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CNN NEWSROOM

No Alarm Was Sounded; Bonnie Threat Lessens; Shirley Sherrod Resign Forced, No FDA Beauty Products Regulation; Volunteer Sister Friends

Aired July 24, 2010 - 15:00   ET

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


FREDRICK WHITFIELD, CNN ANCHOR: More on the weather in the Gulf and the effect on the oil clean-up in a moment.

But, first, here are some other headlines we're following:

Heat advisories are in effect around the country. Temperatures are simply approaching triple digits in many places.

Chicago has been battered by heavy rains. Many streets are flooded and thousands are without power right now. Flash flood watches remain in effect.

And NATO confirms that two American service members are missing in Afghanistan. And Afghan intelligence tells CNN that they were abducted by militants near Kabul. A search is currently under way.

And we're learning more about what happened and what did not happen the night the oil rig exploded in the Gulf of Mexico. Yesterday, some of those who survived went before a federal panel. In Louisiana, a chief -- the chief electronics technician actually told them that no alarms were sounded before the rig blew.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MICHAEL WILLIAMS, TRANSOCEAN, CHIEF ENGINEER TECH: When I discovered it was inhibited about a year ago, I inquired as to why it was inhibited. And the explanation I got was that they -- from the OIM down, they did not want people woke up at 3:00 in the morning due to false alarms.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Did you voice your concern to anyone about the possible safety issues with that?

WILLIAMS: Yes, sir, I did.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

WHITFIELD: Eleven oil rig workers were killed in that explosion back in April. And one of them was Gordon Jones. His father, Keith, is joining us from Baton Rouge, Louisiana.

We know that, Mr. Jones, you've testified in Washington on occasions about this. And now, to hear this testimony from one of the workers on this platform and to hear that the alarm system was disabled or for some reason wasn't working, how -- how do you react to hearing about that testimony and that perhaps it was intentional, that it was disabled or not working? Is that what you gathered from this testimony?

KEITH JONES, SON GORDON DIED IN RIG EXPLOSION: Well, certainly, that's what I gathered from the testimony. There was obviously a decision to disable the alarm so that people wouldn't get awakened in the middle of the night. What troubles me the most about that is that that alarm would have alerted people in the very area where my son, Gordon, was when the explosion happened. It would have alerted them possibly in time to have been elsewhere when the explosion happened and could have saved their lives.

WHITFIELD: How might this impact how you as a family or other families might go forward as they pursue BP for claims, for damages, for the responsibility of these 11 people who died?

JONES: Well, it will affect in one area the fact that BP may not be the only company that is liable to these families. Transocean has the OIM -- employs the OIM and he makes many decisions. I am told that he could have overruled some of BP's decisions once he was convinced that they were -- posed a threat to the rig or to the men on the rig. So, it won't be just BP.

That being said, needless to say, BP is the primary defendant and will always be because they were clearly the one most at fault.

WHITFIELD: Do you believe BP when BP says that they are taking responsibility, that they are doing everything they can to make things right?

JONES: Well, no. I don't know anyone that truly believes that that's so -- certainly, not the people that have suffered economic loss on the Gulf. In our case, it continues to astonish us that BP has made no attempt to express a word of remorse or condolence to any member of our family ever.

When I testified before the house judiciary committee, a gentleman who works for BP was seated three or four chairs down and never looked my way. And that is, I think, part of the mentality of BP -- and that is: admit nothing, acknowledge nothing, confess to nothing and maybe it will, by the passage of time, all go away.

WHITFIELD: We're looking at pictures of your son, Gordon Jones. He was a young man with his young family in these pictures. Did he ever express to you his concerns about safety on this rig while working at it?

JONES: Not generally about safety. He told us a hitch or two before this one that he was concerned because something was coming up that wasn't supposed to come up. We didn't go into it but what he obviously was talking about, we know now is the fact that pieces of hard rubber were coming up from the bottom of the well where they weren't drilling through hard rubber that were part of the seal, the annular in the BOP. I didn't go into this with Gordon. I wish now I had. I don't know what I could have done about it, of course, if he had explained it to me more fully.

I knew then that a blowout was the worst thing that could happen on a rig. I also knew that there were many different things that protected everyone on the rig against blowouts, many redundant safety measures, all of which one by one were peeled away by BP, always for the same reason -- and that is always to make more money.

WHITFIELD: Keith Jones, thanks so much for your time -- from Baton Rouge, Louisiana. Of course, we continue to extend our condolences to you and the family for the loss of Gordon.

JONES: Thank you, Fredricka.

WHITFIELD: The threat from then Tropical Storm Bonnie, well, it forced mass evacuations from the Gulf -- ship, skimmers and drilling rigs all getting out of the way. But the worst-case scenario never really happened because we understand that Bonnie has now dissipated quite a bit. In fact, Admiral Thad Allen is now asking that a number of those ships that had been part of the evacuation now make their way back to the area of the well.

So, let's check in with our Rob Marciano who's right now in Gulfport, Mississippi.

What are we hearing about the progress report -- how things are resuming?

ROB MARCIANO, AMS METEOROLOGIST: Well, first of all, they never detached the assets that were monitoring the well -- the cap's well. So, they don't have to bring those back. They're still there.

But the drilling rig that's been drilling that relief well was detached and on the move, now as you mention is going back to the well site. It will take some time to get there and then get hooked up. And it only moves at about three or four knots, and moves really, really slowly. And then they have to drop the line 5,000 feet and go to work again on that well casing.

So, it's going to be -- the overall delay, I think, of this whole operation is probably going to be on the order of five to seven days. But that's certainly better than 10 to 14 which we -- which we once feared. Skimming operations also have been halted, at least temporarily, for this storm. But they've slowed down as well because they've done a really good job over the last eight, nine days with some help of the well cap.

And over the past couple of weeks, I've had the opportunity to embed (ph) with some of these people, hard-working people trying to clean up the Gulf of Mexico. And one of them was a U.S. Coast Guard cutter Helm. And on the deck of that skimmer, well, it's pretty slick and sloppy and dirty work. Check it out.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

MARCIANO: Using the equivalent of a leaf blower to blow up these booms and get them filled up with air like balloons -- how much of a mess does that look like? And it hasn't even started skimming yet. So, what's the process?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: First, you've got to make sure that ain't tangled, lift it up off the deck, and then just get it down in the water.

MARCIANO: So, this is a dance between you, crewmen, those men, crane operator and the cockpit?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Right. Exactly.

MARCIANO (voice-over): With the boom in the Gulf, we needed to move a skimmer hose into position so it could go into the water as well. But trying to work on a pond of oil isn't easy.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Hey, ask them if they get off back down a little bit. All right. Hook it up right to the skimmer.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Be careful. It's slick, that's for sure.

MARCIANO (on camera): I mean, I'm just standing here and I'm moving.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes. It doesn't get any better either.

All right. We want to bend that hose at a 90. We're going to take all three of them. That should work. Y'all come on out of there.

MARCIANO: You get absolutely no leverage working in this stuff. And that's now light, three guys moving it that far, sliding and slipping all over the place.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

MARCIANO: It is slick and it is slow, Fredricka.

WHITFIELD: Yes.

MARCIANO: That's the one thing I came home with was everything you think is easy and shouldn't take too much time like skimming oil -- well, it's not easy. And it takes much, much longer and is much more difficult and tedious than you could ever imagine. And just to make the progress that they've made in the past few weeks is remarkable to me.

Well, tonight, we're highlighting their efforts along with other efforts, including search and wildlife rescue, cleaning the beach in an hour-long special, premieres tonight at 8:00 and then again tomorrow. It's called "Rescue: Saving the Gulf." And we highlight the people doing just that. I had the opportunity to get dirty at times and go shoulder to shoulder and it's an experience -- an eye- opening experience I'll never forget, Freddy.

These guys are really getting it done out there. My hats off to 'em for sure. I hope Americans tune in tonight and express their gratitude to the men and women down here getting it done.

WHITFIELD: Yes, tonight at 8:00 and again tomorrow night. So, I'm wondering, while I saw you suited up, you were wearing the protective gear. You weren't wearing a mask. And I just wonder, you know, what about the fumes associated with all the goo that was on the deck and the water? Can you tell me about what you experienced?

MARCIANO: You know, other people have mentioned that. And the answer to your question is: what we were dealing with was weathered oil. So, there are different grades of oil. The closer you get to the wellhead, you -- at that time, you would have much more fresh oil. It's much more toxic. Then you'd have to wear the respirators.

There were times I had to wear the hazmat suit because I was in the middle of the booming situation. But we were dealing with oil that have been weathered for a couple of weeks. And -- so the toxic fumes weren't quite there. It was perfectly safe to be out there without a mask on.

WHITFIELD: Lucky you. All right. Well, thanks so much, Rob Marciano, wearing the protective gear well. And, you know -- hey, maybe you have a job on the side if, you know, you choose to get out there on the water one more time.

MARCIANO: Oh, they got some free labor out of me, that's for sure.

WHITFIELD: All right. Rob Marciano, thanks so much. Appreciate that.

MARCIANO: All right.

WHITFIELD: All right. Well, perhaps you have been outside today. It feels very, very hot. In fact, it could be one of the hottest days of the summer.

Our meteorologist Bonnie Schneider is checking in to see when the mercury just might be dipping.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

WHITFIELD: All right. Some very serious and potentially dangerous weather to talk about this weekend. Bonnie Schneider in the weather center.

BONNIE SCHNEIDER, AMS METEOROLOGIST: Hi, Fred.

Yes, another hot day, another hot Saturday. I feel like I say that every weekend.

WHITFIELD: Yes. It's getting a little redundant. But, hey, it is summer.

SCHNEIDER: It is summer. But I think, as you mentioned, it can be dangerous and here's why. Take a look at the heat advisories -- extreme heat across much of the country. Over 20 states involved with these heat advisories. So, that means it's widespread.

The temperature in Washington, D.C. will likely climb to 100 degrees, but it will feel like it's 110 at times. That's with all the humidity out there. The numbers right now have us at 99 in D.C. It's 103 in Richmond, Virginia. That will likely shatter the record high. Ninety-four in Philadelphia, 96 in New York City.

And if you're looking for a cooler spot, you actually have to head westward and then head up into the mountains of West Virginia. It's 88, well, not much cooler, a little bit cooler though.

Another huge story we're following, of course, is the rain that's been sweeping across Chicago. Believe it or not, yesterday, we had some places that got up to nine inches of rain. What we're seeing now is lighter rain across much of the area. It's really dissipated quite a bit. But there's always runoff. And that will bring about more flooding. This is what it looked like earlier in Pearl City, Illinois.

Wow. I mean, nine inches of rain. That's a lot. And these storms were producing rainfall rates in general of two to three inches per hour.

It looks like the kids are enjoying, maybe to get relief from the heat I imagine. But you really can't go anywhere and a lot of flights were diverted and canceled due to that. So, the flood watches will persist across the Chicago area.

And there's little Bonnie -- I'm not talking about me.

(LAUGHTER)

SCHNEIDER: I guess you could say that, right?

All right. Well, we're talking about the storm. And here's the latest on the Tropical Depression Bonnie. It has weakened quite a bit. It almost just became an area of low pressure.

But the latest advisory still has it at 30 miles per hour in terms of maximum winds. The storm is producing scattered -- widely scattered thunderstorms across areas into Louisiana, Mississippi, and Alabama. They're isolated to scattered. But we're going to keep the chance of the storms in the forecast. The storm will officially make landfall sometime tonight after 8:00 p.m. -- Fredricka.

WHITFIELD: OK. Thanks so much, Bonnie.

SCHNEIDER: Sure.

WHITFIELD: All right. Well, Josh Levs is coming up next to give us a look at sort of the hottest, most-watched videos out there. We call it "viral video."

JOSH LEVS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Rewind. There you go, Fred. What is happening to this building?

Take a look here. We're going to see exactly what people saw when they were standing there. Also today on viral video rewind, we've got ads that whisper to you during a phone conversation, the world's best juggling and a baby inside a watermelon. All that is next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

WHITFIELD: A look at our top stories right now.

We're watching extreme weather across the country. Right now, in Chicago, heavy rains have flooded the streets. Thousands of people are without power there right now. Meanwhile, heat warnings are in effect in more than 20 states across the country.

And international forces in Afghanistan are searching for two American service members missing near Kabul. An Afghan intelligence source tells CNN that the missing troops were captured by militants. The military is trying to figure out why they left their Kabul compound in a non-military armored vehicle.

And North Korea is now threatening to use their nuclear capabilities as a response to joint U.S. and South Korean military exercises. This is a step-up from North Korea's earlier threat where they just promised a physical response. Those drills were scheduled to start tomorrow on both South Korean coasts.

(MUSIC)

WHITFIELD: All right. Time to loosen it up and lighten it up. Our Josh Levs is here with the viral video rewind. We love this.

LEVS: We love this. (INAUDIBLE) for the week. So, we're starting off this week with folks at the Onion, the satirical Web site --

(CROSSTALK)

LEVS: -- fake videos, you know? And now, they decided to take on this whole idea of the Internet collecting too much informational value. Take a look at this.

WHITFIELD: OK.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The Google phone is slashing monthly fees thanks to an ad-supported service that whispers ads right into your ear. Jeff Tate (ph) has more --

(END VIDEO CLIP)

LEVS: So, they have a fake report which says that Google is listening in on your phone conversations and based on the words that you use, all of a sudden, there's a voice that pops in there in your conversation and suggests a place where you can go buy something like that. And then they say it's going to go beyond that. Here. Listen to this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Here's a sneak preview of what my friends would hear.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Hello.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Hey. I just wanted to say hi and tell you about job opportunities at monster.com, fresh job listings posted daily. Have jobs e-mailed to you. Sign up and find --

(END VIDEO CLIP)

LEVS: They're saying the Internet is going to memorize your voice and start calling all your friends and try to convince them to buy products out there.

WHITFIELD: Wow.

LEVS: They put this up and so many people are genuinely concerned about privacy and security, they are loving this. It's got about a quarter of million views already on this one video.

WHITFIELD: Scary thing, the quality production value there, quite good.

LEVS: You know what? I was thinking the same thing.

WHITFIELD: Oh, gosh.

LEVS: They've excellent video at Onion.

WHITFIELD: That scared me. Yes.

LEVS: That's what people are watching, right?

OK. So, we're going to go from technology that hopefully will never exist to technology that already exists.

WHITFIELD: Yes?

LEVS: Take a look at this. This is what we were seeing earlier, this building. Look at what's happening here.

WHITFIELD: Speaking of quality.

LEVS: Three-d projected imagery. Samsung made this to promote its new LED TV. It's a 3-D mapping projection that appears to make some wild things happen to a building. They coordinated with the sound effects. And really -- and people who are there are seeing it because it's projected on to the building. So, this isn't video done afterwards.

WHITFIELD: Oh, my goodness.

LEVS: So, you're there seeing it.

WHITFIELD: Yes, I want to see the water part which we got to see in the commercial break.

LEVS: Oh, that's right.

(CROSSTALK)

WHITFIELD: Or in the tease.

LEVS: The butterflies come out and then it starts to fill with water and then some fish swimming in there. I think it will be there about another 10 seconds. There you. It starts to fill up.

WHITFIELD: Yes, that's when it becomes really -- oh, wow.

LEVS: It's so hyper-specific.

WHITFIELD: That's extraordinary.

LEVS: People are crazy about it.

WHITFIELD: This is almost --

(CROSSTALK)

LEVS: Have your relaxation video also.

WHITFIELD: Yes, almost.

LEVS: So --

WHITFIELD: Oh, a kitty cat.

LEVS: Every week, we have an unlikely sport, right?

WHITFIELD: Yes.

LEVS: This week, it's juggling. Take a look here.

WHITFIELD: I'm not very good at juggling.

LEVS: You're not?

WHITFIELD: No.

LEVS: I never tried.

WHITFIELD: My husband wants me to do it so badly. And I just -- when I do and he's convinced that I'm doing it -- you know, I won't tell him, I'm not really juggling.

LEVS: My son's only 3. He thinks when I throw two things in the air, that constitutes juggling.

WHITFIELD: That's what I'm saying.

(CROSSTALK)

WHITFIELD: Exactly.

LEVS: This is the World Juggling Federation. They're actually having their world gathering now in Vegas. And as part of it, they posted this online. This was said on Facebook by Nick Carbonez (ph). They're showing some of their previous highlights.

OK. Now, I love this next one. Speaking of videos on Facebook, this is a woman who's a centenarian at the age of 101 -- 101, Aunt Alice, she's being called online, sings the song "Enjoy Yourself" inspiring thousands of people. Take a look at Aunt Alice.

WHITFIELD: OK.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

AUNT ALICE, 101-YEAR-OLD (singing): Enjoy yourself, it's later than you think, enjoy yourself while you are --

(END VIDEO CLIP)

LEVS: Oh, I love her.

WHITFIELD: She's enjoying herself.

LEVS: She is. She's 103 years old now. And this was celebrating her 101st birthday. I love her.

WHITFIELD: Gosh, she is amazing.

LEVS: She is amazing. And thanks to Bonnie Shack (ph) on Facebook.

I think we have time for the most adorable video in the world of the week.

WHITFIELD: Yes. Of course.

LEVS: A baby inside a watermelon, always time for adorable. Look at this -- a baby in a watermelon.

WHITFIELD: Oh, my goodness. Wait a minute.

(LAUGHTER)

WHITIFIELD: Baby's hungry.

LEVS: They say it's a new way to eat this watermelon, from the inside-out. This has been reposted in so many places. There's an article that says it's had more than 2 million views.

WHITFIELD: Either this watermelon is really big or this baby is very small.

LEVS: I think it's a little bit of each.

WHITFIELD: Wow. That's one big watermelon and tasty, apparently.

LEVS: Some people are calling this the attack of the killer watermelon but they're not sure which thing is eating the other.

WHITFIELD: Oh, my gosh, that's cute.

(CROSSTALK)

LEVS: So, we'll do more relaxation for you tomorrow.

WHITFIELD: Yes, we need that.

(CROSSTALK)

LEVS: You got that with the fish a little bit.

WHITFIELD: I know. That was -- that was a little bit relaxing because you brought the voice level down. It worked.

LEVS: A little bit. All right. As always, all the links are right here at Facebook. We also post them all for you at Facebook. You can see them for yourself because Facebook makes it easiest to gives lots of links at once, JoshLevsCNN.

See you tomorrow at 2:00 p.m. Eastern.

WHITFIELD: Love it. Thank you.

LEVS: You got it.

WHITFIELD: Looking forward to that. Appreciate it.

All right. Race, lies, videotape are all colliding this week, but people at the center of the lies actually stood up, fought back and even took time to reunite.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

WHITFIELD: All right, what a week for Shirley Sherrod, that USDA employee who was fired and then apologized to. Well, Sherrod was reunited with the white farm couple who came forward to say she had not discriminated against them. The couple says that back when Sherrod helped them rescue their farm, they never expected that they would one day be able to return the favor.

Earlier in the week, Sherrod was forced to resign from her job at the Agriculture Department over misleading comments posted on a blog.

So, Sherrod's problems began after a conservative blogger, Andrew Breitbart, took a short clip from an old speech taken out of context and then posted it on his blog. Well, CNN's Randi Kaye has more on Breitbart's controversial work.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

RANDI KAYE, CNN NEWS CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): In 2009, conservative blogger Andrew Breitbart made his first big splash. It was then he and a pair of conservative activists publicized a series of undercover stings against the federal housing group ACORN, a housing initiative that had publicly supported candidate Obama's campaign.

Breitbart posted videos of the stings on his Web site, BigGovernment.com. ACORN staffers were seen offering to set up a brothel for underage prostitutes. The videos went viral, and a conservative star was born.

STEVE ADUBATO, MEDIA ANALYST: We're talking about a guy who frankly has an agenda, who is not that concerned about context or facts.

KAYE (on camera): There were questions about the legality of the videos and whether they had been selectively edited to make ACORN look bad. Sound familiar? But it didn't matter, Breitbart got results. ACORN lost its federal funding and collapsed as a national organization.

(voice-over) Erick Boehlert, from the progressive watchdog group, Media Matters for America, calls Breitbart a misinformation czar.

ERIC BOEHLERT, MEDIA MATTERS: A propagandist and a bit of a charlatan and as we've seen this week, sort of a character assassin. I mean, he likes to pretend he's doing journalism, but there's nothing he's doing that's remotely close to journalism. He knowingly publishes false information, never posts corrections, doesn't retract. It's really -- he's really a one-man wrecking ball.

KAYE: We called Breitbart to get his take.

(on camera): Do you consider yourself a propagandist? And do you have an agenda?

BREITBART (via phone): Somebody has to stand up to this type of bullyism that happens in the press. The journalism is corrupt, and I'm out there, to the best of my abilities and with my conscience, trying to right the wrongs.

KAYE (voice-over): But the ACORN and Shirley Sherrod incidents aren't the only times Breitbart's pumped out misleading information.

In 2009, he posted videotape of community organizers praying, he said to then President-elect Obama. He later conceded, after posting more of the tape, they might be praying to God.

(on camera): Breitbart has built up a small empire of Web sites: Breitbart.com, BigGovernment, BigJournalism, BigHollywood and so on. Hits against the left translate directly to hits online. According to Breitbart.com, he serves up more than 20 million news page views each month to about three million unique visitors.

ADUBATO: We're talking about someone who understands our addiction to powerful videos, salacious video, audio taken out of context that says something dramatic. We take it; we use it. He loves it; he gets more attention. He understand what's our hot buttons are.

KAYE (voice-over): That makes Breitbart a star in the conservative conference circuit. In the last year, he's spoken at at least six Tea Party rallies and two big mainstream conservative conferences. BREITBART: I love confrontation, by the way. And by the way -- by the way, by the way, you should, too, because it's the only way we're going to win.

KAYE: Seems the more controversial he gets, the faster his profile and profits grow. He got a half-million-dollar advance for his upcoming book and says his Web sites are fully funded by advertisers.

He admits the reaction to how he handled the Shirley Sherrod tape has been mixed, but don't expect a mea culpa from him.

(on camera): Do you plan to apologize to Mrs. Sherrod or no?

BREITBART: What would warrant an apology?

KAYE: I'm asking you.

BREITBART: Did I fire her? Did I even ask for an investigation of her? I'm not the one that threw her under the bus. It was the Obama administration and the NAACP which was in possession, according to itself, of the full video.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

WHITFIELD: That was Randi Kaye reporting. So, CNN, of course, will take a closer look at Shirley Sherrod tonight, from her early years growing up in rural Georgia to what has happened this week. Join us for "Who is Shirley Sherrod: The Woman Behind the Controversy." That's tonight at 7:00 p.m. and again at 10:00 p.m. Eastern Time.

Your shampoo, your toothpaste, makeup, all of it could be harming your health. Up next, a doctor joins us live with tips on what to watch out for when it comes to your personal care products.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

WHITFIELD: All right, heat advisories are in effect in two dozen states, and that includes the nation's capital, as well. Well, it's not a state, but you know what I mean. Temperatures are creeping near the triple digits in Washington where people are cooling off any way they can. Officials are warning people to actually stay inside or in the shade for their own safety. Cooling centers are also open, but so far some have been pretty empty. One woman actually found another way to beat the heat.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SABRINA POWELL, WASHINGTON RESIDENT: UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: My car with the car running for about four hours now.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Just to stay cool.

POWELL: Just to stay cool.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We haven't had a summer like this in a long time. This year, we're getting it. (END VIDEO CLIP)

WHITFIELD: Oh, they're getting it in a very big way. Bonnie Schneider in the Weather Center and something tells me it's going to be that way for a while.

BONNIE SCHNEIDER, CNN METEOROLOGIST: It will be for a while, but not forever. You know, Washington, D.C. already shattered a record for the highest low temperature this morning. The low temperature only dropped to 78 degrees. That's not cool at all.

(WEATHER REPORT)

WHITFIELD: It's going to take a little while. Patience, patience. All right, thanks so much, Bonnie.

SCHNEIDER: Sure.

WHITFIELD: All right, here's another way to beat the heat, take part in a giant water balloon fight. Oh, that could be fun. And it could also hurt. That's what thousands of Brigham Young University students did in Provo, Utah. They were hoping the natch the world record from the University of Kentucky. And according to our CNN affiliate KSTU, they did with 3,927 participants and more than 120,000 water balloons. Oh my gosh, whose job was it to full up those balloons? Painstaking.

A look at our top stories, right now. Ships evacuated from the oil clean-up jobs in the gulf because of what was that threatening storm called Bonnie, are now heading back today. National incident commander, Thad Allen, says most of the 10 to 15 vessels that were at the site will be back on the scene within the next 24 hours. Bonnie now a tropical depression and it's weakening.

And a desperate search is underway for American troops missing in Afghanistan. An afghan intelligence source tells CNN that the missing service members were captured by militants in Logar Province. It happened after the service members left their compound near Kabul in a non-military armored vehicle.

And progressive activists are gathering in Las Vegas this weekend. The Netroots Nation is an opportunity for groups to exchange ideas and strategies. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid are among the speakers, today. President Obama appeared today in a taped message to the group.

All right, personal care products from shampoos to toothpaste, you name it. We use them sometimes multiple times a day. But, did you know that many of these products just might be filled with chemicals that you don't want? And some have been linked to serious medical conditions, even cancer and birth defects.

The FDA has no power to regulate the ingredients, so that could change if legislation that gives the FDA more regulatory powers passes in Congress. But right now, it is buyer beware. Joining us live, right now, from Las Vegas, dermatologist Ava Shamban.

Good to see you.

DR AVA SHAMBAN, DERMATOLOGIST: Nice to see you, too.

WHITFIELD: OK, so, I'm wondering, how do we know? What are the ingredients that you just don't want in your toothpaste or your shampoo?

SHAMBAN: It's an excellent question. I think as consumers, we're entitled to know the ingredients and that we should be secure in knowing that they have been tested for safety and so that they're OK to use. I mean, there is absolutely an epidemic of cancer in this country and we don't know what contribution all of these products that we use to make yourself more beautiful or to brush our teeth, what they're doing to us internally.

WHITFIELD: So, you like the idea of some kind of legislation better policing of these products?

SHAMBAN: Absolutely, because these products are present in cosmetics and there's no governing board that really tests them for safety, for efficacy -- or for efficacy. As we have found in teenagers and in cord blood of newborn babies, some of these chemicals are present and we should know whether they're safe of not...

WHITFIELD: What are some of those chemicals? I understand that formaldehyde is one of those chemicals that might be found in products that -- where it shouldn't be.

SHAMBAN: That's exactly correct. There are a number of products have already been removed voluntarily by the cosmetic companies, but others have not. And for example, phthalates are present in fragrances, they were also present in nail polishes as well as toluene, and they have been removed, basically from those projects.

But fragrances, no. and what happens when you spray a fragrance? Well, you're breathing it. So it has direct access to your bloodstream and therefore to your organs. Formaldehyde is present in bath products and shampoos, one for dioxades (ph) and others. And there's a lot of concern about these things. They've also been found in breast tissue.

WHITFIELD: Oh my gosh. So, when you go to the store and you're looking at the ingredients, is it going to spell it? I mean, I can't imagine formaldehyde is going to be spelled out in an ingredient. What do you look for? How do you know you're picking up a product that will endanger your safety?

SHAMBAN: Well, that's a good question. You just haven't been reading your product labels. They can be as long as your arm. And product labels are supposed to serve two purposes. One, you're looking for levels of active ingredients that are actually going to be beneficial to your skin. And secondly, what you're trying to do is make sure that there's nothing in there that's toxic or that you could be allergic to. And this is so important to read the labels.

Another item are nanoparticles. Now, nanotechnology was created to design tiny little particles. These particles are 80,000 times smaller than a human hair...

WHITFIELD: But how is that going to be revealed?

SHAMBAN: Exactly. it's not being revealed. And these -- this nanoparticle technology is found in products as diverse as sunscreen to makeup to fragrance. And we're breathing this in. So, it's really important to be more educated. And I think getting a panel together and having some FDA regulation is a great idea.

WHITFIELD: Wow. And so how far off might this be? Because in the meantime before there's a panel or new legislation that will screen these products, we have to do it ourselves.

SHAMBAN: That's right. And so you need to be careful with anything you spray. Think about it. If you're using spray paint, you're wearing a mask and doing in a well-ventilated area. The same thing with spray suntans, with spray sunscreens because the skin is an incredibly effective barrier, it's like the Great Wall of China, but our lungs are not. And if you're applying a makeup with nano particles, you have a direct freeway up to your brain.

WHITFIELD: Should I feel comforted if that spray toner I'm using every day says organic?

SHAMBAN: Good question. Organic is actually a seal from the U.S. Department of Agriculture. There's nothing specific from any cosmetic company. But organic does mean that everything that's present in that product -- not everything, or 95 percent of what's present in that product was organically derived. We can be allergic to organic things and the question is, is it good for you? But can you be secure?

WHITFIELD: People usually feel a little bit more comforted if it says organic. Means fewer chemicals.

SHAMBAN: Yes, in general, it does. But don't forget, nature's been developing chemicals for millions of years and with good reason. I mean, plants develop anti-oxidants. Well, but nature's developed chemicals to help protect plans and fruits and vegetables, from the effects of too much ultraviolet exposure. To be on the safe side, make your own skin care. You can make your cleansers, you can make moisturizers from what you find in your refrigerator and your pantry everything from oatmeal to avocado oil...

WHITFIELD: OK, that's another segment. We're going to have to have you come back to tell us what, you know, what are the thing at home in your refrigerator, food stuff that you can create and make these cleansers and all these beautiful masks and all that good stuff. Ava Shamban...

SHAMBAN: It's very exciting.

WHITFIELD: Thank you so much. Dermatologist coming to us from Los Angeles.

All right, a woman comes up with a way to save some of the most vulnerable children in the world, a "CNN Hero's" story. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

WHITFIELD: A lot of African-American babies don't make it to their first birthday. Well, this week's "CNN Hero" trains a group known as Volunteer Sister Friends, which supports new moms. Thousands of children had been born into Kathryn Hall-Trujillo's sisterhood.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

KATHRYN HALL-TRUJILLO, COMMUNITY CRUSADER: African-American babies die two to four times the rate of other babies. As a public health administrator, I used the words "infant mortality" every day, but until I held a dead baby in my arms, I never realized that that meant counting dead babies.

My name is Kathryn Hall-Trujillo, and I remind women they're really sisters and can help each other have healthier babies.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: What we're saying is you don't have to have this by yourself.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The birthing project takes regular women in the community like me to work closely with the little sisters throughout their pregnancy and after they have the baby.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I wanted a big sister that has accomplished a lot in life already to teach me things I don't know.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: My job is to just really help you, whether it's figuring out how to pay your rent, do you have food in the house, making sure she is making the prenatal appointments. It's all because I'm trying to make sure that you're not stressed in order for you to have a healthy baby.

HALL-TRUJILLO: Healthy babies are born into healthy communities.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Pretty special, huh? We're growing our own.

HALL-TRUJILLO: We've been doing this long enough now that you can hear a child say I was born into the birthing project. That means more to me than anything that I may have given up because in return, I have received a whole community.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

WHITFIELD: Wow, she's incredible. Kathryn Hall-Trujillo's project has welcomed more than 12,000 babies into 94 communities across five countries. To watch the birth of its newest chapter in New Orleans or to nominate someone that you think is changing the world, go to CNNHeroes.com, but hurry, nominations for 2010 heroes close on August 1.

All right, this just in we're track some severe weather. Bonnie Schneider has the info.

SCHNEIDER: That's right, Fredricka, we have a tornado warning in Erie County, Pennsylvania, and right now a strong thunderstorm and Doppler Radar has indicated rotation and it is located nine miles northeast of the city of Erie, Pennsylvania. And you can see it on the radar picture now and it's not just this little batch of storms, there's a whole other one off the lake behind it, so it's going to be a volatile day with the tornado warning for Erie County until 4:15. So we still have about 20 minutes left. Plus this just this just in, a severe thunderstorm watch now including the city of Chicago and remember just yesterday and early this morning we had severe flooding in some of the suburbs around Chicago and the city itself.

So more rain is expected. We're also looking at severe weather. I'll have a check of all of the weather headlines coming up at 4:00. Stay tuned. We have a lot more coming up on CNN NEWSROOM, right after this.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

WHITFIELD: All right we continue to keep a close watch on the disaster. CNN's Amber Lion is out with a research vessel and she's in a tiny submarine that is looking for oil dispersants and collecting samples underwater. She filed this report just a short time ago.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

AMBER LION, CNN NEWS CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): So we are just taking off -- we are just being lowered into the water right now about 88 miles off the coast of Florida. I'm riding in what is known as a man submersible. It's literally a mini submarine that has all kinds of data-collecting machines on it and we're heading down to the Florida Atlantic scientists to survey deep water reefs. We're going to be testing for oils, dispersants to see if this oil spill's had any dodge on these reefs that are also known as the rain forest of the sea. Whoa! Here we go.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We have a seal.

LION: All right we've gite 360-degree view. We'll be bringing you back some amazing photos. Amber Lion from literally in the middle of the Gulf of Mexico.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

WHITFIELD: All right, we'll have more on the gulf oil disastfler a moment, but first these headlines.

Two American service members are missing in eastern Afghanistan. NATO forces are mounting a search. North Korea is threatening, possible, nuclear retaliation as the U.S. and South Korea prepare to start joint military exercises in the region. The drills are a response to the sinking of a South Korean military ship in March. The north is blamed.

And at least 15 people were killed while trying to get into a concert at Germany's Love Parade. Police were trying to stop crowds from entering the site when chaos simply broke out. Unclear why. Fifteen people were injured. Let's check in with our Bonnie Schneider one more time. There's a tornado warning coming out of Pennsylvania, let's get straight to her.

SCHNEIDER: That's right, Fredricka, we have a tornado warning right now for Erie County that's northwest Pennsylvania. What happened is there's a very strong thunderstorm right here it's about nine miles northeast of the city of Erie. And Doppler Radar has indicated some rotation with the storms so the National Weather Service has issued a tornado warning, that will be in effect for the next 15 minutes.

Now, as you can see, there is a line of thunderstorms coming in and actually severe thunderstorms that are now in effect, severe thunderstorm warnings well into New York state, as well. So, in advance of this system we're likely to get more warnings if you're areas of upstate New York or perhaps Pennsylvania, Ohio, watch out because it is going to be a rough ride.

I wanted to show you the flood watch for Chicago because we've had tremendous rainfall with flooding across Chicago, particularly in the western suburbs. A lot of water on the ground and a lot of people without power. Over 50,000 people without power as well. The severe thunderstorm watch just issued, now does include Chicago, particularly areas to the south of the city. You can see the heavy thunderstorms coming in from the west and that's something that we're monitoring very closely across the board.

The other huge story of course is the heat. Dangerous heat across the country. But temperature is 100 degrees in Washington, D.C., right now. But that's nothing when you look at Richmond to the south, it's 104 at this hour. Likely, shattering records. We're just sort getting those records in. And I guarantee you later today we'll be able to tell you that a lot of records broken.

The heat index is climbing to the triple digits, plus, in many, many cities, it's dangerous to be outside. And finally to see these thunderstorms, these bands that are moving in from Bonnie and this tropical depression is very weak right now, breaking apart due to strong wind shear in the gulf. We'll be getting an advisory in less than an hour and we'll have an update for you, but so far this storm could have been so much more worse. Fredricka.