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Destruction in Bangladesh; Traveling Over the Thanksgiving Holiday; Save Money and Keep Warm This Winter; Vaccinations or Jail Time

Aired November 17, 2007 - 09:00   ET


VERONICA DE LA CRUZ, CNN ANCHOR: And a very good morning to you from the CNN Center in Atlanta. I'm Veronica De La Cruz in today for Betty Nguyen. Good morning, it is November 17th.
T.J. HOLMES, CNN ANCHOR: Yes, almost turkey day. Hello to you all, I'm T.J. Holmes. We've got some new pictures here to show you. Brand new images of the damage and anguish in Bangladesh, these are new images we will be showing you, we got them in overnight.

DE LA CRUZ: Plus, more than 4 million of you traveling on the highways over the next week, you'll be surprised how many of you would flunk a driver's test if you had to take it today. Would you, T.J.?

HOLMES: No, I study the traffic laws, actually.

DE LA CRUZ: And you still do?

HOLMES: Still do.

DE LA CRUZ: So right now, if you took that driver's test, you'd be OK?

HOLMES: B-plus at least.

DE LA CRUZ: All right, well Josh Levs is keeping on us this morning.

HOLMES: Also, folks need to bundle up this winter. Gerri Willis has a few ways to keep some money while trying to keep warm this winter.

We start with this horrible situation going on. A humanitarian crisis in the making. Bangladesh slammed by a powerful cyclone. Now the people there are trying to dig out. More than 900 people reported dead. That number, however, expected to rise, possibly even double. Right now, the military helping with search and rescue efforts, crews are trying to reach some of the remote villages that dot the countryside, although some of those no longer villages, just piles of debris. The U.S. military may also move into the area and aid in the relief efforts.

DE LA CRUZ: Get your child vaccinated or face jail time. That's the deal in one Maryland community. One school system is threatening parents with jail time if they don't get their children immunized against certain childhood diseases. CNN's Gary Nurenberg is live at the Prince George's County Courthouse in upper Marlboro where parents are seeing the judge right now. We're having some trouble with his live shot. We're going to go ahead and work on that and we will check in with him in a bit.

HOLMES: But, of course, we've got plenty of other things to talk about, including your holiday travel. You got the checklist. Got the luggage, the kids, patience. Don't forget to take that. Thanksgiving travel getting off to an early start. A record number of people expected to travel. Our Jim Acosta is at New York's LaGuardia Airport. He's been checking in on things happening there. Right now, things have been quiet so far this morning. But some people still are hitting the roads.

JIM ACOSTA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: That's right, T.J. I guess this is what you might call the calm before the storm; 27 million people are expected to take to the airways over the next several days. And the government claims it has a solution for all those bottlenecks. Most of which originate right here in the northeast. Those airports that typically bottleneck this time of year. LaGuardia, Newark, JFK, and the government says it has a solution.

They say they are going to open up military air space, air space that is typically used for practice drills by the air force and the military. Those express lanes, as the government is calling them will be now open to commercial aviation traffic. And passengers say this is not coming a moment too soon. They are demanding an improved performance this year.

HOLMES: All right, Jim Acosta. Thanks. We do appreciate you there. Thought we were about to listen in to somebody there. But Jim Acosta for us at LaGuardia. Folks, getting going on this Thanksgiving holiday. Jim thank you so much this morning, we will see you again here later.

REYNOLDS WOLF, AMS METEOROLOGIST: I'm Reynolds Wolf. And let me get things started by saying Happy Holidays. Happy Holidays. A lot of people are going to be traveling. Not just on the roads but obviously in the skies above. And take a look at this shot that we have of parts of the Ohio Valley, parts of the Great Lakes and even into the northeast. Each one of these little blips you see represents an airplane. Gives you a pretty good idea there are going to be a lot of people traveling out there to go visit their friends and family.

One thing you can do to make things a little easier is pack lightly, maybe take a taxi to get in the airport, less congestion on the roadways. And just be kind to your neighbor. There will be a lot of people that will be waiting, no question about it. Also another interesting tidbit for those of you maybe traveling in the skies, maybe on the roads. You might want to tune in to CNN. Right on the screen we're going to give you the very latest weather information as well as travel information. That's going to be there for you nonstop throughout the day, throughout the evening all through the holidays.

DE LA CRUZ: All right. Reynolds, thank you for that.

So do you have the feeling that when you hit the road this time of year the road is hitting you back? Barbara Peterson of Conde Nast Traveler has advice on how to work that system. Good morning to you Barbara.


DE LA CRUZ: All right, Barbara. Lots of people are looking for sound advice this holiday season. Where do we start? Are there going to be more people on the roads and at the airports this year than last?

PETERSON: Absolutely. This is shaping up to be a record travel season. Of course, Thanksgiving always is the busiest travel season of the year. So the airlines say they are going to be better prepared and they're going to put more people on at airports and maybe have some spare planes available if things go wrong.

But, of course, you want to be on the safe side and you want to do everything you can to make sure you're not in one of those news stories that we were seeing all summer long of people, you know, trapped on airplanes and all that sort of thing. We want to make sure that you get to the airport well in advance of flight time.

DE LA CRUZ: When you say that, get to the airport way in advance. How early are you talking? An hour, two hours, three hours?

PETERSON: Well, at least two hours. I think that's the least you want to get there because, first of all, you risk being bumped from a flight if you cut it too close. And what's the worst that could happen? If you get there early and you get through security fast, then you just have a little extra time at the gate to read a newspaper. That's certainly preferable to panicking on the security line.

DE LA CRUZ: What do you think about taking those travel vouchers? Oftentimes if they're going to bump you from a flight they ask you if you want these vouchers. Anything to look out for in that situation?

PETERSON: Well that depends on how quickly you really want to get to your destination. During a heavy travel period like Thanksgiving, that's not a good policy because what will happen is then they'll put you on the next available flight. The next available flight might not be for another day. So that type of thing generally doesn't work too well during a very busy period like Thanksgiving.

DE LA CRUZ: I'm sure you also want to make sure you get a cash voucher instead of something else. One of the other things on the mind of many travelers this season is the price of gas not only affecting road travel but also air travel.

PETERSON: Yes, well, that is true that the price of jet fuel has gone way up. But that's also one of those costs that the airlines tend to have to absorb themselves. They often try to pass that along to the customer, but they don't always succeed.

DE LA CRUZ: And I wanted to ask you this. Not everyone is good about booking a ticket early. Is there any hope for those of those of us who have yet to book a ticket for Thanksgiving?

PETERSON: There may be some hope, but you really have to be flexible. If the airlines do have any empty seats at all, they'll be glad to unload them. The strategy is to look for off times, maybe consider flying a day before you really would want to fly. You may still find some seats out there.

DE LA CRUZ: All right. Barbara Peterson of Conde Nast Traveler, Barbara thank you for all the advice. We do appreciate it.

PETERSON: Thank you.

HOLMES: As we just mentioned just a short time ago some parents facing a tough decision this morning. Get your child vaccinated or go to jail. That's the deal in one Maryland County. One school system is threatening parents, yes, with jail time if they don't get their kids immunized against certain childhood diseases. CNN's Gary Nurenberg is at Prince George's County Courthouse where the parents are seeing the judge right now. Good morning to you, Gary.

GARY NURENBERG, CNN CORRESPONDENT: It's true. As you said, I was just looking over my shoulder. They are expecting about 1,000 parents today. They've been summoned for being in violation of Maryland State Law, not having their children immunized. A court judge here and the state's attorney has said if you don't do that you can end up in jail or paying a $50 a day fine for every day you're out of compliance. That's the end of the line.

Let me show you pictures from a few moments ago when there were hundreds of parents lined up here to go before a judge and explain why they have not had their children immunized. They received a letter from the judge and from the state's attorney saying they could face jail time and fines if they did not comply. Some of them were not happy to get that letter.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Completely out of line. Wanting to put people in jail. This is like junk mail sent to us. Ridiculous. Who want to go to jail for simple immunization. Going to send a letter like this? We're not stupid.


NURENBERG: The man who sent that letter is Glenn Ivey, the state's attorney. Mr. Ivey why you're going after these parents so hard. Some people would say the threat of jail time and fines is too harsh for not having your children immunized.

GLENN IVEY, MARYLAND STATES ATTORNEY: Well the school system its out reach started since September with phone calls, mailers, even home visits, and this became a last resort for parents who wouldn't comply one way or the other.

NURENBERG: You have opponents here who say that with your own children you decided not to let one of those children have a Hepatitis B shot which many parents are opposed to. They say there's some hypocrisy if you didn't let your children have that shot.

IVEY: Well every parent has a waver option available to say, they don't want the shots. They can sign the waver. It's available to everyone, not just to my family. So we're just asking to make one choice or the other. Get the shots, do the waver. But do one or the other so the kids can get back in school.

NURENBERG: Why is it so important that you would send someone to jail or make them pay a fine if their child isn't immunized?

IVEY: We thought we had to step up the message a little bit. The school system had tried the beg policy and the outreach efforts, and it just hadn't worked with 2,200 students. So we tried this approach. It seems to be working pretty effectively already. 1,100 people had complied within two days of the first press conference.

NURENBERG: What's your expectation for today? How many will be immunized at the end of the day and how many people do you think you'll be talking about sending to jail?

IVEY: I don't know about that part we will have to get all the numbers together. I know like I said we had 1,100 in the first two days who addressed it. I don't know what the number was yesterday. I feel like I'm guessing there is a couple hundred today. Looks like it's moving in the right direction.

NURENBERG: Mr. Ivey we'll check with you during the course of the day. Thanks very much for taking the time to talk with us. We'll be here all day, we will let you know how many parents showed up, how many kids are getting immunizations and how many end up on that list potentially of $50 a day fines or 10 days in jail.

Back to you.

HOLMES: And Gary did he tell us, do we know exactly why he choice a waver, why he got away with what his reason was for his child?

NURENBERG: Mr. Ivey, what was the reason for the waver with your child? Is that something you are willing to let us know and why not let your child have that shot?

IVEY: We had some reservations for the need about Hepatitis B in consultations with one of our doctors. You know, he raised some considerations for us.

NURENBERG: The point is that if parents have medical considerations, there is a way to opt out?

IVEY: Religious waivers available, medical considerations are available, too, for the waver. So other people can do the same things that we did at that point. By the way, we ultimately got the shots done, but it's available for everybody here.

NURENBERG: Mr. Ivey thanks very much.

T.J., I hope that answers your question.

HOLMES: Yes, Gary I appreciate that. I'm sure a lot of folks are curious to know there as well. Gary we do appreciate that. Thanks. Nice job this morning.

We're talking holiday travel a lot right about now. This weekend before Thanksgiving. A lot of traveling going on and the concern a lot of people will have, weather.

DE LA CRUZ: The weather. Yes. And if there are airport delays that you might need to be aware of. Stay tuned for the very latest.

We'd like to say good morning to Josh Levs.

JOSH LEVS, CNN DOT COM DESK: Hey. How is it going over there? Doing good? We have a piece of news this morning that's sending so many people over to dotcom, it's not that happy but it's important. We're learning today that 36 million drivers on the road would fail driver's tests if they had to take them today. Those results of a new national study. You have to stick around for that right here, CNN SATURDAY MORNING.


DE LA CRUZ: Fifteen minutes after the hour. Welcome back. The latest out of Bangladesh in your quick hits now. Recovery efforts are in full swing in the country. The southern part of the country was devastated by a powerful cyclone. Search teams still have not reached some of the remote villages there. The Associated Press is reporting the death toll has jumped to more than 1,700 and that number could go even higher.

HOLMES: Can the world save itself? A landmark report today from the U.N. panel says the potential impact of climate change is so severe that only urgent global action will do. The group says climate systems are already changing and warns against reaching the point where damage is irreversible.

DE LA CRUZ: Cameras ready. Oprah Winfrey is in Macon, Georgia. A big surprise for residents there. And judging by the look on her face, Winfrey seemed surprised to see so many fans. Winfrey is taping a show today for her hometown tour special. Macon has more Oprah show watchers than anywhere else.

HOLMES: I wonder how they gauge that. In Macon, Georgia, they love Oprah. We all love Oprah.

DE LA CRUZ: Everybody loves Oprah.

Bonnie Schneider loves Oprah Winfrey.


HOLMES: And we love Bonnie.

DE LA CRUZ: We love Bonnie. HOLMES: Good morning.

SCHNEIDER: Good morning. The snow is falling in some parts of the northeast. In fact, yesterday in Vermont, wow, we got a lot of snow to show you. Take a look at this video from Sheffield, Vermont. Now this is to the east of Burlington and Vermont, people in Vermont are very, very excited because Killington Ski Resort opened Friday. Today Sugarbush and Stowe will open. We'll be looking at great ski conditions to get started.

Last year a lot of folks were complaining that we got off to a slow start. This year, looks pretty good. Definitely looking at quite a bit of snow coming down for that region. Taking a look at the graphics that we have going on is lake effect snow in areas in upstate New York. But we also have fog in San Francisco and all morning long, a little sun coming out. This is real time data. But all morning long we've been talking about this great feature that we have on CNN that can forecast airport delays.

Well I am here to tell you that it is working, because one of the places we were looking at the delays was in San Francisco. Our first delay this morning, ground delays. So that means if you are flying to San Francisco, there will be a little bit of a hold-up due to fog. About 30 minutes right now. Still really early there in the morning. Expect more delays in San Francisco and in many locations across the country.

Now we'll take a look at airport delays anticipated in the northeast. JFK into Newark, New Jersey we are likely to see delays there, about an hour's time. Part of that is due to volume and fairly strong winds. Not as bad in the Midwest. Detroit looks good. So does Atlanta to the south. Some rain if you are driving anywhere near Corpus Christi towards Houston. Off to the west, we will be looking at delays possibly once again not only for San Francisco where you have them now but as far south as Los Angeles. Good to know Veronica and T.J. those computers are doing their job.

DE LA CRUZ: That is good to know. Bonnie Schneider, thank you so much.

We're going to continue with travel. Not air travel. Travel on the road for the holiday season.

HOLMES: Actually 39 million drivers expected to hit the road this Thanksgiving holiday. You'll be out there. It will be crowded. Need to be patient. I'm sure somebody out there is going to yell out idiot or something at some point. You might be on to something.

DE LA CRUZ: Maybe something worse than that. Maybe not idiot.

HOLMES: That's all I could use this morning.

DE LA CRUZ: Well Josh Levs has been manning the dotcom desk and joins us now with more. How is the dot com desk going by the way?

LEVS: The dotcom desk is trying to survive without you. You have to cover for New York.

DE LA CRUZ: Always doing a great job.

LEVS: Thank you. So here is the deal. Let's look at the numbers, oh come on. I am joining in late on the love fest. We love Bonnie, we love Oprah. Let's get to some information. How many drivers out there don't know what they are doing when they get on the road? We have information about that at dotcom today. Check it out, 36 million according to a new study by GMAC Insurance. I looked at what they did here. It's really interesting. You can read about it online.

They took a representative sample. Talked to drivers every single state all over the country, the right ages, all of them mixed. What they found is if you look at the number of people that got a ton of questions wrong, 36 million drivers on the road don't know what they doing in some critical ways. What do you do when you get to a yellow blinking light, guys? Most people didn't know that you are supposed to stop if you can because it could be dangerous because you don't know what the person in front of you will be doing. That one got a lot of people going. The next biggest one is what the proper distance is between you and the car in front of you. There should be at least two seconds.

DE LA CRUZ: Three.

LEVS: At least two, but ideally even three. Most people didn't get that. And what this survey did was they looked at the states and who had the worst answers and the best answers. Let's look at the happy news. The states with the best answers, I think we have this list, there you go. Idaho came in the best of everybody. And then Alaska and then Minnesota. So congrats to them.

DE LA CRUZ: Can I guess on the worst? I'm going to go with maybe California, New York and Georgia.

HOLMES: I'll go with Georgia.

LEVS: Georgia is actually toward the top but you did -- oh, no, toward the bottom, you're right. But the absolute worst, New York. Let's look at the worst list. There were three ties, there was Rhode Island, and then second from worst, all three tied. Massachusetts, New Jersey and D.C. The absolute worst in the nation, drivers in New York failed the worst. This is not just the cities, throughout the whole state. How did you know that? From driving around?

DE LA CRUZ: I'm a pedestrian walking down the sidewalk and I can see it.

LEVS: Almost getting hit.

DE LA CRUZ: I'm in those cabs.

LEVS: There's more info at dotcom.

DE LA CRUZ: Thank you Josh. Nice to see you.

HOLMES: The first home heating bills of the season will be in your mailbox soon.

DE LA CRUZ: Are you ready? Tips on saving money while keeping warm when CNN SATURDAY MORNING continues.


HOLMES: So the shock of higher gas prices may have worn off on you. But now you are facing your first heating bill. You ready for that? Let's check in with personal finance editor Gerri Willis.

GERRI WILLIS, CNN PERSONAL FINANCE EDITOR: Hi, T.J. heating bills are going to cost the average household $986 this winter. That's up 11 percent from last year. Consider it an energy audit to help you save money. It assesses how much energy your home uses and evaluates how to make your home more efficient. Start with a self-energy audit. Make a list of the places you feel a draft. Cutting these drafts could save you 30 percent a year. Check for indoor air leaks at the junctures of the walls and ceiling, the edge of your flooring, electrical outlets, windows and door frames and base boards.

You can usually feel these leaks using weather stripping. On the outside of your house inspect areas where the different building materials come together. Look for cracks in the siding or foundation. And check your furnace and replace the filter as needed. The Department of Energy has a guide for consumers who want to know more. Go to

But if you've lived in your house for at least a year and want to make it as energy efficient as possible, consider hiring pro. Costs can range from $300 to $700 for an audit. Don't forget to check with your utility company first. Some companies even provide free audits.

But coming up on "Open House" at 9:30 am Eastern we're going to be talking about how one foreclosed home in your neighborhood can severely impact the value of your home.

We'll also be talking about what you should know before buying that gift card this holiday season and how to winterize your home and save money. It's coming up at 9:30 a.m. T.J.

HOLMES: Gerri, thank you as always.

Coming up, their motto is die with your Tennies on.

DE LA CRUZ: Granny joins a basketball league.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: When I told friends and family, you know what the first thing they did? Laugh.


DE LA CRUZ: Over 50, under 90 and still scoring.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) HOLMES: All right. A league of their own. You remember the movie. That was baseball, though. But we're talking basketball this time. We found a group of women not nearly ready to retire.

DE LA CRUZ: These women would rather shoot in B's or baskets. Here's John Garcia of our affiliate WLS.


GOHN GARCIA, WLS (voice over): They are grandmothers and great- grandmothers. Some have played organized basketball.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I'm a little rusty, but it will come back. It will come back.

GARCIA: Others, not so much. But they are all here to try out for teams in the granny all-star league.


GARCIA: The only qualification, they have to be older than 50.

What did your friends and family say when you told them you were doing this?


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: When I told friends and family, you know what the first thing they did? Laugh.

GARCIA: The league will play six on six basketball based on a league that started a decade ago in Iowa. Barbara Lee Cohen got the idea after seeing a story about the league.

BARBARA LEE COHEN, LEAGUE FOUNDER: They were 50 to 100 years of age. So I went ahead and decided to find out who they were.

GARCIA: At the time she was thinking it would be good halftime entertainment for a Bulls game. Instead, now she's starting a league. One of the coaches, 53-year-old Mary Kay Monahan had a brief professional career for the old Chicago Hustle in 1978. The skill level here just a little bit different.

MARY KAY MONAGHAN, COACH: There are some women that are here that, you know, have no idea, have never played basketball or touched a basket ball.