inning variety show. Instead of Cracker Jacks, sliced pork sandwiches at 25 cents U.S. And instead of a traditional mascot, this eerie cheerleader.

Back on the field, Santiago breaks the game open in the sixth. The Palestinians, as they're scornfully known in the capital, come alive. While fans of the home team just wish they could hide. It's not the end of the series. But as crowds head out into the night, the future looks bright. The underdogs from the east.

Morgan Neil, CNN, Havana.


MCEDWARDS: All right, and before we go, we want to show you live pictures from the floor of the U.S. Senate, where they have just nicely wrapped up their debate on the Iraq war funding bill. Senator Harry Reid spoke just a moment ago the Senate Majority Leader, and we'll keep an eye on it for you, as soon as we get wind of a vote. We'll bring it to you right here on CNN.

CLANCY: Stay with CNN.