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AMERICAN MORNING

Miers Confirmation Battle; New York City Subway On Heightened Alert; New Orleans On Road To Recovery; Raze Or Restore New Orleans Buildings; 'Minding Your Business'

Aired October 7, 2005 - 07:30   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


SOLEDAD O'BRIEN, CNN ANCHOR: Just hope that something doesn't happen in my car. You've got to take the subway to work.
MILES O'BRIEN, CNN ANCHOR: Kind of sums it up. Nothing I can do. Hope it's not my car.

SOLEDAD O'BRIEN: Another story we're talking about this morning, the Supreme Court nomination of Harriet Miers, already up against concerns from both sides of the Senate aisle. The Bush administration has tapped former Republican Senator Dan Coats (ph) to try to shepherd the Miers nomination through the Senate and he joins us this morning from The White House.

Nice to see you, Senator Coats. Thanks for talking with us.

DAN COATS, (R) FMR INDIANA SENATOR: Good morning.

SOLEDAD O'BRIEN: What does it exactly mean to shepherd the nomination through? Specifically, what's your job?

COATS: Well, my job is to introduce Harriet Miers to my former colleagues in the Senate and also advise her about the procedures of the Senate. It can be a bit of elaborate in the Senate and I think understanding how it works and who are the personalities, leaders and so forth, can be a help to her. So I hope to do that.

SOLEDAD O'BRIEN: What's become increasingly clear really, really fast is that conservatives are woefully disappointed in her choice. So your job is to sell them on her as a candidate. What are you going to do?

COATS: Well, first of all, there are few. She has only met with a few senators. I would caution anybody, and my fellow colleagues, not to prejudge.

She's a gracious lady with a distinguished record. Has risen to the top of every organization that she's been a part of, including counsel to the president. And a woman who will faithfully carry out the president's often stated desires and determination to have someone on the court, appoint someone to the court who will faithfully and strictly interpret the Constitution, not try to make laws.

We've had decades of Supreme Court injecting personal views and making laws that is a prerogative of Congress. And so I think Harriet Miers I know Harriet Miers is someone that will follow what I believe are the majority wishes of the American people in terms of how a Supreme Court justice adjudicates from the bench. I think as she has the opportunity to meet with senators, they will come to find that she is a distinguished individual who has accomplished a great deal in her life, who will bring diversity to the court, not just the fact that she's a woman, but the fact that she hasn't spent her whole life being a judge.

We've had many distinguished jurists on the supreme court who haven't have previous judge experience. But she has a wealth of experience that, frankly, some of the other justices don't have. They've been judges all their life. It's an isolated position. They are there to interpret the law fairly and judiciously and she will join them in that. And so I think she's going to be a very good appointment and accepted by conservatives, moderates and perhaps even some on the other side of the aisle.

SOLEDAD O'BRIEN: Two thoughts on that. One of the senators she has met with, Senator Brownback, essentially said yesterday after their meeting that he's just not a fan. Kind of described it as a "CSI" investigation trying to figure out where she stands on things. You know, really the best that he could say about her is that she's a very decent lady. How do you bring someone like that on board who's now met with her?

COATS: Well, he clarified that statement. I saw the whole statement that he made. I was not with Harriet Miers at the time. And said that he has not come to a final conclusion yet. He wants to learn more. And that's fine. Senators should learn all they can about her and we'll certainly go back and attempt to answer his questions.

But there's an irony here. That is, that when John Roberts was up for the Senate, conservatives were saying, now you can't ask questions about issues that might come before the court. Therefore people were complaining about not being able to know exactly what his position would be on a particular issue. Now they're saying just the opposite. Some are saying some conservatives are saying just the opposite. Saying, well, we want to know exactly where she'll stand on certainly issues.

So you can't have it both ways. And I think as people step back and let the emotion come out of this a little bit, they'll find that the president has made an excellent choice.

SOLEDAD O'BRIEN: You have sort of a two-prong problem. On one hand you have a nominee who doesn't have a judicial track record that people can investigate, and you also have people who, frankly, criticize her for not being an intellectual powerhouse judicially speaking, obviously. What are you advising her to do on both of those fronts?

COATS: Well, I'm advising her to be just who she is. And who she is, I think, is someone who has accomplished a great deal in life and will bring a great perspective to the court that perhaps is a little bit different than some of the other perspectives. Being a great intellectual powerhouse is something that will be determined as she meets with senators, as she goes before the Judiciary Committee in the Senate and that will be debated.

She certainly has the capability to be an excellent Supreme Court justice. If great intellectual powerhouse is a qualification to be a member of the court and represent the American people and the wishes of the American people and to interpret the Constitution, then I think we have a court so skewed on the intellectual side that we may not be getting representation of America as a whole.

But to prejudge her intelligence, I think, as not being intellectual or capable, is wrong. She is just distinguished herself in everything that she's done. She's risen to the top. Her colleagues have appointed her and nominated her for presidency of every organization that she's been part of. So she must have something going for her. And I think as people get to know her, they will see, she is a determined, tough, fair, very gracious person with a generous personality that maybe masks a real strength of intelligence and courage underneath that.

SOLEDAD O'BRIEN: Former Senator Dan Coats, thanks for talking with us.

COATS: Thank you. Nice talking to you.

SOLEDAD O'BRIEN: Likewise.

Miles.

MILES O'BRIEN: The mayor of New York says his city is under the most serious threat of terrorism since 9/11. But officials in Washington, well, they say that a bomb plot against New York subways comes from intelligence of doubtful credibility.

The heightened state of alert on this New York transit system is in our "Security Watch" this morning. Homeland Security Correspondent Jeanne Meserve is in Washington to sort out the confusion that is in my mind right now as to just how serious and credible this is.

Is everybody on the same page this morning, Jeanne?

JEANNE MESERVE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Not quite. Analysis of the intelligence continues but one U.S. official does describe it, as you mentioned, as being of doubtful credibility. Another says he is, "not altogether sure how solid this is." And federal officials seem surprised at New York's decision to make it public.

According to an official with the Department of Homeland Security, this specific intelligence about threats to New York City transit came to them in recent days and was shared promptly with officials in New York. But according to an administration official, subsequent information collected overseas added doubt to the information's credibility and there was no corroboration.

And so yesterday afternoon, as New York announced upgrades in transit security, the Department of Homeland Security said it had no intention of modifying the city's or the nation's terror threat level. Administration officials said they respected New York's actions but described them as being taken out of abundance of caution.

Miles.

MILES O'BRIEN: All right, Jeanne. So here we are. We still can't seem to get local and state and federal officials all on the same page. This seems to be a recurring theme. How common is this for the feds to say one thing and local officials to do another?

MESERVE: Well, it's certainly happened before. The most notable example happened in 2001 when there were threats against bridges in the west and then California Governor Gray Davis went public and warned people about that threat. He took some criticism for that. He said all he was trying to do was balance the need to keep the public safe against the fear of making them scared.

That's apparently what officials are doing here and they found different tipping points. It may have something to do with how close they are to the threat.

Miles.

MILES O'BRIEN: Jeanne Meserve, thank you very much.

Stay with CNN day and night for the most reliable news about your security.

Let's get the headlines now. Carol Costello in with that.

Good morning, Carol.

CAROL COSTELLO, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Good morning, Miles.

Good morning to all of you.

"Now in the News."

This year's Nobel Peace Prize being awarded to the UN nuclear watchdog agency, the IAEA, and its chief. The International Atomic International Agency and its director, General Mohamed Elbaradei, share the prize for their efforts to limit the spread of atomic weapons. The Nobel committee made the announcement earlier this morning, around 5:00 a.m. Eastern, saying its choice comes at a time when the threat of nuclear arms is again on the rise and must be met with international cooperation.

Turning to Iraq now. Six American Marines have been killed in separate attacks in Iraq's Anbar Province. Military officials announcing the fatalities within the past 10 minutes. The Marines died in two separate roadside bombings on Thursday. This brings the number of U.S. troop deaths in Iraq to more than 1,950.

Firefighters are making some progress against two wildfires that have destroyed more than 10,000 acres in Southern California. In San Diego County, fire officials are battling a 4,000 acre blaze in a rugged area along the U.S.-Mexican border. It's about 30 percent contained now. And the Woodhouse fire outside of Los Angeles is now about 70 percent contained. Fire officials hope to have the 6,400 acre blaze fully under control by this weekend.

Presidential Advisor Karl Rove is expected to give additional testimony to a grand jury looking into the leak of a CIA operative's identity. His lawyer says Rove has been asked to testify for a fourth time. But it will be Rove's first time on the stand without an agreement from the prosecutor guaranteeing him immunity. No word yet on exactly when Rove will face the grand jury.

And a security scare at the Rolling Stones "Bigger Bang Tour." The lead singer, Mick Jagger, strutting the stage at the University of Virginia in Charlottesville. About eight songs into the show, authorities apparently told them to take a break. Several officers and bomb sniffing dogs searched the stage then. And then the show resumed within the hour. No official explanation was ever given.

SOLEDAD O'BRIEN: Well, that's weird.

COSTELLO: Isn't it strange?

SOLEDAD O'BRIEN: Yes. That's got to be kind of scary for them.

COSTELLO: And the audience.

SOLEDAD O'BRIEN: Right. People in the front row I'm sure.

COSTELLO: Because the Rolling Stones left the stage but would assume the audience stayed where they were.

SOLEDAD O'BRIEN: And everyone else had to say. Yes.

MILES O'BRIEN: Hopefully there wasn't going to be a bigger bang there, right? Apparently not.

COSTELLO: That yes. But everything's OK this morning, that's the good . . .

MILES O'BRIEN: We're glad to hear that.

SOLEDAD O'BRIEN: That's the takeaway.

Thanks, Carol.

Here's a story I think we're going to be hearing a whole lot. New Orleans, of course, on the road to recovery now. The residents who return find that it is a long road to restoring those conveniences that most Americans have come to expect. Dan Lothian is live for us this morning in New Orleans.

Hey, Dan, good morning.

DAN LOTHIAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Good morning, Soledad.

Well, when Mayor Ray Nagin opened up parts of the city, he warned resident who were returning that they should bring their own water, their own food, medicine, whatever it is that they needed to get by because there weren't a lot of those things open in the city. Well, one week later, many of those hurdles remain.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

LOTHIAN, (voice over): New Orleans is welcoming back its evacuees into a different way of life. So many things, once taken for granted, just aren't there yet.

We've all gotten so used to getting last-minute cash from ATMs, but now you really have to plan in advance because most of them aren't working. Y

You can still find a mailbox standing. The problem is, no one is picking up the mail. So if you drop something in, it will probably stay locked up here for a long time.

If you want to grab a newspaper to catch up on the morning headlines, many of the boxes are empty, including "USA Today." This one, though, had a copy from August 26th, the weekend Katrina hit.

Public transportation is spotty. The buses are running on a reduced schedule. The trolleys aren't running at all. So if you don't have a car, it's much more difficult to get around. Some taxi cabs are running. But with radio towers down, they must be dispatched by cell phones, which aren't always reliable.

Most hospitals, some heavily damaged, are closed. There are some make-shift facilities but only one hospital emergency room in the city is open.

And while more and more businesses are reopening every day, these women say sometimes it's hard just to get a cup of coffee.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: How long did it take you to find your coffee?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Oh, my God, I'm aggravated.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: (INAUDIBLE) on, where is it, Cleary (ph).

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Causeway (ph).

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Causeway.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: On Veterans in between Causeway and Caravey (ph).

LOTHIAN: So you had to drive all the way around to try to find a coffee?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: So you had to get on, go toward Baton Rouge, get off at Bonneville and then you get off at Carrollton and it takes you right here.

LOTHIAN: It's a bit more complicated to get your prescription from the local drugstore, or pick up some groceries at the local supermarket, or get a late night fix at a convenient store. Ernest Brownson recently returned to his uptown neighborhood. And while he says a couple of big stores just reopened, it hasn't been easy.

ERNEST BROWNSON, NEW ORLEANS RESIDENT: When you depart the city about every three days and go into North Shore and stock up and bring when we need.

LOTHIAN: These are the hurdles facing returning evacuees.

BROWNSON: You try this or you try that and there's something that works.

LOTHIAN: Finding a way to live in a city still struggling to fully reopen after Hurricane Katrina.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

LOTHIAN: At a checkpoint, some volunteers were hanged out this sheet. It is essentially a guide to the city on where you can find anything from a grocery store to a bicycle shop. There are only 17 items on this one page, but, no doubt, this list will grow with each passing day.

Soledad.

SOLEDAD O'BRIEN: Hey, I was amazed, Dan, when the Starbucks open. I mean that to me, truly, I'm not exaggerating, seemed like a big step forward, honestly.

LOTHIAN: It is a big step forward, but some people also like their local coffee shops or a different coffee shop and many of those are not open, so they have to go all the way around the town around the town to find the one that they want.

SOLEDAD O'BRIEN: Yes, it's going to be a long road back. Dan Lothian for us this morning.

LOTHIAN: That's right.

SOLEDAD O'BRIEN: Dan, thanks.

Miles.

MILES O'BRIEN: Now that's dedication to a cup of coffee. All the way around to get that . . .

SOLEDAD O'BRIEN: It's a lot of work.

MILES O'BRIEN: "Other" kind of coffee.

All right. Let's check the weather, shall we. Chad Myers, a man who will go out of his way for Starbucks any day I'm sure (INAUDIBLE).

(WEATHER REPORT) SOLEDAD O'BRIEN: Still to come this morning, today's jobs report. It might sound a little bit scary when it's released. Economists, though, say they're not worried. Andy's going to tell us why. He minds your business just ahead.

MILES O'BRIEN: Plus, we'll take a look at some of the damaged homes, some of these scenes inside these homes. Flood damage. The question is, what should be restored, what should be torn down? Like that mold on the wall. Is that enough to make you tear down the house? These are questions we'll ask of an expert coming up on AMERICAN MORNING.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MILES O'BRIEN: About 160,000 structures in Louisiana have been declared uninhabitable. In New Orleans alone, 50,000 houses are likely to be bulldozed. So how are homeowners to know if they should try to save their homes or give them up? John Foggo of First Restoration Services, a company that restores and rebuilds damaged buildings, is working in New Orleans on just that.

John, good to have you with us.

JOHN FOGGO, FIRST RESTORATION SERVICES: Good morning. How are you?

MILES O'BRIEN: I'm doing just fine.

I know you've been involved in helping the Hyatt. Let's take a look at some pictures of the Hyatt post-Katrina. It looks like when you look here, just to make sure so everybody knows here, what you're talking about, those are all supposedly windows. Did a single window survive on that side?

FOGGO: Approximately 1,600 windows were blown out due to the winds from Katrina.

MILES O'BRIEN: OK. So that is a big problem, obviously, when have that many windows. So, obviously, this was right in the teeth of some of the strongest winds. And you can see the thing just laid bare like a giant doll house or something.

Now let's look at some of the things that you have done. I assume that there was a real problem with water damage in each and every one of these rooms just from the rainfall. But if you look at this picture, all of these white things, that is like shrink wrap, right?

FOGGO: Yes, that is correct. What we did is we took a piece of shrink wrap, wrapped it in pieces of 1x2 and adhered it to the frame of the structure and heated it with a propane gun and shrunk the windows. And this enables us to dry the structure, keep the structure dried and to incur to stop it from any further damage.

MILES O'BRIEN: All right. Was there ever any discussion of tearing down the Hyatt or did you feel that this was a salvageable building all along?

FOGGO: No, absolutely not. It's totally salvageable.

MILES O'BRIEN: All right, let's talk now let's bring it down to a smaller scale. Scale that a lot of people at home can deal with.

You're typical home. And we've seen so many pictures. We saw our boss, Kim Bondy's (ph), house yesterday on Alegion (ph) Fields. This is a different house.

As you look at damage like this on the outside, that looks like a house that probably isn't going to do so well. It almost looks like a modular building. But let's look at some of the inside footage, if we can, get to some of the inside.

And I wanted to ask you how you could tell. Now take a look at this picture of all that is mold and that is, you know, that is really pretty disgusting. There's no question about that. But if you cut the drywall out and do a little bit of bleaching work on it, can you salvage it?

FOGGO: Yes, you can. What needs to be done in a situation like this, is some sampling and testing needs to be done on the wood materials, the framing of the structure to determine . . .

MILES O'BRIEN: Wait. Let me just ask you, do you cut it right along the edge there? Right along that high water mark? Is that where you would cut the sheet rock?

FOGGO: Well, typically in the industry, you remove the drywall or contaminated materials two feet beyond the visible damage.

MILES O'BRIEN: OK. So somewhere up in that area there. But that's a lot of work right there. Now you do the testing. And if there's a certain kind of mold, you wouldn't want to salvage the property?

FOGGO: No. Typically, mold is mold. And it's treated all the same way.

MILES O'BRIEN: So how would you make a decision then that the mold was so advanced you can't save the property?

FOGGO: Well, the mold has to be removed. There's no question about that. It does not matter what kind of mold it is. The fact that it is mold, it has been to be removed from the structure.

MILES O'BRIEN: OK. So how do you know then when you go through all this process, how do you know that you're not laying the groundwork for problems later? That there might be some sort of latent problem with either mold or water that would come back to haunt you later?

FOGGO: Well, hiring a qualified restoration contractor and environmental consultant to go through the construction process and the remediation process to make sure that it is plain and clear, so to speak.

MILES O'BRIEN: Well, just a final thought to take away here then. All these numbers we've been giving, 50 some odd thousand homes that might have to be bulldozed. Do you think those numbers are inflated? Do you think many of those homes could be saved?

FOGGO: Absolutely. I do believe that is inflated.

MILES O'BRIEN: So do you have any sense then of what the real number might be?

FOGGO: Well, obviously, each structure is a case-by-case situation. And what needs to happen is qualified construction consultants and restoration contractors need to assess the properties to determine whether they can be saved or not.

MILES O'BRIEN: OK. John Foggo, who is with First Restoration Services, thanks for your time.

FOGGO: Thank you.

MILES O'BRIEN: Soledad.

SOLEDAD O'BRIEN: Still to come this morning, today's big jobs report is expected to deliver some bad news. Experts are saying though, just ignore it. Andy's going to explain that just ahead as he minds your business. Stay with us. You're watching AMERICAN MORNING.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SOLEDAD O'BRIEN: Mortgage rates are creeping up and a look at the markets and a big jobs report that's due out today. Andy's "Minding Your Business" on all those fronts.

Good morning.

ANDY SERWER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Good morning.

SOLEDAD O'BRIEN: What do you want to start with?

SERWER: I want to start with interest rates. We've been talking about them heading up this fall, Soledad. What does that mean for Americans? Well, let's start with mortgage rates, because they are moving towards that 6 percent threshold on the 30 year. And this really is an important number because for the past three years, the 30-year has averaged under 6 percent.

And we've seen this incredible housing boom. It's really been the fuel that has driven that market. And economists really fear if it goes over that, the housing market tanks.

For instance, 10 years ago the 30 year was at 7.9 percent. So below six is a very low number. We're going to be watching that closely.

Let's talk about the stock market. Yesterday stocks tanked again. Not a big drop but it is the fifth day in a row or fourth day in a row, I should say. It's not quite that bad. Every day this week so far, I should say, more fears of inflation.

Futures are up for now, Soledad, but it's really sort of meaningless because at 8:30 Eastern this morning we are going to have that big jobs report for the month of September. Obviously huge implications from the hurricanes. And you can see the 200,000 estimates of jobs lost.

But what's really interesting here is the estimates range wildly from 25,000 jobs to 400,000 jobs lost. In other words, economists really have no idea.

SOLEDAD O'BRIEN: No clue.

SERWER: And it is going to be an outlier month, obviously, because of the hurricanes. But will the implications be more lasting of this what could be very significant job loss.

SOLEDAD O'BRIEN: But why are the experts say ignore the numbers? I mean . . .

SERWER: Well, because they are saying it's because of the hurricanes. But again, you know, if these jobs if people don't find jobs, big problems . . .

SOLEDAD O'BRIEN: All right.

SERWER: Going forward.

SOLEDAD O'BRIEN: I follow that.

All right, Andy, thank you very much.

SERWER: You're welcome.

SOLEDAD O'BRIEN: Miles.

MILES O'BRIEN: Thank you very much, Soledad.

Today's top stories are straight ahead. Karl Rove is called to testify in that CIA leak probe again. This will be number four before the grand jury. Jeff Toobin in the house and we'll ask him what the implications of this latest invitation to testify are. That's ahead on AMERICAN MORNING.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

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